Reputation Management SEO Advanced Tactics

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Why Reputation Management?

SEO for reputation management is one of the most talked about topics today. There are millions of consumers online looking at your various pages to make their purchasing decisions. This is a good thing, most of the time – people are informed and you get the chance to control your own narrative and public image.

However

There could also be some downfalls with this current state. For instance, a single bad review can make consumers abandon their purchase and prevent many other sales. This can result in a significant decline in your conversion rate. This happens because people are nervous about purchasing online and they often get scared by one bad opinion even though there are thousands of good ones. And if you run a business online, you are bound to have some of those, even if your service is exceptional. Trolls, angry customers and so on don’t hesitate when it comes to leaving bad reviews.

Takes Up To 10 Good Reviews To Make Up For A Bad One

If you don’t want to fake it and produce your own online reviews, it can take some time to generate sufficient positive reviews because many satisfied customers are not willing to leave a comment.

This is not the only issue that brands face nowadays. They also encounter poor entries in their search results for their own or company’s name. If a consumer finds these poor entries, they won’t look any further – not even at reviews left by other consumers. Bad press can come from various sources and can be potentially worse than bad reviews.

Since reputation is such a big deal in driving business, especially online, you need to be the one in control of your own press and all of the material that has your own or your company’s name on it.

Tips On How To Manage SEO and Improve Your Results

Have Great Social Media Profiles

Brands often make a mistake with social media. They try to take control of as many funnels as they can by pointing links to them. While social media profiles are amazing for creating an audience, raising brand awareness, engagement and so on, too many of them actually end up diluting your reputation and mission. You probably don’t need dozens of sites or profiles as you could be more effective by consolidating your links into a few selected funnels.

Best Social Media Platforms:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • Pinterest
  • Flickr

However, registering dozens of profiles might not be your biggest mistake. Registering them and hoping that they will somehow be enough to rank high on the first page of Google search engine results is an even bigger mistake. Without relevant content and a documented content marketing strategy they might as well not exist.

If you engage on them, upload good content, share good links and communicate with other consumers, it could be more than meaningful for your success rates. Regular and genuine participation is the key to ranking high in the search engine results. For instance, if you are truly engaged on niche communities like Quora or Deviant Art, those profiles will rank better than the ones you created on other social media platforms, even if those platforms are more popular and should rank higher.

Building Authentic Social Media Profiles For SEO:

Use Your Name or Your Company’s Name
  • Never use pseudonyms or witty names. Just use your own if you want to take the control over your online presence. Using pseudonyms and funny/witty names could leave you open to various misuses of your real name on social media.
Fill The Profiles
  • Include photos, bios, various videos and links, tell your audience about your main topics and create tags. Various platforms have different features so you should do your best to use them wisely.
Use Your Address Book
  • Or use your list of active social media contacts to find them and follow them across several platforms. This will help you spread your reach and raise brand awareness on all of those different channels.
Make Connections on Each Platform
  • Don’t just rely on your old contacts. In order to get better ranking on Google search engine results, you could also find the most linked to links on various social media platforms. Try to comment, like, connect or get your page linked to the popular page in any other way you can.
Don’t Stuff Your Page With Keywords and Unfit Content
  • It will not come off as natural to your audience, but it can also make admin of the platform ban you and put your ability to connect with others in danger.

Having social media profiles that rank high isn’t easy. You will have to work hard on your engagement in order to build a good reputation and get your pages in the top ranking results.

Create A Good Bio

“If your company appears on various events, press, media and so on or if you get mentioned a lot on other sites or have references, it could be a good idea to have a single stock bio that can work across many different channels. This is a great opportunity for you to not only share a bit of your story and raise brand awareness but also refer people to your pages. You can include a link to your site, blog, social media profiles and so on,” says Randy Aberdeen, a Marketing Manager from WriteMyX.

With a good anchor text, you can basically add as many links as you wish. This technique works well for companies but even better for individuals who seem to be somewhat attached to their bios wherever they go online. Make sure that these links are always included. Follow up if necessary – and it might be since sites forget to add links about half the time.

Avoid Free-for-all sites

Prime example of this is Wikipedia. It seems powerful and it always ranks high in search results. It’s also free so it should be wise to create a page or a profile for yourself or your company for reputation management, right?, not really.

Make Sure That You Own All Your Listing and Pages Online

If other people can comment or change your pages, then it’s not a good idea. This goes for many other similar sites.

“Before you list your website anywhere, you first need to make sure that the site has good general practices when it comes to the control of your content and profiles,” says Janice Oscar, a SEO writer with 1Day2Write.

Start Another Blog

Blogs generally attract a lot of attention, links and so on. Because of this, they are great for reputation management. If you want full control over your online presence and your name, you should register your name as a domain name or your company’s name. Blogging does take time and effort but it can be worthwhile for your reputation and your SEO as well. This way, you also protect your name from being misused.

If you are worried about engagement on social media about your new property, you’ll be surprised how much good friends and family can do in making your new blog a popular choice. You should also register other domains for different topics you want to discuss.

Use Low Quality Links for Social Profiles and Higher Quality Links for Domains

If you own any links of poor quality and you think that search engines might take them in a wrong way, don’t point them at your new domain or your site. You should instead point them at high value social media profiles and pages you have created and allow the engines to make a decision. Always test any questionable links you own with your social media pages before you point them at your new website. If the rankings and quality of that link grow, you can use them for your website.

Use These Tactics:

Speak at public events
  • Speaking at events is usually free and it brings you a lot of attention.
Hire people
  • Even though job advertisements are temporary, they can still do wonders for your online reputation because the profile will become permanent.
Invest or Donate
  • This can be extremely effective and get you recognition from powerful pages, media and so on.

Take Control Over Your Own Reputation

Various external sources can ruin your reputation either intentionally or unintentionally. Your task in all of this is to take control of as much of your online presence as you can. Hopefully, some of these tips will be of help to you.

Featured image by Svilen001 on FreeImages.

Why Content Is Not King in Content Marketing!

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“Content is king” is one of those meaningless statements that some marketers use to justify content marketing for content marketing’s sake. Content is not king because without a clear purpose and customers who want to read and respond to it with a desired action it is worthless. Just like advertising, you can guarantee that a majority of visitors will not even be interested in what your content has to say. Content has to contain a relevant message and a potential action as otherwise it has no value.

This is why if you don’t have a clear content marketing strategy you may be wasting your time. It might be better doing something different to get the results you are looking for.

What Is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”- Content Marketing Institute – What is content marketing?

How do you know if your content marketing is generating a profitable customer action? Like any strategy you need a plan. Otherwise you will be pissing in the wind as some people like to say. You will have no hope of succeeding as you will lack direction and agreement on how to implement your strategy.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Antoine De Saint-Exuprey

However, research by the Content Marketing Institute suggests that less than half of B2C marketers (40%) and a similar proportion of B2B marketers (37%) have a content marketing strategy. Now, let’s think about that. Would you sign off a marketing budget without seeing a marketing strategy? No, of course not. If you want to ensure your content marketing delivers a profitable customer action it is essential that you have a plan with goals, strategies and metrics.

Documented Content Marketing Strategy:

Establishing a content marketing strategy ensures you agree appropriate goals and gets everyone to consider how they will meet these objectives. When people have a plan they review the progress at some point and think about how they measure success.

Once you have a measurement of success you can start tracking your conversion rate for leads, sales or whatever the profitable customer action is. This also helps people learn about what doesn’t/what does work. The next step is to start planning your content marketing strategy. This begins with defining an overall mission.

Here are six steps to create a documented content marketing strategy.

1.What is your overall content marketing mission?

Agreeing an overall purpose for your content marketing helps focus attention on what can make a difference to your business. It will help you avoid creating content for contents sake. Your mission should create value by resulting in a profitable customer action such as improving the quality of leads, increasing leads, sales, revenues or reducing costs. Remember content marketing needs to result in a profitable outcome, otherwise it’s a pointless exercise.

2.Write a business plan for content marketing:

A business plan does not have to be too detailed. Simply outline your organisation’s objectives and your business goals or targets. Once you know how your organisation plans to achieve these objectives. You can outline how content marketing will assist the business with achieving its goals.

Summarise qualitative deliverables from content marketing. This should include tasks such as raising awareness, simplify the customer on-boarding and promote new features or products. Next outline the success metrics that you will track to determine how successful your content marketing strategy. This will often involve using web analytics to measure engagement and other related metrics. Don’t forget to also review user experience tools. These can provide both qualitative and quantitative measures to monitor how visitors interact with content.

Defining Metrics

Defining metrics is especially important because if the target measure is not closely aligned with the action you may find undesirable behaviours due to the cobra effect. This is where people change behaviour to influence the metric rather than the desired outcome.

  1. Business objectives – e.g. Grow revenues for product A.
  2. Goals – e.g. Increase revenues from product A by 10%.
  3. Strategies for content marketing – E.g. Deliver persuasive product information.
  4. Quantitative metrics to measure success – E.g. Convert 3.5% of website visitors.

3.The Business Case:

Calculating a return on investment (ROI) for content marketing is difficult. It involves so many different areas and people in an organisation and it rarely works in insolation from other marketing activities. However, it should be possible to estimate the cost of content, how much it is used (or not) and track performance metrics.

Take a sample of content to estimate the average cost of content, including copywriting and design fees. Use the average content cost to estimate the total cost of all your content.

Once you know how much content gets produced you should also estimate the usage level. It’s not uncommon for around 50% content not to be used. Take a sample of content and find out what proportion was actually used. This will tell you if you have a significant problem with wastage.

Performance, Awareness and Lead Generation

For performance measures it is important to select meaningful metrics that relate to your business goals. For raising awareness, page views are largely meaningless. Instead you should seek to track engagement metrics such as average time on page, bounce rate and pages per session. These are much more relevant. For lead generation, measuring the conversion rate to understand the quality of leads is better than the volume of them.

By being specific about your goals for content marketing you can demonstrate how important it is that you succeed and how content marketing supports your business objectives. Now that you have an understanding of the cost, usage and achievements of your content marketing activities. You will be able to outline your business plan and begin measuring the return on investment.

4.Who are your customers?

Developing buyer personas is a crucial next step in your content marketing strategy. Personas allow you to segment your customer base according to the behaviour and attitudes of different user groups. Buyer personas allow you to build profiles of each important customer segment. It helps you better understand their needs, motivations, desires and preferences. They should inform your content marketing strategy and improve internal understanding of the needs and interests of your audience.

Buyer persona for content marketing

Buyer personas can also help improve your conversion rate because they bring context to discussions around all aspects of the user experience. The Buyer Legends approach developed by Jeffrey and Bryan Eisenberg is a great process to use to develop a narrative of the user journey based upon individual buyer personas. Personas form the foundation of discussion here to examine each step of the customer journey. This enables stakeholders to identify specific pain points and concerns that may be preventing users from converting.

To help you create your buyer persona profiles I’ve summarised the top free persona template tools. These persona creators can also assist you in sharing your personas as it’s important that they are explained to people in an organisation who have some responsibility for the digital experience.

5.Brand Story:

Every brand begins with a story of how the founders decided to set up a new business to meet a specific need or for a purpose that they were passionate about. Sometimes it’s because the founder was not happy with existing product or service on the market and felt they could do better. Other times it’s because the founder lost his or her job and had to try something different to pay their bills. Whatever the story behind the brand this can be motivational and inspiring for the people who know work for the organisation.

Innocent's brand story to help content marketing strategy

Image Source: Innocent Drinks

Your brand story is worth investigating because it can help differentiate your brand from the competition. People like stories because they are memorable and engaging. Research has also found that people are particularly attracted to products that are the result of a mistake. So, if your product or service was created due to some kind of mistake this may actually enhance your brand story.

6.Channel Strategy:

Now that you have a clear vision of what you are trying to achieve, who your target audience are and your brand story, you can now consider which channels are most appropriate for your content. This means setting out a rationale for each channel you decide to use and what kind of content you will publish on each platform.

Your channel plan will help you implement your content marketing strategy in the most effective way as you evaluate how relevant each channel is to your buyer personas, how it may influence their perception of the content and what format is best suited to each channel. You can then identify which metrics to measure performance so that you will have the ability to learn from your successes and failures.

Conversion rate optimisation can now help with the process by using data and experiments to inform decision making. This can be from as little as testing different headlines in content to testing different way to monetise content. Further, sometimes it is preferable to increase friction on a landing page to improve the quality of leads. This is best determined through A/B tests which provide for a scientific approach to decision making. If you don’t have the expertise to run A/B tests you can hire a conversion rate optimisation consultant to assist in this process.

Conclusion:

Content is definitely not king as unless it has a specific purpose and results in a profitable action it may be a colossal waste of money. Creating a documented content marketing strategy is an important first step in the process of ensuring that you focus on outcomes rather than inputs.

Once you have that clear direction and success metrics defined you will be in a much better position to develop your content creation process and to populate your content marketing calendar. If you don’t have a clear and documented strategy in place the danger is that content creation and your editorial calendar will drive activity rather than your strategy determining your content. This is a recipe for disaster as they should only create and publish content that fits in with your business objective and goals which are outlined in your content marketing plan.

Private Blog Network – A SEO Guide

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A private blog network (PBN) is a black-hat SEO technique for creating high quality backlinks to improve the domain authority and traffic for a site. PBNs hit the news in 2014 when Google tried to eliminate the benefits of sites using private blog networks to build backlinks. As any SEO expert will tell you one of the best ways to improve your search engine ranking and get more traffic to your site is to establish high quality backlinks.

However, getting good backlinks is not that easy. It can take a lot of time and effort to build just a few mediocre backlinks. Blog outreach campaigns for example have a very low conversion rate as high authority blog sites are inundated with requests now that much of it is automated using software. Even if you do get an anchor link you have no control about where it is located and the Anchor text. It might end up at the bottom of the page and therefore not be embedded in quality content.

What is a private blog network?

To make the process of building backlinks more efficient and controllable some SEO experts mimic the real world by setting up PBNs. A private blog network is where you create a network of high domain authority sites that you control and that you can use to build links from to support your primary site.

A private blog network is usually comprised of expired domains or sites that have been purchased prior to expiring. This means they have high quality backlinks and can therefore pass on high levels of link equity to other sites. Some SEOs who use a private blog network create networks that may comprise over 1,000 sites. They can over time deliver a high volume of backlinks for the primary site. Of course the PBN owner has complete control over the anchor text, the blog content and link placement to optimise the impact of the backlink.

Private Blog Networks give SEOs the ability to control high quality backlinks to improve Google rankings and increase traffic

The image above shows how a private blog network comprises multiple sites and that all will link to your primary site. Notice how none of the PBN sites link to each other. From a search engine perspective they are difficult to identify. Indeed, SEO experts who set up private blog network are very careful not to create a footprint that could mean their PBN is uncovered.

What is a footprint?

A footprint is a unique identifier that is on all blogs, such as the owner or an outbound link pattern (e.g. links only to your websites). To avoid the latter SEOs also link their PBNs to other low authority sites that are not direct competitors to the primary site. In addition a start of authority (SOA) record is shown in DNS reports and displays a “hotmaster” email address. When you use the cPanel this normally uses the email address you registered the account with.

Plugins and themes that are mainly used by SEOs. Using the same theme for all your PBN sites can also potentially act as an identifier. Analytics tools, such as Google Search Console, or advertising codes have unique IDs in the source code that can also be harmful for a PBN.

What does Google think about PBN’s?

PBNs are a grey hat/black hat SEO tactic as they are a form of intentional link building that is clearly against Google’s guidelines. Many people would see private blog network as an attempt to play the system. It is likely to give an unfair advantage to sites that can use PBNs for backlinks. For this reason Google identifies PBN’s and de-index the sites in the network. In addition Google may apply thin content penalties on sites that receive links from PBNs.

However, for Google it is probably almost impossible to identify a well set up PBN with its algorithms. This means that PBNs are only likely to be uncovered if Google undertakes a manual review. But Google is about automation and so this won’t happen very often. For this reason many SEO experts continue to use PBNs. The risk of being found out by Google is probably a lot smaller than the potential benefits to their SEO practice.

How do SEO build PBNs?

Creating a successful private blog network is all about planning and keeping to rules that prevent detection. This means having the right tools and resource to create and efficiently manage your PBN.

  • Onlywire automatically posts content from your website or blog to social media.

You should also estimate things like how many PBN links you will need and how much it will cost. You could use a spreadsheet to manage some of this. But if you plan to create a large PBN this may not be scalable. The number of links you need is partly determined by how competitive a market you are in and your existing domain authority. You would never use a PBN to support a site with no existing backlinks as that could put your PBN in jeopardy.

The cost of creating a PBN mainly comprises the cost of the domain, hosting and getting new content. However, the value of a PBN is being able to provide backlinks from high authority sites. You need to ensure you can afford to buy such sites. The better the authority of a site the more it is likely to cost. Be careful not to go over your budget unless you think it will be worth it.

How to structure your private blog network:

SEOs will structure their PBNs according to the nature of the primary site (often called a money site). The options here are that you have a single money site, multiple sites in the same market, or multiple sites in different markets. When you have a single site or multiple sites in the same market/category you can have all your PBN domains in the same network.

Where you plan to support multiple sites in different markets you will need to create separate Master Networks for top level market niches. For example you could allocate all websites related to loans, banking and insurance to a single Financial Services Master Network. You could then group sites that cover football, rugby and ice hockey into a single Sports Master Network.

You can then provide links from the relevant master network for sites in the same market. For more generic sites you can then use links from both master networks. The advantage of creating master networks is that if one master network is uncovered by a manual review, the other networks should be safe from detection. Secondly you can create links from different master networks for sites that are not in a specific market niche or are in multiple markets.

How to buy sites for your PBN:

Thousands of domains expire every day and so it is easy to find domains to buy. The trick is to find ones have a high authority and so can offer quality backlinks for you primary sites. The main ways to buy domains are as follows:

Domain auctions: You will often find the sites with the best backlinks will be available at domain auctions. There are lots of domain auctions including GoDaddy, 123-Reg, and Snapnames. Because auctions attract competing bids this pushes up the average price of a domain. It can be difficult to buy domains cheaply.

Domain brokers: Brokers, such as NameCorp and Sedo, are the preferred choice for many PBNs as they regularly buy and sell thousands of domains. Brokers will even go out and search for domains for you once you have confirmed what you are looking for. You can also find domain brokers by going to forums like WickedFire.

Pending delete domains: Sites like Expireddomains.net allow you to find good expired domains that are pending delete. Sites that will drop are categorised as “Pending Delete” five days before they drop. You can then place multiple backorders with auction sites as you will only pay if they catch the domain for you.

Archive of dropped domains: Lists of deleted or dropped domains are also available on sites like Expireddomains.net. Some valuable domains fall through the net.

Expired Domain Crawler: This can be used to crawl the pages of an authority website looking for broken backlinks. Once it finds a broken backlink it checks if the domain that it is referring to is available to register. When a domain is available to register, the crawler checks common domain authority metrics to allow you to decide if it is worth purchasing.

Conclusion:

Private blog networks are a clear example of how some SEOs try to play the system. Given the potential benefits it is not surprising that some SEOs use them. PBNs give SEOs total control over how they establish a backlink and the specific keywords that they want to rank on. However, a private blog network is a black-hat technique. If Google identifies your PBN the sites in the network will be de-indexed and the sites they point towards are also likely to be penalised as thin content.

For those of you who want to know more how PBNs work and the mistakes to avoid. DomCop have a guide which is very comprehensive. This points out that PBNs are expensive and very time consuming to set up.

It will be interesting to see how Google responds to the use of BNPs and whether they are able to exert pressure on registers to disclose more information about site owners. If Google was able to identify most site owners this could be the end of BNPs. That could create a more level playing field for sites who don’t use PBNs.

How To Improve Your Shopify SEO

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Optimising Your Shopify Store

Shopify is a popular platform for ecommerce businesses. Shopify has more than one million active users and over $46 billion worth of products sold to-date, it is a ready-made site for entrepreneurs and small business owners who want to sell their goods to customers who are already there and looking to buy.

However, as with any ecommerce site, there’s a right way and a wrong way to set up your Shopify online store in a way so as to draw in more customers. One of the right ways is to use search engine optimization (SEO) to your advantage as often as you possibly can. Here are some ways to do just that.

Validate your HTML

The World Wide Web Consortium, referred to simply as the W3 Consortium, sets HTML standards. You  should ensure your HTML codes comply with those standards so the page is validated as error-free. This means checking for any HTML errors you may be able to find, as well as looking at the codes to also sure that they will provide your desired results.

The W3 Consortium does provide a free online validator you can use to accomplish this task if you want software that takes care of this for you. This particular validator enables you to search by URI, file upload, or direct input—so you can choose the one that works best for you.

Write effective title tags

If you want to increase your rank in your consumers’ search results, one super effective way to achieve this goal is to write effective title tags for your Shopify store. Title tags are the tags that show up in the top tab of their web browser, and search engines use them to help people who are looking for a specific item.

Because title tags are so important, you benefit from taking the time to create the best ones. That being said, tags that can improve your Shopify SEO are 50 to 70 characters in length, have keywords toward the beginning, and your store’s name at the end. Do this for every product or page and you’ll show up higher in the search results.

Create detailed product descriptions

When you use good descriptors with your images on Shopify, it not only makes them easier for search engines to find, but easier for your customers to find as well. For instance, instead of labeling a necklace as just a “gold necklace,” you’d want to label it with more detail, such as “18 inch 14k gold flat mariner chain with lobster clasp.” This way, you can easily lead buyers looking for this exact product directly to it.

Image of product description from www.trunkster.co

Source: Trunkster.co

The key to making this suggestion work is to think in terms of keywords your customers are likely to use to search for the items you sell. The more of these you can use in your product descriptions, the better, for both you and them.

Optimize your images

Another easy way to improve your Shopify site’s SEO is to optimize your images. This involves compressing their size so they download faster, improving your rank because this is one factor Google looks at when determining where your page or product should fall within a person’s search results.

There are a few free online image optimizers that can help you with this, like Image Optimizer or Kraken.io. Many others exist and fourteen image optimization solutions are summarized here in this blog post on Conversion Uplift. As well as some paid versions or companies who will take care of this for you, so it’s just a matter of choosing the one that you feel most comfortable with.

You can also better optimize your images by using alt tags to describe the contents of the picture. This increases the likelihood that they’ll show up in searches conducted using Google Image. It’s easy too. Just click on the “ALT” link below your product image and enter the text there.

Use keywords

If you want your target market to find you easily, you need to use the same keywords on your Shopify website that they’d use when searching for your business or product line. Put these words and phrases in informational headers and use them naturally in your articles and blogs. Search engines will pick up on them and make it easier to connect you with your ideal customer base.

Where a lot of business owners stumble in this regard is by trying to use them too much (called “keyword stuffing”) or using them in a way that is unnatural. The search engines are smart enough to pick up on this though and can actually penalize you for this type of behavior. So, use them often enough to be relevant, but not so much that someone feels like they’re just reading a bunch of keywords strung together as opposed to stellar product descriptions or interesting, yet informational blog posts.

For more information on how to do keyword research check out our post on Conversion Uplift.

Create a sitemap

A sitemap is basically a search engine’s navigational map for your Shopify website. It tells it what pages are on your site so it can rank them more accurately, increasing the likelihood that you’ll show up in your consumer’s search results.

If you know how to code or are willing to learn via an online tutorial, you can create a sitemap for your own website. There are also various online sitemap generators that can assist you with this task. Alternatively, you could also hire this service out if you want someone else to do this for you.

Improve your SEO on Shopify and it’s like creating a road map that leads your ideal client directly to your door. They’re looking for you anyway. You might as well help them find you.

Conclusion:

To ensure your Shopfiy site and merchandise ranks as high as possible in search engines it is wise to follow the above advice. Validating your HTML will confirm if your code complies with W3 standards. Setting appropriate title tags will assist search engines to find specific merchandise on your site. You will further help yourself and your customers by providing detailed and unique product descriptions. If you only use manufacturers product descriptions the danger is that search engines won’t be able to differentiate between your site and your many competitors.

Many sites forget to optimize images by compressing files, but this can again help your ranking in search engines as they often penalize sites that are slow to load. It is also important to consider what terms or phrases customers use to search for your site or the merchandise you sell. By identifying relevant keywords you can ensure you use them naturally in your content and this will again help your search engine ranking. Finally, make sure you create and submit your Shopify sitemap to each major search engine as this helps them understand how to navigate your site.

Featured image from Shopify

5 Free Digital Tools That Every Start-Up Should Have

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When you establish a digital start-up budgets are very tight and free digital tools can help save your business. It’s essential to have visibility of how your business is performing. When I advise start-ups on how to optimise their website the first thing I do is set them up with five free digital tools to begin this process. You can’t expect to understand how to improve something unless you have feedback and you can measure it.

1. Google Analytics:

This is one of the most essential free digital tools you should get as soon as your website is ready to go live. Web analytics solutions allow you to understand more about who your visitors are (e.g. demographics and device) and also what content is most popular on your site. If you have a blog this is essential as otherwise how will you know which posts are generating most interest from your visitors.

Some of the key metrics you should be checking on GA include:

  • Mix of new to returning visitors – is your content attracting users back to your site,
  • Bounce rate – are they viewing more than one page,
  • Average time on page – how engaged are they with your content,
  • Source of traffic – how well is your SEO, social media and paid marketing working,
  • Device – what proportion of visitors use a mobile, tablet and desktop device,
  • Demographics – age, gender and interests of visitors
Demographic data from Google Analytics

Source: Google Analytics

Even if start-ups do have GA I often find they haven’t configured it properly and are getting false readings. Free digital tools may not cost you anything, but you won’t get value from them unless you invest in their set up and maintenance. Make sure you set up filters to exclude internal traffic by using your IPs and set a filter for language spam. You can also link the account to your Adwords and Adsense accounts. For more details see this post – I’ve installed Google Analytics – Now what?

There are many web analytics packages on the market, but Google Analytics is one of a few that offers free permanent access to such a comprehensive and robust analytics platform. See my article on web analytics solutions for more details of how to use GA.

2. Google Search Console 

Previously called Webmaster Tools, the Search Console is one of those free digital tools which will provide data many SEO companies will offer to sell you. Search Console a comprehensive SEO tool for understanding how your site is performing in Google Search, but also what might be holding you back in getting more organic traffic.

Image of Google Search Console Dashboard

Source: Google Search Console Dashboard

The Search Console includes a really useful dashboard (see above) which shows a graph of how many clicks your site has received from Google in the last 28 days, plus the number of site errors, including page not founds (404s) and the number of pages that have been submitted and ranked by Google.

The console has five primary navigation elements that you should be checking on a regular basis.

1. Search Appearance:

  • This is mainly more technical SEO data including structured data, rich snippets, HTML improvements and AMPs (Accelerated Mobile Pages).

2. Search Traffic:

  • This provides data on search results, including clicks, impressions, CTR and average position. In addition it also shows number of external links to your site and what they link to, internal links, security issues and mobile usability issues.

3. Google Index:

  • This shows the number of pages on your site that have been indexed, blocked resources and remove URLs.

4. Crawl:

  • This section provides data on errors detected by Googlebots and the fetch as Google function allows you to submit a URL for indexing. The sitemap tab allows you to submit a new sitemap for your site to Google.

5. Security:

  • Finally, the security tab tells you if have Google has identified any potential security problems with your site.

For more in-depth instructions see my post; How to use Google’s Search Console to improve conversions. 

3. Optimize:

In 2017 Google’s introduced Optimize its free version of its testing and personalisation solution Google Optimize 360. Optimize enables you to run up to 3 A/B tests (or multivariate tests) at a time and provides a includes a visual editor to set up simple experiments in a matter of minutes. It also allows you to run redirect experiments where you test a totally new page against the existing experience. As you would expect it integrates fully with Google Analytics.

Image of types of experiments in Google Optimize

Source: Google Optimize

This is a simple but effective testing tool for companies not intending to conduct more than five simultaneous experiments or personalisation campaigns. It’s easy to use and as free digital tools go it is ideal for start-ups that wish to use a data driven approach to website optimisation.

Read my post, How to set up and run experiments with Google Optimize for more details of this free solution.

4. Hotjar :

Hotjar is a brilliant tool as it combines behavioural analytics, such as session recordings, with easy to use visitor feedback tools. Provided you have less than 2,000 page views per day you can sign up for their free basic plan. For sites up to 10,000 page views a day the start-up plan costs only €29 a month.

Image of Hotjar dashboard

Source: Hotjar Dashboard

The session recording and replay feature is something I love because it’s like watching an un-directed usability test and they can provide some great insights into the behaviour of users on your site. However, the free plan also allows you to create up to three click, scroll and movement heat maps, a six step conversion funnel and form analytics.

Image of Hotjar movement heat map

Source: Hotjar heat map

That’s not to mention online polls, surveys to be sent to users, an incoming feedback tab and a recruiter feature for getting people to participate in user testing. This is an amazing free tool that no start-up should be without. Please read my review of Hotjar for more details.

I prefer Hotjar to Microsoft’s Clarity because it offers polls and surveys, which is something that Clarity doesn’t offer. It’s really important to get user feedback and so Hotjar gives you that option for free. Hotjar should be one of your free digital tools because it does so much more than simply offer heatmaps and session recordings.

5. MailChimp:

It’s important to remain in regular contact with your customers and prospects. Otherwise they can easily forget you even exist. Email marketing is one of the most effective and productive means of doing this. MailChimp provides a free professional email marketing service which allows you to send up to 12,000 emails a month to less than 2,000 accounts.

Image of MailChimp dashboard overview

Source: MailChimp Dashboard Overview

MailChimp has a very easy to use and informative user interface which allows you to quickly create professional looking emails. To design emails it offers 20 basic layouts and over 300 templates using drag and drop technology.

There is also an email editor for HTML and plain text alternatives to design your own template. It’s easy to import your contact list from a CSV or TXT file, copy and paste from Excel or import from an email marketing platform.

MailChimp also offers comprehensive campaign performance metrics so that you can see how many recipients received, opened and clicked on your emails. It also advises you on how many email bounced and unsubscribed. Because it easily integrates with Google Analytics you can track how well your campaigns drive traffic to your website.

MailChimp has now added autoresponders or what they refer to as automation to free accounts. These are automated emails triggered by an event such as registration, purchase or abandoned basket. This is a really useful feature that often you have to pay for to get access to. So, don’t delay, sign up to MailChimp today.

Conclusion:

These five free tools are a must for every start-up. Don’t be reliant on SEO or marketing agencies to provide these resources, you will learn much more if you use them yourself. If you do need help in setting these tools up I can offer assistance as part of my marketing consultancy service, Otherwise, don’t delay and sign up now to these invaluable tools to assist you in growing your online business.

Featured image by Fancycrave on Unsplash

SEO Services & The Scams To Avoid

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SEO Services & How To Spot SEO Scams!

On an almost daily basis I receive emails about SEO services offering to “optimise” my site and improve my Google search ranking. These SEO services often claim to guarantee to get my site at the top of the first page of Google (even though I have already achieved that), to send more visitors to my site, to fix broken links, provide site analytics and get more authoritative links to my site.

But, are many of these SEO services just a scam to get money from unsuspecting clients? Although there are many excellent SEO services available from experts. On search there are also many companies that see SEO as an easy way of exploiting a general lack of understanding of how it works.

Image of email from SEO scam agency offering guaranteed top of Google

What the hell is an “optimised site”?

Any SEO consultant who offers to quickly “optimise” your site for SEO or any other purpose is a fraud and is probably charging you a lot of money for little, if any benefit. It normally takes weeks, if not months to configure a site for SEO and to build backlinks to improve your domain authority. There is also no such thing as a “fully optimised” site. It’s like repairing the roads, the job is never really done.

For example getting back links is a costly and time consuming process. You will need a number of strategies to obtain high quality back links and this is an on-going process. If your SEO services provider guarantees to quickly obtain high quality backlinks it is likely they are either misleading you or they are using black hat SEO techniques. Such as private blog networks. Be very careful how your SEO services company gets back links. If they use techniques frowned on by Google you could end up being penalised by search engines.

Most SEO scams start with a guarantee to optimise your site and get first place on Google. Be careful about such SEO services.

80% of SEO is pure hype:

Since 24th April 2012 when Google released their “Penguin” update most of what SEO services previously did became irrelevant. Even more worrying though is that a lot of what some of these SEO services offer to do may actually harm your ranking and they certainly can’t guarantee to put you on the first page of Google.

The old tricks don’t work anymore:

Stuffing your site with keywords, content cloaking and blasting blog sites with links to your site don’t work and are more likely to get you penalised. Even keywords are much less important than before as there is evidence that Google now evaluates the content on the pages that link to your site to identify what searches you rank for rather than relying on the keywords that are on your page.

Search engine algorithms are much better than before at spotting attempts to play the system and conversely are more adept at identifying good quality and relevant content. There are still SEO best practices, but these are more about avoiding mistakes than using any tricks of the trade.

What drives SEO rankings?

Part of the problem with SEO and why so many SEO scams are circulating is that Google and the other search engines don’t publish exactly what gets you a high page ranking. However, SEM Rush have conducted extensive research to identify what drives SEO search rankings. This shows that direct website visits, time on the site and pages per session are the strongest factors in influencing search ranking.

Close behind these factors are factors that SEO services can directly influence. These include referring domains, total backlinks to your site and referring IPs. SEM Rush 2017 report on SEO ranking factors

Image Source: SEM Rush, 2017.

Most basic tools are free:

For many of the genuine aspects of SEO there are free tools available that you can easily access. I’ve previously written a post on how to use Google’s Search Console. This is a great free tool that will answer most of the questions you may have about the performance of your site including; crawl errors (e.g. page not found – 404s), external links to your content, average page rank, clicks, impressions and structured data errors.

Google Analytics is also free and allows you to identify your most popular content and track page speed and conversion goals. If you have the time and resource there is no need to pay SEO agencies lots of money to identify where your problems exist.

Why don’t SEO services tell you this?

People have a made a lot of money out of SEO and continue to do so and so why would they admit they add little, if any, value? There may also be an illusion of skill for some SEO agencies that psychologist Daniel Kahneman sums it up nicely:

“Facts that challenge such basic assumptions – and thereby threaten people’s livelihood and self-esteem – are simply not absorbed.” Daniel Kahneman in Thinking, fast and slow

This is not only a waste of money it is quite dangerous for companies. By measuring metrics that don’t influence your bottom line (e.g. Likes and Shares), people can’t stop themselves optimising campaigns using such meaningless targets (see Cobra Effect).

A lot of investment has also been made into SEO and optimisation. Due to our tendency not to want to admit when we have made bad decisions (see Sunk Cost Fallacy), people often carry on with behaviour even when there is no evidence to support it.

12 SEO services and scams to look out for:

1. Guaranteed Rankings:

It is not possible to guarantee a #1 ranking on Google as their algorithms are far too complex for any SEO services agency to play the system and definitely deliver a sustainable first place on Google. The only way SEO services can often achieve this is to get you ranking on some obscure long-tail keyword phrase that no one searches for.

2. They don’t detail how the will improve your organic traffic:

Many SEO “experts” claim they have “secret” SEO strategies and don’t detail what exactly they are going to do to improve your ranking or traffic levels. Any legitimate SEO services agency should outline in detail tasks they will undertake and agree some targets to measure their level of success.

Image of how I more than doubled organic traffic using content marketing strategy

For example in October 2016 I implemented a new content marketing strategy and by the beginning of 2017 my organic traffic had more than doubled. I knew exactly what my plan was and also had the analytics in place to measure the impact of my new strategy. Any SEO services agency who can’t tell you what they plan to do is probably thinking of using black hat SEO techniques that will get you penalised or banned by the major search engines.

Here are a few of the SEO scams that try to leave back links on my site on a daily basis. They don’t even have the intelligence to hide their intent.

Image of comments on blog from SEO scam companies

3. Offer free trial SEO services:

Genuine SEO services work is time consuming and takes weeks, if not months to deliver results. No genuine SEO company is going to offer this for free and if they also ask for access to your admin area or hosting account I would be very concerned about their motives.

4. SEO services claim a special relationship with Google or an employee at Google.

This is definitely a scam as Google can’t be seen to have a “special relationship” with any SEO services agency and so this will be a simple lie.

5. Offer to submit your site to hundreds of search engines.

In the UK Google, Bing, Yahoo and AOL account for over 95% of searches and so why waste time worrying about other niche search engines?

6. Low priced SEO:

As I have already mentioned genuine SEO services is time consuming and labour intensive and so anyone who offers to do it at a very low cost is either having you on or they won’t do a very good job for you. Concentrate on learning how to use Google Search Console and Google Analytics for free and you will save yourself a lot of money.

7. We understand Google Algorithms and are algorithm experts:

Search engine algorithms are very complex, dynamic and are frequently updated and so it is virtually impossible to understand for certain how they will rank your site for a specific search query. Research by SEO services experts like SEM Rush is your most reliable source of information on why most influences SEO rankings.

8. SEO services can submit your site to well-known directories:

Some SEO services agencies offer to manually submit your site to various directories. This is another scam as this is the internet; the vast majority of people use Google not directories to find a service or a product they are looking for. Online directories offer poor quality backlinks and may end up getting you penalised by search engines.

9. SEO services can submit new content to search engines:

Continuously submitting your site to Google is a complete waste of time as it won’t influence your ranking. If you have new content you can submit it to Google for instance using their free Search Console.

Image of Fetch as Google from Search Console

10. We are partners with Google or work with someone at Google:

Google can’t be seen to partner with any SEO services company and nor would any employee want to risk their jobs by illegally working with any such firms.

11. SEO services companies that want ownership of your content:

You should never give up ownership of your content to an SEO services agency as you should retain ownership of anything you pay for.

12. You pay for a monthly SEO package:

Monthly SEO packages can be a great money spinner for unscrupulous agencies. Before signing up ensure you have agreed a suitable number of hours per month that the agency will work on your site and get them to specify in detail the tasks they will undertake for you. Further, agree some targets for quality links and an increase in traffic to ensure you get value for money. Any SEO services agency that is not willing to comply with these requests is not worth dealing with.

Conclusion:

OK, so genuine SEO services can be valuable for a site. However, the key here is to agree objectives that have clear benefits and set performance targets to ensure you get value for money. Avoid signing up with any SEO services agencies that use any of the above tactics as they are likely to be poor value for money and could actually damage your search engine rankings.

If you can, educate yourself about SEO practices to allow you to take greater control over organic traffic generation. Further, remember that what your visitors and Google want is great content and that should be your priority. Everything else, including SEO, should be secondary to the content. If you focus on quality content in the first place then SEO may largely take care of itself as good content will attract external links and social media mentions and shares.

How To use Google Search Console To Boost Conversions

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Google Search Console is Free!

When I advise start-ups on conversion rate optimisation the first thing I do is set them up with Google Search Console tool (previously Google Webmaster Tools). Unlike many free solutions Google Search Console provides webmasters with a comprehensive set of tools. It informs and improves a site’s performance from an SEO, user experience and conversion rate perspective.

What is the Search Console?

Google Search Console is a fantastic free site performance tool that seeks to give webmasters the information they need to effectively manage and improve their digital experience. Without this tool set up you will be largely in the dark about many aspects of your site’s performance. Many companies end up paying a lot of money to SEO agencies for tasks that they could manage themselves.

Once you have Google Search Console set up you will be in a much stronger position to set SEO targets to improve your SERP’s ranking. It will also help you identify many of the issues that might be holding your site back in Google search. It can also help you identify and fix your user experience problems.

How do I set up Google Search Console?

All you need to do is login into an appropriate Google account and go to webmasterstools/home and “Add a property” within the Search Console. Then follow the simple instructions to confirm your ownership of the site.

The easiest way of doing this is often inserting some code into the header of your site before the closing </head> tag. Alternatively, if you have Google Analytics on your site you can also use that to validate your ownership of the site. If you get into difficulties just contact your website builder or designer for assistance.

Initially you won’t have any search data to look at but you can check the console for any signs of errors or usability issues identified by Googlebots. These are the programs or spiders that Google uses to crawl your site to understand the type of content you have and index pages for Google search.

The Google Search Console Dashboard:

The dashboard of Google Search Console provides a useful overview of the health of your site. This includes site and DNS errors, server connectivity issues, URL errors, page not found (404s), and a graph of the total clicks over the latest 28 days. This is great, but you can get much more detail about your site by digging into the left-hand navigation menu.

Image of Google Search Console Dashboard
Source: Google Search Console

Search Appearance:

This includes structured data which helps Google understand the mark-up of your pages. It can add rich snippets (or Schema.org) and other information to your search result. Rich snippets describes the structured data mark-up that webmasters add to HTML. This enables search engines to better understand what type of information is present on a web page. Rich snippets are the visible result of structured data that appears in SERPs.

Image of Data Highlights page from Search Console
Source: Google Search Console

You can add structured data to your site using a plugin for WordPress.org such as JSON-LD. You can also add structured data to your page using the Data Highlighter tool (see above). Which you can access in the Search appearance section of the navigation.

Rich cards provide data to Google about events, products, or opportunities on your site. Google has five types of rich cards; recipes, events, products, reviews and courses. Google Search Console provides sample mark-up for each type of card and a Structured Data Testing Tool to validate your mark-up.

The HTML Improvements tab informs you about any issues related to your page tags. Whether it is missing title tags, duplicate title tags and whether title tags are too long or short.

Accelerated Mobile Pages provides you with data on errors relating to your AMPs. It informs you how many AMPs have been indexed by Google. It also allows you to test AMPs and submit them to Google for indexing.

Image of Accelerated Mobile Page test in Search Console
Source: Google Search Console

Search Traffic:

Under this section you can view Search Analytics which provides data on search results, including keywords, clicks, impressions, CTR and average position. This information is essential for understanding how successful you are with SEO and identifying key words where you have good authority. Use the data on your average ranking for keyword phrases to inform new content development. Build on areas where you have good authority and understand which words have the most potential from a volume perspective.

Image of Search Analytics in Search Console
Source: Google Search Console

This section also shows how many external links there are to your site and who is linking to what content. This information is crucial in understanding how effective your link building strategy is and also what content other sites are most interested in. External links (called back links) are important to your SEO strategy because they are one of the few ways that Google can tell how well regarded your content is to other web users. It also helps direct more traffic to your site and explains why so much effort is put into link building.

About Google

Be careful about placing links to your site on random blogs. Google is looking for links from sites with a good authority and may potentially penalise you if it becomes aware of such activity. However, where you are getting lots of external links to your content from good authority sites. You should explore creating more content on this topic to capitalise on the interest shown. Some black hat SEO’s find this process so time consuming and difficult that they create private blog networks to control the whole process themselves.

Search Analytics also provides additional information on internal links, security issues, international targeting (useful for segmenting content by language) and mobile usability issues identified by Google. Mobile usability is especially important to monitor as Google continues to give more and more priority to mobile users.

Google Index:

Index status confirms the number of pages on your site that Google has indexed and so can be found via the search engine. Blocked resources tells you about pages where the Googlebot can’t access important elements on your page. Google may not be able to accurately index the page. Remove URL allows you to hide URLs from search engines as the page may contain out-of-date information or may just be obsolete for whatever reason.

Crawl:

The Crawl section of Google Search Console provides you with data on errors detected by Googlebots when crawling your site. Although page not founds (404 errors) may not harm your SEO ranking it can damage the customer experience. It is important to monitor crawl errors on a regular basis.

Generally I would advise initially deleting all the page not founds for both desktop and mobile. You can then check back in a few days to see which ones have been replicated since you removed them from the console. Many 404 errors don’t recur as they are not even correct URLs and so this way you can concentrate on those that matter.

This section also shows how many pages on average are crawled by the Googlebot. But don’t wait for the Googlebot to crawl your site if you have new or revised content to index. Use the Fetch as Google function below to test how Google crawls and renders a page on your site. This identifies whether Googlebot can access a page on your site and you can then submit the URL for indexing. This is especially useful for a rapidly changing site as you don’t want Google displaying old or out-of-date content.

Image of Fetch as Google from Search Console
Source: Google Search Console

Robot.txt Tester

The Robot.txt tester allows you to edit your robot.txt file and check for errors. Robot.txt files tell Google which parts of your site you don’t want to be crawled and indexed by a search engine. The Sitemap tab allows you to submit a new sitemap to Google which helps it to understand how your site is structured and assists in the indexing of individual pages by Google. It also tracks how many pages you have submitted for indexing and how many pages Google actually indexes.

The Security Issue tab shows if Google has detected any potential security problems with your site. If your site is hacked then Google provides a number of resources to help resolve the problem.

Finally, the Additional Resources tab includes 9 links to free resources such as Email Markup Tester, PageSpeed Insights, Google My Business and Custom Search. Check these out as a number of them can help improve your search engine marketing and grow your organic search traffic.

Conclusion:

When seeking to improve your SEO performance Google Search Console should be your first port of call. There is little point in spending money on an SEO agency until you have fully digested what the Search Console is telling you. Even if you decide you don’t have the time or expertise to resolve all the issues identified by this tool. Use Google Search Console to inform and prioritise objectives for your agency to follow. Furthermore, use Google Search Console to monitor your SEO performance over time. A successful strategy should be capable of improving key metrics over time.

5 Reasons To Build Business Blogs Today

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Blogs are dead.

Is it true? Yes, big companies are abandoning their blogs, probably because the ROI is difficult to calculate and shareholders complain too much.

No, blogging is no more extinct than the last time it was declared a dead donkey. Hasn’t social media marketing taken over? Forget it. Social media is for fun, not solving urgent needs.

Blogs win the conversion battle every time. A business blog is still the most efficient way for a small company to generate prospects and then to convert them into buyers.

1. Improving Google Search Results

Blogs are good for search results in many ways.

Each new blog post means that you have another indexed page on Google’s computers. The more text you have on your site, the more likely it is that Google will judge it as a good match for a given search query and this will improve your SEO footprint.

Google also takes more notice of recent website posts than ones from the golden age of steam. Frequently updated blog posts are the best way to achieve better search engine results pages (SERPS).

Ranking higher in Google is more than just a vanity metric. If you rank higher, you get more clicks, more traffic, and more leads.

2. Bringing You More Traffic

blogs
Source – PDF download

The chart above is from a Hubspot report that you can download for free. It shows that sites with more pages get more traffic. A blog is the best way to grow your site gradually and naturally.

A blog post is a magnet that keeps on pulling, forever.

Image of chart showing proportion of contacts generated by recent and previous posts
Source: Hubspot

This Hubspot chart shows this magnetic effect. Every post you write adds to the overall lead-attracting power that your blog has. Your old posts will still rank in search engines and bring in new leads 12 months down the line.

3. Building Your Reputation

This Forbes post gives various ways to increase your reputation. The one that stands out is “Go out of your way to help others reach their goals.” This is how your blog helps your rep.

People read your blog for what they get out of it. If you are writing to help people, then they will have more regard for you and will be more likely to buy your services than those of a less helpful competitor.

Some companies spend millions building a brand that is instantly recognizable in an attempt to link brand and reputation. Blogging is not free because of the time and resources you need to do it well, but it is a lower cost option than social media and television advertising campaigns.

You don’t need to establish your brand/reputation with everyone on the entire planet who breathes. You only need to reach your niche consumers, and that can be done for less than you think by blogging.

4. Building Your Email List

If you have an email list, then you can use an email marketing platform to send them marketing emails. There are as many statistics relating to the positive ROI of emails as there are fish in the sea. Here are just a few, including “For every $1 spent, $44.25 is the average return on email marketing investment. – EmailExpert “[Infographic] 10 Must Know Email Marketing Stats 2014” (2014)”

If someone subscribes to receive your emails, then that person is interested in your services. The act of subscribing filters out the time-wasters from those who are serious.

Having a helpful blog is the best way to encourage prospects to subscribe to your emails.

5. Building Customer Relationships

Nobody buys from someone they don’t trust. To build trust, you need to build a relationship with each client.

Building trust takes time and many marketing ‘touches’. Buyers need to feel they know you and like you before they eventually trust you.

Blog subscribers will see your focus on fixing problems that they and other readers have. Their respect for you will grow, especially when they see you responding to comments on your blog posts.

Starting

You may well be short of time, but your business needs a blog. This Conversion-Uplift post describes how a blog and social media campaigns can work together. You need to use both channels, just like you need nuts as well as bolts to build anything from a construction kit.

The time to make new posts to your blog is significant, but so are the leads that it will bring. Another screenshot from Hubspot’s free and downloadable Marketing Benchmarks Report makes the point very well.

The more pages on your blog, the more business leads you will get.

Image of chart that shows how much more traffic a site with 51 to 100 pages gets compared to one with a site with 50 or fewer pages
Source – Free PDF

How To Do Keyword Research!

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Keyword research remains an essential part of SEO strategy for both organic and paid traffic optimisation. With the Hummingbird update long-tail keywords became more important to SEO. As a result keyword research needs to consider optimising a website on a semantic level to inform a site’s architecture and segment site topics into thematic areas. It’s important to allow for how search engine spiders crawl sites to deliver relevant content on the search engine results page (SERPs).

This has made keyword research more complex but it is still an important element of SEO strategy. Below are 18 of the more popular keyword tools that are often recommended by SEO experts. But first here is a 6 step guide to how to do keyword research:

1. Identify important topics to your business.

Draw up a list of all the important and relevant topics that relate to your business. Start with general topics (e.g. landing page optimisation & web analytics) for your keyword research.

2. Produce a list of keywords for general topic.

These should be keyword phrases that you consider, it will be important to rank on SERPs. The key here is to capture all your ideas as this won’t be the final list of keywords. Remember to use your web analytics to identify what keywords your site is already getting found for.

3. Examine related search terms.

Go to Google and start typing one of your phrases and see what related search terms are suggested by Google. These suggestions may generate more ideas for new keywords that you hadn’t previously considered. You can also take them a step further by typing some of the related search terms into Google to see what their related search terms are.

4. A mix of head terms & long-tail keywords.

Head terms are short keyword phrases, usually one to three words. Long-tail keywords tend to contain three or more words. People generally search using head terms more frequently and so they tend to be more competitive and harder to rank compared to long-tail terms. On the other hand long-tail terms are more specific and give you a better understanding of what people are really looking for. For this reason your keyword research needs a good mix of both types of terms.

5. How do your competitors rank on keywords?

Undertaking keyword research into what your competitors are targeting is useful from two perspectives. It can provide ideas for reviewing your own list of keywords. Additionally, where you are both targeting the same keyword it means that you may have to work harder to improve your own ranking.

However, don’t just copy the keywords that your competitors target, they may not always be relevant and it will also make it more difficult to improve your rankings. By targeting keywords that your competitors are ignoring may give you a quick win by allowing you establish high ranking for these terms due to a lack of competition. Use tools like SEMrush and others outlined below to find out which keywords your competitors are ranking on.

6. Keyword list reduction.

Use tools such as Google AdWords Keyword Planner to reduce the number of terms in your list. This will help to ensure you are focussed on terms that have reasonable number of searches (i.e. neither too little or too much). Use Google Trends to find out their trend history and forecasts so that you don’t remove terms that have potential in the future.

18 Awesome Keyword Research Tools:

1. AuthorityLabs:

Track historical rankings and view graphical representation of how a keyword is ranking over time. Allows you to automate your SEO monitoring, track local rankings and recover (not provided) keywords.

30 day Free trail for keyword research is available. The Basic plan is priced at $24 a month and offers 100 keywords and up to10 domains. The Plus plan costs $49 a month for up to 250 keywords and 50 domains. The Pro, their most popular plan costs $99 a month for 1,000 keywords and 100 domains. The Enterprise plan starts at $450 a month for 5,000 + keywords and unlimited domains.

2. Bing Keyword Research Tool:

All data is based on organic searchers over the last 6 months and provides ideas and suggestions for your content. Just sign up for Bing Webmaster Tools to access the keyword research resource.

3. Blog Post Headline Analyzer:

This Free tool is from CoSchedule and will analyse headlines for length, how powerful or emotionally engaging the words are, how uncommon the words are and provide recommendations to improve your headline.

4. Google Adwords Keyword Planner:

A Free Adwords keyword research tool that allows you to search for keyword and ad group ideas, get historical data, see how a list of keywords might perform and set up a new keyword list by multiplying several keywords together.

5. Google Keyword Suggest Tool:

An easy to use keyword research tool from SEOChat.com for identifying longer and more specific phrases to narrow targeting. Enter a term and it will generate a list of the most popular keyword phrases that all begin with the base word – using Google, Amazon, YouTube and Bing “suggest” data bases. The tool generates phrases for every letter of the alphabet. Choose a phrase and then move to the next step to generate more phrases.

6. Google Trends:

Is a Free keyword research tool that allows you to view what people have been searching for with Google. It graphs how often a term is used over time and how this varies geographically. It allows you to generate predictions of how search volumes are changing. You can also compare more than one term to view their relative popularity.

7. iSpionage:

Provides insights into competitors’ effective keywords, ad copy and budget. A highly recommended tool for finding out what your competitors are up to.

Free trial available for all plans. For keyword research the Silver plan costs $69 a month with unlimited searches and 10,000 data exports a day. The Gold plan comes in at $99 a month for unlimited searches, 50,000 data exports a day and 10 competitor alerts. For additional services such as daily landing page and web page monitoring, the Campaign plans costs $129 (Pro) and $299 (Premier) a month.

8. Keyword Discovery Tool:

One of the most popular keyword research tools that provides keyword search statistics from all the major search engines. It will provide the search phrases that people use to find a product or service. It should help you identify the search terms driving traffic to your competitors.

The Standard plan is currently at a special discount price of $29.95 per month for up to 3 domain research results and 20 projects. The Professional plan costs $199.95 per month for up to 100 domains and unlimited number of projects. Both plans allow up to 1,500 searches a day, with 1,000 results displayed and 10,000 terms per project.

9. Keyword Multiplier Tool (Clever Clicks):

This is a free keyword research tool that allows you to generate a list of all possible keyword phrases. Just type in your list of keywords and the tool will produce a list of every phrase variation possible.

A simple tool that requires you to enter the following information :
1: Primary keywords
2: Secondary keywords
3: Location

10. KeywordTool.io:

The Free version is excellent for finding out what people are looking for as it produces around 750 suggestions for each keyword. The suggestions generated depend on the specific Google domain and language that you select.

The Pro plans start from $48 a month and offer:

  • Up to 1,440+ keywords from Google and YouTube, 1,875+ from Bing, 3,750+ from App Store returned for a single search.
  • On average 2x more keywords than in free version
  • Google search volume
  • Level of competition on Google AdWords
  • Suggested bid on Google AdWords
  • Ability to export all the data to a CSV file
  • Ability to sort keywords by any parameter

The Lite plan ($48 a month) offers 2 times more keywords than the free plan and the ability to export data in CSV. The Pro Basic ($68 a month) also gives you search volumes to understand how popular a keyword is. In addition Pro Plus ($88 a month) provides CPC and competition on AdWords.

11. searchmetrics:

Essentials is their standard keyword research tool. The suggest function will show you where the specified domain ranks for a particular keyword, plus you can add and tag keywords using the tool.

The Essentials plan costs $69 a month for limited access to their database, $2,000, up to 1 year of visibility history, up to 3 countries, up to 10,000 rankings per report and current historic keyword rankings.

The Suite Business ($2,000 a month) is an integrated SEO solution built for smaller brands and beginners. This provides complete visibility history, all countries, up to 20,000 rankings per report and historic keyword rankings for the last 6 months. Additionally this provides content and site structure optimization, extensive backlink analysis and other services.

Prices for their Suite Enterprise and Suite Ultimate plans can be obtained by request.

12. SEMRUSH:

The industry standard keyword research tool identifies your main competitors based upon the keywords you plan to target. Click on your competitors and it will show you what other keywords they target ad to and the ad copy they use. Highly recommended for seeing who your top paid and organic competitors are for the keywords you plan to use.

It allows you to easily combine and visualise SEMrush data to compare competitive domains and estimate keyword difficulty. For projects it enables you to launch global campaigns and view all the key metrics regarding competitors, keyword rankings, and on-page health in once place.

Plans start from $69.95 per month for Pro which offers 10,000 results per report, 3,000 reports per day, 5 projects and the ability to track 500 keywords. The Guru plan which costs $149.95 per month provides up to 30,000 results per report, 5,000 reports a day, up to 50 projects and the ability to track 1,500 keywords.

Finally, the Business plan comes in at $549.95 per month and delivers up to 50,000 results per report, 10,000 reports per day (for each of 4 users), unlimited projects and resources for tracking up to 6,000 keywords.

13. Soovle:

A very easy to use and Free keyword research tool which generates a list of the best keywords by analysing search engines Google, Wikipedia, Amazon, Answers.com, YouTube, Bing and Yahoo!

14. Spyfu:

A great tool for identifying all the places where your competitors show up on Google. It will show you all their keywords and the ad variations they have employed. Excellent for understanding your competitors’ most profitable keywords.

The Basic plan costs $79 a month with unlimited keyword and domain results, track up to 400 keywords, over 9 years of AdWords and organic history, and 250 sales leads and domain contacts. Professional costs $139 per month, and offers everything in the Basic plan in addition to rank tracking of up to 800 keywords and access to their API.

Lastly the Agency plan is priced at $999 per month and delivers unlimited custom reporting and keyword rank tracking. Further, you can search monthly data which allows you to track a domain’s weekly rank updates on keywords that you select. You can save up to 47% on the cost of a plan by choosing an annual subscription.

15. StoryBase:

StoryBase have spent 3 years creating this very easy to use keyword tool. It now has more than 5 billion long-tail keywords, 100 million question keywords and 2 billion related LSI keywords.

A free plan is available for a single user with to 10 searches a month, 15 results per search and one list. A starter plan for a single user costs just $9 a month with unlimited searches, up to 400 results per search and ten lists. The Premium plan for up to 5 users costs $79 per month for unlimited searches, up to 1,000 results per search, 1,000 lists and offers priority support.

16. Tinyranker:

A simple, but flexible all-in-one SEO tool. As well as keyword analysis, Tinyranker provides for tracking keyword rankings, on-page SEO and competitor keyword rankings.

30 day free trial available for all plans. Prices start from $19 a month for up to 100 keywords. An agency plan is available for $119 a month for up 2000 keywords.

17. Ubersuggest:

A simple and Free keyword research suggestion tool that begins to pull in keyword suggestions from Google and other sources the second you start to type. Often used for PPC and SEO keyword research.

18. WordStream’s Free Keyword Suggestion Tool:

A Free tool that allows you to run a limited number of searches in its massive keyword database. A fast tool which holds over 1 trillion keywords in its database. Excellent for long-tail keyword suggestions.