3 Simple Ways to Use GSC to Boost Keyword Rankings

Whether you’re a seasoned SEO professional or taking your first go at optimizing the keywords on your website, Google Search Console is a great place to start.

While keyword research tools can give you a great understanding of search demand and help you find new content opportunities to target, your website is likely sitting on a gold mine of keywords already. Many of which are ranking just a bit too low to generate any meaningful traffic.

In this post, I’ll explain three simple ways to improve your keyword rankings using Google Search Console, so you can make quick and informed optimizations to reach more users.

Find and Optimize “Striking Distance” Keywords

New content opportunities are a great way to get more visitors to your site, but oftentimes, your pages will have valuable keywords ranking just a bit too low to get clicks. Finding these keywords and optimizing for them through metadata and on-page copy edits can help boost their rankings and generate clicks.


Here’s how you do it:

  1. Open Google Search Console
  2. Click on Search Results (Located Under Performance Tab)
  3. Click “Average CTR” and “Average Position” so the data populates below
  4. Scroll down and sort by CTR (low to high)
  5. Choose valuable keywords that are ranking well but not getting many clicks
  6. Make metadata and copy edits targeting these keywords

You might not think of Google Search Console as a keyword research tool, but in some ways, it can be. The Queries Report in GSC not only tells you which keywords get clicks for which pages, it also can tell you which long-tail keywords your page is relevant for that you could further optimize within your content.

Here’s how to do that:

  1. Open Google Search Console
  2. Click on Search Results (Under Performance)
  3. Click “+ New” in the filter row, then click “Page…”
  4. Type in the URL you wish to optimize and click “Apply”
  5. Scroll down to see the keywords for which your page has shown in Google search results
  6. Look for long-tail keyword opportunities to further optimize
  7. Make metadata and copy edits targeting these keywords

Uncover Competing Keywords Ranking on Multiple Pages

When the same keyword ranks for multiple URLs on the same website, these pages will compete with one another for visibility, which ultimately can impact both pages’ organic keyword rankings. In Google Search Console, you can find competing pages and edit the on-page copy and metadata to help search engines choose one page over the other.

To do this:

  1. Open Google Search Console
  2. Click on Search Results (Under Performance)
  3. Click “+ New” in the filter row, then click “Query…”
  4. Type in a valuable target keyword
  5. Scroll down and click the “Pages” tab (Next to Queries, Countries, Devices etc.) to view all pages that rank for that keyword
  6. Look for pages competing for impressions and clicks for the same keyword
  7. Make metadata and copy edits to optimize the keywords on the most appropriate page, and remove these keywords from the other pages wherever possible

Want to do this at scale?

These approaches are great for quick-and-easy, one-off keyword optimizations, but if there’s one thing to know about Seer, it’s that WE LOVE BIG DATA.

  • So, if you’re looking to take your keyword optimizations to the next level, stay tuned for our upcoming blog on how to integrate your Google Search Console data with Google Ads data to uncover valuable, converting keywords to optimize—at scale!


  • So, if you’re looking to take your keyword optimizations to the next level, check out this video which explains how to integrate your Google Search Console data with your Google Ads data to uncover highly-valuable, converting keywords that are in striking distance—at scale!

The State of SEO 2019 – Infographic

Zazzle Media’s second annual “State of SEO survey” has assessed the value and ROI of SEO, looking at its impact in securing funds or resources.

The data suggested that 60% of marketers find that resources and a shortage of budget are the main reasons they don’t spend more on organic search activity. However, almost a third of surveyed marketers still don’t know how to measure the impact of SEO on their results.

The survey reviewed 70% of in-house marketers and 30% of agency heads from various companies. It called for marketers to develop a better understanding of attribution models, measurement tools, brand value, and purpose when it comes to spending more on SEO.

The main reasons cited for marketers struggling to secure investment are competitor awareness, revealing that marketers are too aware of their competitor’s activity, even noting that their branded keywords were being targeted by their competitors.

The report noted that data-led objectives can act as investment enablers as they can easily quantify and measure consumer traffic. They also help marketers prove ROI, by reviewing how marketing practices are improving year on year.

Yet the survey revealed that there is still a lack of understanding around best practices for marketers to use. A quarter of those surveyed called for clearer guidelines on best practice from Google Webmasters, revealing that there is, in fact, a knowledge and skills gap around SEO.

Zazzle Media’s head of search and strategy, Stuart Shaw, said

“As an industry, we’ve needed to educate, educate, educate – at almost every level of client infrastructure. That challenge still remains, in fact, it probably changes monthly but now with more noise than ever.

However knowledge has always been power in this industry, keeping up with updates, marketing news and best practice guidelines across Google and Bing can be the difference in the results marketers need to secure that extra budget.”

You can download the full results of The State of SEO here, and check out the top-line stats on the infographic below.

State of SEO 2019 Infographic

The post The State of SEO 2019 – Infographic appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

How to Write an Outreach Email: Good vs. Bad Email Examples

One of the most exciting things about being a fashion blogger was when I started receiving blogger outreach emails from brands. This was super exciting: brands actually liked my blog enough that they wanted to work with me! But as someone who works in SEO, I couldn’t help but critique every outreach email I received.

Why? Because, despite what some folks say, outreach is just as important today in 2019 as ever. But brands who do blogger outreach shouldn’t be focused on backlinks or domain authority. Instead, focus on partnering with bloggers who have the potential to help grow your business by raising brand awareness and reaching new customers.

When doing blogger or influencer outreach for my own clients, I always think about the emails that I received as a blogger. Which pitches did I like and respond to? Which did I delete without even a reply? And I use this knowledge while writing my own outreach.

Today, I’m going to show you a handful of examples of outreach I received while blogging. It runs the gamut from very, very bad to pretty damned good.  And then, I’ll share what I’ve learned.

Good Outreach Email Examples & Templates:

Good Outreach Example 1: New Local Store Opening

Hi Dana,

I have been a big fan of what the frock? for a while now. Love your voice and content – you have truly defined yourself as an influencer in the blogging and fashion world!

I am writing to you today to invite you to check out our new [local store for a women’s fashion brand]. We are super excited about this store opening and think you will be too once you see the design and layout.

I wanted to personally invite you to visit the store to see the new design (if you haven’t already) and to take home your favorite top and bottom from our brand-new collection. After your visit, I would love if you could write about/tweet/post your trip to the store as it is something that I’m sure your fans will love to see!

Please let me know what you think and I will get you set up with a personal styling session. What is your availability like to go in?


💡 Pro Tip: What They Did Right:

  • It’s concise and relevant. They told me exactly what they’re offering and what they’d like in return, as all the best outreach emails do.
  • It’s personalized and friendly.

Good Outreach Example 2: Affordable Online Fashion Brand

Hi Dana,

How are you?

I’m writing on behalf of [affordable fashion brand] and I wanted to get in touch to see if you would be interested in being sponsored to write a post on your blog for them? I’ve been looking at your blog, I see that you’ve featured [the brand] several times already, and think you would be perfect.

We would like you to create a post in your own style about [brand] and we’ll compensate you for the time you’ve taken to do this. You can choose whatever you want as long as it fits one of the following categories:

  • Dresses
  • Jeans
  • Leather jackets

Beyond that, you have the creative freedom to do whatever you want – the only thing that we require is that we approve of the post, and that you link to [brand website]

If this sounds like something you would like to go forward with, let me know. Or, if you have any other ideas as to how you can partner with [brand], I’d love to hear them!

I look forward to hearing from you,

💡 Pro Tip: What They Did Right:

  • They researched ahead of time and found that I’d already written about their brand several times. Good prospecting!
  • Their email was clear and to the point.
  • They made it clear that they’re open to hearing any partnership ideas that I may have.

Good Outreach Example 3: Ecommerce/Brick & Mortar Retail Brand

Hi Dana,

I wanted to personally present you with an opportunity I have coming up for [affordable clothing brand] this month.

This opportunity promotes their deals for around $20 and under. Here are the details:

  1. We will provide a $50 gift card to [store]
  2. Shop at [brand store] for their $20 deals.
  3. Upload 1 photo of yourself shopping in-store to Instagram with the hashtag #[custom hashtag]
  4. Use items purchased at [store] to create your look (styled with your own clothes/accessories).
  5. Post your look on your blog.
  6. Promote post on Facebook/Twitter

Can you please let me know if you are interested? I would love to send you more details.

Thanks so much! Hope to work with you again soon.


💡 Pro Tip: What They Did Right:

  • It’s direct and straightforward.
  • It’s the perfect brand match for a frugal shopping blog.

What I’ve Learned About Outreach

When doing my own outreach, here’s what I always try to keep in mind:

  • Personalize. Take the time to look up the blogger’s name, and address it directly to him or her. Use the blog name instead of the URL. Not doing so isn’t just impersonal, it’s lazy.
  • Pay attention to detail. We know that you’re just copying and pasting most of your email, and that’s okay. But make sure that you update all of the personal details in your blogger outreach templates and that you do it correctly.
  • Research. If you’re pitching a giveaway, make sure the blogger actually does giveaways. If you’re pitching a product, check to see if the blogger has ever posted about something similar. If you’re inviting the blogger to an event, make sure she lives in the area. Yes, this takes more time than just blindly sending out emails, but it will yield much better results in the end.
  • Only compliment if you mean it. If you truly are a fan of the blog you’re reaching out to, then by all means let them know! But don’t give hollow compliments just to get into a blogger’s good graces. We don’t expect everyone to be long-time fans, and phony praise is pretty obvious.
  • Be specific, but flexible. Don’t beat around the bush or be wishy-washy; just tell the blogger what you’d like from them and what you’re offering in return. But if the blogger has another idea about how you can work together, listen to them. We know our content and audience better than anyone else does.
  • Have something to offer. Most bloggers aren’t going to blog about your brand out of the kindness of their hearts. We need something in return. It doesn’t have to be monetary; it can be something that our readers would find useful, informative, or entertaining, like a coupon code, a giveaway, or some really kick-ass content.
  • Be gracious. If a blogger responds with a polite “no thank you,” be polite in kind, and maybe you’ll have the opportunity to pitch them something else again.

Are there any other blogger/SEOs in the house? What have the pitches you’ve received taught you?

Bad Outreach Email Examples:  

Bad Outreach Example 1: Upscale Clothing Retailer


My name is _____ and I recently began working with an upscale clothing retailer who is attempting to increase their online presence. I came across your site (what-the-frock.com) and think it would be a great fit for my client. I am particularly interested in sponsored posts, but would love to hear what else is available. Please let me know if you have any information on your sponsored post rates.

Thanks so much! I look forward to hearing back from you!


💡 Pro Tip: What They Did Wrong:

  • This example of a blogger pitch email is not personalized. She could’ve taken 30 seconds to find my name – it’s only in the footer of every single post on my blog, as well as on my about page. And she used my URL instead of my blog name in the post, which is an obvious clue that this is a form email.
  • She didn’t tell me upfront who the brand is. This is no good for two reasons: first, it requires an additional step in communication and second, there’s a trust issue. If I was interested in this opportunity, I’d have to respond by asking her who the brand was, and await her reply. Additionally, does she not trust me enough to tell me what the brand is? Or is she trying to pull a bait and switch by telling me that it’s an upscale brand, only to reveal that it’s something low-quality or otherwise shady?

💡 Pro Tip: What They Did Right:

  • It’s brief, to the point, and seems to be a relevant brand to pitch to a fashion blogger.

Bad Outreach Example 2: Credit Counseling Solutions


I was just going through few sites yesterday and came across your http://www.what-the-frock.com/ too.

I really liked the way you have presented your site. I was reading some of your content and really found them interesting and informative. So I was just wondering if I can also do something for your site. Actually I am a freelance writer and I love writing articles as a hobby on topics related to Fashion and LIfestyle.

What if I provide you with an unique article as a Guest Post. An article that will be informative for your readers. The article will be related to your website and will be apprciated by your readers.

It would be great if you can add a small BIO of mine at the end of the article with my related site’s links. I guarantee you that hte article will be 100% copy scape protected and will be of around 700 words.

Please let me know if this sound good to you, so that we can start working on your article.


💡 Pro Tip: What They Did Wrong:

  • I mean, just read it! Even if I accepted unsolicited guest posts (which I don’t), why would I want one from someone who writes so poorly?
  • The brand is irrelevant. A quick Google search revealed that the sender of this email worked for a credit counseling service, and all of her guest posts across the web linked back to that site. Why she thought a fashion blogger would be interested in this, I’ll never know.

💡 Pro Tip: What They Did Right:

  • Absolutely nothing.

Bad Outreach Example 3: Independent Accessory Brand


My name is ______  and I work for [accessory brand]. I wanted to fill you in on an amazing opportunity for bloggers like you to get involved, gain exposure, and be entered into a giveaway to win some amazing [product]!

Celebrate the season with a chance to win $1,000 worth of [brand product] (including some new items from the Spring/Summer Collection).  There is also an opportunity to be chosen as a highlighted blogger on our website, blog and email campaign. This is an amazing opportunity for exposure for your personal blog!

Interested? To enter, post the attached image to your blog and make sure to link back to [brand website]! And have your readers follow the steps on the editorial. The contest lasts from [dates]. The winner will be chosen at random and posted on [date] for both the blogger contest as well as the $1,000 winner.  PLEASE be sure to e-mail your post to [email address] with subject “Bloggers Opportunity” so that we have record of your entry! For each blog post you share the editorial, you will gain an additional entry into the blogger-highlighted contest. If you instagram the editorial make sure to reference [twitter account] (another entry)!

*International bloggers welcome!!!

**As a blogger you will be eligible for both winning the $1000 [product] as well as the highlighted blogger opportunity.


These are the 4 steps to complete in order to enter!

Like [brand] on Facebook

Follow [brand] on Twitter

Follow [brand] on instagram

Post above image to your blog, hyperlink to  [website] & send an email with a link to your post to [email address]

*Be sure to email every time you post it for extra entries!

💡 Pro Tip: What They Did Wrong:

  • It’s soooooooooooooooooooo long. When it comes to outreach, it’s best to get your point across, but be concise.
  • They’re asking a lot. A blog post, an email, a Facebook like, a Twitter follow, an Instagram follow, and a link, just for a chance to win a contest?
  • A blog post that serves as a contest entry for me has no value to my readers.
  • Once again, this email isn’t personalized.

💡 Pro Tip: What They Did Right:

  • Not much, but at least it’s an appropriate brand to pitch to a fashion blogger.

Bad Outreach Example 4: Exchange Electronics for Cash


I am just emailing to ask whether you are open to any potential text link placement? I have been looking for relevant sites to use for my client and this campaign, as well as building relationships with webmasters.  Your site would be a good match and I’d like to discuss some opportunities with you.

I am actually looking to place a text link within a recent, relevant article on your site. This will link back to my clients site, and will be placed within a short sentence at the end of the article. My client is a website where you can exchange electronic products for cash, therefore I feel that this is highly relevant to your site.

If this would be possible, then please let me know and I will send you the details, including costs. I would really appreciate it if you could get back to me regarding this opportunity as soon as possible.

Looking forward to hearing back from you.

Kind Regards.

💡 Pro Tip: What They Did Wrong:

  • Not to sound like a broken record, but it’s not personalized.
  • It’s completely irrelevant. I have no idea how they decided that selling used electronics had anything to do with fashion.
  • A random link shoehorned into an already-existing post is too spammy for my tastes.

💡 Pro Tip: What They Did Right

  • Ummmm… at least she was polite?

Bad Outreach Example 5: Health Supplements

Hi, Whitney.

My name is _____. I work as the outreach manager for a health supplements company called [brand]. I stumbled across http://what-the-frock.com, and I really like how approachable your site is! Because you love providing giveaway opportunities as much as we do, I would love to send you a one month supply of [product] for your own personal review, as well as a second one for a contest/giveaway as you see fit.

[product] is wildly good for you. Take a look at some of the benefits: [link to site]

If you’re interested, I can have both bottles shipped to your doorstep ASAP! Let me know if you’re interested, or if you have any other exciting ideas for collaboration. I’d just love to work with you!

Warmest of Regards,

💡 Pro Tip: What They Did Wrong:

  • Who is Whitney? I’m not Whitney.
  • I do not blog, nor have I ever blogged, about health supplements or anything related to health supplements.
  • I actually got this email twice in a row, from two different email addresses, and neither email address matched the name of the person who signed the email. Shady city.

💡 Pro Tip: What They Did Right

  • They asked for my input on other collaboration ideas.

Bad Outreach Example 6: Online Fashion Site


I just wanted to introduce myself to you, My name is ____ and I am the buyer for [online fashion site] – I just want to say that I LOVE your blog, its amazing! I would love to work together in some way. What do you think? Do you have any ideas about how we can partner?

Looking forward to speaking with you,

💡 Pro Tip: What They Did Wrong:

  • It’s not personalized
  • The compliment seems completely phony.
  • She didn’t offer any ideas, but asked me for some of mine. Sorry, but I’m not in charge of marketing for your website.

Want more? Check out the Smart SEO’s Guide to Outreach.

Celebrating 10 years of Yoast: YoastCon 2020!

There were rumors. People were talking. People were asking questions. And now… we can finally tell you all about the next YoastCon! It’s going to be a very special edition. A legendary edition. And, a birthday party! YoastCon 2020 will take place on 24 April 2020. We will celebrate our 10 year anniversary. And… we’d love it if you joined us to celebrate! Find out how you can join this edition of YoastCon: for free!

Free SEO conference

Yoast’s mission is SEO for everyone. That’s the reason Joost de Valk started to work on an SEO plugin. He wanted to translate all the knowledge he had gained during the consultancy advice he was giving to large companies into a plugin that everyone could use. We still strongly believe in our mission. The previous editions of YoastCon were very inspiring, but, for a lot of people, also a bit expensive. That’s why we decided to make this next YoastCon, our 10 year anniversary, a YoastCon for everyone. A free YoastCon.

Unfortunately, we cannot invite everyone to come to our birthday party. The conference room can accommodate up to 330 people. But, the good news is: you can apply for a ticket! We’ll ask you all to tell us why you want to come to YoastCon 2020. We’ll make room for the biggest fans!

In addition to free tickets, we’ll be giving away two YoastCon-VIP packages. A VIP-packages contains 2 YoastCon tickets, a stay in one of our Yoast-apartments and a meet-and-greet and lunch with everybody in our offices. Above that, we’ll pay your flight (if you need to fly) to the Netherlands.

An awesome line up of speakers

We’re putting together a program with the best speakers in the field of SEO and website optimization! We’ll give you all the new insights from Google and treat you to the latest trends in the SEO industry. You’ll leave YoastCon with lots of ideas and inspiration. Of course, Joost de Valk and Marieke van de Rakt will be speaking. And our very own SEO genius Jono Alderson will climb the stage! We can also announce Karl Gilis (our Belgian conversion-specialist-friend) and Kate Toon (Australian expert on SEO copywriting and Content SEO)! We have some other great speakers lined up, we’re awaiting their final confirmation. So, we’ll keep you posted!

Location: near the Yoast Campus!

This edition of YoastCon will be located at our hometown Wijchen. The previous editions of YoastCon were in Nijmegen (which is about 10 kilometers from Wijchen). We decided to stay close to home for this one. We have a beautiful theatre within walking distance from our offices. For sure, we’ll make room in our program for a walking tour around our Yoast Offices.

Want to come?

In the next few weeks, we’ll announce how and when you can apply for tickets to YoastCon 2020. So, stay tuned and make sure to keep an eye out on Facebook or Twitter. Or subscribe to our newsletter.

Hope to see you all in Wijchen at YoastCon 2020!

The post Celebrating 10 years of Yoast: YoastCon 2020! appeared first on Yoast.

Display Advertising Stats 2019: SEMrush Study [Fashion Edition]

Display Advertising Stats 2019: SEMrush Study [Fashion Edition]

Google Display Network is one of the most influential and profitable digital marketing channels that majority of Fashion & Lifestyle companies underutilize while it can be a goldmine of targeted, quality, lower of cost traffic. This research will cover essential knowledge for fashion vertical such as key research findings of audience demographics for both advertisers and publishers, valuable information on topics similarity for both advertisers and publishers, the most popular ad sizes, etc.

Changing Careers for SEO; A Risky Payoff – Jim Christian // Digital Blush


There’s no guarantee taking a big risk in SEO will pay off. Blush Digital CEO Jim Christian’s leap of faith from aerospace engineering into the ever-changing sea of SEO is one exceptional story, whose career change led him to found Blush Digital and the burgeoning Advanced Search Summit for SEOs. Ben interviewed Christian to learn more about his exciting career transition from the complex field of aerospace engineering to SEO, his Fast Times at Ridgemont High-like experience working for GoDaddy and how he combined the power of shared experiences with a repertoire of leading SEO experts to launch the Advanced Search Summit.


  • “There’s not really a school, or entity that can teach SEO. It’s something learned throughout time with your experiences.”
  • On the difficulties of running a personal agency: “I think the challenge is … I think the issue is not the SEO component of it, but the actual running a business. Where are my taxes? How do I do all of these forms? How do I repetitiously come up with programs that will work for all of my customers? … I was making a decent living but was very, very frustrated with the business side of running an agency.”
  • How Christian views risk: “For me, risk is seen as a challenge and a challenge that can be overcome given the right amount of time, effort, and stamina to really make it work. And with GoDaddy going public and everything, I had the ability to kind of sit down and say like, ‘Where do I want to go next? Like what’s the next chapter in my journey?’”
  • His advice to young SEOs: “I think the best advice that I can give someone is never feel like you’re alone. Never feel like there’s no one that’s out there to help you. And never feel that you’re stuck on something that you’ll never get over … Like I said, our event tends to focus on people who have been in the industry for five to seven years plus, other shows like Pubcon or SMX or they tend to focus on people that have been around or just joining the community and they serve a valuable asset to people’s growth.”

Ben:                 Welcome to career day on the Voices of Search podcast. Today we’re going to talk about the skills accumulated and lessons learned from a great SEO throughout the various stops on his career. Joining us for career day is an experienced SEO and one of the founders of an internationally recognized search event whose career actually started in aerospace engineering. Jim Christian is the CEO of Blush Digital, which is a digital marketing agency that combines technology along with industry leading talent to connect brands to customers together online.

Ben:                 But before we hear from Jim, I want to remind you that this podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics. We are an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise scale businesses monitor their online presence and make data driven decisions. To support you, our loyal podcast listeners, we’re offering a complimentary digital diagnostic. Where a member of our digital strategies group, will provide you with a consultation that reviews how your website content and SEO strategies can all be optimized. To schedule your free digital diagnostic, go to searchmetrics.com/diagnostic.

Ben:                 Okay, on with the show. Here is my interview with Jim Christian, the CEO at Blush Digital. Jim, welcome to the Voices of Search podcast.

Jim:                  Thanks, I really appreciate being here. This is great, fantastic.

Ben:                 An honor and a pleasure to have you here. You’ve had a successful career in SEO, the founder of Blush Digital. You run the Advanced Search Summit as well. The next show is going to be in Napa. This is all just a boondoggle for you to go and drink some nice wine, right?

Jim:                  I mean, look, life has its challenges and you might as well make it exciting. So you know we’re happy about this being a repeat show for us. We just actually finished up our D.C. Show on the East coast, which was a great successful conference. And we’re really looking forward to Napa in April and so we shall return to the Valley and there will be corks popped and glasses poured. So looking forward to it.

Ben:                 I think if you’re running a recruiting pitch on how to run an event, putting it in a place like Napa, California in April is not a bad one.

Jim:                  No.

Ben:                 But let’s talk a little bit about you and your career. Talk to me about how you got started off in SEO?

Jim:                  Well, it’s crazy. Realistically it was kind of like a a fateful event. I started actually working for a small ISP, internet service provider, in Orange County in California and it was kind of just like kind of brought in under my wings. Really wasn’t focused on SEO at the time, was mainly focused on providing websites for the ISP customers and that was a great couple of years that we had over there that kind of led into growing out of that position. And I was kind of focused on the whole marketing side as I was making these websites. Like how can I make them look better and how can I get them to show up in Google. But clearly with no idea of what I was doing at the time. So it was pretty funny.

Jim:                  But I left that position and went into this aerospace and defense company over in Orange County as well. Was really surprised at just how crazy the aerospace and defense industry was. But they originally hired me to do this kind of back work of trying to figure out like who works over at Lockheed Martin or who works over at Boeing? Where is General Dynamics’ company in Arizona, where is that located? And so there was a lot of this work and I got really sick and tired of trying to find all these people because they’re basically just invisible.

Ben:                 It sounds like you had some early experience in marketing and really you mentioned that you went to aerospace engineering, but it was more of a sales and a sales development role than anything else.

Jim:                  Right. And so this started an interesting path, because what I realized was is that I could market and find all of these people through marketing online. And so I started getting the site ranked better, I started putting out more content and that kind of led into the whole like, “Hey, this thing is something like, what is it?” And then I was like, “Oh, it’s SEO. This sounds cool. Let’s start doing that.” And you know, growth. It was fun.

Ben:                 So talk to me about the early experiences you had. You mentioned you worked for an ISP and you got some sort of broad marketing experience and you were kind of dabbling around SEO. You went to aerospace engineering and you started doing more sales development and stumbled into SEO. How do you feel like those experiences laid a foundation for you down the road as an SEO? What did you learn from your pre-SEO experiences that you think is relevant today?

Jim:                  Well, you know, I think being able to solve problems is definitely one of the things. I think everyone in our industry can pretty much attest to that. I think the other thing is being calm, cool, collective and really trying to see, I don’t want to say see the future, but being able to see patterns, pattern recognition, how things work and then storing that kind of in your head or your internal database to figure out like, “Hey, you know, I tried this one thing on this page and it really, really worked well and you guys started taking notes on that and started figuring out that, you know, this is all kind of interconnected and started learning more and you know, obviously going to some of the websites that are out there, the news sites on, and learning more through that.”

Jim:                  And I think that a lot of people kind of take that same pathway. There’s not really a school or an entity that can teach SEO. It’s something that’s learned throughout time with your experiences.

Ben:                 I’m the host of another podcast called the Finding a Job podcast, which gives career skills to people that are early stage careers looking to start their career. And one of the lessons that comes out a lot from that is there is no experience like experience. It doesn’t really matter what it is, but getting some career experience and learning from your failures is relevant no matter what career path you end up in.

Ben:                 Eventually you move on from your aerospace engineering background and some of the sales development and general marketing skills and you start to specialize in SEO. And your first SEO role was actually the owner of a small SEO company in Scottsdale, Arizona called Smoke Dog. What was the reason why you started an agency and why did you decide to focus on SEO?

Jim:                  I think for me, I had been working over at this aerospace company for awhile and kind of outgrew it. Was in California and got kind of burnt out on the traffic and the amount of people over there and kind of wanted to start fresh and see what we could do and started Smoke Dog. And that was an interesting challenge. Really had no idea what I was doing. I mean from the standpoint of running my own business and trying to be successful. And it was fun for awhile.

Jim:                  But the challenges of being a single owner entrepreneur had its periods and I just happened to be looking around and oddly enough saw a position over at GoDaddy and thought, “Well heck, why not?” I know who GoDaddy is. I’ve heard of them through the commercials and through everything else and turns out they were about three or four minutes away from my house. So I decided to step up and maybe see if that was a better challenge for me.

Ben:                 So before you moved on to GoDaddy, you’re running your own agency. Why do you consider that to be such a challenge? Where were you finding your customers and what type of work were you doing?

Jim:        So I think the challenge is for the most part when you’re just starting off as your own agency or an independent, I think the issue is not the SEO component of it, but the actual running a business. Where are my taxes? How do I do all of these forms? How do I repetitiously come up with programs that will work for all of my customers? Or do you do something custom? And then if you are doing something custom, how do you stand upon that so that you can easily gain more clients?

Jim:        And for me at the time, I was just doing a bunch of outreach from people that I knew in the past. Actually some of the people from my earlier ISP days, they became customers of Smoke Dog at the time. So it kind of worked out. I was making a decent living but was very, very frustrated with the business side of running an agency, so.

Ben:                 Being a solopreneur can be a frustrating venture. I’ve done it a few times and it’s gratifying in the sense that everything is on your plate and it’s terrifying in the sense that everything is your responsibility. I understand that we’ve had similar experiences. Where running your own businesses, comes with its own special challenges.

Ben:                 Eventually you decide to go back in-house and you work for GoDaddy. I think at the time when you started at GoDaddy, it was still the very male centric, like Danica Patrick in a bikini type marketing program, trying to get people to build websites. It’s obviously grown a lot since those days. What was it like when you started at GoDaddy? What was your role? Talk to me a little bit about the environment.

Jim:                  Man, it was a start up mentality. Hungry mouths, very interesting, eclectic people. You really felt like you belonged as long as you had that type of personality. For me it was great. I mean, I had an amazing, amazing boss who was at GoDaddy and he took me under his wings and was so supportive. And that led to so many doors opening for me.

Jim:                  Originally, actually, what’s funny is when I started at GoDaddy, I was actually hired to do a PPC program. They wanted me to develop a in-house PPC product for GoDaddy so that they could sell it off to their customers, basically automating PPC. And it was great and I had a fun time building that program. It didn’t really work at the time due to some restrictions with Google and accessing accounts and stuff like that. So, the project was scrapped.

Jim:                  But the interesting thing was, in the meantime I was just doing SEO for the company, being like, “Hey look, like, you know, we moved up 20 spots for the word hosting.” And that really got the attention of the CEO and even Bob Parsons. And they said, “Well, you know, I don’t think that this PPC thing is going to work out, but you know, we’d love to have you start as our employee number one for doing SEO for the company.” And I was like, “Well this is great. Like this is exactly what I want. Like this is perfect for me.” So I was thrilled at the opportunity.

Ben:                 So you worked your way into SEO at GoDaddy, a developing company, a startup, not necessarily the the scaled company that we know of it today. Talk to me about some of the challenges that you faced while you were working at that company. What was it like being there in its growth stage?

Jim:                  It was, like I said, it was exciting. The day-to-day chores and tasks were varied tremendously. Bob was … Oh it was pretty funny. An interesting story is I used to sit right next to the recording studio where the miniature, not the full commercials, but some of the stuff that he would put online were being created. And for me, and I think for probably a lot of people, we tend to have our headphones on, faces to the keyboard, and we’re literally just working away as fast as we can. And then all of a sudden, I feel this hand on my shoulder and it was Bob and he’s just like, “Son, how’s it going today?” Freaked me out every single time. It was the greatest thing. And I’d just be like, “Bob, I’m kicking ass and taking names, brother, trying to kill all these competitors for us.” And he’s like, “Good man, I like that.” Would just walk off.

Ben:                 Sounds like Bob is a little bit of a cowboy, which explains the early television spots with a … Well, let’s just say that they probably weren’t considered very PC and wouldn’t make it today.

Jim:                  They were not very PC. But you know what’s interesting is, and I’ll tell a short story about what that meant to Bob and actually the company, but Bob had created a software company and sold it for millions, I’m assuming. And he started GoDaddy and sunk almost every single dollar that he had made from that company. And he was down to his last couple million. And then it was like a make or break thing. And he came out with the commercial with Candice in it and it was very risque, especially for Super Bowl. And it worked.

Jim:                  The thing with Bob and GoDaddy as a whole is well, all right, let’s see how far this will ride. I mean, if it worked once, maybe it’ll work again. And so they kind of focused on that type of advertising and it and it worked for a decent long time. And obviously times change, people change, and they eventually scrapped that type of marketing. And obviously have grown into the company that they are today, super successful. But it’s funny that they were just teetering on that edge of being successful or a failure and he took risks and they paid off. And I take that with me in everything that I do today as well, so.

Ben:                 As much as we’re talking about sort of the previously, and I’m going to go on the record as calling them sexist ads that GoDaddy had early on in their career, the company has changed a tremendous amount and evolved. I’m curious to hear what some of the SEO specific challenges that you faced when you were working on optimization. What were you doing at GoDaddy and what were some of the SEO challenges that you saw?

Jim:                  Well, they were varied. There’s definitely no shortage of them as SEO employee number one. The first thing was the site was a complete disaster. There was stuff on there from years and years and years ago, before I even got there, that were just wasting away on the website. And it was just a complete hari kari mess. And we also found that there was hundreds of millions of back links that were broken from past news stories and in past portions of the site that were torn down with a haphazard wand. And those were very challenging days. And beside all of that, you also have a host of developers working on the website 24 hours a day, putting their hands in the cookie jar and things break, things happen. And it was challenging. We came up with a couple of different programs that really helped solve some of those issues.

Jim:                  One of them was GoDaddy has a program involved where you can use $50 per person and you can go take them out for like a brown bag lunch or an experience, right? And that really helps with us kind of bonding with the development staff and the marketing staff saying, “Hey look, we kind of have a foot in both sides of this bucket on the technical side, like the developers, we need them to create stuff and deploy it properly so that it’s SEO friendly. And then on the marketing side, we need you guys to create stuff that has SEO in mind.” And so, the whole host of challenges that way arose.

Ben:                 I think that’s one of the things that we’ve preached in some of the Voices of Search podcasts when we’re talking about SEO best practices and strategies. Embracing the relationships and cultivating the relationships with your cross functional partners is always something that pays off, whether it is your engineering team and having a good line of communication to help them implement some of the technical changes. Your content team, even just general marketing and leadership, it’s always important to invest in the rest of the team around you. Mostly in SEO, it is a medium of marketing that cannot be executed in a vacuum.

Ben:                 Eventually you move on to launching Blush Digital, your own agency, go back away from an in-house role to running your own shop and you become one of the founders of the Advanced Search Summit. Talk to me about your rationale for leaving a corporate role and what did you do next?

Jim:                  I think with me, the main thing is is that I don’t see risk traditionally like other people do. For me, risk is seen as a challenge and a challenge that can be overcome given the right amount of time, effort, and stamina to really make it work. And with GoDaddy going public and everything, I had the ability to kind of sit down and say like, “Where do I want to go next? Like what’s the next chapter in my journey?” And I said, “I really had a fun time dealing with my clients when I was running Smoke Dog. And I think that there’s another way to kind of go out at this now with eight years plus of experience behind GoDaddy and running enterprise websites.” I thought, well, instead of focusing on SMBs and small mom and pop or brick mortar shops, I thought, well, maybe what I should do is focus on helping enterprise brands.

Jim:                  And so, for me, it’s the same work really that I was doing at GoDaddy and again, the challenges of running the business and having that side of it kind of play you is continuously challenging as it is today. But I find solace in knowing that, I have a wealth of people in the community that can help me out if I need it. That I have a support group of other SEOs that I call my friends and I try to hang out with as much as possible. And that kind of led into the catalyst of Advanced Search Summit. It’s an interesting thing, especially when I was at GoDaddy, to feel alone. To feel like there’s no one that can help you. And I think when I was talking about running Advanced Search Summit, I was like, there has to be a way that we can get all of us together in a room where we can all have fun. Make memories, connect, and obviously progress our skills.

Ben:                 Drink a lot of wine.

Jim:                 Yeah drink a … shh. The wine. The wine, definitely helps.

Ben:                 Secret is out, buddy.

Jim:                  It’s not much of a secret. Well then, we have so much of it. But I think that that was really the catalyst behind Advanced Search Summit and it’s morphed a little bit from a small, 60 plus person conference to we just got done with D.C. and it’s now grown into 230 people and we are looking to grow Napa as well, somewhere around the 200 to 300 mark. So, we’re definitely gaining steam in the community and we look forward to hosting all of these folks. I mean, everyone in D.C. had an amazing time. It was funny, we were up on the rooftop deck of this point of view lounge on the W Hotel and it overlooks the Washington Monument and it also overlooks the White House. And I mean, you could just see everyone’s face like when they came up the elevator and they were able to see basically all of D.C. And it’s that magical moment that we want to capture.

Jim:                  And we have the same thing over at Napa. Last year we had the Napa wine train with a huge emphasis on wine, obviously. This year we’re going back to Castello di Amarosa, which is a 13th century inspired Tuscan castle that is nestled at the very top of Napa Valley. And it’s an incredible thing, people come up through the buses and all of a sudden they see this drawbridge and then this massive castle. And they have that moment. And for us it’s really being able to capture that and not only just making the connections with people, but making connections with the event as well. And so that’s kind of been our focus.

Ben:                 So, you leave GoDaddy and you have now some enterprise experience and you parlay that into running an enterprise focused agency and you have a little bit more credibility because GoDaddy becomes a big, well-branded and known company. So, is the Search Summit a vehicle to help you promote your SEO business? What’s the rationale for you running the conference?

Jim:                  I mean, getting customers from the show is nice. It’s not necessarily something that we go after as far as the agency side of it is concerned. But I think for me, connecting with people and really starting the conversations at the events tend to lead into that thing. I’ll have someone. six months from now call me about, “Hey man, I had a great time at D.C., yeah, I’m running into this problem where I can’t figure out why Google’s treating my website like this. And I’d really love to just get your input on what we should do.” And that kind of leads into some business for the agency, which is great. Other times it’s just being able to answer people’s questions. I think first and foremost, I’m definitely not a sales person. I mean, I have the voice for the radio and the TV, but I don’t focus on that stuff at the events. The events are really kind of aligned with providing that experience and not necessarily selling.

Ben:                 So as you’ve matured in your career, you’ve had a couple of different takes of running an agency. You were focused on SMBs and what you described as mom and pops to enterprise companies. How do you think about the difference in targeting big companies versus smaller companies at from an agency perspective as an SEO? Are the needs different? Is the sales pitch different? How have you found success running your second agency that you didn’t running your first?

Jim:                  I think for me, the customers are almost the same with the standpoint of the motive of attack, so like the SEO programs would be roughly the same in some degree. I think with enterprise, obviously you don’t have to go hunting down links and building that portion of it up, but I think the real difference is really the customer themselves. From the standpoint of an enterprise, you’re typically dealing with people that understand SEO, that have gone the route of knowing what they kind of need to do, but they’re just stuck on something. Whereas like a mom and pop or a small business, they’re mainly uneducated to the point of not understanding and they desperately want to understand what you’re doing. And I do, every once in awhile I’ll have a small company that I’m dealing with and those tend to be more of an educational piece.

Jim:                  Like right now I have a customer that is looking to really grow their site and the number of keywords that they’re ranking for, but they don’t have any sort of a content plan, right? And so for them, understanding how to derive content, how to look for keywords, how to do all of that stuff, those are the things that they’re focused on. Whereas like an an enterprise client will be focused on, I have one right now where I’m doing an audit today and they’re trying to figure out, how come Google isn’t going through our entire website? It’s like, “Well, you didn’t submit your site maps and you have five of them.” And there’s just things like that. And so there’s this difference between them, but they’re pretty much the same for the most part.

Ben:                 As you look back on your career, having gone from your pre-SEO experience, taken two stabs at running an agency with the middle of the career being focused on SEO. What advice do you have for younger SEOs or people that are interested in starting to develop their SEO and content marketing experience?

Jim:                  I think the best advice that I can give someone is never feel like you’re alone. Never feel like there’s no one that’s out there to help you. And never feel that you’re stuck on something that you’ll never get over. There is a wealth, and I mean a wealth, of people that are out there that want to do nothing but help you grow. Ways that you can do that? Clearly, I’m kind of biased towards coming to Advanced Search Summit, but any of the conferences are great. They all serve a purpose, depending on where you are in your career path. Like I said, our event tends to focus on people who have been in the industry for five to seven years plus, other shows like Pubcon or SMX or they tend to focus on people that have been around or just joining the community and they serve a valuable asset to people’s growth.

Jim:                  And my advice would be to seek those events out, seek the people out, and make the connections. I have hundreds and hundreds of people that are on Facebook that I can just pose a question to. In fact, I did this morning, I was like, “Hey, I’m looking for a WordPress plugin that will help me interlink articles that are very similar to each other.” And I know that by the end of the day I’ll have that answer. And it won’t be just by someone who’s guessing. It’ll be by people who know what they’re doing. And so, the advice again would just be to connect and to explore relationships with everyone in the community.

Ben:                 The SEO community is a powerful one. And by focusing on building and cultivating relationships with your peers, you’re going to be able to lean on them when you get into trouble, when you need help making a career move. And even if you decide that down the road, you’re going to launch a event in Napa to help get everybody some nice Napa cabs. There’s an opportunity for you to work with the people that you know. So build those relationships. I think it’s great advice.

Jim:                  Yep, great.

Ben:                 All right Jim, I appreciate having you on the show. Thanks for sharing your story with us. And a one last chance, tell us a little bit about the upcoming Search Summit. What does everybody need to know?

Jim:                  Yeah, so Napa is coming up April 22nd through the 24th. We’ve got two exciting days of amazing wine drinking and also high caliber speakers from all walks of life, from independents to brands to agencies. We have all of them coming to Napa and there will be fun things like wine tasting. There will be also, I think we’re doing falconry for the first time this year, so that should be pretty interesting.

Ben:                 Falconry?

Jim:                  Yeah, yeah, it’s pretty interesting. So one thing about our conference we do that’s very unique and interesting is we always have an extra day, right? So if you’re a VIP guest and you have a VIP ticket, we always have kind of like a life balance day. And so traditionally that’s been like, “Hey, let’s go to a winery. Oh, let’s learn more about the wine making process and have some great food, great conversations and just spend the day at an awesome location.” Well, we’re doing that again this year. But what we decided to do was that we wanted to have a little bit of a change.

Jim:                  And so Bouchaine, their vineyard actually uses falconry to kind of control all of the pests, all of the birds that come in and try to eat the grapes. And so we talked to them about bringing the woman who does the falconry into the property as we’re there for our event, for our VIP day. And she’s like, “Sure. Yeah, that sounds great.” So I think, I’m not sure, but I think everyone’s going to have a chance to fly a hawk off of their arm. So again, tries to bring home all of the connectivity and the memories and being able to have just a fantastic day doing something fun. And again, the content at our summits, we really strive to create the best that we possibly can by getting the best speakers. So we’d love to have anyone who wants to come join us in Napa in April.

Ben:                 All right, Jim, thanks for being our guest. Look forward to seeing everybody at the Advanced Search Summit Napa.

Ben:                 And that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thank you for listening to my conversation with Jim Christian, the CEO of Blush Digital. If you’d like to learn more about Jim, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can send him a tweet at Jim_Christian. J-i-m_C-h-r-i-s-t-i-a-n. Or you could visit his company’s website, which is blushdigital.com. If you’re interested in learning about the Advanced Search Summit, go to advancedsearchsummit.com.

Ben:                 If you have general marketing questions or if you’d like to talk to me about this podcast, or even if you’re interested in being a guest on our show, you can find a link to my contact information in our show notes, or you can send me a tweet at Ben J. Shap, B-e-n-J-S-h-a-p if you’re interested in learning more about how to use search data to boost your organic traffic online visibility, or to gain competitive insights, head over to searchmetrics.com/diagnostic for your complimentary advisory session with our digital strategies team. And if you like this podcast and you want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, hit that subscribe button in your podcast app and check back with us next week.

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

What makes a good website?

People often ask us to explain what makes a good website? If we have a list of elements that a great site should have? There isn’t an easy, one-size-fits-all answer to this. As in many things SEO, the answer will be: it depends. What kind of site do you have, who do you target? What do you want to achieve? Regardless, in this post, I’ll list a number of elements that help every site become a good site and a better search result.

Holistic SEO

The number one thing you must keep in mind is that we at Yoast advocate holistic SEO. This means that we’d like you to strive to be the best result. We’d like you to optimize every part of your site on all levels, from satisfying user intent to offering a stellar user experience. If you combine all these things in a solid SEO strategy, implement the enhancements and track the results, you’re on the right track!

Elements of a good website

Many things we deem important for a good website is hard to quantify. There’s a lot of talk in SEO about quality, for instance. Even Google has been saying for years that you should focus on the quality of your site and that of your content. After every algorithmic update by Google, the answer for those who lost rankings is the same: it might not be your fault, because other sites seem to be a better fit for this specific query — nonetheless, you should work on the overall quality of your content

People flock to the Search Quality Raters Guidelines for input on how to do that, looking for any guidance at all. You shouldn’t take everything that Google says as gospel, but in this case, they are right; you should improve your content — always! Always look at user intent and the behaviour of your potential customers. You should periodically redo your keyword research. Check your niche, what’s happening in your world?

By continually evaluating your SEO strategy, you get a grip on changing market and find new opportunities.

Your website satisfies user intent and has a clear goal

Do you know your audience? Do you know your business and what it is you contribute to this world? Why should anyone come to your site and do business with you? It’s not just because you think you have an awesome product — that just doesn’t fly anymore. “Build it and they will come?” Nope, I don’t think so. 

If you’d like to succeed, you need to know your audience. You have to uncover everything about them. You can probably find out what they say they want, but is that the same as what they really need? Does your product or service merely offer a solution to a problem or does it make your customer’s life genuinely better? Do you sell a drill or a hole in the wall? 

Your story has to be right. It has to align with what people want and need. It means you should nail search intent for your site. Uncover all the different ways of how people can end up on your pages and tailor these to answer their questions. Map out the users’ journey from A to Z and place your content in strategic spots. Also keep a close eye on the way you formulate your answers — more often than not, a conversational style will turn out to be what you are looking for. 

Your website has technical prowess

A good website is easily crawlable and shows search engines what they can and can’t index. Good sites don’t have a huge amount of errors. A good website loads super fast, from anywhere in the world. Make sure you do everything you can to get those pages to loads as fast as possible.

Technical SEO is incredibly important, but you can get ahead of the curve by getting the basics right. Thoroughly think about which CMS you’re going for and how you’re going to run it. Pick a reputable hosting company — one that’s flexible and helpful. We may be a bit biased, but WordPress has given us everything we need. It’s solid, flexible and has a huge following. WordPress is pretty SEO-friendly, but with a bit of help of Yoast SEO you get your WordPress SEO going in no time. 

Your website is trustworthy, safe and secure

Both search engines and users are looking for signals that signify trust. Why should your site or your content be trusted? Regular down time might point to sloppy maintenance. A missing green lock icon might mean you don’t take security seriously. There are a lot of little hints that they look for. 

Search engines like Google want to give searchers the best possible result. Increasingly, if a search engine doubts the claims you make or if you use sketchy ‘experts’ to validate your content, they will not show your content. They will pick a result that has proven to be a good result. That’s why you need to work on your trustworthiness on all levels, both technical as well as in content.

In addition, your site should be a safe haven for visitors. You need to have your security in order. A hacked site isn’t getting you anywhere! And a hacked site is easier to prevent than it is to fix. Use up-to-date software, have your SSL in order, make strong passwords, use tools such as Cloudflare to protect your site from DDoS attacks, et cetera. 

Your website has a great design and stellar UX

Does your website need to be beautiful? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The design of your website needs to help fulfil the goals you set. Your message should come across loud and clear. The design should be on-brand and well-thought out. But more importantly, your site should be clear and easy to use for everyone. Accessibility is not something you should scrimp on. 

User experience is not only how it looks, but also how it feels. It’s about giving users a joyful experience, something they can remember. UX is also not letting user wait long for your pages to load, getting them frustrated because they can’t read the text on your site thanks to your color scheme or they can’t hit the buttons on your mobile site. How can I turn frustration into happiness? 

And happy user might just have a higher buyer intent, so get those CTAs in order!

Your site has awesome, user-centered content

User-centered, not company-centered. Good content helps your users accomplish their goals and you offer this content at exactly the right moment, while keeping the business goals firmly in sight. To be able to do this, you need to know your user inside out, as I mentioned earlier. Understand them, understand their behaviour and focus your content on that. The content you offer should be clear and easy to understand by using the same language the users knows well. Try to bring something unique to the table. Do research and present original reporting.

Your site is mobile-friendly (or rather, designed mobile-first)

2019 is the year mobile traffic blah blah, we know the score. Mobile is it. If your site is not mobile-friendly by now, well, you know, it should, so get to it. But if your site has been mobile-friendly for a while, it is time to start looking at buildinsg your next site mobile-first

It’s not a new concept or anything, but most sites are still being developed desktop-first. After designing the desktop view, designer cram it down to mobile size, often losing its authenticity and freshness along the way. Adopting a mobile-first mindset helps you focus on the tasks users should be able to do on your mobile site. It helps to clean up the clutter and, more often than not, lets you come up with a minimal and fully focused design. Less is more, remember? 

Your site can ‘talk’ directly to search engines

For years, search engines tried to read content on pages to determine what that page is about. They need that content to be able to match the search query with the indexed pages that give the best answers to this query. Turns out that truly understanding what something on a page is or means, is harder than it seems, especially for machines. Search engines need a little guidance to discover the true meaning of elements on a page. Enter, structured data in Schema format

Schema is kind of like a translator for search engines. It describes elements on a page, so search engines can now say with certainty that a review is a review and a recipe a recipe. In return, because Google is so certain about the content, marking up these elements can lead to rich results in the search results pages. This includes carousels, nutritional information for recipes, star ratings, FAQ dropdowns, swipeable How-To boxes on mobile and much, much more. Structured data is one of the areas search engines spend a lot of resources on these days, so pay attention.

We noticed this and built a complete and fully extendable Schema framework inside Yoast SEO. This structured data implementation builds a complete graph for your site, so search engines not only know what everything means, but also how everything is connected to the bigger picture. Find out more in our Schema documentation

So what makes a good website?

There’s a lot that goes into building a good website. It’s not simply buying a domain, getting some random host, installing WordPress and picking a theme that looks cool. That’s setting yourself up for failure. You need to plan to get things right. You need a strategy — maybe that’s the most important element of a good website.

These are some of the most important elements you should focus on while developing of improving your site. This is not an exhaustive list, so I’d like to ask you:

What is your number one focal point for building a good website?

The post What makes a good website? appeared first on Yoast.

Unwrapping the Secrets of SEO: Conversions, Analytics and User Signals

There are hundreds of topics connected to search engine optimization, with the diversity of challenges often making it hard for some SEO beginners to know where to start. For us, a good indicator of which topics matter is by listening to you and taking the opportunity to answer some of your questions. In this article: How can we measure conversions? What insights can we get from Google Analytics? And how exactly are user signals like bounce rate calculated?

If you’d like to explore the SEO potential of your website, then you can request an appointment with our Digital Strategies Group and see how we can help you:

Jetzt Make an appointment!

The topics covered in this post come from questions we received from participants who attended one of our recent (German) webinars. I’ve tried to answer the most relevant questions, but if there are other things you’d like to know about, please feel free to use the comment function at the bottom of the blog.

Is Conversion Rate not Conversions/Sessions rather than Conversions/Users?

You are quite right. The Conversion Rate is defined as the number of conversions divided by the number of sessions. In the webinar, I was just trying to make things slightly simpler. Sessions are normally used because they are more clearly defined and easier to understand than users. User can take any number of different paths through your site so it isn’t always possible to precisely track the specific activities of a single user. You can find out more about conversions in the Searchmetrics glossary.

What is a good Conversion Rate? What are the differences between B2B and B2C?

I don’t think you can define a precise number for a “good” Conversion Rate that applies to all websites. As well as the difference between B2B and B2C that you allude to, it also makes sense to think about what kind of conversions you are after. If I am asking my users to complete a financial transaction (e.g. by purchasing a product), then this is unlikely to convert in the same way as if I “only” need a user to provide their data for something like a newsletter registration.

How important are backlinks? And what’s the best way of getting them? Should I send emails to suppliers or clients or is that likely to be counterproductive?

I mentioned in the webinar that backlinks are still important. However, the focus is increasingly on quality over quantity, meaning that it’s important to build up a backlink profile as naturally as possible, with links that make sense. I agree that the tactic of asking customers or suppliers to provide links is likely to be counterproductive. What’s important is offering added value that encourages people to link to my page. If I have a high-quality article on a topic that is relevant for my clients or suppliers then this increases the likelihood of them linking to it.

This is an extremely important point, so I’ll say it again: A backlink profile should be created as naturally as possible, because otherwise you run the risk of incurring a Google penalty

Is it true that “direct/none” in Google Analytics doesn’t have to refer to direct traffic, but includes everything that doesn’t fall under one of the other sources?

I’m not an expert in Google Analytics but I can help here. The answer is yes. It is true that the values for “direct/none” are not all attributable to direct traffic, as they also include sources that cannot be otherwise assigned. This includes links from emails or social media that are missing a clear referral. To mitigate against this, any links that I pass on for sharing should include unique identifiers (e.g. using UTM parameters). If I’m using social sharing tools, then I should ensure that these also produce unambiguously identifiable links.

Can you please explain Bounce Rate again? Is this how often users leave my site completely or does it include those who click to another page on my domain?

Along with Click-Through Rate und Time on Site, Bounce Rate is one of the most frequently used user signals. The Bounce Rate describes the number of visitors who only open one page, in relation to the total number of users. This means that a user who leaves my domain after only loading one page will be included in the Bounce Rate. It doesn’t matter whether they go back to the search engine results page, navigate to another website or close their session. If a user does click on another page on my domain, then their visit won’t be included in the Bounce Rate.

Is there anywhere I can see the Back to SERP Rate?

No, unfortunately not. The Back to SERP Rate is calculated and used internally by Google.

Where can I find the Traffic Index and how is it calculated?

The Traffic Index is a metric developed by Searchmetrics that indicates the number of possible monthly visits to a page based on its search engine rankings. This value and related traffic potential metrics are available in our software.

What exactly does it mean to look at organic traffic in terms of ROI? And how can I do it?

Calculating Return on Investment (ROI) from SEO is something that goes beyond the scope of this series which is aiming to cover introductory SEO topics. However, I can recommend the following webinar, where my colleagues, Björn Darko and Christian Broscheit, discuss exactly this topic:

Want to start applying your SEO knowledge in practice? Then arrange your personal Searchmetrics Suite software demo today:

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Is Google Blocking Your Site Due to Mixed Content? Identify & Fix Mixed Content Issues

Google has recently announced that Chrome will block mixed content on web pages beginning December 2019. Starting with the Chrome 79 version, Google will gradually move to blocking all mixed content by default. Therefore, if your website has mixed content, it will be blocked and your users won’t be able to access it.

Everything from what mixed content is to how to identify/fix it can be found in the following lines. 

Is_Google_Blocking_Your_Site_Due to_mixed_Content

The Google Security Team reports that Chrome users now spend more than 90% of their browsing time on HTTPS on both desktop and mobile. The plan to begin blocking mixed content is targeted at addressing insecure holes in SSL implementations of sites that have already made the switch to HTTPS. Here’s everything you need to know about it:

  1. What Is Mixed Content?
  2. Why Is Google Blocking Mixed Content?
  3. How Do You Detect Mixed Content?
  4. How Do You Fix Mixed Content Issue?
  5. Does Mixed Content Affect SEO?

What Is Mixed Content?

Mixed content occurs when a secure web page (a page loaded through HTTPS) contains resources like scripts, videos, images, etc. that are served through an insecure protocol (HTTP). 

As you probably guessed it from the name, it’s called mixed content because both HTTP and HTTPS contents are loaded to display the same page, and the initial request was secure over HTTPS. 

In the following lines we’ll let you know why HTTPS is a must. You already know, but as repetition is the mother of learning, we want to highlight that that Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is an extension of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and is used for secure communication over a computer network.

The main motivation for HTTPS is the authentication of the website being accessed and the protection of the privacy and integrity of the exchanged data while in transit. 

Therefore, managing security risks is the key. Furthermore, you need to know that in HTTPS the communication protocol is encrypted using Secure Sockets Layers (SSL).  And, to better understand the concept of mixed content resources or insecure content and why the “s” from the HTTPS makes such a big difference, let’s briefly go through SSL certificates. 

What Are SSL Certificates?

SSL certificates are only used to confirm the identity of a website. These certificates are emitted and signed by certificate authorities with their private keys. Before getting a certificate from them, you must somehow confirm your identity and prove that you are the organization and website owner. Web browsers come packed up with a bunch of public keys from certificate authorities. They check if the certificates have been signed with the proper private keys, therefore confirming that their identity has been verified by a trusted authority and not by some random certificate generator. If the certificate is expired or not valid, a red warning will show up.  These warning messages will definitely turn the user down. 

not secure privacy

By using an SSL Certificate, webmasters can improve the security of their websites and better protect their users’ information.

Taking one step further, you need to know that there are two types of mixed content: active and passive.

Active mixed content – the mixed active content is the type of content that is the most harmful. In this case, an attacker can take full control of your page or website and change anything about the page. They can steal passwords, login credentials, user cookies or redirect users to other sites, etc.

Passive mixed content – when it comes to passive content, an attacker can intercept an HTTP request (resources loading via http) for videos or images on your site and replace those images with whatever they want. They can also replace your product pictures or place ads for a totally different product.

Why Is Google Blocking Mixed Content?

Although Google confirmed in 2014 that it considers HTTPS a ranking factor, all the buzz started when Google released version 68 of the Chrome Web Browser in July 2018. In this version, websites that don’t run on HTTPS are marked as Not Secure. 

not secure

As you can see in the screenshot above, the browser advises the user of that site not to disclose any passwords or credit cards.

The browser is advising potential customers not to perform any transaction on your site.

And that’s the last thing you want your user to see.

Yet, why mixing rum and cola makes a great cocktail but mixing HTTP and HTTPs is a big no-no? 

There are many situations that can cause mixed content issues and many reasons why mixed content is harmful, lots of them highlighted by Google itself.  Let’s focus on just a few important ones: 

  • Mixed content degrades the security and user experience of your HTTPS site.

Whether you like Google’s rules or not, you have to agree with this one: web security is more important than ever. And offering your users the comfort of security is not just a whim but a must.   

Imagine that you’re navigating to your bank’s website. If it’s an HTTPS connection, your browser authenticates the website, thus preventing an attacker from impersonating your bank and stealing your login credentials. Also, when transferring money using your bank’s website, this prevents an attacker from changing the destination account number while your request is in transit. 

One of the big advantages of HTTPS is that it lets the browser check that it has opened the correct website and hasn’t been redirected to a malicious site.

  • Mixed content is confusing. 

If a web page is using HTTPS, then all its resources should be pulled in via HTTPS as well. You’re somehow viewing a web page that’s both secure and not secure. It is like you bought a very good bicycle lock but you’re not using it every single time, just randomly, and at the end of the day you are surprised to see that your bike was stolen. 

Let’s say that you’re on a secure web page and you stay assured that everything is OK as the webpage is on HTTPS. Yet, if that page has some  insecure images (or other HTTP resources) and let’s say you’re on a public Wi-Fi network, you can get into lots of problems, from getting your keystrokes monitored to tracking cookies.

  • Mixed content weakens HTTPS.

You might have heard before about the man-in-the-middle attack (MITM). In computer security, a man-in-the-middle attack is a type of attack where the attacker secretly relays and possibly alters the communications between two parties who believe they are directly communicating with each other. One example is when the attacker makes independent connections with the victims and relays messages between them to make them believe they are talking directly to each other over a private connection, when in fact the entire conversation is controlled by the attacker. It’s like eavesdropping, just that the stakes are much higher than the latest gossip from the office. 

Therefore, requesting subresources using the insecure HTTP protocol weakens the security of the entire page, as these requests are vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks.

Running your site over HTTPS is not an option; it is a must. Not only is it more secure (everything is encrypted), but it also builds trust, is an SEO ranking factor, and provides more accurate referral data. Not to mention that the most important web browsers are blocking pages that are not considered secure.

These are just some of the many reasons why Google decided to block mixed content.  This new update will break a big number of website and many, many businesses will lose big time.

Yet, there is hope: you can quickly detect if you have mixed content and you can also fix it. Keep on reading to find out how can you still make your site accessible to your users. 

How Do You Detect Mixed Content?

The easiest possible way to see whether you have any mixed content error on your site is to run a Site Audit within cognitiveSEO. It is the easiest, safest and stress-free option you could take and it doesn’t imply any programming skills or developer guides to fix mixed content warnings. I mean, you find out if you have mixed content (+ many other issues ) on your site, with just a few clicks.

Just start an analysis of your site and the tool will automatically identify the mixed content issue. There is a section dedicated to this exact matter where you can see the not secure pages of any website and its insecure origins. No headaches, reliable and super simple to identify. 

mixed content cognitiveseo

It couldn’t get much easier than this. Simply check the reported pages and start fixing them. 

How Do You Fix Mixed Content Issue?

Once you find the insecure content, the resources being served over HTTP vs. HTTPS, you can start changing the URLs, by simply append HTTPS at the beginning.

Fixing the issue is often as simple as adding an “s” to links – http:// to https://.

Yet, before you do that, be sure that the HTTP resource is available over an HTTPS connection. To check this, simply copy – paste the HTTP URL into a new web browser, and change HTTP to HTTPS. If the resource (URL, image, video, etc.)  is available over HTTPs, then you can start changing HTTP to HTTPS in your source code. 

Mixed content is an issue that can be so easily identified and solved, but if ignored it can cause big problems, like your website being blocked by Google. 

Once you solved the issue, go back to the Site Audit to make sure you didn’t miss any insecure content resource. The tool re-crawls your website periodically to spot any new changes, although you can always check particular issues only to see if they have been solved. 

recheck issue cognitiveSEO

Does Mixed Content Affect SEO?

As we stated above, Google made it pretty clear that it values secure content and it considers it a ranking factor. It’s listed on their blog, out wide in the open.

The main reason is definitely security. If Google provides its users with better security, it provides better value and the users will be pleased. The fact that internet credit card fraud is on the rise definitely pushed Google into this direction.

google ranking factor

Google has tested its results with HTTPS as a ranking signal and has seen positive results. It could also mean that webmasters who take security seriously might generally present better websites as they care about the users. 

While there is no doubt that mixed content affects SEO (especially with the latest announcement from Google), before search engine optimization one has to think about user trust and user experience. 

If you have mixed content, most of the modern browsers (like Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, etc) will display warnings about this type of content to indicate to the user that the page contains insecure resources. Due to the mixed content warning and insecure resources loading, most likely the user will leave your site, will mark you as a deceiving site and will browse websites that offer similar services and are secure. All your digital marketing and content strategies efforts will go down the drain with chrome blocking your http content. 

So, the answer is yes, mixed content certainly impacts SEO, but more than that, it impacts your users’ trust and that’s something you can’t afford to lose. 

We know it’s unlikely but yet, if you haven’t done it already and you want to switch from HTTP to HTTPS, check out this article for everything you need to know about it. 

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Why the Agency Making Big Promises May Be Buying Bot Traffic to Your Site

Why the Agency Making Big Promises May Be Buying Bot Traffic to Your Site

No agency can guarantee you rankings or traffic, especially certain numbers or timelines. No one can predict Google rankings, algorithm updates, competitor activities and movements, or any of the other hundreds of factors that come into play with SEO. Here‘s how and why you should look out for bot traffic — especially if you’re paying a marketing agency expecting real, genuine traffic.