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Blog

Niche Site Project: From ZERO to Somewhere

This post is a running report of the progress that I make with my niche website. I will add updates as often as possible, but reserve the right to reduce/stop these at any point. Hopefully you find them useful/inspiring.

Daniel Bianchini

 

Month 14: Over 50% month-on-month revenue increase

I am going to come straight out and say it, I am ecstatic with the revenue that was generated by my niche website this month.

Not only was May a record month for revenue, but it was a record month for traffic as well topping ~25,000 visits for the first time.

Until this month, the website had topped £1.700 in April 2020 which bettered December 2019, the best month until that point.

So what are the numbers I hear you ask…

In May 2020, the website generated total revenue of £3,581. This is made up of:

  • Amazon Associates £3,426
  • Ezoic £155

Let’s take a look in more detail at the breakdown of revenue and what we got up to this month!

 

Revenue breakdown

Firstly, I am extremely happy that I have broken the £3,000 per month mark within 14 months of project restart!

This means I am quite literally making a second income during a time where the world is in trouble with the current pandemic.

So, how is the revenue broken up I hear you say?

Well, the vast majority of my revenue (over 90%) has come from Amazon Associates during May 2020, with Google’s core algorithm update having a significant impact – more on that later.

Some of the new guides that I created over the last two months have started to rank well and are beginning to generate revenue. What is pleasing to see, is the revenue is split well across a large number of pages, not just a couple which I hear a lot of people talking about.

One thing that people don’t seem to consider when moving away from Amazon Associates is the amount of monthly revenue that you make from indirect sales.

As you can see from the above graphic, I have made 10% of my Amazon Associates revenue from indirect sales. That is a much higher portion of revenue than I would expect and could be a significant loss over 12 months on a different program.

So I decided to implement Ezoic at the end of April 2020, and to be honest it hasn’t been the smoothest integration.

I initially implemented Ezoic using the WordPress plugin as I felt that was the simplest and cleanest solution. Oh how wrong was I!

The first few weeks saw a very inconsistent tracking of the website from low traffic levels to high ePMVs that has badly skewed my metrics as shown in the images above.

So I decided to bite the bullet and point my Nameservers to Ezoic with the hope it resolved the issues. Thankfully it did.

Since then, I have to admit that I have been underwhelmed by the return considering I had ~27,000 visits in May 2020.

There has been improvement week-on-week, and I expect this to continue over the coming month as I look to build traffic from different channels.

How you doing traffic?

May was a great month for traffic, specifically Organic Traffic!

As you are likely aware, Google released a core update to the algorithm that according to reports has negatively impacted a lot of Affiliate websites.

I am never usually too bothered about algorithm updates as I try and provide value to our users, and it seems to have paid off during this update.

As you can see above, organic traffic saw a steady increase from the 4th May 2020 and this continues for a couple of weeks. It was then on 28th May 2020 that the niche website’s organic traffic took off!

Organic traffic increased from ~550 visits a day to between 800-900 visits a day, that’s a 63% increase.

As with the revenue, traffic has been nicely split across a large number of pages. This has been growing since I started to improve the internal linking structure that I have on the website with the use of Link Whisperer.

I am hopeful that the increase in organic traffic will continue into June 2020 and beyond, especially considering the amount of content that I am creating at the moment.

Content, lots of content!

During May 2020 I put a lot of focus on content creation, and I mean a lot.

We created and published a total of 38 new pieces of content that was fully focussed on informational queries.

These terms were “How to’s”, “What are”, etc that we are looking to answer the users queries. The aim here is to drive traffic that will lead to Ad publisher revenue whilst also enabling us to link internally to our money pages.

The amount of content created this month was the most that I have been able to produce in a single month. This meant that the cost for content in May 2020 topped £700 for the first time.

Whilst I will continue investing in content, I aim not to spend more than I made two months before. I want to remain in a position where the website remains self-sufficient rather than spending a fortune.

Alongside the content creation, we continued our link acquisition campaign. Our focus this month changed to another target within the website so that we keep things looking natural.

So what ya make!

As you know from the rules that I set out at the start of this niche site project, I am only spending money that I have earned previously.

So that meant that I have ~£1,000 to spend if I felt it necessary in May.

As you can see from the PnL chart above, the largest expense was content. I mentioned above that it topped £700 and you can see it was actually £740.68.

Now if you consider that I managed to get 38 pieces of content written for that amount, it is extremely good value for money, especially as this will drive further revenue in the months to come.

The only other expense and it is still considerable is link acquisition. I have been outsourcing my entire link acquisition program so it will be costly.

I am often asked why I outsource my link building and why I don’t do it myself. The honest answer is two fold:

  1. I don’t want to do it. 🙂
  2. I value my time more than I am paying someone else to do the link acquisition for me.

So with the £1153.68 spent this month, I have generated a profit of £2,428 in May 2020. That’s a net profit margin of 68% which I would take all day long.

Next month’s plan?

First and foremost, I am going to continue creating content at the level that I have been over the past few months.

I have identified hundreds of terms to target over the coming months, enabling me to create different content types. Alongside this, I am starting to do research into other areas that I feel will be beneficial so that niche website doesn’t become one dimensional.

During the last few months, I have got into a rhythm with my team and it is working like clockwork, so as long as I am making profit I will keep investing in content creation.

The other big project for me in June will be to focus on building out different traffic sources. Currently the website is completely reliant on Google and I am not comfortable with that.

This will involve me looking into Pinterest and Tailwind to see if we can build a following that will lead to increased traffic and ultimately revenue.

Hopefully the above gives you some indication into what I am doing and the success that I am currently having. Things do take time and investment whether that is money or grit, so keep going!

Until next time!

Categories
Blog Tools

SEMrush Software Review: The Only SEO Software You Need?

Are you looking for a keyword research tool that can do it all? 

Well, SEMrush might be the only SEO software solution you need! I’ve used it myself for years, and SEMrush covers virtually every function that online marketers and blogger need in order to do their jobs. 

It’s practically a Swiss army knife for digital marketing!

In this SEMrush software review – part of my tool review series – I want to cover the many different functions provided by SEMrush and share how it fits into your marketing software stack. 

Most importantly, I want to explain why I’m a fan of this tool and how it can help you be a more effective marketing pro.

Get a 7 day free trial of SEMrush

SEMrush

What is SEMrush?

SEMrush is a cloud-based marketing software solution with 10 years on the market. This popular mid-level SEO suite boasts 40 tools, 8 billion keywords, 500 million domains, and 8 trillion backlinks. Yes, that’s trillion with a ‘t’! 

Now, when digital marketers are looking for a tool to help with SEO, they’re often focused on keyword research in particular. I know that keyword research is important, but the truth is, keywords are only one piece of a bigger online marketing picture. 

That’s why SEMrush is so valuable – it’s an “all-in-one marketing toolkit” that offers the data you need to make informed marketing decisions within a single dashboard.

Speaking of dashboards, all of the data you’re tracking is accessible right when you log into your SEMrush account. You can see your domains, analytics, position tracking, and even personalised SERP volatility scores on one page!

You can also customise it to your heart’s content, making it easy to check in on your projects at a glance without having to dig too deeply into the tools to see your data. 

The Sidebar

When it comes to SEMrush’s dozens of SEO tools, you can access everything in the sidebar on the left side of the page.

At the top of the sidebar in your profile, you’ll notice a dropdown menu with five different toolkits:

    • SEO
    • Advertising
    • Social Media
    • Content Marketing
  • Competitive Research

These toolkits are all drawing from the same pool of 40+ tools included in SEMrush, but each one is organised around a specific function.

Because we’re focused on SEO here, we’re going to be delving into the SEO toolkit specifically – just keep in mind that there’s a great deal of additional functionality in SEMrush that we can’t possibly cover in one SEMrush software review.

With that said, here are the five main SEO categories you’ll find in SEMrush:

    • Competitive Research
    • Keyword Research
    • Link Building
    • Rank Tracking
  • On-page and Technical SEO

I believe these are ordered this way deliberately: it makes sense to start your marketing efforts broadly at the competitive research level first, and then work your way down to the more granular and technical options as you progress in your campaigns. This organisation scheme reflects a typical top-down workflow.

Now, let’s find out more about each category and look at how to utilise SEMrush’s features to grow your business!

Competitive Research

Competitive research is the top category in SEMrush, even before we get to keyword research. There’s a simple reason for this: keyword research is tactical, while overall competitive research is strategic.

Through competitive research, you’re able to get an eagle-eye view of the competitive landscape for your industry or niche. It includes tools like domain overview, traffic analytics, and organic research. Let’s look at two of the most useful competitive research tools now.

Domain Overview

With the “Domain Overview” tool, you can enter the domain of your website or a competitor’s site and see the organic search traffic, paid search traffic, backlinks, traffic trends, and more. This is powerful data, and it’s right at your fingertips with SEMrush. 

If you’re interested in doing a deep dive into the competition, the domain overview also allows you to generate an accurate profile of their entire web presence – and even do direct comparisons to see how your site fares against other sites based on different metrics and across devices.

Traffic Analytics Tool

Along with the domain overview, SEMrush offers “Traffic Analytics,” a market research tool so comprehensive that it’s actually sold as a separate add-on in SEMrush. 

Traffic Analytics will actually give you an estimate of any website’s traffic from various sources – and while it’s not going to be as accurate as your own Google Analytics account, it can provide some insights on your domains as well.

Full access to “Traffic Analytics” costs an additional $200 USD per month, but you can still access the Overview report to see some limited information.

Why It Matters: Competitive Research helps you discover your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, test out new potential niches, scope out ideas for media buying, and more. 

Keyword Research

Keyword research is the bread and butter of any SEO tool. I know Google’s algorithm has become more sophisticated in the last several years, but don’t be intimidated by buzzwords like latent semantic indexing (LSI) – people still have to type in search phrases to find what they’re looking for on the web, which means keyword research continues to be essential for success online.

There are just as many opportunities as ever, and tools like SEMrush can help you uncover them with its solid keyword tools. 

Keyword Overview

Your starting point with keyword research in SEMrush is the “Keyword Overview” tool. If we do a quick example search for the term “semrush,” we immediately see some data on both organic and paid search for this keyword. We can explore the data even further by looking at desktop versus mobile.

This tool provides a nice overview of the specific keyword you’re looking at, covering trends for the keyword, search engine results, related keywords, and even snapshots of active paid ads that are bidding on the term.

But when you want to go more in-depth, that’s when you’ll turn to the magic keyword tool.

Magic Keyword Tool

As a marketer, it’s important to be able to brainstorm keyword ideas on your own. There’s definitely an art and a science to keyword selection.

However, tools can still dramatically reduce the time it takes to get good ideas for your organic and paid search campaigns. The “Magic Keyword” tool in SEMrush automatically uncovers a list for you.

As an example, if we search for the keyword “vinyl flooring,” we get 65,422 broad match variations. That’s obviously too many to work with, but if you look at the sidebar, you’ll see that it breaks down the keyword nicely into different subcategories, such as:

    • Plank
    • Tile
    • Install
    • Luxury
    • Sheet
  • Wood

This allows you to quickly explore ideas for different long-tail keyword variations of your head term. You’ll also see search volume, trend, keyword difficulty, cost per click in U.S. dollars, competitive density, number of SERP features, and total results in the SERP.

Best of all, you can save these as lists to refer back to at any time.

Other Keyword Tools

There are a few other tools here to be aware of in this category. “Keyword Difficulty” is a great way to see the competitiveness of a keyword and the specific search features that are relevant to each keyword as well. 

“Organic Traffic Insights” is a handy tool that helps you fill in those “not provided” keywords in Google Analytics that are driving traffic to your highest-performing pages. It also lets you see total impressions and click-through rate for different terms from the SERPs.

All of these tools also allow you to export the provided data as an XLS or CSV.

Why It Matters: Keyword Research gives you the data you need to come up with an actionable organic and paid search strategy for your business. 

Link Building

When it’s time to come up with an outreach strategy to boost your traffic and domain authority, link building is still an essential tool in your toolkit. And what better way to find out what’s working than to see your competitors’ links?

This time-tested strategy for outreach is still popular because it still works: make a list of your rivals’ links and referring domains, and then conduct your own outreach to see if you can get them to link to your site as well. 

If you need to execute link building campaigns, SEMrush has you covered with a handful of great backlink tools.

Backlink Analytics

Whether you want to track the backlink profile of your own domains or start poaching authoritative backlinks from your competitors’ sites, “Backlink Analytics” is the tool to use.

First of all, it helpfully breaks down the types of backlink into different categories:

    • Text
    • Image
    • Form
  • Frame

It also displays whether the links are follow, nofollow, sponsored, or UGC (user generated content).

At a high level, you can see the categories of referring domains (by industry), the top-level domain types, the country where the links originated, and the top anchors.

If we take Salesforce.com as a domain example, you can see the CRM website’s incredibly authorative backlink profile. It currently has 24.6 million backlinks and 125K referring domains.

This example shows how robust the linking tools are in SEMrush. Imagine being able to see what every competitors’ link profile is, their referring domains, and their top indexed pages. 

SEMrush’s Link Building is one of its most indispensable functions. 

Why It Matters: Link Building gives you all the resources you need to conduct in-depth link analysis for your own domains and your competitors’, track your backlinks, and conduct successful link building campaigns.

Rank Tracking

Rank Tracking is a simple but useful category. It offers tools to help you track your position on the SERPs. The three tools available here are “Position Tracking,” “Sensor,” and “Ranks.”

The most notable tool here is the SEMrush Sensor, a unique feature that informs you about the volatility in the SERPs for different categories. This tool includes a Personal Score that lets you monitor how volatile your own keyword positions are.

You can even set up notifications to be notified about changes in rankings!

I’ll be honest – I don’t have as much experience with the Rank Tracking category in SEMrush, because I use another tool  to track rankings called Advanced Web Ranking. Still, it’s nice to have the option.

Why It Matters: Rank Tracking allows you to monitor progress on the SERPs day by day, including your top keywords, and keep an eye on SERP volatility by category.

On-page and Technical SEO

After you’ve come up with a solid SEO strategy and are executing it successfully, you’ll want to make sure that your technical SEO isn’t holding you back. SEMrush comes with several tools to ensure your on-page and technical SEO are optimal. 

This is key, because you want the best possible user experience for your visitors, while keeping your site accessible to search engine crawlers.

Site Audit

The best tool here is Site Audit, a counterpart to tools like Moz or Google’s PageSpeed Insights and Search Console. In SEMrush, Site Audit will audit your website and identify onsite errors quickly. 

Here are a few of the things it can help you do:

    • Add missing tags
    • Create titles, meta descriptions, and HTML tags that work for both users and search engines
    • Find and erase error pages
  • Eliminate duplicate content

Site Audit categorises the issues it uncovers into errors, warnings, and notices – these are in descending order of severity, so you can focus on the most important issues first.

Why It Matters: On-Page and Technical SEO gives you a host of tools to make sure your technical SEO is where it needs to be, including site audit, on page SEO checker, and log file analyser. This is good for an overview of any issues, but for large scale websites, I highly recommend having a proper technical audit carried out.

My Top Tips for SEMrush

So, we’ve just gone over the different functions of SEMrush. But how do you apply it to your business?

The name of the game here is competitor analysis. It’s true that this comprehensive SEO software helps you track your own keywords and links, but this can be done with a lot of different keyword tools out there. 

Personally, I think SEMrush’s greatest strength is how it lets you monitor your competition. Here are a few of my favorite ways to use SEMrush:

1) Create a List of Competitors

You may have an idea of your competition already, but SEMrush allows you to build a comprehensive list based on hard data. This also makes it easy to track your own progress in relation to a short list of your strongest rivals. 

2) Analyse Top Pages

SEMrush makes it possible to see which of your competitors’ pages are the top performing in terms of traffic and keyword ranking. This gives you market-tested ideas that you can borrow for your own site.

Like with any SEO tool, SEMrush isn’t 100 percent accurate with its numbers. However, it’s definitely one of the best in terms of accuracy, and by providing you a general figure for these things, you can always compare the relative data to get a good sense of how things stack up.

SEMrush Pricing

With SEMrush, you’ll find both free and paid options. The free version has significant restrictions, but honestly, if you just need to get some general ideas or an overview for your site, there’s still some good functionality there.

SEMrush

However, most of us will want one of the paid options, because that’s where we can do ongoing research, tracking, competitor analysis, and monitoring for our various domains and projects without running into restrictive limits. 

Here’s what you get with the four different SEMrush plans. 

Pro

The Pro plan costs $99.95/mo USD and is primarily intended for freelancers, startups, and in-house marketers that have a limited budget. You get more than 40 advanced SEO tools and the ability to competitive analysis on traffic, rankings, and social media from the biggest players in your industry.

Guru

The Guru plan costs $199.95/mo USD and includes everything in the Pro plan and adds some great additional features, including a content marketing platform, branded reports, historical data, and extended limits for the data. 

Business

The Business plan costs $399.95/mo USD and is a good fit for mature marketing agencies, e-commerce projects, and businesses with an extensive online presence. It includes everything you get in the Guru plan and adds white label reports, API access, extended limits and sharing options, and Google Data Studio integration.

Enterprise

The Enterprise plan has custom pricing and features. I don’t think most people will need this level of functionality, but it is an option for larger enterprises. This plan includes custom keyword databases, custom limits, unlimited crawling of large websites, and onsite training.

How to Pick an SEMrush Plan

So, which SEMrush plan is right for you? A majority of users find that the Guru plan offers the best bang for the buck – at $199.95 USD, it’s perfect for an agency or a small-to-medium business with an in-house marketing team. 

You can pay for any of these plans monthly or save 16% by going for a plan that’s billed annually.

Also, a quick reminder: the Traffic Analytics package is a $200 add-on for any paid plan, including Pro, Guru, and Business. I would say it’s probably overkill for solo marketers or small teams, but that kind of data is valuable if you decide you need it.

SEMrush Software Review Wrap-up

In this SEMrush software review, we’ve covered the five SEO categories offered in the SEO Toolkit. We’ve seen how these tools help you conduct detailed competitive analysis and track your own domain’s keywords, backlinks, traffic sources, and other metrics.

So, with all that said, is SEMrush the right SEO software for you? How does it compare to Ahrefs, SEOmonitor, Moz, Ubersuggest, or the humble Google Keyword Planner

Well, I’ll say this: If you own a small business with a growing web presence or you run an e-commerce store, SEMrush offers some fantastic tools to help you grow. 

It’s also really helpful to have one place to do all of this work, because the dashboard allows you to organise all of the data you’re tracking into a single page for quick reference. 

Ultimately, SEMrush is a solid tool – but the only way to know if it’s the best option for your workflow is to try it for yourself. As with many things in the marketing world, this comes down to personal preference and how you work.

So, here’s what I recommend: grab your FREE 7 day Pro trial of SEMrush right here and take it for a spin!

SEMrush

Have you used SEMrush before? How does SEMrush stack up to other SEO tools on the market? 

Let me know your thoughts in the comments! 

Categories
Blog Events

Live @ The Inbounder, London

Today I am at the The Inbounder, London, live blogging the second instalment of a world tour that takes the conference setup by Gianluca Fiorelli, across the globe to Madrid, New York and Milan.

There are some great speakers on show today including:

Through the out the day I will be updating this post to bring you the key points of each talk, and the slides when they become available.

Tom Anthony – 3 New Techniques for the Modern Age of SEO

Tom Anythony talking about 3 New Techniques for the Modern Age of SEO – Image Courtesy of Kristen Baird @kristenbaird91
  • Best practice SEO doesn’t always fit every client, and you need to focus more on split testing.
  • Basic tests showed adding alt tags doesn’t necessarily have an impact on results
  • SEO split testing is different to traditional CRO A/B testing is user oriented. You basically put them in to separate buckets
    • You are unable to do this with SEO due to potential cloaking issues
  • Machine learning did as much in 2 months of working with Google Translate, as 200 engineers over the previous 10 years
  • Is content on category pages any good? Tests by ODN suggests that it had positive impact on one website, but a different website had a negative impact. This backs up the point that each website is different, and best practices doesn’t always work for all.
  • Does Google crawling Javascript have issues? Implementing a having a CSS fallback on Javascript enabled pages led to a 6.2% uplift in organic traffic.
  • Title Tag Test: Exact match search queries within the title tags saw and 8% negative impact. You’d expect this as what a user would enter in to the search is the question, and the results should be an answer.
  • Adding structured data to category pages provided an increase in 11% organic traffic for an eCommerce client.
  • SEO Reasons for using Machine Learning
    • ML Search Algo: we need ML to unravel it
    • IPAs, Apps, Smart Watches: too much data
    • Competitive Advantage: better insights, sooner
  • “Learn to drive, not to build the engine” when it comes to learning about Machine Learning. “If anyone asks you to learn ML then punch them in the face.”
  • Understand what categories Machine Learning can do for you.
  • FUTURE THINKING: Businesses are starting to think more towards a hub & spoke model with APIs being used to create their ecosystem.
  • What does this mean for SEOs? Invest in centralised analytics, to ensure you can plugin any type of channel/metric

Kelvin Newman

Why Podcasting is the missing Piece n Your Inbound Strategy & How to Excel in Audio Content

Kelvin Newman trying to convince us about podcasting – Image courtesy of Steven Howe @stevenhowe
  • Why should you do podcasting? Well.. there are more people interested in podcasts than you’d imagine.
    • 24% of Americans listen to podcasts across the US
    • 14% increase growth year-on-year
    • 40% growth over the past two year.
    • More than half of all podcast listeners generally listen to 3 or 4 podcasts per week
    • Over a 5th of podcasters listen to six or more podcasts a week
  • Better to create a podcast that is shorter, but have more podcasts per month as frequency is important. This is due to 85% of podcasters listening to the majority of the entire feature, but having shorter but more will enable this to improve.
  • What do you need to create a good podcast.
    • Microphones
    • Interesting people
    • Stuff to talk about
  • You first 10 podcasts will be terrible, don’t be self conscious about it. You want to launch with a number of podcasts as they are more of a feed process than you’d expect.
  • Having a podcast with multiple people allows for you to have a conversation/debate which is a lot more useful to the user.
  • Finding podcasters within your industry and offering your time to get a spot on them, is a much better opportunity for you than guest posting.
  • To get your podcast out there, you need to produce a feed. These are two of the most basic options that you can do today.
    • The Serious Simple Podcasting – WordPress Plugin
    • Use your usual webhost
  • The main place to submit your podcast is to iTunes. It is worth getting your artwork right in multiple formats so that you will look great if you get on the feature list.

 

Olga Andrienko

User psychology and social media: Triggers that drive conversion

Olga Adrienko User psychology and social media: Triggers that drive conversion – Image Courtesy of Jon Myers @jondmyers
  • Research your competition and identify where you’re better than anybody else
  • Focus on these strengths and you’ll be unbeatable
  • Use RivalIQ to see how brands positioned themselves, and then used LinkedIn to identify the people behind the profiles. See how they react, engage and post.
  • 4 components of a good social media presence are:
    • Creativity
    • Freedom
    • Budget
    • Responsibility
  • You can do anything, but not everything. Use tools such as BuzzSumo / aHrefs to find out where different content types are being shared. If it is in one place, then just market there and not everywhere.
  • Be diverse in your feed, add visuals, tag people and celebrate your fans/followers.
  • Social Media posts with Screenshots that show data highlighted has the biggest impact for SEMrush.
  • Employees are you biggest asset. Ask them to share content or tag a few people below the brand’s target.
  • Fonts is an understate part of social media. Fonts speak a lot louder than we think they do.
  • Typefaces have personality. Typography – visual summary of your copy.
  • There are four ways that you can repurpose content such as user generated content, creating a recap post, create checklists and images for quotes to be share on your social media channels.
  • Having amazing content on social media is not enough, you need to network with your audience.
  • User TweetBinder to get all tweets for the event that you are at. Export to Excel, filter users by authority and engage with them afterwards
  • Use social media to listen to conversations, and respond with relevant information.
  • People are ready to buy products and services they see on social. Instagram ads work!
  • Embed your social media on to your website. People trust you, not social media.
  • Amplify your reach, by asking your audience to share when they have registered for your activities/bought your product.
  • Make all of your responses personal. Use the persons first name and not “you” or just the user handle.

Hannah Smith

Going down the rabbit hole – Chaos, Curiosity and Creativity

Hannah talk “Going down the rabbit hole – Chaos, Curiosity and Creativity” – Image Courtesy of Omi Sido @omisido

 

Hannahs’ talk was incredibly useful, but also really quick as she had ~240 slides so I have only managed to get a few key points written down. However, I do have the slides below which I recommend that you take a look at.

  • Find something that you love and build upon them to build something new.
  • Hannah recommends a book called “Steal like an artist” by Austin Kleon
  • Stealing can be bad, especially if you steal the graphics and do not adding anything new for the user. Steal responsibly
  • Figure out where you want to get coverage (5-10 sites), and see what content gets the most share.
  • Try to figure our why people share the content and not what they share.
  • Talk to human beings who care about the product, as if you don’t understand your audience, they will not understand your content.
  • We are all creative, it’s just that nobody talks about how hard it is to do.

 

Nichola Stott

9 Things We’re checking for a Mobile First Index

Nichola giving her talk “9 Things We’re checking for a Mobile First Index” – Image Courtesy of Henko Labs @henkolab
  • Nichola thinks this is the biggest single step change within our industry over the 20 years since Google.
  • Nichola thinks the index change will be in June 2018
  • This is the single biggest opportunity to get ahead of your competitors, who are generally already behind the curve.
    • 1. Check mobile agent/client handling – Make no assumptions, but check sample in a device lab. Have multiple mobile devices on hand to check mobile responsiveness
      • If it the website is responsive you have little to do, but do take a look at GA to check out behavioural analysis, commercial analysis, speed, UX content and journey.
    • 2. Speed/HTTP2
      • HTTP / 1.1
        • Head of line – resources
        • Priority queue – ‘educated’ guess
        • Queue held on client
        • Keep-alive – stated
      • HTTP / 2
        • Prioritised by type & context
        • Browser to server
        • Keep-alive enabled by default
    • 3. Speed / Front End Optimisation
      • Image optimisation is a biggest step change drivers in speed change
      • Use image spriting to help improve image optimising
    • 4. Tag Handling
      • Conduct a tag audit to analyse and compare any issues, provide recommendations to fix.
      • Use GTM to take tags out of inline code helps improve page speed.
    • 5. Structured Data
      • 20% of mobile searches are voice search
    • 6. Service Workers
      • Seek to solve biggest problem – no connectivity
      • Replacement to AppCache
      • Browser runs in the background
    • 7. URL Hierarchy / Ecosystem
      • Don’t rely on alternate /canonical to infer hreflang.
    • 8. Content Experience
      • Higher bounce rate on mobile, but it is difficult to compare between mobile and desktop.
      • Use words efficiently, whilst using natural language.
    • 9. Journey Experience
      • What is the point of the page.
      • Simple UX review and scoring system for top revenue driving landing pages / templates if wide-ranging ecommerce.
      • Use a scoring system to easily understand which pages or templates are working and which needs work.

Jono Alderson

Accelerate Mobile – Beyond AMP!

Jono Alderson talking about Accelerate Mobile – Beyond AMP! – Image Courtesy of Nichola Stott @nicholastott
  • Start to think about speed as a competitive advantage rather than a technical challenge, you can start to get some real good data.
  • Jono recommends that you read Barry Adams BrightonSEO presentation as a good resource to get started. https://www.slideshare.net/Badams/are-accelerated-mobile-pages-really-worth-it-google-amp-case-studies
  • For the most part, you are giving up the control of your own content even though there are lots of positives for moving to AMP.
  • Infrastructure & Network Optimisation
    • HTTPs and HTTP2 is the future of the way internet works. You will need to adopt it at some point, and from Jan 2018 Chrome will mark you down as insecure
    • HTTPs isn’t a binary thing. There are complexities that the the different SSL certificates bring and you need to be aware of what yours work.
    • HSTS – A better version of HTTPS – Check out hstspreload.org which will check your setup. This is for those that are committing to HTTPs.
    • Check out Fille Wisse awesome guide on HTTPS – online.marketing/guide/https
    • If you have adopted HTTPs but not HTTP2 then you have made your website slower. You need to do both to make them work better. You can only use HTTP2 if you have HTTPs. It is an easy thing to setup, speak to your Dev team as it takes 10mins.
  • Connection & Data Transfer
    • Images are the easiest win when speeding up your site.
    • Test CSS3 (draw dots rather than have images) vs images vs sprites vs encoding vs inlining
    • SRCSET is the only solution for managing image sizes/resolutions – More here
    • You can also use <picture> to support multiple formats
    • You can turn your basic images into data using base64-image.de – Please bare in mind that this may not be cached by the browsers on every page. There is always cons to the pros.
    • Using sprites has a bigger impact than using HTTPs / HTTP2, but can be a pain to manage.
    • WebP is a better format of JPG & PNG combined. More info can be found here. This is not very popular at the moment, but is becoming so. There is a fall back for those browsers that do not support WebP, just edit your HTaccess.
    • Better management of common errors – Make sure any 404s, old files are redirected as the server will still try to load them regardless.
  • Measurement
    • There is no metric for things such as ‘Speed’,  tools such as Google PageInsights, Pingdom, WebPageTest, are all nonsense. None of them actually test the speed of your website.
    • Look at New Relic & Server Density to help with speed measurement.

At this point Jono was told that he had 2 minutes left, so went into overdrive. Check out the slides from this point on.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t adopt AMP, but you should read their documentation and understand the trade-offs.

 

Kirsty Hulse

Content Marketing: How to work less and win more!

Kirsty Hulse “Content Marketing: How to work less and win more!” – Image Courtesy of Alison Parcell @AlisonParcell
  • Lesson 1: Find the absolute easiest route to the results you want
  • I believe that we need to start investing less in content marketing
  • Use the Hero, Hub, Hygiene model for your content marketing strategy
  • Things that help Kirsty with getting ideas
    • Change your environment – Go for a walk around the park
    • Keep a notepad by your bed
    • Use reddit for ideation
    • Already have ideas when you brainstorm
  • Avoid Idea Dilution – Pitch something insane but make sure you have some buy in from journalists and be on brand.
    • Pitch ideas in threes as you can get people to pick the one you want.
  • Use Pollfish for creating survey data for any data driven content. Keep the angle of the content piece light if you are using survey data, don’t target high focussed content as journalists no longer use it anymore.
  • Check out Amazon new releases as they are likely to be authors that are likely to be launching a book. Get in touch to see if they are interested in collaborating.
  • Partner with other companies – Come together as a group (SEOs) to help each other get the most from the outreach.
  • Don’t just give journalists a story, give them the data to support their story.

Russell McAthy

Using machine learning to forecast future sales, the SEO way!

Russell McAthy “Using machine learning to forecast future sales, the SEO way!” Image Courtesy of Mike Gracia @mikegracia_
  • All marketing will be a combination of programmatic, creative and data & analytics.
  • The biggest issues for SEOs is not Google, but ourselves and the inability to showcase success. SEOs need to talk about revenue & margin.
  • SEOs should be talking about CPAs as we all cost money, so we need to show return.
  • The more fluffy the content being created, the more the CPA is.
  • Getting Started in GA
    • Add goal values to each of the goals that you have setup, regardless of what it is. They are nominal values but comparative to each other.

Hannah Thorpe

Content Marketing for Watching Paint Dry!

Hanna Thorpe “Content Marketing for Watching Paint Dry!” – Image Courtesy of The Inbounder @TheInbounder
  • The majority of products that you work with a just not that interesting, but that doesn’t mean that the brand can’t be exciting.
  • We still make excuses for not writing content, but as an agency we still want to make money and therefore need to work in all sectors.
  • Why are you making content?
    • The metrics can be anything Traffic / Leads / Brand Reputation but they need to be agreed and bought into by all the team.
  • Know the audience
    • Who – Who are they, where do they spend their time, when are they searching.
    • What – What do they want, why are they searching, what will help them decide.
    • Use Yougov profile Lite to get some good data based on the governments data set. You can find it here.
    • Use Bloomberry to find a list of questions and answers for the search term/topic that you have entered.
    • Consider time to consume, platform being used, device and location.
  • Understand the use case
    • Sometimes buying is an experience
  • Don’t try to hard
    • If you are trend jacking, you should probably not.
    • Alliteration, Puns & Rhymes = No.

“The future’s bright the future is orange rugs”

Gianluca Fiorelli

The Alphabet of Google and what we have to expect next in search.

Gianluca Fiorelli “The Alphabet of Google and what we have to expect next in search. “Image Courtesy of Steven Howe @stevenhowe
  • If you categorise all the blog post on the Google’s Webmaster Blog from May 2016 – January 2017, they are all about Mobile.  This is because we are now talking about it. Since then its been about spam and safe browsing.
  • The patents & papers from Google are related to personalised search & content.
  • Natural language processing includes Rhetoric, Entity Search, Context and Personalised Search.
  • Google is buying companies that focus on Images, Video Influencers, App Link Sharing, AI Chatbots, Vocal Search, VR and Machine Learning. This gives us an idea of where they are going.
  • Google are starting to use tags in Image Search to enable you to filter within the search.

  • Do you keyword research and always remember the entities.
  • Look at GBoard as a new source of traffic. You can do a search whilst you are texting and share a link with other people.
  • Do not reduce your SEO strategy to focus on Google Suggest.
  • Star Wars does a really good job with architectural SEO and structured data which leads to the knowledge graph using their data and not Wikipedia.
  • Use safecont.com, an machine learning based platform that helps with you content and ranking.
  • Hypothesis for Machine Learning training set for internal linking optimisation
  • Use Algorithmia to create content such as meta descriptions for large websites that can be created in an automated way.

And that’s a wrap! It’s been a great day of presentations at The Inbounder, London. I hope that you found this roundup useful, and I look forward to attending the next one.

Categories
Blog Events

Search Elite – The New Search Conference

As the digital marketing conference season gets into full swing, you have probably purchased your tickets for the standard conferences already, but there is a new kid on the block – Search Elite.

Having attracted some of the best speakers in digital marketing, founders Craig Rayner and Jackie Bissell are looking to do something a little different to the conferences of old.

Speaking to Jackie about SearchElite, she was passionated about wanting to be different to what is currently going being offered by other conferences.

Jackie continued by saying “If I am taking time to visit a conference the key things I want to take from it are knowledge sharing, learning and networking.  Search Elite has been programmed to offer all of them.  To be able to spend a day with the experts in SEO/SEM discuss, make contacts and keep in touch with important changes within your industry are crucial to your job.”

This same passion ran through the conversations I had with some of the speakers I managed to talk to. They were also generous enough to answer a few questions about the first Search Elite and what attendees can expect from their presentations.

You can use the navigational links below to skip to certain speakers if you prefer:

Gerry White

How excited are you about speaking at the first Search Elite, and what are you expecting?

SearchElite has such a formidable lineup, it was a little daunting when I saw the rest of the speakers, knowing most of the personally I know this is going to be amazing, I know that I am going to be making so many notes, I love great conferences and this looks to be one of the best of 2017, so to be within this speaker selection is quite an honour.

Apart from your own talk, who are you most looking forward to seeing at Search Elite?

That is a hard one, I have seen Russel and Jono talk a lot, and typically make a point of going to see them, Judith is legendary, but I think I am going to have to say Jim Banks, my reasoning is simply that I haven’t actually heard him talk before but have read much of what he has written and his knowledge and experience is (and I hate to use the word twice) legendary.

Without giving too much away, what can attendees expect from your presentation?

When I first got into the wonderful world of SEO, websites were (or at least the ones I worked on) were fairly simple, table based layouts and simple images, the best way to show where we were vs where we are today is to watch the video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLlGopyXT_g . Today most of my clients are built on ever more complicated platforms which to get something in takes months to get something in, often by the time it is ready I will be want to change the original specs “scope creep”, because SEO has changed something new has appeared … Imagine being able to test something quickly in SEO before you ask developers to build it, imagine every time a developer says – no you can’t do that, you can ‘hack it in’.

So if I can hack in something that has SEO impact, is this a good thing, should I be trusted with this much power? Should everyone who has this access? Is your website as safe as you think it is, is the workflow as robust as it needs to be, and why the developers are looking terrified when I can demonstrate to them that I can just hack it on. If I can put a Konami Code onto TakeItOffline.co.uk in ten minutes, I can record every keystroke you make, with GDPR this is something that should rightfully terrify your IT team.

Critically three points, you can do awesome stuff with GTM, you probably shouldn’t be using it as a CMS and finally you should probably be aware of who else has access to this backdoor to your website.

What do you think is the biggest barrier for marketeers moving further towards GTM?

GTM isn’t as simple as most people would expect it to be and despite the messaging from Google and advocacy from people like myself, users still need a basic understanding of tags, JavaScript and the web to really get the most from it. This isn’t necessarily, I am grateful that people who have a good technical understanding should still be involved in deployment to a commercial website (if only to preserve security, https and making sure that users privacy isn’t compromised). Google have recently introduced workspaces and with publishing rights already there, it does feel like they are making strides in the right direction.

For most websites, a couple of days training can certain start to get you a long way with GTM, but as I say I think this is something that should have a technical pair of eyes.

Any tags that should be being implemented via GTM that are not?

A lot of what I am talking about is almost a last resort hack, or alternatively a way of testing something that would otherwise be costly. GTM is not a CMS, it is a JavaScript injector – so if there is a better way of doing something, I talk about doing it this way as a way of testing something before I try and get too many developers on the task.

My personal blog site has hacks layered on hacks, with a side portion of code, this isn’t how commercial sites should operate (it is probably not how my blog should work) but if you aren’t testing it somewhere you aren’t learning.

Many CRO tags modify the on page content, which if done using GTM often will result in the user seeing this content before the tag has managed to fire – this causes an odd flash, or if the content is of a different size, content can jump around the page, resulting in users clicking in the wrong location. I have also seen an increase in people blocking JavaScript, this is through plugins such as Ghostery, so nothing critical to a conversion.

One thing I have noticed increasingly is a lack of awareness of the tags deployed through GTM, theses should be audited regularly, are they still in use, are they up to date (if you are sending hits to a domain or worse executing JavaScript from an unknown source, you could be setting you and your users up for a world of issues).

The future of analytics is increasingly managed by tag management and this will open the doors for increasingly interesting CRO hacks and tools to be deployed…

David Iwanow

How excited are you about speaking at the first Search Elite, and what are you expecting?

I’m always excited to speak at new and upcoming events as there is often a lot of energy from the audience and there is not the usual roster of speakers. I love several of the existing conferences but I’ve found for growing my industry networks and finding new and interesting people to follow on Twitter new conference are often a better option if I have a limited budget for conferences. The other aspect which I like about Search Elite is that the ticket price makes the conference attractive to a larger range of folks who might not be able to spend £1-2k on tickets.

Apart from your own talk, who are you most looking forward to seeing at Search Elite and why?

I’d say Gerry White who is speaking on the topic of “using and abusing GTM” which is certainly a very interesting way to implement some SEO hacks with limited development support to test before rolling them out. Also interested to see what Jono Alderson who is speaking on AMP which is certainly something that is gaining traction for sites as a quick way to significantly increase the page load times along with some bonuses such as visibility in the Google AMP results widget. There are also some great speakers that always bring plenty of energy to stage such as Sam Noble and Judith Lewis that you have to ensure you catch their session.

Without giving too much away, what can attendees expect from your presentation?

So there should hopefully be some fairly actionable items that people could actually start to setup during my presentation if they wanted to…. but much of it is starting to encourage people to think more along the lines of capturing everything so you can do the analysis later if you need. There is a lot of basics you can setup today after reading this post if you really wanted to such as create custom alerts in Google Analytics if you don’t have the time or resources to check your Google Analytics account daily. Same thing around measuring the load time of your website, you made those recommendations to your developers last year to improve the platforms performance metrics but did it work, if you had of been tracking this you would have a years worth of data to measure the change.

How important do you think automation is going to be for marketeers, and how can they implement them easily?

Automation is key to doing a number of tasks that are time consuming or prone to data entry errors such as reporting. No-one likes to do monthly reporting as that’s wasted time, a SEOs time is better spent on analysis of the data and making recommendations for the upcoming months… think more about making actions based on data than just puking up Google Analytics data into an email. There is a lot of manual and repetitive tasks that most SEOs likely do daily, weekly or monthly but the best advice I ever received was from Brad Geddes of Certified Knowledge that said his team works to automate anything their team does manually more than once. So I’m not talking about the full automation of SEO such as your page titles need to have this keyword to rank that some platforms offer. My idea is more so along the lines of you have 30% of your page titles under-optimised and of those page titles that are under-optimised they are now receiving less traffic than optimised page titles, and this change to the code happened on the 3rd March which was linked to a platform release that broke a template.

Bas van den Beld

How excited are you about speaking at the first Search Elite, and what are you expecting?

I’m very excited to be speaking at the first Search Elite! When Jackie and Craig first told me about the plans, I knew they were on to something good. They don’t just want to create a new search conference. They really want to make a difference.

Apart from your own talk, who are you most looking forward to seeing at Search Elite?

They are all friends of mine, so I am looking forward to seeing them all :-). But if I have to choose one, it’s David Iwanow’s talk on “Automate or die”. I’ve been looking into a lot of automation recently, so am very interested in learning more about it.

Without giving too much away, what can attendees expect from your presentation?

I’m very excited about my talk. For many reasons. For one, I’m not doing it alone! I’ve been working on a great project the past year together with Daniel, who is a coach, a facilitator of change processes. Together we worked with a big Dutch Insurance company to get their staff to a higher level. It wasn’t just about sending knowledge. It was about embedding the knowledge in the organisation. I can only say: it was revolutionary!
I wrote about it here: http://www.stateofdigital.com/train-staff-job-get-real-results/
I’m bringing Daniel to London to join me on stage to talk about this. It will be awesome.

Digital Marketing is key to so many organisations, but there are many that fail at implementing it correctly. How can these businesses, big or small move ensure they start to implement things correctly?

What a coincidence, it’s what I will be talking about at the event! ;-).
Let me highlight a few things that I feel are most important:

  • Firstly, you can’t do anything without buy-in from C-level. Support from management is crucial.
  • Secondly it’s hugely important to know and agree on what you are trying to accomplish. Make sure everyone is on the same page.

For more, come see my talk 🙂

Samantha Noble

How excited are you about speaking at the first Search Elite, and what are you expecting?

I am really looking forward to being part of the first event. The team behind Search Elite have worked so hard to make sure they have a great mix of speakers from varied disciplines so that the audience all walk away with lots of great insights and actionable takeaways.

Apart from your own talk, who are you most looking forward to seeing at Search Elite?

Honestly, I am looking forward to seeing everyone talk. Every single person on the speaker line up are friends of mine and I love watching them speak. I always learn something from each and every one of them and the event in May will be no different based on the topics they are covering.

Without giving too much away, what can attendees expect from your presentation?

I am splitting the talk into two parts. The first part is going to look at what information we can obtain about our audiences through making use of the paid media platforms. The second part is going to show you a load of different tips and techniques for using the audience data to really enhance your paid media campaigns.

With in-house teams in particular focusing more on understanding their audience to deliver more targeted marketing campaigns. What are the biggest challenges facing them when it comes to data gathering?

Understanding where to start and actually what to do with the information once they have it. There are so many platforms packed with loads of different reports but until you understand the opportunities there are, it makes it super hard to know where to begin. I am hopeful that my session will help them to understand what needs to be done.

Jim Banks

How excited are you about speaking at the first Search Elite, and what are you expecting?

I am truly honoured to be invited to speak at the inaugural Search Elite, I am sure in years to come this will become a staple in the “search education” calendar. Getting a new event off the ground is not easy. I expect the event to be sold out and for attendees to leave with some amazing actionable takeaways to justify the time and expense out of their busy schedules

Apart from your own talk, who are you most looking forward to seeing at Search Elite?

I’ve seen all the other speakers (apart from Gerry) speak before. They are always really entertaining and informative. I’m also excited to have the all speakers Q & A after my session. Judith is always great to watch, there is usually chocolate involved.

Without giving too much away, what can attendees expect from your presentation?

I’m a huge fan of people leaving with actionable things. Given that I am the last speaker standing between the attendees and the bar, I think I owe it to them to make it good. I’ve seen a lot of advertisers, many of them big brand names, doing incredibly stupid things. I’m going to be naming and shaming a few of them, in the spirit of educating the audience. As much as I like social amplification, I think some of my presentation I will want under Chatham House rules, so no tweets, no shares. So that, plus a few good stories from the paid media trenches.

When it comes to paid media, most focus on Adwords. What platforms other than Adwords are providing customers with the best return?

It’s really important that advertisers join the dots. None of the visitors they get spend all their time on one platform, so knowing where they move to and how you can continue the conversation is important. Adwords is not just one product, it’s many, so YouTube, Remarketing, Shopping, Display all play a part. Bing is always a bit of a secret weapon for our clients, and if it bought correctly you can also get decent returns from Yahoo Gemini, but it’s a bit of a tight rope. For advertisers that are online retailers / ecommerce, then Amazon is also a platform/channel that yields great results. Amazon have actually become one of the biggest advertisers on Google Adwords basically doing arbitrage, which means you get extra amplification from Amazon spend. Most importantly, buy a ticket, I’ve not even scratched the surface and with 40 minutes to speak I aim to cover a lot of ground.

Judith Lewis

How excited are you about speaking at the first Search Elite, and what are you expecting?

I’m very excited about speaking at the first Search Elite because I’ll be a part of a very new and exciting search conference featuring some of the finest minds in the industry. I travel and speak at conferences all over the world but London is the home to some of the greatest search minds in the world and so I expect to be wow’d by the information in the talks.

Apart from your own talk, who are you most looking forward to seeing at Search Elite?

Probably Jim Banks. I think his session is extremely interesting and could be quite surprising for a lot of people in the audience. But I think the whole day looks pretty strong with a lot of interesting speakers all coming together to lend their expertise to the subject.

Without giving too much away, what can attendees expect from your presentation?

I wanted to do a session that covers some of the more neglected stuff. No one talks about the importance of some of the more advanced but to me still basic stuff. I realise crawl budget, minification and competitor audits aren’t sexy but I’m bring back the sexy in SEO… I know there’s no “sexy” in SEO but there should be 😉 My session is going to look at a bit of why social and search are important together, why you need to monitor the competition, and how I#39;ve been working with clients to make things work better.

With SEO constantly changing, what do you see as a must do to move the needle tor 2017, especially in a tough industry such as travel & tourism?

I see the travel and tourism industry as being two different beasts in a sense. Having just finished speaking at the International Wine Tourism Conference I met so many tour operators who really were not visible online and who relied on other ways to get clients. On the other side of the coin I net a number who had their SEO game well set. I spoke about strategy and the future but also attended a number of talks. I feel that oddly social is not being appropriately integrated into an overall digital marketing approach and I feel that in the quest for links, it’s being left behind. I also often see a lot of fundamental technical mistakes. There’s a lot about the Travel & Tourism vertical I’d like to see change. It isn’t just about comparison sites – a lot of the industry is about promoting a destination and getting there is only a small part of the puzzle. Moving the needle is going to mean taking a step back and reconsidering your strategy and looking at a fully integrated digital marketing approach, instead of overweighting to PPC or SEO.

 

Jono Alderson

How excited are you about speaking at the first Search Elite, and what are you expecting?

I’m really looking forward to it. There’s a really strong set of speakers, and I really like the agenda – the topics cover pretty much everything end-to-end, so I’m hoping to level up in a whole bunch of areas. This is the kind of lineup I’d want to attend to see, so it’s a privilege to be part of the mix.

Apart from your own talk, who are you most looking forward to seeing at Search Elite?

So hard to pick! If I had to choose, it’d have to be Gerry’s session on hacking SEO with WordPress and GTM – we’ve had a lot of pub talks about the kinds of things you can (but probably shouldn’t) do, so it’ll be really fun to see what he’s been up to. I like the sweet spot between SEO, Analytics and Tech, and this should tick all the boxes.

Without giving too much away, what can attendees expect from your presentation?

Some technical performance tips and tricks which you can try yourself, or use to beat up your developers. From database design to CSS flow optimisation, it’s going to get a bit geeky…

Though mobile first has been a focus for search engines for a while now, do you feel that enough companies and/or marketeers are giving it enough thought and why?

I think that many brands are treating it as just-another-thing that they have to think about, and aren’t really ready or equipped for. They still have broken websites, poor users experiences, slow pages, mountains of 404 errors, etc – and now we’re asking them to be multi-device, too!? In many cases, I think that the challenge is less of a technical one, and more about building a compelling business case which gets attention, sponsorship, and resource. Challenges with multi-device tracking and attribution make that hard, and obviously, most businesses have multiple (often competing) priorities with finite budget… Hopefully, Russell’s talk on multi-channel data might give people ammunition!


It certainly sounds like the conference is going to be great, with lots of actions to takeaway. I am certainly looking forward to attending and learning as much as possible from this group.

If you havent’ registered yet, but you are interested then you should definitely come along. I am able to provide you with a 10% discount code when using “danielbianchini10” during registration.

I look forward to seeing you all there, and if you are attending do come and say hi!

Categories
Blog

5 Simple Google Analytics Tips Small Businesses Forget To Do

Having worked with Google Analytics for a large number of businesses of all sizes, I have started to notice a pattern of basics that are continually missed.

Some of these issues are prominent regardless of the business size, but it is mainly the small businesses that forget some of the basics during implementation. There are usually a number of reasons for this, and many are good, but in my opinion it pays to have a really well setup analytics account.

Having worked with and setup a number of Google Analytics accounts for small businesses in recent months, I have noticed a similar trend in those basics that are not implemented and wanted to address them here.

The below are just those that I have come across as items that I am regularly implementing, and I am certain there are many more that you are dealing with. If there are then let me know in the comments below, but for now, lets dig in.

Single Data View

When you first setup Google Analytics, you are provided with a new view. This tracks all of the data that you receive from your website. This also means that unless you add in filters, goal, etc you are tracking every time you visit your website.

If you visit your website daily, then you could significantly skew your data set. How do I stop this, I hear you say? Good question, and the answer is easy. Simply create a new profile that is filtered so you have an accurate representation of the traffic you have, that is not skewed by your own visits.

Now we will discuss filters later in the post, so lets see how to create a new profile.

When in Google Analytics, head over to your account and the Admin section. In the view as shown below, you are likely to have a single view call “All website data”.

Now, we want to create a second view so that we can get that clean data. Where it says “All website data” click the drop down and click “Create new view” and you will be presented with the follow screen. Nearly there!

Now all you need to do is select the data type to track (in most cases it’s website), and then give the view a name. I generally keep this very simple – Brand Name | Filtered – See, simple. Now choose the correct location and timezone. This important as all your data will based on this, and you don’t want it based on Australian time if you are located in the UK.

Hit create view, and you are good to go! The next step is to add your filters to ensure your data remains clean.

Add basic filters

Now that you have created your filtered view, you need to add in some filters. Now, this can be a huge number of filters or just one or two, it really depends on the business that you operate. There are many good posts on how to create filters, and which ones to remove including the one I wrote here, so I won’t go into detail.

However, the ones that I would include are as follows:

IP Restrictions – Add a filter to block IPs from the following locations to keep your data clean.

  • Your office / home
  • Development team
  • Marketing consultant or freelancer
  • Suppliers

I won’t explain how to implement IP filters as it is done in the post provided above.

Hostname filter: Add the hostname to the filter to ensure that you are doing everything in your power to stop spam traffic being recorded.

To do this you need to do the following:

  1. Head to Admin > Filters
  2. Click the red button Add new filter
  3. Give the filter a name. I usually just call it Hostname Filter
  4. Select the include radio button and choose hostname from the dropdown
  5. Input your domain name in the text field providing adding in \ before any dots. This is just some RegEx to escape the dots which can be seen as something else.
  6. Then hit save and you are done.

Feel free to check out the image below for reference. 🙂

The three other filters I generally start with are:

Handling Webmail: Also shown in the post linked to above, this ensures that any email provider that is not caught by Google Analytics is added to the correct channel.

Force lowercase URLs: Some websites have the ability to provide URLs in multiple cases, which is an SEO issue in itself. If the Lowercase filter isn’t applied you will also see the traffic for the different URLs which can be a pain to monitor. This filter will collate the information into a single URL to report on. 🙂

And the last one, but potentially the most important is:

Spam Filters: Over the past few years, spam traffic from those on the web trying to cause issues has significantly increased. Although Google have tried to improve their own spam filters, I have been adding in the same filters to each account I work on. If you head over to Analytics Edge and read this great post on Spam Filters, you will get all the details you need to stopping the spammers.

Google Search Console Integration

Google Search Console is a must for any marketeer to understand what Google sees specifically about your website. Although there is areas where data is limited, it provides you really good insight into how your website is performing from a technical perspective.

So imagine if you could integrate that into Google Analytics and overlap some of the data, good idea right? Well, I glad to say it has been around for a long time, but small businesses fail to implement this easy integration. So below is exactly how you do it.

First you need to add Google Search Console on to your website. This can be done in many different ways, and Google provide a guide on how this is done here.

Once you have setup GSC, head over to your analytics account and the admin section. Under the property section of your selected account, select the all products link as shown below.

From here you will be presented with a list of products that you can integrate into Google Analytics. Find Google Search Console and select the adjust link button as shown below.

You will now be presented with a screen that has “None: Edit” instead of the adjust button. Click the edit button, and you will be taken to GSC from where you need to select the correct account. Select the correct account and save,

You will be kept in the GSC dashboard, so you need to move to the GA profile that you were looking at in the other tab. If you want to edit the views that the profile is associated with, then click the “Enabled Views” drop-down and select as you see fit.

That’s it, easy! Over the next several days you will see data starting to come into your GA account located under Acquisition > Search Console.

Google Adwords Integration

Running Adwords but haven’t but haven’t integrated it into Google Analytics? Yep, thought so.

This simple, but very important step is generally always missed by small businesses. If you are running Adwords accounts regardless of the type of campaign that you are running, you definitely want to integrate this into GA.

To integrate Adwords into Adwords, you follow a similar process to that shown above about Google Search Console.

  1. Head to Admin > Adwords Linking
  2. You should see a list of profiles that you have in your account (see below)
  3. Select the correct account and click continue
  4. Select the views in your GA account you want Adwords imported to and hit link accounts.

And there you have it.

Use GA’s annotation feature

I see this as something that anyone using Google Analytics should be doing regardless of business size.

When reviewing data from last month, last quarter or even last year, it can be difficult to understand what activity happened, and determining why that dip or increase appeared. Using the annotations feature, you can quickly write a short description of what happened and either keep it private or share it with everyone on the account.

You can make these annotations on most of the graphs, and they will be shared across the suite. To do this, you simply need to select the drop down under one of the GA graphs, and click create annotation. From here you write a short description and decide whether to share or keep it private.

Some types of annotations that I create include:

  • Website updates – Themes / Releases, etc
  • eShots – Add campaign name
  • Issues with website – Hacking, payment issues,
  • Change in marketing activity – New platform trial, etc

These types of annotations will allow you to have a clearer picture of what happened in the past when you come to review.


And there you have it, 5 basic Google Analytics tips that small businesses forget to do!

Are there any tips that you think I missed out? Any that you disagree with? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Categories
Blog

Stop and step away from the migration!

Migrations! Migrations! Migrations!

Everywhere you look there seems to be one that is happening.

But website migrations are not easy!

There are many good migrations being conducted on a regular basis, but you never hear about them. You only hear about those that have not gone as well as expected, sometimes through no fault of those involved.

It is easy to jump to conclusions as to what has or hasn’t happened. Silent whispers of they should have done this or that, but sometimes you are in the hands of the search engines.

In the remainder of this post I talk about a three stream approach to website migrations, and those key areas that I feel are often missed.

Three main streams to a website migration

A website migration is not just implementing a few redirects here and there, there is so much more to it. Looking at it from a 10,000ft view you could identify a handful of areas that you need to looking into:

  • What is the process of delivering the project going to be?
  • Which stakeholders are going to be involved?
  • What tools are required?
  • Why is a migration required?
  • What data is needed?
  • What are the dangers of migrating?
  • What will the testing plan be?
  • How do I manage the launch?
  • What areas do we need to monitor pre and post launch?

But then you look further into these areas (shown below) and start to realise the scale of the task at hand.

But all of this general fits into three work streams:

  • Project planning and management
  • Implementation and fixes
  • Monitoring

Having the right approach

Different people have different approaches to conducting a website migration, and one that I see often can be shown below.

The problem that I have with this approach is that it is siloed. The project planning and management stage ends before any implementation has actually begun. Then you get a long implementation sprint, where you generally see a lack of management, or interaction with key stakeholders before it is launched. It is then at this stage that the monitoring process starts, but this is way too late. You can’t monitor the changes from launch if you don’t know the history and fluctuations that is likely to have happened over the previous few weeks and months. All this can be changed however if you extend the two of the three sprints.

The approach used above ensures that there is a lot more planning and managing of the project in question. One thing that is inevitable in a project such as a migration is change. Whether it is launch dates, project scope and/or key stakeholders, all which needs to be managed in a correct manner.

The other main change in the approach, is to extend the amount of time that you are monitoring. Before launch – generally a couple of months – you want to know exactly where you are, traffic levels, revenue, visibility, etc, and you want to know this before significant change is made.

Project management and planning

This stream is key to the entire project running smoothly, not necessarily the results but ensuring the right people are in the know, tasks are registered, planned and executed. But it seems one of the key areas that get missed or give the least amount of investment during what is such a big project.

“He [She] who fails to plan, is planning to fail” – Winston Churchill

Below are some of the key areas that are generally overlooked when going through a website migration, though they are some of the most important tasks.

Get to know all of the key stakeholders including developers

This is one of those things that you say over and over again, but it is one of those that nobody ever does, there is always an excuse.

For me this is one of the most important parts of the website migration, and one that needs a lot of time and attention given to. As an SEO or a member of the digital marketing team, you are going to need to get lots of support from a wide range of people within the project team, and the way you do this is by making friends, and early.

You could go through the key stakeholders and give them all some kind of importance level, but ultimately your two best friends should be the developer and decision maker. These are the two main stakeholders who will be able to implement all or the majority of the changes that you want to get through. They are also the people that will fight your corner when you want to get something pushed through.

This is why it is imperative that you make an effort in getting to know who they are. This is even more important if you are in an agency, you need people on the insider that will fight your corner when you are not there.

Know the reason behind the migration

There has been many occasions where the team involved with the website migration are not really sure why it is happening in the first place.

  • Change in brand name
  • Change in TLD
  • Move to SSL
  • Change in CMS

Manage expectations of the website migration

Website migrations are extremely unpredictable. You can do everything right, get all the redirects perfect, the content is amazing, the website is better, quicker and more user friendly than before but you lose visibility.

As I have said before, website migrations are not easy so you need to manage the expectations of all the business and the stakeholders. This will ensure that there are no nasty surprises if things do go wrong.

Create a detailed road map

Knowing who will be doing certain tasks, when things will be completed, what is a prerequisite of another tasks, and much more detail is an important part of the planning stage. This will become the central location of the whole project.

In the project plan you need to ensure tasks that spans each of the departments are shown so there is a complete understanding of what is happening and all times. Even including the small items such as regular status calls, meetings and holidays. You want to know if someone is going to be on holiday whilst a critical task is being deployed.

In projects that I have worked in we have used Asana alongside Instagantt which has created easy to use gantt charts that enables those working in the project to work seamlessly.

Regular status calls & meetings

Alongside getting to know your stakeholders, attending regular project calls is the other most ignored process in a website migration. For some reason, we do not like being involved in phone calls. Maybe we feel that we don’t need to know about other areas of the project, but that’s not quite accurate.
It is essential that we are aware of what is going on in other areas of the project. As we know, SEO integrates with lots of different areas, so it is likely that any change could have a potentially damaging impact if we are not involved.

Example status call agenda:
Business developments – Anything that will affect the project
Infrastructure – Server challenges / effects on project
Development – Sprint updates / testing
SEO – Requirements / challenges / defects
Review project plan
Launch date
Absences – Holidays / leaving business

Implementation and fixes

This stream of work is all about getting things right. Ensuring that the data that has been gathered is accurate, the tasks that have been planned are completed and everyone is working together to move the project along. There are, however, three key items that almost always come to the fore during such migration projects that need dealing with.

Staging site hell

A regular item line in most of the SEO audits that I conduct, is removing the staging site from the index.

By conducting one of the following searches in Google, you generally identify your staging website. Go away now (in a new tab of course) and conduct one, is your staging site indexed?

  • Site:[insert domain] inurl:staging.
  • Site:[insert domain] inurl:dev.
  • Site:[insert domain] inurl:uat.

The most frustrating part of this, is it is so easy to solve and therefore prevent. So why don’t development teams do this as part of their process? I am sure some do, but the majority seem not to do so. Anyhow, I digress. The preventions that you need are one of the below:

  • Add Noindex tag to all pages
  • Make sure the staging is behind a gated access
  • Add a disallow: / to the Robots.txt file before launch
  • IP restrict the site

From a personal, paranoid perspective I generally suggest doing all of the above. I’d rather do more and ensure that the URL is unable to be indexed than have to fix it at a later stage. One thing to note however, is, if you do add an IP whitelist ensure that you get a proxy setup for any remote workers that you may have.

Redirects

Working on many migrations, I am often left surprised by the lack of respect that is given to the need to implement redirects. Whether it is key stakeholders, c-suite or developers, there seems to be a reluctance to want to implement them.

Now some of the excuses can be valid, with website speed being one provided by the development team. However, if they are not implemented then there is a serious chance that you could lose a lot of the visibility that you have worked so hard to get over time.

To help reduce the potential of redirect not being implemented or vetoed by decision makers you can try to be as efficient as possible with the implementation. The most obvious way of doing so is to limit the number of redirect lines used through redirect rules. These can be combined with those inevitable 1:1 redirects to reduce potentially a huge number of lines to a more manageable and acceptable number.

Making sure that you have covered all the redirects you need, means that you need to gather a lot of data and therefore using a lot of different tools. When gathering the data for redirects, I generally use the following tools to help me create my list:

  • Google Analytics
  • Google Search Console
  • SEMrush
  • Crawl of website
  • aHrefs
  • Wayback Machine
  • URL Profiler
  • Log files

Test! Test! Test!

One of the most difficult parts of the a website migration is testing, and more specifically for redirects. It is often seen that redirects would be put in place without testing, and when launched issues are realised. This is why a robust testing plan needs to be planned and implemented before testing.

To enable you to provide an almost identical testing environment you need to have two staging sites. Yes, you read that right, two staging websites.

The first staging website should be a copy of the current website that is being replaced, with the second staging environment being a duplicate of the new site. The only difference should be the domain name, as shown below:

  • Staging.domain.com – Identical version of the current website
  • Prod.domain.com – Identical version of the new website

By having these environments in place enables you to test the redirects that you will deploy on the live environment. You can then see any errors that may or may not have been accidentally made during the implementation.

As well as testing for redirects, you want to test for:

  • Ensure a single protocol is used
  • Sitemaps present and correct
  • Zero 404 errors on launch
  • Internal redirects are removed
  • HTaccess is implemented
  • Robots.txt is working correctly
  • Canonical implementation is correct
  • Structured data has been added

To test some, if not all of the above you should use Screaming Frog and/or Deepcrawl to speed up this process by taking a lot of the grunt work out.

Monitoring

As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post, you need to begin monitoring your chosen metrics way before the launch of the new website.

Different websites will want to monitor and report on different metrics but in general they include;

  • Organic traffic
  • Organic revenue
  • Organic landing pages
  • Number of pages indexed
  • Bounce rate
  • Ranking information

All of these metrics need to be updated on a weekly basis in an easy to understand format that can be distributed to all levels within the business. This needs to be kept up on pre and post migration so that you can easily spot any issues that may rise and allow you to react quickly.

So there you have it, a three step migration plan that prepares you for a success for launch. I’d love to hear your comments and questions below or over on twitter @danielbianchini.

Categories
Blog SEO

When will my SEO be done?

Walking into a meeting to discuss the progress of an SEO project, it is common to be hit with the question of ‘So when will our site be optimised?’. This perception that optimised exists is what hinders so many SEO strategies from growing and fully developing. It can be difficult to be thinking long term in the actions you’re taking when there’s a short-term goal and finite contract length.

There are many different factors that mean your website will never be 100% <optimised including those mentioned below:

External Factors

As SEOs, we work in the backyard of the search engines, and therefore we need to conform to their rules. Though we don’t need to worry about running down the hallway or putting your feet on the sofa, we need to work to the guidelines that are set and be aware of when they change.

As we all know, Google change their algorithm 500+ times a year, and these are the small tweaks to make user experience and results better, and these are largely unconfirmed. Then come the larger, more drastic algorithmic changes that sometimes cause a stir in the SEO industry, mainly due client sites being negatively impacted.

It is these external factors that we don’t have any control over that generate the most fear in marketers. One day everything is fine, we are working to the guidelines, and next they are changed and our websites have been drastically affected, sometimes irreversible so in the case of Panda/Penguin.

For this reason, the only external factor that should have your whole attention all of the time is your customer. If you focus on them, creating the right content, building the best user experience regardless of device, then most external factors are irrelevant.

It is when you focus too much on those external factors, namely the search engines that you can fall foul of their guidelines as you set out to improve visibility through manipulation.

Competitor Changes

The nature of having competitors mean that they will always be looking to beat you, gain ground if they are falling behind, or pull further ahead where possible. To do this, you have to accept that there is always opportunities, whether you are thinking outside of the box, improving content that has been created by a competitor or your own resource.

Things can always be improved, they can be represented better, the story told could be more engaging, inviting to your audience. It is this type of attitude that will stand you in good stead, instead of thinking that you have done everything you can.

If this is your mindset then you have already lost, because your competitors are pushing forward, taking your ideas and making them better!

The Business of SEO

Business Developments

As businesses succeed, new avenues of revenue open up and therefore new areas of the website need to be created and optimised.

With these new areas, comes the need for visibility in search engines to expand on any paid marketing advertisement. The issue that you face here, is you may be entering into a totally new sector, with new competitors and zero visibility to start with.

The change in business model can and will provide difficulties within the SERPs to the point of starting again, however, it signals opportunity, and therefore further ways to optimise your website.

New Product Lines

Whether you are a retailer or a service led business, there are always new products coming to the market. Depending on the size of margin that is available to you, it is likely that you will want to be visible when users are searching for these new products.

Sometimes, if the new products are just a new range such as the iPhone, Playstation, etc then you may not be required to do much. However, if the product is completely new to the the market, or you are not the first to stock such product you need to create a strategy that will enable you to cash in on this new phenomenon.

These are only a few of the factors that mean your website will never be 100% optimised. It is also important that you focus on your user rather than just a search engine. As humans our buying habits change as we evolve with the technology that is available to us. Would you say that your website is 100% optimise for us, the user? I would doubt it.

SEO closely aligns with so many marketing channels, business decisions and user behaviour that the potential your website will be 100% optimised is slim, to nil. Let’s move away from thinking we are finished, and start talking about how we can continue to make things better!

I would love to hear your thoughts below in the comments or over on twitter @danielbianchini.

Categories
Blog SEO

Website Migrations: Data is Everything!

I recently had the pleasure of giving presenting at Digital Olympus about website migrations. Please find the video and the slides below.

Full transcript coming soon.

Categories
Blog SEO

4 Ways to Use Screaming Frog’s Custom Feature

Crawling a website is an extremely valuable part of any SEO’s armoury, and it’s great that we have so many tools available to make the job easier.

Tools such as DeepCrawl, OnPage.org and Screaming Frog are constantly innovating to bring us more advanced data, allowing us to make informed, data-led decisions. Due to these innovations and constant changes, there are many hidden gems that are underused and could save you lots of time.

One such feature is the custom search and extraction aspect of the Screaming Frog SEO Spider. Over the past few months, I have been using this feature on a more frequent basis and wanted to share with you some of those key points.

Before we get into that, what exactly is custom search and extraction?

Custom Search:

This can be found by navigating to Configuration > Custom > Search

The custom search’s main function is to find anything specific that you want in the source code. You simply need to enter what you would like to search for, ensure that you have selected Contains, select OK and then run the program.

The program will go ahead and run, and pull out any pages that contain your specific input value. The great thing here is that you can also use Regex as part of your search query.

Custom Extraction:

This can be found by navigating to Configuration > Custom > Extraction

This report allows you to collect any data from the HTML source code of a URL that has been crawled by the tool. For this to work, the static page has to return a 200 status code.

Currently, you are able to have ten different extractions from the HTML source code at any one time. You can name these extractions as you see fit to ensure that they fit the requirements of your specific crawl.

The program currently supports the following methods to extract data:

  • XPath: XPath selectors, including attributes.
  • CSS Path: CSS Path and optional attribute.
  • Regex: For more advanced uses, such as scraping HTML comments or inline JavaScript.

If you have selected either XPath or CSS Path to collect the required data, you have the option to choose what to extract:

  • Extract HTML Element: The selected element and its inner HTML content.
  • Extract Inner HTML: The inner HTML content of the selected element. If the selected element contains other HTML elements, they will be included.
  • Extract Text: The text content of the selected element and the text content of any sub-elements.

So, that is a bit of information about what Custom Search and Extraction is, so let’s now jump into what you can do with it.

Below I have listed four ways that I have been using it over the past few months. I am sure there are many more ways and I would love to hear about them in the comments below.

1. Checking GA & GTM implementation

Let’s start easy! There is the regular requirement to ensure that all your tracking is implemented and remains in place on a regular basis.

Using custom search you can check to see if the Google Analytics or Google Tag Manager code is implemented and, if not, what pages are they’re not on.

To do this you need to open up the custom search feature and add in the specific code that you are looking for as shown below.

16.08 - GTM Search Filter

You have up to ten different filters that you can add so feel free to add more than the one code if you have more. Once you are done adding in the code, hit OK and run the program. If you head over to the custom tab within Screaming Frog you should start to see this being populated if the code does not exist on a certain page.

16.08 - GTM Search

Useful right? I tend to do this on a regular basis to ensure that I am on top of any tracking issues.

2. Finding rogue canonical tags

When moving websites you can sometimes come across old canonicals that have not been updated or removed from the new URL. This can cause indexing issues with the search engines and need to be updated quickly.

Using the custom search feature you can identify where these are and send them to your developer in order for them to be changed.

16.08 - GTM Search Filter - Rel Canonical

This is one of those checks that can be done very quickly and save a huge amount of time.

3. Finding product information

If you have an eCommerce website you may want to regularly check for certain details. In recent times I have been searching for the following:

  • SKU numbers
  • Product Details
  • Pricing information
  • Product Spec

To do this, head over to the custom extraction filter as specified earlier. Using XPath as the extraction method, head over to a product page and inspect the element of each of the pieces of information you want to return as shown below.

16.08 - Copy XPath

In the example above, I right clicked the <td> then hovered over Copy and selected Copy XPath. I then returned to Screaming Frog and pasted it into the correct extraction location as shown below. I continued to do this for the other sections I wanted to gather information for.

16.08 - Product Extraction

Once I was happy with the extraction information, I clicked OK and ran Screaming Frog across the website in question. Whilst running, I headed over to the Custom filter and selected Extraction from the dropdown. Below is an example of the data I was getting back from my crawl.

16.08 - Product Extraction Report

Once complete and exported into excel, I was able to filter and pivot the information to allow me to use it. There are many instances that you may want to use this type of extraction for, but below are just a few:

  • Allows you to create a product matrix with all the pertinent information in
  • Crawling competitors to identify product price variation and how they are describing their products
  • Rebuilding websites and understanding what information is currently being shown to the user
  • Checking that product pages have Schema implemented

4. Finding blog post authors

Want to find out which of your bloggers are getting the most shares and links for content they write? Using the extraction method, you can see what content is being written by each team member.

16.08 - Blog Author

Once complete, export this information to Excel, and can combine with BuzzSumo and aHrefs exports. Using vLookups, you will be able to identify which authors are generating the most links and/or shares. You can take this further by adding in other information that is available on your blog, such as categories.

As mentioned earlier, I am sure there are many more ways that you can use these features to get really useful information, and I am hoping that you will add to the above in the comments below. If you have any questions, feel free to tweet me @danielbianchini.