How to use SEO tools for Website

what is competitive link analysis and search engine optimization (seo) and marketing tools and seo tools keyword suggestions for google and what seo tools do you use
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Published Date:04-08-2017
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SEO Education and Research Learning everything you need to know about SEO in order to be effective today, and in the months and years to come, is a difficult process that is made even more chal- lenging and complex by the constant evolution of web technologies, search engines, searcher behavior, and the landscape of the Web. Fortunately, many resources that make the job easier are available online. Leading SEO pros regularly post their thoughts on social media, blogs, and forums, and many speak at various industry conferences. These platforms create numerous opportunities to interact with folks doing SEO at a high level, to learn from their experience, and to keep your optimization skills sharp and up to date. In this chapter, we will talk about how you can leverage the many resources available to be more successful in your SEO efforts today and in the future. SEO Research and Search Performance Analysis It should be fairly evident to you at this stage that SEO is always evolving. Search engines are constantly changing their algorithms (Penguin, Panda, Hummingbird, oh my), and new media and technologies are being introduced to the Web on a regular basis. Staying current requires an ongoing commitment to research, study, and partici- pate in the process of SEO. SEO Resources One of the easiest ways to research what is happening in the world of SEO is to study the websites and periodicals that cover SEO in detail. Simultaneously, ongoing testing of your (and others’) SEO hypotheses should also play a major role in your day-to-day work if you hope to be, and remain, competitive. 827Websites A large number of online sites cover the search marketing space. Here is a short list of some of the better-known ones: • Search Engine Land, owned and operated by Third Door Media • Search Engine Journal, owned and operated by Alpha Brand Media • Search Engine Watch, owned and operated by Incisive Media • Moz, owned and operated by SEOMoz, Inc. Each of these sites publishes columns on a daily basis, usually with multiple posts per day. The columns are typically written by industry experts who have been chosen for their ability to communicate information of value to their reader bases. Moz.com also provides a wide range of tools and resources for SEO practitioners. Commentary from search engine employees Search engine representatives sometimes actively participate in forums, or publish blog posts and/or videos designed for webmasters. The main blogs for the two major search engines at the time of this writing are: • Google Webmaster Central Blog • Bing Search Blog The search engines use these blogs to communicate official policy, announce new products or services, and provide webmasters with useful tips. You can reach Google personnel via the Google Webmaster Help group in Google Groups. Members of the Google webspam team are active in this group, answering questions and even starting their own new threads from time to time. Google’s YouTube channel also holds weekly Hangouts Office Hours, where people around the world can ask questions directly to Googlers. You will also find helpful advice via the Google Webmasters YouTube channel. You can also interact with search engine representatives in various forums, such as WebmasterWorld, and in social media, often via their individual Twitter accounts. We will discuss the value of forums in more detail in “The SEO Industry on the Web” on page 857. Interpreting commentary Search engine representatives are “managed” by their corporate communications departments, and some aren’t even allowed to go on the record with statements about how their search engines function. A rare few search engine reps have free reign (e.g., CHAPTER THIRTEEN: SEO EDUCATION AND RESEARCH 828Google’s Gary Illyes). Often they can’t be very specific or they can’t answer questions at all. The algorithms the search engines use are highly proprietary, and they need to be guarded as extremely valuable business assets. This means there are certain types of questions they won’t answer, such as “What do I have to do to move from position 3 to position 1 on a particular search?” or “How come this spammy site ranks so much higher than mine?” In addition, the search engines have their own motives and goals. They will want to reduce the amount of spam in their search indexes and on the Web overall (which is a good thing), but this may lead them to take positions on certain topics based on those goals. As an example, Google does not outline its specific methods for detecting paid links, but it has made clear that its ability to detect them has increased tremendously—and the updates to the Penguin algorithm over the past couple of years certainly prove it. Taking this position is, in itself, a spam-fighting tactic, as it may discourage people from buying links who otherwise might have chosen to do so. In spite of these limitations, you can gather a lot of useful data from interacting with search engine representatives. SEO Testing SEO is both an art and a science. As with any scientific discipline, it requires rigorous testing of hypotheses. The results need to be reproducible, and you have to take an experimental approach so as not to modify too many variables at once. Otherwise, you will not be able to tell which changes were responsible for specific results. And although you can gain a tremendous amount of knowledge of SEO best practices, latest trends, and tactics online, it is hard to separate the wheat from the chaff and to know with any degree of certainty that an SEO-related tactic will provide benefit. That’s where the testing of your SEO efforts comes in: to prove what works and what doesn’t. Unlike multivariate testing for optimizing conversion rates, where many experiments can be run in parallel, SEO testing requires a serial approach. Everything must filter through the search engines before the impact can be gauged. This is made more diffi- cult by the fact that there’s a lag between when you make the changes and when the revised pages are spidered, and another lag before the spidered content makes it into the index and onto the search engine results pages (SERPs). On top of that, the results delivered depend on various user-specific pieces of information, including the user’s search history and location, the Google data center accessed, and other variables that you cannot hold constant. SEO RESEARCH AND SEARCH PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS 829Sample experimental approach Let’s imagine you have a product page with high SERP exposure in Google for a spe- cific search term, and you want to improve the positioning and resultant traffic even further. Rather than applying a number of different SEO tactics at once, start testing specific tactics one at a time: 1. Modify just the HTML title tag and see what happens. Depending on your site’s crawl frequency, you will need a few days to a few weeks to give Google and Bing enough time to recognize what you have done, and respond. 2. Continue making further revisions to the HTML title tag in multiple iterations until your search engine results show that the tag truly is optimal. 3. Move on to your heading tag, tweaking it and nothing else. 4. Watch what happens. Optimize it in multiple iterations. 5. Move on to the intro copy, then the breadcrumb navigation, and so on. You can test many different elements in this scenario, such as: • HTML title tag • Headline tags (h1, h2, h3, ...) • Placement of body copy in the HTML • Presence of keywords in the body copy • Keyword prominence • Keyword repetition • Anchor text of internal links to that page • Anchor text of inbound links to that page from sites over which you have influence Testing should be iterative and ongoing, not just a “one-off” in which you give it your best shot and never revisit the issue. If you’re testing title tags, continue trying dif- ferent things to see what works best. Shorten them; lengthen them; move words around; substitute words with synonyms. If all else fails, you can always put a title tag back the way it was. When doing iterative testing, do what you can to speed up the spidering and indexa- tion so that you don’t have to wait so long between iterations to see the impact. For example, you can flow more link authority to the pages you want to test. That means linking to them from higher in the site tree (e.g., from the home page). Be sure to do this for a while before forming your baseline, though, because you will want the CHAPTER THIRTEEN: SEO EDUCATION AND RESEARCH 830impact of changing the internal links to show in the search engines before you initiate your test (to prevent the two changes from interacting). Alternatively, you can use the XML Sitemaps protocol to set a priority for each page, from 0.0 to 1.0. Dial up the priority to 1.0 to increase the frequency with which your test pages will be spidered. NOTE Don’t make the mistake of setting all your pages to 1.0; if you do, none of your pages will be differentiated from each other in priority, and thus none will get pref- erential treatment from Googlebot. Throughout your SEO efforts, always remember that geolocation and personalization factors mean that not every searcher is seeing the same search results; therefore, you shouldn’t rely solely on specific rankings as the bellwether for the impact of your SEO tactics. Other useful SEO metrics As we discussed in Chapter 9, there are many other meaningful SEO metrics, including: • Organic traffic to the page • Search engine spider activity • Search terms driving traffic per page (to the extent you can determine keyword referrer data) • Number and percentage of URLs yielding search traffic • Searchers delivered per search term (again, Google’s blocking of keyword referrer data can make this difficult) • Ratio of branded to nonbranded search terms • Unique pages spidered • Unique pages indexed • Ratio of pages spidered to pages indexed • Conversion rates An effective testing regimen also requires a platform that is conducive to your per- forming rapid-fire iterative tests, in which each test can be associated with reporting based on these new metrics. Such a platform comes in very handy with experiments that are difficult to conduct under normal circumstances. SEO RESEARCH AND SEARCH PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS 831Testing a category name revision applied sitewide is harder than, say, testing a title tag revision applied to a single page. Consider a scenario in which you’re asked to make a business case for changing the category name “kitchen electrics” to the more targeted, search engine–optimal “kitchen small appliances” or “small kitchen applian- ces.” Conducting the test to quantify the value would require applying the change to every occurrence of “kitchen electrics” across the website—a tall order indeed, unless you can conduct the test as a simple search-and-replace operation, which you can do by applying it through a proxy server platform. By acting as a middleman between the web server and the spider, a proxy server can facilitate useful tests that normally would be invasive on the ecommerce platform and time-intensive for the IT team to implement. NOTE During the proxying process, you can replace not only words, but also HTML, site navigation elements, Flash, JavaScript, iframes, and even HTTP headers—almost anything, in fact. You also can do some worthwhile side-by-side comparison tests: a champion/challenger sort of model that compares the proxy site to the native website. Start with a hypothesis A sound experiment always starts with a hypothesis. For example, if a page isn’t per- forming well in the SERPs and it’s an important product category for you, you might hypothesize that it’s underperforming because it’s not well linked-to from within your site. Or you may conclude that the page isn’t ranking well because it is targeting unpopular keywords, or because it doesn’t have enough copy. In the case of the first hypothesis, you could try these steps to test your theory: 1. Add a link to that page on your site’s home page. 2. Measure the effect, waiting at least a few weeks for the impact of the test to be reflected in the rankings. 3. If the rankings don’t improve, formulate another hypothesis and conduct another test. Granted, this can be a slow process if you have to wait a month for the impact of each test to be revealed, but in SEO, patience is a virtue. Reacting too soon to changes you see (or don’t see) in the SERPs can lead you to false conclusions. You also need to remember that the search engines may be making changes in their algorithms at the same time, and your competitors may also be making SEO changes simultaneously. In other words, be aware that the testing environment is more dynamic than one using a strict scientific method with controls. CHAPTER THIRTEEN: SEO EDUCATION AND RESEARCH 832Analysis of Top-Ranking Sites and Pages There are many reasons to analyze top-ranking sites, and particularly those that rank at the top in your market space. They may be your competitors’ sites—which is reason enough to explore them—but even if they are not, it can be very helpful to under- stand the types of things these sites are doing and how those things may have helped them get their top rankings. With this information in hand, you will be better informed as you decide how to put together the strategy for your site. Let’s start by reviewing a number of metrics of interest and how to get them: 1. Start with a simple business analysis to see how a particular company’s business overlaps with yours and with other top-ranking businesses in your market space. It is good to know who is competing directly and who is competing only indirectly. 2. Find out when the website was launched. This can be helpful in evaluating the site’s momentum. Determining the domain age is easy; you can do it by checking the domain’s whois records. Obtaining the age of the site, however, can be trickier. You can use the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine to get an idea of when a site was launched (or at least when it had enough exposure that the Internet Archive started tracking it). 3. Determine the number of Google results for a search for the site’s domain name (including the extension) for the past six months, excluding the domain itself. To get this information, search for theirdomain.com -site:theirdomain.com in Goo- gle. Then append &as_qdr=m6 to the end of the results page URL and reload the page (note this only works with Google Instant). 4. Find out from Google Blog Search how many posts have appeared about the site in the past month. To do this, search for the domain in Google Blog Search, then append &as_qdr=m1 to the end of the results page URL and reload the page. 5. Obtain the PageRank of the domain’s home page as reported by the Google tool- bar or a third-party tool. 6. Use an industrial-strength tool such as Moz’s Open Site Explorer, Majestic SEO, or LinkResearchTools to analyze backlink profiles. These tools provide a rich set of link data based on their own crawl of the Web, including additional critical details such as the anchor text of the links. 7. If you are able to access a paid service such as Experian’s Hitwise or comScore, you can pull a rich set of additional data, breaking out the site’s traffic by source (e.g., organic versus paid versus direct traffic versus other referrers). You can also pull information on their highest-volume search terms for both paid and organic search. SEO RESEARCH AND SEARCH PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS 8338. Determine the number of indexed pages in each of the two major search engines, using site:theirdomain.com. 9. Search on the company brand name at Google, restricted to the past six months (by appending &as_qdr=m6 to the results page URL, as outlined earlier). 10. Repeat the preceding step, but for only the past three months (using &as_qdr=m3). 11. Perform a Google Blog Search for the brand name using the default settings (no time frame). 12. Repeat the preceding step, but limit it to blog posts from the past month (using &as_qdr=m1). Of course, this is a pretty extensive analysis to perform, but it’s certainly worthwhile for the few sites that are the most important ones in your space. You might want to pick a subset of other related sites as well. NOTE As valuable as website metrics are, brand names can sometimes provide even more insight. After all, not everyone is going to use the domain name when talking about a particular brand, nor will they all link. Thus, looking at brand mentions over the past few months can provide valuable data. Analysis of Algorithmic Differentiation Across Engines and Search Types Each search engine makes use of its own proprietary algorithms to crawl and index the Web. Although many of the basic elements are the same (such as links being used as votes), there are significant differences among the different engines. Here are some examples of elements that can vary in on-page SEO analysis: • Role of user engagement measurements • Strategies for measuring content quality • Strength of social media signals • Weight of title tags • Weight of heading tags • Weight placed on synonyms • Value of internal link anchor text • How internal links are weighted as votes for a page • Duplicate content filtering methods CHAPTER THIRTEEN: SEO EDUCATION AND RESEARCH 834Similarly, there are many different ways a search engine can tune its algorithm for evaluating links, including: • Percentage of a page’s link authority that it can use to vote for other pages • Weight of anchor text • Weight of text near the anchor text • Weight of overall linking page relevance • Weight of overall relevance of the site with the linking page • Factoring in placement of the link on the page • Precise treatment of nofollow • Other reasons for discounting a link (paid, not relevant, etc.) A detailed understanding of the specifics of a search engine’s ranking system, at least to the point of exact and sustained manipulation, is not possible. However, with deter- mination you can uncover various aspects of how the search engines differ. One tactic for researching search engine differences is to conduct some comparative searches across the engines. For example, when we searched on folding glass doors in Google and Bing, we obtained the results outlined in Table 13-1. (Note that these search results differ daily by search engine, so the results you may see today will likely differ from what we saw at the time we conducted this search; the results also vary by searcher location.) Table 13-1. Comparison of top five results for “folding glass doors” in Google and Bing Google Bing http://www.nanawall.com/... http://www.solarinnovations.com/... http://www.jeld-wen.com/... http://www.lacantinadoors.com/... http://www.milgard.com/... http://www.jeld-wen.com/... https://www.marvin.com/... http://www.andersenwindows.com/... http://www.solarinnovations.com/... http://www.panorammicdoors.com/... There are some pretty significant differences here. For example, the search engines have only two sites in common (http://www.jeld-wen.com/ and http://www.solarinnova tions.com/). You can conduct some detailed analysis to try to identify possible factors contributing to http://www.lacantinadoors.com showing up in Bing, but not in Google. At the most basic level, your analysis of competing websites may indicate that Google appears to be weighting HTML title tags more heavily, whereas Bing seems to place greater value on keywords in the domain name. These are, of course, hypothetical examples of how you can begin to analyze SERPs across different engines for the same SEO RESEARCH AND SEARCH PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS 835query to find differentiators across the search algorithms. However, there is a very large number of variables, so while you will be able to form theories, there is no way to ever truly be certain Herein lies one of the persistent challenges of SEO. The Importance of Experience There are some commonly perceived differences among the search engines. For exam- ple, Google is still believed to place greater weight on link analysis than Bing (note that link analysis is very important to both engines). As we discussed in the second edition of this book, Google had fallen prey to much text-link forum/blog/article com- ment spam, with sites exploiting this tactic for higher organic positioning, and we expressed our hope that Google would improve its policing on that front. By the end of 2013, with various updates to its Penguin algorithm, Google had done just that by aggressively penalizing sites with low-quality, mostly paid, and often keyword-stuffed text links. There are also institutional biases to consider. Given its huge search market share, Google has the richest array of actual search data. The nature of the data that the dif- ferent engines have available to them can be influencing factors in how they make their decisions. Over time and with experience, you can develop a sixth sense for the SERPs so that when you look at a set of search results you will have a good grasp of the key factors in play without having to analyze dozens of them. A seasoned SEO pro, when approaching a new project, will often be able to see important elements and factors that someone who is just starting out will not be able to pick up on. This kind of expertise is similar to that of a seasoned auto mechanic who can put an ear to an engine and tell you what’s wrong—that kind of knowledge doesn’t come from a blog or a book, but from years of trial and error working on many different engines. So while this book is a great resource that can help you get started, remember that actually doing SEO is the only way to build your abilities. Competitive Analysis Everything we discussed previously regarding analyzing top sites applies to analyzing competitors as well. In this section, we’ll cover some additional analysis methods that can help you gain a thorough understanding of how your competitors in search are implementing their SEO strategies. Content Analysis When examining a competing website, ask yourself the following questions: CHAPTER THIRTEEN: SEO EDUCATION AND RESEARCH 836• What types of content are currently on the site, and how much content is there? Are there articles? Videos? Images? Music? News feeds? Answering these ques- tions will tell you a lot of things, including how your competitors view their cus- tomers and how they use content to get links. For example, they may have a ser- ies of how-to articles related to their products, or a blog, or some nifty free tools that users may like. If they do have a blog, develop a sense of what they write about. Also, see whether the content they are developing is noncommercial or simply a thinly disguised ad. • How rapidly is that content changing? Publishers with rapidly changing websites are actively investing in their websites, whereas those who are not adding new articles or updating content may not be. • Are they collecting user-generated content? Sites that gather a meaningful amount of user-generated content tend to have an engaged user audience. • Are they trying to generate sign-ups or conversions in a direct way with their con- tent? Or is the content more editorial in its tone and structure? This can give you more insight into the way their marketing and SEO strategies are put together. Internal Link Structure and Site Architecture The organization and internal linking structure of your competitors’ sites can indicate their priorities. Content linked to from the home page is typically important. For example, the great majority of websites have a hierarchy in which the major subsec- tions of the site are linked to from the home page, and perhaps also from global navi- gation that appears on all or most of the pages on the site. But what else is linked to from the home page? If the competitor is SEO-savvy, this could be a clue to something that she is focusing on. Alternatively, she may have dis- covered that traffic to a given piece of content has a high conversion rate. Either way, these types of information can be helpful in understanding a competitor’s strengths and weaknesses. External Link Attraction Analysis You can extract a tremendous amount of information via link analysis. A thorough review involves looking at both anchor text and link authority, and requires an advanced tool such as Open Site Explorer, Majestic SEO, and LinkResearchTools. Blekko also provides some useful SEO tools, as do SEMrush and Searchmetrics. Conducting an external link analysis of your competitors allows you to do many things: COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS 837Dig deeper What pages on the site are attracting the most links? These are likely the most important pages on the site, particularly if those pages also rank well for competi- tive search terms. Determine where their content is getting its links This can help you develop your own content and link development strategies. Analyze anchor text Do they have an unusually large number of people linking to them using highly optimized anchor text? If so, this could be a clue that they are engaged in broad- scale link spam, such as paid article/blog commenting strictly for text-rich key- word linking. If your analysis shows that they are not buying links, take a deeper look to see how they are getting optimized anchor text. Determine whether they build manual links Manual links come in many forms, so look to see whether your competitors appear in lots of directories, or whether they are exchanging a lot of links. Determine whether they are using a direct or indirect approach Try to see whether they are using indirect approaches such as PR or social media campaigns to build links. Some sites do well building their businesses just through basic PR. If there are no signs that your competitors are doing a significant amount of PR or social media–based link building, it could mean they are aggres- sively reaching out to potential linkers by contacting them directly. If they are using social media campaigns, try to figure out what content is working for them and what content is not. Determine whether they are engaging in incentive-based link building Are they offering incentives in return for links, such as award programs or mem- bership badges? Do those programs appear to be successful? Determine their overall link-building focus Break down the data some more and see whether you can determine where they are focusing their link-building efforts. Are they promoting viral videos or imple- menting a news feed and reaching influencers through Google News and Bing News? What Is Their SEO Strategy? Wrap up your competitive analysis by figuring out what your competitors’ SEO strate- gies are. First, do they appear to be SEO-savvy? If they’re not well versed and up to date with SEO, you may identify the following site characteristics: CHAPTER THIRTEEN: SEO EDUCATION AND RESEARCH 838• Poorly optimized anchor text (if the majority of the site’s in-content links say “Read more” or “Click here,” it is possible there is no extensive SEO expertise behind the scenes; research further). • Content buried many levels deep. As you know from Chapter 6, flat site architec- ture is a must in SEO. • Critical content made inaccessible to spiders, such as content behind forms or con- tent that can be reached only through JavaScript. In general, if you see sites with obvious errors that do not follow best or even good practices, the business is either not very SEO-savvy or is continuing to employ devel- opers and use platforms that do not enable it to implement effective, SEO-friendly site development. These competitors may still be dangerous if they have a very strong brand, so you can’t ignore them. In addition, they can fix a lack of SEO expertise by simply hiring a smart SEO expert and getting key stakeholder buy-in to make needed changes. If, however, you are looking at a competitor who is very strong on the SEO front, you will want to pay even closer attention to their efforts. Competitive Analysis Summary If your competitors are implementing a strategy and it is working for them, consider using it as an effective model for your own efforts. Or, simply choose to focus on an area that appears to be a weak spot in their strategy, and/or one that leverages your current resources most effectively. For example, if your competitor is not focusing on a segment of the market that has the potential to provide quality links through content development efforts, you can stake out that portion of the market first to gain a competitive edge. In addition, if your competitors have previously bought or are still buying links, reporting them to the search engines is an option—but this is a decision you will have to make in consideration of your organization’s business ethics. Their spam tactics will eventually be discovered, so it is just as well to focus your energies on building your own business. Ultimately, you need to make some decisions about your own SEO strategy, and hav- ing a detailed understanding of what your competitors are doing can be invaluable in that process. Using Competitive Link Analysis Tools It can be frustrating to see competitors shoot ahead in the rankings and have no idea how they’ve achieved their success. The link analysis tools we have mentioned can COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS 839help you reverse-engineer their tactics by letting you quickly sort through the links pointing to a given site/page. For example, if you were curious about how GoAnimate, a site providing business video creation tools, had earned its links, you could peek inside an advanced Open Site Explorer report and see that, according to Moz, there are 14,624 links to the domain from 2,332 domains, as shown in Figure 13-1. Figure 13-1. Exploring your competitor’s inbound links Looking at the data in Figure 13-1, you can see links that appear to come from content on the GoAnimate YouTube channel, as well as from tech article websites like Mashable.com. This type of information will help your organization understand what the competition is up to. If your competitors have great viral content, you can attempt to mimic or outdo their efforts. And if they’ve simply got a small, natural backlink profile, you can be more aggressive with content strategies and direct link requests to overcome their lead. It’s always an excellent idea to be prepared, and the ability to sort and filter out nofollows and inter- nal links and see where good anchor text and link authority flow from makes this pro- cess much more accessible than it is with other, less granular or expansive tools. CHAPTER THIRTEEN: SEO EDUCATION AND RESEARCH 840Competitive Analysis for Those with a Big Budget In Chapter 5, we introduced you to Experian’s Hitwise, an “online competitive intelli- gence service” with a price tag that runs into the tens of thousands of dollars. If you have a big budget, there are four more expensive packages you might want to con- sider: RioSEO, Conductor, Searchmetrics, and seoClarity. These are powerful enterprise-grade SEO assessment and competitive analysis solutions that grade your website in a number of areas and compare it side-by-side to your competitors and their scores. Using Search Engine–Supplied SEO Tools Google and Bing both make an active effort to communicate with webmasters and publishers and provide some very useful tools for SEO professionals, and it is impera- tive that you verify your site(s) with these tools to take advantage of them. Search Engine Tools for Webmasters Although we have referred to the tools provided for webmasters by Google and Bing throughout the book, it is worth going into these in greater depth. Using search engine–provided tools is a great way to see how the search engines perceive your site. Setting up and using a Google Search Console or Bing Webmaster Tools account pro- vides no new information about your site to the search engines, with the exception of any information you submit to them via the tools, and the basic fact that you, the site owner, have an interest in the very SEO-specific data and functionality they provide. You can create an account with either Google or Bing to access these tools quite easily. An important part of creating these accounts is verifying your ownership of the site. Google provides you with the following options to verify your site: • Add a meta tag to your home page (proving that you have access to the source files). To use this method, you must be able to edit the HTML code of your site’s pages. • Upload an HTML file with the name Google specifies to your server. To use this method, you must be able to upload new files to your server. • Verify via your domain name provider. To use this method, you must be able to sign in to your domain name provider (for example, GoDaddy or Network Solu- tions) or hosting provider and add a new DNS record. • Add the Google Analytics code you use to track your site. To use this option, you must be an administrator on the Google Analytics account, and the tracking code must use the asynchronous snippet. USING SEARCH ENGINE–SUPPLIED SEO TOOLS 841Bing provides the following options to verify your site with its Webmaster Tools (http:// bit.ly/verify_ownership): XML file authentication Click BingSiteAuth.xml to save the custom XML file, which contains your custom- ized ownership verification code, to your computer, and then upload the file to the root directory of the registered site. Meta tag authentication Copy the displayed meta tag with your custom ownership verification code to the clipboard. Then open your registered site’s default page in your web develop- ment environment editor and paste the code at the end of the head section. Make sure the head section is followed by a body tag. Lastly, upload the revised default page file containing the new meta tag to your site. CNAME record authentication This option requires access to your domain hosting account. Inside that account you would edit the CNAME record to hold the verification code (series of num- bers and letters) Bing has provided you. When complete, you can verify your ownership of the site. The intent of these tools is to provide publishers with data on how the search engines view their sites. This is incredibly valuable data that publishers can use to diagnose site problems. We recommend that all publishers leverage both of these tools on all of their websites. In the following sections, we will take a look at both of these products in more detail. Google Search Console Figure 13-2 shows the type of data you get just by looking at the opening screen once you log in to Google Search Console. CHAPTER THIRTEEN: SEO EDUCATION AND RESEARCH 842Figure 13-2. Google Search Console opening screen Google updated its Search Console offering to provide additional information it main- tains about your site, including Search Appearance. Figure 13-3 shows Google’s Search Appearance Overview (which you can reach by clicking on the i in the grey circle next to Search Appearance), which brings users to an interactive overlay with links to information and instructions for specific components relevant to this section. USING SEARCH ENGINE–SUPPLIED SEO TOOLS 843Figure 13-3. Google Search Appearance Overview Search Appearance also gives you an inside look at potential problems with your meta description tags and your title tags, as shown in Figure 13-4. You should investigate all meta description and title tag issues to see whether there are problems that can be resolved. They may be indicating duplicate content, or pages that have different content but the same title tag. Because the HTML title tag is a strong SEO signal, this is something that you should address by implementing a tag that more uniquely describes the content of the page. You can find valuable data in each of the report sections. Another valuable section, called “Search Traffic,” shows Google search query, impres- sion, and click data for your website (Figure 13-5). CHAPTER THIRTEEN: SEO EDUCATION AND RESEARCH 844Figure 13-4. Google Search Console HTML Improvements report Figure 13-5. Google Search Console top search queries report Figure 13-5 shows Google’s view of which search queries the site is showing up for most often in the SERPs, how many impressions the site is receiving for each query, USING SEARCH ENGINE–SUPPLIED SEO TOOLS 845and how many clicks come from these impressions. You can also see data from Google regarding what the site’s average position in the SERPs was during the selected period for each of the search terms listed. Note that this data is pretty limited, and most pub- lishers will be able to get better data on their search queries from web analytics soft- ware. Another valuable reporting area in Search Console is the Crawl section (Figure 13-6), which enables webmasters to look at Google’s findings based on its crawling activities of the site’s URLs and robots.txt file. The charts in Figure 13-6 look normal and healthy for the site. However, if you see a sudden dip that sustains itself, it could be a flag that there is a problem. The Crawl Errors report (Figure 13-7) is an incredibly valuable tool to identify and diagnose various site issues, from DNS resolution and server down time (Site Errors) to robots.txt and URL accessibility (URL Errors). Figure 13-8 shows another diagnostic data point available in the Crawl section of Goo- gle Search Console: Blocked URLs. It is common to find blocked URLs in your Search Console account. They can occur when sites mistakenly restrict access to URLs in their robots.txt file; when that happens, this report can be a godsend. The report flags pages it finds that are referenced on the Web but that Googlebot is not allowed to crawl. Other times, blocking specific URLs is intentional, in which case there is no problem. But when your intention was not to block crawler access to your pages, this report can alert you to the problem and the need to fix it. Another important diagnostic tactic is to look at Google’s handling of your sitemap file from within the Crawl section, as shown in Figure 13-9. CHAPTER THIRTEEN: SEO EDUCATION AND RESEARCH 846

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