Custom dimensions and SEO

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custom dimensions and seoAs you might’ve noticed, we’ve added a couple of pretty cool features to the Google Analytics by Yoast Premium plugin. This post is another sequel to the custom dimensions posts, in which I’ve been explaining the custom dimensions in the plugin. Today I’ll explain the new custom dimensions we’ve added and how they can actually help you on your SEO as well!

If you haven’t read my first two posts about custom dimensions and/or don’t know what custom dimensions are, please read the first two posts first. Lets start off this post with the new custom dimensions: SEO Score, Focus Keyword and Tags. Be sure to read this post all the way to end, because there’s a surprise at the end that might just save you some money!

SEO Score

This is a custom dimension that’s only available if you’re also running our WordPress SEO plugin. If you don’t have this plugin installed, you won’t be able to select this custom dimension. And that’s really a shame, because it’s quite awesome!

Let me explain why; the SEO score custom dimension actually allows you to to sort or filter your traffic by the SEO Score which can be found right above your Publish/Update button when you’re writing/editing a post:

Custom Dimensions and DashboardsEdit_Post_‹_Yoast_—_WordPress

So all of your posts and pages that have gotten a Good score will be one group, all the OK posts and pages in another, and so on. There’s obviously also a group for posts you haven’t filled out a focus keyword for, which will give an N/A score. Let me show you what this looks like in Google Analytics:

SEO Score Google Analytics

As you can see, we have a few posts and pages for which we didn’t fill out our focus keyword. As expected, the posts with the highest SEO Score (good) are getting the most traffic. So optimizing your pages seems to actually work! Yay!

However, even more interesting is to see if there are any pages with lower SEO scores that still get a decent amount of traffic. These pages are already doing well in the traffic department, and can actually still be more optimized, meaning they can probably get even more traffic than they’re getting already.

So lets filter out those hidden gems. The first step is to filter for the pages with an OK score. To do so, click ‘advanced’ and fill in ok:


Second, add a secondary dimension named Destination Page:


This will give you a list of the pages that have an OK SEO score, sorted by pageviews:


As you can see, for us there’s one page in particular that’s getting some nice traffic, even though its SEO score is only OK. It’s very easy now to just go and see if the post can become a bit more optimized.

Of course, you can do the same thing for the pages that have a Bad, Poor or N/A SEO Score. This way you can find some hidden gems you might’ve overlooked in the optimization process altogether.

Focus Keyword

The Focus Keyword custom dimension is again a custom dimension that’s only available if you’re running WordPress SEO. If you’ve created the custom dimension in Google Analytics, you’ll be able to see this report in Google Analytics:

Focus Keyword Google Analytics

If you see a Focus keyword “focus_keyword_not_set”, that obviously means that your focus keyword is not set. If that’s a big part of your pageviews, then you should read this post! You should definitely make better use of our WordPress SEO plugin!

What you could do now, is look for some common denominators in your focus keyword list. For us, an obvious one would be WordPress. We write a lot about WordPress and have quite some longtail keywords for that as well. If we enter WordPress in the search bar, we get this:


As you can see, 24% of our total traffic is from posts with WordPress in their focus keyword. So this is quite an awesome way to see which (groups of) keywords are getting you the most traffic. On top of that, this also gives you a nice list of everything you’ve already written about. Some (longtail) keywords might be missing, or maybe you’d expect more traffic from a certain keyword (group).

In short, the Focus Keyword custom dimension gives you a lot of insight on how you’re doing with your focus keywords. You can now quickly find if you’re missing anything and act accordingly!


The Google Analytics by Yoast plugin now not only supports categories as a custom dimension, but also tags! I’ve actually already predicted that in my first post on custom dimensions. Neat huh? ;) So this can give you an even more specific idea of what kind of subjects are popular on your website:

Tags Google Analytics

The first one in that list is actually our WordPress SEO plugin page (which I found out using the Destination Page as a second dimension again). So you can actually see the Keyword Research tag is doing a good job as a singular tag. However, all those tags related to WordPress plugins are getting a big amount of total traffic. This is obviously no surprise to us, but this is a very good way to find subjects you didn’t know were popular on your site.


Our Google Analytics by Yoast plugin now also includes dashboards! So there’s no need to go into Google Analytics anymore for your basic statistics:


As of now, you can quickly check your Sessions and Bounce Rate for the last month. More timeframes will be available in the future.

As you can see, there are two more tabs in there. The Reports tab can give you the amount of sessions for the last month by Traffic Source, Popular Pages or by Country. Unlike Google Analytics itself, the stats there are instantaneous. So no annoying waiting for data to load, it’s just there when you click!

The last tab will only work if you have the Premium version of our Google Analytics by Yoast plugin. It will give the amount of sessions per custom dimension. Especially useful if you want to see which author has gotten the most traffic lately, for example. This data is also available instantaneously!

Both these reports have a search function as well. Type in anything you want to search for, and the results will be, again, instantaneous! It’ll actually start giving you results as soon as you start typing! This is a very quick way to filter your data and is also just fun to do!

More premium, more power!

These are the new custom dimensions in the Google Analytics by Yoast Premium plugin! They bring a lot of extra power, especially combined with our WordPress SEO plugin. Together these plugins are becoming a force to be reckoned with. And that, combined with the holidays, is exactly why we’ve created a bundle, named Prancer’s Premium Plugin Pack, which includes:

  • WordPress SEO Premium;
  • Google Analytics by Yoast Premium;
  • Optimize your WordPress site eBook.

This bundle is available until January 2nd and will actually save you 35%! 

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

December 19th 2014 Analytics, SEO

Clean up your bad backlinks

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Clean up your bad backlinksWith the new year just around the corner, Yoast has decided to provide you with a head start for your website. The general idea: clean up your entire site for 2015. In this post, we will go beyond on-site optimization and explain a bit more about bad backlinks for your website.

Bad backlinks, or low quality backlinks, is a topic that is often mentioned in the intake form of our reviews. Websites that have made the mistake of hiring some shady SEO company to buy bad backlinks for their website and have lost almost all their rankings often turn to us for a proper analysis of the drop. Although buying bad links might give you short term wins, it will backfire in the end; when Google finds out. Unnatural links indicate that your website might not have the quality or content to be interesting enough to get proper backlinks on its own. At the end of this article, we’ll mention a way to get great backlinks without buying any.

How to find bad backlinks

The main difference between good and bad backlinks is the quality of the website they are on. Sometimes bad backlinks are easy to find, sometimes you do have to check the website itself to see if and why the backlink can have a negative impact on your website.

There are a couple of categories in this.

Links from a website that is just set up for SEO links

If a website has a ton of articles that lack all coherence, chances are the website is set up solely for the purpose of linking other websites. If the website is a WordPress site, most of the times a default WordPress themes like TwentyEleven is used. These websites are usually not linked from other websites, or are part of an odd link network designed just to link these lousy websites.

Links from the comments of other websites

We get dozens of these on a daily basis, here at Bots populating your website’s comment forms telling you ‘great article, love the info, hope you can elaborate more about the topic soon’. Personalized comments even, including author name. Spambots get more intelligent by the week, unfortunately. We’ve reviewed a site that was run by an older man replying to all of these comments, thanking them for the kind words. Don’t get fooled. Comment spam links are bad for your backlink profile.

Links with over optimized anchor texts

In general, one can assume the most backlinks to a websites are linked using the website name as the anchor text (link text). The URL itself is also often used. If your website has a huge number of websites linking to your website using exact keywords, as the shady companies we mentioned tend to do, that looks very suspicious. If our main backlinks would have WordPress SEO Premium or website review as an anchor, that will ring some alarm bells at Google. The most used anchor for links to our site should be ‘yoast’ in a natural link profile. And it is, of course.

Links within lousy, duplicate texts

Usually, websites that are just set up for the links have content that just doesn’t make sense, or is scraped from related websites. Some black hat companies create sites per subject, to make it look like the links are on related, quality websites. In most cases Google Panda will hit these sites eventually, resulting in yet another low quality backlink for your site. Duplicate content is a sign of low quality in most cases, and that is (among others,) what the Google Panda updates are about.

Links from Russia, while your local audience is in the US

As the websites linking to you preferably are obviously related to your business, you will understand that a link from a Russian or Dutch website (for that matter) for your local consultancy company site in Kansas City doesn’t look natural at all.

Of course there are more and more specific indications that a backlink is of low quality. Alan Bleiweiss listed some more in his article How To Clean Up Bad Backlinks and Establish Trust With Link Vendors (2013, still valid IMO).

Getting rid of bad backlinks

Now that we have a general idea of the links that you don’t want for your website, let’s get rid of them. In general, we have a number of ways of disabling these links so they won’t hurt your Google rankings:

  • This is the easy one: find the contact details of the website owner and ask him to remove the link. Don’t demand the other website to take the link down, but ask this politely. That usually works better :) However, you will most likely also be faced with webmasters who ask you to pay for link removal or who don’t reply at all. In such cases, you should disavow the unwanted links that can’t be removed.
  • Check which low quality pages on your website are linked by bad backlinks and get rid of the pages (404/410) instead of the links. That is probably not what you want, as most pages will have value for your website. Besides that, too many 404s send a wrong message to Google as well. In addition to getting rid of the page, you should also disavow these bad backlinks.
  • Get rid of the domain and start all over. Drastic, but if your site isn’t worth investing to clean up these bad backlinks, that might be an effective way. I wouldn’t do that unless Google has clearly penalized you for Penguin, Panda and more, though.
  • If you have just too many backlinks you want to get rid of, or webmasters aren’t responding to your call to remove the link, you can also disavow these links. That’s basically telling Google you’d prefer these links not to be taken in account when assessing your site.

Now there is one thing I have to warn you about: you will probably lose traffic. Your website will have less links pointing to it after this, so less people will visit your website via these links. In the case of disavowing, the links will still be there, but the sudden drop in backlinks (bad or not) will trigger something at Google, telling it your website is less interesting. That’s the signal Google gets when these links disappear. It will work out in the end, but traffic will probably go down at first. There is no telling how much and how long, to be honest.

Of course, this is a lengthy process. It will take a lot of steps and therefore time. However, there is a way to speed this process up.

Let’s speed up the bad backlink cleaning process

If your website suffers from negative SEO (the competitor buying bad backlinks for your website), or you have made the mistake of buying bad backlinks via that shady SEO company in the past, cleaning up your backlink profile is quite a hassle. We tried to explain that above.

That’s where LinkResearchTools comes in

In the introduction of this post, I mentioned that we would like to give you a head start for 2015. Over the last weeks, we have been emailing back and forth with our friends at LinkResearchTools. They provide excellent value for money when it comes to cleaning up your bad backlink. They have helped us out on more than one occasion, where one of our customers had made the mistake of buying bad backlinks.

Especially when Google Webmaster Tools is telling you that you have bad backlinks via their Manual Spam Actions, you want these links cleaned up as soon as possible. No matter the cause for these backlinks!

LinkResearchTools provides monthly subscriptions for their link tools that help you to for instance:

  • manage your backlinks and find the links that actually harm your site. LinkResearchTools will show you which links should be removed or disavowed asap;
  • get rid of a Manual Action and/or algorithmic Google Penalties by cleaning up your backlink profile that way;
  • compare your backlinks to competitors and find great new backlink opportunities;
  • find possible linking partners and be notified of new links to your website.

Especially for Yoast readers and customers, they have created a discount. Note that LinkResearchTools normally doesn’t do discounts, so this is a unique offer for all you website owners that are struggling with bad backlinks!

If you decide to subscribe to their 6 or 12 months plan, you’ll be given a 25% discount.

Sign up now and receive a 25% discount »

Note that this isn’t an affiliate link! We trust LinkResearchTools and recommend them based on our own experience.

Clean up your site in three steps

If these weren’t all discounts we created or arranged for you, we wouldn’t have listed these like this. If you had to make one new year’s resolution for your website up front, it should be to optimize and clean up your website like this:

Make sure your website gets the best start possible for the new year.

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

December 17th 2014 SEO

The 6 SEO Mistakes Your Business Can’t Afford to Keep Making

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by Jayson DeMers

Have you ever wondered what’s holding your Google rankings and SEO efforts back? Proper SEO is complicated, and making a mistake in your SEO campaign is easy. It’s possible your only roadblocks to higher Google rankings are foolish – yet fixable – mistakes. What are some common SEO don’ts, and how can you fix them?
1. Ignoring Google’s latest rules. It’s difficult to keep up with Google’s changing algorithms. Many inexperienced businesspeople working on SEO strategies are under the mistaken impression that if a strategy works, it will work forever. Google can roll out new changes with little or no advanced notice – and SEO strategies that worked yesterday can cause your rankings to plummet today. 
Optimizing for Google’s latest changes can be difficult, especially if SEO isn’t your area of expertise. SEO is one of the most changeable areas of marketing out there. Failing to account for Google’s latest content rules can cause a previously high ranking page to fall very low in rankings.
2. Linking to the wrong sites. The reason Google refreshes its algorithms frequently is to keep up with businesses who are trying to game their system. Their goal is to provide searchers with quality results. With every new change come new SEO strategies. However, understanding the principle of Google’s algorithm updates doesn’t mean your strategy for beating them will be effective. One example of this is linking to suspicious and low quality sites on your business’s page.
Outbound links are a way to gain credibility for your business, but simply having many outbound links isn’t enough. Your links must lead to quality pages. Too many outbound links to suspicious pages can cause your Google rankings to plummet. When linking, you should focus on quality rather than quantity. Outbound links on your page should be relevant to your industry. Avoid linking to pharmacy, gambling, or adult websites. These are specifically flagged by Google’s algorithms as low quality and undesirable.
3. Too many error pages. Another way linking can create problems for your business’s page is if they are broken. Google will recognize your site as having quality problems if multiple links result in 404 errors. Broken links are a loss of credibility.
Sites naturally accumulate errors as time goes on – especially in outbound links. It’s important to regularly check your site for these errors and update or delete any broken links. Checking for broken links on your site is easy; check your Webmaster Tools and look for any pages under the section entitled “Not Found.”
4. Duplicate or plagiarized copy. It’s fairly common for businesses to take another site’s content and place it on their own page. This is illegal and causes Google rankings to plummet. If your business has a high level of plagiarized copy, Google may completely de-index your site. This is a death sentence for your brand.
Even duplicating content within your own site can lead to consequences. Having multiple pages with exactly the same content can cause several problems for Google. The search engine can’t be sure which version is better to retrieve. Even having the same title or meta description on more than one page can be a problem. Supply your website with unique content and titles. This allows search engines to properly index and retrieve the most relevant pages for a particular search.
5. Optimizing for the wrong keywords. Choosing the right keywords might seem like a no-brainer. Selecting the wrong ones, however, is a common error, and can strike a big blow against your business. Your site should be optimized for keywords matching its purpose and the products it sells – however, the keywords should also be words people actually search for when they need your product or service.
When choosing keywords, it’s best to be as specific as possible. Broader keywords can lead to increased traffic, but low conversion – because people landing on your page don’t actually want your service. There are tools online for choosing solid keywords.
6. Slow page loading. Most people know that SEO requires good keywords and relevant content. However, many are unaware that Google actually ranks pages according to loading speed as well. If your business’s site is slow, your search engine rankings will suffer. Especially when it comes to mobile webpages, it’s easy to accidentally create a slow loading page.
Designing your business’s page according to responsive design principles allows you to omit certain pages from the mobile site. A professional can help you figure out what is causing your business’s page to load slowly.
Spotting and Addressing SEO Mistakes
These SEO mistakes are common. However, if your site is performing poorly, it can be hard to figure out exactly what the problem is. The best solution for all SEO issues is regular SEO auditing. According to Chuck Aikens, CEO of Volume Nine, “Because algorithms and weighted factors shift over time, it’s a good idea to periodically conduct a technical audit of your website to spot unexpected issues that may have cropped up without you knowing it. An SEO audit can analyze your site to determine where problems are and provide the best solution.” Because of the ever-changing ranking factors and the highly technical nature of SEO, it’s important to have a professional conduct a regular SEO site audit.
Don’t let your business suffer as a result of these simple SEO mistakes. If you’ve never had a professional SEO audit, that’s the best place to start. If it’s been a long time since your last one, make a plan to regularly audit your website. It’s an investment not only for the health of your website, but also the relationship you have with your customers and business as a whole.

Be sure and visit our small business news site.

The Weekly Compete Pulse

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Happy December! This edition of the Weekly Compete Pulse features digital marketing articles we hope will help guide you through the holiday season. Read on below!

Welcome to the Era of Engagement Marketing

The structure of marketing is going through a transformation. With digital, social, and mobile forces in play, engagement is now the name of the game. See what that means for your brand and how you can implement it here.

8 Insights on How the Top 100 Brands Use Twitter in 2014 – Study

You already know that different social media sites need different strategies, and you probably know that each site’s best practices are constantly changing. Keep up to date by learning about the eight insights that will make your brand most successful on Twitter going forward.

Why Ruffles Moved its Entire Ad Budget to Digital

Are you curious as to what kind of results you would see if your entire ad budget were for digital? They would probably look like this. See the ways in which Ruffles was rewarded for taking the leap in this piece.

8 Reasons to Combine Social Media and SEO [Infographic]

You’re probably already implementing SEO and have a social media presence, but with search engine algorithms changing, it’s in your best interest to implement an integrated marketing campaign. Learn how in this infographic.

27 ways to Motivate Shoppers Who Research Online To Buy

This infographic shows you valuable stats on online shoppers as well as their reasoning for not completing purchases. Check it out and use the information to increase your conversions.

December 7th 2014 News, SEO, Social Media, Twitter

6 Steps to an Optimized and Socialized Content Workflow

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optimized integrated content

Digital marketing tactics have changed over the years but one thing has not – Customers are in the driver’s seat when it comes to the insights marketers need to deliver relevant, meaningful and useful content at the right time and the right place.

To realize the benefits of customer insight requires an integrated approach – especially when it comes to content – discovery, consumption and interaction.

Moving from planning to practice, especially within a large organization with regional operations, business units, divisions and departments, processes are essential for adoption, quality and scale. Operationalizing the integration of content, social media and optimization is one of the essential workflows that marketing departments can implement. But what does that look like?

Here’s a content and social media focused optimization workflow that often inspires our work at TopRank Online Marketing to get you started:

Content Planning

  • Research Customer Segments and Develop Profiles / Personas
  • Map Topics & Keywords to Buying Cycle for Each Major Customer Persona
  • Create an Optimized Content Plan (New): Site, Blog, Social Profiles & Networks
  • Off Site Content: Guest Blog Posts, Byline Articles, Content Objects (eBooks, Infographics, Video, Reports, Guides)
  • Align Optimization to Content Marketing Campaigns: White Papers, eBooks, Reports, Guides, Webinars, etc
  • Content Amplification: Organic and Paid


  • Keyword Audit, Difficulty and Glossary – Identify broad themes and specific to customer segments
  • Content & Digital Assets Audit
  • Tech SEO Audit
  • External Link Audit
  • Social Media Audit
  • Competitive Audit


  • Restate hypothesis and strategy based on audit data
  • Identify top priorities
  • Document a timeline for implementation
  • Identify internal and external resources
  • Overlay brand messaging and keyword targets to the marketing plan (campaigns, projects)
  • Assign measurement KPIs and outcomes to each major priority

On and Off Page SEO Implementation

  • Keyword Mapping to Content
  • On-Page Content Optimization: Rewriting, Creation
  • SEO Mechanics: Crawl, Page Speed, Structured Data, HTML/Code, URLs, Internal Links
  • External Link Building: Acquisition, Reclamation, Disavowal – Coordinate with PR, Social, Partners
  • Social Profile Optimization, Registrations: Brand, Executives, Prominent Internal SMEs
  • Digital Asset Optimization: Image, Video, Audio, MS Office Docs, PDFs
  • Share Optimization Targets & Best Practices With All Content Creators: Marketing, PR, HR, Social, Legal, Corporate Comms

Social Media Integration

  • Social Profile Alignment – Messaging, Themes, Trigger Keywords
  • Optimize Social Connections: Google+, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, Instagram, SlideShare
  • Blog Optimization: Search, Social, Community, Syndication
  • Social Network Development – Themes, Community Growth, Engagement
  • Influencer Engagement: Advocacy, Co-Creation
  • Social Media Content Amplification – Organic, Paid

Performance Measurement and Optimization

  • SEO KPI Measurement: Ranking, Referred Organic Traffic Keywords, Links, Share of Search Results
  • Social KPI Measurement: Brand + Keyword Mentions, Social Referred Traffic, Engagement, Social Citations, Sentiment, Share of Conversation
  • Content KPI Measurement: PageViews of Target Content, Actions from Target Content, Shares, Engagement, Links

By incorporating customer and content optimization into the content marketing process, you can realize operational benefits that range from increased adoption of optimization best practices to becoming more efficient – ie. capable of realizing a greater impact without adding resources.


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6 Steps to an Optimized and Socialized Content Workflow |

December 5th 2014 SEO, Social Media

4 Aspects to SEO Basics for Websites, Blogs and eCommerce

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What do you do about SEO if the site you built doesn’t seem to have SEO features built in? First, you need to know there is more than one aspect to SEO. There are actually at least four:

  1. Meta fields
  2. On page SEO
  3. Incoming links
  4. Page load time and caching

SEO Basics

No matter what type of site you have, you can learn to improve your on page SEO and your incoming links. Whether you can configure the meta fields easily depends on what your site is built on.

Website Builder SEO

If you used a website builder, it may or may not have some accessible SEO meta fields. For example, IM Creator provides the ability to create meta title, description and keywords for the entire site – but not for individual pages.

Other website builders may not provide any meta fields at all. Ideally, it is best to be able to set different meta fields for each page on a site. If your site doesn’t support meta fields, focus on optimizing your on page SEO and building incoming links.

WordPress SEO

Sites built on WordPress have many more options. Originally, WordPress users installed SEO plugins. The most popular are:

  • All-in-One-SEO
  • Platinum SEO
  • SEO by Yoast

Today, advanced WordPress theme platforms including Thesis and Genesis have SEO fields built in. They are customizable for each page and post individually.

Some WP users install an advanced SEO plugin even if their theme has SEO fields in order to take advantage of additional features. For example, Yoast rates how well your page or post is optimized and also supports Twitter cards to pull your images into Twitter whenever one of your posts gets tweeted.

Ecommerce SEO

If you expect your ecommerce store to show up in searches, having and using the SEO fields is essential. Major ecommerce platforms typically provide meta fields for product and category pages, but many of their users haven’t bothered to fill them out.

The Google Panda update seriously penalized ecommerce sites that did not have enough text in their descriptions and on their category pages. If you haven’t filled in these fields and optimized  all of your pages for SEO you should.

You also need to find a way to increase incoming links to your pages. Many ecommerce sites fail to rank because they haven’t attracted sufficient incoming links. Some used article marketing heavily for this and were later penalized by the Penguin update and had to remove those links. 

Find  out more by reading Improve Google Indexing on Your Ecommerce Website.

Image Size, Page Load Time and Caching

Many site owners make the serious mistake of using high resolution images or just images that are so large they take a long time to load. Keep in mind that not all internet users have high speed access or new computers with tons of memory.

Online images don’t need to be any higher than 72 dpi. Except for complex infographics you should be able to keep them under 160 kb and under 60 kb would be even better.

WordPress users can Enable Gzip Encoding and Caching to speed up their sites. All site owners should work to reduce page load time as much as possible. Discussions in the forum suggest that under 10 seconds is essential and ideally average page load times of under 3 seconds would be better.

The Google Page Speed Score add-on for FireFox can assist you in analyzing how your pages are loading.

Google Webmaster Accounts

Creating a webmaster account on Google and Bing are recommended to make your site easier for them to index. Google Webmaster Tools has an SEO FAQ to answer many common questions.  

Image: SEO basics

The post 4 Aspects to SEO Basics for Websites, Blogs and eCommerce appeared first on SEO Chat.

December 4th 2014 Keywords, SEO

New SEO Tutorial Encourages Active Learning

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New SEO Tutorial Encourages Active Learning was originally published on, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Welcome to Your New SEO ClassroomImagine you show up to work one fine Monday and Bruce Clay is sitting in the desk next to yours with one item on his agenda: teach you the foundations of SEO from the ground up. The lesson plan includes everything you need to get your website ranking, from how to do keyword research, to technical optimization, designing for mobile-friendliness and semantic markup. To help you hit the ground running, Bruce has brought with him 10 free SEO tools to make each of your lessons active; not only are you learning about keyword research, you’re actually doing keyword research. You’re not just learning about the importance of a natural inbound link profile, you’re actually using tools to learn more about your own inbound link profile as well as the profile of your competition.

So you’re getting world-class training and access to hands-on tools straight from Bruce Clay — all at your own desk.

Sounds expensive.

Now, return to real life. Ready for the good news? With the new online SEO tutorial from Bruce Clay, Inc. you can essentially have the learning experience mentioned above for free. While Bruce won’t physically be in the office with you, you will have a step-by-step course that walks you through his methodologies with 10 free tools at your disposal.

What’s Included in the Free SEO Tutorial

The new-and-improved SEO tutorial is an online training course to help marketers understand and apply industry best practices, grounded from principles of ethical SEO to stay clear of search engine penalties.

mobile-users-420pxAt 19,982 words, the course is deliberately thorough. Those new to search engine optimization are invited to read from beginning to end for an all-in-one ramp up. For those with more optimization experience, we’ve split the course up into 18 steps on individual pages to make it easy to navigate to the section most relevant to your needs.

New to this version of the tutorial are expanded lessons on structured data markup, mobile SEO, and UX optimization.

10 Free Embedded Tools Make Learning Active

We believe in active learning and retention through engagement.

To close the gap between education and application, throughout this course we’ve included 10 free tools that help you immediately put the skills you are learning into action.

18 sections is a lot of training; why wait until you’re done with the tutorial to start applying the skills you’re learning? Instead, this training system allows you to get hands-on while the ideas are still fresh, with light versions of our tools embedded at each appropriate step of the tutorial.

Throughout this course look for free tools that allow you to:

  • Perform keyword research (See step one and step four)
  • Discover top-ranked websites by keyword (See step two)
  • Discover the keywords your competitors are using (See step three)
  • Determine how much content your competitors have indexed (See step seven)
  • Make your Meta tags more competitive by exploring the tags your competitors are using (see step seven)
  • Analyze your keyword distribution and content reading level (See step seven)
  • Uncover any technical issues that may be preventing your site from appearing in search results (See step eight)
  • Evaluate your backlink profile (See step 13)
  • Evaluate your competitor’s backlink profile (See step 13)
  • See how many pages search engines have indexed for your site domain (See step 13)
  • Check your site to identify cloaking issues (See step 16)

Get Started Strengthening Your SEO Core!

The Bruce Clay, Inc. SEO tutorial is live now. To get started with this foundations course, choose a chapter from the list below and jump in feet first.

Tell Us What You Think

We hope you enjoy this course as much as we’ve enjoyed making it. Please tell us what you think in the comments below.

December 4th 2014 SEO, SEO Tools

Why Google Thinks You’re A Sly Dog And How To Make It Trust You

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Trust is everything in a relationship and without it a connection is meaningless and a bond throwaway.

So, how do you build this trust? Openness…… respect…… offering a quality experience. The funny thing is that it’s not just your girlfriend that will appreciate it when she can trust you, Google will too.  

Trust is a significant and often overlooked factor in SEO

Remember the crazy girlfriend that cut up your suits one Tuesday evening before you came home from work because you smiled at the pretty barista. Those suits could be your site and that girlfriend could be Google. If Google doesn’t trust your site, you’re fighting an uphill battle.

Measuring trust can be done manually through examining a potential linking site’s backlink profile, or automatically via either Majestic Trust Flow (TF) and Citation Flow (CF) metrics, or Moz’s MozTrust and Moz Flow metrics. Both metrics use a list of seeded trust sources vs the number of citations a site has and base their rankings on the distance between the site being examined and these sources of trust.  

Though not exactly the same, both are similar in that they have to be compared and a disparity in the metrics suggests a problem. The larger the disparity, the higher the likelihood there’s a lack of trust.

As an example a site with a TF 30 and CF 30 has a 1:1 ratio, which is a good thing. However a site with a TF 5 and a CF45 has a ratio of 1:9 which would suggest it’s very spammy.

Why Trust

Have you ever seen a site with only a few links outranking a one with times the amount and far higher metrics? Well, the reason this happens is that Google trusts that site and it has a higher ‘TrustRank’.

Sites with high trust in Google’s eyes survive negative SEO attacks without even flinching, they rank well for information they provide and they survive Google update after Google update, often going from strength to strength.

So, how do you increase the level of trust that Google has in your site. Well, there are a number of ways and we’re going to take a look at the link based ones that matter.

Outward Linking

If you ever created an academic article you’ll remember using the references and citations and honouring sources.

Doing this backs up facts, helps people delve deeper into a subject and shows that any statement you make can be trusted. Any article or piece you create for your blog or site should do the same. It needs to cite sources and the more the merrier.

Linking out to authority, trusted sites not only creates a better on-site experience but also helps the level of trust Google has in your site. It’s easy to understand why. If you can back up your facts and statements with relevant information from authority sites then your content is likely to be a lot more accurate and of higher quality than one where there are no links and information could be just pulled out of the sky.

The information doesn’t even have to be editorial; you can add sources and references at the bottom of the content or page to back up your statements.

Backlink profile

Of course, it’s not just outbound links that create trust – not at all! Links from high quality, high authority sites to yours matter.

These high quality sites are a handful of high quality trusted sites. At the very top of this pyramid are .edu sites, .gov sites, big news sites such as BBC and large industry authority sites. In an ideal world you backlink profile would be made up from these sorts of links.

BBC >My Site> Great Ranking

However, this isn’t easily achieved. However, getting links from sites with links from these amazing sites is a more realistic prospect. Placing this simply in perspective

BBC> Site we Post on > My Site> Very Good Ranking

We’re one degree away from a high quality source and because of this still getting a lot of benefit from the authority site. Needless to say that the more degrees of separation there are between the authority link and your site, the less trust there is.

Backlink profile matters more than metrics (to a degree)

Which would you rather a link from?

  • Site 1 – PR2, DA30 with 1x link and 1x .Gov Link
  • Site 2 – PR4, DA45 with nothing of note and lots of blog comments

Well, if you’re looking for trust, you’re going to choose the first link even if the Site 2 has a lot more going for it on first impressions. By doing this you create a more trusted, resilient site with a better backlink profile.


Google has its own very visible criteria for trust in Google News. It’s pretty sensible when you think about it.

If Google is willing to include a site in its trusted news sources, then it’s going to trust that site as one that delivers quality news. If all other things are equal a site that’s in Google News is going to be more trusted than a site that’s not in Google News.

Like all the good things in life, getting a link from a site that’s in Google News isn’t easy. However, as Eric Ward always a mention, if a link is hard to get then it’s probably worth getting.

Trust is and has always been a big ranking factor and one that will help your site in a number of ways now and into the SEO future well past 2015. Utilising the above tactics around link can help improve the level of TrustRank Google has around your site and it’s certainly worth considering.

The post Why Google Thinks You’re A Sly Dog And How To Make It Trust You appeared first on SEO Chat.

November 29th 2014 Google, SEO

Q and A: Should I 301 redirect my penalized domain to a new site?

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QuestionHi Kalena

If my site gets penalized and de-indexed from Google (some competitor spammed my site hard), can I 301 that site to my new site with the exact same content? Would my new site get penalized too?

And what happens if my new site gets penalized from spam again… can I 301 it to another domain using the same content? I wonder if i can 301 the past two domains to my new site, passing on the link juice.

What do you think?



Hi Sam

GREAT question and one that I thought I knew the answer to, but it prompted me to do a little more research to make sure.

My instincts told me that if you could simply recover from a penalized domain by implementing 301 redirects to a new domain, then there would be more incentive for spammers to create and burn keyword-stuffed sites as a tactic to gain short term traffic and long term links. This is not a situation I could imagine Google being comfortable with.

But at the same time, if penalized domains pass their penalties on via 301 redirects, what is stopping a competitor from 301 redirecting their penalized site to your non-penalized site as a nasty negative SEO tactic?

So, after digging into the topic, here’s what I found out:

1) We know that 301 redirects are Google’s preferred method of directing traffic between pages and sites, and for transferring link juice from an old domain to a new one. However, any page redirected from one domain to another via 301 is going to lose some PageRank.  So it follows that implementing a 301 redirect on a penalized site WILL pass on some of the link and PageRank value of the redirected site to the new site. Therefore, you should NOT implement a 301 redirect on a penalized site, because any link or PageRank-related penalties will be passed on to the new site as well.

2) If you 301 redirect more than one penalized domain to a new domain, you are probably going to pass on double the negative PageRank and link juice to your clean domain, so don’t do that either, unless you want double the drama.

3) If you are thinking of simply scraping the entire content of your penalized domain and republishing it on a new domain, think again. There is new evidence that Google can track the content that earned you the penalty in the first place and penalize it in the new location, even if you don’t use 301s or tell Google about the move via the site migration tool in Webmaster Tools.

4) If you’re concerned that a competitor might have used negative SEO tactics against you by 301 redirecting their penalized site to your non-penalized site, don’t be. Google is apparently quite good at ferreting out this particular negative SEO technique. If you’re still worried, you can use the Disavow Links tool in Webmaster Tools to instruct Google to ignore any links from the penalized site.

Hope this helps!


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November 27th 2014 SEO

How a Shift from All SEO to Social & Influencer Content Boosted Page Views by 500%

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social influencer content

A small business technology company was focusing their online marketing efforts on SEO and this approach proved to be effective for several years.

Research revealed relevant keywords in demand from searchers actively looking for solutions in this software category. Existing content was optimized, cross linked and new content was created where needed. Content was promoted to attract links and social shares to ensure a presence on crawlable social media platforms.

But then organic traffic began to slow down in growth and eventually decline, despite following SEO best practices capable of the most specific Google scrutiny.

A decision needed to be made: Will more aggressive SEO tactics be used or was it time to shift perspective?

Taking a more customer focused perspective, the marketers involved decided to take a step back from an “all SEO” mindset to consider where buyers were discovering, consuming and acting on information to inform their software purchases. This insight revealed a host of opportunities. Namely, that buyers were relying not only on vendor information found through search, but also the professional recommendations and personal insights from industry experts.

social influencer content

The Shift from SEO to Social Influencer Content

Digging in to the buyer experience from awareness to consideration to inquiry revealed a mix of pain points the target audience often experienced in their journey to discover, evaluate and decide on software vendors.  These pain points became areas of focus for the software company to create an affinity between the brand and it’s ability to be a solution for these important troubles felt by buyers.

But how to make the transition? You can’t simply switch strategies and become influential for something overnight.

The solution was to use the pain point topics as filters to identify industry influencers for the purpose of engaging them to co-create content.

Step 1 – Identify – Using tools like Traackr, Buzzsumo and Followerwonk, a list of relevant, active influencers was identified.

Step 2 – Romance – With no previous connection to these influencers, the software brand picked a specific topic and began to follow, retweet and lightly interact with a set of influencers. Then, those influencers for that particular topic were recognized in content posted to the software brand’s blog – a top list. Information about the quality and quantity of relevance to the topic was provided for each influencer that was included in the list.

Step 3 – Engage – The influencers were cited in Tweets from the software brand for appearing on the list. Attempts were made to connect afterwards to engage further. Influencers were asked to share a tip consistent with the pain point topic of focus for a follow up post. Those tips were then shared by influencers and a new post, co-created with those influencers, was published.

Step 4- Nurture – Contact was maintained with influencers via social channels, direct communications and follow up content.

The result? In terms of the objectives of arresting the decline in organic search traffic with attention from social channels via influencers, the following metrics apply:

  • 20% growth in Twitter followers
  • 500% increase over average page views for the first post
  • 200% increase over average page views for the second post
  • 1,000% Increase in overall social shares

With this data serving as metrics for the pilot effort, continued influencer content co-creation and engagement can not only attract more relevant traffic to the software company content, but support relationships with industry influencers and provide valuable resources that will facilitate improved organic search visibility.  Continued growth of this kind of content will provide even more tracking opportunities beyond content discovery and engagement to include conversions.

This approach is probably one of the most straightforward ways a company can begin their journey into influencer content.

And many do, but they often don’t do the homework when researching influencers, relying solely on intuition and personal experience. Or their lack of resources results in poor quality engagement with influencers. Worse yet, they go right for content partnering without any “romance”. Lastly, many companies treat influencer content as a single project and don’t understand how to maintain the relationships, which is where the most valuable collaborations will come from.

With the deep experience we have with this kind of influencer and content marketing at TopRank, we’re able to provide a workable business case to test and prove (or not prove) whether working with influencers to co-create content can work. At the same time, that content and the social amplification provides valuable signals for growing network size and contributing to improved organic search visibility.

Top Photo: Shutterstock

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How a Shift from All SEO to Social & Influencer Content Boosted Page Views by 500% |

November 26th 2014 SEO