Month: September 2019

Removing SEO Text: SEO Split Testing Lessons from DistilledODN

Across most verticals, websites commonly will have text below the fold that predominantly exists to target search engines, not users. We’ve all seen it and we all know hardly anybody reads it other than Googlebot. 

Unsurprisingly, John Mueller has previously advised against including this kind of text. The comment, shared in a webmaster hangout, was in reference to e-commerce websites, but it applies more broadly:

Many e-commerce websites optimize their categories by adding a big chunk of text under the product listings. Nothing except an h1 heading above the fold. I don’t consider this good usability since users need to scroll all the way down to read this. Does Google treat this content the same as any other or would you for improving rankings recommend putting the category text above the fold?

From our point of view, that’s essentially keyword stuffing. So that’s something…which I would try to avoid.

I’d try to stick to really informative content and put that in place where you think that users will be able to see it. Especially if it is content that you want to provide for users. And more than that I would think about what you can do to make those pages rank well without having to put a giant paragraph of content below the page.

John Mueller, Google

It’s common for Google’s best practices to come into conflict with what actually works in the real world, so we wanted to put this to the test.

We took a client in the travel sector, whose key transactional pages had copy that appeared to be of relatively little value to users and tested removing that copy. Our client had hired freelancers to write this copy, so they also wanted to know if hiring freelancers was a worthwhile investment to inform future business decisions. 

What were the results?

Don’t go and start removing all your strictly SEO targeted text without a plan to enrich those pages, because removing this text resulted in a 3.8% drop in organic sessions for our client, and an estimated loss of 9,800 organic sessions a month! 

Here’s what the resulting graph looked like:

What do we take away from this result? Is John Mueller lying to us? Not exactly. This test does confirm that the text our client had below the fold on these pages was contributing to search performance. A couple of things we want to bear in mind though:

  • This content was written by freelancers, so it may meet John Mueller’s recommendation to stick to content that is informative. The part we can call out though is that this text is not located in a place where users are able to see it without scrolling
  • Related to that point, we still haven’t determined if our client’s specific text was adding value to the page, or if any relevant SEO content will benefit rankings. This same client also has similar text on other pages that have been auto-generated, we’re hoping to test removing that next

So, should you consider keeping relevant content on your key pages even if it’s below the fold? As with a lot of tests that we’ve been running, there are no hard and fast rules.

Our advice would be to test it and monitor the impact on your own landing pages. At SearchLove London and San Diego and a recent webinar, Dominic Woodman discussed how in many cases we were seeing varying results for different clients across different verticals (see his full SearchLove session here). As always in SEO there isn’t a silver bullet. 

Please feel free to get in touch if you want to learn more about this test or about our SEO split testing platform more generally either via email or come and say hi on Twitter.

Want to hear more about SEO split tests we’ve been running? Sure you do!

Removing SEO Text: SEO Split Testing Lessons from DistilledODN was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

Google Releases September 2019 Core Update

Cover Photo - Google Releases September 2019 Core Update

Google releases numerous algorithm updates every year, but with the trend they’re setting, only the big updates warrant an announcement from them. The most recent example is their announcement of the June 2019 Broad Core algorithm update. They’re now releasing a new core update which could result to either good or bad results for us SEOs. 

September 2019 Core Update

A few days ago, Google tweeted that they’ll be rolling out the September 2019 core update the same day. Here’s the tweet:

September Core Update Tweet Screenshot
This isn’t a new move since they announced the June Broad Core algorithm update through twitter as well. However, for the September 2019 core update, they linked back to their article detailing on what we should know about their core updates. I’ve already written about this – about how to recover from Google’s Broad Core Algorithm Updates

So, as expected, there aren’t any specific factors that this core update aims to target. Since the current trend involves improving the E-A-T and content of the pages, I don’t think this will change any time soon. Just yesterday, they confirmed through a tweet that the September core update is now live and will be rolling out:

Google SearchLiaison Tweet Screenshot
Based on the forecasting tools available to us, there are changes already happening in the SERPs:

Accuranker Google Grump ScreenshotAccuranker’s Google Grump Rating

SEMRush Sensor ScreenshotSEMRush Sensor

CognitiveSEO Signal ScreenshotCognitiveSEO’s Signals

Effects on our SEO

So far, most of our clients are not experiencing any major changes. Except for one, health-related website that we handle which was negatively hit by the June 2019 broad core update. It is currently showing signs of recovery, but it’s still too soon to tell since the September core update was just rolled out yesterday. But here’s what our traffic looks like now:

Analytics Data Recovery screenshot

It’s not THAT significant, but after months of having no signs of recovery, this is definitely a good thing.  

Key Takeaway

I’m excited to see the results of this update, but it also serves as a reminder that we, as webmasters and SEOs need to always be on our toes when it comes to Google’s sudden algorithm changes. If we can’t keep up with all the changes that are happening, we’ll be left behind. So, I suggest we read up, keep our focus on the changes in the industry, and adapt accordingly. What about you? Have you noticed any changes with regards to the core update? Let me know in the comments below!

Google Releases September 2019 Core Update was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

A Quick Review on Optimizing Breadcrumbs for SEO

If you are one of the webmasters who have received a slew of emails from Google Search Console telling you to fix the breadcrumbs markup of your site, then I am writing this for you. Recently, Google Search Console has launched a new feature for the Breadcrumbs report which has alerted webmasters left and right. The Search Console’s new report will come in handy, especially if you want to stay competitive in the SERPs.

Let me be clear about one thing: structured data markups are not a generic ranking factor. However, you should still optimize for it because it can keep you looking good in the search engine. With that said, let’s take a look at how the recently announced breadcrumbs report in GSC can help us optimize these features for SEO.

What are Breadcrumbs?

According to Google, a breadcrumb trail helps in determining the page’s position on your site’s hierarchy. It is simply defined as a single line of text which marks the path from the indicated page back to the homepage. Breadcrumbs are a great way for users to identify your site’s structure. This is also true as search engines crawl your site.

google webmaster breadcrumb

Don’t believe those people who say that breadcrumbs are not an important part of your site. You would be a terrible webmaster for thinking so, believe me. Not only do breadcrumbs help in structuring your website properly, but it can also help you appear in the Google search results better.

Breadcrumbs look like this:

sample breadcrumbs

If you look at it, the breadcrumbs trail is simply the path from the homepage, through the secondary page, and finally to the landing page. The breadcrumbs trail makes users feel like they can easily navigate your pages even when you have a large site. Breadcrumbs are especially useful for e-commerce sites because of the large number of product categories and product landing pages. This is why it is essential to optimize your breadcrumbs not just for SEO but in maintaining a great website structure.

Fixing Breadcrumb Issues

After Google rolled out this update for the Search Console, there have been many discussions around the possible fixes for the detected errors. The breadcrumb markup can be applied using JSON-LD, RDFa, Microdata, or as an HTML value in the page’s design.

When Google Search Console emailed reports on errors in the breadcrumb structured data on different sites, there were webmasters who were puzzled on how to deal with these reports. One of the common errors that people have received is the “Missing field ‘id’” error which is a reference to a property that Google requires in order to show your page in the search results.

The first step that you should do to get to the bottom of this issue is to determine whether your theme or plugin is generating breadcrumb markups automatically. The Yoast SEO plugin gives you the option to add breadcrumbs and if you are receiving errors because of it, then you should check if you have another plugin causing a conflict in breadcrumb markups.

If not, then you should check if you have generated a breadcrumb markup for the affected pages in your breadcrumbs report. If you are certain that your theme or plugin has sufficiently applied the markup then you should just run down the report and see if it is covered by the automatic generation of breadcrumbs.

Next, there is the option to add an absolute URL as the identifier. For example:

<a href=”https://seo-hacker.com”
id=”https://seo-hacker.com”
itemtype=”https:schema.org/WebPage itemprop=”item”>

The “id” element is not specified accordingly by the itemprop value which prompts the schema to adopt another link set without permission. So for this step, you should take it upon yourself to supply the link that serves as the absolute URL for it. This is also a way to update your unlinked breadcrumb templates that do not contain the schema.org markup.

It is also important to note that Microdata does not carry an identifier line. However, it can be found in the JSON-LD format which you can see below:

json ld markup

Lastly, a GSC error on your breadcrumb markup may mean that you haven’t taken the liberty to ensure that the proper breadcrumb markup is in place. I have seen that this can be prevalent in e-commerce sites with the breadcrumb error affecting the product pages. For this, Google has come up with a nifty guide to help you create your very own breadcrumb structured data markup for your site.

structured data type definitions

How Does Breadcrumb Markups Help SEO?

fix breadcrumbs markup

Markups help a lot in providing contextual relevance for a site. Google Search regards the breadcrumb markup as an important part of the web page to categorize the information from that page in the search results. Displaying breadcrumbs has been prominent in the search results but unfortunately, not a lot of webmasters have seen the urgency of doing so until the GSC update.

This is why it is important to check these important elements because having a valid markup can go a long way in your efforts to climb up the SERPs. Search engines rely on markups, so they can see the pages that are eligible to be seen in search results. It is good practice to provide information about your site as direct to the point as possible and the best way to do this is to optimize your breadcrumb markup.

A Quick Review on Optimizing Breadcrumbs for SEO was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

Everything You Need to Know About Nofollow, UGC, and Sponsored Links

Last September 10, Google announced that the link attribute “nofollow” is evolving and introduced two new link attributes: the rel=”sponsored” and rel=”ugc”. This announcement shook the SEO industry. 

This is the biggest update to nofollow since it was first introduced by Google in 2005. It was used to combat website comment spam and then was used to discredit paid links. It changed the landscape of link building and made dofollow links the holy grail of SEO.

The impact of this can’t be scaled yet but this would definitely have a tremendous impact on link building. Links have been one of the top ranking factors ever since search started. Other ranking factors have evolved throughout the years such us mobile-friendliness and content relevancy and it is just now that links have finally evolved. 

In this post, I will discuss everything there is to this announcement and give my thoughts on how this could possibly affect SEO.

Nofollow will now be used as a “Hint”

Ever since the nofollow attribute was introduced, nofollow links would not pass any authority and Google will not count these links as a factor for ranking websites. But as of this announcement by Google, nofollow links along with the two new link attributes will now be used as “hints”.

According to Google, they will use these link attributes to know which links to consider or exclude from search and to better understand and analyze the links in their system.

As of now, making these new link attributes as hints to be incorporated in the ranking system is already in effect and by March 1, 2020, Google will also use nofollow links for crawling and indexing purposes.

Rel=”sponsored”

Sponsored links or paid links have been against Google’s guidelines for a long time. Google requires that all sponsored links should have a nofollow attribute or you will have a risk of receiving a penalty.

Rel=”ugc”

UGC stands for User Generated Content and Google recommends using this link attribute to any link that is user-generated. This is most applicable to forum posts, blog comments, and guest posts.

Why Did Google Make This Change?

Google did not say exactly why they made this change but I personally think that this is a move to improve spam combat. As mentioned, the whole web used nofollow links to flag sponsored or user-generated links so it was hard to identify what category these links fall under and this update makes it easier for Google to identify them.

In Cyrus Shepard’s article on Moz, he mentioned that Google wants to take back the link graph. When the nofollow was introduced, a huge portion of the web applied nofollow to all the links in their entire website and made the link graph less useful for Google.

Now, Google realizes that nofollow links can provide them with valuable information for improving their algorithms.

Here’s the statement from the Google Webmaster Blog:

“Why not completely ignore such links, as had been the case with nofollow? Links contain valuable information that can help us improve search, such as how the words within links describe the content they point at. Looking at all links we   can also help us better understand unnatural linking patterns. By shifting to a hint model, we no longer lose this important information, while still allowing site owners to indicate that some links shouldn’t be give the weight of a first-party endorsement.”

What is the Impact of Nofollow, UGC, and Sponsored Links to SEO?

Google said that this should not have any significant impact on ranking and links will be treated just like how they were treated before. But of course, the SEO industry is always curious. Here’s Danny Sullivan’s tweet on this:

I think a lot of people misunderstood this announcement. Nofollow will only be used as a “hint” and not directly a ranking factor. Would websites with a lot of nofollow links receive a ranking boost? It might be unlikely. But moving forward, I think this will have a significant effect once Google starts using nofollow links for crawling and indexing.

As for sponsored and UGC links, I think they might have a bigger effect on rankings and penalties. A website who has many sponsored backlinks might have a higher chance of getting penalized. For UGC, Google allows user-generated links as long as it goes through the approval of the webmaster.

In fact, I already applied the UGC link attribute to the SEO-Hacker Tribe once I heard the news. Since all content in the tribe is from users, I made all outbound links from the tribe rel=”ugc”. There has been no significant changes yet.

Should you Change Now?

If you are using nofollow links for user-generated content or sponsored links on your website, Google says that you don’t have to change those and you can keep them as nofollow links. However, Google recommends that webmasters follow this new scheme moving forward.

Would One Work with the Other?

Yes. According to Google, you can use a link attribute along with another. So for example, you allow guest posts on your blog, you can add rel=”nofollow ugc” to links in a contributed article. 

WordPress Integration

In a Twitter thread, WordPress Marketing and Communications Lead Joost de Valk who is also the founder of Yoast said he will make sure that the new link attributes will be integrated to WordPress on their next release. He also has his opinions about this change by Google in his blog.

Wrapping Up

On Twitter, Danny Sullivan, John Mueller, and Gary Illyes were very active in answering questions from SEOs. If you want to see a summary of the discussion on Twitter, I recommend reading Barry Schwartz’s article on Search Engine Roundtable.

At Moz, Cyrus Shepard posted a good infographic to summarize all of the changes to nofollow, sponsored, and UGC.

Making nofollow a “hint” and adding two new link attributes is big news but there is no significant impact yet. In my opinion, since Google just started last September 10, it might take time until we see any effects. Because of this, there is no clear benefit yet on why SEOs should start updating their links. 

I would still recommend applying all of these changes. If this could help Google refine their search algorithm, I would be more than happy to help them out. What’s your take on this announcement? Have you started changing link attributes on your website? Let me know if you’ve noticed any positive or negative impact on the comment section.

 

Everything You Need to Know About Nofollow, UGC, and Sponsored Links was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

What Google’s Star Rating Rich Snippet Changes Mean for You

On Monday this week, Google announced that they would be changing their treatment of star rating rich snippets in search results. 

We already know that Google wasn’t happy with how star rating rich snippets (like those pictured above) were being used in the wild. “Structured data penalties” have become common in the past couple of years, mostly (in my experience) for the practice of placing organisation-level ratings markup across your entire site, which Google considered inaccurate or misleading (as the ratings weren’t for the specific content of the page they were on). Lots of examples of this exact behaviour continued to exist, however, with Google seemingly unable to enforce their own rules at scale (as is common for activities requiring manual review).

So what has changed?

It looks like Google is about to get far stricter on when they will and will not respect ratings structured data, the Schema.org property which has until now triggered these enhanced search results. 

In particular, the use of a rating widget (e.g. Trustpilot, Feefo, hardcoded) to show reviews of your organization or business on a site that is run by your organization or business will no longer be respected. You can see Google’s updated guidelines here.

This covers probably the majority of real world use cases I’ve seen, although that may just be my experience.

What is Google aiming for, and what are they enforcing?

It seems that Google wants to push these ratings to apply mainly to critical or genuine 3rd party reviews – for example, a newspaper’s review of a film. Weirdly the distinction that Google is making in what they’re aiming for is whether the reviews are “self-serving” – I’d argue that having a website at all is fairly self-serving in most cases, unless you’re a charity or are running the reviews section of your site as an act of altruism.

Unfortunately, my pedantry isn’t going to get anyone their ratings back, but it does seem that for now there’s a distinction between what Google is aiming for here and what they’re actually saying they’ll enforce.

In particular, reviews of your own products on your product or category pages are handled somewhat ambiguously here – although marking up products is allowed, this could be only in the case of expert, 3rd party reviews (e.g. by a car magazine, of a car), rather than “self-serving” reviews (e.g. on the car manufacturer’s website, of one of their models). 

This tweet from John Mueller at Google suggests reviews of products you sell are fine:

But in most cases these could be your own products, in which case this seems equally self-serving, but Google will probably be unable to tell the difference. At the very least, Google seems at the very least to be implying by omission that they won’t enforce this.

I’ll update this article with some real world examples once it becomes clear whether this gray area remains an opportunity for website owners – right now, results are largely as before.

Will I lose my star ratings?

Vendors

If the Schema.org “type” that star ratings on your site are attached to falls into the following list, then it’s very likely:

  • localBusiness (if you are that business)
  • Organization
  • Service

If the type that star ratings on your site are attached to falls into the official Google list, but you are the vendor of that thing rather than a critical reviewer, then it’s somewhat likely you’ll lose your ratings, but not clear right now.

Critical Reviewers

Google has narrowed supported types, and now requires the “name” field, so possibly, yes.

You can check whether you’re using a supported type using the Google Structured Data Testing Tool, which has been updated to reflect the new guidelines, but which does not currently identify whether a review is “self serving”:

Should I care?

Vendors

If all your competitors had markup that also falls foul of this, and you do too, then the commercial impact should be net zero.

On the other hand, if you were a business large enough to have to play by the rules, and your competitors were getting away with sitewide organization review markup, this is a net win for you – and you don’t even have to do anything!

And, lastly, if you spent a ton of money on a 3rd party review platform to enable these features but your competitors didn’t, you’ll be understandably annoyed.

Critical Reviewers

Yes, you should care – this is a good way to make your results stand out in search, now more than ever.

What can I do to get my star ratings back?

Vendors

If you were previously showing reviews of yourself or your own product or service, your best bet is to hope that Google doesn’t enforce reviews marked up as product reviews, as I mentioned above. However, there doesn’t appear to be any risk of penalty – the guidelines only suggest that in a worst case you wouldn’t be eligible for star ratings:

Critical reviewers

If, on the other hand, you are a genuine third party reviewer but were reviewing a type that is no longer supported (e.g. a service), then there is no ambiguity about whether you may or may not be “self-serving”, so you just need to confirm your markup conforms with supported types.

Is this a good thing?

Generally speaking, a lot of the behaviour around how sites were being encouraged to collect and display reviews did seem disingenuous towards the user. In that sense, this may genuinely improve search results, and clarity of what a star rating means.

The other side of the argument is that Google is defining what webmasters should implement more strictly than the actual Schema.org specifications do, and they’re doing it unilaterally and without warning. This puts an onus on webmasters to make a change which can be difficult in larger organisations, and which may also wipe out the business case for previous, large investments of resource.

It would have been better, in my opinion, to make this a “from March 2020” onwards announcement, similar to the recent nofollow/sponsored/ugc link markup change.

Let me know your view in the comments below, or on Twitter!

What Google’s Star Rating Rich Snippet Changes Mean for You was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

How Google’s Recent Review Rich Results Update Affects SEO

Cover Photo - How Google's recent Review Rich Results Update affects SEO

Testimonials and reviews are important for businesses. This is especially true in the online market since users can’t have physical interactions with the products or services they’re intending to buy or pay for. Which is why most of us rely on the reviews and testimonials of the people who had physical experience with the product and we let these reviews affect our decision to proceed with the purchase. This is where the review rich results play an integral part. But with the recent update that Google made, we, as SEOs and webmasters, need to adapt immediately.

Review Rich Results

The review rich results have been available in the search results for a considerable amount of time now, and most business and services websites use these to affect a user’s buying process. This is what the review rich results look like:

SEO Hacker Review Rich Results Screenshot

Review Rich Results components:

  • Star Rating – Signify the degree of satisfactions reviewers had while using or experiencing the product or service
  • Votes – The number of users that had experience with the product or service
  • Price Range – Symbolized by the dollar sign “$” that is meant to let users know the price range of the product or service

For the longest time, we’ve been creating review schema codes for all our clients since it’s much better for SEO and to further assist a user’s buying process. However, Google’s recent update to the Review Rich Results necessitates that we need to edit or tweak the markups that we’ve used and so should you.

Review Rich Results Update

Yesterday, Monday (September 16th), Google published a new post on their blog that details on the algorithmic changes they made to the reviews in rich results. The update aims to make review rich results more helpful and meaningful. They also want to address some invalid or misleading implementations that us, webmasters, have flagged to them such as this one:

Review Count Screenshot

I found this schema markup in the search results. See the 5000+ review count? I was extremely doubtful of the reviewCount so I investigated it and from their Business listing, Facebook page, and other review sources, the review count doesn’t even reach 100. I immediately reported it to Google, but so far, no action has been taken and this review rich result is still in the search results.

Applicable Schema Types

Historically speaking, you can attach the review markup in any schema type. But the update, Google aims to limit the schema types that can potentially trigger review rich results. This is because they don’t want random review rich results appearing in a keyword or topic that doesn’t add much value to the user’s journey. Here are the updated types that review markups are applicable:

I’m assuming that if you apply a review markup in any other schema type, then your review rich results has little to no chances of showing up since they limited it to the types mentioned above. 

Self-serving Reviews

Self-serving reviews, by its very name, are your reviews to your own products or service. This is misleading and it doesn’t add much value to the users, hence, Google will not count self-serving reviews anymore. Here’s how Google defines “self-serving reviews”:

“Reviews that can be perceived as “self-serving” aren’t in the best interest of users. We call reviews “self-serving” when a review about entity A is placed on the website of entity A – either directly in their markup or via an embedded 3rd party widget.”

Although, it is important to note that this change to self-serving reviews is limited to LocalBusiness and Organization schema types and their subtypes.

Name Property

Lastly, this update involves Google requiring webmasters, SEOs, and developers, to include the name property to their review markup.

“With this update, the name property is now required, so you’ll want to make sure that you specify the name of the item that’s being reviewed.”

They did not specify what would happen if you didn’t put in the name property, but I suggest we put it in any way since we don’t have anything to lose by adding it.

How the Review Rich Result Update Affects SEO

We all know that Review Rich Results are is not included in the top ranking factors. Your website can still rank well without having the review markup but this doesn’t mean that it’s not an important factor to increasing sales, assisting users, and serving information to the search engines (and users).

Review markup is only a small part of SEO and even CRO, but little changes like these goes a long way. Take the character limit for title tags. It was a small change, but it affected the bigger picture of SEO. Review markups are the same, these little changes that Google makes can, potentially, have a bigger effect in the future. I suggest we adjust accordingly and not suffer the consequences in the future. 

This update primarily affects publishers and webmasters, but we, as SEOs, still need to take note of this change. One of the core values that SEOs must have is experimentation and the ability to adapt to the constantly changing algorithm. So, if we can’t even adapt to this minor change, we’ll have difficulty adapting to the bigger changes.

How Google’s Recent Review Rich Results Update Affects SEO was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

Creating Buyer Personas for Effective Marketing

Content

Buyer personas can help your business create compelling content, drive more sales, and keep your customers happy and loyal.

The problem is, though, creating good buyer personas can be difficult.

Where do you start?

This post will break it all down.

We’ll dive right into what a buyer persona is, explain why they’re valuable and then give you a step by step, actionable strategy for creating buyer personas and using them to drive awareness and sales.

What is a Buyer Persona?

A buyer persona is a description of your ideal customer (or customers, if you have multiple target markets).

Unlike a generic target market breakdown (which might be “new moms” if you sell environmentally-friendly diapers, or “SMB marketing teams” if you sell social media management software), a buyer persona goes deep and specific.

A buyer persona breaks down a single person’s demographics, values, pain points, and goals. To help your teams better visualize the buyer persona, most include a face and name.

A Few Numbers:

  • The implementation of marketing personas made websites 2-5 times more effective on average, and easier to use by targeted users.
  • Personalized emails (even personalized only to the extent of a marketing persona) improve click-through rates by 14%, conversion rates by 10% and drive 18x more revenue than broadcast emails.

A Real-World Example:

Skytap, a self-service provider of cloud automation solutions, launched a tailored content marketing strategy.

Targeted buyer personas…

  • Lifted sales by 124%
  • Increased online leads by 95%
  • Drove a 55% increase in organic search traffic
  • Increased site traffic in North America by 210%

The 5 Primary Benefits of Buyer Personas

  1. Buyer personas provide insight for inbound marketing campaigns.

By better defining who your target is, your understanding of what those people are searching for on Google, what level of understanding you can assume, and how much nurturing each lead is likely to need, you more effective turn visitors into leads and sales.

For example, Neil Patel uses, “Do you want more traffic?” as the lead-gen headline on his website’s entry overlay.

This messaging resonates with his buyer persona, whose primary pain point is a lack of website traffic:

  1. Buyer personas provide insight for advertising campaigns. 

A complete buyer persona will inform your team about where your ideal customers are (on which platforms), and what messages will attract their eye and get them to click.

For example, Noom (below) uses the Facebook Ad headline “Lose weight for good,” recognizing this is the primary desire of their ideal customer:

  1. Buyer personas provide insight for website design and optimization. 

By identifying the knowledge level and primary pain points of your ideal customers, you can more effectively test your website’s USP, navigation, sales pages, etc.

We’ll continue the Noom example, by moving from their Facebook ad to their website.

They continue the “lose weight for good” value proposition, using it here to turn visitors into leads:

  1. Buyer personas provide insight into who you shouldn’t be targeting. 

Knowing who you shouldn’t be targeting improves the ROI of your sales and marketing campaigns.

Not every visitor or lead has the same value. Identifying who should be made priority and who can be left to automation is vital to a scalable sales strategy.

A great way to do this is to showcase (on your homepage) the businesses you’ve worked with before. If your buyer persona is a person who works for an enterprise-level or agency-level business, show businesses they’ll recognize.

Those same businesses will turn a mom-and-pop ecommerce business away. This is the right call if you want to scale your business without wasting time on leads who won’t be able to afford you.

Here’s an example from PitchBox, who showcase businesses who represent their buyer persona:

  1. Buyer personas provide insight for your support team to better prepare for conversations

By implementing buyer personas, your sales team will be better prepared for every chat conversation. They’ll know frequently-asked questions, the average level of understanding, even the tone which will resonate most effectively.

They’ll be able to create automated email flows which better resonate with onboarding customers, build a more effective knowledge base (by showing the most important and frequently-asked question first) and better address the primary pain points of existing users who want to leave.

Specific Ways Buyer Personas Can Be Used

If you created your buyer personas, appoint someone else within your company to take the role of that ideal customer.

The reason for this is that the creator of the buyer persona won’t be able to stay objective. If the appointee has any questions, be sure to answer them in full, but leave the “character building” up to them. This makes the process more natural.

Then have them interact with your business from that buyer’s point of view.

Here are a few of the main use-cases for a buyer persona:

  • Examine your website flow. Would that messaging resonate with them, or would it go over their head?
  • Review your most recent blog posts. Do these articles interest them?
  • Listen to your sales script. Are their pain points addressed in the first minute of the conversation? Or do they feel alienated by the conversation?
  • Get on chat with your customer support team. Are the knowledge base links they send them relevant to their needs?

There are many other buyer persona use-cases, but these first four give you a better idea of the role buyer personas can play in your business’ marketing, sales, and support processes.

Buyer Persona Examples


An example of a buyer persona for a real estate firm:

Here’s an example of a buyer persona for a B2B business:

And you can go as deep as you like. Narrowing down the buyer persona often helps to find actionable tactics.

For example, this is a more comprehensive buyer persona example for an enterprise-level software provider:

(Source)

How to Create a Buyer Persona

This section will give you an actionable strategy for creating a complete buyer persona.

1. Sit down with your customer support and sales teams to share experiences

Your support team will help you define who your existing customers are.

Combining this data with that of your sales team will give you a good idea of the demographic details, pain points, and primary objectives of your buyer persona.

Remember that answers to all these questions should inform your marketing/sales strategy. There’s no point in learning that your sales team thinks your prospective customers have brown eyes.

Here are the top five questions to ask your support team when creating a buyer persona:

  1. What questions are most commonly asked by our clients?
  1. What is the most common role held by the people you speak to?
    The follow-up questions here would be, “What is the common role held by the decision-makers?” “What about the recurring role of our success stories?”
  1. If someone has an issue with our tool, service, or product, is there a recurring characteristic of that person?
  1. What is the primary pain point people mention when on a call or chat with you?
  1. What is the composition of businesses/customers who succeed/are happy with our service? What is the composition of businesses/customers who cancel or have issues?

5 Questions to Ask your Sales Team:

Your sales team can help define who your prospective customers are, as well as the characteristics of people who tend to buy.

Here are the top five questions to ask your sales team when creating a buyer persona:

  1. Can you describe your last call? Was it representative of the average?
  1. What are their primary goals or objectives? What are they hoping to accomplish by using us or buying from us?
  1. What part of our business is the most appealing?
  1. Is there a recurring issue people complain about if they’re considering moving from a competitor?
  1. What price point scares prospective customers away? What price point do prospective customers jump at?

2. Talk with your customers through surveys, phone calls, and in-platform questionnaires.

Your customers are a priceless resource for defining your ideal buyer persona. After all, these are the people who have bought from you before, and (if they respond) are engaged with you now.

How to talk to your customers:

  • Send an email with a link to a form, survey or questionnaire
  • Call your most successful, longest-lasting customers
  • Add a surveying tool within your software

(Source)

If you want to, you can incentivize your customers to filling out your questionnaires by offering a gift card or other, in-platform incentive.

5 Questions to Ask your Customers:

  1. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your business?
    An effective way to do this might be to have a series of dropdowns with demographic options they can choose (their industry, their role, their age, their location, etc.)
  1. How do you measure success?
  1. Why did you choose [your tool/service] over competitors?
  1. What do you wish we offered beyond what we do?
  1. What would make you leave?

3. Look at your marketing funnel and segment your audience into personas.

Like every marketing strategy, your analytics tool is going to be hugely valuable in building a solid buyer persona.

If your existing tool doesn’t show you the answers to the questions below, consider switching analytics tools.

If that’s outside your budget, it’s okay to rely on common sense and conversations with your support, sales teams, and existing customers.

Any buyer persona is better than no buyer persona.

(Source)

6 Questions to Ask your Analytics Tool:

  1. How do most of our website visitors find us? Where are they coming from (demographic information as well as platform)?
  1. Which of our website pages are visited the most? What does this tell us about our prospective customer’s interests or pain points?
    Also look into what pages people visit multiple times.
  1. Where do we seem to lose people? Does bouncing from the pricing page, for instance, indicate that most of our visitors can’t afford us?
  1. Are we seeing an average buyer journey? How many visits? To which pages?
  1. What is our most popular plan or product?
  1. What is the lifetime value of our average customer? How long do they stay a customer, on average?

Helpful tools for creating a buyer persona:

  • SurveyMonkey or Google Forms: The premier tools to get data from your existing contacts, either one of these will work to ask the questions provided above.
  • NPS Scoring Tools: These include, but are in no way limited to, Delighted, Survicate, Typeform, and Wootric.
  • Intercom: Intercom’s app integrations allow you to send questionnaires to a select group of your existing users.
  • CrazyEgg or Inspectlet: Watch how your website visitors and existing users interact with your website or software, both with heat-mapping and recorded sessions. This gives you valuable insight into how people use your tool and (with cookie tracking) the type of user who buys and where people bounce or seem to get confused.Google Analytics or Woopra: Check out the traffic sources of your visitors to determine how people are finding you, where they’re coming from (country as well as platform) and what the average buyer journey is.

 

Remember…

  1. You may have more than one buyer persona

If you want to run an ambitious Christmas campaign targeting a demographic which isn’t, necessarily, one of your existing buyer personas, don’t let that stop you.

Online marketing is about innovation and testing as much as it is data.

One of the main ways to create solid buyer personas is to try targeting a certain demographic and seeing if the approach works well.

  1. Your buyer personas should change as your business does.

If you decide to release a major new feature (after running it by your personas), how will that affect the appeal of your product with your existing buyers?

Final Thoughts

Now that you have a more complete understanding of buyer personas, including exactly how you can create and use them, it’s time to dive in.

  • Get your team together and delegate roles.
  • Get your writers to create the questions and polls to send to your existing users.
  • Get your customer success team to start noting the frequency of questions they’re asked and who they’re talking to.
  • Get your sales team to start noting the pain points of prospective clients.
  • Get your analytics team to start preparing a buyer’s journey report.

In a couple weeks, meet back up and sit down with the data.

Once you have your personas, it’s time to act.

Review the actionable walk-through above and be sure to let us know how it affects your marketing, sales, and customer success results!

Creating Buyer Personas for Effective Marketing was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

Taximail: Improve Email Marketing One Business at a Time

Cover Photo- Taximail- Improve Email Marketing One Business at a Time (1)

Being successful in business is all about building relationships and one way to do this is to delve into email marketing. The digital age evolves as we go along but you cannot deny that Email has a stronghold in their position as an effective communication tool.

Taximail recognizes this and this is why they make it a point to help businesses grow through email marketing. Our team at SEO Hacker decided to jump from one email marketing tool to Taximail because we have seen how powerful its features are after taking it for a test drive. Take a look at our comprehensive review here!

Why Email Marketing?

When it comes to online leads and conversions, nothing beats a simple email to reach your ROI. Oftentimes, we look at different digital marketing tactics for this goal but it is very important that we remember that we have email marketing at our disposal. Emails are a great way to reach out to your target market and it does not even matter what their demographic is, as long as they have access to an email account then everything should be in place.

Prospecting and nurturing leads can start with a great email marketing campaign. If you are providing insightful information for your market, having a campaign in place can be your best bet in making sure that you are reaching quality leads. Better yet, you can automate your email campaigns so you wouldn’t have to resort to the tedious task of making sure that the bulk of your subscribers receive your message.

Simply put, email marketing still works even if there are people who are skeptical of its business value. This is the same vision that Taximail has in encouraging businesses to drive their ROI forward.

Taximail for Growing Businesses

Transitioning to Taximail has been a great experience for SEO Hacker. We have seen how easy it is to start email marketing campaigns even for an email database of 1.8 million subscribers. Its user interface can be well-understood at a glance. The beauty of Taximail is that you don’t have to switch between apps to start your email marketing because they do it all for you.

Taximail hails from Bangkok, Thailand and it is led by founder, Phaiboon Trikanjananun who specializes in online campaigns and website development. His connections with professionals have validated the digital advertising age as a playing field for businesses. The face of Taximail recognized that email marketing is a flexible digital marketing tactic because it offers numerous benefits such as a trackable campaign and further enhancements to user experience as well.

The idea was to create an email marketing and automation solution that would be tailor-fit to businesses from SMEs to Enterprise-level companies. This is how Taximail was launched in 2012 and since then, they have built a large network of clients who trust that this email marketing platform can achieve great heights for them.

The team of email marketing experts promotes powerful email technology for Taximail client satisfaction, which allows clients to build simple email experiences with a powerful impact. Taximail is continually growing and this is why its clients continue to rave about their impactful platform and exceptional customer service.

Getting Started with Taximail

Three steps. That is all it takes to create a campaign. With many readily-available templates from their end, you can choose to drag and drop your details to get started with your email marketing campaign.

Here is a preview of getting started on the account:

taximail bp

Here is a quick preview of the features that they offer:

  • Drag-and-Drop Email Editor
  • Customization and Segmentation of Emails
  • Multi-Screen Resolution Test and Device Simulation Preview
  • Real-time Reports
  • Email Templates
  • Automated Email Marketing Tool
  • SMS Marketing Campaigns

With these features, you can also be assured that you can also import lists, do A/B Tests, and schedule sending of emails.

What I find the most useful in the app is its automation feature. Although they offer a lot of benefits for businesses, this is what I’m going to highlight here.

automation taximail

You can start by entering a trigger so your email marketing campaign can take off.

contact automation

Once you have determined how your contact should be counted through their activity, then you can start your email marketing campaign. Here is the list of actions that Taximail supports from their features:

add new action

Here is a sample of their pre-designed templates that you can choose from if you don’t want to start from scratch for your campaign. You can achieve the process in just a snap.

taximail template

Taximail gives you the freedom to choose between a template or inserting a code if you want to follow this for the design of your email campaign. If you are going to go with the former, then you are well on your way to a great email marketing campaign. You can just drag and drop the necessary elements for your email which saves you a lot of time in creating this campaign. 

template email

What’s next for Taximail?

Taximail is one of those apps that you have to try for yourself to see how it can significantly change the way you do things. It has helped the biggest companies in Thailand such as AIS Business, Bangkok Airways, Yves Rocher and many others. 

These companies enjoy the same benefits that 5,000 other companies experience with Taximail. And SEO Hacker is proud to be the one to bring Taximail here to the Philippines to help businesses engage better with their customers. 

Let me just end with this: whatever email marketing platform you have now, drop it. Taximail is one of the best partners you can have for your digital marketing efforts. 

Taximail: Improve Email Marketing One Business at a Time was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

Use Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines To Assess Site Quality

What are Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines?  

To make sure that Google’s search engine is returning the right answers, Google regularly uses human contractors to evaluate search results to make sure that the latest algorithm is returning the kind of results they want. Google’s Quality Evaluator Guidelines are the instructions that they give these evaluators.

Contents

How can Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines be used to help websites?  

The guidelines that Google gives Quality Evaluators give us insight into what Google is aiming for. Even if Quality Evaluators don’t visit the site, meeting these criteria will help organisations match what Google believes is a good quality website. Jennifer Slegg’s piece does a good job of detailing the 2019 update to the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines.

We’ve created a checklist that distills Google’s Quality Evaluator Guidelines and aims to give us more information to succeed in search.

This post and accompanying checklist will allow you to:

  1. Gain insight into what a website and organisation is doing well and could be doing better, in terms of facilitating a good user experience and the creation of quality content.
  2. Provide a platform for a website to perform well in search, by aligning with Google’s perceived quality attributes.
  3. Get internal buy in. The checklist is consistent, independent, quantifiable and based on Google’s guidelines. It could be filled out by internal teams or used as part of user testing.
  4. Make sure content is optimised for launch. The checklist can be used for internal stakeholders to go through before publishing new content, website features or most things that could impact the UX of a website and content quality.

Methodology

Creating the checklist

We took Google’s 164 page Search Quality Evaluator documentation, Distilled’s previous Panda survey and Google’s guide to building high quality websites and condensed it down to the 10 most important topics. 

We then took the questions that Google is trying to answer in each topic and turned them into Pass/Fail items in our survey.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the principle of what Google believes constitutes a high quality website hasn’t changed too much throughout the years, although the qualifying criteria have certainly become more robust. 

Weighting of questions

We decided how important a question should be based on wording in Google’s documentation.

For example, Google rates pages “lowest quality” if there is intent to deceive users or search engines. 

Under section 7.6 Pages that Potentially Deceive Users, Google writes:

“We will consider a page to be “deceptive” if it may deceive users or trick search engines. All deceptive pages should be rated Lowest”

Google then goes on to describe misleading titles as a form of deception.

Section 7.6.1 Deceptive Page Purpose:

“A webpage with a misleading title or a title that has nothing to do with the content on the page. Users who come to the page expecting content related to the title will feel tricked or deceived”.

As a result of this wording in Google’s documentation, where they deem deception to be indicative of “lowest quality” pages, we have assigned strong relative importance to questions that pertain to deception. 

If your site fails the question below, it will fail that entire portion of the checklist, because of the importance that Google has placed on accurate titles.

Does the title in Google Search accurately describe the topic of the page?

How to use the checklist 

Pagetype questions

When you are filling out the checklist, there are some questions which should be asked about multiple different types of pages. The page types include:

  • Homepage
  • Product pages
  • Blog pages 

Applying topics to different page types will give a broader view of the overall UX and content quality and help pinpoint strengths and weaknesses.  

Of course, some page types may not be relevant to an organisation. For instance, publications don’t have product pages, so asking questions about a product page is not applicable.

Sitewide questions

Over the last year or so Google has really focussed on the profile of organisations and content authors in their search algorithms, with August’s 2018 medic update being of particular note.

The E-A-T (Expertise, Trustworthiness and Authoritativeness) of organisations and content creators is seen by Google to be indicative of quality and value. Importantly, Google places more weight on the external evidence of E-A-T, rather than an organisations’ or content creators’ self-endorsement. 

We’ve created specific questions that focus on identifying external reputation, with the idea that external reputation represents the potential E-A-T of a website.

We also created questions that focussed on more hygiene aspects of a website, specifically the adequacy of information on a business/content creators and how the design of a website affects the overall UX.

How you would use insight gained from the checklist

There could be many actions that could be taken from the checklist. Some insights we’ve provided for clients when running our checklist include:

Customer concerns/complaints on third party websites

External reputation information of a brand is important for both Google and users. 

So by identifying negative sentiment towards a brand and/or product on an influential industry related website, we convinced our client to not only review concerns on said website, but commission an off site review investigation for many other related websites.  

Content creators lacking perceived expertise

Google says that the E-A-T of content creators is indicative of content quality. Our checklist highlighted that content creators, despite being experienced within the vertical they work in, didn’t have an online presence. 

The outcome of this insight was to plan guest writing opportunities on industry publications to enhance employees perceived expertise.

Lack of information on content creators 

Users want to learn more about and validate the legitimacy of content creators. Our checklist highlighted that individual content creators didn’t have bio pages. 

The outcomes of this insight was to develop individual bio pages, with information on their experience and expertise.  

Product page insights

Some common insights include:

  1. Not fully understanding the purpose and/or benefits of a product: often a common issue on B2B websites, this can be the result of jargon heavy content, long-winded descriptions that don’t make the benefits clear, or a lack of FAQ’s.  
  2. Page design: content is sometimes difficult to digest. This can be the result of bunched up blocks of text, blurry or broken images, or key content placed near the bottom of the page.

Blog page insights

If executed properly, an organisation’s blog is key in driving top of the funnel traffic. This checklist highlights areas such as:

  1. Inaccurate headlines:  users need to have an accurate  understanding and expectation of the benefits/knowledge they could gain by reading a blog post. We certainly don’t want to mislead readers in any form.
  2. Fact validation: to enhance the authority of your content, you should link to reputable third party sites to validate facts when possible and appropriate.
  3. Unique content: create more in depth and potentially data driven pieces of content to encourage bookmarking/sharing.

The 10 questionnaire topics and what they mean

Does [PAGE TYPE] have a beneficial purpose?

The goal of page quality rating is to evaluate how well a page achieves its purpose and objectives. The way a page is measured on “beneficial purpose” is dependant on the page type.

Under section 2.2, What is the Purpose of a Webpage? Google writes:

“As long as the page is created to help users, we will not consider any particular page purpose or type to be higher quality than another.”

For example, the purpose of a product page is to inform the user about the product, such as the features and benefits of the product. 

If a product page fails to achieve this objective then it lacks a beneficial purpose and would be considered a low quality page and in theory not perform well in search results.

Is the main content on the [PAGE TYPE] created with substantial effort, time and talent/skill?  

Google needs to understand whether content provides enough informative, unique information, to be deemed high quality.

Under section 5.1, Very High Quality MC, Google writes:

“We will consider the MC of the page to be very high or highest quality when it is created with a high degree of time and effort, and in particular, expertise, talent, and skill—this may provide evidence for the E-A-T of the page”

Content that is vague and lacking in detail is unlikely to perform well, especially if other sites produce more comprehensive and useful pieces of content.

We’ve excluded questions that specifically tackle the E-A-T of the content creators in this section, with the aim to focus on evaluating the usefulness of existing content.

Not every business will be, or have industry experts producing content, but that shouldn’t detract from assessing the quality of content that is actually being produced. 

Google states that smaller businesses are likely to have a smaller web presence and a lack of external evidence of E-A-T is not an indication of low page quality. 

Under section 2.6.5, What to Do When You Find No Reputation Information, Google writes:

“Frequently, you will find little or no information about the reputation of a website for a small organization. This is not indicative of positive or negative reputation. Many small, local businesses or community organizations have a small “web presence” and rely on word of mouth, not online reviews. For these smaller businesses and organizations, lack of reputation should not be considered an indication of low page quality.

However, for “Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL) pages, such as medical, or financial information websites, the reputation of the website and/or the individual content creator is just as important as the potential usefulness of content.

Evaluating the E-A-T of a website and/or content creator will be addressed in the topics “Would you trust information from this website’s authors?” and “Would you trust information from this website?”.

Does the [PAGE TYPE] on this site have obvious errors?

This topic is about identifying errors on a website, with a focus on recognising unmaintained and/or defaced pages.

Under section 7.2.9, Unmaintained Websites, and Hacked, Defaced, or Spammed Pages, Google writes:

“Unmaintained websites should be rated Lowest if they fail to achieve their purpose due to the lack of maintenance.

Unmaintained websites may also become hacked, defaced, or spammed with a large amount of distracting and unhelpful content. These pages should also be rated Lowest because they fail to accomplish their original purpose.”

Although not explicitly mentioned in Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, other signs of unmaintained websites are broken links and images as well as obvious missing blocks of main content.

If a website has a large number of glaring errors, it could compromise user experience and suggests the website may be insecure. Failing this topic indicates a website will likely struggle to perform well in search results.

Does the [PAGE TYPE] contain excessive adverts, or pop-ups?

Over the last couple of years, Google has been increasingly targeting websites that excessively contain adverts and/or block users’ access to content with pop-ups.

Under section 7.2.7, Obstructed or Inaccessible Main Content, Google writes:

“MC cannot be used if it is obstructed or inaccessible due to Ads, SC, or interstitial pages. If you are not able to access the MC, please use the Lowest rating”.

Google also suggests ads don’t need to fully obstruct a page to be distracting to receive a “low” rating. Under section 6.4, Distracting Ads/SC, Google writes:

“…some Ads, SC, or interstitial pages (i.e., pages displayed before or after the content you are expecting) make it difficult to use the MC. Pages with Ads, SC, or other features that distract from or interrupt the use of the MC should be given a Low rating”.

Whilst Google does state that ads can contribute to good user experience, they should be used  in moderation and not negatively impact the experience of consuming main content.

Sites that contain excessive adverts and obstructive pop-ups run the risk of penalisation, which will impact online visibility. 

This topic is particularly pertinent for mobile devices where screen space is limited.

The questions in our checklist for this topic also reflect Google’s firm stance on excessive advertisements. Any “Failed” question in our checklist will fail this entire topic.

Is [PAGE TYPE] deceptive?

Earlier, we mentioned how misleading page titles can be a means of deception, but Google cites other forms of deception. 

For example, under section 7.6.2, Deceptive Page Design, Google states the following are forms of deception:

  • Pages that disguise Ads as MC. Actual MC may be minimal or created to encourage users to click on the Ads.
  • Pages that disguise Ads as website navigation links.
  • Pages where the MC is not usable or visible.
  • Any page designed to trick users into clicking on links, which may be Ads or other links intended to serve the needs of the website rather than to the benefit of the user.

Pages that are misleading or attempt to cause harm in some way are deemed the “lowest” quality of page and will negatively impact the perception of the organisation and hurt online visibility.

Is there adequate information about the business and/or content creators?

Google wants websites to provide adequate information about a business and/or authors.

Under section 2.5.3, Finding About Us, Contact Information, and Customer Service Information, Google writes:

“There are many reasons that users might have for contacting a website, from reporting problems such as broken pages, to asking for content removal. Many websites offer multiple ways for users to contact the website: email addresses, phone numbers, physical addresses, web contact forms”

Google adds that contact information is particularly important for websites that handle money.

“Contact information and customer service information are extremely important for websites that handle money, such as stores, banks, credit card companies, etc”

When it comes to individual content creators, Google doesn’t specifically mention that authors should have biography pages on a website. Google also state the E-A-T of authors should be primarily judged on external evidence; however, there is sound logic in providing an option to view biography pages on a website that demonstrate the E-A-T of authors.    

Under section 6.1, Lacking Expertise, Authoritativeness, or Trustworthiness (E-A-T), Google writes:   

“Low quality pages often lack an appropriate level of E-A-T for the purpose of the page. Here are some examples:

  • The creator of the MC does not have adequate expertise in the topic of the MC, e.g. a tax form instruction video made by someone with no clear expertise in tax preparation.
  • The website is not an authoritative source for the topic of the page, e.g. tax information on a cooking website.”

Ultimately, users want to be able to contact and learn more about an organisation/content creator. A website that provides adequate and reliable information that demonstrates E-A-T will foster trust and credibility.

Would you trust information from this website?

Google is emphasising the importance of websites and organisations having credible external reputation. 

Google has stated they will trust external sources of reputation information over internal information.

Under section 2.6, Reputation of the Website or Creator of the Main Content, Google writes:

“…for Page Quality rating, you must also look for outside, independent reputation information about the website. When the website says one thing about itself, but reputable external sources disagree with what the website says, trust the external sources.

Google wants to evaluate the external reputation information of an organisation using credible third party sources like external news articles, blog posts, or even Wikipedia pages. 

Under section 2.6.2, Sources of Reputation Information, Google writes:

“Look for information written by a person, not statistics or other machine-compiled information. News articles, Wikipedia articles, blog posts, magazine articles, forum discussions, and ratings from independent organizations can all be sources of reputation information. Look for independent, credible sources of information.” 

By identifying various sources of external reputation information, Google can better evaluate E-A-T. 

Content that is written by websites/authors who meet a high level of E-A-T is deemed to be of the “highest quality” and in theory should perform better in search results. This is particularly important for YMYL websites/topics, such as health and safety, finance and news and current events. 

Interestingly, for the September 2019 Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines update, Google adds “Shopping” as a type of YMYL. Under section 2.3, Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) Pages, Google defines “Shopping” as:

“information about or services related to research or purchase of goods/services, particularly webpages that allow people to make purchases online”   

Under section 5.2, Very Positive Reputation, Google writes:

“For shopping pages, experts could include people who have used the store’s website to make purchases; whereas for medical advice pages, experts should be people or organizations with appropriate medical expertise or accreditation”.

This suggests customer reviews for an organisation’s products/services can be used as a valid source of external reputation information for ecommerce and B2B websites. 

As part of our checklist, we’ve included questions to evaluate online reviews for a brand, which could also encompass specific review information on a brand’s products/services. 

Would you trust information from this website’s authors?

Like evaluating the E-A-T of a website/organisation, Google also wants to evaluate external reputation information for individual content creators.

Under section 9.2, Reputation and E-A-T: Website or the Creators of the Main Content?, Google writes: 

“You must consider the reputation and E-A-T of both the website and the creators of the MC in order to assign a Page Quality rating.”

“The reputation and E-A-T of the creators of the MC is extremely important when a website has different authors or content creators on different pages.

Sometimes a website/organisation will be creating content and other times it will be individual content creators. Either way, evaluating the E-A-T for both types of content creators is important can be equally important.   

Does the design of the website make it difficult to use?

This topic focuses on the functionality of the website and in turn, user experience. 

Under section 7.2.3, Lowest Quality Main Content, Google writes: 

“The Lowest rating should also apply to pages where users cannot benefit from the MC, for example:

  • Informational pages with demonstrably inaccurate MC.
  • The MC is so difficult to read, watch, or use, that it takes great effort to understand and use the page.
  • Broken functionality of the page due to lack of skill in construction, poor design, or lack of maintenance.

The design of a website plays a pivotal role in functionality and since Google rightfully views bad functionality with a grade of “lowest rating”, the design of a website deserves its own topic.

A website with a good design and functionality will contribute to high quality pages and in theory convert better and potentially perform better in search results.

Would you trust this website with personal details?

This topic is the culmination of all the previous questions. If the overarching results are positive then users could be more likely to hand over personal information, such as credit card details and email addresses, which is an objective for most businesses. 

How to use the checklist

Access the Search Quality Evaluator checklist for free.

There will be an option to select “TRUE”, “FALSE”, or “OKAY” for each question in the checklist. 

Necessary

The importance (necessity) of each question will determine whether a section will “Pass”, or “Fail”. In the screenshot above, the question “Is it clear and easy to understand what the website offers?” is a necessity to pass and because the answer is “FALSE”, the section has “FAILED”.

You can view the necessity of each question by unhiding columns C-E but these additional columns can be confusing for people who don’t understand what the sheet is doing, so I would keep them hidden most of the time.

There are also two additional columns, “Ideal answer” and “Achieves ideal answer”

Ideal answer

“Ideal answer” determines what the “ideal” statement should be for each question. 

In some cases you want the statement to be “TRUE”. In other cases, you want the statement to be “FALSE”.

For instance, we want the statement to be “TRUE” for the question “Is it clear and easy to understand what the website offers?”.

However, the “ideal” answer for the question “Is the content too short, insubstantial or unhelpfully vague?” would be “FALSE”. “FALSE” states that the content is in fact not short, insubstantial, or unhelpfully vague.

Achieves ideal answer

Achieves ideal answer” is determined by whether the “Grade” column matches the “Ideal answer” column. 

Using the above screenshot, we know the “Ideal answer” for the question “Is it clear and easy to understand what the website offers?” is “TRUE”“. 

However, because the answer given is “FALSE”, the ideal answer has not been achieved;  therefore, “FALSE” is the statement given for “Achieves ideal answer”.

This allows us to see all “Passed” and “Failed” sections of the checklist located in the“Passed and Failed section” tab.

We’ve also added a description and/or instructions and references column in the checklist questions tab to help explain questions, provide instructions and add context. Feel free to add to, or iterate the content found in these columns. 

 

You’ll also find references of “[ADD BRAND]” in the “Checklist questions” tab. You’ll need to update these references to reflect the organisation the checklist is being run against.   

The tab “Website content” concatenates example URLs and example titles to help make this checklist a little more efficient to use.

The easiest way to see how all of these fields work is just to fill them out with information from your brands first, and then notice how the questions have changed as you go through the checklist.

Who should use the checklist?

As we’ve mentioned, our Search Quality Evaluator Checklist can be used by a range of people.

  1. SEO professionals: filling out this checklist is a great way to evaluate the UX and website quality of a client. It will allow you to pinpoint strengths and weaknesses and help you deliver priority recommendations.
  2. Internal stakeholders: the checklist can be used by internal stakeholders to go through before publishing new content, website features or most things that could impact the UX and content quality. The checklist could also be filled out by internal stakeholders as a way of getting them on board with SEO priorities.
  3. The public: if you want to get a true understanding of how users perceive your website and brand, then why not ask your potential customers? 

Members of the public NEED TO fill out all sitewide questions, but you should split page type questions to avoid a horribly long survey that they’ll give lazy answers to. For instance, get a respondent to only answer questions for the homepage, blog pages, or product pages. Distilled’s original Panda Survey post contains some advice and guidelines on running a survey, including collecting data from respondents. 

Our other checklists

We like using checklists here at Distilled and if you do too, get your hands on our technical SEO audit checklist, Google Analytics audit checklist and our PPC audit checklist.

Use Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines To Assess Site Quality was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

Technical SEO Audit Checklist for Human Beings: September 2019 Update

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Updated Sep 10, 2019. Changes include:

  • Remove rows no longer relevant due to retirement of old Google Search Console.
  • Update many rows to refer to reports in new Google Search Console.
  • Remove reference to rel=next/prev markup.

Updated Oct 1, 2018. Changes include:

  • Changed language on some issues to make it clear how they fit in the hierarchy.
  • Removed several redundant lines.
  • Fixed typos affecting meaning of a couple lines.
  • Added new section relevant to mobile-first indexing.

Updated September 13, 2017. Changes include:

  • Made each line easier to understand
  • Added pointers for going straight to the relevant reports in each tool#
  • Changed which tool to use for some rows
  • Added more Google references
  • Removed a couple dubious lines (site speed, HTTP/2)
  • Removed superfluous timing column
  • Removed whole sections that made the audit less MECE
  • Fixed cases where some cells would say “Incomplete” and others wouldn’t

Thanks everyone who has provided feedback over the last year!

Technical audits are one of the activities that define SEO. We’ve all done them. But audits are only as valuable as their impact. Whether you’re a practitioner or an agency partner, your job really begins when you finish the audit. You must take your recommendations and make them a reality. Distilled thrives on this “effecting change” mindset.

Yet the (long, laborious) audit has still got to be done. We sift through crawls, consider best practices, analyze sitemaps—the list goes on.

But we’re committed to the technical audit. So if we’re going to audit a site, why not do the audit in a way that makes the fun part—making change happen—much easier?

The challenge

With that in mind, we asked “Can we design an audit that helps make real change happen?” The result is an aware technical audit checklist. It considers the underlying problems we’re tackling (or trying to prevent). It makes technical audits faster, more effective, and more impactful.

Read on for more about how to put the checklist to use. Many on our team find it self-explanatory, though, so if you want to get cracking have at it! And then let us know what you think.

Every great audit starts with a checklist!

There are lots of technical checklists out there. A good technical audit inspects many things in many places. Checklists are perfect for keeping track of this complexity. They’re simple tools with lots of benefits. Checklists are:

  • Comprehensive. Without a checklist, you may still discover the obvious technical problems with a site. 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.

  • Understandable. Unfortunately an intern can’t osmose your intuition! Rigorously defining your work with a checklist lets you delegate audits.

This checklist is better

Technical SEO has one purpose: ensure site implementation won’t hurt search visibility. Everything we uncover leads back to that point. This defines the scope of the audit.

Beyond that, many folks break down technical to-dos by where they need to look or what tool they need to use. They might look at all on-page elements, then move on to all sitemap issues. That’s a valid way of approaching the problem. We’ve got an alternative.

We look ahead to the conversations we’ll have after we’ve done the audit. Consider this (realistic) statement: “We’re concerned that important content isn’t indexed because URLs aren’t discovered by crawlers. Submitting a sitemap to Search Console might help fix the problem.”

This is a coherent technical recommendation. It explains why to make a change. It has 3 parts:

  1. Outcome – important content isn’t indexed.

  2. Cause – URLs aren’t discoverable by crawlers.

  3. Issue –  we haven’t uploaded sitemaps to Search Console.

That’s the difference: you’ll see this is exactly how we’ve structured the checklist. Take a moment to jump over and inspect it with this model in mind. By now you’re probably getting the idea—this isn’t just a technical checklist. It’s a also a tool for communicating the value of your work.

The structure encourages completeness

Each row of the checklist represents a problem. By including the right problem at each level, we also make it as complete as possible, without adding redundancy. The principle of MECE (“Mutually Exclusive, Comprehensively Exhaustive”) is what makes it work. At each level of analysis, we:

  • include all possible problems, and

  • ensure problems don’t overlap.

Let’s illustrate, using the highest level of analysis. The checklist as a whole is investigating whether “we have a technical problem with our site that is reducing search visibility”. There are 3 reasons we could lose search traffic because of a technical issue:

  • there is a technical reason good content isn’t indexed, or

  • there is a technical reason indexed content doesn’t rank for desired terms, or

  • there is a technical reason site content isn’t well-presented in search.

These represent all the possible problems we could be dealing with (“comprehensively exhaustive”). They also don’t overlap (“mutually exclusive”).

By applying the same way of thinking recursively, we expose all sub-problems in these areas. Then we list all issues that could be causing these sub-problems. This makes the checklist as thorough as possible, without redundant checks that could slow us down.

A few pointers

Getting started

This checklist template is available to the public. When you open it, you’ll discover that you only have “view” permissions for the master document. To use it, you’ll first want to create a copy:

Marking status

Mark each issue with Pass, OK, or Fail:

  • 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.

Find what you’re looking for quickly

People new to search engine optimization can still start using this sheet. We’ve now added a “Start Here” column to make it faster than ever to get started.

For new users of some of these tools, it might not be clear where to find relevant information. The “Start Here” column points you to the exact place you can find the details you need.

Understand what’s at stake

If you’re the person analyzing the audit after it’s done, you want to get a high-level picture quickly. Use the structure of the sheet to simplify that view by filtering the Issues rows.

Filtering for Outcomes and Causes gives you a quick-and-dirty summary of a site’s strengths and weaknesses. This is the first thing I look at when I see a completed audit!

Filtering related tasks

If you’re the one doing the audit, you want to get it done as quickly as possible. Take advantage of the structure of the sheet to group things

Take advantage of the structure of the sheet by showing only the issues you’re inspecting right now. Try filtering by the “Where” column—for “Google Search Console”, for instance. This will let you grade all Issues for that tool at once.

We want to learn from you, too

This checklist is a living document. We appreciate any feedback you have. Feel free to jump in the comments section here or find me on Twitter: @BenjaminEstes.

Interested in working with us?

This audit is an example of the way Distilled approaches consulting. We aren’t limited to SEO—we also help our clients with marketing strategy, content design and production, paid search, and more. If our approach sounds interesting, please reach out!

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Technical SEO Audit Checklist for Human Beings: September 2019 Update was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing