real time

When you log into Google Analytics, what do you look at?

Chances are you see something like the image above that shows you how many people are currently on your blog.

Well, that was easy to guess because that’s the report Google Analytics gives you once you log in. 😉

But which reports do you look at on a regular basis?

I bet you look at two main reports…

The “Audience Overview” report and the “Acquisition Overview” report.

audience overview

Sure, every once in a while, you may dive into your top pages or the specific organic keywords that drive your traffic. But even if you do that, what are you actually doing with the data?

Nothing, right?

Don’t beat yourself up over it because most content marketers just look at reports and numbers and do little to nothing with the data.

If you want to figure out how to grow your blog and, more importantly, your revenue from your blog, there are 7 reports that you need to start looking at on a regular basis.

Here they are and here is how you use them…

Report #1: Cohort Analysis

What do you think is easier to accomplish… get new visitors to your blog or getting your visitors to come back?

It’s easier to get people to come back to your blog, yet everyone focuses on new visitors.

I bet less than 99% of your blog readers turn into customers or revenue, so why not focus on getting those people back and eventually converting them?

Before we get into how to get people back to your blog, let’s look at how many people are returning to your blog.

Within the Google Analytics navigation, click on “Audience” and then “Cohort Analysis”.

Once you land on that report, you’ll see a graph that looks similar to this:

cohort graph

Under the “Cohort Size” drop-down menu, select “by week”. Under “Date Range”, select “Last 12 weeks”.

Once the data loads, you’ll see a table that looks something like this:

cohort table

What this table shows is the percentage of your visitors that come back each week.

On the very left it will always show 100%. Then in the columns to the right, you’ll see week 1, week 2, week 3, etc.

This shows the percentage of people who come back to your blog each and every week after their first visit.

For example, if this week you had 100 people visit your blog and in the week 1 column, it shows 17%. That means of the initial 100 people, 17 came back. Under week 2 if you see 8%, that means of the initial 100 people, 8 people came back in week 2.

Naturally, this number will keep getting smaller, but the goal is to get people back as often as possible. That increases trust, social shares, potential people linking to you, and it even increases the odds that the visitor will convert into a customer.

number of visits

The average blog reader needs to come back 3.15 times before they turn into a customer. That means that you need to retain readers.

Just think of it this way: If you get thousands of new people to your blog each and every single day but none of them ever come back, what do you think is going to happen to your sales?

Chances are, not much.

You need to look at your Cohort Report and continually try to improve the numbers and get people coming back.

So the real question is, how do you get people to come back?

There are 2 simple ways you can do this:

  1. Start collecting emails – through free tools like Hello Bar, you can turn your blog readers into email subscribers. Then as you publish more content, you can send an email blast and get people back to your blog.
  2. Push notifications – by using tools like Subscribers, people can subscribe to your blog through their browser. Then every time you release a new blog post, you can send out a push and people will come back to your blog.

These 2 strategies are simple and they work. Just look at how many people I continually get back to my blog through emails and push notifications.

repeat visits

Report #2: Benchmarking

Ever wonder how you are doing compared to your competition?

Sure, you can use tools like Ubersuggest, type in your competitors URL, and see all of the search terms they are generating traffic from.

ubersuggest neil patel

But what if you want more? Such as knowing what percentage of traffic your competitors are getting from each channel. What’s your bounce rate, average session duration, or even pageviews per channel?

bench marketing

Within Google Analytics navigation, click on “Audiences” then “Benchmarking” then “Channels”.

Once you do that, you’ll see a report that looks like the one above.

Although you won’t have specific data on a competing URL, Google Analytics will show you how you stack up to everyone else within your industry.

I love this report because it shows you where to focus your time.

If all of your competitors get way more social traffic or email traffic, it means that’s probably the lowest hanging fruit for you to go after.

On the flipside, if you have 10 times more search traffic than your competition, you’ll want to focus your efforts on where you are losing as that is what’ll probably drive your biggest gains.

The other reason you’ll want to look at the Benchmarking Report is that marketers tend to focus their efforts on channels that drive the most financial gain.

So, if all of your competition is generating the majority of their traffic from a specific channel, you can bet that channel is probably responsible for a good portion of their revenue, which means you should focus on it too.

Report #3: Location, location, location

Have you noticed that my blog is available in a handful of languages?

languages

Well, there is a reason for that.

I continually look at the location report. To get to it, click on “Audience” then “Geo” and then “Location”.

location

This report will tell you where the biggest growth opportunities are for your blog.

Now with your blog, you’ll naturally see the most popular countries being the ones where their primary language is the one you use on your blog.

For example, if you write in English, then countries like the United Kingdom and the United States will be some of your top countries.

What I want you to do with this report is look at the countries that are growing in popularity but the majority of their population speak a different language than what you are blogging on.

For me, Brazil was one of those countries. Eventually, I translated my content into Portuguese and now Brazil is the second most popular region where I get traffic from.

This strategy has helped me get from 1 million visitors a month to over 4 million. If you want step-by-step instructions on how to expand your blog content internationally, follow this guide.

Report #4: Assisted conversions

Have you heard marketers talk about how blog readers don’t convert into customers?

It’s actually the opposite.

conversions

Those visitors may not directly convert into a customer, but over time they will.

But hey, if you have a boss or you are spending your own money on content marketing, you’re not going to trust some stats and charts that you can read around the web. Especially if they only talk about long-term returns when you are spending money today.

You want hard facts. In other words, if you can’t experience it yourself, you won’t believe it.

That’s why I love the Assisted Conversions Report in Google Analytics.

In the navigation bar click on “Conversions” then “Multi-Channel Funnels” and then “Assisted Conversions”.

It’ll load up a report that looks like this:

assisted conversion

This report shows you all of the channels that help drive conversions. They weren’t the final channel in which someone came from but they did visit your blog from one of these channels.

In other words, if they didn’t visit or even find your blog from one of these sources, they may not have converted at all.

Now when your boss asks you if content marketing is worth it, you can show the Assisted Conversions Report to show how much revenue your blog helps drive.

The other beautiful part about this report is that it tells you where to focus your marketing efforts. You want to focus your efforts on all channels that drive conversions, both first and last touch.

Report #5: Users flow

What’s the number one action you want your blog readers to take?

I learned this concept from Facebook. One of the ways they grew so fast is they figured out the most important action that they want people to take and then they focused most of their efforts on that.

For you, it could be someone buying a product.

For me, it’s collecting a lead and that starts with a URL.

But I found that people interact with my blog differently based on the country they are coming from.

In other words, if I show the same page to a United States visitor and from someone in India or even the United Kingdom, they interact differently.

How did I figure that out?

I ran some heatmap tests, but, beyond that, I used the Users Flow Report in Google Analytics.

users flow

In your navigation click on “Audience” and then “Users Flow”.

Within the report, it will break down how people from each country interact with your blog and the flow they take.

I then used it to adjust certain pages on my blog. For example, here is the homepage that people in the United States see:

us home page

And here is the homepage that people from the United Kingdom see:

uk home page

The United Kingdom homepage is much shorter and doesn’t contain as much content and that’s helped me improve my conversions there.

And of course, in the United States, my audience prefers something else, hence the homepages are different.

The Users Flow Report is a great way to see how you should adjust your site based on each geographical region.

Report #6: Device overlap

Blog content can be read anywhere and on any device. From desktop devices to tablets to even mobile phones.

The way you know you have a loyal audience isn’t just by seeing how many of your readers continually come back, but how often are they reading your blog from multiple devices.

For example, you ideally want people to read your blog from their iPhone and laptop.

The more ways you can get people to consume your content, the stronger brand loyalty you’ll build, which will increase conversion.

Within the navigation, click on “Audience” then “Cross Device” and then “Device Overlap”.

device overlap

I’m in the B2B sector so my mobile traffic isn’t as high as most industries but it is climbing over time.

And what I’ve been doing is continually improving my mobile load times as well as my mobile experience to improve my adoption rates.

I’m also working on a mobile app.

By doing all of these things, people can consume content from NeilPatel.com anywhere, which builds stickiness, brand loyalty, and then causes more assisted conversions.

A good rule of thumb is if you can get the overlap to be over 6%, you’ll have a very sticky audience that is much easier to convert.

That’s at least what I can see with all of the Google Analytics accounts I have access to.

Report #7: User Explorer

To really understand what makes your blog readers tick, you need to get inside their mind and figure out what their goals are and how you can help them achieve each of those goals.

A great way to do this is through the User Explorer Report.

Click on “Audience” and then “User Explorer”. You’ll see a screen that looks like this:

user explorer

This shows you every user who visits your site and what they did. You can click on a client id to drill down and see what actions each user performed on your blog.

user explorer

From there, you can click on a time to see exactly what they did each time they visited:

user explorer

What I like to do with this report is to see how the most popular users engage with my blog. What are they reading? What pages are they spending the majority of their time on? What makes them continually come back? How did they first learn about my blog?

By comparing the most popular blog readers with the least popular, I am typically able to find patterns. For example, my most loyal blog readers typically find my site through organic traffic and then subscribe to my email list.

Then they keep coming back, but the key is to get them to opt into my email list.

That’s why I am so aggressive with my email captures. I know some people don’t like it, but I’ve found it to work well.

So I focus a lot of my efforts on building up my organic traffic over referral traffic and then collecting emails.

Look at the patterns that get your most popular users to keep coming back and then adjust your blog flow so that you can create that pattern more often.

Conclusion

Yes, you should look at your visitor count. But staring at that number doesn’t do much.

The 7 reports I describe above, on the other hand, will help you boost your brand loyalty, your repeat visits, and your revenue.

I know it can be overwhelming, so that’s why I tried to keep it to just 7 reports. And if you can continually improve your numbers in each of those reports, your blog will continually grow and eventually thrive.

So what Google Analytics reports do you look at on a regular basis?



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When talking about SEO I think about on-site fixes. Meaning fixing your HTML, adding schema markup, fixing your URLs, redirects, etc. When I see others talking about SEO they usually also lump up content creation link building and other stuff. Isn’t it just content marketing or in other words marketing and not SEO anymore?

I’m very interested in hearing where do you think SEO ends and marketing begins and why.



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google

When you think about SEO and what’s changed over the last 5 years, what comes to your mind?

Chances are, it’s something related to how it’s harder to get rankings on Google.

But why has it gotten harder to get more organic traffic?

Well, if you ask most SEOs, they’ll say it’s because Google has created a much more complex algorithm.

They look at factors like page speed, brand queries, and hundreds of other factors that it may have not been placing much emphasis on in the past.

But that’s only half the story.

The reason SEO has gotten harder is only partially related to Google’s algorithm changes.

Here’s what most SEOs aren’t talking about that you need to pay attention to because this will show you the future of SEO.

Google’s ever-changing layout

When you perform a Google search, what do you see?

Some organic listings and some paid results, right?

And that’s what Google has shown for years. Much hasn’t changed from its core concept.

But over the years, they have continually made small layout tweaks which have added up to big changes.

Let’s look at Google’s layout changes over the past few years… lucky for us, Orbit Media performed random Google searches in 2013, 2014, and 2015 and compared them to Google’s current layout for us.

2013 google

The big differences from 2013 versus 2019 are:

  • The first organic listing is drastically pushed down
  • The ads used to be clearly identified through design elements, but now they blend in more.

Now let’s look at 2014 versus 2019:

2014 google

And 2015 versus 2019:

2015 google

The big trend is that the organic search results have been drastically pushed down below the fold. Roughly by 3.3X.

That’s a huge difference!

A listing these days may have a map, elements from their knowledge graph, more videos and images, and whatever else Google feels their users may want.

Another big trend is that there are now featured snippets. Although these featured snippets can drive traffic to your site, they also provide the searcher with the answer they are looking for without having to click through to your site.

Just perform a search for the largest tree in the world…

tree

Sure, I could click through over to livescience.com to get the answer, but why? Google gives it to me right then and there.

With organic listings being pushed down, and Google answering a portion of people’s questions without them even needing to click through, this means organic listings will get fewer clicks over time.

And it’s not stopping there

Let me ask you a question…

How many organic listings are on the first page?

10, right?

Well, that’s what we are used to, but when’s the last time you actually counted?

7 listings

Google’s dumped 5.5% of organic first page listings. Yes, the first page does have 10 listings a lot of the time, but not as often now.

Here’s a graph that’ll show you the change:

serp listings

18%!! That’s the percentage of first page listings with less than 10 organic results.

What’s crazy is it used to be 2%. That’s a huge jump.

So, what else is Google testing with their layout?

This is a small test that they are doing with their layout, in which some results may not have any listings.

empty serp

But Google did report that was a glitch. The page was not supposed to contain any organic listings, but at the same time, it was supposed to contain no paid listings either.

And over time you should continually expect Google to run more layout experiments and make more permanent changes.

Now before we get into the future of SEO, let’s get one thing straight.

Google is a publicly traded company. Sure, their goal is to create an amazing product, but they have to make money at the same time.

You can’t blame them for making changes that increase their ad revenues.

Yes, you may claim that this is creating a terrible experience for users, but is it really? If it was, people would switch to Bing or any of the other alternative search engines out there.

I still use Google every day. Yes, it may be harder to get clicks organically, but as a user, they’ve created an amazing experience.

The future of SEO

Google doesn’t just make changes to their layout blindly. They run experiments, they survey users, they try to figure out what searchers want and provide it.

Based on the layout changes they have made over the years, you can make a few assumptions:

  1. More rich snippets – people want the answers to their problems as quickly as possible. You’ll see more versions and variations of rich snippets integrated within future layouts as this provides searches with their answers faster.
  2. Less clicks to your site because of voice search – according to Comscore, 50% of searches will be voice searches by 2020. Don’t expect people to go to your site because of voice search.
  3. People are trained to ignore ads – no matter how much Google pushes the first organic listing below the fold, people are trained to ignore ads. No matter how much Google blends them in, most people tend to click on organic listings.
  4. 43.9% of the world still hasn’t come online – we all know Google is the dominant global search engine. But only 56.1% of the world’s population has Internet access. As more people come online, more people will use Google as their search engine, which means more people to click on your organic listings.

In other words, SEO isn’t dead and it is still an amazing channel. Just look at my traffic stats over the last 31 days:

total traffic

Now of those 4,362,165 monthly visits, guess how many come from search engines like Google?

search traffic

A whopping 2,343,362 visits.

In other words, SEO makes up 53.71% of my traffic. That’s a ton of traffic.

And even with Google’s continual changes, you would expect my traffic to be lower, but it isn’t… it’s gone up.

search traffic year

A year ago, I was generating 1,088,251 visits a month from Google. It’s now gone up to 2,343,362 even though Google’s algorithm has continually gotten harder and organic results are continually being pushed further below the fold.

But still, you shouldn’t only rely on SEO

I love Google and even though there is a future for SEO, you shouldn’t rely on it. No matter how good you are at SEO, it doesn’t guarantee success.

Let’s look at a company that you are familiar with… Airbnb.

Did you know that Airbnb didn’t come up with the concept of renting out your house or rooms in your house?

Can you guess who it was?

It was VRBO and they came up with that model 13 years before Airbnb did.

But here’s what’s interesting… who do you think wins when it comes to SEO?

Shockingly, it’s VRBO.

VRBO crushes Airbnb when it comes to Google rankings and they have for a very long time. Here are just a few examples of keywords VRBO ranks for that Airbnb doesn’t:

  • hilton head rentals
  • ocean city maryland rentals
  • cape cod rentals
  • cabin rentals
  • vacation homes
  • vacation rentals
  • vacation home rentals

Airbnb does rank for organic keywords as well, but most of them are brand related.

They crushed their competition without relying on SEO and they were 13 years late when it came to entering the market.

So how did Airbnb win? Well, the main way was they built a better product.

But in addition to that, you focused on an omnichannel approach. From SEO to PPC to advertising on TV screens in airplanes, they tried all of the major channels out there.

Yes, you need to do SEO, but you can’t rely on it as your only source of traffic or income. Diversify, not because of Google, but because you can’t control consumer behavior.

People may not prefer to use search engines in the future, they may want something else, which means you will have to adapt.

Plus you can no longer build a big business through one channel.

Yes, Facebook did grow through referrals. Quora did grow through SEO. Dropbox grew through social media… but those circumstances don’t exist anymore. What worked for these old companies won’t work for you.

You have to leverage all channels to do well in today’s market.

Conclusion

Google may be making changes that you don’t like as a marketer or business owner, but that doesn’t mean SEO is dead.

You can see it from my own traffic stats. You can still grow your traffic, even with Google’s ever-changing algorithm.

Don’t worry about the future because you won’t be able to always predict it or even prevent the inevitable.

The only real solution is to take an omnichannel approach so that you aren’t relying on any one channel.

What do you think about Google’s current layout?





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It’s Valentine’s Day, but what does that have to do with your online business? When you have a website you can use this seasonal consumer spending to your benefit.

Here’s how you can use Valentines Day to improve your website’s positioning on Google, and how to keep your seasonal content fresh year after year.

Valentine’s Day Sales

Valentine’s day generated over $18 billion in sales in 2018, and in 2019 consumers are expected to spend $19.6 billion. So who is making purchases for this date? Men are the biggest spenders, spending double what women spend, with about 66% of them between the ages of 25 and 34.

While the most popular gifts range from candy, flowers, jewelry, and evenings out—there is also a trend of people buying ‘anti’ Valentine’s Day gifts. Clearly, on this special day your online store can offer something for everyone.

If you make sales through your website, then one of your main concerns is appearing in search results when people search for products or services you offer. Holidays and special dates like Valentine’s Day can help you improve your positioning in these results.

How Can Valentine’s Day help your SEO?

When you create quality content on your website specifically around a special date, such as Christmas, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, St. Patrick’s Day, etc. you’re improving your chances of searchers finding you.

1

In the image above, you can see how there is a spike in searches for ‘valentine’s day gifts’ in January and February every year.

Before starting, ask yourself whether your products are given as gifts, and to whom? This is usually a no brainer for most eCommerce stores and many websites selling services, but there are also some great online businesses such as specialty tools, enterprise software, supplies, and machinery that will likely not have to invest their time into creating content for Valentine’s Day.

Curating a gift guide is a great option to help your SEO because it showcases a large selection of your products to potential shoppers in a single space, and it can be easily shared on social media.

In order to take full advantage of the gift guide, follow these steps:

  • Create a new page on your website, or a blog post. Ideally, you should start over a month before the special date.
  • Name it with a keyword that is relevant to the type of products you offer, and your target audience, for instance:
    • ‘Best Valentine’s Day Gifts for Bike Lovers/Outdoorsy people’ (if you sell bikes)
    • ‘Best Valentine’s Day for Friends’
    • ‘Valentine’s Day Gifts on a Budget’
    • ‘Top 10 Valentine’s Day Gifts for Staff’
    • ‘The Ultimate 2019 Valentine’s Day Gift Guide’
  • Fill in the page or post meta description to fit the upcoming holiday season—remember to include your chosen keywords—Valentine’s Day, Gifts and a keyword that makes your page more specific and relevant to your desired audience.
    • It’s also helpful to include the year in parentheses, so visitors understand it’s fresh content. For instance, ‘Best Valentine’s Day for Friends (2019).’
  • Populate the page or post it with your products – either the actual items to be added directly to a cart, or a list of your products with a description and link to the item. Link to other pages on your site that are relevant to the seasonal shopper.
  • Make an image for your page using a tool like Canva or Pablo, and upload it to Pinterest. Special dates usually have people creating wishlists on this social platform, and with a good cover image, you can get on those wishlists.
  • Optimize the page for speed and mobile – don’t fill it with animated images, auto-playing videos, gifs, or large images.
  • Link to your new content from other pages on your site, and share on social media.
  • Place a banner on your homepage promoting your dedicated page. POWr and Hello Bar are good options.
  • If you’ve created your content with over a month to go before the date, then you can do outreach to other sites in order to build external links for your page.
  • Run your page through a quick SEO audit to make sure nothing is stopping your site from being well positioned in search engines.

Well Optimized Gift Guides

Get inspired with the following gift guides that rank well on Google and do a great job of showcasing the website’s products:

  • Personalized Valentine’s Gifts for Her – this dedicated page has links to their best-selling products. A visitor doesn’t have to search and filter throughout all their products—this guide has already made the selection for them. There is a medium amount of text on the page that contains their keywords.
  • Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas for Her – this gift guide has more of a blog post feel, where items are listed with a brief description and what makes it a great gift. The ‘buy’ button is clearly places for each item.
  • Unique Valentine’s Day Gifts – this is a category page that directly links out to their products and more category pages. It has very little text, but note how well optimized the titles are, and the amount of relevant links this page is pointing to. It’s a ‘hub’ for everything about unique Valentine’s Day gift ideas.

What Happens After V-Day?

So now that you’ve created your dedicated page, promoted it, and Valentine’s Day has passed, what should you do until next year?

Most of your content should stay ‘timeless’, but make sure to update the page in advance each year: adding your new products, linking to new blog posts, and looking for others to link to your gift guide.

Grow your online brand and reach new heights. Explore subscription plans to see how Weebly can help take your business to the next level.





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links

We all know that links help rankings. And the more links you build the higher you’ll rank.

But does it really work that way?

Well, the short answer is links do help with rankings and I have the data to prove it.

But, you already know that.

The real question is what kind of links do you need to boost your rankings?

Is it rich anchor text links? Is it sitewide links? Or what happens when the same site links to you multiple times? Or when a site links to you and then decides to remove the link?

Well, I decided to test all of this out and then some.

Over the last 10 months, I decided to run an experiment with your help. The experiment took a bit longer than we wanted, but we all know link building isn’t easy, so the experiment took 6 months longer than was planned.

Roughly 10 months ago, I emailed a portion of my list and asked if they wanted to participate in a link building experiment.

The response was overwhelming… 3,919 people responded, but of course, it would be a bit too hard to build links to 3,919 sites.

And when I say build, I’m talking about manual outreach, leveraging relationships… in essence, doing hard work that wouldn’t break Google’s guidelines.

Now out of the 3,919 people who responded, we created a set of requirements to help us narrow down the number of sites to something more manageable:

  1. Low domain score – we wanted to run an experiment on sites with low domain scores. If a site had a domain score of greater than 20, we removed it. When a site has too much authority, they naturally rank for terms and it is harder to see the impact that a few links can have. (If you want to know your domain score you can put in your website URL here.)
  2. Low backlink count – similar to the one above, we wanted to see what happens with sites with little to no backlinks. So, if a site had more than 20 backlinks, it was also removed from the experiment.
  3. No subdomains – we wanted sites that weren’t a Tumblr.com or a WordPress.com site or subdomain. To be in this experiment, you had to have your own domain.
  4. English only sites – Google in English is more competitive than Google in Spanish, or Portuguese or many other languages. For that reason, we only selected sites that had their main market as the United States and the site had to be in English. This way, if something worked in the United States, we knew it would work in other countries as they tend to be less competitive.

We decided to cap the experiment to 200 sites. But eventually, many of the sites dropped off due to their busy schedule or they didn’t want to put in the work required. And as people dropped off, we replaced them with other sites who wanted to participate.

How the experiment worked

Similar to the on-page SEO experiment that we ran, we had people write content between 1,800 and 2,000 words.

Other than that we didn’t set any requirements. We just wanted there to be a minimum length as that way people naturally include keywords within their content. We did, however, include a maximum length as we didn’t want people to write 10,000-word blog posts as that would skew the data.

Websites had 2 weeks to publish their content. And after 30 days of it being live, we looked up the URLs within Ubersuggest to see how many keywords the article ranked for in the top 100, top 50 and top 10 spots.

Keep in mind that Ubersuggest has 1,459,103,429 keywords in its database from all around the world and in different languages. Most of the keywords have low search volume, such as 10 a month.

We then spent 3 months building links and then waited 2 months after the links were built to see what happened to the rankings.

The URLs were then entered back into the Ubersuggest database to see how many keywords they ranked for.

In addition to that, we performed this experiment in batches, we just didn’t have the manpower and time to do this for 200 sites all at once, hence it took roughly 10 months for this to complete.

We broke the sites down into 10 different groups. That’s 20 sites per group. Each group only leveraged 1 link tactic as we wanted to see how it impacted rankings.

Here’s each group:

  1. Control – with this group we did nothing but write content. We needed a baseline to compare everything to.
  2. Anchor text – the links built to the articles in this group contained rich anchor text but were from irrelevant pages. In other words, the link text contained a keyword, but the linking site wasn’t too relevant to the article. We built 3 anchor text links to each article.
  3. Sitewide links – they say search engines don’t care for sitewide links, especially ones in a footer… I wanted to test this out for myself. We built one sitewide link to each article.
  4. Content-based links – most links tend to happen within the content and that’s what we built here. We built 3 content-based links to each article.
  5. Multiple links from the same site – these weren’t sitewide links but imagine one site linking to you multiple times within their content. Does it really help compared to having just 1 link from a site? We built 3 links from the same site to each article.
  6. One link – in this scenario we built one link from a relevant site.
  7. Sidebar links – we built 3 links from the sidebar of 3 different sites.
  8. Nofollow links – does Google really ignore nofollow links? You are about to find out because we built 3 nofollow links to each article.
  9. High authority link – we built 1 link with a domain score of 70 or higher.
  10. Built and removed links – we built 3 links to articles in this group and then removed them 30 days after the links were picked up by Google.

Now before I share what we learned, keep in mind that we didn’t build the links to the domain’s homepage. We built the links to the article that was published. That way we could track to see if the links helped.

Control group

Do you really need links to rank your content? Especially if your site has a low domain score?

control

Based on the chart, the older your content gets, the higher you will rank. And based on the data even if you don’t do much, over a period of 6 months you can roughly rank for 5 times more keywords even without link building.

As they say, SEO is a long game and the data shows it… especially if you don’t build any links.

Anchor text

They say anchor text links really help boost rankings. That makes sense because the link text has a keyword.

But what if the anchor rich link comes from an irrelevant site. Does that help boost rankings?

anchor text

It looks like anchor text plays a huge part in Google’s rankings, even if the linking site isn’t too relevant to your article.

Now, I am not saying you should build spammy links and shove keywords in the link text, more so it’s worth keeping in mind anchor text matters.

So if you already haven’t, go put in your domain here to see who links to you. And look for all of the non-rich anchor text links and email each of those site owners.

Ask them if they will adjust the link and switch it to something that contains a keyword.

This strategy is much more effective when you ask people to switch backlinks that contain your brand name as the anchor text to something that is more keyword rich.

Sitewide Links

They say sitewide links are spammy… especially if they are shoved in the footer of a site.

We built one sitewide footer link to each article to test this out.

sitewide links

Although sites that leverage sitewide links showed more of an increase than the control group, the results weren’t amazing, especially for page 1 rankings.

Content-based links

Do relevance and the placement of the links impact rankings? We built 3 in-content links that were relevant to each article.

Now the links were not rich in anchor text.

content based links

Compared to the baseline, rankings moved up to a similar rate as the sites who built rich anchor text links from irrelevant sites.

Multiple site links

I always hear SEOs telling me that if you build multiple links from the same site, it doesn’t do anything. They say that Google only counts one link.

For that reason, I thought we would put this to the test.

We built 3 links to each article, but we did something a bit different compared to the other groups. Each link came from the same site, although we did leverage 3 different web pages.

For example, if 3 different editors from Forbes link to your article from different web pages on Forbes, in theory, you have picked up 3 links from the same site.

samesite links

Even if the same site links to you multiple times, it can help boost your rankings.

One link 

Is more really better? How does one relevant link compare to 3 irrelevant links?

one link

It’s not as effective as building multiple links. Sure, it is better than building no links but the articles that built 3 relevant backlinks instead of 1 had roughly 75% more keyword placements in the top 100 positions of Google.

So if you have a choice when it comes to link building, more is better.

Sidebar links

Similar to how we tested footer links, I was curious to see how much placement of a link impacts rankings.

We looked at in-content links, footer links, and now sidebar links.

sidebar links

Shockingly, they have a significant impact in rankings. Now in order of effectiveness, in-content links help the most, then sidebar links, and then sitewide footer when it comes to placement.

I wish I tested creating 3 sitewide footer links to each article instead of 1 as that would have given me a more accurate conclusion for what placements Google prefers.

Maybe I will be able to run that next time. 🙁

Nofollow links

Do nofollow links help with rankings?

Is Google pulling our leg when they say they ignore them?

nofollow

From what it looks like, they tend to not count nofollow links. Based on the chart above, you can see that rankings did improve over time, but so did almost every other chart, including the control group.

But here’s what’s funny: the control group had a bigger percentage gain in keyword rankings even though no links were built.

Now, I am not saying that nofollow links hurt your rankings, instead, I am saying they have no impact.

High authority link

Which one do you think is better:

Having one link from a high domain site (70 or higher)?

OR

Having 3 links from sites with an average or low domain score?

high authority

Even though the link from the authority site wasn’t rich in anchor text and we only built 1 per site in this group… it still had a bigger impact than the sites in the other group.

That means high authority links have more weight than irrelevant links that contain rich anchor text or even 3 links from sites with a low domain score.

If you are going to spend time link building, this is where your biggest ROI will be.

Build and removed links

This was the most interesting group, at least that is what the data showed.

I always felt that if you built links and got decent rankings you wouldn’t have to worry too much when you lost links.

After all, Google looks at user signals, right?

remove links

This one was shocking. At least for sites that have a low domain score, if you gain a few links and then lose them fairly quickly, your rankings can tank to lower than what they originally were.

I didn’t expect this one and if I had to guess, maybe Google has something programmed in their algorithm that if a site loses a large portion of their links fast that people don’t find value in the site and that it shouldn’t rank.

Or that the site purchased links and then stopped purchasing the links…

Whatever it may be, you should consider tracking how many links you lose on a regular basis and focus on making sure the net number is increasing each month.

Conclusion

I wish I had put more people behind this experiment as that would have enabled me to increase the number of sites that I included in this experiment.

My overall sample size for each group is a bit too small, which could skew the data. But I do believe it is directionally accurate, in which building links from high domain score sites have the biggest impact.

Then shoot for rich anchor text links that are from relevant sites and are placed within the content.

I wouldn’t have all of your link text rich in anchor text and if you are using white hat link building practices it naturally won’t be and you won’t have to worry much about this.

But if you combine all of that together you should see a bigger impact in your rankings, especially if you are a new site.

So, what do you think about the data? Has it helped you figure out what types of links Google prefers?



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seo analyzer

They say there are over 200 ranking factors in Google’s algorithm.

But are you going to take the time to optimize your site for each and every single one of them?

Well, you should… but you probably won’t.

See, SEO has changed… it used to be that you could do a handful of things and rank well. Sadly, those days are gone.

Now you have to do every little thing and do it well to dominate Google.

So, I decided to make your job easier and release yet another new feature in Ubersuggest that audits your website for you in less than 3 minutes.

It’s called SEO Analyzer.

Introducing SEO Analyzer

If you want to find out what’s wrong with your website, you won’t have to do it manually anymore.

All you have to do is head over to the SEO Analyzer and put in your URL.

seo analyzer


How SEO Analyzer works

Once you put in your URL, you’ll be taken to a report that looks something like this:

seo analyzer

Once the report loads (it typically takes 3 minutes or less), you’ll see an overview like the image above.

The overview is broken down into 3 main sections.

Overview

overview

The first section shows you your on-page SEO score (the higher the better), your estimated search traffic, the number of keywords the domain ranks for, and how many backlinks the site has.

You’ll also see a message from me that breaks down how many pages were crawled and any SEO errors that were found.

When you click on any of those 4 boxes, it will take you to a more in-depth report.

Clicking on the on-page score takes you to a page that lists out your SEO errors. It looks something like this:

seo issues

Clicking on the organic traffic takes you to a report that shows you how well your site is performing.

traffic analyzer

Clicking on the keywords box shows you all of the keywords your website ranks for organically.

keywords

And clicking on the backlinks box shows you all of the sites linking to that domain.

backlinks


Site health

This is my favorite section of the site audit report. This is where you can really dig around and boost your rankings

site health

You can click on any of the four site health boxes and drill down into more reports.

This is important because you’ll want to first focus on clearing up any critical errors. From there, you’ll want to fix any warnings and then, finally, consider doing any of the given recommendations.

The health check box gives you an overview of the healthy pages and the ones that have issues or are broken or blocked or even redirected. By clicking on this box you’ll get taken to a report that lists all your SEO issues in detail.

seo issues

From there you can click on any of those issues and you’ll be taken to the exact pages that contain any SEO errors and what they are exactly. An example of this is pages with too long of a title tag.

long titles

If you aren’t sure on how to fix any of the issues, just click on “what is this and how do I fix it?” and a box like this will appear:

how to fix

And if you click on the critical errors, warnings or recommendations boxes, you’ll see reports just like the ones above. They will be broken down by how important they are.

hard easy

That way you’ll know which fixes have the greatest SEO impact and how hard they are to implement.

You should first focus on the ones that have the highest SEO impact and are the easiest to implement. And I took the liberty to prioritize the table for you, so all you have to do is start at the top and work your way down to the bottom.

Site speed

Speed is important. Not only do faster load times help boost conversion rates, but they also help boost your search rankings.

site speed

There are two sections to the site speed. The section on the left breaks down your desktop load time and the section on the right breaks down your mobile load time.

Site speed varies drastically by a person’s connection and computer, but the charts give you a rough range of how fast or slow your site loads.

Your goal should be to have your site load in 3 seconds or less for both mobile and desktop.

The report even breaks down which areas are slowing down your site speed.

For example, you could have an issue with “First CPU Idle”… and if you aren’t sure what that means, just hover over the question mark and the tool will tell you.

tool tip


Top SEO Issues

I know I said the report has 3 main sections, but the 4th section is just repeating the site health section.

top seo issues

You’ll see the 3 most important fixes that you should make to your site if you want higher rankings.

If you don’t have the time to fix everything, start off by fixing the 3 issues listed here. Those will give you the biggest bang for your buck.

Conclusion

So, what do you think about the SEO Analyzer report? Do you think it was a good addition to Ubersuggest?

I know I haven’t talked about the SEO Analyzer report much, but we’ve been working on it for 4 months now.

For now, the tool crawls the first 100 pages on your website, and eventually, our goal is to increase the limit to 500 or even 1,000. Technically we can do that fairly easily, but for the launch, I’ve capped it at 100 due to the sheer number of users I have and server load.

Give the SEO Analyzer a try and let me know what you think.



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There is an old adage: “You get what you pay for.” It’s a common saying that has become cliché enough that some people tend to forget that it is usually true (but not always). Here is another quote, which you may or may not find useful: “Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.” That’s from Oscar Wilde.

So… what is the point, you might be wondering. My point is that, more often than not, saving money is a good thing; however, when choosing a Web-design or SEO firm for your business’s website, you could be doing yourself a disservice if you choose based solely on estimates of price.

Quite simply: if you are looking for a website that is designed to convert visitors into paying customers or potential customers and you are banking on search engine optimization to bring you targeted visitors, it does not pay to take shortcuts.

In fact, choosing a low-cost solution can often cost you more in the long run.


So how do you choose? Well, chances are, you are not a Web designer or SEO professional and that is why you are looking to hire an expert. So it’s understandable you likely won’t know what separates a good firm from one that’s not.

Here’s what you need to know.

Not All Estimates Are the Same

Every day, businesses like yours are looking for a quote on website design or SEO—or both. Though you may have provided your requirements, what you get back in estimates can drastically vary from company to company. What is and is not included in the proposal can be different from estimate to estimate. If you select your Web developer based on the bottom-line price only, you could end up eventually paying more for your website and online marketing.

Think of it as if you were building a house.

One builder’s quote does not include door handles. Another builder’s quote is missing a bedroom. Another quote has all low-end finishings whereas another includes custom everything. The finished products would be drastically different, at drastically different costs.


At the end of the day, what are you looking for?

Set up parameters of your requirements and then review each estimate with the firm to ensure your Web development requirements will be met in the finished product.

What to Look For

When you set up parameters, you can make better comparisons—apples to apples. The following items are not offered by all Web designers, but they are a part of a good-SEO website design program:

  • Preliminary market research and onboarding meetings
  • Keyword research and recommended top keywords
  • Planning, sitemap, and page/content planning
  • Content creation (determining who will provide it)
  • Content optimization for SEO
  • Content entry
  • Content styling
  • SEO programming
  • Goal-tracking in Google analytics
  • Testing
  • Reporting

Warning Signs

You should never be guaranteed organic search engine results; if placement results are promised in a quote, you should consider that a warning sign.

In addition, any mention of proprietary tricks of the trade should ring your warning bells.

Not All SEO Is Actually SEO

SEO is common on Web development quotes these days. For many firms, the SEO process involves simply installing a plugin such as Yoast and then auto-filling in the titles, descriptions, keywords (TDK: these days, this is the meta-title and description that search engines read to see what a page is about).

You’ll likely save a lot of money by selecting a firm that does SEO in this manner. But your site might never rank for the high-quality, high-traffic keyword phrases that could be bringing you in the majority of your leads.

Even the most experienced of SEO firms will vary in their SEO process; however, a well-developed SEO strategy takes time to properly execute; it is a long-term goal, and a variety of elements are built atop each other to achieve eventual success. Generally, SEO should start with a consultation and keyword research, which will then form the basis for the website architecture. SEO is not a plug-in after the website design is completed.

SEO plays a big part in the quality of content on your website. Ongoing management and maintenance involve reviewing the website analytics regularly and then making the necessary adjustments based on the results.

You can’t get around the fact that SEO takes time to achieve results. You can’t slap it together; not implementing a proper SEO strategy will cost you potential leads in the long run.

Think about it this way: An experienced SEO firm may charge an upfront fee and monthly maintenance while advising you it could take six months to a year to see top results; so, instead, you choose the Web development firm that promises you SEO is included in the price. They tell you they’ve chosen keywords and optimized your website. A year later, your website is still underperforming. By that time, you realize you need a more experienced and specialized SEO company. Once again, you’re told it could take six months to a year to start achieving results. So now you’re now looking at two years from when you first started before you start to reap the benefits of SEO.

Don’t give up, though. The majority of good, targeted leads come from organic search, so having a well-defined SEO strategy is the way to achieve success.

Cheat Sheet: How to Choose a Good SEO Professional

So, now that we know not all SEO is the same, how do you determine which professional is right for your business? Which SEO firm will be the right choice for you, from the start?

  • Experience. SEO has been around since the late ’90s. The companies that have extensive experience have been through a variety of changes in the industry; they have withstood major search engine updates and are still around to tell the tales. In other words, they have innate knowledge to make key decisions based on experience rather than on articles they have read.
  • Team. A team approach to SEO is a wise approach. Generally, there will be strategy, keyword research, content planning and creation, and technical items that all need to be carried out in unison.
  • Portfolio. Although there are some SEO professionals who specialize in a specific industry, many of the good SEO professionals can work within any industry because their strategy and practices are sound. When looking at an SEO portfolio, you should have a good idea of their successes: Have they been able to achieve successful results in competitive industries? Do they have experience in a business such as yours?
  • Personable. Your SEO professionals will be working hard for you. It is important that you like them and you are able to build a relationship with them. You need to work with someone you can like and trust.

Not All Web Design Is Equal

WordPress has made it easy for people to develop and build websites. A lot of these template websites are beautiful and funky. They look great, and it is easy to be wooed and wowed by all the bells and whistles

Generally speaking, everyone wants a website that looks great. But, more important, your website needs to work great for the visitor. Looking great and working great can be two very different things.

  • Planning. SEO Web design is based on the sound practice that planning for SEO comes before design. That means market research, keyword research, and site planning are based on SEO principals and help guide the build.
  • Site structure. SEO principals will guide the structure of your website. It needs to be uncluttered and it should properly move your visitors through the website.
  • User flow. Websites should be designed for the visitor and they should be based on what the targeted visitor are expected/want/need to do once they’re on the website.
  • Site speed. A lot of the bells and whistles can add bloat to a website, which translates into poor speed. Your visitor will leave if the site is slow. In addition, you may see decreased performance on search engines.
  • Mobile-first indexing. Google has moved to mobile-first indexing, which means it’s important your site work properly (and look great) on mobile devices. If your website is not attractive to your target audience, or takes too long to load, you could be losing valuable leads.

Poorly Written Code

What do some of the top templates and inexperienced Web developers have in common? Poorly written code. That increases your website’s chances for bugs later on and can damage performance. Code should be clean and easy for search engines to read while also being understandable for other coders, as well.

There are a variety of tools out there that can assess a website’s performance. Web.dev is an SEO tool provided by Google that provides a great overview of potential programming and SEO problems that can hinder a site’s performance. Google’s Webmaster Tools and W3’s markup validation can also help.

Are You Getting the Features You Require?

Not all businesses require custom Web development, but you do get what you pay for. When you are working with an inexperienced Web designer or a designer who is not a developer and therefore cannot create custom features, you will be restricted by the level of their abilities. They may lead you away from features you are looking for, simply because they do not know how to create them.

In the end, if your website isn’t serving the needs of your target audience, capturing their attention, and providing them with innovation or uniqueness, you may find it is harder to retain your visitors and turn them into leads.

That isn’t to say all templates are bad or that inexperienced Web developers do not deserve a chance to succeed or are not capable of delivering top results. Rather, quite simply, there is a cost associated with selecting the wrong firm for your needs. That cost comes in the form of lost time and lost potential revenue.

Moreover, it is important to determine which features are included in your estimate. Feature creep is real. It happens when additional features are added throughout a build. Sometimes they come from the developer or SEO professional who has a good idea, and other times from the client. Bu you don’t want to be in for a shock when it comes time to pay the bill!

Cheat Sheet: How to Choose a Good Web Developer

How a website looks and how it functions are two separate things. It is easy to tell whether a website looks good, or innovative, or fresh. It is much harder to determine whether a website functions as it is supposed to.

  • Experience. A Web developer with experience will have seen the pitfalls of many website and SEO trends and should know how to build a site that can withstand them.
  • Templates. It is important to know beforehand if your website will be based on a template.
  • How you will update the website. Some websites are built from scratch using html and can require some work for a layperson to update. Others are built in a content management system such as WordPress or Drupal and have built in WYSIWYG editors. Others are a hybrid of custom code within WordPress, for example.
  • Features. If using WordPress, for instance, there are many features in the form of plugins that can be added to your site. Unfortunately, sometimes those plugins can also really weigh your site down and cause it to slow down (Google doesn’t like a slow site!). A good Web developer can determine when a plugin is the best case course of action and when a more custom option is required.

The Bottom Line

If part of your business model and goals is to succeed on the Internet, properly setting yourself up for success the first time is key. Choosing wisely now will allow you to start taking advantage of the potential opportunities sooner.

Businesses are on a budget; however, selecting a Web development and SEO partner based solely on the bottom-line price rarely pays off in the long run.



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domain score

If I write a blog post on any topic, what do you think happens?

It typically gets indexed by Google the same day I publish the content and within a week it tends to rank high on Google.

Then again, I have a domain score of 94 and I have 633,791 backlinks. Just look at the image above. (If you are curious what your link count or domain score is, put in your URL here.)

But if you have a lot fewer backlinks and a much lower domain score, what do you think would happen?

Chances are your content won’t get indexed fast and it won’t rank as high as you want.

But there has to be a way to change this, right? Especially without building more backlinks because we all know that’s time-consuming and hard.

To find the most ideal solution, I decided to run a little experiment.

Around five months ago, I sent out an email to a portion of my mailing list asking people if they wanted to partake in an SEO experiment.

As you could imagine, I had well over a thousand websites who were willing to participate. I had to narrow down the list because for this experiment to be effective, a website had to have a domain score of 30 or less and no more than 40 backlinks.

That way it’s at least a challenge to figure out how to rank new content higher.

In addition to that, the site couldn’t be a subdomain, such as domain.wordpress.com. It had to be a standalone site.

Once I removed all of the outliers, I was left with 983 people who agreed to participate in the experiment. Of those, 347 stopped replying or backed out of the experiment due to time commitments, which means I was left with 636.

How did the SEO experiment work?

For all of the sites, we had them write a piece of content. We didn’t make it a requirement that the content had to be about any specific topic or that it had to be written a certain way… we just had them write one piece of content that was between 1,800 and 2,000 words in length.

We enforced the minimum and maximum length limit because we needed the post to be long enough to naturally include keywords, but if it was too long… such as 10,000 words, it would have a higher chance to rank on Google.

Each site had 30 days to write the piece of content and publish it on their site. Within 30 days of the content being published, we looked up the URL in our Ubersuggest database to see how many keywords the post ranks for in the top 100, top 50, and top 10 spots.

We also repeated this search 60 days after the article was published to see if there were any major differences.

The Ubersuggest database currently contains information on 1,459,103,429 keywords from around the world in all languages (a lot of keywords have low search volume like 10 searches per month). But for this experiment, we focused on English speaking sites.

We then split the sites up into 9 groups. Roughly 70 sites per group. Each group only leveraged 1 tactic to see if it helped with rankings.

Here’s a breakdown of each group.

  1. Control group – this group just published the article and didn’t leverage any promotional or SEO tactics. Having a control group allows us to compare how specific tactics affect rankings.
  2. Sitemap – all this group leveraged was a sitemap. They added the article to their sitemap, and we made sure the sitemap was submitted to Google Search Console.
  3. Internal linking – this group added 3 internal links from older pieces of content to the newly written article.
  4. URL Inspection – within Google Search Console you can request that they Crawl and index a URL. That feature is called URL Inspection.
  5. Social shares – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Reddit were the social sites that this group submitted and promoted their content on.
  6. Google Chrome lookup – for each site in this group, we had 40 people type in the URL directly into their address bar and look up the site. This could have been done on either mobile or desktop versions of Chrome. I added this group in there because I was curious to see if people visiting your site from Chrome browsers affects your rankings.
  7. Meta tags – my team optimized the title tag and meta description for everyone in this group. Based on the article, we crafted the optimal meta tags to not only include keywords but also to entice clicks.
  8. URL – with this group we only optimized their article URL to include keywords and we tried to keep the length around 50 characters as that is what they supposedly prefer.
  9. Everything – this group combined all of the tactics above other than the control group as they didn’t do anything.

Before I dive into the data, keep in mind that if someone was in one of the groups, we did our best to make sure that they weren’t leveraging any other tactic. For example, for everyone who wasn’t in the sitemap group, we had them remove their existing sitemaps for Google Search Console (other than the everything group).

Control group

So how many keywords does an average website with a domain score of 30 or less rank for in Google within a month and even two months?

control

I was shocked at how many keywords a site could rank for when it barely has any links and a low domain score.

But what wasn’t as shocking is how a web page’s ranking can increase over time. The orange line shows the number of keywords that ranked within the first 30 days and the green line shows the number over the first 60 days.

Sitemap group

You know how people say you need an XML sitemap, well it is even more important if you have a low domain score. At least, that is what the data shows.

sitemap

When your site has very few links and a low domain score, you’ll find that Google may not crawl your site as often as you want. But by leveraging a sitemap, you can speed up the indexing process, which helps decrease the time it takes for your site to start ranking for keywords.

Internal linking group

Links, links, and more links… it’s what every site needs to rank well. Ideally, those links would be from external sites, but that’s hard to do. So, we tested how internal links impact rankings.

When you add internal links from your old content to your newer articles, it helps them get indexed faster and it helps push them up in the rankings.

Especially when these internal links come from relevant pages that have some decent rankings on Google.

internal links

Articles that leveraged 3 internal links had more page 1 rankings than sites that just used an XML sitemap.

URL inspection group

If you aren’t familiar with the URL inspection feature within Google Search Console, it’s a quick way to getting your content index.

Just log into Search Console and type in your article URL in the search bar at the top. You’ll see a screen that looks something like this:

url inspection

All you have to do is click the “request indexing” link.

url inspection

Leveraging this feature has a similar result to using the sitemap.

Social shares group

I’ve noticed a trend with my own website, in which if I create a piece of content that goes viral on the social web, my rankings for that new piece of content skyrocket to the top of Google… at least in the very short run.

And after a few weeks, I notice that my rankings drop.

Now, my site isn’t a large enough sample size and there are many reasons why my site ranks really well quickly.

Nonetheless, it was interesting to see how much social shares impact rankings.

social shares

Getting social shares substantially performed better than the control group, but similar to my experience with NeilPatel.com, the rankings did slip a bit in month 2 instead of continually rising to the top.

Social shares may not have a direct impact on rankings, but the more people who see your content the higher the chance you build backlinks, increase your brand queries, and build brand loyalty.

Google Chrome lookup group

Do you know how people are saying that Google is using data from Google Analytics and Chrome to determine how high your site should rank?

Well, I wasn’t able to prove that from this experiment.

I had 40 random people directly type in the URL of each new article into Google Chrome. I spread it out over a week, making sure they clicked around on the site and stayed for at least 2 minutes.

google chrome

The ranking results were very similar to the control group.

Meta tags group

Now this group performed very similarly to the group that leveraged internal linking. And the month 2 results outperformed all other groups.

meta tags

User metrics are a key part of Google’s algorithm. If you can create a compelling title tag and meta description, you’ll see a boost in your click-through rate and eventually, your rankings will climb.

If you want to boost your rankings through your meta tags, it’s not just about adding in the right keywords, you’ll also want to boost your click-through rate. Follow these steps to do just that.

URL group

The 8th group tested if URL length impacts how high a new piece of content ranks on Google.

url

Based on the graph above, you can see that it does. It didn’t have as much of an impact as internal linking or meta tags, but it did have an impact.

The key to creating SEO friendly URLs is to include a keyword or two and keep them short.

If your URL is too long and descriptive, such as:

neilpatel.com/blog/how-to-optimize-your-meta-tags-for-search-engines

The article will rank for very long tail phrases but will struggle to rank for more popular terms like “meta tags” compared to URLs like:

neilpatel.com/blog/meta-tags/

The beautiful part about the short URLs is that they rank well for head terms and long tail phrases.

Conclusion

The charts clearly show that little things like meta tags, URLs, internal linking, social shares, and even sitemaps help.

But the key to doing well, especially if you want your new content to rank well is to not just do one of those things, but instead do them all.

everything

As you can see from the chart, doing everything gives you the best results. Now sure, some of the things are redundant like using an XML sitemap and using the URL inspection feature, but you get the point.

You’ll also notice that when you leverage everything together your results aren’t exponentially better… SEO is competitive and has turned into a game where every little thing adds up.

If you want to do well and have your new AND old content rank faster and higher, you need to do everything.

I know the tactics above aren’t anything revolutionary or new, but it’s interesting to look at the data and see how specific tactics affect rankings.

So, what do you think?



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Over the past few weeks, senior-level marketers like you have told us the workplace challenges and pain points they’ve faced… and the creative and practical solutions they’ve devised to overcome them.

Those journeys are the foundation of the newly redesigned MarTech® agenda.

Marketing experts of all stripes will tackle some of the most vexing aspects of marketing operations and technology September 16-18 in Boston. Here’s a look at what’s in store:

On building collaborative and successful teams…

  • How To Organize And Coach Outstanding Marketing Operations Teams, with Kimi Corrigan — Head of Marketing Operations, Duo Security at Cisco
  • From Wild West To Business Best: Tales Of A New Martech Team, with Shannon Renz — Director of Marketing Technology, SAP Concur and Emily Cnossen, Martech Specialist, SAP Concur
  • Rising To A New Martech Leadership Challenge And Building The Team That Will Help You Soar, with Erica Seidel — Founder & Executive Recruiter, The Connective Good and Dave Hsu — Global VP, Marketing Data & Technology, SAP Concur
  • An SEO Framework For Marketing Operations & Technology Leadership, with Jessica Bowman — Author, The SEO Executive Playbook

On maintaining a thriving stack…

  • Migration Machine: How PTC Integrated Martech Stacks Of 6 Company Acquisitions In 3 Years, with Patrick Slavin — Director, Web Strategy and Marketing Technology, PTC
  • Securing Your Martech Stack: Partnering With IT And Enterprise Security, with Jorge Garcia — Sr. Manager, Marketing Technology, Akamai

On delighting customers…

  • Outside-In, CX-Led Architectures To Drive Digital Transformations, with Henry Hernandez-Reveron — Technology Director, AKQA
  • Putting The Customer In Custom Objects, with Justin Sharaf — Director, Marketing Technology and Operations, LogMeIn

… and that’s just the beginning. Stay tuned for the official agenda launch next week.

Ready to register? Secure your pass now and enjoy up to $900 off on-site rates!

Pssst… Attend with your team to boost company morale, cover more ground, and get your crew on the same page. Enjoy special discounts when you register as a group.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Scott Brinker is the conference chair of the MarTech® Conference, a vendor-agnostic marketing technology conference and trade show series produced by MarTech Today’s parent company, Third Door Media. The MarTech event grew out of Brinker’s blog, chiefmartec.com, which has chronicled the rise of marketing technology and its changing marketing strategy, management and culture since 2008. In addition to his work on MarTech, Scott serves as the VP platform ecosystem at HubSpot. Previously, he was the co-founder and CTO of ion interactive.



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So you nailed SEO, optimized your blog posts, and reached the first page of Google search results. Your traffic is growing gradually, but it still leaves much to be desired.

You keep looking for new ways of driving more visitors to your website, and the sudden thought strikes you… featured snippets!

Right, getting the so-called “Position Zero” would help you outrank your competitors and become more visible in search results. There is just one problem—you won’t win it overnight.

So, in an effort to figure out how to optimize your site for capturing featured snippets, you start reading various articles on the topic. But like any other subject, featured snippets carry certain expectations and misconceptions.

So I’m here to set the record straight.

In this post, I will:

  • highlight the most popular expectations that arise when you first face featured snippets
  • walk you step-by-step through the process of optimization for featured snippets

Expectation 1: Featured snippets will increase your site traffic dramatically

Website owners start bothering about featured snippets mostly due to the fact it could be a great source of traffic. But what if I told you that winning a featured snippet doesn’t necessarily result in sharp traffic increase?

According to Ahrefs, a regular #1 ranking page with no featured snippets above it drives ~26% of all clicks. When there’s a featured snippet in the search results, it gets ~8.6% of all the clicks, while the page right below gets ~19.6%.

Average CTR of the Featured Snippet

In the result, featured snippets steal clicks from the #1 search result, which is absolutely worth the candle if you don’t take the first position.

And what if your page is already ranking #1 in Google search results? Then, it’s worth optimizing for featured snippets to prevent your competitors from stealing your traffic… but don’t expect much of an increase.

Expectation 2: Once you win a featured snippet for one query, Google will rank you #0 position for other similar queries

Getting a featured snippet for a specific question doesn’t mean your page will become a featured snippet for the similar search queries.

For instance, here’s how Google somehow decided that a cheesecake made by Cookies and Cups’s recipe would be more delicious than the one by Allrecipes’s instructions:

Featured snippet for one keyword may not be the same as a similar keyword Featured snippet for one keyword may not be the same as a similar keyword

Expectation 3: Google will support your answer with a relevant image from your post

This issue is a subject of wide discussions among SEO experts and webmasters. The problem is that Google often creates featured snippets with the text from one website and the image from another site.

You can provide quality, eye-catchy images in your content, but there’s no guarantee one of them will be selected to illustrate your answer in the featured snippet.

Showing how a featured snippet image may be from a different source

However, this issue has a positive side as well. As Google adds other sites’ images to your answer boxes, it might place your pictures (with what’s most important: your link) in your competitors’ featured snippets.

Expectation 4: By providing clear content structure, you are most likely to win a featured snippet

Getting a featured snippet is 50% a matter of luck. Nobody can guarantee you winning one. With an increasing amount of quality content these days, the search engine can’t give every web page a featured snippet.

But you can increase your chances following these simple steps.

How to optimize for Google’s featured snippets

If you want to capture a featured snippet spot, this step-by-step instruction will help you reach your goal.

Step 1: Research the Opportunities

Studies claim that Google only features pages from the top 10 search results. So, start with identifying the queries your web pages are already ranking for on the first page of search results.

To quickly find these search queries, just use your preferred SEO tool. I’ll go with Serpstat. As it has the largest domain analytics databases, it provides me with the most comprehensive information.

(RELATED: Our Favorite Keyword Research Tools (17 Tools Every SEO Needs))

Enter your domain into its search field, select your country, and click on Search. When you see the Overview report, go to Positions. Apply filters “Domain’s position for a keyword > Between > 1 and 10” and “Special elements in SERP > Includes > Featured snippet.”

Showing how to research for opportunities for becoming the featured snippet

The report will show you the list of queries your domain is ranking in the top 10, positions, search volume, URLs showing up for these keywords, and more.

Once you identified the pages and keywords to target, it’s time to optimize your content.

(NOTE: Need a helping hand with your digital marketing efforts? Or maybe you just want proven, actionable marketing tools, tactics, and templates to implement in your business? Check out the latest deal from DigitalMarketer, and you will be on your way to helping your business grow.)

Step 2: Collect Question-Based Queries

Google creates featured snippets to provide a direct answer to users’ search questions. That’s why question-based queries are so popular when it comes to optimizing for featured snippets.

There are several methods that will help you collect question-based keywords for your content:

  • Search for your target keyword on Google and look through People also ask. These boxes provide questions related to the searcher’s initiate query:
Getting a featured snippet requires searching for what people also ask on Google

You can choose the questions you’ll target with your content to win more featured snippets.

  • Use Answer the Public The platform will show you all the questions people ask on search engines using the queried keyword.
The Answer the Public tool to help you find related questions so you can target them to get the featured snippet
  • Research with your SEO tool. Such keyword research tools as Serpstat and Ahrefs let you quickly find question-based keywords.
How to do more research for your keyword

Of course, I’m not saying you should optimize for question-based keywords only. Enlarge your list with generic keywords (including long-tail ones), comparisons, etc.

Step 3: Develop an Effective Content Structure

Your content structure affects your chances for winning a featured snippet a lot. Breaking your content into subtopics, you’ll help search crawlers extract the crucial elements on your pages and form featured snippets.

Here are a few recommendations that will help you develop a structure that could fit a featured snippet:

  • Analyze your competitors’ featured snippets to see which content structure works the best
  • Always use H1, H2, and H3 subheads in your posts
  • Utilize the following content styles:
  • Lists
  • Bullet points
  • Step-by-step guides
  • Charts
  • Tables
  • Add your target keywords and questions to your subheads

Step 4: Add Related Keywords and Synonyms

People use different word combinations to search for the same things. Consider it when optimizing your content for search engines.

To find related queries and synonyms that you could add to your content, research your target keyword with one of the above-mentioned tools.

With Serpstat, the pattern is pretty simple: enter the keyword into its search field, select your country, and go to the Related Keywords section. To collect the keywords that result in featured snippets, apply filter “Special elements in SERP > Includes > Featured snippet.” Here’s a list of search terms that are semantically connected to the queried keyword.

Here is how to find related keywords

Look through the list of related keywords and collect those you could add to your content.

PRO Tip: If the list is too large and you want to cover several subtopics with your content, I’d recommend trying keyword clustering.

Keyword clustering is a process of segmenting your target search queries into groups based on their semantic similarity.

To group your queries, you should:

  • export the list of related keywords
  • go to the Tools section
  • click on Keyword Clustering and Text Analytics
  • create a project
  • download the list of exported keywords and configure settings
  • wait for the results

Here’s what you could see if you clustered keywords related to the “content marketing” query:

Showing Keyword Clustering

Now you have all your potential keywords grouped. This step lets you provide a more effective content structure (you can divide your posts into paragraphs based on the names of different clusters) and understand which keywords would fit the specific paragraphs perfectly.

(RELATED: The Future of Content Marketing and How to Adapt: Trends, Tactics, and Tools)

Step 5: Be Concise

According to Moz, the average length of a featured snippet is 45 words. A pretty compelling reason to answer the questions concisely.

Of course, long-form content is still king, and you shouldn’t shorten your subtopics to fit featured snippets. Here’s a great tip by Ann Smarty on how to deal with this issue:

“All you need to do is to adjust your blogging style just a bit:

  • Ask the question in your article (that may be a subheading)
  • Immediately follow the question with a one-paragraph answer
  • Elaborate further in the article”

Such a simple tactic will help you increase your chances for capturing a featured snippet significantly.

To Wrap Up

Being featured in Google search results is an awesome opportunity to get greater organic search visibility and steal your competitors’ traffic. Optimizing for featured snippets isn’t rocket science, so get out there and use these actionable tips to reach the #0 position.

(NOTE: Need a helping hand with your digital marketing efforts? Or maybe you just want proven, actionable marketing tools, tactics, and templates to implement in your business? Check out the latest deal from DigitalMarketer, and you will be on your way to helping your business grow.)



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