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Blog General

The Digital Marketing Crystal Ball – 7 Predictions for 2016!

This post was originally posted on State of Digital.

As always in the digital marketing industry, 2015 has been another year of change. With new tools, algorithm updates, customer behaviour changes and the shift to a more user focused approach, we are constantly evolving and innovating to stay on the cutting edge.

As 2015 draws to a close, I asked some of the State of Digital bloggers What big changes do you expect in the digital marketing industry in 2016? See what they think will change in 2016 below:

 

Google to monetise more free features

When Google made Shopping a paid offering from free a lot of businesses and advertisers were up in arms about the whole thing but looking at the product now, I think it was a smart move from Google. Obviously they are making a huge amount from this channel but advertisers are also really capitalising now.

So this makes me wonder what else Google may look to monetise moving forwards and one of the more obvious features would be Google Maps. Local businesses heavily rely on their map listings and if it were a paid option (in addition to a free) there could be a lot more Google could offer businesses to enhance their listings.

This would be one of my predictions for 2016.
sam-noble
Sam Noble – Koozai – @SamJaneNoble

 

Google to focus more on the user, whilst an increase competition in online payment methods

  1. In terms of the Google Algorithm and all things SEO, I think we’ll see the user focus trend continue. With the debate around if Panda was more focused on quality issues than just duplicate content, and the additional Doorway Pages statements made by Google, it is clear that quality for the user is still a focus. Google is becoming more human in how it interacts with individuals on their devices which is reflective of the types of results it’s wanting to display too. Our strategies need to attempt to be future-proof, so that means stop being solely a numbers game of search volumes and competition, and ensure they focus on the user.
  1. There really hasn’t been as much attention around online payments as I would have expected this year. It’s one of the areas of digital that has had some of the biggest changes – the launch of Apple Pay, split of eBay and Paypal and Google’s announcement it would be focusing on the development of Google Wallet. With the chance of these large companies purchasing PayPal, and its beacon technology, or PayPal.Me’s initial successes growing further, we could see a complete shift in how the majority of payments are made. The impact on digital marketing? We’ll see the importance of second-screen advertising increase again, and the opportunity to greatly increase conversions as payment simplifies.

Hannah Thorpe
Hannah Thorpe – White.net – @hannahjthorpe

 

Businesses will get better at understanding their audience

2016 will be the year of the mobile!

No, just joking, we are long past that. Mobile is now commodity and every business should have this optimised. The thing about mobile that in 2016 hopefully will take more shape is the realisation that ‘mobile’ isn’t just the device, its ‘where people are’, regardless of which device they are on.

Another big change I think will be in the content marketing area. I think more businesses will start to create their own, or buy, publishing platforms. A trend in which some will get it right and others will just create more content that ‘pollutes’ the web.

Finally I think in 2016 businesses will realise more what they can do with the data gathered in the past few years and that they will get a better understanding of the audience they are targeting.

I hope 😉

Bas-van-den-Beld
Bas van den Beld – @basvandenbeld

 

Backlash against ad blockers

There will be a backlash against ad blockers, with some websites blocking visitors that have ad blockers enabled. The deeper root causes that make ad blocking so popular will be left almost entirely unacknowledged, with publishers and advertisers instead preferring to use crude measures to protect their ad revenue rather than face up to the fact that they’ve been behaving like total pricks for years.

barry-wins
Barry Adams – Polemic Digital – @badams

 

Mobile web Vs Mobile Apps – Consumers moving to a search-centric web

Building on from Jonathan’s excellent post I think it’ll be very interesting to see how things develop for the mobile web versus mobile apps, and what this means for SEO as consumers move away from the search-centric web.

In October 2015, mobile browser-based searches via Google overtook the number of desktop searches, but a recent study found that only 10% of mobile usage are browser-based, with the remaining 90% in-app. That’s a lot of keyword data lost, but also a lot of revenue Google is losing via PPC.

Google’s already shifting position in response to these changes. They’ve been indexing app content for over 2 years now and have indexed over 100 billion pages from native apps as of October 2015. With more and more app content featuring in mobile searches, we may see industry standardisation in the way that deep links are interpreted, built and discovered.

But, more excitingly, on the 18th November,Google announced that you’ll be able to find and stream app content in their search results. This test is starting with nine selected Android apps in US English search results. If the results are good, they may well expand to more apps and markets (maybe even iOS). This interesting development will likely mean that App Store Optimisation (ASO) becomes a higher priority in 2016.

Briony Gunson - SEO Account Manager 2
Briony Gunson – @brionygunson

Google to pay more attention to rich snippets

My prediction feels a bit like cheating, as I’m ‘borrowing’ what one of the Google analysts (Gary Illyes, a.k.a. @methode) hinted at during a conference recently, which was that Google would be paying more attention to rich snippets / structured data in 2016. I’d welcome this, as I was a massive fan of rel=”author” (R.I.P.) and I’m a fan of anything beyond the bog-standard ‘page title / URL / meta description’ setup – especially if it’s something that webmasters can utilise in order to improve their click-through rate and therefore gain a competitive advantage.

In my experience, rich snippets seem to be especially prominent in a small number of sectors, and largely non-existant in the rest, so it’d be great if they were opened up across the board and therefore usable by more websites in more sectors.

steve-morgan
Steve Morgan – @steviephil

On-demand economy will have huge implications for businesses

I think that the on-demand economy will have huge implications for businesses this year. A company is popping up to take care of many tasks which could have in the past lead to direct contact between a consumer and a business. Now, customers would rather deal with intermediaries to do the choosing for them. Coupled with this lack of traditional exposure, businesses are dealing with mobile users who want results fast, so must ensure that everything they create is easily-digestible and impactful, so that they can achieve results in what Google call the “micro-moments”.

Jack telford
Jack Telford – The Media Flow – @JackTelford
 

There you have it, seven predictions for 2016 from the State of Digital bloggers. Do you agree with the predictions made above? What do you think is going to happen in 2016? I’d love to hear your comments either in the comments below or over on twitter @danielbianchini.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!!

Image Credit – Christian Schnettelker Flickr

Categories
Blog General

5 Must Read Books for Leadership & Productivity

With more of my focus being placed on management of teams, I placed a lot of emphassis on improving my leadership skills throughout 2015. During this time I read a lot of different books that provided different approaches and techniques to help.

During my research into the books that I should be reading, I found very little in terms of reviews or recommendations from any of my peers within the digital marketing space. So, now we come to the end of the year, I thought I’d share with you the five books I found most useful for leadership & productivity.

The Hard Things About Hard Things

the-hard-things-about-hard-things

In The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz, cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz and one of Silicon Valley’s most respected and experienced entrepreneurs, draws on his own story of founding, running, selling, buying, managing, and investing in technology companies to offer essential advice and practical wisdom for navigating the toughest problems business schools don’t cover. His blog has garnered a devoted following of millions of readers who have come to rely on him to help them run their businesses. A lifelong rap fan, Horowitz amplifies business lessons with lyrics from his favorite songs and tells it straight about everything from firing friends to poaching competitors, from cultivating and sustaining a CEO mentality to knowing the right time to cash in.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Getting Things Done

getting-things-done

Since it was first published in David Allen’s Getting Things Done has become one of the most influential business titles of its era, and the book on personal organisation. ‘GTD’ has become shorthand for an entire way of approaching the professional and personal tasks everyone faces in life, and has spawned an entire culture of websites, organisational tools, seminars, and offshoots.

For this revised and updated edition, David Allen has rewritten the book from start to finish, tweaking his classic text with new tools and technologies, and adding material that will make the book evergreen for the coming decades. Also new is a glossary of GTD terms; The GTD Path of Mastership – a description of what Allen has learned and is now teaching regarding the lifelong craft of integrating these practices, to the end-game of the capability of dealing with anything in life, by getting control and focus; and a section on the cognitive science research that validates GTD principles.

The new edition of Getting Things Done will be welcomed not only by the hundreds of thousands of existing fans but will be embraced by an entire new generation eager to adopt its proven principles.

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity

Leardership Plain and Simple

leadership-plain-simple

Leadership isn’t complicated – keep it simple and make it count. This new edition of Steve Radcliffe’s uniquely powerful, successful and practical framework will show you how to develop faster as a more confident and capable leader.

This compact, instantly-applicable guide to developing leadership skills contains practical insights, straightforward actions and plain guidelines to accelerate your growth as a leader.

The framework is derived from expert coach Steve Radcliffe’s work with real leaders in real leadership situations.

Leadership:Plain and Simple: Plain and Simple (2nd Edition) (Financial Times Series)

Only the Paranoid Survive

only-the-paranoid-survive

The President and CEO of Intel, the world’s largest chipmaker, reveals how to identify and exploit the key moments of change in any industry that generates either drastic failure or incredible success. Under Andrew Grove’s leadership, Intel has become the world’s largest computer chipmaker, the 5th most admired company in America, and the 7th most profitable company among the Fortune 500. Few CEOs can claim this level of success. Grove attributes much of it to the philosophy and strategy he has learned the hard way as he steered Intel through a series of potential major disasters. There are moments in any business when massive change occurs, when all the rules of business shift fast, furiously and forever. Grove calls such moments strategic inflection points (SIPs), and he has lived through several. They can be set off by almost anything – by mega competition, an arcane change in regulations, or by a seemingly modest change in technology. They are not always easy to spot – but you can’t hide from them.

Only The Paranoid Survive

High Output Management

high-output-management

The essential skill of creating and maintaining new businesses—the art of the entrepreneur—can be summed up in a single word: managing. In High Output Management, Andrew S. Grove, former chairman and CEO (and employee number three) of Intel, shares his perspective on how to build and run a company. Born of Grove’s experiences at one of America’s leading technology companies, this legendary management book is a Silicon Valley staple, equally appropriate for sales managers, accountants, consultants, and teachers, as well as CEOs and startup founders. Grove covers techniques for creating highly productive teams, demonstrating methods of motivation that lead to peak performance—throughout, High Output Management is a practical handbook for navigating real-life business scenarios and a powerful management manifesto with the ability to revolutionize the way we work.

High-Output Management

As mentioned, there are very few recommendations of books within our industry, so if you have any that you’d like to share then please let me know in the comments below.

The type of books I am looking for include:

  • Leadership / Management
  • Productivity
  • Process & Delivery

Image Credit – Moyan Brenn (Flickr)

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Blog SEO Tools

SEO Tools: 6 Steps to Evaluating your SEO Toolkit

We work in an industry where there are new tools launched every week. Whether they are paid or free, there is always somebody recommending the next big thing that will revolutionise the way that we work.

However, unless you have a limitless budget, how do you know you are using the right tool? Should you be using both SEMrush and AWR? Does aHrefs enhance your Kerboo subscription? Do you go for Deepcrawl or Screaming Frog, or both?

These are just some of the decisions we have to make on an ongoing basis. You only need to take a look at the marketer toolbox website setup by Aleyda, to see the large amount of tools available and the challenge we are faced with.

To ensure that you are not just buying every tool you come across, you need to evaluate each one and make an informed decision on whether it will benefit you or the business. In the remainder of this post I will discuss some of the key areas that I consider when evaluating my toolset.

1. Recommended or advertised?

How did you find out about the tool? Did somebody recommend it in a blog that you have read or directly? Was it mentioned at a conference or was it a through a cold call?

Although where you saw the tool shouldn’t have a major impact on your decision, I have always found those that have been recommended a lot more beneficial.

If you have been recommend a tool, I’d suggest that before enquiring about a trial, you reach out to the person and ask them why they liked it so much. Ask them privately, ideally over email or SKYPE so that they can be completely open and honest about it. Here you will find out a lot more information than you would through a cold call, or running an initial trial.

If you do decided to take a cold call from a software provider, make sure that their is a real need in the business to explore whatever tool is on offer. If you are pursuing a cold call to be polite, then you could find yourself on a number of calls wasting a lot of time. If you don’t want something, be honest both you and the salesperson would prefer the honesty.

If you proceed with the cold call, then make sure you get a trial and take it for test drive. The salesperson will always only concentrate on the positive aspects of the product, but what about those little niggles that may affect the way you work. What about those aspects that you really need, but are actually not available. Having a trial is extremely important when you think about purchasing any software, but even more so when it’s through a cold call.

Once you have decided on whether you want to proceed to a trial, you need to understand what similarities if any, it has with your other tools.

2. Overlaps

There are a huge number of tools available to us that either do exactly the same or a very similar job, use the same data source (Majestic as an example), or cover one aspect in a more campaign approach.

It’s at this stage of the evaluation you need to determine if the tool you are trialing is offering you anything different to the tools that you already have, or if it is just doing the same job. If you it is just doing the same job (example: AWR vs Authority Labs), this is OK, it means that you need to determine whether it is doing a better job than the old tool.

However, if it is just overlapping such as SEMrush and aHrefs, you need to determine if the data from the new tool is better, and if so does it overlap in such a way that you need to remove the other product?

In case of the example I provided with SEMrush and aHrefs. I made a decision to use both of these tools, even though in my opinion they overlap, they are both strong at different aspects which makes them work well together.

3. Efficiency

Will this tool make your work quicker? Will it make your work better?

If the answer is yes to both questions then the tool is likely to be a no brainer. However, if the tool is clunky, unreliable and will take a great deal of change to your work low then I’d suggest that you look elsewhere.

My number one rule for a tool is – If it doesn’t make the quality better and isn’t efficient it’s not right. This is just my rule, I’d be interested to hear if you agree with that?

4. Required or luxury

One of the biggest issues that we have when it comes to adding to our toolkit is the necessity to have everything that is available. If there is a new tool we need to have it, regardless of cost, proper trialing or if it’s actually required.

I have seen it many times when you create a list of all the tools that you want to have and it fills a couple of A4 pages of paper.

Why?

Because we need it, it’s new and better.

In most cases, this is not actually true. The reason that it is on the list at all is because somebody has just stumbled across it. They have read the latest blog post and it’s highly recommended or they have come back from an amazing conference and it was the Buzz product.

It’s at this stage of the process that you need to be really brutal with the tool. Does it make you, your team and/or business better? Does it replace another software that you already have, not just because it is new, but because it is better!? Will it give you a competitive advantage?

This is the stage that you need to ask yourself. Do we REALLY need this tool?

5. Replace or add

Many tools that are available do the same job as a lot of others, and don’t really provide any extra value.

When trialing your piece of software you need to be crystal clear on how his tool will add value to your current seo toolkit, or whether it will replace one or more tools completely. You don’t want to add or remove tools that will weaken your ability to provide the very best work to your clients or team.

Here you need to be ruthless. A new tool maybe better than one that you have a really good relationship with the owners, or you are a fan of the business that creates it. This can’t come into the thinking, they will understand and you can always provide feedback as to why you are changing. However, you need to do what is best for you and the business, that is key.

6. Costs

Although this shouldn’t be the deciding factor, cost does have a part to play in the decision making process. Regardless of whether you are an internal team, small/large agency or whether you freelance, you need to keep the cost down and tools can quickly escalate out of control if you don’t have a handle on it.

Two key things you should consider when it comes to cost include:

  • Tool cost vs total income: – Will costs be reduced as it is replacing other tools? are you happy with the amount of income you are spending on tools?
  • Tool efficiency vs manual time: – Will the cost of a monthly subscription save you enough man hours to make it viable.

There are likely to be other costs that you need to look into, especially if you are the business owner, however these are what I look at.

A final recommendation from me. Set a date each year that you evaluate your entire tool set to ensure that you are using the best tools available to you and your business.

There you have it, six things I consider when evaluating my seo tool kit. How do you evaluate your toolkit? Do you have a diverse set of tools or do you stick to a single campaign software? I would love to hear your thoughts on how you evaluate the seo tools that you are currently using in the comments below or over on twitter @danielbianchini.

Image Credit – Sami Paju (Flickr)

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Blog Presentations

The Changing World of SEO & 7 Tips to Stay Ahead

This post was first featured on White.net

Last night I had the pleasure of speaking at the first Optimise Oxford alongside Ned Poulter and Jono Alderson. Below are the slides that I presented along with a brief summary of it.

SEO isn’t dead, it’s evolving!

For several years we have been hearing that SEO is dead, and I do get a little fed up of it. SEO isn’t dying, it’s evolving. It’s growing up, we are becoming a more mature industry that is looking for long term growth, not short term results that lead to failure.

89 major algorithm updates in 4 years

Since the start of 2011 Google has released 89 major updates to it’s algorithm with the aim of improving the results provided to the user. These updates include the following:

Panda

First released in February 2011, there has been over 29 recorded updates to the Panda algorithm. The initial update affected 12% of english speaking search queries worldwide, and led to well known brands suffering.

Panda cracked down on websites with thin content, content farms and high ad-to-content ratio. Businesses such as eHow were hugely effected, taking traffic levels down to 10s of thousands from 100s of thousands.

Penguin

First hit in April 2012, the Penguin update aimed at reducing many spam factors and affected an estimated 3.1% of English queries.
Those websites that were keyword stuffing, participating in link schemes, cloaking and had lots of duplicate content were penalised.
During this time, people also started to receive manual link notifications through Google Webmaster Tools (now Google Search Console). If you received these messages you were either going to be or were handed a manual penalty.

Hummingbird

The first major rewrite of Google’s algorithm since ‘Caffeine’, Hummingbird was created to provided more meaning behind the search queries.

This change allowed more focus on understanding the billions of pages that are currently indexed through data markup and the expanded knowledge graph.

Pigeon

The Pigeon update focussed on looking at more useful, relevant and accurate search results.

This update bought the local ranking factors more in line with the traditional ranking factors. However, this update has made significant changes to the maps, location parameters and the local pack.

Mobile

First announced in February, #Mobilegeddon launched on the 21st April 2015. With Google putting more emphasis on mobile users, the new mobile index put more weight on those websites that were mobile friendly.

This shouldn’t have been a major surprise to the majority of us, with over 2 billion smart phones used globally.
Although marketed as a huge change for the industry, the results were significantly lower than expected with only 4% of change recorded.

7 tips to stay ahead

Think like a brand

Regardless of the size of your business, you are a brand. So start thinking like one.
This can be done in a number of different ways including:

  • Dominating page one of brand searches
  • Encourage online reviews
  • Register social media profiles
  • Look after local search

Understand your audience

If you don’t know your audience type, then how can you market to them?
Using a mixture of surveys, persona information, social media and keyword research, you should be able to get a good understanding of who they are, and what they like.

Once you know this you can start to create marketing decisions based on user information.

Create content for each stage of the buying cycle

Content is an important part of any marketing plan. One key aspect from a search perspective is the user lands on the correct page for the search query that they have entered.

Although not easy, this can be done by understanding the intent behind the search and producing the correct content asset for that search. At White, we utilise the user journey flow below to identify the correct piece of content for each stage of the buying cycle.

This provides an easy to reference guide to what content is required based on the user’s intent.

Optimise Presentation Oct 15 17 - Slides7

Think about mobile

Mobile is more important than ever, and should be considered a must for your business. Although conversion continues to be higher through desktop, mobiles are a huge part of the research stage and are being used on the commute to work and in the evenings.

To check whether your website complies to the mobile requirements set out by Google, please visit the mobile friendly tool they have provided.

Invest in the marketing mix, not just SEO

It’s key that you supplement your SEO efforts with alternative marketing initiatives. You may create some really great content for your SEO campaign, but to get the very best results you should market it across all channels.

Methods such as email are still considered one of the best forms of marketing if you can get it right. Due to platforms such as MailChimp, email marketing has become an easy, yet cheap way of engaging with your audience.

Build for long term growth, not short term

People continue to want results now! That is the world that we live in, but we need to educate stakeholders that consistent and long term growth is a better way of building a business, than instant short term returns.

This means creating the right strategy, employing the right people, building and engaging with the right audience. This all takes time, but it will pay off with long term success, and not falling foul of search engine guidelines.

Categories
Blog SEO

11 Browser Plugins I Use For SEO Every Day!

This post was originally published on State of Digital.

Tools can come in all different type of formats including desktop applications, online software, Excel tools, or even browser plugins.

In my last post I covered 17 tools that would help you with Technical SEO. Within the comments a few people mentioned some plugins that they felt warranted beig in the list. As I was concentrating on the desktop applications at the time I didn’t add any plugins, but today is the day for them!

I am an avid user of Chrome. I know there are a large number of people that don’t like Chrome, they feel we are providing Google with more and more infomation about who we are. But I like it, as do 50% of those using tablet and console browsers according to StatCounter.

In this post I have provided you with the plugins that I use on a daily basis to ensure that I remain focussed, efficient and productive.

I have split the plugins into the following categories, so feel free to navigate through.

Project Management

1. Procrastinator

When I am trying to get in the zone this plugin comes in handy. Allowing me to block access to websites such as Twitter, BBC Sport and of course State of Digital during certain times of the day reminds me that I have a job to do and a deadline to hit.

Within the settings you can list the websites that you want to block, and the times that you want to restrict access. You are able to do this either individual or provide a blanket restriction across the entire list.

I generally go for specific time periods before and after lunch, but you need to find out what works for you.

Download here

2. Worklife

A tool that I have been using more and more recently to ensure that all my meetings are as efficient and productive as possible.

The tool itself allows you to create and share a meeting agenda, write public and private notes during the meeting, whilst keeping a record of the actions and open items. You can also share the agenda before hand so that all of those that are in the meeting can add to the notes.

Once you sign-up for Worklife, you can use the plugin to automatically open your next meeting in a new tab. Although a simple feature, it ensures that you use it in the correct way.

Download here

General SEO

3. Moz Bar

The updated Moz bar is far better than the original, but there is still a way to go with usability in my opinion.

Moz bar

Moz provides you with a very quick snapshot of the website that you are looking at including:

  • On-page Elements
  • General Attributes
  • Link Metrics
  • Markup
  • HTTP Status

It continues to show you Page and Domain Authority within the bar, whilst it now shows DA when the bar is not showing which can be helpful.

Download here

4. SEO Serp

When you are wanting to check a handful of rankings very quickly, then this is the plugin for you.

SEO Serp

From anywhere, you can select the search engine, add your keyword and website and SEO Serp will go and find the current ranking. It will also provide you with a list of the current top 10.

This will not replace your ranking software, but if you are in a meeting and looking for a specific keyword ranking position, then SEO Serp will provide it very quickly.

Download here

5. Scrapper

Scrape similar has saved me so much time over the years, by allowing me to scrape specific content on the fly.

Whether it be the listings for a search term, every H1 on a specific page or a list of products from a competitor site, Scrape similar can do it all.

The only slight downside is that you need to know XPath to get the most out of it, but we are all techical here right? Alternatively, you can right click on the code that you looking to gather and copy the XPath into scrape similar.

All the data that you gather can be exported to a Google Docs spreadsheet before you manipulate it as you see fit.

Download here

Technical SEO

6. Ayima Redirect Path

Before this tool came out, I was struggling to identify redirect loops and hops on the fly. Since then, this plugin has been one of the main plugins within my toolbar.

Ayima Redirect Path

Each time you go to a website, the redirect tool will determine the status code of the page, but more importantly if it has gone through any redirects. If it has identified a number of redirects, then it will list the path that has been taken allowing you to investigate further.

Download here

7. Web Developer Toolbar

I have been using this tool for years, and is one that I find extremely useful.

Providing me with the ability to check so many different elements including disabling JavaScript & Cookies, outlining external pointing links, iFrames, forms and broken images it has become integral to what I do.

Web Developer Toolbar

One thing to note, if you do use the plugin and change some of the settings, ensure that you reset them when you are finished otherwise you may find every website you visit to be broken in some way.

Download here

8. Check My Links

This tool is a bit like Ronseal, it does exactly what it says on the tin.

Check My Links

When clicking on the plugin it will start to analyse all of the links on the current page and provide you with a green or red light based on the number of complete or broken links.

Download here

9. Wappalyzer

Similar to BuiltWith, Wappalyzer will analyse the website you are looking at provide you with some core information on the go.

Whether you are trying to determine the CMS, the server type, what analytics package they are using or if they are using marketing automation, Wappalyzer can do this and quickly.

I mainly use this to determine technical items such as what CMS is being used, what server type so I can better understand the configuration and whether they are using some type of framework.

Download here

10. aHrefs

I’m a big of aHrefs and what they are doing with their product, so bringing it into a plugin is great.

AHrefs

The aHrefs toolbar is one that I open specifically when I am analysing link data for a specific website. At a quick glance the toolbar provides both page and root domain link data alongside some social metrics.

If you are logged into aHrefs then you can get more data about the specific domain such as:
– Referring IPs
– Domain overview
– On-page Elements

Download here

Analytics & Tag Manager

11. Tag Assistant

Anyone using GA and/or Tag Manager, this is a great plugin. It provides you at a glance any issues that you may have with your implementation, as well as what tags are being fired through GTM.

Google Tag Assistant

When analysing GA or Tag Manager, I use this plugin alongside Google Analytics Debug to enable me to pinpoint any issues.

Download here

Lots of plugins, so little time…

These are the ones that I use daily, and I am sure that there are more that you can share with me below. However, if you can only have five from the above I recommend the following:

  • Procrastinator
  • MozBar
  • Ayima Redirect Tool
  • aHrefs
  • Tag Assistant

Well that’s it! What do you think, any that you would add? Look forward to reading your comments below or over on twitter @danielbianchini.

[Featured image: Sean MacEntee]

Categories
Blog Presentations

11 Actionable SEO Tips and Tricks You Can Use Today!

Categories
Blog SEO Tools

17 Tools to help with Technical SEO

This post was originally published on State of Digital.

Technical SEO continues to be one of the most valuable stages in any SEO campaign. Ensuring that the technical foundations are laid provides you with the ability to become more creative with content.

In this post, I have provided 17 tools that you can use to during different areas of technical SEO.

You, Pen & Paper

Tools are great, but you are better! Tools allow you to get an understanding of any technical issues quickly but it still requires brain power to analyse what has been identified. Therefore, whilst you are running a crawl of the website using your preferred crawling tool, you should also give it a visual inspection. This part of the process is one that is often missed as we rely on tools to do all of the heavy lifting for us.

During your visual review you should be manually checking each template and the source code for the following items making notes as you go:

  • Title Tags
  • Meta Tags including description and directives such as the rel=canonical and robots tag.
  • Heading structure
  • How layered navigation is managed
  • Pagination management
  • www vs non-www.
  • Checking canonicalisation issues
  • Robots.txt
  • HTAccess

Once you have conducted your review you can see if they have been verified through the use of tools.

Crawler of choice

Running a crawl of the website is one of, if not the most important part of any technical SEO feature. Using tools such as those highlighted below will provide you with lots of information with regards to the current state of the website.

Once the crawl has completed, the first step is to export the data into a spreadsheet so that it can be analysed fully. It is at this point that I generally export by section such as response codes, Images, Directives, Protocol etc. This allows me to dive into any issues with a specific set of data rather than having to filter the entire crawl.

Example Crawlers:

Screaming Frog crawler

Google Search Console (GWT)

Recently named Google Search Console, this tool provides you the information that Google can see and is willing to show you. To conduct through technical SEO checks it is essential that you get access to Google Search Console, and if it is not available then make sure that you implement it.

Once you have access, it is key to identify any significant issues that have been highlighted, and from a technical point of view they are likely to be found in the following three areas:

  • Google Index

Under the Google Index section of Google Search Console, you will find a number of options including Index Status and Remove URLs. These two options provide you with with the current indexation figures, and what URLs have been removed. If you compare these stats against the number of your pages or the number of pages within your XML sitemap you can start to identify whether you are suffering from duplicate content issues.

Google Webmaster Tools Index Status report

  • Crawl

Here is where Google gives you insight into the state of current websites in terms of errors identified, how often your website is crawled, how your sitemap is performing and whether there are any errors and where you can handle your URL parameters.

  • Search Appearance

Within Search Appearance you will be able to compare the number of missing and duplicate title and metas with what you found within your crawl. You can also identify any issues with the structured data that may be available on the current website.

Page Speed Tool

As consumers are constantly switching between devices, page speed has become more important not only from a rankings perspective but also from a usability point of view.

Google currently state that if your website / page does not fully load within 1 – 2 seconds then it is below average. This is supported by users hitting the back button if the website is not visible almost instantly, this is also true for mobile devices where users expect the website to load quickly even if they are on a 3G connection.

There are many ways in which you can speed up your website including image optimisation, minifying code (JS, CSS, HTML) and enabling compression. These issues can be identified using one of the following tools:

Speed tools:

Google PageSpeed Insights

Change Log

This doesn’t happen very often for one reason or another, but it can be an important part of conducting a technical SEO. If your website has taken a hit in visibility or traffic/conversions, you may be able to track it back to a technical change.

One way to keep on-top of the technical changes is to add an annotation to your analytics package. This is a very simple process when using Google Analytics and can be shared with everyone that has access to the project. Further to adding information about technical changes, annotations can, and in my opinion should be used to keep a record of any marketing activities (PR, email, campaigns) as well as tracking any confirmed algorithm updates.

By tracking these activities it will be easier to identify what has either helped or hindered your website over a period of time.

Markup Checker

Structured data has become a larger part of the technical process over the past few years, however, there are still a large number of websites that have not implemented any markup.

Those that are early adopters to structured data are seeing the benefits of increased click through rates and conversions. Implementing the correct markup for your website doesn’t have to be that difficult, with the following tools allowing you identify, create and test your specific markup.

Markup tools:

Google Structured Data Testing Tool

XML Sitemaps

Surprisingly missing XML sitemaps are a common theme in technical SEO especially audits, yet it is one of the most basic features to implement.

At the most basic level you should implement a manual XML sitemap that has been created and uploaded to the server by yourself. If you can, and it is advised implement a feature to automate the creation of the XML sitemap and publication to the root for search engines to be able to access it.

Two following tools will allow you to create either a manual or automated sitemap, whilst the other two will allow you to validate the XML sitemap that you currently have. you can also

Sitemap Tools:

These are just some of the tools that are available to be used during the technical SEO phase. What tools do you use for technical SEO? I’d love to hear your thoughts below in the comments below or over on twitter @danielbianchini.

[Image Credit: Flickr – OZinOH]

Categories
Blog SEO

4 Technical SEO Issues That Often Go Unnoticed

This post was originally published on State of Digital.

Focusing on great content for your website, but failing on technical SEO is like putting Fernando Alonso in the 2015 McClaren F1 car. You have a great asset, but are being held back by technical issues!

In this post, I discuss four technical SEO issues that go unnoticed by most companies.

Redirect Chains

world-chainRedirects are part and parcel of having an evolving website. You want to ensure that both search engines and users do not have a bad experience and therefore you add in redirects to the most relevant page, and quite right too.

But what occurs more than some people realise, is the page that you are redirecting has already been redirected, thus causing a redirect chain. This is common within both eCommerce and editorial content, but can be solved relatively easily.

The problem you have is you are potentially losing any link authority that you may have gained from pages you redirected two or three iterations ago. I appreciate Matt Cutts has said all link value is passed through redirects, but I am a big believer that the more redirects they go through the more value is lost.

To see if you have any redirect chains on your website, all you need to do is fire up Screaming Frog and run a crawl. On completion of the crawl, go to the menu and select reports > redirect chains.

This will provide you with an XLS of all the redirects and redirect chains that are currently live on the website. The next step will be to start cleaning these up. I have seen some good gains in traffic by changing a redirect chain into a one-to-one redirect.

Layered Navigation

I come across this issue ALL of the time, yet nobody seems to be solving the issue. It is not that difficult to plan when you are creating an eCommerce website, or change once it has been built, but people still are not dealing with layered navigation.

For those that are not sure what I mean by layered navigation, I am talking about the filtering system you see on most, if not all, eCommerce product listing. It is the navigation that allows you to filter down to brand, size, colour, reviews, etc.

This, alongside product pages, is one of the most common issues causing duplicate content on eCommerce websites. If you are an eCommerce store, 9 out of 10 times if you conduct a site: search in Google, you will see a lot more pages indexed than you would expect. This is likely to be down to issues with layered navigation.

Providing the user with the flexibility to be granular with their filtering is great from a user perspective and one that I fully support. However, they need to be handled correctly.

Here are three examples of issues you will find with layered navigation and how they could be solved.

Product listing pages:

If you provide the user with the functionality to change the number of products that are being viewed within the listing, then you need to ensure that only a single URL is being indexed.

The most common way of handling this is by adding in the rel=canonical tag. The only question you need to ask yourself is which page do you want to be indexed? On most eCommerce solutions you have the following options:

  • 12 (default view)
  • 24
  • 48
  • View All

Depending on the speed of your website I would either rel=canonical to the default view or the view all page, but I would definitely have one. If you do not include a rel=canonical tag then all of these pages will be indexed for every single variation of filter you can imagine for your website. That is a lot of extra pages!

Filters:

You do not want and/or need all of your filter options to be dynamic. You would expect brand terms to be static URLs rather than dynamic URLs. There are likely to be other filter options and this does depend on the website that you are working on, but keyword research can help you with this.

However when allowing users to filter by items such as colour, size, price and review, you are likely to want to have these dynamic, with a rel=canonical tag added.

Example below.

  • www.domain.com/product/brand/ – This is fine to be kept as it is.
  • www.domain.com/product/brand/?=colour – This should have the following canonical tag added to it –
  • www.domain.com/product/brand/?=colour&?=size – This should have the following canonical tag added to it –
  • www.domain.com/product/brand/?=colour&?=size&?=review – This should have the following canonical tag added to it –

*Note: All eCommerce sites are different and keyword research should be carried out to determine the type of pages that are delivered by static and dynamic UR£.

Pagination:

This can be handled in two ways, either canonicalising all pages to a single page, usually the View All, or using the rel=next/prev feature that is available.

The option that you take here is very much dependent on the speed of your website and the amount of products you have available. Google prefers to surface the View All page, and if there are less than ten pages I like to rel=canonical to that page. However if there are consistently more than ten pages, I implement the rel=next/prev tag to indicate to the search engines they are the same page.

You can find more on the Google Webmaster Central blog.

Robots.txt

Robots-txtWhen was the last time you honestly looked at your robots.txt? Have you ever looked at it? You are not alone, a lot of people have not. The robots.txt file provides you with the ideal way to restrict search engines from accessing content or elements they do not need to see.

It is important that the robots.txt file is understood and utilised as much as possible. Adding in rogue folders and files can have a serious impact on the way that your website is being crawled.

If you are looking for more information on how to use the robots.txt file, then Google has provided a resource for you – https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/6062608?rd=1

Schema Mark-Up

I attended a conference recently where the presenter asked how many of us are using schema markup, only four people raised their hand. Four people out of a room of nearly 200 people, I was astonished.

For eCommerce it is essential, and I cannot recommend it enough to any of my clients. Not just because we have entered the world of structured data and we need to provide the search engines with context about what we are trying to say, but at present it still differentiates your website in the SERPs.

There are a range of schema markups that are available, so you do not have the excuse of saying ‘I don’t work on an eCommerce store’. To find out more information then take a look here – http://www.schema.org/ and if you are looking for help to create your schema then here is another handy tool – http://schema-creator.org/.

If you only take a couple of recommendations away from this post, I would strongly recommend you solve your layered navigation issues and implement schema where possible.

Do you often miss these four technical SEO features? Are there others that you feel get missed when auditing your website from a technical perspective? I would love to hear your feedback in the comments below or on twitter @danielbianchini.

[Image credit: The Guardian]

Categories
Blog SEO Tools

Content inspiration: One tool, 1000s of sparks!

This post was originally published on State of Digital.

Everyday content creation is becoming harder and harder, as everyone becomes online publishers. Whether you are working in publishing, electronics, white goods or fashion, everyone is publishing huge amounts of content.

Previously I have written about 6 tools that can help inspire your content, using social media, Q&A websites and keyword tools. One of tools that I mentioned was Ahrefs Content Explorer and how, similarly to BuzzSumo, it provides information on the most shared content on the web.

In this post, I am going to show you how to use Content Explorer to provide you with 1000s of URLs to help further inspire your content creation by either providing new ideas, improving content, or combining to provide a more valuable resource.

Note: I am not affiliated to Ahrefs, I am just an advocate of the tool suite that they have put together. To get the most out of this post you will need a subscription

Now that is out the way, lets get started.

Content ideas from across the web

When opening the Ahrefs Content Explorer tool, you need to start by entering a keyword topic. As a first step to finding your content inspiration, it is key to start with something as broad as possible, so that you can get a clear understanding of what content is succeeding within your market.

Once you have entered your topic, it is essential that you exclude your own content from the mix so that you do not skew any results. To do this check the exclude radio button on the left hand side under the Domain Name feature and add your own URL, in this instance I have removed our domain White.net and hit the search button.

ahrefs-state-of-digital

 

This returned over 200k results, from websites such as Forbes, Mashable, Moz and the Telegraph. It goes to show that lots of people are talking about SEO, and not just on the websites you may consider a competitor.

As a starting point, export the data so that you can start to collate a number of URLs to analyse and provide you with your inspiration. When exporting the data you will be asked whether you want a fast export of 1,000 rows or a full export. This is going to depend on your subscription level as to how many credits you have or want to use.

Once you have downloaded the data, you will need to create two extra columns. One is for the topic, and the other is the domain. This will help later in the process when filtering, to identify opportunities. Using an excel formula you can automate filling in the domain column, more information can be found here.

ahrefs-spreadsheet

Now that you have your first set of data, if possible you should run more searches, this time a little more targeted. With the example that I am using, I would then perform the following searches each time downloading and adding to my spreadsheet:

  • Keyword research
  • Technical SEO
  • Content marketing
  • Website audits

Once you have completed a number of searches, ensure that you dedupe the URLs gathered to ensure you only have unique options. This step allows you to see what is being created across the web for your search topics, but what about those that you class as competitors?

What works for your direct competitors?

The broad searches that you created previously are likely to have already provided you with lots of inspiration, but now it is time to be a bit more targeted.

Understanding what is working for your competitors is a key aspect to any search marketing campaign, so determining what is most popular is key.

This step is very similar to the first, but you are going to include your competitor domains only. Remove any search term that may be in the search bar, and instead include your competitors domain in the search box on the left hand side similar to when excluding your own domain earlier. By hitting search now, you will be presented with content that is only available on the domain that you entered.

ahrefs-example

The example above shows the most popular content on the State of Digital website ordered by the median number of shares in descending order. What you may notice is that just because you generate lots of shares, it does not automatically mean you get lots of links.

It is at this stage that you have a choice on how you want to proceed. You can either download the report as is, with every topic shown or you can use the same or similar terms you used earlier to help with the targeting. Personally I would chose to download every topic to be as thorough as possible, but each situation is different.

Once you have decided what to do, you need to download either one or multiple spreadsheets, and add them to your existing set of data. Do not forget that you need to tag each URL with a topic for later.

Now repeat this step with as many competitors are you feel necessary.

Note: Not every domain will be in the Ahrefs database, but it is growing daily.

Inspiration, recreation and combination

By conducting the above process I have managed to create a spreadsheet that has over 8,000 pieces of content with social and linking metrics, that I can use to inspire the content that I will create going forward.

spreadsheet-ahrefs

Inspiration:

By browsing through the list of URLs filtered by a specific topic, I managed to come up with a large number of content titles and ideas that will allow me to create fresh content over the coming months.

Recreation:

Looking at somebody else’s content and recreating it is not stealing, as long as you are providing value by creating a better resource.

When looking for content that could be recreated and improved, I filter the data by topic and the date. This allows me to see any content that has been created within the past 12 – 24 months. If the content was well shared and linked to, and has not been covered in depth in the last six months I add it to my list.

Within a few minutes I have a list of potential ideas including this piece that was created in 2012 over on Search Engine Journal: The Definitive Guide to Local SEO. This piece generated a large number of shares and links, but more importantly it can be updated due to the latest updates implemented by Google.

Combination:

Sometimes you come across a number of posts that are very good, but just need that bit extra added to them. This is when combining content ideas to create a more indepth and valuable resource is beneficial.

Further analysis of the data that I have gathered has led to me to identify 4 different blog posts that fit very well together, and if combined would provide a valuable resource. It could even be turned into a presentation and whitepaper, increasing the potential for shares and links.

Once you have a list of content ideas, it is time to prioritise your efforts on what you feel will be the biggest return.

Using the right tools, having the right process and a little bit of time, you can find thousands of pieces of content that will inspire you and your campaigns. It has helped me, so I hope it will help you.

Are you taking these steps or something similar to inspire your content creation? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or over on twitter @danielbianchini.

[Photo Credit: miscellaneaarts via Compfight cc]