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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]

Categories
Blog SEO

19 out of 72 largest UK brands are not ready for Google's mobile update!

People have been saying that ‘the year of the mobile’ has been here for a while, it now seems as if Google are forcing that issue.

On February the 26th 2015, Google announced on their webmaster central blog that they will be adapting their algorithm to reflect the changing behaviour of their users. This change will see those websites that are mobile-optimised receive a small boost, versus those websites that do not provide a mobile-optimised experience.

Categories
Blog SEO

#SEONOW2015: What does SEO reporting look like in 2015?

This post was originally published on White.net

 

In 2015, brands will move further towards an online marketing target, with each channel playing their part in that goal.

With SEO changing dramatically over the last few years, our reports have to reflect that. These changes have resulted in a move away from ranking positions and the number of links that we have built, to a more content-focussed approach.

This has led to agency and in-house teams providing training to key stakeholders within businesses, who prefer to see clear deliverables and results which links and rankings provide.

Although there will be a move to a more integrated marketing report, there has always been a constant in each report: how your activity compares to the KPIs that you have been set.

Daniel 3

Which on-site metrics should really matter to brands? Why?

The on-site metrics that matter most to your brand are generally individual and should be reverse engineered based on the targets you have been set.

The metrics that you need to use will differ depending on the campaign that you are running. A campaign that is aimed at generating brand awareness (content marketing) is going to have different metrics to a campaign aimed at the conversion end of the funnel.

With that said, there will always be some metrics that need to be used across any campaign, with the majority leading back to content performance and device.

Looking at it from an SEO point of view, landing page performance is crucial. What content is generating the most visits from search engines? What is the conversion rate of those pages, or how many of those pages play a part in the conversion funnel?

If these pages are not playing a part, why not? Are they pages that have the biggest exit percentages, do they have limited time on-page, is the bounce rate too high? By reporting on these figures you will be able to determine how effective these pages are, and whether a campaign needs to be based on improving these pages.

If there is an off-page element to your campaign, then you need to track brand mentions, whilst cross-referencing any citations/links to your referral traffic. This will provide you with a good understanding of whether the placements that you have generated are working and worth further investment.

As mentioned above, we are moving to a more mobile-focussed environment, which needs to be reflected in your report. Therefore understanding what each device category is contributing to your campaign, can often provide great insight and determine how further campaigns are crafted.

Which off-site metrics should really matter to brands? Why?

Reporting on the number of links that you have generated is gone! You should no longer be building quantity of links but instead generating quality links, and this should be reflected in your report.

If through your campaign, you have generated coverage within high-quality publications, then you should report it. This also needs to be supported by referral figures that the link/coverage has generated to support the cost of activity.

Alongside referral traffic from your campagin, you should monitor brand mentions. This is important as it could lead to an increase in direct or social traffic.

Reporting on the number of links that you have generated is gone! You should no longer be building quantity of links but instead generating quality links, and this should be reflected in your report.

How to tell the right story?

Each report that you create needs to be focussed on the KPIs that you have been given. Whether it is an individual campaign that will contribute or on-going work, how does it effect your target?

The story that you tell will be determined by the campaign you are running. Choosing the right metrics will allow you to bring the campaign alive, by showing the successes and failures of campaign.

An important factor when telling your story is being honest. If your campaign has not worked, then do not cover it up with meaningless metrics. Explain what happened, the learnings that you have taken away from it and how they will be implemented into the next campaign.

Linkdex SEONOW 2015
Daniel Bianchini contributes to Linkdex’s SEONOW 2015

When creating your report, make it visual, easy to understand and straight to the point. Creating complicated reports to tell the story will not only confuse those that are reading it, but will likely bring further questions.

Finally, more than anything else, make sure that it always relates back to the KPIs.

If you are interested in reading the full eBook, you can download it from the Linkdex wesbite. I’d be interested in your thoughts on how reporting has changed, and what represents a good SEO report in the comments below or over on twiter @danielbianchini.

Categories
Blog SEO

5 Techniques to Ensure Your Content is User Focused

This post was originally published on State of Digital.

It is all about the user, it always has been and always will be, it is just that we focus on the user in slightly different ways.

With digital marketing, we usually concentrate on keyword and competitor research to determine the type of content that we develop. It becomes all too easy to get wrapped up in our digital world, and forget the needs, wants and desires of those that we are marketing to.

But digital marketing, just like offline marketing, should be putting your target audience at the heart of everything you do. During this post, I will discuss five techniques to help you further understand your audience without using keyword research, ensuring that your content is user focused.

Become an expert, taught by experts

experts

[Image Credit: Flickr]

Stakeholder meetings have become a key part of any online marketing campaign, regardless of the channel that you are working in.

The aim of the meeting is simple, you need to know everything that your internal contact and their colleagues know about the product/service. Immersing yourself within the business is a key part to not only cementing a client/agency relationship, but allowing you to market appropriately.

Some things that have worked well for us at White.net are attending product demonstrations, going on courses, and using the product/service that we are promoting. These things allow us to put ourselves in the consumer’s shoes, which means that we can provide the user with a better experience.

Stakeholder meetings could span several sessions, but by the end you should be well versed in the service/product and know at least:

  • What it is
  • How it works
  • How it benefits the user
  • Whether any changes are happening within the sector
  • What pain points it addresses
  • What the USP is
  • Why it is better than the competition
  • Any technical specifications.

These are just a few of the learnings that you should have gathered from these meetings. This is the only stage during the campaign when the people you are working for, will be working harder than you.

Become a member of the customer service team

On some occasions a series of meetings is just not enough, you need to see how people are interacting with the product and the questions that they are asking.

We often forget that shopping online is not always as useful as touching and using the product. Therefore it is essential to understand the questions that users are asking the business. This can be done easily by shadowing a member of customer services, or sifting through all questions that have been sent.

As you are listening to the customer service representative or searching through all the questions, you need to keep a look out for common themes. Once you have identified these themes, it becomes easier to create content to answer those questions and save the customer services team some time.

This can be quite time consuming and is not always necessary, but on those occasions that it is, you will find some really useful insight into what content your user is looking for.

Surveys

Cheap, easy to create and not hugely intrusive, surveys are a great way to get information on what your users think of the product/service that you offer.

However in my opinion, you need to split your survey audience into two groups: existing customers and potential customers. This way you are more likely to get reliable results as the potential customers are not biased.

When surveying your existing customer base, the best way is to run an email campaign with an incentive to improve participation. By doing it this way you are able to be more specific in the questions that you are asking your customers. Although you may be providing an incentive to answer questions, don’t overdo the number that you ask, keep it to a minimum to get the best possible response.

For new customers, it is likely that you will want to target them when they are leaving the website and not whilst they are browsing it. Again, make sure you ask limited questions, and in my experience a single question for this type of survey will ensure that the user does not get annoyed.

When it comes to setting up a survey there are a lot of tools to use, but I would recommend the following:

Understand your audience through personas

Most businesses have or are in the process of creating personas for their marketing activity. If you have the ability to do so, then ensure that you read through the persona documents that the business has put together.

YouGov_Profiler

Although some persona documents can provide you with limited information, the majority will provide you with a few snippets that can be used to influence your marketing approach.

Some of the key pieces of information that you should include are:

  • Who is your target audience (age/gender)?
  • What channels do they consume content through?
  • What influences a purchase?
  • Do they use social media?
  • Do they use multiple devices when browsing online?

Knowing this information will allow you to tailor some of the marketing content that you would create, to ensure that your target audience and user is taken into consideration. There is no point in creating something that your audience will not be interested in.

If your business does not have or are not in the process of putting together a persona document, then use YouGov Profile tool, as a quick way to understand your users. When using this tool, you may need to find a brand that is a close match if your brand is not within the database.

Focus Groups

Although considered an old tactic within offline marketing and product development, focus groups are becoming increasingly popular within digital marketing.

The aim of the focus group is to understand how people feel about the product/service in an open and honest forum.

You will be able to ask those that use your product/service exactly what information they would like to see on the website, what questions they were asking and whether the website provided the answers. During this session you can get feedback on the product/service and discover how it compares to your competition. When you are running a focus group, ensure that you are prepared so that everything runs as smoothly as possible. You are talking directly to your customers, so you want to ensure they continue to get the best possible service.

Once the session has been completed, you should have a lot of useful notes that will filter into the strategy that you apply when marketing to your users.

And this helps how?

It is a fair question, but how many of you know this type of detail on the product/service that you are promoting? By going through as many of these steps as possible at the start of the campaign, you will gather a large amount of information about your users that keyword and competitor research will not provide you with.

Some of the information that you will have gathered will allow you to start to develop content that, alongside some keyword research, will be user focused.

If you are not confident in running these sessions yourself, then see if the business you are working for are running any internally. I promise you it will be beneficial to your relationship with the business, and to how you approach the campaign.

Are you using any of these techniques already? If not, I would love to hear the alternative ways you do go about ensuring that you are focused on the user, either in the comments below or on twitter @danielbianchini.

[Featured Image Credit: Flickr]

Categories
Blog SEO

6 Tools You Should be Using to Inspire Your Content

This post was originally published on State of Digital

Content, Content, Content. It is the most talked about subject in our industry and rightly so. However, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to create new, fresh ideas for your niche as everyone online has become a publisher.

Some create content just for the sake of it, others really go into depth and try to create the very best resource for that subject. No matter which of these two categories you fall into, the six tools I have provided below will help you to continue creating the content you need.

Content Explorer – aHrefs

The Content Explorer tool within the aHrefs suite is relatively new. Similar to BuzzSumo, you search for a topic and it will return a list of the most shared and linked-to content within the database.

ahrefs

The feature I really like is the advanced search. This allows you to be more specific in your search through the use of boolean operators, groupings, and even by the domain. This tool means you can easily spot content that has been successful for both your own website, but also for your competitors.

Just because it has been done before, does not necessarily mean it cannot be done better!

Uber Suggest

Commonly known as being awesome at helping with keyword research, Uber Suggest can also be used for content inspiration. By providing you with the search terms from Google Suggest, the tool throws up some great ideas.

ubersuggest

If you can, then use multiple country locations to get the most out of the tool and enhance the topic that you have identified. Combining multiple searches will also ensure that the topic you are writing about is extremely well covered.

Quora/Yahoo Questions

This tool is an obvious choice to use, but one that seems to be easily forgotten. Consumers often use Q&A sites to get answers for those questions that they need answering.

Spending just 30 minutes a day looking around these sites will provide you with enough content ideas for a month! The key here is to be broad with your original search, and then when you identified a topic get more specific. This will allow you to really drill down to the topic that you have identified.

Topsy

Creating content is not always about what people have been looking for in the past, but also what they are sharing in the present. Being proactive is key, in order to understand what people are sharing right now, and to see if you can create something better.

topsy

Using tools such as Topsy, will allow you to stay on top of the different types of content that is being shared by your audience right now.

Hubspot Blog Topic Generator

Can’t think of what to write? You are in need of blog title inspiration. Hubspot have created a very simple, easy to use but useful tool that helps create blog titles for you, based on the keywords that you provide.

hubspot

They openly admit that the algorithm is not highly sophisticated, and may require some amending but it will definitely give you something to work with.

Your Own Analytics – Looking at old posts.

One tool that is often overlooked when generating content ideas is your own analytics package. Although not an obvious choice, there is no better place to see how your old content performed and whether it is still performing well.

Take a look at the content that was created 12-18 months ago, did it receive much traffic? Does it still? If you answer yes to one or both of those questions, then how much social media attention did it get? If this generated a significant amount, and I do not necessarily mean thousands of shares, this piece may be worth rewriting and republishing.

If you can find 5 – 10 posts that are worth rewriting, then you save yourself a lot of time. It is a tried and tested piece of content that can be updated regularly and kept current.

These are just some of the tools that I use to help during my content idea generation process. What tools do you use? I would love to hear your thoughts on the tools I mentioned above, either in the comments or on twitter @danielbianchini.

[Flickr Credit – Michael Phillips]

Categories
Blog SEO

KEYWORD OPPORTUNITIES: 4 TOOLS THAT WILL OPEN YOUR EYES

This post was originally published on the SEMrush blog

Finding keyword opportunities is becoming more and more difficult, with the markets we work in becoming even more competitive.

I recently wrote a post that went through my five steps to spotting keyword opportunities using a piece of campaign management software, but there are lots of tools that can help you to spot keyword opportunities.

When you use these four useful tools together, they can help you to spot an array of keyword opportunities and determine the effort that is required to gain visibility within the search engines.

Keyword Opportunities-

Open Your Eyes with (Now Provided)

The first place that you should look to for keyword opportunities is the one place that is most often overlooked – your own website! Understanding what terms you are currently ranking for, and what traffic they are driving, should be your first port of call.

The (Now Provided) tool allows you to see what terms you are ranking for within the top 20 of either the UK or US market for your chosen search engine and merges them with Google Analytics organic landing page data.

This not only allows you to see what keywords are behind the success of your content, but also provides keyword topics that have potential but may need more emphasis.

Now-Provided-KWR

As well seeing what pages are performing well, (Now Provided) will also allow you to understand those terms that may require more in-depth pages to be created to provide the best possible resource for the users search query.

Once you have run the tool, don’t forget to export the data so that you can start to create your keyword opportunity topics.

Domain vs. Domain Analysis by SEMrush

Now that you have an understanding of those terms that are driving traffic to specific pages, what about those terms that your competitors are targeting?

SEMrush provides a great resource within their tool suite, which compares domains and shows how you are performing versus your major competitors.

SEMrush

The tool will provide you with a list of terms that you and your competitor(s) both rank for when you add their URL(s) vs. your own. If you export the results into a spreadsheet and filter by those terms that are ranking in positions 10-20 within your chosen search engine and market, you can identify terms that will further enhance your list of keyword opportunities.

By merging this list with that identified by (Now Provided), you will start to collate a good list of keyword topic opportunities. At this point it, is worth tagging the terms into categories/topic groups to help with the selection process.

Go Long Tail with Keywordtool.io

Although you will have already found some good opportunities, it is essential to create the very best resource for your users, and therefore you need to cover the topic in full.

Using your opportunity list, take the head term of each keyword topic and run it through Keywordtool.io. This will provide you with a list of results that users are currently searching for and are appearing in Google suggest.

keywordtool.io

By exporting the list and running the terms through Google’s Keyword Planner, you will get another good list of terms to make your resource a lot more effective. The next step is to trim that list down to those that are real opportunities and fit within the keyword topic you are targeting.

Competition? What Competition? – Moz Keyword Difficulty Tool

Now that you have a list of keyword opportunities, you need to prioritize them by how difficult it would be to achieve the visibility that you want.

There are many tools that are starting to implement their own keyword difficulty metric, but the one that has been around the longest is the Moz Keyword Difficulty Tool.

Although time consuming, getting a keyword score for each term and then averaging the score for each keyword topic quickly provides you with a quick understanding of what effort is going to be required.

SEOmoz-KW-Difficulty

With all the data you’ve gathered from the tools mentioned above, you will be in a commanding position and able to pursue the right keyword opportunity at the right time.

These are just four tools that I use to help spot keyword opportunities. Do you use any of these tools? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or over on twitter @danielbianchini.

Categories
Blog SEO

5 Steps to Spotting Keyword Opportunities

This post was originally published on State of Digital

It’s a bit late to say it’s a new year with new opportunities, but I am going to say it anyway! We have all been busy building out new campaigns, and trying to find opportunities for our clients or brands that we work with, as we get full flow into 2015.

One thing that I have been working on a lot over the past few months, is spotting opportunities. Whether that is for existing clients, or for potential clients through pitch meetings and I wanted to share my ideas with you.

The process is a simple, and easy one to follow, but the start requires time and patience, however the outcome could be amazing!

Before we start, some housekeeping – I am using dummy data, and I have no affiliation to any of the brands mentioned in my examples. :) I am using Linkdex as a tool (our software provider), but all of this could be done within a spreadsheet, although that requires a little bit of work.

Now that is out of the way, let’s begin!

Gather the right data, not ALL the data!

There are two very important but time consuming steps to identifying the right opportunities, and the first is keyword research.

We are all capable of doing keyword research, so I won’t go into too much detail here, but just make sure that the terms that you are targeting are highly relevant.

To help gather this information, I use a combination of the following tools:

Conducting your keyword research using these tools should help you come up with a comprehensive list of highly relevant terms.

One thing that I would recommend, that I think is overlooked far too often is, looking at the search terms that you are already visible for. These terms may be ranking page 2+, but it is a clear sign that the search engine is finding them relevant for certain terms.

A quick way of finding the search terms you are already visible for is running your website through SEMrush. They will provide all the terms that the website ranks for within the top 20.

Whilst conducting your keyword research, make sure that for every keyphrase you get the following data based on an exact match query:

  • Monthly Search Volumes
  • Average CPC
  • and get the keyphrase ranking whilst you are at it

This will become helpful when identifying the opportunity. Hopefully, by now you will have a large number of keywords in your spreadsheet ready to start tagging.

Keyword-list

Tagging by Topic

No, we are not running a PPC campaign here, but we should be using some of the methods that PPC practitioners have been using for years.

Tagging keywords into specific groups/topics, allow you to be more granular with your analysis to spot the opportunity.

Some of the keyword research that I have come across, on most occassions have tags associated to the very top level. They have been tagged simply as high, medium or low, which is OK, but doesn’t really provide you with the information you need.

If you are keen on using the high, medium and low tags, then I would suggest that you use them in collaboration with more specific tags.

For tagging keywords, I like to keep it simple, and related to the website that you are working on, therefore I use the navigation structure.

As an example of what a tagging structure could look like is as follows:

Category
Category – Sub-category
Category – Sub-category – Product

You are also likely to want to include a modifier tag as part of your process, such as location, price, style, etc.

Location
Location – London
Location – Ediburgh

For my example, and since I am looking at the cruise industry I used the following tag method.

Brand (Everything related to a specific brand).
Brand – Cruise Liner (Everything relate to a specific brands ships).
Brand – Cruise Liner – Ship Name (Everything to a specific ship for a specific brand).
Brand – Cruise Liner – Ship Name – Details (Everything that related to a specific ships specification, for a specific brand).

keyword-tagging

There were others, but this should give you the idea.

Now you understand the tagging process, you need to go through each keyphrase giving a tag or mulitple tags if required.

For the search term “Balmoral deck plan” I would give the following tags.

Brand (Fred Olsen)
Brand – Cruise Liner (Becuase it is a cruise liner)
Brand – Cruise Liner – Balmoral (Keyword targeting a specifc ship)
Brand – Cruise Liner – Balmoral – Detail (Keyword is targeting specific details of a ship)

This may look like overkill, but when you come to analysing it becomes key to see where the opportunities really lie.

This process is very time consuming, and you could automate it to a certain extent, but it is a very important step. Adding a keyword to the wrong tag could mean missing a huge opportunity, so make time to do this properly.

Once you have completed this, you can either upload it to your SEO software (Linkdex in my case), or you can continue the analysis within a spreadsheet.

Analysing opportunities by tag

Once uploaded to Linkdex, the software will do a lot of the hard work for you. They will provide you with estimated traffic based on ranking positions and search volume, as well as providing you with how much the current levels of traffic would cost through PPC activity.

If you are using a spreadsheet, you can do the maths through formulae by using estimated click through rates, and the search volume figures you have.

Now it is time to start analysing your keywords at a tag level (Group Analysis in Linkdex) to identify any noticeable opportunities.

When looking at the data provided by Linkdex, or filtered in your spreadsheet it is key to not be too focused on the search volume column.

Take a look at all the data provided, with a keen look at the number of keyphrases ranking within the top 20. There is no point in starting to target terms that have lots of search volume, but no current rankings. Start by looking at the keywords that are ranking, but also have good search volumes as these are realistic opportunities.

Fred-Olsen-Opportunity

Once you have identified an opportunity, such as Fred Olsen highlighted in the image above, it is time to look at the tags at a more granular level.

Fred-Olsen-Opportunity-Granular

Looking at the more specific tags that have been identified within the Fred Olsen branded tag, it is clear to see that they all have very good potential, and are only driving very limited estimated traffic.

On initial view, this looks like we have an opportunity, but we need to see what a forecasted return would be.

What is the potential – Forecasting

Forecasting is a dubious subject within the SEO industry, as there are so many variables, and the limited accurate data that is available, but C-Levels want to see what there return would be.

Forecasting within Linkdex is easy, using the forecast tool. Select the keyword tag that you want, identify the target window that you will improve, and estimate where you will get them in terms of rankings. By doing this, the forecast tool will estimate the uplift in traffic.

Fred-Olsen-Opportunity-Forecasting

This can also be done using a spreadsheet (we have one internally), to provide the current rankings and estimated potential rankings that will provide a new traffic figure.

But this data alone, will not necessarily swing the decision for you or the C-Level that you will be reporting too.

The next step would be to add in a conversion rate and an average order value to provide you with a return.

In this case it was £108,884,34 per month, and yes that is just for one tag!

But, before we get carried away, let’s ensure that the competition isn’t too strong, and we get nowhere near our targets.

Identify, analyse and judge

Before we go to the C-Level with a great opportunity, we need to do our due diligence on the competition. Who are they? What terms are they ranking for and with what content? Can we realistically compete with them for these terms?

A quick competitor analysis will allow you to find that information and provide the final piece to the jigsaw.

With all this information, you can decide if you have an opportunity that is worth taking to the C-Level to invest in.

These are my steps to identifying an opportunity, and they can be used for any brand or business. The time consuming parts of the process are at the start, but once you have the keywords, and they are tagged properly, identifying the opportunity is the easy bit!

I hope this is useful. I’d love to know how you spot keyword opportunities, and whether you agree or disagree with my approach either in the comments or on twitter: @danielbianchini.

[Flickr Image Credit]