10 on-page SEO essentials: Crafting the perfect piece of content

10 on-page SEO essentials: Crafting the perfect piece of content

You are now living in the midst of a tantalizing revolution as the great minds of user experience (UX) and search engine optimization (SEO) finally converge to produce beautiful on-page content designed to rank in search results AND engage or educate the user.

Gone are the days of plugging in keyword phrases into your blog posts to get the density just right and building landing page after landing page targeted at keyword variations like, “automobiles for sale”, “cars for sale” and “trucks for sale”.

Since the introduction of RankBrain, the machine-learning component of Google’s Core Algorithm, in late 2015, Google has moved farther away from a simple question and answer engine and has become a truly intelligent source of information matching the user’s intent — not just the user’s query.

Crafting compelling content is tough, especially in such a competitive landscape. How can you avoid vomiting up a 1,500-word blog post that will meet the deadline but fall very short of the user’s expectations? If you follow these 10 on-page essential elements, your brand will be on the right track to provide a rich content experience designed to resonate with your audience for months to come.

The basics:

Title Tag

Always seen in the <head> block or the beginning of a web page’s source code, the title tag is text wrapped in the <title> HTML tag. Visible as the headline of the search listing on results pages, on the user’s browser tab, and sometimes in social media applications when an Open Graph Tag is not present, this text is intended to describe the overarching intent of the page and the type of content a user can expect to see when browsing.

What I mean by “intent” can be illustrated with the following example. Say my title tag for a product page was Beef for Dogs | Brand Name. As a user, I would not expect to find a product page, but rather, information about whether I can feed beef to my dogs.

A better title tag to accurately match my users’ intent would be Beef Jerky Dog Treats | Brand Name.

Query = “beef for dogs”

Query = “beef jerky dog treats”

How do I know what the title tag of my page is?

Identifying what has been set as the title tag or meta description of your pages can be done URL-by-URL or at scale for many URLs. There are distinct uses for each discovery method, and it is always important to remember that Google may choose to display another headline for your page in search results if it feels that its title is a better representation for the user. Here are a few great online tools to get you started:

URL-by-URL inspection:
At scale:

NOTE: If you are one that prefers to “live in the moment”, you can also view the page source of the page you are currently on and search for “<title>” in the code to determine what should be output in search results. Lifewire produced this handy guide on viewing the source code of a webpage, regardless of the internet browser you are using.

Are there guidelines for crafting the perfect title tag?

Yes. The optimal title tag is designed to fit the width of the devices it’s displayed upon. In my experience, the sweet spot for most screens is between 50-60 characters. In addition, a page title should:

  • Be descriptive and concise
  • Be on-brand
  • Avoid keyword stuffing
  • Avoid templated/boilerplate content

Meta Description

Though the text below the headline of your search result, also known as the meta description, does not influence the ranking of your business’ URL in search results, this text is still important for providing a summary of the webpage. The meta description is your chance to correctly set a potential user’s expectations and engage them to click-through to the website.

How do I build the perfect meta description?

Pay close attention to three things when crafting a great meta description for each of your website’s pages: branding, user-intent, and what’s working well in the vertical (competitive landscape). These 150-160 characters are a special opportunity for your page to stand out from the crowd.

Do your page descriptions look and sound like they are templated? Investing time in describing the page in a unique way that answers user’s questions before they get to the website can go a long way in delighting customers and improving search performance.

Take for example the following product page for the Outdoor Products Multi-Purpose Poncho. The top listing for this product page is via Amazon.com, with a very obviously templated meta description. The only information provided is the product name, aggregate rating, and an indication of free delivery.

While not the top listing, the following result from REI Co-op clearly includes the product name, breadcrumbs, aggregate rating, price, availability, and a unique non-templated meta description. The standout feature of this meta description is that it does not copy the manufacturer’s text, provides some product differentiators like “easy to pull out of your bag” and “great travel item” that speak to user questions about portability.

The meta description plays an important role in complementing other elements of a well defined rich result, and it is often overlooked when retail businesses are using rich results to improve the ecommerce search experience specifically. That said, the same considerations apply to information focused pages as well.

Section Headings

Section heading elements (H1-H6) were originally intended to resize text on a webpage, with the H1 being used to style the primary title of a document as the largest text on the page. With the advent of Cascading Styling Sheets (CSS) in the late 90’s, this element had has less effect. CSS started being used for much of this functionality, and HTML tags acted as more of a  “table of contents” for a variety of user-agents (i.e. Googlebot) and users alike.

For this reason, the primary header (h1) and subheaders (h2-h6) can be important in helping search engines understand the organization of and context around a particular page of written content. Users do not want to read through a huge brick of text and neither do search engines. Organizing written words into smaller entities (sections) will help digestion and lead to better organic results, as seen in the example below:

In the example above, the primary topic (How to Teach a Child to Ride a Bike) is marked-up with an H1 tag, indicating that it is the primary topic of the information to follow. The next section “Getting Ready to Ride” is marked-up with an H2 tag, indicating that it’s a secondary topic. Subsequent sections are marked up with <h3> tags. As a result of carefully crafted headings, which organize the content in a digestible way and supporting written content (among other factors), this particular page boasts 1,400 search listings in the top 100 positions on Google  —  with only 1,400 words.

Over 92% of long-tail (greater than 3 words) keyword phrases get less than 10 searches per month, but they are more likely to convert users than their head term counterparts.

Focus on providing your potential users with answers to the search questions about a particular topic, rather than granular keyword phrases, will lead to a more authentic reading experience, more engaged readers, and more chances of capturing the plethora of long-tail phrases popping up by the minute.

Internal Linking

Internal links are hyperlinks in your piece of content that point back to a page on your own website. What is important to note here is that one should not create a link in a piece simply to provide a link pathway for SEO success. This is an old practice, and it will lead to a poor user experience. Instead, focus on providing a link to a supplemental resource if it will genuinely help a user answer a question or learn more about a specific topic.

A great example of helpful internal linking can be found above. In this article about “How to Ride a Bike”, the author has linked the text “Braking” to an article about types of bicycle brakes and more specifically how to adjust each type for optimal performance.

If there is supplemental information on your own website to substantiate your claims or provide further education to the reader in the article at hand, link to this content. If this doesn’t exist or there’s a better source of information on a particular topic, link out to this external content. There’s no harm in linking out to 3rd parties and in many if not all cases, this will serve as a citation of sorts, making your content more legitimate and credible in the user’s eyes.

External Linking

Linking to sources outside your own domain, also known as external linking, is often seen as one of the major ranking factors in organic search. External entities linking to your content are similar to calling someone you live next to a good neighbor, with a credibility effect similar to the citations you put in a term paper or an article on Wikipedia.

When writing a post or crafting a page for your own website, consider the following:

  1. How can I substantiate my statistics or claims?
  2. Why should my users believe what I have to say?
  3. Can anyone (customers or companies) back up my thoughts?

If you are crafting the best user experience, you will want to take special care in building an authentic, data-driven relationship with your past and present customers.

There are no magic rules or hacks in how you link to external sources. As the SEO industry evolves, you will realize professionals are simply “internet custodial engineers,” cleaning up the manipulations of the past (part of the reasons for Penguin, Panda, Hummingbird, and less notable algorithm changes by Google) and promoting the creation of expert-driven, authoritative, and accurate (E.A.T.) content on the web.

For more information on E.A.T., check out Google’s Official Quality Raters Guidelines.

Getting Fancy:

SEO-friendly images

Now more than ever, visual search as an alternative to text search is becoming a reality. In fact, even Pinterest’s CEO Silbermann said, “the future of search will be about pictures rather than keywords.” Seen below is data from Jumpshot compiled by Rand Fishkin at SparkToro that confirms Google Image Search now makes up more than 20% of web searches as of February 2018. As a result, including images in your content has some unique benefits as it relates to search engine optimization (SEO):

  1. Images break up large blocks of text with useful visuals,
  2. Alternate text embedded within an image can provide more context to search engines about the object, place, or person it is representing. This can help to improve your rankings in this medium.
  3. According to a study by Clutch in 2017, written articles, videos, and images are the three most engaging types of content on social media. Adding images to your text can improve a piece’s shareability.

 

A great example of using varying types of content to break up a topic can be seen below. In the article titled, “How to Tie the Windsor Knot”, the author has provided an informative primary header (h1) based on the functional query and also included video content (in case the user prefers this method of consumption), origin information, a comparison of this knot to others, and an explanatory graphic to walk anyone through the entire process.

By providing an abundance of detail and multimedia, not only can your business realize the additional search opportunities in the form of video object structured data and alternate text on the images, but meet the E.A.T. standards that will delight your potential users and drive performance.

Open Graph Tags

Developed by Facebook in 2007, with inspiration from Microformats and RDFa, the Open Graph protocol is one element of your page that can be easily forgotten because it’s often built into popular content management systems. Forgetting to review how your shared content will display on popular social networks can kill productivity as you race to add an image, name, description post-publishing. A lack of “OG Tags” can also hurt the shareability of the piece, decreasing the chances for its promotion to be successful.

“OG Tags” as they are commonly referred to are similar to other forms of structured data but are specifically relevant to social media sharing. They can act as a failsafe when a page title is not available, as Google commonly looks to this field when it cannot find text between the <title> elements.

How can I construct and validate open graph tags on my website?

Unless your content management system automatically generates Open Graph tags for you, you will have to build a few snippets of code to populate this information for those sharing your posts. You can find a few tools to help you out below:

Documentation:
Code snippet generators:
Code snippet validation:

Meta Robots Tags

The content your team produces will never get the success it deserves in organic search if no one can find it. While a powerful tool for ensuring search results stay nice and tidy, the meta robots tag can also be a content marketers worst enemy. Similar to the robots.txt file, it is designed to provide crawlers information about how to treat a certain singular URL in the search engine results and following it’s contained links, a single line of code can make your page or post disappear.

Where can I find the meta robots instructions?

This specific tag (if your website contains one) is generally contained within the <head> section of the HTML document and may appear to look similar to the following:

<META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW”>

What instructions can I provide to crawlers via the meta robots tag?

At bare minimum, your URL will need to be eligible for indexing by Google or other search engines. This can be accomplished with an INDEX directive in the content field above.

Note: It is still up to the search engine’s discretion if your URL is worthy and high-quality enough to include in search results.

In addition to the INDEX directive, you can also pass the following instructions via the meta robots tag:

NOINDEX – Tells a search engine crawler to exclude this page from their index

NOFOLLOW – Instructs the crawler to ignore following any links on the given page

NOARCHIVE – Excludes the particular page from being cached in search results

NOSNIPPET – Prevents a description from displaying below the headline in search results

NOODP – Blocks the usage of the Open Directory Project description from search results.

NONE – Acts as a NOFOLLOW, NO INDEX tag.

If you are taking the time to produce a high-quality article, make sure the world can see it with ease! Competing against yourself with duplicate articles and/or pages can lead to index bloat, and your search performance will not live up to its true potential.

Canonical Tags

The canonicalization and the canonical tag can be a tricky subject, but it is one that should not be taken lightly. Duplicate content can be the root of many unforeseen problems with your business’ organic search efforts.

What does a canonical tag (rel=”canonical”) do?

In simple terms, utilizing a canonical tag is a way of indicating to search engines that the destination URL noted in this tag is the “master copy” or the “single point of truth” that is worthy of being included in the search index. When implemented correctly, this should prevent multiple URLs with the same information or identical wording from being indexed and competing against each other on search engine results pages (SERPs).

Can my canonical tag be self-referential?

Absolutely. If it’s the best version of a page, do not leave it up to a search engine to decide this. Wear the “single source of truth” badge with pride and potentially prevent the incorrect implementation of canonical tags on other pages that are identical or similar.

Page Speed Test

Last but not least, we can’t forget about page speed on individual pages of a business’ website. While the elements listed above are great for helping search engines and users better understand the context around a piece of content, page speed is important for ensuring the user gets a quality technical experience.

The entire premise of using a search engine is centered around getting a quick answer for a particular question or topic search. Delivering a slow page to a user will likely lead to them leaving your website all together. According to a study from Google across multiple verticals, increasing page load time from 1 to 5 seconds increases the probability of a bounce by 90%. That could be a huge loss in revenue for a business.

Source: Google/SOASTA Research, 2017.

Tools for testing page speed:

Page by page:
At scale:

Crafting the perfect piece of content is more than simply understanding your audience and what they want to read about online. There are many technical elements outlined above that can make or break your success in organic search or many other marketing mediums. As you think about producing a blog, an informational guide, or even a product page, consider all of the information a user needs to take the desired next step.

(All screenshots were taken by the author for the purpose of this article.)

Cooper Hollmaier is Associate Program Manager, SEO at REI.

The post 10 on-page SEO essentials: Crafting the perfect piece of content appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Minimum PHP version requirement, WP 5.2 Beta 1 and Gutenberg 5.3

Minimum PHP version requirement, WP 5.2 Beta 1 and Gutenberg 5.3

We’re getting ready for another big improvement for our favorite CMS. Today, I’d like to share with you the release of Gutenberg version 5.3 as well as the first Beta for WordPress 5.2. And, some exciting news on the minimum PHP version requirement for WordPress.

Gutenberg 5.3

We’ve seen the release of Gutenberg 5.3 this last week and this version is an extra interesting one. Gutenberg 5.3 will be included in the upcoming WordPress 5.2 release. The three interesting features that stand out in this release are the following:

  • Gutenberg 5.3 introduces a block management modal which allows you to enable/disable blocks from the block inserter.
  • We also get the possibility to nest different kinds of blocks in a Cover Block container. Allowing for more interesting uses of the Cover Block block.
  • Lastly, there are many improvements to the hover and selected block states, with better a11y and less distraction.

But, that’s not all. There’s a lot more added to Gutenberg 5.3 and you can read all about it in the release post.

WordPress 5.2 Beta 1

WordPress 5.2 saw its first Beta last week, by the way. So, if you’re developing plugins and themes, now would be a good moment to start testing them against the 5.2 Beta 1.

Remember the recovery mode component intended for fixing fatal errors that ended up not making it in 5.1? Well, there’s good news about the project. As Felix Arntz’ tweet indicated last week:

The project team working on this feature have had to completely reimagine the solution. So, it may have taken a lot more time than intended, but we’re ending with a much more robust solution. A solution that’s going to save a LOT of headaches.

Bump in minimum PHP version for WordPress! Yay!

There have been years of debate about the minimum version for WordPress, but it’s finally happening. The PHP minimum version bump was finally committed – see this Trac ticket for more information. The minimum required PHP version is 5.6. This means we can finally start working towards using modern implementations of PHP, like Namespaces, for WordPress.

Subtle but important change with setting up a WordPress.com site

One of the things that never looked good when setting up a site over at WordPress.com was the default wordpress.com subdomain you would get. It doesn’t really cover the intent whatsoever in my opinion. I also wouldn’t mind their identity being less confusing towards WordPress.org sites.

Anyway, I was very happy to see the default URL for a new site changed to subdomain.home.blog. They own the .blog TLD so it makes perfect sense to start using it. I like how WordPress.com is constantly changing and improving the experience. Maybe I was right with this blog post over at WP Realm 🤷🏼‍♂️.

The post Minimum PHP version requirement, WP 5.2 Beta 1 and Gutenberg 5.3 appeared first on Yoast.

The SEMrush Website Migration Checklist

The SEMrush Website Migration Checklist

The SEMrush Website Migration Checklist

Website migration is a complex and challenging process, and definitely not something you want to go into without a clear plan. To help you out, we’ve created the Website Migration Checklist, which can be used both as a guide and an interactive blueprint for a site move of any type. Select your migration case, follow the instructions and tick off the completed tasks.

What is SEO? The Ultimate Guide for 2019

What is SEO? The Ultimate Guide for 2019

What is SEO?

I remember asking that question back in 2012 too.

That’s why today I’ll explain everything you’ve ever wanted to know about SEO in 2019.

Let me ask you:

Did you know that 93% of all online experiences begin with a search engine?

That means that your target customers are searching for solutions to their problems. Fortunately, SEO gives you the opportunity to get in front of these potential customers.

In this guide, we’re going to outline the fundamentals of SEO, and the role it plays for your business.

Specifically, you’ll learn:

  • The basics of SEO (and why there’s more to it than Google)
  • Why SEO matters for you and your business
  • The SEO terminology you should know
  • How to start an SEO strategy
  • How long SEO takes to work
  • How to build a career in the SEO industry
  • Resources you can use to learn SEO

Are you ready to stop asking “what is SEO?”, and learn everything you’ll need to know about optimizing your website for search engines?

Let’s jump in.

There’s more to SEO than Google

Google is a huge player in the SEO world. Their search engine was ranked as the most visited multi-platform in the U.S., with almost 246 million unique visitors in 2018 alone.

…It’ll come as no surprise to learn they hold 92% of the search engine market share:

Google Search Market Dominance

But while Google is a huge platform, SEO tactics can be applied on a number of different search engines-something Merriam Webster defines as:

“a site on the World Wide Web that uses such software to locate key words in other sites”.

Any website that allows users to type something into a box, and fetches a list of web pages the engine believes will be helpful to the user, is a search engine.

You probably use websites every day without realizing they’re a search engine, including:

  • YouTube
  • Amazon
  • Baidu
  • Yahoo
  • Bing
  • DuckDuckGo

In a nutshell:

The act of SEO is optimizing a website to rank higher in search-but that doesn’t always mean Google should be the only platform you think about.

Why is SEO important for businesses?

There are 40,000 search queries every second on Google alone. That equates to more than 3.5 billion every single day-and a strong chance your business’ ideal customers are using search engines to find products, services or information.

If you’re not using SEO techniques to reach the top of their results, you’re missing out on these three things:

1. More website traffic

A report by BrightEdge discovered over half of all website traffic comes from search engines. That’s impressive considering paid advertising accounts for 10%, and social media just 5%:

BrightEdge

2. More revenue

81% of consumers, and 94% of B2B customers, perform online searches before making a purchase: The people you’re driving to your site through organic search could turn into paying customers. Yet to be one of the businesses who see 40% of their average revenue derive from search engines, you’ll need to have an SEO strategy in place.

3. More in-store visitors

Having a search engine presence can help to drive local customers to your store or business address. Smartphones give people the chance to browse the internet at their leisure–including the 82% of users who conduct “near me” searches when they’re looking for a service or product in their current location.

SEO terminology: 14 terms you’ll need to master

The world of SEO is littered with fancy abbreviations and acronyms. (Maybe that’s why it’s so tricky to learn.)

Before we go any further, here are 14 SEO terms you’ll need to add to your dictionary.:

Algorithm: The program used by search engines to determine where a page should rank. There are hundreds of factors that make up an algorithm-most of which aren’t public.

Backlink: A link pointing to your website. These can be internal (from one page on your site to another), or external (from another website linking to yours).

Black Hat SEO: A set of techniques known to be used by spammers. In the olden days of SEO, black hat techniques helped websites reach the first page of search results, but algorithms have gotten smarter. You could see a penalty by using this strategy.

Bounce Rate: The percentage of people who visit your website and leave instantly (or “bounce”). For example: If 100 people visit your website and 50 of them only read the homepage, your bounce rate would be 50%. You can find this in Google Analytics:

Bounce Rate

DA (Domain Authority): A metric created by Moz to determine the likelihood of a website ranking in Google. It’s scored out of 100, with the strongest websites scoring toward the higher end of the scale.

Google Penalty: A punishment given by Google that negatively impacts your chances of ranking in search. They can be given for black hat tactics, either manually or automatically.

Keyword: The words you’ll enter when looking for information in a search engine. For example: “What is SEO?” or “SEO for beginners”.

Impressions: The number of people who’ve seen your website on their search results page. You can find this in Google Search Console:

Impressions

Meta Title and Description: The text you see when results are loaded in search. The meta title is the main, clickable link. The meta description is an editable 160-character field used to convince people to click your website.

Meta Data

Organic CTR (Click-through Rate): The percentage of people who’ve seen your page ranking in a search engine, and clicked the link. For example: If 100 people see your website and 2 people click, your organic CTR would be 2%.

Rankings: The position you’re ranking in a search engine for each URL.

SERP (Search Engine Results Page): The page containing the list of results for your keyword.

Search Intent: The intention of the person searching for a query. Are they looking to buy a product, find an answer to a simple question, or read a piece of educational content?

White Hat SEO: A set of ethical SEO tactics used to reach the top spots in Google. These strategies play by the book, and usually focus on user experience as opposed to direct rankings.

What’s included in an SEO strategy?

You’ve seen the opportunity in organic search, and decided to start optimizing your site.

But you might be left questioning which SEO techniques should you be using to reach the top of Google.

The answer isn’t a short one; over 200 different factors are known to impact how your website ranks in search engines, and each ranking factor can be built upon using several tactics.

If it sounds confusing, don’t panic.

Here are eight things you should include in an SEO strategy to start ranking in search:

1. Keyword research

When a user searches using words related to your business, you want to show up… Hence why keywords are the lifeblood of any SEO strategy.

You shouldn’t guess the keywords your audience are using, though.

Instead, investigate which search terms are being used by your customers, and target audience online, through doing keyword research. Then, when you’re using these on your website, Google can connect the dots. They understand the topic you’re talking about, and encourage users who’re searching for them to find your website.

That’s bound to equal more search traffic.

How to find keywords

There are various keyword research tools you can use to find the keywords your audience uses.

To get started, head over to Google and begin typing your topic. Don’t hit “enter”-just take note of the suggested searches that Google are recommending.

Chances are, these are keywords you could target on your website:

Suggested Search

You could also use other keyword research tools, such as:

  • Ahrefs
  • Answer The Public
  • Keyword.io
  • Serpstat
  • SEMrush
  • Buzzsumo’s Question Analyzer

List the keywords you find that are relevant to your business. Your list should be a mix of short-tail and long-tail keywords (3+ words in length).

Then, one you’ve nailed your list of phrases, head over to Ubersuggest to discover how easy it is to rank for a keyword, along with the volume of people searching for it each month:

UberSuggest

Take special note of these two metrics:

1. Search Volume: How many people are searching for this keyword per month? SERPs for keywords with a high search volume might be dominated by big brands with huge budgets. Keywords with a low search volume, however, are usually easier to rank for.

2. SEO Difficulty: This score indicates the chances of you ranking on page one for that keyword. Phrases with a high score (like 80) will need some serious SEO juice to rank, but search terms with a low score of 12 probably don’t.

By this point, you should have a list of keywords you’d like to start ranking for.

Categorize similar keywords you’ve found (like “SEO techniques” and “SEO hacks”), and plan to target them on the same page. Google’s algorithm knows when different phrases mean the same thing, so grouping them together could help boost rankings further.

2. On-page SEO

You’ve found your keywords, and you want to start ranking for them.

But to reach the top of the SERPs, you don’t just sit back and pray; you need to take the findings from your keyword research and use them to optimize your page. This tells Google that your content is relevant to the phrases-and therefore, you should be ranking for it.

This form of SEO is called “on-page optimization”; a group of techniques used to maximize the chances of a single page reaching the top spots in Google.

Here’s an on-page SEO checklist you can use to optimize your page for SEO:

Meta tags: Meta tags are the first things a person sees when your page is shown in search engines. Encourage people to click through (organic CTR is a known ranking factor) by: including the page’s main keyword; using power words like “ultimate”; and explaining the value you’ll give if they click through. Tools like Yoast are on-hand to edit these tags.

URL: Avoid long and complicated URLs when publishing your content, and stick with your page’s main keyword. For example: Use /blog/what-is-SEO, rather than /SEO-b25-xbrg.html. Google consistently ranks pages with shorter, cleaner URLs higher in search because they look more trustworthy.

URL Length

Page title: This field is similar to your meta title, but is visible to people when they click on the page, rather than view from SERPs. Again, you’ll want to convince people to click-through to read the content, and encourage people who have landed on the URL to read the content. This will boost time on site (also known as “dwell time”)–another ranking factor.

Heading tags: Each page on your website should follow heading hierarchy, with the page title being and subheadings using. These tell Google spiders what the page is discussing without reading the entire thing. Include your secondary keywords here to build relevance.

Body text: You should mention your page’s keyword naturally throughout the content. Various studies have proven that long-form content generates more backlinks (another ranking factor), but don’t sacrifice quantity for quantity. Always discover the search intent behind each keyword before committing to a 2,000-word article. A short, to-the-point piece of content might be more beneficial for your target audience.

Long Form Content

Internal and external links: Adding links within your page’s content helps to improve the time people spend on your website. Plus, search engines view your website as contributing value if you’re associating it with others–hence why pages with internal links have been proven to rank higher than those without.

3. Technical SEO

Your website might be the prettiest thing in the world. But if it’s not built on good foundations, it ain’t gonna rank in search engines.

Technical SEO is the process of making sure:

  • Search engines can find (and understand) your website
  • Website visitors can get value from your website

Think about it: If you’re landing on a website that takes 15 seconds to load and is littered with glitchy GIFs, you won’t be impressed.

Google won’t rank you highly because of it either, purely because they want to make sure they’re referring people to websites that provide value. Otherwise, people would use a different search engine.

A technical SEO strategy covers many things, including:

Page loading speed

You open up a website and see the winding circle spinning in your browser tab. Seconds have passed and nothing loads. No content. No text. You wait and wait. And you wait some more. Then you leave because you’re fed up.

Make sure people aren’t having the same experience on your website. Not only is it massively frustrating for them, but page load speed is a ranking factor confirmed by Google themselves.

Start by using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to check how your load speed compares:

Google PageSpeed Insights

You can check the page speed time on the mobile version of your site here, too. A slow loading mobile page causes a 38% increase in heart rate. (That’s more stressful than watching a horror movie.)

If you’re worried your pages are slow to load, Google will recommend some tweaks. Your developer should be able to resolve these.

Page speed Results

Mobile friendliness

Did you know that 52% of all web pages served were on a mobile device in 2018?

Mobile Data

Search engines are changing to meet this demand, with many platforms taking a mobile-first approach. They’ll look at how your website performs on mobile and determine rankings from there, as opposed to traditional desktop performance.

It’s massively important that your site is mobile-friendly, and uses a responsive design–meaning your website adapts to suit the screen size of the device it’s being viewed on.

Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test will show whether your website is responsive:

Google Mobile Friendly Test

Again, If you’re not tech-savvy, don’t panic. Your developers should again be able to help make your website mobile-friendly using the recommendations given by Google.

Secure site (HTTPS)

Privacy is a serious concern for internet users.

61% of Americans have said they’d like to do more to protect their privacy, and with data breaches happening left, right and center, your technical SEO strategy needs to prove you’re a secure and reliable website.

The easiest way to do that is through SSL certificates-a small file that encrypts information being passed through a website.

Google will show a warning on websites without a SSL certificate before loading the page:

SSL
Source

It’s no surprise why 61% of customers would avoid purchasing if a site was missing a trust seal, such as the SSL certificate.

Why would Google want to point their searchers in the direction of an unsecure site?

4. UX optimization

Once upon a time, a website could rank for its target keyword simply by including that keyword on a page as much as possible. This a black hat SEO tactic known as ‘keyword stuffing’, and though it brought results back in 2010, it wasn’t very user-friendly.

Needless to say, it’s not successful at tricking Google anymore.

Search engines want their SERPs to provide value to searchers, which is why user experience (UX) should be at the heart of any SEO strategy.

A study by SEMrush identified user behavior signals as being important ranking factors:

User Signals

Let’s take a look at what these UX signals mean, and how you can optimize your site for them.

Time on site

The longer somebody spends on your site, the more engaged they are.

Having users who spend a long time on your site correlates with strong search engine rankings, so try to ensure visitors stick around when they land on your site.

You can do this by:

  • Embedding video content on your page.
  • Keeping your written content punchy and easy to read, using short paragraphs and subheadings to break-up long walls of text.
  • Using images throughout to engage the user.

Pages per session

Another strong sign of user engagement is how many pages your users visit.

Think about it:

If readers consuming page after page of your content, it suggests they’re happy and engaged with your site-so search engines will give you a bump in their SERPs.

Increasing the number of pages your audience read is fairly easy; simply add internal links to other, similar and relevant pages and encourage readers to click through.

Here’s an example on our “how to build backlinks” article:

Internal Links

Bounce rate

Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors leaving your website after viewing just one page. A high figure can suggest that users are not finding your content helpful, or that it is not satisfying their query.

(This is particularly true if they arrive via search engines, then instantly hit “back” on their browser to visit another site instead. It’s also known as “pogosticking”-a sign that users aren’t happy with the result.)

Remember:

If the users aren’t happy, neither are the search engines. Expect to see your ranking struggle if you’re battling with a high bounce rate.

You can reduce bounce rate by:

  • Adding internal links to other important pages to help keep your users on site.
  • Getting your message across early, and convincing people to read the rest of your content. An attention-grabbing introduction is key. The human attention span is only 8 seconds; you don’t have long to make a great impression!

5. Content marketing

“Content” is the information you provide on your website or marketing materials, and can take many forms-including written, image, video and audio content. But regardless of the type of content you’re creating, it’s essential for a winning SEO strategy for one reason:

Content is how you communicate with your target users.

A blog is a great way to create SEO-focused content. The statistics speak for themselves:

And if you think blogs are only there to drive traffic, think again.

A high-quality blog can also improve your revenue: 71% of B2B buyers consume blog content at some point in their purchase journey, and B2B sites with a blog generate 67% more leads than those without.

Head back to the list of keywords you’ve collected and see whether you could create a blog post to target them. This type of page is usually educational and informal, targeting a long-tail keyword.

6. Link building

Backlinks (links to your website from others) are a strong SEO ranking factor.

These links act as a “virtual handshake”; telling the search engines that your site is trusted by others. That’s why they can help to boost your SEO performance.

There are various link building tactics you can use to build your online reputation, as explained in this video:

There’s no guidelines on the number of links you should have. Instead, it’s about quality. Gaining backlinks from authoritative websites, particularly those in your industry, is much more beneficial for SEO than thousands of low-quality backlinks.

All of the links you’re building should appear natural. You shouldn’t incentivize someone to link to your site, or pay for a link. Search engines class this as spammy, and it can be harmful to your SEO.

(In fact, search engines like Google can stop your site from appearing in their results pages at all if they think you’ve built unnatural links.)

7. Reputation management

Every company gets bad reviews at some time or another. Even if you’re putting your best efforts into making sure every customer is a happy one, things outside of your control could result in negative reviews.

But why is this important for SEO?

While links play a huge role when determining organic rankings, so do brand mentions.

A Google patent refers to ‘implied links’ as potential ranking factors, and both Google and Bing have indicated that sentiment around brand mentions can be taken into consideration–meaning businesses offering poor experiences may suffer from lower rankings.

So how do you ensure your brand reputation remains positive? Here are some tips:

  • Monitor brand mentions and reviews using social listening tools, and respond publicly to negative comments before taking the conversation private to resolve the issue.
  • Create great content that is useful to your target audience, and encourages them to share it with their networks.
  • Run brand awareness and PR campaigns to generate positive coverage.
    Support charities or good causes in your industry or local area.

8. Local SEO

Local SEO is a branch of SEO that can cater to local searchers, and ensure you’re noticed by potential customers when they’re actively looking for you.

In an age where people want information immediately, mobile technology is driving growth in localised searches. In fact, around a third of all mobile searches are location-based–hence why local SEO is vital for traditional bricks and mortar stores.

Searches including the terms “near me today/tonight” have risen by 900% in recent years:

near me searches

But how can you make sure you’re visible for local searches?

  • Claim your Google My Business listing, and ensure it’s up to date with relevant opening hours, telephone number and contact details.
  • Have up-to-date store locator pages on your website for each location you operate or have stores in.
  • Create content and generate PR coverage in your local area.
  • Add your details to relevant local directory sites.

Remember: 28% of searches for a product or service nearby result in a purchase, making local SEO an incredibly important task for businesses looking to boost sales.

Building a career in the SEO industry

Ready to put your newfound SEO skills into practice?

You’re in luck. There are many incredible career opportunities for budding SEOs.

Glassdoor reports the average base salary for an SEO Specialist in the USA being $62,500. That increases to $84,000 for an SEO manager:

SEO Specialist Salary

Comparing that to the average salary of a general marketing specialist ($50,528) and a social media specialist ($50,173), it’s safe to say SEO is a lucrative career opportunity for people willing to invest time into their SEO education.

But if you don’t want to work in-house, don’t panic.

You can still build career in SEO by:

  • Offering freelance SEO services, or starting an SEO agency that specializes in SEO.
  • Using your newfound skills to run an affiliate website.
  • Buying an old website through Flippa, practicing your SEO skills, and selling the website (with increased traffic) for a profit.

How long does SEO take to work?

The great thing about SEO is that once your efforts begin to take effect, you’re essentially getting “free” traffic.

However, there is a downside: It can take a while for your SEO strategy to pay off.

In fact, only 5.7% of newly published pages rank in Google’s top 10 within a year, yet there’s no concrete calculation you can use to determine how long you’ll need to wait to see results. The average consensus rules 4-6 months as the average.

Why’s it take so long? The speed at which you see SEO results can depend on a few factors:

  • The competition in your industry
  • The amount of time you spend on it
  • Your budget
  • The history of your website
  • The age of your domain

If you’re a small business, you might consider hiring an agency or an internal team to help you goals quicker. However you choose to do it, one thing’s for sure:

If you get started now, you’ll see results sooner rather than later.

Final thoughts

Whether you’re looking to learn more about what SEO is, the tactics included in an SEO strategy, or explore the opportunity of a career in the industry, I hope we’ve covered your questions.

(Remember the Gotch SEO blog, YouTube channel and Academy are always on-hand to answer any more.)

But before we part, there’s one thing to reiterate:

SEO is an industry known for long-term results. While you might feel like you’re investing time and energy into learning SEO, the knowledge you’ll acquire will be worth its weight in gold.

Five ways SEOs can utilize data with insights, automation, and personalization

Five ways SEOs can utilize data with insights, automation, and personalization

Constantly evolving search results driven by Google’s increasing implementation of AI are challenging SEOs to keep pace. Search is more dynamic, competitive, and faster than ever before.

Where SEOs used to focus almost exclusively on what Google and other search engines were looking for in their site structure, links, and content, digital marketing now revolves solidly around the needs and intent of consumers.

This past year was perhaps the most transformative in SEO, an industry expected to top $80 billion in spending by 2020. AI is creating entirely new engagement possibilities across multiple channels and devices. Consumers are choosing to find and interact with information by voice search, or even on connected IoT appliances, and other devices. Brands are being challenged to reimagine the entire customer journey and how they optimize content for search, as a result.

How do you even begin to prioritize when your to-do list and the data available to you are growing at such a rapid pace? The points shared below intend to help you with that.

From analysis to activation, data is key

SEO is becoming less a matter of simply optimizing for search. Today, SEO success hinges on our ability to seize every opportunity. Research from my company’s Future of Marketing and AI Study highlights current opportunities in five important areas.

1. Data cleanliness and structure

As the volume of data consumers are producing in their searches and interactions increases, it’s critically important that SEOs properly tag and structure the information we want search engines to match to those queries. Google offers rich snippets and cards that enable you to expand and enhance your search results, making them more visually appealing but also adding functionality and opportunities to engage.

Example of structured data on Google

Google has experimented with a wide variety of rich results, and you can expect them to continue evolving. Therefore, it’s best practice to properly mark up all content so that when a rich search feature becomes available, your content is in place to capitalize on the opportunity.

You can use the Google Developers “Understand how structured data works” guide to get started and test your structured data for syntax errors here.

2. Increasingly automated actionable insights

While Google is using AI to interpret queries and understand results, marketers are deploying AI to analyze data, recognize patterns and deliver insights as output at rates humans simply cannot achieve. AI is helping SEOs in interpreting market trends, analyzing site performance, gathering and understanding competitor performance, and more.

It’s not just that we’re able to get insights faster, though. The insights available to us now may have gone unnoticed, if not for the in-depth analysis we can accomplish with AI.

Machines are helping us analyze different types of media to understand the content and context of millions of images at a time and it goes beyond images and video. With Google Lens, for example, augmented reality will be used to glean query intent from objects rather than expressed words.

Opportunities for SEOs include:

  • Greater ability to define opportunity space more precisely in a competitive context. Understand underlying need in a customer journey
  • Deploying longer-tail content informed by advanced search insights
  • Better content mapping to specific expressions of consumer intent across the buying journey

3. Real-time response and interactions

In a recent “State of Chatbots” report, researchers asked consumers to identify problems with traditional online experiences by posing the question, “What frustrations have you experienced in the past month?”

Screenshot of users' feedback on website usage experiences

As you can see, at least seven of the top consumer frustrations listed above can be solved with properly programmed chatbots. It’s no wonder that they also found that 69% of consumers prefer chatbots for quick communication with brands.

Search query and online behavior data can make smart bots so compelling and efficient in delivering on consumer needs that in some cases, the visitor may not even realize it’s an automated tool they’re dealing with. It’s a win for the consumer, who probably isn’t there for a social visit anyway as well as for the brand that seeks to deliver an exceptional experience even while improving operational efficiency.

SEOs have an opportunity to:

  • Facilitate more productive online store consumer experiences with smart chatbots.
  • Redesign websites to support visual and voice search.
  • Deploy deep learning, where possible, to empower machines to make decisions, and respond in real-time.

4. Smart automation

SEOs have been pretty ingenious at automating repetitive, time-consuming tasks such as pulling rankings reports, backlink monitoring, and keyword research. In fact, a lot of quality digital marketing software was born out of SEOs automating their own client work.

Now, AI is enabling us to make automation smarter by moving beyond simple task completion to prioritization, decision-making, and executing new tasks based on those data-backed decisions.

Survey on content development using AI

Content marketing is one area where AI can have a massive impact, and marketers are on board. We found that just four percent of respondents felt they were unlikely to use AI/deep learning in their content strategy in 2018, and over 42% had already implemented it.

In content marketing, AI can help us quickly analyze consumer behavior and data, in order to:

  • Identify content opportunities
  • Build optimized content
  • Promote the right content to the most motivated audience segments and individuals

5. Personalizations that drive business results

Personalization was identified as the top trend in marketing at the time of our survey, followed closely by AI (which certainly drives more accurate personalizations). In fact, you could argue that the top four trends namely, personalization, AI, voice search, and mobile optimization are closely connected if not overlapping in places.

Across emails, landing pages, paid advertising campaigns, and more, search insights are being injected into and utilized across multiple channels. These intend to help us better connect content to consumer needs.

Each piece of content produced must be purposeful. It needs to be optimized for discovery, a process that begins in content planning as you identify where consumers are going to find and engage with each piece. Smart content is personalized in such a way that it meets a specific consumer’s need, but it must deliver on the monetary needs of the business, as well.

Check out these 5 steps for making your content smarter from a previous column for more.

How SEOs are uniquely positioned to drive smarter digital marketing forward

As the marketing professionals have one foot in analysis and the other solidly planted in creative, SEOs have a unique opportunity to lead smart utilization and activation of all manners of consumer data.

You understand the critical importance of clean data input (or intelligent systems that can clean and make sense of unstructured data) and differentiating between first and third-party data. You understand economies of scale in SEO and the value in building that scalability into systems from the ground up.

SEOs have long nurtured a deep understanding of how people search for and discover information, and how technology delivers. Make the most of your current opportunities by picking your low-hanging fruit opportunities for quick wins. Focus your efforts on putting the scalable, smart systems in place that will allow you to anticipate consumer needs, react quickly, report SEO appropriately, and convey business results to the stakeholders who will determine budgets in future.

Jim Yu is the founder and CEO of leading enterprise SEO and content performance platform BrightEdge. He can be found on Twitter @jimyu.

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Social listening 101: Six crucial keywords to track

Social listening 101: Six crucial keywords to track

Social listening is a tactic that’s not unheard of. Quite a number of brands use it these days and even more consider trying it out in the near future. However, for many, the step-by-step process of social listening remains unclear.

This article aims to answer the most burning questions about social listening:

  • What is a keyword?
  • Which keywords should you monitor?
  • How do you get relevant and comprehensive results instead of all the noise that the Internet is filled with?

What is a keyword?

As we know, social listening is a process that requires a social media listening/social media monitoring tool (e.g., Awario, Mention, Brandwatch). The first thing you do when you open the app is entering keywords to monitor.

Keywords are the words that describe best what you want to find on social media platforms and the web. A keyword can be one word (e.g. “Philips”), two words (e.g. “Aleh Barysevich”), four words (e.g. “search engine optimization tool”), etc. Each one of these examples presents one keyword. After you typed in your keyword(s), the tool will search for mentions of these keywords and collect them in a single place.

Screenshot of mentions for a specific keyword

Which keywords should you monitor?

You can monitor absolutely anything. You can monitor the keywords “Brexit” or “let’s dance” or “hello, is it me you’re looking for”. However, in terms of marketing purposes, there are six main types of keywords that you are most likely to monitor. They are:

1. Brand/company
2. Competitors
3. Person
4. Campaign
5. Industry
6. URL

Now let’s go through each type together to make sure you understand the goals behind monitoring these keywords and how to get the most out of them.

1. Brand/Company

Monitoring your brand/your company is essential in most cases. While the goals of social listening can be very diverse (reputation management, brand awareness, influencer marketing, customer service), most of these goals require listening to what people say about your brand.

To make sure you don’t miss any valuable mentions, include common misspellings and abbreviations of your brand name as well.

In case your brand name is a common word (e.g. “Apple” or “Orange”) make sure to choose a tool that gives you an option to introduce “negative” keywords. These would be keywords such as “apple tree”, “apple juice”, “apple pie”. Excluding them from your search will help get mentions of Apple the brand only. Any tool that has a boolean search option will also save you from tons of such irrelevant mentions.

2. Competitors

Pick a couple of your main competitors (or even just one), and enter their brand/company name as a separate project. There’s a good reason for that: Questions and complaints directed at your competitors can be replied by your social media manager first. They could explain why your brand is better/doesn’t have specific problems that your competitor does. This is social selling, a process of finding hot leads on social media.

Most social media monitoring tools also let you compare how your brand is doing on social media against your competitor’s brand. This can be useful for tracking your progress and discovering new ideas.

For example, knowing which social networks, which locations, and what time slots get your competitor more attention could help you upgrade your social media strategy. Knowing how their campaigns, social media posts, and product releases perform could help you improve your own plans, and avoid some mishaps.

3. Person

The CEO of your company might not necessarily be the company’s face or even a public persona at all. However, if reputation management is one of your goals, monitoring mentions of the CEO are important. Their actions on social media could easily attract attention and cause a social media crisis. Also, you’ll know straight away about any publications that mention your company’s CEO.

Same, of course, goes for any other people in the company.

4. Campaign

It’s crucial to monitor marketing (and other) campaigns as well as product launches. Reactions on social media happen very quickly. Only by monitoring such events in real time, you’ll know straight away if it’s going well or not, if it’s working at all, and if there are problems that you might’ve not noticed while creating the campaign. The earlier you know how the reality is unfolding, the better. To monitor a campaign, enter its name if it has one, its slogan, and/or its hashtag as a keyword.

Example of how social media activities could go wrong

It’s important to understand that there are loads of marketing campaigns that have caused serious problems for the companies. Something that could’ve been avoided with social media monitoring.

5. Industry

Not in every industry can you monitor the so-called “industry keywords”. However, if you can, these are the source of endless opportunities. Most of these are in the realms of social selling, brand awareness, and influencer marketing.

For example, if your product is a productivity app, this would be your keyword “productivity app”. Include a couple of synonyms and words such as “looking for”, or “can anyone recommend” and you’ll get mentions from people that look for a product like yours. Specify the language and the location to get more relevant results.

With a social media monitoring tool that finds influencers, you can go to the list of influencers that is built around your industry keywords and choose the ones to work with.

Example of finding influencers using social listening keywords

6. URL

Monitoring your brand by excluding your brand’s URL (which is possible with a social media monitoring tool) is important for SEO purposes. It’s a big part of link-building. All you have to do is find mentions of your brand that don’t link to your brand, reach out to the author, and ask for a link. In most cases, the authors wouldn’t mind adding the link to your site.

Besides, you can monitor competitors’ URLs. This will give you a list of sources where they get links from. It’s only logical that if the author is interested in the niche and is willing to write about your competitor, they probably wouldn’t mind reviewing your product as well.

Conclusion

There’s a lot you can do with social media monitoring. All you have to do is start. Starting is the hardest part. Then, appetite, ideas, and knowledge come with eating. Hopefully, this article gave you a clear idea of where to start.

Aleh is the Founder and CMO at SEO PowerSuite and Awario. He can be found on Twitter at @ab80.

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