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When and How to Use Domain Authority, Page Authority, and Link Count Metrics – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

How can you effectively apply link metrics like Domain Authority and Page Authority alongside your other SEO metrics? Where and when does it make sense to take them into account, and what exactly do they mean? In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand answers these questions and more, arming you with the knowledge you need to better understand and execute your SEO work.

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When and how to use Domain Authority, Page Authority, and link count metrics.

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about when and how to use Domain Authority and Page Authority and link count metrics.

So many of you have written to us at Moz over the years and certainly I go to lots of conferences and events and speak to folks who are like, “Well, I’ve been measuring my link building activity with DA,” or, “Hey, I got a high DA link,” and I want to confirm when is it the right time to be using something like DA or PA or a raw link count metric, like number of linking root domains or something like Spam Score or a traffic estimation, these types of metrics.

So I’m going to walk you through kind of these three — Page Authority, Domain Authority, and linking root domains — just to get a refresher course on what they are. Page Authority and Domain Authority are actually a little complicated. So I think that’s worthwhile. Then we’ll chat about when to use which metrics. So I’ve got sort of the three primary things that people use link metrics for in the SEO world, and we’ll walk through those.

Page Authority

So to start, Page Authority is basically — you can see I’ve written a ton of different little metrics in here — linking URLs, linking root domains, MozRank, MozTrust, linking subdomains, anchor text, linking pages, followed links, no followed links, 301s, 302s, new versus old links, TLD, domain name, branded domain mentions, Spam Score, and many, many other metrics.

Basically, what PA is, is it’s every metric that we could possibly come up with from our link index all taken together and then thrown into a model with some training data. So the training data in this case, quite obviously, is Google search results, because what we want the Page Authority score to ultimately be is a predictor of how well a given page is going to rank in Google search results assuming we know nothing else about it except link data. So this is using no on-page data, no content data, no engagement or visit data, none of the patterns or branding or entity matches, just link data.

So this is everything we possibly know about a page from its link profile and the domain that page is on, and then we insert that in as the input alongside the training data. We have a machine learning model that essentially learns against Google search results and builds the best possible model it can. That model, by the way, throws away some of this stuff, because it’s not useful, and it adds in a bunch of this stuff, like vectors or various attributes of each one. So it might say, “Oh, anchor text distribution, that’s actually not useful, but Domain Authority ordered by the root domains with more than 500 links to them.” I’m making stuff up, right? But you could have those sorts of filters on this data and thus come up with very complex models, which is what machine learning is designed to do.

All we have to worry about is that this is essentially the best predictive score we can come up with based on the links. So it’s useful for a bunch of things. If we’re trying to say how well do we think this page might rank independent of all non-link factors, PA, great model. Good data for that.

Domain Authority

Domain Authority is once you have the PA model in your head and you’re sort of like, “Okay, got it, machine learning against Google’s results to produce the best predictive score for ranking in Google.” DA is just the PA model at the root domain level. So not subdomains, just root domains, which means it’s got some weirdness. It can’t, for example, say that randfishkin.blogspot.com is different than www.blogspot.com. But obviously, a link from www.blogspot.com is way more valuable than from my personal subdomain at Blogspot or Tumblr or WordPress or any of these hosted subdomains. So that’s kind of an edge case that unfortunately DA doesn’t do a great job of supporting.

What it’s good for is it’s relatively well-suited to be predictive of how a domain’s pages will rank in Google. So it removes all the page-level information, but it’s still operative at the domain level. It can be very useful for that.

Linking Root Domain

Then linking root domains is the simplest one. This is basically a count of all the unique root domains with at least one link on them that point to a given page or a site. So if I tell you that this URL A has 410 linking root domains, that basically means that there are 410 domains with at least one link pointing to URL A.

What I haven’t told you is whether they’re followed or no followed. Usually, this is a combination of those two unless it’s specified. So even a no followed link could go into the linking root domains, which is why you should always double check. If you’re using Ahrefs or Majestic or Moz and you hover on the whatever, the little question mark icon next to any given metric, it will tell you what it includes and what it doesn’t include.

When to use which metric(s)

All right. So how do we use these?

Well, for month over month link building performance, which is something that a lot of folks track, I would actually not suggest making DA your primary one. This is for a few reasons. So Moz’s index, which is the only thing currently that calculates DA or a machine learning-like model out there among the major toolsets for link data, only updates about once every month. So if you are doing your report before the DA has updated from the last link index, that can be quite frustrating.

Now, I will say we are only a few months away from a new index that’s going to replace Mozscape that will calculate DA and PA and all these other things much, much more quickly. I know that’s been something many folks have been asking for. It is on its way.

But in the meantime, what I recommend using is:

1. Linking root domains, the count of linking root domains and how that’s grown over time.

2. Organic rankings for your targeted keywords. I know this is not a direct link metric, but this really helps to tell you about the performance of how those links have been affected. So if you’re measuring month to month, it should be the case that any months you’ve got in a 20 or 30-day period, Google probably has counted and recognized within a few days of finding them, and Google is pretty good at crawling nearly the whole web within a week or two weeks. So this is going to be a reasonable proxy for how your link building campaign has helped your organic search campaign.

3. The distribution of Domain Authority. So I think, in this case, Domain Authority can be useful. It wouldn’t be my first or second choice, but I think it certainly can belong in a link building performance report. It’s helpful to see the high DA links that you’re getting. It’s a good sorting mechanism to sort of say, “These are, generally speaking, more important, more authoritative sites.”

4. Spam Score I like as well, because if you’ve been doing a lot of link building, it is the case that Domain Authority doesn’t penalize or doesn’t lower its score for a high Spam Score. It will show you, “Hey, this is an authoritative site with a lot of DA and good-looking links, but it also looks quite spammy to us.” So, for example, you might see that something has a DA of 60, but a Spam Score of 7 or 8, which might be mildly concerning. I start to really worry when you get to like 9, 10, or 11.

Second question:

I think this is something that folks ask. So they look at their own links and they say, “All right, we have these links or our competitor has these links. Which ones are providing the most value for me?” In that case, if you can get it, for example, if it’s a link pointing to you, the best one is, of course, going to be…

1. Real traffic sent. If a site or a page, a link is sending traffic to you, that is clearly of value and that’s going to be likely interpreted positively by the search engines as well.

You can also use…

2. PA

3. DA. I think it’s pretty good. These metrics are pretty good and pretty well-correlated with, relatively speaking, value, especially if you can’t get at a metric like real traffic because it’s coming from someone else’s site.

4. Linking root domains, the count of those to a page or a domain.

5. The rankings rise, in the case where a page is ranking position four, a new link coming to it is the only thing that’s changed or the only thing you’re aware of that’s changed in the last few days, few weeks, and you see a rankings rise. It moves up a few positions. That’s a pretty good proxy for, “All right, that is a valuable link.” But this is a rare case where you really can control other variables to the extent that you think you can believe in that.

6. I like Spam Scor for this as well, because then you can start to see, “Well, are these sketchier links, or are these links that I can likely trust more?”

Last one,

So I think this is one that many, many SEOs do. We have a big list of links. We’ve got 50 links that we’re thinking about, “Should I get these or not and which ones should I go after first and which ones should I not go after?” In this case…

1. DA is really quite a good metric, and that is because it’s relatively predictive of the domain’s pages’ performance in Google, which is a proxy, but a decent proxy for how it might help your site rank better.

It is the case that folks will talk about, “Hey, it tends to be the case that when I go out and I build lots of DA 70, DA 80, DA 90+ links, I often get credit. Why DA and not PA, Rand?” Well, in the case where you’re getting links, it’s very often from new pages on a website, which have not yet been assigned PA or may not have inherited all the link equity from all the internal pages.

Over time, as those pages themselves get more links, their PA will rise as well. But the reason that I generally recommend a DA for link outreach is both because of that PA/DA timing issue and because oftentimes you don’t know which page is going to give you a link from a domain. It could be a new page they haven’t created yet. It could be one that you never thought they would add you to. It might be exactly the page that you were hoping for, but it’s hard to say.

2. I think linking root domains is a very reasonable one for this, and linking root domains is certainly closely correlated, not quite as well correlated, but closely correlated with DA and with rankings.

3. Spam Score, like we’ve talked about.

4. I might use something like SimilarWeb‘s traffic estimates, especially if real traffic sent is something that I’m very interested in. If I’m pursuing no followed links or affiliate links or I just care about traffic more than I care about rank-boosting ability, SimilarWeb has got what I think is the best traffic prediction system, and so that would be the metric I look at.

So, hopefully, you now have a better understanding of DA and PA and link counts and when and where to apply them alongside which other metrics. I look forward to your questions. I’ll be happy to jump into the comments and answer. And we’ll see you again next time for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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How a Full-Service Marketing Group Stays Ahead of the Game with WordStream Advisor for Agencies

When you’re in the business of fixing pipes, installing HVAC systems, or baking cupcakes, keeping your marketing in tip-top shape can be burdensome. Imagine if your business involves marketing for yourself AND businesses fixing pipes, installing HVAC systems, and the like.

Sound overwhelming? Definitely. Time consuming? Absolutely.

MediaBeast Customer Spotlight

MediaBeast Marketing Group is a full-service, conversion-driven agency located in Tampa, Florida, founded in 2013. Their clients run the gamut (from home services to personal injury lawyers to nonprofits). They provide their clients with a well-rounded media approach and comprehensive digital strategy, covering responsive website design, search engine marketing, social media marketing, and mobile marketing. The team of seven employees manages over thirty clients, detailing roadmaps that outline marketing strategies, tactics, costs, and projected results to keep their clients’ teams focused on specific goals.

When the MediaBeast team brought their PPC services in-house, they needed a better way to efficiently and successfully manage client campaigns. The team also noticed that they were having a tough time competing with rivals like Yellow Pages and Driven Local. MediaBeast was drawn to WordStream because of its competitive metric information. The team brought WordStream Advisor for Agencies on board and has never looked back.

Taking WordStream for a Test Run

With multiple clients needing SEM help, MediaBeast decided to give WordStream Advisor for Agencies a test drive. Starting with just one of their accounts, they issued an ultimatum: beat out the competition, and the rest of their clients would join WordStream advisor; if there was no improvement, they’d move on to greener pastures.

The first account incorporated was a plumbing business getting beaten by their competitors in the local market. With assistance from the call-outs and tips within WordStream Advisor, the client saw rapid improvement and started winning business from their local rivals! The insights from WordStream Advisor allowed the team to focus on specific metrics they were not competing well against and helped look to find ways to improve these metrics to drive better results.

Since that first account, MediaBeast has managed almost 50 different accounts through WordStream Advisor for Agencies.

 MediaBeast Team

Some of the MediaBeast Team

Strategizing with the 20-Minute Work Week

Samantha Lappla, an account manager at MediaBeast, says, “I look at digital marketing as a trial-and-error scenario. Sometimes you know a certain campaign will be successful and other times you try a tactic, but it doesn’t show you the success you were searching for, so then you go in and think what you can do better.”

The MediaBeast team, while juggling multiple accounts and channels, monitors spend throughout the month to observe how their clients are pacing to achieve their goals. Lindsay Elsten, another account manager at MediaBeast, reports that the team uses the 20-Minute Work Week to keep track of not only spend but any red flags that could be raised throughout the week and get new ideas for changes to make within each account.

Lindsay says, “WordStream does the ‘thinking’ for you before you have to think. I have saved so much time with the 20-Minute Work Week by using it as a starting point to what I can look at further in an account.”

Because different companies have varying objectives, the team makes use of WordStream’s industry benchmarks to help assess and estimate what clients should expect from their campaigns. Lindsay says they also like to use the CPA goal tracker within WordStream Advisor to watch their costs and how the metric changes over time.

Turning the Tide with WordStream Live

While WordStream Advisor for Agencies offers prescriptive, account-specific advice, it was the educational and strategic advice from WordStream’s experts that gave MediaBeast’s search success story new life, according to Lindsay. MediaBeast attended WordStream Live, our premier, bi-annual customer event. The event featured presentations from WordStream customer service representatives on key topics like Expanded Text Ads, device and bid adjustments, account structuring, analytics, and more.

Lindsay took note of tips and tricks on reducing keyword clutter, using IF functions, and optimizing for mobile conversions. She decided to put her new knowledge to the test on one of her client’s accounts—and after a month and a half, she saw a huge improvement.

By reducing the number of keywords in each ad group, adding expanded text ads with IF functions to capitalize on a mobile audience, and adding mobile CTAs on landing pages, click-through rates jumped 87.47%!

Total Search Graph

Total Search Graph

Since WordStream Live, the MediaBeast team has focused more closely on mobile through the IF functions in expanded text ads and specific CTAs. After focusing on mobile tasks, the top three performing text ads featured IF functions AND mobile CTAs!

MediaBeast Google AdWords Text Ads

Winning Together

A fun story we love to tell about MediaBeast’s Lindsay from her experience at WordStream Live: she was so immersed in sharing tips with her team back home and rapid-fire tweeting pictures from the event, she killed her phone battery by cocktail hour! Luckily, she was able to plug in and get enough juice to get out of the city, safe and sound. 

Lindsay said, “The biggest thing is that I don’t feel like the service is degrading. Sometimes when you work with experts in a field, it can be intimidating to ask questions or seek advice. The WordStream employees never make you feel like you should already know what you’re asking.”

At WordStream, we like to consider ourselves experts in search marketing. Our employees live and breathe PPC to keep our software and services on the cutting edge for our customers. Which is why we are excited to receive feedback about our customers’ successes!  The MediaBeast team also gushed over their customer success rep, Greg Herrmann (we love him, too!).

We could not be happier to have MediaBeast on our team! 

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How to Target Multiple Keywords with One Page – Next Level

Posted by BrianChilds

Welcome to our newest installment of our educational Next Level series! In our last episode, Jo Cameron taught you how to whip up intelligent SEO reports for your clients to deliver impressive, actionable insights. Today, our friendly neighborhood Training Program Manager, Brian Childs, is here to show you an easy workflow for targeting multiple keywords with a single page. Read on and level up!


For those who have taken any of the Moz Training Bootcamps, you’ll know that we approach keyword research with the goal of identifying concepts rather than individual keywords. A common term for this in SEO is “niche keywords.” I think of a “niche” as a set of related words or concepts that are essentially variants of the same query.

Example:

Let’s pretend my broad subject is: Why are cats jerks?

Some niche topics within this subject are:

  • Why does my cat keep knocking things off the counter?
  • Why does my cat destroy my furniture?
  • Why did I agree to get this cat?

I can then find variants of these niche topics using Keyword Explorer or another tool, looking for the keywords with the best qualities (Difficulty, Search Volume, Opportunity, etc).

By organizing your keyword research in this way, it conceptually aligns with the search logic of Google’s Hummingbird algorithm update.

Once we have niche topics identified for our subject, we then we dive into specific keyword variants to find opportunities where we can rank. This process is covered in-depth during the Keyword Research Bootcamp class.

Should I optimize my page for multiple keywords?

The answer for most sites is a resounding yes.

If you develop a strategy of optimizing your pages for only one keyword, this can lead to a couple of issues. For example, if a content writer feels restricted to one keyword for a page they might develop very thin content that doesn’t discuss the broader concept in much useful detail. In turn, the marketing manager may end up spreading valuable information across multiple pages, which reduces the potential authority of each page. Your site architecture may then become larger than necessary, making the search engine less likely to distinguish your unique value and deliver it into a SERP.

As recent studies have shown, a single high-ranking page can show up in dozens — if not hundreds — of SERPs. A good practice is to identify relevant search queries related to a given topic and then use those queries as your H2 headings.

So how do you find niche keyword topics? This is the process I use that relies on a relatively new SERP feature: the “People also ask” boxes.

How to find niche keywords

Step 1: Enter a relevant question into your search engine

Question-format search queries are great because they often generate featured snippets. Featured snippets are the little boxes that show up at the top of search results, usually displaying one- to two-sentence answers or a list. Recently, when featured snippets are displayed, there is commonly another box nearby showing “People also ask” This second box allows you to peer into the logic of the search algorithm. It shows you what the search engine “thinks” are closely related topics.

Step 2: Select the most relevant “People also ask” query

Take a look at those initial “People also ask” suggestions. They are often different variants of your query, representing slightly different search intent. Choose the one that most aligns with the search intent of your target user. What happens? A new set of three “People also ask” suggestions will populate at the bottom of the list that are associated with the first option you chose. This is why I refer to these as choose-your-own-adventure boxes. With each selection, you dive deeper into the topic as defined by the search engine.

Step 3: Find suggestions with low-value featured snippets

Every “People also ask” suggestion is a featured snippet. As you dig deeper into the topic by selecting one “People also ask” after another, keep an eye out for featured snippets that are not particularly helpful. This is the search engine attempting to generate a simple answer to a question and not quite hitting the mark. These present an opportunity. Keep track of the ones you think could be improved. In the following example, we see the Featured Snippet being generated by an article that doesn’t fully answer the question for an average user.

Step 4: Compile a list of “People also ask” questions

Once you’ve explored deep into the algorithm’s contextually related results using the “People also ask” box, make a list of all the questions you found highly related to your desired topic. I usually just pile these into an Excel sheet as I find them.

Step 5: Analyze your list of words using a keyword research tool

With a nice list of keywords that you know are generating featured snippets, plug the words into Keyword Explorer or your preferred keyword research tool. Now just apply your normal assessment criteria for a keyword (usually a combination of search volume and competitiveness).

Step 6: Apply the keywords to your page title and heading tags

Once you’ve narrowed the list to a set of keywords you’d like to target on the page, have your content team go to work generating relevant, valuable answers to the questions. Place your target keywords as the heading tags (H2, H3) and a concise, valuable description immediately following those headings.

Measure niche keywords in your campaign

While your content writers are generating the content, you can update your Moz Pro campaign and begin baselining your rank position for the keywords you’re using in the heading tags. Add the keywords to your campaign and then label them appropriately. I recommend using a label associated with the niche topic.

For example, let’s pretend I have a business that helps people find lost pets. One common niche topic relates to people trying to find the phone numbers of kennels. Within that topic area, there will be dozens of variants. Let’s pretend that I write a useful article about how to quickly find the phone numbers of nearby animal shelters and kennels.

In this case, I would label all of the keywords I target in that article with something like “kennel phone numbers” in my Moz Pro campaign rankings tool.

Then, once the post is written, I can report on the average search visibility of all the search terms I used, simply by selecting the label “kennel phone numbers.” If the article is successful, I should see the rank positions moving up on average, showing that I’m ranking for multiple keywords.

Want to learn more SEO shortcuts?

If you found this kind of article helpful, consider signing up for the How to Bring SEO In-House seminar. The class covers things like how to set up your team for success, tips for doing research quickly, and how to report on SEO to your customers.

See upcoming classes here


Next Level is our educational series combining actionable SEO tips with tools you can use to achieve them. Check out any of our past editions below:

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

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7 Data-Backed Tips for AdWords Ads that Work Right Now

PPC advertisers said farewell to standard text ads last year and we began preparing for the new age of Expanded Text Ads (ETAs).

A lot has changed since Google first started selling text ads way back in the 20th century. Technology is better. The way people search has changed. And, perhaps most importantly, we’re now in a mobile-first world.

All of this meant it was time for some major changes to AdWords. So text ads that used to look like this:

non expanded text ad

Have evolved into today’s expanded text ads:

expanded text ad example

The great news – advertisers saw an average click-through rate (CTR) boost of 15 to 20 percent when transitioning to Google Expanded Text Ads. There was even better news about ETAs for Bing Ads advertisers – CTRs were nearly 20 percent higher than AdWords.

However, averages can be misleading at times. While most saw CTR gains from ETAs, one in three English-speaking AdWords advertisers saw CTR decrease after transitioning.

If you’re struggling to evolve with expanded text ads, here are seven insights on how to write more effective PPC ads right now.

1. Adapt to Voice Search Trends

People search for – and expect – more specific answers. That’s why we’ve seen query lengths consistently increasing year after year. Long-tail searches have increased from a share of just over 20 percent in 2008 to more than 60 percent today:

voice search keyword trends

Another huge change is that people aren’t searching just on search engines anymore. Voice search now accounts for 20 percent of all Google mobile queries.

Looking ahead to 2020, comScore estimates that voice search will account for more than 50 percent of all searches, while Gartner predicts that 30 percent of all web browsing sessions will be done without screens.

But voice search is more than mobile – and Google. Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Microsoft’s Cortana are all competing with Google Assistant to dominate voice search on the web, on mobile devices, and inside people’s homes.

What’s it all mean? You must optimize your site for voice search to compete.

2. Write Ads in Natural Language

People increasingly use longer and more natural language search. Searchers want answers to their questions, not keywords. So your ads should reflect this trend.

Google didn’t introduce Expanded Text Ads so you could repeat your keywords. It was so you could write ads that read naturally and attract more clicks. In fact, our research into the best ads in AdWords reveals that ads in the top 15% repeat just two words per ad.

Further, keyword relevance is the LEAST important Quality Score factor.

You know what’s 4x more important than keyword relevance? A high-quality ad and landing page experience! Google infers that your ad is really speaking to people when it gets a higher than expected CTR based on its position.

quality score components

Remember, the most common words people use in natural language (e.g., the, be, to, of, and, a, in, that, have, and I) aren’t actually your keywords. Yet, in paid search ads, the most common words are keywords (nearly all of which are nouns).

3. Use the Power of the Pronoun

Keywords don’t buy your product, people do! The habit of writing keyword stuffed ads can be a tough one to break though. A simple trick to break this habit is to make sure you write your ads with pronouns.

Not only do pronouns help you write in a natural way, but it forces you to write your ad copy with your audience in mind. It’s surprisingly simple to do this using the three most powerful ad pronouns that are proven to increase click-through and conversion rates:

We

This word allows you to focus on selling your solution, not your keywords, and puts real people behind your ad copy. For example, look at this ad, which was struggling on the SERP with a 0.25% CTR:

using pronouns in ads

Not great. The ad is clearly written for the keyword, not the user. Rewritten with the word “we” however, the ad now focuses on the emotional connection of the user to their service. The result – a 20 fold increase in CTR!

how to use pronouns in ad copy

You

We too often take for granted how much we know about our audience. Consider this ad, which ran in a US-targeted campaign for people searching for “Israel SIM Cards.” The ad written for that keyword performed nicely on the SERP with a 7.15% CTR

the word you in adwords ad copy

Not bad, right? But writing ads for the keyword alone leaves so much on the table. Consider what we know about the searcher – yes, we know they’re searching for “Israel SIM cards,” but we also know that they’re not in Israel. We can easily connect the dots and deduce that the searcher is planning to travel soon. With that little extra bit of information, we can write an ad that speaks directly to the audience with “you”

pronoun a/b ad test

Now the ad is written not to sell a piece of plastic and silicon, but to solve the bigger problem behind a user’s search. And that rewritten ad has a whopping 11.86% CTR, an increase of 65%!

Him/Her

“You” may cater to our own selfish desires, but “Him” or “Her” speaks to our emotional connections to a loved one, friend, parent, child, or enemy!

For example, the CTR of this ad was a super-high 7.31 percent:

pronouns in ads

(We’ll revisit this ad a little later….)

4. Re-engage Your Audience With Remarketing

Remarketing is incredibly powerful because it brings back people who have already visited your website before. Our data (based on 928 WordStream clients using remarketing audiences and proper conversion tracking in January 2015) showed that remarketing results in greater ad engagement:

engagement data for remarketing

But not only are returning users more likely click on your ads, but they’re also up to 3 times more likely to convert when they arrive at your site from your campaigns!

conversion data for remarketing

5. Get Personal with Demographic Targeting

Remember that Valentine’s Day ad we looked at earlier in the “him/her” example? Without any demographic targeting, it had a 7.31 percent CTR and 1.82 percent conversion rate. Not bad at all. But the “Sweeten up his or her day” struck me as intentionally impersonal.

Although still relatively new to Google Search, demographic targeting is also available on the Google Display Network, Bing Ads, and nearly every social network.

Demographic targeting really helps you personalize your ads for your audience. For instance, we rewrote the same Valentine’s Day ad to show differently for men and women. The change was subtle, just changing out the opposite gender pronouns.

demographic targeting for ads

targeting ads to gender demographics

The result of combining demographic targeting with swapping out these gender pronouns raised the CTR for women to 9.25% and men to 11.59%, an increase of 30 and 60% respectively.

But increased CTR wasn’t the only gain – conversion rates grew to 3.8% for women and 4.35% for men – an increase of over 100% for both genders! All that by changing a single 3-letter word in the ad copy!

6. Include IF Functions for Device & Audience

Device preference was noticeably absent with the arrival of expanded text ads and advertisers may have noticed a dip in CTR on mobile as a result in 2016:

how to use if functions in adwords

Thankfully, Google corrected this in February, rolling out IF functions, which allow you to tailor your ad copy based on whether a condition is met, such as device or audience. That means your ad copy can be written to vary depending on if someone views your ad on mobile or desktop and serve a more relevant call to action for mobile searchers.

mobile ad copy

In terms of audience, if you want to target just cart abandoners or returning visitors, you can include special offers just for them.

7. Use Mobile-Specific Ad Extensions

IF statements aren’t the only way to cater your ads to mobile searchers. Mobile ad extensions are particularly powerful on the Mobile SERP and can really dictate success of your mobile ads. Here are five types of ad extensions you can take advantage of to reach mobile searchers on the go:

  • Location Extensions: One thing we know about mobile searchers is that they’re mobile (duh!). To take advantage of the on-the-go searcher, use location extensions to direct customers to your store. Searchers will see either your address, a map to your location, or distance to your business.
  • Affiliate Location Extensions: Similar to location extensions, you can use affiliate location extensions to tell customers the nearest chain store that sells your product. Customers will see either the address or a map.
  • Message Extensions: Mobile searchers can click on an icon within your search ad to directly send you a text message to book an appointment, get a quote, ask for information, or request a service.

message extensions

  • Call Extensions: Allow customers to call your business directly from your ad by clicking or tapping on a call button.
  • App Extensions: Get searchers to download or open your mobile or tablet app directly from your ad.

Evolved Text Ads Are Here

Search has changed a LOT in recent years. People today are searching the way they speak. Searches are also more specific and people on the go are conducting the majority of those searches, on mobile devices rather than desktops.

The key to writing more effective PPC ads now is to make sure your strategy takes into account your audience and how they search. Tailor your ads so they speak to the people you really want to reach: Use remarketing (including RLSA), demographic targeting, IF functions, and mobile extensions to attract more clicks and drive more conversions from your best prospects.

About the author:

Mark is a Senior Data Scientist at WordStream with a background in SEM, SEO, and Statistical Modeling. He was named the 14th Most Influential PPC Expert of 2016 by PPC Hero. You can follow him on TwitterLinkedIn, and Google +.

from Internet Marketing Blog by WordStream http://ift.tt/2s0sDCq

How to Build SEO Strategies Effectively (and Make Them Last)

Posted by Bill.Sebald

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

I read The Art of War in college, written by the Chinese general Sun Tzu (author of the quote above). While his actual existence is debated, his work is often considered as brilliant military strategy and philosophy. Thus, The Art of War is often co-opted into business for obvious reasons. Throughout the book, you’ll realize tactics and strategy are not interchangeable terms.

strat·e·gyˈ
stradəjē/

– A method or plan chosen to bring about a desired future, such as achievement of a goal or solution to a problem.
– A plan of action or policy designed to achieve an overall aim.
– The art and science of planning and marshaling resources for their most efficient and effective use.
Source

These definitions vary slightly, but the essence is the same. A strategy is not constrained by size or application but promoted by planning and effectiveness. Let’s be honest, the word “strategy” is a term that isn’t always used the same way in the English lexicon (or our industry).

On the other hand, tactics can be isolated or serve as components in your strategy. They are actions you would impart as a step in the plan, or used as a stand-alone, typically with limited resources.

For some this is straightforward, but for others new to marketing or traditionally focused on tactical work, a strategy can be a difficult concept that requires practice. Perhaps understanding the purpose is key to dividing these terms. Let’s try this:

“The purpose of a strategy is to identify goals and build a plan of attack towards achieving those goals. The purpose of tactics are for smaller goals that could feed something bigger.”

Before you read on, please note: this is not an article devaluing tactics over strategy (despite the Sun Tzu quote). My goal is to inspire thought that can help you be more effective as a modern SEO, and possibly consider a strategy where you haven’t before.

A military analogy

I find analogies go a long way in describing lofty concepts. I could easily go with a football or legal example, but a military example might be the most comparable to what we do in marketing. And because I know my audience, I decided to go with Star Wars.

The Galactic Empire thought they could take over the galaxy with fear and brute force. They developed plans for a space station with firepower strong enough to destroy a planet. Under the command of Governor Tarkin, the Death Star was created. They tested the completed Death Star on Princess Leia’s home planet of Alderaan, which gave Obi Wan Kenobi shivers.

However, the Rebels put together a counter-strategy. Piecing together intelligence about a deliberate design flaw, and developing a plan featuring waves of small battalions, the Rebel ships would take passes at the target. They would work together in designed waves to equally defend and attack during this campaign.

As basic as that scene was at the end of Star Wars, it’s a strategy nonetheless (albeit a small one).

Confusion of strategies versus tactics — a real-world example

To make this a bit more relevant to SEO, here’s an email shared with me by a prospective client. They were looking for a new agency after they received this from their current agency:

I object to several things written here. Guest posting is a tactic, not a strategy. There is no plan here, just an action. A measurable or attainable goal is never made clear.

We need to do better. *desk flip*

Selling the SEO strategy

Whether you’re an agency, consultant, or in-house at a company, getting buy-in for an SEO strategy can be challenging. SEOs tend to rely on the support of several different departments (e.g. developers, copywriters, business managers, etc.), usually with their own predetermined goals. Enter the SEO to add more complexity.

There’s often a top-down marketing strategy already baked before you get to pitch your SEO work, to which you may find opportunity on a battlefield where access is not granted. It’s reckless to assume you can go into any established company and lob a strategy onto their laps, expecting them to follow it with disregard to their existing plans, politics, and red tape. Candidly, this may be the quickest way to get fired and show you’re not aligned with the existing business goals.

Instead, you need to find your areas of opportunity that work with the company’s business goals, not against them. Effective marketers don’t try to be a square peg in a round hole. Get to know the players, the existing playbooks, the silos, and the available gaps.

It’s not about being a yes-man; it’s about best playing the hand you’re dealt. You simply can’t successfully sell a strategy until you know where your strategy will fit and support the current business goals.

Before you begin mapping out the strategy

If I’ve done my job, you’re eager to put pen to paper, but you still have digging to do. Get your shovel.

Some people are better suited to design plans in a non-linear fashion. If I’m writing anything, be it an article or a piece of music, I’m bouncing back and forth throughout the piece as inspiration strikes. But for others who are more straight-minded and less frenetic, a reference of considerations and characteristics might be helpful.

Enter the mind map. Simply stated, a mind map is a visual representation of concepts and connections. As defined here, it is a visual thinking tool that helps to structure information, helping you to better analyze, comprehend, synthesize, recall, and generate new ideas.

It’s your sketch pad. Jot down all the ideas, concepts, and relationships you can possibly think of.

(Developed using a trial of http://ift.tt/106IvSM.)

Think of this document as a living communication between you and your client or boss. It is a document you should refer to often. It keeps all parties on the same page and aligned. I recommend sharing it in a collaborative platform so updates are shared between all viewers without having to constantly send out new copies (nothing sucks the life out of efficiency faster than “versioning” issues).

There’s no shortage of things to consider in your mind map. Here are a few common items from my experience:

  • Timeline details
  • Details about the industry or different channels
  • Other marketing learnings
  • Customer/visitor details
    • Demographics and psychographics
    • Details about the customer journey
  • Competitive details
  • Product demand details
  • Current search visibility

My fellow marketers, this is not an exhaustive list by any means. Gather all the information that is meaningful to you.

Drafting the strategy

At this stage, your initial gathering is complete, so now you’re on to development. Hopefully you’ve had some visibility and buy-in by your clients or boss to date, so it’s crucial to keep that momentum going. Don’t build a strategy in a silo.

Remember, a strategy is a plan. A plan has steps, dependencies, and future considerations throughout. I think it’s very important for your team and the client to “see” the strategy in a visual format, and not just conceptually. Use a spreadsheet, slides, or Word document — whichever tickles your fancy. At Greenlane, we’ve been using Google Sheets:

For demonstration purposes, flesh yours out as you see fit. Click for larger image.

If you work in an agile framework, the strategy is going to change. Everyone should be able to see revisions to the strategy with an indication of what’s been changed and why. That’s a benefit to documenting every important detail.

Earlier you put together a mind map to put preliminary ideas on the table. You considered things that you’ll now need to thoroughly scrutinize. Here is a list of considerations to hold your SEO strategy against. Make sure your final draft of the SEO strategy can clearly speak to each of these.

And since we’re on a Star Wars kick already, I present my dusty childhood toys (recently found in my mother’s basement).

Consideration 1 – Understand the client

Each business is an entity. Each entity has characteristics. You need to know these characteristics if you’re going to build anything for the company. So, make sure you know the answers to these questions:

  • What’s your company vision? A great vision statement can inspire great things, including an SEO strategy. And why not? If properly developed and executed, the company has already set you up for a better chance of success.
  • What are the company’s core values? Every company can only be so many things to so many people. A well-branded company knows exactly what they are and what they aren’t. Use these core values in your campaign, as they should serve as your campaign perimeter.
  • What is the leadership like? What kind of culture do they cultivate? In smaller companies, the leaders tend to influence the culture. In larger companies, unfortunately, this can get lost. But if you have access to the leadership, spend some time learning about their vision. It should match up to the company’s core values, but sometimes there are more gems locked in their minds.
  • What are the pain points? What things drive the members of this organization to drink? From the customer support to the higher-ups, there are things that knock the company down. How do they get back up? Why are the pains they’re looking to work around? It may not be realistic to interview the whole company, but ideally you can get a representative to answer these.

Let’s pause for a moment.

If you’re at this part of the article, and you’re thinking, “Whoa — why the hell would I do all this to get a few rankings?” then you’re not thinking strategic yet. True, it’s possible these bullets aren’t all relevant to what you’re building, but the bigger your strategy needs to go, the more you need to know your client.

Consideration 2 – Understand the goals

If we’re going to be creating goal-oriented plans, it make sense to start with a smart goal or two. And by smart, I mean SMART. For those who aren’t familiar with SMART goals, it stands for the following:

Specific: This is for the “why” and “how” of your goal. What exactly are you trying to do, and why? If you were a retailer who sells a little of everything, you might have a statement like this:

“At the end of February, we noticed our customers begin researching lawn and patio furniture. Customers are favoring items that look more elegant and can resist weather.”

Measurable: Be very detailed. Are we trying to make money, or are we trying to make five hundred dollars? Are we trying to draw traffic, or are we trying to bring 500 new visits that engage with our website?

A retailer might have a statement like:

“Our goal is to increase organic conversions of the Lawn and Patio section by 15% YOY in Q2 and Q3, with lawn chairs driving 75% of those sales. Target revenue $500,000 in Q2, and $300,000 in Q3.”

Achievable: Make sure you’re grounding your goal in reality. Sure, you can’t control a massive Google update, but using the history of your sales and competitive data, you can make some inferences. You also need to make sure you have agreed-upon goals. Get buy-in before you set the goal in stone, leveraging the thoughts from the leaders, merchandisers, analysts, and anyone who might be able to provide insight into the likelihood of hitting your goal.

Realistic: (There is some blend between realistic and achievable.) Do you have the appropriate resources in place? Does your client have the flexibility to make the necessary changes within the proposed timeline?

A statement to help framing could be:

“We are going to rely on resources including copywriters, researchers, merchandisers, and developers to make on-page changes within the time frame of this plan. We expect to need 40 hours of time from copywriters, 50 hours from web development.”

Time-bound: We will need deadlines for dependencies. Assign due dates to each step of the plan, and keep the players accountable. Make sure you have an appropriate start-to-finish date.

Consideration 3 – Understand the audience

This is critical. If you don’t know what your searchers are looking for, you’re guessing. That’s a bad idea. Especially today, where we have troves of data.

But it’s important to find the stories in-between the numbers. With that said, your audience can’t be measured solely by the 0s and 1s that comes into analytics platforms. I’ve written about this in The Down Side of Analytics in Marketing.

But I’ve recently heard some chatter voicing the polar opposite. I’ve heard the sentiment to wholly ignore certain data points because they don’t represent the real person. To me, that’s bad advice — directional data is better than the romantic notion of success based on your “gut” feel. Estimated search volume, clicks, and even impressions give credence not only to a keyword, but a bigger theme. This starts to create direction and an understanding of need, which leads to your next few rounds of audience recognition.

Using the available data helps a marketer understand which dollars are more effective than others, and how to identify different audience groups within the buying cycle.

With the demographics and site usage details from GA, different types of users (researchers, comparers, buyers, customers) can be grouped and classified, and the marketing dollars and messaging appropriately tailored.

AdWords and Facebook are further vehicles for reaching the appropriate audiences with more refined messaging. I think it’s important to create personas for your current visitors and the type of visitors you want to attract. It might be valuable to create personas of those you don’t want to attract, to keep in the back of your mind as your content and advertising calendar is being built following the delivery of your overall strategy.

Consideration 4 – Understand the competitive landscape

Without knowing the landscape, you really don’t know what opportunity lies ahead. Understanding your competition’s success allows you to learn from their wins (and mistakes). Reinventing the wheel burns unnecessary minutes.

There are a few competitive tools we tend to gravitate towards in our industry. SEMrush is a fantastic tool allowing anyone to look up a website and get an estimated search visibility and traffic share. Drilling in shows how well pages perform independently. Gleaning through exports can quickly reveal what topics are driving traffic, to which you might replicate or improve your own version.

Backlinks can actually serve as a proxy for interest. In Google’s vision of a democratic web, they considered links to function like votes. Google wants editorial votes to influence their algorithm. So, if we assume all links are potentially editorial, then looking up backlink data can illustrate content that’s truly beloved. Grab your favorite backlink data provider (hey — Moz has one!) and pull a report on a competitor’s domain. Take a look at the linked pages, and with a little filtering, you’ll see top linked pages emerge. Dive into those pages and develop some theories on why they’re popular link targets.

Social media — it’s more than cat memes. Generally, non-marketing folks share content that resonates with them. Buzzsumo offers an easy interface for digging through the depths of social media. Have a general topic you’d like to pursue? Enter it into Buzzsumo and see what you get.

Let the creative juices flow. Look for topics you can improve under your own roof. Even the nichiest of niches can have representation in Buzzsumo.

Maybe this feels a bit too scattershot for you. Buzzsumo also allows you to find and observe influencers. What are they sharing? By clicking the “view links shared” button, you’ll get a display of all the unique pages shared. Sometimes “influencers” share all types of varying content crossing many topics. But sometimes, they’re pretty specfic in the themes they share. Look for the latter in this competitive research stage.

Consideration 5 – Understand the roadblocks

Every company has obstacles. Each one has built its own labyrinth. Don’t try to blanket an existing labyrinth with your ill-prepared strategy; instead, work within the existing inroads.

Reality bites. You could draft up an amazing strategy, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, to which you’re rebuilding an entire category structure of one of the website’s most lucrative lines… only to find out there’s a ticket queue for the necessary resources that’s more than 6 months long. Despite your brilliant idea, you’re going to look bad when the client calls you out on not understanding their business.

The best way to avoid this is proactively asking the right questions. Ask about resource support. Ask about historic roadblocks. Ask to be introduced to other players who otherwise hide behind an email here and there. Ask about the company’s temperature regarding a bigger SEO strategy vs. short, quick-hit campaigns. Don’t be your own biggest obstacle — I’ve never heard of anyone getting angry about over-communication unless it paralyzes progress.

A few final thoughts (from my experience)

It’s time for my Jerry Springer moment.

Not all strategies have to be big. Sometimes your window is small, and you’re forced to build for a distinct — or tiny — opportunity. Maybe you don’t have time for a proper large-scale strategy at all; a tactic or two might be all you can do to carry in a win. Just make that very clear with your boss or client. Don’t misrepresent what you’re trying to build as an SEO campaign.

I understand that some SEO agencies and departments are not build for the big SEO campaigns. Strategic work takes time, and speeding (or scaling) through the development stage will likely do more harm than good. It’s like cramming for a test — you’re going to miss information that’s necessary for a good grade. It would be my pleasure if this post inspired some change in your departments.

Lastly, it’s important to remember that paralysis by over-thinking is a real issue some struggle with. There’s no pill for it (yet). Predicting perfection is a fool’s errand. Get as close as you can within a reasonable timeframe, and prepare for future iteration. If you’re traveling through your plan and determine a soft spot at any time, simply pivot. It’s many hours of upfront work to get your strategy built, but it’s not too hard to tweak as you go.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

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Knock-Off Thousands from Your Bottom Line with Close Variants

I’m a bargain addict. I shop at Goodwill instead of traditional department stores, live by Groupon and GoldStar rather than paying full price on a meal or a show, and hunt for treasures at flea markets, as opposed to paying a premium at malls.

 Close variants designer bag Google Shopping results

Who wants to blow a month of rent on a bag?

You can imagine the unbridled joy I found in close variants – a relatively new phenomenon that has been slowly but surely empowering advertisers to abandon highly competitive designer keywords and adopt their cheaper variants instead.

 Close variants designer bag YSL real vs fake

Get the look without blowing your budget!

What Are Close Variants?

Close variants are exactly what they sound like – variations on keywords that allow your ad to be triggered. The most common examples of close variants are:

  • Singular/plural
  • Misspellings
  • “ing”, “ed”, “er”, etc.
  • Abbreviations
  • One word being split into two words
  • Two words being combined into one
  • Numbers spelled out/numerical value used

For example – the phrase match keyword “flowers for mom” could get triggered by the query “flowers for mother’s day.” In this instance, “mom” and “mother” are close variants.

In identifying what close variants are, it’s also important to identify when a keyword is a truly separate idea and would require a match-type that allows for additional keywords to be added. If you’re using phrase match or exact match, these would need additional keywords:

  • “mother’s day flowers” is not the same as “mother’s day bouquet”
  • “boston dentist” is not the same as “boston doctor”
  • “lead management software” is not the same as “crm”

A Brief History of Close Variants

The close variant has been a ninja among the sweeping changes of the last two years. It started creeping into search reports towards the end of 2015, and grew in prevalence in 2016. Only in 2017 did Google officially announce that close variants can be associated with all match-types.

 Close variants WordStream QueryStream results for close variant keywords

WordStream’s QueryStream will show you the variants

Benefits of Optimizing for Close Variant

One of the big reasons to optimize for close variant matching is cost savings. Bidding on one keyword that grants you access to 10-15 other “variations” means you can target the cheapest of these variations, while still coming up for the more competitive ones.

Close variants mean tighter ad groups (3-5 keyword concepts on multiple match types, as opposed to 20-30 keywords total). Google has been pushing advertisers closer to audience-based account management, and the rise of close variant matching is another way Google incentivizes us to keep our ad groups smaller and more focused.

One of the growing risks in an account is including too many keywords, or more specifically keywords with low search volume. Advertisers used to have to run this risk, because Google required us to be much more specific with our keywords. Now that we have close variants, we’re able to consolidate underperforming campaigns and ad groups, and allow our users to teach us how they search.

As we begin to see patterns in profitable queries, we can begin pausing our broader keywords, and transitioning in the specific user-generated queries on more restrictive match-types.

How to Optimize for Close Variants

So you’ve decided to ditch “designer keywords” and live a fashionably frugal life with close variants – how do you optimize for close variant matching? There’s a few ways to begin, and in most scenarios, you will want to balance all three.

First and foremost is organizing keywords in your ad groups by match-type, and assessing for duplicates by the rules of the keywords and close variant. This is especially important for exact match keywords, as the rules of engagement radically changed in March of 2017.

Close variants keyword matching AdWords

Once you’ve grouped keywords by match-type, you can assess which version of the keyword you’ll want to keep. When it comes to broader match types (broad and modified broad), it can be helpful to identify the “common denominator” in desired keyword phrases. For example, “+flowers +for +mom” would allow your ads to come up for:

  • “flowers under $20 for mom”
  • “birthday flowers for mom”
  • “mother’s day flowers for grandma”

Rather than bidding on these terms using modified broad, we can add them on exact and phrase match, while having the one central idea (flowers for mom) on modified broad.

Beyond match-type rules, there’s also auction price. When evaluating keywords, you’re able to see “top of page” and “first position” bids. These average cost per click (CPC) prices inform whether a given budget can support enough clicks in the day (minimum of 10), as well as if there’s a less expensive option. By choosing the cheapest version, you might forgo high search volume, but you’ll also bypass high competition. Only you can know if the tradeoff is worth it.

A third way to choose your variant is to go for the one with the “best” metrics. This can be tricky as successful metrics are all relative based on volume and industry context. Do you choose the keyword with a CTR of 2.15% but 5000 impressions or the keyword with 16% CTR but only 500 impressions?

In some cases, we need to go with the keyword that is bringing us conversions and better CTR, even if it means paying a premium. However in most cases, it can be a worthwhile test to go for the cheaper keyword for 2-4 weeks. If you see traffic significantly drop off, you’ll know your original focal keyword was the right choice. If you see traffic stays around the same (or better because you can afford more clicks in your day), you’ll know your cheaper close variant can take over.

Have you adopted close variants into your marketing strategy? Would love to hear your stories and perspective in the comments!

About the Author

Navah Hopkins is a Customer Success Team Lead at WordStream. Connect with her on Twitter,  Linkedin, and/or via email.

from Internet Marketing Blog by WordStream http://ift.tt/2solBcj

How to Measure Performance with Custom Dimensions in Google Analytics [Tutorial]

Posted by tombennet

Data-driven marketing means understanding what works. This means not only having accurate data, but also having the right data.

Data integrity is obviously critical to good reporting, but Analytics auditing shouldn’t focus solely on the validity of the tracking code. Even amongst digital marketing teams who place importance on reporting, I frequently encounter the attitude that a technically sound, out-of-the-box implementation of Google Analytics will provide all the insight you could require.

Because of this, Google Analytics is rarely used to its full potential. When it comes to deeper insights — analyzing the ROI of top-of-funnel marketing activities, the impact of content engagement on raw business KPIs, or the behavior of certain subsets of your audience, for example — many will overlook the ease with which these can be measured. All it takes is a little investment in your tracking setup and a careful consideration of what insight would be most valuable.

In this article, I’ll be exploring the ways in which the Custom dimensions feature can be used to supercharge your Google Analytics reporting setup. We’ll run through some practical examples before diving into the various options for implementation. By the end, you’ll be equipped to apply these techniques to your own reporting, and use them to prove your prowess to your clients or bosses.

What are custom dimensions?

In a nutshell, they enable you to record additional, non-standard data in Google Analytics. You can then pivot or segment your data based on these dimensions, similarly to how you would with standard dimensions like source, medium, city, or browser. Custom dimensions can even be used as filters at the View-level, allowing you to isolate a specific subset of your audience or traffic for deeper analysis.

In contrast to the Content Grouping feature — which allows you to bucket your existing pages into logical groups — custom dimensions let you attach entirely new data to hits, sessions, or users. This last point is critical; custom dimensions can take advantage of the different levels of scope offered by Google Analytics. This means your new dimension can apply to an individual user and all their subsequent interactions on your website, or to a single pageview hit.

For the purposes of this tutorial, we’re going to imagine a simple scenario: You run a popular e-commerce website with a content marketing strategy that hinges around your blog. We’ll start by illustrating some of the ways in which custom dimensions can provide a new perspective.

1. User engagement

You publish a series of tutorials on your blog, and while they perform well in organic search and in social, you struggle to demonstrate the monetary value of your continued efforts. You suspect that engagement with the tutorials correlates positively with eventual high-value purchases, and wish to demonstrate this in Analytics. By configuring a user-level custom dimension called “Commenter” which communicates a true/false depending on whether the user has ever commented on your blog, you can track the behavior of these engaged users.

2. User demographics

User login status is frequently recommended as a custom dimension, since it allows you to isolate your existing customers or loyal visitors. This can be a great source of insight, but we can take this one step further: Assuming that you collect additional (anonymous) data during the user registration process, why not fire this information to Analytics as a user-level custom dimension? In the case of our example website, let’s imagine that your user registration form includes a drop-down menu for occupation. By communicating users’ selections to Analytics, you can compare the purchase patterns of different professions.

3. Out-of-stock products

Most e-commerce sites have, at one time or another, encountered the SEO conundrum of product retirement. What should you do with product URLs that no longer exist? This is often framed as a question of whether to leave them online, redirect them, or 404 them. Less frequently investigated is their impact on conversion, or of the wider behavioral effects of stock level in general. By capturing out-of-stock pageviews as a custom dimension, we can justify our actions with data.

Now that we have a clear idea of the potential of custom dimensions, let’s dive into the process of implementation.

How to implement custom dimensions

All custom dimensions must first be created in the Google Analytics Admin interface. They exist on the Property level, not the View level, and non-premium Google Analytics accounts are allowed up to 20 custom dimensions per Property. Expand Custom Definitions, hit Custom Dimensions, and then the red New Custom Dimension button.

C:\Users\ThomasB.BUILTVISIBLE\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\creating-custom-dimensions-1.png

In the next screen, you’ll need to give your dimension a name, select a Scope (hit, session, user, or — for enhanced e-commerce implementations — product), and check the Active box to enable it. Hit Create, and you’ll be shown a boilerplate version of the code necessary to start collecting data.

C:\Users\ThomasB.BUILTVISIBLE\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\our-custom-dimension.png

The code — which is documented fully on Google Developers and Google Support — is very simple:

var mozDimensionValue = 'Howdy Moz Fans';
ga('set', 'dimension1', mozDimensionValue);

As you can see, we’re defining the value of our dimension in a JavaScript variable, then using the set method with the ga() command queue to pass that variable to Analytics as a custom dimension. All subsequent hits on the page (pageviews, events, etc) would then include this custom dimension. Note that we refer to our dimension by its index number, which in this instance is 1; return to the main Custom Dimensions screen in the Admin area to see the index number which Analytics assigned to your new dimension.

While your developer will typically handle the nuts and bolts of implementation — namely working out how best to pass your desired value into a JavaScript variable — the syntax is simple enough that it can be modified with ease. Using the first of our examples from earlier — tracking commenters — we want to send a value of ‘commenter’ to the Dimension 2 slot as part of an event hit which is configured to fire when somebody comments on the blog. With this slot pre-configured as a user-level dimension, we would use:

ga('send', 'event', 'Engagement', 'Blog Comment', {
  'dimension2':  'commenter'
});

This approach is all well and good, but it’s not without its drawbacks. It requires on-page tracking code changes, significant developer involvement, and doesn’t scale particularly well.

Thanks to Google Tag Manager, we can make things much easier.

Implementation with Google Tag Manager

If you use GTM to deploy your Analytics tracking — and for all but the simplest of implementations, I would recommend that you do — then deploying custom dimensions becomes far simpler. For those new to GTM, I gave an introductory talk on the platform at BrightonSEO (slides here), and I’d strongly suggest bookmarking both Google’s official documentation and Simo Ahava’s excellent blog.

For the sake of this tutorial, I’ll assume you’re familiar with the basics of GTM. To add a custom dimension to a particular tag — in this case, our blog comment event tag — simply expand “Custom Dimensions” under More Settings, and enter the index number and value of the dimension you’d like to set. Note that to see the More Settings configuration options, you’ll need to check the “Enable overriding settings in this tag” box if you’re not using a Google Analytics Settings Variable to configure your implementation.

C:\Users\ThomasB.BUILTVISIBLE\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\gtm.png

What about our latter two examples, user demographics and out-of-stock products?

Our demographic scenario involved a user registration form which included an “Occupation” field. In contrast to our commenting example, the dimension value in this instance will need to be set programmatically depending on user input — it’s not a simple true/false variable that can be easily attached to a suitable event tag.

While we could use the “DOM Element” variable type to scrape the value of the “Occupation” drop-down field directly off the page, such an approach is not particularly scalable. A far better solution would be to fire the value of the field — along with the values of any other fields you feel may offer — to your website’s data layer.

Attention, people who don’t yet use a data layer:

While your development team will need to be involved in the implementation of a data layer, it’s well worth the effort. The advantages for your reporting can be huge, particularly for larger organizations. Defining the contents of your site’s data layer is a great opportunity for cross-team collaboration, and means that all potentially insightful data points are accessible in a machine-readable and platform-agnostic format, ready to be fired to GA. It’s also less subject to mistakes than ad-hoc tracking code. Much like how CSS separates out style from content, the data layer isolates your data.

Your developer will need to make the required information available in the data layer before you can define it as a Data Layer Variable in GTM and start using it in your tags. In the example below, imagine that the JavaScript variable ‘myValue’ has been configured to return the occupation entered by the user, as a string. We push it to the data layer, then define it as a Data Layer Variable in GTM:

var myValue = 'Professional Juggler';
dataLayer.push({'userOccupation': 'myValue'});

C:\Users\ThomasB.BUILTVISIBLE\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\gtm-dlv.png

Attach a custom dimension to your User Registration event tag, as before, then simply reference this Data Layer Variable as the dimension value. Done!

Our third example follows the exact same principles: Having identified product-in-stock status as a hit-level datapoint with potential reporting insight, and with our data layer configured to return this as a variable on product pages, we simply configure our pageview tag to use this variable as the value for a new custom dimension.

C:\Users\ThomasB.BUILTVISIBLE\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\gtm-stock.png

Reporting & analysis

The simplest way to view custom dimension data in Analytics is to apply a secondary dimension to a standard report. In the example below, we’ve set our new “User Occupation” dimension as the secondary dimension in a New/Returning visitor report, allowing us to identify the professions of our newest users, and those of our frequent visitors.

C:\Users\ThomasB.BUILTVISIBLE\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\secondary-dim.png

By cross-referencing your new dimensions with behavioral data — think social share frequency by occupation — you can gain insight into the subsets of your audience who are most likely to engage or convert.

In truth, however, applying a secondary dimension in this manner is rarely conducive to effective analysis. In many instances, this approach will hugely increase the number of rows of data in your report without providing any immediately useful information. As such, it is often necessary to take things one step further: You can export the data into Excel for deeper analysis, or build a custom dashboard to pivot the data exactly the way you want it. In the example below, a chart and table have been configured to show our most viewed out-of-stock products over the course of the last week. Timely, actionable insight!

C:\Users\ThomasB.BUILTVISIBLE\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\dashboard.png

Sometimes, it’s necessary to completely isolate a subset of data in a dedicated view. This can be particularly powerful when used with a user-level custom dimension. Let’s say we wish to drill down to show only our most engaged users. We can do this by applying a Filter to a new view. In the following example, we have applied a custom ‘Include’ Filter which specifies a value of ‘commenter’ based on our “Blog Commenter” custom dimension.

C:\Users\ThomasB.BUILTVISIBLE\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\filter-include.png

The result? A dedicated view which reports on engaged users only.

For more information on the intricacies of filtering data based on session or user-level custom dimensions — and their implications for your Real Time reports — be sure to check out this great post from LunaMetrics.

Final thoughts

A deeper understanding of your target audience is never a bad thing. Custom dimensions are just one of the many ways in which Google Analytics can be extended beyond its default configuration to provide more granular, actionable insights tailored to the needs of your business.

As with many other advanced Analytics features, execution is everything. It’s better to have no custom dimensions at all than to waste your limited slots with dimensions which are poorly implemented or just plain unnecessary. Planning and implementation should be a collaborative process between your marketing, management, and development teams.

Hopefully this article has given you some ideas for how custom dimensions might offer you a new perspective on your audience.

Thanks for reading!

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4 Must-Try Google Mobile Ad Strategies (with Data!)

According to analytics firm Flurry, U.S. consumers spend an average of 5 hours per day on mobile devices. As you can see in the graph below, the time spent on mobile phones is increasing at a pretty rapid rate.

minutes spent per day on mobile devices

Minutes per day spent on mobile devices

Whether you’re checking email, searching for something on Google, or stalking your favorite celebrities on Instagram, we all encounter Google search and display ads on our devices, likely several times a day.

However, just showing up on mobile isn’t really enough. In fact, WordStream data shows that advertisers have struggled to keep their mobile click-through rates high; in fact, according to WordStream’s Mark Irvine, average mobile CTR took a dip in July 2016 when AdWords users lost the ability to set mobile-preferred ads:

mobile ad click through rates

Data source: Based on a sample of 10,170 WordStream client accounts advertising on mobile devices on the Google Search Network in 2016.

So as the advertiser, how can you stand out?

Luckily, Google is constantly coming out with new and improved ways for advertisers to capitalize on their mobile audience. The four mobile ad features below are worth paying attention to and testing out in your mobile ad campaigns.

#1: Speedy AMP Mobile Ads & Landing Pages

Who could forget the launch of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Google announced a year+ ago? The goal of this project was to speed up mobile webpages, especially mobile pages for new websites.

At the big Google Marketing Next summit on May 23 of 2017, Google announced that they’ll be providing new ways for advertisers to use the power of AMP in their search and display ads. For search, this comes in the form of speedy mobile landing pages. For display, Google is using the technology of AMP to improve the speed of ads served across the Display Network.

Since page load time can make or break a mobile conversion, these updates are pretty critical. According to Google, these new AMP landing pages load twice as fast as previous AMP pages (which load in under one second).

While this new AMP feature is still in beta, some big names have been testing it and seeing results, like Johnson & Johnson. Paul Ortmayer, Head of Digital Analytics – EMEA for Johnson & Johnson, reports seeing page speeds improve by 10x and engagement rates by 20%. Sign up for the beta here to see for yourself.

amp display ads

Display ads are also getting an AMP makeover since they’ll be loading much faster on mobile to gain more traction. The AMP Ads Initiative launched last year, with the goal of making display ads load faster, has improved the experience for both the advertiser and the user.

Today Google’s Display Network is automatically converting and serving display ads in the new AMP ad format. “We’ve found that these ads load up to 5 seconds faster than regular ads even though the creative looks exactly the same,” says Google.

#2: Message Extensions

Can you imagine being able to converse with potential buyers directly through the SERPs?

Well, good news, you can! Back in the fall Google released message extensions. Similar to other ad extensions, message extensions extend the real estate of your ad by adding an extra interactive element to them. This one comes in the form of a small message icon. See the example below – clicking the feature opens up a text conversation with your business.

message extensions for mobile ads

WordStream’s data genius Mark Irvine wrote a thorough post about message extensions, detailing how they perform compared to other extensions. What were his findings?

A few clients on WordStream’s Managed Services team were using the feature in beta, and they found that adding message extensions led to a 50% higher CTR on mobile ads!

google adwords message extensions

These are definitely worth a shot!

#3: Price Extensions

There’s another extension in town. This baby has been around for almost a year now, but it is a another one that you can leverage to significantly increase mobile CTR’s and likely even lead to higher sales.

Price extensions appear on mobile devices and tablets in a carousel format, giving the user the ability to scroll on their devices and view prices for various products. Since advertisers can show their prices right on the SERP, when a visitor clicks their intent to buy is likely much higher, because they already know the price. This in turn yields a better ROI on your ad spend, since these extensions effectively pre-qualify visitors.

price extensions for mobile ads

To set these up you’ll need to choose the type of price extension (think brands, events, locations, product categories, services, etc.), as well as the currency. Advertisers will also have control over the headers, descriptions, price qualifiers, price, and final URL.

Similar to message extensions, WordStream clients have found that using pricing extensions leads to a significantly higher CTR: 4x the average to be exact!

adwords price extensions

#4: Purchases on Google

If you were excited by price extensions this may excite you even more. Google has been spreading the news about Purchases on Google since 2015, but as a limited beta many advertisers weren’t able to take advantage.

Luckily, that’s no longer the case! As of May 2017 this feature is in open beta. Enabling Purchases on Google allows advertisers in the US to let shoppers purchase directly through the mobile SERP.

Could life be any easier? Check out how ads using this feature appear on Google below.

purchases on google

There are some limitations to this feature. The two major ones are that the feature is limited to advertisers in the US, and the consumer must have an Android device and Google Wallet to utilize it. For the full scoop, check out this post.

Competition is fierce on the mobile SERP. Taking advantage of as many of Google’s new mobile ad features as you can is sure to set you apart from your competitors and help you rise to the top of the small screen.

About the Author:

Margot is a Customer Success Manager at Wistia. She loves all things digital, and spends her free time running, traveling, and cooking. Follow her on:

Twitter: @ChappyMargot

Google+: +Margot da Cunha

Blog: http://ift.tt/2o7a6TV

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How Does Google Handle CSS + Javascript “Hidden” Text? – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Does Google treat text kept behind “read more” links with the same importance as non-hidden text? The short answer is “no,” but there’s more nuance to it than that. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains just how the search engine giant weighs text hidden from view using CSS and JavaScript.

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How Google handles CSS and Javascript

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

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat a little bit about hidden text, hidden text of several kinds. I really don’t mean the spammy, black on a black background, white on a white background-like, hidden text type of keyword stuffing from the ’90s and early 2000s. I’m talking about what we do with CSS and JavaScript with overlays and with folders inside a page, that kind of hidden text.

It’s become very popular in modern web design to basically use CSS or to use JavaScript to load text after a user has taken some action on a page. So perhaps they’ve clicked on a separate section of your e-commerce page about your product to see other information, or maybe they’ve clicked a “read more” link in an article to read the rest of the article. This actually creates problems with Google and with SEO, and they’re not obvious problems, because when you use something like Google’s fetch and render tool or when you look at Google’s cache, Google appears to be able to crawl and parse all of that text. But they’re not treating all of it equally.

So here’s an example. I’ve got this text about coconut marble furnishings, which is just a ridiculous test phrase that I’m going to use for this purpose. But let’s say I’ve got page A, which essentially shows the first paragraph of this text, and then I have page B, which only shows part of the first sentence and then a “read more” link, which is very common in lots of articles.

Many folks do this, by the way, because they want to get engagement data about how many people actually read the rest of the piece. Others are using it for serving advertising, or they’re using it to track something, and some people are using it just because of the user experience it provides. Maybe the page is crowded with other types of content. They want to make sure that if someone wants to display this particular piece or that particular piece, that it’s available to them in as convenient a format as possible for design purposes or what have you.

What’s true in these instances is that Google is not going to treat what happens after this “read more” link is clicked, which is that the rest of this text would become visible here, they’re not going to treat that with the same weight that they otherwise would.

All other things being equal

So they’re on similar domains, they have similar link profiles, all that other kind of stuff.

  • A is going to outrank B for “coconut marble furnishings” even though this is in the title here. Because this text is relevant to that keyword and is serving to create greater relevance, Google is going to weight this one higher.
  • It’s also true that the content that’s hidden behind this “read more” here, it doesn’t matter. If it’s CSS-based, JavaScript-based, post load or loaded when the HTML is, it doesn’t matter, it’s going to be weighted less by Google. It will be treated as though that text were not as important.
  • Interestingly, fascinatingly, perhaps, Bing and Yahoo do not appear to discern between these. So they’ll treat these more equally. Google is the only one who seems to be, at least right now, from some test data — I’ll talk about that in a sec — who is treating these differently, who is basically weighting this hidden content less.

Best practices for SEO and “hidden” text

So what can we discern from this? What should SEOs do when we’re working with our web design teams and with our content teams around these types of issues?

I. We have to expect that any time we hide text with CSS, with JavaScript, what have you, that it will have less ranking influence. It’s not that it won’t be counted at all. If I were to search for “hardwood-like material creates beautiful shine,” like that exact phrase in Google with quotes, both of these pages would come up, this one almost certainly first, but both of these pages would come up.

So Google knows the text is there. It just isn’t counting it as highly. It’s like content that isn’t carrying the same weight as it would if it were visible by default. So, given that we know that, we have to decide in the tradeoff situation whether it’s worth it to lose the ranking value and the potential visitors in exchange for whatever we’re gaining by having this element.

II. We’ve got to consider some creative alternatives. It is possible to make text visible by default and to instead have something like an overlay element. We could have a brief overlay here that’s easily close-able with a message. Maybe that could give us the same types of engagement statistics, because 95% of people are going to close that before they scroll down, or they’re going to receive a popover message or those kinds of things. Granted, as we’ve discussed previously on Whiteboard Friday, overlays have their own issues that we need to be aware of, but these are possible. We can also measure scroll depth by doing some JavaScript tracking. There’s lots of software that does that by default and plenty of GitHub repositories, that are open source, that we could use to track that. So there might be other ways to get the same goals.

III. If it is the case that you have to use the “read more” or any other text hiding elements, I would urge you to go ahead and place the crucial information, including the keyword phrases and the most related terms and phrases that you know are going to be very important to rankings, up in that most visible top portion of the page so that you maximize the ranking weight of the most important pieces rather than losing those below or behind whatever sorts of post-loading situation you’ve got. Make those the default visible portions of text.

I do want to give special thanks. One of the reasons that we know this, certainly Google has mentioned it on occasion, but over the course of the last few years there’s been a lot of skepticism, especially from folks in the web design community who have sort of said, “Look, it seems like Google can see this. It doesn’t seem to be a problem. When I search in quotes for this text, Google is bringing it back.” That has been correct.

But thanks to Shai — I’m sorry if I mispronounce your name — Aharony from Reboot Online, RebootOnline.com, and I’ll link to the specific test that they performed, but they performed some wonderful, large-scale, long-term tests of CSS, of text area, of visible text, and of JavaScript hiding across many domains over a long period and basically proved to us that what Google says is in fact true, that they are treating this text behind here with less weight. So we really appreciate the efforts of folks like that, who go through intense effort to give us the truth about how Google works.

That said, we will hopefully see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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‘Purchases on Google’ Enters Open Beta

Google made big news and announced tons of new changes and AdWords features last month at their annual Google Marketing Next Event in San Francisco. And while we’ve all been lost in the hype over Life Events targeting and the secrets hidden within the new AdWords interface, Google secretly rolled another exciting innovation into their roadmap – the ability to purchase products directly on the SERP!

Purchase on Google  

Image via SearchEngineLand

This innovation enables advertisers to highlight their shopping ads with a blue “Buy on Google” notation shown to mobile searchers on Android devices. If a user clicks on the ad, they’ll have the option to purchase the product directly on the SERP by using their linked Google Wallet, cutting out the extra step of sending a searcher to a mobile landing page (and hopefully increasing mobile conversion rates).

You can manage the checkout process for purchasing on Google via your merchant center:

 Google Purchases Beta Merchant Center

Advertisers with a good memory may remember that Google had originally announced Purchases on Google in 2015, but hadn’t opened the feature up to many advertisers since. The format and management of the ads has changed some over the past two years, but the experience should be the same as promised.

Google Purchases Beta Wallet

Some Important Limitations:

  • The option to buy on Google will only show to Android users with a Google Wallet. As popular as Android has become, the Google Wallet isn’t quite as universally used – only 14% of the US used Google Wallet in 2016.
  • Both Google Wallet and Purchases on Google are restricted to the United States.

The Purchases on Google feature is currently in an open beta to Merchant Center advertisers in the United States. If you’re interested in getting started with early access, you can submit your interest directly to Google here.

About the author:

Mark is a Senior Data Scientist at WordStream with a background in SEM, SEO, and Statistical Modeling. He was named the 14th Most Influential PPC Expert of 2016 by PPC Hero. You can follow him on TwitterLinkedIn, and Google +.

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