A guide to setting up Google Analytics for your WordPress site

Of the many tools available for tracking visitor behavior, Google Analytics is one of the most famous ones.

This free tool provides website owners with insightful information about the traffic driven to their website, helping them to determine exactly where each user originated and how they ended up on the site.

So, if you are an enthusiast who is setting up a website or a new blog using WordPress as your CMS, it is highly recommended to install Google Analytics to your WordPress site.

Why Google Analytics?

A lot of visitors and subscribers visit your website daily and hence, it becomes increasingly important to track information about their visit. If you are focused and determined to monitor your website’s traffic statistics, data drawn with the help of Google Analytics can be extremely useful.

This tool helps you track how your visitors are moving ahead and navigating through your website. This information is vital because it will help you identify the key areas of your website which are doing well and the others, that need a little more attention.

After installing Google Analytics on your website, you can learn about the geographical location of your visitors, their browser information, their duration of stay at your website, pages visited and much more.

With so much information available to access, we hope that we have answered your question as to why you even need this tool. In this blog post, we will provide a step-by-step guide to help you use Google Analytics with your WordPress site. So, let’s read on.

Getting started with your Google Analytics account

For the very first step, you are required to create a Google Analytics account by using your Gmail account. A Gmail account is imperative if you want to start using the Google Analytics tool with your WordPress site.

  • Visit the signup page for Google Analytics. You will be presented with the Gmail login page. Simply, enter your Gmail account login credentials to move forward with the process.
  • You will be asked to provide information regarding what would you like to track with this service. You can either track statistics for your website or your mobile apps.
  • Since this blog post is about tracking results for your WordPress website; select the ‘Website’ option.
  • Fill in the other relevant information to start tracking with the Google Analytics.

  • Enter your website’s name, its URL and the type of industry it is related to.
  • Select your time zone so that the service can accurately track the results as per your requirement.
  • Finally, get your Tracking ID by agreeing to Google’s terms of service usage.

  • Once you have your Tracking code, copy it and keep it handy.

Adding Google Analytics to your WordPress site

There are several methods that will help you add Google Analytics to your WordPress website. We will mainly discuss two methods here that are suited to readers with a non-technical approach to blogging.

Using the plugin ‘MonsterInsights’

A very popular plugin with over 13 million downloads, has proved its worth when it comes to seamlessly integrating Google Analytics with a WordPress site.

With a free and a premium version on the shelf, this Google Analytics plugin works well for even the most basic users. Let’s see how you can use this plugin to add Google Analytics to your WordPress site.

  • Download the plugin and activate it on your WordPress site.
  • Once the activation is confirmed, the plugin will add a new label to your admin dashboard by the name, ‘Insights’.
  • For configuration of the plugin, visit the ‘Settings’ tab under the ‘Insights’ label.
  • A tab will be presented to you that will read ‘Authenticate with your Google Account‘. Click on it and then you will be asked to enter a Google Code.
  • Above it will be a tab that will ask you to click on it, in order to receive the code. Click on it and then click on the Next button.
  • Allow ‘MonsterInsights to access your Google Analytics data’. Finally, provide the plugin with the permission to view and manage your Google Analytics data.
  • A Success Code popup will follow. You will be required to copy it carefully and paste it on the popup (discussed above) in point number d.)
  • In a final step, select the profile that you want to track with the Google Analytics plugin.
  • Whenever you want to view reports regarding your site’s visitors and subscribers, you can simply go to ‘Reports’ tab in the ‘Insights’ label of your Admin dashboard.

    Using your WordPress theme

    In the process discussed earlier, you received a Tracking ID from Google Analytics signup procedure. To use this method, locate the Theme settings option of your WordPress site’s theme. Then, find the label that leads you to a tab asking you to add a Footer Script.

    You can simply paste the Tracking code to this section and you will be good to go. Always save the settings in order to confirm your changes.

    Once your settings are done and you are ready to take off with your Google Analytics tools, always wait at least 12 hours to let the tool reflect proper results.

    Other alternatives

    There are other ways to add Google Analytics to your WordPress site. The ones mentioned above are easy to pursue and are highly recommendable. The following are methods that can involve some technical briefing.

    • You can manually add the tracking code by editing the header.php file
    • If you don’t want to edit your theme file, you can install and activate the Insert Headers and Footers plugin to insert the Google Analytics code
    • You can also use the Google Analytics + plugin to access the visitor performance of your WordPress website.

    Summing up

    Google Analytics is of huge help when you are looking to track results about a recent marketing campaign and are expecting some conversions to take place. This tool will also help you identify the keywords that are relevant to your site’s search engine optimization.

    With so much to offer, Google Analytics is a must-use tool for all website owners out there. I sincerely hope that this detailed guide will help you make the right decision without having to expend too much time and energy on the implementation.

    If you still have questions, feel free to drop them in the comments below. We are always open to receiving feedback and awesome suggestions.

    Lucy Barret is a Sr. WordPress Developer at HireWPGeeks, a WordPress Development Company, and a contributor to SEW.

    The State of Schema.org: What are the biggest challenges surrounding Schema markup?

    Using Schema.org markup, a form of structured data which helps search engines to interpret your webpages, is widely agreed to be beneficial from an SEO standpoint.

    While it may not correlate directly to an increase in ranking, using Schema.org markup allows search engines to pull through rich snippets and rich data like images, reviews and opening hours, making your site appear more attractive on the SERP and thereby increasing click-through.

    Schema.org markup is also becoming increasingly important in the age of voice search, acting as a signpost that points digital assistants towards the information that will correctly answer a user’s voice query. Voice queries depend heavily on implied context, and Schema markup can help give that context to an otherwise ambiguous page of text.

    But while the advantages of using Schema.org seem obvious enough on paper, actually implementing it can be much more challenging. As a result, a startlingly small minority of website owners make use of Schema.org.

    The figures vary as to exactly how many; Schema.org’s website claims that “over 10 million websites” use Schema.org markup, which translates into less than one percent of all websites; an investigation by ACM Queue put the figure at 31.3%, while a study by Bing and Catalyst found that just 17% of marketers use Schema.org markup.

    Either way, even the highest estimate of Schema.org adoption still comes in at less than a third of websites.

    With Schema.org being a well-known advanced search technique with well-established benefits, what is holding SEOs and website owners back from implementing it?

    The state of Schema markup

    Schema App – a provider of tools to help digital marketers use Schema markup – recently ran a survey which sheds some light on this question. The study, ‘The State of Schema Markup’, surveyed users of Schema.org markup on the size and type of their business, how frequently they maintained their markup, the challenges they experienced in using Schema.org, and any tools they used to tackle these problems.

    It’s worth noting that the survey results were drawn from a fairly small sample of only 75 respondents, which limits our ability to generalize them too widely, but they nevertheless give some interesting insights into the use of Schema markup among marketers.

    Perhaps surprisingly, respondents from the smallest companies – those with five or fewer employees – made up the largest percentage of Schema.org users, with two-fifths of respondents reporting that they carry out Schema markup for companies of just five employees or fewer.

    It’s hard to say exactly why this is – maybe smaller, more agile companies are better at keeping up to date with advanced search tactics; or maybe they will do whatever it takes to stand out on the SERP in order to increase their competitivity with larger organizations.

    The second-largest group, conversely, was made up of companies with more than 1,000 employees, although this group still only amounted to 13% of respondents.

    A third of respondents to the survey came from digital marketing agencies, while 28% said they came from small or medium businesses. Sixteen percent of respondents were from enterprise organizations, while a fraction under ten percent were from start-up companies.

    The job titles of respondents to the State of Schema Markup survey revealed that it’s not just SEOs who are doing Schema markup. While more than half of respondents to the survey were search specialists (either SEO specialists – 45% – or Heads of Search – 8%), digital marketers, business owners, CTOs and even CEOs were among the remaining 47%.

    Another interesting finding was the frequency at which respondents update their Schema markup. Judging by the frequency of posts to the official Schema.org blog, updates to Schema.org are fairly sporadic, sometimes coming two or three months apart, other times going six or seven months without an update.

    Google updates like the recent introduction of rich results for podcasts to the SERP can also give marketers an incentive to add new coding, as can regular site maintenance. However, I was surprised that close to a fifth of respondents (19%) said that they update their Schema markup every day.

    A further 31% of respondents update their markup weekly, while the largest proportion (39%) update their markup once a month. An unstated percentage (which visually looks to be about 8%) say they work on their markup once only.

    The biggest challenges surrounding Schema markup

    Anyone who has tried to tackle Schema.org markup (or write a blog post about it), particularly without much of an understanding of code, knows that implementing it can be easier said than done. Even tools like Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper have their limitations, making it necessary to understand markup if you want to fill in the gaps.

    This reality was reflected in the comments from marketers who took the Schema App survey. One respondent wrote,

    “When I first learned about the existence of schema, I was so confused on how to implement it. I am not a developer. After trying many online generator tools and finding them unsatisfactory, I turned to my programmer hoping he could take over this task for me. He explained it was a different code altogether than what he writes. I felt overwhelmed when he confided he had no idea at all how to do it, even after spending a little time looking at it.”

    Another respondent observed that “The examples given on schema.org were not clear and sometimes it seemed they did not follow even their own rules.” A third described Schema.org markup as feeling “a bit like witchcraft”.

    Although a number of search blogs like Moz, WordStream, Yoast and indeed yours truly have set out to write guides on how to use Schema.org markup, there are still a limited number of resources available to help with this process; and comments on the State of Schema Markup survey reveal that many of those which do exist are flawed.

    “Worse is that some of the schema is supported … but not in the Structured Data Testing Tool,” one respondent wrote.

    Another wrote that, “It’s still very much a trial and error process for me as I find that some of the guides out there, when put through Google’s tool, don’t actually parse correctly. Very frustrating…”

    Overall, the most widely agreed-upon problem experienced by survey respondents was “Showing the value of doing schema markup – reporting the impact and results” (reported by 45%). Close behind this was “Maintaining ‘health’ of Schema markup when Google makes changes” (reported by 42%).

    Two-fifths of respondents cited difficulties in developing a strategy around what to mark up with Schema, while 37% struggled with how to implement Schema markup at scale – few solutions exist for the bulk markup of webpages, which can create huge challenges for companies with large websites, on top of the difficulties that we’ve covered already.

    Although it ranked near the bottom of the list of concerns cited by survey respondents, close to a quarter (24%) of respondents still cited “Understanding Schema markup vocabulary” as one of their biggest obstacles to carrying out Schema markup.

    And as we’ve seen, this is coming from a group of marketers of whom the majority use Schema markup habitually – no wonder the wider marketing community is having trouble getting on board with Schema.org.

    Tools for tackling Schema markup

    Finally, respondents were asked what tools they use to solve the problems they experience with Schema markup, from a range of options including WordPress plugins, Wordlift, Web JSON-LD generators, Schema App’s own tool, or no tools at all.

    The last of these options was the most common by far, with 40% of respondents asserting that they do all of their Schema markup manually. I can’t help but notice that this corresponds exactly to the percentage of respondents from small companies with 5 or fewer employees – I wonder if there could be some correlation there.

    Fifteen percent of respondents said they make use of Schema App’s own tool, while 13% use WordPress plugins. Another 8% use Web JSON-LD generators, while 24% use tools other than those listed in the survey.

    One business owner wrote that they tend to solicit help on Schema markup from online communities: “I ask for help in online communities and usually get answers. The definitions and examples have become better over time in both schema.org and Google.”

    A Head of Search at an enterprise company wrote that they use “Internally developed tools and markup checkers that were developed for our specific needs.”

    For those two-fifths of respondents who opt to do their Schema markup without the aid of automated tools, this could be due to a lack of technical resources, a lack of confidence in automated solutions, or perhaps because they simply don’t know that these tools exist.

    But we can clearly see that there is a demand in the marketing and search community for more accurate and helpful resources surrounding Schema.org, whether these be in the form of web generators, apps, or how-to guides and tutorials.

    Perhaps Schema.org needs to take the initiative to make its markup language more accessible by creating these, or perhaps they will be created by an interested third party. Either way, without them, we are unlikely to see the dial shift much on the uptake of Schema markup among marketers and SEOs, no matter how useful it is.

    How to use Search Console for quick SEO wins

    SEO doesn’t have to be complicated. Here’s how a closer look at Google Search Console can lead to quick SEO wins.

    There’s no need to have a lot of technical knowledge to achieve quick SEO wins. Google’s Search Console, for example, can lead to great insights, provided that you’re eager to explore them.

    Laura Hogan, Head of Search at Rice Media, shared her own tips at Brighton SEO on how to use Search Console.

    There are four key areas in Search Console where you can find quick wins for SEO, and all of them can make a huge difference in your search optimization.

    1) Internal Crawl Errors

    It’s easy to take advantage of crawl errors and use them as a way to come up with new link opportunities. Crawlers can help you get an overview of the errors to correct them and improve your site’s performance.

    This can be particularly useful after migrating a site or changing URLs, which gives rise to more reasons for quick fixes.

    This is a good reminder that every error can turn into an opportunity, provided that you’re willing to:

    • discover all the errors
    • proactively work towards fixing them

    2) Internal Linking

    When it comes to internal linking, there should be some “priority pages”, the ones we want to focus on. This makes the optimization easier by allowing you to interlink depending on the level of priority for each page.

    It’s a good idea to have a look at the Search Console to examine whether your top priority pages are already on top of the list. If not, time to link them with more pages to improve their presence.

    Internal links can also enhance CTR, though it’s not recommended to use too many footer links, as they tend to look messy and spammy, decreasing their chances of being clicked on.

    3) Data highlighting

    Schema markup should be the first choice for adding structured data markup to your site, but data highlighting can offer an alternative solution. Data Highlighter is a tool for teaching Google about the pattern of structured data on your site.

    The first step is to decide the data you want to highlight. What makes your business stand out? What do you need to focus on? By using Data Highlighter, you can simply tag the important data fields on your site with a mouse.

    Then Google can present your data more attractively on the SERP, and in Google features such as Knowledge Graph. Data highlighting offers a bigger SERP presence and increased CTR, all while being simple and requiring no coding to carry out.

    This makes it easier for Google to discover your most important data, which leads to another SEO win.

    4) Search Analytics Report

    Search Analytics Report should be a great ally in the attempt to get an overview of your site’s performance.

    You can use it to explore your top performing pages, or the ones that have the potential for improvement. Moreover, you can find data and proceed to layer comparisons.

    Is your old content working better than the new one?

    Is the CTR from mobile traffic high?

    This is a detailed report of your actual data, which means that it can lead to actionable steps:

    • improving CTA
    • keeping content up-to-date
    • pushing blog posts in social media
    • including blog post in next newsletter

    If you haven’t explored this function of Google Search Console in depth before now, here are some of the best ways that you can make use of Search Analytics Report:

    Top 5 uses of Search Analytics Report

    • Check click-through rate

    A closer look at the click through rate can indicate whether there is a problem with the positioning and the current optimization of a page. For example, if positioning is high, but the CTR is lower than expected, then maybe you need to edit the current meta description.

    • Check rankings

    An analysis of the rankings at the top 25 or top 50 search queries can offer great insights on what’s currently working and what needs to be improved. This can lead to many quick SEO wins.

    • Apply data findings through other channels

    The analysis of your data findings can help you improve the performance of other marketing channels, such as Adwords, or social media. Your report can offer new directions towards your marketing campaign, or it can even help you understand your audience and their habits.

    • Understand your audience

    Filtering the report by questions (“who”, “what”, “where”, “when”) can help you learn more about your audience. What are they really searching for? What’s the best way to find the best keywords to target them?

    This may lead to interesting insights and more targeted content that will drive traffic, depending on what your audience types into a search engine.

    • Check trends

    An analysis of the impressions and the queries can indicate the trends that affect the traffic to your site. There could be a difference between a 30-day and a 90-day report, offering you new ideas on what content you should create.

    5) Disavow

    September’s Penguin update has made disavows more important than ever. The good thing is that they are now picked up a lot quicker and the results can be seen in less than two weeks.

    It’s a good idea to keep your disavow up-to-date to make it easier for Google to understand your current ranking.

    This could even work art a keyword level, as it may also lead to boosted traffic.

    Overview

    As we’ve seen, you don’t need to have in-depth technical knowledge to achieve SEO wins for your site – you just need to know how best to use the tools at your disposal. Laura Hogan summarized her presentation with the following takeaways:

    – Use the crawl errors report for link opportunities

    – Increase internal links to priority pages

    – The search analytics report is your best friend for usable data

    – Mark up your data, whether with Schema.org or Data Highlighter

    – Disavows work, and are picked up quickly by Google.

    Test your knowledge! The Search Engine Watch Easter trivia quiz

    Happy Easter, Search Engine Watch readers!

    In honour of the season – and a bit of spring-like weather finally starting to creep into the air (well, at least here in the UK…) – we have put together a light-hearted search trivia quiz to test your knowledge.

    What was the name of the project launched by Sergey Brin and Larry King at Stanford, which eventually became Google? What does the name of the Chinese search engine “Baidu” translate to in English? What year did mobile web traffic finally overtake desktop traffic globally – or hasn’t it yet?

    Test your knowledge of all these questions and more in the Search Engine Watch Easter quiz. And don’t forget to share your score with us in the comments or on social media!

    Interview: Why marketers shouldn’t waste their time with Google Posts

    The search engine results page recently saw the return of Google Posts, the part-social, part-publishing feature that was launched by Google a little over a year ago during the US Presidential Election.

    Billed as “an experimental new podium on Google”, Google Posts has attracted a lot of attention from marketers, search specialists and Google enthusiasts thanks to its prominent place on the SERP – appearing in the form of an eye-catching carousel of cards – and its mysterious deployment.

    Over the year since it was first released, it has appeared in and disappeared from search results a number of times with no apparent pattern or explanation. Brands who wanted a shot at being part of Google’s new podium were forced to “Join the waitlist” and cross their fingers.

    But last month Google suddenly announced that it would be opening up Posts to “museums, sports teams, sports leagues, and movies” in the United States, and all of the above groups along with musicians in Brazil – prompting a renewed flurry of interest from marketers. At the same time, the relaunched Posts became more visually eye-catching with the addition of embedded GIFs and videos.

    One person, however, doesn’t believe that Google Posts is worth the hype. Michael Bertini, Online Marketing Consultant and Search Strategist at iQuanti, told Search Engine Watch why he thinks that Google has gone off half-cocked with Posts, and why marketers would be better off expending their energies elsewhere.

    Google Posts: where is the value?

    “I don’t think Google will admit that they made a mistake with this whole Posts thing,” says Bertini.

    “Google already has a lot of great products and search results features on the page; to add Google Posts to that clutters up the results page unnecessarily. And I don’t think it offers much value to the end user.”

    It’s true that while there has been a lot of excitement from brands and marketers around the prospect of publishing directly to the SERP, few of us have considered its usefulness to users. Google is still first and foremost a search engine; when users enter a search query, they are presumably looking for information.

    While people Googling candidates in the run-up to the US Presidential Election would undoubtedly have been interested in what those candidates had to say about certain issues, subsequent versions of Google Posts have moved further and further away from a feature that is useful to the end user.

    Few people searching for “Boston Red Sox” are looking for pseudo-social updates from their favorite sports team; they’re more likely to be looking for match scores, game tickets, or perhaps a link to the team’s website.

    A lot of the interest around Google Posts thus far has been driven by sheer novelty, with people Googling ‘Andrews Jewelers’ or ‘Escape Pod Comics’ simply to see how the businesses had been using Posts – rather than because they featured useful information. In and of itself, how much value does Posts provide to the searcher?

    “I don’t think anybody should put a strict focus on getting into Posts – or any one Google feature,” says Bertini. “What I’ve noticed throughout my career is that people who make it a specific focus to get into an area of Google – let’s use Google’s Answer Box as an example – ultimately, they’re left with content that doesn’t fit the end user’s needs. And then it dies.”

    “If someone did want to get involved with Google Posts, they should write content that really answers the search query, and then of course request access on posts.withgoogle.com. But that’s all.”

    Everything is a test

    Based on the fact that Posts has already come and gone from the SERP several times before this most recent, wider launch, does Bertini think that Posts is finally here to stay?

    “Everything Google is about testing,” Bertini replies. “Even after they launch it to market, what they would consider ‘permanent’ is not really what we would consider permanent. Personally, I think it’ll last up until the third quarter of 2017, and then they’ll mix it up with something else.

    “If Posts get a really high CTR, then Google might invest more in it and add more features. But at the moment, it’s still very much in testing. It still lacks features – there’s no real social interaction, for example.”

    Google Posts currently allows for limited social sharing, but doesn’t provide a way for users to truly interact with or respond to Posts.

    If Posts, ultimately, is still in testing, it explains why it has disappeared and reappeared with so little fanfare – Google doesn’t want to attract a lot of attention to a feature that may not even be launched on a wider scale.

    Bertini agrees that the lack of promotion speaks volumes about Google’s intentions – or lack thereof – for the feature. “If Google had complete confidence in this feature, they would be promoting it more.”

    He goes on: “If I ran my own business, and I wanted to get more searchers to my site, there are better ways to do that than to focus on GIFs and videos to get into Google Posts.

    “For example, if I were making videos already, I would create pages for my videos, transcribe that content, and optimize it for search – that would be a better use of resources than focusing on getting into Posts.

    “Ultimately, people are going to invest time and effort into Posts, when Google itself has not yet perfected this feature.”

    Google Plus revisited?

    Given the pseudo-social nature of Google Posts, a lot of comparisons have understandably been drawn between Google Posts and Google Plus, Google’s last ill-fated venture into social networking. And it could be that Google Plus provides a blueprint for what to expect from the future of Google Posts.

    “If we look back at Google Plus – when it first launched, Google’s idea of what Plus would be is not what it is today. And like everything Google, Google will never admit that they made a mistake, or that the product didn’t turn out the way they wanted it to be.

    “But I think the search marketers who used Google Plus as a social platform are very disappointed today – if they invested a lot of time and money into building up their profiles and optimizing their Google Plus. It’s not used the way it used to be used, any more. I think it’s going to be the same with Google Posts.”

    Remember when Google Plus was a big deal?

    Bertini believes the aim of introducing Google Posts to the SERP is to encourage more user interaction with the search engine results page. This would tie in with the recent addition of rich results for podcasts to the SERP, allowing searchers on smartphones and Google Home to play podcasts directly from the search page.

    “Google is trying to make a different version of social [with Posts], which is social interaction with the search engine results page, where a user can interact with the search page itself. It’s just very early on at the moment.”

    If Google can succeed in expanding the function of the search results page in this way, it would definitely be a means of keeping users inside its own walled garden for longer.

    But without value to the end user, Google Posts could be a Plus-style flop, and Bertini thinks that Google would be better off focusing its attention on perfecting existing features of the SERP that have more value to searchers.

    “Google is constantly trying to mix things up, when – once again, personal belief – I think that they should focus on good products that they’ve launched like Answer Box, which is already effective. Or ‘People Also Ask’ – they launched this section, and it’s still not perfect, but it’s good.

    “I think this is what Google should devote its energy to, rather than – I don’t want to say get rid of Facebook or Twitter, because I don’t think that will happen – but rather than trying to make the search results page a social platform.”

    The future of Google Posts

    Google Posts, as it stands, still lacks a lot of functionality. So an ideal world, what would a fully-featured Google Posts look like?

    “One, people search for something; two, a Post feature comes up; three, there would be a rating system for whether or not the Post matches the search query.

    “Then there would be a sharing function where the user can share the Post via social media. You could also have a Hangouts-style feature integrating chat into Posts, allowing people to chat about what they’ve just read.”

    It remains to be seen whether Google will try to keep integrating more functionality into Posts or whether it will once again disappear quietly from the SERP.

    But one way or the other, marketers should keep sight of the importance of catering to the end user – not just to the newest Google feature.

    4 things to note when optimizing for local SEO in 2017

    SEO for businesses in 2017 will be revolutionary.

    Within the space of 3 years, it has become significantly easier to find businesses, stores or items nearby, creating a shift in user’s intent and search behavior.

    Users no longer have to include their location in search queries, such as inputting “coffee shops in Queens” into Google.

    This trend has given way to the “near me” search query – Google “coffee shop near me” while in Queens, and Google will fetch coffee shops in your local area.

    According to digital marketing expert Jordan Kasteler, 1 in 3 of all Google searches has local intent. This means users search for and expect local information in SERPs, and now more than ever, priority should be given to optimizing on-site and off-site strategies for local SEO.

    Below are a few things to note when optimizing for local SEO in 2017.

    #1: Title tags and meta descriptions still work

    Title tags and meta descriptions are on-site HTML elements which reflect the content of your page, and are shown in SERPs and browser tabs as text. With Google increasing the width of the SERP to 600px, the length of title tags falls between 40 and 50 characters (best practices) while meta descriptions should be a maximum of 160 characters.

    Titles display what your page is about to both visitors and search engine crawlers, while meta descriptions summarize the content of your page. Your title tags and meta descriptions must include the keywords you are trying to rank for, for example, “cheap hotels in Las Vegas” (title tag includes a keyword and locality).

    Titles and meta descriptions must be unique, compelling and descriptive, as this can affect click-through rates from search results to your page.

    Using the length guidelines above, ensure your title and descriptions are displaying in full on the SERP. Use tools like Yoast’s SEO plugin, SERP preview tool, and SEOmofo to emulate how your title tags and meta description will look in search results.

    #2: Keyword research

    Keyword research represents the very foundation of your SEO campaign and when done properly, keywords can drive traffic and rankings for your web pages. Keywords represent terms and phrases people type as search queries to find local businesses.

    Keyword research for local SEO involves optimizing your web pages for keywords with geo-modifiers – i.e. place names and locations. For a furniture making business, a generic, non-local keyword might be “furniture makers” but for businesses optimizing for local SEO, an acceptable keyphrase would be “furniture makers Portland” or “furniture makers Portland Oregon”.

    To optimize your keyword research for local SEO, brainstorm keywords or phrases with a geo-modifier that customers might use when searching for a business like yours. Run generated phrases or words through Google Keyword Planner or Keyword.io to get keyword ideas together with monthly search traffic stats.

    Keyword research can be time-consuming, but rewarding when done properly. For a more in-depth guide, check out our complete guide to keyword research for SEO.

    #3: Optimize for Google My Business and Bing Places for Business

    Google My Business, formerly known as Google Places, allows you to display your business hours, phone number and directions to your office on Google Search and Maps. This service is free and will aid your SEO efforts, as your business is listed when customers search for your services.

    When optimizing your Google My Business page, remember to upload your business logo and photos of your business (staff, office building, etc.).

    For an online business with no physical location, you can hide your address, but be sure to fill in and validate every other piece of information entered. A misplaced phone number or wrong address can result in you losing customers and revenue.

    For Bing Places, the process is similar to Google My Business. Though Bing cannot be compared to Google in terms of use and search traffic (3.5 billion searches per day), some customers nevertheless still use the search engine, and you might have what they are in need of.

    #4: Local structured data

    Structured data, sometimes referred to as schema markup, are codes which are added to websites to provide search engines with in-depth information about your products, your business offering, prices of your products, location-based offerings and much more.

    According to ACMQUEUE, a measly 31.3 percent of websites use schema markup, and most of these on a very basic level. Schema markup on your websites make your business stand out in the SERP with things like rich snippets, which in turn will boost your CTR.

    There are various options for businesses when implementing Schema markup, you can optimize your website according to your business type (dentist, travel agency, etc.), events (business listing in upcoming events) and location (location markup).

    Google is forcing marketers to use schema markup and is rewarding websites who use this feature as structured data helps crawlers understand your web pages and the content in it. To check if your website is optimized for Schema markup, you can check out Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.

    Conclusion

    The above points are a drop in the ocean for optimizing for local SEO, but implementing the points above will have you generating results and better conversion rates.

    Eimantas Balciunas is the CEO of Travel Ticker.

    How can marketers optimize for Google’s new “similar items” feature?

    Google has announced that “Similar items” is now available globally in image search on mobile and in its Android app.

    Similar items will suggest related products based on a user’s search query and their interactions with the resultant images.

    At first, the feature will only be available for shoes, sunglasses, and handbags. Google does, however, expect to roll this out across a much wider set of products this year, starting with furniture, homeware, and potentially some other apparel categories.

    What does this mean for marketers?

    Retailers of all stripes should keep a very close eye on this and start thinking about how to optimize for Similar items.

    One essential step is to add Products Schema to any items you want to be eligible for this feature. Google provides some clear guidelines on this; but as a summary, the following elements should be tagged:

    There is also the option to opt out of this altogether, should you wish to avoid having your images show up in Similar items.

    Aside from these essential technical details, optimizing for Similar items does bring with it new questions for marketers.

    Links between products can be based on their shape, style, color, or any one of a number of factors, as we can see in this diagram from TechCrunch outlining how the technology functions at a very high level:

    Although not typically the domain of search marketing, we will need to be involved with the selection of imagery for client websites to maximize the opportunity to appear in these new results.

    From a pay-per-click perspective, this is a product ripe for monetization.

    Tellingly, Google ended its announcement of the new feature with:

    “We’re excited to help users find your products on the web by showcasing buyable items. Thanks for partnering with us to make the web more shoppable!”

    The long-term aim will, quite clearly, be to offer new targeting options to advertisers based on other items their current or prospective customers have perused.

    As such, we should certainly expect a raft of new advertising options this year from Google. Pinterest has launched a (thus far) tentative foray into this market in tandem with Kenshoo, so Google will want to nip any progress in the bud on that front.

    Google’s take on the launch

    Google made the following statement as part of their announcement:

    “The “Similar items” feature is designed to help users find products they love in photos that inspire them on Google Image Search. Using machine vision technology, the Similar items feature identifies products in lifestyle images and displays matching products to the user.”

    Haven’t we heard something like this before?

    A “Similar item to this” feature already exists over on Pinterest. We have written extensively in the past about Pinterest’s suite of visual discovery tools, most notably the new Lens tool, which allows Pinners to point-and-shoot with a smartphone camera. Pinterest then deciphers the image and suggests complementary items.

    That does distinguish it from Google’s offering, but perhaps only temporarily. We can infer from a patent review on SEO by the Sea that Google has something very similar in production.

    Of additional note within the Google statement above, from a business strategy perspective, is the use of the verb ‘inspire’, which has been a hallmark of Pinterest’s public communications over the past few months. There can be little doubt that Google is positioning itself to nudge Pinterest further to the fringes if it can.

    A similar item (belonging to a more direct competitor) also exists on Amazon’s mobile app, powered by their FireFly technology.

    Amazon’s app allows shoppers to search via images, with the e-commerce giant using this data to provide further shopping recommendations. We know that online shoppers are increasingly going to Amazon first, a trend that Google will be unlikely to tolerate without putting up a fight.

    So is Google a little late to the party?

    Probably not. Google still holds two very distinct advantages in this arena: a huge user base, and an intuitive, integrated, proven suite of advertising products.

    Pinterest has yet to crack either of these, and it should be noted that they also cater to very different demographics in very different states of mind.

    Amazon continues to go from strength to strength and is diversifying its portfolio of products is evermore interesting ways, but its paid advertising offering is not yet equipped to take on AdWords.

    It has been known for quite some time that Google has been working tirelessly on its machine learning-based image search technology. Problems that a sentient being can deal with rather intuitively (distinguishing a sneaker from a loafer, for example) have historically been close to insoluble for machines.

    Things have progressed markedly in the last decade, but issues still linger with machine vision technology.

    This helps to explain why so many other Google products have been launched before this one. It is not because of its lack of importance, but rather the converse; Google is keen to get this one right, as it is a hitherto untapped revenue stream.

    In summary

    Ours is a visual culture largely mediated by images, so this is a natural step for any search engine or social network. There is not necessarily a cap on the amount of suggested products that can be provided either, so long as there is an ongoing increase in image-based searches.

    We may see a decline in traditional text-based searches as this e-commerce mechanism takes hold, however, and that will require Google and its advertisers to change their way of working.

    This is not the finished product from Google, of that we can be certain. Through the rest of this year, we should expect improvements in the technology, accompanied by a slew of new advertising options.

    If it wasn’t already, image search should be one of our core considerations for any search strategy.

    Mobile-First Indexing: Everything we know, and how it could affect you

    For the past five to six months the search industry has been buzzing with talk around the biggest change to Google search results for quite some time – the mobile-first index.

    In the midst of this noise, it is very easy to get lost with what you actually need to know about the update.

    This post will give you a quick overview of what the update entails, as well as the main things to check for on your site to prevent a loss in traffic.

    What is the Mobile-First Index?

    The mobile-first index is a change in the way Google is going to index content.

    Currently, Google looks at the desktop version of a site and then bases how it will rank the mobile site according to that information. Once this update rolls out, the opposite of that will happen. Google will begin looking at your mobile site and from that, will rank the desktop site.

    When will it be released?

    While we are still waiting for an official release date, we do know the update is in the pipeline and being tested.

    Whenever Google gives us further news on when the update will be released, they repeat the message that it is still ‘months’ away. From their comments, we can assume the release is going to be in the second half of 2017.

    Why is this happening?

    Nearly two years ago Google announced more searches occur on mobile than desktop.

    As mobile is now the predominant way for people to search on Google, it makes sense for them to ensure the experience on this device is as good as it can be.

    In lots of situations, sites provide a worse or thinned down user experience on the mobile device, that is not as good as the desktop site. This happens more on mobile sites where separate URLs are used or where dynamic serving is being used.

    What to check on your site

    Content

    Look at the mobile version of your site. Is the content from the desktop version visible/accessible? You should be providing a consistent experience for users no matter the device they access the site on.

    One of the things to consider is the actual content on the site. If you are currently removing or hiding content on your mobile site, think of ways in which you can have this content on both. You ideally want content to be accessible regardless of how the site is accessed.

    Make sure you also consider the best way to move this content over to the mobile site. You do not want to sacrifice your user experience just to meet this requirement.

    For example, do not put a content block with 300 words of content at the top of an ecommerce category page, pushing all your products way down the page. Consider moving the content lower down the page or partially hiding it with a ‘read more’ button or in an accordion. (I’m not a big advocate of read more buttons, but do whatever works best for your site!)

    Along with the actual content on the page, ensure your headings (H1s) and titles are not missing and are set as you want them to be.

    Page speed

    The speed of your site is an essential thing to consider to help improve usability, especially on mobile. Google already considers page speed when ranking a page, and this will be just as important when the mobile-first index is fully live.

    Personally, I feel it would make more sense if this ranking factor was taken into consideration more when the mobile-first index is live. Accessing a site can be a painful experience on a mobile device when not connected to Wi-Fi, and it would make sense for Google to prioritize this usability factor more.

    To check whether you need to action anything with this issue, test your site in Google’s PageSpeed Insights Tool. Alternatively, use my site speed tool of choice, GTmetrix. If any problems are shown, fix them!

    If your site is not loading in around three seconds, I recommend looking into the reasons behind this and seeing why your site is slow. GTmetrix has a great Waterfall feature that is incredibly useful when trying to see which requests are slowing down your site.

    Internal linking/site structure

    A well-known issue with sites that use either dynamic serving or separate URLs for their mobile site is that the internal linking is vastly different to the desktop site. This can cause some user experience issues for readers as they struggle to find content that can be easily discovered on the desktop version of the site.

    Similar difficulties are caused when Google crawls the mobile site. If your internal linking/information architecture on the mobile site does not closely replicate the desktop, this can cause internal link equity to be poorly distributed throughout the site, which will cause a drop in rankings.

    Structured data

    In a lot of cases, structured data is removed from the mobile version of the site. Unfortunately, you are going to have to move all your structured data over to the mobile site, as Google will begin looking towards that for structured data.

    Use Google’s structured data testing tool on your mobile and desktop site to see if the structured data is the same across both devices.

    Which sites are currently at risk?

    Firebox

    While the Firebox site is responsive, currently it hides content on category pages with no way to access it once you visit the mobile device. This goes against what Google is recommending. Here is an example:

    New Look

    The New Look website suffers from similar issues to Firebox, except this time they are also removing internal linking along with content. See examples below:

    They not only remove content from the actual main body of the page, the internal linking from the main navigation has also been reduced on mobile so it only links to the parent categories.

    This is causing a large number of pages to be an increased number of clicks from the home page, which is less than ideal. See below:

    There are plenty of further examples across multiple sites. Unfortunately, as Google noted in their original blog post on the mobile index, sites tend to provide vastly different content on the mobile version of their site.

    While I believe that adjusting elements and the prominence of them for mobile users is something that makes sense, such as promoting search further and hiding elements in dropdowns/accordions, you need to ensure the experience is at least consistent. Avoid removing core parts of the page such as internal links and content.

    A prediction for the future

    Given what Google has already announced regarding the mobile index update, it is evident the main issue they are trying to tackle is poor usability of the mobile site.

    Over the past year, there have been multiple updates that target sites that are ad-heavy, with low-quality content. These updates include the core/Phantom updates as well as the recently released mobile interstitial update in January.

    Considering the smaller screen space on mobile, I imagine Google is only going to get more aggressive in penalizing ad heavy sites with intrusive interstitials.

    I expect that future core updates will be harsher on sites that ruin the mobile experience of the site with ads. If this is something that you do, update your sites so ads are less intrusive. It’s bad for your brand, users and traffic. There is a way to implement ads without ruining your site.

    To summarize

    The mobile index is going to be a significant change in the way Google ranks sites. To ensure you are not negatively impacted, make sure that your user experience is similar across both the mobile and desktop site.

    If you do not have a responsive site, make sure you check to see if you have any of the above issues. It may also be a good time to consider creating a responsive site to benefit from reduced maintenance.

    Any questions, feel free to comment below or tweet me at @SamUnderwoodUK.

    Google launches Fact Check in search results worldwide

    After a tentative launch in October 2016, Google has released its Fact Check feature in search results worldwide.

    Google provided the following examples of Fact Check in action:

    We can see clearly the format taken: What the claim is, who made the claim, and whether the claim is verified by a reputable source. Two early sources that are set to meet this standard, as shown in the screenshot above, are PolitiFact and Snopes.

    There is also an option for users to provide feedback just below the listing, if they have any qualms about the veracity of the claims made.

    This is an important point to note, as Google has explicitly stated that, “The entire process is conducted programmatically; human intervention only occurs when user feedback is filed.”

    Will Fact Check show up next to all News stories?

    No. The first step towards Fact Check showing up alongside your results is to add ClaimReview Schema.org tags to your page’s source code, as in the example below from Snopes:

    A full list of the guidelines can be found on the Google Developers blog, but I have summarized some of the most important aspects below:

    • Fact checks associated with news articles can be shown in either News results or the combined search results view; all other fact checks can appear only in combined search results view.
    • A single page can host multiple ClaimReview elements, each for a separate claim. (This occurs frequently on Snopes, for example.)
    • If different reviewers on the page check the same fact, you can include a separate ClaimReview element for each reviewer’s analysis.
    • The page hosting the ClaimReview element must have at least a brief summary of the fact check and the evaluation, if not the full text.
    • You should host a specific ClaimReview on only one page on your site. Do not repeat the same fact check on multiple pages, unless they are variations of the same page (Mobile and Desktop, for example.)

    In essence, if your site makes a claim that you believe to be verifiable and true, add this markup and Google will take it into consideration.

    Even with these tags applied accurately, it is still far from guaranteed that Fact Check will kick into action. There is another, more substantial, bar to clear before you can gain the Fact Check tag.

    Which sites are eligible for Fact Check?

    Google has stated that only publishers that are “algorithmically determined to be an authoritative source of information” will be eligible to display the tags.

    This seems a little perplexing, if we dig just slightly beyond the surface.

    Some publishers will undoubtedly welcome the opportunity to substantiate their claims, believing that their articles contain the truth, as in this mildly humorous example provided by Google:

    But what of the hyperbolic news outlets that profiteer from making polemical – but clickable – claims?

    Would they be so willing to add these tags and jeopardize their traffic volumes, should the results show their news to be false? This seems unlikely.

    Therefore, would a site like PolitiFact have to reference those claims – and show them to be false – in order for the truth to surface in search results? This is essentially what PolitiFact and Snopes already endeavor to do, so it seems improbable that Fact Check will convert the unbelievers by dint of showing the same findings in Google results.

    Accusations of bias have already been leveled at both PolitiFact and Snopes, so it seems we will all have to arrive at a universal definition of what a fact is before this takes hold across the political spectrum.

    Moreover, Google has stated, “if a publisher or fact check claim does not meet [our] standards or honor [our] policies, we may, at our discretion, ignore that site’s markup.”

    There will undoubtedly be some sites upset by their lack of inclusion, casting, as it does, serious aspersions on their reliability as a news provider.

    Truth versus interpretation

    Facebook recently tackled the same issue in a slightly different manner, by trying to educate its users on how to spot a false story.

    Given the nature of both the Google and Facebook platforms, they are in a tricky position. Pressure has been applied at government level to push them into action over ‘fake news’, but with millions of pieces of content going live every minute, this is not a simple task.

    Furthermore, is it the place of a technology company to decide on our behalf what is true or false?

    Google is understandably cautious about this launch and made the following statement:

    ”These fact checks are not Google’s and are presented so people can make more informed judgements. Even though differing conclusions may be presented, we think it’s still helpful for people to understand the degree of consensus around a particular claim and have clear information on which sources agree.”

    We can see here an attempt, echoing Facebook’s recent launch, to place some responsibility on users to “make informed judgements”.

    Fact Check is a step in the right direction – but this is not a battle that Google can win on its own.

    Five most interesting search marketing news stories of the week

    Welcome to our weekly round-up of all the latest news and research from the world of search marketing and beyond.

    This week, we are exploring the future of voice search, while Google is determined to get rid of fake listings.

    Moreover, ecommerce brands explore the importance of site speed, with Google launching an A/B testing tool to make our lives easier.

    The future of voice search

    Clark Boyd discussed this week the future of voice search, offering a glimpse of what’s coming next.

    The introduction of voice queries and the idea of conversational search should become more important as natural language processing improves, with Google, Amazon, Apple, Baidu, and Microsoft already investing in the evolution of voice search.

    Younger generations seem to be more interested in the use of voice search and this may serve as another indication that its future use is going to be more prevalent.

    Google Optimize: a new A/B testing tool

    Google announced the global launch of Optimize, an A/B testing tool for websites that want to improve their visitors’ browsing experience.

    Google Optimize 360 is now available for every business and it’s integrated with Analytics, by adding a simple line of code.

    According to Google, it’s:

    • easy to use
    • easy to implement
    • easy to understand
    • easy to try

    In Google’s own words:

    Leading businesses are building a culture of growth that embraces the use of data and testing to improve the customer experience every day. We’re delighted to offer Optimize to everyone to help deliver better user experiences across the board.

    Many ecommerce brands underperform in optimisation for site speed

    Site speed is important for a seamless user experience, but not all ecommerce brands are optimising their site to meet their customers’ needs.

    As Pete Campbell reports, 79% of shoppers have been disappointed by a site’s performance. Kaizen analysed 700 top ecommerce sites and found that the size of their web pages is 30% larger than a standard website.

    An improved site speed requires a reduced size, with images being among the most common factors affecting a site’s speed.

    It is estimated that speed improvement by one second can increase conversion rate by 27% and that’s a good reason for an ecommerce business to examine the best tactics to enhance its speed.

    Google reduced fake Google Maps listings by 70% since 2015

    Google decided to tackle the problem of fake listings in an attempt to improve its products and protect its users.

    It announced that it has already reduced fake listings by 70% since 2015, the year that they reached their all-time peak.

    The idea is to protect users from local listing scams with new business verification techniques:

    Leveraging our study’s findings, we’ve made significant changes to how we verify addresses and are even piloting an advanced verification process for locksmiths and plumbers. Improvements we’ve made include prohibiting bulk registrations at most addresses, preventing businesses from relocating impossibly far from their original address without additional verification, and detecting and ignoring intentionally mangled text in address fields designed to confuse our algorithms. We have also adapted our anti-spam machine learning systems to detect data discrepancies common to fake or deceptive listings.

    The state of social

    There is an estimated number of 2.79 billion active social media users. If this number is not impressive enough, then there’s a different way to present it. The current population on social media is equivalent to the total world population in the 1950s!

    ClickZ Intelligence held a webinar on “The State of Social” and there were lots of stats to focus on.

    One of them was a graph from Tracx that discovered a mismatch between companies and consumers. Not all companies manage to be present on the social networks that their customers are.

    Facebook may be the first choice for both of them, but their choices differ in the next spots.

    Moreover, Instagram is the fastest growing social network, as it grew 15.1% in 2016.

    Here are more interesting stats to explore.