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21 SEO & Business Lessons Learned From Optimizing Small Websites

Posted by on Jul 20, 2019 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on 21 SEO & Business Lessons Learned From Optimizing Small Websites

Over the past 7 years, I’ve learned a lot about digital marketing and SEO. I started this journey by building WordPress websites, but then quickly realized that they are useless if they do not rank on search engines.

 

That’s how I actually got into search engine optimization. I got lucky and landed a job for a company in a pretty competitive niche (bodybuilding supplements) pretty fast. Fast forward for about 5 years and now I run my own company.  Now I want to take my SEO & Digital Marketing Agency to the next level but, before that, I want to share what I’ve learned during this time.

 

21-SEO-Lessons-Learned-from-Optimizing-Small-Businesses

 

  1. SEO Isn’t All That Hard (If You Get It Right)
  2. SEO Does Take Time
  3. You Need Quality Outsourcing Personnel
  4. You Have to Leverage Your Work by Training Owners & Their Employees
  5. Don’t Rely On Clients Delivering
  6. Avoid Taking Clients That Don’t Fit You!
  7. Perfectionism Holds You Back. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail
  8. Focus on Important Tasks
  9. It’s Useful to Have a Monthly Schedule & Estimate
  10. User Intent & UX Really Do Matter
  11. Tools Are Really Useful & They Save up Time
  12. Paid SEO Audits Are Better
  13. Links Are Still Important
  14. Links Are Indeed Expensive
  15. Links Can Be Obtained For Free (#naturally)
  16. The More Money Clients Have, the Less They Stress You Out
  17. Be Firm About Your Schedule Upfront
  18. Transparency Matters More Than Quick Results
  19. Communication Is Key
  20. Most People Who Want SEO Don’t Have Websites on Popular Platforms
  21. Programmers Are (Sometimes) Difficult to Work With
 

1. SEO Isn’t All That Hard (If You Get It Right) 

 

People fear SEO because of its uncertainty. Google isn’t straight-forward at all when it comes to SEO advice. Then, there are the Google Algorithm Updates which we all fear one way or another.

 

When comparing SEO to PPC, it seems that PPC is the safer bet. Although PPC also has the quality score which is tricky, there’s a lot more confusion that comes with SEO, which makes it harder to approach.

 

However, from my experience, it seems like SEO isn’t all that hard. At least not when you’re dealing with small/medium sites.

 

Most of the sites are pretty straight forward, with separate pages for each service. If you get lucky and run over a completely unoptimized website, the keyword research and title creation alone will bring in results.

 

Things actually become complicated when you’re dealing with the previous work of other SEOs or digital marketing agencies. Spammy backlink profiles, keyword stuffing and other things like that.

 

Of course, when you’re talking about big eCommerce websites, with hundreds of thousands of pages, things can get a little bit trickier.

 

But the fundamentals are the same. Make the site crawlable and indexable, have valuable content and optimize for keywords, earn some backlinks and you’re good to go.

 

2. SEO Does Take Time

 

Firstly, we have to talk about execution. Are you alone? I was. I had to do pretty much everything and, even if I outsourced content creation, it still took time to validate, edit and publish.

 

So, it can take a long time, especially if you’re a one man gang. We’ll talk more about this in the next lesson.

 

SEO takes time

 

However, even if your execution potential is very high, if you’re planning on going the safe route, then it’s probably a better idea not to jump head first and rather test the waters before.

 

If you take massive action the first months but then stagnate or don’t do anything more later on, you’ll look suspicious. Why would a website be extremely popular for a couple of weeks and then not be popular at all? It sure does seem like someone was trying to manipulate the rankings.

 

Taking everything a little bit slower will provide the security that what you’re doing is fair and that you’re not trying to push things.

 

In my opinion, a website’s rankings reflect the level of success a business has. They’re interconnected. For example, if an eCommerce page only has 3 products, why would it be better than a competitor page with 300 products?

 

How can an owner expect to rank for the main keyword when it doesn’t meet the users’ expectations? A different strategy must be approached, either by optimizing for separate products, or a narrower, less competitive category keyword instead.

 

That’s something you should communicate to the owner. If he still wants to rank, then you’ll probably have to try some sketchy stuff, which will put his site at risk. Better avoid the stress upfront by not signing a contract.

 

So, consider this: if you have massive execution potential, expect to keep it up even when the rankings are high, or you might look suspicious and lose them.

 

Giving a good, realistic estimation of the time required will also build credibility. So far, my estimations with clients were very realistic. And through this, I’ve gained their trust long term. Promises kept, contracts still running.

 

3. You Need Quality Outsourcing Personnel 

 

If you want to move ahead quicker in an SEO campaign, you’ll need help. Chances are, if you’re just starting out, that you don’t have money to employ people. However, outsourcing and subcontracting is a great alternative.

 

If you really want to be a search engine optimizer, then focus on having your backups when it comes to web design, servers and coding.

 

Most clients will often ask you about issues regarding e-mail and server issues, small content or web design changes and implementing new features, such as pop-ups.

 

get seo help by outsourcing some tasks

 

So make sure you have at least someone who’s good at editing pages on popular platforms, such as WordPress and knows a little bit of CSS/HTML. It won’t be easy finding a programmer, since most of them already have a high paying job.

 

You can always take a look at platforms such as codeable.io where you can hire a coder. Be wary though, prices are by the hour and they’re not cheap.

 

You won’t have to pay for anything. Just charge the client for the work (you can even add a little bit extra, to cover for your taxes at least). But the client might always say “No freaking way am I paying that much to change the background color.”

 

However, what’s really hard to find from my point of view are good writers. They’re essential for SEO so make sure you start looking for them early on.

 

There are multiple reasons for that. Price range, quality and client expectations all get in your way. For some businesses, such as coffee shops, quality content might be easy to obtain. But if you’re working with someone selling building materials or medical equipment, average writers might not have the expertise to do it.

 

Then there’s also the issue of them not having a business of their own, which makes it harder to collaborate with them legally, at least here in Romania. The ones who do have businesses are either agencies with a lot of low quality content, or professionals with extremely high prices.

 

If your strategy is mostly based on content and you can call yourself a content marketer, then sooner or later you’ll need some writers. It’s better to start looking for them sooner.

 

Ideally, the client should write the content. They know their niche best. However, we know that’s not always possible. This takes us to the next lesson.

 

4. You Have to Leverage Your Work by Training Owners & Their Employees

 

Try to get as much information from the client as possible. They know their niche best. They know the clients’ possible needs and they know their products.

 

Firstly, try to get them to write the content if they have the time. A corporation owner won’t have time, but a small business owner might get the occasional weekend off and can squeeze 2 hours of high quality content writing.

 

Even if they don’t do the entire article, once you have your keyword research and content gap analysis done and have chosen a couple of topics, at least get the owners to outline key points which should be covered and provide inspiration sources for the writer.

 

You should always work with your clients to build an SEO opportunity seeking culture within their company.

 

Do they have employees who upload products on the site? Make sure they know how to do it from an SEO point of view.

 

Do they often go to conferences or meetings? Make sure they always seek a backlink opportunity with their acquaintances. What blogger friends do they have that could help with a campaign?

 

Remember though: make it clear that everything must pass through your approval before it gets implemented. They shouldn’t start any spammy link building and then blame you for bad SEO results.

 

5. Don’t Rely On Clients Delivering

 

Although it’s great that your clients accept to help you by providing all the information you have requested, don’t rely on them delivering it, at least not on time.

 

Make sure they are making progress on their task from time to time, if it’s a bigger one. If you talk on Monday that they will give you the list of employees to add on the site by Friday, call them on Wednesday and remind them that you’ll need the information on Friday.

 

If possible, set up a meeting and get all your questions ready to be answered right then, right there.

 

6. Avoid Taking Clients That Don’t Fit You!

 

Many requests can come from sketchy businesses or websites. Once someone wrote to me:

 

Client: “Hey, my website was hit by a Google Penalty after the recent Google Update and I can’t figure out why. Can you help me?”

Me: “Sure. What’s the website?

Client: “www.piratedmovies2019.com”

Me: “I think I already have an idea…”

 

Many other requests I get are for video chat websites, porn sites, loans and other barely legal or sketchy niches. However, the truth is that the niche doesn’t really matter. And it’s not up to me to tell you what your moral boundaries are.

 

However, I’ll tell you this: Those sketchy niches… are HARD. Not because the competition is good, but because it’s bad. Literally bad. More like EVIL.

 

Why? Because the earnings are big. And, although you can make good money there as an SEO, prepare for a heck of a ride. Competitors prefer to blow into your candle instead of making their own shine brighter. This means you’ll deal with SPAM, negative SEO attacks, DDoS and whatever other Black Hat SEO stuff you can think of.

 

 

But this doesn’t just stop at the type of website or business they’re running.

 

Are they asking you to create videos for them? If you can’t outsource and profit from it, decline! Do they want graphic design? Do not purchase a Photoshop course! Decline. Outsource. Focus on search engine optimization.

 

Then there are the people. How’s the client as a person? Too pushy and you don’t like pushy persons? Decline.

 

I once met a client who was disappointed with his previous SEO providers. I asked him whom he worked with previously and his answer was “everyone”. Kinda’ made me feel the problem was with him and not everyone else so… wanna guess what I did? Yeah… that’s right. I said no.

 

Learn to say no

 

I once declined optimizing a butcher’s website because I don’t like it when animals get slaughtered. It would’ve made me feel bad so I just refused it, although it probably had a good pay.

 

Taking a client you don’t really like or don’t feel comfortable with will make you feel less motivated. This might end up in you delivering poor results and you don’t want that to happen. On the long run, you’ll feel better and less stressed and you might even end up making more money.

 

I know it might be hard, but it’s a good idea to learn to say no. Early.

 

7. Perfectionism Holds You Back. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

 

Unfortunately for me, I’m a perfectionist. Although I’m not speaking from experience (I can’t say I’ve actually failed really bad so far), I can say this: I probably didn’t try hard enough.

 

Most of my life’s biggest lessons came from mistakes and I wish I could do more of these in my business as well. Now I’m not telling you to be a fool and to not be cautious. Everything is about calculated risk. Just don’t stop at calculating.

 

Just do it!

 

Overthinking, over-planning, constant supervision are not good friends and they set you back most of the time. In other words… 

 

8. Focus on Important Tasks

 

As previously mentioned, clients will always ask you for minor things that will take you time. While changing a background color might take 5 minutes, adding a popup might take hours, depending on the platform.

 

Make sure you estimate right what you can do quickly and what you can’t do. Don’t spend hours trying to figure out how to implement that particular feature. The feature won’t be useful if the site isn’t ranking.

 

Focus on those important tasks related to SEO, such as publishing blog posts on schedule, constantly optimizing pages and seeking backlink opportunities.

 

Otherwise, these less important tasks, although small, stack up and end up taking a lot of time, leaving too little for dealing with the important things.

 

SEO task prioritization

Source: grasshopperherder.com

 

9. It’s Useful to Have a Monthly Schedule & Estimate

 

As much as I don’t like relying on very strict patterns, as I feel they limit creativity, you do need some.

 

It’s good to have a checklist of SEO best practices you generally do for all clients (for an SEO audit) and it’s also good to develop monthly schedules for each client.

 

How many blog posts are you going to publish per month? When should you start looking for new topics? When do you launch a new wave of outreaches?

 

You can also purchase some nofollow backlinks from reputable sites which are relevant to your client’s niche. Avoid using the same sites for all your clients. If it’s a car rental website, look for car news publishers.

 

 

SEO monthly schedule

 

This will also help you deliver an estimate at the end of the month to justify your labor. Some clients don’t really care and if you deliver good results they will start ignoring them, but it adds to the transparency and helps you keep track of your progress (it acts like a journal).

 

10. User Intent & UX Really Do Matter

 

Once you get to the 1st page, you’ll start noticing that slight changes that align with user intent have a positive impact. Now it’s hard to isolate in order to see if the changes have impacted rankings, but it’s definitely worth taking a look at conversion rate, which will usually improve.

 

SEO and user experience ux

 

You have to figure out what makes a client buy or take the appropriate action that you want them to take and what makes them leave and never come back. Once you know that, you’ll know exactly what you have to do.

 

Do they want to see the price? Make the price font bigger. Are they looking for images? Put them first. Answer their questions and they will convert.

 

Here’s a good video to watch to understand the basics of UX:

 

 

A general rule of thumb is that your clickable objects are obvious. You can use tools like Hotjar or Yandex Metrica to figure out if your users are clicking where you don’t want them to click.

 

A good first step is to take a look at what the top competitors are doing. Don’t copy paste them, but consider that since they’re #1, it means that they’re definitely doing something good.

 

For me, working on improving the UX brought results in both rankings and sales. Even if Google doesn’t reward the UX changes with rankings early on, you can measure its success by looking at the conversion rate. Higher conversion rates mean more money and more money means more SEO, which eventually ends up in better rankings.

 

11. Tools Are Really Useful & They Save up Time

 

Having the luxury of being able to use the CognitiveSEO Tool was essential to my success. It saved me countless hours of work and sorting Excel files by aggregating everything into the platform, from backlinks and technical audits to rank tracking.

 

SEO tools can really help you speed up the optimization process, so make sure you pick the right ones and use them to leverage your work.

 

If you’re just starting out and don’t have a budget to spend on tools, you can obviously help yourself with free ones. Here’s a list of free SEO tools that I use in general, along with the CognitiveSEO Toolset.

 

12. Paid SEO Audits Are Better

 

When you do an SEO audit, don’t copy paste some info from a free tool. Firstly, the client might test you with that. Secondly, following that path your results might not be impressive.

 

Wasting too much time on things such as 100% PageSpeed Insights score or keyword density will really hurt you both short and long term. Instead, focus on important things such as indexability, keyword research, UX, content creation, title & meta description optimization and promotion.

 

A great deal you can make is to offer a free audit if they decide to sign a monthly services contract.

 

If they say no, they can keep the audit, but it’s going to cost them. This way, it’s not actually a free audit anymore, but it’s like labor included in a monthly contract. You’ll have to audit their site before you start the job anyway, right?

 

This way you’ll feel more responsible for the work, knowing that it’s actual work and not just a pitch. You also have the audit as an incentive for them to sign a monthly SEO services contract.

 

As a client, free SEO audits can cost you more than paid ones on the long run. So better get the real deal.

 

13. Links Are Still Important

 

There’s not much to say here. I always do technical things first while preparing the keyword research and content gap analysis. Then I immediately start the content optimization process and long term monthly content via the blog.

 

However, to really push it to the next level, I have to admit that links have definitely showed good results, especially when pushing from the 5th position to the top 3 ones.

 

So if you have a tough competition, you’ll still need to think of some ways to get sites to link to you, even in 2019.

 

14. Links Are Indeed Expensive 

 

Obviously, the easiest way to get links is to pay for them.. But god damn, some links are expensive! And when I say expensive I don’t mean just money but also all the problems that paid links can bring (penalties for instance).

 

I’ve had cases in which certain publications have asked me for a client’s whole month budget just for one link. And I also had to provide the content myself!

 

The truth is that cheap links are also bad links and they’re usually not worth it, since they come from sketchy websites that don’t provide much quality. I know “bloggers” that write about everything… today they write about one brand and the next day about their competitor, recommending both.

 

However, I would high recommend that you nofollow those links. Even though you might think that they don’t, the truth is that nofollow links impact SEO. Not as much as the dofollow ones, but they do.

 

15. Links Can Be Obtained For Free (#naturally)

 

Yes. You’ve heard me right. It is possible. Even for small websites in uninteresting niches. But links don’t come that easily. 

 

You can’t just publish your post and pray that it will rain backlinks. You have to promote it. Be it through direct e-mail outreach, organically on social networks or through Facebook ads, your chances of landing a backlink will increase.

 

You need to be persuasive. The truth is this requires both earned skills and some talent. A good way of increasing your success rate is to get under their skin. Don’t outreach directly with what you want, but try to build a relationship before. In general, you have more chances if they also get something in return, so figure out how you can help them first and they will help you back.

 

I’ve started conversations by asking about soccer, favorite movies or personal stories. Many people share these experiences on social media. Follow them for a while and try to start a conversation. Once they reply the first time, your chances of collaborating are already high.

 

Also, when you’re starting with e-mail outreach, make sure you’re outreaching to people that might be interested in collaborating with you. If you do your research well, your chances will increase even more.

 

Free backlinks with e-mail outreach

 

Some even go one step further by writing posts specifically for the people they’re about to outreach. For example, if you see someone constantly talking about certain aspects of a diet, you could write about it on your nutrition website and then outreach them.

 

Most of them will at least be happy to share the post on social media and, even if it’s not quite as good as a backlink, it still helps make your post more popular. Who knows, maybe someone else who follows them will see your post and link to it.

 

You can also try some other methods, such as the mention outreach technique.

 

16. The More Money Clients Have, the Less They Stress You Out

 

Don’t get me wrong. People are all different and character is what matters most. I’ve had people that have money and stressed me out a lot.

 

However, in general, the ones that don’t have the money upfront or always postpone payment for different reasons might also be the most demanding and they can also be the first to call you out if you take a bad step.

 

Generally, people with money have a better understanding of how things work and they ask more questions about what the final result will be and fewer questions about how you’re going to achieve that.

 

If your offer isn’t ridiculously high, you’ll have an easier time signing a contract for a decent pay. They are focused on the final result and don’t micro manage you too much.

 

However, they are also the most fierce if you try to scam them or take them for fools, so make sure you avoid that. They have good lawyers.

 

17. Be Firm About Your Schedule Upfront

 

I’ve made the big mistake of always answering the phone and trying to serve the client immediately whenever they needed assistance. However, that put me second and, over time, it affected me both personally and professionally.

 

Even if you work from home or if you’re an entrepreneur, you need to have a limit on how much you work.

 

It’s a good idea to tell your clients upfront that you prefer to be contacted via e-mail (or your preferred social network channel) and that your schedule is between xx AM and xx PM.

 

I know it’s all #GaryVee and stuff and I love him, but don’t overwork yourself or you’ll get too tired to be motivated at all.

 

If the clients keep calling you all the time, you can consider telling them that the hours spent act as marketing consultation sessions which can be billed.

 

18. Transparency Matters More Than Quick Results

 

Many clients that come don’t have any SEO training. Most of them will ask questions about Google’s algorithms that might seem silly. Answer then with calm and honesty.

 

If you’re dealing with someone who’s had bad previous experiences, being transparent might help even more. If the others have promised them #1 in no-time and haven’t delivered, do you think they will fall for it again?

 

Instead, tell them that nobody can actually promise you that. If they want to work with you it’s good and if they don’t, it’s also good. You can instead promise them that you’ll do your best.

 

Here’s a list of questions and answers on how to convince clients to buy your SEO services. They should help you get more deals.

 

19. Communication Is Key

 

Sounds like couple therapy, doesn’t it? Well, you and your client are sort of a couple and communication is very important. You have to make it very very clear what you need, what you’re going to do, what they can and can not do. And they should communicate things back to you as well.

 

Make sure your clients understand that they can’t make any modifications to the website without consulting you first. SEO can be affected by anything, so make sure they know this.

 

More importantly, make sure they don’t start getting backlinks from sketchy websites. Sure, it’s a very good idea that they always seek backlink opportunities, but this doesn’t mean they should also start any link building without telling you.

 

Communication is key SEO

 

When talking about big changes, make sure you have a written consent, either via e-mail, SMS, social media or even paper. It’s best via e-mail as it’s harder to lose.

 

20. Most People Who Want SEO Don’t Have Websites on Popular Platforms

 

This might not make you happy, but many people that really need SEO campaigns don’t run on popular content management platforms, such as WordPress, Joomla or Magento.

 

Those platforms are already pretty SEO friendly and there’s usually a lot of information on the web that covers specific cases related to them.

 

Prepare to deal with very weird platforms, as well as custom built sites which are either old or simply not SEO friendly.

 

This might be a case of SEO lesson no. 6 (not an ideal client). However, if you’re just focusing on the SEO part strictly and can guarantee that someone else will implement the changes, then it’s good.

 

But again, if you don’t want to waste time, just don’t take clients that don’t meet your ideal criteria.

 

21. Programmers Are (Sometimes) Difficult to Work With

 

Disclaimer: I’m not trying to insult anyone. Programmers are awesome. If you’re a web developer/programmer, then you should definitely have a good understanding of technical SEO.

 

This might just be something local, but 2/3 of times I’ve got the impression that they have a can’t do attitude, an excuse or something similar.

 

A common mistake I see with programmers that build custom websites is using the same titles as URLs, menus and slugs and not having enough flexibility.

 

So, if I create a page with the title “X lessons I’ve learned from optimizing small/medium businesses” then the URL will be automatically generated as “x-lessons-I-ve-learned-from-optimizing-small-medium-businesses” and that same title will be in the menu of the site, which isn’t quite favorable.

 

Again, most of these issues don’t come with WordPress and seem basic knowledge to us, but for PHP developers it might be different, they might focus on other things they find more important.

 

Explaining the importance is essential but you also have to be assertive in your communication. Most of them are always trying to be nice, but you can feel that tension somewhere… Sort of like you’re addressing a criticism on their work, as if it weren’t good enough.

 

Sometimes though, they might have good arguments, such as “That would probably cause a security issue, are you sure it’s worth it?” to which the answer would be “If you’re certain it causes that much trouble, then probably not”.

 

 

If you want to save time, record videos showing exactly what you mean instead of e-mail texting. A video recording of your screen showing where the changes should take place + your voice explaining the process will be more effective.

 

Prepare for bugs and let them know upfront that it’s not a 1 time deal. In one case there were some redirect issues in which URL parameters with unique identifiers from Facebook would result in a blank page. The programmer fixed it, but then we figured out that Adwords parameters do the same.

 

Then some other bugs came out and so on. At this rate, both you and the programmer can get annoyed, but keep your calm. 

 

It might sound logical and simple to you, coming from a world where these small issues don’t really exist (WordPress) but to them and their platform it might not be the same. However, some SEO training won’t hurt. They should be interested in learning these things. The truth is that the code can be pretty, but it doesn’t matter if the site doesn’t rank.

 

It’s a different thing when they understand how SEO works, though. For example, the awesome programming #team here at CognitiveSEO definitely isn’t a difficult one. And believe me… our CEO is a champion at finding bugs.

 

What SEO lessons have you learned in your journey as a digital or content marketer? Which one was the most important? Please share in the comments section below!

 

The post 21 SEO & Business Lessons Learned From Optimizing Small Websites appeared first on SEO Blog | cognitiveSEO Blog on SEO Tactics & Strategies.

How to Use Screaming Frog: A Beginner's Guide

Posted by on Jul 19, 2019 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on How to Use Screaming Frog: A Beginner's Guide

If you are new to search engine optimization (SEO) or coming across your first time using Screaming Frog, this post is for you!

A common issue I noticed while interning at Distilled was the significant amount of trouble interns had setting up and navigating the tools we use for SEO. While trying to find a balance between learning new concepts in SEO as a part-time intern and familiarizing ourselves with the tools we use daily, we noticeably had less time engaging with concepts.

My first crawl as an intern was for a site with over hundreds of thousands of URLs and I ran into a handful of problems I had to learn from. As you begin working in SEO, you will come across powerful tools that will aid you in finding valuable data. It is important to be able to utilize and navigate these tools as efficiently as possible.

At Distilled, a tool we often use is called Screaming Frog, a website crawler that crawls URLs and returns valuable data for us to analyze in order to audit technical and onsite SEO.

In this blog, we will be covering how to set up your device for Screaming Frog and configurations to be made in order to crawl a site, and executing your crawl. All of this will be beneficial in setting you up for success in using Distilled’s very own technical audit checklist and will ensure you’re getting the data you need to run your first audit.

Setting up your device

As you begin crawling sites, you will find some sites are larger than others and require more of your system’s memory to store and process the data that Screaming Frog finds. Before you start crawling websites, it would be beneficial to allocate more of your system’s RAM to Screaming Frog – allowing for more speed and flexibility for all future crawling. This will be necessary for sites with over 150k URLs to crawl.

Configuration > System > Memory

The default setting for 32-bit machines is 1GB of RAM and 2GB of RAM for 64-bit machines. I recommend using 8GB, which allows Screaming Frog to crawl up to 5 million URLs. Screaming Frog recommends using 2GB less than your total RAM, but be wary if you dedicate your total RAM your system may experience a crash.

When you’re done allocating more RAM to Screaming Frog, you will need to restart your software for the changes to apply.

Configurations

Once you begin crawling sites, it’s important to adjust your configurations accordingly to make sure Screaming Frog is crawling efficiently as possible. Here I will show you some basic configurations I like to use.

Configuration > Spider > Basic

These are the default settings Screaming Frog has for every crawl. It is a good habit to set your configurations specific to the crawl you’re about to execute and make adjustments here.

Here are the basic settings I use here at Distilled to run my tech audits:

  • Follow Internal “nofollow: Allows us to crawl internal links with “nofollow attributes” to check if our site is implementing this tag to show content we do/don’t want discovered or indexed.
  • Crawl Canonicals: Allows us to crawl canonical link elements to check if we’re indicating what pages we want ranking.
  • Crawl Next/Prev: Allows us to crawl rel=”next” and rel=”prev” elements to give us an idea if our site is clearly communicating the relationship between pages.
  • Extract hreflang: Displays hreflang language, region codes, and the URL to check we are communicating the different variations of our site.
  • Crawl Linked XML Sitemaps: Allows us to discover URLs in XML sitemaps.
  • Auto Discover XML Sitemaps via robots.txt: Allows us to find sitemaps discoverable through robots.txt

If you are dealing with a site that utilizes JavaScript and want to spot check internal navigation, you’ll need to execute a separate crawl with different configurations for that specific page, not the whole domain. Navigate to the “rendering” tab to make sure our crawler can find those instances. If you want to learn more about debugging javascript check out our Senior Consultant, Sergey Stefoglo’s Moz blog.

Configuration > Spider > Basic > Rendering

After spider configurations, we always need to set custom filters for specific things we want to show up in our crawl.

Configuration > Custom > Search

I regularly use these filters to include and exclude things I want to keep an eye out for and to make sure all pages are accounted for:

  • <embed: Checks for any crucial content loaded in flash
  • <iframe: Checks for any content loaded in iframe

Now that you’ve got your configurations set for your initial crawl, you can save these configurations for future crawls so you don’t have to go through this process every time! Just load the configurations you need before running each crawl.

File > Configuration > Save As…

File > Configuration > Load…

Crawling Your First Site

Now that we’ve set up our system and made our configurations, the only thing left to do is to start crawling our site!

To crawl a website you will want to use Screaming Frogs default “Spider” mode. This will allow us to crawl the site and gather links based on our configurations and filters we created. For our example, we’ll crawl https://www.distilled.net/

Mode > Spider > Enter URL > Click Start

In addition to Spider mode, I also utilize “List” mode which will crawl a list of URLs that can come from a file or a simple copy and paste. For this example, we’ll use Distilled’s sitemap URL.

Mode > List > Upload > Download Sitemap



Important things to consider when crawling:

  • You can stop and resume your crawl as needed.
  • Turning off your system or exiting Screaming Frog will result in losing your data.
  • You can always save your crawl and resume to finish at a later time.

After crawling our site, it’s time to use the data we’ve collected and give it some context. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend reading the article, “Technical Audit Checklist for Human Beings” by our Principal Consultant, Ben Estes.

This article will help you transition into conducting your first technical audit using the tech audit checklist provided in Ben’s article. After reading this article and using our tech audit checklist, I hope you find insightful data that triggers your curiosity about the field of SEO.

If you want to share your first experience with Screaming Frog, have any questions or feedback, or found this helpful, please drop a comment down below!

WordPress Speed Testing

Posted by on Jul 19, 2019 in Greg's SEO Articles | Comments Off on WordPress Speed Testing

You need to find out if your site’s loading just fine or not – this is fairly simple to accomplish!

1. PINGDOM

Pingdom is very easy to use and yet extensively comprehensive. For beginners, the summary box provides some useful data such as load time (in seconds), page size, your ranking among other tested sites, and a performance grade. Below said summary box, there’s additional info which specifically shows what’s fast and what’s slowing down your site.

2. GTMETRIX

GTMetrix works like Pingdom but provides even more data. Not only does it show what’s slow, but it even shows if there are errors (bad requests, etc.) which can also slow down your site and/or hinder its performance.

HOW TO DIAGNOSE AND FIX ANY PROBLEMS FOUND IN YOUR SPEED TEST RESULTS

After testing, what should you do with the information? Diagnosis is actually quite easy.

1. POOR HOSTING

Hosting performance is paramount because if the server’s slow then so is your website. If it’s taking too long for your host to respond to the initial request, you might need to look for a different web hosting service.

2. POORLY CODED/BLOATED PLUGINS

Plugins are great as long as they don’t hinder your site’s performance – the “Plugin Performance Profiler” (developed by GoDaddy.com) scans your installed plugins and checks for any site-slowing culprits. You’ll also want to delete any plugins you don’t or no longer use.

3. POORLY CODED THEMES

WordPress Themes do need to be eye-catching but also high-performance; this means you want to be careful about any that have too many styling options and shortcoding. One we recommend that’s feature-rich but does extremely well is “OceanWP”.

5. NOT USING A CDN

Please use CloudFlare. It’s incredibly nimble as a Content Delivery Network, and it starts at the great price of $0.

6. POOR THIRD-PARTY SERVICE

Sometimes your site might have to use Third-Party content (content from another server). This can result in poor performance because, not only is the number of HTTP requests increased, but your site’s dependent on another server to load fast.

How to Do Change Detection with Screaming Frog and Google Sheets

Posted by on Jul 19, 2019 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on How to Do Change Detection with Screaming Frog and Google Sheets

I made a Google Sheet that does change detection for you based on two Screaming Frog crawls. I’ll tell you why that’s important. 

Two problems frequently come up for SEOs, regardless of if we’re in-house or external.

  1. Knowing when someone else has made key changes to the site
  2. Keeping a record of specific changes we made to the site, and when.

Both can sound trivial, but unnoticed changes to a site can undo months of hard work and, particularly with large e-commerce sites, it’s often necessary to update internal links, on-page text, and external plugins in search of the best possible performance. That doesn’t just go for SEO, it applies just as much to CRO and Dev teams.

Keeping a record of even just our changes can be really time-consuming but without it, we often have to rely on just remembering what we did when, particularly when we see a pattern of changing traffic or rankings and want to know what might have caused it. 

These things are people problems. When we can’t rely on other teams to work with us on their planned changes, that needs to be fixed at a team level. When we don’t have a system for listing the changes we make it’s understandable, particularly for smaller keyword or linking tweaks, but if we compare ourselves to a Dev team for example – a record of changes is exactly the kind of thing we’d expect them to just include in their process. At the end of the day, when we don’t keep track of what we doing that’s because we either don’t have the time or don’t have the commitment to a process. 

We shouldn’t really be trying to fix people problems with tools. That said, people problems are hard. Sometimes you just need a way of staying on top of things while you fight all the good fights. That’s exactly what this is for. 

This is a way to highlight the changes other teams have made to key pages, so you can quickly take action if needed, and to keep track of what you’ve done in case you need to undo it.

As a completely separate use-case, you can also use this sheet to check for differences between different versions of your site. Say, for the sake of argument, that you need to know the difference between the mobile and desktop versions of your site, or your site with and without JavaScript rendering, or even the differences between your live site and a private developer version you’re about to release. There are tools that offer change detection and cover some of the functions of this sheet, but I really like the flexibility this offers to check for changes between versions as well as over time.

Screaming Frog Change Detection Google Sheet.
Access for free.

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What sites is this good for?

This sheet is for anyone who needs an idea of what is changing on a fairly large number of pages but can’t afford to pay for big, expensive change detection systems. It’ll work its way through around 1,000 key pages. 

That said, 1,000 key pages stretches further than you would think. For many small sites, that’ll more than cover all the pages you care about and even larger eCommerce sites get the vast majority of their ranking potential through a smaller number category pages. You would be surprised how big a site can get before more than 1,000 category pages are needed. 

That 1,000 URL limit is a guideline, this sheet can probably stretch a bit further than that, it’s just going to start taking quite a while for it to process all of the formulas.

So what changes does it detect?

This Google Sheet looks at your “new crawl” and “old crawl” data and gives you tabs for each of the following;

  • Newly found pages – any URL in the new crawl that isn’t in the old crawl
  • Newly lost pages – any URL in the old crawl that isn’t in the new crawl
  • Indexation changes – i.e. Any URL which is now canonicalised or was noindexed
  • Status code changes – i.e. Any URL which was redirected but is now code 200
  • URL-level Title Tag or Meta Description changes
  • URL-level H1 or H2 changes
  • Any keywords that are newly added or missing sitewide.

What’s that about keyword change detection?

On many sites, we’re targeting keywords in multiple places at a time. Often we would like to have a clear idea of exactly what we’re targeting where but that’s not always possible.

The thing is, as we said, your pages keep changing – you keep changing them. When we update titles, meta descriptions and H1s we’re not checking every page on the site to confirm our keyword coverage. It’s quite easy to miss that we are removing some, middlingly important, keyword from the site completely. 

Thanks to a custom function, the Google sheet splits apart all of your title tags, meta descriptions, and H#s into their component words and finds any that, as of the last crawl, have either been newly added, or removed from the site completely.

It then looks the freshly removed words up against Search Console data to find all the searches you were getting clicks from before, to give you an idea of what you might be missing out on now.

The fact that it’s checking across all your pages means you don’t end up with a bunch of stopwords in the list (stopwords being; it, and, but, then etc.) and you don’t have to worry about branded terms being pulled through either – it’s very unlikely that you’ll completely remove your brand name from all of your title tags and meta descriptions by accident, and if you do that’s probably something you’d want to know about.

How do I use it?

Start by accessing a copy of this Google Sheet so you can edit it. There are step-by-step instructions in the first tab but broadly all you need to do is;

  1. Run a Screaming Frog crawl of all the pages you want to detect changes on
  2. Wait a bit (like a couple of weeks) or crawl the mobile, JavaScript, or dev version right away for comparison
  3. Run another SF crawl of the pages you want to detect changes on
  4. Export the internal_all report for both crawls and paste them into the “old crawl” and “new crawl” tabs respectively
  5. Wait a bit (like 30 minutes)
  6. Check the results tabs for changes
  7. (Optional) Import Search Console data to give “value lost” information for keywords you removed.

What do you think?

I hope you find this useful! I was really surprised by what Google Sheets was able to achieve, is there anything you think I’ve missed? Anything you would change?

Heard from Google, the biggest trends impacting PPC are privacy and automation

Posted by on Jul 18, 2019 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Heard from Google, the biggest trends impacting PPC are privacy and automation

We’re now well past this year’s Google Marketing Live event which was hosted in June in San Francisco. By now you’ve most likely heard about all the latest new betas and product changes – the “what” of what was announced. I myself am most excited about the additional controls that are coming to automated bidding. But what most media did not cover as much is the thinking behind the new launches. In other words, how did Google executives talk about the industry and why the new features address the biggest challenges advertisers face.

I believe taking a moment to reflect on some subtle cues of how the announcements were delivered can help us glean insights into Google’s inner workings. What is the ads team thinking? What might that mean for what they will build next? And what does it mean for us PPC pros as the landscape of Google Ads capabilities is constantly shifting?

I truly believe in the value of reading between the lines because even in my days as a Googler, I simply couldn’t know every detail of what Google Ads was doing, yet during Q&A sessions at conferences like SMX, I was expected to have answers. Often times, I had the answer because I knew how the product and engineering leaders thought, and what motivated them. All I had to do was connect the dots.

So let’s take a look at some of the statements made by Google executives at Google Marketing Live 2019 that I found interesting and what I think they may mean for the industry.

Greatest businesses in the world are founded on user trust

Prabhakar Raghavan, SVP of Google Ads, focused on the need for privacy, a growing concern among regulators. We’re all still catching our breath from the major changes we had to make to our websites in the past year with GDPR in Europe but this may just have been the beginning. In fact, US-based advertisers who didn’t worry about GDPR will almost certainly have to think about the impact of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) which goes into effect January 1, 2020.

Raghavan said that consumers have redefined their expectations and now expect to be able to seamlessly move across the web and across devices while having a personalized experience and at the same time have their privacy protected.

Prabhakar Raghavan, SVP of Google Ads, speaking about privacy at Google Marketing Live.

So Google is working on ways that they can continue to deliver relevant ads while using the least amount of user data says Raghavan. These are difficult problems to solve and at last year’s GML event we got a glimpse into the type of technology Google is building to solve these types of problems. For example, double-blind encryption technology lets multiple parties contribute data into a system that joins it together but where neither contributing party can get any personally identifiable data back out.

Raghavan says that the greatest businesses in the world are founded on user trust and Google obviously wants to be one of the world’s greatest companies.

One of the things you may have heard me repeat more than once is that we can make automated bidding based on machine learning (like tCPA and tROAS) better if we give it better signals about our business. It was summed up really well in a post recapping my session at SMX Advanced where I said something to the effect of: “We must focus on giving the machines the right goals in order to train them correctly.” But business data about conversions is usually about customers so sharing it with a third party like Google requires a lot of care to remove personally identifiable data.

The bottom line on privacy

As privacy concerns mount, and search engines take it more seriously, advertisers will find it more challenging to bring their data about what drives their business into the engines. We already saw customer match being scaled back due to privacy concerns related to unscrupulous advertisers submitting lists of users whose permission they lacked. Without this data, the machine learning can’t learn about meaningful signals and that means results from strategies that rely entirely on the engines will be sub-par to those that have found a way to combine internal ML with that of the engines.

I expect we’ll see more ways to bring our data into the engines through Azure from Microsoft or Ads Data Hub from Google. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that we will be able to use technology from one engine to inform decisions on another engine (e.g. use Facebook Ads audience data to better target those users when they search on Google). To achieve that, third-party tools will gain importance.

The cloud is dead

To say that the cloud is dead seems like a crazy statement, right? I would have said so myself… after all, everything is moving to the cloud. What is not to like about having a supercomputer at your disposal to do things our own devices simply can’t? Privacy is the answer.

As powerful and useful as Amazon Alexa is, many people simply don’t want to be listened to all the time. And now that Echo devices usually have cameras, the creepiness factor of being watched constantly only goes up. But it’s thanks to the power of the cloud that Alexa can make sense of even my three-year old’s questions.

The bottom line on the future of the cloud

Part of the answer according to Google is federated learning, a way of doing machine learning where the user’s private training data never has to go into the cloud. There’s still going to be a cloud, but new ways have to be invented to give our own devices the capability to do things locally so that all private data can be kept secure locally. We may also see terminals like echo devices and nest devices become more powerful again. Whereas we had a trend towards doing more processing in the cloud, now we may start to see a reversal caused by privacy concerns.

Creating a great ad is hard

This was said by Nicky Rettke, director of product management for YouTube Ads. Creating a great ad is one of the most common challenges Google hears from advertisers. And while she’s talking about YouTube, the same holds for search ads as well. We have an audit tool in Optmyzr (my company) and one of the structural checks it can run on accounts is to look for excessive usage of the same headlines or descriptions across many ad groups. I’ve seen accounts spending well in excess of $1 million per month on Google Ads where thousands of ad groups all use the same headline.

Mike Rhodes, a PPC agency founder and smart friend of mine, said that perhaps it’s because if advertisers ran many different variations across their account, they’d find it harder to update all those ads when a new directive came in from the company’s branding team, or when new promotions were launched.

Regardless of the reason, Nicky’s on to something when she says that creating ads, let alone “great” ads is not usually top of mind for advertisers. Yet when I asked PPC pros during a recent #ppcchat on Twitter what they were least likely to trust to automation, they said it was creating ads. So it’s a task the humans often skip, and they’re not willing to let the machines help them. Quite the conundrum.

The bottom line on writing better ads

Google knows humans are too busy to write great ads at scale. Yet humans don’t believe ML can do that job for them. What we’ll see are more hybrid solutions where the machine provides suggestions and makes it easy for the human to edit and deploy them at scale. RSAs are another good example: the humans provide the machine with relevant options to choose from but the engine’s ML has the freedom to combine those human-suggested elements in whatever way it believes will create the most relevant experience for the user.

Don’t ask ‘if’ automation will disrupt your business, but rather ‘when’

This was said by Todd Rowe, global managing director for Google Marketing Solutions. That same sentiment was expressed by Ginny Marvin during her keynote at SMX Advanced in June. The reality is that ML gets better as it gets access to more data and as computing power continues to rise.

Todd believes there’s about a two-year time frame before new technology, like automation in PPC, will be disruptive. That means advertising professionals have roughly two years to figure out how they will work with a new technology. If they wait longer, that new technology may cost them their livelihoods. Dire, right?

Here’s the thing though… we don’t have to be the victims of automation. We can use it to build better agencies and stronger PPC teams.

Thinking about the impact of automation on PPC has continued to evolve as has my own thinking because part of what PPC pros need to do is create their own automation.

Todd makes a similar point and says that agencies need to think of how to automate their agency process.

The ad engines build incredibly powerful automations using the latest in machine learning. Most advertisers simply can’t compete and build a better automation, so rather than compete, they should determine how to complement the technology. I think the answer is “automation layering.”’

In one example of automation layering, the engine handles bidding using target CPA Smart Bidding and the advertiser layers on their own automations, even simple ones like automated rules and alerts that let them know when Smart Bidding is starting to fail due to some unexpected factors affecting conversion rates, like a flash sale or an outage affecting conversion tracking.

The bottom line on PPC in an automated world

Automation is here to stay and the PPC pro’s role will change in the next two to five years. Even some of the most successful practitioners are delivering great results with simple automations of their own because for every simple but time-consuming task they automate, they gain time to experiment with all the new stuff Google keeps announcing and they get to the head of the pack and become the sought-after thought leaders in PPC.

Conclusion

I learned a tremendous amount at Google Marketing Live and only wish I’d had more time to attend more sessions so I could have shared more in this post. Tools and features aside, the biggest trends we heard about at the event are about privacy, machine learning and how humans fit into this ever-evolving picture.

The post Heard from Google, the biggest trends impacting PPC are privacy and automation appeared first on Search Engine Land.

How to Learn SEO According to 130 Experts

Posted by on Jul 18, 2019 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on How to Learn SEO According to 130 Experts

What’s the fastest way to learn SEO?

I asked 130 real SEO experts to find out.

Here is the question we asked 130 different experts:

“If you had to start over, what steps would you take to learn SEO?”

Out of the 130 answers, there were many common recommendations for learning SEO.

Top 8 Ways to Learn SEO

  1. Take Action
  2. Learn the Fundamentals
  3. Get a Mentor
  4. Focus on Your Strengths
  5. Invest in an SEO Course
  6. Work at an SEO Agency
  7. Don’t Chase Algorithms
  8. Go to Conferences

1. Take Action

Getting your “hands dirty” and getting more real life experience is the best way to learn SEO (and any skill).

2. Learn the Fundamentals

Follow top SEO blogs, SEO news websites, join SEO communities, and go to SEO conferences to get exposure to all facets of the industry.

3. Get a Mentor

Having an experienced mentor/SEO expert guide you through the process can save you years of trial and error.

4. Focus on Your Strengths

For example, if you are a good writer, then focus on the content-side of SEO. Or, if you are a social butterfly, then focus on the relationship building and PR-side of SEO/link acquisition.

Subscribe for more free SEO training videos.

5. Invest in an SEO Course

Quality courses are structured and easy to follow. This is important when you’re starting out because there is an unlimited amount of SEO information online. That makes it challenging to put all the moving parts together.

A proven course trusted by over 700 students can help (hint, hint… Gotch SEO Academy)

6. Work at an SEO Agency

Working at an agency will help you grow as a professional at an accelerated rate. Not only will you be forced to learn SEO quickly, but you will also get exposure into how agencies operate.

7. Don’t Chase Algorithms

Focus on developing timeless skills such relationship building, persuasion, sales, SEO content creation, copywriting, and marketing in general.

8. Go to Conferences

SEO and marketing conferences are the single best way to network with other likeminded individuals. Also, you get to be around people who are more accomplished than you are. This forces you to elevate your gain and to learn.

Start Learning Now With These SEO Resources

You can start learning SEO right now by diving into these resources.

General SEO

What is SEO? – You probably already know that SEO is an acronym for “Search Engine Optimization”. That’s important, but there’s a lot more to know how this industry than you think. This guide is a good place to start.

The Only SEO Strategy You Need – Every successful SEO campaigns starts with a well-designed strategy. This guide will show you a simple 4-step strategy that has worked across nearly every vertical.

SEO Audit Checklist – The best way to start an SEO campaign is with a detailed audit. Properly performing an SEO audit will help you identify what to focus on. This is critical because not all SEO actions are created equally.

47 Deadly SEO Mistakes to Avoid – I’ve made many mistakes throughout my SEO career, but you can avoid all of them by reading this guide.

What’s the Best CMS for SEO? (Data-Driven Answer) – Believe it or not, WordPress isn’t the #1 CMS for SEO. Read our data-driven case study to find out which one is.

On-Site SEO

The On-Page SEO Checklist – Most people think on-page SEO is just placing keywords on a page. Wrong! There’s so much more you need to do to achieve perfect on-page SEO. This guide will show you our 80-point checklist.

SEO Title Tags (Everything You Need to Know) – Understanding how to optimize title tags is fundamental SEO skill. Real SEO pros know that it’s much more than just jamming keywords into the title. Use this guide to learn the nuances of optimizing title tags.

What is a 301 Redirect? – 301 redirects can be used to exponentially grow your site’s authority. They can also destroy your website at the same time. Read this guide to learn how to use them to your advantage.

HTTP vs. HTTPS – Your website should be using an SSL certificate. This guide explains why.

What is a Redirect Chain? – Redirect chains can rob your page’s of precious link equity. The good news is that you can avoid it by reading this guide.

Content

How to Write a Blog Post That Gets 304,392 Visitors – Your blog can be used a catalyst to grow your company. Don’t take it lightly!

Link Building

How to Build Backlinks – It’s nearly impossible to rank and achieve long-term SEO performance without quality links. This epic guide will give you the baseline knowledge you need to succeed with link building.

How to Use Expired Domains for SEO – Most people use expired domains to do shady, grey hat SEO. This guide teaches you how to leverage them in a safer way.

Anchor Text: The Definitive Guide – Understanding how to optimize anchor text is fundamental link building skill. This guide will show you how to do it the right way, so you get killer results and avoid getting penalized.

We’ve Spent Over $1 Million on Link Building Services (Here Are The Best Vendors) – Finding quality link vendors is a tough. That’s why I teamed up with Chris Dreyer and analyzed over $1,000,000 worth of link orders from the most popular vendors. Our goal was simple: to find out what vendors produce the highest quality work. The #1 vendor might surprise you.

Are Private Blog Networks (PBNs) Worth Building? – Every experienced SEO has used or been tempted to use PBNs in their career. The question is: are they worth it? Find out when you read this article.

SEO Tools

Ahrefs: The Ultimate Guide – Ahrefs is the best SEO tool on the market. This guide will show you how to use it the right way to drive more organic search traffic to your website.

Making Money

How to Make Money Online (LEGIT Method) – Client SEO is the single fastest way to grow your income online. This is the only guide you’ll ever need to get your first or more clients.

How to Build a Niche Website (Definitive Guide) – Building niche website is the single best way to learn SEO and to build a new income stream. This is literally the only guide you’ll ever need.

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

How to Create a Squeeze Page That Converts at 74.5% – Getting more organic search traffic is great, but converting that traffic is even more important. Did you know that ~98% of your website visitors are not ready to buy? That’s why it’s critical that you get them on your email list so you can nurture them. The first step is to build high-converting lead capture pages (also known as squeeze pages).

What’s Possible When You Learn SEO

I know it’s super internet marketer-like for me to say this, but learning SEO literally changed my life.

Here’s my story.

Website Marketing – The Complete Strategy Guide (Updated 2019)

Posted by on Jul 18, 2019 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Website Marketing – The Complete Strategy Guide (Updated 2019)

website marketing strategy

A website is a great marketing tool. It represents your business on the Internet and it’s one of the most important digital marketing channels you can use to get more traffic or make more sales.

Every business that wants to succeed online needs to have a clearly defined website marketing strategy. This is no longer optional but a ‘must have’ for businesses who want to survive in the highly competitive online market.

In this post you’ll learn what is website marketing, why it’s important to have a website marketing strategy and the 10 steps to follow to successfully promote your website online.

What is website marketing?

Website marketing is the process of promoting your website on the Internet. It is one of the online marketing channels you can use as part of your overall digital marketing strategy. The main goal of a website marketing campaign is to get more visits to your website.

Why you need to have a website marketing strategy?

As a Digital marketing manager, one of my tasks is to explain to my clients why they need to have a complete website marketing strategy and how to make it work for the benefit of their business.

#1 – It’s not about SEO and Social Media anymore

A few years back when someone was talking about web marketing, marketers thought about SEO.

Later that perception changed and social media came into the picture and it is very common today to associate digital marketing with social media and SEO.

As you can see from the diagram below, digital marketing has a lot more pillars including content marketing, mobile marketing, email marketing and more. Social media and SEO is only part of the equation.

Digital Marketing Channels
Digital Marketing Channels

A well-planned digital marketing strategy will help you utilize all available channels for promoting your business online.

#2 – You need a strategy and a plan

If you don’t write down your web marketing strategy that includes what you want to achieve online and how to actually do it, then it’s like driving with your eyes closed.

By preparing a strategy together with a plan, you will know exactly which tools to use, how to use them and what to expect as realistic results from each tool.

In addition, a plan makes it easier to communicate your goals within your business so that all departments are aligned with your strategy.

#3 – Do it before the competition

Sooner or later every business will get into the digital marketing game and things will become even tougher. To get ahead of the game, you should take your online promotion more seriously and the best place to start is by creating a web marketing strategy.

How to do website marketing?

To successfully promote your website on the Internet, you need a solid strategy that will take advantage for all digital marketing channels.

Here are the 10 steps to follow for a successful website marketing strategy.

  1. Perform a website design review
  2. Optimize your website for SEO
  3. Optimize your website for social media
  4. Create a content marketing plan
  5. Promote your website on social media networks
  6. Use Paid Ads to reach more customers
  7. Utilize email marketing to engage with your audience
  8. Use remarketing to get users back to your website
  9. Keep your website and content up-to-date and move forward
  10. Measure, Analyze, rinse and repeat

Step 1: Perform a website design review

The first step is to create a website that accurately represents your business. This is not directly related to the visual aspect of it (i.e. how it looks) but on the quality of the information provided.

Your website is the same as your shop window. It should look good on the outside and when customers enter your shop, everything should be organized and in place.

Before starting any campaigns, take some time and review your website and make sure that:

It has a simple hierarchical site structure – A good site structure helps both users and search engines navigate a website to easily find the information they need. As a rule of thumb, any page on your site should be accessible from the homepage in 3 clicks or less.

It’s user friendly and functional – Evaluate your website’s friendliness using the principles of SEO friendly web design and try to remove design elements that add complexity or are not needed.

It has accurate information about your company and products – Make sure that it provides users with everything they need to know about your company and products. Make use of visual elements to get the attention of your users.

It’s fast and mobile friendly – The majority of your users will come from mobile devices so test your website on mobile and optimize the experience of the user in the best way possible.

Step 2: Optimize your website for SEO

The next step is to start thinking about your SEO strategy. A well-defined SEO plan will eventually increase your rankings and traffic from search engines.

SEO is the process of increasing your website’s visibility in search engines and it consists of a number of steps:

Technical SEO – Making sure that your website is free of crawl errors and other issues that might keep search engines from indexing your website properly.

On-Page SEO – Making your webpages SEO friendly and your content easy to read by search engine crawlers.

SEO Content – Writing content that satisfies the user intent.

Off-Page SEO – Promoting your website for the purpose of getting high quality links from other websites.

Local SEO – Optimizing your website for location aware searches and for getting more clients to your brick and mortar store.

Besides the above standard SEO practices, you should also optimize your website for modern SEO like adding schema markup and optimizing your content for rich snippets.

Recommended reading: SEO checklist – use the checklist to completely optimize your website for SEO.

Step 3: Optimize your website for social media

The next step is to optimize your website for social media. This is not the same as social media marketing (we’ll talk about this on step 5), but it has to do with:

  • Having visual elements (images, video) on your website that can be shared on social media networks.
  • Adding social media sharing buttons on the pages you want to be shared on social networks.
  • Making sure that when a user clicks the share button (or shares your URL directly), the generated snippet is well formatted. Adding the necessary open graph meta tags and using image sizes and formats supported by all major networks is recommended.

Many webmasters skip this step and it’s a mistake that can negatively affect your social media promotion efforts.

While it looks like it’s more technical and not marketing related, it does play an important role. If your website does not allow users to share your content properly, don’t expect any social media exposure.

Step 4: Create a content marketing plan

The next step in your website marketing plan is to design a content marketing strategy.

Content Marketing Strategy
Content Marketing Strategy

When you promote a website online, you essentially promote the content of your website and that’s why it is referred to as content marketing.

The main purpose of content marketing is to help you create the right type of content that will attract new users to your website and keep them engaged.

To create a good strategy, you first need to:

  • Do your keyword research and find out which SEO keywords to target with your content.
  • Perform a competitor analysis and find out what is working for your competitors.
  • Analyze Google search results to find out what type of content Google wants for your target keywords (length of content, images/video, etc.).

Once you have a list of topics / keywords you should then create a content marketing calendar to specify when each piece of content will be published, who will write it and how it will be promoted after publication.

Companies who manage to have an on-going content marketing campaign, have more chances of succeeding online than companies that publish content occasionally without a plan.

Step 5: Promote your website on social media networks

Now that you have a constant flow of content being generated, the next step is to start promoting your website on the different social networks.

Follow the steps below:

Create Business Accounts on Social Networks

Your first action is to create business pages in the social networks that are relevant to your business.

These are the networks that your potential customers might be using. The most common suspects are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn.

Complete your Social Profiles

Next, make sure that your business pages are properly configured and all information is properly filled in.

Link your website and social media pages

Then, add links to your social pages on your website (in the footer) and also add the relevant schema (this will help search engines associate your website and the business pages together).

Grow your social media following

Having a business page with no followers does not provide any benefits to your business.

You need to spend some time to find and connect with people that might be interested in your business and also influencers in your niche.

Read this to get started: How to gain followers on Facebook

Create a social media calendar

Social media success is based on the quality of your postings. You need to fetch your social media networks high quality content on a regular basis. That’s the best way to get the attention of users and create an audience for your brand.

A good way to start is to create a social media calendar (the same way you did with step 4 above) and specify what type of content to publish and when.

Step 6: Use Paid Ads to reach more customers

As soon as you get started with SEO and social media marketing, you’ll realize one thing. It takes time for SEO to work and to get to a decent number of followers on social media organically.

This means that if you want results faster, you need to add one more ingredient to your website marketing and that is paid advertising.

With paid advertising you can get targeted traffic fast and start making sales or conversions.

There are various advertising platforms you can use but the most common are:

Google Ads – Target people based on the search terms they use on Google or show your ads on other Google properties (YouTube, Gmail) and websites that participate in Google AdSense.

Facebook Paid Ads – Promote your Facebook page, social media postings or ads to people using Facebook, Instagram or Facebook messenger.

Both methods are very effective but you should be careful not to waste a lot of money on advertising without a return. Better start with a low budget and measure the effectiveness of your campaigns and add more money as long as there is a positive ROI.

Step 7: Utilize email marketing to engage with your audience

One of the most effective sales channels is email.  In fact, one of the goals of your website marketing campaign should be to grow your email list.

Having an active email list is a great way to get people back to your website, let them know of new content or directly sell them a product. Make no mistake, email is not yet dead.

Email Marketing Statistics
Email Marketing Statistics

To make the most of your campaigns, follow these email marketing tips:

  • Make it easy for users to subscribe to your list – add the newsletter sign up box in places that is visible while users are browsing the website
  • Give them incentives (like a free book, free resources) – Freebies can make a big difference into how many people will sign up for your newsletter
  • Keep your promises – if you promise weekly updates, make sure that you send an email with new tips on a weekly basis.
  • Don’t abuse their trust – users’ trust you with their email address, don’t abuse their trust with too many emails. Everyone’s inbox is already full of promotional emails so think when it’s best to send them another one.

Step 8: Use remarketing to get users back to your website

Do you know what is the rule of 7?

It’s a rather old marketing rule which states that a potential client should see or hear an ad (or message) at least 7 times before they’ll take an action to buy a product or service.

This is applicable to internet marketing as well. In website marketing terms, this means you need to get users to re-visit your website a number of times before they proceed to the next step of your funnel.

Publishing new content of a frequent basis and using social media marketing and email marketing are all great ways to achieve this but there is one more method which is highly effective and this is remarketing.

How Remarketing Works
How Remarketing Works

With remarketing you use advertising platforms (either Google Ads, Facebook, or even Twitter) to re-connect with people that visited your website at least once.

This has a number of advantages including more targeted traffic, lower advertising costs and higher conversion rates.

Step 9: Keep your website and content up-to-date and move forward

When you do website marketing, you should not forget two important things:

First: To keep your website up-to-date

This means upgrading your website software to the latest version, ensuring that your website is secure and that is using the latest technologies.

For example, as part of your strategy you may consider accelerated mobile pages (AMP), which is the new HTML format supported by Google and other networks.

Second: To keep your content fresh and relevant

Besides publishing new content targeting specific keywords and increasing your organic reach, you also need to go back and audit your existing content.

As your website gets bigger and older, some of your content will become outdated and this is not good for users or search engines.

The first step of the process is to find thin content pages. These are pages that have no rankings, backlinks or traffic.

Maybe the content on those pages is good but since they don’t rank for anything, they don’t offer any real value to your website. As part of the audit, you should decide to either:

  • Update and republish them
  • Remove them and redirect the URL to other related pages on your website
  • Merge them with other pages

Related guide: How to find and fix thin content pages

The second step is to review your Google analytics and Google search console reports and find out which are the most popular pages of your website.

A page that has high rankings now does not mean that it will maintain those rankings for ever. The competition is big and chances are that new pages are published on a daily basis targeting exactly the same topics.

To make sure that you will not lose your rankings, you need to review your top pages once every few months and ensure that the content is still relevant and up-to-date.

Step 10: Measure, Analyze, Rinse and repeat

No marketing strategy is complete without proper monitoring. In the digital marketing world, everything can be measurable and analyzed so it’s important to have the right tools and metrics in place.

In the majority of cases, you can get the data you want from Google Analytics so you need to make sure that you have Google analytics installed on your website and properly configured.

The most common goals of a website marketing campaign are to:

  • Get traffic to your site
  • Increase conversion (makes sales, get new email subscribers etc.)

These goals should be tracked in Google analytics and analyzed so that you can make the right decisions.

For example, if you notice that posts covering certain topics perform better than others, you should focus your marketing efforts into creating content that is around those topics.

Key Learnings

A website is a great marketing tool, there is no doubt about that.

Before starting a web marketing promotion campaign review your website and make sure that it represents your business. A good website is mobile friendly, fast and has a simple hierarchical structure.

Next, spend time on SEO. This is a critical success factor for any online marketing campaign. If you can get your SEO right and start ranking for keywords that matter for your business, everything else becomes easier.

While waiting for SEO to work, jump into social media marketing and paid advertising. These two channels can drive targeted traffic to your website faster than any other method.

When traffic starts to flow in, it’s time to think about your email marketing and remarketing strategies. Both channels can convert traffic into customers better than any other channel.

Last but not least, don’t forget to go back and review your website and content and ensure that it’s always up-to date and relevant to satisfy the user intent.

The post Website Marketing – The Complete Strategy Guide (Updated 2019) appeared first on reliablesoft.net.

How to Rank Your Old, Outdated Content

Posted by on Jul 17, 2019 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on How to Rank Your Old, Outdated Content

real time

What percentage of your search traffic is driven by your top 10 pages?

Chances are, it’s a large portion.

Just look at the screenshot below. You’ll see that my top 10 pages drive 28.7% of my search traffic.

top pages current

That may not seem like a high number, but I have 5,441 blog posts. In other words, 0.1% of my pages make up 28.7% of my search traffic.

Typically, with smaller sites, the percentages are much higher in which the top 10 pages make up the majority of their search traffic.

So, what does that tell you?

You should just focus on your top 10 pages and ignore the rest? Or, even worse, just focus on cranking out more new content?

Quality over quantity

I used to have the philosophy of “more is better.” I was cranking out dozens of articles each week. At one point, I was publishing 2 articles a day on this blog.

And, over time, my traffic grew, but not by much.

I was spending all of this time writing and realized that the majority of the content I was publishing never ranked.

So, what did I do?

I started focusing on my old, outdated content to boost my traffic.

Just think of it this way: Every week I publish one new piece of content, but my team, on average, is updating 23 older articles.

When I used to write more frequently, my top 10 pages made up 33% of my search traffic.

top pages

Since then, I have increased my search traffic by 107% and reduced my reliance on my top 10 pages by 13%.

So how did I do this? Well, as I mentioned, I have my team focus on updating my old, outdated content while I focus on creating new content.

Here’s exactly what I have my team implement, step by step.

Look for pages that were once loved

With Google Search Console, you have access to data for a much longer period of time. You can go back up to 16 months.

So, I want you to compare this month’s results during the same period as last year.

You can do this by clicking on “date” and then “compare.” Next, select your older date period first (should be roughly from a year ago) and then select today’s date period.

date range

I’ve been doing this for a while, so I selected an older date range so you can see a better set of data before my team really focused on updating old content.

You should then see a report that looks something like this:

compared

What you’ll want to do is look for articles that used to get a ton of traffic and have less now. From the screenshot above, you can see that my article on Instagram used to perform really well, but no so much anymore.

Keep in mind that I selected the older date range first. I did this to see which of my old pieces of content used to rank well so I can see if any of them have dropped over the last 12 months.

This will show you old content that Google used to love, but no longer does.

Now, let’s find content that Google never loved.

Look for pages Google never loved

Log back into Search Console and look for pages that have a high impression count but never got any real clicks.

The easiest way to find these pages is to set your date range to the last 28 days and look at each page’s metrics from an impression, click, and CTR perspective.

Sort the CTR column in ascending order (lowest percentage at the top, the highest percentage at the bottom).

search ctr

Typically, the pages at the top of that list have the most potential. It means that Google is ranking you but you just aren’t getting too many clicks.

It usually isn’t just related to your title tag and meta description. It typically has to do with the content on the page.

Now it’s time to create a list of pages that have the greatest potential.

It’s time to prioritize

Typically, the pages that have the most potential are the ones that used to rank but no longer rank. Google used to rank and like them, which means if you give those pages a little tender loving care, you can easily get them loved by Google again.

The second group of pages that have potential, but not as much as the first, are the ones with a high impression count but an extremely low CTR.

These pages are harder to fix because they never really performed that well.

How to update your old content

Now that you have a list of pages to fix so you can boost your search engine rankings, I want you to log in to Google Search Console, find that article, click on it, and then click on “queries.”

queries

For the keywords that don’t rank in the top 5 or have a high impression volume, I want you to go to your ranking article and see if the article is relevant for that term.

If not, adjust the article to at least include that term and cover that topic.

For the terms you already rank for in the top 5 spots, head over to Ubersuggest and type in those keywords and click on the keyword ideas report.

customer acquasition

You’ll then see a report with all of the long-tail variations of that keyword.

If you adjust the article and include any of the long-tail phrases Ubersuggest gives you, you’ll see quick traffic gains.

In other words, if you already rank for the head term, it’s not hard to rank for the long-tail variation of it as well.

In addition to including the right keywords, you’ll want to update the post. Make sure all of the information is relevant, the pictures are up to date, and if you could include any multimedia (like embedding relevant YouTube videos) you’ll be able to increase the time on site of your visitors.

Finally, when updating your content, make sure your article is more thorough than all of the other sites that rank for the terms you are trying to rank for.

Remember that keyword ideas report I had you check out on Ubersuggest? On the right-hand side of that report, it shows you all of the sites that rank for that keyword.

keyword rankings

You can quickly see who’s currently ranking in each country, visit their web page, and make sure you create something better.

User metrics

User behavior is one of the biggest factors with Google’s algorithm.

Once you update your old content, you’ll want to optimize for user signals as that’ll help boost rankings.

A great example of user metrics is optimizing your title tags and meta description.

For example, if everyone searched a keyword on Google and clicked on the second result instead of the first, it tells Google that the second result is more relevant and that it should be ranking in the first spot instead of the second.

And Google eventually would make that change.

If you can use persuasive copy and convince people to click on your search listing instead of the competition, eventually your rankings will climb. And you can do so by following these 2 articles:

  1. How to Craft Amazing Headlines
  2. How to Write Copy like Apple

Over the years, I’ve done a lot of title tag and meta description tests and I’ve also found that these keywords help increase clicks:

  • What is
  • Best
  • Amazing
  • [lists]
  • How to
  • Free
  • You
  • Tips
  • Why
  • Tricks
  • Great

You can also use tools like Clickflow to A/B test your meta tags.

Don’t forget to promote (again)

Now that your content is up to date and you’ve optimized your meta tags for clicks, it’s time for you to promote your content.

I know what you are thinking… why would you promote old content, right?

Well, technically it isn’t old anymore.

First of all, you should update the published date or last updated date within your WordPress.

published

That way search engines know your content is changed, more relevant, and up to date.

Secondly, you need to promote the article. It’s new now, so why wouldn’t you share it with the world?

The simplest thing you can do is share it on the social web. I typically share my content on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn… but you can pick whatever social profiles you have.

Although Google doesn’t really look at social signals, Bing does. Plus, some people who visit your page from the social web may decide to link to your article, which does help rankings.

And if you want to go above and beyond, check out Meet Edgar. It’s what I use to continually schedule my old content to be promoted on the social web. That way I don’t have to manually do it or set reminders.

In addition to social shares, you should consider sending out a text-based email blast to your audience promoting your content.

It’s a great way to get a quick boost of traffic and breathe life into your old content.

Here’s an example of a text-based email blast that I send so you can copy my format.

Subject: How to Generate 10K visitors from a Brand New Blog in Under 6 Months

If I tell you to do 100 things to grow your traffic, I know you won’t do it.

Heck, even I wouldn’t. It’s just too much work.

In the spirit of simplicity, just do this and you’ll get to 10,000 visitors.

I’ll even make a deal with you. If you follow it and don’t hit 10,000 visitors and you can show me you followed it, I will help you for free.

That’s how confident I am that it works.

Cheers,

Neil Patel

email stats

As you can see, simple text-based emails are generating 30% open rates and 6% click rates for me. Not too shabby.

You can also use tools like Subscribers to send out a push notification. Every time I update a post I send out a push. Look at my stats… I can easily generate an extra 7,000 visitors from a single push.

push stats

And don’t forget to build links

The last step you want to leverage is link building. You can use Backlinks to see who is linking to competing articles:

backlinks

All you have to do is put in a competing URL and select “URL” from the drop-down menu and you’ll see every site that links to that page.

From there, you’ll want to reach out to each site and ask them to link to you.

The easiest way to do this is to leverage the skyscraper technique and the steps in this article.

Conclusion

Once you hit the 150 mark in the number of pages on your site, you should consider focusing the majority of your time to updating old content instead of creating new content.

If you have over 1,000 pages, you should definitely spend 80-plus percent of your time updating old content instead of writing new content.

The key to ranking your old, outdated content is to first focus on the content that used to rank but doesn’t anymore.

Once you fix those pages, you should see results within a month or two. From there, you can then focus on pages that have a high impression count but a low click count.

So, are you going to focus your time on ranking your old content or creating new content?

The post How to Rank Your Old, Outdated Content appeared first on Neil Patel.

Rural Local SEO: A Marketing Package Strong on Education

Posted by on Jul 17, 2019 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Rural Local SEO: A Marketing Package Strong on Education

Posted by MiriamEllis

Can your marketing agency make a profit working with low-budget clients in rural areas?

Could you be overlooking a source of referrals, publicity, and professional satisfaction if you’re mainly focused on landing larger clients in urban locales? Clients in least-populated areas need to capture every customer they can get to be viable, including locals, new neighbors, and passers-through. Basic Local SEO can go a long way toward helping with this, and even if package offerings aren’t your agency’s typical approach, a simple product that emphasizes education could be exactly what’s called for.

Today, I’d like to help you explore your opportunities of serving rural and very small town clients. I’ve pulled together a sample spreadsheet and a ton of other resources that I hope will empower you to develop a bare-bones but high-quality local search marketing package that will work for most and could significantly benefit your agency in some remarkable ways.

Everything in moderation

The linchpin fundamental to the rural client/agency relationship is that the needs of these businesses are so exceedingly moderate. The competitive bar is set so low in a small-town-and-country setting, that, with few exceptions, clients can make a strong local showing with a pared-down marketing plan.

Let’s be honest — many businesses in this scenario can squeak by on a website design package from some giant web hosting agency. A few minutes spent with Google’s non-urban local packs attest to this. But I’m personally dissatisfied by independent businesses ending up being treated like numbers because it’s so antithetical to the way they operate. The local hardware store doesn’t put you on hold for 45 minutes to answer a question. The local farm stand doesn’t route you overseas to buy heirloom tomatoes. Few small town institutions stay in business for 150 years by overpromising and under-delivering.

Let’s assume that many rural clients will have some kind of website. If they don’t, you can recommend some sort of freebie or cheapie solution. It will be enough to get them placed somewhere in Google’s results, but if they never move beyond this, the maximum conversions they need to stay in business could be missed.

I’ve come to believe that the small-to-medium local marketing agency is the best fit for the small-to-medium rural brand because of shared work ethics and a similar way of doing business. But both entities need to survive monetarily and that means playing a very smart game with a budget on both sides.

It’s a question of organizing an agency offering that delivers maximum value with a modest investment of your time and the client’s money.

Constructing a square deal

When you take on a substantial client in a large town or city, you pull out all the stops. You dive deeply into auditing the business, its market, its assets. You look at everything from technical errors to creative strengths before beginning to build a strategy or implement campaigns, and there may be many months or years of work ahead for you with these clients. This is all entirely appropriate for big, lucrative contracts.

For your rural roster, prepare to scale way back. Here is your working plan:

1. Schedule your first 15-minute phone call with the client

Avoid the whole issue of having to lollygag around waiting for a busy small business owner to fill out a form. Schedule an appointment and have the client be at their place of business in front of a computer at the time of the call. Confirm the following, ultra-basic data about the client.

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone
  • URL
  • Business model (single location brick-and-mortar, SAB, etc.)
  • Category
  • Are there any other businesses at this address?
  • Main products/services offered
  • If SAB, list of cities served
  • Most obvious search phrase they want to rank for
  • Year established and year they first took the business online
  • Have they ever been aware of a penalty on their website or had Google tell them they were removing a listing?
  • Finally, have the client (who is in front of their computer at their place of business) search for the search term that’s the most obviously important and read off to you the names and URLs of the businesses ranking in the local pack and on the first page of the organic results.

And that’s it. If you pay yourself $100/hr, this quick session yields a charge of $25.

2. Make a one-time investment in writing a bare-bones guide to Local SEO

Spend less than one working day putting together a .pdf file or Google doc written in the least-technical language containing the following:

  • Your briefest, clearest definition of what local SEO is and how it brings customers to local businesses. Inspiration here.
  • An overview of 3 key business models: brick & mortar, SAB, and home-based so the client can easily identify which of these models is theirs.
  • A complete copy of the Guidelines for representing your business on Google with a link in it to the live guidelines.
  • Foolproof instructions for creating a Google account and creating and claiming a GMB listing. Show the process step-by-step so that anyone can understand it. Inspiration here.
  • A list of top general industry citation platforms with links to the forms for getting listed on them. Inspiration here and if the client can hit at least a few of these, they will be off to a good start.
  • An overview of the role of review acquisition and response, with a few simple tips for earning reviews and a list of the top general industry review platforms. Inspiration here and here.
  • An overview of the role of building offline relationships to earn a few online linktations. Inspiration here.
  • Links to the Google My Business forum and the main Google support platforms including their phone number (844.491.9665), Facebook, Twitter, and online chat. Tell the client this is where to go if they encounter a problem with their Google listing in the future.
  • Links to major independent business associations as a support vehicle for small and rural businesses like AMIBA, ILSR, and Small Business Saturday. Inspiration here.
  • Your agency’s complete contact information so that the business can remember who you are and engage you for further consulting down the road, if ever necessary.

If you pay yourself $100 an hour, investing in creating this guide will cost you less than $1000.00. That’s a modest amount that you can quickly earn back from clients. Hopefully, the inspirational links I’ve included will give you a big head start. Avoid covering anything trendy (like some brand new Google feature) so that the only time you should have to update the guide in the near future will be if Google makes some major changes to their guidelines or dashboard.

Deliver this asset to every rural client as their basic training in the bare essentials of local marketing.

3. Create a competitive audit spreadsheet once and fill it out ad infinitum

What you want here is something that lets you swiftly fill in the blanks.

For the competitive audit, you’ll be stacking up your client’s metrics against the metrics of the business they told you was ranking at the top of the local pack when they searched from their location. You can come up with your own metrics, or you can make a copy of this template I’ve created for you and add to it/subtract from it as you like.

Make a copy of the ultra-basic competitive local audit template — you can do so right here.

You’ll notice that my sample sheet does not delve deeply into some of the more technical or creative areas you might explore for clients in tougher markets. With few exceptions, rural clients just don’t need that level of insight to compete.

Give yourself 45 focused minutes filling in the data in the spreadsheet. You’ve now invested 1 hour of time with the client. So let’s give that a value of $100.

4. Transfer the findings of your audit into a custom report

Here’s another one-time investment. Spend no more than one workday creating a .pdf or Google Docs template that takes the fields of your audit and presents them in a readable format for the client. I’m going to leave exact formatting up to you, but here are the sections I would recommend structuring the report around:

  • A side-by-side comparison of the client vs. competitor metrics, bucketed by topic (Website, GMB, Reputation, Links, Citations, etc)
  • A very basic explanation of what those metrics mean
  • A clear recommendation of what the client should do to improve their metrics

For example, your section on reputation might look like this:

The beauty of this is that, once you have the template, all you have to do is fill it out and then spend an hour making intelligent observations based on your findings.

Constructing the template should take you less than one workday; so, a one-time investment of less than $1,000 if you are paying yourself $100/hr.

Transferring the findings of your audit from the spreadsheet to the report for each client should take about 1 hour. So, we’re now up to two total hours of effort for a unique client.

5. Excelling at value

So, you’ve now had a 15-minute conversation with a client, given them an introductory guide to the basics of local search marketing, and delivered a customized report filled with your observations and their to-dos. Many agencies might call it a day and leave the client to interpret the report on their own.

But you won’t do that, because you don’t want to waste an incredible opportunity to build a firm relationship with a business. Instead, spend one more hour on the phone with the owner, going over the report with them page by page and allowing a few minutes for any of their questions. This is where you have the chance to deliver exceptional value to the client, telling them exactly what you think will be most helpful for them to know in a true teaching moment.

At the end of this, you will have become a memorable ally, someone they trust, and someone to whom they will have confidence in referring their colleagues, family members, and neighbors.

You’ve made an overall investment of less than $2,000 to create your rural/small town marketing program.

Packaging up the guide, the report and the 1:1 phone consulting, you have a base price of $300 for the product if you pay yourself $100/hour.

However, I’m going to suggest that, based on the level of local SEO expertise you bring to the scenario, you create a price point somewhere between $300–$500 for the package. If you are still relatively green at local SEO, $300 could be a fair price for three hours of consulting. If you’re an industry adept, scale it up a bit because, because you bring a rare level of insight to every client interaction, even if you’re sticking to the absolute basics. Begin selling several of these packages in a week, and it will start totaling up to a good monthly revenue stream.

As a marketer, I’ve generally shied away from packages because whenever you dig deeply into a client’s scenario, nuances end up requiring so much custom research and communication. But, for the very smallest clients in this least competitive markets, packages can hit the spot.

Considerable benefits for your agency

The client is going to walk away from the relationship with a good deal … and likely a lot to do. If they follow your recommendations, it will typically be just what they needed to establish themselves on the web to the extent that neighbors and travelers can easily find them and choose them for transactions. Good job!

But you’re going to walk away with some amazing benefits, too, some of which you might not have considered before. To wit:

1. Relationships and the ripple effect

A client you’ve treated very well on the phone is a client who is likely to remember you for future needs and recommend you. I’ve had businesses send me lovely gifts on top of my consulting fee because I’ve taken the time to really listen and answer questions. SEO agencies are always looking for ways to build authentic relationships. Don’t overlook the small client as a centroid of referrals throughout a tight-knit community and beyond it to their urban colleagues, friends, and family.

2. Big data for insights and bragging rights

If your package becomes popular, a ton of data is going to start passing through your hands. The more of these audits you do, the more time you’re spending actively observing Google’s handling of the localized SERPs. Imagine the blog posts your agency can begin publishing by anonymizing and aggregating this data, pulling insights of value to our industry. There is no end to the potential for you to grow your knowledge.

Apart from case studies, think of the way this package can both build up your proud client roster and serve as a source of client reviews. The friendly relationship you’ve built with that 1:1 time can now become a font of very positive portfolio content and testimonials for you to publish on your website.

3. Agency pride from helping rebuild rural America

Have you noticed the recent spate of hit TV shows that hinge on rebuilding dilapidated American towns? Industry consolidation is most often cited as the root of rural collapse, with small farmers and independent businesses no longer able to create a tax base to support basic community needs like hospitals, fire departments, and schools. Few of us rejoice at the idea of Main Streets — long-cherished hallmarks not just of Americana but of shared American identity — becoming ghost towns.

But if you look for it, you can see signs of brilliant small entrepreneurs uniting to buck this trend. Check out initiatives like Locavesting and Localstake. There’s a reason to hope in small farming co-ops, the Main Street movement, and individuals like these who can re-envision a crumbling building as an independent country store, a B&B, or a job training center with Internet access.

It can be a source of professional satisfaction for your marketing agency if you offer these brave and hard-working business owners a good deal and the necessary education they need to present themselves sufficiently on the web. I live in a rural area, and I know just how much a little, solid advice can help. I feel extra good if I know I’m contributing to America’s rural comeback story.

Promoting your rural local SEO package

Once you’ve got your guide and templates created, what next? Here are some simple tips:

  • Create a terrific landing page on your website specifically for this package and call it out on your homepage as well. Wherever appropriate, build internal links to it.
  • Promote on social media.
  • Blog about why you’ve created the package, aligning your agency as an ally to the rebuilding of rural communities.
  • If, like me, you live in a rural area, consider presenting at local community events that will put you in front of small business owners.
  • Don’t overlook old school media like community message boards at the local post office, or even fliers tacked to electric poles.
  • If you’re a city slicker, consider how far you’d have to travel to get to the nearest rural community to participate in events.
  • Advertising both off and online in rural papers can be quite economical. There are also place of worship print bulletins, local school papers, and other publications that welcome sponsors. Give it a try.
  • And, of course, ask happy clients to refer you, telling them what it means to your business. You might even develop a referral program.

The truth is that your agency may not be able to live by rural clients, alone. You may still be targeting the bulk of your campaigns towards urban enterprises because just a few highly competitive clients can bring welcome security to your bank account.

But maybe this is a good day to start looking beyond the fast food franchise, the NY attorney and the LA dermatology group. The more one reads about rural entrepreneurs, the more one tends to empathize with them, and empathy is the best foundation I know of for building rewarding business relationships.

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Content planning for a (growing) blog: 6 easy-to-use tips

Posted by on Jul 16, 2019 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Content planning for a (growing) blog: 6 easy-to-use tips

Maintaining a blog is about more than just writing a bunch of blog posts. You should develop a strategy and plan your content – especially if you’re writing with multiple authors. You should also interact with your audience and respond to their comments. In this post, I’ll explain the importance of content planning and give some practical tips on how to plan your blog posts – effortlessly!

A blog post planning that works

If your blog and your audience are growing and you’re getting more serious about blogging, you should make a plan for your content. If you have a personal blog, planning your content will be fairly easy: Our own blogger Caroline explains how she plans her blog posts here.

Planning becomes much harder if you are working with multiple authors who write about different topics or invite guest bloggers. I’ll share six important pointers that will help you to create a proper plan:

Want to read more about the technical side of a growing blog? Then read our article on how to manage the technical SEO of a growing blog. Or struggling with your blogs structure? Read how to keep the structure of your growing blog under control!

1. Create an editorial calendar

An editorial calendar is essential if you’re working with multiple authors and if you post frequently. That’s why you should create an editorial calendar in which you plot all the posts that you’re going to write. This could just be an excel sheet, but it’s easier to use an editorial plugin or service with a drag and drop calendar for this, e.g. Trello, MeisterTask or Monday. In this calendar, you can easily assign posts to authors and editors and, if you like, use labels for categorization.

2. Sit down and brainstorm

If you want to fill the editorial calendar, you could start with a brainstorm. Invite all your blog authors and sit together. Ask everyone what their ideas are and which posts they would like to write in the near future. Of course, you should use your keyword research as a basis.

Make a list of the ideas and wishes, and then plot them out on the editorial calendar. Make sure your authors finish their blog posts a few days before the publish date so you can proofread, edit if needed, and find or create accompanying illustrations or photos.

3. Decide on frequency

You should blog regularly. It’s hard to give exact numbers. For most company blogs, one daily post is fine and doable. But for a personal blog, this probably won’t be feasible. Try to establish some kind of frequency and stick to it. Your readers will appreciate a reliable schedule. Once you know you can commit to your chosen schedule, make sure to communicate it to your audience somehow, so they know what they can expect.

4. Add variation

If you often write about similar topics – beware of keyword cannibalization though – make sure to mix things up a little. Don’t post articles about nearly identical topics one after another. Of course, you can still write blog series, but try to vary between subjects as much as possible. You could also make variations in the form of your content. A video post, for example, spices things up!

5. Use news and current events

When planning your content, you should take a look at your calendar as well! Are there any major events coming up which are worth mentioning in your blog post? Or should you write some seasonal posts? Make sure to mix these ‘current-events posts’ with the other posts you have lined up.

6. Use a style guide

Composing a style guide for your blog is a great way to make sure everyone writes and spells in the same way. In a style guide, you can agree to write words in a certain way. Of course, we should all write in a grammatically correct way, but the use of capitals and brand names could differ. As all authors write for the same blog, it will create more unity if everyone spells the important words in the same way.

In the style guide, you could also agree on the length of posts, the use of paragraphs and headings, and the use of images. It should be a document in which you write down all the things that have to be consistent in your posts. And don’t forget to add some pointers for SEO copywriting as well!

If you work with an occasional guest blogger, a style guide could be a great document to help them write a post that fits the style of your blog as well.

Content planning will help you grow!

A growing blog will ask for more content planning, especially if you’re working with multiple authors. It’s important to agree on style, the topics to write about, and the number of blog posts to write. As long as authors keep on working and talking together, a blog with multiple authors can be a great success and make your site grow even further!

Read more: Blogging: the ultimate guide »

The post Content planning for a (growing) blog: 6 easy-to-use tips appeared first on Yoast.

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