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Location Data + Reviews: The 1–2 Punch of Local SEO (Updated for 2020)

Posted by MiriamEllis

Get found. Get chosen.

It’s the local SEO two-step at the heart of every campaign. It’s the 1-2 punch combo that hinges on a balance of visible, accurate contact data, and a volunteer salesforce of consumer reviewers who are supporting your rise to local prominence.

But here’s the thing: while managed location data and reviews may be of equal and complementary power, they shouldn’t require an equal share of your time.

Automation of basic business data distribution is the key to freeing you up to focus on the elements of listings that require human ingenuity — namely, reviews and other listings-based content like posts and Q&A.

It’s my hope that sharing this article with your team or your boss will help you get the financial allocations you need for automated listings management, plus generous resources for creative reputation management.

Location data + reviews = the big picture

When Google lists a business, it gives good space to the business name, and a varying degree of space to the address and phone number. But look at the real estate occupied by the various aspects associated with reputation:

If Google cares this much about ratings, review text, responses, and emerging elements like place topics and attributes, any local brand you’re marketing should see these factors as a priority. In this article, I’ll strive to codify your actionable perspective on managing both location data and the many aspects of reviews.

Ratings: The most powerful local filter of them all

In the local SEO industry, we talk a lot about Google’s filters, like the Possum filter that’s supposed to strain local businesses through a sort of sieve so that a greater diversity of mapped results is shown to the searcher. But searchers have an even more powerful filter than this — the human-driven filter of ratings that helps people intuitively sort local brands by perceived quality.

Whether they’re stars or circles, the majority of rating icons send a 1–5 point signal to consumers that can be instantly understood. This symbol system has been around since at least the 1820s; it’s deeply ingrained in all our brains as a judgement of value.

This useful, rapid form of shorthand lets a searcher needing to do something like grab a quick taco see that the food truck with five Yelp stars is likely a better bet than the one with only two. Meanwhile, searchers with more complex needs can comb through the ratings of many listings at leisure, carefully weighing one option against another for major purchases. In Google’s local results, ratings are the most powerful human-created filter that influences the major goal of being chosen.

But before a local brand can be chosen on the basis of its high ratings, it has to rank well enough to be found. The good news is that, over the past three years, expert local SEOs have become increasingly convinced of the impact of Google ratings on Google local pack rankings. In 2017, when I wrote the original version of this post, contributors to the Local Search Ranking Factors survey placed Google star ratings down at #24 in terms of local rankings influence. In 2020, this metric has jumped up to spot #8 — a leap of 16 spots in just three years.

In the interim, Google has been experimenting with different ratings-related displays. In 2017, they were testing the application of a “highly rated” snippet on hotel rankings in the local packs. Today, their complex hotel results let the user opt to see only 4+ star results. Meanwhile, local SEOs have noticed patterns over the years like searches with the format of “best X in city” (e.g. best burrito in Dallas) appearing to default to local results made up of businesses that have earned a minimum average of four stars. Doubtless, observations like these have strengthened experts’ convictions that Google cares a lot about ratings and allows them to influence rank.

Heading into 2021, any local brand with goals of being found and chosen must view low ratings as an impediment to reaching full growth potential.

Consumer sentiment: The local business story your customers are writing for you

Here’s a randomly chosen Google 3-pack result when searching just for “tacos” in a small city in the San Francisco Bay Area:

taco3pack.jpg

We’ve just covered the topic of ratings, and you can look at a result like this to get that instant gut feeling about the 4-star-rated eateries vs. the 2-star place. Now, let’s open the book on business #3 and see precisely what kind of brand story its consumers are writing, as you would in conducting a professional review audit for a local business, excerpting dominant sentiment:

tacoaudit.jpg

It’s easy to ding fast food chains. Their business model isn’t commonly associated with fine dining or the kind of high wages that tend to promote employee excellence. In some ways, I think of them as extreme examples. Yet, they serve as good teaching models for how even the most modest-quality offerings create certain expectations in the minds of consumers, and when those basic expectations aren’t met, it’s enough of a story for consumers to share in the form of reviews.

This particular restaurant location has an obvious problem with slow service, orders being filled incorrectly, and employees who have been denied the training they need to represent the brand in a knowledgeable, friendly, or accessible manner. If you audited a different business, its pain points might surround outdated fixtures or low standards of cleanliness.

Whatever the case, when the incoming consumer turns to the review world, their eyes scan the story as it scrolls down their screen. Repeat mentions of a particular negative issue can create enough of a theme to turn the potential customer away. One survey says only up to 11% of consumers will do business with a brand that’s wound up with a 2-star rating based on poor reviews. Who can afford to let the other 91% of consumers go elsewhere?

The central goal of being chosen hinges on recognizing that your reviewer base is a massive, unpaid salesforce that tells your brand story. Survey after survey consistently finds that people trust reviews — in fact, they may trust them more than any claim your brand can make about itself.

Going into 2021, the writing is on the wall that Google cares a great deal about themes surfacing in your reviews. The ongoing development and display of place topics and attributes signifies Google’s increasing interest in parsing sentiment, and doubtless, using such data to determine relevance.

Fully embracing review management and the total local customer service ecosystem is key to giving customers a positive tale to tell, enabling the business you’re marketing to be trusted and chosen for the maximum number of transactions.

Velocity/recency/count: Just enough of a timely good thing to be competitive

This is one of the easiest aspects of review management to convey. You can sum it up in one sentence: don’t get too many reviews at once on any given platform but do get enough reviews on an ongoing basis to avoid looking like you’ve gone out of business.

For a little more background on the first part of that statement, watch Mary Bowling describing in this LocalU video how she audited a law firm that went from zero to thirty 5-star reviews within a single month. Sudden gluts of reviews like this not only look odd to alert customers, but they can trip review platform filters, resulting in removal. Remember, reviews are a business lifetime effort, not a race. Get a few this month, a few next month, and a few the month after that. Keep going.

The second half of the review timing paradigm relates to not running out of steam in your acquisition campaigns. Multiple surveys indicate that the largest percentage of review readers consider content from the past month to be most relevant. Despite this, Google’s index is filled with local brands that haven’t been reviewed in over a year, leaving searchers to wonder if a place is still in business, or if it’s so unimpressive that no one is bothering to review it.

While I’d argue that review recency may be more important in review-oriented industries (like restaurants) vs. those that aren’t quite as actively reviewed (like septic system servicing), the idea here is similar to that of velocity, in that you want to keep things going. Don’t run a big review acquisition campaign in January and then forget about outreach for the rest of the year. A moderate, steady pace of acquisition is ideal.

And finally, a local SEO FAQ comes from business owners who want to know how many reviews they need to earn. There’s no magic number, but the rule of thumb is that you need to earn more reviews than the top competitor you are trying to outrank for each of your search terms. This varies from keyword phrase, to keyword phrase, from city to city, from vertical to vertical. The best approach is steady growth of reviews to surpass whatever number the top competitor has earned.

Authenticity: Honesty is the only honest policy

For me, this is one of the most prickly and interesting aspects of the review world. Three opposing forces meet on this playing field: business ethics, business education, and the temptations engendered by the obvious limitations of review platforms to police themselves.

I often recall a basic review audit I did for a family-owned restaurant belonging to a friend of a friend. Within minutes, I realized that the family had been reviewing their own restaurant on Yelp (a glaring violation of Yelp’s policy). I felt sorry to see this, but being acquainted with the people involved (and knowing them to be quite nice!), I highly doubted they had done this out of some dark impulse to deceive the public.

Rather, my guess was that they may have thought they were “getting the ball rolling” for their new business, hoping to inspire real reviews. My gut feeling was that they simply lacked the necessary education to understand that they were being dishonest with their community and how this could lead to them being publicly shamed by Yelp, or even subjected to a lawsuit, if caught.

In such a scenario, there’s definitely an opportunity for the marketer to offer the necessary education to describe the risks involved in tying a brand to misleading practices, highlighting how vital it is to build trust within the local community. Fake positive reviews aren’t building anything real on which a company can stake its future. Ethical business owners will catch on when you explain this in honest terms and can then begin marketing themselves in smarter ways.

But then there’s the other side. Mike Blumenthal’s reporting on this has set a high bar in the industry, with coverage of developments like the largest review spam network he’d ever encountered. There’s simply no way to confuse organized, global review spam with a busy small business making a wrong, novice move. Real temptation resides in this scenario, because, as Blumenthal states:

“Review spam at this scale, unencumbered by any Google enforcement, calls into question every review that Google has. Fake business listings are bad, but businesses with 20, or 50, or 150 fake reviews are worse. They deceive the searcher and the buying public and they stain every real review, every honest business, and Google.”

When a platform like Google makes it easy to “get away with” deception, companies lacking ethics will take advantage of the opportunity. Beyond reporting review spam, one of the best things we can do as marketers is to offer ethical clients the education that helps them make honest choices. We can simply pose the question:

Is it better to fake your business’ success or to actually achieve success?

Local brands that choose to take the high road must avoid:

  • Any form of review incentives or spam
  • Review gating that filters consumers so that only happy ones leave reviews
  • Violations of the review guidelines specific to each review platform

Owner responses: creatively turning reviews into two-way conversations

Over the years, I’ve devoted abundant space in my column here at Moz to the fascinating topic of owner responses. I’ve highlighted the five types of Google My Business reviews and how to respond to them, I’ve diagrammed a real-world example of how a terrible owner response can make a bad situation even worse, and I’ve studied basic reputation management for better customer service and how to get unhappy customers to edit their negative reviews.

My key learnings from nearly two decades of examining reviews and responses are these:

  • Review responses are a critical form of customer service that can’t be ignored any more than business staff should ignore in-person customers asking for face-to-face help. Many reviewers expect responses.
  • The number of local business listings in every industry with zero owner responses on them is totally shocking.
  • Negative reviews, when fairly given, are a priceless form of free quality control for the brand. Customers directly tell the brand which problems need to be fixed to make them happy.
  • Many reviewers think of their reviews as living documents, and update them to reflect subsequent experiences.
  • Many reviewers are more than happy to give brands a second chance when a problem is resolved.
  • Positive reviews are conversations starters warmly inviting a response that further engages the customer and can convince them that the brand deserves repeat business.

Local brands and agencies can use software to automate updating a phone number or hours of operation. Software like Moz Local can be of real help in alerting you to new, incoming reviews across multiple platforms, or surfacing the top sentiment themes within your review corpus.

Tools free up resources to manage what can’t be automated: human creativity. It takes serious creative resources to spend time with review sentiment and respond to customers in a way that makes a brand stand out as responsive and worthy. It takes time to fully utilize the opportunities owner responses represent to impact goals all the way from the top to the bottom of the sales funnel.

I’ve never forgotten a piece Florian Huebner wrote for StreetFight documenting the neglected reviews of a major fast food chain and its subsequent increase in location closures and decrease in profits. No one was taking the time to sit down with the reviews, listen, fix problems customers were citing, or offer proofs of caring resolution via owner responses.

And all too often, when brands large and small do respond to reviews, they take a corporate-speak stance equivalent to “whistling past the graveyard” when addressing complaints. To keep the customer and to signal to the public that the brand deserves to be chosen, creative resources must be allocated to providing gutsy, honest owner responses. It’s easy to spot the difference:

whistlinggutsy.jpg

The response in yellow signals that the brand simply isn’t invested in customer retention. By contrast, the response in blue is a sample of what it takes to have a real conversation with a real person on the other side of the review text, in hopes of transforming one bad initial experience into a second chance, and hopefully, a lifetime of loyalty.

NAP and reviews: The 1–2 punch combo every local business must practice

Right now, there’s an employee at a local business or a staffer at an agency who is looking at the review corpus of a brand that’s struggling for rankings and profits. The set of reviews contains mixed sentiment, and no one is responding to either positive or negative customer experiences.

Maybe this is an issue that’s been brought up from time to time in company meetings, but it’s never made it to priority status. Decision-makers have felt that time and budget are better spent elsewhere.

Meanwhile, customers are quietly trickling away for lack of attention, leads are being missed, structural issues are being ignored…

If the employee or staffer I’m describing is you, my best advice is to make 2021 the year you make your strongest case for automating listing distribution and management with software so that creative resources can be dedicated to full reputation management.

Local SEO experts, your customers and clients, and Google, itself, are all indicating that location data + reviews are highly impactful and here to stay. In fact, history proves that this combination is deeply embedded in our entire approach to local commerce.

When traveling salesman Duncan Hines first published his 1935 review guide Adventures in Good Eating, he was developing what we think of today as local SEO. Here is my color-coded version of his review of the business that would one day become KFC. It should look strangely familiar to anyone who has ever tackled local business listings management:

duncanhines.jpg

No phone number on this “citation,” of course, but telephones were quite a luxury in 1935. Barring that element, this simple and historic review has the core earmarks of a modern local business listing. It has location data and review data; it’s the 1–2 punch combo every local business still needs to get right today. Without the NAP, the business can’t be found. Without the sentiment, the business gives little reason to be chosen.

From Duncan Hines to the digital age, there may be nothing new under the sun in marketing, but striking the right pose between listings and reputation management may be new news to your CEO, your teammates, or clients. So go for it — communicate this stuff, and good luck at your next big meeting!

Check out the new Moz Local plans that let you take care of location data distribution in seconds so that the balance of your focus can be on creatively caring for the customer.

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15 Amazing Blogging Insights Your Analytics Can Tell You

A blog is a critical component of your inbound marketing strategy — it’s the vehicle for driving traffic, generating leads, and establishing authority and trust… All in the early or middle stages of the buyer’s journey.

But how do you know if it’s working?

With all that content, traffic, and leads you’re generating, are you aware that you’re sitting on a gold mine of valuable data? Enter… Blog analytics.

In this post, we’ll cover:

By measuring performance based on data, you can identify what’s working, what’s not working, and why. 

Why Blog Analytics Matters

Let’s say a key stakeholder in your company comes to you with this question: “How is the blog contributing to our goals?” They want to craft the marketing budget and put their dollars toward the activities that make the most difference to the bottom line.

Responding to their question with “Trust me” will not sway that individual to continue celebrating and investing in content marketing. By gathering and analyzing blog data, you can get a pulse on your blog’s:

All of this data is leverage as you prove the ROI of the blog and improve the performance of your blog content. You just have to know how to use it!

Let’s dive deeper on this…

Blog Analytics Metrics and Insights

Let’s break down the individual blog metrics you should be tracking so you can start making incremental improvements and generate even more traffic and leads… based on data that’s right under your nose.

1. Organic Search Impressions

An “impression” is the number of times your post or page has been seen in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). The higher your blog posts rank in the SERPs, the more visibility (and, as a result, traffic) your blog can earn through organic search. 

If you have a low number of impressions, your search presence may not be strong enough to get the organic traffic numbers you’re after, and it’s your job to then implement SEO best practices and create content around queries that people are searching for. 

2. Organic Clicks

It’s not enough to simply be present on the SERPs, which is what impression data measures. Your content must be compelling enough to compel the searcher to click. The more organic clicks your content earns, the more traffic your blog receives. 

If you’re finding that your clicks are low, first check your impressions. If impressions are low too, you must work on increasing your impressions.

On the other hand, your impressions could be lower if your content is targeting a low-volume query (i.e. you can’t change search behavior and make people search for something more).

However, if you’re finding that your SERP positions and impressions are high and your clicks are low, you may have to work on your title (blog headline) and meta-description to gain attention and earn more clicks. 

3. Organic Click-Through Rate

Comparing organic impressions to clicks can be hard, but that’s where organic click-through rate comes in. This metric is the percentage of impressions that resulted in a click. 

The higher the percentage, the more bang you get for your impressions buck. You can even have posts that get little traffic (because of low keyword volume) that rank highly, get a lot of impressions, and earn a high share of clicks from those impressions. 

At the same time, you could rank lower for a high volume query yet still drive a lot of traffic with a low click-through rate. 

4. Total Views and Visits

A visit measures the number of times your website was seen by a user. Page views refer to the number of times a page was seen by a user. It’s important to keep in mind that there can be multiple page views for every visit since users can browse multiple pages in a single session. 

These overall metrics can tell you: 

  • Whether blog traffic is trending up or down
  • Average number of page views per visit (i.e. whether a user is engaging with multiple pieces of your content when they do visit)
  • Average views per post (how far your content goes on average) 

(And more…)

5. Individual Post Performance

The number of views for individual blog posts can give you more granular data about how your audience responds to the different topics you’re blogging about.

Do you notice that posts about certain topics aren’t doing as well as others? This is likely an indication that those topics aren’t as important to your audience. If this is the case, you might want to publish fewer posts on those topics and more on topics that truly resonate with your target audience.

Blog post views can also help you identify other patterns and cues in your blog content. Does a certain title structure work better than others? Do posts that are more pontificating generate a better reaction than how-to type posts? Use all of these insights to inform your future posts to increase the value of your blog and generate better results.

6. Traffic Referral Source

Your blog’s referral sources will tell you where (which sites) users are coming from and give you a sense of how people are finding your blog. Use this information to identify deficiencies in your blog’s visibility and to help diagnose why you may have low traffic to your blog.

Is the bulk of your traffic coming from social media sites per your heavy social media promotion but few visitors are coming in from organic search — or vice versa?

a chart in excel showing referral sources

Make sure you’re optimizing your blog content with the keywords your target audience is searching for so it gets found in search engines, and allocate some resources to promoting your blog on the sites your audience tends to populate.

Continue to track your referral sources as you ramp up promotion in certain channels so you can determine the ROI of leveraging one channel over another. A lot of focus on social media promo that yields few visitors might not be the best use of your time when another channel is a better driver of blog traffic, for example.

7.  Number of Inbound Links

Inbound links” refer to the links that your blog earns from other sites. Inbound links, or links from other websites and blogs pointing to your blog content, can indicate how authoritative your blog is.

Think of inbound links as votes of confidence. If someone thought your blog content was worth linking to within their own content, it’s a good indicator that content is an authoritative resource on the subject.

Inbound links can also show you how effectively your blog is contributing to your website’s overall SEO, since inbound links are one of the most powerful factors impacting search engine optimization. They can even help you generate blog traffic from the referring website and expose you to brand new audiences.

Individual inbound links will also help you identify some of your blog’s top content that you might consider using as fodder in social media updates, new blog posts, or ebooks.

8. Time on Page

“Time on page” measures how long a user stayed to engage with the content once arriving on the page. It can* be a good indicator of how engaging the content is to your blog visitors. The idea is that the longer they stay, the more time they took to read the information rather than skim and bounce away (more on that later). 

*However, take this metric with a grain of salt. Shorter posts take less time to read and, as a result, have shorter time on page averages. Also, if you take time in making your posts easy for the user to navigate and find what they’re looking for, you may get shorter times for this reason (and that’s okay!).

9. Bounce Rate

Bounce rate will tell you how frequently visitors leave your blog without visiting other pages on your blog. While this is a great indicator of the quality of your content and the stickiness of your blog overall, don’t be fooled by some implications of bounce rate. While you’d probably want visitors to stick around and read other articles on your blog, you probably wouldn’t consider it a bad thing if a visitor clicked on a CTA at the end of your post and headed over to one of your landing pages to fill out a lead-capture form, right?

That being said, if people are quickly leaving your blog for a completely different website, you’ll want to take some measures to increase the quality of your content.

To help decrease bounce rate, consider adding a sidebar widget to your blog that features your blog’s best-performing posts and switching up the homepage of your blog to show a preview of your 5 most recent posts rather than a full view of your most recent post. This will give visitors the ability to choose to read more posts that cater to their individual needs, enticing them to stick around.

10. Social Shares and Comments

social share buttons

Comments and social shares are good supplementary metrics to indicate the likeability of your content and the sentiment of your audience’s perception of it. In addition, comments and social shares can be a great way to identify strengths and weaknesses in your content and help you generate ideas for new content.

If you’re noticing few social shares of your content, make sure you have social sharing buttons installed on every blog article you publish. Be sure that you’re also spending time promoting on social media.

11. Subscriber Count

Your blog’s RSS subscriber and email subscriber count can indicate how much your blog’s stable community of readers is growing over time.

Visitors who subscribe will likely make up your blog’s solid readership, and it usually indicates your content’s true fan base. These readers are most likely to share your content with their own networks, expanding your blog’s reach, so you’ll want to do some work to build up your subscriber count and track its growth over time.

Make sure you display email and RSS subscribe buttons prominently near the top of your blog’s sidebar to encourage new visitors to subscribe to your content.

blog subscribers resized 600

12. CTA Click-Through Rate

A view on your blog post or a social share is not the end-all be-all. You actually want your blog to make a meaningful impact on revenue… and traffic is only part of that equation.

With that in mind, if no one is clicking through from your blog to your landing pages, you’ll never generate any leads. That’s where CTA click-through rate comes in.

CTA click-through rate measures the percentage of visitors who clicked on your blog’s CTA. 

The higher the CTR, the more effective your CTA is for the traffic your blog is currently generating.

But a low CTR could mean a few things:

  • The offer in your call-to-action isn’t compelling or relevant enough (blog readers are there for a reason, and the offer doesn’t meet their needs or excite them)
  • The CTA has not been placed in a prominent enough location for visibility
  • The CTA design just isn’t attractive or prominent enough to warrant a click (whether it be because of the aesthetic design, or ineffective button copy)

To improve your blog’s click-through rate, make sure the offer you’re presenting aligns with the content of your posts as closely as possible, uses compelling button copy that clearly demonstrates the value of the offer, creates a sense of urgency, and that the button utilizes an attention-grabbing design. Conducting some A/B tests is a great way to optimize for the best calls-to-action for your blog to improve click-through rate.

cta click through rate measurement in excel

13. Number of Leads

Obviously, the number of leads generated will tell you how effectively your blog is supporting lead generation. Is it trending up or down? Are they the right kind of leads?

To make sure you have your bases covered here, tell your readers what action you want them to take. Make sure that:

  • Every post you publish includes a call-to-action for a relevant offer
  • The homepage of your blog itself features your best-performing CTAs in its sidebar/top bar
  • You include anchor text links to landing pages within the text of your blog posts

Knowing the number of leads attributed to your blog can also help you diagnose other deficiencies in your blog’s performance.

14. Goal Conversion Rate

The goal conversion rate measures whether your blog readers completed the action you wanted them to (the goal) to convert from a visit to a lead. As opposed to the number of leads metric which tells you how much you’re generating leads for your business, conversion rate tells you how effectively you’re doing it.

Keep in mind that conversion rate is highly dependent on your existing traffic. So if you have low traffic but an amazing conversion rate, you might generate leads at the same rate as you would with high traffic but a low conversion rate. Coupled with the knowledge of your blog’s CTA click-through rate, you can gather some pretty awesome insights.

For example, if you have a high click-through rate but a low conversion rate, this means that while you’re getting visitors to click on your CTAs, they’re abandoning your landing pages before completing the form to convert into a lead. If this is the case, you likely have a conversion problem that can be due to a number of things: the messaging in your CTAs don’t align with the messaging on their landing pages or you could have a number of very landing page-specific problems. Start first with testing better alignment between your CTAs and their landing pages, and if that doesn’t do the trick, dive into landing page optimization testing.

15. Lead-to-Customer Conversion Rate

Your blog’s lead-to-customer conversion rate will tell you how effectively the leads you generated from your blog turned into customers. This insight becomes valuable when you’re examining and comparing the effectiveness of your multiple marketing channels against each other. If your blog is one of your top customer-producing channels, it might make sense to allocate more time and human resources to it. If it’s not, the opposite might be a better approach.

Now, all of the above are fantastic metrics to measure the performance of your blog. But how do you get the data? Below are blog analytics tools that can help you gather and analyze blog data. 

1. Google Search Console

google search console blog analytics chart

Google Search Console is a free tool that helps website owners measure and analyze their presence on Google. Based on the data that is provided by Google themselves, you’ll be able to track: 

  • Organic impressions from Google
  • Number of clicks from Google
  • Click-through rate
  • Positioning (the ranking position on Google SERPs)

Google Search Console also provides the ability to segment based on individual pages, individual queries, countries, and devices. You’re also able to compare date ranges to show change over time.

The only thing you need to do to get access to this data is enable it is sign up and verify ownership of your site

2. SEMrush

rankings overview chart in semrush

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SEMrush is a third-party tool for measuring search presence and rankings. You can use it to track positioning changes over time, monitor your inbound link profile, and optimize content for SEO. 

What makes it different is that SEMrush goes beyond providing the data and into helping you uncover actionable insights. You’ll be able to do keyword research and uncover strategies to help your blog perform better, and you can also do competitive analysis to understand what your competitors’ search presence is like.

3. Arel=”noopener” target=”_blank” hrefs

backlink profile for blog analytics in arel=

Arel=”noopener” target=”_blank” hrefs is a similar tool to SEMrush for tracking search performance and performing keyword research and competitive analysis. With this all-in-one SEO tool, you’ll have access to keyword data, site auditing, and rank tracking. What makes Arel=”noopener” target=”_blank” hrefs special is its SERP feature tracking, helping you understand exactly what your users are seeing when they perform a particular query.

4. Google Analytics

google analytics chart for blog performance

Whereas Google Search Console helps you understand and measure your positioning and performance on the SERPs, before users get to your site, Google Analytics helps you understand what happens after they get to your site.

It’s a free tool. In order to implement Google Analytics, you must set up an account and implement the Tracking ID with a JavaScript tag. Once this tag is in your site’s code and functioning properly, it can then gather data about your site’s users from that point forward (i.e. no back data is available previous to the script being installed).

Google Analytics can help you understand: 

  • Audience – Who came to your site? Where are they located? What are their demographics? What device did they use?
  • Acquisition – Where did they come from? What referring sites sent them?
  • Behavior – Where did they land (which page or post)? What did they do once they got here? How long did they stay? How did they navigate the site? What page did they exit from?
  • Conversions – Did they do what you wanted them to? 

There are many metrics to look at within these larger buckets, and Google Analytics also provides ways to filter, segment, and compare various metrics. This can help you determine if you’re getting the right traffic, if that traffic is trending up or down, and if they’re navigating and converting how you want them to.

5. HubSpot

hubspot blog analytics graph showing event completions (conversions)

HubSpot is a CRM platform that also has marketing, CMS, sales, and service tools to help your business grow better. The advantage of using HubSpot for blogging is that you can monitor the performance of your posts and tie that data into CRM records, helping your team see all of their marketing interactions. This helps you be able to track the complete customer lifecycle from initial blog view to becoming a customer and beyond.

6. StoryChief

story chief blog analytics for social media engagement

Image Source

StoryChief is a tool for centralized content management ranging from publishing to blog analytics and content insights. Its analytics, reporting, and data management features help you analyze your data, track trends on top-performing content, and guide you to insights for creating buzz-worthy content. The edge it has over something like Google Analytics is its intuitive interface. (Fun fact: It also integrates with HubSpot.)

7. Tableau

Tableau is a data management software that can help you create data visualizations that can lead you to valuable insights. It works by integrating multiple sources of data and allowing you to drill-down, filter, and build graphs and dashboards to spot trends and forecast opportunities.

Whatever tools you decide to use as you focus on the metrics that matter to your blogging efforts, keep in mind that data alone is not enough to create an actionable strategy. It’s important to understand the context of the data and be able to interpret insights into the inbound marketing activities that will generate ROI.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in January 2012 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Reblogged 1 year ago from blog.hubspot.com

Google Page Experience Update to launch May 2021 with new labels in search results

Google will highlight search results that have a great page experience.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Reblogged 1 year ago from feeds.searchengineland.com

Amazon uses its data to undermine third party sellers, EU antitrust action says

The company could face penalties of up to 10% of its total revenue, which was more than $280B in 2019.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Reblogged 1 year ago from feeds.searchengineland.com

How visual content can give a boost to your SEO and how to take advantage

30-second summary:

  • Visual content offers a ton of value for your website.
  • It can boost critical statistics such as time on page.
  • Visuals guide the reader through your content more smoothly.
  • They make your content more consumable and increase sharing.
  • Google loves images that are optimized for search.
  • Read on to learn more about how adding optimized images to your site can boost your search visits from your target audience.
  • See examples of how companies are successfully incorporating visual content into their marketing and websites.

It’s no secret that visual content is hot right now (queue the Zoolander references). You know content formats like video, infographics, GIFs, memes, and more should be a part of your content strategy, but did you know these also impact your site’s SEO?

How does visual content impact SEO?

There is so much value to adding visual content on your website. While your written content serves the purpose of enabling you to naturally incorporate keywords and create more content to rank in search engines, the visual content you add to your site and elsewhere can help give that content a further boost.

1. Video content keeps visitors on the page

One stat Google loves is “time on page”. If visitors are checking out your site and leaving after an average of 10 seconds, that signifies to Google that your content is bad or isn’t relevant. By placing a video in the middle of your written content, you can keep people on page longer.

Think about it. Let’s say it takes someone 10 seconds to read the first two paragraphs of your article. Then, directly on your site is a video your visitors can easily click on that adds more value to the piece.

They click to view and end up watching the full two-minute video. This intrigues your visitors to dig deeper. Before they know it, they’ve been on your site for five minutes. This can give a huge boost to your time on page stats.

Video also impacts critical stats like your bounce rate, which is also a critical factor used by Google. The last thing you want is people visiting your site and bouncing away after just reading a few lines on one page. Video can help reduce your bounce rate and convince people to stick around.

While we’re on the subject, here’s a video from Neil Patel that explains this concept a bit more. In the video, Patel highlights a few ways (including video) that you can use to reduce your bounce rate.

2. Visuals help guide the reader through your content

Reading straight through a 1000-word article, no matter how well-written, can become tedious quickly. To keep site visitors flowing through the content, you can add things like infographics, screenshots, and more to help visualize the concepts you’re presenting and push your visitors further down the page.

Breaking up your content with related visuals allows readers to take a break from soaking up the copy and instead check out a few related graphics, videos, or other visual content. It also provides an opportunity for the reader to pause and look at a graphic that might more easily explain a complex subject you’re presenting or highlight some related stats visually to really drive home the impact, so they don’t get lost in the text.

Here’s a great example of an infographic that grabs readers’ attention and gives them something more to soak up in addition to just text. These are a few screenshots from a larger infographic that appeared in an article highlighting the state of SEO in 2019.


visual content - infographic

To view the full infographic, click here.

3. Google’s machine learning is learning to read visuals

While it’s not 100% clear how this works, it’s out there and known well enough that Google is actively learning how to read images on pages. With billions of images online, Google’s machine learning becomes adept at using shapes and other elements to compare and comprehend what the images on your site represent.

I mean, is there really much more I need to say here? If Google is focusing on learning how to crawl something and then attribute it to the value your site brings to the Internet, you need to pay attention. That’s why it’s so important to ensure your images are relevant and are formatted in a way Google can read them.

How can you use images to boost SEO?

So, now that you know the “why” part, let’s dig into the “how” part. It’s important to dig a bit deeper and explore some of the ways you can apply visual marketing to your efforts to boost your SEO.

1. Make sure your images add to the story

There is a ton of value in adding things like graphs, screenshots, and other content that actually relate to your article and adds value. There is decidedly less value in adding generic images that simply represent the concepts and don’t really add anything. Since we’re on the topic, why don’t I use some visuals to show you what I mean?

For example number one, you can see instructive screenshots dropped into this piece of content. These are screenshots from an article I recently wrote that details how to use HARO for SEO and backlink building. I used screenshots to walk readers through each step and provide them with actionable guides like the image of the email template and the walkthrough of how to set up an email.

visual content example - HARO
HARO

On the opposite side, you have the images below that show an example of using images that relate to the topic but don’t really add value. This is another article on my site. I decided to test out generic images on this piece, as you can see in the screenshots below. The images relate to the content, but they really don’t add much extra.

Adding alt tags to optimize images
Adding alt tags to images for optimization

As you can see, both do add a certain level of appeal to their respective articles. That said, for example one, the HARO article, has 12 times the number of page views, 11 more comments, and double the time on-page. So, you can see the value is clear that adding relevant images that add to the story brings a boost to your SEO.

2. Optimize your images

It’s not enough to just add images to your pages and posts. You also need to ensure they are optimized. If you ignore this step, you can run into issues with the performance of your site. For example, images that aren’t optimized can lead to slow load times on your site, and site speed is a critical ranking factor for Google.

To ensure you aren’t bogging down your site with heavy images, try using appropriate image types. The best formats to use are JPEG, PNG, and GIF. And as for videos, host the videos elsewhere (YouTube, for example) and then embed them on your site rather than uploading them directly.

Another important factor in optimizing your images is the tags you add. Just like you need to add meta tags to your posts, you need to add tags to your images as well. This serves as a way to tell Google (and let’s not forget other search engines, of course) what your images are about.

Kayako

Source: Kayako

3. Take advantage of off-site search

You’ve likely heard this before, but it deserves being restated. YouTube is the second largest search engine. Second only to…drumroll please…Google!

So, why not take advantage of posting videos to YouTube and optimizing those videos to give you more content to rank in search?

While this is obviously an off-site strategy, if you create excellent video content and then optimize it properly to appear in search, your videos can grab some SEO value.

You can then add links back to your website in your video descriptions and on your YouTube channel, and as your videos become more popular, clicks from the links on your YouTube channel will give a boost to your site traffic.

Wrapping it up

So, you get it now, right? Images are good for the health of your website and the impact of your SEO strategy. They not only add some life to your website and grab readers’ attention, they also help you improve critical stats that can help give your SEO a boost.

If you’ve been using visuals in your content, your first step should be to review those visuals to ensure they are optimized. Make sure they add to the story and then check to catch any missed opportunities to enhance your files with the right file types along with proper tagging.

Using images and video content on and off your website is a no-brainer. In today’s visual world, it’s important to stay on top of the continuing trend toward a preference for visual content. Make sure to work visuals into your content to give your SEO a serious boost.

Anthony is the Founder of AnthonyGaenzle.com a marketing and business blog. He also serves as the Head of Marketing and Business Development at Granite Creative Group, a full-service marketing firm. He is a storyteller, strategist, and eternal student of marketing and business strategy.

The post How visual content can give a boost to your SEO and how to take advantage appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Reblogged 1 year ago from www.searchenginewatch.com

Holiday marketing: Get the data that puts you ahead of the competition

What you will read in this post:

  • Understand holiday season traffic trends
  • Optimize for strong SEO and PPC keywords
  • Analyzing keyword-driven traffic for seasonal marketing
  • Which sites won the most keyword traffic?
  • Black Friday marketing: November 2019
  • Christmas marketing strategy: December 2019
  • Build strong display and referral partnerships
  • Analyze historic conversion data
  • The biggest display and referral sites (and the brands winning traffic)
  • Black Friday marketing strategy: November 2019
  • Christmas marketing: December 2019

Already imagining the taste of the delicious holiday meals and the laughter of your kids when the entire family comes together? Sorry, we know you’re a marketer; you don’t have time for that. You’re busy worrying whether you have everything you need so your marketing strategy can ensure the biggest possible chunk of holiday traffic and generate maximum sales.

This post investigates seasonal marketing statistics of the past few years and provides some eye-opening insights from SimilarWeb’s Digital Marketing Intelligence that helps plan your seasonal marketing.

But first, let’s quickly look at how the COVID-19 pandemic changed consumer preferences and spending this year. Keep these in the back of your mind when you set goals for this year’s holiday marketing strategy.

According to a recent report published by McKinsey & Company, consumer behavior has shifted in five main areas:

  • Increased online buying
  • Increased interest in household goods
  • Higher focus on essentials (health, hygiene, security, and sustainability) 
  • More mindful buying (consumers are researching more, looking for cheaper alternatives and value)
  • More readiness to break loyalty to a brand

Pay attention to the last point. Consumer loyalty has suffered during the time of crisis. This can be meaningful for your retention marketing and also serve as an opportunity for your acquisition marketing and content SEO strategyOne thing is for sure: Competition is going to be more fierce than ever during November-December.

Content created in partnership with SmilarWeb.

Holiday Marketing 2020

It’s now more crucial than ever to know how to leverage your digital marketing channels and optimize campaigns in real-time to reach relevant consumers and stay ahead of the competition. You need the most up-to-date data on overall traffic trends and impactful digital marketing strategies to ensure you can pivot and optimize campaigns as trends emerge.

So digital marketers, to learn how to stand out from the countless online businesses vying for your customers’ attention away from, tune in as we deep dive into SimilarWeb Pro data focused on SEO, PPC, and affiliate channels.

This article will help you understand the data behind seasonal marketing and how to translate it into a strong digital marketing strategy. Make sure you are well-positioned to beat the competition.

Prime Day isn’t usually part of the official holiday season. However, in 2020 “usual” doesn’t count. Due to the wrinkle of COVID-19, Prime Day was pushed back and correlated with the seasonal kickoff this year.

We decided to look at its impact in previous years to understand how this might affect the shopping-heavy fourth quarter of the year and help you draw conclusions for your holiday season marketing push.

Amazon’s annual two-day event has grown in significance over the past few years and not only impacts amazon.com (and it’s dozens of subdomains), but the whole ecommerce space.

In 2019 we witnessed more than 8% growth in traffic during the Prime Day week, compared to the year before. Shopping in December has been increasing over the years as well. Meanwhile, traffic during the Black Friday-Cyber Monday week did not increase in 2019 compared to 2018 when a record growth of 12% year-over-year (YoY) occurred.

This year we are faced with the question: How will COVID-19 impact consumer behavior during the holidays? Analyzing shopping behavior on Prime Day may indicate what you can expect for the remainder of the year.

According to Amazon, 2020 Prime Day sales topped last year’s by almost 40%. And based on our data, half of the 50 best-selling products are private label brands. That’s good news for ecommerce. Or is it? Forbes tells us that Amazon avoids comparing numbers with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so we are wondering if Prime Day sales met the goals.

Looking at the data provided by SimilarWeb’s digital marketing intelligence tool, we see that non-amazon retailers saw increased traffic of just below 30%.

Target, for example, created a rival Deals Day, which led to a 54% week-over-week (WoW) traffic increase. BestBuy, with its exceptionally attractive deals, experienced the most significant growth among top retailers. Next in line was Costo with a traffic increase of 59%.

It looks like last year’s trend for Prime Day continued. If this is true for the remaining two months of 2020, Black Friday will be less significant, and shoppers in December will look for the best deals. For marketers, it means now’s the time to buckle up; you might need an extra-aggressive holiday marketing strategy.

Optimize for strong SEO and PPC keywords

However heavy holiday traffic in 2020 will be, you need to grab your share. It’s a good time to review your keyword strategies for SEO and PPC. After all, they are both major traffic drivers.

SEO means optimizing your website’s content, structure and user experience according to Google’s Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs). This starts with an effective keyword research for organic searches and competitor analysis, followed by a review of your pages, and optimization of your pages according to your research findings.

For SEO, it’s crucial that your pages stay focused on the topic at hand which means your meta tags need to be relevant and your pages need to include related and relevant information around the right focus keyword.

Another important factor is that your content needs to be linked to from other pages on your site as well as from other websites. As your content pages gain authority and rank over time, they will move up the SERP.

The process of optimizing your pages should have started months ago so, now is an excellent time to re-check your internal linking, meta titles, and image ALT tags and ensure everything is in the right place.

It’s also critical that you check search volume changes and new trending keywords to make sure you’re still targeting the best keywords. People’s searches are constantly changing so there may be a new keyword phrase growing in search volume that your competitors aren’t targeting yet. The closer we get to the holidays, the more competition gets fierce over major seasonal terms.

Keyword analysis for PPC is one of those critical tasks for the holiday season. To get optimal results with PPC, you have to be on the ball with the latest trending keywords.

This is the time to finalize your budget, adjust your bids and overall strategy, so you can easily adapt and pivot during the busier times ahead as you see campaign results and understand how your audience is responding. You may also want to adjust based on what your competitors are doing to drive clicks.

Analyzing keyword-driven traffic for seasonal marketing

During the holiday period, brands largely dictate what shoppers are searching for. That’s because consumers don’t want to miss out on their uncounted deals and special offers.

For you, this is an opportunity to hook onto the right keywords and go head-to-head with your biggest competitors. It’s a once-in-the-year chance to “steal” large amounts of traffic from under their nose and convert them into paying visitors. Once you’ve acquired new customers, it’s hard for others to win them back.

How do we know this? Our keyword research tool provided us with data from previous years. Contrary to other keyword research tools, SimilarWeb Pro leverages actual user search queries and clicks to provide highly reliable data.

Holiday marketing

You can use the tool to receive the freshest keyword-related data and identify trends before anyone else. Can you see how you would lead the keyword competition for paid traffic? The tool also lets you generate and prioritize keywords, optimize traffic share, benchmark against your industry, and more.

Holiday marketing

Next, we want to see if brands also snatch the majority of the traffic. Spoiler: No! SimilarWeb data shows that publishers and Black Friday sites receive the majority of search traffic in the U.S..

This underlines the importance of partnering with affiliate and coupon websites- such as Slickdeals and CouponChef – that know how to leverage search traffic and seasonal trends. The top winners were bestblackfriday.com and blackfriday.com, both with approximately 11% traffic share, followed by bestbuy.com and walmart.com at around 9%.

Which sites won the most keyword traffic in the holiday season?

Black Friday marketing: November 2019

A review of popular keywords in November 2019 shows that three out of the top ten paid search keywords were related to gaming, representing 24% of total paid search traffic.

Battlefield 5′, ‘Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’, and ‘Fire Emblem Warriors’ were popular video games, and it’s fair to assume that they appeared on innumerable wish lists that people were attempting to fulfill. It seems Black Friday marketing that considers Christmas wish lists are a good bet.

It is also interesting to note that amazon.com claimed over 96% of all traffic from these terms in the time period analyzed. When we look at Black Friday keywords specifically, things get more interesting.

The top PPC-related queries at that time included the term ‘Black Friday’ in combination with a branded term. The keywords ‘Black Friday ads 2019′, ‘call of duty black ops 4’, ‘Nintendo Switch Black Friday’, and ‘black Friday deals’ claimed traffic shares ranging from 9% to 12%.

Specific Black Friday campaigns paid off. Most of the traffic winners were well-loved retail brands such as Best Buy and Walmart.

Most searched organic terms related to Black Friday in 2019 were ‘deals’, ‘black friday’, ‘cyber monday deals’, and ‘black friday ads 2019’ claiming respective traffic shares of 3% to 5% each. Unlike PPC-driven traffic, none of the leading organic search terms were branded.

Not only did big box retail names win traffic from these keywords, top affiliates such as blackfriday.com and bestblackfriday.com also made it into the top 10, which you can see in the graph below.

To sum this up:

  • Top organic searches were generic 
  • Top PPC terms were 50% branded and 50% generic
  • Organic search traffic went to retailers, brands, and affiliates 
  • PPC traffic went to popular household brands

The top ten winners can be seen below.

Christmas marketing strategy: December 2019

As expected, the overall November trends continued throughout December. The highest traffic-driving keywords were again gaming-related gifts and gadgets. The three most searched terms were ‘just dance 2020’, ‘star wars jedi fallen order ps4’, and ‘the witcher 3’. 

Interestingly, Amazon scooped up over 96% of all traffic for ‘just dance 2020’, and ‘the witcher 3’; rd.bizrate.com won 97% of the traffic for the keyword ‘star wars jedi fallen order ps4’.

Holiday marketing

Now let’s take a closer look at terms related to the December holidays to see how Christmas marketing campaigns compare.

Most searched organic terms were ‘cyber monday’, ‘deals’, ‘ugly Christmas sweaters’, and ‘laptop deals’ with traffic shares of  3% to 9%. 

Paid keyword terms with the highest traffic shares were ‘cyber monday deals’, ‘siberian husky christmas blowups’, ‘black friday deals’ – still a high traffic share, however 68% down month-over-month (MoM), ‘christmas tree’, ‘icicle christmas lights’, ‘die hard christmas book’, and ‘nintendo switch games for christmas list’. Interestingly, several of the top keywords were related to Christmas decorations, with gift-related keywords coming in closely behind them.

Ugly Christmas sweaters’ was the top Christmas related keyword driving organic traffic in December.

See the ten winners for Christmas related keywords here:

Build strong display and referral partnerships

Referral sites and a Display Ads strategy are crucial during this time. Why? Consumers are looking for deals, but they also know that not every ‘deal’ is a good bargain for them. They trust 3rd party sites to review and guide them through the jungle of deals during the holiday seasons.

We found that SimilarWeb data supports this assessment. Some of the affiliate and display publisher sites driving the most traffic fell within the 10 top winners of keyword traffic over the holiday season in 2019. 

Here’s your opportunity to generate more traffic to your site. A display publisher will show your display ads on the ad space of their websites. Rather than publishing your display ads by yourself, use affiliates to do it for you. The same goes for other referral sites such as deal comparison sites and review sites that can help you win a bigger chunk of the traffic share.

Use SimilarWeb’s digital marketing intelligence tool to find your best affiliates by analyzing performance statistics of display publishers and referral sites. You can compare relevant sites and identify the biggest traffic providers. The tool also lets you benchmark against your main competitors for traffic from the significant sites.

Analyze historic conversion data

Looking at the stats from 2019, we see that direct traffic brought the highest conversions volume on average in November. Retailers experienced the largest growth in converted traffic from Display and Referral channels during this month, growing MoM 42% and 32%, respectively. Also, referral was the best converting marketing channel at 11%, overtaking even direct traffic, which converted approximately 9% during that same period.

Referral traffic spiked during the last week of November. Display ads’ traffic growth wasn’t as concentrated and was used more evenly to promote future deals and increase brand recognition.

The biggest display and referral sites (and the brands winning traffic)

Black Friday marketing strategy: November 2019

When looking at retail winners, Kohs and BBB experienced the largest increase in overall traffic during the last week of November in 2019. Other big winners include CostoWalmartTarget, and Wayfair.

During this time, Costco and Sam’s Club saw the highest growth of referral traffic during, growing 241% and 199% from October to November, respectively. Another big referral traffic winner, Walmart, came in third, increasing its traffic on this channel by a whopping 114%.

Referral leaders have received more than 50% of referral traffic from the top two coupon and rebate sites, with bestblackfridaydeals.com sending about 45% of all referral traffic to the competitive set during November. Walmart seems to have had a solid relationship with the referral site. About 81% of all its outgoing traffic went directly to the retail giant.

While slickdeals.net was the second-largest referral site during that period, it only drove about 6% of traffic. However, display traffic tells a very different story, as slickdeals.com claims the number one spot.

Bestblackfridaydeal.com dropped down to the third spot with shares of  18% and 2% of display traffic, respectively. Cosco.com scooped up about 73% of that traffic in November. Shopping-category leaders utilized display advertising traffic analytics to increase their brand awareness on affiliate sites.

Did we mention the importance of display and referral sites for your holiday marketing? The numbers speak for themselves.

Christmas marketing: December 2019

Now, take a look at the interesting shifts in winners throughout the holiday season of last year. November’s big winners were overtaken in December. As Christmas approached, michaelkors.com grew by 191% when compared to October the same year, claiming the number one spot for overall growth.

While neither Walmart or Target landed in the top spots for MoM growth, the retail conglomerates did win massive overall traffic. Walmart.com saw a mind-blowing 450M visits while target.com was able to rake in upwards of 250M.

Swagbucks.com was the top referral site in December 2019 for the best-performing sites during that period with an 8% traffic share. It drove about 63% of its traffic to worldmarket.com. Other big referrals sites were slickdeals.net and cashbackholic.com.

Among the display publishers, Rakuten secured the largest traffic share with almost 17%. Dealmoon could seize 9% and Slickdeals managed to grab 4%. In fourth place was Dealsplus, everyone else in the top 10 got less than 2%.

The holiday marketing games are on, roll up your sleeves!

During the holiday season, optimizing your digital strategies is more critical than during any other time of the year. You can only be sure of it’s efficiency when you build on reliable data about you and your main competitors’ performance. Make no mistake, they are getting ready for the winter games as well.

Understand how different channels work together to drive success. Leverage marco and seasonal market trends and determine how to make consumer behavior work in your favor. In our example, we’ve learned that brands who partner with affiliates have the best chance of winning traffic from top keywords. 

Now use SimilarWeb Pro to find the best affiliates to partner with, the most successful channels to utilize, and the highest trending keywords in real-time. Get started by opening an account now!

And if you can’t wait to see how you can fine-tune your marketing strategy for this holiday season, use the form below to download the most-up-to-date data for this year and get the competitive edge you need to blow your competition away.

Holiday marketing

The post Holiday marketing: Get the data that puts you ahead of the competition appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Reblogged 1 year ago from www.searchenginewatch.com