Easy guide to Keyword Research

Keyword research sounds like such a daunting task. What’s the point of researching a keyword anyway? Shouldn’t your natural marketing instincts tell you which keywords are most relevant to your business. Not quite… Without quality keywords, found through effective keyword research, your search marketing campaigns (paid AND organic) will be completely misguided. If people aren’t…

via The Big, Easy Guide to Keyword Research for Businesses — Wordstream Blog Feed

If you have heard about Unicorns and Start-ups, then you probably would know of Larry Kim and Wordstream.

Linked the above post on why is Keyword Research important and how can a business go about doing keyword research both from a Search Campaign point of view and from a Content Marketing point of view.

If you are concerned with search, then this is a must read.

Data anomalies in Search Console

In the past 5-6 years or so, a lot of online businesses, especially the ones who are hungry for growth have relied on organic traffic as one of their key sources. Now growth could mean an increase in pure numbers (traffic, sessions, users) … or it could mean an increase in more tangible business parameters (revenues, profits). One of the things that I have learnt is that depending on which success metrics we chase, our own identity undergoes a shift.

Search as a major source of traffic

The major contributors to organic traffic are search and social. Wherever there is a site which has great and unique content by the loads, there is a chance for driving organic traffic.

At different points in time, I have been skeptical about Social Media and me-too posting that most brand pages do on platforms such as Facebook. However, Search for me has always been fascinating and I still have faith in Search :).

SEO can’t be a method

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has evolved over a period of time and I have blogged about it on multiple occasions. Unfortunately, the number of times the algorithm changes and the rate of evolution of what Google (the market leader in this space) construes as quality content ensures that you can’t have a steady SEO “process”.

Having said that, SEO involves a fair amount of design thinking.

The reason behind this statement is because the problem behind search visibility (and the factors that control that) keep changing. It’s a wicked problem. Design thinking can solve such kind of problems because of its test and iterate mechanism.

Data to drive Design Thinking

This is where having the correct data to decide on next steps is crucial. Having a data driven design thinking approach would entail that there are periodical reviews of what kind of data we have available to make the right choices.

Search data has always been plagued with incomplete information. Starting from the 2011 encrypted search announcement, where a bulk of the data in Google Analytics was being reported as (not set). There have been ample approaches to clarify this data, unfortunately, as Google Search goes more towards handhelds and as digital privacy increases, the percentage of data where there is clear visibility will keep going down.

This can’t be helped. What can be done is take these “anomalies” into account and factor those in while doing your analysis.

So what kind of Data anomalies in Search Console do we expect to find?

Google Support has compiled this list. They keep updating their data reporting logic and keep updating this page as well.

One of the major changes that you can see is that last month, they started reporting more data in Google Webmaster Tools. Please bear in mind that this is just a change in the data that is being reported and not the actual search traffic that is on your site.

The link also explains why there is data disparity between Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools and any other third party tool that you could be using to generate keyword data.

So, my data is incomplete, what to do?

Don’t panic.

Work with the list of data anomalies and identify which ones are impacting you the most. Having visibility on which parts of data are not available to you is also better than not knowing anything and assuming that the data you have is complete.

In iterations, the first comparison is always your previous state. In both cases the data being made available to you is pretty much the same. Hence, a week on week comparison report is much more valuable as opposed to a comparison report with your closest competitor.

As long as the measures of success is on the same tool, the data anomaly should be cancelled out. Please bear in mind that for most of our data work, we do not need precise data but can work with coarse data.

A simple approach to identify this would be – if you work with charts and graphs more, then you can work with coarse data and absorb the anomalies. If you work with more than 4 decimals, then you might want to add 3-4 lines of disclaimer below your data.

Game Theory and SEO

This blog has been my place to articulate my thoughts, to propose experiments and my views on multiple topics. Having said that, this is one such piece.

I would love to hear your views about this and feel free to scroll down to that comment box and leave a line (or two).

What is Game Theory?

Taking the excerpt from Wikipedia –

Game theory is “the study of mathematical models of conflict and cooperation between intelligent rational decision-makers.” Game theory is mainly used in economics, political science, and psychology, as well as logic, computer science and biology.

In this piece, I am proposing that we can use the basic precepts of Game Theory and apply them to SEO strategies as well.

Originally, it addressed zero-sum games, in which one person’s gains result in losses for the other participants. Today, game theory applies to a wide range of behavioral relations, and is now an umbrella term for the science of logical decision making in humans, animals, and computers.

In Search Engine Optimization, for a particular query search, only one site can be at the top. At the cost of the search visibility of other sites.

Ergo, SEO is clearly a zero-sum scenario.

Wait, isn’t this between two players?

That’s what we construe of Game Theory … and more importantly with Prisoner’s Dilemma. However, in the real world, and in almost any market driven environment, there are always multiple players.

Such scenarios are referred to as n-person games, or in Gaming parlance – multi-player games. This gives way to something we define as Evolutionary game theory.

What is Evolutionary Game Theory?

Evolutionary game theory considers games involving a population of decision makers, where the frequency with which a particular decision is made can change over time in response to the decisions made by all individuals in the population.

So, in SEO the strategy that I can adopt at any point of time is suspect to change, and over a period of time, most players who are working on their SEO would tend to change their strategy and evolve their approach.

In economics, the same theory is intended to capture population changes because people play the game many times within their lifetime, and consciously (and perhaps rationally) switch strategies.

Ditto about SEO again. In textbook style, I could say don’t do Black Hat. However, you know it and I know it … that at some point of time in our lives we have done Black Hat. Yes yes yes, it doesn’t work and you have to pay the price, but we still have gone ahead, haven’t we?

This change in tactics, resulting in evolution of market dynamics effectively ends up changing the winning strategies of the game. A research article that talks about how the competing strategies change within a network of decision makers is available here.

To read more on Evolutionary Game Theory, here is the wiki link.

Rituals and Evolutionary Game Theory

One more interesting characteristic that mathematical biologist John Maynard Smith realized when studying the behavior of game theory in communities was that in biological communities (his research was based on Darwinian concepts and survival of the fittest) most of the players did not focus on their strategy as a winning one, but treated their strategies as at a ritualistic level.

Ergo, for most members of the population it was not important whether they were engaged in a competitive and winning strategy, but rather that they were engaged in a strategy in the first place.

Wait, what?

Let me rephrase that statement.

Players involved in playing a multi-player game, where the game itself was changing constantly, the winning strategy was not important for players.

So much, as having a strategy in the first place.

Uh, I thought this was going to be on SEO

It is.

In a game of lets-get-on-top (on Google), all of us marketers are running circles trying to figure out the best SEO strategy.

We have seen many of the oft-quoted paradigms here –

  1. Content is king
  2. Great Link profiling
  3. Black Hat

What I am proposing is that it really does not matter which step you take … as long as you decide to take a step as per a strategy and then choosing to evolve your stance after you find out the result.

 

Google, GoDaddy and the HTTPS Conundrum

I like to stay active on this blog, and I love the constant tinkering on WordPress (right from identifying which plugins to install to customizing the theme).

This is one of the main reasons I am able to blog on a regularish basis. Obviously, since it’s a content driven site, the bulk of my traffic comes from Google Search.

So what’s wrong with that

The over dependence on organic search means for the blog to have more visitors, user engagement and comments – I have to try and follow the diktats of the market leader in Search. That’s Google.

I am a fan of most of Google’s work. However, the kind of hold they have on the search market means that publishers who want to be found on search have to work towards being search friendly. Google is all about Do No Evil, and I respect them for that. However, with the recent HTTPS update to their search algorithm, small time publishers are forced to relook at their hosting solutions.

GoDaddy and shared hosting

My site doesn’t get a lot of traffic, 2k-3k visitors a month. For that kind of traffic, a shared hosting plan is perfect. I have been using GoDaddy for quite some time now. Primarily, because most of my domains are within this account.

For the past 8 years or so, I have been using this account, I cannot complain about the service. I know it’s a shared hosting, and it has managed to meet my expectations.

Until now.

GoDaddy and HTTPS

The hosting plan I have is a simple plan and it does not support me having to install a custom SSL certificate. So much so that, even if I wanted to purchase a certificate from GoDaddy – I am not able to do so. Perhaps its a glitch in their interface.

I could get a Lets Encrypt certificate, and that’s what I have done for the 13 Llama Interactive site and for Harshaja’s blog. The problem with this approach is that both these sites are hosted on a DO instance. Where I can easily control the installation of the SSL certificate.

There is no simple option for doing that. GoDaddy support is of no use, and that leads me to a dead end.

Cloudflare can help

This is where a reverse proxy like Cloudflare helped. Atleast all the requests that are going to the site can be sent to an HTTPS version of the site. The lookup itself is done via Cloudflare and I have updated the website settings in my WordPress to serve from the HTTPS endpoint.

However, this kind of kills the wp-admin section. Thankfully through the REST API and Jetpack’s connection to WordPress.com I can still manage to post content.

So what can a publisher do?

At this juncture, I could simply shift my hosting and be done with it. It’s the easiest option. However, what about all those publishers out there who may not have such an option available to them.

There has to be a simpler solution to this mess.

Internet Marketing and Your Business

If you own a business, you may or may not know a lot about internet marketing. Internet marketing is an extremely important part of growing your business these days, yet too many business owners don’t realise how important. They think that by handing out a few business cards, they can grow their business and make more money. I’m afraid not! Read on to learn more about internet marketing and your business!

Continue reading “Internet Marketing and Your Business”

Getting Bots to Increase your traffic, The Black Hat way

Black Hat Referral Traffic

Saturday is the day when I take a hot steaming cup of coffee and start looking at how my blog has fared over the week. This is one time which I allot to all personal projects. As some of these projects come to a closure, I would be more than happy to talk about these here.

So, I open up Google Analytics and boom, I see a small surge in traffic. Curious to know the source, I look at the Source/Medium acquisition report –

Continue reading “Getting Bots to Increase your traffic, The Black Hat way”