Archives 2019

Google Analytics App + Web – The New Frontier In Digital Analytics?

Written By: Catherine Blake and Michael Sherrod.

Who wouldn’t want to know how mobile app experiences lead users to engage with and convert on-site (or vice versa)?

Last week, Google announced the launch of the new App + Web property type in Google Analytics to help answer this very question! While this version is still in Beta, its goal is to solve a disconnect in digital analytics: gathering app and website data for measurement in a single place. This presents new and exciting opportunities for those who collect and analyze both app and website data.

So what does this mean for you? Let’s dive in and find out!

A New Solution for Cross-Platform Analytics

In recent years, the user journey has evolved to include more touchpoints throughout the digital marketing funnel. Mobile apps are everywhere today, generating more than $365 billion globally in 2018.

With more users interacting with brands across apps and websites, a unified picture of engagement throughout the digital ecosystem is essential for marketers. Insight into cross-platform journeys will allow us to understand the full user journey, predict customer needs and provide great brand experiences. Your business exists across platforms, so should your data.

Currently, many businesses measure app engagement with Google Analytics for Firebase (GA4F) or Google Analytics App Views, whereas website engagement is measured in default Google Analytics (GA) web views. While this goes part of the way to understanding the full digital experience, it falls short by collecting data from each platform separately, resulting in siloed data.

Enter, GA App + Web properties, a flexible tool to combine your data and discover insights unique to your business, not the platform.

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What is App + Web and How Does It Work?

App + Web is a new property type in GA that takes the best of GA4F and applies it to traditional web views. The combination allows you to measure app and website data together in Google Analytics for the first time.

This is done by sharing a single set of metrics and dimensions between data sources (app or web). If you are familiar with GA you will understand the session-centric data model used for your website’s data. App + Web properties progress past this traditional data schema by switching to a more user-centric event-based model.

Users of GA4F will recognize this structure as it works in essentially the same way. This change is an exciting prospect for GA users, who have long awaited more flexibility in reporting and analysis.

For a technical overview of how the event-based model works, check out this blog post from David Vallejo.

Out with the old: Two analytics interfaces using different measurement models.

Google Analytics App View Interface:

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Google Analytics For Firebase Interface:

In with the new: One interface, one measurement model, all of your data from web and app.

New Google Analytics App + Web Property View:

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Benefits of Using the App + Web Property

Web + App provides us with a new opportunity to understand our users, in a more complete sense.

Here are just a few cool new things you can expect:

  1. Enhanced Measurement: First off, this event-based model provides better out-of-the-box functionality allowing you to measure a diverse range of actions regardless of platform. This can include app opens, page views, downloads, and more. It automates the manual work of tagging these events without requiring any additional coding.
  2. Exploration: Analyze a bunch of variables for ad-hoc visualizations all in an easy drag-and-drop interface.
  3. Funnels: Illustrate your users’ navigation steps, and identify key entrance and drop off points. There are even options for open and closed funnels.
  4. Path Analysis: Follow your users’ actions at each step of the funnel to better understand conversion.

Some of the questions we can now begin to answer with a unified analytics property are:

  • How many total users do we have across platforms?
  • Where are the majority of conversions happening (web or app)?
  • Which channels are most effective at driving new user acquisition?
  • What does the user journey between website and app look like?

And that’s just for starters! Insights gained can provide us with a host of opportunities to optimize our digital platforms to better serve users. Read more from Google here.

How to Get Started with App + Web

To get started, go to Firebase Console to create a new project.

Follow the steps on screen and then once your project has been created, head over to Google Analytics to complete your setup.

Step 1: Create a Firebase Project

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Step 2: Configure the App + Web Property in Google Analytics

Navigate to the Admin section of your new App + Web property and select Data Streams. This new measurement model revolves around streams. A Stream is your data source and can include iOS, Android or Web applications.

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Here you will setup and configure your data stream.

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Finally, configure your tagging. Depending on whether you have GA tracking setup on your site already or not, you can choose either Add new on-page tag or Use existing on-page tag.

Follow the instructions for the implementation option that applies to you and start collecting data.

New Tag Configuration

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Existing Tag Configuration

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App + Web Property Settings

Seer Master Icons 2016 73 There are no Views in this property type. Anything you would usually configure at the View level admin will now be done in the property settings.

Data retention options of 2 or 14 months. Consult with your internal data/privacy teams to decide which makes the most sense for your business.

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Default reporting identity options of User ID and Device or Device Only.

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Measurement ID: G-xxxxxxx (acts as UA-xxxxxx-x in standard GA properties).

Current Limitations

As with any Beta, you can expect some kinks as the product evolves. Currently, App + Web properties are lacking:

  1. If you depend on Enhanced Ecommerce measurement this solution may not be right for your business (for now). Enhanced Ecommerce Measurement is not yet supported.
  2. There are no product-scoped Custom Dimensions or Metrics and no Custom Reports.
  3. There is a slight learning curve. If you’re not accustomed to Firebase, navigating around a Web + App property may throw you off at first.

Google Analytics new App and Web experience, with its new user-centric event model and new analysis capabilities is now available to all Analytics and Analytics 360 accounts in Beta.

If you already use Google Tag Manager or the global site tag for Google Analytics setup is a straightforward process. There’s no re-tagging required for your website. App data can be included through the Firebase SDK implemented in your app.

While still in its infancy, this new model for combining data from app and website in one place, with on data schema is a welcome addition to the analytics industry.

We are excited to take the plunge into unified data reporting and analysis as the capabilities of App + Web evolve. Got questions about analytics? Reach out – we’re here to help!

How to Become an SEO Expert: The Definitive Guide

Work On Your Own Website

This is how I got started with SEO.

And it’s how I recommend most people step up their SEO game.

Here’s why:

When you run your own website, you can make changes FAST.

No need to ping your boss on Slack to see if it’s OK to change a title tag.

No need to email your client’s web designer to add an image to a page.

See something that needs to be changed. Change it. See the results.

The cycle of test→learn→improve moves 10x faster with your own property than with someone else’s website.

Plus, when you work on your own stuff you get to see the 100+ of factors that go into a successful website (beyond straight-up SEO). Stuff like design, copywriting, list building, social media and outreach.

In other words, running your own site helps you become a well-rounded “T-Shaped Marketer”.

The t-shaped web marketer

For example, Jerryll Noorden applied what he learned from his time as a former NASA scientist to SEO.

Which helped him take his side hustle into a highly profitable real estate business.

Jerryll Noorden – We Buy Houses In Connecticut – Homepage

Here’s how Jeryll described this experience shaped his approach to SEO today.

And Jerryll isn’t alone. A few years back, Maaike de Boer’s daughter was struggling with math at school.

And when Maaike looked for resources to help her daughter, she came up empty.

That’s when Maaike decided to launch a website that now gets 200k visits per month.

Wijzer over de Basisschool – Google Analytics

(Which is even more impressive if you consider that Norway only has about 17 million people).

How did Maaike get so good at SEO? She learned as much as she could about SEO (from blog posts, online courses and SEO conferences). Then, she applied what she learned to her website.

And this fast process made Maaike go from SEO newbie to SEO expert in record time.

Or as Maaike told me:

That said, running your own website isn’t the only way to learn SEO. You can also…

Boolean search for social media monitoring: What to track, how to track, and why


If you have any experience with social media monitoring platforms, you know that getting precise results may be tricky at times: Apps can show a lot of noise for brands with common names or, quite the contrary, miss some valuable data behind due to the restrictive filters.

That’s when Boolean search fits in perfectly.

Boolean search definition

In a broad sense, a Boolean search is a type of search that combines terms with operators. It’s used in social listening tools, search engines, and other apps. It lets you find precisely what you’re searching for, and exclude what you’re not. I have to mention that not all social listening tools provide Boolean capabilities, but some platforms such as Awario, SproutSocial, or Google Alerts do let you test it before starting your subscription.

Dealing with those Boolean queries may look intimidating at first if you aren’t familiar with programming. But the good news is that first of all, not everyone needs Boolean: If you’re monitoring unique keywords, you’ll be alright with a regular search mode. And secondly, mastering the basics of creating Boolean queries doesn’t require any technical background at all.

Boolean terms explained

Before creating your first query, you should get comfortable with major Boolean operators, such as “AND”, “OR”, “AND NOT” (which is sometimes used as “NOT” or just “-”).


This one narrows your search to find results of both keywords or groups of keywords within one post, so the query like “Prince William” AND “Duchess Kate” will show us results where both names are mentioned:

example of using the AND boolean to find keywords or groups of keywords


OR broadens the search to find results where any term is mentioned. This can be good for misspellings, typos, and alternatives of the same term. For example “Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge” OR “Duchess Kate” will show mentions with any version of her name:

example of using OR boolean to search misspellings, typos, and alternatives of the same term


AND NOT lets you exclude terms you don’t want to appear in your search results. If you don’t want to get mentions about Prince William’s 37th birthday, (“Prince William” AND NOT birthday) will help you get relevant mentions:

The list of Boolean operators and their logic varies on different tools: some of them, such as Google Alerts, has a pretty basic set (which is enough in most cases though) which includes “OR”, “-”, “site”, quotation marks, and an asterisk. Others, like Brandwatch, offer advanced operators, such as “NEAR/n”, “raw”, “country”, and more.

Where and how to use Boolean?

Boolean search is applicable in multiple scenarios, but I’d love to focus more on the cases where this mode is indispensable. So below you can find the cases when a few lines of code can save you tons of time on cutting through the noise.

Save time on inputting all brand name alternatives

This is a time-saving tactic that lets you create a query using just a few lines of code instead of entering all possible brand name alternatives. Works best for three-word names or more.

Let’s say there’s a brand that’s called C.S. Johnson & Sons. This brand name can be spelled in a number of ways:

using Boolean to create a query using just a few lines of code

But if you have access to Boolean search, you can create the following query:

example of creating a Boolean search query

Gain control over acronyms or brands with common names

As in the previous case, you can apply the power of grouping words for searching brands with common or ambiguous names. And there are two ways of treating those cases.

First of all, you can exclude irrelevant results by adding a group of negative keywords, which are terms you don’t want to be used in your results:

example of gaining control over acronyms and brand names by adding a group of negative keywords

Secondly, you can add some terms to be used with the brand name to ensure you find results that matter to your business.

example of adding common terms to brand names for boolean search

On the screenshot above, at the top, you can find a social media handle and a website that will bring relevant results per se. They’re followed by the brand name that can be used in multiple cases, but we narrow it down to the relevant case only.

And finally, sometimes it makes perfect sense to use both “AND” and “AND NOT” operators:

example of using AND” and “AND NOT” operators for boolean search

This query shows only relevant results since the whole query is supported by negative terms.

Find linkless pages for link-building purposes

Boolean search lets you easily create queries that contain only mentions of a particular brand or industry and don’t have links to this brand. It works best for news articles and other web pages, so note that you’ll need a tool that monitors those sources as well:

This query will deliver all webpages that mention JIRA on the web and don’t have links to their website. So our job here is to reach out to website owners to turn those pages into backlinks.

Monitor mentions from specific regions

This technique is useful for international companies. You can set up an alert that will deliver relevant mentions to a person in charge of the company unit from a particular geographical area.

You can use the country operator to limit the search to a specific location that’s provided by social networks. And in addition to that, you can create another group of keywords that will provide search results for your keywords with location names. This way, the tool will cover mentions where people use the names of relevant locations in the text of a post.

The example above searches for mentions posted in the US as well as all the mentions where location keywords are used within a post.

Uncover dissatisfied customers

This one is great for crisis managers in a company. Boolean search lets you create queries that search for posts containing problematic terms.

To use this, you’ll need the proximity operator near/n that will let you specify the maximum distance between the name of a company and a word or phrase typically used to complain about something online:

Generate new leads

The other case where Boolean search comes in handy is lead generation. To set up a search, you’ll need to come up with a few phrases that people typically use to ask about services online, such as “I’m looking for”, “I need”, “recommend me”, and similar search queries.

By using the near/n proximity operator, you can define the distance of those phrases from your target keywords:

This query will monitor social platforms for all new posts where people search for web designers. All you need to do is interact with those posts internally from the tool (if it has the capability to do so) or externally from a social media platform.

Check texts for plagiarism

And the last one I’d like to tell you about is checking texts for copyright infringement. All you need to do is add a few pieces of content to the alert (don’t forget to quote it to search for the exact match).

example of using Boolean search to check for plagiarized content

The app will search for matches of those pieces on social media platforms and the web and notify you each time someone’s taking advantage of your work without permission.

Final words

Using Boolean for social media monitoring is a great way to cut through countless mentions to find those gems that let you understand your audience better and reach your social media marketing goals.

So when you shop for a social media monitoring tool, make sure it’s equipped with a Boolean search mode.

Aleh is the Founder and CMO at SEO PowerSuite and Awario. He can be found on Twitter at @ab80.

The post Boolean search for social media monitoring: What to track, how to track, and why appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Marketing your blog: 6 tips to grow your audience

If you’re writing posts for your blog, you want an audience. Nobody wants to perform in an empty room! Ranking high in search engines by doing your SEO flawlessly will, of course, help. But you can do more! In this post, I’ll give you lots of blog marketing tips to make sure your audience will grow and will keep on growing!

Tip 1: Start with a mission

Marketing has to do with increasing the number of people who know and like your company, your products, your brand. To be successful at marketing, you should always choose marketing strategies that fit the mission of your website. And to do that, of course, you need to properly define your site’s mission! Once you know your mission and what makes your company or your website unique, make sure it’s always reflected in the content of your marketing.

Example: Yoast’s mission and marketing

The mission of Yoast is (in a nutshell) to help people optimize their website. To fulfill that mission, we offer free and premium products, as well as courses. We use several channels to reach out to our audience, such as our blog, our newsletter, and social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. We make sure that the things we share fit our mission and our brand. That does not mean that every post we write is about optimizing websites. As part of our branding, we also share posts on and photos of, for example, events we attend and our office life, especially on Facebook.

Tip 2: Choose marketing that fits your brand

Marketing should also fit your brand. Branding is the way you want to present your company to the world, visually or in the way you communicate. It could even be in the way you make your products. Perhaps you want your brand to be hip and young. Maybe you’d rather come across as traditional and solid. It’s up to you- just make sure you’re consistent. Branding is a matter of personal taste, and most importantly, branding should reflect your mission.

Read more: Where your branding meets your keyword strategy »

Tip 3: Get to know your audience

An important step in marketing is to find out what your audience looks like. Who are my visitors? Where are they from? How do they currently engage with my blog posts? In order to answer these questions, there are different kinds of research you can do. Google Analytics could give you some great insights. And, how about conducting a survey? Once you have a clear view of what your audience looks like, it’s much easier to reach them on (for instance) social media.

Tip 4: Think about new audiences!

Now that you have some idea of your current audience; does it consist of the people you want to reach? How could you expand it? Have you considered all potential audiences you could reach with site?

If you think about your audience, it’ll be easier to find growth potential. For example, it could well be that your current audience is very small, but consists of exactly the kind of people you want to have on your website. Your growth question would then be: where do I find more of these people? It could also be that your current audience and your desired audience are somewhat different. Your growth question would then be: where do I find my new audience?

Tip 5: Find the right platforms

Having a clear vision of the people you want to reach is important for the next marketing steps you’ll take. Usually, trying to reach an audience of hip teenagers on Facebook is simply not a good marketing strategy. Nor is trying to reach an audience of older retirees on Instagram. Both the content of your posts, as well as the social media channel you choose should be finetuned on the audience you want to reach.

In addition to focusing on social media, consider sending out a newsletter. That’s a great way to stay in touch with your readers and regularly send them on-brand content, so you’ll stay top of mind. You may not get everyone from your audience to subscribe, but those who do will be highly engaged.

And, perhaps you have the option to reach out to a blog in a similar niche to yours and offer a guest post? This could be a great opportunity to both reach a larger audience and work on your network at the same time. Don’t go around sending low-quality guest posts to every random blog you can find – that’s not a good marketing strategy and won’t do you any good. But if you can write a great post for another blog that’s reaching a (bigger) audience that you’d also like to reach, go for it!

Tip 6: Advertising

If you have a budget, you could also decide to put ads on, for instance, Facebook or Google to promote your blog. Facebook offers the option to boost your post, making sure it’ll get more exposure.

Facebook actually allows you to really focus on the demographic you would like to reach with settings for age group, location and interests, making it quite easy to target your desired audience.

Conclusion on blog marketing

Devising a blog marketing strategy to roll out alongside your SEO strategy helps grow the audience of your blog. So, get to know your company and your audience! Mind you, growth does not equal more money. If you want to make money with your blog, there’s a whole lot of different things you could do. But marketing your blog with these tips will definitely help you find your voice and an audience that’s eager to hear what you have to say!

Keep reading: Blogging: the ultimate guide »

The post Marketing your blog: 6 tips to grow your audience appeared first on Yoast.

110: A Candid Conversation w/Barry Schwartz on His Story, Productivity, Core Updates & More

Today’s episode I think is an important one for anyone who’s a part of, or interested in, the SEO industry. Whether you’re an actual practitioner, maybe newer to the space, or just following along and love SEO – you’ll probably get something out of this discussion.

I wanted to talk with Barry and get more details around things a lot of people are curious about…

For one, he’s known for being very prolific, publishing up to 5+ articles per day, following the SEO news, sharing things via Twitter, engaging with the community … AND running a company full time (that has nothing to do with SEO).

And I wanted to get his take on the state of Google right and now, and where things might be going. Barry is often the one reporting news — but I wanted to give him the spotlight and learn more about someone who is truly invaluable in this industry.

Some of the many things covered:

  • Barry reacts to his very first blog post from 2005!
  • Why Barry started blogging to begin with
  • How Barry got a Wiki page
  • His thoughts on Danny Sullivan’s role at Google
  • The best way to send Barry SEO news tips
  • Does Google give Barry info “off the record”?
  • The recent Google Core updates
  • Zombie Clicks (?)

And more – enjoy!

Related Episodes You Might Like

  • (Coming very soon!)

Show Agenda and Timestamps

  • (Coming very soon!)

Tools Mentioned

  • (Coming very soon!)

Articles, Resources, and Links Mentioned

  • (Coming very soon!)

Find Barry Online

The post 110: A Candid Conversation w/Barry Schwartz on His Story, Productivity, Core Updates & More appeared first on Evolving SEO.

How to Outrun Competitors That Have Spammy Link Profiles But Rank Better Than You

Outranking your competition can be very difficult, especially if your website is rather new. What’s even more frustrating is when you can’t outrank competitors which have spammy backlink profiles. Why doesn’t Google penalize them? Why does it rank you lower than them in the Google search results, even though you play the game by the book?


Google’s algorithm has evolved a lot over the years. The main purpose of the improvements was to be able to better distinguish natural links from artificially generated links. Unfortunately, although big advancements have been made, top ranking websites with clean link profiles aren’t always the case.


It probably happened to you (or to someone you know) to run a business in compliance with all Google’s guidelines when it comes to  link building but, at the end of the day, to be dethroned by other sites from the industry with spammy link profiles. So, why is this happening? Let’s find out! 


Why do competitors with spammy links rank better?


  1. Why Do Sites With Spammy Link Profiles Still Rank Well?
    1. They Built Those Links Long Time Ago
    2. They Didn’t Build Those Links (Negative SEO Attack)
    3. They’re Still the Best Site Out There
    4. Google Hasn’t Caught Them… Yet
    5. One Example to Prove Them All
  2. Why You Should NOT Build Spammy Links as Well
  3. Google Penguin 4.0 Update & the Disavow Tool
  4. How to Submit a Spam Report
  5. How to Outrank Competitors That Have Spammy Link Profiles
    1. Focus More on OnPage & Technical SEO Factors
    2. Really Step up Your Content Game
    3. Look for Other Keywords to Target
    4. Invest in Advertising
    5. Improve Social Media
    6. Get Inspired from Your Competitor’s Good Links


If you think I’m going to say that you can still improve your rankings using BlackHat SEO link building tactics in 2019, you’re wrong. But while some complain about their websites being penalized, others have a completely different issue:


“My competitors have spammy links but still rank better than me.”


Then, almost every time, the following question follows:


“What should I do in this case?”


There’s even an old Reddit thread about this:


reddit thread


If you’ve been struggling with this issue for a while, then you’ve landed on the right page.


The short answer to this question is that a spammy link profile doesn’t necessarily mean a website shouldn’t rank well. You see, Google’s (and other search engines) main purpose is to return the best search results for the users, not the search results with the best link profile. There are hundreds of other factors that are taken into consideration by Google when it ranks a website, and although links are still one of the top 3 most important ones, they aren’t everything.


Google has shown signs of steering away from links. Although links can’t completely be removed from the equation (at least not very soon), other factors, like user interaction, for example, have shown a lot of prominence recently.


If the top competitors have spammy backlinks but are still ranking good, well, my friend, then the truth is you’ve gotten yourself into a very competitive niche.


However, there’s still hope. But it’s not going to be easy, nor is it going to be cheap (is anything easy and cheap in digital marketing?). Before we dig into the tips and tricks, let’s better understand what Google has done against link spam over the years, and why.



Why Do Sites With Spammy Link Profiles Still Rank Well?


Ok, so if Google tries so hard to get spammers down, how come some webmasters with such obvious shady link profiles are still ranking well with their websites?

John Mueller from Google tells us that we don’t really know if they got away with it or not.



However, this often sounds unfair, as those websites clearly have spammy link profiles, but are ranking very well.


There could be a thousand reasons why this is happening, but I’ll try to provide some clearance with what I think is happening.


They Built Those Links Long Time Ago


Back in 2012, the BlackHat industry was thriving. ScrapeBox, GSA, Comment Spamming, Private Blog Networks, you name it. It worked. And people got hooked.


BlackHat SEO services were expensive because they could also be very profitable. Even big brands got into them as well.


The ones who suffered most were innocent business owners that had no idea about this. They just signed contracts with SEO agencies to get their websites higher on Google.


As the word spread, more and more shady things started to happen. It wasn’t a time when search engines provided the best results. And Google didn’t like that, so it took action against it.


Many of them lost their rankings forever. Some eventually recovered, through complex actions of improvement and link disavowing.


But some got away with it, and they’re probably still ranking today. Since the algorithm is now supposed to be real time and to ignore spammy links, this kind of makes sense.


link building done in 2012


It doesn’t mean they are bad websites or that they still use BlackHat SEO strategies. It could just be that they got away with it. They were lucky.


They Didn’t Build Those Links (Negative SEO Attack)


Sometimes, instead of working on their own websites, people prefer to ‘work’ other websites out, by trying to attract Google penalties to them. These techniques are called Negative SEO Attacks.


In theory, the process is pretty simple: do BlackHat SEO to another website until Google gives it a penalty. When they drop, you replace the spot.


negative seo attack example

Example showing a negative SEO attack happening on Jellyfish’s website


When you look at a website and see a lot of spammy links, you might say they’re cheating. But although you can analyze a site’s link profile, you have no idea if they disavowed those links or not.


The Google Disavow tool is really useful, but it’s also one of the smartest moves Google made for improving their algorithm.


Because they feared the penalty, many webmasters started submitting their spammy links through the disavow tool.


Sure, it could help you not get penalized, but yet again, it could do nothing. Some even lose rankings after they start disavowing links.


What the disavow tool might actually do is that it feeds Google thousands of patterns of spammy links. So Google gets smarter and smarter every day. Smart, eh?


Negative SEO attack patterns are anyway different from shady link building patterns. You might think that’s not the case, but the truth is when people are doing black-hat SEO for themselves, they’re very cautious and try to stay under the radar. On the other side, when they’re framing someone else, they’re too obvious.


That’s the big downside of negative search engine optimization. If you make it obvious, Google will know it’s a negative SEO attack, but if you don’t make it obvious enough, who knows, your competitor might never get caught and the spam might actually help him rank.


So although you can see your competitor’s backlinks are reall spammy, you can’t know for sure how Google sees the situation.


They’re Still the Best Site Out There


As I said, a spammy link profile doesn’t mean a site shouldn’t be first on Google. This usually happens when all the other sites also have a spammy link profile.


Google can’t penalize all the websites if they’re all breaking the rules because it wouldn’t have any search results left to return.


If the top website has been there for years, providing value and good services to its customers, Google will reward it by keeping it there, even though maybe it knows they’re breaking the rules.


Google Hasn’t Caught Them… Yet


Asking why Google doesn’t penalize all the spammers is like asking why doesn’t the police bust all drug dealers. It’s just too many of them, and it’s impossible for Google to catch them all right away. But it probably will, eventually…


Spamming is still profitable because it works. If you manage to spam under the radar, you might cash in some quick profits. But the frustration of constantly being on the run isn’t a nice feeling.


If you haven’t done it yet, go ahead and read The Confessions of a Google Spammer on InBound. Once Google finds you, it’s over. And they have to start all over again from scratch.


obvious google spammer


Although I want to say that Google will eventually catch everyone… the reality of life is that sometimes bad guys win.


One Example to Prove Them All


At first, I tried looking for a lot of examples, but without much success. I tried searching the wedding niche, the flowers niche, but time and time the top ranking websites were actually legit in terms of link building.


But then I thought to myself… why not payday loans?


I mean… if there’s a niche there that’s been spammy as hell since forever, it’s definitely this one. Google even has an algorithmic update named after it. And lucky me, I hit the Jackpot (although I couldn’t personally access all the websites; but this could be due to my location).


So I took a couple of sites from the top and one from the second page (United States/British) and used cognitiveSEO to classify the anchor texts and run the Unnatural Link Detection Tool.


The results were promising. The big majority of the links are definitely unnatural.


speedycash payday loans unnatural links profile

Snippet from the Unnatural Link Detection tool showing a top ranking website (


Another website from a lower set of results shows similar patterns:


cashone payday loans unnatural link profiles

Snippet from the Unnatural Link Detection tool showing a competing website from the second page (


However, I can easily back up my points made earlier in the article with this example.


Point no. 1: The sites have been in business for a long time.


You can easily check when websites were registered. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they were in business since that date, but it’s a decent indicator.


These websites were registered over 15 years ago. If the company was doing business back then as well, it’s probably a very legit business with a lot of experience.


Old domains with spammy links

Screenshot taken from


Point no. 2: The links were made a long time ago.


By checking the link velocity section, we can quickly spot that these websites built links some time ago, but aren’t doing it right now.


unnatural links link velocity example’s link velocity; screenshot taken from the cognitiveSEO tool

link velocity example’s link velocity;  screenshot taken from the cognitiveSEO tool


The top website seems to be actively building links, but the spike just before 2012 is definitely a lot bigger than the ones happening right now.


link velocity example’s link velocity;  screenshot taken from the cognitiveSEO tool


Point no. 3: These websites are still offering good services.


Although they still look spammy design-wise, one of the websites has over 2,000 reviews on TrustPilot, showing an average grade of 9.1. They could be fake reviews, of course, but yet again, they could not be. I think TrustPilot are doing their best to keep things real.


good trustpilot reviews for a spammy link site


Sure, I didn’t analyze one thousand sites, but I hope I made my point. Chances are that most websites in this niche have a significant amount of unnatural links in their link profiles.


Why You Should NOT Build Spammy Links as Well


I know it’s tempting. I know how you feel. You’ve probably tried everything and they still rank better. But unless you’re trying to go for a hit and run niche site, no. It’s too risky.


Old sites that did BlackHat stuff in the past might still be ranking well in the Google search results, but new sites doing shady stuff attract a lot more attention. You might get penalized right from the start, losing your chance to ever rank for that keyword.


Although building a million spammy links might look easy, it’s not. It takes a lot of effort and the learning curve is quite steep. It’s also not cheap. You’ll need advanced tools and thousands of proxies to cover your ass up.


If you want to beat a BlackHat site the WhiteHat way, then it’s not going to be easy. But the advantage is that you don’t risk anything, and what you build, you build on the long-term.


Your time is far way spent on other things, such as quality content, improving user experience and relationship building. Instead of pointing our fingers at someone else, we should be taking a look at our own actions, and see how we could improve those.


Google Penguin 4.0 Update & the Disavow Tool


If you’ve heard about the Penguin Update, then you probably know it’s triggered by spammy links. Although it’s not the only algorithm that penalizes websites with spammy link profiles, it’s definitely the one that took the most spammers down. If you’re planning on some shady link building, then you should look out for flappy walks and orange beaks.


The problem with the first three Penguin algorithm updates was that although they got better, they were still pretty slow. Google used to gather information over a longer period of time (about 2-3 months) and then roll out a patch that would suddenly impact thousands of websites that broke the rules.


As of the latest version, Google’s spammy link tracking is now happening in real time. With the Penguin 4.0 update, Google ignores spammy links or penalizes single pages instead of penalizing entire websites.


This doesn’t mean that websites can’t be penalized anymore. Plenty of users still admit having suffered from Google penalties that affected their entire websites.


Some experts, such as Rand Fishkin, speculate that Google used this slow mass penalty process to create a fear factor that will determine webmasters to submit their spammy link profiles through the Disavow Tool.


This tool, launched in 2012, some months after the first Penguin update, enabled users to submit links that they wanted to be ignored by Google. People thought that if they submitted their links sooner, they could avoid a possible Google penalty. Google then supposedly fed the Disavow Tool database to the algorithm and used this to create a real-time version of Penguin, one that better understands link spamming patterns.


The Disavow Tool also somewhat protects webmasters against negative SEO attacks. If someone built some spammy links to your site you could start disavowing them. However, Google had previously stated that the Disavow Tool isn’t a replacement for removing links and that no reconsideration action will be taken unless users also try to remove some of those links.


If you disavow links Google says you still have to try and remove them from the internet


Good ol’ Google! Never fails to surprise you with its tricks, right?


However, the truth is that using the disavow tool can help you recover from a Google penalty. If you’re ever in that situation, it’s worth a try.



How to Submit a Spam Report


Although you can do this, I wouldn’t recommend rushing in. It’s not exactly the same, submitting a spam report does resemble a negative SEO attack because while you could try to outrank your competitor by gaining positions yourself, you’re trying to pull him down instead.


Think about the things I mentioned earlier:


What if your competitor just hired a company to do search engine optimization and he has no idea, although he’d probably be against it if he knew? 


In addition, if you have some shady links yourself, or share some of the backlinks with your competitor, submitting a spam report might attract Google’s attention to your website as well. You’ll see why in a minute.


Instead of blowing into some other person’s candles, try to make your own candle burn brighter. The truth is, if you had started doing SEO 5 years ago, you’d be ranking now.


However, if you see a website that tries to steal information from clients and or is involved in any illegal activities ranking on top, then you should definitely submit a spam report, as soon as possible.


In theory, Google employees should manually review these websites and decide if to apply a penalty or not. Any phishing or malware attempts will surely be banned.


There are more types of spam reports. Some of the more… dangerous ones, let’s say, anyone can file. This includes Malware, Phishing or Copyright related issues.


how to file a spam report to Google

The rest of them, on the other side, will require a search console account (former Webmaster Tools). This means that Google will know exactly who is filing the report. If you ever did some shady things yourself, you should keep this in mind.


Of course, you could just set up a fake account to set a report, but Google will probably ignore those, otherwise an account wouldn’t be required in the first place.


How to Outrank Competitors With Spammy Link Profiles


Even though things aren’t in your favor, you should not give up. There are still things you can do to outrank these types of competitors.


Actually, the journey is one of the things that makes SEO so interesting: figuring out those things you haven’t thought of before; making a move that provides results; doing it without cheating.


Outranking a BlackHat SEO feels like gaining more money and power than the Godfather by selling lollipops.


Focus More on OnPage  and Technical SEO Factors


I know this might only sound motivational, but you should shift your focus from links to on-page factors. When people say they’ve tried everything, I still have a feeling they were only talking about link building.


That’s what usually happens when spammy link envy kicks in: you forget about all the other things, like making your website faster, securing the connection with an SSL and improving the overall user experience.


Here’s what you should be asking yourself:


Am I really offering the users a good experience?


One of the hardest things entrepreneurs have to do is jump into their customers’ minds. It’s hard to really see their frustrations and come up with good solutions to solve them. You might’ve heard the phrase “Customers don’t know what they want.” Well, that’s true and it’s exactly the issue! They don’t know what they want so they won’t buy. At least, not until you offer a good solution to the problem.


If you really want to understand the buyer, just go buy something. You’ll instantly shift into the buyer’s mindset. And that’s exactly what you should analyze for your site if you really want to find solutions and make more sales.


What’s your conversion rate? Is it satisfying? Where do your users click most of the time? Is it easy for them to understand what’s clickable and what’s not? Are you offering a live support chat? Are they wasting time looking for something? Maybe you should bring it more to the front.


Am I really trying to solve their problems?


Many websites out there don’t try to solve a problem. They’re just in because they heard you can make some money online. As long as you’re not focused at all on solving a user’s problem, you can’t really improve your website.


Is the content really answering their questions? Does it resonate with who they are? Figure it out before you put another word on your pages.


Is my website better than theirs?


The website must be prettier, faster and easier to use.


However, I’m not talking only about design and website performance . There are a lot of other variables which actually come from outside the website:


Is your brand known at all compared to your competitor’s? Could you really handle all the orders without an issue? How’s your social media engagement compared to theirs?


Really step up your content game


Everyone knows that content is King. But an inconsistent King can quickly lose his throne. 


Consistency has proven itself time after time in the content marketing and SEO industry. We’ve experienced this ourselves here, at cognitiveSEO. That being said, get yourself an editorial schedule ready, and stick to it.


It doesn’t really matter how much you post. Obviously, the more, the better. But what really matters is that you post on a daily/weekly/monthly basis.


Remember that with quantity, you risk losing quality. To be able to post more often and keep the quality of your content, you’ll have to expand your writing department.


Think of innovating things in your niche. Analyze your competitors’ content and try to find the content gaps. Set personas for your targeted audience and really dig into it.


One thing I often recommend to websites, especially if it’s an eCommerce site, is to start blog posting. This can help a lot with building the authority of the domain, as articles and blog posts get shares and backlinks much easier than products. You’ll need a good content marketer for that. Some niches have a hard time coming up with interesting content.


Here are some next level tips on how to expand your content strategy, even in a really boring niche. It’s not a short video, but it’s worth watching.



The secret here is finding those questions and objections your clients have that your competitors don’t answer, and answer them! Any gap in the niche that the competition hasn’t filled yet is a great opportunity for you to improve your website.


Another great thing to do is update your content regularly with new information. You always learn new things about different topics. If you think you have new information you can add to an existing article, never hesitate to do it!


A great way to improve your content marketing strategies is using the cognitiveSEO Keyword Tool & Content Assistant. This set of SEO tools works by analyzing all the pages that rank for that keyword and providing keywords that you should add in order to make your article more relevant.


increase your content's relevancy by using the cognitiveSEO tool


Don’t just bulk keywords in. Think of them as topics you haven’t covered before. Add them to relevant places and always keep the end user in mind. If it doesn’t make any sense for the reader, don’t add the keyword at all.


We’ve optimized our own content recently and the results were promising, providing a 70% increase in SEO visibility.


Look for other keywords to target


Keyword research is really important if you want to do well in SEO. Sometimes, if you can’t outrank your competitors on Google, you can try to target keywords that are less competitive.


Maybe the ones you are targeting right now are not the most relevant for your website and users. Maybe the keyword difficulty is too high for your website’s authority.


You can try targeting some longtail keywords instead. As you grow, your site will get stronger and will be able to target more competitive keywords.


Many times, people get stuck trying to rank for that one great keyword. Sure, high search volume keywords are nice, but there are other keywords out there.


Your spammy competitor can’t be ranking on all of them.


Don’t waste too much time trying to rank on a single keyword, or you’ll end up overoptimizing and doing yourself harm. You’ll also waste a lot of time and lose opportunities to rank hundreds of other keywords.


The cognitiveSEO Keyword Tool can provide you with some new keyword ideas that you can start targeting. The ones with more stars are more relevant to your primary searched keyword.


targeting new keywords to beat spammy link competitors

Snippet from the cognitiveSEO Keyword Tool


Another interesting trick you can do is to use the Site Explorer to find the Top 10-20 ranking keywords for a website. Not so useful if you use it on your own site, but if used on a competitor’s website, you can get new insights you probably haven’t thought of before.


how to find your competitor's top ranking keywords

Snippet from cognitiveSEO’s Site Explorer showing a website’s top ranking keywords


Another good way is to simply use the basic Google Keyword Planner. However, to get more accurate keyword statistics, you’ll need to spend some money on advertising, using Google Adwords.


Speaking of Google AdWords…


Invest in Advertising


If you’re not moving, you’re staying put. That’s exactly what you’re doing if you’re obsessing over a competitor’s backlink profile.


If you can’t outrank them and get enough traffic from SEO strategies alone, then you might need to invest in advertising. You can advertise either with Google Ads or on Social Media.


And did you know that there are ads that help you rank better on Google? Yes, it’s called buying links.


You can buy links without breaking any of Google’s guidelines by simply nofollowing the links. The secret is to make them site-wide and make it obvious it’s an ad.


Countless examples prove that nofollow links still provide SEO value. The best thing about it? You can actually use your target keywords in the anchor text!


If you think it works for you, you might even try using some press releases. Just make sure they are from reputable news sites.


Make sure you also strengthen your brand if you have enough budget to advertise. Maybe place an image ad as well using your brand logo near the link. Smart ads also have the chance of getting viral, especially in the video field.


Invest in it the white-hat way, and nofollow those links!


Improve your social media campaign


Although social media has been going down as a referral source (and Google has been climbing), it’s still a good idea to invest your time into building a social following. People spend a lot more time on social media than they spend on Google, and you need to be there.


Your competitors might spend a lot of time building shady links, but they might suck at social media. We don’t know for sure if social signals are a direct Google ranking factor or not, but they can have an impact on organic traffic, which can lead up to more natural links (a real ranking factor).


Maybe your competitor isn’t doing anything interesting on Facebook. You could, for example, bring something new by building yourself a chatbot. Chatbot marketing works well because the open rates for the messages are really high (up to 90%).


Get inspired from your competitor’s good links


The only time you should spend on analyzing the competitor’s links is if you want to spot opportunities for yourself.


Spending too much time on a competitor’s backlinks profile is a waste. You could instead spend that valuable time to figure out new issues on your website and fix those.


The reality is that not all the links on a spammy profile are bad.


Links usually cause higher rankings, but it can also be the other way around. As websites start ranking, they get more organic traffic which can lead to more links being created, as people discover and share your content around. And those are strong, natural links.


If a site has been ranking #1 for a long time, I bet there are some natural links in their profile as well.


You can dig for those natural links and try to replicate them. This, of course, if you have a better website. Nobody will link to you if they don’t find the website and the info on it useful.


You can use the cognitiveSEO’s Unnatural Link Detection Tool to spot this kind of opportunities. Just run the backlink analysis, identify the good links and try to build them or earn them by contacting the owners.


natural links navigator cognitiveSEO

Access the natural link navigator by clicking on the green bar

steal your competitor's natural links

Steal your competitor’s natural links


However, your primary focus shouldn’t be on link building. Stealing your competitor’s links is a great link building strategy, but earning them naturally is an even better one. If you start improving all the things mentioned above, links will start coming on their own.




Outranking your competition isn’t an easy job, but it’s often something that needs to be done in the digital marketing world. Shifting your focus from building links to improving other things about your website (such as OnPage SEO and the conversion rate) can make the process less frustrating and a lot more effective.


Make your website better by adding more relevant content and by analyzing and improving the overall user experience. Try to gain a little traction from other sources of traffic, such as Google Ads or Social Media. Work on your conversion rate optimization and keep your customers happy.


Try to fill any gaps you can spot in the niche that your competition isn’t yet taking advantage of, and most of all, try to have a better site than they do, not just a better ranking one.


As Rand Fishkin once said, “F@%# Link Building!”  Start link earning.


The post How to Outrun Competitors That Have Spammy Link Profiles But Rank Better Than You appeared first on SEO Blog | cognitiveSEO Blog on SEO Tactics & Strategies.

Four tools your business needs for better metric reporting

Technology has helped businesses in endless ways. But one of the most important benefits it offers to companies is the ability to monitor and measure success, and sequentially, plan for the future.

In the past, reporting on important metrics was a rather tricky and time-consuming task that required lots of work and careful calculations. Thanks to modern business technology and advances like AI and machine learning, it is now easier than ever to gather these data points and gauge progress.

However, this rapid advancement has led to a whole new set of problems. Although technology has made it easier to collect data, it has left us with an overwhelming amount of information, making it quite difficult to pinpoint what exactly is relevant.

Of course, the only way to determine success in any business matter is by first setting goals.

  • What is most important to your business?
  • Do you only care about the bottom line and increasing conversions?
  • What are the components needed to make this happen – such as generating more leads and website traffic or cutting internal costs by boosting productivity?

No matter what your ultimate business goals are, the key to strategizing properly is understanding where you currently stand and how to make improvements. This can only be done with precise metric measurements and reporting.

Here are four tools that can help your company measure these important metrics easily and accurately.

1. Traffic analytics for audience identification

The only way that any marketing/promotional strategy will ever be successful is by connecting with a relevant audience. If you have no idea who you are trying to reach or have an inaccurate description of your target customers, then there is no way your methods will reach their fullest potential.

Your website is one of the best resources for audience identification and segmentation, and it can also help when it comes to determining the strategy ROI for various groups. While Google Analytics can provide general information on your website traffic’s demographics, it is better to use an analytical program that can go even deeper and provide details on your audience’s behaviors and preferences.

Finteza is a great option here because its in-depth traffic analytics software gets down to the nitty-gritty details of audience segmentation. Each link is tracked and the traffic is analyzed and categorized into understandable reports. Marketers can also use this program to track marketing links to see which audience segments are responding best to various content.
screenshot of using Finteza to monitor website traffic and analyze user actionsSource: Finteza

By understanding these types of behavioral metrics, marketers will have a much more stable foundation to build their strategies upon and base their targeting methods.

2. Site performance for digital monitoring

Tracking and reporting marketing campaign returns is often viewed as a tedious task, as there are many different factors that come into play.

Most marketers dread this process because it can be super time-consuming and meticulous. Furthermore, if the results are not as great as expected, it can be quite a disappointment. 55% of marketing teams agreed that determining campaign ROI was their top challenge.

Tools like Raven can be extremely helpful for measuring the performance of digital campaigns, specifically when it comes to SEO and PPC.

Source: Raven

This platform analyzes your entire website’s collection of links to track their performance and keeps the platform free from errors. It also correlates to how external link building campaigns have improved your own website’s performance in terms of backlinks, domain authority, and other KPIs.

3. Event marketing tracking for instant results

If you think tracking digital marketing metrics is tricky, what about measuring the results of real-life marketing events?

If you host webinars or attend business conferences and meetups, it can be quite difficult to track the exact results of these efforts. However, it is important to know whether these strategies are truly paying off.

You need a tool that is keeping track in real-time to see how well your efforts are going during live events or digital live streams. For example, Splash is designed to be integrated with multiple event tools and provides real-time custom data dashboards to measure ROI, evaluate progress, and assess performance.

screenshot of tracking the outcome of live events or digital live streams using Splash

Source: Splash

It even offers a check-in app so that you can capture attendee data, update profiles, and sync all of this information as it happens. All of this data is analyzed during and after the event, so leaders can watch the metrics change and grow.

4. Performance management for employee engagement

When you think of the key indicators of business success, you might lean towards metrics that measure external factors – like conversion rates. However, internal metrics can be quite reflective of the success of the company, too.

For example, employee engagement and productivity will have an influence on the business’s growth trajectory. If your team’s levels are slipping, the quality of their work will likely go down. This can quickly slow down sales cycles and affect customer service, and therefore, hurt the bottom line.

Tools like Trakstar can be used to streamline performance reviews and track objective feedback. This can help leaders understand which areas need improvement and support in real-time.

This program is also designed to improve productivity by offering peer-to-peer communication tools. Managers can also use the platform to remind team members of deadlines, set goals and objectives, and even recognize progress to keep engagement and morale high.

Source: Trakstar

Knowing metrics related to employee satisfaction and engagement is extremely important for effective management (and retention).


Thanks to emerging technology and digital tools, gathering the exact data to gauge growth and success is easier than ever before. This information can be extremely powerful and can help you maintain the trajectory for continuous growth.

Manish Dudharejia is the President and Founder of E2M Solutions Inc.

The post Four tools your business needs for better metric reporting appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

WordPress 5.3, Atomic Blocks and EditorsKit

You might think it would be quiet in the world of WordPress because of the summer holidays, but there are some interesting things beeping on my radar. What about the next major version of WordPress: the 5.3 release? Also, the developers of Atomic Blocks and EditorKits haven’t been loitering around; they’ve added some useful features to these Block editor plugins. Read on!

WordPress 5.3: Planning and scope

The WordPress Core team had a good discussion last week about the next major version of WordPress: 5.3. The general idea is that the 5.3 release will be planned for November 13, a week after WordCamp US. As for the scope of what will be in WordPress 5.3, this is the proposed list of items:

  • Grouping: Support for dividing your page into sections;
  • Motion: Support for visual motion when moving/arranging blocks;
  • Column patterns and widths: Support for fixed column widths, and predefined layouts;
  • PHP 7.4: Support for the new version coming end of November;
  • And also: Build/Test updates, better administration of emails, and a lot of under-the-hood improvements!

As you can see, most of these updates are focused on polishing current interactions in WordPress and are aiming to make the UIs more user-friendly.

In the Dev chat for WordPress 5.3 that followed, the new default theme (by the name of, you’ll never guess it, Twenty-Twenty) was mentioned.

Block Editor plugins: New powerful features

It’s been 9 months since we were all introduced to the new Block Editor in project Gutenberg, and it’s been amazing to see what clever integrations people have come up with to extend it. The new features of two existing plugins caught my eye last week: check out these great additions to Atomic Blocks and EditorKit.

Atomic Blocks

Atomic Blocks introduced a new Section and Layout block. It provides pre-designed section and layouts for your site. A very clever way to inject predefined designs to your content. You can check out this video to get an idea of how powerful this feature is.


The other features that caught my eye are part of EditorKit. It’s a plugin that provides a set of block options to extend the way you are building content for WordPress Gutenberg Block Editor. And it, too, has a video showing its options:

As you can see, these two plugins allow for wonderful extensions of the Block Editor. Take them for a spin if you haven’t tried them yet.

Bonus links

  • We’ve talked about WPGraphQL before here, and for those interested, I discovered a WordPress source theme for Gatsby that uses WPGraphQL on the WordPress end on Github. Check it out if you want to play around with new technologies.
  • In need of a crash course on WordPress with WPGraphQL, ACF, and React? Reddit has got you covered.
  • Decided to throw in an SEO link as well as I stumbled upon a pretty awesome resource if you use Google Sheets. It’s called Sheets for Marketers and it features over 100 templates for everything: from on-page SEO to reporting and from scraping to project management.

The post WordPress 5.3, Atomic Blocks and EditorsKit appeared first on Yoast.

Best Tweets from #SEMrushchat: How Small Businesses Can Beat Big Brands in SERPs

Best Tweets from #SEMrushchat: How Small Businesses Can Beat Big Brands in SERPs

We had an in-depth conversation in last week‘s SEMrushchat and the information shared could help small business owners, marketers, and agencies. Our guest, Tim Capper, and our community shared recommendations on tools to find marketing gaps, marketing advantages small businesses have, local search strategies, schema, and keywords that small brands can target that big brands can‘t.