Archives February 2018

2019 Content Performance Evaluation Strategies – John Lincoln // Ignite Visibility

Episode Overview: Google’s algorithm updates shook up the SEO landscape in 2019, forcing expert SEOs to question what the best method is to evaluate their content’s performance throughout a year full of changes. Join Ben as he chats with SEO expert John Lincoln from Ignite Visibility, who was recently named the Search Marketer of the Year by Search Engine Land, as he shares his expertise on the best way to evaluate your content’s performance in 2019 and how to create a new content marketing roadmap for 2020 inspired by the year’s changes.

Summary:

  • In a year over year performance evaluation, it’s best to gauge SEO efforts by segmenting your website’s pages and evaluating each based off the number of new visitors, conversions, revenue, seasonality, keywords, and landing pages.
  • Social sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have their own respective top to bottom funnel, awareness to conversion, processes that content needs to be evaluated against when planning future content marketing efforts.

GUESTS & RESOURCES:

Ben:                 Welcome to Planning Month on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro and this month we’re taking a minute to evaluate our 2019 performance and set our SEO plans for 2020. Joining us today is an SEO who was recently named the Search Marketer of the Year by Search Engine Land. John Lincoln is a returning guest to the Voices of Search podcast. He’s also the cofounder and CEO of Ignite Visibility, which is a digital marketing agency that offers a suite of services including earned and paid media campaign optimization, website development and creative design. John is also the author of the recently published Forecaster Method book which is available on Amazon. And today he and I are going to talk about how you can evaluate your content performance for this year.

Ben:                 But before we hear from John, 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 we’re offering a free trial of the Searchmetrics suite, which gives you access to not only search metrics as research cloud, it also gives you access to the content experience tool as well, which will help you optimize all of your content. To sign up for your free trial, go to searchmetrics.com/freetrial. Okay, on with the show. Here’s my conversation with John Lincoln co-founder and CEO of Ignite Visibility. John, welcome back to the Voices of Search podcast.

John:                Hey, thanks so much for having me on, beautiful day today. I’m here in Utah actually standing outside of a conference and staring at the snow and excited to be chatting with you about digital marketing, all things measurement.

Ben:                 It’s in the low seventies here in the suburbs of San Francisco, early November. It’s beautiful and I hope you’re enjoying your event. I appreciate you making the time. I know you’ve got a busy schedule, so let’s dive into it. Lots going on. First off, you published a book. Tell us a little bit about it.

John:                Yeah, so I’ve been working for a long time on what I feel is the perfect way to measure all things digital marketing. Ignite Visibility, you know, we’ve grown a lot. We’re 80 employees, manage over a $100 million in advertising. You know, we’ve got a 30 person SEO team and we work with a lot of bigger businesses now. So when you’re looking at the overall marketing mix, it gets a little complicated. How do you actually measure the success of every single source of traffic that comes to your website online? How do you pin it against each other? And how do you figure out what’s the best place to spend your money so that you can accurately scale from where you want to go.

John:                So the book for the first time ever, I believe, allows you to plot a very clear roadmap for performance-based marketing on how you can scale three to six channels, whether it be Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Google pay per click, SEO, email marketing. How can you invest in each channel and where can you put the least amount of money in so you can scale for the largest return. And it allows you to accurately measure all the different channels, pin them against each other, and then create a diversified portfolio traffic.

John:                So that’s what the Forecaster Method is all about. It’s about really putting those things in place. And then once you have it in place, how do you convert the traffic for less? How do you generate audiences that you have reliable places that you can go and you can advertise at any time to get more sales. How do you improve your conversion rates once they hit the website? And what are all the most innovative and best ways to advertise and how should you be measuring each type of advertising as you go deeper into each one. So that’s kind of the gist of the book.

Ben:                 So, little did we know, I thought we were going to be talking to an SEO expert and as it turns out you’re a performance evaluation expert as well. Which is great because we’re doing our planning month. I want to double click into how you think about evaluating content performance and SEO. As the SEO community looks back on 2019 they’re trying to figure out what their performance was, how should they evaluate themselves, and then how should they compare themselves to some of the other channels that are in their company’s marketing.

John:                Yeah, so my role has really changed. You know, I’m a digital marketing strategist at this point. I’ve been doing it for 16 years. SEO I think is what a lot of people originally think of before. But let’s talk about that. So the thing when it comes to measuring SEO performance, it’s always year over year, right? And you always are looking at the margin from where it started and where you are now.

John:                So, for example, if a client comes to you or if you start doing SEO and you’re down 10% right? And six months go by and then you’re up 10% you have a marginal increase of 20% that’s happened there. And I think what people really need to look at is not just overall traffic, not just overall sessions. SEO should really be gauged off of new visitors. They should be gauged off of conversions and they should be gauged off of revenue. And they should be gauged off of keywords and landing pages that have the biggest impact on the business.

John:                So, some of the things that I feel a lot of people don’t do is they don’t break the website down by segment. That’s really, really important too, because every single website has different areas that have a higher contribution margin to the business. So any given website might have five to 10 different segments of landing pages that have different subjects. And each of those subjects basically feeds into a funnel that then has a conversion.

John:                So, generally what people want to look for is they want to look at growth, they want to look at year over year, they want to make sure they’re taking into account seasonal adjustments. They want to look at top landing pages, segments. They want to look at buckets of keywords from top of funnel to bottom funnel and for most profitable to least profitable. And you know, the way you know it’s working is for me with our team and just in general, I mean I feel like generally we try to shoot for 30% to 80% growth for clients and even ourselves year over year. So if you’re doing that, you’re doing a pretty good job.

Ben:                 So, tell me a little bit about how you view this year for SEO. You have a 38% to 80% benchmarks. Is that something that’s standard every year or was there anything specific that happened this year that you think is interesting?

John:                SEO has really changed this year. Thanks for asking that. And the main thing is with all of these different updates that have happened. So you know, you’ve got these updates that have occurred that have really hurt certain financial sites, certain medical sites, and they’ve taken huge dives. So E-A-T, expertise, authority and trustworthiness. If you didn’t have that in place, that really hurt a lot of people as a result.

John:                So, I think that that’s really important to keep in mind. And then also we’re seeing the rise of no click. So one of the things that our company’s been working on a lot is how do you get involved with Google even when there’s not the click, how do you get involved in Google Assistant, Google Action, how do you show up when all of these features that are within Google now? And so I believe measurement for SEO is going to be changing a little bit in some ways to a bit of an impression count, for some of these additional features that you can create. So things are changing a little bit.

Ben:                 You mentioned that you want to segment some of your keywords and your portions of site. One of the things that I’ve talked about with Jordan Koene, CEO of Searchmetrics is thinking about what the purpose of your queries are. Is it an informational query, is it a transactional query, is it a navigational query, are those are the types of segments that you’re talking about or how do you recommend SEOs break up their pages to evaluate them effectively?

John:                Yeah, so it is definitely based off of those type of things. So a coupon website, for example. A coupon website would be broken down by category. It would be broken down by brand, you know, the brand of coupon. It would be broken down by, from the brand, it would be broken down by the deviation. So is it a printable, is it a coupon code? And then type, you know, and that’s that whole kind of lower funnel conversion focus keyword. But we’re seeing a lot of content marketing of course as well. So that’s another segment also.

John:                So generally, what I like to do is break down the content marketing into one bucket and then if it becomes a really big website, like a news site, you might break that down further into the subject of the content. But generally content’s in one bucket and then the other buckets on the other segments are just based off of the subject matter.

Ben:                 So, you bring up content marketing, which is something that I want to separate out from SEO here because I think as we’ve talked about it more and more this year, content really has utility outside of just organic growth in what’s happening with the performance marketing channels. People don’t want to be advertised to. So you’re seeing more brands starting to use their content as a promotional vehicle.

John:                Correct.

Ben:                 Outside of just organic growth, how are you thinking about evaluating your content, the efficiency, the effectiveness, so you can figure out what your plan is for next year.

John:                So, things are really changing with content. So what I want everybody who’s listening to this to think about is Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. Every single website out there that has the ability to send you traffic has a top of funnel to bottom funnel. And within the top of funnel to bottom funnel from awareness all the way down to conversion, all the way down to remarketing you want to think about what’s that perfect piece of content that you can get in front of that user to start them on the journey with your brand.

John:                So, when it comes to content marketing, sure I could write an article on how to choose the best SEO company or something like that. It’s been written a million times. Or I could create this amazing article and I could have that be a component of my paid traffic for Google pay per click. I could have it be something that I promote on LinkedIn. I could have it be a YouTube video. I could have it be a Facebook ad. And the more exciting the better because people have fatigue from too much just direct click. And if you want to get them before the journey even starts and in that buying process, that’s how you really want to craft your content. So it’s really just important with your content marketing, you think about upper funnel and then integrating it more with your advertising strategy.

Ben:                 Yeah, that’s really the confusing thing to me in terms of evaluation for content. Is, you know, for the SEO community we think I created a piece of content, I can evaluate it based on how many clicks Google sent me, how many visitors I use, where does that page rank. But the utility of that piece of content might not actually be in driving organic traffic. It might be that it’s great content for Facebook. And we’re going to pay a ton of advertising budget to promote that piece of content because the conversion rate is outstanding. And as an SEO or the person that suggested that was going to be an interesting piece of content or right credit isn’t always attributed to that. How do you factor in the value of a piece of content from an organic perspective and the value it has across other channels?

John:                Sure, so I think all SEOs now they need to have a digital strategy component and I taught analytics at UC San Diego for six years. And one of the things I love to teach inside of that class is multichannel funnel and attribution modeling. So here’s the thing, in any given analytics profile, generally you’re going to see SEO is going to be about 30% to 40% of the breakdown. Paid media is going to be 20% to 30% if you’re going to have referral, direct display and then social traffic that are going to make up the rest of that. And what’s to note is SEO is still generally the biggest piece of the pie there. So you need to be measured on that. But I highly recommend people look up the multichannel funnel report. That’s going to show you how many different touches it takes across all the different sources before conversion happens.

John:                And if you’re on the content creation team and you are making stuff that other people are using, you should get some credit for that. Especially if you came up with the idea, you publish the article, you made this great piece of content. And then it turns into a three-touch user path until somebody converts. So I think that’s the way to think about it. And you really need to be integrated nowadays. You cannot not be because the customer journey has changed. It’s not top of funnel, you know, one click you’re in, you’re done. It’s this helix now where people are jumping inside and out. And the role of SEO has never been more important, but it’s mixed now. And SEOs need to understand that.

Ben:                 So as you think about figuring out the value of your content and what your SEO performance was, how do you think that should dictate what your plans are for the upcoming year?

John:                So I have seen huge success in investing in more content. I mean we’re a three time Inc. 5,000 company ourselves. You know, we’ve grown significantly. I work with large businesses often to help them scale. So for me, and a lot of the stuff I talk about in the forecaster method book is how to establish a model just like any business model and then how do you scale it.

John:                So if you can determine the return on ad spend for the content for each source and you develop a report on that, he makes a nice easy report inside of a Google Data Studio Dashboard so that you can actually see those numbers. Once you know that it’s just as simple as going to your executive or your team and just showing them, “Look, this is how much you pay for this. If you pay this much more, it’s going to take you to this.” And now for the first time ever, we can do that for digital. So for me, I am investing personally and encouraging clients to invest more in content creation and more in advertising. And when you do those two things together, it works really, really well. And that’s the way to think about it.

Ben:                 I think my biggest takeaway is that as you think about your SEO and content strategies and you’re evaluating what happened last year, this is not just as simple as, “Okay, what’s the organic traffic value.”

John:                It’s not.

Ben:                 It is not. What’s the content I produced? How did it have any impact on Google? Did it drive a click? What were the impressions? Is there a zero click? And then also what was the value of that piece of content to the other channels. So it really is more of a multitouch attribution tracking exercise than it is just looking at webmaster tools or something like search metrics to figure out what your visibility is. You have to think about multitouch attribution and think about your content and your SEO strategies more broadly.

John:                Correct. And I’ll make one last comment on that. I mean one of the things that I really like to do, go into Google Analytics, look at the landing page report, your top landing pages, and then set a secondary dimension for source. And what that’s going to show you is that’s going to show you the different sources that are contributing to the conversions on that landing page. And it’s basically the individual business model for that one landing page.

John:                And if you’re in charge of content creation, you want to know those numbers and you want to be able to scale them. And you know, one of the things that we’ve been doing more and more, which I’m so excited about, we call it customer journey mapping. I know that’s general term, but you know, looking at every segment of the website, every template, the conversion rate, the sources and mediums that are hitting them and understanding that whole business model. And when you have that in a snapshot, you can scale and have, you know, much more just credibility. You can ensure that you get to those places you want to go. So SEO is going to be great going into 2020, be excited, and 2021. There’s no question about that. But I think the technology is evolving and people are getting smarter and SEOs need to think about the whole strategy. That’s my main point. So…

Ben:                 Yeah, and I’ll add that, you know, SEOs are not as siloed as they used to be. It’s not just a separate channel. Advertising and content and SEO and PR, they’re all getting blended together. So not only, evaluate your content, but learn a little bit from the rest of your team. We’re going to talk about that more than this month. John, before we let you go, give me one last little fact about the Forecaster Method book. Sounds like a great resource. Tell the SEO community here a little bit about it and where they can find it.

John:                The Forecaster Method is on amazon.com, go check it out. It’s really inexpensive. It’s not a long book, it’s an hour read. I did that on purpose. It starts slow and then it ends super, super advanced. And it’s going to really give you the tools that I’ve used for a long time to scale businesses online, digitally. And there’s a pretty good component of SEO in there, but it’s really everything. So I really hope you enjoy it. If you do, do me a solid leave me a review. I’m not making tons of money off the book, just looking to add value to people. So…

Ben:                 I appreciate it. Ordering my copyright now, looking like $5.99 as we stand today, paperback, great picture of our buddy John on the front. John, thanks for coming on back to the Voices of Search Podcast and for being our guest.

John:                Yeah, thanks for having me. See you soon. Bye.

Ben:                 All right, that wraps up this episode and the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with John Lincoln, the cofounder and CEO of Ignite Visibility and the author of the book, The Forecaster Method. We’d love to continue this conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting John, you can find the link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can send him a tweet where his Twitter handle is John E. Lincoln, J-O-H-N-E-L-I-N-C-O-L-N. Or you can visit his company’s website, which is ignitevisibility.com. And of course look for his book on Amazon. It is The Forecaster Method.

Ben:                 And if you have general marketing questions or if you’d like to talk to me about this podcast, or if you’re interested in being a guest on the Voices of Search Podcast, you can shoot me a tweet @BenJShap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. And if you’re interested in learning about how to use search data to boost your organic traffic online visibility, or to gain competitive insights, head over to searchmetrics.com/freetrial for your free trial of their SEO suite and content experience software. And if you like 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 in your feed soon with more SEO tips. All right, that’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.


What are YouTube Tags and Which Ones Should You Add?

Quick links

Looking for a simple but logical process for adding tags to your YouTube videos?

There are two ways to add YouTube tags to your videos.

  1. Add tags that you think make sense and hope for the best;
  2. Use a logical process to add tags that make sense.

In this guide, we’ll explain the process we use to add tags to our videos in 5–10 minutes.

But first, let’s cover a few basics.

What are YouTube tags?

YouTube tags are words and phrases that describe your video and provide more context to help people find your content.

youtube tags

Why are YouTube tags important?

Everything points to the idea that YouTube tags aren’t that important.

Here’s what YouTube says:

Your video’s title, thumbnail and description are more important pieces of metadata for your video’s discovery. These ‚main pieces of information help viewers decide which videos to watch. Tags can be useful if the content of your video is commonly misspelled. Otherwise, tags play a minimal role in your video’s discovery.

This is probably why most studies, like this one from Briggsby, show only a small positive relationship between the usage of keywords in tags and a video’s ranking position.

youtube seo broad match video keywords 1024x517

youtube seo broad match video keywords 1024x517

That same study found that only ⅓ of the top-ranking videos use the keyword in their tags. As Justin Briggsby points out, this “may imply that keyword tags are less critical than titles and descriptions.”

Of course, correlation ≠ causation, but either way, you might be wondering, should I bother adding YouTube tags at all?

Short answer: Yes. Just don’t spend too much time on it.

How we add tags to our YouTube videos

Before we get down to the nitty-gritty, it’s important to note that our “process” for adding YouTube tags is quite simple and by no means definitive. It’s what we do, but we have no hard evidence that it played a significant role in the growth of our channel of the past couple of years.

We use this process only as a rough guide, and we spend no longer than 5–10 minutes adding tags to each video. Any longer is just a waste of time, in our opinion.

Here’s our three-step process:

1. Set your primary target keyword as the first tag

This study of 1.3 million YouTube videos found a small relationship between rankings and the presence of the keyword in the video’s tags.

keyword in tag chart

keyword in tag chart

Now, correlation ≠ causation, so it’s worth taking these results with a pinch of salt. That said, it does echo the findings from Briggsby’s study mentioned in the previous section.

Some also believe that YouTube pays the most attention to your first tag.

Whether this is true is anyone’s guess. But given that YouTube’s official guidance for tags is to “use the words and phrases that make the most sense for your video,” your target keyword is a good starting point.

So we almost always use our primary keyword as our first tag.

For example, look at the tags for our keyword research video:

keyword research video tag

keyword research video tag

The first tag is “keyword research” because that’s what we want to rank for.

It’s the same story for our SEO checklist video. We want to rank for “SEO checklist,” so that’s our first tag.

seo checklist tags

seo checklist tags

2. Add common, relevant keywords from top-ranking videos

Install the free vidIQ browser extension (or TubeBuddy), then search for your target keyword on youtube.

Open up 3–5 of the most relevant top-ranking videos in new tabs.

Usually, these are the first few videos, but not always.

For example, let’s say that your target keyword is “iPhone apps,” and you’ve created a video listing 10–20 of the top apps to try to rank for that.

Here are the top-ranking results for that keyword:

iphone apps youtube videos

iphone apps youtube videos

You can see that while the videos in positions 2–5 are topically similar, that’s not the case for the video ranking in the top spot. The angle is entirely different, and it doesn’t even look to be targeting this keyword.

So let’s ignore that one and open the next few.

You should see the tags for each video on the vidIQ overlay on the right.

best iphone apps video tags

best iphone apps video tags

Consider adding relevant common tags to your video.

3. Add relevant keywords with search volume

Go to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer and set the search engine to YouTube.

Paste in all the tags from the videos you opened in the previous step, then hit search.

Sidenote.

Don’t worry about deduplicating them. Keywords Explorer does this automatically.

You should now see the estimated monthly search volume for each keyword, sorted in descending order.

youtube keywords

youtube keywords

Look down the list for relevant and descriptive keywords with search volume.

If we were doing this for our iPhone apps video, these might be “best iPhone apps,” “must have iphone apps,” and “iOS apps.”

Sidenote.

We also sometimes add a couple of generic tags. For example, our SEO tips video has tags like “SEO tricks” and “SEO techniques” that are closely related to the main target keyword. But there are also a few more generic ones like “SEO” and “google SEO.” However, we usually only do this if we feel that the video has the potential to rank for such terms.

Best practices

Here’s our general advice for adding tags to your videos.

Don’t go overboard with tags

YouTube places no limits on the number of tags you can add to videos. But there is a total character limit of 500.

However, just because you can add 500 characters doesn’t mean that you always should.

According to Briggsby’s analysis of 100,000 YouTube videos, the sweet spot is around 200–300 characters.  

youtube average rank by keyword tag length 1024x506

youtube average rank by keyword tag length 1024x506

Here’s what Justin Briggs says about that:

I don’t think this is a direct factor but is suggestive of optimization issues associated with more prolonged keyword tag fields (off-topic terms, keyword stuffing, etc.)

Bottom line: Add relevant tags but don’t stuff keywords or go overboard.

Don’t mislead people

Using tags to “trick users into believing the content is something it is not” is against YouTube’s spam policy and could result in your video being taken down

What constitutes a misleading tag?

They don’t give examples, but chances are any of these things fit the bill:

  • Celebrities names
  • Competitors’ names
  • Irrelevant keywords (e.g., “android apps” for a video about iPhone apps)

Bottom line: Keep your tags relevant.

Don’t add tags to your video description

YouTube’s lists “placing excessive tags in the video description (“tag stuffing”) rather than placing them as tags upon upload” as another example of misleading users.

keywords in youtube description

keywords in youtube description

Bottom line: Don’t place lists of tags in your video description.

Don’t overthink things

Use common sense. If a tag looks relevant, add it. If it doesn’t, don’t.

Final thoughts

While it’s definitely worth adding relevant and descriptive tags to your YouTube videos, it’s not something worth spending a lot of time on. YouTube themselves freely admit that video tags are unimportant compared to your video’s title, thumbnail, and description. So invest more of your time and efforts into those things and, above all else, into creating engaging videos that retain viewers’ attention.

Looking to learn more about YouTube SEO? Start here.

Got questions? Give me a shout in the comments or on Twitter.


Nofollow, Sponsored, and UGC Links Guide

Nofollow, Sponsored, and UGC Links Guide

In September 2019, Google announced that the currently 14-year-old “nofollow” attribute is set to receive two significant new siblings: the “sponsored” attribute and the “ugc” attribute (UGC stands for “user-generated content”). So, why improve something if it’s not broken? Why two new attributes where before one was seemingly working perfectly well? Let’s get into it.


The silent killers of loading time and how to fix them

Imagine visiting a website that takes more than 10, no two seconds to load. We know that the mouse is going to hover to the top right corner because honestly, no one has the time to wait nowadays. 

A Forbes article mentioned that a mere one-second delay in page load time means a seven percent decline in sales, 11% fewer page views, a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction, and a seven percent loss in conversions. 

Your website may be a work of art with awesome features. It can have lightning speed chat responses but with slow loading time, none of that matters. 

Attention spans are growing smaller and patience is thinner than ever. Other than that, slow loading sites impact your SEO because it affects how Google sees your page. Speed is a ranking factor Google uses to measure your page. Sure, content may be king, but speed can change how your content performs in search. 

We’ll dig deep and find the silent killers of loading time – both common and uncommon causes.

1. Uncompressed images and bizarre image dimensions

The quality and size of an image affects its loading time. Having a high-resolution image on every page means your site will load slower.

How you can fix this

A couple of ways we found included installing plugins. The first one is with a jQuery Lazy Load plugin. This plugin allows the images that are only appearing to load “above the fold” or on a part a visitor is currently viewing. 

The second option is by using image optimizers such as Yahoo!’s Smush.it or use the WP Smush.it plugin which compacts images without altering their quality. With the WP plugin, it can be done automatically when you add graphics to your site.

2. Unnecessary plugins

If you have a WordPress site you’ll know that there are tons of plugins wandering around and sometimes you might feel the need to download every one because they’re “helpful” to your site. 

Before you know it, you’ll have plugins running your site and you might even have a plugin for your plugin.

Plugin overload can be a problem because the more plugins your site has, the more work it has to do when it loads. Also, not all plugins are as awesome as they claim to be. Beware of outdated plugins that can slow down your site instead of improving its performance.

What you can do to solve this problem is by evaluating your current plugins to figure out which ones you actually need. You might have multiple plugins that have the same function or have some that you’re no longer using. 

When you’re deleting plugins check to see if

– The plugin is relevant and updated

– Whether it has another similar plugin with same functions

– Whether you’re still using it the respective plugin

You can also check the performance of your plugins using the P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler) which shows you the impact of each plugin has on your WordPress site load time.

3. An excessive homepage

Your homepage is the face of your brand. So, we get it if you want it to look the best. However, when you try to impress new visitors with a bunch of widgets, content, and state-of-the-art imagery, it’s going to compromise your loading time.

When you want to make an impressive site, keep in mind that a clean design can do wonders. We’re not telling you to ban widgets completely (save them for the end of your blog posts or site pages) but we’re just telling you to keep it simple.

Another thing you can do to speed up load times is by altering the WordPress options to show excerpts instead of full posts and limiting the posts per page by five to seven each.

4. Free third-party WordPress themes

Free WordPress themes may sound like the best thing since sliced bread but free things come with a price tag. When you’re looking for a theme on WordPress, you’re likely to click on those free ones made by a third-party. They’re free anyway, so what can go wrong? Right?

Apparently, a lot of things. Like how free music and movies can come with spyware or malware, free third-party WordPress themes may be one of the causes for your slow website.

How you can fix this

One of the best ways is to only use themes from the official WordPress theme repository. If you want something more personalized, consider allocating less than $100 in a premium theme you can customize to your heart’s desire.

5. Unreliable web hosting

Having a web hosting server that’s not properly configured can harm your loading times. When picking a web hosting server, more often than not, we’ll try to choose the most budget-friendly option. That may be good in the beginning when you’re just starting out. 

However, once the amount of traffic you’re receiving suddenly spikes, your host and server won’t be able to handle a huge amount of users at a single time. Sudden spikes can happen especially during times you launch a new online marketing campaign or a new product. 

Instead of looking for a free or cheap web hosting solution, it’s best to use a well-known host that usually runs between four to eight dollars a month, which isn’t so bad. 

Other than the price, you should also keep in mind how fast the server responds when it deals with problems. Sometimes your site can have emergencies and filling in forms just won’t cut it. Do your research thoroughly and read reviews about the company and its support. 

6. Invisible loading images or videos

When you’re scrolling through a page, there is some content you can’t see immediately. Some are still at the bottom of the page and are visible after a visitor arrives at the exact spot. 

So, how is this a problem? The more images you tell your server to fetch, the slower your site will load. The reality is, the server usually fetches all of these images and videos (even the ones you can’t see yet). This is a huge factor for mobile devices since they have limited speed and data.

This can be fixed with “lazy loading” which means fetching the file only if it’s needed and only when it’s on the screen. A couple of plugins you can use for your WordPress site are BJ Lazy Load and LazyLoad. 

7. Coding issue

Your website is made of code. The more elaborate your site is, the more coding is necessary. Just because you want your website to be ideal, that doesn’t mean the coding should be over the top. Irrelevant or unnecessary code will only slow down your site since the server has to work through more data in order to get to a page.

An example of a coding issue

Unnecessary redirects which happen when the code refers to two different forms of the website URL. Although this seems like something trivial, it makes a huge difference.

When a redirect takes place, a user has to wait for the page to load twice. Using too many redirects means you’re doubling the load time.

To fix this, you need to review your code in detail. Most of the time, the root cause of slow load times could be from a coding issue. This occurs when the code isn’t consistent and causes too many redirects.

8. Not using a content delivery network (CDN)

CDN is a network of independent servers deployed in different geographic locations that serves web content to visitors. Depending on the location of your website visitors, the content requested gets served by the node that’s at the nearest data center. 

The problem with not using a CDN is that many sites can be slow, especially if they have visitors from around the world. Although a CDN isn’t necessary, it can help serve your web content much faster and reduce the loading time.

Now that you’re aware of some of the most and least obvious loading time killers, it’s time to get cracking with fixing them for your website.

Got some more load time killers that you wish to add to this list? Share them in the comments.

Nat McNeely is Digital Marketing Manager of Breadnbeyond, an award-winning explainer video company. 

The post The silent killers of loading time and how to fix them appeared first on Search Engine Watch.


Yoast SEO 12.5: Behind the scenes improvements

These last couple of months here at Yoast SEO HQ have all been about building better things. Behind the scenes, we’re making good progress at getting our flagship plugins ready for the future. While we’re busy building the future, we also stick to our regular two-week release schedule, which means it’s time to introduce Yoast SEO 12.5.

Fixing bugs and behind the scenes scaffolding

Yoast SEO 12.5 is one where most of the work went on behind the scenes. We’re working on improving our codebase and will be releasing something cool pretty soon. To get that done, we need to do some cleaning up. 

Besides getting ready for future releases, we’ve fixed a number of bugs. One of those bugs happened for terms where keywords and snippet preview data would be synced across all languages in a MultilingualPress multisite environment. Another bug misplaced visually hidden text in several elements inside the Snippet Preview. We’ve also deprecated the old Search Console integration as that won’t be returning in that same shape or form.

A reminder about support for older versions of WordPress 

With yesterday’s release of WordPress 5.3, we will return to our initial position of only supporting the latest two versions of WordPress. In this case, that’s WordPress 5.2 and WordPress 5.3, and not versions before that. This means we’ll end our support for WordPress 4.9, which we’ve supported longer than usual to allow people to transition to WordPress 5.0 and ease over people to the classic editor or block editor. Luckily, the vast majority of you have probably updated to the latest versions.

In WordPress 5.2, the core team upped the minimum PHP requirements from an ancient 5.2 to the slightly less ancient 5.6. By supporting the last two versions of WordPress, we can now develop our software using PHP 5.6. This means that we can develop faster and more securely. Read Joost’s post on supporting older versions of WordPress.

Update now to Yoast SEO 12.5

Yoast SEO 12.5 is a fairly basic release with lots of stuff going on in the background. We’ve fixed a number bugs and helped Yoast SEO get ready for future improvements.

The post Yoast SEO 12.5: Behind the scenes improvements appeared first on Yoast.


5 Steps To Track SEO Recommendations With Blended Data in GDS

Do you find it hard to keep track of all of your SEO recommendations after they’re implemented? Do you want to show the value of your SEO recommendations to clients? Well, it’s easier than ever now with Data Blending in Google Data Studio.

Today I’m going to walk you through five steps on how to build a Data Studio dashboard to track SEO recommendations.

What is Data Blending in Google Data Studio?

Data blending allows you to connect and compare data from separate sources to find common values and patterns. With this feature, you can combine multiple data sources into a single visual, like a chart or graph.

As stated by Google, “Blending can reveal valuable relationships between your data sets. Creating blended charts directly in Data Studio removes the need to manipulate your data in other applications first, saving you time and effort.”

Data Sources

Before we dive into building the dashboard, it’s important to make sure we have the correct data. Here’s what we need to get started:

  • Google Sheet:
    • Column 1 – Type:
      • Specify the deliverable if necessary. For example: Content Outline, Content Audit, Keyword Matrix, etc. This helps determine which tactic is associated with each page.
    • Column 2 –  Date Implementation:
      • Write out the date the changes were made.
    • Column 3 – URL:
      • Specify the page where updates were made.
  • Google Analytics Profile:
    • Add whatever data you need from Google Analytics, but for now, we will focus specifically on Organic Sessions and Conversions
  • Google Data Studio  – Don’t forget to sign up for Data Studio – it’s free!

How to Build an SEO Recommendation Google Data Studio Dashboard

Ok, you have the data, now let’s talk about how to build your dashboard.

Step 1. Connect Your Data Sources

The first step is to connect both your data sources into Google Data Studio. We need to connect your Google Analytics profile and the Google Sheet that has a full list of your SEO recommendations.

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Resources > Manage Added Data Sources > Add New Data Source

Step 2: Blend your Google Analytics & Google Sheets Data

Now, this is where the magic happens. Let’s blend your data together! For the Blended Feature to work the data sets need to have something in common to join them. In this case, we will have the Page URL as the common identifier to join Google Analytics & Google Sheets.

*Pro Tip: Make sure your URLs in your Google Sheet match up exactly how it’s listed in Google Analytics.

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To blend your data, click on Resources > Manage Blended Data > Add a Data View > Pop in your Google Analytics Data Source & Google Sheet Data Source

Here’s the breakdown of your data source connections:

  • Google Sheets:
    • Join Key:
    • Dimensions:
      • Type
      • Date of Implementation
  • Google Analytics:
    • Join Key: Landing Page
    • Dimensions:
      • Month of Year
    • Metrics:
      • Sessions
      • Your Conversion

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Click Save & close! Congrats, you’ve completed the data blending process! Now it’s time to create your visuals.

Step 3: Create Your Visuals

I typically create two different visuals. The first visual is a table. I like to build tables so I can sort and/or export if necessary. The second visual is a line graph to see changes/trends over time.

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Table: Click on Add Chart > Table > Add Data

The data source is the Blended Data. The dimensions should include URL, Type, Implementation and the Metrics are Sessions and Conversions. You can pick your date ranges and even include month-over-month or year-over-year changes.

Important: For both the chart and table, scroll to the bottom of the Data column. Click on Interactions and check off Apply Filter. Filters refine or reduce the data shown to report viewers. This is useful when we click on a specific URL to see the trendline.

Note that filters do not transform your data in any way. They simply reduce the amount of data displayed in the report.

*Pro Tip: For your charts click on the Style option and apply heat mapping for your columns to see which pages drive the most conversions/sessions.

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Line Graph: Click on Add Chart > Time Series > Add Data

You will have to create two separate graphs, one for sessions and one for conversions. All you need to do is swap out the metric.

The data source is the Blended Data. The dimensions should include Month of Year and Sessions. You can pick your date ranges. Don’t forget to check off the Apply Filter!

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To analyze one specific URL, click the URL in the table & the line chart will only show that specific URL change. That’s why we applied the Filters!

Step 5: Set Up Your Filter Controls

This step isn’t mandatory but it does help me filter by Type, URL or Date Implemented. All you have to do is set up a Filter Control. pasted image 0 36

Click the Filter Control. Your data source is your Google Sheet and you can pick a specific Dimension. In this case, I am showing you Type, URL and Date Implemented.

You can repeat the above step for each filter you want to create. The output should look like this.

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A World Of Possibilities

Congrats! Your dashboard is complete. Now you can accurately track your SEO recommendations.

What I’ve explained is just the start. There are so many opportunities to combine data sources into one dashboard with blended data. We’d love to hear how you use the blended data option to report on SEO performance.

If you haven’t jumped on the Google Data Studio bandwagon, now is the time. I recommend you start with this awesome beginners tutorial of Google Data Studio. If you’ve already dabble in Google Data Studio, check out some other quick win tips for SEO reporting here.

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Google’s average position sunset: Are you set up for the transition?

On September 30th, Google turned off average position as a metric for search campaigns and now requires advertisers to transition to new impression share and impression rate tools.

The news was first announced in February as an effort to establish more accurate and transparent forms of measurement. Advertisers now get to experience how often ads are appearing for eligible searches (share) and how often ads are showing at the top of the search results page (rate)—and while these new tools will ultimately be beneficial, the forced change from Google will undoubtedly stir up routine for many advertisers.

Here are a few ways advertisers can get set up with the rollout of new metrics.

Understanding the basics

To understand the impact of this change, let’s first define impression share and impression rate. Impression share is the percentage of impressions an ad receives compared to the total number that the ad is qualified for on the search engine results page (SERP). Impression share is a novel way to discover room for ad performance improvements—it displays any missed opportunities by showing how often a certain ad showed up in the top search results.

In contrast, the average position did not properly measure whether ads showed up above the organic results or not; it just showcased their order compared to other ads. Advertisers were left with a guessing game.

Impression rate shows advertisers how often their ads show up at the top of the SERP based on their total impressions—in other words, what percent of the time an ad is in the very top spot (absolute top) or shown anywhere above the organic search results (top). These details address another shortcoming of average position since even an ad in position two might be at the bottom of the page.

Measuring impression share and impression rate

There are three versions of impression share, all which measure ad impressions divided by the total eligible impressions for that ad, but based on different locations on the SERP:

  • Search (abs.) top IS: The new impression an ad has received in the absolute top location (the very first ad above the organic search results) divided by the estimated number of impressions the ad was eligible to receive in the top location. This metric is new.
  • Search top IS: The impressions an ad has received anywhere above the organic search results compared to the estimated number of impressions the ad was eligible to receive in the top location. This metric is also new.
  • Search impression share: This already-existing metric measures impressions anywhere on the page.

For the impression rate, there are two metrics that are only based on ad impressions, not the total number of eligible impressions.

  • Impr. (absolute top) %: The percent of ad impressions that are shown as the very first ad above the organic search results.
  • Impr. (top) %: The percent of ad impressions that are shown anywhere above the organic search results.

Optimizing for awareness and performance

If an advertiser is more focused on driving awareness than ROI, impression share and impression rate are both greatly valuable, as they guarantee the ads are meeting a visibility threshold and can boost awareness.

On the other hand, advertisers using Google’s new impression share options in Smart Bidding should be cautious. The impression share data is not accessible on the same day, so it’s hard to track performance – and setting a high target may significantly boost spending by making an ad eligible for additional, unwanted auctions. A better strategy for Smart Bidding is to bid to impression rate, which has data available intraday. This approach allows advertisers to optimize their impressions showing at the top of the SERP.

As a general starting point, the easiest way for advertisers to set targets is to look at recent performance for campaigns across the three impression % (rate) metrics. This should ensure the smoothest transition from targeting a position to targeting impression share.

Impression share metrics table updated

Setting up for the transition

Advertisers using Google have been encouraged to focus on the impression metrics for some time. Still, many advertisers probably feel an impact from the shift to these metrics, particularly because of the new obstacles it presents for bidding strategies. Therefore, advertisers should set the right bids to achieve their shared goal.

With this switch to the new metrics, advertisers should check any rules that support average position, and update reports and saved columns that include the average position. The following applications may include average position:

  • Bidding settings and AdWords rules
  • Custom columns
  • Saved reports (especially any with filters)
  • AdWords scripts
  • Saved column sets
  • Scorecards that use average position in dashboards
  • URLs using the {ad position} parameter

Google announced it will be automatically migrating “Target Position on Page” bid strategies, but there’s no certainty on a timeline or details regarding the migration. Therefore, advertisers should watch for any campaign targeting average position from now on to ensure they’re getting the expected results.

Wes MacLaggan is SVP of Marketing at Marin Software.

The post Google’s average position sunset: Are you set up for the transition? appeared first on Search Engine Watch.


5 reasons your content won’t rank – even though it’s optimized

The Yoast SEO plugin helps you to easily optimize the text of your posts and pages. People use it to try and get higher rankings. But unfortunately, perfectly optimizing your post does not magically put it at the top of the search results. So, if your perfectly optimized post isn’t ranking, what could be the matter? What is keeping your content from reaching that coveted #1 position? In this post, I’ll discuss five reasons why content doesn’t rank, even though it has been optimized with the Yoast SEO plugin.

1. There’s too much competition

In most cases, the reason a post doesn’t rank is that there’s simply too much competition. If you optimize your blogpost for competitive keywords and keyphrases, such as [cat behavior], [robot vacuum cleaner], or [real estate agent], chances are high you won’t rank for that term. 

To find out if this is the problem, check the results pages for your keyword. Do high authority sites, such as Wikipedia or Amazon, dominate the first page? Do you see many sites that have already firmly established themselves in this niche? Odds are, your site doesn’t have the authority that these other sites have (yet). So you can optimize all you want, but unfortunately, that’s not enough to rank high in the search results if your niche is too competitive. 

How to fix it:

If you want to rank for highly competitive terms, you should try a long tail keyword strategy. Write blog posts that target related long tail keywords and phrases before tackling the competitive keywords. If these long tail articles start ranking, you’ll be able to rank for more competitive terms as well. Such a strategy requires long-term efforts, but in the end, it will pay off.

Read more: Why you should focus on long tail keywords »

2. Your site has technical issues

If your post doesn’t show up in the search engines at all, technical issues could be preventing it from appearing in the search results. You could have conflicting plugins causing problems, and we’ve also seen some themes that actually prevent Google from indexing your site. And, while Yoast SEO takes care of many technical issues under the hood, it should be set correctly to do that properly.

If you were ranking well before, but suddenly disappeared from the search results, go over your site’s security and make sure you weren’t hacked! If a site is hacked, existing content will decrease in ranking as well. New posts won’t rank as easily as they used to do. This will all evolve rather slowly, depending on how much crap is published on your site, without you knowing it. In most cases, getting hacked probably isn’t the cause of ranking troubles. But if you’re sure none of the other problems apply to your site, it may be worth looking into. Of course, it’s always a good idea to make sure your security is tip-top!

How to fix it:

First, make sure that Yoast SEO is indeed set correctly. In the first step of the Yoast configuration wizard you’re asked whether your site is ready to be indexed. If you answer ‘no’ and forget to change it to ‘yes’ later, your content will not appear in the search results! But, if this is the case, you will see a warning in your Yoast SEO general dashboard, so that’s easy to check. For individual posts and pages that aren’t ranking: check the ‘advanced’ tab in the Yoast metabox underneath the post whether search engines are indeed allowed to show the post in the results. Keep in mind, that after you change a setting to allow search engines to index your content, it may still take a while until you see it starts ranking. 

If your Yoast plugin settings are all correct, it’s time for some more digging. Check your plugins and/or theme and make sure your security is in order!

3. Your site doesn’t have a proper internal linking structure

Another reason why your content doesn’t show up in the search results: a crucial part of your SEO strategy is not in order. Don’t underestimate the importance of site structure – the internal linking structure – for your SEO strategy. Having a clear site structure leads to better understanding of your site by Google. If your internal linking structure is poor, chances to rank high are lower – even when your content is well-optimized and awesome. 

How to fix it:

Start adding those links! Make sure that your important posts and pages have the most internal links to them. But don’t randomly add links: make sure you add relevant, related links that add value for your users.

You can use the Yoast SEO orphaned content filter to find posts without incoming internal links. Yoast SEO premium will help you even more by offering helpful linking suggestions as you’re writing. And if you really want to improve your site structure, check out our site structure training!

Read on: Site structure: the ultimate guide »

4. There are few backlinks to your site

If you just started out with your website, your content won’t instantly rank. Not even if every page is optimized perfectly and every bullet in Yoast SEO is green. To be able to rank, you’ll need some links from other websites. After all, Google has to know your website exists. 

How to fix it:

In order to get (more) backlinks, you can reach out to other websites. You’ll need to do some PR or link building. Ask them to mention your site or talk about your product and link to your site. You can also use social media to get the word out! Learn all about link building strategies in our All-Around SEO training!

5. You’re targeting the wrong type of intent

One final thing that could be the reason your content isn’t ranking: it doesn’t match the intent of people searching for your keyword. Search intent is becoming an increasingly important factor for search engines these days: do people want to buy something, go to a specific website, or are they looking for information? Even if you’re targeting a more long tail keyphrase, if your content doesn’t match the dominant intent of searchers, odds are search engines won’t show it in the results because it won’t be what people are looking for.

search results for 'training your puppy'

Let’s look at a few examples. Say you’re a dog trainer who wants to rank for puppy training services, so you optimize for [training your puppy], with transactional intent in mind. But if you look at the search results, you’ll see that there are informational videos, and all the results explain how to train a puppy yourself. So searchers actually have informational intent. This can work the other way around too. If you’ve written a step-by-step guide for your blog on how to make your own garden decoration, aiming to rank for [flower garland garden decoration], you may have trouble ranking for that term if people just want to buy that, not make it themselves.

Now, it should be noted that not every search term has one dominant type of intent. Also, it isn’t impossible to rank with content for differing intent. Still, it can be worthwhile to look into this if your optimized content doesn’t rank in the search engines.

How to fix it: 

Unfortunately, you don’t have the power to change the intent of search engine users. But you can adapt your content strategy. If your optimized content isn’t ranking, take a good look at the search results (preferably in private mode) and analyze what you see. Is one specific type of result dominant? Are there images or videos? Which related queries are shown? This is where your opportunities are. If you find mostly informational intent for a query, you can write content about that to get people to your site, establish your brand as a reliable source of information and stay top of mind when people do want to buy something. If you find a lot of images in the search results, you may need to focus more on image SEO. Take what you see on the results pages

Optimized content not ranking?

There are multiple reasons that could prevent a post from ranking. If you optimized it correctly with Yoast SEO, the most common cause will definitely be that the competition in a niche is just too fierce. Unfortunately, SEO is a long-term strategy. You need to work hard and be patient. In the meantime, there are a lot of other aspects of your SEO (site structure, link building) you can tackle. Try to focus on all aspects of website optimization, try to be that best result. It will pay off eventually!

The post 5 reasons your content won’t rank – even though it’s optimized appeared first on Yoast.


Google Update November 2019: Latest News and Analysis

Starting on the 7th of November, numerous stories have emerged of huge changes websites’ search engine rankings and traffic. Most reports have come from webmasters in the USA who run affiliate sites and who have observed changes in the travel, food and health sectors. Google has (so far) not commented on the changes, but SEO experts have described the update as “aggressive” and comparisons have been made in terms of size and scope to the ranking changes that occurred following the first Penguin Update in 2012. This blogpost contains the latest news and analysis of what people are calling the Google November 2019 Update. If you have been affected by this Google Update, you can request a website audit from our Digital Strategies Group consultants:

Hit by the Google Update? Request an audit!

Summary: Google Update November 2019

  • From the 7th to the 8th of November 2019, many webmasters and SEOs report massive changes in search engine rankings.
  • The changes seem to mainly affect small and medium-sized affiliate websites, primarily in the USA.
  • Many of the affected websites belong to the travel, food and health sectors.
  • Google has not yet commented on the rankings changes or confirmed the update.

Google Update November 2019: What webmasters and SEOs say

After a turbulent weekend, the SEO community, both on Twitter and on Google’s Webmaster Forum, has been a hive of activity. There are now numerous people citing examples of websites, mainly in the USA, that have apparently been affected by the Google Updates. Many pages are travel, food or recipe sites, but lifestyle and YMYL domains are also found amongst those affected. Many of the reported traffic drops are in excess of 30 percent. The following provides a selection of viewpoints and tweets from the community.

SEO Consultant Alan Bleiweiss provided a list of several websites that have seen considerable changes in the wake of the update – with movement both up and down. He monitors 47 websites, many of which seem to have been significantly impacted. The biggest losses were suffered by a skincare affiliate site and the biggest gains went to a travel website.

Another SEO Consultant, Casey Markee, posted a tweet showing that various food and lifestyle blogs had all seen a drop in traffic of at least 30 percent. The Google Analytics screenshot (below) shows the week-on-week comparison.

SEO veteran, Glenn Gabe, was another reporting huge changes. In the example below, he has anonymized Google Analytics screenshots of an affiliate website dealing with YMYL (Your Money, Your Life) topics. This is how Google refers to highly sensitive search topics that can have a significant impact on the user’s life – mainly search queries related to the areas of finance and health.

Glenn Gabe’s conclusions regarding Holiday Season, which might be responsible for the ranking changes, are consistent with Searchmetrics Research Cloud data. If we look at the absolute winners from November 10th, within the top 10 websites with the largest absolute increase in SEO Visibility are three domains dedicated to the high-selling Black Friday. And for keywords these Black Friday pages gain rankings, other websites have to loose:

Technical SEO, Paul Shapiro, saw a site with lifestyle content take a 34% traffic hit.

In addition, Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Rountable launched a Twitter survey on the possible impact of Google’s November update. Again, SEOs and webmasters got in touch, complaining the update’s changes to be “aggressive on small affiliate websites”:

Kevin Indig, former SEO Consultant at Searchmetrics und now VP SEO & Content at G2, has called the Google Update “aggressive”, and drawn comparisons with the first Penguin Update, which Google rolled out back in 2012.

The discussions in the Google Webmaster Forum saw several other comments along the same lines. Here are a few selected quotes:

  • Down by 22% from this time last week. I need to find a way to get out of my subscriptions and shut down the site. It breaks my heart, I love it, but it’s no longer viable.
  • My two websites have lost exactly 30% of traffic from Google simultaneously despite they are in different languages. Google is definitely testing or already using a new algorithm.
  • One of my sites that has suffered from that drop is 9 years old, I never did any seo to it more than technical on site seo. Domain authority is 50+ and content is original, all articles 2500 words up. The 30% drop is still here today in all geos and hourly constant.
  • We saw an increase of 24% with G organic yesterday vs. the average of the last 8 Fridays. We’ll see if it holds through the weekend and into next week.
  • We where doing well when the BERT algorithm rolled out, however we can hit by something yesterday.
  • Lost 50% of our traffic overnight.

Google withholds comment on the 2019 November Update

So far, Google is yet to make a statement on the changes in rankings and traffic that webmasters and SEOs have observed. Danny Sullivan and the Google Search Liaison Twitter account have also been quiet on the matter.

In previous entries on its webmaster blog, Google has referred to the large number of changes that are constantly being made to its ranking algorithm – they say that one of more changes are rolled out every day.

Google also states that it is not specific niches or industries that are affected by updates, but certain types of search query that are answered differently. However, there is likely considerable overlap here and there is, in practical terms, not necessarily always a clear distinction between the two.

Another aspect of Google’s updates this year is that Google has changed its communication policy. For some previous updates, Google made prior announcements, explained the udpates via its communication channels and even suggested names for the updates. This applies to the updates listed here:

Update Name
Date
Features of the Google Update
Google Statement
Google BERT Update 24th October 2019
It’s the biggest change to Google’s algorithm for five years, affecting one in ten search queries. With the Google BERT Update, Google aims to improve the interpretation of complex long-tail search queries and display more relevant search results.

» Google BERT Update

Google’s explanation in a Blogpost
Google September 2019 Core Update 24th September 2019
The September 2019 Core Update was rolled-out globally, starting on the 24th of September. This Google Update focused on improvements in the content quality in the SERPs. For the second time, Google pre-announced a core algorithm update in advance.

» Google September 2019 Core Update

Google announcement on Twitter
Google June 2019 Core Update 3rd June 2019 Google set a new precedent with its “June 2019 Core Update” by, for the first time in the history of Google Updates, announcing the roll-out of a major core algorithm change in advance. This update was the second major update of 2019 altering the core algorithm, and was rolled out on the 3rd of June, as preannounced.

» Google June 2019 Core Update

Google announcement on Twitter
Google March 2019 Core Update 12th March 2019 In this global core algorithm update, there were ranking shifts for keywords related to health and other sensitive topics. The algorithm was also adjusted to favor trust and expertise, as well as user signals.

» Google March 2019 Core Update

Confirmation on Twitter

Google Updates: What Webmaster and SEOs can do

In the Summer of 2019, Google published a post on its Google Webmaster Blog. Here, they explained in more details which changes to the algorithm are made by Core Updates, and what webmasters and SEOs can do if they have been affected by a Google Core Update.

If you see your rankings drop following an update, then you “haven’t violated [Google’s] webmaster guidelines nor been subjected to a manual or algorithmic action”. The changes are more focused on improving the evaluation of content. These changes can, according to Google, mean that websites that were previously unfairly overlooked, or not given the credit they deserve, now perform better – and vice versa. One analogy of how these Google Core Updates can be viewed could be a list of the 100 best films, published of 2015. A few years later, in 2019, the list can be updated – and it will likely change because new films have been released and the way we view older films may also have changed.

Google’s recommendations for webmasters and SEOs whose websites have been affected by a Google Update are as follows: “We suggest focusing on ensuring you’re offering the best content you can.” When auditing a website, Google suggests considering questions regarding the following four aspects:

  • Content & Quality: Does the website offer original, high-quality content that isn’t just copied from somewhere? Are the page title and description appealing and do they reflect the content? If you were a webmaster, would you share the content with friends?
  • Expertise: Is the content trustworthy? Does the page contain errors? Would you, as a webmaster arriving at the page via Google search, trust the website you find?
  • Presentation & Production: Does the content seem to be well researched and well produced – or does it seem to be mass-produced fodder? Are there too many ads? Does the page load appropriately on all devices?
  • Competitive comparison: Does the website offer added value when compared with its competitors? Does the content fulfil the user’s expectations?

A good place for webmasters to start is to try and answer these questions as honestly as possible – and compare their website alongside their competition, with a particular focus on the quality of the content they are offering.

If you’ve been affected by this Google Update, then you can request further information and a analysis of your website our experts:

Affected by the latest Google Update? Request a website audit!


How to Use Google Search Console to Improve SEO (Beginner’s Guide)

Quick links

Google Search Console is one of the most powerful, free SEO tools out there. But most people never use it for anything more than checking vanity metrics like clicks and impressions.

While there’s nothing wrong with looking at those things once in a while, they provide little value as standalone metrics.

Translation: staring at them isn’t going to improve SEO anytime soon.

In this guide, you’ll learn:

What is Google Search Console?

Google Search Console (previously Google Webmaster Tools) is a free service from Google that helps you monitor and troubleshoot your website’s appearance in their search results.

Use it to find and fix technical errors, submit sitemaps, see backlinks, and more.

How to set up Google Search Console

Sign in to Search Console with your Google account.

You should see a welcome message with two options. Select the first one, then enter your domain or subdomain (without the http(s)://).

domain property search console

domain property search console

Hit “Continue.”

DON’T WANT TO ADD YOUR ENTIRE DOMAIN?

Google states that “domain properties show data for all URLs under the domain name, including all protocols, subdomains, and paths.”

This is perfect if you want a complete view of your website in Search Console, but what if you want to restrict data to a specific URL path? (e.g., domain.com/blog)

The answer is to use a URL prefix property instead. This adds only URLs under a specified address and protocol (i.e., HTTP/HTTPS, www/non-www).

url property search console

url property search console

Note that you can add both Domain and URL prefix properties for the same domain.

How to verify your domain in Search Console

Before you can see any data in Search Console, you first need to verify ownership. This process differs according to the property type you added.

Jump straight to the instructions that apply to you:

Verification for a Domain property

Hit the instructions dropdown. Check if your domain is registered with any of the listed providers.

search console provider dropdown

search console provider dropdown

If so, select the provider and hit the “Start verification” button.

Sign in to your registrar account and follow the instructions.

ionos add domain search console

ionos add domain search console

You should see a message like this:

success ownership verified

success ownership verified

If your registrar isn’t on the dropdown, select “Any DNS provider.”

Sign in to your account with your domain provider, select your domain, then look for an option to manage DNS or Domain Name Servers.

modify dns

modify dns

Choose the option to add a TXT record, paste in the record from Search Console, then save it.

dns txt record

dns txt record

Go back to Search Console and hit “Verify.”

If the verification fails, keep trying. It can take a few minutes to go through.

HAVING ISSUES?

If your web host differs from your domain registrar, then you may find that your registrar doesn’t let you edit DNS records. In that case, you’ll need to edit DNS records on your hosting account instead.

If you’re doing this in cPanel, it’s super simple.

Login to Cpanel > Zone editor > Manage (next to the domain) > Add record > Type > TXT

Next, choose a name, copy and paste the TXT record from Search Console into the “Record” box, then hit “Add record.”

add record cpanel

add record cpanel

Go back to Search Console and hit “Verify.”

If the verification fails, keep trying until it works.

Verification for a URL prefix property

Google offers a few ways to do this. Their default (and recommended) method is to upload an HTML file to your website. However, to keep things simple, we recommend choosing the Domain name provider option, then following the instructions above.

domain name provider search console

domain name provider search console

How to add a sitemap to Google Search Console

Sitemaps tell Google where to find important content on your website, and how they can crawl that content. We recommend that everyone submit a sitemap to Google via Search Console.

To do that, choose “Sitemaps” from the menu, paste the URL of your XML sitemap into the box labeled “Enter sitemap URL,” then hit “Submit.”

submit sitemap

submit sitemap

Sidenote.

 If you don’t already have a sitemap or aren’t sure where to find it, read this.

You should see a message like this:

sitemap submitted

sitemap submitted

How to add a user to Google Search Console

Users are people with access to some or all of the data in Search Console.

There are three types:

  1. Owner: Has full control over the property in Search Console, including the power to add and remove other users. There are two types of owner: verified and delegated.
  2. Full user: Has view rights to all data within the selected property and the power to take some actions.
  3. Restricted user: Has restricted view rights, meaning they may not be able to view all data.

Recommended reading: Managing owners, users, and permissions

By default, when you verify a property in Search Console, you have owner privileges.

To add another user, go to:

Search Console > Choose a property > Settings > Users and permissions > Add user

search console users

search console users

Type their email address, then select either full or restricted access.

add user search console

add user search console

If you ever need to revoke or change their access, just return here.

How to use Google Search Console to improve your SEO

Instead of going through each Search Console report in excruciatingly boring detail, we’re going to focus on a few actionable ways to use it to improve SEO.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXVEb_eklhk

1. Improve rankings for underperforming keywords

Underperforming keywords are those where you don’t yet rank in positions one or two.

They’re underperforming because most people click one of the first two results, meaning that if you rank in lower positions, you’re missing out on tons of traffic.

For example, if you rank in position eight, roughly 1.8% of searchers will click on your result.

ctr curve 8

ctr curve 8

Bump that keyword ranking to position two, and the number jumps to almost 14%.

ctr curve 2

ctr curve 2

So let’s say the keyword in question has a monthly search volume of 1,000.

Ranking in position 8 gets you 18 visits from organic search per month, compared to 160 for position two.

Position CTR Monthly organic search traffic
#2 13.94% 139
#8 1.8% 18

That’s 8x more traffic just by jumping a few positions.

To find these underperforming keywords in Google Search Console, go to the “Search Results” report and toggle the average CTR and position data.

search console data

search console data

Next, scroll to the queries report and set the average ranking position filter to below 8.1, then sort the results by average position in descending order.

filter by position search console

filter by position search console

From here, it’s a case of skimming the list for underperforming keywords. I.e., those that you’re already ranking for in positions 3–8 and getting some traffic from.

Here’s one we found in our Search Console:

local seo search console

local seo search console

Our average ranking position for this keyword is 7.6, and we’re getting a CTR of 1%. That might seem quite low, but it’s not too far below the average for this position.

But here’s the important part: Despite this low ranking position, we’ve still averaged almost 1,200 clicks in the past three months and saw 121,000+ impressions. That’s around 400 clicks per month.

Sidenote.

 Impressions are the number of times we’ve appeared in the search results for this query.

So let’s click on this keyword and go to the “Pages” tab to see which page is ranking. From here, we can check whether the page is about the same topic and determine if there’s scope to further optimize it for this keyword.

page ranking local seo

page ranking local seo

Looks like there is optimization potential here, as the page that’s ranking is our local SEO guide.

So it’s probably worth us performing an individual analysis of this page and seeing if we can boost its position by improving our on-page SEO, adding some relevant internal links, getting more backlinks, improving page speed, or something else.

Just be sure to use common sense when going through this process. For example, our average ranking position for “google keyword planner” is 5.6, and we get thousands of visits per month from that keyword.

google keyword planner term

google keyword planner term

But if you look at the current US rankings for that query in Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer, we see that there’s only one result above us that isn’t from Google themselves.

google keyword planner serp

So we’re unlikely to ever rank in position 1 or 2 for this keyword, no matter how hard we try.

The point here is that it makes sense to push some keywords more than others.

2. Optimize pages with high keyword rankings, but low CTR

Not every page that ranks #1 will get 30% of clicks. That’s just the average.

Some will perform better than average, and some will perform worse.

So what we can do is find the pages that perform worse than average, analyze why that’s the case, then see if there’s a way to boost their CTR to get more traffic.

To do this, head to the “Search results” report, toggle the average CTR and position data, then filter for keywords with average rankings below 3.1. These are the keywords for which you already rank in the top 3.

search console high rankings

search console high rankings

Sort the report by CTR in ascending order, then look for keywords with lots of impressions but lower-than-average CTR.

Here’s one we found:

diy seo search console

diy seo search console

Despite ranking in position three on average, our clickthrough rate is only 2.1% where it should be around 3–5x higher than that—especially as we’re definitively matching search intent here.

So let’s Google this keyword and see if we can figure out what’s wrong.

diy seo serp

diy seo serp

Looks like Google is showing an ad, a featured snippet, a video carousel, and a “people also ask” box above the “traditional” rankings where we are. Because these SERP features take up so much real estate, they’re almost certainly “stealing” clicks from us.

So the best course of action for us here would probably be to optimize the page to try to win the featured snippet, which gets 8.6% of clicks on average.

ahrefs featured snippets ctr

ahrefs featured snippets ctr

But averages can be misleading. So let’s take a look at the “Organic keywords” report in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer for the page that owns the snippet to see how much traffic it sends their way.

diy seo snippet

diy seo snippet

Looks like the featured snippet alone sends them 170 monthly organic visitors in the US, which is 38.5% of all US organic traffic to the page.

TIP: How to win more SERP real estate with video

For keywords with video carousels in the search results, there’s an opportunity to rank a YouTube video on Google. If you can do this and also rank in the ten blue links with your website, you can dominate the SERP. This is something we did for the keyword “SEO tutorial.”

seo tutorial serp domination

seo tutorial serp domination

Just be careful when doing this as not all keywords present a good opportunity.

For example, we get a measly 3.4% CTR for the query “link building tools” despite ranking between positions two and three for the past few months. But if we look at the search results, there are lots of ads above the organic results.

ads link building tools

ads link building tools

This tells us that this keyword may have commercial intent, so people are likely clicking ads instead of the organic results.

3. Fix sitemap issues

If there are issues with the sitemaps you submitted to Google, that may cause problems and confuse crawlers. This leads to wasted time and resources on their end, and can also cause them to index the wrong URLs in some cases.

To check for issues with submitted sitemaps, head to the “Sitemaps” report, click on the icon next to a sitemap, then click the “See index coverage” button.

You should now see a few tabs showing the number of errors, warnings, valid URLs, and excluded ones.

sitemap search console errors

sitemap search console errors

Looks like we don’t have any errors for our blog, but there is one URL under “Excluded.” If we click that tab, we see that one page has been excluded from the search results because it appears to be a duplicate of another submitted URL.

sitemap exclusion warning

sitemap exclusion warning

If we then click on this error, we see that the culprit is this URL related to guest blogging.

exclusion url

exclusion url

If we look at the HTTP status for this URL using a free online tool, we see that it redirects to a newer post about guest blogging.

301 redirect guest articles

301 redirect guest articles

The reason this happened is that the old URL is still set as published in WordPress, and the SEO plugin we’re using automatically adds all published URLs to our sitemap.

So all we had to do was delete this post, and the issue soon resolved itself.

exclusion resolved searchconsole

exclusion resolved searchconsole

IMPORTANT

Excluded pages are common in Google Search Console and aren’t always indicative of an issue. Errors and warnings tend to be more serious, so tackle those first.

4. Learn which content types and topics get the most backlinks

Backlinks are an important ranking factor. Google has told us this on numerous occasions, and we also found a clear positive relationship between organic search traffic and backlinks when we studied 920 million pages.

referring domains vs organic search traffic ahrefs content explorer

referring domains vs organic search traffic ahrefs content explorer

Sidenote.

Correlation ≠ causation.

So getting more backlinks to your content should be a priority if you want more traffic.

But what type of content should you publish to attract backlinks? And what topics should you talk about?

The best way to answer this question is to learn from the content you’ve already published.

To do that, go to the “Links” report, then click “More” on the “Top linked pages” report under the “External links” subheader.

top linked pages search console

top linked pages search console

Sort the report by “Linking sites” in descending order to see which of your pages have the most backlinks from unique websites, then look for patterns.

For example, four of the ten most-linked pages on our blog are studies.

top linking pages ahrefs blog

top linking pages ahrefs blog

This is a clear sign that original research tends to attract links in our industry, but this might differ for you.

For instance, while we can’t check the top linked pages for other sites in Google Search Console, we can in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer. And if we paste in a popular web design blog and check the “Best by links” report, we see that many of the top-linked pages are inspirational list-style posts.

web design blog linked

web design blog linked

So this might be a better type of content to create if you want links in this industry.

5. Find pages that need more internal links or to be pruned

Imagine that you’re publishing a new page about protein powder.

If you already have a blog post about protein shake recipes and another about high protein foods, then it would make sense to add internal links from those to your new page.

There are two benefits to this:

  1. They may help your new page get indexed faster.
  2. They will transfer PageRank to the new page, which may help it rank higher in the search results.

Now, if there are posts and pages on your website that don’t have many or any internal links, then they’re probably old or forgotten posts. These usually won’t bring much traffic to your site or have much SEO value, so it’s often worth deleting them.

To find pages with few internal links, go to the Links report in Search Console. Click “More” under the “Top linked pages” report under the “Internal links” subheader.

top internal links

top internal links

Sort the list by “Internal links” in ascending order to see “forgotten” pages.

One of the first URLs that pops up for us is /seo-case-studies/, which has just three internal links.  

seo case studies links

seo case studies links

If we visit the page, we see that it was published back in September 2015.

Because this isn’t exactly in-line with what we publish on the blog today, it would make sense for us to delete this post or redirect it elsewhere. In which case, we’d need to remove the few internal links that currently point to it.

To do that, click the URL in the “Top linked pages” report to see which pages have internal links.

internal links search console

internal links search console

IMPORTANT

Don’t delete pages on your site without making sure that they little or no organic traffic. To do that, go to the “Search results” report in Search Console, filter for the URL, then check the total number of clicks.

seo case studies traffic

seo case studies traffic

If you find pages with few internal links that are worth keeping, then it would make sense to either:

  1. Add more relevant internal links to them;
  2. Update the content and add more internal links where appropriate.

For example, we recently published a post explaining what backlinks are and why they’re important. But it looks like this page has only three internal links, so we could do with adding a few more where relevant.

To do that, we can search Google for something like site:ahrefs.com/blog/ "backlinks", which will return all the pages on our blog that mention the word “backlinks.”

backlinks site search

backlinks site search

Because a lot of these will be relevant contextual internal linking opportunities, so all we need to do is visit the pages and add internal links where it makes sense.

6. Update pages that are losing organic traffic

Most pages won’t continue to get organic traffic forever because rankings tend to drop as they become outdated.

But how do you find pages with diminishing traffic in Search Console?

Go to the “Search results” report, then add a date range comparison to see stats for the past six months compared to the previous six months.

six month comparison

six month comparison

For this, we only care about clicks, so let’s toggle the “impressions” data off to clean things up.

search console impressions off

search console impressions off

Click on “Pages.”

Now, because there’s no point comparing traffic to pages that were only recently published, you need to filter out those with no clicks in the previous six months. To do that, add a “Not equals” filter for “Previous 6 months Clicks” and enter zero as the value.

Sort the report by Difference in ascending order to see the pages with the biggest traffic drops.

filter new pages

filter new pages

For us, one page that immediately stands out is our list of free online marketing courses. This has received around 40% less organic traffic in the last six months compared to the previous period.

free online marketing courses

free online marketing courses

If we click on the URL, then switch to the “Queries” report and sort by “Difference,” we can see which queries are sending us less traffic.

free online marketing courses queries

free online marketing courses queries

Looking at this page in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, it becomes clear why traffic is dropping. Our rankings for these have been dropping like a stone over the past six months or so.

ranking drop

ranking drop

Given that we published this post in mid-2018 and new online marketing courses are released all the time, it’s likely that Google is demoting us in the search results because our post is outdated.

So it might be worth us updating this post to see if we can reclaim some of that traffic.

IMPORTANT

Make sure to keep seasonality in mind when comparing six month periods like this. For example, if you have a post about Christmas trees, it would be perfectly reasonable to see lower traffic in the months from February to July than the six months prior for obvious reasons.

Final thoughts

Google Search Console is a powerful free tool that shows a lot of data and insights about your website. But that’s its biggest limitation because SEO isn’t a single-player game, it’s multiplayer.

Ranking in Google means competing against other websites for the top spot. If you don’t understand the competitive landscape, there’s no way of knowing where you fall short or what you should do to improve rankings.

Therefore, it pays to combine insights from Google Search Console with those from a third-party competitive research tool like Ahrefs.

For example, Google Search Console tells us that we rank in position #6 on average for “301 redirect.”

301 redirect search console

301 redirect search console

It even tells us how many backlinks that page has from unique websites.

linking sites 301 redirect

linking sites 301 redirect

But it can’t tell us who’s outranking us and why. Do they have more backlinks than us? Do they have tons of authority? Are the pages on strong domains?

If we look at this keyword in a tool like Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer, we see that all the pages outranking us are on stronger domains and have way more backlinks from unique websites.

serp overview 301 redirect ahrefs keywords explorer

serp overview 301 redirect ahrefs keywords explorer

Now we have some ideas as to how difficult ranking for this keyword might be, and that we likely need to get more backlinks to compete.

Got more questions about Google Search Console? Leave a comment or ping me on Twitter.