SEO Articles

Increasing Time on Site

Increasing Time on Site

Changing User Intents

Google’s search quality rater document highlights how the intent of searches can change over time for a specific keyword.

A generic search for [iPhone] is likely to be related to the most recent model. A search for [President Bush] likely was related to the 41st president until his son was elected & then it was most likely to be related to 43.

Faster Ranking Shifts

About 17 years ago when Google was young they did monthly updates where most of any ranking signal shift that would happen would get folded into the rankings. The web today is much faster in terms of the rate of change, amount of news consumption, increasing political polarization, social media channels that amplify outrage and how quickly any cultural snippet can be taken out of context.

Yesterday President Trump had some interesting stuff to say about bleach. In spite of there being an anime series by the same name, news coverage of the presser has driven great interest in the topic.

And that interest is already folded into the organic search results through Google News insertion, Twitter tweet insertion, and the query deserves freshness (QDF) algorithm driving insertion of news stories in other organic search ranking slots.

If a lot of people are searching for something and many trusted news organizations are publishing information about a topic then there is little risk in folding fresh information into the result set.

Temporary Versus Permanent Change

When the intent of a keyword changes sometimes the change is transitory & sometimes it is not.

One of the most common ad-driven business models online is to take something that was once paid, make it free, and then layer ads or some other premium features on top to monetize a different part of the value chain. TripAdvisor democratized hotel reviews. Zillow made foreclosure information easily accessible for free, etc.

The success of remote working & communication services like Skype, Zoom, Basecamp, Slack, Trello, and the ongoing remote work experiment the world is going through will permanently change some consumer behaviors & how businesses operate.

A Pew survey mentioned 43% of Americans stated someone in their house recently lost their job, had their hours reduced, and/or took pay cuts. Hundreds of thousands of people are applying to work in Amazon’s grueling fulfillment centers.

To many of these people a lone wolf online job would be a dream come true.

If you had a two hour daily commute and were just as efficient working at home most days would you be in a rush to head back to the office?

How many former fulltime employees are going to become freelancers building their own small businesses they work on directly while augmenting it with platform work on other services like Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Upwork, Fiverr, 99 Designs, or even influencer platforms like Intellifluence?

If big publishers are getting disintermediated by monopoly platforms & ad networks are offering crumbs of crumbs there’s no harm in selling custom ads directly or having your early publishing efforts subsidized through custom side deals as you build market awareness and invest into building other products and services to sell.

WordPress keeps adding more features. Many technology services like Shopify, Stripe & Twilio are making most parts of the tech stack outside of marketing cheaper & easier to scale.

Some universities are preparing for the fall semester being entirely online. As technology improves, we spend more time online, more activities happen online, and more work becomes remote. All this leads to the distinction between online and offline losing meaning other than perhaps in terms of cost structure & likelihood of bankruptcy.

Before Panda / After Panda

Before the Panda update each additional page which was created was another lotto ticket and a chance to win. If users had a crappy user experience on a page or site maybe you didn’t make the sale, but if the goal of the page was to have the content so crappy that ads were more appealing that could lead to fantastic monetization while it lasted.

That strategy worked well for eHow, fueling the pump-n-dump Demand Media IPO.

Demand Media had to analyze eHow and pay to delete over a million articles which they deemed to have a negative economic value in the post-Panda world.

After the Panda update having many thin pages laying around and creating more thin pages was layering risk on top of risk. It made sense to shift to a smaller, tighter, deeper & more differentiated publishing model.

Entropy & Decay

The web goes through a constant state of reinvention.

Old YouTube Flash embeds break.

HTTP content calls in sites that were upgraded to HTTPS break.

Software which is not updated has security exploits.

If you have a large website and do not regularly update where you are linking to your site is almost certainly linking to porn and malware sites somewhere.

As users shifted to mobile websites that ignored mobile interfaces became relatively less appealing.

Changing web browser behaviors can break website logins and how data is shared across websites dependent on third party services.

Competition improves.

Algorithms change.

Ads eat a growing share of real estate on dominant platforms while organic reach slides.

Everything on the web is constantly dying as competition improves, technology changes and language gets redefined.

Staying Relevant

Even if a change in user intent is transitory, in some cases it can make sense to re-work a page to address a sudden surge of interest to improve time on site, user engagement metrics & make the content on your page more citation-worthy. If news writers are still chasing a trend then having an in-depth background piece of content with more depth gives them something they may want to link at.

Since the Covid-19 implosion of the global economy came into effect I’ve seen two different clients have a sort of sudden surge in traffic which would make little to no sense unless one considered currently spreading news stories.

News coverage creates interest in topics, shapes perspectives of topics, and creates demand for solutions.

If you read the right people on Twitter sometimes you can be days, weeks or even months ahead of the broader news narrative. Some people are great at spotting the second, third and fourth order effects of changes. You can spot stories bubbling up and participate in the trends.

An Accelerating Rate of Change

When the web was slower & easier you could find an affiliate niche and succeed in it sometimes for years before solid competition would arrive. One of the things I was most floored about this year from a marketing perspective was how quickly spammers ramped up a full court press amplifying the fear the news media was pitching. I think I get something like a hundred spam emails a day pitching facemasks and other COVID-19 solutions. I probably see 50+ other daily ads from services like Outbrain & similar.

The web moves so much faster that the SEC is already taking COVID-19 related actions against dozens of companies. Google banned advertising protective masks and recently announced they are rolling out advertiser ID verification to increase transparency.

If Google is looking at their advertisers with a greater degree of suspicion even into an economic downturn when Expedia is pulling $4 billion from their ad budget & Amazon is cutting back on their Google ad budget and Google decides to freeze hiring then it makes far more sense to keep reinvesting into improving any page which is getting a solid stream of organic search traffic.

Company Town

After Amazon cut their Google ad budget in March Google decided to expand Google Shopping to include free listings. When any of the platforms is losing badly they can afford to subsidize that area and operate it at a loss to try to gain marketshare while making the dominant player in that category look more extreme.

When a player is dominant in a category they can squeeze down on partners. Amazon once again cut affiliate payouts and the Wall Street Journal published an article citing 20 current and former Amazon insiders who stated Amazon uses third party merchant sales data to determine which products to clone:

Amazon employees accessed documents and data about a bestselling car-trunk organizer sold by a third-party vendor. The information included total sales, how much the vendor paid Amazon for marketing and shipping, and how much Amazon made on each sale. Amazon’s private-label arm later introduced its own car-trunk organizers. … Amazon’s private-label business encompasses more than 45 brands with some 243,000 products, from AmazonBasics batteries to Stone & Beam furniture. Amazon says those brands account for 1% of its $158 billion in annual retail sales, not counting Amazon’s devices such as its Echo speakers, Kindle e-readers and Ring doorbell cameras.

Amazon does not even need to sell their private label products to shift their economics. As Amazon clones products they force the branded ad buy for a company to show up for their own branded terms, taking another bite out of the partner: “Fortem spends as much as $60,000 a month on Amazon advertisements for its items to come up at the top of searches, said Mr. Maslakou.”

Amazon has grown so dominant they’ve not only cut their affiliate & search advertising while hiring hundreds of thousands of employees, but they’ve also dramatically slowed down shipping times while pulling back on their on-site people also purchase promotions to get users to order less.

While they are growing stronger department stores and other legacy retailers are careening toward bankruptcy.

Multiple Ways to Improve

If you have a page which is ranking that gets a sudden spike in traffic it makes a lot of sense to consider current news & try to consider if the intent of the searcher has changed. If it has, address it as best you can in the most relevant way possible, even if the change is temporary, then consider switching back to the old version of the page or reorganizing your content if/when/as the trend has passed.

One of the pages mentioned above was a pre-Panda “me too” type page which was suddenly flooded with thousands of user visitors. A quality inbound link can easily cost $100 to multiples of that. If a page is already getting thousands of visitors, why not invest a couple hundred dollars into dramatically improving it, knowing that some of those drive by users will likely eventually share it? Make the page an in-depth guide with great graphics and some of those 10,000’s of visitors will eventually link to it, as they were already interested in the topic, the page already gets a great stream of traffic, and the content quality is solid.

Last week a client had a big spike from a news topic that changed the intent of a keyword. Their time on site from those visitors was under a minute. After the page was re-created to reflect changing consumer intent their time on site jumped to over 3 minutes for users entering that page. Those users had a far lower bounce rate, a far better user experience, are going to be more likely to trust the site enough to seek it out again, and this sends a signal to Google that the site is still maintained & relevant to the modern search market.

There are many ways to chase the traffic stream

create new content on new pages
gut the old page & publish entirely new content
re-arrange the old page while publishing new relevant breaking news at the top

In general I think the third option is often the best approach because you are aligning the page which already sees the traffic stream with the content they are looking for, while also ensuring any users from the prior intent can still access what they are looking for.

If the trend is huge, or the change in intent is permanent then you could also move the old content to a legacy URL archived page while making the high-traffic page focus on the spiking news topic.

The above advice applies to pages which rank for keywords that change in intent, but it can also apply to any web page which has a strong flow of user traffic. Keep improving the things people see most because improvements there have the biggest returns. How can you make a page deeper, better, more differentiated from the rest of the web?

Does Usage Data Matter?

Objectively, if people visit your website and do not find what they were looking for they are going to click the back button and be done with you.

Outdated content that has become irrelevant due to changing user tastes is only marginally better than outright spam.

While Google suggests they largely do not use bounce rate or user data in their rankings, they have also claimed end user data was the best way they could determine if the user was satisfied with a particular search result. Five years ago Bill Slawski wrote a blog post about long clicks which quoted Steven Levy’s In The Plex book:

“On the most basic level, Google could see how satisfied users were. To paraphrase Tolstoy, happy users were all the same. The best sign of their happiness was the “Long Click” — This occurred when someone went to a search result, ideally the top one, and did not return. That meant Google has successfully fulfilled the query.”

Think of how many people use the Chrome web browser or have Android tracking devices on them all hours of the day. There is no way Google would be able to track those billions of users every single day without finding a whole lot of signal in the noise.

Categories: publishing & media

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10 tips for an awesome and SEO-friendly blog post

10 tips for an awesome and SEO-friendly blog post

As with all writing, writing blog posts requires skill. To keep your reader interested, you should think about the structure of your piece and write appealing articles. If people like and understand an article, they will be much more inclined to share it with others – and that will increase your rankings. So, if you want to improve your rankings, improve your writing skills. Start with these tips on how to write an SEO-friendly blog post!

Table of contents

Before you start: do keyword researchWriting tips for SEO-friendly blog posts1. Think before you write!2. Devise a structure for your post3. Use paragraphs and headings4. Use transition words5. Use related keywords6. Optimize the length of your article7. Link to previous content8. Let other people read your post9. Add content regularly10. Use our Yoast SEO pluginConclusion

For some, writing for SEO purposes and writing to attract and captivate your audience seem like two conflicting goals. I totally disagree. Sure, the words you want to be found for should be in a prominent place if you want an SEO-friendly blog post. But, over-using keywords severely hampers the readability of your text, which you definitely don’t want to do. In fact, a high keyphrase density can even be a signal to Google that you might be stuffing keywords in your text and this can negatively affect your rankings.

This post provides tips on writing blog posts that are SEO-friendly and readable. These two goals should always go hand in hand as we believe that writing in understandable language gets you more visitors and keeps them on your site.

Master SEO copywriting and other vital SEO skills by getting a Yoast SEO academy training subscription. This gives you access to our courses and SEO News videos which help you stay on top of the latest changes in SEO!

Before you start: do keyword research

Before you start writing, you have to do keyword research. If you want to dominate the search results, you’ll have to figure out which words your audience actually searches with. These are the topics you should write about and the keywords you should use in your text.

When you’ve done your keyword research and have a list of focus keywords to write about, it’s time to get writing. Here are 10 tips to help you end up with an awesome blog post!

Writing tips for SEO-friendly blog posts

Above all, your blog post has to be a good piece of writing. When starting a new blog post, many bloggers just start writing, typing whatever comes into their heads. While this may work for some people who have natural writing talents, others may need some help. Personally, I always follow these ‘rules’ when I write a new blog.

1. Think before you write!

Before you start, think carefully about the message of your piece. What do you want to tell your readers or which central question do you want to answer? What’s the purpose of your article? And what do you want your readers to do at the end of the page? Write down the answers to these questions before you begin and think about the search intent someone may have.

2. Devise a structure for your post

To write a readable and SEO-friendly blog post, you need to create a clear structure. This means that every post should have:

some sort of introduction (in which you introduce your topic);a body (in which the main message is written);a conclusion (in which you summarize the main ideas or draw a conclusion).

In a few sentences, write down what you want to say in all three sections. You’ve now created of summary of your post, this will help you create a structured and readable blog post. Now the real writing can begin.

3. Use paragraphs and headings

Everybody uses paragraphs, but not everybody uses them well. Don’t start each new sentence on a new line, just because it looks nice. Also, try not to make them too lengthy, as each paragraph should have its own idea or subject. Ask yourself what the main idea of each paragraph is. You should be able to summarize that main idea in one sentence. If that’s not possible and you need more sentences to explain the main idea, you simply need to use more paragraphs.

Proper headings also help your readers understand what a specific part of your text is about. If you want people to find their way through your articles, use subheadings to lead them, help them scan your page, and clarify the structure of your articles. They’re not just important for readability, but for SEO as well. That’s why I would also advise using your keyword in some of the subheadings. I do mean some of them, as using your keyword in every heading will make the text clunky and unnatural. This will put people off reading further.

4. Use transition words

Transition words help people scan through your text and understand the relationship between sentences and paragraphs. For example, let’s say that there are three reasons for people to buy your product. You should use signal words like: ‘first of all’; ‘secondly’ and ‘finally’. Also, words like ‘however’, ‘similarly’ and ‘for example’ give a clear signal to your readers. Readers will instantly get that a conclusion will follow after words like ‘to sum up’ or ‘in short’. Transition words are therefore very important to add structure to your text.

5. Use related keywords

Stuffing your article with your focus keyword makes it less attractive to read, but it can also hurt your rankings. Google is getting smarter and it wants you to write content that users will love. It doesn’t want you to use your focus keyword in every other sentence and has other ways to analyze what your text is about. One of the ways that Google understands the topic of your text is by recognizing synonyms and other keywords that are related to your focus keyphrase. That’s why you should use synonyms and related keywords throughout your copy.

Synonyms are relatively easy to think of, but thinking of the right related keywords is a bit more challenging. That’s why we’ve introduced a new feature in our plugin that helps you find related keyphrases right away. Based on your focus keyword, our plugin can generate a number of related keyphrases with the click of a button! Along with how many times that keyword is searched for and what the search trend looks like. This feature is powered by SEMrush and can be used in both our free and Premium plugin. So use this related keyphrase feature!

6. Optimize the length of your article

Make sure your blog posts have a minimum of 300 words but keep the length of your article balanced. Google likes long articles, however, if your article is too long it can scare users away. I would advise to only write long articles when you know you’re a skilled writer. It’s asking a lot of your visitors to read your entire post when it’s lengthy. Check out this article if you’re not quite sure how long a blog post should be. And remember to keep using your focus keyphrase throughout your text to make sure you end up with an SEO-friendly blog post!

7. Link to previous content

If you’ve already written content on the same topic as your current post, don’t forget to link to and from these posts. It will make your new blog post, and the existing posts, stronger because you’re showing authority on the subject. As well as that, your link structure is also important for your rankings in Google. And let’s not forget that linking to other content about a subject is great for your readers, as they may be interested in reading these related posts too. It helps them navigate your site.

We call this internal linking and both your readers and Google will thank you for it. It helps them manage your content and understand relationships between different content on your site, so take some time to link to and from your previous content. Our internal linking tool can help you by suggesting relevant pages and posts on your site that you can link to.

8. Let other people read your post

Before publishing your post, make sure to let someone else read it first. Ask them whether they understand the main concept of your post and invite them to correct any typos and grammatical errors. This can help you by providing an objective view of the readability and attractiveness of your text. If you have someone in your team who happens to be an expert on the topic you’re writing about, make sure to run your post past them. That way they can check whether you’re covering everything you need to and give suggestions to make your post even better.

9. Add content regularly

Regularly adding new blog posts to your website tells Google that your website is alive. This is important because if your site isn’t active, Google will crawl it less often and this might negatively affect your rankings. But don’t just post for the sake of posting. Make sure that everything you post is high-quality content: informative, well-written articles that entertain readers and fit their search intent.

If you have difficulty posting on a regular base, it might be a great idea to create an editorial calendar for your blog. This allows you to structure this process in a way that fits you and your team.

10. Use our Yoast SEO plugin

The analysis tool in our Yoast SEO plugin helps you write readable and SEO-friendly blog posts. Start by choosing the most important search term you want people to find this particular page for. This is your focus keyphrase and after you fill this in our plugin runs all kinds of checks to see whether your post is optimized or still needs improving:

Our plugin checks your post to see whether you’ve used the keyphrase in the right places, like your copy, title, meta description, alt text and URL. Yoast SEO Premium also recognizes different word forms of your keyphrase.It gives you suggestions for related keyphrases that you can add to boost the quality and relevance of your content.It checks the readability of your text: Are your sentences or paragraphs too long? Do you use transition words?It checks the internal and external links in your article. Yoast SEO Premium even provides suggestions for links to related articles on your site.It calculates how often you use your keyphrase throughout your text: not enough or too often? When you have Premium it also checks if you’ve distributed your keyphrase evenly throughout your post.It also checks if other pages on your website use the same focus keyword, to prevent you from competing with yourself.

If you write a relatively SEO-friendly blog post (based on the aspects discussed above) the plugin will indicate this with a green bullet. Posts and pages with green bullets will help you improve the ranking of the pages on your website.

Note that not every dot has to be green for the overall SEO score to be good. For instance, these are the results of this post, which does have an overall green bullet for our focus keyphrase “SEO-friendly blog post”:

Analysis results as shown in the Yoast SEO sidebar

Kind of a cool way to get feedback on your content, right? When you use the Yoast SEO plugin you’ll find this feedback in the Yoast SEO sidebar next to your post and in the Yoast meta box under your post (while editing). If you’re interested in learning more about all the aspects this analysis tool looks at, read our article on how to use the Yoast SEO content analysis tool.

Conclusion

The days when a few SEO tricks were enough to get your website to rank well in Google are long gone. Nowadays, quality content is king. And good content also leads to more links, shares, tweets and returning visitors to your website. Of course, there are always other things you can do to maximize the SEO friendliness of your post, but the most important thing is to just write very, very good posts! Still not sure if your blog post is ready to publish? Take a look at this checklist for your blog post to make sure you’re good to go!

Read more: SEO copywriting: the ultimate guide »

The post 10 tips for an awesome and SEO-friendly blog post appeared first on Yoast.

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8 Steps to Gain Authority Backlinks; A Detailed Guide

8 Steps to Gain Authority Backlinks; A Detailed Guide

Introduction

You won’t believe this, but, according to Impact Bound, up to 55.24% of all websites on the internet didn’t have a single backlink as of December 2019.

That’s over 750 million sites, given that there are about 1.5 billion active websites at the moment.

Hopefully, you’re not part of the 55.24%, because you’d be missing a huge opportunity and leaving lots of money on the table. Backlinks can help you;

Increase web trafficGenerate new leadsClose more sales

Moreover, backlinks gradually boost your perceived authority, often leading to better search engine ranking.

In this guide, we discuss simple strategies on how to get backlinks for your marketing campaign. First though, a definition.

What are Backlinks?

A backlink is essentially a hyperlink connecting two different web resources. What makes it a “back” link is that it points to your site rather than coming from your site.

Think of it this way; you sell running shoes and recently released a new brand. Then, you also have a friend who doesn’t sell shoes, but instead deals in fitness trackers.

While blogging about their fitness trackers, if the friend mentions running shoes, she may choose to link your e-store so that those interested in running shoes can click and check out the options on your website.

When this happens, in marketing, we say that you’ve received a backlink from the friend. It’s worth mentioning that not all backlinks are sales-focused.

Why are Backlinks Important? A Case Study

In 2019, a hosting company approached one of their friends who helps clients design and execute link building strategies. The client was struggling to differentiate itself because of the competitiveness of the hosting industry.

Being a small company, they had;

Limited marketing resourcesNo time to run a full-out campaign

After a period of research and out-of-the-box thinking, the link-building provider discovered an untapped market for specific keywords. So, they began with keyword research, wrote high-quality, SEO-optimized articles for the client, then followed up with a link building drive.

Long story short, the first article they created is now the 4th most visited page on the client’s site. In total, the site’s traffic jumped 55.9% – within just months.

Benefits of Running a Backlink Campaign

As you can tell from the above case study, you stand to benefit immensely from backlinks. Among other things;

Link building improves organic ranking    

If you search the term “SEO backlinks” in Google, for example, you’ll find that the top three articles/blogs all have hundreds of backlinks. Currently, the result in 2nd spot has over 8,000 backlinks.

The reason is simple – backlinks are one of Google’s most trusted rank signals. According to the search engine, a page with plenty of backlinks is a page with authority.

Backlinks help with faster indexing 

One of the ways search engines discover new websites is by following backlinks from existing web pages. It means that it’s more difficult for search engines to discover your website if you don’t have any backlinks.

This is especially important for new websites. If you want search engines to discover your site faster and begin showing your content in result pages, you need backlinks.

Backlinks generate referral traffic 

This is, perhaps, the biggest benefit of backlinks – they can help you generate tons of referral traffic. Think of the number of people who read articles on the Forbes website, for example.

In the U.S. alone, Forbes has 74 million+ monthly readers. Worldwide, 111+ million people visit Forbes.com every month.

Now, imagine if a few links to your site appeared on the Forbes website every few weeks! You’d have at least a few hundred thousand people clicking through to visit your site.

How to Get Quality Links

There are endless ways to get backlinks for your website. The following are eight simple strategies to get you started;

1. Write guest posts 

A guest post is a piece of content that you create to be posted on other people’s blogs or websites – with a backlink to your site. The process itself is known as guest posting.

You must, however, engage in genuine guest posting, devoid of shortcuts such as automation. Also, ensure to create high-quality guest posts. Don’t just do it to get backlinks.

You can refer to our detailed guide on this topic here: Guide to Guest Posting

2. Get an interview 

Interview With The Co-Founder Of A Revolutionary SEO Suite, BiQ

Readers love interviews because interviews are authentic. As such, interviews often get a lot of views.

Getting interviewed by a popular news outlet or industry leader and having the interview posted on the interviewer’s site can, therefore, earn you plenty of attention.

Always insist on having backlinks to your site included in the published interviews.

3. Get backlinks from press releases 

MarketersMEDIA Press Release Distribution Service

Press releases are a goldmine for traffic and, yes, backlinks. But, as with many other tactics on this list, there are a lot of marketers sending out press releases currently, so you need to be smart.

We recommend choosing multiple and strong keywords to increase the chances of your press release being found. Also, consider using industry bloggers and influencers to distribute the release.

4. Learn from your competitors’ backlinks 

Analyzing your competitors’ backlink profiles will help you assess the competition, see what’s working in the industry, and identify strategies to use for your own backlink campaign.

You want to focus on the number of backlinks, authority sites linked, and sites driving the most traffic. Then, save your findings and steal some of the ideas.

5. Find hidden link building opportunities 

Two high-return options here are fixing broken links and linking unlinked mentions.

Fixing broken links involves finding broken links on other people’s websites, creating something similar to the broken resource, and asking the owner of the dead resource to instead link to your working resource.

Unlinked mentions, meanwhile, are instances where other people mention your name or brand but don’t include a link. You can ask them to link to your site.

6. Leverage popular Q&A platforms 

Community sites such as Quora and Reddit are especially good platforms to get backlinks.

On Quora, for example, in your answers, you’re allowed to leave a link to your resources, such as your website or app. The same applies to Reddit.

People who love your answers can then click on the link to visit your site for more information.

7. Invest in social media marketing

All the major social media platforms now allow users to post links to their resources (blogs, websites, etc.).

Even Instagram which initially restricted outbound links currently permits one such link in the user bio.

Instagram allows one link in the author’s bio

Use this opportunity to leave links not only to your products and promotions but also other valuable resources such as industry reports and guides.

8. Create infographics 

Aren’t they eye-catching?

Infographics are currently one of the best performing pieces of content. For starters, an infographic is 30x more likely to be seen and read to the end compared to plain text content.

To earn backlinks from your infographics, provide an embed code that other people can copy and paste to embed the infographic on their own websites. Also, provide prominent and easily-visible share buttons.  

Conclusion

If you can implement all the above tips, you’re guaranteed to get backlinks in plenty to propel your marketing campaign to the next level. 

And when you’ve tried them out, do share with us your results down the comment section below. We look forward to seeing them!  

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What Even Is An SEO? (Can We Please Stop Talking About HTML)

Hi friends, it’s me Dan. Your friendly SEO curmudgeon in training.

Recently the SEO community (cough cough, SEO Twitter) has been caught up in a veritable tizzy about knowing HTML. Beyond the obvious epistemological considerations, I think there is a real ontological question raised by the primacy of HTML as a programming language in the SEOs toolkit.

It’s hard to have these conversations when we probably aren’t all on the same page about what “knowing” something means.

When can I say I “know” a language? How technical do I have to be to be a “Technical” SEO? It requires a conversation within a conversation.

— Kim Doughty (@howdydoughty) September 3, 2020

So I ask you:

What even is an SEO, and can you even be one if you reject the fundamental nature of HTML?

Spoilers, yes and I do.

Let’s start up front, HTML is a front end web development language. If you don’t do front end work, things like HTML don’t really mean much to you. Here is a spoiler for you; not all SEO roles involve front end auditing. I guess I can see why this is a little controversial, as the traditional conception of SEO is based around this idea of an SEO freelancer jill-of-all-trades. However, this doesn’t make much sense as a way to organize modern SEO functions. First of all, because teams are cool, and collaboration is cool. Even if your teams have 10x SEOs (think mythical 10x engineer) the idea of a freelancer centric model of SEO feels very dated. I think Local SEO Guide CEO Andrew Shotland (sound trumpets) is the perfect person to get a quote from here. Andrew has been in the SEO game a long time and here is what he has to say about how it has changed over time:

In some ways, how I help our clients succeed at SEO hasn’t changed since I started doing this strange form of marketing almost fifteen(!) years ago. The advice we are delivering to clients this week could easily be in an audit from 2005. But whereas in 2005 you only needed one guy behind the curtain turning the knobs, these days there is a entire team of Oompa Loompas, and they all are really good at turning their specific knobs, and the don’t need to be masters at every other knob.

Nowhere is this shift in how SEO is organized more clear then the difference between how successful in-house teams work and how SEO agencies generally work. More and more in-house marketing and SEO teams have analytics and data roles and are becoming cross functional. A lot of the work they are doing is to integrate SEO more fully into their internal business intelligence systems. That is often a full time data role, and some of the most cutting edge enterprise SEO orgs have multiple full time team members with analyst-type pokemon skill sets. But don’t take my word for it just look at this job posting Adobe has for an SEO Insights Manager. Nowhere in there is HTML, but Python/R/SQL are def core to this job. I reached out to enterprise SEO badass Jackie Chu (Senior Manager SEO; Uber) to get her thoughts:

Funnily the core charter of my team (Intelligence) is to build bespoke tooling for the SEO team, so I’m no longer in the day to day “traditional SEO activities” around ideating new page types or localization. The majority of my day is spent cleaning up data, feverishly checking Kibana, QAing dashboards and working on setting requirements for the future of tooling for the team. We’re currently hiring for another headcount, but outside of this person my team will mostly be supported by adtech product and engineering to see the bespoke tooling and warehousing of the underlying datasets to fruition.

At other companies like Square and Dropbox, it was pretty standard to get at least partial Analyst support for business exercises like forecasting and reporting, and also for measuring A/B tests, experiments, and the impact of traditional SEO efforts like optimizing page templates or link building. Most of these companies use their own internal data warehouses, and while you inevitably need baseline SQL skills most SEOs won’t be able to pull the data with the same rigor and speed as someone who is in the tables day in and day out. It’s also great to have hard numbers provided by an unbiased 3rd party to use to get resourcing in the future and quantify your contribution to the company’s bottom line. After some successes my old colleague, Chris Yee, even secured data science hours to build bespoke SEO research tools. The pilot was so successful that the Data Science lead later went on to another company and immediately added an SEO-dedicated headcount to his team.

I think when you work in enterprise, you want to break down the walls of SEO being seen as something only the “SEO team” does. Whether your peer’s skillset is Analytics or Engineering, If their success metric is growth realized organically on the website, then they’re part of the SEO team.

I saw Jackie give a talk entitled “Soft SEO: How to Win Friends and Influence Leadership” and I think it’s one of the best SEO talks I have seen recently. Everyone should bug her on Twitter to put the slides online.

This isn’t just relegated to in-house teams. We have 3 backend/analyst roles ourself. While they all “know” html it is totally irrelevant to their day-to-day work (except for Sam who owns our Puppeteer instance.) And it’s not just us. Orgs like Merkle, SEER etc all have dedicated analytics teams that are exclusively data roles. Python/R/SQL are all more useful across these roles than superficial knowledge of HTML. These are the very normal and very traditional tools of the trade for data analysts.

Before you are like “but that isn’t SEO!!”.

Now we are firmly back at the ontological question of the day; What even is an SEO?

Just to be totally transparent, I’m going to just flat out reject definitions related to “what is an SEO” that marginalizes team members across our organization. And that is exactly what people are saying when they say HTML (or insert X skill here) is critical to be an SEO. For some roles HTML or general front end auditing skills are not critical. Some examples of these roles that we have in our org are:

Technical Development
Data Analysis
Linkbuilding
Content Optimization
Content Production
Project Management

In fact, in a not so funny quirk, linkbuilding and technical development/data analysis overlap with us in terms of leadership which should tell you that linkbuilding is super technical, and the most core function of SEO (getting links) is 100% detached from front end auditing. Here, they count as real SEOs.

None of the SEO work we do as an org would be able to happen without being able to integrate people with non-front end skill sets into our SEO flow. For more about this, and how this has led to a huge empowerment of people and teams across our org, I highly recommend you check out my talk at VirtuaCon on going from Automation Zero to Hero. Andrew is going to be giving an updated version of this talk at Whitespark’s Local Search Summit next week. In fact, just yesterday I had a call with Tealium in order to work on integrating some client data into our Google Big Query stack so we can use it to do analysis. No HTML required.

Alright, I’ve said basically everything I have wanted to say here so let’s bring it home. SEO is a rapidly diversifying role/function and needing to know how to do everything doesn’t equate being able to do everything well. To succeed in SEO moving forward the discipline needs to throw off the shackles of its past and embrace new ways of thinking.

Oh, and we are hiring. So if this sounds like an interesting place to work you may want to apply.

The post What Even Is An SEO? (Can We Please Stop Talking About HTML) appeared first on Local SEO Guide.

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How Gael Breton Escaped Client SEO & Built a Full-Time Income Through Affiliate Marketing

Who Gael Breton and why should you listen to him? Well, first Gael is a tremendously talented affiliate marketer who specializes in building “authority” websites. Gael got his start in the SEO agency world and transitioned into owning his own properties. In this discussion, you’ll learn: How Gael started and grew his first SEO agency …

Read moreHow Gael Breton Escaped Client SEO & Built a Full-Time Income Through Affiliate Marketing

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What’s changed in Google Ads Locations reporting and why you need a custom report

What’s changed in Google Ads Locations reporting and why you need a custom report

Google has been rolling out “simplified” location reports in the Google Ads UI over the past month or so. Any time a platform uses “simplified” or “streamlined” to describe a change, we have to wonder if it’s a red herring. Does it provide an easier way to get at the same access, data and functionality? Or is it “simplified” — wink-wink — with features and data stripped out?

Before we get into these changes, first a reminder about why location settings and reporting are important.

Google’s default Location options (hidden below a dropdown under campaign Settings) is set to target “People in, or who show interest in, your targeted locations.” This is the most expansive option and often leads to spending in locations that don’t convert, particularly when you’re targeting at the country level. For example, if you’re targeting the entire U.S., your ads can potentially be eligible to show to someone in another country who has expressed some interest at some point in the U.S. — even if they don’t use a location qualifier in the search that triggers your ad. If you’re using this setting, then location reporting is very important.

The default settings for “Location options” in Search campaign settings.

Last year, Google expanded the “People in your targeted locations” targeting option to “People in or regularly in your targeted locations” to capture people who commute to or visit the locations you’re targeting. Users don’t need to be physically located in the area to see your ads. That can be a good or bad thing, but again, it’s more reason to audit performance by user location; which now brings us to what’s new.

What’s changed in Locations reporting

Google has consolidated Locations reporting into one report. The old Geographic and User location reports are rolled up into it — sort of.

A dropdown on the Locations report shown below allows you to filter performance data by the locations you’re targeting or the matched locations (for a campaign or the full account). Per Google’s updated help page:

Targeted locations show performance of the locations you’re targeting.Matched locations show the locations matched based on either the user’s physical location or location of interest.

For example, if someone in New York searches for “restaurants in Paris,” Paris would show as the matched location, if that’s what’s being targeted in the campaign. But how does the advertiser see the user location of “New York” now? That’s no longer available in this reporting. You’ll have to create a custom report in Report Editor. (More on that below.)

Matched locations detail. It can be a bit easy to miss, but if you click on the box at the top of the locations list or on an individual location, you’ll have the option to narrow the matched location view and drill into detailed locations such as Nielsen DMA regions, postal codes, neighborhoods, and more.

Again, this is matched data, which means it can show both the location of users in your targeted locations and their location of interest. It still won’t let you see the user location of those who showed interest in the location you’re targeting. (That’s in the next section.)

Click on a location to drill down to more detail.

Location Type. Location Type is no longer a Segment option in the main Google Ads UI. This allows you to see performance data broken out by “location of interest” and “physical location”. However, Location Type is still an option in Report Editor. Using this in a report shows you the aggregated performance data for each option. But note that you can’t get a report that shows user location filtered by “location of interest.”

Distance reports. If you’re using location extensions, you’ll find the distance report available as a pre-defined “Distance” report in Reports. This shows the distance between the location that triggered the ad and the closest business location.

How to get user location reporting in Google Ads

If you’ve kept reading to find out how to see user location data — and not just matched location data — you’ve arrived. We can still get user location data in Google Ads, but we have to work for it by setting up a custom report in Report Editor.

There are five levels of “user location” data in Report Editor: Country/Territory, Region (state, province, etc.), Metro area, City, Most specific location target (zip code, city area, etc.).

When you add “user location” options to your report, it might look something like the example below. Add filters to weed out zero-click or impression locations to see where you’re spending money. Depending on your location option settings, you may see a wide range of user locations.

A custom report in Google Ads Report Editor showing “user location” performance data.

You can filter for ad groups with one or more conversions to see user locations that are converting and/or filter ad groups with zero conversions to see what user locations are not converting. (Note: I have better luck making filters work by clicking on the column I want to filter rather than using the Filter function at the top of the report.)

The takeaway

The ability to drill into matched locations with the “Narrow by” functionality and add bid adjustments and exclusions from the Edit option in the Locations report is certainly handy. But “matched locations” skirts the nuance and value of knowing the (anonymized and aggregated) user location.

If you’re scratching your head wondering how having to create a report from scratch is a “simplification,” you’re not alone. I recommend every advertiser create a User Location report in Report Editor and regularly audit it to ensure you aren’t wasting money in unexpected places. Add undesired locations to the Excluded list, and be sure to take another look at your Locations options settings.

The post What’s changed in Google Ads Locations reporting and why you need a custom report appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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