How to deliver a data-driven search marketing strategy using customer intent trends

Where is the biggest opportunity in marketing at the moment?

According to Sophie Moule, Head of Marketing at Pi Datametrics, it’s the sheer amount of customer data that we can get from search.

With 3.5 billion searches per day being carried out by Google, not to mention on vertical-specific websites like Amazon, YouTube and Pinterest, there is a huge sea of data available on customer intent which marketers should be taking advantage of.

But what is the best way to go about doing so? Having reams of data available to you is all well and good, but as any marketer knows, the tricky part is in knowing exactly how to sort through that data, find trends, and apply it to your marketing strategy.

If you can get it right, however, it can elevate the topic of SEO within your business and bring about great results.

At the Figaro Digital Marketing Summit in London, Moule gave a jam-packed presentation on exactly how to look for customer intent trends in search data, and how to align your marketing strategy with these trends to take advantage of research and buying behaviors at exactly the right time.

Data, data, data

The evolution of search on the web has been driven by data. All of the major developments in web search – from localization to personalization to the rise of mobile – are being powered by a huge epicenter of data.

Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines use data from their users’ searches to learn about habits, language usage, search intent and more, and develop their search platforms based on what they’ve found.

But search engines aren’t the only ones who can use the data behind search to evolve their approach; marketers can too.

Tools like Google Trends, Google Insights for Search, Google Keyword Planner and Pi Datametrics, can produce data that gives a view of search trends over time. Using this data, search marketers can:

  • Discover customer trends – Uncover peaks and troughs in when customers search for things
  • Hone in on commercially valuable keywords – By adding another layer of data using cost per click and competition information, marketers can concentrate on the keywords that have buying intent
  • Analyze patterns – Go back in time to see how trends have evolved (Moule gave the example of “make-up” becoming a top search for the Beauty industry between 2014 and 2017, when a new market of buyers came online thanks to the popular explosion of beauty YouTubers).

By analyzing the share of SERP real estate between different companies in your target market, you can also find out exactly who is capitalizing on these searches. This shows where it might be better to sell and advertise your products as a brand, by indicating which stockists, partner stores and publications have the greatest visibility.

Looking at the share of voice in the beauty sector, we can learn that stocking our make-up products with Superdrug instead of Boots would provide better visibility, as Superdrug pulls in more traffic and impressions online in the make-up category.

This also gives an overview of the vast array of different companies competing for attention within the space – showing that your competition online may be very different to the competition you had in your head.

Using search trends to build strategies (plan, influence, peak, repeat)

By looking at the peaks and troughs in search volume data over time, Moule explained that search marketers can plan their campaigns around different phases of the buyer journey.

She called this approach “Plan, Influence, Peak, Repeat” – identifying when you need to be planning; seeing when people are ready to be influenced; identifying peak buying trends; and finally assessing whether a pattern will repeat, or whether it was a one-off fad.

As an example, let’s take a look at a search trend graph for the term “festival clothing” over a period of two years. This is an event-triggered trend, so the same pattern is likely to recur year-on-year:

The peak purchase times in this graph are easy to isolate, but your products don’t only need to be in front of consumers at these times. The trough periods, where search volume is lowest, are a good time to plan ahead, take stock of your content, consider how you want to target consumers, and make sure it’s optimized and published early before buying interest starts to climb.

Then, we enter the influence, or research phase (marked out in red in the above graph). “This is probably even more crucial for the digital department than it is for the search team,” said Moule. “Very few businesses actually capitalize on this research phase.

“I’ve so frequently seen people planning all their marketing campaigns around the peak, and not far enough in advance of it.”

Collectively, there are more searches taking place during this build-up than there are during the peak itself – representing a huge number of opportunities for customers to encounter your brand. This means that your site and content need to be ready to appear in front of consumers before they hit the research phase.

CPCs are also much lower during the research period as competition drops off – so if you’re willing to invest more in brand awareness than direct conversions, you can take advantage of the lower rates, and generate interest that will pay off during the peak period.

This means that by the time both sales and CPCs peak, you won’t have to worry about targeting consumers as aggressively, because you’ll have already laid the groundwork for orders and sales coming through.

Activating paid media during this period also brings a healthy amount of traffic to your site, which can build up a strong cookie pool for retargeting later on. You can then use that pool during the peak period, whether that be in retargeting display, RLSA, or retargeting email campaigns, and pull in conversions in a much more efficient way.

This data can further be used to benefit the rest of your organization, beyond the digital and SEO teams. What can you expect from the season to come? Is it the same as what we saw last season? Is there anything that might trigger slightly different trends? The influencer period is also a key merchandising period, so you should make sure that the products people might be researching are front of store, and displayed prominently on your website.

Then, in the aftermath of the peak sales period, you can determine when demand is dying down and it’s time to discount and sell off your stock. If your data tells you that you can expect another peak later in the year, however, you might want to hold onto that stock for later.

Customer data: Giving context to the searches

All of the “star performers” in retail put search data first when they build their strategies, said Moule – feeding it in an intelligent way to all of their channels. This gives teams a framework of data that they can plan around, instead of trying to retroactively crowbar it into plans that have already been set in stone.

Moule advised that you can give your data even more “oomph” by integrating it with other datasets, such as social conversations, and customer research. These kinds of datasets can give a vital context to the trends you’re seeing from search data – allowing you to understand not just which trends are taking place and when, but why.

This is important, because if you can determine the external influences on your market, you can predict and prepare for them in the future.

As an added benefit, these kinds of data sets can help you get buy-in for your strategy from other parts of the business, who might be less familiar with search data, but feel more confident basing their decisions on social or customer research data.

A case study in aligning datasets

An excellent example of how this can work in practice is a case study carried out by Pi Datametrics with social listening tool Brandwatch, which used social discussions to give context to search trend data about personal debt.

Looking at the search trend data, Pi found it easy to identify some patterns, most notably that searches about personal debt regularly peak around January of each year.

This is to be expected following the heavy spending period of Christmas, where people might splash out on gifts for their loved ones, only to find themselves facing a mounting credit card bill come January.

When Brandwatch dived deeper into the tweets that were being sent out around that time, they found that many of the conversations revolved around getting debt-free as a new year’s resolution. Not only did this validate the patterns that both companies were seeing in the search data, it also added a layer of sentiment analysis to the dataset.

When compared alongside search data, social data can further give an insight into the diversity of conversations taking place in your industry.

Pi and Brandwatch found that people’s searches were heavily focused on mortgages and credit cards, but on social media, the conversation was very evenly spread across the spectrum of personal finance topics: everything from student debt, to going debt-free, to bankruptcy and debt collectors.

“If I were a brand in the financial sector, I might look at this and think, ‘Am I creating enough content to be able to join in with all these types of conversations?’” said Moule. The diversity of social conversations can give you many more opportunities to get your brand in front of people.

Key takeaways

To sum up, here are the key points to remember when delivering a data-driven search marketing strategy:

  • Think of the customer needs first, and technology after
  • Use search trends as customer research data
  • Look at value, not just volume
  • Get organizational buy-in for your data for aligned planning
  • Integrate with other datasets for a truer view of customer intent.

Does “search satisfaction” matter more than click-through rate in SEO?

Click-through rate (CTR) has historically been an important factor in gauging the quality of results in information retrieval tasks.

In SEO, there has long been a notion that Google uses a metric called Time-To-Long-Click (TTLC), first noted in 2013 by AJ Kohn in this wonderful article.

Since then, Google has released several research papers that elaborate on the complexity of measuring search quality due to their evolving nature.

Most notably:

  • Direct Answers
  • Positional bias
  • Expanding ad results
  • SERP features
  • SERP layout variations

All of these factors can have varying effects on how users interact and click (or don’t click) on Google results for a query. Google no doubt has various click models that set out expectations for how users should click based on search type and position.

This can be helpful in understanding outlier results either above or below the curve to help Google do a better job with satisfaction for all searches.

Search satisfaction

The reason this is important is that it can help us reframe our understanding of search result clicks away from CTR and TTLC and towards an understanding of search satisfaction.

Our web pages are just a potential part of the entire experience for users. Google released a publication in 2016 called Incorporating Clicks, Attention and Satisfaction into a Search Engine Result Page Evaluation Model.

This paper, along with accompanying code, attempts to use clicks, user attention, and satisfaction to distinguish how well the results performed for the user and to predict user action (which is a required feature in any click model).

The paper goes on to elaborate that the type of searches this model is useful for is long-tail informational searches, because “while a small number of head queries represent a big part of a search engine’s traffic, all modern search engines can answer these queries quite well.” (Citation)

Generally, the model looks at:

  • Attention: A model that looks at rank, serp item type, and the element’s location on the page in conjunction with click, mouse movement and satisfaction labels.
  • Clicks: A click probability model which takes into account SERP position and the knowledge that a result must have been seen to have been clicked.
  • Satisfaction: A model that uses search quality ratings along with user interaction with the various search elements to define the overall utility to the user of the page.

Are clicks really needed?

The most interesting aspect of this research is the concept that a search result does not actually need to receive a click to be useful.

Users may receive their answer from the search results and not require clicking through to a result, although the paper mentioned that, “while looking at the reasons specified by the raters we found out that 42% of the raters who said that they would click through on a SERP, indicated that their goal was ‘to confirm information already present in the summary.’” (Citation)

Another interesting (and obvious) takeaway across multiple research papers, is the importance of quality raters’ data in the training of models to predict search satisfaction.

None of this should be taken to assume that there is a direct impact on how clicks, attention, or other user-generated metrics affect search results. There have been a number of SEO tests with mixed results that tried to prove click impact on ranking.

At most there seems to be a temporary lift, if any at all. What this would suggest is that, being an evaluation metric, this type of model could be used in the training of internal systems which predict the ideal position of search results.

Click models

Aleksandr Chuklin, a Software Engineer at Google Research Europe and expert in Information Retrieval, published a paper and accompanying website in 2015 that evaluates various click models for web search.

The paper is interesting because it looks at the various models and underlines their various strengths and weaknesses. A few things of interest:

Models can:

  • Look at all results as equal.
  • Look at only results that would have been reviewed (top to bottom).
  • Look at multi-click single session instances.
  • Look at “perseverance” after a click (TTLC).
  • Look at the distance between current click and the last clicked document to predict user SERP browsing.

In addition, this gives some intuition into the fact that click models can be very helpful to Google beyond search satisfaction, by helping them understand the type of search.

Navigational queries are the most common queries in Google and click models can be used to determine navigational as opposed to informational and transactional queries. The click-through rate for these queries is more predictable than the latter two.

Wrapping up

Understanding click models and how Google uses them to evaluate the quality of search results can help us, as SEOs, understand variations in CTR when reviewing Google Search Console and Search Analytics data.

We often see that brand terms have a CTR of sixty to seventy percent (navigational), and that some results (that we may be ranking well for) have lower than expected clicks. Paul Shapiro looked into this in 2017 in a post that provided a metric (Modified z-score) for outliers in CTR as reported in Google Search Console.

Along with tools like this, it is important to understand more globally that Google has come a long way since ten blue links, and that many things have an impact on clicks, rather than just a compelling title tag.

Having established the importance of search satisfaction to Google, is there anything that SEOs can do to optimize for it?

  • Be aware that investigating whether CTR directly affects search is probably a rabbit hole: even if it did, the impact would more than likely be on longer tail non-transactional searches.
  • Google wants to give their users a great experience. Your listing is just a part of that – so make sure you add to the experience.
  • Make sure you understand the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines. How your site is designed, written, and developed can strongly affect how Google judges your expertise, authority, and trust.

JR Oakes is the Director of Technical SEO at Adapt Partners.

The 2018 guide to free SEO training courses online

Over the past decade SEO has been growing into its position as a critical marketing channel for businesses.

You might be new to this environment, or you may have new team members that need to be trained up on search engine optimization.

Before you go handing over your gold coins to a training consultant, we suggest you read this article where we have outlined some of the best (and importantly, free) SEO training courses and websites to take your knowledge to the next level in 2018.

This is an update to a guide written by Chuck Price in 2016, with many of his suggestions still holding value so after you’ve finished with this article we would recommend jumping over there for some additional pointers and a look at some of the skill sets needed to become a skilled SEO.

Google – Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide and Google Webmasters Learning

It’s a favored description by the doubters and the uninitiated: SEO is all tricks, underhand manipulation and most importantly, guess work. In actual fact, good SEO is far from guess work. Google may not give us complete visibility into the workings of their search algorithm but they more open than the doubters think!

What better place to start than with two guides provided by Google, the globally dominant search engine and therefore the target platform for lots of SEOs worldwide.

Starter guide

Updated in December 2017 Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide is an up to date resource from the Big G, targeted at those starting right from the very beginning.

Be warned, Google may have trendy offices but their guides lack the same personal touch. Their starter guide is dense and rather dry, but useful nonetheless.

Interestingly you may gain more value reading it first and then coming back to it once you have had certain aspects explained in a less matter of fact manner.

Webmasters learning page

This web page overlaps with Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide to an extent. However, this resource provides a wider breadth of information including web developer specific advice. In fact, the initial module titled ‘Webmaster Academy’ has now been replaced with the Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide.

The information and links on this page are applicable to marketers, designers and developers alike, with Google providing useful YouTube, Blog and forum links to turbocharge your learning.

Moz – Beginner’s Guide to SEO

Moz is one of the most well known platforms and information sources within the SEO industry. The clean aesthetics of the website and easy to understand language make digesting the information presented much easier than for Google’s Starter Guide.

Made up of 10 chapters on critical areas of SEO (such as how search engine operate or myths and misconceptions) this guide is full of analogies which can be a real benefit for the newbies to formulate their own mental map of the SEO ecosystem.

A must-read, and one of the most frequently-mentioned recommendations for those discussing SEO guides online!

Quick Sprout – The Advanced Guide to SEO

Neil Patel loves long-form content, and he’s rather good at it. Heavily researched and highly detailed, his Advanced Guide to SEO makes no apologies for being a continuation for those who no longer gain value from the more basic guides. Through 9 chapters Neil will take you through his course, tackling more advanced link building theories or technical items.

Much like Moz’s guide, Neil speaks to you as a person, using more colloquial language than more corporate led guides. The plethora of screenshots and infographics also help you to tackle each chapter in a step by step, linear process

HubSpot’s Certifications

The guides by Google, Moz and Quick Sprout are great for those looking to learn the ropes of SEO and gain an understanding of the specific elements that make up an SEO campaign. For newcomers, the guides above will certainly have an impact on your site’s rankings when implemented.

However, to really make the most of your SEO efforts, you need to look at the bigger picture. SEO has a habit of sucking you in and making you focus on the minutiae – take the time to really understand your audience and buyer personas, subsequently creating a long term strategy that delivers greater results.

HubSpot are inbound marketing specialists that offer a range of free online learning tools, all engineered to help you create more effective inbound funnels and deliver conversions. Resources include an onsite SEO template, a variety of ebooks and free digital marketing courses that will earn you a certificate when complete

They’re simple and easy to understand. We would recommend starting with the Inbound Certification which provides a general structure for your inbound sales funnels and content strategies.

Both video content and transcripts come in multiple chapters, with a multiple choice test at the end and certificate. They also take it further than just SEO, training you on sales techniques so that your customers get the very best experience possible, are delighted, and become promoters for your business.

Continuous learning

Gaining an understanding of the SEO ecosystem and the basics of on-site optimization, content creation, link-building and analytics is critical in ensuring that you set off on the right path. The courses above are very valuable in providing this initial overview, but you also need to make sure that you are keeping up to date and adapting your campaign strategy accordingly.

The ‘goal posts’ for user-focused campaigns rarely change, but updates do occur which you need to be aware of in order to react. We have included below some of the main SEO-specific sites that you can bookmark and follow on social media, not only to keep up-to-date, but also to build on your foundations.

Search Engine Watch

At Search Engine Watch we provide a blends of tips, industry news and how-to guides to help you further your knowledge around search engine optimization. With a blend of in-house expertise and industry contributors, we publish articles regularly.

Make use of our checklists (such as Christopher Ratcliff’s Technical SEO Checklist) to methodically ensure that you have covered all bases. We may be biased, but it’s a rather good resource!

Embrace the community

There are a plethora of sites on the web publishing helpful (and not so helpful) SEO related content and guides. Some of the most popular being Moz Blog, Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Journal.

However, there are a number of individuals and businesses that you should follow on their blogs or social media to utilize multiple sources throughout the SEO industry:

Rand Fishkin
Larry Kim
John Mueller
Neil Patel
Danny Sullivan
Barry Schwartz
Vanessa Fox
Bill Slawski

These individuals (amongst others) will crop up time and again as you dive deeper into the SEO world. It is also valuable to follow the various platforms available to businesses.

The content produced by these organizations are often heavily focused around utilizing analytics to improve campaigns:

Ahrefs
BuzzSumo
SEMRush
Kissmetrics
Searchmetrics
Backlinko

This is not an exhaustive list, but is a great place to start. It takes a certain amount of research to understand which individuals, businesses and organisations produce content that is most applicable to your requirements and current level of knowledge.

We would, however, advise that utilizing as many courses, guides and sources as possible will give you a well rounded view of SEO and allow you to make your own decisions, draw relevant insights to your campaigns and get great results.

What we believe you will find is that the SEO industry is actually reasonably open in terms of disseminating guides and discussing techniques or new updates.

This provides an environment in which a newcomer can learn a substantial amount about running a successful SEO campaign just by reading and engaging with the online SEO community.

How to check your Domain Authority: 4 tools to use

DA_PA

Domain Authority (DA) is a metric that serves as a handy heuristic in the SEO industry. Put simply, it provides insight into how likely a site is to rank for specific keywords, based on the SEO authority it holds. There are numerous tools that can help us arrive at these useful scores.

Below, we round up some of the most accurate and intuitive ways to see a site’s SEO equity.

In an often opaque industry, with few insights into how Google’s algorithms really work for organic search, the lure of a metric like Domain Authority is self-evident.

It provides a glimpse into the SEO “strength” of a website, in a similar fashion to the now obsolete PageRank toolbar. Google still makes use of some variation of the PR algorithm internally, but its scores are no longer visible to the public and were never particularly helpful.

If anything, they encouraged some negative attempts to “game” Google’s rankings through link acquisition.

However, many SEOs make use of Domain Authority to sense-check the quality of their inbound links and to understand how these are affecting their own’s site’s SEO health.

What is Domain Authority?

“Domain Authority (DA) is a search engine ranking score developed by Moz that predicts how well a website will rank on search engine result pages (SERPs). A Domain Authority score ranges from one to 100, with higher scores corresponding to a greater ability to rank.

Domain Authority is calculated by evaluating linking root domains, number of total links, MozRank, MozTrust, etc. — into a single DA score. This score can then be used when comparing websites or tracking the “ranking strength” of a website over time.” – Moz.

Ultimately, this is a representative model of how Google decides which pages should rank for each query, and in what order they should rank.

As is the case with the term ‘relevance’, authority covers a very broad area of assessment that is open to interpretation. Domain Authority aims to cut through that ambiguity by providing a metric that can compare the SEO strength of different websites based on a consistent methodology.

Although marketers are aware that DA has intrinsic limitations as a metric, it is at least a barometer of whether our SEO efforts are gaining traction or not. As such, it serves an important purpose.

When prospecting for new links, for example, it is helpful to check the DA of external sites before contacting the site about a potential partnership. Combined with a range of other metrics – both qualitative and quantitative – Domain Authority can therefore guide brands towards more effective SEO decisions.

‘Domain Authority’ was devised by Moz and they have naturally taken ownership of this name. Their suite of tools (some of which are discussed in this article) will reveal the authority of particular domains, but dozens of other free tools use Moz’s API to show these scores too.

However, a couple of other SEO software packages provide a slightly different view on a domain’s SEO strength.

Moz’s scores are based on the links contained within its own index, which is undoubtedly smaller than Google’s index of URLs.

Other SEO software companies, such as Majestic and Ahrefs, have their own index of URLs. These indexes will largely overlap with each other, but there are still questions to pose to your chosen provider:

  • Index size: How many URLs are contained within the software’s index?
  • Frequency of index crawling: How often is the index refreshed?
  • Live links: Are there common instances of ‘false positives’, where inactive links are reported with 200 status codes?
  • Correlation with actual rankings: Simply, does a higher domain score equate to better rankings?

The importance of these questions, and the resultant significance of their answers, will depend on a brand’s context. Nonetheless, these are points worth considering when assessing the scores your site receives.

Each of the main players in this space has subtle distinctions within its methodology, which will be important for most SEOs.

We will begin our round-up with the Moz tools (some of them free) that will show the Domain Authority for any site, before looking at a couple of alternatives that provide a valuable reference point.

Moz (MozBar, Open Site Explorer)

It should be clear that Moz is the major contender when it comes to checking a domain’s SEO authority. We included MozBar on our list of the best Google Chrome extensions for SEO and it deserves its place in this list, too.

MozBar will highlight the Domain Authority of any site a user is browsing, along with the Page Authority (PA) of that particular URL. As the name suggest, PA applies a similar methodology to DA, but localized to a particular URL rather than a domain.

This is also available in search results pages, making it possible to see whether a site’s Domain or Page Authority correlates with higher rankings for particular queries.

As such, these two metrics in combination are a great starting point for investigations into the quality and quantity of backlinks pointing to a domain.

Marketers should be aware, however, that these scores do fluctuate.

That should be viewed as a positive, as the scores are an increasingly accurate reflection of how Google is evaluating sites. Moz employs machine learning algorithms to re-calibrate the authority scores based on link activity across its index, but also the impact that certain types of link have.

We can consider this an attempt to peg the Moz index to that of Google, and we know the latter is tweaked thousands of times a year.

Therefore, we should be careful about the causal links we infer from DA scores.

When tracking Domain Authority, always benchmark against similar sites to avoid viewing this as an absolute indication of how well you are performing. By viewing it as a relative metric instead, we can gain a healthier insight into whether our strategy is working.

This is where another Moz-owned tool, Open Site Explorer, proves its worth. Open Site Explorer uses a range of proprietary Moz metrics to highlight the areas in which specific sites under- or over-perform. the side by side comparisons it creates are an intuitive way to spot strengths and weaknesses in a site’s link profile on a broader scale.

OSE

Moz’s Domain Authority is undoubtedly useful – especially when used as an entry point into deeper investigation. MozBar and Open Site Explorer provide access to this metric for all marketers, so they should be viewed as the go-to resources for anyone seeking a check on their site’s SEO ranking potential.

Ahrefs

Ahrefs boasts an index of over 12 trillion links and data on 200 million root domains, making it an invaluable repository for SEOs wanting to understand their site’s SEO performance.

The two metrics that matter within the scope of this article are URL Rating (UR) and Domain Rating (DR).

We can consider these Ahrefs’ equivalents to Page Authority and Domain Authority, respectively, at least in terms of their purpose.

The latter is defined by Ahrefs as “a proprietary metric that shows the strength of a target website’s total backlink profile (in terms of its size and quality).”

It appears frequently within the software interface, in examples like the one in the screenshot below:

ahrefs-domain-rating-768x243

So, why would you use the Ahrefs DR score over Moz’s DA calculation? Their definitions do seem strikingly similar, after all.

As always, the detail is critical. If we refer back to our initial points for consideration, it becomes possible to compare Ahrefs with Moz:

  • Index size
  • Frequency of index crawling
  • Live links
  • Correlation with actual rankings

Both Moz and Ahrefs have invested significantly in improving the size, quality and freshness of their link data. Some SEOs have a preference for one over the other, and their scores do vary significantly on occasion.

Those that prefer Ahrefs typically do so for the freshness of its index and DR’s correlation with actual rankings.

The clarity of the Ahrefs methodology is also very welcome, right down to the number of links typically required to reach a specific DR score.

To put things simply, we calculate the DR of a given website the following way:

  • Look at how many unique domains have at least 1 dofollow link to the target website;
  • Take into account the DR values of those linking domains;
  • Take into account how many unique domains each of those websites link to;
  • Apply some math and coding magic to calculate “raw” DR scores;
  • Plot these scores on a 0–100 scale (which is dynamic in nature and will “stretch” over time).
    • DR 0–20: 20 ref.domains
    • DR 20–40: 603 ref.domains
    • DR 40–60: 4,212 ref.domains
    • DR 60–80: 25,638 ref.domains
    • DR 80–100: 335,717 ref.domains

    Ahrefs requires a monthly licence to access its data; for those that do sign up, it provides a very useful sanity check for the domain strength scores seen elsewhere.

    Majestic

    Majestic is marketed as “The planet’s largest link index database” and it remains a trusted component of any SEO toolbox for the thorough nature of its backlink data.

    Offering two index options (Fresh and Historic), it also allows marketers to different views of how their domain is performing. As with Moz and Ahrefs, Majestic’s scores for site strength are calculated almost exclusively based on the quality and quantity of inbound links.

    Opting for the Historic Index will see Majestic scour the billions of URLs it has crawled within the last 5 years, while the Fresh Index is updated multiple times per day.

    This software takes a slightly different tack in relation to the labeling of its domain metrics, which are known as Trust Flow and Citation Flow.

    majestic

    These are interrelated metrics that combine to form the set of Majestic Flow Metrics. These are very insightful because of the immediate score they provide (ranging from a low of 0 to a high of 100), and also for the opportunities to dig further into the backlink data.

    One favorite feature of Majestic is the ability to analyze historical backlink acquisition trends, both in terms of links gained and links lost. As such, Majestic’s domain strength metrics provide actionable insight that can be used to shape strategy immediately. For example, the loss of a lot of links on a particular date may provide an opportunity to reach out to webmasters and try to regain that equity.

    Majestic also comes with a handy toolbar that overlays domain metrics on the site a user is browsing. Although an apples to apples comparison between Majestic and Moz or Majestic and Ahrefs, in relation to the efficacy of their domain authority rankings, would be difficult, this would also be to miss the point.

    All of these tools are aiming to mimic the functioning of Google as accurately as they can; taken together they form a more rounded picture.

    In summary

    Given the ongoing significance not only of backlinks, but also the potential of unlinked mentions to boost performance, search marketers are quite rightly looking to Domain Authority to assess their SEO potential.

    The core elements of a successful, customer-centric remain the same as they always were; higher scores, from whichever domain metrics one chooses to monitor, should be seen as a natural by-product of a strategy that fulfils the modern consumer’s needs.

    The 2018 guide to B2B sales, Part 2: Segmentation, content, and nurtures

    In Part 1 of this series, I broke down how to effectively use different channels for B2B efforts – from demand generation channels like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest to get in front of highly relevant audiences to paid search to capitalize on audiences with intent.

    I also touched on optimizing the landing pages/content you should deliver to these audiences.

    In this post, I’ll cover creating smart segmentation, and making use of the right content for mid-funnel remarketing and your overall nurture.

    Let’s start by assuming you’ve brought relevant audiences onto your web property, and they haven’t yet converted – but you have cookied them with pixels placed on the site, and you’ve built an audience for remarketing purposes. The first thing you’ll want to do is…

    Create smart segmentation

    If you’ve followed best practices so far, the users in your remarketing pool have hit different content and landing pages on your site, depending on what you deemed most relevant to them. And their entry points can be very useful in segmenting your remarketing lists.

    Rather than just having a catch-all remarketing list for all visitors, create segmented audiences that can accommodate more tailored content. Here are some examples of how you want to think about audience development/segmentation:

    • Industry-specific audiences (if you have landing pages or content relevant to certain industries)
    • Type of content consumed (demo, whitepaper, lead form, etc.) – this allows you to ensure you don’t serve the same content to these audiences as you leverage mid-funnel remarketing to push them down the funnel.
    • Intent level of keywords – are the users in the research phase? Ready to look for purchase options? The B2B purchase process can be a long one, so look for layers and ways to address users at different points of the funnel.

    Employ mid-funnel remarketing

    I’ll say it again: one of the most unique things about B2B products and services is the fact that the buying process is so long – often because of the high product price point and the level of impact of your service or offering.

    B2B decisions aren’t made lightly, which is why I emphasize the educational process, the need to continuously convince the user why you are right for them, and the effectiveness of keeping your product/service top of mind as users move toward a decision.

    With the your newly created segmented audiences, you can craft a more precise strategy to serve content and messaging that will push users down the funnel to help them become more qualified leads and, eventually, customers. Think about relevant whitepapers, testimonials, and case studies that show the impact of your offering/service/product to prove your credibility and value.

    A final note about remarketing: always take a multichannel approach by leveraging both GDN and paid social so you can meet the audiences where they choose to go.

    Always-on nurture

    Your users won’t stop browsing the web, so your nurture efforts shouldn’t stop either. Segment your audiences by recency of their last visit to your site, and keep showing them different ads, content, and creative that educates them about your product or service.

    Don’t just switch up the messaging; test different ads formats (Facebook video, YouTube, banner ads, text ads, etc.) to keep the creative fresh and engaging. And keep rotating in testimonials that speak to different value propositions that align with your audience’s needs – and lend you credibility at the same time.

    In our next post, I’ll cover how to ensure you’re driving qualified leads, how to track events that lead most reliably to sales, and how to back into optimized bidding strategies based on your CRM data. Stay tuned!

    Looking through the artificial intelligence mirror: insights and automation

    We have entered a new era of search where SEO and content marketing have converged.

    AI technologies are providing a whole new world of insights so marketers can make impactful – data-informed – decisions. The AI revolution is here and now, and early adopters in SEO and content marketing are already one step ahead of the competition.

    Artificial intelligence

    While Artificial Intelligence has slowly become a part of everyday lives, growing all around us. It was only when Google introduced RankBrain in 2015 when search marketers started to see the potential use cases for AI and machine learning. As Albert Gouyet wrote in his recent piece, ‘Artificial intelligence and machine learning: What are the opportunities for search marketers?‘:

    • Artificial intelligence is the science of making machines do things requiring human intelligence. It is human intelligence in machine format where computer programs develop data-based decisions and perform tasks normally performed by humans.
    • Machine learning takes artificial intelligence a step further in the sense that algorithms are programmed to learn and improve without the need for human data input and reprogramming.

    Machine learning is all around us and has been part of people’s everyday lives for many years now. The most relevant examples for SEOs are based around voice-enabled technologies that are used in more than 20% of mobile queries.

    When people are on their way to work, they use voice search to send messages and navigate via their in-car system. When people are at work, they use voice search on their laptops to manage diaries and schedules. At home, people may use Amazon Echo or Google Home and watch films on Netflix.

    The two key AI and machine learning benefits I want to focus today on are centered around:

    Insights that are accurate, actionable, and impact revenue

    Automation of labour-intensive tasks and programmatic scale.

    I: Data-driven insights

    Marketing today is very labor-intensive, often requiring marketers to dig through too much data that may not even be giving them the bigger picture they need to make impactful business decisions. More than 80 percent of the world’s data is unstructured–for example, data from text, video, images, and user-generated social and blog content–and marketers need to break this down into structured formats that they can act on.

    To do this effectively and in a manner that produces impactful business results, requires planning, process discipline, and advanced technology. By leveraging AI and machine learning systems that leverage both historical and real-time data, SEO and content marketers can map out in advance what types of content will perform best.

    Marketers can use these insights in so many ways to blend the best of search marketing and content marketing practices in two key ways.

    1. Targeting demand: Discovering new data patterns and industry and competitive trends

    Targeting demand requires a deep understanding of your audience and AI-based insights help marketers decide which channels and types of content consumers are searching for. Data-driven insights into consumer demand set marketers up for success with a content marketing strategy built specifically for their target audience.

    Intent data offers in-the-moment context on where customers want to go and what they want to know, do, or buy. Organic search data is the critical raw material that helps you discover consumer patterns, new market opportunities, and competitive threats.

    2. Personalizing the customer experience: Producing content that resonates, engages and delights customers

    This is one of the areas where AI and machine learning can have the biggest impact. Rich (deep) data-led insights can help incorporate content and present people with choices and promotions at the right time based on their past preferences. This is where deep learning can have a massive impact.

    Deep learning is the next generation of machine learning where massive data sets are combined with pattern recognition capabilities to automatically make decisions, find patterns, and provide accurate insights that help drive SEO and content marketing strategies.

    Deep learning is particularly important in search, where data sets are large and shifts are dynamic. Deep learning allows you to identify patterns and trends in real-time. SEO and content marketers can immediately turn these insights into a plan to win.

    A: Machine Learning and Automation

    Being armed with smart insights to uncover potential topics that are hyper-relevant to their target audience and automation allows SEO and content marketers to scale their programs and maximize working efficiency.

    Speed will be a critical part of getting ahead of others within your market space, and automation will be the foundation of achieving this goal.

    Automation allows marketers to:

    • Act on recommendations faster
    • Get content in front of their audience before the competition
    • Ensure that content is optimized from the moment it goes live.

    For example, Kraft used a combination of machine learning and insights to optimize their content creation process. Kraft tracked more than 22,000 different audience characteristics then used these insights to inform their content creation process. The result was a 4x increase in ROI from content, when compared to targeted ads.

    Automation is helping marketers do more with less and execute more quickly. Routine SEO and content tasks can be implemented with little effort, allowing SEO and content marketers to focus on high-impact activities and accomplish their personal and professional objectives at scale.

    Conclusion

    AI, machine learning and deep learning is going to transform how SEO and content marketers operate via the utilization of data-driven insights and give marketers the competitive edge to formulate impactful content marketing strategies.

    Source: Marketing in the Machine Age

    Marketers will use AI to respond to complexity and rapid change that is beyond the normal human capabilities, like the search algorithm changes and evolution of the layout of the SERPs.

    AI will improve marketers’ agility–having the flexibility to adapt quickly to changes in the market and change content strategy in line with competitive market trends. This includes having the ability to scale content marketing efforts effectively through entire organizations.

    In addition, AI will help marketer capture and satisfy customers by optimizing customer experience and content personalization, issues that present dozens to hundreds to thousands of combinations to satisfy a range of customer personas at different points on the lifecycle.

    Providing users with highly relevant, optimized, and engaging content tailored to the customers’ expectations, needs and goals will improve all marketing metrics.

    How to set up ecommerce tracking in Google Analytics

    Even though most web professionals and marketers know about Google Analytics, not many understand how they can fully unlock all the power of this free analytics software.

    If you have an ecommerce website, you can harness Google Analytics to track your transactions, see online traffic sources, and provide detailed analytical data to help establish the path to maximum ROI.

    All it takes is a few simple steps to get started. This guide will help you to get set up with tracking your ecommerce site in Google Analytics.

    Getting started with Google Analytics

    First, start by setting up a primary Google account. You can create a Gmail ID that is unconnected to your personal email accounts if you don’t already have one. Always remember that keeping personal and business accounts separate makes managing them easier in the long run.

    Alternatively, you can make use of a Google Analytics Demo account.

    Done creating a new Gmail account? Now, it’s time to connect it to the Analytics account.

    • Visit Google Analytics and press the Sign In button. Instantly, a three-step registration guideline will show up on your screen
    • Follow the mentioned instructions carefully
    • Add the property to track. In this case, it will be your ecommerce site
    • Now, mention the name of your ecommerce account, the URL, the name of your site, your preferred time zone, and the industry to which your website belongs
    • Choose the Data sharing settings with Analytics. Now, click the Get Tracking ID button.

    Remember it is possible to set up 100 different accounts on Google Analytics using a single Google account. List 50 separate properties, including blogs, pages, apps, and websites – all related to your ecommerce site – under a single Google Analytics account.

    Worried about messing up during your initial try or want to set up something temporary? Google has you covered! You can shift properties easily between accounts, which bodes well for your marketing efforts.

    Set up the tracking code

    Complete the setup process and then click on Get Tracking ID. You will immediately notice a pop up featuring the terms and conditions. Read them and agree to them so you can proceed to the next step – receiving the code for Google Analytics.

    Install this code on every single page of your ecommerce website. Without the tracking code, do not expect Analytics to read the information present on the page and supply necessary data.

    Keep in mind that the installation process tends to vary from one platform to another. No technical knowledge, however, is necessary to ensure proper application of the code. Simply copy the given code and then paste it in front of the ending head tag of your ecommerce site’s HTML code.

    Add the secondary user

    Speak to someone who’s managed Google Analytics for many years, and they will tell you that they’ve had issues with account access at some point. Mostly they experience trouble due to problems with their primary account or email.

    To avoid such a thing from happening, it is always recommended that you add a secondary user with a different Google account who can provide another point of access. So, overcome problems, such as the loss of your password or hacking attempts by having a backup at all times.

    To set up the secondary account, click the Admin option present on the top of your screen. Choose the option marked User Management from the Account menu.

    Find the field marked Add Permissions For, and enter the relevant Gmail ID. Choose every option that grants the permissions necessary for the second account to gain access to your Google Analytics profile.

    Select your goals wisely

    Next on the agenda is figuring out the right way to add goals to Google Analytics. Search under the View column for the Admin link from where you can choose goals. These goals are necessary to inform the Analytics program about important occurrences on your site.

    Since you’re able to set a maximum of 20 separate goals, select the ones for your ecommerce site carefully. The majority of businesses tend to set goals for lead form subscriptions, email list subscriptions, and other definitive actions.

    Begin by clicking the Next Goal button and selecting custom or existing options depending on your requirements. Once you’re done, tap the Next button. Make sure you set a name that you can easily recall and then click on the Destination button before you head to the following step.

    In the destination field, enter the Thank You or confirmation page URL. Then, in the drop down list, select the Begin With option. Now, toggle the preferred value and select the amount for conversion. When completed, simply click the Create Goal option.

    Doing so will enable you to monitor essential conversions on your ecommerce site. Selecting the proper goals can mean all the difference between tracking the necessary processes or user actions.

    Begin ecommerce tracking

    Ecommerce owners can now proceed to start ecommerce tracking through their Analytics account. There are two ways to track ecommerce actions in Analytics, and they include:

    • Basic ecommerce tracking
    • Enhanced ecommerce tracking

    Simply adding code to your website will already track these options. Enabling these options will help you check tracking reports.

    For basic tracking, you need to open the Admin panel and click on the Account tab. Then go to Property and View. Click what you wish to track, and then move on to Ecommerce settings. Set the Ecommerce Status to On.

    For Enhanced tracking, find the option marked Enhanced Ecommerce settings. Click on the same and navigate to the Enhance Ecommerce Reporting tab. Toggle it On and then choose the Submit button.

    Turn on website search tracking

    When you have an ecommerce site, you want to know all you can about your customers’ interests and purchase behavior. And tracking the searches performed by visitors is a good way to do so.

    Enable site search tracking to find out which services or items are most popular among your visitors. Simply visit the Admin menu and then click on the View column. Go to Site Settings and turn it On. Check out different query parameters in search results. Enter Q or S in the field and then choose Save.

    Concluding remarks

    Follow the steps above, and you should be able to set up ecommerce tracking in Google Analytics with ease. Once you’re able to get the process up and running, it becomes easier to monitor your ecommerce campaigns.

    Considering how Statista mentions that global retail ecommerce sales will hit the $4.5 trillion mark by 2021, it makes sense to monitor your progress so you know you’re not missing out on the action.

    The rise of Answer Engine Optimization: Why voice search matters

    Search engine optimization, better known as SEO, has been around since the 1990s.

    More than two decades later, we still talk about optimizing for the likes of Google and Bing as ‘SEO’. The tactics may have evolved, the landscape may have changed, but the overarching principles remain the same – right?

    According to Chee Lo, Head of SEO at Trustpilot, and Jason Barnard, SEO consultant at Kalicube.pro, search engine optimization is no longer the only game in town.

    In a recent webinar, the two experts explained how the rise of voice search is transforming search engines into “answer engines”, which require a different strategy and set of ingredients for success. This strategy has come to be known as AEO, or “answer engine optimization”.

    So how does AEO differ from the time-tested discipline of SEO? Why is it important? And how can SEOs go about optimizing for answer engines?

    What is answer engine optimization?

    Many of us in the industry have noted and commented on the shift by search engines, particularly Google, towards providing one, definitive answer to searches. Innovations like featured snippets and Knowledge Graph have contributed to Google’s aim of providing the answer to a search query without requiring a user to click through to another website.

    Voice search accentuates this shift, with the vast majority of voice searches receiving a single answer read out by a digital assistant. On mobile, some voice searches will display a results page if there isn’t a definitive answer to be found, but for smart home hub devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home which rarely have screens, this isn’t an option.

    Therefore, the search engine needs to be able to provide a single answer, or none at all.

    Some of the techniques required to optimize for answer engines overlap with search optimization techniques, but there are differences in the underlying mentality.

    Jason Barnard emphasized that the key to answer engine optimization is in specifics: letting Google (or another answer engine) understand what it is that you’re offering.

    “It’s very important to bear in mind that if Google is to give a specific answer, it needs very specific, detailed information in order to present it.

    “In the example of a pizza, if somebody says, ‘I would like the cheapest pizza in the area’, Google needs to know what the prices of the pizzas are in the shops around. If they say, ‘I want pepperoni pizza’, it would be really helpful if Google knew the menu.

    “And if you ask for a pepperoni pizza, and Google knows that one pizzeria does it but isn’t sure if the other one does, it will present the one it knows offers pepperoni pizza. That’s the idea of specifics.”

    Why is answer engine optimization important?

    AEO is not going to replace SEO, but it is becoming increasingly important for marketers to learn how to optimize for answer engines as well as search engines due to (all together now…) the rise of voice search.

    Lo and Barnard cited some compelling statistics to illustrate the accelerating momentum of voice search. In the UK alone, 42% of the population uses voice search on a daily basis, up from 25% four years ago. Even more notably, the engagement with digital assistants Alexa and Cortana has seen a fourfold increase in the past year.

    A quick straw poll of the webinar attendees revealed that 26% of those tuning in had used voice search in the past week, while 6% had used it that very day.

    A further 18% had used voice search that month, while 25% remembered using it sometime in the last year. Only 25% of attendees (though still a significant proportion) had never used voice search at all.

    To those of us in the industry, it might seem as though we’ve been discussing “the rise of voice search” for some time. Yet search practitioners are still justifiably divided on whether or not voice search is worth optimizing for.

    However, if I had to make a prediction, I would say that 2018 is the year that voice search will attain critical mass. Google and Amazon have both shown that they are willing to put their full weight behind voice-controlled smart home hub technology, with Amazon pushing its popular range of Amazon Echo devices and Google announcing big developments for the Google Home at CES 2018.

    Not to be outdone, Apple and Facebook have each announced their own smart home devices: the Apple HomePod, which is due to launch in the US at the end of this week, and the Portal, a smart home speaker with a screen to rival the Echo Show.

    Voice-controlled devices are only going to become more prevalent, and the way for brands to be present on voice devices is through answer engine optimization.

    How does AEO differ from SEO?

    As I mentioned earlier, answer engine optimization (AEO) and search engine optimization (SEO) definitely overlap, and techniques that work for one will often work for the other.

    AEO doesn’t require you to throw out everything you understand about SEO. After all, Google and Bing are the same entities whether they’re powering search on a desktop computer or on a smart home device; they just apply slightly different rules.

    Chee Lo emphasized that communication and credibility are fundamental to both AEO and SEO. Both disciplines require that you communicate what your business is about, and both require you to be credible – when we talk about the importance of domain authority in SEO, for instance, what we’re really talking about is credibility.

    However, Lo posited that the underlying difference between AEO and SEO is that AEO is driven by strategy, while SEO is driven by tactics.

    “SEO can be seen as a tactics-based approach, where you’re using specific tactics to improve your online presence,” he said. “AEO is more about the holistic vision.”

    Ultimately, marketers need to carry out both AEO and SEO in order to ensure that their brand has a presence across all devices.

    “Just to be clear, we’re not saying, ‘Only optimize for answer engines’,” said Barnard. “You must continue to optimize for search engines, because desktop and mobile will continue to exist alongside the answer engines.

    “However, starting to build for answer engine optimization is vital in order to survive in a world where voice will take a bigger part of the market.”

    How to optimize for answer engines

    With all of that established, what practical steps can marketers take to optimize their content for voice search and answer engines?

    Communicate what you’re about

    Despite what it might seem, the vast amount of information on the internet is not easy for Google and other answer engines to index.

    “What we often fail to understand is that information on the web is very fragmented,” explained Barnard. “It’s often inaccurate, and it’s not practical at all for a machine to digest.”

    Websites are coded in vastly different ways, he explained, and ultimately Google can only rely on the information in front of it to determine what the information means, whether or not it’s accurate, and what the relationships are between different entities.

    We’ve discussed this topic before with a piece on how to speak ‘search engine’ and the necessity for webmasters to “put the definition around the cow”, so that Google knows exactly what it’s looking at, and can interpret and serve it to users in the right way.

    This is important for SEO, but is even more crucial for AEO, where the questions that Google receives and the answers it gives in return are becoming more and more specific. Therefore, the first thing that you need to do is give it accurate information about you.

    “The strategy of AEO starts with the idea of making sure that Google understands your content,” said Barnard.

    Two powerful tools that you can use to achieve this are semantic HTML5 and structured data markup.

    Semantic HTML5

    Semantic HTML5, as Barnard explained it, works by dividing up a page into sections, and each section has a specific role which is identified in a standard manner. Google then knows which sections to pay attention to, and which to ignore.

    Barnard has penned an essential guide to semantic HTML5 for content writers which goes into more detail about how to apply HTML5 to your content, and another guide which is aimed at developers.

    Schema.org structured data markup

    Schema.org markup was developed by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and Yandex as a universal “language” to help search engines understand content. This doesn’t replace HTML coding, but works in conjunction with it.

    There are three major types of schema.org markup: microdata, RDFa, and JSON-LD. Our comprehensive beginner’s guide to schema.org markup introduces each of the different types and walks through how to use them on your website.

    You are the best source of information about yourself, Barnard advised; all you need to do is tell Google who you are and what you do, and be truthful. “Once Google has understood you, it can offer you as a potential answer.”

    Establish your credibility

    The second big component of answer engine optimization is credibility. Credibility gives answer engines confidence in their results; the more credible the source of an answer, the more Google et al can trust that it is accurate and worth providing to their users.

    “It’s important to remember that when somebody asks a question, whether they type it or whether they speak it, they’re asking for the solution to a problem, or the answer to a question,” said Barnard.

    “Google’s aim, and Bing’s aim, is to give them access to that answer, or that solution, as quickly as possible. So their aim is to put the best at the top.

    “Once it’s understood that you are able to provide the answer, or the solution, if it’s confident that you’re a credible solution, it will put you at the top.”

    Domain authority, the traditional marker of credibility in SEO, is now giving way to brand authority as Google is increasingly able to determine a brand’s reputation from mentions, reviews and other markers that don’t require a link.

    “The idea that Google only relies on links today is false,” said Barnard. “Google relies on links, still, but as long as it’s understood who you are, it can link a mention of your brand name to you.

    “And then positive feedback from clients – review platforms, but also social media. A buzz around your brand – if the buzz is positive, that’s obviously a very strong signal to Google.

    “So, understanding plus credibility equals brand authority. If you don’t improve your brand authority, your mid to long-term AEO strategy is doomed to failure.”

    No pressure, then! Fortunately, Lo and Barnard also gave plenty of tips as to how you can go about establishing your credibility in the eyes of answer engines.

    Reviews: it’s about quantity as much as quality

    You need to make sure the reviews of your brand are positive, but Lo noted that people also look for a brand that has served plenty of consumers, and are more likely to opt for a company with a lower rating that has twice as many reviews than a company with a high rating that has fewer reviews.

    Add yourself to trusted sources

    Getting a mention from a trusted source isn’t something that’s completely out of your control. WikiData, the database behind Wikipedia, is very important to Google as a credible source of information – and you can add yourself to it.

    The same goes for Crunchbase, a database of innovative companies and the people behind them, on which you can create your own profile. Government websites and business associations are other, trusted sources in your niche that Google can use to confirm that you’re credible.

    Niche mentions still carry weight

    “You don’t need to think big” when it comes to getting mentions of your business, Barnard advised. If you can get a positive mention of your business on a website that’s relevant to your niche, that carries plenty of weight – you don’t need to be name-dropped by the New York Times or the BBC.

    Correct inaccuracies

    You should make sure all the information about your brand that you control is accurate – but you can also do something to correct inaccuracies on external websites. If someone has talked about you on a website and it’s inaccurate, you can contact them and ask them to change it.

    Some quick wins for AEO

    Here are some ‘quick wins’ that you can achieve with regard to answer engine optimization:

    • Communicate using semantic HTML5 and structured data markup (schema.org)
    • Ensure that the information you provide is corroborated by trusted third parties
    • Improve your credibility through mentions, links, and reviews on:
      • Social media platforms
      • High-traffic sites
      • Authoritative sites
      • Third-party review sites
      • Relevant niche brands

    Conclusion

    We’ve covered a lot of ground in this article, but ultimately, there are a few fundamental points to take away.

    “The single most important thing in AEO and in SEO is communicating about your brand, protecting it and promoting it,” said Jason Barnard.

    Communicating what your brand does feeds into making it credible, as Google can apply credibility signals only if it understands your brand.

    Barnard emphasized that improving brand authority should be the focal point of your marketing efforts, as efforts in this area will also benefit your other marketing channels.

    You can check on the status of your brand authority by finding out what results Google, or Bing, returns for “opinion” searches for your brand – i.e. “[brand name] + review”. Ask yourself why these results are appearing – is it because your brand is bad, or because the answer engine has misunderstood information about your brand? If so, correct it.

    Google still struggles to understand brands – which means there are great advantages to be had if you can get Google to understand your brand.

    “It’s not a question of cheating, or gaming the system,” said Barnard. “Google wants to understand, so if you can explain to it what it is you do, and that you’re credible, it’s very happy.”

    Of course, every brand believes that it is credible, but the challenge is in proving it to Google. “In order to prove that you’re credible, you have to make sure that information is online and that Google has seen it.”

    Barnard observed that in the new realm of brand authority and answer engines, we’ve moved away from link-building and machine-oriented tactics, towards a “more human” world of traditional marketing strategies like press relations.

    “We’ve gone away from creating content for search engines, and we’re now creating content to create context, and create credibility in what it is we’re doing. And I find that incredibly encouraging.”

    8 key Google Analytics reports for SEO

    Any stellar SEO strategy should be meticulously tracked and heavily data-driven.

    Gut feel is great when deciding on which new pair of shoes to buy, but it’s not the best foundation to base your SEO work upon.

    Google Analytics is a treasure trove of insightful data. And it’s free! However, with so much data available at our fingertips, it can be a bit of a minefield, and most people only scratch the surface.

    Keyword rankings are great for stroking your ego and making your client smile and nod, but they don’t tap into the bigger picture.

    In order to continually build on and improve your campaign, you need to pay close attention to the nitty-gritty of your data. There’s a lot to take into account, but in this post we’ll provide an overview of the key Google Analytics reports and views to bolster your SEO campaigns.

    Many of these reports can be created as custom reports, which is handy for tailoring your reporting to specific business needs and sharing with clients.

    Read on and we’ll help you to track and measure your SEO efforts like the analytical guru you are.

    1. Organic search

    Where to find it: ‘Acquisition’ > ‘Overview’ > Click through to ‘Organic Search’

    It’s an obvious one but a good place to start. Head to the ‘Overview’ tab under ‘Acquisition’ for a base level indication of your website’s primary traffic channels. This provides an immediate summary of your top channels and how each is performing in terms of traffic volume, behavior and conversions.

    As well as showing a general overview of organic traffic, you can also dig deeper into the data by clicking on ‘Organic Search’ in the table and playing around with the filters. Consider the most popular organic landing pages, an overview of keywords, search engines sending the most traffic, exit pages, bounce rates, and more.

    On the topic of bounce rates, it’s a good idea to pay particular attention to this metric with regards to individual pages. Identify those pages with a bounce rate that is below the average for your site. Take some time to review these pages and work out why that might be, subsequently applying any UX/UI or targeting amendments.

    This is all very well but wouldn’t it be handy if you could view only your organic traffic across the whole of your Google Analytics? It’s easier than you think. Simply click to ‘Add Segment’ and check the box for organic traffic.

    Leave the ‘All Users’ segment for a handy comparison, or remove this segment for a view of only your organic traffic.

    2. Landing page and page titles

    Where to find it: ‘Behavior’ > ‘Site Content’ > ‘Landing Pages’ > Add secondary dimension ‘Page Titles’

    One of the most frustrating aspects of Google Analytics organic reports is the dreaded ‘(not provided)’ result which features under ‘Keyword’.

    This unfortunate occurrence is the result of searches which have been carried out securely. In other words, if the URL of the search engine features HTTPS or if they are logged into a Google account and therefore protected by data privacy policies. In these scenarios, the search term deployed by the user will not be provided.

    But how wonderful would it be to see a list of all the search terms people used to find your site? Unfortunately I’m not a magician and I can’t abracadabra these search phrases from the Google abyss. But I can offer an alternative solution that will at least give you an overview.

    View your organic traffic via landing page and page title, as this will show which pages are performing best in terms of organic search. By including the page title, you can then look at which keywords those pages are optimised for and get a pretty good idea of the search phrases users are deploying and those which are performing best in terms of traffic and bounce rate.

    This can also help you identify the pages which are not performing well in terms of organic traffic. You can then review whether the keywords need refining, the onsite optimization needs an overhaul, or the content needs revamping.

    3. Conversion goals

    Where to find it: ‘Conversions’ > ‘Goals’ > ‘Overview’

    It’s all very well having a high volume of organic traffic but if it isn’t converting then there’s really not much point. To test the quality of your organic traffic, you need to be tracking conversions. There are two levels to this.

    The first is your conversion goals. You can filter these with regards to traffic and understand what percentage of a website’s conversions are resulting from organic traffic.

    To further improve this data, add monetary value to your conversions to better demonstrate the value that your SEO efforts are bringing. Some clients care only about keyword rankings, some care only about the dollar signs. Either way, it’s worth spending some time with your client to work out how much each conversion is worth and the data that they are most interested in.

    For example, let’s say you sell kitchens. If you know the average cost of a sale and the percentage of kitchen brochure downloads which convert to a sale, then you can work out an approximate value for each conversion.

    4. Assisted conversions

    Where to find it: ‘Conversions’ > ‘Multi-Channel Funnels’ > ‘Assisted Conversions’

    Although useful, conversion goals only give a surface view of conversions. What if someone initially found your website via Google and didn’t convert, but then later returned to your website by typing in the URL direct and then converted?

    It’s very common for users not to convert on their first visit to a website, especially if they are only in the awareness or consideration phase of the sales funnel. When returning the next time around to make a purchase, they are more likely to go direct, or perhaps they see a reminder via social media.

    This is where assisted conversions can save the day. Find these by clicking on ‘Multi-Channel Funnels’ under ‘Conversions’, and then ‘Assisted Conversions’.

    With this data, you can identify whether each channel featured on the conversion path of a user, therefore providing more accurate data in terms of the quality of your organic traffic.

    Pay attention to any drops or surges in organic traffic in this section. If, for example, you have noticed a drop in organic assisted conversions yet your organic traffic has remained consistent, then it may indicate that the leads are no longer as qualified. This should prompt a review of your keyword and content strategy.

    5. Site speed

    Where to find it: ‘Behavior’ > ‘Site Speed’ > ‘Overview’

    Site speed is important, we all know that. There are a number of tools we can use to find out the overall speed of a website: Google Page Insights, Pingdom, GTmetrix. However, these don’t tend to drill down into specific pages. The site speed report via Google Analytics can help you to identify any pages which are proving particularly slow.

    You are likely to see a correlation between the time taken to load and the exit pages, you can also layer in bounce rate metrics.

    Using this information regarding individual pages, you can then approach your development team with the cold hard evidence that they need to resolve that page speed issue.

    6. Site search

    Where to find it: ‘Behavior’ > ‘Site Search’ > ‘Search Terms’

    If you have a site search function on your website then this report is super useful for a number of reasons. Firstly, it can indicate where the user experience may not be particularly strong on your website. If a page is proving difficult to find without having to search for it then it may hint at a wider site navigation issue.

    In addition, it can also help identify any keywords or search terms which you may need to create a new page for if one does not already exist. The site search report is ideal for unearthing these gaps in your website’s offering.

    7. Mobile

    Where to find it: ‘Audience’ > ‘Mobile’ > ‘Overview’

    Comparing the traffic of mobile users to that of desktop and tablet is a handy way of identifying whether your site may have some mobile optimization issues. For example, if the bounce rate of mobile sessions is significantly higher than that of your desktop sessions, then you may need to carry out a mobile site audit.

    It’s also worth considering the conversion rate of the different devices, as this can indicate which device traffic is the most valuable.

    Given that over half of website traffic is now on mobile, you should see similar results reflected in your own analytics. Although it’s worth bearing in mind that some businesses are more likely to be more prevalent on mobile than others.

    For example, a local business should feature in a lot of mobile searches, whereas a business to business service is more likely to be searched for on desktop by people sitting in an office.

    8. Customize your dashboard

    Where to find it: ‘Customization’ > ‘Dashboards’

    Finally, for a quick overview of reporting, it pays to design a tailored dashboard for your client. We often find that clients don’t appreciate too much text or complex tables in reports, as they can be overwhelming at an initial glance.

    Sure, you may be a Google Analytics whizz, but the chances are that your client isn’t. Therefore presenting the data in a way that is digestible and manageable is key to convincing them of your SEO prowess.

    Create a dashboard that your client will understand. Use digestible charts, like bar graphs, pie charts and simplified tables. This will help the client visualize all of the data in one easy-to-view report. This can also be emailed to your client each week so they get regular updates.

    Dashboards are created using customizable widgets. Begin by selecting the type of widget: this could be a simple metric, a timeline, a geomap, a table, or a pie or bar chart. With some widgets, you can also select whether to show a specified date range or whether to show data in real-time.

    Once you have chosen your widget, you can configure the finer details, such as dimensions and other options depending on the type. Widgets can be edited, cloned or deleted, allowing flexibility in refining your dashboard as both you and your client see fit. For further information on creating a custom dashboard, have a read of Google’s handy guide.

    There are a whole myriad of other reports and views available within Google Analytics; it takes time to become familiar with all the different types of data and formats. Hopefully this list has provided a solid starting point for genuinely valuable and insightful SEO reporting.

    Automation, AdWords and Amazon: Ashley Fletcher on the future of paid search

    In 2017, Google rolled out 43 separate updates and changes to its AdWords platform.

    From showing local information to display ads to the launch of Smart Display campaigns to visibility over landing page performance, each update from Google – whether big or small – has an impact on the way that PPC practitioners and search marketers go about their craft.

    Going by the major announcements we’ve already seen from Google in January, with the roll-out of an Actions directory for the Google Assistant, home hubs with smart screens, and a significant update to its mobile algorithm to take page speed into account, 2018 is going to be an even bigger year for Google all round. AdWords is likely to be no exception to that.

    Meanwhile, there’s another key player on the horizon: Amazon. With the saturation of the Google Shopping landscape, Amazon Shopping is opening up as a potentially lucrative new avenue for retail search marketers.

    I caught up with Ashley Fletcher, VP of Marketing at Adthena and former Product Manager at Google, to talk about what we’re likely to see from AdWords and paid search in 2018. Ashley Fletcher has been in the industry for 12 years, with five of those spent at Google working on a range of products including Google’s Compare products, Google Express, and Google Shopping in its infancy.

    Fletcher shared his thoughts with me on the overarching trends in paid search, why PPC still needs a human touch, and why search marketers should be getting in early with Amazon Shopping.

    Keeping up with the pace of change

    Last November, Google unveiled a revamped version of its AdWords product just in time for the holidays. The new AdWords platform was redesigned in Material Design, Google’s design language, and built on top of a new infrastructure, meaning faster-loading pages and a cleaner look.

    The redesigned AdWords also brought with it custom intent audiences to help marketers reach people as they’re making a purchase decision, and promotion extensions that serve up special offers for products and services.

    Image: Google Inside AdWords

    I asked Fletcher how advertisers can get the most out of AdWords in light of the November redesign, and other recent updates.

    “My overarching feeling is that it’s highly customizable,” says Fletcher. “That plays into the advertiser’s hands, because you can shape the metrics and views to your needs.”

    This is important as advertisers now are working with increasing amounts of data from different sources, making it crucial to have that level of customizability and flexibility in visualizing it all.

    “Advertisers are accessing increasing amounts of data via APIs,” Fletcher explains. “More and more advertisers are getting comfortable using something like Data Studio to ingest all of the AdWords metrics, plus all of the metrics from an independent source like ours, and overlay them onto their day-to-day KPIs.”

    Not all advertisers are comfortable with using APIs, however, and for AdWords – as well as for external tools like Adthena – there is a need to strike the balance between making great data insights available via an API, versus adding more bells and whistles to the interface.

    The metrics that advertisers are working with can often shift partway through the year as Google rolls out an update. For example, in October 2017 Google uncapped the daily budget in AdWords, making it possible for advertisers to spend up to twice the daily budget that they had allotted. This type of change directly affects the metrics that go into an advertiser’s dashboard.

    But rolling with the changes has become par for the course in paid search. “There’s a huge dependency on the part of AdWords advertisers to keep up with the pace of change,” says Fletcher. “There’s always something else to learn and adapt to.”

    On the topic of change, what does Fletcher believe is on the horizon for AdWords in 2018?

    AdWords and automation

    “The first thing I would say is that we can expect more automation,” says Fletcher. “Google has been focusing a lot on developing its AI and machine learning capabilities, and we’re likely to see that continue.”

    He pointed to the example of Dynamic Search Ads, which is heavily reliant on automation to help users scale their campaigns. DSA have seen widespread adoption amongst advertisers, and Fletcher predicts that this particular feature is likely to evolve over the coming year.

    Display is another area in which Google has ventured into automation, launching smart display campaigns in April 2017. These seem to have been positively received, although Fletcher observes that automation can be a contentious topic among advertisers.

    “How comfortable advertisers feel about [automation] is really 50/50 – some people like to go hands-on, others like to go hands-off. Working with advertisers over the Black Friday period, a lot of them opted to go with manual bidding because they felt they needed that control.”

    Marketers may need to become comfortable with increasing automation in PPC – but there will still be room in the industry for the human touch

    Given that the trend in the industry seems to be veering towards increased automation, does Fletcher believe that advertisers will need to become more comfortable with it in future?

    “Yes. But any kind of automated feature also needs to be clearly measurable, and give advertisers the transparency they need. If you’re going to opt in to these features, you need to know what they’re triggering on, and what the content is.”

    However, this is not to say that search marketers are going to be losing their jobs to the machines any time soon, as Fletcher believes firmly in the value of the human element in PPC, as does Adthena.

    “We need to utilize machine learning to do the legwork and work out the smarts for those insights,” says Fletcher. “But the human piece will always be to action and verify those – and to pivot to bespoke business needs. One may be around cost-saving, one may be around entering new markets, one may be around customer acquisition.

    “You need the human element to pivot to those goals – but I would certainly leverage the machines to give me the insights to go and action. It’s a fine balance you need to achieve between being hands-on with search and search advertising, and using machine learning where it’s suitable.”

    The rise of Amazon Shopping in retail search marketing

    Meanwhile, in retail search marketing, a different kind of shift is taking place – between two industry titans.

    Since Fletcher started working at Google, he has observed the Google Shopping landscape becoming increasingly saturated and competitive, to the point where an additional half a percent of performance can be key.

    “When I started at Google, Google Shopping was really taking off – the ad unit was getting bigger, and exposing on new queries. Now, Product Listing Ads trigger on 58% of all retail queries – which is huge. It’s a very big shift there.

    “Meanwhile, Amazon Shopping has become a destination site, and that’s changing behavior.”

    Amazon Shopping has become a destination site, which is changing both shopping and advertising behavior

    We’ve covered this trend previously on Search Engine Watch, with studies showing that more than half of consumers begin their online product searches on Amazon instead of on Google.

    “Amazon’s Shopping product is currently on the rise – CPCs are low, advertisers are enjoying really good ROI; but it’s only a matter of time before that landscape becomes saturated, too.”

    Fletcher believes that the low CPC and high ROI currently available through Amazon Shopping makes now a perfect time for retailers to get in on the platform.

    And Amazon is still expanding into new marketplaces across the world – Fletcher points to Australia, where Amazon launched for the first time in December 2017. Because we’ve seen Amazon launch and expand in more than a dozen countries over the years, it’s possible to predict with relative certainty how events will unfold, and so search marketers in those new markets need to be aware of the trends.

    “We have the data points to say, ‘This is what will happen to your market’ – we’ve seen the market share that Amazon takes from search in the UK and the US, and we can forecast what’s likely to happen to Australia, in turn.”

    Does a competitor intelligence platform like Adthena have the same level of insight on Amazon as it does on Google’s platforms? “We actually have more,” says Fletcher. “We can do a huge amount with Amazon, in terms of mapping out the market.”

    Google Home: Coming soon to an AdWords set near you?

    Overall, Fletcher believes that we’ll be seeing growth in automation products in AdWords over the next year, with Google continuing to develop what’s working well. He is confident that AdWords will continue to set the bar for campaign reporting, encouraging best practice in attribution across the paid search industry.

    Following the announcement of smart screens for the Google Home at CES 2018, Fletcher also predicts that this year will be the year that Google offers campaign targeting for smart home hubs in AdWords.

    “To me, screens seem like the first step towards monetizing smart home hubs. I think Google needs the screen in order to execute that, because it’s hard to see how else you would advertise on a voice device without completely messing up the user flow.”

    Smart screens on the Google Home could be the first step towards making campaign targeting available for smart home hubs

    Certainly, the closest thing we’ve seen to advertising on Google Home thus far – a possible plug for the Beauty and the Beast live-action film which Google denies was intended as an ad – was very jarring, and received a great deal of backlash from Home users, suggesting that Google needs to tread carefully if it wants to make monetization on the Google Home work.

    “It’s still very early days – maybe Google was testing something with that, and maybe they weren’t. But if I were an AdWords advertiser, I wouldn’t expect it to be long before these devices feature in your set. By the end of 2018, I expect AdWords to have campaign targeting, or something like it, for Home devices.”