Why The SEO Data You See is Wrong

Data-driven?

Everyone is.

…But what data are you looking at?

That determines how well you do going forward.

And unfortunately, another problem is that even when you have a super-smart SEO on your side, they’re still working from flawed, imprecise data. Because, it’s impossible to pull accurate data in many cases.

For example, Google used to show you the exact keywords that referred traffic to your website. Today, over 90% of that data gets hidden behind a phrase called “(not provided).”

Smart SEOs know how to get around this. But only to a degree. You simply can’t get all the data that Google formerly provided for free.

Groupon Conducted a Test to See What “Direct Traffic” Means

Google has a traffic source in Google Analytics called “Direct” traffic. Theoretically, this was supposed to mean people who typed your URL into their browser and hit “enter.”

However, Groupon wasn’t convinced by this explanation from Google. So they did something rather shocking and de-indexed themselves from Google.

Of course, traffic sank. But surprisingly, they also noticed a big dip in traffic going to their Deal pages.

Why is that such a big deal?

Those pages had long URLs…the kind you wouldn’t remember off the top of your head and type in. They found up to 60% of “Direct” traffic actually originated from organic optimized search.

And for example, email open rates are difficult to figure out too. Yes, every email service provider gives you open rate data.

But it’s far from precise. Because, it relies on a small tracking image, called a “pixel.” If you send plain-text emails, which many marketers do to give a personal feel, you can’t insert a pixel to track opens. Or, if an email app blocks images by default, which many do, the pixel isn’t shown, and the open isn’t tracked.

So what in the heck is your email open rate anyway?

With Google Adwords, say one campaign drives twice the leads of the next. Is that the better campaign?

…Maybe not.

How many purchases did you get from each campaign? Which customers led to the highest lifetime value?

Have you tracked either?

Don’t Fret – Your SEO Has the Answers

The point with data is you must have experience in knowing what it really means. What you get on the surface, even from leading companies like Google, doesn’t necessarily give you the full picture.

So, when your SEO presents you data, ask them why they trust what their delivering to you.

Why one metric…and not another?

At the end of the day, go with the SEO you trust most. The one who has your best interests. Because even the best SEOs have a difficult time getting you the most accurate data.

Google Analytics Now Allows You to Ask a Question to Get Data

Ever stare at Google Analytics helplessly…wondering how you’re going to get the data you need? Or, do you see the data you want, but aren’t really sure how to understand it?

Google’s revamped Analytics a little to help out people who aren’t complete data nerds.

Google’s addressed this concern by allowing you to ask a simple, plain-English question in Google Analytics. And Google Analytics will return to you with the right data.

The idea is that this helps you get the information you need faster. It also frees up those in charge of your data to focus more on strategy, and use less time tracking down information.

Now, you simply type in,”How many organic users did I have in search last week?” Google returns with (hopefully) the correct answer. They use the exact same technology that’s used in search.

If you don’t have the feature available now, you should have it soon because Google’s rolling it out in a few weeks.

How Do You Use It?

It’s quite easy. Just look for the circle icon with dots in the upper right corner of the app. For now, you can ask questions that begin with “what” and “how many.” You can also ask about this data for various market segments.

And yes, when you try it, you’ll notice the speed with which it returns results. You’ll also have the ability to ask follow-up questions based on your initial question, and Google Analytics will suggest questions you may also want to ask.

Google doesn’t support “why” questions at the moment. As you might expect, those are much more complex. However, since the system is based on artificial intelligence, it will learn to answer “why” questions and will be able to answer them in the near future.

What if you ask a question Google Analytics can’t answer? Google Analytics captures your question and works on learning how to answer it.

You will also soon have the ability to save and export the results you get from the questions you ask.

Neat, isn’t it? Not only that, but extremely useful too. Who knows what artificial intelligence will enable Google to do for you next?

What Your URL Structure Needs to Be For the Best Search Rankings

SEO can be an awfully detailed and nit-picky science from time-to-time. If you have an anal-retentive SEO, hold onto them with all your might. Because, just a few letters can sometimes be the difference between ranking highly…or somewhere on the second page.

With your URLs, they have a specific science to follow. It’s not like you can do everything else with SEO wrong, have a strong URL, and rank anyway. But when you have a URL appropriately structured for SEO, it can be just the edge you need to move up a position or two…and snag a flood of traffic (versus just a drip).

So here’s what your SEO should make sure your URLs do:

  • Gotta Have Your Keywords

You can’t argue this one at all. No, you don’t need to spam the crap out of 3-7 different keyword phrases. In fact, you shouldn’t do that.

But the most important keywords to you for that page must appear in the URL somewhere. Besides sending a signal to Google, having the keywords in your URL also gives searchers another clue that your web page is in fact about the topic they just Googled. The URLs for each page show up in green just below the big blue title in search.

  • Your URLs Must Have a Logical Structure

Again, this one makes both Google and your users happy. Say you run an e-commerce site, with several product categories, and thousands of products.

Your structure should be something like http://www.example.com/category/sub-category/product/

Seems obvious, doesn’t it? What happens is that if you have multiple employees and several teams, sometimes this gets confused and out of order.

Or, if you’ve had multiple SEOs work on your website over the years, and their work gets combined with some of your own.

  • Make Your URL as Short as Possible

Shorter URLs are easier for Google and your users to understand. Leading blogs may have a URL like http://www.example.com/article-topic

Yep…just 2 words after the domain name.

You may or may not be able to do that at your site. But you should do it wherever possible.

You don’t have to be grammatically correct. Your URL just has to be simple for your users to understand. Because if they can get it, so can Google.

  • Avoid Dynamically Generated URLs

When was the last time you saw a URL like this:
http://www.example.com/products/?cid=7078ckuenkeulknn

Google has no problem evaluating this. But no user would ever search on that in Google. They might find that link through your site’s own internal search engine.

So, you need to create clean and optimized URLs to make them more commonly found in search…and to keep your searchers happy.

This can be quite a project if your website has thousands of such pages.

You can get tools that help you create sensible, optimized URLs.

So, that’s URL structure 101. If you don’t have URLs like these, you’re missing out on a strong opportunity to rank higher in search, get more organic traffic, and increase your sales.

How to Write Amazing Headlines That Drive More Clicks and Higher Rankings

The headline…it gets overlooked a lot.

But, it’s the first thing that gets noticed about your website. If users are in search, they see that big blue headline first. If they’re actually on your website, it’s the first thing they see at the top of your web page.

Your headline determines whether searchers click through to your website. And if they’ve already made it to your website, it determines if they read to the bottom of your page or not.

Well, not entirely. But, it plays the largest role in whether that happens. Pages on your site with longer engagement time, more click-throughs, and lower bounce rates experience better rankings in search.

So, your page’s headline is quite a powerful thing that shouldn’t be overlooked.

What makes one headline get more clicks than another? Buzzsumo was wondering. So, they did research on 100 million headlines.

And here’s some of the highlights:

  • The 3 Most Popular Phrases for Starting Headlines

These are the three phrases Buzzsumo’s research found for starting headlines:
X reasons why…
X things you…
This is what…

Why do the first two work? List-based posts have always worked well…even before the internet. In the day of magazines, newspapers, and other print content, marketers knew this. People just love knowing how many things they’re going to learn before actually visiting the post.

“This is what…” likely works because it arouses curiosity. That’s usually the leading emotion to market to for consumers.

By the way, the most engaging numbers in headlines are 10, 5, and 15 – in that order.

  • How Many Words Long Should Your Headline Be?

Shorter is better, isn’t it? Not with headlines.

Buzzsumo’s research found headlines that get shared the most have 12-18 words, with about 15 being ideal. They actually fall almost perfectly on a normal curve.

If you’re going to make the topic clear and communicate exceptional value, headlines take more words.

  • All That Said, You Must Research Your Niche

People in any niche respond to certain headlines best. At this point, the web is so saturated with great content and engaging headlines that you can research what works quite easily.

Buzzsumo offers free 14-day trials. With their tool, you can enter in a URL of a top website in your niche and instantly find the articles that get the most shares so you learn what headlines and topics work.

We don’t have any kind of business affiliation with Buzzsumo, so don’t feel like this is an advertisement. It’s simply an extremely useful tool for researching the most popular content in any niche.

A Quick Intro to Google My Business

Google now makes managing your business information, and how it appears in search and on Google Maps, simple with Google My Business (GMB). It actually consolidates a number of tools in one place – for free.

Here’s what you can do, and why you should care:

  1. GMB Helps You Keep Your NAP Information Consistent

Your name, address, and phone number (NAP information) needs to be exactly the same across the web. When Google sees inconsistencies, it doesn’t like that.

Why are you saying you have different locations? This could confuse users, or it could be a sign you’re trying to rank for a location where you don’t physically have an office.

For local businesses, this is helpful in keeping your search rankings high.

  1. GMB Offers a Free Website Builder

You don’t want to use GMB’s tool for building a one-page website unless you absolutely have no budget to do so. The tool is simplistic. You don’t have a lot of control over the design. And the designs honestly aren’t all that great at highlighting your products and services.

However, if you need a free website builder that establishes your first search presence, it does the job. You can build a one-page website. This works well for local SMBs like restaurants. Google’s goal with the tool is to help the 60% of businesses not already on the web establish their web presence.

  1. Google Posts Lets You Write social media Posts

Google Posts now allows you to attach social media posts to your search listing and Google Maps listing. So when people click on your listing, you might show them posts of:

  • Your latest specials
  • Products they can buy
  • Reservations they can make
  • The newsletter they can sign up for

So as you can see, that’s quite handy too.

  1. Drive Traffic to Your Company Website

If you’ve hired a local internet marketing company to advertise your business online, you can use your GMB listing to drive traffic back to your website. Your GMB listing needs to be attractive though, too. You’ll need the afore-mentioned posts, accurate business info, and positive reviews.

All in all, Google My Business makes promoting and managing your online presence much easier and simpler before. You still have to put in hard work to climb up the search rankings, but GMB allows you to be more efficient while doing it.

Google Will Soon Notify Chrome Users of Non-HTTPS Sites

As frustrating as keeping up with Google can sometimes be, or as strange as some of their standards may seem, they’ve done a lot to clean up the web. Today, content-heavy websites with interesting, useful information make it to the top of the search engine rankings (most of the time).

Compare that to the early 2000s, before Google went public, when pretty much anything went on the web. Heck, that even was still the case just 5 years ago.

We’ve talked about Google docking (or boosting) your rankings based on whether you have HTTP secure (HTTPS) before. That’s in place.

What Google’s Got Up Its Sleeve That It’s Now Revealing

Beginning in October, Google will show the words “not secure” in their Chrome browser’s address bar whenever you type data into website that doesn’t use HTTP secure. And they’re right. Not having HTTPS in place means the data you enter is more exposed to cyber criminals. Practically, that means any website which starts with http:// without the “https://.”

And when you browse in “Incognito” mode, the HTTPS warnings will appear on all pages you visit. Google also plans to expand this to all Chrome users eventually.

Why Can Google Force The Issue on This?

Google’s got the power because they have what the market wants. Chrome dominates the browser market. Chrome has more than 50% market share, with the next closest being Apple’s Safari at 15% or so:

As long as the market desires what Google has in Chrome, they’re going to be able to continue to shape the internet. Don’t count on that changing anytime soon, by the way.

Microsoft Edge is trying to compete directly with Chrome by being faster. But as you can (just barely) see, it’s the lowest blue line on the chart there, with around 1.0% of overall market share. And even though you can’t see this well either, that’s gone down slightly from the same time last year.

Fortunately, HTTPS Isn’t A Big Time Or Financial Cost

HTTPS securely encrypts any information going to or from your server (or host). So, the bad guys only get encrypted data if they happen to nab it.

Installing HTTPS takes just a few simple steps:

  1. A hosting service with a dedicated IP address
  2. Buying a HTTPS certificate (usually $50 – $150 per year)
  3. Activating the certificate
  4. Installing the certificate (usually just a few simple steps)
  5. Updating your site to HTTPS

Whew! That’s it. Not really a big deal, is it? Be thankful for that.

HTTPS makes the web a more secure place. So it’s a good thing.

We’ll see what Google comes up with next.