How to Target Multiple Keywords with One Page – Next Level

Posted by BrianChilds

Welcome to our newest installment of our educational Next Level series! In our last episode, Jo Cameron taught you how to whip up intelligent SEO reports for your clients to deliver impressive, actionable insights. Today, our friendly neighborhood Training Program Manager, Brian Childs, is here to show you an easy workflow for targeting multiple keywords with a single page. Read on and level up!


For those who have taken any of the Moz Training Bootcamps, you’ll know that we approach keyword research with the goal of identifying concepts rather than individual keywords. A common term for this in SEO is “niche keywords.” I think of a “niche” as a set of related words or concepts that are essentially variants of the same query.

Example:

Let’s pretend my broad subject is: Why are cats jerks?

Some niche topics within this subject are:

  • Why does my cat keep knocking things off the counter?
  • Why does my cat destroy my furniture?
  • Why did I agree to get this cat?

I can then find variants of these niche topics using Keyword Explorer or another tool, looking for the keywords with the best qualities (Difficulty, Search Volume, Opportunity, etc).

By organizing your keyword research in this way, it conceptually aligns with the search logic of Google’s Hummingbird algorithm update.

Once we have niche topics identified for our subject, we then we dive into specific keyword variants to find opportunities where we can rank. This process is covered in-depth during the Keyword Research Bootcamp class.

Should I optimize my page for multiple keywords?

The answer for most sites is a resounding yes.

If you develop a strategy of optimizing your pages for only one keyword, this can lead to a couple of issues. For example, if a content writer feels restricted to one keyword for a page they might develop very thin content that doesn’t discuss the broader concept in much useful detail. In turn, the marketing manager may end up spreading valuable information across multiple pages, which reduces the potential authority of each page. Your site architecture may then become larger than necessary, making the search engine less likely to distinguish your unique value and deliver it into a SERP.

As recent studies have shown, a single high-ranking page can show up in dozens — if not hundreds — of SERPs. A good practice is to identify relevant search queries related to a given topic and then use those queries as your H2 headings.

So how do you find niche keyword topics? This is the process I use that relies on a relatively new SERP feature: the “People also ask” boxes.

How to find niche keywords

Step 1: Enter a relevant question into your search engine

Question-format search queries are great because they often generate featured snippets. Featured snippets are the little boxes that show up at the top of search results, usually displaying one- to two-sentence answers or a list. Recently, when featured snippets are displayed, there is commonly another box nearby showing “People also ask” This second box allows you to peer into the logic of the search algorithm. It shows you what the search engine “thinks” are closely related topics.

Step 2: Select the most relevant “People also ask” query

Take a look at those initial “People also ask” suggestions. They are often different variants of your query, representing slightly different search intent. Choose the one that most aligns with the search intent of your target user. What happens? A new set of three “People also ask” suggestions will populate at the bottom of the list that are associated with the first option you chose. This is why I refer to these as choose-your-own-adventure boxes. With each selection, you dive deeper into the topic as defined by the search engine.

Step 3: Find suggestions with low-value featured snippets

Every “People also ask” suggestion is a featured snippet. As you dig deeper into the topic by selecting one “People also ask” after another, keep an eye out for featured snippets that are not particularly helpful. This is the search engine attempting to generate a simple answer to a question and not quite hitting the mark. These present an opportunity. Keep track of the ones you think could be improved. In the following example, we see the Featured Snippet being generated by an article that doesn’t fully answer the question for an average user.

Step 4: Compile a list of “People also ask” questions

Once you’ve explored deep into the algorithm’s contextually related results using the “People also ask” box, make a list of all the questions you found highly related to your desired topic. I usually just pile these into an Excel sheet as I find them.

Step 5: Analyze your list of words using a keyword research tool

With a nice list of keywords that you know are generating featured snippets, plug the words into Keyword Explorer or your preferred keyword research tool. Now just apply your normal assessment criteria for a keyword (usually a combination of search volume and competitiveness).

Step 6: Apply the keywords to your page title and heading tags

Once you’ve narrowed the list to a set of keywords you’d like to target on the page, have your content team go to work generating relevant, valuable answers to the questions. Place your target keywords as the heading tags (H2, H3) and a concise, valuable description immediately following those headings.

Measure niche keywords in your campaign

While your content writers are generating the content, you can update your Moz Pro campaign and begin baselining your rank position for the keywords you’re using in the heading tags. Add the keywords to your campaign and then label them appropriately. I recommend using a label associated with the niche topic.

For example, let’s pretend I have a business that helps people find lost pets. One common niche topic relates to people trying to find the phone numbers of kennels. Within that topic area, there will be dozens of variants. Let’s pretend that I write a useful article about how to quickly find the phone numbers of nearby animal shelters and kennels.

In this case, I would label all of the keywords I target in that article with something like “kennel phone numbers” in my Moz Pro campaign rankings tool.

Then, once the post is written, I can report on the average search visibility of all the search terms I used, simply by selecting the label “kennel phone numbers.” If the article is successful, I should see the rank positions moving up on average, showing that I’m ranking for multiple keywords.

Want to learn more SEO shortcuts?

If you found this kind of article helpful, consider signing up for the How to Bring SEO In-House seminar. The class covers things like how to set up your team for success, tips for doing research quickly, and how to report on SEO to your customers.

See upcoming classes here


Next Level is our educational series combining actionable SEO tips with tools you can use to achieve them. Check out any of our past editions below:

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How to Build SEO Strategies Effectively (and Make Them Last)

Posted by Bill.Sebald

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

I read The Art of War in college, written by the Chinese general Sun Tzu (author of the quote above). While his actual existence is debated, his work is often considered as brilliant military strategy and philosophy. Thus, The Art of War is often co-opted into business for obvious reasons. Throughout the book, you’ll realize tactics and strategy are not interchangeable terms.

strat·e·gyˈ
stradəjē/

– A method or plan chosen to bring about a desired future, such as achievement of a goal or solution to a problem.
– A plan of action or policy designed to achieve an overall aim.
– The art and science of planning and marshaling resources for their most efficient and effective use.
Source

These definitions vary slightly, but the essence is the same. A strategy is not constrained by size or application but promoted by planning and effectiveness. Let’s be honest, the word “strategy” is a term that isn’t always used the same way in the English lexicon (or our industry).

On the other hand, tactics can be isolated or serve as components in your strategy. They are actions you would impart as a step in the plan, or used as a stand-alone, typically with limited resources.

For some this is straightforward, but for others new to marketing or traditionally focused on tactical work, a strategy can be a difficult concept that requires practice. Perhaps understanding the purpose is key to dividing these terms. Let’s try this:

“The purpose of a strategy is to identify goals and build a plan of attack towards achieving those goals. The purpose of tactics are for smaller goals that could feed something bigger.”

Before you read on, please note: this is not an article devaluing tactics over strategy (despite the Sun Tzu quote). My goal is to inspire thought that can help you be more effective as a modern SEO, and possibly consider a strategy where you haven’t before.

A military analogy

I find analogies go a long way in describing lofty concepts. I could easily go with a football or legal example, but a military example might be the most comparable to what we do in marketing. And because I know my audience, I decided to go with Star Wars.

The Galactic Empire thought they could take over the galaxy with fear and brute force. They developed plans for a space station with firepower strong enough to destroy a planet. Under the command of Governor Tarkin, the Death Star was created. They tested the completed Death Star on Princess Leia’s home planet of Alderaan, which gave Obi Wan Kenobi shivers.

However, the Rebels put together a counter-strategy. Piecing together intelligence about a deliberate design flaw, and developing a plan featuring waves of small battalions, the Rebel ships would take passes at the target. They would work together in designed waves to equally defend and attack during this campaign.

As basic as that scene was at the end of Star Wars, it’s a strategy nonetheless (albeit a small one).

Confusion of strategies versus tactics — a real-world example

To make this a bit more relevant to SEO, here’s an email shared with me by a prospective client. They were looking for a new agency after they received this from their current agency:

I object to several things written here. Guest posting is a tactic, not a strategy. There is no plan here, just an action. A measurable or attainable goal is never made clear.

We need to do better. *desk flip*

Selling the SEO strategy

Whether you’re an agency, consultant, or in-house at a company, getting buy-in for an SEO strategy can be challenging. SEOs tend to rely on the support of several different departments (e.g. developers, copywriters, business managers, etc.), usually with their own predetermined goals. Enter the SEO to add more complexity.

There’s often a top-down marketing strategy already baked before you get to pitch your SEO work, to which you may find opportunity on a battlefield where access is not granted. It’s reckless to assume you can go into any established company and lob a strategy onto their laps, expecting them to follow it with disregard to their existing plans, politics, and red tape. Candidly, this may be the quickest way to get fired and show you’re not aligned with the existing business goals.

Instead, you need to find your areas of opportunity that work with the company’s business goals, not against them. Effective marketers don’t try to be a square peg in a round hole. Get to know the players, the existing playbooks, the silos, and the available gaps.

It’s not about being a yes-man; it’s about best playing the hand you’re dealt. You simply can’t successfully sell a strategy until you know where your strategy will fit and support the current business goals.

Before you begin mapping out the strategy

If I’ve done my job, you’re eager to put pen to paper, but you still have digging to do. Get your shovel.

Some people are better suited to design plans in a non-linear fashion. If I’m writing anything, be it an article or a piece of music, I’m bouncing back and forth throughout the piece as inspiration strikes. But for others who are more straight-minded and less frenetic, a reference of considerations and characteristics might be helpful.

Enter the mind map. Simply stated, a mind map is a visual representation of concepts and connections. As defined here, it is a visual thinking tool that helps to structure information, helping you to better analyze, comprehend, synthesize, recall, and generate new ideas.

It’s your sketch pad. Jot down all the ideas, concepts, and relationships you can possibly think of.

(Developed using a trial of https://www.mindmeister.com.)

Think of this document as a living communication between you and your client or boss. It is a document you should refer to often. It keeps all parties on the same page and aligned. I recommend sharing it in a collaborative platform so updates are shared between all viewers without having to constantly send out new copies (nothing sucks the life out of efficiency faster than “versioning” issues).

There’s no shortage of things to consider in your mind map. Here are a few common items from my experience:

  • Timeline details
  • Details about the industry or different channels
  • Other marketing learnings
  • Customer/visitor details
    • Demographics and psychographics
    • Details about the customer journey
  • Competitive details
  • Product demand details
  • Current search visibility

My fellow marketers, this is not an exhaustive list by any means. Gather all the information that is meaningful to you.

Drafting the strategy

At this stage, your initial gathering is complete, so now you’re on to development. Hopefully you’ve had some visibility and buy-in by your clients or boss to date, so it’s crucial to keep that momentum going. Don’t build a strategy in a silo.

Remember, a strategy is a plan. A plan has steps, dependencies, and future considerations throughout. I think it’s very important for your team and the client to “see” the strategy in a visual format, and not just conceptually. Use a spreadsheet, slides, or Word document — whichever tickles your fancy. At Greenlane, we’ve been using Google Sheets:

For demonstration purposes, flesh yours out as you see fit. Click for larger image.

If you work in an agile framework, the strategy is going to change. Everyone should be able to see revisions to the strategy with an indication of what’s been changed and why. That’s a benefit to documenting every important detail.

Earlier you put together a mind map to put preliminary ideas on the table. You considered things that you’ll now need to thoroughly scrutinize. Here is a list of considerations to hold your SEO strategy against. Make sure your final draft of the SEO strategy can clearly speak to each of these.

And since we’re on a Star Wars kick already, I present my dusty childhood toys (recently found in my mother’s basement).

Consideration 1 – Understand the client

Each business is an entity. Each entity has characteristics. You need to know these characteristics if you’re going to build anything for the company. So, make sure you know the answers to these questions:

  • What’s your company vision? A great vision statement can inspire great things, including an SEO strategy. And why not? If properly developed and executed, the company has already set you up for a better chance of success.
  • What are the company’s core values? Every company can only be so many things to so many people. A well-branded company knows exactly what they are and what they aren’t. Use these core values in your campaign, as they should serve as your campaign perimeter.
  • What is the leadership like? What kind of culture do they cultivate? In smaller companies, the leaders tend to influence the culture. In larger companies, unfortunately, this can get lost. But if you have access to the leadership, spend some time learning about their vision. It should match up to the company’s core values, but sometimes there are more gems locked in their minds.
  • What are the pain points? What things drive the members of this organization to drink? From the customer support to the higher-ups, there are things that knock the company down. How do they get back up? Why are the pains they’re looking to work around? It may not be realistic to interview the whole company, but ideally you can get a representative to answer these.

Let’s pause for a moment.

If you’re at this part of the article, and you’re thinking, “Whoa — why the hell would I do all this to get a few rankings?” then you’re not thinking strategic yet. True, it’s possible these bullets aren’t all relevant to what you’re building, but the bigger your strategy needs to go, the more you need to know your client.

Consideration 2 – Understand the goals

If we’re going to be creating goal-oriented plans, it make sense to start with a smart goal or two. And by smart, I mean SMART. For those who aren’t familiar with SMART goals, it stands for the following:

Specific: This is for the “why” and “how” of your goal. What exactly are you trying to do, and why? If you were a retailer who sells a little of everything, you might have a statement like this:

“At the end of February, we noticed our customers begin researching lawn and patio furniture. Customers are favoring items that look more elegant and can resist weather.”

Measurable: Be very detailed. Are we trying to make money, or are we trying to make five hundred dollars? Are we trying to draw traffic, or are we trying to bring 500 new visits that engage with our website?

A retailer might have a statement like:

“Our goal is to increase organic conversions of the Lawn and Patio section by 15% YOY in Q2 and Q3, with lawn chairs driving 75% of those sales. Target revenue $500,000 in Q2, and $300,000 in Q3.”

Achievable: Make sure you’re grounding your goal in reality. Sure, you can’t control a massive Google update, but using the history of your sales and competitive data, you can make some inferences. You also need to make sure you have agreed-upon goals. Get buy-in before you set the goal in stone, leveraging the thoughts from the leaders, merchandisers, analysts, and anyone who might be able to provide insight into the likelihood of hitting your goal.

Realistic: (There is some blend between realistic and achievable.) Do you have the appropriate resources in place? Does your client have the flexibility to make the necessary changes within the proposed timeline?

A statement to help framing could be:

“We are going to rely on resources including copywriters, researchers, merchandisers, and developers to make on-page changes within the time frame of this plan. We expect to need 40 hours of time from copywriters, 50 hours from web development.”

Time-bound: We will need deadlines for dependencies. Assign due dates to each step of the plan, and keep the players accountable. Make sure you have an appropriate start-to-finish date.

Consideration 3 – Understand the audience

This is critical. If you don’t know what your searchers are looking for, you’re guessing. That’s a bad idea. Especially today, where we have troves of data.

But it’s important to find the stories in-between the numbers. With that said, your audience can’t be measured solely by the 0s and 1s that comes into analytics platforms. I’ve written about this in The Down Side of Analytics in Marketing.

But I’ve recently heard some chatter voicing the polar opposite. I’ve heard the sentiment to wholly ignore certain data points because they don’t represent the real person. To me, that’s bad advice — directional data is better than the romantic notion of success based on your “gut” feel. Estimated search volume, clicks, and even impressions give credence not only to a keyword, but a bigger theme. This starts to create direction and an understanding of need, which leads to your next few rounds of audience recognition.

Using the available data helps a marketer understand which dollars are more effective than others, and how to identify different audience groups within the buying cycle.

With the demographics and site usage details from GA, different types of users (researchers, comparers, buyers, customers) can be grouped and classified, and the marketing dollars and messaging appropriately tailored.

AdWords and Facebook are further vehicles for reaching the appropriate audiences with more refined messaging. I think it’s important to create personas for your current visitors and the type of visitors you want to attract. It might be valuable to create personas of those you don’t want to attract, to keep in the back of your mind as your content and advertising calendar is being built following the delivery of your overall strategy.

Consideration 4 – Understand the competitive landscape

Without knowing the landscape, you really don’t know what opportunity lies ahead. Understanding your competition’s success allows you to learn from their wins (and mistakes). Reinventing the wheel burns unnecessary minutes.

There are a few competitive tools we tend to gravitate towards in our industry. SEMrush is a fantastic tool allowing anyone to look up a website and get an estimated search visibility and traffic share. Drilling in shows how well pages perform independently. Gleaning through exports can quickly reveal what topics are driving traffic, to which you might replicate or improve your own version.

Backlinks can actually serve as a proxy for interest. In Google’s vision of a democratic web, they considered links to function like votes. Google wants editorial votes to influence their algorithm. So, if we assume all links are potentially editorial, then looking up backlink data can illustrate content that’s truly beloved. Grab your favorite backlink data provider (hey — Moz has one!) and pull a report on a competitor’s domain. Take a look at the linked pages, and with a little filtering, you’ll see top linked pages emerge. Dive into those pages and develop some theories on why they’re popular link targets.

Social media — it’s more than cat memes. Generally, non-marketing folks share content that resonates with them. Buzzsumo offers an easy interface for digging through the depths of social media. Have a general topic you’d like to pursue? Enter it into Buzzsumo and see what you get.

Let the creative juices flow. Look for topics you can improve under your own roof. Even the nichiest of niches can have representation in Buzzsumo.

Maybe this feels a bit too scattershot for you. Buzzsumo also allows you to find and observe influencers. What are they sharing? By clicking the “view links shared” button, you’ll get a display of all the unique pages shared. Sometimes “influencers” share all types of varying content crossing many topics. But sometimes, they’re pretty specfic in the themes they share. Look for the latter in this competitive research stage.

Consideration 5 – Understand the roadblocks

Every company has obstacles. Each one has built its own labyrinth. Don’t try to blanket an existing labyrinth with your ill-prepared strategy; instead, work within the existing inroads.

Reality bites. You could draft up an amazing strategy, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, to which you’re rebuilding an entire category structure of one of the website’s most lucrative lines… only to find out there’s a ticket queue for the necessary resources that’s more than 6 months long. Despite your brilliant idea, you’re going to look bad when the client calls you out on not understanding their business.

The best way to avoid this is proactively asking the right questions. Ask about resource support. Ask about historic roadblocks. Ask to be introduced to other players who otherwise hide behind an email here and there. Ask about the company’s temperature regarding a bigger SEO strategy vs. short, quick-hit campaigns. Don’t be your own biggest obstacle — I’ve never heard of anyone getting angry about over-communication unless it paralyzes progress.

A few final thoughts (from my experience)

It’s time for my Jerry Springer moment.

Not all strategies have to be big. Sometimes your window is small, and you’re forced to build for a distinct — or tiny — opportunity. Maybe you don’t have time for a proper large-scale strategy at all; a tactic or two might be all you can do to carry in a win. Just make that very clear with your boss or client. Don’t misrepresent what you’re trying to build as an SEO campaign.

I understand that some SEO agencies and departments are not build for the big SEO campaigns. Strategic work takes time, and speeding (or scaling) through the development stage will likely do more harm than good. It’s like cramming for a test — you’re going to miss information that’s necessary for a good grade. It would be my pleasure if this post inspired some change in your departments.

Lastly, it’s important to remember that paralysis by over-thinking is a real issue some struggle with. There’s no pill for it (yet). Predicting perfection is a fool’s errand. Get as close as you can within a reasonable timeframe, and prepare for future iteration. If you’re traveling through your plan and determine a soft spot at any time, simply pivot. It’s many hours of upfront work to get your strategy built, but it’s not too hard to tweak as you go.

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!

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How to Measure Performance with Custom Dimensions in Google Analytics [Tutorial]

Posted by tombennet

Data-driven marketing means understanding what works. This means not only having accurate data, but also having the right data.

Data integrity is obviously critical to good reporting, but Analytics auditing shouldn’t focus solely on the validity of the tracking code. Even amongst digital marketing teams who place importance on reporting, I frequently encounter the attitude that a technically sound, out-of-the-box implementation of Google Analytics will provide all the insight you could require.

Because of this, Google Analytics is rarely used to its full potential. When it comes to deeper insights — analyzing the ROI of top-of-funnel marketing activities, the impact of content engagement on raw business KPIs, or the behavior of certain subsets of your audience, for example — many will overlook the ease with which these can be measured. All it takes is a little investment in your tracking setup and a careful consideration of what insight would be most valuable.

In this article, I’ll be exploring the ways in which the Custom dimensions feature can be used to supercharge your Google Analytics reporting setup. We’ll run through some practical examples before diving into the various options for implementation. By the end, you’ll be equipped to apply these techniques to your own reporting, and use them to prove your prowess to your clients or bosses.

What are custom dimensions?

In a nutshell, they enable you to record additional, non-standard data in Google Analytics. You can then pivot or segment your data based on these dimensions, similarly to how you would with standard dimensions like source, medium, city, or browser. Custom dimensions can even be used as filters at the View-level, allowing you to isolate a specific subset of your audience or traffic for deeper analysis.

In contrast to the Content Grouping feature — which allows you to bucket your existing pages into logical groups — custom dimensions let you attach entirely new data to hits, sessions, or users. This last point is critical; custom dimensions can take advantage of the different levels of scope offered by Google Analytics. This means your new dimension can apply to an individual user and all their subsequent interactions on your website, or to a single pageview hit.

For the purposes of this tutorial, we’re going to imagine a simple scenario: You run a popular e-commerce website with a content marketing strategy that hinges around your blog. We’ll start by illustrating some of the ways in which custom dimensions can provide a new perspective.

1. User engagement

You publish a series of tutorials on your blog, and while they perform well in organic search and in social, you struggle to demonstrate the monetary value of your continued efforts. You suspect that engagement with the tutorials correlates positively with eventual high-value purchases, and wish to demonstrate this in Analytics. By configuring a user-level custom dimension called “Commenter” which communicates a true/false depending on whether the user has ever commented on your blog, you can track the behavior of these engaged users.

2. User demographics

User login status is frequently recommended as a custom dimension, since it allows you to isolate your existing customers or loyal visitors. This can be a great source of insight, but we can take this one step further: Assuming that you collect additional (anonymous) data during the user registration process, why not fire this information to Analytics as a user-level custom dimension? In the case of our example website, let’s imagine that your user registration form includes a drop-down menu for occupation. By communicating users’ selections to Analytics, you can compare the purchase patterns of different professions.

3. Out-of-stock products

Most e-commerce sites have, at one time or another, encountered the SEO conundrum of product retirement. What should you do with product URLs that no longer exist? This is often framed as a question of whether to leave them online, redirect them, or 404 them. Less frequently investigated is their impact on conversion, or of the wider behavioral effects of stock level in general. By capturing out-of-stock pageviews as a custom dimension, we can justify our actions with data.

Now that we have a clear idea of the potential of custom dimensions, let’s dive into the process of implementation.

How to implement custom dimensions

All custom dimensions must first be created in the Google Analytics Admin interface. They exist on the Property level, not the View level, and non-premium Google Analytics accounts are allowed up to 20 custom dimensions per Property. Expand Custom Definitions, hit Custom Dimensions, and then the red New Custom Dimension button.

C:\Users\ThomasB.BUILTVISIBLE\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\creating-custom-dimensions-1.png

In the next screen, you’ll need to give your dimension a name, select a Scope (hit, session, user, or — for enhanced e-commerce implementations — product), and check the Active box to enable it. Hit Create, and you’ll be shown a boilerplate version of the code necessary to start collecting data.

C:\Users\ThomasB.BUILTVISIBLE\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\our-custom-dimension.png

The code — which is documented fully on Google Developers and Google Support — is very simple:

var mozDimensionValue = 'Howdy Moz Fans';
ga('set', 'dimension1', mozDimensionValue);

As you can see, we’re defining the value of our dimension in a JavaScript variable, then using the set method with the ga() command queue to pass that variable to Analytics as a custom dimension. All subsequent hits on the page (pageviews, events, etc) would then include this custom dimension. Note that we refer to our dimension by its index number, which in this instance is 1; return to the main Custom Dimensions screen in the Admin area to see the index number which Analytics assigned to your new dimension.

While your developer will typically handle the nuts and bolts of implementation — namely working out how best to pass your desired value into a JavaScript variable — the syntax is simple enough that it can be modified with ease. Using the first of our examples from earlier — tracking commenters — we want to send a value of ‘commenter’ to the Dimension 2 slot as part of an event hit which is configured to fire when somebody comments on the blog. With this slot pre-configured as a user-level dimension, we would use:

ga('send', 'event', 'Engagement', 'Blog Comment', {
  'dimension2':  'commenter'
});

This approach is all well and good, but it’s not without its drawbacks. It requires on-page tracking code changes, significant developer involvement, and doesn’t scale particularly well.

Thanks to Google Tag Manager, we can make things much easier.

Implementation with Google Tag Manager

If you use GTM to deploy your Analytics tracking — and for all but the simplest of implementations, I would recommend that you do — then deploying custom dimensions becomes far simpler. For those new to GTM, I gave an introductory talk on the platform at BrightonSEO (slides here), and I’d strongly suggest bookmarking both Google’s official documentation and Simo Ahava’s excellent blog.

For the sake of this tutorial, I’ll assume you’re familiar with the basics of GTM. To add a custom dimension to a particular tag — in this case, our blog comment event tag — simply expand “Custom Dimensions” under More Settings, and enter the index number and value of the dimension you’d like to set. Note that to see the More Settings configuration options, you’ll need to check the “Enable overriding settings in this tag” box if you’re not using a Google Analytics Settings Variable to configure your implementation.

C:\Users\ThomasB.BUILTVISIBLE\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\gtm.png

What about our latter two examples, user demographics and out-of-stock products?

Our demographic scenario involved a user registration form which included an “Occupation” field. In contrast to our commenting example, the dimension value in this instance will need to be set programmatically depending on user input — it’s not a simple true/false variable that can be easily attached to a suitable event tag.

While we could use the “DOM Element” variable type to scrape the value of the “Occupation” drop-down field directly off the page, such an approach is not particularly scalable. A far better solution would be to fire the value of the field — along with the values of any other fields you feel may offer — to your website’s data layer.

Attention, people who don’t yet use a data layer:

While your development team will need to be involved in the implementation of a data layer, it’s well worth the effort. The advantages for your reporting can be huge, particularly for larger organizations. Defining the contents of your site’s data layer is a great opportunity for cross-team collaboration, and means that all potentially insightful data points are accessible in a machine-readable and platform-agnostic format, ready to be fired to GA. It’s also less subject to mistakes than ad-hoc tracking code. Much like how CSS separates out style from content, the data layer isolates your data.

Your developer will need to make the required information available in the data layer before you can define it as a Data Layer Variable in GTM and start using it in your tags. In the example below, imagine that the JavaScript variable ‘myValue’ has been configured to return the occupation entered by the user, as a string. We push it to the data layer, then define it as a Data Layer Variable in GTM:

var myValue = 'Professional Juggler';
dataLayer.push({'userOccupation': 'myValue'});

C:\Users\ThomasB.BUILTVISIBLE\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\gtm-dlv.png

Attach a custom dimension to your User Registration event tag, as before, then simply reference this Data Layer Variable as the dimension value. Done!

Our third example follows the exact same principles: Having identified product-in-stock status as a hit-level datapoint with potential reporting insight, and with our data layer configured to return this as a variable on product pages, we simply configure our pageview tag to use this variable as the value for a new custom dimension.

C:\Users\ThomasB.BUILTVISIBLE\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\gtm-stock.png

Reporting & analysis

The simplest way to view custom dimension data in Analytics is to apply a secondary dimension to a standard report. In the example below, we’ve set our new “User Occupation” dimension as the secondary dimension in a New/Returning visitor report, allowing us to identify the professions of our newest users, and those of our frequent visitors.

C:\Users\ThomasB.BUILTVISIBLE\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\secondary-dim.png

By cross-referencing your new dimensions with behavioral data — think social share frequency by occupation — you can gain insight into the subsets of your audience who are most likely to engage or convert.

In truth, however, applying a secondary dimension in this manner is rarely conducive to effective analysis. In many instances, this approach will hugely increase the number of rows of data in your report without providing any immediately useful information. As such, it is often necessary to take things one step further: You can export the data into Excel for deeper analysis, or build a custom dashboard to pivot the data exactly the way you want it. In the example below, a chart and table have been configured to show our most viewed out-of-stock products over the course of the last week. Timely, actionable insight!

C:\Users\ThomasB.BUILTVISIBLE\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\dashboard.png

Sometimes, it’s necessary to completely isolate a subset of data in a dedicated view. This can be particularly powerful when used with a user-level custom dimension. Let’s say we wish to drill down to show only our most engaged users. We can do this by applying a Filter to a new view. In the following example, we have applied a custom ‘Include’ Filter which specifies a value of ‘commenter’ based on our “Blog Commenter” custom dimension.

C:\Users\ThomasB.BUILTVISIBLE\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\filter-include.png

The result? A dedicated view which reports on engaged users only.

For more information on the intricacies of filtering data based on session or user-level custom dimensions — and their implications for your Real Time reports — be sure to check out this great post from LunaMetrics.

Final thoughts

A deeper understanding of your target audience is never a bad thing. Custom dimensions are just one of the many ways in which Google Analytics can be extended beyond its default configuration to provide more granular, actionable insights tailored to the needs of your business.

As with many other advanced Analytics features, execution is everything. It’s better to have no custom dimensions at all than to waste your limited slots with dimensions which are poorly implemented or just plain unnecessary. Planning and implementation should be a collaborative process between your marketing, management, and development teams.

Hopefully this article has given you some ideas for how custom dimensions might offer you a new perspective on your audience.

Thanks for reading!

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How Does Google Handle CSS + Javascript “Hidden” Text? – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Does Google treat text kept behind “read more” links with the same importance as non-hidden text? The short answer is “no,” but there’s more nuance to it than that. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains just how the search engine giant weighs text hidden from view using CSS and JavaScript.

https://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/ehdc609c4f?videoFoam=true

https://fast.wistia.net/assets/external/E-v1.js

How Google handles CSS and Javascript

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat a little bit about hidden text, hidden text of several kinds. I really don’t mean the spammy, black on a black background, white on a white background-like, hidden text type of keyword stuffing from the ’90s and early 2000s. I’m talking about what we do with CSS and JavaScript with overlays and with folders inside a page, that kind of hidden text.

It’s become very popular in modern web design to basically use CSS or to use JavaScript to load text after a user has taken some action on a page. So perhaps they’ve clicked on a separate section of your e-commerce page about your product to see other information, or maybe they’ve clicked a “read more” link in an article to read the rest of the article. This actually creates problems with Google and with SEO, and they’re not obvious problems, because when you use something like Google’s fetch and render tool or when you look at Google’s cache, Google appears to be able to crawl and parse all of that text. But they’re not treating all of it equally.

So here’s an example. I’ve got this text about coconut marble furnishings, which is just a ridiculous test phrase that I’m going to use for this purpose. But let’s say I’ve got page A, which essentially shows the first paragraph of this text, and then I have page B, which only shows part of the first sentence and then a “read more” link, which is very common in lots of articles.

Many folks do this, by the way, because they want to get engagement data about how many people actually read the rest of the piece. Others are using it for serving advertising, or they’re using it to track something, and some people are using it just because of the user experience it provides. Maybe the page is crowded with other types of content. They want to make sure that if someone wants to display this particular piece or that particular piece, that it’s available to them in as convenient a format as possible for design purposes or what have you.

What’s true in these instances is that Google is not going to treat what happens after this “read more” link is clicked, which is that the rest of this text would become visible here, they’re not going to treat that with the same weight that they otherwise would.

All other things being equal

So they’re on similar domains, they have similar link profiles, all that other kind of stuff.

  • A is going to outrank B for “coconut marble furnishings” even though this is in the title here. Because this text is relevant to that keyword and is serving to create greater relevance, Google is going to weight this one higher.
  • It’s also true that the content that’s hidden behind this “read more” here, it doesn’t matter. If it’s CSS-based, JavaScript-based, post load or loaded when the HTML is, it doesn’t matter, it’s going to be weighted less by Google. It will be treated as though that text were not as important.
  • Interestingly, fascinatingly, perhaps, Bing and Yahoo do not appear to discern between these. So they’ll treat these more equally. Google is the only one who seems to be, at least right now, from some test data — I’ll talk about that in a sec — who is treating these differently, who is basically weighting this hidden content less.

Best practices for SEO and “hidden” text

So what can we discern from this? What should SEOs do when we’re working with our web design teams and with our content teams around these types of issues?

I. We have to expect that any time we hide text with CSS, with JavaScript, what have you, that it will have less ranking influence. It’s not that it won’t be counted at all. If I were to search for “hardwood-like material creates beautiful shine,” like that exact phrase in Google with quotes, both of these pages would come up, this one almost certainly first, but both of these pages would come up.

So Google knows the text is there. It just isn’t counting it as highly. It’s like content that isn’t carrying the same weight as it would if it were visible by default. So, given that we know that, we have to decide in the tradeoff situation whether it’s worth it to lose the ranking value and the potential visitors in exchange for whatever we’re gaining by having this element.

II. We’ve got to consider some creative alternatives. It is possible to make text visible by default and to instead have something like an overlay element. We could have a brief overlay here that’s easily close-able with a message. Maybe that could give us the same types of engagement statistics, because 95% of people are going to close that before they scroll down, or they’re going to receive a popover message or those kinds of things. Granted, as we’ve discussed previously on Whiteboard Friday, overlays have their own issues that we need to be aware of, but these are possible. We can also measure scroll depth by doing some JavaScript tracking. There’s lots of software that does that by default and plenty of GitHub repositories, that are open source, that we could use to track that. So there might be other ways to get the same goals.

III. If it is the case that you have to use the “read more” or any other text hiding elements, I would urge you to go ahead and place the crucial information, including the keyword phrases and the most related terms and phrases that you know are going to be very important to rankings, up in that most visible top portion of the page so that you maximize the ranking weight of the most important pieces rather than losing those below or behind whatever sorts of post-loading situation you’ve got. Make those the default visible portions of text.

I do want to give special thanks. One of the reasons that we know this, certainly Google has mentioned it on occasion, but over the course of the last few years there’s been a lot of skepticism, especially from folks in the web design community who have sort of said, “Look, it seems like Google can see this. It doesn’t seem to be a problem. When I search in quotes for this text, Google is bringing it back.” That has been correct.

But thanks to Shai — I’m sorry if I mispronounce your name — Aharony from Reboot Online, RebootOnline.com, and I’ll link to the specific test that they performed, but they performed some wonderful, large-scale, long-term tests of CSS, of text area, of visible text, and of JavaScript hiding across many domains over a long period and basically proved to us that what Google says is in fact true, that they are treating this text behind here with less weight. So we really appreciate the efforts of folks like that, who go through intense effort to give us the truth about how Google works.

That said, we will hopefully see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Site Crawl, Day 1: Where Do You Start?

Posted by Dr-Pete

When you’re faced with the many thousands of potential issues a large site can have, where do you start? This is the question we tried to tackle when we rebuilt Site Crawl. The answer depends almost entirely on your site and can require deep knowledge of its history and goals, but I’d like to outline a process that can help you cut through the noise and get started.

Simplistic can be dangerous

Previously, we at Moz tried to label every issue as either high, medium, or low priority. This simplistic approach can be appealing, even comforting, and you may be wondering why we moved away from it. This was a very conscious decision, and it boils down to a couple of problems.

First, prioritization depends a lot on your intent. Misinterpreting your intent can lead to bad advice that ranges from confusing to outright catastrophic. Let’s say, for example, that we hired a brand-new SEO at Moz and they saw the following issue count pop up:

Almost 35,000 NOINDEX tags?! WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?!!

If that new SEO then rushed to remove those tags, they’d be doing a lot of damage, not realizing that the vast majority of those directives are intentional. We can make our systems smarter, but they can’t read your mind, so we want to be cautious about false alarms.

Second, bucketing issues by priority doesn’t do much to help you understand the nature of those problems or how to go about fixing them. We now categorize Site Crawl issues into one of five descriptive types:

  • Critical Crawler Issues
  • Crawler Warnings
  • Redirect Issues
  • Metadata Issues
  • Content Issues

Categorizing by type allows you to be more tactical. The issues in our new “Redirect” category, for example, are going to have much more in common, which means they potentially have common fixes. Ultimately, helping you find problems is just step one. We want to do a better job at helping you fix them.

1. Start with Critical Crawler Issues

That’s not to say everything is subjective. Some problems block crawlers (not just ours, but search engines) from getting to your pages at all. We’ve grouped these “Critical Crawler Issues” into our first category, and they currently include 5XX errors, 4XX errors, and redirects to 4XX. If you have a sudden uptick in 5XX errors, you need to know, and almost no one intentionally redirects to a 404.

You’ll see Critical Crawler Issues highlighted throughout the Site Crawl interface:

Look for the red alert icon to spot critical issues quickly. Address these problems first. If a page can’t be crawled, then every other crawler issue is moot.

2. Balance issues with prevalence

When it comes to solving your technical SEO issues, we also have to balance severity with quantity. Knowing nothing else about your site, I would say that a 404 error is probably worth addressing before duplicate content — but what if you have eleven 404s and 17,843 duplicate pages? Your priorities suddenly look very different.

At the bottom of the Site Crawl home, check out “Moz Recommends Fixing”:

We’ve already done some of the math for you, weighting urgency by how prevalent the issue is. This does require some assumptions about prioritization, but if your time is limited, we hope it at least gives you a quick starting point to solve a couple of critical issues.

3. Solve multi-page issues

There’s another advantage to tackling issues with high counts. In many cases, you might be able to solve issues on hundreds (or even thousands) of pages with a single fix. This is where a more tactical approach can save you a lot of time and money.

Let’s say, for example, that I want to dig into my 916 pages on Moz.com missing meta descriptions. I immediately notice that some of these pages are blog post categories. So, I filter by URL:

I can quickly see that these pages account for 392 of my missing descriptions — a whopping 43% of them. If I’m concerned about this problem, then it’s likely that I could solve it with a fairly simple CMS page, wiping out hundreds of issues with a few lines of code.

In the near future, we hope to do some of this analysis for you, but if filtering isn’t doing the job, you can also export any list of issues to CSV. Then, pivot and filter to your heart’s content.

4. Dive into pages by PA & crawl depth

If you can’t easily spot clear patterns, or if you’ve solved some of those big issues, what next? Fixing thousands of problems one URL at a time is only worthwhile if you know those URLs are important.

Fortunately, you can now sort by Page Authority (PA) and Crawl Depth in Site Crawl. PA is our own internal metric of ranking ability (primarily powered by link equity), and Crawl Depth is the distance of a page from the home-page:

Here, I can see that there’s a redirect chain in one of our MozBar URLs, which is a very high-authority page. That’s probably one worth fixing, even if it isn’t part of an obvious, larger group.

5. Watch for spikes in new issues

Finally, as time goes on, you’ll also want to be alert to new issues, especially if they appear in large numbers. This could indicate a sudden and potentially damaging change. Site Crawl now makes tracking new issues easy, including alert icons, graphs, and a quick summary of new issues by category:

Any crawl is going to uncover some new pages (the content machine never rests), but if you’re suddenly seeing hundreds of new issues of a single type, it’s important to dig in quickly and make sure nothing’s wrong. In a perfect world, the SEO team would always know what changes other people and teams made to the site, but we all know it’s not a perfect world.

I hope this gives you at least a few ideas for how to quickly dive into your site’s technical SEO issues. If you’re an existing customer, you already have access to Moz’s new Site Crawl and all of the features discussed in this post.

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New Site Crawl: Rebuilt to Find More Issues on More Pages, Faster Than Ever!

Posted by Dr-Pete

First, the good news — as of today, all Moz Pro customer have access to the new version of Site Crawl, our entirely rebuilt deep site crawler and technical SEO auditing platform. The bad news? There isn’t any. It’s bigger, better, faster, and you won’t pay an extra dime for it.

A moment of humility, though — if you’ve used our existing site crawl, you know it hasn’t always lived up to your expectations. Truth is, it hasn’t lived up to ours, either. Over a year ago, we set out to rebuild the back end crawler, but we realized quickly that what we wanted was an entirely re-imagined crawler, front and back, with the best features we could offer. Today, we launch the first version of that new crawler.

Code name: Aardwolf

The back end is entirely new. Our completely rebuilt “Aardwolf” engine crawls twice as fast, while digging much deeper. For larger accounts, it can support up to ten parallel crawlers, for actual speeds of up to 20X the old crawler. Aardwolf also fully supports SNI sites (including Cloudflare), correcting a major shortcoming of our old crawler.

View/search *all* URLs

One major limitation of our old crawler is that you could only see pages with known issues. Click on “All Crawled Pages” in the new crawler, and you’ll be brought to a list of every URL we crawled on your site during the last crawl cycle:

You can sort this list by status code, total issues, Page Authority (PA), or crawl depth. You can also filter by URL, status codes, or whether or not the page has known issues. For example, let’s say I just wanted to see all of the pages crawled for Moz.com in the “/blog” directory…

I just click the [+], select “URL,” enter “/blog,” and I’m on my way.

Do you prefer to slice and dice the data on your own? You can export your entire crawl to CSV, with additional data including per-page fetch times and redirect targets.

Recrawl your site immediately

Sometimes, you just can’t wait a week for a new crawl. Maybe you relaunched your site or made major changes, and you have to know quickly if those changes are working. No problem, just click “Recrawl my site” from the top of any page in the Site Crawl section, and you’ll be on your way…

Starting at our Medium tier, you’ll get 10 recrawls per month, in addition to your automatic weekly crawls. When the stakes are high or you’re under tight deadlines for client reviews, we understand that waiting just isn’t an option. Recrawl allows you to verify that your fixes were successful and refresh your crawl report.

Ignore individual issues

As many customers have reminded us over the years, technical SEO is not a one-sized-fits-all task, and what’s critical for one site is barely a nuisance for another. For example, let’s say I don’t care about a handful of overly dynamic URLs (for many sites, it’s a minor issue). With the new Site Crawl, I can just select those issues and then “Ignore” them (see the green arrow for location):

If you make a mistake, no worries — you can manage and restore ignored issues. We’ll also keep tracking any new issues that pop up over time. Just because you don’t care about something today doesn’t mean you won’t need to know about it a month from now.

Fix duplicate content

Under “Content Issues,” we’ve launched an entirely new duplicate content detection engine and a better, cleaner UI for navigating that content. Duplicate content is now automatically clustered, and we do our best to consistently detect the “parent” page. Here’s a sample from Moz.com:

You can view duplicates by the total number of affected pages, PA, and crawl depth, and you can filter by URL. Click on the arrow (far-right column) for all of the pages in the cluster (shown in the screenshot). Click anywhere in the current table row to get a full profile, including the source page we found that link on.

Prioritize quickly & tactically

Prioritizing technical SEO problems requires deep knowledge of a site. In the past, in the interest of simplicity, I fear that we’ve misled some of you. We attempted to give every issue a set priority (high, medium, or low), when the difficult reality is that what’s a major problem on one site may be deliberate and useful on another.

With the new Site Crawl, we decided to categorize crawl issues tactically, using five buckets:

  • Critical Crawler Issues
  • Crawler Warnings
  • Redirect Issues
  • Metadata Issues
  • Content Issues

Hopefully, you can already guess what some of these contain. Critical Crawler Issues still reflect issues that matter first to most sites, such as 5XX errors and redirects to 404s. Crawler Warnings represent issues that might be very important for some sites, but require more context, such as meta NOINDEX.

Prioritization often depends on scope, too. All else being equal, one 500 error may be more important than one duplicate page, but 10,000 duplicate pages is a different matter. Go to the bottom of the Site Crawl Overview Page, and we’ve attempted to balance priority and scope to target your top three issues to fix:

Moving forward, we’re going to be launching more intelligent prioritization, including grouping issues by folder and adding data visualization of your known issues. Prioritization is a difficult task and one we haven’t helped you do as well as we could. We’re going to do our best to change that.

Dive in & tell us what you think!

All existing customers should have access to the new Site Crawl as of earlier this morning. Even better, we’ve been crawling existing campaigns with the Aardwolf engine for a couple of weeks, so you’ll have history available from day one! Stay turned for a blog post tomorrow on effectively prioritizing Site Crawl issues, and a webinar on Friday at 9am Pacific.

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Win a Ticket to MozCon 2017 – On Us!

Posted by Danielle_Launders

That’s right! We’re bringing back our MozCon contest where you, our community, can submit your creative entries for a chance to come to MozCon 2017 for free! Last year we had so many impressive and deserving entries, it was hard to choose just one… which is why this year there will be three lucky winners. Yes! You read correctly — three lucky people will be able to attend MozCon for free. Moz will not only cover your registration, but you’ll also have reserved VIP front-row seating, and we’ll pick up the bill for accommodations at the Grand Hyatt.

This is your chance to meet Roger, laugh and cry at MozCon Ignite, converse with speakers during lunch, and of course learn all the things! To enter, just send over a unique piece of content telling us why we should send you to MozCon. Make sure your entry is both original and creative!

First up: Create!

Brainstorm and create something new, unique, and compelling. Last year we saw tons of ingenious ideas, including:

  • Videos (must be one minute or less)
  • Blog posts
  • Songs
  • Books
  • Drawings
  • Slide decks
  • Anything else you can dream up!

These are just a few examples; there’s plenty of room for you to come up with your own trail-blazing ideas. Perhaps you’ll film your own Whiteboard Friday detailing why you should come, or record a custom-written, sung-from-the-heart tune about why you love MozCon? Get creative and show us what you got!

Secondly: Submit

Once your content has been perfected and is ready to share, tweet us a link @Moz and use the hashtag #mozcon by Sunday, June 18 at 5:00pm PDT. To keep things fair, there will be no exceptions — so make sure to follow instructions and don’t forget to include your contact information (name and email address) somewhere easily visible within your content. We need to be able to connect with you if you’re a winner!

All submissions will be reviewed and voted on by Moz staff. We’ll let the votes of 150 Mozzers decide the top 3 entries.

Let’s break it down:

  • Submissions close on Sunday, June 18 at 5:00pm PDT
  • Entries will be judged by Mozzers based on creativity and uniqueness of content
  • Winners will be announced and the winning entry shared from @Moz via Twitter on Monday, June 26
  • You must be able to attend MozCon, July 17–19 2017, in Seattle. Prizes are non-transferrable.
  • All submissions must adhere to the MozCon Code of Conduct
  • Contest is void where prohibited by law.
  • The value of the prize will be reported for tax purposes as required by law; the winner will receive an IRS form 1099 at the end of the calendar year and a copy of such form will be filed with the IRS. The winner is solely responsible for reporting and paying any and all applicable taxes related to the prizes and paying any expenses associated with any prize which are not specifically provided for in the official rules.

What 3 lucky people win:

  • A free ticket to MozCon 2017, including optional VIP front-row seating (valued at $1049)
  • Accommodations with suite upgrade at the Grand Hyatt from July 16–20, 2017 (valued at $1,300+)

All right, what are you waiting for? Time to start on those submissions. Best of luck to you all!

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