All posts by Jessie Moore

12 SEO tips for large ecommerce websites

Approaching SEO for large ecommerce sites can be overwhelming.

With more pages than you can even get your head around and issues like product variants, complex filtering systems and expired products, SEO for ecommerce sites requires a different kind of SEO strategy.

Let’s be clear: all of the same keyword research and onsite optimization practices apply to ecommerce sites as they would for your standard brochure site. That’s the first step in the process, and we won’t cover those points here.

However, for ecommerce sites, it’s necessary to take things a step (or ten) further. In this post, we share our SEO tips for large ecommerce sites. Optimization for ecommerce takes time, but we’ll also provide tips to help streamline the process without scrimping.

Here goes…

Ensure your site is on HTTPS

Safety first! Although this falls under general optimization for all sites, switching to HTTPS is particularly important for ecommerce sites. With exchanges of personal details and users trusting you with highly sensitive payment information, security is of the utmost importance.

As well as ensuring that your SSL certificate is correctly implemented, make sure to be transparent in communicating your security compliance to users.

Provide detailed information on the steps you have taken to offer utmost levels of security, and display any relevant logos to demonstrate that you comply with certain security standards.

Optimize category pages

Now that your website is more secure than Fort Knox, it’s time to focus on optimizing those all-important category pages. These are the pages on which to target those top-level keywords and should be high traffic generators.

Category pages often flop due to issues with thin content. Text is frequently left by the wayside in favor of showcasing the products. However, this approach is potentially catastrophic in terms of rankings. It always pays to have at least a solid paragraph of copy to describe the category.

To further bolster the ranking potential of your category pages, try to focus your link-building campaign on generating links to them. Since the category pages serve as gateways to your products, it is a good idea to prioritize these in your site optimization efforts.

Optimize product pages

Product pages can cause a real headache for optimization. The same issues often occur for the products pages as they do for the category pages – except there are tons more product pages to deal with. Think thin content, duplicate content, and non-existent metadata.

A good place to start is with the product descriptions. Get into the habit of writing unique descriptions for each product. It can be tempting to copy and paste the description from the manufacturer, but this means placing duplicate content on your site. And that’s SEO suicide.

SEO aside, don’t forget that these descriptions are fundamental in actually selling the product and increasing conversions. Try to tell a story with the description – make it interesting, enticing and in line with your brand personality. Speed up the process by devising a format for the product descriptions.

For example, one format could specify a title, short description, bullet point list of features, and a final note on the product. This will ensure consistency and also speed up the content creation process for your writers.

Consider including user-generated content on the product pages, including social media mentions and reviews. This will provide social signals, as well as helping to increase conversions and bring further unique content to the page.

Don’t forget to write unique title tags based on careful keyword research. Again, it’s worth creating a standard format for these titles, for ease and consistency. Enticing meta descriptions may not help you rank higher but they will increase click-throughs from the SERPs. Try to include popular, eye-catching words or phrases, such as ‘free delivery’, ‘buy now’ ‘sale’, ‘reduced’ or ‘new’.

If you have thousands of products then you’ll need to prioritize. You may be an SEO whizz, but you’re not Superman/Wonder Woman/insert superhero of choice. Adopt a top-down approach and start by optimizing the most popular products first.

Product variants

One of the questions we get asked a lot is what on earth to do about product variants. By this we mean different styles, sizes, colours and models of one product. If flicking between these different options generates a new URL for each variant, then you’ll be running into some serious duplicate content and keyword cannibalization issues.

So what’s the fix? The best approach is to display options where the user can change the color, size or model but without the URL changing in the process. The exception to this would be if different colors or other variables are crucial to the product and will rank separately in the SERPs.

Ultimately, though, you don’t want these pages to be competing with each other. If you do have different product variants, then be sure to canonicalize the main product version.

‘Purchase intent’ keywords

We’re not going to provide a complete guide to keyword research in this post. But what we will say is this: be sure to include plenty of purchase intent keywords, e.g. ‘Buy [insert product]’.

Users typing in such search terms are likely to be further down the sales funnel and therefore more likely to convert. Remember that SEO is not just about driving traffic; it’s about driving conversions, and therefore revenue.

Images

Let’s not forget the images: humans are visual animals at the end of the day. Deploy only the highest quality images to entice potential customers. Ensure product images are not too large or they could slow the page speed.

Plus, don’t forget the importance of image search – add appropriate alternative text to all images.

Be wary of filters

The vast majority of ecommerce sites have some form of filtering system to help users find the products most relevant to them. Although these are super handy for the user, the trouble is that some filtering systems generate unique URLs for every type of filter search.

What’s so bad about that? Well, it means that one site could have thousands and thousands of indexed pages, all with duplicate content issues. As a result, it can make your site look frighteningly like a content farm in the eyes of Google’s pet Panda.

Check Google Search Console to see how many pages have been indexed for your site. If the number is unfathomably high then the best solution is to add a meta robots tag with parameters noindex, follow to the filtered pages. It will lead to these pages being dropped from the index, and you’ll no longer have to lose sleep over them.

Expired or out of stock items

One of the key issues with ecommerce sites is that products come and go a lot. There’s no need to remove out of stock items from the site, as you could be missing out on valuable search traffic.

Instead, leave the product page live, but specify when the product is due back in stock and provide similar options in the meantime.

If a product expires and will no longer be sold then you’ll need to remove the page. However, do not forget to redirect the page! Set up a permanent 301 redirect for a newer version of the product, a similar product, or to the relevant category page.

Site architecture

Providing seamless internal navigation is essential not only for good user experience but also to help Google crawl and index your site. Ensure that categories are linked to from the homepage and that products are linked to from the category pages.

Provide links to products in blog content in order to continue the user journey and funnel them towards making a purchase. Try to link any new products from the homepage, as it will increase their chances of being indexed quicker by Google and getting found faster by users.

Breadcrumbs are also an important addition, as they ensure that every part of the user’s path is clickable. This helps users navigate back to parent categories as quickly and easily as possible. Plus, they also appear in Google’s search results, giving users an immediate overview of the site structure.

Pay attention to URLs

With large ecommerce sites, it’s all too easy for URLs to get overly complex. Keep them clean and ditch parameters to ensure they are devoid of jumbled, nonsensical characters.

Be neat and tidy by sticking to lower case letters, utilizing hyphens instead of underscores and keeping them short but sweet.

Schema for product pages

Adding schema markup to your product pages is absolutely crucial for improving the appearance of your site in the SERPs. Enhanced results means greater click-throughs.

There are two types of schema that you should add to your products: product schema and review schema.

Each product page should use the same template and therefore have a consistent layout. This means you can add schema markup to the template using microdata and the schema will be generated for each new product page.

Just make sure that you regularly test your schema using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool, and if you’re new to it all, then utilize Google’s Markup Helper.

Monitoring

As with any SEO strategy, you need to be continually monitoring and analyzing the results. This is even more important for ecommerce sites, due to the scale and constant changing of products.

Stay on top of identifying broken links and error pages. Analyse what’s working and what’s not, note popular keywords and pages, and address those not performing well for organic search. For the best results, it’s always worth engaging in some A/B testing – whether this is for keywords, product description formats or images.

There’s no doubt that SEO for large ecommerce sites is time-consuming. That’s why so many ecommerce sites don’t have the level of optimization they should, which presents a fantastic opportunity for those who are willing to put in the grind. Small, incremental changes can make a big difference.

30 ways to market your online business for free

For many people and businesses, the word ‘marketing’ conjures up visions of pricey marketing strategies and excessive expenditure.

With a high number of businesses all vying for exposure among the vast digital landscape, it can sometimes feel like fighting a losing battle, especially for those just starting out.

However, it doesn’t have to be expensive: there are plenty of free ways to market a business. In this post, we share our top tips for how to market your online business for free – 30 different ways in fact. Here goes…

1.   Capture email data

Ensure that you have a method of capturing email data from website visitors. Integrate an email sign up option onto your site and begin building a database of customer data.

You can then use this data for a range of marketing incentives, such as email marketing or creating custom audiences on Facebook for targeted advertising. (Just make sure you’re GDPR compliant…)

2.   Email marketing

You’ve got the data, now you need to do something useful with it. Start by setting up a free account with Mailchimp, and start distributing those emails.

Avoid being overly promotional and always offer something genuinely useful to the recipients. Keep the emails regular but never bombard, otherwise people will hit unsubscribe quicker than you can say ‘digital marketing’.

3.   Video marketing

You’d be mad to ignore the proliferation of video over the past few years. Jump on the bandwagon and start engaging in some video marketing.

Begin by setting up a YouTube channel. You don’t have to create Hollywood-esque movies – just a simple video blog will do. If you’ve got something useful to say, then say it on video. It also makes for highly shareable, marketable content – plonk it on your website, push it out on social, and include in your emails.

4.   Post to Facebook

It goes without saying that social media is one of the most valuable marketing tools out there. And it’s free. FREE. It’s best not to go signing up for every social media platform under the sun, just focus on those most suitable to your business.

Facebook is a viable option for almost all businesses. Unfortunately, the latest algorithm updates have made it harder than ever for businesses to gain visibility in the news feed without paying. But, you’ve got nothing to lose. Post regular updates – be engaging and exciting, don’t be too promotional, and be genuinely interesting.

5.   Interact with industry experts on Twitter

Twitter isn’t for everyone, but it does carry a whole array of benefits. It’s a great platform for engaging with industry experts and customers, as it’s a place where anyone can talk to anyone.

Respond to customer feedback, retweet the best user-generated content, and offer genuine input to industry discussions.

6.   Create an Instagram

A popular contender among social media platforms, Instagram has an ever-increasing user base.

If your business would benefit from a visual presence, then make sure you are dedicating time to building a strong Instagram account. Remember that it’s a visual platform, so carefully curated content that looks amazing is key.

7.   Generate website traffic with Pinterest

Pinterest isn’t suitable for a lot of businesses, but can work really well for some. The platform has one of the highest conversion rates in terms of converting browsers into buyers.

You can also generate significant website traffic and find out more about what your target users love.

8.   Build your network on LinkedIn

If your business is a B2B company, be sure to have a strong presence on LinkedIn. It’s also a great place for building your network. The same rules apply to LinkedIn as other social platforms – engage with relevant people and offer genuine insight.

9.   Publish to Google Plus – yes, really!

Google Plus, that strange little platform that never quite hit the big time. Yet it’s still plodding along hoping that one day, something, anything will happen that propels it into social media stardom (not likely).

Still, despite the failings of Google Plus, it is still worth getting into the habit of pushing out any new content via Google Plus. After all, it’s a product of Google and if you want to climb those rankings, we suggest keeping Google sweet.

10.   Start using Google Posts

Aim to publish regular updates via Google Posts for greater visibility in the search engine results pages. Posting to Google allows businesses to share content with people that is relevant to the search queries being inputted. It’s a great way of gaining a little extra exposure.

11.   Encourage UGC

User-generated content (UGC) is content that has been created and published by unpaid fans of your business. It’s when someone loves your product or service so much that they take it upon themselves to share their experience with friends and family, usually via social media.

UGC typically occurs naturally, but there is no harm in encouraging it – if you don’t ask you don’t get! You can highlight the best posts every week on your social media channels, and even offer prizes to customers who get featured.

And speaking of prizes…

12.   Run social media giveaways

Running social media giveaways is a sure-fire way of increasing engagement and generating new followers. Not only can it be a nice way of saying thank you to existing customers and fans, it’s also a handy way of reaching potential new customers.

Okay, so it’s not entirely cost free, as you’ll need to give away a product, but there’s no need to spend any money on top of that. Just be sure to follow all the best practices of running a giveaway.

13.   Engage with social influencers

Influencer marketing is a huge industry. For those unfamiliar with how it all works, a business pays or offers free products to a blogger or influencer who has a high following on social media. In return, the influencer shares your product on their social media channels. It’s extremely effective.

The more popular influencers can charge astronomical rates, but those with smaller followings (sometimes called “micro-influencers”) have high engagement rates and are often willing to post something in return for a free product or trial.

14.   Set up Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools

If you haven’t already, then make sure you set up Google Search Console (and also Bing Webmaster Tools). Using these tools, you can view valuable information about the search terms people are using to find your website.

You can also index new pages, meaning they will show up in the search engine results pages quicker. Plus, be sure to submit an XML sitemap – it helps the search engines crawl your site.

15.   Update your Google My Business listing

Update your Google My Business listing and check that all information is accurate. Reorganize the images to ensure that only your best side is showing.

Do the same with your local listings for Bing and Yahoo. It’s also worth working on building your Google reviews, as they will help boost your rankings.

16.   Ask your customers for testimonials

On the topic of reviews, be sure to generate as many testimonials and (positive) reviews as possible.

Whether it’s via Google, TrustPilot or for a dedicated testimonials section on your website, people trust other people. You’ll have to ask your customers for these, as people don’t very often give them naturally. Just a gentle prompt will do the trick.

17.   Google Analytics

Make sure that you have Google Analytics linked up to your site. It’s a treasure trove of handy data and be sure to spend some time getting your head around it all.

See how people interact with your site, identify the pain points and discover the most popular pages. With this information you can make considered and informed changes and improvements to your site.

18.   Review Google AdWords

Google AdWords is not free. In fact, it’s incredibly expensive. But if you are already running a PPC campaign then it’s worth taking some time to review your strategy. Try rewriting some of the ads and improving your quality score to generate better results.

Sparing a little time reviewing your campaign could save you lots of money. For most of us AdWords will cost, but if you are a charity you can apply for a Google Grant of up to £10,000 to spend on AdWords!

19.   Use PR

PR is still a very powerful weapon in a marketer’s arsenal. Without hiring a dedicated PR agency, there are some steps you can take to implement a bit of PR. Following any substantial news or updates, it’s worth distributing a press release as you never know who may pick it up.

Sign up to platforms like HARO (help a reporter out) and look out for hashtags like #journorequest on Twitter, as you may be able to wrangle a mention. PR, of course, goes hand-in-hand with link-building for SEO.

20.   Contribute to forums, blogs and discussions

Part of marketing your business online is to establish yourself as a reliable industry expert and a voice of authority. In order to build this authority, take the time to contribute to relevant forums, blogs and social media discussions.

Offer genuinely helpful insight and answer questions that are being asked. People will appreciate your input and, with any luck, will convert into a customer.

21.   Speak at industry conferences

Another excellent way of building your authority and reputation as an expert within your industry, is to volunteer to speak at relevant industry conferences. It’s a great way of getting your personal and business name out there. If you’re trusted to speak at conferences, then you’ll be trusted to offer a good product or service.

22.   Content creation

It goes without saying that content creation should be central to any digital marketing strategy. If you haven’t already got a blog on your website then don’t wait a second longer. Do it. Right now.

You’ll probably have noticed that there are a disconcerting amount of blogs on the web. So don’t do what everyone else is doing; be different, be helpful and be relevant.

23.   Guest post

As well as creating content for your own site, be sure to integrate guest blogging into your marketing strategy. Only aim for relevant and high quality sites, preferably with a high domain authority and nonexistent spam score.

It’s a great way of ramping up brand exposure, but also securing links back to your website (hello better SEO rankings).

24.   Use blogging platforms

As beautiful as your website’s blog might be, it can be frustrating if your lovingly crafted content is not getting the exposure you think it deserves. Especially if you are only just starting out, it can be crushing to spend hours working on a stellar article, only for two people to read it (probably your mum and your best mate).

This is where blogging platforms, like Medium, can help increase your exposure. Just make sure that you follow the best practices for republishing content on these platforms.

25.   Carry out keyword research

If you are undertaking a full blown SEO campaign, the chances are that you are paying someone to do it, or you are already an SEO whiz, in which case you’ll (hopefully) know what you’re doing.

For the newbies, keyword research is the initial stage of any SEO campaign and can help you identify user intent and figure out what your target audience is searching for. It would take several blog posts to cover this in enough detail, but a good place to start is with this complete guide to keyword research for SEO.

26.   Optimize your metadata

Get into the habit of writing an SEO title and meta description for every page and post you publish. This is the information that will be displayed in the search engine results pages, so you need to make it as enticing and relevant as possible.

27.   Mark up your website with Schema.org structured data

In a nutshell, schema markup allows you to label the content on your site for the benefit of the search engine. It helps the search engines provide more detailed search engine results pages.

Although there is no evidence that schema markup directly improves your rankings, it will make your listing more attractive, therefore encouraging more click-throughs. And that can only be a good thing!

28.   List your business in online directories

Ensure that your business is listed in relevant online directories. There are the most popular ones, such as Yell, Yelp and Thomson Local, but there are a whole host of other industry or location-specific directories.

Make sure you add your business listing to only the directories which are relevant to your business, and ensure they aren’t spammy.

29.   Make sure your NAP are consistent

That sounds complicated but it’s really very simple. NAP stands for name, address and phone number. NAP consistency refers to the process of ensuring that all mentions of your business feature the correct information.

Do a quick search and make sure that the name, address, phone number, and any other information about your business listed online are all completely accurate and formatted consistently.

30.   Test your website with Google’s PageSpeed Insights and Mobile-Friendly Test

Finally, if you want your website to rank well and offer a fantastic user experience then it needs to be fast and mobile-friendly. Utilize Google’s free tools to check the speed of your website and whether or not it is mobile-friendly. Any red flags should be resolved as quickly as possible.

So there you have it. There’s definitely enough information here to keep you occupied for quite some time. It always helps to have a marketing budget, but these free steps are the best place to start. Good luck!

If you enjoyed this article, check out our other roundups of marketing tools and techniques you can use completely free of charge:

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The 2018 guide to rich results in search

Over the past few years, Google’s SERPs have become progressively more enhanced and detailed.

Users require as much information as possible before deciding which result to place their trust in and click through to. It’s therefore no surprise then that rich results have become increasingly prominent.

Rich results are essentially a way of highlighting your website’s content in the SERPs.

They are the search results which have a little extra panache, in which Google displays more information about the result rather than just the traditional title, URL and meta description. This could include a star review, specific product information or even recipe details.

In this guide, we’ll look at what’s new with rich results in 2018, as well as how to give yourself the best chance of getting them.

Benefits of rich results

Previously known as rich snippets, rich cards, or enriched results, Google have now put an end to the terminology confusion and allocated ‘rich results’ as the preferred term. You are probably already aware that these fancy pants search results require the implementation of structured data on your site.

But before we look at the how, let’s look at the why. The benefits of using structured data markup are clear to see:

  • Easier for search engines to crawl your site and understand the page, enabling them to return more relevant and detailed results. Frankly, anything that makes a search engine’s life easier is a win.
  • Increased click-through rates due to an enhanced appearance in the results. Information is more clear and it is a way of standing out from other results.
  • Decreased bounce rate due to the improved relevancy of results.

At the time of writing, the general consensus is that structured data is not a ranking factor. However, the combination of more relevant results, increased CTRs and decreased bounce rate are all factors which can indirectly lead to a rankings boost. At the very least, they will lead to increased website traffic, which is not something to be sniffed at.

Structured data & schema markup

Structured data is essentially information about a webpage and its content. There are three commonly known types of structured data: JSON-LD, Microdata and RDFa.

JSON-LD is the most recommended structured data type, primarily because it is the most clean and readable format. Given that it is personally recommended by Google, it’s really a no-brainer to deploy JSON-LD as the standard format.

Wait, so what’s schema markup? While JSON-LD, Microdata and RDFa are the formats, schema is the language (or semantic vocabulary). It’s the universal code for structured markup that all search engines can understand.

Structured data can be tricky to get right, especially if you’re not particularly technically-minded. Before you stand any chance of achieving those sought after rich results, Google will analyse and assess your markup to ensure it is correct.

However, it’s important to clarify that getting it wrong won’t harm your organic traffic, as long as you don’t use the markup to refer to hidden content. If you get it wrong then your rich results simply won’t show, so you’ll be no worse off than you were to begin with. Don’t be afraid of structured data, it doesn’t bite.

Rich results test

In December last year, Google announced the launch of a Rich Results Testing Tool. The primary function of this tool is to let you know whether your page is eligible for rich results.

Simply plug in your URL, hit submit and then preview the different rich results available for your page. Another handy function is the ability to share results – perfect for showing off your markup prowess to your boss, or highlighting some essential SEO flaws to a new client. Plus, if your pages are eligible for rich results, you can also Submit To Google via the testing tool.

It is important to note that the tool is still in beta mode and therefore does not provide comprehensive results as yet. This will undoubtedly be expanded on in the near future.

Currently, only the tests for recipes, job postings, movies, and courses are supported. As a result, if your structured data markup falls outside of these categories then the test may not yet be suitable.

Until the full version is rolled out, however, don’t forget that you can still use the original Structured Data Testing Tool. Although this won’t tell you whether a page is eligible for rich results, it will tell you if your markup is valid. You can therefore address any issues with the structured data quickly and efficiently.

Patience is a virtue

One of the slightly frustrating aspects of implementing structured data is that it can take 2-3 weeks for a page to appear as a rich result. However, if you ensure that you are re-indexing your pages following structured data implementation then this will speed up the process.

On top of that, there is no guarantee that your structured data will correspond to a rich result at all. By implementing structured data, you are enabling the rich results functionality, but don’t have a right to it.

Of course, there is a whole array of other reasons why rich results may not be displaying. This could be to do with the accuracy of your structured data, including hidden content in the markup, or failing to follow the guidelines. Whereas previously you would have to wait a few weeks to know whether your markup has done the job, you can now use the new testing tool.

Final words

In short, implementing structured data should be a priority for your SEO campaigns in 2018, if you haven’t already.

The benefits of rich results are plain to see, and the launch of Google’s Rich Results Testing Tool is a further testament to the importance being placed on these enhanced search results.

Providing as much relevancy and detailed information as possible to the user in the SERPs will always be a priority to the search engines. If you can be a part of this then your website will be in the best possible position to benefit from rich results.

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8 key Google Analytics reports for SEO

Any stellar SEO strategy should be meticulously tracked and heavily data-driven.

Gut feel is great when deciding on which new pair of shoes to buy, but it’s not the best foundation to base your SEO work upon.

Google Analytics is a treasure trove of insightful data. And it’s free! However, with so much data available at our fingertips, it can be a bit of a minefield, and most people only scratch the surface.

Keyword rankings are great for stroking your ego and making your client smile and nod, but they don’t tap into the bigger picture.

In order to continually build on and improve your campaign, you need to pay close attention to the nitty-gritty of your data. There’s a lot to take into account, but in this post we’ll provide an overview of the key Google Analytics reports and views to bolster your SEO campaigns.

Many of these reports can be created as custom reports, which is handy for tailoring your reporting to specific business needs and sharing with clients.

Read on and we’ll help you to track and measure your SEO efforts like the analytical guru you are.

1. Organic search

Where to find it: ‘Acquisition’ > ‘Overview’ > Click through to ‘Organic Search’

It’s an obvious one but a good place to start. Head to the ‘Overview’ tab under ‘Acquisition’ for a base level indication of your website’s primary traffic channels. This provides an immediate summary of your top channels and how each is performing in terms of traffic volume, behavior and conversions.

As well as showing a general overview of organic traffic, you can also dig deeper into the data by clicking on ‘Organic Search’ in the table and playing around with the filters. Consider the most popular organic landing pages, an overview of keywords, search engines sending the most traffic, exit pages, bounce rates, and more.

On the topic of bounce rates, it’s a good idea to pay particular attention to this metric with regards to individual pages. Identify those pages with a bounce rate that is below the average for your site. Take some time to review these pages and work out why that might be, subsequently applying any UX/UI or targeting amendments.

This is all very well but wouldn’t it be handy if you could view only your organic traffic across the whole of your Google Analytics? It’s easier than you think. Simply click  to ‘Add Segment’ and check the box for organic traffic.

Leave the ‘All Users’ segment for a handy comparison, or remove this segment for a view of only your organic traffic.

2. Landing page and page titles

Where to find it: ‘Behavior’ > ‘Site Content’ > ‘Landing Pages’ > Add secondary dimension ‘Page Titles’

One of the most frustrating aspects of Google Analytics organic reports is the dreaded ‘(not provided)’ result which features under ‘Keyword’.

This unfortunate occurrence is the result of searches which have been carried out securely. In other words, if the URL of the search engine features HTTPS or if they are logged into a Google account and therefore protected by data privacy policies. In these scenarios, the search term deployed by the user will not be provided.

But how wonderful would it be to see a list of all the search terms people used to find your site? Unfortunately I’m not a magician and I can’t abracadabra these search phrases from the Google abyss. But I can offer an alternative solution that will at least give you an overview.

View your organic traffic via landing page and page title, as this will show which pages are performing best in terms of organic search. By including the page title, you can then look at which keywords those pages are optimised for and get a pretty good idea of the search phrases users are deploying and those which are performing best in terms of traffic and bounce rate.

8 key Google Analytics reports for SEO

This can also help you identify the pages which are not performing well in terms of organic traffic. You can then review whether the keywords need refining, the onsite optimization needs an overhaul, or the content needs revamping.

3. Conversion goals

Where to find it: ‘Conversions’ > ‘Goals’ > ‘Overview’

It’s all very well having a high volume of organic traffic but if it isn’t converting then there’s really not much point. To test the quality of your organic traffic, you need to be tracking conversions. There are two levels to this.

The first is your conversion goals. You can filter these with regards to traffic and understand what percentage of a website’s conversions are resulting from organic traffic.

To further improve this data, add monetary value to your conversions to better demonstrate the value that your SEO efforts are bringing. Some clients care only about keyword rankings, some care only about the dollar signs. Either way, it’s worth spending some time with your client to work out how much each conversion is worth and the data that they are most interested in.

For example, let’s say you sell kitchens. If you know the average cost of a sale and the percentage of kitchen brochure downloads which convert to a sale, then you can work out an approximate value for each conversion.

4. Assisted conversions

Where to find it: ‘Conversions’ > ‘Multi-Channel Funnels’ > ‘Assisted Conversions’

Although useful, conversion goals only give a surface view of conversions. What if someone initially found your website via Google and didn’t convert, but then later returned to your website by typing in the URL direct and then converted?

It’s very common for users not to convert on their first visit to a website, especially if they are only in the awareness or consideration phase of the sales funnel. When returning the next time around to make a purchase, they are more likely to go direct, or perhaps they see a reminder via social media.

This is where assisted conversions can save the day. Find these by clicking on ‘Multi-Channel Funnels’ under ‘Conversions’, and then ‘Assisted Conversions’.

With this data, you can identify whether each channel featured on the conversion path of a user, therefore providing more accurate data in terms of the quality of your organic traffic.

8 key Google Analytics reports for SEO

Pay attention to any drops or surges in organic traffic in this section. If, for example, you have noticed a drop in organic assisted conversions yet your organic traffic has remained consistent, then it may indicate that the leads are no longer as qualified. This should prompt a review of your keyword and content strategy.

5. Site speed

Where to find it: ‘Behavior’ > ‘Site Speed’ > ‘Overview’

Site speed is important, we all know that. There are a number of tools we can use to find out the overall speed of a website: Google Page Insights, Pingdom, GTmetrix. However, these don’t tend to drill down into specific pages. The site speed report via Google Analytics can help you to identify any pages which are proving particularly slow.

You are likely to see a correlation between the time taken to load and the exit pages, you can also layer in bounce rate metrics.

Using this information regarding individual pages, you can then approach your development team with the cold hard evidence that they need to resolve that page speed issue.

6. Site search

Where to find it: ‘Behavior’ > ‘Site Search’ > ‘Search Terms’

If you have a site search function on your website then this report is super useful for a number of reasons. Firstly, it can indicate where the user experience may not be particularly strong on your website. If a page is proving difficult to find without having to search for it then it may hint at a wider site navigation issue.

In addition, it can also help identify any keywords or search terms which you may need to create a new page for if one does not already exist. The site search report is ideal for unearthing these gaps in your website’s offering.

7. Mobile

Where to find it: ‘Audience’ > ‘Mobile’ > ‘Overview’

Comparing the traffic of mobile users to that of desktop and tablet is a handy way of identifying whether your site may have some mobile optimization issues. For example, if the bounce rate of mobile sessions is significantly higher than that of your desktop sessions, then you may need to carry out a mobile site audit.

It’s also worth considering the conversion rate of the different devices, as this can indicate which device traffic is the most valuable.

Given that over half of website traffic is now on mobile, you should see similar results reflected in your own analytics. Although it’s worth bearing in mind that some businesses are more likely to be more prevalent on mobile than others.

For example, a local business should feature in a lot of mobile searches, whereas a business to business service is more likely to be searched for on desktop by people sitting in an office.

8. Customize your dashboard

Where to find it: ‘Customization’ > ‘Dashboards’

Finally, for a quick overview of reporting, it pays to design a tailored dashboard for your client. We often find that clients don’t appreciate too much text or complex tables in reports, as they can be overwhelming at an initial glance.

Sure, you may be a Google Analytics whizz, but the chances are that your client isn’t. Therefore presenting the data in a way that is digestible and manageable is key to convincing them of your SEO prowess.

Create a dashboard that your client will understand. Use digestible charts, like bar graphs, pie charts and simplified tables. This will help the client visualize all of the data in one easy-to-view report. This can also be emailed to your client each week so they get regular updates.

Dashboards are created using customizable widgets. Begin by selecting the type of widget: this could be a simple metric, a timeline, a geomap, a table, or a pie or bar chart. With some widgets, you can also select whether to show a specified date range or whether to show data in real-time.

Once you have chosen your widget, you can configure the finer details, such as dimensions and other options depending on the type. Widgets can be edited, cloned or deleted, allowing flexibility in refining your dashboard as both you and your client see fit. For further information on creating a custom dashboard, have a read of Google’s handy guide.

There are a whole myriad of other reports and views available within Google Analytics; it takes time to become familiar with all the different types of data and formats. Hopefully this list has provided a solid starting point for genuinely valuable and insightful SEO reporting.

Good SEO habits: Turning over a new leaf in 2018

Join a gym, start that diet, call your parents more and turn over a new leaf for your SEO strategy.

Whether you’re a stickler for New Year’s resolutions, or the very thought makes you roll your eyes, reviewing your SEO habits for 2018 should be a priority for every business and digital marketer.

You don’t need me to tell you how fast-paced the digital world can be, with the pressures of keeping on top of the latest Google updates and SEO tactics.

Yet it’s all too easy to become stuck in the same routine, mindlessly implementing the same strategy over and over.

Well, it’s time for a change. That new diet can wait another month, but refreshing your SEO strategy can’t. Not if you want to be dominating the SERPs in 2018.

It’s time to sit back and take a long hard look at your SEO habits. In this post, we consider the latest trends and predictions for the year, explain how to review your current strategy, and the SEO habits you should be practising.

Revisit keyword research

You’ve got to start somewhere and what better place than at the beginning. Before you go tweaking your onsite or mixing up your content strategy, you need to make sure the keywords are updated.

Revisit your keyword research and update the data on which you initially based your decisions. People change, habits change, technology changes. The chance that what people are searching for has changed too is also pretty high.

Depending on how long ago you last reviewed your keywords, you may find that there are more tools at your disposal this time around. Bolster your keyword sheet with data from different sources (please do not just rely on Keyword Planner). A personal favorite is SEMRush, particularly the Keyword Magic Tool and Keyword Difficulty Score.

More importantly, when deciding which keywords to allocate to which pages, remember the game has changed. There’s no longer a need to create separate pages for each keyword variation. There’s a little thing called Latent Semantic Indexing and it does most of the hard work for you!

Focus instead on topics and the context of a page, rather than specific keywords. The search engines are smarter than ever; as long as you’re providing value, you can trust Google to figure out the rest without having to shove five variations of the same keyword onto a page.

Onsite audit

You could have the best content and link-building strategies in the world, but if the foundations of your website are not up to scratch, then it will never reach its full potential. On-site optimization is the foundation of any SEO campaign.

Even if you carried out a fully comprehensive, kick-ass audit to start with, things inevitably break and new issues occur. So do it again.

There are too many factors to cover here but just to mention a few of the fundamentals. A good place to start is with the website speed, especially in an age where heavily image-led sites are popular. Ensure you have done everything in your power to send that Google Page Insights score as high as possible.

As an extension of page speed, pay close to attention to the general user experience of the site. This is becoming ever more important and it’s worth getting an expert in UX/UI to review your website. Perhaps it’s time for a website refresh?

If you are launching a new website, don’t forget to implement a checklist of SEO checks before going live (such as removing robots no index!).

Be sure to fix broken links, address duplicate content issues, optimize your images and update your metadata. Since the maximum length for meta descriptions increased even further at the end of last year, it’s probably about time you rewrote them.

Have you implemented schema markup on your site? Now’s the time – don’t put it off.

Mobile

If you haven’t already switched your focus to mobile, don’t wait a moment longer. There are numerous factors to consider when optimizing for mobile and it is therefore a good idea to carry out a separate mobile SEO audit of your site.

Factor in the rise of voice search and how this will impact on keyword formats. Pay close attention to mobile-specific crawl errors via Google Search Console. Ensure your site passes Google’s mobile-friendly test and that mobile load speeds are up to scratch.

Finally, revisit the design and overall user experience of your site on mobile; given that mobile constitutes over 50% of website traffic, it’s time to start prioritizing mobile over desktop.

Content

Take a step back from your content strategy, review what is and isn’t working, and gain a fresh perspective. It can be all too easy to get into the habit of churning out content for the sake of it, without any really solid strategy. Rope in some unsuspecting colleagues and hold a brainstorm. Even people who are not directly involved with the content creation can provide some helpful insight into the mind of an average internet user.

Ultimately, you should be focused on writing content that provides so much value that people want to share it. Think about what makes someone share a piece of content and implement that thinking into your posts.

Be sure to also review and update any old content. Outdated information can be harmful to organic rankings, so take the time to do a refresh. Is there any content that’s been lingering close to the top of the SERPs for some time but hasn’t quite made the final jump to the top spot? Look at the content which is beating you and figure how to make yours even better than theirs.

Don’t forget that it’s not all about the written word. Integrate more visual content into your strategy too, such as infographics and videos. Video in particular is great for keeping people on a page for longer. Given that time spent on page is considered a ranking factor, it’s an opportunity not to be missed!

Link-building strategy refresh

We’ve all been there. Sometimes it feels like you’re putting a lot of time into your link-building efforts but not really getting anywhere. Time to have a strategy refresh! It can be easy to become too focused on only one type of link-building, such as guest posting. Yet there are a whole variety of link-building techniques waiting to be deployed.

Start by ditching any unhealthy linking habits. Use a tool like SEMRush to identify any potentially harmful links and disavow them. Begin the new year with a clean slate and focus on building high-value links.

Perhaps it’s time to start thinking beyond link-building and concentrate on relationship building. Work on building a solid partnership with some of the top publications in your industry. If you’re providing exceptional content for them, then it’s a win-win situation for both of you.

Local search

As more and more web traffic comes from mobile, local search will only become more prominent. Carry out a review of your local search marketing – think Google My Business profile, local directory listings, NAP consistency, schema markup and healthy location pages.

Appearing in the top spot for local searches is absolutely key to skyrocketing your conversions. If searchers see you’re business first, they’re more like to tap that ‘call’ button, visit your business, or browse your website. Fail to nail your local search strategy and you’ll be missing out on some serious opportunities.

Reporting

It’s time to get out the habit of relying solely on keyword rankings as an indicator of success. Clients often get hung up about the rankings but it’s important to stress that these are vanity metrics. The real juicy stuff is conversions and this must be factored into your tracking and reporting methods.

Sure, it’s very satisfying to see those rankings improve. But these are only a tiny snippet of the bigger picture. With 2018, take a step back and review your reporting output. How can it be improved? What other data should you be considering? Can you set up event tracking or more comprehensive goals in your Google Analytics?

You’ve put all the hard work into the campaign, so it’s time you demonstrate the value that work has brought.

Switch from HTTP to HTTPS

We know, switching from HTTP to HTTPS can seem like a lot of effort and potentially risky in the short term. However, as long as you’re careful and follow an HTTPS migration checklist, then you’ll be just fine and can start to reap the benefits in the long-term.

The need for extra security is never going away; it will just become more and more important. We know that Google considers site security a ranking factor, so why would you not do it? Stop procrastinating and get to it!

Final words

As a final point, be sure to keep updated with the latest news and trends in the SEO world. This is more important than ever, with the rise of machine learning and the RankBrain algorithm. We should expect to see further changes related to these as the technology is developed further. So stay tuned and stay agile.

In short, the best SEO habit is ultimately providing value and relevance. Forget about manipulating the search engine (you won’t win). Do everything with the user at the forefront of your mind, follow best practices, and your 2018 search strategy will be golden.

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What is an AdWords Quality Score and how can you improve yours?

If you’re trying to master PPC, you need a firm understanding of your AdWords Quality Score.

Your Quality Score in AdWords plays a significant role in determining the cost, effectiveness and success of your PPC campaigns.

But what is it, and how can you improve yours?

What is a Quality Score?

Quality Score is essentially what it says on the tin: Google’s own rating of your ads, including the quality and relevance of both the keywords and ads. It is about how good your ad is at meeting the customer’s needs, and this means providing both relevance and value. SEO experts will be more than familiar with those words, and the same principles apply to PPC ads.

For information on how to find your Quality Score and its component scores, have a read of this handy Google guide. You can now also view historical quality score data so you can track how your quality score has changed, as well as other more detailed insights into your score.

Why does Quality Score matter? First and foremost, Quality Score has a significant influence over the cost of your campaigns, determining how much you pay for each click. In short, a higher quality score will mean higher ad rankings and lower costs. By lower costs we mean lower cost per click and lower cost per conversion. Now I’ve got your attention!

There are a variety of factors that go into determining a quality score and, similar to SEO, no one can be absolutely certain of which factors are more influential than others. However, through a bit of detective work and a healthy dose of savvy common sense, we can get a pretty good idea.

Keyword relevance

The first step towards improving your Quality Score is to get the initial keyword research phase correct. Always focus on the most appropriate keywords for your campaign in order to improve relevancy (we’re going to be saying this word a lot). Remember to also consider long-tail keywords, as these can bring significant traffic that is highly targeted.

Identifying the most relevant keywords is not enough; you also need to organize them into effective groups that can be used for individual campaigns. Avoid having too many broad ad groups, as these can lower your Quality Score. Instead, establish smaller, targeted ad groups, as these will contribute towards an overall more successful campaign.

Set up this phase of the campaign correctly and you’ll be in a much better position to improve your quality score. With targeted ad groups, you will more effectively be able to reach the exact audience that is most likely to be searching for what you are providing. Get this part right and the rest should flow naturally.

As part of this, be sure to exclude negative keywords that could be unnecessarily draining your budget. Failing to do so could lower your click-through rate and therefore damage your Quality Score.

Landing page experience

We could dedicate an entire blog post to optimizing your landing pages, but for the sake of this article, the key point to remember is – you guessed it – relevance. You’re going to be bored silly by this word if you make it to the end of this post, but we keep mentioning it for good reason.

The process of clicking through from the ad to the landing page should provide a cohesive experience that links the user seamlessly from their initial search query to the conversion. Your landing page is an essential part of this process and it is therefore crucial to follow best practices for optimizing landing pages, as follows:

  • Relevant, original content
  • Transparency and trustworthiness
  • Clear navigation and strong UX / UI
  • Mobile friendly
  • Quick load speed
  • Ensure no broken links

Having a good landing page is not just necessary to please Google: it will also improve your conversion rate, which is the ultimate goal.

CTR%

The general consensus is that click-through rate (CTR) is the most influential factor in determining Quality Score. Afterall, it is a valuable indication of how appealing and helpful your ads are to search engine users.

Some find it easier to focus on improving the CTR, rather than the quality score, as it is a little more transparent in terms of the contributing factors.

One of the key factors in improving CTR is the ad copy. Ensure it is enticing and to the point. Make searchers want to click on your ad over the other ads being displayed. You may need to do a bit of trialling and testing to find out what works best, but just remember one crucial point: relevance! (Bet you didn’t see that one coming…)

This encompasses both relevance to the search term and also to the landing page. For example, if your keyword is “seo agency london” and your ad makes no mention of SEO, then your score will be lower. It’s good old-fashioned common sense.

Furthermore, there is no point writing ad copy that you know will improve click-through rates, if it has no relevance to your landing page. This may give you a high click-through rate but it will leave you with virtually no conversions and these are the most important end goals in terms of campaign success and ROI.

You may want to consider pausing keywords with both a low CTR (<1.5%) and low conversions. Remember that Google will give a keyword an initial ‘expected’ CTR% when it starts; this can sometimes be misleadingly low, as other advertisers may not have experienced good CTRs.

Don’t let that put you off, though: as it could present a valuable opportunity for you to provide a better ad and landing page experience to your competitors. You can also try incorporating Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI) to improve click-through rate.

Historical account performance

Just like a bad credit rating that may come back to bite you in the backside, your historical account performance can also affect your Quality Score. If you have a history of low Quality Scores, then Google is likely to penalize your current Quality Scores accordingly.

It may seem a bit unfair, especially if you have previously had bad scores but are determined to turn over a new leaf.

It also applies to newer accounts, as Google is more likely to trust ads from an old account with a long history of good performance than it is a new account with little history to go off. It’s the same as trying to get Google to trust a new website in terms of SEO: it takes time, but persevere and you’ll get there.

Think you’ll be clever and just start a new account for the same website? Afraid not, as it is against AdWords policy to start over (that’s the last time you’ll try to outsmart Google…). You’ll just have to stick it out and be patient.

Ad Rank

Ad Rank isn’t so much a factor in improving Quality Score; rather quality score helps to improve Ad Rank. However, it is worth a mention as it is important to look at the bigger picture and to avoid honing in solely on quality score. Ad Rank determines the position of your ad in the SERPs and is determined based on your bid amount, quality score and the expected performance.

Once you see your Quality Score improve, your Ad Rank should naturally follow suit. As a result, you’ll see your ads occupy those top positions, your click-through rates will improve and it will all come full circle.

My final word of advice is to not get too hung up on Quality Score. Sure, it’s important, but what’s more important is the bigger picture and getting those conversions.

Quality Score is a contributing factor to the overall success of your campaign, but it is not the be-all and end-all. Focus on quality, relevance and improving click-through rates, and you’ll be rocking your ad campaigns in no time.

Beyond Google Analytics: 10 SEO analytics and reporting tools

Analytics and reporting are a critical part of any SEO campaign.

As well as ensuring that you prove your worth to your clients, analytics are also essential in helping you make iterative improvements to the campaign as you go along.

Yet SEO reporting can be a bit of a minefield. With a myriad of available data, countless online tracking tools and making sure that the client actually understands what on earth you are talking about, it’s difficult to know where to turn.

Naturally, Google Analytics is a great place to start, especially for traffic overviews and conversion tracking, but it most certainly shouldn’t be where you stop.

When looking for an analytics and reporting tool, it is also important to remember that the focus should never just be on rankings. Sure, we all like to see ranking improvements – clients especially – but these are ultimately just vanity metrics. Serious SEO professionals need tools that dig deep and show the results in a way that is tangible and in line with business objectives.

In this post, we’ll cover a handful of the best free and paid tools available for SEO reporting and analytics. Plus we also look outside of the traditional SEO realm of analytics and into wider marketing metrics. Keeping the focus only on SEO can be limiting – we are interested in the bigger picture.

Free tools

Search console

Okay, so it’s another Google tool but it would be remiss of us not to mention Search Console. Your first port of call for identifying site errors, crawl errors, structured data, HTML improvements and security issues.

Also particularly useful for exploring the search analytics for a given site. Gain an understanding of the most popular search terms being used to find a website and the corresponding click-through rates. Data is useful as a guide but not comprehensive enough to be relied upon as a standalone tool. In short, it’s free – so use it but don’t depend on it.

Neil Patel’s SEO Analyzer

Neil Patel’s SEO Analyzer is a handy tool for acquiring a quick indication of a website’s overall SEO performance. It provides much the same metrics as you would get from other free SEO tools, including onsite issues, backlinks and keyword analysis.

The tool provides recommendations which are categorised by priority: high, medium or low. Tips are quite general and not particularly mind-blowing, but are nevertheless useful.

It is therefore handy for obtaining a top line overview, although if you are looking for analytics which are a touch more compelling then you may have to part with some cash (see next section). It’s the way the world works.

Seoptimer

Similar to the previous tool, Seoptimer provides an overarching set of analytics presented via a clear and simple grading system. The grades are divided into five sections to help the user identify any key problem areas: SEO, usability, performance, social and security.

Seoptimer lists all the key points of analysis and provides commentary on how well the site is doing for each point with a simple tick/cross system. Again, much like the other free tools, Seoptimer is useful for quick insights and analytics. Quick and actionable takeaways presented in a user friendly manner.

Paid tools

Woorank

Although there is a free version of WooRank available, it is somewhat limited in the results provided. The paid tool offers a comprehensive website review that covers a wide spectrum of on-site requirements.

What sets this tool apart from other more basic ‘website checker’ tools is that WooRank also provides tailored tips for increasing traffic and boosting conversions. Given that increased conversions are the ultimate end goal of most SEO campaigns, any tool that offers a way of improving this metric is a winner in our books.

WooRank also enables the user to set goals, which is a handy way of setting performance benchmarks for reporting. It is almost always more effective having goals to work towards, especially when it comes to involving the client in the reporting process.

Clients can often feel alienated by the plethora of data and SEO terminology, but WooRank is about tangibility, both for the teams working on the campaign and for the client.

SEMRush

SEMRush is a fantastic all-round SEO tool that provides a myriad of different services. In terms of reporting, users can take advantage of in-depth analysis, from position tracking to the onpage SEO checker. SEMRush provides detailed insights and corresponding recommendations so that you can take immediate action.

Plus, the reporting tool allows you to quickly create ‘drag and drop’ reports. These can be tailored to each client, resulting in detailed and bespoke reports that take only a small amount of time to create.

Majestic SEO

If you want to take your link-building reporting to a new level, then Majestic is the answer. Deep dive into link analytics, including their popular metrics of trust flow and citation flow, as well as backlink history, backlink breakdown and anchor text analysis.

Majestic has the largest commercially available backlink index so you can bet on the analytics being fairly accurate and comprehensive. As a stand-alone analytics and reporting tool, Majestic falls short of the competition. But if you want to hone in on link analytics then you need look no further.

Raven Tools

Let’s be honest, manually creating SEO reports every month is a time-consuming pain, and is another hurdle in creating teams that can scale quickly. Sure, seeing the incredible results your team have pulled off is exciting but actually getting it all down on paper in a clear, digestible manner can be frustrating.

Enter Raven Tools.

Raven allows you to create automated marketing reports which both look fantastic and deliver all the goods. Reporting aside, it can also help you to identify any problems with your SEO and consequently fix them. The Raven tool can even access Moz and Majestic link data, which is a pretty inviting prospect.

Not so great for keyword rank tracking, but the reports themselves look enticing and have the capability of pulling data from a range of sources.

Moz Analytics

As with all Moz tools, there is a user friendly interface that looks uncomplicated, appealing and comprehensible. Some SEO tools can look overwhelming or daunting but with fantastic data visualization, Moz always manages to make SEO accessible.

Of course we are all familiar with domain authority, spam score and the wider Open Site Explorer link metrics available through Moz. These are all useful as a performance benchmark for an ongoing SEO campaign and are important to refer back to at certain intervals to check progress.

However, Moz is notoriously slow at picking up new backlinks, which can be frustrating and it is therefore wise not to rely solely on Moz.

Wider marketing tools

Let’s not forget that SEO is ultimately just one aspect of the marketing mix. Although SEO reporting and analytics tools can be extremely useful, it is important not to disregard the wider marketing output and results.

As long as your SEO goals are aligned to the overall business objectives, then a successful SEO campaign should have a knock-on effect on other marketing channels, such as social media, email marketing and website performance.

We therefore figured it would be handy to include a couple of additional reporting ideas below to really get the most out of your campaign.

Hotjar

Hotjar allows you to gain a better understanding of how users are navigating your site by using heatmaps, recordings, form analysis and conversion funnels. Sure, SEO may help to get users to your site, but the customer journey does not end there. No way. The next step is giving them a gentle but firm shove through conversion funnel and into a loyal, happy and paying customer.

Use as an extension of your SEO reporting tools to work out where customers are converting and where they are leaving. You can then utilize this information in your SEO campaign, to allow you to focus on the high-converting pages.

Social reporting tools

SEO and social media may not be directly linked, but they work alongside each other and results are often correlated. If an SEO campaign is being executed, it is always best practice to ensure that comprehensive social media management is also taking place simultaneously.

Ultimately, any marketing campaign is about increasing brand presence across the entire marketing spectrum, and so it is important to cover all these bases in your reporting.

Some of the paid tools, such as SEMRush, include social analytics integration so you can keep all of your analytics in one place. Failing that, it is always worth keeping a check on the built-in analytics tools native to each social platform.

Summary

There are a myriad of other SEO tools available, such as Advanced Web Ranking and Authority Labs, but these tend to have more of a focus on keyword and rank tracking.

Although this is useful, it is not nearly as helpful as those tools which provide actionable recommendations and a more in-depth reflection of conversions. Start with our above recommendations and you’ll be producing stellar reports in no time.

What are the best free SEO resources online?

Whether you are a fresh-faced SEO newbie just starting to learn the ropes, or an SEO veteran who can recite the ins and outs of every Google update ever, it is safe to say that we can all agree on one thing: SEO is a complex subject.

Sure, the basics of SEO aren’t difficult to grasp. The issue lies in the fact that there is no exact formula for achieving that coveted number one spot.

Everything we know is based on the small amount of guidance provided by Google, a good dose of speculation, a healthy amount of testing and the general consensus from the SEO community.

With so much information about SEO available online, compounded by a fair amount of conflicting opinions, it can be difficult to know where to turn for the most accurate guidance.

In this post, we share our pick of the best free SEO resources. These resources have been chosen for their accuracy, reliability and ease of understanding.

The Big G

What better place to find out what Google wants than from… well, Google? It therefore makes sense to kick off our list with the Big G themselves, as they have a number of resources available for keen SEOs.

For anyone new to SEO, you may be wondering why on earth you would need to look elsewhere for learning resources, when Google is surely the most reliable source. The trouble is that Google doesn’t give that much away. Google’s SEO Starter Guide is a great place to begin, as is their help center on How Search Works.

More of a video person? You’re in luck, because there’s even a Google Webmaster YouTube channel.

Google may be head honcho in the search engine world, but it’s certainly not a lone wolf. It would be remiss of us not to also give a shout out to Bing’s webmaster guidelines for SEO and Yahoo’s website ranking help page. They are not quite as detailed as Google’s offering, but it is still worth familiarizing yourself with the approaches of each search engine, albeit very similar ones.

Moz

Although Google provides a lot of helpful information, it is not always particularly easy to digest. Written by the uber nerds at Google, the information does not often translate smoothly to the layman. This is where Moz excels.

Having been around for 13 years, Moz is the go-to resource for many SEO practitioners. It is run by SEO super guru Rand Fishkin, who has a knack for explaining things so as to not make you feel like an idiot. He also has a completely wacky but utterly endearing range of shirts.

As well as providing wonderfully useful and actionable information, it is presented in a way that is genuinely easy to understand. Start with the Beginner’s Guide to SEO for a solid grounding and then explore the plethora of other handy info.

A particular favourite of mine is the Whiteboard Fridays. In our Yellowball office, we take ten minutes every Friday afternoon to gather around and watch the latest Whiteboard Friday. Popcorn optional but encouraged.

Backlinko

If link-building is the absolute bane of your life, then Backlinko is for you. Run by link-building mastermind Brian Dean, he provides clear link-building strategies, advice and case studies to help you break through the inertia of building backlinks.

Utilizing a healthy combination of text and videos, the content is engaging and extremely useful. His suggestions are clever and make absolute sense but are not difficult to understand. You’ll come away wondering why on earth you didn’t think of it.

Okay so it’s not completely “free” in that you do have to provide an email address to unlock the content. But trust me, it’s so worth it.

Quicksprout

A great all-round resource for SEOs and marketers alike, Quicksprout is run by Neil Patel – certified online marketing wizard. His most handy learning resource to date is The Advanced Guide to SEO. Formatted as an infographic, it looks good, it’s detailed and it’s highly useful. What’s not to love!

Neil Patel is also a big advocate of longer form content, often posting articles in the 5000+ word range, diving into a subject head first and emerging with actionable points. These in-depth pieces can be particularly useful if you are looking for more information on a specific aspect of SEO.

Search Engine Watch

Okay, so we may be a little biased here, but we couldn’t not mention our own free SEO resource. With a range of highly talented and in-the-know contributors (ahem), the articles cover a range of topics within the expansive SEO universe.

From addressing simple how-tos for beginners through to tackling the more complex issues that nobody wants to talk about but everyone wants to learn about, Search Engine Watch is a treasure trove of handy resources. You’re welcome!

Best SEO blogs

SEO is constantly changing and if you want to stay ahead of the game then you have to keep learning. This is why it is crucial to stay up to date on the latest updates and trends. Below we share our favorite blogs for staying tuned in to the strange inner workings of the SEO industry:

There are loads more authoritative blogs on the topic of SEO and if we were to provide an exhaustive list then we’d be here all day. And so would you. Knowing you’re a busy person, the above blogs are a useful place to start and you’ll soon work out your own favorites for staying up to date.

Twitter accounts to follow

Sometimes it can be difficult to stay afloat of all the latest news and insights across all the various SEO blogs. So why not follow the best SEO practitioners on Twitter and absorb your daily SEO insight whilst mindlessly scrolling through your Twitter feed? Here are the ones to follow:

Practice makes perfect

You can read all the free SEO resources in the world but if you’re not putting what you’ve learnt into action then you’re not going anywhere. SEO is a fine art. Trying, testing and reiterating are all necessary in order to improve on your strategy and success rates.

You can’t master SEO overnight, but with a little resourcefulness and dedication, you’ll soon be taking your place among the SEO professionals. Practice makes perfect; there’s nothing better than learning from experience.

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How to make sure your local search marketing is up to scratch

For local businesses, having a strong presence in local search results is fundamental to those all-important conversions.

Just to be clear, a “local business” refers to any business that has either a physical location that offers face-to-face contact with the customer, such as a showroom or shop, or one that offers a face-to-face service within a certain area.

When it comes to local search, it’s simple: if searchers can’t find you on the web, then frankly, you don’t exist. It’s the way of the modern world.

It’s all very well dominating the SERPs for your more general target keywords, but if you fail to rank highly for location-specific terms then you are missing an almighty opportunity.

When users are searching for a local term, they are far more likely to be looking for a service or product. Hence why the conversions on local search tend to be higher, and why you need to ensure that your local search engine marketing is up to scratch.

Of course all the usual SEO 101 stuff applies. Offer an unrivaled user experience, nail your on-site optimization, provide exceptional content and build quality links.

Those fundamentals will set you up for ranking well for local search terms, but there are extra steps you must take to differentiate yourself from the competition and really bolster your local SEM strategy.

Local business listings

The first place to start is with local business listings. Ensure that your business is included in all the major directories (Yell, Yelp, Thomson Local, etc.), as well as any industry specific ones. Some listings may already exist, and it may just be a case of claiming your business so that you can take ownership of the listing.

We recommend keeping track of all your business listings in one comprehensive spreadsheet to save you repeating or forgetting any entries. It also enables you to be consistent (more on this in the next point) in your information across all listings.

Remove all duplicated entries, as multiple listings for one business or location can become confusing, both to potential customers but also to Google. And we certainly don’t want to be confusing the Big G.

Be thorough but don’t be reckless. Avoid spammy directories as these could have a detrimental effect on your SEO. Deploy a spot of common sense to identify the spammy directories but if you are really unsure then it’s worth checking the spam score via Moz’s Open Site Explorer or via other similar tools.

Google My Business

So this technically falls under business listings, but it’s so important we’ve given Google My Business it’s own subheading. Arguably the most important business listing because, well, it’s Google. Remember to implement the following:

  • Claim your business via a verification process
  • Include accurate information: contact details, location and opening hours
  • Carefully select a small number of highly relevant categories to represent your business
  • Ensure up-to-date branding, such as in any images of logos or premises
  • Use high quality images to represent the business

Be comprehensive and accurate in the information you provide in order to strengthen your Google My Business profile and improve your chances of being featured in Google’s three-pack.

For further information, have a read of Google’s guidelines on representing your business. Don’t forget to also cover off the equivalent for Bing and Yahoo with Bing Places and Yahoo! Local.

NAP consistency

NAP consistency sounds a like a fancy term but the concept is very simple. NAP stands for Name, Address and Phone number, although it is sometimes expanded to NAP+W to include website address too. As mentioned above, it is crucial that your business information appears consistently across the web.

This is particularly important to consider if your business has changed address, contact details or even rebranded. Any mentions of your business will need to be checked and updated to ensure accuracy.

Simply google your business name (do the same with your previous business name if you have undergone a name change) and work your way through the listings. Maintain a spreadsheet of your progress so you can keep track.

Reviews

Reviews can bring both utter joy and absolute misery to any business owner. Unfortunately you cannot simply ignore them, as reviews are indeed used as ranking signals in the eyes of the search engine. This is especially true for your Google My Business reviews.

Not only are reviews important in terms of local rankings, they are also key in terms of click-through rates. According to a recent study by BrightLocal, 74 per cent of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more.

Apart from providing the most incredible customer service you can muster, how else can you seize some control over your reviews? No, this isn’t about getting your mum, brother and great-nan to write a review for your business. It’s about a bit of gentle encouragement and managing a bad customer experience before it reaches the review stage.

It is also important to check the rules and regulations of each review platform, as they all have very different policies on asking customers for reviews and responding to them.

We’ve had several clients who have received a negative one-off, anonymous review that is either quite clearly spam, or in some cases, a bitter competitor or personal enemy. These situations can get a bit sticky, but sadly there isn’t an awful lot you can do.

Generally people won’t be deterred by one bad review, and the best course of action is to encourage other happy customers to get reviewing. This will push the bad review down and push the average star rating back up.

Many review platforms allow you to reply to reviews. This can be a good opportunity to set the record straight but you have to be careful about it. For this reason, sometimes it is best to get someone who is not as emotionally invested in the business to either write the response or edit it before it gets published. Be professional, remain calm, and kill them with kindness.

Location pages

If you don’t already have location pages on your website, then you could be missing a valuable opportunity to target all the relevant locations. For each key location that your business operates within, create a page dedicated to that location on your website. This is easier if you have a unique physical address in each location, as it is important to include as much location-specific information as possible.

Where there is a physical location, be sure to include an interactive map and images to further enhance the page. If you do not have separate physical addresses, try including testimonials and case studies relevant to each location.

This will help you to avoid duplicating content across your location pages; it’s a fine art to differentiate the copy, but do it right and it can have seriously good effects on your local SEM strategy.

Schema markup

Once you have your location pages set up, the cherry on the cake is schema markup. The whole concept of structured data can sound very daunting to markup newbies, but it’s easier than it sounds. Schema markup simply helps search engines to understand what your website is about.

This is particularly important for local information, as it will help those spiders crawl your location pages and you’ll benefit as a result.

According to a study by Searchmetrics, pages with schema markup rank an average of four positions higher in search results. Now that’s a pretty good incentive. Get your head around schema markup and you’ll have that crucial advantage over your competitors in the local search results.

Ensuring your local search marketing strategy is up to scratch needn’t be difficult or convoluted. Follow the above steps and obey the usual SEO rules. With some hard work and perseverance, you’ll start dominating those coveted top spots and see your conversions skyrocket in no time.

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5 things that Bing does better than Google

I have to be honest. When approaching this article, my initial reaction was something along the lines of, ‘Ha! Bing doesn’t do anything better than Google!’.

But on brushing aside my Google superiority complex and after a bit more considered thought and research, I came to the realization that Bing does do some aspects of search better. Quite a few things actually.

Let’s first take a look at the market share between the two rivals. In the US, Bing occupies a third of the market. A third! That’s pretty high given that ‘Google it’ is now a heavily used phrase by the masses, whereas have you ever heard anyone say ‘Bing it’? Probably not. In the UK, Bing isn’t far behind with a 26% share of the market. It is, however, worth noting that worldwide Bing only has 5% of the desktop search engine market share, whereas Google has 87%. That’s a big discrepancy.

Bing is undeniably still a key player in the search engine rivalry contest and it has many enviable features. So back to the question in point. What does Bing do better than Google?

1. Image search

Probably one of the most well-known advantages of Bing is the image search, offering sharper and higher quality images in the results page. Bing was also the first to introduce the ‘infinite scroll’ to evade the need to painfully click through the various pages of image results. Google has since caught onto this ingenious function so Bing no longer has the advantage here.

However, Bing does still maintain the advantage when it comes to filters. Unlike in Google, you can search for different image layouts – tall, wide or square. Aside from this functionality, Google generally has most of the same filter options that Bing has, although you have to dig a little deeper to find them.

One noticeable example is the licensing information of images – most people probably don’t even know that Google offers this data because the filter is pretty hidden. On Bing it is wonderfully obvious; nobody likes digging, accessibility please.

The only downside of Bing image search is that it does not yet offer GIF images in the results pages. You’ll have to resort to Google for those. A minor point though and one that I hardly think will be a deal breaker for most people, so Bing still wins on image search overall.

2. Video search

I know what you’re thinking. Google owns YouTube, so how could Bing’s video search possibly be superior? It’s all in the display, and Bing have really nailed it with their video search results. Presented as a grid of thumbnails, users can watch videos without even leaving the SERPs.

5 things that Bing does better than Google

Hover your mouse over the thumbnail for a handy preview and view a higher number of videos without the need for scrolling. Let’s be honest, we are inherently lazy when it comes to internet usage, so we’ll take any time reductions on internet browsing.

3. Free stuff

You heard, Bing gives you free stuff for using Bing. Akin to a loyalty card in your local cafe, Bing offers a similar reward scheme using a points system. Sure it’s not a technical reason to use Bing, but there’s nothing like a bit of bribery to win people over!

Called Microsoft Rewards, it works by awarding you points every time you search. These points can be redeemed for a whole variety of outlets, from Starbucks to Amazon and everything in between. Okay, you don’t get a huge amount of points for a single search, but it all adds up. And let’s face it, you are essentially earning money from something you’d already be doing.

In short, Google doesn’t pay you, Bing does. Tempting!

4. Social media integration

When it comes to social media integration with the SERPs, Bing is the clear winner. It would have been remiss of Bing not to take advantage of the deals between parent company Microsoft and Facebook and Twitter. With more access to social data, Bing results feature trending news from social media in the news search results.

Google originally only had Google+ to rely on in terms of social networks (need I say more?). However, following Google’s firehose API with Twitter that now ensures tweets are displayed in the SERPs, Google is no longer as far behind Bing on the social media integration front.

5 things that Bing does better than Google

5. Overall look

There is a general consensus among search engine users that Bing simply looks better. Although the main search results look very similar, other types of searches such as news tend to fare considerably better in the Bing results.

5 things that Bing does better than Google

5 things that Bing does better than Google

Partially due to the social integration mentioned above, Bing’s results look less cluttered and enticingly cleaner.  It may be a minor difference and a relatively small point in the grander scheme of search technicalities but user experience is important and looks inevitably play a big part in this.

Still can’t decide?

Admittedly, it’s a tougher call than we thought between the two search engines. For us, Google is still our preferred search engine, but Bing certainly has its merits, and ultimately it’s about personal preferences. If you’re big on image and video search then you may want to consider a switch to Bing (also if you like free stuff).

As for the quality of the search results, there is no longer much discrepancy between the two. If you’ve got yourself way too invested in the Google vs Bing conundrum and you need a further helping hand in pushing you to a decision, then there’s a tool for helping you compare. Aptly called ‘Bing It On’, it will directly compare the results for any given search query from both search engines side by side.

Now you can compare and contrast until your heart’s content.

 

If you enjoyed this article, check out our analysis of how Bing’s voice search compares with its biggest rivals: How does Bing’s voice search compare to Google’s?

Or if you want to know which search engine is best for PPC, check out: Bing Ads vs Google AdWords case study: Which offers the better value?