SEO Articles

What queries are you ranking for, and with which pages?

What queries are you ranking for, and with which pages?

When you’re doing SEO, it’s because you want your pages to rank in Google. You will have picked out one or more keywords to optimize your pages for, but ranking for those keywords is just a tiny part of the story. In reality, you could be ranking for queries you don’t even know about! In this post, we’ll explain how and why to check your queries and landing pages. And even better — how to use that information to improve your content.

Keywords, queries and landing pages

Keywords and queries aren’t exactly the same thing, although they’re closely related. A keyword is usually the focus point of your content, and it can help Google to identify the main topic of your page. However, users often don’t search for single keywords. They tend to search for phrases and questions instead. Google actually refers to all searches as queries; keywords are just simplified queries that we SEOs try to focus our content around.

There should be some overlap between your chosen keywords and the queries users are searching for when they find your page. But if you only focus on keywords, you might be missing out on your audience’s search intent. And that kind of information is really valuable! So it’s always helpful to look at which queries are leading users to your site.

Landing pages (the first page a user arrives at) are an important part of the SEO story, too. After all, you can’t rank for any search queries unless you have a suitable page for Google to point those searchers towards. By examining which pages show up in Google for which queries, you can really figure out what’s working for your site, and what isn’t. And along the way, you’ll be sure to find opportunities to optimize your content.

Pro tip:The easiest way to check your site’s search queries and the respective landing pages is with Google Search Console. So if you don’t have it set up already, do that first!

How to check which queries you’re being found with

To start exploring the queries your site is ranking with, open Google Search Console and click on ‘Search results’ (under ‘Performance’) in the menu on the left-hand side. Right away, you’ll see a list of your site’s top-performing queries from the last 3 months. If you want to see your search performance over a different time frame, you can easily click on the filters near the top of the screen to edit this.

Click on ‘+ New’ in the filter menu to focus on a specific query or landing page

By default, Search Console shows how many clicks each query got, and how many impressions, in order of ‘most clicks’. You can change the order of the queries by clicking on the heading for ‘Impressions’, which shows you the queries that got your site the most search impressions in Google. That’s nice to start with, but you can do a lot more with this data! For instance, you can click on ‘Average position’ in the graph above the data to add in data about how you rank for each query. Then you’ll have the option to sort by your average search position, too.

Exploring your queries

It’s interesting to see which are your site’s top queries overall, so take a bit of time to look through the first 10 or 20 items in the list. You might also want to check how you perform for a specific query (or a keyword). In the filter menu near the top of the page, you can click ‘+ New’ to enter the query, or queries, you want to focus on. You can toggle the filter to only include queries containing a specific term, or to exclude a specific term, or to exactly match that term. You can also compare the performance of two queries if you want to.

If there’s a query you want to deep-dive into, you can either click on that query in the list, or enter it as a filter manually (as described above). Once you do this, you’ll see the graph adjust to show only data for that query. You can click on the Pages tab to see how this query performs for individual pages, which is really useful. We’ll come back to that in a minute! You can also investigate how your performance varies per Country and Device, or take a look at Search appearance to see if you got any rich results.

The top queries for our site are ‘yoast seo’ and ‘yoast’

How to check which landing pages users find with a query

As we mentioned, checking which pages users are finding with each query is really useful information! Select a query and go to the Pages tab, and you’ll see the pages that have appeared in Google search for that query. There might be more than one page in the list, and that’s not always a problem, although it could indicate keyword cannibalization, so that’s something to keep an eye on. There may also be pages in the list that surprise you because you know the answer to that query isn’t well answered by the page users have landed on. That’s an opportunity, so make note of it!

We’ve filtered on the query ‘yoast seo’ to see which pages users land on when they search for that phrase

Exploring your landing pages

Instead of starting with queries and then seeing which pages users are finding, it’s also possible to start with a single page and see which queries lead to it. To do this is just the same as deep-diving into a query: you can either click on a page in the list to add it as a filter, or enter it as a filter manually. Once you’ve selected the page you want to look at, you can then click on the Queries tab to see a list of all the queries that Google is ranking that page for.

Now we’ve filtered the view to show the top queries for

Use that information to optimize your pages

By investigating your landing pages and queries, you get a much better idea of how you’re performing in Google search. Seeing the bigger picture could bring a mixture of disappointments and surprises! You might not be performing so well for the queries that most closely match your keyword, but what about the queries you are performing well for? These other queries can be a fountain of inspiration to improve your content! Here are some ways you can use the information you find to align your content with users’ search intent:

Adjust the content on your page to better fit your queries

Is there a small mismatch between a page’s contents and the search queries that lead to it? Then why not adjust the page to cater for those searches? You might also want to use those queries as a basis for new long-tail keywords. By optimizing your page to meet the demands of people already visiting it, you’ll make your visitors happier, and Google too! This is a great way to climb up the rankings and improve user experience.

Write new pages to answer poorly-matched queries

Do you see queries leading to pages, and the connection leaves you completely baffled? Why would Google direct users towards a page that really isn’t answering their question? The fact is, there are loads of queries people search for that simply don’t have a good answer available. So if you see queries being poorly-matched with your pages, that might be why. Instead of rewriting the whole page, in this case it could be a better option to create a new page, targeting those queries. Use your common sense though — if there are only a handful of people searching for that content, it might not be worth writing a new page solely on that topic. Look for more popular queries to write new answers for instead.

It’s time to check to those queries and pages!

Now you know just how important it is to check up on how users are really finding your pages. Keyword tracking is nice-to-have, but you could be missing out on a goldmine of opportunities if you only look at what you want to rank for. By exploring the queries that lead to your site, and seeing which pages users find with those queries, you can really bring your content to the next level. Now, it’s time to go and get your hands dirty in Google Search Console and find all the answers you never knew you were missing!

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

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What is Retargeting and How it Works

The vast majority of people that visit a website leave without buying anything. People typically need multiple encounters before becoming a customer. The marketing rule of seven states that it takes an average of seven interactions with a brand before a customer converts. While this rule was developed in the 1930s, it’s also applicable for […]

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Why consumer privacy is Google’s ace in the hole

The latest earnings announcements from Alphabet and Facebook have made it abundantly clear that the consumer privacy movement is creating a competitive advantage for Google. It’s important that businesses understand this reality as Big Tech firms enact tougher privacy controls.

Since January 2020, both Apple and Google have made some big moves in the name of protecting consumer privacy. These changes are affecting businesses everywhere:

In January 2020, Google said that the company would phase out third-party cookies on Chrome, the world’s most popular browser. As a result, advertisers would lose the ability to serve up highly targeted ads based on tracking consumer activity on Chrome. Google later postponed its timetable for doing this after regulators stepped in and insisted on having oversight with the process.In 2021, Apple enacted the Application Tracking Transparency (ATT) privacy control as part of an update to its operating system for Apple devices. ATT requires apps to get the user’s permission before tracking their data across apps or websites owned by other companies for advertising, or sharing their data with data brokers. As much as 96% of users in the United States are opting out of having their behavior tracked.

These changes are doing something else, too: they’re making Google stronger.

The impact of Google’s privacy controls

Phasing out third-party cookies in Chrome helps Google in two important ways and makes its ecosystem stronger. The demise of third-party cookies is quite convenient for Google sites such as Google Maps and YouTube. That’s because they use first-party cookies to track user behavior. Therefore, those sites become more appealing to advertisers that wish to continue serving up targeted ads working with Google. As Alphabet reported, YouTube’s advertising revenue for the third-quarter 2021 was $7.2 billion, up from $5.04 billion a year ago.

Meanwhile, Google is building its own open-source program that is intended to help businesses serve up targeted ads without using third-party data. This program is known as FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts). FLoC will make it possible for businesses to group people based on their common browsing behavior instead of using third-party cookies. According to a Google blog post, “Our tests of FLoC to reach in-market and affinity Google Audiences show that advertisers can expect to see at least 95% of the conversions per dollar spent when compared to cookie-based advertising. The specific result depends on the strength of the clustering algorithm that FLoC uses and the type of audience being reached.”

I cannot overstate how important it is for Google to grow its ad revenues, which were $53 billion for the third quarter. Google is clearly succeeding. But a number of players, notably Amazon Advertising and Facebook, present a threat. Google will do everything in its power to fend off its competition and grow its cash cow.

But, why bother to do all this? Because Google is reading the room: Consumer privacy has been a hot-button issue in recent years. Legislators all over the world have been pressuring Big Tech to protect consumer privacy more carefully. And, you have to give Google credit for how adroitly the company is acting here. The company is making its own sites more attractive while giving advertisers the means to continue working with Google Advertising using its own open-source program.

The impact of Apple’s privacy controls

Apple’s ATT is already having an impact in some interesting ways. First off, as users opt-out of having their privacy tracked, social media sites such as Facebook, which track user behavior to serve up targeted ads, are taking a $10 billion revenue hit (and counting). This also affects Google’s ad rival Facebook — thus helping Google. In addition, some advertisers are taking their business to the Google Android operating system, creating another boon for Google. As The Wall Street Journal noted, “ . . . many brands have shifted their ad spending to Google because its flagship search-ad business relies on customer intent—users’ search terms immediately reveal what they are interested in—rather than data collected from app and web tracking.”

What businesses should do

It’s important that businesses continue to watch and react. Even though Google’s war on third-party cookies was slowed down by regulators, the writing is on the wall: advertisers need to be prepared to tap into their first-party data to create more relevant content. This means, among other things, monitoring the tools that Google is developing to help advertisers do that.

Advertisers should also keep a close eye on how retailers such as Amazon and Walmart are successfully mining their own first-party data to offer targeted ad products. Google is not the only game in town. Retailer-based advertising gives businesses the means to reach people who are shopping with an intent to buy. After all, Amazon is the most popular platform for product search. But, more importantly, it’s time for businesses to lean on their own data to build relationships.

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Google’s November 2021 core update hit fast and hard; here is what the data providers saw

Google’s November 2021 core update hit fast and hard; here is what the data providers saw

On November 17, 2021, Google began rolling out the November 2021 core update, this came about four and a half months after the July 2021 core update, which was a month or so after the June 2021 core update. So we had a total of three broad Google core updates in 2021.

We asked several data companies that track Google’s search results to send us impressions of this update. The results from this data showed that this rollout hit hard within the first 24 hours of the announcement and then slowed fast. Keep in mind, Google has not confirmed that this update is done rolling out yet. Most reports show that there are signs that the November 2021 update was more substantial than the July 2021 update.

The facts. Google began rolling out the November 2021 core update at around 11am on November 17, 2021. This update has not finished yet and is still rolling out as far as we know. We do however expect that the bulk of the impact of this update has been felt in the first day or so after this update, although there may be some residual affects that linger on for the next week or so. The timing of this November core update has a lot of us feeling a bit blind-sighted, as it was released right before the busiest time for most e-commerce sites.

The July 2021 core update started to roll out at around noon on July 1, 2021 and completed on July 12, 2021. The June 2021 core update, as we previously reported, started to roll out around 6:30pm ET on Wednesday, June 2nd. Like all core updates, this was a global update and was not specific to any region, language or category of web sites. It is a classic “broad core update” that Google releases every several months or so. The previous core update before the back-to-back June and July core update combo, was just shy of a six-month wait period, where the December 2020 core update took place on Dec. 3rd.

Other Google updates this year.  This year we had a number of confirmed updates from Google and many that were not confirmed by Google. In the most recent order, we had the July 2021 core updateGoogle MUM rolled out this month, then the June 28 spam update, the June 23rd spam update, the Google page experience update, the Google predator algorithm update, the June 2021 core update, the July 2021 core update, the July link spam update, and the November spam update then a few unconfirmed updates.

Previous core updates. The most recent previous core update was the July 2021 core update which was quick to roll out (kind of like this one) followed by the June 2021 core update and that update was slow to roll out but a big one. Then we had the  December 2020 core update ands the December update was very big, bigger than the May 2020 core update, and that update was also big and broad and took a couple of weeks to fully roll out. Before that was the January 2020 core update, we had some analysis on that update over here. The one prior to that was the September 2019 core update. That update felt weaker to many SEOs and webmasters, as many said it didn’t have as big of an impact as previous core updates. Google also released an update in November, but that one was specific to local rankings. You can read more about past Google updates over here.

Data providers on the November 2021 core update:

Semrush. Semrush data showed that the November 2021 core update hit hard and then slowed very quickly in terms of its volatility tracker, as screen captured below or you can view live at the the Semrush Sensor tool.

“This is similar to how the July update rolled out but the return to “normal” levels of fluctuations was even more dramatic here (i.e., less of a “slow down” period compared even to July),” Mordy Oberstein from Semrush told us.

The November update was “far more volatile” than what we saw back in July core update, the company told us. Specifically the November update was 12% more volatile than July core update on the desktop search results and 23% more volatile on mobile search results. So when digging into this update, make sure to check your mobile results, not just your desktop results.

Here is a chart plotting the different between the November and July 2021 core updates by sector:

You can see how the health sector saw 41% more volatility on both desktop & mobile in November 2021 core update than it did back in July 2021 core update. Often, the health sector is more impacted by core updates than some other sectors.

Even more so, 16% of the top 20 results were not listed in the Google Search results prior to the November update. Meaning, 16% of the ranking URLs between positions 1-20 ranked worse than position 20 prior to the update, Semrush said.

And here is a chart of the winners and losers from this November 2021 core update from Semrush:

RankRanger. The RankRanger team also analyzed the Google search results after this November core update rollout. They also found that this update rolled out pretty quickly, although it may not be done yet. Shay Harel from RankRanger said “this update shows similar levels of fluctuations to the July Core update.” But he said this is when you look at the the top three and top ten results. However, the top five results showed substantially higher fluctuations, Shay Harel told us. They also noticed that average changes over the top 20 positions the company saw slightly lower levels than the July core update update.

This chart below shows the changes based on top 3, top 5 and top 10 results:

Also, if you look at the health, finance, retail and travel niches, RankRanger is showing fairly even fluctuations, with the exception of the retail niche. It seems retail saw greater fluctuations in the top three and top five positions, the company told me.

Here is a chart that shows that:

SISTRIX. The folks at SISTRIX, another data provider that tracks the changes in the Google search results sent me their top 20 winners and losers for the November 2021 core update.

Here is a chart comparing some of the websites competing in the dictionary space, seems like these four really saw some big gains with this update:

seoClarity. Mitul Gandhi from seoClarity told us that there is a “large amount of fluctuation lasting a few days,” which he said is common with most Google core updates. The seoClarity team shared some of the biggest changes they saw across some big brands.

For example in the e-commerce niche, Wayfair and eBay stood out to seoClarity with the initial data from November 16th compared to November 18th analysis as having significant drops. But there was a bounce back shortly after for some reason with Wayfair and eBay. Here is a graph from seoClarity of Wayfair’s search visibility:

Walmart and HomeDepot have seen their keywords in top three positions in Google Search increase by 10% and 19% respectively, “boding well for their holiday season,” Mitul Gandhi said. Bed Bath and Beyond saw a 45% jump in their top three positions in Google Search. But those top retailers selling footwear saw a drop, specifically Zappos lost 23% of their top 3 rankings while DSW lost 25%.

In other areas outside of e-commerce, saw the strongest improvements in rankings in the seoClairty data set. Between 11/16 and 11/21 they are ranking for around 18,000 more keywords in the top three positions in Google Search. Whereas Skyscanner was the notable decline in travel, losing 23% of their keywords in top 3 positions. seems to have lost 60% of their top 3 rankings while lost 19%. Car and Driver lost 11% of its keywords in top 3 positions. And Pinterest lost 13% of its top 3 rankings, while Etsy gained 19% in top 3 positions.

Mitul Gandhi from seoClarity told us “don’t panic! Initial fluctuations are not where many will end up as Wayfair and Ebay have shown.” Mitual Gandhi also shared some early data on Twitter this past Friday, but the data above is fresher from its data set.

More on the November 2021 core update

The SEO community. The November 2021 core update like I said above was felt fast and hard. Not just in terms of the ranking impact but the timing. I was able to cover the community reaction in one blog post on the Search Engine Roundtable. It includes some of the early chatter, ranking charts and social shares from some SEOs.

What to do if you are hit. Google has given advice on what to consider if you are negatively impacted by a core update in the past. There aren’t specific actions to take to recover, and in fact, a negative rankings impact may not signal anything is wrong with your pages. However, Google has offered a list of questions to consider if your site is hit by a core update. Google did say you can see a bit of a recovery between core updates but the biggest change you would see would be after another core update.

Why we care. It is often hard to isolate what you need to do to reverse any algorithmic hit your site may have seen. When it comes to Google core updates, it is even harder to do so. If this data and previous experience and advice has shown us is that these core updates are broad, wide and cover a lot of overall quality issues. The data above has reinforced this to be true. So if your site was hit by a core update, it is often recommended to step back from it all, take a wider view of your overall web site and see what you can do to improve the site overall.

We hope you, your company and your clients did well with this update.

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20211123 SEL Brief

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8 Solid Affiliate Marketing SEO Strategies to Scale Your Organic Traffic

Written by| John Allen – Director, SEO, 8×8

Bio | John Allen is the Director of SEO for 8×8, a leading communication platform with integrated contact center, voice, video, and chat functionality. John is a marketing professional with over 14 years of experience in the field, and an extensive background in building and optimizing digital marketing programs across inbound call centers SEM, SEO, and a myriad of services. This is his LinkedIn.

Affiliate marketing has increased dramatically in recent years, with searches for the term seeing a 223% increase between 2015 and 2021. Spending on affiliate marketing is also expected to reach USD8.2 billion by 2022. 

Image source 

Given this continued growth, it’s important to figure out exactly how to boost your organic traffic and get on board the affiliate marketing train. Having solid SEO strategies that you can apply as needed is a big part of the puzzle.

While not every strategy we list may be a perfect fit with your goals and objectives, one or more certainly will be. It is about looking at how you can fit these strategies into your current marketing model or adapting them to your precise needs. 

What Is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a model where you advertise and promote another company’s products (or where you as a company have your products advertised). The people (or small companies) who publish the adverts or promotions are the affiliates, and they receive a commission fee for the service they offer. 

In most cases, that commission is for actual sales, but may also be for clicks or impressions. These other types of commission may be paid where the click-through works as lead generation for the main business. No matter what type of affiliate marketing you undertake, consider one or more of the following strategies to help you scale your organic traffic. 

8 Solid Affiliate Marketing SEO Strategies

Study your competitors 

They say imitation is the highest form of flattery, but it’s not necessarily the best method for getting ahead. Rather than copying your competitors, you want to learn about what works for them – and what doesn’t.

Your first step is to make a list of maybe three or four of the main competitors in your sector. Once you have that list, use an online tool like Ahrefs and its Site Explorer. This lets you see what keywords a page ranks for, and the levels of organic traffic going to them.

Let’s say that one of their top-performing pages is something you had planned already. Don’t worry – that makes this an opportunity, rather than a threat. By seeing what SEO worked for them, you can adjust your content and keywords to outperform their page, thus overtaking them when it comes to ranking and getting higher levels of traffic from an organic search. 

Better keyword research 

It goes without saying that good research lies at the heart of creating high quality written content. And good keyword research is at the heart of good SEO content. You need to pick out the keywords that are most relevant for the products or brand you are marketing. There are numerous tools online that can help with research, and you can use what you’ve learned from your competitors too. 

Undertaking research in advance is key, especially if you’re planning more than one piece of content. For instance, if you’re an affiliate and you’re working with a SaaS marketing brand, you might decide to create a series of posts on the topic “what is SaaS marketing”. By planning every post in this series in advance, you can make a list of keywords and phrases that will increase your visibility and see your rank higher in SERPs. 

Links, links, and more links

When creating a new piece of content, you’ll want to include links to existing posts or media you’ve created. However, what about links to that new piece? By identifying existing content that relates to your new article, you can add links to your new piece so those older articles link directly to it. This can help increase how your authority on that subject is seen and can lead to better rankings. 

Imagine you’ve published a new blog with the title “what is hosted voip”. You already have a number of blogs/articles discussing unified communications and other related topics, so editing them to include a link to your VoIP piece makes perfect sense. If you cover a range of topics on your site or blog, it makes good sense to keep a spreadsheet of different topics covered, as well as what you have written on them and when. 

Focus on snippets 

If your page has been indexed by Google and deemed relevant, they will feature a snippet from your page in search results. These featured snippets are brief excerpts from the page that contain a summary paragraph, list, table, or video.

Keep your summary paragraphs fairly short, maybe a maximum of around 50 words, and try and summarise what your page says in that paragraph. Alternatively, focus on creating an informative list or table, or an authoritative video. Seeing which ones work best in your field, or which keywords don’t have snippets yet, can help ensure your snippet is featured. 

Optimize and boost your CTRs

You may find that although your page has a decent enough ranking, you are not seeing the expected increase in traffic to your page. If this is the case, it could mean that your meta descriptions and title tags need improving. When that happens, you want to optimize your page in order to boost your click-through rate. 

This is where close monitoring of key metrics, in this case CTR, is crucial. If your CTR is lower than the average rates for your sector (despite a good ranking on SERPs) then some work is needed. Are the headings too vague? Or does a page ranking above you simply sound more enticing? Once you identify any pages that are not performing to your expectations, you can start to work out why. From there, you can adjust and change titles and metas until you see an increase in that page’s CTR.

Revise out of date content 

Things can change quickly, and if you have a lot of content that is now outdated or has information that has been superseded, consider revising and updating them. This can be especially true with your more popular posts that have seen high visitor numbers and have a good CTR. 

Let’s say you’ve got a few old posts talking about a call center for small business – trends, technology, or statistics. However, since you published it, some things have changed. New software has been released, or perhaps there are newer statistics. Whatever the reason, refreshing that content can boost your ratings and see an increase in organic traffic. 

Image Source

Utilize Quora

Quora is under-utilized by many businesses. In fact, the platform has more than 300 million monthly users and is used more than LinkedIn by many in higher income brackets. That means it has huge potential for affiliate marketers to increase both the visibility of your pages and the amount of traffic that is driven to them. 

The easiest way to use Quora is to identify the best ranking keywords and searches on the site. Now all you need to do is find questions that are relevant to your field. Once found, you then write a long-form answer (with links) and sit back and watch traffic increase. 

For example, let’s assume you have written a series of pieces on freelancing. Someone has asked a question on Quora that says: “How do you organize a project timeline?” You could then reply to the question with links back to any relevant pieces you have published. Just make sure to include enough information in the answer to sound interesting – otherwise people are unlikely to click through.

Increase your page speed 

Image source 

Many affiliate marketers focus on the content and forget to do a technical SEO audit. A key part of this is page speed. The slower your page is to load, the more likely a potential visitor will change their mind and bounce.

Ensuring your pages load quickly, and that they are optimized for mobile access, are major factors when it comes to attaining and maintaining high levels of traffic. This is not something you should check on a one-off basis but should regularly monitor.  There are a number of ways you can optimize page loading speeds. These can include the following:

Ensure your host offers high speeds.

Compress larger images.

Reduce the number of HTTP requests. 

Set up browser caching.

Clean up any media library (remove anything that is now redundant).

If using WordPress, consider plugins such as TinyPNG or WP Rocket.

Use a CDN (content delivery network).

Minify JavaScript and CSS.

If you make any significant changes, such as adding plugins, always test the functionality of your pages afterwards to ensure the page still works well. Some of these solutions may need IT expertise, but many can be done by anyone.

The takeaway

Affiliate marketing is a growing and lucrative market, for both affiliates and businesses. Whether aiming low or high, a solid SEO strategy is going to be one of the most crucial steps you will take to success.

Using just one of the strategies outlined above can lead to increased traffic. Using more than one, and finding the combination that best suits you, could see dramatic improvements in all aspects of your affiliate marketing, from traffic to conversions and, ultimately, your final revenue stream. 

With affiliate marketing being a commission-based business model, those traffic and conversion rates are vital to your success. Jumping in the deep end without employing some of these strategies as flotation devices could mean that you sink quickly. Used properly and you could soon be swimming with the big fish!

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