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The true secret to e-commerce success is consistently getting qualified visitors to your online store.

And one of the most cost effective way to reach users thru e-commerce SEO.

E-commerce SEO is an unmissable digital marketing strategy to grow your business and get the highest ROI.

All the intricacies of SEO might seem daunting at first, but just imagine consistent, high-quality traffic that you don’t have to pay for! That’s what e-commerce SEO is about.

Whether you’re big or small, a brand new or an existing online store, this is the most comprehensive step-by-step e-commerce SEO guide for you.

Dive in and learn how to conduct e-commerce SEO in 7 steps to boost your rankings, traffic and sales!

What is e-commerce SEO

SEO is the process of optimizing your website to generate targeted organic traffic by ranking high on Google (and other search engines).

E-commerce SEO is a special type of SEO that ensures your product pages rank on top of (Google) search results to drive qualified visitors to your online store.

This means when someone googles your type of products (let’s say men’s basketball shoes), your e-commerce site appears on top of Google search results.

Now, let me show you just why it’s so important for your e-commerce site.

Why is SEO important for e-commerce

With e-commerce SEO, your brand gets more visibility, online shoppers and in turn more customers and sales.

Online research is embedded in modern shopping behaviour; 71% of consumers start their shopping journey by using a search engine to discover new products and services. And 74% of shoppers use a search engine for consideration and purchasing (research, comparison, transaction).

Ranking high in search results brings you instant visibility and more traffic. 39.34% of traffic and clicks go to the top 3 spots in Google.

Organic traffic from search engines also brings in the highest revenue (38%) trumping all other digital marketing channels.

E-commerce SEO will bring you targeted organic (free) traffic, or in other words visitors who are genuinely interested in buying from you.
If you invest in SEO upfront, you will get consistent free traffic to your online store for years to come.

How to do e-commerce SEO, step-by-step

Now that you know what e-commerce SEO is and why it matters let me show you how to optimize your online store to get more traffic and sales.

E-commerce SEO process consists of 7 key steps:

  1. Keyword research
  2. Optimizing your e-commerce site architecture
  3. On-Page SEO for category and product pages
  4. Technical SEO
  5. Content marketing for e-commerce
  6. E-commerce link building
  7. Measuring e-commerce your SEO success

I’ve even included a bonus, local e-commerce SEO guide for good measure. This is useful if you’re running both a brick-and-mortar and an online store.

So, let’s start with step no. 1 – keyword research.

Step #1: E-commerce keyword research

Keyword research is the cornerstone of every SEO process as is the case with e-commerce SEO.

You need to find out which search terms, or keywords, your potential customers type in Google when they’re looking to buy. You will then use these keywords to build out the rest of your e-commerce SEO strategy.

Identify target keywords that have a decent amount of search volume, low to moderate competition, and that can generate traffic and sales. These are the keywords you need to infuse in your category and product pages and optimize your entire e-commerce for.

But before you start the keyword research process, there’s one essential thing you need to understand.

a) Understand user intent

User intent is the single most important thing to consider when conducting keyword research. It is the essential concept that guides you to choose the right keywords that can bring in qualified traffic and generate sales.

User intent is what searchers are trying to accomplish as a result of their search. There are 4 main types of keywords based on user intent:

  • Informational keywords – These keywords often start with “how to…”, “what is…”, or contain “…definition,” and correspond with the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey.
  • Navigational keywords – Good example of a navigational keyword is when someone googles “Facebook,” “Netflix” or “Amazon” with the intent to visit a specific website.
  • Commercial keywords – These are keywords that are related to the consideration stage, like “best WordPress developer Toronto,” “iPhone XS review,” “WooCommerce vs Shopify.”
  • Transactional keywords – People that are looking to buy something right now use transactional keywords. For example, “buy dog food online,” “Toronto to Vancouver flights,” “auto insurance quote.” This also includes product-focused keywords like “merino wool baby clothes” and specific product names like “Dell XPS 13.”

Your e-commerce site should be tailored around product searches. That’s why the prime target keywords for your e-commerce SEO should be product-focused phrases that show buying intent.

NOTE: Informational and commercial keywords can also be a part of your SEO strategy. You can build a blog with how-to guides, comparisons, reviews, etc., to capture even more traffic in the awareness and consideration stages — more on that in the content marketing section of this guide.

Now that you know what type of keywords to target let’s get to the actual keyword research.

b) Find keywords with Amazon suggest

The best place to start your e-commerce keyword research is on Amazon.

People use Amazon to search for products when they want to buy something. This makes it a real treasure trove of high buyer intent keywords.

To find potential target keywords, enter something that describes one of your products in the search box.

Amazon will come up with autofill suggestions related to your product (seed) keyword. These are very targeted potential keywords that people actually search for when they want to buy.

Create a spreadsheet and add these keyword ideas, then rinse and repeat for all your products.

PRO TIP: Take note of suggested categories that appear for some searches. These are excellent candidates to serve as your category keywords.

For more category keyword ideas, click on the “departments” button to see all departments along with their categories. Find the one that matches your business and look at for keywords ideas.

You can take this a step further and open up the relevant department to check out product categories and sub-categories along with their corresponding keywords.

Now, this type of keyword research can take a long time to complete, especially if you’re selling hundreds or thousands of products. Luckily, there’s a tool for that.

You can use Keyword Tool Dominator to automate your keyword research using Amazon suggests.

Just enter your product name, category or keyword and save the best keywords to your list.

You can also use KTD to hunt for keywords on eBay, Etsy, Google Shopping search, etc.

c) Run a competitor analysis

The next step in the e-commerce keyword research process is to analyze your competitors to uncover keyword opportunities.

Just google something related to your products and check out other e-commerce websites that rank in search results for your niche. These are your main SEO competitors.

Scanning competitors’ websites can help you reverse-engineer successful strategies and find opportunities to beat them.

In our example, running a quick Google search for “doorbell camera” came up with some interesting findings.

Right off the bat, you can see Home Depot among the top results, followed by Best Buy. What’s apparent is that Home Depot’s website stands out a lot more with this rich snippet. Their result contains rating stars, price, as well as other related products.

More on how to optimize for these rich snippets later on when we talk about structured data and schema markup.

For now, you can dive into a few of these top-ranking competitors to see their site structure, categories, and products.

Dig deeper and look at how they optimize their product pages.

Make sure to inspect the above the fold area thoroughly…

…product description/copy, below the fold…

…as well as tech specs area, near the bottom of the product page.

But from the surface, you can’t really see which keywords they used to optimize their pages. Not unless I tell you a secret pro tip.

SECRET PRO TIP: Install SEO Quake (Chrome extension), so you can spy on your competitors right from your browser. Run a quick page SEO audit to steal your competitors’ keywords, title tags, meta descriptions, heading structure, etc.

These competitor insights will come in handy once you get to the on-page SEO step.

Now we’re cooking, right?!

This is a great way to spy on your SEO competition and get a glimpse of their e-commerce SEO strategies.

Manual e-commerce SEO competitive analysis checklist:

  • Inspect competitors’ search appearance
  • Determine competitors’ site structure (categories, product pages, etc.)
  • Look at the product description/copy
  • Examine the entire product page
  • Identify rivals’ target keywords by analyzing
    • URLs
    • Title tags and meta descriptions
    • Headings (h1, h2, h3, etc.)
    • Keyword density report
  • Investigate competitors’ internal and external links

But be wary though, some competitors might be optimizing for less than optimal keywords. They might not have enough search volume, the right user intent or they may have too much competition.

Also, it’s hard to do keyword research at scale this way.

If you want to take your keyword research and SEO game to a whole..

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WordPress security is a vital part of running a website. Like every other asset you own, you want to keep your site secure and safe from hackers, attackers and anyone prowling to steal or do damage.

You wouldn’t leave your home, car or office unlocked and available to everyone, now would you?! Protect your WordPress site with the same (or even higher) level of security.

Unfortunately, way too many site owners neglect their WordPress security thinking “Who would hack my small business website, anyway?!”, “Attackers only target big corporations.”, etc. Others might not have the skill or the time to deal with security by themselves.

It’s only when someone breaks into your home, steals your car, or hacks your WordPress website, that you start to worry. But then it’s probably too late; the damage is done.

Read on and learn 23 ways to harden your WordPress security and protect your most valuable digital asset – your website!

Why is your site security so important

With over 90,978 attacks each minute and over 102,623 hacked websites every day it’s pretty clear just how much WordPress security matters.

One thing is for certain; hackers don’t discriminate; they are targeting websites both big and small. Anyone with subpar security can be a target.

Recently, an unpatched plugin vulnerability caused a massive coordinated attack on WordPress websites. The hackers used this vulnerability to inject code into sites with Yuzo Related Posts plugin, that would redirect visitors to all sorts of malicious websites.

Email automation and delivery service Mailgun was among the many websites that got hacked.

And even big companies aren’t immune to hacker attacks. A few years back, one of the world’s biggest news agencies Reuters got hacked due to running an outdated version of WordPress.

Hackers can steal user information, passwords, install malicious software, and can even distribute malware to your users. They might even hijack your website, and the only way to get it back is to fork up a hefty ransom.

Attacks can deliver a huge blow to your revenue and cause a lasting dent in your reputation. The American Economic Association estimates that businesses and consumers experience costs of almost $20 billion per year due to spam.

The last thing you want people to see is a warning message that visiting your site may harm them.

Most common WordPress vulnerabilities – How hackers compromise websites

These are the 10 most common WordPress vulnerabilities hackers exploit to attack websites:

  1. Brute force attacks – This type of attack exploits weak passwords and has the potential to gain full access to your site. Hackers use automated scripts to constantly try to log in by guessing admin username and password.
  2. Backdoors – Backdoors are vulnerabilities hackers can exploit to bypass security to gain access to your site, infect it and even compromise other websites on the same server.
  3. Cross-site scripting (XSS) – Hackers use this method to inject malicious script into a site without you even knowing it. This code can be used for all sorts of nefarious acts like stealing visitor’s session data, rewriting HTML, and even creating redirects.
  4. Malicious redirects – This insidious hacking technique can redirect your visitors to other websites with spam, malware or phishing sites.
  5. Phishing – The goal of phishing is to steal users’ sensitive information such as login information, credit card data, or even an entire identity. Hackers trick users by posing as a well-known, trusted site then luring users to give up their information.
  6. Malware – This is a generic term for all sorts of malicious scripts or programs that try to infect a site or system. It includes viruses, backdoors, rootkits, adware, spamware and other types of intrusive software.
  7. DDoS attack (distributed denial of service) – This is a coordinated attack by hackbots injected into multiple websites that send a flood of incoming traffic intended to overwhelm site’s servers causing it to go down.
  8. Website defacement – Hackers use defacement to change the visual appearance of a website to make it unusable and promote unrelated (usually political or activist) messages.
  9. Php.mailers. – Mailers are tools that use php. commands to send spam or phishing emails directly from the infected website.

WordPress remains to top target for hacker attacks with 90% of all infected sites running on WordPress.

Other studies suggest that over 73% of WordPress sites are vulnerable to attacks.

This begs a very reasonable question “Is WordPress secure?”

Is WordPress Secure

WordPress as a platform is very secure. It’s trusted to power 33.4% of all websites on the internet. WordPress has a dedicated security team (~50 security experts) hard at work to patch up any existing and discover new vulnerabilities, oftentimes rolling out fixes in less than 40 minutes.

WordPress security is also reinforced by an enormous user community that keeps a watchful eye to ensure new vulnerabilities are discovered and patched ASAP.

Much of the bad rep regarding security comes from the fact that site owners don’t follow security best practices and don’t take necessary security measures. Most common WordPress vulnerabilities are caused by:

  • Improper deployment
  • Security configuration issues
  • A lack of security knowledge and/or resources
  • Poor overall site maintenance (i.e. running an outdated version)
  • Broken authentication and session management

Even though WordPress is trying to keep the core updated and secure, only around 30% of WordPress sites are running the latest version (as of Apr 2019).

With that said, let me show you how to make your WordPress site safe with airtight security.

How to secure your WordPress site from hackers

Now that you know why WordPress security is so important, it’s time to protect your site from hackers. Although WordPress devs are constantly working to patch up any potential exploits, you need to do your part to keep your site secure.

Here are 23 actionable tips for hardening your WordPress website with impervious security.

1. Install a WordPress security plugin

Security is crucial to running your website smoothly and issue-free. Since we’re talking about WordPress here, you can bet there is a plugin to handle your site security. In fact, there are many of them.

These are the top 5 WordPress security plugins to consider:

WordPress security plugins come with a ton of bells and whistles to cover most of your security needs:

  • WordPress firewall
  • IP and user blacklisting
  • Malware scanning
  • Strong password generator
  • Two-factor authentication
  • File change logs
  • Force passwords to expire
  • Monitoring for suspicious activity, etc.

Using a WordPress security plugin can take a lot of weight off your shoulders, making your site protection much easier and less time-consuming.

Even though these plugins can handle almost all your WordPress security needs, I recommend reading all the steps in this guide, so you understand all the features and know how to configure them properly.

And of course, some security measures require more than just a WordPress plugin.

2. Scan your website for malware

If you’re experiencing a sudden drop in traffic, strange performance issues or some suspicious behavior, you need to check your site for malware.

Even if everything is fine, it’s a good idea to run a malware scan every once in a while.

Some hacks work covertly, behind the scenes, so might not be even aware that anything is wrong. That is until the damage is done, like Google taking your site down from search results due to security issues or getting blacklisted, followed by a big revenue and reputation hit.

That’s why it’s very important to scan your site for malware regularly.

Most security plugins run scheduled malware scans in the background and routinely monitor for signs of any security breaches.

For an added bit of security, you can use a free online malware checker like Sucuri SiteCheck to run a scan of your website for malware and blacklist status.

Make sure your site is clean and not on any blacklist. You can easily perform these checkups from time to time to verify the status of your website and ensure everything is fine.

3. Invest in secure hosting

Server-side security also plays a key role in keeping your site safe from hackers and malware. That’s why you need to be careful and pick a trusted hosting provider that takes security seriously.

Be sure that your hosting company knows a thing or two about WordPress security, has protection systems in place and provides fast and reliable support should the worst happen.

A solid hosting provider should offer:

  • Backups
  • Server-level firewalls
  • Malware scanning
  • DDoS protection
  • Latest operating system, software and hardware
  •  and Managed WordPress core updates, among other things.

Another key security feature is keeping each account and WordPress site isolated on the server. A good server architecture can protect you from cross-site contamination, which is when hackers use one infected website on a server to infiltrate and attack other neighbouring sites on the same server.

Hosting servers with poor account configuration and management where users can install and create as many sites as they want, are a prime target for malicious intruders.

On the other hand, safe hosting includes well-organized account management where live sites belong to a specially protected production environment, and everything else is in the staging environment.

Unfortunately, you can’t expect this level of security from shared hosting providers. They offer services for only a few bucks but come with looming security risks.

On the flip side, managed WordPress hosting provides a much more secure environment with all security features listed above, plus additional backups, updates and security configurations.

When choosing a provider for your business website, invest in secure hosting now and worry less in the future.

4. Fortify your site with strong credentials

Brute force attacks are among the most common hacking techniques. The main reason for their prevalence is that they’re so easy to execute. Almost anyone with a little tech know-how can launch a brute force attack using relatively simple hacking tools.

But the other reason why it’s so easy to pull off a brute force attack is that too many site owners use weak admin credentials.

Studies show that passwords like “123456”, “password” and “qwerty” are still among the most popular, even in 2018 after all those security breaches.

The best (and obvious) way to protect your WordPress website from brute force attacks is to have strong credentials. Follow the CLU framework and conjure a password that’s: Complex, Long and Unique.

Come up with a password that includes letters (upper and lowercase), numbers, and other special symbols like $&#@%*. Avoid using your name, pet’s name, birth dates or any “real words” for that matter.

Since you’re WordPress admin password guards the entrance to your entire business website, make sure it’s long with at least 15 characters.

And finally, make sure that your password is unique and you don’t use it for any other account (like for Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, etc.). That way, if any of your other accounts get compromised, your WordPress site will remain safe.

If coming up with a strong passwords is too much of a hassle, you can use free online generators or premium services like LastPass, 1Password. or DashLane.

These services can also store your strong passwords so you can do away with having to memorize or jot them down on sticky notes.

WordPress core also comes with a strong password generator which you can access from your account management in WP dashboard.

I recommend taking a few extra security steps and changing your generic admin username to something unique and more difficult to guess.

And finally, enable WordPress to force strong passwords. You can enforce your users to use strong WordPress passwords by configuring the following:

  • Password minimum length
  • Use of both lowercase and uppercase letters in passwords
  • Inclusion of numbers in passwords
  • Use of special characters in passwords

We’ll get to even more security tips that can protect you from brute force attacks later in the article. Keep reading if you want to foolproof your WordPress security.

5. Update your WP, themes and plugins

You’ve probably noticed your devices constantly get updated, including your computer, smartphone, apps, etc. These updates come with enhancements, new features, bug fixes, but most importantly security patches.

Same goes for your WordPress website. Your WordPress core, plugins and themes all get frequent updates. These updates can enhance the look and feel, improve stability and functionality, and patch up security vulnerabilities of your site.

Around 74% of known vulnerabilities are in the WordPress core. Luckily, most of them belong to old WordPress versions, like 3.X.

WordPress Security Team does a great job at quickly fixing these security issues. So, keeping your WordPress up-to-date can mitigate a huge chunk of security risks.

By default, WordPress automatically installs minor updates, so you get urgent patches in a timely fashion. For major version releases, you need to initiate the update manually.

Keep your plugins in check

The other major security risk comes from plugins and themes. They’re developed by hundreds of third-party developers who are also responsible for keeping your site safe with updates.

Unfortunately, plugins are often laden with security vulnerabilities making them a prime target for hackers.

According to Wordfence, almost 56% of compromised WordPress websites were attacked through plugin vulnerability exploits.

The critical step towards higher..

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AODA compliance means ensuring your site is accessible and usable by everyone, including people with disabilities, in line with Ontario’s latest regulations and standards.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is a directive to site owners aimed to help make all websites accessible to people with various handicaps.

Unfortunately, when building a website, accessibility is overlooked way too often. And with the compliance deadline closing in, it’s critical to make sure your website is accessible and AODA compliant.

Read on to learn everything about AODA and how to make your site compliant and accessible.

What is AODA

AODA website compliance requires all public and (large) private organizations to make their websites and web content conform with mandatory accessibility standards (WCAG 2.0).

The AODA stands for the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which is a law that came into effect in 2005 aimed to ensure people with disabilities get equal access to all goods, services, facilities, accommodation, employment, buildings, structures, and premises.

The web accessibility under AODA means that everyone, including people with various impairments, is able to access and use the web. The act aims to protect the civil rights of those with disabilities from discrimination.

This inclusivity helps people with various difficulties get fair access to all necessities of modern society, but it also helps you reach more people with your website.

People with disabilities have an estimated spending power of about $25 billion annually across Canada. With better website accessibility you can also reach:

  • the elderly
  • people with “temporary disabilities” (i.e. broken limbs)
  • users with a slow connection
  • people using small screen devices
  • users with “situational limitations” (i.e. those accessing a website in a bright location or in an environment where they cannot listen to audio)

Additionally, better accessibility is good for SEO. Google and other search engines reward accessible websites as an incentive for every site owner to increase their accessibility.

It’s a win-win situation for you and everybody else.

Who must comply with AODA

The AODA standards apply to all government, non-profits and large businesses in the Ontario province. You must comply with AODA standards for websites if you are:

  • A private business with 50+ employees
  • A large non-profit organization (50+ employees)
  • A public sector organization

As of January 1, 2014, all organizations in Ontario with 50+ employees that create a new website and web content have to adhere to AODA web standards. The AODA act applies to you:

  • If you have a site with a new domain name
  • If your existing site undergoes a significant refresh (i.e.changing your site’s look and feel, changes to site navigation, or updating and changing most of your site content)
  • When you add new content to your website
AODA compliance deadline

AODA private sector compliance requires all organizations to make their websites and content accessible according to the following timeline:

  • January 1, 2014 – All new websites, significantly refreshed websites and any web content posted after January 1, 2012, must meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level A
  • January 1, 2021 – All websites and web content posted after January 1, 2012, must meet WCAG 2.0 Level AA (excluding live captioning and audio description)

Failing to comply with AODA can result in hefty fines. The maximum penalties under AODA are:

  • Corporations/organizations can be fined up to $100,000 per day
  • Directors and officers of a corporation/organization can be fined up to $50,000 per day

The AODA compliance deadline is fast approaching, so it’s about time to optimize your site for accessibility in order to avoid severe penalties and make the world a better place for you and everyone else.

WCAG accessibility standards

AODA uses WCAG 2.0 as mandatory accessibility standards all websites in Ontario must comply with.

WCAG stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines which is an internationally accepted standard for web accessibility developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

WCAG 2.0 is organized around 4 principles (POUR) which lay the foundation for web accessibility. Anyone who wants to use the web must have content that is:

  • Perceivable – Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive
  • Operable – User interface components and navigation must be operable
  • Understandable – Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable
  • Robust – Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies

WCAG consist of 12 guidelines in total that address their respective POUR principles.

Each WCAG guideline has three levels of conformance: A, AA, and AAA.

If you have a newly created or refreshed website, you must meet level A (as of 2014). By 2021 your website will need to conform to level AA while meeting level AAA is not required at this time.

In 2018, W3C announced a revised version of accessibility standards dubbed WCAG 2.1. This revision expands on the 2.0 version adding three more success criteria intended to help users with:

  • disabilities on mobile devices
  • cognitive or learning disabilities
  • low vision

It’s important to note that you’re only required to comply with WCAG 2.0. Still, it’s always a good idea to make a bit of extra effort and improve your accessibility in line with the latest standards.

How to make your WordPress site AODA compliant

Now that you know everything you need about AODA compliance let me show you how to make your business website more accessible and win the required AA level of WCAG 2.0 standards.

Even if you’re not running a large business website, it’s worth improving your accessibility because of the added SEO benefits, reaching a bigger audience, as well as making the world a better place.

1. Check your current accessibility

Before you do anything else, the first step is to check your current accessibility. That is, provided you already have a website. If not, you can return to this step once your business website is developed.

Older websites, built before the AODA enactment rarely meet all WCAG criteria. This is sort of understandable since back then there wasn’t enough awareness, and most websites weren’t built with accessibility in mind.

But, even if you’re pretty confident that your site is up to par with the latest design standards, it’s still worth checking – you might be in for quite a surprise.

While there are many free accessibility checkers online, I recommend Wave because of their comprehensive visual reports.

As you can see, even a giant like 3M isn’t immune to accessibility errors. That’s something they’ll need to address before the AODA compliance deadline.

Alternately, you can use AChecker to audit your website for a full accessibility review according to WCAG 2.0 guidelines. This tool is more developer-friendly since it identifies the exact lines of code with errors along with repair recommendations.

Once you assess your site accessibility, you need to take action and eliminate any potential errors to meet the WCAG AA standard.

2. Use an accessible-ready WP theme

If you don’t have a site yet, a good place to start building an accessible website is installing an accessible-ready WordPress theme.

Not all WordPress themes are developed in line with WCAG standards. You should look for themes with an accessibility-ready tag which means that the theme includes proper use of media, controls, forms, heading structure, use of colour, skip links and ARIA roles.

Some notable accessibility-ready themes are:

  • Avada
  • Apex
  • Twenty Nineteen
  • Storefront
  • Javelin

Getting an accessibility-ready theme is a good place to start, especially if you don’t have a website or want to get a fresh new look that complies with WCAG 2.0.

However, it’s not an option for everyone. It may not be suitable if you already have a site and don’t want to switch to a new theme. Not to worry though, even if you don’t want to replace your existing theme, you can still optimize your site for accessibility.

The following 15 steps will help you make your site accessible and meet the AODA criteria.

3. Have clear typography

Improving your accessibility doesn’t have to be a lot of work, sometimes small tweaks can go a long way. Additionally, they can improve the user experience for everyone, not just people with disabilities.

That is the case with typography. As cool as fancy fonts can be, oftentimes they are pretty hard to read, especially to people with visual impairments.

For best legibility and accessibility make sure to use a clean typeface (font). Although serif fonts are ok with today’s high-resolution screens, avoid any strangely shaped font such as those that look like handwriting.

AODA doesn’t have a strict requirement for font size; however, the recommended size for body text is 16px, while the minimum size should be 12px. Tiny text (10px and below)is too small and not accessible, therefore should be avoided.

Also, avoid having text that’s embedded in a graphic or image. This can often be very hard to read for people with low vision, those with visual tracking problems and those with cognitive disabilities.

If, for whatever reason, you must use pictures of text, make sure the font size is especially large and that you use high-contrast colours.

For an extra bit of accessibility, allow users to change the text size.

Specify font sizes in relative units such as percentages, for easier resizing and scaling.

The example website from above also allows users to switch the colour contrast, which is the next item on our list.

4. Use contrast for visually impaired

Having high contrast is critical accessibility component for people with colour blindness. People with colour vision deficit struggle to distinguish text and content that doesn’t have enough contrast.

AODA contrast requirements for WCAG AA are that any text or images of text have a contrast ratio of 4.5:1. This means either using:

  • Dark text on a light background, or
  • Light text on a dark background

You can use Contrast Checker tool to verify the colour scheme for your site.

There are a few exceptions to the AODA colour contrast rule, provided that the text is:

  • Large text – At least 18 points or 14 points bold with a contrast of at least 3:1
  • Purely decorative
  • An incidental part of an image – for example, a woman reading a magazine that has text on the cover
  • Part of a logo or brand name – there is no minimum contrast requirement

Additionally, you can enable users to swap the colours for more contrast.

With a contrast toggle, users can easily switch to a high contrast interface (by inverting the colours) to access and read the content on your site.

5. Make sure all images have Alt text

Alt text improves accessibility for people who can’t see images, including users who use screen readers or have slow connections.

Alt text is a text alternative to images, and it’s supposed to describe what the image is about. It’s used by screen readers since they can’t understand the meaning of images in your content.

Google also uses alt text to understand what your images are about, which makes it important for SEO. Properly optimizing your images around your target keyword can increase the relevancy of your content and can give you a significant ranking boost.

All images on your site should have optimized alt text. In WordPress adding alt text is pretty straightforward. Just open the image details window and write a short description, and make sure to include your target keywords.

Be sure to write your alt text with natural language, without keyword stuffing. It’s going to make more sense to users, plus it’s a good SEO practice.

6. Enable keyboard navigation

Some disabilities prevent people from using a computer mouse, and for them, the only option is to use the keyboard. In many cases, disabled people rely on a couple of keys to navigate your site (i.e. TAB key to move forward, and SHIFT+TAB to move back).

To be AODA compliant, you need to enable keyboard navigation on your site. This means people can use a keyboard or a keyboard emulator to navigate your site. Keyboard emulators include speech input software, sip-and-puff software, on-screen keyboards, scanning software and a variety of assistive technologies and alternate keyboards.

A common accessibility issue is that the top-level menu is accessible by keyboard; however, the submenus are not.

Test your site navigation using the following keys:

  • Tab – Navigates to links and form fields.
  • Shift + Tab – Move backwards.
  • Enter – Activates links and buttons.
  • Spacebar – Activates checkboxes and buttons.
  • Arrow keys – Selects radio buttons, select-menu options, sliders, tab panels, autocomplete, tree menus, etc.

Lastly, tab through your pages to confirm the following elements are navigable with the keyboard:

  • Links
  • Menus and dropdown submenus
  • Form fields
  • Buttons and other controls

Use HTML controls to enable keyboard navigation on your site, such as <button>, <input>, or <a>, and do not use a div, span, or link element as a button.

7. Optimize contact forms

Forms are at the heart of every website’s conversion strategy. But optimizing your form fields is also a quintessential criterion to meet AODA web standards.

When optimizing forms for accessibility, your goal is to place clear instructions or labels that identify the controls in a form so that users know what input data is expected. In other words, make your form fields clear, visible and accessible to everyone (including screen reader users).

Use the following 4 steps to make your forms accessible and WCAG AA, compliant:

  1. Add clear labels to each form field (make them visible to screen readers)
  2. Use placeholder text to help users fill in the form (use it in conjunctions with labels, don’t repeat them)
  3. Clearly mark required fields
  4. Use colour and visual cues to make confirmation and error messages perceivable to everyone (including colour blind)

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SEO Audit is the process of assessing the search engine readiness of your website. In other words, it means inspecting how optimized is your site for Google (and other search engines).

An SEO audit is a super-important detective task which can help you twofold:

  1. Identify weak spots that are undermining your SEO and hurting your results,
  2. Discover new SEO opportunities for better rankings and more organic traffic.

Even if you’ve done an excellent job optimizing your site in the past, you need to run an SEO audit from time to time to keep your website up-to-date with the latest developments in search marketing and be ahead of your competitors.

Follow this step-by-step SEO audit checklist to cover all your (SEO) bases and turbocharge your search traffic.

Let’s get it on!

Step #1: Check for critical issues that may be holding you back

Every SEO audit needs to start by addressing critical issues that might be hindering your entire success. These include anything from ranking for your own brand name to indexation issues and Google penalties.

Start your SEO audit by checking the following six areas first:

1. Ensure that you’re ranking for your website name

The number one thing to do in your SEO audit is to check whether your website is ranking for your branded search term.

This is very important for your branding and reputation.

People use Google to research everything from products and services to brands. You want to make sure that when someone types in your brand (website) name in Google, your website is the first result.

If you have a brand new website/domain and it doesn’t come up as the first organic result, don’t be alarmed.

It might take some time (a few weeks if you do your SEO right) for Google to index your site.

On the other hand, if you had your website for a while and you’re still not coming up as the top result for your branded search term, you need to fix the issue by:

If your site doesn’t appear in Google SERP at all, this may be a sign of deeper problems (Google penalties) which we’ll talk about in the later section.

But it’s not just about appearing on the top in Google; it’s also about how your results look…

2. Inspect your (branded) search appearance

Treat Google results page for your branded term as your business card and make sure you own the entire page.

People trust Google so much that you want to take special care of how your brand is presented in the search results page.

Audit your Google results page and check the following:

  • Does your website appear first
  • Does Google show site links with your listing
  • Is the (meta) description below your home page accurate
  • Does Google show a knowledge graph next to your listing
  • Is the information in your GMB page accurate
  • Does Google show other pages relevant to your brand (your social media, citations, reviews, etc.)

Ideally, your listing should look like this:

For more details on how to dominate Google SERP for your branded search, check out our comprehensive guide.

3. Make sure the right version of your website is indexed

Almost every website has these four versions:

  • http://yoursite.com
  • https://yoursite.com
  • http://www.yoursite.com
  • https://www.yoursite.com

However, for good SEO sake, only one version should be used as the ‘final destination’ address. Otherwise, Google might see each of these versions as separate properties, which can cause all sorts of problems.

You need to consolidate all different versions of your site into one. Preferably, this should be the HTTPS version since secure websites (which is what the “S” stands for) get a slight boost in rankings.

To check if only one version of your site if browsable, simply type in each version into the address bar and check if it redirects to the HTTPS version.

If you get automatically redirected to the HTTPS version (like in the GIF), you’re all set.

If not, then just create a 301 redirect from each version to the HTTPS version of your site.

One more thing, you need to verify each variation of your site in Google Search Console as separate properties.

And finally, go to your GSC site settings for each property and set your preferred domain.

While we’re at the subject of Google Search Console, there’s one more critical thing to check…

4. Detect any indexation issues

Another critical thing to check is if there are any indexing issues.

Remember, pages not (properly) indexed by Google will never show up in search results, no matter how good they are.

Head over to your Index Coverage report in Google Search Console and look for any indexing issues.

Be sure to check for:

  • Number of pages that are in Google index
  • Errors
  • Sudden drops in the number of indexed pages
  • Index bloat
  • Check if excluded pages are rightfully excluded

Find an fix any issues that may appear ASAP. For a deeper dive into how to identify and fix indexing issues check out our in-depth GSC guide.

You can also manually check the indexing status of each of your pages using Google search operators.
For example:

Just plug in the “site:” search operator followed by your domain, and eyeball the search results for all indexed pages.

Although it’s an easy way to check all your indexed pages, I wouldn’t recommend relying solely on this method since it takes time to scan all results (especially if you have thousands of pages) and you still won’t be able to identify any indexing problems.

5. Check for Google penalties

If during the above-mentioned SEO audit you detect that some of your pages or your entire site isn’t appearing in Google, the reason might be a Google penalty.

If for whatever reason Google finds your site isn’t compliant to their webmaster quality guidelines, you will get penalized.

The result of getting a Google penalty is that some pages or your entire site will not be shown in Google search results!

No need to be alarmed though, unless you were involved in some shady (blackhat) SEO practices, there’s no need to be afraid of Google’s penalties.
It’s still worth checking, and it’s pretty easy to do. Just fire up your GSC and check the Manual Actions report.

According to Google:

“Most issues reported here will result in pages or sites being ranked lower or omitted from search results without any visual indication to the user.”

As you can see, our website is squeaky clean and free from any penalties (manual actions).

If some manual actions do appear in your report, expand the description of the result to see:

  • Description of the issue
  • Pages affected
  • Steps to fix the problem

Make sure to follow Google’s guidelines for fixing the issue, then request a review to get your penalty lifted.

6. Run a website crawl

To double-check for any indexing issues and crawl errors, you can run your own website crawl. There are many SEO audit tools available for this, like:

What these SEO tools do is that they crawl your site in the same way as Google spider would.

With SEO audit tools such as Screaming Frog, you can get in-depth info on the crawlability and indexability of your site.

For example, it can check if there are any pages that crawlers can’t access. This may happen if you blocked specific pages in your robots.txt file (we cover this later).

While there are many pages which serve no purpose for Google and should be noindexed (comments, tags, archives, etc.), you want to double-check if all pages that are blocked, should be blocked.

Once you confirm that Google can access all of the essential pages you want to rank, you’re done with the top priority SEO audit part and can move on to the next.

Step #2: Ranking audit

Surely you don’t want to rank only for your brand name. Actually, most of the time people are Googling for other terms (keywords), like “how to…” solve a problem or do something.

That’s why the second part of your SEO audit should focus on your target keywords and ranking performance.

7. Assess your target keywords

Start by evaluating your target keywords. These are the search terms that you’re trying to rank for.

Ideally, your target keywords should bring in organic visitors who are interested in what you offer, so when they arrive on your site, you can raise awareness with valuable content, capture their lead info, and then nurture them towards a sale.

When assessing your target keywords, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have a specific list of target keywords or are you just shooting in the dark? Having thousands of target keywords is not specific, so narrow down your list. You can always add new keywords as you grow.
  • Are you targeting relevant keywords? Look closely if your target search terms are likely to bring the right visitors.
  • How difficult is it to rank for your target keywords? Size up your competitors to determine who you’re up against. See if you’re trying to outrank big corporations with immense marketing budgets, in which case you’re in for an uphill battle.
  • How will your target keywords help you achieve your goals? Are you trying to raise awareness or get more revenue?

There are plenty of keyword research tools out there, ranging from absolutely free (like Google Keyword Planner and Ubersuggest) to premium paid tools (such as SEM Rush, Moz, and Ahrefs).

Select the right keywords that actually align with your SEO goals.

For best results, find relevant long-tail keywords, instead of broad terms like “auto insurance” or “hardwood furniture.”General terms like these have insane competition, and they’re not likely to bring you any profits.

On the other hand, long-tail keywords will bring you targeted traffic, visitors that are much more likely to buy from you.

If you’re stuck, you can always use our guide on how to find the most profitable target keywords.

8. Examine keywords you’re already ranking for

After revising your target keywords, you should examine the keywords you’re already ranking for. And you can do this for free using Google Search Console.

Open up you Performance report, and under Queries tab you’ll get a detailed list of all search terms that conjure up your site in Google.

This report includes details for each query such as the number of clicks, impressions (how many times your site appeared in the results), click-through rate (CTR), and your position in the SERP.

Auditing the keywords you already rank for includes:

  • Check to see if you’re ranking for your target keywords – Make sure you’re ranking for your target keywords, and also check your position for each one. If your site doesn’t appear for your target keywords or is positioned very low, you need to improve your content and/or your SEO efforts.
  • Identify keywords with high impressions and low CTR – These are an excellent opportunity for you because of the high search volume and traffic potential for these queries. You just need to optimize your title tags and meta descriptions to match users’ intent to get more people to click through. This is a low hanging opportunity that can result in a ton of traffic.
  • Check if you’re ranking for all your branded search terms – In the first step, you checked if you’re ranking for your brand name. In this step, you should review your other branded search terms, such as queries related to your products/services, your location, etc.
  • Investigate if there are any unexpected keywords that you’re ranking for – If you find unrelated queries in this report such as casino, betting, viagra, etc., this might be a sign that your site is hacked and you need to take immediate action.

You can also check the Search Appearance tab to see if your site is ranking for any rich snippets like knowledge graphs, breadcrumbs, review stars, etc.

9. Analyze your organic search traffic

Obviously, your primary SEO goal is to get organic search traffic.

That’s why it makes perfect sense to audit how your rankings translate into actual visitors on your..

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If you want to take your online sales to the next level, you will need a well-designed sales funnel. Your success relies on how you lead prospects through their buyer’s journey, from awareness all the way down to purchase (and even loyalty).

But, what is a sales funnel?! And do you really need one for your small business?!

In this article, you’ll learn all about what a sales funnel is, how they have changed in recent years and how to build an optimal sales funnel for your business.

What is a sales funnel

No matter the size of your business or the industry you’re in, you actually already have a sales funnel.

Whether you’re aware or not, from the moment someone steps foot in your business, all the way until they buy from you, they pass through different stages of your sales funnel.

Say you offer a professional service (dentist, chiropractor, mortgage broker, etc.) , when the person walks into your office he/she effectively enters your sales funnel. Then it’s up to your receptionist or sales agent to get their contact (lead) information and guide them through the sales journey (funnel)until they become paying customers (conversion).

A similar sales process happens in the online world, just at a much larger scale.

Instead of your office, the entire funneling process plays out on your site. And unlike your receptionist or sales agent, your online marketing channels (website, social media, email, ads, etc.) can attract and funnel immense numbers of prospects through their buyer’s journey.

Buyer’s Journey

Your sales funnel takes potential customers along the buyer’s journey and in general, it consists of three stages:

  1. Awareness – The prospect becomes aware of the problem (e.g. back pain, need a mortgage, wants to renovate home)and is trying to learn more about the solution.
  2. Consideration– At this stage, the prospect knows about the solution and is considering his options. Prospects could compare products, brands, prices, features, etc.
  3. Conversion – This is the decision-making stage, where the prospect chooses a solution and takes action.

Sales Funnel

Furthermore, the buyer’s journey doesn’t have to end once the prospect converts to a customer. If you design your funnel well, you can build a lasting relationship and gain loyal customers or even brand advocates.

The simple buyer’s journey model can be expanded to include the later stages:

  • Loyalty – Customers are happy with your product/service and keep buying from you on a regular basis.
  • Advocacy – Loyal customers are delighted and actively promote your business through the word-of-mouth (in person, on social media, etc.).

The truth is that most prospects aren’t going to buy your products/services from first glance.

That’s why a sales funnel have multiple touchpoints intended to lead potential customers towards the purchase (conversion).

With this in mind, let me show you what an online sales funnel looks like:

Sales Funnel

A sales funnel (aka marketing funnel) is the core concept of marketing, both online and offline. It is a model that illustrates how your marketing system guides prospects along their buyer’s journey, from the awareness to conversion (sale) stage.

At the top is your target customer (buyer persona) which represents your ideal customers, or those you want to target with your marketing.

In other words, these are people (inbound leads) you want to attract to your website and into your online sales funnel.
The main components of your sales funnel are:

  1. Traffic sources that drive visitors to your site
  2. Top of the funnel that addresses prospects in the awareness stage
  3. Middle of the funnel intended for prospects in the consideration stage
  4. Bottom of the funnel meant to close the deal (conversion stage)
  5. Customer retention aimed at post-purchase phases (loyalty and advocacy)
  6. Re-engagement paths recover lost prospects and customers and bring them back into the sales funnel

But with the rise of the internet and smartphones, customer habits are shifting, and sales funnels are going through some important transformations.

Let’s have a look at how the buyer’s journey and the sales funnel have changed in recent years.

How search intent transformed sales funnels

Forget about your traditional linear sales funnel!

Today’s customers are much more sophisticated as they have access to more information than ever.

People are turning to their devices to look for information and immediate answers. And as Google puts it:

“…every time they do, they are expressing intent and reshaping the traditional marketing funnel along the way.”

For you, this means people may enter your sales funnel at different stages (not necessarily at the awareness phase).

Also, prospects might enter and leave your funnel, then enter again.

This means the new online sales funnel and buyer’s journey narrows and widens multiple times as the prospect researches and collects enough information to make a decision.

But don’t be alarmed, the sales funnel still works, and it works better than ever!

You just have to understand the way the modern online sales funnel is shifting:

  • Have an omnichannel approach – Have all of your marketing channels work together towards the same goal. Make sure your SEO, content, videos, paid ads, social media, and others, work in harmony to win over new customers across different touchpoints.
  • Personalize your funnel according to behavior – Track user interactions with your content to serve relevant, targeted marketing messages based on their intent.
  • Invest in re-engaging lost visitors – As customers leave and enter your funnel multiple times, it’s critical to use retargeting and remarketing to recover potential customers and push them down the funnel.
  • Retain customers – It costs much less to hold on to existing customers and upsell them with other related products, then it is to acquire new customers.

Now, let’s dissect the main components, and I’ll show you how to build an optimal sales funnel for your business.

How to build your sales funnel

Your sales funnel is the backbone of your marketing. It’s designed to organize and automate (or semi-automated) your marketing and sales efforts.

It’s critical to understand each stage of the funnel and how it works. So, let’s take an in-depth look, and I’ll give you a framework to build your perfect sales funnel.

Top of the funnel (Awareness stage)

Your online sales funnel starts with traffic sources. These are various marketing channels that drive visitors to your site and into your marketing funnel, like:

  • SEO (organic traffic) – These are users that find your website organically through a Google search. It’s a free traffic source; however, it requires search engine optimization to rank high in search results.
  • Paid ads – These are ads which can appear on Google, Facebook, and other websites.
  • Social media – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others can drive social media traffic to your site.
  • YouTube videos – Videos are very popular and highly-engaging content. With YouTube SEO you can attract eager prospects into your sales funnel.
  • Referral traffic – This is the traffic that comes to your website from a link on another site. To gain more traffic from this source, use our 32 link building strategies and get more backlinks to your site.
  • Direct traffic – These are people that directly enter your site by typing in your domain name or from a browser bookmark.

Once visitors enter your funnel (your site), they become prospects.

Note that, people may use traffic sources to enter your sales funnel at different stages, not necessarily at the awareness stage. So you have to target users with different types of content based on their buyer’s journey stage.

Best content strategy for awareness stage

As mentioned earlier, people in the awareness stage are still learning about the problem and possible solutions. That’s where your content comes in.

You can attract people to your funnel with educational/informational content that genuinely helps users solve a problem. Types of content that best resonate with users in the awareness stage are:

  • Blog posts (how-tos, lists)
  • Videos (tutorials)
  • Podcasts
  • Infographics

Run keyword research to find out what are some problems your potential customers are struggling with. Create in-depth content around those keywords and do SEO so that your website comes up on the top page of search results.

Your goals for the awareness stage (top of the funnel) are to:

  • Peak user interest
  • Show there’s a solution to their problem
  • Establish your business as an industry leader/authority
  • Build trust with useful information

Inform and educate your prospects on how they can solve their problem or achieve their goal.

Definitely avoid pitching your products/services in the awareness stage. It’s too early since prospects still don’t know you well enough. Any attempt to sell at this stage can be off-putting and may chase your prospects away.

Instead, give your prospects a gentle nudge towards the next stage of your funnel by turning them into leads.

Collect contact information to turn prospects into leads

Once you build enough interest and trust with your high-value content, it’s time to collect prospects’ contact (lead) information. In digital marketing, this usually refers to an email address and basic info such as name (and other basic info users can give away without concern).

To capture leads, you need to optimize your website and content for lead generation.

This can include various signup forms like pop-ups, in-line forms, slide-in forms, etc.

As you know, almost every site in the world wants your ‘email address,’and most visitors won’t give up their lead information that easily.

That’s where you need to step up and offer them with a high-value offer (aka lead magnet) as an incentive in exchange for their email address.
Some typical examples of lead magnets are:

  • eBooks
  • Templates
  • Free trials
  • Discounts (for e-commerce)
  • Guides, etc.

A lead magnet should be something free (or very low-priced)but with a high perceived value.

The top of the funnel logic is to build trust and a strong bond with your prospects, with relatable content, then capture the contact information with a relevant lead magnet.

Capturing visitors’ emails effectively turns prospects into (qualified) leads and initiates the next stage of your sales funnel.

Middle of the funnel (Consideration stage)

At this stage, the potential customers understand their problem better and learn about the possible solution. Additionally, prospects start to know more about what you do, which is your opportunity to building rapport.

On the other hand, you also know a lot more about your leads at this stage. You understand exactly what they need, or what they are interested in, based on their interactions with your content.

For instance, if a user visits your article about neck pain, and downloads your eBook on “XX best neck exercises to prevent neck pain,” you can pinpoint their exact problem.

Or if you have e-commerce, if the user visits your women’s bags section, you know the type of products they’re interested in.

This can be especially useful if you offer different products or various types of service. You can segment and target leads based on their interests.

What this means is you can deliver targeted messages to each segment. Lead nurturing with relevant, personalized content is more likely to resonate with your leads. This results in a tighter bond and will increase your chances to get that coveted sale.

In fact, brands that nurture leads get 50% more sales-ready customers, and 47% larger purchases.

Types of content that work best in the consideration stage are:

  • Reports
  • Case studies
  • Customer (success) stories
  • Testimonials
  • Product demos and tutorials
  • Webinars

What’s great is now you have users’ contact information so that you can take your relationship to the next level. You can target leads outside your website, through more personal mediums like email, phone, text, etc.

Use drip campaigns to win over leads in the consideration stage

As the name suggests, at this stage leads are considering their options. They may be comparing different brands, products, prices, categories, etc. Now is your chance to win them over with an email sequence (AKA a drip campaign).

A drip campaign is a series of targeted emails sent over time, aimed to nurture leads and convert them into customers.

They can be as simple as you like, or as complex as you need.

The simplest example is a newsletter email sequence, meant to promote content and get subscribers interested in some of your offers.

A bit more sophisticated example can be something like this:

This email sequence consists of the following emails sent out over the next few days:

  1. Deliver a lead magnet
  2. Send an email describing your product/service
  3. Email a case study
  4. Include a video success story
  5. Offer a discount (establish credibility with more testimonials)
  6. Convert leads into customers – make a sale (technically a part of the conversion stage)

Now do this for every lead that you have, and you’re good to go.

This may seem impossible to achieve if you have hundreds or even thousands of leads, but don’t worry. You can automate your drip campaigns with autoresponders like Mail Chimp, Drip or Active Campaign.

Using email marketing automation for lead nurturing you can get as much as a 451% increase in qualified leads.

And once you get your leads hot and ready, it’s time to give them the final blow.

As @GaryVee said “JAB, JAB, JAB, RIGHT HOOK.”

Bottom of the funnel (Conversion stage)

It’s time to close the deal.

So far you built trust in the awareness stage and warmed up your leads in the consideration stage. In this section of your sales funnel, your leads should be ready to make the purchase decision and take action.

But getting leads to flip the switch and act in your favour isn’t easy. You need to use some persuasion tactics to sway the chances your way.
I suggest using six key weapons of persuasion, outlined in Robert Cialdini’s book Influence (1984):

  • Reciprocity – The logic here is to deliver lots of value to your leads and prospects through your blog posts, lead magnet, as well as your email contents.
  • Commitment and consistency – This principle is based on human behaviour when people commit to doing something they’re far more likely to go through until they finish. That’s why, for example, when optimizing your checkout you first ask for shipping info and then go to the billing stage. Once users fill out the shipping form, they’re more likely to finalize the purchase.
  • Principle of liking – It’s pretty straightforward, the more people like you, the higher the chances are for them to buy your stuff. That’s where your content and storytelling comes in. Present your brand as something relatable, show there are real humans behind your brand and don’t forget to use humour (making people laugh is very likable).
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It’s no secret that backlinks remain to be one of the most influential ranking signals in Google (even in 2019!)

Most people struggle because they don’t know where to get started or might be stuck with some ineffective methods that aren’t bringing in any results.

I’ve compiled a list of top link building strategies that work for any business. Regardless if you are a brand new business(with a limited marketing budget), or are an established enterprise (with an immense budget to blow), you can jump-start your link building today, using this guide.

IMPORTANT NOTE : Not all backlinks are created equal. Depending on where those links are coming from they can have a diverse impact. Some links will directly increase your site authority and give you an SEO boost. Other links are a valuable source of referral traffic, and some can even help you make more sales and grow revenue.

With that said, it’s important to get as many backlinks from as many different sources to spread out the link juice across your site and propel your business online.

So, let’s get straight to it. Here’s a list of 32 most powerful link building strategies that are provenwork in 2019. I’ve organized them into three categories; basic, immediate and advanced.

Basic link building strategies

Let’skick off this list with some basic link building strategies. These are relatively easy to execute, and you can get results in a matter of days (if not hours).

1. Get listed in trustworthy directories

Getting your site listed in web directories is a low hanging strategy anyone can carry out. Web directories are large websites that primarily act as an “online phonebook” where people can find relevant sites.

Submitting your site on web directories is usually free or very cheap, and can be as easy as filling out a form.

However, link building with web directories can be a double-edged sword. This strategy was heavily abused by self-proclaimed “SEO experts” in the past. As a matter of fact, you can get someone of Fiverr to list your site on over 2000 directories for only $10.

Needless to say, this is SPAM!

And that’s why this link-building strategy got off to a bad name. If you do decide on buying this kind of service, there is a big chance that Google will penalize your site and reduce your chances of ranking in search results. (Check out the complete list of Google penalties and how to recover)

You’ll end up having to pay to a link-cleaning company to remove your site from these link farms (which will increase your spending even more).

That’s not to say this strategy doesn’t work. Follow Google’s guidelines and submit your website only to on-topic directories. What this means is you should list your site on:

  • Legitimate business directories (e.g. BBB)
  • Niche (industry) directories

For example, a chiropractor could list their site on ZocDoc and other relevant directories.

So, find those reputable directories related to your business, then submit your business website and get listed.

It’s as simple as that, and it’s a great way to get started with link building, especially if you have a brand new website.

2. Submit your site to local listings

Building links using local citations is a superb way to boost your local SEO. Similar to building links with directories, local citations can be a relatively easy source of backlinks.

So, look for directories relevant to your city, region and even state, then submit your business for a citation.

These include worldwide sites like Yelp and Foursquare, as well as national directories like 411 and Hot Frog.

Local directories usually have a much stricter vetting procedure, and they allow users to review businesses. They are also super relevant (in line with Google’s criteria), which makes them more trustworthy, and backlinks from these sources have more value in the eyes of Google.

Plus, they play a huge role in local Google rankings, which you can learn more about in our Ultimate Local SEO guide.

3. Insert links in your profiles

Whenever you create a profile online, be it a website/forum or on the Social Media, make sure to add a link to your business site. That’s pretty much all there is to this link building strategy.

Profile backlinks can be a good source of referral traffic. When someone visits your profile, they’ll see a link to your site. If you post engaging content and have an optimized profile page, it should be a compelling enough reason for users to click on the link and check out your site.

You can use URL-shorteners like Bitly or Google Analytics Campaign URL Builder to create a branded link which looks much cleaner and more attractive than your standard URL. Later, you can also track the performance of your link from the dashboard.

Besides referral traffic, having links in your profiles is also useful for branding and your online reputation.

4. Give testimonials

Testimonial link building is a super easy way to get valuable backlinks. Just write about your experience using products or services you recently bought. Then reach out to those businesses and let them know how much you love it.

Testimonials are social proof, and every business needs them as a way to show off happy customers and build trust. So, they will gladly indulge you by linking back to your site.

It’s win-win for both of you, you get a backlink, and they get the social proof they need.

The downside of this strategy is that it’s difficult to scale. You can only write so many testimonials, and it takes time to buy the product, reach out and get a backlink.

On the upside, if the products are relevant to your industry, and the other business has a sold website authority, these links can be precious for your SEO.

5. Joining the Chamber of Commerce

Joining your regional or national Chamber of Commerce is a guaranteed way to get high-quality backlinks.

Google sees organizations like the Chamber of Commerce as trustworthy, that’s why links from these sites have high value and authority.

The downside is that it might take some time to get listed on their website as they are manually approved and added by one of the managing chamber members.

A perhaps quicker way to obtain backlinks from the Chamber is to offer discounts to members.

But don’t forget about other local organizations such as:

  • Local Council
  • Sports clubs
  • Colleges or Universities
  • Local community groups
  • Professional associations and organizations
  • Charities, etc.

They can also be a source of high-quality links, and you can apply similar tactics as with the Chamber of Commerce.

6. Links from shopping mall websites

If you run a brick-and-mortar business located in a plaza or mall, this is another super easy way to get a link.

Most reputable shopping centers have a website where they list available stores, among other things.

Talk to the management and get your site listed on their website.

This tactic can help you with local SEO and ranking for local searches in Google.

7. Leave comments on other people’s blogs

Blog commenting is a very popular way of getting backlinks. The more you engage bloggers in the comments section, the more likely it is to gain valuable links from authority websites.

Google also loves it when you participate within your niche, as it gives you (and those blogs) more relevancy.

Commenting will help you build solid relationships with influential bloggers and help you get under their radar. If you leave relevant and insightful comments, they’re more likely to check out your site and perhaps even link back to you.

Express your insights and expertise, and you’ll earn valuable backlinks, albeit indirectly.

The main issue is that this technique takes a lot of time to scale, which is why many resorts to mass commenting which I don’t recommend.

Stay away from any spammy (blackhat) practices like automated mass commenting. Most bloggers are aware of this and have spam filters turned on, so your comments are going to be deleted before they even get published.

Plus, that won’t make you look good in the eyes neither bloggers nor Google.

So, leave comments that provide value and add some quality to the conversation. It’s a lengthy process but trust me, it works!

8. Answer questions on Quora, Yahoo, etc.

Q& A websites such as Quora and Yahoo Answers are very popular, with millions of monthly users.

It’s another fairly straightforward strategy that guarantees to get you backlinks.

Getting a link to your website in front of such a large audience can be a great source of referral traffic. Additionally, it can help you show off your expertise and build your authority in your niche.

So, find relevant questions and provide genuine, helpful answers. You can leave a link to your blog post at the bottom where users can learn more.

The better you answer, the more likely it is for users to click on your link and check out your site.

Q&A websites are also a great way to find new topics for your blog. Identify some common questions and problems people have, then create high-quality content on that topic.

As a result, you’ll get a ton of backlinks and traffic to your site.

9. Content syndication

Content syndication is another popular link building strategy that can get you not only links but also more exposure and a boost in traffic.

The way syndication works is that you allow third-party websites to republish your content. This can be just a summary or a full rendition of your content. In exchange, they will link back to the original source – your website.

It’s another win-win tactic, where both..

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Video content is booming, so much so that Cisco predicts almost 82% of all internet traffic will be video by 2022. And it’s about time you get in on the action as well.

But how to stand out in a sea of billions of hours of video content?! What does it take to get your videos in front of your target audience?!

The key to success is YouTube Video SEO!

Keep reading and learn how to optimize your videos to rank on the first page of both YouTube and Google and supercharge your search traffic.

Why YouTube is the best video hosting platform

There are plenty of video hosting/sharing platforms (Vimeo, Wistia, Dailymotion) out there, but none can match the power of YouTube!

This argument stems from the fact that YouTube is far more than just a platform to upload your videos. Let’s look at some of the main points that separate YouTube from the rest:

With numbers like these it clear to see why YouTube dominates the online video space. YouTube’s colossal user-base of a highly engaged audience is a great potential for your marketing as well.

When you upload a video on YouTube, you have a chance to reach and win over a huge chunk of your target audience. It’s all about serving quality, useful video content and optimizing it for high rankings.

YouTube videos have an enormous SEO potential since they also dominate the Google search results…

Videos in Google search results

Google tries to provide the best combination of experience/satisfaction to its users. That’s why if videos might be helpful for the searcher, they may appear on the regular search results page.

It’s all about the user intent. Google assesses various search features (e.g., videos, news, images, etc.) according to the intent of the search and how useful they might be to the user. That’s why for many “how to” queries you might see videos ranking on the top page.

Some searches may also yield a Suggested Clip. They usually appear for “how to” related search terms.

Unlike other search results, suggested clips jump to a specific point in the selected video that features the answer to the search query.

There’s also a new Featured Snippet opportunity for videos – YouTube descriptions.

This means Google is digging through YouTube video descriptions to find the best answers to queries that could pop up as a featured snippet.

Lastly, Google results feature a dedicated section for video results.

And upon closer inspection, you can see that the vast majority of videos belong to YouTube.

According to studies, 88% of videos on the first page of Google come from YouTube.

This might seem like an unfair advantage, but let me explain why this makes perfect sense.

Google’s apparent YouTube bias

YouTube’s prevalence in search results might look a bit unjust considering that it’s Google’s property (G bought YT in 2006). It’s almost as if Google is biased to push their own product.

Before you get all riled up, let me say: there’s no conflict of interest here, it’s absolutely normal.

Google ranks videos similar to how it does with other websites and content. It uses over 200 ranking signals, with two most important ones being relevancy and site authority (more on this later).

The relevancy bit is aligned with user intent. If Google deems your video is useful for the searcher, it’s more likely to show up in the search results. We already covered this in the previous section.

The decisive factor for YouTube’s dominance is its tremendous authority.

YouTube has accumulated so much authority over the years that it’s next to (but not entirely) impossible to outrank. With over a billion hours watched every day and over 27 bn backlinks, YouTube’s authority is unrivaled by any other video hosting platform.

So it stands to reason that YouTube videos have a one-of-a-kind monopoly in Google’s video results.

Ranking paradox

Let’s talk about an important side note before we delve into the actual YouTube SEO.

You might be surprised to find that when you look up a search phrase on both Google and YouTube, the results you get will vary greatly.

For most queries, you will see different videos ranking first on Google than listed first on YouTube.

What’s more, a study by Stone Temple shows that in many cases video rankings are almost inverse between the two search engines.

Videos that rank high on YouTube oftentimes rank lower on Google, and vice versa.

But how could this be?!

It may seem utterly counter-intuitive that the same search term yields different video rankings. After all isn’t YouTube owned by Google?!

However, this will make more sense once you understand the fundamental difference between Google and YouTube rankings. And the difference is in user intent.

“Google’s goal is to deliver a result that causes you to get what you are looking for on a page view basis.” – Stone Temple

This means Google understands that the intent of your search is to get an answer, and it tries to deliver it instantly on their search results page. Hence the featured snippets, videos, Knowledge Graph, Local Packs, and other SERP features.

On the other hand, when you search on YouTube, your goal is to watch a video. You are looking to consume video content, and unlike on Google, you’re looking to spend more time on the platform.

And that fundamental difference impacts what videos come up in search on Google and YouTube.

This is a perfect segue into our next section…

How videos get ranked

If you want to rank your videos with YouTube SEO the right way, you will first need to understand what ranking signals Google and YouTube factor in.

YouTube video ranking

Engagement is the #1 ranking signal in YouTube. Some of the main components of user engagement are:

  • Watch time – It’s a measurement of the total amount of time that users watch your video. In other words, it is an aggregate of the amount of watch time (in minutes) that your video accrued.
  • Audience retention – This is how much (%) of your video people watch. For example, if a user watches 8 minutes of your 10-minute video, the audience retention would be 80%.
  • Video view count– How many users watched your video.
  • Number of video shares – How many times your video was shared.
  • Subscribers – The number of subscribers on your YouTube channel.
  • Likes and comments – How many likes/dislikes and comments your video gets.
  • Video embeds – How many times your video was embedded on other websites outside YouTube.
  • Backlinks – The number of links on other websites that point to your video.

YouTube also looks at if users keep watching other videos after viewing yours (Session watch time).

This is a good signal that your videos are engaging enough to keep users watching more videos on the platform and will give you an SEO boost.

Google video ranking

As mentioned, Google ranks videos differently from YouTube.

Google forgoes the whole engagement thing and emphasizes some more traditional ranking signals like:

  • Relevancy – This means how relevant your video is to the search query and user intent.
  • Authority – This is a measure of importance, and it factors in the number of backlinks and referring domains that point to your video.

Despite the fact that each of the two search engines uses different ranking factors, the video optimization steps largely overlap.

The entire next section is dedicated to answering the question:

“How to optimize your videos to rank on the top page of both YouTube and Google?”

YouTube Video SEO checklist

To help you master YouTube video SEO and dominate search engines, I’ve devised the following optimization checklist:

1. Find video topics with keyword research

Your YouTube SEO starts even before you create your video. The first step is to run keyword research to identify high-demand topics to create videos around.

Look for topics relevant to your business, but also something that a lot of users are interested in watching. Brainstorm for ideas that make sense, then run them through a keyword research tool.

You can use Keyword Tool IO to find popular search terms that people type in YouTube.

Keyword Tool IO is especially useful since it scrapes data from YouTube’s autocomplete to generate a list of keywords along with their search volume (popularity) and competition (difficulty). It’s a freemium tool, so if you want to unlock all the features, you have to subscribe to their paid version.

Learn how to find the most profitable keywords in our Ultimate Keyword Research guide.

To set you up, here is a list of general topics that perform very well on both Google and YouTube:

  • Informational videos (News, latest trends in your industry, etc.)
  • How-tos (How to calculate interest rate, how to relieve back pain, or How to [use your product])
  • Tutorials (Proper way to protect your teeth an gums)
  • Reviews (Best pressure washer 2019, Clarins Double Serum review, etc.)
  • Entertaining videos (Behind the scenes show, funny videos, etc.)

Another awesome way to find your video topic is to look at which YouTube videos appear in Google’s universal search results. If you see a video already ranking in Google universal for a specific keyword, you should probably create a video around that topic.

Google’s own Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes confirmed this to be a valid strategy.

A neat trick is to insert your target keyword in your video file. So instead of your file name being, for example, “20190113_161955.mp4”, you can change it to something that includes your keyword, like: “how_to_fix_bad_posture_in_3_minutes.mp4.”

This way you tell search engines what the video is about even before you publish and optimize.

2. Consider the video length

Both Google and YouTube love in-depth, long-form content.

Users are looking for relevant and worthwhile videos. On the other side, search engines want to maximize user satisfaction by showing compelling videos that cover the topic effectively.

Another argument in favour of long videos is that YouTube wants to keep people on their site. The more time people spend there, the more ads YT can serve and make more money.

But this also aligns with YouTube’s watch time metric, which is a crucial ranking factor.

That’s why longer videos tend to perform much better on YouTube.

The longer the video, the more value you can provide. This is especially true for informational content like how-tos and tutorials. So, if a topic deserves depth, go with a longer video. Ideally, this should be between 10-16 minutes long.

On the other hand, promotional videos should be kept shorter. Most industry experts agree that in this case, anything longer than 6 minutes is too much.

But don’t stretch your video just for the sake of it. Keep in mind the other important ranking factor – audience retention!

3. Create eye-catching thumbnails

Once you’ve created your video, it’s time to do some SEO to boost discoverability, get more views and rank higher.

Thumbnails are instrumental at grabbing people’s attention!

In a massive swarm of YouTube videos, you need to stand out. Your video thumbnail is the first things that users notice, so make it intriguing and captivating.

To make your video thumbnails pop, use flashy, high-contrast imagery. Also, don’t forget to tease what the video is about to truly captivate users’ attention.

Some thumbnail optimization best practices include:

  • Use bright, contrasting colors
  • Have a solid background
  • Include visual cues (colors, images, shapes, personality) consistent with your brand
  • Grab attention with bold text
  • Include people, ideally expressing certain emotions that spark interest (e.g., a surprised headshot)

You can edit your video thumbnails with Photoshop or Canva.

Canva offers some great YouTube thumbnail templates. You don’t need to worry about the image size. Just select a template and start customizing. Very easy!

One thing you should definitely avoid is using thumbnails that are auto-generated by YouTube.They’re usually of lower quality and don’t convey powerful messages that attract your audience.

Once you’ve grabbed users’ attention with eye-catching thumbnails, optimize your videos for CTR (click-through rate) with a magnetic title.

4. Use titles as click-magnets

Thumbnails and video titles work in tandem to grab attention and compel users to click and watch your video. They work like a one-two punch where the thumbnail hooks the user, while the title reels them..

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Bounce rate is one of the most important barometers of your digital marketing performance. Even so, it’s also one of the most misunderstood metrics.

Even Google’s definition creates more questions than it answers:

“A bounce is a single-page session on your site.” – Google

Still, it’s critical to keep your bounce rate in check. Fewer bounces mean more engagement and page views, which translates into more conversions and revenue.

A very high bounce rate indicates problems with your site, poor user experience, low relevancy, or something else that’s making users leave your site too early.

So in this article, you’ll learn all you need to know about how to reduce your bounce rate and get more conversions.

What is a bounce rate

To make sense of what a bounce is, think of it like this:

You walk into a store, turn around and walk right back out.

You don’t interact with the clerk; you don’t try any of the products nor check out any of the deals; you just walk right out.

You bounce.

Same goes for your website. A bounce is when a user lands on your page but doesn’t interact with any of its elements, and doesn’t visit any other page on your site. Or in other terms, a bounce is when a visitor exists your page without any engagement or further browsing.

A bounce can be triggered by:

  • Returning to search results
  • Closing the browsers
  • Entering a new URL in the address bar
  • Following an external link
  • Staying inactive (timing out the session)
  • Viewing the entire page but not interacting with any elements, then exiting the website

Hence a bounce is a single-page visit, like in the Google’s definition.

In turn, a bounce rate is the percentage of single-page visits (or web sessions) on your site.

So a bounce rate will tell you how many visitors bounced compared to all the visitors that came to your site.

To help you get a better grasp of this concept, let’s take a look at how Google Analytics calculates bounce rates.

How GA calculates bounce rates

Google Analytics automatically calculates the bounce rate for your website as well as for all your individual pages.

Bounce Rate in Google Analytics

The bounce rate is one of the most prominent metrics shown across various reports within GA. This further solidifies its importance as one of the key parameters to track.

But to help you better understand it, let me show you how exactly Google comes up with this metric.

Google calculates your bounce rate by taking single-page sessions and dividing them with all sessions.

Bounce Rate Formula

In simpler terms, Google divides your bounced (single-page) visits by the total number of visits (sessions) to your website (or page).

So for example, if you had 352 visits and 254 of them bounced, your bounce rate would be 72.16%.

254 (# of bounces) ÷ 352 (# of total visits) = 72.16% (bounce rate)

Note that Google Analytics doesn’t explicitly show the number of bounces on your site, but you can easily work out the math and get the exact number.

However, the more valuable metric is the bounce rate, as it has important implications on your SEO and overall digital marketing.

Why should you care about your bounce rate

As mentioned in the intro of the article, your bounce rate is a key barometer of your digital marketing success.

Why is that?

Well, you can drive a ton of traffic to your site, but if those visitors are not engaging or checking out other key (sales or product) pages, what good does it do – not much. In other words, a bounced visitor doesn’t convert, which is your site’s primary goal.

Bounce Rate vs Conversion Rate

For example, if a visitor lands on one of your blog posts, but doesn’t sign up for your lead magnet, newsletter and doesn’t visit your other pages such as your product or sales page, there’s no conversion. You don’t get any lead information nor do you make a sale.

So a high bounce rate may indicate that you’re attracting low-quality traffic.

This means you have to check your traffic sources (PPC, SEO, Social Media, etc.) and audience to pinpoint the exact problem. You don’t want to waste resources driving visitors that have no intention of converting.

But the problem might not lie in your visitors; the bottleneck may be your website.

If you fail to meet your visitors’ expectations, they are going to bounce!

This may happen because your landing page isn’t relevant to your visitors and their intent. You can’t blame a visitor for bouncing if they land on your site searching for auto insurance and in your article, you go on rambling about auto loan rates.

Same deal happens if you misalign your content with user intent and their stage in the buyers’ journey. If users are just looking for informational content but you immediately hit them with a sales pitch, be sure to expect high bounce rates.

Poor user experience such as slow loading speeds can also cause many people to bounce. It’s 2019, and no one wants to wait more than a split second for your site to load.

Bounce Rate vs Organic Position in SERP

Finally, high bounce rate can hurt your SEO. Although it’s not confirmed as one of Google’s ranking factors, there’s a strong correlation between your bounce rate and your rankings.

Pages with relatively lower bounce rate tend to rank higher in Google’s search results. Which is understandable considering bounce rate is a component of visitors’ dwell time, which has a major impact on your SEO.

So, your bounce rate is a good indicator of the effectiveness of your marketing since it can impact conversions as well as your organic position.

The next logical question is: “What is a good bounce rate?”

What is a good bounce rate

This is no easy question to answer as bounce rates can vary wildly between different websites.

For single-page websites, high bounce rates are perfectly normal since there are no other pages to visit. On the other hand, for websites that rely on users viewing multiple pages or interacting with signup forms and other elements, a high bounce rate is bad.

Still, you can’t expect 100% of your visitors to convert or interact with your site every single time. So some bounces are commonplace.

But what exactly is a normal bounce rate for your website?!

There’s no universal standard, rather what you need to do is benchmark your bounce rate against other websites. It makes sense to look at benchmarks by:

  • Website type
  • Industry (niche)
  • Marketing channel, and
  • Device

Download our Comprehensive Bounce Rate Benchmark Report to determine how you stack up against others. Check if your bounce rate is up to industry standards, compare with similar type websites and more.

If your visitors are bouncing too much, you need to take immediate action. Find the root of the problem and fix it using the solutions listed in this article.

Even though there’s no universal threshold, be wary of extremely low bounce rates. I’m talking about 20% or lower. The chances of engaging and converting more than 80% of visitors are very slim. So bounce rates below 20% are more likely to indicate that you haven’t configured your Google Analytics properly and that’s what’s throwing off your numbers.

Poorly configured Google Analytics will screw up your numbers and prevent you from seeing a realistic picture of your performance. And too low of a bounce rate is a clear red flag that something’s not right.

Now that you’re closely acquainted with bounce rates let’s see how you can analyze it in Google Analytics.

How to analyze bounce rate in Google Analytics

When it comes to measuring your bounce rate, Google Analytics is your best friend. With GA you can monitor the overall bounce rate of your entire site, as well as for each individual page.

However, you need to dig deeper to diagnose what exactly is causing your visitors to bounce. That’s why you should examine your bounce rate from different angles, like:

  • Audience Overview to check to the overall bounce rate of your site
  • Channels report where you can monitor bounce rate for each marketing channel
  • All Traffic report allows you to compare bounce rates for each source/medium
  • All Pages report gives you details on bounce rates for individual pages

But also look at other GA reports and see what you can learn about your bounce rate.

With that out of the way, let’s go through 5 main areas you need to inspect.

Inspect your overall bounce rate

The best place to start is to gauge your overall bounce rate. In Google Analytics find the Audience Overview where you’ll see your sitewide bounce rate along with other key metrics.

Overall Bounce Rate

You can also compare bounce rates across different periods. Just select the periods you want to compare and see how your performance changes over time.

Bounce Rate comparison over time

This is especially useful if you make significant changes to your site or content and want to measure how it affects your bounce rates.

Your site-wide bounce rate is great and all, but it can be too broad and not paint the whole picture. If you determine that your overall bounce rate is too high, you need to drill deeper and determine if it’s universally high or is there a particularly problematic section that needs fixing.

Inspect other specific areas like your channels, traffic sources, audience and even individual pages for a more granular analysis. This will help you troubleshoot and patch up the issue.

Check bounce rate for each marketing channel

The next place to check is your Acquisition report where you can analyze the bounce rate for each marketing channel.

Bounce Rate by channel

This report will show you which marketing channel brings in the highest quality traffic. In our example, the referral traffic has the lowest bounce rate of 22.09% which means visitors coming from this channel are responding well to our content.

At the same time, traffic from display ads has the highest bounce rate (68.7%) which means that perhaps there’s something wrong with the targeting. In this case, you should also check if your ads are relevant to your content. Or perhaps landing pages need improving to make them more engaging and get more conversions.

You can go even deeper and break down each channel by source/medium.

Source/medium bounce rate

If you see big discrepancies between different sources, you must be on to something. Compare your well-performing traffic sources with those that have high bounce rates and try to figure out what’s the problem. Ask yourself this: are you targeting the right people with the right content?!

On the other hand, if the numbers are pretty much stable across the board, then perhaps the issue doesn’t lie in your targeting, so keep looking further.

Monitor your bounce rate across different devices/browsers

Google Analytics allows you to monitor your performance based on technology your visitors are using. This means you can track the bounce rate across different devices.

Go into your Audience report and scroll down to Mobile overview section to analyze desktop and mobile performance.

Bounce rate for each device

If you see a high bounce rate on certain devices, that can be a clear indicator of poor user experience on that device. Pay close attention to mobile devices, if the bounce rate is much higher than on desktop, you need to optimize your site for mobile.

This is especially important since Google is emphasizing mobile-first indexing, and poor optimization can also hurt your SEO and rankings.

Track your bounce rate for different audiences

Another key area you need to analyze is how different audiences respond to your site and content.

If your servicing international audiences then you go to Audience report and check out the Geo>Locationsection.

Bounce rate by location

Track your bounce rate across different countries to measure how each audience responds to your content. If some areas exhibit low engagement, perhaps you need to optimize your content to resonate with your target audience.

It’s also worthwhile looking at the Language section to check bounce rates for each language.

For example, if you’re not getting enough engagement from your French-speaking audience then perhaps you can improve their user experience by creating a French version of your site. This can significantly reduce your bounce rates and increase conversion.

You can also examine bounce rates based on demographics to see how each age or gender group responds to your site.

Bounce rate by aga

Track your bounce rate to make sure your key target audience sees relevant content and has an optimal user experience. That way you can maximize engagement, increase conversions and revenue.

Examine your key landing pages bounce rate

Finally, examine the performance of your key landing pages. Go to Behavior reports and scroll to the Site Content>Landing Pages section.

Landing page bounce rate

Analyze bounce rates of each landing page and determine what’s preventing users from converting. Ask yourself:

  • Is your landing page relevant
  • Is the user experience engaging
  • Do your CTAs stand out and are they compelling
  • Is it clear enough which next steps do you want users to take
  • How hard is it to navigate to other pages on your site

Also, have a look at the Behavior Flow to see which pages users go to after your landing page.

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Think about the last time you went to dinner, why did you choose that restaurant!? Well, if you’re like most people, you probably searched online for a restaurant with good reviews and reputation.

But this isn’t limited to just restaurants.

People rely on Google and the internet to find products and services when they need them.

The last thing you want your customers to see is negative online reviews associated with your brand name.

Bad reputation = no business.

Your online reputation matters!

Read on and learn how to manage your online reputation to get more customers.

What is online reputation management

Your online reputation is how people perceive your business when they see your brand come up on the internet. First impressions matter and they will determine the sentiment (positive or negative) people develop towards your brand.

In turn, online reputation management (ORM) means influencing how people perceive your business. Or in more simpler terms, it means controlling what information comes up when people look up your brand, products or services on the internet.

The idea of online reputation management is to evoke positive feelings and opinions about your business, while at the same time stifling any negative review or bad comments.

All this with the goal of building trust in your business, which results in more people buying your products and services.

DISCLAIMER: Online reputation management is supposed to ward off negative reviews only when they’re subjective and not fair. For the sake of good online reputation management (and good marketing) always listen to your reviews, positive and negative. See if there’s anything you need to fix on your side first, and only then resort to managing your online reputation.

Why your online reputation matters

In modern times, lines are blurred between digital and physical world. This means your online reputation translates into your offline reputation as well.

85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, according to Bright Local!

Furthermore, 86% of people read reviews for (local) businesses.

The power of online reviews is on the rise – 57% of consumers won’t use a business that has fewer than 4 stars (up from 48% in 2017)! At the same time, 11% of users demand a perfect 5-star rating.

Googling for product reviews has seen a 35% increase in the past two years. And it’s not just for restaurants and hotels, other industries (like blinds, shades, and shutters) soared by as much as a 100% in review searches.

So, there is no doubt that having positive online reviews and reputation can have a big impact on your business. But what about negative reviews, how will they affect you…

Bad online reputation (negative reviews) will hurt your business

I have some good news and some bad news for you!

THE BAD NEWS: Negative online reviews are going to hurt your business, big time!

Businesses risk losing as many as 22% of customers when just one negative article is found by users considering buying their product!

If 2 or 3 negative results pop up on the first page of SERP for your brand, you stand to lose 44-59% of customers.

Besides just those negative reviews, that disadvantageous story could be picked up by the local media. This can have a crippling effect, as trusted news sources tend to rank high in search engines.

You could be stuck in a downward spiral that’s not only damaging your reputation but destroying your entire business.

THE GOOD NEWS: Now for some good news, you can take control over your online reputation. Be proactive, influence what people are saying about you and manage what comes up in search results. Encourage happy customers to leave positive reviews and useful feedback, and minimize the online presence of harmful reviews and articles.

Now, let’s get down to business!

How to manage your online reputation

Clearly your online reputation matters, and you have to do everything in your power to control what comes up alongside your brand name.

Now let me show you how you can effectively manage your business reputation online.

1. Gauge your overall brand reputation

Before you set out to do anything, you should first audit your online reputation. You want to see what people are saying about you and what’s your brand image in the eyes of your customers.

This can be as simple as asking friends, customers, business partners, and other stakeholders how they feel and what they think about your brand.

The next step would be to do a simple Google search for your brand name and see what comes up.

But to get a better overall sense of your online reputation you can use a tool like The Brand Grader.

Plug in your business name and check out what influential bloggers and news outlets are saying about you.

The tool allows you to also gauge your reputation by looking at recent mentions on social networks.

Plus, you can see how your competitors and other companies perform online.

While we’re at the subject, check out our article on Competitive research and learn how to spy on your competitors.

And don’t worry if The Brand Grader doesn’t show any results for your business. It’s actually a great opportunity, you have a clean slate, and you can start building your brand image and your online reputation.

You can also use the complaint search box by Go Fish Digital to run your name on over 40 complaint websites to quickly get a list of negative reviews related to your brand.

Once you’ve determined your current reputation, it’s time to build and manage a strong online presence.

2. Secure your brand

Building your online reputation means building a name for yourself. And to start, make sure you own your brand name.

If you want to be able to control your online reputation, you need to protect your name across popular platforms.

The last thing you want to happen is when people look up your name, someone else’s website or social profiles come up in the search results.

So, you need to…

Make sure you own your brand name domains

It’s super important for all businesses to own a domain name that corresponds to their brand (even if you don’t have a website).

For example, if your business name is Elmwood Spa, make sure you own the “elmwoodspa.com” domain name.

Besides the .com, I’d also strongly advise you to make sure you own other popular TLDs like .net, .org, and .info. But also acquire regional domains like .ca (Canada), .us (USA), and for all other regions, you may be servicing.

These are all trusted TLDs and may come up high in search results on Google. You don’t want your competitors or other people to own those domain names. If you don’t acquire them, you risk someone impersonating you on the internet, which not only cause damages to your reputation but will also hurt your business.

You can use KnowEm (free tool) to check your brand name availability on over 150 domain names.

If someone else already has your domain name, you can check out if it’s available for sale.

Do your best to secure all your relevant top-level domain (TLD)extensions, even if it means having to buy them form a current user.

You should also check if a handle under your brand name is available on over 500 popular social networks.

Which brings us to the next important thing.

Create accounts across ALL social media

It’s not just about your website and search engines. People also use social media to find new products and businesses.

To give you a bit of a perspective, 60% of people on Instagram say they discover new products on the platform, and 80% of people follow at least one business.

Also, your customers may already be talking about you on social media even if you’re not there. It pays dividends to be present and respond to users’ feedback on social networks. You better be there before you run into some issues.

So, register your name across all social networks your potential customers may be using. Even if you don’t have the time (or budget) to stay active on social media, it’s worthwhile owning those social profiles.

Because of their of widespread popularity, make sure you register for an account on:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • and LinkedIn

At the very least, fill out your bio, add a profile picture and a cover image. That way you protect your brand from imposters and other wrongdoers.

Also, link out to your social profiles on your website. You can add social media icons in the header as well as the sitewide footer of your website.

That way search engines know that those are your official pages and this can increase your chances of fully owning the SERP for your brand.

Get listed in business directories

Similar to telephone directories from the olden

days, online directories help people find businesses, their websites and contact information.

These could be industry or local directories. Your aim is to find the ones relevant to your business and make sure your site and info is listed accurately. NAP (name, address, phone) consistency is actually a major ranking factor in Google for local searches.

Moreover, many of these sites feature reviews and comments. Therefore, it’s best to know where your site is listed and what people are saying about you, so you can respond to any criticism and resolve issues.

3. Leverage reviews

When was the last time you went out to buy something without checking out reviews first?

Can’t remember, can you!?

You’re not alone, most people won’t try new products or services without looking online for reviews.

With so much influence over people’s purchasing decisions, reviews are a vital part of your online reputation that you need to manage. This includes two major things:

  • Encourage people to leave positive reviews
  • Respond and neutralize negative reviews

But first, let’s have a look at some of the most influential review websites on the internet.

Notable review platforms
  • Google My Business (GMB) – GMB is one of the top trusted sources for online reviews and is the go-to platform for every business that intends to have a proper online presence. It’s essential for local businesses, as Google pulls the majority of data from GMB in their local related search results.
  • Facebook – With over 2 billion users (2018), Facebook is by far the biggest social network. But it’s also very important for businesses. You should have a business page to keep in touch with your customers. Users can also leave comments and ratings based on their experience with your brand and products.
  • Amazon – The supreme king of online retail, Amazon is a powerhouse for online review as well. If your products are listed on Amazon, you can bet people will check out the reviews even if they intend to buy it elsewhere. Amazon has been training it’s users to leave comments and ratings for quite some time, so each product is likely to have enough reviews to deem it a credible source.
  • Yelp – Yelp is one of the most trusted sources of customer reviews on the internet because of their strict review policies. Businesses from all sorts of categories are listed on Yelp, form restaurants and bars, to dry cleaners and day spas. Make sure to claim your business on Yelp and keep your information up to date. Also, make sure to respond timely to any negative comments.
  • Trip Advisor – It’s mostly used for travelers and tourists, and it helps users discover good places to visit and activities to do. Users can check out rooms to book, find flights and even reserve tables for local restaurants.
  • Yellow pages – Yellow pages are one of the largest and well-known business directories. It’s aimed at helping users find the best businesses with useful information such as addresses, phone numbers, as well as business ratings. You can claim your business on YP to manage your reputation by responding to comments and reviews.
  • BBB – Better Business Bureau is a non-profit organization aimed at helping people find trusted businesses. Apart from user ratings, BBB does their own evaluation of the business with A-F ratings.
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Looking to boost your rankings and increase traffic?! Then Google Search Console (GSC) is a must-have addition to your SEO arsenal.

GSC is a free, yet pretty powerful tool – You can analyze search traffic data, fix errors, improve performance and so much more…

Despite this, it’s still a great unknown for a lot of SEO beginners and even some pros.

Fret not, in this article I’ll show you 12 ways to harness the full power of GSC and supercharge your SEO.

How to set up Google Search Console

First thing’s first, you need to set up Google Search Console. It’s actually more of a verification process, you need to verify your website with your GSC account.

Log into your Google Search Console account and click on the “Add A Property” button.

Add your property in GSC

Notice how Google uses the term “property” and not website. It’s because you can use Search Console not only for your site but also for your mobile app. You can find the same term used in Google Analytics.

Next, simply enter your website URL and click on “Add” button.

Insert your website URL

Now, it’s time to verify the ownership of the website.

GSC verification methods

Google’s recommended method of verification is using the HTML file upload. You need to download the HTML verification file and then upload it to your root domain, which requires access to your server through FTP or cPanel File Manager.

If you’re not comfortable uploading files directly to your server and messing with your root domain, there are simpler alternate methods available.

Alternate verification methods in GSC

You can:

  • Insert an HTML meta tag to your site’s home page
  • Add DNS text record
  • Connect with your Google Analytics account
  • Use Google Tag Manager to verify your GSC property

By far the simplest method is using Google Analytics if you have already installed it on your website. If not, you can check out this free guide on how to set up and use Google Analytics.

Select Google Analytics and click on verify. GSC will guide you through the next few steps, so follow their instructions and you’ll be done in no time.

Google Analytics verification method

If you’re using a WordPress website, I’d recommend the HTML tag method because you can verify your Google Search Console using a WP plugin.

Select the HTML tag option, then copy the meta tag from the box below.

Verification with an HTML tag

There are many plugins you can use to verify your Search Console, like Yoast SEO and All-in-One SEO Pack. You can also add the verification code to your headers using Insert Headers and Footers plugin.

If you’re using the Yoast SEO plugin, simply paste this code into your Yoast settings. Navigate to Webmasters Tools within General settings, then paste the code in the Google verification code box.

Yoast SEO integration with GSC

You can paste the entire meta tag in the box, and Yoast SEO will automatically strip it down leaving just the necessary code.

IMPORTANT: To complete the verification process properly, make sure to verify HTTPS and non-HTTPS versions of your site as separate properties. Create a different property for https://example.com and http://example.com so GSC can track both.

Google is actually testing ways to add all of a site’s subdomains, but until this feature is released, make sure to add each subdomain as a separate property.

Once you’re done, you can access your Google Search Console dashboard, with all its reports and tools.

Old Google Search Console dashboard

You’ll be prompted to switch to the new, revamped version of GSC.

It has a clean and modern look which makes it much easier to navigate than the current version.

New Google Search Console dashboard

However, not all the features have been ported to the new Search Console yet. Which is why you can still easily switch back and forth between the two versions whenever you need to (As of Nov 2018).

Google Search Console only collects data from the moment you set it up, so the earlier you implement this, the better. Of course, the ideal time would be as soon as you launch your website!

Now, that we got that out of the way, let me show you why you need GSC and how it can bolster your SEO.

12 ways to supercharge your SEO using Google Search Console

As I mentioned earlier, Google Search Console is a must-have tool for anyone taking SEO seriously. It’s especially useful when running a full SEO audit.

Still, many webmasters don’t know how to take the full advantage of this powerful tool. Most people think it’s only used for tracking errors and fixing issues with your site.

Actually, GSC is much more than this. Besides monitoring performance, it’s a great tool to help you optimize your site and find new opportunities to grow your traffic.

With that said, here are the 12 ways you can use GSC to supercharge your SEO and jack up your traffic.

1. Set international targeting for your site

You can use GSC International Targeting report to set which country or language should be prioritized for your search results.

This kind of geotargeting helps Google determine how and when it displays your site in search results. It also improves results related to geographic queries and gives you better chances of ranking for relevant searches.

Go into your Search Console dashboard and navigate to the “Search traffic” section and select “International targeting” report.

GSC international targeting

You may want to set your targeting if you’re servicing a specific geographical area. This is especially important if you’re using geography-neutral domain extensions such as .com, .net or .org.

For example: If you run a business that only sells or service customers in Canada, and you have a domain name that ends with a .com, you should set international targeting to Canada.

Set international targeting

The languages tab shows a report of errors if you have multiple language versions of your site for each country you’re targeting.

Language targeting in GSC

For instance, a website in Canada might want to create a translated version for French-speaking customers.

To target specific languages with your site you need to add hrefslang tag that tells Google which version of the site should be served based on visitor’s location.

Check for errors and fix them, so your site is displayed properly for each geographic location.

2. Get more organic traffic with performance reports

A major reason why you need Google Search Console is that it’s the only tool that can give you accurate search performance data.

What is search performance?

Search performance allows you to monitor pages and keywords that your website ranks for in Google. You can track the number of clicks, impressions, average click-through rates (CTR) and average position of your site in search results.

There’s even more, you can check the countries you rank in the most, devices (which we’ll get to later) as well as search appearance.

Performance reports are available in both old and new version of Google Search Console.

In the old GSC, you can find this report under “Search Analytics” in “Search Traffic” section.

Old Search Analytics in GSC

It’s a bit clunky compared to the new version, where this report is far more user-friendly and easier to understand.

New search Performance report in GSC

Visual elements with different colors and better design make it easy to pick exactly what data you want to monitor.

Also, the new version allows you to track data for the last 16 months, compared to the old GSC where you could see data as far as only 90 days.

And take it from an SEO expert – more data means better optimization!

That’s why l strongly recommend using the new version to track performance.

Now, you may be thinking: “How do I get more traffic based on past search performance?!”

There are a couple of ways in which you can boost traffic with Google Search Console performance report.

a. Increase CTR to boost traffic with performance reports

CTR has a massive impact on both your ranking and your traffic.

Google uses ‘click-through rate’ as a key signal for high value, engaging content.

The higher your CTR, the higher the perceived value of your content is, in the eyes of Google. Your website will be pushed upwards in the search results, meaning greater visibility for your site and increased traffic.

More directly, larger click numbers mean you get more traffic. Which is the end goal of SEO, isn’t it!?

Now let me show you how to boost your CTR with GSC performance reports.

You want to identify search terms you rank for, but aren’t getting enough clicks.

To do so, highlight the “Average CTR” and “Average Position” in the performance report.

Highlight Average CTR and Average Position in GSC

You can use Advanced Web Rankings tool to figure out the average CTR for each position in the search rankings.

For example, #5 position gets on average a 4.04 CTR on desktop and 4.22 on mobile.

Advanced web rankings

Pages that are ranking on spots between 5-10 are a great opportunity, you just need to bump up your CTRs, and you’ll get higher rankings and more traffic.

Now you need to filter out all the pages you’re ranking on 1-4 position. Add a position filter and set it to display position that is greater 4.9 (5 and above).

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