Author Archives: Nick Gerdzhikov

So you have invested a lot of time and resources in your site SEO, now it is time to measure whether your efforts and money were worth it. By now you should understand that results in SEO take time, and that apart from specific metrics you can look at, good SEO should be judged against your overall business objectives.

Why Measuring SEO Performance is Important?

Since SEO is one of many digital marketing channels you will probably use, it is very important that you do measure your SEO performance. This will allow you to carefully plan how you allocate your future marketing budget in order to direct your resources to what works best for your specific business.

Some Tools You Can Use To Measure Performance

The most obvious step in measuring your SEO and other channels performance is to have a good analytics solution installed on your site. Here are some of the most popular analytics solutions:

  • Google Analytics: free with a Google account.
  • Webtrends Analytics
  • Adobe Analytics

It is important that you properly configure your web analytics to track goals and business objectives. Also, you need to establish SEO objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs). Monthly organic search traffic is one example of SEO KPIs. Another example might be non­branded keyword searches.

Furthermore, you can measure how your search engine ranking change in relation to your SEO activities by using tools like Moz Rank Tracker and Ahrefs Rank Tracker.

Analyzing Keyword Performance

Since keywords are the foundation of your SEO efforts you need to be tracking how your target keywords are performing. Tracking keyword performance used to be very easy as this data used to be available in your analytics software. Unfortunately recently Google stopped passing any keyword data to organic traffic referrals. This means that you only see “Not Provided” in your analytics software organic traffic referrals. Analyzing the performance of keywords is a challenging task, and it requires that we look at multiple tools and sources of information and try to anticipate the actual performance of keywords.

​Unfortunately, it is not an exact science!

To analyze the performance of your pages in relation to the target keywords you may:

  • Look at which landing pages have the most organic traffic referral in the context of the keywords for which they are ranking.
  • Link your Google Analytics with Google Search Console. This will allow you to view some limited query reports data. This includes data on the number of impressions, average rank positions, clicks, and click-through rate. Keep in mind that this method offers relative accuracy!

Analyzing Link Performance

Since links can be considered votes of trust on the internet you need to track the performance and effect of your link ­building and outreach effort. To do this you need to track the effect your efforts have over your domain name and pages authority. Thankfully, there are a lot of tools out there to help you out. Here are a few of the most popular:

To track the performance of your efforts you need to pay attention to the number and quality of backlinks you get, as well as how your domain name and page name authority change over time.

You can even automate the monitoring process by using tools like the MOZ Campaign Tracking function. Additionally, you can look at your Google and Bing Webmaster Tools backlinks reports. When using all those tools it is important to identify any low quality and unwanted links because they can hurt your rankings, and may even result in a penalty.

What to do with unwanted links?

If you do find unwanted backlinks coming from low quality/spammy sites there are a few things you can do:

  • Request the site owners to take those links down.
  • Disavow those URLs through the search engines webmaster tools. To do that follow the instructions from Google and Bing.
  • You can hire a professional agency to remove bad links and help you recover from penalties like Google Panda and Penguin.

There are hundreds if not thousands of SEO tools which can help you measure the performance of your efforts. The bottom line is to always consider these results in relation to your business objectives. In other words, look for ways to check how your SEO and other marketing channels drive revenue.

SEO is an ongoing process, you need to measure the results, learn from them and take action based on what you have learned, then repeat the process!

 

How to Optimize Your Site for Mobile Searches in 3 Easy Steps

Wherever you look today mobile devices are an essential part of people’s lives. Together with the use of mobile devices, mobile search has also seen tremendous growth. Today almost half of all searches globally are done through a mobile device. Mobile is set to be the new leader and to be competitive you must ensure that your website offers mobile users a good experience!

Understanding Mobile Users

It is important to understand that users behavior on mobile devices is unique and it generally falls into two categories:

  1. Focused Search

Mobile users are usually on the go and most often look for things like locations, working hours, and phone numbers. Because mobile users are on the go, they require this information fast. The last thing you need when you are looking for a place on a mobile device is to drill through layers of menu items and content, accessibility is thus extremely important.

  1. Casual Browsing

In contrast, mobile usage may be relaxed. People often casually browse their mobile devices in their leisure time, often at home during the boring parts of movies or during commercials.

To accommodate both of those behavior types you need to ensure that your site offers a mobile-friendly user interface, good internal search functionality, swipeable photos, and filters.

Developing Mobile-Friendly Content

The most important aspect of developing a mobile-friendly site is the technical configuration you choose to deliver your content to mobile users. Here are the three types of configuration:

1. Responsive Web Design

This is a very common configuration because it allows you to build one site, serving the same content from the same URL to both desktop and mobile users. Through CSS queries, sites with responsive design automatically change how the content is rendered in order for it to be properly displayed on the screen size of the device. Here is an example of how this same page rearranges itself for smaller screens. It is important to note that Google has expressed a preference for responsive websites.

2. Dynamic Device Detection

This option is preferable when you want to alter the mobile experience. Sometimes you may need to do that to match the different behavior and intent people have when browsing on mobile devices. With this option, your web server identifies users who are on a mobile device and dynamically serves appropriate content. This option can give you a lot of flexibility but the downside is that you need to maintain more content and pages.

3. Separate Site

With this option, you set up a separate site on which you serve content to mobile users. With this option, your server detects users from mobile devices and serves them a different URL. Usually, these are located on subdomains like m.domainname.com. The advantage of this configuration is that you have the ultimate flexibility to tailor the experience of your mobile users. The disadvantage is that with this option you will need a lot more resources to maintain an additional site.

From an SEO perspective, no matter which option you choose you must signal your configuration to search engines. To do this follow the guidelines offered by Google.

Optimizing Your Site Speed

To help mobile users have good experience on your site you need to provide the fastest possible performance. Here are a few techniques you can use to achieve this:

● Use Smaller Image Files

Lower the size of your image files as much as possible.

● Use Minified Code

Keep a clean code and compress your CSS files to reduce their size.

● Use Cashing

You can check your site speed performance and identify speed issues using the free Google Pagespeed Insights tool.

Offering a good user experience to your mobile visitors is essential for the success of your SEO objectives. It is important to understand the behavior of your mobile users and produce content that matches their expectations while at the same time deliver it with the fastest speed possible.

 

Technical SEO: what is it and why you need it
By improving different technical elements of your site you can help search engines better find, crawl, and index your site.

How Search Engines Read the Code Behind Your Page

Search engines cannot interpret the content of web pages the same way we do. Take this page for example. To you, it is a page containing different visual elements like logos, photos, etc. To an engine it looks like this:

When search engines look at web pages they look at the page HTML code (Hypertext Markup Language). This same code tells your browser where to download all the images from, how things are laid out, what fonts and colors to display etc. The HTML of pages also refer to and load the style sheets (CSS) which are extra instruction for the visual representation of the content.

Keeping a clean and error-free HTML pages help browsers display your pages correctly and help search engines understand the structure of your page.

Why You Should Use XML Sitemap

Much like humans, search engines visit links to find new content. Unlike humans though, engines click on every link they can find. The easiest thing to do to ensure that your content is indexed is to link to it.

Another way to help engines find your content is through XML Sitemaps. A sitemap is a listing of your pages’ content in a format that engines can read through.  You can learn more about sitemaps and how to generate them on sitemaps.org. Once you create your sitemaps you submit them directly to the search engines through “webmaster tools”.

Why You Should Use Meta Robots

Linking and using sitemaps is a great way to tell search engines about the location and changes of your content, however, when there are pages which you do not want to be indexed you can use meta robots. Think of members-only pages you might have or test pages of your site which you might want to hide from being indexed and show on SERPs. To do this you can set rules for search engines in what is called robots.txt file. This file is added to the main root folder of your site. Creating a robots.txt file can be a little technical but you can learn more by visiting the robotstxt.org.

Dealing With Duplicate Content

In theory, all pages on the internet should have their unique URL, in practice however pages often can be reached through slight variations in their URL. This results in duplicate URLs (content) in the search engines index. Having duplicate content on your site is very dangerous because search engines like humans prefer unique content. Duplicate content can cause engines to penalize your site which can really hurt your organic traffic!

Using Canonical URLs

One way to resolve duplicate content issues is to use the Rel Canonical Meta Tag. You add this tag to the code of your duplicate pages telling search engines which is the primary URL to access your content. You can also clarify to search engines how you use URL parameters directly in webmaster tools.

Using Redirects

Duplicate content issues may also arise when you move content around your site. For example, you may move content from URL A to URL B but both URL A and B can exist in a search engine index. This may cause search engines to send traffic to the wrong page (URL A). To avoid this it is important to use redirects. Here are three of the most important redirects and when to use them:

  • 302 Temporary Redirect ­ use it only for short term content move. It tells search engines that the pages are not available now but will be back shortly.
  • 301 Permanent Redirect ­ use when you are moving your content permanently. It tells search engines that it should take everything it knew about the old URL and apply it to this new one. To rank high on SERPs you must ensure that engines see unique URLs and know the exact location of your content.

Use of JavaScript, Flash, and AJAX

You can use technologies like JavaScript, Flash, and AJAX to enhance the user experience on your site. Unfortunately, these technologies may cause problems for search engines. The crawlers are consistently becoming more advanced and are getting better all the time, but traditionally they have struggled with these technologies and it is advisable to use them carefully. You can still have this type of elements on your site but as a general rule avoid using JavaScript, Flash, and AJAX for your important page elements and content. Site navigation is one example, even the best site architecture in the world can be undermined by navigational elements that are inaccessible to search engines.

Flash

Flash is great for making websites look pretty but a bad choice from an SEO point of view. When reading Flash content, search engines have a very difficult time associating specific parts of content with the correct spot in the file. Flash can add a lot of value to a website, but it should be used sparingly. Flash can be implemented in a way that really adds to a website’s user experience, but you should never make a site entirely in Flash (or any significant portion).  With the advent and increasing support of HTML5, there are increasingly fewer reasons to use Flash as HTML5 can accomplish most anything you would want to do with Flash. See all those amazing examples of HTML5 sites.

AJAX

AJAX is an acronym for Asynchronous JavaScript and XML. It is a great technology from a user point of view as it reduces load time and increases site speed by only requesting content when users request it. However, AJAX may cause issues as it requires the search engine to “click” or request the content before it can be read. Refer to the Google Guide to AJAX crawling for webmasters and developers for a detailed list of things you can do to help Google and other Search Engines crawl and index your content.

Server Side Factors You Must Consider

The hosting and management of your web server can have a tremendous effect on your SERPs ranking. Engines want to provide a good experience to their users so they want to send them to sites that are reliable and have a fast load speed. You need to make sure that you are serving pages quickly and have minimized your server downtime.

The location of your server can have an effect on speed. If most of your users are located half a world away from your server location they may find that your pages are loading slowly. For this reason, you must ensure that your web server is located in the geographical region of the majority of your visitors. If your business is global and you expect traffic from around the world, consider a hosting solution which can distribute a request for your pages to a global network of servers.

Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tool

Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools let you see what search engines know about your site, whether there had any problems while indexing your pages, as well as other important information. These tools are very useful because they let you provide the engines with directions like uploading sitemaps and setting geo-targeting for your sites. Here are some specific benefits of creating and actively managing webmaster accounts:

  • See potential issues that search engines have detected on your site
  • See metrics of your organic traffic
  • Make optimizations and provide the engines with information to better understand your site

Google Search Console

Go to google.com/webmaters/tools and sign in/create a google account.  When you log in you will be able to add websites you can manage. You will need to verify to Google that you are the webmaster of the site you want to add.

Once you verify your site you will access the dashboard with all the areas of webmaster tools. Detailed tutorials on how to use Google Search Console are available on the Google Search Console YouTube Channel.

Bing Webmaster Tools

Go to bing.com/toolbox/webmaster. Much like Google Webmaster Tools, you can find out what information Bing has about your site, and you can provide instructions. Visit the Bing Webmaster Tools Help & How­To Center for training and resources.

Keeping a clean code and visible to the engine’s content must be a fundamental part of your SEO efforts. Hopefully, this guide provided you with a technical overview of what you must consider when building and optimizing your websites.

 

Keyword research is the first and fundamental step of search engine optimization and almost any digital marketing effort. Knowing the keywords that lead users to your website could be a powerful weapon, if you succeed in recognizing them.

What are keywords?

Before you can optimize your website you need to know what you are optimizing it for. Keywords are the words that users type into search engines when they are looking for something. It is through keywords that searchers communicate their intent to engines in search queries.

User Search Queries and Intent

Understanding what keywords your prospects and target customers use is essential for both good SEO and marketing research.  Learning what your target customers are looking for, what kind of language they use, and how they communicate their intent will help you plan what content, services and products you should produce. This ultimately leads to more traffic to your site and is essential for achieving your business objectives! While the algorithms that search engines use to determine intent are a closely guarded secret, it is important for us as marketers to understand that search queries generally fall into three categories.

­Transactional Queries

Users communicate intent they are looking for a transaction, they want to DO something, like buy a car or get a date.  These types of queries are often targeted with PPC campaigns(e.g. keywords like “Cheap”, “Affordable”, “Discount”).

Informational Queries

Users communicate they are looking for information, they want to LEARN something, like the name of a movie or what is the closest star (by the way it is Proxima Centauri). Through these queries, searchers learn about the authoritative sources of information and who they can trust. Informational keywords are often with the highest importance for SEO.

­Navigational Queries

Users communicate they want to find a place, they want to GO somewhere online, like someone’s blog or email provider. These queries are similar to brand keywords, they show how your brand is authoritative and therefore they are most often targeted through content marketing.

Understanding the actual intent behind your searchers’ queries is fundamental for an effective SEO strategy. Once you know how your target users communicate their intent you can optimize your content to match it. This process is called keywords research but before we explore tools you can use to conduct research, let us first look into some keyword characteristics.

How to Select the Right Keywords

To rank high on search engine result pages (SERPs) it is important that you select and target the right keywords. Think of it this way, if you target keywords which nobody uses in search queries you will be found by the same group ­ nobody! There are generally three characteristics you must consider when you search for keywords. Look for:

­Relevance

Does this keyword accurately reflect what you offer? It is pointless to use keywords which do not accurately represent your products, services, and content. If searchers do not find what they are looking for when they land on your pages, they will be quick to hit the “back” button.

­Search Volume

What is the number of searches per month/year on this particular keyword? High search volume indicates a potential for organic traffic, it means people are searching for this term.

­Competition

How difficult is it going to be to rank for this keyword? It might be hard to rank for a keyword with high competition even if they are relevant to your business and with high search volume.

Types of Keywords

In addition to these important characteristics you must also understand that keywords generally fall into three types:

Branded Keywords

They are very specific and relevant to your company or its unique products/services (e.g. “Nike”). The amount of traffic on these keywords is a strong indicator of how authoritative your brand name is.

Generic Keywords

Those keywords have much broader reach (e.g. “Shoes”). These keywords encompass many subtopics and are thus with high traffic and competition. Generic keywords are with low-level searcher awareness, in other words, the users’ intent is not clear yet! Generally, these keywords have very high competition and therefore it is not cost effective to target them.

Long­-tail Keywords

Those­ are longer and more specific keywords (e.g. “buy Nike running shoes size 8””). The users’ intent is clear, they are ready to convert/buy. These keywords are characterized by low competition, and though they tend to have lower search volume, they tend to be the most important for your SEO because of the clarity of the user intent. Research suggests that more than %70 of all searches are for long-­tail keywords. Additionally, long-­tail keywords have a better conversion rate than generic and branded terms. This makes sense as people tend to use longer and more specific search queries when they have narrowed their choices and are ready to commit.

When conducting keyword research it is important that you not only create a list of potential keywords, but a targeted mix of branded, organic, and long­-tail keywords. Over time and with proper analytics you must track which keywords are driving the most traffic and conversions for your specific business.

Keyword Research Sources

When researching keywords it is important that you get to understand the language of your users. There are many tools that can help you conduct proper keyword research. There are both free and paid tools, all with different functionality. Here are some popular tools which we find easy to use:

­Google Adwords

Google Adwords Keyword Planner is free with an Adwords account and though it is designed for PPC, it lets you see all three attributes.­

Google Trends

Google Trends is free, lets you see seasonality of keyword usage.­

Ahrefs

Ahrefs 9offers a paid keyword research tool but is among the best currently available. It allows you to discover thousands of keywords, to see what your competitors are ranking for, and to explore suitable content.

Ubersuggest

Another free resource, great for keyword ideas and suggestions since it scrapes the Google autosuggest function.

­Moz Keyword Difficulty Tool

While Moz’s tool is paid, it is great for competitive analysis.

­Google Related Searches

Of course, Google is­ free. Just experiment with search queries on google and google trends and look for what suggestions come out.

You may also use internal data from your analytics software (e.g. Google Analytics), and search query data available in your Google Webmaster Tools. To better understand the language of your users you can tap into channels they may be using. For example, you can read forums which they use to discuss and learn about similar products/services. Regardless of the tools and methods you prefer, always keep in mind the types of keywords characteristics we discussed above. Think of all this in context of the intent of your searchers and you will form a solid foundation for your site content optimization.

Understanding Keywords Mapping

Once you have done thorough research you can proceed to plan your keyword mapping. Plane simple, this means creating a plan assigning keywords you want to target to specific pages of your site. You need to align your content to match your keyword plan. To do this we strongly recommend the use of a spreadsheet which can serve as a future reference on which pages are optimized for which keywords. It also helps keep things organized! To start you need to list all pages of your site and the keywords you want to target. Doing this will help you better understand your site structure. Once you are done with the list you need to:

  • Look for duplicate pages and content you might have. Since search engines want to see unique information on each page, be careful to avoid duplicate content!
  • Look at your keywords and find the most appropriate keyword for each page you have. You may need to create new pages if you do not have suitable existing pages for all your targeted keywords! This is a great opportunity to think of new and exciting content you can have on your site.

Your keyword research and mapping is not a single event. Based on your pages performance and analytics data you need to revisit your plan and update it if needed. In a year time, people may change the keywords they use to communicate their intent, or you may discover that you have misunderstood their intent in your initial research. 

 

What is quality and relevant content?

The most important determinant of the quality of your content is its uniqueness. Like people, search engines want to see unique information. Imagine if the opposite was true, the internet would be full of irrelevant information that can be found in multiple locations. What a terrible place this would be! Since search engines strive to deliver value to their users, they penalize the use of duplicate content. In order to rank high on SERPs, you need to have original content that adds value to your users. Furthermore, you must base your content on solid keyword research: you must know how your users communicate their intent and what information they are looking for. You must build your content around the keywords and language they use. When you think of your site content, think of value. How does your content add value to your users and your community? People and search engines alike will reward you based on how much you contribute.