Archives 2018

Five steps to generate tons of backlinks using infographics

Your website needs backlinks the same way plants need water. Getting sufficient backlinks consistently will allow you to flourish your website, while the lack of backlinks will slowly make it wither. 

Backlinks are still one of the most important factors that Google uses to determine website rankings. When tons of other websites link to you, Google’s algorithm will see that as a sign that you provide valuable and relevant content.

When talking about generating tons of backlinks, there’s no other tool quite as effective as infographics. 

Why infographics are so effective?

1. Humans are visual creatures

We are naturally visual learners, as we’re attracted more to visuals than text. As a result, infographics have a much higher chance of attracting readers than articles. Indeed, a study found that infographics are 30 times more likely to be read than text-only content. 

2. Easy to digest

Still connected to the previous point, people understand a text 323% better if it’s accompanied by an illustration. This applies to infographics too, which is the combination of beautiful visuals and short-written copy. Thanks to the simple and easy to read format, people can read and understand infographics faster and better. 

3. Highly shareable

Thanks to its bite-sized nature, infographics are extremely shareable because they can fit on almost any platformㅡ websites, emails, social media platforms, and even on printed advertising material such as brochures and pamphlets. Thanks to this trait, infographics are three times more likely to be shared than any other kind of content.   

Five steps to backlink generation using infographics

Now that you know what makes infographics so effective, let’s learn how to use it properly to attract tons of backlinks to grow your website. Here’s the step by step process of using infographics for link building:

1. Content creation

The first step is to obviously create the infographic. Not just an infographic, but a valuable and useful one. For starters, don’t waste your money on creating fancy and expensive infographics. Using free and affordable infographic tools and platforms are fine, as long as you can provide valuable content. 

The more valuable your infographic content is, the more likely people are going to link back. Here are a few tips on creating content that’s valuable:

  • Content that attracts the most backlinks is usually the one that contains data statistics because every marketer needs them to back up their arguments. Conduct your own research, study, or survey and then present the findings via infographic.
  • If you don’t have the time or resources to conduct your own research, you can always make a compilation of data statistics from various sources and present them as one.
  • Creating an ultimate guide about a certain topic also attracts backlinks, because when writers don’t have enough space to explain about something, they can refer to your content for a deeper take on the subject. 

2. Infographic publication and submission

After creating the infographic, publish it on your site and infographic directory sites like Pinterest or Infographic Journal. When posting on your own site, remember that page speed is an actual ranking factor. So, make sure to optimize your page speed with these free tools. 

Moreover, submitting your work on infographic directories will give you free backlinks with relatively minimum effort, though some sites will charge you a certain amount of money to publish your infographic. Here’s the complete list of infographic sharing websites compiled by SEOblog, containing over 150 sites. 

3. Potential websites search

Besides infographic directories, you also have to aim to get your infographic published on other websites that have a similar niche to you. How? Well, you need to reach out to them. First, you need to search for the websites to reach out to. We recommend you to use tools like Ahrefs to compile tons of websites in an instant. 

It’s simple to use, just sign up, go to the “content explorer” section, type in your keyword, and then the tool will give you every web page on the internet that contains that particular keyword. For instance, if your infographic is about summer vacation, the result of the content explorer will show over 30 thousand web pages with that keyword:

Next, export those web page data and move it to Microsoft Excel or Google Spreadsheet to manage and curate it in an easier manner.

4. Email addresses collection

After curating the websites to see which fits to publish your infographic and which doesn’t, the next step is to collect the email addresses of people working on those websites. It could be a writer, content manager, editor or any person that’s responsible for the content of that website. 

Using tools like FindThatLead can help you collect the email because the tool has the ability to find email addresses based only on domain name and social media link (LinkedIn and Twitter only). It also allows users to verify an address to see whether it’s valid or not.

5. Email outreach campaign

With all the verified email addresses, now it’s time to do email outreach to promote your infographic. There are two ways to do it, the first one is by using automated email tools like Mailshake and the second one is by manually sending the emails one by one.

Each of the methods has its own benefits and weaknesses. Sending emails manually takes a longer time, but you’ll be able to personalize the email more. On the other hand, using automated email tools will allow you to send tons of emails in a short time, but the content of the email will be the same and generic.

Whatever your method of choice is, remember these tips to increase your email engagement and open rate:

  • Optimize it for mobile, because 46% of people open their email from mobile devices. 
  • Keep your subject line short, because shorter subject lines get much higher open rates
  • Include an emoji in your subject line if you can, because it helps you to stand out from other emails on the recipients’ inbox.
  • Personalize the email beyond just including the recipients’ names on the subject line, although it still helps to increase clickthrough rate.
  • Include a clear CTA at the end of the email, so that the audience knows what to do next.

One important thing to remember is that no one wants to publish your work for free, so you have to be prepared to give them something in return that benefits both of you. One of the widely used and most effective ways is to offer them a guest post. This way, the recipients get free content for their blogs and you gain a valuable backlink.


Backlinks are one of the deciding factors to determine whether you can rank first on the SERP or not. To gain backlinks only by creating valuable infographics is not enough, you also need to promote it. Manual email outreach is the way to go if you don’t want to spend a penny in generating backlinks. All you have to do is to look for potential websites, collect their email addresses, write interesting email copy and offer, and then send them one by one. If you’re still not sure how to make a proper infographic, these infographic templates could certainly help. 

Brian is a content writer of Milkwhale. He likes to write about infographic and video marketing, as well as other topics in the field of business and marketing.  

The post Five steps to generate tons of backlinks using infographics appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Expand Your Holiday Strategy to Build Authority and Awareness – Tyson Stockton // Searchmetrics

Episode Overview: Like an ornately adorned Christmas tree, your content needs all the decorative fixings to build awareness and truly stand out amidst your competitors this holiday season. Join Ben and Searchmetrics’ Director of Services Tyson as they continue Holiday Triage week. They discuss the various ways to build holiday content awareness, and the added value cross-functional gift giving presents in awareness-building efforts to give your content the capstone shining star to top off your content tree.


  • Showing appreciation or gift giving to cross-functional teams during a busy holiday season can help them feel valued and motivated to assist with last minute awareness building initiatives.
  • Presenting helpful gifts that fulfill cross-functional goals such as robust data sets to an analytics team make for excellent, useful gifts.


Ben:                 Welcome to Holiday Triage week on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro. This week we’re going to publish an episode every day covering the topic of how you can get ready for the holiday season as it quickly approaches, but before we get started, I want to remind you that this podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics. We are an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise scale businesses monitor their online presence and make data-driven decisions. To support you, our loyal podcast listeners, for the holiday season, we have put together a complimentary holiday triage checklist to understand how you can assess, prioritize, optimize, build and measure for the holidays. Go to Okay, joining us for Holiday Triage week is Tyson Stockton, Searchmetrics’ director of services. Outside of shepherding Searchmetrics’ largest and most strategic clients to SEO success, Tyson is here today to talk to us about how we can build out our holiday triage strategies to gain authority and drive awareness.

Ben:                 Here’s the fourth installment of Holiday Triage week with Searchmetrics’ Director of Services, Tyson Stockton. Tyson, welcome back to the Voices of Search podcast. Happy Holiday Triage week.

Tyson:              Final stretch, final two days.

Ben:                 We’ve covered a lot of ground. I think I hear Santa standing on our SEO roof. He’s ready to come down our SEO chimney. What our chimney has to do with SEO, I have no idea, but it sounds holiday-ish, doesn’t it?

Tyson:              Absolutely.

Ben:                 All right. So far this week we’ve covered how you can assess your site to understand where you stand for the holiday battle, prioritize the topics that are going to give you the greatest opportunity for holiday success. You’re going to optimize your site. Mostly you’re going to be focusing on your content and linking. Today we’re going to talk a little bit about how you can build out your holiday strategies to gain authority and drive holiday awareness. Talk to me about what you can do so late in the game. What can you build and what can you implement that’s actually going to have a business impact?

Tyson:              Yeah, and this one, we kind of alluded to it in the last episode where you have, especially when you’re starting late, you have this reliance on other team members and the relationships that you have with them. That’s not unique to this time of year. It’s something that I think all SEOs are familiar with, but at this time it’s like this is where it’s really critical and you’re really calling in those favors. Also in the last episode on linking where this building and driving awareness is in some ways also like a linking play. The reason why we kind of have it separated as a different one is in the past one we were focused just within our own four walls, our own website. We were saying like, okay, do we have these links to us in our general sale page? Do we have links during the events on the home page? Do we have the links from whatever category pages? That’s like kind of just the basic elements.

Tyson:              This like increasing or driving awareness is now where you’re going to be working with others on the marketing side of the business, and whether it’s getting them to use the same ads in their paid ads, using them with their affiliates, using the same URLs in getting as many marketing channels as you can pointing back to the same pages that in the last episode we were talking about with pointing towards internally, like this is going to be the one where you want to be drafting off the other efforts that your company or organization’s making, but you’re also, at the same way, you’re getting some more back links to, again, send more signals to search engines of the value of the page. Also kind of potential crawl pass that you can get Google and other search bots coming through last minute to discover your content.

Ben:                 Tyson, what’s your favorite part of the holidays?

Tyson:              Favorite part of the holidays? Probably the food, not going to lie.

Ben:                 I like gifts. I think the holidays are very much about gifts. It’s always great to receive and honestly it’s a lot of fun to give. Talk to me about how gifting fits into your holiday strategy.

Tyson:              Ben, I see where you’re going with this and you’re absolutely right. This is the time of giving, not just receiving those gifts. When you’re expecting to get those favors, those links, those additional kind of pushes to your pages, you can grease the wheel or kind of make it a little easier on yourself by giving those chocolates, the wine, maybe a little whiskey if you really like the team member. That’s where you’re really going to see these kind of things start to move a little bit more.

Ben:                 We bring this up every year, the power of alcohol. As much as we joke about it, it’s like, “Hey, go bribe people with booze,” a strategically placed bottle of wine or some chocolates or a card or a thank you note or whatever it is that you feel is appropriate for the team members, this is a busy time of year. It is the busiest time of year in e-commerce. It’s not just busy on the work front, it’s busy for people personally as well. Showing your appreciation for your cross functional team, for the engineering team that you’re asking to stay for an extra hour to make sure that your new linking strategy is QA’d and is implemented correctly, or that the content that you want to push goes live and whatever changes you’re going to make, you need to say thank you to those people. You need to show support to them for all the work that they’ve done throughout the year, but specifically at the end of the year, this is really a time to show your appreciation.

Ben:                 If you’re behind the eight ball with your holiday optimization efforts, maybe you should double down and buy a nice bottle of wine or a bigger box of chocolates to try to get somebody to not necessarily just bribe them to do you a favor, but show your appreciation for the work that they’re doing and how much support they’re giving you to help you be successful.

Tyson:              Ben, just kind of adding to that too, like the gifts don’t just have to be the traditional type of gifts. If you’re needing to call in favors from the paid team …

Ben:                 Tequila makes a great gift.

Tyson:              You can bring gifts in as far as data as well. You could come to them and be like-

Ben:                 Oh, that too.

Tyson:              Here also are all the unique ranking keywords that our competitor is not bidding on or vice versa. You can also bring data sets or bring things that’s going to make their lives easier as well. It is a two way street. I think definitely hitting a checklist on the traditionals, but then also think out of the box a little bit. Think, if you were in their shoes, what would help them?

Ben:                 Outside of trying to drive as much awareness, making sure that the pages that you have are being shared, working with your social team, your engineering team to push out the links and make sure the content optimization that you’re doing gets noticed, what are some of the last minute things you could do to build out your strategy to gain authority and drive awareness?

Tyson:              Yeah, and I’d say like, one, you can get more aggressive on the links that you ask for the closer to the event. You’re not going to get a link on the home page a week prior to the sale, and you wouldn’t really want to be there from the user experience, but when you’re getting closer you can get away with a little bit more. You can get a little more aggressive in what you’re asking for. I think those are two areas that’s like kind of in the 12th hour, like at the very kind of last rush. You want to make sure that you don’t let up and you kind of continue straight through with it.

Tyson:              Then I’d also say like just this time of year in general, it’s not one event. You have the overall holiday season, and then you have your kind of events within that. You don’t want to just target something like Black Friday. You also want to make sure that Cyber Monday’s good, and when you’re at Christmas time, you’re not letting up just on the 25th. You’re going to carry that into the beginning of January where you still see high search volumes and you’re drafting into kind of the beginning of the year to give yourself a good start.

Ben:                 Okay. I think that’s great advice. That wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Tyson Stockton, Searchmetrics’s Director of Services. We’d love to continue the conversation with you. If you’re interested in contacting Tyson, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter where his handle is Tyson_Stockton, or if you have general questions about the show, if you’re interested in being a guest on the Voices of Search podcast, you can find my contact information in our show notes, or you can send me a tweet @BenJShap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. If you’re interested in learning about how to use search data to boost your organic traffic online visibility or to gain competitive insights specifically around the holiday season, we’ve put together a holiday triage checklist for you. Go to to download the document.

Ben:                 If you liked this podcast and you want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back tomorrow to wrap up Holiday Triage week by talking about how you can measure your holiday success. All right. That’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.

The 5 Most Important Questions to Ask Before Pitching a Publisher

Success in link building and digital PR comes from personalization. 

When pitching a top publication, it’s important to remember that there’s a person on the other side of the screen. Otherwise, you run the risk of writing pitches that sound robotic and falling into the same bin as the other 200 pitches a writer receives: the trash.  

So, it’s important to stay vigilant. The research that goes into appealing to a journalist is meticulous, and you have to remember that each section of a pitch can be customized; in fact, it’s a crucial part of the outreach process. 

The key is finding the perfect fit: the ideal connection between a journalist and the content you’re pitching. This combination ultimately leads to coverage for our clients and a solid professional connection with a writer. 

In order to create those long-term connections and secure coverage, make sure to ask yourself the following questions.

Question #1: What am I pitching?

When pitching content, start by analyzing the information. Make sure your outreach strategy aligns with several potential publishers in different verticals. 

For example, say you’re pitching content about FDA recalls in cosmetics. It’s important to identify the umbrella of topics writers can relate to. In this case, you should identify writers that cover topics such as beauty, health, and wellness from a wide range of publications. 

Now that you’ve established a few verticals to target, you can research if the specific topic is trending or if it’s been widely covered in the news recently. 

If the topic seems to be trending, it’s important to understand how it’s being covered. Journalists get tired of overly used angles and story ideas that have been exhausted, so you need to keep angles unique. 

For example, say there’s a recent trending story about FDA recalls in skin care due to lead; ask yourself: How does my research fit in here? What did the writer not mention in their article? And could the writer potentially fit my research into their coverage?

Say your content is about FDA recalls in cosmetics and its negative reactions. Because the writer mentioned “skincare” specifically, you could pitch the writer a list of other products that might also be in danger of being recalled. 

In these examples, we connected to the journalist by pitching them a topic they were already writing about, improving our chances the writer will be interested in the research we’re promoting. Make sure to provide a fresh, new take on a topic if it’s already trending. 

Question #2: How does my content align with a publisher’s beat?

When continuing to structure outreach strategies, noting a publisher’s beat or (their specific coverage) can help with pitch personalization. Reading through writers’ older articles, bios, and personal websites can paint a full picture of what a writer covers.

To continue the example about FDA recalls on cosmetics, key terms that stick out from the umbrella of topics should include beauty, wellness, women’s interest, cosmetics, makeup, and recalls. 

A potentially interested writer’s bio might go as follows: I’m an editor at Elle magazine covering everything beauty and FDA tested. 

Next, ensure the writer frequently covers studies or third-party data. Keep an eye for headlines like “… [study]” or “new data reveals…” when reading past articles.

Another key step when scanning a journalist’s archives is to correctly identify their beat. While a writer may say they cover a certain beat, like technology, for example, you may notice some variation when digging into their past articles.

For example, a writer’s bio might go as follows: I’m a freelancer who covers tech and finance. 

The writer above has left their bio broad and might cover a wide range of other subtopics such as loans, bankruptcy, etc. This is why it’s important to read a writer’s past work. 

Note: Some writer’s beats can be overly specific. Be on the lookout for words like “the intersection” of two topics or when one vertical “meets” another.

A writer’s bio might go as follows: I’m a contributing writer for Shape that covers the intersection of beauty and wellness. 

The writer above covers how beauty aligns with wellness, not just one or the other. When a writer takes the time to explain their beat, it’s crucial to ensure your pitch aligns with their coverage. 

Question #3: Have I analyzed my potential publisher’s social media?

Another way to ensure your content aligns with a publication’s coverage is by analyzing their social media. 

Most publications update their writers’ information on social outlets and continuously post about changes to their site. By doing some investigating, personalization can become much more natural and ultimately show a publication that you did your research. 

For example, if we’re pitching FDA recalls content and see a potential publisher recently tweeting about a change in their “health” department, you can be sure to direct your pitch toward the appropriate writer just by staying updated with social media. 

Most writers also consistently post on their personal social media. Writers appreciate content promoters who take the time to read, analyze, and understand their interests online.

Note: A great way to get publishers to notice you is by giving them a like or share on their social profiles. Engaging with publishers is an important part of content marketing, and it could mean the beginning of a new publisher relationship.

Question #4: Have I considered the publisher’s engagement?

After considering a publisher’s beat and social media, you can then move on to their engagement. Not all top-tier publishers excel in every aspect, so explore how much traffic a publication gets and if their content is being shared on social media.

Some publications might be very authoritative and trusted but get very little engagement. Others might thrive on social but don’t syndicate to any other publishers.

So you need to consider your goals for your outreach. Is it to increase your brand awareness? Build backlinks? Something else?

There will be overlap in your goals, of course, but identifying your primary goal will help you identify the best publishers to pitch.

You can learn about publisher authority by checking metrics like domain authority, and you can check on the backlinks and social engagement of articles by using tools like BuzzSumo.

Question #5: Have I used all my resources to personalize this pitch?

As outreach strategies begin to come together, it’s time to ensure everything is customized.

For example, if you’re targeting an editor who writes about “all things sunny in Florida,” I cater my pitch using buzzwords in both a subject line and email like, “sunshine state” or “native Floridian.” Optimizing personalization sets great pitches apart from the bulk.

Notice in the example, the pitch also follows a light-hearted tone, which is the same style expressed by the writer. Aside from strategically crafting your pitch, fact-checking, ensuring grammatical perfection, and paying attention to the small details like the ones listed above can place a pitch above all the rest.

Achieving long-term connections and securing top-tier coverage is what all content promoters hope to accomplish. Reviewing each step and taking the time to research, craft, and personalize pitches can dramatically impact your results.

Although the process is meticulous, answering these questions will lead to meaningful publisher relationships and constitute successful results in content marketing. 

The post The 5 Most Important Questions to Ask Before Pitching a Publisher appeared first on BuzzStream.

Are SPAM Nofollow Links Harmful?

During the recent Majestic Workshop on backlinks held in Milan at SMXL, I presented a case where a website suddenly lost a significant amount of organic traffic, following a massive and impulsive surge in backlink spam.

In this post I’m going to describe:

  • what happened;
  • which recovery actions were implemented;
  • the results obtained.

By no means is this case history to be viewed as “hard evidence” that spam nofollow backlinks are a certain threat to your performance. I am a firm believer there is no general rule or set of guidelines when it comes to SEO and organic traffic. As the complexity of the algorithm(s) increases, there is more opportunity for complexity to get the upper hand and act in an unforeseen way.

Now to the case study…

The Facts

We are dealing with a very small website with content, mostly in Italian, on “Lega Serie A” – Italian Football.

The website:

  • is almost 6 years old;
  • has been constantly updated over the past 2 years;
  • has a focus on data and statistics on referees;
  • did not have any backlinks.

At the beginning of the season, the website was enjoying organic traffic for a select number of keywords when suddenly it “tanked”: that handful of referee-related keywords had lost traction in the SERPs.

In examining the situation the first thing that came to mind was a change of heart by Google… after all the algorithmic updates are on the agenda every other day… but I decided to take a closer look.

For this website, there had been no previous backlink checking with Majestic so I setup an account and to my surprise, I found this:

Majestic Backlink Checker - an impulsive build of SPAM NOFOLLOW backlinksImpulsive surge in a backlink profile – Majestic Backlink Checker

Over night, the website had been at the centre of an automated backlink building activity. Links were in blogpost comments and therefore nofollowed. I studied the Topical Trust Flow of these backlinks:

Majestic Topical Trust Flow for a website hit by nofollow backlink spam Majestic Topical Trust Flow

A vast array of subjects, from science to business to computers – all of topic.

I setup a Majestic campaign to follow the evolution of the spam, hoping build-up of spam backlinks would stop sooner than later.

In theory, these links were not supposed to have had any impact whatsoever on organic traffic and rankings – Google has made this public statement many times – for example here:

“…having links (even a large number of them) with rel=nofollow pointing to your site does not negatively affect your site. We take these links out of our PageRank calculations, and out of our algorithms when they use links.”

John Muller – Search Engine Journal, June 14, 2018, No Follow Links and Search Ranking

  • Was the drop in organic traffic algorithmic?
  • Did rankings for those keywords drop because of the backlink SPAM?

I didn’t know and I don’t know today. What I DID KNOW is those links felt like unwanted graffiti. The way I saw this: Let’s take a stand on these links and tell the search engines we have nothing to do with them and see what happens.

What I did next

I prepared for a disavow procedure.

Starting from the complete backlink profile, I downloaded all the links. With the new Link Context, I was able to analyse the links and establish their nature in a matter of minutes.

The backlink profile analysis identified hundreds of domains. My approach to disavowing is to disavow at domain level. I prepared and uploaded the disavow file. Instead of waiting for Google to make a move I try to “encourage” spidering of the source pages where the spam links are placed.

Google Search Console screenshotGoogle Search Console Screenshot – Date of first disavow file upload

Majestic Campaigns delivered reports on new backlinks which were processed and new spam domains were added to the disavow file. The spam backlink building continued a few more weeks on a much lower level.

The performance began to pick up with average positions on the rise, especially for the clique of referee keywords and today still have a positive trend with better rankings but they haven’t recovered completely.

Some Considerations

Well let’s start from the facts:

  • Website was ranking
  • Website suddenly had more than 10.000 backlinks
  • Website lost rankings
  • Spam links (all nofollow) were identified
  • Disavow file was created, uploaded and constantly updated until backlink spam ceased to manifest itself
  • Rankings began to improve and are still on the rise towards recovery

Is there a direct correlation between the nofollow spam links and loss in rankings?

Who knows… too much going on out there. I trust my judgement, after all, I have been in the business for 25 years!

But this doesn’t mean I know it all – not in the least. In fact, I did some research and came across a post that says something very similar to what I witnessed and experienced, from a different point of view. Adam, the author of the post, tells us how a nofollow backlink significantly improved rankings for a specific keyword. So if we can assume this is true, then the contrary could also true:

If a nofollow backlink can help rankings it can also hurt them

Sante J. Achille – my 2 cents on nofollow backlinks

If we go down this rabbit hole, and look at the bigger picture, maybe what happened is something like this:

Website A (the subject of this post) was living a healthy and very low profile digital existence and Google decided that, although a microscopic, insignificant website, it deserved to be featured for some queries where Website A sat in the Google sunshine amongst the big players. But suddenly Website A, from one day to another, features a backlink profile that is clearly artificial and spam-related. Google then (algorithmically) thinks: “why did you do this? There was no need for this – it’s totally uncalled for” and frowns upon Website A.

Website A becomes aware of what’s happening and goes back to Google and says (with a disavow file):

“Hey Google I didn’t do this – I have nothing to do with this mess, please disregard these spam backlinks and give me that Google sunshine I was enjoying up until last August”


The only general consideration I can see is: there is no general rule. In principle, I don’t think it’s worth any effort to fuss over funky links, however, every situation is different and requires a dedicated analysis.

Have you experienced a falloff in rankings following blog spam? Feedback from those with similar experiences is welcomed as are opinions and debate.

Sante Achille
Follow me!

Sante Achille

Sante Lives and works in Italy out of L’Aquila, a small medieval town close to Rome.
He has an engineering degree, has worked for major aerospace organizations including the European Space Agency (Noordwijk – Netherlands), and has been working on the web since the very beginning of the commercial World Wide Web in 1994.
With 25 years of hands on experience, Sante has reviewed and optimized hundreds of websites and successfully cooperated with small local companies and large multi-national corporations, offering a wide spectrum of expertise essential to the success of a project.
Sante is a seasoned bi-lingual SEO & web marketing consultant offering services in organic placement, paid search, and content creation, in both English and Italian.
Sante regularly attends and speaks at search marketing conferences and teaches, and offers SEO related courses. Sante is the Majestic Brand Ambassador to Italy.
More information on Sante:
Twitter: @sjachille
Sante Achille
Follow me!

Latest posts by Sante Achille (see all)

7 Tips to Write More Effective SEO Reports

As an agency that delivers monthly SEO reports to each and every one of our clients, we’ve produced a lot of monthly reports in our 17 years in business. I review roughly 15 reports each month, and real talk, I’ve seen things that have kept me up at night. The challenge with reporting is that the data doesn’t always speak for itself, and as consultants, we need to back up our strategies with context and explanation in order to align on where we’re headed, and sometimes make a case for why we may need to pivot. All that takes words on paper; it takes savvy writing and the ability to convey a message on paper effectively.

In this post, I’m going to outline seven tips for writing better SEO reports, most of which have one thing in common: say less stuff.

How To Eliminate Text & Write Better SEO Reports

1) Kill the Fillers!  

Unnecessary fillers are your enemy when writing SEO reports. “Fillers” are words or phrases that don’t add value in the report. They give the reader no additional information and do nothing to tell your story or drive home a point. They are words that if said aloud, keep you going while you “come up” with the rest of your sentence and fill the silence.

Here are a few filler examples that you should watch out for and eliminate at first glance:

  • “In the data we reviewed…”
  • “We will monitor performance…”
  • “After looking at last month’s report…”
  • “When looking at…”
  • “Once our recommendations are implemented…”
  • “Given that…”

The next time you write a report, look out for words that if said aloud, would sound like fillers.

2) Watch your use of dates: “month over month”, “year over year”, etc.

What’s wrong with the sentence below?

“Organic sessions decreased month over month for the second month in a row (-19,110 sessions). In June, we observed numerous fluctuations in keyword rankings that caused month-over-month decreases in sessions…”

There’s no need to start the second sentence with “In June…” if we’ve already established that the analyst is reviewing Month-over-Month data within the report. There’s also no need for the first “month over month” if we’re offering that sessions decreased for the second month in a row. The sentence should be rephrased to:

“Organic sessions decreased month over month for the second month in a row (-19,110 sessions). In June, We observed numerous fluctuations in keyword rankings that caused month over month decreases in sessions…”

While this may seem trivial, being repetitive distracts from the narrative and can leave your audience confused. Be careful with how you explain dates and time horizons that give context to your data.

3) Be Assertive

Remember that you are the expert, and whoever is reading your report is counting on you to understand exactly what’s going on. It’s also on you to not only explain what’s happening but recommend a cogent way forward.

To be assertive, look for phrases like “we would like to” and change them to “we will.” Take a firm, black-and-white stance on what is or is not happening, and what you should or should not do. Remember what Yoda said – “Do, or do not. There is no try!”

4) Be Consultative

Similar to being assertive, double down on being consultative. To do that, I recommend:

  • That you look for the root cause, or the underlying “thing” that is producing whatever leading or lagging indicator that you’re reporting on (like keyword rankings or site sessions), and then highlight that root cause. For example, “our traffic declined 4% month over month due to seasonality, which we observed in June of last year and anticipated seeing this June, given the seasonality of our industry. We are not concerned with the 4% decrease, and expect traffic to rebound next month as we move into our busy period. ”
  • Once you’ve outlined a root cause, explain exactly what you should or should not do given the new reality
  • Eliminate words like “likely”, and “we think”, and instead take an assertive stance

5) Watch Your Tense

It pains me to say this, but I see so many folks mix up past, present, and future tense. Tenses convey things that happened in time, and when we mess them up in reports, we sound silly. For example:

  • Past tense: Keyword rankings decreased
  • Present tense: Keyword rankings are decreasing
  • Future tense: Keyword rankings will decrease

I recommend that you proofread your SEO report multiple times, and in one of those reviews, look for tense errors only. For example “is providing a content audit” vs. “plans to provide a content audit” could be easily missed if you’re not reviewing specifically for tense.

6) Use Bullet Points vs. Paragraphs

Both of the below examples contain the same words, but one is much easier to digest:

Example 1: Month over Month

Organic sessions decreased for the second month in a row. (-19,110 sessions). Paid search contributed a +25% increase in sessions which could be a factor for fewer organic branded clicks in Q2 (-185,878). Seer expects efforts from paid search & organic to positively affect each other – these early efforts are likely due to the PPC restructure driving more paid clicks for branded terms.

The Homepage (-6%) was the largest contributor to the decrease in organic sessions. This further indicates seasonality as the Homepage’s organic rank improved an average of +5 spots from Q1 to Q2 2019, however, this growth occurred past page 1. Seer plans to audit this page in July to offset seasonal declines.

Example 2: Month over Month

  • Organic sessions decreased for the second month in a row. (-19,110 sessions)
  • Paid search contributed a +25% increase in sessions which could be a factor for fewer organic branded clicks in Q2 (-185,878)
  • Seer expects efforts from paid search & organic to positively affect each other – these early efforts are likely due to the PPC restructure driving more paid clicks for branded terms
  • The Homepage (-6%) was the largest contributor to the decrease in organic sessions
  • This further indicates seasonality as the Homepage’s organic rank improved an average of +5 spots from Q1 to Q2 2019, however, this growth occurred past page 1
  • Seer plans to audit this page in July to offset seasonal declines

Bulleting key bits of information makes reports easier to understand because bulleted lists reduce the cognitive load of the reader. Also note the use of color in the text above, red indicates a decrease and green indicates an increase. Leverage color to drive your point home and further reduce the cognitive load of your readers!

6) Be Careful with Numbers

Use numbers for goodness sake, but explain what they represent and position them in a way that helps your audience understand why they are important. For example, mentioning that “traffic to the site is up” is great, but not specifying by how much and failing to mention what caused the increase in traffic leaves your audience guessing. Be more specific, for example:

“Traffic to the site is up by 8% this month, mostly due to the 7 content audits that were implemented in May of 2019.”

And remember that it always helps to understand exactly what your audience cares about, and report on your wins through the lens of their KPIs.

7) Review Your Report Three Separate Times

As I alluded to earlier, I recommend that you review your report three separate times. The first time, only look for grammar mistakes. The second time, give your report the “smell test,” i.e. ask the question “does what I’m saying here actually make sense?”

Lastly, you should review only for tense and punctuation issues. Reviewing for grammar, the “smell test”, and tense/punctuation all at once is really hard, which is why batching your reviews can be super helpful. Proofreading is extremely important, so don’t skimp out on it!

Learn more about SEO best practices and SEO reporting!

For more tips on SEO, PPC, Analytics, and more subscribe to our newsletter!

Six key content performance aspects that Google Analytics can’t measure

Google Analytics (GA) is one of the most popular traffic analytics tools for websites, but it can have serious drawbacks for anyone looking to measure content performance.

The problem is systemic: Analytics was built to track traffic for ecommerce and content sites, with the structure of its reports built around pageviews. It can provide some sophisticated data around those views – what kinds of audience members are behind them, how they might have arrived, what they did next, and other such questions – but today’s content marketers need the ability to measure and understand much more than that.

How do people interact with your content when they’re viewing an individual landing page? How do they feel about your brand after having been exposed to it on other media channels? Where are they running into conversion roadblocks? What are the content assets across touchpoints that people are consuming most on their paths to conversion? What assets are most compelling to your most qualified individual leads?

GA can hint at some of the answers to these types of questions, but to truly understand these aspects of your content marketing performance, you’ll need to turn elsewhere.

Here are a few of the biggest ways that Google Analytics can’t measure your content performance properly, along with some tips for overcoming these shortcomings.

1. On-page behavior

Google Analytics only tracks page views and movement within your site. Unless you manually add layers of event tracking, it can’t reveal what people do within specific pages. You’ll never know if visitors get two lines into your content and then get distracted by an interesting link.

This is the value of heatmaps, which are remarkably effective at showing user behavior. They map out which areas of the page get the most view time and the most clicks, and where the mouse rests.

A heatmap shows areas that get the most attention in red, shading to blue for those that get the least. It reveals whether the visitor engaged and interacted with the page, or left it open and unread for hours. With a heatmap, you can discover the most popular parts of your pages, the navigation links people click on most, and whether key elements below the fold are going unseen.

To get started experimenting with heatmaps, you can try using Hotjar, Lucky Orange or CrazyEgg.

2. Brand sentiment lift

Google Analytics is limited to tracking page views on your own website. It can’t tell you anything about the impact of your content on earned or shared media channels, where you don’t have the ability to install its tracking pixel. And even if you could use it track content views on all channels, you still wouldn’t know much about the impact that the content has on brand sentiment, or your share of voice in the general market.

Instead, use a social listening tool to track what people think about your brand. Social listening tools track social media shares, comments, reactions and mentions. This information has many key use cases, one of which is gaining a holistic view of brand sentiment.

The better platforms track far more than the number of brand mentions on social media, using semantic text analysis to reveal the emotions behind the posts and comparing these signals to those of your competitors. Merge these trends with your timeline of content marketing achievements, and correlations will start to emerge.

To get started experimenting with social listening for brand sentiment tracking, you can try using Awario, Mention or Talkwalker.

3. Friction points on forms

If a visitor tries to complete an online form and gives up in frustration, Google Analytics will never let you know. The best it can do is to show you how much time all visitors spent on the page. (Even this information can be extremely misleading since GA measures page view durations starting from the moment given page loads to the moment the next internal page loads. If your visitor stays for 10 minutes, reads your article from top to bottom, shares it, and then closes the tab without browsing any further within your site, GA will register ‘zero’ time on page.)

When it comes to lead capture forms, contact forms, and sales checkout forms, it can be hard to tell how many fields you’re best off including. The fewer fields your forms have, the lesser friction people will have opting in, which makes for more conversions.

On the other hand, the more fields you include, the more data you’ll have to work with when people do complete and submit forms, which is useful for identifying personas when executing segmented nurture sequences. You’ll also learn more about your audience, and you’ll be in the best possible position for determining the relevance of your leads. And there’s something to be said for asking a lot of your audience, as it helps to filter out people who are “just curious” about your lead magnet and will never actually do business with you.

To really understand the extent to which form fields are serving as roadblocks on the path to conversion, turn to your form builder tool’s analytics. The better platforms will reveal partial submissions, and how far a user gets through a form before abandoning it, so you can see if any single field is too long or question too confusing.

To get started experimenting with form conversion optimization, I recommend Formstack, Formismo or Jotform.

4. The identity of every visitor

One of GA’s biggest weaknesses is its inability to give context to visitor behavior. It can’t show you much about the identity of your visitors – at best, you can segment data about your entire pool of visitors according to their physical locations, devices, referrers, rough demographics and points of entry to your site.

What’s more, Google Analytics only uses a sample of your visitors, so that even if you tinker with your report settings to reveal the IP addresses of individual sessions, you can’t rely on this information as a comprehensive source of individual user insights.

Instead of GA, use audience intelligence tools that provide information about the interests, behavior, personal data (in a GDPR-compliant manner, of course.) and historic activity of every user, so that you can gain a deeper understanding of your visitors. This allows you to fine-tune your content to appeal to your audience, and it also reveals opportunities for account-based marketing.

To get started with audience intelligence, try Albacross, LinkedIn Website Demographics or Visitor Queue.

5. Funnel analytics

It is possible to use Google Analytics to track users through your funnel and measure its effectiveness. However, setting this all up can be highly complicated. You have to build a confusing series of filters and a dedicated URL structure that allows GA to correlate content pages with each stage of the funnel.

It’s much better to use a single tool that follows users through your funnel. Pick one that logs abandonment points and the cumulative impact of your various key funnel touchpoints. You’ll also need a good way to track the activity of returning visitors, which is another weak point for GA, thanks to uncertainty about cookies, lack of reliability when tracking visitors across devices, and the aforementioned notorious data sampling issue.

And if you integrate a funnel analytics tool with your CRM, logging each lead’s engagement activity on your website, you’ll be in great shape to set up a smart lead scoring system for identifying sales-readiness levels.

To get started with funnel analytics, check out Kissmetrics, Woopra or Yandex Metrica.

6. Off-site interactions

Google Analytics only measures interactions with the content on your own site. It’s not something you can use to measure the impact of content on shared, paid or earned media. So that guest post you recently published on someone else’s blog, or your LinkedIn Publisher articles, for example, will be blind spots for you.

GA can show you information about some of the visits you acquired via clickthroughs from these media presences, but that’s about it.

You’ll get better results from a multi-channel dashboard tool that pulls together user analytics from all channels, including email marketing, advertising tools, and social media. This type of solution can’t show you how people found your content on these properties, nor where they went next if they didn’t end up on your website, but it will help you consolidate all your metrics into one centralized dashboard for a more holistic analysis.

What’s more, if you combine data relating to engagement on all touchpoints into one timeline, you’ll start to see correlations between spikes on certain channels and website conversions, which can point you in the right direction for further drill-downs

To get started with multi-channel dashboards, try Klipfolio, Databox or Geckoboard.

Google Analytics isn’t a magic button

Google Analytics is hugely popular, but it can’t do everything, especially if you’re concerned about content performance. Fortunately, there are other tools that fill the gaps GA leaves behind, giving you a much clearer understanding of your content marketing success.

The post Six key content performance aspects that Google Analytics can’t measure appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

New Google Search Console report checks site speed

Google is rapidly expanding the capabilities of Search Console — its must-have tool for site owners/managers. Not too long ago it was a couple of new structured data reports and today we’re talking about an enhancement report dedicated to site speed. It’s important to have a fast site and Google’s new tool helps you monitor it and improve it. Here’s is a quick guide to its capabilities.

What is the Speed report in Google Search Console?

The new Speed report gives you an idea of how fast or slow your pages load over any given time. It gives you insights that were almost impossible to get up until now. Running page speed analysis on your complete site is not something the average user can do. Testing a couple of pages in PageSpeed Insights, fine, but 1,000 pages? The new Speed report in Google Search Console gives you an idea of how your site loads. It puts all pages in buckets conveniently labeled slow, moderate and fast. 

The new Speed report overview in Search Console (desktop view)

As you know, site speed has been a hot topic for quite a while. Google even declared it a ranking factor. The search engine is rolling out all sorts of initiatives to help visualize site speed and prioritize improvements, like PageSpeed Insights and Lighthouse. Sometimes, they do it quietly, but other times it’s a little bit over the top. Case in point: Chromes new “speed badge of shame”. It is one of the indicators in the Chrome browser that helps users understand why a site may be loading slower. In reality, this is more a not so subtle jab at site owners to do something about their slow sites.

Chrome’s upcoming slow site badge

This focus on site speed is understandable. Site speed is user experience and users expect fast. But in regards to all those pretty numbers and colors, it’s hard to know what to look for. But as our own SEO expert Jono Alderson loves to say: “Don’t optimize for scores — just make it faster.” Scores say a lot, but all that matters is the perception of speed by users. How quickly can you make your page feel ready?

What does the Speed report do?

The Speed report looks at the pages on your site, checks their loading speed in the Chrome User Experience report and puts these into buckets. There are mobile and desktop specific checks and these might differ. Due to hardware and network differences, it is harder to get a good score on mobile than it is on desktop. You’ll notice, though, that the same URLs are often troublesome both on mobile as well as desktop. They might load slightly faster due to changes in test setting, but they are a point of interest nonetheless.

Two specific reports help you analyze the different sources

While not the end-all tool for measuring site speed, the Speed report is a valuable addition to Search Console. It helps you find problematic URLs which you can check in PageSpeed Insights to get a deeper understanding — plus ways of fixing it. This way, you can keep an eye on all speed-related things, spot trends, make improvements and keep track of the results of those changes. 

Where does it get its metrics?

The cool thing about the Speed report is that it uses data from the Chrome UX Report. The Chrome UX Report is a public data set of real user experience data collected from millions of opted-in users and websites. This way, loads of data are collected — like connection type, type of device and much more — from real situations and used to give a better understanding of performance in the real world. This data is put to good use in several speed-oriented Google tools, like PageSpeed Insights and Lighthouse.

What should I look for?

When looking at site speed tools it is easy to focus on the wrong stuff. Many tools check site speed in particular circumstances, like a set location at one point in time. There’s not enough context to make a decision based on this data. That’s why our advice in this has always been for you to look at a multitude of site speed tools. Combined these will give you a better handle on the problem.

The Search Console Speed report has been built around two metrics: First Contentful Paint and First Input Delay. Here’s what these metrics mean:

  • FCP (first contentful paint): The first contentful paint happens when the first element of a requested page appears on the screen. This gives users the confirmation that the page is actually loading.
  • FID (first input delay): The first input delay is the time between the first interaction of a user with an element on the requested page and the reaction of the browser to that input. How quickly your page reacts to input is of utmost importance for it to appear fast and responsive.

The results lead to slow, moderate or fast pages. According to Google, the speed of a URL is the lowest speed assigned to it. So if a page has a slow FCP, but a moderate FID it is considered slow. If it has a fast FCP and a moderate FID, it is considered moderate.

These insights give you a good idea of how your pages are performing. As said before, you probably need to run a couple of more tests to get the full picture.

Further analysis on a per-URL basis in PageSpeed Insights

URL grouping

Instead of showing a gazillion URLs and the corresponding results, Google uses aggregate scores and URL groups to make the results slightly less intimidating. For any issue, you’ll see a number of URLs getting the same score or issue. So it might be that from a specific URL, 70 other URLs suffer from the same performance issues. That makes it easier to uncover issues on a grander scale because all these pages probably have the same problems. Of course, you can do a deep-dive and check individual pages by clicking on the URL list and picking a URL to analyze using PageSpeed Insights.

Grouping URLs with similar perfomance issues makes the report easier to digest

Aggregate scores

The same goes for scoring. Grouping makes it easier to digest the results. The Speed report in Search Console focuses mainly on FCP and FID, as mentioned above. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on PageSpeed Insights as well, as this has a multitude of other metrics, graphics of the loading process and suggestions to improve the results.

In the Speed report, the FCP and FID are calculated from all the visits to those particular pages. 

  • Aggregate FCP: The aggregate first content paint is the time it takes for 75% of the visits to a URL in the report to reach FCP.
  • Aggregate FID: The aggregate first interactive delay is the time it takes for 95% of the visits to that URL to respond to interactions on that page. 

The calculation of these scores continues to fluctuate due to outside influences. That’s why you might see the trend line go up and down.

The aggregate FCP is the point when 75% of visits to that URL get FCP

Fixing issues and validating fixes

The Speed report allows you to monitor your site for speed-related issues. It helps you find problems and prioritize their resolution. Once you or your developer have run through all the suggestions and improvements you can validate the fix. Google will then monitor the pages for 28 days to see if the issue is fixed for these URLs. 

Site speed resources

This post is not about telling you how to fix your site speed issues, but rather guiding you through the new Speed report that might give you the insights you need. To get practical, you can start here:

Last but not least, an incredible source of information: Jono’s slide deck on site speed from a talk at SMXL Milan.

The post New Google Search Console report checks site speed appeared first on Yoast.

Our Client Saw 890 Incremental Conversions with Google Discovery Ads

Earlier this year, Google released a Beta ad format that enables us to share visual stories with potential customers, in addition to Display, Shopping, and YouTube.

What are Discovery Ads?

  • Visually rich, mobile-optimized clickable image ads that use the power of user intent
    • These ads are based on Google’s signals from peoples’ website visits, app downloads, videos watched, and map searches
    • Targeted with audiences rather than keyword-based targeting (similar to In-Market Audiences)
  • Run across the mobile YouTube home feed, Gmail social & promotions tabs, and Google Discover feed (iOS, Android Google app and mobile

pasted image 0

“Google is positioning Discovery Ads as an alternative to Facebook and Instagram since Discovery is a browseable, feed-based surface which gives advertisers an opportunity to extend their digital footprint to hundreds of millions of Google users globally, with a single campaign, leveraging rich user intent signals to meet a user’s expectations when they’re eager to learn more and ready to take action. – James Anthony, Seer’s Google rep

What is Discover?

Discover is a feed that appears on the home page of Google’s iOS and Android app, as well as the mobile homepage. Users are able to personalize their feeds so they see content that pertains to them.

Unlike Google Search Ads, people don’t need to enter a search query to have these ads appear. Google sorts users into audiences based on activity and serves ads relevant to that person.

How Will This Help Your Accounts?

  • Increase brand awareness
    • Promote products and services while building the brand’s image
    • New inventory helps to expand reach and traffic
  • Visually impactful ad format, capturing customers’ attention

Assets Required with Discovery Ads

  • Headline (90 characters)
  • Description (90 characters)
  • Business Name (25 characters)
  • URL
  • CTA
  • Image
    • Ad Specs for Discovery ads here.



Campaign Performance Post-Implementation

On 8/5, Seer launched a net new Discovery campaign for a client that was seeing significant decreases in page views to the homepage Year Over Year. Since launching, this campaign has seen:

  • 1,414,264 impressions (8.5% of all campaign’s impressions)
  • 101,397 clicks (19.2% of all campaigns’ clicks)
  • 890 conversions (1.2% of all campaign’s conversions)
  • $15.91 CPA (36.36% under our goal CPA of $25)
  • 26,015 sessions to the homepage (+152.57% year over year)

While conversion volume is low compared to other Paid Search campaigns running in this account, Seer is happy with the impression volume as well as the CPA, given that this is incremental volume and this ad format is aimed at increasing brand awareness.

We definitely recommend leveraging this ad format if you’re able (still in Beta)! Reach out with your findings and be sure to sign up for our newsletter below to get all the digital industry updates.

Keyword research for SEO: the ultimate guide

Keyword research is the first step in the SEO copywriting process and an essential part of any SEO strategy. Before you write your website content, you need to think about which search terms you want to be found for and this means getting inside people’s heads to find out which words they use when searching. Then, you can use these exact terms in your content so that you start ranking for them. This is keyword research, and our ultimate guide will take you through the many steps involved.

We hope you’ll enjoy reading #7 of our best-read posts this year! Find out what steps you need to take to do proper keyword research. Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for another holiday countdown surprise!

What is keyword research?

Before we start explaining the process of keyword research, let’s look at the most important concepts behind it.

Keyword research can be defined as the work you do to come up with an extensive list of keywords you want to rank for.

Keyword strategy is about the decisions you make on the basis of that keyword research.

Keyphrases are keywords containing multiple words. We tend to use the word keyword all the time, but we don’t necessarily mean it’s only one word. [WordPress SEO] is a keyword, as is [The best Google Analytics plugin]. Keywords usually consist of multiple words! So, in this guide, when we talk about keywords, we usually mean a phrase, rather than a single word. As of Yoast SEO 9.0, we are using the term keyphrase in many more places, and have replaced the term focus keyword with focus keyphrase.

Long tail keywords are more specific and less common because they focus more on a niche. The longer (and more specific) search terms are, the easier it will be to rank for the term. Keywords that are more specific (and often longer) are usually referred to as long tail keywords.

Focus keyphrase is the word or phrase you most want your page to be found for. You should put your focus keyphrase into the meta box of the Yoast SEO plugin.

Search intent is all about discovering what a searcher actually wants. These are not just keywords, but the underlying goals of what a searcher wants to know, do or buy.

Read more: What is keyword research? »

Why is keyword research important?

Proper keyword research is important because it will make clear which search terms your audience uses. At Yoast, we frequently come across clients who use one set of words when describing their products, while their target audience uses a completely different set of words. As a result,  potential customers don’t find those websites, because of a mismatch in word use.

Sometimes a marketing department decides to give their products a certain name. And, that can be a smart marketing decision. It can be a way to make people remember your product. For example, you don’t rent out vacation homes, but [vacation cottages]. But: be aware that very few people search for [vacation cottages]. So, if you optimize your text for these terms, you’ll probably rank well on these specific terms. However, you won’t generate a lot of traffic with these terms and you’ll miss a large part of your potential audience.

So, you’ll understand that it doesn’t make any sense to optimize for words that people don’t use. Good keyword research makes sure that you use the same words as your target audience and this makes the whole effort of optimizing your website far more worthwhile. In addition, by looking at search intent, you find out which questions your customer has. Those questions should get an answer in the form of quality content.

Keep reading: The basis of keyword research »

How to do keyword research

For us, there are four steps to keyword research. First, you write down the mission of your business. Next, you make a list of all the keywords you want to be found for. Then you look at search intent and finally, create landing pages for each of those keywords. This ultimate guide takes you through these steps in much more detail.

Step by step, we’ll guide you through the entire keyword research process, and we’ll give you practical tips to easily start your own keyword research.

Things to consider: How competitive is your market?

The market you’re in determines whether your mission will prove genius enough to sell your products to people. Some markets are highly competitive, with large companies dominating the search results. These companies have huge budgets for marketing in general and SEO in particular. Competing in these markets is tough, so ranking in these markets is also going to be tough.

Perhaps you sell cruises to Hawaii. You offer great facilities for children, making the cruises especially suitable for young or single parents. Offering great cruises to Hawaii for young parents could very well be what makes your service unique. Look for the thing that makes your product stand out from the competition. This should be your mission, your niche – and this is what you have to offer your audience.

If you’re launching into in a competitive market, your best bet is to start out small. Once you ‘own’ a small part of that niche and become a big name in the business of cruises to Hawaii, you could try to go one level up and sell your cruises to a larger (more general) audience. Your mission will then become much more general as well.

Step 1: What is your mission?

Before starting anything, think about your mission. Think about questions like: Who are you? What is your website about? What makes you special? Who are you trying to reach? And what promises do you make on your website?

Read on: What is the mission of your website »

A lot of people can’t effectively answer these questions at first. You have to figure out what makes you stand out from the crowd. What’s more, you have to know what kind of audience you want to target. So take your time and literally write down your mission on a piece of paper, a computer or an iPad – anything will do, as long as you do it. Once you’re able to answer these questions in detail, you will have taken the first and most important step in your keyword strategy.

Step 2: Make a list of keywords

The second step of keyword research is creating a list of your keywords. With your mission in mind, try to get into the heads of your potential buyers. What will these people be looking for? What kind of search terms could they be using while looking for your amazing service or product? Ask yourself these questions and write down as many answers as possible.

If your mission is clear, you will have a pretty clear image of your niche and your unique selling points (the things that set your business apart from others). These are the terms you want to be found for.

Make sure the keywords fit your site

Be aware that you should be found for terms that match your site. If we went crazy and did our very best to make rank for ballet shoes, people would be rather disappointed to find our site. They would probably instantly go back to Google. If we ranked for ballet shoes, we would have a massive bounce rate. And a high bounce rate tells Google that people are not finding what they are looking for based on their search term. This would inevitably lead to a lower ranking on ballet shoes for our site – and that would be completely justified because we know nothing about ballet, nor about shoes for that matter.

Tools you can use

Making a list of possible search terms is hard. Up until a few years ago you could just check Google Analytics and see the terms people used to find your website, but unfortunately, that’s no longer possible. So you’ll have pretty much no idea which terms people use in search engines to end up at your website. Luckily, there are still some other tools which make your keyword research a bit easier. Read our post about tools you can use in your keyword research for more tips and tricks.

Step 3: Look at search intent

Today’s SEO strategies should, for the most part, revolve around answering the questions people have. Whenever someone enters a search query into a search engine, they are on a quest for something. Every type of question needs a specific answer. In my SEO basics article on search intent, I said:

“Search intent has to do with the reason why people conduct a specific search. Why are they searching? Are they searching because they have a question and want an answer to that question? Are they searching for a specific website? Or, are they searching because they want to buy something?”

When planning your content, always ask yourself these questions. There are four types of intents:

  • Informational intent: Just like it says on the tin, people are trying to find information on a specific topic.
  • Navigational intent: People want to access a specific website by entering the term in a search engine.
  • Commercial intent: People want to buy something sometime soon and are doing research before making a purchase.
  • Transactional intent: People are looking to buy something after doing their commercial intent searches.

Find out which kinds of intent apply to you and try to match these search intents, literally giving people what they want.

Step 4: Construct landing pages

The next step towards a long-term keyword strategy is to create awesome landing pages. In the past, each of the keywords you wanted to be found for, got its own landing page. Today, however, search engines are so smart that they mostly use search intent to give searchers the best answer to their questions. The page that answers those questions best will rank on top. Search engines also understand subtle differences between keywords so you don’t have to create landing pages for all subtle variations of a keyword. You can just optimize a page for multiple keyphrases, synonyms, and related keyphrases.

Create an overview

We would advise you to build your page structure in a well-structured way – using a spreadsheet program like Excel or Google Docs/Sheets is a great way to do this. Create a table then add your list of keywords. Using a table forces you to set up a structure and to make relevant landing pages. Put the search terms in the first column and add columns for the different levels of your site’s structure.

Create landing pages

Then, you’ll need to build a landing page for your search terms, but you don’t have to create all these pages immediately – it can be a long-term thing. The more specific your search term is, the further down into your site structure the term’s landing page belongs. The most important keywords will lead to your cornerstone content articles. These are the keywords you definitely want to rank for. To do this, you create the best possible content about that keyword – authoritative and all-encompassing, just like the ultimate guide you are reading right now. All your supporting articles will link to this cornerstone content. This should be part of your internal linking strategy, which Yoast SEO Premium can help you implement.

After completing your keyword research for SEO, you should have a clear overview of the terms people use and the terms you want the pages on your site to be found for. This overview should guide you in writing content for your website.

Long-term keyword strategy

No website should rely on one single keyword or one keyphrase for its traffic. You should use your mission as a starting point, then take our steps in carrying out proper keyword research and work towards a solid base: a keyword strategy. This section of our ultimate guide explains why it’s important to have a long-term keyword strategy.

How many keywords?

We can’t tell you the exact number of keywords you should have, but we can tell you that you need a lot of them – as many as you can think of. However, more than 1000 keywords is probably too many!

Even if you’re a reasonably small business, you’ll probably end up with a couple of hundred keywords. But there’s no need to create pages for all of these straight away. The great thing about having a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress is that you can add content bit by bit. Think about what keywords you want to rank for now, and which ones aren’t as important right away. Understand your priorities and plan the creation of your content.

Keep on reading: Managing a growing blog: content planning »

The importance of long-tail keyword strategy

Focusing on long-tail keywords should be an important part of a long-term keyword research strategy. Long-tail keywords are keywords or key phrases that are more specific (and usually longer) than more common keywords, often called ‘head’ keywords. Long-tail keywords get less search traffic, but will usually have a higher conversion value, as they focus more on a specific product or topic. Read our post about the importance of long-tail keywords if you want to know why you should focus on long-tail keywords when optimizing your site.

Read more: Make friends with the long tail »

What is the competition doing?

Always keep an eye on the competition. Whether you should go after long-tail keywords, which are specific and consist of multiple words, or after head terms, largely depends on your competition. If the competition in your niche is high, you’ll have a hard time ranking on competitive head terms. If you have little competition, you’ll even be able to rank for head terms. So how do you determine your competition? What should you be looking for? There are two steps to take to properly assess how you compare to your competition:

1. Google and analyze your competition

2. Try, evaluate and try again.

1. Google and analyze your competition

Google the keywords that came out of your keyword research. Start with your most ‘head’ term. The most general one. Check out the search engine result page (SERP). These are the websites you’ll be competing against once you optimize your content for such a keyword. To check whether or not you’ll be able to compete with the websites on that result page, analyze the following things:

  • Are the websites professional websites? Are they company websites? Ask yourself whether or not you are an ‘equal’ to these companies. Does your website belong among these sites? Is your company of similar size and does it have as much influence in your niche?
  • Does the SERP show well-known brands? It’s harder to rank when you’re competing against sites with strong brand-names. If brands are known from TV or radio commercials, your chances to rank will become even smaller.
  • What about the content of these websites? Is the content well written and well optimized? How long are the articles on the sites? If your competition has poor content, you’ll have a larger chance to outrank them!
  • Are there any ads in Google? And how much is the pay-per-click in Google adwords? Search terms that have a high pay-per-click are usually also harder to rank for in the organic results.

How do you compare to the competition?

It all boils down to a single question: how does my website hold up, compared to the websites in the SERPs? Are you of equal size and marketing budget: go ahead and focus on those head terms. If not: try a more long-tail keyword.

The next step is to do the same analysis with a keyword that’s slightly more long tail. Longer and more specific search terms will generate less traffic, but ranking on those terms will be much easier. Focusing on a whole bunch of long-tail keywords combined could very well attract a lot of traffic. Once you’ve managed to rank for those long-tail keywords, aiming for more head terms will become a bit easier.

2. Try, evaluate and try again

Once you’ve done a thorough analysis of your chances to rank on a specific term, the next step is to write an amazing article and optimize it accordingly. And hit publish. Make sure you’ll attract some nice backlinks. And wait a little while. Check out your rankings. Does your article pop up? Did it hit the first page of Google’s SERPs? Or is it hidden away on page 2 or 3? Make sure to evaluate your articles in the SERPs. Google the terms you’ve optimized your articles for. Check whether or not your SEO is paying off!

If you’re not able to rank on the first page, try to write another article, focused on an (even) more long-tail keyword. Make it a little bit more specific, more niche. And see how that goes. Evaluate again. Continue this process until you hit that first page of the SERPs!

Ad hoc keyword research strategies

In an ideal world, you would do your keyword research, make a beautiful table and create landing pages for each one. Your site structure would be flawless and you would blog and write every day making your site rank higher and higher in Google. Unfortunately, we live in the real world.

Of course, your keyword research will not always be as extensive. And some posts or articles aren’t written as part of an awesome strategy, but just because the topic was in the news or something inspired you to write it. That’s just how these things work. But this doesn’t have to be a problem.

If you’re writing something that doesn’t exactly fit your strategy, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to make that content rank. You could still use it to rank for something related to the terms in the list of your keyword strategy. Use tools like Google Trends to choose which keyword you’d like to rank for. At least take some time to think about how to make your article or blog fit your strategy. After all, if you are writing valuable content, you might as well make it rank!

Synonyms and related keywords

Our Yoast SEO Premium plugin allows you to optimize your content for synonyms and related keyphrases. Synonyms are direct replacement words for your focus keyphrase, while related keyphrases are words and concepts that are not a direct replacement but terms and phrases that deepen and broaden the understanding of your focus keyphrase. By using synonyms and related keyphrases in your text you can paint a complete picture of your focus keyphrase in your article. Remember, don’t use your focus keyword more than once. Not sure if you used a focus keyphrase before? The post why and how to export your focus keyphrases with Yoast SEO Premium explains how to get an overview of the focus keyphrases you used before and on what page.

Singular or plural focus keyword?

Should you aim for the singular or the plural keyword? Well, this depends on the query. As Google is learning more about search intent of your query, it is able to better guess what you’re looking for. For instance, if you search for book, you get a different result than if you search for books. Apparently Google thinks that in the first case you’re looking for a definition or certain stories, in the second case it believes you’re looking for books to buy. So make sure you know what you offer on your page and that it fits with the query and results Google gives on that query.

Yoast SEO Premium has word form support, so it automatically detects all the different forms of your focus keyphrase (known as keyword stemming). Now, you no longer have to optimize your post for a specific word form. Optimizing your post has become a much more natural process. However, there are reasons why you’d still want to optimize for a very specific word form of a keyword. In this case, you can put your focus keyphrase in quotes: “best books ever”. Yoast SEO will now only take that exact focus keyphrase into account when checking your content.

Keep reading: How to choose the perfect focus keyword »

Conclusion on keyword research for SEO

Keyword research should be the start of any sustainable SEO strategy. The result will be a long list of keywords for which you’d like to be found. But the hardest part is still ahead: writing all that content. You should write articles and blog posts on every single keyword you would like to be found for. That’s quite a challenge!

Read on: WordPress SEO: The definitive guide to higher rankings for WordPress sites »

The post Keyword research for SEO: the ultimate guide appeared first on Yoast.