SEO Title Tags (The Meat and Potatoes)

Posted by on Nov 10, 2019 in Greg's SEO Articles | Comments Off on SEO Title Tags (The Meat and Potatoes)

SEO Title Tags (The Meat and Potatoes)

Optimizing your title tags for SEO is simple:

Just throw your keyword in the title and you’re good to go, right?

Yes and no.

You could stop there and probably do pretty well (if you’ve done everything else right).

But the truth is:

There’s so much more you can do to optimize your title tags.

That’s what this guide is all about.

Make sure you read until the end because I’ll be sharing some title tag optimization tactics that will skyrocket your organic search CTR.

Let’s jump in.

What is a Title Tag?

As the name suggests, a HTML title tag is an element of your web page’s HTML code that indicates its title. It is often used to let both search engines and people know what the page’s content is all about.

You can only have one title tag per page. It will appear in your code as:

<title>Example of a Title Tag</title>

Most people will encounter your title tag in four places:

1. Web Browser Tabs

The title tag can be seen on your web browser when you open your page in a new tab.

This is especially helpful when a user has many tabs open and would like to go back to your content. Because of this, it’s important that your title tags are unique, easily recognizable. and can be immediately differentiated from other open tabs.

2. Browser Bookmarks

Browser bookmarks on Chrome show the website’s title by default. As you’ll notice below, the titles are usually truncated when it’s on the “Bookmarks Bar”.

However, you can see most of a page’s title if you’re using folders. This is a good reason why you should use short, but descriptive titles. More on this soon.

3. Shared Media on Social Media Platforms

You know those little previews on Facebook and Twitter when someone shares content on those platforms? Your title tag will show up there as well, letting people know what the page is about and what they can expect to find when they click on that link.

Some social networks will allow you to customize your title tag just for their platform. An enticing title tag helps draw in more visitors.

If you’re on WordPress, you can customize your OG data using Yoast and All-in-One SEO pack. You can also download download this OG plugin. It doesn’t require any set up and it will ensure that your “Featured Image” shows up when people share your content on social.

If you’re having issues with your Featured Image not showing, use the following:

Facebook’s Debugger tool (you can force Facebook to recrawl your page).
LinkedIn’s Post Inspector
Twitter’s Card Validator

4. In the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages)

One of the most important places where your title will show is in Search Engine Results Pages (that includes Google, Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, etc).

The title tag shows up as a big, blue clickable link above a short meta description or summary.

This means that if someone found your web page by searching a term that is related to your business, this is your first chance to make a lasting impression and convince them to click on your website.

It’s very easy to add a title tag to your website, but writing an effective one takes time, research, and a little skill (that’s easily developed).

But first:

Why are Title Tags Important for SEO?

Some blogs will tell you that title tags are obsolete in 2018. This is misleading. While title tags may not play the same role in SEO as they did a decade ago, there are still many reasons not to neglect this low-effort, high-impact SEO action.

Here are the benefits of optimizing your title tags (the right way):

1. Keyword Rankings

Do you need to place your target keyword in the title tag to rank well in Google?

The short answer is “Yes”.

The longer answer is that it may not be as important as it once was.

Brian’s research found that having the keyword in the title tag does impact rankings, but it’s a small factor in comparison to other factors:

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Ahrefs also found that “there’s a slight correlation between the usage of keywords in the title tag and rankings.”

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And finally, one last case study from Matthew Barby also indicated that “The presence of keywords in the page title” does correlate to higher rankings.

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Truth be told:

I’ve never attempted to rank pages without using the target keyword phrase in the title tag.

That’s because it wouldn’t make sense me to stop doing what’s working.

My recommendation will continue to be that you should place your target keyword in the title tag. Just keep in mind that it’s a small factor in the larger ranking equation.

2. SERP Click Through Rate (CTR)

Although there’s some debate about CTR being a ranking factor, there’s no denying that increasing your CTR will increase your organic search traffic.

And just to be clear:

The goal of SEO is to get more organic search traffic. When you change your mindset from “rankings” to “traffic” it changes the way you operate.

Optimizing your title tag for maximum CTR is an intelligent action to take.

I’ll explain some tactics you can use to achieve that goal in a second.

Side note: I lean towards CTR being a direct or least an indirect ranking factor. The way I look at is there’s no benefit of NOT optimizing for CTR. Even if it isn’t a ranking factor.

Ross Hudgens from Siege Media has an excellent video on this topic, worth a watch:

.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }

TL;DW: CTR may not be direct ranking factor, but it likely impacts rankings indirectly.

3. Social Sharing

Your page’s title is a focal point when it’s shared on social media. Does that mean you need to use clickbait titles like this?:

No, but you should think about why clickbait works.

The truth is clickbait is only annoying when the actual content doesn’t add real value.

4. Headlines Matter

What you place in your title tag is nothing more than a headline. You’ve probably heard the idea that only 8 out 10 Internet users will read past the headline.

Or that:

“Five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.” – Confessions of an Advertising Man (1963) by David Oglivy

The truth is:

If you’re reading this, then you’re in the minority.

In fact:

Most people only make it through around 17-20% of my content before returning back to watching cat videos.

But regardless, the copy you use within your title tag is the first touch point for readers.

You have to do it well or your engagement will be low.

Those are four important reasons why you need to optimize your title tag, but now I need to cover a few important questions:

Does Google Rewrite Titles?

If Google doesn’t think that your title is relevant, readable, or provides value to your site’s visitors, it can and will completely rewrite it – and often in ways that you won’t like.

In fact, here’s what Gary Illyes said:

“We will never quit rewriting titles. We’ve seen so many sites whose title really suck. A lot of sites have no title; a lot of sites have a title saying “Top Page”. In fact, Google almost always rewrites titles. We couldn’t provide useful results to our users if we quit rewriting titles. Experiments showed us users preferred written titles. So, we’ll continue to write titles.” – Gary Illyes (Source)

It’s pretty clear based on Gary’s words that Google’s algorithms will rewrite your titles (and isn’t planning on stopping anytime soon).

But what can you do to prevent it?

The #1 thing you can do is make sure that your title matches your page’s content/intent. If your title is “Buy Shoes”, but your page is all about “buying blue Nikes”, then Google will likely rewrite your title.

Your title should be a 100% match of the page content.

One other factor you need to consider is title tag length.

How Long Should Your Title be?

There are technically no character limits to your title tag, but search engines can only display so much of your title before cutting it off.

If your title is too long, Google will cut it off with an ellipsis (…), which could potentially prevent site visitors from seeing important information about the page.

According to Moz’s research, Google usually displays the first 50-60 characters (including spaces) of a title tag, but the more accurate limit would be 600px. This is because some characters (like M, W, etc.) take up more space than others.

Staying under 60 characters is a good rule of thumb, but you can also use many title tag preview tools like this one just to be sure.

If you’re on WordPress, Yoast and All-in-One SEO pack will do the job.

If you want to find titles tag that are too long at scale, then I recommend using Screaming Frog.

Open up Screaming Frog, enter your target domain, click on the “Page Titles” tab, and select “Over 65 Characters” from the filter:

You can click on each individual URL and preview what the title tag looks in the SERPs. Just click “SERP Snippet” at the bottom:

Can Your Title Tag and H1 be the Same?

The short answer is, yes. You should try to keep your H1 tag consistent with your title tag, but that doesn’t mean it has to be an exact match. For example, this page has a different title tag and H1 tag:

One method you can use is to vary your H1 from your title tag to rank for more long-tail keyword variations. I prefer keeping my H1 nearly identical to the title, but it’s elements to test for sure.

You can use Screaming Frog to find all titles that are the same as your H1 tags.

Open up Screaming Frog, enter your target domain, click on the “Page Titles” tab, and select “Same as H1” from the filter:

With some of those important title tag questions out of way, let me show you:

22 Easy Ways to Optimize Your Title Tags for SEO

Since we’ve already established that a good title tag is a low-effort way to optimize both your SERP ranking and your CTR, how exactly do you go about writing one?

Here are 22 ways to optimize your title tags for better rankings, CTR, and social sharing:

1. Focus on the Content First

That’s right. The first action you need to take is to make sure your SEO content is the highest quality possible. It doesn’t matter how well you optimize your title tag if the page itself is low-value.

Getting the click is important, but getting visitors to dwell longer, visit more than one page, or complete a goal is what the objective should be. That’s only possible if you’re crafting effective SEO content.

Don’t take this step lightly!

2. Identify the Page Type

How you craft your titles will depend on the page type. For example, optimizing a title tag for a product page will be much different than a blog post.

There are a few different types of SEO-driven pages that a website will have:


If you decide to optimize your homepage for a target keyword, there’s a good chance it will have middle or bottom of the funnel intent. For example, Hubspot targets “inbound marketing software” with their homepage.

This keyword phrase has transactional intent so their homepage is structured to drive leads for their software (not educate).

Notice the effective use of a curiosity gap at the end of their title tag as well.

Category Pages

E-commerce websites are the most likely candidate to try to rank category pages. However, there are some information-driven websites where it makes sense.

For example, RTINGS have a beautifully-structured category page for the target keyword phrase “tv reviews”.

Although the keyword phrase “tv reviews” may lead to sale in the future, I still consider it to be top of the funnel intent. Or, informational in nature.

Notice that RTINGS front-loads their primary keyword phrase and use not one, but two modifiers (“Best” and “2018).

Product Pages

Many product pages will target a combination of Navigational/Transactional keyword phrases. For example, take a look at the keyword phrase “Nike trout 4 cleats”.

Someone searching this keyword is primed to buy, so the title tag needs to reflect that intent.

Local Pages

Keyword stuffing title tags seems to be a common practice on the local level. After digging around, I was able to find an interesting example for the keyword phrase “Los Angeles personal injury lawyer”.

Although I don’t love the idea of jamming “car accident lawyers” in the title, I do like a few things about this title. First, they’ve front-loaded their primary keyword. Second, they’re using numbers within their title, which makes it much more eye-grabbing.

Blog Posts

Crafting title tags for blog posts is the easiest to understand.

Your goal should be to make your title as accurate and interesting as possible. The following tips can drastically improve your blog post title performance.

Most blog posts are going to target keyword phrase with Informational intent, so you need to satisfy that.

3. Satisfy Searcher Intent

This applies to both your title and the page itself. The best way to satisfy searcher intent is to think about it from a funnel or buyer journey perspective.

There are four primary categories of searcher intent:

Informational – These are top of the funnel search queries such as “what is SEO”.
Comparison – These are middle of the funnel search queries such as “Ahrefs vs Moz”.
Transactional – These are bottom of the funnel search queries such as “Moz free trial”.
Navigational – These types of search queries are branded like “Gotch SEO”. This means the searcher already knows your brand or may already be a customer.

Most keyword phrases will fall under one or more of these categories.

Your title must satisfy the search intent behind keyword phrase you’re targeting. You do not want ambiguity. Make it as clear as possible for the searcher.

4. Front-Load Your Primary Keyword

If you approach crafting your title tags from a searcher intent perspective, it would make sense to have the keyword phrase front-and-center. If someone’s searching for “best baseball cleats”, they’re likely to click on a result that showcases that keyword right away.

Keep in mind that “front-loading” doesn’t mean that your keyword phrase needs to be first in the title tag. It just needs to be towards the beginning.

5. Write for Searchers, Not Search Engines

Yes, place your keyword in your title, but don’t do this:

“SEO Company | SEO Agency | Chicago SEO Company”

You wouldn’t believe how often we find this type of keyword stuffing in our SEO audits (check out our SEO audit service if you need help).

There a few reasons why you shouldn’t stuff keywords in your title tag:

It’s Not Necessary

Google’s algorithms are much more sophisticated than before. More specifically, Google’s Hummingbird algorithm is designed to understand content better.

That means it can identify synonyms and variations of your keywords. You don’t need to jam keyword variations into your title tag. Instead, you can place keyword variations or synonyms naturally throughout your copy and you’ll still perform well for them (given you did everything else right).

You Should Only Target One Primary Keyword Phrase Per Page

Although there are some exceptions to the rule (super authoritative websites), you should aim to target one primary keyword per page.

You’re Losing Precious Real Estate

Most keyword phrases aren’t persuasive in any way. When you stuff your title tag full of keywords, you’re losing the ability to add elements of effective copywriting and persuasion. I’ll be explaining some of these tactics in a second.

6. Use Shorter Titles

Matthew Barby’s research found that shorter titles tend to perform better in Google:

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Try to stay below 60 characters (including spaces).

If you’re struggling to keep it below 60 characters than you should try:

Avoid using all-caps in your title tag. Capital letters take up more space than lowercase letters.
Avoid using punctuation when necessary
Remove redundant or repetitive words
Use short phrases instead of long, complicated ones

7. Avoid Duplicating Page Titles

No two pages (that you want indexed in Google) should have the same title. The best way to find duplicate page titles is to use Screaming Frog SEO Spider.

Open up Screaming Frog SEO Spider, enter the target domain, and click on the “Page Titles” tab:

Then click the “Filter” dropdown and select “Duplicate”:

Sort the list by “Title 1”:

You only need to be concerned about duplicate title tags if your page is indexed. The new version of Screaming Frog makes this super easy with their new “Indexability” column.

8. Write Unique Titles for EVERY Page

Every page on your website should have a unique title. In fact, according to Google:

“Titles are critical to giving users a quick insight into the content of a result and why it’s relevant to their query. It’s often the primary piece of information used to decide which result to click on, so it’s important to use high-quality titles on your web pages.” – Google

The best way to find pages with missing titles is to once again, use Screaming Frog SEO Spider.

The steps are identical as above except you’ll select “Missing”:

9. Use Title Modifiers

If you dig through my content on Gotch SEO, you’ll discover that I love using title modifiers. I believe using title modifiers is one of the best ways to drive more long-tail traffic (without much effort).

I actually call this The Phantom Technique because many of these keyword variations are largely untapped.

Here’s a free video from my paid training course, Gotch SEO Academy explaining how to execute this tactic:

Like this training? Join Gotch SEO Academy today and save 20% when you use coupon code “titletag” at checkout.

With that said:

Some simple title modifiers you can use are “top”, “best”, or the year.

Important note: If it’s relevant to use a year in your title tag, make sure that your URL doesn’t include it. For example, I update my anchor text guide every year and change the year in the title tag, but the URL never changes.

That means I can continue to build the authority of that page because my URL isn’t changing every year.

10. Build a Keyword Variation List

I also build a keyword variation list every time I find a new primary keyword phrase to target. For example, my primary keyword phrase for my backlinks guide is “backlinks”.

But obviously my title couldn’t just be “Backlinks | Gotch SEO” because that’s A) boring and B) I would lose out on long-tail traffic.

Instead, I searched for relevant keyword variations I could naturally add to the title.

Ahrefs Keyword Explorer is perfect for this task.

Enter your primary keyword phrase, start the analysis, and then click on “Phrase Match”:

This section is a goldmine for finding keyword variations for your title.

You can also use UberSuggest and Keywords Everywhere to build your keyword variation list (both are free).

Although you won’t use 99.9% of these variations in your title tag, a large percentage of these keywords can dispersed throughout your page.

11. Emphasize Freshness

Do you know anyone that prefers old content? I don’t and that’s why emphasizing “freshness” in your title works really well.

One persuasion principle that I picked up from Frank Kern is that people love “new” things. In fact, something simply being “new” can be a big driving force.

Hence the reason why you’re more likely to buy a newer model car than a car from the 80s.

Another example if when you see a training course use “2.0” or “Revamped” in their headline. They’re emphasizing freshness.

Some ways to incorporate freshness into your title tags are to use the word “new”, “updated for YEAR”, “new data”, etc.

12. Use the H & W Strategy

The H & W strategy simple: Just use one of the following words in your title tag:  “How,” “What,” “Why,” “When,” “Where,” or “Who.”

How to {Create|Learn|Build|Use|Leverage|Increase|Get|Do}…

Example: How to Tie a Windsor Knot

Total Organic Keywords: 5,079
Total Linking Root Domains: 161
Total Social Shares: 819 (Buzzsumo)

What {are|is}?

Example: What Are Second Cousins vs. Cousins Once Removed

Total Organic Keywords: 2,600
Total Linking Root Domains: 59
Total Social Shares: 1.9 Million (Buzzsumo)


Example: Why the Myers-Briggs Test is Meaningless

Total Organic Keywords: 2,500
Total Linking Root Domains: 77
Total Social Shares: 19,000 (Buzzsumo)


Example: 21 High-Protein Snacks To Eat When You’re Trying To Be Healthy

Total Organic Keywords: 1,800
Total Linking Root Domains: 32
Total Social Shares: 28,000 (Ahrefs)


Example: The Complete Guide to Where to Put Your Eye Makeup

Total Organic Keywords: 5,200
Total Linking Root Domains: 33
Total Social Shares: 26,000 (Ahrefs)

13. Use Numbers

We’ve all been victim of consuming numbered listicles at one point or another. That’s because they’re super effective.

According to a study by Conductor, they found that 36% of respondents preferred headlines that included numbers:

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An example of an effective listicle post is “18 Unforgettable Countries Where You Can Roll Big on $50 a Day“. This example ranks for “cheapest countries to visit” (~3,600 searches/mo), has 45 linking root domains, and over 81,000 social shares.

Outside of the traditional listicle, you can also use monetary values such as: “Silicon Valley’s $400 Juicer May Be Feeling the Squeeze

Or, you can use percentages in title tags like this: “Nike’s online sales jumped 31% after company unveiled Kaepernick campaign“.

14. Use This Secret Title Tag Hack (Copywriters Hate It)

Ahh… yes, the classic clickbait headline.

I know I’ve fallen for many, but that’s because they work well! Mainly because they leave open loops in your mind and engage our natural human curiosity.

The trick here is to give readers a sneak peek into what they can find out by clicking on your link without giving too much away.

Employ as much tantalizing language as necessary; remember: you need to evoke surprise, amazement, or speak to a deeply-rooted fear. You can combine this technique with the other techniques above to create a truly click-worthy headline.

Example: 7 Unbelievable Exercises That Will Help Keep Your Nose In Shape

Total Organic Keywords: 3,500
Total Linking Root Domains: 17
Total Social Shares: 12,000 (Ahrefs)

Note: Use clickbait tactics few and far between because they can be annoying or unauthentic. Overuse could hurt your brand’s perceived value.

15. Be the Most Comprehensive

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) applies in many different scenarios, but especially with knowledge gaps. People want assurance that they aren’t missing out on any important information.

That’s why {Complete|Ultimate|Definitive} guides work well.

Example: The Ultimate Guide To Brunching In NYC

Total Organic Keywords: 3,300
Total Linking Root Domains: 62
Total Social Shares: 48,000 (Ahrefs)

16. Emphasize Speed (or Time Savings)

One of the most powerful benefits to emphasize is saving time. Although this usually applies to products, it can be emphasized in title tags as well.

Use words like “fast”, “quick”, “simple”, etc.

Example: How to Get Rid of Stretch Marks Fast

Total Organic Keywords: 4,200
Total Linking Root Domains: 113
Total Social Shares: 160,000 (Ahrefs)

17. Break the Pattern

Pattern interrupts are common in video content, but there are ways to break the pattern in the SERPs as well. Some the best methods are use [brackets], {curly brackets}, (parentheses), equal signs (=), plus (+) or minus (-) signs, or pretty much any unordinary symbol.

You can also test using Emojis in title tags as well. Google doesn’t always show them though.

18. Use Title Tags to Find Keyword Cannibalization

Keyword cannibalization occurs when two or more pages on your website are optimized for the same keyword phrase. Auditing your title tags using Screaming Frog SEO Spider is actually one of the fastest ways to identify keyword cannibalization.

Open up SFSS, enter your target domain, click on the “Page Titles” tab, and keep the filter set to “All”:

You can then use SFSS’s built-in search function to find pages that are similar. In this example below, I searched “backlinks” and identified two pages using that primary keyword phrase.

In this case, it doesn’t make sense to consolidate these assets because the intent behind “how to build backlinks” vs “buy backlinks” are much different.

Identifying keyword cannibalization issues requires manual analysis, but it’s time well spent.

19. Test Your Titles

How do you know if your title will be effective? Well, the good news is that it doesn’t have to be a shot in the dark. I recommend using AM Institute’s tool to test and refine your titles before going live:

You can also use CoSchedule’s free headline analyzer tool as well.

20. Incorporate All the Methods

The good news is that you don’t need to be exclusive with what techniques you use. Mix and match the title tag optimization methods to get the best results possible.

21. Measure Performance with Google Search Console

Google Search Console shows you CTR data for your organic keywords. Just click on the “Performance” tab and you’ll access to all kinds of useful data:

Although your CTR is determined by more than just your title tag, it’s one of the most important factors. If you are ranking well, but your CTR is subpar, then you should test changing your title.

Here’s a simple title tag testing framework I use:

Create 10-20 title variations
Qualify the idea using AM Institutes tool
Execute the change
Annotate the change in Google Analytics
Wait (at least 3-4 weeks) – You need to give Google time to recrawl the page and see whether there’s a positive or negative impact.

The goal of these tests is to increase CTR.

Keep in mind: Navigational search queries (that aren’t your brand name) like “Blogspot” (I’ve been floating between the #2 – #5 spot) will have low CTR:

Changing your title tag won’t do much in this scenario because it’s based on intent.

On the other hand:

Navigational search queries that ARE for your brand (branded search) should have exceptionally CTR:

22. Be Realistic

All of these methods will help you optimize your title tags for peak SEO performance.

But don’t forget:

Placing your keyword in your title tag is a micro ranking factor.

Think of it as the bare minimum for ranking well.

That’s All for Title Tags!

I hope this guide helped you learn a thing (or two) about title tags.

If you got a lot of value out of this post please share it and drop a comment below because I respond to every single one


Let’s kill the hourly rate: We are leaving money on the table

Posted by on Nov 7, 2019 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Let’s kill the hourly rate: We are leaving money on the table

One of the hottest topics and hotly debated threads on r/ppc is about rates and what you should charge. What does an agency charge? What should I charge as a freelancer? How do you charge if you do work on Amazon versus Google or Facebook?

Different ways to charge clients

There are a lot of models for how you are going to charge a client. No one model is perfect and you have to do what is right for your business in the end.


Bill for each hour of your time and track how many hours you worked that week. This is one of the most common ways we have seen freelancers charge for their time.


Work more hours and you know you are going to get paid more (all things being equal). Clients love to love the hourly rate because they are familiar with it from designers and other creative industries.


As you get better at a task and it takes you less time, you end up making less money even if you are getting better at your task. How does that make any sense? This is the biggest drawback to the hourly rate, in my opinion.

Percent of spend

Scale that spend up and bill each of your clients more money at the end of the month. This is the most common way we see agencies charge. It’s what clients expect to hear but increasingly clients do not want to pay this way as it can lead to abuse.


As clients trust you and they spend more money, you see your agency revenue increase in lockstep with that higher spend. Assuming that increase is leading to a profitable business, this can work out well for both sides.


Not every client loves this because it can be abused by some agencies to just spend money but not have it be profitable. Also, there are some clients who don’t think an agency should be paid $10,000/month, even if they manage a large ad spend budget that has a good ROAS. 

This can lead to “negotiation” on agency fees or firing the agency and taking it all in-house. The latter being from a lack of value for what agencies can do and thinking they are easily replaceable. You can not in-house an outside point of view for your business.

Monthly retainer

Charge a fixed or flat monthly fee for the work that was agreed upon in the contract and proposal.


It keeps billing simple and both sides know what to expect each month. It’s easier to sell it to clients versus other methods above. Clients are less likely to feel like they are getting ripped off.


Scope creep can increase the workload and yet, it can be harder to increase that monthly fee. If you don’t think about where you will be a year from now with that client, you could find yourself with an unprofitable client on your hands.


Not as widely used but an interesting model we have done with clients. You set a target based on top-line revenue you bring into the business. As you hit different tiers, you get paid on that tier level.


Clients love it because they feel the agency is putting skin in the game. If the agency is good at what they do and the client’s site is top-notch you can make a lot of money each month.


This depends on trust from both sides and a site that is ready to convert. If that site is not good, you can spend a lot of time going nowhere. Also, some clients may not pay the bonus even after the agency did an amazing job. I worked on an account in the UK where this happened.

Mixed Model

Do a combination of the above. Maybe you do a month strategy fee and then do 5% of ad spend each month. You could do a monthly retainer with a performance bonus basked in. There are a few ways you can mix this model up.


It gives you a base retainer for each client but gives you the upside if work increases and the client wants a deeper relationship. You can make more money to cover your costs.


A more complex pricing model that some clients might find more complicated. It can be harder to explain to some clients or turn them off because you still have a percentage of spend in there.

Kill that hourly rate

Once you start charging hourly, you often get into discussions about how long something took. 

This could be because the client was thinking it would take less time or they feel it should take less time because they used to do it themselves.

If you spend all of your time talking about hours and how long a task took on their invoice, the conversation shifts away from outcomes and towards labor.

This shift is about pressuring you to be faster at a task, where there might not always be a faster way to do it. Sometimes faster is not better if you don’t reach the same outcome.

Less time spent on a task means the client spends less money on marketing. So many view marketing as a cost center, when it’s an investment center. Based on my experience, the majority of clients who like hours are just trying to find the cheapest person to do the task.

Hiring agency A at $50/hour is going to be the same as hiring agency B at $100 or $150/hour. We all know this is not the case.

If agency B comes down in price, then this tells the client that this set of work is worth that much. Even if it’s going to cost you a lot more to deliver on the work. We should stop selling hours and starting selling outcomes.

No one right way future

As much as I believe there is no right answer to what we should charge as an industry, I also believe that we should stop underselling ourselves and leaving money on the table. The biggest way we leave money on the table is by competing on price.

Tell me if you heard this one before: you are talking to an awesome client and the brand is one you want to work with. They love you and you love them…you got that first date vibe going on. They ask about your pricing for the project and you tell them your fee structure.

There is this pause and you just wait for them to respond. What has only been 30 seconds feels like minutes. The client then tells you some other agency can do the work for X or your hourly rate of $150/hour is too high because they talked to someone who can do it for $100 cheaper.

Not valuing the work can come from not understanding the task and what it takes to deliver. What is worse is that the client does not value the task and just wants someone, anyone…the cheapest agency to do the work. Large brands have been known to be just as bad at this as SMBs.

What do you do? Some agencies will come down in price and not change the scope of work. Other agencies will come down in price but will ask for a change in scope of work. Other agencies will just say they don’t compete on price and this is what it costs to do the work right the first time.

Working with a client needs to be a partnership. Both sides need to understand that each other’s success creates a rising tide which lifts all boats. Creating a win-win partnership is the only way that both sides will succeed and will be in business a year from now. Remember, an agency is a business and needs to make a profit. Killing the hourly rate can help us get there as an industry.

Duane Brown will be participating in a roundtable discussion about profitable pricing strategies at SMX East on Nov. 12.

The post Let’s kill the hourly rate: We are leaving money on the table appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Ultimate guide to small business SEO

Posted by on Nov 7, 2019 in Greg's SEO Articles | Comments Off on Ultimate guide to small business SEO

SEO isn’t just for big business. As a small company or a local business, there is actually a lot you can do yourself to get good results from search. This ultimate guide for local and small business SEO will help you get the most out of search by finding your niche, optimizing your pages and using social media.

Way back in 2014 we promised you in our post on local SEO that we’d write more about local and small businesses. As local SEO is basically about optimizing for local search engine results, it’s fair to say that local SEO and small business SEO are closely-related, which is why we’ll cover both in this article.

We’ll discuss a variety of related topics in this article:


As long as Google’s local search result pages continue to grow and improve, we’ll never be done with this subject. But in the meantime, here’s our ultimate guide to local and small business SEO. Let’s start at the beginning of your SEO process.

Finding your niche

Determining your niche is vital for local or small businesses. When you know your niche, you can emphasize what makes your brand or products unique, therefore improving your chances to rank well for them. If you have a clear niche, you can compete locally with large national brands – despite their multi-million dollar advertising budgets.

Find out who your customers are and which words they use to describe your product or service because people will use the same terms to find your website. These terms can really help you optimize your local business SEO when you turn them into long-tail keywords and these keywords should be as specific as possible. Once you’ve done all of this, remember to regularly assess your niche as it evolves with the growth of your company.

Find your shop’s niche

Low budget branding

We have talked about this time and again: branding is very important for SEO. Branding means stuff like your logo and tagline. Do they represent your company without further explanation? What do your logo and tagline reveal about your values and your field of expertise? It’s all about recognition.

Read more: ‘Low budget branding tips for small businesses’ »

Here’s a tip for branding: share your expertise! You can do that in blog posts and on social media. We’ll talk more about this later on.

Start writing great content

Your small business SEO will get a significant boost from the right content. Too many small business owners just put their products and contact details on their website and leave it at that. But there is so much more to tell and share!

Focus on making an awesome first impression on your potential customer. Write about your business, your business goals, how great your products are and things like that. You could also discuss market developments or events that relate to your business. These are just a few tips for your local SEO content strategy.

When writing your content, be realistic about the chances of getting that content to rank in search. If you are in a highly competitive market, content works very well as a marketing tool and as input for social media, but it probably won’t get you that number one spot in Google, and that’s OK. Manage your expectations.

Picking the right keywords to optimize for is very important. Usually, it’s a good idea to pick mid-tail keywords, including the local area you are targeting. It really doesn’t matter if you add this content to your site as a page or blog post. Just make sure that you write about things that people want to talk about or things that make people talk about your business in a positive way.

Keep reading: ‘Improve your small business SEO today’ »

Share your content on social media

While you can actually sell your products on social media platforms, in most cases we recommend using social media for brand awareness or to lead potential customers to your website for a sale. Using social media as a small business is all about promoting your brand, your company, and your products to establish your image and to get the right traffic to your company website. When used in this way, social media can really help small business SEO.

I like to compare social media to a market where all the stall owners know each other and customers browse the products. At some point, someone will tell other visitors where to go to for a product: “The cheese over there is delicious”, “you should really check out the fruit over there”, that kind of thing. So make sure people start talking about you. And start talking about yourself online, to make others start talking to you on social platforms. Lastly, actively engage in social media conversations, to let people know you are listening.

Use Social Media to increase your sales

Local ranking factors that help your small business SEO

There are many things that influence your local rankings, but there is one very obvious one: your address details or NAP, which stands for Name, Address, Phone number. Be sure to add these in the correct formatting (in code), using details – our Local SEO plugin can help with that. Also, ask your web developer to look into AMP, as Joost says in this Ask Yoast article on AMP for small businesses. As well as this, it may help to add your city, and perhaps your state, in the title of your pages for easier recognition as well.

Also, if you want to start optimizing your website in order to rank better, but you are not sure where to start, you might want to have a look at our new, free SEO course for beginners!

Google My Business

Make sure you use the exact same NAP details on both your website and your Google My Business listing and include your website link to your listing too. This is the only way for Google to understand the relationship between them. Add these details – for example in your footer – and of course, on your contact page. Google My Business really is your friend if you want to rank in your specific geographical area, so get your details right!

Improve local SEO with Google My Business

Add ratings and reviews

Google My Business, like Facebook, allows others to leave a review of your company. If your company has a good rating, people will be more likely to click through to your website from either of these two platforms. Make sure you monitor and maintain these reviews.

If you get a negative review for any reason, react by responding and solving your customer’s problem. Then, once you have, ask them to change their review afterward. In other words, turn that dissatisfied customer into a brand ambassador!

It’s easy to make use of these reviews and ratings. If you need some tips, find out more in this article:

Read on: ‘Get local reviews and ratings’ »

Links from related small businesses

Social ‘proof’, like the ratings and reviews mentioned above, should be backed up with a few links from local directories, such as:

  1. Yelp
  2. SuperPages
  5. Bestoftheweb

You should get a listing on these sites, for the obvious reason that this means you also get a link to your website. If you can get some links from other related local websites in that directory, that will also help your site’s findability. Note that links from other local websites should be from sites that are in a related profession. It’s of no use to have your bakery website linked from an accountant’s website.


If your small business is closely related to other businesses that are not located in the same area, you should definitely also ask those businesses for a link. Google spiders the web link by link, so if your business is linked to from a website in the same field of business, that link is extra valuable to you.

Near me searches

When talking about local rankings, we also have to mention near me searches. These are searches and search suggestions that include words like “near me”, “closest”, “open” and “nearby”. Optimizing for these searches is similar to optimizing for local, but applies for global brands as well (“buy Lego near me”). So you’ll have to think outside the box – there’s probably more to optimize for. Google really focuses on search terms like these, as you can read here:

Is that a Possum near me?

In conclusion

As we’ve seen, there are many things you can do as a small business to improve your site and rank better. You should start by focusing on your niche and emphasizing your uniqueness. Think about how you present your brand: logos and taglines are important to give your customers an idea of who you are as a business.

You can increase your visibility by creating great content on your site, optimized for the most appropriate keywords. Also, it always helps if you are active on social media. There are several factors related to local SEO that help small businesses. Make sure Google My Business has the right details, keep track of your ratings and reviews, and try to get links from related small businesses. Finally, try to optimize for ‘near me’ searches.

Read more: ‘5 questions: Talking local SEO with David Mihm’ »

The post Ultimate guide to small business SEO appeared first on Yoast.


Five sure-fire strategies to build inbound links

Posted by on Nov 6, 2019 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Five sure-fire strategies to build inbound links

Google’s Matt Cutts declared guest blogging (and other tactics) as a way of generating SEO inbound links as a “spammy practice” that was dead and gone, way back in 2014. It was a statement that generated plenty of response, both defending and arguing against Cutts’ assessment of the practice.

Five years later, guest blogging — or guest posting if you prefer — hasn’t gone the way of the dodo.

Now as far as flooding your site with poor content that relies on tricking people with the anchor text, yes, those days are mostly behind us. Search engine algorithms have really wised up in recent years and the value of the inbound link hasn’t gone away. It’s only changed.

Before starting your link-building journey, it’s important to understand the primary objectives:

Value and quality take top priority

A guest post can be a great way to bring in new traffic and boost your SEO, but there’s a catch. It has to contain relative information that offers something of value to the audience. The choices on the internet are endless and in an age where everyone knows how to explore the internet, a clickbait guest blogging strategy doesn’t hold up for long.

As for what goes into that content, longer content tends to do better than the shorter stuff. This isn’t to say that an effective guest post needs to be 4,000 words. You don’t necessarily want to test the limits of your audience’s attention span, but the 125-word blurb isn’t likely to result in a lot of traffic.

The main focus is to provide value to the readers with the information and give them a reason to finish and share the content. Generally, the most successful guest posts tend to fall in the sweet spot of 300 to 1,600 words.

Grammar and voice of the content are also of importance. If you were writing a guest post for a medical journal, you would probably use a less conversational style than if you’re writing for “Parents Magazine”

Don’t go crazy with the keyword stuffing

Just because you have access to all the words, that doesn’t mean you need to use all the words. Throwing as many keywords into your post and finding a way to cram them into every sentence simply isn’t going to do much good in the long run. Google’s algorithms are going to pick up on this and if you really overdo it, the article could get marked as spam. Then all that hard work was for nothing.

It goes back to what we touched on earlier about adding value to the audience. Yes, keywords matter, but keyword stuffing is a frowned upon blackhat technique that works against your link goals. 

So how do you know when your content is in danger of falling under the keyword stuffing label? Say you’re working on a post and want to rank for “best gardening hose” and wrote something like this:

“If you’re looking for the best gardening hose the Acme Aqua 2000 is the best gardening hose on the market today and will meet all your needs. More people think it’s the best gardening hose than all the others and tell their friends that it’s the best gardening hose on the market today.”

Yikes! Not only will Google spot this as spam but your savvy readers will too. If you’re still unsure about how to recognize if you’re guilty of keyword stuffing, you may want to brush up on why it’s bad for SEO.

Target websites with a higher domain than yours

Just like we mentioned earlier in regards to content, quality counts as well when building in those links. The internet is a battlefield and websites are constantly vying for power in the form of higher search rankings. By guest posting for websites with higher domain authority, you’ll be giving yourself a leg up and getting the most value out of those blogging efforts — from an SEO perspective, of course.

Google cares not just about the number of links, but the quality of those backlinks. As to what makes a high-quality link in 2019, there are a few must-haves.

Consistent traffic flow is important because it shows that it’s active. Authority is also of importance and by that, we mean domain authority. Websites with a low domain authority as ranked by Moz, tend to have a low ranking of 0-20. They may be new or simply not very active. Whereas a website with a domain authority ranking of 60+ is going to be a well-established one that has a steady flow of traffic and is regarded for high-quality content.

All links are not created equal, so think critically about who you want to link to and who you want linking to you. Now that we understand this, it’s time to start on with link-building:

Five sure-fire strategies to build inbound links

So how to go about guest blogging with a strategy that actually works for you rather than throwing chance to the wind? Obviously, you need to find some places that would welcome a contribution to your knowledge.

1. Target keyword phrases

A Google search for a keyword phrase as simple as “write for us” or “become a contributor” is one way to go about it, but that approach can be a little tedious. A great way to hone in on potential places for guest posts is to check out relevant industry sites and competitor sites. Looking at where their inbound links are coming from can provide a valuable springboard to start with.

2. Use guest blogging platforms

If writing isn’t your forte or you don’t have the time, you can still use guest blogging as a viable means of high-authority link building. There are multiple outlets such as DFY Links that offer a variety of guest blogging campaigns with high-quality backlinks.

3. Build an authority content piece

Pitching a blogger for a backlink is a lot easier when it’s to a long-form resource page. Rather than just pitching a topical article to a blogger, focus on selling your existing authority content. Many bloggers have a “resource” section and are looking to populate it with the “right” content.

4. Provide a testimonial

Testimonial link building is a win-win scenario. On the one hand, this is a perfect way for them to build customer trust. Testimonials have an associated level of credibility that garners customer trust. Additionally, these mentions also include a rare backlink of high value that will pay dividends in your SEO strategy for years to come. Finally, some clients also find that these specific backlinks provide a steady stream of click-through traffic which augments their current SEO and paid ad efforts.

5. Using SERPs to find sites that accept guest posts

The internet is replete with a multitude of link building opportunities. Forums, blogs and millions of websites all host backlinks but one must be judicious in selecting which avenue to explore. After generating your list of potential opportunities, it’s time to start filtering by: 

  • Domain Authority 
  • Domain Rating 
  • Referring Domains
  • Spam Score (Moz)

By targeting sites of high domain authority and ones with low spam scores, you can develop a sound SEO strategy. Strong SEO strategies tend to remain relatively unaffected by search engine algorithm changes that may arise in the future.

A few search operations that I typically use

  • [target keyword] + “Become a Contributor”
  • [target keyword] + “Become a Guest Blogger”
  • [target keyword] + “Contribute”
  • [target keyword] + “Submit a Guest Post”
  • [target keyword] + inurl:guest-posts
  • [target keyword] + inurl:write-for-us


When it comes down to it, you should consider every link, both inbound and outbound as a potential place to establish a connection when building an effective guest posting SEO strategy.

The SEO shortcuts of just a few years ago are becoming a thing of the past. Trust and authority are more valued by today’s search engine algorithms. Thankfully, guest posting as an effective strategy for link building is still alive and well in 2019 and the years to come. It’s all about how one goes about it that determines its effectiveness. 

The post Five sure-fire strategies to build inbound links appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

14 Free SEO eBooks Available for Immediate Download (PDF)

Posted by on Nov 6, 2019 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on 14 Free SEO eBooks Available for Immediate Download (PDF)

Free SEO EBooks

If you’re looking for the best free SEO eBooks worth downloading, then this list is for you. We did our research and crafted a list of the top SEO eBooks available for download in PDF format.

We visited each and every eBook to ensure that it has up-to-date SEO information and that it’s free to download.

For each eBook, you’ll get a summary of what you’ll learn and detailed instructions on how to download it.

This collection will not only help you learn the basics of SEO but more advanced concepts like link building and conversion optimization.

All eBooks are published by highly reputable and trusted websites.

Let us know in the comments if there is an eBook that should be included in this list.

The pre-requisites are simple: to offer valuable and up-to-date information about search engine optimization or related topics and be available as a free PDF download.

14 Must-Read SEO eBooks for SEO Professionals

This is the ultimate list of the best SEO eBooks available for download on the Internet today and for free!

1. Most Effective Methods to Drive Traffic to Your Website

eBook: Most Effective Methods to Drive Traffic to Your Website
eBook: Most Effective Methods to Drive Traffic to Your Website

Publisher: | Pages: 20

What you’ll learn

This eBook will walk you through the process of driving traffic to your website repeatedly and reliably. It outlines the 8 methods that can really make a difference to your ranking and traffic. The eBook is updated regularly to include the latest methods and techniques.

How to download

To download this free eBook, you first need to register to newsletter. Click the button below, enter your name and email and you’ll be redirected to the eBook downloads page. You can view and download the eBook as PDF.

Download eBook

2. How to Start and Grow a Successful WordPress Blog (Easy Guide)

eBook: How to Start and Grow a Successful WordPress Blog
eBook: How to Start and Grow a Successful WordPress Blog

Publisher: | Pages: 39

What you’ll learn

In this eBook, you’ll learn how to set up a WordPress blog from scratch. It’s a super easy guide for beginners to WordPress and blogging.

Besides learning how to register a domain name and hosting, installing and configuring WordPress, you will also learn how to grow the traffic of your blog using SEO.

So, if you are a beginner in blogging, get a cup of coffee and find out how blogging can literally change your life.

How to download

To download this free eBook, you first need to register to newsletter. Click the button below, enter your name and email and you’ll be redirected to the eBook downloads page. You can view and download the eBook as PDF.

Download eBook

3. SEO Starter Guide

eBook: Google SEO Starter Guide
eBook: Google SEO Starter Guide

Publisher: Google | Pages: 32

What you’ll learn

If you are looking for an SEO eBook directly from Google, then this is the eBook for you. The Search Engine Optimization Starters Guide was originally created to help teams within Google to optimize their web properties for Search Engines but they eventually decided to release it to the general public.

In this eBook, you’ll learn the SEO fundamentals. It starts with the SEO basics like page title optimization, meta descriptions, site structure, and internal linking. It also talks about crawler optimization, mobile SEO and white hat SEO promotion methods.

It is highly recommended that you download and read this eBook. It is suitable for both SEO beginners and SEO Experts. Any SEO advice given by Google is worth reading and taken into account.

How to download

Click the link below. This will open the eBook in a new browser tab. Right-click anywhere in the document and select SAVE AS for downloading this Google SEO eBook as PDF.

Download eBook

4. 11 Growth Tactics for Your Ecommerce Business

eBook: eCommerce Growth Tactics
eBook: eCommerce Growth Tactics

Publisher: SEMRUSH | Pages: 133

What you’ll learn

In this eBook by SEMRUSH, you’ll learn what it takes to SEO optimize an eCommerce website. It covers technical SEO, AMP for eCommerce, image optimization, schema markup, and conversion optimization.

Data in this eBook is backed by research studies and statistics, which makes it a very good resource if you want to optimize and grow an eCommerce website.

How to download

Click the button below and enter your details in the form provided. You’ll gain instant access to view and download this eBook as PDF.

Download eBook

5. Complete SEO Starter Pack

eBook: Complete SEO Starter Pack
eBook: Complete SEO Starter Pack

Publisher: HubSpot | Pages: 78

What you’ll learn

In this eBook by HubSpot, you’ll learn what is SEO, how to do on-page SEO optimization and how to plan and implement a 30-Day SEO strategy.

When you register to download this SEO Kit, you get 2 PDFS: What is SEO and How to Increase SEO Traffic in 30 Days and an excel template for on-page SEO.

It is a comprehensive guide covering all aspects of SEO and it worth download and reading.

How to download

Click the button below to go to the download page. Enter your email and click the download button. You’ll get instant access to download this eBook on your device as a zip file. Extract the zip file and you’ll see 3 files (2 PDFS and an Excel Template).

Download eBook

6. How Search Engines Work

eBook: How Search Engines Work
eBook: How Search Engines Work

Publisher: Search Engine Journal | Pages: 148

What you’ll learn

Before optimizing your website for search engines, you need to know how do search engines work and this is what this eBook is all about.

It’s a very detailed guide covering all the work that search engines do once they find a new page on the web. Among other things, it includes how crawling and indexing works, how search engines render pages, search engine algorithms, SERPS and rich results.

This eBook is easy to read with nice graphics and illustrations.

How to download

Click the button below, enter your details and you’ll receive the PDF download link by email.

Download eBook

7. The Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization

eBook: Beginners Guide to SEO
eBook: Beginners Guide to SEO

Publisher: Web Savvy Marketing | Pages: 27

What you’ll learn

If you are looking for a quick introduction to SEO, then this is the eBook to download and read.

It explains what is SEO and how it works in a simple to understand language.

How to download

Click the link below to go to the eBook download page. Once you enter your details, you’ll get instant access to the eBook download link.

Download eBook

8. How to Write Content that Converts

eBook: How to Write Content that Converts
eBook: How to Write Content that Converts

Publisher: Blogging Wizard | Pages: 25

What you’ll learn

SEO is not just about getting organic traffic from search engines but it’s also about converting that traffic into regular readers and customers.

In this eBook, you’ll learn how to write blog posts that target the right audience, with the proper message and suitable voice. This eBook has 3 chapters and it’s very easy to read.

How to download

Click the button below to go to the VIP Blogging Resources. Click the ‘Yes, I want Access” button. Enter your email address and click the download button.

Once you confirm your email, you’ll get a link to access the VIP resources and download this eBook and other resources.

Download eBook

9. Link Building for SEO

eBook: Link Building for SEO
eBook: Link Building for SEO

Publisher: Backlinko | Pages: 90

What you’ll learn

Link building is a critical SEO process. Links in SEO are considered as ‘votes of trust’ and to rank high on Google, you need to have links pointing from other websites to yours.

One of the most known link building experts is Brian Dean and this 90 page eBook, you’ll learn the best methods to use to build links to your site.

How to download

Click on the link below to visit the online version of the article. To download as PDF click the ‘Yes, Give me the PDF’ button, enter your email address and you’ll get instant access to this SEO eBook.

Download eBook

10. 21 Signs of a Perfect Landing Page Design

eBook: Landing Page Design
eBook: Landing Page Design

Publisher: Template Monster | Pages: 29

What you’ll learn

In this free eBook, you’ll learn how to create high converting landing pages. As mentioned above, it’s not enough to be able to get traffic to your site from SEO but you also need to know how to convert that traffic.

Knowing how to design landing pages that convert is a must for modern SEOs.

How to download

Click the button below to go to the download page. Scroll down to the bottom of the page (in the download area) and enter your email address. You’ll then receive an email to confirm your address and once confirmed, you’ll get another email with the link to download the eBook.

Download eBook

11. 8 Key Steps to Blogging Mastery

eBook: Blogging Mastery
eBook: Blogging Mastery

Publisher: | Pages: 59

What you’ll learn

Jeff Bullas is a well-known marketer and online marketing influencer. In his eBook, you’ll learn how to create a memorable blog brand.

Branding is indirectly related to SEO. It’s much easier for brands to rank high with the proper SEO than unknown blogs or websites.

How to download

Click the button below to go to Jeff Bulla’s website.  Scroll down and look in the right sidebar for the “FREE EBOOK” banner. Enter your name and email and click the DOWNLOAD button. Once you confirm your email, you’ll get a link to download the PDF.

Download eBook

12. Copywriting 101 – How to Craft Compelling Copy

eBook: Copywriting 101
eBook: Copywriting 101

Publisher: Copyblogger | Pages: 32

What you’ll learn

As stated by copyblogger, “Copywriting is the art and science of strategically delivering words that get people to take some form of action.” Copywriting is an essential skill of every good search engine optimization specialist.

With Copywriting, you can optimize an article to achieve high rankings for the keywords that matter for your website or business.

How to download

Click the button below to go to the PDF download page. Enter your email and wait for the confirmation email. Once your email address is confirmed, you can download this SEO eBook.

Download eBook

13. Finding and Targeting Your Ideal Audience

eBook: Finding your ideal audience
eBook: Finding your ideal audience

Publisher: Optinmonster | Pages: 32

What you’ll learn

Optinmonster is one of the best tools you can use for lead generation and conversion optimization. It’s the tool we are using on this website for increasing our subscribers’ list, redirecting visitors to our SEO course sales pages and for many other functions.

Besides being a great tool, optinmonster offers a number of free eBooks to their users for educational purposes. One of them is this eBook that talks about creating buyer personas.

Knowing who your potential customers are, can help you adjust your SEO strategy to target them at the various stages of the sales funnel.

How to download

Download this eBook is simple. Just click the button below to visit the download page and click the “Download Guide” button. You’ll be prompted to save the PDF on your computer.

Download eBook

14. Google Search Quality Raters Guidelines

eBook: Google Search Quality Raters Guidelines
eBook: Google Search Quality Raters Guidelines

Publisher: Google | Pages: 167

What you’ll learn

Do you want to learn how Google evaluates websites? If the answer is Yes, then this is the eBook to download, read and keep to your library for future reference.

Google has a team of thousands of people called “Search Quality Raters”. These people are responsible to provide feedback to Google on how their search algorithms are performing.

Their job is to perform hundreds of search queries, visit the websites that appear in the top positions of the Google results and answer a detailed questionnaire.

The instructions and criteria to use for this task are explained in detail in this free eBook.

If you’re serious about SEO, you need to read this guide from start to finish. It will give you a very good idea of what Google is looking for when ranking websites.

It should be noted that the feedback provided by the search quality raters does not directly influence the ranking algorithms but it’s a way for Google to test if their changes are producing better or worse results for the users.

How to download

Click the button below to open the PDF in a new browser tab. Right-click anywhere in the document and select SAVE AS to save the eBook as PDF.

Download eBook

Are any free SEO eBooks missing from the above list? Let me know in the comments and I will update this post accordingly.

The post 14 Free SEO eBooks Available for Immediate Download (PDF) appeared first on

Facebook’s Panda Update

Posted by on Nov 4, 2019 in Greg's SEO Articles | Comments Off on Facebook’s Panda Update

So far this year publishers have lost 52% their Facebook distribution due to:

Instant Articles may have worked for an instant, but many publishers are likely where they were before they made the Faustian bargain, except they now have less control over their content distribution and advertising while having the higher cost structure of supporting another content format.

When Facebook announced their news feed update to fight off clickbait headlines, it sure sounded a lot like the equivalent of Google’s Panda update. Glenn Gabe is one of the sharpest guys in the SEO field who regularly publishes insightful content & doesn’t blindly shill for the various platform monopolies dominating the online publishing industry & he had the same view I did.

Further cementing the “this is Panda” view was an AdAge article quoting some Facebook-reliant publishers. Glad we have already shifted our ways. Nice to see them moving in the same direction we are. etc. … It felt like reading a Richard Rosenblatt quote in 2011 about Demand Media’s strong working relationship with Google or how right after Panda their aggregate traffic level was flat.

January 27, 2011

Peter Kafka: Do you think that Google post was directed at you in any way?

Richard Rosenblatt: It’s not directed at us in any way.

P K: they wrote this post, which talks about content farms, and even though you say they weren’t talking about you, it left a lot of people scratching their heads.

R R: Let’s just say that we know what they’re trying to do. … He’s talking about duplicate, non-original content. Every single piece of ours is original. … our relationship is synergistic, and it’s a great partnership.

May 9, 2011

Kara Swisher: What were you trying to communicate in the call, especially since investors seemed very focused on Panda?

R R: What I also wanted to show was that third-party data sources should not be relied on. We did get affected, for sure. But I was not just being optimistic, we wanted to use that to really understand what we can do better.

K S: Given Google’s shift in its algorithm, are you shifting your distribution, such as toward social and mobile?

R R: If you look at where trends are going, that’s where we are going to be.

K S: How are you changing the continued perception that Demand is a content farm?

R R: I don’t think anyone has defined what a content farm is and I am not sure what it means either. We obviously don’t think we are a content farm and I am not sure we can counter every impact if some people think we are.

A couple years later Richard Rosenblatt left the company.

Since the Google Panda update eHow has removed millions of articles from their site. As a company they remain unprofitable a half-decade later & keep seeing YoY media ad revenue declines in the 30% to 40% range.

Over-reliance on any platform allows that platform to kill you. And, in most cases, you are unlikely to be able to restore your former status until & unless you build influence via other traffic channels:

I think in general, media companies have lost sight of building relationships with their end users that will bring them in directly, as opposed to just posting links on social networks and hoping people will click. I think publishers that do that are shooting themselves in the foot. Media companies in general are way too focused on being where our readers are, as opposed to being so necessary to our readers that they will seek us out. – Jessica Lessin, founder of TheInformation

Recovering former status requires extra investment far above and beyond what led to the penalty. And if the core business model still has the same core problems there is no solution.

“I feel pretty confident about the algorithm on Suite 101.” – Matt Cutts

Some big news publishers are trying to leverage video equivalents of a Narrative Science or Automated Insights (from Wochit and Wibbitz) to embed thousands of autogenerated autoplay videos in their articles daily.

But is that a real long-term solution to turn the corner? Even if they see a short term pop in ad revenues by using some dumbed-down AI-enhanced low cost content, all that really does is teach people that they are a source of noise while increasing the number of web users who install ad blockers.

And the whole time penalized publishers try to recover the old position of glory, the platform monopolies are boosting their AI skills in the background while they eat the playing field.

The companies which run the primary ad networks can easily get around the ad blockers, but third party publishers can’t. As the monopoly platforms broadly defund ad-based publishing, they can put users “in control” while speaking about taking the principle-based approach:

“This isn’t motivated by inventory; it’s not an opportunity for Facebook from that perspective,” Mr. Bosworth said. “We’re doing it more for the principle of the thing. We want to help lead the discussion on this.” … Mr. Bosworth said Facebook hasn’t paid any ad-blocking software company to have its ads pass through their filters and that it doesn’t intend to.

Google recently worked out a deal with Wikimedia to actually cite the source of the content shown in the search results:

it hasn’t always been the easiest to see that the material came from Wikipedia while on mobile devices. At the Wikimedia Foundation, we’ve been working to change that.

While the various platforms ride the edge on what is considered reasonable disclosure, regulatory bodies crack down on individuals participating on those platforms unless they are far more transparent than the platforms are:

Users need to be clear when they’re getting paid to promote something, and hashtags like #ad, #sp, #sponsored –common forms of identification– are not always enough.

The whole “eating the playing field” is a trend which is vastly under-reported, largely because almost everyone engaged in the ecosystem needs to sell they have some growth strategy.

The reality is as the platform gets eaten it only gets harder to build a sustainable business. The mobile search interface is literally nothing but ads in most key categories. More ads. Larger ads. Nothing but ads.

And a bit of scrape after the ads to ensure the second or third screen still shows zero organic results.

And more scraping, across more categories.

What’s more, even large scaled companies in big money fields are struggling to monetize mobile users. On the most recent quarterly conference call TripAdvisor executives stated they monetize mobile users at about 30% the rate they monetize desktop or tablet users.

What happens when the big brand advertisers stop believing in the narrative of the value of precise user tracking?

We may soon find out:

P&G two years ago tried targeting ads for its Febreze air freshener at pet owners and households with large families. The brand found that sales stagnated during the effort, but rose when the campaign on Facebook and elsewhere was expanded last March to include anyone over 18.

P&G’s push to find broader reach with its advertising is also evident in the company’s recent increases in television spending. Toward the end of last year P&G began moving more money back into television, according to people familiar with the matter.

For mobile to work well you need to be a destination & a habit. But there is tiny screen space and navigational searches are also re-routed through Google hosted content (which will, of course, get monetized).

In fact, what would happen to an advertiser if they partnered with other advertisers to prevent brand bidding? Why that advertiser would get sued by the FTC for limiting user choice:

The bidding agreements harm consumers, according to the complaint, by restraining competition for, and distorting the prices of, advertising in relevant online auctions, by reducing the number of relevant, useful, truthful and non-misleading advertisements, by restraining competition among online sellers of contact lenses, and in some cases, by resulting in consumers paying higher retail prices for contact lenses.

If the above restraint of competition & market distortion is worth suing over, how exactly can Google make the mobile interface AMP exclusive without earning a similar lawsuit?

AMP content presented in the both sections will be “de-duplicated” in order to avoid redundancies, Google says. The move is significant in that AMP results will now take up an entire phone screen, based on the example Google shows in its pitch deck.

Are many publishers in a rush to support Google AMP after the bait-n-switch on Facebook Instant Articles?



Local SEO Mistakes and How To Fix Them #SEMrushchat Recap

Posted by on Oct 31, 2019 in Greg's SEO Articles | Comments Off on Local SEO Mistakes and How To Fix Them #SEMrushchat Recap

82% of smartphone users are turning to search engines to identify local businesses, and this is just one reason why it is essential for businesses to nail their local SEO strategy to improve foot traffic that will eventually lead to sales. This post by Paul Paquin offers quick hacks to win at local SEO, but if your site still doesn’t rank, then you may be making mistakes that need to be corrected.

To get expert insights on this topic we invited a special guest, Greg Gifford, to join us in our latest #SEMrushchat. Greg is a pro at local SEO and has assisted more than 2,000 businesses across the US and Canada to improve their sales. Greg, along with our chat participants, shared some great insights with our community on the usual mistakes with local SEO and how to rectify them. Here is what they had to say:

Q1. What is the biggest mistake you see all the time with local SEO?

With local SEO, it is not just enough to do it – it is important that you do it right! For instance, having reviews about your company on Google gives you a huge local SEO boost, but, if your reviews are fake, this mistake can cost you when you get caught.



Q1. What is the biggest mistake that you see all the time in Local SEO?

View image on Twitter

Kim Doughturkey 🦃@Howdy_Doughty

A1. Clients who make fake reviews for their own business. 😐

See Kim Doughturkey 🦃‘s other Tweets

Our chat participants also discussed certain mistakes that, according to them, are absolutely unacceptable. Check to see if your business is guilty of any of them:

Content Related Issues

The content you put on your website for local SEO can sabotage your rankings or reduce your store visits if it has these three major flaws:

1. Content that isn’t geo-specific – Nearly 2/3 of smartphone users are more likely to buy from stores that customize information to their location. So, ensuring that your content is geo-specific is extremely important.

2. Location keyword stuffing – Inserting a city or pin code in the header or footer is easily picked up by Google’s algorithm. It is now more likely to get you a penalty than a boost in ranking. It is also important to remember that the location-specific keywords you target should not include areas you don’t serve.

Tim Capper@GuideTwit

A1. Targeting cities that you literally dont and cant serve.

See Tim Capper’s other Tweets

3. Poor quality or unhelpful content – 7 out of 10 customers visit a business or make a purchase based on the information that they find online. If they do not find your content helpful, they probably won’t buy from you either.

Greg Gifford


Q1. For me, it’s seeing location-keyword stuffed content. And crap content. Never REALLY good useful/relevant localized content

See Greg Gifford’s other Tweets

Inconsistent NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number)

Having your contact details searchable in the SERPs is essential, as most of us know. For local businesses, however, it is even more important to have the same contact information across all directories and platforms. Citations are considered to be one of the most important signals to Google; it shows that your business is authentic and that you are providing accurate information to your users. Inconsistent listings confuse users and search engines, and therefore, trust is lost.

Simon Cox@simoncox

A1 Inconsistent NAP – Name Address Phone number across all media.

See Simon Cox’s other Tweets

Heather Harvey@Fizzle_Up

A1: I think a lot of people will agree on inconsistent information (including NAP etc.) across different platforms/ listings. And does anyone ever have the logins to be able to access & update the stuff – NO!!

See Heather Harvey’s other Tweets

Not Using Your Location in Keywords at All

As stated earlier, you shouldn’t be keyword stuffing with cities all around you, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use your location in your keywords. Customers are more likely to visit stores near them than those that are farther off. So, just including your location on your website may not be enough. Instead, optimize for keywords like ‘Florists in Trevose’ rather than just ‘Florists.’

David Gossage@dgossage1983

A1. Having a generic 500 word block of text about the location with the odd smattering of the word “plumber” 



Q1. What is the biggest mistake that you see all the time in Local SEO? #semrushchat

View image on Twitter
See David Gossage’s other Tweets

Not Claiming Google My Business (GMB)

“While most local SEO pros think claiming a GMB listing is an important step in their SEO strategy, a surprising 56% of local retailers have yet to claim their Google my business listing, according to Brandmuscle’s State of Local Marketing report. This is a serious oversight in the local SEO efforts.

Not Using Structured Data Effectively

Using schema markup communicates to the search engines where your office is located, which then allows the SERPs to serve the most relevant content to your users. This is especially important for multi-location businesses with a single website, since results will be based on structured data, as opposed to websites.

Bill Slawski ⚓@bill_slawski

A1 Biggest Mistake seen in is not using Structured Data effectively or correctly

See Bill Slawski ⚓‘s other Tweets

Danny Ray Lima@dannyraylima

A1: The biggest mistake is not using schema markup for location citations and entities

See Danny Ray Lima’s other Tweets

Not Tracking Attribution and Not Optimizing

Taking advantage of ways to track attribution to find out where your customers come from, and why, will help you to optimize your site’s content. This will also give you great insights on your customer’s search behavior, thus helping you to identify top performing channels.


A1: Not taking advantage of ways to track attribution–it’s just as important for local businesses and the agencies who serve them as it is for the big guys. Figure out where your leads are coming from + optimize those channels.

See CallRail’s other Tweets

@greggifford said that DealerOn has started using Google Posts for car dealers and has gotten a ton of visibility and click-throughs to their sites, but only if they are done right, like this example that he shared:

Bill Slawski ⚓@bill_slawski

A2 Specials or Events seem like ways to capture people’s attention with Google Posts

See Bill Slawski ⚓‘s other Tweets

Kim Doughturkey 🦃@Howdy_Doughty

A2. We aren’t using Google Posts currently, but in my previous job I dabbled with it. Specials and events were the most successful use cases, like others have mentioned.

See Kim Doughturkey 🦃‘s other Tweets

Similarly, in the hospitality industry and co-working spaces, Google Posts can be used to promote different offices, tours, and events for greater visibility.

Marccx Media@marccxmedia

A2: We’ve helped a hospitality/co-working client use Google Posts to promote their offices, tours, and events. Another hospitality client uses them for their restaurants (food, events, etc.). Great visibility, but middling interaction.

See Marccx Media’s other Tweets

@Ashok83 stated, remember to keep your posts short and to the point.

Q3. Q&A is a minefield that most businesses don’t even know about – what should business owners and marketers know about Q&A and how to use it?

The minute you have a GMB listing, your business automatically has a Q&A section that displays on Google Maps. This feature allows anyone to ask and respond to questions in regards to your business. Unfortunately, not many businesses are aware of this feature and even fewer bother to check it regularly.

Greg Gifford


A3 – OMG, Y’ALL – it’s SO BAD out there… business owners should be checking Q&A daily (but really, shouldn’t they be checking their listing daily anyway?)

See Greg Gifford’s other Tweets

Simon Cox@simoncox

A3 Own Q and A – make checking it someones responsibility and don’t skimp – it is a front line interaction with customers. Can damage brand if you are not careful. Anyone remember Exxon – I’m sure it was Q and A that did for them. Probably

See Simon Cox’s other Tweets

Here are few reasons why you shouldn’t ignore Q&A and how it can be used to help your business:

It Can Help to Build Your Brand Reputation Online

Q&A is a great opportunity to build and maintain your business’s brand reputation. Make sure you check your listings every day and respond to questions quickly and politely.

Express Writers | Your Content Writing Team@ExpWriters

A3: It’s worth checking regularly. You don’t want questions from people going unanswered.

Respond swiftly and politely!

See Express Writers | Your Content Writing Team’s other Tweets

How you respond to these questions can help many future customers make their buying decision. Since the questions are ranked from most recent to older, time is of the essence when you respond.

Danny Ray Lima@dannyraylima

A3: Businesses need to treat Q&As like reviews, these can play a major influence in a perspective client’s decision process. Since Questions are ranked from most to least recent, always try to answer the most recent questions in a timely manner.

See Danny Ray Lima’s other Tweets

Heather Harvey@Fizzle_Up

A3: Remember to read & respond accordingly! Put some thought into it as potential clients read this stuff. It’s more valuable than a lot of people realise.

See Heather Harvey’s other Tweets

It Can Help You Control the Conversation

Remember, anyone can post questions on the Q&A section, including you as a business owner. So, if you understand your target audience well, you can control the conversation by posting questions that you think are relevant.

Greg Gifford


A3 – also, business owners need to know that they can ask their own questions, then answer them – people are reading this BEFORE they get to the site… control the conversation!

See Greg Gifford’s other Tweets

It Can Help You Discover New Content Opportunities

The kind of questions asked can highlight new opportunities for you to write specific content based on the answers to these specific queries. Jim Fuhs – @FuhsionMktg also mentioned that businesses using chatbots can also incorporate these questions for FAQs.

Greg Gifford


A3 we’ve also had a lot of success using the questions asked in Q&A to figure out what sort of content needs to be added to the website (HUGE opportunity here)

See Greg Gifford’s other Tweets

 You Can Use It As An Engagement Channel

By simply making your customers aware of the Q&A section and encouraging them to post questions there, you have a new place to interact and engage with your customers. If you have a set strategy in place for certain questions, you can easily improve the quality of questions and the engagement.

Joshua Delbert Hermreck@thisisdelbert

A3: Make your clients aware of the Q&A section. Discuss strategy for certain question types (silos) and respond as the owner when relevant! If you know a Local Guide those answers might be useful too 😉

See Joshua Delbert Hermreck’s other Tweets



Q3. Q&A is a minefield that most businesses don’t even know about – what should business owners and marketers know about Q&A and how to use it?

View image on Twitter

Carolyn Lyden@CarolynLyden

A3: Make sure to check it regularly. Answer all questions POSITIVELY and honestly and transparently (don’t go in and pretend to be someone you’re not). And just accept that ppl will probably use it to leave reviews bc ppl are … human.

Embedded video

See Carolyn Lyden’s other Tweets

They Can Help You Identify Misplaced User-Reviews

If you don’t make checking your Q&A section regularly a thing, you can run the risk of missing out on reviews that a less-than-savvy user has posted.

Greg Gifford


A3. The worst part is when less-than-savvy users leave reviews in the Q&A section and dealers have no idea they’re there…

See Greg Gifford’s other Tweets

Simon Cox@simoncox

A4 Setting expectations to clients, especially if they have tried to some of this themselves, is possibly the hardest part of Local SEO. Diplomacy is the key word. But give them other solutions they can work with.

See Simon Cox’s other Tweets

Heather Harvey@Fizzle_Up

A4: I had to do this in a meeting earlier today. It’s not easy but you have to break it down into a context the client will understand e.g. they wouldn’t be put in the phone book for the metro area so why would they show up in that area listing online?

See Heather Harvey’s other Tweets

And, they have had to explain that, due to Google updates, many hacks that have worked in the past simply will not anymore:

Greg Gifford


A4 – this is a really tough one. You have to really be good at explaining that Google has made updates, and what you could do 3 years ago won’t work anymore.

Embedded video

See Greg Gifford’s other Tweets

Danny Ray Lima@dannyraylima

A4: This is tough, but I always felt the need to educate clients on new updates. You can tackle this issue in a few ways; blog posts, client newsletter, or a simple Local SEO packet your agency develops to give out to new and prospective clients.

See Danny Ray Lima’s other Tweets

However, the popular consensus was that it was easier to explain using an example, similar to this one from James Scroggie – @seoscroggie:

James Scroggie@seoscroggie

A4/1: I would try and make it simple for them. If you were ordering lunch, and the sandwich shop would only deliver within a 2 mile radius, why would you want to see sandwich shops over 5 miles away?

See James Scroggie’s other Tweets

Greg Gifford


A4 – we use the “pizza delivery” example to help here – have people Google those 2 words at work, and then explain that the EXACT same search at home brings up 100% different results. Easy way to demonstrate proximity factor

See Greg Gifford’s other Tweets

Geeky Fox@TechKitsune

A4: Yeesh, well, I liked @GregGifford answer about pizza. I think that is a great example of a way to let a client know about mapping in Google as simplistically as possible.

See Geeky Fox’s other Tweets

Another tip was to have your clients try out the service results for GMB in a particular area. This can help them to understand that distance is an important factor when it comes to purchase decisions or store visits. Therefore, targeting people who are more likely to buy from them (or use their services), due to proximity, will eventually work better for the business.

Bill Slawski ⚓@bill_slawski

A4 Explain how distance is an important aspect of ranking in Local Results, and that the most success will come from targeting people who might visit them in person (those suburbs are filled with people!)

See Bill Slawski ⚓‘s other Tweets

Netvantage Marketing@netvantage

A4: That’s tough! We always recommend using service areas for GMB if they are in the suburbs. Doing that sometimes helps them understand.

See Netvantage Marketing’s other Tweets

Greg Gifford


A4 – we also point out that it’s important to “own your own back yard” first – many times, the businesses asking for this don’t even show up well in their own town. They have to get the foundation right first.

See Greg Gifford’s other Tweets



Q4. Clients in the suburbs think they should show up in the map pack for the metro, but marketers know it’s not possible – how do you educate your clients so they don’t have misaligned expectations?

View image on Twitter

Carolyn Lyden@CarolynLyden

A4: Try to explain service areas and zip codes. If you wanna show up for the city, move to the city. People (aka leads) live in suburbs too. So don’t forget those potential leads and customers just bc it looks like there’s more grass on the other side of the fence.

Embedded video

See Carolyn Lyden’s other Tweets

Marccx Media@marccxmedia

A4: “You’re outside of the search radius in question. We can get you to rank in the map pack locally in the suburbs, though, and increase awareness of your suburban location within the metro area.”

See Marccx Media’s other Tweets

important to highlight in monthly reports, others argued that more important metrics should be reported. Others stated that their report will completely depend upon their client’s requirements and/or their business objectives.

Here are some examples of what you could include in your monthly reports:

  • A list of localized rankings for specific target keywords, including rankings for the keyword/location and a month over month change in the ranking.

Netvantage Marketing@netvantage

A5: Absolutely! We use the tool @UnamoHQ to track keywords rankings and GMB listings. We show how the keyword changed in ranking from month-to-month in a report.

See Netvantage Marketing’s other Tweets



Q5. in Local SEO, keyword rankings are drastically impacted by location and proximity – do you include ranking data in your monthly reports, and if so, how do you do it?

View image on Twitter

Sam Charles 🌱🔎@SamCharlesUK

A5 My *lovely* ranking software exports the list of terms we’re targeting, where they appear in search and where they rank locally in brackets i.e. 5 (3). I provide a mini local report too with more details, if it’s a high priority for them

See Sam Charles 🌱🔎‘s other Tweets
  • Landing pages, top traffic sources, and entry sources.

Danny Ray Lima@dannyraylima

A5: No, you shouldn’t make keyword ranking a priority in Local SEO, focus on top traffic sources, top landing pages and entry pages. You can use a search term report to build out a content bucket list, but keyword ranking should not be a priority IMO

See Danny Ray Lima’s other Tweets
  • CPL (Cost Per Lead) from paid channels and the number of incoming calls from GMB metrics can make great supporting numbers to show the impact of your Local SEO efforts.
  • Identify new keyword opportunities in the Google Search Console and track it back to GMB posts.

    Danny Ray Lima@dannyraylima

    A5: No, you shouldn’t make keyword ranking a priority in Local SEO, focus on top traffic sources, top landing pages and entry pages. You can use a search term report to build out a content bucket list, but keyword ranking should not be a priority IMO

    See Danny Ray Lima’s other Tweets

Keep in mind, despite what your reports show, when it comes to local businesses, foot traffic and final sales are ultimately what matters the most.

Simon Cox@simoncox

A5 Yes but footfall in the shops and till takings is ultimately what counts and I have received great feedback about both when we have optimised for local.

See Simon Cox’s other Tweets

Greg Gifford


a5 – plus, think about why clients pay us…

They don’t pay us to get them to rank better.

They pay us to get them more traffic and more leads.

Ranking reports don’t show anything about that objective…

16 people are talking about this

This is why many of our chat participants prefer to leave local SEO keywords out of their reports. However, here are some pointers to keep in mind for keyword ranking, if you do choose to report on it:

  • Ranking #1 or #8 does not matter as long as you are getting relevant traffic to your site and people into your store.

    James Leisy@theJimmyB0b

    A5: I’ve never liked including ranking data for clients. It doesn’t matter if you’re ranking #1 or #8, as long as you’re getting relevant traffic that is converting on your site. Especially for local since proximity is such a huge factor.

    See James Leisy’s other Tweets

    Ranking may not always correspond with organic traffic or leads. In fact, you can get great results with local SEO and increase your site traffic, even if a target keyword has dropped in rank.

    Greg Gifford


    a5 – plus, you can have a ridiculously awesome report… 50% increase in organic traffic, 100% increase in organic leads… but the client will freak out if they see a keyword dropped 5 positions

    See Greg Gifford’s other Tweets
  • Ranking varies from device to device, even in the same location. So, the ranking report may not actually paint an accurate picture.

    Greg Gifford


    a5 – someone mentioned earlier that a computer and a phone in the same room often shows different SERPs – so a client-facing ranking report doesn’t really paint a true picture

    See Greg Gifford’s other Tweets

    Greg Gifford


    a5 – rank tracking just doesn’t work accurately in Local.

    We monitor it internally, but sharing it on a report doesn’t really mean anything

    See Greg Gifford’s other Tweets

So, if your client wants you to show keyword rankings in your reports, go ahead and include it in your report. But, you can explain to them that, in the long run, building more local authority and optimizing your business listings are a better use of your time.



Q5. in Local SEO, keyword rankings are drastically impacted by location and proximity – do you include ranking data in your monthly reports, and if so, how do you do it?

View image on Twitter

Sean Bucher@spbucher

A5: It depends on the client and their objectives. I think showing results of opitmzing a listing and building authority over time warrant more attention. GMB’s API allows for 16 month lookback on location data, so you can show growth YoY in calls, clicks, etc.

See Sean Bucher’s other Tweets

Getting listed: how to generate more traffic and mentions

Posted by on Oct 28, 2019 in Greg's SEO Articles | Comments Off on Getting listed: how to generate more traffic and mentions

Directory submission is a tactic that has evolved dramatically since it first became known. Firstly, it is no longer referred to as a directory submission, simply because the term has received some negativity over the years.

Secondly, the goals have changed: we no longer focus on link acquisition. When you come to think of it, the whole link-building strategy has undergone the same evolution: it has become more integrated, meaning that we now pursue non-link-building tactics while still hoping to get some links anyway.

Some of the non-link-building benefits of getting listed that may still result in links include:

  • Proactive reputation management (i.e. making sure your business name is mentioned a lot across the web)
  • Discoverability (i.e. making sure your business is there when people use the directory search to find what they need). This comes with traffic and leads, which is always nice.

Getting listed: the opportunities

If you think directories are dead, think again: there are plenty of new and old directories out there that can send you traffic and leads. Here are just a few categories to look into.

SaaS and B2B directories

Business directories

These come in several types and forms. Some are more traditional (free but with the option of charging you once for premium review):

While others charge you a monthly/yearly fee:

Local directories

These deserve a separate article (which you can find here). Apart from the ability to send local traffic (from people trying to discover a local service), they are also quite useful for so-called local citation building – in other words, they help search engines associate you with important locations.

Getting listed: the smart way

There are many more useful directories out there that can still drive sales, but choose wisely; in many cases, it’s an investment of some sort. In addition, it’s paramount to stay away from penalized directories. Here are a few tools I use to evaluate whether any directory or platform is worth the investment:

Find whether the platform ranks in Google

Does Google think a directory is good enough to rank it high in search results? Search positions are the most reliable sign of a site’s health.

There are not many sites that will let you see the stats for free, and Serpstat is one of the most affordable.

Simply run the domain in Serpstat to quickly see where it ranks and how its rankings are distributed among different search engines. There are also tools to analyze whether the domain is ever featured in Google, which is an important signal of health too. Here is the list of tools you can use.

Find whether the platform has any traffic

Since creating an alternative traffic source is one of the main goals here, this is vital. There aren’t many reliable ways to evaluate a website’s traffic unless you own it, but these are decent:

  • its major data source is their own toolbar, which may mean it’s somewhat limited. Yet, it is the oldest player in the field, and therefore quite trustworthy
  • read more about their data sources here: “global ISP data, and thousands of add-ons, extensions, apps and plugins, plus a team of web crawlers that scan thousands of websites”.

Check whether your subcategory is linked to from elsewhere

I wouldn’t be an SEO if I paid no attention to backlinks, but in my defense, links are not just a sign of SEO ‘authority’ – they signal quality too; if someone links to it, it must be a good page.

I use Ahrefs bulk backlink analysis feature to quickly run a lot of pages and section to choose the best ones.

[NB: I only mention directories that have proven worth the investment based on their rankings and traffic.]

Have you listed your website in some directories and seen some solid traffic and leads? Share your tips and resources in the comments.



Google's Robots.txt Parser is Misbehaving

Posted by on Oct 26, 2019 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Google's Robots.txt Parser is Misbehaving

The newly-released open source robots.txt parser is not, as Google claims, the same as the production Googlebot parsing code. In addition, we have found cases where each of the official resources disagrees with the others. As a result, there is currently no way of knowing how the real Googlebot treats robots.txt instructions. Read on for example robots.txt files that are treated differently by Googlebot and by the open source parser.

Googlers: if you’re reading this, please help us clarify for the industry how Googlebot really interprets robots.txt.

Google recently released an open source robots.txt parser that they claimed is “production code”. This was very much needed because, as they said in the announcement blog post, “for 25 years, the Robots Exclusion Protocol (REP) was only a de-facto standard”.

Before they released it, we might have thought that the substantial documentation from Google and the online checking tool from Google amounted to a reasonable ability to know how Googlebot would treat robots.txt directives in the wild.

Since the release of the open source parser, we have found that there are situations where each of the three sources (documentation, online checker, open source parser) behave differently to the others (see below for more on each of these situations):

Table of misbehaving robots.txt parser

This might all be just about OK if, as claimed, the open source parser is the authoritative answer now. I guess we could rely on the community to build correct documentation from the authoritative source, and build tools from the open source code. The online checker is part of the old Google Search Console, is clearly not being actively maintained, and documentation can be wrong, or fall out of date. But to change the rules without an announcement in an area of extreme importance is dangerous for Google, in my opinion. 

The existence of robots exclusion protocols is central to their ability to cache the entire public web without copyright concerns. In most situations, this kind of mass copying would require opt-in permission – it’s only the public interest in the existence of web search engines that allows them to work on an assumption of default permission with an opt-out. That opt-out is crucial, however, and Google is in very dangerous territory if they are not respecting robots.txt directives.

It gets worse though. The open source parser is not the same as the production Googlebot robots.txt parsing code. Specifically, in the third case above, where the open source parser disagrees with the documentation and with the online checker, real Googlebot behaves as we would previously have expected (in other words, it agrees with the documentation and online checker, and disagrees with the open source parser). You can read more below about the specifics.

The open source parser is missing Google-specific features

Even if you don’t know C++ (as I don’t), you can see from the comments on the code that there are a range of places where the open source parser contains Google-specific features or differences from the specification they are trying to create (the line linked above – line 330 of – is one of a number of changes to make Googlebot more forgiving, in this case to work even if the colon is missed from a “User-agent:” statement).

Given these enhancements, it’s reasonable to believe that Google has, in fact, open-sourced their production parsing code rather than a sanitised specification-compliant version that they extend for their own purposes. In addition, they have said officially that they have retired a number of enhancements that are not supported by the draft specification.

Take the code, their official announcements, and additional statements such as Gary Illyes confirming at Pubcon that it’s production code, and we might think it reasonable to believe Google on this occasion:

That would be a mistake.

If you use the open source tool to build tests for your robots.txt file, you could easily find yourself getting incorrect results. The biggest problem we have found so far is the way that it treats googlebot-image and googlebot-news directives (and rules targeting other sub-googlebots as well as other non-googlebot bots from Google like Adsbot) differently to the way the real Googlebot does.

Worked example with googlebot-image

In the absence of directives specifically targeting googlebot-image, the image bot is supposed to follow regular Googlebot directives. This is what the documentation says. It’s how the old online checker works. And it’s what happens in the wild. But it’s not how the open source parser behaves:

googlebot-image misbehaving

Unfortunately, we can’t fall back on either the documentation or the old online checker as they both have errors too:

The online checker has errors

googlebot/1.2 is equivalent to googlebot user-agent

Now, it’s quite hard to work out exactly what this part of the documentation means (reviewing the specification and parser, it seems that it means that only letters, underscores, and hyphens are allowed in user-agents in robots.txt directives, and anything that comes after a disallowed character is ignored).

But, it is easy to understand the example – that googlebot/1.2 should be treated as equivalent to googlebot.

That’s what the documentation says. It’s also how it’s treated by the new open source parser (and, I believe, how the real Googlebot works). But it’s not how the online robots.txt checker works:

Google Search Console robots.txt checker is wrong

The documentation differs from reality too

Unfortunately, we can’t even try to build our own parser after reading the documentation carefully because there are places where it differs from the online checker and the new open source parser (and, I believe, production Googlebot).

For example:

user agent matches the first most specific rule

There are some examples in the documentation to make it clear that the “most-specific” part refers to the fact that if your robots.txt file disallows /foo, but explicitly allows /foo/bar, then /foo/bar (and anything contained in that, such as /foo/bar/baz) will be allowed.

But note the “first” in there. This means, to my understanding, that if we allow and disallow the exact same path, then the first directive should be the one that is obeyed:

Search Console is correct in this instance

But it turns out the order doesn’t matter:

Search Console doesn't match the documentation

In summary, we have no way of knowing what real Googlebot will do in every situation

All the sources disagree

And we know that real Googlebot can’t agree with all of them (and have tested one of these areas in the wild):

And actual Googlebot behaves differently to all of them

What should happen now?

Well, we (and you) need to do some more testing to figure out how Googlebot behaves in the real world. But the biggest change I’m hoping for is some change and clarity from Google. So if you’re reading this, googlers:

  1. Please give us the real story on the differences between the newly-open-sourced parser and production Googlebot code
  2. Given the proven differences between the old Search Console online checker and real Googlebot behaviour, please remove confusion by deprecating the old checker and building a compliant new one into the new Search Console

Top time-saving tools for SEOs

Posted by on Oct 24, 2019 in Greg's SEO Articles | Comments Off on Top time-saving tools for SEOs

I recently moved to a new position at a new company, with a new computer and a new, clean install of Google Chrome. It wasn’t clean for very long, though, as I logged into my Chrome account and watched my address bar shrink as all of my extension icons flooded the right-hand side of the window. I was determined to use this as an opportunity to pare down the extensions that I had accumulated over the years.

I didn’t do a great job cutting back. As an SEO, I lean heavily on these time-saving tools. So in the spirit of new beginnings and sharing knowledge, here’s a selection of my favorite Chrome SEO extensions (with a few apps sprinkled in).

The basics

These are the simple extensions I can’t live without, and often use outside of SEO work.

Word count tool

SEO is content (well, in part), and an important piece of content is length. One of those extensions that I didn’t know I needed until I had it, this basic word count tool makes roughly assessing a page’s content length a cinch. I generally use this in discussion about competitor pages or to quickly assert whether my client’s copywriters are hitting the length benchmarks they need.

Site lookup

If I can avoid opening a new tab to search, I will. That’s why so many of these extensions allow me to do things in-page. The ‘Search the current site’ plugin is a tiny tool that essentially auto-completes the ‘site:’ operator in a Google search for you.


I’ve been using Hunter (formerly Email Hunter) for years now and not just for link building (though it’s been essential for that). It’s also great for following up with potential clients or employers when you haven’t been given an email address.


Hunter gets it right a lot of the time, but MailTester can help you ensure the address is correct before you hit send. It’s got its limitations – many servers will block the request – but on the whole it’s a good insurance policy.

Link Klipper

There are a number of ways to pull the links from a page, whether it’s a SERP, a directory, or a partner page. Link Klipper’s handy click-and-drag function can help fill in the gaps by selecting a subset of links, or pulling them from tricky-to-isolate groups like dropdown menus.

Redirect path

How did I get here? Ayima’s simple Redirect Path tool lets you see how your browser arrived at a given page. This tool is particularly useful for isolating complicated or broken redirect paths and ensuring link equity is passing properly.


Depending on the type of SEO you are, you may use one or all of these extensions, or have 15 others that offer similar functionality. Here’s what’s in my rotation right now.


Every proprietary metric should be taken with a grain of salt, but Moz’s MozBar is still great for quickly assessing a site’s relative quality through its ‘Domain Authority (DA) mode that displays DA in the tool icon without crowding the page with other details (though you can still display those metrics by clicking on the icon).

Tip: As a bonus, MozBar allows you to quickly extract results when you’re on a SERP. It’ll only pull the displayed results so change your settings if you need more than 10 sites.


NoFollow is a simple plugin that highlights nofollow links on the page you’re viewing. You can also set it to check the robots.txt file against the links to indicate any disallowed pathways.

Web Developer

A powerful plugin with a robust suite of tools, Web Developer allows you to quickly disable JavaScript, cookies, CSS, as well as displaying web page info, styling tools, and more. Chances are if you want to modify, block, or load it, Web Developer can help.

BuiltWith Technology Profiler

See at a glance what’s going on in the background with this plugin from BuiltWith. With just a click, you’ll be able to identify tracking, frameworks, content delivery, and a lot more. Used in conjunction with Web Developer, you’ll be able to troubleshoot issues across myriad systems, all in-browser.

Ayima Page Insights

On-page issues plaguing you? Not sure why a particular page is underperforming? Ayima’s Page Insights extension can help you quickly identify issues like multiple H1 tags, alt attributes, and header problems. It can also display HTML elements like title and meta description without having to hunt through the source code.

Bonus: Chrome DevTools

One reason that Chrome is the first thing I install on a new computer is its powerful developer tools that let me dig into the guts of a web page. DevTools may not be easy to learn or master, but learning the ins and outs like how to view a page as various mobile devices, or manipulate HTML to mock up recommendations can make life a lot easier for an SEO.

Non-specific to SEO (but still helpful)


As someone who is simultaneously forgetful and terrified of identity theft, I’ve become a LastPass evangelist over the past few years. Store all your passwords in one place, share them temporarily, and generate complex passwords that you don’t have to write down anywhere else. I’m slowly working my way towards only having to remember one password ever.

Google Dictionary

Double-click on a word to bring up its definition in pop-up bubble with a link to read more. Google Dictionary is very helpful when reading technical SEO documents (or Heidegger).

Super Simple Highlighter

I’ve recently been searching for better ways of keeping track of interesting points within articles. Super Simple Highlighter lets you highlight passages on page and store the URL for later perusing.

Nimbus Capture

Windows’ built-in snipping tool is extremely handy, but for more complex capture, you’ll have to use something more robust. Nimbus lets you capture all or part of your screen, a whole web page, select and scroll, and plenty more. You can also record a video – super helpful for demonstrating all of your other thousands of extensions.

For the writing of this article, I solicited recommendations from the SEO team at Croud, and as such am currently experimenting with even more extensions like Keywords Everywhere. Watch this space!

Adam Clemence is Senior SEO Manager at Croud