SEMrush vs. AHREFS: A Deep Dive Review & Comparison of Each
Hey, this is Shaheen from Web Upon and this is episode number 10 of Chalk Talk Thursday. Today I wanted to cover a very, very common question in the SEO industry. What is the difference between Ahrefs and SEMrush? Now, I think there’s a pretty quick 30 second answer to this question. I actually use both of them pretty frequently because they are both really useful for a variety of tasks, so I’ll dive into what the key differences are of both and then I’ll show you a little bit of the idiosyncrasies. I think that there’s probably a video for another day where I cover the more advanced features in both tool sets because they do have a lot of really awesome tool sets under the hood. There’s a lot of cool stuff going on. There’s also some nuances about the data, like Ahrefs just has tons and tons of data. They’re not very concerned with manicuring it.
SEMrush is kind of the same as far as keyword rankings go, and that’s why I love both of them, but for new users, that can be really daunting and confusing. Sometimes people get irritated because it looks like stuff’s getting mistracked, but it’s actually pretty nuanced and it’s awesome just because you get all the information, and I’m not a fan of too much filtration because that doesn’t let us really understand what’s happening in the market. So with that, I’ll dive in. So the main difference between these two tools is that SEMrush is actually completely geared towards keyword rankings. That’s what it’s really known for. That’s what it excels at. And the best part, far and away about SEMrush is when you’re inside the system, you can go through and it has historical data. This is huge, right. You can look at any competitor, you can look at your site three years ago, you can look at a new domain you’re thinking about buying.
You can look at the competition’s blog, anything you want, you can jump into SEMrush and their warehousing all the keyword data. That’s huge, right. That gives you such a competitive advantage. And I’ll talk a little bit more about that in a moment. I just have Amazon pulled up right here because I love to pick on them. And I love to talk about them, et cetera, et cetera. A lot of my clients hate them, right. So I have to keep an eye on them unfortunately. But the, far and away the key use case of SEMrush is this organic ranking data. They just provide so much more keyword information than anyone else that that’s really what they’re known for. So if you’re a small business owner and you want to track your rankings, SEMrush is the tool to go with.
If you are, I think an SEO and you’re a little more advanced and you want to know about backlink data, then Ahrefs is far and away the tool to use. There is a old school study from Matt Woodward and he updated it more recently. And just anecdotally from my experience, Ahrefs has the biggest profile of backlinks of anyone out there. They’re tracking the most information and if you’re trying to figure out something like what’s going on or why is my competition beating me in this specific area? Ahrefs is definitely the tool to use. They’re going to have the most backlink data, compared to anyone else. They’re going to have more than Majestic, more than Moz, even though they just updated their profile and interestingly enough more than SEMrush. So the key thing I’ll say here is that everyone right now riding off of the success of HubSpot is trying to create the next tool in the SEO inbound content marketing, advertising industry that’s worth $1 billion, right.
A tool like SEMrush was not getting updated that much, three years ago, five years ago when I started using it. Now it’s getting updated super frequently. They’re adding all of these cool features. They’re trying out stuff. It’s really awesome to see. Ahrefs is the same thing. I’ve heard Tim Soulo complain that they had keyword data for years and they could have crushed SEMrush and they could have crushed Moz, but a CEO thought that they should have focused on backlinks, which is what they do well. Interestingly, they’re running through keywords. They’re looking at the same keyword data from the keyword tool planner that SEMrush is to actually get that backlink information data, but they just weren’t warehousing it. And to this day, I don’t think they’re really warehousing it in a useful way. I’ll get more into that.
But both tools are great. Both tools are basically trying to do everything, right. So whether it’s SEMrush, whether it’s Ahrefs, whether it’s Moz, cognitiveSEO, Serpstat. I don’t know if Majestic’s doing keyword rankings, but they’re known for their backlink data. Everyone’s trying to basically get a slice of the market. Amazon buying Alexa, they’re trying to move into the SEO space and everyone was trying to do everything, right. But at the end of the day, if you just need two SEO tools, SEMrush and Ahrefs are definitely the way to go. And if you could only afford one as an SEO, I’d probably go with Ahrefs just because I can finagle keyword data and I’ll get into that. And I have all that backlink information, which is probably the most valuable and hardest thing to get. But if you’re a business owner, SEMrush is actually the one to get.
So let’s just dive in very top level here and I’ll sort of go a play by play with the key feature sets here and that’ll let you know exactly what’s going on between the two of these things. So this is really the main dashboard as far as SEMrush goes. So what you’re going to see is organic search information, which is semi accurate. I would actually say that for a bigger site it actually tends to be more accurate. Things generally can be pretty wildly off on a smaller site. Also, things are just harder to track. Obviously Google keyword volume information is just an estimate. It’s not ultra accurate all the time. So we just do what we can and the paid search information is also wildly inaccurate. Even a tool like Spyfu tends to be off pretty far. I would use that information more so than anything else just for getting information and sort of like analytics on your competition, seeing what they’re doing, see what they’re bidding on, all that stuff.
But paid is really hard to track honestly. And I don’t think anyone’s really nailed it down in the same way that a lot of SEO tools have nailed down just keyword tracking. A tool like [Akiranker 00:05:56] is really useful. You can get servers located exactly where you want and that gives you a depth of information that people really haven’t achieved with AdWords tools. And then of course they have backlink data and they had display advertising data. And basically the main use case really is in this organic keyword data. They have a breakdown of mobile and countries, super awesome right. So pretty much the number one thing to do when you’re looking at any keyword research and when you’re working with a tool like SEMrush is you just want to hop in good domain overview, which is going to give you an overall view of a site’s domain.
And then they’re going to have all that data warehousing information for any given URL or domain, which is huge right. So if you click on this dropdown, you can look at amazon.com but you can also on your competitor’s site, look at a specific blog post and figure out exactly what keywords they’re targeting and that gives you a leverage point that you can then access and figure out what you need to do. So this is like the stock view. I think for most users of SEMrush is really this keyword ranking information appear in the right. You can click on any timelines, you can look at how things are trending. And I think the most important thing, what you really want to keep an eye on as a business owner, right, is the top 10 keywords. This other information is useful, but it’s really not as useful as just seeing like your top three because that’s really going to tell you, especially in an age of mobile where there’s so much competition, what’s going on.
And then you can just get more granular too, right. You can look at the month, you can also look at the trailing six months, like man organic traffics might be a little weak. Who knows if the stock’s gonna fall down, might be a little hot tip for you, but this is really the main view. And then you can just go in here and you can filter through. So if you want to see how a specific product is performing, let’s say, I don’t even know if they sell car tires, but let’s find out. You can just type in a keyword and then it’s going to send you back all the information here for it, which is really nice. They also just added this feature where this keyword traffic trend data is actually going to update as well, which is really, really nice compared to the way it used to be because it just didn’t work that way.
So there’s advanced filters in here. You can search by specific URLs again, which is really helpful because if you’re spying on the competition, you’re trying to figure out why they’re doing well on a certain product category, or why a blog post is doing really, really well, you can just type that information into the search bar at the top and you can really see what’s going on in their site. So it’s huge. Tons of useful information as far as SEMrush goes on the keyword ranking side of the picture. All right, so let’s hop over here to Ahrefs and let’s talk about sort of their main view, right. So you’re gonna hop into the tool and it’s sort of the same thing. You just type in the domain into the search bar. They have these nice filters here, which is awesome.
We can literally just see the breakdown of backlinks between http and https that can be useful for site moves. Again, you can look by prefix or subdomain or even just a specific URL, again, which is super useful if you’re hunting for the competition and you’re trying to figure out how to win in a specific niche, super useful information there. So for a long time, this was really what I came to Ahrefs for, right. I really, really wanted to know what was happening on this side of the picture. So I think far and away the most accurate backlink data you can see there. So they actually split their index, right. So they have a fresh index, which has 2.6 billion backlinks for them and they have a recent one with 3.9 and then they have the historical one with 19.4 billion, right.
If we hop back over here to SEMrush, they have, I believe, 4 billion backlinks. Sorry, we just gotta wait for it to load, a lot of data. All right. So in their actual log, they have 8 billion backlinks. Ahrefs has 19.4 billion. You’re probably not going to pay for all that backlink data because it’s just going to end up costing you an arm and a leg and it’s really not worth it. But for specific verticals you’re going to expect that generally speaking, especially for historical index, that Ahrefs going to have way more data than SEMrush. So going back to the Ahrefs side of the picture, they have their own sort of URL rating tool and their domain rank rating tool. Moz’s domain authority DA is probably most famous as the tool that replaced the PR rating from Google back in the day.
But now given the fact that Ahrefs has just way bigger index than Moz, I would actually say that you’re probably better off using this information. This Ahrefs ranks, this domain rating value when you’re evaluating backlinks or site quality. That said, there’s a lot of nuance here. Most of these tools are not going to do a very good job of diving in and sort of assessing the overall quality or the relevancy of the links or even the freshness. But just as a heuristic, a good little tool and tip to look at, this information can be pretty useful. And then really what Moz, sorry, what Ahrefs is quite useful for is, you can just dive down and you can look and drill into the backlink information. We’ll wait for that to load. They give you information about what’s happening here.
Now one thing I’ll say, this historical stuff is super inaccurate because it goes on how they’ve just discovered something. So if it was already out in the world, and maybe Google discovered it months ago, maybe they didn’t, maybe they even haven’t yet. But this is just Ahrefs tracking of the situation. It’s not what Google’s seeing. So this isn’t super helpful as far as trend data goes. Sometimes people will freak out cause it’ll jump up or it’ll jump down. But when we actually dive into the backlinks themselves, it’s like, oh, that was from a blog post that we did months ago or whatever it may be. [inaudible 00:11:51] cool top level data is you’re just going to get like the ratio of do follow backlinks, .gov, .edu .net, .com if you’re into that kind of thing.
But really useful top level data, like do follow to no follow. You’re going to get, whether it’s images or text, whether there’s redirects going on, you’re going to get the overall rating of these backlinks. And obviously in most cases we’re going to expect this nice little pyramid, right where the vast majority of your backlinks, 89%, even for the likes of Amazon are going to come from low value sites. That’s just the reality of the world. And the other quick thing that I always love looking at is the actual anchor text report. This can be very, very helpful. Again, especially when you’re diagnosing an issue with your own clients site. They just released a feature for internal links analysis, which makes it a lot easier. I’m probably going to dive into that and in another video about advanced features for Ahrefs but super useful here. Like this, a lot of things end up happening and getting, rankings ended up getting affected by this anchor text a lot more than people realize and it’s something that a lot of people don’t really look at.
And if you don’t have a good tool like Ahrefs, it’s kind of hard to dive into that specific information because Google is really using that to figure out, what’s your brand name because you’re going to expect that your brand name is going to be encoded in the link when you get mentioned for PR purposes right. You’re going to expect that your products are getting named. A lot goes into the actual anchor text and Ahrefs just makes it really easy to look at. So this is their overall backlink view. This is really great because you actually get a top level rundown. You can see which of your backlinks are broken. If you open that up, you can go through your most recent links. You can go through historical, you can search by type, you can search for specific platforms, you can search for language even.
So you might wonder why you’re getting so many links in Japan or what have you. And you can also search by one link per domain, which can cut down on a lot of the garbage that you’re seeing. So you can just jump in there and get more information significantly, way faster, right. They do a semi decent job with the broken backlink side of the picture. Sometimes it’s a little bit hit and miss. I’ll be quite frank, but overall it’s pretty useful because you can dive in here and you can get a lot of information. For a lot of you business owners that are wondering why Amazon is kicking our asses, I’ll say, right. They have their [S1 00:14:20] amazon.com. They have all these links that are happening just because people are hosting on their site.
They have a ton of referral links. I did an article back in the day on Amazon SEO. I’ll probably do another update of that one coming up here pretty quick. Like how they’re getting a lot of their backlinks because for your average business owner, it’s kind of unfair quite frankly just on top of their brand recognition and how they just can basically just soak up cash money from investors, deploy it and then you as an actual business owner that’s trying to run an ecom store on top of maybe a nut and bolts, just average run of the mill shop with a physical location. So hard to compete with someone like Amazon that’s able to use these kinds of backlink tactics. So I’ll probably make another video that dives into that stuff, but that’s sort of the top level there, like you can just do so much in Ahrefs to quickly analyze a site, right.
You can look at the top domains. You can sort by the top domain ranks that are pointed at you. So you as the small business owner can basically see, or the big corporate enterprise essentially also, you can see who’s linking to you. You can see the quality of the links that are coming at you. And more importantly, you can see how your competitors are getting links, right. So if there’s this question of why isn’t my ultimate guide ranking compared to my competitors? We designed it so well. We made it look so nice. We optimized it. Well there’s maybe some backlinks situations going on. There’s maybe some internal anchor text linking situations going on. There’s a lot more to evaluate than just the sort of feel of does it look nice.
Does it feel like we did a good job. You can do a good job in Google and still not get rankings and that’s just the reality of the system. So all that said, that’s the real overview. But of course we can just dive in here right. So the actual use cases are similar. Both of these tools are trying to be all in ones there. They’re trying to get all your money as far as being a tool set that you’re going to want to use to keep track of your overall SEO portfolio, overall SEO presence. So SEMrush also has this backlink data. They have a backlink audit where you can jump through and create a project and they’ll analyze your backlink profile to make sure it’s sketchy or just to see if everything’s legit. I actually prefer using URL Profiler for that.
It’s my preferred tool. We’ll save that for another video. But SEMrush has backlink data, same sort of set up. You can look in here and you can get the information. It’s just not as big of an index. That said, I’ll often, if I’m doing a deep dive, sort of audit of a client site, I’ll often take the backlink data set from SEMrush, from Ahrefs, the reported one in search console from Google. I’ll actually combine that whole data set. And sometimes like each tool is going to have its own little circle of coverage and some things will get missed but you’ll get an overall longer list. So I will do that when I’m trying to correlate a bunch of data, but generally speaking, I’m just mostly working in Ahrefs if I’m trying to quickly get a sense of what’s going on.
And on the flip side, Ahrefs is also hosting that data. They also have this organic keyword information. I’ll actually say that they’re doing a very, very good job at this. They don’t, they still don’t have as good of a historical track record essentially that SEMrush does just cause they weren’t storing that information back as far in time. So it’s not necessarily as useful in my opinion right, because just the depth, the length of the information that you’re getting out of a tool like SEMrush where they have numbers going back to 2011, 2012 for sites, it’s really hard to match that if you’re doing hardcore SEO. The other thing that I’ll touch on is each of these tools are now adding in a bunch of nice features, a bunch of nice new tool sets where it’s not just about this keyword ranking data.
It’s also about these extras that you can use to sort of look at the information that is in front of you. So it used to be that Ahrefs is awesome because you could look at like top pages and you can see a breakdown of the backlinks going by pages. But now they have tools like content gap where you can basically compare two sites and say what’s missing from each as far as what you should be writing about. They have this content explorer tool which is awesome. You can check out any sort of topic you want. So if you’re trying to write something about yoga, you can use their index of both backlinks and social share data to see what the most popular piece of information that’s been written about yoga in the last week or the last year, which is huge.
It’s very, very helpful for content marketing. And it’s a relatively new tool, right. It’s something that BuzzSumo started. The other thing that I’ll mention is you get stuff like this, right. So it’s like a domain comparison. You can look at amazon.com and you can compare it to Target. That’s super cool. There’s a batch analysis upload in Ahrefs, which is really nice. There’s also a link intersect, which is really nice. And again, all this feature set is actually in SEMrush as well. They’re doing the same thing, just a smaller overview of information inside of it. But I would actually say that as far as secondary features where Ahrefs really shines is this actual content explorer tool because they have that backlink data, which layered on top of social share information makes it really, really easy to mine for information. One thing I’ll say too is if I was marketing in a country where things were generally less competitive, right.
So something that’s been a product craze in America for 10 years, but it’s relatively new in say Bulgaria, I would just jump in here, right. And I could search the same topic in another country or in another country where it’s more popular, I can figure out what’s ranked and gotten social shares over there and then I can just start writing all that content for my Bulgarian audience, just steal like an artist or whatever it may be. Get your inspiration from another data set where there’s already been more competition and you can just sort of leverage all the English content that’s been written about yoga in a completely new market. So as a secondary use case, I really, really like this. Hopping over to SEMrush, as I covered, right, they have the backlink information.
They do try to make the situation where you can look at competitors. I actually like this tool a lot too because they do a good job of getting you overlap information and you can look at backlinks and you can, competition level and you can also look at the organic rankings, which is just a really, really nice visual overview for any specific site. Very helpful I think when you’re jumping into a new market to get a sense of that stuff. And just sort of see what the overlap is between domains where you may be competing. You can also set up projects inside of SEMrush and this is again, something that’s similar to Ahrefs right. You can hop into Ahrefs and you can set up a site audit and they’ll monitor your SEO.
You can do the same thing in SEMrush. You can do the same thing in Moz. I’ll probably do another video that covers a lot of these onsite audit tools and how good they are, just because there’s a lot there and they’re very, very different. I of course prefer the manual approach because I’m more technical, I’m more involved. I want to get more into the nuts and bolts of the site, but these can be very, very helpful for busy people inside of companies and or for business owners to keep an an eye on things. So as far as secondary use cases on the SEMrush side, this keyword magic tool they’ve come out with relatively recently is actually pretty amazing. So the keyword magic tool is actually really awesome. They jump in there, they combine all their related keyword data and all their close broad match keyword data that they have inside of the SEMrush system.
And they just chunk it up for you with specific groups. So you got best, you got use, you got put, spare, inflate, right, get, buy. You get all these terms which are cost purchasing terms. You also get content terms and they basically just group everything out for you so you know what’s the specific area. If you want to dive into just one little niche, like if you just want to look at car tire chains because that’s what you actually sell, you can just do the same exact thing. And you can at a top level look at all of this information on the phrase match side of things, right. All right, so this is like the traditional view inside SEMrush, right, where you type in a keyword cartoon, car chain tires and you get all your phrase match related ones.
And you can also just look at completely related keywords which are not going to necessarily include car tire chains, but it’s going to be pretty, pretty close to it. But this new tool set with the keyword magic is just awesome. They just categorize the information for you in a really, really nice way. And then you as the SEO, the marketer or whatever it may be, you can just get all that data and you can start breaking it into content information, which ta-da, that’s also a feature that they’ve recently added. So they have this SEO content template tool. I’m not a huge fan of this because I think it takes away a lot of the human thinking that is still necessary, but they can just create an SEO template for your writer.
And I think for someone that’s the beginner or intermediate level, that’s actually a pretty useful tool set. And Ahrefs is also trying to emulate the same functionality, right. So the real intent behind their keyword explorer tool and all this SEO keyword information that they’re building in is that they can sort of start to show you a lot more of this keyword data and hopefully you will sort of buy into their overall thing, is actually a huge advantage with the Ahrefs keyword explorer tool. So they’re doing the same thing here, right, where it’s like, here’s the questions and if you can turn the questions into articles, and there’s like all this related term information as far as the keyword data goes. They’re showing SERP overview information which can also be helpful right. So there’s the top 10 list that you expect.
There’s video SERP features, which is also another awesome information set, right. So they have all this info in the Ahrefs side of the thing which is cool, right, beause there’s trying to give you the data you need to write content and of course SEMrush is doing the exact same thing here. They give you this little outline there. They’re literally saying in both sides, here’s the SERP, here’s what your competition looks like. Quite frankly it’s good to know, right. Like you should be thinking about what the title tags are like for the competitors. You should be analyzing the SERP features and saying to yourself like crap, maybe video is just easier to get into as far as rankings go than actual writing because I’m not going to be able to compete with some of these name brands that are out there that are writing things already.
And SEMrush is even going to go down to the level of your specific title tag information and your [H1 00:26:16] should have the keyword snow chains, what have you, mentioned in the text. So they’re just trying to automate all that SEO work for you. The one thing that’s kind of novel, I think really about their tool is they have this sort of backlink, try to get backlinks from these guys. This can be a little tricky, right, because sometimes it’ll just be like get a backlink from Wikipedia or get a backlink from irs.gov or uspto. you know, and it’s like, okay, well obviously I would love to get a backlink from a government organization. I would love for them to quote me, but kind of unlikely that that’s just going to happen. I’m going to be able to do some back link outreach and make that occur.
Just a little, still a little rough, not something that’s super believable. The last little feature that SEMrush recently added that I think is pretty impressive is the log file analyzer. This can be really nice especially with right now it sounds like Google is going to take away our data as far as crawl errors in search console goes, at least that’s my understanding. So a tool this can be useful for finding areas where you’re still hitting 404s. There’s also a bunch of plugins on the WordPress side that are going to do the same thing. I know that was a lot. I’ll probably do another video where I just dive into SEMrush and I just dive into Ahrefs and again do a little bit more of their advanced functionality because there’s a lot of awesome stuff happening in both, a lot of really, really cool feature sets are getting developed in both.
I’m using both all the time, but the sort of big picture overview for SEMrush versus Ahrefs, if you have to pick one, probably go with Ahrefs. If you’re more concerned about keyword data and you don’t expect to get very technical on the SEO side and you don’t think you’re going to need backlink data from three years ago, if you’re a business owner, SEMrush is the way to go, right, because you really want to get in there and get granular. You want to be able to spy on the competition, what they’re ranking for and you want to be able to spy on yourself and just know how Google is raking you all the time, how your content’s doing and that’s just really what the situation is.
Even though both of these tools are developing cool new stuff, SEMrush is really, really for keyword data and Ahrefs is really, really for backlink information and that’s the major difference between the two. I hope that was helpful. Let me know if you have any questions. I know I covered a lot in the video but there’s lots to cover in both tool sets, so I’ll probably come back in and talk a lot more about a lot of the other things that are happening under the hood. Bye bye.
3 Quick Ways to Create a Sitemap – Chalk Talk Thursday #9
Creating a sitemap is an essential SEO task. In this article, I’ll walk you through a few of the common ways to generate sitemaps, starting with 3 amazing tools: xml-sitemaps, Yoast SEO, and Screaming Frog. Let’s dive in!
Option 1: How to Build a Quick Sitemap for Free with XML-sitemaps.com
Xml-sitemaps.com is an awesome free tool. For a small site this easy-to-use utility will fill all your needs. If you are using a large e-commerce platform like Shopify you will already have a tool to generate sitemaps for you. Otherwise though, xml-sitemaps is a great choice. Just follow these steps!
How to Build a Sitemap Using xml-sitemaps.com:
1. Go to xml-sitemaps.com
2. Enter the URL that you wish to crawl through
3. Xml-Sitemaps will automatically crawl your website and produce a sitemap.
4. Press download to get a copy of your sitemap file!
Option 2: Use Yoast SEO to Build a Sitemap on WordPress
It can often be useful to get a custom sitemap when some installations are creating bloat. Inside of WordPress there’s a very helpful plugin called Yoast SEO that is very common. Great for getting title tags and meta descriptions listed on the site. While there is a paid version, you get a lot out of the free plugin, making implementation of SEO items extremely easy!
How to Build a Sitemap with Yoast SEO:
1. Click the “SEO” section of your wordpress admin dashboard, then navigate to “General” > “Features.”
2. From features, disable anything you don’t want to use on your site and then click the question mark next to “xml sitemaps.” From there, press “Seed XML sitemap.”
3. From there, Yoast will generate a sitemap that you can plug into your search console.
Pro Tip! — One really nice thing Yoast does is split up your pages–chunking your sitemap into different page types so you can observe your index ratio for each type inside the search console. You can use this functionality to figure out if you don’t have many pages indexed. You can click down into the deeper level of the sitemap to observe individual pages.
Now, one thing that’s very helpful about Yoast, especially when you’re just hopping into the SEO world for the first time, is that they make it very easy to auto-generate title tags and meta descriptions. Yoast features nice little cues that point you in the correct direction; and the service makes it easy to deactivate things if they’re unimportant so you can keep them out of the index. One key feature is the ability to deactivate unimportant data from the index. You can use this feature to trim low-quality bloat from the sitemap, giving you more precise data about your index and more space to focus on the higher-ranking parts of your site.
Using Yoast to Deactivate Site Content:
1. Navigate to “General” > “Search Appearance” > “Content Types”
2. Deselect any elements, for instance, testimonials, that you’d like to be left out of the index.
Option 3: Building a Sitemap with Screaming Frog
Screaming Frog is far and away my favorite method of building a site map, especially for large e-commerce providers. You can use screaming frog to crawl through your site, export a URL list, and delete URLs that you don’t want indexed. Let’s dive in.
Pruning your site map for performance is absolutely essential for managing a big e-commerce store. You may have products that you need to be indexed, but may also have subcategory pages that you need to ignore. Or you may have a ton of excellent blog posts linking out to some product pages and you want to make sure that you have everything covered. You also have some weird archive folders or legacy news content that your SEO wants you to keep on the site but you don’t really need because no one cares about it.
Screaming Frog makes it easy to throw out stuff you don’t want and only crawl URLs that really, really matter to your business. The steps are easy!
How To Build a Sitemap With Screaming Frog:
1. Download and install the Screaming Frog client.
2. Enter the url of the website you wish to crawl into the search client.
3. Press “Export” and title your document to produce a report.
4. Open your list of urls in a spread-sheet processing application such as Google Sheets.
5. From there, comb your list of URLs for those you want to remove. Highlight all of the relevant cells and copy them.
6. Return to Screaming Frog and select “List” from the “Mode” dropdown menu.
7. Press the “Upload” button with “Paste” selected, which will retrieve the copied URLs from your clipboard.
8. After crawling from the dropdown menu at the top of the screen select “Sitemap” and “XML sitemap.”
9. Make sure your settings are defined to only export the content you want to. You can use the “priority” menu to specify your sitemap configuration even more. As crawl depth goes down, you can define how to prioritize the pages that are deep down in your sitemap. A great utility for managing the ‘crawl budget’ for big websites. This is a way to make sure the right pages that you are trying to rank get indexed by Google.
10. When ready, export your sheet.
*NOTE: It can be dangerous to select including images with a high number of inlinks. Most often credit card logos and other supplemental images will be the most linked to pages, which you wouldn’t want indexed, so it’s often better to select and curate your URL list as well.
Screaming Frog is a great tool for building site maps. It’s export tool deselects 300, 400, and 500 response codes by default. It can be a great method of crawling a site to test for 400 errors, a good way to figure out if your site’s devs know what they’re doing when it comes to sitemaps.
To use the List crawling tool you will need to have the paid version of Screaming Frog. If you are using the free version, you can still get a lot out of it for sitemap needs!
Screaming Frog is really the end-all-be-all of sitemap creation technologies. If you are worried about the scale of your SEO needs, it is a great place to start. And while we’re here, I’ll throw out one more pro-tip for making the most of this software: When you’re in the list mode in Screaming Frog there’s an option to download a sitemap index beneath the “Upload button.” This can be really helpful for debugging any kind of mismatch in your sitemap.
Thanks for reading and be sure to check out the Web Upon blog for more cutting-edge SEO secrets!
How To Audit Your SEO Agency or Consultant in 7 Bulletproof Steps – Chalk Talk Thursday #8
Search engine optimization is one of the rare business areas where there are thousands of self proclaimed experts, but no central governing body that actual certifies it. And there never will be, because search engines have no incentives to encourage the industry.
Google made nearly $28.55 billion from AdWords in 2017. At the same time we know that people wouldn’t run ads if they weren’t making a net profit. Consider that the average click through rate for an ad is 1.91%. Google is logically enabling a much higher amount of commerce than $28.55 billion, and the organic value of that traffic must be worth much more than their AdWords revenue. SEO isn’t a snake-oil industry, it’s a multibillion dollar opportunity for anyone who can execute.
Google has every incentive to make sure any industry that would subvert billions in revenue gets destroyed and is delegitimized. Not that SEO as an industry needs any help. Even though it gets harder every year, there are still a stunning number of dodgy & underachieving businesses in the industry today.
7 Steps for Auditing Your SEO Agency
Now if you’re here, I assume that you’re really interested in telling whether or not your SEO company has been bullshitting you for months, if SEO is even worth doing, or if your latest site redesign or SEO consultant worked out. The six steps below should give you a good picture of where performance was, is, and is probably going. Either the picture of success will be nuanced with areas of success, or a complete dud. All that said, knowledge is power. So below are six easy tips for evaluating SEO.
1) Auditing Your SEO Agency Step 1: Check Rankings
You can check rankings with a variety of tools including SEMrush, SERPstat, or AHREFS. If you’re a site owner I highly recommend checking out of any of these tools. (SEMrush has a no-hassle money back guarantee for a week) I’ll go through the process of checking rankings (for free) on SEMrush because I think it’s the most full featured at the lowest price point of the three, and is free to try.
Checking Rankings from Your SEO Agency Step 1: Go to SEMrush.com
Type your domain name into the search bar, and of course click “Start now.” (gotta love the fact that they have no sign-up)
Checking Rankings from Your SEO Agency Step 2: Click Organic Research on the Dashboard.
The dashboard has great information on paid search keywords, display advertising, and organic search, which is all worth checking out. But the bread and butter of what we care about is rankings. As a note SEMrush has a decent set of backlink data, but I’d recommend pulling data from AHREFS or Majestic before SEMrush.
Checking Rankings from Your SEO Agency Step 3: The Organic Research Dashboard
This is the main dashboard for the Organic Research Dashboard. Information is limited for free, but you can still glean all of the key information from your site here. The first thing to look at is the main bar chart for your current rankings. Ideally what you want to see is the graph from my above client, where there is a clear growth in rankings over time. The other great thing you can see (for free) are ranking trends over the previous two years, one year, six months, and current month. The current month is great for seeing if you’re already on a downward slide.
On the flip-side I’d look for a specific drop off in rankings in the previous few years. If you’re wondering why business hasn’t been so good since 2015, you might see it here.
The other nice thing of this overview is the total number of keywords your site has in the top 100, the estimated traffic from your rankings, and the cost of that traffic if you bought it with AdWords. There’s also a nice chart of keywords and their URLs below, but this info is only fully revealed with an account.
Checking Rankings Step 4: Analyze Performance Over Time, and Ranking Quality!
As you can see in the video above, there are a few interesting ways you can toggle between the search settings to assess quality. Let’s be frank, we want keywords on the first page, and it’s important to note what is on the second page and beyond, as an item to monitor for growth.
But what we really care about are the keyword in the top 3. These keywords are going to provide the traffic your business needs to grow. If you don’t see keywords in the “Top 3” and “4 – 10” range growing over time, that is a pretty good indication that growth hasn’t been that great.
The caveat. With SEO there is always a caveat. The thing to keep in mind with Google search rankings is that 1) you can rank without getting more traffic or revenue 2) you can get more traffic without rankings, 3) you can rank for useless or low value keywords, and 4) long-tail traffic which would be off the radar of SEMrush can be significant. To really assess the quality of your rankings I’d recommend parsing through data on a monthly basis to be completely sure that important keywords were rankings, or that unimportant ones weren’t getting shed from your site. The main thing to note is did valuable keyword rankings grow over time or not?
2) Auditing Your SEO Agency Step 2: Check Google Analytics
Now the thing with SEO is, keyword ranking can grow even if sessions don’t. At the end of the day organic traffic is really the only thing that matters. Any SEO agency worth its salt should have set up Google Analytics at some point. While there are many great things to see there, I’ll quickly go into the basics of auditing your organic traffic from search engines here.
1) Checking Organic Traffic Growth in Google Analytics Step 1: Main Dashboard
Google keeps adding great features to their main dashboard. While some of the information is a nice to have, like the browsers or mobile devices a user is having, it amounts to fluff for our current purposes. (Google Analytics is still worth exploring, especially if you want to diagnose an area in which you’re weak. What we want is to see growth, or lack thereof for organic traffic generally. So in the left sidebar click on Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels.
2. Checking Organic Traffic Growth in Google Analytics Step 2: Assess Recent Traffic Performance
This view will give you information on all of your main channels. Direct are those people that come directly into your site, say existing customers, people who had a friend recommend you, or who have your site bookmarked. Referral is typically traffic from external links on other sites or forums. Email is from email campaigns, and paid is from paid channels like AdWords. Organic is what we care about, and this represents all the traffic from search engines like Google and occasionally Bing, Yahoo, & DuckDuckGo.
To actually assess growth in organic traffic over time you want to click on the date range set box in the top right of your Google Analytics view. You can set any date range you like here, including the previous month, quarter, or just however long you’ve been working on SEO. The other thing to keep in mind is that the year over year view can be extremely useful for also assessing seasonality.
3. Checking Organic Traffic Growth in Google Analytics Step 3: Assessing Recent Traffic Trends
While there are a variety of places you can check out traffic quality in Google Analytics I highly recommend looking the differences in organic traffic sessions over time. Engagement metrics like the actual goals and revenue associated with this traffic is also key. But ideally you’re seeing more green then red in this view.
4. Checking Organic Traffic Growth in Google Analytics Step 4: Look for seasonal trends.
First click back on the date range box, then select previous year.
From there you should be able to see a data sequence that gives you a slice of what traffic looks like compared to the previous year.
The important thing to note here is that success or failure from your SEO can often be influenced by seasonal traffic trends. Sometimes your pushing a boulder up a hill, other times you might be pushing a boulder down a hill. Either way between rankings and traffic you should have a pretty good sense of what your SEO work has gotten you so far.
3) Auditing Your SEO Agency Step 3: Check Google Search Console
Google Search Console (formerly WebmasterTools) is an exceptional place to check the performance of your site. While not as important as it once was, it’s still a basic checkbox that any SEO agency or consultant should be checking in on. There are a few things to take a look at that should be dead tells of SEO quality. First make sure you don’t have excessive SEO errors, these could be innocuous, but generally you don’t want more than a few at any one time. The other thing to note is wether a sitemap has been submitted for Google. As a KPI you should ideally be seeing you indexed ratio (URLs indexed/submitted) improving over time. A large number of non-indexed pages is typically a clear indication of poor performance.
Next let’s click on “Search Analytics” to get a bit more data.
Google webmaster tools has a wealth of powerful information for any business. Once you get into the search analytics screen I would recommend checking the impression, CTR, and position checkboxes. This will give you valuable information on all of your traffic data. The best part about search console is that you can compare traffic from the previous month, as well as see a wealth of data from (unfortunately) the last 90 days only. That said this data can give you valuable information on how some of your top keywords (queries in Search Console parlance) and pages that you can’t get anywhere else.
Once you compare your performance of the previous months (I would recommend checking frequently) you can easily diagnose drop offs in traffic. Search Console is so powerful precisely because you can see important information like a fall off in impressions (less people even seeing you rankings) or CTR (less people even clicking on your rankings.
Finally you can look at query level data to assess how the specific rankings on your site are actually performing. If you notice a fall off in a specific page’s clicks, impressions, or CTR that generally indicates an issue. Alone this data doesn’t necessarily help you diagnose problems with an SEO agency or consultant, but over time it can help you assesses wether or not progress is being made.
4) Auditing Your SEO Agency Step 4: Create & Check Site Crawls
One valuable area that all site owners should be on top of is the actual amount of work that is being done on their sites. Working on on-site copy, title tags, and meta descriptions are all typical work for any SEO agency (since it’s an easy way to manipulate CTR, as seen above). Generally there are two easy ways to actually keep tabs on what is being done on your site. If you are engaged and have a decent cash-flow on-site it’s worth having an account with DeepCrawl or Ryte (formerly OnPage) will make it easy to keep tabs on your site. If you’re more technically inclined and looking to save some cash I’d recommend using ScreamingFrog. This option will give you better options to audit competitors and more raw data to work off of.
5) Auditing Your SEO Agency Step 5: Did they provide clear and accurate reporting?
Most SEO agencies and consultants that are serious about growth should give you clear monthly reporting on progress, wether times are good or bad. If any of the data you’ve seen in steps 1-4 are a surprise that is typically a good indication of a poor SEO agency. They may be doing good work, but they clearly aren’t giving you the information you need to judge that.
6) Auditing Your SEO Agency Step 6: How Good Was Their Initial SEO Audit?
This is a basic box to check, but any SEO agency worth its weight in salt should create and run a thorough SEO audit. If you don’t have one in hand that’s better than the automated reports that SEMrush, SERPstat, AHREFS, or MOZ can create then that’s generally a clear red flag. I’d recommend referencing their audit every few month and making sure that progress is being made on the initial issues they indicated.
7) Auditing Your SEO Agency Step 7: Did they define goals or metrics?
Finally, hard work is nothing without benchmarks. If your SEO agency didn’t define and try to meet clear Goals and growth metrics then that’s generally a clear sign of an agency that isn’t committed to growth.
How is a Business Owner Supposed to Cut Through the SEO Mess?
There is just no central governing body. There could be thousands of issues on a site, and every industry and business is different. But one thing remains constant. The proof is in the pudding.
They do more than just SEO. They’re actual marketing experts and care about your business.
Consider this gentleman, Matt Cuts, the former head of Google’s web spam team. He successfully destroyed years of bad SEO, saved SEO from becoming useless, and is of course, universally reviled by bad SEO’s.
The vast majority of his “advice” can be boiled down to SEO doesn’t work and make “great” content.
To be fair great content is a large part of what we do. But SEO still works, it has just evolved, even if Google doesn’t want it to, because competitors are imperfect and so is Google (shocking). I know Google seems like a brilliant monolithic force, but think about the task it has at hand, in 2013 it had 100 trillion pages indexed, that’s a lot of data. The algorithm can be manipulated and worked with, you just need to be sure you’re working with the people who know how to do that.
What to Look for In a Good SEO Agency:
- Clear and Honest Reporting, they shine a light on their successes and analyze their failures.
- They have good local rankings, or like us they’re at least growing everyday ; )
- They’re multidimensional.
- They care about your business.
- They know your industry.
- They care about results.
But in a world without a central governing body that handles certifications like you would have with pilots, doctors, plumbers, or lawyers who is a business owner to trust? As a business owner or startup growth junkie it can be appealing to steer clear of SEO and do what Google & Bing want you to do, plow thousands into AdWords, or outdated display advertising, or best yet Facebook. But by auditing an agency you can access the highest ROI growth channel.
[00:01] Hey, this is Shaheen over at Web Upon and this is episode number eight of Chalk Talk Thursday The Ocho. Today I wanted to cover how to audit your SEO agency or consultant. Now, this isn’t gonna be a complete in-depth review of how to actually audit your site, that’s gonna be a little bit more complicated. But for any business owner or in-house marketer this is gonna be a really, really quick overview of some things that you can do to actually get a sense of how your rankings are and whether or not your SEO budget is actually being spent in a useful way for your business and even if your SEO agency is currently hurting you. [00:38] So, I’m gonna dive into the three KPIs that really matter with your organic SEO work which is rankings, your GA data, and actual technical staff that’s out there just to see if anything’s been done. And then I’m gonna talk about some red flags that are pretty common that should also let you know if your SEO agency or consultant is less than legit. [00:58] So, first thing you … most people think about when they think about SEO is they think about rankings, right? Now, rankings can be very, very important at a basic level just from branding, right? You want your name and your product to show up when you google that. You want to be seen, you don’t want competitors controlling the conversation around your product area. [01:16] So, rankings have that impact but also just at a more practical level, generally speaking, the most cost-effective way for people to get revenue to their site is gonna be through organic listings in Google. Ads can be very, very effective but you always have to pay. Organic rankings are more consistent and you can work on one area, turn that into a revenue generator and then move onto another one. [01:40] So, how do you know whether your SEO span is effective? Well, in my world there’s really one tool that does this better than any other when it comes to keyword tracking, keyword rank tracking. Now, the reason why SEMrush is so excellent is because it does a really, really good job of tracking out things historically. It has most sites in there, not all of them. [02:04] So, unlike tools like Ahrefs or Serpstat, Serpstat is actually pretty good at preservation as well but Accuranker, a lot of these other tools that basically allow you to input data, SEMrush has really, really excellent information going back often some years for rankings on a site. So, even if you’ve been working with someone for a year or so you can see if your rankings took a nosedive at some point. [02:26] Okay. So, as far as rankings go lemme just interject here real quick and take you to how to actually do this on your home screen. So, you’re gonna go to semrush.com, I’ll leave a link below. You can use my referral link and you should be good for a seven-day free trial and these guys are super legit, they’re located in the US and you can definitely trust them. [02:47] So, all you have to do is just make a beeline for any of their actual search windows. So the thing that you really, really want to look at is your domain overview, and this is probably their most helpful feature, this is what I love about them, they just have a lot of really solid data warehousing. They also have some pretty good international information. [03:07] So, you’re gonna wanna type the name in, you’re gonna wanna make sure that you’re on domain overview rather than just looking at an individual URL or any of their other functionality. And then you’re gonna click on organic research, SEO, the traffic we’re targeting is organic, it’s coming organically from Google. And this is gonna show you right here your all-time traffic. So, I actually revived a super old domain so you’ll see that this domain had tons of traffic back in the day. [03:33] What I really love is you should be able to see a pretty consistent growth trend on your site overtime. If you don’t see that, that’s bad. I just launched this business. We’ve only been around for a little bit as a company, as an agency. So, you can see we basically launched in October, I think, and boom here we are. [03:54] So, a couple of key things to note here, right? You wanna look at the overall ranking trends, you wanna see hopefully an upward trend or at least an upward trend overtime. The really important thing I think to zero in on here is what your actual top three keyword rankings look like so you can organize all this information and you should be able to see it from a top down perspective and that’s how I would actually approach it and that’s how I like to think about it. [04:21] The 21 through 50 rankings and the 51 through a hundred and the 11 through twenties. Those are all really good, those are indicative of success. You wanna have those, you wanna have keywords in that group that are actually going into the top three. But at the end of the day your top three keywords are what’s actually gonna drive growth and traffic to the site, and you wanna see those moving up overtime. If you don’t see that you’re really gonna be hurting yourself and shooting yourself in the foot. [04:46] So, that’s basically a breakdown pf SEMrush. The other feature I’ll note is you can also see these little notation tags here. So, SEMrush is awesome, they included this, I think in an update or two ago and they now note whenever there’s a major algorithm update in Google and they also just note whenever there’s high sensor activity. [05:07] So again, if you see a massive drop off all of a sudden, and there’s one of these little Gs there, then you’re probably most likely you’re looking at a specific Google update that cause an issue and they’re gonna actually tell you what you need to fix. So again, SEMrush is a great tool, you can just jump in here, they have great data warehousing, they tell you what’s been going on. [05:28] Obviously if your domain’s totally new like mine you’re not gonna see information going back very far. And then they’re actually gonna tell you what your individual keywords are which is the best features you can optimize them. A lot of people like other systems where you put the information in and it then shows you what keywords you’re ranking for, but it’s useful if you’re super obsessive and you just wanna check constantly and know at every second how well you’re ranking. But it’s not very good because you wanna basically be looking at keywords that have reported volume from Google because that’s really what’s gonna drive traffic is keywords that people are consistently searching not a keyword that you just wanna rank for, for whatever reason. [06:09] Now, a few key things to note here. So I think most site owners you wanna see your rankings look like that, but in reality there’s gonna be some Google updates so things can change and then you may recover and that may or may not be your SEO’s fault. So, the thing to keep in mind is if you hired someone here and then suddenly you just plummeted the next month, that could mean that they made a change on the site that was catastrophic and that’s probably something that you wanna have a second opinion on quite frankly. Especially if you’re a little bit leery about where your SEOs have left you it’s good to just hire a consultant or someone from an agency to come in and take a look and let you know if there’s some smoking gun of a huge problem that’s occurred. [06:53] So, even though everyone wants their rankings to just be this straight line all the way to the top, there usually is a little bit of variation there so keep that in mind. And secondarily there can be Google updates that massively impact your site. [07:06] Now, if you hire someone over here and they’ve been with you for eight months or something and then you suddenly plummet, well depending on your relationship with them that could mean that they didn’t prepare correctly, it could mean that you just have them working on other stuff. So again, it’s a good idea to bring in a second opinion and I will say that there’s a 50/50 on both sides as to that situation. But generally speaking a good consultant or a good agency that’s actually doing their work should be able to prepare and make sure that you don’t get a huge plummet like this, and actually like some of your competitors when a huge Google update happens you actually benefit from that change rather than being hurt from it. [07:43] Now, the second thing I’ll say, but again, you just wanna trend upwards and you wanna see the keywords that you want to rank for showing with positive information inside of SEMrush so you’re actually seeing some progress. That’s probably the biggest smoking gun. So, if you’ve hired someone for a really, really long time and your rankings are just … nothing’s happening, not that interesting it’s probably a good sign that you need an SEO agency or a consultant that actually knows what they’re doing. [08:09] Second thing I’ll say is look inside of Google Analytics Data. This is probably a better enthalpy all because you can actually look inside and find revenue in session traffic and actually get a sense of what’s going on in the site. There’s some good views that I’ll divert this video to so you can check that out and get a really, really good tour of what this information is and what you should be checking for. [08:34] Jump in here again. So this is Google Analytics. Now, Google Analytics is something that should probably be set up on your site. I mean, there’s a couple of different analytics platforms out there. I’m just gonna cover Google Analytics because it’s the most common one, it’s the easiest and again this is where really wanna be seeing longterm growth. Now a few things to note, you’re probably gonna see something like this when you first login here. All this information is super cute, but honestly not very useful as far as I’m concerned. [09:04] So, what you don’t wanna do is hop down here and also there’s some audience info here which is awesome and I always recommend checking it out, but when it comes down to hard numbers you really wanna click on acquisition and then you’re gonna wanna click on all traffic and you can look in here and you can see some source medium data which is very, very helpful. This can tell you a lot about your business and what’s going on, and you can see a specific breakdown of side traffic. So, I get a lot of traffic from direct Google Organic, Bing Organic, lot less, it just drops off to Facebook and just random other mentions across the web, I’m also getting traffic from there. [09:45] This is a very, very useful way to look at your site it’s just the overall ratio of traffic between various parts of the site. And again, there’s this handy little date functionality up here. You can just compare information week over week and see a breakdown of where your traffic’s coming from. And the one thing I’ll say as a KPI here ideally your direct traffic is becoming a smaller and smaller chunk overtime and organic is becoming a bigger and bigger chuck, and hopefully pray it isn’t crushing you with too much spend there. [10:16] So, the way to think about it is overtime most content marketing and SEO that’s going well you’ll end up seeing a higher and higher proportion of your traffic coming from organic. You will see growth indirect because obviously that organic needs to turn into good customers overtime but the sign of a well functioning site is that at least 30% of the traffic is coming from organic and that’s how you’re actually getting business. [10:41] Again in this top right thing you can also do previous year which if you’ve hired an SEO consultant for a year you can just take the overall year that you’ve had them on and compare that to the previous year. So you’ll see trends that are consistent by season just because seasonality is always going to be a thing. For example, you’re gonna have a massive drop off for the last week of December, that’s just gonna happen but if you’re not seeing consistency there and you’re just seeing an overall drop off it’s probably a bad sign. [11:08] Now the most useful feature in my mind as we go over to behavior and then you click on site content, and then you click on landing pages or you can look at all pages. I love landing pages because this is probably the strictest interpretation of what your traffic looks like. So you’re gonna go over here and rather than click on all users, let’s quickly click, let’s do a little control F for organic and if we type that and set that segment to be turned on we’ll see how much of our traffics from organic. Obviously I get a lot of direct traffic right now and that will get replaced overtime but this is good to just note. You wanna see that there’s consistency, you don’t want the ratios to be weird here but anyways. [11:52] Check out organic, that’s gonna basically be traffic that’s coming in from search engines and then if you just set this you can basically check your month over month performance. Or if you’ve been working with someone for three months you can quickly see what the traffic looks like over that time period. [12:06] So right here we’re just gonna quickly compare January 2019 to December 2018. Sessions are up for organic by 20% which is totally what we expect because obviously the holiday is the last week, everyone was pretty much out of commission in December. So, let’s look at November compared to the most recent months. It’s probably gonna be a more accurate picture and okay sessions are up 70%. So even better as far as the organic goes. The other thing to note is some months will be shorter than others but at a macro level this is the most useful view because you can look at sessions and then if you also wanna track you can look at revenue. I’m not on ecom store but you can look at revenue numbers here and that’s very helpful, right. [12:47] Basically if your revenue and the people on your site aren’t going up overtime you can set a really, really long date range inside of Google Analytics and you can see this information. And if you’re not seeing an improvement there it’s probably a really, really bad sign. The third thing I’ll say is a technical audit. So I’m not a huge fan of the technical audits that tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs or Moz have just because it’s applied through their crawler, their crawler can have some weird idiosyncrasies. So to me, it’s like just trusting their opinion and I don’t like that. Obviously you if you don’t know as much about SEO it can be useful to just dive in there. But I would say just get a tool in Screaming Frog, it’s free and it can crawl sites under 500 pages which is the vast majority of sites out there. [13:40] What you’re gonna do is just download this. It works on both Mac and PC and what this is, this is a crawler. It’s gonna go to a site, it’s gonna jump through the entire site. You’re gonna see it populate with all the URLs and images and all that good stuff. So I don’t wanna get too much into the weeds here I’ll probably end up making a longer video about how to quickly audit a site, but the main thing you wanna look at is your response codes. [14:03] So hop over here if you see thousands and thousands of 301s that’s probably the problem. If you have a few here and there it’s a pretty common thing so it’s no big deal but you wanna have your site pretty clean. [14:15] So you wanna check for redirections, you wanna hop over to blockbyrobots.txt. If you see a lot of blockage there that’s probably a bad sign. If the wrong things are getting blocked that’s something that should worry you and then you also want to hop over to client errors 404s if you see hundreds of 404s and you’ve had someone around for a long time and they’ve … they don’t have a lot to do if there’s issues like that on your site that no one has solved even though the impact’s small that’s typically a red flag that on a larger issue that not a lot’s happening. [14:46] The other thing I’ll say is just hop over to your page tittle tags. If the words here don’t really match the words in the URLs or the products that you’re trying to sell or how you’re trying to position those products, that’s probably a pretty big red flag. So, that should let you know that the spend is probably not being used in the most efficient manner it could be. And the last thing that I’ll show you is if you hop in here and you scroll over to the right you should see a column that says meta robots. Now if your entire site says no index, no follow, that’s probably pretty bad. [15:18] If you also see no canonical elements anywhere on your site and I’ll know that the site URL is all right so we’re not gonna have canonical elements on pictures, that’s a bad sign. And then if you see super high response times or anything, any big issues like that I should probably let you know that your SEO constant is just not thinking about things in the right way. And then also this indexability column if it says non-indexable on its page which should be clearly indexed that’s another big red flag on the SEO side of things. [15:50] So, those are the key rundowns of the Screaming Frog. Other tools like SEMrush and Ahrefs and Moz that have automated audits can be useful, but again I like this just because it’s raw data and if you see some of these red flags that I just outlined then you know that something’s up. [16:07] Now, there can be a lot of SEO technical work that can happen outside of the site itself but this to me can be a pretty good indicator of whether or not they’re actually up to something especially if you’ve had them for a few years. If there isn’t something that was a very recent issue like a site move or a site redesign and you just have this consistent 404s and you also have an anemic rankings it’s probably a good sign they’re just not up to much so you as the business owner even outside of organic data you should just jump ship, in my opinion. [16:38] Now, the other thing that I’ll note about these three KPIs is there’s a little bit of complication here, right? So, I really like to use all three when I evaluate someone’s services, right? So keep in mind you may be doing really, really excellent work from the branding perspective. You may be very aggressive about your advertising and you may be getting a name out there. So it’s possible that your organic traffic and your organic revenue is up hugely but your rankings are actually down, or your site is a complete mess from a technical perspective. [17:09] So, keep in mind that you want to evaluate all three factors, you wanna look for smoking guns like rankings plummeting, but you need to look at the whole picture because the traffic can be up and the money can be up but the rankings can be down on the site conserve. At the same time your SEO agency, your consultant can be working hard your rankings may be up very, very high but your revenue may not be there. And that could just be a situation where the market’s shifted and people aren’t buying as much or we can’t sell it, right? And quite frankly that’s not necessarily the SEO consultant or agency’s fault but you do really have to re-evaluate the strategy there and if they’re good at their job they’ll be able to say, “Okay, we need to actually target this other part of the market, it’s not practical for you to be spending money on me here when there’s actually something more useful I could be doing with my time.” [18:00] So that said, I think there are really three common red flags when it comes to SEO agencies and consultants out there, right? So, it comes down to no reports, no audit and basically no strategy, right? So, if you have all three you’re probably not getting anything for your money. [18:16] Now, the SEO report side of the situation is certainly lacking out there. There are a lot of companies that actually don’t issue monthly or weekly reports, aren’t really forthcoming with your actual ranking data or your Google Analytics data and that’s a shame. [18:33] So, I think two things that you wanna see inside of any SEO report is rankings and traffic numbers. Now, every month isn’t gonna be incredible, right? Some times of the year are gonna be a little bit more slow but the important thing is that when you hire someone for SEO they’re willing to make a longterm commitment in the same way that you do with content marketing and they’re basically honest with you every month, right? [18:55] If traffic’s bad I tell my client and we can reassess the strategy or we can figure out what specifically was the issue and then we’re able to address it, right? Your SEO agency should never be hiding the fact that rankings are down or traffic’s down, that’s typically a huge red flag. Or if they’re just talking about other metrics that are just amorphous like your impressions. Impressions are just how many times your ranking’s seen. It’s not equivalent to how much actual traffic and revenue your business is getting. [19:24] So, if you find your agency avoiding giving you reports, if they’re not sharing ranking data or session traffic, or if they’re just talking about other KPIs and they don’t want to discuss these two, that’s typically a huge red flag and that should let you know they’re probably not the best at what they’re doing or they’re not in it for the right reasons. [19:41] The second thing I’ll say is no audits. So any good SEO agency should be doing audit semi frequently. Now, depending on your site size, and your business, and your maturity, and frankly how much you’re paying them this could monthly, quarterly, yearly, whatever it may be the important thing to realize is you want a benchmark document. So, you can go from year to year and you can say like we have a 59% and we fixed X, Y and Z issues. Or now we’re at 99, whatever it may be. You wanna have a team that’s able to forecast and tell you what’s actually going on at the site in any given month. [20:19] The third thing I’ll say is they have no strategy. So, quite frankly we … every marketer needs to be thinking about the funnel, however you wanna put it, there has to be some key area of your market that is an ideal customer base that the SEO can say, “We should target this specific niche with these keywords because it has the highest conversion rate and the highest likelihood of actually producing revenue on your site,” right? You want some actual SEO strategy, it’s not enough to just say, “We need to rank number one for this one keyword.” [20:56] It’s not what the SEO landscape looks like at this point. You want a company that can actually come in and give you a strategy and help you achieve goals that are in line with your overall business goals, right? Someone that can say, “Oh in Q4 you guys are trying to do this,” they’re telling you about this product launch, “That means that right now in Q1 and Q2 we have to do this strategy so that we can put you in that position down the line.” So those are the key things that you should be looking at as a business owner or an in-house marketer just to check and make sure that the SEO agency or a consultant that you’re working with is helpful. [21:29] I hope that was good and if you have any questions or you would like me to look into anything extra just let me know, please comment down below I would love to get your feedback. Thank you.
Understand How Websites Work in 5 Easy Steps: Chalk Talk #7
As a business owner that’s constantly overwhelmed, how do you stay on top of how your website works? Understanding how the Internet works is essential to finding success managing a digital business. In this article, I’ll guide you through a simple explanation.
- Let’s say your on your cell-phone. You type “name.com” into the URL bar and a request is sent to your internet service provider (ISP).
- From there, your ISP tries to find the “name” server, which matches the URL with a string of numbers called an IP address, an address for a server.
Note! As a business owner, you need to understand the significance of the domain name registrar. You need to be sure you own your own domain. It’s like signing the lease on your business storefront. Your domain name registrar service is not the same thing as the server that is hosting your website, but they can sometimes overlap. Some registrar services will host your website as well. Make sure that you own both, failing to establish ownership over your domain can set you up for problems down the line.
- Once your request has reached the server, it is routed through code written in a server-side programming language such as PHP.
Note! If you’re working with a service like wordpress, the website hosting and the code may come wrapped together. In this case, you’re getting a website that your hosting on a server. The service handles both the code that defines your website’s theme and the server that hosts your website online.
- The browser on your phone parses the information and presents it to the user.
In a nutshell, that’s how the Internet works! Understanding these little details will pay off in the future as you scale up your digital brand.
The 3 Core Link Building Strategies – Chalk Talk Thursday #6
[00:01] Hello. This is Shaheen over at WebUpon. This is episode number six of Chalk Talk Thursday. Today I wanted to cover the three core principles of link building. This applies to any business. I know there are hundreds of lists out there that cover all the various tactics, but I think at a macro level, every marketer and business owner should have a sense of what these three tactics are, SEO, content marketing, and PR, so that they think about how they can properly apply them to their business. That’s probably a better position to be in, rather than just being focused on one off SEO tactics or hoping that the local paper features you. This is really a holistic system and a good way to think about how you can advance your business and promote it more broadly amongst the public, rather than just thinking about one specific advertising strategy. [00:48] I think for SEOs, generally, we tend to get caught up in any set of tactics. You can maybe scale a business out by doing some PPC and then you start thinking about SEO. Then you do content marketing. That’s a pretty common way that people scale up their businesses. There are other people that are basically thinking, “Okay, it’s all about product development. Then it’s all about just being the best.” I think this is probably more symptomatic of SEOs, where we get stuck thinking about tactics. We never really think about the broader business that we’re impacting, especially if you’re brought in where you have someone that sells a lot of third party products. You have to really differentiate the business. That’s why we love content marketing so much, because we can really use it to differentiate the brand and help it become more and more legitimate. I think that, strategically, you sort of forget that there’s this whole other side of the coin, which is really how do we get our name out there? How do we make ourselves important in a way that people will love? [01:46] I’m just gonna break down what these three strategies are and how people are using them now. Then I’m gonna talk about some of the brands that are sort of crossing over as far as these strategies go and some of the benefits of that, and just sort of dissect how you can do so in your same business. As far as SEO link building strategies go, these are probably some of the most common, so guest posting, any sort of dead link link building where you sort of find … or link reclamation where you go and find some references and you basically message these people and ask them to please feature you. This can be a very, very useful tactic in some industries. In others, it’s very, very tired. There’s also just local back link building. All these kinds of tactics are basically very focused on the SEO side of the equation. [02:29] It’s people that are thinking, “How can I game the system?” The only problem and downside with that is that you’re sort of stuck in this bubble where you’re always thinking about the SEO, the rankings. You’re never really thinking about the product itself. On the flip side of that, you get a PR centered strategy. If you think about companies like Apple or Tesla, Tesla in particular doesn’t really spend any money on advertising. They don’t really think about it. They completely depend for their PR and their external links, people just to write about them. They’re completely, completely product focused. They’re not really thinking about advertising at all. They sort of just let things handle themselves. [03:06] Now, this is a really, really appealing strategy if you’re in a very, very interesting industry. If you’re just doing some HVAC, you’re just a lawyer, if you’re a real estate agent in kind of a drab area where you’re just selling homes, it’s not mansions on Bel Air, you really, really can’t do a lot and just sort of make your product super sexy. The PR centered strategy then becomes a challenge because you can’t go out and get people interested because, for most people, it’s just not interesting. That’s where content really comes into the fold. Content is really helpful because one, it allows us to connect with our customers more. Two, it allows us to create a situation where we can really, really start to differentiate our brand. SEOs have sort of been on this crossover area for a while. We talk a lot about guides and these sort of in depth product explanations, which help customers, inform them, hopefully build a little bit of brand loyalty so that they actually shop from you, and then let you grow the brand over time. [04:04] On the PR side of things, I like to think about someone like Seth Godin. They are someone who stands alone, just purely based off of their brand. If you type Seth into Google, you’ll actually see him in the top three right now at this very second. They also are someone that writes content almost every day. Now the thing that’s interesting about their content strategy is any SEO would tell you it’s a little bit crazy, because sometimes he just writes 30 words, 100 words. They’re not very long articles. They’re so impactful and meaningful that they do get referenced and obviously his brand sort of feeds into it, but it’s this hybrid PR/content marketing strategy, which is a lot different some sort of the REIs and the Wirecutters of the world, who grow heavily by creating these strategies that are very, very focused on a in depth product guide that your customers are gonna love. In the case of REI, it’s hard to produce this kind of content unless you really are an expert in the industry that you’re talking about. [05:03] Now, I think the more interesting thing is just content generally. There are some brands that don’t think about SEO at all, don’t think about content marketing at all, per se, but they get almost all of their traffic through these mediums. These businesses are basically always trying to be ahead of the curve. They’re creating hyper interesting content. When you think about an organization like Pro Publica, they’re spending tons of money on research. They’re sending journalists out in the field. They’re producing really, really high quality content, typically doing a lot of data manipulation, basically the same thing that Five Thirty Eight’s doing, where you come back and it’s so compelling that you will keep your audience in the brand. [05:39] That said, these are the three core strategies: SEO, PR, and content. I think that the sort of case study that I would say, more than anyone else that’s basically moving into the center of the circle, where they’re doing all three is Amazon. Traditionally, Amazon hasn’t really focused heavily on content. They scaled the business out by doing a lot of PPC advertising. They very, very heavily focused on quality of the product. Now they’re doing more PR. Blue Origin gets written about all the time. Bezos gets written about all the time. Their labor practices get written up about, in positive and negative manners, but any press is good press. When it comes to back links, that’s especially true. They’re able to create this situation where they’re hyper efficient with all of their advertising budgeting. They’re hyper efficient with their product, service, delivery, all these things that consumers care about when it really comes to convenience. [06:30] Now they’re actually starting to create this strategy of content marketing around some of their core product areas. You may notice them making more and more videos. It’s something that Zappos has done very, very aggressively as a subsidiary of Amazon, but the actual Amazon brand itself is starting to do this. They’re starting to have some copy on their category pages. They’re starting to actually feature other sources of news media and get them integrated into the fold. I’m sure that Washington Post will start to inform some of the content that’s gonna go into the Amazon beast. [07:01] I think that every business should really start to think about how they can leverage all three sides of this triangle. It’s super, super easy to … sorry, all three sides of this Venn Diagram. It’s super, super easy to just play in the SEO world all day, do guest posts. It’s super, super easy to write great content for a customer and get PR mentions over time and just let that sort of ride out and help grow the brand, especially when you know what you’re doing on the SEO side. I think it becomes pretty hard for a lot of brands in a lot of more practical industries where you’re not just sort of moon shooting for some crazy product that no one’s ever seen to actually get some interest in the product. [07:42] In those kinds of areas, what you really have to do is create some hyper compelling piece of content that’s maybe a layer above where your sales funnel really is. If most of your customers are sort of here, and this is where you make all your money, you might have to go up a whole nother layer to some other, bigger market, some other, bigger funnel that just is way out of what you’re selling now. This actually gives you a lot of access to customers that wouldn’t normally care otherwise. That’s, in a nutshell, how I think about link building strategies. There’s really only three when it comes down to it. You’re really only playing in the SEO world, in the content marketing world, and in the PR world. [08:21] There are ways that you can do earned and owned media placements in both, but at the end of the day, I think every business owner and marketer needs to think about how we can sort of cross over and get to the center, make our products as interesting as they possibly can be, or find someone who’s gonna be more interested in our products, or just some weird aspect of it. Even if we make some weird nut and bolt for a sewer system and no one cares about it, we can probably make a really, really amazing graphic about what the sewer system looks like, or if the power grid went down, how quickly it would collapse, or how resilient it is, so how well it would last, or if it’s negative 50 right now, you could do a little bit of news jacking and say, “What happens when it’s this cold in regions where it’s typically not this frigid?” These are the three strategies. Everyone should just focus on trying to diversify as far as I’m concerned. I hope that was helpful.
5 Ideation Strategies for Content Teams
As a digital or content marketer, you and your team will be tasked with creating social media posts, blogs, websites, advertisements, videos, and more. The task of ideating and executing on content can be an exhausting one, especially if you have to start from square one every single time, without a strategy to help you get going. Luckily, we’re here to help you with the strategy component.
Marketing in many ways is theater–it’s a big show, designed to entertain, educate, and drive sales. The best types of marketing do all three. It’s always helpful to start with a reminder of why marketing is cool. Here’s one of our favorite videos:
If that doesn’t make you want to a razor subscription box, we don’t know what will. Now, let’s dive into how you and your team can work better together to brainstorm and ideate compelling content for your clients, while also not boring yourself to tears in the process.
1. The bottom up approach
A common and traditional approach. Like Drake, we start from the bottom (and hopefully, now we here). You lay the foundations for what types of content you want to create, what the big idea is, and you start building pieces on top of this until you have a finished, cohesive final product.
So, how do you start from the bottom? First, the content strategist brings a list of keywords that your client can potentially compete for. Let’s say you’re trying to help an artisanal basket weaver become the top basket weaver in his area (at least in the SRPs). Your strategy guy brings in this list:
- Basket weaving for fun and profit
- Basket artisans
- Baskets for bread
- Baskets for blankets
From here, we can create a link between all four of these things. For instance, a blog post that highlights the differences between baskets for holding food and baskets for holding household goods, while also highlighting the different artisanal styles that different basket weavers take, and what separates a cheap basket from an expensive, well made one.
A silly example, but it’s a good one for thinking about how you can start thinking about a base and building from it.
2. The top down approach
An equally valuable strategy for ideation is starting with what the final product should look like. What’s the mood, feeling, or theme that you want your content to have? This method is very helpful when you already have a product or service ready to go. Go ahead and mine that product for information. What is it called? What does it do? How does it look? Any answer to one of those questions can give you a top of the pyramid idea to work towards.
For example, if we’re selling a new type of bird seed called Munch, we have 18 different top-level things that we can work towards and emphasize. There’s the sound of the name, which can create all sorts of content ideas. Or, we can go bird-heavy, with lots of imagery. Once we know what we want to do, or what the product is, there’s all sorts of ways we can build toward that, with text, graphic design, and clever product placement.
3. Who is our audience?
It never hurts a content team to think about who their content is in service of. Many marketing folks miss this, in the constant hustle to hit the moving target that Facebook and Google are setting for them. Content is meant to bring value into the life of the customer it is targeting, through education and information. Marketing is linking customers with services and products that they will find fascinating or useful.
So, your team should ask–who is this product for, and how does that person think and feel? It’s an exercise in empathy. When you know who your audience is, there’s many different tools and strategies that you can use to ideate content. On a very simple level, for example, if you know that your audience doesn’t respond well to animated GIFs, don’t use animated GIFs!
4. Why this product or service?
A great strategy and one that folks often miss pivots around a crucial question: why our product over our competitors’? Let’s say you’re one of 10 million lifestyle coaches out there. What do you offer to clients that nobody else does? And, if you’re like a lot of other lifestyle coaches, how can you distinguish yourself.
Your ideation team shouldn’t look at this as a challenge to justify your product. That can lead down an unproductive road. Instead, focus on thinking about what makes your product or service great, and lead with ideas for content that emphasize and draw attention to that positivity. That’s the path to success.
5. Rules of the road
Every good content strategy session starts with some rules. Many ideation sessions can get mired in gridlock or analysis paralysis because someone doesn’t take the time to lay down some ground rules. You always need to take this sort of thing with a grain of salt, but many studies have found that how brainstorming happens is often more important than who is doing the brainstorming. That’s why it’s usually a good idea to have someone with institutional knowledge and organizational skill set up some guardrails beforehand. Style guides can be enormously helpful in this regard.
Building a helpful structure to help people stay on track and decide what kind of content needs to be created is enormously valuable. Here’s a few questions to answer before jumping into an ideation session with your team:
- What’s our budget–what are we reasonably able to afford and, therefore, achieve?
- What kind of content did we like in the past? Can we iterate?
- What types of content will not be used in this project (this can be a helpful focusing tool)?
- Are there projects/products/ideas that we want to emulate? What parts of those things were successful, and are they transferable to our current project.
For most people, ideation is either the most fun or the least fun part of a project. But remember, this can be serious business. Moz says it best:
Putting time and energy into a bad idea is a waste of your resources and has the potential to turn your audience off. Plus, if your decision maker sees too many resources invested in too many ideas that fail, you could lose credibility, autonomy, and—worst case scenario—your job.
Utilizing these strategies will help you get going on a new project and can serve as a consistent and reliable method of brainstorming new marketing magic going forward. Good luck! And, get in touch with us if you’d rather we handle the tough stuff for you.
Struggling to bring your team together and brainstorm new exciting content? Read on to discover some of the best methods for content ideation.
How to Write Great Title Tags in 2019
Hello, this is Shaheen over at WebUpon and this is episode number five of Chalk Talk Thursday. Today we’re going to cover something that I love, how to write really good, damn good title tags. As is my custom, I’m going to start off by talking about a little bit of the contention here with title tags, and whether or not they still really matter. Then I’m going to get into how you should think about title tags as headlines, as brand ambassadors. Then, we’re going to break down how to really assess your title tags, where they are, and how to optimize them further.
Just to start off here, a pretty common question I get, and something that’s sort of just floating around is, do title tags still matter? I think it’s a fair question, but at the end of the day when you look at it from the sort of reverse position as far as Google’s concerned, and as far as customers and you as the business owner is concerned, you can still destroy your rankings with a bad title tag. If I can get in there and change my title tags on a page that’s ranking number one, and get it to rank number four, five, or six, or whatever it may be pretty quickly there. That should let you know that despite other tactical factors, and perhaps your brand recognition, you can still really do a lot, or do a lot of damage with title tags. In my mind, they still do matter.
A few things to think about here, and really at the end of the day I think this is driven by the fact that there are developers who sort of view SEO as an amorphous, not legit process, like there’s not enough skillset in there. That’s a pretty fair critique, right? There’s a lot of shady SEO’s out there. But, in 2019 when you hire an SEO, when you hire an SEO agency, you’re getting someone that has experience working within the SERP, and really getting more revenue for your business. I wouldn’t be in SEO if I couldn’t make my clients more and more money over time, and the fact that people don’t think SEO is legitimate is great for me, right? Because, that just means that everyone else is less competitive.
There’s that component to it. There’s also just the fact that if you hire any SEO, you’re going to be getting someone that has this technical knowledge, but they also have experience with CRO, they have experience with content marketing, and they’re really assessing the entire funnel from top to bottom. We’re looking at search queries not as keywords, but as parts of topical areas, and we’re looking at them as opportunities to understand the customer as they’re coming in.
It’s really psychographics applied to how is our specific target customer, Cathy who’s 27 from Omaha, how is she shopping on the site? That’s really how we’re using these title tags, right?
The first question you gotta ask yourself is, how bad are your title tags? If you have terrible title tags, and there’s no keywords that actually match up to the page for the term that you want to rank for in your title tag, or anywhere else on the page. The fact is that, even as smart as Google is in 2019, you’re just not going to rank. It’s not going to happen.
The second thing I will think about is, how goods your site generally speaking? A lot of issues can arise from the fact that you really can’t get around a poorly designed site, or a bad customer experience. Something that looks dated, something that people won’t trust. There’s no amount of technical optimization you can bring into that picture, and actually get it to perform at the end of the day. Just because it’s not good, no one wants to interact with it. Google’s not going to send people there because if we can’t send people there, if it’s not a good result, then we can’t sell ads against it, right? We have to think about Google as a company, and what their goals are, and always be working backwards from that situation, right? This is part of, this is principle number one as far as I’m concerned, when it comes to advanced SEO.
The third thing you should be asking yourself, right? Is this question, title tags don’t matter, I can show you all these large scale ranking studies where they look at millions of keywords, and there’s just no math behind it. In my mind, this is really a correlation versus causation problem. Even though it’s anecdotal, it’s an N of 1. Well, you know, I’m one person but I have thousands of title tags that this has been applied to, and we’ve seen growth there. You should really be considering the fact that any website that’s massive, that’s an Amazon, or a Home Depot. Any large site that may be in your niche, is going to have the advantage of more brand recognition, they’re going to have the advantage of stores, and they’re going to be able to have pretty crappy technical SEO.
The fact is that, anyone that’s a smaller competitor in a market, a smaller business, needs to optimize every single possible thing they can to get an edge. A good title tag is going to help you get that edge. That really just answers the question, do title tags still matter? Yes. Are they the solve all for all the problems you may have on the site? No, absolutely not. There are still going to be technical problems. You’re still going to have to think about how your brand interacts with other people. And, you’re really goin to have to think about the fact that your site isn’t just technical SEO. There’s way more to it. You have customers, and you need to work with those customers to show them something that they want to see.
The reason why I love title tags so much is because it’s relatively cheaper compared to other tactics you could use on a site to influence rankings. If I come to a site and it’s poorly designed, it’s relatively harder to build 100 back links in a month. It’s something we can do over a year, but it’s just not going to happen very quickly. Title tags, as they exist on the organic SERP, until a day where’s there’s no organic searching, it’s just all paid, you can still influence how people are clicking. You can still get reception from real humans that are clicking through, and title tags are really just headlines. They’re advertising headlines, and hopefully they can be had for the cheap compared to these AdWords, the whole Google ads ecosystem.
You need to think about title tags as headlines, as quality advertising copy. And, really the ambassador for your brand on Google, and also these can get used on social networks as well. You have to be thinking about the whole alignment of the brand, and not just the sales. But, obviously we’re just trying to drive sales at the end of the day, right?
The first thing I’ll say here is, as far as any good title tag goes, you need to include some keyword, right? If you find yourself not ranking, it’s probably because you’re not using the keyword that you want to be ranking for in the title tag. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re guaranteed to rank for it, but you gotta mention it somewhere, right?
The second thing to think about with title tags is, at the end of the day it’s really all about CTR, right? If you look at the modern SERP, I just typed in office chair, right? You have Google shopping right here, which is this nice little carousel of products. I’ll talk about this more in a second, right? Then you also have ads. Fun fact, I was running this a second ago. Because I have an international client, I was still on a German server, and they don’t have this extra little ad bit there. We just get tons of ads in the US, which is, you know. It is what it is.
Then, you actually have your organic listings down here, right? You have six organic positions, and then you have a map. This is really what a modern SERP looks like, right? This is what a modern search engine results page looks like. On a cellphone, this is going to be one thumb scroll right here, and this is going to be another thumb scroll. You’re really fighting for attention. It’s very difficult to really get users to see you on the SERP at this point. You want to be thinking about the fact that my title tag is basically an advertisement. It’s an entrée into the brand. It gives users an opportunity to click in and start interacting with you. It’s just getting harder and harder every day, which is why we need to get better and better at it every day as we progress, right?
The third thing I’ll say is, as a general rule of thumb, you want to make sure you have at least one or two keywords in your title tag. Any more than that and you get the old school typical SEO title tag, which is, “Office chair, chairs for office, red office chairs, chairs for cheap, chairs for sale.” No one wants to click on that. Google’s not going to rank it in most cases. You want to just use one or two, and then from there think about the fact that, how do I get my customer, how do I get Jan, how do I get Mike? The people that I sell to every day, to actually click on this title tag?
The fourth thing I’ll say is, as a general sort of strategy tip, I think on large sites you want to be programmatic. If you have 15,000 title tags on a massive eCom store, this is actually one of my favorite things to do. You want to get in there, and you want to actually fix title tags in bulk. If you’re on a smaller site, let’s say you only have 30 pages and it’s a lead gen site, you want to think about them one by one.
Then, just generally speaking, you always, always, always want to be focusing on the pages that are already ranking, right? Focus where, if you’re fourth, think about getting to first. If you’re tenth, thinking about getting to sixth or fifth, right? But, if you’re not anywhere, then you need to sort of start getting towards the top 10, and that will actually get you traffic, right? If you’re one or two you’re going to get so much more traffic than in any other position. You’re going to get seen by most people, you’re going to get that nice brand exposure. But, if you’re seventh, or tenth, or fourteenth, you’re hardly ever going to get seen these days unfortunately. That’s just the reality, right?
The fifth thing I’ll say is, reduce cannibalization. This is an excellent rule of thumb right here. On a large site, typically what I’ll see is, you’ll basically get 100 title tags where the first two keywords are exactly the same keyword, right? I was … Not to call anyone out, but I was look at [Dakine’s 00:09:21] site the other day, right? It was like, “Men’s, outdoor, hoodie.” Down for 300 columns, right? All men, outdoor, hoodie, great. We get it. Then it’s red, XL, red, large, red, medium, red small. Brown, large, brown, you know? On and on and on. Not a lot of variation.
When Google sends a user to that site, when Google’s crawling it as a bot it’s basically saying, “Wait, which page is what? Which one do I care about the most?” Because you’re not optimizing for anything, you’re not spoonfeeding the right answer to Google, you’re really not getting anywhere, right? This is an issue that is basically called cannibalization. You’re making 100 pages basically target the same keyword. What you really want to be doing is, when someone actually types in, “I need a medium, brown sweatshirt.” Or, “I need a large yellow and red outdoor ski pant,” that you’re popping up because you’re so specific that Google is basically about to determine that, that page is focused, hyper focused on that keyword. If I’m just saying ski pants, well then, the use case has really just sent me to a top level category page ’cause they don’t know what I want. I’m going to see hundreds of ski pants, right?
That’s really how Google’s working, and that’s the situation that you need to be optimizing in. Again, rules of thumbs here. When we think about CTR, we want people to click on us, we want to include one to two keywords. I’m sorry, but in most cases if you’re not optimizing a page for some keywords, you’re probably not going to rank for it unless you benefit from having a massive back link profile, or huge brand recognition in the space. That’s why SEO works, right? It’s these little tweaks where we can get people to just move from the seventh position, up to here. And, maybe from the sixth position to the third, then the first. Then we get more, and more, and more market share. That’s what we’re really after here.
Let me just break down how to think about your current rankings, and that will then tell you how you should go about rewriting title tags as you proceed. I like to break this down into four main quadrants. Sam Rush does this as well, and I’m sure other tools make it pretty easy for you to look at your keyword rankings in this exact manner.
The very first category is the one to three, right? The first, the second, the third, and I’ll even say the zero ranking with the search snippet. That’s the very, very top. That’s where you’re going to see most of the traffic. Generally speaking if someone’s going beyond the top three results, they’re probably not finding what they want in those results, so you’re probably selling something a little weirder. That’s a different play, and we can talk about that another time.
Or, the four to 10. This is where you will see some traffic, especially on desktop. But, you’re really not going to be in play on mobile. At this point, I view four to 10 as aspirational for one to three. In my world two years ago, it used to be good to be in the top 10, you used to be able to get some pretty decent traffic. But at this point, everything to me is just spitting distance until you’re in one to three, because once you’re in one to three you’re actually going to get some traffic, you’re actually going to get some revenue, and that’s where you want to focus on.
Then, there’s the 11 to 20, and the 21 through 50. This is page two to three, and then beyond that essentially. Here, you’re in worse off shape than the four to 10, right? You’re either just completely off base, and you’re not going to be able to target anything. Or, you just haven’t optimized at all, and you have a variety of issues. To break this down a little bit, let’s go and look at the SERP again, right?
Here, you got shopping ads. That’s not good for us SEO’s, right? And, we got ads here. Again, this is probably around a thumb scroll or more on mobile. Then, we start having organic rankings right here, right? This is probably what we’re looking for. There are a few different things that you really want to be exploiting in this situation, right?
You probably want to make sure that the keyword you want to rank for is in the first couple words here, very specific again. We want to be very, very specific and precise with how we’re targeting. You probably want to make sure that you have this primary keyword, and the secondary keyword that you want to rank for in there. You probably want to make sure that Google is bolding a few of these terms. I’ll get into meta descriptions ’cause I think that’s an entirely different art that deserves its own video. You want to be focused on these things.
In the one to three range, this is where you’re going to get most of the traffic, right? If you’re two and you’re three, you want to be thinking about CTR. You want to be thinking about, what words can I include in here, that are going to get my users to click far more often, so I can jump ahead of everyone else? You’re going to be wanting, thinking about CRO and dwell time. When people get to my site, are they finding what they want quickly, are they not getting confused, are they staying on my site a long time? Especially if it’s content, or if it’s a product. Really, at the end of the day, are we selling anything, right? You want to be thinking in that way also, ’cause it’s not just about rankings. It’s really about sales.
Then, you want to be thinking about customer fit. If you find yourself number three and you just can’t get out of it. If it doesn’t feel like something that you’re ever able to get out of, that you’re just stuck there. You want to really be focused on asking yourself, am I hitting the things that my customers really care about with this page? Am I getting them to click? Am I covering the product in a way that they like? Are they interested in it, or are they just bouncing out and going down further in the list, or going back to number one and number two? That’s what’s really going to hamstring you from better performance over time.
If you’re in the four to 10 range, and in this SERP for office chair, right? We got shopping carousel, we got ads traditional, then we actually have a map pack, which is even better, right? Being in the top 10 here really means that we got to be in the top six, and then maybe we’re going to be three … You know, we’re going to be the last three or four on the bottom. It’s not ideal. It’s really not good. By the time people are here, they’re probably looking for office chair right now. Even if you’re Amazon, that’s going to be pretty hard to procure.
If you’re in the four to 10 range, or the four to six range in this situation. Just keep in mind, given mobile, given where Google’s going, how are they going to squeeze more profit out of the actual platform, right? It’s just going to be harder and harder to get at this organic spacing, right? If you’re in the four to 10, it’s essentially the same thing. You want to be thinking about CTR, you want … Basically getting people to click. You want to be thinking about CRO, the quality of the experience on the actual page. Then, I would say you want to be thinking about back links, right? Technical SEO. Have I done everything? Have I built enough back links?
Generally speaking in the one to three range, you’ll actually see that there can be a disparate allocation of back links essentially. There may be an authority that’s ranked forever, and that’s what’s going to be number one and number two. There’s other people like Amazon that has a million back links, but they might be number three. The, number one might be a site with a decent amount of back links, sort of above the norm. But, they also have a really great title tag, or they’re really well known in that specific industry.
Everyone else down here, if you’re in the four to 10, you probably should assess whether or not you need to be doing the work on the technical side, to build more back links there so you can actually perform. But, that’s just sort of what you’re left with, right? If you’re in the four to 10, you want to be thinking about the same things, right? It’s all about this customer experience. But, you also want to be saying, “Okay, are there actual technical SEO issues that I need to solve for? Why am I stuck down here, how do I get in the one to three?” Thinking about it in this way is really the way to reverse engineer it as far as I’m concerned.
Then, if you’re in the 11 to 20, or the 21 to 50 range, you’re basically trying to get onto page one. You’re trying to get into this coveted spot, the top 10, the top seven, the top six, whatever it may be given the constraints of the actual Google result page, right? If you’re here, you want to be thinking about keywords and back links, you probably want to be thinking about CRO and general sort of audience fit, quality of the site. If you’re 11 to 20, that’s typically a pretty good achievement I’ll say also, right? If your niche is more competitive, even though you’re way down there, it’s probably fair that you could rank in the top 10. You just have some work to do.
Then, if you’re in the 21 to 50, or even all the way up to 100, we have a ton of work to do. Generally that means that you’re either not targeting the keywords that you want to be ranking for anywhere on the site pages. Or, you’re just not an authority as far as Google’s concerned, which is probably the worst situation to be in, right? If your primary service is something that you can’t rank for, you can’t even rank in the top five pages. That’s a pretty bad spot to be in, right? You probably have some content marketing work to do, some site copy work to do, some general SEO work to do, and just presence. Really, at that stage, you probably just want to be spending aggressively on AdWords, and just getting out there and basically making calls. Because, you’re so far away from where you want to be that it’s always going to be a problem.
The other thing I’ll say too is, if you find yourself stuck in the 21 to 50, you might want to think about niching down. It may just be an issue that you’re targeting something way to broad. “I sell 100% linen sweatshirts with the finest New Zealand wool stuffing inside of them, and they’re the greatest sweatshirt ever. But, I can’t rank top 10 even though I make the best product.” Well, there’s probably some keywords, luxury, sweatshirt, or whatever it may be. There’s probably other keywords that you should niche down on, where you can actually perform well. Because, to the average consumer out there who wants to see 1,000 sweatshirts, you’re just never going to be anywhere on their map.
That is my breakdown for how to write damn good title tags in 2019. If you have any thoughts, or you have further questions, or you think I’m crazy. Please let me know in the comments below, I would love to discuss this further.
How to Leave Your Marketing Company (or 9 Things to Grab Before You Go) – Chalk Talk Thursday #4
It’s important that all business owners make sure that they have complete ownership of their site, social media accounts, ad tools, and any associated collateral. Unfortunately I’ve encountered many situations where business didn’t know what they did and didn’t own. This video will cover all the essential items you should always “own,” especially if you’re leaving a marketing company.
- Domain Name: You should always own your business name, so be sure that you own your domain registration. Now, I’ve encountered some horror situations in the past, where people leave companies and they find out that they don’t actually own their domain name. It is possible to retrieve a domain name, but the process can be lengthy and difficult. It’s much better to make sure you own your domain from the jumpstart through a hosting service like GoDaddy. Be in charge of your brand identity!
- Hosting Service: In addition to your site’s name, you need to make sure to be on top of the servers that are hosting it. While your domain is what you type into a URL bar, your host is the service that actually deploys and executes your sites so that users can retrieve information from it. Consult with a developer or a trusted associate outside of the company and make sure that you retain ownership and control of your domain server.
Note! When taking stock of your site’s hosting service, make sure you own the payment structure as well. If your hosting service isn’t bound to your credit card it could make it harder to retrieve your intellectual property.
- CMS Access: Whatever the content management service (CMS) that your company used, make sure you have administrative or super-administrative access. Be sure that you can control the user flow and the permissions for who can access the CMS. If you are using WordPress or similar service, make sure you have the login credentials yourself. You don’t want people from your former agency updating your content after you’ve left. If you’ve managed to hold onto control of your hosting, it shouldn’t be hard to
- PPC: Make sure you have control over your pay-per-click (PPC) accounts. Make sure that nobody from your former agency can access your accounts, which should be disconnected from the agency’s My Client Center (MCC). Some agencies use contractors for their PPC accounts, in which case you could have random people all over the world accessing your account if you’re not careful.
- Google Analytics: Make sure you own your Google Analytics account. You need to be the end user, because if the views you are trying to access are under a property ID owned by your company, it can be very difficult to transfer them over to a property that you own. Make sure you also have admin control on the GA account, so you’ll be able to remove or add people as you like.
- Social Accounts: For social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn, you’ll need to make sure you are managing your users before you leave your agency. There isn’t a password to reset here. Instead, go through the account and remove any users you don’t want having access to the account.
- Other Accounts: Twitter, Pinterest, and some other social networks don’t depend on users in the same way that Facebook and LinkedIn are. In this case, reset your account password to ensure that you’re in control.
- Other Tools: While most people will have the first six steps of this guide locked down, it’s important to remember to preserve ownership of the other tools used by your agency as well. Sometimes, these can be the biggest factor in your success down the line. Commonly, these other tools may be WordPress extensions. extensions. Typically, these licenses will be sold out to a company, so it’s very cheap for me as an agency to maybe buy 30 licenses, but an individual license might be pretty expensive comparatively. So sometimes when you leave an agency, their license is associated with your site, and that may expire after a year, or in more nasty situations, they may essentially have that leverage on you. And this can be another red flag, as well. Or perhaps you may have a paid design service that your company outsources graphics to, or a chat bot or email service. Make sure you’re aware of all the tools that your company uses before you leave. And make sure you own the ones that matter down the road.
- Export Collateral: You never know when you might need an Adobe Illustrator file, a Photoshop file or some version of a dev site or a database export from five years ago. These things do come up, and it’s generally just good practice to get all the information, anything associated with your account, from your former agency. And any good agency will have the organized file that contains all of this information for all the years and months that they were with you. Keep track not just of your accounts, but of the associated content too!
If you stay on top of these nine core items of concern you’ll be in a good position to leave your company behind for greener pastures!
Hey, this is Shaheen over at Web Upon, and this is episode number 4 of Chalk Talk Thursday. Today I wanted to cover how to leave your marketing company, or nine things to grab before you go. Now, no one expects a marketing relationship to turn south or go sour as things proceed, but it’s something that can happen, and it’s very important that every business owner has these nine things handy either before they start a major site redesign project or any sort of marketing, or if you’re leaving a company, these are the essential things that you should really have a handle on and make sure that you grab before you head out the door.
So the first thing you really want to think about here is your domain registrar. Now, I’ve encountered some horror situations in the past, where people leave companies and they find out that they don’t actually own their domain name. Now, it is possible to get your domain name back, especially if you have trademarks associated with your brand, but it’s a pretty lengthy process with a sort of amorphous organization that no one really knows who runs, and it’s really not worth diving into, because you as the business owner just want to own your business name.
You should always own your business name, so be sure that you own your domain registration. This is usually done on a company like GoDaddy, but any host will also allow you to register a domain, and there are tons and tons of companies that do it. So not everyone keeps track of this. Most people know to own their own domain or to make sure that they at least have ownership of it before they’re out the door, but it’s very important to make sure that you own your own domain name.
The second thing I would say is hosting service. Now, your domain registrar is what people type into a URL search bar, and that gets converted into an IP address, which is on a specific server. So this is all happening behind the scenes, but your actual domain registration and the server that you’re using to actually host and execute your site for the end-user are separate services. So you want to make sure that you really own whatever that domain server or service is and that you’re able to log in there. So you should have a developer on your own team or someone that you trust not associated with the company that you’re leaving that’s able to get in there and assess and make sure that you actually do have ownership and control of your domain server.
I’ve also seen some people, where their current dev company basically invoices them for the hosting that they have every month, so be sure that you actually own the hosting payment structure, right, so that your credit card information’s actually associated with it or that it’s not just free-floating and randomly after a year chunk when you initially signed up, and let’s say you fired the company over here, you’re basically just like, “What happened to my site?” one day. So make sure that you own the server and that you own the name associated with it.
The third thing is CMS access. So make sure you actually own the back end and that you have administrator or super-administrative access on that, and that you’re able to control all user flow, people that are coming in and out of the actual CMS. So one really big red flag that I’ll see is some people will build, say, a WordPress site for client, and they won’t actually ever give them admin access to the site. So you as the site owner need make sure that you own the admin or super-admin access on the site, that way that when you leave, you can make sure other people aren’t getting in or can’t still get in once you’re actually out the door of your agency.
So huge thing to keep in mind there, this is typically easily solved, as well, if you have hosting. So if you have control of the hosting server, it’s typically pretty easy to reset the actual CMS access. And again, if using a service that’s controlled, like Shopify or BigCommerce or Squarespace, whatever it may be, I have seen some weird setups where the agency is invoicing you as the client. So again, make sure that you’re actually controlling the billing and you’re the one that’s paying it at the end, so you don’t get a nasty surprise down the line.
The fourth thing I’ll say is as far as PPC, make sure you have control of your accounts. Now, most business owners that set this up sort of have this in their control. I have seen the occasional case where people don’t own it, so another big red flag to look out for there. But make sure that once you leave the agency, especially if you leave on poor terms, that you unlink your account from their MCC, that way they can’t control anything, and that any associated admin users from that agency also can’t access your account.
So again, hopefully you own it, and make sure that you unlink once you’re out the door of that agency, and make sure that your account is safe. And it’s also just a good practice generally to sort of clean this out every so often. I’ve seen some PPC accounts where they have contractors that they were working with five years ago, randos all over the world. They basically have access to your PPC account. And as we all know, you could have a rogue account or a rogue campaign that just spends way more than you want it to. So be sure to be on top of that, especially when you’re leaving a marketing agency that’s been doing sales and advertising for you.
The fifth thing I’ll say is Google Analytics. This is, again, another area where you need make sure that you own it, and generally speaking, if you don’t own it, if it’s in your company’s … their own view or property ID, that can also be a red flag that you might be dealing with a shady agency. Things can sometimes happen if you’re not technically in the know, where people set up a Google Analytics account for you, but you want to make sure that you are the end-user and owner of it. If it’s under their property ID, a view under their property ID, it’s extremely difficult, and you really can’t move the information over from that view onto a new one that you own. So be sure to own this out the gate, and also make sure that you have this admin control, so you can remove or add people as you like, whatever you want. Right?
So the sixth thing I’ll say is social accounts. So big thing here is for Facebook page and LinkedIn pages, you have to add in a user onto your account. There isn’t a password to reset here. So just make sure that you go through there and that you remove any Facebook users or LinkedIn users that you don’t want, because in both platforms, you can run ads off of those things.
The seventh thing I’ll say is other accounts, right? So Twitter, Pinterest, these kinds of social networks, will basically allow you to reset the password. It’s not really dependent on someone joining on as a user in the same way that Facebook and LinkedIn are. So again, here, once you leave, it’s good to just do a little cleanse and reset those passwords, just to make sure that everything’s safe and that there aren’t going to be any big concerns down the line.
The eighth thing I’ll say is any other tools. This can actually be the hugest factor in your success down the line. I see this very frequently. One through six, most business owners kind of have these on lock. They own their social, they own their PPC, they own their registrar and the server and admin access. They have all those things handled, but they sometimes forget that there are other accounts and services that are associated with your site.
So a really common example of this is WordPress extensions. Typically, these licenses will be sold out to a company, so it’s very cheap for me as an agency to maybe buy 30 licenses, but an individual license might be pretty expensive comparatively. So sometimes when you leave an agency, their license is associated with your site, and that may expire after a year, or in more nasty situations, they may essentially have that leverage on you. And this can be another red flag, as well.
A very common thing that I’ve seen, unfortunately, in the past, which has become less frequent, is you’ll have design agencies, quote, unquote, that are really claiming the ownership of these site file pictures on your site, right? So it’s like, “If you leave us, you’re going to lose all the collateral. That nice slider image you love is just going to be out the door.” So it’s very important to be sure that you are sort of thinking about what’s going to happen with all these associated services. At the same time, maybe you have an email service or some other chat bot that the agency built for you, and it’s under their auspices again, and when you leave, there’s no one paying for it, and suddenly it goes south, right?
So be sure that any tools you’re using, it’s good to check in with the rest of the team and make sure there isn’t anything you’re not thinking of that you’re currently using as an organization, and make sure that you guys have the ownership. And again, good idea just to do a cleanse and make sure that all the passwords are owned by your company. Right?
Another thing I would say is export all your collateral. So this is a really good thing to ask for before you’re out the door. In case anything comes up down the line, you never know when you might need an Adobe Illustrator file or Photoshop file or some version of a dev site or a database export from five years ago. These things do come up, and it’s generally just good practice to get all the information, anything associated with your account, from your former agency. And any good agency will have the organized file that contains all of this information for all the years and months that they were with you.
So these are the nine core things that any company, any business owner that’s leaving a marketing agency, should think of before they head out the door. Thank you.
5 KPIs that Matter More Than Social Shares – Chalk Talk Thursday #3
A lot of people love social share data. It’s not as available as it used to be ever since Twitter dropped it off its roster, a lot of other people have basically responded in kind by limiting the information. StumbleUpon has gone the way of the dinosaurs as has Google Plus.
Right now, if you type in a URL, you’re basically left with Facebook Comments and Shares, LinkedIn Shares, Pinterest Pins, Buffer Shares, and Reddit Upvotes. Those are basically the big social networks that still give this information out.
Social shares are clearly an important part of SEO in 2019. But with the focus on this metric, what is getting left out? In this article, I’ll examine five different key performance indicators (KPIs) that matter more than social shares.
- How to Use Keyword Ranking Info
It’s very unusual that the majority of your site’s traffic will be coming from social. Of course there are always going to be businesses that build their entire model around a social network, such as Instagram. Generally speaking, though, you’re going to get the most of your free traffic through organic searches. The thing you need to be looking at is keyword rankings.
SemRUSH is an excellent SEO tool for understanding the way that your website is ranking for different keywords. I’d recommend SEMrush, it’s a great tool that features historical data warehousing. It’s easy to use: just plug in your URL and watch as data from your traffic and keyword ranking populates the page.
In this example, a piece targeting the keyword “prisoner’s dilemma” is being crawled by SEMrush. By visualizing your search traffic and positioning for different keyword searches, SEMrush allows you to adjust how you are targeting different keywords. You can also see the metrics for related keywords, helping you broaden the content funnel you are creating for your topic.
If you see rankings that are very low it’s an indicator you may be missing core topics that could be easily added to improve your rankings. The first KPI you need to look at is keyword rankings. Determine if you are getting keyword rankings and if those rankings are generating traffic for you. Far and away, this is the best KPI for content marketing. That being said, it’s always possible to get a viral hit on social. The downside of it may be that your traffic is short-lived and difficult to sustain.
Jump into a tool like aHrefs, or the Link Explorer at Moz.
With the knowledge of your backlink profile in hand you can reach out to businesses that link to your site, building relationships that will nurture traffic in the future.
While backlinks and keyword rankings will undoubtedly help you understand your site’s performance, to get the full picture you will need to dive into Google Analytics and see the hard numbers. In the next section of this article, I’ll walk through three other important metrics, all of which can be accessed through Google Analytics.
- Location Data
Ever wonder where most of your traffic is coming from? Understanding the geographic breakdown of your site’s users is a great way to begin optimizing your content for strong traffic around the world.
- Referral Data
Referral data is a great way to figure out whether or not you are actually getting a serious amount of traffic from social media on a recurring basis. You will be able to see a breakdown of your traffic origins, giving you a chance to determine where the most efficient place to focus your resources will be.
- Conversion Goals
If you’ve set up conversion goals in Google Analytics it will help you see not only the traffic on your site, but what traffic is actively leading to. Success is not traffic, but the way traffic translates into form submissions, phone calls, and purchases. Go to the “Reverse Goal Path” section of Google Analytics, which will help you see how much meaningful traffic is being generated from your site.
Keeping track of these 5 KPIs will elevate your marketing game. Stand out from the competition
by digging deep into your data to find the metrics that will drive your business into the spotlight.
Hello. This is Shaheen over at WebUpon, and this is episode number three of Chalk Talk Thursday. Today I want to do something a little bit different and talk about a point that I think is pretty important when you’re actually building out your social presence and your content marketing really. If you’re trying to execute a content marketing strategy, I think this is a very important point.
00:21 A lot of people love social share data. It’s not as available as it used to be ever since Twitter dropped it off its roster, a lot of other people have basically responded in kind by limiting the information. StumbleUpon has gone the way of the dinosaurs as has Google Plus. Right now, if you type in a URL, you’re basically left with Facebook Comments and Shares, LinkedIn Shares, Pinterest Pins, Buffer Shares, and Reddit Upvotes. Those are basically the big social networks that still give this information out. Obviously, Twitter is cool with bots but not with sharing social info, so we’re left with this. If you look at this URL here, I have 14 shares on Facebook. I don’t promote this at all so that’s completely organic, and that’s just happened recently since they don’t actually share data that’s historical anymore.
Social Shares Aren’t the Whole Story:
01:13 The point that I would really make to business owners is that even though it’s cool to know what our social share count is, and it can actually be helpful to track it down in these tools that draw from APIs because you get more information than you might be able to just see from your profile, but again, a lot of things that happen privately you can’t really see still. All that said, social share counts are cool, but to me the really big question is, what are the success metrics that you should be looking at besides social share counts?
1) How to Use Keyword Ranking Info
01:41 :Let’s hop over to SEMrush real quick. This one to me is really the biggest KPI or potential for opportunity that you can have as you’re trying to grow out your presence in search, and what I mean by that is social is nice, but given the way that the algorithms are working, and they’re highly restrictive of organic reach for any individual business on their platform. What I mean by that is if you look at a site’s overall performance, you’re not really going to see … it’s very unusual unless you’re built on the platform in the same way that a business like Upworthy is or BuzzFeed, that you’re going to consistently see the majority of your traffic happening on social.
That said, there’s obviously some very successful businesses that have based their model almost entirely on Instagram. That’s like where they actually get their search traffic from. To me, if I look at the vast majority of businesses out there, the people that I interact with, the successful businesses are making most of their traffic off of organic. I don’t think that’s necessarily a sample set thing just because I base most of my business off of SEO. I think that just tends to be an industry trend. Most people are getting the majority of their traffic every month in and month out through direct and organic. And you could spend a lot through paid and make it happen that way too, but generally speaking, you’re going to get the most traffic and the most free traffic through organic.
The first thing you should really be looking at is your keyword rankings. What I did is hop over to SEMrush. This is my favorite keyword search tool out there. There’s a million of them so you can really use whatever you want, but I would just recommend this one because you do have the benefit of historical data warehousing. We’ve only been around for a few months, so you can see the immediate bump that we have going on. But, this is just super-useful because you can see where you’re actually ranking for keywords within the algorithm, and then you can say to yourself, “All right. This is how I’m doing for my Prisoner’s Dilemma piece. What can I expand on, or what can I add to my targeting here so that I can perform even better than I currently am?” Right?
There’s also some handy tools in here where you can actually get in and filter by specific keywords, or you can just go down to include URLs that are containing, and in this sense we’re going to do ‘dilemma’ because that was the actual original social share value that I was checking out. Hop back here.
We’re going to see every keyword that’s ranking on that, and again, this is very helpful because it lets us know okay, if I’m able to rank on this page for a tit-for-tat game, maybe I can write another article about that, and that just gives me another leg to add or another spoke to add in this overall, essentially, content funnel that I’m creating on this topic. Or, if you see a bunch of rankings that are really low, and you don’t know why you’re not ranking or why you’re not getting more traffic, it’s probably a good indicator that you’re missing some core topics here that you should be posing, so what is the prisoner’s dilemma? I should probably add that question in here somewhere because as you can see, I’m able to rank for what is a very short term here. Right? ‘Prisoner’s dilemma,’ 22,000 searches. Highly competitive, but I’m not ranking for this question here, “What is the prisoner’s dilemma?” at only 590. Right there, that should just let you know that my coverage of the topic is actually pretty weak. I need to get in here, and I need to actually introduce these keywords.
The first thing that I would look at, and the first KPI you should really be looking at as a business owner, when you’re thinking about the success of your content, is whether or not you’re generating keyword rankings for your content, and whether or not those keyword rankings are actually generating consistent traffic for you. And if they’re not, you should either add and expand to the article that you’re working on, and if they are, you can just use that as a leverage point, a jumping off point, to add even more content into your ecosystem. Far and away, looking at keyword rankings is probably the best KPI for the success of content in my opinion, especially over social.
Why Social Can Be Deceiving:
05:42 That said, you can sometimes get a viral hit on social that’s not going to have any recurring search traffic on organic, and the down side of that is that you may get a million visits from a bunch of social networks, but over time you’re going to basically drop back down to zero because there aren’t these keywords with recurring traffic that are going to feed your site’s ability to perform over time.
2) The Importance of Looking at Ranking Data:
06:05 The second thing that I’ll tell you, you should look at actually is jump into a tool like Ahrefs, there’s actually a bunch of free backlink tools out there as well that actually work pretty well. Give a special shout out to Open Site Explorer from Moz, OSE, or Link Explorer Now. They still have some free capability in there. You can type in your URL, and you can see what sites are linking to your content, and this is huge for the ability of you to understand how your site is performing.
If you jump over here, type in the URL, you can see who’s linking to your site, and if you don’t have a good relationship with these people, you can actually go out and go and talk to them more, and basically figure out oh, okay. I don’t actually know this guy. I should probably reach out, build a relationship, and maybe I can get him to feature more of my content. And at a macro level, the backlinks are just useful because they enable more ranking, and just tell you that you’ve actually built something with some clout and usefulness because people are willing to link to it.
3-5) The Importance of Using Analytics for Real
07:07 All right. Let’s get into some hard numbers here. This is my Google Analytics. This I think is probably the most important thing that most business owners are missing, right? The keyword rankings you may or may not be aware of these, but you understand their importance. The social shares are super-obvious. You can tell when something’s taking off on social, but when it comes to the hard numbers, I think the really important work to do is just to dive into your actual Google Analytics account, and figure out what’s going on. You’ll probably see something like this.
Google is trying to make this screen more and more helpful over time, and I recommend that all business owners just jump through these so they get a sense of what’s going on. There’s some highly useful information here like where are my visitors coming from? That can answer a lot of questions you may have, especially if you wanted to just ratchet down in the US like okay, in the last week, where was the majority of my traffic coming from, and you might find something surprising like oh, I didn’t know I was blowing up in Florida. That’s the kind of information you can get from Google Analytics that I find extremely helpful.
What I’ll tell you that you should definitely do if you’re trying to evaluate whether or not you have a viral hit on social is jump into the left pane over here, and you’re going to click on ‘acquisition,’ and then you’re going to go down and click on ‘all traffic,’ and then you’re going to click on ‘referrals.’
There are a few different ways that your Google Analytics may be calibrated, but this is actually a great way to figure out whether or not you’re actually getting a serious amount of traffic from social on a recurring basis. I just posted a job for a graphic designer. We’re getting tons of visits from the local Portland Craigslist, so we’re blowing up on referrals there, some sites I haven’t heard of, and then we’re getting some Facebook search, some Pinterest search, another marketing tool site I have, some mobile Facebook search. I don’t know what Facebook is but more Facebook search. This will actually tell you if you’re doing well or not, and you can click down a level as well and see which particular pages people are visiting.
The majority of my Facebook traffic is actually people bouncing back from that page, and going onto the home page. If we look at the actual … sorry, go back to ‘all.’ I’m starting to get a little laggy here. If you click on the Portland.craigslist, we can actually see what pages people are checking out. That basically just lets you know what the referral path is looking like as people hop onto your site. I find that extremely useful. Again, if you think you have a viral hit on your hands, you want to click on ‘referrals’ and see what your breakdown is.
The other thing I’ll caution is if you have a fairly large site with a lot of traffic, you may not actually be able to see through the noise. Again, in this instance, you may just want to see, okay, what are my individual breakdowns of traffic? We’re getting tons of direct. We’re getting a good chunk of organic from Google, which is awesome. We’re getting some good referral from Pinterest and Facebook, which is exceptional as well. You really want to be able to evaluate your performance by looking at these metrics. There’s actually a social tab here as well, so under acquisition and then social, and then you can get a good sense there as well as to what’s happening on some of these social networks and how it may or may not be affecting your overall traffic.
The final thing I’ll note is hopefully you have conversion goals set up, so one thing that I’ll really caution you to … I don’t even have goals set up because it doesn’t matter yet. Just get all phone calls, but you should be able to hop in here and see whether or not people are converting and by clicking on ‘conversion goals’ and then ‘reverse goal path,’ you should actually be able to see that viral hit I have, how much traffic is it actually contributing in a meaningful sense to my site, and that’s really the most important question at the end of the day.
You should hop into Google Analytics if you think you have a viral wonder on your hand, and actually check out how much traffic it’s generating. Check out if it’s actually leading to form submissions or phone call clicks, all that good stuff because that’s really at the end of the day what defines success. These keyword rankings are also extremely helpful because I’m sorry, but if you build it, they will not come.
Viral Success Is Not Enough
11:15 If you have a social success, if you have a viral success, it’s unfortunately going to end up a pretty big spike and a flash in the pan unless you create and coin your own term. It’s not going to provide consistent traffic. What does provide consistent traffic and leads is organic rankings like these ones here, and if you know what you’re ranking for when you have a tool like this, you can figure out what to optimize for.
If you go below in the social share count checker, this URL right here, there’s actually a seven-day free trial link for SEMrush. Best company out there again, and it’s super-legit. They need credit card info, but I’ve never had an issue getting a refund with them. Wink, wink. And again, final steps to this long term. If you’ve been around, you should be in a tool like Ahrefs to see what your backlink profile’s looking like because at the end of the day, that’s still going to have the highest correlation with success in search of any other metric out there, and yeah, just circle back because at the end of the day, if it got you goals, that’s good. Search is cool, and social’s cool, but we all want leads, and we all want real eyes on our website, and that’s really what matters at the end of the day.
I hope you enjoyed this video. I hope that was helpful. Please subscribe and like. If you have any other questions or you just want to make fun of the fact that I don’t have any goals set up in my Google Analytics yet, please just add that in the comment section below. I hope you have a wonderful day. Bye Bye.
How Proxies and VPNs Work
Proxies and VPNs are excellent ways to beef up your security online, but are also major obstacles to the work of many digital marketers. But, learning about how they work, and the different times when they are useful will help prepare you for working through any issues that might come up. We like to give you the inside scoop on what’s good, and this post will be no exception.
However, before we can start talking about how to prepare for them, we need to lay a little bit of technical groundwork. Let’s go!
To understand what it is a proxy server does for you, it’s a good idea to have some basic internet knowledge (otherwise, the information is just more jargon).
The internet is a network that’s broken down into two components: physical hardware and information. Hardware is the server that houses information and the devices that we use to recieve it. Information is the data that is passed between that hardware. You’ve probably heard the term “server” before, and all that means is a piece of hardware that’s housing information and then sending it out to “clients” (you on your smartphone or computer).
Now, how do our machines know how to distinguish between different types of information? This is where “protocols” come in. Protocols are specific ways that information is transmitted and govern the way that our hardware interprets and communicates information across the network.
This explanation is already becoming a little long-winded, but there’s a final piece that’s necessary to understand so we can start to talk about proxies. An “IP address” is a protocol that each individual machine utilizes to identify itself on the network. Your IP address is routed through what are called DNS servers to get you to the server that contains the information you need. Then that server sends it back to you. It’s sort of like mailing things to addresses and then receiving a response, but much much faster.
Malcolm in the Middle
Now, there’s a lot of myths around the information that your IP address contains. Your precise location is not being shared. Most of the time, an IP address can be used to identify what internet service provider (ISP) you’re using. Sometimes, that IP address will be linked to a particular city or region. There’s some debate about this, but snoopy folks might be able to put together a picture of a person based on the websites that an IP address visits, and also this information is available to the ISP hosting that IP address.
So, now we have proxies. A proxy server is a middleman. When you utilize a proxy service, it works a lot like a search engine. You type where you want to go, and then the proxy returns your query and you can move on with your internet use. The proxy connects to the relevant server with an IP address that is not connected to yours, and then brings it back to you. Of course, there is an element here that’s important to note–you have to access the proxy service with your IP address to begin with, so the company or individuals that run it will still have your IP.
There’s another type of service that’s known as a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs are much more secure services than most proxy services, as they don’t just hide your IP address. VPNs use encryption to secure all of the data that leaves your device, and then allows you to browse the web and use other internet features in anonymity. VPNs offer a number of different services, and some are better than others, so do your research if you’re going to use either option.
Should You Use a Proxy?
Anyone who’s interested in security might want to check out VPNs and proxies.
However, as this is a marketing blog, we’ll go in depth as to why a proxy or VPN might be useful for understanding and tracking performance indicators in your digital marketing endeavors.
Utilizing a VPN or proxy can be helpful when you’re analyzing traffic data for a marketing effort. If you know what the IP address is, you can filter that out of your Google Analytics data so you can have an accurate picture of pageviews and conversions that isn’t skewed by your organization’s visits to the website. Proxy servers and VPNs can also be utilized to keep employees from visiting certain webpages and types of content, routing them instead to a landing page that tells them why they can’t visit. This can keep you protected from liability in the office in the unfortunate event that an employee is doing something they’re not supposed to be doing.
From the opposite end, it pays to educate yourself about how proxies work, especially in the context of doing local SEO. If you’re trying to serve content or get information in front of a certain segment of customers, you’re going to have trouble if they’re using a proxy server, effectively rendering the local marketing useless. Many of these services can also cause webpages to load strangely, so making sure your websites are clean and optimized can help a lot in content delivery.
Awareness is the name of the game. If you’re looking to work with some of the sharpest digital marketers in the business, get in touch with WebUpon. We’ll help you out.