Recently, Google added a bunch of page speed insights into the Search Console. Today I will show you how to use your Chrome browser to run a Lighthouse audit, but also dig into a bunch of things you can do in the site‘s code itself to speed things up.
Search engines like Google have a problem – it’s called ‘duplicate content’. Duplicate content means that similar content appears at multiple locations (URLs) on the web, and as a result search engines don’t know which URL to show in the search results. This can hurt the ranking of a webpage, and the problem only gets worse when people start linking to the different versions of the same content. This article will help you to understand the various causes of duplicate content, and to find the solution to each of them.
Duplicate content is content which is available on multiple URLs on the web. Because more than one URL shows the same content, search engines don’t know which URL to list higher in the search results. Therefore they might rank both URLs lower and give preference to other webpages.
In this article, we’ll mostly focus on the technical causes of duplicate content and their solutions. If you’d like to get a broader perspective on duplicate content and learn how it relates to copied or scraped content or even keyword cannibalization, we’d advise you to read this post: What is duplicate content.
Let’s illustrate this with an example
Duplicate content can be likened to being at a crossroads where road signs point in two different directions for the same destination: Which road should you take? To make matters worse, the final destination is different too, but only ever so slightly. As a reader, you don’t mind because you get the content you came for, but a search engine has to pick which page to show in the search results because, of course, it doesn’t want to show the same content twice.
Let’s say your article about ‘keyword x’ appears at http://www.example.com/keyword-x/ and the same content also appears at http://www.example.com/article-category/keyword-x/. This situation is not fictitious: it happens in lots of modern Content Management Systems. Then let’s say your article has been picked up by several bloggers and some of them link to the first URL, while others link to the second. This is when the search engine’s problem shows its true nature: it’s your problem. The duplicate content is your problem because those links both promote different URLs. If they were all linking to the same URL, your chances of ranking for ‘keyword x’ would be higher.
There are dozens of reasons for duplicate content. Most of them are technical: it’s not very often that a human decides to put the same content in two different places without making clear which is the original – it feels unnatural to most of us. There are many technical reasons though and it mostly happens because developers don’t think like a browser or even a user, let alone a search engine spider – they think like a programmer. Take that article we mentioned earlier, that appears on http://www.example.com/keyword-x/ and http://www.example.com/article-category/keyword-x/. If you ask the developer, they will say it only exists once.
Misunderstanding the concept of a URL
No, that developer hasn’t gone mad, they are just speaking a different language. A CMS will probably power the website, and in that database there’s only one article, but the website’s software just allows for that same article in the database to be retrieved through several URLs. That’s because, in the eyes of the developer, the unique identifier for that article is the ID that article has in the database, not the URL. But for the search engine, the URL is the unique identifier for a piece of content. If you explain that to a developer, they will begin to get the problem. And after reading this article, you’ll even be able to provide them with a solution right away.
You often want to keep track of your visitors and allow them, for instance, to store items they want to buy in a shopping cart. In order to do that, you have to give them a ‘session.’ A session is a brief history of what the visitor did on your site and can contain things like the items in their shopping cart. To maintain that session as a visitor clicks from one page to another, the unique identifier for that session – called the Session ID – needs to be stored somewhere. The most common solution is to do that with cookies. However, search engines don’t usually store cookies.
At that point, some systems fall back to using Session IDs in the URL. This means that every internal link on the website gets that Session ID added to its URL, and because that Session ID is unique to that session, it creates a new URL, and therefore duplicate content.
URL parameters used for tracking and sorting
Another cause of duplicate content is using URL parameters that do not change the content of a page, for instance in tracking links. You see, to a search engine, http://www.example.com/keyword-x/ and http://www.example.com/keyword-x/?source=rss are not the same URL. The latter might allow you to track what source people came from, but it might also make it harder for you to rank well – very much an unwanted side effect!
This doesn’t just go for tracking parameters, of course. It goes for every parameter you can add to a URL that doesn’t change the vital piece of content, whether that parameter is for ‘changing the sorting on a set of products’ or for ‘showing another sidebar’: all of them cause duplicate content.
Scrapers and content syndication
Most of the reasons for duplicate content are either the ‘fault’ of you or your website. Sometimes, however, other websites use your content, with or without your consent. They don’t always link to your original article, and therefore the search engine doesn’t ‘get’ it and has to deal with yet another version of the same article. The more popular your site becomes, the more scrapers you’ll get, making this problem bigger and bigger.
Order of parameters
Another common cause is that a CMS doesn’t use nice clean URLs, but rather URLs like /?id=1&cat=2, where ID refers to the article and cat refers to the category. The URL /?cat=2&id=1 will render the same results in most website systems, but they’re completely different for a search engine.
In my beloved WordPress, but also in some other systems, there is an option to paginate your comments. This leads to the content being duplicated across the article URL, and the article URL + /comment-page-1/, /comment-page-2/ etc.
If your content management system creates printer-friendly pages and you link to those from your article pages, Google will usually find them, unless you specifically block them. Now, ask yourself: Which version do you want Google to show? The one with your ads and peripheral content, or the one that only shows your article?
WWW vs. non-WWW
This is one of the oldest in the book, but sometimes search engines still get it wrong: WWW vs. non-WWW duplicate content, when both versions of your site are accessible. Another, less common situation but one I’ve seen as well is HTTP vs. HTTPS duplicate content, where the same content is served out over both.
Conceptual solution: a ‘canonical’ URL
As we’ve already seen, the fact that several URLs lead to the same content is a problem, but it can be solved. One person who works at a publication will normally be able to tell you quite easily what the ‘correct’ URL for a certain article should be, but sometimes when you ask three people within the same company, you’ll get three different answers…
That’s a problem that needs addressing because, in the end, there can be only one (URL). That ‘correct’ URL for a piece of content is referred to as the Canonical URL by the search engines.
Ironic side note
Canonical is a term stemming from the Roman Catholic tradition, where a list of sacred books was created and accepted as genuine. They were known as the canonical Gospels of the New Testament. The irony is it took the Roman Catholic church about 300 years and numerous fights to come up with that canonical list, and they eventually chose four versions of the same story…
Identifying duplicate contents issues
You might not know whether you have a duplicate content issue on your site or with your content. Using Google is one of the easiest ways to spot duplicate content.
There are several search operators that are very helpful in cases like these. If you’d want to find all the URLs on your site that contain your keyword X article, you’d type the following search phrase into Google:
site:example.com intitle:"Keyword X"
Google will then show you all pages on example.com that contain that keyword. The more specific you make that intitle part of the query, the easier it is to weed out duplicate content. You can use the same method to identify duplicate content across the web. Let’s say the full title of your article was ‘Keyword X – why it is awesome’, you’d search for:
intitle:"Keyword X - why it is awesome"
And Google would give you all sites that match that title. Sometimes it’s worth even searching for one or two complete sentences from your article, as some scrapers might change the title. In some cases, when you do a search like that, Google might show a notice like this on the last page of results:
This is a sign that Google is already ‘de-duping’ the results. It’s still not good, so it’s worth clicking the link and looking at all the other results to see whether you can fix some of them.
Once you’ve decided which URL is the canonical URL for your piece of content, you have to start a process of canonicalization (yeah I know, try saying that three times out loud fast). This means we have to tell search engines about the canonical version of a page and let them find it ASAP. There are four methods of solving the problem, in order of preference:
Not creating duplicate content
Redirecting duplicate content to the canonical URL
Adding a canonical link element to the duplicate page
Adding an HTML link from the duplicate page to the canonical page
Avoiding duplicate content
Some of the above causes for duplicate content have very simple fixes to them:
Are there Session ID’s in your URLs? These can often just be disabled in your system’s settings.
Have you got duplicate printer friendly pages? These are completely unnecessary: you should just use a print style sheet.
Are you using comment pagination in WordPress? You should just disable this feature (under settings » discussion) on 99% of sites.
Are your parameters in a different order? Tell your programmer to build a script to always put parameters in the same order (this is often referred to as a URL factory).
Are there tracking links issues? In most cases, you can use hash tag based campaign tracking instead of parameter-based campaign tracking.
Have you got WWW vs. non-WWW issues? Pick one and stick with it by redirecting the one to the other. You can also set a preference in Google Webmaster Tools, but you’ll have to claim both versions of the domain name.
If your problem isn’t that easily fixed, it might still be worth putting in the effort. The goal should be to prevent duplicate content from appearing altogether, because it’s by far the best solution to the problem.
301 Redirecting duplicate content
In some cases, it’s impossible to entirely prevent the system you’re using from creating wrong URLs for content, but sometimes it is possible to redirect them. If this isn’t logical to you (which I can understand), do keep it in mind while talking to your developers. If you do get rid of some of the duplicate content issues, make sure that you redirect all the old duplicate content URLs to the proper canonical URLs.
Sometimes you don’t want to or can’t get rid of a duplicate version of an article, even when you know that it’s the wrong URL. To solve this particular issue, the search engines have introduced the canonical link element. It’s placed in the <head> section of your site, and it looks like this:
In the href section of the canonical link, you place the correct canonical URL for your article. When a search engine that supports canonical finds this link element, it performs a soft 301 redirect, transferring most of the link value gathered by that page to your canonical page.
If you can’t do any of the above, possibly because you don’t control the <head> section of the site your content appears on, adding a link back to the original article on top of or below the article is always a good idea. You might want to do this in your RSS feed by adding a link back to the article in it. Some scrapers will filter that link out, but others might leave it in. If Google encounters several links pointing to your original article, it will figure out soon enough that that’s the actual canonical version.
Conclusion: duplicate content is fixable, and should be fixed
Duplicate content happens everywhere. I have yet to encounter a site of more than 1,000 pages that hasn’t got at least a tiny duplicate content problem. It’s something you need to constantly keep an eye on, but it is fixable, and the rewards can be plentiful. Your quality content could soar in the rankings, just by getting rid of duplicate content from your site!
SEO or PPC, or both? Most people and businesses that are new to the industry don‘t know which marketing channels to use, which options are best, and often they believe they need SEO or PPC, not both. In last week‘s #SEMrushchat, our community and guests shared insights on the SEO vs. PPC debate, discussed keyword research for each channel, and much more. Check it out.
Paid advertising on social media channels always seems to be growing, it’s a huge buzzword at the minute and everybody wants it to work for their business.
In B2C you’ll find endless ecommerce businesses who essentially make a living through Facebook ads alone and this makes sense, social media is very much a consumer channel. But this doesn’t stop stakeholders in B2B companies pushing for paid social to drive a volume of leads and clients.
And this is where it gets challenging. As a B2B marketer, you are advertising in an unleveled playing field.
When you advertise on Google Ads you have user intent, you still have competition but you are all competing for the same thing, an engaged user.
When you advertise on Facebook however, you are targeting the same users as businesses in fashion, electronics, homeware – and there is no intent.
It, therefore, becomes incredibly important that you pinpoint the right audience and target them with engaging creatives. If you don’t you will just be wasting ad spend.
There is so much you can do with paid social ads, so I’ve outlined a few that I have seen work well in the B2B space.
Customer Lookalike Audiences
There are so many audiences you can test across LinkedIn and Facebook, be that based on job titles, interests, company names – the list goes on. However, If you are new to paid social or just looking for a new way to generate leads, lookalike audiences are where I would start.
There are two ways to do this; – the first is to get a list of all the users who have enquired via your website, be that a form completion or a download – whatever you deem to be an inquiry.
The second, and better option, is to upload a list based on actual client data i.e. people who have paid for your service.
Creating these audiences is where AI and paid search go hand in hand. We are relying on the social platforms to analyze our data, our customer’s profiles, and behavior and then finding us users it deems to be similar.
The caveat, as with all AI like this, is that your lookalike is only ever going to be as good as the data you input, hence the platforms recommend you upload a significant enough amount of data.
The process of creating a lookalike audience is straightforward with both Facebook and LinkedIn.
How to create a lookalike audience in LinkedIn
Prepare a csv. file as per LinkedIn’s requirements (This can be done based on business name or contact email address)
Go to “Account Assets” and click “Matched Audiences”
Click “Create Audience” and select “List Upload”
Name your audience
Select the file you wish to upload and hit “Upload”
Wait 24 hours
Back in “Matched Audiences” click “Create Audience” and this time select “Lookalike”
Name your audience
Select the list your previously uploaded and hit “Create”
Again wait 24 hours
How to create a lookalike audience on Facebook
Prepare your data in a csv or txt file as per Facebook’s requirements
In Facebook Ads Manager navigate to “Audiences”
Hit “Create Audience” and select “Custom Audience” from the dropdown
Here you can pick different audience types, in this instance select “Customer List”
Select the “Use a file that doesn’t include LTV” option
Upload your file and ensure the identifiers match the fields in your data set
Name your audience and hit next
Back in “Audiences” select “Create Audience” and this time hit “Lookalike Audience”
Select the audience to base your lookalike on by searching in the “Other Sources” dropdown and select the appropriate location
Select the “Audience Size” percentage you wish to target and hit create
The difference with Facebook is that it allows you to select the size of your lookalike audience based on a percentage scale which ranges from one to ten percent. One percent is essentially the audience that is most alike your customer data and ten percent is therefore much broader. You are able to create multiple audiences and tailor your bidding appropriately.
The audience is one thing, but you still need to couple this with appropriate creative and compelling messaging.
Get “creative” with your creatives
Coming back to one of my original points, standing out on paid social is difficult for all businesses, given the fact there is just so much interesting content at a user’s fingertips – their friend’s posts, brands they follow, pages they follow and ads to name a few. So it is important that your ads stand out.
Further still, your B2B ad needs to work a little harder to stand out. On LinkedIn you get a bit of good grace from users; people are in the professional mindset and engaging with business-related content. However, with Facebook, it needs to be interesting, engaging, and most importantly stand out.
The best example I have seen of a business doing this well is Simply Business, a UK based business insurance company, who has a whole campaign around businesses with interesting names.
The social creatives all play on celebrity names as business names, “Steven Spielburger”, “Leonardo DiCappuccino”, and other such ones.
The reason I say they are doing this well is I first saw this campaign when browsing Instagram stories on my personal account and it made me look into what else they were doing.
Their campaign is utilizing this same kind of creative across Facebook and Instagram with image ads, videos, and obviously stories.
Some key things to do with different creative
Design something that stands out and grabs people’s attention as they scroll up and down a feed. Bold colors and clear messaging are key to this.
Keep them succinct and avoid using overtly corporate or stock footage. Appearing natural is what is likely to drive engagement.
Perfect for Facebook, focus on some kind of animation that relates to something people know, for instance, a gif of houses with “for sale” signs changing to “sold” might stick in the mind of realtors.
Use tools like the Facebook Ad Library and the Ads tab on a company LinkedIn page to review the creative they are using.
Without a doubt, tailoring your message to your audience is one of the most important aspects of advertising on social media.
If social platforms allow you to pinpoint your audience to something as specific as Marketing Directors in finance businesses with 11-50 staff on the East coast you need to ensure you make the best use of that and tailor your creative to it.
Over the last few months, I have tended to split all social campaigns out by sector so I can pinpoint target customers who are realtors, accountants, and attorneys to target them with copy and creative that highlights why my service is of value in their industry.
This is incredibly simple to do, and while it may be more time consuming to set-up, you will see much better CTRs and much better conversion rates when that traffic comes to your site – even more so if your landing pages can reflect the audience too.
LinkedIn Text Ads
This seems like a really basic and dull tip, but it works.
Whilst there is nothing particularly glamorous or exciting about a LinkedIn Text Ad they can be incredibly effective in generating leads.
Simple to set up, they consist of four elements
An image: Generally your logo
A headline: 25 characters
A description: 75 characters
A landing page
There is no need for any complicated creative and therefore no need to go through the process of briefing into a designer and using their resource. You can get these set up in less than five minutes.
In setting up the ad you will also need to have created an audience; it makes sense that you craft your headline and description to reflect this audience. As I have said previously in this post, it is essential that your ad messaging is relevant to your audience, especially on social where there is so much content flying around.
Generally you will find that you get a high number of impressions and a very low CTR, however, with the LinkedIn audience targeting options, you know that this traffic will be highly relevant. In addition to this CPCs are often much cheaper on text ads when compared with other LinkedIn ad formats.
All in all, for very little effort you can set up campaigns which, in my experience, have tended to be fruitful in generating leads, and doing so at an effective cost-per-lead.
To summarise, there is so much that you can be doing with paid social in a B2B industry, but there are a few things that you definitely need to be considering:
Get your targeting right and make sure you try Lookalike Audiences
Make sure you get creative with your creatives
Tailor your ad copy to the people you are targeting
Don’t overlook the simple and dull things, they can be extremely effective
And as with all things digital, the most important thing is to test and share. There are always new features on social advertising platforms and you never know what will work until you give it a go.
Daniel Marshall is a Strategic Digital Marketing Manager with experience in international search marketing strategy across PPC, SEO, CRO, and social (paid and organic). He can be reached out on Twitter @digitallydan14.
The truth is, they might not. If you want to learn more about crawl strategy then check out our Screaming Frog Post. If you want to learn different tactical steps to keyword research then there are all kinds of Whiteboard Fridays to help with that. But if you want to stretch yourself beyond a single specialization, and grow into a more well-rounded marketer, these books can help.
Leadership is a critical part of advancing your career. It will make you a more effective communicator. It will help you get your ideas pushed through internally. It will make you a more compelling consultant.
If you’re totally content with where you are, then stop reading. But, if you’re itching to get a little more responsibility, hoping to be considered for a bigger account, or just starting to feel a little bored with your day to day, then consider picking up one of these books.
Read this book if: You think you know better than your leadership team.
More than anything, this book will help you build empathy for your managers and teach you how to more effectively communicate with them. Early in my career, I made a lot of assumptions. I had a naturally strong gut instinct and assumed that when in doubt, I could always rely on that. When I was met with a decision I didn’t understand, my first instinct was to assume whoever made the decision was wrong. Reading this book was a helpful wakeup call that there are multiple perspectives on every situation. Every decision is filled with nuance, and nothing should be taken at face value as good or bad without fully understanding it’s complexities.
Ever throw your arms up and wonder why your client did (insert crazy thing your client did)? Then yeah, you should give this book a read.
Beyond that, Ben Horowitz takes you through an eye-opening look at the early days of tech, so at the very least it’s a fun journey through the early days of the internet.
Read this book if: You often find yourself biting your tongue, unsure exactly how to verbalize what’s swirling in your head.
In an industry as widely misunderstood as SEO, you can easily make a case that this should be on every SEO’s bookshelf. Shari Harley provides a series of steps to follow that act as a cheat code for getting through any tough conversation. Have you ever had to give tough news to a client? Have you ever had to tell a team member you aren’t getting what you need from them? Ever had to explain why it’s really important for your dev team to prioritize those 301 redirects? This book will help!
I also call this book a must-read for anyone who’s managing anyone. Effective communication is arguably the greatest skillset you can sharpen if and when you find yourself with a direct report.
As a bonus, this is a really quick and tactical read.
Read this book if: You think you’re wired a certain way.
Dweck proposes that there are two attitudes: Fixed mindset and Growth mindset. Those with a fixed mindset believe they are what they are and there are some things they just can’t be (“I could never be a CEO, I’d never have the confidence to lead an entire company”). Those with a growth mindset believe that nothing is gifted or a given, and you can learn any skill set needed to get where you want to go (“If I want to become CEO I’ll need to work on my confidence.”)
Forget all of the ways this concept can help you personally, though the implications there are also endless. In the context of your role as an SEO, challenging assumptions is a critical part of being a good consultant. Think about how it can apply to your work with clients or internal teams. If you treat every “no” from your client as a challenge to get to “yes,” imagine how many doors you may open, what you may learn, and how much positive change you can affect.
This is a great read, and while it’s not overly long I did find it dense. Plan to chip away at it over time and take time to let the implications of Dweck’s research really soak in.
Ah, the breakfast factory. This book is one of my favorites of all time. The principles that Andy Grove walks through are so high impact that there is no way you can read this book as a manager and not walk away with some significant way to uplevel your approach. You could (and should!) read this book every year and walk away with a new takeaway.
That said, I would argue that even if you don’t manage a team, there are principles in this book that you can apply if you find yourself managing an SEO program. This book is all about how to get things done as efficiently and effectively as possible. Maybe that means motivating a team towards a common goal. Maybe that means thinking through the strategic bets you’ll make as part of your SEO strategy. Grove’s book can help with both!
One of the many other highlights of this book is the approach to decision making. Again, while this is a great tool for anyone managing a team of people, there are also applications to SEO. How often are we hypothesizing and analyzing data to inform a decision for our SEO strategies? All the time! Grove’s principles will help you do this more effectively.
Read this book if: You’ve seen Wil Reynolds on stage and thought wow, that guy could not be more different than me.
I’ve watched Wil in action for years and been in awe of the way he captures and carries a room. During my time as an Account Manager at Seer, I struggled with how to approach this as an introverted person much more keen to observe the room than lead it. If you’re asking a client for their money or their time, you’d better be able to do it with some degree of confidence.
Fox’s book is a master class in how to become something you thought you couldn’t be. If you’re thinking “No way, I couldn’t do that,” then go back to #3 and read that first. The truth is, by following Fox’s tactical advice, anyone can give the impression that they’re a charismatic leader. And if you’re trying to convince your client or team to invest in something really big, then you may need to flex your charisma to get it done.
Thank you to everyone who attended our webinar on finding hidden budget and funding new marketing initiatives. Kim Jones and Dan Lauder showed us how to find efficiencies in your account and make data-driven decisions…
Start with questions
Find Public Data
Join with Search Data
USE Audience Insights
Try Saving Benjamin Tool
Research Smart Bidding
Here’s the full webinar or you can check out the recap below!
If your marketing experience is anything like ours, your wish list is probably just as long as your to-do list. But there’s oftentimes not even budget to even fund these projects, right?
Turns out…you CAN fund those projects. Kim and Dan are here to show you how to find that “hidden” budget in your Ads accounts, and from there, determine how to re-allocate it back.
Find Irrelevant Spend
It’s time to stop guessing. Instead, make decisions that are based in data! To do this, use any of the below tools to pull data.
There are so many data sets out there at your disposal. To name a few…
Median income by zip code
All public schools in a region
Number of cars registered in each state
As you can tell, there’s data out there for everyone. Start taking advantage of it!
Combine Your Data
In addition to combining various data sets, you can (and should) also leverage the search data you already have access to in order to find more money to save. Some examples of tactics to identify wasted spend and find new opportunities below:
The problem is that a lot of people are scared of scripts because they involve code. Maybe because they don’t fully understand it or have never really asked deeper questions on how to leverage them for better insights. There are a ton of things you can manipulate with scripts. Budgets, bids, keywords. Today we are going to focus on one script and how to level up your display campaigns…
4 Useful scripts you should use now:
When was the last time you looked through your search query reports and actually combed through all of the queries to understand what the results look like? Probably not that often because that sounds AWFUL and too much effort.
So how can you look at organic results at scale to merge with my paid search query reports? Easy! Your first thought was probably to use a tool like STAT, SEMRush, or Ahrefs to pull down organic data, merge it with your search data, and then look for insights. Or, you could use Seer’s tool Saving Benjamin to do a lot of this work for you. Load up your search queries and it will spit out terms that are likely missing the mark for your audience which you can then negate.
So far this year, Saving Benjamin has identified over $500k in wasted spend for Seer clients. That’s a lot of money. Don’t be dumb. Start combining your data and using the Saving Ben tool that’s available on the Seer website here!
Now it’s time to leverage some smart bidding! Our recommendation is to not swing for the fences right away. And definitely, don’t try to force campaigns into your goal CPA or ROAS if it hasn’t historically performed at that level. Start small with 5 to 10% incremental changes. And more importantly, constantly iterate. Use rolling 30-day check-ins to see how you need to adjust…
This is what has worked best for Seer clients, and if you aren’t doing it this way, we recommend at least starting to test it!
More importantly, how can you be smarter with your smart bidding? How many of your accounts are tracking more than one conversion action? Probably most of you. But what’s actually driving value for your business or client? How many of these are you counting in your conversions column in Google Ads? Keep in mind that the more actions you’re counting in your conversions, the less likely smart bidding is doing a good job of driving real business value.
Always consider the overall business goals when determining the most valuable conversion actions. Don’t just assume what you’re tracking now is the best or more accurate determination of success.
The way to combat this uncertainty is to set up conversion action sets. This is a relatively new feature for Google Ads that help to eliminate a lot of the guesswork in smart bidding. Understand your business goals, create conversion actions based on these goals, and then assign those goals to your campaigns so that smart bidding optimizes specifically towards business value.
Now that you’ve found some extra spend, it’s time to look for opportunities to re-invest. The first thing that we should always think about is the audience’s needs. What do they need, what do they expect, that they aren’t currently getting? Once you’ve answered those questions, you’ll be able to strategically allocate this “extra” spend toward those areas!
To Wrap Up…
Learn more about combining data sources and finding insights using PowerBI today. Run into any questions? Hit us up! We’re more than happy to help ya out.
Advancing technology and increasing web literacy are turning a “linear” customer journey into an increasingly fragmented one. Here are four steps to creating an engagement-based conversion funnel to overcome this growing marketing challenge.
The web is changing fast creating new challenges to online businesses. Until recently, marketers were able to clearly map out the customer’s journey that would take web users from click through to a landing page to completing a sale.
These days, the buying journey is much more complicated and fragmented. Customers are equipped with many more devices and much better knowledge of their options than just a few short years ago.
Thanks to social media, various devices, and smarter digital advertising, it is no longer easy to guide the customer through the buying process. One of the well-publicized examples of the new buying behavior is one consumer’s path to buying a car that consisted of more than 900 digital interactions including searches, visits, video views, and clicks.
So how to still convert site visitors into buyers when they have so many options to consider? Here’s one strategy you can use:
Step 1: Create an engagement asset
Let’s face it: Around 90% of your current site audience is not ready to buy from you just yet.
Your site visitors may be at a research phase or they may lack trust in a new brand or they may have been looking for an entirely different solution.
Whatever the case is: We are lucky if we convert 5% of our site visitors into actual customers.
What about the 95% of the traffic that we have built?
That’s where the idea of secondary products come in – We need to engage our site visitors first before trying to sell to them again. This secondary asset needs to combine the following criteria:
It needs to be free or freemium (to make it an easy sell)
It needs to complement our primary product (to naturally lead many of these engaged users into buying it)
And more importantly, it needs to rank in Google (and hopefully generate visibility from alternative assets) to ultimately become a top-of-the-channel lead generator, not just an engagement channel. That’s where this overall asset will really pay off.
Examples of these secondary marketing assets are everywhere. Under Armour has MyFitnessPal app that funnels health-minded users into buying fitness gear. American Express has been engaging business owners with their secondary Open Forum community. In our own industry, both Ahrefs and Moz offer SEO toolbars that forever tie browser users to their sites:
The good news is, creating a secondary asset should neither be expensive nor time-consuming. Chances are, you already have assets that can be expanded into a solid product of its own.
For smaller businesses with tighter budgets, here are a couple of tools allowing you to easily and affordably create an engagement asset.
Build Fire is an easy app maker allowing you to put together mobile apps to support your marketing assets. You can use a handy visual editor to add content and design your apps and use a variety of engagement tools including push notifications and drip campaigns.
Kajabi is a solid and affordable platform that allows anyone to create online courses and landing pages with no technical knowledge required. It supports freemium and multi-tier pricing models and offers lots of engagement tools, from in-course surveys to email automation to efficiently interact with your users.
Kajabi offers many marketing automation features built into the platform, but perhaps the most useful is what the company calls “Pipelines,” which are essentially multichannel automation workflows for turning your landing pages, email drips and pitch messages into powerful funnels. In addition, Kajabi’s “Pipeline Blueprints” are pre-built pipeline templates, which you can tweak and customize for your liking, depending on the use case, whether it’s a product launch, a webinar invitation or a timely sales promotion.
Step 2: Integrate your engagement asset into your content marketing campaign
Obviously you don’t want your engagement asset to distract your site users from buying your primary users, so promoting it through your major landing pages is not a very good idea. Your content-based pages (for example, blogs) are a great place to market your engagement asset, especially if you align your content marketing assets with your engagement asset.
Hubspot is a great example of using their blog to engage, rather than to sell right away. You’ll seldom see a CTA buy their software inside their articles. Instead, they build context around their freebies and invite readers to become part of their community:
The idea is that your CTA should match the reader’s intent and hopefully tie them to your brand (either through an email optin or “by taking your brand home”, for example, installing an app or joining your community which brings longer-term commitment).
If you use my re-packaging tactic, you’ll create enough content to both create an engagement asset and write public articles to supplement it. For example, when creating a video tutorial, you can:
Expand and structure your script to create a text tutorial to publish on your blog (and funnel your blog readers into enrolling with your course)
Turn your article into a PDF document for your existing students to download (and follow along as they watch your video).
Create quick video takeaways to publish on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram to build brand awareness (as well as convince those viewers to join your course too).
Building an effective context around your engagement asset is key to getting its rank in Google and turning those readers into your site members (and ultimately brand advocates).
To help you out, here’s a trick on building an actionable context around your CTA: Text Optimizer has a separate section showing “Action concepts”.
Use these suggestions to find inspiration in writing your calls-to-action as well as creating context leading people into clicking it.
Step 3: Use artificial intelligence to market your engagement asset
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are taking the marketing industry by storm. From smart product recommendations (that guess what you need before you realize you do) to advanced chatbots that instantly and independently help your customers solve their problems – online marketing is being disrupted by smart technology.
Content marketing is no exception. You can use self-learning software to point your blog readers to your engagement asset exactly when they are ready to engage.
Alter is a smart recommendation engine that can help you set up your engagement channel. You can customize its settings to invite your site readers to become your students or download your asset. For example, you can try and engage people who spent some time reading your article:
Additionally, you can use chatbot software to suggest your engagement asset to users whenever they are asking for more information. Mobile Monkey can help set up the process:
Step 4: Use retargeting to turn engaged users into actual buyers
Finally, how to turn those engaged users into your customers, outside of your newly created engagement asset (they may have downloaded or joined). Re-targeting is your answer. You can use retargeting or the custom audience option on Facebook to serve your primary product ads to those who visited your engagement asset landing page or joined your membership site:
You can also use re-engage those engaged users on your own site with Finteza that allows to set up a retargeting campaign to serve custom ads to those who downloaded your asset or installed your app:
Conclusion: Turning your site visitors into customers
With higher competition and advancing technology, buying journeys have become much more complicated and fragmented. This article offers a way to put it somewhat under control: Engage your site users first and then turn them into customers later.
Apart from creating an alternative conversion funnel, this approach has more benefits, including building brand loyalty (those engaged users know your brand well prior to buying) and creating more marketing channels (those engagement assets can become lead generators by bringing in additional visibility from search engines and social media platforms).
Ann Smarty is the blogger and community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. She can be found on twitter @seosmarty
You’ve had this great idea. You’ve built this amazing website. And then, you want that website to attract visitors! You want to be found! What to do? How do you get started with SEO? How do you start with SEO on a brand new site? In this blog post, I’ll talk you through the 7 steps you need to take in order to get your SEO strategy up and running.
So, you’ve started your first site and you want it to be found, so you can share your thoughts and views with the world. What to do? Let’s go through the steps of starting with SEO!
Install Yoast SEO
Provided that your website is on WordPress, installing Yoast SEO should be the first step in your SEO strategy. Our Yoast SEO plugin will help you to make sure your website is crawlable and findable. Yoast SEO will immediately take care of some technical SEO issues, just by being installed on your website. Besides that, our plugin will help you to construct your website in such a way that Google will understand and rank it. We offer a free and a premium plugin. If you’re just starting out, you’ll probably won’t need our premium version yet, although it can already save you some valuable time.
Get that first link
Google needs to know your website exists. And, in order for Google to know about your awesome new site, you need at least one external link towards your site. The reason for this: Google crawls the web. It follows links and saves all the webpages it finds in a very large database called the index. So, if you want to get into that index, you need (at least) one external link. So make sure to get that link from an external website!
What do you want to rank for?
Make sure to attract the right audience to your website. Who are your customers? For whom did you build this website? What terms do your customers use when searching on Google? Find out as much as you can about your audience.
SEOs refer to this stage as doing your keyword research. This is a hard and important phase. There are a lot of helpful tools that make doing keyword research easier. Some of these tools are free, others are rather expensive. While these tools will make the difficult phase of keyword research easier, you should remember that you can’t outsource your keyword research to a tool. You really need to think about your audience and about the search terms they are using. Take your time for this phase. It is crucial. If you do your keyword research correctly, you’ll come up with a long list of keywords you want to rank for.
Set realistic goals
For a new site, it is rather hard to rank high in the beginning. Older sites already have a history, established their authority and a lot of links pointing towards them. That means that Google’s crawlers come by more often at older sites. For a new site to rank, you’ll always need to be a little patient. And remember: some search terms will be out of reach for a new site because there’s too much competition. Trying to rank for [WordPress SEO] will be rather hard for any new blog, because of some fierce competition on that term from Yoast.com.
If you’re just starting with your site, try to aim at ranking for long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are keywords that are longer and more specific and have far less competition than the popular head keywords. After a while, when your site starts to rank for the long-tail keywords, you could try and go after the more head keywords.
As I already mentioned in step 2, Google follows links. Google also follows the links on your website, your internal linking structure. It crawls through your website following the internal linking structure of your site. That structure is like a guide to Google. Make sure your internal linking structure is flawless. That’ll help with your ranking.
If you start with a brand new website, you’ll probably don’t have much content yet. This is the perfect time to think about structure. Now it is relatively easy. It’s like having a new closet and you haven’t started buying clothes. Now is the time to think about the things you want to put on the top shelf and which items you want to hide in the back of your closet. So, decide which pages are most important to you. What are the pages you want to rank with? Make sure that these pages have the most internal links pointing towards them.
In order to get ranked, you need to have content. A very important step in how to start with your SEO is to write amazing content for all these search terms you want to be found for. The content analysis in the Yoast SEO plugin will help you to write that content. Our analysis will help you to write a text that is both readable and SEO friendly.
External links are important to get your site in high positions in those search engines. But gathering those external links can be a hard process. Make sure to write content people want to share and link to. Original ideas and great, valuable content will make the chance that people would want to share that much bigger.
Of course, reaching out to people and making them aware of your awesome website and product can be a good strategy to get those external links too. Read more about a successful link building strategy or find out what link building is first.
And then what?
The truth is that SEO is more than these 7 steps. This is only the very beginning, the steps you take to start with SEO. In order to get longterm high rankings in the search engines, you need to do hard work. Your content has to be amazing, your site structure has to remain flawless (and that’s challenging when your site is growing) and you’ll have to keep earning those external links. The only way to really do that, in the long run, is to make sure that your audience enjoys visiting your website. If you want to rank the highest, make sure your site is the very best. Good luck!
We are back with SEMrush Q&A, where experts answer webinar questions. Unfortunately, our webinar guests don‘t always have the time to answer every question. So we find experts with the knowledge and experience to provide answers our community can use, and each month we will publish their responses.
Do you use Google Optimize for website testing? If so, you’ve come to the right place – we have the scoop on Google’s most recent updates to the Optimize reporting interface.
Optimize’s reporting interface has previously been a relative pain point in an otherwise strong A/B testing tool. I’ve mainly recommended for people to go directly to Google Analytics to analyze data, and I’m glad to see Google taking steps to improve the Optimize reporting interface to make it easier to understand and actionable for users to leverage.
Let’s dig into what’s changed this month.
How to Access ‘Updated Reporting’
When viewing a test in Optimize (either completed or running, it just needs to be a test with data), there is now a Try updated reporting button in the bottom right.
Toggling this button loads the new reporting experience, although you can toggle back to the old experience at any time.
Some of the exciting features that this update offers are as follows:
Split Stats: GA Observed Data vs Optimize Analysis
This is arguably the biggest update overall for reporting, and while a simple change, it’s a powerful one. For reference, let’s see how the previous interface would show these results:
No separation of GA vs. Optimize metrics, no delineation of what’s true user behavior vs. what’s going on in the background with Optimize’s tool mechanics. It’s a huge improvement for pure user understanding between the two areas.
As a reminder, you can toggle over the Modeled Conversion Rate section for the key of the boxplot design, and you can also toggle over each of the headers for definitions as well.
I like this update as it really helps users who are new to the tool to be able to understand their results clearly, and I believe that will help encourage repeat usage as well as more users acting on Optimize test results.
Data Discrepancies = Explained
A classic question that most analysts get is …
Why is GA data different than Optimize data?
The Optimize icon below now provides guidance on the differences in GA vs Optimize data. This updated reporting feature makes it easier for users to understand and explain discrepancies in data collected by platform. Which is simple, yes, but very powerful!
Take Action on Variants: Create Personalization or GA Segment
Optimize now gives you the ability to left-click on variants (3 dots to the right) and create GA segments or new personalization tests.
This update allows you to quickly jump into GA to use this information as a segment (yay for cross-tool collaboration!), while the previous process would have required you to go to the GA Dimension & Metric explorer and drill down into available Content Experiment dimensions and metrics.
Not something that newer users are likely to do, or I’d argue should even be expected to do. But even more exciting than segment usage is the personalization quick start – this allows you to create a personalization test in Optimize quickly based on this variant.
For more information on personalization read our post here, but this is a huge deal and it makes it super easy to act on personalization.
Turn on Toggling: Analyze Impact on Test vs Non-Test Conversions
Gives you the ability to toggle between non-test conversions. For example see below:
The top of the test allows you to toggle between other conversions (even those which you didn’t select for the test objective itself). This was available previously, but now being able to leverage this with the GA vs. Optimize metrics split makes it much more powerful.
Clearer Test Recommendations & Conclusions
Provides guidance on how long a test should run (at least two weeks).
Another area of Optimize that has needed some improvement is clarification on statistical significance for new users, and this aspect at the top of the test helps, with quick links for user reference.
Here are a few more examples of Updated Reporting messages:
Again, I think although this is a minor update, this is great for a new user to clearly understand what they should do next with their A/B test (that’s either active or ended).
Next Steps for Optimize Users
Definitely check out these updates on your end, and reminder that they are not permanent (at least for now), so feel free to toggle between the two views as you are looking at data.
As you are using this information, a reminder that you can utilize Google’s three-button drop-down up top to send feedback on the tool.
Wrapping it Up
In conclusion, I think these updates to reporting are definitely a step in the right direction for Google Optimize and incentivize new users to more easily understand and act on data — that’s a massive win in and of itself.
PSSSTT: Seer is an Optimize 360 reseller, so if your company is interested in exploring the enterprise version of Optimize – contact us today!