Archives February 2019

Majestic Backlink Checker and Link Building Workshop at SMXL Milan 2019

Majestic is a longstanding sponsor of SMXL Milan, the biggest international digital marketing conference held annually in Milan.
I held the Majestic workshop. It was great meeting the people who use Majestic and network, exchange information, share experience about checking backlinks and link building.

In 4 hours, we had a great discussion and reviewed more than 130 (available to download). I suggest you read this post and then download slides and PDF transcript of this post – If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us – we’ll reply 🙂

Link Intelligence

Redefining Backlinks and Link Building Strategies

The workshop offered insights on how links play an essential role in defining relationships, and how all the link building tools of the Majestic platform can be put to use in many different ways to explore the web, expand the digital footprint and ultimately improve SEO.

It was the first time I publicly spoke about the new Link Context functionality and Link Density metric.

Link Context was first launched in September and the feedback is constant and positive: as an avid Majestic user, I too have been using Link Context and shared my experience and insights on how to use this link building tool that can save so much when performing backlink analysis during the workshop.

Majestic Link Context and Link Density values - screenshot taken from the Link Context tab of Site Explorer.Majestic Link Context at work: a visual representation of link distribution

Participants immediately caught onto the potential of this innovation as I walked them through a few practical examples: we worked on different websites of very different sizes, shapes and topics during the four hours we spent together. To demonstrate how effective Link Context actually is, I examined the backlink profile of the biggest and very authoritative newspapers in Italy: Il Corriere della Sera.

Screenshot of the Home Page of, Important Italian newspaper.Corriere della Sera, one of Italy’s most important newspapers

A quick look at Site Explorer reveals all the power of a formidable backlink profile…

Majestic Site Explorer: values of Trust Flow and Citation Flow for, national Italian newspaper (very authoritative)Corriere della Sera: Trust Flow and Citation Flow

The Fresh Index count is more than 35 million backlinks with an increase of nearly 1 million links over the past 90 days: how do you manage all that information? For most “normal” users who manage data in excel, this amount of data will crash both Excel and your machine.

Thanks to the new Context tab in Site Explorer, Majestic provides a “shortlist” of the most significant links. In the case of the shortlist is 30.000 links – it would take me days to “clean” and review all that data. At the workshop, we were able to filter all that data in a matter of minutes:

Majestic Link Context tab in the Site ExplorerFiltering backlinks with Majestic Link Context functionality

I was able to reduce the list from 30.000 backlinks to just over 11.000 in real-time: this was possible using the slider…

Majestic Link Context Filters Context filter options narrow your focus: concentrate on the most important links

From here, we can go on to choose other options to identify links by Trust Flow, anchor text, Topical Trust Flow… and many other parameters – all in just a few clicks!
There was a great deal of interest about Link Context, especially amongst those Majestic users often facing the challenge to identify quality link building prospects for specific projects: Link Context will drastically reduce link scouting activities and totally eliminate that annoying, time consuming and repetitive work of manual validation of each and every link!

Related Sites

Using Related Sites for Backlink Research

Relates Sites are another very useful and extremely interesting piece of data produced by Majestic based on Link Context. These are the top sites Majestic have produced algorithmically from backlink data.

I explained how backlinks on a page are often “in company” of other links in the immediate vicinity, and how this data can provide very useful insights of either competitors or similar sites.

Similar Site Analysis help Digital Marketing & PR

The potential for relationship development became apparent as we worked on websites suggested by participants: links placed close to one another are a great starting point to discover new relationships and quality link building prospects.

We exported the data table to Excel via the “Export Data” option. We Also did some work with the “bucket” used to create a super shortlist of links from the different pages for training purposes and further SEO investigations using other SEO Tools in Majestic.

In a very short period of time, we built up an impressive list of backlink prospects for a small restaurant we had identified not far from MiCo, the venue where the workshop and SMXL Milan were held this year.

Majestic Campaigns

Agency delegates were keen to see Majestic Campaigns in action and wanted to know “everything” about campaigns and how they could be put to good use for their clients.

Majestic Campaigns Control PanelA screenshot of the Majestic Campaigns Control Panel

We reviewed the Campaign Sharing option and how useful it is in providing constant updates on the evolution of backlink profiles and Google Search Console Data.

Majestic Campaign Shareable URL: can be either public or private (password protected)

Case Studies

I reserved a considerable amount of time for two case histories in different areas of interest, which confirmed how powerful Majestic can be when put to work.

Case N°1 – Brainstorming a Link Building Campaign

I think this is one of the most challenging and rewarding activities for a link builder. There are no rules, there is no quick fix, no shortcut that will help you on this one. No pain, no gain.

Everyone has a style, a unique approach and strategy and will bring to the table different results. In my presentation, I included slides about a recent link building activity (still underway) for an industrial client operating in an unusual niche: fish processing systems. Many approached me after the workshop to ask questions about the approach and the strategy I submitted to the Client for approval.

Case N°2 – Can SPAM Backlinks hurt your rankings?

This was more of an open question based on a case study of a very small football site, ranking in Google. The site was struck by a sudden and intense backlink profile attack with more than 10.000 SPAM backlinks – all nofollowed. The massive (and sudden) release of so many SPAM backlinks coincided with a sudden and significant fall in the rankings. Majestic was instrumental in identifying the attack and understanding the nature of it.

I’ll present both case studies soon here on the Majestic Blog – Stay tuned!

Download this Blogpost (PDF)

Workshop Slides

Sante Achille
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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
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How to Prioritize and Categorize SEO Holiday Topics – Tyson Stockton // Searchmetrics

Episode Overview: When it comes to last minute SEO optimizations, knowing where to start and what to prioritize is key to winning the optimization battle. Join host Ben and Searchmetrics’ Director of Services Tyson Stockton as they continue their Holiday Triage week discussion reviewing one of the most vital steps in the Holiday Triage week checklist – prioritization.


  • The best practice for your prioritization efforts is to identify what will have the most widespread impact or effect that requires the least amount of work.
  • Understanding what your brand’s purpose is, your competitors, what your differentiators are, like what holiday specials and deals you’re offering, will present clear opportunities that you can easily seize.



Ben:                 Welcome to Holiday Triage week on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro and 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. And 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 Joining us again for Holiday Triage week is Tyson Stockton, Searchmetrics’ director of services. And outside of shepherding Searchmetrics’ largest and most strategic clients to SEO success, Tyson is going to talk to us about how you can prioritize what you should be doing for the holiday season.

All right, here’s the second installment of Holiday Triage week with Searchmetrics’ Director of Services, Tyson Stockton. Tyson, ho, ho, ho. Welcome back. Let’s go. It’s Holiday Triage week on the Voices of Search podcast.

Tyson:              Curve ball on the ho, ho, ho SEO this time, huh?

Ben:                 Hey look, we’ve got to keep it fresh. I’m sure there will be another ho, ho, ho SEOs before the end of the podcast.

Tyson:              Fair enough. Fair enough. So prioritization.

Ben:                 Prioritization. We’re going to talk about what you need to focus on when you’re running some last minute optimization strategies getting ready for the holidays. Talk to me about what makes the list and what doesn’t.

Tyson:              Yeah, and I would say given that this whole conversation is in the context of, “Hey, last minute. You’ve got to get stuff done. You’re behind the mark already.” And I think this is the five categories or the five steps. This is going to be the most critical that people that are starting late or not where maybe they want to be. And that’s as simple as you don’t have as much time, you’re probably not going to get to everything. So you want to hedge your bets and go all in on the areas that have the greatest opportunity for success.

So what I would do in the prioritization, I would pick up where we left off in the last one of our lists of URLs, keywords and terms that we’re wanting to win on. The first piece I’m going to be looking at in this prioritization is “What is the greatest opportunity?” So I’m looking for the search volume, but this is where it’s going to shift a little bit from if we had an earlier start. If we had an earlier start and we could make larger changes to the site. At this point you might have restrictions or things like code freeze. So you want to be realistic in what you can actually achieve.

So when I’m looking at my URL list, and I’m seeing the delta of if I’m on page five and even if it’s a high search term, but I’m on page five and I know that I have some significant limitations of what I can do with the page, then I may not go after that term and I may go after something that I’m more on the cusp of a striking distance. Maybe let’s say bottom of page one, and on that, even though it’s a smaller search volume, I have a greater chance that I’m going to move that keyword or that URL that’s ranking on that group of keywords from a low page one, high page two into that area that’s getting more significant amount of traffic.

Ben:                 So, I think what’s important here, obviously prioritizing because you can’t accomplish everything. And one of the things that we’ve recommended before is that you need to categorize the different types of pages as well. You’ve got to think about where you’re going to win. That way when you conduct certain optimization strategies, when you’re actually doing the technical work, what’s actually going to hit the page, you get to replicate what you’re doing. Talk to me about some of the holiday topics that you might categorize your pages into.

Tyson:              Yeah, and I think that’s going to be one that’s going to vary a fair amount depending on industry. And then I’d also say this could be something you could take into account the size of business you are as far as how much domain authority you have. And I think this is going to be key step because you want to be realistic on what won in those terms before. Say you’re a smaller e-commerce site, you’re not necessarily a mom and pop shop, but you’re not one of the big box stores and you’re looking at a term like Black Friday. Well that’s going to be a super tough term for a small website to be ranking in the portion that’s going to be attributing some significant traffic.

Ben:                 It’s not super tough. It’s damn near impossible.

Tyson:              Fair. That’s, I mean I guess that’s a little more realistic. I was trying to give a little more holiday hope to the listeners. But…

Ben:                 Look, let’s be holiday realistic. You’re not going to rank for Black Friday if you’re a mom and pop shop. You need to be focusing on your industry specific or your category specific topics.

Tyson:              Exactly. And I think to that point, and to your original question, what you want to do here is you want to think about what is your unique offering? What are you bringing to the table that maybe competitors wouldn’t be able to replicate or might not be as competitive a term, and then take into account, are you going to have the assets for those terms? And that’s really where I would say the majority of these last minute efforts should take place. You could be looking at creating different types of shopping lists for different types of users that might suit your demographic portfolio. It could be a special type of sale on a niche category that you offer that may not be as represented by the Amazons and the Walmarts of the world. So I think this is an area where you want to still be mindful of what the search volume is because you know you still have to have a search demand on these pockets that you’re carving to compete in.

But you also want to be realistic that. It’s not just the big five e-commerce sites that are dominating positions one through five. And I’m going to be left back on page four because I’m a smaller website.

Ben:                 Yeah. I think where we call this the prioritize step, it’s as much about strategy as it is prioritization. You need to understand what your brand’s purpose is, what your differentiator is, what are the assets you have and where do you have the biggest opportunities. It’s one of the reasons why we started off Holiday Triage week with assessing your previous performance. You need to understand what you’ve done successfully before to try to figure out where you should put your eggs in the basket to use an Eastern metaphor. Sorry, I’m totally off holiday topic.

Tyson:              And Hallmark would still be okay.

Ben:                 All right, well good. So, we’re going to strategize, prioritize, you’re categorizing things. You’re figuring out where you’re going to categorize some of the holiday topics. We’re going to figure out which one we have the best opportunity for, and then we’re prioritizing the activities that we’re going to take. Talk to me about how do you determine what optimization tactics you need to implement and how are you going to figure out what makes the cut?

Tyson:              Yeah, and this you’re going to pull a little bit from the first step here as well. We touched on doing maybe not a full technical audit, but a technical site just quick check. You’re going to use this in determining what levers you pull. Also, one thing that’s going to … It’s a little bit of a double edged sword but your options are going to be limited starting this late in the game.

Most e-commerce sites are going to be going into a code freeze or a partial code freeze so you’re probably not going to do any significant heavy lifting. You might be stuck with the template, you could probably change other types of existing templates. You’re not going to create something new. Also you can probably get away with more content plays here because typically those are easier changes the product or dev will allow to go on during a soft code freeze. So, these would more than likely … Content is definitely going to be on the upper part of this list but you might want to, if you’re really not happy with the template and you can’t make the change. Maybe bring up to your developers and your product team like, “Well can I reuse a template that already exists that we’re using elsewhere in the site? Can I use it here as well for these holiday pages?”

Ben:                 The metaphor through my head is it’s December 24th. You want to put your Christmas lights up. Should you try to find lights that are going to wrap the whole house or should you just put them up around the front door? I think the answer is pretty clear here. You’re going to do what’s going to have the biggest effect with the least amount of work because we’re so far late in the game.

Tyson:              And with that, I would say if you’re prioritizing in that sense of analogy, you’re probably just prioritizing the milk and cookies and just forget the lights altogether.

Ben:                 Maybe you’re just putting the lights around the tree.

Tyson:              You just want to get them in the door, get them down the chimney, so to speak.

Ben:                 Just put an arrow towards the top of the chimney so Santa knows where to go.

Tyson:              Exactly.

Ben:                 All right, that’s a great strategy. Good tip. And that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Tyson Stockton, Searchmetrics’ director of services. We’d love to continue the conversation with you. So 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 at Ben J. Shap. 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. If you like this podcast and 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 tomorrow morning to continue our Holiday Triage series, talking about how you can optimize to make the most out of your holidays. Okay. That’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.

Search and the ecommerce holiday season: Capturing key moments that matter

Search is not static – people don’t consume media in silos – and those consumers demand answers and content in an instant. Customers want information how they want it, wherever they are, in formats that delight — and they want it immediately.

This is especially true during the holiday season where SEO powers insights on consumer intent, behavior and trends across all digital channels.

If the analysts are right, the 2019 holiday shopping season will be one of the biggest in recent memory: 13% YoY growth for U.S. digital revenue ($136B sales) and 15% YoY growth for global digital revenue ($768B sales). And, while the season extends through the end of the year, a full 50% of all sales will be completed by December 6th – the last day of Cyber Week.

With so much shopping concentrated around the start of the holiday selling season – Black Friday through Cyber Week – there’s a lot of pressure on marketers to get the product, promotion and channel mix right ahead of time.

Most guidance on optimizing the search and digital marketing mix revolves – correctly – around the analysis and preparation you should be doing in advance of the shopping season, especially where SEO is concerned.

BrightEdge’s research found that SEO practitioners are using an average of six tools cobbled together and four-hours a day on research, reporting, and analysis. With half the day of an SEO practitioner spent on research, reporting, and analysis, it can be hard to find the time to actually make SEO changes and drive strategy over reactionary holiday periods.

Today, preparation and real-time marketing go hand-in-hand – especially when we think about voice, visual and vertical aspects of enterprise SEO.

Holiday seasons and real-time insights

Searchers are looking for the things you offer in any given moment, including throughout the holiday shopping season. If you know what people are looking for in the moment, you can capitalize on those trends in search and other marketing channels including on your website or in your dedicated ecommerce app, or in your digital advertising, email and social media campaigns.

Holidays are a period where things moving so fast (real-time demand for products) prices move, competition is higher than normal with new seasonal entrants, changes happen in real-time consumer habits (a trended new toy or gift, an influencer, a TV ad commercial driving online searches.

Consumers begin researching their holiday purchases well ahead of Black Friday, but on the day itself, searches ratchet up and stay elevated through Cyber Week. And shoppers are not done shopping when Cyber Weekends. This influx of new search data can expose opportunities that were not visible in the run-up to Black Friday.

During a compressed, high-volume shopping period like Black Friday or Cyber Monday, there will be predictable searches for the high-profile products and doorbuster deals where competition is high and margins are low, but there will also be demand for lower-profile, higher margin surprises.

To make the most of in-the-moment search insights, it’s important that you use a real-time information source to mirror the non-linear way consumers search that also enables you to follow fully the explicit and implicit paths indicated by those searches. Competition for these opportunities will generally be lower, but taken in aggregate, they can generate meaningful revenue.


With growing frequency, consumers are searching with their voices. At the end of 2018 there were 2.5 billion digital voice assistants in use by consumers. That figure is expected to grow to 8 billion devices by 2023. (source)

Consumers are using voice search more and more to shop with nearly 50% of people researching products by voice and 33% of people expected to use voice search to purchase a product at some point in 2019. (source)

But not all voice searches happen on one type of device and there are multiple avenues to consider.

(Source PWC)

In many ways the nature of voice search aligns closely with the practical application of real-time SEO. Voice searches tend to reflect in-the-moment queries. During the holidays, consumers will ask their voice assistants for help with product and shopping questions, like:

  • What is a good gift for a 10-year-old boy?
  • When is the last day for holiday shipping on
  • Which restaurants are open on Christmas?

Conversational queries change so fast, that voice search becomes instantaneous. When strategizing for voice, it’s important to understand the conversational journey. What questions most frequently initiate a search? What are the three or four follow up questions someone is most likely going to ask? Because voice search advances so rapidly, real-time data is a necessity.

To do it, start with identifying all the top-of-funnel, awareness-generating question keywords and their search volume. Then, analyze the keyword landscape for which portion of your keywords contain questions, and finally, assess which portion of those searches you are winning, and which portion represent opportunity.

Visual – YouTube

Visual search in itself is whole topic and article so for ecommerce I will just focus on YouTube today.

Traditional search engines and YouTube are complementary when it comes to product research with 80% of consumers saying they “typically switch between online search and video when researching products to buy.”

YouTube also plays a role for more than half of consumers directly in the purchase stream: “More than 55% of shoppers say they used online video while actually shopping in a store.”

All of that search behavior harbors insight you cannot get from Google search data alone. For one, YouTube product research indicates an increased level of purchase readiness with 70% of people expressing a feeling of motivation after viewing a YouTube video.

Take advantage of YouTube search behavior data to expose in real-time the performance of your videos and your competitors’ videos for any search and identify which product, category, and brand video are receiving outsize interest as well as what searches are leading consumers to them.

Armed with these insights, you can react in the moment across your marketing channels to capture share of sales. Add to that shopping ads in YouTube and SEO and PPC synergy become a must.

(Source – Google)

Vertical – Amazon

Nearly half of U.S. internet users start product searches on Amazon (eMarketer). As a marketers it is essential to know what are they searching for? What keywords are they using to search for it? Amazon may very well be the best source for insight into consumer purchase intent, so you cannot afford to ignore it.

For the products you sell on Amazon, especially if you sell hundreds or thousands of SKUs, it’s essential to track en masse the ranking of those products against your competition so that you can adapt in-platform while the selling opportunity is at its peak.

(Source – eMarketer)

Simultaneously, if there are products or product categories you don’t list on Amazon, you can still benefit from insights about searches within those categories.

Knowing this will help you understand where your biggest competitive threats lie so you can defend against them in your selling channels. It will also alert you to opportunities to meet heightened category demand via other channels.


Even with well-researched forecasts, there’s no way to know for sure how well a product category will perform for any sales period, but if you wait to measure that outcome and maximize sales, then real-time insights can take you all the way through to the January sales and more.

Jim Yu is the founder and CEO of leading enterprise SEO and content performance platform BrightEdge. He can be found on Twitter @jimyu.

The post Search and the ecommerce holiday season: Capturing key moments that matter appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Google Keyword Planner: A How-To Guide

This post was written by Kevin Zabel, one of our Fall 2019 Digital Marketing interns.

What Google Keyword Planner Can Do For You

Looking for an easy-to-use tool that will grant you access to thousands of new keyword ideas for your company? Google Keyword Planner may be a great choice for you. It’s one of the best free tools for keyword research, and although many of the metrics built into the program are catered towards PPC, anyone in SEO can use the tool to their advantage as well. Whether you’re new to the industry or a seasoned pro, Keyword Planner can help anyone looking to dig into keyword research.

Imagine your client runs a high-end, fashionable boot company. There are a lot of competitors who sell boots, let alone products in the shoe or even fashion industries. You’ll want to catch consumers at various parts of the purchase funnel by being specific, adaptable, and unique with the wording you choose to pursue.  In order to run ads that the target audience will find, you will first need to find out what the target audience is looking for. This is where Google Keyword Planner comes in.

How to Access Google Keyword Planner

Keyword Planner is a completely free tool… the only catch is that you need to have a Google Ads account to access it (which, by the way, is also free). Don’t worry though, because whether you need this for on-the-job research or a college assignment, you don’t need to have any existing ads or a client paying you money to create a Google Ads account.

If you already have Google Ads or are creating an account to use with a client, feel free to skip forward to the next section.

If you’re creating a Google Ads account without the intention of creating a campaign or spending money, it can be tricky. Luckily for you, I figured out how:

  • When creating a Google Ads account, do not set up a campaign. Instead, go to the bottom of the page and choose “Switch to Expert Mode”

Google Ads Sign In Step 1

  • Then, you will be taken to your dashboard. If you are not given the option to access “Tools & Settings” in the top right, you may need to sign out and sign in.

Tools Settings

  • Once you see the option, choose that and go to Keyword Planner to the left of the drop down menu. Once you’re there, you can start your keyword research!

Google Ads Sign In Step 3

Using Google Keyword Planner

The Initial Interface

Once you open the tool you will see two options:

  1. Discover new keywords
  2. Get search volume and forecasts

2 tools

As you start your keyword research journey for your fashionable boot-wearing audience, you’ll most likely start with “Discover new keywords”.

Discover New Keywords

The first option is a great way to find new keywords; however, the keywords that it spits out are only as relevant as the information that you put in. If you don’t know what you are looking for, it may make the process harder. The more you give Google, the better your odds are of finding strong, related keywords.

Once you proceed to “Discover new keywords”, you will be prompted with two different options: “Start with keywords” or “Start with a website”. Let’s start with the first option.

Start with Keywords

discover new keywords

This lets you type in products,services, or offerings related to your business. It also lets you type in pretty much anything else that you want to get related keywords for. If you want to keep keywords non-branded, you can choose to do so by turning off the “Include brand names in results” switch. In this case, let’s try “leather boots,” “mens boots” and “fashionable boots” and turn branded keywords off.

initial keywords

Google also has a help bar to the right which will give you a bunch of best practices that can guide you while you are searching for keywords. You can also input your website for Google to filter through to make sure it stays relevant to what your company is offering. In addition, you can change the language and location setting to whatever you like. Finally, once you have your keywords you would like to search for, click “Get Results” and you will be taken keywords results page.

keywords results page

We will cover what is going on here later!

Start with a Website

The latter option of Discover New Keywords allows you to use a website as a source of keywords. You can also focus on a certain page of the website, or the website as a whole. This is a great option to see what keywords competitors are using, or even other keywords relating to your page that you may not have thought of otherwise. In this case, we can use “Thursday Boots” as an example.

use a website

Once you enter the URL, click “Get Results” and you will then be taken to the keywords results page.

website results page

Get Search Volume and Forecasts

The second tool is helpful if you already have an established list of keywords and would like to investigate their search volume and competitiveness. For our client, here is an example list of keywords:

gets search volume and forecasts

After entering in your keywords, click “Get Started” and you will be taken to a page that will give you three options of how to evaluate your keywords:

  1. Forecasts
  2. Negative Keywords
  3. Historical Metrics



This section will give you data on the keywords you entered, as well as a prediction on how well the keywords may fare, i.e. conversions, clicks, impressions, etc. This section, however, should be taken with a grain of salt. The metrics are not entirely accurate and should not be used to determine budget nor predict performance, but they are worth referencing.

Negative Keywords

Negative Keywords will match up any of the keywords you entered with current negative keywords in your account. If you don’t already have negative keywords in your account, feel free to disregard this section. However, adding these negative keywords in Keyword Planner will change the volume estimates.

Historical Metrics

Although this page looks very similar to the keywords results page, this gives you specific metrics about each of the keywords you have entered for the date range you have specified.

historical metrics

Now, we will jump into the keywords results page.

The Keywords Results Page

Now, we will finally make our way back to the keywords results page we were taken to when we entered our initial three keywords: “leather boots”, “mens boots”, and “fashionable boots”.

keywords results page 1

There is a lot of information here that may look intimidating at first, but most of the time, you need not worry about many of the metrics on the page. Typically, the two most important metrics to be aware of are:

  • Avg. monthly searches
  • Competition

Avg. Monthly Searches

avg monthly searches

This is for determining how popular certain search terms are. You’re able to organize the results from low to high or vice versa, so depending on what you are looking for, this is great at eliminating keywords that would be too specific or too generic.

Keep in mind, however, that the data is not in real-time or completely accurate. Although it’s a good tool to reference, do not base your decision wholly on what you see here. For example, seasonal keywords like “santa hat” may appear to have extremely high search volume per month, but due to the fact that the metric is an average range, it may be unrealistically high during some times of the year. Luckily, though, you are able to set the time of year your data can come from, so in order to get the most accurate results, it would be smart to do this for seasonal keywords. Plus, you can reference the bar graph above the metrics for seasonality.



Depending on your division of digital marketing, you may need to alter how you view this metric. This refers to the amount of advertisers bidding on this keyword in PPC, not its SEO coverage. Although, you can use this to check on whether or not the keyword has commercial intent for SEO. One thing to note is that competition is not directly influenced by how many avg. monthly searches the term gets. For this client, terms like “mens boots” may be much more competitive and have higher search volume, but terms like “slip on suede boots” may be equally as competitive but lower search volume.

Pick Your Keywords

Now that you’ve searched for your keywords with your desired plan of action, it’s time for the big moment: choosing your keywords to use! There is no exact criteria for which keywords will definitely work and which won’t: it is based on the goals of the client and the intent of the marketer; however, by using the steps in this guide, you now have a good understanding of how you can use Keyword Planner to your advantage.

In Summary

Overall, Google Keyword Planner is one of the best free tools out there for keyword research for both paid search and SEO.  

The two main functions of the tool, “Discover new keywords” and “Get search volume and metrics” can help you at various stages along your keyword research journey.

“Discover new keywords” lets you search for keywords related to the information you put into the tool, so the more you know what you’re looking for, the better; however, it will still be of great use if you are using it as a starting point for your research.

“Get search volume and metrics” gives you information about a list of keywords you already have, and is useful for diving deeper into the research. The data may not always be the most reliable, though, but you can reference it for a lot of decision making.

There are a lot of metrics that you are presented with at the keywords results page, but “avg. monthly searches” and competition may be the two biggest indicators to you in regards to which keywords will help you the most. There isn’t an overarching rule to determine what keywords are good or not because the client and the goals of the campaign will dictate exactly what you’re looking for with these metrics.

Well, that’s a wrap! I hope you enjoyed our guide of Google Keyword Planner. Good luck on your search for keywords!

Optimizing for People: Why User Research Matters for Marketers

For years, digital marketers have served one master: Google (OK, and other search engines). Search engines zigged and we zagged to play by the rules they’ve set. Keywords on the page matter most for rankings? Alright, let’s get to a keyword density of 6% and call it a day. Links are seen as “votes of confidence” that will make my site rank higher? Submit to a few more directories, intern!

Digital marketers have evolved over time, but mostly just to serve search engines.

As we’ve stayed laser-focused on Google and its algorithm, the folks who are actually doing the searching—people—haven’t been put first. At the end of the day, Google isn’t browsing your site, reading your content, and submitting lead forms—people are. It’s easier to monitor Google’s algorithm changes than understand something really tough: the motivations, experiences, and needs of actual people. That’s where user research comes in.

We build an entire service to optimize for search engines (SEO) and forget about what we should be doing: optimizing people’s search experiences (PSX). And it’s not just about “optimizing,” we need to be discovering, understanding, and supporting them. 

Turns out, the Golden Rule also applies to digital marketing: Treat others as you’d like to be treated (online).

Why does caring about people matter (other than it’s a nice thing to do)? Because it brings results: Our Client wanted to find new ways to understand and meet the needs of their customers after rebranding. Seer interviewed their BD team to get a sense of these needs and learned that pricing was a key part of the consideration phase of their customer’s journey, yet there was no existing pricing page due to the complexity of the structure.  Seer worked with our Client to build a comprehensive pricing page that both spoke to customer needs and shared the Client’s message in an impactful way that was true to their rebranding, which resulted in a revenue increase of $44K in the first 90 days.     

So, What Is User Research & Why Is It Important?

At Seer, we define user research as the investigation to understand the behavior of our Client’s potential customers online, from what problems they’re looking to solve, how they search, what questions they need answered to what ultimately persuades them to convert using qualitative and quantitative tactics. 

The importance of this user research isn’t to gather interesting insights to share with our Clients, but to better understand our potential customers, so we can improve our strategy. Because we focus on the audience’s online behavior, we seek to find actions that we can take to improve their purchase journey, from filling content gaps, better speaking to their needs in messaging, and improving the website experience based on their feedback

Right now, you might be thinking, “Seer is a digital marketing agency, not a client branding agency. Why does user research matter to them?” It’s because we see our role not just to get potential customers to our Clients’ websites, but to support their path to conversion. By nature of being an agency, we work with a variety of clients, and for most, we’re not the target audience, so how can we assume that we know about their motivations and needs? Keyword research and reviewing People Also Ask  (PAA) queries are useful, but converting potential customers is more than just targeting the right keywords—it’s about communicating the benefits of our Client’s product or service the right way, answering their questions, and creating trust. We take it as our responsibility to support the path to conversion, not just something left to our Clients. 

The importance of user research always comes back to results. If we can better market to these potential customers and increase conversions, we’re being successful as an agency. 

So, is Seer a full market research company now? No. Even though we’ve dedicated resources to hire Market Research grads and train the Seer team to conduct research, we see it as a way to get to positive Client outcomes faster. We’d rather ask people what they need and care about, then incorporate that into our strategy versus playing a guessing game based on a handful of keywords and hoping for the best. We conduct user research not to openly explore the audience’s demographic makeup, but to understand what gaps exist that our Clients should be filling and to make that happen. 

SEOs need to put themselves in searchers’ shoes.

If you’re still not understanding why user research is important for digital marketing, here’s an example. If you are expecting a child and searching for information about which baby products are safest, are you thinking about the strength of the sites you’re reviewing as an SEO, or are you a soon-to-be first-time parent trying your hardest to create the best environment for your child? You’re not reading the H2s to see how well-optimized they are, but rather, if those sections of text will answer your most anxiety-inducing questions.

If a site is blindly following SEO “best practices,” then, at best, they’ve used Google’s “People Also Ask” (PAA) questions to determine what topics to include in the article. But, are they really answering your questions? Is their paragraph about safe baby product materials skimmable and optimized, yet it doesn’t include opinions from pediatricians and other trusted experts? Was this written by an underpaid copywriter who isn’t wrong, but doesn’t answer any of your concerns with any depth?

What people actually think about your content matters.

And although Google has evolved to include behavior signals within its algorithm, we need to create content that isn’t just high-quality from a search perspective, but from a user perspective.

How do you find out what people need? While keywords give us huge hints into what topics people want to learn more about, it’s only a direction. It’s not a roadmap of what you need to write about. So, what do we do? We talk to and observe the target audience. 

We’ve been conducting our own user research on our Client’s audience for two years, racking up almost 3,000 hours of research—from leading interviews with target customers and internal Customer Service teams to analyzing search queries to conducting user search sessions. We’re not just content to let Keyword Planner guide what our Client’s content strategy should be. Instead, we’re learning about the experiences and needs of people and adjusting our strategy because of it.

 Maybe it sounds like a waste of time, but it simply does not make sense to spend $1,200 to write a blog post on a topic based on keywords and assumptions only to publish it and find that it’s not performing well. Not only do you spend more time and money making updates based on “hunches” as to why that content isn’t working, but you lose trust in the eyes of people who looked to your site for answers and came away with nothing. 

This isn’t just for SEO either. It doesn’t make sense to take guesses at different ad copy messages to test based on our assumptions, send it out into the world, and hope for the best. Sure, you can find a winner within the set, but what if what people really care about that would increase CTR 150% vs 15%. That’s the benefit of conducting user research.

It’s a smarter, more methodical move to take the same amount of money, invest in a survey or a handful of interviews to learn about what answers people truly need and use that information to create excellent content that gets it right the first time.  

Putting an audience-centric approach into action

For two years, Seer’s been living in an audience-centric mentality. At any point of working with a Client, we need to make sure we’re keeping the people who are searching for our Client’s information, products, or services in mind. And, it’s not just our Clients’ audience that’s benefiting from our shift, but our Clients, too. Here’s one more example:

One of our Clients was looking for better ways to connect with their audience. They were already ranking well for their target terms but were looking for ways to better connect with their audience and improve their conversion rate.

One of our Clients in the SAAS space was looking for better ways to connect with their audience. They were already ranking well for their target terms but were seeking greater connection to improve their conversion rate.

Seer interviewed 12 of our Client’s existing customers to ask what information they needed on the landing pages and what type of experience they’d prefer. From those interviews, we identified common themes and overhauled a test group of landing pages. After conducting research to optimize people’s search experience and serve them with the best version of content to meet their needs, there was a 31% average increase to the conversion rates on the test pages. The existing content wasn’t terrible by any means—we just found that by talking to people, we better understood how to tailor the content they were looking for. 

To help other digital marketers with this, we’re kicking off a series on how to understand your audience online, exploring how we conduct user research and how it’s helped our Clients. It’s going to cover how to:

  • Uncover the underlying motivations of our target customer and the problems they’re trying to solve
  • Observe how our target audience describes their needs when searching online 
  • Understand the online content needs of our target customers, so we can fill the gaps
  • Analyze how our target audience is engaging with SERPs, as well as the Client’s and competitors’ websites, to observe their actual online behavior vs rely on their recollection

At Seer, we’re thinking beyond SEO to focus on PSX, people’s search experiences. We’re focusing on how to make our Client’s website experience better for the person who will be browsing and reading it, not search engines that determine ranking. That doesn’t mean we don’t consider ranking important anymore … we still do. But, we believe that by focusing on people, we will be rewarded by the folks doing the searching, not just search engines themselves.

Stay tuned for the next installment of this series, “How to Write a Marketing Research Objective,” later this month!

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Building and Assessing a SEO Holiday Keyword List – Tyson Stockton // Searchmetrics

Episode Overview: Santa is always making his list and checking it twice, and Searchmetrics is following suit with our holiday triage mode checklist to help keep SEOs on track during a hectic holiday season. Join Ben and Searchmetrics’ Director of Services Tyson Stockton as they kickoff Holiday Triage Mode week reviewing the first step – building and assessing your holiday keyword list.


  • The best place to start is quickly pulling data on past holiday performance and review it, spending no more than 20 minutes in analysis, to get a sense of where your current efforts stand now.
  • A domain level view of past performance, including reviewing competitors and their performance metrics, will highlight gaps in performance providing clear targets to improve.
  • After setting benchmarks and targets to accomplish, the next step is move to keyword analysis and identify what you need to win, creating a column, or complete keyword list.


Ben:                 Welcome to Holiday Triage week on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro, and 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 again for Holiday Triage week for the second year in a row is Tyson Stockton who is Searchmetrics’ director of services. Outside of shepherding Searchmetrics’ largest and most strategic clients to SEO success, Tyson and I are going to talk about how you can assess the current state of your holiday roadmap and understand where you are and how you can get where you want to be. Here’s the first installment of Holiday Triage week with Tyson Stockton Searchmetrics’ director of services.

Tyson, ho, ho, ho, SEOs, it’s the holiday season, it’s time for Holiday Triage week again.

Tyson:              It’s that time of year.

Ben:                 It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Tyson:              I know, especially probably for the e-commerce people out there.

Ben:                 I think for the e-commerce people, it might not be the most wonderful time of the year. It’s the most stressful time of the year. Hopefully for everyone else, we’re not too stressed going into the holidays, but this week is all about holiday triage. If you’re a little behind, if you’ve been focused on just your regular SEO optimizations and all of a sudden the holidays are sneaking up on you, we’re here to help.

Tyson, what’s the first thing you need to do when you’re running behind the holidays and need to quickly scamper like reindeer feet coming through the snow so you can make your holiday SEO impactful?

Tyson:              Yeah, so, I mean, the starting point for the last minute triaged mode SEOs if you will, is, is not going to be that different than if you were starting earlier on, but you’re obviously going to have to drastically cut down and speed up on a few steps. So, I would still say that your starting point is going to be to take a quick look back at past performance. I mean, this is something that, assuming you’re kind of savvy on the technology stack that you’re using the GA system or analytics SEO software like this should be something that you should be able to pull within, let’s say like 20 minutes really, we’re not talking typically in a huge volume of pages most often and hopefully people’s heard a repetitive nature of not starting fresh and having new URLs every season.

So with all that said, you should be able to pull this information relatively quickly and that’s what’s going to help set your foundation of what needs to be done.

Ben:                 Understanding where you are is half the battle now there’s the idea of seeing the performance of your previous pages, putting together your keyword lists, evaluating your previous performance. Walk me through some of the things when you’re talking about doing your analysis from a practical standpoint, you got 20 minutes to go, think about what you did last year and set your benchmarks. Walk me through your strategy there.

Tyson:              Yeah, so I mean I would kind of run down the typical like e-commerce funnel where for someone to look at the wide domain as a whole just to get a feel or context or a refresher of what the site was doing at the time. Like was it pacing up or going up in an upward trajectory?

Was it on a downward decline? So let me put some context around the performance. Then I’m going to be looking at the pages specific to the holiday times. So if we’re talking black Friday, what was the overall numbers for our black Friday pages or page? And then I’m also going to look at competitors. This is where it’s going to highlight or fill in the gaps of where you either maybe didn’t perform last year and you’re going to see who is capturing that because that’s going to be the area that you’re wanting to expand or take back or you know where you’re going to want to compete more.

Ben:                 So you’re essentially doing a domain level look back to understand what was happening last year and how each brand performed.

Tyson:              Yeah, I like, I like to start with that because I think it’s helpful. One, it doesn’t take very long at all, like just dropping in a domain and the research cloud and seeing how they’ve been pacing for the last year.

You know even sometimes two is super quick and easy, but it gives you a little bit of a reminder or a refreshment, with your own domain is probably top of mind, easy to recall, but you might have different competitors that you’re not as familiar with like, well I don’t know if they were going down or going up around this time last year because that obviously is going to play into how those domains are performing. I think it will also, is worth kind of like noting the difference between sale pages, whether it’s Black Friday page or you know, a specific sale that’s going on during the season. And also, just like the tide rising on all search volumes and e-commerce. So I think it’s important to look at your targeted specific event type pages. But then also like don’t forget to just look at the site as a whole because in e-commerce, you know search lines on them.

Not every single category, but most categories are all high and kind of like the November, December, and even into January timeframe.

Ben:                 So once you’ve gone through and done your historical look back and you’re benchmarking yourself against some of your competitors, what’s the next step?

Tyson:              I would say, and this is probably where you’re going to, I guess in some ways I would say cut some corners. It sounds like a negative in that standpoint, but you only have so much time, so you are going to have to prioritize that.

Ben:                 This is where you’re going to become more efficient.

Tyson:              Right. That’s a much better way of saying it. Cut corners, be more efficient. You’re going to be more streamlined in your approach here.

Ben:                 Aerodynamic.

Tyson:              Exactly. Exactly.

Ben:                 So, you go when you do a little audit, right? You’re going to look back historically to understand what you and your competitors were doing going into the holiday and how those strategies performed.

Once you have a sense of, you know, the historical context of what’s happening in your industry for holiday, what do you do with that? How do you continue to assess the lay of the land and figure out what your strategy should be?

Tyson:              Yeah, so the next point is you’re going to move into kind of like a keyword level. So you’re going to look specifically of the type of keywords that you want or you need to win for during the season or during the event. And you’re going to also look at those pages and made sure that those pages, you know, you look at the conversion rate of last year, make sure that the page, or like the experience is going to be sound from a conversion rate perspective because once you get the users to that page, you want to make sure you’re capitalizing on it.

So I think those are the two big next steps is going from basically the funnel of domain URL keywords. Where are you currently ranking on those keywords? Even if it’s, you know, two weeks prior to like black Friday or if it’s going into a new year’s Eve site sale, look at where you’re ranking. Even if it’s a month ahead of time, Google and search engines are still going to be ranking those URLs even though less people are searching it. And then you’re going to kind of know how much or what you have to kind of achieve to actually make an impact from those efforts.

Ben:                 So talk to me a little bit, once you’ve done your keyword analysis, how do you think about mapping your historical performance and the keywords that you’re targeting to specific pages? And do you think about the technical side of what’s happening on your website or is this all just really like content and page structure?

Tyson:              Yeah, and I think, I mean this is going to be the area is that again, you’re going to have to be kind of like efficient of how far down the rabbit hole you go. Because something like a technical audit, you can’t ignore it altogether. Like you actually definitely need to know that you don’t have any major holes or gaps that are going to limit your performance, but you’re probably not going to have a two week runtime to do like a exhausted audit. So it’s like in the audit area, you’re wanting to make sure that these pages are index, you’re wanting to make sure that there’s links going to them. You want to make sure there’s nothing horribly wrong from the team perspective. And then also they don’t have things like different types of Javascript that’s making the content not readable by bots and things like that.

So it’s like you want to do the basic necessities of “Will a search engine reach this age, crawl it understanding in 10 and do I have a chance of succeeding?” And that’s really what you’re looking for in that technical audit. And in the mapping, you’re really just kind of creating the list of target pages that you’re going to be working with later. So the keyword level, you’re taking that into the URLs and that essentially is your, your list or your pool of pages to work with. And then the audit is also kind of a sanity check that, “Hey, I don’t have any large glaring errors that are going to limit the performance when I go to actually make changes to those pages that I just identified.”

Ben:                 So. let me just recap the first thing to do when you’re going through your holiday triage, if you’re late to the game, you want to assess your existing performance with a couple of steps that you want to go through.

Our first, you have to just do the historical look back. You have to understand what happened previously, what assets you have, who your competition is, and what strategies they’ve implemented to make sure that you understand what has or hasn’t worked in the past. Once you’ve done your historical look back, you’re going to go and you’re going to check your column, a keyword list, and figure out what you’re targeting. You’re going to look back and set some performance benchmarks to understand what you’re trying to accomplish. Then you’re going to map to specific pages to figure out what you need to change to try to reach your goals. And last but not least, you’re going to do a quick technical audit to make sure that nothing is stopping the pages that you’re trying to optimize to be able to be reached and consumed by Google. Tyson. Anything else you need to do to assess your domains?

Current state, getting ready for the holidays?

Tyson:              No, I think that’s, I mean that fully encompases it and I know that sounds like a lot for the first step, but I think the point that I’d emphasize here is we’re not skipping any of these steps. We’re just kind of streamlining or not going as maybe deeper, far as we would have if we had more time. So it’s, it’s important not to skip these steps, but we also have to be mindful of time. So you’re going to have to be basically doing kind of like the minimum each of these categories, make sure they are keeping pace.

Ben:                 Okay. That wraps up this episode of the voices of search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Tyson Stockton. Searchmetrics is director of services. We’d love to continue the conversation with you. So 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 underscore 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 at Ben J. Shap B. E. N. J. S. H. A. P if you’re interested in learning about how do you search data to boost your organic traffic, online visibility, or to gain competitive insights specifically around the holiday season, we’ve put together any holiday triage checklist for you.

Go to to download the document and 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 in your feed tomorrow to discuss more of our holiday triage checklist, talking about what you should prioritize to turn your holidays from naughty to nice.

All right. That’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.

Top 10 Voices of Search Episodes of 2019

The Voices of Search podcast helped SEOs navigate the tumultuous sea of SEO this year – providing expert insights on Google Algorithm updates, interviewing unique figures in the greater SEO community and holding strategic planning episodes to arm SEOs with the knowledge they needed to succeed in an intense year.

This year we’re celebrating reaching a new milestone of 100,000 downloads in 2019 with a top 10 episode list of our most popular, downloaded episodes throughout the year. Here’s a selection of our top episodes selected by you, our listeners!

Jordan Koene, CEO, Searchmetrics Inc. and VOS host Benjamin Shapiro kicked off the first week of the year sharing their predictions regarding what Google algorithm updates would go live throughout 2019. The No. 1 big change from Google both Jordan and Ben agreed to expect was a higher prevalence of integrated search and extended search experiences in mobile, along with investing in different ways to highlight content for mobile experiences. Users would get more options and develop a better understanding of what should rank higher in search from data used in universal and extended search experiences.

Jordan also predicted Google would focus on understanding the key external signals to rank content more aggressively in the latter half of 2019 and his prediction proved correct with the fall updates, specifically the BERT update. Jordan’s initial prediction:

“They may be even looking at what will likely happen … and this is the more likely outcome, is they may start looking at different machine learning and AI technologies that can help them determine the mention or the presence of certain brands within content and content sources that are non-traditional. Like, say, video or, hey, how about this, podcasts.” 

Hear more from Jordan about his initial thoughts on what other integrated search experiences could impact rankings in 2019 here.

Google’s BERT Algorithm update caught SEO experts by surprise this year, causing a flurry of speculation from industry leaders on what the potential impact it would have coming after the initial October update. Many concluded it would affect 10% of all search queries.

All of Google’s updates this year prioritized improving the user experience and BERT is no exception. The update specifically focused on modifying Google’s search engine language processor to better contextualize written and spoken long-tail user search queries. In Jordan’s words:

“It’s allowing Google consumers, their users, their searchers to identify the problem, the solution, the expectation, the anxiety that they have behind that search query … They didn’t even use the word keyword. They just said sentence. And then using the word sentence is its total clue and giveaway that when they’re looking at search behavior at a voice level. Because nobody searches in full sentences when they’re typing. They only do that when they’re doing voice search.”

Learn more about BERT’s nuances and its initial ambiguous impact on the greater SEO industry here.

SEO is finally taking a seat at the table in earnings calls as it’s quickly becoming a leading indicator for investors to evaluate when considering a company’s success. Presenting SEO successes to investors isn’t easy but Jordan broke the process down into easier steps, beginning with listening to other earnings calls to determine what your company is trying to communicate to investors, which includes analyzing investor Q&A sessions.

When it comes to explaining a drop in business due to SEO it’s best to keep the explanation at a surface level as Jordan describes:

“So, if Google did in fact make an algorithmic change that impacted the brand, make the clear statement that Google has made a policy change or has made an algorithmic change that’s impacted the business. But avoid going any further than that. You don’t need to get into the minutiae of ‘What kind of a change is this?’ No person on the street cares about Panda or Penguin or any of these other algorithm changes. All they need to understand is that there was a change in Google and that had an impact on our business.”

Learn more about the different ways you can present and effectively emphasize the importance of SEO to company decision makers and leadership here.

Ben’s interview With Mike King, founder and managing director of the digital marketing studio iPullRank, about his career move from hip-hop producer to SEO entrepreneur is one story you can’t miss.

King moved to Connecticut from Philadelphia early in his life where he developed his rap skills to stay in touch with his Philly roots while simultaneously developing his preternatural skills in programming. He prioritized his career in rap and toured the world until a bike accident forced King to find a job that could pay his medical bills. His life changed when an SEO agency hired him, and he discovered he could combine his two passions:

“I didn’t really take it seriously at first. It was just like, okay, I’m going to keep this job until it’s time to go back on tour. But what happened was, my boss at the time, I was really hesitant to tell him because I actually liked my job. My days were just flying by so fast. I was like, ‘Hey, I’m going to have to quit because I’m going to go back on tour.’ He’s like, ‘Wait, what do you mean you got to quit? You can work from the road.’ I was like, ‘What?’ That just changed my whole life right there. Because it’s like, ‘Wait, I can work from home while I’m on tour? That sounds amazing.’”

King’s rap career stalled and he eventually put down the mic, going on to work at Razorfish where he further sharpened his SEO skills. Learn more about King’s journey throughout his SEO career and how a negative experience with SEO leadership at companies he worked for inspired him to found and develop iPullRank here.

Google’s June 2019 update left the SEO industry reeling, causing widespread volatility, which significantly affected large websites like Wikipedia. The update saw Google reshape video and news carousels in the SERP and set new quality guidelines for news sites to reduce spam and low-quality content, affecting sites like the Daily Mail which suffered a 50% drop in traffic. The SERP manipulations indicated that Google may have made the modifications to prioritize Google Maps and YouTube.

Jordan offered some key advice to SEOs during the algorithm’s rollout:

“The first thing is that don’t freak out. Cool heads through these transitions with Google are the top priority. These issues can be solved, and you can fix any downturn from an algorithm update. It requires clear thinking. I think that that’s some encouragement as I start to read more and more publications come out with the Daily Mail scenario and talk about the challenges that they’re having there. The other thing, folks, to recognize here is the fact that this was a pre-announcement. We’ll see if that happens again and, if Google continues that trend, and this is pretty a unique time of year for a pretty broad core update. Typically, we see one in the spring and the fall, but here we’re seeing one in the summer. It will be interesting to see if Google becomes a little more consistent in the volume of updates that they have throughout the year.”

Learn more about which sites benefitted from the update and its unique effect on directory sites like Yelp, Rotten Tomatoes and more, here. 

Google’s first algorithm update of the year leveled the search field, causing as much as 74% declines in visibility for some notable companies while others escaped unscathed, seeing an average 20% growth in search visibility. After the dust settled, Ben and Tyson Stockton, Director of Services, examined the first big winners and losers post-update.

Ecommerce giants like Target maintained its upward trajectory throughout the update, experiencing substantial gains. The update significantly impacted the auto industry as well, with Carfax and experiencing strong growth while CarGurus experienced a 37% drop in visibility a week after the update went live. The healthcare industry collectively experienced widespread losses with some rare exceptions.

Tyson offered sage advice for SEOs finding their footing after the update, and how to prepare themselves for future updates:

“What you want to be doing, at least what I would be advocating, is to revisit your strategies and your initiatives, staying the course, and continue to get things live to the site and continue to improve, and then you want to just rebuild those elements back. And if you’re constantly rebuilding and improving the site, let’s call it a white hat SEO friendly manner, that’s ultimately whether it’s an algorithm catching up for you or just continuing to collect these incremental wins, I think that’s going to be more of the sound strategy coming out of these updates that I’d like to see from websites, rather than just hoping for a rollback or a bounce back in the industry level, more of focusing on, ‘What can you control?’”

Learn more about the volatility the update caused and how it impacted industry giants like Walmart here.

Another powerful Google algorithm update in September continued focusing on and enhancing E-A-T and Your Money, Your Life (YMYL) principles, indicating a grander algorithm trend geared toward improving the user experience. Ben and Jordan hosted a special episode of Voices of Search to dissect Google’s algorithm update trend throughout 2019 and its impact on large companies.

Amazon and Walmart’s complex, well-organized website structures were heavily rewarded after the update, as their functionality allows users to refine product selections, easily locate deal sections and select competitive delivery options, separating them from the rest of their pack of competitors. Spotify also experienced significant gains as its unique ecosystem of assets, content and informational features is built upon a robust user experience.

Jordan’s initial advice for SEOs looking to make adjustments to their strategies:

“Something that a lot of people start to overlook, they start to really try to get deep into the content optimizations, or the speed optimizations, and that’s great. But many times after these major core updates, Google’s started to make a decision on where they want to go on your site, what degree of depth they want to crawl, especially for the big sites out there. And I think that’s one of the fundamentals to go back and visit. A lot of this data and information can be found in search counts. Going back into search counts, if you haven’t done that in a while, that’s probably also a good idea.”

“Lastly, one of the most important things that webmasters, content owners, and really just the SEOs that are out there can prioritize right now is revisiting how they’re looking at their analytics. Right now, in these big updates, there can be major shifts, and sometimes you’ll want to start charting a new path in terms of how you’re measuring your performance. Whether that’s looking at how you measure your performance on a category level, on a full domain level.”

The update also uniquely affected recipe sites like the Food Network, decreasing their visibility. Learn more about why a trusted source in the food industry lost valuable traffic here.

Ben’s conversation with Ryan Purtill, senior director at Healthline Media, struck a chord with our listeners who developed a natural passion for SEO and shared a mutual experience of working with agencies in flux.

Purtill joined his first agency role out of college, Zer0 to 5ive, where he developed his passion for SEO but left for another agency his roommate worked with. He ended up returning to Zer0 to 5ive but found himself unhappy with his work life and went on to pursue a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology. The soft skills he developed there intertwined with his SEO skills, playing a critical role in reformatting his marketing foundation skillset:

“Actually, for me SEO and psychology are … I’ve had so many interviewers who go, ‘This is an odd pairing. It seems like it’s a departure.’ To me, it’s not a departure at all. It’s kind of like input/output systems. It’s like what new element can you introduce to a dynamic that you can’t really see how it works, and it’s going to be super complex like the human brain or Google’s algorithm, both very complex. Then, how can you get a result from that? From that result, how do you do it again? What would you change in the input to get an output?”

Learn more about his career at Healthline Media where he put his new SEO foundation skills to work, expanding the company’s reach to 300 million people a month, here.

Google’s move to mobile first crawling proved to be another hot topic with our listeners as host Ben and special guest Cindy Krum from MobileMoxie discussed how Google has prioritized mobile crawls, clarifying the shift is more than just a response to more search queries performed on mobile devices and actually about how they changed their mobile indexing methods to consider relationships between search terms users input, whether it’s a typed or voice searched query.

Said Krum:

“So, at MobileMoxie, we think of mobile first indexing as entity first indexing and that means fitting in content from the web around the knowledge graph. And that’s important, because it allows Google to do their machine learning faster. And it also allows Google to be better in languages where they have less machine learning, because entities are language agnostic.

“So, when we talk about entity first indexing, it’s basically fitting things into existing or new entities in the knowledge graph. So, if you think about the knowledge graph as a graph, as a series of things that are related to other things in kind of a fabric, right? This … and the relationships can be lateral, right? Taco is related to hamburger, but then taco is also related to lettuce and tomato or it’s related to food, right? These are multidimensional relationships and those are things that Google knows and that Google can graph, right? They can meet these relationships and those relationships stay static regardless of what language or keyword you’re searching in. So, taco is always … Has the same relationship to lettuce and to food in every language.

“…that’s because the relationships are critical when you don’t have a screen to help sort out or to help make it easy for someone to pick what the right answer is. Google has to get the answer right on the first try and they have to be able to drill down in a relational way when there’s voice only, right? You don’t get 10 options. In voice, they have to get just the one.”

Learn more from Krum about Google’s reasoning for shifting toward mobile first crawls and its impact on SEO performance here.

Walking a fine line between white and black hat SEO is tricky for even the most experienced SEO experts, and oftentimes they find themselves accidentally stumbling into gray hat territory.

A story that heavily resonated with our listeners was our episode with Dan Petrovic, director and owner of Dejan Marketing, whose extensive career spans the early days of SEO before Google cemented itself as an authoritative policy maker in search to the present.

Petrovic reflected on the common mistakes people in the industry made during those early days and continue to make today:

“Things have changed over time, and I see a lot of momentum in the industry and still clinging to older practices. So, in fact, as far as great Gray Hat SEO practices, let’s label them that way for the sake of simplicity for the moment, they kind of linger on and people take unnecessary risks for the sake of the old days, and the memory of things working. So, you take a risk but you don’t get any benefit out of it. And that’s probably one of the biggest mistakes that people in SEO make today. Just making unnecessary risks for things that don’t even benefit you.”

Petrovic once landed himself in hot water with Google, who slapped one of his blogs with a manual penalty. Unsure of what he did wrong after extensively researching the issue, Petrovic took an unorthodox approach to finding a solution – deleting his entire website. Learn more about what he discovered using this drastic move here. 

A 20/20 Retrospective on 2019

Before we enter a new decade, join Jordan and Sebastien Edgar, Team Lead, Enterprise SEO Consulting as they review and discuss 2019’s landmark moments in SEO with Searchmetrics’ 2019 Year End Review Webinar on Dec. 12.

Core topics to be discussed include:

  • A complete analysis of Google’s algorithm updates and an in-depth discussion on how they’ve impacted and changed the SEO industry in 2019.
  • Making predictions on potential developments, changes and updates in 2020.

Register Today

About Voices of Search

The Voices of Search is a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and content marketing podcast launched in 2018. Host Benjamin Shapiro and SEO industry guests, including Searchmetrics CEO Jordan Koene, take deep dives into the ever-changing world of content and search engine marketing, discussing breaking news and the latest developments in the industry.

Listeners discover actionable strategies and insights provided in each episode to navigate the topsy-turvy world created by search giant Google, Apple and other tech leaders.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google, Overcast, Spotify, Stitcher, or on the Searchmetrics website to join the conversation!

Voice search ascending: Three areas that require your attention right now

By next year, comScore expects that 50 percent of all searches will be voice searches. And of course, it won’t stop there. A decade from now, it’s not unreasonable to think that nine out of 10 searches will be via voice, and at that point, a lot about what we know about best practices in digital marketing will have shifted.

After all, in the world of voice search, simply getting onto the search engine results page becomes insufficient. What brands need is to find their way into what’s become known as the “zero position”—that singular best response generated by a voice assistant in regards to a natural language query.

Most marketers are watching the ascent of voice search with obvious interest, but few are sure exactly what they should be doing as this brave new world unfolds before their eyes. The good news is that there are very concrete steps that can be taken right now to better position brands for the voice-dominated future. If you focus on the following three fundamentals today, you’re going to be in strong shape tomorrow.

Optimize according to Schema

Schema represents a foundational means of ensuring your online content can be found and understood by web crawlers and properly ingested by the major search engines’ algorithms. This is true today, and it will be true tomorrow. Unfortunately, given the ever-increasing complexity of the marketing technology landscape these days, too many marketers have lost site of this important priority. To succeed—or even survive—in the world of voice search, the schema need to be a top digital marketing priority.

In the most basic sense, schema is an agreed-upon structure for how online content should be organized in order to best be understood by search engines. The major search players of the world have codified the best practices of engagement via, a joint effort focused on creating and maintaining schemas for structuring online data. These days, optimizing web pages with schema is a critical first step to succeeding in organic search.

The beauty of is that it’s supported by all of the major search engines, and these are precisely the companies that are currently writing the future of voice search. We can expect to see similar structures dictating voice search results as we do in the currently established schema. Thus, best practices for site optimization today will remain the best practices for the future. However, neglecting these best practices in a world where the zero position can make or break a brand will become all the more vital.

Focus on featured snippets

Google’s Featured Snippets aren’t new, but they’re far more important in the world of voice search than in traditional web SEO. Featured snippets are designed to help people answer questions quickly in a way that naturally aligns with how people search with their voices. In other words, it rewards content that presents information in an obvious Q&A format versus being optimized for keyword searches.

To improve your chances of reaching the zero position for a given query, structure your content for featured snippets. In a blog post, for example, this might mean asking a question in the opening paragraph and ensuring it is answered in that same paragraph in 50 words or fewer.

Sure, the blog post can go on to discuss the subject in much more detail. But what a voice search engine will care about is being able to answer a user’s question in a succinct, straightforward way. Give them the questions and answers they crave.

Get your profiles under control

In preparing your brand and its digital assets for a voice-driven world, don’t forget about your third-party digital profiles. Again, this is a best practice in the search world today, but it’s going to become even more necessary for survival in a future dominated by voice search. After all, when people search for information relevant to your business, there’s a good chance the first place the search engine turns won’t be your website.

It will be a third-party profile that succinctly describes your business and, in particular, the details of nearby locations. After all, voice assistants powered by companies like Google also have their own business listings for your locations—and they’re highly likely to turn to those first when providing information back to users.

If your business information is inaccurate or outdated in your third-party profiles, reaching the zero position in a voice search with that information could be more harmful to your brand than not being found at all. So as you think through your digital strategy for a voice-driven world, be sure to get back to basics. Structure your content correctly. Give vs the answers they want. And above all, make sure your information is updated and accurate anywhere the algorithms might find it.

Bart Bartolozzi is Director of Product Marketing at Synup, a location intelligence tool that helps businesses with their local marketing, discovery, and engagement.

The post Voice search ascending: Three areas that require your attention right now appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Oh yes, Cyber Monday deals at Yoast!

Wow! You’ve probably been shopping since Friday and FedEx and UPS have been scheduling your deliveries all weekend. Busy times. But I’m sure you saved an additional 301 US dollars just in case. If you’d buy the Apple AirPods Pro for the regular $249, that would leave you enough bucks for a Yoast SEO Premium license today!

We’re going back to regular prices tomorrow, so this really is the last day to profit from our biggest discount in the history of Yoast. We’re not kidding. With 30% off all products, we’re inviting you to:

  • Get your SEO game to the next level
  • Try that plugin you always wanted
  • Ditch your SEO company by learning yourself
  • Rank better and pave the way for the future growth of your company

So what did others buy over the last couple of days? 

During our Black Friday sale, we noticed you really, really liked a number of our products:

Yoast SEO for WordPress

Our flagship product will be installed on thousands of websites over the next weeks. It helps you to get more visitors from Google and Bing, attract more visitors from social media and it will guide you in writing better text and optimize internal linking!

All Yoast SEO plugins and courses at once!

If you are serious about SEO, you certainly want the whole Yoast package. The leading SEO plugin for WordPress, all addons for your specific websites like WooCommerce and Local SEO, and all the courses to keep learning about SEO. At a whopping 30% discount!

Tomorrow, we’re back to business as usual, with normal prices and without all the annoying ads and newsletters. But for the next 24 hours, our biggest sale ever is still on! 

Get these deals while they’re hot!

Happy Cyber Monday.

The post Oh yes, Cyber Monday deals at Yoast! appeared first on Yoast.