How to get international insights from Google Analytics

Your international marketing campaigns hinge on one crucial element: how well you have understood your audience.

As with all marketing, insight into the user behavior, preferences and needs of your market is a must. However, if you do not have feet on the ground in these markets, you may be struggling to understand why your campaigns are not hitting the mark.

Thankfully you have a goldmine of data about your customers’ interests, behavior, and demographics already at your fingertips. Wherever your international markets are, Google Analytics should be your first destination for drawing out actionable insights.

Setting up Google Analytics for international insight

Google Analytics is a powerful tool but the sheer volume of data available through it can make finding usable insights tough. The first step for getting the most out of Google Analytics is ensuring it has been set up in the most effective way. This needs to encompass the following:

Also read: An SEO’s guide to Google Analytics terms

1. Setting up views for geographic regions

Depending on your current Google Analytics set-up you may already have more than one profile and view for your website data. What insight you want to get from your data will influence how you set up this first stage of filtering. If you want to understand how the French pages are being accessed and interacted with then you may wish to create a filter based on the folder structure of your site, such as the “/fr-fr/” sub-folder of your site.

However, this will show you information on visitors who arrive on these pages from any geographic location. If your hreflang tags aren’t correct and Google is serving your French pages to a Canadian audience, then you will be seeing Canadian visitors’ data under this filter too.

If you are interested in only seeing how French visitors interact with the website, no matter where on the site they end up, then a geographic filter is better. Here’s an example.

Example of geographic filter in Google Analytics

2. Setting up segments per target area

Another way of being able to identify how users from different locations are responding to your website and digital marketing is by setting up segments within Google Analytics based on user demographics. Segments enable you to see a subset of your data that, unlike filters, don’t permanently alter the data you are viewing. Segments will allow you to narrow down your user data based on a variety of demographics, such as which campaign led them to the website, the language in which they are viewing the content, and their age. To set up a segment in Google Analytics click on “All Users” at the top of the screen. This will bring up all of the segments currently available in your account.

Example of user segmentation in Google Analytics

To create a new segment click “New Segment” and configure the fields to include or exclude the relevant visitors from your data. For instance, to get a better idea of how French-Canadian visitors interact with your website you might create a segment that only includes French-speaking Canadians. To do this you can set your demographics to include “fr-fr” in the “Language” field and “Canada” in the “Location” field.

Example of creating a new location-based user segment

Use the demographic fields to tailor your segment to include visitors from certain locations speaking specific languages.

The segment “Summary” will give you an indication of what proportion of your visitors would be included in this segment which will help you sense-check if you have set it up correctly. Once you have saved your new segment it will be available for you to overlay onto your data from any time period, even from before you set up the segment. This is unlike filters, which will only apply to data recorded after the filter was created.

Also read: A guide to the standard reports in Google Analytics – Audience reports 

3. Ensuring your channels are recording correctly

A common missing step to setting your international targeting up on Google Analytics is ensuring the entry points for visitors onto your site are tracking correctly.

For instance, there are a variety of international search engines that Google Analytics counts as “referral” sources rather than organic traffic sources unless a filter is added to change this.

The best way to identify this is to review the websites listed as having driven traffic to your website, follow the path – Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals. If you identify search engines among this list then there are a couple of solutions available to make sure credit for your marketing success is being assigned correctly.

First, visit the “Organic Search Sources” section in Google Analytics which can be found under Admin > Property > Organic Search Sources.

Example of setting websites as "Organic Search Sources" in Google Analytics

From here, you can simply add the referring domain of the search engine that is being recorded as a “referral” to the form. Google Analytics should start tracking traffic from that source as organic. Simple. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work for every search engine.

If you find the “Organic Search Sources” solution isn’t working, filters are a fool-proof solution but be warned, this will alter all your data in Google Analytics from the point the filter is put in place. Unless you have a separate unfiltered view available (which is highly recommended) then the data will not be recoverable and you may struggle to get an accurate comparison with data prior to the filter implementation. To set up a view without a filter you simply need to navigate to “Admin” and under “View” click “Create View”.

Example of creating a view without filters in Google Analytics

Name your unfiltered view “Raw data” or similar that will remind you that this view needs to remain free of filters.

Example of creating a new reporting view without filters in Google Analytics

To add a filter to the Google Analytics view that you want to have more accurate data in, go to “Filters” under the “View” that you want the data to be corrected for.

Click “Add Filter” and select the “Custom” option. To change traffic from referral to organic, copy the below settings:

Filter Type: Advanced

Field A – Extract A: Referral (enter the domain of the website you want to reclassify traffic from)

Field B – Extract B: Campaign Medium – referral

Output To – Constructor: Campaign Medium – organic

Then ensure the “Field A Required”, “Field B Required”, and “Override Output Field” options are selected.

You may also notice the social media websites are listed among the referral sources. The same filter process applies to them.  Just enter “social” rather than “organic” under the “Output To” field.

Example of a filter in Google Analytics to reclassify yahoo.com traffic from referral to organic

4. Setting goals per user group

Once you have a better idea of how users from different locations use your website you may want to set up some independent goals specific to those users in Google Analytics. This could be, for example, a measure of how many visitors download a PDF in Chinese. This goal might not be pertinent to your French visitors’ view, but it is a very important measure of how well your website content is performing for your Chinese audience.

The goals are simple to create in Google Analytics, just navigate to “Admin”, and under the view that you want to add the goal to click “Goals”.  This will bring up a screen that displays any current goals set up in your view and, if you have edit level permissions in Google Analytics, you can create a new one by clicking “New Goal”.

Example of creating new goals in Google Analytics

Once you have selected “New Goal” you will be given the option of setting up a goal from a template or creating a custom one. It is likely that you will need to configure a custom goal in order to track specific actions based off of events or page destinations. For example, if you are measuring how many people download a PDF you may track the “Download” button click events, or you may create a goal based on visitors going to the “Thank you” page that is displayed once a PDF is downloaded.

Example of tracking visitors' specific events by setting goals

Most goals will need to be custom ones that allow you to track visitors completing specific events or navigating to destination pages.

With the number of goals you can set up under each view (which is limited to 20), it is likely that your goals will be different under each in order to drive the most relevant insight.

5. Filtering tables by location

An easy way to determine location-specific user behavior is using the geographic dimensions to further drill-down into the data that you are viewing.

For instance, if you run an experiential marketing campaign in Paris to promote awareness of your products, then viewing the traffic that went to the French product pages of your website that day compared to a previous day could give you an indicator of success. However, what would be even more useful would be to see if interest in the website spiked for visitors from Paris.

By applying “City” as a secondary dimension on the table of data you are looking at how you can get a more specific overview of how well the campaign performed in that region.

Example of adding secondary dimensions to analyze campaign success

Dimensions available include “Continent”, “Sub-continent” “Country”, “Region”, and “City”, as well as being able to split the data by “Language”.

Also read: How to integrate SEO into the translation process to maximize global success

Drawing intelligence from your data

Once you have your goals set up correctly you will be able to drill much further down into the data Google Analytics is presenting you with. An overview of how international users are navigating your site, interacting with content and their pain points is valuable in determining how to better optimize your website and marketing campaigns for conversion.

1. Creating personas

Many organizations will have created user personas at one stage or another, but it is valuable to review them periodically to ensure they are still relevant in the light of changes to your organization or the digital landscape. It is imperative that your geographic targeting has been set up correctly in Google Analytics to ensure your personas drive insight into your international marketing campaigns.

Creating personas using Google Analytics ensures they are based on real visitors who land on your website. This article from my agency, Avenue Digital, gives you step by step guidance on how to use your Google Analytics data to create personas, and how to use them for SEO.

2. Successful advertising mediums

One tip for maximizing the data in Google Analytics is discerning what the most profitable advertising medium is for that demographic.

If you notice that a lot of your French visitors are coming to the website as a result of a PPC campaign advertising your products, but the traffic that converts the most is actually from Twitter, then you can focus on expanding your social media reach in that region.

This may not be the same for your UK visitors who might arrive on the site and convert most from organic search results. With the geographic targeting set up correctly in Google Analytics, you will be able to focus your time and budgets more effectively for each of your target regions, rather than employing a blanket approach based on unfiltered data.

3. Language

Determining the best language to provide your marketing campaigns and website may not be as simple as identifying the primary language for each country you are targeting. For example, Belgium has three official languages – Dutch, German, and French. Google Analytics can help you narrow down which of these languages is primarily used by the demographic that interacts with you the most online.

If you notice that there are a lot of visitors from French-speaking countries landing on your website, but it is only serving content in English, then this forms a good base for diversifying the content on your site.

4. Checking the correctness of your online international targeting

An intricate and easy to get wrong aspect of international marketing is signaling to the search engines what content you want available to searchers in different regions.

Google Analytics allows you to audit how well international targeting has been understood and respected by the search engines. If you have filtered your data by a geographic section of your website, like, /en-gb/ but a high proportion of your organic traffic landing on this section of the site is from countries that have their own specified pages on the site, then this would suggest that your hreflang tags may need checking.

5. Identifying emerging markets

Google Analytics could help identify other markets that are not being served by your current products, website or marketing campaigns that could prove very fruitful if tapped into.

If through your analysis you notice that there is a large volume of visitors from a country you don’t currently serve then you can begin investigations into the viability of expanding into those markets.

Conclusion

As complex as Google Analytics may seem, once you have set it up right expect to get clarity over your data, as it makes drilling down into detail for each of your markets an easy job. The awareness into your markets you gain can be the difference between your digital marketing efforts soaring or falling flat.

Helen Pollitt is the Head of SEO Avenue Digital. She can be found on Twitter @HelenPollitt1.

The post How to get international insights from Google Analytics appeared first on Search Engine Watch.


Create your first report in Google Data Studio

When working with Google Analytics, you do not always want to stick with just a secondary dimension. Sometimes, you also want a third and fourth dimension. But in Google Analytics’s standard reports, that’s not possible. And the custom reports you can create in Google Analytics are very satisfying to look at. Maybe it’s my perfectionism talking, maybe not. But if I want to create a report, I want it to look nice. Luckily, there’s this tool called Google Data Studio. And oh my, I love it!

What’s Google Data Studio?

If I’d had to explain what it is: Google Data Studio is a tool in which you can visualize your data. You can connect all types of data to Google Data Studio, like Google Sheets, you can upload CSV files and…..drumroll Google Analytics! And it connects really really easy with Google Analytics.

Google Data Studio Data Connectors

You can create all sorts of reports with nice graphs, charts, and tables, bringing your data to life. I’m not thoroughly going to cover every aspect of Google Data Studio, you can use Google for that. But my goal for this post is that you’re going to give Google Data Studio a try and create a nice report with more than two dimensions!

Connect Google Analytics to Google Data Studio

In order to get Google Analytics data in Google Data Studio, you need to make a connection between the two. The only requirement is that you have a Google Analytics account and a Google Data Studio account. Since they’re both Google products, this connection is easy to set up. And therefore shouldn’t hold you back from trying Google Data Studio. The steps are explained in this post about connecting your Google Analytics account.

Add data source to report in Google Data Studio

Recreate the Source/Medium report in Google Data Studio

When I first tried Google Data Studio, I was surprised how intuitively this tool was. The first thing I did to get more familiar with the data tool was to recreate one of my favorite reports in Google Analytics: the Source / Medium report. You start with adding a chart, in this case, a table.

Adding a chart in Google Data Studio

It automatically adds Source and Sessions. Cool thing is that the distinction between dimensions and metrics is immediately visible. The dimensions are green, the metrics are blue. It’s very cool to see the wide range of dimensions and metrics Google Analytics has to offer.

If you click on ‘Source’ you can replace that dimension by scrolling through the dimensions or if you already know the name of the dimension, by typing the name in the search field. The same goes for metrics. To recreate the Source / Medium report, we need to add a couple of metrics.  

  • Dimension: Source / Medium
  • Metric: Users
  • Metric: New users
  • Metric: Sessions
  • Metric: Bounce Rate
  • Metric: Pages / Session
  • Metric: Avg. Session Duration
  • Metric: Goal Conversion Rate (or Ecommerce Conversion Rate)
  • Metric: Goal completions (or Transactions)
  • Metric: Goal value (or Revenue)

Since we have an online shop, I’m adding the Ecommerce metrics to my report:

Recreating the Source / Medium report in Google Data Studio

And there you go! You’ve just recreated the Source / Medium report in Google Data Studio. And this is exciting already of course because you just witnessed for yourself how easy it can be. But now, we’re going to add some cool to this report.

Customize that report

If you use UTM tagging and use campaign, content and term tags, you can add all of these in a report! Give it a try. Your first reaction might be that it would be awesome to have all that information in one table. But you’ll quickly see that your report becomes too cluttered and obscure.

Adding a lot of dimensions to your Google Data Studio report

If you want data to speak for itself then reports must be readable. So adding a lot of dimensions to your reports is not something you want. Think about on what levels you want to see your data. If you want to see just your traffic from search engines there’s no need to see data from other traffic sources right?

In which cases would you like to see more than two dimensions? I love the combination of Source and Landing page. And even more so the combination of Source, Landing page and Campaign to check how my marketing campaigns are doing. Other dimensions that are insightful is Device category, Source and Landing page. Or Region, Source and Landing page. Or if you’re more international, like us, Country, Source and Landing page.

Several dimensions in one Google Data Studio report

Add some fun

Google Data Studio offers filters that easily allow you to specify your data even further. And I’m a fan of specifying your data because it gives you so much more context. You can add Source as a filter, Medium, Campaign, Country, you name it, you can filter it. Make sure it makes sense though. For me, this is such an awesome feature of Google Data Studio!

Adding filters to your Google Data Studio

You can also add a date range filter, which allows you to adjust the date range to your own likings. This makes sure that your dashboard isn’t just a one-time thing, but a dynamic dashboard you can use at all times.

The first thing I always do when I create a report is adding the date range filter. And I really sit down and think about what kind of filters I want. I sometimes even draw out the report I’d like to see by hand on a piece of paper and then create it in Google Data Studio.

There are some cool features that you can add in the table itself. For instance, you can add heatmaps to your columns so that you can easily spot rows that stand out from others.

Adding heatmaps in Google Data Studio

You can even compare date ranges so you can see if you’ve gotten, for example, more sessions from a particular source. And you can give it all the colors and fonts you want, keep the readability in mind though!

Adding date range comparison in Google Data Studio

Conclusion

Starting with Google Data Studio is not as hard as you might think. And for me, it allows me to have more fun with Google Analytics data. If you catch yourself spending time on building the same reports, or adding the same secondary dimensions over and over again, it might be a good idea to just as well create that report in Google Data Studio. It will save you time and the cool thing is that you can share your report with others.

Read more: Learn how to create a Google Search Console dashboard »

The post Create your first report in Google Data Studio appeared first on Yoast.


How to Create a Winning Content Promotion Plan

The original version of this post was written by the ridiculously talented Stephanie Briggs. Although it has been updated heavily it’s incredible how much of the original information still rings true. To keep up to date with her current goings-on, head over to Briggsby.

Many content marketers view “promotion” as a phase that begins once content goes live. The truth is, promotion should begin much earlier than that, running parallel to production, and most of the promotion work should be completed before launch.

Here’s a plan framework you can use for your next content campaign.

Planning

A good promotion plan begins with audience research and the development of targeted messaging. You’ll notice throughout this piece that the more effort you invest in intelligence and structure, the smoother and more effective the rest of your campaign will be.

Define Audience Types

There are multiple types of audiences that can potentially share your content.

The first is content collaborators, which can range anywhere from a partner helping create the content, to an influencer whose quote you’re including, to a respected member of a community you ask for feedback.

The second group are your bread and butter promoters. These are the journalists, bloggers, and business owners who will link or share to your piece.

Finally, you’ve got your amplifiers. They are the audience that will actually be reading your piece and sharing based on personal interest or to establish credibility in a field.

The type of audience you choose to engage will have a huge impact on timing (ie, if you want to collaborate with a major player you need to begin reaching out EARLY).

These audiences are also going to have wildly different goals and you need to determine those in order to send outreach with the right contextual triggers that will get them to work with you.

Conduct Research

Once you’ve determined the types of audiences you want to leverage for content promotion, you’ll need to break things down and do some research to determine what messaging will resonate.

At the end of your research, you’ll want to have a good idea of the following things:

  1. Topics and types of content that resonate with your target audience(s)
  2. The linking/sharing behavior of your outreach targets
  3. What you can offer of value that will get you the link or share from each segment

There are numerous ways to conduct this research.

If you are gathering data first-hand through surveys, interviews or proprietary data analysis you’ll want to alot at least a few weeks to get everything ironed out.

Of course, you don’t always have to be so formal.

For instance, at BuzzStream our planning stage usually involves a discussion of who we’re creating the content for and what their needs are. We use analytics data from previous pieces, information about what we’ve seen performing well on social, and insight from conversations we’ve had with customers to guide our content.

Once you’ve got enough data on your audience, you should try to segment your targets by the type of messaging and value delivery that will most resonate with them.

Determine Messaging Segments

Generally, groups that need to move fast will create unified messaging that will make sense for a large contact list, tweaking in minor ways as they go along. Paradoxically, this approach can actually increase the amount of time it takes to achieve your outreach goals, because generic messaging is usually unappealing.

Segmenting your communications is the best way to increase the response to your content promotion campaigns.

In order to get segmentation right, you’ll need to refer back to your audience research. In particular, you’ll need to make sure your messaging is contextually relevant and clearly demonstrates value.

Developing personas can be very useful here, particularly if you’re managing a large outreach team. I’d recommend you keep a shared doc and make note of the personas you’re targeting for each campaign, so teammates can refer back when they engage in similar future campaigns.

To show how segmentation can significantly impact outreach messaging, here’s a run through of different questions/criteria for two segments targeted for the same piece of content:

List Building

Your audience and persona development leads directly into list building.

List building can be a somewhat onerous and repetitive task. But I’d urge you to pay close attention during this step and make sure that you are adding prospects in an intelligent and methodical way, because getting your list right will make every aspect of your campaign run smoother.

The good news is that you’ve already got some solid research to guide you, so you should be able to know what makes a good prospect and communicate that to your team.

List Size

There are potentially limitless outreach prospects in the world with the right pitch and angle, so how do you know when you’ve got enough in your list?

You’ll want to refer back to your segmentation, because in reality you’ll almost always be better served by thinking in terms of building segmented outreach lists (plural).

First, consider your promotion goals. How many links/shares etc. do you need to make this campaign worthwhile?

Next, consider the general response/link/promotion rate of these segments. The best sources for this information are previous outreach campaigns you’ve sent to similar segments.

Once you’ve got that, you’ll divide your goal links by your success rate to get your target outreach list.

One last step that can give you a little bit more leeway (and should be considered critical if you are outsourcing list building or otherwise getting lists from people who aren’t directly familiar with your idea prospects) is to 5x your target list size.

This will mean more time spent vetting prospects, but will also get much closer to ensuring you hit your goal.

Pre-Launch Engagement

In some cases, you’ll get much better response rates from your prospects if you warm them up first before asking for anything.

It should be said that this will not always be the case. The most important elements of a successful outreach campaign are relevance and value for your prospect. Indeed, if your engagements come off as in any way self-serving or disingenuous then they can actually hurt you.

Particularly in the case of prospects that are busy or who have hundreds of requests made daily, you’re better off just getting to the point.

Still, there is a place for relationship building, particularly where such engagement is natural. One very solid approach is to reach out to anyone you’re linking to or referencing in your post to give them the opportunity to clarify the points you’re including or offer updated information.

For others, you’ll want to be more opportunistic. Put together Twitter and Feed.ly lists, get involved in the conversation on forums, and otherwise live where they live.

But please, don’t just mention them once on Twitter or leave a cursory blog comment. It’ll be obvious what you’re doing and will sour your chances of successful outreach.

Schedule Promotion

The week before you launch your content will likely be the busiest in your promotion cycle. Here’s where you shore up your lists, get buy-in from key influencers, schedule announcements and begin preliminary outreach.

Pretest Content

Pretesting content is a great way to get insight and buy-in from influencers and key audience members.

Essentially, during this step you want to get a preview of your content in front of people with relevant experience who can improve the information or even add to it.

In addition to making your content better and getting a sniff test from people who know what they’re talking about, you’ll also generate a sense of investment that will make those influencers more likely to share once the content goes live.

There are two approaches to doing this.

  1. The targeted approach – This path involves putting together a list of relevant influencers and reaching out directly for thoughts/feedback. If you go this route, you’ll effectively be doing a round of outreach before your content goes live. This obviously adds more complexity to your campaign, but even a few successes can expose your content to an expanded audience.
  2. The volunteer approach – This is much simpler. Just post to your social channels letting followers know that you’re about to release new content and you’re looking for reviewers. Obviously you have less control here but you can still get increased exposure and shares without dramatically increasing outreach costs.

Regardless of which approach you take, make sure you give influencers/audience members enough time to actually provide feedback.

Check Site Funnels

You’ve got influencers to share your content, traffic coming in from relevant audiences, readers who are engaging with the piece…

…and then what?

Nothing is more disheartening than a piece of content that performs well but doesn’t result in conversions for your actual business goals.

Take some time to think through the next steps you want a visitor to take after they read your content.

Look for opportunities to embed downloadable content, insert strategic (not too annoying) pop ups, or guide through the content itself to a conversion.

Queue Ads and Paid Promotion

If you’re going to throw some advertising muscle behind your piece, now’s the time to get images and messaging put together for those.

You’ll also want to figure out your testing schedule for the networks you’re going to promote on and get any test variants in place.

Create Preliminary Outreach Templates

We’ve mentioned the importance of targeted messaging for each audience segment throughout this piece, now it’s time to bring it all together.

First, finalize the segments you are going to send to.

Then, create your templates highlighting the information you gathered. The main focus should be establishing relevance, demonstrating the direct value a contact will get from promoting your piece, and preliminarily addressing any objections.

Note that I don’t include personalization in that list. There are probably some edge cases to this, but as a general rule if your “personalization” is generalizable enough to include in a template through merge fields, it will be useless (or harmful) in your outreach.

Instead, leave space in your template to personalize on a genuine, one-off basis.

Finally, create at least one test variant for each template in your campaign. This will allow you to double down on more successful messaging during subsequent rounds of outreach.

Draft VIP Emails

Some of your audience segments will be made up of high authority publications and influencers that will greatly benefit from completely custom emails. This particularly applies if you’ve been engaging with them to build a relationship prior to outreach.

For all of those, you should create email drafts in advance. That way you won’t have to think through custom messaging on the day of launch with all of the chaos that entails, and will also ensure you get those VIP emails out quickly (usually you’ll want to send them first).

Start Outreach

Launch day is here, and all your hard work leading up to this point is about to be put to the test.

Now is where you’ll see the benefit of your prep. If you’ve taken the time to get all the moving pieces in place then you’ll be able to glide through your tasks and get your messaging out as smoothly as possible.

There will still be some chaos (there always is), but it’ll be chaos of the organized variety.

Send VIP Emails

The very first thing you’ll want to do once you set your content live, before even sharing on social or blasting your lists, is sending outreach to critical influencers. The reason for this is simple:

If you give influencers first access to the content (and let them know it) they will feel like they’re being treated preferentially and are more likely to promote.

This is where the benefit of having drafts ready to go comes in particularly handy, because you definitely don’t want much of a delay before making a general announcement.

Promote to Your Audience

After you send your critical outreach you’ll want to promote to your existing audiences to start kindling interest in your piece.

This includes sending emails to your opt-in mailing lists, scheduling posts on your social channels, paying to boost your social announcements if that makes sense, and otherwise spreading the word to people who explicitly want to hear from you.

Phased Outreach

Now it’s finally time to begin sending outreach to the majority of your list.

Although it is very tempting to send to everyone as quickly as possible, a better approach is to phase your outreach.

This means sending the relevant template variants to about a quarter of each of your segments. Give those sub-segments some time to respond (half a day should give you enough data to go on). Then, based on the response rate to each of your templates, send the winning variant to the remainder of the segment.

This approach is obviously more involved, and it’s certainly not perfect. In many cases you will not get what would generally be considered a “statistically relevant” sample given the short gap between sending the first and second phase of your outreach. However, even this limited information can result in dramatic differences in outreach response, and is almost always a worthwhile exercise.

Reply and Moderate

Once you’ve proactively promoted your content, you’ll want to set aside the rest of your day to respond to people who engage with you

This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Moderating blog comments
  • Responding to replies to your outreach
  • Jumping in to the conversation on social
  • Retweeting messages that praise or spark discussion around your content
  • Replying to any questions your audience has
  • Further amplifying content if you notice it getting posted on other networks
  • Posting content that gets picked up or mentioned by publications

Essentially, give yourself the flexibility to be everywhere at once 🙂

Amplify Buzz

Well hey, you survived!

Although the frantic (hopefully successful) first day of launch is behind you, you’ve got to keep pushing to ensure the initial buzz around your content continues.

Double Down on Social Wins

If you post multiple times on different social channels on launch day you’ll almost certainly see some posts and messaging outperforming others.

Assuming that’s the case, you’ll want to give those successful posts a further boost and modify messaging across channels to reflect the elements that resonated most.

If you haven’t invested much in paid social, now’s a great time to do it since you’ve got the benefit of already knowing which posts will be successful without the early stage A/B test requirements.

On the other hand, if you’re noticing that you’re not getting much response on any of your posts, that’s a pretty clear sign that you need to introduce entirely new messaging.

Amplify Shares

Keep an eye on the conversation throughout the week, paying particular attention to shares or comments from influencers outside of your time zone or standard work hours.

Once you see new people joining into the conversation, schedule retweets/thanks to get traffic spokes and build social proof as well as relationships.

Submit Content to Newsletters and Groups

You can get some easy qualified traffic for your content by submitting it to community sites, email newsletters and weekly roundups.

Most community sites will have guidelines on self promotion, so look into those and make sure you have the right post ratio (your content vs. others) and are observing all rules. And of course, make sure you’re clearly communicating value and not being at all sales-y. You definitely don’t want to damage your reputation or get blacklisted from future posts in a prevalent community.

Ongoing Opportunities

Once things start calming down, there are still ways you can generate value from your content and get ongoing promotional benefit. This obviously includes continuing to monitor for and thank people who share your content, but you have many other opportunities as well.

Link Reclamation (Unlinked Mentions) Campaign

If your content was at all popular, there’s a good chance that people shared it ( or elements of it) without crediting you directly.

A link reclamation campaign will help you get links and shares for your work from people who are actively demonstrating interest.

There are many tools/processes to run a successful link reclamation campaign. You can even set alerts to monitor for opportunities on an ongoing basis. Rather than get into the full cycle here (it’s straightforward but there’s a decent amount to cover), I’d point you to Darren Kingman’s article on efficient link reclamation which gives a deep dive on the subject.

Continuous Outreach

If the first round of outreach ignites the fire, ongoing outreach is what’ll keep it stoked.

Essentially, you’ll just need to top up your list of relevant prospects following the same process outlined earlier, except this time you’ll be able to send outreach with the benefit of knowing what performs for sites in their niche.

You can schedule this process monthly or quarterly, or alternatively if you’re using BuzzStream you can use our prospecting searches function to get updated prospect recommendations on a regular basis.

Repurpose Your Content

Repurposing your content is the definition of low-hanging fruit, but doing so can exponentially increase it’s value.

Here are a few ideas to get started:

  • Create a video that highlights the key points in your article
  • Create a webinar with live Q&A
  • Pull data or facts and create an infographic
  • Convert the article into a downloadable guide or cheat sheet
  • Use the article as the basis for a public speaking engagement
  • Pull info from the article to answer HARO queries
  • Respond to questions on Quora using article contents

Wrapping Up

After your promotion campaign draws to a close, spend some time reviewing metrics like shares, visits, and conversions. Call out things you’ll want to remember for next time.

Categorize and make notes on influencers that helped promote your content, that way your team can leverage those relationships moving forward and build a snowball effect in future campaigns.

You should also refer back to your original influencer lists. It’s likely that some people who you initially considered moderate tier 2 influencers proved to actually be tier 1 advocates. Reorganize the list based on the results of your campaign, so you can be better equipped to move into the next project.

What methods are you using to promote your content? Anything we missed or that you’d like to see explored further? Let us know in the comments or tweet us @BuzzStream and we’ll get on it!

 

The post How to Create a Winning Content Promotion Plan appeared first on BuzzStream.


Trust Flow and Citation Flow – the lowdown on how you can use them

Transcript

Not all links are equal – a link from a quality site will be much more valuable than a link from a poor site. A quality site is one created by humans who care about their audiences and the content they create for them – a poor site might be one created by robots to scrape other people’s content and make money from advertising.

In this video we’ll show how Trust Flow and Citation Flow allow you to tell the difference and we’ll give you some examples.

Knowing the difference between quality and poor sites has advantages:

1. You can make the most of your time by concentrating on quality links only

2. You’ll avoid penalties by ignoring poor sites

3. You can spot dodgy tactics your competitors might be using

4. You can spot dodgy links that you got in the past… and might need to do something about.

Trust Flow and Citation Flow allow you to see the differences quickly.


Trust Flow and Citation Flow are included in every Majestic subscription. Check out our plans here.


High Trust Flow and good Citation Flow

Here Ariba.com has a high Trust Flow and a good Citation Flow

When a site links to you, your Citation Flow increases…

Keep adding links and your Citation Flow will continue to grow

But your Citation Flow doesn’t JUST come from sites that link to you…

Citation Flow also comes from the sites that link to the sites that link to you…

…and from the sites that link to them.

The power ‘flows’ through all of those levels of links.

If a site has got a lot of links, then it will pass on more power – so getting links from sites that themselves have a high citation flow is likely be good for you.

But herein lies a problem…

…Citation Flow like other measures of a site’s power can be manipulated.

So, it’s important to ignore links from spammy robot sites and look at sites that are created by real humans…

The importance principle at the heart of Trust Flow

Because of our huge link database, we found a very important difference…

Robot sites will link to human sites…

But human sites don’t tend to link to robot sites.

Human sites tend to link to other human sites…

…so a site that has links from a human site is also likely to be a human site

That’s a really important principle at the heart of Trust Flow.

So suppose this diagram represents the whole of the internet…

Then we can isolate sites that we know through research are human – and can be trusted…

…they’re shown as red in this diagram

We’ve created a seed set of millions of human sites spread over many different categories.

For any URL, we can ask the question – how far away is this URL from the seed set of known trusted sites?

It’s a bit like 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon created by a trio of Albright students.

So, we can say, “the closer a page is to our set of known trusted sites, the higher its Trust Flow”.

Trust Flow is a much better measure of the quality of a site than Citation Flow.


Trust Flow and Citation Flow are included in every Majestic subscription. Check out our plans here.


Trust Flow and Citation Flow work together

So why don’t we just drop Citation Flow?

We don’t because in conjunction with Trust Flow it gives some very valuable insights.

We combine Trust Flow and Citation Flow to give you a link profile…

Here’s a decent profile from a small business with good links…

Most of the links cluster around the 45 degree line – which is what you might expect…

The site has many great links including this one which has a high Trust Flow and a high Citation Flow

But there will be poor links as well – like this one here in the bottom right which has a high Citation Flow, but very low Trust Flow.

Now the site owner might want to do something about this, but these poor links are probably more than compensated for by all the high Trust Flow links.

Where it starts to be a problem is in a link profile like this.

You can see that nearly all the links fall below the 45 degrees line…

In other words, nearly all the links have a higher Citation Flow that they do Trust Flow…

…which means they’re likely to be from ‘robot’ sites.

So if a link prospect has this type of link profile, don’t go near it!

To see the Trust Flow and Citation Flow of your site, go to Site Explorer, then referring domains and choose your options.

In this case we’ve sorted the referring domains by descending Trust Flow.

And if you want to work on these in more detail, create an Advanced Report and go to ‘analysis options’. Choose the ‘Flow metrics’ tab and enter your figures.


How is Google evaluating web content for rankings?

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Episode Overview

When it comes to Google, content may be king, but there’s also a lot that data-driven marketers need to know and do—including understanding that data is not the enemy of creativity. In this first podcast of our April Searchmetrics Content Ranking Factors series, renowned SEO strategists Jordan Koene and Marlon Glover discuss what it takes to have content that ranks. They discuss best practices that every marketer should know, covering how web content should be produced and how Google evaluates it for rankings:

Learn about:

  • What are Google’s “micro moments” which determine what consumers will buy?
  • How to use search volume to understand consumer demand
  • How to create a content strategy that maps data to the different formats of content you should create
  • What are the three steps in the content production phase that should be guiding your content strategy?
  • What is in Google’s black box and how do they measure content engagement?

GUESTS & RESOURCES:

Episode Transcript

Ben:                Welcome to Ranking Factors month on the Voices of Search Podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro, and this month we’re taking a deep dive into the weeds and examining the technical content and external factors that impact your visibility.

Ben:               Joining us today are two of Searchmetrics’ best and brightest, Jordan Koene who is a world-renowned SEO strategist and the CEO of Searchmetrics Inc, and Marlon Glover, who is Searchmetrics’ content services team lead and one of our most savvy content marketers. Today, Jordan and Marlon are going to walk us through some of the most important content ranking factors.

Ben:                But before we get started, I want to remind you that this podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics. We are an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise scale businesses monitor their online presences and make data-driven decisions. And as part of a ranking factors month, we’d like to welcome you, our loyal podcast listeners, to our upcoming webinar, where we’ll discuss the evolution of custom ranking factors with machine learning.

Ben:               The webinar’s going to happen on April 25th, so join our discussion about how a new generation of machine learning technology is evolving to provide on demand and domain-specific ranking factors that are shaping the future of SEO. To register for our custom ranking factors webinar, go to Searchmetrics.com/webinar.

Ben:                Okay, on with the show. Here’s my conversation with Searchmetrics’ own Jordan Koene and Marlon Glover.

Ben:               Jordan, Marlon, welcome to the Voices of Search Podcast.

Jordan:               Hey Ben, thanks. looking forward to this conversation today.

Marlon:             Yeah, thank you for having us.

Ben:              It’s great to have you both here. I want to dive into talking about content, how content is produced, how it’s evaluated, and specifically, how Google and the other SEO search engines evaluate, and how it can impact your rankings.

Ben:               Hey Marlon, let’s- let’s start off with you. Can we just, can we start off high level, and just talk about the content journey? What’s the right way to think about creating content that is optimized for rankings?

Marlon:             Yeah sure, Ben. Folks that have had any conversations with me in the past, they’ve heard me use this phrase quite often, and I borrow it from one of my colleagues here, is that data is not the enemy of creativity. And often times as content folks, we tend to fear getting too wrapped up into the data and the technology for developing our content strategies, and our content that we are asking our writers to produce.

Marlon:            So, let me take you through this process of how we start with data to truly inform the content that we create for our target audience and our perspective customers. To start, one of the first things that we look at is the consumers demand, and the questions that they’re asking. So, the demand for products, and their demand for answers. They’re looking to be taught. And so, we can use our data to determine truly how much they want to be taught, based off of the search volume.

Marlon:             So I think it starts first with looking at the people who are close to those customers, the people that are having conversation every day to determine, what questions are being asked throughout that sales process. Can we determine based off of the questions that customers are asking every day, what is the demand for that data? What is the search volume? What is the seasonality around that data? What is the true intent?

Marlon:            Speaking of intent, the second stage that we look at is once we’ve determined those search terms, those keywords, what is the intent of those keywords, right? I often go back to a piece of content that Google themselves had created, it was around the four micro moments. Those four micro moments are, want to buy, right? Those are the ones that we’re the most familiar with, but also includes want to know, want to go, and want to do. Those four micro moments, from Google, can really help us determine exactly what the intent of a perspective customer, target audience may be, but also how we should be guiding the content strategy.

Marlon:            And then the last piece, in my content production is, how can we make this piece of content as comprehensive as possible, right? So, what are the factors? What are all the elements that are going to go into making this content compete with the top raking URLs, or that same search query?

Ben:               So here’s what I’m hearing from you, is that there are really three stages in the content production phase that you’re going through to make sure that your content is going to have a big enough audience, and going to hit the mark, in terms of meeting their needs, right? First you go through the data process, and making sure that there is a need for your content, then you’re looking at the different formats of content, and trying to establish a connection between the type of questions or information that the user is going through, and trying to create the right format of content.

Ben:                Then you’re going through a production process to make sure that you’re making that content as comprehensible as possible. And as I say all of this, it sounds more complicated than I think it needs to be, just hearing myself say it back to you. So let’s give a real world example here. We all have talked in pre-production for this podcast about how at points in our life we’ve all had a bad back.

Marlon:              (laughs)

Ben:                Talk to me about how you would go through the process of creating a content strategy that maps from the data you can collect about bad backs, into, different formats of content, and then making sure that you’re creating as much valuable content as you can.

Marlon:             Yeah, happy to. And, this is a very relevant topic, as you mentioned before, since, something that we’re dealing with at the moment right now. So-

Jordan Koene:               All three of us, we all have serious back pain.

Ben:                I had back surgery a couple years ago, and oddly enough, I am the one that has the least amount of back pain right now. I feel bad for you guys, but let’s solve some problems, and create some content that, not only helps the SEO community, but the bad back community as well.

Jordan:             We do have a roller here in the office that we’ve acquired, simply because of the severe amount of back pain that everyone was having. So, we just have people rolling out on the floor all the time.

Ben:               Yeah, Friday is also going to be massage day for anybody that wants to come by the office.

Marlon:             (laughs) So, that’s actually a good segway and a great example. So, let’s talk about a company that may be selling a product to relieve back pain, like a foam roller. And maybe there’s an organization out there selling a product that would in this. And- and I also mentioned in an earlier podcast, we talked about the buyer’s journey and the different stages, so, I’m not going to emphasize the- the different stages of the buyer’s journey, but what I will do is use this example to talk through that process.

Marlon:            So, if I’m an eCommerce client, and I’m a content strategist with an eCommerce client, the first thing I’m going to my SEO colleagues to determine is, can you help me identify what I should be writing about, as it pertains to back pain to sell this product, a foam roller on this side, right? So, I want to lead people to this product, help me determine what questions are being asked, what is the demand for those questions, and then, when should I be creating this content? Is there any seasonality associated with that?

Marlon:             So, that’s what I’m going to my team to ask and to provide me insights around that, or maybe I’m just looking for the data, and I’ll determine my own insights. So that’s the first step, so I may ask the team to look at a set of keywords based off of competitors, based on research that we’ve done from our consumers that are, asking frequently, ask questions around this topic.

Marlon:            Any other things that as an SEO we should be thinking about, including in this, Jordan?

Jordan:             Yeah, absolutely. So, some of the big data points that we really want to analyze when we’re looking at this is, how do we compare against the other eCommerce competitive set? So, as you mentioned, in order to be competitive, are we hitting the content legs? Are we hitting the keywords, and the subtopics that are going to help us compete for this particular theme?

Jordan:              And the interesting thing about, especially eCommerce data, and I think eCommerce more so than other industries, it’s hyper-competitive and incredibly data-driven. But as you said earlier, Marlon, this doesn’t mean that we should be, fearful of the data, we should encourage the use of that data, and elicit that practice in in our content production journey.

Ben:               So, Marlon and Jordan, what I’m hearing is that, as the content strategist and as the SEO, Marlon, you would essentially go to Jordan and say, “Hey, I need data on bad backs, where is there query opportunity? How much content do I need to write to rank? And what are priority keywords for each specific topic?” That’s really the type of data that you’re looking at.

Marlon:             That’s right, yeah. And often times, I’m able to see seasonality around those keywords, I’m able to look at other metrics to help me determine the likelihood that my domain, and my content will rank for those keywords, as well as when I should be writing it.

Marlon:            Ben, I think the, the second part as I mentioned earlier using this example is the intent. So, is likely that out of that initial keyword research, there are going to be different types of keywords and search terms that I want to go after. But then my next step is to determine what is the true intent that a perspective customer may around those keywords?

Marlon:            So, when I started my search, when I started having these back problems, the first thing I looked up was lower back pain, right? Just give me some general information around the causes, potentially what it could be. And the first few pages that I looked at, it was they were long; it’s a lot of text-based content, long-form content. As I mentioned before, this typically falls into the want to know, right? If you look at any keyword that falls into the want to know intent-based search, it’s typically going to be text-based content.

Marlon:            One of the other terms I looked up was low back pain relief, and it produced very different type of search results. More videos, more stretches, more how-to’s. So, typically this falls into the want to do category. I want to know how to relieve my back pain, I want to take an action against this. So, what Google is telling me is that, that the content that is most engaging for target audiences around this particular search is going to be more instructional, right? And it may have more media elements included in that.

Marlon:             So, those are two examples within the intent-based phase of this process.

Ben:               Okay, so I want to talk a little bit about evaluation. Once you have your content strategy down, you looked at your data, you’ve understood where there’s an opportunity, you’re figuring out what the customer’s intent is with their query. And you go through your production phase, you’re making the right length of content, and you’re making sure that it’s the right fidelity, whether it’s video, text, imagery, whatever it may be.

Ben:               Jordan, talk to me a little bit about how Google evaluates the content. Is it as simple as they just look at, clicks and time on site to figure out if a piece of content is valuable?

Jordan:             That’s a great question, Ben. And, we talk about this here at Searchmetrics, we talk about one word, predominantly. And I’m sure that the folks at Google do the same thing, and they look at this from the lens of engagement, right? So, ultimately, what every author or producer of content wants is engagement. They want consumers, users, visitors, to be connected, to be fulfilled, to ultimately reach their goal or their objective. Whether it’s through those micro moments that Marlon mentioned, or it’s through another medium that that same site can provide.

Jordan:             So kind of like the follow-through that that site might have, maybe, related content, like ads or lead forms, or other activities that can take place. But ultimately, it always comes down to engagement. And the funny thing is that engagement is a pretty subjective and freeform topic, and so there’s a lot of different paths that you can go down to measure that.

Ben:                So, let’s go down the rabbit hole a little bit. When you’re talking about measuring engagement, it is a relatively, let’s call it a black box, what Google considers engagement. What are some of the ways that we evaluate engaging content at Searchmetrics?

Jordan:             So, for the SEO folks, that are listening, you’re going to love this little bit of a historical walkthrough for us, because this isn’t a new topic for Google, and for us as SEOs. Really engagement, about 15 or so years ago, for Google, started off with the focal point of links. So, Google kind of said, “Hey, if your content has more links, then those are kind of like votes, and votes is a form of engagement,” right? It’s a way for people to validate the usefulness or the authority of your content.

Jordan:             The interesting thing is that today there is a plethora of engagement metrics that Google is using, and I’ll just go over a couple of them very quickly. Some of them are user-based, like you mentioned, Ben, things like time on sites, click through rate, elements like that. Other engagement metrics include, the user’s ability to be fulfilled with an action, so basically conversion rate, and are they actually completing the actual task that should be taking place on the page?

Jordan:          Other engagement rates … or engagement data points that Google might use, is how users might engage with your content through different SERP elements. I know, that’s a tricky one. But like, the SERP is no longer just about a blue link, there are site links, there are embedded elements, there are knowledge graph and answer boxes. And so, as collective whole, how are users on Google engaging with those various SERP experiences?

Jordan:             And then finally, a big one, and a super subjective one, is brand and brand awareness. So, how many times is your brand being mentioned? How are you investing in other more traditional forms of marketing? All of those elements are now dictating an algorithmic formula for engagement.

Ben:               So essentially what you’re saying is that Google is taking a broad look at the Internet as a whole and looking at what your brand strength and power is, and then they’re factoring that into your search results as an interpretation of how engaged people are with your content.

Ben:               If they are talking about you broadly where Google can see you, you must have an engaging brand. And then they’re factoring in the traditional links, and how people are engaging with the other SERP elements as well, to try to put together a holistic score of how interested in your content the consumers are.

Jordan:             Absolutely. I even think, to get a little scary here, I even think that Google’s getting to the point where they’re actually measuring sentiment on brand, to see positive versus negative sentiment, and using that as an evaluation as well. But I mean, now we’re going really down into the … to an engagement level that’s much, much more granular.

Ben:               So when I say Searchmetrics is great, Searchmetrics is wonderful, Searchmetrics is the best, you’re saying that when we publish this podcast transcript onto our blog, me stating the value of Searchmetrics and talking about it positively actually affects our SEO performance?

Jordan:             Even if our collective audience reciprocates, yes, I think it’s critical mass, right?

Ben:               Okay. Everybody say it with me, Searchmetrics is great.

Jordan:              Searchmetrics is great.

Ben:                All right. Let’s talk a little bit about the SEO interpretation of ranking factors for content. What I’m hearing is there’s really one ranking factor, right? There are how people are engaging with your content, it’s not like the technical ranking factors where we’re looking at time on site and mobile responsiveness, and, what your crawl metrics look like. It’s really, you have content, are people engaged with it, and your brand.

Jordan:            Absolutely.

Marlon:            Yeah.

Jordan:             But, I think the big thing is that engagement, as we mentioned in the beginning, is a rather subjective form, and there’s a lot of ways to solve it.

Ben:               Okay. So, let’s talk through some of those ways that the user base can optimize for engagement. We mentioned that some of the sort of submetrics are time on site, mentions, link building, this is getting out of, hey, how do you produce a piece of content and publish it so Google ranks it? It’s getting into how do you syndicate that content and drive performance metrics, that are generally measured in other channels like, social, and PR?

Ben:               Talk to me about what some of the strategies you guys can suggest that are going to help boost content engagement? Curve ball.

Jordan:            That is a phenomenal question, Ben. And, I think before we go into some very specific examples, into how you can improve your engagement, I think it’s important for all of our listeners to understand that this is exactly where the SEO, the content owner, and the website or webmaster, that marriage, that connection between those three groups is super critical.

Jordan:              Because engagement isn’t a standalone effort from the SEO, the content producer, or the website builder, it’s a connection between all three. And ultimately, the best advice we can give you is test, test, test. Because that’s where you’re going to get your best results, is by evaluating different content forms and types, and improving those, as well as changing different layouts and experiences through your web design, and then connecting that with the data and websites that you can gather from your SEO.

Marlon:           And Jordan, I think there’s one other individual, or maybe a broader set of individuals that I’d throw in there, and I think that’s the digital marketer, or the broader marketing organization. And Ben, I know that you have quite a bit of experience in this space, so we’d love to get your input here, from your perspective, what are some effective strategies for distributing that content so it’s going to perform well and beat those other engagement metrics.

Ben:                Yeah, (laughs) you’re turning the tables on me here, Marlon, but I’ll use the back pain, and maybe the foam roller, example that we had. I think one of the biggest pieces of advice that I have, and we do this, with all the podcasts here at Searchmetrics, is breaking your long-form content down into short-form content that’s made for distribution across multiple channels, is something that’s a really powerful tool.

Ben:               This is kind of a page of the Gary V. playbook. But let’s take this podcast as an example, or maybe we have a video about how to do our stretches for back pain, or you have a back pain podcast talking about some of the problems that people face, and how they’ve overcome their objectives. You can take the multiple different types of fidelity, your audio and your video content and transcribe them, and turn them into blog content, and your written long-form content, and that’s great. I think what you want to do is take a lot of that longer form content and break out the highlights, and some of the mentions that are relevant to other people, that are in your industry, or talking about, specific people in your content.

Ben:               So for example, if I have a video about back pain, and I’m using our foam roller, but I’m also using an inversion table, and I have a personal trainer that’s working with me, what I might do is take cuts of those videos, splice them up, and then send it to the company that creates the inversion table and to the trainer, and have them syndicate the part of their content that we mentioned in ours on social networks.

Ben:              The example maybe for this podcast is we transcribe our podcast, we summarize it, we create shorter form content. When we mention somebody, we try to give them the snippet of the content from this podcast, so they share it on LinkedIn and Twitter, and now we’re building an engagement strategy that is more social, than it is specifically SEO. But I do think that that feeds into the overall brand engagement, it gives you more impressions, and it also helps Google interpret how powerful your brand is, and how relevant it is across multiple different channels.

Jordan:             No, I think that that’s an excellent summary, and it incapsulates the true opportunity and challenge that exists with content. Which is, the utility of it, and mapping it to the intent, and the medium by which you’re distributing that content, is absolutely a recipe that’s critical to not only your SEO success, but to your audience’s success.

Marlon:             And one thing that I’ll add for all of my SEO friends out there listening, is there’s a huge opportunity for you to evangelize the effectiveness of employing good SEO and content strategy, simply by providing the content teams with reports. Help them understand how their content is performing, what value they perceive from executing a strategy that’s similar to this in the future, by simply helping them understand the performance of their content on an individual page level, if you are able to.

Marlon:            So, I think that one thing in terms of advocating for having great and effective SEO strategy within a content strategy is to start with showing them the fruits of their labor. I think that’s really important and a key piece that we can’t overlook is that communication.

Ben:              Yeah, I think my biggest takeaway, as we talk about ranking factors, specifically, this being ranking factors month. That with content, there is really one key ranking factor. So, it requires a lot of collaboration across multiple different teams to optimize for that ranking factor, which is engagement.

Ben:               If you’re a content strategist, you need to be partnering with your SEO to understand where the opportunity is, and what queries you’re likely to create. If you’re an SEO, even when you feed that data to your content strategist, they have to then go and understand what the user intent is, and produce great content. And then as that content is published, the engagement score really matters, you need to be able to syndicate that content.

Ben:               And so now you’re working with your broader marketing team to try to make sure that your content is broken down into shareable chunks and shared in the appropriate channel. So, well, there might only be one primary ranking factors for content, to optimize for that, it really is a complicated team effort.

Marlon:             Yes, that’s a great summary. And I’d just like to add that it doesn’t have to be complicated, we’re here to help at Searchmetrics. (laughs)

Ben:               Love it. And if anybody has back pains, we’re here to with you. And that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search Podcast.

Ben:               Thanks for listening to my conversation with Jordan Koene, Searchmetrics’ CEO, and Marlon Glover, our content team lead. We’d love to continue this conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Jordan or Marlon, you can find their LinkedIn profiles in our show notes, or you can contact them on Twitter, where Jordan’s handle is JTKoene, and Marlon’s is marlon_glover.

Ben:               If you have any general marketing questions, or if you’d like to talk about this podcast, you can find my contact information in our show notes, or you can tweet me @benjshap. And if you’re interested in attending our custom ranking factors webinar, which discusses the use of artificial intelligence to create ranking factors, which is happening on April 25th, head over to Searchmetrics.com/webinar.

Ben:               If you like this podcast and want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app, and we’ll be back in your feed in a few days.

Ben:             Lastly, if you’ve enjoyed this podcast and you’re feeling generous, we’d love for you to leave us a review in the Apple iTunes Store, or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

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


11 Actionable SEO Techniques For More Organic Traffic in 2019

Article stats

  • Referring domains 61

  • Organic traffic 319

Data from Content Explorer tool.

Quick links

Looking to boost your SEO in 2019? Try this list of actionable, easy‐to‐understand SEO techniques on for size.

Most lists of SEO techniques are quite vague:

  1. Write great content (?)
  2. Build some backlinks (??)
  3. Optimize for Rankbrain (…???!)

Yeah, right… *hits back button*

In this post, we do away with ambiguity and focus on a handful of actionable SEO techniques that get results. Let’s go.

1. Improve titles and descriptions to boost CTR

SEO isn’t just about ranking. *gasp*

Let’s say that you rank #1 for a keyword with thousands of monthly searches. You won’t get traffic unless people actually click on your page in the search results.

That’s why it’s important to optimize for clicks. But how?

Two main things affect your click‐through rate (CTR):

  1. Title tag
  2. Meta description

These are the two HTML tags that show up in the search results…

meta title description

… and they’re all you have to win to click.

So you need to make them as enticing as possible by:

  • Including “power” words;
  • Making your USP clear;
  • Demonstrating a clear benefit;
  • Aligning them with search intent

But here’s the thing: no matter how hard you try to get this right, things won’t always work out.

Sometimes people just won’t click on your site in the search results. And therein lies the opportunity:

  1. Find the keywords for which you rank on the first page
  2. Look for ones that have a low CTR
  3. Improve the title tags and descriptions of the associated pages

To do this, use the Organic keywords report in Ahrefs Site Explorer.

Site Explorer > enter your domain > Organic keywords

ahrefs site explorer organic keywords

ahrefs site explorer organic keywords

This report shows all the keywords for which your site ranks.

Just over 60,000 in this case.

Now, we’re only interested in first‐page rankings as that’s where our efforts will have the most significant impact. So before doing anything else, let’s filter the report for first‐page rankings.

Let’s also filter for keywords with search volumes of 200 or more.

organic keywords report filtered

organic keywords report filtered

That will weed out the keywords with little to no traffic potential.

Sidenote.

This number is somewhat arbitrary. Feel free to use a higher or lower threshold.

Finally, we’ll exclude all owned SERP features.

serp features owned

serp features owned

Next, export the data to CSV.

export ahrefs

export ahrefs

Now, make a copy of this Google Sheet and import that CSV into the tab labeled “Import here.”

Go to the “Results” sheet and you should see something like this:

google sheet ctr

google sheet ctr

This shows the pages where you stand to gain the most by improving CTR.

These are the ones you should aim to improve.

Sidenote.

Even though we excluded owned SERP features, it’s important to note that the presence of SERP features (e.g., featured snippets) in the SERP can affect the CTR of the “regular” organic results. Furthermore, the calculations in the spreadsheet are based on CTR averages. As such, always take the results with a pinch of salt and investigate further before adjusting titles and descriptions. There may be a legitimate reason for lower than average CTRs such as the presence of SERP features, or the fact that the keyword is branded. Remember that CTR varies on a keyword‐by‐keyword basis.

Recommended reading: How to Craft the Perfect SEO Title Tag (Our 4‐Step Process)

HOW THIS WORKS

Here’s what the sheet does in a nutshell:

  1. Looks at the current CTR for all keywords
  2. Finds those with lower‐than‐average CTRs given their ranking position
  3. Calculates the potential traffic increase should you hit the average CTR

To give an example, imagine that we have a page that ranks for just two keywords:

  1. keyword 1” (1,000 searches/month) — position #1
  2. keyword 2” (500 searches/month) — position #2

Right now, we get a 10% CTR on “keyword 1” and a 5% CTR on “keyword 2.”

(10% * 1,000) + (5% * 500) = 125 visits/month

But here’s the thing: the average CTR for position #1 is ~27% for unbranded keywords in the US, and ~15% for position #2.

So we’re performing well below average here.

If we could somehow improve CTR to hit the average, the maths would look more like this:

(27% * 1,000) + (15% * 500) = 345 visits/month

That’s a traffic increase of 176%!

2. Boost underperforming pages with internal links

Internal links are backlinks from other pages on the same website.

The blue words in this sentence form an internal link to our anchor text guide.

Why are they important? Because they aid the flow of “authority” around your website.

Many also believe that internal link anchors (the clickable words) influence Google rankings. This is something that Google’s John Mueller has all but confirmed on a few occasions.

Now, it’s important to note that you should have a good internal linking structure to begin with.

We recommend using a “silo” structure, which looks like this:

internal links content silos

internal links content silos

But sometimes, you might want to boost certain pages with internal links.

Here’s how to do it:

a) Find suitable underperforming pages to boost

For this process, I’m going to assume that you already have a list of keywords for which you want to rank. If you don’t have this, well, I recommend checking out our SEO basics guide, because that’s SEO 101.

Got it? Paste the list into Ahrefs Rank Tracker. This tells you where you rank for each keyword in your target country.

Here are some of the target keywords I’m tracking for posts on the Ahrefs blog:

keyword position rank tracker

keyword position rank tracker

It’s important to note that you don’t need to paste every keyword variation in here. Just paste in the main target keyword for each of your pages and posts.

Next, filter for keyword rankings in positions 2–5.

rank tracker rankings

rank tracker rankings

It’s also worth excluding your SERP feature rankings, just to give a clean data set to work with.

Here’s how to do that:

exclude serp features

exclude serp features

You should now be left with a list of keywords for which you currently rank in positions 2–5.

By default, the list of keywords in Rank Tracker is sorted by estimated organic traffic from high to low, meaning that the keywords sending the most traffic to your site are at the top of the list.

For example, the keyword “SEO basics” sends an estimated 400 organic visitors to our site each month…

seo basics traffic

seo basics traffic

… and this is from ranking in position 3!

So imagine how much more traffic we could get from that keyword if we ranked just one position higher! Probably lots more, right?

Right, but actually, there’s no need to guess…

If we hit the caret on the page currently ranking above us, then select the Organic Keywords report, we can see exactly how much more organic traffic that page gets from our target keyword:

caret organic keywords

Here, we can see that the page ranking above us gets an estimated 494 visits per month from the keyword “SEO basics” vs. our 400. That’s 23.5% more!

Conclusion: If we could somehow boost the ranking of our page from position 3 → 2, then we’d see a ~23.5% increase in traffic from this keyword!

Here’s another thing:

Our SEO basics guide not only ranks for “SEO basics,” but also 246 other keywords…

seo basics keywords

seo basics keywords

If we can boost the “authority” of the page through internal linking, chances are we’ll boost rankings for some of those other keywords too… which means even more traffic!

Got a page that would benefit from a boost? Keep reading.

IMPORTANT

There are two caveats this process in that the page ranking above you should have:

  1. Similar search intent: If you’re trying to rank a blog post, then it’s best if the page above you is also a blog post, not a product page.
  2. Roughly the same URL Rating (UR): URL rating is Ahrefs’ proprietary metric indicating the “authority” of the page. If the page ranking above you has a drastically higher UR score, then you may need to point a lot of powerful internal links at your page to outrank it.

NOTE. Looking at the relative UR of top‐ranking pages is a useful gauge by which to judge opportunity. But it’s not definitive. There are many reasons why a page could be ranking higher than yours (better on‐page SEO, etc.)

b) Find relevant places from which to add internal links to the target page

Now we have a suitable page to boost, we need to find suitable places from which to add internal links to that page. There are two ways to do this.

Google site: search

Go to Google and search for site:yourdomain.com “topic of the page you want to boost”

In this case, we could search for site:ahrefs.com/blog “seo basics”

This finds all the pages on your site that mention the phrase somewhere in the copy. In other words, contextual internal linking opportunities.

Here’s a page that mentions the phrase “basic SEO”:

seo basics google search

seo basics google search

Looks like this would be a good place from which to add an internal link to our guide.

Best by links

Go to Ahrefs Site Explorer, enter your domain, then check the Best by links report.

best by links ahrefs

best by links ahrefs

This report is sorted by URL Rating (UR) by default so it shows the most “authoritative” pages on your site. In other words, a list of pages from which an internal link could transfer a decent chunk of authority.

Skim the list looking for topically‐relevant opportunities.

Here’s one that would probably work for the case at hand:

best by links link building

best by links link building

This page has lots of authority, and it’s also about link building—a subtopic of SEO.

If we look at the page, it doesn’t take long to find the perfect contextual internal linking opportunity.

basics of seo internal link opportunity

basics of seo internal link opportunity

Let’s update that.

seo basics internal link

seo basics internal link

Recommended reading: Internal Links for SEO: An Actionable Guide

3. Reclaim lost ‘link juice’ from dead pages with backlinks

Backlinks aren’t always easy to acquire. In fact, they rarely are.

If you’ve spent time, effort, and possibly cold hard cash building links, it pays to ensure that they’re not pointing to dead pages. Such links are effectively wasted.

To do this, use the Best by links report in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.

Site Explorer > enter your domain > Best by links > add a “404 not found” filter > Sort by Referring domains

best by links broken ahrefs

best by links broken ahrefs

This report will show dead pages with backlinks.

Why are these bad? Simple. Dead pages no longer technically exist. They prevent any PageRank (authority) from those backlinks from flowing around your site.

Luckily, such issues are quite straightforward to fix. You can either:

  • Reinstate the dead page (if deleted by accident)
  • Redirect (301) the dead page to another relevant page
  • Leave as a soft 404 (if none of the backlinks are high‐quality)

Recommended reading: How to Find and Fix Broken Links (to Reclaim Valuable “Link Juice”)

4. Use the “Middleman Method” to boost the authority of “money” pages

Building links ain’t easy, but building links to “money pages” can feel near impossible.

  • Ecommerce product/category pages
  • Landing pages
  • Affiliate pages (reviews, etc.)
  • Brick ‘n’ mortar services pages

… they’re all a nightmare when it comes to link building.

Solution: use the “Middleman Method.”

It goes something like this:

  1. Create a piece of topically‐related informational content (e.g., a blog post)
  2. Build links to that
  3. Add internal links from that page to your “money” page

In effect, the blog post becomes the middleman.

This is actually an SEO strategy we use at Ahrefs to boost our landing pages.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=433XlvMl508

Here’s the Internal backlinks report in Site Explorer, filtered to show internal links to our Keywords Explorer tool from our blog posts:

internal links to keywords explorer

internal links to keywords explorer

72 internal links!

In other words, we link to our Keywords Explorer landing page from within blog posts all the time. And some of our posts have some serious page‐level authority.

best by links ahrefs blog 1

best by links ahrefs blog 1

Now, if you already have informational content related to the “money page” you want to boost, this process is easy. Use the internal linking tactics mentioned in point #3 to find contextually‐relevant opportunities.

If you don’t already have such content, then you need to create something that has the potential to earn a fair few links.

There are lots of ways to go about this, but here’s a simple starting point:

  1. Find a relevant piece of content that has lots of links
  2. Make something even better
  3. Convince those linking to the now inferior content to swap out that link in favor of yours

Learn more about how to execute this strategy here.

IMPORTANT

It’s always preferable to build direct links to your “money” pages if possible.

That’s because the middleman takes a cut of “authority.” Not all the link juice gets transferred to your money page via internal links. Some of it flows through other internal links on the page, and some will remain with the page itself.

But while this may seem like a negative, that often isn’t the case.

That’s because the ‘middleman’ page may rank for informational keywords, which will send more targeted traffic your way. That can be invaluable to your business.

5. Win more featured snippets

Featured snippets are the search results that look like this:

featured snippet

featured snippet

In 2016, we studied 2 million search results and found that featured snippets show up for 12.3% of searches. We also found that 8.6% of clicks go to the snippet.

01 search queries with featured snippets

01 search queries with featured snippets

But what you may not have realized is that Google pulls these snippets from sites that already rank in the top 10. And, overwhelmingly, from one of the pages ranking in the top 5 positions.

where featured snippets tend to rank

where featured snippets tend to rank

Sidenote.

We’re 99.58% certain this is the case.

Here’s what all this means:

If you rank in the top 10 for a query where Google shows a featured snippet but don’t yet own it, then there’s scope to get more traffic by winning the snippet.

To find such opportunities, use the Organic Keywords report in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.

Site Explorer > enter your domain > Organic Keywords > SERP features > Featured Snippets > Filter for top 10 rankings

serp features featured snippets ahrefs

serp features featured snippets ahrefs

If you see this symbol, it means you already own the snippet for that keyword.

featured snippet owned

featured snippet owned

For every other keyword, a competitor owns the snippet and therein lies the opportunity. It’s just a case of trying to understand why they own the snippet and not you, then optimizing accordingly.

Now, I’ll be honest; there’s no hard and fast rule here.

Still, most of the SEO community seems to agree that to win the snippet, the format of your content needs to align with search intent.

For example, we rank #4 for “how to become a marketing manager,” but don’t own the snippet.

how to become a marketing manager

how to become a marketing manager

That’s likely because people want a step‐by‐step process, as indicated by the current snippet.

how to become a marketing manager snippet

how to become a marketing manager snippet

Our guide isn’t in that format.

So, in this case, reformatting that guide as a step‐by‐step process could help to win the snippet.

Is it worth it?

If we take a look at the Organic Keywords report for the page that does own the snippet, we can see that they get an estimated 238 visits per month from the snippet alone…

traffic from featured snippet

traffic from featured snippet

… and roughly the same again from the other nine snippets the page owns:

Conclusion: By winning the snippet, we could potentially increase traffic by 200%+.

Recommended reading: How to Find and Steal Featured Snippets (to Get More Search Traffic)

6. Refresh existing content

Sometimes content that used to perform well in the search engines ceases to do so.

Case in point, our list of the top Google searches:

If we enter that URL into Site Explorer, we can see that estimated monthly organic traffic dropped by more than 56% (!!!) between December 2017 and February 2018:

top google searches drop

top google searches drop

In absolute terms, that meant ~3,000 fewer visits per month coming our way.

But some of you likely noticed that after the drop, traffic skyrocketed! That’s because we refreshed and republished the article with new stats and figures.

The question is, how do you find posts and pages that are likely to benefit from a content refresh?

a) Use trial and error

Let’s face it, this is something that happens over time.

So it’s usually old posts and pages that suffer from traffic drops.

Try popping a page published over six months ago into Site Explorer, then look at the Organic traffic graph.

If the graph drops off like Niagara Falls 🇨🇦, then it’s ripe for a refresh.

b) Use Google Analytics

If you’re a Google Analytics user and would prefer to do this more methodically, then keep reading. What follows is a method for finding these pages at scale.

To begin, go Google Analytics and navigate to the Landing pages report.

Google Analytics > Behaviour > Site Content > Landing Pages

Then set your period to the most recent full 12 months (e.g., Jan 1, 2018 — Dec 31, 2018), filter for organic traffic only, and add “month” as a secondary dimension. You should end up with something like this:

google analytics report

google analytics report

Export the report as a CSV.

export google analytics

export google analytics

Sidenote.

It’s also worth excluding junk URLs using the inbuilt exclusions filter in Google Analytics. For example, before I exported my report, I excluded URLs containing “?”, “/author/”, and “/category/”.

Next, make a copy of this Google Sheets template.

Import the CSV into the “IMPORT HERE” tab. (File > Import… > Upload CSV)

Navigate to the “Result” tab. It should look something like this:

traffic drop google sheets

traffic drop google sheets

IMPORTANT

There are sometimes legitimate reasons for traffic drops that aren’t anything to do with “freshness” such as:

  1. Algorithm updates
  2. Seasonality

Always investigate the reasons behind any traffic drops before rewriting or refreshing content.

What this does is compare how last month’s traffic to each page compares with its best month. The results are then sorted in descending order, with the biggest traffic drops first.

You can then further investigate the pages with big traffic drops in Site Explorer or Google Analytics.

It’s also worth checking the SERP of the primary keyword for each page for signs of freshness as a ranking factor. E.g., the current year in the titles of the top‐ranking pages…

serp overview top google searches

serp overview top google searches

Or recent publish dates:

dates in serps

dates in serps

Such things show that Google is prioritizing freshness in the SERP.

That may increase the likeliness of a content refresh being successful for that page.

You can also search in Content Explorer and filter for republished pages, then look at the trend over time.

top google searches content explorer

top google searches content explorer

If people are regularly republishing content on the topic, then it indicates that the topic relies on freshness.

7. Look for low‐hanging content opportunities

In 2018, we analyzed almost a billion web pages. We found a positive correlation between the number of referring domains to a page (links from unique websites) and organic traffic.

referring domains vs organic search traffic ahrefs content explorer

referring domains vs organic search traffic ahrefs content explorer

Translation: the more links a page has, the more organic traffic it’s likely to attract.

But here’s the thing: there are outliers to this general rule.

Some pages rank and attract tons of search traffic with very few backlinks… or even no backlinks at all. The keywords for which these pages rank are low‐hanging fruit (i.e., topics that you rank for without many backlinks).

So how do you find these pages?

Enter Content Explorer.

Content Explorer is a searchable database of over a billion web pages. Enter any word or phrase to see all mentions across the web, plus some useful SEO metrics for each result.

Here are the results for “protein powder”:

protein powder

protein powder

That’s 68,300 web pages that mention this phrase!

Now let’s filter these results to find only pages with:

  • At least 500 organic visits per month;
  • Zero referring domains

In other words, pages that get a lot of organic traffic without many backlinks.

protein powder low hanging

protein powder low hanging

Now we’re down to 53 results, one of which is this page:

high protein muffins

high protein muffins

TIP

Not seeing results in Content Explorer? Loosen the filter to show pages with up to five, or ten, or twenty referring domains.

If we hit the “Details” caret and check the “Organic keywords” tab, we see that it’s ranking for keywords related to high protein muffins. And they all have a low Keyword Difficulty (KD) scores.

content explorer keywords

content explorer keywords

This all but confirms our theory that this is a low‐competition topic.

So if you happen to run a fitness‐related site, this topic could be a source of easy traffic.

8. Convert unlinked mentions to links

Sometimes people will mention your business online without linking back to you.

Here are a couple of examples of that happening for Ahrefs:

ahrefs unlinked

ahrefs unlinked

ahrefs content explorer unlinked

ahrefs content explorer unlinked

Unlinked mentions like this can occur for many reasons. But, more often than not, I’d say that it comes down to forgetfulness rather than malice.

It can be frustrating either way. Luckily, there’s a simple solution:

  1. Find your unlinked mentions
  2. Reach out and attempt to convert them to links

Now, there are quite a few ways to find unlinked mentions. I wrote a full guide here.

But for now, let’s keep things simple and use Content Explorer.

Content Explorer > enter brand name

content explorer brand mentions

content explorer brand mentions

This search will return all the pages that mention your brand, many of which will be linked mentions.

You can get rid of these by pasting your domain into the “Highlight unlinked mentions” filter.

highlight unlinked mentions

highlight unlinked mentions

Content Explorer will then highlight pages from sites that have never linked to you.

These are unlinked mentions.

NOTE

Using the “highlight unlinked domains” filter will include domain‐level links. That means the page in the search results will only be highlighted if there are no links to your website from the entire domain. So, the mention on the page may be an unlinked mention, but we won’t highlight the page if the site already links to you from elsewhere.

This is useful because it makes sense to focus on the building of links from new websites.

If you want to pursue all opportunities, even those from sites that have linked to you before, then read this.

From here, I recommend toggling “one page per domain.” That will ensure that there’s only one page from each site in the results.

unlinked mentions

unlinked mentions

Next, hit “Export” and check the “Only pages with highlighted domains” checkbox.

export unlinked mentions

export unlinked mentions

Now, work your way through the sheet and check each of the linking pages. Decide whether you want to pursue the unlinked mention on a case‐by‐case basis.

Look at whether:

  1. It makes sense for the mention to be a link
  2. You actually want a link from the page

Got your list of prospects? Find their email addresses and reach out with a simple:

  • Hey, I saw that you mentioned us here: https://post1
  • Could make our brand name clickable so people can find our site?

It’s as simple as that.

Note that most of the links built using this tactic will be homepage links. As long as you have a good internal linking structure, that’s a good thing. Some of the “authority” from those links will flow to your other pages.

Check back once a month and filter for pages added in the last 30 days for a constant stream of new opportunities. Alternatively, set up a brand alert in Ahrefs Alerts.

9. Plug content gaps to boost the traffic potential of your page

A content gap is when competitors have content about a topic that you haven’t tackled.

For example, the Moz blog, Backlinko, and Yoast.com all have articles about 301 redirects links. We haven’t tackled this topic yet.

But content gaps can also occur at the page‐level.

To illustrate what I mean, take a look at our guide to doing a competitive analysis.

competitive analysis old

competitive analysis old

It’s a thorough guide, if not a little old (published late‐2017).

Sidenote.

We updated this guide since I started working on this post. The guide you see at that URL will be different from the one pictured above.

But does it tackle everything it should?

Let’s find out by firing up Ahrefs’ Content Gap tool for our page, and also plugging in a few of the top‐ranking sites for “competitive analysis.”

Site Explorer > enter your URL > Content gap

content gap

content gap

This tool looks for keywords that the other pages rank for in the top 100, but we don’t.

This time, I’m going to select the option to “Show keywords that all of the below targets” rank for. I’ll also tick the “At least one of the targets should rank in top 10” checkbox to keep the results as relevant as possible. Then I’ll hit “Show keywords.”

content gap results

content gap results

16 results, many of which are subtopics that fall under the topic of competitive analysis.

The fact that our page doesn’t rank for any of these keywords shows that we’ve likely neglected to mention such things in our guide.

Solution: Issue a minor update to the post or page to talk about the things we’re missing.

For example, we could add a section about “competitive analysis in marketing.” Or about various “competitor analysis models.”

Not only can this help the page to rank for such keywords, but it may also increase the “topical relevance” of the page. In turn, that may boost rankings for other related keywords.

What that means: Google is an algorithm. They look at the content on your page to understand what it’s about. By talking about things related to your primary topic, you effectively increase Google’s confidence in what the page is about.

Learn more about topical relevance in our guide to on‐page SEO.

10. Take advantage of your competitors’ dead pages to build links

Most websites have some dead pages, including your competitors.

And if your competitors’ dead pages are relevant (or at least semi‐relevant) to your business, and have backlinks, then there’s scope to win those backlinks for yourself.

I’ll explain how this works as we go, but first, we need a way to find our competitors dead pages.

For that, we can use the Best by links report in Site Explorer.

Site Explorer > enter competitors domains > Best by links > add a “404 not found” filter > sort by number of referring domains from high to low

backlinko broken link

backlinko broken link

Look at the list of URLs and to see if any are relevant/semi‐relevant to your business.

In this case, the topic of avoiding penalties is related to SEO, which is what we talk about on the Ahrefs blog. It has links from 29 referring domains.

Let’s hit the caret and click the “View on Archive.org” link to see what it once was.

backlinko dead page

backlinko dead page

As expected—it was a blog post about avoiding Google penalties.

The thing is: because the page is dead, 29 people are now linking to nothing but an error page.

So let’s see if we have anything similar on the blog that might serve as a relevant replacement for those dead links. And… it looks like we do:

google penalties ahrefs

google penalties ahrefs

This guide talks about pretty much the same thing—how to avoid Google penalties.

Great. Now let’s take a look at the Backlinks report for the dead page in Site Explorer.

backlinks to dead page

backlinks to dead page

This effectively gives us a list of people that we can reach out to, and alert about their broken link. But we’re not only going to alert them; we’re also going to kindly suggest our guide as a relevant replacement.

Of course, we could reach out to all of these people…

.… but because we’re only interested in building high‐quality links, I’m going to add a few filters to narrow down our list of prospects:

backlinks report filtered 1

backlinks report filtered 1

There we have it—a list of 17 people from whom we can potentially win links.

Now all we need to do is find their email addresses, and reach out to them with a simple email along the lines of:

  • Hey, I saw you link to: http://deadpost
  • That post is dead.
  • We have something similar: http://ourpost
  • You might want to swap out the link.

11. Use Pixsy to look for image theft

Images on the web often get stolen and embedded elsewhere without attribution.

If you have any popular images on your site, then you may have an opportunity to build some quick links. Here’s how in a nutshell:        

  1. Find embeds on your images on other websites without attribution
  2. Reach out and request attribution (in the form of a backlink)

Sounds simple, but how do you go about it?

Use Pixsy—a free tool that scans the web for occurrences of your images on other websites.

So, the obvious starting point is to gather some images to let Pixsy work its magic on.

I recommend first compiling any of your owned images that are likely to be popular—infographics, etc. For example, if I were doing this for Ahrefs, I would round up all our branded graphics and pop them in a folder.

Next, upload the images to Pixsy.

pixsy upload

pixsy upload

Pixsy will then scan the web for other places the images appear.

Here are the results for the few images I uploaded from the Ahrefs blog:

matches pixsy

matches pixsy

Looks like they appear on 125 other sites!

Now, before we get too excited, it’s worth noting that some of the pages on which these images appear already link back to us.

So what you need to do is go through all the pages Pixsy found and check the source code for a link back to your site. If it exists, hit “ignore.” If it doesn’t, add the URL of that page to a spreadsheet, along with:

  • The embedded image
  • The original source link that needs adding

images spreadsheet

images spreadsheet

PRO TIP

Checking the source code for all the results in Pixsy can be a time‐consuming task. So it’s worth hiring a VA to do this for you. Give them clear instructions and it shouldn’t be a costly job. Alternatively, you can use the custom search function in Screaming Frog.

Once you’re done, find their email addresses, then reach out with a friendly but firm email stating:

  • Hey, I saw you embedded one of my images here: https://theirpost
  • Could you please give us credit with a source link?

Using an outreach tool like Buzzstream, Mailshake or Pitchbox should simplify this process. Mail‐merge fields are your friend.

Final thoughts

SEO techniques are plentiful. This post lists only a few of the many tactics you can use to increase traffic to your website.

Still, my hope is that these are actionable and simple enough, even for those new to SEO.

Looking for even more actionable ways to improve SEO? Check out our list of 75 SEO tips.


Yoast subscriptions: keep your SEO on track

Yoast has been offering subscriptions to our plugins and courses since November of 2018. Lots of happy customers have already purchased a subscription plan! But why would you need a subscription? Isn’t it enough to thoroughly invest in SEO once? What’s the use of an ongoing subscription? I am so glad you asked ;-).

SEO needs commitment

To keep ranking in the search engines, you’ll have to make an ongoing effort. That’s the only way to stay ahead in the search game. So, you’ll have to make sure that your website is awesome. You need to create new, amazing, engaging content. You must structure your website in a way that Google understands it. On top of that, you’ll have to make sure that your site’s technical SEO is flawless and your site’s speed is top notch.

To really get your SEO on track, you need to make it part of your process. It just needs to be something you think about and focus your efforts on very regularly.

SEO courses that’ll keep you up to date

Yoast Academy offers you a wide range of SEO courses for both beginners and people with more experience. We have online training courses that teach you how to write SEO-friendly content and courses that help you set up a decent site structure, as well as courses that teach you everything about technical SEO. Of course, we also have a great course on our own Yoast SEO plugin. These courses are updated regularly.

To stay ahead in SEO, we do a lot of research at Yoast. We talk to people from Google and Bing directly and discuss matters with other SEO experts and companies. All the knowledge we gather is translated into the features of our plugin and into the lessons in our courses.

Subscribe to SEO commitment!

A Yoast subscription will keep you focused on your SEO. But different people have different needs. That’s why we’re offering three subscription plans:

1. Yoast plugin subscription

This plan gives you access to all our premium plugins. The Yoast plugin subscription is the complete toolbox for your site. It saves you a lot of time and effort, and helps you to boost your rankings!

2. Yoast training subscription

Get the Yoast training subscription and you’ll get access to every Yoast Academy training course, including every new course we’ll release. This is a great way to learn all about SEO, to keep ahead of your competition.

3. Yoast plugin + training subscription

The best of both worlds. This plan gives you access to all our premium plugins and every Yoast Academy training course. With this subscription plan, you’ll learn how to optimize every SEO aspect of your site, and you’ll be fully equipped to improve your site’s SEO.

And pay for the time you need!

You can choose to get an annual (best value!) or a monthly subscription. We want to offer people products that are tailored to their needs. That’s why you can choose to pay a small fee per month, rather than paying up front for the whole year.

However, if you already know that you want to:

  • stay on top of your SEO game all day every day,
  • have access to all new courses, and want to
  • save a lot of money in the process,

simply pick our annual subscription. Getting one of our annual subscription plans, will save you over 60%!

Bonus: exclusive premium insights!

On top of all this, there’s something extra in it for you: premium content, exclusively available for subscription members. If you decide to get the Yoast training subscription or the Yoast plugin + training subscription, there’ll be extra premium content available for you in Yoast Academy.

This premium content consists of Q&A sessions, in which our experts answer your SEO questions. Moreover, you’ll get access to exclusive live talks and discussions on the latest SEO developments, with SEO experts like Joost de Valk and Jono Alderson. You don’t want to miss out on this!

Get a Yoast subscription!

Do you want to step up your SEO game? Whether you want to improve your SEO knowledge or to optimize your site with useful SEO tools, a Yoast subscription is what you need. And remember, it’s the only way to get access to exclusive premium content, such as Q&A sessions and live talks! So, don’t wait any longer, go get your Yoast subscription!

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A survival kit for SEO-friendly JavaScript websites

JavaScript-powered websites are here to stay. As JavaScript in its many frameworks becomes an ever more popular resource for modern websites, SEOs must be able to guarantee their technical implementation is search engine-friendly.

In this article, we will focus on how to optimize JS-websites for Google (although Bing also recommends the same solution, dynamic rendering).

The content of this article includes:

1.    JavaScript challenges for SEO

2.    Client-side and server-side rendering

3.    How Google crawls websites

4.    How to detect client-side rendered content

5.    The solutions: Hybrid rendering and dynamic rendering

1. JavaScript challenges for SEO

React, Vue, Angular, Node, and Polymer. If at least one of these fancy names rings a bell, then most likely you are already dealing with a JavaScript-powered website.

All these JavaScript frameworks provide great flexibility and power to modern websites.

They open a large range of possibilities in terms of client-side rendering (like allowing the page to be rendered by the browser instead of the server), page load capabilities, dynamic-content, user-interaction, and extended functionalities.

If we only look at what has an impact on SEO, JavaScript frameworks can do the following for a website:

  • Load content dynamically based on users’ interactions
  • Externalize the loading of visible content (see client-side rendering below)
  • Externalize the loading of meta-content or code (for example, structured data)

Unfortunately, if implemented without using a pair of SEO lenses, JavaScript frameworks can pose serious challenges to the page performance, ranging from speed deficiencies to render-blocking issues, or even hindering crawlability of content and links.

There are many aspects that SEOs must look after when auditing a JavaScript-powered web page, which can be summarized as follows:

  1. Is the content visible to Googlebot? Remember the bot doesn’t interact with the page (images, tabs, and more).
  2. Are links crawlable, hence followed? Always use the anchor (<a>) and the reference (href=), even in conjunction with the “onclick” events.
  3. Is the rendering fast enough?
  4. How does it affect crawl efficiency and crawl budget?

A lot of questions to answer. So where should an SEO start?

Below are key guidelines to the optimization of JS-websites, to enable the usage of these frameworks while keeping the search engine bots happy.

2. Client-side and server-side rendering: The best “frenemies”

Probably the most important pieces of knowledge all SEOs need when they have to cope with JS-powered websites is the concepts of client-side and server-side rendering.

Understanding the differences, benefits, and disadvantages of both are critical to deploying the right SEO strategy and not getting lost when speaking with software engineers (who eventually are the ones in charge of implementing that strategy).

Let’s look at how Googlebot crawls and indexes pages, putting it as a very basic sequential process:

how googlebot crawls and indexes pages

1. The client (web browser) places several requests to the server, in order to download all the necessary information that will eventually display the page. Usually, the very first request concerns the static HTML document.

2. The CSS and JS files, referred to by the HTML document, are then downloaded: these are the styles, scripts and services that contribute to generating the page.

3. The Website Rendering Service (WRS) parses and executes the JavaScript (which can manage all or part of the content or just a simple functionality).
This JavaScript can be served to the bot in two different ways:

  • Client-side: all the job is basically “outsourced” to the WRS, which is now in charge of loading all the script and necessary libraries to render that content. The advantage for the server is that when a real user requests the page, it saves a lot of resources, as the execution of the scripts happens on the browser side.
  • Server-side: everything is pre-cooked (aka rendered) by the server, and the final result is sent to the bot, ready for crawling and indexing. The disadvantage here is that all the job is carried out internally by the server, and not externalized to the client, which can lead to additional delays in the rendering of further requests.

4. Caffeine (Google’s indexer) indexes the content found

New links are discovered within the content for further crawling

This is the theory, but in the real world, Google doesn’t have infinite resources and has to do some prioritization in the crawling.

3. How Google actually crawls websites

Google is a very smart search engine with very smart crawlers.

However, it usually adopts a reactive approach when it comes to new technologies applied to web development. This means that it is Google and its bots that need to adapt to the new frameworks as they become more and more popular (which is the case with JavaScript).

For this reason, the way Google crawls JS-powered websites is still far from perfect, with blind spots that SEOs and software engineers need to mitigate somehow.

This is in a nutshell how Google actually crawls these sites:

how googlebot crawls a JS rendered site

The above graph was shared by Tom Greenaway in Google IO 2018 conference, and what it basically says is – If you have a site that relies heavily on JavaScript, you’d better load the JS-content very quickly, otherwise we will not be able to render it (hence index it) during the first wave, and it will be postponed to a second wave, which no one knows when may occur.

Therefore, your client-side rendered content based on JavaScript will probably be rendered by the bots in the second wave, because during the first wave they will load your server-side content, which should be fast enough. But they don’t want to spend too many resources and take on too many tasks.

In Tom Greenaway’s words:

“The rendering of JavaScript powered websites in Google Search is deferred until Googlebot has resources available to process that content.”

Implications for SEO are huge, your content may not be discovered until one, two or even five weeks later, and in the meantime, only your content-less page would be assessed and ranked by the algorithm.

What an SEO should be most worried about at this point is this simple equation:

No content is found = Content is (probably) hardly indexable

And how would a content-less page rank? Easy to guess for any SEO.

So far so good. The next step is learning if the content is rendered client-side or server-side (without asking software engineers).

4. How to detect client-side rendered content

Option one: The Document Object Model (DOM)

There are several ways to know it, and for this, we need to introduce the concept of DOM.

The Document Object Model defines the structure of an HTML (or an XML) document, and how such documents can be accessed and manipulated.

In SEO and software engineering we usually refer to the DOM as the final HTML document rendered by the browser, as opposed to the original static HTML document that lives in the server.

You can think of the HTML as the trunk of a tree. You can add branches, leaves, flowers, and fruits to it (that is the DOM).

What JavaScript does is manipulate the HTML and create an enriched DOM that adds up functionalities and content.

In practice, you can check the static HTML by pressing “Ctrl+U” on any page you are looking at, and the DOM by “Inspecting” the page once it’s fully loaded.

Most of the times, for modern websites, you will see that the two documents are quite different.

Option two: JS-free Chrome profile 

Create a new profile in Chrome and disallow JavaScript through the content settings (access them directly here –  Chrome://settings/content).

Any URL you browse with this profile will not load any JS content. Therefore, any blank spot in your page identifies a piece of content that is served client-side.

Option three: Fetch as Google in Google Search Console

Provided that your website is registered in Google Search Console (I can’t think of any good reason why it wouldn’t be), use the “Fetch as Google” tool in the old version of the console. This will return a rendering of how Googlebot sees the page and a rendering of how a normal user sees it. Many differences there?

Option four: Run Chrome version 41 in headless mode (Chromium) 

Google officially stated in early 2018 that they use an older version of Chrome (specifically version 41, which anyone can download from here) in headless mode to render websites. The main implication is that a page that doesn’t render well in that version of Chrome can be subject to some crawling-oriented problems.

Option five: Crawl the page on Screaming Frog using Googlebot

And with the JavaScript rendering option disabled. Check if the content and meta-content are rendered correctly by the bot.

After all these checks, still, ask your software engineers because you don’t want to leave any loose ends.

5. The solutions: Hybrid rendering and dynamic rendering

Asking a software engineer to roll back a piece of great development work because it hurts SEO can be a difficult task.

It happens frequently that SEOs are not involved in the development process, and they are called in only when the whole infrastructure is in place.

We SEOs should all work on improving our relationship with software engineers and make them aware of the huge implications that any innovation can have on SEO.

This is how a problem like content-less pages can be avoided from the get-go. The solution resides on two approaches.

Hybrid rendering

Also known as Isomorphic JavaScript, this approach aims to minimize the need for client-side rendering, and it doesn’t differentiate between bots and real users.

Hybrid rendering suggests the following:

  1. On one hand, all the non-interactive code (including all the JavaScript) is executed server-side in order to render static pages. All the content is visible to both crawlers and users when they access the page.
  2. On the other hand, only user-interactive resources are then run by the client (the browser). This benefits the page load speed as less client-side rendering is needed.

Dynamic rendering

This approach aims to detect requests placed by a bot vs the ones placed by a user and serves the page accordingly.

  1. If the request comes from a user: The server delivers the static HTML and makes use of client-side rendering to build the DOM and render the page.
  2. If the request comes from a bot: The server pre-renders the JavaScript through an internal renderer (such as Puppeteer), and delivers the new static HTML (the DOM, manipulated by the JavaScript) to the bot.

how google does dynamic rendering javascript sites

The best of both worlds

Combining the two solutions can also provide great benefit to both users and bots.

  1. Use hybrid rendering if the request comes from a user
  2. Use server-side rendering if the request comes from a bot

Conclusion

As the use of JavaScript in modern websites is growing every day, through many light and easy frameworks, it requires software engineers to solely rely on HTML to please search engine bots which are not realistic nor feasible.

However, the SEO issues raised by client-side rendering solutions can be successfully tackled in different ways using hybrid rendering and dynamic rendering.

Knowing the technology available, your website infrastructure, your engineers, and the solutions can guarantee the success of your SEO strategy even in complicated environments such as JavaScript-powered websites.

Giorgio Franco is a Senior Technical SEO Specialist at Vistaprint.

The post A survival kit for SEO-friendly JavaScript websites appeared first on Search Engine Watch.