HTML Sitemap: The Benefits for SEO and Users

Well-executed technical SEO means making your website crawlable. An HTML sitemap is the key to success. Search engines read your sitemap and use it to crawl your site — meaning they send a bot to the webpage to “read” it. Google bot and other search engine crawlers then determine what’s on that page.

This is the first step in getting your page to show up in search results. Basically, the HTML sitemap helps search engines categorize your website, making it more accessible for search engines and humans alike. Below, we explain just what a sitemap is and how to create one.

What Is an HTML Sitemap?

An HTML sitemap is a file that lists all the important pages of your website that you want search engines like Google and Bing to index. Indexing refers to how search engines gather your landing pages and store them in their database. The search engine refers to this database to respond to user search engine queries. If a homepage is not indexed, it can’t be found and won’t rank in search engine results.

The sitemap doesn’t just list the pages on your website. It also contains information about each page, such as when it was created and last updated and its significance relative to the website’s other pages. Creating a sitemap is a critical first SEO step for new websites. However, even if you have an older website, it’s worth making a sitemap.

Google recommends sitemaps for large websites of more than 500 pages, but most experts agree it’s worth establishing a sitemap as soon as you create a website.

Why? Your website isn’t stagnant. It’s constantly evolving. For example, if you have a blog, you’re probably adding new pages every week. As you add pages, having a sitemap will make it easier for search engine robots to find and categorize those pages.

HTML Sitemap vs. XML Sitemap: What Is the Difference?

There are two main types of sitemaps: HTML and XML. Hypertext markup language (HTML) and extensible markup language (XML) are two coding languages used to create webpages.

When it comes to sitemaps, the main difference is that HTML sitemaps focus on making the website more user-friendly for humans, while XML sitemaps are written solely for search engine spiders (crawlers).

Benefits of an HTML Sitemap

Given that search engine spiders prioritize XML sitemaps for fast crawling, you might wonder why you should bother with an HTML sitemap. After all, the spiders are what determine how and if the page is indexed and ranked.

However, don’t forget that Google also factors in user experience when ranking websites. By showing the search engine giant an HTML sitemap, you demonstrate your website’s user-friendly functionality.

Aside from making your website more user-friendly and improving its SEO ranking, an HTML sitemap has other benefits:

  • Organize large websites: The sitemap essentially serves as a directory for all webpages, allowing users to quickly find what they’re looking for.
  • Make it easier for search engines to categorize your content: To properly rank your content, search engines need to know what it’s about.
  • Easily add new content to dynamic sites: Sitemaps are critical for websites that change frequently. When you add a page, a look at your sitemap tells you where it logically fits.
  • Find internal linking opportunities: Your sitemap also allows you to quickly identify internal links, which are also critical to improving SEO.
  • Identify areas to improve site navigation: You can also use your sitemap to see how you can improve your website’s overall navigation. This can be handy if you have an older site with a lot of archived content that isn’t well organized.

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How Do I Make an HTML Sitemap?

Talk of a markup language like HTML might make you think, “I’m not a coder!” and immediately write off the possibility of creating an HTML sitemap. However, it’s very easy to create a sitemap, and you don’t have to be a coding whiz. There are two ways to make a sitemap: using a CMS plug-in or manually.

Whichever route you choose, once your sitemap is complete, submit your sitemap to Google Search Console for indexing. Input your domain and verify ownership, as directed by Google.

You can then access a search console dashboard. On the left-hand side, you’ll find a “Crawl” section. Click on “Sitemaps” and “Add/Test Sitemap.” The tool will flag any errors.

Once these are fixed, click submit, and Google will ensure your website is indexed.

Use a Plug-In With Your CMS

You can use a plug-in for your website’s content management system (CMS) to create a sitemap. If you use WordPress, download the Hierarchical HTML Sitemap plug-in or Sitemap plug-in.

Create a new page for your website labeled “Sitemap.” Then, follow the plug-in instructions to add the HTML shortcode to the page. Publish when you’re done.

There are different plug-ins for other CMSs, like Joomla (e.g., JSitemap) and Drupal (e.g., Site map module).

Add a New Page Manually

If your site is smaller (100 pages or fewer), you can create a sitemap manually. Make a list of all the links on your website and organize them according to pages and subpages. You can also use the sitemap generator XML-Sitemaps.com.

What Does an HTML Sitemap Look Like?

Are you still confused about sitemaps? Seeing an example of one can clarify matters. Here is a peek at the sitemap for Target Careers: – Read more

7 Ways SEO & PPC Can Work Together in 2021

If your SEO (search engine optimization) and PPC (pay per click) teams exist in complete silos, it’s time to change that.

Commonly held opposing viewpoints are: PPC is too complex, and SEO is too slow. (For the record, I don’t agree.)

When these two teams collaborate, you’ll be rewarded with magical insights, learnings, and results that neither team could get on its own.

These channels aren’t meant to be siloed, and getting them aligned is one of the most underrated ways to improve your overall digital marketing performance.

PPC is one of SEO’s most powerful tools — and vice versa. Here are seven ways to thrive in both SEO and PPC.

1. Avoid paid keyword traps.

Sharing keyword intelligence is a standard best practice. Sometimes, certain types of keywords can have subtle differences, and end up aligning to the wrong intent. It’s important to understand the intent behind search terms, because you want to avoid keyword traps.

SEO-focused marketers are the masters of understanding search intent, and therefore collaboration between SEO and SEM is critical.

For example, the restaurant POS software, Toast, is bidding on “phone systems for restaurants” but they don’t sell phone systems! They’re broad match bidding on terms containing “restaurant.”

search results for phone systems for restaurants

This is why Google has become a modern day casino for advertisers. The marketing team at Toast is gambling on the mere possibility that restaurant managers seeking a phone system might also be in the market for POS software.

While it might work, the potential for bleeding is likely. That said, Toast is venture-backed and valued at $4.9B, so this is probably a gamble they’re comfortable taking.

You need to study the search results closely if you want to master the art of understanding keyword intent. Google often signals their own interpretation of a search term, based on the types of results.

For example, if you Google “sales funnel” the search engine results page (SERP) indicates you’re looking for the definition of a sales funnel.

The results are largely definition style SEO pages, and therefore it’s obvious that a product page wouldn’t rank for this query.

search results for sales funnel

Let’s examine another example of a keyword trap. If you perform a Google search for “online training” you’re going to see two vastly different results in the ads.

  • Cisco – Virtual Classroom Solutions
  • Udemy – Best Selling Online Courses
search results for online training

These are two wildly different search intents. How do you know if a searcher wants online training software versus online courses? There’s no way to be 100% certain.

However, the organic results are overwhelmingly online course companies such as Udemy, Lynda, and Coursera. The people also ask box is hinting at the search intent, because most of the questions are about online training.

people also ask box

Based on what the organic listings are showing, I would conclude that Cisco’s ad is largely irrelevant. They might get lucky and grab some clicks, but they’re probably losing money on this ad set.

Now, the question becomes, do they care? Probably not. After all, they’re a $180B market cap, which means Cisco can afford to continue making Google rich.

search result for cisco market cap

What about the small guys? This is where SMBs have a tremendous disadvantage, and can’t afford to bleed on paid ads like the behemoths. For that reason, I would recommend startups prioritize SEO efforts in order to avoid the royal rumble of paid ads with giant companies like Cisco.

Let’s also examine “sms marketing examples” where Mobile Monkey nails the search intent with this page, and gets rewarded with the organic featured snippet. Meanwhile, advertisers are off the mark.

  • Vonage – hoping that a subset of searchers might be interested in APIs for SMS.
  • Remarkety – hoping that a subset of searchers might be interested in SMS marketing solutions.
featured snippet search result for sms marketing examples

What’s the bottom line?

SEOs will habitually review SERP signals to make sure the content they publish matches with Google’s organic search results, and ultimately delivers a high degree of satisfaction with regard to searcher task accomplishment.

Is your content helping searchers accomplish the task they need to complete?

This is particularly useful when there are potential keyword traps — words and phrases that sound good, but have dual meanings or a mismatched intent.

If potential dual meanings exist in your industry, SEOs will catch them. All that’s left to do is to get them to share their insights with your PPC team.

2. Share PPC insights on best performing headlines and descriptions.

When your SEO team decides to pursue a new keyword, it can be months before they see measurable results. If it was the right keyword and phrase to target, that’s success.

But if click-through rate (CTR) and engagement is low — even if it ranks on page one — you’ve now spent your time and budget running circles in an SEO hamster wheel. And, by the way, CTR is an indirect SEO ranking factor.

SEM is the exact opposite. You’ll know whether or not PPC ad copy is working — usually within a matter of days with low investment. So you might consider using PPC to get fast, short-term results, and use those insights to fuel your larger SEO strategy.

Test as many ad copy variations as possible, until you have the data that will support your SEO campaigns.

Here are some things you can test:

  • Headlines, title tags, and description copy.
  • Keywords and topics.
  • Specific keyword angles.
  • Landing page variations.
  • New product messaging.

PPC campaign results will reveal each headline’s impact on clicks, time on page, bounce rate, goal completions, and other meaningful engagement signals. If you run longer tests, you can also learn how a specific keyword’s demand fluctuates from month to month, which will help you set more accurate expectations with your SEO team.

Use PPC insights to choose the best topics, write and optimize your headlines and meta descriptions, and align to your audience’s needs and expectations.

3. Optimize your landing pages to reap both SEO and PPC benefits.

Spending money on paid ads without running efficient landing page tests could result in tons of wasted money and effort. 

The benefits of optimizing your landing pages are fairly obvious: you don’t burn precious marketing dollars on ineffective content experiences.

If you’re looking for more in-depth specifics on creating landing pages that convert, I would recommend checking out 19 of the Best Landing Page Design Examples You Need to See in 2020.

Ultimately, SEO & PPC teams must align their most valuable assets —landing pages.

3 important actions need to happen:

  1. You have a noindexed, conversion focused landing page built for PPC advertising. Your main goal conversions are going to be form completions, demo requests, live chat inquiries, etc.
  2. You are working with the SEO and CRO teams to build new landing page variants with intelligent hypotheses. Your goal is to split test these pages and monitor the results.
  3. You are working with the SEO team to create a separate asset, which is longer-form and educational, on the same topic for which you want to drive organic visibility.

Ultimately, marketers should craft a surround sound search engine marketing strategy.

Say, for example, a shopper searches for your brand or product name, clicks on your PPC ad, stays for a minute, and then exits the page.

Days later, they search for guides to help them choose a solution, which leads them to an educational piece of content you produced on that same topic.

As they click around, browse, and scroll through the online listings, your brand is on their radar. They get used to your tone, visuals, and messaging. If they liked what they saw through your PPC ads, they’ll look for your name in a sea of organic listings the next time — and vice versa.

In brand marketing, what gets repeated gets remembered, and what gets remembered, gets done.

SEO expert, Rand Fishkin, wrote about the ludicrously powerful influence of brand repetition in his 2020 election recap article: – Read more

12 Important SEO KPIs You Should Track

The Importance of Properly Tracking KPIs

Goals and KPIs are among the most important parts of your SEO strategy, yet one of the most commonly overlooked areas.

Without KPIs, you will not be able to effectively track your campaign’s progress and ensure that your efforts are paying off or determine if you are on the right track towards success.

It is no hidden secret that SEO takes time to deliver results and returns, but by setting KPIs (key performance indicators), you can be in a better position to demonstrate the impact that your strategy is having on business.

They can also help you to manage expectations with other stakeholders. SEO KPIs should form the basis of your strategy and act as a way to both measure and report on success and progression, but you need to know what you should be measuring. 

In the guide below, I will help you understand the most important KPIs you should be using.

Specifically, we will cover:

  • 12 SEO KPIs You Need To Track
    • 1. ROI
    • 2. Conversions (Sales and Leads)
    • 3. Organic Visibility
    • 4. Organic Sessions
    • 5. Branded vs. Non-Branded Traffic
    • 6. Keyword Rankings
    • 7. Backlinks
    • 8. Organic CTR
    • 9. Bounce Rate
    • 10. Average Time on Page
    • 11. Coverage Issues
    • 12. PageSpeed

12 SEO KPIs You Need To Track

It can be confusing to know which KPIs you should be tracking to see a regular snapshot of how your SEO campaign is progressing, so we have rounded up 12 that we think are essential to keep a close eye on.

These are metrics that give you an overall view of how your efforts are paying off, allowing you to demonstrate the impact you are having while also spotting any issues before they turn into problems. 

1. ROI

For almost every business, an SEO strategy’s ultimate goal is to drive a return on investment. And whether that is an investment into an in-house team and resources or an agency, that means seeing more money back than you spend.

Tracking ROI from your SEO activities is crucial for the simple reason that it is the best measure of success that there is — more money in the bank than you are spending. But remember that it can take time to see an ROI, often six to 12 months or more. 

Know where your ROI target is, and you can measure your performance against this on a regular basis, understanding and reporting on how it is improving.

You can measure ROI based upon your investment into SEO, and the revenue returned from the channel. 

2. Conversions (Sales and Leads)

While a financial return is the overarching KPI that many businesses work to, it inevitably takes time to see returns. And for that reason, you shouldn’t rely on ROI alone. 

Measuring and tracking organic conversions (either sales, leads, or both depending on your business’s set up) is a solid way to demonstrate success. After all, an increase in organic conversions can easily be attributed to your efforts. 

Just be sure to know the conversion benchmark before you began working on a campaign; otherwise, you will find it harder to showcase the increase from what was already being generated.

A recommendation is to take an average of conversions generated in the three months before your campaign began and use this as a benchmark for measuring growth. 

You can track conversions in Google Analytics, measuring goals for lead conversions and the eCommerce report to track sales by channel. 

3. Organic Visibility

Coming back to the point that it takes time to see financial returns from SEO, one solid KPI that you can track and measure to show consistent growth is organic visibility. And you can measure and report on this in two ways.

First, showcasing growth in impressions from Google Search Console.

This is the perfect way to show continued growth in visibility, given that impressions show the searches that your site was visible for, even if they didn’t result in clicks. Typically, that is because you see an increase in ranked keywords, but these aren’t in traffic driving positions (yet).

Either way, an increase in impressions shows an increase in organic visibility and a great measure of continued growth. 

You can also show an increase in organic visibility by looking at keyword trends on the Organic Research tool in SEMrush, where you can see how your visibility has changed for all indexed keywords, including those in lower positions. 

4. Organic Sessions

Growth in organic impressions should result in an increase in organic sessions, and this is where you can start to demonstrate a real impact from your SEO strategy.

Once your efforts are taking effect, one of the key metrics that you will see an impact on is organic sessions (traffic).

Impressions result in traffic, and traffic turns into conversions; and when you look at it this way, seeing an increase in organic sessions is the point at which you truly start to notice an improvement in your SEO ROI.

Measuring organic sessions is really simple to measure in Google Analytics. But, for the purpose of tracking SEO KPIs, we recommend focusing on data from Google Search Console, as this will allow you to exclude brand searches and view organic clicks for non-branded terms in isolation.

This is important to ensure your data isn’t being skewed by brand activities that are driving an increase in branded searches.

To do this, head to the Performance report and hit the +New button at the top of your screen where you can choose to filter out your brand by choosing ‘Queries not containing.’ Enter your brand name (and variations of), and you will see how non-branded traffic is performing.

A key thing to pay attention to when analyzing organic sessions is seasonality, making sure you are comparing Year on Year rather than Month on Month to compare like for like and accounting for any seasonal fluctuation in demand. 

To do this, hit the date bubble at the top of your screen, choose ‘compare’, and select your preferential period.

5. Branded vs. Non-Branded Traffic

While you want to exclude branded searches to analyze the true impact of your efforts on organic traffic, another key measure of success and progression is a shift in the percentage split of non-branded traffic that your site is receiving.

Branded traffic is usually driven either by previous knowledge of a business or a recommendation from someone else. Maybe a searcher has seen your ads on social, seen your latest PR campaign, or even met you at an event. What’s important to note here is that the searcher already knew about you.

While that clearly means one marketing channel is working well, this usually isn’t going to be traffic that you can attribute directly to your SEO activities.

Non-branded traffic is usually people searching for keywords around your products or services that you rank prominently for. In other words, traffic from searchers who probably weren’t familiar with your business before they saw you ranked on the SERPs.

And you should be measuring the split of branded vs. non-branded traffic, something that you can easily see using the SEMrush organic research tool:

6. Keyword Rankings

While keyword rankings maybe aren’t as important as some of the other metrics mentioned here, they certainly have their use, and we strongly recommend that you track how your main target keywords are ranking on the SERPs.

If we look back even five years, rankings were how pretty much any SEO campaign’s success was measured.

So then, what changed? Semantic search

In the past, most businesses tracked a handful of keywords and hinged their strategy’s success on that; the reality is that nowadays, a single page of content can rank for hundreds (sometimes thousands) of different keywords. And that is not forgetting personalized search — meaning that different searchers can see different results for some queries.

Let’s look at an example of different keywords. The Organic Research tool will let you see keywords a page ranks for. – Read more

PPC and SEO Effective Together? How-To Guide With Rank Tracker

Typically, blogs and forums dedicated to SEO and PPC discuss what’s better. While these two marketing methods are really different, it doesn’t mean you can’t implement them both. And even if you’ve chosen only organic or only paid search to target, you surely need to investigate the other side. Both SEO and PPC share a few common features, and mastering them will help you make the right decision in due time. So, let’s touch upon a few SEO techniques and tools that help make this choice well-meditated.

1. Keyword research

Keyword research is the cornerstone for the effectiveness of your campaigns in PPC and SEO alike. Typically, an advertising platform provides a keyword research toolbox of its own, as it is the case with Google Ads Keyword Planner. If you’re using this tool for keyword suggestions and traffic predictions, you should keep in mind the keyword matching type and when to use it.

For Google Ads, there are four types of keyword matching: broad match, modified broad match, phrase match and exact match.

  • Broad match includes all the queries containing your keyword or parts of the keyword phrase and their variations in any position.
  • Modified broad match type will trigger your ads if the specified keywords are present in the search query in the exact or close variant form. You simply add the + symbol before the most wanted word in your keyword phrase (without a blank space before the keyword). Modified broad match is something between a phrase match and broad match. The modified keyword will match the search queries with exact or close variants of this word in them (single and plural forms, acronyms, derivatives, and close synonyms). The remaining part of the phrase will work on broad match.
  • Phrase match covers the search strings which may contain additional words but where your target phrase appears as it is.
  • Exact match sets to match queries with your target phrase as it is, without variants or additional words.

Which type of keyword matching to use

15% of daily Google search queries are new. Certainly, you can hardly predict them all, however large your keyword list is. The only way to target these unique queries is by using the broad match (or modified broad match as a variant).

On the one hand, broad matching will bring tons of impressions and clicks. On the other hand, you should not expect that the conversion rate will be really high. The problem is that broad match often drives a lot of irrelevant traffic. Do you want to pay for clicks that will never convert?

So if you want to profit from the broad match, you need to monitor carefully your search query reports and exclude all irrelevant keywords by adding them to your negative keyword list.

Try to predict unwanted queries ahead: explore your Google Analytics data to detect keywords that bring useless traffic which increases the bounce rate on your site. Go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels, and review the keywords under the Organic Search and Google Ads tabs. Filter the keywords by Behaviour > Bounce Rate, pay attention to other stats as well, and spot which terms deserve to be added to the negative keyword list.

To test the type of match and see if it works for you, clone one of your ad groups and adjust to use broad, exact or phrase match and set the keywords in it on modified broad match. Run both groups for some time, and then compare the search query reports to see what match type performs better.

2. Keyword mapping

Experienced PPC marketers know that the success of their campaigns relies on keyword management. Break down keywords into relevant groups and map them to landing pages. This way you will have all your stats structured and analyzed, and your top pages gaining weight and effectiveness fast. Tight keyword grouping, creating groups and subgroups, ensures that your ad is relevant to the user intent which results in higher CTRs and more conversions.

This approach works exactly the same way in SEO. Your one top-ranking page most likely will include several search strings close in their theme and intent. You will map a group of keywords, with several long-tail keywords among them, for which you will map one landing page to optimize.

3. Search volume

When you explore the search volumes to decide whether to optimize for a certain keyword, bear in mind that you will not get as many search traffic as it promises. You will rank only for some exact keyword phrases that are the most relevant to your site. And a couple of more diverse queries containing this keyword with lesser traffic.

And even on exact matching, the search volume data you will get in your Google Ads might be inaccurate. You can invest a lot of resources into optimizing for a traffic-heavy keyword only to find that the search volume it gains is not even close to the one you’ve got in your keyword tool. So the best way is to consider launching a small PPC campaign to test your performance and see how many impressions your keyword gets before you start optimizing for it.

Search volume and competition is the core factor to decide whether you can use this or that keyword to rank up in SERPs as soon as possible. There is the keyword difficulty score which you use to estimate your SEO optimization expenses.

3. CTR Optimization

No need to tell, the higher you rank, the more traffic you will get. High CTR is something that helps search engines to guess that the page is valuable to users, so with time, ranking position and CTR correlate. You need to try hard not only to show up on the top search engine result pages, but also to entice users to click on your pages, and further, to stay, engage, and perform conversions. This rule works for both SEO and PPC campaigns. Google rewards advertisers with high CTRs with cheaper clicks and higher placements. That is why PPC marketers take ad testing seriously. They constantly test new titles, ad texts and banners to offer the best-performing ad design. You can try similar testing with your organic pages, by optimizing titles, tags, and meta descriptions. – Read more

5 Ways to Find Out What’s Wrong With Your SEO – And 3 Ways to Fix It

Are you attracting visitors to your website despite your digital marketing campaign? If not, there’s something seriously wrong with your strategies, particularly your search engine optimization (SEO). It is essential to do a regular SEO test or analysis to monitor the performance of your campaign.

Conducting a regular SEO assessment allows you to discover the fine points and flaws of your SEO campaign and make the necessary adjustments to optimize results. The upside is clear: with proper working SEO, you can attract valuable site traffic and potential leads. This article will discuss the common SEO mistakes you might incur, how to conduct an SEO analysis, and how to improve your SEO performance.

What Are the Common SEO Mistakes to Avoid

SEO is one of the most effective digital marketing strategies to boost your sales. Becoming updated with the latest SEO optimization strategies will maximize the performance of your website. Here are some common SEO missteps you should avoid to ensure the effectiveness of your SEO campaign:

  • Practicing keyword stuffing – You might think that using your keywords a lot will boost your content’s rankings by Google and other search engines. However, it could be the opposite as too much keyword use or overstuffing will make your content spammy. If your content is labeled as spam, it will become useless and will hurt your SEO campaign.

    To avoid this label, use your keywords naturally at strategic placements. The best practice is to use your keyword in the first 100 words and include latent semantic indexing (LSI) keywords or variations of your main keyword throughout your content.
  • Posting plagiarized or non-original content – Using plagiarized or copied content on your website will make it a ‘pariah’ to search engines. Invest in producing original and valuable content to improve the performance of your website. Make sure to post relevant, informational, and error-free content to build the reputation of your site.
  • Failure to invest in a mobile-friendly website – The majority of Internet users nowadays use their mobile devices to access and consume content. In the United States, 94% of people use their smartphones to search for local news or information. Your rating on search engines will be severely affected if you fail to make your website mobile-friendly. To avoid a possible drop in your ranking, test if your website is mobile-compatible.
  • Using the wrong keywords – The wrong choice of keywords will leave your content at the bottom of search engine rankings. Even if your content is top-notch, if you fail to use the keywords preferred by users and search engines, it will be useless.

    To make sure you are using the right keywords, use optimization tools like SEMrush, Google Trends, and Google AdWords Keyword Planner. It would be best to use different types of keywords to increase the ranking of your content. These types are broad keywords, long-tail keywords, fat head keywords, and chunky middle keywords.
  • Failure to use title tags, image tags, and meta-descriptions – These SEO elements are important to search engines when crawling for content. Failing to include these essential components will hurt the researchability of your content.
  • Linking to low quality or unrelated internal and external links – Your use of internal and external links also affects the performance of your content’s SEO. Make sure your internal links are related to your content. Also, use reputable and well-ranking websites as external links.
  • Unwillingness to leverage social influencers to share your content – When sharing your content on social media, you should consider leveraging social influencers to promote it. Having an influencer to share your content will gain instant attention, while having them to promote your content will increase its visibility to the search engines.

    The many benefits of leveraging influencers to build your relationships and conduct structured outreach make this a must in your optimization plan.
  • Lack of SEO performance analytics and monitoring – Failure to analyze your content’s performance will leave you in the dark about how your SEO campaign performs. You may use tools like Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics to regularly monitor and evaluate your SEO campaign.
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5 Steps in Conducting an SEO Analysis

An SEO assessment is a vital part of your SEO strategy to boost your website content’s ranking potential in search engine results pages (SERP). This process will allow you to identify what’s working and what’s causing your content’s failure to rise. Let’s discuss the steps you should take to find out your website’s flaws:

  1. Investigate your visibility on search engines like Google – Start your analysis by determining your content’s SERP performance and the overall visibility of your website on search engines. Having a clear view of where your website sits on the rankings will allow you to develop an optimization plan.

    In calculating your search visibility, collect all the rankings of your keywords and compute the estimated click-through-rate (CTR) based on each ranking. Add all the CTRs and divide the total by the number of your keywords. The higher the result, the better is your website’s position in the Google rankings.
  2. Analyze your content – Your content is an essential component of your content marketing strategy. Make sure you have no duplicate content by eliminating every duplicate you found immediately. Start your analysis with your top ranked pages.

    There are several things to check in your content. Make sure your URLs are around four to five words long, and your meta-descriptions contain your primary keyword. Ensure your titles and headings are relevant and attention-grabbing and should also contain your keyword.

    Check the quality of your backlinks or external links. Try to link your content to ranking and trustworthy websites to increase your site’s reputation. Your internal links should also be relevant to your content. Make sure to fix any broken link to improve user experience and avoid its negative effects on your SEO.
  3. Check your domain, images, and technical SEO – To improve your SEO, use a simple, short, and easy to remember domain name that reflects your brand or business. Don’t use hyphens and special characters. To optimize your images, use alt tags and include keywords in your brief descriptions. Also, compress your images for faster loading of your content.

    Your technical SEO also affects the visibility of your website. Some of the technical components you should check are your XML sitemap, robots.txt file, and website security. You may buy a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate to boost your security. – Read more

Leveraging Voice Search for Local Businesses

My Post (18).pngEach year, voice search increasingly becomes a more dominant force to reckon with. 20% of the global online population is already using voice search, and 58% of voice users employ it to run a local business search.

Last year, we undertook a study that focused on uncovering factors that influence voice search rankings in 2019. This year, as search results vary depending on location-specific queries, we decided to check how questions about local businesses and services alter the voice search results.

The 2020 study provides unique insights into the search algorithms that are behind various voice assistants to help businesses leverage the power of voice search.

About the 2020 Voice Search for Local Businesses Study

As voice search expands, the market keeps introducing more and more virtual assistants. If the previous year’s study focused exclusively on Google devices, this year we’ve added Siri and Alexa to cover almost 100% of the voice assistants market:

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To run the study, we employed the following devices:

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The main goal of the study was to understand how different voice assistants compare to one another when it comes to returning local results and to uncover the algorithms behind them:

  • By comparing all voice assistants in regards to basic parameters like answer length and number of questions they are able/unable to answer.
  • By analyzing factors that affect how voice assistants choose what local results to return.

Key Takeaways From the Study

There are a few key insights we’d like local businesses to take away from our findings to integrate them into their overall SEO and marketing strategies:

  • Google Assistant, Siri, and Alexa take up comparable market share, so businesses should aim to adapt to all three assistants whose algorithms are drastically different.
  • The average answer length for all analyzed assistants is 23 words, and Google Assistant devices return the longest answers, at 41 words.
  • Alexa cannot return results for each fourth question, implying that this is mainly a home-based device that understands voice commands but is not intended for running search queries.
  • With Google-run devices, businesses can apply the “regular” local SEO logic by polishing their Local Pack presence and tweaking their content to match the more natural language of voice search queries.
  • To be present among Apple’s Siri replies, businesses have to aim for higher Yelp ratings and more positive customer reviews. Having a 4.5/5 Yelp rating with the biggest number of reviews will turn any business into the most popular local spot in Siri’s eyes.

Comparing Various Voice Assistants

Now, diving deeper into the findings, we will reveal the specificities of different voice assistants and uncover how they choose to return certain results over others.

1. What’s the Average Answer Length?

The average answer length returned by a voice assistant for a local-intent query is 23 words:

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With Google devices, the presence of a screen explains the difference in word count – the Google Home/Mini’s average answer length is 3.7X of the Home Hub.

2. Do Various Google Assistants Give the Same Answers?

Google assistants do not return the same results despite having similar algorithms. The average answer match between Google Assistants stands at a mere 22% across all devices.

  • Despite the difference in the nature of the devices, the Google Home Hub and Android phone have the highest percentage of matching results at 66%.
  • Only 0.33% of the answers match between the Google Home Mini and Android phone, despite the high match between the phone and Google Home Hub.

3. The Similarity of Answers Between Google Assistants

As Google Assistant devices run on similar algorithms, namely Google search, they essentially return the same answers, using different wording.

The main reason why we see any differences has to do with screen presence/absence. A screenless device typically returns a more detailed answer, whereas those with a screen often answer with ‘Here’s what I’ve found…’ or similar, and display the information on the screen.

4. How Many Queries Voice Assistants Couldn’t Answer

Our research confirms that voice assistants are getting better at understanding users.

The average percentage of questions that are unable to be answered across all devices is just 6.3%. This is a positive trend, as Forrester’s study suggested that, just over a year ago, this figure was as high as 35%.

Of the six devices we analyzed, five of them struggled to answer only five or fewer questions out of every hundred asked, whereas Alexa struggled to answer almost one in four. – Read more

How to Get Your SEO and PPC Teams on the Same Page

My Post (8).pngYou wouldn’t hire a brain surgeon to treat your heart condition. Different conditions require different specialists. It’s the same for search engine marketing. SEO has a role. PPC has a role. And, like holistic medicine, they work best when tightly integrated.

Easier said than done. Too often, marketers find themselves managing multiple agencies or internal teams, each of which is trying to accomplish their goals. The result is an inefficient, ineffective strategy.

Deeply integrated teams, in contrast, deliver:

  • Streamlined communication across multiple teams, allowing you to play the role of air traffic controller rather than carrier pigeon.
  • Clear expectations to ensure agency partners strategize effectively, with a high degree of accountability and without a self-preservation bias.

So how do you get there? Ask the following six questions to help SEO and PPC teams collaborate—and achieve better results than either could on their own.

1. Are SEO and PPC teams communicating effectively and sharing insights?

SEO and PPC teams that don’t communicate effectively (or at all) achieve less.

For example, our PPC team discovered fast-moving trends during the onset of COVID-19 for an events management company. Search volume dried up overnight for generic queries like “summer concerts in Richmond, VA,” as well as branded events that had been canceled.

Shortly thereafter, we discovered a corresponding increase in paid search queries for “things to do during quarantine in Richmond, VA.” The PPC team noticed the changes in search behavior and informed the SEO team so they could start creating relevant content to position the client ahead of the trend.

The first step is to establish communication channels between teams and set expectations about when and how to use them. Focus less on the tools (e.g., Slack vs. email) and more on the integration of existing workflows and communication paths.

In pre-COVID days, our SEO and PPC teams sat in close proximity, so conversations could naturally flow between them. Now that we’re remote, we share threaded conversations in Basecamp (our project management tool of choice) so both teams are aware of the others’ activities.

Encourage your teams to over-communicate. Response times are a critical factor to address market change; prioritize speed over formality. It may not be possible or necessary to have everybody on each phone call or impromptu discussion. We share client call notes internally (again, in Basecamp) to create a paper trail and immediately bring everybody up to speed.

Not sure who needs to be included in each conversation? I prefer the RACI model to determine who is Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed in cross-functional projects. – Read more

3 Areas of SEO to Address by the End of 2020

My Post (6).pngIt’s no lie to say that websites are constantly having to adapt to the SEO changes search engines, such as Google, make to further improve the user experiences online. However, ultimately, the core SEO has, pretty much, stayed the same: provide high quality and unique content that web users will find useful and enjoy reading. The SEO I am talking about is the ‘little’ things around the side that can help boost the high-quality content SEO.

These areas will not make or break the SEO of an article but are a catalyst for improving or declining the SEO. This means, if you have great content, it will still rank very high for certain keyword search phrases. However, if you want to get to the top spot instead of second, making sure to address the below SEO elements will really help towards the end of 2020.

 

Core Web Vitals

Core web vitals are a fairly new addition by Google to address concerns regarding page speed and user experience. They fall under three elements:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – this measures loading performance: how long does it take for the largest contentful paint to be loaded. Google states under 2.5 seconds are good, whilst 4+ seconds as poor.
  • First Input Delay (FID) – this measures interactivity: how quickly is the web page able to become interact upon being requested to load. Under 100 milliseconds is deemed good, whilst over 300 milliseconds is poor.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – this measures the web page stability: how the content moves with different parts of loading, or how responsive and stable the site is. If it is under 100 milliseconds, this is good, whilst over 250 milliseconds is poor.

Google has stated that core web vitals will influence the SEO of a website/article, but not by early 2021. For this reason, there is still plenty of time for website owners to address any concerns that your website might have with core web vitals.

How much of an impact poor core web vitals will have on a website is still yet to be seen. The general consensus of the community is that it will help an article, but it won’t ‘make or break’ an article – content will always be king for that.

 

Page speed

Related very much to core web vitals, the speed of a website has a direct impact to the SEO of it. If there are two websites with similar content, you can bet the website with a quicker page speed will rank higher.

Page speed’s SEO weighting has increased, almost in correlation with Google moving towards mobile indexing. Therefore, it is vitally important to make sure the mobile version of your website is as quick as it can be, both for SEO reasons and user experience. – Read more

 

SEO vs. PPC: Are You Making the Most of Them?

My Post (20)One of the questions that are often asked of marketers is whether budgets should be allocated toward SEO or PPC or spread between both.

This is a simple question that doesn’t have a simple answer as it very much depends on a whole host of different factors, including:

  • Your goals and objectives
  • Your budget and resources
  • Your industry
  • Your current performance

But these discussions are nothing new. There has been an ongoing debate around SEO vs. PPC for many years.
Deciding where best to invest your marketing budget can be a difficult task for business owners. So, the big question is: Is it better to use pay-per-click (PPC) to buy your way to the top of the search results or should you put your efforts into an organic (SEO) strategy?

You know you can’t ignore channels that can drive traffic from the search engines, but which is the higher priority?

It depends.

To make a decision on which strategy to use, you need to understand the pros and cons of both SEO and PPC, and how they can work together to drive growth for your business. In this guide, we’ll dive deep into each of these tactics and help you to figure out which channel is right for you, specifically looking at:

  • SEO as a Growth Strategy
    • The Pros of SEO
    • The Cons of SEO
  • PPC as a Growth Strategy
    • The Pros of PPC
    • The Cons of PPC
  • SEO vs PPC – Which is Right for Your Business?
    • Choosing a Single Channel
    • Integrating SEO and PPC for Search Success
    • Retargeting
    • Run Ads and Use Data to Inform Your SEO Strategy
    • Own Brand Bidding
    • Using Shopping Ads to Target Buyers

SEO as a Growth Strategy

SEO is all about ranking on the organic (or natural) results on a search engine results page (SERP).

Run any search on Google and the organic listings are those that come after any paid ads or shopping results and are what have historically been known as 10 blue links.

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To succeed at driving increased visibility from SEO, it is important to understand how to properly optimize your website. You need to ensure that the search engines are able to crawl your site, understand your content, index it, and show that your site is a significant authority.

With more than 200 ranking factors used by Google’s Algorithm, it takes a smart marketer (or, more realistically, marketing team) to understand how to win at:

  • Technical SEO
  • On-Page SEO
  • Link Building
  • Content Marketing
  • UX
  • and so much more!

However, ranking is no simple task. The complexity of SEO (at least in comparison to other channels) and the fact that Google’s algorithm is constantly being updated means that it takes the right balance of a multitude of factors for your site to perform well.

And, according to Jason Barnard in our ‘What is SEO?’ guide:

How high in the rankings and how often you appear is merit-based; these engines will show the results they consider to be the best fit for their users.

— Jason Barnard

SEO is all about creating the best result on the web for a search query and those who are able to do that can drive significant volumes of traffic.

The Pros of SEO

But just what are the main advantages of SEO that you need to know about when figuring out where to invest your marketing budget? – Read more

How to Win the “SEO vs. PPC” Debate

My Post (2).pngBelieve it or not, some marketers are still taking sides in the “SEO vs. PPC” debate. I can understand the passion on both sides of the aisle, but I’d compare it to an argument about the need for “air vs. water.” Depending on your immediate circumstances, one may be more important than another—but both are necessary for survival.

To those passionately arguing that SEO is better than PPC, or vice versa, I propose a truce based on the potential for incremental gains when we work together.

For those seeking answers to the question, “should I invest in PPC or SEO,” buckle up—we’re about to unpack a debate that has raged for more than a decade to help you decide how to prioritize your digital marketing efforts.

Let’s start with the basics.

What is the difference between SEO and PPC?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the art and science of improving your brand’s visibility in search engine result pages (SERPs) to attract more visitors to your web properties.

It’s not limited to just web search engines, though. SEO strategies also improve your visibility in maps search results, image and video search results, shopping listings, app stores, and social media search results.

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising positions your brand in sponsored ad positions on search results pages. Advertisers have more control over the targeted keywords, audiences, and creative, but they pay for each click to their website.

Screenshot of a typical Google Ad
A search ad is most commonly found at the top of the search results.

Many marketers oversimplify the difference between SEO and PPC with a half-truth like, “SEO is free but PPC costs money.” While it’s true that clicks on organic search results don’t cost you money, there’s a good chance that your content won’t rank consistently well unless you invest in people, content, and tools to step up your SEO game. You get what you pay for.

Another misperception is that PPC has to be expensive. Sure, PPC can be pricey if you don’t put proper safeguards in place to protect your wallet. You wouldn’t just leave your debit card hanging out of an ATM, would you? No, you protect it with a PIN and withdrawal limits. Similarly, you protect your PPC spend by setting daily budgets and monitoring your campaigns for wasteful spending on irrelevant keywords.

Which channel is better at increasing revenue?

That’s a trick question. It’s both.

SEO and PPC can generate qualified traffic to your site and improve your chances of converting more visitors to customers. And surveys conducted by Google and Nielsen suggest that brands get more combined clicks on ads and organic results when both are present on a SERP. Sharing insights and integrating your paid and organic search strategies will yield more growth than focusing all of your resources on one versus the other.


How do you measure the success of an SEO strategy vs. a PPC campaign?

Start with your business objectives. In most cases, the overall aim is to increase revenue, leads, sales, or engagement. Successful SEO and PPC strategies can create measurable impacts on your business, quantified with a few key metrics at each step in the customer journey.

This is not an exhaustive list of the metrics that you can measure, but it does show the similarities and overlaps between SEO and PPC that can be exploited.

The SEO or PPC zealots can each claim superiority in some of these metrics. But savvy marketers realize that neither channel exists in a vacuum and we should focus on the contribution of each channel to shared goals.

Attribution Is the Future Present

In most cases, consumers interact with your brand multiple times before converting. And like snowflakes, no two conversion paths are the same. There are likely multiple touchpoints that must be accounted for to get a true picture of the customer journey.  – Read more