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Get ready for our new Keyword research training!

Posted by on Aug 15, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Get ready for our new Keyword research training!

Get ready for our new Keyword research training!

Yoast Academy proudly announces the newest addition to its SEO training catalog: the Keyword research training, coming August 23rd! In this training, you will learn about the first and most important step in SEO: keyword research. Before you start writing your website’s content, you need to think about which search terms you want to be found for. But how do you find out which terms you should optimize for? That’s exactly what you’ll learn in this training. So, mark your calendar: in exactly one week, you’ll be able to get access to the Keyword research training!

Why is keyword research important?

Proper keyword research is important because it will make clear which search terms your audience uses. You could be optimizing your website content for one set of words, while your target audience uses a completely different set of words. This means your site won’t be found by your potential customers. Or you could be optimizing for keywords that have competition from sites you can’t beat in the search results at this stage. Keyword research will help you find out what keywords work best for your site, so you can start ranking for the terms that help grow your site!

What will I learn?

In this course, you’ll learn exactly how to execute your own in-depth keyword research. It tackles the process of keyword research from start to finish. You’ll learn how to stand out from your competition with a clear mission and unique selling points (USPs). Additionally, you’ll learn how to take the perspective of your audience and use tools to find out what terms your audience uses. Once you’ve come up with keywords, you’ll learn how to discover which of your keywords have the most potential traffic, are most likely to lead to sales, and have the best chance of ranking high in the search results. We’ll even teach you how to create awesome landing pages, and how to analyze your website’s data to make sure your SEO strategy is paying off.

So, this course really covers it all. It not only teaches you the basics of SEO, but also the basics of marketing in general! We believe this is really important to help you get the most out of your blog or e-commerce site.

We’ll teach you the theory…

The course consists of six modules, which are divided into lessons. Each lesson contains interesting videos, in which SEO experts – like Joost de Valk and Jono Alderson – explain everything you should know about keyword research. To improve learning retention, we’ve also created reading materials. In these PDF files, we explore topics more broadly and we use different examples from the ones we use in the videos. To complete a lesson, you take a quiz. These quizzes test if you understand the theory and if you’re able to apply this new knowledge to realistic example cases.

And help you put it to practice!

We’ve also created four extra assignments, which really focus on putting your knowledge into practice. These assignments help you execute your own keyword research, step by step. They focus on formulating your mission and USPs, drafting your keyword list, researching the potential of your keywords, and gauging your competition. You’ll end up with a full-fledged keyword research list!

Every assignment is introduced by a Q&A video. In these videos, Joost de Valk himself will answer some practical questions that many people have when getting started with keyword research.

Get feedback from a Yoast SEO expert

If you want to make sure your keyword list is fully optimized, we even offer to have a Yoast expert provide feedback on your keyword research list. In this add-on, you’ll be able to hand in your assignment for feedback. Within two weeks, we’ll check whether you’re ready to start ranking, and give you ideas to improve on your keyword list!

Get ready for the launch!

If you want to stop wasting time and start optimizing for the right keywords, the new Keyword research training is for you. This online course allows you to learn about keyword research anytime and anywhere you like. So, get ready for the launch next week. We hope you’ll join us!

Read more: Keyword research for SEO: The ultimate guide »

The post Get ready for our new Keyword research training! appeared first on Yoast.

How To Get Your Business On Google Knowledge Graph (For Free!)

Posted by on Aug 15, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on How To Get Your Business On Google Knowledge Graph (For Free!)

How To Get Your Business On Google Knowledge Graph (For Free!)

Google Knowledge Graph

What Is Google Knowledge Graph?

Knowledge Graph is a visual infobox presented by Google to describe the introduction, data and connection of an entity to a relevant search. The information is gathered from a variety of sources to deliver more focused and relevant search results.

If you read my previous write up on Google’s use of Knowledge Graph to help provide users with richer and more helpful information, then hopefully you’re convinced that it’s in your best interest to have your company’s information available to Google’s Knowledge Graph – Because hey, who wouldn’t want a free billboard on the net right?

But the thing is, it’s easier said than done. Because Google sources a lot of its information for its Knowledge Graph from sources like the Wikipedia, CIA World Factbook and other large data websites, it can be a little challenging to control what information is presented about your company.

Hence, there are some who studies the methods needed to understand more about the Knowledge Graph and how to get yourself/your business/your brand featured by it. This topic is often referred to as Knowledge Graph Optimization (KGO) or Knowledge Graph SEO.

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Road To Google Knowledge Graph:
All The Resources You Need To Get Into The Knowledge Graph

6 Actionable Steps To Jump-Start Your Business Into The Knowledge Graph
Detailed Techniques And References From Highly Reliable Sources
Get Free Tools To Get You Started
Boost Your Way Beyond Basic By Using Recommended Paid Tools And Services

How Does Google Knowledge Graph Work?

Let’s first freshen up a bit on our knowledge about how the Knowledge Graph works. Basically, what happens is since 2012, Google is constantly on the move to collect vast amount of information from around the web and add it into its knowledge base (that would be the Knowledge Graph).

By piecing these scattered information together, Google tries to create a picture of each and every entity – from renowned individuals to big corporations, their attributes and how they relate to each other.

When an entity is successfully identified, Google will be able to generate a Knowledge Graph panel (also known as Knowledge Graph cards, answer boxes or rich answers) which contains a compilation of information gathered from many sources. Here’s an example of how a business is typically featured on a Knowledge Graph panel:

A typical Knowledge Graph display

As you can see, the Knowledge Graph display contains a number of components made out of text, images as well as links. The description noticeably is taken from Wikipedia and if you check the company logo, it is taken from Google’s Google+ profile (that’s a lot of Google). The sources can vary, but Google mainly extract information from places such as:

Trusted and high authority sites (Wikipedia, mainstream news sites, government sites)
Google’s own properties (Google+, YouTube, Google Maps etc.)
Even regular websites sometimes

How To Get Into Google Knowledge Graph

While you’ll never be able to completely control what a Knowledge Graph will display about your company, you certainly can influence it.

The following are some of the best ways to get information about your company on the right place to make it easier for Google to recognize your business as an entity and generate a Knowledge Graph panel for you:

1. Use Schema Markup To Tag Your Website Elements

Schema markup is a type of microdata, which is basically a fancy way of describing HTML codes you include in your website not to be displayed for normal viewing, but to be read by machines (search engines, web crawlers or browsers) for them to get extra informations.

A Schema Markup describing that the website represents an organization and also the location of the image that represents their logo.

By using schema to tag appropriate elements of your website, you’ll make it easier for search engines, such as Google, to organize and interpret the information that’s displayed on your webpages in a more effective manner, thereby allowing them to provide more relevant results to user search queries. It will also make it easier for Google to determine what kind of entity is represented by a website along with its attributes.

When Google have a clear picture of your company from the information derived from the Schema markup on your website, it will be more likely that a Knowledge Graph display will be generated on searches related to your company. Other than the type of organization and logo, Schema markup can also be used to describe products, events, important personnel and more.

By properly using Schema markup, you might end up with a highly detailed Knowledge Graph information like this Nutritional Fact on KFC’s Knowledge Graph display.

It’s worth noting that Schema is a collaboration between four major search engines: Google, Yahoo!, Bing and Yandex (a Russian search engine). Schema.org was established in order to standardize structured markup since there are a number of different formats used across the web. In other words, it is something that Google themselves initiate in order to make things easier for them. That alone is a huge reason to implement it.

While not necessarily a quality factor Google uses to consider when ranking pages on the internet, implementing Schema markup may also indirectly improve your SEO as it enables Google to understand your website better and as a result, produce a richer answer and more accurate snippets when returning your website in the search results.

A simple tutorial on adding Schema markup on your website.

An easier alternative is to use the new SEOPressor Connect’s Schema.org builder. The feature lets you select the Schema.org data type corresponding to your content and it will automatically generate and incorporate the markup in your website code.

SEOPressor Connect allows you to incorporate Schema.org markup in your website without having to write the code yourself.

You can also add other details such as headline, description and author’s name in easy to use form and SEOPressor Connect will translate them into Schema.org markups.

Additional details can also be inserted using easy to use interface.

Basically, you can now incorporate Schema.org markup automatically in your website even without having technical knowledge. Even if you already familiar with the markup, it saves you a lot of hassle of having to write them yourself and the need to refer to the documentation each time you’re writing them.

2. Get A Wikipedia Entry For Your Business

Wikipedia is the Internet’s encyclopedia trusted by all and as such, a valuable source of information for Google’s Knowledge Graph. Wikipedia regularly ranks in the top five search results on Google because its articles are longer, better researched and more cited than other online content. The unique thing about Wikipedia is that anyone can edit its pages. So basically, it’s a user-based encyclopedia.

Although anyone can edit anything in Wikipedia, everything is subject to both deletion and revision, which results in a high quality control. You can enter information about your company into Wikipedia, but you need to be somewhat notable to avoid having it deleted or revised. This means that your company needs to have been featured in mainstream press or on channels that are trusted, independent and neutral.

The content you post to Wikipedia must have a neutral point of view – this means that you can’t attempt to advertise or promote yourself – Wikipedia is purely for neutral information. One of the best strategies for obtaining an entry on Wikipedia is by compiling a list of citations and sharing them with the writers community on Wikipedia when suggesting an article.

Information from Wikipedia can often be found used on the details/description section of the Knowledge Graph.

Having your business featured on Wikipedia also comes with other perks. But before deciding on creating your own Wikipedia page, it’s best to first analyze the requirements, benefits and even the drawbacks of having a Wikipedia page for your business.

Should You Consider a Wikipedia Page for Your Business?

3. Get Your Business On Wikidata

Wikidata is different than Wikipedia in that it’s more oriented for the use of machines instead of actual humans, although both humans and machines can edit content on the database. It’s a data repository that was created to support Wikimedia projects like Wikipedia Wikisource and Wikivoyage. So far, Wikidata boasts almost 14 million data items, which is why it’s not difficult to understand why it’s one of Google’s Knowledge Graph’s main sources of information.

An example of Wikidata entry.

Creating an entry is not too hard, just keep in mind that the rules are in line with those of Wikipedia. It’s considerably easier to create a Wikidata entry as you only need to insert simple informations instead of writing whole paragraphs like in Wikipedia.

It’s worth noting that theres another similar public knowledge base used as a source of information for Google Knowledge Graph, called Freebase. Freebase was much more lenient compared to Wikidata in a sense that it is not subjected to the strict moderation and notability requirement of Wikipedia or Wikidata. Unfortunately it is now closed for edits and the database was migrated to Wikidata. So, if you managed to submit your business into Freebase back when it was open, it’s one less work for you.

4. Get Your Business On Local Listing

One of the easiest way to get on the Knowledge Graph is through the Local Knowledge Graph. In a way it is a little bit different to the ones mentioned before as like the name implies, it is emphasized more on local search. This means 2 things:

It is triggered by location-based query. For example, the searcher is located in the same area where your business are or they are including the area name when typing in the query.
The information shown on the Knowledge Graph display will include more location-based information such as map results, phone number and working hours instead of a more general information.

How a local Knowledge Graph panel looks like.

Depending on whether you are conducting business on-site or online, local Knowledge Graph display can be of different importance to your business. But either way, it is a good way to start if you want to get your business on the Knowledge Graph.

Showing up in local search results is a surefire way to spread awareness of your company throughout your area. People that have no idea about your business even though they live right around the corner from it may find it through the Knowledge Graph. The following steps will help ensure that your business pops up in Google’s Knowledge Graph for local searches:

Go through all of your online platforms, from your website to your social media channels, and make sure that your name, address and phone number (NAP) are displayed and consistent. It will be easier for Google to relate which online assets belongs to the same organization if they have something unique in common.

Using inconsistent NAP might confuse Google and as a result, your online assets remains separate in the eyes of Google.

Remember to use the same address format and avoid even minor differences like the use of .Inc in the company name or the dash and spaces used in the phone number. Pick one standard and use it across the board.

Once you’ve ensured that your company information is accurate and present across all platforms, launch a citation campaign in order to have your company’s information cited by as many local directories and authoritative websites as possible. Other than location-specific directories, here’s a list of top citation sites you can start submitting your business to:

Bing Places
Yelp
Yellow Pages
Yahoo Local
Manta
Better Business Bureau
FourSquare

And of course, it’s worth a separate mention to include your business in Google’s own assets:

Google Maps
Google+ Local
Google My Business

Having a complete set of submission in all of Google sites not only make it faster and easier for Google to recognize your business, but they also brings a lot of benefit for your SEO in general. Good customer reviews on Google-owned websites for example, are especially important as they are the ones to get shown on the local Knowledge Graph and the most starred results tend to rank the highest.

So strive to deliver the best service to your visitors and encourage them to drop a good review. It will be worth it!

You won’t see a 1 star result on the top ranking.

5. Get Your Business Featured In Online Press Releases

Releasing press releases is a great way to increase exposure of your brand in its own right, but they can also have a huge effect on your Knowledge Graph. This is because it does several things for you. First of all, if your press release is published by a reputable online news agency, then it will be more likely that it will be featured in Google’s “In the News” section.

A considerably smaller Knowledge Graph display, but still quite impactful.

Additionally, a press release will double as a reference material to help establish your company’s credibility when obtaining an entry on Wikipedia. Press releases aren’t difficult to create, especially if you use a press release distribution tool such as Marketers Media.

6. Get A Google+ Page

We mentioned the importance of using Google+ before when going over Google+ Local, but it’s worth reiterating why you should use Google+. Out of all the social media channels out there, it should make sense that Google+ has the most impact on your Knowledge Graph – they’re both run by Google, after all! Google used to use information obtained from Google+ much more extensively for the creation of its Knowledge Graph.

There was a time when the information included in the Knowledge Graph panel is derived mostly from Google+.

Although Google have since diversified the information source, the information on your Google+ page will still be one of the main contributors to Knowledge Graph. While you might think that it’s a little bit unfair for Google to “force” us to create a Google+ account, favoritism isn’t actually Google’s intention as it is proven that Google started to move away from relying just on Google+ when they are able to find alternative sources.

Establishing a Google+ page is so easy and because it has so many other benefits – such as the ability to engage with consumers and to spread awareness of your brand and content, it makes a great first step to take if you haven’t done any of the aforementioned steps to help influence your Knowledge Graph. The most important part of creating a Google+ page for your business though, is to link them to your website.

Linking your Google+ account to your website will make it even easier for Google to recognize your brand.

Basically here’s how you can do it:

Head over to your business’s Google Plus page, and click on “About.”
Scroll down to the “Links” section of the page. Click “Edit” on the bottom left-hand corner.
Enter your website domain in the field provided and click “Save.”
Google will send an email request to the webmaster. The owner of the site will see your email address and confirm the link in Webmaster Tools to get your website approved. If the site is approved, you should receive a verification email along with a checkmark next to your website in the “About” tab.

Conclusion

Google Knowledge Graph can have a huge impact on your company’s exposure when it comes to user search queries. I’d highly recommend that you use these tips in order to influence the information on your company that Google’s Knowledge Graph provides. Although it’s important to notice that while these steps are among the best practices to have in order to get your business on the Knowledge Graph, it won’t guarantee it.

Much like how practicing good SEO won’t magically get your website on the first rank on Google overnight, the same also applies here. In the end it all depends on Google’s own capability to synthesize all the information available across the web to improve the contents of its Knowledge Graph. And your job is to provide as much information as possible and get it in the right place.

Do tell me if these steps helps and if it managed to get you a Knowledge Graph display. I’d surely love to see them!

This post was originally written by Azfar and published on Sep 25, 2015. It was most recently updated on Aug 14, 2018.

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Road To Google Knowledge Graph:
All The Resources You Need To Get Into The Knowledge Graph

6 Actionable Steps To Jump-Start Your Business Into The Knowledge Graph
Detailed Techniques And References From Highly Reliable Sources
Get Free Tools To Get You Started
Boost Your Way Beyond Basic By Using Recommended Paid Tools And Services

Research finds B2B audiences discover content through search

Posted by on Aug 15, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Research finds B2B audiences discover content through search

Research finds B2B audiences discover content through search

Clutch’s survey of 384 consumers of online business content found that 87% of respondents frequently encounter business content using search engines, slightly more than the 85% who find business content through social media and 75% who encounter content most frequently on company websites.  

The study indicates that B2B audiences are avid consumers of business content online and use content to inform their purchasing decisions.  

By optimizing content for SEO and for their target customers, companies can engage B2B audiences online and work to transition them through their sales funnel to conversion.   

B2B audiences consume content frequently and according to their purchasing intent  

Clutch’s survey supports industry research that B2B customers extensively research companies and products online as part of their purchasing process.   

The survey found that 88% of B2B audiences consume business content online at least once a week.  

For the most part, the reasons why B2B audiences consume business content online reflects their buying intent and determines the type of content they prefer.  

For example, 45% of B2B audiences read business content online to stay informed about industry trends, the most common reason cited among respondents.  

  

This broad reasoning for consuming content demonstrates low purchasing intent. Thus, this group likely fits in the “awareness” stage of the conversion funnel and consumes content to learn more about a business or an industry before moving forward in their purchasing process.   

As a result, they reported blogs and articles as their preferred type of content, since blogs and articles are more likely to focus on broader topics such as industry trends.   

On the other hand, B2B audiences that read content to further research a company’s products or services, or to help them make a final purchasing decision, gravitate towards content that speaks to their high level of purchasing intent. Fittingly, this group prefers product descriptions and reviews more than other forms of online content.  

SEO services allow businesses to engage B2B customers 

The frequency at which B2B buyers use search as part of their purchasing journey, combined with the need to engage potential customers with broad content preferences, underscores the importance of effective SEO for B2B companies.   

Investing in SEO helps B2B companies engage their target customers where they are: search engines. If companies are able to optimize their site and content for key search terms, they increase their chances of engaging their target customers through search.  

“SEO remains an important way for B2B audiences to find content. Don’t forget, though, that it involves optimizing content not just for search engines, but also for the people behind the queries,” Kim Moutsos, vice president of editorial for the Content Marketing Institute, said in the report.  

To optimize for specific audiences, businesses need to optimize their content according to their various sets of target audiences. To do this, they need to have a very solid understanding of their target customers and how they consume online content.  

Customers at the bottom of the funnel, for example, are very intentional when they consume content online: they are specifically looking for content that discusses products, services, and providers that best fit their needs.   

Diverse content marketing strategies help maximize engagement  

As B2B audiences demonstrate such a broad range of content preferences, both in terms of topics and format, businesses that want to engage them online need a wide-ranging content marketing strategy.  

For example, creating a “state of the industry” report for a site blog helps to engage B2B buyers at the top of the funnel – those who read business content online to learn about industry trends.   

To engage buyers near the middle of the funnel – who read business content online to review whether a company’s products can benefit their business – B2B companies need to create and maintain product pages and descriptions on their websites.  

Finally, encouraging reviews from former clients and actively maintaining and populating listings on third-party directories helps businesses engage B2B customers at the bottom of the funnel – those who read content to make a decision about whether to purchase products or services from a business.   

Understanding how audiences engage with content provides benefits for B2B companies 

Clutch’s research ultimately underscores the value businesses can achieve when they understand how B2B audiences engage with content online.  

Specifically, understanding the online channels and type of content that B2B audiences prefer, in addition to the reasons why they consume business content, can help companies create a content marketing strategy optimized to engage their target customers at different stages of the buying journey.  

In addition, B2B companies also need to optimize their content for SEO to ensure that their target customers encounter it through search, their online channel of choice for finding business content.  

 

Grayson Kemper is a content developer at Clutch, a research and reviews platform for B2B marketing and tech services and solutions. He specializes in SEO research and writing.  

 

Does URL Structure Affect SEO? See What Google Thinks About Them

Posted by on Aug 15, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Does URL Structure Affect SEO? See What Google Thinks About Them

Does URL Structure Affect SEO? See What Google Thinks About Them

The Importance Of URL Structure

One question that seldom gets asked or thought of is — “does URL structure have any effect on SEO?”

Well, not today. Today we’re going to ask this long-ignored question and find out if the URL structure of your page have any effect on its PageRank. Because the whole point of SEO is to optimize every single page element to get the maximum SEO juice out of it and get ranked as highly as possible.

We take pains to craft a website that offers engaging, original content that carefully incorporates a selection of targeted SEO keywords. Each design element is carefully analyzed for its effectiveness in acquiring and retaining visitors. Even the colors we choose are influential over the success of the website. What impact, then, does the URL structure have in boosting or hampering our search results?

Does Google really care about URLs?
What is a URL?

URL stands for “Uniform Resource Locator”, which means it tells you the specific address of a piece of content on the web.

The URL is stored on the Domain Name System (DNS) database that connects it to a specific IP address. When you enter the URL into the navigation bar of a browser, it sends a request to the DNS server for the IP address of the URL.

The Anatomy of a URL

URLs have particular structural rules to which they must adhere for the sake of historical IT design choices. They may not, for example, contain spaces or a few other specific characters. Forward slashes indicate directory layers, and the starting phrase of the URL informs you of the sort of content it is you are accessing.

1. Protocol: HTTP stands for ‘hypertext transfer protocol’, it’s the most commonly used application protocol.
2. Domain Name: The domain name is your address on the world wide web.
3. Subdirectories: These are the categories or subfolders that you create for your pages.
4. Specific Page Name: The specific name of your page. It is the easiest to adjust compared to domain name and directories.

7 Best Practices Of URL Structure For SEO

Does your URL structure affect your ranking? The answer is YES, but that, of course, begs the question, “How?”. Let’s examine all the ways in which you can produce a quality URL that gets your website traction:

URL structure does affect #SEO. Here are few great ways you can do to optimize your URL structure
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1. Keep it Short & Sweet

Lengthy URLs are a detriment to social sharing. While people are able to use shortening services such as TinyURL or Bit.ly to shrink down lengthy links to character lengths that won’t take over your tweets, most people are hesitant of clicking on links that doesn’t clearly indicate where it’s going to take them fearing it may be a malicious link or spam.

How you go about making a URL useful and short involves a host of factors. Are your folders well organized and named appropriately? Did you pick a concise page title that lines up with the content on the page? Can your potential visitor get what they need from the URL at a glance? Most of it is common sense once you start really digging into the subject.

Research:

If you still don’t think URL length is a big issue, look at these data taken from a research conducted by Quicksprout. They calculated the URL length of top 100 results of 1000 keywords and here are the results:

The average length of URLs ranked in top 10 result is 37 characters
The average length of URLs ranked in top 20 result is 35 characters
The average length of URLs ranked in top 30 result is 39 characters
The average length of URLs ranked in top 40 result is 41 characters
The average length of URLs ranked in top 50 result is 36 characters
The average length of URLs ranked in top 60 result is 32 characters
The average length of URLs ranked in top 70 result is 48 characters
The average length of URLs ranked in top 80 result is 45 characters
The average length of URLs ranked in top 90 result is 41 characters
The average length of URLs ranked in top 100 result is 38 characters

Based on these results, it is clear that URLs that contain 35-45 characters dominated the search pages. While this isn’t a clear indication of how Google look at length of URL, it’s definitely worth noting.

Aim for a length of around 35 to 45 characters. If you are near that, don’t sweat it. If you find most of your URLs are exceeding 80 characters or more, you should seriously consider rewriting them. You may be losing potential traffic to bad design. Try not to overuse abbreviations, since too many will result in ambiguous meanings that you might not intend.

2. Make it Readable

This should be quite expected as Google has been rewarding websites that are user-friendly. So making your URL easier to read for humans is also making it better for search engines.

So how do you determine whether a URL is readable or not? Look at the illustration below to have a rough idea:

The general idea here is that your URL doesn’t need to be absolutely perfect, but it should at least be easy to understand and at the same time, look interesting enough to make people click on it.

3. Make Good Use of Keywords

Research has shown that people make decisions about the sites they click through based on the relevance of keywords present in the URL. Including pertinent keywords improves the likelihood they’ll choose your site among their options when you fill their need best.

When they encounter your link through social media, email, or a website, they’ll get a clearer picture of what your link offers. This can build enough trust and engagement that they click through.

In websites where your link is not included with anchor text, the URL itself becomes the anchor text. A readable, keyword-focused URL can drive traffic to your site by both boosting your rankings and encouraging click-throughs.

4. Avoid Pointless Duplication

Nobody likes pointless duplication.

If two URLs are providing the same content, you are at risk of dividing your signal and reducing your traffic potential. It’s simple to resolve this with a 301 redirect (assuming the secondary page is of little independent value) or by using a rel=canonical (great if the second page has a use, like a printer-friendly option for the original content). This focuses all the search engine traffic to the first page and helps boost your visit potential.

Likewise, don’t fluff URLs with repetitive keywords. You are doing yourself no favors either in search result rankings and are discouraging some searchers from clicking on your link.

5. Use Hyphens instead of Underscores

Let’s start with Google’s own plea for web designers to use hyphens (-) instead of underscores (_) to separate keywords. Using hyphens makes it easier for their web crawler analytics to parse relevant information and produce solid results. The less your URL resembles gibberish, the greater chance it’s going to positively impact your search engine placement.

Here’s Matt Cutts explaining how Google sees hyphens as a separator and ignores underscores:

6. Eliminate Excess Words

Stop words like a, the, etc, and, or, but and others are unnecessary in a URL. They don’t necessarily hurt you, but they can make a URL unwieldy in some instances. Use your best judgment. If removing a stop word is going to confuse the subject, it’s worth leaving it in unless that will push your link to excessive length.

7. Avoid Folder Mania

You might be confused now if you still remember Matt Cutts saying that having your page deep in multiple layers of subfolders do not affect SEO in this video:

While having too many subfolder in your URL doesn’t hurt your SEO, you really don’t want your URL to look something like this:

Blog

This is just plain old sensible advice if you understand that shorter URLs are better and readability is important. The more folders you add, the longer your URLs will be by necessity and the more ambiguous your content may become. Streamline your content within sensible and well-named folders for the best results.

Conclusion

Google does care about URL construction. Your potential visitors care even more than Google does. These tips should get you started on the way to a well-designed URL. What tips, ideas, or suggestions do you have regarding URL construction?

You might also like:

What Are Canonical Links And Why You Should Canonicalize Your URL
Single Vs Multiple Websites – Which Is Better For SEO?
[Case Study] Secret About Meta Description That Can Triple Your Click-Through Rate

This post was originally written by Zhi Yuan and published on August 24, 2015. It was most recently updated on August 14, 2018.

#optin-template-3{
float: left;
margin: 0;
width: 100%;
max-width: 654px;
height: 100%;
}a
#optin-template-3 .container{
float: left;
width: 100%;
height: 100%;
text-align: center;
background: #fff;
border: 0px solid #6fbd73;
padding-bottom: 16px;
}
#optin-template-3 .top-row{
display: inline-block;
width: 88%;
padding: 3% 6% 0%;
}
#optin-template-3 .top-row h2{
margin: 5px 0 0;
font-family: “roboto”, helvetica, sans-serif;
color:#6fbd73;
font-weight: 600;
text-align: center;
padding:0px 0px 5px;
font-size:2.2em;
}
#optin-template-3 .left-column{
display: inline-block;
width: 100%;
max-width: 270px;
min-width: 270px;
height: 100%;
vertical-align: top;
padding-top: 32px;
}
#optin-template-3 .ebook-img{
width: 100%;
min-width:270px;
height: 280px;
background: url(https://seopressor.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/meta-desc-guide-mock.png);
background-size: cover;
}
#optin-template-3 .right-column{
display: inline-block;
width: 60%;
min-width: 250px;
max-width: 305px;
padding: 24px 4% 32px;
}
#optin-template-3 .bodycopy ul{
text-align: left;
padding-left: 0;
}
#optin-template-3 .bodycopy ul li{
font-family: “roboto”, helvetica, sans-serif;
margin-left: 20px;
}
#optin-template-3 .optIn-form{
display: block;
bottom: 0;
}
#optin-template-3 .email{
display: block;
width: 100%;
border: 0;
padding: 8px 0;
font-size: 18px;
text-align: center;
border: 1px solid #6fbd73;
}
#optin-template-3 .submit-button{
display: block;
margin-top: 4%;
width: 100%;
padding: 8px 0;
font-family: “roboto”, helvetica, sans-serif;
font-weight: 400;
color: #fff;
background: #6fbd73;
font-size: 21px;
border: 0;
outline: 1px solid #6fbd73;
cursor: pointer;
}

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I Wish I Never Built a Personal Brand

Posted by on Aug 15, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on I Wish I Never Built a Personal Brand

I Wish I Never Built a Personal Brand

Some of you who are reading this know who I am. And many of you don’t.

So, for those of you who don’t…

My name is Neil Patel, and I am the co-founder of an ad agency called Neil Patel Digital. I’ve also co-founded a few marketing technology companies.

I blog about marketing at NeilPatel.com, and in the last 31 days, I was able to reach 1,701,486 people through my blog.

I have a decent social following… 927,000 Facebook fans, 298,000 Twitter followers, 289,802 LinkedIn followers, and 159,588 YouTube subscribers.

And in the last 28 days, 43,196 people found me by Googling variations of my name.

So, can you see the issue with everything I am doing?

It’s all tied to my name.

None of my companies have as much traffic, and they don’t have anywhere near the social following as my personal blog that you’re reading right now.

And that’s not even the biggest issue, which I will get into later on.

But before I go into why I wouldn’t build a personal brand again, let’s go over how it all began.

Why did I build a personal brand?

I never planned on building a personal brand. I started my career in marketing at the age of 16.

My first website was a job board called Advice Monkey (no longer exists) that I started when I was 16 years old. I had no clue how to generate traffic… I just thought that you put up a website and people visit.

Boy, was I wrong!

Eventually, I saved up enough money from picking up trash and cleaning restrooms at a theme park to pay a marketing firm.

They ripped me off and provided little to no results.

From being broke and frustrated I had no choice but to learn online marketing.

I got so good at it that Advice Monkey started to rank on Google for competitive terms like job board, job search, and tech jobs. In essence, I was ranking for so many job and career terms that Advice Monkey started generating well over 100,000 visitors a month.

I know that doesn’t seem like a lot of traffic, but for a job board with no listings, the Internet not being as popular 17 years ago, and for me being a 16-year-old kid, I didn’t do too bad.

But here is the thing, I was never able to make Advice Monkey work out. I just didn’t know how to monetize it.

So, like any other nerdy 16-year-old, I did what my parents wanted me to do, I went to college. And I know I was a bit too young for college as I was still in high school, so I took night classes at a college nearby my home while still in high school.

My first class was Speech 101, and I gave a speech on how Google worked. Funny enough, someone in the class worked at a company that was looking to hire someone that knew how Google worked.

He asked me if I wanted a consulting job… I said yes… they paid me $5,000 a month. I was able to help them generate well into the 8 figures of additional yearly revenue because of my work.

The owner of the company was impressed, so he introduced me to his son, who owned an ad agency.

Soon enough, he outsourced some work to me, which lead me to generate $20,000 a month in income.

The start of my personal brand

I was happy with the money that I was making for my age, but I knew it wouldn’t last.

Just because someone is paying you money right now, it doesn’t mean they will pay you next year or even next month.

I had to figure out how to generate customers.

I wasn’t the best at sales, I wasn’t well connected… so I did what I knew best. I created a blog that focused on the topic of SEO in hopes that it would generate leads and sales.

The blog no longer exists, but it was called Pronet Advertising. Here’s what it looked like:

Over time, the blog started to grow in popularity and it would generate leads here and there. I never hit more than 150,000 monthly visitors, and I wasn’t satisfied with the results.

I wish I knew what I know now because I would have done simple things like leveraging exit popups and lead forms on the blog.

Seriously, I made so many basic mistakes back in 2006.

Because the blog wasn’t working out too well, I decided to speak at conferences in hopes that it would generate more clients. I literally applied to every marketing conference in hopes of landing a speaking gig.

The first conference I spoke at was Search Engine Strategies (it no longer exists). I was a bit nervous, but people enjoyed my speech.

I generated no new business from the event. 🙁

But that didn’t stop me, and I started to speak at more conferences and eventually, I drummed up business from a few events. Plus, I was building a personal brand in the marketing space (without realizing it).

Now when I say I started to build a brand, it wasn’t anything like it is right now and my goal wasn’t to build a brand… I just wanted to close new deals.

The software era

My ad agency grew to a few million a year in revenue, but by the time the recession hit in 2008, we started to lose a lot of clients.

Eventually, I shifted my focus to a marketing software company I co-founded, Crazy Egg.

At the same time, I stopped blogging on Pronet Advertising because it wasn’t generating any real income.

I started to focus all of my energy on getting Crazy Egg traffic and customers, while my business partner focused on making the product great.

At that time, Crazy Egg’s brand recognition was larger than mine. And I had no intention of growing my personal brand.

So, when I spoke at conferences, I talked about Crazy Egg. When I woke up in the morning, I spent my time trying to make Crazy Egg more popular.

As Crazy Egg was growing, I randomly decided to start a personal blog, Quick Sprout. I have no clue why I decided to do this… I just wanted a personal blog because I thought it would be a fun experience.

And if you are wondering why I didn’t name the blog Neil Patel it’s because I didn’t own NeilPatel.com at the time.

By January 2011, Quick Sprout grew to over 67,038 visitors a month:

And by November of 2012 I was generating 112,681 visitors a month:

My traffic was growing nice and steady at the time although my personal brand wasn’t really taking off yet.

But by January 24, 2013, my personal brand started to take off. That was when I started to publish in-depth marketing guides that were 20,000 to 30,000 words.

People thought I was crazy!

The first one was called The Advanced Guide to SEO.

It did so well, my traffic jumped to 244,923 visitors a month.

Once I realized that people loved these in-depth guides that were as long as a book, I kept publishing more and more. Eventually, I cranked out 12 of them and my personal brand started to skyrocket.

People would come up to me at conferences saying how they loved my content. People would even tell me how they would have discussions with their co-workers about my content. It was surreal!

Heck, it even got to a point where professors would email me asking if they could teach my content in their classrooms.

And luckily for me at that time, one of my Quick Sprout readers saw that the domain name, NeilPatel.com was being auctioned off for $900. Once I found out, I bought it. I didn’t do much with it… I just wanted to own my name.

Quick Sprout eventually grew to a point where it was generating over 500,000 visitors a month and I partnered with a few people to turn it into an SEO software company.

Once I brought on a few business partners, it hit me that Quick Sprout was no longer just my blog. I had business partners, which meant it wasn’t just my blog anymore.

There was nothing wrong with that, but I wanted a personal blog as well. Somewhere I could write whatever I wanted and not worry about the “business” aspect.

The start of NeilPatel.com

I started this blog in August 2014. When I started this blog, my personal brand was just taking off.

According to Google Trends, I was at a 6:

And currently, it’s roughly at a 22. Which means it is 3 to 4 times larger now than what it was when I started this blog.

But here is the thing, Google Trends doesn’t paint a full picture. It just tracks how many people are searching for your brand on a monthly basis.

There are a lot of people who have known about me for years who don’t Google my name on a monthly basis.

My personal brand has grown for a few reasons:

I blog consistently – I’ve been blogging for years on many different blogs. From Pronet Advertising to Quick Sprout to NeilPatel.com, I enjoy blogging about marketing. Just on NeilPatel.com, I have published 4,868 posts.
I have a daily podcast – Marketing School generated 725,044 listens last month. If you haven’t listened to an episode yet, make sure you check it out and subscribe to it.
I produce weekly video content – from YouTube to Facebook to LinkedIn, you constantly see videos from me about marketing. My Youtube channel alone generated 566,816 views in the last 28 days. If you add in LinkedIn and Facebook, I’m hitting over a million video views a month.
I still kind of speak at conferences – I’ve slowed down on the speaking circuit as it got so exhausting because I used to speak at over 50 conferences a year.
I guest posted weekly – I used to blog on Entrepreneur, Forbes, Inc, and Fast Company as it helped spread my brand. Over the years I have written 1,831 guest posts in three different languages.
I expanded internationally – NeilPatel.com is now translated in 4 languages, and I continue to add more each year. This has been helping my brand grow.
I keep giving back – I’ve been making marketing tools free, such as Ubersuggest and Subscribers. Who doesn’t like free? 😉

In other words, I’ve built a decent personal brand by just being consistent and putting in long hours for over 16 years.

As I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t trying to build a personal brand… it just happened. It’s not huge, but it’s grown to a decent enough size where it’s larger than any of my corporate brands.

My personal brand has helped me generate millions in consulting deals, and I constantly get offered $25,000 to $50,000 for an hour speech at conferences each week.

So why do I regret building a personal brand?

Well, let me ask you this… think of a few of the brands you are very familiar with, which ones come to mind?

Apple?

Maybe Google?

Amazon, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Nike, American Express, Tesla… the list keeps going on and on.

Did you notice that you didn’t really think about a personal brand?

Now tell me one personal brand that’s bigger and more successful than any one of the companies I mentioned above?

Whether you pick Tony Robbins or famous athletes like Cristiano Ronaldo or reality TV stars like the Kardashians, none of them will ever be bigger than the companies I mentioned above, at least from a financial perspective.

And what’s sad is when the face of a personal brand passes away, in most cases so does the income. For example, Tony Robbins does well because he is Tony. But if Tony wasn’t around, who would speak on stage on his behalf?

It wouldn’t be the same if his company replaced him with someone else.

But on the flipside, look at Apple. Steve Jobs was the visionary who helped build this amazing company we all love, but since he passed away, Apple’s stock price has gone up roughly 4 times.

They are now worth a trillion dollars. That’s crazy!!!!

Yes, Steve Jobs was an amazing entrepreneur, but Apple has grown without him and has continually improved their products.

In other words, Apple will continually live and hopefully grow because it isn’t reliant on any one individual.

Now my company is named after me. I’m not the only person within the company… the team is what makes the company amazing, not me. If I wasn’t here tomorrow, the company would still be around, but it probably wouldn’t do as well.

Not because the team isn’t capable… the team does amazing work and they are better than me in many ways. It’s because, without me, many companies wouldn’t come on board as clients.

If I changed the name of the company it also probably wouldn’t do as well because my personal brand is influential within the digital marketing world.

And here’s the kicker: It’s also harder to sell a company when it is named after a person. And if you are one of the lucky people who are able to sell a business based off of a personal brand, the multiple won’t be as great because the buyer knows that when the personal brand leaves, so will some of the revenue.

I’m not saying it’s impossible… just much harder.

That’s why you see companies like GitHub being purchased for $7.5 billion when most people haven’t even heard of it (outside of the tech world).

Conclusion

If I took all of the time I spent building a personal brand into building a corporate brand, I would have been worth a lot more money.

I know money isn’t everything in this world, but in business, it’s the scorecard that everyone looks at.

If you want to build a lifestyle business then consider building a personal brand. It’s easier to build, and you can make good money from speaking, consulting, or partnerships.

But if you want to build something big, something that will continually live and move on without you, then focus on building a corporate brand.

I’ve slowly been transitioning. That’s why I spend more time building up the Ubersuggest brand than I spend building the “Neil Patel” brand. And I know my ad agency Neil Patel Digital is based on my name, but I’m ok with that as I never plan on selling it.

Now in an ideal world, what you want to do is leverage personal brands to grow your corporate brand. For example, Beats by Dre leveraged strong personal brands like Lebron James and the Kardashians to grow in popularity.

It’s a smart model because this made it so the company isn’t reliant on one brand, such as Dr. Dre. A lot of companies, like Pepsi, Nike, and Coca-Cola do this.

Even B2B companies do this… who wouldn’t want a testimonial from Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerburg, or Elon Musk. It’s probably harder to get their endorsement as they don’t need the cash, but you can get micro influencers within the B2B space.

For example, I was discussing with my business partner that we should hire a lot of the popular personal brands within the marketing niche and bring them under the Neil Patel Digital brand. That way the company isn’t as reliant on me.

When you also build a strong corporate brand you’ll notice that it may indirectly help you build a strong personal brand. But that shouldn’t be your goal as your company won’t be worth as much if it is fully reliant on your brand.

So, are you going to build a personal brand or a corporate one?

The post I Wish I Never Built a Personal Brand appeared first on Neil Patel.

Site Migrations & Creating New URL Structures

Posted by on Aug 14, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Site Migrations & Creating New URL Structures

Site Migrations & Creating New URL Structures

Migrating or redesigning a site is a chance for new beginnings. New pages! New functionality! New systems!

But with new things comes new responsibilities. One of the first items to consider is your new URL structure. Taking time to discover the best URL structure for your site–and for SEO–will set you up for future success.

As an SEO overseeing a migration, your role will shift from an in-the-weeds analyst to a consultant and educator. You’ll be asked best practices and tasked with guiding teams through this unfamiliar world full of potential and new HTML tags. You’ll work with IT teams and developers you previously never knew existed.

Suddenly, you’ll be fielding questions about:

URL Structures
Which New Pages to Create/Delete
How to Organize the Site
Analytics

And the list goes on. If you’ve done your job up to this point, you’ll have advocates on other teams asking, “But what about the SEO implications.” They may not understand just how SEO works, but you’ve scared them with mentions of algorithm updates and ranking drops that any project – no matter how small – must be signed off by the SEO team.

Congrats! You’ve made yourself invaluable and involved in every decision. Before you think this is a bad thing, you’re actually #blessed.

While these pre-migration discussions may dominate your schedule, it’s better to be involved upfront and tell the UI team that Google views a blue vs. orange button equally than to be brought in at the 11th hour and learn *gasp* that no one’s thought of canonical tags.

URL Structures

If your site is upgrading its platform, 99% of the time that means your URLs will change, too. Hopefully, for the better. Gone are the days of CatID=12345 and hello keyword rich URLs!

This is your chance to establish ground rules. You’ll be able to create folders and character limits that will dictate URL structures for the foreseeable future.

Before You Dive In…

Google’s John Mueller has said to not change URLs just for SEO purposes. If you have the option to keep the same structures, don’t. touch. anything.

While it’s tempting, those URLs have been accruing authority for years, may be linked to from other sites, and you introduce risk and volatility when using redirects. Plus, it’s one extra thing you’ll have to manage.

Sometimes, though, you might not have a choice.

If you’re doing a full redesign and the new back-end systems necessitate a URL change, do it wisely. If the company is rebranding and the new brand comes with a fresh URL, make it count.

Strategically approach this time and infuse SEO best practices into your shiny new URLs.

Use Normal Naming Conventions

While keywords in URLs inform visitors what a page is about, they don’t provide the same ranking boost they once did.

In a 2016 Google Webmaster Hangout, Mueller shared that keywords in URLs are “a very small ranking factor. It’s not something I’d really try to force.”

This means you should encourage teams naming URLs to name them something intuitive, but don’t stress about finding the exact right phrase. If you’re between /car-repair/ or /auto-repair/ – use either! Google gets it.

Shorter URLs are Better Than Longer Ones

To quote Occam’s Razor, “The simplest solution is always the best.” The same is true when creating URLs.

If you’re considering if /new-homes-for-sale/ or /new-homes/ is best, save yourself nine characters and opt for /new-homes/.

Other pages on your site will provide context and you’ll save character limits by removing implied phrases. Shorter URLs are also easier to display on smaller screens for mobile searches.

What About Mobile?

After reading my first draft, my colleague asked that question. It’s what we all should be asking these days.

What about mobile URLs?

Responsive design is Google’s recommended design pattern.” Having your mobile and desktop pages responsively load on one www. domain is preferred, but you can handle separate m. and www. URLs by setting appropriate canonical and rel=alternate tags between the two.

If that’s how your site is configured, see Google’s guidelines on how to annotate.

URL structure is less important to mobile visitors from a visual standpoint. It’s an element of your site that few phone visitors may even see. On my 5.7 inch, XL phone, I see 28 characters in my Chrome browser.

When you think about it, that’s really small. It’s the equivalent of “https://www.examplesite.com/”. Everything beyond that is hidden.

With the common use of schema.org markup and Google getting better at understanding a site’s folder structure, mobile URLs also rarely show up in SERPs. All a user will see on their small screen is a list of folders.

If you have separate m. or www. URLs, apply the same best practices to both. Keep the URL structure the same between your domains to help with cross-device consistency. Since site users will rarely see your URLs and because Google doesn’t surface them anymore, don’t overthink mobile URL structure.

Subfolders Should be Used in Moderation

The number of subfolders to include can vary greatly; there is no one-size-fits-all recommendation. That’s because considering URL folders and the right number to expose gets tricky.

Our recommendation is to consider your specific implementation and the size of your site.

Let’s run through options.

For small sites, displaying 2-3 folders in a URL can provide users with additional context before even viewing the page. Your site is small and it’ll be easy to manage.

Perhaps you’re a restaurant with multiple locations and unique menus. You’d want to expose each of those locations within the URL to help customers know which location they’re viewing: /east-end/menu and /north-shore/menu. See how those URLs are better than /menu-1 or /menu-2?

Think of URLs as a way to tip-off visitors about what they’ll see before then get to your site.

For large sites – especially eCommerce ones – you’ll have more things to consider. You may have to decide whether to display parent categories (and how many) or perhaps you’ll want to name URLs according to their page template.

If you’re leaning towards a multi-folder URL path, you’ll want to consider what’s intuitive without being overkill. It’s very much a “trust-your-gut” situation.

Let’s imagine you’re a jeweler who sells gold solitaire engagement rings. You have a few options of the child-parent relationships for that landing page:

/rings/engagement/solitaire/gold (4 folders)
/solitaire/gold (2 folders)
/rings/gold-solitaire-rings (2 folders)
/gold-solitaire-rings (1 folder)

All are viable options, but which one provides context and is most intuitive? That’s up to you.

You also may want to use a naming convention based on page templates.

If, for example, you have a page template that shows products, you may want to name all those pages… wait for it… /products/. This would apply to your necklaces, rings and earrings pages.

/products/necklaces
/products/rings
/products/earrings

So which option is best? I wish we could give you an answer, but this one will depend on your site. To help you decide, sketch out one section of your navigation and what the URLs might look like. Does it feel like overkill if you have 6 folders when 2 will do? Are your users going to get lost by seeing a page that’s 5 folders deep? Does each folder provide value to your customers by being exposed?

It’s Okay to Be A Little Selfish

Once you’ve considered what’s best for your visitors, it’s time to be a bit self-serving. Is the solution you’ve developed also best for YOU? How will your internal teams use those URLs in their reporting, monitoring and general navigation around the site?

If you’re an internal team or an agency working with one client, you will see these URLs every. single. day. of. your. life.

Would it help to filter your data to product detail pages if every page lived within a /p/ folder? (Probably, yes.)

Do you want to view only earring pages so having a parent directory of /earrings/ would help you easily sort the data? (Probably, yes here, too.) Those with a decent subdirectory structure will be easily able to roll up behavior metrics by subdirectory in Google Analytics with an underused feature called the Content Drilldown report.

When sharing the Store Locator URL with your Social team, is it easier for you to share /stores/store-locations/view-all or more simply, /stores/? The more characters in a URL, the easier it is to mess it up.

Create New URLs with Purpose

A migration or site redesign is your chance to reset naming conventions for URLs. While keywords in URLs no longer have an impact on how a page ranks, creating simple, intuitive URLs are a win-win-win all around.

They’ll:

Help customers orient themselves on your site
Provide context for users when clicked on from an external link
Make life infinitely easier for reporting or daily SEO tasks

If your URLs need to change, embrace the opportunity and create a foundation that will benefit IT, Marketing and SEO teams for years to come.

The post Site Migrations & Creating New URL Structures appeared first on LunaMetrics.

The difference between on-site blog content and off-site content

Posted by on Aug 14, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on The difference between on-site blog content and off-site content

Google recently updated its search quality rating guidelines, which has had a profound impact on the way that content is created. Publishing a revised 164-page document, the leading search engine is now paying greater attention on what users are searching for and what information they end up reading.

The tech giant has not been afraid to say that it has a focus on enhancing the user experience across the platform, and the changes that have been introduced for content creators reinforce this statement for marketers around the world.

While well-crafted onsite content can help strengthen your brand’s message and highlight your industry expertise, you’ll also need to produce creative offsite content that will help your business secure the best online coverage across a range of publications to increase rankings while amplifying your brand.

On-site content

There are multiple elements that cover on-site content, and when done correctly, effective on-site content can help increase your website’s search rankings. If you’re looking to become the go-to brand/service for your prospective customers, it’s crucial that you appear at the top of the results page.

Ultimately, blog content on your business website is there to support the user’s journey while providing them with the most insightful information that they need during their visit. This could also support them when making a purchase, as they see you as a more trustworthy figure. There are a few techniques you can use to make sure that your on-site blog content performs exceptionally well.

The first step to creating blog content is to understand who is reading it — usually this will be your main demographic who already have an interest in your products or services. Although you’ve positioned yourself as an authoritative figure, you need to speak to your website visitors as if they’re on your level for both acquisition and retention purposes.

You also want to avoid any industry jargon, as this can be an instant turn off for a reader. It’s important to be transparent with your audience and tell them the information that they need in a concise way that still delivers the same level of information.

You also need to use your blog content as a way to tell your audience that you’re better than your competitors. This can be achieved through showing off your USPs — whether these include next-day delivery or a lengthy warranty on products. If you’re creating an article on your site that drives information to the reader, they won’t mind you being slightly advertorial, as this can also be beneficial to them.

Internal links are a must in your blog post, but only if they are relevant. If you’re discussing a certain product or service that you offer, you should be linking to the relevant page to help improve the overall page authority.

It’s essential that you end your blog post with a call to action, because if a reader has made it all the way through your article, they’re already invested in your business and are more likely to perform an action.

Off-site content

Creating off-site content is completely different from making blog posts for your business website. This time, you’re not trying to appeal to your customers but to journalists and major publications that will drive authority to your website while having the ability to increase brand visibility.

It requires a full team of innovative and creative people to come up with outreach ideas that can support an SEO campaign. You should have an aim to create pieces of content that can be outreached to different publications that cover various niches. For example, an article that discusses how technology has improved health and safety in the workplace would appeal to technology, business and HR websites, all of which can improve your link building strategy for your online marketing campaigns.

This also means that you must carry out extensive research into what is relevant in the news. From an outreach perspective, this can allow you to see what type of content journalists are looking for and what is currently working well in terms of online coverage.

As well as this, you should also be looking at creating content around national or international events or celebrations — as editors are more likely to pick up this type of content because it will appeal to a wide audience and generate an overall buzz. Recently, we saw this with the World Cup and will soon see the same with the upcoming Christmas period.

Publications and journalists will not take content pieces that are too advertorial, as they want to provide readers with content that is informative and unbiased — but that is not to say they won’t credit you with either a brand mention or a link to one of your target pages.

Although content creation for both on-site and off-site may look similar, they can be very different in tone, format and objective.

 

 

Ranking the 6 Most Accurate Keyword Research Tools

Posted by on Aug 14, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Ranking the 6 Most Accurate Keyword Research Tools

Ranking the 6 Most Accurate Keyword Research Tools

Posted by Jeff_Baker

In January of 2018 Brafton began a massive organic keyword targeting campaign, amounting to over 90,000 words of blog content being published.

Did it work?

Well, yeah. We doubled the number of total keywords we rank for in less than six months. By using our advanced keyword research and topic writing process published earlier this year we also increased our organic traffic by 45% and the number of keywords ranking in the top ten results by 130%.

But we got a whole lot more than just traffic.

From planning to execution and performance tracking, we meticulously logged every aspect of the project. I’m talking blog word count, MarketMuse performance scores, on-page SEO scores, days indexed on Google. You name it, we recorded it.

As a byproduct of this nerdery, we were able to draw juicy correlations between our target keyword rankings and variables that can affect and predict those rankings. But specifically for this piece…

How well keyword research tools can predict where you will rank.

A little background

We created a list of keywords we wanted to target in blogs based on optimal combinations of search volume, organic keyword difficulty scores, SERP crowding, and searcher intent.

We then wrote a blog post targeting each individual keyword. We intended for each new piece of blog content to rank for the target keyword on its own.

With our keyword list in hand, my colleague and I manually created content briefs explaining how we would like each blog post written to maximize the likelihood of ranking for the target keyword. Here’s an example of a typical brief we would give to a writer:

This image links to an example of a content brief Brafton delivers to writers.

Between mid-January and late May, we ended up writing 55 blog posts each targeting 55 unique keywords. 50 of those blog posts ended up ranking in the top 100 of Google results.

We then paused and took a snapshot of each URL’s Google ranking position for its target keyword and its corresponding organic difficulty scores from Moz, SEMrush, Ahrefs, SpyFu, and KW Finder. We also took the PPC competition scores from the Keyword Planner Tool.

Our intention was to draw statistical correlations between between our keyword rankings and each tool’s organic difficulty score. With this data, we were able to report on how accurately each tool predicted where we would rank.

This study is uniquely scientific, in that each blog had one specific keyword target. We optimized the blog content specifically for that keyword. Therefore every post was created in a similar fashion.

Do keyword research tools actually work?

We use them every day, on faith. But has anyone ever actually asked, or better yet, measured how well keyword research tools report on the organic difficulty of a given keyword?

Today, we are doing just that. So let’s cut through the chit-chat and get to the results…

While Moz wins top-performing keyword research tool, note that any keyword research tool with organic difficulty functionality will give you an advantage over flipping a coin (or using Google Keyword Planner Tool).

As you will see in the following paragraphs, we have run each tool through a battery of statistical tests to ensure that we painted a fair and accurate representation of its performance. I’ll even provide the raw data for you to inspect for yourself.

Let’s dig in!

The Pearson Correlation Coefficient

Yes, statistics! For those of you currently feeling panicked and lobbing obscenities at your screen, don’t worry — we’re going to walk through this together.

In order to understand the relationship between two variables, our first step is to create a scatter plot chart.

Below is the scatter plot for our 50 keyword rankings compared to their corresponding Moz organic difficulty scores.

We start with a visual inspection of the data to determine if there is a linear relationship between the two variables. Ideally for each tool, you would expect to see the X variable (keyword ranking) increase proportionately with the Y variable (organic difficulty). Put simply, if the tool is working, the higher the keyword difficulty, the less likely you will rank in a top position, and vice-versa.

This chart is all fine and dandy, however, it’s not very scientific. This is where the Pearson Correlation Coefficient (PCC) comes into play.

Phew. Still with me?

So each of these scatter plots will have a corresponding PCC score that will tell us how well each tool predicted where we would rank, based on its keyword difficulty score.

We will use the following table from statisticshowto.com to interpret the PCC score for each tool:

Coefficient Correlation R Score

Key

.70 or higher

Very strong positive relationship

.40 to +.69

Strong positive relationship

.30 to +.39

Moderate positive relationship

.20 to +.29

Weak positive relationship

.01 to +.19

No or negligible relationship

0

No relationship [zero correlation]

-.01 to -.19

No or negligible relationship

-.20 to -.29

Weak negative relationship

-.30 to -.39

Moderate negative relationship

-.40 to -.69

Strong negative relationship

-.70 or higher

Very strong negative relationship

In order to visually understand what some of these relationships would look like on a scatter plot, check out these sample charts from Laerd Statistics.

And here are some examples of charts with their correlating PCC scores (r):

The closer the numbers cluster towards the regression line in either a positive or negative slope, the stronger the relationship.

That was the tough part – you still with me? Great, now let’s look at each tool’s results.

Test 1: The Pearson Correlation Coefficient

Now that we’ve all had our statistics refresher course, we will take a look at the results, in order of performance. We will evaluate each tool’s PCC score, the statistical significance of the data (P-val), the strength of the relationship, and the percentage of keywords the tool was able to find and report keyword difficulty values for.

In order of performance:

#1: Moz

Revisiting Moz’s scatter plot, we observe a tight grouping of results relative to the regression line with few moderate outliers.

Moz Organic Difficulty Predictability

PCC

0.412

P-val

.003 (P<0.05)

Relationship

Strong

% Keywords Matched

100.00%

Moz came in first with the highest PCC of .412. As an added bonus, Moz grabs data on keyword difficulty in real time, rather than from a fixed database. This means that you can get any keyword difficulty score for any keyword.

In other words, Moz was able to generate keyword difficulty scores for 100% of the 50 keywords studied.

#2: SpyFu

Visually, SpyFu shows a fairly tight clustering amongst low difficulty keywords, and a couple moderate outliers amongst the higher difficulty keywords.

SpyFu Organic Difficulty Predictability

PCC

0.405

P-val

.01 (P<0.05)

Relationship

Strong

% Keywords Matched

80.00%

SpyFu came in right under Moz with 1.7% weaker PCC (.405). However, the tool ran into the largest issue with keyword matching, with only 40 of 50 keywords producing keyword difficulty scores.

#3: SEMrush

SEMrush would certainly benefit from a couple mulligans (a second chance to perform an action). The Correlation Coefficient is very sensitive to outliers, which pushed SEMrush’s score down to third (.364).

SEMrush Organic Difficulty Predictability

PCC

0.364

P-val

.01 (P<0.05)

Relationship

Moderate

% Keywords Matched

92.00%

Further complicating the research process, only 46 of 50 keywords had keyword difficulty scores associated with them, and many of those had to be found through SEMrush’s “phrase match” feature individually, rather than through the difficulty tool.

The process was more laborious to dig around for data.

#4: KW Finder

KW Finder definitely could have benefitted from more than a few mulligans with numerous strong outliers, coming in right behind SEMrush with a score of .360.

KW Finder Organic Difficulty Predictability

PCC

0.360

P-val

.01 (P<0.05)

Relationship

Moderate

% Keywords Matched

100.00%

Fortunately, the KW Finder tool had a 100% match rate without any trouble digging around for the data.

#5: Ahrefs

Ahrefs comes in fifth by a large margin at .316, barely passing the “weak relationship” threshold.

Ahrefs Organic Difficulty Predictability

PCC

0.316

P-val

.03 (P<0.05)

Relationship

Moderate

% Keywords Matched

100%

On a positive note, the tool seems to be very reliable with low difficulty scores (notice the tight clustering for low difficulty scores), and matched all 50 keywords.

#6: Google Keyword Planner Tool

Before you ask, yes, SEO companies still use the paid competition figures from Google’s Keyword Planner Tool (and other tools) to assess organic ranking potential. As you can see from the scatter plot, there is in fact no linear relationship between the two variables.

Google Keyword Planner Tool Organic Difficulty Predictability

PCC

0.045

P-val

Statistically insignificant/no linear relationship

Relationship

Negligible/None

% Keywords Matched

88.00%

SEO agencies still using KPT for organic research (you know who you are!) — let this serve as a warning: You need to evolve.

Test 1 summary

For scoring, we will use a ten-point scale and score every tool relative to the highest-scoring competitor. For example, if the second highest score is 98% of the highest score, the tool will receive a 9.8. As a reminder, here are the results from the PCC test:

And the resulting scores are as follows:

Tool

PCC Test

Moz

10

SpyFu

9.8

SEMrush

8.8

KW Finder

8.7

Ahrefs

7.7

KPT

1.1

Moz takes the top position for the first test, followed closely by SpyFu (with an 80% match rate caveat).

Test 2: Adjusted Pearson Correlation Coefficient

Let’s call this the “Mulligan Round.” In this round, assuming sometimes things just go haywire and a tool just flat-out misses, we will remove the three most egregious outliers to each tool’s score.

Here are the adjusted results for the handicap round:

Adjusted Scores (3 Outliers removed)

PCC

Difference (+/-)

SpyFu

0.527

0.122

SEMrush

0.515

0.150

Moz

0.514

0.101

Ahrefs

0.478

0.162

KWFinder

0.470

0.110

Keyword Planner Tool

0.189

0.144

As noted in the original PCC test, some of these tools really took a big hit with major outliers. Specifically, Ahrefs and SEMrush benefitted the most from their outliers being removed, gaining .162 and .150 respectively to their scores, while Moz benefited the least from the adjustments.

For those of you crying out, “But this is real life, you don’t get mulligans with SEO!”, never fear, we will make adjustments for reliability at the end.

Here are the updated scores at the end of round two:

Tool

PCC Test

Adjusted PCC

Total

SpyFu

9.8

10

19.8

Moz

10

9.7

19.7

SEMrush

8.8

9.8

18.6

KW Finder

8.7

8.9

17.6

AHREFs

7.7

9.1

16.8

KPT

1.1

3.6

4.7

SpyFu takes the lead! Now let’s jump into the final round of statistical tests.

Test 3: Resampling

Being that there has never been a study performed on keyword research tools at this scale, we wanted to ensure that we explored multiple ways of looking at the data.

Big thanks to Russ Jones, who put together an entirely different model that answers the question: “What is the likelihood that the keyword difficulty of two randomly selected keywords will correctly predict the relative position of rankings?”

He randomly selected 2 keywords from the list and their associated difficulty scores.

Let’s assume one tool says that the difficulties are 30 and 60, respectively. What is the likelihood that the article written for a score of 30 ranks higher than the article written on 60? Then, he performed the same test 1,000 times.

He also threw out examples where the two randomly selected keywords shared the same rankings, or data points were missing. Here was the outcome:

Resampling

% Guessed correctly

Moz

62.2%

Ahrefs

61.2%

SEMrush

60.3%

Keyword Finder

58.9%

SpyFu

54.3%

KPT

45.9%

As you can see, this tool was particularly critical on each of the tools. As we are starting to see, no one tool is a silver bullet, so it is our job to see how much each tool helps make more educated decisions than guessing.

Most tools stayed pretty consistent with their levels of performance from the previous tests, except SpyFu, which struggled mightily with this test.

In order to score this test, we need to use 50% as the baseline (equivalent of a coin flip, or zero points), and scale each tool relative to how much better it performed over a coin flip, with the top scorer receiving ten points.

For example, Ahrefs scored 11.2% better than flipping a coin, which is 8.2% less than Moz which scored 12.2% better than flipping a coin, giving AHREFs a score of 9.2.

The updated scores are as follows:

Tool

PCC Test

Adjusted PCC

Resampling

Total

Moz

10

9.7

10

29.7

SEMrush

8.8

9.8

8.4

27

Ahrefs

7.7

9.1

9.2

26

KW Finder

8.7

8.9

7.3

24.9

SpyFu

9.8

10

3.5

23.3

KPT

1.1

3.6

-.4

.7

So after the last statistical accuracy test, we have Moz consistently performing alone in the top tier. SEMrush, Ahrefs, and KW Finder all turn in respectable scores in the second tier, followed by the unique case of SpyFu, which performed outstanding in the first two tests (albeit, only returning results on 80% of the tested keywords), then falling flat on the final test.

Finally, we need to make some usability adjustments.

Usability Adjustment 1: Keyword Matching

A keyword research tool doesn’t do you much good if it can’t provide results for the keywords you are researching. Plain and simple, we can’t treat two tools as equals if they don’t have the same level of practical functionality.

To explain in practical terms, if a tool doesn’t have data on a particular keyword, one of two things will happen:

You have to use another tool to get the data, which devalues the entire point of using the original tool.
You miss an opportunity to rank for a high-value keyword.

Neither scenario is good, therefore we developed a penalty system. For each 10% match rate under 100%, we deducted a single point from the final score, with a maximum deduction of 5 points. For example, if a tool matched 92% of the keywords, we would deduct .8 points from the final score.

One may argue that this penalty is actually too lenient considering the significance of the two unideal scenarios outlined above.

The penalties are as follows:

Tool

Match Rate

Penalty

KW Finder

100%

0

Ahrefs

100%

0

Moz

100%

0

SEMrush

92%

-.8

Keyword Planner Tool

88%

-1.2

SpyFu

80%

-2

Please note we gave SEMrush a lot of leniency, in that technically, many of the keywords evaluated were not found in its keyword difficulty tool, but rather through manually digging through the phrase match tool. We will give them a pass, but with a stern warning!

Usability Adjustment 2: Reliability

I told you we would come back to this! Revisiting the second test in which we threw away the three strongest outliers that negatively impacted each tool’s score, we will now make adjustments.

In real life, there are no mulligans. In real life, each of those three blog posts that were thrown out represented a significant monetary and time investment. Therefore, when a tool has a major blunder, the result can be a total waste of time and resources.

For that reason, we will impose a slight penalty on those tools that benefited the most from their handicap.

We will use the level of PCC improvement to evaluate how much a tool benefitted from removing their outliers. In doing so, we will be rewarding the tools that were the most consistently reliable. As a reminder, the amounts each tool benefitted were as follows:

Tool

Difference (+/-)

Ahrefs

0.162

SEMrush

0.150

Keyword Planner Tool

0.144

SpyFu

0.122

KWFinder

0.110

Moz

0.101

In calculating the penalty, we scored each of the tools relative to the top performer, giving the top performer zero penalty and imposing penalties based on how much additional benefit the tools received over the most reliable tool, on a scale of 0–100%, with a maximum deduction of 5 points.

So if a tool received twice the benefit of the top performing tool, it would have had a 100% benefit, receiving the maximum deduction of 5 points. If another tool received a 20% benefit over of the most reliable tool, it would get a 1-point deduction. And so on.

Tool

% Benefit

Penalty

Ahrefs

60%

-3

SEMrush

48%

-2.4

Keyword Planner Tool

42%

-2.1

SpyFu

20%

-1

KW Finder

8%

-.4

Moz

0

Results

All told, our penalties were fairly mild, with a slight shuffling in the middle tier. The final scores are as follows:

Tool

Total Score

Stars (5 max)

Moz

29.7

4.95

KW Finder

24.5

4.08

SEMrush

23.8

3.97

Ahrefs

23.0

3.83

Spyfu

20.3

3.38

KPT

-2.6

0.00

Conclusion

Using any organic keyword difficulty tool will give you an advantage over not doing so. While none of the tools are a crystal ball, providing perfect predictability, they will certainly give you an edge. Further, if you record enough data on your own blogs’ performance, you will get a clearer picture of the keyword difficulty scores you should target in order to rank on the first page.

For example, we know the following about how we should target keywords with each tool:

Tool

Average KD ranking ≤10

Average KD ranking ≥ 11

Moz

33.3

37.0

SpyFu

47.7

50.6

SEMrush

60.3

64.5

KWFinder

43.3

46.5

Ahrefs

11.9

23.6

This is pretty powerful information! It’s either first page or bust, so we now know the threshold for each tool that we should set when selecting keywords.

Stay tuned, because we made a lot more correlations between word count, days live, total keywords ranking, and all kinds of other juicy stuff. Tune in again in early September for updates!

We hope you found this test useful, and feel free to reach out with any questions on our math!

Disclaimer: These results are estimates based on 50 ranking keywords from 50 blog posts and keyword research data pulled from a single moment in time. Search is a shifting landscape, and these results have certainly changed since the data was pulled. In other words, this is about as accurate as we can get from analyzing a moving target.

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

#4 – Is Passive Income Possible with SEO?

Posted by on Aug 14, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on #4 – Is Passive Income Possible with SEO?

#4 – Is Passive Income Possible with SEO?

I don’t think there’s a single person who wouldn’t want passive income. In fact, that’s one of the biggest reasons why people get into SEO. For well over a decade, Internet Marketers have been selling the idea that you can generate passive income by learning how to do SEO.

But the question is:

Is it actually possible? That’s what this episode of The SEO Life podcast is all about. Let’s jump in.

The first thing I need to establish is that SEO can be a passive channel for growing a business.

But what determines whether or not your business generates passive income is completely dependent on the monetization model.

I’m not going to hammer you with the fact that SEO is one of the best ways to grow a business. You already know that. What I want to focus on is how you can use SEO to generate passive income.

First, I need to cover what business models will NOT generate passive income.

Non-Passive Model #1 – Service Business

The first is service-based businesses. It’s extremely hard to have a passive service-based businesses. So whether you’re offering SEO services or plumbing services, it’s still going to require human capital to complete the tasks. You can build out systems, but you still need people to operate the business and get the desired results. Then you have to actually manage your team members.

And lastly, service-based businesses have to sell and deal with customer service. All of these moving parts make it challenging for a service-based business to be passive.

Non-Passive Model #2 – Personal Brands

The second type of business that is NOT passive is one that revolves around your personal brand. For example, the success of Gotch SEO is largely dependent on my personal brand. Sure, I have team members and systems for making things more efficient, but at the end of the day, people are only going to care about Gotch SEO if I’m consistently putting out value and continually try to establish myself as an SEO expert.

Now the way I generate income for my company (Gotch SEO) is passive because I sell an information product, Gotch SEO Academy. Anyone can go through my funnel and sign-up for the course. This doesn’t require me to sell each person 1-by-1. It’s passive in that respect.

But the part that isn’t passive is maintaining and building my personal brand. In short, I’m the engine that pushes this business forward. This means that Gotch SEO is NOT a passive income business model.

Listen:

The idea that you should be building your personal brand is incredibly valuable because it can lead to so many opportunities. But that doesn’t mean that all of your business ventures should revolve around it.

That’s why last month I launched a new business that isn’t dependent on my personal brand and I plan to launch a few more. I’ll update you with the progress of these businesses on my blog.

But at the end of the day, all you need to do is look at the most successful companies in the world. They aren’t personal brands. Sure, there are some anomalies such as Kylie Jenner, but even her brand is completely dependent on her. Anyway, I won’t get too deep into this topic, but building a business or website around your personal brand isn’t a passive solution.

So, then what is a passive income model you can use?

The Best Passive Income Option

I believe the most passive income model you can take advantage of if you understand how to do SEO is to create niche websites and then to monetize those niche websites through affiliate offers, ads, collaborations, and e-com or information products in some cases.

I would say that affiliate and ad-driven businesses are the most passive because you completely eliminate one of the most time-intensive and complicated parts of a business which is selling. Sure, you need to pre-sell affiliate offers, but that’s much easier than having to build out sales funnels, write copy, create sales videos, etc.

But at the end of the day, every business including affiliate businesses are going to require a massive amount of planning, work, and time. The beauty of SEO is that once it’s rolling, you will continue to get traffic even if you aren’t actively working on the site.

Why Chasing Passive Income Doesn’t Make Sense

But all I know is that for me personally, I don’t think I would ever stop trying to create new revenue sources or working to grow something. Even if I have passive income rolling in. I mean seriously, life is pointless if you’re aren’t challenging yourself and continually try to grow.

My business is a position where I can go on vacation whenever I want and do what I want on a daily basis, but I still don’t do that. I still work like I’m broke.

Trying to grow businesses is fun for me. Sure the income is cool, but I genuinely love the process.

And the reason why I’m saying this is because I think you’ll end feeling the same way. Once you achieve the goal of “passive income,” you won’t be satisfied. You won’t just sit back and not doing anything anymore. I can predict this because if you put in the work and create a passive income asset, then you’re not someone who just sits back and lets life come to them.

You’re someone who takes action and someone who is willing to take on risk. That behavior isn’t going to change once you get passive income. Trust me!

But either way, there are some business models that are more desirable than others. I personally love building niche websites because I like having control. Some people like service-based businesses. That’s cool too. You just have to figure out what works for you and most importantly, what makes you the happiest.

So, that’s all for this episode. I’m going to be diving deeper into developing niche websites in later blog posts and videos because I believe it’s the best way for people to monetize their SEO skills. With that said, thank you so much for listening and talk soon!

Building visual reporting in Google Sheets

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

Building visual reporting in Google Sheets

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

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

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

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

I thought so too.

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

Start creating your own Google Sheets reports.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How you can make this report your own

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

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

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

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

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

What you will need to customise this report

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

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

Other resources you may find useful:

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

Why this report is useful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to customise this report

In this report you are going to have to customise:

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

Necessary changes – Report Configurations

First level customisation

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

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

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

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

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

Updating the regular expressions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the ‘everything’ section:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Necessary changes – Comparisons tab
Date formulas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other changes you can make – Report Configuration

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s reporting time

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

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

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

Happy reporting!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Date formulas

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

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

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

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

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

Top 20-page reporting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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