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Building visual reporting in Google Sheets

Posted by on Aug 14, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Building visual reporting in Google Sheets

Building visual reporting in Google Sheets

If you didn’t already know, Google Sheets has a fantastic Google Analytics add-on that can be used to create custom reports in Google Sheets. For more information on the reporting capabilities of this tool, read this blog post from 2016, which will also teach you how to download the add-on and set up a custom report configuration. As an overview, this add-on allows you to:

Quickly pull any data from Google Analytics (GA) accounts you have access to directly into a spreadsheet
Easily compare historical data across custom time periods
Filter and segment your data directly within Google Sheets
Automate regular reporting
Easily tweak your existing reports (which will be saved to Google Drive) to get new data

Beyond how to use the tool – we have free stuff!

All the heaps of data you can pull with this tool are useful, but what if you want to quickly be able to compare data from your custom report configurations? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a reporting view that visually displays how your website is performing week-on-week (WoW) or year-on-year (YoY) by comparing the number of organic sessions and orders (and is near-automated)?

I thought so too.

Recently, I built a report using the Google Analytics add-on within Google Sheets. I have created a templated version of this report to share with you. Feel free to make a copy of it and use it as you please.

Start creating your own Google Sheets reports.

Here are some of the insights this report provides you with:

Organic sessions and orders WoW and YoY for the entire website
Organic sessions and orders WoW and YoY for different page types including category, content, product and seasonal pages
Organic sessions and orders WoW and YoY for the homepage and a static top 20 pages
Organic sessions and orders WoW and YoY for your mobile website

Using formulas, some regular expressions, and conditional formatting, their weekly SEO reporting process is now nearly automated using data from their Google Analytics.

Wait, can’t I do all of this in the GA interface already?

Not quite. Here are some of the benefits of this add-on over the standard GA interface:

In the add-on, you can filter on dimensions or metrics that are not already included in your report. In the GA interface if you’re looking at a report with landing pages as the only dimension, you can’t use filters to filter to just organic traffic. With the add-on, you can

You can do this in GA using a segment rather than a filter, but segments are more prone to causing issues with sampling than filters

Once you have loaded in your data with the add-on, you can manipulate it without having to continually export files
You can do multiple comparisons with the add-on (which I do in this report), whereas in GA you can only do two, i.e. either year on year or week on week comparisons, not both simultaneously
Using the add-on can provide you with a single source of truth, rather than having all the additional data offered by GA that you may not want to be diving into
Using conditional formatting in Google Sheets means that I have been able to flag varying degrees of positive or negative changes by colour

How you can make this report your own

This blog post will walk you through why the report is useful, how you can customise it, and then if you’re curious, I’ve also gone into further detail in an appendix below how the report works. This will also be useful for any potential de-bugging you may have to do.

With the following instructions, even if you’re a beginner to things like regular expressions and Excel/Google Sheets formulas, you should still be able to customise the report and use it yourself.  

To build the report I’ve used regular expressions within the reporting configuration to filter to specific page types that I wanted, and then in the “Comparisons” sheet, I’ve used formulas to pull the data from the sheets to then get WoW and YoY comparisons. All of this takes place within the sole Google Sheet.

For a one-time report, this would likely not be worth the time invested, but if you or a client have a need for standardised, ongoing reporting – and you have access to the GA data for the account – then this template can be a great way to give you quick, easy insight into your organic traffic trends.

It saves me close to an hour of time a week – or almost 6 working days a year.

What you will need to customise this report

To make this report your own, you’ll need:

To download the Google Analytics add-on for Google Sheets (instructions are here)
Access to the GA account you want to report on
Your GA View ID (instructions on how to find this here)

Other resources you may find useful:

GA’s Query Explorer – can be used to test the output of different combinations of metric and dimension filters
GA Reporting API – lists and describes all the dimensions and metrics available through the Core Reporting API

Why this report is useful

This report uses conditional formatting to make any significant positive or negative changes stand out. It also uses both macro-scale views of the website trends and more detailed views. At the top, it has the total sessions and orders for the entire website, plus the WoW and YoY comparisons, and as you go further down the report it becomes more granular.

I built this report so I could get a better idea of how specific parts of a website were performing. The primary pages I have reported on are the category pages, content pages, product pages and mobile pages. Following that, I have put in the data for a list of the top 20 pages, including the home page. At the end, there is a section for seasonal pages.

The top 20 pages that it reports on are static. These were pre-determined by looking at those pages that consistently had the highest organic sessions. We opted to use a static top 20 rather than the actual top 20 by sessions per week because using the actual would require updating the SUMIF formulas each time the report was run.

This is a report that I update weekly. The date formulas are calculated based on whatever today’s date is and are then used in the report configuration.

This allows the dates to update on their own without me manually having to change them each time I want to run the report. I just had to then schedule the report to run weekly and BAM! – no hands necessary.

To set an auto-run for your report, go to Add-ons > Google Analytics > Schedule Reports, check “Enable reports to run automatically” and then set the time and frequency you want your report to run.

This has made my life much easier, and hopefully sharing it will make your life easier too.

How to customise this report

In this report you are going to have to customise:

Your report configurations
The dates you want this to run
The primary page types you want to compare (we have category pages, content pages, product pages and mobile)
The top 20 pages you wish to report on (you might choose not to use this)
Your seasonal pages, if applicable

Necessary changes – Report Configurations

First level customisation

To learn how to set up and run report configurations, the blog post I referenced at the beginning can help you. For the purpose of this post, I’ll just focus on where you’ll need to tweak it for your website or client.

You will need to put in the View ID you want to report on (Row 3), and you will have to edit the regular expressions in the filters section (Row 9) to make them unique to your client, which I will cover below.

The dates I am using (Rows 4-5) are references to those I have in the comparisons tab. If you want to use different dates, you can either manually change them here, or in the next section, I explain how the date formulas work. Here’s a screenshot of the formula in cell B4 so you can see what I am talking about:

You also are likely going to want to change the Report Name (Row 2) for each column. If you do, be sure that you clearly label each section. The Report Name becomes the name of the sheet that is generated once you run the report, and later the name used in the formulas in the Comparisons tab.

Note that when you change the Report Name, it won’t replace the old one but will instead just create a new one. You’ll have to manually delete the old, unwanted sheets.

Updating the regular expressions

There are two parts of the regular expression that are unique to the website that you will have to update.

The first section that you’ll have to update is where I had to filter out PPC data that was being mistakenly reported as organic by GA.  For this site, PPC data could be identified with any URL that contained either “gclid”, “cm_mmc”, “newsl”, or “google” – this is likely to be different for you, so change what is in the quotations to reflect this.

This was being reported as organic because of the tagging used for PPC data was initially intended for a different reporting platform, so it may not be a problem for you. If so, you can delete this section.

If this is not a problem for you, then you can go ahead and delete this part of the Filters section (everything following ga:medium==organic in cells B9-D9 of the Report Configuration tab).  

The second update you’ll have to make to the regular expressions are to those used in the Filter sections for all the columns aside from the ‘Everything’ ones (cells E9-P9). These are used to identify the part of the URL path you want to filter on.

Each filter is separated by a semi-colon, so if you want to add anything to these filters be sure to have that in there. Semi-colons mean “AND” in the Core Reporting API. For commas, you use “OR”.

Here is the ‘everything’ section:

ga:medium==organic;ga:landingPageP[email protected];ga:[email protected]_mmc;ga:[email protected];ga:[email protected]

Aside from ga:medium==organic (which just filters to organic sessions only) this just filters out PPC data.

I’ve copied this expression across all of my sections, but for the sections on specific page types I’ve also included another regular expression to get the specific URLs I am looking for, highlighted below.  For these sections, you’ll see variations of this:

ga:medium==organic;ga:landingPagePath=~/category/;ga:[email protected];ga:[email protected]_mmc;ga:[email protected];ga:[email protected]

For this example, it was filtering for URLs containing “/category/”. This filters that report down to just our client’s category pages. Again, you can customise this regular expression to your unique website or client. Be sure to escape any slashes you use in this section with a backslash.

The mobile sections (cells N9-P9) were a bit different, as this is a defined dimension in GA. You’ll see in those columns that I just added in “ga:deviceCategory==mobile” after the filter for organic.

Once all that is done you can run your reports and move on to customising your Comparisons tab.

Necessary changes – Comparisons tab
Date formulas

The date formulas in cells M13:S18 further automate the reporting. The report defines a week as Monday to Sunday as this was how our client defined theirs, so if this is different for you, you’ll have to change it. If you’re curious how these specific formulas work, I have covered it in more detail in the appendix.

If you do change this section, make sure that the dates are formatted as YYYY-MM-DD. To do this, go to Format > Number > More formats > More date and time formats.

I’ve also left space to enter custom start and end dates. The specific client this was built for wanted to be able to compare odd weeks for their YoY comparisons around specific holidays. These dates will only be used if cells N16-S16 are not blank.

Google Sheets formulas – for primary, top 20 and seasonal pages

Once you’re happy with the dates, the primary thing you need to update are formulas, specifically the names of the sheets being referenced and the criteria that define the pages you want to report on.

If you are getting errors when you customise the formulas, especially #N/A! errors, try re-running the cells in the comparisons sheet first by just highlighting and pressing enter.

For the primary pages at the top in cells B6:K10, if you have changed the Report Names from the previous section you only have to update the sheet names being referenced. You’ll also have to do this for the following sections.

When you’re doing this, be sure not to mix up previous week and previous year.

This can be a long and irritating process. One thing I found that helped speed it up was another Google Sheets add-on Advanced Find and Replace. This lets you use the find and replace function within formulas, which means you can simply find “Everything current week – UK” and replace it with whatever alternative you have.

This plug in has a free trial, and once that is up you can only use it once a day – so make the most of it while you have it! If you know of any other free alternatives, I’d love to hear about them.

The formulas in the top 20 pages, cells B13:K24, have slightly different formulas are different depending on the page type.

Where I’ve highlighted in the formula below is the part of this formula you’ll have to change to match your specific page type. This is from cell B14:

=SUMIF(‘Everything current week – UK’!$A:$A,”*”&”/top page 2/”,’Everything current week – UK’!$B:$B)

The number you’re seeing is a sum of all the pages with /top page 2/ in the URL from the Results Breakdown in my Everything current week – UK tab, shown below.

For the seasonal section in cells B34:K35, you’ll just have to replace where I have either “christmas” or “black-friday” to include whatever specific seasonal term you want to report on. Remember, this must be a reference that is included in the URLs.

Other changes you can make – Report Configuration

For metrics, I have used sessions and transactions, but this can be adjusted if there is a different metric you wish to report on. Just be sure to change the headings in the comparison tab so you remember what you’re reporting on.

For dimensions, I have used the landing pages. Again, you can adjust this if you wish to, for example, report on keywords instead.

I’ve set the order to be in descending rather than ascending. This organises the data but also helped to determine the top 20 pages.

I have set the limits on these to 1,000. I did this because I only really cared about the specific data for the top pages. The limit does not change the total number that is reported, it just limits the number of rows.

Unfortunately, this is also where I have to talk about sampling. In my report tabs in cells A6 and B6 it says “Contains Sampled Data, No”. If your data is being highly sampled then you need to decide if that will be a roadblock for you or not.

Here is a resource with some ways to get around sampled data.

It’s reporting time

If you’ve made the above changes, once you run your reports with the updates to your Report Configuration, you should have a Google Sheet reporting on your specific data.

That was a lot of information, so if you have any questions or need any help on a specific part of this process please comment below!

As promised, I’ve added an appendix to this post below for those of you that are curious to know in more detail how it works.

Happy reporting!

Appendix: How this report works, if you’re curious
Main report formulas
Totals, WoW and YoY for top report section

Columns B and G for the top section simply pull out whatever number is reported for the total sessions and total orders from each sheet. This is useful not only because it brings all the absolute numbers into one place, but also because I can now reference these cells in formulas.

For WoW relative (Column C), I’ve again referenced those same cells, but created a percentage with a (Current – Previous)/Previous formula.

Column D uses the percentages generated in Column C to extract the absolute number differences.

For YoY relative (Column E), I’ve followed the same exact method, just referencing the data for the previous year rather than the previous week. Again, I used these numbers to extract out the absolute numbers seen in Column F.

The grey orders section does the exact same thing, but instead references the cell in each respective configuration with the order total, rather than sessions.

I’ve also wrapped these formulas in IFERRORs, to prevent the sheet from having any error messages. This was primarily for aesthetics, although it is worth noting that sometimes this can lend to it saying there was a 0% change, when maybe there was a 100% increase as that page type did not exist in the previous year.

Date formulas

Our client wanted weekly reporting comparing weeks that run from Monday to Sunday as this was how our client defined theirs. Since GA weeks run from Sunday to Saturday, this had to be customised.

These dates are calculated based off the “=TODAY()” date in cell M14, as well as the first day of last year calculated in M16, the first Monday of last year in M18, and the week numbers in cells O12 and Q12.  

Because these dates are calculated automatically here, in the Report Configuration tab I can simply reference the specific cells from my Comparisons sheet, rather than manually having to enter the dates each time I run the report. This also made it so I can set this report to run automatically every Monday morning before I get into the office.

You’ll also notice that below the dates I have left space to enter custom start and end dates, this is again because the specific client this was built for sometimes wants to compare odd weeks for their YoY comparisons to account for specific holidays.

In the Report Configuration sheet, I have an IF formula in the cells that says, if the custom cells are blank then use the usual date, if they are not, then use those. On those occasions, it does mean I have to manually run the reports, but I guess you can’t have everything.

Top 20-page reporting

The Top 20-page section is where the formulas get a bit beastly, but this was something the client specifically requested. We initially wanted it to report on the top 20 pages from each week, but that wasn’t possible using formulas, as we needed something static to reference.

For these, I used a SUMIF formula. For example, in cell C13 I have this formula to report the WoW relative number for the home page:

=IFERROR((SUMIF(‘Everything current week – UK’!A:A,”*”&”.co.uk/”,’Everything current week – UK’!B:B)-SUMIF(‘Everything previous week – UK’!A:A,”*”&”.co.uk/”,’Everything previous week – UK’!B:B))/SUMIF(‘Everything previous week – UK’!A:A,”*”&”.co.uk/”,’Everything previous week – UK’!B:B),0)

Again, the IFERROR statement wrapped around my formula is just to clean things up so lets drop that and break down what the rest of this formula is doing.

=(SUMIF(‘Everything current week – UK’!A:A,”*”&”.co.uk/”,’Everything current week – UK’!B:B)-SUMIF(‘Everything previous week – UK’!A:A,”*”&”.co.uk/”,’Everything previous week – UK’!B:B))/SUMIF(‘Everything previous week – UK’!A:A,”*”&”.co.uk/”,’Everything previous week – UK’!B:B)

The SUMIF formula sums up cells if they meet specific criteria. It works by defining the range, in this case ‘Everything current week – UK’!A:A (every row in column A of the sheet Everything current week – UK), and then the criteria that you want to be summed. Here, it is all cells which include anything and end with “.co.uk/”.

Lastly, you define the sum range, which is the range to be summed if it is different from the original range defined. We’ve used this here because we want the sum of all the sessions, not the landing page paths. That whole thing spits out the sum of all the sessions on the homepage for the current week. I’ve then subtracted from that number the sum of all the sessions for the previous week.

Finally, I’ve divided it by the sum of all the sessions of the previous week to get the percent change.I set formatting rules in these cells to format the numbers as a percentage, but you could also just add that the formula to multiply by 100. So within these cells there are two things you are going to have to customise (1) the names of the sheets being referenced, and (2) the criteria that define the pages that you want to report on. You’ll notice that in the top 20 pages, these are different depending on the page type (they have been intentionally changed for discretion).

Medic: Google’s Latest Algorithm Update

Posted by on Aug 14, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Medic: Google’s Latest Algorithm Update

On August 1, Search Engine Roundtable broke the news about a Google algorithm update nicknamed “Medic” that they found was already shaking up search results and core rankings almost overnight.

It’s still a little too early to weigh in strongly on what changed with this update, but we wanted to share everything we’ve been keeping track of over the last week.

The Medic Update

Google was quick to characterize this as a global update. Our team hasn’t personally seen any universal ripples across our client rankings and traffic, but trusted analysts in the market have been vocal about the cross-client impact they’re measuring. What everyone has been able to agree upon to this point is that the impact was felt disproportionately by medical, fitness, and health verticals, hence the name “Medic.”

Early indications from data compiled by SE Roundtable suggest that high domain authority sites received a little extra boost in rankings, at the expense of smaller sites. If that proves true it’s not exactly earth-shattering in terms of implications for online marketers. Rather, it’d mean the big “G” is simply rewarding sites that have been providing content, gathering links, and so forth for a long time, building up a war-chest of DA.

We’ll hold off on the rants about democratizing search results by rewarding quality content and value to users above all else until we’ve got a bit more data.

So What Happened?

Our team is still analyzing data from our extended client portfolio before we share a full evaluation of the Medic update. As with other updates in the recent past, Google will almost certainly be doubling down on their expectation that sites show expertise in subject matter, trustworthiness, and that they create quality content. What specific changes come out of this algorithm update should become more clear in coming weeks, and we’ll update this post accordingly.

Further Reading

Search Engine Land: Google’s Aug. 1 core algorithm update
Marie Hayes Consulting: Google Update Strongly Affected YMYL Sites
Digital Journal: New Google Ads and Algorithm Updates
Reddit: Initial Reactions
Reddit: Ongoing Discussion

The post Medic: Google’s Latest Algorithm Update appeared first on Portent.

Caroline’s Corner: How to make time for your blog when you have no time

Posted by on Aug 13, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Caroline’s Corner: How to make time for your blog when you have no time

Caroline’s Corner: How to make time for your blog when you have no time

“I’ve decided I wanted to start a travel blog”. I received this text from a friend who was in Croatia and wanted to just inform me about this. What I heard: “Caroline, spring into action. Throw ALL your tips at her. Buy your favorite blog book and get it delivered to her through same day shipping. And ask her if her blog is live every day. And make sure she installs the right plugins and did she know how important page speed is?” I get carried away sometimes. Especially when people talk to me about blogging.

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Getting excited about blogging

I spoke to her again today and asked her how her blog was coming along. It’s been two weeks since she notified me of the idea and I thought I’d been fairly good about it. Turned out she’s still at the same spot as she was two weeks ago. The only progress she’s made, is that she made a list of some ideas, that she decided she wanted to have some blog posts in advance and she’s done research.

If she continues like that, she hasn’t even gone live by the time I reach 100k visitors a month.

I’m known to get enthusiastic way too fast, jump into things without thinking through all the possibilities, and just go with it. Some call it impulsive. I call it excitement. The blogging world excites me, and when people show interest in it, I always think they are as eager as I am to jump in. I definitely do not understand why my friend is chilling at the beach right now instead of writing some articles, but that’s because I am not at that point where she is anymore.

Yes, I said ‘not anymore’. Because there was a time, I would tell my spouse that I’d just ‘work on my blog later’ and later never happened. There were moments when I dreamed of my goals but did nothing to achieve them. When I let fear get the best of me, and I used the ‘no time’ excuse to no end.

You have time – it’s your priorities that you need to set straight

It’s a bold statement, I know. But you do have time for your blog. You choose to use your time differently. I sincerely hope you do not take this the wrong way and will flood me with comments about how I don’t know how it is to live your life, that you have a 40 hour or maybe even 60 hour work week, that you have a household to run, you have a toddler, or maybe multiple toddlers that never sleep, a spouse that demands attention and you also have that gym membership that you already never use. Oh, and you want to prep healthy meals, too. So, who am I to tell you you do have time?

I’m the same as you. If I want to, I never have time for anything. Because I’m so busy worrying about life, busy with my family, with my job here at Yoast, with my commute and the horrible traffic jams, the laundry that just stacks up, et cetera. To conclude: I’m very busy being busy.

But I want to fit my blog in my schedule as well. Because it’s important to me. I love to write and I love the blogging atmosphere. This means that, just as any other task I have to do in life, this needs to become a priority too. So, if you’re struggling with the ‘I have no time’ excuse, read up to see my answers to all of your excuses for not making time for your blog.

Excuse 1: It’s easy for you to say, you just write opinions, I write fact stated articles

You need to do research for each and every article you write. Whether it’s focus keyword research, audience research or a full on article research, because you happen to write about a very specific location in the middle of the Atlantic ocean that no one has ever visited yet, except for that one person you hate very much. Odds are, that if you want to write about it, you already know something. Write that article as if you know everything already, type it all out, and revise and do your research afterwards. If I want to make sure I don’t publish half-finished articles, I put my notes between brackets and in capitals. That means that when an article is in draft and I need to revisit something, I’ll write: [CHECK IF SMALL DESERTED ISLAND IN ATLANTIC OCEAN EXISTS]. I’ll leave this note here, because I didn’t check.

Excuse 2: I literally do not have time

You might say that, but if you text me about how busy you are and you continue to text for over an hour, that’s one or two articles you could’ve written. Two articles? That many? Yes. That many. If you have an idea for the blog post, set a timer for 25 minutes, also known as the Pomodoro technique, remove all distractions, tell everyone in your household to shut up for 25 minutes, and just type away. And if you don’t have 25 minutes, then take 15 minutes. And if you don’t have 15 minutes, tell your spouse you’re going to do the laundry. With your laptop and your research books and claim the load was just really heavy.
Dear husband, if you read this, this is not what I do. I might check my blog statistics during this time, though.

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Excuse 3: But I’m not good enough

See article: Why you should quit your blog now and also read up on How to kill that inner critic.

Excuse 4: My family doesn’t understand me

They might not. And they may think it’s strange that you have the ambition to reach thousands of people. And you might tell them that it’s their fault that you couldn’t write that article you wanted to write. But the moment you start to take your blog more seriously, your family will do too. After dinner, my husband will ask me: “So, what’s your planning tonight? Blogging?” And that stems from the fact that I spent a lot of weeks working on my blog every night after our toddler went to bed. When I used my spare time for my blog, other people started to realize I was serious about it. And of course, you may need to discuss this with your family if this means you need time on, for example, Saturday mornings to work on your blog without being disturbed.

Remember: no one will take you seriously if you don’t take it seriously yourself first.

Any other excuse

If you have any other excuse other than the three I mentioned above, then you might want to reconsider if you even want to blog. I don’t want you to quit, absolutely not. I’ll be your cheerleader if you need one. But if your blog is giving you this much stress and you keep finding excuses not to do it, then maybe it’s time to look at why you started at first.

My friend just proofread this blog post, and she wanted me to let you know that she did way more than I claimed. She also found a theme for her website. The next time we meet, she’ll probably hurl the book I gave her at my head.

Read more: Blogging: The ultimate guide »

The post Caroline’s Corner: How to make time for your blog when you have no time appeared first on Yoast.

WordPress Plugins – 6 that You Must Have on Your Site

Posted by on Aug 13, 2018 in Greg's SEO Articles | Comments Off on WordPress Plugins – 6 that You Must Have on Your Site

WordPress is perhaps the number one Content Marketing System (CMS) and the most preferred blogging platform. WordPress stays at the top of all choices for web development companies for so many reasons. The easy-to-use nature of WordPress in terms of customization and personalization has handed the platform the leading role among its competitors.

WordPress Plug-ins

In a bid to ensure that users personalize and customize their WordPress blog to suit their needs, the platform allows you to install add-ons with those specific features you want. For instance, you can incorporate stylish social media icons, embed YouTube videos, and add a few other SEO features to your WordPress blog. These add-ons are called plug-ins and are available in thousands, depending on your choice and preference.

WordPress plug-ins are designed by third-parties and most of them are tested and verified by WordPress developers. Most of these plug-ins are available on the plug-in tab on your WordPress dashboard. Regardless of the feature you want, you can always find a plug-in that will do just that. Some of these plug-ins are free while some are premium. Most times, WordPress plug-ins come with both free and premium features which means that you can purchase the premium license of you need extra/in-depth features of a particular plug-in.

6 Must-Have Plug-ins on Your WordPress Site

As earlier said, there are thousands of WordPress plug-ins each with their own distinct feature. Depending on the feature you are looking for, there are plug-in options that will do just that. Do you need a plug-in that floats a social media icon on your page or the one that places these icons at the side of the screen? There are lots of options at the plug-in directory.

Despite these enormous options, there are some must-have plug-ins for every WordPress sites. Apart from other special features, you may need, there are some plug-ins you must have regardless of what you use your blog for. So, what are the plug-ins and why must you have them?

1.     W3 Total Cache

Everybody hates a website that takes forever to load. Caching speeds up website page-load speed by capturing and creating static pages of your website pages and feeding them to users. This means that your server will not have to load scripts from your database every time a user visits. Rather, a copy of your page is saved and displayed to users whenever they visit. Apart from this, cache system helps to lift some weight off your bandwidth usage, thereby preventing your site from crashing in the long run.

A website page speed is also one of the major factors considered for Search Engine ranking. The faster your website page speed, the higher you rank. Therefore, apart from the fact that a user may become annoyed with a slow website, search engines also ignore slow websites in their ranking system.

W3 Total Cache is one of the few WordPress plug-ins that are highly essential for your blog. Although there are tons of plug-ins that offer the same service, W3 Cache plug-in stands out. With about 1 million active users and up to 4,000 users’ review, W3 cache plug-in is arguably the best caching plug-in for your WordPress blog. W3 Cache plug-in also incorporates the Content Delivery Network (CDN) caching which is vital for content marketing.

2.     Contact Form 7

Traffic generation is one of the key problems for most blog owners. While it may easy to generate traffic from your social media and search engines, retaining your visitors is another factor to consider. When a user visits your website, how do you ensure that such a user gets notifications whenever you publish a new post?

Likewise, one of the success keys for blog owners is to have a database of their visitors. This will ensure that they keep in touch with these users and turn them into frequent, returning visitors. Especially if you sell products or render services from your blog, keeping a record of your visitors is more than important.

Contact Form 7 WordPress plug-in offers an easy and hassle-free way of creating your desired contact form in order to collect the information about your visitors. Contact form 7 is a free WordPress plug-in that is actively used on over 1 million WordPress sites and attracts an average of a 4.5-star rating from about 1,400 users. This plug-in allows you stylishly create a contact form and collect users’ details with ease.

3.     Yoast SEO

One of the greatest advantages of using WordPress is its excellent SEO support. WordPress platform is designed using a simple programming language that is easily decoded by Search Engine Robots. Still, WordPress allows users to customize their SEO features by installing add-ons that will further improve their web presence in search engines.

Of all the SEO plug-ins available, Yoast SEO plug-in is extraordinary as it incorporates every feature you need to fully optimize your blog for search engines. Yoast SEO plug-in boosts of over 1 million active downloads and an average of 4.9-star reviews from over 21,000 users. So, what makes Yoast so special?

Yoast SEO plug-in allows you to create a stylish XML sitemap that you can submit to Google and Bing webmaster console. This sitemap is automatically purged and search engine robots are pinged whenever you publish a new post. What’s more, Yoast SEO plug-in allows you to set colonial URL in order to avoid duplicate contents.

Yoast SEO plug-in also allows you to set custom Meta details and keywords for each post. Premium features also allow you to set more than one Keywords per post, thereby increasing your chances on search engine results.

4.     WordFence

Perhaps, security is a very vital component if you own a WordPress website. People use WordPress for different purposes; some use it to store and share vital documents, some incorporate payment options for e-commerce purposes, while some use it to share information about their hobby. Regardless of your purpose of owning a WordPress blog, the security of your blog should be your topmost priority.

Hackers can penetrate and take over your blog using different tactics. Not only this, spammers and robots can take charge of your website if it is not protected. This can cause our website to consume more resources than expected and affect your web host.

Wordfence is a top WordPress security designed to add an extra layer of security to your site. Wordfence blocks malicious traffic and log-in attempts, thereby preventing unhealthy traffic and robots from draining your host memory and resources. The plug-in also prevents Brute Force attacks by limited the total login attempts. Furthermore, WordFence provides a real-time IP blacklist which blocks malicious IPs from accessing your website thereby reducing the workload on your site.

With over 1 million active installations and over 3,000 happy users, WordFence is a must-have for your WordPress blog.

5.     Redirection

Too much error can reduce your site performance and create an impression of ingenuity to the search engines. 301 errors mean the particular link has moved permanently while 404 error means that the particular link no longer exists on the server. There are also other error codes like 302 (move temporarily), 503 (server unable to process request), and so on.

Whenever you delete a particular page on your website or you change the URL, a 404 error is displayed when visitors try to access the site. If users encounter one or more 404 errors on your site, they may lose their hope and trust in your blog. More so, it can cause a crawl error in your search engine consoles. Unfixed errors and broken links can reduce the trust of your readers and even search engine in your website and can cost you a lot of traffic.

Redirection is a free WordPress plug-in and has been in existence for over 10 years. The plug-in allows you to manage all 301 and 404 errors on your website. It is normal for you to delete some pages or modify them to suit a particular purpose. However, it is unhealthy to leave the link broken. With this plug-in, you can either permanently or temporarily redirect your broken links to another page on the website, meaning that users who visit those links will be redirected to another page.

Likewise, Redirection plug-in provides conditional redirection. How does this work? You can choose to redirect some of your visitors based on some parameters, such as login status, browser, cookies, referral, and custom filter.

6.     Elementor Page Builder

Elementor Page Builder is another WordPress plug-in that allows you to build a custom, responsive, and page on your blog. This plug-in contains several free templates from which you can choose from. More so, it offers a live edit which means that you can edit and see your new page simultaneously without needing to press any preview button.

The major features of this Page Builder include Box Shadows, Animations, Hover Effects, Background Overlays, Shape Dividers, Headline Effects, Gradient Backgrounds and much more. The plug-in also boosts of 28 free widgets which include Heading, Image, Text editor, Icon box, Carousels, and so on.

Elementor Page Builder plug-in is currently in use by over 1 million WordPress users and has a staggering 5 maximum stars review from 800 users.

Conclusion

WordPress is arguably the most popular Content Marketing and blogging system as of today. Most web designers prefer WordPress because it is easy to install, design, and set up. The plug-in feature allows you to install and customize your WordPress blog to your taste. Discussed in this article are 6 must-have WordPress plug-ins. You should try them out!

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

Posted by on Aug 13, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on How to optimize your Google My Business listing

We all know the immense importance of local search. It’s about dominating the SERPs for search queries which are closely tied to the user’s location, therefore driving customers to your business with a user intent that is very tangible and very immediate.

In terms of local searches, Google will rank your business based on relevance, distance and prominence. Your Google My Business listing plays a vital part in boosting your rankings for local search, as well as cementing your online presence outside of your website.

From our experience, Google My Business listings are definitely not leveraged enough. There is a tendency to set up a listing, verify it and then forget about it. Yet there are so many reasons to ensure you have a fully optimized listing and one that you update regularly. First and foremost, Google My Business profiles are still the most influential factor in local search results.

As if that wasn’t enough, it has never been more important to bolster your presence in the SERPs. SEOs are increasingly facing the woes of the ‘walled garden’, where users are no longer needing to click-through to websites. More often than not, all the information they could possibly need is available in the various features of the SERPs. Although this may be having a detrimental effect on website traffic, it doesn’t mean you can’t leverage the situation. It’s only increased the importance of having a fully optimized GMB profile that will rank highly and generate business.

With a top-notch GMB listing, you can rank highly in local packs, significantly boosting visibility and therefore engagement. It will also help bolster your appearance in Google Maps results, plus you can take advantage of Google reviews.  And just in case you need another reason, the service is free. There are not many marketing tools quite as powerful as your Google My Business listing that are also completely free of charge. You’d be mad not to take advantage of this.

Set up and basics

Before we get onto the really juicy stuff, it’s worth covering the basics. Some of these may seem obvious but you would not believe how many times we see the same simple mistakes over and over.

Claim and verify

The first step is to figure out whether or not you already have a GMB listing. This is important because duplicated listings can occur and are just confusing for everyone involved. Even if you don’t recall having created one, a loving customer may have done it for you, or a rogue colleague being far too efficient. Simply do a quick Google search of your business (also try this in Google Maps) and see whether a profile pops up for your business. If so, you’ll need to claim it as your business. If not, you’ll need to create a new one. Once done, you’ll need to verify your ownership – Google will send a friendly postcard to your business address with a code. You’ll then need to enter the code to verify it. It’s all very MI5.

Fill out information

Once verified, don’t just stop there. Fill out all relevant information and ensure it is accurate and kept up to date. There is nothing more frustrating than a GMB listing with the wrong opening times: cue angry customers who could have had an extra hour in bed. Also, remember to add any special hours or holiday times.

Be sure to keep the business name as the business name – don’t go shoehorning any sneaky keywords in or you’ll be at risk of violating Google’s guidelines. Write an accurate and enticing description in line with Google’s guidelines and choose a relevant category. This can be a sticking point for many businesses who feel that none of the categories accurately describe the business. It can be very frustrating. Luckily, there’s a relatively new feature called ‘Services’ where you can add products and services to your business, which will help with the categorization process both from a search engine and user perspective.

Make sure you pay attention to NAP consistency – in other words, that your name, address and phone number, as well as any other information, are all consistent throughout the web. Check other directories and also your own website. It’s a simple concept but mistakes are surprisingly common and it can make a big difference to your local rankings.

Photos

Again, an often overlooked aspect of your GMB listing and one that can make a very noticeable difference to click-through rates. People are visual beings and some snazzy photos will help build an overall positive image of your business. Include a logo, a shot of your premises if applicable and any other photos which you think will help to effectively promote your business. Ensure they are professional, appealing and kept up to date. Think about what might help push a customer to a buying decision.

Be sure to follow Google’s best practices in terms of formatting; the recommended specifications are as follows:

Format: JPG or PNG
Size: Between 10 KB and 5 MB
Minimum resolution: 720 px tall, 720 px wide
Quality: The photo should be in focus and well lit, and have no significant alterations or excessive use of filters. In other words, the image should represent reality.

You’ll see throughout your Dashboard that Google makes a point of reminding you about photos: “Businesses with recent photos typically receive more clicks to their websites.” They couldn’t make it much clearer than that – if Google says it, then do it.

As of January 2018, you can now add videos to a listing. It’s not something we’ve seen many businesses take advantage of, yet we all know how popular video content is. Any videos you add will appear within the photos section. Just be sure to follow Google’s video guidelines.

Reviews

Google reviews have been around for a long time and it’s no secret how influential they are. In fact, positive reviews make 68% of consumers trust a local business more. Don’t just sit back and wait for the reviews to pour in. Even if you’ve got the most earth-shatteringly awesome business, people still need a gentle nudge towards the review section. Actively encourage reviews because if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Raking in those positive reviews isn’t enough. It’s also good practice to respond to reviews, especially negative ones. Even if a review seems unfounded or overly rude, be sure to keep your cool and respond in a calm and collected manner.

Google Posts

A heavily underused feature of Google My Business profiles is the Google Posts section and it works in a similar way to posting on social media. Posts are displayed as mini updates in a carousel as part of your knowledge panel, although they expire after seven days. As with a standard social media post, you can add media, some copy and a link to a website. It’s always a good idea to include an image but be careful of them being cropped within Google Maps. It’s therefore worth checking how the image formats on both desktop and mobile.

You can use Google Posts for a range of different functions, but it may be helpful to use the four official post types as a guide: What’s New, Events, Offers, Products. The ‘What’s New’ post type could be populated with exciting announcements, general updates and your latest articles. Don’t forget to add a CTA to your posts to encourage engagement and conversions.

Google posts are very prominent in Google Search so if you’ve got something important to say, then say it!

Monitor

Did you know that anyone can suggest an edit to your profile? That includes your worst enemy trying to sabotage your business. It’s therefore essential that you keep an eye on your profile and monitor any suggested changes, even if you don’t have any enemies. It could be a well-meaning customer who just doesn’t have a clue. Or it could be an internet troll. Either way, business owners are not always notified.

Users can also answer questions about your business, which may be a scary prospect for some. Google likes user-generated content as it’s all part of building a user-centric community. Just make sure that you’re keeping a wary eye out.

Insights

This is one of the most important sections of your GMB listing. It’s all very well having an all singing and all dancing listing, but the fun starts when you see how many conversions it’s generating. It’s pretty standard practice to track all key events and conversions on a website itself, but the conversions generated by the GMB listing are so frequently overlooked. Yet your GMB listing is often the first port of call for customers looking for a phone number to get in touch.

And you know the best bit about Insights? You can even find out whether customers found you via a direct brand search or via a ‘discovery’ search. This information is vital in terms of reporting, as it allows you to see how successful your SEO work has been in terms of propelling your GMB profile to the top of that local pack for key search terms.

Find out handy information like whether your GMB profile was viewed on Search or Maps, as well as customer actions, such as website visits, direction requests and phone calls. You can also see how successful your photos have been in comparison to other businesses like yours. These comparison graphs are great for pitting yourself against competitors to see where you may be falling behind on the optimization front. It also enables you to do a bit of testing with which photos work best for views and click-throughs. The Insights section is a treasure trove of information, so pay lots of attention to it.

Optimizing your Google My Business listing is not rocket science. It’s very straightforward and simple changes can have a profoundly positive effect on your SEO. Given it’s an area so often overlooked by other businesses, there really is a whole wealth of ranking opportunity up for grabs.

How to Win Some Local Customers Back from Amazon this Holiday Season

Posted by on Aug 13, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on How to Win Some Local Customers Back from Amazon this Holiday Season

How to Win Some Local Customers Back from Amazon this Holiday Season

Posted by MiriamEllis

Your local business may not be able to beat Amazon at the volume of their own game of convenient shipping this holiday season, but don’t assume it’s a game you can’t at least get into!

This small revelation took me by surprise last month while I was shopping for a birthday gift for my brother. Like many Americans, I’m feeling growing qualms about the economic and societal impacts of putting my own perceived convenience at the top of a list of larger concerns like ensuring fair business practices, humane working conditions, and sustainable communities.

So, when I found myself on the periphery of an author talk at the local independent bookstore and the book happened to be one I thought my brother would enjoy, I asked myself a new question:

“I wonder if this shop would ship?”

There was no signage indicating such a service, but I asked anyway, and was delighted to discover that they do. Minutes later, the friendly staff was wrapping up a signed copy of the volume in nice paper and popping a card in at no extra charge. Shipping wasn’t free, but I walked away feeling a new kind of happiness in wishing my sibling a “Happy Birthday” this year.

And that single transaction not only opened my eyes to the fact that I don’t have to remain habituated to gift shopping at Amazon or similar online giants for remote loved ones, but it also inspired this article.

Let’s talk about this now, while your local business, large or small, still has time to make plans for the holidays. Let’s examine this opportunity together, with a small study, a checklist, and some inspiration for seasonal success.

What do people buy most at the holidays and who’s shipping?

According to Statista, the categories in the following chart are the most heavily shopped during the holiday season. I selected a large town in California with a population of 60,000+, and phoned every business in these categories that was ranking in the top 10 of Google’s Local Finder view. This comprised both branded chains and independently-owned businesses. I asked each business if I came in and purchased items whether they could ship them to a friend.

Category

% Offer Shipping

Notes

Clothing

80%

Some employees weren’t sure. Outlets of larger store brands couldn’t ship. Some offered shipping only if you were a member of their loyalty program. Small independents consistently offered shipping. Larger brands promoted shopping online.

Electronics

10%

Larger stores all stressed going online. The few smaller stores said they could ship, but made it clear that it was an unusual request.

Games/Toys/Dolls etc.

25%

Large stores promote online shopping. One said they would ship some items but not all. Independents did not ship.

Food/Liquor

20%

USPS prohibits shipping alcohol. I surveyed grocery, gourmet, and candy stores. None of the grocery stores shipped and only two candy stores did.

Books

50%

Only two bookstores in this town, both independent. One gladly ships. The other had never considered it.

Jewelry

60%

Chains require online shopping. Independents more open to shipping but some didn’t offer it.

Health/Beauty

20%

With a few exceptions, cosmetic and fitness-related stores either had no shipping service or had either limited or full online shopping.

Takeaways from the study
Most of the chains promote online shopping vs. shopping in their stores, which didn’t surprise me, but which strikes me as opportunity being left on the table.
I was pleasantly surprised by the number of independent clothing and jewelry stores that gladly offered to ship gift purchases.
I was concerned by how many employees initially didn’t know whether or not their employer offered shipping, indicating a lack of adequate training.
Finally, I’ll add that I’ve physically visited at least 85% of these businesses in the past few years and have never been told by any staff member about their shipping services, nor have I seen any in-store signage promoting such an offer.

My overarching takeaway from the experiment is that, though all of us are now steeped in the idea that consumers love the convenience of shipping, a dominant percentage of physical businesses are still operating as though this realization hasn’t fully hit in… or that it can be safely ignored.

To put it another way, if Amazon has taken some of your customers, why not take a page from their playbook and get shipping?

The nitty-gritty of brick-and-mortar shipping

62% of consumers say the reason they’d shop offline is because they want to see, touch, and try out items. – RetailDive

There’s no time like the holidays to experiment with a new campaign. I sat down with a staff member at the bookstore where I bought my brother’s gift and asked her some questions about how they manage shipping. From that conversation, and from some additional research, I came away with the following checklist for implementing a shipping offer at your brick-and-mortar locations:

✔ Determine whether your business category is one that lends itself to holiday gift shopping.

✔ Train core or holiday temp staff to package and ship gifts.

✔ Craft compelling messaging surrounding your shipping offer, perhaps promoting pride in the local community vs. pride in Amazon. Don’t leave it to customers to shop online on autopilot — help them realize there’s a choice.

✔ Cover your store and website with messaging highlighting this offering, at least two months in advance of the holidays.

✔ In October, run an in-store campaign in which cashiers verbally communicate your holiday shipping service to every customer.

✔ Sweeten the offer with a dedication of X% of sales to a most popular local cause/organization/institution.

✔ Promote your shipping service via your social accounts.

✔ Make an effort to earn a mention of your shipping service in local print and radio news.

✔ Set clear dates for when the last purchases can be made to reach their destinations in time for the holidays.

✔ Coordinate with the USPS, FedEx, or UPS to have them pick up packages from your location daily.

✔ Determine the finances of your shipping charges. You may need to experiment with whether free shipping would put too big of a hole in your pocket, or whether it’s necessary to compete with online giants at the holidays.

✔ Track the success of this campaign to discover ROI.

Not every business is a holiday shopping destination, and online shopping may simply have become too dominant in some categories to overcome the Amazon habit. But, if you determine you’ve got an opportunity here, designate 2018 as a year to experiment with shipping with a view towards making refinements in the new year.

You may discover that your customers so appreciate the lightbulb moment of being able to support local businesses when they want something mailed that shipping is a service you’ll want to instate year-round. And not just for gifts… consumers are already signaling at full strength that they like having merchandise shipped to themselves!

Adding the lagniappe: Something extra

For the past couple of years, economists have reported that Americans are spending more on restaurants than on groceries. I see a combination of a desire for experiences and convenience in that, don’t you? It has been joked that someone needs to invent food that takes pictures of itself for social sharing! What can you do to capitalize on this desire for ease and experience in your business?

Cards, carols, and customs are wreathed in the “joy” part of the holidays, but how often do customers genuinely feel the enjoyment when they are shopping these days? True, a run to the store for a box of cereal may not require aesthetic satisfaction, but shouldn’t we be able to expect some pleasure in our purchasing experiences, especially when we are buying gifts that are meant to spread goodwill?

When my great-grandmother got tired from shopping at the Emporium in San Francisco, one of the superabundant sales clerks would direct her to the soft surroundings of the ladies’ lounge to refresh her weary feet on an automatic massager. She could lunch at a variety of nicely appointed in-store restaurants at varied prices. Money was often tight, but she could browse happily in the “bargain basement”. There were holiday roof rides for the kiddies, and holiday window displays beckoning passersby to stop and gaze in wonder. Great-grandmother, an immigrant from Ireland, got quite a bit of enjoyment out of the few dollars in her purse.

It may be that those lavish days of yore are long gone, taking the pleasure of shopping with them, and that we’re doomed to meager choosing between impersonal online shopping or impersonal offline warehouses … but I don’t think so.

The old Emporium was huge, with multiple floors and hundreds of employees … but it wasn’t a “big box store”.

There’s still opportunity for larger brands to differentiate themselves from their warehouse-lookalike competitors. Who says retail has to look like a fast food chain or a mobile phone store?

And as for small, independent businesses? I can’t open my Twitter feed nowadays without encountering a new and encouraging story about the rise of localism and local entrepreneurialism.

It’s a good time to revive the ethos of the lagniappe — the Louisiana custom of giving patrons a little something extra with their purchase, something that will make it worth it to get off the computer and head into town for a fun, seasonal experience. Yesterday’s extra cookie that made up the baker’s dozen could be today’s enjoyable atmosphere, truly expert salesperson, chair to sit down in when weary, free cup of spiced cider on a wintry day… or the highly desirable service of free shipping. Chalk up the knowledge of this need as one great thing Amazon has gifted you.

In 2017, our household chose to buy as many holiday presents as possible from Main Street for our nearby family and friends. We actually enjoyed the experience. In 2018, we plan to see how far our town can take us in terms of shipping gifts to loved ones we won’t have a chance to see. Will your business be ready to serve our newfound need?

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Search trends 2018: what can marketers learn?

Posted by on Aug 11, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Search trends 2018: what can marketers learn?

Search trends 2018: what can marketers learn?

Google’s continued dominance as a search giant was evident in its third quarter earnings call, as it grew advertising revenue 18% year over year to $19.8 billion (Alphabet, as a total company, wasn’t too bad either, up 20% in total). Total paid clicks grew 33% year over year, while the cost per click dropped 11%.

So, what does this all mean? Simply put, Google is still a dominating force for both consumers, and therefore advertisers. This is an undeniable fact, but what is up for debate is how consumers and brands interact with the results Google returns to consumers.

Paid and organic increase

There have been significant updates over time in an effort to keep up with changing consumer and advertiser demands. This year so far, voice search, local listings, and mobile indexing have been big topics.

In an effort to monitor these changes, I have been tracking the search results activity for a number of brands over the past 9 years. I took 50 terms across five verticals to see how many times the same brand appears in paid and organic listings. The findings this year are very interesting.

Overall, it is clear that between Google’s changes (both algorithmically and an increasing number of paid listings), as well as each brand’s growing focus on search engine marketing, the amount of companies that appeared in both paid and organic listings reached its highest point in 9 years at 27%.

This was driven by the offset in categories going in two separate directions. Retail has gone down the last two consecutive years; I believe this is owing to an increase in Google shopping results, non-branded paid search, ROI challenges, retailers’ experiences, and of course, Amazon.

While retail is at a low, travel has increased consistently over time. I believe this category is growing as a result of direct booking on travel sites that comes with price guarantees.

The tech category also saw a spike. A big contributor to this trend is the branding that is occurring in the industry. Consumers aren’t just searching for smart speakers, they are specifically searching for Alexa and Google Home, for example.

These companies have done a good job circumventing shopping at the category level, and have jumped directly to branded terms. We’ve never seen a category have greater than 50% overlap of paid and organic brands listed. Given this trend, this year technology spiked to 68%.

Appearance in search results

In addition to brands balancing their paid and organic results, I also wanted to start watching how often four paid search ads, shopping listings and local listings appear in search results. Google has been offering these different ‘sections’ of the search results page in an effort to answer a consumer’s query with the information they might be looking for.

 

I’ve identified two major takeaways from this. First is the decrease of listings with four paid search ads. Year-over-year, every category is down, with the exception of the financial services industry, which makes sense given the competitive nature of this category and the high value of the products. These keywords have the highest CPCs of any category. So naturally, brands are willing to pay and Google is willing to take their money.

Shopping ads are fairly flat across these categories. They are prevalent for verticals where products can be purchased, and are not displayed in the other categories. Shopping is incredibly important for the retail vertical and I expect this trend to stay the same as the retail war with Amazon and consumers wages on.

 

The second trend is one that is not a surprise for BrandMuscle given our focus on local, but might be for many who are catching on to the importance of local in the mobile world. Local listings are now shown across all verticals and growing in key sectors like retail. This is extremely important to pay attention to for two reasons:

As consumers shift to mobile, they expect their devices to know where they are and show relevant local listings
These listings offer the opportunity for brands to see free traffic.

What can brands take from this?

So what are the key items brands need to think about with these trends?

Local listings are growing and demand attention. Do some searches for your category terms. Are local listings being shown? If so, are you included in those listings? These are ranked in two ways:

The distance of the location to the searcher
The validity of data across platforms – this is the one you can control.

Are your locations name, address, and phone number accurate across Google, Facebook, Yelp, and others? You’d be surprised how often these are incorrect. Spend some time focusing on cleaning up this data and monitor your results – I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

It’s important to consider your integrated strategy for both paid and organic search. Brands are owning more and more of the search real estate. It is vital that you have a strategy that does not give up ground to these brands, but focuses on your core strengths and differentiators. For example, perhaps you can’t afford to buy the keyword ‘car insurance’, but you can own ‘SR-22 insurance’ as a term, given your company’s key strengths.

Keep a close eye on Google’s changes. Google has been very active in staying ahead of consumer expectations and technology. This includes switching to mobile indexing and launching new tools for Google My Business, among other items. This requires focus and planning for businesses to adopt these changes and stay best-in-class.

Search is one of the most important tools in a marketer’s toolbox. These trends and feature changes make it an exciting place to work and spend time. I look forward to watching how brands react to these trends and monitoring more changes in the future.

WordPress: What is Gutenberg?

Posted by on Aug 11, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on WordPress: What is Gutenberg?

WordPress: What is Gutenberg?

You might have felt some tremors in the WordPress world. There is something brewing. Something called Gutenberg. It’s the new editing environment in WordPress and the impact it’s going to have will be massive. Some welcome it with open arms, while others are critical. There is also a large group of WordPress users who don’t have a clue what’s going on. Here, we’ll introduce Gutenberg.

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Gutenberg is the first step for a bright new future for WordPress

It’s something many people often gloss over, but Gutenberg is not just a new editor for WordPress. It’s the start of something much bigger. Gutenberg lays the groundwork for incredibly exciting developments. Gutenberg is stage one of a three-pronged roll-out strategy. First, WordPress will get a redeveloped editor, after that the project will focus on page templates and in the final stage WordPress will become a full site customizer. You can imagine, this gives us endless possibilities and it is a necessary step to keep WordPress the #1 CMS for years to come.

Today, we’re focusing on stage one. The new Gutenberg editor will land in WordPress 5.0 sometime this year. We’re getting closer to the launch and loads of people are working around the clock to turn this editor into a solid and stable product. We have a big team working on it as well, both on the editor itself and our integration with it. Very shortly, we’ll be able to show you the first results of their hard work! So keep an eye on our plugin releases.

Opening Gutenberg for the first time

When you open the new editor for the first time you’re probably looking for the interface we have all grown accustomed to. That, however, is gone. We now have a very clean writing environment, with great typography and lots of space for your content to shine. On the right-hand side, you can open the settings — per document or per block — by clicking on the cog icon. Clicking on the three dots beside that cog lets you switch to the code editor so you can make your edits on the code side of things.

Now, seeing this screen might cause you to turn around and run — please don’t. We all know people have a hard time changing from one thing that they know well to something new. Both Marieke and Willemien had reservations regarding writing and editing in Gutenberg.

People find it hard to accept change when they don’t see why it’s necessary to change something that was working ok. Well, in this case, it’s relatively easy to understand: to get ready for the future, WordPress needs to adapt. Gutenberg introduces concepts and technologies that help make WordPress future proof. Most visible right now? The concept of a block.

In Gutenberg, everything is a block

Gutenberg introduces blocks. Previously, your content lived inside one big HTML file and for every enhancement there had to be something new: shortcodes, custom post types, embeds, widgets and the like. All with their quirky interfaces and weird behavior. Now, you can build your content precisely like you make a LEGO set: all from one box, following a standardized and straightforward set of instructions. In the animated gif below, I’ll quickly show you some blocks and add an image as a block:

By using this blocks concept, you can now determine what every part of your content is. Not only that, you can define their specifications per block. So, for instance, you can turn a single line of text into a quote by changing its block type. After that, it gets a new set of options that you can set. You can change the type of quote, its placement, text decoration et cetera. This goes for all blocks. There are blocks for, among other things:

Paragraphs
Lists
Quotes
Headings
Code
Images
Galleries
Shortcodes
Columns
Buttons
Widgets
And a ton of embeds

Every block you make can get its own layout and settings. And you can save these as reusable blocks!

Gutenberg

Reusable blocks

One of the coolest things about Gutenberg is reusable blocks. Think of these as a completed block that you can save along with its settings. For instance, if you’ve made a cool looking layout for the intro of your blog articles, you can save this as a reusable block. After that, you only have to go to Add Block -> Saved to pick your reusable intro block. How cool is that!

This is an incredibly basic example, but you can think of a lot more complex uses for this! How about a complete gallery where you only have to drop in the images. Or a multi-column article template with great typography for killer blog posts. And of course, developers can hook into this as well, so there are bound to arrive some great blocks that’ll make our lives so much easier. There is no limit to this. This is all made possible because we have full control over all individual blocks.

Yoast SEO and Gutenberg

We’ve been heavily investing in Gutenberg since the beginning. We have several developers that are helping to improve Gutenberg full time. Also, we have been actively researching how, why and where we should integrate Yoast SEO inside Gutenberg. Even for us, the possibilities are endless. We won’t be able to build everything we’re dreaming of right away, as we’re focusing on giving you the best possible basic integration first. But, keep in mind, there is a lot more to come from us!

Let The Gut Guys explain Gutenberg for you

Two of the most active Yoasters in the Gutenberg development team is our UX designer Tim and software architect Anton. These guys are so passionate about Gutenberg that we’re featuring the dynamic duo in an exclusive video series called The Gut Guys — Gut as in ‘good’. They will show you around the Gutenberg editing experience and explain the why and how of the new editor. We’re regularly adding new installments. Watch it and subscribe!

Need more? Check this essential talk

We know thinking and talking about Gutenberg can be tiring, but that’s mostly because we are keeping those thoughts in the now. We should most definitely look at the broader picture and see where Gutenberg can take WordPress. To explain that, I’d like to ask you to invest 45 minutes of your time in watching this essential talk by Morten Rand-Hendriksen.

Conclusion to what is Gutenberg?

There’s no beating around the bush: Gutenberg is coming. We’re getting ready for it and you should as well. The new editor will probably take some getting used to and it might break some stuff, but in the end, we will get a much more streamlined environment with a lot of cool possibilities down the road.

The most important thing you can do right now is installing the plugin. Play with it, test it, break it. Add every issue you find to Gutenberg’s GitHub: things that don’t work or should work better. We need as many eyes on this as we can, so we need you. Don’t just talk and yell: contribute! Your contributions will make or break this project.

Read more: Gutenberg: Concepts for integrating Yoast SEO »

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What Do Dolphins Eat? Lessons from How Kids Search

Posted by on Aug 11, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on What Do Dolphins Eat? Lessons from How Kids Search

What Do Dolphins Eat? Lessons from How Kids Search

Posted by willcritchlow

Kids may search differently than adults, but there are some interesting insights from how they use Google that can help deepen our understanding of searchers in general. Comfort levels with particular search strategies, reading only the bold words, taking search suggestions and related searches as answers — there’s a lot to dig into. In this week’s slightly different-from-the-norm Whiteboard Friday, we welcome the fantastic Will Critchlow to share lessons from how kids search.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hi, everyone. I’m Will Critchlow, founder and CEO of Distilled, and this week’s Whiteboard Friday is a little bit different. I want to talk about some surprising and interesting and a few funny facts that I learnt when I was reading some research that Google did about how kids search for information. So this isn’t super actionable. This is not about tactics of improving your website particularly. But I think we get some insights — they were studying kids aged 7 to 11 — by looking at how kids interact. We can see some reflections or some ideas about how there might be some misconceptions out there about how adults search as well. So let’s dive into it.

What do dolphins eat?

I’ve got this “What do dolphins eat?” because this was the first question that the researchers gave to the kids to say sit down in front of a search box, go. They tell this little anecdote, a little bit kind of soul-destroying, of this I think it was a seven-year-old child who starts typing dolphin, D-O-L-F, and then presses Enter, and it was like sadly there’s no dolphins, which hopefully they found him some dolphins. But a lot of the kids succeeded at this task.

Different kinds of searchers

The researchers divided the ways that the kids approached it up into a bunch of different categories. They found that some kids were power searchers. Some are what they called “developing.” They classified some as “distracted.” But one that I found fascinating was what they called visual searchers. I think they found this more commonly among the younger kids who were perhaps a little bit less confident reading and writing. It turns out that, for almost any question you asked them, these kids would turn first to image search.

So for this particular question, they would go to image search, typically just type “dolphin” and then scroll and go looking for pictures of a dolphin eating something. Then they’d find a dolphin eating a fish, and they’d turn to the researcher and say “Look, dolphins eat fish.” Which, when you think about it, I quite like in an era of fake news. This is the kids doing primary research. They’re going direct to the primary source. But it’s not something that I would have ever really considered, and I don’t know if you would. But hopefully this kind of sparks some thought and some insights and discussions at your end. They found that there were some kids who pretty much always, no matter what you asked them, would always go and look for pictures.

Kids who were a bit more developed, a bit more confident in their reading and writing would often fall into one of these camps where they were hopefully focusing on the attention. They found a lot of kids were obviously distracted, and I think as adults this is something that we can relate to. Many of the kids were not really very interested in the task at hand. But this kind of path from distracted to developing to power searcher is an interesting journey that I think totally applies to grown-ups as well.

In practice: [wat do dolfin eat]

So I actually, after I read this paper, went and did some research on my kids. So my kids were in roughly this age range. When I was doing it, my daughter was eight and my son was five and a half. Both of them interestingly typed “wat do dolfin eat” pretty much like this. They both misspelled “what,” and they both misspelled “dolphin.” Google was fine with that. Obviously, these days this is plenty close enough to get the result you wanted. Both of them successfully answered the question pretty much, but both of them went straight to the OneBox. This is, again, probably unsurprising. You can guess this is probably how most people search.

“Oh, what’s a cephalopod?” The path from distracted to developing

So there’s a OneBox that comes up, and it’s got a picture of a dolphin. So my daughter, a very confident reader, she loves reading, “wat do dolfin eat,” she sat and she read the OneBox, and then she turned to me and she said, “It says they eat fish and herring. Oh, what’s a cephalopod?” I think this was her going from distracted into developing probably. To start off with, she was just answering this question because I had asked her to. But then she saw a word that she didn’t know, and suddenly she was curious. She had to kind of carefully type it because it’s a slightly tricky word to spell. But she was off looking up what is a cephalopod, and you could see the engagement shift from “I’m typing this because Dad has asked me to and it’s a bit interesting I guess” to “huh, I don’t know what a cephalopod is, and now I’m doing my own research for my own reasons.” So that was interesting.

“Dolphins eat fish, herring, killer whales”: Reading the bold words

My son, as I said, typed something pretty similar, and he, at the point when he was doing this, was at the stage of certainly capable of reading, but generally would read out loud and a little bit halting. What was fascinating on this was he only read the bold words. He read it out loud, and he didn’t read the OneBox. He just read the bold words. So he said to me, “Dolphins eat fish, herring, killer whales,” because killer whales, for some reason, was bolded. I guess it was pivoting from talking about what dolphins eat to what killer whales eat, and he didn’t read the context. This cracked him up. So he thought that was ridiculous, and isn’t it funny that Google thinks that dolphins eat killer whales.

That is similar to some stuff that was in the original research, where there were a bunch of common misconceptions it turns out that kids have and I bet a bunch of adults have. Most adults probably don’t think that the bold words in the OneBox are the list of the answer, but it does point to the problems with factual-based, truthy type queries where Google is being asked to be the arbiter of truth on some of this stuff. We won’t get too deep into that.

Common misconceptions for kids when searching

1. Search suggestions are answers

But some common misconceptions they found some kids thought that the search suggestions, so the drop-down as you start typing, were the answers, which is bit problematic. I mean we’ve all seen kind of racist or hateful drop-downs in those search queries. But in this particular case, it was mainly just funny. It would end up with things like you start asking “what do dolphins eat,” and it would be like “Do dolphins eat cats” was one of the search suggestions.

2. Related searches are answers

Similar with related searches, which, as we know, are not answers to the question. These are other questions. But kids in particular — I mean, I think this is true of all users — didn’t necessarily read the directions on the page, didn’t read that they were related searches, just saw these things that said “dolphin” a lot and started reading out those. So that was interesting.

How kids search complicated questions

The next bit of the research was much more complex. So they started with these easy questions, and they got into much harder kind of questions. One of them that they asked was this one, which is really quite hard. So the question was, “Can you find what day of the week the vice president’s birthday will fall on next year?” This is a multifaceted, multipart question.

How do they handle complex, multi-step queries?

Most of the younger kids were pretty stumped on this question. Some did manage it. I think a lot of adults would fail at this. So if you just turn to Google, if you just typed this in or do a voice search, this is the kind of thing that Google is almost on the verge of being able to do. If you said something like, “When is the vice president’s birthday,” that’s a question that Google might just be able to answer. But this kind of three-layered thing, what day of the week and next year, make this actually a very hard query. So the kids had to first figure out that, to answer this, this wasn’t a single query. They had to do multiple stages of research. When is the vice president’s birthday? What day of the week is that date next year? Work through it like that.

I found with my kids, my eight-year-old daughter got stuck halfway through. She kind of realized that she wasn’t going to get there in one step, but also couldn’t quite structure the multi-levels needed to get to, but also started getting a bit distracted again. It was no longer about cephalopods, so she wasn’t quite as interested.

Search volume will grow in new areas as Google’s capabilities develop

This I think is a whole area that, as Google’s capabilities develop to answer more complex queries and as we start to trust and learn that those kind of queries can be answered, what we see is that there is going to be increasing, growing search volume in new areas. So I’m going to link to a post I wrote about a presentation I gave about the next trillion searches. This is my hypothesis that essentially, very broad brush strokes, there are a trillion desktop searches a year. There are a trillion mobile searches a year. There’s another trillion out there in searches that we don’t do yet because they can’t be answered well. I’ve got some data to back that up and some arguments why I think it’s about that size. But I think this is kind of closely related to this kind of thing, where you see kids get stuck on these kind of queries.

Incidentally, I’d encourage you to go and try this. It’s quite interesting, because as you work through trying to get the answer, you’ll find search results that appear to give the answer. So, for example, I think there was an About.com page that actually purported to give the answer. It said, “What day of the week is the vice president’s birthday on?” But it had been written a year before, and there was no date on the page. So actually it was wrong. It said Thursday. That was the answer in 2016 or 2017. So that just, again, points to the difference between primary research, the difference between answering a question and truth. I think there’s a lot of kind of philosophical questions baked away in there.

Kids get comfortable with how they search – even if it’s wrong

So we’re going to wrap up with possibly my favorite anecdote of the user research that these guys did, which was that they said some of these kids, somewhere in this developing stage, get very attached to searching in one particular way. I guess this is kind of related to the visual search thing. They find something that works for them. It works once. They get comfortable with it, they’re familiar with it, and they just do that for everything, whether it’s appropriate or not. My favorite example was this one child who apparently looked for information about both dolphins and the vice president of the United States on the SpongeBob SquarePants website, which I mean maybe it works for dolphins, but I’m guessing there isn’t an awful lot of VP information.

So anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed this little adventure into how kids search and maybe some things that we can learn from it. Drop some anecdotes of your own in the comments. I’d love to hear your experiences and some of the funny things that you’ve learnt along the way. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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WordPress Performance – 4 Easy Ways to Boost the Speed of Your Website

Posted by on Aug 10, 2018 in Greg's SEO Articles | Comments Off on WordPress Performance – 4 Easy Ways to Boost the Speed of Your Website

What is website page speed?

A website page speed is also called “page-load time”. It generally refers to the amount of time required by your website pages to load and become visible once a user requests them. Normally, the recommended standard load time for a web page is 2 seconds. Therefore, if your website pages load slower than this, you should work on optimizing your website.

A poor page-load speed results in a poor users’ experience. It usually causes a higher bounce rate which implies that visitors leave your site quicker than expected. Although you may see it as a win to have a lot of traffic flowing into your website, the fact is that a high bounce rate is counter-productive.

Apart from the fact that a poor page-load speed will make you lose your site visitors, it also affects your website placement on Google search results. This is one of the reasons why you need to act decisively on your website page speed. In this article, we shall discuss the relationship between Google and page speed, factors that determine your website load speed, causes, and solutions to poor website page speed.

Google and page speed

As of April 2010, Google added a new requirement of website page speed to their ranking algorithm. This means that the speed of your website, apart from SEO and other factors, will determine how it will be ranked on Google. At the time of introducing this new rule, fairly about 1% of the total websites were affected. However, with the rate at which new websites are being launched every day, this factor has become competitive and practically the survival of the fittest.

It is important to know that Google and other Search Engines introduce this factor to promote high-quality sites in lieu of low-quality ones. A fast page-load speed gives an impression that your site is standard and usable to visitors.

Therefore, it is even safe to conclude that Google is doing you a favor by encouraging you to optimize your website page speed because a slow website can cost you potential customers who want to load few more pages before placing an order on your product/service. More than half of website visitors lose interest if your website page takes more than 5 seconds to load. So, regardless of what Google or other search engines are forcing you to do, your website page speed should be one of the few things in your mind if you truly want to make the best out of your visitors.

Factors that affect page speed

So, what are the factors that affect/determine a website’s page speed?

1.     Images

Websites with large images, several small images or other flash graphics can lose out to websites with fewer and small images in search engines. This means that the type and volume of the images on your website greatly affect your website page speed. The fact that images do affect website load speed doesn’t mean you should not use images on your website. In fact, most websites rely on images. However, it does mean that you should be cautious about the way you use images.

2.     Scripts

Some websites are designed using complex unresponsive scripts which has a significant effect on the page-load speed. Too many scripts on a website affect the page speed. This is why most web designers avoid using too many Javascripts when designing a professional website. Not only Javascript, the Google Adsense and analytics script codes also add to the weight.

Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) is also another script that adds weight to the website. The implication of having too many scripts is that the server has to look for each of these scripts before the page is fully displayed. Therefore, the more scripts you have, the more time it takes the server to locate these scripts, and ultimately the slower the page-load speed.

Why is your website page-load speed so ridiculous?

Are you wondering the why your WordPress website is too slow in loading? Here are the major causes of a slow WordPress website.

 

 

  • Web Hosting: Your WordPress website can be slow if your website hosting server is not properly configured and this can hurt your website page speed.
  • WordPress Configuration: WordPress configuration includes the HTTP protocols and cache plug-ins you use. If your website is not serving a cached page to your visitors, the pressure of having to fetch each script always will reduce your page speed and cause the website to crash finally.
  • Page Size: Your WordPress site is possibly slow because you have too many images that are not optimized.
  • Bad Plug-ins: Using bad plug-ins, especially those from third-parties can significantly slow down your website page-load speed.
  • External scripts: If your WordPress website uses external scripts, such as JS, CSS, ads, and font loaders, then your page speed can be greatly affected.

How to check your page speed

Luckily, Google itself offers an easy and hassle-free way to check your website page speed. Plus, Google also provides suggestions on how you can improve your page speed which makes it highly beneficial and useful to you. You can check out the Google Pagespeed insight tool here.

Alternatively, there are other tools online that you can use to check your page speed. These tools come with additional features, such as comparison with competitors and a host of others. These tools will help identify the factors affecting your page speed and how you can resolve them.

4 Easy Ways to Boost the Speed of Your Website

Now that you know the meaning of website page speed and aware of the dangers a slow WordPress website can bring, let us consider the 4 easy ways to boost the speed of your website.

1.     Use a Cache Plugin

Without a doubt, WordPress offers you a handful of plug-ins that allow you to personalize your website. There are several cache plugins that you can use to boost your page load time and boost the overall users’ experience.

How caching works

When a user visits your website page, your server retrieves the information in your MySQL database and PHP files, and then deliver it to your visitor in form of HTML content. This is a process usually take a long time but can be reduced significantly by using a caching plug-in.

WordPress caching plugins saves a copy of your webpage once it is visited. This saved copy is presented to other users when they visit the same page. Therefore, your server will not have to go through a whole page generation stress but rather deliver the saved (cached) page.

Another way of using cache is to encourage your users to enable cache or use a cache-enabled browser. The browser saves the webpage when the user first accesses our site. This page is saved in the hard drive of the user and is automatically generated whenever the user tries to access the website again without processing any HTTP request. Therefore, you can deliver fast website speed to your users by using the WordPress cache plug-in and by encouraging your users to enable cache on their browser. Popular WordPress cache plug-ins include W3 total cache, Cache clear, and WP super cache.

2.     Optimize Images

As indicated earlier, images play a significant role in your website’s page speed. Of course, images are an important ingredient of every website. It gives a sense of reality and visual touch to the website. However, too many images are unhealthy for your website, especially when they are not optimized. In order to boost the size of your website, you need to compress the size of your images without compromising their quality. The best way to do it by using WordPress image-optimization plug-ins, such as EWWW Image Optimizer, Compress JPG and PNG, and a host of others. These plug-ins will help you compress the images without compromising their qualities.

3.     Keep WordPress Updated

WordPress is a well-maintained open-source project and is frequently maintained and updated. Each update comes not only with new features but also fix security issues, bugs, and challenges. Likewise, your themes and plug-ins are frequently updated for the same purpose.

As a WordPress site owner, it is your responsibility to keep your WordPress, plug-ins, and themes updated as soon as new versions are released. There is no gain using outdated versions of WordPress and its compatriots when practically new improved versions have been released. Rather, it makes your website slow, unsafe, and vulnerable to attacks and security threats.

4.     Use Excerpts of Your Pages on the Homepage

By default, WordPress displays the full content of each article on the homepage. This ultimately means that your website homepage will load slower than expected. Apart from making the pages load relatively slowly, showing full articles on your homepage can disfigure the entire site layout and users may not even bother to visit and read the remaining article.

In order to increase your page-load speed and encourage users to spend more time on your website exploring full details of your articles, you should display only the excerpts on your homepage instead of the full article. To do this, navigate to Settings >> Reading and select “Summary” instead of full text. Likewise, there are several themes out there that are configured to display only the excerpts of your articles.

Conclusion

A slow website does not only turn users/readers off but also at a disadvantage when it comes to Google ranking. The average standard page-load time for website pages is 2 seconds. If your website loads slower than this, you should consider optimizing it. Discussed in this article are the causes and effects of a slow website as well as 4 easy ways to resolve them.