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An introduction to HTTP/2 for SEOs

Posted by on Dec 8, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on An introduction to HTTP/2 for SEOs

An introduction to HTTP/2 for SEOs

In the mid 90s there was a famous incident where an email administrator at a US University fielded a phone call from a professor who was complaining his department could only send emails 500 miles. The professor explained that whenever they tried to email anyone farther away their emails failed — it sounded like nonsense, but it turned out to actually be happening. To understand why, you need to realise that the speed of light actually has more impact on how the internet works than you may think. In the email case, the timeout for connections was set to about 6 milliseconds – if you do the maths that is about the time it takes for light to travel 500 miles.

We’ll be talking about trucks a lot in this blog post!

The time that it takes for a network connection to open across a distance is called latency, and it turns out that latency has a lot to answer for. Latency is one of the main issues that affects the speed of the web, and was one of the primary drivers for why Google started inventing HTTP/2 (it was originally called SPDY when they were working on it, before it became a web standard).

HTTP/2 is now an established standard and is seeing a lot of use across the web, but is still not as widespread as it could be across most site. It is an easy opportunity to improve the speed of your website, but it can be fairly intimidating to try to understand it.

In this post I hope to provide an accessible top-level introduction to HTTP/2, specifically targeted towards SEOs. I do brush over some parts of the technical details and don’t cover all the features of HTTP/2, but my aim here isn’t to give you an exhaustive understanding, but instead to help you understand the important parts in the most accessible way possible.

HTTP 1.1 – The Current Norm

Currently, when request a web page or other resource (such as images, scripts, CSS files etc.), your browser speaks HTTP to a server in order to communicate. The current version is HTTP/1.1, which has been the standard for the last 20 years, with no changes.

Anatomy of a Request

We are not going to drown in the deep technical details of HTTP too much in this post, but we are going to quickly touch on what a request looks like. There are a few bits to a request:

The top line here is saying what sort of request this is (GET is the normal sort of request, POST is the other main one people know of), and what URL the request is for (in this case /anchorman/) and finally which version of HTTP we are using.

The second line is the mandatory ‘host’ header which is a part of all HTTP 1.1 requests, and covers the situation that often a single webserver may be hosting multiple websites and it needs to know which are you are looking for.

Finally there will a variety of other headers, which we are not going to get into. In this case I’ve shown the User Agent header which indicates which sort of device and software (browser) you are using to connect to the website.

HTTP = Trucks!

In order to help explain and understand HTTP and some of the issues, I’m going to draw an analogy between HTTP and … trucks! We are going to imagine that an HTTP request being sent from your browser is a truck that has to drive from your browser over to the server:

A truck represents an HTTP request/response to a server

In this analogy, we can imagine that the road itself is the network connection (TCP/IP, if you want) from your computer to the server:

The road is a network connection – the transport layer for our HTTP Trucks

Then a request is represented by a truck, that is carrying a request in it:

HTTP Trucks carry a request from the browser to the server

The response is the truck coming back with a response, which in this case is our HTML:

HTTP Trucks carry a response back from the server to the browser

“So what is the problem?! This all sounds great, Tom!” – I can hear you all saying. The problem is that in this model, anyone can stare down into the truck trailers and see what they are hauling. Should an HTTP request contain credit card details, personal emails, or anything else sensitive anybody can see your information.

HTTP Trucks aren’t secure – people can peek at them and see what they are carrying

HTTPS

HTTPS was designed to combat the issue of people being able to peek into our trucks and see what they are carrying.

Importantly, HTTPS is essentially identical to HTTP – the trucks and the requests/responses they transport at the same as they were. The response codes and headers are all the same.

The difference all happens at the transport (network) layer, we can imagine it as a over our road:

In HTTPS, requests & responses are the same as HTTP. The road is secured.

In the rest of the article, I’ll imagine we have a tunnel over our road, but won’t show it – it would be boring if we couldn’t see our trucks!

Impact of Latency

So the main problem with this model is related to the top speed of our trucks. In the 500-mile email introductory story we saw that the speed of light can have a very real impact on the workings of the internet.

HTTP Trucks cannot go fast than the speed of light.

HTTP requests and many HTTP responses tend to be quite small. However, our trucks can only travel at the speed of light, and so even these small requests can take time to go back and forth from the user to the website. It is tempting to think this won’t have a noticeable impact on website performance, but it is actually a real problem…

HTTP Trucks travel at a constant speed, so longer roads mean slower responses.

The farther the distance of the network connection between a user’s browser and the web server (the length of our ‘road’) the farther the request and response have to travel, which means they take longer.

Now consider that a typical website is not a single request and response, but is instead a sequence of many requests and responses. Often a response will mean more requests are required – for example, an HTML file probably references images, CSS files and JavaScript files:

Some of these files then may have further dependencies, and so on. Typically websites may be 50-100 separate requests:

Web pages nowadays often require 50-100 separate HTTP requests.

Let’s look at how that may look for our trucks…

Send a request for a web page:

We send a request to the web server for a page.

Request travels to server:

The truck (request) may take 50ms to drive to the server.

Response travels back to browser:

And then 50ms to drive back with the response (ignoring time to compile the response!).

The browser parses the HTML response and realises there are a number of other files that are needed from the server:

After parsing the HTML, the browser identifies more assets to fetch. More requests to send!

Limit of HTTP/1.1

The problem we now encounter is that there are several more files we need to fetch, but with an HTTP/1.1 connection each road can only handle a single truck at a time. Every HTTP request needs its own TCP (networking) connection, and each truck can only carry one request at a time.

Each truck (request) needs its own road (network connection).

Furthermore, building a new road, or opening a new networking connection also requires a round trip. In our world of trucks we can liken this to needing a stream roller to first lay the road and then add our road markings. This is another whole round trip which adds more latency:

New roads (network connections) require work to open them.

This means another whole round trip to open new connections.

Typically browsers open around 6 simultaneous connections at once:

Browsers usually open 6 roads (network connections).

However, if we are looking at 50-100 files needed for a webpage we still end up in the situation where trucks (requests) have to wait their turn. This is called ‘head of line blocking’:

Often trucks (requests) have to wait for a free road (network connection).

If we look at the waterfall diagram for a page (this example this HTTP/2 site) of a simple page that has a CSS file and lot of images you can see this in action:

Waterfall diagrams highlight the impact of round trips and latency.

In the diagram above, the orange and purple segments can be thought of as our stream rollers, where new connections are made. You can see initially there is just one connection open (line 1), and another connection being opened. Line 2 then re-uses the first connection and line 3 is the first request over the second connection. When those complete lines 4 & 5 are the next two images.

At this point the browser realises it will need more connections so four more are opened and then we can see requests are going in batches of 6 at a time corresponding with the 6 roads or network connections that are open.

Latency vs Bandwidth

In the waterfall diagram above, each of these images may be small but each requires a truck to come and fetch it. This means lots of round trips, and given we can only run 6 simultaneously at a time there is a lot of time spent with requests waiting.

It is sometimes difficult to understand the difference between bandwidth and latency. Bandwidth could be thought of as the load capacity of our trucks, where each truck could carry more. This often doesn’t help with webpage times though, given each request and response cannot share a truck with another request. This is why it has been shown that increasing bandwidth has a limited impact on the load time of pages. This was shown in research conducted by Mike Belshe at Google which is discussed in this article from Googler Ilya Grigorik:

The reality was clear that in order to improve the performance of the web, the issue of latency would need to be addressed. The research above was what led to Google developing the SPDY protocol which later turned into HTTP/2.

Improving the impact of latency

In order to improve the impact that latency has on website load times, there are various strategies that have been employed. One of these is ‘sprite maps’ which take lots of small images and jam them together into single files:

Sprite maps are a trick used to reduce the number of trucks (requests) needed.

The advantage of sprite maps is that they can all be put into one truck (request/response) as they are just a single file. Then clever use of CSS can display just the portion of the image that corresponds to the desired image. One file means only a single request and response are required to fetch them, which reduces the number of round trips required.

Another thing that helps to reduce latency is using a CDN platform, such as CloudFlare or Fastly, to host your static assets (images, CSS files etc. – things that are not dynamic and the same for every visitor) on servers all around the world. This means that the round trips for users can be along a much shorter road (network connection) because there will be a nearby server that can provide them with what they need.

CDNs have servers all around the world, can make the required roads (network connections) shorter.

CDNs also provide a variety of other benefits, but latency reduction is a headline feature.

HTTP/2 – The New World

So hopefully, you have now realised that HTTP/2 can help reduce latency and dramatically improve the performance of pages. How does it go about it!

Introducing Multiplexing – More trucks to the rescue!

With HTTP/2 we are allowed multiplexing, which essentially means we are allowed to have more than one truck on each road:

With HTTP/2 a road (network connection) can handle many trucks (requests/responses).

We can immediately see the change in behaviour on a waterfall diagram – compare this with the one above (not the change in the scale too – this is a lot faster):

We now only need one road (connection) then all our trucks (requests) can share it!

The exact speed benefits you may get depend on a lot of other factors, but by removing the problem of head of line blocking (trucks having to wait) we can immediately get a lot of benefits, for almost no cost to us.

Same old trucks

With HTTP/2 our trucks and their contents stay essentially the same as they they always were, we can just imagine we have a new traffic management system.

Requests look as they did before:

The same response codes exist and mean the same things:

Because the content of the trucks doesn’t change, this is great news for implementing HTTP/2 – your web platform or CMS does not need to be changed and your developers don’t need to write any code! We’ll discuss this below.

Server Push

A much anticipated feature of HTTP/2 is ‘Server Push’ which allows a server to respond to a single request with multiple responses. Imagine a browser requests an HTML file but the server knows that that means the server will need a specific CSS file and a specific JS file as well. Then the server can just send those straight back, without needing them to be requested:

Server Push: A single truck (request) is sent…

Server Push: … but multiple trucks (responses) are sent back.

The benefit is obvious- it removes another whole round trip for each resource that the server can ‘anticipate’ that the client will need.

The downside is that at the moment this is often implemented badly, and it can mean the server sends trucks that the client doesn’t need (as it has cached the response from earlier) which means you can make things worse.

For now, unless you are very sure you know what you are doing you should avoid server push.

Implementing HTTP/2

Ok – this sounds great, right? Now you should be wondering how you can turn it on!

The most important thing is to understand that because the requests and responses are the same as they always were, you do not need to update the code on your site at all. You need to update your server to speak HTTP/2 – and then it will do the new ‘traffic management’ for you.

If that seems hard (or if you already have one) you can instead use a CDN to help you deploy HTTP/2 to your users. Something like CloudFlare, or Fastly (my favourite CDN – it requires more advanced knowledge to setup but is super flexible) would sit in front of your webserver and speaking HTTP/2 to your users:

A CDN can speak HTTP/2 for you whilst your server speaks HTTP/1.1.

Because the CDN will cache your static assets, like images, CSS files, Javascript files and fonts, you still get the benefits of HTTP/2 even though your server is still in a single truck world.

HTTP/2 is not another migration! 

It is important to realise that to get HTTP/2 you will need to already have HTTPS, as all the major browsers will only speak HTTP/2 when using a secure connection:

HTTP/2 requires HTTPS

However, setting up HTTP/2 does not require a migration in the same way as HTTPS did. With HTTPS your URLs were changing from http://example.com to https://example.com and you required 301 redirects, and a new Google Search Console account and a week long meditation retreat to recover from the stress.

With HTTP/2 your URLs will not change, and you will not require redirects or anything like that. For browsers and devices that can speak HTTP/2 they will do that (it is actually the guy in the steamroller who communicates that part – but that is a-whole-nother story..!), and other devices will fall back to speaking HTTP/1.1 which is just fine.

We also know that Googlebot does not speak HTTP/2 and will still use HTTP/1.1:

https://moz.com/blog/challenging-googlebot-experiment

However, don’t despair – Google will still notice that you have made things better for users, as we know they are now using usage data from Chrome users to measure site speed in a distributed way:

https://moz.com/blog/google-chrome-usage-data-measure-site-speed

This means that Google will notice the benefit you have provided to users with HTTP/2, and that information will make it back into Google’s evaluation of your site.

Detecting HTTP/2

If you are interested in whether a specific site is using HTTP/2 there are a few ways you can go about it.

My preferred approach is to turn on the ‘Protocol’ column in the Chrome developer tools. Open up the dev tools, go to the ‘Network’ tab and if you don’t see the column then right click to add it from the dropdown:

Alternatively, you can install this little Chrome Extension which will indicate if a site is using it (but won’t give you the breakdown for every connection you’ll get from doing the above):

https://dis.tl/showhttp2

Slide Deck

If you would prefer to consume this as a slide deck, then you can find it on Slideshare. Feel free to re-use the deck in part or its entirety, provided you provide attribution (@TomAnthonySEO):

An introduction to HTTP/2 & Service Workers for SEOs from Tom Anthony
Wrap Up

Hopefully, you found this useful. I’ve found the truck analogy makes something, that can seem hard to understand, somewhat more accessible. I haven’t covered a lot of the intricate details of HTTP/2 or some of the other functionality, but this should help you understand things a little bit better.

I have, in discussions, extended the analogy in various ways, and would love to hear if you do too! Please jump into the comments below for that, or to ask a question, or just hit me up on Twitter.

If I Had to Start a Blog From Scratch, I Would…

Posted by on Dec 1, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on If I Had to Start a Blog From Scratch, I Would…

If I Had to Start a Blog From Scratch, I Would…

You’ve seen me and thousands of other marketers talk about how to make a blog popular. But if you don’t set up your blog correctly, you won’t do well no matter what kind of marketing you do.

And no, I am not talking about the technical setup of your blog. I am talking about the foundation. From what you are blogging about, to how you structure your content… there are a lot of basics people get wrong.

And if you get them wrong, it’s going to be that much harder to get more traffic (and, more importantly, monetize the traffic).

So, if I had to start a blog from scratch again, here are the principles I would follow before even writing my first blog post:

Principle #1: Pick a big enough niche

Unless you are well funded, you have to pick a niche. It’s too hard to compete on a broad level with sites like Huffington Post and Business Insider. They are well funded and are able to produce huge amounts of content from contributors big and small.

And if your niche is too small, it will be hard for you to grow your traffic and monetize your blog as there just won’t be enough people interested in what you are blogging about.

When trying to find a niche, use Google Trends. Make sure to pick a niche that is bigger than “digital marketing” but smaller than “nutrition.”

Principle #2: Don’t stick with one platform

I know I’ve told you that you need to use WordPress as your blogging platform, but it shouldn’t stop there. Why not also use Medium, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and even Facebook?

These are all platforms where you can repurpose your content.

Blogging is competitive, so you’ll need to push your content out on as many platforms to ensure that you’ll get the most eyeballs.

Setting up social accounts across the different platforms is really important. Make sure the branding and imagery are the same across all of them and try to generate some followers by following these steps so that when you start producing unique content you’ll have places to promote.

Principle #3: Control your destiny

Google doesn’t penalize for duplicate content. But that doesn’t mean you should just post your content on every platform without thinking about it.

The only platform that doesn’t have an algorithm that you need to worry about is your own blog. Facebook, Medium, Tumblr, and LinkedIn all have algorithms you can’t fully control.

Always link back out to your site when posting on these other platforms. The more people you can get back to your site, the better chance you will have of growing your traffic and monetizing.

Other platforms like Facebook don’t make it easy for you to generate revenue if you keep your readers on their platform.

Principle #4: Blogging is both about “you” and “I”

Blogging is something that is supposed to be informal. No one wants to read an essay or a white paper.

People want to read stories. They want to be involved in a conversation, and the easiest way to do this is to use the words “you” and “I” within your blog posts.

This one simple change will help you build a deeper connection with your readers. A deeper connection means better monetization in the future.

Principle #5: Always ask questions

At the end of every blog post, always ask a question. If you don’t ask a question, people won’t know what to do next.

By asking a question, a portion of your readers will answer it by leaving a comment. This will increase engagement, which again will make monetization easier in the long run.

Principle #6: You have to stand out

There are over a billion blogs on the web, and that number is continually rising. This just means blogging is going to get even more competitive over time.

So how do you stand out in a crowded marketplace?

You have to go above and beyond. Sadly, there is no single answer as every industry is different, but typically infographics, visuals, and doing the opposite of everyone else in your space will help you stand out.

For example, if everyone in your space writes 1,000-word blog posts, test out writing 10,000-word posts. Or if everyone is using text-based content, test out visual based content like infographics or video.

Principle #7: Your content needs to be portable

People are always on the go these days. Your content needs to be easy to digest.

And no, I am not talking about making your content mobile compatible or leveraging AMP framework (although those are good ideas). I am talking about making your content portable.

For example, creating video-based content or audio-based content (podcasts) are simple ways to make your content portable. For example, it is easier to watch video-based content on your mobile phone when on the bus or listen to podcasts while you are driving.

Principle #8: Content isn’t king unless it’s good

You’ve heard the saying that content is king. But is it really?

The Washington Post publishes over 500 pieces of content per day. The Wall Street Journal is at 240, the New York Times is at 230, and Buzzfeed is around 222.

The list keeps going on and on as there are over 2 million blog posts published daily.

In other words, writing mediocre content isn’t good enough. It won’t do well and you will just be wasting time. So, don’t write content unless it is really, really, really good.

Principle #9: You have to produce quality and quantity

It’s sad, but it is true. Not only does your content have to be amazing, but you have to publish amazing content in quantity.

Just because you are writing an amazing blog post, it doesn’t mean you will do well. Content marketing is a hit or miss game in which your posts will do well or they won’t. And in most cases, your content won’t do as well as you want no matter how good you are at marketing.

To increase your odds of success, you need to be willing to produce amazing content in quantity.

Principle #10: Your blog isn’t always the best place to blog

Especially early on, you need to save your best content for other blogs. From industry blogs to large sites like Entrepreneur and Business Insider… consider placing your best content elsewhere.

Once you’ve been blogging for a year and you have built up an audience, you’ll want to keep your best content for yourself. But in the beginning, placing your best content on more popular blogs will help you increase your brand recognition and audience.

If you aren’t sure on how to craft a guest posting proposal, read this.

Principle #11: Useful content beats viral content

We all dream about viral content, but it’s not easy to produce.

The chances of your content going viral are slim to none. And when your content goes viral it will die down… the question just becomes when.

Instead of focusing on creating viral content (when you have less than a 1% chance of producing it), focus on creating useful content. Useful content tends to be evergreen, which means it can generate steady traffic over time.

Principle #12: It’s easier to build a personal blog than a corporate one

I know I’ve mentioned that I wouldn’t build a personal brand if I started all over again, and I wouldn’t.

But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t leverage one. People connect with people more than they connect with corporate brands.

It’s not like you have conversations with Coca-Cola or Nike like you have with a friend.

If you want your blog to be popular faster then go with a personal brand. If you want to build something big and potentially even sell it one day, consider a corporate brand for your blog (even though it will take longer for it become popular).

Principle #13: A blog won’t work without a community

Blogging is about creating conversations. But without readers and community, there is no conversation.

It would just be you talking…

For this reason, you can’t expect to build a popular blog without building up your social profiles.

From running Facebook and Twitter ads, to manually growing your follower counts, you need to focus on your social media game.

The bigger your social following the more people you’ll have to drive to your blog, and the easier it will be to create a community.

Principle #14: No man is an island

As you are building up a community, people will engage with you through comments.

If you don’t respond to every comment, then your community will slowly die down.

Just think of it this way… if you continually talked to someone and they ignored you each and every time, what would you do? Eventually, you would stop talking to them.

Don’t be rude to your community, help them out. Make sure you respond to each and every comment. Not just on your blog, but even when people comment on your social profiles, make sure you respond back.

Principle #15: People don’t read, they skim

Most of the people that come to your website won’t read. Blogs tend to have an average time on site of less than 1 minute.

There is no way your average visitor is going to read your 2,000-word blog post in under a minute. That means people skim.

Make sure you write your content with the assumption that people skim. From leveraging headings to even writing a conclusion at the end of each post, this will help your readers get value out of your content even when they don’t fully read it.

Principle #16: It’s all about the headline

Some people spend 80% of their time writing the content and only 20% promoting it. Others spend 80% on marketing and 20% on the content creation. And some spend 50% of their time writing and 50% promoting.

But what about the headline? Why don’t people spend time crafting and testing amazing headlines?

What most people don’t know is that 8 out of 10 people will read your headline, but only 2 out of 10 will click through and read the rest. So focus on creating amazing headlines or else you won’t get tons of traffic.

Principle #17: Reveal your cards, all of them

Because the blogosphere is competitive, you have no choice but to reveal your cards. From your secrets to the “good stuff”… you’ll have to share it all.

If you don’t share it, you won’t be giving people a reason to read your blog over the billion other ones out there.

When revealing your cards, make sure you do it early on in each blog post. It is a great way to hook your readers and to get them to read the rest of your content.

Principle #18: Consistency will make or break you

When you continually blog, do you know what happens? Your traffic typically stays flat or slowly goes up.

But when you stop or take a break, your traffic will tank. And then when you start up again, your traffic won’t just go back to where it was, you’ll have to fight to gain your traffic back.

I once took a month break from blogging and it took me 3 months to recover my traffic. Literally 3 months.

Don’t start a blog unless you are willing to be consistent. Not just for a few months or a year, but I am talking years (3 plus).

Principle #19: Don’t ever rely on 1 traffic channel

You hear blogs exploding with Facebook traffic or Google traffic. But do you know what happens when those sites change their algorithms?

Your traffic drops.

It’s just a question of when, so expect your traffic to drop. Don’t rely on only one traffic channel.

Before you write your first post, think about which channels you are going to leverage for traffic generation. You need to have an omnichannel approach in which you are leveraging all of the feasible channels out there that work for your niche.

Principle #20: Don’t forget about Google

You should always write for humans and not search engines. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore Google.

Whatever you are considering writing about, make sure you do some basic keyword research. Head over to Ubersuggest first. Then type in a few keywords related to your article and it will show you a list of other popular phrases.

If they are relevant, make sure you blend them into your content.

This one simple thing will help ensure that your content gets the most search traffic that it can possibly generate.

Principle #21: Be willing to kill your baby

When you start a blog, people only talk about writing and marketing. But as your blog gets older your responsibilities will grow.

One of them is the willingness to kill some of your content.

Not all of your content will be relevant a year or two from now. For example, if you write about Vine, which was a company Twitter bought and then shut down, it won’t be relevant anymore. Especially if the article focuses on “Vine marketing tips.”

Eventually, you want to delete it. There is no point in keeping useless content on your blog.

Principle #22: You can’t set it and forget it

Similar to killing some of your irrelevant content, you’ll also have to update your older content.

As your content gets outdated, you’ll want to keep it fresh or people will find that it’s useless and bounce away.

This, in turn, will screw up your user metrics (bounce rate, time on site, page views per visitor) and reduce your credibility and traffic.

If you are going to blog, be willing to put resources into updating your older content as well. It’s something that most bloggers don’t take into account when starting. I have started to embrace this strategy as I have thousands of articles on this blog and a lot of them are older and need updating. I have already started with the updating process and will focus a lot of 2019 on keeping my content as fresh as possible.

Principle #23: People won’t come back to your blog unless you ask them to

The best visitors are repeat visitors. They are more likely to comment, link to your site, share your content on the social web, and convert into a customer.

No matter how good your content is, people won’t just come back unless you ask them to.

The easiest way to do this is through emails and push notifications.

By using tools like Hello Bar, you can easily collect emails and send out a blast every time you have a new post. And tools like Subscribers will allow you to build a push notification list.

Don’t start a blog without building an email list or push notification list. You’ll find that people who opt-in to them are much more likely to convert into customers. So, build this from day 1.

Principle #24: Don’t wait too long to monetize

A lot of bloggers (including me) have made this mistake. We all wait till we have tons of traffic to monetize. But if you go years before trying to monetize, people will assume everything on your blog is free.

In other words, you are training your readers that they shouldn’t pay for anything. And that’s fine if you have no plan to sell anything.

But you should train them early on that not everything is free. This will make your revenue numbers better as you grow.

Principle #25: Have multiple monetization strategies

You can’t rely on only one monetization strategy such as affiliate marketing or AdSense. Sometimes things happen that aren’t in your control such as an offer gets shut down or AdSense bans you and they don’t give you a reason.

Not only is it a safer strategy to have multiple monetization methods you’ll also make more money.

For example, some people won’t click on ads, while others may prefer buying an e-book from you.

When you start your blog, think about all of the monetization methods you want to try out and plan out how you are going to test them out (as not all of them will work).

Principle #26: Always include a personal touch

If you can’t write with a personal touch, then don’t write. Whatever you decide to blog about, make sure you can tie in a personal story.

People prefer reading content that has stories versus content with just facts and data.

If you don’t have personal stories that you can tie in, that means you are probably blogging on the wrong subject.

Principle #27: Be willing to pay the price

Blogging isn’t easy. It’s no longer a hobby where you can just write whenever you want and do well.

If you want to succeed, you have to be willing to put in the time and energy. And if you can’t, then you have to be willing to put in money.

If you don’t then you won’t do well, no matter how brilliant of a writer or marketer you are.

Really think about if you are willing to put in hours each day into making your blog successful. And are you willing to do that for a few years? Or are you willing to hire someone from day 1 to help out?

This isn’t a principle you need to take lightly, and it is the biggest reason most bloggers don’t make it.

Conclusion

Everyone talks about blogging from a tactical standpoint. From how you write content to even how to market it, but very few people talk about strategy.

If you don’t follow the above principles, you’ll find yourself spinning your wheels and creating a blog that doesn’t get any traction.

And if you happen to be lucky to gain visitors without taking into account the above principles, you’ll find that they won’t convert into customers.

So what other principles should bloggers follow? Just leave a comment below with some of the principles you follow.

The post If I Had to Start a Blog From Scratch, I Would… appeared first on Neil Patel.

Barnacle SEO in 2019: A Short and Comprehensive Guide

Posted by on Nov 30, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Barnacle SEO in 2019: A Short and Comprehensive Guide

Barnacle SEO in 2019: A Short and Comprehensive Guide

What is Barnacle SEO in 2019

If you are a small local business, or just a new business trying to get a hand into SEO you might want to try out barnacle SEO.

What is barnacle SEO?

Well, let’s put it this way.

Go ahead and type in some kind of keyword from your niche to the Google Search Bar.

Look at the top 10 results. It’s all the big names in the industry right? Do you think you can fight them for the top 10 places? You can try, but it’s gonna be hard.

Admittedly the whole search ecosystem now is much much different compared to 10 years ago. But you can still see the list of big names, informational or directory sites seating on the organic, non-paid positions.

So instead of trying to fight them, why not try to take advantage of them instead?

That is barnacle SEO.

It’s basically a game of leverage. Where you’ll use an influential and highly visible website to promote your own business. So you’ll be ranking and getting the exposure that otherwise can’t be achieved.

Barnacle SEO is a term coined by Will Scott of Search Influence, back in the early 2000s. You can check out the original article here if you’re interested, Barnacle SEO – Local Search Engine Optimization for The Sam’s Club Crowd.

It’s an old article but the skills noted are still absolutely relevant to jump-start your local business’s search engine presence.

Sounds good? Hooked? But not quite sure how to start?

Let’s show you some ways to start on barnacle SEO.

1. Look for high ranking directory sites

Now obviously before you start anything, you need to know what are the big names or big sites that are currently sitting on that first page comfortably for your keyword, your niche, your industry.

I have a couple big names coming off my mind, for the SEO industry, it’s gotta be Moz, Search Engine Land, and Search Engine Journal to name a few.

For the hotel industry, there are tons of directory style websites that you can piggyback on like booking.com, Trivago, Agoda and much much more.

Now that you have a list of big names that have a high enough domain authority, and a big number of quality backlinks to have them constantly placed on the top of the SERP.

The next thing you need is to identify how you can get on their site.

If it’s a directory site, you can request to have your business listed on their site.

If it’s a website like Moz, where they run a blog or an active community, you can try reaching out for a guest posting.

How can you do that?

Well, that brings us to point number 2.

2. Guest posting

Guest posting is an essential step to get yourself a place in already high ranking non-directory websites.

But the main idea behind this is you’re looking for organic, inbound traffic.

Organic, inbound traffic starts with content.

If you can get a kick-ass content, that’s great.

If you can get a kick-ass content, and make it as a guest posting on an already high ranking website, even better.

Because you can know for sure that your content is gonna get the readers it deserves.

You may ask, ok so the other website is actually getting all the views from my content, how is that a good thing? Because that is actually what you have on your plate to bargain for a place on their website.

Well, you see, reputable websites will make it clear that firstly it is a guest post and secondly who wrote this awesome content and finally where you can reach this amazing writer directly.

And that’s why you need to find a reputable, high ranking website that will have all these rules that they adhere to that ends up helping you.

That’s the essence of barnacle SEO. In this industry, we help each other out right? (right.)

The first step to guest posting is outreach.

Basically, you’re reaching out to all these sites, showing your interest in guest posting on their website.

And it goes from there.

Like any sincere communication, an outreach will only be successful if you are actually offering them something of value, not simply asking to barge into their website to drop a link.

Keep in mind that, even by leveraging their website’s domain authority, a content won’t rank if it’s not of a good quality and provides the answers that the readers want.

3. Content sharing sites

Now that you have an awesome content that is getting some steady views and climbing up the SERP as we speak.

Why not use that same content and get more views? This time on a different website? There are a whole different set of big players in a slightly different niche.

If your content was in a blog post format, it also has the potential to be presented as a slideshow or even a video.

For a site like Slideshare. All you need to do really is to just spin your content into a presentation and share it.

Now, a better way is to do this the other way round.

You got a kick-ass content, you made them into this easy to share and easy to understand set of slides, embed it in your content itself and share it to the big name site that you’re guest posting on.

You can also make it into a video, for example, Moz’s whiteboard Friday showcases videos where experts talk about all sorts of SEO topics.

Upload it to YouTube, Vimeo or your Facebook. That way you can broaden your reach to a different crowd.

You can also opt for content syndication. There are often articles crossed posted on sites like medium and LinkedIn Groups, so that’s definitely doable.

By simply syndicating, you also spend less effort since you don’t have to reformat your content.

You’re also putting your content on multiple big websites and greatly increased your exposure.

So now the readers have more places to find your awesome content.

Which means more visitors and more exposure.

I call it awesome.

One thing to keep in mind is to check the canonical options you have while publishing your content on a site like medium.

Here’s a medium help page on SEO and duplicate content that goes into the details on how they handle this issue.

Not quite sure what canonical means? Check out this post here for a quick explanation, What Are Canonical Links And Why You Should Canonicalize Your URL

4. Comment on web 2.0

If you have a blog, you’ve most probably had some unwelcomed spam comment.

We’re kinda going that path. As in we’re gonna go around leaving comments about our own business too.

Now, like any other sane people on the planet would know. No one likes spammy comments. A comment saying “Thank you for this awesome article. www.ilovemilk.com” is not gonna cut it.

That’s downright offensive.

No one likes spam…

The main point of dropping comments on web 2.0 is not to force people to go visit your website, it’s even further away from dropping a link hoping to get that link juice.

It’s about building up your persona. Yes, yours.

You’re gonna share what you know about your own industry, and perhaps ask questions, engage with others.

The comment section of a piece of content is where the community is. You’re dropping a comment because you’re making yourself known as a part of the community.

And try to leave comments that are actually helpful and insightful, comments on sites like Quora or Reddit can end up ranking high for a specific keyword.

Treat your comment as if you’re writing a blog post. Give valid and actionable points. Then, when it’s backed up by the high domain authority of the website that you’re commenting on, you’ll have a bigger chance to rank.

Wait, here comes the main point.

If you come upon a situation where it’s totally ok to link your own content there, do it.

You have already established yourself as an active member of the community, not just a link dropper. People will actually take it seriously and pay it a visit, cause it’s actually gonna be relevant and reliable.

That way, you’ll have both link building and barnacle SEO by being active in one community, killing two birds with one stone.

5. Press Release

Press Release is an official announcement issued by a company or a business. Simple as that.

Digital press release service is often used as a great way to expand your brand exposure and pike interest from journalists.

A press release is not just one press release, there are usually plans selling press release service that syndicates it across hundreds of websites.

Do you see where this is going?

Sending out a digital press release is borderline white hat link building.

Syndicating a press release over hundreds of media sites would build up your link profile like mad.

And a bunch of businesses is using this exact technique to build their digital presence.

You should too.

So, are you on the board now?

Now, the first stop in this press release journey is, of course, looking for a reliable press release service provider.

Just a search on Fiverr and you’ll find a ton of sellers selling this service, are they the one you need? Well, that’s the million dollar question.

Fiverr sellers usually offer their service at a lower price. Downside? You can’t really expect how the quality will be.

Yes, you can kinda gauge by reading the reviews left by other buyers and you’ll only be losing a hundred dollar if they do a bad job.

You can also find bigger and more reputable press release service firms such as MarketersMEDIA. Do be prepared that the price listed will be double or maybe triple the price you see on Fiverr.

But hey you get what you paid.

When you’re paying for a press release service, you want the links to be varied, if they have a couple of big names on their distribution list, even better.

What difference with a press release with a content is that you don’t really need to pour days into creating an informational post.

A press release is simply an announcement, things are kept short to the point and professional.

Something as simple as announcing that your business now added SEO as a part of your marketing effort can be a good enough topic to write for a press release.

By sending out a press release you’re leveraging all the links you got from these websites to extend to your search engine visibility.

There are even services out there offering to syndicate your piece of content to top branded sites like Reuters, Google News, Yahoo News and more.

You can definitely make good use of them if you have the budget to jump-start your SEO effort.

Let’s conclude this post with an excellent guide on how to look for a suitable barnacle site. Since getting the correct site to jump on is the core of barnacle SEO.

Now start your journey!

Chrome 70 Update: HTTPS Site Security and the Full Symantec Distrust

Posted by on Nov 23, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Chrome 70 Update: HTTPS Site Security and the Full Symantec Distrust

Chrome 70 Update: HTTPS Site Security and the Full Symantec Distrust

As of October 17, 2018, Google has released Chrome 70, and with it, they have once again increased their security warnings for sites that are not fully HTTPS secure. The language used by the browser has also become increasingly severe over the last couple of years:

Attackers are going to trick you!

One of the most specific targets of these new security warnings has to do with a company called Symantec. From the Google Online Security blog:

“[U]sers will start to see full screen interstitials on sites which still use certificates issues by the Legacy Symantec PKI. Initially this change will reach a small percentage of users, and then slowly scale up to 100% over the next several weeks.”

Chrome has been planning this depreciation of trust in Symantec security certificates for more than a year now thanks to some shady practices that compromised users’ security when they visit apparently secure, trusted sites. From Google Online Security blog’s ominously titled Chrome’s Plan to Distrust Symantec Certificates:

“On January 19, 2017, a public posting to the mozilla.dev.security.policy newsgroup drew attention to a series of questionable website authentication certificates issued by Symantec Corporation’s PKI. Symantec’s PKI business, which operates a series of Certificate Authorities under various brand names, including Thawte, VeriSign, Equifax, GeoTrust, and RapidSSL, had issued numerous certificates that did not comply with the industry-developed CA/Browser Forum Baseline Requirements.

During the subsequent investigation, it was revealed that Symantec had entrusted several organizations with the ability to issue certificates without the appropriate or necessary oversight, and had been aware of security deficiencies at these organizations for some time.”

Apparently, Symantec certificates were being handed out by Symantec’s authorized partners like they were Halloween candy…

What do we do about Chrome 70’s Symantec Distrust?

The chances are slim that we have any clients that are using the affected Symantec HTTPS certificates. After all, this has been a known, impending change for some time and competent site operators have already updated their SSL certificates well in advance. But, there is no reason to leave it to chance and just assume that everything is OK on the sites we care about.
Checking for the depreciated Certificate Authorities (CA) is a pretty simple task that only requires a few clicks per website. Here at Portent, we put together a small team to run through our entire book of clients and took the following steps:

Check your SSL Certificate Authority

Launch Chrome
Go to the website you want to check
Click on the lock next to the URL in the browser bar

Check to see if the certificate is valid and click on ‘Certificate’

See who shows up in the ‘Issued by’

If you are already running Chrome 70, and you find an offending site, there’s a chance you’ll get to see the full-screen interstitial mentioned earlier. That’ll make the check process a lot faster.

Alas, and huzzah, none of our clients are using a legacy Symantec SSL certificate!

There are, however, a handful of sites that are on HTTP or are unsecured on HTTPS for varying reasons. For anyone who has yet to migrate to HTTPS or have had trouble doing so, our Development Architect Andy Schaff put together a comprehensive guide to make the switch to HTTPS.

Security is a Ranking Factor

So, why bother checking for a valid SSL certificate on our clients’ sites?

Well, first off, HTTPS is a ranking factor! Going all the way back to 2014, HTTPS has been a ranking factor. It started as a tie-breaker between otherwise equally ranking sites, now, it’s even part of the Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines (my emphasis added):

Low quality pages often lack an appropriate level of (Expertise, Authoritativeness, or Trustworthiness) E-A-T for the purpose of the page. [For example the] MC [Main Content] is not trustworthy, e.g. a shopping checkout page that has an insecure connection.

Secondly, if not us, then who? We can’t afford to leave anything to assumption and chance. By checking in on the little things that matter we can prove that we care about the well-being of each of our clients, it’s one less thing that they have to worry about. After all, that’s why we we’re here.

The post Chrome 70 Update: HTTPS Site Security and the Full Symantec Distrust appeared first on Portent.

Featured Snippets: Tips and tricks on reaching the top

Posted by on Nov 16, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Featured Snippets: Tips and tricks on reaching the top

Featured Snippets: Tips and tricks on reaching the top

Most companies with a presence on Google will have an interest in appearing at the top of search results. Naturally then as SEOs, we are often asked how featured snippets can be acquired. If you’re currently working on winning some featured snippets, this blog post will give you some tips and processes to get you started.

In this post I am going to share some current featured snippets stats and trends, and go through my own method on how to win them. I’ll cover the different tools I found useful, how I determine what queries to prioritise, and how I decide what changes to make to the content.

If you didn’t already know, featured snippets are a summary of an answer to a search query that Google scrapes from a web page, typically one that organically ranks on the first page. When a page owns a featured snippet, it will sit at the top of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), and look like this:

Often following featured snippets are People Also Ask (PAA) boxes, which are also relevant to define for this blog post. PAAs are a set of related queries that display an answer in a format similar to a featured snippet when selected, as seen in the following image. They are also dynamic, so whenever you select one, a new one will load.

Featured snippets current stats and trends

Featured snippets are of course appealing to own, and they are also a Google feature that seems to be here to stay and evolving constantly. In his SearchLove San Diego talk, Rob Bucci from STAT gave a great overview of the current featured snippet landscape, based on findings from their continued study of 1 million high CPC keywords (you can see the full presentation by creating a free Distilled account). Here are some important takeaways:

31% of the 1 million keywords they are tracking have a featured snippet, representing a 230% increase over time since STAT began the study in January 2016
Of those featured snippets, 31% were awarded to the top ranking organic search result
60% are awarded to pages on the first page of organic search results, with subsequent positions receiving less than the previous. Only 1% were awarded to a page that ranked beyond the first page of the SERPs (see image below for distribution)
68% of the snippets studied by STAT have shown no volatility (meaning the query consistently had a featured snippet and the page winning it did not change), whereas 32% either disappeared, reappeared, or changed hands within the period tested
“Does” and “cost” queries primarily were answered with a paragraph format, “how” and “best” queries were most commonly answered with a list format, and rates and abbreviations were answered with a table format

These are important findings to keep in mind when you are researching featured snippet opportunities.

The below image from Rob Bucci’s slide deck shows the ranking distribution of pages that are winning featured snippets. This graph includes featured snippets and People Also Ask (PAA) boxes in the rankings. The second and third positions had the most featured snippets in 2016 and 2017, respectively. The graph has shifted over by one in 2017 due to the appearance of PAA boxes.

Gathering your data

The first thing I start with on almost any research task is getting all the data I need into one place. For featured snippets, this data is a list of relevant keywords that you rank at least 10th for (ideally higher than 4), and queries that have featured snippets on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). In this list, I also make sure to keep a note of what snippets we currently own and which ones we don’t.

The main tools I use are STAT, ahrefs, and Moz’s Keyword Explorer. These are all tools you need subscriptions for, although Keyword Explorer does have a limited free version.

Using these tools, create a Google Sheet or Excel document where you can keep all your data in one place. When compiling a lot of data into a document that has lots of different sheets, it’s really important to label each tab with where you got the data and what the data shows, or else you run the risk of forgetting and needing to redo work.

In each sheet have the following columns:

The keyword
What position you rank
Your landing page that ranks
The current featured snippet owner
The search volume
Whether it is an owned or unowned snippet
Whether it was volatile or non-volatile (when you have this information)
And the type of snippet (paragraph, list or table)

An overview of the tools

In STAT, on the main view, there is a “SERP Features” tab, which displays data that looks something like the below.

In addition to these features, STAT’s PAA reports can also be useful for generating more keyword ideas.

For ahrefs, this blog post goes in-depth on how to use their platform for research on featured snippets. I find it most useful for tracking what featured snippets you do and don’t own and for working out who my competitors are.

For instructions on how to use Moz’s Keyword Explorer, read this blog post from 2016. The tool can be used for both tracking what keywords have featured snippets, and also for generating new query ideas.

Deciding which queries to focus on

Once you have a list of keywords that have featured snippets, and an idea of what ones you do and don’t already own, you need to whittle that list down to the most important queries. First filter down to keywords where you rank at position 4 or better, then prioritise those based on search volume.

What search volume limit to choose will likely vary by client / site, but typically you can bin anything with a search volume less than 20. From what is left over consider the relative search volume. For the most part, I only keep keywords with a search volume of 100 or more.

Your time is best spent on volatile snippets, so you should try to track who is winning the featured snippet for a query you may want to target across a period of time. If that changes during the time you are watching, or if the snippet disappears and reappears, that’s a good indication it presents an opportunity.

Another thing to make a note of are featured snippets you don’t own, but where you rank higher than the page winning the featured snippet. The logic being that in those instances your answers (or lack thereof) are more likely causing you to lose out, rather than your ranking position.

For example, in the below image both National Geographic and Thought Catalog rank higher than Smithsonian Magazine, the featured snippet owner.

Within your spreadsheet, create separate pivot tables for both your owned and unowned snippets, with the landing page as your rows and the number of keywords that landing page ranks for as your values.

These will tell you if you have pages that appear in the SERPs for a lot of different keywords. Improvements to those pages could have a bigger potential payoff, and therefore may be worth prioritising. On the flipside, it can also indicate landing pages that are already doing well and thus are better left untouched – especially if they own non-volatile snippets.

Hacks to win snippets

It’s all well and good to have all that data, but the main reason you are here is that you want to steal featured snippets. Because featured snippets that are static often remain static, your attention is best focused on those that are more volatile because it means Google hasn’t made up its mind yet on who to feature.

When doing this work, you will begin to find yourself doing what feels like competitor research, as current featured snippet owners are your best resource for discovering what Google likes.

Once you know what keywords you want to focus on, begin to dig into who currently owns the featured snippets, and often you will find that many of these were winning multiple of the keywords you are targeting.

When you have an idea of the pages you are competing with, compare these pages with your own to try and see if you can find any obvious differences. If you’re ranking well and you don’t have content on your page that answers the specific query, adding in content to answer that query and modelling it off of your competitors is a good place to start.

If you’re in a situation where you already have that content on your page, but you still aren’t winning the featured snippet, then differences to look out for between you and your competitors are the format of the answers, the headings, and the general informativeness of your answers.

As I noted above, if you find yourself with a lot of “how to” or “best” queries that you’re focusing on, changing your formatting into lists if they’re not already can be an easy win, as shown in this 2016 blog post from Builtvisible.

You may find that the format you are using and your competitors are using are the same. In these instances, try stealing things like the headings that your competitors are using to lead the featured snippet content with, or other small differences in wording.

The last thing to try and consider is whether the content in the featured snippet owned by a competitor gives a more informative answer than yours. Does it better answer the query? Are our answers more commercial than informative? That sort of thing. Remember that Google above all else wants to provide the most informative answer for its users, so the more closely your featured snippet content aligns with Google’s agenda, the better.

If you are working with a large website that has a lot of unique landing pages ranking making it too gruelling to look at these on a case by case basis, I’d recommend prioritising twenty to examine. If within that sample you find there are a lot of instances of commercial or salsey content, more likely than not this will be the case across the site.

Wrapping up

Winning featured snippets can be finicky and involves a fair bit of trial and error. I have found though that with featured snippets little changes really make a big difference. The changes that work for me are more often changing headings or changing formatting rather than changing the content.

As with most of SEO, there’s no one size fits all approach on how to win a featured snippet, but hopefully this blog post helped to steer you in the right direction. Alternatively, if you have other methods you’ve successfully used, I’d love to hear them – feel free to comment below.

Pinterest on visual search: key takeaways

Posted by on Nov 16, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Pinterest on visual search: key takeaways

Pinterest on visual search: key takeaways

We invited Michael Akkerman, Global Head of Partners Program at Pinterest, to our NY office yesterday evening to speak on visual search.

He talked about discovery over search, audience engagement over audience size, less time more well-spent over more total time spent, and social communities over social networks. It was an insightful, instructive, and *obviously* visual-heavy session.

Here were some of the key takeaways / highlights.

Pinterest is a visual discovery engine — discovery over search

When people come to our platform, they’re trying to discover new pieces of information.

Our Pinners are not looking to connect with friends or post at parties. They’re doing home renovations. They’re in the market for something. They want to go and actually discover something.

Google is great for when I know what I want, but it’s really crappy when I don’t know how to articulate it. How do I describe a style I’ve only seen, a city I don’t know, a specific color?

Like this:

Or this:

I know them when I see them.

Pinterest is visual-first. We wanted it to be able to take images instead of words.

Pinterest = possibilities

What do I want to eat? What do I want to wear? How should I decorate my house? What’s my style? We help people understand their taste.

Total numbers of pins: 23 billion food and drink. 18 billion home and garden. 8 billion beauty. 23 billion style. 4 billion travel.

Are you in one of these categories? Your customers are on Pinterest.

“Even if you think your brand’s content isn’t on Pinterest, your customers are probably already bringing it there. Seems like those are people you might want to go and chat with.”

What keeps people from buying? They’re still trying to figure out what they want — they’re still discovering.

For us, the camera is the new keyboard.

Let the image be the SERP.

Shop the look. Discover products inside an image.

Personalization not as a feature, but rather the underpinning of the platform

On Pinterest, we understand that every single person has different interests. We don’t want personalization as just a feature. We want it as the underpinnings of the entire platform.

The way we’re doing it is we’re bringing what’s called the taste graph. The hipster guy from Williamsburg? His garden board doesn’t look like everyone else’s. My travel board? I want to go to Morocco. Not everyone does.

When you interact on Pinterest, it feels like it knows you.

What storytelling was on search versus what storytelling is on Pinterest. Driving people closer to an engaging experience.

Audience engagement over audience size

Content at scale:

250 million monthly active users
170 billion pins — 5x the library of congress every single day
3 billion boards

We have the largest human focus group in the world, curating content into boards.

“We’re 250 million people, not 2 billion. It’s really looking at the intent. You’ll find platforms with much larger audiences, but they’re not there to engage. We’re a smaller audience size, but people are there with intent.”

More time well-spent over total time spent

The visual revolution. 50% of the brain is dedicated to understanding visual information.

People retain 10% of what they hear, 20% of what they read, and 80% of what they see and do.

At Pinterest, that “do” part is very interesting. We’re about time well-spent. We want you off the platform as soon as possible — we want you to solve your problem as quickly as possible.

“When people use Pinterest, they feel positive. It’s about what you can build and achieve. Go make that recipe. Go build that birdhouse. Go nuts. Get off our platform as quickly as possible.”

Purposeful communities over social networks

We’re not a social network — but communities are naturally springing up all the time around given topics, images, ideas, and brands.

Most people call Pinterest “my time.” Not about my social network.

Ads within the context of purpose-based community versus in a social network

1. Annoyance: “People use social media to share things about their lives with each other. And let’s face it, ads are annoying in that context.”

2. Value: “With Google, you know the intent but not the person. With Facebook, you know everything about the person but less about the intent. I was drawn to Pinterest because it combines both.”

Ads often don’t add value, and they feel disruptive, disjointed.

Why not make them additive? If you’re searching for a certain type of shoes, we’ll show you ads for those shoes.

“If the content is valuable, I don’t mind that it comes from a brand. It solves my problem.”

How people shop: convenience and need over loyalty, bundles over individual items

Example of REI: They saw that normal human beings shop in bundles. If they’re going camping, they don’t need ten jackets and ten tents. They need a bundle of assorted things. Thus, they started highlighting and bundling trending Pinterest products on their own site.

Loyalty is elusive in today’s market

Most purchases are driven by shopping, not by loyalty to a brand. People who switch from brand A to brand B do so because brand B was present the second they were looking for a product.

Marketers like Pinterest because you can reach customers so early on in their buying journey

Pinners start the Black Friday hunt in August.

Most people start pinning, searching, saving 12 weeks before an event. That’s great for a marketer. You can drive interest incrementally over time.

When someone is designing their perfect home, looking for the perfect bag, planning their next vacation — you should be there. They’re discovering your product.

Agnostic cross-channel insight

Last-touch vs multi-touch attribution, in pictures:

“Last-touch attribution is like a shopkeeper looking out the door and seeing a bunch of customers lined up outside and saying “oh, if I had two more front doors, I’d have three times as many customers.” It doesn’t work that way.”

You need to do multi-touch attribution. You’re trying to engage customers, build brand, drive sales. But that looks different in every channel.

Kenshoo found that Facebook was undervalued by as much as 30%. We see the exact same thing on Pinterest right now.

The full livestream is available on our @Sewatch twitter here as well as online here.

The post Pinterest on visual search: key takeaways appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Google Analytics Insights – The Best Tips for Your Business Success

Posted by on Nov 13, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Google Analytics Insights – The Best Tips for Your Business Success

Google Analytics Insights – The Best Tips for Your Business Success

You know how important online presence is to any business and how valuable it is to deliver performance. But how well do you understand your users’ path and what makes them engaged? How often has it happened to you to find out specific things about your traffic and make correlations but didn’t know the steps for filtering your data?

 

Understanding your Google Analytics results can be hard and tricky, but Google Analytics Insights is the everyday solution. It’s like training for the race and come home with the medals.

 

 

The great side of GA insights is the personalized list of marketing tips and tricks you get based on the activity of your business. It uses a machine learning algorithm, named Analytics Intelligence, which makes it easier for the business owner to discover what’s important in the pile of data and then take meaningful action. And the best thing of all is that you can ask questions and get directions.

 

Understand Year over Year Growth of Average Order Value
Know What Users Are Interested in Purchasing Right Now
Keep Your Loyal Users Engaged
Find Any Anomalies for Your Website
Find the Landing Pages with the Worst Ecommerce Conversion Rate
Track the Revenue Trend for Your Products/Services

 

Google Analytics Insights offers great guidelines for your website. For starters, you can select some questions from a standard list to get some directions. Straight form the Insights go to list of questions regarding users, traffic trends, content analysis, users behavior, product performance and technical performance.

 

 

Creating great campaigns and improving your digital marketing results is mandatory for success, that’s why you should keep an eye on Google reports for insights.

 

 
1. Year over Year Growth of Average Order Value

 

For e-commerce websites, Average Order Value (AOV) is one of the most important metrics that should be tracked. It a metric that measures the total average of all the transactions made by a customer each time they place an order on the website, within a specific period of time.

 

AOV is determined by measuring sales per order, not sales per customer. Although one customer may come back multiple times to make a purchase, each order would be counted separately in the AOV.

 

Keeping track of Average Order Value would help business owners to be aware of key business decisions such as advertising spend, store layout, and product pricing.

Google

 

 

To find out the year over year growth of AOV you need to go to insights. You can access it from all the google analytics dashboards; it doesn’t matter where you are.

 

 

Then, you can search for “year over year growth of Average Order Value” or go to Conversions » Ecommerce » Overview. There you can see something similar to the next graphic.

 

 

You can see if your AOV has increased or suffered a drop. In the first case, a higher AOV will increase your ecommerce store’s profitability. In the last case, it means that this year’s orders (according to the graphic, it is 2018) are fewer than the ones from the previous year (2017).

 

You can increase the AOV by a few improvements/tricks in your selling process, such as:

Offer free shipping. There are lots of websites that offer free shipping with regard to the period of shipment.
Offer limited free shipping for a specific order value. For example, chose a free shipping value of $25 or $30 depending on what type of products you sell. If you’re selling luxury products, unfortunately that doesn’t apply.
Offer additional products right in the card after the customer placed a product. If you give recommendations based on what the customer ordered, you might encourage additional spending
Give coupons to loyal customers to inspire them to make purchases.
Start a loyalty program. You can create fidelity cards with points and for each purchase, the customer can collect points.

 

The beautiful side of this Overview panel form Analytics is the Marketing section, where you can see what campaigns are performing in terms of transactions, revenue, and AOV. You can see here what online marketing strategy (promotion, coupon codes, affiliation) works best:

 

 
2. Know What Users Are Interested in Purchasing Right Now

 

If you want to know who is interested in buying right now from the whole list of leads, then In-Market Segments is the choice you should make. In-Market Segments reflect the users who are interested in a product and close to converting. They can help you decide what to promote or how to remarket.

 

Simply click on Insights and search for “Know what users are interested in purchasing right now” and you’ll see a similar report for your website:

 

 

In the screenshot above, you can see the In-Market Segments for Aug 1, 2018-Aug 31, 2018. And if you look at the number, you can see that they have grown significantly over the past month. By clicking on Go to Reports from your Google Analytics Account, you will be redirected to Audience » Interests » In-Market Segments.

 

Here you can create segments and keep track of what you’re interested in. This way you have an easy management and a clear sight of who is more active and who needs a little help. You can see Google Analytics data regarding behavior, e-commerce conversions or goals completition.

 

 

Based on the results above you can use remarketing, and focus your lower-funnel marketing (e.g., promotions, discounts, product bundles) on these users. For example, create audiences with conditions like “In-Market Segment exactly matches Financial Services/Investment Services”. You can then use these audiences in AdWords, DoubleClick Bid Manager, or DoubleClick Search remarketing campaigns.

 

If you want to create audiences, you have to go to your Admin panel » Property » » Audience Definitions » Audiences.

 

 

After you select Audiences, you can set up the steps for Remarketing and create your first audience.

 

 
3. Keep Your Loyal Users Engaged

 

Loyal customers are hard to achieve and once you gained their hearts you must keep their engagement rate high. If you want to see the percentage of loyal users, you can search for “How loyal were your users from September?” in the GA insights section.

 

On the site we analyzed we could see that the loyality rate was 5.87% in September compared to August.

 

 

To follow up on these numbers, you can see the exact number or users if you go to Audience » Behaviour » New vs. Returning and select the last 28 days or check the monthly trend of users over the last 12 months.

 

You can always compare these results with the previous year and for that you have to look at the year over year growth of users. For the analyzed site, we have an increase of 4.11%.

 

 

In case there was a decrease there are some things to consider, such as adding new site features, product strategies, or marketing activities.

 
4. Find Any Anomalies for Your Website

 

If you think something strange happened to your users or your website, you can search to see if there were any anomalies in users, sessions, impressions, transactions and more. Google uses a specific model –  Bayesian state space-time series model – to forecast values that stand out beyond the normal trend in the time series data:

 

Analytics Intelligence Anomaly Detection is a statistical technique to identify “outliers” in time-series data for a given dimension value or metric.

Google

 

 

Go to Google Analytics Insights and search for “Any anomalies in the number of users last week?” and your question will be answered. For the website we analyzed we can see there is nothing abnormal regarding users.

 

 

There are two types of anomalies presented in Google Analytics:

for sites that experience a spike;
for sites that had a drop in sales or some metrics perform poorly.

 

In case you find anomalies in your account that signal some negative performance, then you should look at the results and the period of time. As you can see in the screenshot below, Google detected 1 anomaly in the time series analyzed marked with a red dot. It identified it as an anomaly because it wasn’t accurate regarding historical data.

 

Source: medium.com

 

You probably know about Google Analytics alerts. You could find them at Customization » Custom Alerts » Manage Custom Alerts » New Alert. And you could add alerts to keep an eye on the problems that appear. For example, you can have an alert in case your transactions dropped to a specific value.

 

 

 
5. Find the Landing Pages with the Worst Ecommerce Conversion Rate

 

Finding pages that don’t bring any commercial benefits can be hard to spot and Analytics insights has the information on that. For the site we used on this analysis we received some recommendation of what needs to be improved and one of them was the poor landing pages in terms of ecommerce conversion rate.

 

We saw that some of your top landing pages performed >25% worse on ecommerce conversion rate this month.

 

 

Over the time period analyzed, the overall ecommerce conversion rate of the site was 0.57%, according to the Google Analytics results. Tracking this type of data helps you see the conversion rate and the directions for improving it. For keeping the numbers high you have to keep the content relevant for the type of traffic you have for those pages. You need to answer the following questions:

 

If there have been changes in the traffic sources to these pages, have you made sure the content is relevant to that traffic?
If you changed the content on these pages, did you notice a change in user behavior?

 

To see the type of traffic you have for your pages, go to Behaviour » Site Content » Landing Pages. Here chose the secondary dimension: Traffic Type.

 

 
6. Track the Revenue Trend for Your Products/Services

 

Once you understand the popularity of certain products and discover what’s accounting for your highest ROI, your business will grow.

 

Tracking the revenue trend for your products can be really helpful in understanding what’s working and what products didn’t bring so much revenue. If you search for “Trend of Product Revenue by Product” you’ll see a chart similar to the one below:

 

 

As you can see in the picture above there is a spike in revenue. This chart is very efficient in discovering which products are most effective. So in our case, we should look at the product that had a drastic increase and go further in discovering what we did that day or during the previous days.

 

I performed the search once more to see if this spike appeared again in the last 3 months by going to Conversions » Ecommerce » Product Performance. And it seems it happened again in October so it wasn’t just a one-time thing, but still the spike is pretty high comparing to the normal growth of the website.

 

 

Conclusion

 

Google Analytics Insights is the online guide that helps you see the missing opportunities, the lacking performance, the anomalies and get recommendations and straight answers to your questions with direct reference to the reports and graphs. Following the above actionable insights we talked about, and looking through the customized reports will give you the chance to improve your Google analytics data, increase sales and perform conversion rate optimization

 

It is very easy to use. You can ask questions or look for specific metrics and dimensions and Google Intelligence will give you directions to the analytics reports. You’ll get recommendations and see what you should do to improve the metrics and the parts of your website that aren’t performing so well in the sales funnel.

 

 

The post Google Analytics Insights – The Best Tips for Your Business Success appeared first on SEO Blog | cognitiveSEO Blog on SEO Tactics & Strategies.

SEMScoop Keyword Tool and How It Will Help You in Your Keyword Research

Posted by on Nov 13, 2018 in Greg's SEO Articles | Comments Off on SEMScoop Keyword Tool and How It Will Help You in Your Keyword Research

SEMScoop Keyword Tool will help you understand the use of website silo architecture and find LSI keywords that help you improve your marketing strategy.

 

As you already know if you are expert in SEO and keyword research, these concepts are not new, and there are other tools and methods that help you get thematic keywords and “long tail” or LSI.

 

I have used several ones before, I did not find them interesting enough to write about. However this case is totally different, and I think it’s worth to be mentioned and discussed.

 

The operation of SEMScoop is very simple: you just have to enter a keyword and SEMScoop will show you all the topics, terms and keywords related to it.

You already know that choosing the right keywords is very important to get a good ranking position in SERP.

 

it’s not just about “adding the keywords with some text …”, it’s rather about building relevant content for these keywords, using the right concepts in the right context.

 

As you may have noticed, Google’s algorithms are increasingly “smart” when it comes to “understanding” how relevant text can be on a given topic. For Google this is a necessity, because it is the only way to get to show the best possible results for each search.

 

Thanks to SEMScoop keyword tool it can give you an idea of the keyword SEO difficulty, and if you will be willing to rank if you did focus your content  around this keyword

 

When SEMScoop finishes exploring and processing all the results, you will see that the data is divided into four tabs:

 

  • Top Search Results
  • Links Profile
  • Content Analysis
  • Social Engagement

 

Each tab have different data about google top ranking pages metrics (age, authority, links, contents, socials …) it should provide a clear view for which terms are likely easy to rank

 

My recommendation is to try SEMScoop, it have a daily free usage (no sign up required), I am pretty sure it will help in improving your site overall ranking

Avoid these site structure mistakes!

Posted by on Nov 6, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Avoid these site structure mistakes!

If you take your SEO – and users – seriously, you’ll be working on a kick-ass site structure. But, setting up a decent site structure can be difficult. Maintaining a solid site structure when your site is growing, is even harder. It’s easy to overlook something or make a mistake. In this post, I will share 5 common site structure mistakes people often make. Make sure to avoid all of these!

Don’t know where to start improving your site’s structure? Our brand new site structure training will help you! You can currently get the course for $129!

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#1 Hiding your cornerstones

Your most important articles – your cornerstones – shouldn’t be hidden away. Cornerstone articles are the articles that you’re most proud of; that most clearly reflect the mission of your website. But some people forget to link to their most precious articles. That’s not good: if an article receives no or few internal links, search engines will find it less easily (as search engines follow links). Google will regard articles with few internal links as less important, and rank them accordingly.

Solution: link to your cornerstones

Ideally, you should be able to navigate to your cornerstone articles in one or two clicks from the homepage. Make sure they’re visible for your visitors, so people can easily find them.

Most importantly, link to those cornerstone articles. Don’t forget to mention them in your other blog posts! Our internal linking tool can help you to remember your cornerstones at all times.

#2 No breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs are important for both the user experience and the SEO of your website. And yet, some people do not use them. Breadcrumbs show how the current page fits into the structure of your site, which allows your users to easily navigate your site. Breadcrumbs also allow search engines to determine the structure of your site without difficulty.

Solution: add those breadcrumbs

No excuses here! Just add those breadcrumbs. Yoast SEO can help you do that!

#3 HUGE categories

Categories should be relatively similar in size. But, without noticing, people can sometimes write about one subject way more often than about another. As a result, one category can slowly grow much larger than other categories. When one category is significantly larger than other ones, your site becomes unbalanced. You’ll have a hard time ranking with blog posts within a very large category.

Solution: split categories

If you’ve created a huge category, split it in two (or three). To keep categories from growing too large, check the size of your categories every now and then, especially if you write a lot of blog posts.

#4 Using too many tags

Don’t create too many tags. Some people want to make tags very specific. But if every post receives yet another new unique tag, you’re not adding structure, because posts don’t become grouped or linked. So, that’s pretty much useless.

Solution: use tags in moderation

Make sure that tags are used more than once or twice, and that tags group articles together that really belong together. You should also ensure that visitors can find the tags somewhere, preferably at the bottom of your article. Tags are useful for your visitors (and not just for Google) to read more about the same topic.

Read more: Using category and tag pages for SEO »

#5 Not visualizing your site structure

A final site structure mistake people make is forgetting to visualize their site’s structure. Visitors want to be able to find stuff on your website with ease. The main categories of your blog should all have a place in the menu on your homepage. But don’t create too many categories, or your menu will get cluttered. A menu should give a clear overview and reflect the structure of your site. Ideally, the menu helps visitors understand how your website is structured.

Solution: dive into UX

To create a good and clear overview of your site, you should dive into those aspects of User eXperience (UX) that could use improving on your site. Think about what your visitors are looking for and how you could help them to navigate through your website. You could, for instance, start with reading our blog posts about User eXperience (UX).

Fix your site structure mistakes!

Site structure is an essential aspect of an SEO strategy. The structure of your website shows Google what articles and pages are most important. With your site’s structure, you can influence which articles will rank highest in the search engines. So, it’s important to do it right. Especially if you’re adding a lot of content, the structure of your site could be changing quickly. Try to stay on top! And if your site’s structure is starting to look good, you can check for other common SEO mistakes as well.

Did we forget a site structure mistake that you encounter often? Please share it with us in the comments!

Keep reading: Site structure: the ultimate guide »

The post Avoid these site structure mistakes! appeared first on Yoast.

 

3 SEO Split Tests You Should Try

Posted by on Oct 30, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on 3 SEO Split Tests You Should Try

3 SEO Split Tests You Should Try

Yes, split testing for SEO is a thing, and a powerful one at that. In How Split Testing Is Changing Consulting, Will sums up why high priority SEO changes linger in developer backlogs, and how we’re addressing these issues with our ODN platform that allows us to test and roll out these recommendations without using our clients’ developer resources: we can substantiate best practices like H1 changes, alterations to internal links, and rendering content with and without Javascript.

Let’s get started with three tests you should try to see if you can increase organic traffic to your site.

1. Do H1 changes still work?

It won’t come as any surprise to SEOs that testing on page elements can produce significant changes in rankings. That said, I’ve found that folks can put too much stock in on page elements: we tend to get keyword-tunnel vision and chock up our rankings to keyword targeting alone. As a result, being able to test these assumptions on Google can help (dis)prove our hypotheses (and help us prioritize the right development work).

For iCanvas.com, prioritizing web development work is key: they’re a canvas print company with a robust team of developers, but like most companies, they have limited resources to test technical changes. As a result, dubious SEO-driven changes can’t be prioritized over user experience-driven ones.

We did, however, notice that iCanvas was not targeting product type in their H1 tags. As a result, this is what a typical category page (like this one) looked like.

Here, the H1 tag was simply “Beach Decor.” iCanvas was communicating the style and subject of their products in their title tags–that product being canvas art prints–but that context was lost on a given category page. We hypothesized that if we told the world (and, more specifically, Google) what the products are (canvas prints), that we would better meet users’ search intents resulting in more organic search traffic to our test pages. Here’s what the H1 looked like for the test::

After less than a month, we had our answer: our test pages with canvas prints appended to H1 tags gained significantly more traffic than our control pages. How’d we measure that?

It helps to know how ODN works (also check out Craig’s post, What is SEO Split Testing?). The most important thing to know in understanding the chart above is that ODN observes the organic traffic your site captures in real time to develop a forecast for the organic traffic we’d expect to receive in the future. That’s how we got to the nice “7.7% uplift if rolled out” estimate. There is of course volatility–forecasts are rarely perfect, and ours isn’t an exception. Which is why we also measure statistical significance within the normal range of variance we’d expect.

As a result, we were confident that this change would positively impact traffic to their site, so we declared this test a winner and rolled the change out to all of their category pages through ODN. This meant that we didn’t have to hijack our developers’ work queue in order to see an immediate benefit. Additionally, we had evidence we could bring to our devs instead of relying exclusively on the promise of following “best practices” in keyword targeting.

2. Will altering internal links give you a big payoff?

Testing changes to internal links is often an ill-defined endeavor. Do you measure changes to PageRank (dubbed local PageRank by Will Critchlow)? Should you look at your log files to observe changes to Google’s crawling behavior?

In our case, iCanvas had a somewhat simpler internal linking issue we wanted to address: self-referential links. As an art company, it’s essential to attribute the creator’s name to their work of art.

As a result, they had made the decision to include a link to the artist of the work on every product listing.

For instance, in the above screenshot of a category page, you can see that each product has its artist listed, and those artists’ names are linked to pages listing all of their available artworks on iCanvas. While this application made sense for category pages where various artists’ products are featured alongside each other, it resulted in redundant links on those individual artists’ pages.

Each of these artist attributions, on the artist’s category page, were linking back to themselves (thus: self-referential links). Our hypothesis was that if we removed these redundant links, we’d better consolidate our PageRank. We knew this change could have a dramatic impact on artists’ products, resulting in more organic traffic flowing to their product pages. Our test, however, would measure the impact of organic traffic acquisition to our test group of artist pages. So how did it turn out?

As it turned out, our test was a success: artist pages in our test group received more organic traffic than our control pages. We were again able to test something that would’ve been touted as “best practice” before rolling it out sitewide, or manually setting up test and control groups and measuring the results ourselves. Once we saw the positive impact (less than a month later), we rolled this change out sitewide and the validation we needed to get the necessary development work prioritized.

3. How good is Google at crawling JavaScript?

If you follow our blog, you’ve already read about how we tested Google’s ability to crawl and render JavaScript. We posited that, because Google wasn’t reliably displaying iCanvas’ products in its Fetch and Render tool, iCanvas’ category and product pages would receive more organic traffic if we used a CSS trigger to load their products instead of relying exclusively on JavaScript.

Above is a screenshot of what we saw (and, presumably, what Googlebot saw) in Fetch and Render of a category page.

After our tweak, however, we plugged one of our test URLs into Fetch and Render, and we could finally produce what users see in their browsers with JS enabled. But did it actually result in additional organic traffic to our test pages?

As you can see above, it did. Based on the performance of our test pages, iCanvas would see an extra 88 pageviews daily with their products triggered through a line of CSS instead of JS. Measuring the impact of this relatively simple change could have taken much longer than this month-long experiment. By the end though, we were ready to roll this out sitewide to ensure that all iCanvas products were crawlable and discoverable.

Split testing something as simple as on page SEO can produce meaningful traffic changes that’ll allow you to validate best practices and get necessary evidence for your stakeholders (and developers) to buy into your suggestions. Is it time for you to try SEO split testing?