The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Google Analytics

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.

google analytics setup

After you click the Sign Up button, you will fill out information for your website.

setting up a new account in google analytics

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 account—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 another—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.

new account information google analytics

Beneath this, you will have the option to configure where your Google Analytics data can be shared.

configuring shared info for google analytics

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.

find google analytics tracking 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.

installing google analytics tracking code wordpress genesis

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).

adding google analytics tracking code to head tag

If you have a Shopify e-commerce store, you will go to your Online Store settings and paste in your tracking code where specified.

adding google analytics tracking code to shopify account

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.

adding google analytics tracking code to tumblr

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.

setting up goals in google analytics

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.

adding a new goal to google analytics

You will choose the Custom option (unless one of the other options are more applicable to your website) and click the Next Step button.

setting custom goals in google analytics

You will name your goal something you will remember, select Destination, and then click the Next Step button.

naming a goal in google analytics

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”.

setting goal details google analytics

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.

site search moz

First, run a search on your website. Then keep the tab open. You will need the URL momentarily.

site search query parameter

Go to your Google Analytics Admin menu again, and in the View column, click on View Settings.

setting up search query parameter in google analytics

Scroll down until you see Site Settings and toggle it to On.

site search settings in google analytics

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.

entering the query parameter in google analytics site search

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.

add account google analytics

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.

create new property google analytics

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.

viewing google analytics

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.

google analytics audience overview

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.

google analytics date range select

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.

google analytics hover

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.

screen resolution report google analytics

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.

location report google analytics

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.

visitors by state google analytics

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.

types of google analytics reports

Everything in (parenthesis) is a specific report or set of reports within the following sections that you can refer to.

Audience reports

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).

Acquisition reports

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)

Behavior reports

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).

Conversions

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.

google analytics conversions

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.

google analytics shortcuts

Or, use the email button to have them emailed to you (or others on your team) on a regular basis.

google analytics emailed reports

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.

google analytics admin window

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.

adding user to google analytics

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.

user permissions google analytics

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).

quill engage summary report google analytics

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 metrics—sessions, average session duration, bounce rate, and conversion rate.

google analytics home screen

You can also try business dashboard solutions like Cyfe. For $19 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.

cyfe dashboard google analytics

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.

search analytics keyword data

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.

custom report google analytics

Dashboards allow you to view your Google Analytics data in a dashboard format. You can access them at the top of the left sidebar.

google analytics dashboard

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.

audience comparison google analytics

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.

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 custom reports google analytics

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.

edit segments google analytics

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.

In conclusion

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!

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

Advertisements

How to Build Links in Person

Posted by RuthBurrReedy

The important thing to remember when you’re trying to attract links—real, powerful, high-quality, authoritative links—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!

nasa robots making friends

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 calendar—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 $20. 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.

attendees at MozCon

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 doing—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 businesses—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, too—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 connections—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 link—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 yourself—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)—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.

Follow up

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 sparingly—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.

nurturing a relationship over the phone

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 them—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 them—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 it—a simple “Hey, I thought you’d like this, check it out” is often enough.

All of this relationship building can also be done online—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.

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

How to Rid Your Website of Six Common Google Analytics Headaches

Posted by amandaecking

I’ve been in and out of Google Analytics (GA) for the past five or so years agency-side. I’ve seen three different code libraries, dozens of new different features and reports roll out, IP addresses stop being reported, and keywords not-so-subtly phased out of the free platform.

Analytics has been a focus of mine for the past year or so—mainly, making sure clients get their data right. Right now, our new focus is closed loop tracking, but that’s a topic for another day. If you’re using Google Analytics, and only Google Analytics for the majority of your website stats, or it’s your primary vehicle for analysis, you need to make sure it’s accurate.

Not having data pulling in or reporting properly is like building a house on a shaky foundation: It doesn’t end well. Usually there are tears.

For some reason, a lot of people, including many of my clients, assume everything is tracking properly in Google Analytics… because Google. But it’s not Google who sets up your analytics. People do that. And people are prone to make mistakes.

I’m going to go through six scenarios where issues are commonly encountered with Google Analytics.

I’ll outline the remedy for each issue, and in the process, show you how to move forward with a diagnosis or resolution.

1. Self-referrals

This is probably one of the areas we’re all familiar with. If you’re seeing a lot of traffic from your own domain, there’s likely a problem somewhere—or you need to extend the default session length in Google Analytics. (For example, if you have a lot of long videos or music clips and don’t use event tracking; a website like TEDx or SoundCloud would be a good equivalent.)

Typically one of the first things I’ll do to help diagnose the problem is include an advanced filter to show the full referrer string. You do this by creating a filter, as shown below:

Filter Type: Custom filter > Advanced
Field A: Hostname
Extract A: (.*)
Field B: Request URI
Extract B: (.*)
Output To: Request URI
Constructor: $A1$B1

You’ll then start seeing the subdomains pulling in. Experience has shown me that if you have a separate subdomain hosted in another location (say, if you work with a separate company and they host and run your mobile site or your shopping cart), it gets treated by Google Analytics as a separate domain. Thus, you ‘ll need to implement cross domain tracking. This way, you can narrow down whether or not it’s one particular subdomain that’s creating the self-referrals.

In this example below, we can see all the revenue is being reported to the booking engine (which ended up being cross domain issues) and their own site is the fourth largest traffic source:

self-referrals-2.png

I’ll also a good idea to check the browser and device reports to start narrowing down whether the issue is specific to a particular element. If it’s not, keep digging. Look at pages pulling the self-referrals and go through the code with a fine-tooth comb, drilling down as much as you can.

2. Unusually low bounce rate

If you have a crazy-low bounce rate, it could be too good to be true. Unfortunately. An unusually low bounce rate could (and probably does) mean that at least on some pages of your website have the same Google Analytics tracking code installed twice.

Take a look at your source code, or use Google Tag Assistant (though it does have known bugs) to see if you’ve got GA tracking code installed twice.

While I tell clients having Google Analytics installed on the same page can lead to double the pageviews, I’ve not actually encountered that—I usually just say it to scare them into removing the duplicate implementation more quickly. Don’t tell on me.

3. Iframes anywhere

I’ve heard directly from Google engineers and Google Analytics evangelists that Google Analytics does not play well with iframes, and that it will never will play nice with this dinosaur technology.

If you track the iframe, you inflate your pageviews, plus you still aren’t tracking everything with 100% clarity.

If you don’t track across iframes, you lose the source/medium attribution and everything becomes a self-referral.

Damned if you do; damned if you don’t.

My advice: Stop using iframes. They’re Netscape-era technology anyway, with rainbow marquees and Comic Sans on top. Interestingly, and unfortunately, a number of booking engines (for hotels) and third-party carts (for ecommerce) still use iframes.

If you have any clients in those verticals, or if you’re in the vertical yourself, check with your provider to see if they use iframes. Or you can check for yourself, by right-clicking as close as you can to the actual booking element:

iframe-booking.png

There is no neat and tidy way to address iframes with Google Analytics, and usually iframes are not the only complicated element of setup you’ll encounter. I spent eight months dealing with a website on a subfolder, which used iframes and had a cross domain booking system, and the best visibility I was able to get was about 80% on a good day.

Typically, I’d approach diagnosing iframes (if, for some reason, I had absolutely no access to viewing a website or talking to the techs) similarly to diagnosing self-referrals, as self-referrals are one of the biggest symptoms of iframe use.

4. Massive traffic jumps

Massive jumps in traffic don’t typically just happen. (Unless, maybe, you’re Geraldine.) There’s always an explanation—a new campaign launched, you just turned on paid ads for the first time, you’re using content amplification platforms, you’re getting a ton of referrals from that recent press in The New York Times. And if you think it just happened, it’s probably a technical glitch.

I’ve seen everything from inflated pageviews result from including tracking on iframes and unnecessary implementation of virtual pageviews, to not realizing the tracking code was installed on other microsites for the same property. Oops.

Usually I’ve seen this happen when the tracking code was somewhere it shouldn’t be, so if you’re investigating a situation of this nature, first confirm the Google Analytics code is only in the places it needs to be.Tools like Google Tag Assistant and Screaming Frog can be your BFFs in helping you figure this out.

Also, I suggest bribing the IT department with sugar (or booze) to see if they’ve changed anything lately.

5. Cross-domain tracking

I wish cross-domain tracking with Google Analytics out of the box didn’t require any additional setup. But it does.

If you don’t have it set up properly, things break down quickly, and can be quite difficult to untangle.

The older the GA library you’re using, the harder it is. The easiest setup, by far, is Google Tag Manager with Universal Analytics. Hard-coded universal analytics is a bit more difficult because you have to implement autoLink manually and decorate forms, if you’re using them (and you probably are). Beyond that, rather than try and deal with it, I say update your Google Analytics code. Then we can talk.

Where I’ve seen the most murkiness with tracking is when parts of cross domain tracking are implemented, but not all. For some reason, if allowLinker isn’t included, or you forget to decorate all the forms, the cookies aren’t passed between domains.

The absolute first place I would start with this would be confirming the cookies are all passing properly at all the right points, forms, links, and smoke signals. I’ll usually use a combination of the Real Time report in Google Analytics, Google Tag Assistant, and GA debug to start testing this. Any debug tool you use will mean you’re playing in the console, so get friendly with it.

6. Internal use of UTM strings

I’ve saved the best for last. Internal use of campaign tagging. We may think, oh, I use Google to tag my campaigns externally, and we’ve got this new promotion on site which we’re using a banner ad for. That’s a campaign. Why don’t I tag it with a UTM string?

Step away from the keyboard now. Please.

When you tag internal links with UTM strings, you override the original source/medium. So that visitor who came in through your paid ad and then who clicks on the campaign banner has now been manually tagged. You lose the ability to track that they came through on the ad the moment they click on the tagged internal link. Their source and medium is now your internal campaign, not that paid ad you’re spending gobs of money on and have to justify to your manager. See the problem?

I’ve seen at least three pretty spectacular instances of this in the past year, and a number of smaller instances of it. Annie Cushing also talks about the evils of internal UTM tags and the odd prevalence of it. (Oh, and if you haven’t explored her blog, and the amazing spreadsheets she shares, please do.)

One clothing company I worked with tagged all of their homepage offers with UTM strings, which resulted in the loss of visibility for one-third of their audience: One million visits over the course of a year, and $2.1 million in lost revenue.

Let me say that again. One million visits, and $2.1 million. That couldn’t be attributed to an external source/campaign/spend.

Another client I audited included campaign tagging on nearly every navigational element on their website. It still gives me nightmares.

If you want to see if you have any internal UTM strings, head straight to the Campaigns report in Acquisition in Google Analytics, and look for anything like “home” or “navigation” or any language you may use internally to refer to your website structure.

And if you want to see how users are moving through your website, go to the Flow reports. Or if you really, really, really want to know how many people click on that sidebar link, use event tracking. But please, for the love of all things holy (and to keep us analytics lovers from throwing our computers across the room), stop using UTM tagging on your internal links.

Now breathe and smile

Odds are, your Google Analytics setup is fine. If you are seeing any of these issues, though, you have somewhere to start in diagnosing and addressing the data.

We’ve looked at six of the most common points of friction I’ve encountered with Google Analytics and how to start investigating them: self-referrals, bounce rate, iframes, traffic jumps, cross domain tracking and internal campaign tagging.

What common data integrity issues have you encountered with Google Analytics? What are your favorite tools to investigate?

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

How to Choose the Right Stock Photo for Your Next Project

You’ve likely got a great way to search the web for the best free stock photos.

And once you know where to look, how do you decide which photos to choose?

Should you go with abstract or specific?

What is the best color profile?

What is the best orientation?

There are so many great sources for free photos. I find myself asking these questions most every time I pick a photo—how to identify the right stock photo for a project. There’s a good bit of research and advice out there on how to make the best choice when it comes to stock photos. Take a look at what I’ve found here.

Choose the Right Stock Photo

1. Know where your image is going

How will you use the photo? Where will the photo appear?

There’re a million different places an image could appear, based on the million or more types of projects that involve stock photography.

Let’s consider online content for a moment.

When we look at the different places that a stock photo may appear, there’s often a handful that come to mind most often:

A full-width image in the header

Examples of this include stories on Medium and popular blogs like Crew or Zapier.

Medium screenshot

A background image as part of a graphic, behind text or icons

Examples of this include the images we create for Buffer blog posts and some great designs on blogs like Copyblogger and Agora Pulse.

Copyblogger screenshot

Right-aligned images inside blog posts

Examples include The Social Times blog. (The image could also be left-aligned, too, though the far more common usage is right-aligned.)

The Social Times blog

Full-width images inside blog posts

Examples include the Unbounce blog and the Quick Sprout blog.

Quick Sprout blog

Social media featured images

Examples include Facebook and Google+ when you share a link and Twitter when you’ve enabled Twitter cards.

Facebook example

Slidedeck backgrounds

Lots of great examples on SlideShare.

SlideShare example

In each of the examples above, it’s possible that a different stock photo would be considered an ideal fit, based on what looks good with text on top of it, what looks good splashed on Facebook, or what looks good at the start of a blog post.

In my experience, I’ve seen stock photos commonly used in one of two ways. Either

  1. On their own as standalone images
  2. With text or graphics placed on top, as designed images

Both are great routes forward, especially considering the unique places these images are used online. Once you figure out where your image is going and how it will be used, you’re certain to have a greater sense of what’s right stock photo for your project.

2. Understand the contrast of your image

Identify areas of low contrast if you plan on adding text or graphics to the image

Let’s say you want to add an overlay onto your image—a catchy quote with Pablo or an announcement blurb and graphic over a cool background.

The ideal stock photo for these projects would be one with areas of low contrast so that your text and graphics have an even, consistent backdrop.

The SlideShare blog has a good example of how contrast affects the design of image. SlideShare refers to those images with areas of low contrast as text-friendly images.

Good example:

Good1

Bad example:

Bad1

Put another way, these ideal stock photos with areas of low contrast make it possible that your text and graphics will have high contrast with the photo.

For instance, an image with many shades of blue could be said to have low contrast. If you were to add white text on top, the white text would have high contrast with the blue image.

If you always add white text to your images, look for images with darker colors.

If you’ve grabbed a black icon from a site like The Noun Project, you’ll want to place it on an image with lighter tones.

One way to look at contrast in this sense is to picture the color wheel. Selecting colors that are opposite one another on the wheel creates a contrasting effect. You can choose an ideal stock image that focuses on one color and text and graphics that focus on an opposite one.

color_contrast_and_dimensions

Legibility and clarity are key here. Typically when you create an image with text, graphics, or other elements overlaid onto a photo, the most important visual aspect of your image will be your enhancements, not the stock photo itself.

You don’t need to think much about the content of the picture—especially if you’ll be adding strong effects like blur or darken/lighten.

You’ll just want something that has the right contrast to make your added elements pop.

Another trick I like to try, when possible, is to add an image to my photo editor (Canva, typically) and change the image to black-and-white. Usually quite quickly I can tell if the image has high or low contrast within its colors.

(You’ll also grow to notice the right contrast rather intuitively over time.)

Where this becomes important is when you begin to place elements on top of the image. Text, for instance, has the chance to be difficult to read if you’re placing it over contrasting colors—white text could disappear over the white parts of the image yet still look just fine over the darker colors, for instance.

3. Choose colors that elicit a visceral response

Attention-grabbing colors & images will stand out on social

Visceral reactions are some of the strongest connections we can make to visual content.

Biologically, when we feel a visceral reaction, we tap into the part of the brain responsible for survival instincts and fight-or-flight responses. The response is subconscious. It originates from the central nervous system whenever we’re stimulated by vital factors like food, shelter, danger, or reproduction. We might not be able to explain why we love a beautiful design because our conscious thought hasn’t yet caught up with our subconscious.

And one of the ways to drive these visceral reactions is with color choice.

A study from Georgia Tech looked at 1 million Pinterest images for the color trends between the highest and lowest shared images. They found:

  •    Red, Purple and Pink promote sharing
  •    Green, Black, Blue and Yellow all stop people from sharing

The thinking was that the three highly-shared colors—red, purple and pink—are tied to visceral emotions. And the overall takeaway is that color makes for a huge portion of an image’s success.

To find an ideal stock photo that’s rich with attention-grabbing color, you can again turn to contrast—in particular, the seven color contrasts identified by Johannes Itten.

  1. Pure (hue) contrast
  2. Light-dark contrast
  3. Cold-warm contrast
  4. Complementary contrast
  5. Simultaneous contrast
  6. Contrast of quality (color saturation)
  7. Contrast of quantity

(For more detail on each of these seven, I’d highly recommend this blog post from Love of Graphics.)

Two of Itten’s seven color contrasts that stand out to me when choosing stock photos are contrast of saturation and contrast of hue. The Color at Play blog created some great examples of these contrasts in action.

Contrast in saturation

Print

Example:

photo-1429616588302-fec569e203ce

Contrast in hue

Print

Example:

photo-1429000263672-1b8b4008d2f7

4. Find an image that supports your message

Attention-grabbing images are great, so long as they don’t distract

In most cases, stock photos are generic and abstract enough that they can grab attention without diverting too much focus.

There are, however, exceptions.

Simply, when choosing a stock photo, find one that does not distract from the main message of your article, update, or headline.

Typically, distracting images would be those that have one or more of these qualities:

  • Controversial
  • Loud, garish
  • Too specific
  • Recognizable
  • Meme

Here’s an example of one that I used in a story. The image was probably a bit too specific—a football game, fans dressed in white, lettering in the end zone—and on looking back at it now, my mind immediately begins trying to figure out just who those teams are (instead of focusing on the cool article).

Facebook example post

5. Take care to pick a person

What to consider when picking a photo with a person

There’s been some neat research about this question. What effect is there, if any, should you choose a photo with a person?

Turns out, there are a lot of different ways to include a person in your picture.

  • Looking away from camera vs. looking at camera
  • Back of head vs. face
  • Shadow/silhouette
  • Pics of arms, legs, or bodies

A brief overview of some case studies on the topic reveals these findings:

37 Signals Person Page test

eye tracking study stock photos with people

6. Be mindful of the size and shape

Which orientation do you want? Tall vs. wide vs. square

One factor that might sway your decision one way or another is the size and shape of an image. In general, these are the ideal image sizes for each social network:

The commonly-held best practice is to aim for something like this:

  • Facebook & Instagram — square images
  • Pinterest & Google+ — tall images
  • Twitter — wide images

What happens if you fall in love with an image that isn’t the right size? 

There’s a fun tip we use here at Buffer for how to crop easily.

When you double-click to open an image on your Mac computer, you enter Preview, which contains several useful tools.

To crop, place your mouse over the picture and click and drag to select the area you want to keep. Then go to Tools > Crop (or press Command+K).

You can also resize large images from Preview by going to Tools > Adjust Size.

In this way, you can fall in love with just about any image and crop down to the size and shape you need.

7. How to perform a search

The best way to search for abstract photos

Many of our favorite free image sources have robust search features to help you dig through the photo archives.

Sometimes there can be a bit of an art to finding what you’re after.

If you’re writing an article about brand management, for example, it could be difficult to know which terms to use in your search; if you were to search for “brand” or “management,” the image results might be a bit lean and off-topic.

What we like to do in searches for the Buffer blog is to enter terms that have to do with the image we have in mind, rather than the title of the page itself.

  • For social media posts, we often look to find pictures of computers, laptops, mobile devices, or keyboards.
  • For analytics posts, we look for transportation, things with forward motion.
  • For research posts, we might search for books or pen and paper.

We also find that crowd shots or interactive photos with two or more people together make for good social media images.

What this might look like in practice:

  1. Search according to the verbs in your headlines or page titles, rather than the nouns
  2. Go to the thesaurus to find variations of your search terms (a simple thesaurus: Google search for “[keyword] synonym”)
  3. Search for nouns related to your verbs, e.g. “launch” could mean rockets or race cars

Over to you

What are your favorite tips for finding a great stock photo?

I’d love the chance to learn from you! Leave any thoughts here in the comments, and I’ll respond right away.

Image sources: Pablo, IconFinder, SlideShare, John Barsby Photography, Color at Play, UnSplash37 Signals, Eyequant

The post How to Choose the Right Stock Photo for Your Next Project appeared first on Social.

Your Daily SEO Fix: Week 5

Posted by Trevor-Klein

We’ve arrived, folks! This is the last installment of our short (< 2-minute) video tutorials that help you all get the most out of Moz’s tools. If you haven’t been following along, these are each designed to solve a use case that we regularly hear about from Moz community members.

Here’s a quick recap of the previous round-ups in case you missed them:

  • Week 1: Reclaim links using Open Site Explorer, build links using Fresh Web Explorer, and find the best time to tweet using Followerwonk.
  • Week 2: Analyze SERPs using new MozBar features, boost your rankings through on-page optimization, check your anchor text using Open Site Explorer, do keyword research with OSE and the keyword difficulty tool, and discover keyword opportunities in Moz Analytics.
  • Week 3: Compare link metrics in Open Site Explorer, find tweet topics with Followerwonk, create custom reports in Moz Analytics, use Spam Score to identify high-risk links, and get link building opportunities delivered to your inbox.
  • Week 4: Use Fresh Web Explorer to build links, analyze rank progress for a given keyword, use the MozBar to analyze your competitors’ site markup, use the Top Pages report to find content ideas, and find on-site errors with Crawl Test.

We’ve got five new fixes for you in this edition:

  • How to Use the Full SERP Report
  • How to Find Fresh Links and Manage Your Brand Online Using Open Site Explorer
  • How to Build Your Link Profile with Link Intersect
  • How to Find Local Citations Using the MozBar
  • Bloopers: How to Screw Up While Filming a Daily SEO Fix

Hope you enjoy them!


Fix 1: How to Use the Full SERP Report

Moz’s Full SERP Report is a detailed report that shows the top ten ranking URLs for a specific keyword and presents the potential ranking signals in an easy-to-view format. In this Daily SEO Fix, Meredith breaks down the report so you can see all the sections and how each are used.

.video-container {
position: relative;
padding-bottom: 56.25%;
padding-top: 30px; height: 0; overflow: hidden;
}
.video-container iframe,
.video-container object,
.video-container embed {
position: absolute;
top: 0;
left: 0;
width: 100%;
height: 100%;
}

https://www.youtube.com/embed/dBOS3PGYpwk


Fix 2: How to Find Fresh Links and Manage Your Brand Online Using Open Site Explorer

The Just-Discovered Links report in Open Site Explorer helps you discover recently created links within an hour of them being published. In this fix, Nick shows you how to use the report to view who is linking to you, how they’re doing it, and what they are saying, so you can capitalize on link opportunities while they’re still fresh and join the conversation about your brand.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/VP2DoDy3Fj4


Fix 3: How to Build Your Link Profile with Link Intersect

The quantity and (more importantly) quality of backlinks to your website make up your link profile, one of the most important elements in SEO and an incredibly important factor in search engine rankings. In this Daily SEO Fix, Tori shows you how to use Moz’s Link Intersect tool to analyze the competitions’ backlinks. Plus, learn how to find opportunities to build links and strengthen your own link profile.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/r7Ob1i3v7To


Fix 4: How to Find Local Citations Using the MozBar

Citations are mentions of your business and address on webpages other than your own such as an online yellow pages directory or a local business association page. They are a key component in search engine ranking algorithms so building consistent and accurate citations for your local business(s) is a key Local SEO tactic. In today’s Daily SEO Fix, Tori shows you how to use MozBar to find local citations around the web

https://www.youtube.com/embed/AGqKmru2VKc


Bloopers: How to Screw Up While Filming a Daily SEO Fix

We had a lot of fun filming this series, and there were plenty of laughs along the way. Like these ones. =)

http://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/cldo3ziuxb?videoFoam=true


Looking for more?

We’ve got more videos in the previous four weeks’ round-ups!

Your Daily SEO Fix: Week 1

Your Daily SEO Fix: Week 2

Your Daily SEO Fix: Week 3

Your Daily SEO Fix: Week 4


Don’t have a Pro subscription? No problem. Everything we cover in these Daily SEO Fix videos is available with a free 30-day trial.

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

How to Estimate the Total Volume and Value of Keywords in a Given Market or Niche – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

To get a sense for the potential value of keywords in a certain niche, we need to do more than just look at the number of searches those keywords get each month. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains what else we should be looking at, and how we can use other data to prioritize some groups over others.

http://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/eouysq57gc?videoFoam=true

How to Estimate the Total Volume and Value of Keywords in a Given Market or Niche Whiteboard

For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard. Click on it to open a high resolution image in a new tab!

Video transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week I want to chat about how you can estimate the total volume and value of a large set of keywords in a market or a niche.

Look, we’re going to try and simplify this and reduce it to something that is actually manageable, because you can go way, way deep down a well. You could spend a year trying to figure out whether Market A or Market B is better to enter or better to chase keywords in, better to create content in. But I want to try and make it a little simple without reducing it to something that is of no value whatsoever, which unfortunately can be how some marketers have looked at this in the past.

Asian noodle keywords

So let’s try this thought exercise. Let’s say I’m a recipe site or a food site and I’m thinking I want to get into the Asian noodles scene. There’s a lot of awesome Asian noodles out there. I, in fact, had Chow fun for lunch from Trove on Capitol Hill. When you come to MozCon, you have to try them. It’s awesome.

So maybe I’m looking at Chow fun and sort of all the keyword sets around those, that Chinese noodle world. Maybe I’m looking at pad Thai, a very popular Thai noodle, particularly in the U.S., and maybe Vietnamese rice noodles or bun. I’m trying to figure out which of these is the one that I should target. Should I start creating a lot of pad Thai recipes, a lot of Chow fun recipes? Should I go research one or the other of these? Am I going to chase the mid and long tail keywords?

I’m about to invest a large amount of effort and really build up a brand around this. Which one of these should I do?

Side note, this is getting more and more important as Google is moving to these topic modeling and sight specific, topic authority models. So if Google starts to identify my site as being an authority on Chow fun, I can expect to rank for all sorts of awesome stuff around it, versus if I just kind of dive in and out and have one-offs of Chow fun and 50 different other kinds of noodles. So this gets really important.

The wrong way to look at AdWords data

A massively oversimplified version, that a lot of people have done in the past, is to look broadly at kind of AdWords groups, the ones that AdWords selects for you, or individual keywords and say, “Oh, okay. Well, Chow fun gets 22,000 searches a month, Pad Thai gets 165,000, and rice noodles, which is the most popular version of that query — it could also be called Vietnamese noodles or bun noodles or something like that — gets 27,000. So there you go, one, two, three.

This is dead wrong. It’s totally oversimplified. It’s not taking into account all the things we have to do to really understand the market.

First off, this isn’t going to include all the variations, the mid and long tail keywords. So potentially there might be a ton of variations of rice noodles that actually add up to as much or more than pad Thai. Same thing with Chow fun. In fact, when I looked, it looked like there’s a ton of Chow fun modifications and different kinds of things that go in there. The Pad Thai list is a little short. It’s like chicken, vegetable, shrimp, and beef. Pretty simplistic.

There’s also no analysis of the competition going on here. Pad Thai, yeah it’s popular, but it also has 50 recipe sites all bidding for it, tons of online grocers bidding for it, tons of recipes books that are bidding on that. I don’t know. Then it could be that Chow fun has almost no competition whatsoever. So you’re really not considering that when you look in here.

Finally, and this can be important too, these numbers can be off by up to 200% plus or minus this number. So if you were to actually bid on Chow fun, you might see that you get somewhere in the 22,000 impressions per month, assuming your ad consistently shows up on page one, but you could see as little as 11,000. I’ve seen as much as 44,000, like huge variations and swings in either direction and not always totally consistent between these. You want them to be, but they’re not always.

A better process

So because of that, we have to go deeper. These problems mean that we have to expend a little more energy. Not a ton. It doesn’t have to be massive, but probably a week or two of work at least to try and figure this out. But it’s so important I think it’s worth it every time.

1) Keyword research dive

First off, we’re going to conduct a broad keyword research dive into each one of these. Not as much as we would do if we knew, hey, Chow fun is the one we’re going to target. We’re going to go deep. We’re going to find every possible keyword. We’re going to do kind of what I call a broad dive, not a deep dive into each market. So I might want to go, hey, I’m going to look at the AdWords suggestions and tally those up. I’m going to look at search suggest and related searches for some of the queries that I get from AdWords, some of the top ones anyway, and I’m going to do a brief competitive analysis. Maybe I’ll put the domains that I’m seeing most frequently around these specific topics into SEMrush or another tool like that — SpyFu, Key Compete or whatever your preference might be — and see what other terms and phrases they might be ranking on.

So now I’ve got a reasonable set. It probably didn’t take me more than a few hours to put that together, if that. If I’ve got an efficient process for this already, maybe even less.

2) Bid on sample keyword sets

Now comes the tricky part. I want you to take a small sample set, and we’ve done this a few times. Random might be not the right word. It’s a small considered set of keywords and bid on them through AdWords. When I say “considered,” what I mean is a few from the long tail, a few from the chunky middle, and a few from the head of the demand curve that are getting lots and lots of searches. Now I want to point each of those to some new, high-quality pages on your site as a test.

So I might make maybe one, two, or three different landing pages for each of these different sets. One of them might be around noodles. One might be around recipes. One might be around history or uses in cuisine or whatever it is.

Then I am going to know from that exercise three critically important things. I’m going to know accuracy of AdWords volume estimates, which is awesome. Now I know whether these numbers mean anything or not, how far off they were or not. I could probably run for between 10 and 15 days and get a really good sense for the accuracy of AdWords. If you’re feeling like being very comprehensive, run for a full month, especially if you have the budget, because you can learn even more over time, and you’ll rule out any inconsistencies due to a particular spike, like maybe The New York Times recipe section features Chow fun that week and suddenly there’s a huge spike or whatever it is.

You can also learn relative price competition in click-through rate. This is awesome. This means that I know it costs a lot more per visitor that I’m trying to get on pad Thai. There are two really good things to know there. When a click costs more money, that also usually means there are more advertisers willing to pay for that traffic.

If you’re primarily on the organic side and you believe you can compete with the folks in the organic ranking, a very high bid price and payment price that you have to pay to AdWords is a good thing.

If you’re on the other side of that, where you think, “Hey, look, we’re not going to compete organically right now. We just don’t have the domain authority to do it. It’s going to take us a while,” then a high price is a bad thing. You want that cheaper traffic so you can start to build up that brand through paid as you’re growing the organic side. So it really depends on who you are and what situation you’re in.

Then finally you can figure out some things around click-through rate as well, which is great to know. So you can build some true model estimates and then go into your board meeting or your client pitch or whatever it is and say, “Hey, here are the numbers.”

Lastly, you’re going to learn the difficulty of content creation, like how hard was it for you to create these kinds of things. Like, “Wow, when we write about Chow fun, it’s just easy. It just rolls off. Pad Thai we have a really hard time creating unique value because everything has been done in that world. We’re just not as passionate about those noodles as we are about Chow fun.” Cool. Great, you know that.

Also, assuming your test includes this, which it doesn’t always have to, you can guess from sort of engagement rate, browse rate, time on site, all those kinds of things, but you can look at search conversion as well. So let’s say you have some action to complete on the page — subscribe to our email newsletter, sign up to get updates when we send them out about this recipe, or create an account so you can sign in and save this recipe. All that kind of stuff or a direct ecommerce conversion, you can learn that through your bidding test.

3) Analyze groups based on relevant factors

Awesome. That’s great. Now we really, really know something. Based on that, we can do a true analysis, an accurate analysis of the different groups based on:

  • Relative value
  • Difficulty
  • Opportunity
  • Growth rate
  • ROI

Growth rate might be an interpreted thing, but you can look at the Google trends to kind of figure out over time whether a broad group of terms is getting more or less popular. You could use something like Mention.net or Fresh Web Explorer from Moz to look at mentions as well.

Now, you can be happy here. I might have chosen chow fun because I looked and I said, “Hey, you know what, it did not have the most volume overall, but it did have the lightest competition, the highest return on investment. We were great at creating the content. We were able to engage our visitors there, had lots of mid and long tail terms. We think it’s poised for big growth with the growth of Chinese noodles overall and the fact that the American food scene hasn’t really discovered Chow fun the way they have Vietnamese noodles and pad Thai. So that is where we’re placing our bet.”

Great. Now you have a real analysis. You have numbers behind it. You have estimates you can make. This process, although a little heavy, is going to get you so much further than this kind of simplistic thinking.

All right, everyone, I look forward to hearing from you about how you’ve done analyses like these in the past, and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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

New Features in OSE’s Spam Score & the Mozscape API

Posted by randfish

This week, we launched a feature inside Open Site Explorer that I’m very excited about – the Spam Score Histogram, found by clicking on the “spam analysis” tab:

The histogram is particularly useful for visualizing the distribution of potentially spammy links that show up in a site’s link profile. Above, for example, we’re looking at Moz.com, with a strong distribution of sites that have 0-5 spam flags. According to our research, that means the vast majority of those sites are unlikely to be penalized or banned by Google.

For more detail on Moz’s Spam Score, check out the original blog post and my Whiteboard Friday.

The new histogram view lets us do nice comparisons like these:

Houzz.com has a very large list of sketchy-looking sites linking to them (many seem to be very thin content sites from China, curiously).

Competitor (well, sort-of-competitor), Porch.com, has a much smaller link profile with a very different distribution. Their link profile looks even healthier than Moz’s to me!

But, the new spam score histogram isn’t the only new feature. We’ve also got a new power available to API users – the ability to query data from the previous index. If you want to know what a previous Domain Authority score looked like, or how many links we reported to a page in our last index, you can now do so using the Moz API. If you want to get started, check out the documentation here, or get in touch directly with Chris Airola (email chris.airola at moz.com), who manages paid API accounts and loves to help.

Many thanks to the Research Tools and Big Data teams at Moz, who’ve worked to make this possible. I’m happy to answer questions and will try to be in the comments here frequently. I wish you good spam exploring my friends!

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