STEP TWO to SEO: Competitor Research

Have I Found Usable Insights From Top Organic Competitors?

Why should you do competitor research?

Well, SEO strategizing is like storytelling.

One guy can tell a story so well that you feel like you’re actually there. A different guy can tell the exact same story, and you feel like you lost 10 minutes of your life you’ll never get back.

One had the power to bring the story to life. The other completely missed the boat.

Similarly, some people are really good at growing traffic, increasing their following, and converting potential customers into regular users or buyers. They’re smooth sailors. They seem to have all the answers.

Others can barely keep their heads above water.

Although it may come as a surprise, successful SEO is not about having all the answers.

It’s about asking the questions you don’t even know you should ask to get the answers you didn’t know existed.

Great storytellers and successful online marketers have tactics that don’t just help them toward success. Those tactics are the very reason they succeed.

We can tell a thousand stories or write a thousand pieces of content, but if we don’t have strategies in place for targeting or engaging our audience, we end up with a pile of literary or digital vomit. Stinky words without meaning because no one is there to receive them.

So, what questions do you need to ask to develop the right strategies?

Multiple factors are at play in search engine rank. And there are skippable steps in SEO–competitor analysis isn’t one of them.

No one should begin any SEO campaign without investigating not just who they’re up against, but why they’re up against them.

To become successful in your industry or niche, you need to find out three things:

  1. Who your competitors are,
  2. What makes them successful, and
  3. How to use those insights to develop your SEO strategy.

Let’s start with #1.

Who Are Your Competitors?

Looking to your competitors is crucial for identifying usable insights you can include in your SEO campaign.

But insight tells us more than just what we should do; it also tells us what we shouldn’t do, or what isn’t worth our time or effort.

Competitor analysis isn’t a passive step. It’s also not intuitive, meaning you can’t just think you know who your competitors are or what makes them successful (or not) without doing the research. Sure, top of the head can be a good place to start. Then you have to go digging.

Now luckily, sussing out the competition overlaps with keyword research so you can double up and make a day of it. You can use keyword research (see step one in SEO success) to identify your main competitors. Take the most important keywords you want to rank for (or all of them) and see who comes up in the SERPs. If you see one domain in most of your searches, this is one of your top competitors.

Or, you can use paid tools like SEMrush. I encourage you to use every tool available, but as I mentioned in a previous post, make your brain your #1 go-to tool.

Then, like the clever little investigative mouse you are, find out what keywords your competitors are ranking for that you aren’t and add them to your keyword list(s).

Armed with your top four or five competitors, you need to evaluate each one by determining their strengths and weaknesses through the lens of your brand.

This is where questions #2 (why are they successful) and #3 (what usable insights can you gain) come in, and while you can make this a systematic linear process, it doesn’t have to be. If you’re the creative, artsy type, your research may be more dynamic.

Competitor ≠ Enemy

Now, many SEOs audit their competitors with the idea that competitors=enemies.

I totally and completely, to the power of infinity, 100% disagree.

Enemies work in opposition to us. Our competitors want the same thing we do.

Competitors are essential for helping you grow and succeed in your industry because they provide a vital point of reference. They show you what’s working and what’s not.

Why Are They Successful?

Now that you know who your competitors are, you want to find out why they’re rocking your industry and then use their insights to guide your SEO campaign.

But remember–everyone has flaws, so pay close attention to where your competitors are failing. Those gaps will be your most usable insights.

UEO: The New SEO

In addition to some cut and dry strategies, one of the first things you want to note as you visit each competitors’ site is its usability. Note when you feel frustrated, confused, or impatient and why, and then compare those irritating features to your site. If your site shares any of those attributes, change them.

Even the best SEO won’t help if your site is a pain in the ass to navigate.

Keep this in mind: SEO is more about user experience optimization (UEO) than optimizing the search engine.

As you navigate through your competitors’ sites, ask yourself these questions:

  • How quality are the images and videos used on their pages?
  • Are there links to organic content/informative pages that naturally extend the user’s journey?
  • Are their CTAs logically placed and do they lead the user to the place they said they would?

Now, let’s go digging.

The following is a non-exhaustive list of some of the more important aspects of your competitors’ sites that you’ll want to examine and analyze to determine what is worth extracting for your site – and what’s not.

Investigate link opportunities.

Link building is a major contributor to ranking. The more links that point to your site show Google that your site is trustworthy.

How many referring domains do your competitors have? This points to site popularity and strong SEO.

You can use the MOZ link explorer tool (free for 30 days) to generate a list of all the backlinks to your competitors’ sites. From there you can compare those links against yours (use a spreadsheet for this) to see where the gaps are, if any.

If you’re already ahead of your competition, this is not your current focus (but, don’t lose focus of this important aspect). If you are behind, time to step-up your link-building strategy.

What sites are linking to your competitors and not to you? Reach out to them.

Perform a keyword gap analysis.

Follow the same steps as you did to discover the gaps in competitors’ links but now focus on keywords using SEMrush or Ahrefs (both are paid tools). Although we can guess where the gaps are, this process helps us know with certainty.

Determining what keywords your competitors are ranking for that you aren’t is a starting point for creating unique content. Notice what works well for your competitors then take that a step further and make their best ideas even better.

One way to do this to type your main keywords into Quora or Answer the Public (both free) to discover what people are asking about it.

Content

Is their content well-written and does it provide valuable information that the user can’t find on a hundred other websites?

We live in a time of consumption. Anybody can claim to be an expert in anything by scouring the web for quick-digesting info and posting those regurgitated tidbits to their site. It’s the new-age style of digital research. But we end up with copycat versions of the very same thing, which ultimately, lowers the quality of the information.

Ask yourself: What content can you create that is going to set you apart from your competition?

H1s

Notice if your competitors have unique H1 tags that represent the content. H1s are a major ranking factor. While other features trend hard for a while in SEO, the significance of H1 hasn’t changed and it likely won’t.

H1s are the most obvious text on the page. Follow these quick tips for determining the quality of your competitors’ H1:

  • Is there only one on each page?
  • Is their H1 the title or does it accurately reflect what the page is about?
  • Does it include a target long-tail keyword? (this helps Google index the page appropriately)
  • Does it respond to the user’s intent?
  • Is it 20-70 characters?
  • Does it stand out on the page?

Social Media Presence

Buzzsumo is a good paid tool to find out how many people are talking about your competitors’ brand, your niche, or a specific topic identified by a target long-tail keyword. Type in your general topic and refine your search by adding or removing words. This tool will also help you determine your competitors’ social media presence, which is growing in importance in SEO.

And, spend a few minutes each day with a double-chai-matcha-ball-latte smoothie swiping through Insta to check up on your competitors from a user’s perspective.

How can I use those insights?

Hopefully you’ve gained some major insights by analyzing your competition. With these insights, you can develop tactics for improving or enhancing your SEO strategy.

Now, ask yourself:

What should I prioritize? (Where are you falling short of your competition? Or, where can you outshine your competition?)

And,

What is not worth focusing my efforts on?

Consider this last question carefully. We may think something is irrelevant (or important), but the metrics can surprise us. Unless you’re beating the pants off your competitors, you want to be as comprehensive and inclusive as possible in your SEO strategy, but you also don’t want to be barking up the wrong tree. It is an exhausting waste of energy and effort.

Inspecting rug with magnifying glass

STEP ONE to SEO: Keyword Research

Am I Matching Search Queries To My Service or Product Offering?

At its most basic, SEO is a game with Google–and a gazillion other online proprietors all vying for attention and page rank.

There are infinite, contrasting strategies for “how to do SEO”, but they all start with one thing: keyword research.

Keyword optimized content can increase traffic to your site and help your page rank higher in search engine results page (SERPs)–but you already know that.

What you really want to know is how to get more conversions.

You’ve come to the right place.

Every great enterprise starts with research.

I know, I know, who likes research, right? (Well, I do, but I swim in the nerd pool).

Keyword research isn’t hard. Some might call it exciting. But don’t take it from me. Take it from my non-nerd friend Rob who actually hates reading–a research requirement–but giggles like a small child on a merry-go-round when he nails down the right keyword to rank for.

How Is Keyword Research Done?

All research begins with a question (or two), and keyword research is no different.

Keyword research starts with identifying what your customer wants through two critical questions:

  1. How are people searching for your product or service offering?

And,

  1. How does your offering align with their queries?

To start, let’s tackle question #1.

How Are People Searching For Your Product Or Service Offering?

The number, order, and meaning of words in searches inform us of the searcher’s intention and where they are in the conversion cycle.

Matt Diggity, founder of Diggity Marketing, identifies three phases of research (in a 6-stage process) that potential customers go through when they are seeking a product or service. They are:

  1. Actively looking for a solution to their acknowledged pain (the need that your product is going to meet).
  2. Actively looking for the best solution to relieve their pain.
  3. Looking for the best place to buy the best solution.

During the first two stages, your customer is in the research phase. They’re using 1-2 keywords in their searches. These are your head or seed keywords.

Example: “yoga retreats”

In the second and third phases (they overlap), your customer is seriously considering a particular product or service. They’re using 2-3+ keywords in their searches. These are your long-tail keywords.

Example: “best yoga retreats in Bali” or “best Bali yoga retreats” or “kundalini yoga retreats in Bali”

As their research deepens, the search becomes more specific.

Make sense? Great.

Let’s move on to question #2.

How Does Your Product Or Service Offering Align With Search Queries?

By asking this question, we’re essentially seeking to know how to use keyword research for SEO.

This step is strategic. It’s where you begin to use the information you’ve gathered through rigorous keyword research.

You want to make your focus keywords those that represent the consideration and conversion stages of the journey–the long-tail keywords. Although your site will include head keywords organically, they are too general to focus your core efforts on.

You care more about long-tail keywords for two reasons:

  1. They are specific and therefore relevant to your customer’s queries.
  2. They are least competitive (because they’re specific) and therefore, have higher conversion potential.

Now, you need to find target long-tail keywords that are most relevant, more frequently searched, and are moderate or low competition.

How do you do that?

Luckily, some of the best things in life are free, including the best apps for keyword research.

For starters, try these:

Google Adwords Keyword Planner

Keywords Everywhere

Keyword.io

Keyword Shitter

Next, compile a list of long-tail keywords generated by any one of these tools (I recommend all) and then rank them, first by their relevance to your offering and then by their difficulty. This will help you determine which keywords you should focus on because they address your customers’ queries and are least competitive.

Assessing keyword difficulty is a bit labour intensive and while several tools can help determine the difficulty factor, they can be expensive and aren’t 100% accurate because no one knows how Google ranks pages–we can only estimate.

However, as a tool for assessing MOZ puts out a free extension: MOZ Toolbar, which reports on the page domain (PA) and domain authority (DA) of each search result. When SERPs have a low PA and DA, you’ve got a good starting point for choosing keywords to rank for.

screenshot of DA and PA from MOZ

But we do know that high-quality backlinks and relevant content that also considers user-intent are significant.

(We’ll take a look at backlinks in another blog. Right now, relevant content is in the spotlight).

Low competition long-tail keywords exist because there is insufficient responsive content available.

Remember–you want to optimize your pages by writing content around those keywords that are most relevant and least competitive.

Don’t take this lightly because this where many SEOs mess it up.

We can make anything fit if we really want it too. Those too-tight jeans from ‘95? Nothing an hour worn wet can’t cure (a humble confession of a thrifty nomad). But when we try to make something fit that naturally doesn’t, it’s obvious and uncomfortable for all those involved.

 

We call it stuffing–don’t make this mistake. Stuffing irrelevant keywords into your copy increases bounce rates and signals to Google that your page is not providing useful information.

Why Keyword Research Is So Important

Providing relevant content is one of the most important ways to respond to your customer’s needs (I argue it’s the pinnacle of SEO success). It starts with knowing what people are actually searching for and then responding with information that doesn’t relate to but explicitly answers their questions.

If someone asks about the gestation period of unhatched turkey poults, you’re not going to tell them about the sexual activity of turkeys. While it’s related, it’s not the question they asked.

You know how annoying not having your question answered is–don’t be that person.

And don’t insert those well-researched keywords into lousy copy. Instead, craft your content around those target keywords to provide your customer with on-topic, quality information.

Providing meaningful, relevant content means potential customers stay on your page longer,

their trust in your brand deepens,

they’re more likely to convert,

And Google ranks your page higher–it’s a happy place for everyone.

But, before we wrap up, we also need to consider user-intent. Words have double, sometimes triple, meanings. For example:

Someone searching for “chocolate labs” might actually be looking for one of three things:

A dog,

a factory that makes chocolate, or

a dog-shaped chocolate treat for their favourite uncle (unlikely but don’t cancel it out).

There is greater belief now that Google looks first at whether pages accurately respond to user-intent, which makes relevance a moot point. So, consider all the different ways people interpret the keywords you want to rank for.

Go Keyword Hunting…

Now you’ve got something to start with on your way to SEO success. Keyword research is a necessary first step–a strategic one.

My advice to you is to use every keyword tool available to you. The most valuable one is your brain.

Metrics are important, but they’re machine-generated. Investigate by performing your own search queries and analyzing the results. Read available content and note what is lacking–that’s your opportunity. It requires manual labour, but it supports a greater understanding of how Google ranks pages and why (before it changes again).

Then, write awesome, engaging content built around your target keywords, that feeds your potential customers exactly what they want. Write your own or hire an expert copywriter with SEO knowledge.

Happy researching!

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Text about Rand Fishkin and Moz

End of an Era with MOZ and the SEO Community

SEO Rockstar Rand Fishkin Steps Out And Moves On

College dropout-turned-SEO-messiah, Rand Fishkin is a legend in the SEO world. Co-founder of Moz, Rand held the seat of CEO for one of the top software analytics companies in the world for years. His SEO empire Moz grew out of the humble web design business he started right around the time Google entered our lives and changed the virtual world. Talk about being in the right place at the right time–and with the business acumen of a pizza pusher at a Blue Jays game (with the right amount of MOZ-arella).

Rand built his success, somewhat reluctantly, upon the general lack of knowledge about SEO and page ranking that existed at the time. While businesses clamoured to gain a first-page spot on any SERP, Rand outsourced research to SEO experts to meet the needs of his clients. With the demand for SEO expert knowledge and their prices increasing, Rand took it upon himself to become an authority. Massive research and self-study led to the birth of his blog SEOmoz and his successful venture to uncover the secrets of SERPs, which eventually became what it is today–Moz software business empire.

Rand’s SEO empire ranked #334 on the Inc. 500 list in 2010, has received multi-million dollar financing from high-profile investors, and receives over three million visitors per month. Its three primary products, Moz Pro, which includes Keyword Explorer and Open Site Explorer, Moz Local, and Moz API service everyone from professional SEOs to the local paint store owner to individuals who want site data and analytics.

After stepping down from his role as CEO of Moz and a subsequent four years fulfilling a variety of roles, Rand’s journey with Moz ended this past February. Rand’s last day at Moz was over a month ago and it was hard to digest.

Logical Mix Has Benefited Immensely From His Teachings

I know he’s doing more ‘whiteboard Friday’s’ (in fact, he lined up about a dozen before he left), but he’s gone to do… Sparktoro.

You can check out what the heck Sparktoro is by clicking here, but first, the million-dollar question lingers: If Moz is so successful, why the heck did Rand leave? The search for a clear answer leaves a pile of earth and stones. But reading between the lines of his personal blog, we can extract a sense that Rand was aggrieved by the operation of Moz over the past several years, which may be why he stepped down from CEO in 2014–this is mere conjecture though so don’t quote me on it. But he did write,

“On a scale of 0-10, where 0 is “fired and escorted out of the building by security” and 10 is “left entirely of his own accord on wonderful terms,” my departure is around a 4. That makes today a hard one, cognitively and emotionally. I have a lot of sadness, a heap of regrets, and a smattering of resentment too.”

Personally, Rand taught me a lot about the SEO game, one of the most significant being that it actually isn’t a game. When it comes to SEO best practices, he clearly demarcates between quick hacks for instant rankings and hard-won experiences as a result of consistent hard work. He reveals that his “secret sauce” for SEO success is not so secret at all and anyone who isn’t transparent about his SEO activities is likely up to some shady business. He insists that there is no one right move that will accelerate the growth of any business. The value is in the whole, not its individual parts. Anything else smacks of black hat biz.

But damn, even with the success of his SEO enterprise and the years of hard work under-riding it, Rand is an uncommonly humble guy. Personally, I suspect that is the cornerstone of his success. Humility supports a continuous desire to improve.

“I’m not sure I’d call Moz a ‘success,’ at least not yet. We’ve raised venture capital, and that means returning money to our investors, hopefully at a very high multiple. It’s a very tall task, but I believe one that’s possible – just an incredibly hard thing to do.” 

A juicy last tip from Rand: Put your customers first. VCs are important for economic growth but you’ve got to listen and respond to what your customers want.

Love him or hate him–that dude is a legend in SEO. White hats off to you Rand!

Check out Rand’s recently released book, Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World.

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DeltaGrowth logo

DG’s Roundup Summary: What SEO or PPC Advice Would You Give Yourself?

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Delta Growth (DG), a big boy in Toronto’s SEO & SEM industry, specializing in e-commerce. Eugenia, DG’s SEO/PPC Implementation Specialist reached out to some of the industry’s local brainers to ask a SEO/PPC question that few of us ever ask ourselves during our careers:

What advice would have changed your SEO or PPC career?

It’s the kind of question that encourages us to reflect on our business moves of yesteryear. But it also makes us want to nail our thumbs to the floor for the dearth of knowledge our brains now overflow with. If only a DeLorean time machine were as accessible as a Zipcar.

But alas, DG talked to leading SEOs, so we did something right even back then! As a SEO Specialist in Whitby at Logical Mix I was humbled to be regarded in this mix and appreciated the opportunity to reflect on the ghosts of SEO past.

Whether you’re a blogger, consultant, strategist, or a newbie copywriter, Delta Growth’s Round Up about SEO/SEM career advice from leading industry experts may surprise you. It seems success lies in some good old-fashioned values and technical know-how.

Make Great SEO & SEM Relationships

Relationship building is the cornerstone of success in any business. Regardless of how great we are at the technical stuff, there is a person behind every move we make and that person is either going to trust us or bounce. We don’t want bouncers. Stoney Degeyter, Founder and CEO at Pole Position Marketing urges us to always, “focus on the customer, not the algorithms”.  Make the user’s experience your priority. It’s not enough just to know SEO. A grasp of marketing fundamentals is essential to reaching your audience and garnering the staying power that will bump up your conversion rates. What is the crux of Marketing 101? Know your customer. So, know your customer.

Tor Refsland says that if he could go back in time he would have told himself “to grow some b*lls and become uncomfortable much sooner!” He would have started getting new clients right away, face-to-face. So get out there and show face.

Check in with industry peeps too. Nobody gets very far alone. The e-comm community is huge. Learn from as many people as you can. Garner good quality links by offering something of value. Bump up your social media presence.

Give TOFu and BOFu Equal Opportunity

We want to pay attention to everybody at every stage of the conversion cycle so we’ve got to know how to structure our content appropriately. The experts give a few suggestions here. Nail in on long-tail keywords to reach the BOFu kids. Stick to one topic at a time. Create pages to rank for individual head terms and focus on the low-competition keywords in your niche.

But the awareness phase is critical and you can’t gain interest unless you give people something useful. Steve Wiideman insists on links to free tools, guides, and checklists as a marketing strategy for garnering tons of TOFu interest.

Invest In Yourself

It’s easy to forget about our own brand when we’re focused on making it awesome for our clients. John Rampton and Michael Cottam urge us to take the advice we give our clients. Clients come and go with their millions. “What will stick with you is your own brand and assets. Build those and invest as much resources (sic) in those as you would your clients’ sites” (John Rampton, Founder and CEO, with over 1 million Twitter followers). Capitalize on what you practice everyday and know one or two things really well – this is your expertise. And study what you’re not practicing everyday to maintain an edge in the industry.

Craft Awesome New Content Every Week

The demand for high quality content won’t change anytime soon so unless you’re a blackhat you’ll want to maximize your content and repurpose it – a ingenious hack from Oleg Korneitchouk. Several experts commented on how they wished they’d known the value of investing in a marketing campaign, with regular, meaningful content at the top of the priority list. Josh Steimle, Founder of MW1 says it’s simple: “High quality work will attract high quality links. It’s a lot of hard work to create great content, but it’s a simple recipe.”  Good quality content helps the customer alleviate their pains and achieve their goals. This points back to relationships and making our brand trustworthy. But it has to be ongoing. Fresh content each week is essential to high organic ranking and traffic.

Get Your Hands Dirty

We’ve gotta be ballsy in this industry. If we want to know what it feels like to jump out of a plane, we’ve got to jump out of the plane. Take risks with what we know. Research. Experiment. Learn from the results. Experiential learning is the key to forming a knowledge base that will compound over time and support innovation. According to the experts, research and risk are our most profitable investments. Know how to code. Use PPC as a learning mechanism for SEO. Don’t be afraid to try and share with others – remember relationships? Eric Enge sums up SEO & PPC advice the best: “Establish yourself as knowing one aspect of it very, very well. Then, when you’re ready, work on adding a second area of expertise, and get to the point where you are recognized as an expert on that. Keep expanding on those things over time.”

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*Full article here: Round Up: What Advice Would’ve Changed Your SEO or PPC Career?

the Griswolds looking at the sky in front of a house with Christmas lights

Happy Holidays from Logical Mix

Taking time to reflect on the internet and digital marketing business in 2017 has brought much joy to our hearts.

The internet is becoming more user experience focused…and we like that trend! The 2018 digital marketing landscape is going to be filled with change. Adapt or die.

The Good News:

We’re on pace to reach our long term goals with all our clients.

Thanks to all our clients for trusting us and believing we are the right company to grow your company online. We will not let you down.

Happy Holidays to all and to all a good night!

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Shopify logo

What Lessons Can We Learn From Shopify?

What Makes Shopify One on the Most Innovative eCommerce Solutions on the Planet?

We’re glad you asked.

Did you know that in just one year, Shopify increased their revenue by 90%? It’s probably why some short sellers are questioning the business model.

In the matrix of digital marketing, Shopify has found their niche: customized, SEO-rich lures that have made them one of the most innovative and effective ecommerce solutions in the world.

Find out how Shopify cracked that egg better than the other guys in the industry–but who are they again?

They Help Customers Before They’re Even Customers….

Shopify’s “try before you buy” free trial provides time and tips to get your business up and running before you’ve paid a cent. Once hooked, their pricing system has budget-friendly options.

Then, they break down new business start-up step by step, right from the home page, and provide real examples that everyone can relate to.

Shopify discovers what people want and own it. They create ToFu content and subdomains from highly searched keyword phrases. Their useful content draws in and assists all kinds of folks.

Daily blogs. In-depth guides. Instructive podcasts. Video courses taught by industry experts. All expertly optimized. Shopify create interesting, usable, and varied content, a little something for everyone, without email opt-in. One stop shopping for ecommerce education.

Shopify address new business owner concerns through a seven-day email series. Each one takes you one baby step further in set-up. But it’s not entirely altruistic. The introductory email congratulates the new business owner, while the CTA button reminds of the extra goodies available with a paid plan.

In addition to baiting new customers, Shopify go fishing… at the competitor. They identify and solve the primary pain problem competitors’ customers have with straightforward copy.

And of course, Shopify make good with their old friends too.

Their Twitter support channel broadcasts their awesome customer support, which makes them look really good too, like that 22nd selfie…nailed it!

They Take Smart Risks….

Shopify inspired the entrepreneurial spirit of thousands through Build a Business. Seemingly crazy, and $uper risky, it was the motivation behind the start of thousands of new, successful businesses, for a total revenue of $3,543,191 by shop owners. BOOM.

They make evergreen webinars available almost as soon as you sign up. Then they advertise them as a limited time offer (except they aren’t). This creates a speed-laced dangling carrot that turns traffic into regular users.

They Roll With the Big Guys….

How about a brilliant affiliate marketing scheme that benefits everyone? Shopify’s done it. With their affiliate referral system, Shopify have turned their customers into a mass-marketing, super-bomb Shopify team. And they use industry innovators to create awesome apps and designs just for Shopify–so they can hoard the good ideas for themselves.

And, for every app they partner with, they create keyword-rich, integrated landing pages that lead potentials to their free trial.

They Juice Up the Dry Stuff….

Shopify get how significant those little CTA buttons are. Theirs use a different kind of speak to respond to email subscribers. Totally refreshing. But who cares about the newsletters? It’s all about the free-trial, right?!

They have designed an attractive, interactive, and current product update page that gets thousands of social shares without any buttons.

They make meat of ToFu with perfectly-matched ad copy, super specific PPC landing pages, and MoFu keywords that lead the searcher to exactly what they want.

And all those little things, like logging and out stating the terms of service (yawn)… They take them to the next level, to be just that bit better than the other guys–remember them?

This all just smacks of clever business sense.

*All material researched and used can be found at: Shopify’s Website

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Banner with text of 12 Steps to SEO success.

12 SEO Steps to Success

This SEO Checklist will send YOU down the Path of Internet Success.

Ask yourself these 12 SEO questions frequently during your marketing campaign:12 SEO Steps to Success printable jpeg

This list has taken the length of my career to make. Creating 12 summarized sentences to get to the heart of search engine optimization was a hard task indeed and by no means complete. It is worth noting, that over time, some of these practices will shift or become extinct altogether.

This is Logical Mix’s, 2017 version of the “12 SEO Steps to Success“.

I hope it serves you well!

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*Here is the text, if you are having a hard time viewing the image:

1. Keyword Research

Am I matching search queries to my service/product offering?

2. Competitive Research

Have I found usable insights from top organic competitors?

3. Web Analytics

Have I implemented Google Analytics & Google Search Console?

4. On-Page SEO

Am I using Step 1’s insights for page targeting & structuring?

5. Local SEO

Have I built & fixed online citations for my business?

6. Reviews

Do I have a strategy for gathering reviews from happy customers?

7. Technical SEO

Are my relevant web pages being crawled & indexed?

8. User Experience

Is my website intuitive & frictionless throughout?

9. Content Creation

Am I creating quality content that solves the searcher’s problems?

10. Content Marketing

Am I marketing the quality content I created?

11. Internet Partners

Have I been building relationships with non-competing companies?

12. Off-Page SEO

Am I building authority to my site from external websites?

writer at computer

How To Write SEO Content Like A PRO

If you’re wondering how to become an SEO expert writer, grab a coffee, sit down, and take ten minutes to read this simple guide.

Are you a writer just entering the world of SEO content writing? Has your writing for SEO become dull or lifeless? Are you struggling to increase traffic to your blog or website? Do you understand what SEO actually is?

SEO, or search engine optimization, is a “marketing discipline”, according to MOZ, focused on improving organic (non-paid) rankings in Google searches and increasing traffic to webpages. Everybody who is anybody that has a website or blog of any kind wants a piece of this action.

The world of SEO is complex but don’t be deterred. Just learning a few basics about how to write expert SEO content is enough to improve your site’s ranking and traffic. You really don’t need to be a rocket scientist. If you can shuck a corn husk, you’ll do fine with SEO writing. So let’s start with the basics and go from there.

WHAT IS SEO WRITING?

First of all, SEO expert writing involves finding the right keywords and phrases and weaving them effectively into your content to generate traffic to your site.

But there’s a little more to it than that.

While there are some technical aspects to learn, creativity is equally important. How you write is as important as what you write. Writing to attract and engage an audience and writing for SEO purposes aren’t that different.

Let’s suss out the requirements of both aspects to get a clearer picture of how to be a SEO expert writer, both technically and creatively.

WRITE IT WITH BRICKS AND MORTAR

Your keywords are the bricks, your content is the mortar. You need both. You can stack a bunch of keywords together but the structure will eventually collapse without the glue. Similarly, mortar without bricks is kind of a waste. You can write the most beautiful, interesting piece of content but if no one but your mom is reading it, what’s the point?

To find the right keywords you’ve got to do the research, and not just once.

Long before I learned about SEO my routine was to gather a list of sensible-sounding keywords based on my topic, chuck them into my copy, wash my hands, and move to the next task. This is like trying to assemble IKEA furniture without the helpful little diagrams… good intentions don’t always produce the desired result!

But how does one do keyword research? I’m glad you asked.

CHOOSE A FOCUS KEYWORD & DEVELOP A STRATEGY

Indeed, choosing a focus keyword is essential. It determines how your site will rank and how readers will find you. Look at sites similar to yours. What are they writing about? What keyword search brought you to those sites? What questions do you want your site to answer? What keyword or keyword phrase is most relevant to your site’s content? This is the first part of developing your keyword strategy.

For example, perhaps you want to write about how to write expert SEO content (okay, so no points for originality here but we’ll let it go for the purpose of example). What words are you typing into Google (or heaven forbid, Bing)? Let’s see. How about “SEO expert writing” or “SEO expert writer” or variations of that: “how to write expert SEO content” or “writing expert SEO content” or “SEO expert content writing”.

These examples are considered long-tail keyword phrases because they’re comprised of three or more words. They make up 70% of web searches. Long-tail keyword phrases help you zone in on a more specific target than a simple search for “SEO” that will return thousands of general results–have fun weeding! So, gently tailor your focus keyword to your topic.

Next, there are plenty of tools out there to help you research additional keywords, free and not-so-free. Yoast for example, is a WordPress plugin that analyzes your content against your chosen focus keyword and can generate keyword expansions.

A freebie resource like Moz Keyword Explorer offers the same and is an extremely simple tool to get you started on keyword research and strategy development. There are plenty out there. At this moment, Google’s free Keyword Planner tool is not that useful anymore unfortunately.

You can also pay a SEO expert who specializes in creating quality content, understands Google’s algorithms and they can do all the heavy lifting for you.

Do not take KEYWORD RESEARCH lightly! It is the backbone of your SEO campaign or any campaign you want to conduct online.

ORGANIZE YOUR INFO AROUND YOUR OBJECTIVE

It’s natural to want to just jump right in and get writing. But, just like you should wax your board before you surf, adequate preparation is essential for success in the next steps.

Create an outline. You’ve chosen your topic and your keywords. Now you can create the bones of your article. Choose a keyword-informed title and subheadings so that you can organize your thoughts and stay true to your objective. (This also helps Google sort you out but we’ll get there in a minute).

What’s your objective? Writing interesting content that people will want to read, peppered strategically with SEO keywords. Right?!

Now, organize your keyword information so you can keep track of how often you use certain keywords and phrases. A spreadsheet is a good way to accomplish this–especially if you’re a spreadsheet junkie!

The most important part is your keyword research in the spreadsheet and how you use that information in your content. However, bricks and mortar without a design are just a pile of sand and stone in the end. Organizing your hard earned research findings is key.

That brings us to the next, less technical, but equally important step in writing expert SEO content.

BE A RESPONSIBLE SEO WRITER!

Now we’re diving into the more creative aspect of SEO expert writing. But it’s not all fancy-free and foot-loose ways here. There are some important creative considerations you should make before jumping into the surf and allowing your flair to take over. SEO-safety first please folks.

Avoid making your content a keyword dumping ground. It’s lazy, ineffective, and even damaging to your site’s performance to jam keywords into your final copy. You’ve done the research so be tactical in your next steps.

Be a responsible SEO writer and place your keywords appropriately throughout your text to avoid damaging its readability. Roll them in naturally as you write, rather than trying to jam them into your first draft. If it feels like stuffing, rethink your strategy.

Your chosen, tactical keywords should feature prominently in your article but avoid overusing them. Yoast recommends including your focus keyword in the first 300 words, and in the first main heading (H1) or subheading (H2).

STRUCTURE YOUR COPY

Keep your sentences short and concise, no more than approximately 20 words. And, avoid lengthy paragraphs. Few tasks are more daunting than weeding out the gold nuggets of information in paragraphs longer than a showgirl’s legs. Such a task makes your eyes bleed and we naturally want to stop doing anything that causes bleeding. Make it easy on your readers. Break up the paragraphs into two or three sentences.

Use headings and subheadings. They organize your content to make it more readable and to assist Google in extracting your copy’s main topics to improve your site’s ranking. Anything that helps Google read your site… helps your site!

And a mention on article length. The average word-count for blogs and content articles is 1500. I don’t recommend less than 400 or more than 3000. Readers will typically scan for specific information, hence the headings, concise sentences and short paragraphs. Make your content readable. Make your readers want to stay a while.

 

WRITE QUALITY CONTENT REGULARLY

If you’re writing for your own site don’t think that posting a few blogs or articles when you’re starting up is enough. Your numbers may spike but then settle right back down unless you’re generating new and quality content regularly. And with that, as mentioned, comes regular keyword searching and strategizing. This is an ongoing process and one of the most important ways of improving SEO.

ENJOY THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS

Now you have some basics for writing your own SEO content (or someone else’s)! Informed writing is always better than ignorant writing so good for you for indulging in this ten minute learning break!

And writing for SEO doesn’t have to be a task you approach begrudgingly. The best advice I can offer is to write what you know and then learn how to write it well to support your SEO objective–remember your objective! If you need to know more, research. Web surfing is one of the best activities you can engage in to learn more about SEO expert writing, content writing, and blogging. (And can I just add how unintelligible that statement would have sounded 30 years ago–I’m picturing spiders on surf boards).

So, now you’ve got your SEO swimmies on, you’re ready to enter the wonderful world of SEO expert writing. Go on, get wet–but remember to practice safe surfing!

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*featured image courtesy of Wellesley College
cars in dark traffic jam at night with lights on

Does My Search Engine Marketing Have Dark Traffic?

Dark Traffic Makes A SEO’s Life More Interesting.

Dark traffic is statistically usually under “Direct Traffic” in Google Analytics, and is being referred from an unknown/untraced source (and for some reason being lumped into Direct Traffic).

As a SEO, you must try to figure out where this website traffic is coming from. Get the credit you deserve.

What does this Mean for My Search Engine Marketing?

It means you have to search for stats in other places and on your own. You can also help your company by adding some tools to your arsenal. You’ll never be able to track 100% of “Dark Traffic”, but from our research, this is the best article to read regarding Dark Traffic. That article should send you on the right path.

We Hope That Helped

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Stacked Gold Bars

Why Rich Snippets Help Your Company’s Search Engine Marketing

Rich snippets are a fancy way to spruce up your Google search results within search engine listings.

They don’t necessarily enhance your search engine optimization (SEO), but they do improve your Click Through Rate (CTR). The jury is still out on the search engine ranking effects. Some have reported a SERP improvement.

The most common rich snippets we see are reviews with “Star Rating”. Rich snippets come in many forms though, such as: videos, images, event times, addresses, phone numbers, etc.

The enhancement is real, and positively reflects your search engine marketing efforts.

The end is result desired is almost always quality website clicks funnelling into leads for your business. If this statement is true for your business, continue reading more about rich snippets and how to implement them on your website.

Get A Plugin.

This is the most cost effective way to get rich snippets representing your business online. You could get a developer to code it in for you, but that is a much pricier option.

Here’s a relatively new and great article about Rich Snippet plugins: 5 Best Rich Snippet Plugins

It’s an article about different tools you can use to get rich snippets showing up for your search engine results. Worth the read. Rich Snippets will propel you above the competition.

The Easiest Explanation:

Rich Snippets help your company control what the search engine user sees on the search results page.

This helps everyone in the end. User and Business win!

 

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