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Five things you need to know about content optimization in 2023

February 4, 2023 No Comments

5 Things You Need To Know About Optimizing Content in 2023

30-second summary:

  • As the content battleground goes through tremendous upheaval, SEO insights will continue to grow in importance
  • ChatGPT can help content marketers get an edge over their competition by efficiently creating and editing high-quality content
  • Making sure your content rank high enough to engage the target audience requires strategic planning and implementation

Google is constantly testing and updating its algorithms in pursuit of the best possible searcher experience. As the search giant explains in its ‘How Search Works’ documentation, that means understanding the intent behind the query and bringing back results that are relevant, high-quality, and accessible for consumers.

As if the constantly shifting search landscape weren’t difficult enough to navigate, content marketers are also contending with an increasingly technology-charged environment. Competitors are upping the stakes with tools and platforms that generate smarter, real-time insights and even make content optimization and personalization on the fly based on audience behavior, location, and data points.

Set-it-and-forget-it content optimization is a thing of the past. Here’s what you need to know to help your content get found, engage your target audience, and convert searchers to customers in 2023.

AI automation going to be integral for content optimization

Technologies-B2B-organizations-use-to-optimize-content

As the content battleground heats up, SEO insights will continue to grow in importance as a key source of intelligence. We’re optimizing content for humans, not search engines, after all – we had better have a solid understanding of what those people need and want.

While I do not advocate automation for full content creation, I believe next year – as resources become stretched automation will have a bigger impact on helping with content optimization of existing content.

CHATGPT

ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI, is a powerful language generation model that leverages the Generative Pre-trained Transformer (GPT) architecture to produce realistic human-like text. With Chat GPT’s wide range of capabilities – from completing sentences and answering questions to generating content ideas or powering research initiatives – it can be an invaluable asset for any Natural Language Processing project.

ChatGPT-for-content

The introduction on ChatGPT has caused considerable debate and explosive amounts of content on the web. With ChatGPT, content marketers can achieve an extra edge over their competition by efficiently creating and editing high-quality content. It offers assistance with generating titles for blog posts, summaries of topics or articles, as well as comprehensive campaigns when targeting a specific audience.

However, it is important to remember that this technology should be used to enhance human creativity rather than completely replacing it.

For many years now AI-powered technology has been helping content marketers and SEOs automate repetitive tasks such as data analysis, scanning for technical issues, and reporting, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. AI also enables real-time analysis of a greater volume of consumer touchpoints and behavioral data points for smarter, more precise predictive analysis, opportunity forecasting, real-time content recommendations, and more.

With so much data in play and recession concerns already impacting 2023 budgets in many organizations, content marketers will have to do more with less this coming year. You’ll need to carefully balance human creative resources with AI assists where they make sense to stay flexible, agile, and ready to respond to the market.

It’s time to look at your body of content as a whole

Google’s Helpful Content update, which rolled out in August, is a sitewide signal targeting a high proportion of thin, unhelpful, low-quality content. That means the exceptional content on your site won’t rank to their greatest potential if they’re lost in a sea of mediocre, outdated assets.

It might be time for a content reboot – but don’t get carried away. Before you start unpublishing and redirecting blog posts, lean on technology for automated site auditing and see what you can fix up first. AI-assisted technology can help sniff out on-page elements, including page titles and H1 tags, and off-page factors like page speed, redirects, and 404 errors that can support your content refreshing strategy.

Focus on your highest trafficked and most visible pages first, i.e.: those linked from the homepage or main menu. Google’s John Mueller confirmed recently that if the important pages on your website are low quality, it’s bad news for the entire site. There’s no percentage by which this is measured, he said, urging content marketers and SEOs to instead think of what the average user would think when they visit your website.

Take advantage of location-based content optimization opportunities

Consumers crave personalized experiences, and location is your low-hanging fruit. Seasonal weather trends, local events, and holidays all impact your search traffic in various ways and present opportunities for location-based optimization.

AI-assisted technology can help you discover these opportunities and evaluate topical keywords at scale so you can plan content campaigns and promotions that tap into this increased demand when it’s happening.

Make the best possible use of content created for locally relevant campaigns by repurposing and promoting it across your website, local landing pages, social media profiles, and Google Business Profiles for each location. Google Posts, for example, are a fantastic and underutilized tool for enhancing your content’s visibility and interactivity right on the search results page.

Optimize content with conversational & high-volume keywords

Look for conversational and trending terms in your keyword research, too. Top-of-funnel keywords that help generate awareness of the topic and spur conversations in social channels offer great opportunities for promotion. Use hashtags organically and target them in paid content promotion campaigns to dramatically expand your audience.

Conversational keywords are a good opportunity for enhancing that content’s visibility in search, too. Check out the ‘People Also Ask’ results and other featured snippets available on the search results page (SERP) for your keyword terms. Incorporate questions and answers in your content to naturally optimize for these and voice search queries.

SEO-and-creating-content-in-2023

It’s important that you utilize SEO insights and real-time data correctly; you don’t want to be targeting what was trending last month and is already over. AI is a great assist here, as well, as an intelligent tool can be scanning and analyzing constantly, sending recommendations for new content opportunities as they arise.

Consider how you optimize content based on intent and experience

The best content comes from a deep, meaningful understanding of the searcher’s intent. What problem were they experiencing or what need did they have that caused them to seek out your content in the first place? And how does your blog post, ebook, or landing page copy enhance their experience?

Look at the search results page as a doorway to your “home”. How’s your curb appeal? What do potential customers see when they encounter one of your pages in search results? What kind of experience do you offer when they step over the threshold and click through to your website?

The best content meets visitors where they are at with relevant, high-quality information presented in a way that is accessible, fast loading, and easy to digest. This is the case for both short and long form SEO content. Ensure your content contains calls to action designed to give people options and help them discover the next step in their journey versus attempting to sell them on something they may not be ready for yet.

2023, the year of SEO: why brands are leaning in and how to prepare

Conclusion

The audience is king, queen, and the entire court as we head into 2023. SEO and content marketing give you countless opportunities to connect with these people but remember they are a means to an end. Keep searcher intent and audience needs at the heart of every piece of content you create and campaign you plan for the coming year.

The post Five things you need to know about content optimization in 2023 appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


Move on from these nine fundamental content marketing myths

January 17, 2023 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Content does not equal authority: Creating content doesn’t automatically makes you an authority
  • Automation is good but don’t hinder creativity and expertise with smart AI tools
  • Not all of your content is going to rank or go viral, but will help you understand and strategize according to your target audience

Are you happy with how your content marketing strategy performs?

Chances are, you are (or your marketing team is) doing it wrong, and, from experience, those mistakes are often fundamental.

Content marketing is more than content that ranks – it’s the most effective way to promote your brand.

However there are too many myths that prevent your content marketing strategy from working.

Here are the most common ones:

Producing content makes me an authority

It is still surprisingly a widespread phenomenon: Someone publishes their first article and expects to wake up famous.

Just because you produce content it doesn’t make you an authority on your industry.

To do that, you have to regularly produce top content and be cited by other authorities as a reliable source. It’s not the fact of content, it’s the type of content.

A blog is enough

Having a blog is a good first step in content marketing.

But too many companies start blogs just because their competitors did.

If there is no planning or strategy, there’s no point in having a blog. Think of your blog as a pillar of your content marketing strategy. It’s a core platform for publishing original content to show thought leadership and build authority.

But just like building a house, your strategy needs other pillars, or it will collapse. Assuming your blog is all you need is a mistake.

The first question to ask yourself prior to starting a blog is “why?” Define your goals, and go from there. Plan content using keyword research and analysis, include your customer support to better understand your customers’ needs, using surveying, etc. Blogging involves a lot of planning.

More is more

If you’re seeing the benefit of producing a single piece of content, how much more attention would you get if you produced dozens really quickly?

It’s a risky strategy because you could overwhelm your audience with too much stuff. And if you’re so focused on quantity that you forget about quality, the content will actually HURT your reputation and rankings (Google is now insisting on helpful content which means content quality is crucial).

A better option? Produce well researched and authoritative content at regular intervals to boost your reputation and increase conversions. If you can, delegate content creation to your team members. You’ll be surprised how much talent you already have in your company.

Don’t publish more content than you have time to promote.

Automation can’t hurt me

Don’t get me wrong here: Some forms of automation are helpful and sometimes even necessary. You cannot succeed in email marketing without using automation to personalize it. Likewise, web analytics reporting and monitoring usually involves some level of automation.

Automation is dangerous when you start automating human interactions or creative processes. Yes, artificial intelligence can now automate your content creation but it is detectable (and probably soon punishable).

Over scheduling and over-automating can definitely hurt as well. Sure, it makes sense to schedule content for the times when you’re not available, but showing up and being there to talk is what builds the relationship.

Unless you’re already a mega-brand, if every tweet or share is automated, you’ll see the results in lower engagement.

If something works, why change it

Content marketing is one the fastest-moving marketing channels. What worked yesterday may actually hurt you today.

Too many businesses hang on to their old marketing tactics for too long. Yes, a decade ago a 300-word mediocre article could very well rank if you buy a couple of backlinks to it, but those days are long gone and both of these tactics may actually get your site flagged and filtered today.

Keep educating yourself, discovering new tactics and monitoring what is no longer acceptable. When it comes to corporate and brand-driven blogging, building trust is much more important than quick wins.

Content marketing is about advertising

Content does not translate into relentless promotion of your products and services.

Content marketing should provide something useful to the people who grab your content.

Don’t worry; you are allowed to use the soft sell, for instance in white papers where you identify a problem and show how your product can solve it.

In other words, you can create a conversion funnel from your content, but it is going to be a longer funnel from your commercial landing page. Instead of selling something right away, you’ll probably need to give away some downloadable content or entice your reader to become your subscriber.

Content marketing is about link building

Content marketing is about providing great content that builds authority and helps customers make favorable decisions about your brand, product or services.

Of course, if you create great content, then other people will think it’s worth talking about and link back to your site. Focus on creating content with depth, interest and relevance to users and you’ll get authority, search engine prominence and backlinks.

Content only succeeds if it goes viral

Everyone dreams of creating a piece of viral content, but don’t worry if you can’t. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t mean your content marketing campaign is a failure.

Measure your success in the amount of attention you get for your products and services and brand.

As long as you are reaching those goals, then your content marketing campaign is a success. Virality, if it happens, is just a fringe benefit.

Content marketing is easy

This is the biggest myth of all.

Sure, if you equate content marketing with just blogging or just doing social media, you might think it’s easy to do. But it’s not. Successful content marketing means thinking about content types and goals so you get the most benefit from your efforts.

It’s not easy, but that’s why the rewards are so large for the people who understand it and do it right.


Ann Smarty is the Founder of Viral Content Bee, Brand and Community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. She can be found on Twitter @seosmarty.

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The post Move on from these nine fundamental content marketing myths appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


Three must-have GA4 SEO reports you can build in under 30 minutes

January 13, 2023 No Comments

Three must-have GA4 SEO reports you can build in under 30 minutes

30-second summary:

  • If conveying the value to C-suite wasn’t challenging enough, SEOs are now having to deal with the GA4 shift
  • Does your SEO reporting take hours or days? Is it too detailed, or not detailed enough?
  • Buy back some time for a cuppa and a catch-up, use this super-detailed guide that will save you hours and get you the most effective GA4 reports

Have you experienced this… desperately trying to find where your favorite GA3 reports are hiding inside the new Google Analytics 4 (GA4)?

The process can feel daunting for all teams–including SEO teams looking to trace the impact of their search engine optimization efforts on the website’s overall performance. That is because many GA3 (also known as Universal Analytics) reports are either difficult to locate or need to be custom-built from scratch inside the new GA4.

That’s where these three reports come in!

Here are the three GA4 SEO “P” reports we will be creating together in GA4

1. SEO Pages report

Which of our web pages are successfully ranking in the search engines and generating the most traffic, conversions, and sales for the business? With this report, you can instantly pinpoint the pages that need more “SEO” optimization so you can increase your website’s traffic, conversions, and sales.

2. SEO Profiles report

What locations, interests, age groups, and other characteristics define our SEO audience? With this report, you can confidently define or redefine your ideal customer–so you can attract more of them.

3. SEO Paths report

How do our organic search traffic visitors navigate our website? What is their most common path to conversion? With this report, you can quickly discover and remove any roadblocks that are preventing your visitors from converting into leads and customers.

So we’re all on the same page: Throughout this article, I will use the phrases SEO traffic, organic search traffic, and organic traffic synonymously. They all mean people who typed a query into Google, looked through the unpaid (non-ad) search results, and then clicked through to your website.

Step 1: Create your SEO Pages report

One of the time-saving beauties of Google Analytics 4 is the Explore feature which allows us to create fully custom reports from scratch. We will use this feature to create our SEO Pages report. Quick note: Google has announced a new landing page report in GA4 that you can use to build this report as well. For now, let’s keep going with the quick and easy steps outlined in this article.

  1. Click Explore. Click Explore in the left menu
  2. Click Blank. On the next screen, click Blank
IMPORTANT: Don’t see it? If you do not see the option to click Blank, your access to GA4 is set too low. You need to ask your GA4 administrator to upgrade your access so you can create reports. Once you’ve done that, come back and continue the steps.

 

  1. Name exploration. Under “Variables” change the Untitled exploration to SEO Pages. You have now named your report.
  2. Create Organic Search segment. Click the + sign next to “SEGMENTS” > User segment > At the top, change the segment name from “Untitled segment” to “Organic Search Traffic” > Add new condition > search for and click on First user medium > click Add Filter > select contains > type and select organic > Apply. You have just created a segment (or filter) that automatically only displays information about your organic search traffic in the report you’re about to create.
  3. We’re going to bulk-add: Now that you have created your organic search traffic segment, it’s time to build a custom report, then apply your segment to it. In the coming steps, we will bulk-add all the metrics and all the dimensions we will need for all three SEO “P” reports.
  4. Add Landing Page dimension. Click the + sign next to DIMENSIONS > in the search box, type landing page and when it appears, check the Landing Page + query string box.
  5. Add additional dimensions. Repeat the previous steps by searching for and checking the checkboxes of the following dimensions:
    1. Device category
    2. Browser
    3. Country
    4. City
    5. Type “demographic” and check all the demographic dimensions you want to report on, such as Age, Gender, and Interests. Note: For these selections to report any data, you will need to enable the Google Signals functionality in GA4 which you can do by opening another tab and going to Admin > Data Settings > Data Collection > Get Started > Continue > Activate. Be sure to read Google’s policy to ensure that it complies with your organization’s privacy requirements If not, skip this bullet.
  6. Import all dimensions at once. After the final dimension’s checkbox has been checked, click the Import button to bulk-import all of the dimensions into your exploration report.
  7. Add Entrances metric. Click the + sign next to METRICS > in the search box, type entrances and when it appears, check the Entrances box.
  8. Add additional metrics. Repeat the previous steps by searching for and checking the checkboxes of the following metrics:
    1. Entrances
    2. Views
    3. Views per user
    4. Engagement rate
    5. Bounce rate
    6. Conversions
    7. Session conversion rate
    8. User conversion rate
    9. New users
    10. Returning users
    11. Total users
    12. eCommerce revenue (if you have an eCommerce website)
    13. Optional step: Add other metrics–If you prefer to use different metrics than the ones listed above, GA4 makes it very easy to do so. Just leave the search box blank and use the “All” column to expand and add additional metrics you’re interested in. Hovering over a metric shows a definition of the metric, which is very helpful. You are free to do this now, or later. For now, let’s keep going.
  9. Import all metrics at once. After the final metric’s checkbox has been checked, click the Import button to bulk-import all of the metrics into your exploration report.
  10. Name the report. Rename the Free form report to Landing pages by clicking and typing over it.
  11. Add dimension to the report row. Double-click the “Landing page + query string” item under DIMENSIONS > this will add it to the “ROWS” section under the “Tab Setting” section.
  12. Add metrics to the report column. One by one, Double-click the following items under METRICS and they will be added to the columns of the report we are building: Entrances, Views, Views per user, Conversions, Session conversion rate, User conversion rate.
  13. Change cell type. Under the “Tab Setting” section, scroll down and change the Cell type to Heat map.

Congratulations! You have successfully created your SEO Pages report.

How to read your SEO Pages report

What the SEO Pages report tells you

Because the SEO Pages report uses the Organic Search Traffic segment that we created, here’s what the report tells you: The pages of your website that are responsible for generating the most organic search traffic, conversions, and sales to your business. (You can change the time frame on the left to adjust to different periods.)

Now what? 

Are these the pages you expected? Any pages glaringly missing from the report? This report helps you quickly pinpoint the pages that need more “SEO” optimization.

How? Because if you notice that key pages of your website–perhaps your core product pages, your main service pages, the big blog post your team spent weeks on, etc.–are missing from or are near the bottom of the SEO Pages report, this means those key pages are likely not ranking well in the search engines when your prospects are “googling.”

This tells you that it’s time to optimize these pages so they can start generating more traffic, conversions, and sales for the business. If you’re not sure how to optimize your web pages, see SEO Sprints on SprintMarketer.com.

Bonus Tip: Sorting

If you want to sort the report by another metric other than Entrances–for example, conversions–simply drag that metric to the top of the “VALUES” list under “Tab Settings.” In doing so, you will be able to quickly report on which pages of your site are responsible for generating the most conversions from SEO traffic.

Step 2: Create your SEO Profiles report

Because we’ve already created the SEO Pages report, we will use a shortcut to create the SEO Profiles report. Let’s dive in.

  1. Click Explore. Click Explore in the left menu.
  2. Duplicate the SEO Pages report. On the next screen, find your SEO Pages report > click the 3 dots to the right of your SEO Pages report > select Duplicate.
    GA4 SEO reports - SEO Pages
IMPORTANT: Don’t see it? If you do not see the option to click Duplicate, your access to GA4 is set too low. You need to ask your GA4 administrator to upgrade your access so you can create reports. Once you’ve done that, come back and continue the steps.

 

  1. Rename the duplicated report. A new report will appear and it will be named “Copy of SEO Pages” > click the 3 dots to the right of that report > select Rename > change the name to “SEO Profiles” > Submit.
  2. Create your Device category report to profile the devices your SEO traffic uses to access your website.
    1. Open the report. Click on the name of your SEO Profiles report to open it > now it’s time to modify our dimensions so you only see the dimensions that give you insight into the “profiles” of your SEO visitors.
    2. Remove old dimension. Under the “Tab Settings” column, hover over the Landing page + query string dimension located under “ROWS” > then click on the X to remove it from the list of dimensions. This will make your report “disappear” because there is no dimension selected, but not to worry–we will bring it back right away.
    3. Add new dimension. Double-click the Device category dimension. This will move the Device category dimension under “ROWS” in the “Tab Settings” column. Voila, your report has now reappeared.
      GA4 SEO reports - adding new dimensions
    4. Rename your table. Now that your Device category report has been created, you need to change the name of the table from Landing pages > Click on the words Landing pages > type “Device” > click Enter on your keyboard.
    5. Sorting. I prefer to sort this report by Total users so I can know the device preference of my individual users–this way, I’m not sorting by Views, Entrances, Sessions, or other metrics that may be inflated by a small number of users who visit frequently. To sort the report by Total users, simply drag the Total users metric to the top of the “VALUES” list under “Tab Settings.”
    6. You’ve created valuable data. Your new Device category report gives you insight into the profile of your SEO traffic by telling you their preferred devices (mobile, desktop, tablet, etc.). This is helpful in case your website experience is faulty or glitchy on certain devices, in which case if that device shows up near the top of your report, it should be a priority to fix those issues.
  3. Create your Browser report to profile the browsers your SEO traffic uses to access your website.
    1. Duplicate. Creating this report will be a breeze because you only need to duplicate the previous report and make some quick changes. Click on the arrow next to “Device” > select Duplicate
    2. Rename table. A new table will appear. Let’s rename it > Click on the words Device in the new table > type “Browser” > click Enter on your keyboard.
    3. Remove old dimension. Under the “Tab Settings” column, hover over the Device category dimension located under “ROWS” > then click on the X to remove it from the list of dimensions. This will make your report “disappear” because there is no dimension selected, but not to worry–we will bring it back right away.
    4. Add new dimension. Double-click the Browser dimension. This will move the Browser dimension under “ROWS” in the “Tab Settings” column. Voila, your report has now reappeared.
    5. Sorting. Make sure your table is sorted by Total users. If not, here’s how: To sort the report by Total users, simply drag the Total users metric to the top of the “VALUES” list under “Tab Settings.”
    6. You’ve created valuable data. Your new Browser report gives you insight into the profile of your SEO traffic by telling you their preferred browsers. This is helpful in case your website experience is faulty or glitchy on certain browsers, in which case if that browser shows up near the top of your report, it should be a priority to fix those issues.
  4. Create your additional profile reports. Follow the steps in bullet 5 to create tables for all the additional dimensions such as City, Country, Age, Gender, Interest, and any other dimensions you may have added in Step 3 when you created your SEO Pages report.

Congratulations! You have successfully created your SEO Profiles report.

How to read your SEO Profiles report

What the SEO Profiles report tells you

Each tab of your new SEO Profiles report provides an insight into your SEO audience. For example, you know their device preferences, their browser preferences, their ages, their interests, their top locations, and more. (You can change the time frame on the left to adjust to different periods.)

Now what? 

With this information, you can confidently define or redefine who your ideal customer is and use this invaluable information to:

  • Rework the wording your use on your website so it’s more effective for this group
  • Redefine the audiences you’re using for your ads (if you’re running ads)
  • Update the wording you use in your offline messages to align with your audience and more.

Understanding who your audience is and speaking their language is a marketing superpower that can create emotional connections between you and your potential customers, and drive up conversions and sales.

Step 3: Create your SEO Paths report

IMPORTANT: Do you have events set up? This SEO Paths report requires that you have added events and conversions to your GA4 property. For example, have you configured your “purchase” or “lead” events so GA4 knows how to spot your conversions? If not, search for articles on this site, or see Analytics (GA4) Sprints on SprintMarketer.com.

 

In this step, we will build two powerful reports. The first one is your Traffic Flow report which tells you how all SEO visitors navigate your website, and the second is your Conversion Flow report which tells you how your *SEO visitors who converted into leads or sales* navigated your website.

Ready? Let’s go.

  1. Click Explore. Click Explore in the left menu.
  2. Duplicate the SEO Pages report. On the next screen, find your SEO Pages report > click the 3 dots to the right of your SEO Pages report > select Duplicate.
IMPORTANT: Don’t see it? If you do not see the option to click Duplicate, your access to GA4 is set too low. You need to ask your GA4 administrator to upgrade your access so you can create reports. Once you’ve done that, come back and continue the steps.

 

  1. Rename the duplicated report. A new report will appear and it will be named “Copy of SEO Pages” > click the 3 dots to the right of that report > select Rename > change the name to “SEO Paths ” > Submit.
  2. Open the report. Click on the name of your SEO Paths report to open it > now it’s time to modify your report. Let’s dive in.
  3. Start new report. Click the + sign next to the Landing Pages report > Select Path exploration.

  4. Click Start over. Click Start over to clear everything in the existing report.
  5. Delete old report. Click on the old Landing Pages report > click on the arrow next to its name < select Delete.
  6. Rename report. Let’s give your report a more intuitive name. Click on the words Path exploration in the report > type Traffic Flow > click Enter on your keyboard.
  7. Add new dimension. Double-click the Device category dimension. This will move the Device category dimension under “ROWS” in the “Tab Settings” column.
  8. Apply segment. Double-click the Organic Search Traffic segment to apply it to the new report (since we started over).
  9. Remove old metrics. Under the “Tab Settings” column, hover over Event count located under “METRICS” > then click on the X to remove it from the report.
  10. Add new metric. Double-click the Total users metric. This will move the Total users metric under “METRICS” in the “Tab Settings” column and apply it to your report.
  11. Build your Traffic Flow report. This report shows how your SEO visitors navigated your site once they landed on it. This is a fantastic report for confirming whether the path you think people should take is indeed the path they are taking.
    1. Set Starting Point. Let’s begin by telling this report what we consider a starting point for traffic to our website. Click Drop or select node inside the Starting Point text on the report > select Event name > select session_start

    2. Rename steps. Click on the dropdown menu under STEP +1 > select Page title and screen name. This will expose the names of the pages that your visitors visit during their session. The bigger groupings represent the most visited pages.
    3. Reading this report. For example, in the screenshot below, I can see that, for the date range selected, after leaving the Google Online Store, the majority of the SEO visitors navigated to the Home page followed by the Men’s / Unisex Apparel page, followed by several other pages. I now know that people go back to the home page when I don’t expect them to–which could indicate that the calls-to-action on the Google Online Store page may not be clear.
    4. Add more paths. (1) Double-click any blue bar to expose additional visitor paths and see how your visitors navigated from one page to another. (2) Hover your mouse over any blue bar to see that page’s visitor breakdown by Device category. See the screenshot below.

Congratulations! You have successfully created your SEO Traffic Flow report.

  1. Build your Conversion Flow report. This report is a superb companion to the Traffic Flow report because it shows how users who converted navigated your site before they converted. This is a fantastic report for verifying if the funnel you think people should take is indeed the funnel they are taking.
    1. Duplicate. Click the arrow next to the Traffic Flow report > Duplicate > Rename the new report Conversion Flow > click Start over to clear the existing report. It’s now time to quickly create your Conversion Flow report.
    2. Set Ending Point. Let’s begin by telling this report what we consider to be an ending point (conversion event). Click Drop or select node inside the Ending Point text on the report > select Event name > search for and choose the event that represents the conversion you’ve set up for your website, for example, purchase, generate_lead, or etc.

    3. Rename steps. Click on the dropdown menu under STEP +1 > select Page title and screen name. This will expose the names of the pages that your visitors visit during their session. The bigger groupings represent the most visited pages.
    4. Reading this report. For example, in the screenshot below, I can see that, for the date range selected, the weakest link in the checkout process is from the Shopping Cart to the Checkout. Now I know that we need to get better at encouraging people to check out once they’ve added items to their cart.
    5. Add more paths as needed. (1) Double-click any blue bar to expose additional visitor paths and see how your visitors navigated from one page to another.(2) Hover your mouse over any blue bar to see that page’s visitor breakdown by Device category. See the screenshot below.

Congratulations! You have successfully created your SEO Conversion Flow report.

How to read your SEO Paths report

What the SEO Paths report tells you

With your Traffic Flow report, you can now observe exactly how your SEO visitors experience your website and make fixes where unexpected behavior might be occurring.

With your Conversion Flow report, you can now observe the most common steps your SEO visitors take while converting into leads or customers–and you can use this knowledge to make fixes where unexpected behavior might be occurring.

Now what? 

How do our organic search traffic visitors navigate our website? What is their most common path to conversion?

Maybe you need to add a call-to-action on one of your drop-off pages, so visitors know exactly what their next step should be.

Maybe you need to add an upsell to your checkout process so you can increase your transaction value.

Maybe you need to remove or completely rework a certain page because it’s proving to have the highest drop-off rate in the funnel.

Understanding and removing roadblocks from your users’ experience is a powerful marketing technique that can help you generate more conversions and sales from your existing traffic without having to generate new traffic.

Let’s summarize

Google Analytics 4 can feel daunting for all marketers, and SEOs are no exception. But with these quick and mighty GA4 SEO “P” reports, those of us who manage search engine optimization campaigns can easily monitor and communicate the impact of organic search traffic on the business.

Bonus: Sharing your GA4 SEO reports

When you first create an exploration, only you can see it. Would it be valuable for you to share your 3 reports with other members of your team? If so, this bonus is for you.

Sharing your Explore reports

  1. Click on the report you want to share
  2. In the upper right, click Share exploration
  3. That’s it. Anyone who has a Viewer role (or higher) in your GA4 property will be able to see your report when they log in and go to Explore.
  4. If you’re not sure how to create Viewers or any other roles inside GA4, it’s very easy. Just go to Admin > click Access Management in the Account or Property column > Assign roles to new or existing members. If you get stuck here, check out this access management article from Google.

Exporting your Explore reports

  1. In the upper right, click Export data.
  2. Select the export format:
  • Google Sheets
  • TSV (tab-separated values)
  • CSV (comma-separated values)
  • PDF
  • PDF (all tabs)

When you export to Sheets, TSV, or CSV formats, all the data available in the selected visualization is exported. This may be more data than is currently displayed. When you export to PDF, only the data currently displayed in the visualization is saved.

Happy SEO GA4 reporting!


Mary Owusu is CEO at Sprint Marketer, Professor of Digital Marketing & Analytics, President-Elect at the Digital Analytics Association Board. Mary is also an ATHENA Award Winner and FOUR Under 40 Emerging Leaders (AMA).

Subscribe to the Search Engine Watch newsletter for insights on SEO, the search landscape, search marketing, digital marketing, leadership, podcasts, and more.

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The Search Engine Watch Top 5!

December 28, 2022 No Comments

First, congratulations on surviving 2022, you’ve done great! 2022 was surprising, unique, and a challenging mix of several global events that kept us on our toes as consumers, brands, and search marketing professionals. The recession, great resignation, a war, FIFA finale, and several silent battles we all fought by ourselves.

As we recap the year gone by, let’s look at the world through the lens of search, SEO, analytics, and content creation.

Source

2022 has been about…

  • Looking at your consumers as human beings and not just data sets
  • Understanding how your target consumers perceive the world and how they experience life in a digital age
  • Tailoring and testing your strategies to meet consumers in their moment of need – all without losing budget (or your sanity!)
  • Finding most-effective tools, technologies, and talent to navigate business uncertainty

We present to you the #SEWTop5

A countdown of editor’s picks that the Search Engine Watch community loved and found great value in!

#5. Understanding the three awareness stages of your online audience

Businesses often forget that success metrics aren’t just numbers – they are living, breathing people who are driven by behavior and emotions. As customer journeys continued to remain complex and multifaceted, businesses competed to ensure they were at the finish line when prospects were ready to convert.

Add People’s Content Operations Lead, Jack Bird created a guide on harnessing a content strategy that caters to consumers and their journeys. He detailed the three key awareness stages of online traffic, what type of content fits these stages, and how to audit your existing content.

#4. A must-have web accessibility checklist for digital marketers

Did you know, 98% of US-based websites aren’t accessible? This year web accessibility moved out of the shadows and took center stage as one of Google’s search ranking factors – making the topic itself more accessible to discussions. Marketers could no longer ignore this critical aspect, because –

Stellar user experience >> Positive brand perception >> Greater appeal to value-driven consumers = Good for business

Web design and marketing specialist, Atul Jindal created a must-have web accessibility checklist for digital marketers. It went beyond dispelling “what is web accessibility?” and spoke about its benefits and action points on “how to make your website accessible?”.

#3. Google Analytics 4: drawbacks and limitations—is it worth sticking around?

On July 1, 2023, Universal Analytics properties stopped processing new hits, forcing users to switch to its successor, Google Analytics 4. This transition demanded SEOs and marketers to have a steep learning curve and adaptability since the shift meant losing some historic data.

This article dove into the issues with Google Analytics 4 from a user perspective and a privacy and compliance standpoint. Objective, hard-hitting observations helped inform SEOs and marketers’ decisions before switching platforms.

#2. The not-so-SEO checklist for 2022

While most of the internet focused on “what to do”, we took an offbeat path of “what not to do” that will help your SEO succeed from the get-go.

Best-selling author and SEW Advisory Board Member, Kristopher (Kris) Jones dispelled some major myths surrounding Core Web Vitals (CWV) and Google’s bigger, mainstream 2021 updates.

As an especially interesting, strategy-focused read, this was one SEOs could not miss before designing their 2022 strategy.

#1. Seven Google alerts SEOs need to stay on top of everything!

We as SEOs and marketers often forget that while we focus on consumers and clients, we too are humans – with limited energy (we mean coffee supply), 24 hours (wish we had more), and sleep deprivation (yes we mean sleep deprivation). As burnout crept in and to-do lists climbed, our very own Ann Smarty shared seven Google alerts that aimed at making life easier for SEOs.

These smart ways helped the community get ahead of competition, prevent a reputation crisis, fix a traffic drop, and do much more (without getting overwhelmed).

We hope you enjoyed this! Thank you for being valuable supporters throughout our journey.

Team Search Engine Watch wishes everyone a happy new year! Keep spreading the love and SEO wisdom.

Via GIPHY

*Ranked on target audience engagement, time on page, and bounce rate.


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2023, the year of SEO: why brands are leaning in and how to prepare

December 15, 2022 No Comments

2023, the year of SEO why brands are leaning in and how to prepare

30-second summary:

  • As marketing budgets inevitably tighten, the demand for cost-effective and dependable channels such as SEO continues to increase
  • Some of the critical updates and algorithm changes in 2022 give marketers a heads-up on where to focus in 2023
  • SEO and content marketers need to create better processes and work in tandem to achieve business goals
  • The days of set-and-forget SEO are over, organizations must utilize SEO in multiple ways

With marketing budgets under more scrutiny than ever, savvy organizations are looking towards SEO for sustained growth. Incorporating organic search into the digital strategy offers rich rewards – both in terms of cost efficiency and improved brand equity – that can contribute to an entire organization. As such, marketers have embraced this approach to maximize returns on marketing and technology expenditure.

In this article, I explain why SEO is so hot, what has changed in 2022, and what to capitalize on in 2023.

According to research from Gartner, CEOs are doubling down on digital investment strategies as they maximize their marketing ROI. However, Google recently reported that ad spending is down.

At the same time, in a recent survey of over 1000 enterprise marketers, over 90% of marketers are planning to place a greater emphasis on SEO in 2023.

Why organizations will lean into SEO in 2023

As marketing budgets inevitably tighten, the demand for cost-effective and dependable channels continues to increase — drawing much-deserved SEO attention from company leaders. In particular, they are finding that SEO insights give them a comprehensive view of consumer trends in times of volatility. It’s this invaluable knowledge that organizational and departmental heads know can help them drive their decisions today and tomorrow.

After two decades of sustained growth, search remains an essential channel despite marketplace volatility. It is a testament to the importance and effectiveness of search for connecting businesses with their target audiences.

Concerning enterprise organizations, some key benefit factors leading to the lean into SEO include:

  1. SEO is a high-yield channel and is not impacted by market conditions
  2. Organizations can benefit from long-term SEO incremental value
  3. Only SEO can provide real-time insights into both market demand and customer intent
  4. SEO insights drive sales, product, digital, and media initiatives across organizations
  5. Organizations benefit from brand equity due to SEO presence on the SERPs
  6. In tandem, SEO and PPC (together) give more control over the customer experience

SEO is rapidly becoming the key to unlocking a connection between businesses and customers. Organizations can get ahead of their prospects’ needs by understanding what they are looking for, why it matters to them, and how optimized content can best meet those requirements when needed most.

The focus on the (human) consumer and their experiences is something that Google focused heavily on in 2022. Some of the critical updates and algorithmic changes give marketers a heads-up on where to focus in 2023.

Learn from 2022 to prepare for 2023

2022 has been an eventful year for organic search, with several significant updates impacting how SEO and marketing teams should focus and operate.

Below are a few key areas where Google has indicated where SEO, content, technical and online marketers need to change – adapt and become agile – and where to prioritize their focus in 2023.

The Page Experience Update and Core Web Vitals was rolled out (mobile and desktop) to ensure users receive results that load quickly and render within a certain time threshold.

Read more on SEW: Mobile-first and Core Web Vitals: Page Experiences

Future focus for 2023

  • In 2023 all organizations must ensure their website’s technical performance creates an optimal user experience
  • This involves examining the page loading speed, browser response time, and content stability during loading for a seamless customer journey
  • Leveraging a tailored blend of data-led insights, content, and technical expertise in 2023 will help you create powerful user experiences. Google puts great emphasis on optimizing results and prioritizing accurate, reliable information – from page speed through to navigation capabilities Ensure you combine data-science techniques with best (white-hat) SEO best practices.
  • By focusing both on website functionality and providing engaging, relevant content – marketing teams can plan for success in the current – and any – economic climate

Google’s Product Algorithm Update was released to help users make informed decisions. This was in the form of a refreshed set of instructions and updates based on the annual performance of product reviews. It was designed to empower users with access to accurate information that will enable them to make sound product purchasing choices.

Future focus for 2023

  • In 2023 make it your goal to create a world-class experience for consumers, helping them find what they need quickly and easily. Aim to make the process of looking for items simpler than ever before – empowering people who search with an effortless journey directly from search results into their shopping carts!
  • If your selling products, demonstrate your professional abilities by providing well-founded advice and showcasing why you are the go-to expert on a subject
  • Back up any product recommendations with reliable data to provide assurance of authenticity

Multisearch was announced in April to enable searches using images and text. Powered by Google Lens, it allows people to use mobile cameras or photos to search relevant images and text to find the most relevant results they need. Connecting words & visuals to create an exciting array of possibilities for consumers.

Future focus for 2023

  • In 2023 expect more advancements in Google’s AI development and MUM
  • Balance the content you create, and find an image-to-text ratio to provide the accurate answers users now want and expect
  • Focus on mobile optimization of images and expect this type of functionality to become a new norm in 2023

Google’s Helpful Content Update was announced and recently rolled out to ensure users receive the most useful search results.

Future focus for 2023

  • In 2023, content creators and website owners must develop unique materials tailored specifically toward human end-users instead of robots or spiders
  • For instance, when collecting customer reviews on products sold online – be sure requests inquire about specific details so reviewers can demonstrate intimate knowledge in their feedback
  • Similarly, blog posts covering events or news should include fresh perspectives not found elsewhere by readers searching through Google’s services
  • Today’s algorithms are much more sophisticated, and they identify content that does not satisfy the reader – in some cases, content that has been “spun up” by automated tools.

SEO and content marketers need to get better together.

Read more on Helpful Content here

Googles Search On event

At Google’s Search On event, they revealed some innovative developments that will revolutionize how we search online. For example, visual search results will provide an interactive and engaging experience with graphic cards of imagery directly integrated into every search result.

Additionally, users can also look forward to a new auto-complete feature for their searches as well as more tailored multi-search options designed for them to find meaningful answers quickly.

Googles Spam Update to help direct customers towards content with real purpose. As part of this effort, the search giant is improving the quality of results and expanding into new formats and mediums for delivering helpful information.

  • Consider how these updates may affect your SEO strategies moving forward
  • Ensure you are balancing keywords and not keyword stuffing
  • Avoid thin content and focus on quality over quantity
  • Use AI correctly for insights and optimization, not article content creation

Conclusion

SEO teams are becoming indispensable for organizations looking to uncover fresh opportunities and build a durable business. Cost-efficient tactics not only save funds but add value across departments too.

In 2023 focus on the following;

  1. Utilizing SEO insights as a source of organization-wide business intelligence
  2. Ensure technical SEO best practices are used to ensure websites provide experiences consumers expect and automate research and site fixes when and where possible
  3. Focus on visual search and expect its importance to rise in 2023
  4. Balance your optimization of content with key Google E-A-T and Helpful content guidelines, do not over-optimize
  5. Leverage AI and automation to manage repetitive and time-consuming tasks and scale
  6. Balance SEO and PPC and find synergies to adapt to changes in the market and with Google
  7. Become the consultant and business advisor organizations need in times of change

SEO is no longer viewed as a stand-alone task; it is an integral part of your overall marketing plan. It enhances and bolsters other strategies in place while providing maximum reach for your business goals in 2023.

Be prepared for change and be flexible and agile. Slacking regarding optimization in terms of user experience, technical issue resolution, and speed can see you left behind competitors who are continuing their efforts without pause.

The days of set-and-forget SEO are over. Be prepared as organization look to utilize SEO in multiple ways

Change will be the main constant in the economy, with organizations and SEO next year!


Jim Yu is the founder and CEO of BrightEdge, the leading enterprise SEO and content performance platform. Find him on Twitter @jimyu.

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How to use digital PR and cross-channel data to amplify organic growth

November 23, 2022 No Comments

How to use PR and cross-channel data to amplify organic growth

30-second summary:

  • With the right strategy, digital PR can help drive both brand awareness and organic performance
  • During an economic downturn, brand visibility is essential to maintain brand advocacy in the long-term
  • Brands that will come out on top are those that take a cross-channel approach to drive more ROI, using data from other channels to inform their approach

Despite being tempted to pull back on spending during a recession, I believe that it is critical that brands stay visible to maintain brand advocacy — and Digital PR is a great, low-cost way to do so.

Future front-runner brands will be those that adopt a cross-channel approach to drive more ROI, utilizing data from other channels to inform their approach and ensure it resonates with target audiences.

With the current economic climate, brands and businesses are understandably scrutinizing every cent, and will likely make cuts to marketing budgets across the globe. 

Businesses need to be realistic about their growth trajectory over the next few months and ensure every marketing dollar they invest is accounted for. While this may naturally lead to greater investment in performance channels, such as paid media, this will result in increased cost per click (CPCs). A way to still stay measurable but reduce costs is to get creative and focus energy on earning attention rather than continuing to pay for every click and impression.

As a result, I would argue that digital PR is one of the most important tools in your marketing toolkit, as, with the right strategy, it can drive both brand awareness and organic performance.

You’re missing a trick if you’re just using Digital PR to drive links

Digital PR is used to build high authority, and relevant links to key category pages to drive search performance through organic growth. A targeted strategy that aligns closely with SEO objectives will enable you to track ROI if you have the right measurement tools in place. This activity feeds into lower funnel marketing activity as it helps to harvest demand, as increased rankings capture better traffic and conversions. 

However, if you’re only using it for this purpose, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity further up the marketing funnel. 

Through securing brand-led, high-impact coverage on authoritative and influential publications, digital PR can also be used to drive search demand and upper-funnel brand awareness. This third-party validation is the perfect way to build salience, credibility, customer advocacy, and trust while simultaneously driving organic performance through high-quality links.

In order to achieve both brand and performance though, you need to be creating relevant and engaging content that your target audience wants to read and share. You shouldn’t be creating content ‘just for a link’ but taking into consideration wider business goals – and making sure you’re actually targeting press that your audience is reading.

In summary, digital PR shouldn’t just be an ‘intent-led’ marketing discipline to increase rankings. It’s a discipline that can both drive demand and awareness, whilst helping to capture intent-led traffic. 

Why brand visibility is even more important during a recession

Recessions are difficult and uncertain times, which is why it’s even more important to continue to build visibility and salience – as with tighter budgets, consumers are likely to become more selective and want to buy from brands that they trust that stay relevant to them.

We have seen in previous economic uncertainty brands that maintain their brand awareness and relevance, retain more market share, and are able to bounce back quicker. Mark Ritson’s marketing recession playbook provides further information and sources on this subject. 

In order to use digital PR to deliver true brand performance, you need to ensure you’re creating it based on as much cross-channel insight as possible.

Sharing cross-channel insight to deliver better ROI

While many marketers say they work ‘cross-channel,’ the reality is that many teams are still working in silos – especially across brand and performance teams.

To drive the best results, it is essential to break down silos and take data insights from each channel to develop one overarching strategy.

For example, to drive organic growth, while it’s critical to start with key SEO insight, search volumes, brand traffic, non-brand traffic, relevance, and the number of backlinks, you should be considering other channels to maximize performance. 

Another example would be that your PPC and paid search teams will have a lot of useful data that you can use to inform your organic strategy. Which are the keywords that are costing the most? You can tailor your efforts to improve organic rankings for these keywords, effectively allowing you to spend less on those terms. 

Your programmatic team will also have access to display placement reports which will provide insight into the publications and websites your in-market audience is visiting. This should then inform your target outreach list. From a paid social perspective, this team will have lots of useful information on what content performs the best providing valuable insight for your PR brainstorms.

Amplifying your Digital PR coverage further

You shouldn’t just be working with other channel teams to define your strategy, you need to work with them throughout the whole process, to amplify results. 

For instance, if you generate a truly fantastic piece of linking digital PR coverage, on a very credible publication. Whilst this will drive SEO performance and some brand awareness, in order to maximize the opportunity, and the valuable third-party validation, make it work even harder by amplifying through paid social.

Mini case study: Maryland cookies use PR to reach 5+ million people

Maryland came to us because they needed to align PR, programmatic, and paid social to drive mass awareness of their new Sugar-Free cookie and deliver an immediate surge in new customer sales. Through an integrated approach of PR, paid social, and programmatic, we reached 5.3 million people across all channels. View the case study here.

We have seen in past campaigns that by utilizing PR content as part of your social ads, not only can they actually perform better than the ad creative, but they can also help to prevent ad fatigue and provide you with additional assets (that you don’t need to pay anything extra for!). 

Immediate steps to help your 2023 marketing plan

In order to be successful, it’s important to create a framework that helps to pull all channels together. 

At Journey Further we use the ‘4Ds’ – Discover, Define, Develop, and Deliver. 

Discover

This phase involves asking all the channels to provide insight and data based on their recent campaigns and learnings to date. It is recommended to assign a client lead who can be tasked with pulling together a list of questions and a briefing document to ensure the discovery phase is as useful as possible. This will help identify where the biggest opportunities are across channels. 

Define

Agree on the best objective and goals based on the insight provided by all channels. Create an overarching strategy that will deliver against them and drive maximum ROI. 

Develop

Set a clear roadmap, with roles and responsibilities outlined across each channel. Whilst in the case of an organic growth strategy, SEO and PR will take the leading role, it’s important other channels are clear on the ways they can amplify the activity at each stage, and what learnings they can also gather from the activity to improve their own results in-channel. 

Deliver

Marketing activity is activated. If this is a digital PR campaign then influencer marketing and paid social tactics may be used for example, alongside outreach, to bolster the campaign and drive more buzz and engagement. 

Reporting on the right metrics

Another benefit of working cross-channel is that you will be able to report on many more metrics, giving a more holistic and accurate view of ROI. 

Creating a live, 24/7 reporting dashboard utilizing tools such as Data Studio will allow you and your team members to check in and monitor progress at all times. This will provide you with a continuous cycle of insight to allow you to continuously improve your marketing efforts and deliver one overarching strategy that enables you to remain visible while also driving performance.


Beth Nunnington is the VP of Digital PR and Content Marketing at Journey Further, leading Digital PR strategy for the world’s leading brands. Her work has been featured in The Drum, PR Moment, and Prolific North. Find Beth on Twitter @BethNunnington.

Subscribe to the Search Engine Watch newsletter for insights on SEO, the search landscape, search marketing, digital marketing, leadership, podcasts, and more.

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10 SaaS marketers share what’s NOT working in content marketing anymore

November 13, 2022 No Comments

Content has become a traditional marketing channel for many SaaS companies. According to ProfitWell, content companies are likely to see 30 percent higher growth rates and 5 percent better retention rates than those not using content marketing.

The content marketing game is constantly changing – what used to work for SaaS companies years ago doesn’t make the cut today. Having spent a good five years in the SaaS content marketing space I’m always interested in tips, hacks, and low-hanging fruit that let you take a shortcut and speed up product growth.

I’ve interviewed 10 SaaS marketers and founders who’ve been creating SaaS content on a daily basis for years and asked them to share their insights – what’s not working in SaaS content marketing anymore? Let’s dive in and see what they have to share.       

#1 Chasing big fat keywords

Everybody wants to rank for these fancy keywords with large amounts of search volume. But the truth is, large search volumes usually come with a crazy high competition and keyword difficulty. If your SaaS is in the social media space and you are just unfolding your content marketing, going after stuff like “social media management” is literally wasting your time and money.    

“Being the bootstrapped startup that we are, we aim for actions that yield results. Our focus is on high-intent content marketing strategy. We pick keywords for blog posts not according to their search volume but according to their purchase intent. This helped us drive not only traffic but also sign ups with our blog being the only marketing channel today ” says Dennis Vu, co-founder and CEO at RingBlaze

I couldn’t agree more. The reason why our agency has been up and running for 2+ years is because we deliver not only traffic but also sign ups to SaaS clients. And the only way to do so with content marketing is to focus on high-intent keywords – think “alternatives”, “competitors” or “vs” keywords. It works every single time so that’s where I recommend starting your content marketing efforts.   

#2 Going outside of your niche

We’ve written hundreds of articles for the Expandi blog over the course of two years. Today, Google recognizes Expandi as an authority when it comes to all things LinkedIn –LinkedIn cold outreach, LinkedIn recruitment, LinkedIn automation – no matter which LinkedIn-related article we’d cover, it instantly ranks well on Google.

Recently, Expandi introduced new features, only this time they weren’t about LinkedIn but about email outreach. Once we started writing email-related articles, we realized that they were not ranking well. Unfortunately, we haven’t built the email marketing topical authority (yet) so Google didn’t consider us experts in the niche.

This doesn’t mean you can’t enter a new space and write about a new subject. Building the topical authority needed for recognizing you as a niche expert will require time and effort. If you decide to start a new category on a blog, you should keep this in mind. At the same time, if you aren’t changing your product, keep in line with the topic you’ve chosen. 

“If the article is written about CRM, but this is not your niche, it is challenging to get to the top of Google search,” says Andrew Chornyy, CEO at Plerdy where they write 30 blog articles per month. 

#3 Posting articles lacking expertise

Have you ever read one of those articles where it looks good on the surface but once you’ve read it you felt like there was absolutely nothing you’ve learned from it? Pretty much all the content marketing experts I’ve talked to agree on this – vague, watery content for the sake of content is a no-go. 

“Most companies use copywriters to write their content. This doesn’t work anymore. As they are usually not an expert in the topic they write about, they will read our copywriters’ articles to research the topic. This results in an endless loop of already fluffy content being the input for even fluffier content,” says Jeroen Corthout, co-founder and CEO at Salesflare.  

Be careful when you hire copywriters with no subject matter expertise – you might be risking your brand image. Ask about their previous writing examples covering a similar topic or niche. For example, when we chat with a wanna-be client from a niche we don’t have experience with, we let them know about it straight away. Losing a potential client is way better than losing a reputation.   

If your topics are technical and your tech experts don’t have time to write blog articles (which is usually the case) have your writers connect with experts on a quick call to get as many ‘meaty’ details as possible. Also, make sure to get those experts to proofread the post when it’s ready. 

#4 Prioritizing article length over quality

When Brian Dean introduced us to the skyscraper technique back in the day, everyone and his dog started creating content that’s longer than those competing results ranking in Google top. However, long content doesn’t necessarily mean comprehensive. What we see these days is blogs populated with 20-min reads that are vague, watery, and, let’s be honest, don’t bring much value to the table.

Ioana Sima, marketing manager at TextMagic said,

“Long-form written content as 90% of companies do it. The web is incredibly saturated with long-form articles that are written for the sake of being written. SaaS companies should not rely purely on long-form.

I would recommend experimenting with different formats and transforming articles that perform well into long-form content, while also including video summaries, templates, or rich media that can be distributed on other channels and quickly digested. Oh, and ALWAYS check SERPs to see the formats of top-performing pages.”

It can be hard to pack your article with value when SurferSEO asks you to write a 5K words piece. Remember that longer doesn’t always mean better. After all, this is what content marketing is about – writing for people, and bringing value while also catering to search engines. 

#5 Publishing articles under a wrong name

Ranktracker is publishing 50 blog articles per month, translated into 12 languages. Felix Rose-Collins, the CMO, shares that articles they’ve published under the name of unknown authors tend to have poor performance on Google.

“We noticed that they don’t appear for our target keywords, we have now stopped posting for unknown authors. Once we’ve started using well-known names (like CEO), we see them rank within two minutes after publishing in the top 3 results. Even for extremely competitive keywords,” says Felix. 

clicks and sessions over timeRankTracker clicks and impressions over time

In fact, this might be one of the reasons why you don’t see the results from the guest posts published on your blog. Next time, when you accept a guest post, make sure to look up the author on Google. If there are no online publications, chances are it probably won’t do your blog any good.

On the other note, when you pitch a guest post to an editor, include your previous publications on major platforms. For example, that’s how I got to write this post for Search Engine Watch – I shared my previous articles I wrote for Entrepreneur, HubSpot, Zapier, Foundr, and many more.  

#6 Focusing on new content rather past articles

About five years ago I wasn’t thinking much about updating old content. We were on a hamster wheel of creating more content, faster for Chanty, a company where I headed a content team. Then I ran into this article by HubSpot and realized I was missing out big time. So we went back to the older posts to update and optimize them. I can’t share numbers as it was a long time ago but the results were huge. Since then we do this for our clients – if the article isn’t performing well, it gets an update. 

“You’ll find that most of your sign ups come from a handful of articles. Updating our lead-generating content is an ongoing work that never stops. After all, the supply of keywords relevant to your business isn’t endless. While you are producing new content, older articles are going down. If you neglect updating older content you’d be stuck with a traffic plateau and a business that doesn’t grow,” says Andrey Makhovskyi, founder and CEO at Effy.ai

SaaS content marketing - One of Effy.ai updated article performance over time

One of Effy.ai updated article performance over time

#7 Contributing via Help a reporter out (HARO)

This might bring a lot of resentment but we had to discontinue HARO for our clients in 2022. If you are not familiar, HARO is a service that connects journalists/ authors with experts in the field. 

Authors would request a quote from experts and experts would share their advice. Authors then would decide which quote to include in their article and credit experts by putting a link to the expert’s website (similar to what I’m doing in this article). This used to be a win-win case – authors would get meaty insights for their publications while experts would get attribution and links to their websites.

It worked great until it turned into a red ocean zone and space got overcrowded. What used to be a great link building technique became a waste of time and effort.

“About two years ago we used to get 25 backlinks out of 65 pitches for our clients. With time it went into a downward spiral. Today, nobody links to you just because you shared your advice. They also want a link back in return. We realized it no longer delivers the value it used to to our clients. We had to give up this service and focus on backlink building techniques that do work today, ” says Iryna Kutnyak, director of operations at Quoleady

#8 Distributing content across communities

Emilia Korczynska is a head of content at UserPilot and the hardest working marketer I’ve ever met. Getting published a whopping 60 articles per month, she’s tried distributing blog content on Quora, Reddit and social media. She says you have to be very cautious about how you spend time distributing blog posts.  

“Resharing content in social media groups that are mostly dead or Slack channels requires a lot of effort, and with the miniscule organic reach and a high chance of getting banned by the admins just don’t justify it. Similarly with Quora/Reddit and other Q&A sites,” says Emilia.

I couldn’t agree more – we stopped all of our Quora activities a long time ago because the results just weren’t worth it. What we realized is that people often come to Quora from Google search after typing your target keyword – the one you are optimizing an article for. It makes much more sense to get that blog article rank in the Google top (higher than the Quora result) rather than trying to compete with hundreds of Quora answers bugging your friends/colleagues to upvote and comment.

When it comes to sharing in social media groups – self promotion is usually against the group rules anyway. Unless you are an admin or have been constantly adding value to the group, your blatant distribution attempt will be quickly eliminated. At the same time, there are groups that allow this sort of promotion. I call them “distribution cemeteries”. Nobody reads the avalanche of irrelevant content that’s being posted there. 

#9 Prioritizing link building over content quality

Whenever I speak with a potential client on Zoom, I emphasize that content quality comes first. You can’t have a piece of content that’s thin and invaluable and expect it to rank well by building backlinks to it. It’s like putting a fresh coat of paint on a car with no wheels and hoping it will ride. 

I’ve interviewed Mohamed Sehwail, CEO at FullSession and here’s his input on this,

“We haven’t been building backlinks to our blog content for a while, yet we were able to maintain steady growth of traffic and sign ups. Article updates do its magic, boosting our positions and bringing our pages to the Google top.” 

SaaS - FullSession traffic growth over time

FullSession traffic growth over time

Building backlinks will only help rank content better once your content is polished – it’s valuable, well-structured, to the point, answers the search intent, etc. When that’s in place and you are still not ranking well, it’s time to add backlinks.

#10 Overdosing with gated content

“Give us your email and get access to an ebook, whitepaper, guide, checklist, etc.” The classic inbound approach introduced by HubSpot back in the days might not work for everyone as of now. The amount of content online these days is insane. Why would they give you their email if they can get the same contact (if not better) openly elsewhere?

Instead of closing off certain content, we’ve found it’s more beneficial to create ‘additional resources’ as a complement allowing readers the option to download and creating a win-win scenario,” says  Elizabeth Pokorny, head of content at Weglot

When you are putting together three already published articles on a topic and calling it a guide, it doesn’t sound right. If it works for you – great. However, gated content does its best when it’s unique, something you can’t find easily online.

It might help to review your gated content policy and experiment with the assets you share with your readers. Opening more of your content might bring extra organic traffic and result in more sign ups at the end of the day. On the other hand, if your content pieces are of great value and your website is the only place to get them, I’d recommend keeping them gated. 

Bottom line

I’ve interviewed dozens of content marketers and only top insights made it to this article. One thing that’s clear as day – great content is here to stay. It’s not about the amount of backlinks or length. Helpful, actionable, experience-based content written by an expert in the field is what you should be after when planning content pieces for your website. 

When you develop your content marketing strategy, focus on high-intent keywords that will bring a highly-targeted flow of people who are ready to sign up. When you have a pool of articles that generate leads for you, make sure to cherish this content and update it regularly to give it a well-deserved Google boost.

Topical authority is a thing and gradually building authority around the topic that’s most relevant to your business will help you rank your future articles faster and easier. 

When sharing content online, avoid the spray-and-pray approach (don’t bury your content on the spooky ‘distribution cemeteries’), always check the results of your activities and double down only on those channels that are worth the effort.

Hopefully, this article and advice from the content marketing experts who’ve learned their lesson through trial and error will help you save time and focus on things that work.


Olga Mykhoparkina is a founder at Quoleady, a SaaS content marketing agency on a mission to help great software products get quality leads through top-notch evergreen content.

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The post 10 SaaS marketers share what’s NOT working in content marketing anymore appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Is Google headed towards a continuous “real-time” algorithm?

November 4, 2022 No Comments

Is Google headed towards a continuous “real-time” algorithm

30-second summary:

  • The present reality is that Google presses the button and updates its algorithm, which in turn can update site rankings
  • What if we are entering a world where it is less of Google pressing a button and more of the algorithm automatically updating rankings in “real-time”?
  • Advisory Board member and Wix’s Head of SEO Branding, Mordy Oberstein shares his data observations and insights

If you’ve been doing SEO even for a short while, chances are you’re familiar with a Google algorithm update. Every so often, whether we like it or not, Google presses the button and updates its algorithm, which in turn can update our rankings. The key phrase here is “presses the button.” 

But, what if we are entering a world where it’s less of Google pressing a button and more of the algorithm automatically updating rankings in “real-time”? What would that world look like and who would it benefit? 

What do we mean by continuous real-time algorithm updates?

It is obvious that technology is constantly evolving but what needs to be made clear is that this applies to Google’s algorithm as well. As the technology available to Google improves, the search engine can do things like better understand the content and assess websites. However, this technology needs to be interjected into the algorithm. In other words, as new technology becomes available to Google or as the current technology improves (we might refer to this as machine learning “getting smarter”) Google, in order to utilize these advancements, needs to “make them a part” of its algorithms.

Take MUM for example. Google has started to use aspects of MUM in the algorithm. However, (at the time of writing) MUM is not fully implemented. As time goes on and based on Google’s previous announcements, MUM is almost certainly going to be applied to additional algorithmic tasks.  

Of course, once Google introduces new technology or has refined its current capabilities it will likely want to reassess rankings. If Google is better at understanding content or assessing site quality, wouldn’t it want to apply these capabilities to the rankings? When it does so, Google “presses the button” and releases an algorithm update. 

So, say one of Google’s current machine-learning properties has evolved. It’s taken the input over time and has been refined – it’s “smarter” for lack of a better word. Google may elect to “reintroduce” this refined machine learning property into the algorithm and reassess the pages being ranked accordingly.    

These updates are specific and purposeful. Google is “pushing the button.” This is most clearly seen when Google announces something like a core update or product review update or even a spam update. 

In fact, perhaps nothing better concretizes what I’ve been saying here than what Google said about its spam updates

“While Google’s automated systems to detect search spam are constantly operating, we occasionally make notable improvements to how they work…. From time to time, we improve that system to make it better at spotting spam and to help ensure it catches new types of spam.” 

In other words, Google was able to develop an improvement to a current machine learning property and released an update so that this improvement could be applied to ranking pages. 

If this process is “manual” (to use a crude word), what then would continuous “real-time” updates be? Let’s take Google’s Product Review Updates. Initially released in April of 2021, Google’s Product Review Updates aim at weeding out product review pages that are thin, unhelpful, and (if we’re going to call a spade a spade) exists essentially to earn affiliate revenue.

To do this, Google is using machine learning in a specific way, looking at specific criteria. With each iteration of the update (such as there was in December 2021, March 2022, etc.) these machine learning apparatuses have the opportunity to recalibrate and refine. Meaning, they can be potentially more effective over time as the machine “learns” – which is kind of the point when it comes to machine learning. 

What I theorize, at this point, is that as these machine learning properties refine themselves, rank fluctuates accordingly. Meaning, Google allows machine learning properties to “recalibrate” and impact the rankings. Google then reviews and analyzes and sees if the changes are to its liking. 

We may know this process as unconfirmed algorithm updates (for the record I am 100% not saying that all unconfirmed updates are as such). It’s why I believe there is such a strong tendency towards rank reversals in between official algorithm updates. 

It’s quite common that the SERP will see a noticeable increase in rank fluctuations that can impact a page’s rankings only to see those rankings reverse back to their original position with the next wave of rank fluctuations (whether that be a few days later or weeks later). In fact, this process can repeat itself multiple times. The net effect is a given page seeing rank changes followed by reversals or a series of reversals.  

across the board fluctuations - Google moving towards a “real-time” algorithm

A series of rank reversals impacting almost all pages ranking between position 5 and 20 that align with across-the-board heightened rank fluctuations 

This trend, as I see it, is Google allowing its machine learning properties to evolve or recalibrate (or however you’d like to describe it) in real-time. Meaning, no one is pushing a button over at Google but rather the algorithm is adjusting to the continuous “real-time” recalibration of the machine learning properties.

It’s this dynamic that I am referring to when I question if we are heading toward “real-time” or “continuous” algorithmic rank adjustments.

What would a continuous real-time google algorithm mean? 

So what? What if Google adopted a continuous real-time model? What would the practical implications be? 

In a nutshell, it would mean that rank volatility would be far more of a constant. Instead of waiting for Google to push the button on an algorithm update in order to rank to be significantly impacted as a construct, this would simply be the norm. The algorithm would be constantly evaluating pages/sites “on its own” and making adjustments to rank in more real-time. 

Another implication would be a lack of having to wait for the next update for restoration. While not a hard-fast rule, if you are significantly impacted by an official Google update, such as a core update, you generally won’t see rank restoration occur until the release of the next version of the update – whereupon your pages will be evaluated. In a real-time scenario, pages are constantly being evaluated, much the way links are with Penguin 4.0 which was released in 2016. To me, this would be a major change to the current “SERP ecosystem.” 

I would even argue that, to an extent, we already have a continuous “real-time” algorithm. In fact, that we at least partially have a real-time Google algorithm is simply fact. As mentioned, In 2016, Google released Penguin 4.0 which removed the need to wait for another version of the update as this specific algorithm evaluates pages on a constant basis. 

However, outside of Penguin, what do I mean when I say that, to an extent, we already have a continuous real-time algorithm? 

The case for real-time algorithm adjustments

The constant “real-time” rank adjustments that occur in the ecosystem are so significant that they refined the volatility landscape. 

Per Semrush data I pulled, there was a 58% increase in the number of days that reflected high-rank volatility in 2021 as compared to 2020. Similarly, there was a 59% increase in the number of days that reflected either high or very high levels of rank volatility: 

Data showing volatility - Google moving towards a “real-time” algorithm

Simply put, there is a significant increase in the number of instances that reflect elevated levels of rank volatility. After studying these trends and looking at the ranking patterns, I believe the aforementioned rank reversals are the cause. Meaning, a large portion of the increased instances in rank volatility are coming from what I believe to be machine learning continually recalibrating in “real-time,” thereby producing unprecedented levels of rank reversals. 

Supporting this is the fact (that along with the increased instances of rank volatility) we did not see increases in how drastic the rank movement is. Meaning, there are more instances of rank volatility but the degree of volatility did not increase. 

In fact, there was a decrease in how dramatic the average rank movement was in 2021 relative to 2020! 

Why? Again, I chalk this up to the recalibration of machine learning properties and their “real-time” impact on rankings. In other words, we’re starting to see more micro-movements that align with the natural evolution of Google’s machine-learning properties. 

When a machine learning property is refined as its intake/learning advances, you’re unlikely to see enormous swings in the rankings. Rather, you will see a refinement in the rankings that align with refinement in the machine learning itself. 

Hence, the rank movement we’re seeing, as a rule, is far more constant yet not as drastic. 

The final step towards continuous real-time algorithm updates

While much of the ranking movement that occurs is continuous in that it is not dependent on specific algorithmic refreshes, we’re not fully there yet. As I mentioned, much of the rank volatility is a series of reversing rank positions. Changes to these ranking patterns, again, are often not solidified until the rollout of an official Google update, most commonly, an official core algorithm update. 

Until the longer-lasting ranking patterns are set without the need to  “press the button” we don’t have a full-on continuous or “real-time” Google algorithm. 

However, I have to wonder if the trend is not heading toward that. For starters, Google’s Helpful Content Update (HCU) does function in real-time. 

Per Google

Our classifier for this update runs continuously, allowing it to monitor newly-launched sites and existing ones. As it determines that the unhelpful content has not returned in the long-term, the classification will no longer apply.”

How is this so? The same as what we’ve been saying all along here – Google has allowed its machine learning to have the autonomy it would need to be “real-time” or as Google calls it, “continuous”: 

This classifier process is entirely automated, using a machine-learning model.” 

For the record, continuous does not mean ever-changing. In the case of the HCU, there’s a logical validation period before restoration. Should we ever see a “truly” continuous real-time algorithm, this may apply in various ways as well. I don’t want to let on that the second you make a change to a page, there will be a ranking response should we ever see a “real-time” algorithm.

At the same time, the “traditional” officially “button-pushed” algorithm update has become less impactful over time. In a study I conducted back in late 2021, I noticed that Semrush data indicated that since 2018’s Medic Update, the core updates being released were becoming significantly less impactful.

the relation between Google's updates and rank volatility - Google moving towards a “real-time” algorithm

Data indicates that Google’s core updates are presenting less rank volatility overall as time goes on

Subsequently, this trend has continued. Per my analysis of the September 2022 Core Update, there was a noticeable drop-off in the volatility seen relative to the May 2022 Core Update

lesser rank volatility seen during Google's core update in Sep 2022 - Google moving towards a “real-time” algorithm

Rank volatility change was far less dramatic during the September 2022 Core Update relative to the May 2022 Core Update 

It’s a dual convergence. Google’s core update releases seem to be less impactful overall (obviously, individual sites can get slammed just as hard) while at the same time its latest update (the HCU) is continuous. 

To me, it all points towards Google looking to abandon the traditional algorithm update release model in favor of a more continuous construct. (Further evidence could be in how the release of official updates has changed. If you look back at the various outlets covering these updates, the data will show you that the roll-out now tends to be slower with fewer days of increased volatility and, again, with less overall impact). 

The question is, why would Google want to go to a more continuous real-time model? 

Why a continuous real-time google algorithm is beneficial

A real-time continuous algorithm? Why would Google want that? It’s pretty simple, I think. Having an update that continuously refreshes rankings to reward the appropriate pages and sites is a win for Google (again, I don’t mean instant content revision or optimization resulting in instant rank change).

Which is more beneficial to Google’s users? A continuous-like updating of the best results or periodic updates that can take months to present change? 

The idea of Google continuously analyzing and updating in a more real-time scenario is simply better for users. How does it help a user looking for the best result to have rankings that reset periodically with each new iteration of an official algorithm update? 

Wouldn’t it be better for users if a site, upon seeing its rankings slip, made changes that resulted in some great content, and instead of waiting months to have it rank well, users could access it on the SERP far sooner? 

Continuous algorithmic implementation means that Google can get better content in front of users far faster. 

It’s also better for websites. Do you really enjoy implementing a change in response to ranking loss and then having to wait perhaps months for restoration? 

Also, the fact that Google would so heavily rely on machine learning and trust the adjustments it was making only happens if Google is confident in its ability to understand content, relevancy, authority, etc. SEOs and site owners should want this. It means that Google could rely less on secondary signals and more directly on the primary commodity, content and its relevance, trustworthiness, etc. 

Google being able to more directly assess content, pages, and domains overall is healthy for the web. It also opens the door for niche sites and sites that are not massive super-authorities (think the Amazons and WebMDs of the world). 

Google’s better understanding of content creates more parity. Google moving towards a more real-time model would be a manifestation of that better understanding.

A new way of thinking about google updates

A continuous real-time algorithm would intrinsically change the way we would have to think about Google updates. It would, to a greater or lesser extent, make tracking updates as we now know them essentially obsolete. It would change the way we look at SEO weather tools in that, instead of looking for specific moments of increased rank volatility, we’d pay more attention to overall trends over an extended period of time. 

Based on the ranking trends we already discussed, I’d argue that, to a certain extent, that time has already come. We’re already living in an environment where rankings fluctuate far more than they used to and to an extent has redefined what stable rankings mean in many situations. 

To both conclude and put things simply, edging closer to a continuous real-time algorithm is part and parcel of a new era in ranking organically on Google’s SERP.


Mordy Oberstein is Head of SEO Branding at Wix. Mordy can be found on Twitter @MordyOberstein.

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In a sea of signals, is your on-page on-point?

November 2, 2022 No Comments

In a sea of signals, is your on-page on-point

30-second summary:

  • Content managers who want to assess their on-page performance can feel lost at sea due to numerous SEO signals and their perceptions
  • This problem gets bigger and highly complex for industries with niche semantics
  • The scenarios they present to the content planning process are highly specific, with unique lexicons and semantic relationships
  • Sr. SEO Strategist at Brainlabs, Zach Wales, uses findings from a rigorous competitive analysis to shed light on how to evaluate your on-page game

Industries with niche terminology, like scientific or medical ecommerce brands, present a layer of complexity to SEO. The scenarios they present to the content planning process are highly specific, with unique lexicons and semantic relationships. 

SEO has many layers to begin with, from technical to content. They all aim to optimize for numerous search engine ranking signals, some of which are moving targets. 

So how does one approach on-page SEO in this challenging space? We recently had the privilege of conducting a lengthy competitive analysis for a client in one of these industries. 

What we walked away with was a repeatable process for on-page analysis in a complicated semantic space. 

The challenge: Turning findings into action

At the outset of any analysis, it’s important to define the challenge. In the most general sense, ours was to turn findings into meaningful on-page actions — with priorities. 

And we would do this by comparing the keyword ranking performance of our client’s domain to that of its five chosen competitors.

Specifically, we needed to identify areas of the client’s website content that were losing to competitors in keyword rankings. And to prioritize things, we needed to show where those losses were having the greatest impact on our client’s potential for search traffic.

Adding to the complexity were two additional sub-challenges:

  1. Volume of keyword data. When people think of “niche markets,” the implication is usually a small number of keywords with low monthly search volumes (MSV). Scientific industries are not so. They are “niche” in the sense that their semantics are not accessible to all—including keyword research tools—but their depth & breadth of keyword potential is vast.
  2. Our client already dominated the market. At first glance, using keyword gap analysis tools, there were no product categories where our client wasn’t dominating the market. Yet they were incurring traffic losses from these five competitors from a seemingly random, spread-out number of cases. Taken together incrementally, these losses had significant impacts on their web traffic. 

If the needle-in-a-haystack analogy comes to mind, you see where this is going. 

To put the details to our challenge, we had to:

  • Identify where those incremental effects of keyword rank loss were being felt the most — knowing this would guide our prioritization;
  • Map those keyword trends to their respective stage of the marketing funnel (from informational top-of-funnel to the transactional bottom-of-funnel) 
  • Rule out off-page factors like backlink equity, Core Web Vitals & page speed metrics, in order to…
  • Isolate cases where competitor pages ranked higher than our client’s on the merits of their on-page techniques, and finally
  • Identify what those successful on-page techniques were, in hopes that our client could adapt its content to a winning on-page formula.   

How to spot trends in a sea of data

When the data sets you’re working with are large and no apparent trends stand out, it’s not because they don’t exist. It only means you have to adjust the way you look at the data.

As a disclaimer, we’re not purporting that our approach is the only approach. It was one that made sense in response to another challenge at hand, which, again, is one that’s common to this industry: The intent measures of SEO tools like Semrush and Ahrefs — “Informational,” “Navigational,” “Commercial” and “Transactional,” or some combination thereof — are not very reliable. 

Our approach to spotting these trends in a sea of data went like this:

Step 1. Break it down to short-tail vs. long tail

Numbers don’t lie. Absent reliable intent data, we cut the dataset in half based on MSV ranges: Keywords with MSVs above 200 and those equal to/below 200. We even graphed these out, and indeed, it returned a classic short/long-tail curve.

on-page SEO signals - Short tail vs long tail keyword performance 

This gave us a proxy for funnel mapping: Short-tail keywords, defined as high-MSV & broad focus, could be mostly associated with the upper funnel. This made long-tail keywords, being less searched but more specifically focused, a proxy for the lower funnel. 

Doing this also helped us manage the million-plus keyword dataset our tools generated for the client and its five competitor websites. Even if you perform the export hack of downloading data in batches, neither Google Drive nor your device’s RAM want anything to do with that much data.

Step 2. Establish a list of keyword-operative root words

The “keyword-operative root word” is the term we gave to root words that are common to many or all of the keywords under a certain topic or content type. For example, “dna” is a common root word to most of the keywords about DNA lab products, which our client and its competitors sell. And “protocols” is a root word for many keywords that exist in upper-funnel, informational content.

We established this list by placing our short- and long-tail data (exported from Semrush’s Keyword Gap analysis tool) into two spreadsheets, where we were able to view the shared keyword rankings of our client and the five competitors. We equipped these spreadsheets with data filters and formulas that scored each keyword with a competitive value, relative to the six web domains analyzed.  

Separately, we took a list of our client’s product categories and brainstormed all possibilities for keyword-operative root words. Finally, we filtered the data for each root word and noted trends, such as the number of keywords that a website ranked for on Google page 1, and the sum of their MSVs. 

Finally, we applied a calculation that incorporated average position, MSV, and industry click-through rates to quantify the significance of a trend. So if a competitor appeared to have a keyword ranking edge over our client in a certain subset of keywords, we could place a numerical value on that edge. 

Step 3. Identify content templates

If one of your objectives is to map keyword trends to the marketing funnel, then it’s critical to understand the role of page templates. Why? 

Page speed performance is a known ranking signal that should be considered. And ecommerce websites often have content templates that reflect each stage of the funnel. 

In this case, all six competitors conveniently had distinct templates for top-, middle- and bottom-funnel content:

  • Top-funnel templates: Text-heavy, informational content in what was commonly called “Learning Resources” or something similar;
  • Middle-funnel templates: Also text-heavy, informational content about a product category, with links to products and visual content like diagrams and videos — the Product Landing Page (PLP), essentially;
  • Bottom-funnel templates: Transactional, Product Detail Pages (PDP) with concise, conversion-oriented text and purchasing calls-to-action.

Step 4. Map keyword trends to the funnel

After cross-examining the root terms (Step 2), keyword ranking trends began to emerge. Now we just had to map them to their respective funnel stage.

Having identified content templates, and having the data divided by short- & long-tail made this a quicker process. Our primary focus was on trends where competitor webpages were outranking our client’s site. 

on-page SEO signals - Page Speed Insight Scores on-page SEO signals - Page Speed Insight Scores by device and competitor comparison

Identifying content templates brought the added value of seeing where competitors, for example, outranked our client on a certain keyword because their winning webpage was built in a content-rich, optimized PLP, while our client’s lower-ranking page was a PDP.

Step 5. Rule out the off-page ranking factors

Since our goal was to identify & analyze on-page techniques, we had to rule out off-page factors like link equity and page speed. We sought cases where one page outranked another on a shared keyword, in spite of having inferior link equity, page speed scores, etc. 

For all of Google’s developments in processing semantics (e.g., BERT, the Helpful Content Update) there are still cases where a page with thin text content outranks another page that has lengthier, optimized text content — by virtue of link equity. 

To rule these factors out, we assigned an “SEO scorecard” to each webpage under investigation. The scorecard tallied the number of rank-signal-worthy attributes the page had in its SEO favor. This included things like Semrush’s page authority score, the number of internal vs. external inlinks, the presence and types of Schema markup, and Core Web Vitals stats.

on-page SEO signals - SEO Scorecard

The scorecards also included on-page factors, like the number of headers & subheaders (H1, H2, H3…), use of keywords in alt-tags, meta titles & their character counts, and even page word count. This helped give a high-level sense of on-page performance before diving into the content itself. 

Our findings

When comparing the SEO scorecards of our client’s pages to its competitors, we only chose cases where the losing scorecard (in off-page factors) was the keyword ranking winner. Here are a few of the standout findings.

Adding H3 tags to products names really works

This month, OrangeValley’s Koen Leemans published a Semrush article, titled, SEO Split Test Result: Adding H3 Tags to Products Names on Ecommerce Category Pages. We found this study especially well-timed, as it validated what we saw in this competitive analysis.

To those versed in on-page SEO, placing keywords in <h3> HTML format (or any level of <h…> for that matter) is a wise move. Google crawls this text before it gets to the paragraph copy. It’s a known ranking signal. 

When it comes to SEO-informed content planning, ecommerce clients have a tendency — coming from the best of intentions — to forsake the product name in pursuit of the perfect on-page recipe for a specific non-brand keyword. The value of the product name becomes a blind spot because the brand assumes it will outrank others on its own product names.

It’s somewhere in this thought process that an editor may, for example, decide to list product names on a PLP as bolded <p> copy, rather than as a <h3> or <h4>. This, apparently, is a missed opportunity. 

More to this point, we found that this on-page tactic performed even better when the <h>-tagged product name was linked (index, follow) to its corresponding PDP, AND accompanied with a sentence description beneath the product name. 

This is in contrast to the product landing page (PLP) which has ample supporting page copy, and only lists its products as hyperlinked names with no descriptive text. 

Word count probably matters, <h> count very likely matters

In the ecommerce space, it’s not uncommon to find PLPs that have not been visited by the content fairy. A storyless grid of images and product names. 

Yet, in every case where two PLPs of this variety went toe-to-toe over the same keyword, the sheer number of <h> tags seemed to be the only on-page factor that ranked one PLP above its competitors’ PLPs, which themselves had higher link equity. 

The takeaway here is that if you know you won’t have time to touch up your PLPs with landing copy, you should at least set all product names to <h> tags that are hyperlinked, and increase the number of them (e.g., set the page to load 6 rows of products instead of 4).  

And word count? Although Google’s John Mueller confirmed that word count is not a ranking factor for the search algorithm, this topic is debated. We cannot venture anything conclusive about word count from our competitive analyses. What we can say is that it’s a component of our finding that…

Defining the entire topic with your content wins

Backlinko’s Brian Dean ventured and proved the radical notion that you can optimize a single webpage to rank for not the usual 2 or 3 target keywords, but hundreds of them. That is if your copy encompasses everything about the topic that unites those hundreds of keywords. 

That practice may work in long-form content marketing but is a little less applicable in ecommerce settings. The alternative to this is to create a body of pages that are all interlinked deliberately and logically (from a UX standpoint) and that cover every aspect of the topic at hand.

This content should address the questions that people have at each stage of the awareness-to-purchase cycle (i.e., the funnel). It should define niche terminology and spell out acronyms. It should be accessible.

In one stand-out case from our analysis, a competitor page held position 1 for a lucrative keyword, while our client’s site and that of the other competitors couldn’t even muster a page 1 ranking. All six websites were addressing the keyword head-on, arguably, in all the right ways. And they had superior link equity.

What did the winner have that the rest did not? It happened that in this lone instance, its product was being marketed to a high-school teacher/administrator audience, rather than a PhD-level, corporate, governmental or university scientist. By this virtue alone, their marketing copy was far more layman-accessible, and, apparently, Google approved too.

The takeaway is not to dumb-down the necessary jargon of a technical industry. But it highlights the need to tell every part of the story within a topic vertical. 

Conclusion: Findings-to-action

There is a common emphasis among SEO bloggers who specialize in biotech & scientific industries on taking a top-down, topical takeover approach to content planning. 

I came across these posts after completing this competitive analysis for our client. This topic-takeover emphasis was validating because the “Findings-To-Action” section of our study prescribed something similar:

Map topics to the funnel. Prior to keyword research, map broad topics & subtopics to their respective places in the informational & consumer funnel. Within each topic vertical, identify:

  • Questions-to-ask & problems-to-solve at each funnel stage
  • Keyword opportunities that roll up to those respective stages
  • How many pages should be planned to rank for those keywords
  • The website templates that best accommodate this content
  • The header & internal linking strategy between those pages

Unlike more common-language industries, the need to appeal to two audiences is especially pronounced in scientific industries. One is the AI-driven audience of search engine bots that scour this complex semantic terrain for symmetry of clues and meaning. The other is human, of course, but with a mind that has already mastered this symmetry and is highly capable of discerning it. 

To make the most efficient use of time and user experience, content planning and delivery need to be highly organized. The age-old marketing funnel concept works especially well as an organizing model. The rest is the rigor of applying this full-topic-coverage, content approach.


Zach Wales is Sr. SEO Strategist at Brainlabs.

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Are the days of pure organic growth over for apps?

October 21, 2022 No Comments

Are the days of pure organic growth over for apps

30-second summary:

  • Has it become nearly impossible to cut through the noise of six million apps in app stores?
  • For app marketing to be effective, it has to take into consideration the whole ecosystem that affects your app’s marketing performance
  • Whether it is app store optimization (ASO) or combining organic and paid user acquisition, marketers need to look at data holistically and ask the right questions when analyzing app performance
  • A successful app marketing strategy understands the correlation between ASO and paid user acquisition efforts
  • You need to understand how your paid funnel impacts organic growth and vice versa

Whether you like it or not, apps have become a day-to-day standard for businesses and consumers. There is an app for everything, whether it is shopping, banking, travel, or gaming.  In fact, a recent survey has found that 88 percent of mobile time is spent within apps.

According to Statista’s data from Q2 of 2022, there are more than six million apps across Google Playstore, Apple app store, and Amazon store.

App data Q2 2022 - Number of apps across Google, Apple, and Amazon stores.

Source: Statista

That’s why marketing your app properly has never been more important and has become an integral part of a business’s marketing strategy. But for it to be effective, app marketing has to take into consideration the whole ecosystem that affects your app’s marketing performance. Whether it is app store optimization (ASO) or combining organic and paid user acquisition (for example, via Google App Campaigns and Apple Search Ads), marketers need to look at data holistically and ask the right questions when analyzing an app’s performance.

Here I will share some of the knowledge I have gained and tricks of the trade I have learned over the past 10 years in the marketing field.

Organic growth on its own won’t take you far

While a few years ago ASO may have been the most important part of your app marketing strategy, to stay competitive in the busy app marketing landscape, you need to power up your User Acquisition (UA) strategy. This does not mean that ASO is no longer important – it sure is – but it has to be combined with your paid user acquisition strategy for an app’s sustainable growth. Both organic and paid UA has the main goal to drive quality conversions while maintaining a low cost per conversion.

To start with, you need a solid ASO foundation to maintain a stream of high-quality users across channels. It is essential as the user will ultimately land in your app store listing. You are literally wasting your money if you haven’t invested time in ASO and optimizing your store listing.

Paid user acquisition can lead to more organic app installs. Ads will bring new attention to your app store listing. The more installs your app generates, the higher your app will be ranked in the app stores. As a result, it increases visibility across search results and browse sections. Due to increased visibility, more and more users will land in your organic store listing and download your app. Hence the growth loop continues!

A successful strategy is about understanding the correlation between ASO and paid user acquisition efforts. You need to understand how your paid funnel impacts organic growth and vice versa. At GAMEE, we have used App Radar’s all-in-one platform which has helped our team work together within one system and understand, as well as maximize, the impact of organic and paid user acquisition for both Google and Apple app stores.

Analyzing app performance

After putting a lot of effort into optimizing your UA, don’t just sit back and hope to see perfect results. Throughout the campaign, you should be analyzing your app’s performance and asking the right questions. You’d probably like to know how much growth your ASO efforts brought. Or was it your paid UA traffic that led to an increase or drop? It can be challenging to answer all these questions, especially considering many factors that can play a significant role. As an example, let’s look at a couple of scenarios.

Scenario one: A drop in app installs

Seeing a drop in installs? It might be concerning at first sight. However, the good news is that there is most probably an explanation for every decrease in installs. And for every problem, there is also a solution.

One crucial impact factor you need to consider is paid user acquisition efforts. When you notice a decrease in downloads, you should first check whether you had ads running during that specific time. Ads can bring a significant amount of traffic to your app, and once you stop or reduce them, this might have a substantial effect on your results. Check the correlation between organic and paid conversions, and then analyze how your paid conversions impact your total growth and understand whether an increase in installs might be due to reduced activity via paid channels.

What should you do now?

First, try to get a better picture of the situation by looking at the last 30 or 90 days timeframe and understanding how significant the impact was. If pausing, for example, your Google App Campaigns greatly decreased your installs, you should consider re-activating the ads.

Scenario two: An increase in app installs

This is the result we are all aiming for. Ideally, you’d want this to continue throughout and beyond your marketing campaign. But for that, you need to know what was impacting the increase. Transferring and attributing success from one place to another can be tricky if you do not know where the success is coming from.

Your best bet would be to look at the conversion breakdown to help you find the answer. Is it Google Ads, Apple Search Ads, another paid channel, or ASO? If you run a campaign via a paid channel at the same time as the installs increased then it is most likely that that was what influenced your overall app growth. It is worth also evaluating which ad platform is the most efficient. Do you get a better cost per conversion with a paid channel? To get an idea of whether your app is performing better or worse, you may want to compare the figures with previous campaigns – How did your impressions, conversions, and costs perform compared to the previous period? Taking all of this into account will help you determine whether you should change your focus or make tweaks to your campaign.

Three takeaways from GAMEE’s experience

At GAMEE we have learned that there are three elements every app marketer should never stop working on:

ASO

It is the end-point to all of your app activities. Every dollar and hour invested elsewhere can be multiplied by a good ASO strategy and approach. This is where our use of App Radar’s platform was extremely valuable in maximizing our campaigns.

Testing

Use custom app store listings (where possible), various combinations of paid ad networks, and app store A/B tests to get the best results.

Prioritizing

Pick the audience, markets, regions, and/or demographics you need to win and focus your ASO and paid channels on them.

While analyzing the impact of paid and organic user acquisition is no easy task, the one thing you don’t want to do is put all your eggs in one basket. You can’t rely on just organic UA or just paid UA. For a successful app marketing strategy, both areas have to work in tandem. Your campaign should also allow room for testing. This enables you to tweak and pivot strategy as you go, and tailor it for your target audience. Trust me, if properly managed your app will soon be reaping your strategy’s benefits.


Jan Gemrich is Chief Marketing Officer at GAMEE, a high-engagement play-to-earn gaming platform, that attracts over 30 million users. GAMEE is part of Animoca brands which is a leading blockchain gaming company.  Jan previously worked for 9+ years at Google, based out of Prague, London, and Toronto, where he was responsible for user growth (Google Pay, Android, Search) and the launch of new products (Pixel, Stadia, etc).

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