Optimizing for voice search means answering questions in featured snippets, paying attention to local SEO and perfecting your mobile-friendliness.
Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
Posted by Isla_McKetta
“How can I learn SEO?” is a deceptively simple question. The standard approach is to attempt to appeal to anyone who’s interested in SEO without any idea of your previous experience or the actual reasons you want to learn SEO. That’s fun. Especially the part about weeding through tons of information that might not even apply to what you want to learn.
So let’s fix that. This guide is written to help you choose your own SEO adventure. If you know very little about SEO and just want to learn enough to impress your CMO, start at the beginning and stop when you feel like you understand enough concepts. Or if you’ve been doing SEO for years but need a brush up on the latest tips and tricks before impressing a potential client or employer, there’s a path for you too. Be sure to follow the links. They refer you to resources that are much more in-depth than we could reproduce in one post.
You may know what a title tag is, but you aren’t quite sure how to use it or why. The SEO Newbie could be a web developing hobbyist on the verge of a new obsession or someone looking for the next growing career path. Regardless, you have the most to learn (and the most to gain) from this adventure.
Start at the very beginning with What is SEO? and explore as many paths as you can. You might be surprised at the bits of information you pick up along the way. For a guided tour, follow the teal boxes. Don’t forget to bookmark this page so you can come back and learn more once you’ve absorbed each batch of info.
You were doing SEO back in the days of AltaVista, so you know all the things to know. Except maybe you took a break for a few years or decided to swap that black hat for a gray (or even white) one and need to know what’s the what with the major changes in the past few years.
Make a quick stop at the Algorithm Change History to catch up on the latest updates and penalties. After that, we’ll guide you through some of the topics that are more likely to have changed since you last checked. Just look for the purple boxes.
You’ve heard of SEO. You might even have worked with a few SEOs. Now you’re ready to dig in and understand what everyone’s talking about and how you can use all that new info to improve your marketing (and maybe level up your career at the same time).
Start with What is SEO? and look for shortcuts in orange boxes along the path to gather highlights. You can always dig deeper into any topic you find especially interesting.
Whichever path you choose, don’t worry, we’ll keep weaving you in and out of the sections that are relevant to your learning needs; just look for the color that’s relevant to your chosen character.
For you table of contents types who like to read straight through rather than have someone set the path for you, here’s a quick look at what we’ll be covering:
First things first. It’s hard to learn the ins and outs of SEO (search engine optimization) before you even know what it is. In the following short video, Rand Fishkin (a.k.a. the Wizard of Moz) defines SEO as “The practice of increasing the quantity and quality of the traffic that you earn through the organic results in search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.”
Watch it to understand the difference between paid search and organic search and a few basic things about improving click-throughs from search pages.
A lot of different factors, from site speed to content quality, are important in SEO. These are, as far as anyone can tell, the factors that search engines use in determining whether or not to show your page to searchers. For a great intro to those elements and how they interact to affect your site’s overall ranking, check out Search Engine Land’s Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors.
That’s all nice, but if SEO is starting to seem like a lot of work, you probably want to understand whether SEO is even worth it. The short answer is that yes, SEO is worth it, but only if you want potential customers to be able to find your site when they’re searching on Google (or any other search engine).
Yes, search engines are crawling your site, but those crawlers aren’t as sophisticated as you might like. SEO gives you more control over how your site is represented in those search engine results pages. Good SEO can also improve how users experience your site. Learn more with Why Search Engine Marketing is Necessary.
Who are these search engines anyway and why do we spend so much time worrying about how they see our sites? To get the best answer, let’s look at that question from two points of view: search engines and searchers.
First, it’s important to understand how search engines crawl sites, build their indexes, and ultimately determine what’s relevant to a user’s query. Some of the specifics are trade secrets, but this section of the Beginner’s Guide to SEO offers a solid overview. And for an introduction to how Google ranks pages, watch this video:
As you’re learning about SEO, remember that not everything you read on the Internet should be treated as gospel. Here are some common myths and misconceptions about search engines.
Understanding how people use search engines is as crucial to SEO as understanding their needs is to marketing. Learn about classic search query patterns and how people scan search results here.
So far we’ve dropped a lot of phrases like “search results” and “search pages,” but what does any of that really mean? Search Engine Land does a great job of decoding the standard search engine results page (SERP). It’s a strong foundation for understanding why everyone is shooting to be in the top ten search results. But one thing you’ll find the more you get into SEO is that SERPs are rapidly evolving. Ads move, knowledge graphs appear (and disappear) and sometimes local search results invade. Dr. Pete takes you on a tour of how SERPs have changed and why ten blue links are probably a thing of the past in this article.
And then there’s the darker side of SEO, because once there’s a system, there’s someone trying to game that system. Spend more than a few minutes talking to anyone about SEO and you’ll hear something or other about black hat tactics like keyword stuffing and unnatural linking.
If you decide to use these tactics, you might soon become acquainted with search engine penalties. These algorithm updates, like Hummingbird and Penguin, are implemented by search engines at various intervals. The official word is that these updates improve user experience, but they can also be effective ways to penalize SEOs using spammy tactics. Learn more about Google’s algorithm updates. That page includes not only a full history of prior penalties, but it’s consistently refreshed when a new algorithm update is confirmed.
SEO veterans, you get to skip ahead of the class now to learn about the current state of page speed, mobile web development, and competitive research along with info on the best tools available today.
As you can see, a lot of work can go into SEO, but the results can be pretty incredible, too. To track your progress in topping the SERPs, make sure you’re using an analytics platform like Google Analytics or Omniture. You can get by with something like Rank Tracker to track rankings on keywords as a start, but eventually you’re going to want some of the data those more sophisticated tools offer.
Brain full? You’ve just learned everything a beginner needs to know about what SEO is. Go take a walk or get some coffee and let all that info soak in.
Before you go, save this bookmark.
First of all, don’t freak out, you don’t have to build a totally new site to get something out of this section. But if you’re an SEO Newbie intent on making a career of this, you might want to set up a practice site to really get your hands dirty and learn everything you can.
Before you start worrying about site content and structure (aka the fun stuff), you have a real chance to set your site up for success by using a strong domain name and developing a URL structure that’s SEO and user friendly. This stuff can be hard to change later when you have hundreds (or thousands) of pages in place, so you’ll be glad you started out on the right foot.
While you’re decades too late to score “buy.com,” it’s never too late to find the right domain name for you. This resource will help you sort through the SEO dos and SEO don’ts of selecting a root domain and TLD (don’t worry, all is explained) that are memorable without being spammy. There’s even info on what to consider if you have to change your domain name.
Don’t skip the section on subdomains—it could save you from making some rookie duplicate content errors.
Oh the SEO havoc that can ensue when your URLs aren’t set up quite right. Learn what not to do.
Things to think about at this point are that your content is indexable (that the crawlers can actually find it) and that you don’t have any orphaned pages. Learn more about those issues here.
And then you’re going to need a sitemap. Sitemaps help search engines index your content and understand the relationships between pages. So where better to get advice on how to build and implement a sitemap than straight from Google.
Another vital way to show search engines what pages are most important/related (and to help humans navigate your content) is through internal links. You want enough links to show users what’s what, but not so many that it’s impossible to tell what’s really important/related. Read more about optimal link structure and passing ranking power.
How long it takes a page on your site to load (page speed) mattered when we were all using desktops, but it’s crucial now that so much Internet traffic comes from mobile devices, plus it’s one factor in how pages get ranked. So whether you’re new to SEO or looking for new tricks, page speed might be a good place to start.
Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to get specific recommendations on how to speed up your site and then get crackin’.
Speaking of mobile traffic, is your site mobile friendly? Learn about the difference between responsive designs and device-specific solutions on our mobile optimization page. You’ll also see a list of don’ts for mobile design (ever tried to close a pop-up on your iPhone?). This only gets more important the more mobile traffic you get (and want).
Phew! That was a lot of information, but once you’ve absorbed it all, you’ll have an excellent handle on site structure (which will save you a lot of trouble down the line). Bookmark this spot, then take a well-deserved break. We’ll start back here together when you’re ready.
Now that you have that site framework all set up, it’s time to get to the good stuff—populating it with content!
Before you write or post too much of your own content, you might want to see what’s working (and what isn’t) for your competitors. This analysis helps you identify those competitors and then understand what their links, rankings, and keywords look like. It’s important to update this research occasionally because your competition might change over time.
Veteran SEOs, you can skip straight ahead to Schema structured data unless you want a refresh on any other topics related to content.
Marketers, this is your chance to learn all the basics for SEO-friendly content, so stick with us for a spell. You won’t need the same depth of understanding as someone who plans to do SEO for a living, so let your curiosity guide you as deep into any of these topics as you want to go.
You may feel like you just did keyword research in the last step, but it’s crucial enough that we’re going to dive a little deeper here. Understand the value of a particular keyword and see what kind of shot you have at ranking for it by reading Chapter 5 of the Beginner’s Guide to SEO.
We promised you’d get to actually create content and that time is finally here! Now that you have an understanding of the competitive landscape and the keywords you want to (and can) rank for, write away. Remember that while you’re really writing content for users, a few simple tips can help your content stand out to search engines too. Isn’t it nice when something does double duty?
Go the extra mile by incorporating Schema structured data into your content. This additional info gives search engines the data they need to include rich snippets (like review boxes) below your search results.
Veteran SEOs, it’s a good idea to skip ahead to on-site related topics now.
Duplicate content is the bane of a website. Even if you think you’ve done everything right with your content, there’s a chance that a dynamic URL or something else is surfacing that same content to crawlers more than once. Not only does Google fail to see the logic in “twice as much is twice as nice” but they might also penalize you for it. Navigate around the most common pitfalls.
Content doesn’t just mean words, but unfortunately, the crawlers aren’t (yet) sophisticated enough to parse things like images and video. If your alt attributes are in good shape, you’re covered for images, but there are some SEO tactics you need to incorporate if you’re using video on your site. The good news is that once your video SEO is in good shape, video content often gets better rankings than text.
So you’ve got all that content on your site, but how do you know if it’s actually helping your SEO? At the beginning is a good time to set yourself up to measure your success so you can establish a baseline. Learn more about what metrics you should be tracking and how.
Time for yet another well-earned break. Grab a nap if you can and then spend a day or so observing how these issues are handled by other sites on the web. For maximum learning, try practicing some of your newfound knowledge on a site you have access to.
Set your bookmarks before you go.
When you’re ready to continue learning SEO, Newbies should make a stop at on-site related topics to get familiar with Robots.txt and HTTPS.
Any veterans still hanging about might want to take a quick read through on-site related topics to see what might have changed with Robots.txt and to take in the latest wisdom on HTTPS.
Marketers, you get to sit that one out and head straight on over to link-related topics.
For the true SEO aficionado, there are some technical details that you must get right. We’ve all heard stories of people accidentally blocking their site from being crawled and then wondering where all the traffic is. To keep from being one of these, learn about Robots.txt: how it helps you get found and when blocking robots is not actually effective.
The other technical on-site topic you’ll want to master is the switching of your site from HTTP to HTTPS without slowing down your site or losing traffic. This is especially important since Google announced that HTTPS is a ranking factor.
See how far you’ve leveled up already by getting current on just those two topics? Bet you aren’t even tired yet.
Newbies, it’s time to dive straight into link-related topics.
Veterans, go check out guest blogging for a look at how that practice has changed.
You now know a lot about how to make your site SEO friendly. Now it’s time to look at how to bend the rest of the Internet to your SEO will. Don’t worry, this’ll be TAGFEE.
External links are a fantastic way to show search engines that your site is credible and useful. They’re also a great way for users to find you by navigating from sites they already use. In short, they build your authority with humans and bots.
There are two effective ways to get more links from external sources: you can either earn them or build them. Chances are that you’ll get the best results by focusing on some combination of those two tactics.
Notice how we didn’t say “buy them”? Don’t buy links.
One tried and true way to build external links is through guest blogging, although this tactic has evolved a lot in the past few years. What used to be an “I give you content, you give me a link” sort of exchange has given way to guest blogging with a purpose.
Veterans, go ahead and pop on over to conversion rate optimization unless you want a refresh on link-related topics like link nofollow and canonicalization.
When you’re out there on the Internet trying to build links, be sure you’re looking for good quality links. Those are links that come from sites that are trustworthy, popular, and relevant to your content. For more information on factors search engines use to determine link value, read this page.
Anchor text is simply the text that’s used in a link whether it’s a link to a site or within that site. The implications of anchor text, though, reach farther because while keywords in anchor text can help your site rank for those words, it’s easy for keyword-stuffed anchor text to look spammy. Learn more about best practices for anchor text.
“Nofollow” is a designation you can apply to a link to keep it from passing any link equity (that’s kind of like the SEO equivalent of an up-vote). What might surprise you is that links don’t need to be “followed” to pass human authority. Even nofollowed links can help you build awareness and get more links. So when you’re linking to a site (or to other content on your site) think about whether that link leads to something you’re proud to be associated with.
Every Internet user eventually encounters a 404 error page, but that’s just one of the many HTTP status codes found on the web. Learn the difference between a 500 and a 503 along with some best practices for 404 pages here.
One of the most useful HTTP status codes for SEOs is the 301 redirect which is used to tell search engines a page has permanently moved elsewhere (and passes a good share of link equity). Gather all the in-depth info you ever needed about 301s and other redirects.
Perhaps because it’s one of the hardest SEO words to pronounce, canonicalization has a reputation for being complex. But the basic concept is simple: you have two (or more) pages that have similar content and canonicalization allows you to either combine those pages (using redirects) or indicate which version of the page you want search engines to treat as paramount. Read up on the details of using canonicalization to handle duplicate content.
You’ve now mastered so much SEO knowledge that you could teach the stuff (at least on a 101 level). If you’ve read and digested all the links along the way, you now know so much more about SEO than when you started.
But you’re so self-motivated that you want to know even more, don’t you?
Newbies, read closely through other optimization to refine your knowledge and apply those newly-minted optimization skills to even more aspects of the sites you’re working on.
Marketers, you’ve done a fabulous job powering through all these topics and there’s no doubt you can hold your own in the next SEO team meeting. To take your understanding of optimization even further, skim other optimization.
Or scoot on ahead and test your skills with the SEO Expert Quiz.
There are many ways (beyond the basic SEO knowledge you’ve been accruing here) to give your site an optimization boost. Find (and fix) what’s keeping potential customers from converting with conversion rate optimization, get your storefronts found on the web with local SEO, and find out how to prep your site to show up in international SERPs with international SEO.
If shoppers are abandoning their carts so fast you’re looking around for the tornado, your marketing funnel is acting more like a sieve and it’s time to plug some holes. Stop the bleeding with Paddy Moogan’s five-step framework for CRO. And keep on learning by keeping up with the latest CRO posts from the Moz Blog.
Even if you do most of your business in person at a local shop, customers are still trying to use the Internet to find you (and your hours, phone number, menu, etc.). Make sure they’re getting the right info (and finding you before they find your competitor across the street) by investing some time learning about local SEO. On that page you can also sign up for the Local 7-Pack, a monthly newsletter highlighting the top local SEO news you need to know. Or, watch for the latest local SEO developments on the Moz Blog.
A global customer base is a good thing to have, but you want to use international SEO to make sure potential customers in the UK are finding your British shipping policies instead of your American ones. Master hreflang to direct Chinese customers to content using simplified Chinese characters while you send Taiwanese customers to content that uses the traditional characters they’re used to. And find out how your site structure and whether you’re using a country code top-level domain (ccTLD) (like “.uk”) affects your SEO and potential ranking in international SERPs.
SEO newbies, we really can’t call you newbies anymore. Congratulations! No one has read deeper into this blog post or learned more along the way than you have.
SEO veterans, you knew a lot of this already, but now you’re up to date on the latest tips, tricks, and techniques.
And SEO-curious marketers, if you’re still hanging around, bravo! You can safely add “speaks SEO” as a feather in your cap.
You’re all ready to test your skills against the experts and prove just how much you’ve learned, take the SEO Expert Quiz and brag about your score.
Feel like you’ve mastered SEO already? Take the New SEO Expert Quiz to see how you stack up.
Congratulations! You’re well on your way to SEO mastery. Bask in that glow for a moment or two before moving on to your next project.
The fun thing about a developing field like SEO is that the learning and adventure never end. Whether you’re looking for more advanced knowledge or just to learn in a different format, try Distilled U‘s interactive modules or Market Motive’s web-based classes. If you’re looking for a job in SEO, Carl Hendy might just have your roadmap.
Thanks for following along with this choose your own adventure version of how to learn SEO. Share your favorite resources and ask us about any topics we might have missed in the comments.
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!
Posted by SimonPenson
Running an agency comes with many privileges, including a first-hand look at large amounts of data on how clients’ sites behave in search, and especially how that behavior changes day-to-day and month-to-month.
While every niche is different and can have subtle nuances that frustrate even the most hardened SEOs or data analysts, there are undoubtedly trends that stick out every so often which are worthy of further investigation.
In the past year, the Zazzle Media team has been monitoring one in particular, and today’s post is designed to shed some light on it in hopes of creating a wider debate.
What is this trend, you ask? In simple terms, it’s what we see as a major shift in the way results are presented, and it’s resulting in more traffic for the long tail.
It’s a conclusion supported by a number of client growth stories throughout the last 12 months, all of whom have seen significant growth coming not from head terms, but from an increasing number of URLs gaining search traffic from organic.
The Searchmetrics visibility chart below is just one example of a brand in the finance space seeing digital growth year-over-year as a direct result of this phenomenon. They’ve even seen some head terms drop backwards by a couple of places while still seeing this overall.
To understand why this may be happening we need to take a very quick crash course into how Google has evolved over the past two years.
Google built its empire on a smart system; one which was able to match “documents” (webpages) to keywords by scanning and organizing those documents based upon keyword mentions.
It’s an approach that has been getting increasingly too simplistic in a “big data” world.
The answer, it seems, is to focus more on the user intent behind that query and get at exactly what it is the searcher is actually looking for.
The solution to that challenge is Hummingbird, Google’s new “engine” for sorting the results we see when we search.
In the same way that Caffeine, the former search architecture, allowed the company to produce fresher results and roll worldwide algorithm changes (such as Panda and Penguin) out faster, Hummingbird is designed to do the same for personalized results.
And while we are only at the very beginning of that journey, from the data we have seen over the past year it seems to be crystallizing into more traffic for deeper pages.
Why is this happening? The answer lies in further analysis of what Google is trying to achieve.
To better explain this change let’s look at how it is affecting a search for something obvious, like “coffee shop.”
Go back two or so years and a search for this may well have presented 10 blue links of the obvious chains and their location pages.
For the user, however, this isn’t useful—and the search giant knows it. Instead, they want to understand the user intent behind the query, or the “implicit query,” as previously explained by Tom Anthony
on this blog.
What that means, in practice, is that a search for “coffee shop” will actually have context, and one of the reasons for wanting you signed in is to allow the search engine to collect further signals from you to help understand that query in detail. That means things like your location, perhaps even your brand preferences, etc.
Knowing these things allows the search to be personalized to your exact needs, throwing up the details of the closest Starbucks to your current location (if that is your favourite coffee).
If you then expand this trend out into billions of other searches you can see how deeper-level pages, or even articles, present a better, more refined option for Google.
Here we see how a result for something like “Hotels” may change if Google knows where you are, what you do for a living and therefore what kind of disposable income you have. The result may look completely different, for instance, if Google knows you are a company CEO who stays in nice hotels and has a big meeting the following day, thus requiring a quiet room so you can get some sleep.
Instead of the usual “best hotels in London” result we get something much more personalised and, critically, something more useful.
What this appears to be doing is reshaping the traditional long-tail curve we all know so well. It is beginning to change shape along the lines of the chart below:
That’s a noteworthy shift. With another client of ours, we have seen a 135% increase in the number of pages receiving traffic from search, delivering a 98% increase in overall organic traffic because of it.
The primary factor behind this rise is the creation of the “right” content to take advantage of this changing marketplace. Getting that right requires an approach reminiscent of the way traditional marketing has worked for decades—before the web even existed.
In practice, that means understanding the audience you are attempting to capture and, in doing so, outlining the key questions they are asking every day.
This audience-centric marketing approach is something I have written about previously on this blog and others, as it is critical to understanding that “context” and what your customers or clients are actually looking for.
The way to do that? Dive into data, and also speak to those who may already be buying from or working with you.
The first step of any marketing process is to collect and process any and all available information about your existing audience and those you may want to attract in the future.
The latter of those two links breaks this side of the research process into the two key critical elements you will need to master to ensure you have a thorough understanding of who you are “talking” to in search.
Quantitative concentrates on the numbers. Focus is on larger data sets and statistical information, as opposed to painting a rich picture of the likes and dislikes of your audience.
Qualitative focuses on the words and on painting in the “richness.” The way your customers speak and explain problems, likes and dislikes. It’s more of a study on human behavior than stats.
This information can be combined with a plethora of other data sources from CRMs, email lists, and other customer insight pots, but where we are increasingly seeing more opportunity is in the social data arena.
Platforms such as Facebook can give all brands access to hugely valuable big-data insight about almost any audience you could possibly imagine.
What I’d like to do here is explain how to go about extracting that data to form rich pictures of those we are either already speaking to or the very people we want to attract.
There is also little doubt that the amount of insight you have into your audience is directly proportional to the success of your content, hence the importance of this research cycle.
Your data comes to life through the creation of personas, which are designed to put a human face on that data and group it into a small number of shared interest sets.
Again, the point of this post is not to explain how to best manage this process. Posts like
this one and this one go over that in great detail—the point here is to go over what having them in place allows you to do.
We’ve also created a free persona template, which can help make the process of pulling them together much easier.
When you’ve got them created, you will soon realize that your personas each have very different needs from a content perspective.
To give you an example of that let’s look at these example profiles below:
Here we can see three very distinct segments of the audience, and immediately it is easy to see how each of them is looking for a different experience from your brand.
Take the “Maturing Spender” for example. In this fictional example for a banking brand we can see he not only has very different content needs but is actually “activated” by a different approach to the buying cycle too.
While the traditional buyer will follow a process of awareness, research, evaluation and purchase, a new kind of purchase behaviour is materializing that’s driven by social.
In this new world we are seeing consumers driven to more impulsive purchases that are often driven by social sharing. They’ll see something in their social feeds and are more likely to purchase there and then (or at least within a few days), especially if there is a limited offer on.
Much of this is driven by our increasingly “disposable” culture that creates an accelerated buying process.
You can learn this and other data-driven insights from the personas, and we recommend using a
good persona template, then adding further descriptive detail and “colour” to each one so that everyone understands whom it is they are writing for.
It can also work well to align those characters to famous people, if possible, as doing so makes it much easier to scale understanding across whole organizations.
Having them in place and universally adopted allows you to do many things, including:
Ultimately, however, all of this is designed to ensure you have a better understanding of those you want to converse with, and in doing so you can map out the key questions they ask and understand their individual needs.
If you want to dig into this area more then I highly recommend Mike King’s post from 2014
here on Moz for further background.
Understanding the specific questions your audience is asking is where the real win can be found, and the next stage is to utilize the info gleaned from the persona process in the next phase: keyword research.
To do that, let’s walk through an example for our Happy Couple persona (the first from the above graphic), and see how things plays out for this fictional banking brand.
The first step is to gather a list of tools to help unearth related keywords. Here are the ones we use:
There are many more that can help, but it is very easy to complicate the process with data, so we like to limit that as much as possible and focus on where we can get the most benefit quickly.
Before we get into the data mining process, however, we begin with a group brainstorm to surface as many initial questions as possible.
To do this, we will gather four people for a quick 15-minute stand-up conversation around each persona. The aim is to gather five questions from which the main research phase can be constructed.
Some possibilities for our Happy Couple example may include:
From here we can use this framework as a starting point for the keyword research and there is no better place to start than with our first tool.
For those unfamiliar with this tool it is designed to make it easier to accurately assess competitor and market opportunity by plugging into search data. In this example we will use it to highlight longer-tail keyword opportunity based upon the example questions we have just unearthed.
To uncover related keyword opportunity around the first question we type in something similar to the below:
This will highlight a number of phrases related to our question:
As you can see, this gives us a lot of ammunition from a content perspective to enable us to write about this critical subject consistently without repeating the same titles.
Each of those long-tail terms can be analyzed ever deeper by clicking on them individually. That will generate a further list of even more specifically related terms.
The next stage is to use this vastly underrated tool to further mine user search data. It allows you to gather regular search phrases from sites such as YouTube, Yahoo, Bing, Answers.com and Wikipedia in one place.
The result is something a little like the below. It may not be the prettiest but it can save a lot of time and effort as you can download the results in a single CSV.
There are several ways you can tap into Google’s Autocomplete data and with an API in existence there are a number of tools making good use of it. My current favourite is
KeywordTool.io, which actually has its own API, mashing data from Google, YouTube, Bing, and the Apple App Store.
The real value is in how it spits out that data, as you are able to see suggestions by letter or number, creating hundreds of potential areas for content development. The App Store data is particularly useful, as you will often see greater refinement in search behavior here and as a result very specific ‘questions’ to answer.
A great example for this would be “how to prequalify yourself for a mortgage,” a phrase which would be very hard to surface using Google Autocomplete tools alone.
Another fantastic area worthy of research focus is forums. We use these to ask our peers and topic experts questions, so spending some time understanding what is being asked within the key ones for your market can be very helpful.
One of the best ways of doing this is to perform a simple advanced Google search as outlined below:
“keyword” + “forum”
For our example we might type:
This then presents us with more than 85,000 results, many of which will be questions that have been asked on this subject.
As you can see, this also opens up a myriad of content opportunities.
Another way of laterally expanding your reach is to look at the content your best competitors are producing.
In this example we will look at two ways of doing that, firstly by analyzing top content and then by looking at what those competitors rank for that you don’t.
Below, we see a search for “mortgages” using the tool, and we are presented with a list of content on that subject sorted by “most shared.” The result can be filtered by time frame, language, or even by specific domain inclusions or exclusions.
This data can be exported and titles extracted to be used as the basis of further keyword research around that specific topic area, or within a brainstorm.
For example, I might want to look at where the volume is from an organic search perspective for something like “mortgage paperwork.”
I can type this term into SEMRush and search through related phrases for long-tail opportunity on that specific area.
A smart way of working out where you can gain further market share is to dive a little deeper into your key competitors and understand what they rank for and, critically, what you don’t.
To do this, we return to SEMRush and make use of a little-publicized but hugely useful tool within the suite called
Domain Comparison Tool.
It allows you to compare two domains and visualize the overlap they have from a keyword ranking perspective. For this example, we will choose to compare two UK banks – Lloyds and HSBC.
To do that simply type both domains into the tool as below:
Next, click on the chart button and you will be presented with two overlapping circles, representing the keywords that each domain ranks for. As we can see, both rank for a similar number of keywords (the overall number affects the size of the circles) with some overlap but there are keywords from both sides that could be exploited.
If we were working for HSBC, for instance, it would be the blue portion of the chart we would be most interested in in this scenario. We can download a full list of keywords that both banks rank for, and then sort by those that HSBC don’t rank for.
You can see in the snapshot below that the data includes columns on where each site ranks for each keyword, so sorting is easy.
Once you have the raw data in spreadsheet format, we would sort by the “HSBC” column so the terms at the top are those we don’t rank for, and then strip away the rest. This leaves you with the opportunity terms that you can create content to cover, and this can be prioritized by search volume or topic area if there are specific sub-topics that are more important than others within your wider plan.
By this point in the process you should have hundreds, if not thousands of title ideas, and the next job is to ensure that you organise them in a way that makes sense for your audience and also for your brand.
To do this properly requires not just a knowledge of your audience via extensive research, but also content strategy.
One of the biggest rules is something we call content flow. In a nutshell, it is the discipline of creating a content calendar that delivers variation over time in a way that keeps the audience engaged.
If you create the same content all of the time it can quickly become a turn-off, and so varying the type (video, image-led piece, infographics, etc.) and read time, or the amount of time you put into creating the piece, will produce that “flow.”
This handy tool can help you sense check it as you go.
Clearly your “other” content requirements as part of your wider strategy will need to fit into this strategy, too. The vast majority of the output here will be article-focused, and it is critical to ensure that other elements of your strategy are also covered to round out your content output.
free content strategy toolkit download gives you everything you need to ensure you get the rest of it right.
This is a strategy we have followed for many of our search-focused clients over the last 18 months, and we have some great real-world case studies to prove that it works.
Below you can see how just one of those has played out in search visibility improvement terms over that period as proof of its effectiveness.
All of that growth directly correlates with a huge growth in the number of URLs receiving traffic from search and that is a key metric in measuring the effectiveness of this strategy.
In this example we saw a 15% monthly increase in the number of URLs receiving traffic from search, with organic traffic up 98% year-on-year despite head terms staying relatively static.
Give it a go for yourself as part of your wider strategy and see what it can do for your brand.
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Marco è uno dei SEO Specialist più apprezzati in Italia. E’ docente in diversi Master universitari e formatore in svariati corsi SEO e SEM. Marco è anche autore del libro “SEO e SEM. Guida…
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