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Link building: the least favorite part of SEO

There are plenty of reasons to love SEO. I certainly do and have since I started my SEO journey in 2007. 

But every job has unique challenges – aspects that can be frustrating, difficult, tedious or even downright painful. 

That’s why, earlier this week in the Search Engine Land newsletter, I asked readers: What is your least favorite part of SEO?

Well, we have a winner. Or loser?

It’s link building. More than 20% of respondents said link building was their least favorite part of SEO. 

Let’s dig into the results. 

Link building and outreach. It’s time-consuming. It’s tedious. And success is never guaranteed. These are a just few of the biggest complaints from SEOs about trying to build quality links that we saw from Search Engine Land readers:

  • “Getting backlinks – it is the equivalent of a vampire sucking your soul for very little return.”
  • “Obviously, getting natural links is nice, but when you’re out there fishing for them, it may or may not be fruitful. It’s so time-consuming and there’s no guarantee you’ll see the results you want.”
  • “Too much work to get any reward. It often feels pointless.”
  • “Dealing with websites that used xyz backlinks in the past. Sometimes, I’ll inherit a client whose previous agency did so, and I end up having to clean it up because it looks bad on my end if potential clients or fellow SEOs are looking at my clients’ backlink profiles to see how we do SEO at my agency.”
  • “There is nothing more tedious and frustrating than reaching out to website owners who are getting spammed 24-7 by all and sundry to try and build a relationship in order to promote an asset your team has spent loads of time creating to either be ignored or to have to go through the awkward process of negotiating only to end up having to chase for weeks or even months to get the link live. It’s like, ‘Head, meet brick wall…’ This is a direct result of so much bad practice out there coming back to impact people who are trying to get it right.”
  • “It takes so much time, thought and care to build lasting links, especially at scale in the B2B space.”
  • “It’s the most abused area of SEO.”

Google. Yes, Google. There were a range of complaints. A few were specific to Google Business Profiles:

  • “Way too many spam listings outranking actual, quality businesses. Legitimate reviews are being removed. If you happen to get suspended for no reason, support is a nightmare to deal with to get your listing back up. And yet, you’ve got deal with GBP, at least in local SEO, because of its prominence in the SERPs.”
  • “Lack of control. Such an important listing for local businesses, yet so volatile. Make it paid already and give us more control and better customer service.”
  • “Too many businesses are able to create spam websites and GBP listings, which makes it a volatile space. The world would be a better place if spammers didn’t exist. Now I have to fight spam each day to help my client be in the position they were supposed to be in.”

But our readers shared other Google-related complaints, ranging from algorithm update timing to GA 4:

  • “Google releasing algo updates right before the holidays.”
  • “The metrics for the so-called “Page Experience” are so ambiguous in testing and evaluating.”
  • “They’re trying their darndest to keep everyone in their ecosystem instead of allowing clicks through to sites. Their profits last year say it all.”
  • “Dealing with and understanding white lies coming from Google representatives.”
  • “It took me a while to set up Google Analytics and it’s my 24/7 go-to for monitoring traffic to my online fashion store. I’m not looking forward to moving to the next generation, GA4, especially while all the features I currently use are not yet available. I’m sure I’ll eventually adapt but it will take some time.”

Proving the worth of SEO. Have you had to convince your organization that SEO is a smart investment? The answer should be as simple as, “Have you heard of this thing called Google.” Well, now you can point them to this article: Why SEO is a great investment, not just a cost.

Defending the value of SEO shouldn’t be such a struggle anymore. It’s 2022. Yet here we are:

  • “People not taking SEO seriously or understanding the worth of its investment and time.”
  • “The expectation that results will be immediate and positive every time.”
  • “Having to work double as hard as PPC managers to prove SEO’s worth.”
  • “Explaining to clients why an automated report they received from a cousin’s, best-friend’s former roommate has no context and should be ignored.”
  • “The constant doubting from other ‘SEO experts’ on the marketing team is demoralizing and demotivating. It’s hard to feel confident as an SEO, because the foundations keep shifting.”
  • “Pushback from uneducated executives or ones who have been jaded by snake-oil SEOs in the past. Makes it really tough to execute on what you know will work, especially when the proof of whether your tactics work or not can take so long in coming to validate your strategies.:
  • “The amount of effort and time sometimes necessary for clients to implement the changes needed for them to be successful in organic search.”

More least favorite parts of SEO. Finally, a few randoms. These answers didn’t fit into any of our other buckets, but they are all valid reasons for these being called out as a least favorite part of SEO:

  • “Technical optimisation. Never straightforward as to what exactly is causing the issues, and more often than not you need help from a developer. It’s rewarding once the problem is solved but the process is a bit of a maze.”
  • “Watching what appears to be a well-optimized page rise and fall sporadically in the SERPs. It’s maddening.”
  • “The uncertainty of what actually influences SERP position. It seems like a mystery and a moving target which makes it hard to manage.”
  • “Keyword analysis, hangs me out of my throat. Uses 5 different tools, and has trouble stopping when enough is enough.” 
  • “Reporting. Nobody reads reports sent by the SEO team. You could send the same report every month and nobody would notice it. I like reporting by exception.”
  • “Cheap, unappreciative clients.”
  • “Digging through tons of articles on SEO topics posturing as new insights, that actually contain old platitudes or even bad analyses, just to find those few pieces a month that actually bring some new insight.”
  • “Trying to find unique product titles for 2,000 products made with the same metal (jewelry). When I see squiggly or zig-zag on a site, I know I am not alone!”
  • “Identifying expertise among agencies.  When everyone starts with a similar checklist of best practice recommendations, it’s difficult to know who will be able to transition into an individualized strategy for our business.”
  • “Dealing with developers. It’s always hard to convince them about how important stuff is and to have them added to their backlog soon.”
  • “Keeping up with technology and UI changes in all the different platforms. I’m fine with keeping up with best practices, trends, evolving standards, strategies, and explaining them to internal and and external stakeholders. It’s adapting to all the menus and paths in all the different software and platforms in order to get things done. Every day, I’m closer to becoming my dad struggling to reprogram the VCR.”
  • “Well… it depends.”

(Note: you can read even more answers to this same question on Twitter. Google’s John Mueller asked the same question.)

Why we care. It’s good to share our frustrations with our peers. Clearly, many of you are experiencing some similar pain points in the SEO world. Just remember, it’s completely normal to not like parts of your job all the time. That could go for certain tasks, projects, clients or co-workers. And if you love link building? We salute you!

The post Link building: the least favorite part of SEO appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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How to make a GA4 landing page report in 10 easy steps

Want to make your own landing page report in Google Analytics 4, but not sure how? Then this article is for you.

Read on to learn how you can make your own landing page report in GA4 in a few simple steps.

Step 1: Start from a similar template. In this case, the Pages and Screens report in GA4. Then click Customize Report in the upper right corner.

Step 2: Click in to edit the included dimensions and Click “Add dimension”. Scroll down the list until you find Landing Page. Select it.

Step 3: Click the three dots on the right side of the Landing Page dimension name from the list of included dimensions. Choose Set as default. Then hit apply in the bottom right corner.

Step 4: Landing page is now the default report dimension. While you’re here, you can also add or remove metrics and change/hide the chart types if you’d like. I’ve selected a line chart and removed the second chart by hitting the eye icon to hide it.

Step 5: Save as a new report. This is important! Don’t save changes to the current report because we started off using the Pages and Screens report. Otherwise, you’ll no longer have the Pages and Screens report. Title is Landing Page.

Step 6: You’ll need to add the report to a collection. Go to the library section – you’ll find this icon while in the Reports section of GA4 at the bottom of the left-side navigation.

Step 7: Choose which collection to add this new report to. It likely makes the most sense to add it to the Life cycle collection, into the Engagement topic, right next to the Pages and Screens report. Click Edit collection for where you want to put it.

Step 8: Scroll to the bottom of the list of reports on the right to find your new Landing Page report, and then drag and drop it into the topic section you want on the left column.

Step 9: Click save on the bottom of the screen. This time, choose to “Save changes to current collection” so that the Landing Pages report is added to your nav collections that are already published/visible.

Step 10: Check out your shiny new Landing Page report in the left-side nav.

That’s it! Now you know how to build a custom report. Go wild! Add all those reports you’re yearning for that don’t yet exist in GA4.

The post How to make a GA4 landing page report in 10 easy steps appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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You still don’t have marketing security?

Why has ‘marketing security’ become a top priority for modern-day marketers?

Five years ago, if you were to ask a marketer about their security strategy, the likely response would have been sheer confusion. “Bots, proxies, data-center traffic? That’s for the security team to worry about.” In 2022, however, you’d be hard-pressed to find a marketing leader who hasn’t deployed a marketing security strategy. Today, most marketers view fake, automated and malicious traffic as a strategic threat to their operation, compromising efficiency and hurting their bottom line.

27% of website traffic is fake, and it’s killing marketing efficiency

Recent data released by CHEQ across a pool of over 12,000 of its customers revealed that 27% of all website traffic is fake, consisting of botnets, data centers, automation tools, scrapers, crawlers, proxies, click farms and fraudsters. The scale of the “Fake Web” is massive, and marketers are seeing it everywhere. Just this past Super Bowl, 17 billion ad views came from bots and fake users. On Black Friday, a third of online shoppers weren’t real. Affiliate marketers are losing $1.4 billion a year to fraud. Elon Musk recently highlighted concerns over bots overrunning social media and Spotify is reportedly suffering from its own bot problem. Wherever marketers look, the Fake Web is there, and it’s affecting their campaigns, funnels, data and revenue. 

Paid marketers without security ‘waste’ thousands of clicks on fake users

Perhaps one of the most visible issues for marketers, especially those running paid user acquisition, is Click Fraud. Bots, click farms and even competitors are draining their ad budgets and severely damaging campaign efficiency. Many advertisers suffer from thousands and even tens of thousands of fake clicks every month, amounting to a massive waste of spend. But it’s not just the wasted spend, it’s also budgets that could have otherwise gone to real paying customers who would have generated actual revenue. In fact, recent data shows that $42 billion is lost each year in revenue opportunities because of this issue. 

But the real damage begins when those fake users infiltrate your audiences

Many paid marketers use smart campaigns or audiences to group together users that have either previously shown interest in their products or services or share attributes with users who have. This is helpful for expanding the market they are addressing and reaching new potential buyers. At this point, it might not come as a surprise that bots and fake users can stand in the way of successfully executing this practice as well. When audiences become polluted with malicious human users or invalid bot traffic, marketers end up accidentally re-targeting and optimizing toward fake traffic. If marketing security measures are not put in place, the cycle can continue until audiences are overtaken by bots and no longer share any resemblance to a group of human users that have the ability and intention to convert. If clean audience segments are a priority, then, for many marketers, marketing security is as well.

Fake traffic is also one of the biggest drivers of poor lead quality

Every marketer can relate to the frustration of illegitimate looking inbound leads. Sometimes it’s a fake account or a bogus email address. Sometimes the information looks legitimate but when you research the lead you can’t find the company or individual. But whatever the case is, nothing causes more tension between sales and marketing than bogus leads that waste the sales team’s time and never convert. In fact, poor traffic quality is one the biggest drivers of marketing security adoption today, as teams look to eliminate illegitimate form fills and submissions and prevent them from polluting the sales pipeline.

But perhaps the biggest reason marketers are fighting bots is data quality

Beyond the monetary waste, budget inefficiency, polluted audiences and fake leads, there is one issue that stands above them all, which is perhaps the biggest driver of marketing security adoption – and that issue is data quality. Think about it – organizations spend so much energy, time, effort, resources and money on data management and consumption – expensive BI, analytics and reporting tools, teams of analysts, CDPs and DMPs. All of this so that they can drive better tactical decisions around landing page optimization, audiences and targeting, as well as strategic decisions around budget and channel planning, growth planning and revenue forecasting. When an average of 27% of traffic-in-funnel is fake, all that data is skewed and those decisions are severely compromised. Adding a layer of visibility to detect bots and fake users and gain transparency over their funnels, is becoming an absolute integral part of the modern-day marketer’s role.

More than anything, marketing security is being looked at as an opportunity

Marketers want to eliminate these threats to their operation, but above all, they want to drive better budget efficiency, better leads and higher revenue, and that’s the ultimate goal of marketing security. Eliminating these inefficiencies drives a healthy, clean and transparent funnel that delivers better results. And for these reasons, asking a marketer “what’s your security strategy?” in 2022, is quickly becoming an almost banal question, as Marketing Security quickly becomes an industry standard.

This article was written by Daniel Avital, chief strategy officer, and global head of marketing at CHEQ.

The post You still don’t have marketing security? appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Google Universal Analytics real time metrics now titled “in the last 5 minutes”

Google has updated the title it uses for real time analytics in Universal Analytics 3 to read “in the last 5 minutes.” Previously this section was titled “right now” but with Google Analytics 4 rolling out, Google wanted to make the title more specific to what both are actually displaying.

In the last 5 minutes. Google’s title for the real time metrics was updated to say “in the last 5 minutes” to more accurately describe what UA3’s real time metrics actually displayed. Here is a screenshot of the new title:

Previously, it looked more like this saying “right now” – which is not really right now but in the last 5 minutes.

Why the change. We believe Google made this change in order to help communicate why UA3 real time metrics are different from GA4 real time metrics. UA3 real time metrics are based off the last five minutes whereas GA4 real time metrics are based off the last thirty minutes.

Why we care. When you see this change, don’t worry, you are not alone – we are all seeing this title change. But rest assured, the metrics in real time Universal Analytics 3 have not changed. Google is just making it crystal clear that UA3 is measuring the past 5 minutes and GA4 is measuring the past 30 minutes.

Keep in mind, both UA3 and GA4 also measure traffic differently – so even if they both looked at the past 5 minutes, it would show different numbers.

The post Google Universal Analytics real time metrics now titled “in the last 5 minutes” appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Google Search Console to release new video page indexing report

A new video page indexing report is coming to Google Search Console in the near future, Dikla Cohen, a Web Ecosystem Consultant at Google, announced at Google I/O today. The new report shows you a summary of all the video pages Google found while crawling and indexing your site.

Video page indexing report. The video page indexing report will be found in Google Search Console, under the “Index” tab, under “video pages.” At the time of writing this, this feature does not seem live yet – but it should be coming soon.

This report shows you a summary of all the video pages Google found while crawling and indexing your site. It will help you:

  • See how many video landing pages Google discovered and in how many of them a video was indexed
  • Examine reasons for unindexed videos in landing pages
  • Use the list of affected video pages URLs to debug and fix issues
  • Validate fix to initiate recrawling of known affected URLs

What it looks like. Here are screenshots from the presentation:

Why we care. Video is an important aspect for many web sites, and these reports will help you discover how important those videos are for you related to Google Search. Google Search Console’s new video indexing reports can help you find indexing issues with your videos and how to debug those issues.

Check back to find out when this report goes live.

The post Google Search Console to release new video page indexing report appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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An SEO guide to audience research and content analysis

How your customers find you can vary significantly. It may be based on their interests, needs or pain points.

Some people may already know exactly what they need and search for that on Google. Others may be just starting the research process. Others may already know what they need and compare to identify the best source to purchase from.

In this stage of your SEO research and planning, you’ll want to identify:

  • Target personas
  • Buying stages
  • Potential keywords 

Your goal will be to map your target personas, buying stages and keywords for each persona and buying stage.  

Persona research 

You can start by using customer service data or information from your Google Analytics demographic details. With this information, you can start creating target personas.  

Below is an example of possible target personas for a real estate company.

Once you have your personas and ideas of who they are, what they need, and what they are looking for, you’ll want to map out the possible steps they’ll take in their buying journey.

Buyer’s journey

Finally, you can add the possible keywords they’ll search for and map them to the journey.

Map keywords to persona to the buyer’s journey

The goal of this phase is to identify all of the possible ways you can be found and to make sure you have content optimized on your website targeting these buying phases and keywords.

You’ll start by identifying primary, root phrases. As you progress, you can go deeper into long-tail terms or semantically related keywords.

This will allow you to identify gaps and opportunities that were missed during your initial baseline and competitive research. Some of these keywords won’t be uncovered unless you truly understand your audience and their needs and pain points.

This stage will complete your research phase and give you all the information to create your content strategy and focus your on-page SEO priorities.   

Evaluate your existing content

With your comprehensive keyword research, the next step is to look at the existing content of your site and see if it’s optimized properly.

  • Does your website have pages that are not getting any traffic from Google, pages that are near-duplicates or multiple pages targeting the same keyword?
  • Do you have content pieces to match the keyword list you created in the previous stage?

Before creating a content calendar or editorial strategy, it’s ideal to audit your existing content. By reviewing your existing pages, you can decide which pages need to be removed, consolidated or optimized.

Some of the elements you can look for include:

  • Page traffic
  • Primary keyword
  • Number of keywords ranking
  • Word count
  • Internal linking

To perform a content audit, you’ll need to export all of your pages from your CMS or use an SEO audit tool, such as Screaming Frog or Semrush Site Audit, to get a list of your site’s existing pages.

Consolidate all of this data into a content audit spreadsheet. Your spreadsheet could look something like this:

Assess your site’s content

Once you have collected all of the data, go through the URLs and label the pages:

  • Keep: The page is optimized and performing well and can be left alone.
  • Optimize: The page could be ranking better with improved on-page SEO.
  • Rewrite/revamp: This is for pages where the content needs to be revamped or rewritten.
  • Remove: These pages are not performing well and should be removed. When doing so, it’s important to remove the page from your sitemap, Google Search Console, and any inbound links.
  • Consolidate: If there are multiple pages targeting the same keyword, consider moving all of the content into the URL that is performing best and using 301 redirects for the other pages. 

How to optimize, revamp or consolidate pages

Once you have all of your pages labeled, it’s time to optimize your content. Some pages may be performing well but could be refreshed to help them perform even better. Others may be performing poorly and need to be optimized to rank.

Typically, this process will involve two steps:

  • Editing and re-optimizing the existing content. 
  • Expanding the article with new content. 

Select the primary and secondary keywords for each page

The best way to gather this data is to use Google Search Console for ranking pages or your keyword database for pages that are not.

To gather data from Google Search Console, click on Performance > Search Results report:

You can click on a page to see the keywords that it’s ranking for and the clicks, impressions and average position for each:

This will help you identify target keywords for each page, which you can add to your spreadsheet.

For each page, add the target primary and secondary keywords you will use when performing the necessary content updates.

Revamp existing content

When optimizing pages, you need to make sure that you are preserving or adding the correct on-page SEO elements. Let’s review these:

Primary keyword optimization

The primary keyword should appear in the:

  • Meta (page) title: For existing articles, you can edit an existing article’s meta-title. Use the Google SERP Simulator to see how your title would look. Where possible, start the title tag with your primary keyword and add modifiers to your titles
  • Meta description: Up to 230-character description of the article. Make sure that you use the primary keyword as close to the beginning of the meta description as possible.  
  • The first heading of your article is the title. This should be an H1 heading. The title/heading should include the primary keyword.
  • First paragraph. The primary keyword should appear in the first paragraph, ideally within the first 100 words.
  • Anchor text: Include the primary keyword in at least one outbound, internal link.

Adding any secondary keywords

All related secondary keywords should be incorporated naturally into the article. For each related keyword, add them in an H2 heading. Whatever the focus keyword is for each paragraph, it should be both in the H2 heading and in the paragraph following the heading.

Questions and answers

Q&A is an easy way to expand upon your articles by finding related questions. Take the primary keyword, and search for it on Google. Use the questions in the “People also ask” box as section headers:

The section header with the question will be an H2. In the next section, you should answer the question as quickly and succinctly as possible. Don’t re-state the question; instead, immediately provide the answer.

If the question was “How do you get featured in snippets,” then the first sentence should answer the question: “To get into featured snippets, you need to ask questions and answer them using paragraphs, lists, and quick answers.” 

Use bullet points! Google loves listing answers with bullet points, so where possible, answer the question and immediately add a list with bullet points: 

Content formatting

Use proper formatting to make the content easy for people to read quickly. Here are a few suggestions for formatting your content:

  • Break up giant walls of text. Give information in short paragraphs. Use succinct sentences. 
  • Add lists. Google loves lists! Are there any paragraphs or sections you can change into bullet points or numbered lists? If so, do it!

Add 2-3 internal links to other relevant pages on the site. Keep your anchor text short. Then, find at least 3-5 relevant pages on your site, and link to your target pages. Every page of your site should contain as many links from other site pages as possible.

Add 2-3 external links to relevant pages. Good external links serve a strong purpose. They create a natural link map and connect your sites to authoritative sources. Google will give more weight to a page that has good external links.  

Add new content

If the article is thin, you can add new content to expand on key points.  

Writing new content

  • Add more paragraphs. If you can add a list, more sub-headings, etc., all the better! 
  • Reading level. Keep the language at a 7th-grade reading level whenever possible. The best content is easy to read and understand, not dense and impregnable.


  • Add new, optimized images to your revamped content.
  • Along with the link, please write the alt text for the image. This should be a one-sentence image description that includes the primary keyword. 

Content consolidation

When there are several short pages or articles that are all ranking for the same keyword, it might be ideal to consolidate these articles into one longer, more comprehensive piece.

When consolidating articles, keep in mind: 

  • Take bits and parts of the different existing articles and merge them into one that makes sense.
  • You should write the TARGET URL slug at the top of the document and include the new, optimized meta title and meta description.
  • Add links to internal pages and external sites 

Prioritize your fixes

Once you have created and labeled your spreadsheet and added target primary and secondary keywords, the final stage is to prioritize and assign your optimizations based on traffic or keyword importance.  

If you have pages targeting important keywords that are not ranking well, move those to the top of the priority list.

If there are pages that have a lot of traffic and could be performing better, these should also be prioritized.

At the end of this stage, you should have a comprehensive keyword list that you will have mapped to existing pages or labeled to be created.

Mind the gap

During the early stage, you want to be mindful of identifying persona, content and keyword gaps. If you don’t have content targeting some of your keywords, you’ll be missing opportunities to reach your target audience.

Most sites will have a degree of cannibalization as the SEO and content plans go through different teams and stages.

Before spending significant resources on producing new content, first, identify and maximize the content you already have, and then “mind the gap” by creating a content plan that targets all keywords that haven’t been optimized.

The post An SEO guide to audience research and content analysis appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Google multisearch to gain near me support

Google is expanding Google multisearch, a search feature Google announced several weeks ago to let you search by image and text at the same time, to support near me types of queries. This will let you find local business in Google Maps and Google Search to see local search results.

What is Google multisearch. Google multisearch lets you use your camera’s phone to search by an image, powered by Google Lens, and then add an additional text query on top of the image search. Google will then use both the image and the text query to show you visual search results.

What is near me multisearch. The near me aspect lets you zoom in on those image and text queries by looking for products or anything via your camera but also to find local results. So if you want to find a restaurant that has a specific dish, you can do so.

What multisearch near me looks like. Here is a screenshot followed by a GIF from the Google I/O keynote:

MUM not yet in multisearch. Google made a comment in its blog post saying “this is made possible by our latest advancements in artificial intelligence, which is making it easier to understand the world around you in more natural and intuitive ways. We’re also exploring ways in which this feature might be enhanced by MUM– our latest AI model in Search– to improve results for all the questions you could imagine asking.”

I asked Google if Google multisearch currently uses MUM and Google said no. For more on where Google uses MUM see our story on how Google uses artificial intelligence in search.

Available in US/English. Multisearch is live now and should be available as a “beta feature in English in the U.S.” Google said. But the near me flavor is not going live until later this year, Google said.

Why we care. As Google releases new ways for consumers to search, your customers may access your content on your website in new ways as well. How consumers access your content, be it desktop search, mobile search, voice search, image search and now multisearch – may matter to you in terms of how likely that customer might convert, where the searcher is in their buying cycle and more. This is now even more important for local businesses.

The post Google multisearch to gain near me support appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Best Practices for Double Opt-in

How you set up the sign up process for your email list can have a big effect on how engaged your subscribers will be later on. It might seem counterintuitive, but if you let people subscribe without any sort of confirmation, you can end up with a less engaged and less profitable list. 

This is why one of the proven best practices of email marketing is to use “double opt-in.” In this post, we’ll cover:

  • What double opt-in is
  • Double opt-in versus single opt-in
  • An example of how double opt-in works
  • The pros and cons of each sign up setting
  • How to set up double opt-in
  • Common mistakes people make when they set up double opt-in

Double opt-in does require some extra work, both for you and your subscribers. But if you want better engagement, higher deliverability, and more sales from the emails you send, it’s usually the best way to go. 

What is double opt-in?

Double opt-in, also called “confirmed opt-in,” is a method of subscribing to an email newsletter where subscribers have to confirm two times (hence the “double” opt-in) that they want to receive emails from you. 

It is used to screen out invalid addresses and improves the overall engagement levels of a list. Once your list is sent up to use double opt-in, no one can accuse you of sending spam – neither competitors nor email services.

The double opt-in subscription confirmation process consists of two steps:

  1. A user leaves their email address in the subscription form on the site and clicks “Subscribe”.
  2. The user receives a subscription confirmation email to this address, in which they have to click on a link to be added to the mailing list.

Only then can the user receive email newsletters. Double opt-ins should be implemented in channels where consent to receive email is usually not explicitly given. Otherwise, you can get a lot of spam complaints and get blacklisted.

Here’s an example of confirmed opt-in sign up form from AWeber customer The Disney Food Blog.

Step 1: Someone fills out the sign up form on your website:

This is a nice example of a sign up box from AWeber customer The Disney Food Blog

Step 2: They see a “thank you” page with instructions about how to confirm their address:

This page prompts the new subscriber to go check their inbox for the confirmation email.

Step 3:  They go to their email inbox and find the confirmation email.

Part of the double opt-in process is getting the new subscriber to click a link in an email you send to them. As you can see, the inbox can be a crowded place. Give your new subscribers very clear directions on how to confirm their email addresses.

Step 4: They click the confirmation button or link in the confirmation email.

This is a default confirmation email.

Step 5: They are brought to the final confirmation page.

The final step of the double opt-in process. This email tells the new subscriber they've confirmed their email address and will now get emails from the company going forward.

What’s the difference between double opt-in versus single opt-in?

Single opt-in 

This is when a subscriber enters their email address into a form, clicks submit, and is automatically subscribed to a list. There is no confirmation email sent with single opt-in. It is the most popular way to get new subscribers, but it does result in a lower quality list. 

Among the emails submitted you may find nonexistent addresses, typos, or other people’s emails that their owners did not specify.

Sometimes single opt-in is used covertly. Users leave their mailing addresses on the website but don’t realize that they will be receiving emails in the future. Here are a few ways this can happen:

  • Through online giveaways. A company offers a giveaway and requires people to submit their email addresses to qualify for the giveaway. Then the company either adds everyone’s email address to their marketing emails list, or they “ask” people in a way so subtle or disguised that no one realizes they’ve agreed to sign up for those marketing emails.
  • Through a chatbot. The bot asks the user for the email address to resume contact later. But then the user’s email address is added to the marketing emails list, even though they did not expressly ask to be added to the marketing list.  
  • Through an order form. The customer places an order and is required to include their email address. This email address is then automatically added to the company’s marketing list (but without the customer’s express permission). 

Double opt-in

Double opt-in requires customers to confirm their email addresses twice. It’s not enough for users to leave an email on the website. They have to find the confirmation email you’ve sent and click on the link in it to confirm the subscription.

The pro and cons of double and single opt-in

Single Opt-inDouble Opt-in
Convenience for the subscriberThe user doesn’t need to look for the confirmation email in their mailbox to subscribe.Some people dislike the extra step confirmed opt-in requires. They already took their time to write the address and now they have to confirm it. 
Email list growthThe mailing list grows faster because anyone who submits their email address is automatically subscribedAll of your contacts are included in the email database, but you can only mail to the subscribers that have confirmed their addresses. Double opt-in can slow list growth down a bit, but not much.
Email list engagementQuantity doesn’t always mean quality. Single opt-in lists tend to have lower open and click-through rates. So even if a single opt-in list is slightly larger than it might have been with double opt-in, the double opt-in list will get more clicks and opens.Double opt-in lists get more engagement – more opens, clicks, and sales.
Don’t focus solely on the size of your list: what really matters is how engaged your subscribers are. Smaller lists can often drive better results than larger, disengaged lists.
Getting into spamInactive or mistyped addresses or spam traps can be added to the email list, which harms the sender’s reputation.Only confirmed addresses end up in the email base. This means your list is “cleaner.” As a result, your email deliverability rates will be higher.
Email service providersEmail services might get suspicious about your list building practicesEven if they suspect you of sending spam, double (aka “confirmed”) opt-in will be one of the strongest arguments that you do everything by the rules and collect email addresses legally.

When should a business to switch from single opt-in?

Some companies don’t understand when to change from single opt-in to double opt-in. You should switch to double opt-in:

  1. When you’re ready to prioritize list engagement over list size. Email lists may grow slightly slower with confirmed opt-in, but engagement rates will almost always be better.
  2. When your email marketing reports show a trend of low open rates. Low open rates can affect deliverability, which means fewer people will begin to see your emails. Switching to double opt-in is a proven way to turn this around.  
  3. If you’re getting too many spam complaints. This is another red flag of a disengaged list and a sign that you need to start doing things differently. Start by switching to double opt-in.

Five benefits of double opt-in

The practice of double opt-in is a proven email marketing best practice. Some of its advantages are:

  • Save time
    As AWeber’s Customer Evangelist Emily McGuire explains, “A double opt-in will save you so much time later on. One of the main ways that email metrics tank is through lack of engagement. Eventually, unengaged contacts have to be cleaned out of your list to preserve your sender reputation and overall engagement. When subscribers double opt-in, they are engaged from the beginning which reduces your list cleaning efforts later.”
  • Engaged subscribers
    Only a subscriber interested in receiving emails from you will take the extra step to confirm their email address. So a two-step confirmation is the first step to a quality mailing list.
  • Valid email addresses
    You may not be aware of how many invalid email addresses you have on your mailing list. These can be old addresses, misspelled addresses, spam traps, or deliberately invalid addresses. You can enlist the help of address validation services, but it’s more efficient and cheaper to prevent the problem in the first place. By using a double opt-in, your database will consist only of valid email addresses.
  • Higher sender reputation
    Invalid addresses and disinterested contacts on the mailing list can negatively affect the sender’s reputation. As a result, invalid addresses will prevent your new IP address from warming up. Therefore, use a two-step confirmation to increase the reputation of the sender.
  • Fewer spam complaints
    People hate spam and everything that goes with it. If a person clicks the “subscribe” button twice, they are more likely to remember they’ve subscribed to your list. And if they remember subscribing to your list, they are more likely to recognize and engage with your emails later on. As a result, a two-step confirmation process reduces spam complaints significantly. 

How to set up a double opt-in system

If you want to build a high-quality, engaged list of subscribers, then set up double opt-in. That way, you only keep people interested in your emails, reducing the risk to your reputation.

  1. Create a sign up form

This is the first step in communicating with the customer. The potential subscriber fills out the sign up form and clicks the “Subscribe” button. 

Here’s an example of a sign up form from AWeber customer The Buffalo Zoo.

This is the first step of a double opt-in process: the sign up box.
  1. Remind the new subscriber to confirm their email address

There are two ways to do this:

  • Send the customer to a thank you page that says something like “Thank you for registering, an email with instructions was sent to your email address” 
  • Set the form to show a message to confirm their address

    This is the message someone sees after they’ve submitted their email address to the Buffalo Zoo’s sign up form:
Double opt-in requires that people confirm their email addresses. This page is shown after they first submit their email address. It urges them to go check their inbox to click the confirmation email.
  1. Set up a confirmation email

The email should contain a button or link for subscribers to confirm their email address. Keep your confirmation email simple. Remember the goal is to get your new subscriber to confirm their email address.

The Buffalo Zoo uses AWeber’s default confirmation email.

This is the confirmation email people see. They aren't on the email list until they click on the link in this email.

  1. Create a thank you page

A thank you page is where your subscribers will go after completing the sign up form. Your thank you page can be used to set the subscriber expectation for how often and what you’ll be sending in your emails. It should also be used to encourage them to confirm their email address.

Here’s the thank you page from the Buffalo Zoo:

example of a confirmed opt-in email sequence
  1. Send a second confirmation email (optional).

You can also send a final “you are now officially subscribed” email. This is what the zoo does. Here’s what their final confirmation email looks like:

Confirmation email example from ZooNews

Best practices for double opt-in

There are some mistakes that email marketers often make when setting up double opt-in for the first time.

  • Explain to the subscriber why double opt-in is necessary

Give a brief explanation of why double opt-in is necessary. A short sentence such as “We want to protect your data from theft by third parties” is enough.

  • Remind them that the confirmation email might go to their spam folder

Even if you follow all the best practices for email marketing, there is still a chance some of your confirmation emails can end up in the spam folder. So remind people to check their spam folders if they don’t see your confirmation email within 5-10 minutes of subscribing. 

Your email marketing service will provide you with a default confirmation email. That’s an okay start, but try to do better and customize your confirmation email. You don’t have to redesign the whole email, but at least try to add your company’s logo, change the colors to reflect your brand, and edit the words in the confirmation email so your subscribers feel like you’re welcoming them yourself.

  • If you’re collecting first names in your sign up form, use them in your confirmation email.

Start addressing the user by name from the first email you send them. Especially at this crucial first step when they confirm their email address.

Summary and conclusion

Double opt-in is a subscription in two steps: a person leaves their email in the sign up form on the website and then secures consent using a link from the confirmation email. This two-step confirmation process reduces the number of spam complaints and sending errors, as users confirm their interest in the mailing.

Again, to set up confirmed opt-in you need:

  1. A sign up box
  2. A prompt to remind the subscriber to check their inbox
  3. A friendly confirmation email
  4. A thank you page after they’ve confirmed their email

Double opt-in also helps avoid penalties for processing personal data without a person’s consent. If you follow the best practices we’ve outlined here, you can have all the benefits of a high-quality list and not slow your list growth down. Some email senders get 96% of their new subscribers to confirm – even with confirmed opt-in!

What are you using for your email lists – double opt-in or single opt-in? Have you ever considered switching from one to another? Leave a comment below and tell us what you think.

The post Best Practices for Double Opt-in appeared first on AWeber.

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Google’s My Ad Center lets users control their ad experience, follow brands

A sleek new My Ad Center experience was announced today at Google’s annual I/O event. It provides users with a handful of options to control the messages being served across selected Google properties.

Google users will be able to dictate:

  • Which brands and topics they like.
  • The amount of personalization they are comfortable with for their ad customization.

These personalization options can be accessed from within the new My Ad Center experience or directly within the ad itself.

Privacy has been the core issue over the last few years. While Google has focused on offering a variety of solutions, many times they’ve been somewhat hard to navigate to for the unskilled user.

If adopted by consumers, the My Ad Center solution should help to feed Google’s ad serving intelligence while making the user experience better on Google Properties including YouTube, Discover and Search. With third-party data going away, the ability to follow brands will provide critical feedback directly to Google.

Here’s everything we know about My Ads Center from Google I/O:

Follow brands and topics. All Google users will now have the ability to choose the brands and topics most germane to them that they want to see. This is much different than the Topics targeting within the Privacy Sandbox now being tested, as the inputs are dictated directly by the user. 

An example provided by Google was that a user interested in a hybrid car may choose this as a topic that they’d be interested in and would be served ads related to that particular topic. This can also work with specific brands that users enjoy 

The key difference is that the user would be directly providing Google with the inputs to help drive targeted ads.

Personalization and data source controls. The My Ad Center location will be the go-to source for users looking to limit any/all personalization including age, relationship status, education and demographic data. Users can also limit or opt-out of sensitive ad topics (e.g., gambling, alcohol, dating, weight loss, and pregnancy & parenting) within My Ad Center.

The last personalizable element found in My Ad Center is control over the data sources used. Google users will be able to choose which data sources can be used to personalize ads and which sources should be used across some Google properties (e.g., personalized search, YouTube recommendations). Those inputs come in the form of wanting more or less ads from a topic or brand.

Expanded controls within ads. While My Ad Center is nice, let’s be honest, sometimes people just want to make changes immediately when they are served an ad. Those folks are in luck with expanded controls within ads.

Google users will have the ability to make changes or get targeting clarity directly within the ad itself. The new expanded controls will allow users to like, block or report an ad while also being able to tune the targeting if you’d like to see more or less of the brand or topic shown.

However, the biggest change for advertisers may be the transparency features included directly within the ad controls. The “About this Ad” is being replaced with the new transparency features that should make it more clear as to why users are seeing the ad.

The expanded controls will include transparency features that show who paid for the ad (using Advertiser Identity Verification) and the account categories used to show the specific ad.

In the past users could see “Why this ad” information that would display matching criteria. But the ability to see who paid for the ad is new and important.

Not for the Google Display Network, Gmail or Search Partners (yet). When My Ad Center launches the only supported products will be Google search, YouTube and Google Discover. Upon launch, there will be a second ad settings page separate from the My Ads Center for sites that partner with Off-Google ads (ie the Google Display Network).

The topics or brand updates inputted into the My Ads Center won’t initially be passed to this new second ad settings page. That said, if ad personalization is shut off entirely within My Ads Center that will shut off all personalization across all Google-owned and non-Google-owned properties.

Why we care: My Ad Center looks to be Google’s best effort yet on privacy control. Not only will users be able to see why items are serving from the center, but also from within ads themselves. Most importantly, users will get clarity into who is paying for the ad being served. If you are an advertiser currently trying to hide your information and fly under the radar, look elsewhere as your days are numbered on Google properties.

The addition of brands and topics to follow is a unique feature that could be a future benefit to advertisers. Instead of solely leveraging elements from the Privacy Sandbox like Topics, down the road this may provide Google with first-party user-inputted signals for targeting. However, the success of this option will be tied to adoption. If Google users don’t take the time to provide feedback in My Ads Center, then the value to users (and advertisers) won’t exist.

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Google reveals new image ranking signal, inclusive schema

Google said it will soon incorporate a new signal into image ranking. Google is also introducing a new type of schema in an attempt to help make its image search results more racially diverse and inclusive. 

Google will use MST Scale to rank images. Google said it will be adjusting how it ranks images, using what is called the Monk Skin Tone (MST) Scale. It is a 10-shade scale. It looks like this:

The Monk Skin Tone Scale includes 10 shades.

The MST scale was created with the help of Dr. Ellis Monk, a Harvard professor and sociologist. Google said the MST Scale is being incorporated into Images search, as well as other image products (e.g., Google Photos). And Google plans to expand it more broadly in the coming months.

Inclusive schema. Google said that creators, brands and publishers can use a new type of schema – inclusive schema – to label their content with attributes like skin tone, hair color and hair texture. Using this schema will help Google better understand what appears within the images. 

Content labels coming soon. Google also noted that it wants to create a more representative search experience. As part of that, Google plans to develop a “standardized way to label web content.”

A continuation of image search changes. Google’s push toward image equity began In October 2021, Google told Bloomberg it had updated its algorithms to show more skin tones for a variety of images, ranging from [beautiful skin] to [professional hairstyles] to [happy family]. 

  • “We’ve started to roll out an improvement to Google Images to promote greater skin-tone diversity so more people can find relevant and helpful results,” a Google spokeswoman told Bloomberg. “We’re in the early phases of this effort and are continuing to experiment to provide greater diversity in results.”

Now this effort is being pushed out more widely.

Why we care. Google is pushing to be more inclusive of skin tones in Images and adjusting its ranking algorithm to do so. So if you’re publishing diverse imagery, using this schema will help Google better understand the details within your image content, giving you a higher chance of being found in Google Images.

You can read the full announcement about how Google plans to improve skin tone representation here.

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