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What Do High-Performance E-Commerce Websites Do Differently? Results from the 2020 KPI Study

Posted by on Jan 16, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on What Do High-Performance E-Commerce Websites Do Differently? Results from the 2020 KPI Study

Posted by Alan_Coleman

Hello Moz readers,

We’re proud to bring some insights from the Wolfgang E-Commerce KPI Study 2020.

The annual study provides KPI benchmark data which allow digital marketers analyze their 2019 performance and plan their 2020. The most popular section in the report amongst Moz readers has always been the conversion correlation, where we crunch the numbers to see what sets the high-performing websites apart.

We’re privileged to count a number of particularly high-performance websites among our dataset participants. There have been over twenty international digital marketing awards won by a spread of participant websites in the last three years. In these findings, you’re getting insights from the global top tier of campaigns.

If we take a five-year look-back, we can see the conversion correlation section acts as an accurate predictor of upcoming trends in digital marketing.

In our 2016 study, the two stand-out correlations with conversion rate were:

  1. High-performing websites got more significantly paid search traffic than the chasing pack.
  2. High-performing websites got significantly more mobile traffic than the chasing pack.

The two strongest overall trends in our 2020 report are:

  1. It’s the first year in which paid search has eclipsed organic for website revenue.
  2. It’s the first year the majority of revenue has come from mobile devices.

This tells us that the majority of websites have now caught up with what the top-performing websites were doing five years ago.

So, what are the top performing websites doing differently now?

These points of differentiation are likely to become the major shifts in the online marketing mix over the next 5 years.

Let’s count down to the strongest correlation in the study:

4. Race back up to the top! Online PR and display deliver conversions

For the majority of the 2010s, marketers were racing to the bottom of the purchase funnel. More and more budget flowed to search to win exposure to the cherished searcher — that person pounding on their keyboard with their credit card between their teeth, drunk on the newfound novelty of online shopping. The only advertising that performed better than search was remarketing, which inched the advertising closer and closer to that precious purchase moment. 

Now in 2020, these essential elements of the marketing mix are operating at maximum capacity for any advertiser worth their salt. Top performing websites are now focusing extra budget back up towards the top of the funnel. The best way to kill the competition on Search is to have the audience’s first search, be your brand. Outmarket your competition by generating more of your cheapest and best converting traffic, luvly brand traffic. We saw correlations with Average Order Value from websites that got higher than average referral traffic (0.34) and I can’t believe I’m going to write this, but display correlated with a conversion success metric, Average Order Value (0.37). I guess there’s a first time for everything!

3. Efficiencies of scale

Every budding business student knows that when volume increases, cost per unit decreases. It’s called economies of scale. But what do you call it when it’s revenue per unit that’s increasing with volume? At Wolfgang, we call it efficiencies of scale. Similar to last year’s report, one of the strongest correlations against a number of the success metrics was simply the number of sessions. More visitors to the site equals a higher conversion rate per user (0.49). This stat summons the final wag for the long-tail of smaller specialist retailers. This finding is consistent across both the retail and travel sectors.

And it illustrates another reversal of a significant trend in the 2010s. The long-tail of retailers were the early settlers in the e-commerce land of plenty. Very specialist websites with a narrow product range could capture high volumes of traffic and sales.

For example, www.outboardengines.com could dominate the SERP and then affiliate link or dropship product, making for a highly profitable small business. The entrepreneur behind this microbusiness could automate the process and replicate the model again and again for the products of her choosing. Timothy Ferris’ book, The 4 Hour Work Week, became the bible to the first flush of digital nomads; affiliate conferences in Vegas saw leaning towers of chips being pushed around by solopreneur digital marketers with wild abandon.

Alas, by the end of the decade, Google had started to prioritize brands in the SERP, and the big players had finally gotten their online act together. As a result, we are now seeing significant ‘efficiencies of scale’ as described above

2. Attract that user back

What’s the key insight digital marketers need to act upon to succeed in the 2020s? Average Sessions per Visitor is 2, Average Sessions per Purchaser is 5.

In other words, the core role of the marketer is to create an elegant journey across touchpoints to deliver a person from two click prospect to five click purchaser. Any activity which increases sessions per visitor will increase conversion. Similar to last year’s report, another of the strongest and most consistent correlations was the number of Sessions per User (0.7) — which emphasizes the importance of this metric.

So where should a marketer seek these extra interactions?

Check out the strongest correlation we found with conversion success in the Wolfgang KPI Report 2020….

1. The social transaction

The three strongest conversion correlations across the 4,000 datapoints were related to social transactions. This tells us that the very top performing websites were significantly better than everybody else at generating traffic from social that purchases.

Google Analytics is astonishingly rigorous at suppressing social media success stats. It appears they would rather have an inferior analytics product than accurately track cross-device conversions and give social its due. They can track cross-device conversions in Google Ads — why not in Analytics? So, if our Google Analytics data is telling us social is the strongest conversion success factor, we need to take notice.

This finding runs in parallel with recent research by Forrester which finds one-third of CMOs still don’t know what to do with social.

Our correlation calc finds that social is the biggest point of difference between the high flyers and the chasing pack. The marketers who do know how to use social, are the tip top performing marketers of the bunch. We also have further findings on how to out-market the competition on social in the full study.

Here’s the top tier of correlations we extracted from a third of a billion euro in online revenues and over 100 million website visits:

Retail

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Travel

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Overall

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To read more of our findings pertaining to:

  • The social sweet spot
  • Average conversion rates in your industry
  • In-store sales benchmarked
  • Why data is the new oil
  • 2010 was the decade of the…
  • And much, much more

Have a look at the full e-commerce KPI report for 2020. If you found yourself with any questions or anecdotes relating to the data shared here, please let us know in the comments!

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How to Find an Amazing SEO Consultant in 2020

Posted by on Jan 15, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on How to Find an Amazing SEO Consultant in 2020

Looking for an SEO consultant who can help you grow your company in 2020? Keep reading.

What is an SEO Consultant?

An SEO consultant is an advisor who helps companies improve their search engine rankings. This applies to every search engine including Google, Bing, YouTube, and even Amazon.

An SEO consultant can help you grow your company in few different ways.

1. General SEO Advice

SEO consultants can be called on to answer all your burning SEO questions. Sometimes you don’t need a full-on SEO analysis and roadmap. Sometimes you just need to get some targeted questions answered by an SEO expert.

2. Analyze an Existing SEO Campaign

he most common use of an SEO consultant is to analyze existing campaigns and develop a strategy for improving them.

Typically a consultant will perform an SEO audit and then create a list of actions based on what will have the highest impact.

All you need to do is execute on these actions, track performance, and stay in touch with the consultant as questions or challenges arise.

Having a second set of eyes (especially someone who’s probably already experienced whatever challenge you’re having) can take your SEO performance to another level.

3. Develop an SEO Strategy

Not every company has jumped on the SEO bandwagon.

That’s when a proven SEO consultant comes into play.

The consultant can develop a 6-12 month (or longer) SEO plan for driving more organic search traffic.

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.
Abraham Lincoln

4. Train In-House Team

Some companies already have a digital marketing team in place and just need some additional guidance and SEO training.

An SEO consultant can come in, analyze your campaign(s), and guide your team members so they can drive better results.

This type of consulting is most common with digital marketing agencies that want to improve their team’s performance, so their clients can get better results.

Now you know what a qualified SEO consultant can do for your company.

Here’s what do you need to do next:

Think about what you truly want when you hire an SEO consultant.

Some questions to consider are:

  • Are your SEO clients getting the results they deserve?
  • Is your company’s revenue growing, stagnating, or declining?
  • Is your website getting enough qualified traffic?

But now you might be wondering:

How do you find a qualified SEO consultant?

I’ve developed an 8-step qualification process for hiring the perfect SEO consultant for your company.

Make sure you read qualification step #4 because getting it wrong could destroy your SEO performance.

How to Hire an SEO Consultant (8 Simple Steps)

Hiring an SEO consultant is a big step for every company.

  • Are your SEO clients getting the results they deserve?
  • Is your company’s revenue growing, stagnating, or declining?
  • Is your website getting enough qualified traffic?

These questions will bounce around in your mind. That’s okay because they should.

Hiring a qualified SEO consultant can explode your company’s growth, but hiring the wrong one, can be devastating. You SHOULD be asking these questions.

That’s why today I’m going to give you 8 steps you need to cover when you’re trying to hire an SEO consultant.

Let’s jump right in.

1. Audit Their Online Footprint

An SEO consultant should be able to demonstrate that they know what they’re doing. All that matters are the results that are being achieved TODAY. Not years ago.

That’s why I laugh when some “experts” claim that ranking for “SEO” keywords is “worthless”. If these keywords are “worthless”, then why aren’t these supposed experts easily ranking for them?

Well, the answer is simple. They can’t.

You’re hiring an SEO consultant to get you more traffic, leads, and customers from organic search.

How could you possibly trust someone or a company that can’t visibly do it themselves?

That’s why I’ve put in concentrated effort to rank for “SEO” keywords since launched Gotch SEO. From the very beginning, I wanted to PROVE to clients that I knew what I was doing.

Of course, getting client results is more important. But ranking for your industry’s keywords is further proof that you know what you’re doing.

How can anyone deny this?

One last important point here:

Be careful of “experts” that claim to have “achieved” results when they’re an in-house SEO.

All the results I’ve achieved for Gotch SEO and our clients are my own doing.

I didn’t have a massive team with an enormous budget pushing these results forward. I didn’t join an already successful company and claim that I was the catalyst for their growth.

Most companies I’ve worked with have virtually no organic search traffic or rankings. I grew them from the ground up. I didn’t jump on an existing rocket ship and claim I did some magic.

The TL;DR of this section is simple:

Only consider SEO consultants that have real results that you can see with your own eyes.

2. Know What You Need

There are variety of reasons to hire an SEO consultant. It’s a good idea to know what objectives you want to achieve by hiring an SEO consultant.

3. Make Sure It’s a Good Fit

I believe two people need to genuinely like and enjoy talking to each other for a business relationship to work out. It’s crazy how well principles in your personal life translate business world.

Would you be friends with someone who didn’t like? Then why do we do business with people who make us cringe even thinking about them?

I used to take on pretty much every client because I was money-hungry.

I’ve learned over the last 5 years of running an SEO company that this is a horrible idea. That’s why I always make sure it’s a good fit before engaging in any relationship. You should do the same.

When you speak to a prospective SEO consultant, you need to be thinking about a few things:

  1. Do you like this person? Seriously. Do you enjoy speaking to them or are you guys constantly interrupting each other, not listening, etc?
  2. Would you enjoy speaking with this person routinely for several months or years? Or would you dread every phone call?

Don’t underestimate the importance of this step. Every time I ignored “my gut” and all the warning signs, I ended up regretting it.

In fact:

I just recently I told a prospect (who was willing to pay $5,000/mo + for SEO) that I had to pass on the engagement.

Am I insane for passing up money? Maybe.

But in my eyes, my personal health and wellbeing in the long-term is far more important than money (or dealing with a nightmare client).

4. Discover Their SEO Methodology

There might be some situations that warrant sketchier SEO strategies such as companies in phrama, gambling, etc. However, most companies (in non-controversial industries) should use safe, long-term focused SEO strategies.

You don’t need an SEO consultant to say that they’re “white hat” to know whether that’s true or not. You just need to analyze what they’re saying.

A qualified SEO consultant will talk a lot about the following:

  • SEO Audits
  • Content Audits
  • Technical SEO
  • Site Architecture
  • User Experience (UX)
  • Keyword Research
  • Keyword Qualification
  • On-Page SEO
  • SEO Content
  • Link Prospecting
  • Link Acquisition

The most important element to ask questions about is link acquisition.

There are many SEO consultant (and companies) that still use high-risk link building tactics. Some of these tactics include Private Blog Networks (PBNs), public blog networks, web 2.0s, profile links (on irrelevant websites) or pretty much any link type that isn’t acquired through an editorial process.

These backlink types can work in the short term, but can get you penalized in the long-term. Then you’ll have to hire another SEO consultant to get you out of the penalty!

Avoid this at the on-set.

If a consultant tells you that their link building process is “proprietary” then run for the hills.

Qualified SEO consultants don’t have anything to hide.

In fact, they would be proud to show what they’ve done.

5. Get Clear Expectations

It’s the SEO consultant’s job to set clear expectations. These expectations will largely depend on what type of work is being done.

If they’re developing an SEO strategy from the ground up, they may say that you can expect to see improved SEO performance within 6-12 months (if you’re taking the necessary actions).

Just remember to be realistic.

SEO is a long-term game. It doesn’t have an on and off switch like paid media. It takes time to see results, but in the long-term, I believe it dominates all other channels (as far as CAC).

6. Trust Them (If They’re Qualified)

You’re hiring an SEO consultant because you’re not an expert in SEO. A qualified SEO consultant is. That’s why you should listen to them.

I’m not saying you should have blind faith in them and not ask questions.

But if you are micromanaging them and not giving them the freedom to do what they believe is best, then you will not have a successful relationship.

All you need to do is think in reverse.

Would you like the SEO consultant to tell you how you should fix the sewage backup at your client’s home?

I think we both know the answer!

7. Be Action-Oriented

The best SEO consultant in the world will fail if you or company doesn’t take action on their recommendations or plan. Unfortunately, this is very common.

Listen to this part very carefully:

Do not hire an SEO consultant until you’re willing and able to take action on their recommendations and game plan.

8. Don’t Wait

We all exhibit levels of procrastination in life. Some more than others.

Entrepreneurs and existing companies are on the low end of the procrastination scale, but it still happens a lot.

It happens to me when a “new” marketing channels comes into play like “chat bots”. The procrastinator in me starts asking:

  • “Is this worth my time?”…
  • “This probably a fad!”… or:
  • “I need to focus on ___ and this will only hurt my focus.”

These are excuses to avoid the pain of learning something new or trying something different.

I can tell you this:

Procrastinating on doing SEO or not hiring an SEO consultant to help you can be detrimental.

Getting SEO results takes time and I can guarantee your competitors aren’t going to wait for you. So, whether you need to optimize your existing SEO performance or need to start from scratch, today is the day.

Every day you wait to improve your SEO performance is day your competitors are getting ahead. Don’t wait.

5 Common WordPress Security Issues and How to Solve Them

Posted by on Jan 14, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on 5 Common WordPress Security Issues and How to Solve Them

Avoid these Common WordPress Security Issues at all cost to keep your site running securely. Did you know that WordPress accounted for a frightening 90% of all hacked content management systems in 2018? According to a report by Sucuri, Magento comes in second with 4.6%, while Joomla! sits in third place with 4.3%. But this doesn’t mean WordPress is less secure than other CMSs. With around 75,000,000 websites running on WordPress, it has become the easiest target for cyber criminals. So let’s take a look at some of the most common threats and ways to avoid them.


Login Vulnerabilities 

Being a gateway to your WordPress website, the login page is the primary target for hackers. Malicious actors try to guess your login credentials by utilizing brute force attacks to acquire website access. And as soon as they manage to get to your admin dashboard, they basically have control over the whole site. These vulnerabilities are usually the result of using weak passwords and easy-to-guess usernames or having a default login page. So let’s take a look at how you can keep your admin area safe.


Use Strong Usernames and Passwords  

Hackers utilize sophisticated methods which allow them to crack login credentials within minutes. If you are using a weak password or username, you are making their jobs far too easy. Since WordPress doesn’t enforce the use of strong passwords, it is on you to create unique and hard-to-guess login credentials.

The username is the first line of defense against cyber criminals. Therefore, avoid using common or default usernames such as super admin, admin, editor, or even common personal names like John, Tom, Mary etc. As far as the passwords go, experts recommend using long passphrases of 15 characters or more. You should also use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters and special characters.


Avoid Using a Default Login Page 

Most hackers do not perform manual attacks. Rather, they access the login page and crack the login credentials using bots. Accessing the default login page of a WordPress website is not that difficult as most use the default login page (www.yoursite.com/wp-admin). If you want to prevent bots from accessing your admin area, you can change the default login page to something different, e.g. “www.yoursite.com/welcometomysite”.


Outdated Plugins and Themes 

From time to time, developers release updates aimed at fixing various security loopholes involved with WordPress. And if you skip any of these important updates, you are putting your website in danger. Sucuri reports that as much as 80% of WordPress hacks happen due to outdated security themes or plugins, with plugin vulnerabilities making up for the majority of hacks. It might not be obvious, but if you don’t update your themes and plugins, have no doubt that hackers will exploit the vulnerabilities. Basically, it’s like leaving the keys to your front door underneath the mat. 


Update Your Plugins 

Updating your plugins is easy and you can do it in just a couple of steps:

  1. Open your WordPress Dashboard. 
  2. Go to the plugins page by selecting “Installed Plugins” from the left hand menu. Here, you will see a list of all your installed plugins. 
  3. Go through the list and identify the plugins which indicate they are ready for an update, click on “Update now” and voila!

Updating the plugins and themes can sometimes lead to unexpected results. Therefore, it would be wise to stage your website and update the plugins and themes in the staging environment to avoid any unpredictable and problematic behaviour.


Don’t use Nulled Plugins 

Many site owners believe there is no harm in going with the free, cracked or pirated options when it comes to WordPress plugins. Unfortunately, they are completely wrong. Pirated software is exactly the kind you should avoid like the plague. Why? Well, besides being completely free, these plugins often contain malicious code used to provide hackers with a backdoor to your website. Similarly to not updating your software, you are making it all to easy for cybercriminals to take advantage of your site. To avoid such mishaps, you should update your site by getting your themes and plugins from the official WordPress repository sites. 


Poor User Role Management 

Being a WordPress website owner, you are designated with an administrative account by default. As you begin to create new accounts, you will have to assign proper user roles to the users that don’t have to have admin privileges. WordPress offers six different types of users roles which are hierarchically organized. The owner has the most privileges and as we go down the hierarchy, the scope of control of each user role decreases. 

Here is what the WordPress user role hierarchy looks like: 

  • Super Admin – This user is the top of the hierarchy and has complete control over the entire site and all of its features. 
  • Administrator – This user role is the second in line of the hierarchy and grants the user with all administrative rights. 
  • Editor – This user role is the third one in the hierarchy and this kind of user can publish and manage all of the posts across the website. 
  • Author – This user role is the fourth in the hierarchy and this user can only publish and manage their own posts. 
  • Contributor – This user role is the fifth in the hierarchy and this kind of user has the right to write and draft their own posts, but without the possibility of publishing them. 
  • Subscriber – This is the sixth and final role in the WordPress user role hierarchy and this kind of user can only manage their own WordPress profile. 

The Best Way to Manage WordPress User Roles

Proper user-role management centers mostly around the issue of trust. After examining all the privileges a user gets with their user role, you should be able to make informed decisions as to whether that person can be trusted with such “power”. For example, if you manage a website with many outside contributors, it wouldn’t be logical to give them editing rights. You should give this role to an editor you trust, i.e. someone who has proven they know what they are doing.

It is important to know that the site owner should be the Superadmin. Having complete control of the website, they decide who has control over the website’s content. Recklessly assigning user roles almost certainly leads to abuse of power. Even if you trust someone, hackers can still find ways to exploit their recklessness. So be extra careful when assigning someone with an administrator user role.


Lack of a Security Plugin 

WordPress security plugins are a very popular option among the platform’s users looking to fortify their websites. And although there are claims that you don’t actually need a security plugin to deter hackers, the uncomfortable truth is users who instal them achieve higher levels of safety. Yes, you can fortify your website manually up to a certain extent and yes, sometimes the plugin has more than you think you need, but you know the old saying – better safe than sorry. Below are some of the most important things security plugins can do for your WordPress site:

  • Login page hardening – Even though there are plugins that only deal with login security, most security plugins offer multiple layers of security when it comes to hardening the login page, such as Two-Factor authentication, login page CAPTCHA, adding 2FA to XML-RPC, blocking logins for administrators using weak passwords, etc. 
  • Database security- Databases can be vulnerable to attacks if you name them using the WordPress’ default naming prefix. And if you want to be on the safe side, you will need to perform regular updates. Moreover, a security plugin saves time as it lets you perform automatic updates. 
  • Firewall – The main thing about firewalls is they let us block unwanted connections. Because of implementation complexity, WordPress does not offer a firewall solution. But if you are worried about DDoS and brute force attacks, it would be wise to setup a firewall. Security plugins make it easy to implement blocking features and they also offer multiple layers of security.

Which Plugin Should You Choose? 

Not everyone needs a security plugin but in reality, if you want to grow and maintain the quality of your website or service, it is highly recommendable to instal one. There are many options out there so you need to make the right choice. To make an informed decision, read through a comprehensive WordPress security plugins comparison. Informing yourself will allow you to get a better understanding of what works for your type of website. But be careful about your choice as this piece of software will ultimately be your first line of defense.


Weak Hosting Infrastructure 

Since 30% of the world’s top websites run on WordPress, the hosting industry has become oversaturated with companies trying to win over clients. Consequently, there are plenty of cheap options out there, but the quality of such services is undoubtedly low. What you want from your hosting provider is 24/7 support, extra security, malware scans, etc. Top providers usually use a dynamic web application firewall (WAF) to stop exploits such as code injections etc. This significantly lowers the risk of brute force or a DDoS attack, some of the most common types of attacks used by cyber criminals. 

You will also need to protect your WordPress site from threats such as viruses, trojan horses, worms, spyware, keyloggers and adware. Ask your hosting provider if they use real-time malware scanning and chroot separation. There is a lot of questionable traffic on the internet as well, so make sure to check if the provider can stop it from reaching your site. Of course, this kind of service can be costly, but if you monetize your site or service in any way, it sure as hell is a wise investment to make. 


Security is a Must 

If you run a WordPress website or are planning to create one, security should be your number one priority. Why? Because whatever you plan to do, you could lose it all due to some generic hacking attack. Your investments would go to waste and you would actually be helping cybercriminals get what they want. However, if you learn about the various WordPress security issues and how to deal with them, you can easily avoid any of the threats lurking around the dark corners of the internet. 

Harden your login page to avoid any login vulnerabilities by using strong passwords and by  changing the default login page. Do not use outdated plugins and themes. Rather, find out how you can update your plugins in a safe way and by all means avoid installing nulled software. Learn about the proper way to manage user roles and stick to the best practices. You can enhance the security of your website with a security plugin, but remember to make an informed decision. Finally, think about investing in a reliable hosting provider to avoid threats such as malware injections, trojans, etc.

The post 5 Common WordPress Security Issues and How to Solve Them appeared first on WP Fix It.

How to Turn Your Site into an Automated Sales Machine

Posted by on Jan 9, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on How to Turn Your Site into an Automated Sales Machine

Want to make more sales? Of course you do.

Maybe you’re not hitting the kind of figures you want, or maybe you haven’t even made a single sale yet. Either way, you’re not selling as much as you want to be.

But why aren’t you? 

There are tons of possible reasons here, but I’m willing to bet it’s your website. Even if you have an expertly designed site, it could still be the culprit that’s stealing all your sales.

I learned this the hard way. My websites used to flat out suck and I barely got any sales. Once I started putting serious effort into my sites, my sales skyrocketed.

I tried everything. Some stuff was a huge waste. Some techniques ticked off my users. 

But I was able to find some serious long-term winners. 

While there’s no magic formula that will 10x your sales overnight, there are some best practices that will help you optimize your website to pull in the maximum amount of sales possible.

In short, you want to turn your site into an automated sales machine.

And I’m going to show you exactly how to do that.

Ready?

Setting Up Behind the Scenes With a CRM

The first thing you need is great customer relationship management (CRM) software.

A CRM helps you manage all of your current customers and leads in one place. You can communicate, track progress, and oversee all interactions without having to leave the CRM.

The reason you want to use a CRM is that it will help you generate the most amount of money out of your customers. And this is a lot easier to do than it is to acquire new customers.

When my friends at Keap reached out to let me know about their rebranding, I realized it had been a long time since I talked about how important their tool is in my arsenal.

Now, throughout the rest of this article, I’ll show you how I use Keap to grow NeilPatel.com.

But first, let me go into what it does… that way whatever solution you decide to choose, just make sure it has these features.

All-in-one Client Management

A good CRM should provide everything you need to manage your customers. You shouldn’t have to use extra software or apps to fill in the cracks.

That means your CRM should allow you to manage every interaction between you and your customers. You should be able to look at your CRM and know exactly where you are with any given client.

Here’s what it looks like when you first view your dashboard:

Having a simple, minimalistic design like this really helps cut down on the confusion that comes with managing tons of clients. There’s no second-guessing.

Take a look at the menu on the left-hand side:

Keap has taken all the ways you interact with your customers and broken them down into nine intuitive categories.

By clicking on the Contacts tab, you can see all of your clients:

By clicking on a particular client, you can see a summary of your activity with that person, including email conversations and invoice history.

This is important for me and my team as we offer multiple products and this view helps us understand where people are.

Remember, by having multiple products you can maximize your lifetime value, which then allows you to spend more money on marketing.

There’s also a separate message function that you can access by clicking on the Messages tab:

Here you can see all of your correspondence with each client. You’ll need to connect your mobile phone with the Keap app. This allows you to seamlessly switch between mobile and desktop for an efficient messaging experience.

The Tasks tab gives you a rundown of your to-do list for your clients:

You can check off each task here and easily add more by clicking the blue “Add a task” button at the top right. This way, you’ll never lose track of what you need to do.

Next is the Appointments tab, where you can set up a custom booking link to allow clients to schedule appointments with you. You choose your own availability so that clients always choose times that work for you.

This is great if you regularly have face-to-face interactions with your clients for example.

The Money tab is your one-stop-shop for all things finances. You can connect your bank to get paid in a flash and you can also manage all your invoices without any fuss.

You’re always aware of who’s paid and who hasn’t, so you don’t have to go chasing down clients one by one. You can simply send them a reminder within the interface by clicking on the specific invoice and scrolling to the bottom where there’s a reminder option:

The Broadcasts tab allows you to send out emails to your list.

Even though this isn’t standalone email software, you can still see a ton of helpful metrics by clicking on each campaign:

This feature is especially helpful for sending out emails to specific groups, like new leads or existing customers.

Next, you’ll see the Pipeline tab. This is where you build the core of your customer journey.

Once you click on the Pipeline tab, you’ll see four basic panels: new, qualifying, contacting, and negotiating. These are the stages that you’ll go through when converting a new prospect.

This is also where a lot of the automation happens that will save you tons of time and money. I’ll go into detail on this later on in the article, but for now, just remember this pipeline structure.

The Campaigns tab is a full-featured campaign manager that allows you to follow up with leads, track unpaid invoices, simplify scheduling, and much more. (You can also automate a lot of things here.)

Finally, the Reports tab helps you stay on top of your sales. Here you can also track important metrics like email engagement and campaign progression.

Take another look at all of these features. This is what I mean by all-in-one. A CRM should allow you to interact with your clients in any way you need to. You shouldn’t have to jump from software to software to create a great experience for your clients.

Now that we’ve looked at some basic elements of a good CRM, let’s look at one of the must-haves: automation.

Automation

Automation is hands down one of the most important features I look for in a CRM.

Why?

Because running a business is a lot of work, and the more you can automate, the better.

Automating is usually straightforward, but when it comes to automating client interactions, you have to be careful.

People love personal interactions, and that’s why you should do your best to deliver. If your automation is dry and corporate, your clients will notice.

So what do you do?

The trick is to personalize your automation as much as possible.

In other words, your automation should have a human touch.

If this sounds counterintuitive, I totally understand. “Personalized automation” seems like an oxymoron.

But it’s not. In fact, it works pretty well.

Take a look at this email I recently sent:

Believe it or not, this is a template.

The reason this works so well is that it doesn’t read like a template. It reads like an email I sat down and wrote myself.

Of course, you can automate way more than just emails.

Most automation actually happens behind the scenes, so you need a CRM that’s capable of seamlessly automating everything from client data to scheduling and beyond.

Let’s say I want to email a lead when they move from stage to stage in my pipeline. This is a great technique to keep leads engaged but often you have to do it manually.

With Keap, it’s simple. First I head to the Pipeline tab and find the specific lead. Then I click the gear icon and select “Configure automation.”

I now select when I want the email to trigger: either moving into or out of a stage. For this example, I’ll have it trigger when the lead moves out of the qualifying stage (where the lead currently is).

Then I select “send email” from the drop-down menu.

Now all I have to do is write the email.

Of course, you can use personalized templates here to maximize your efficiency even more. You can even personalize the email with this form by clicking on the pound sign on the right to open up the merge fields drop-down menu.

This all takes just a couple of minutes and it’s all completely contained within Keap.

See why automation is so important? It’s one of those features I can’t go without.

And I like easy automation. I’m super busy, so the easier something is, the better. I don’t want to have to go through a million menus just to shoot an email.

All of this said, there are definitely right and wrong ways to automate. You want your automation to make your business as efficient as possible and that means creating dependable processes that you can repeat without even thinking about it.

Creating Processes With a CRM

CRMs are useful for a lot of things from qualifying leads to creating entire marketing campaigns.

But there’s a common thread that runs through all of these features: the ability to create processes.

Processes are invaluable because they save you time, effort, and often money.

They also help your business operate more smoothly. Relying on processes is much easier than having to do everything manually.

That begs the question: What kinds of processes should you create?

The short answer is that you should have a process for everything. And I mean everything

Responding to client emails? Make a process for it. Dealing with new leads? Set up a workflow for qualifying them. You get the picture.

This is critical. If you want to increase your sales, you have to be able to handle increased sales in the first place. Having processes to depend upon will allow you to take on more volume without any unnecessary friction.

As a rule of thumb, if you can automate something in your business, you probably should.

The exception (like I mentioned above) is anything based around human interaction. It’s best to stay as hands-on as possible when it comes to this.

The idea is to make your business run like clockwork so you can pay more attention to your clients and deliver a better experience.

And that’s a win-win for everyone involved.

But let’s get specific and talk about certain processes that you should make sure you have.

Lead Flow

This is a big one.

A lot of marketers focus on lead generation but not enough people talk about what should happen after you’ve got a lead.

If you don’t move your lead forward, your efforts are as good as wasted.

That’s why automating your lead flow process is critical. You don’t want to be doing this by hand––that takes hours.

Instead, let your CRM do it for you.

Create multiple stages along your pipeline and trigger unique email sequences for each stage. This means that you can keep your lead moving forward at all times.

This way, you won’t overlook anything. You don’t have to worry about forgetting to follow up or missing an important email.

So let the CRM do the heavy lifting so you can focus on providing a better service for your customers.

Marketing Emails

With a CRM, it’s possible to automate all of your marketing emails, and in my opinion, this should be one of the first things you automate.

Why? Because emails can take up lots of time without you even noticing.

According to the Litmus 2017 State of Email report, more than 68% of businesses spend a week or more on the production of just one email.

Automation allows you to cut back on that time so you’re not working on the same task for days on end. You’re able to spread out your time and attention on other things that need to be handled.

And by automating your email, you’re making your email work for you instead of the other way around.

For example, whenever you get a new lead, you need to take action as swiftly as possible.

With the right CRM, this is a snap. All you need to do is automate it so that a new lead receives an email as soon as they sign up.

That way, you’re able to contact a warm lead immediately and you don’t have to do anything manually.

You can track them right from the Broadcasts tab:

This means you can also create autoresponder campaigns to get more clients in the door.

You can then move them down your pipeline, which brings me to the next thing you need to do: build a robust pipeline.

Building a Streamlined Sales Pipeline

If you’ve ever wondered what’s stopping your site from raking in the sales, chances are it’s probably your pipeline.

Now, I could talk for hours about building an effective pipeline, but for the purposes of this article, I’m going to condense the information down to the essentials.

So here’s everything you need to know about pipelines.

Common Pipeline Mistakes

Most pipeline errors that cost you precious time and money are easily preventable, which is why you should take the time now to make sure your pipeline is seamless from start to finish.

Ironically, one of the most common pipeline mistakes is simply not spending enough time on your building it out initially.

Your pipeline is the lifeblood of your business. It’s what helps you turn leads into clients. So if it’s not optimal, your sales won’t be either.

Another mistake is not moving leads quickly enough.

The data shows that the sooner you nurture your leads, the better. Wait too long, and your leads will turn cold, which could cost you a sale.

Did you know that as much as 50% of sales go to the first vendor?

Every second matters when you get a new lead.

By baking automation into your pipeline, you can nurture a new lead immediately. The software will take care of that for you, and you’ll be one step closer to making a sale.

Likewise, it’s important to keep this engagement steady throughout your pipeline. Being present at every step will greatly increase your chances of closing the sale.

The best way to do this? Surprise––it’s CRM automation.

But no matter what CRM you’re using, don’t make these costly mistakes.

Organizing Your Pipeline

Now that I’ve talked about what not to do, I’ll tell you what you should do.

First, make sure you have your priorities right at each touchpoint.

To put it another way, your pipeline needs to be doing the right things at the right time.

For example, when you first get a lead, your top priority should be nurturing that lead. You don’t want to hit them over the head with a big sales pitch––you just want to increase brand awareness.

Also, remember that a pipeline is essentially a bunch of leads going through a sales funnel. Use that framework to create your process and automations.

Your CRM can help you create a cohesive pipeline that keeps leads moving through your funnel and ensures that the appropriate actions are taken when necessary.

First of all, the four stock categories that Keap starts you out with (new, qualifying, contacting, negotiating) are great, but you can always add more if you need to.

Just scroll all the way to the right and click the “Add a stage” text field:

For instance, you could add a Completed stage for leads that you’ve successfully converted and are moving forward with.

The way you organize your pipeline might take some trial and error, as most companies have unique workflows.

However, I would recommend having at least three different stages so you can engage your lead at the beginning, middle, and end of your pipeline.

Next, the key is to use automation to make your pipeline as hands-off as possible.

Start by automating your email sequences as I showed above to help move your leads from stage to stage and keep them engaged. Again, these emails need to be personalized. There’s no point in using boilerplate templates that are stiff and boring. Take the time to make each email feel personal.

Next, add automation to your campaigns. This will ensure specific actions are taking within your CRM as leads move from stage to stage. These step-by-step tutorials on automation can help you get up and running.

Now, I won’t lie to you––this is going to take some trial and error. You aren’t going to have a perfect pipeline on day one.

So be sure to test your pipeline before you take it out in the real world.

Plug some fake clients and numbers into your CRM and use a few burner emails to test out your CRM’s capabilities. This will give you the chance to identify and remedy problems before you go live.

This extra step goes a long way. Sure, your pipeline still might have some errors once you start using it for actual clients, but you’ll have minimized the risk involved.

Conclusion

You’re almost at the finish line! It won’t be long until you’re putting your shiny new pipeline to good use.

But first, we have to put all the pieces together, so let’s recap what we’ve gone over.

1. The importance of a robust CRM. You want software that will allow you to manage all of your customers in one place, automate your business process, and track important metrics and interactions.

2. Putting processes in place. Having processes to depend upon is crucial for every business. Doing everything by the seat of your pants leads to inconsistency and often costs you.

3. Automation. If you can automate an internal process, you probably should. You can also automate a fair amount of client interactions without losing a human touch.

The final step is to synthesize all of these steps into one unified approach.

Remember, you’re doing all this to optimize your site for sales. You’re building a strong foundation that will support you as you scale.

After all, your site is the sum of its parts, so make those parts awesome.

Choose a CRM that meets your needs and that’s flexible so it will grow with you. Then create processes that will take the weight off your shoulders––and don’t be afraid to change these processes over time as your business evolves.

And there you have it — everything you need to start turning your site into an automation workhorse.

Before you know it, you’ll be seeing some of the amazing effects of automation and hopefully bringing in more sales than ever before.

Do you use a CRM that has helped turn your website into a sales machine?

The post How to Turn Your Site into an Automated Sales Machine appeared first on Neil Patel.

Google tests user comments for live TV shows

Posted by on Jan 7, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Google tests user comments for live TV shows

Google has confirmed with Search Engine Land the search engine is testing user comments in the search results for queries related to live TV shows. Google has offered this feature for live sporting events.

What it looks like. This is a test, so you might not see it, but if you search for [the bachelor] on mobile search, you may see the ability to add comments to chat with other Google searchers. Here is a screenshot from @nikers85 on Twitter.

Manage comments. You can manage your comments in Search here. Note that comments are public to all users and cannot be made anonymously. They appear with the name and picture on a user’s Google account.

Again, a test. This is a test for live TV shows, but a feature that has been live for sporting events such as World Cup, Cricket World Cup, etc. for a while now.

Why we care. This feature puts Google in Twitter’s domain of live event conversation and brings social engagement to Search. Live event and show marketers have another channel from which to monitor and analyze real-time sentiment and conversations.

The post Google tests user comments for live TV shows appeared first on Search Engine Land.

9 Ways to Find the Perfect Atlanta SEO Company in 2020

Posted by on Jan 5, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on 9 Ways to Find the Perfect Atlanta SEO Company in 2020

Looking for an Atlanta SEO company for 2020? You’re in the right place.

In this guide, I’m going to explain how to find the perfect Atlanta SEO company for your business.

Let’s jump right in.

How to Find the Right Atlanta SEO Company

1. Use Google

You probably ended up here because you were searching for SEO companies in Atlanta. You just experienced the power of SEO. We believe that every SEO agency should demonstrate that they know how to get results.

And what’s a better way to demonstrate than ranking on the first page?

The truth is, anyone can say they “know” SEO or that they’re an “expert”.

But talk is cheap.

Looking at the results. What SEO companies are ranking on the first page?

Those should be your first picks.

2. Get Them on the Phone

You wouldn’t believe how many SEO gurus refuse to speak over the phone.

Why?

Because unfortunately, many SEOs are in it for the wrong reasons.

They want to grow their income at your expense.

So getting on the phone would slow that process down. It’s not in THEIR best interest to get to know you, your business, or your needs.

If they don’t ask you to get on the phone, you should be concerned.

3. Determine Whether They’re an Expert or Salesperson

It’s easy to tell when you’re speaking with a real SEO expert.

  • Do they speak with confidence?
  • Do they tie SEO into your more important business KPIs like revenue?
  • Are they being realistic about your SEO opportunities?

On the other hand, if they’re promising you the world, then be careful.

There are no guarantees in SEO.

If they say confidently say “we’ll rank in X amount of months”, then they cannot be trusted. No one can make that claim.

But if they say “based on our experience in your market, we estimate 6-12 months to see results IF the campaign is executed the right way.”

Notice the subtle difference? One is overly confident while the other is hesitant.

When it comes to SEO, any trustworthy company knows not to overpromise.

4. Do They Understand Business?

Knowing how to rank is pointless if you don’t understand how it works within the complete business cycle. There are many SEOs who can rank, but they’re clueless when it comes to increasing revenue and operating a business.

A quality SEO agency will speak in terms of Return on Investment (ROI).

The only reason to hire an SEO company is to get you an ROI.

If that’s not the language they’re speaking, then move on.

5. Is Their Proposal Tailored to You?

Some companies will send you a cookie cutter proposal that they’ve sent to 100s of other companies. You know your agency isn’t the same as all the others.

Your website and SEO campaign is dealing with your own unique challenges and needs.

Any SEO proposal you receive should reflect that.

6. Are They Using Cookie-Cutter Pricing?

There is no one-size fits all pricing in an SEO campaign. SEO campaign pricing should be based on what will get you an ROI.

This varies depending on your market and competition.

For example, if you’re competing in the personal injury market, your budget will need to be higher because the competition is higher.

If you’re trying to rank for “best Atlanta hot dog stand”, the competition will be lower. Therefore, the total investment should be lower.

Logical, right?

Well, most SEO companies don’t do this. They give you cookie-cutter pricing no matter what type of business you have or what marketing you’re in.

A quality company will give you a personal proposal based on your unique needs and circumstances.

7. What’s Their Methodology?

It’s important to know how an SEO company is going to get you the desired result. There are many ways to do SEO and how you select an agency will be based on your risk tolerance.

Some SEO companies still use aggressive on-site optimization and link building tactics.

These tactics may work in the short-term, but will likely penalize your website in the future. It’s better to work with a company that uses a safe and effective long-term strategy.

A long-term strategy will focus on:

  • creating new SEO content assets
  • optimizing existing content
  • improving your site’s User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI)/design
  • and acquiring relevant, high-quality backlinks to page that actually deserve them.

If an SEO agency is talking about “web 2.0s”, “PBNs”, or “tiered link building” then move on.

8. Are They Transparent?

I’ve talked to hundreds of business owners through the years and it’s always crazy to hear that their current SEO company doesn’t send reports.

That’s likely because they don’t have anything good to report. So they just avoid it altogether.

Here’s the deal:

A trustworthy company will report in two ways.

First, they’ll send you bi-weekly and monthly reports showing you Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Some KPIs you should see are individual keyword rankings, total organic keyword growth, organic search traffic growth, and total leads driven through organic search.

Secondly, you should receive frequent updates about what they’re actually doing to improve your performance.

For example, we send video explanations of what we’re optimizing for the client. You should never be left in the dark.

9. The Right Atlanta SEO Company for You

So if you’ve made it this far, you’re someone who wants to work with an Atlanta SEO agency that actually produces results. One that you can build a real long-term partnership with.

That’s Gotch SEO.

Now the funny part is that we’re actually a St Louis SEO company.

So why would we target “Atlanta SEO company” as a keyword?

Well, first because we believe in demonstrating our expertise.

Second, getting SEO results isn’t dependent on our location. We get explosive SEO results for companies all over the US. And today we want to help you do the same.

So if you want to work together call 314-898-4026 right now to speak with an expert.

If you aren’t quite ready, here’s what you need to know about us:

Who Are We?

Gotch SEO was founded in 2013 by globally recognized SEO expert, Nathan Gotch. Nathan built several successful businesses using nothing but SEO.

He then decided that he could help businesses achieve the same results.

Since then, Nathan and his team have executed hundreds of SEO campaigns and gotten big results.

Nathan also teaches his proven SEO system to over 750 other SEOs inside his SEO training course, Gotch SEO Academy.

No other SEO system has been put to the test like ours.

What Others Think

Nathan is a tremendous asset and true SEO guru. I work in the highly competitive legal SEO industry. When I get stuck or need an extra edge over the competition, I reach out to Nathan. I highly recommend him to anyone looking to dominate their SEO niche. – Mariano Rodriguez, J.D. (UCLA School of Law)

Nathan delivered more than he promised! What outstanding results we achieved by teaming with Nathan and Gotch SEO. I absolutely would recommend him for any size company looking for… top-link results. – Thomas Schmittdiel, Chief Strategist at TPM Creating Marketing

We worked with Nathan and his team on a website for our company and definitely made the right choice. Gotch SEO came in on time and on budget with the SEO services and marketing solutions we needed. The project exceeded expectations. – Steven Ellis, CEO of Baseball Media

Read more reviews about Gotch SEO here.

Why You Should Work With Gotch SEO

There are tons of SEO companies in Atlanta, but we’re different.

Here’s how:

We Use SEO to Grow Our Business!

We pride ourselves on demonstrating our SEO expertise. That’s why we rank for some of the most competitive keywords in the SEO industry like “affordable SEO“, “best link building services“, and even “Ahrefs“.

We Have Real Results & Testimonials

No other Atlanta SEO company has the portfolio of proven results that we have. We’ve had the same objective from the very beginning: get our clients the results and ROI they deserve.

SEO is Our Bread & Butter

Most other SEO agencies in Atlanta offer a ton of different services.

Have you ever hear the idea that a jack of all trades is average at everything they do?

We fear this more than anything. That’s why we’ve made it our mission to stay focused. SEO is our bread and butter. We literally live and breath it every single day.

Focus always wins in business. We focus for you.

We Use a Proven System

Our SEO system has been tested by over 750 other SEOs. What other Atlanta SEO agency can say the same? They can’t! Our system is proven to drive results.

We Believe You Must Give to Receive

Every successful SEO campaign begins with adding real value to your market and users. We’re obsessive about turning your website into the best user experience imaginable. We then create content that educates your prospects and turns them into paying customers. Every we do, starts with adding real value to your market.

We Love Communication

The success of your SEO campaign hinges on communication. We’re a client-obsessed agency. That means we communicate with you every single step of the way. This isn’t a transactional relationship. We’re your business partner and we’ll treat your business as if it was our own.

Now that you understand why we are different, let me explain HOW we will get you results when you work with us.

Our Proven SEO Process

Our SEO strategy is content-driven. Here’s how the process looks:

Audit – Every successful SEO campaign begins with an intelligent audit. Our SEO audit process is good that over 1,000 other SEOs have paid for our SEO audit template and step-by-step procedure.

Research – Once the audit is complete, we then find keyword and link opportunities. We also deeply analyze your competitors to develop a strategic advantage over them.

Strategy – The SEO strategy phase is dedicated to creating our action plan for your campaign. This plan is designed to do one thing: get you SEO results as fast as possible. We achieve that goal by focusing on what actually matters.

Optimization – This is the action part of the process. We optimize your site for maximum user experience and then we optimize each individual page so that both users and Google love them.

Creation – Once your site is optimized, we then begin the process of creating informational assets. These informational assets are catalyst for promoting your website and growing its authority.

Link Building – The final and on-going piece of the process is to acquire backlinks to your website. We promote your content assets from the previous phase. As a result, we build your website’s authority in a natural and safe way. And the stronger your website becomes, the better you’ll rank.

Our Results

Here’s a small sample of the results we’ve helped companies achieve:

Case Study #1 – We grew a “dead” fashion company blog’s organic search traffic by 348% using only one blog post.

Case Study #2 – Learn how we increased a B2B tech company’s organic search traffic by 100% by acquiring relevant, high-quality backlinks.

Case Study #3 – We grew a supplement company’s organic search traffic by 256% through our intelligent link building strategy.

Work With Us

We’re excited to help you achieve the SEO results you’ve always wanted. Get in touch today to speak with an SEO expert:

[contact-form-7]

10 Tips for improved guest blogging in 2020

Posted by on Dec 31, 2019 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on 10 Tips for improved guest blogging in 2020

As link building becomes a more cautionary practice it’s necessary to get a clear idea of how to acquire the best links for your website, in light of this guest blogging in 2020 can be a good method. 

Although Google has openly placed more scrutiny on guest blogging, there is undoubtedly still value in acquiring a link from a recognizable high-authority site in your niche. That being said, it’s not easy to secure links from top sites-especially when you need to scale up your efforts. Many sites only offer nofollow links and with growing competition, there is no shortage of good writers to populate these blog sites with high-quality articles.

This doesn’t mean that all hope is lost in the world of guest blogging. It just means your efforts need to be planned and strategized. Here are some top tips to get the most out of your guest blogging in 2020.

  1. Create a master list of guest blogging sites
  2. Qualify relevance
  3. Qualify authority
  4. Check search visibility
  5. Combine outreach tactics to land opportunities
  6. Research your target sites blog
  7. Strategize your topic
  8. Create an enticing storyline with your headings
  9. Submit infographics
  10. Make your links count

1. Create a master list of guest blogging sites 

Be extremely organized with your approach to guest blogging to streamline the process. Create a master list on a spreadsheet in order to keep track of your efforts. Record the sites you’ve made contact with, the dates you’ve submitted articles or pitches and any notes on the efforts you’ve made to help you avoid duplicate efforts.

Start with a pre-existing list 

There are dozens of sites that have created a list of the top guest blogging sites for multiple industries. You can start your master list with the most popular authority sites in your niche by exploring a few pre-existing lists. 

A few examples that offer a list of guest blogging sites are Lilach Bullock, Izideo, Advanced Web Ranking, and Solvid. This will start you off with a solid base of top sites to work from that are well known within your niche. 

Scrape Google

It’s impossible to know about every website that offers guest blogging without doing some background research. One method of discovery is to use command operatives to scrape Google.

Use the following commands paired with a keyword to find guest blogging sites:

  • “inurl” will tell Google to look for keywords in the URL
  • “intitle” will find sites with the keyword in the title

Mix and match commands to produce different results:

Inurl: “digital marketing” + “write for us”

Intitle: SEO + “guest post”

Check out guest post sites from your competition

It’s no secret that you can use any backlink report to get the inside scoop on the strength of your competitions backlink profile. Use Moz, SEMRush, Ahrefs or any tool of your choice to produce to see what links your competition has acquired. In the digital marketing space, a typical backlink profile will yield a number of guest blogging sites your competition found in which you can also submit an article.

2. Qualify relevance

If there were no authority transferred by links, what sites would you link to? This type of approach to link building will help you seek out the sites that are highly relevant to your website without being blinded by domain authority.

It happens quite often that at first glance a website DA will influence your perception of the quality of the link which is not always an accurate indication of whether that link will benefit your site. 

Make sure the website you are submitting to is in your niche or a direct vertical. Confirm they are publishing content similar to yours so that a clearly defined relationship can be established that indicates relevance to your content.

3. Qualify authority

The DA of a site is the first indicator of a quality link. Although it doesn’t provide the entire picture of what makes up a quality link, you can use this indicator to prioritize your submission sites. 

Use the Mozbar for a quick view of a website’s metrics before making a submission.

Using Moz bar to find high DA sites for guess blogging in 2020

Target sites that will have a positive impact on your authority. Certain keywords will require links from higher DA sites and others you can get away with links from lower DA sites. 

4. Check search visibility

The search visibility of a website indicates how well the site is performing by ranking for keywords and driving traffic. A site that has good metrics won’t necessarily be a good link if it doesn’t have any visitors reading its content.

The authority gained from a link is an important aspect of link building, but the overarching goal behind the practice is to build streams of relevant traffic and awareness of your website. 

5. Combine outreach tactics to land opportunities

Not every site will advertise that they accept guest posts but that doesn’t mean they won’t be happy to publish some great content you’re offering. Adam Envoy was able to secure 8 DA60+ sites in 15 days in his guest-posting project and attributed a portion of his success to targeting site owners with an outreach email before proposing a guest post. 

Use LinkedIn and Facebook to make initial contact with content managers and editors and let them know you’re interested in link building and guest blogging. In most cases, you will get a response that will lead you to the right person and a link building opportunity. 

Even if you don’t get the desired response, making contact is the first step in building a mutually beneficial relationship further down the line.

6. Research your target sites blog

One of the top reasons why site owners don’t respond to an outreach email is because “They didn’t read my blog”. Get a feel for the type of content they’re publishing by scanning through titles and reading relevant content. You can pick up on trends and characteristics that will make your pitch much more targeted to your prospect’s website.

7. Strategize your topic

Choose a topic that hasn’t been covered in-depth on your prospects’ blog. This presents more value for a blog owner to be presented with the option of adding content their site is lacking. 

The topic you choose to write about should be something suited to your strength. Apart from making a list-style article, dive deep into a relevant topic that can be broken down and optimized for a specific keyword topic. Writing optimized SEO content is a bonus for publishers when the article is already primed and ready to rank.

8. Create an enticing storyline with your headings

Most online readers are scanners by nature, in fact, 43% of people admit to skimming through articles when they read them. which is a trait you can capitalize on with an original title and descriptive subtitles. Your outline should reflect a storyline that clearly describes the content of your article.

The first impression of your article an editor (and their audience) will have is the headline of your proposed article. This should clearly convey to the reader what they will get from reading your post and how will it will benefit them. Use headline strategies that are proven to improve click-through rates by appealing to the various types of readers.

Follow up the headline with your main points emphasized as subtitles. Make your article actionable and complete for a person who scans through your content.

9. Submit infographics

Although the numbers will show that infographics peaked in 2014 and 2015, they are still an effective means of creating backlinks. In many cases, infographics receive exceptional consideration as a guest post because publishers know that the potential to attract backlinks improves tremendously.

Stat showing why infographics work for guest blogging in 2020

Image source: Moz

Use an infographic tool from companies like Venngage, Visme or Piktochart to add more appeal to your article submissions.

10. Make your links count

The links you insert in your article should provide value to the reader by taking them somewhere that enhances their understanding of a particular point or topic. 

Contextual links are more valuable than the link in the author’s box. Make sure to give yourself a link to content that is relevant to your article. Avoid being overly self-promotional by making sure the links you give yourself are truly beneficial to the reader. 

Keep in mind excessive anchor text to the same page will result in a negative effect on your ranking. Mix up your links to appear natural with a brand link, long-tail, and naked URL wherever applicable.

Promote previously published articles

Link to previously published articles to increase the DA of those pages and create more powerful links to your site. 

Linking to articles you’ve published is less conspicuous than linking to your own site, which gives you more leeway in the number of links you create. 

The value of your work as a future guest author increases when site owners see you link to your published work thereby promoting their site as well.

Link to prospects and influencers

Make it a point to link to the people who are in a position to help you in your backlinking strategies. Separate yourself from the masses by showing an influencer quality links you’ve sent to their work. Keep track of the links you accumulate and make it part of your outreach strategy to build powerful alliances and partnerships.

Enjoy the benefits of guest blogging

There is no doubt that despite the scrutiny placed on guest blogging by Google, it is still one of many effective methods of link building

A well-executed strategy will provide your site targeted referral traffic as well as improved authority and ranking ability. Use guest blogging opportunities to brand your business, demonstrate thought leadership and build mutually beneficial relationships through your link building efforts in 2020.

Christian Carere is an avid contributor to the digital marketing community and a social media enthusiast. He founded Digital Ducats Inc. to help businesses generate more leads and new clients through custom-designed SEO strategies.

The post 10 Tips for improved guest blogging in 2020 appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

How To Perform an SEO Audit of Your Website (Checklist Included)

Posted by on Dec 27, 2019 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on How To Perform an SEO Audit of Your Website (Checklist Included)

seo audit

Performing a search engine optimization audit (SEO Audit) of your website is important for many reasons.

First, you can identify problematic areas that need improvement and create an action plan to correct them. Second, a good SEO audit will keep your website up-to-date with the latest developments in search marketing and on top of the competition.

In this guide, you’ll learn:

Before getting into the details on how to perform a website SEO audit, it is necessary to understand the meaning of it and what to expect as the end result.

What is an SEO audit?

An SEO audit is a process for evaluating the search engine friendliness of a website in a number of areas. The main goal of an SEO audit is to help you optimize a website so that it can achieve higher rankings in the search engine results.

While there are various tools you can use to SEO audit a website, the best approach is to either perform the audit by following a guide (like the one you are reading now) or hire an SEO Auditor to do the work for you.

The SEO auditor will manually review the website and come up with recommendations of what needs to be fixed (because it is wrong) and what needs to change so that the performance of the website in search engines is improved.

Why is SEO Audit Important?

Things change very quickly in the SEO industry and what is working today may not work in 6 months from now. Google reportedly makes thousands of updates to their ranking algorithm per year and an SEO audit will help you stay in synch.

It is necessary to perform regular SEO audits (at least 2 times per year) to ensure that your website is up-to-date with the latest developments.

SEO Audit Checklist

Now that you are convinced that an SEO audit is a must for every website, let’s see how you can perform your own website SEO audit.

After reading almost all available articles on how to SEO audit a website and testing a number of audit tools, I came up with a number of steps that cover everything you need to check to evaluate the SEO readiness of your website.

Our SEO audit checklist is complete and includes everything you need to know to perform a manual SEO audit.

Download SEO Audit Checklist as a PDF

You can download the SEO audit checklist as a Free PDF. It includes all 66 checks in detail and is also in a print-friendly format.

THE COMPLETE SEO AUDIT CHECKLIST
This is by far the most comprehensive SEO Audit Checklist online. Get the list in print-friendly format (PDF).

Step 1: Check for Google Penalties

The first step is to check whether your website is penalized by Google.

If your website is under a manual or algorithmic penalty, your rankings will be negatively affected.

Note: If you don’t know the difference, between a manual and algorithmic penalty, read this.

You should find out when the penalty was imposed, why your website was penalized and create an action plan to correct the issues and remove the penalty.

There are two easy ways to check for Google penalties.

First, log in to Google search console and then select ‘Manual Actions’ from the left menu. If there is a manual action imposed on your website, you can see the reason(s) here.

Manual Actions Report
Manual Actions Report – Google Search Console

The second way is to compare your Google organic traffic for the dates Google released an algorithmic change.

A sudden drop (or increase) in organic traffic is a clear sign that your website was affected by the changes.

Login to your Google Analytics, go to ACQUISITION / ALL TRAFFIC and select SOURCE / MEDIUM from the left menu.

Google Organic Traffic Report
Google Organic Traffic Report – Google Analytics

Click Google / Organic from the right panel and set the dates to cover a long period of time.

Compare the dates that you see big changes in traffic with the dates Google released an algorithmic change.

What to do if you are under a Google penalty?

If the above tests indicate that you are indeed into trouble, then the best approach is to find out as many details as possible about the Google updates and adjust your SEO audit accordingly.

For example, if a site is penalized by Google because of thin content (very popular these days), then in the on-page SEO audit section, you should check the quality of your content and either improve, redirect or remove pages that don’t meet the quality standards.

Step 2: Check Domain Search Appearance

The second step is to search for your brand name in Google and review the results.

This is how it looks when I search for ‘reliablesoft’ on Google:

Search Appearance
Brand Search Appearance in Google Results

Things to check:

  • Does your homepage come up first in the results?
  • Does Google show sitelinks along with your listing?
  • Are the descriptions below your homepage and other pages accurate?
  • Does Google show a knowledge graph entry (Google My Business Listing) on the right panel for your brand?
  • Is the name and other information on your GMB page correct?
  • Are the rest of the pages listed on the first page of Google results relevant to your brand?

Scroll down to the bottom of the results and in particular the section “searches related to”.

Brand Related Searches
Brand Related Searches

Things to check:

  • Are the ‘related searches’ relevant to your brand?
  • Do you see any related searches you can utilize by creating dedicated pages? Typical examples are ‘brand name reviews.’

What to do if you don’t get the expected results?

If you don’t get a nice listing as explained above then this means that there are a number of issues with your website.

The best approach is to fix these issues before proceeding any further by:

Step 3: Perform a Technical SEO Audit

Technical SEO and SEO
Technical SEO and SEO

The next step in the process is to do a thorough review of your website, starting with Technical SEO.

Technical SEO comes first because you need to make sure that search engines can access and index your pages without any issues.

Pro Tip: If you are not familiar with how search engines work, I suggest you take a moment and read my previous guide and watch the video. It will help you get a better idea of what we want to achieve with the SEO Audit.

Don’t worry, although it is called technical, you don’t have to be a developer or system administrator to go through the steps.

Technical SEO Checklist

Here is your technical SEO checklist. If any of the tasks are difficult to understand, use the links provided to get more information.

Is your website registered with Google search console and Bing webmaster tools?

If not, then this is a top priority.

Google search console is a free tool provided by Google which gives information to webmasters about their websites.

Everything that Google knows about your website is available in the various tool options and reports.

Things like:

  • How many pages are submitted to Google and how many pages are actually indexed.
  • For which keywords your website is ranking.
  • Which keywords generated Google traffic.
  • Security or other indexing issues related to your website
  • Mobile usability issues
  • And many more.

Some of the settings/reports of Google search console will be covered below.

RESOURCES TO LEARN MORE
How to use Webmasters Tools – The complete guide for beginners.
Bing Webmaster Tools – A step-by-step guide on how to use bing webmaster tools.

Did you specify a preferred domain in Google Search Console?

Google considers websites starting with www in front of the domain i.e. https://www.example.com and with no www in front of the domain i.e https://example.com as two different websites.

To avoid any duplicate content issues, you should specify your preferred domain by setting your canonical URLs correctly.

Is your robots.txt file optimized?

All websites have a robots.txt and it is used to control which pages should be accessible by search engine crawlers.

A mistake in robots.txt can cause serious indexing issues, so robots.txt optimization should be high on your list.

Do you have SEO Friendly URLs?

Although nowadays most website development platforms and CMS have this correctly configured, it’s always a good practice to review your URL structure and make sure that you have SEO friendly URLs.

You should check that the URLs for each page are unique and properly formatted. For example:

This is a non-optimized URL: http://www.example.com/12/badformattedurl/121358898

This is a good URL: http://www.example.com/good-formatted-url

Good URLs include keywords (but they are not keyword-stuffed), include hyphens (‘-‘) to separate the keywords, are unique for each page and are less than 255 characters (including the domain name).

Breadcrumb menu activated?

The breadcrumb menu is usually shown at the top of a page and it helps users navigate back to the homepage by following the menu links.

Google always recommends having a breadcrumb menu as it makes site navigation easier for users.

Check and make sure that your breadcrumb menu is properly configured.

Read: What are breadcrumbs and how to optimize them for more details.

Do you have structured data enabled?

Structured data is a very trending topic these days and will continue to be for years to come.

With the addition of structured data markup to a page, you help Google understand the context and meaning of your content and this creates additional ranking benefits.

Google uses structured data to enhance the presentation of a website in search results and for voice searches (think Google Assistant Questions).

As part of the SEO Audit you should check that you have structured data enabled for:

  • Your homepage (Logo, Website, and Company)
  • Your breadcrumb menus
  • Your articles
  • Your products (see also Product Page SEO)

You can read here more information about structured data and what is supported by Google.

To add structured data on your website, read What is Schema Markup

Do you have a canonical URL set for all your pages?

what is a canonical url
what is a canonical url

A canonical URL helps Google identify the most important pages of a website and webmasters can use it to deal with duplicate content issues.

Best SEO practices indicate that each and every page of your website should have a canonical URL.

Read: What is a canonical URL to learn how to correctly implement canonical URLs.

Is your 404 Page Optimized?

A 404 page is the page shown to users when they reach a page that is not found on your website.

A properly optimized 404 page is good for smooth user experience and it’s very easy to optimize.

Read the section ‘The 404 page’ in my SEO Tutorial for more information.

Is your XML Sitemap optimized?

An XML sitemap is a list of all your website pages that Google needs to know about.

The XML sitemap is generated by your CMS and it is submitted to Google via Google Search Console.

The XML sitemap should not contain all your website pages but only the ones that are important for your website.

Read my previous guide on XML Sitemap optimization to learn how to generate and optimize your XML sitemap.

Is your website HTTPS?

Https is a known ranking signal. This means that websites that have a secure certificate installed and their URLs start with https, have an advantage over non-secure websites.

If your website is not https yet, this is a task to add to the top of your list.

When you make your website https, make sure that you do it correctly so that your rankings will not be affected.

Is your website fast enough?

Mobile Speed and Conversions
Google Study: Mobile Speed and Conversions

From my experience talking to clients, handling web site page speed is one of the most difficult tasks at least for non-technical users.

Unfortunately, it is also one of the most important SEO factors and HAS to be addressed successfully.

Study after study outlines the importance of page speed (especially for mobile) and how it can affect both your rankings and conversion rates.

Your website should load fast and preferably faster than your competitors.

There are tools by Google that can give you recommendations about page speed but in general, what you can do is the following:

  • Compress all your website images using tools like optimizilla or squoosh (by Google). These tools can dramatically reduce the size of an image without sacrificing quality.
  • If you have a lot of images, consider using a CDN
  • Minimize Http calls by using sprites and browser caching
  • Minify your CSS and HTML to make their size smaller
  • Use a caching plugin or page speed service to serve cached pages to users.
  • Remove unnecessary JavaScript from pages
  • Update to the latest version of PHP.
  • Update your website and software to the latest versions.

If the above list does not make much sense to you, you better hire a developer or SEO expert to do the work for you.

It will not cost you a lot and it is something you have to do if you want to improve your rankings.

Is your website mobile friendly?

With the increasing use of mobile devices, this sounds like an unnecessary question. You would expect that all websites are now mobile friendly but that’s not the case.

There are websites not yet optimized for mobile and this translates to a loss of traffic and rankings.

With the introduction of the Google Mobile First Index, websites that are not optimized for mobiles are ‘excluded’ from mobile searches.

Your starting point is to check your website with the Google Mobile friendly test tool and follow their recommendations.

Consider adopting Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is a new way of creating mobile pages. It’s a format created and supported by Google (and other companies).

AMP pages load faster than normal HTML pages, but there are restrictions as to the functionality you can use.

There is a long debate in the SEO industry as to whether you should adopt AMP on your website.

My recommendation is to consider AMP if you are a ‘News’ publisher. If you have a corporate website, blog, or eCommerce store then going the AMP way will increase your costs without providing any additional advantages.

Is your website available in more than one language?

Websites that are available in more than one language should have the necessary SEO settings defined in the HTML code otherwise Google may consider translated content as a duplicate content.

For more details, read this guide from Google.

Is your web site structure optimized?

Regardless of the type of website, there are certain elements common to all, necessary for SEO purposes and good user experience.

What I usually check is the following:

  • Does the website have a clear content structure? Is the content grouped into relevant categories and pages?
  • Does it have a contact, privacy policy, disclaimer and about page?
  • Are important pages linked to from the webpage?
You can read detail explanations for all the above factors in my SEO Tips for beginners guide, which also includes real website examples.

Step 4: Perform an On-Page SEO Audit

Once you are done with the technical SEO audit and fixed all issues, the next step is to deal with the content of your website.

On-Page SEO is the most important part of the SEO Audit. In fact, many audits cover this part only but our approach, as explained above, is for checking other areas as well.

On-Page SEO Techniques
On-Page SEO Techniques

The main goal of on-site SEO is to help search engines understand the meaning of your content.

On-Page SEO Audit Checklist

As a website owner, your job is to provide search engine crawlers with the right signals through the use of keywords and other on-page SEO elements.

Check and Optimize your titles and descriptions

Are the titles and descriptions unique for each page and within the specified size?

Can the user tell from the title what the page is all about and is the description an advertisement of what the page has to offer?

Check your headings and text formatting

Make sure that you don’t just have plain text in your pages.

Any text should be properly formatted using H1 (for the main title) and H2 (for the main headings), bold and italics for the important parts, lists where necessary, etc.

To learn more read: Optimizing the H1 Tag

Check your Content SEO

The content of your website has to be unique. You can use copyscape to check all your pages for uniqueness and if you find duplicate content you have to remove or de-index these pages.

Use Google Analytics to find the most popular pages (both landing pages and with the most visits) and make sure that these have high-quality content (free of spelling and grammar errors, properly formatted, properly promoted in social media, etc.).

You also need to check the content length and content freshness.

If you have pages with little or no content or pages with similar content, you need to merge them together using 301 redirects.

If your content is old or out-of-date, create a publishing plan and make sure that your website is updated on a frequent basis.

You don’t have to post daily but you need to maintain a steady posting scheduling.

Check your Internal link structure

Linking your pages together is useful to both search engines and users.

Check and make sure that you are indeed linking related pages together by considering these 4 factors:

  1. That you are not only using keyword anchor text for the internal links but you use both the full page title and non-keyword anchor text.
  2. The pages you want to rank better in search have a greater number of internal links.
  3. The pages you want to rank better in search are linked from your home page.
  4. You have between 2 – 10 internal links per page.

Check Image SEO

Images are useful for making a web page easier to read and more attractive to social media (especially Pinterest and Instagram) but they can work against your SEO efforts if they increase the loading time of a page.

In general, you need to check 3 things when it comes to images:

  1. Image filenames are descriptive of what the image is about. You can use keywords in the filename but do not overdo it.
  2. All images need to have an SEO Optimized ALT text defined
  3. All images are compressed to minimize their size. If you are using a lot of images in your pages you may need to consider using a content delivery network (CDN).

Check for broken links

Broken links are bad for the user experience and thus not good from an SEO perspective.

There are 2 ways to check for broken links:

Use a tool like Xenu for checking all your external links. The tool is free and can give you a report of all broken links. You can then fix them by either removing them completely from your website or redirecting them to a valid URL.

Use the ‘Crawl errors’ report in your Google Search Console to find broken links within your website. You can also fix them by correcting the links or doing 301 redirects to a valid URL.

Crawl Errors Report
Crawl Errors Report – Google Search Console.

Check for proper use of banner ads

A few years ago, Google started penalizing websites that have too many ads above the fold.

While they are not specifying exactly what do they mean by ‘too many ads’ you can use this guide from AdSense to get an idea of what is allowed and what is not (even if you are not using AdSense, the examples in the guide are still useful).

If your ad implementation is not according to standards you have to remove or change the position of the ads.

Check for User-friendliness

Although it is difficult to judge what is a user-friendly web site and what is not, as this depends on the type of website and how it is designed, there are a few checks you can make:

  1. What happens when a user types a wrong URL? Is the 404-page friendly?
  2. Can the users find what they want is less than 3 clicks?
  3. Does it have a clearly defined main menu?
  4. Can you distinguish between Site content and ads?
  5. Does it have a consistent interface across all pages?
  6. Does it have a user sitemap?

Step 5: Perform an Off-Page SEO Audit

Off Page SEO
Off Page SEO

Off-Page SEO refers to methods and techniques you can use to promote your website on the Internet. It is usually referred to as link building.

SEO Backlinks are considered by the Google algorithm as ‘votes of trust’ and websites with good quality backlinks tend to rank higher in Google results.

Off-site SEO is important but if you are not careful of what you are doing and if you don’t know exactly what you are allowed to do and what not, it is also very risky.

Low-quality incoming links can be a very good reason for Google to penalize your website

Off-Site SEO checklist

Although there are only 3 items in the checklist, you need to do a bit of analysis before having a clear picture of your off-site SEO current state.

Evaluate your incoming links and identify toxic links

You can find out about your incoming links either by using a tool like SEMRUSH or by using the ‘Links to your site’ report from Google Search console.

Backlinks Audit Report
Backlinks Audit Report – SEMRUSH

While reviewing your incoming links report, answer the following questions:

  • How many unique domains are linking to you?
  • Which of these domains are considered trusted domains?
  • How many links are pointing to your home page and how many links to your internal pages?
  • Which of your pages have the most incoming links?
  • What percentage of the links is keyword based?
  • What is the ‘toxic score’ of each link?

Depending on the answers, you may have to take some corrective actions so make sure that these are included in your action plan.

For example, if only a few domains are linking to you, you need to get links from related domains so you need to create a list of possible websites to be used for guest blogging or blogger outreach campaigns.

If you don’t have links from trusted domains you need to get in touch with the leaders in your niche and let them know that you exist (it’s easier said than done but if you get noticed by the big fish you have more chances surviving in the pot).

If all the links are pointing to your homepage, you need to ensure that links are pointing to your internal pages as well. You can do this by either removing links from the home page or by building more links to the internal pages.

If all the incoming links are keyword-based (and Google did not penalize you yet) you need to urgently change them by making them more natural by using your domain name only, your full post title and things like ‘click here’,’ link’ etc.

Unlike on-site SEO, off-site SEO is not a straightforward task and that’s why you need to know exactly what you are doing.

Links are important if you want high rankings but you really don’t have to go out and build links like crazy.

Instead, you should concentrate your efforts on building good websites (with good content) and links will flow in naturally.

Step 6: Perform a Social Media Audit

It’s difficult to survive online without having a decent social media presence; it is as simple as that.

If you neglect social media and depend solely on search marketing then it’s like putting all your eggs in one basket and your risk is higher.

To make a living online, you have to differentiate both your traffic and income sources and dependency on a single source (i.e. Google) is not the way to go.

You may be wondering, how is social media related to an SEO audit?

That’s a good question and there is a very simple answer.

Social media affects your SEO efforts both directly (in the form of links) and indirectly (more exposure which may create more natural links and direct visits), so it is a factor that can influence your efforts to have a properly optimized web site.

Basically, what you have to check in this section is whether you have a proper presence in the most important social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest), whether it’s easy for people to find and follow you in those channels.

Manual VS Automated SEO Audits

What to expect from a manual SEO Audit?

From what you have read above, it’s easy to understand the value of a manual audit VS an automated audit performed by a tool.

A tool is running an audit based on a number of predefined rules and does not have the experience and expertise of an SEO specialist.

Having an expert review your website has a number of added advantages. If you want to find out more, you can check our SEO Audit Service packages.

The cost of a manual audit is reasonable and recommendations are specific to your website and are not generic like those produced using a tool.

You should expect 3 things:

  1. A description of the current state of your website – This is a detailed analysis of how your website is performing in search, social media, number of internal/external links and any other information related to your website’s existing state.
  2. A list of actions based on an SEO audit checklist together with explanations for each and every item on the list.
  3. A report describing a complete Internet marketing strategy for taking advantage of all available sources of traffic and opportunities on the Internet and not just SEO.

Conclusion

For all those who have made it to this point, congratulations! If you follow the recommendations above, it is almost certain that you will improve your rankings and organic traffic levels.

If something is not clear or there is a point you did not understand, let me know in the comments below and I would be more than happy to answer it.

The post How To Perform an SEO Audit of Your Website (Checklist Included) appeared first on reliablesoft.net.

Free web-based robots.txt parser based on Google’s open source C++ parser

Posted by on Dec 24, 2019 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Free web-based robots.txt parser based on Google’s open source C++ parser

The punchline: I’ve been playing around with a toy project recently and have deployed it as a free web-based tool for checking how Google will parse your robots.txt files, given that their own online tool does not replicate actual Googlebot behaviour. Check it out at realrobotstxt.com.

While preparing for my recent presentation at SearchLove London, I got mildly obsessed by the way that the deeper I dug into how robots.txt files work, the more surprising things I found, and the more places I found where there was conflicting information from different sources. Google’s open source robots.txt parser should have made everything easy by not only complying with their newly-published draft specification, but also by apparently being real production Google code.

Two challenges led me further down the rabbit hole that ultimately led to me building a web-based tool:

  1. It’s a C++ project, so needs to be compiled, which requires at least some programming / code administration skills, so I didn’t feel like it was especially accessible to the wider search community
  2. When I got it compiled and played with it, I discovered that it was missing crucial Google-specific functionality to enable us to see how Google crawlers like the images and video crawlers will interpret robots.txt files

Ways this tool differs from other resources

Apart from the benefit of being a web-based tool rather than requiring compilation to run locally, my realrobotstxt.com tool should be 100% compliant with the draft specification that Google released, as it is entirely powered by their open source tool except for two specific changes that I made to bring it in line with my understanding of how real Google crawlers work:

  1. Googlebot-image, Googlebot-video and Googlebot-news(*) should all fall back on obeying Googlebot directives if there are no rulesets specifically targeting their own individual user agents – we have verified that this is at least how the images bot behaves in the real world
  2. Google has a range of bots (AdsBot-Google, AdsBot-Google-Mobile, and the AdSense bot, Mediapartners-Google) which apparently ignore User-agent: * directives and only obey rulesets specifically targeting their own individual user agents
[(*) Note: unrelated to the tweaks I’ve made, but relevant because I mentioned Googlebot-news, it is very much not well-known that Googlebot-news is not a crawler and hasn’t been since 2011, apparently. If you didn’t know this, don’t worry – you’re not alone. I only learned it recently, and it’s pretty hard to discern from the documentation which regularly refers to it as a crawler. The only real official reference I can find is the blog post announcing its retirement. I mean, it makes sense to me, because having different crawlers for web and news search opens up dangerous cloaking opportunities, but why then refer to it as a crawler’s user agent throughout the docs? It seems, though I haven’t been able to test this in real life, as though rules directly targeting Googlebot-news function somewhat like a Google News-specific noindex. This is very confusing, because regular Googlebot blocking does not keep URLs out of the web index, but there you go.]

I expect to see the Search Console robots.txt checker retired soon

We have seen a gradual move to turn off old Search Console features and I expect that the robots.txt checker will be retired soon. Googlers have recently been referring recently to it being out of step with how their actual crawlers work – and we can see differences in our own testing:

Google Search Console robots.txt checker is wrong

These cases seem to be handled correctly by the open source parser – here’s my web-based tool on the exact same scenario:

This felt like all the more reason for me to release my web-based version, as the only official web-based tool we have is out of date and likely going away. Who knows whether Google will release an updated version based on their open source parser – but until they do, my tool might prove useful to some people.

I’d like to see the documentation updated

Unfortunately, while I can make a pull request against the open source code, I can’t do the same with Google documentation. Despite implications out of Google that the old Search Console checker isn’t in sync with real Googlebot, and hence shouldn’t be trusted as the authoritative answer about how Google will parse a robots.txt file, references to it remain widespread in the documentation:

In addition, although it’s natural that old blog posts might not be updated with new information, these are still prominently ranking for some related searches:

Who knows. Maybe they’ll update the docs with links to my tool 😉

Let me know if it’s useful to you

Anyway. I hope you find my tool useful – I enjoyed hacking around with a bit of C++ and Python to make it – it’s good to have a “maker” project on the go sometimes when your day job doesn’t involve shipping code. If you spot any weirdness, have questions, or just find it useful, please drop me a note to let me know. You can find me on Twitter.

7 Biggest WordPress.org Differences vs. WordPress.com vs

Posted by on Dec 23, 2019 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on 7 Biggest WordPress.org Differences vs. WordPress.com vs

WordPress is a household brand now and it powers most of the internet—32% of the internet uses it! WordPress is the most recommended site powerhouse of them all. It is software that you can apply as your website’s operating system. Think of WordPress as the Microsoft or MacOS to your desktop. It is not shocking how the top blogging sites use WordPress for their blogs. However, there are two kinds of WordPress: WordPress.com and WordPress.org. Yes, they look identical, but they are actually two different things. Not everyone can tell the difference between com and org, so in this article, we will shed some light and discuss how wordpress.Com vs wordpress.Org fares. 

But before we dive into wordpress.Com vs wordpress.Org, let us quickly define the differences between the two:

  • The ‘org’ stands for organization. WordPress.org is open-source software for websites—it is akin to an operating system for your blog or site. This software does not burn a hole through your pocket by itself, but you do need to have a web server or a hosting account if you want to use it, which will cost you.  

As mentioned, WordPress.org is self-hosted and is a content management system. You just do not log in and make a website, you install the software and then host the website you make. It is considered to be more advanced than WordPress.com and it lets you create any kind of website you want. You can even create e-commerce stores but you would need to buy extra plug-ins to do it. 

  • The ‘com’ stands for commercial. WordPress.com is a build-your-own-website, all-in-one platform. It does not cost you anything, to begin with, and you do not need any external domain name or hosting for your website. All you need to do is head over to WordPress.com, create an account, and you can begin creating your blog or website immediately. 

It applies the software that WordPress.org uses but it hosts for you and serves more like other website builders such as Squarespace or Wix. WordPress.com has every built-in component you would need to build a blog, however, you can also furthermore add plug-ins to enhance your website. This applies to the theme or the layout of the website as well, which you can find for free or for a set price tag.  

Now that we have the basic explanations of wordpress.Com vs wordpress.Org out of the way, read on to know how we breakdown the differences between these two. We will look at the top 7 ways they differ. 


Ease of Use

Both WordPress.org and WordPress.com require a specific level of technical expertise to use, but the question is: which is easier for you to learn? 

We should begin with how simple it is to actually make a website. Both have page builders that help structure and design every web page, you will need to have some knowledge of code. This is specifically true when it comes to WordPress.org—when it comes to wordpress.Com vs wordpress.Org, the latter can be more back-breaking than the other. But why this complication? It is mostly because of the fact that with .Org, you can make any kind of website, so your coding knowledge levels need to be higher naturally. WordPress.com, on the other hand, is actually created for blogger websites, so it is structured to help you post blogs and edit them. The primary difference in this regard shows up in how easy it is to set up either.


Web Hosting

Since WordPress.com is self-hosted, you just have to worry about designing your website. Once you accomplish that, you can post it online without bothering about anything else—like a hosting provider.

There are plenty of hosting providers, however, out there for WordPress. They cater their hosting requirements specifically for WordPress websites. So, if you choose the right host, you will breeze through the whole setup process.

For WordPress.org hosting, many consider Siteground to be the best. It has features like one-click downloads, which implies that you can link your websites with just one click. It also instantly update your website in line with updates from WordPress, so you do not have to manually do anything.


Which is better?

Though they are both similar when it comes to ease of use but WordPress.com is perhaps more streamlined. It is only for blogs, implying everything you would need is already present and you do not need to bother about hosting your website yourself.   


Designs and Themes

Customizations and theme designs are all about how your website feels and looks like—the appearance, the selections available to you and how much you can edit them. 

WordPress.com works a  lot like any other website builder. It is an online tool that enables anyone to make their own website and has a varied range of pricing plans. The higher the price, the more things you will get. With themes, it is the same. WordPress.com has precisely 91 themes for free and in-built features that you can apply on the lower-priced plans. You can also make simple edits to such themes but you will require an upgrade if you want access to code or wish to apply any of the 200 WordPress premium themes. And for plugins, you will also require to move to a higher-priced plan to able to download extras like Google Analytics.  

WordPress.org is open-source, so personalization is basically unlimited. You can apply any theme, or add another one created by a third party. You can also create your own personal theme, although this can be complicated, so we do not recommend this unless you can hire a developer to do it on your behalf. The same applies to plugins. You can attach any feature to your website, whether it is created by a third party, WordPress or something you made yourself. 


Which is better?

For complete control creatively in wordpress.Com vs wordpress.Org, the latter wins. Customization with WordPress.org is unlimited, and you can code from scratch if you want. On the other hand, WordPress.com serves an out-the-box option—you can create fundamental changes but you will have to choose a high-pricing plan if you want to make extensive modifications to your website.    


Plugins

Firstly, if you are not aware of what a plugin is, it is a feature, like analytics, email marketing or ecommerce that you can download through WordPress and apply on your site. Since WordPress.org and WordPress.com both apply the same directory of plugins, you are selecting from an identical supply of plugins.  

The plugin qualities are all over the place because anyone can design one, so there are plenty of useless plugins out there. The best way to choose is to select WordPress’ personal plugins, apply the plugins created by highly trained developers, or hire a developer to create one for you. 

A solid method of assessing the plugin’s quality is through the number of downloads and reviews. If you see a plugin that has 4.5 stars rating and has been downloaded by more than a million people, you can be confident in that plugin and use it yourself. With WordPress.com, you can only use the directory if you are on the Business plan or on a more expensive plan. Otherwise, you only get the in-built, default features to use. Since it already has what a basic blog needs, and if that is what you want, then you don’t have to worry about all the extra stuff anyway. 

WordPress.org provides you complete access to the directory. You can download any plugin or even make your own that is customized for your website. However, this will require plenty of technical knowledge. 

When it comes to pricing, plugins can differ. Many of them are free but some can be as expensive as 1000 USD a year. It is important to know what exactly you will be needing prior to starting on your website. This way, you can estimate the total cost of your website before time and make your budget based on that.


Which is better?

Since both WordPress.com and WordPress.org use the same directory of plugins, it is impossible to say who wins here. There is no monthly fee to apply plugins with WordPress.org but on the other hand, WordPress.com is for blogging and for that, default and in-built plugins are enough.   


SEO Ranking

Search Engine Optimization is the process of modifying your website to help it get ranked higher on search engines such as Bing and Google. WordPress is among the best platforms for SEO and provided that it powers so many websites, search engines trust it. This implies that by only using WordPress, you get a head-start over everyone else. WordPress will design sitemaps and send them across to Google, so it is simpler for the search engine to crawl on your website and comprehend what it is about. However, quite like e-commerce sites, you will need to download plugins for enhanced SEO.   

Yoast is among the more popular plugins for SEO and it comes with plenty of features that can boost your site up the Google search engine rankings. From basic changes like editing and adding metadata (the text and link that shows on results pages on search engines) to helping you determine fruitful internal linking possibilities and keywords. Yoast does have a free version but if you are seriously looking for a better ranking, you will need to probably invest in the priced plan that charges around 100 USD annually.   

If this is beyond your budget, you might fare better with other website builders such as Squarespace or Wix who have in-built SEO features and also have considerably more affordable apps available for advanced things. 


Which is better?

Again, since you are depending on plugins—which are accessible both on WordPress.org and WordPress.com—this round of wordpress.Com vs wordpress.Org has no clear winner. What we can conclude is that WordPress.org gives you more control, you can make changes manually to better SEO, which you cannot do with WordPress.com.   


Analytics

Even the best blogging websites have room for enhancement, and without analytics, you will never know how you can make your site better. WordPress, however, doesn’t have its own analytics. You can monitor the basics, like traffic, but for any extra insight, you will need to browse through the plugin directory.  


Google Analytics

Google Analytics, without a doubt, is the best plugin for analytics. Since you can’t access plugins on basic plans on WordPress.com, you will need to upgrade to download it. On WordPress.org, you can download it, set it up and use it directly. It allows you to track things such as visitors, bounce rates, conversion rates, and time spent on a page. 

Everything can be broken down by separate pages or a particular time period. This allows you an extensive report about your website’s performance and emphasizes how the modifications have impacted your site. It is a good way to keep tabs on your earnings, traffic, and your progression over time.


Which is better?

It is obvious that WordPress doesn’t have good analytics. It is basic, so you need Google Analytics no matter what, especially if your site isn’t casual or personal. You can download Google Analytics for free on WordPress.org, so this is the better for website analytics. 

Maintenance

The way an award-winning garden needs constant maintenance so does your WordPress website. If you can’t do it properly, much like an invasive weed, your website will be in trouble. 


Web Hosting

One critical observation of continuous maintenance on WordPress is that you have to find a hosting provider yourself and keep watching it. As mentioned before, a robust provider will do it for you and keep things simple. This primarily accomplished through automatic plugin and software updates.

WordPress does minor updates every fortnight, while bigger updates happen every two months. The smaller updates never impact your site’s functionality, but if you don’t make the needed changes to comply with the bigger ones, your site will be in hot water. On .com, these updates are done for you, however, on .org, you are responsible for it.

Bluehost is a provider who does it for you but you still need to be on top of it. 


Security

The Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate is vital. This secures guest personal data while they browse on your website and it is displayed as the tiny padlock icon next to a URL. 

Not only does it reassures your visitors, but it is also something Google prefers when deciding your website’s ranking. SSL certificate are incorporated in the monthly expense of WordPress.com websites. On WordPress.org, you will have to obtain it and renew it separately. 

Like updates, most hosting providers will also throw in an SSL certificate free of cost as part of the monthly billing. 

Which is better?

If your website brings you an income, WordPress.org is the safer choice. You don’t have to be continually suspicious when using WordPress.com, but it does make you somewhat uncomfortable knowing that anyone could harm your website in a second.  

Pricing

WordPress.org and WordPress.com can be utilized for free. For both, the truth is, you will have to spend something to get your website working.


WordPress.com Cost

You get 6 different pricing plans with WordPress.com that range from free to 45 USD every month. You need to pay for all plans upfront annually, so you do need to consider this in your final decision.

Before you can get a free plan, there is something you will have to buy: a domain. A free domain (for a year) is included in every plan but it is something you need to pay if you choose a paid plan. Domains aren’t usually expensive—10 to 15 USD for a year—but it is something you will have to pay for.   

  • WordPress.org Cost

There is some obscurity around WordPress.org’s pricing. While the download, installation, and usage are free, in some cases, to actually make and design your website, you will have some overheads. Below, we have prepared a typical budget in designing and publishing a WordPress.org site:

  • Domain- 10-15 USD/year 
  • Hosting- 5-300 USD/year
  • Security- 5-250 USD/year
  • Premium Plugins- 10-1000/year
  • Premium Theme- 35-200/year (one-time cost)

Which is better?

Technically, the most affordable way to make a WordPress site is by applying a free plan and then just buying a domain name for WordPress.com. Other than that, it is actually down to what you need for your website. Either way, a good WordPress site with enhanced customization will cost you. 


Final Words

At the end of this, all we can say is that it truly depends on what you want your website for. If you want it just for casual blogging purposes, WordPress.com is for you. But if you want, for example, an e-commerce website, then WordPress.org is for you.

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