Month: April 2019

How to Conduct The Ultimate PPC Audit

1.0: What is a PPC audit?

Conducting a PPC audit for a new client, or even an existing client, is essential to ensure you’re maximising efficiency across their ad accounts. It should be noted that whilst many of the below points can be translated to Bing, this checklist is primarily Google focussed.

For new clients, it can be an exciting process to discover opportunities to help with just that and for existing clients, the meticulous, small tweaks can make a positive difference when an account is mature.

This blog post will show you what you should be looking for when conducting a PPC audit and how to go about it.  

However, before you conduct a PPC audit, make sure you request access to important platforms.

  • Google Analytics: This will allow you to check whether their Google Analytics has been linked to their Google Ads account and if conversion goals have been set up correctly.
  • Conversion tracking: You’ll want to have a list of known conversion actions. Without knowing what conversions a client wants to track, you’re going into an audit blindfolded.
  • Google Ads ID number: Having a client’s Google Ads ID will allow you to sync their account with your MCC account.

Find out more information on getting access and checking settings for a PPC client.

Contents

2.0: What is a PPC audit checklist?

We like using checklists here at Distilled having created a technical SEO checklist and a Google Analytics checklist to great effect. We’ve found that following a checklist can offer the following benefits:

  • Comprehensive – Without a checklist, you’ll probably still discover issues when auditing an account. Using a checklist ensures you remember to check all the relevant boxes.
  • Productive – Working without a checklist takes more effort. At each stage, you have to decide what to do next. The checklist answers this question for you.
  • Communicable –  Rigorously defining your work with a checklist lets you delegate. Unfortunately, an intern can’t osmose your intuition!
Get the Google Analytics checklist.
Access for free.

3.0: How to use the PPC audit checklist?

This checklist is available to the public. This master document is set to view only, to be able to use it you’ll first want to make a copy.

For each item on the list there are three response that can be given:

  • Pass means you have no concerns.
  • OK means the issues doesn’t seem relevant currently.
  • Fail means something appears to be wrong.

When you update an Issue, the grade for the Cause and Outcome will also be updated. If any Issue’s score is Fail, the Cause and Outcome will also Fail.

There are also breadcrumb trails for each point to help find the relevant location in the Google Ads interface.

4.0: Tracking

One of the first things you should check when auditing a PPC account is tracking implementation.

You’ll want to verify Google Ads tracking code is present on the site and review conversion actions to ensure they’re relevant.

It’s imperative you receive a list of known conversion goals before you start an audit. Knowing what they are will allow you to troubleshoot existing implementation.

Google has a pretty handy guide on troubleshooting tracking implementation.

5.0: Google Analytics linking

You’ll want to ensure that a PPC account is linked to Google Analytics. This will allow you to analyse customer activity on your website after an ad click or impression.

You can read about the insight you can gain from linking Google Analytics and Google Ads and read the instructions on how to link Google Analytics and Google Ads.

6.0: IP exclusions

Probably one of the quickest wins when conducting a PPC audit, you’ll want to check if an account is excluding internal IP addresses.

Excluding specific IP addresses, such as an organisations office, will prevent costly clicks and unwanted ad impressions from muddying data. If people want to view what ads look like in search results than the Ad Preview and Diagnosis Tool can be used.

To see existing IP exclusions:

  1. Navigate to account you’re auditing in the Google Ads interface.
  2. Click Settings on the left-hand side navigation menu.
  3. Click the campaign you’d like to exclude IP addresses from.
  4. Click additional settings and then IP exclusions.

7.0: Network settings

7.1: Search and display campaigns

You’ll want to navigate to the settings section of an account and check that campaigns are not targeting search and display traffic within one campaign.

Whilst a combined search and display campaign can work together if given the right strategic thought and  Google has tried to make the display element ‘smarter’, it’s still recommend that campaigns should be separated. Generally speaking, both mediums require individual approaches to better align with the goals of each channel.

You can read more on why you should separate your search and display campaigns.

7.1: Search partners

Search partners are a group of search-related websites and apps where Google ads can appear, such as the search engine Ask.

When creating a campaign, search partners are added by default, so you’ll want to investigate whether the search partner network should remain active based off performance data and budget.

To see whether search partner networks are active and evaluate performance:

  1. Navigate to account you’re auditing in the Google Ads interface.
  2. Click Campaigns on the left-hand side navigation menu
  3. Click Segment than Network (with search partners) and you’ll be able to download a report that includes search partner information.

Note: You can’t evaluate performance for specific search partners, but only as an aggregated view.

8.0: Account structure organisation

8.1: Campaign names

You’ll want to ensure that campaigns follow a logical naming convention, which will provide greater transparency, easier reporting and the ability for other people understand should you need to hand over.

You’ll want your campaign name to be descriptive of the campaign/theme type, your product/service and location (if applicable).

For example, if a search campaign is focussed on promoting jeans then your campaign name might look like this:

Search – Branded – Jeans – UK

If your campaign type is display then your campaign might look this:

Display – Branded – Jeans – UK

Or if you create campaigns by match type (more on this later) you’ll want to ensure this is reflected in the campaign name. A campaign name in this scenario may look like:

Search – Branded Exact – Jeans – UK

Tip: Unless you intend to completely overhaul an account, you can just edit the existing name of a campaign. Creating a new campaign will reset quality score, so historical quality score will not come into play.

8.2: Ad group names

Like campaign names, you’ll also want to ensure ad group names follow a logical naming structure. Scrolling through easily identifiable ad groups will make your life as a PPC marketer infinitely easier when undertaking the day to day responsibilities of a PPC account manager.

Quite simply, ensure the target keyword is clearly identifiable in the adgroup name. If your adgroup is targeting the search term “blue jeans”, then “blue jeans ” should be included in the name of the adgroup.

8.3: Labels

Similar to logical naming conventions, you may want to assign labels to campaigns and ad groups to help identify, sort and filter.

For example, you might group European locations under an EU label, but only have the country name in the campaign name. This can help with different kinds of segmentation.

8.4: Campaign theme

Each campaign should be split by a certain theme, such as branded and generic campaigns, match type and location. The required budget and expected potential results will be very different depending on the theme and goals of the campaign.

Below is a guide that highlights some useful campaign splits.

Branded keyword only campaign

Branded keyword only campaigns form the foundation of your PPC strategy and are necessary to:

  1. Build brand awareness.
  2. Drive efficient CPA’s.
  3. Prevent competitors from outranking you for branded terms.
  4. Strategically navigate users to parts of your site using extensions like sitelinks.

Non-branded keyword only campaign

Non-branded keyword only campaigns are a crucial means to grow your source of traffic, especially when branded only campaigns have stagnated. Non-branded keyword only campaigns are necessary to:

  1. Diversify the source of traffic to your site.
  2. Reach customers that may not have known about your brand.
  3. Build brand awareness.

Campaigns by match type

A great way to organise, control and manage an account is to create campaigns by match type. Doing this allows you to easily identify the performance of keywords, help manage a negative keyword list and gives you the opportunity to ring-fence budget.

For instance, generally speaking, exact match type keywords tend to convert better than phrase or broad match type keywords and if you have data to back this up, why wouldn’t you ring-fence budget for the best converting keywords?

Campaigns by match type When to create campaign themes
Exact match When you want to ring-fence budget for keywords that are highly relevant and have strong conversion.
Phrase match When you want to broaden your scope of search queries related to highly relevant keywords, but still want control.
Modified broad match When you want to discover potential keywords that convert, but still want an element of control.
Broad match When you launch a new campaign with flexible budget and are aiming to discover potential keywords that convert.

Learn more about match types.

Budget scenarios

Budget is limited:

  • Focus on highly relevant exact match keywords to reduce CPA’s
  • Allocate bigger budget towards best performing campaigns to drive efficient CPA’s
  • Focus on location-specific campaigns to improve relevance and increase the chance of conversion.

Budget is large:

  • Focus on diversifying source of traffic by increasing non-branded campaign spend.
  • For new campaigns, utilise a variety of match types to drive conversions and discover keyword opportunities.
  • Invest in RLSA campaigns and audience targeting to maximise conversions.

8.5: Number of keywords in each adgroup

Google recommends that you should have no more than 20 keywords in each ad group. Having over 20 keywords in an adgroup can dilute your budget and for smaller PPC accounts, make it more difficult to form keyword insights, as the sample data will be spread across many keywords.

Each keyword will automatically match variations such as possible misspellings or plural versions.

The goal is to add relevant keywords to a specific themed adgroup. An adgroup containing more than 20 keywords may suggest an unfocused and inefficient spending approach.  

9.0: Keywords

9.1: Search Terms report

The Search Terms report is the holy grail when it comes to identifying keyword performance for an account.

To start drawing insights from the Search Terms report, you’ll want to download the raw data:

  1. Navigate to account you’re auditing in the Google Ads interface.
  2. Click keywords on the left-hand side navigation menu.
  3. Then click Search Terms on the top level navigation.
  4. Select a date range found towards the top right of the interface.
  5. Click Download.

Tip: Before you download raw keyword performance data, make sure you select a relevant time period that will provide enough historical data to make informed decisions (This can be customised by selecting a date range in the top right-hand corner of the interface).

The selected date range will vary depending on the sample size and maturity of the account, but generally speaking 6 months is adequate.    

After downloading the report, you should be looking to answer the following questions:

Can I identify new keyword opportunities?

You’ll want to identify keywords that are converting well, but aren’t added as exact match keywords. This will allow you to really tailor your ad copy to better resonate with searches.

You’ll simultaneously improve ad relevance, which will increase quality score, reduce bidding costs and likely increase click through rate. Additionally, you’ll be able to ring-fence budget around stronger converting keywords.

To identify the keyword opportunities in your downloaded report:

  1. Filter the match type column to only include broad and phrase match terms
  2. [Optional] Depending on the account structure and naming convention, you could also filter your campaign column to only include branded, or non-branded campaigns/ad groups.
  3. Sort the conversions column to display the highest converting keywords first

Your spreadsheet should look something like the below:

To fully evaluate opportunities, you’ll need to look at other metrics like impressions, CTR and conv.rate to get a better insight into the potential of each keyword. We can see from the screenshot that keyword 1 has a very high CTR and strong conversion rate. We can also see keyword 1 gets a relatively good number of impressions, all of which makes keyword 1 a prime candidate to become an exact match type term.

Can I identify keywords to add to the negative keyword list?

Conversely, you’ll be able to use the same report to identify poor performing keywords that should be added to the negative keyword list.

  1. Sort the impressions column to display the keywords that have generated the highest number of impressions first.

Your spreadsheet should look something like the below:

  1. To fully evaluate inefficient keywords, you’ll need to compare the number of impressions each keyword receives to its relative CTR, conversions, conv.rate, cost and cost / conversion metrics.
    • For instance, we can see that keyword 10 has a decent number of impressions and clicks, but 0 conversions. This could suggest that the keyword is not particularly relevant to the product on offer, which may make the keyword a candidate to add to the negative keyword list.
    • We can also see that despite keyword 8 converting once, it has the most expensive CPA at 47.5. For a client that is very conscious about keeping stringent CPA’s, keyword 8 could be a candidate to add to a negative keyword list.

9.2: Quality Score

Google defines Quality Score as “an estimate of the quality of your ads, keywords and landing pages”. Each keyword you bid for is given a score on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the worst score a keyword can be assigned and 10 being the best.

Quality Score is made up of three components:

  • Expected click through rate
  • Ad relevance
  • Landing page experience

Read more on what influences Quality Score.

Why Quality Score is important?

Quality Score is important as it has a significant impact on the effectiveness of your PPC campaigns. An ad with a high-quality score can:

  • Lower cost-per-click
  • Lower CPA
  • Higher impression visibility
  • Higher ad rankings

To see keyword Quality Score:

  1. Navigate to account you’re auditing in the Google Ads interface.
  2. Click Keywords on the left-hand side navigation menu.
  3. Once in the keyword interface make sure that Quality Score, Expected CTR, Ad Relevance, Landing Page Experience and other relevant metrics are selected as a column option before downloading a report.

Once you’ve downloaded the report, you’ll want to quickly identify the breakdown of Quality Score across an account.

What to look for when auditing Quality Score

Once you’ve done that, you can use the below template to help guide your insights.

Scenario Insights
Expected click through rate is “average” or “above average This indicates that there is no issue for the expected click through rate of the keyword being bid for.
Expected click through rate is “below average This indicates that an ad is not relevant to the keyword being bid for. It could also indicate that the keyword itself is not relevant.

To improve expected click through rate:

  1. Analyse ad text and see how you can improve the relevancy of your ad to entice clicks.
    1. Is the ad relevant to the keyword being bid for
    2. Is the target keyword in ad copy and the URL path
  2. Look at other opportunities to improve the CTR of an ad. Increasing CTR will help improve your expected click through rate.
    1. Are there ad extensions
    2. Is the first word of each letter capitalised
    3. Does the ad copy include a CTA
    4. Does the ad copy include a businesses key USP
    5. Are there spelling and grammar mistakes
  • Ad relevance  is “average” or “above average
This indicates that there is no issue with a keyword’s ad relevance when compared to all other keywords across Google Ads.
Ad relevance is “below average This indicates that your ad or keyword may not be specific enough or that your ad group may cover too many topics.

To improve ad relevance:

  1. Analyse ad text and see how you can improve the relevancy of your ad.
    1. Is the ad relevant to the keyword being bid for
    2. Is the target keyword in ad copy and the URL path
  2. Look at opportunities to tighten the topic relevance of an adgroup.
    1. Is the keyword relevant to the ad group
    2. Can you create new ad groups to better tailor ad copy messaging
Landing page experience  is “average” or “above average This indicates that there is no issue with the landing page
Landing page experience is “below average This indicates that the landing page experience can be improved.

Google has a comprehensive guide on improving landing page experience.  

10.0: Bid strategy

You’ll want to identify what bid strategy your client is utilising and whether it aligns with their goals.

For example, if the goal of the client is to maximise conversion, then they could adopt a maximise conversions bidding strategy.

Google have a handy guide on determining a bidding strategy and watch this useful video on automated bidding strategies.

To initially identify existing bid strategies:

  1. Navigate to account you’re auditing in the Google Ads interface.
  2. Click Campaigns on the left-hand side navigation menu.
  3. Click Settings and from there you will be able to download a report that includes a bid strategy type column.

11.0: Targeting

11.1 Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA)

RLSA campaigns are a great feature to re-target users that have previously visited your site.

You’ll want to identify whether your client is taking advantage of the RLSA’s:

  1. Navigate to account you’re auditing in the Google Ads interface.
  2. Click Campaigns on the left-hand side navigation menu.
  3. Click Audiences and from there you will be able to download a report that includes an audience column.

You’ll also want to identify whether your client has applied an observation or targeting approach and whether it matches their goals.

Tip: To qualify for RLSA campaigns:

  • Google Display Network: must have a minimum of 100 active visitors or users within the last 30 days.
  • Google Search Network: must have a minimum of 1,000 active visitors or users within the last 30 days.

11.2: Location targeting

You’ll need to check that each campaign is being targeted in the right location to eliminate unnecessary cost and artificially inflated CPAs. You can target locations by country, regions, cities and radius around a location.

Example: If an insurance provider only offers its products in the United Kingdom, then it wouldn’t make sense for ads to appear in any other country.

To see existing location targeting:

  1. Navigate to account you’re auditing in the Google Ads interface.
  2. Click Locations on the left-hand side navigation menu.
  3. Once in the Locations interface, you’ll be able to see and download a report for the target locations for each campaign.

11.3: Location exclusions

A business that doesn’t offer a service or product in a city or region within a larger area, may want to exclude ads from appearing in these areas.

Example: A national dentistry business that has numerous clinics in the United Kingdom, but not in the city of Luton, may want to exclude ads from appearing in Luton.

11.4: Location bid adjustment

You’ll want to identify whether certain locations require tailored bidding adjustments. This can be set at the campaign level.

Example: A wine merchant business that generates a significant percentage of their conversions from a particular city may want to increase bidding for that location to maximise the total number of conversions. Conversely, they may want to reduce bidding on poor performing locations.

To see existing location bid adjustments:

  1. Navigate to account you’re auditing in the Google Ads interface.
  2. Click Locations on the left-hand side navigation menu.
  3. Once in the Locations interface, you’ll be able to see and download a report for any existing location bid adjustments for each campaign.

11.5: Device targeting

Device targeting allows you create tailored display or video campaigns to target users on specific device types, operating systems, device models, ad inventory (spaces where publishers allow ads to run), as well as operators and wireless networks.

Example: A business that has just launched an app on IOS would want to target people will Apple phones.

11.6: Ad scheduling

You should identify what time of the week provides the best conversion during your audit.

By default, Google Ads campaigns are set to display “all day”; however, you’ll want to schedule ads to ensure ad exposure during the best performing time periods to maximise conversion.

Example: A Pizzeria located in the heart of central London gets the majority of people clicking on a call extension between 12-2pm Monday-Friday. They may want to set up an ad schedule so that:

  1. Ads only appear during 12-2pm Monday-Friday.
  2. Set ad schedule bid adjustments to help ads rank higher during 12-2pm

Note: *If you also opt to set bid adjustments for mobile devices or locations, all of your adjustments will be multiplied together to determine the resulting bid adjustment.

To identify best performance periods:

  1. Navigate to account you’re auditing in the Google Ads interface.
  2. Click Ad schedule on the left-hand side navigation menu and the interface will tell you whether there is existing ad schedules (The screenshot below shows there are no ad schedules set up).

  1. Click any of Ad Schedule, Day & Hour, and Hour to be taken to an interface where you can download the data for those time categories.

Learn how to create an ad schedule and set up an ad schedule bid adjustment.

12.0: Ad evaluation

12.1: Ad testing

Ad rotation

Within the advanced setting of the advanced tab, you’ll want to ensure an accounts ad rotation settings align with the goals of the PPC account. There are two ad rotation options:

Optimise

Optimise” is one of two ad rotation options, unless the account has implemented a smart bidding strategy, which prioritises conversions and defaults the ad rotation option to “optimise”.

The “optimise” setting will instruct Google to rotate ads and optimise for the most amount of clicks for each individual bid using signals like the search term, device, location, and more.

You’ll be able to evaluate what ads are performing best by looking at the core click through rate metric, alongside other relative metrics such as impressions and conversions, which will then allow you to build upon successful ads.

“Optimise” should be used if a priority of an account is to let Google test ad copy that best entices a click and there is no consistent testing process in place.

Rotate indefinitely

The rotate indefinitely setting delivers your ads more evenly into an ad auction, but does so for an indefinite amount of time and doesn’t optimise.

Rotate indefinitely can be used if the goal of the account to optimise for specific goals, as it gives more control than the “optimise” ad rotation setting. However, this setting will require advertisers to pay more attention to the performance of their ads, as poor performing ads may receive more screen time and negatively impact quality score than ads that use the “optimise” setting.

Tip: If you don’t have time to split test in detail (say you have a lot of ad groups where ads won’t easily get to significance) then use “optimise”. If you have high volume/value terms then rotate so you can take control.

If you are not maintaining a consistent testing process then use optimise rather than let poorer performers show regularly.

12.2: Number of ads

For Google Ads, you’ll want to ensure that each adgroup is assigned a minimum of three ads. This will help you test and identify successful ad copy patterns.

12.3: Expanded text ads

Expanded text ads add more real estate to search results, which helps entice a click. Expanded text ads allow for:

  • A third headline
  • A second description
  • Use of up to 90 characters for each description

You’ll want to ensure each ad is taking advantage of the above three features.

If using the “optimise” ad rotation option, Google may well decide to exclude features of your ad copy, such as a second description line, as their machine learning algorithm look to optimise for the best performing ads.

12.4: Display URL & Paths

You’ll want to ensure each URL path in your ad copy contains a relevant keyword. The more relevant you make your ad, the more likely you are to entice a click. For instance, going back to our jeans example, if an ad group was targeting “blue jeans” our display URL ad copy might look like the below:

12.5: Final destination URL

The landing pages ads take users to should be relevant to the actual ad messaging. An irrelevant landing page will reduce the efficiency of your PPC campaigns.

12.6: Ad extensions

Ad extension types

Ad extensions are imperative to align with your conversion goals and increase click through rates by making your ad copy stand out. Ad extensions also directly impact Ad Rank, which is a value that’s used to determine your ad position.

When auditing an account for ad extensions, you’ll need to know the conversion goals of your client. For example, if a conversion goal of the business is to drive more calls, then you’ll want to ensure that the account uses call extensions.

Goal 1: Your client wants customers to contact them

Call extensions

Call extensions allow you to add a contact number to your ad and are imperative for brick and mortar businesses.

Call extensions can be very powerful on mobile devices, as users can directly call a business by clicking on a phone number.

Tip: Make sure your call extensions only appear during business operating hours. Every interaction on a call extension counts as a click, so you’ll be wasting money if no one can answer and you’ll lose customer trust in your brand.

If you are using call extensions make sure that call reporting has been turned on.

Message extensions

Message extensions allow you to add messaging that prompts a user to text a business when clicking on the extension.

Message extensions are useful if customers can interact with a business via text messaging, such as booking an appointment, or getting a quote.

Goal 2: Your client wants customers to convert on their website

Callout extensions

Callout extensions allow you to add additional call-to-action messaging that promote key USP’s of your offering such as “ free delivery”, or “25% off”. Compelling callout extensions will improve click through rates and drives conversion onsite.  

You can add up to four callout extensions for each add, but Google recommends you add at least two to help ensure they appear.

Tip: Google recommends that you create dedicated mobile optimised callout extensions. This will help ensure you can tailor your messaging to suit mobile devices. For example, some callout extensions visible on desktop will truncate on mobile.

Sitelink extensions

Sitelink extensions are useful if you want to funnel people to certain parts of your website. They should be relevant to the ad.

You must specify a minimum of two sitelinks for the extension to appear; however, you can add up to four sitelinks.

Structured snippet extensions

Structured snippet extensions allow you to highlight specific features of a product or service. Similar to call out extensions, structured snippets will appear beneath your text ad and could increase your CTR.

Google has a pretty comprehensive best practice guide on structured snippets.

Price extensions

Price extensions promote more information, such as pricing and add more real estate to your ads, which can lead to an increased CTR.

Learn more about using pricing extensions.

Goal 3: Your client wants customers to download their app

App extensions

App extensions allows advertisers to link directly to a mobile or tablet app from an ad

12.7: Disapproved ads

You’ll want to scroll through the ad interface and identify ads that have been disapproved and why.

13.0: What to do after the audit?

After you’ve completed the audit it will be important to make a priority list. When presenting your findings and recommendations, you’ll want to make sure you clearly communicate any potential performance downturns. Restructuring an account can initially cause panic, as performance history may no longer be taken into account, but with the right communication and strategic approach it will be a success.

How to Conduct The Ultimate PPC Audit was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

The Complete Guide to Robots.txt and Noindex Meta Tag

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The Complete Guide to Robots .txt and Noindex Meta Tag

The Robots.txt file and Noindex meta tag are important for doing on-page SEO. This gives you the power to tell Google which pages they should crawl and which pages they should index – display in the search results.

Knowing how to use these two and when to use them is important for all SEOs since this involves a direct relationship between the websites we’re handling and the search engine crawlers. Being able to direct the search engine crawlers on where they should go and which pages they should include in the database is a massive advantage for us, and we can use that to make sure that only our website’s important pages are the ones that Google and other search engines crawl and index. But before we delve into the details of how and when to use these two, we must first know what they are and their specific functions.

What is a Robots.txt file?

The Robots Exclusion Protocol, or more commonly known as Robots.txt is a file that directs web crawlers and robots such as Googlebot and Bingbot to which pages of your websites should not be crawled.

What is the use of a Robots.txt file?

The robots.txt file is only a crawling directive and it cannot control how fast a bot should crawl your website and other bot behaviors. This is just a set of instructions for bots on what parts of your website should not be accessed.

You should also take note that while some bots respect robots.txt file, some can ignore it. Some robots can exploit files on your website or even harvest information so to completely block malware robots, you should increase your site security or protect private pages by putting a password. If you have other questions about the robots.txt, check out some frequently asked questions on robots here.

How to Create a Robots.txt File?

By default, a robots.txt file would look like this:

Robots txt file Notepad

You could create your own robots.txt file in any program that is in .txt file type. You could block different URLs such as your website’s blog/categories or /author pages. Blocking pages like this would help bots prioritize important pages on your website more. The robots.txt file is a great way of managing your crawl budget.

Robots crawling directives

User-agent Specifies the crawl bot you want to block from crawling a URL eg. Googlebot, Bingbot, Ask, Yahoo. Here’s a link to a directory of known web crawlers
Disallow Specifies that a URL and all other URLs under it should be blocked
Allow This is only followed by Googlebot. It tells it that a page can be crawled even if the parent page is disallowed
Sitemap Specifies the location of your website’s sitemap

Proper usage of wildcards

In the robots.txt, a wildcard, represented as the (*) symbol, can be used as a symbol for any sequence of characters.

A directive for all types of crawl bots:

User-agent:*

 

The wildcard could also be used to disallow all URLs under the parent page except for the parent page.

User-agent:*

Disallow: /authors/*

Disallow: /categories/*

 

This means all page URLs under the main author page and categories page are blocked except for them.

 

A good example of a robots.txt file would look like this

User-agent:*

Disallow: /testing-page/

Disallow: /account/

Disallow: /checkout/

Disallow: /cart/

Disallow: /products/page/*

Disallow: /wp/wp-admin/

Allow: /wp/wp-admin/admin-ajax.php

 

Sitemap: yourdomainhere.com/sitemap.xml

 

After editing your robots.txt file, you should upload in the top-level directory of your website’s code so when a bot enters your website for crawling, it would see the robots.txt file first.

What is Noindex?

Noindex is a meta robots tag that tells search engines not to include a page in the search results.

How to Implement Noindex Meta Tag?

There are three ways to put a noindex tag on pages you don’t want search engines to index:

Meta Robots Tag

In the <head> section of the page, place the following code:

<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”>

 

The code may vary depending on your decision. The code mentioned tells all types of crawl bots from indexing a page. Alternatively, if you only want to noindex a page from a specific crawl bot, you could place the name of that bot in the meta name.

 

To prevent Googlebot from indexing a page:

<meta name=”googlebot” content=”noindex”>

 

To prevent Bingbot from indexing a page:

<meta name=”bingbot” content=”noindex”>

 

You can also instruct bots to follow or don’t follow links that are found on the page you noindexed.

 

To follow links in the page:

<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex,follow”>

 

To tell bots to not crawl the links in the page:

<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex,nofollow”>

X-Robots-Tag

The x-robots-tag allows you to control the indexing of a page in the HTTP response header of the page. The x-robots-tag is similar to the meta robots tag but it also allows you to tell search engines not to show specific file types in the search results such as images and other media files.

To do this, you need to have access to your website’s .php, .htaccess, or server access file. Directives in the meta robots tag are also applicable to the x-robots-tag. Here’s a great article about the X-Robots-Tag in HTTP headers.

Through YoastSEO

If you’re using YoastSEO in WordPress, there is no need for you to manually place these codes. Just go to the page or post you want to noindex, scroll down to the YoastSEO interface, go to the settings of the post by clicking the gear icon and then select “No” under “Allow Search Engines to Show this Post in Search Results?”

Yoast SEO

You could also put a noindex tag sitewide for pages such as categories, tags, and author pages so you don’t have to go to every individual page on your website. To put a noindex tag, go to the Yoast plugin itself and then go to Search Appearance. Selecting ‘no’ under ‘Show Categories in Search Results’ would place a noindex tag on all category pages.

Yoast Categories

Best Practices

Many people are still confused by these two. It is critical as an SEO to know what the difference is in between. This is crucial in making sure that the pages that you want the users to see in the search results are the only pages that appear and the pages you want bots to crawl are the only pages that get crawled.

 

  • If you want a page that already has been indexed, for example, by Google, be removed in the search results, make sure that page is not disallowed in the robots.txt file before you add the noindex tag because the Google bot won’t be able to see the tag in the page. Blocking a page without the noindex tag first would still make a page appear in the search results but it would look like this:

Uncategorized Page

  • Adding a sitemap directive to the robots.txt file is technically not required, but it is generally good practice.
  • After updating your robots.txt file, it is a good idea to check if your important pages are blocked from crawling using the Robots.txt Tester in the Google Search Console.
  • Use the URL inspection tool in Google Search Console to see the indexing status of the page.
  • You can also check for unimportant pages being indexed by Google using the coverage report in Google Search Console. Another alternative would be using the ‘site:’ search command in Google to show you all pages that are being shown in the search results.

Google Search Site Command

Adding Noindex in Robots.txt

There has been a lot of confusion in the SEO community recently about using noindex in the robots.txt but it has been said over and over by Google that they don’t support this but still a lot of people insist that it is still working.

In a Twitter thread, Gary Illyes said:

“Technically, robots.txt is for crawling. The meta tags are for indexing. During indexing, they’d be applied at the same stage so there’s no good reason to have both of them.”

It is best to avoid doing this. While it could be agreed that it is efficient since you don’t have to put a ‘noindex’ tag in individual pages rather just type them in the robots.txt file, it’s better that you treat these two things separately.

Blocked Paged can Still be Indexed if Linked to

In an article by Search Engine Journal, they quoted John Mueller in a Google Hangouts Session. Here’s his statement:

“One thing to maybe keep in mind here is that if these pages are blocked by robots.txt, then it could theoretically happen that someone randomly links to one of these pages and if they do that, it could happen that we index this URL without any content because it’s blocked by robots.txt. So we wouldn’t know that you want to have these pages actually indexed.”

This statement is huge since it gives us a better understanding of how crawl bots and the robots.txt work. This means that pages you blocked through robots.txt is not safe from indexing as long as someone linked to it.

To make sure a page without useful content won’t appear in the search results accidentally, John Mueller suggests that its still better to have a noindex meta tag in those page even after you blocked them from crawl bots with robots.txt

For John Mueller’s full thoughts on this, check out this Google Webmaster Central office-hours hangout back in 2018

Key Takeaway

There are many SEO hacks out there but you have to pick the ones that will give you optimal benefits in the long run. Using your robots.txt file to your advantage will do more than just increase your SEO visibility, it will also improve user experience as well. Robots.txt will stay significant so you have to be on guard for updates which will affect it.

Robots.txt should never be neglected, especially if you want to appear at your best in the SERPs. Brush up on these best practices whether you are a beginner in SEO or you have already optimized many sites. Once you do, you’re going to see how it will help you be cut off from the rest.

With that, comment down below how you use the meta robot tags. How is it working for you so far?

The Complete Guide to Robots.txt and Noindex Meta Tag was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Creating an AB test

“Great science is always dependent upon a creative and artful process. The two work together. We use the creative to generate ideas that we convert to hypotheses. And then with these hypotheses, we use science to determine which of them is most accurate. From this, we’ve developed the most important concepts in the advancement of civilization — Predictability.”

These are the words of Flint McGlaughlin in this replay of a live interactive session on Hypothesis Development. McGlaughlin and his YouTube listeners work together to construct an AB test to decide which email copy will receive the greatest amount of clicks. The first step is to create a hypothesis together. This is the first in a two-part series on test development.

Watch the video and learn how to use the MECLABS four-step hypothesis framework to remove the guesswork from your marketing efforts by performing accurate tests that will help determine what brings the greatest conversion lifts.

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Creating an AB test was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

Analyzing Link Building Results Using the Google Search Console Link Report

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Cover Photo - Analyzing Link Building Results Using the Google Search Console Link Report

For the past few years, I’ve always seen this question being asked frequently across blogs, social media posts, and online forums, and the question is:

“Is link building dead?”

I’ve seen this being asked in various sites and channels, and the answers that you would get can vary between “Link building is a dead strategy that would not be effective in the next few years” to “Link building is still a viable strategy”. The number of answers that you get from these articles and posts can make you continue, lessen, or even stop your link building efforts altogether. If you would ask me if link building is dead, here’s our answer:

“Link building is not dead.”

Despite what a number of people would say, link building is alive and is still one of the most effective SEO strategies around. Like every other SEO strategy, link building continues to evolve as digital marketing becomes increasingly diverse. Building links continue to be effective, as it helps to generate traffic, improve the authority and reputation of your content, and establish new networks between various websites.

Measuring the success and effectiveness of your link building campaign can be assessed with the right tools, and one of the best tools you can use to track your links is the Google Search Console Link Report. With the new Search Console introducing an improved set of features, here’s how the Link Report feature works in helping you track your link building efforts.

How to access the Google Search Console Link ReportSecurity and Manual Actions

To access the GSC Link Report, all you have to do is to access the URL you want to take a look and go to Links, which is under the Security & Manual Actions section. Upon accessing the Links, you can now view options such as internal and external links, top linking sites, and top linking text. Additionally, you also have the option to export link data as well, which is handy for performance reports.

External Links

External Links GSC

This section allows you to view the pages that contain external links. You can see which pages have the most incoming links and linking sites, which then you can sort by number. You also have the option to filter the pages, allowing you to look for specific names and tags for target pages, look for pages that have a high or low number of links, and by the number of linking sites.

These filters allow you to track specific pages, which is important when measuring your link building statistics and want to know whether or not your website is being linked by external websites. This is a good indicator of your online presence and authority, as Google would be able to recognize if you are being linked by numerous quality websites. This is also a feature that you can use to check for harmful or malicious links, especially if you encounter unusual numbers that might indicate possible attacks.

Internal Links

Internal Links GSC

Internal linking is essential, as it connects your webpages to one another, allowing users to discover content, and help generate more traffic. Internal links also contain data filters to track specific pages, along with the option to export data.

Top Linking Sites

Top Linking Sites GSC

If you want to view which websites have the most links to your website, you can view it using Top Linking Sites. This section contains the same filters as the previous sections, which helps you know which pages have the most links from your website. This is an important metric to track for link building, as this would help you know if your link building efforts on these external websites are successful in generating links and traffic to your website. This also helps you know if there are new websites linking to you, which helps you see whether or not you are being linked by authoritative websites.

Top Linking Text

Top Linking Text GSC

Top Linking Text is a list of the most frequently used link text on the links to access your website. This data is case-sensitive, which means that capitalization and pluralization are taken into account and treated as different link text. Identifying link text is important, as you would know which words are being used to discover your links, and whether or not the text you’re using is attracting clicks.

Analyzing your Link Building Efforts using External Link Report

While there are a lot of backlink checker tools that are available out there like Ahrefs and Moz, let’s not look further as to where you should measure the effectiveness of your link building campaign. It’s alright to consider that a link that you acquired is good if it appears when you crawl your website through these tools, but nothing confirms it more when it appears in Google Search Console.

After you launched your link building campaign, you have to monitor from time to time if it appears in the External Link Report. There is no specific time on how long before a link you built will appear on the report because it will still depend on when Google will crawl the website you acquired the link from.

One thing I noticed is the appearance of nofollow links. A lot of people say that Blog commenting is a dead link building strategy because 99.9% of the time, the link you’ll be getting is a nofollow. I still leave comments from blogs that I follow from time to time and I noticed that these domains still appear on the External Link Report.

What does this mean for Link Building?

I think that this means that as an SEO, you should not focus on whether the link that you acquired is nofollow or dofollow. You should also not worry if majority of your backlinks are nofollow links. Yes, nofollow links do not pass on link juice but it seems like Google still consider these links. Remember, when a website links to your website, it’s like they are casting a vote to Google that your website is trustworthy and is a good source.

This also means that Link Building is definitely not dead. While it has been reiterated over and over that links should be acquired organically, link building strategies would not hurt as long as you’re not spamming websites.

Keep on sending out those outreach emails. Leave meaningful blog comments once in a while. Try to connect with other webmasters for guest posting. Your hard work and all the time that you spend in these strategies will be fruitful when you see those websites in your link report.

Key Takeaway

The Google Search Console Link Reports is a great tool to use to analyze the effectiveness of your link building campaign, as you would be able to view the link metrics of different webpages, allowing you to see the comprehensiveness of your link building campaign, and be able to see areas where you can improve your efforts.

If you have questions and inquiries about link building and SEO in general, leave a comment below and let’s talk.

Analyzing Link Building Results Using the Google Search Console Link Report was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

The Lead Gen Fulcrum: 22 case studies to help you optimize for maximum perceived value

A customer often perceives the value of an offer differently from the marketer. This can be illustrated with the Lead Gen Fulcrum where the customer’s perceived value of your offer is on one side of the fulcrum and the customer’s perceived cost of that offer on the other end.

In this replay of a YouTube interactive session, Flint helps us understand how to think like a customer so that we can tip the balance in favor of value over cost.

He looks at several webpage examples and case studies that illustrate how the MECLABS team weighted the value side of the fulcrum while lightening the cost side in the mind of the customer.

Viewers will also receive the link where you can download the file he pulls his examples from. This research-backed Lead Gen swipe file contains 22 case studies showing where and how improvements to webpages and emails were made. This is a great resource to have on hand for improving your own webpages.

The Lead Gen Fulcrum: 22 case studies to help you optimize for maximum perceived value was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

How to use your Competitor’s Dead Pages Against Them

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Cover Photo - How to use your Competitor’s Dead Pages Against Them

SEO has become an increasingly competitive industry where you can be on top in one day, and quickly fall in the next if you’re not careful. Having the right strategy and winning formula counts if you want to overcome your competitors. Analyzing the competition has become a standard approach when it comes to formulating the right strategy that will help you go on top of the search rankings.

This can be even more evident when it comes to content, as every brand aiming to improve their rankings and online presence are aiming to craft quality content that would satisfy the standards of Google while being a helpful piece of content for the users. With a plethora of topics to choose from, finding topics to create your content can be a challenging task. This is why one of the best places to look for ideas is from the competition itself, in the form of dead pages. Here’s how you can use these dead pages to your advantage in generating traffic that would help create link building opportunities on your end.

What are the objectives?

This strategy aims to accomplish two things: Create quality content that generates organic traffic and use this content to replace the dead links present in the target article.  We will be using the skyscraper method to create quality content and reach out to article authors and webmasters for building links. This is not only a form of content marketing but is, more importantly, an effective link building technique that would

How do you look for dead pages and links?

The first step in making this strategy work is to look for dead links and pages on the websites of your competitors. There are different ways to approach this, and one of the tools that we’ll be using for this strategy is the Ahrefs Site Explorer, which allows us to be able to check for 404 pages in a website, along with being able to look for their referring domains. Another tool that we’ll use is Dead Link Checker, which allows us to be able to look for the links in those referring domains and verify that they’re not working.

Best by Links Navigation

To start, enter the URL of the competitor website in Site Explorer to bring up the Overview. The next step is to click on Best by links, which is under the Pages category. Using this, you will be able to see pages with the most referring domains and clicks.

HTTP Code

404

404 Not Found

The next step is to change the HTTP Code in one of the filters and change it to 404 not found, which will help you narrow down the selection to 404 pages. Look for a page that has a topic that contains content that can be relevant for your website.

Dead Link Checker

The next step is to track the referring domains of the dead page and see the websites that it has been linked to. Select one of the sites that you choose to target and use Dead Link Checker to check if the link is really not working.

After checking the dead page, the next step is to use the Skyscraper Technique and create content that is more engaging and well-designed than that of your competitor. You can make your content more comprehensive, and even contain infographics and videos that provide even more information that readers would find useful.

SEO Strategies for Lawyers and Law Firms

For this example, we saw that our competitor’s dead page was about digital marketing and SEO for lawyers, which is a topic that has gained a significant amount of interest, which makes it a good topic to generate traffic on. Handily, we have created a page that is about SEO Strategies for Lawyers and Law Firms, which is a comprehensive guide that shows the benefits of SEO for lawyers and law firms, along with the kinds of services that they can avail for.

Creating an outreach campaign

The next step is to endorse your content to the authors and webmasters of pages with dead links. For your email pitch, point out the dead page that you have discovered upon reading the article, and mention that you have content that would be able to swap out that dead link with a fresh one. Here’s a sample template that might help you  promote your article:

Greetings,

I read your article about (article topic) and found it really helpful. While I was reading, I have discovered a link to (article title) that is no longer working. Fortunately, I have written (your article title) that is not only similar to that link but is also high-quality, which is something that your readers would surely find useful. If you’re interested, you can replace the link of my article in place of the dead link, which will surely help our website, while providing your readers with even more informative content.

Best Regards,

 SEO Hacker

Depending on how many you reach out to, your content would not only be able to generate organic traffic, but also be a great source of referring domains. You can use Dead Link Checker again to take a look at pages with more dead links. You can treat the referring domains as a contact list of authors and webmasters that you have to reach out to. To narrow down the high-quality sources, it is best to apply more filters and focus on dofollow links. Once you have gathered their email addresses, you are now ready to deliver your pitch to all interested parties.

Once this is done, you have accomplished the process of using your competitor’s dead pages against them and continue to generate more traffic and better rankings for your website.

Key Takeaway

Having a dead link in any form of content means that an opportunity to generate traffic has been lost. When your competitors are the ones responsible for these dead links, it is best to capitalize on these opportunities and use this against them to gain a massive advantage.

If you have questions and inquiries about competitor analysis and SEO in general, leave a comment below and let’s talk.

How to use your Competitor’s Dead Pages Against Them was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

Using Keyword Stemming to Enhance your Organic Traffic

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Using Keyword Stemming to Enhance your Organic Traffic

Keyword research is a fundamental SEO practice that enables us to find the best set of keywords that will allow our websites to grow their organic search traffic. Along with the service of the brand, keywords are also the basis for how content will be formulated, along with how link building and social media campaigns would be managed.

When tracking and choosing keywords for Google, context is important, as any variation to the keyword is treated as a different keyword. For example, making a keyword plural means that you have generated another keyword for Google to track. While this usually can cause an adverse effect in your keyword rankings, making use of these variations provides more opportunities for users to be able to discover your content when done right. This strategy is known as keyword stemming, which is a practice that has been around for quite some time. With that in mind, here is a guide on keyword stemming, and how to utilize it for your content, along with a successful example.

What is Keyword Stemming?

Keyword Stemming is the practice or strategy of modifying different keywords through the use of variations. These variations come in the form of prefixes or suffixes that can be added to the root keyword. Pluralization is also another variation that can be used, as this is treated as a different keyword.

Google’s ability to understand user intent and context is a technology that has been continuously improved over the past few years. This ability enables the search engine to identify keywords and its variations and understand that they’re being used in a similar context in your content when being searched.

When should you use Keyword Stemming?

When used properly, Keyword Stemming allows your content to be more searchable when using variations of the original keyword. Despite its potential to be able to generate more traffic, there are some cases where using Keyword Stemming can hurt your traffic when the keyword variant does not completely fit with the content.

In fact, there can be times Keyword Stemming would not be advisable for certain keywords at all. It is best to make sure that it is a viable strategy on your end, and it can be done after taking certain factors into consideration. Here are some factors to consider when applying Keyword Stemming to your content:

Does it still fit the context?

One of the most important aspects of Keyword Stemming is making sure that the variant keyword still fits the context of the original keyword. Changing the context defeats the whole purpose of Keyword Stemming and will only cause your content to be inconsistent in tone and can confuse people who are viewing it. For example, “football” and “footballer” are two different things, one refers to the sport, and one refers to the athletes participating in the sport, which means that using both terms can greatly affect the context of the content that you are going to create.

Is the variation still related to the original keyword?

While the previous example of keywords is still somewhat related, there are times that adding a prefix or suffix to the keyword almost completely changes the meaning of the word itself. The main goal is to use a variation to gain more organic traffic and open up more opportunities to be searched, while still being able to retain the meaning of the root word.

Does Keyword Stemming work?

Thanks to Google’s continued improvements, it is able to understand user context much better than before. This allows the search engine to identify user intent and lead them to the right search results.

Best URL Shortening Tools

We tried out Keyword Stemming in one of our articles a while back, and got favorable results, with the article regularly becoming one of the most viewed articles monthly. The article is about the best URL shortening tools, and before even writing the article, one question that came into my mind was “Should I use “best URL shortening tools” or use “best URL shortener tools?”. In the end, I chose “best URL shortening tools”, as it had more traffic. However, “best URL shortener tools” is also a keyword that was a significant amount of traffic and tapping into that would help boost the overall traffic of the article even more.

To make sure that my article would be searchable for both keywords, I made sure to properly place them in the article. Luckily, both keywords have similar meanings, so the context of seeing them in the same article wouldn’t be out of place.

Best URL Shortening Tools Ahrefs

One of the things that you must know when doing keyword stemming on your content is that you have to be patient with the results, as this can take a while to see. One of the best tools to see which organic keywords are being used to search for your content is Ahrefs. All you have to do is to enter the URL of your content, and you can already see the number of organic keywords used to access the webpage.

URL Shortener Keyword Data

URL Shortening Keyword Data

One of the most interesting findings was that the top keyword used to search for the article was best URL shortener tool instead of best URL shortening tool, which is the keyword present in the title of the article itself. Along with these two keywords, numerous variations of URL shortener and URL shortening are also present, with most of those keywords having a significant search volume.

URL Shortening Tools GA

These multiple keyword variants have helped boost the traffic of the article, gaining thousands of views during 2018, making it one of our most viewed articles for the whole year.

Key Takeaway

Keyword Stemming may be a strategy that has been around for a while, but with Google’s improved technology, it is now a strategy that is more effective than before. Utilizing Keyword Stemming is a process that requires an optimized strategy to work, and with our example, it is something that can give your organic traffic a good amount of boost.

If you have questions and inquiries about Keyword Research and SEO in general, leave a comment below and let’s talk.

Using Keyword Stemming to Enhance your Organic Traffic was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

Reading Between the Lines – Three Deeper Takeaways from John Mueller at BrightonSEO

Last Friday I had the pleasure of watching John Mueller of Google being interviewed on the BrightonSEO main stage by (Distilled alumna!) Hannah Smith. I found it hugely interesting how different it was from the previous similarly formatted sessions with John I’ve seen – by Aleyda at BrightonSEO previously, and more recently by my colleague Will Critchlow at SearchLove. In this post, I want to get into some of the interesting implications in what John did and, crucially, did not say.

I’m not going to attempt here to cover everything John said exhaustively – if that’s what you’re looking for, I recommend this post by Deepcrawl’s Sam Marsden, or this transcript via Glen Allsopp (from which I’ve extracted below). This will also not be a tactical post – I was listening to this Q&A from the perspective of wanting to learn more about Google, not necessarily what to change in my SEO campaigns on Monday morning.

Looking too closely?

I’m aware of the dangers of reading too much into the minutia of what John Mueller, Garry Ilyes, and crew come out with – especially when he’s talking live and unscripted on stage. Ultimately, as John said himself, it’s his job to establish a flow of information between webmasters and search engineers at Google. There are famously few people, or arguably no people at all, who know the ins and outs of the search algorithm itself, and it is not Jon’s job to get into it in this depth.

That said, he has been trained, and briefed, and socialised, to say certain things, to not say certain things, to focus on certain areas, and so on. This is where our takeaways can get a little more interesting than the typical, clichéd “Google says X” or “we think Google is lying about Y”. I’d recommend this presentation and deck from Will if you want to read more about that approach, and some past examples.

So, into the meat of it.

1. “We definitely use links to recognize new content”

Hannah: Like I said, this is top tier sites…  Links are still a ranking factor though, right? You still use links as a ranking factor?

John: We still use links. I mean it’s not the only ranking factor, so like just focusing on links, I don’t think that makes sense at all… But we definitely use links to recognize new content.

Hannah: SO if you then got effectively a hole, a very authoritative hole in your link graph… How is that going to affect how links are used as a ranking factor or will it?

John: I dunno, we’ll see. I mean it’s one of those things also where I see a lot of times the sites that big news sites write about are sites that already have links anyway. So it’s rare that we wouldn’t be able to find any of that new content. So I don’t think everything will fall apart. If that happens or when that happens, but it does make it a little bit harder for us. So it’s kind of tricky, but we also have lots of other signals that we look at. So trying to figure out how relevant a page is, is not just based on the links too.

The context here is that Hannah was interested in how much of a challenge it is for Google when large numbers of major editorial sites start adding the “nofollow” attribute to all their external links – which has been a trend of late in the UK, and I suspect elsewhere. If authoritative links are still an important trust factor, does this not weaken that data?

The interesting thing for me here was very much in what John did not say. Hannah asks him fairly directly whether links are a ranking factor, and he evades three times, by discussing the use of links for crawling & discovering content, rather than for establishing a link graph and therefore a trust signal:

  • “We still use links”
  • “We definitely use links to recognize new content”
  • “It’s rare we wouldn’t be able to find any of that new content”

There’s also a fourth example, earlier in the discussion – before the screenshot –  where he does the same:

“…being able to find useful content on the web, links kind of play a role in that.”

This is particularly odd as in general, Google is pretty comfortable still discussing links as a ranking factor. Evidently, though, something about this context caused this slightly evasive response. The “it’s not the only ranking factor” response feels like a bit of an evasion too, given that Google essentially refuses to discuss other ranking factors that might establish trust/authority, as opposed to just relevance and baseline quality – see my points below on user signals!

Personally, I also thought this comment was very interesting and somewhat vindicating of my critique of a lot of ranking factor studies:

“…a lot of the times the sites that big news sites write about are sites that already have links anyway”

Yeah, of course – links are correlated with just about any other metric you can imagine, whether it be branded search volume, social shares, click-through rate, whatever.

2. Limited spots on page 1 for transactional sites

Hannah: But thinking about like a more transactional query, for example. Let’s just say that you want to buy some contact lenses, how do you know if the results you’ve ranked first is the right one? If you’ve done a good job of ranking those results?

John: A lot of times we don’t know, because for a lot of these queries there is no objective, right or wrong. They’re essential multiple answers that we could say this could make sense to show as the first result. And I think in particular for cases like that, it’s useful for us to have those 10 blue links or even 10 results in the search page, where it’s really something like we don’t completely know what you’re looking for. Are you looking for information on these contact lenses? Do you want to buy them? Do you want to compare them? Do you want to buy a specific brand maybe from this-

This is one of those things where I think I could have figured this out from the information I already had, but it clicked into place for me listening to this explanation from John. If John is saying there’s a need to show multiple intents on the first page for even a fairly commercial query, there is an implication that only so many transactional pages can appear.

Given that, in many verticals, there are far more than 10 viable transactional sites, this means that if you drop from being the 3rd best to the 4th best among those, you could drop from, for example, position 5 to position 11. This is particularly important to keep in mind when we’re analysing search results statistically – whether it be in ranking factor studies or forecasting the results of our SEO campaigns, the relationship between the levers we pull and the outputs can be highly non-linear. A small change might move you 6 ranking positions, past sites which have a different intent and totally different metrics when it comes to links, on-page optimisation, or whatever else.

3. User signals as a ranking factor

Hannah: Surely at that point, John, you would start using signals from users, right? You would start looking at which results are clicked through most frequently, would you start looking at stuff like that at that point?

John: I don’t think we would use that for direct ranking like that. We use signals like that to analyze the algorithms in general, because across a million different search queries we can figure out like which one tends to be more correct or not, depending on where people click. But for one specific query for like a handful of pages, it can go in so many different directions. It’s really-

So, the suggestion here is that user signals – presumably CTR (click-through rates), dwell time, etc. – are used to appraise the algorithm, but not as part of the algorithm. This has been the line from Google for a while, but I found this response far more explicit and clear than John M’s skirting round the subject in the past.

It’s difficult to square this with some past experiments from the likes of Rand Fishkin manipulating rankings with hundreds of people in a conference hall clicking results for specific queries, or real world results I’ve discussed here. In the latter case, we could maybe say that this is similar to Panda – Google has machine learned what on-site attributes go with users finding a site trustworthy, rather than measuring trust & quality directly. That doesn’t explain Rand’s results, though.

Here are a few explanations I think are possible:

  1. Google just does not want to admit to this, because it’d look spammable (whether or not it actually is)
  2. In fact, they use something like “site recent popularity” as part of the algorithm, so, on a technicality, don’t need to call it CTR or user signals
  3. The algorithm is constantly appraising itself, and adjusts in response to a lot of clicks on a result that isn’t p1 – but the ranking factor that gets adjusted is some arbitrary attribute of that site, not the user signal itself

Just to explain what I mean by the third one a little further – imagine if there are three sites ranking for a query, which are sites A, B, & C. At the start, they rank in that order – A, B, C. It just so happens, by coincidence, that site C has the highest word count.

Lots of people suddenly search the query and click on result C. The algorithm is appraising itself based on user signals, for example, cases where people prefer the 3rd place result, so needs to adjust to make this site rank higher. Like any unsupervised machine learning, it finds a way, any way, to fit the desired outcome to the inputs for this query, which in this case is weighting word count more highly as a ranking factor. As such, result C ranks first, and we all claim CTR is the ranking factor. Google can correctly say CTR is not a ranking factor, but in practice, it might as well be.

For me, the third option is the most contrived, but also fits in most easily with my real world experience, but I think either of the other explanations, or even all 3, could be true.

Discussion

I hope you’ve enjoyed my rampant speculation. It’s only fair that you get to join in too: tweet me at @THCapper, or get involved in the comments below.

Reading Between the Lines – Three Deeper Takeaways from John Mueller at BrightonSEO was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

Optimizing Content for Featured Snippets

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Optimizing Blog Posts for Featured Snippets

SEO is not just a race to the number one spot anymore. Nowadays, you have to be quick on your feet to try strategies like Featured Snippet Optimization. Featured Snippets (also known as Rank Zero) are taking over. According to a study by Ahrefs in 2017, keywords with Featured Snippets are taking 8.6% of all clicks while 19.6% percent goes to the organic search result that is ranking at number 1. This can help you drive a load of traffic to your site without churning out new content or backlinks.

Let’s face it, it’s getting harder to rank these days especially for those who don’t know what they would like to achieve with their SEO. That is why after the basic nitty-gritty of optimizing your site to rank on Google’s SERP, looking at Featured Snippets as a means to gain an edge and competitive advantage for traffic is something that you definitely have to consider.

 

What are Featured Snippets?

Featured Snippets are types of Google search results that show a summary of a webpage directly answering a query. It appears at the top of the search results page. To help you get started on what types of content rank for a featured snippet, we came up with this guide. Check it out:

 

What are the Types of Featured Snippets?

  • Paragraph Snippets
  • Numbered list snippets
  • Bulleted list snippets
  • Table Snippets
  • YouTube Featured Snippets

 

Let’s talk statistics. In 2017, a study shows that 30% of search results in Google have Featured Snippets. According to Stone Temple, about 97% of those featured snippets answer user query correctly and accurately. If you rank #1 for a keyword and you earn a spot in a featured snippet, there is a great chance that you get 28% of click-through rate compared to the 26% of pages who do not have a featured snippet based on a study by Ahrefs.

This affirms the role of featured snippets in targeting high search rankings because it does a great job in addressing user intent. Featured snippets are more than just displayed information in the SERP, as it also properly identifies user queries related to your business.

Targeting featured snippets doesn’t mean you have to be the top search result. According to a study by Ahrefs, Only 30.9% of featured snippets in 2017 rank at number 1.

where featured snippets tend to rank

Featured snippets are also important for Voice Search Optimization. Moz confirms that voice search borrows answers from more than 85% of Paragraph snippets come up as results in voice answers. This is information that would be even more useful in the near future since Google predicts that more than half of the search queries will result in voice search by the year 2020.

There is no doubt that ranking for keywords with featured snippets should be part of any SEO strategy. While some SEOs frown upon snippets for stealing clicks because it already answers some of the user queries, it should never be missed out. Take it from us, because we were able to rank our content for keywords with snippets and here’s how we did it.

 

Research Keywords with Featured Snippets

Whether you are writing new content or optimizing old content, you can use Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer or Organic Keywords report to look for keywords that have featured snippets.

For our example, we optimized a previously written article. Using Ahrefs, we checked the keywords it is currently ranking for. Under Organic Keywords, click SERP Features and select Featured Snippets.

Ahrefs Keyword Explorer

Ahrefs Keyword Explorer 2

Now that it lists the keywords with featured snippets, select a keyword that you want to optimize for. For this one, we chose “unique debut theme ideas” since it has low difficulty with reasonable volume and the article we wrote is already ranking for it.

Unique Debut Theme Ideas

Scout Results

It is important that you look at what the search results look like. It will give you an idea of how you should optimize your content. You need to have this question in mind: What type of content does Google rank for that keyword? You don’t have to exactly replicate the top result but at least you have an idea on the quality of the content that Google ranks for that keyword. Also, avoid being penalized by duplicating content from these related articles.

Before we optimize the article, we took a peek at the current featured snippet ranking for the keyword we are targeting.

Unique Debut Theme Ideas SERP

Increase Word Count and Overall Quality

At that time, our competitor was showing 15 Debut Theme Ideas, our article had 7 debut theme ideas and the article was about 700 words and we increased the word count of our article to 1,300 words. There is no recommended word count for this but we wanted to make sure that our content is of reasonable depth and its quality is high enough to garner a reader’s attention. Additionally, we also inserted new images for each subheading.

 

Snippet Bait

A snippet bait is placed at the beginning of an article. It makes it easier for Google to pull up a summary from your article to show to users.

For Numbered and Bulleted Lists Snippets, Snippet Baits would look like this:

Knowledge Graph

Featured snippets usually answer questions. Using an H2 subheading, we placed a question with the keyword we are trying to optimize for. We also listed the 15 other subheadings which are like a summary of the article. This is not a requirement per se for results with featured snippets but it is a “bait” to make it easier for Google to pull up the result from our blog post.

 

Proper Subheadings

Having proper subheadings is essential for featured snippets and it is connected to snippet baits. Although it is not a requirement, it helps Google easily pick up the important points in your article for featured snippets.

 

For Paragraph Snippets

Paragraph snippets usually answer queries that involve defining a term or answering questions. To optimize content for paragraph snippets, use H2 headers.

Paragraph Snippet

For Numbered and Bulleted Lists Snippets

Google pulls up all the H2 subheadings for this type of snippet. Make sure that each subheading is in H2. Numbering them or adding bullets is also recommended.

 Numbered List Snippet

For Table Snippets

According to the Search Engine Journal, table snippets are one of the most popular types because it makes up 29% of all the snippets. Table snippets are easily seen as helpful since it displays a sortable list that can help you compare between brands. Queries that are data-centric is also organized accordingly for this type.

Table Snippet

Links!

Gathering links for your optimized article is also important. Links, as we all know, is one of the top ranking factors. Google only shows featured snippets if it trusts the source and links is one way of showing Google that you can be trusted.

 

Result: Drastic Increase in Traffic

Drastic Increase in Traffic

Our optimization efforts for this article started around January. Once it got the top position, its traffic doubled than its previous one. All of this is thanks to Featured Snippet Optimization. Directly answering user query is the main point of doing this and this is what you should aim for in doing SEO. In a kingdom where content is King, you should also remember that he values what his subjects have to say; the same way that user intent validates content.

 

Key Takeaway

Featured Snippet Optimization is one of the key aspects you have to look into if you want to drive more traffic to your site. As it targets voice search, user intent, and high-quality content, you would notice that it will also drive value from the visitors of your site. These direct answer results will benefit you in the long run so this is the time to stop neglecting it.

Optimizing Content for Featured Snippets was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

Small Business Digital Marketing: 2019 Research Study & Statistics

Research

Digital marketing is important to small businesses across all industries. A marketing strategy can include a variety of tasks, including improving SEO (search engine optimization), boosting website traffic, maintaining social media pages, and tracking returns on investments. The question that often arises is, how much do small business owners really know about online marketing and the best ways to utilize these efforts?

We surveyed 1,000 small business owners with at least one employee and a website for the business. The goal of this survey was to learn how small business owners handle online marketing efforts.

What we discovered is that many small businesses don’t have a complete understanding of the various factors that impact success in marketing.

Identifying Business Goals

Before a business owner can design and implement a successful digital marketing strategy, they must first identify their business goals. For 38.1 percent of those surveyed, their website simply exists to provide information or generate brand awareness. If a business sells a product or service through its website, the primary purpose of the site may be e-commerce or sales. Of those involved in the survey, 23.3 percent reported e-commerce as the goal of the site.

For 14.9 percent of the respondents, the website’s purpose was to direct customers to visit a brick-and-mortar location or provide directions. Finally, 3.7 percent, or 37 respondents, did not know what the primary goal of their website was, which is particularly concerning from a marketing standpoint. Without a clear goal, the site likely won’t have the direction and focus needed to appeal to visitors, and the marketing efforts won’t be tied together in any identifiable way.

When working on a marketing strategy, those involved must identify what they want to accomplish before they can determine the best avenues to accomplish those goals. From there, business owners can review the most common digital marketing options, including website design, SEO, PPC, and social media. Spending money on a campaign that directs back to a website that doesn’t offer any related information or hasn’t been updated in years likely won’t generate the same results as a marketing campaign that feels connected at every touch point.

SEO and Marketing

Despite the benefits of ranking well in search engines, many small businesses are missing the mark when it comes to implementing strategies that will boost their SEO. As a result, those businesses may not be driving the traffic they want to their website, which is often directly linked to lead generation and other marketing activities. Since 20 percent of the respondents reported that the primary goal of their website was to generate phone calls and leads, the disconnect is especially concerning.

Nearly 7 percent of respondents said they don’t have a budget for digital marketing activities, which include SEO services, social ads, paid searches, and banner ads. Among those business owners who do have a budget for these activities, 44.3 percent reported having just $1-$499 per month to devote to online marketing. Nearly 23 percent of respondents have a budget of $500-$999 per month, while 12.2 percent have a budget of $1,000-$2,499 per month.

Although a majority of small business owners do see the value in an online presence, many aren’t connecting that importance to tasks that could boost traffic to their websites. Digital marketing activities are a must to generate more traffic and increase awareness. The lack of investment in digital marketing could be a result of web traffic levels that feel satisfactory to the business owner.

Many small business marketers don’t understand the value of investing in their web presence and SEO, while others have unrealistic expectations for how SEO works. 27 percent of small business owners surveyed expect to spend $0-$99 per month on an SEO campaign to see significant results. 30 percent expect to spend $100-$199 per month, while 18.5 percent expect to spend $200-$499 per month.

Additionally, many of these respondents did not understand that SEO is a longer-term marketing strategy.

  • 31 percent would expect to see significant SEO results within a month or less of hiring an SEO company.
  • Nearly 900 of the 1,000 total respondents would expect to see significant SEO results within one to six months.

Paid Search and PPC

Paid searches and pay-per-click (PPC) search engine advertising are also important aspects of online marketing efforts, especially for businesses trying to generate more awareness about their brand. The pay-per-click model is one of the most widely utilized options since it allows businesses to pay only when the ad is clicked, rather than paying per thousand impressions (cost per mille) or when their ad is displayed.

Although paid search and implementing PPC into the marketing strategy are useful for small businesses, many of the owners surveyed reported not understanding the value or not using these methods.

  • 6.5 percent said it was not important at all for their business to rank well within the Google My Business Map listings.
  • 8.7 percent said advertising the business via paid search was somewhat unimportant and 4.1 percent said paid search advertising was not important at all. Additionally, 20.8 percent said their business didn’t advertise using paid search.

Among the small business owners who do invest in paid search campaigns, 32 percent reported that they would expect to pay $0-$99 to see significant results, while 29.3 percent believe they would have to spend $100-$199 per month. Lastly, 24.6 percent of respondents said they have an internal employee who manages paid search campaigns.

Online Presence and Website Design

Of those surveyed, 4.4 percent of respondents stated that their online presence was somewhat unimportant or not important at all to the success of the business, while 7.6 percent reported feeling that the online presence was neutral to its success. In that category, the regional location made a difference, as nearly 70 percent of those surveyed in the Northeast believed that an online presence was extremely important to the success of the business.

While many small businesses with a website see the value in regularly updating their website’s framework and content, there are still some who don’t.

Nearly 28 percent have not updated their website’s framework or design in more than a year, and 19 percent haven’t updated in three or more years. It is also interesting to note that 42.9 percent of small business owners used some type of online website building template or software to design their own site, while 15.7 percent used HTML/CSS to personally design the site. Only 32.4 percent hired a professional web designer or external company for this purpose. These statistics show that small business owners seem to be fairly savvy at building websites and can handle this task on their own.

Among those who aren’t as savvy in web design, 31.6 percent would expect to pay $499 or less for a professionally designed website. On the opposite end of the spectrum, 1.7 percent, or 17 of the respondents, believed they would have to spend $50,000 or more. The higher percentage of small business owners who expect to pay less is likely attributed to the availability and prevalence of online website template builders and software. As a result, the value of a website designed by a professional specifically for the business appears to be lower.

While many aren’t updating their online presence, those who are were happier with their appearance in search rankings than those who weren’t.

Finally, 40.9 percent of respondents were happy with their site rankings, while 9.3 percent were somewhat dissatisfied or extremely dissatisfied.

Social Media and Marketing

While a majority of small business owners understand the importance of social media presences, 5.5 percent of respondents reported that their businesses do not use social media. Among those who use social media for their businesses, 41.4 percent would expect to see significant results on a social media ad campaign when paying $0-$99 per month. 268 of the respondents believe they would have to spend $100-$199 per month to see results, while 13.3 percent expect to pay $200-$499 monthly on a social media ad campaign. On the high end, 16 respondents believe they would have to spend $3,000 or more per month to see significant results on a social media ad campaign.

A social media presence is a part of a healthy SEO strategy, yet many businesses are failing to implement this piece of the puzzle. Although 82.7 percent of business owners surveyed reported that they see social media as very important or somewhat important for their business, 57.4 percent are managing these social media pages themselves. While this strategy may work in some organizations, others need marketing experts to handle the posts, analysis, and tracking to make sure what they are sharing is resonating with the audience and generating engagement.

CONCLUSION

As it stands, there is still some confusion and missed opportunities in the way that small businesses approach their online presences, SEO, and marketing.

While small business marketers seem to understand that SEO is something they need to use, many still fail to implement the correct strategies that will help improve their search rankings. They may choose not to worry about social media, paid search campaigns, and other ways to boost awareness about their business, but this can make it nearly impossible to see results.

Many small business marketers:

  • Don’t fully understand how SEO works.
  • Don’t realize why SEO is important.
  • Fail to connect the dots between marketing efforts and ROI.
  • Don’t understand the value and importance of having a regularly updated and fresh website.
  • Aren’t investing enough in their digital marketing strategy.

The good news is small businesses who make digital marketing efforts a priority have an opportunity to get ahead of the curve and stand out from their competitors who are failing to see the potential.

Changing the marketing strategy and the tasks associated with boosting web traffic may allow small businesses to capitalize on search, move ahead of the competition, and connect with customers where others are failing to make an impression.

METHODOLOGY

We surveyed 1,000 small business owners who are involved in marketing efforts.

FAIR USE STATEMENT

Know someone who could benefit from knowing a little more about SEO? Feel free to share the contents of this project for non-commercial purposes, as long as you link back to the authors of this page.

Small Business Digital Marketing: 2019 Research Study & Statistics was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing