SEO Articles

Google heightens adult ad policy enforcement after Reuters finds illicit ads

This week, Google will improve enforcement of ad policies pertaining to underaged users, according to Reuters. Google’s renewed focus on these policies came after Reuters discovered ads for sex toys, liquor and high-risk investments in its search results that violate the company’s attempts to comply with UK regulations.

Why we care. Advertisers in age-sensitive categories are unlikely to specifically target children and having their ads shown to minors is a potentially bad look from a brand safety standpoint.

Better enforcement can and should help prevent this scenario, enabling advertisers to better trust Google’s systems. However, the case can also be made that these types of ads should never have made it through Google’s safeguards.

“According to posts on online advertising forums and two advertisers, Google’s enforcement has been spotty,” Paresh Dave wrote for Reuters, “The advertisers . . said they have been frustrated about significant lost sales due to Google’s search engine correctly blocking their ads from signed-out users while erroneously allowing their competitors’ ads.”

Google: ‘The ads in question were mislabeled.’ “We have policies in place that limit where we show certain age-sensitive ad categories,” Google told Reuters. “The ads in question were mislabeled and in this instance should have been restricted from serving. We are taking immediate steps to address this issue,” the company said.

Privacy and protection for minors. Heightened concern over user privacy has increased scrutiny over how platforms protect underaged users.

In August 2021, Google announced that it would block ad targeting based on age, gender or interests of users under 18. It also added the ability for users under 18 (or their parent or guardian) to request removal of their images from Google Image results and automatically enabled SafeSearch for users under 18. Beyond search, the company also made YouTube’s default upload mode private for children aged 13-17.

Instagram announced similar changes, disabling interest and activity-based targeting of underage users in July 2021.

The post Google heightens adult ad policy enforcement after Reuters finds illicit ads appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Google Analytics 4: Custom Insights & Data Governance

Based on a company’s data governance protocols, we’ve recommended some custom insights for Google Analytics 4 beyond what Google has provided.

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Google recipe markup now requires specific times, no more time ranges

Google recipe markup now requires specific times, no more time ranges

Google has updated the recipe schema markup help documents to remove all references to time ranges for food prep, cook time and total time as a supported field type. Now you need to specify a singular time, and no longer provide time ranges.

What changed. Google wrote that it “removed guidance about specifying a range for the cookTime, prepTime, and totalTime properties in the Recipe documentation. Currently, the only supported method is an exact time; time ranges aren’t supported. If you’re currently specifying a time range and you’d like Google to better understand your time values, we recommend updating that value in your structured data to a single value (for example, “cookTime”: “PT30M”).”

Old docs. the old documentation had references to using minimum and maximum time frames for the range of time it takes to prepare and cook the dish. Here is an old screenshot from the totalTime field about the mix and max ranges:

Now there are only references to using a singular and fixed time without any ranges.

Why we care. If you use recipe schema markup on your pages and have time ranges in that markup, you will want to adjust those ranges to use singular and fixed times. One would assume the Search Console reports will soon show errors for the use of ranges but you should jump on this and modify any uses of ranges in your markup.

The post Google recipe markup now requires specific times, no more time ranges appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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20220119 SEL Brief

The post 20220119 SEL Brief appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Competitor Analysis Tool: Top 8 Best Tools for Your Business.

Competitor Analysis Tool: Top 8 Best Tools for Your Business.

Building a great marketing campaign is not enough if you forget to analyze what your competitors do. A competitor analysis tool is an excellent solution for making marketing work a lot easier. Here are the top 8 tools that you can consider using.

What will you learn?

Understand clearly about competitor analysis and competitor analysis toolGet to know the top 8 competitor analysis tools

Even if you are already ranking at the top of the search results for all your most important keywords, you can still be defeated if you overlook your competitors’ actions.

This is when you need to do a competitor analysis.

With competitive analysis, you will be taking a step back and looking at the overall market, where you stand, who the competitors are, and what the search landscape looks like for the most valuable keywords.

This seems like a lot of work to do, especially if you do all these manually.

But fret not, you can always quicken this process with a competitor analysis tool

This blog will show you more information about competitor analysis and 8 of the best competitor analysis tools to help you with your work.

Before we proceed, let’s start with understanding what competitor analysis is.

Understanding Competitor Analysis

What is it?

Competitor analysis is a process of investigating your competitor’s website to determine what keywords or long-tail phrases they rank for.

Targeting competitor keywords helps you appear on the same SERPs as your competitors or rank higher than them.

Why should we do competitor keyword analysis?

With a surge in the number of competitors in business, we must always be moving and adapting before we succumb to our competitors.

Firstly, the core idea behind competitor analysis is to understand the competitors’ strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities and make decisive changes to your current marketing strategy.

Competitor analysis enables you to identify what your competitor is doing right. This information is critical for staying relevant and ensuring that your product and marketing campaigns are outperforming industry standards.

Keyword gap research is a core part of competitor analysis, it helps you uncover the keywords that drive traffic to your competitors’ websites. This gives you insight into their audience’s interests and helps you choose the next keywords. It is also helpful in discovering long-tail keywords which have a click-through rate of 3% to 5% higher than generic searches.

What you need to pay attention to when analyzing competitors

When it comes to competitor research, it is helpful to get a comprehensive list of your keywords. Here, you’ve got two ways to approach them:

You approach this at a domain level. You use a competitor analysis tool to find out who are the other domains who are similarly ranking for your keywords.You approach this from a keyword perspective. You use a competitors analysis tool to find out other pages that are targeting the same keywords you are aiming to rank. 

For the perfect competitive analysis, you should check both to have a more comprehensive list of competitors that you should look at. According to BrightEdge, 53.3% of all website traffic comes from organic searches. If this is done right, you can find the relevant keywords and rank higher, you can attract so much more traffic.

In conclusion, competitor keyword analysis helps you learn more about your competitors, their strategies to rank in search engines, and how you can outrank them and drive more traffic to your website.

It can also tell you where your competitors are falling short. As a result, you can identify the gap – areas of opportunities in the marketplace for your business. Then, you can try out new, unique marketing strategies they haven’t taken advantage of.

After some keyword analysis, you can find exactly which terms, and therefore, which topics you might still need to cover. Keyword gap is a brilliant tactic to generate keyword suggestions and discover opportunities for content creation.

Why do we need a competitor analysis tool?

Doing competitor keyword analysis is not a process you can just grind through. Of course, you can do the entire thing manually but checking the Search Engine Result Pages one-by-one is incredibly inefficient. This is when a competitor analysis tool can come into play.

With the right tool, the whole process can be streamlined and automated to a huge degree. You do not have to do everything manually since the tool can give you accurate data in just a few clicks.

The in-depth competitor analysis data from the tool will ensure that you stay on top of your marketing activities and reap the full benefit. In the end, using a competitor analysis tool just saves you so much time and effort.

However, since there are a lot of brands for you to choose from, we have sorted out the top 8 best tools to get you started.

Top 8 best competitor analysis tools 

#1. RankingGap – Our favorite tool 

The best thing about RankingGap is that you can compare your website with four of your competitors in one go. This helps to effectively determine the best keywords within your niche much quicker than other solutions that does this one-by-one

There are a lot of things you can do with RankingGap. First, we will show you how to find common keywords that you and your competitors ranked.

This is the most straightforward way of performing keyword gap research with RankingGap – to know what keywords you and your competitors share.

Firstly, create a project by inserting your domain and your competitors’. You can also pick a specific location and language combination depending on your use case.

Next, create the project. When the results are ready, you can go to the “Common” keyword tab (which you are already on by default) to see a list of keywords both you and your competitors are ranking.

On top of this, you also get to see the rankings you and your competitors are currently at. This gives you the idea of who you are leading when it comes to different keywords. If your ranking is lower than your competitors, this is the gap that you need to fill.

In addition to this, RankingGap also offers a range of different features. For example:

Performing keyword and content optimizationKnowing what content is missing from your siteDiscovering the gaps in your competitor’s strategiesAnalyzing and identifying your website’s strengths, etc.Filtering your results to analyze data easier.

RankingGap’s newest feature – Competitor Discovery can even help you with the very first step of identifying your rivals.

The best thing here is that RankingGap shows you the metrics of competitors, filtering the high-low competitors.

#2. SEMrush

Besides letting you see the keywords used by your competitors to rank high, SEMrush also allows you to compare your keyword rating with other websites and also filter the results using various criteria.

Source: brand24

SEMrush shows you what category a domain belongs to based on the keywords it ranks in Google. Knowing this will help you locate successful keywords your competitors are using to rank well in Google and whether those keywords are relevant to your niche.

With SEMrush, you can determine how competitors attract traffic — so you can capture some of theirs. This tool also reveals their top pages, keyword strategies, and advertising methods.

The most valuable pieces of data about your competitor you can get from SEMrush are top organic keywords. This is where you can see the keywords your competitor ranks for particular URLs.

#3. Ahrefs

Ahrefs gives you specific ideas on how your rivals use certain keywords to rank on the web. This information is critical in helping you formulate user-friendly content that will work magic in terms of digital marketing.

The Keywords Explorer tool approaches keyword research by doing a “top pages” analysis, identifying dozens or even hundreds of keywords relevant to an article or blog’s topic rather than just specific keywords.

If you feel some inconsistency with your keyword strategy, use the Content Gap report. This report allows you to spot the keywords your rivals are visible for, but your domain isn’t

Source: Search Engine Journal

You can also keep track of all the keywords that matter since the tool monitors over 150 million. With a mouse click, you can add specific keywords and then see information for all of the top pages that rank for that subject.

It also makes it easier to break down the parent topic, which gives you specific ideas on how your competitors are attempting to rank for user intent.

#4. Buzzsumo

Buzzsumo provides detailed reports about what your rivals are ranking for and other factors contributing to your competitor’s high ranking.

The best aspect of BuzzSumo is that it lets you compare two domains side by side, so you can see how the two domains rank in the search engines in contrast to one another. So, for instance, you can set your website against your competitor’s and get a detailed analysis of where you stand compared to your competitor.

This means that you can add your own website as one and your competitor as another for a super in-depth analysis of where you are versus where they are.

When it comes to competitor analysis in social media and content shares, Buzzsumo is your go-to tool here. It’s a social media analytics tool that handles influencer marketing, content marketing, or PR.

Source: Rockcontent

#5. Moz

Moz offers several tools that can help you analyze your competitors’ keywords. Its Domain SEO Analysis Tool can show you websites that target the same keywords you do, for instance. You can also use Moz’s Keyword Explorer to compare your keyword rankings to your competitors.

Moz is also the ideal analysis tool when you want to discover how your competitor has built their online presence. Link explorer helps you research your rival’s linking strategy.

Source: Moz

#6. SimilarWeb

With the help of this data, you can tell for sure which keywords should be your priority because they have the potential to bring more traffic to your client’s site.

SimilarWeb is one of the most versatile competitor analysis tools you can find. It shows where most of your competitors’ traffic comes from, together with any similar pages they visit. Traffic is broken down into 4 sources, including paid, social, search, and direct traffic, so you can see how each source performs.

SimilarWeb also shows you the list of competitors based on what sites are ranking in search engines for the same set of keywords.

This competitive analysis tool will help you benchmark against your competition, monitor your industry, and reveal your competitors’ analytics and online strategy.

#7. SpyFu

SpyFu is a dedicated competitor research tool that can provide a substantial amount of data on your competition. 

SpyFu is a search analytics tool that shows users keywords that websites buy on Google AdWords. That means you can identify all the keywords your competitors have bought and every ad test they’ve run.

Source: talkwalker

If you’re trying to identify your most aggressive competitors, SpyFu can also give you a list of competitor names for the domain you’re analyzing. This tool gives you access to everything from their organic keyword rankings to the keywords they target with Google Ads so that you can develop a more competitive strategy.

SpyFu gives you an in-depth look into your rival’s marketing campaigns—especially their Google Ads activity. Including every keyword, they’ve bought on Google Ads, every organic rank, and every ad variation.

Search for the brand you want to look at, then SpyFu will give you a comprehensive rundown of their Google Ads campaigns. 

#8. KW Finder

Source: Optimonk

KW Finder is a keyword research tool that helps identify which keywords your customers are using in their Google search. 

You can also use it to conduct a competitor analysis on other brands’ SEO strategies. Simply enter the domain of the competitor you want to track, and KW Finder will give you a breakdown of their top-ranking keywords. 

You can then use that data to create SEO-driven content that brings more users to your site.


Not all keywords are worth putting equal effort into. Use the information from this blog to strategically work out which keywords you should be actively monitoring and optimizing for. Learning from your competitors is a fast and effective way to optimize your competitive landscape.

Carrying out these competitor SEO analysis actions is just the beginning, and as we know, SEO is a long game. Stay up-to-date with the latest search engine rankings by using an automated keyword monitoring tool instead.

After all, choosing a suitable competitor analysis tool for your work is necessary. Our favorite tool, RankingGap, might be the one you should try out.

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Ultimate Formula: Tips To Create Click-Worthy Headlines

Now that you know the list of most effective words to create a headline, it’s time to plug them into a fool proof formula and start generating clicks.
We’re giving you all the tips you need to master creating a powerful headline that can gain you traction, don’t miss this!

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How to Benchmark Your SEO Performance

An increasingly common request from in-house SEO teams, or digital marketing managers, is for help figuring out how to benchmark their SEO operations.

This could be from international managers wanting to compare and contrast individual country-level operations, it could be from senior management looking to understand how their investment compares to the competition, or it could be from investors or potential acquirers looking to perform SEO due diligence.

Whatever the reason, the goal is usually to answer questions like:

How does our effort and investment compare to the competition? (Or how does it compare across regions)

How do our capabilities stack up across different areas of focus and specialism?

Are our activities effective?

Are we getting the outcomes you might expect given all of the above?

Where do our outcomes position us in the market?

Whatever the exact questions being asked, I think it’s important to separate out questions about investment, capabilities, activities, and outcomes. They are obviously all related, but if you look only at outcomes, for example, you can be led astray in either direction:

A strong historic base could lead to complacency even as an under-invested program starts to fall behind the competition

A lack of previous investment, or poor past decisions could lead to relatively poor current performance even while the capability of the team and current activities are much more promising

Asking the right questions

In order to make the output of an exercise like this useful, it has to be received as reasonably objective, and also distinguish with sufficient resolution between the cases that would lead to different actions.

Where possible, building on quantitative objective data is helpful – whether it is competitor headcount, or some measure of search share of voice, gathering data from an agreed-upon external source adds validity to your findings.

When you have the raw data, though, you are going to want to put it into “buckets” to assign some measure of red / amber / green (RAG) or similar. When you don’t have objective raw data, you are typically skipping straight to this qualitative classification step.

How to add a scoring system to SEO activities

I am a big fan of the exponential scale.

What I mean is, rather than trying to have buckets that are all the same size, I want to have clear granularity at the ends of the scale I really care about. Depending on the assessment, this could be the “failing” end or it could be the “outperforming” end.

I’ve advocated a similar approach with individual progress evaluations – rather than trying to have people grade their skills in particular areas out of 5 or 10 (a process fraught with challenges and ripe for disagreement) – I have had people bucket themselves into the following categories per task/area:

No experience – does what it says on the tin – I don’t know about this area / haven’t worked on this / it isn’t relevant to my role

Basic competence – I have done some work in this area. You can delegate me tasks but I may need support or I may have a few questions

Core competence – I am rarely stumped in this area and can handle poorly-defined tasks in this area with no worries. I can teach, train and manage others’ work in this area

Expert – I am one of a small number of people everyone in the company turns to with “1%” problems in this area

Renowned expert – I am acknowledged outside the company for being right at the top in this area

Note that the top levels are supremely hard – deliberately so. “Renowned expertise” will be rare even on an amazing team. Not every subject area will have a renowned expert and it’s extremely rare that any one person will have more than one or two areas of renowned expertise.

The benefit of this is that, unlike a linear 5-point scale, the vast majority of a capable team will be rated “3” – core competence, with newer team members “2” – basic competence, and a handful of higher ratings. There is almost no disagreement about where someone sits in the tiers, and even though “3” covers a very wide range of skills, that lack of granularity generally isn’t a problem, because it’s the outliers above and below that are the data points we most often really care about.

A very similar approach can work for the team and organizational evaluations as part of a benchmarking exercise. The key is to make the individual grades as unarguable as possible, in such a way that the aggregated data across categories is interesting and shows the areas of outperformance and underperformance.

Here’s an example of some benchmark grading from a Brainlabs maturity audit:

The other way to make grading as unarguable as possible is to build the elements you can off objective quantitative data. For some sections of a benchmarking report, we will use custom tech to pull a range of data about the sites in question (and sometimes their competitors). By setting firm and fixed quantitative criteria in different areas, you can automate some of the data gatherings and benefit from the objectivity that comes from quantitative data:

One important detail to note when using objective data is that the weightings of the individual data points or the different sections may very well not be uniform. There is no reason to think that structured data is as important as indexability, for example. It’s crucial when gathering quantitative data to consider carefully how to summarise it, and how to present it to ensure that the focus remains on the area of priority rather than becoming a box-ticking exercise.

Presentation tips

Some tips and tricks for presenting this kind of data:

Highlighting is your friend – the key insight in benchmarking is that there is a lot of data, but the actually important pieces tend to be few and sparse. Pull them out visually and ensure that the narrative is crafted around them

You can summarise good/bad data with tools like:

Harvey balls (see below)

Traffic lights (sometimes called RAG for Red/Amber/Green)

Sparklines (for summarization of multiple trends)

This is an example of a Brainlabs presentation side summarising performance with Harvey Balls:

Getting to the right granularity

Most of this work is going to be delivered in some form of document often alongside a presentation to stakeholders. Like all business writing, I believe this means that the best structure is a hierarchical one that gives the overall “answer” upfront, supports that with evidence, and places the detail in appendices for the interested reader to consume at their leisure.

In the case of a benchmarking exercise, that means that the presentation should:

Lead with the headline answer(s)

Support that perspective with a story per high-level area

Drill down into the high-level areas to the level of depth appropriate for the audience in the room

Contain the raw row-level data in a separate appendix for review when you come to make a plan to address the shortcomings or develop the next phase of the plan

As an example, this kind of per-country drill-down might form part of the core deliverable for someone overseeing the set of country teams, but might only form part of the appendix for a senior management team wanting oversight of the SEO operation as a whole:


There are a lot of similarities between benchmarking and due diligence, so I won’t repeat everything I wrote in performing an external (SEO) due diligence. Instead, I thought it would be useful to outline some of the headings and sections that I would consider including if I were to do a deep dive benchmark of an organic search operation:

The structure might look something like this:


Management / strategy / direction

Resourcing – including market comparison

Skillsets / specialisms / specialists





Current performance – based on a balanced digital scorecard approach:


Quantitative: branded search volume comparison vs. market

Qualitative: common related searches and associated sentiment

Search share of voice

Size of addressable keyword universe

Technical foundations including internal-facing elements such as CMS capabilities

Content library

Depth / breadth



Authority / audience

Breakdown of traffic from (organic) search vs other channels

Link and social metrics vs competitors

Absolute levels

Rate of growth

Distribution across pages and content types

Conversion paths / intent alignment

Quantitative: comparison of conversion rates to different micro and macro conversions by channel

Qualitative: assessment of alignment of content and targeted search terms to target market user intent


Clarity – does the organization know what the strategy entails, is it clear, and can they articulate it?

Alignment – does the strategy map to organizational goals in a clear way, are teams measured and incentivized appropriately?

Performance – how on-track is it, and what adjustments are already in motion, or might be needed to bring it on track?

Market – embedded above, but important enough to summarise in its own section:

Market maturity

Opportunity (“size of the prize”)


What have I missed? What else do you think is critical to include in SEO benchmarking? Drop me a line on Twitter to discuss.

What to do with the information

Actions will of course depend on the details of the discovery – you will need to do very different things if your benchmarking shows you are ahead and accelerating vs behind and falling further behind (or any of the other quadrants) – but the primary actions from a benchmarking perspective are:

Gain buy-in – do key stakeholders agree with the underlying data? Are there areas of controversy or concern in the analysis of that data?

One example that we have used to good effect is to create a regular newsletter that summarises the findings and movements and is circulated to the appropriate group to ensure that there is a good cadence for reviewing and acting on the data.

Ensure understanding – have you communicated it clearly, and to the right people? Is it clear to people at the appropriate levels of seniority what it says about their teams, departments, or operations?

Build a process – whatever the actions to be taken are, they fall outside the scope of the benchmarking work itself. Depending on the relationship, the benchmarking deliverables could include an element of outlining a process for evaluating next steps, determining progress, and returning to re-benchmark specific crucial areas in the future. In many cases, we find ourselves re-evaluating benchmarks and tracking scores over time in order to be able to dig into changes (or lack of changes!) and understand what is going on in the SEO operation.

Explaining changes and movements

One common request and challenge that I see a lot from in-house teams is explaining changes in performance to the senior team and to the wider business. Benchmarking doesn’t directly solve that problem (for that, you could refer to how to diagnose SEO traffic drops, a flowchart for diagnosing ranking drops and diagnosing traffic drops during a crisis).

What you should expect to do with benchmarking is to be able to explain changes in the benchmark over time. Hopefully, the combination of quantitative/objective data inputs, and the tips in “asking the right questions” makes this a fairly straightforward process.

If you would like help benchmarking your SEO operation, activities, or results, don’t hesitate to get in touch and be sure to join me at SearchLove London in October. 

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