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https://relativityseo.com/seo-services/ Clay Cazier – Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Tue, 03 Jul 2018 03:37:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.2 SEO request for proposal (RFP) questions: what to expect /seo-request-proposal-rfp-questions-expect-257668 Thu, 01 Sep 2016 13:30:19 +0000 http:/?p=257668 For agencies ready to go big-time or enterprises interested in putting SEO work out for bid, columnist Clay Cazier documents the top questions that appear in SEO RFPs.

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Ah, the SEO request for proposal (RFP). Whether you are writing one from the client side or responding to one as an agency, they are a foundational part of enterprise-level SEO.

While each RFP should include a few questions that are unique to the business at hand, there are also some “standard” questions that can help the enterprise SEO manager or procurement department qualify (or disqualify) responding agencies.

In today’s post, I’ll document the common questions I see in RFPs received by my agency to give businesses a place to start and agencies a chance to ask themselves, “What would our answer be?”

Common SEO RFP questions

Approach, strategy & analysis

  • [Very common] Describe your approach to the creation of an overall SEO strategy.
  • What is your typical SEO workflow/process?
  • What SEO tactics do you view as effective in the current environment? What advantages or disadvantages might [client] face?
  • Describe the opportunity for [client] as you see it in SEO.
  • Please provide a market assessment of SEO at this time, and any trends [client] should be concerned with over the next three (3) years.

On-page

  • [Very common] Describe your approach to conducting keyword research and validation of [client]-supplied keywords. How do you determine which keywords would be the most effective? Describe your approach to ongoing keyword targeting strategies (adding new keywords, etc.)
  • [Very common] Describe your approach to evaluating the current site structure/on-site factors as they pertain to SEO and making recommendations for structural improvements for optimal search engine exposure.
  • Indicate your ability to provide specific technical guidance to [client] developers for changes that affect SEO.
  • Indicate how important you view site content and what capabilities you have to guide the creation of content and/or provide SEO-optimized content where needed.

Off-page

  • [Very common] Describe the tactics you employ to generate ranking improvements using off-site factors. Be extremely specific on how inbound links are obtained, etc.

Mobile & local

  • [Very common] What measures do you take to test and optimize SEO for mobile?
  • [Very common] What is your approach for local optimization of SEO?

Tools & reporting

  • [Very common] Describe any tools utilized to deliver SEO services, including the name (if a third-party software package) and how the software is specifically used in delivery of services.
  • Please provide your agency’s baseline position analysis capabilities.
  • [Very common] Please outline the information that is tracked as part of SEO. Describe how these items are tracked, what information will be reported to the client on a daily/weekly basis and if they are accessible via a web dashboard or not.
  • [Very common] Please provide samples of your SEO performance reports.
  • Describe your approach to and frequency of ongoing updates and account management, including who is involved in review/status meetings and calls with the [client] team to review project status, activities and next steps.

Agency-related

  • Please provide a brief history of your company, including company name, contact person, address, phone number, email, total number of employees, annual revenue and number and location of domestic and international offices.
  • Has your company been involved in any lawsuits over the past five years? If yes, please explain.
  • [Very common] Provide job titles, areas of expertise and project responsibilities of the key members of your team who will be responsible for the SEO portion of the [client] account.
  • Describe any support personnel who will be utilized in support of the person executing SEO campaigns for [client]. Indicate what specifically they will be doing and what their background is.
  • Please list examples of retailer SEO engagements where you reached the top page on requested business-critical keywords through your SEO efforts. What were those keywords?
  • Provide at least two detailed examples of SEO programs designed and executed by your firm that resulted in increased search traffic and rankings on targeted keywords.
  • [Very common] List three references of current SEO clients and three URLs that indicate your best work that most relates to this project.

Pricing

  • [Very common]Please provide a comprehensive pricing proposal, including a list of fees for all applicable services that [client] may utilize over the course of a potential engagement with your firm.
  • What exactly is included in pricing? (e.g., What level of reporting and analytics is included? What level of creative updating/support?)
  • What exactly is excluded in pricing? (e.g., any pass-through technology or advertising fees )

Not-so-common SEO RFP questions

  • Describe how your techniques qualify as “best practices” or follow the industry standard preferred by the major search engines.
  • What are your thoughts on timing of marketing and synergies between channels?
  • How would the SEO team take seasonality into consideration?
  • What is your strategy and approach for optimizing images for the best possible SEO rankings?
  • Describe specific tactics you would use to support SEO for offline purchases made through local brick and mortar retail stores.
  • What is your approach regarding reseller websites competing with the [client] website?
  • Outline your in-house capabilities for altering, developing and implementing existing page code and back-end programming.
  • How do you incorporate marketing attribution into your SEO management and strategy? Who analyzes these metrics, and how is the reporting used and shared?
  • What do you require from the [client] team to have a successful SEO partnership?
  • Provide the average annual SEO budget of your current clients.

One final insight learned the hard way: Many RFPs are short but will contain a (purposefully) vague question like, “Tell us about the SEO opportunities you see for our brand.”

Some business owners like to do this to see how you think and prioritize strategy vs. tactics (and tactics against one another). For agencies, just realize that those simple questions will likely encompass half the bullets above. Beware the short RFP — They often require the most thought!

The post SEO request for proposal (RFP) questions: what to expect appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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SEO requirements for a new website platform /seo-requirements-new-website-platform-254237 Wed, 27 Jul 2016 13:44:30 +0000 http:/?p=254237 Not just facing a site redesign but a full replatform? Columnist Clay Cazier presents the features most important to ensure your new site can support today's SEO best practices.

The post SEO requirements for a new website platform appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Many times, those choosing a new enterprise platform to serve their website to the world are not well-versed in today’s SEO requirements. Systems integration and indexation are the focus of many IT-minded project managers. CMS features will often be key to marketing directors’ and CMOs’ decision-making. Even for savvy marketers, some platform requirements may slip under the radar in their due diligence.

To support all of those tasked with selecting a new website platform, let’s recap the top elements to consider when vetting different solutions.

Platform SEO requirements

In my experience, the following are must-have elements when assessing new website platforms. Missing one or more of these elements likely means your site will see poor representation in search engine indices and/or miss an important quality guideline.

1. Hosted on dedicated IP (IP shared with dev site OK)

Too often, I see major websites or blogs hosted along with dozens or hundreds of other websites. This generally hurts site performance and should be avoided.

2. Supports basic mobile-friendly viewport features

Whether you choose to adopt a “mobile first” mindset or not, being mobile-friendly should be a big part of your platform consideration. Two major elements of being deemed mobile-friendly:

  • Pages specify a viewport matching the accessing device’s size.
  • Contents of pages fit within the viewport.

In short, a platform that will support a responsive website is the shortest way of meeting these viewport requirements.

3. Allows (non-secure) JS and CSS to be indexed

As Google notes,

Disallowing crawling of Javascript or CSS files in your site’s robots.txt directly harms how well our algorithms render and index your content and can result in suboptimal rankings.

‘Nuff said.

4. Supports canonical tag “rule sets” on all pages, specifically around sort, pagination and faceting

This is one of the most important elements of a site platform that people miss — does the platform support canonical tags? Probably so… but how easy is it to integrate advanced rules around, say, category facets? Does it follow Google’s advice on pagination?

Why is this important?  Because canonicals allow you to eliminate duplicate and/or low-quality content that many platforms inevitably produce and, from an SEO point of view, it allows a site owner to direct the SEO “power” of those pages.

5. Supports ad hoc 301 redirect mapping

The devil is in the details here. Most platforms allow webmasters to create 301 redirects. Many platforms insist that you do it through their GUI using a complicated table and row limits. Any ability to author individual redirects satisfies this requirement, but also look at the ease of their implementation.

6. Page URLs do not require SessionIDs

The issue with sessionIDs in page URLs is that if the pages are not properly canonicalized and/or excluded within Google Search Console’s URL Parameters section, they commonly create duplicate content. Few platforms use sessionIDs in the URL any longer.

7. Supports a custom robots.txt file

Having a robots.txt file that prevents indexation of cart and admin elements of a site is good, but being able to finely control directory and file-level permissions should also be something you ask of a website platform.

8. Automated XML Sitemap production (“one click” is OK)

While it could be argued that a well-structured site does not need an XML sitemap to help search engines’ discovery of site pages, consider the following:

  • It is a standard way of interacting with search engines through their webmaster tools utilities.
  • It allows site owners to immediately call search engines’ attention to the existence of new URLs.
  • An advanced XML sitemap allows a site owner to tie a URL to specific rich media and other attributes like lastmod and priority.

9. Supports navigation rendered in plain HTML text (links still clickable for users with JS, CSS and cookies disabled)

This requirement means your navigation links can be spidered and meet accessibility guidelines, where complicated, JavaScript-based flyouts may not.

10. Page URLs able to be customized on a per-page basis (or at least use syntax-based, real language to reference pages)

Is this absolutely required to be successfully indexed and even to rank for key phrases? Strictly speaking, no. But Google does say the following:

Consider organizing your content so that URLs are constructed logically and in a manner that is most intelligible to humans (when possible, readable words rather than long ID numbers).

With that, I’d consider friendly URLs as key to a site’s SEO.

11. Navigation depth & inclusions able to be customized

In other words, you should be able to choose to include (or not to include) subcategories in your top navigation. Similarly, retailers should have the ability to choose to not include an e-commerce category in top navigation.

Like the ability to customize page URLs, the ability to customize how the platform’s navigation links to your categories and subcategories is an important part of ensuring a good user experience. It also enables you to fine-tune your internal links.

12. Title tags able to be customized on a per-page basis

Each page’s title tag should be unique and relevant to the page it represents. While it is true that auto-generating title tags based on category, subcategory, filters and the brand name may allow you to pass this “requirement,” it is common sense that, for advanced SEO, you should expect your platform of choice to allow you to customize each page’s title tag.

13. Meta description tags able to be customized on a per-page basis

Same rationale as title tags, above…

14. Content headers able to be customized on a per-page basis

Same rationale as title tags and meta descriptions, above…

15. Supports ability to create content pages “outside” of e-commerce/retail category and product pages

While we aren’t insisting that an e-commerce platform be able to provide all features that a blogging platform provides (comments, for example), you should expect a platform to enable you to establish a template, insert content and effectively link to pages that aren’t in a product database. Moreover, if all platforms under consideration do allow that feature, ask yourself how difficult or “natural” the inclusion of non-retail elements will truly be.

16. Supports a custom 404 page (auto-generated but “friendly” is OK)

Good user experience is a core part of Google’s Quality Guidelines. A custom 404 page not only helps satisfy that guideline, it may help “save” traffic from abandoning your site when they encounter a broken link.

17. Location pages able to be indexed at the individual store/location level (for companies with brick-and-mortar locations) 

It may be that your platform of choice doesn’t deal, specifically, with location pages or have a “Store Finder” widget. If they don’t, review the platform’s ability to include the third-party widget of your choice. If they do, make sure their widget is able to be spidered down to the individual store level — most notably, that there’s a clickable path from the Store Finder landing page to the individual stores.

18. Caters to more than one location or language (if applicable to your business)

If your site is meant to target audiences in multiple markets, your website platform should include the following features to allow the site to be user friendly and prevent the perception of duplicate content:

  • Supports a country/language selector (rendered in plain HTML).
  • Country/language selector overrides any automated geolocation.
  • Provides automated hreflang tagging either at the page level or within XML sitemaps.

19. AngularJS indexing

If AngularJS is used, ensure body content can be indexed.

Platform SEO near-requirements

There are a few additional “near” requirements that I’d also assess. These aren’t deal-breakers for a platform, but they tend to provide a better Google PageSpeed score, boost organic rankings and encourage sharing.

  1. Server response time <500ms (<200ms, ideally).
  2. Server supports browser caching and file compression.
  3. Supports minification of JS and CSS.
  4. Home page able to “live” at domain root (and not example.com/abc/home/index.html, for example).
  5. Category and Subcategory pages able to include up to 500 words of text copy above/below the product grid.
  6. Supports breadcrumbs on e-commerce category, subcategory and product pages.
  7. Supports Organization, Product, Local Business and Breadcrumb schema markup on appropriate pages.
  8. Support for product ratings and reviews (or at least inclusion of a third-party rating/review system).
  9. Supports Open Graph tags on all pages (syntax-based OK).
  10. Supports inclusion of social sharing buttons on product pages.

So there you have it: the top questions to ask when vetting a new website platform, particularly for e-commerce applications. What have I forgotten or overemphasized?

Bonus

Curious what most companies choose? BuiltWith.com provides a pie chart of Ecommerce Usage Statistics that point to Magento, WooCommerce and Shopify as the top three e-commerce platforms selected by the top 100,000 sites online. My personal experience is that Demandware and WebSphere are also considered/implemented quite often — perhaps it’s my perception, but it seems like they’re in the mix more than the pie chart seems to indicate.

eCommerce platform usage

For those of you not involved in e-commerce and more interested in content features, BuiltWith’s CMS Usage Statistics chart shows that WordPress rules the day within the top 100,000 sites, with Drupal coming in second. Like Demandware in the e-commerce space, my experience is that Adobe’s content management solution is in the mix more often than this pie chart indicates.

CMS platform usage

The post SEO requirements for a new website platform appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Advice to those considering SEO as a career /advice-considering-seo-career-250493 Wed, 01 Jun 2016 14:31:51 +0000 http:/?p=250493 Want to work in SEO? Columnist Clay Cazier lets you know what is required to succeed.

The post Advice to those considering SEO as a career appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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In my day, there was no such thing as digital marketing. You studied Comp Sci, used QuarkXpress, made magazines, and you liked it!

I was recently asked by a colleague to present on “How to break into a career in SEO” to students in her college-level advertising course. As I planned my presentation, I actually found it a difficult topic to advise on because, as I like to say, I’ve been doing SEO since there was such a thing back in the ’90s. Back then, there were no courses in digital marketing, no internships and definitely nothing like professional certifications available.

Today, there are courses available on digital marketing — but even with those, is a formal education really what impresses me as a hiring manager? And what should someone interested in SEO know about pursuing a career in the field?

In today’s post, I thought I’d tackle the questions above for the benefit of those entering the SEO job market, to help guide them in their exploration of the (potentially) lucrative and exciting world of SEO.

Starting a career in SEO

My intent is not to tell you the right job boards to watch; it is to tell you the things a digital marketing agency or business are likely looking for in an entry-level SEO hire.

Would it be good to have an official degree in digital marketing, communications or computer science? Sure. But would it be enough to impress the manager and beat out others with a similar degree? Perhaps, but not likely. What is likely to make a difference?

  • Your actual skill set. Give me someone who knows SEO basics, can read or code HTML, is a good writer and can have an intelligent conversation any day over someone who “only” has a degree. If you have some familiarity with analytics, even better.
  • An ability to be client-facing. Of course, you can’t merely just depend on your skills — that’s only half the job. The other half is communicating what’s important to stakeholders. This means being able to talk about big-picture business objectives, not just about how cool AngularJS is.
  • Any work history (job or internship) that involves working on a website, or even an offline publication. It could be that you’ve worked in tech as an editor, a copywriter, a general marketing assistant, posting photos to social media, or something else. This is valuable as long as it shows you’ve worked on a team. Yes, I know there’s a catch 22 — to get a job, you need experience, but to get experience, you need a job. But your ability to show you’ve worked with others in some form of media is important. It’s not often I need a knowledgeable hermit… I need someone who will show up every day and be able to complete assignments.
  • No job history? Hone your skills on your own. I know there’s only so much a classroom can teach and only so much experience you can have walking into an entry-level opportunity. Those who will succeed in SEO are self-starters and, by nature, curious. A good signal that you, as a job candidate, have those skills is by showing that you’ve developed a website or a blog on your own with some specific focus. Maybe it’s a Tumblr site with crafting how-tos; perhaps it’s a fully developed travel blog; maybe it’s even a website for a favorite local charity or church. (And, no, just liking Facebook and “being online all the time” isn’t enough.)
  • Certifications. Any Google certifications you can get will be a huge differentiator — Google Analytics individual qualification, in particular. Also of note: SEO Training Course by Moz (free), SEO 101 by Distilled (paid) and Bruce Clay SEO training (paid).
  • An interest in/familiarity with industry blogs and thought leaders. The ability to keep up with the changes in the discipline is important — but more than that, your curiosity and willingness to learn are signaled by your self-directed “research” on sites like Search Engine Land. I will ask you what things you read and what you think is “next” in SEO.

The best way to start is by learning digital marketing “hands on.”

Is digital marketing the career for you?

Being prepared for a job is one thing, but enjoying it enough to make it a career is another. What are some of the pros and cons of working in SEO day in, day out that may determine how well-suited you are for the “SEO lifestyle?”

Pros

  • Always something new to learn — constant change. This isn’t just a cliche; something big will happen every few weeks that you must learn about. Don’t get overwhelmed thinking you have to be an instant expert, just understand that you should know why something new matters (not necessarily how it all works).
  • If you have an idea and plan to test and measure, seniority doesn’t matter. This is true of many tech-related fields. If you have a good idea, innovation or copy “hook” you think will grow traffic and revenue, only a fool for a boss wouldn’t listen just because you’re young.
  • It is a “test and learn” culture. As long as you’re watching/measuring, surprises, and even setbacks, are seen as a path to improvement.
  • Chance interact with cool people in the industry (Well, as long as you think nerdy is cool). People in digital marketing are usually an interesting bunch who are fairly laid-back and free with the knowledge they’ve gained.
  • Fly all over the world. It’s all caviar and champagne, don’t you know? Well, not really, but if you’re in an agency of any size, it’s likely you’ll make a trip or two during the year to attend a client meeting, presentation or conference.

Cons

  • Always something new to learn — constant change. The speed of change isn’t slowing, it’s accelerating. The constant need to stay informed and leave old tactics behind can be taxing.
  • Hard to maintain work/life balance. This is probably the biggest challenge — because we love it, we are thinking about or working on SEO all the time. Sometimes, bosses even think that because you think it’s cool and you’re young, it’s not really like work if they give you impossible deadlines to meet. Well, it is real work, and even if you love what you’re doing, it’s possible to burn yourself out without anyone else pushing you. Know that you are a limited resource and there will always be some reason to work late or skip a vacation. Be smart, and get off the computer as often as you can.
  • You won’t be management overnight. Sweet SEO skills alone won’t make you a manager, director or VP — it’s your ability to communicate, maintain an even temperament and focus on client needs (not SEO tech-ery) that will help you rise up the ranks. Those things are only gained over time and in situ.
  • Clients and CEOs can have unreasonable expectations. There are definitely those who think SEO is like magic, and, if you just sprinkle some on their project, success will come overnight. Even with guidance, patient counseling and careful presentation of progress, you sometimes cannot reset those unreasonable expectations. This is closely related to the next item…
  • Many have misconceptions about how SEO works. Part of what makes SEO cool is that a lot of people don’t really know what you do or how SEO works. But that can also be dangerous; they may have misconceptions about the level of skill required to execute a good SEO campaign or the time it takes to see results.
  • You’re likely to step on toes. While it may be tempting to jump into a new project and start ordering SEO-based code changes or say that it’s SEO’s job to provide the language used in copy development, be aware that there are likely IT and PR departments in the room who think those things are their job. My advice: Before calling their baby ugly, always acknowledge the necessary role of IT to provide a good code base and/or PR to craft the brand’s message — then explain how SEO can enhance, not replace, their work.

Final thoughts

Is SEO for everyone? Definitely not. If you like learning a way of doing things that you can execute until retirement, don’t get into the field. If you like figuring out the way things work — and you can recognize when talking about your SEO ninja skills should take a back seat to the business needs of the project — then jump in and stay humble.

The post Advice to those considering SEO as a career appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Branded query optimization for SEO /branded-query-optimization-seo-248286 Wed, 04 May 2016 13:00:59 +0000 http:/?p=248286 Before jumping in to optimize for non-brand queries, columnist Clay Cazier reminds us to do what many paid search marketers already do: maximize our visibility for branded queries.

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In SEO, our daily job is to spot opportunities and capture them. This is often achieved through technical improvements, page optimization and content development and distribution. The leading edge of our success is often judged by rankings achieved — specifically, rankings achieved for non-brand phrases.

In today’s post, I’d like to highlight a valuable element of SEO that many marketers seem to overlook: SEO activities around branded queries.

What we are talking about

The first simple task is to define the queries we’re interested in optimizing. Branded keywords are any that — you guessed it — contain the brand’s name. For example, if the brand is Brandlicious, Inc., branded queries would include someone typing in:

  • “brandlicious”
  • “brandlicious.com”
  • brand plus queries (e.g., “brandlicious + keyword“)
  • any proprietary product name or service offered by the brand

In contrast, non-brand queries are like:

  • shoes
  • plumbing services
  • how to tie a tie
  • best software for creating a brochure

Why brand terms are important

The base supposition of this article is that brand phrases are not only worth pursuing, but worth pursuing first when tackling a new SEO job.

Why? Conventional wisdom tells us that if people are looking for our brand or products by name, it is highly likely that they are consumers who are deep in the sales funnel — more likely to buy than those searching for high-level, non-brand phrases. But is this true?

First, let’s ask Google. A B2B study conducted in 2012, “The Evolving Path of Today’s Tech B2B Customer,” found that:

Compared to non-branded keywords, branded keywords have over 2x higher conversion rate

Based on my review of the retailers managed at my agency, PM Digital, I think this is actually a bit low; we have found paid branded keywords convert at least 2x more than non-brand keywords and often by 10–20x more. (One interesting sub-statistic: Clicks on paid site links for brand terms drive conversion rates even higher — approximately 15 percent more than clicks on traditional ad copy for brand terms.)

For the sake of this article, I think it’s safe to say that, by optimizing our branded keyword presence, we are optimizing keywords that will inherently have 2x or more conversions than non-brand keywords.

Organic sitelinks

When assessing a brand’s organic presence, the first thing I do is go to Google.com and Bing.com and query their brand name. What I see most often are paid links followed by the brand’s website ranked first in organic results, including four to 10 organic sitelinks. We see this in the search results below:

Cavenders sitelinks

Disclosure: Cavender’s is a PM Digital client.

The sitelinks are my first focus. While we cannot directly tell Google and Bing what we would like to see featured here, we can use their respective webmaster tools to exclude URLs from being featured.

Sharper Image Sitelinks

In the example above for The Sharper Image, the sitelinks are pretty good — but given the conversion value of the sitelinks, perhaps one of the two catalog-focused links should be demoted. Another example, this time for a non-retail brand, also shows room for improvement:

PwC Sitelinks

Out of the four sitelinks, PwC has two for careers and two “about us” pages. Surely one of these should be demoted to allow another landing page to take its place.

Top branded keywords

My next recommendation is to hop over to your favorite keyword tool and do a search for your brand name to uncover what the most common brand plus phrases are. It may be your brand name + a product type (e.g., “brandlicious shoes”), but it’s highly likely that the most searched “brand plus” query is your brand name plus either “coupons” or “promo codes.”

Does your website have a page where you publish the latest discounts and coupons or talk about free shipping? If not, you should consider the value of creating a promo code campaign, a landing page and linkage from the site-wide navigation (or at the very least, the footer).

In my experience, Google wants to give the brand’s coupon page rankings over the RetailMeNots of the world. If you build a half-decent promo or coupon code page, it’s likely your site will take the #1 organic ranking.

Is your brand too ritzy for coupons or promo codes? I’ve only run into this a few times, but here’s one of my favorite ways one retailer handled it. Create a landing page that presents:

  1. your value proposition;
  2. an honest explanation of how you deliver the lowest price possible; and/or
  3. a description of any rewards or loyalty programs your brand does offer.
Calyx Flowers coupon page

It’s no revelation that brand queries are valuable. Similarly, the importance of organic sitelinks and competing for branded coupon and promo code queries is nothing stunning or new.

The message of today’s post is that, in the normal rush to compete for non-brand query rankings, it is crucial that we first have our branded house in order — that we make a point of addressing our organic sitelinks and the #1 position for coupon/promo code queries.

The post Branded query optimization for SEO appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Calculating the value of organic traffic /calculating-value-organic-traffic-243796 Wed, 09 Mar 2016 17:59:39 +0000 http:/?p=243796 Need another way to express the value of SEO? Columnist Clay Cazier details a way to assign value that a PPC-minded manager will appreciate.

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Each of us is a SEO salesperson, at least in part; it’s our job to help clients understand the value delivered by our services. There are a number of time-tested ways of doing this, the most common of which is to calculate year-over-year traffic and revenue increases from the organic channel.

Often, success shown by these metrics is enough to justify the existence of the SEO program. There are times, though, when this is not enough.

Many times, I have worked with retailers that have great brand recognition driven by big PPC and print advertising budgets. This sometimes leads to the belief that their organic traffic is all branded and only a side effect of their PPC or print efforts. There may also be an IT manager or Web Developer telling the marketing manager they’ve got SEO covered.

Setting aside the argument that branded traffic can be credited to SEO’s focus on indexation, organic site links and/or reputation management, it is easy to see that the rise of “keyword not provided” has made countering this argument more difficult, because there is little analytics visibility into the non-brand keywords that are driving conversions and revenue.

In today’s post, I would like to share a method I’ve successfully used in the past not only to differentiate brand from non-brand traffic, but also to assign a value to non-brand traffic that a PPC-minded manager can appreciate.

Google Search Console’s “Search Analytics” report

Within Google Search Console, it is no secret that SEO pros can use the Search Analytics report to fetch the past 90 days of organic search queries that have driven traffic to the client’s site. Although there are valid conversations about data discrepancies that appear within this report’s click count, we can absolutely use this report to:

  • Pinpoint the relative volume of non-brand queries driving traffic to the client’s site.
  • Discuss the value of that non-brand traffic with more detail than is available within analytics programs.

Here’s a quick recap on how to extract non-brand queries from this report:

Go to Google Search Console > Search Traffic > Search Analytics, and alter “Dates” to return the last 90 days.

GSC_SearchAnalytics1

Click the Download button at the bottom left of the table:

GSC_SearchAnalytics2

You’ll get a CSV that looks like this:

GSC_SearchAnalytics3

What we’re looking for are only the non-brand keywords. There are a number of ways to filter out branded keywords, but an Excel-only way is to use wildcards to delete any queries with the brand in it.

Click [CTRL+H] to open the Find and Replace dialogue box, and enter what I call the brand “root” between asterisks. (An example of a brand root for Panasonic might be “*panaso*” or the brand root for Toyota might be “*toyo*“). We’re going to replace the brand root with nothing.

GSC_SearchAnalytics4

Click “Replace All,” and all queries using the brand root will be blanked out:

GSC_SearchAnalytics5

Right-click on one of the now-blank cells and select “Filter by Selected Cell’s Value.”

GSC_SearchAnalytics6

That will show you only the rows with blank queries. Highlight them all and delete them.

Go back to the top row, click on the icon of the filter, click the “Select All” box, then click “OK” to re-show what’s left:

GSC_SearchAnalytics7

You may have to spot-check for brand misspellings or things that the wildcard deletion missed (like I missed in row 8, below), but you should now have a list of non-brand keywords and 90 days of click data (sorted by most clicks to least):

GSC_SearchAnalytics9

Create a new column named “1 Month Click Average” and divide the B column by 3:

GSC_SearchAnalytics10

Save this file as an XLS.

Adding “Suggested CPC” to non-brand clicks

Our goal is to now get Google’s Suggested CPC for these non-brand keywords, then multiply the 1 Month Click Average column by that Suggested CPC.

Add a new column (named “QueryForCPC” below) containing a formula to wrap the query with brackets.

GSC_SearchAnalytics11a

 

Highlight this new column, copy and paste the values into Notepad. Once you do, you’ll be left with a txt file that looks like this:

GSC_SearchAnalytics13a

Save it. The brackets are there to indicate we want the exact match for this phrase when we ask for the suggested CPC.

Open Google Keyword Planner here: https://adwords.google.com/KeywordPlanner

Click “Get click and cost performance forecasts,” then select “Choose file” under “Option 2: Upload file.” Select your .txt file, and then click the “Get Forecasts” button:

GSC_SearchAnalytics14

On the resulting screen, enter a bid of $10.00 in the “Enter a bid” input box and $10,000 in the “Enter daily budget” input box, then click “Get detailed forecasts.” (I’ve found that these amounts produce the best results.)

GSC_SearchAnalytics15

Click the “Keyword” tab and then the Download button.

GSC_SearchAnalytics16

Select “Excel CSV” when prompted, and Download.

GSC_SearchAnalytics17

You’ll get a file that looks like this. What’s important are the Keyword and Estimated Average CPC columns:

GSC_SearchAnalytics18

Go back to your original XLS, add a worksheet, and paste in the Keyword and Estimated Average CPC columns:

GSC_SearchAnalytics19

Add a column to the original worksheet with the name, “Average CPC.” In it, we’re going to do a VLOOKUP on the tab you added with the CPC data.

In the Avg CPC column’s first cell, type in =VLOOKUP(A2,Sheet1!$A$2:$B$1000,2,FALSE). Hit enter, then copy that cell and paste all the way down that column to the last row.

GSC_SearchAnalytics20a

You’ve now looked up the keyword’s Estimated Average CPC from Sheet1 and pulled it into the original sheet, in the same row as the Query.

Finally, add a new column named “Est Cost/Mo,” and type in =G2*H2

Hit enter, then copy and paste that formula all the way down that row to calculate the 1 Month Click Average * the Avg CPC.

GSC_SearchAnalytics21a

The sum of that Est Cost/Mo column is what the client would have had to pay AdWords to get those non-brand, organic clicks each month:

GSC_SearchAnalytics22a

In this example, we see that it would have cost the client more than $634,000 each month if they had used PPC to drive these non-brand organic clicks (through Google only). While seeing the value of this non-brand, organic traffic in PPC terms may not sway those who are determined to tell you the site “would have gotten this traffic anyway,” it is a great way to frame non-brand organic traffic in a way that PPC-minded managers can appreciate.

Even if you argue that your ranking achievements have driven clicks for only select keywords within this non-brand mix, the value will still be clear.

Moreover, you can also go on to apply an estimated, non-brand conversion rate and average order value to the clicks column to provide a ballpark estimate of the revenue driven by these non-brand clicks.

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Wikidata 101 /wikidata-101-241844 Wed, 10 Feb 2016 16:14:46 +0000 http:/?p=241844 Columnist Clay Cazier guides you through the basics of Wikidata, explaining what it is, why it matters to SEO professionals and how you can leverage it.

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No doubt you have run across articles detailing the SEO benefits of structured data and how algorithms focused on things not strings are turning search engines into answer engines.

A quick example: search for “George Clooney’s wife,” and Google immediately tells you Amal Clooney is his current spouse (married in 2014) and Talia Balsam is his former wife, married and then divorced in 1989 and 1993 respectively.

George Clooney wife query results

In 2005, it is likely the top result would have been an organic listing featuring a website optimized for that particular query.

Today, Google’s ability to provide logical answers is rooted in the semantic connections provided by structured data entries across the web (like Wikipedia, Wikidata and the CIA Factbook) and within Google’s private Knowledge Vault.

Comprehensive, trusted sources of structured data provide a machine like Google with the entities that enable it to logically formulate an answer for common and not-so-common things (see also “RankBrain”).

“Congratulations,” you might say, “you are one of hundreds who have described the relationship between structured data, Google’s Knowledge Graph and modern search results.”

I’d like to add to this industry conversation by focusing on the basics of Wikidata — Wikidata 101, if you will — and discussing why the site should matter to SEO pros trying to increase their clients’ search visibility.

Why Wikidata Matters

Wikidata describes itself as “a free, linked database that can be read and edited by both humans and machines.” The site goes on to outline that it “acts as central storage for the structured data of its Wikimedia sister projects including Wikipedia, Wikivoyage, Wikisource, and others.”

It is the heir and progression of the now-mothballed Freebase.com project in its role of organizing, storing and redistributing structured data in a way that people and machines can use to understand the relationships between different data points, including entities like “Mount Everest” or concepts like “highest point.”

For SEO pros, Wikidata is important because it is one of the structured data sources that allows Google to connect George Clooney to Amal Clooney and Talia Balsam via the conceptual data point, “spouse.”

In a more business-oriented example, Wikidata is what creates a machine-learnable connection between Texas Instruments and products like the TI-99. Wikidata’s organized structure of entities like industry and manufacturer allow us to quickly see the benefit to Texas Instruments when someone queries Google for “manufacturer of TI-99.”

TI-99 search result

Wikidata Basics

How do you enter into Wikidata’s wonderful world of structured data? At first glance, entries in Wikidata are confusing and definitely not user-friendly.

How do you know the names of things you are “allowed” to enter under an existing item? How do I even talk about the things I see in order to research the standards or talk to others about my questions? Before we start talking about editing, let’s establish the names of the elements you’ll see on a Wikidata page.

Wikidata contains entities, or Items, like “London” or “Facebook.” Each Item is assigned a unique identifier starting with a Q, like Q454390 for the TI-99. At the top of each Item is a label, description and aliases:

Facebook Wikidata item

Within each Wikidata Item lie individual Statements that have Claims composed of Properties defined by Values with Qualifiers that are, ideally, backed up by at least one Reference.

Wikidata statement diagram

Wikidata statement by Wikidata is licensed under CC BY 2.0

If we look back at the George Clooney example, we see “George Clooney” is the Item, which has a Statement composed of the following: “spouse” is the Property, Amal Clooney and Talia Balsam are both entered as Values of that Property and each of those Values has start time Qualifiers and a single Reference.

George Clooney wikidata item

As you can see, entering new Properties, Values and/or References is a simple as clicking the “edit” link, making the changes and saving. The hard part? Knowing the accepted Properties and Qualifiers, along with the format you should use for their Values.

For example, can I add a Property to George Clooney’s Item named “Kids?” Apart from the fact he does not have any children, the answer is no — the accepted Property is “Child,” singular, under which you can enter multiple Values, Qualifiers and References.

There are extensive lists of Wikidata Properties you can use to identify accepted Property names, but one quick tip is to cheat! Well, not really cheat — rather, take a look at Items similar to the one you’d like to edit, and note the statement Properties used plus the kinds of Values and Qualifiers commonly accepted for those Properties.

For example, look at the Wikidata entry for a corporation like Facebook, the Item for Barack Obama and the Item listing for the revered TI-99. My top recommendations for Properties that Organizations should supply/populate are headquarters location, official website, image or logo image, described at URL, Facebook ID, Twitter username, inception, industry and manufacturer (of).

One very important note: Like Wikipedia, Wikidata insists upon entries being about notable concepts or material entities (people, places and things). For the most part, that means it is mentioned in the Wikipedia or you can describe the entity using third-party, publicly available resources.

While you are getting accustomed to Wikidata’s layout and standards, you should not jump in and start creating new items about yourself, your clients or your clients’ products (See also Wikidata’s guidelines on Conflict of Interest).

The best way to get started putting the concepts described above to work is to either play the Wikidata Game or perhaps visit a random item that needs to be improved. Once you are more experienced in editing existing items with new statements and properties, you can move on to improving the listings associated with entities about which you’re more familiar.

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How To Localize Google Search Results /localize-google-search-results-239768 Wed, 13 Jan 2016 14:32:07 +0000 http:/?p=239768 Google has removed the search tool that allows users to change their geo-location. Columnist Clay Cazier documents four ways to get around this restriction and emulate a search from any city.

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In late November 2015, Google removed the location search filter from the (shrinking) list of search tools available to refine queries. As search results have become increasingly localized, this significantly limits consumers’ ability to see results for any other location than their own.

Whether you’re a search pro who needs to see clients’ search results as returned within different localities or a normal consumer who wants to see results localized to your next travel destination, the removal of this search tool significantly limits the ability to see the SERP world beyond your own city or country.

Today’s post will provide ways to show localized search results despite Google’s removal of the search tool.

What Does Google Say?

As Google told Search Engine Land, the company maintains that the location search filter “was getting very little usage,” so they removed it. Could it be they removed the search tool but retained the ability via an advanced search screen or something similar? A quick search for “change Google search location” may give you a little hope; there’s an answer box, and even a support article entitled, “Change your location on Google.” Problem solved? Unfortunately, no.

Google’s idea of being helpful is telling you how to change the auto-detected search location (usually by IP) to a “more precise” location they select for you, usually based on search history. For me, that meant my location changed from New York City (by corporate IP address) to Columbia, SC (my actual location). But I need to see how my Dallas, TX, client is showing in SERPs localized to that area.

Following are four ways to show localized Google Search results.

1. Google AdPreview

It may be intended for use by Google AdWords participants, but Google’s AdPreview tool is actually available whether you’re logged in or out, regardless of whether or not you have a Google AdWords account.

In my opinion, this is the easiest and most accurate way to emulate a search from a locality other than your own but also emulate from different devices, languages and countries.

Google AdPreview

2. ISearchFrom.com

Another simple method is to use the www.isearchfrom.com website. It works a lot like Google’s AdPreview tool but allows a few additional search parameters like Safe Search settings (and a few others that don’t seem to make a difference in the results).

The site’s footer does say it is not actively maintained, so who knows how long this utility will work.

isearchfrom website

3. Location Emulation In Google Chrome

There is a feature within Google Chrome’s Developer Tools that allows you to emulate any latitude and longitude. Hat tip to the Digital Inspiration blog for this method:

  1. Open the Chrome browser.
  2. Press [CTRL]+[SHIFT]+I to open Developer Tools.
  3. Click “Console” and then the “Emulation” tab. If you do not see the Emulation tab while in the Console, press the [ESC] key and it will appear.
  4. Within the Emulation tab’s navigation, choose “Sensors.”
  5. Check the box next to “Emulate geolocation coordinates.”
  6. Open a new tab with a utility like http://www.latlong.net/ to look up the precise latitude and longitude for a locality.
  7. Copy and paste the latitude and longitude over to the “Emulate geolocation coordinates” input boxes.
  8. Go to Google.com and submit your query to get results that match those you’d get if you were actually in that locality.
Google Chrome Emulate Geolocation

4. The &near= Search Parameter

There is a URL parameter you can append to your Google search to return results near a certain location — just add &near=cityname to your query string, where cityname is your desired locality.

For example, after searching for “cowboy boots,” add &near=Dallas to the query URL, like so: https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=cowboy+boots&near=Dallas. There’s actually a bookmarklet available online to make this even easier.

With that said, I have noticed the organic search results are slightly different when using the &near= parameter than when using AdPreview and Google Chrome Location Emulation. I don’t totally trust this method.

Final Thoughts

So there you go — four ways to show localized Google search results even though the search tool has been retired. I think it’s clear the AdPreview tool is the easiest, most accurate option, but perhaps you have a method you’d like to share?

The post How To Localize Google Search Results appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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An In-Depth Look At Image Optimization: Fact And Future /image-optimization-fact-future-238302 Wed, 16 Dec 2015 14:27:33 +0000 http:/?p=238302 Columnist Clay Cazier separates known from unknown image optimization elements and looks to the future of the discipline.

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As the world moves farther down the mobile path, the advantages of including images within search results are clear: image results are more easily seen, understood and clickable than traditional organic listings.

Perhaps it’s for this reason that Google Images are now shown to be 32.4 percent of search results within MozCast.com’s SERP Feature History for the past 30 days (at the time of this writing), as compared to 24.6 percent recorded in October 2013.

MozCast SERP Features

MozCast SERP Feature History, Nov. 11, 2015–Dec. 10, 2015

With this in mind, I thought it was a good time to recap some image optimization tips to help improve image visibility within search results.

Top Factors

  1. Image should have a relevant two- to four-word filename.
  2. Image should use a descriptive two- to four-word ALT tag.
  3. It should have a relevant heading, caption or surrounding text.
  4. Use clear images, placed high up on the page, that specify width and height attributes.
  5. Create and submit an image sitemap.

1. Filenames

Giving an image a detailed filename is key. For example, Google says “my-new-black-kitten.jpg is a lot more informative than IMG00023.JPG.” Use numbers if you have multiple images with the same object type (e.g., my-new-black-kitten-2.jpg).

Some other notes about image filenames:

  • JPEGs seem to appear most in Google Image search results, but this is an anecdotal notation, not statistical. JPEG, GIF and PNG should be your go-to filetypes, but GIF and PNG in particular may be advantageous because of load time considerations. BMP, WebP and SVG are okay.
  • Hyphens work the best as delimiters, not underscores or spaces.
  • If we’re unable to find suitable text in the page on which we found the image, we’ll use the filename as the image’s snippet in our search results.” — Google Image Publishing Guidelines
  • Rule of thumb: Four words per image name maximum.

2. ALT Text

ALT text should always accurately and succinctly describe the image. You must satisfy search engines with enough keywords to accurately describe your image in detail, but avoid keyword stuffing. Three to four words at most.

ALT text is also good for user experience, which Google likes: “We recommend testing your content by using a text-only browser such as Lynx.”

3. Surrounding Header, Captions And/Or Content

According to Google’s Image Publishing Guidelines, “[I]t’s a good idea to make sure that images are placed near the relevant text. In addition, we recommend providing good, descriptive titles and captions for your images.”

For Microsoft, “[T]ext that is closer to an image on a web page may be more relevant to what the picture is about than text that is further away.” According to the SEO by the Sea blog, here are some distance elements to consider:

  • The number of intervening words between the text and the image.
  • The number of intervening full stops such as “.” “?” “!” and other sentence-ending punctuation/symbols between the text and the image.
  • The number of intervening table data tags ( ) between the text and the image.
  • The number of intervening table rows tags (
    ) between the text and the image.

4. Great User Experience

Users are what matter to Google, so images that reflect what users want have the best chance of being visible. Just like content, this means the best approach is to have images that are high-quality and easy to engage with. Consider the following guidelines:

  • Use crisp, clear photos.
  • If several of the same images appear on your site, consider creating a standalone landing page for each image. “If you do this, be sure to provide unique information — such as descriptive titles and captions — on each page. You could also enable comments, discussions, or ratings for each picture.” — Google Image Publishing Guidelines
  • Images should be high up on the screen, since some users do not scroll.
  • Structure directories so that similar images can be saved together.
  • Specify height and width for each image to speed up page load time.

5. Image Sitemaps

Publish an image sitemap; it is an effective way to help Google discover your images. Ensure that your image sitemaps validate through the Google Search Console account associated with the domain.

For further optimization, use the optional caption, geo_location and title tags on your image sitemap.

Factors? Maybe, Maybe Not

The following items are up for debate in terms of whether or not they impact image rankings in search results (and if so, to what extent).

I’ve compiled what information there is on each so you can decide for yourself. Keep in mind that some of these things may not be ranking factors right now but could be in the future.

1. Off-Page Links/Usage

In a 2011 Inside Search update, Google mentioned that they “decided to retire a signal in Image Search related to images that had references from multiple documents on the web.” Some have interpreted this to mean incoming links to images have been deprecated as a ranking signal.

However, when discussing the best ways to protect your images from unauthorized use, Google says in its Search Console documentation that preventing others from using or linking to your images may reduce their “discoverability by search engines.” We can infer that the distribution of links to your images, at minimum, improves indexation of those images.

In the same piece, Google goes on to say that “some people add copyright text, watermarks, or other information to their images. This kind of information won’t impact your image’s performance in search results.”

If we take a cue from how Google treats links and incoming anchor text, I believe we can conclude that images benefit not from simple count of links or self-supplied ALT text, but from the larger context and relevance of the page upon which the mention is featured.

2. EXIF Image Metadata

Some, like Neil Patel, expressed an interest in the past about using EXIF image metadata (embed information in the image file itself) as an optimization technique. After all, it allows us to communicate things like image size, date/time it was taken, geo coordinates and more.

In February 2014, Google-head-of-webspam Matt Cutts was asked, “Does Google use EXIF data from pictures as a ranking factor?” Cutts responded to say Google is aware of the data but indicated that the data was not being used as a ranking factor at that time. He did add, “If you’re taking pictures, I would go ahead and embed that sort of information if it’s available within your camera.”

It’s also notable that many elements of EXIF image data can be set by schema microdata, and when it comes to geo information, even an image sitemap.

Although there is no indication any of these three types of “metadata” are actively being used by search engines, we recommend, at minimum, using schema markup and image sitemaps as easier ways of communicating the optimization elements hoped for through EXIF.

3. Image Dimensions

Microsoft’s patent filing Ranking Images for Web Image Retrieval does state that “users are more likely to click on images with the greater number of pixels,” but this is from 2006 and doesn’t go as far to classify this as a potential ranking factor.

Additionally, Graywolf’s SEO Blog said back in 2011 that “images that are larger than 100×100 and smaller than 1200×1200 work best” but didn’t provide any analysis to back that up.

Consider that an image with large dimensions can still be poorly optimized, which could result in a poor user experience (and thus be a negative ranking factor). Focus on the user experience aspects of your image optimization, rather than hitting a dimensional target.

State Of The Art

Following are cutting-edge technologies that may impact image optimization, either now or in the future. There may not be much you can do with this information at the moment, but it’s helpful to understand what’s out there.

1. PageRank For Product Image Search

In 2008, Google presented a paper titled “PageRank for Product Image Search” that established a way of calculating a new image ranking factor. In short, this method collects the images that are returned for a query and performs another step: it identifies interest points within the images, uses those interest points to establish similarity between images and then ranks the image that has the most points similar to other images the highest.

Think of it as preferring the “archetypal” image in rankings, rather than its deviations. One example given is of the Mona Lisa, where the highest ranking image is the one that possesses the most similarities to all other images returned for the query.

Example PageRank Product Image Search

I cannot find any documentation saying this method has been activated as a ranking factor, but I imagine it will be used in the future if it isn’t being used already.

What does this mean for our image optimization consideration? My cursory thought is that it means we ought to avoid any image elements that will stop points of similarity from being noted: use clear images, taken from directly in front of the subject and with minimal background distractions.

2. ImageNet Large-Scale Visual Recognition Challenge

In September 2014, Google’s Research Blog posted a piece about their participation in the ImageNet large-scale visual recognition challenge (“ILSVRC”). This challenge was focused on matching images to complex queries, like “dog with a wide brim hat.”

The optimization factors outlined above show us that Google can use filenames, ALT tags and surrounding content to try to understand image content; but this competition takes it a level deeper to actually locating and identifying objects within the image itself.

Example Visual Recognition Challenge

This way, Google does not rely on user-generated text or optimization to understand and rank pictures of dogs in wide-brimmed hats, but instead disassembles the images into its elements and re-forms its own semantic profile of what’s going on to match the user’s query. Together with ImageRank, this type of processing is how at least Google will rank images in the future.

Final Thoughts

The image optimization steps I’ve outlined above are common knowledge for many SEO pros. My intent has been to not only provide an updated, single reference but to highlight two things:

  1. The need — or, at least, my need — for more statistical justification for ideas like “images that are larger than 100×100 and smaller than 1200×1200 work best.”
  2. The replacement of old-school optimization techniques with machine learning.

Are manually optimized images now to become the picture of obsolescence? (har har har)

The post An In-Depth Look At Image Optimization: Fact And Future appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Using Pinterest For Keyword Research /using-pinterest-keyword-research-235557 Wed, 18 Nov 2015 15:10:39 +0000 http:/?p=235557 Google's Keyword Planner may go deep, but does it go wide enough to fulfill modern SEO's need for semantically relevant phrases? Columnist Clay Cazier explores one alternative data source: Pinterest.

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One of the foundations of good SEO is making sure your site content is relevant to what you offer and that this content is optimized to use the same language commonly used by consumers.

For example, most outfitters would be advised to develop content and optimize around their stock of cowboy boots rather than referring to their items as western boots or roper boots.

Keyword Planner results

The table above, pulled from the Google AdWords Keyword Planner, gives us the cold, statistical justification behind this decision — we want to talk about our cowboy boots because 10x more people think of what we offer in those terms.

But as Google’s organic ranking formula has become more complex, the limitations of Keyword Planner are beginning to show.

Why Pinterest?

SEO’s job isn’t to focus all clients on the biggest average monthly search number. Furthermore, SEO is no longer a math game where we rely on density ratios to target that handful of short-tail keywords.

We’re now challenged to present the long-tail keywords relating to our goods and services. And lately, we are learning more and more about how the use of semantically related phrases is one way “good” content is recognized and rewarded with rankings.

In the modern SEO world, phrases like roper boots become more important not necessarily because of their monthly search volume, but because of the semantic relationship between ropers and cowboy boots and the (likely) higher conversion rate that could be delivered by such a niche term.

Keyword Planner is good for paid search campaigns targeting transactional keywords, and it’s even fairly good at exposing long-tail keyword variants, but it is woefully inadequate at exposing the semantics surrounding those transactional phrases.

Where can we turn for a deeper semantic understanding of these (still transactional) phrases? There have been countless articles suggesting tactics ranging from Google Instant, Google Related Searches and keyword mining using hashtags found in the social world.

While those are absolutely valid, worthwhile methods, it struck me that Pinterest would be a particularly useful place for retailers to mine keywords because:

  • According to Internet Retailer, Pinterest users’ average order value is $123.50, which is about 126 percent more than Facebook users’ $54.64 average order value.
  • Pinterest is a particularly visual medium, which aligns well with the increasing dominance of mobile in consumers’ search process.
  • Pinterest has much more of a sales/retail focus than Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, making the information found there more likely to coincide with what purchasers are looking for.

So let’s look at how to use Pinterest for keyword research. Our goal is twofold:

  • Near term, Pinterest keyword research can help guide Pinterest board titles, Pinterest pin descriptions and/or image filenames to drive qualified referral traffic.
  • From a longer term, particularly “SEO” point of view, Pinterest keyword research can guide content used in retail category descriptions, content used as blog topics, images used, image filenames and/or even retail categories or facets.

Pinterest Option 1: “Pinterest Instant”

Let’s start with the easiest method: watching the phrases that populate within Pinterest search as you type. The example below is a simple one — “cowboy boots” is the primary focus of a client, and they’d like to know popular ways people are searching for the item other than by gender and color.

Pinterest Instant

Go one step further and drill down into one of those suggestions, and you’ll see that outfits by season and looks with jeans are hot topics.

This can not only direct blog, “lookbook” and social media content, but it should also direct the navigation, landing pages and e-commerce database filters configured on retailers’ sites.

Pinterest Instant 2

Pinterest Option 2: Guided Search

I’ll admit, Pinterest Instant does not yield a ton of results unless you drill down and re-drill. But Pinterest’s focus on being mobile-friendly has led them to develop Guided Search, a row of semantically related keyword refinements in a horizontal bar across the top of their search results page.   To see the results of Pinterest’s Guided Search:

  1. Go to pinterest.com and type in a seed keyword (example “cowboy boots”).
  2. You’ll get guided search results like in the screenshot below that are top “modifiers” or semantically related keywords:
  1. Place your cursor at the beginning of the list, click and drag to the bottom right of your screen to highlight the entire list (even though you won’t actually be able to see the rest of the list, trust me, it’s there).
  2. Hit [CTRL-C] to copy the entire list.
  3. Open Word. Paste as Text. You’ll get something like you see in the screenshot below:
Pinterest keywords in Word
  1. Hit [CTRL-H] to find and replace.
  2. Find the string Search for ‘ and replace with ^p (that’s a carriage return in Word-ese).
Word dialogue
  1. Hit [CTRL-H] to find and replace the single quote  with ^t^t (that’s two tabs in Word-ese). You’ll then have a tab-delimited list like you see in the screenshot below.
Word keyword list
  1. You can then hit [CTRL-A] to highlight all and either copy and paste into Excel or use Word’s Insert/Table/Convert Text to a Table function to turn the info into a table.Convert text to tableColumn 1 is the semantically related phrase. Column 2 gives us a little white space, and Column 3 is the keyword itself.
  1. You can now use this list to populate topics in your content calendar, to help determine new facets/filters in your e-commerce catalog or to show management the products consumers want that you have.

“Aha!” you might say. “Those keywords look just like what Keyword Planner gives me.” But the fine difference between the two systems makes all the difference in the world. Yes, Pinterest Guided Search does serve up variants based on gender, color and brand (just like Keyword Planner), but the addition of style and situation — the semantics — is what is special.

Phrases like “cowboy boots wedding,” “cowboy boots with shorts,” “how to wear cowboy boots,” and even “cowboy boots photography” give us a glimpse not just of how people search for the product, but how it fits into wearers’ lives.

Remember, good SEO is about users first, search engines second — and this nuance of Pinterest-based keyword research highlights product use cases, not just keyword modifiers.

Pinterest Option 3: Promoted Pin Suggestions

The final way to use Pinterest for keyword research is to leverage their Promoted Pin suggestions. To do this, the only catch is you have to have a Pinterest for Business account.

  1. Login to the Pinterest for Business account.
  2. Click the account holder’s name at the top right.
  3. Click the “cog” image, and you’ll see Promoted Pins in the drop-down.
Pinterest promoted pins
  1. A new window will open. Click the red “Promote” button at the top right.
Pinterest promote button
  1. You’ll be prompted to enter a campaign name and budget. Enter something like “Test” and $10.00.
Pinterest campaign
  1. Click the red “Pick a Pin” button.
  2. Find one of the client’s pins that represents the seed keyword and click to “Promote” it. I chose a hunting boot.
  3. You’ll be prompted to enter terms related to your pin. I’ve entered “hunting boots.” The terms returned are the related topics and/or categories (semantically related keywords and concepts) we’re interested in.
Pinterest add results
  1. Click “Add all results and related terms” to see the results and related terms in one area. Drag to highlight them all, copy and paste somewhere you can work with them. (Hint: If you copy and paste this list to Notepad, they’ll come out as a nice list.)
Notepad keywords

As you can see, this list does not delve into keyword variants as much as it explores the concepts, ideas and interests Pinterest users associate with hunting boots. There are a few odd ones (like “medium hair cuts for women” and “wonder woman”), but even if those aren’t useful parts of a strictly SEO campaign, they could be useful test elements in your team’s wider content marketing efforts. (“Wonder woman” reminds me of the time our social media team discovered the affinity a plus size fashion client’s Facebook following had for “I Love Lucy”).

For retail sites in particular, your site’s ability to gain organic traffic depends not only on ranking for long-tail variants of your product line, but also on the semantic quality of product, category and blog copy. As the difference between a good and a great organic ranking increasingly relies on these semantic connections, the shortcomings of Google’s AdWords Keyword Planner are becoming more evident.

While I am not advocating the abandonment of the Keyword Planner, it is important that SEO pros and site owners consider keyword options outside of it. If that means we must start defining SEO in terms of its content marketing prowess and connection to social media inputs, so be it.

The post Using Pinterest For Keyword Research appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Dissecting Google Conspiracy Theories /google-conspiracy-theories-233289 Wed, 21 Oct 2015 13:16:49 +0000 http:/?p=233289 Time to break out your tin foil hat? Columnist Clay Cazier finds the elements of truth in the ideas SEO pros talk about in their most paranoid moments.

The post Dissecting Google Conspiracy Theories appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Part of every professional SEO’s job is to read between the lines — to be a conspiracy theorist of sorts. We are required not only to possess tactical skills like researching keyword semantics and using schema markup, but also to predict the future direction of organic search to reveal opportunities and risks within clients’ campaigns.

The source of this information is often through analysis of what search pundits are saying, but it also involves reading between the lines, and at the very least, using some form of inductive reasoning to figure out what those pundits aren’t saying that could help site rankings, traffic and revenue.

There are some logical applications of this kind of reasoning. For example, when we read:

  1. Page speed impacts user experience.
  2. Good user experience is highly correlative to good organic rankings.

we can logically imply that good PageSpeed scores will correlate with good organic rankings. That’s not a conspiracy; that’s a logical syllogism we can bank on, for the most part.

Of course, we know that site speed is a ranking factor because Google has officially confirmed it. However, other theories lie in a purely speculative realm — one that fundamentally mistrusts a company that cites “don’t be evil” as part of its code of conduct.

Which of these somewhat far-fetched ideas has a basis in reality? That’s the focus of today’s post. What are the top Google conspiracy theories, and which ones should we be brave enough to discuss seriously at the water cooler or, dare I say, in the boardroom?

Participation In AdWords Improves Organic Rankings

This is one of the oldest conspiracy theories, in my experience. If you spend in Google AdWords, your site’s rankings will improve within their organic search results.

First, we should establish Google’s position:

Investment in paid search has no impact on your organic search ranking.

The word investment is key here; simply investing in Google AdWords willy-nilly has never been proven to directly result in improved organic rankings. However, there are definitely organic benefits that result from participation in AdWords. For example:

  • A 2012 Google study concluded that “50% of the ad clicks that occur with a top rank organic result are incremental, compared to 100% of the ad clicks being incremental in the absence of an associated organic result.”
  • A 2010 NYU study determined that “positive interdependence leads to an increase in expected profits for the firm ranging from 4.2% to 6.15% when compared to profits in the absence of this interdependence.” In other words, you make more money from visitors when both paid and organic listings appear together.
  • Using AdWords to advertise your brand/your website may increase brand searches, and thus, increase organic searches and traffic from people who recall your brand name.
  • Using AdWords to advertise your site’s good content can result in increased incoming links to that content, which will result in improved organic rankings for relevant phrases.

Google Is De-Prioritizing Organic Rankings

The idea is an easy one to grasp: Google doesn’t directly profit from organic rankings, so their ultimate plan is to de-prioritize those rankings in their search results.

Anecdotally, I’m sure we have all noticed the fact that it’s hard to find an example of organic listings “above the fold” in mobile results, and I’m sure we’ve also noticed the increasing prominence of local listings in the top screen view of desktop search results. Yes, anecdotes like this are how conspiracy theories start — but any truth behind them can only be proven by research.

Only one study we found did this. A 2013 article on Search Engine Land, “Are Google’s Results Getting Too Ad-Heavy & Self-Promotional?” relays information on a study that found organic results “made up from 0-to-13% of a Google search results page.” There are a lot of caveats to this — like the types of queries studied and the fact that non-paid results like Google Carousel weren’t counted as organic — but the message remained: traditional organic rankings take up very little space in viewers’ top screen view.

Other more recent examples, like “Google Achieves 100% Monetization Above the Fold with New Pak” from November 2014 and “The Declining Value of Google Organic Results Below the Fold” from September 2015, express concern over the issue. Yet these articles only use one example to prove the point.

Regardless, I think this conspiracy can be counted as true; traditional organic listings’ exposure within Google results is declining.

Google’s Ultimate Goal Is To Promote Their Own Content

As cited above, Google’s search results include more non-organic listing types than ever before. Additionally, Google the corporation (now Alphabet, Inc.) has acquired a few companies (like ITA Software and Nest) and technologies (like delivery solution BufferBox and mobile payment processor Softcard) that definitely imply they are positioning themselves as a retailer, or at least a retail fulfillment provider.

How long will it be before they begin promoting that content or those companies above all others?

Though Google “denies prioritizing their own products in search results for an unfair business advantage,” the company has commissioned a report which argues that legally, it can prioritize its products in search. Organizations, from the European Union to review aggregator Yelp!, have taken issue with this, arguing that Google is using its search dominance to skew results to fit its own corporate goals rather than providing the best search results.

While the legal outcome of all this is yet to be determined, it appears this conspiracy theory is true. I suppose only time will tell whether self-promotion remains limited Google features (like local listings and Knowledge Graph results) or if this expands to include Google retailers/paid products/services.

Google Wants To Discourage The Use Of Apps

Two things are clear: the world is going mobile, and apps dominate the time consumers spend in that mobile world. In that sense, apps can be seen as a “Google killer” — if 90 percent of mobile users’ time is spent in an app, only 10 percent of that time is available to be spent in Google’s traditional mobile search environment.

When we consider this together with the recent announcement by Google that “mobile web pages that show an app install interstitial… will no longer be considered mobile-friendly,” some — like Yelp’s Jeremy Stoppelman — have concluded that Google would like to “slow users’ natural migration away from Web search towards apps.”

I don’t know that the interstitial penalty alone is cause enough to conclude that Google wants to kill apps, but understanding apps as a potential, future Google killer is a very plausible idea.

Perhaps watching what Google does with their $25-million acquisition of the .app top-level Web domain will give us some sense of their intent. If they simply sit on the TLD, was this $25M spent to protect them from competitive challenges? If they develop it, it would be hard to argue they are anti-app outright.

The US Government Has A Back Door Into Google

When the PRISM surveillance program was revealed in 2013, we learned that the US government collects stored internet communications from companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter and others. Some went on to suggest that the CIA, FBI and other agencies actually have a back door to Google so they can pull information at will and without process.

In response, Google unequivocally stated that “the US government does not have direct access or a ‘back door’ to the information stored in our data centers.” While the truth of this statement is very likely, it is also true that Google complies with a majority of the requests tendered by the US government (They effectively have a back door).

Additionally, Google thought leaders Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen openly stated (warned?) in their book, The New Digital Age, that

Since information wants to be free, don’t write anything down you don’t want read back to you in court or printed on the front page of a newspaper, as the saying goes. In the future this adage will broaden to include not just what you say and write, but the websites you visit, who you include in your online network, what you ‘like,’ and what others who are connected to you do, say and share.

While there does not appear to be a conspiracy here, the overall fact of the matter is that nothing you do on Google is secure from acquisition via government request.

Google Wants To Dictate What Is “True”

We’re not just talking about filter bubbles, here — we are talking about the impact of Google’s speculative use of “truthfulness” or accuracy as a ranking factor.

The issue is outlined well in the Washington Post article, “Why some people are so terrified by the idea of a Google truth machine.” In short, a Google paper has proposed a method for identifying factually accurate websites and, from that, deciding which results to return for consumer searches.

The fear is that non-traditional ideas or interpretations of events will effectively be written out of the conversation if they fail to meet Google’s model of truthfulness. For example, if they deem that anti-vaxxer sites are not true, the anti-vaxxer argument will be eliminated from results and thereby dictate the truth about the impact of vaccinations.

What does Google have to say about all of this?

This was research — we don’t have any specific plans to implement it in our products. We publish hundreds of research papers every year.

But would they tell us if they were secretly plotting to determine what is considered truth vs. falsehood? Probably not. Do I believe they will purposefully dictate what is true? Probably not. But, as an “accident” of their systems’ logic, a scenario could very well develop where their machine learning becomes an accepted, de facto source of what is true.

Google Is Evil

Did anyone else notice Alphabet, Google’s new corporate holding company, eliminated the “don’t be evil” mantra from their code of conduct?

Final Musings

You may notice that I left out a few conspiracies like Google Maps hiding aliens and that Alphabet, Inc. is building a robot army to take over the world.

Those are entertaining but land solidly on the “tinfoil hat” side of the fence. What conspiracies did I miss? (Your responses will not be passed along to the government, I promise.)

The post Dissecting Google Conspiracy Theories appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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