By understanding what Google’s problems are, we can better help it to help us. Make sure your SEO efforts support Google’s three most important “needs.”
Google has three “needs” that we can feed into to win the “modern Google game.”
Everything you do in SEO feeds one or more of these pillars.
CONTINUE READING BELOWIf you are doing anything that doesn’t help Google in one of these aspects, it is almost certainly not worth doing.
In this article, you’ll learn a simple, manageable, and delightful approach to our work as digital marketers when it comes to making the most of the opportunities Google offers.
Google’s 3 Needs: Understanding, Credibility & DeliverabilityEver since the beginning, Google’s users have expressed a problem (including asking a question) and Google has sought to provide them with the best solution to their problem (or answer to their question) as efficiently as possible.
Up until Hummingbird, the process was hit-and-miss due to the simplistic manner in which Google ranked the results:
Counting strings of characters,Evaluating links.Ranking the results using a human written algorithm.ADVERTISEMENT
CONTINUE READING BELOWIn hindsight, it’s easy to belittle how Google used to function but it proved to be better than the competition (so much so, it managed to kill off the competition almost entirely).
Manipulating the algorithm was relatively simple.
We all did it to one extent or another.
But in the Hummingbird world, Google got smarter and its algorithm got more complex.
And as the blue link algorithm increasingly took a back seat and an ever-increasing array of rich elements (SERP features) took over, the “SERP game” became increasingly difficult to play.
How do we approach both the algorithms and the SERPs without losing our minds?
My first suggestion is “empathy for the beast” – if we can understand what Google’s problems are, we can better help it to help us.
CONTINUE READING BELOWUnderstandingIf it is to recommend your content as the solution to its users’ problem (or the answer to their question) Google needs to understand:
Who you are.What you offer.What audience you can serve.Some examples where you can help Google (and Microsoft Bing) understand who you are, what you do, and where you can provide a relevant solution to their user:
Writing clear, content using semantic triples.Creating well-focussed context clouds.Adding Schema.org markup to your webpages.Including relevant images and videos.Structuring your site with well-defined, logical categories.… anything that serves to better communicate with a machine.ADVERTISEMENT
CONTINUE READING BELOWGooglers and Bingers alike have expressed over and over how fundamentally important relevancy is to them, and how much they focus on getting that right.
So understanding is the foundation.
Without this, the algorithms cannot evaluate relevancy and your content is stuck at the starting gate.
CredibilityOnce it has understood that your content offers a relevant solution for its user, then you are in the race.
But it is just that – a race.
Your competitors offer a similar solution, they’ve done everything to help it understand, so you are neck and neck.
Remember that Google wants to provide the best solution to its user when it recommends content.
In a situation where it has clearly understood exactly what your content offers but has also understood your competitors’, it has several options that will solve the user’s problem in a similar manner.
CONTINUE READING BELOWSo Google needs to evaluate which one will bring the most satisfaction to the user since its aim is to deliver the best answer to the user as quickly and efficiently as possible (i.e., right at the top of the results).
That is where your credibility and the credibility of your content comes into play.
In Short, Think E-A-TSome examples where you can convince Google (and Microsoft Bing) that you are the best in the market:
Clear and convincing pages about your company, your leading employees, authors, partners, clients.Accurate and up-to-date content.Wide peer-group approval.Reviews.Positive user comments on your content.Anything else that serves to reassure Google that your brand and those associated with your brand are expert, authoritative, and trustworthy within your industry.Anything else that supports the credibility of your content (inbound links, social activity, user-generated content on the page, etc.)Always bear in mind that the credibility (E-A-T in Google-speak) of a given solution (the piece of content) is evaluated at content, brand, and author level.
CONTINUE READING BELOWYou need to improve at all three levels.
DeliverabilityThis seems to me to be the game-changer for anyone still thinking in terms of “traditional” blue link ranking.
In steps 1 and 2, Google has evaluated (and ranked) which of the available options are viable and which are most credible.
But that isn’t enough.
It wants to provide a rich, engaging, and satisfying result for its user.
If we are evaluating 10 blue links, deliverability is purely and simply page speed and mobile-friendliness.
Google is sending the user to your site for the solution to their problem or answer to their question.
But today, with featured snippets, videos, images, local results, and all the other rich elements, deliverability becomes more complex and more important.
CONTINUE READING BELOWThis is the game-changer.
As digital marketers, we now have no choice but to look at SEO as part of a wider digital marketing strategy.
You need to create content that is directly valuable for your audience and publish that content on a platform they engage with.
The traditional SEO approach relies heavily on blue links – for Google that is what I would call secondary deliverability (i.e., an evaluation as to whether your site can “deliver” the content as “promised”).
The richer results Google provides today now brings an additional evaluation of deliverability: Google has the choice – does this content provide great deliverability to the user on the site, or on the SERP?
To gain maximum visibility on Google, you need to provide content that can be delivered to your audience on your site post-click but can potentially be delivered to that same user on Google’s SERP.
CONTINUE READING BELOW(The discussion about whether facilitating Google’s capacity to deliver your content on its own results pages is a debate for another day – I really want to focus on a positive and helpful approach to SEO.)
A specific question may be better answered by a video than text (how-to questions, for example), in which case a video is potentially more valuable as a solution to Google’s user – the more “deliverable” solution.
When I mention deliverability, site speed, and mobile-friendly are the knee-jerk, go-to reaction.
Those are both necessary for delivery to the user if they click through to the site.
The more immediate question for Google is three-fold:
Is the content in the best format for the user (text, tabular data, list, video, audio, infographic)?Can Google confidently identify the exact part of the content it needs for the SERP (whether text, audio, or video, can it potentially identify and deliver a snippet or perhaps the entire content is needed to fully satisfy the user)?Can Google easily extract that piece of content in a format that is appropriate for its SERP?ADVERTISEMENT
CONTINUE READING BELOWTo make your content deliverable, here are some tips.
Adapt Your Content’s FormatCreate content in a format that is suitable to the needs and expectations of Google’s user for the question they have asked.
For example, deliverable content for a how-to would tend to be lists, videos, audio rather than long-form text content or images.
Remember that different users will prefer content in different formats.
For example, some prefer to read, some watch videos, some just audio.
Some like bullet lists or tabular data, while others long-form copy.
Leverage Structured DataUse Schema.org Markup and semantic HTML5 to identify the parts of your content that are appropriate.
Make Your Content ExtractablePlace the content in a block, or a fraggle, making it “extractable.”
CONTINUE READING BELOWGutenberg in WordPress is a great example of this type of deliverability.
Everything is in fragments (blocks) with handles (divs with ids) that allow Google to reach down into the page, grab that handle, pull the block of content out, and place it in the SERP, or jump-link the user from the SERP directly to the relevant part of the content.
Make Your Content Easy-to-DigestMake the content as easy as possible for Google to digest.
For example, add:
Captions for video.Transcripts for audio.Accurate alt text for images.Consider the DeviceAdapt the content to the device the person is using – mobile, desktop, watch, glasses, virtual assistant, etc.
CONTINUE READING BELOWThere is of course an argument that it’s foolish to help Google steal your content.
I get that.
However, the situation is evolving towards SERPs that are:
Increasingly multimedia.Less blue links.Less clicks.More on-SERP SEO.If you don’t fill those spaces, your competition will.
Our approach to deciding what content we create needs to change.
We would do well is to start the process by thinking about creating content that provides solutions in a relevant format – increasingly being rich formats.
Rather than compete for rich elements that already exist on the SERPs, it is perhaps a good idea is to look for which queries don’t have a rich element that would benefit from one.
CONTINUE READING BELOWI have clients who think all they need to do is write some blog posts.
But with blog posts, you’re competing with all the other competing blue links and you’ll need a ton of links to your blog page.
You need to optimize the page and put in a lot of investment to get anywhere near the top page.
But, if you see a SERP that needs a video and doesn’t have one, then create a video.
If you think audio will be better, then do that.
Same for the image gallery or featured snippets.
Some examples where you can help Google (and Microsoft Bing) with deliverability:
Page load speed.Mobile-friendliness.Specific structure (featured snippets may benefit from a table, a list, or a heading and paragraph).Providing content in a format that suits the user (video, text, audio).Anything else that serves to indicate that the content is deliverable to the user or that helps Google deliver the content itself on the SERP.ADVERTISEMENT
CONTINUE READING BELOWSEO Is Necessarily Part of a Multi-Channel ApproachSEO can no longer be an end unto itself.
It must be part of a wider digital strategy.
The video you have made cannot survive in a vacuum.
It should be delivered to your prospects through Google; but also through social, through news and media sites, and through partners.
Conclusion: What Does All That Mean to Us as Marketers?We just spent an entire article being empathetic to the “beast.”
Understanding, credibility, and deliverability are all things we can help Google with, but what is your perspective?
Let’s flip this over.
You need to:
Communicate what solutions you offer in as much detail as possible.Convince that you will satisfy Google’s user.Format your content must be in the format that is relevant to the context of the user.ADVERTISEMENT
CONTINUE READING BELOWSo, bringing the best solution to Google’s user’s problem is one thing.
Ensuring that Google understands:
What your solution is.That you are the best provider when compared to all equivalent solutions.That the format is the most appropriate for its user in their context.That is the key to SEO.
SEO Fundamentals: Your Guide to SEO Success FactorsSEO for Beginners: An Introduction to SEO BasicsA Complete Guide to SEO: What You Need to KnowRead the Next ArticleHow to Calculate ROI for SEO When Targeting a Set of KeywordsThis six-step guide will help you set up a spreadsheet where you can calculate your ROI for SEO based on keyword volume data.
ADVERTISEMENTCalculating ROI for SEO is one of the biggest struggles most SEO professionals face.
SEO pros have the benefit of keyword volume data that provides insight into what people are interested in (data that other channels may not have).
But being able to understand what the lift would be if you make changes for SEO can be a bit of a conundrum.
CONTINUE READING BELOWIn this article, I will walk you through how I have perfected the art of estimating lift for SEO.
Note: I will be using my own WordPress site that I developed to help visitors and residents of the island I live on. It’s a site I use to test out SEO ideas on, and a good use for examples in this article.
How to Calculate ROI for SEO From Keywords You’re TargetingThe foundation for most SEO work begins with a keyword analysis.
Google, and most SEO tools, provide data around how often users are searching for specific terms.
This data is used most often for paid search to estimate the performance of ads, but SEO professionals will tend to use this data to help them identify where the opportunities lie.
ADVERTISEMENTCONTINUE READING BELOW1. Complete a Keyword AnalysisGather your keyword estimates from your keyword analysis.
You can use Google’s Keyword Planner if you have a Google Ads account, or there are many free or paid tools that use the same data you find in Keyword Planner.
Basically, all you need are the words you want to target with their estimated search volume data.
Your data should look something like this:
Keyword Planner Keywords and Volume
2. Download All of Your Keyword DataWhen you know what terms you are going to target for a project, the next step is to calculate what the difference would be from your current performance against what your estimated lift is.
ADVERTISEMENTCONTINUE READING BELOWLet’s say I want to do a project to target terms that contain “Vashon” (which the site already ranks for) or “things to do” type of terms for the island, and maybe try for additional searches for islands and places to visit around Seattle (since this island is just a ferry ride away from West Seattle).
I want to compare this list of terms and estimated volume with what we are currently ranking for.
Ideally, I want to see current impressions, clicks, click-through rate (CTR), and average position as reported in Google Search Console.
The trick is getting 12 months of data for all keywords to get to that ROI for SEO.
Unfortunately, Google limits the data for keywords and pages to under 1,000.
ADVERTISEMENTCONTINUE READING BELOWA workaround for this is to use a tool that can access all of your keywords and allow you to download this data.
SEMrush, BrightEdge, Conductor, and other tools that require payment will provide you with that data.
However, if you have a limited budget, or want to just download your keywords, you can use a free trial of Keylime Toolbox.
I highly recommend using Keylime Toolbox to store your keyword data, and some of their premium features come in pretty handy.
For this exercise, I’ll walk you through how to set up a free account and collect your data.
ADVERTISEMENTCONTINUE READING BELOWStart by selecting the “Free Trial” link in the top navigation
Set up contact information and then add your properties.
If you “Sign in with Google” using the same account that you manage your Google Search Console under, then the system will automatically recognize your GSC properties.
Keylime Toolbox Registration
You’ll need to add email@example.com as a new user to your GSC (make sure you set it as “Restricted”).
GSC Add User
ADVERTISEMENTCONTINUE READING BELOWThen select which Google Analytics property your website is under and allow Keylime Toolbox to authorize the user.
Keylime takes a day or two to populate your account with all of the data, so be prepared to wait a bit for the next step.
3. Calculate Current CTR per Average PositionOnce you have all of your keyword data populated in Keylime Toolbox, you’ll want to download 12 months’ worth of all of your keywords and data into a CSV.
I like to copy and paste the data into Google Sheets so that I can share it with my team easily, but you can use Microsoft Excel as well.
ADVERTISEMENTCONTINUE READING BELOWThe data that is most important for the purpose of this exercise is the click-through rate (CTR) and the Position (average ranking position).
Download of all Keyword data from Keylime Toolbox
Next, we are going to set up a sheet that holds the average CTR based on the average position using the “AVERAGEIFS” formula to lookup the position and average out the CTR across all of the keywords.
It should look something like this:
Keyword data CTR based on average position formula
When targeting a specific set of terms (for example branded terms) I like to break out the average CTR by position for those terms.
ADVERTISEMENTCONTINUE READING BELOWBy using the “AVERAGEIFS” formula, we can focus on the average CTR for the specific position for any term including “vashon”, or “things to do.”
CTR data based on avg position and terms
This is particularly helpful because branded CTRs tend to be higher than non-branded searches for most organizations.
4. Identify Keyword Gaps & OpportunitiesNow that we have our identified keyword opportunities from our Keyword Analysis, we need to see:
Which keywords we currently rank for.Where we rank.How many impressions we’re seeing.What the CTR is.And ultimately how many clicks.ADVERTISEMENTCONTINUE READING BELOWUsing the same Google Sheet set up with the current Keywords data (export from Keylime Toolbox), CTR data that we calculated (in separate tabs).
We’re going to use the tab that has our Keyword Analysis (keywords and volume) in a new tab (I called it “Keywords to Target” in my example here).
In the columns next to “Volume,” I added the current clicks, impressions, CTR, and average position.
Using the SUMIF and AVERAGEIF formulas I set up a lookup for each term to get a view into how each term is currently performing.
Keyword gap analysis
ADVERTISEMENTCONTINUE READING BELOWNote that this should all be average per month numbers from 12 months of data.
So your totals for impressions when in the first few positions should round up/down to match the “volume” numbers.Keyword impressions match volume for 12 months of data
5. Summarize Your KeywordsWhen my keyword analysis brings back a long list of keywords to target, I like to set up a “Summary” tab using “SUMIF” and “AVERAGEIF” formulas to get a high-level view into where opportunities will be.
Using SUMIF to sum cells with specific text
ADVERTISEMENTCONTINUE READING BELOWNotice how there are no impressions, clicks, and other data for keywords around “Seattle?”
Those are the opportunity terms that I would like to target for a new project.
Now that I see we don’t have current data, I need to calculate what our potential clicks could be.
This is where the average click-through rate data we collected will come in handy.
6. Estimate Clicks From Volume DataWe know what the estimated impressions will be (from our Keyword Analysis using “volume” data), so we will use the “SUMIF” formula to calculate the “estimated impressions.”
Using SUMIF to lookup keyword impressions
ADVERTISEMENTCONTINUE READING BELOWThe rest of the data here is where we need to reverse our calculations.
Basically using a proposed average position to estimate CTR data to then calculate what our estimated clicks would be.
However, we don’t know what the average position is currently. This is where we need to use our best judgment on where we think we can rank for these terms.
In this case, the terms I want to target don’t have a lot of competition, and the domain authority of the site I am working on is pretty strong for local searches, so I think I can realistically obtain the third position for these terms.
Estimating the average position when calculating ROI for SEO
ADVERTISEMENTCONTINUE READING BELOWIn our Average CTRs data, the 3rd position usually sees a 6.7% CTR.
Average CTR for 3rd position SEO
Using the “AVERAGEIF” formula, we’ll look up what the average click-through rate is for the 3rd position.using AVERAGEIF formula to lookup CTR for average position.
By using the formula here (instead of just typing it in, or using a VLOOKUP) we’re making this sheet easy to change later on for future estimates.
ADVERTISEMENTCONTINUE READING BELOWIf I want to see what the estimated clicks would be for a 2nd position or maybe a lower position like 5th, then I just change the “3” to a “2” or “5” and the numbers will automatically update.
Now, all we need to do is multiply our impressions by our estimated CTR to get the estimated clicks for our particular project.
Estimating ROI calculating clicks from estimated CTR
Remember that these estimates are for average per month for a 12-month period, so if you want to do some additional calculation for a quarter you would just multiply that by 3 (for the three months in the quarter) and by 12 for a total yearly estimate.
ADVERTISEMENTCONTINUE READING BELOWIf you know what your average conversion rate and revenue per conversion are you can use those numbers to estimate revenue for the project you want to do.
For work you want to do to improve on terms you already rank for (a.k.a., “low-hanging fruit”) you can enter in the position you think you will be able to obtain and use the same calculations.
(See above example where I entered “5” for the estimated average position for “vashon” terms which would then see a potential increase in clicks.)
SummaryIt takes a bit of time to get these numbers together.
ADVERTISEMENTCONTINUE READING BELOWBut setting up a sheet to work off of with your current CTR data based on average position will help you in calculating your estimates for just about any project for SEO.
I saved the Google Sheet I used to create these screenshots.
You can save it as your own and play around with the data, or enter your own data and calculate your ROI for SEO.
How to Calculate the ROI of Your SEO Campaigns Using Google AnalyticsMeasuring SEO Value Beyond Rank & File: How to Attribute Content ValueA Complete Guide to SEO