When thinking about SEO, it’s tempting to concentrate on what’s occurring behind-the-scenes and neglect better ways to increase exposure. Whether you’re directly dealing with SEO or looking to compliment your existing SEO presence with tactics for additional exposure, it’s important to continually focus on developing and growing your digital marketing strategy.
On-Page vs. Off-Page SEO Factors
When you look at SEO, it’s important to understand the difference between on-page and off-page factors. While these two groups work together for the greater good of increasing rankings and driving traffic, they’re unique ventures. According to this handy infographic that divides SEO success factors into a periodic table design, on-page elements refer to content, HTML, and site architecture, while off-page elements include links, trust, social, and personal.
•On-page factors. When the average marketer or amateur thinks about SEO, things like keywords, HTML structure, meta descriptions, headlines, site speed, and crawlability come to mind. These are the on-page factors and are very important; however, you can’t forget about off-page elements.
•Off-page factors. These are largely related to brand awareness and exposure and include things like backlinks, site and brand authority, social reputation and shares, and geographical location.
Being successful at SEO and maximizing exposure requires you to pay attention to both sets of factors.
7 Ways to Boost and Enhance SEO Efforts
With the goal of enhancing brand awareness and SEO prowess in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best SEO-boosting tips to pursue:
1. Produce high-level content. The number one tip is obviously to produce high-level content. What that means is writing content that satisfies both human readers and the search engines. When you’re able to do this, you can affect both on-page elements like content quality and keyword relevancy, as well as enhance off-page elements like authority, trust, and identity. While you never want to let keywords dictate your entire content strategy, it can be helpful to start with a group of relevant terms and use those niches as launching points for more in-depth content.
2. Craft sleek landing pages. If you’re not tapping into the power of custom landing pages, you’re missing out. They provide a great opportunity for driving targeted traffic to your website and building trust with a specific audience. Thanks to user-friendly tools and plugins, even those with little design experience can craft sleek, high-converting pages. The goal for landing pages is to keep the message brief, while using relevant content and interactive elements to engage with readers.
3. Earn quality links. Authoritative backlinks have always been an important off-page factor for SEO. While purchasing links can lead you down a slippery slope, investing in highly relevant guest blogging opportunities and industry partnerships can allow you to enhance brand awareness and increase exposure over an extended period of time. In addition to guest blogging, there are plenty of other ways to earn backlinks. These include joining and participating in blogging communities, answering questions in message boards and social communities, linking to your blog in forum signatures, commenting on other blogs in order to build a reputation or enhance thought leadership, and more.
4. Target long-tail search queries. The competitive nature of SEO and Google’s affinity towards semantic search means long-tail keywords are more important than ever. Instead of focusing on basic two or three word search queries, identify very specific four, five, or six-plus word terms. Not only will this help you enhance your rankings, but it also attracts more relevant traffic.
5. Prepare for mobile audiences. It’s no surprise that local mobile traffic will become increasingly important in the coming months and years. This point is further solidified by Google’s recent focus on rewarding mobile-friendly sites in the search results. In order to satisfy the demands of varying devices, the best SEO investment you can make is transitioning to responsive design.
6. Invest in rigorous A/B testing. The only way to truly know if your on-page SEO strategies are working is to invest in A/B testing. In fact, you should rigorously approach A/B testing and begin analyzing anything and everything you can get your hands on. With dozens of feature-rich, cost-effective testing software solutions available, there’s no reason not to.
7. Build a loyal social following. Anyone who tells you social media and SEO are completely independent isn’t telling you the truth. Social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest help you enhance awareness, attract valuable backlinks, increase shares, and grow trust. In fact, it’s arguably one of the most important off-page factors.
Developing a Balanced Strategy
Whether you’re looking to attract more leads, increase conversions, boost search rankings or enhance overall brand awareness, these seven tips can get you closer to where you need to be. As you move forward in 2015 and beyond, focus on a balanced approach that keeps both on-page and off-page factors in mind.
The SEOToolSet® is a suite of organic optimization tools built by SEOs, for SEOs. We created these SEO tools to help us do our jobs better and we hope, in turn, they can help you do your job better, too.
Today we’re launching SEOToolSet 6, the sixth generation of our tools. From the first-ever web page analysis program that Bruce Clay himself wrote in 1997 until now, our SEO software has always had a singular goal: Give SEOs the tools they need to increase a website’s visibility in search.
The SEOToolSet is unique because it focuses entirely on search engine optimization. These tools are for advanced SEOs and marketers who want exportable, in-depth data and presentation-quality reports regarding on-page and off-page optimization. We say the SEOToolSet is “the deepest dive into SEO data available on the market.” These tools help solve the challenges SEOs face every day.
I sat down with our SEO analysts to find out what I should say here to get you as excited about the usefulness of these tools as we are. To get you acquainted with how we’re using the SEOToolSet every day to serve our clients, we came up with three challenges to spotlight. There are so many more power tools in SEOToolSet 6, consider this merely a taste of what’s offered for the advanced SEO.
Challenge 1: Prove SEO progress with reports that monitor objective rankings.
Challenge 2: Figure out what’s “natural” among top-ranked competitors.
Challenge 3: Efficiently find missing meta tags, duplicate titles, and problems with canonical elements.
Challenge 1: Prove SEO progress with reports that monitor objective rankings
SEO is a long-range proposition. It can take a long time to see results, and clients or bosses (depending on who writes your paycheck) can grow impatient waiting for results. While webmaster tools and analytics can show you traffic increases and revenue growth, it’s helpful to have a way to monitor your site’s rise to prominence in the search engine results pages (SERPs) in an objective way.
Solution: The Ranking Monitor
The Ranking Monitor is one of the SEOToolSet’s most powerful tools. Using authorized APIs, the monitor grabs unbiased, non-personalized rankings for lists of keywords — across Google, Yahoo and Bing and for dozens of markets around the world. Because we want to see for ourselves whether pages are moving up or down the SERPs, we built the monitor to run on a schedule, store historical ranking data to watch progress over time, and also keep track of competitor rankings to use for research or comparison.
The data can be exported as CSV (to work in Excel). We also output print-quality Domain Ranking reports to send regularly to our SEO services clients, showing ranking changes either by market, page, keyword or competitor.
What’s new and cool about Ranking Monitor reports: Whenever some hotshot new competitor comes onto your radar, the Ranking Monitor in Version 6 lets you add the new competitor along with its past rankings for your keywords retroactively. So even though you just realized they’re a threat, you can include their history in your stored competitor data as if you’ve been watching them all along.
Click to enlarge.
Challenge 2: Figure out what’s “natural” among top-ranked competitors
On-page optimization requires understanding what the search engines find most relevant. It would be easy if there were hard and fast rules to follow, but every keyword query waves the starting flag for a SERP contest that’s unique unto itself. To know how to best optimize a web page, SEOs have to look at the sites that are ranking to see what Google is currently rewarding.
This is not so easy, either. No one can stare at a web page and mathematically figure out its word count, frequently used words, keyword placement, content reading level and so on. Moreover, to find what’s natural among all the top-ranked sites, you’d have to do this analysis across many pages. We need SEO tools for this kind of thing from beginning to end.
Solution: The Multi Page Analyzer
SEOToolSet 6 lets you discover what’s natural for a keyword in three quick steps:
Pull up the unbiased top-ranking web pages for any keyword or phrase using the Research Summary tool.
Choose the pages you want to analyze (the top five are checked by default, but you can select any you want).
Run the Multi Page Analyzer tool to see data about each of the top-ranked sites as well as combined statistics.
The statistical recommendations reveal where the sweet spot is for all kinds of on-page attributes, including the average length and keyword usage in the title, meta tags, heading, alt attributes and overall body section, as well as the average content reading level, among the top-ranked sites.
Click to enlarge.
What’s cool and new in the MPA: This SEO report was improved in Version 6 to handle more URLs — not just 5, but 10, 15 or as many as you want! The ability to analyze many competing pages at once can make the resulting information extra accurate.
Challenge 3: Efficiently find missing meta tags, duplicate titles, and canonical elements
Our SEO analysts wanted a way to quickly look throughout a website to find missing or incorrect elements — pages with no title, meta description, or Heading 1, for example. The SEOs also asked for a way to search for any snippet of text to find where it appears in meta information sitewide, to avoid duplication. And for ecommerce sites and others, they needed a way to review canonical link elements and locate inconsistencies.
Solution:SEOToolSet 6’s proprietary site spider
The site spider crawls a website automatically, just as the search engines do. For SEOToolSet Pro subscribers, that gives you almost complete crawl data for your site — down to five clicks deep. The various reports produced by the site spider are custom-designed to give SEOs their dream data.
One of those dream reports, called the Meta Details tool, lets you:
Sort by any column so you can easily identify missing or duplicated titles, meta descriptions, meta keywords, Heading 1 tags, URLs or canonical elements.
Search for text in any of these important page elements sitewide.
Export the data as CSV.
Click to enlarge.
What’s exciting and new: The rich data that the site spider collects fuels some other power tools, as well. One is the new Link Graph, which has all of our analysts buzzing. This tool lets you see the site’s linking strategy as an interactive, visual link map. Use this to confirm your site’s link architecture and siloing strategy at a glance.
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Ready to try some new SEO tools?
I hope you’ve seen enough to know that these tools are created by SEOs, so they might work to solve some of your challenges, too. There are many more tools than the few I’ve sampled in this article. An SEOToolSet Pro subscription also includes tools and reports for link analysis, keyword research, competitor research and technical site errors, to name a few.
It’s easy and risk-free to sign up for SEOToolSet Pro. I encourage you to try these power tools out on your own site. If you decide you don’t need this much data, cancel within 30 days and we’ll refund your subscription fee entirely. After that, you pay as you go. For $89/month you can run two website projects with an unlimited number of users. If you need to optimize more sites, additional projects cost just $30/month per website. And you can cancel your subscription to our SEO power tools anytime.
Want more details? See our SEOToolSet Features page. Then try it out and let me know what you think.
On Feb. 26, Google announced it would “surface content from indexed apps more prominently in search.” This announcement brings up an important question for digital marketers: are apps the new SEO frontier?
Did Someone Say Ranking Boost?
Google’s Feb. 26 announcement that the search engine will now “surface content from indexed apps more prominently in search” is significant news for SEOs. If a user has downloaded your app, your app content can get a ranking boost in their SERP — and if a ranking boost is on the table, it definitely makes an SEO stop and consider the possibilities.
On average, people install 26 apps on their phone … but there are more than 1.3 million apps in the app store. And we know that 5 percent of apps drive 92 percent of all app downloads. Moral of the story? Apps are a very competitive space, and before any coding begins, it’s important to determine whether or not an app is worth the investment for your business.
Last week, Bruce Clay, Inc. hosted the weekly #SEOchat on Twitter to discuss this very topic. Digital marketers had a roundtable discussion about important app matters, including:
There are many reasons a user might download an app. Chief among them, according to SEO-chatters, are:
The user gets something for downloading it — a coupon, a discount, etc. (Starbucks, Delta, Macy’s, Target).
The app solves a problem or makes life easier for the user.
The app is a better experience than the mobile site.
The app provides entertainment.
The app boosts productivity.
The Current Effect of Deep Linking
Igal Stolpner, head of marketingInvesting.com, has already enabled deep linking on an app. (Deep linking is necessary for app indexation). We asked if he’d seen a ranking boost, and he had this to say:
While Stolpner is right — there is a very slight increase — it’s hard to say that this was, in fact, a boost from deep linking. The slight increase could be attributed to a variety of factors.
The lack of clear ranking boost evidence is consistent with what we’ve seen in our own clients at Bruce Clay, Inc. We have not seen any apps changing rank in the SERP (yet?).
In any event, deep linking should be implemented for all apps. Learn more about indexing your app in this Google Code Lab.
App Store Optimization
The conversation touched on app store optimization. Matthew Young, a senior SEO specialist at Adobe, advised app developers to consider SEO 101 items: “Optimize the titles and descriptions with keywords, use video and images. Also, linking to the app listing in Google and/or Apple is a good thing, as well,” he tweeted.
Other participants advocated garnering reviews and having clear screenshots showing what the app will look like when you use it.
The Effect of Wearables on Apps
When asked how wearables will change the way apps are used and developed, Chad Lio (digitial marketing manager at Massage Magazine) said that he could see a future where developers make two versions of an app: one for mobile and one for wearables.
The development of wearables, of course, depends on an industry’s demand. All parties agreed that the space where apps for wearables is destined to skyrocket is fitness and health.
Last month, Google actually announced a change in their algorithm before it had already happened. In this post they mention that starting April 21st mobile-friendliness will become a ranking factor more and more.
In the past few weeks we’ve been getting quite a few reports from Google Webmaster Tools. Not only did they add a Mobile Usability item under the Search Traffic section, but they also sent out emails with the subject “Fix mobile usability issues found on <website>”. Obviously, Google is bringing mobile-friendliness under the website owner’s attention.
So we thought it would be a good idea to explain what you should pay attention to and what we think you should be doing to prepare yourself for the update on April 21st.
The impact of this update will be big
But before preparing you, lets convince you that it’s really important to take action, if you haven’t already. As Google mentioned in their own blogpost, the impact on the search results will be significant. Besides that, Search Engine Land announced that Zineb Ait Bahajji was quoted to say that the impact of this update will be bigger than Panda or Penguin, and that’s saying something.
There are a few notices we saw quite a few times. We’re sure this is not a complete list, but it covers all the most common issues.
Viewport not configured/Fixed-width viewport
What this basically means is that you should make your website responsive. A responsive website will scale to any size automatically, without trying to show the entire website on a much smaller screen (such as a smartphone). Michiel actually wrote a great post about responsive design that can help out a lot here.
Touch elements too close
This is a pretty straightforward notice. When viewing your website on a smartphone and/or tablet, the different areas a user is able to click on are too close to each other. This means that they might be misclicking, which is obviously annoying and not very user-friendly.
Google recommends your important tap targets should be at least 48 CSS pixels tall/wide (with a properly configured viewport). If they’re any smaller than that, they should have additional spacing; no other tap targets should be within 32 CSS pixels of it (horizontally and vertically).
Small font size
This one is pretty straightforward as well. Google considers your font to be too small to be decently legible. Before fixing this, you’ll have to make sure you have your viewport configured properly. Google gives the following recommendations for your font size:
Use a base font size of 16 CSS pixels. Adjust the size as needed based on properties of the font being used.
Use sizes relative to the base size to define the typographic scale.
Text needs vertical space between its characters and may need to be adjusted for each font. The general recommendation is to use the browser default line-height of 1.2em.
Restrict the number of fonts used and the typographic scale: too many fonts and font sizes lead to messy and overly complex page layouts.
Content not sized to viewport
Once you’ve set your viewport up properly, you should not forget about your content. Any elements with a fixed width will still make sure your otherwise (hopefully) responsive site becomes unusable on mobile devices. So you should be aware of the following:
Any large elements (such as images) are not using a fixed width;
Content should not be set to one specific viewport width;
You should be using CSS media queries to give different styling to smaller screens than to larger screens.
And when you get the message the page is not mobile-friendly, they’ll obviously also tell you why it’s not. This might be a nice tool to use for new pages, for example. However, it’s only per page, so checking your entire website is probably not the best option. That’s why you can also check the Mobile Usability section in your Google Webmaster Tools. This will give you a list of all the pages that gave errors that Google found.
Another great and really simple way to check whether your website is responsive or not, is to just resize your browser window. If your website doesn’t scale with the size of your browser window, it’s probably not responsive.
Can I do anything else?
If you’re still unsure whether you’re doing everything you can do with your site, or you want professionals to take a look at the mobile usability (and a lot more) of your site, you should definitely check out our Website Reviews. We’ll personally check your site for any issues regarding mobile usability, and a whole lot more.
There’s not much more to it than this, really: make your website responsive. And test mobile-friendliness after that. Not only will this make sure you prevent getting ‘hit’ by this update, it’ll actually make your website more usable for your visitors. And that’s what it should be about in the first place. Happy optimizing!
Based on conversations I’ve had recently, many of my students and blog readers are either seeking a new job in the SEO field or looking to switch existing SEO gigs this year.
Inevitably, the subject of potential interview questions will arise. How exactly should you prepare for a SEO interview? What type of questions can you expect to be asked? Will they be highly technical? Scenario-based? Or will they be all about your past experience? In a nutshell, how will you know the type of SEO knowledge benchmark a new employer is expecting you to meet?
Well, wonder no more, because online training provider EDU Pristine has collated a series of the 13 most common SEO interview questions (and answers!) to help you brush up before you walk into that nerve-wracking interview panel.
The questions are pretty solid, apart from Q9 — most SEO pundits agree that the Google Sandbox has failed to be a thing since the advent of Everflux indexing — and Q10 which is ambiguous, depending on your personal interpretation of the term Search Engine Marketing.
As Google shifts to a more semantic-heavy strategy in 2015, it’s becoming progressively more important for small businesses to focus on local SEO to drive both targeted website traffic and foot traffic. In particular, there are a few tips and tricks you’ll want to spend your time perfecting.
Pay Attention to Pigeon
While all signs have pointed towards the importance of local search for quite some time, the official ‘stamp of approval’ came when Google released its newest algorithm on July 24, 2014. Dubbed “Pigeon,” Moz’s algorithm change report says, “Google shook the local SEO world with an update that dramatically altered some local results and modified how they handle and interpret location cues.” Furthermore, Google has claimed the Pigeon update creates closer ties between core and local algorithms for increased consistency and accuracy.
Start with an Audit
Most businesses fail to have successful local SEO campaigns and strategies because they go about it all wrong. They assume everything they read applies to them and take a very basic approach to an extremely specific and individualized issue. The reality is that no two businesses are the same and you have to find a way to hone in on the tips, tricks, and strategies that apply to your situation. The best way to do this is by starting with an SEO audit.
Does the word audit make you cringe – like you’re being exposed or caught red-handed? Instead of looking at the word audit in a negative light, begin to see it as a learning opportunity that will eventually help you succeed. According to Josh Hamit of ImproveMySearchRanking.com, “In the SEO world, you can’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something. Everyone needs help from time to time, and an audit or third-party analysis can be really eye-opening.”
In terms of auditing, there are two routes you can go. You can either perform a self-audit using helpful internet resources and guides, or you can go with a third-party or independent audit. The major benefit of a self-audit is obviously saving money, but it should also be viewed as a learning experience – allowing you to confront your issues head-on. A third-party audit is valuable because it gives you access to a fresh set of eyes.
If you do choose to take a DIY approach, SEO expert Casey Meraz has put together a very detailed and easy-to-understand local SEO audit guide. Otherwise, you can find a number of reputable independent professionals to help you.
Local SEO Tips for 2015
After performing an SEO audit, you should have a pretty clear idea of where your weaknesses lie and what you need to do in order to improve your overall search presence. In most cases, the following tips will apply for 2015 and the foreseeable future:
1.Mobile-friendly is a must. Starting April 21 of this year, Google will now consider mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal for mobile search results worldwide. This new development, combined with the fact that smartphones and tablets make up 35 percent of organic search traffic, means mobile optimization should be a priority for all business websites and pages. The best long-term solution is to invest in responsive design.
2.Fix Google My Business issues. It looks like Google My Business is finally taking off (despite two name changes in the past few years) and you’ll want to ensure your page is completely optimized and accurate. Priorities include making sure your location is correctly placed on the map, checking the accuracy of information (hours of operation, contact information, payment types, etc.), and ensuring your official business website is on your local Google+ page. You’ll also want to encourage reviews from customers and clients in order to give your page a social boost.
3.Craft strategic location pages. Internally, you can set your website up for success by crafting very detailed and strategic location pages with relevant content and descriptive keywords. For optimal results, include both your target city and state in the title tag, URL, and H1 headings.
4.Meta descriptions matter. While the relevancy of meta descriptions in search ranking results is questionable, there’s an obvious and concrete relationship between the quality of meta descriptions and CTR. You can increase the value of each visitor by using this valuable real estate to explain what makes you different, how your products or services satisfy their pain points, and why they should believe and click.
5.Get listed on business directories. In addition to verifying the veracity of your Google My Business page, you’ll also want to include your business information on other reputable online directories. While there are hundreds of different ones – including industry-specific directories that may apply to your business – the top listing sites include Yelp, Foursquare, CitySearch, YP.com, and Whitepages. When creating or editing these listings, remember to include accurate NAP information (name, address, phone number).
6.Accrue local links. One of the best ways to increase organic relevancy is to target local blogs and websites. You can do this by conducting a simple search for terms like “[target city] blogs” or “[target state] [target industry] blogs.” By building relationships with these site owners or bloggers, you can hopefully get mentioned or gain access to guest blogging opportunities. If you’ve found these sites via an organic search, the chances are pretty good that they’re well-indexed by the search engines.
7.Go after long tail keywords. In addition to creating strategic location pages, it’s important to optimize your content and all pages by targeting geo-specific long tail keywords. While you may not appear in as many search results, those you do appear in front of will be very valuable and highly-targeted. Examples of geo-specific long tail keywords include: “San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer” or “Orlando Florida search marketing expert.”
8.Utilize social media. You can’t forget about social media in 2015. When it comes to optimizing for local results, you can use some of these geo-location tools to help you track, listen to, and capitalize on local traffic and conversations.
Google Says ‘Go Local’
Regardless of whether you like or disdain the new Google changes, you have no choice but to comply if you want to have SEO and search marketing success in 2015, and beyond. While the changes may be big significant for some, many businesses will only need to slightly shift their focus and realign their goals. In the end, it all comes down to a better user experience for searchers and more accurate and consistent results.
Thanks to mobile apps it’s now easier than ever to to run your SEO, PPC, AdWords and Social Media campaigns directly from your phone. That’s definitely a big deal when you’re traveling or if in an industry that requires a lot of time out of the office.
While that makes your professional life a whole lot easier, it can be a challenge to narrow down the most useful apps. According to Statista, there were 1.3 million mobile apps in the Apple App Store alone in September, 2014. To help save you an endless amount of time scouring through Google Play or the App Store, here are seven incredible apps that you need to use for SEO, PPC, AdWords and Social Media campaigns.
Note, before using 3rd party apps, make sure things are approved with your employer (if you are in-house) or your client (if you list tools that you utilize in your agreements). 86% of apps used for business were not sanctioned in 2014, and the last thing you’ll want to do is add to that number and the amount of Shadow IT issues occurring with third party apps.
This free app is absolutely essentially if you own a website. It runs tests that check your social media presence, Google ranking and the amount of backlinks. It also provides suggestions on how to optimize your website, such as the proper length of titles and description. It also notifies you of any broken links and even comes equipped with keyword suggestions so that you can optimize blog posts and ad campaigns.
SERPs provides a powerful app for Android and iOS users that delivers daily SEO data, like ranking, link metrics and monitoring of organic traffic. It even integrates with Google Analytics so that you can discover which keywords are most effective. Other features include being able to spy on your competitor’s backlinks, local rank tracking and having the power to run test which techniques are working for your business.
You can install the SERPs.com app for free, but you’ll need a login to continue. This means that you’ll have to purchase a plan. The Starter plan begins at $999/month.
Google Analytics remains a necessity for SEO. With the Google Analytics app you’ll have real-time reports that highlight your page’s traffic, visitor information, how long people stayed on your site, which content is performing best and your AdWords campaign is performing. That’s a lot of information at your fingertips for free – there is a premium version if you need something more robust.
Speaking of Google, there’s also the AdWords Express Apps that you should also download if you want to reach more customers. Through this app you’ll be able to create an ad in under 15 minutes, which will appear in Google search results, Google Maps and select partner sites. Once your ad is up and running you can then view how many calls or clicks it is generating. You can also adjust your budget accordingly. It’s a great solution for both online and offline businesses.
Why is HubSpot such a popular tool for marketers? Because it pretty does everything you want and need when it comes to your marketing campaign. Whether it’s scheduling social media posts/emails, monitoring what others are saying about you online, review effectiveness of marketing campaigns and connect with leads with through Contact Records. Now you have access to all of this information through the HubSpot App – available for both Android and iPhone. After your 30-day free trial, you’ll have to select a plan which starts at $200/month.
Hootsuite is another tool that is often discussed among online marketers because it’s one of the best social media tools available. Not only can you plan Facebook posts or Tweets, you can assign tasks to team members and review analytics reports. You can also target audience by location, listen to the online conversations involving your business, locate better leads, create a social media marketing campaign and provide customer service. Hootsuite has a Free plan, but the Pro Plan starts at only $10/month.
If you’re looking to curate potential content ideas, stay up-to-date with the latest industry news or see what your competitors are sharing, then look no further than Feedly. If you haven’t heard of Feedly, then just know that it’s a news aggregator application which allows you to select the feeds that interest you the most. It’s a free service that can run on Android and iOS devices, which means that you can keep check your feed whenever and wherever you want.
What are some of your favorite SEO / SEM mobile apps?
Your content is one of the greatest tools you have at your disposal, from a marketing point of view. It gets your name out there, attracts attention, bring in regulars, markets your brand, builds your authority, connects you to other experts… you would be hard pressed to find a way it wouldn’t be helpful. Having a consistent, high quality blog can launch your entire career, and turn a hobby into a money making venture.
But how does it rank with the content of your competitors? Competitor blog audit involves gathering data that allows you to compare your work with someone else’s, or to get a feel for what your target audience is looking for in a successful blog. It is something that every blogger should be taking part in regularly; to make sure they are constantly evolving with the needs of their potential readers.
Step 1 – Determine Your Competition
While you may be able to get some idea of what people are reading by looking at the biggest industry blogs on a topic (such as TechCrunch or Gizmodo, for example), chances are that you are nowhere near their level of visibility. Maybe someday you will be, but for right now you should focusing on websites that are more direct competitors.
Put as few as three on this list, and as much as five. If after you have made this list you feel the need to put some big names on there, one or two could be added. Just keep in mind that these big names will be best case scenarios for the future, as a goal in mind. When comparing their data, it should be as part of a longer term strategy, with the bulk of your information coming from the direct competitors to start out with.
Helpful tool: Use BuzzSumo to find recently active and successful blogs on any topic!
Step 2 – Look At What Content They Provide
Not all blogs are all about text blog posts. Multiple media forms is just a part of an overall, well rounded content strategies on the web today. Look and see what your competitors are doing on a regular basis. Infographics? Podcasts? Videos? Slideshares? Mini clips, like Vines? Comics? Are they specializing in one or two, or have they branches out into every niche possible?
List all content under each name, and see what sites have what media in common. You should be able to narrow down what is working and what isn’t based on who is trying what.
Step 3 – Figure Out What Is Popular In Each Media Type
It is pretty simple to get an idea of what is bringing in the most benefits for your competitors blogs. SEO ranking is part of this, but we will look at that in another step. Right now, you should be looking at their engagement.
Helpful resource: Give this tool any blog RSS feed and it will pull out recent articles and their social media numbers
Comments, social media shares, and referral traffic present a clear picture of how people are reacting to those topics, the tone of the post, and the media style. Take a collection of links to the most engaging content on those sites, and include it in your spreadsheet.
Step 4 – Start Sorting Out The Most Popular Posts In Each Category
Take the links you are finding, and start sorting them into categories by media type, topic, or style. That will give you a look at what is working most for each site. Note any patterns that begin to emerge, where the sites have data in common. If three of your five competitor blogs are getting a lot of engagement on posts that include infographics, but not a lot on audio podcast downloads, that should tell you something.
Helpful tool: Our Social Media Tool will process lots of links for you and return helpful social media stats and author details:
You can also start to compare these links to your own content, to see what it has in common (or doesn’t) with your own posts. This process is excellent for pointing out things you may have been doing wrong, or just not quite nailing down.
Step 5 – Look At Competitor’s SEO Tactics
Finally, you want to know how people are driving traffic through direct searches. That means taking a look at the keywords they are properly exploiting, and those they aren’t.
You may be able to find some keywords they aren’t targeting, and take advantage of those ones yourself. Or find some keywords that you should be pushing for, as pushing past their SEO rank is an easy way to start getting more traffic.
What To Do With The Data
Essentially, this is just a way to seeing what is working for others, and what isn’t. How you choose to use it is entirely up to you. You could either start to focus on the same topics and media types that they are, or you could go the alternative route and start to focus on the areas that they are lacking. Both have a chance of improving your content strategy, and so boosting the popularity of your site.
Personally, I prefer to use it more loosely. I will see what topics or content get the most mileage, but will try and find a way to incorporate that into my own interests and work. Never forget that while you are auditing your competitors to see how they are improving their own success, you don’t want to copy them. You have your own strengths, your own readers, and your own style. You want to be easy to distinguish from the rest of the crowd.
You should be conducting a competitor audit at least once every few months. It just lets you keep an eye on rival sites, as well as find opportunities to connect with others, or get warning when something on your own site needs to change. As you can see, the positives are endless.
Do you have any tips for conducting competitor blog audits? We would love to hear about them, so let us know in the comments!
Bruce Clay shared his marketing insights on SEO, branding and social media yesterday on “Social Media Today Power Talk,” a monthly digital marketing show hosted by David Amerland. Amerland is the author of many digital marketing books, including “SEO Help: 20 Semantic Search Steps,” “Google Semantic Search,” and “Google+ Hangouts for Business,” and a stand-out Google+ influencer with more than 350K followers. Bruce was honored to be a guest on this lively episode of Social Media Power Talk, which you can relive complete with comments on the event page here.
Watch the entire show above or read on for select highlights, including Bruce’s thoughts on:
Amerland asks Bruce why it is that people persist with asking “Is SEO dead?” Bruce explained that it’s because SEO is dead — at least in a sense.
“In the beginning SEO was rather simple — you optimized a page, got some links and you would rank. Up until seven years ago, SEO was not as complex as it is today. I’ve actually said SEO is dead as it was. It has evolved. Today’s SEO is not like the SEO of ten years ago, or five years ago, or two years. What goes into SEO today is far more technical, it is more far-reaching, it has much more visibility and more people think they’re doing SEO than actually are,” Bruce explained.
“In the beginning, many of the people that were doing SEO grew up by being pseudo-programmers. They were doing web design, maybe programming, they were technical, had technical backgrounds, they were editing HTML, etc. The problem is they grew up in that world and never had a marketing course — maybe never even read a marketing book. They don’t really understand personas or communities or any of the things that are now fundamental to proper targeting and understanding who it is that your audience needs to reach and the terminology they use when they do queries. In the beginning, it was just one keyword, edit the page, get some links and you were an SEO. Today it is much broader.”
Why Some People Think SEO is Dead
What did the audience think about the state of SEO? Co-host Alexandra Riecke-Gonzales polled the audience and found that while the majority views SEO as evolving (as Bruce does), ten percent of viewers do, in fact, think SEO is dead.
Bruce weighed in: “I would easily view the ten percent that think SEO is dead are the people that either got burned by it or the only way they thought SEO worked was through links — and links are dead. There are a lot of people who lost faith in SEO because the only SEO they knew was spam. And if spam is dead, then ‘SEO’ is dead,” Bruce said.
What about those who think social media marketing is replacing SEO?
“Social hasn’t replaced SEO and if you look at any attribution model what you’re going to find is that when you do things socially, organic search traffic goes up. It’s the attribution that fails. It’s a stimulus response. Most people think SEO starts when you do the query but from a traffic point-of-view, SEO starts when you plant the seed in their brain to start the query — and social is upstream of the organic query. A lot of people perceive social media marketing, then, as the new SEO — but it’s not. The fact is if that if you don’t rank it doesn’t matter if you trigger them to do a query because you’re not going to get the traffic anyhow. Social media marketing is never going to replace SEO, but it is fully complimentary to SEO,” Bruce explained.
Successful SEOs are Planning 2-5 Years Ahead
“Anyone who’s doing SEO right is looking to the future. You have to imagine search two to five years out because it will take you a year to develop the ability to be two years out. If you can envision what search will look like two years from now, then you know to do it. Two years ago, we anticipated that mobile would conquer the world. We knew that Google would shift its focus from desktop to mobile,” Bruce said. “Forty years ago the world switched from main frame computers to PC, and now people are switching from PC to tablets and mobile.”
The Cube Theory
Bruce: “The proper way of viewing digital marketing for search is to look at it three-dimensionally. There’s a spatial relationship between all the components in a cubed way they all touch each other. As with a cube, they all touch each other. PPC deals with social and SEO, and PPC has landing pages. But you can also imagine that when the web design team redesigns a site, they have to make sure that the SEO is right and the PPC landing pages are still right. They also have to worry about quality score, performance, economic goals and duplicate content. All these various components of a business that has to do with what a user will see are actually a single component. Digital marketing is a single, 3D operating unit. If each side (representing a function) doesn’t communicate and cooperate with the other sides, a business is destined to fail.”
Bruce Clay, Inc. Internal Structure: Education and Teamwork
Bruce explained that everyone that comes through his company has to go through extensive training. “We have a formal training program and a full immersion program. Even when we hire a senior SEO, for the first two months they don’t have projects.”
The Importance of Ongoing Education
In order to be a leader, you have to pay attention to what’s going on out there. We assign about 120 hours a month of actual project work and we’re expect that the other 40 hours a month are spent on education — reading, paying attention, classes, courses, webinars, conferences, etc. We provide our staff sufficient time for them to be knowledgeable on all algorithm changes as they happen.
‘We Make Our Team Work as a Team’
At Bruce Clay, Inc., everyone is involved in projects.
“That isn’t to say that we don’t have people that focus on SEO, people that focus on PPC, people that focus on content and social, etc., but they’re all connected. PPC is thirty feet from SEO and they’re working on the same projects. When we have a call with a client, all the departments are on the call. They hear what the status is, share knowledge, etc. SEO hears what PPC has to say and vice versa. We’ve gone way out our way to make our team work as a team,” Bruce explained.
The Effect of Social Buzz on Ranking
Audience members were curious about social media’s affect on search rankings, especially with the recent announcement that Twitter will be giving Google access to its fire hose. Audience member Cynthia Turcotte asked: “Does this mean that social reach (in particular Twitter reach) is going to become a more significant ranking factor than previously?”
“Yes, no, yes,” Bruce joked. “In the beginning, what was going with the fire hose from Twitter was that Google was picking up links. At the time, they were followed links and that was influencing Google. Spammers figured that out and then ultimately the Twitter interface died off. Now it’s going to come back, but I don’t think Google is going to look at links, but rather buzz. I expect to see that if a site is getting a lot of comments and it’s driving traffic through Twitter, those comments will cause a temporary (24-hour) impact in Google rankings. It will perhaps even promote something up into the first page. This will be a factor of buzz.”
Another audience member, Deborah Norton, asked a follow-up question: “Where do you see Google+ going in the future? Are tweets going to compete with Google+ posts?”
I think that Google is going to experiment. I think we’re going to see tweets show up if they’re very high volume. If they’re medium volume, they’ll have some influence. Tweets will be a minor variable if they’re low traffic — for example, only have three retweets.
I don’t know that Google is going to ever really bring back a Google+ in a social way. It still influences things. Take the author tag, for example. Google said they’re no longer going to be showing it in the search results, and they don’t. Google never said, however, that they’re ignoring it. So, it may be that a lot of these things — Google+, Twitter, etc. — it’s entirely possible that these things influence results, whether or not Google says it is.
Thank you to host David Amerland for inviting Bruce Clay to the show! Get more episodes and further information on “Social Media Today Power Talk” here.
Compared to the first three sections, the last three are relatively small. In this final post in our series on Bing Webmaster Tools we will go over Security, Malware and Messages and share our findings.
Making sure your website is secure is of course really important. We have already emphasized this on our page on WordPress security, of course. This section is about the security alerts in Bing Webmaster Tools.
Malware is software that is intended to damage or disable computers and computer systems. For a website, this usually means software that is left on your website, usually in a file on your server. It’s software that is left there without your knowledge. If you find an alert in Bing Webmaster Tools about malware on your website, you should clean your site as soon as possible.
Bing Webmaster Tools divides the malware into two categories: malware found on the page and malware reference found on the page. In the first case, there is an immediate issue to be solved on the page with the listed URL, in the second case, there is a resource linked on the page at that URL that has malware. The page itself isn’t infected in that last case.
Bing Webmaster Tools lists a couple of malware issues:
Malware Network Reference: any trace of a known malware distribution network is detected on your website.
Browser Exploit: malicious browser exploit detected, which may cause unsolicited execution of external code.
Malicious ActiveX: ActiveX interactions seem to trigger malicious activity.
Heapspray: Bing detected a potential preparation for a browser exploit via a heapspray. Heapspraying is a technique used in exploits to facilitate arbitrary code execution.
Malware Found on Adjacent Pages: URL is in a folder or subdomain containing malware.
Malware Reported by External Source: external sources reported that malware, obviously.
Sucuri is our and your friend in this. Hire these guys to clean up your site. After that, you want to address the vulnerability that allowed the malware to be installed. Simply download the Sucuri plugin and follow their step by step instructions and guidance on how to secure your website (sections Hardening and Post-Hack in that plugin).
And only after this, you should Request a Review in Bing Webmaster Tools to have them check again for the presence of malware.
Track Certificates beta
Yet another beta in Bing Webmaster Tools: Track Certificates. This page will tell you all about the certificates that were requested by people visiting your site. The main purpose of that list is so you’ll be able to spot unexpected or suspicious certificates, so you can report them to Microsoft using the Report link.
This will also include security certificates like the ones we have on our website:
In their competition struggle with Google, Bing has released a number of additions for your website that should make your life better. Two of these are in Bing Webmaster Tools and we’ll discuss both briefly.
For the first time, we empowered every webmaster to use the entity data from the Bing Knowledge repository. Since then, webmasters have added the embed code to thousands of pages to enhance their websites with the rich entity information from the Bing Knowledge system.
Yes, the Bing Knowledge information is similar to the Knowledge Graph in Google (Bing added it first, by the way). It’s a separate block of content but now on your website itself! It works really simple: while the visitor goes over your website, the widget detects related entities in real time, marking them with a little Bing charm. Now I do understand the social value, but feel that this is a bit like the pop-up ads in texts / on links that were briefly popular a couple of years ago. But hey, I might be wrong. Bing tells us that this is improving engagement, time-on-site, and user satisfaction.
Adding the widget is simple: add your URL, copy the provided code and paste it for instance right before the </body> tag in your template. Options are available for displaying images, images and links, just links. Besides that, there is an option to only activate the Bing Knowledge information on text selection by a user. It looks like this (example from Bing itself):
It’s a collapsible sidebar on your website.
At the moment of writing, this is only available for English entities.
This Translator Widget could be useful, and is similar to the Google Translate option that is on a lot of websites. It only requires a simple copy/paste action and you are good to go. There is even a WordPress plugin to help you out.
You can set the language of your website, and tell Bing to automatically translate based upon the visitor’s browser language, or have the visitor pick the language himself.
I’m not a big fan of these widgets, Google or Bing. I understand that these are ‘convenient’, but rather see people putting some effort (or money) in a decent translation. Go read our post on hreflang. It’s not that hard.
Preferably this section looks like this:
Bing sends five types of messages:
Administrator: if anything changes to the Bing Webmaster Tools service, the administrator will inform you about it.
Crawl errors: if an error occurs during the crawl of your website, Bing Webmaster Tools will automatically tell you about it.
Index issues: if Bingbot has any problem indexing your site, a message will be sent as well.
Malware: following the section on Malware, you’ll receive a message here that malware has been found.
Bing Ads: automatically generated messages about Bing Ads.
The Current and Archived sections at Messages are self-explanatory.
Bing Webmaster Tools: It’s a wrap!
With this post, we conclude our series on Bing Webmaster Tools. We have compared Bing Webmaster Tools to Google Webmaster Tools a couple of times during these four posts. Is that a fair comparison? For me it was like having Skippy sandwiches every day and then trying a jar of Peanut Butter & Co. It’s different, but the same product. One could say variety is the spice of life, but in this case I tend stick to Google Webmaster Tools for the larger scale and user base, although the Markup Validator tool in Bing Webmaster Tools will come in handy now and then for quick checks!