3 Tactics for Hyperlocal Keywords – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Trying to target a small, specific region with your keywords can prove frustrating. While reaching a high-intent local audience is incredibly valuable, without volume data to inform your keyword research, you’ll find yourself hitting a wall. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand shares how to uncover powerful, laser-focused keywords that will reach exactly the right people.

Hyper Local Keyword Research

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about hyperlocal keyword research. Now, this is a big challenge, not only for hyperlocal-focused businesses, but also for all kinds of websites that are trying to target very small regions, and many of them, with their keyword research and keyword targeting, on-page optimization.

The problem:

So the problem tends to be that most keyword research tools, and this includes things like the Google AdWords Tool, it includes Moz’s Keyword Explorer, or KeywordTool.io, or Übersuggest, or anybody you want to use, most of them are relying on volume data.

So what happens is when you see a bunch of keyword suggestions, you type in “Sequim,” for example, Sequim is a tiny town on Washington’s peninsula, so across the Puget Sound from where we are here in Seattle. Sequim has a population of like 6,500 people or something like that, so very tiny. So most searches related to Sequim have no volume data in any of these tools. As a result, you don’t see a lot of information about: How can I target these keywords? What are the right ones to go after? You don’t know whether a keyword has zero searches a month, or whether it has four searches a month, and those four searchers are exactly who you want to get in front of, and this is really problematic.

There are three solutions that we’ve seen professional SEOs use and that some of us here at Moz use and the Moz Local team uses, and these can be real handy for you.

Solution 1: Use keyword data for larger, similar regions

So the first one is to basically replicate the data by using keyword information that comes from similar regions nearby. So let’s say, okay, here we are in Sequim, Washington, population 6,669. But Port Angeles is only a few miles away. I think maybe a couple dozen miles away. But its population is more like 20,000. So we’ve got four or five times the keyword volume for most searches probably. This is going to include some outlying areas. So now we can start to get data. Not everything is going to be zero searches per month, and we can probably backtrack that to figure out what Sequim’s data is going to be like.

The same thing goes for Ruidoso versus Santa Fe. Ruidoso, almost 8,000. But Santa Fe’s population is almost 10 times larger at 70,000. Or Stowe, Vermont, 4,300, tiny, little town. Burlington is nearby, 10 times bigger at 42,000. Great. So now I can take these numbers and I can intuit what the relative volumes are, because the people of Burlington are probably similar in their search patterns to the people of Stowe. There are going to be a few differences, but for most types of local searches this will work.

Solution 2: Let Google autosuggest help

The second one, Google autosuggest can be really helpful here. So Google Suggest does not care if there’s one search a month or one search in the last year, versus zero searched in the last year. They’ll still show you something. Well, zero searched in the last year, they won’t show you anything.

But for example, when I search for “Sequim day,” I can intuit here, because of the ordering that Google Suggest shows me, that “Sequim day spa” is more popular than “day care.” Sequim, by the way, sounds like a lovely place to live if you are someone who enjoys few children and lots of spa time, apparently. Then, “day hikes.”

So this technique doesn’t just work with Google itself. It’ll also work with Bing, with Google Maps, and with YouTube. Another suggestion on this one, you will see different results if you use a mobile device versus a desktop device. So you might want to change it up and try your mobile device. That can give you some different results.

Solution 3: Use lexical or related SERP suggestions

All right. Third tactic here, last one, you can use sort of two styles of keyword research. One is called lexical, which is basically the semantic relationships between words and phrases. The other one is related SERP suggestions, which is where a keyword research tool — Moz Keyword Explorer does this, SEMrush is very popular for this, and there are a few others — and they will basically show you search terms the links that came up, the search results that came up for “Sequim day care” also came up in searches for these terms and phrases. So these are like SERPs for which your SERP also ranked.

You can see, when I searched for “Sequim day care,” I did this in Keyword Explorer, because I happen to have a Moz Keyword Explorer subscription. It’s very nice of Moz to give me that. You can see that I used two kinds of suggestions. One are related to keywords with similar results, so that’s the related SERPs. The other one was based on closely related topics, like the semantic, lexical thing. “Sequim day care” has given me great stuff like “Banbury School Nursery,” a nearby town, “secondary schools in Banbury,” “Horton Day Nursery,” which is a nursery that’s actually near there, “Port Angeles childcare,” “children’s nursery.”

So now I’m getting a bunch of keyword suggestions that can potentially be relevant and lead me down a path. When I look at closely related topics, I can see things like closely related topics. By the way, what I did is I actually removed the term “Sequim,” because that was showing me a lot of things that are particular to that region. But if I search for “day care,” I can see lots of closely related topics, like day care center, childcare, school care, special needs children, preschool programs, and afterschool programs. So now I can take all of these and apply the name of the town and get these hyperlocal results.

This is frustrating still. You don’t have nearly the data that you have for much more popular search terms. But this is a good way to start building that keyword list, targeting, experimenting, and testing out the on-page work that you’re going to need to do to rank for these terms. Then, you’ll start to see your traffic grow from these.

Hyperlocal may be small, but it can be powerful, it can be very targeted, and it can bring you exactly the customers you’re looking for.

So good luck with your targeting out there, and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Local SEO & Beyond: Ranking Your Local Business in 2017

Posted by Casey_Meraz

In 2016, I predicted that ranking in the 3-pack was hard and it would continually get more competitive. I maintain that prediction for 2017, but I want to make one thing clear. If you haven’t done so, I believe local businesses should start to look outside of a local-SEO-3-Pack-ONLY focused strategy.

While local SEO still presents a tremendous opportunity to grow your business, I’m going to look at some supplementary organic strategies you can take into your local marketing campaign, as well.

In this post I’m going to address:

  • How local search has changed since last year
  • Why & how your overall focus may need to change in 2017
  • Actionable advice on how to rank better to get more local traffic & more business

In local search success, one thing is clear

The days of getting in the 3-pack and having a one-trick pony strategy are over. Every business wants to get the free traffic from Google’s local results, but the chances are getting harder everyday. Not only are you fighting against all of your competitors trying to get the same rankings, but now you’re also fighting against even more ads.

If you thought it was hard to get top placement today in the local pack, just consider that you’re also fighting against 4+ ads before customers even have the possibility of seeing your business.

Today’s SERPs are ad-rich with 4 paid ads at the top, and now it’s not uncommon to find paid listings prioritized in local results. Just take a look at this example that Gyi Tsakalakis shared with me, showing one ad in the local pack on mobile ranking above the 3-pack results. Keep in mind, there are four other ads above this.

If you were on desktop and you clicked on one of the 3-pack results, you’re taken to the local finder. In the desktop search example below, once you make it to the local finder you’ll see two paid local results above the other businesses.

Notice how only the companies participating in paid ads have stars. Do you think that gives them an advantage? I do.


Don’t worry though, I’m not jaded by ads

After all of that gloomy ad SERP talk, you’re probably getting a little depressed. Don’t. With every change there comes new opportunity, and we’ve seen many of our clients excel in search by focusing on multiple strategies that work for their business.

Focusing on the local pack should still be a strong priority for you, even if you don’t have a pay-to-play budget for ads. Getting listed in the local finder can still result in easy wins — especially if you have the most reviews, as Google has very handy sorting options.

If you have the highest rating score, you can easily get clicks when users decide to sort the results they see by the business rating. Below is an example of how users can easily sort by ratings.

But what else can you do to compete effectively in your local market?


Consider altering your local strategy

Most businesses I speak with seem to have tunnel vision. They think it’s more important to rank in the local pack and, in some cases, even prioritize this over the real goal: more customers.

Every day, I talk to new businesses and marketers that seem to have a single area of focus. While it’s not necessarily a bad thing to do one thing really well, the ones that are most successful are managing a variety of campaigns tied to their business goals.

Instead of taking a single approach of focusing on just free local clicks, expand your horizon a bit and ask yourself this question: Where are my customers looking and how can I get in front of them?

Sometimes taking a step back and looking at things from the 30,000-ft view is beneficial.


You can start by asking yourself these questions by examining the SERPs:

1. What websites, OTHER THAN MY OWN, have the most visibility for the topics and keywords I’m interested in?

You can bet people are clicking on results other than your own website underneath the local results. Are they websites you can show up on? How do you increase that visibility?

I think STAT has a great tracking tool for this. You simply set up the keywords you want to track and their Share of Voice feature shows who’s ranking where and what percentage of visibility they have in your specific market.

In the example below, you can see the current leaders in a space I’m tracking. Notice how Findlaw & Yelp show up there. With a little further research I can find out if they have number 1–2 rankings (which they do) and determine whether I should put in place a strategy to rank there. This is called barnacle SEO.

2. Are my customers using voice search?

Maybe it’s just me, but I find it strange to talk to my computer. That being said, I have no reservations about talking to my phone — even when I’m in places I shouldn’t. Stone Temple recently published a great study on voice command search, which you can check out here.

Some of the cool takeaways from that study were where people search from. It seems people are more likely to search from the privacy of their own home, but most mobile devices out there today have voice search integrated. I wonder how many people are doing this from their cars?
This goes to show that local queries are not just about the 3-pack. While many people may ask their device “What’s the nearest pizza place,” other’s may ask a variety of questions like:

Where is the highest-rated pizza place nearby?
Who makes the best pizza in Denver?
What’s the closest pizza place near me?

Don’t ignore voice search when thinking about your localized organic strategy. Voice is mobile and voice can sure be local. What localized searches would someone be interested in when looking for my business? What questions might they be asking that would drive them to my local business?

3. Is my website optimized for “near me” searches?

“Near me” searches have been on the rise over the past five years and I don’t expect that to stop. Sometimes customers are just looking for something close by. Google Trends data shows how this has changed in the past five years:
Are you optimizing for a “near me” strategy for your business? Recently the guys over at Local SEO Guide did a study of “near me” local SEO ranking factors. Optimizing for “near me” searches is important and it falls right in line with some of the tactical advice we have for increasing your Google My Business rankings as well. More on that later.

4. Should my business stay away from ads?

Let’s start by looking at a some facts. Google makes money off of their paid ads. According to an article from Adweek, “During the second quarter of 2016, Alphabet’s revenue hit $21.5 billion, a 21% year-over-year increase. Of that revenue, $19.1 billion came from Google’s advertising business, up from $16 billion a year ago.”

This roughly translates to: “Ads aren’t going anywhere and Google is going to do whatever they can to put them in your face.” If you didn’t see the Home Service ad test with all ads that Mike Blumenthal pointed out, you can check it out below. Google is trying to find more creative ways to monetize local search.
Incase you haven’t heard it before, having both organic and paid listings ranking highly increases your overall click-through rate.

Although the last study I found was from Google in 2012, we’ve found that our clients have the most success when they rank strong organically, locally, and have paid placements. All of these things tie together. If potential customers are already searching for your business, you’ll see great results by being involved in all of these areas.

While I’m not a fan of only taking a pay-to-play approach, you need to at least start considering it and testing it for your niche to see if it works for you. Combine it with your overall local and organic strategy.

5. Are we ignoring the featured snippets?

Searches with local intent can still trigger featured snippets. One example that I saw recently and really liked was the snowboard size chart example, which you can see below. In this example, someone who is interested in snowboards gets an answer box that showcases a company. If someone is doing this type of research, there’s a likelihood that they may wish to purchase a snowboard soon.
Depending on your niche, there are plenty of opportunities to increase your local visibility by not ignoring featured snippets and creating content to rank there. Check out this Whiteboard Friday to learn more about how you can get featured snippets.

Now that we’ve looked at some ways you can expand your strategies, let’s look at some tactical steps you can take to move the needle.


Here’s how you can gain more visibility

Now that you have an open mind, let’s take a look at the actionable things you can do to improve your overall visibility and rankings in locally centric campaigns. As much as I like to think local SEO is rocket science, it really isn’t. You really need to focus your attention on the things that are going to move the needle.

I’m also going to assume you’ve already done the basics, like optimize your listing by filling out the profile 100%.

Later last year, Local SEO Guide and Placescout did a great study that looked at 100+ variables from 30,000 businesses to determine what factors might have the most overall impact in local 3-pack rankings. If you have some spare time I recommend checking it out. It verified that the signals we put the most effort into seem to have the greatest overall effect.

I’m only going to dive into a few of those factors, but here are the things I would do to focus on a results-first strategy:

Start with a solid website/foundation

What good are rankings without conversions? The answer is they aren’t any good. If you’re always keeping your business goals in mind, start with the basics. If your website isn’t loading fast, you’re losing conversions and you may experience a reduced crawl budget.

My #1 recommendation that affects all aspects of SEO and conversions is to start with a solid website. Ignoring this usually creates bigger problems later down the road and can negatively impact your overall rankings.

Your website should be SEO-friendly and load in the 90th percentile on Google’s Page Speed Insights. You can also see how fast your website loads for users using tools like GTMetrix. Google seems to reduce the visibility of slower websites, so if you’re ignoring the foundation you’re going to have issues. Here are 6 tips you can use for a faster Wordpress website.

Crawl errors for bots can also wreak havoc on your website. You should always strive to maintain a healthy site. Check up on your website using Google’s Search Console and use Moz Pro to monitor your clients’ campaigns by actively tracking the sites’ health, crawl issues, and domain health over time. Having higher scores and less errors should be your focus.

Continue with a strong review generation strategy

I’m sure many of you took a deep breath when earlier this month Google changed the review threshold to only 1 review. That’s right. In case you didn’t hear, Google is now giving all businesses a review score based on any number of reviews you have, as you can see in the example below:
I know a lot of my colleagues were a big fan of this, but I have mixed feelings since Google isn’t taking any serious measures to reduce review spam or penalize manipulative businesses at this point.

Don’t ignore the other benefits of reviews, as well. Earlier I mentioned that users can sort by review stars; having more reviews will increase your overall CTR. Plus, after talking to many local businesses, we’ve gotten a lot of feedback that consumers are actively using these scores more than ever.

So, how do you get more reviews?

Luckily, Google’s current Review and Photo Policies do not prohibit the direct solicitation of reviews at this point (unlike Yelp).

Start by soliciting past customers on your list
If you’re not already collecting customer information on your website or in-store, you’re behind the times and you need to start doing so immediately.

I work mainly with attorneys. Working in that space, there are regulations we have to follow, and typically the number of clients is substantially less than a pizza joint. In pickles like this, where the volume is low, we can take a manual approach where we identify the happiest clients and reach out to them using this process. This particular process also creates happy employees. 🙂

  1. List creation: We start by screening the happiest clients. We then sort these by who has a Gmail account for priority’s sake.
  2. Outreach by phone: I don’t know why digital marketers are afraid of the phone, but we’ve had a lot of success calling our prior clients. We have the main point-of-contact from the business who’s worked with them before call and ask how the service they received was. The caller informs them that they have a favor to ask and that their overall job performance is partially based off of client feedback. They indicate they’re going to send a follow-up email if it’s OK with the customer.
  3. Send a follow-up email: We then use a Google review link generator, which creates an exact URL that opens the review box for the person if they’re logged into their Gmail account.
  4. Follow-up email: Sometimes emails get lost. We follow up a few times to make sure the client leaves the review…
  5. You have a new review!

The method above works great for low-volume businesses. If you’re a higher-volume business or have a lot of contacts, I recommend using a more automated service to prepare for future and ongoing reviews, as it’ll make the process a heck of a lot easier. Typically we use Get Five Stars or Infusionsoft integrations to complete this for our clients.

If you run a good business that people like, you can see results like this. This is a local business which had 7 reviews in 2015. Look where they are now with a little automation asking happy customers to leave a review:

Don’t ignore & don’t be afraid of links

One thing Google succeeded at is scaring away people from getting manipulative links. In many areas, that went too far and resulted in people not going after links at all, diminishing their value as a ranking factor, and telling the world that links are dead.

Well, I’m here to tell you that you need good links to your website. If you want to rank in competitive niches or in certain geographic areas, the anchor text can make a big difference. Multiple studies have shown the effectiveness of links to this very day, and their importance cannot be overlooked.

This table outlines which link tactics work best for each strategy:

Strategy TypeLink Tactic
Local SEO (3-Pack)Links to local GMB-connected landing page will help 3-pack rankings. City, state, and keyword-included anchor text is beneficial
Featured SnippetsLinks to pages where you want to get a featured snippet will help boost the authority of that page.
Paid AdsLinks will not help your paid ads.
“Near Me” SearchesLinks with city, state, or area anchor text will help you in near me searches.
Voice SearchLinks to pages that are FAQ or consist of long-tail keyword content will help them rank better organically.
Barnacle SEOLinks to websites you don’t own can help them rank better. Focus on high-authority profiles or business listings.

There are hundreds of ways to build links for your firm. You need to avoid paying for links and spammy tactics because they’re just going to hurt you. Focus on strong and sustainable strategies — if you want to do it right, there aren’t any shortcuts.

Since there are so many great link building resources out there, I’ve linked to a few of my favorite where you can get tactical advice and start building links below.

For specific tactical link building strategies, check out these resources:

If you participate in outreach or broken link building, check out this new post from Directive Consulting — “How We Increased Our Email Response Rate from ~8% to 34%” — to increase the effectiveness of your outreach.

Get relevant & high-authority citations

While the importance of citations has taken a dive in recent years as a major ranking factor, they still carry quite a bit of importance.

Do you remember the example from earlier in this post, where we saw Findlaw and Yelp having strong visibility in the market? These websites get traffic, and if a potential customer is looking for you somewhere where you’re not, that’s one touchpoint lost. You’ll still need to address quality over quantity. The days of looking for 1,000 citations are over and have been for many years. If you have 1,000 citations, you probably have a lot of spam links to your website. We don’t need those. But what we do need is highly relevant directories to either our city or niche.

This post I wrote over 4 years ago is still pretty relevant on how you can find these citations and build them with consistency. Remember that high-authority citations can also be unstructured (not a typical business directory). They can also be very high-quality links if the site is authoritative and has fewer business listings. There are millions of listings on Yelp, but maybe less than one hundred on some other powerful, very niche-specific websites.

Citation and link idea: What awards was your business eligible or nominated for?

One way to get these is to consider awards where you can get an authoritative citation and link to your website. Take a look at the example below of a legal website. This site is a peanut compared to a directory like Yelp. Sure, it doesn’t carry near as much authority, but the link equity is more evenly distributed.


Lastly, stay on point

2017 is sure to be a volatile year for local search, but it’s important to stay on point. Spread your wings, open your mind, and diversify with strategies that are going to get your business more customers.

Now it’s time to tell me what you think! Is something I didn’t mention working better for you? Where are you focusing your efforts in local search?

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Proximity to Searcher is the New #1 Local Search Ranking Factor

Posted by Whitespark

Have you noticed that a lot of local pack results don’t seem to make sense these days? Almost every time I search Google for a local search term, the pack results leave me wondering, “Why are these businesses ranking?”

For example, take a look at the results I get for “plumbers”:


(Searched in an incognito Chrome browser on PC in Edmonton)

Here’s a quick summary of the basic local ranking factors for the businesses in this local pack:

Notice that:

  • None of the businesses have claimed/verified their Google listing.
  • None of the businesses have any Google reviews.
  • Only one of the businesses even has a website!

Surely, Google, there are more prominent businesses in Edmonton that deserve to rank for this term?

Here’s the data table again with one additional point added: proximity to the searcher.

These business are all so close to me that I could walk to them in about 8 to 15 minutes. Here’s a map of Edmonton with pins for my location and these 3 businesses. Just look at how close they are to my location:

After analyzing dozens of queries that my colleagues and I searched for, I am going to make a bold statement:

“Proximity to searcher is the new #1 ranking factor in local search results today.” – Darren Shaw

For most local searches these days, proximity appears to be weighted more than links, website content, citations, and reviews in the local pack rankings. Google doesn’t seem to value the traditional local search ranking factors when determining which businesses to rank in the local pack. The main consideration seems to be: “Which businesses are closest to the searcher?” I have been noticing this trend for at least the last 8 months or so, and it seems to have intensified since the Possum update.

Evidence of proximity-based local rankings

Whitespark has team members that are scattered throughout Edmonton, so four of us ran a series of searches from our home offices to see how the results differ across the city.

Here is a map showing where we are physically located in Edmonton:

On desktop, Google doesn’t actually know exactly where we are. It guesstimates it based on IP, WiFi, and mobile data. You can figure out where Google thinks you’re located by doing the following:

  1. Open an incognito browser in Chrome.
  2. Go to maps.google.com.
  3. Search for a local business in your city.
  4. Click the “Directions” button.
  5. Enter “my location” into the top field.

In order to give you directions, Maps will drop a circle on the spot that it thinks you’re located at.

Here’s where Google thinks I am located:

As a team, at approximately the same time of day, all four of us searched the same 9 local queries in incognito browser windows and saved screenshots of our results.

The search terms:

Non-geo-modified terms (keyword):
plumbers
lawyers
coffee shops

Geo-modified terms (keyword + city):
plumbers edmonton
edmonton plumbers
edmonton lawyers
lawyers edmonton
coffee shops edmonton
edmonton coffee shops

Below are the mapped results for 9 local queries that we each searched in incognito browsers. Rather than dumping 24 maps on the page, here they are in a Slideshare that you can click through:

Proximity is the New Top Local Search Ranking Factor from Darren Shaw

As you click through, you’ll see that each of us get completely different results, and that these results are generally clustered around our location.

You can also see that proximity impacted non-geo-modified terms (“plumbers”) more than the results for geo-modified terms (“edmonton plumbers”). The differences we’re seeing are likely due to relevancy for the geo-modified term. So for instance, the websites may have more anchor text targeting the term “Edmonton plumbers,” or the overall content on the site has more references to Edmonton plumbers.

How does proximity impact local organic results?

Localized organic results are the blue links that list businesses, directories, etc, under the local pack. We’re seeing some very minor differences in the results, but relatively consistent local organic rankings across the city.

Generally, localized organic results are consistent no matter where you’re located in a city — which is a strong indication of traditional ranking signals (links, reviews, citations, content, etc) that outweigh proximity when it comes to local organic results.

Here are screenshots of the local organic results:

Proximity is the New Top Local Search Ranking Factor from Darren Shaw

Some observations

  1. Non geo-modified searches (keyword only) can pull results from neighboring cities. In the new local packs, proximity to searcher is not affected by the city you are in, but by the radius of the searcher. This does not appear to be the same for a geo-modified term — when you add a city to the search. This tells us that the #1 local search ranking factor from the Local Search Ranking Factors survey, “Physical address in city of search,” may no longer be as important as it once was.
  2. Results sometimes cluster together. Even though there may be businesses closer to the searcher, it seems like Google prefers to show you a group of businesses that are clustered together.
  3. Google would rather show a smaller pack than a 3-pack when there is a business that’s too far away from the searcher. For example: I only get a 2-pack of nearby businesses here, but I know there are at least 5 other businesses that match this search term:
  4. Probably obvious, but if there aren’t many businesses in the category, then Google will return a wider set of results from all over the city:

Why is Google doing this?

Why is Google giving so much ranking strength to proximity and reducing the impact of traditional local search ranking factors?

To sell more ads, of course.

I can think of three ways that this will increase ad revenue for Google:

  1. If it’s harder to get into the organically driven local packs, then businesses will need to pay to get into their fancy new paid local packs.
  2. Back in the day, there was one local pack per city/keyword combo (example: “edmonton plumbers”). Now there are thousands of local packs across the city. When they create a new pack every mile, they drastically increase their available “inventory” to sell ads on.
  3. When the results in the 3-pack aren’t giving you what you want, then a click into “more places” will bring up the Local Finder, where Google is already displaying ads:
  4. (Bonus) And have you noticed that the new local ad packs focus on “nearby”? The local ads and the local pack results are increasingly focused on how close the businesses are to your physical location.

Though I don’t think it’s only for the additional ad revenue. I think they truly believe that returning closer businesses is a better user experience, and they have been working on improving their technology around this for quite some time.

Way back in 2012, Whitespark’s Director of Local Search, Nyagoslav Zhekov, noted in the 2012 Local Search Ranking Factors survey that proximity of business location to the point of the searcher was his top local ranking factor. He says:

“What really matters, is where the searcher is physically located and how close the potentially relevant search results are. This ranking factor is getting further boost by the importance of local-mobile search, where it is undoubtedly #1. For desktop search the factor might not be as important (or not have any significance) if searcher’s location and the location for which the search is intended differ.”

It is interesting to note that in today’s results, as we can see in the examples in this post, proximity is now a huge ranking factor on desktop as well. Google has been going “mobile-first” for years, and I’m starting to think that there is no difference in how they process mobile and desktop local results. You just see different results because Google can get a more precise location on mobile.

Furthermore, Bill Slawski just published a post about a recently approved Google patent for determining the quality of locations based on travel time investment. The patent talks about using quality measures like reviews (both user and professional) AND travel time and distance from the searcher (time investment) to rank local businesses in search results.

One excerpt from the patent:

“The present disclosure is directed to methods and apparatus for determining the quality measure of a given location. In some implementations, the quality measure of a given location may be determined based on the time investment a user is willing to make to visit the given location. For example, the time investment for a given location may be based on comparison of one or more actual distance values to reach the given location to one or more anticipated distance values to reach the given location. The actual distance values are indicative of actual time of one or more users to reach the given location and the anticipated distance values are indicative of anticipated time to reach the given location.”

The patent was filed in May 2013, so we can assume that Google may have been experimenting with this and incorporating it into local search for at least the past 3 to 4 years. In the past year, the dial seems to have been cranked up on this factor as Google gets more distance and travel data from Android users and from users of the Google Maps app on other mobile platforms.

These results suck

It seems to me that in most business categories, putting so much emphasis on proximity is a pretty poor way to rank results. I don’t care if a lawyer is close to me. I am looking to hire a lawyer that’s reputable, prominent in my city, and does good work. I’m perfectly happy to drive an extra 20 minutes to go to the office of a good lawyer. I’m also looking for the best pizza in town, not the cardboard they serve at the place down the street. The same applies for every business category I can think of, outside of maybe gas stations, emergency plumbers, or emergency locksmiths.

In my opinion, this emphasis on proximity by Google seriously downgrades the quality of their local results. People are looking for the best businesses, not the closest businesses. If this is the new normal in Google’s local results, I expect that people will start turning to sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Avvo, Angie’s List, etc. when searching for businesses. I already have.

So what about local rank tracking?

Most local rank trackers set the location to the city, which is the equivalent of setting it to the centroid. It is very likely that the local pack and local finder results reported in your rank tracker will be different from what the business or client sees when they search. To get more accurate results, you should use a rank tracker that lets you set the location by zip/postal code (hint hint, Whitespark’s Local Rank Tracker).

You should also realize that you’re never going to get local rank tracking reports that perfectly match with what the person sitting in the city sees. There are just too many variables to control for. The precise proximity to the searcher is one thing a rank tracker can’t exactly match, but you’ll also see differences based on device used, browser version, personalization, and even time of day as results can and do change by the hour.

Use your rank tracking reports as a measure of general increases and decreases in local visibility, not as an exact match with what you would see if you were searching from within city.

How does this affect local SEO strategies?

Local SEO is not dead. Far from it. It’s just more competitive now. The reach your business can have in local results is smaller than it used to be, which means you need to step up your local organic and optimization efforts.

  • Local search practitioners, if you’re seeing traffic and rankings going down in your local SEO reporting and you need to answer to your clients on this, you’re now armed with more info on how to answer these questions. It’s not you, it’s Google. They have reduced the radius that your business will be shown in the search results, so you’re going to be driving less traffic and leads from local pack results.
  • If you want your business to rank in the pack or local finder, you will need to crank up the dial on your optimization efforts.
  • Get on those local organic opportunities (content and links). There is less pack real estate for you now, but the localized organic results are still great city-wide opportunities. The local organic results are currently localized to the city, not the searcher location. We can see this in all the terms.
  • Look for outliers. Study the businesses that are getting pulled into the local rankings from a far distance from the searcher. What are they doing in terms of content, links, reviews, and mentions that helps them appear in a wider radius than other businesses?
  • Diversify your local optimization efforts beyond Google. Make sure you’re on Yelp, BBB, TripAdvisor, Avvo, Angie’s List, etc, and that your profiles are claimed, optimized, and enhanced with as much information as possible. Then, make sure you’re driving reviews on THESE sites rather than just Google. If the local pack results are crap, a lot of people will click Yelp’s 10 Best XYZ list, for example. You want to be on that list. The more reviews you get on these sites, the better you will rank in their internal search results, and as people desert Google for local business recommendations because of their low-quality results, you’ll be ready and waiting for them on the other sites.

The tighter radius might mean less local search pie for the more dominant businesses in the city, but don’t despair. This opens up opportunities for more businesses to attract local search business from their local neighborhood, and there is still plenty of business to drive through local search if you step up your game.

Have you also noticed hyper-localized local pack results? I would love to hear about your examples and thoughts in the comments.

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Branding Success: How to Use PPC to Amplify Your Brand

Posted by purna_v

Here’s a question for you:

Do you think a brand can influence your behavior outside of purchase preference? Put another way, will seeing the North Face logo make you want to take up hiking in the snow?

A few years ago, researchers at Duke University conducted an experiment with 341 students. Their goal? Studying what makes a brand powerful and how we’re influenced by brands. As part of this study, the students were asked to complete what they were told was a visual acuity test.

During this test, either an Apple logo or IBM logo flashed on the screen for a second, so quickly that the students were unaware they had been exposed to the logo. The participants then completed a task designed to evaluate how creative they were, listing all the uses they could think of for a brick.

Are you surprised that students exposed to the Apple logo came up with not just more uses, but more creative uses? The experiment was also done using the Disney Channel logo and the E! logo – and the students were tested on their degree of honesty and dishonesty. Which logo exposure led to more honesty? If you thought Disney, you’re right.

This is evidence that subliminal brand exposure can cause people to act in specific ways. Branding matters.

For those of us who work in paid search, this whole “branding” thing, with its unintuitive KPIs, can seem nebulous and not something for us to worry about. We PPC-ers have specific goals and KPIs, and it’s easy for us to be seen as only a bottom-funnel channel. But we’re far more powerful than that.

Here’s the truth: Brand advertising via PPC does impact the bottom line.

I’ll share three key ways to build a framework for branding:

  1. Make choosing you easier.
  2. Show your customers you care.
  3. Make it easy to be a loyal customer.

Chances are you’re taking some of these steps already, which is fantastic. This framework can guide you to ensure you’re covering all the steps of the funnel. Let’s break down how PPC can support all three of these key points.

1. Make choosing you easier

Top brands understand their audiences really well. And what’s true of pretty much every audience right now is that we’re all looking for the fast fix. So if a brand can make it easy for us to find what we need, to get something done – that brand is going to win our hearts.

Which is why getting your ad messaging right is critical.

Something I notice repeatedly is that we’re so focused on that next advanced tactic or the newest feature that we neglect the simple basics. And that is how we get cracks in our foundation.

Most accounts I look at perform brilliantly with the complex, but routinely make avoidable errors with the basics.

Ad copy

Ads are one of those places where the cracks aren’t just visible, they’re also costly. Let’s look at a few examples of ads with sitelink extensions.

Example 1: What not to do

1_Almay.png

What do you think of this ad?

It’s a decent ad. It’s just not great. What’s hurting the ad is that the sitelinks are a broad – even random – mix of different paths and actions a person can take. We have a mix of product, social media, and spokesperson content. This is not likely to make anyone’s life easier.

Even if I had been interested in the makeup, I might be distracted by the opportunity to meet Carrie Underwood, reducing the odds of a conversion. In trying to please too many different audiences, this ad doesn’t do a particularly strong job of pleasing anyone.

Example 2: Sitelinks organized according to stage of interest

2_Clinique.png

Why not organize your sitelinks according to your customer’s stage of interest instead, like Clinique did here? This is brilliant.

Clinique is acknowledging that some shoppers are here just to buy the makeup they always order – so “Shop Makeup” is the first sitelink offered. But other visitors have come to see what’s new, or to do research on the quality of Clinique skincare, and probably everyone is looking for that discount.

Organizing sitelinks by your customer’s stage of interest also boosts brand by showing your customer that you care. We’ll talk more about that piece later.

Example 3: Sitelinks organized according to customer’s need

3_Harley.png

Here’s something smart: Organizing sitelinks according to what you already know your customers need.

Harley Davidson knows that a potential customer coming to their website wants more than pretty pictures of the bike. They’re ready to schedule a test ride or even estimate payments, so these options are right at the top.

They also understand that Harley Davidson is an aspirational product. I may want to estimate a payment or find information about my local dealer even before I know how to ride a bike. It’s part of the dream of joining the Harley lifestyle. They know this and make their customers’ lives easier by sharing links to learn-to-ride classes.

Example 4: Give them multiple ways to choose you

4_Sephora.png

For brands targeting by geography and who have a local presence, including call extensions and location extensions is a must.

As searches move from desktop to mobile, we know that local searches take the lead – and conversions on a local search happen within five hours of the search (source: Microsoft Internal research). Including call and location extensions helps shorten that conversion cycle.

What I especially love about this ad is that they give you two different buying options. You can visit the store at the physical address, or if that is deemed out-of-the-way by the searcher, the ad entices them to shop Sephora with a discount code for an online purchase. This increases the odds that the shopper will choose Sephora as opposed to visiting a more conveniently located competitor.

Indirect brand terms

When people are looking for your service but not necessarily your brand, you can still make their lives easier by sharing answers to questions they may have.

Of course, you’re already showing up for branded searches or searches directly asking for your product. But what about being helpful to your customers by answering their questions with helpful information? Bidding on these keywords is good for your brand.

For example, Neutrogena is doing a great job at showing up for longer-tail keywords, and they’re also working to build the association between gentle makeup removers for sensitive skin and their brand.

5_Neutrogena.png

And here, Crest is doing a fantastic job in using their ad copy to make themselves stand out as experts. If anyone has questions about teeth whitening, they’re showing that they’re ready to answer them:

6_Crest.png

This also helps you show up for long-tail queries, which are another increasingly critical aspect of voice search.

2. Show your customers you care

If you can anticipate issues and show up when your customers are venting, you win.

Professor Andrew Ehrenberg of South Bank Business School says that people trust strong brands more. They forgive your mistakes more easily. They believe you will put things right.

And what better way to show your customers you care than by anticipating their issues?

Be there when they want to complain

Where’s the first place you go when you want to look something up? Most likely a search engine. Showing up well in the SERPs can make a big difference.

Let’s look at an example. I did a search for complaints related to Disney, a brand with a strong positive sentiment.

7_Disney.png

Surprisingly, the SERPs were filled with complaint sites. What could have helped Disney here would be if they ran ads on these keywords, with the message that they were keen to make things right, and here’s the best number to call and chat.

Wouldn’t that diffuse the situation? Best of all, keywords like this would be very low-cost to bid on.

What about showing up when potential customers are complaining about the competition? You could consider running ads for keywords related to complaints about your competition.

I’d advise you to be careful with this approach since you want to come across as being helpful, not gloating. This strategy also may not lead to very many conversions – since the searcher is looking to complain and not to find alternative businesses – but given the low cost, it may be worth testing.

Cross-channel wins

As PPCs, we’re more powerful than even we give ourselves credit for. Our work can greatly help the PR and SEO teams. Here’s how.

PR:

As noted earlier, the search engine is the first place we go when we want to look up something.

This is so very impactful that, as reported in the New York Times, Microsoft scientists were able to analyze large samples of search engine queries that could in some cases identify Internet users who were suffering from pancreatic cancer, even before they have received a diagnosis of the disease.

This all goes to show the power of search. We can also harness that power for reputation management.

Broad-match bidding can help PR with brand protection. Looking through broad-match search term reports, a.k.a search query reports (SQRs), can help to spot trends like recalls or a rise in negative sentiment.

PPCs can send the PR folks a branded SQR on a regular basis for them to scrub through to spot any concerning trends. This can help PPC stand out as a channel that protects and monitors brand sentiment.

SEO:

Content marketing is a key way for brands to build loyalty, and PPC is an excellent way to get the content to the audience. Serving ads on key terms that support the content you have allows you to give your audience the info they really want.

For example, if your SEO teams built a mortgage calculator as value-add content, then you could serve ads for queries such as “How much house can I afford?”:

8_Mortgage.png

Taking this concept a step further, you can use high-value content to show up with ads that match the research stage of the customer’s interest. As PPCs, we’re often keen to simply show an ad that gets people to convert. But what if they’re not ready? Why should we either ignore them or show up with something that doesn’t match their goal?

Take a look at these ads that show up for a research-stage query:

9_KitchenIdeas.png

The first ad from Sears – while very compelling – seems mismatched to the search query.

Now look at the third ad in the list, offering 50 kitchen idea photos. This is a much better match to the query. If it were me searching, this is the ad I would have chosen to click on.

What happens to the conversion?

Well, the landing page of the “50 ideas” ad could feature some type of offer, say like what the Sears ad has to offer, and here it would be much more welcome. In this way, we could use higher-funnel ads as lead gen, with KPIs such as content impressions, lead form fills, and micro-conversions.

This is such a win-win-win strategy:

  • You’ve shown your customers you care for them and will be there for them
  • You’ve helped your colleagues get more exposure for their hard work
  • You’ve earned yourself cost-effective new leads and conversions.

Boss move.

Want more ideas? Wil Reynolds has some fantastic tips on how SEOs can use PPC to hit their goals.

3. Make it easy to be a loyal customer

Growing customer lifetime value is one of the most worthwhile things a brand can do. There are two clever ways to do this.

Smarter remarketing

You liked us enough to buy once – how would you like to buy again? Show your customers more of what they like over time and they’ll be more attuned to choosing your brand, provided you’ve served them well.

What about remarketing based on how long it’s been since the purchase of a product?

This tactic can be seen as helpful as opposed to overtly sales-y, building brand loyalty. Think of how Amazon does it with their emails suggesting other products or deals we may be interested in. As a result, we just keep going back to Amazon. Even if they don’t have the lowest price.

10_PowerProtein.png

For example, what if a sports nutrition company knew that most customers took three months to finish their box of protein shake powder? Then around the middle of month two, the company could run an ad like this to their list of buyers. It features an offer and shows up just at the right time.

The customer will probably think they’ve lucked out to find a special offer just at the right time. We know that it’s not luck, it’s just smarter remarketing.

Want more ideas? Check out Sam Noble’s Whiteboard Friday on how paid media can help drive loyalty and advocacy.

Show up for the competition

Remember when the iPhone 6s launched? Samsung ran very clever PPC ads during the launch of the iPhone 6s, and again when Apple was in the news about the phones bending.

11_Samsung1.png

12_Samsung2.png

Samsung used humor – which, importantly, wasn’t mean-spirited – and got a lot of attention and goodwill, not to mention a ton of PR and social media attention. Great for their brand at the time!

You can use the same tactic to run ads on competitors’ brand names with ads that showcase your USP. This works especially well for remarketing in paid search (or RLSA) campaigns.

13_Chevy.png

Here, Chevy capitalized on the Tesla Model 3 announcement-related search volume spike. They ran ads that reminded users that their cars were available in late 2016, with the unstated message that it’s much sooner than when the Tesla Model 3 cars are expected to arrive.

Give back

Engaging with the customer is the best way to make it easy for them to be loyal to your brand. Enhance that by showing them you care about what they care about for added impact.

Here’s one way to give back to your customer, and this particular effort is also a huge branding opportunity.

14_Loreal.png

I love how L’Oréal is associating themselves with empowering women – and most of their customers will like this as well. They’re giving back to their customers by honoring the women they care about. To create loyal customers, the best brands give back in meaningful ways.

Wrapping up

One of my favorite Seth Godin quotes is, “Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories that you tell.”

PPC is a wonderful channel to shape and create stories that will engage and delight your customers.

And now we come full circle, to that place where we started, wondering how in the world PPC can impact brand. Your paid search campaigns are a chapter in your brand’s story, and you have an unlimited number of ways to write that chapter, and to contribute to the brand.

Branding isn’t just for the birds. Have you found a way to use PPC to help grow your brand? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below.

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Strategic SEO Decisions to Make Before Website Design and Build

Posted by Maryna_Samokhina

The aim: This post highlights SEO areas that need to be addressed and decided on before the website brief is sent to designers and developers.

Imagine a scenario: a client asks what they should do to improve their organic rankings. After a diligent tech audit, market analysis, and a conversion funnel review, you have to deliver some tough recommendations:

“You have to redesign your site architecture,” or

“You have to migrate your site altogether,” or even

“You have to rethink your business model, because currently you are not providing any significant value.”

This can happen when SEO is only seriously considered after the site and business are up and running. As a marketing grad, I can tell you that SEO has not been on my syllabus amongst other classic components of the marketing mix. It’s not hard to imagine even mentored and supported businesses overlooking this area.

This post aims to highlight areas that need to be addressed along with your SWOT analysis and pricing models — the areas before you design and build your digital ‘place’:

  • Wider strategic areas
  • Technical areas to be discussed with developers.
  • Design areas to be discussed with designers.

Note: This post is not meant to be a pre-launch checklist (hence areas like robots.txt, analytics, social, & title tags are completely omitted), but rather a list of SEO-affecting areas that will be hard to change after the website is built.

Wider strategic questions that should be answered:

1. How do we communicate our mission statement online?

After you identify your classic marketing ‘value proposition,’ next comes working out how you communicate it online.

Are terms describing the customer problem/your solution being searched for? Your value proposition might not have many searches; in this case, you need to create a brand association with the problem-solving for specific customer needs. (Other ways of getting traffic are discussed in: “How to Do SEO for Sites and Products with No Search Demand”).

How competitive are these terms? You may find that space is too competitive and you will need to look into alternative or long-tail variations of your offering.

2. Do we understand our customer segments?

These are the questions that are a starting point in your research:

  • How large is our market? Is the potential audience growing or shrinking? (A tool to assist you: Google Trends.)
  • What are our key personas — their demographics, motivations, roles, and needs? (If you are short on time, Craig Bradford’s Persona Research in Under 5 Minutes shows how to draw insights using Twitter.)
  • How do they behave online and offline? What are their touch points beyond the site? (A detailed post on Content and the Marketing Funnel.)

This understanding will allow you to build your site architecture around the stages your customers need to go through before completing their goal. Rand offers a useful framework for how to build killer content by mapping keywords. Ideally, this process should be performed in advance of the site build, to guide which pages you should have to target specific intents and keywords that signify them.

3. Who are our digital competitors?

Knowing who you are competing against in the digital space should inform decisions like site architecture, user experience, and outreach. First, you want to identify who fall under three main types of competitors:

  • You search competitors: those who rank for the product/service you offer. They will compete for the same keywords as those you are targeting, but may cater to a completely different intent.
  • Your business competitors: those that are currently solving the customer problem you aim to solve.
  • Cross-industry competitors: those that solve your customer problem indirectly.

After you come up with the list of competitors, analyze where each stands and how much operational resource it will take to get where they are:

  • What are our competitors’ size and performance?
  • How do they differentiate themselves?
  • How strong is their brand?
  • What does their link profile look like?
  • Are they doing anything different/interesting with their site architecture?

Tools to assist you: Open Site Explorer, Majestic SEO, and Ahrefs for competitor link analysis, and SEM rush for identifying who is ranking for your targeted keywords.

Technical areas to consider in order to avoid future migration/rebuild

1. HTTP or HTTPS

Decide on whether you want to use HTTPS or HTTP. In most instances, the answer will be the former, considering that this is also one of the ranking factors by Google. The rule of thumb is that if you ever plan on accepting payments on your site, you need HTTPS on those pages at a minimum.

2. Decide on a canonical version of your URLs

Duplicate content issues may arise when Google can access the same piece of content via multiple URLs. Without one clear version, pages will compete with one another unnecessarily.

In developer’s eyes, a page is unique if it has a unique ID in the website’s database, while for search engines the URL is a unique identifier. A developer should be reminded that each piece of content should be accessed via only one URL.

3. Site speed

Developers are under pressure to deliver code on time and might neglect areas affecting page speed. Communicate the importance of page speed from the start and put in some time in the brief to optimize the site’s performance (A three-part Site Speed for Dummies Guide explains why we should care about this area.)

4. Languages and locations

If you are planning on targeting users from different countries, you need to decide whether your site would be multi-lingual, multi-regional, or both. Localized keyword research, hreflang considerations, and duplicate content are all issues better addressed before the site build.

Using separate country-level domains gives an advantage of being able to target a country or language more closely. This approach is, however, reliant upon you having the resources to build and maintain infrastructure, write unique content, and promote each domain.

If you plan to go down the route of multiple language/country combinations on a single site, typically the best approach is subfolders (e.g. example.com/uk, example.com/de). Subfolders can run from one platform/CMS, which means that development setup/maintenance is significantly lower.

5. Ease of editing and flexibility in a platform

Google tends to update their recommendations and requirements all the time. Your platform needs to be flexible enough to make quick changes at scale on your site.

Design areas to consider in order to avoid future redesign

1. Architecture and internal linking

An effective information architecture is critical if you want search engines to be able to find your content and serve it to users. If crawlers cannot access the content, they cannot rank it well. From a human point of view, information architecture is important so that users can easily find what they are looking for.

Where possible, you should look to create a flat site structure that will keep pages no deeper than 4 clicks from the homepage. That allows search engines and users to find content in as few clicks as possible.

Use keyword and competitor research to guide which pages you should have. However, the way pages should be grouped and connected should be user-focused. See how users map out relationships between your content using a card sorting technique — you don’t have to have website mockup or even products in order to do that. (This guide discusses in detail how to Improve Your Information Architecture With Card Sorting.)

2. Content-first design

Consider what types of content you will host. Will it be large guides/whitepapers, or a video library? Your content strategy needs to be mapped out at this point to understand what formats you will use and hence what kind of functionality this will require. Knowing what content type you will producing will help with designing page types and create a more consistent user interface.

3. Machine readability (Flash, JS, iFrame) and structured data

Your web pages might use a variety of technologies such as Javascript, Flash, and Ajax that can be hard for crawlers to understand. Although they may be necessary to provide a better user experience, you need to be aware of the issues these technologies can cause. In order to improve your site’s machine readability, mark up your pages with structured data as described in more detail in the post: “How to Audit a Site for Structured Data Opportunities”.

4. Responsive design

As we see more variation in devices and their requirements, along with shifting behavior patterns of mobile device use, ‘mobile’ is becoming less of a separate channel and instead is becoming an underlying technology for accessing the web. Therefore, the long-term goal should be to create a seamless and consistent user experience across all devices. In the interest of this goal, responsive design and dynamic serving methods can assist with creating device-specific experiences.

Closing thoughts

As a business owner/someone responsible for launching a site, you have a lot on your plate. It is probably not the best use of your time to go down the rabbit hole, reading about how to implement structured data and whether JSON-LD is better than Microdata. This post gives you important areas that you should keep in mind and address with those you are delegating them to — even if the scope of such delegation is doing research for you (“Give me pros and cons of HTTPS for my business” ) rather than complete implementation/handling.

I invite my fellow marketers to add other areas/issues you feel should be addressed at the initial planning stages in the comments below!

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How to Prioritize Your Link Building Efforts & Opportunities – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

We all know how effective link building efforts can be, but it can be an intimidating, frustrating process — and sometimes even a chore. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand builds out a framework you can start using today to streamline and simplify the link building process for you, your teammates, and yes, even your interns.

Prioritize your link building efforts and opportunities

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. As you can see, I’m missing my moustache, but never mind. We’ve got tons of important things to get through, and so we’ll leave the facial hair to the inevitable comments.

I want to talk today about how to prioritize your link building efforts and opportunities. I think this comes as a big challenge for many marketers and SEOs because link building can just seem so daunting. So it’s tough to know how to get started, and then it’s tough to know once you’ve gotten into the practice of link building, how do you build up a consistent, useful system to do it? That’s what I want to walk you through today.

Step 1: Tie your goals to the link’s potential value

So first off, step one. What I’m going to ask you to do is tie your SEO goals to the reasons that you’re building links. So you have some reason that you want links. It is almost certainly to accomplish one of these five things. There might be other things on the list too, but it’s almost always one of these areas.

  • A) Rank higher for keyword X. You’re trying to get links that point to a particular page on your site, that contain a particular anchor text, so that you can rank better for that. Makes total sense. There we go.
  • B) You want to grow the ranking authority of a particular domain, your website, or maybe a subdomain on your website, or a subfolder of that website. Google does sort of have some separate considerations for different folders and subdomains. So you might be trying to earn links to those different sections to help grow those. Pretty similar to (A), but not necessarily as much of a need to get the direct link to the exact URL.
  • C) Sending real high-value traffic from the ranking page. So maybe it’s the case that this link you’re going after is no followed or it doesn’t pass ranking influence, for some reason — it’s JavaScript or it’s an advertising link or whatever it is — but it does pass real visitors who may buy from you, or amplify you, or be helpful to achieving your other business goals.
  • D) Growing topical authority. So this is essentially saying, “Hey, around this subject area or keyword area, I know that my website needs some more authority. I’m not very influential in this space yet, at least not from Google’s perspective. If I can get some of these links, I can help to prove to Google and, potentially, to some of these visitors, as well, that I have some subject matter authority in this space.”
  • E) I want to get some visibility to an amplification-likely or a high-value audience. So this would be things like a lot of social media sites, a lot of submission type sites, places like a Product Hunt or a Reddit, where you’re trying to get in front of an audience, that then might come to your site and be likely to amplify it if they love what they see.

Okay. So these are our goals.

Step 2: Estimate the likelihood that the link target will influence that goal

Second, I’m going to ask you to estimate the likelihood that the link target will pass value to the page or to the section of your site. This relies on a bunch of different judgments.

You can choose whether you want to wrap these all up in sort of a single number that you estimate, maybe like a 0 to 10, where 0 is not at all valuable, and 10 is super, super valuable. Or you could even take a bunch of these metrics and actually use them directly, so things like domain authority, or linking root domains to the URL, or page authority, the content relevance.

You could be asking:

  • Is this a nofollowed or a followed link?
  • Is it passing the anchor text that I’m looking for or anchor text that I control or influence at all?
  • Is it going to send me direct traffic?

If the answers to these are all positive, that’s going to bump that up, and you might say, “Wow, this is high authority. It’s passing great anchor text. It’s sending me good traffic. It’s a followed link. The relevance is high. I’m going to give this a 10.”

Or that might not be the case. This might be low authority. Maybe it is followed, but the relevance is not quite there. You don’t control the anchor text, and so anchor text is just the name of your brand, or it just says “site” or something like that. It’s not going to send much traffic. Maybe that’s more like a three.

Then you’re going to ask a couple of questions about the page that they’re linking to or your website.

  • Is that the right page on your site? If so, that’s going to bump up this number. If it’s not, it might bring it down a little bit.
  • Does it have high relevance? If not, you may need to make some modifications or change the link path.
  • Is there any link risk around this? So if this is a — let’s put it delicately — potentially valuable, but also potentially risky page, you might want to reduce the value in there.

I’ll leave it up to you to determine how much link risk you’re willing to take in your link building profile. Personally, I’m willing to accept none at all.

Step 3: Build a prioritization spreadsheet

Then step three, you build a prioritization spreadsheet that looks something like this. So you have which goal or goals are being accomplished by acquiring this link. You have the target and the page on your site. You’ve got your chance of earning that link. That’s going to be something you estimate, and over time you’ll get better and better at this estimation. Same with the value. We talked about using a number out of 10 over here. You can do that in this column, or you could just take a bunch of these metrics and shove them all into the spreadsheet if you prefer.

Then you have the tactic you’re going to pursue. So this is direct outreach, this one’s submit and hope that it does well, and who it’s assigned to. Maybe it’s only you because you’re the only link builder, or maybe you have a number of people in your organization, or PR people who are going to do outreach, or someone, a founder or an executive who has a connection to some of these folks, and they’re going to do the outreach, whatever the case.

Then you can start to prioritize. You can build that prioritization by doing one of a couple things. You could take some amalgamation of these numbers, so like a high chance of earning and a high estimated value. We’ll do some simple multiplication, and we’ll make that our prioritization. Or you might give different goals. Like you might say, “Hey, you know what? (A) is worth a lot more to me right now than (C). So, therefore, I’m going to rank the ones that are the (A) goal much higher up.” That is a fine way to go about this as well. Then you can sort your spreadsheet in this fashion and go down the list. Start at the top, work your way down, and start checking off links as you get them or don’t get them. That’s a pretty high percentage, I’m doing real well here. But you get the idea.

This turns link building from this sort of questionable, frustrating, what should I do next, am I following the right path, into a simple process that not only can you follow, but you can train other people to follow. This is really important, because link building is an essential part of SEO, still a very valuable part of SEO, but it’s also a slog. So, to the degree that you can leverage other help in your organization, hire an intern and help train them up, work with your PR teams and have them understand it, have multiple people in the organization all sharing this spreadsheet, all understanding what needs to be done next, that is a huge help.

I look forward to hearing about your link building prioritization, goals, what you’ve seen work well, what metrics you’ve used. We will see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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How We Increased Our Email Response Rate from ~8% to 34%

Posted by STMartin

It’s no secret that reply rate is the golden metric of email campaigns.

The reason is obvious. As opposed to open and click rate, reply rate tracks how many recipients were interested (or annoyed) enough to actually write you back. For guest blogging and email outreach, your reply rate will determine your campaign’s success.

We still believe that guest blogging is a great opportunity to improve your site’s link profile and brand exposure. However, the time-investment needed in prospecting/email outreach can leave you questioning its ROI.

It doesn’t often make sense to spend 3 hours prospecting and emailing different opportunities to get only 3 replies.

So how do you make all your prospecting and emailing worth your while?

Simple: Boost your reply rate to generate more “opportunities won” in the same timeframe.

The pain point: Time

At Directive Consulting, we rely on guest posting for our most valuable backlinks. 😉 With that said, four months ago our email outreach was still struggling at around an 8% reply rate.

This is actually around the industry standard; guest blogger outreach emails might expect a reply rate in the 5–15% range.

With the below template, we were sending out 20–50 emails a week and receiving no more than 2–4 positive replies.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

To make the system more time-efficient, we had to get our reply rate at least into the double digits.

The hypothesis: Value

To boost our reply rate, we asked ourselves: What makes the best online content so engaging?

The answer: The best online content speaks to the user in terms of value. More specifically, the user’s personal values.

So, what are these user values that we need to target? Well, to look at that we need to understand today’s average user.

Image source

As opposed to their predecessors, today’s savvy post-digital users value personalization, customization, and participation.

Our hypothesis was as follows: If we can craft an email user experience that improves upon these three values, our reply rate will spike.

The results: Too hot to handle

3 successful tests later, our reply rate has gone from 8% all the way up to 34%.

And our guest blog content queue is piling up faster than the lines at the mall the night before Black Friday.

In three tests we addressed those three values: personalization, customization, and participation. Each new test brought a spike in reply rate.

How did we do it? Don’t worry, I’ll tell you how.

3 reply rate tests (& a mini test) and what we learned

We started by stepping into the user’s shoes. Everyone knows that receiving random outreach emails from strangers can be jarring. Even if you’re in the industry, it can at least be annoying.

So how do you solve that problem? The only way you can: delight.

How we approached creating a more delightful and comfortable email experience took testing. This is what we learned.

Test #1 – The personalized introduction (8%–16%)

The first feature of our email we tackled was the introduction. This included the subject line of the email, as well as how we introduced ourselves and the company.

Here’s what it looked like:

As you can see, while the subject line packs some serious authority, it’s not very personable. And if you look at the in-email introduction, you’d see a similar problem.

Plenty of professional context, but hardly a personalized first impression. This user-experience screams BLOGGER TRYING TO GET GUEST BLOG OPPORTUNITY.

Now let’s look at the variant we tested:

Big difference, huh?

While all the same authoritative references are still there, this is already far more personal.

A few noteworthy differences in user-experience:

  • Subject line: Natural, single sentence (almost seems like the email could have been forwarded by a co-worker).
  • Name and title: The letterhead not only replaces a useless sentence, it supplies a smiling face the user can match the name/title with.
  • Creative/disruptive branding: The creative letterhead is a real disrupter when you compare it to any old email. It also gets our logo above the fold in the email, and actually saves space all together.

Packing all the context of the email into a single, creative, and delightful image for the user was a huge step.

In fact, this first test alone saw our biggest jump in reply rate.

The results? Our reply rate doubled, jumping all the way from 8% to 16% — above the industry benchmark!

Mini test: The psychology behind “Because” (16%–20%)

If that wasn’t a big enough jump to please us, we added on one more addition after the initial test.

If you don’t know who Brian Dean is, I’ll leave his bio for you to read another time. For now, all you need to know is that his “because” tactic for increasing reply rates works.

Trust me. He tested it. We tested it. It works.

The tactic is simple:

  1. Provide the exact context for your email in a single sentence.
  2. Use the phrasing “I am emailing you because…” in that sentence.
  3. Isolate that sentence as it’s own paragraph as early in the email as possible.

That’s it.

And this little change bumped our reply rate another 4% — all the way up to 20%. And this was before we even ran test #2!

Test #2 – Customizing/segmenting the offer (20%–28%)

Test #2 focused on customization. We had nailed the personalized first impression.

Now we needed to customize our offer to each individual recipient. Again, let’s take a look at where we started:

As far as customization goes, this isn’t half bad. There are plenty of prospective topics that the editor or blogger could choose from. But there’s always room for improvement.

Customization is a fancy word for segmentation, which is our industry’s fancy word for breaking lists into smaller lists.

So why not segment the topics we send to which editors? We can customize our email’s offer to be more relevant to the specific recipient, which should increase our chances of a positive reply.

Instead of a single list of prospective topics, we built 8.

Each list was targeted to a different niche industry where we wanted to guest post. Each list had 10 unique topics all specified to that blog’s niche.

Now, instead of 10 topics for the umbrella category “digital marketing,” we had 10 topics for:

  1. Pay-per-click advertising blogs
  2. Content marketing blogs
  3. Social media management blogs
  4. Software as a service (SaaS) blogs
  5. Interactive design blogs
  6. Search engine optimization blogs
  7. Agency management blogs
  8. E-commerce optimization blogs

Not only did the potential topics change, we also changed the email copy to better target each niche.

This test took a bit of time on its own. It’s not easy to build a list of 80 different targeted, niche, high-quality topics based on keyword research. But in the end, the juice was definitely worth the squeeze.

And what was the juice? Another spike in our reply rate — this time from 20% up to 28%!

Test #3 – Participating in topic selection (28%–34%)

We were already pretty pleased with ourselves at this point, but true link builders are never satisfied. So we kept on testing.

We had already addressed the personalization and customization issues. Now we wanted to take a crack at participation. But how do you encourage participation in an email?

That’s a tricky question.

We answered it by trying to provide the most adaptive offer as possible.

In our email copy, we emphasized our flexibility to the editor’s timeline/content calendar. We also provided a “open to any other options you may have” option in our list of topics. But the biggest change to our offer was this:

As opposed to a list of potential topics, we went one step further. By providing options for either long or short pieces (primary and focalized) we give them something to think about. They can choose from different options we are offering them.

This change did increase our reply rate. But what was surprising was that the replies were not immediately positive responses. More often than not, they were questions about the two different types of guest posts we could write.

This is where the participation finally kicked in.

(Chasing your first reply like Leo’s first oscar….)

We were no longer cold-emailing strangers for one-time guest posts. We were conversing and building relationships with industry bloggers and editors.

And they were no longer responding to a random email. They were actively participating in the topic selection of their next blog post.

Once they started replying with questions, we knew they were interested. Then all we had to do was close them with fast responses and helpful answers.

This tiny change (all we did was split the targeted list we already had into two different sizes) brought big results. Test #3 brought the final jump in our reply rate — from 28% up to the magic 34%.

After we had proved that our new format worked, then we got to have some real fun — taking this killer system we built and scaling it up!

But that’s a post for another day.

Takeaways

So what have our reply rate tests taught us? The more personal you are and the more segmented your approach, the more success you’ll see.

2017 is going to be the year of relationship building.

This means that for each market interaction, you need to remember that the user’s experience is the top priority. Provide as much delight and value to your user as possible. Every blog post. Every email. Every market interaction.

That’s how you triple reply rates. And that’s how you triple success.

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Accelerate Your SEO Knowledge: New SEO Bootcamps and In-House Training from Moz

Posted by BrianChilds

SEO training classes provide a smart, accessible way to accelerate your knowledge of our industry’s best practices, tools, and processes. For several months we’ve offered three workshops on our SEO Training page that focused on core SEO capabilities like keyword research, competitor research, and site audits.

Starting now in February 2017, we’re expanding these classes to include more topics and more opportunities to help your team deliver value faster.

See upcoming classes

What’s changed about our SEO training classes?

There are two major changes we’ve made to our SEO training solutions that you can see today:

  1. We’ve redesigned, renamed, and expanded our workshops
  2. We now offer custom in-house SEO training

Workshops = SEO bootcamps

Previously, our workshops were focused on a few essential topics that every online marketer could benefit from. We’re now expanding these into a six-part series of classes that cover not only essential topics, but also the process of implementing a search engine optimization strategy. Each SEO bootcamp can be taken separately or together as a series, and are geared for beginner to intermediate marketers.

The topics we’re starting with are as follows:

  1. Intro to SEO
  2. Keyword and competitor research
  3. How to conduct an SEO site audit
  4. On-page optimization best practices
  5. Off-page optimization best practices
  6. How to report on SEO performance

What is in-house SEO training, exactly?

I used to be the VP of a marketing agency and like many agencies, we were pulled into the world of SEO by our clients. Many web designers are asked by their clients to provide SEO and subsequently need to learn how to scale up their capability fast. In-house SEO training is a way to help agencies and marketing services firms add SEO to their portfolio quickly to meet the needs of their proposal commitments.

Another common use case for custom in-house SEO training: those in-house marketing teams that want to grow their online marketing capability. In-house training can help advance your new team members’ knowledge, so they can start delivering value to your organization right off the bat. Interactive SEO training solutions allow businesses to quickly accelerate their skills.

Different learning options for different learning styles

The main thing that will remain unchanged is our commitment to helping you do better SEO. We recognize that people have different learning styles and different time commitments. I’m a great example of someone who learns by doing and values the ability to ask questions during class from a professional instructor. When I was training to be a commercial pilot, I spent most of my time doing hands-on learning in a very structured class environment. That experience aligned well with my learning style.

Some people learn by reading. Some learn by videos alone. And others value live, interactive experiences. Here at Moz, we’re building an ecosystem of learning solutions to meet every type of learning style.

Sign up for a class!

And this is just the beginning. We’ll continue to invest in your skills. Check back often to the moz.com/training page to see new SEO classes as they launch!

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The 2017 Local SEO Forecast: 10 Predictions According to Mozzers

Posted by MiriamEllis

Maybe it takes a bit of daring to forecast local search developments in quarters 2, 3, and 4 from the fresh heights of Q1, but the Moz team thrives on challenges. In this post, Rand Fishkin, Dr. Pete Meyers, George Freitag, Britney Muller, and I peer into the future in hopes of helping your local business or local search marketing agency be mentally and tactically prepared for an exciting ride in the year ahead.


1. There will be a major shakeup in local SEO ranking factors.

Rand Fishkin, Founder & Wizard of Moz

My prediction is that the local SEO ranking factors will have a major shakeup, possibly devaluing some of the long-held elements around listing consistency from hard-to-control third parties. I think Google might make this move because, while they perceive the quality and trustworthiness of those third-party local data aggregators to be decent, they don’t want to force small business owners into maintaining contentious relationships or requiring them to learn about these services that control so much of their ranking fate. I’ll be the first to say this is a bold prediction, and I don’t give it super-high odds, but I think even if it doesn’t happen in 2017, it’s likely in the next few years.


2. Feature diversification will continue to mature.

Dr. Peter J. Myers, Marketing Scientist at Moz

I predict that local SEO will finally see the kind of full-on feature diversification (organic and paid) that has been going on with organic for a few years now. We’ve already seen many changes to local packs and the introduction of local knowledge panels, including sponsored hotel panels. Now Google is testing paid home services, ads in local packs, destination carousels, trip planning guides and, most recently, “Discover More Places” map results. By the end of 2017, “local SEO” will represent a wide variety of organic and paid opportunities, each with their own unique costs and benefits. This will present both new opportunities and new complications.


3. Voice search will influence features in Google and Amazon results.

George Freitag, Local Search Evangelist at Moz

I also think we’ll see a new wave of features appear in the local pack over the next year. I believe that voice search will play a large part in this as it will determine the most important features that Google (and Amazon) will incorporate into their results. As both companies start to gather more and more data about the types of complex searches — like “How long will it take me to get there?” or something more ambitious like “Do they have any more of those in my size” — Google and Amazon will start to facilitate businesses in answering those questions by allowing more opportunities to directly submit information. This satisfies both Google’s desire to have even more data submitted directly to them and the searcher’s desire to have access to more information about the businesses, which means it’s something that is definitely worth their time.


4. Google will begin to provide incredibly specific details about local businesses.

Britney Muller, SEO & Content Architect at Moz

I predict that we will see Google acquiring more intimate details about local businesses. They will obtain details from your customers (via different incentives) for unbiased feedback about your business. This will help Google provide searchers with a better user experience. We’ve already started seeing this with “Popular Times” and the “Live” features, showing you if current traffic is under or over the typical amount for the specific location. Your location’s level of noise, coziness, bedside manner (for doctors and clinics), and even how clean the bathroom is will all become accessible to searchers in the near future.


5–10. Six predictions for the price of one!

Miriam Ellis, Moz Associate & Local SEO

I have a half-dozen predictions for the coming year:

Diminishing free packs

Google paid packs will have replaced many free packs by 2017’s end, prompting local business owners to pay to play, particularly in the service industries that will find themselves having to give Google a piece of the pie in exchange for leads.

Voice search will rise

Local marketers will need to stress voice search optimization to business owners. Basically, much of this will boil down to including more natural language in the site’s contents and tags. This is a positive, in that our industry has stressed natural language over robotic-sounding over-optimization for many years. Voice search is the latest incentive to really perfect the voice of your content so that it matches the voice your customers are using when they search. Near-me searches and micro-moment events tie in nicely to the rise of voice search.

Expansion of attributes

Expect much discussion of attributes this year as Google rolls out further attribute refinements in the Google My Business dashboard, and as more Google-based reviewers find themselves prompted to assign attributes to their sentiments about local businesses.

Ethical businesses will thrive

Ongoing study of the millennial market will cement the understanding that serving this consumer base means devoting resources to aspirational and ethical business practices. The Internet has created a segment of the population that can see the good and bad of brands at the click of a link, and who base purchasing decisions on that data. Smart brands will implement sustainable practices that guard the environment and the well-being of workers if they want millennial market share.

Google will remain dominant

What won’t happen this year is a major transfer of power from the current structure. Google will remain dominant, but Facebook will continue to give them the best run for their money. Apple Maps will become more familiar to the industry. Yelp will keep building beyond the 115 million reviews they’ve achieved and more retail business owners will realize Yelp is even bigger for their model than it is for restaurants. You’ve pretty much got to be on Yelp in 2017 if you are in the retail, restaurant, or home service industries.

Amazon’s local impact will increase

Amazon’s ingress into local commerce will almost certainly result in many local business models becoming aware of the giant coming to town, especially in metropolitan communities. I’m withholding judgement on how successful some of their programs (like Amazon Go) will be, but local business owners need to familiarize themselves with these developments and see what’s applicable to them. David Mihm recently mentioned that he wouldn’t be surprised to see Amazon buying a few bankrupt malls this year — that wouldn’t surprise me, either.


Taken in sum, it’s a safe bet that local SEO is going to continue to be a significant force in the world of search in the coming year. Local business owners and the agencies which serve them will be wise to stay apprised of developments, diversifying tactics as need arises.

Now it’s your turn! Do you agree/disagree with our predictions? And how about your forecast? When you look to the future in local, what do you foresee? Please help us round out this post with predictions from our incredibly smart community.

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How to Uncover Hidden Keyword-Level Data Using Google Sheets

Posted by SarahLively

TL;DR

Keyword-level data isn’t gone, it’s just harder to get to. By using Google Sheets to marry the data from Search Console and Google Analytics into a sheet, you’ll have your top keywords and landing page engagement metrics together (for free!). It’s not perfect keyword-level data, but in 7 steps you can see the keywords that drove clicks to a page and the organic engagement metrics for that page, all together in one place. The Google Analytics Add-on for Google Sheets will pull organic landing page engagement metrics, and the Search Analytics for Sheets Add-on will pull the top queries by landing page from Search Console. Then, use VLOOKUP and an Array Formula to combine the data into a new tab that has your specified landing pages, the keywords that drove clicks there, and the specified engagement metrics.

What do you mean you don’t know which keyword drove that conversion?

Since the disappearance of keyword-level data in Google Analytics, SEOs have been struggling to tie keyword strategies to legitimate, measurable metrics. We put much of our time, resources, and research efforts into picking the perfect keyword theme, full of topically relevant terms that leverage new semantic strategies. We make sure to craft the perfect metadata, positioning our top keywords in the right place in the title tag and integrating them seamlessly into the meta description, but then what? We monitor rankings and look to landing page metrics, but all of our data is disjointed and we’re left to extrapolate insights based on a limited understanding of how our themes are truly performing.

There is good news, though! Keyword-level data is still there — it’s just much harder to get to given the structure of existing platforms. If you’re like me, you have your landing page metrics in Google Analytics, your keyword click data in Search Console, and your keyword themes in a manual program (probably Excel). Given the way Google Analytics exports data, the way Search Console separates keywords and landing pages, and the nuances you’ve applied to your own keyword theme documents, it’s difficult to marry all of the data in a way that gives you actionable insights and real-time data monitoring capabilities.

Difficult… but not impossible. Enter: Google Sheets. In 7 easy steps you can pull all of this data into one sheet so you can see your keyword theme, the keywords you’re getting clicks for, the page ranking, and any organic metric for that page (think engagement metrics, conversion metrics, revenue metrics, etc.), all in one place! You can monitor keyword opportunities within striking distance, whether the keywords you want to rank for are actually ranking, and what terms and themes are driving the majority of your revenue or conversions. At the end of the day all of this works to give you actionable metrics you can monitor and change through keyword strategies. It’s much easier than you may think, and the steps below will get you started.

Follow this guide to build out a basic Google Sheet that ties Search Console, Google Analytics, and your keyword theme into one place for a few pages, and then you’ll be well on your way to building out automated sheets that give you greater insight into keyword-level data!

Step 1: Get the Google Analytics and Search Analytics for Sheets Add-ons

The Google Analytics Add-on will allow you to pull any metric from Google Analytics into your spreadsheet and Search Analytics for Sheets will pull data from Search Console. Pulling from these two sources will be the key to combining the data from Google Analytics and the Search Analytics report in a meaningful way. Once you have a new sheet open and you’re in the add-on feature, finding and installing Google Analytics and Search Analytics for Sheets should be pretty straightforward. Also, both add-ons are free.

Step 2: Create Google Analytics reports

Once you’ve installed the Google Analytics add-on, you’ll find “Google Analytics” in your menu. Hover over Google Analytics and select Create new report to get started. After the sidebar menu pops in, select the Account, Property, and View that you want to pull data from. You will also be able to name your report (see note below) and then select Create Report. You do not have to worry about the metrics and dimensions at this point, but that will come later.

Note: At the end of this article I have a template you can use to combine the data from Google Analytics and Search Analytics. If you want to use the template, make sure you name this first report Organic Landing Pages Last Year. I will also walk through the formulas and functions used in this article, so you don’t have to rely on the template, but the nomenclature of each tab must be consistent to use my exact formulas. There are plenty of opportunities to rename the report and tabs, so don’t stress if you miss this part and name your report something different; just know that if at the end the template isn’t working, you should double-check the tab names.

Step 3: Configure your Google Analytics reports

The Report Configuration tab you now see as the first tab in your sheet is where you can configure the data you want to pull. I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with this functionality by watching this quick, five-minute video from Google as an overview on how to generate reports from Google Analytics in Google Sheets. Listed below are the fields being used for this report, and you can find an extensive overview of what all of these fields mean and the metrics you can use within them here: https://developers.google.com/analytics/solutions/google-analytics-spreadsheet-add-on.

Note: If you prefer to simply fill in your sheet and read the details on each field configuration later, you can paste the cells below into your table at cell B5 (just double-check it looks like the screenshot above) and skip down to the last paragraph in this section, right after Segments.

395daysAgo
365daysAgo
ga:sessions, ga:bounces, ga:goalCompletionsAll
ga:landingPagePath
-ga:sessions
sessions::condition::ga:medium==organic

Report Name:

The name you set when you created the report. This can be changed, but note that when you run your report, the tab with your report will use this report name.

Type:

This will automatically fill in “core” for you, meaning we are pulling from the Core Reporting API.

View:

This will also automatically fill in your Profile ID, which you set when you created the report.

Start Date:

To compare the last 30 days to the same 30 days the previous year, we will set the Start Date as 395daysAgo

End Date:

To compare a full 30 days last year to a full 30 days this year, we will set the End Date as 365daysAgo

Metrics:

This refers to the metrics you want to pull and will dictate the columns you see in your report. For this report we want to look at sessions, bounces, and goal completions, so we are using the metrics ga:sessions, ga:bounces, ga:goalCompletionsAll. Google has an excellent tool for searching possible metrics here (https://developers.google.com/analytics/devguides/reporting/core/dimsmets) if you want to eventually test and pull anything other than sessions, bounce rate, and goal completions.

Dimensions:

Dimensions refers to the dimensions you want to see specific metrics for; in this case, landing pages. We’re using landing pages as the dimension because this will allow us to match Search Analytics landing page query data with landing page Google Analytics. To pull the metrics you selected above by landing page, use ga:landingPagePath

Sort:

The Google Analytics API will default to sort your metrics in ascending order. For me, it’s more valuable to see the top landing pages in descending order so I can get a quick look at the pages driving the most traffic to my site. To do this, you simply place a minus (-) sign before the metric you want to sort your date by: -ga:sessions. You can learn more about sorting metrics through the Google Analytics API here: https://developers.google.com/analytics/devguides/reporting/core/v3/reference#sort.

Segments:

The last field we’re going to be adding to is Segments so we can look at just organic traffic. This is where you could put in new organic users, return organic users, or any special segment you’ve created in Google Analytics. However, for this report we’re going to use the primary organic traffic segment that’s standard in Google Analytics: sessions::condition::ga:medium==organic.

As mentioned, we want to see organic traffic to each page during the last 30 days compared to the previous year. To do this, we need to generate two reports: one with our session data for the last 30 days, and one for the session data for the same span of time one year ago. We have 2015 ready to go, so simply paste that into column C, rename the Report Name to Organic Landing Pages This Year and change Start Date to 30daysAgo and End Date to yesterday. Double-check the screenshot above matches your configurations before moving on.

Step 4: Run your Google Analytics report

You will run the report you just created by selecting Run reports under the Google Analytics add-on. We won’t be reviewing scheduling reports in this article, but it can be useful to time these to run on a specific day to align with any ongoing reporting you have. You can learn more about scheduling reports here: https://developers.google.com/analytics/solutions/google-analytics-spreadsheet-add-on#scheduling-reports.

If everything has been completed correctly so far, you should see this popup:

If, for some reason, you see a popup noting that you have an error, Google Analytics is great at letting you know exactly which field has been implemented incorrectly. Double-check your segments here (https://developers.google.com/analytics/devguides/reporting/core/v3/reference) and as long as you’re using valid formatting, you should be able to fix any issues.

Assuming everything went according to plan, you’ll see a spreadsheet that looks like this:

Step 5: Run your Search Analytics for Sheets report

Running a Search Analytics for Sheets report is really simple. Click to your empty sheet (Sheet1), and in the same place you were able to launch Google Analytics, launch the sidebar for Search Analytics for Sheets. From there, you’ll authorize the app and set the parameters of your report. Any metrics that I updated are highlighted in the screenshot below, but you want to group by query and page, aggregate by page, and have the results display on the active sheet. The default for Search Analytics for Sheets is to pull from the previous 90 days, but you can adjust this to display whatever makes sense for your website.

As long as everything runs correctly, you’ll see your top search queries, landing pages, clicks, impressions, CTR, and average position in descending order by clicks. Rename Sheet1 to Search Console Data, and your sheet should look like this:

Step 6: Remove the domain name from Search Analytics landing pages

Hopefully you can see where this is going now. We have one tab with all of our Google Analytics data by landing page, and one with our Search Analytics data by landing page, so all that’s left is to marry the data.

First, we just need to strip the domain name from the Search Console data. You’ll notice the data from Google Analytics pulls the top landing pages excluding the https://domain-name.com, and Search Console pulls the entire domain.Therefore, we have to format them identically in order to combine the data. To do this, you’ll need to execute a “find and replace” on your Page column in the Search Console tab in Google Sheets and replace https://domain-name.com with no replacement (eliminating the domain name from the URL).

Step 7: Combine the data

Download the Keyword Level Data template here. This template has the proper formulas in place to pull landing page sessions year over year, bounce rate, and total goal conversions. I’ve also set Column C up as “Target Keywords” to type in the terms you’re actively targeting on each page. This way, you can see if what you’re targeting is similar to what you’re ranking for in Google. Once the template is up, copy the Keyword Data tab to your worksheet.

After you copy the sheet over, you should see a new sheet with a tab called Keyword Data. From here, select the Keyword Data tab and click Copy to…

Select the sheet you have built with your data, and a copy of the Keyword Data tab will populate at the end of your sheet.

If you’ve done everything correctly so far, you will be able to update your URLs and the data will automatically appear within the template for your specific pages. When adding your page URL, be sure not to include the domain name. For example, if you wanted to see data for https://www.domain-name.com/products/, you would type /products/ in cell B6 and see the data populate. Also make sure everything is matching up with trailing slashes between your Google Analytics data and your Search Console data. If you have issues with duplicate URL structures, you may need to work with the data a bit to make the URL structure formatting consistent (and also you should fix that on the server side!). Your results should look something like this:

How is the template working?

If you’re interested in looking at more than two pages and really building this out into a more robust report, you probably want to understand what formulas are controlling the results so you can expand the data.

The majority of this template utilizes VLOOKUP to pull the Google Analytics data into the sheet. If you’re not sure how VLOOKUP works, you can read more on that here.

The year-over-year percent change column and bounce rate column are simple calculations. For example, the percent change in cell G6 is calculated using =(E6-F6)/F6 and the bounce rate in cell I6 uses =(H6/E6). You’re probably familiar with these common Excel functions already.

The more complicated formula is the array formula that’s being used to pull the keyword data from Search Analytics. Due to the fact that a VLOOKUP will stop after the first match, and we want to see up to five matches for queries, we’re utilizing an array formula instead to pull the matches in up to 5 cells. There are other functions that will do this as well (pull all possible matches in a sheet, that is); however, the array formula is unique in that it lets us limit the results to five rows (otherwise, if you have 10 matches for one term but 4 for another, you wouldn’t be able to structure your sheet in way that displays multiple pages within one tab).

Here is the array formula that’s used in cell D6:

=ArrayFormula(IF(ISERROR(INDEX(‘Search Console Data’!$A$1:$B$5000,SMALL(IF(‘Search Console Data’!$B$1:$B$5000=$B$6,ROW(‘Search Console Data’!$A$1:$B$5000)),ROW(2:2)),1)),””,INDEX(‘Search Console Data’!$A$1:$B$5000,SMALL(IF(‘Search Console Data’!$B$1:$B$5000=$B$6,ROW(‘Search Console Data’!$B$1:$B$5000)),ROW(2:2)),1)))

This formula is allowing multiple values to pull for the value in B6, but also allows the formula to drag down and expand through cell D11. The array formula in cell D11 is:

=ArrayFormula(IF(ISERROR(INDEX(‘Search Console Data’!$A$1:$B$5000,SMALL(IF(‘Search Console Data’!$B$1:$B$5000=$B$6,ROW(‘Search Console Data’!$A$1:$B$5000)),ROW(7:7)),1)),””,INDEX(‘Search Console Data’!$A$1:$B$5000,SMALL(IF(‘Search Console Data’!$B$1:$B$5000=$B$6,ROW(‘Search Console Data’!$B$1:$B$5000)),ROW(7:7)),1)))

You can learn more about array formulas here, but the way they are executed in Google Sheets is a bit different than Excel. From my research, this formula gave the results I wanted (multiple matches controlled in a specific set of cells), but if you know of a function in Google Sheets that does something similar, feel free to share in the comments!

Conclusion

Keyword-level data isn’t gone! Google is giving us valuable insights into what terms are leading users to our sites — we just need to combine the data in a meaningful way. Google Sheets is a powerful way to connect to various APIs and pull loads of data from multiple sources. There are some limitations to the Search Analytics report (see this great post from Russ Jones on some inaccuracies he found in Search Console Search Analytics data), so hopefully this small sheet will inspire you to expand the data and include more engagement metrics from Google Analytics, additional click data from Search Console, rankings data, data for traffic outside of organic, and more. Not to mention all of this can be scheduled, so you can have your Search Analytics and Google Analytics data ready when you open your sheets and automate almost this entire process.

We don’t have to use tools like Search Console and Google Analytics in a vacuum simply because they exist that way. Experiment with ways to combine the data on your own to gain more valuable insights into your campaigns!

Also, if you loved this, if any of this doesn’t work for you, if you know paid tools that do this, you’re doing this a different way, you’re doing this in a bigger way, or this just didn’t make sense to you — comment! I would love to hear how other SEOs are gleaning insights into keyword data in the new days of (not provided) and improve on this process with your help!

Shout outs

A special shout out goes to @mihaiaperghis for publishing this blog post on How to Use Search Analytics in Google Sheets for Better SEO Insights as I was finishing up this post. Thanks to your post, I was able to find a free, easy way to pull from the Search Analytics API into sheets. Before reading, I was utilizing and wrote about a paid add-on that was ~$30/month, so thanks to your post I can call this entire process free. Also thanks to @SWallaceSEO for reviewing this article, testing the sheet, and helping me with edits and debugging!

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