Posted by Trevor-Klein
In late 2013, we asked you all about your experience with the Moz Blog. It was the first time we’d collected direct feedback from our readers in more than three yearsâ€”an eternity in the marketing industry. With the pace of change in our line of work (not to mention your schedules and reading habits) we didn’t want to wait that long again, so we’re taking this opportunity to ask you how well we’re keeping up.
Our mission is to help you all become better marketers, and to do that, we need to know more about you. What challenges do you all face? What are your pain points? Your day-to-day frustrations? If you could learn more about one or two (or three) topics, what would those be?
If you’ll help us out by taking this five-minute survey, we can make sure we’re offering the most useful and valuable content we possibly can. When we’re done looking through the responses, we’ll follow up with a post about what we learned.
Thanks, everyone; we’re excited to see what you have to say!
Can’t see the survey? Click here to take it in a new tab.
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Posted by Casey_Meraz
Competition in local search is fierce. While it’s typical to do some surface level research on your competitors before entering a market, you can go much further down the SEO rabbit hole. In this article we will look at how you can find more competitors, pull their data, and use it to beat them in the search game.
Since there are plenty of resources out there on best practices, this guide will assume that you have already followed the best practices for your own listing and are looking for the little things that might make a big difference in putting you over your competition. So if you haven’t already read how to perform the Ultimate Local SEO Audit or how to Find and Build Citations then you should probably start there.
Disclaimer: While it’s important to mention that correlation does not mean causation, we can learn a lot by seeing what the competition has done.
Some of the benefits of conducting competitive research are:
- You can really dive into your customers’ market and understand it better.
- You can figure out who your real customers area and better target them.
- You can get an understanding of what your competitors have done that has been successful without re-inventing the wheel.
Once you isolate trends that seem to make a positive difference, you can create a hypothesis and test. This allows you to constantly be testing, finding out what works, and growing those positive elements while eliminating the things that don’t produce results. Instead of making final decisions off of emotion, make your decisions off of the conversion data.
A good competition analysis will give you a strong insight into the market and allow you to test, succeed, or fail fast. The idea behind this process is to really get a strong snapshot of your competition at a glance to isolate factors you may be missing in your company’s online presence.
Disclaimer 2: It’s good to use competitors’ ideas if they work, but don’t make that your only strategy.
Before we get started
Below I will cover a process I commonly use for competition analysis. I have also created this Google Docs spreadsheet for you to follow along with and use for yourself. To make your own copy simply go to File > Make A Copy. (Don’t ask me to add you as an owner please
Let’s get started
1. Find out who your real competitors are
Whether you work internally or were hired as an outside resource to help with your client’s SEO campaign, you probably have some idea of who the competition is in your space. Some companies may have good offline marketing but poor online marketing. If you’re looking to be the best, it’s a good idea to do your own research and see who you’re up against.
In my experience it’s always good to find and verify 5-10 online competitors in your space from a variety of sources. You can use tools for this or take the manual approach. Keep in mind that you have to screen the data tools give you with your own eye for accuracy.
How do you find your “real” competitors?
We’re going to look at some tools you can use to find competitors here in a second, but keep in mind you want to record everything you find.
Make sure to capture the basic information for each competitor including their company name, location, and website. These tools will be useful at a later time. Record these in the “competitor research” tab of the spreadsheet.
Method 1: Standard Google searches for competitors
This is pointing out the obvious, but if you have a set of keywords you want to rank for, you can look for trends and see who is already ranking where you want to be. Don’t limit this to just one or two keywords, instead get a broader list of the competitors out there.
To do this, simply come up with a list of several keywords you want to rank for and search for them in your geographic area. Make sure your Geographic preference is set correctly so you get accurate data.
- Collect a list of keywords
- Search Google to see which companies are ranking in the local pack
- Record a list of the companies’ names and website URLs in the spreadsheet under the competitor research tab.
To start we’re just going to collect the data and enter it into the spreadsheet. We will revisit this data shortly.
Outside of the basics, I always find it’s good to see who else is out there. Since organic and local rankings are more closely tied together than ever, it’s a good idea to use 3rd party tools to get some insight as to what else your website could be considered related to.
This can help provide hidden opportunities outside of the normal competition you likely look at most frequently.
Method 2: Use SEMRUSH.com
SEMRush is a pretty neat competitive analysis tool. While it is a paid program, they do in fact have a few free visits a day you can check out. It’s limited but it will show you 10 competitors based on keyword ranking data. It’s also useful for recording paid competition as well.
To use the tool, visit www.SEMRush.com and enter your website in the provided search box and hit search. Once the page loads, you simply have to scroll down to the area that says “main competitors”. If you click the “view full report” option you’ll be taken to a page with 10 competition URLs.
Put these URLs into the spreadsheet so we can track them later.
Method 3: Use SPYFU.com
This is a cool tool that will show your top 5 competitors in paid and organic search. Just like SEMRush, it’s a paid tool that’s easy to use. On the home page, you will see a box that loads where you can enter your URL. Once you hit search, a list of 5 websites will populate for free.
Enter these competitors into your spreadsheet for tracking.
Method 4: Use Crunchbase.com
This website is a goldmine of data if you’re trying to learn about a startup. In addition to the basic information we’re looking for, you can also find out things like how much money they’ve raised, staff members, past employee history, and so much more.
Crunchbase also works pretty similarly to the prior tools in the sense that you you just enter your website URL and hit the search button. Once the page loads, you can scroll down the page to the competitors section for some data.
While Crunchbase is cool, it’s not too useful for smaller companies as it doesn’t seem to have too much data outside of the startup world.
Method 5: Check out Compete.com
This tool seems to have limited data for smaller websites but it’s worth a shot. It can also be a little bit more high-level than I prefer, but you should still check it out.
To use the tool visit www.compete.com and enter the URL you want to examine in the box provided then hit search.
Click the “Find more sites like” box to get list of three related sites. Enter these in the provided spreadsheet.
Method 6: Use SimilarWeb.com
SimilarWeb provides a cool tool with a bunch of data to check out websites. After entering your information, you can scroll down to the similar sites section which will show websites it believes to be related.
The good news about SimilarWeb is that it seems to have data no matter how big or small your site is.
2. After you know who they are, mine their data
Now that we have a list of competitors, we can really do a deep dive to see who is ranking and what factors might be contributing to their success. To start, make sure to pick your top competitors from the spreadsheet and then look for and record the information below about each business on the Competitor Analysis tab.
You will want to to pull this information from their Google My Business page.
If you know the company’s name, it’s pretty easy to find them just by searching the brand. You can add the geographic location if it’s a multi-location business.
For example if I was searching for a Wendy’s in Parker, Colorado, I could simply search this: “Wendy’s Parker, CO” and it will pull up the location(s).
Make sure to take and record the following information from their local listings. Get the data from their Google My Business (Google + Page) and record it in the spreadsheet!
- Business name - Copy and paste the whole business name. Sometimes businesses keyword stuff a name or have a geographic modifier. It’s important to account for this.
- Address – The full address of the business location. Although we can’t do anything about its physical location, we will search using this information shortly.
- City, state, zip code – The city, state, and zip listed on the Google My Business listing.
- Phone number – Take the listing’s primary number
- Phone number 2 – Take the listing’s secondary number like an 800 number.
- Landing page URL – The one connected to their Google My Business listing.
PRO TIP: The URL will display as the root domain, but click the link to see if it takes you to an internal landing page. This is essential!
- Number of categories – Does your listing have more or less categories than the listing?
- Categories in Google My Business
You can find the categories by clicking on the main category of the listing. It will pop out a list of all of the categories the business is listed under. If you only see one after doing this, open your browser and go to View Source. If you do Ctrl+F you can search the page for “GCID” without the quotes. This will show you the categories they’re listed under if you look through the HTML.
- Does the profile appear to be 100% complete?
- How many reviews do they have?
- Is their business name visible in Google Street View? Obviously there is not much we can do about this, but it’s interesting especially considering some patents Bill Slawski was recently talking about.
** Record this information on the spreadsheet. A sample is below.
What can we do with this data?
Since you’ve already optimized your own listing for best practices, we want to see if there is any particular trends that seem to be working better in a certain area. We can then create a hypothesis and test it to see if any gains are losses are made. While we can’t isolate factors, we can get some insight as to what’s working the more you change it.
In my experience, examining trends is much easier when the data is side by side. You can easily pick out data that stands out from the rest.
3. Have a close(r) look at their landing pages
You already know the ins and outs of your landing page. Now let’s look at each competitor’s landing page individually. Let’s look at the factors that carry the most weight and see if anything sticks out.
Record the following information into the spreadsheet and compare side by side with your company vs. the successful ones.
|Page title of landing page|
|City present? – Is the city present in the landing page meta title?|
|State present? - Is the state present in the landing page meta title?|
|Major KW in title? Is there a major keyword in the landing page meta title?|
|Content length on landing page – Possibly minor but worth examining. Copy/paste into MS Word|
|H1 present? - Is the H1 tag present?|
|City in H1? - Does the H1 contain the city name?|
|State in H1? – Does the H1 have the state or abbreviation in the heading?|
|Keyword in H1? – Do they use a keyword in the H1?|
|Local business schema present? – Are they using schema? Find out using the Google structured data testing tool here.|
|Embedded map present? – Are they embedding a Google map?|
|GPS coordinates present? – Are they using GPS coordinates via schema or text?|
4. Off site: See what google thinks is authoritative
Recently, I was having a conversation with a client who was super-excited about the efforts his staff was making. He proudly proclaimed that his office was building 10 new citations a day and added over 500 within the past couple of months!
His excitement freaked me out. As I suspected, when I asked to see his list, I saw a bunch of low quality directory sites that were passing little or no value. One way I could tell they were not really helping (besides the fact that some were NSFW websites), was that the citations or listings were not even indexed in Google.
I think it’s a reasonable assumption that you should test to see what Google knows about your business. Whatever Google delivers about your brand, it’s serving because it has the most relevance or authority in its eyes.
So how can we see what Google sees?
It’s actually pretty simple. Just do a Google Search. One of the ways that I try to evaluate and see whether or not a citation website is authoritative enough is to take the competition’s NAP and Google it. While you’ve probably done this many times before for citation earning, you can prioritize your efforts based off of what’s recurring between top ranked competitor websites.
As you can see in the example below where I did a quick search for a competitor’s dental office (by pasting his NAP in the search bar), I see that Google is associating this particular brand with websites like:
- The company’s main website
- Amazon Local (New)
Pro Tip: Amazon local is relatively new, but you can see that it’s going to carry a citation benefit in local search. If your clients are willing, you should sign up for this.
Don’t want to copy and paste the NAP in a variety of formats? Use Andrew Shotland’s NAP Hunter to get your competitor’s variants. This tool will easily open multiple window tabs in your browser and search for combinations of your competitor’s NAP listings. It makes it easy and it’s kind of fun.
5. Check important citations
With citations, I’m generally in the ballpark of quality over quantity. That being said, if you’re just getting the same citations that everyone else has, that doesn’t really set you apart does it? I like to tell clients that the top citation sources are a must, but it’s good to seek out opportunities and monitor what your competition does so you can keep up and stay ahead of the game.
You need to check the top citations and see where you’re listed vs. your competition. Tools like Whitespark’s local citation finder make this much easier to get an easy snapshot.
If you’re looking to see which citations you should find and check, use these two resources below:
Just like in the example in the section above, you can find powerful hidden gems and also new website opportunities that arise from time to time.
Just because you did it once doesn’t mean you should leave it alone
A common mistake I see is businesses thinking it’s ok to just turn things off when they get to the top.That’s a bad idea. If you’re serious about online marketing, you know that someone is always out to get you. So in addition to tracking your brand mentions through the Fresh Web Explorer, you also need to be tracking your competition at least once a month! The good news is that you can do this easily with Fresh Web Explorer from Moz.
So what should you setup in Fresh Web Explorer?
- Your competitor’s brand name – Monitor their mentions and see what type of marketing they’re doing!
- Your competitor’s NAP – Easily find new citations they’re going after
- City+Industry+Keywords – Maybe there are some hidden gems outside of your competition you could go after!
Plus track anything else you can think of related to your brand. This will help the on-going efforts get a bit easier.
6. Figure out which citations have dofollow links
Did you know some citation sources have dofollow links which mean they pass link juice to your website? Now while these by themselves likely won’t pass a lot of juice, it adds an incentive for you to be proactive with recording and promoting these listings.
When reviewing my competition’s citations and links I use a simple Chrome plugin called NoFollow which simply highlights nofollow links on pages. It makes it super easy to see what’s a follow vs. a nofollow link.
But what’s the benefit of this? Let’s say that I have a link on a city website that’s a follow link and a citation. If it’s an authority page that talks highly about my business, it would make sense for me to link to it from time to time. If you’re getting links from websites other than your own and linking to these high quality citations you will pass link juice to your page. It’s a pretty simple way of increasing the authority of your local landing pages.
7. Links, links, links
Since the Pigeon update almost a year ago, links started to make a bigger impact in local search. You have to be earning links and you have to earn high quality links to your website and especially your Google My Business Landing page.
If the factors show you’re on the same playing field as your competition except in domain authority or page authority, you know your primary focus needs to be links.
Now here is where the research gets interesting. Remember the data sources we pulled earlier like compete, spyfu.com, etc? We are now going to get a bigger picture on the link profile because we did this extra work. Not only are we just going to look at the links that our competition in the pack has, we’ve started to branch out of that for more ideas which will potentially pay off big in the long run.
What to do now
Now we want to take every domain we looked at when we started and run Open Site Explorer on each and every domain. Once we have these lists of links, we can then sort them out and go after the high quality ones that you don’t already have.
Typically, when I’m doing this research I will export everything into Excel or Google Docs, combine them into one spreadsheet and then sort from highest authority to least authority. This way you can prioritize your road map and focus on the bigger fish.
Keep in mind that citations usually have links and some links have citations. If they have a lot of authority you should make sure you add both.
8. But what about user behavior?
If you feel like you’ve gone above and beyond your competition and yet you’re not seeing the gains you want, there is more you have to look at. Sometimes as an SEO it’s easy to get in a paradigm of just the technical or link side of things. But what about user behavior?
It’s no secret and even some recent tests are showing promising data. If your users visit your site and then click back to the search results it indicates that they didn’t find what they were looking for. Through our own experiments we have seen listings in the SERPs jump a few positions in hours just based off of user behavior.
So what does this mean for you?
You need to make sure your pages are answering the users queries as they land on your page, preferably above the fold. For example, if I’m looking for a haircut place and I land on your page, I might be wanting to know the hours, pricing, or directions to your store. Making information prevalent is essential.
Make sure that if you’re going to make these changes you test them. Come up with a hypothesis, test the results, and come to conclusion or another test based off of the data. If you want to know more about your users, I say that you need to find as much about them as human possible. Some services you can use for that are:
1. Inspectlet - Record user sessions and watch how they navigate your website. This awesome tool literally allows you to watch recorded user sessions. Check out their site.
2. LinkedIn Tracking Script – Although I admit it’s a bit creepy, did you know that you can see the actual visitors to your website if they’re logged into LinkedIn while browsing your website? You sure can. To do this complete the following steps:
1. Sign up for a LinkedIn Premium Account
2. Enter this code into the body of your website pages:
<img src="https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?authToken=zRgB&authType=name&id=XXXXX" />
3. Replace the XXXXX with your account number of your profile. You can get this by logging into your profile page and getting the number present after viewid?=
4. Wait for the visitors to start showing up under “who’s viewed your profile”
3. Google Analytics – Watch user behavior and gain insights as so what they were doing on your website.
Speaking of user behavior, is your listing the only one without reviews? Does it have fewer or less favorable reviews? All of these are negative signals for user experience. Do you competitors have more positive reviews? If so you need to work getting more.
While this post was mainly geared towards local SEO as in Google My Business rankings, you have to consider that there are a lot of localized search queries that do not generate pack results. In these cases they’re just standard organic listings.
If you’ve been deterred to add these by Google picking its own meta descriptions or by their lack of ranking benefit, you need to check yourself before you wreck yourself. Seriously. Customers will make a decision on which listing to click on based on this information. If you’re not thinking about optimizing these for user intent on the corresponding page then you’re just being lazy. Spend the time, increase CTR, and increase your rankings if you’re serving great content.
The key to success here is realizing that this is a marathon and not a sprint. If you examine the competition in the top areas mentioned above and create a plan to overcome, you will win long term. This of course also assumes you’re not doing anything shady and staying above board.
While there were many more things I could add to this article, I believe that if you put your focus on what’s mentioned here you’ll have the greatest success. Since I didn’t talk too much about geo-tagged media in this article, I also included some other items to check in the spreadsheet under the competitor analysis tab.
Remember to actively monitor what those around you are doing and develop a pro-active plan to be successful for your clients.
What’s the most creative thing you have seen a competitor do successfully local search? I would love to hear about it in the comments below.
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Posted by kristihines
If you don’t know what Google Analytics is, haven’t installed it on your website, or have installed it but never look at your data, then this post is for you. While it’s hard for many to believe, there are still websites that are not using Google Analytics (or any analytics, for that matter) to measure their traffic. In this post, we’re going to look at Google Analytics from the absolute beginner’s point of view. Why you need it, how to get it, how to use it, and workarounds to common problems.
Why every website owner needs Google Analytics
Do you have a blog? Do you have a static website? If the answer is yes, whether they are for personal or business use, then you need Google Analytics. Here are just a few of the many questions about your website that you can answer using Google Analytics.
- How many people visit my website?
- Where do my visitors live?
- Do I need a mobile-friendly website?
- What websites send traffic to my website?
- What marketing tactics drive the most traffic to my website?
- Which pages on my website are the most popular?
- How many visitors have I converted into leads or customers?
- Where did my converting visitors come from and go on my website?
- How can I improve my website’s speed?
- What blog content do my visitors like the most?
There are many, many additional questions that Google Analytics can answer, but these are the ones that are most important for most website owners. Now let’s look at how you can get Google Analytics on your website.
How to install Google Analytics
First, you need a Google Analytics account. If you have a primary Google account that you use for other services like Gmail, Google Drive, Google Calendar, Google+, or YouTube, then you should set up your Google Analytics using that Google account. Or you will need to create a new one.
This should be a Google account you plan to keep forever and that only you have access to. You can always grant access to your Google Analytics to other people down the road, but you don’t want someone else to have full control over it.
Big tip: don’t let your anyone (your web designer, web developer, web host, SEO person, etc.) create your website’s Google Analytics account under their own Google account so they can “manage” it for you. If you and this person part ways, they will take your Google Analytics data with them, and you will have to start all over.
Set up your account and property
Once you have a Google account, you can go to Google Analytics and click the Sign into Google Analytics button. You will then be greeted with the three steps you must take to set up Google Analytics.
After you click the Sign Up button, you will fill out information for your website.
Google Analytics offers hierarchies to organize your account. You can have up to 100 Google Analytics accounts under one Google account. You can have up to 50 website properties under one Google Analytics account. You can have up to 25 views under one website property.
Here are a few scenarios.
- SCENARIO 1: If you have one website, you only need one Google Analytics account with one website property.
- SCENARIO 2: If you have two websites, such as one for your business and one for your personal use, you might want to create two accounts, naming one “123Business” and one “Personal”. Then you will set up your business website under the 123Business account and your personal website under your Personal account.
- SCENARIO 3: If you have several businesses, but less than 50, and each of them has one website, you might want to put them all under a Business account. Then have a Personal account for your personal websites.
- SCENARIO 4: If you have several businesses and each of them has dozens of websites, for a total of more than 50 websites, you might want to put each business under its own account, such as 123Business account, 124Business account, and so on.
There are no right or wrong ways to set up your Google Analytics accountâ€”it’s just a matter of how you want to organize your sites. You can always rename your accounts or properties down the road. Note that you can’t move a property (website) from one Google Analytics account to anotherâ€”you would have to set up a new property under the new account and lose the historical data you collected from the original property.
For the absolute beginner’s guide, we’re going to assume you have one website and only need one view (the default, all data view. The setup would look something like this.
Beneath this, you will have the option to configure where your Google Analytics data can be shared.
Install your tracking code
Once you are finished, you will click the Get Tracking ID button. You will get a popup of the Google Analytics terms and conditions, which you have to agree to. Then you will get your Google Analytics code.
This must be installed on every page on your website. The installation will depend on what type of website you have. For example, I have a WordPress website on my own domain using the Genesis Framework. This framework has a specific area to add header and footer scripts to my website.
Alternatively, if you have a WordPress on your own domain, you can use the Google Analytics by Yoast plugin to install your code easily no matter what theme or framework you are using.
If you have a website built with HTML files, you will add the tracking code before the </head> tag on each of your pages. You can do this by using a text editor program (such as TextEdit for Mac or Notepad for Windows) and then uploading the file to your web host using an FTP program (such as FileZilla).
If you have a Shopify e-commerce store, you will go to your Online Store settings and paste in your tracking code where specified.
If you have a blog on Tumblr, you will go to your blog, click the Edit Theme button at the top right of your blog, and then enter just the Google Analytics ID in your settings.
As you can see, the installation of Google Analytics varies based on the platform you use (content management system, website builder, e-commerce software, etc.), the theme you use, and the plugins you use. You should be able to find easy instructions to install Google Analytics on any website by doing a web search for your platform + how to install Google Analytics.
Set up goals
After you install your tracking code on your website, you will want to configure a small (but very useful) setting in your website’s profile on Google Analytics. This is your Goals setting. You can find it by clicking on the Admin link at the top of your Google Analytics and then clicking on Goals under your website’s View column.
Goals will tell Google Analytics when something important has happened on your website. For example, if you have a website where you generate leads through a contact form, you will want to find (or create) a thank you page that visitors end upon once they have submitted their contact information. Or, if you have a website where you sell products, you will want to find (or create) a final thank you or confirmation page for visitors to land upon once they have completed a purchase.
That URL will likely look something like this.
In Google Analytics, you will click on the New Goal button.
You will choose the Custom option (unless one of the other options are more applicable to your website) and click the Next Step button.
You will name your goal something you will remember, select Destination, and then click the Next Step button.
You will enter your thank you or confirmation page’s URL after the .com of your website in the Destination field and change the drop-down to “Begins with”.
You will then toggle the value and enter a specific dollar value for that conversion (if applicable) and click Create Goal to complete the setup.
If you have other similar goals / conversions you would like to track on your website, you can follow these steps again. You can create up to 20 goals on your website. Be sure that the ones you create are highly important to your business. These goals (for most businesses) include lead form submissions, email list sign ups, and purchase completions. Depending on your website and its purpose, your goals may vary.
Note that this is the simplest of all conversion tracking in Google Analytics. You can review the documentation in Google Analytics support to learn more about setting up goal tracking.
Set up site search
Another thing you can set up really quickly that will give you valuable data down the road is Site Search. This is for any website with a search box on it, like the search box at the top of the Moz Blog.
First, run a search on your website. Then keep the tab open. You will need the URL momentarily.
Go to your Google Analytics Admin menu again, and in the View column, click on View Settings.
Scroll down until you see Site Settings and toggle it to On.
Look back at your URL for your search results. Enter the query parameter (usually s or q) and click Save. On Moz, for example, the query parameter is q.
This will allow Google Analytics to track any searches made on your website so you can learn more about what your visitors are looking for on specific pages.
Add additional accounts and properties
If you want to add a new Google Analytics account, you can do so by going to your Admin menu, clicking on the drop-down under the Account column, and clicking the Create New Account link.
Likewise, if you want to add a new website under your Google Analytics account, you can do so by going to your Admin menu, clicking on the drop-down under the Property column, and clicking the Create New Property link.
Then you will continue through all of the above-mentioned steps.
Once you’ve installed Google Analytics on your website(s), set up your goals, and set up site search(es), you should wait about 24 hours for it to start getting data. Then you will be able to start viewing your data.
How to view Google Analytics data
Once you start getting in Google Analytics data, you can start learning about your website traffic. Each time you log in to Google Analytics, you will be taken to your Audience Overview report. Alternatively, if you have more than one website, you will be taken to your list of websites to choose from, and then taken to the Audience Overview report for that website. This is the first of over 50 reports that are available to you in Google Analytics. You can also access these reports by clicking on the Reporting link at the top.
Standard report features
Most of the standard reports within Google Analytics will look similar to this. At the top right, you can click on the drop-down arrow next to your website to switch to different websites within all of your Google Analytics accounts. Or you can click the Home link at the top.
In the report at the top right, you can click on the dates to change the date range of the data you are viewing. You can also check the Compare box to compare your data from one date range (such as this month) to a previous date range (such as last month) to view your data.
You can hover over a variety of areas on your Google Analytics reports to get more information. For example, in the Audience Overview, hovering over the line on the graph will give you the number of sessions for a particular day. Hovering over the metrics beneath the graph will tell you what each one means.
Beneath the main metrics, you will see reports that you can switch through to see the top ten languages, countries, cities, browsers, operating systems, services providers, and screen resolutions of your visitors.
You can click the full report link on each to see the full reports. Or you can click on any of the top ten links to see more details. For example, clicking on the United States in Countries will take you to the full Location report, focused in on visitors from states within the US.
In this view, you can hover over each state to see the number of visitors from that state. You can scroll down to the table and hover over each column name to learn more about each metric.
You can also click on the name of each state to see visitors from cities within the state. Effectively, any time you see a clickable link or a ? next to something, you can click on it or hover over it to learn more. The deeper you dive into your analytics, the more interesting information you will find.
Types of Google Analytics reports
Speaking of reports, here is quick summary of what you will find in each of the standard Google Analytics reporting sections, accessible in the left sidebar.
Everything in (parenthesis) is a specific report or set of reports within the following sections that you can refer to.
These reports tell you everything you want to know about your visitors. In them, you will find detailed reports for your visitors’ age and gender (Demographics), what their general interests are (Interests), where they come from (Geo > Location) and what language they speak (Geo > Language), how often they visit your website (Behavior), and the technology they use to view your website (Technology and Mobile).
These reports will tell you everything you want to know about what drove visitors to your website (All Traffic). You will see your traffic broken down by main categories (All Traffic > Channels) and specific sources (All Traffic > Source/Medium).
You can learn everything about traffic from social networks (Social). You can also connect Google Analytics to AdWords to learn more about PPC campaigns and to Google Webmaster Tools / Search Console to learn more about search traffic (Search Engine Optimization)
These reports will tell you everything you want to know about your content. Particularly, the top pages on your website (Site Content > All Pages), the top entry pages on your website (Site Content > Landing Pages), and the top exit pages on your website (Site Content > Exit Pages).
If you set up Site Search, you will be able to see what terms are searched for (Site Search > Search Terms) and the pages they are searched upon (Site Search > Pages).
You can also learn how fast your website loads (Site Speed) as well as find specific suggestions from Google on how to make your website faster (Site Speed > Speed Suggestions).
If you set up Goals within your Google Analytics, you can see how many conversions your website has received (Goals > Overview) and what URLs they happened upon (Goals > Goal URLs). You can also see the path that visitors took to complete the conversion (Goals > Reverse Goal Path).
Speaking of goals and conversions, most of the tables within Google Analytics standard reports will tie specific data to your conversions. For example, you can see the number of conversions made by visitors from California in the Audience > Geo > Location report. You can see the number of conversions made by visitors from Facebook in the Acquisitions > All Traffic > Source/Medium report. You can see the number of conversions made by visitors who landed on specific pages in the Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages report.
If you have multiple goals, you can use the dropdown at the top of that section of data to switch to the goal you want to view or all of your goals if you prefer.
Shortcuts and emails
While you won’t need every report within Google Analytics, you should explore them all to see what they have to offer. When you find some that you want to visit again and again, use the Shortcut link at the top of the report to add them to the Shortcuts in your left sidebar for faster access.
Or, use the email button to have them emailed to you (or others on your team) on a regular basis.
If you choose to send emails to someone outside of your organization, be sure to regularly check your emails by going to your Admin menu and clicking on the Scheduled Emails box under the View column to ensure only people working with your company are getting your data.
Answers to common questions about Google Analytics
Got a few questions? Here are some of the common ones that come up with Google Analytics.
How do I share my Google Analytics data with someone?
You don’t have to give your Google account information over to someone who needs access to your Google Analytics data. You just need to go to your Admin menu and under the Account, Property (website) or View you want someone to see, click the User Management menu.
From there, you can add the email address of anyone you would like to view your Google Analytics data and choose the permissions you would like them to have.
I don’t like viewing the reports in Google Analytics. Can someone just summarize the data for me?
Yes! Quill Engage is a service that will take your Google Analytics data and summarize it in an easy-to-read report for you. Best of all, it’s free for up to ten profiles (websites).
I have a dozen websites, and I don’t want to check each of their Google Analytics on a daily basis. What do I do?
You have two options in this scenario. You start by going to the Home screen of Google Analytics. There, you will find a listing of all your websites and an overview of the top metricsâ€”sessions, average session duration, bounce rate, and conversion rate.
You can also try business dashboard solutions like Cyfe. For a month, you can create unlimited dashboards with unlimited widgets, including a large selection of data from Google Analytics, alongside data from your social media networks, keyword rankings, Moz stats, and more.
This solution significantly cuts down on the time spent looking at analytics across the board for your entire business.
Google Analytics says that 90%+ of my organic keywords are (not provided). Where can I find that information?
(not provided) is Google’s way of protecting search engine user’s privacy by hiding the keywords they use to discover your website in search results. Tools like Google Webmaster Tools (now Search Console, free), Authority Lab’s Now Provided Reports (paid), and Hittail (paid) can all help you uncover some of those keywords.
They won’t be linked to your conversions or other Google Analytics data, but at least you will have some clue what keywords searchers are using to find your website.
How do I use Custom Reports, Dashboards, and Segments?
If you’re ready to move to the next level in Google Analytics, Custom Reports, Dashboards, and Segments are the way to go.
Custom Reports (under the Customization menu at the top) allow you to create reports that look similar to the standard Google Analytics reports with the metrics you want to view.
Dashboards allow you to view your Google Analytics data in a dashboard format. You can access them at the top of the left sidebar.
Segments allow you to view all of your Google Analytics data based on a specific dimension, such as all of your Google Analytics data based on visitors from the United States. You can also use them to compare up to four segments of data, such as United States versus United Kingdom traffic, search versus social traffic, mobile versus desktop traffic, and more. You can access Segments in each of your reports.
The nice part about these is that you don’t have to create them from scratch. You can start by using pre-defined Custom Reports, Dashboards, and Segments from the Google Solutions Gallery.
There, you will find lots of Custom Reports, Dashboards, Segments, and other solutions that you can import into your Google Analytics and edit to fit your needs. Edit Custom Reports with the Edit button at the top.
Edit Dashboards using the Add Widget or Customize Dashboard buttons at the top.
Edit Segments by clicking the Action button inside the Segments selector box and choosing Edit.
Or, when you have applied Segments to your reports, use the drop-down arrow at the top right to find the Edit option.
As you get used to editing Custom Reports, Dashboards, and Segments, you will get more familiar with the way each works so you can create new ones on your own.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this beginner’s introduction to Google Analytics for beginners. If you’re a beginner and have a burning questions, please ask in the comments. I’ll be happy to help!
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Posted by RuthBurrReedy
The important thing to remember when you’re trying to attract linksâ€”real, powerful, high-quality, authoritative linksâ€”is that behind each of those links is a person. The kinds of links that Google wants you to build are the kinds of links that you get when a real live person decides to share or link to your content.
That great content you’re creating is designed to be the kind of stuff people like to share, but getting people to share it often requires outreach. When you ask someone to read and possibly share your content, even if it’s content you think they’ll really like, you’re essentially asking them to do you a favor. That’s a lot easier to do if it’s somebody who already knows you and likes you.
This is why a relationship-based approach to link building can be so powerful. By connecting with site owners on a personal level, you can start creating a positive association between you and the content you share. Start thinking of a link as something that’s given online by a real live person who also exists outside the Internet, and you can move from being a link builder to being a relationship builder. One moment of link outreach can generate a link, but an ongoing relationship can result in multiple links and shares, not to mention introductions into that person’s network of friends and connections.
Plus, you might make a friend!
Photo via Pixabay
A few caveats
In-person link outreach is not for everybody. There are a few reasons why building links in person might not work for you.
- No budget: Like many content building and link outreach strategies, some of the in-person link building tactics I outline below will require a financial outlay, which not everybody can swing.
- No time: In-person link outreach takes a lot of time, and some of it will almost certainly need to be spent outside of work hours (or during work hours, but not at work).
- Too far away: If you’re not located in the same city/state/country as your client, it’s going to be harder for you to build links for them in person.
- Not a people person: If you dread talking to people, especially people you don’t know, this strategy is going to be massively unpleasant for you.
Yes, you still have to build good content. Like any good strategy to attract links, building links in person is only going to work if you’re also taking the time to build linkable, shareable resources that people will want to link to (need some help building content for your industry? Check out Ronell Smith’s guide to creating content for boring industries). As you’re laying the foundation for your link outreach relationships, you should also be planning your content calendarâ€”that way, by the time you’ve got a great linkable asset ready to share, you’ve gotten to know some people who can share it.
Don’t be creepy. The point of in-person link building is not to lie, cheat, or manipulate people into being friends with you in order to secretly use them for their sweet, sweet links. The point is to form strong, genuine professional relationships with people who will appreciate the awesome work you do. You’ll be a stronger marketer for it, and maybe even meet your next boss or BFF.
All right! Let’s make some friends.
Where to build links in person
Trade shows and conferences. This is the “budget outlay” item that I mentioned earlier: if you can swing it, attend some trade shows and conferences in your/your client’s industry. Of course, this is easier to do if you’re in-house, or only building links for a few clients, than if you have a whole roster of different sites in different industries under your care.
If your clients are in your area, make sure they let you know when they’ll be attending or exhibiting at events, and see if you can tag along. Events like a home and garden show usually have tickets for under . In-house marketers should also see if they can be part of the booth staff at trade shows where their clients are exhibiting. If there’s a relevant conference or trade show in your area and your client isn’t exhibiting, see if you can get an expo-only pass for free or a reduced rate.
Marketing conferences can be a great place to hone your SEO skills, but they can also be a great place to connect with other marketers. If you’re attending a marketing/SEO conference, take a look at the attendee list and see if there are other marketers from your industry who will be attending (especially if they don’t work for competitors). Another SEO is going to understand why you might be asking them to share or link to your content, so it’s worth your while to cultivate relationships with other SEOs who might have access to topically-related sites. A marketing conference is a great way for SEOs with a lot of different clients to build link relationships across multiple industries, too.
Shane Macomber Photography
Meetups and trade associations. In addition to higher-dollar industry events, most metro areas have a variety of meetups, clubs and associations, many of which are free to join. If your client is a member of an industry association, see if you can tag along to an event that’s open to the public; even closed-membership groups tend to have a mixer or two every year to let potential new members experience the group.
Check sites like Meetup, LinkedIn, Facebook and yes, Google+, for groups in your area. There may be groups focused on your client’s industry/ies, but it’s also worthwhile to start attending local events around marketing, PR, advertising, social media, etc. to connect with other local marketers. Inbound links from sites in the same local area can be quite valuable for websites with a strong local focus, so building link relationships within your local community is definitely worth doingâ€”and is another way to build link relationships for multiple clients at once.
Assessing link relationships
Of course, just because you’ve met someone in person doesn’t mean they’re going to link to you, or even that you’d necessarily want a link from them. Try to do some recon before heading to the event, so you can keep an eye out for your dream link targets.
Wherever possible, get a list of people who will be attending the event; this will help you pick out a few people with whom you’d really like to connect. If you can’t get a list beforehand, compile a list of the people you met afterward and do some research.
Don’t forget that attendees are people, not just businessesâ€”you’ll want to take some time to check attendees out on social media and LinkedIn, too. A person may have a business card from one company but actually work with multiple businesses. Someone with no website of their own might be a regular contributor to an industry blog, or just fantastically well-connected in the community you’re trying to join and still worth getting to know. A person’s position within a company will matter, tooâ€”you’re more likely to get a link from a marketing/web person (who has access to the website) than, e.g., the manufacturing plant supervisor (who probably doesn’t, and also has other things to do).
Take some time to evaluate sites like you would any other link prospect. Stay away from sites that appear at risk for a penalty, or are sleazy enough that you don’t want to associate your client’s brand with them. That doesn’t mean they’re not still worth getting to know as people (you should certainly never shun people at conferences, that’s just rude), it just means that they won’t be a focus of your link outreach later.
Make the connection
When you meet someone with whom you’d like to build a link-based relationship, don’t start out asking for the link, any more than you would online. If you’re at a networking or industry event, there’s a basic understanding that people are there to make professional connectionsâ€”there’s no need to be more specific than that and say you’re there to make connections that might result in links (nobody wants to feel like they’re being used for their links).
After your research, you’ll probably have a few people who you want to make sure you meet, but don’t seek them out at the expense of forming other connections. Remember that your goal here is more than just a linkâ€”it’s a relationship, which could be mutually beneficial to both of you. Ask people questions about themselves, their work and what they think about the event. Just like on social media, you don’t want to talk only about yourselfâ€”your main success metric for these events should be engagement.
When a networking conversation is drawing to a natural close, excuse yourself (if you need an excuse, getting more food or drink is usually a good bet)â€”but make sure to get a business card, or social media info from your new professional connection. As you follow your new friends on Twitter or G+, add them to a list or circle for people from the event or group you’ve attended so you have them all in one place later.
By the end of the event, you should have a list of new friends who might link to or share your content. Your next step is not to ask them to do so, however (unless you have a specific content piece that came up in your conversation that they were interested in). Your next step is to nurture that connection.
Start with a quick tweet or email the next morning that says it was great to meet them and maybe references something in your conversation. If your only point of contact for them is email, use it very sparinglyâ€”nobody likes aggressive emails. Your best best in this case is to try to see them again at the next event, to continue nurturing your relationship in person. You could also see if they want to meet for coffee or lunch to talk shop.
Photo via Pixabay
If you’ve added your new connections on social media, take some time every day to check in with your list. Talk to themâ€”they’re your new friends! Reply to their tweets, answer questions they might ask, and above all, share their content when they post it. You’re showing them that you’re a connection worth having by bringing value to their conversations. Make sure to switch up the time of day you’re doing this, since different people use social media at different times of day. If you get into a conversation with some of their followers, make sure to add them to your list, too.
Over time, it will become clear which people are turning into real connections and which are just not going to respond to you. You’ll also see some of your new pals sharing the content you post, without you even having to ask themâ€”that’s a great sign that they’re seeing you and your content as valuable.
When your feel your relationship with someone is at a point where you can ask them for a favor without it being weird, go ahead and ask them to share or link to a piece of content of yours. Make sure the content in question is actually relevant to what they do/like; one awesome thing about relationship-based link building is that you may actually get content ideas by listening to what your new friends have to say. Be cool about itâ€”a simple “Hey, I thought you’d like this, check it out” is often enough.
All of this relationship building can also be done onlineâ€”people do it all the time. However, in my experience, meeting someone in person can drastically reduce the amount of time and the number of interactions it can take to build trust with someone and get to the point where you’re happy to share each other’s content. As with most link-building strategies, a time investment up-front can pay dividends down the line.
Posted by randfish
A recent patent from Google suggests a new kind of influence in the rankings that has immense implications for marketers. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand discusses what it says, what that means, and adds a twist of his own to get us thinking about where Google might be heading.
Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week let’s chat about some things that Google is learning about web searchers and web surfers that may be impacting the rankings.
I was pretty psyched to see a patent a few weeks ago that had been granted actually to Google, so filed a while before that. That patent came from Navneet Panda who, as many in the SEO space may remember, is also the engineer for whom Panda, the Panda Update from Google, is named after. Bill Slawski did a great analysis of the patent on his website, and you can check that out, along with some of the other patent diagrams themselves. Patents can be a little confusing and weird, especially the language, but this one had some surprising clarity to it and some potentially obvious applications for web marketers too.
Deciphering searcher intent
So, in this case, Googlebot here — I’ve anthropomorphized him, my Googlebot there, nicely — is thinking about the queries that are being performed in Google search engine and basically saying, “Huh, if I see lots of people searching for things like ‘find email address,’ ‘email address tool,’ ‘email finder,’ and then I also see a lot of search queries similar to those but with an additional branded element, like ‘VoilaNorbert email tool’ or ‘Norbert email finder’ or ‘how to find email Norbert,’ or even things like ‘email site:voilanorbert.com,’” Googlebot might actually say, “Hmm, lots of searchers who look for these kinds of queries seem to be also looking for this particular brand.”
You can imagine this in tons and tons of ways. Lots of people searching for restaurants also search for Yelp. Lots of people searching for hotels also add in queries like “Trip Advisor.” Lots of people searching for homes to buy also add in Zillow. These brands that essentially get known and combined and perform very well in these non-branded searches, one of the ways that Google might be thinking about that is because they see a lot of branded search that includes the unbranded words around that site.
Google’s site quality patent
In Panda’s site quality patent — and Navneet Panda wasn’t the only author on this patent, but one of the ones we recognize — what’s described is essentially that this algorithm, well not algorithm, very simplistic equation. I’m sure much more than simplistic than what Google’s actually using if they are actually using this. Remember, when it comes to patents, they usually way oversimplify that type of stuff because they don’t want to get exactly what they’re doing out there in the public. But they have this equation that looks like this: Number of unique searchers for the brand or keyword X — so essentially, this is kind of a searches, searchers. They’re trying to identify only unique quantities of people doing it, looking at things like IP address and device and location and all of that to try and identify just the unique people who are performing this — divided by the number of unique searches for the non-branded version.
So branded divided by non-branded equals some sort of site quality score for keyword X. If a lot more people are performing a search for “Trip Advisor + California vacations” than are performing searches for just “California vacations,” then the site quality score for Trip Advisor when it comes to the keyword “California vacations” might be quite high.
You can imagine that if we take another brand — let’s say a brand that folks are less familiar with, WhereToGoInTheWorld.com — and there’s very, very few searches for that brand plus “California vacations,” and there’s lots of searches for the unbranded version, the site quality score for WhereToGoInTheWorld.com is going to be much lower. I don’t even think that’s a real website, but regardless.
Now, I want to add one more wrinkle on to this. I think one of the things that struck me as being almost obvious but not literally mentioned in this specific patent was my theory that this also applies to clickstream data. You can see this happening obviously already in personalization, personalized search, but I think it might be happening in non-personalized search as well, and that is essentially through Android and through Chrome, which I’ve drawn these lovely logos just for you. Google knows basically where everyone goes on the web and what everyone does on the web. They see this performance.
So they can look and see the clickstream for a lot of people’s process is a searcher goes and searches for “find email address tool,” and then they find this resource from Distilled and Distilled mentions Rob Ousbey’s account — I think it was from Rob Ousbey that that original resource came out — and they follow him and then they follow me and they see that I tweeted about VoilaNorbert. Voila, they make it to VoilaNorbert.com’s website, where their search ends. They’re no longer looking for this information. They’ve now found a source that sort of answers their desire, their intent. Google might go, “Huh, you know, why not just rank this? Why rank this one when we could just put this there? Because this seems to be the thing that is answering the searcher’s problem. It’s taking care of their issue.”
So what does this mean for us?
This is tough for marketers. I think both of these, the query formatting and the potential clickstream uses, suggest a world in which building up your brand association and building up the stream of traffic to your website that’s solving a problem not just for searchers, but for potential searchers and people with that issue, whether they search or not, is part of SEO. I think that’s going to mean that things like branding and things like attracting traffic from other sources, from social, from email, from content, from direct, from offline, and word-of-mouth, that all of those things are going to become part of the SEO equation. If we don’t do those things well, in the long term, we might do great SEO, kind of classic, old-school keywords and links and crawl and rankings SEO and miss out on this important piece that’s on the rise.
I’m looking forward to some great comments and your theories as well. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.