Go Google+ for higher SERPs on Google

Once you launch a site, the work is not done … in fact the work of a webmaster has just begun! One clear metric for the success of your site (especially early on) is site traffic. Over a period of time as your site matures and you get a better sense of what drives your site, you will tend to discard this metric, but initially it is always traffic.

Search as a major component of Traffic

Traffic Split for kidakaka.com
Screenshot from Google Analytics on the traffic source split. 82% search, 14% direct and 4% referral (I have to drive this up!!)

One good component of traffic is search, traffic that comes searching for content relevant to your subject. Yes! There are people out there who are actively searching for things about which you want to write!! Right from narrow niches such as Pathare Prabhu Recipes to broad gulches such as Being Awesome in Excel.

For content rich websites, Search is a major component contributing to the site’s traffic. For example, 70% of my site’s traffic comes from Google Search! This is actually higher than what I wanted it to be and I try to bring it down by driving traffic via other sources, however I will always want a good fat 40-50% traffic coming to my site via search.

In fact when I started working on my site on a regular basis around 6 months back (as part of my new year resolution), I hardly realized that it would make such a big difference to the traffic split.

How to acquire Organic traffic?

There are a lot of agencies out there who promise that they will ensure that you would start ranking on your set of keywords. Here’s a starter for post for those who want to get into SEO, go read this and stop paying agencies a lot of money for barely scratching the surface.

If you want to acquire organic traffic, then write good content … write about things that move you, about things which you are passionate about. Write from the heart, and forget about those grammatical mistakes. If you have a friend who is a grammar nazi, get him/her to review your post later on.

Ranking that Content higher on Google

So now that you have a stream of content on your site, how to ensure that people who are searching for your subject matter actually end up finding your website?

This is where your friends and social circle comes in!

Sharing your content with friends and getting them like/+1 the content is a social signal that search engines read. This acts like a testimonial for your site in the eyes of the search engine.

See this for yourself, take one article on your site and like this on Google+. Then search for this article via your friend’s Google id … note the before +1 Search Engine Ranking Position (SERP) and the after SERP.

Google+, you have my attention

Here is a list of things that you need to get setup on with Google+ –

  • Setup Authorship on Google – This will link your Google+ profile to the content you create. It also ensures that your Google+ profile pic is displayed besides the content you write and this gets shown when someone is searching for the content that you have written. Stats provided by Google on this suggest that linking Authorship will get you a 30% boost in your organic click-through rates Authorship_of_Kidakaka
  • Be active on Google+ – Make this a part of your daily routine. Google+ is good for content discovery, try and meet new people on Google+, focus on increasing the number of people who are in your circles and who have you in their circles. This will increase the visibility of your content on Google for at least those people. In case if you have had some interaction with them, then chances are they would want to read what you have to say about the subject that they are currently searching!
  • Get those Google+ Shares – To initially start off, ask your friends to share your site on Google+. This works. It does wear down on your personal equity, but what are friends for if not to help you out :-D

Don’t simply take my word for this. Even Moz (erstwhile SEOMoz) says that there is correlation between Google +1s and Higher SERPs. In layman’s terms what this means is that the more +1s on Google+ your article gets, the higher will it rank on Google.

So get on this network and start using Google+! Instead of wasting time liking lolcats on Facebook, try and use your spare time

Checklist for International SEO

international seo checklist

I always get into a quandary when it comes to setting up the SEO strategy for a site which spans across multiple geographies. What would the best course of action be, to use sub-directories and depend on the equity of the main site, or to spawn separate Top Level Domains (TLDs) and increase the quanta of work.

In fact sometimes this becomes a case of Analysis-Paralysis … inaction which comes from considering too many pros and cons.

This is where Aleyda Solis has shined through with a simple infographic for people like me. Here’s the gist of this, and that’s why I love this infographic –

If you have content for all the different TLDs, then go ahead with multiple TLDs since that’s the best approach. If you do not have that much content, then you can use language based sub-directories with the hreflang attribute and meta content language.

What is a long tail keyword?

I have been writing about the basics of SEO and search based advertising on my blog for quite some time. The common thing in both is that the first interaction in search is always the keyword based search.

Yes, this is the part where our user goes to his favorite search engine (Go Google!) and searches for this keyword. Based on how well this search engine has indexed content, it will display the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).

Search is keyword based

This bit, every other person will tell you. That you need to be listed for your main keyword.

What people do not realize is that normal people like you or me are beings which adapt to a situation. In the heydays of Google, one simple search term used to help me find the right content.

Case of Crappy Content

The problem is that since then a lot of things have changed, and the sheer amount of crappy content on the internet has increased.

What this means, is that I do not find the right page even after searching the right term! So what does the normal user do after this?

Well, he refines his search … he adds a couple of other terms after his original term … that whittles the search results by a few thousands … and he keeps doing that until he finally finds the page he wanted! The user started with one term … and has finally ended up with a series of terms! But this set of terms has helped him reach to the right piece of information. That’s what matters in the end.

This set of terms the user used in the search engine is called a long tail keyword.

Long tail keywordThe name is because the number of terms keep on growing over a period of time. The longer the tail, the more specific you get about your search.

As content generation and content indexation in a search engine keep on growing … the number of terms required to recall the correct page also grow. Neil Patel discusses this very matter in a very information post on how content length affects conversions.

What does this mean?

So now you know what is a long tail keyword … but what do yo do with this piece of theory?

Well for starters, you get to understand that the longer the keyword, the more niche the audience. This increases the chances of a conversion (if your keyword research and targeting is spot-on). Longer keywords will have lesser impressions, but higher conversions.

This also means that as time goes by, the pressure on publishers (that’s me and you if you are a blogger!) would keep getting higher to write in a much more well defined fashion. I can certainly see this in my writing which has evolved in the past 3-4 years of writing on this blog.

Demystifying (not provided) Keywords

Removing (not provided)

Google has started protecting signed in users by not reporting their search terms, instead we see a (not provided). People have written this off saying that the number is insignificant, in fact you can make use of this nifty little Custom Report to check the impact of how many searches are not reported to you. Over a period of time, it has grown to be a huge 39% of the total organic results worldwide.

Blog owners have every right to be concerned; they are missing data and for content driven blogs, this can be painful. I have noticed that for all my games posts, the %age is quite high … 70%!!!

However, there is an alternative. If you are concerned with finding out the keyword data about your site, then you can retrieve this data from Google Webmasters (GWMT). This in combination with the Top Content Report for the Non-Paid search traffic segment should get you any data you require.

Combining the GWMT data with Analytics will help you get a better understanding for the funnel data on each of your individual keywords … all the more so if you have Goals configured.

Do note that there is a slight discrepancy in the data that is reported in GA and the one which is reported in WMT. GA reports visits, WMT reports clicks. GA’s SEO report does not provide the data of the past 2 days, WMT does. So if you are just starting out, using WMT would help you gain more insights on your on-page optimization as compared to simply using Google Analytics.

Edit: I found this great (but a tad tedious) article on SEOMoz on how you can decode the (not provided) keyword. If you are not well versed with Google Analytics and Filters, then I would suggest you skip it.

Scheming the Schema: An Introduction to Structured Data

One of the major traffic sources for personal websites and blogs is Organic Traffic, i.e traffic originating from search engines. People working on the web would quickly realize that search traffic can also be bought through Pay Per Click (PPC) Programs such as Google Adwords and Bing Search Advertising. However, for those of us who do not have Venture Capital funded blogs to run, we still do things the old fashioned way … we write good content.


Content is still King

The good thing with this idea is that search engines such as Google do give more weight to things such as meta descriptions, meta keywords, and other Search Engine Optimization (SEO) wizardry which was erstwhile known to a few. Web applications like Google Webmaster Tools (GWMT) and Bing Webmaster Tools (BWMT) are making it easier for website owners to recognize these things and highlight important data to search engines.

Content is KingThis move gives the power back to the people, instead of focusing on complex discussions such as Information Architecture, Content Taxonomy, Tagging and Keyword Optimization, you just have to worry about one thing, and one thing only. Good quality original content!

How do these search engines make sense out of this content? Well, they look for patterns within the page. In fact, if memory serves me correctly, one of my classmates (who went on to become an ethical hacker) had written a similar piece of code for his final year engineering project. It’s a decade since he wrote the code, we can assume without a shadow of doubt that the search engine algorithms would be a lot smarter now to extract the right content. Smart enough to discern between the signal and the noise.

So how do site owners help search engines find important data?

One method is to use the tools that they provide us – the WMTs. However, each search engine has it’s separate nuance, and hence there was a need felt for a common standard … a standard which we, the content creators can use to signal to the search engines … that hey … this piece right here … yes this bold sentence … is meant to be special. It might mean something special to the person searching for it … it’s a beacon … a beacon of data.


Defining Schemas for better results

This is where structured data comes into picture. In early January of 2011, the major search engines came together and helped define the format of this structured data via schemas. You can see these formats on schema.org. An excerpt from their home page –

Search engines including Bing, Google, Yahoo! and Yandex rely on this markup to improve the display of search results, making it easier for people to find the right web pages.

Many sites are generated from structured data, which is often stored in databases. When this data is formatted into HTML, it becomes very difficult to recover the original structured data. Many applications, especially search engines, can benefit greatly from direct access to this structured data. On-page markup enables search engines to understand the information on web pages and provide richer search results in order to make it easier for users to find relevant information on the web.

What this means for us, is that if we use the mark-up defined for each of the individual schemas in our content, then the search engines will display this data in interesting manners to the people searching for that very piece of information. Wan’t to see an example at work? Here is one

Schema Display

Last week, I instructed my developers at EduPristine to start making use of certain schemas in our mark-up. It’s less than a week, and we can already start seeing them pop-up all over our search engine results.


Why Should You Bother

It does not take a rocket scientist to understand that in the game of organic traffic acquisition, the more interesting and relevant your search engine listing, the higher the chances of getting a click on your listing. Thus, marking of your content is bound to increase your organic Click Through Rates (CTRs). You can get this data in Google Webmaster Tools, better to check your current set of keywords (and their CTRs along with average ranks) and then compare the change when you start including schemas in your content.

If you have not heard about structured data or implemented schema.org before then I can guarantee you an increase in your CTRs and in your organic traffic.

Data Highlighter by Google Webmaster

If you are a webmaster or own a site, then it is likely that you know about Google Webmaster Tools (WMT). If not, then the first thing you need to do is bookmark my blog! Then head on over to Google Webmasters and register your site the NOW! I cannot stress more on this. Google Webmasters allows the webmaster to slightly influence the method in which the Google bot crawls your website. Why is this important, well you can actually tell Google to crawl certain pages of your website, and ask it to not crawl other non-important pages. Typically, you would do this using Sitemaps (do remind me to write about this sometime later!).

The latest feature roll out by Google WMT is their Data Highlighter feature. You will find this in the Optimization section of Google WMT. At present this nifty feature lets you highlight event based data on your website. So if you are a training institute for financial certifications like us, then you can easily benefit from this feature. All you have to do is create a page set of pages which have this data that you need to highlight.

Page Sets in WMT

I created a page set called Batches (which is a set of pages for all our classroom centers in India). Then, the WMT wizard started and asked me to point out specific event meta information which was on those pages. Information such as the name of the event (for us it was events such as CFA Level I, Fin Mod, FRM Part I, etc.), event date and time, venue and address.

Data Highlighter by Google Webmaster

Now, the next time when the Google bot crawls this site, it will simply read and store this additional information and display them in the Search Engine Ranking Positions (SERPs).

Here is a really helpful video by the good folks at Google WMT explaining this feature –

Google Search Update

I had earlier posted about a starters guide to SEO. Back then my understanding of this was also developing and the only way I could add to my understanding of the subject was via experiments … that I carried out on this blog, and also at work.

Finally, we did arrive at a scalable solution. A solution for SEO which could easily be replicated and scaled for almost all my target keywords. Out of a target 5000+ keywords, we managed to get in the top 10 for a decent 3000 of them, and would have proceeded to touch base upon all of them as well (do remind me to release this as well!)

Had it not been for the upcoming Google, I would have went ahead with the plan. However, the new update effectively means that all black hat SEO tactics (which the Indian SEO industry is famous for) will be negatively penalized. So throw your keyword stuffing, badly written English to match your keywords, slightly different versions to match the keyword variants, and link submissions out of the best practices window.

I wonder what would be the extent of the penalty levied by the new algorithm on sites which are already way ahead on their link submissions. Getting those links off the 1000 or so directories is going to be tough!!

Here’s a parting thought, that Google Search is embedded in so many Digital Strategist’s plans, that people are not even considering to optimize their pages for other search engines (such as Bing). Isn’t it great how being a market leader can impact an entire industry?

Note to Self – Learn about Bing optimization and work on generating search traffic from Bing.