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SEO 101: 11 tips you need to know when you optimize your site

Posted by on Aug 8, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on SEO 101: 11 tips you need to know when you optimize your site

SEO 101: 11 tips you need to know when you optimize your site

SEO can boost the traffic to your site by paying closer attention to what your visitors want from you. It can help you create the content that your readers will enjoy while optimizing your pages to be as useful as possible.

The first steps towards search engine optimization can be scary, but you can start implementing small changes to improve your rankings in search results.

After all, SEO success doesn’t happen overnight, so it’s better to start with the small changes that will gradually lead to greater success.

Defining SEO success can be subjective, but in general, we want to:

Be more relevant for our target audience
Increase the search traffic coming to our site
Build awareness from search results
Use the opportunity to improve the site’s user experience
Find new business prospects by beating competitors in search results.

11 tips to keep in mind when you start optimizing your site
Focus on your content

A good start to search engine optimization is to pay attention to your content. Keywords can help you become more specific to your search objectives, but you still need to create quality content.

Your content should make sense to your readers first, rather than the search engines. It used to be a common suggestion to add all your keywords throughout your copy but this risked the chance of alienating your audience. The modern approach to SEO requires you pay attention to the quality of your content to stand out with your copy.

Understand your keywords (but search like a human being)

You need to perform a keyword research to find the best keywords that will bring you success. The next step is to include them in your copy in the most natural way. It’s important to understand that your keywords are your search terms that people will search for your site. They need to make sense and they shouldn’t be too general.

Think the way you’d perform a search. Would you search for ‘search engine optimization tips’ or ‘best tips for SEO beginners’? The more specific you get, the higher the chances to find your niche audience.

Think like a user

Once you start searching like a user, the next step is to also think like a user when you’re improving your site. You don’t have to be an SEO expert to make small tweaks to your site’s performance.

For example, how fast is your load page? If your site is too slow then this will also affect your search rankings. Moreover, if your site is not optimized for all devices, then Google probably won’t place you high in the search results.

User experience becomes more important than ever and you need to consider all the changes that will make your site easier for your visitors. Seek suggestions from people who visit your site for the first time. The feedback can be valuable.

The art of the headline

Your headlines should be short but descriptive. It’s suggested you create headlines of 50-60 characters. This is the limit of what search engines access so even if you create longer headlines, the rest won’t be tracked.

Use the headline to describe your content and the page that the visitor will access. Make it appealing, but not misleading. Feel free to be creative, provided that you still stay loyal to the context.

Add internal links

Internal links help you highlight the value of your content. It’s a good way to increase your traffic while boosting your SEO, one page at a time. Every link should have a different focus keyword to avoid cannibalizing your own content.

Add external links

External links can also bring value to your site provided that you use them in moderation. You don’t want to lose your readers by leading them to a page that serves as your competitor. Make sure you’re only linking to pages of high authority to increase the process of building trust while adding further value to your content. Treat link building as a strategy and avoid the temptation of over-stuffing your content with external links.

Involve social media for authority building

It’s common to ask whether social media affects your SEO strategy. Although there is no direct correlation between the two, it is still useful to build your social presence while improving your search rankings.

The more visible you are, the higher the chances of building your credibility by reaching a wider audience. After all, tweets can show up in search rankings and social success can still lead to multiple benefits.

Create fresh content but don’t forget your older content

Fresh content can serve as a ‘signal’ that you’re regularly updating your site. Whether it’s a blog post or any tweaks to keep your messaging new, it’s good to add new content from time to time.

Except for new content, it’s also useful to revise your existing copy. Your older blog posts can end up having bigger value than your latest ones. SEO takes time to work, which means that the older your post, the higher it can land in rankings.

Make sure you create good content and you use the right keywords and keep an eye on the performance of your older posts to keep them up-to-date. This can be a good tactic to boost your site’s traffic without necessarily creating new posts.

Add meta tags

Title tags describe the content of your page. It’s the language that helps search engines understand what your site is about. This is where you need to add the right keywords that are more relevant to your page.

Moreover, a meta description provides the right context for your title tags helping both search engines and people to get a quick glimpse of your content. A meta description should be no more than 160 characters and you need to pick your words wisely. This is the copy that may convince users to click on your page.

Optimize your images

SEO is not limited to written text, but it can also extend to images. As visual content becomes more popular, it’s critical to optimize your images to make them easier for people to find them.

Luckily, it doesn’t take time to optimize your images, here’s a guide to help you improve image optimization.

Think of image search as a new chance of building traffic to your site.

Local SEO

Local marketing is gaining ground as more marketers try to reach more targeted audiences. As Google invests in local advertising, there is also a growing space for local SEO. Keyword strategies focus more on local audiences and the copy can be optimized to fit different targeting.

A good way to keep up with local SEO is to learn as many details as possible about your target audience. Think what their local needs are and what keywords could bring you more traffic to your site.

Overview

SEO nowadays is all about providing an excellent user experience by paying attention to everything that includes the copy, the design, the keywords and the insights from your target audience.

Always think like the user and try to be relevant and useful with your content. Don’t ignore keywords but make sure you use them only when appropriate.

Last but not least, SEO takes time so don’t lose hope if you don’t see any difference in rankings after your first tweaks.

What is duplicate content?

Posted by on Aug 7, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on What is duplicate content?

What is duplicate content?

You’ve probably come across the term duplicate content quite a lot, but what is it? Duplicate content is content that lives in several locations — i.e., URLs. Duplicate content can harm your rankings and many people say that copious amounts of it can even lead to a penalty by Google. That’s not true, though. There is no duplicate content penalty, but having loads of duplicate or copied content can get Google to influence your rankings negatively.

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What does duplicate content mean?

Duplicate content is all content that is available on multiple locations on or off your site. It often lives on a different URL and sometimes even on a different domain. Most duplicate content happens accidentally or is the result of a sub-par technical implementation. For instance, your site could be available on both www and non-www or HTTP and HTTPS — or both at the same time, the horror! Or maybe your CMS uses excessive dynamic URL parameters that confuse search engines. Even your AMP pages could count as duplicate content if not linked properly. Duplicate content is everywhere.

Google’s definition of duplicate content is as follows:

“Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar. Mostly, this is not deceptive in origin.”

That last part is important. If you scrape, copy and spin existing content — Google calls this copied content — with the intention of deceiving the search engine to get a higher ranking you will be on dangerous ground.

Google says this type of malicious intent might trigger an action:

“Duplicate content on a site is not grounds for action on that site unless it appears that the intent of the duplicate content is to be deceptive and manipulate search engine results”

Michiel has some great tips for discovering duplicate content on your site: DIY Duplicate content check. Google’s documentation is also a goldmine for working with duplicate content.

Duplicate content vs. copied content vs. thin content

The topic of duplicate content confuses a lot of people. For Google, most duplicate content has a technical origin, but it will also look at the content itself. “I have two URLs for the same article, which one should I choose?” While most regular people will probably think of pieces of similar content that appear elsewhere on a site. “I have used this piece of text in several other places, is that bad?” This is all duplicate content, but for determining rankings, search engines make a distinction between duplicate content, copied content and thin content.

Your duplicate content might classify as copied content if you use an existing text and rehash it quickly to reuse it on your site. It doesn’t matter if you give it a little spin or put in a few keywords, this behavior is not acceptable.  Throw in a couple of thin content pages — pages that have little to no quality content — and you’re in dangerous territory. Site quality is an issue and these tactics can bring serious harm to your site. Remember Panda?

Don’t block duplicate content on your site

Google is pretty apt at discovering and handling duplicate content. The search engine is smart enough to figure out what to do with most of the duplicate content it finds. If it finds multiple versions of a page it will fold these into the version it finds best — in most cases, this will be the original article/page. What it does need, though, is complete access to these URLs. If you block Googlebot in your robots.txt from crawling these URLs, it cannot figure these things out by itself and you will run the risk of Google treating these pages as separate instances. Here are a couple of things you should do:

Allow robots to crawl these URLs
Mark the content as duplicate by using rel=canonical (read more about this below)
Use Google’s URL Parameter Handling tool to determine how parameters should be handled
Use 301 redirects to send users and crawlers to the canonical URL

There’s more you can do to fight duplicate content on your site as Joost describes in his article on duplicate content: causes and solutions.

Use rel=canonical!

One of the essential tools in your duplicate content fighting toolkit is rel=”canonical” . You can use this piece of code to determine what the original URL is of a piece of content, something we call the canonical URL. We have an excellent ultimate guide to rel=”canonical” that shows you everything there is to know about it.

Focus on original, fresh and authoritative content

Another tool in your arsenal to fight duplicate, copied and unoriginal content are your writing skills. Google is focused on quality. It is always on the lookout for the best possible piece of content that fits the users intent best. Your goal should not be to make a quick buck but to leave a lasting impression. Watch out for thin content and make sure to make it original and of high quality.

The same goes for similar content on your site. We’ve talked about keyword cannibalization before and this is an extension of that. Folding several comparable posts into one can achieve much better results, both in terms of rankings as well as fighting duplicate content.

Here’s Google’s take on similar content:

“Minimize similar content: If you have many pages that are similar, consider expanding each page or consolidating the pages into one. For instance, if you have a travel site with separate pages for two cities, but the same information on both pages, you could either merge the pages into one page about both cities or you could expand each page to contain unique content about each city.”

Duplicate content is everywhere — know what to do about it

Ex-Googler Matt Cutts once famously said that 20% to 30% of the web consists of duplicate content. While I’m not sure these numbers are still accurate; duplicate content continues to pop up on every site. This doesn’t have to be bad news. Fix what you can and don’t try and turn duplicate content and its siblings copied content and thin content into a viable SEO strategy.

Read on: Content maintenance for SEO »

The post What is duplicate content? appeared first on Yoast.

How to Get Around Google’s Latest Algorithm Change

Posted by on Aug 7, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on How to Get Around Google’s Latest Algorithm Change

How to Get Around Google’s Latest Algorithm Change

Have you noticed that Google is constantly making algorithm changes? And when they do, they rarely tell you the change they’ve made.

They tend to keep it a bit vague, like this…

So, do you want to know how got around this algorithm update?

Well, before I tell you how, there are a few things you need to know.

How Google works

Can you guess how many factors there are in Google’s algorithm?

It’s over 200!

SEO is complicated. If Google made SEO easy you would see product and service pages rank at the top of every Google search instead of content-rich pages.

That means it would be easier for you to rank and make money, which would cause fewer companies to spend money on Google Ads.

Just look at the image above, Google generated over 95 billion dollars in ad revenue. That’s a ridiculous amount of money!

Now, Google isn’t just focusing on placing content-rich sites high up in the search results because they care about ad revenue, they do this because that’s what you want.

See, Google’s goal is to provide the best experience for you.

If you as a user wanted to see product and service related pages in the top of organic results, then that’s what they would start doing.

By providing you with the best user experience, this causes you to keep coming back to Google, which allows them to monetize through ads.

If they didn’t focus on user experience and making you happy, Google wouldn’t be the most popular search engine. It would be Bing or some other search engine.

So, when Google makes an algorithm change they are doing this because they’ve learned how to provide a better experience for you.

They aren’t making these changes because they want to screw up your rankings or ruin your business.

Google isn’t perfect

Similar to any other business, Google isn’t perfect. They make mistakes (we all do), and sometimes the changes they make may not provide the best experience for you.

When they may roll out changes, they may learn some adjustments didn’t work out the way they wanted, which causes them to constantly go back and make tweaks.

This is why you see search traffic fluctuations. Just look at my search traffic for all of 2017:

When looking at the graph above, you may notice that I generated 6,162,300 visits from search of which 4,284,056 were unique.

And if you look even closer, you’ll see that 2017 started off really well. February was a great month even though it has fewer days.

In February, I generated 390,919 visits from search but then in March, my traffic went down. And then in April, I saw another drop.

The drop may not seem that big when you look at the graph, but April’s search traffic came in at 292,480. That’s a 25.18% drop in search traffic when you compare it to February.

Ouch!

I didn’t make any major changes to my website that would have caused the drop and there isn’t seasonality around that time…

As you can see from the screenshot above, my 2018 search traffic shows a trend of going up and to the right (that throws the seasonality theory out the door).

And honestly, I don’t know if Google made any algorithm changes during that time in 2017 because I don’t pay attention to them (I’ll get into this a bit later).

In other words, your traffic is going to fluctuate, and that is ok. But when you look at your search traffic, as long as it is going up and to the right year after year, you are fine.

2017 was a rough year for me as my search traffic didn’t start going up again until August. I wasn’t doing anything different, it’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

So why don’t I pay attention to Google algorithm updates?

I mentioned this above, and I know it may seem shocking. Yes, I do read up on them every once in a while, but I don’t need Google to tell me about where they are heading with their algorithm.

You, the user, tell me this.

So instead, I focus on you. If I do what’s best for you, eventually my site will rank higher.

Sure, in the short run my rankings may drop, but I know if I focus on you (the user) it will give me the highest probability of ranking in the long run.

Just look at my search traffic for the first 7 months of 2018:

I’ve already beat my 2017 numbers!

5,017,790 is the number of unique search visitors that have come to NeilPatel.com in the first 7 months of 2018. The count for all of 2017 was 4,284,056.

That’s a huge difference.

As long as I do what’s best for you I know that my total traffic should go up and to the right.

If you look at my traffic from when I started to blog on NeilPatel.com (August 2014) to now, you’ll see that my traffic goes up and down each month, but the overall graph is up and to the right.

So, are you saying that you don’t care about SEO?

No, I still care about SEO and I practice it daily.

I just don’t stress out about every Google algorithm update because it isn’t in my control.

This doesn’t mean I ignore the advice Google gives. For example, when they announced that they were going to create a mobile-first index, I made sure I optimized my site for mobile.

But trying to read into every Google update and making assumptions on what I should do next is like playing a game of cat and mouse.

It’s time consuming, exhausting and inefficient. You are better off spending your time making your website better for your users.

Like I always say: Succeeding with digital marketing is a long-term game. Focus on the long term.

So how do you ensure long-term success?

I already showed you that my traffic goes up and to the right over time.

Here’s my secret to ensure that Google loves you in the long run.

Please, please, please note that some of the tactics I’m about to share with you may reduce your traffic in the short run, but you will be better off in the long run.

Strategy #1: Prune and crop

A lot of marketers discuss how pruning and cropping your content can triple your traffic.

If you aren’t familiar with the process, it’s as simple as updating your mediocre content and make it amazing. And as for your irrelevant content that is no longer valid, you would delete them and 301 redirect those URLs.

I’ve done this multiple times on dozens of sites. I have friends who have done it as well. We all see one major trend from doing this… traffic usually drops.

Even if those pages that you are pruning and cropping barely get any Google traffic, you’ll still typically see a drop in traffic.

The only time you’ll see an increase is if your content was so bad, such as deleting short blog posts that are filled with duplicate content.

Even if your blog is new, you should consider pruning and cropping once a year. It will ensure that you are updating your content, thus providing the best experience for your users.

Here’s the process I use to prune and crop (use Excel or Google Sheets to do this):

Create a list of all of the URLs on your website – using Screaming Frog, I crawl my website so I can get a full list of every URL, title tag, meta description, number of inlinks (number of internal links pointing to that URL), and the word count.
Add in traffic per page – I then log into my Google Analytics account and list out how much traffic each URL is generating.
And then I add in backlinks per page – I put each URL into Ahrefs to see how many backlinks each URL has.
Lastly, add in social shares per URL – using a tool like SharedCount you can get the total social shares per URL.

You should have a spreadsheet that looks something like this:

I know the image may be hard to see, so here is a sample.

Some of the data is junk and inaccurate in the sample. Also keep in mind that I am missing some data, such as meta description and social shares (I still haven’t completed this spreadsheet).

The reason I shared the sheet with you is that you’ll notice I added a few additional columns such as “what to do” and “redirect to.”

The 4 options I have under “what to do” are: optimize, delete, redirect, and nothing.

Once your spreadsheet is complete, you need to manually review each URL and select one of the 4 options above. Here’s when to select each one:

Optimize – if the page is popular, it has backlinks, traffic, and social shares, consider optimizing it. This could involve adding more internal links to the page, updating the content, or even optimizing the on-page code.
Delete – if the page has little to no search traffic, backlinks, social shares, and doesn’t provide any value to the user, consider deleting it. When doing so you will want to update any internal links that were pointing to this URL and then, of course, take this URL and 301 redirect it to the most relevant page.
Redirect – if the page is very similar to another page on your site, consider merging the content and 301 redirecting the URL to the similar one. You’ll want to take the least popular version and redirect it to the popular one. A good example of this is if you have two blog posts about social media marketing tools, you’ll want to combine the content, create a 301 redirect, and adjust the internal links to point to the final URL.
Nothing – if the page is fine and there is nothing wrong with it, do nothing.

Strategy #2: Expand internationally

There are over 7 billion people in this world, and most of them don’t speak English.

Yes, Google is a difficult beast to conquer, but it isn’t in non-English speaking countries. Whether it is France, Germany, Brazil, or any other country where English isn’t the main language… it’s much easier to get to the top of Google.

Sure, the search volume may not be as high in countries like Brazil, but because the competition is low, you can dominate fast.

Here are the most widely spoken languages in the world:

And here is the GDP per country:

And here is the population per country:

The best countries to go after when it comes to SEO are the ones that have a high GDP and a large population.

Going international has done wonders for my traffic.

In the last 31 days, the United States only made up 24.23% of my traffic. If you want to grow your global search rankings, just follow the steps in this blog post.

It goes in-depth on international expansion and the lessons I learned from a Google employee.

The cool part about international SEO is that it also creates a better user experience for your users as they will be able to read your content in their native language.

Strategy #3: Fix broken links, images, and media files

Let me ask you a question…

What if you were reading this post and half of the links you clicked on where broken? Especially the links that were supposed to teach you the steps you needed to take to grow your traffic?

You would be upset, right?

I know I would.

And to make matters worse, what if half of the images in this post were also broken?

Do you see how that would provide a terrible experience?

Well of course you do. That’s why you need to fix broken links, broken images, and broken media files on your website.

You don’t have to do this every month, but you should do this once a quarter. You can even use tools like Broken Link Check to make things a bit easier for you.

Strategy #4: Fix errors within Google Search Console

Even if you don’t log into Google Search Console, they will email you when there is a spike in errors.

When you get these emails, make sure you fix them. If you don’t know how to fix them, find a developer on Upwork to help you fix them.

And once you fix them, Google will email you when they acknowledge the fix.

It’s really important to fix your Search Console errors. I know this is an obvious tip, but most people don’t do it.

This one little thing will reduce your search traffic fluctuations. You will never be able to stop the fluctuations, but this will help reduce them.

Strategy #5: Build a brand

Do you know what the future of SEO is?

It’s brands!

The websites that dominate Google may not have the most backlinks, but they tend to have big brands.

People trust brands, which means Google trusts brands.

When you want to buy running shoes, what brand comes to mind?

I bet it’s Nike.

When you want a credit card, what brand are you going to choose?

Probably Visa, Mastercard, or American Express.

You don’t always Google for a product or service, in many cases you just go to the brands you are familiar with.

Not only does building a brand help with Google traffic, but it helps diversify your traffic sources so you aren’t just relying on Google search.

If you don’t believe that branding is valuable, check out this blog post. It breaks down how I grew my traffic from 240,839 to 454,382 visitors in one month (before exploding into seven digits) all because of branding.

It even breaks down the steps you can follow to build up a brand for your company.

It works so well, that I was even able to grow the brand value of my free marketing tool, Ubersuggest.

Strategy #6: Keeping a close eye on my competition

You don’t have to be 10 times better than your competition to beat them. Just being a little bit better can do wonders.

Now, if it was up to me, I would tell you to be 10 times better, but I know that can be expensive and is unrealistic in most cases.

If you haven’t, subscribe to your competition’s website.

From joining their email list to following them on their social profiles to even testing out their products/services.

Do whatever you can to stay up to date on your competition. If you can beat them, even by a little bit, people will prefer your site over their site in the long run. This will help you rank higher and get more traffic (and sales!).

And as I mentioned above, being 10 times better is a bit crazy, but usually when you do that your competition won’t copy you.

When you beat them by a little bit, that’s where you will find yourself battling back and forth when it comes to winning over people (and Google).

Conclusion

If you want to get around Google’s algorithm changes, you have to stay ahead by focusing on your users. Do what’s best for them and you won’t have to deal with Google’s ever-changing algorithm.

If you don’t follow the tips above, you’ll save time in the short run, but you’ll find yourself playing a game of cat and mouse in the long run. That just seems exhausting to me.

I don’t pay too much attention to algorithm updates and you shouldn’t either. Instead, focus on providing an amazing user experience. That’s what will cause you to win in the long run.

Now, there will be times where your traffic will drop, but don’t freak out. You can eventually come out on top by focusing on your users.

And if you got to the top of Google by optimizing your site for search engines instead of people, you will eventually get caught up in an update. When that happens, check out this algorithm tracker as it will help you determine what’s changed, what you did wrong, and what you need to fix.

It’s just tedious, which is why I get ahead, focus on the user, so that way I don’t have to focus on Google as much.

So, do you pay attention to every algorithm update Google does?

The post How to Get Around Google’s Latest Algorithm Change appeared first on Neil Patel.

Yoast SEO 7.9.1: Dutch checks complete & improved keyword recognition

Posted by on Aug 7, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Yoast SEO 7.9.1: Dutch checks complete & improved keyword recognition

Yoast SEO 7.9.1: Dutch checks complete & improved keyword recognition

At Yoast we’re convinced readability is essential if you want to rank high and give users a pleasant experience on your website. That’s why we’re so happy we’re now capable of fully analyzing content in yet another language: Dutch! Plus, if you write in a language with diacritics, i.e. marks on a letter that indicate the pronunciation, like in mot-clé in French, we have some good news for you:  Yoast SEO is now able to identify those keywords too.

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Leesbare teksten in het Nederlands

In Yoast SEO 7.9.1 we’ve completed all Yoast SEO content checks for Dutch. By adding the final assessment: the passive voice check, we’re now able to fully check all assessments that belong to the readability and SEO analysis. We’ve added Dutch to the list of completed languages, as we’ve already did for English, Spanish, French, Russian, German an Italian. Dutch might not be the most-used language on the planet, but it’s dear to our heart being the native language of most Yoasters. We’re so glad we can now ban passiveness from our mother tongue too!

Improved keyword recognition

In addition to the above language enhancement, we’ve smashed some linguistic bugs. Our content analysis sometimes had trouble recognizing the keyword while it was there, leading to some frustration among users. For instance, if it was present in possessive form (e.g. `Natalia` in `Natalia’s fix`) or if it had special diacritics in the URL (e.g. mañana in Spanish) Yoast SEO would fail to recognize it. Also, it would have difficulties to find the keyword if it was flanked by a Spanish inverted exclamation and question mark. All these issues are solved now: ¡Con mucho gusto!

Contributions

Together with some skilled developers of our beloved WordPress community we’ve also took on some performance issues and other bugs to make our plugin run smoother. We humbly thank Piero Bellomo and Jaska120 for contributing to the quality of Yoast SEO.

What’s ahead?

As we’ve already mentioned, exciting times are coming. Soon you’ll see how Yoast SEO will evolve thanks to Gutenberg. On top of that, we’re working hard to make Yoast SEO analyze your text the way Google does. Not something you’d want to miss. Stay tuned!

But for now, go update! Want to check the details first? Go read our changelog.

P.s. Did you know claiming your website on Pinterest is super easy with Yoast SEO?

Pinterest is one of the bigger – visual – search engines in the world. So as a blogger or online shop owner, promoting your imagery on Pinterest can bear fruit. If you prove to Pinterest that your website is yours by claiming it, this will give you added benefits. Pinterest will show your profile picture on your Pins and, most importantly, you’ll get access to Pinterest Analytics. This will give you lots of insights and ways to use this tool more effectively.

It can be a hassle to verify your website on Pinterest if you’re not a developer though, because you’d need to add the verification code to the <head> section of your site. But with Yoast SEO everyone can do it! We’ve updated the link to Pinterest’s guidelines on the Pinterest tab in the social section of Yoast SEO. Just follow those and you’re all set!

Read more: Why you should buy Yoast SEO Premium »

The post Yoast SEO 7.9.1: Dutch checks complete & improved keyword recognition appeared first on Yoast.

Take the 2018 Moz Local Search Marketing Industry Survey

Posted by on Aug 7, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Take the 2018 Moz Local Search Marketing Industry Survey

Take the 2018 Moz Local Search Marketing Industry Survey

Posted by MiriamEllis

Local search marketing is a dynamic and exciting discipline, but like many digital professions, it can be a bit isolating. You may find yourself running into questions that don’t have a ready answer, things like…

What sort of benchmarks should I be measuring my daily work by?
Do my clients’ needs align with what my colleagues are seeing?
Am I over/undervaluing the role of Google in my future work?

Here’s a chance to find out what your peers are observing and doing on a day-to-day basis.

The Moz Local Search Marketing Industry Survey will dive into job descriptions, industries served, most effective tactics, tool usage, and the non-stop growth of Google’s local features. We’ll even touch on how folks may have been impacted by the recent August 1 algorithm update, if at all. In-house local SEOs, agency local SEOs, and other digital marketers are all welcome! All participants will be entered into a drawing for a $100 Amazon gift card. The winner will be notified on 8/27/18.

Give just 5 minutes of your time and you’ll get insights and quotable statistics back when we publish the survey results. Be sure to participate by 8/24/2018. We sincerely appreciate your contributions!

Take the Local SEO Survey Now

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

What is SEO split testing?

Posted by on Aug 6, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on What is SEO split testing?

What is SEO split testing?

Last week I tweeted an explanation of how we know that an increase or decrease in SEO performance was caused by a change that we made or by an external factor like seasonality, competitors, Google updates etc. People found it helpful and it generated a lot of questions so I thought it would be useful to post a more detailed explanation on what exactly SEO split-testing is as there seems to be a lot of confusion/misunderstanding.

One quick thing: This is deliberately a simple example with a basic explanation of the maths that we use. In reality, the maths is a lot more complicated and based on this research by Google: Inferring causal impact using Bayesian structural time series.

The purpose of this presentation isn’t to teach or explain the maths behind the ODN, it’s to, hopefully, explain the core concepts in a simple way, that allows you to imagine applying this methodology to websites with a lot more than 4 sub-category pages 🙂

If you want to dig into the testing methodology in detail, then you can visit: https://odn.distilled.net/learn-more/faqs/

With that out of the way, let’s get started.

Imagine a basic website

The site below has two simple categories, animals and countries. It has 8 sub-category pages (cats, dogs, Scotland etc.)

All of the animals sub-category pages use the same template
All of the countries sub-category pages use another template

This is critical to understand because SEO split testing is predicated on the concept of testing changes to page templates. A group of pages that share the same template can be used for SEO split-testing.

In the animals sub-category example above you can see that although the content of each page is different, they all follow the same template.

They have:

An H1 at the top of the page
A block of intro copy
A featured image

We could create an animal template test:

Or a countries template test:

But you can’t mix templates:

An example experiment

Imagine that we wanted to test a new Animal page template by replacing the image with a video and removing the intro copy from the animals sub-category template.

For the test to be a valid experiment, we need a set of pages to remain un-changed (the control group) and a set of pages to have the new proposed design (the variant).

Distilled’s ODN platform uses advanced maths to decide which URLs should remain on the control template and which should get the variant template.

For simplicity in this example, you can think of this as selecting URLs at random to be on each template.

In this example, the test is on 50% of pages, but you could do this on a smaller or more significant percentage of pages. During the experiment, the site would look like this:

Notice that the /cats and /badgers pages now have the new template and the /dogs and /unicorns pages remain unchanged and have the same design they have always had.

The results

The graph below shows the organic performance of the cats and badgers pages versus the dogs and unicorns pages.

Notice that just after the test started, there was no change in the difference in organic performance. That’s because Google needs to crawl the pages. Depending on the number of pages that are being tested, the amount of time that this takes can vary.

Over time we notice that the variant pages start to outperform the control pages. Once the test reaches statistical significance, we can declare the test a success and recommend that the changes be rolled out to 100% of pages instead of just 50%.

How do you know it wasn’t just seasonality?

This is a common question and you can replace seasonality with pretty much anything you like:

Seasonality
Google rolled out an update
Competitors’ performance decreases
Backlinks to your site
TV campaigns
Branding/direct traffic
Other macro factors

By having a control group of pages that have the same intent/theme/template we can exclude external factors like seasonality because the control group of pages would also be impacted.

The analysis isn’t looking at the trend of the traffic; it’s looking at the difference in performance between the control group and the variant.

In other words, if it was seasonality, for example, Christmas, there’s no reason why /cats and /badgers would be impacted but not /dogs and /unicorns. The same would apply for something like a Google update.

Seasonality would look like this:

Although there is an upward trend, the difference in performance between the control pages and the variant pages is the same as before the test began. This example experiment would be declared as a neutral test despite that after the change was made, organic traffic went up significantly.

I hope this makes SEO split-testing easier to understand.

If you want to know more or are interested in doing SEO split-testing, the ODN is a piece of software that lets you do that. Find out more at https://odn.distilled.net/ or click the button below to contact us so I can set up a call to show you a demo of the software.

BOOK AN ODN DEMO

Local SEO – 4 Things You Can Do to Rank Locally

Posted by on Aug 6, 2018 in Greg's SEO Articles | Comments Off on Local SEO – 4 Things You Can Do to Rank Locally

What is Local SEO

Local SEO is a key marketing strategy for business owners that offer products and services of a local nature. If your clients are local, you should prioritize local SEO above the organic SEO. Local SEO allows a local business to compete for the highest ranking the all local searches in their area of specific keywords related to their products or services.

For instance, if you are an Electrician in a particular area, your focus would be on those living within that environment and not the whole country. Perhaps, there is no benefit when your business in Georgia, CA, appears on the search result of New York. Google has launched a special ranking algorithm for such businesses aside from the international SEO. Therefore, you should divert your attention and focus more on Local SEO.

Local SEO to increases sales

Local SEO can change the face of your business. If you are looking to build a huge active customer base within the community in which your business is located, you need to work on your local SEO. If your business website pops up in the results for other cities, the efforts are practically wasted because these visitors may not convert into actual sales. However, if the traffic is coming from your local community where your business is located, there is a higher chance that it will convert into actual sales.

Local SEO also helps you to increase the popularity of your business within your local community. When your business is optimized for your particular location, you will appear in search results when people from your local community inquire for related keywords. It also helps you to get customer reviews and feedbacks for free and help local prospects to locate you. When ranking your website for Local SEO, you should focus on long-tail keywords because it is easily ranked, unlike precise shorter keywords.

For local SEO to work as expected, Google must understand where your business is located and the nature and extent of the services you render. More so, the local component of your business which is the local or city name must be present in either your domain name, title or in the contents. In fact, you can make the city/local name appear in all of them.

Why Local SEO?

Organic SEO tends to target a larger market, meaning that you will be spending more money on it. If you are a Doctor who operates in Sacramento, there is no need for you to appear in search results of people in Asia, right? All you need is for your website to be visible to people who need your service within your local environment in Sacramento. Targeting a broader audience would mean that you have to spend more money. However, limiting your target to your immediate local environment can save you a lot of dollars while producing the best result.

Who should use Local SEO?

The result you will get from Local SEO is quite similar to that of an organic SEO. If you are not an international company that offers services to every part of the world, Local SEO is what you need. For instance, if you offer SEO services, you may want to reach many audiences as possible. However, for businesses that focus on meeting the needs of their immediate environment, you need to focus more on that location and the environs.

Local SEO Tip: 4 Things You Can Do to Rank Locally

1.     Google My Business listing

Google My Business (GMB) is a new initiative of Google to help local businesses rank locally. GMB is a requisite to set up a Google map. These features ensure that users locally find and locate your businesses via Google directions. Therefore, Google will not only display your products and services but also give the direction to your office or store.

The key to a successful GMB is to submit complete and accurate information about your business. If any of your information is lacking, then your business’s presence on Google can suffer a lot due to lack of relevance.

Here is a guide on how you can verify your Google My Business listing.

Google maps

Google My Business listing is a requisite to getting listed on Google Maps. Of course, appearing on Google Maps means that people in your locality can easily locate your office or store by following simple directions from Google. A complete GMB listing must contain your business’s address, business hours, local phone number, and a link to your website. If you are a restaurant, for instance, your business listing can even contain links to your menu. If you accept pre-booking, lodging or appointments, you can also include a link to where customers can make reservations.

2.     Publish Google Posts in your Google My Business profile.

Google launched a new service for their GMB back in June 2017 called Google Posts. This service allows business owners to post updates and information about their business directly in their GMB account. This new post will appear together with your GMB listing on Google search results. It is an effective way to communicate to your audience, customers, and prospects.

Most local business owners are using this service to creatively optimize their business presence on Google. Specifically, some use the Google posts to share the reviews from customers on their Google My Business listing and repost them as Google posts. Another great idea is to use the Google post to promote an event. For instance, if your restaurant is offering a 50% discount on Pizza, you can promote it using the Google Post feature. Although a normal Google post will expire after a period of 7 days, event posts will remain until the end date of your event.

3.     Get on relevant review sites.

The report of the survey conducted by Zendesk shows that the buying decisions of about 90% of the respondents were influenced by online reviews. Likewise, Moz reported that online reviews occupy about 10% of the total Google ranking algorithm. This shows how important online review is to every business.

In order to improve your Local SEO, your business should be listed on:

  • Angie’s List
  • Foursquare
  • Google+ Local
  • TripAdvisor
  • Urbanspoon
  • White Pages
  • Yahoo Local
  • Yellow Pages
  • Yelp

Generally, more than 90% of consumers trust customers’ reviews. Business owners do not allow bad reviews to stay on their business websites. Instead, they only display the good ones from their happy clients and hide the bad ones. In fact, some business owners manipulate these reviews and praise themselves on their website. This makes customers’ reviews on this review websites trusted and reliable.

Customers and clients looking for a particular product to buy or service to hire prefer to read the reviews provided by these third-party review websites. In fact, Google itself trusts and relies on the reviews posted on third-party sites listed above. The fastest way to generate reviews is by sending a custom email to your recent customers, thanking them for the previous purchase/hire and calling on them to drop a review about how they feel about the product/service.

4.     Setup Local Listings

Setting up and posting local listings can also help to expand the online visibility of your business. Apply to common and popular local listings and add your business features, such as coupons, map tags, photos, and videos. These details will help your business to stand out in the search results when relevant keywords are inquired.

Likewise, local listings provide inbound links which help to improve the overall ranking of your business website on search engines. Backlinks play a significant role in how your page will be ranked on search engines. Simply put, backlinks determine a website’s authority.

Therefore, when a user searches for a relevant keyword, search engines will display the map and relevant contact information about your business, such as local number and services offered. These details can be obtained from your local business listing or directory.

Google: You can submit your business local listings on Google+, Google Places, and Google Webmaster Tools.

Yahoo Local:  Submit your Local listing for free at http://local.yahoo.com. Also, there is an upgraded premium feature which costs around $9.95/month.

Yelp: Yelp is arguably the largest online city guide consisting of user-generated reviews that is uniquely different from what is provided by other popular search engines.

Local.com: Allows you to set up an entirely new business listing or claim an existing one if you already have any in the local.com database

Hotfrog: A new business listing site that is currently live in the UK, Australia, and several other countries worldwide.

Conclusion

The relevance of Local SEO to local business cannot be overemphasized. If your business covers a small or particular location, there is no use investing in organic SEO when you can easily optimize your business or the immediate people who need your service your local environment. This article attempts to explain why you need Local SEO for your business and 4 easy ways to get started.

How to invest in your SEO for the highest ROI

Posted by on Aug 6, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on How to invest in your SEO for the highest ROI

How to invest in your SEO for the highest ROI

Every business owner’s dream is to have consistent business growth. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. In fact, 20% of small businesses fail in their first year and only 30% of businesses make it past the 10-year mark.

Therefore, SEO is a key component of inbound sales strategy, where new customers can come to you. The aim is to have a steady and consistent flow of new business each month. If you can maximize return on investment (ROI) from your SEO, then you can continue to invest to generate more earnings and growth.

Monthly recurring traffic

Monthly recurring traffic is stable and consistent. Every day, week, month, and year, you have reliable traffic and new sales that you can count on. These can comprise both qualified and targeted prospects. This type of traffic is predictable and easier to scale, which is one of the benefits of SEO.


An example of monthly recurring traffic from a website (LifeCoachSpotter.com) that has had SEO input. Monthly recurring traffic is the primary driver of your most important business metrics:

MRR (monthly recurring revenue)
MRR growth (monthly recurring revenue growth).

If enough new visitors are coming to your website daily, then you will have consistent new one-time sales. If you have a subscriber/SaaS business model, you will consistently grow your MRR. Monthly recurring traffic creates consistent business growth.

Where we fail

There is a significant potential for a high ROI from SEO. This does not deter from the fact that SEO can be difficult. A beginner may thinks: “If I want to grow my business, I will grow my traffic, and to grow my traffic I will ‘optimize’ my website for SEO.” Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth. I call this “The Fatal Assumption”:

Anyone who has been practicing SEO for a long period of time knows the work that goes into it.

Why SEO is difficult

Google’s algorithm

We will never “see under the hood” of Google’s algorithm. The closest we can get is correlations and more complicated ways of unraveling it.

Black hat SEO is used to try and increase a website rankings illegitimately, and as a result, search engines’ algorithms are constantly evolving to combat manipulative tactics.

There are 200+ ranking factors

If there are more than 200 ranking factors, which do you focus on?

With so many factors being considered to determine your website’s ranking, it’s impossible to focus on them all. Thankfully though, Cyrus Shepard recently published Zyppy and I’ve tried to simplify it even further here. There are also many published findings to help SEOs focus on the most heavily-weighted ranking factors in Google’s algorithm.

What works today may not work tomorrow

Google’s algorithm is constantly evolving, which means that website optimization needs to be continuous.

Measuring ROI is hard

Since the customer journey is non-linear, it’s not possible attribute leads or purchases to one channel alone. By using multi-channel attribution, you can see SEO is part of a more holistic marketing endeavor.

Experiments have long life cycles

If you are split-testing a landing page and have 1000 visitors per week, you can quickly see what is working. With SEO, initiatives take time to plan, execute, and measure. The cycle of testing, measuring, and repeating is slow owingto the inherent long-term nature of SEO.

Isolating variables is near-impossible

SEOs are typically implementing multiple initiatives simultaneously. This makes it difficult to isolate which variable or factor may have led to an increase in ranking or traffic. In a scientific lab, you can isolate one variable at a time and compare it to a ‘control’ group. With SEO, we don’t have controlled environments to work in.

SEO is a zero-sum game

For any ‘money keywords’ that your business can capitalize on, there can only be one search result in position 1 and one search result in position 2. If your competitor wins the first position, then you will lose it.

The right thinking

The best approach to planning an SEO strategy depends on having the right mindset.

Begin with the end in mind

By setting clear goals and KPIs, you can reverse engineer. Holding yourself or your provider accountable in reaching those goals is also key.

Think long-term

SEO is an investment-based marketing channel. It is important to think of long-term as a period of years as opposed to months.

The fund manager’s budget allocation

SEO investment needs to be thought of as a fund manager, which includes considering budget allocation. Should link building be 20% of the overall investment or 60%? Should content be 30% or 70%? Without a proper allocation of investment into SEO initiatives, you can focus too little or too many resources in the wrong areas.

Among the 200+ ranking factors that Google may be using, you want to focus on the top 2–6 factors that will drive results for your business. It’s not about how good your idea is, but the degree to which it drives impact for your KPIs.

So where should you focus your efforts?

Every website and situation is unique. General principles from search engines and thought leaders may not always apply to you. I recommend trusting practitioner experiments and data over best practices alone. From my experience, the factors that are the most heavily weighted by Google’s ranking algorithm are:

Authoritative Backlinks
Content (Helpful, Long-Form, High-Quality, etc)
Optimization (Keyword Clustering)
User Experience and Satisfying User Intent
Technical Factors (Page Load Speed, Architecture, etc).

Align with Google

It is important to remember that it is not Google’s goal to send traffic to a website. The more you align with Google’s mission, the more you will naturally succeed.

Every SEO must remember Google’s goal and the value proposition to their users:

Help Google’s users find what they are looking for and have a great user experience.

By adopting this user-focused mindset, you will be more likely to rank higher and get more organic traffic, while future-proofing yourself to algorithm updates. If you aim to help Google’s users, you’ll naturally see a rise in your results and ROI over time.

Measuring your ROI on SEO

How do you determine whether your efforts are having an impact on your revenue, and whether the tactics you chose to invest in were the right ones for your business?

First, track your conversions diligently. If you’re not tracking sales or important metrics, you won’t be able to attribute the sales that came from SEO. Looking at multi-channel attribution is key to get a sense of the real customer journey. This also fuels your understanding for how SEO works in parallel with other avenues like retargeting, brand awareness, and direct visits.

Second, understand the customer journey. Find out how consumers learned about your business, how long it took until they purchased from you, and what channel they used to purchase. All of these are important factors for measuring long-term ROI.

Finally, look through the sales funnel. If you are getting leads that don’t convert, they are not providing a good ROI. If there are specific keywords or pages that result in higher conversions or bigger sales deals, you will want to focus on those areas.

Closing thoughts

To summarize, to invest in your SEO for the highest ROI:

Focus on the long-term
Focus on budget allocation
Trust battle-tested practitioner experience over conventional advice.

Investing in SEO takes time, patience, and a healthy bit of trust in the person managing your initiatives. Above all, remember to ensure that your SEO budget is properly allocated.

With the right allocation and long-term thinking, your SEO strategy should be future-proof to algorithm updates. While there’s always some uncertainty in the outcome of any investment, you want to mitigate your risk by strategically allocating your budget based on real-world testing, experiments, and working with experienced professionals.

 

Ways to improve your link building

Posted by on Aug 4, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Ways to improve your link building

With the right strategy in place, link building can be a hugely effective way of building strong authority to increase longer term, sustainable organic visibility. Unfortunately, it’s very easy to find yourself returning to old, outdated methods. With so many different approaches to link building, it’s important to take a step back and look at the bigger picture to make the greatest impact.

There are a variety of link building tactics that don’t require a huge amount of resource or expense, so whether you’re working for an agency or in-house, dust away the cobwebs that are plaguing your strategy and step up. Below are just a few ways you can improve your approach to link building.

Don’t forget the basics

The first step is not to forget the basics, it’s so easy to forget these – particularly when you’re constantly being served with ‘inspirational content’ that promises to be the best and only method you’ll ever need. Revisiting old, unlinked brand mentions and fixing broken links can have a huge impact, particularly when from a strong authority site.

Immerse yourself in the brand

If you are working with an agency, having a ‘brand immersion’ or ‘discovery day’ can be incredibly useful if you approach it correctly. Start out with a full list of everything you’d want to know about a client, their product or brand – and pretty much interrogate them.

A client of ours recently said he’d been running his business for so long he assumed everyone knew everything he did about their business and products, when in fact they were probably only conveying 10% of their USPs digitally. If a client holds their cards close to their chest, a brand immersion day is an opportunity to get a grasp on who they are as a brand and how they work.

Even better, this is a chance to meet with their PR representatives and see how you can work together to make the best of each other’s work. There may be things you uncover that can be used as an asset, things that they would never consider telling you proactively. For example, new product launches or an existing relationship with a site that you’ve been trying to crack for months.

Future-proof your strategy

If only one thing is certain in life, it’s that Google will continually change its algorithm. Unfortunately, we can’t predict the future and may spend a long time securing a link, only for it to suddenly have no value.

Bend fate in your favor by thinking about the bigger picture, and developing strategies that are built solely on authenticity. Build good solid links from authoritative websites. Be real and genuine, provide value in your content and insights. Always drawback to why you’re building links, whether it’s for the brand awareness they could build, to the referrals they could bring.

Monitor your own backlink profile

Monitoring your own backlink profile is a vital part of growing it, and is surprisingly something a lot of link-builders put to the bottom of their to-do list. It’s essential to see which new sites are linking to you, so you can build that relationship and contribute more great content or insights.

Second to this, a lot of sites will link to you but won’t tell you, so it’s crucial to keep on top of this. It’s also vital to see which sites stop linking to you, as there will be opportunity to try and get that link back, or try and build a relationship with that site.

Relationships over anything else

Having a good relationship with a site or influencer is almost as important as how good a piece of content is. Follow them on Twitter, comment on their activity, be a familiar face and a name that is regularly in touch with pitches and ideas. You will find that they start coming directly to you for content and ideas – instead of the other way round.

Keep a close eye on the competition

Monitoring your competitors’ activity is a very cost and time-effective way of identifying new sites to contact, new content opportunities and outreach methods to use. Using competitor links for your own gains are always fruitful and don’t require a lot of time or creativity

To make things even easier, it’s something you can automate by setting up Google Alerts or backlink alerts and reports on tools like SEMRush. Competitors are always acquiring new links, so this is something that should be continually monitored.

Don’t be afraid of a nofollow link

As mentioned above, we should be focused on the bigger picture and future-proofing link building strategies. Sometimes this means getting a nofollow link or an unlinked citation now and again. Some sites have a policy, some sites do nofollow links automatically. If a citation is genuinely driving traffic and brand awareness, then the fact that it’s a nofollow or unlinked shouldn’t be troubling you too much.

Most link building tactics fall under the category of ‘quick-wins’, and the results can have a huge impact on your site’s authority and brand awareness. Fundamentally, staying wary of the latest link building developments is key, as an outdated strategy can distill your wider SEO strategy and hold back the success of your site.

 

Ask Yoast: How to create an FAQ page?

Posted by on Aug 3, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Ask Yoast: How to create an FAQ page?

Ask Yoast: How to create an FAQ page?

A page that is commonly found on all kinds of websites, is the FAQ (frequently asked questions) page. Commonly asked questions or remarks from customers/visitors are addressed on this page. When you visit a site looking for an answer to a specific question, the FAQ page is probably one of the first pages you’ll check.

There are several ways an FAQ page can benefit your site. For starters, it can save you time, if you regularly have to answer emails asking similar questions. In addition, a good FAQ page shows professionalism and expertise, and therefore could help improve your visitor’s trust. A great answer to a potential buyer’s question might tip the balance toward a sale. So, you’ll understand that it’s certainly worthwhile to consider adding an FAQ page to your site, and give some thought to how you do that. Let’s dive in a bit further in this Ask Yoast!

Francesco Fredduzzi emailed us his question on FAQ pages and SEO:

From an SEO-perspective, what’s the best way to create an FAQ page for my website? Should I create a subdomain? Is it better to have a collapsible list (question + answer) on the same page, or a list of links to specific posts that answer each question?

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page for my answer!

Creating an FAQ page from an SEO perspective

“It really depends. First of all, do not create a subdomain. Make these pages on your own website. Second, if they’re long answers, then there’s nothing wrong with creating individual pages that answer those questions. But if they’re short answers, then the best user experience and thus, usually the best thing to do for Google is to put them on one page and create a larger FAQ page.

Learn how to write awesome and SEO friendly articles in our SEO Copywriting training »

$199 – Buy now » Info

Now there’s all these efforts going on in Schema to make things like FAQs more easily marked up so that we can detect what is a question and what is an answer. I suspect we’ll have better solutions for this within the next six months. So stay tuned, subscribe to Yoast.com and make sure that you get all our news. Good luck.”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast, we answer SEO questions from our readers. Do you have an SEO-related question? A pressing SEO conundrum you can’t find the answer to? Send an email to [email protected], and your question may be featured in one of our weekly Ask Yoast vlogs.

Note: please check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question may already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about the Yoast SEO plugin not working properly, we’d like to refer you to our support page.

Read more: What is UX (and why bother)? »

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