Thursday, 15 August 2013

Get Your Business Social Reports in Google Analytics

google analytics social reportsBack in April 2012 I wrote a piece outlining the new Social Reports in Google Analytics. Since then the Google Analytics team have released so many updates and improvements across the platform that it’s time to have a complete refresher on this area of the reports to help you understand and get the most out of the awesome data that is available.
The reports are beneficial to everyone – regardless of how big or small your social media activity might be. They include information that’s great for SEO as well as helping you understand what to do with your social media activity.
So what’s in the box?
Quick view of conversions through social and top referring networks, URLs and sources
Network Referrals
Where your social traffic is coming from
Data Hub Activity
What people are saying and sharing about your site on Google’s social platforms
Landing Pages
The pages of your site that gain social traffic and the stats for these
Links to your website from other websites
Which social networks have generated conversions, their value and any assisted conversions
Interactivity with social buttons on your pages
Visitors Flow
How social visitors explore your website’s content

So let’s now look at each of these in more detail, starting at the beginning of course.


The first thing you’ll notice are the circles. These represent how many conversions your website has had in total, within that how many of these were impacted by social media and within that how many conversions happened when the last visit to the site came via social media.
If you see a big grey circle you’re not yet tracking conversions and should set up goals or ecommerce tracking ASAP! Conversion tracking really helps you work out what’s successful and what’s not – whether it’s form completions, time on site, transactions or anything in between!
It’s interesting to see the size of the circle that social conversions takes up, if it’s large then your social media is on fire, if it’s small then you need to increase the size of your social strategy.
social conversions comparison
This example shows two different websites, one has a much higher average conversion value but sees a much smaller percentage of social conversions than the other. If the second example were to step up their social media campaign even more they could be highly successful and generate very good additional revenue from it.
The summary shown to the right of the image outlines the top statistics:
  • Total visits to the site
  • Total number of social visits
  • Total conversions from all sources
  • Conversions that included a visit to the site via social media at some point in the visitor’s journey
  • Conversions where the last visit to the site before a conversion was from social media
Below this there is a summary of the top 5 results for the top referring social networks, shared URLs that have the most visits and top social interactions on the site (if tracked). These all link through to the main reports so I’ll focus on those rather than explaining them in detail here.

Network Referrals

This report is all about where the social traffic came from to get to your site and the pageviews, visit duration and average pages per visit as a result. Hovering over each social network shows the URLs that have been used to compile this data, for example, Twitter is traffic from both and
The hub sign alongside a result shows that this network is a Data Hub that Google has data for. You can find this in the Data Hub Activity report.
Blurred Stats
Understanding which sites send the most traffic and then reviewing the additional data to compare the interaction and ‘stickiness’ of visit from each platform is beneficial for planning your social media strategy and identifying which sites will be strong.  Those with good average visit duration and number of pages per visit suggest that the users from these platforms will engage more with the content and could be more valuable, obviously depending on the context of the site. This should also be compared with conversion data which we will come to shortly.

Quick Overview

To get a quick idea of which platforms are sending the most traffic, click the pie chart button to the top right of the data and you will then see a lovely breakdown of visits by social network, like so:
Overview Pie Chart

Detailed Data

Taking the report further, there may not be any additional tabs to view different metrics however, by clicking a social network you can then see the breakdown of activity behind this. Mainly, which URLs brought the traffic and the different engagement data for each.

Data Hub Activity

Google is always looking for more data to help them provide better services etc, so here’s where the benefit comes in – activity on the social websites that Google owns and those that choose to share their data with Google can then be reported on in Google Analytics. From +1s and discussions on Google+ to bookmarks shared on Delicious or Pocket.
data hubs
When I first saw this report I was a little worried about privacy. You can clearly see names and faces for people sharing content on some of the platforms, however, Google is not breaking its own ‘do not collect personally identifiable information’ policy. This data is not to do with the users activity on your website, it’s users activity on other websites which have privacy policies in place that allow for the collection and sharing of this data. That debate is for another day…
So when your website is shared on these platforms, your report will start to look a bit like this:
data hub activity
* I’ve blurred the non Koozai names and faces as although Google is happy to share them with me I’m not going to rely on these people being happy for their activity to be shared further.

Brand Monitoring and Building

There are a number of really cool things to do with this report. Let’s start by quickly accessing the activity on whichever platform it is, this is done by clicking ‘More’ on the right hand side and then selecting View Activity:
more activity
This takes you to the post, where you can then +1, comment or share it (depending on the platform). Saying thank you to people sharing your content or answering any questions they may have about it is highly beneficial and this GA report is great at helping you monitor these brand mentions.
You can use the filter box above the report to break it down for a specific URL if you want to see the social activity relating to just one page of your site, or a selection of pages that share a common string in the URL.
For those social shares that did not include any conversation there is the Events report (blue link above the data). This shows the individual shares and activity on sites like Pocket where the focus is bookmarking rather than conversations.
I like these reports for keeping an eye on brand mentions and getting in touch with people who share or bookmark your content. It is also good to see whether you could get conversations going or share links on platforms that do not have much activity on them at present.
Taking it further, clicking ‘More’ and ‘View Ripple’ will show you all of the people who have shared that URL, how big their influence was and who shared based on shares by others.
This image shows the ripple for a previous blog post of mine which was shared twice by me (hence two circles). When Aleyda Solis shared it there were 4 reshares of her post, this meant she had the most reach. The stats at the bottom and the graph are interesting and could be beneficial to your reporting. I also like this view as it shows all the conversations in one place, making it easier to get in touch with people who shared the content.

Landing Pages

This report is all about the Shared URL – i.e. the URL from your website that was promoted on social media which then became the landing page for the visitors who followed the link. I like to think of this report as the one that shows what content worked and what didn’t work on social media. Looking at this I can see which posts generated the most visits, pageviews and data hub activity. As well as reviewing the on page engagement (duration and pages per visit). Each statistic is great in its own right and one that excels in one area may not always be strong in another.
shared URL report
In this example you can see what the pageviews for the 1st and 5th most visited URLs are much higher than others, this is due to the context of the pages as they are more top level pages compared to the others which are blog posts.
The second most visited URL saw a huge amount of activity on Data hubs compared to the result below it, however this amount did not bring in many more visits in comparison. This really proves that not all metrics are created equal. You need to analyse the whole picture to make decisions.
Use this report to find not only what starts the ball rolling on social media but also what brings the good traffic. A combination of these is great for a social media strategy! For posts that you thought were genius but where the results don’t reflect this, check what activity was undertaken and see if it’s a fair comparison to what was done for posts that were more successful. Sometimes it will be the content that goes down well and sometimes it will be the social strategy that worked despite the content not being as good.
Then again, you can never fully estimate how people will react to things! Once content is live on your site there is a certain amount of hoping that it goes down the way it was intended and that the results are what you hoped for.

Why Did This URL Do That?!

To find out more about how each shared URL came to gain those metrics it is beneficial to click the link. This shows a breakdown of the social network data for the link, meaning you can now see which platform sent the most visits and where all the data hub activity took place.
For the example in the image above where data hub activity was so high, this is then shown to be from people bookmarking the post on Pocket, which itself only led to a handful of visits in the time frame. Notice how a bit more data makes the story behind it fall into place?
There’s also an additional tab here which shows the Social Network and action; this breaks down the data hub activity to show which platforms saw shares, +1s, comments, posts, bookmarks etc.

Trackbacks (AKA Links)

The heading here almost says it all, Trackbacks is what Google Analytics terms links. This means you can see other websites that have added links to your content as well as the date, URL and number of visits generated from this.
As with any link reporting, it won’t be 100% comprehensive, but it’s nice to have an overview here and it is also good that you can see links that did not send any traffic rather than relying on the referral sites report alone.
The More button in this report allows you to filter results to just see links for that page of your site, to view the page of the site or to view the page on which the link is located.


This is where the Google Analytics social report gets juicy!
Here you can see how many conversions each social platforms generated and the value of these. When you’re managing a social media campaign and know what revenue or leads you need to bring in this is great for comparing and working out which social platform had the most investment and which ones had the best or worst ROI.
I’m hoping that Universal Analytics and the use of Custom Dimensions and Metrics will soon be used by more people in order to view this sort of data alongside profit data to help with ROI reporting, but that’s a post for another day!
The basic report here is great for understanding platforms, conversions and value. To see a better breakdown of the data I add a secondary dimension for Landing Page URL which then highlights which pages have led to the conversions by bringing the visits to the site:
conversions by social url
Now we really know what content works and what doesn’t!

It’s not all about the last touch…

As some of you will know, Google Analytics reports conversions against the traffic source which led to the user’s final visit to the site before a conversion (contrary to AdWords which works on first click attribution and not when the final source was direct).
So what about all the other visits the user made before converting? What do they count for?
Google is kind enough to provide us with reports that also show whether or not a traffic source may have impacted the users journey before conversions. In the case of social reports, this can be found through the link above the graph
assisted conversions button
Clicking this takes you to a report that compares how many times each social network assisted a conversion by being part of the journey, to how many times social was the final point of contact the user had with the site before converting.
assisted or lastThe value of this report is that some traffic sources assist conversions more than being the last point of contact for conversions. If you were to stop this activity because the standard reports show they don’t generate conversions you’d be likely to see a drop in conversions. Reporting on assisted conversions is very beneficial when it comes to justifying marketing spend.
To simplify the report, in the final column “Assisted / Last Click or Direct Conversions” a number above 1 means they have assisted more than being the final touch point before conversions. Below 1 means they are more often the final touch point before a conversion.

Additional Dimensions To Help You Understand Social Conversions EVEN Better!

In addition to the standard reports available, as described above, you can enhance the reports further by adding secondary dimensions to show even more detail. Some great ones for the social reports are:
  • Path Position relative to Conversion – to breakdown the data by when this visit fitted in the users journey
  • Days before conversion – to analyse how many days it took before this conversion happened
Both of these reports can help you work out how many days is optimal in social campaigns and what activity leads to quick conversions. Using this information will help you improve conversion rates of your social media campaigns.


There are three sections to this report:
  • Social Entity
  • Social Source
  • Social Source and Action
The Social Entity Report shows which page of your website was shared and how many times this happened. This is great for working out which pieces of content get shared the most directly from your website.
The Social Sources report removes the information about which page was shared but breaks down which sharing buttons were used. By default, Google Analytics can track the Google+ and +1 buttons, however extra code is required in order to track other social sharing and following buttons such as Twitter and Facebook. Some social plugins will include this tracking with them, so you may not need to add this if you’re using a plugin or tool to manage your social buttons. As shown here:
Share Statistics
On this website the ShareThis social buttons are being used and you can see that Email is the most used. The data here should be used to help you decide which sharing and follow buttons to use and how prominent to make each one. The audience of every website is different so you won’t always just want to feature the big three.
Social Source and Action takes the previous page one step further by breaking down the platform’s button and letting you know whether users were clicking to share or to like. Each social campaign will have a different strategy and you may be looking for more likes than shares or vice versa, so consider which posts generate which type of activity.
To analyse one specific page’s interaction start on the Social Entity report and click the page you want to analyse, this then takes you to the Social Source report for this page alone and allows you to also review the Social Source and Action report for this page. Once you’ve found out what you need to about that page you can then use the drop down at the top to review another page.
Additionally, in the Social Source reports it is handy to swap the view from a pie chart to the Comparison chart as this quickly and easily shows you which buttons have above and below average interaction.

Visitors Flow

This report is very visual and is there to help you understand how users move through your website. In this instance, it shows you which social network the traffic came from and which pages were viewed sequentially.
There is often too much data in these reports to gain actionable understandings from it, so I would suggest clicking on a channel which you have been actively using and selecting “View only this segment”. This then makes that one channel easier to review and helps you understand whether or not the users coming in as a result of your promotional activity on this channel acted in the way that you expected them to or not.
visitor flow segment
To get plain data from this report, click the bit you want to analyse and select “Group details”. This gives you a table of the top activity.
You can also customise the report using the cog button next to the segment at the top. This can help you review data relevant to a specific campaign or other segment that is important to you.

Is The Data Accurate?

Now this is always a big question, and often the answer is “not completely”. We do what we can to make the data as accurate as possible but, as with every report, there are some things that get in the way. With social reports (as well as all the standard reporting foibles) there is the issue that often when links are shared on social media the referring source isn’t carried through properly. To help increase the success rate of keeping the referring source, ensure the sharing buttons that you build into your website include the utm tracking data to tag the links that are created with the traffic source you want. Some tools will do this automatically so just test it or check the code.
Additionally, why not gather more data by adding Event Tracking to the social buttons?

Final Points

So there you have it, you can now fully understand what’s on offer in the social reports. The final point to note is that I also recommend setting social media objectives and having relevant and business specific KPIs to match these to. Getting X amount of shares means nothing to a director. Instead, getting a high level of engagement and increasing customer loyalty through social media might help you get more social media budget.
And finally… there are other tools out there that are also beneficial for tracking social media activity. Have a look around and it might be that you’re best off choosing a couple of tools to give you the best reporting suite for making the most of your social media activity.
It would be great to hear what methods you use for monitoring social media activity and which of the Google Analytics reports you like the best. Please feel free to comment on this post with your thoughts and the other methods you’d recommend. One tool can’t suit us all!
Nabeel Pasha (Best SEO Expert) is experienced in working with SEO and Social Media, helping businesses find their voice in competitive markets. He loves digital media and finding innovative uses for it, with a keen interest in how creativity on the internet can help shape success.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Predicting Keyword Volume Before Data is in Adwords

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Being able to get in front of trending keywords can be a valuable but difficult task. Not only does the world of keywords move quickly, the Search Engines are doing their part to change things up so we don't get too comfortable. 

In this week's Whiteboard Friday, we'll be talking about predicting keyword volume - before the data is even in AdWords! We'll show you how to use the resources at your disposal to perform predictive keyword research. This is an advanced technique, so you'll want to make sure you have the basics down.

As always, leave any thoughts, questions, declarations of love, or candy in the comments below!

"Howdy SEOmoz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we're going to talk a little bit about keyword research, but predictive keyword research, keyword research that you can do before data even appears inside AdWords or Bing, wherever you are pulling your keyword data from.

It's a big challenging project. It's hard to do. It's hard to execute on. It's certainly what I'd call more of an advanced SEO technique. So, if you haven't got the basics set yet, I'd do those before tackling this. But it can be extremely powerful for two big reasons. Number one, trending keyword volume, keyword volume that happens in big spikes around events or around news items or around topic matter, is very exciting and interesting because it can produce a lot of volume, and it can turn what has been a content marketing strategy into a thought leadership strategy. And second, your competitors don't know about it. They don't know that these things are coming out. Now if you are, you know, political news or in headline type of news areas, yeah, everybody is writing about the same stories. Those things make headlines and they're sort of follow-up. So there's always going to be lots of competition. But in lots of business areas, especially local areas or industry niche areas, there's a lot of news that only gets covered briefly, doesn't get covered particularly well from a keyword targeting standpoint, and therefore you can do it very powerfully and very well.

Let me show you the process here. I'll start with an example actually. SEOmoz, years ago, I think it was 2006, 2005 maybe even, probably '06six, and Danny Sullivan on Search Engine Land started writing about social media marketing. I saw this article from him. He was talking about it, about how, with the emergence of Twitter and with Facebook opening up to not just college students, and MySpace was still popular at the time, Digg was still popular at the time, Reddit was still growing in popularity, StumbleUpon was popular. Twitter I think had just started emerging or was just about to emerge. And so he wrote about this topic of social media marketing, and I thought, "Wow. Yeah, that's a really interesting one. I think social media marketing is going to be big." So we're going to do two things. We're going to write a guide to social media marketing, and before I even do that, I am going to write a blog post about social media marketing.

There's no search volume for it at the time. You know, if you went into Google AdWords at the time and you typed in "social media marketing,"
you're not going to see more than, say, 30 to 50 searches a month. It's just not a popular topic yet, but it's about to become one. What happened is I wrote this blog post, and that actually made it to number two in the search results for social media marketing for a long time in Google search results, which sent over the course of a few years - now it was both this article and the larger article that we eventually wrote - that was 20,000 plus visits to the SEOmoz site over about 2 or 3 years.

That's a lot of traffic. That's a lot of new people to capture. And, of course, since we are trying to make tools for SEOs and social media marketers, a little more social media marketers since last November when we released some of that in the Followerwonk acquisition and all that kind of stuff, now we can sort of say, "Wow. You know, this is a great channel for us. This has been a really valuable keyword. I'm really glad we got that thought leadership out there early, before it was even in the keyword tools."

Now, here's the process that you can use to do this repeatedly. So step 1, you've got to be on top of things. You have to be on top of what's happening in your industry, and I suggest three sources, these are unique sources. First off is news, so you could go to, for example, Google news or set up a news alert or those kinds of things. Or if you're in the technology industry, it might be Techmeme. If you're in a specific blogging field, maybe you're going to the Alltop section for that. You want to follow some social sources, who are the leading folks usually on Twitter and Facebook, Google+ can also be useful for this, and seeing what they're talking about and writing about, what's interesting to them.

And then, probably the best one that you can do here is verify that there's actually interest and questions around this by checking out Q&A sites. So, if I see that someone is talking about . . . I'll give a good example. There's a trend to start using the word "growth hacker" to describe marketers in Silicon Valley. So Silicon Valley has historically not particularly liked marketers, and so now they're embracing marketing and the practice of getting actual customers on their startups by calling it growth hacking. That's what they have chosen to call it. That's fine. Now, news sources are writing about this only a tiny bit. Social sources are talking about this a little bit more, and you can see plenty of activity on Q&A sites in the technology field, like on Quora, like on Formspring.

So what does this indicate to you? Well, it says to me, "Hey. This means there's an opportunity there." If I can rank well for growth hacker, get into these things, especially if I could do this, say, six or nine months ago, when the term first started becoming popular, that could be a lead to a lot of great traffic, especially if I'm, for example, let's say like many of you probably, an SEO consultant or an SEO agency or an in-house SEO who's trying to get well known in thought leadership on the topic of growth hacker, maybe to get new customers, maybe to help your reputation internally, those kinds of things.

Step two, once you've identified these things, is you need to make a decision. Are you going longtail, or are you going fat head? Are you going to write about growth hacker plus X and Y and Z and all these other keywords that you think might be attached to them? What about growth hacker for e-commerce sites? What about growth hacker for social communities? What about growth hacking for news sites or for mobile apps? Those things will probably all be in there, or you could go after and write the fat head, which is just going to be growth hacking and growth hacker.

Then you need to obviously create the content, and we talk about that in a lot of other Whiteboard Fridays and a lot of other blog posts on SEOmoz. So I'll skim over that. But it has to do two things. It's got to be relevant, hyper relevant to both the topic and the audience, both of these, simultaneously. The reason being that getting rankings for the topic is of no use to you unless you are also attracting and creating a reason for the audience to care about you and your brand and want to come back, take action, subscribe to you, follow you, maybe even take a free trial of whatever you've got, call you up, etc. So, attractive to the topic, attractive to the audience.

And in step three, you're going to obviously publish and promote the content itself. Check that off, and then you're going to need to make this a repeatable process, that turns into something you do consistently for SEO to get traffic. You've got to analyze the successes and the failures, meaning what worked, what didn't work. What was over here in the news sources, and it's like, , oh, that didn't really turn into something. Was that because there wasn't a lot of Q&A volume afterwards? Or maybe we did see a lot of Q&A volume, but there weren't any people talking about it on the social network. Whatever the trends and the patterns are that work well for you, you've got to identify those so that you can repeat the things that work again and again.

If you use this as part of your content marketing process, as part of a blog or of articles you issue or of guides you do, white papers, research, videos, whatever kind of content you're producing, this can lead to the same type of thing that we saw, which is taking over search results before anybody knows that it's going to become a popularly searched term. This is a wonderful way to jumpstart your keyword targeting, jumpstart your content marketing.

All right everyone, hope you have enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday, and we will see you again next time. Take care."

View the original article here

How to Prepare for AuthorRank and Get the Jump on Google

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If you're like me and you have your finger on Google’s pulse on a daily basis, you’ve undoubtedly heard of AuthorRank. However, I honestly don’t think it’s received its due attention and if you were AFK for a few days or don’t have the option to be “jacked into the feed”, you may have missed it entirely.

Example of Google AuthorRankOver seven years ago (in August of 2005), Google filed a patent for “Agent Rank” which was later masterfully decoded by Bill Slawski. In the patent, Googler David Minogue references ranking “agents” and using the reception of the content they create and their interactions as a factor in determining their rank. The patent suggests that more well-received and popular “agents” could have their associated content rank higher than unsigned content or the content of other less-authoritative “agents”.

Nothing much happened with Agent Rank after that because the idea of ranking “agents” is dependent on being able to identify them in the first place. No great system for claiming an online identify really existed back then; I wouldn’t call W3C’s XML-signature syntax or other digital signature protocol an ideal solution.

Still, ranking agents remained a goal for Google. In 2011, Eric Schmidt expressed that Google still had a desire and need to identify agents in order to improve search quality, stating “it would be useful if we had strong identity so we could weed (spammers) out.”

Literally the following month (September 2011), Google filed a continuation patent referencing a “portable identity platform” which sounds a whole lot like Google+. Profiles on Google+ make an infinitely easier digital signature system than anything that’s come before and, with the rollout of Google Authorship (tying a Google+ profile to pieces of content), it really sounds like that’s what we’re looking at here.

So now Google can start attributing content to specific “agents” and doing just what they set out to do in 2005: rank them.

As early as February of this year, the term “AuthorRank” started to surface in the industry. AJ Kohn wrote a great post on AuthorRank and speculated that this development could change the search game as we know it. He also stated that it would be “bigger than Panda and Penguin combined”.

AuthorRank, of course, wouldn’t be a replacement for PageRank, but would be used to inform PageRank, therefore enabling Google to rank high-quality content more appropriately. I think AJ’s right on the money and that it’s not a matter of if Google rolls out AuthorRank, but when.

AuthorRank will filter PR-based rankings to provide better results

In Google’s never-ending mission to surface high quality, trustworthy content for their searchers, AuthorRank is really the next big step. After more than seven years, I believe they are just about ready to implement it.

I’m certain that Google is going to begin incorporating AuthorRank into their ranking algorithm in the not-too-distant future. I’d put good money on it. All the signs point to it: Google’s emphasis on social, Google Authorship, their ongoing efforts to measure site trust, and their progressive devaluation of raw links as a ranking factor. People want to read content written by credible and knowledgeable people and using AuthorRank as a major part of their search algorithm just makes sense.

Brace yourselves; AuthorRank is Coming

That’s what we, as SEOs, want to know, right? How long do we have before we need to start worrying about building our own AuthorRank or working on it for our clients?

Stop thinking like that.

It doesn’t matter when it’s coming because once it does, it’ll be too late. Now I’m not saying that the launch of AuthorRank is going to nuke site traffic like Panda, but the impact will be huge. While the rollout of AuthorRank obviously won’t be an algorithmic penalty, sites that have been prepping and carefully building AuthorRank for their site contributors are going to have a major advantage. It may as well be a penalty against the sites and brands that have done nothing to prepare.

The fact is, we have just as long as it takes Google to effectively measure AuthorRank and decide they can rely on it. That could happen tomorrow or it could happen in two years. We don’t know. So let’s all start working on building AuthorRank today.

We can make a highly-educated guess as to what will determine AuthorRank

Google considers over 200 ranking factors when determining where our sites rank in organic search, so it’s safe to say that they’ll be using plenty of signals to calculate AuthorRank. Here’s my shortlist of factors that Google is likely to use in their calculation:

The average PageRank of an author’s content.The average number of +1s and Google+ shares the author’s content receives.The number of Google+ circles an author is in.Reciprocal connections to other high AuthorRank authors.The number and authority of sites an author’s content has been published to.The engagement level of an author’s native Google+ content (i.e., posts to Google+).The level of on-site engagement for an author’s content (i.e., comments and author’s responses to comments)Outside authority indicators (e.g., the presence of a Wikipedia page).YouTube subscribers and/or engagement on authored videos (speculation: multiple-attribution author markup for YouTube videos coming soon).Any number of importance/authority metrics on social networks that Google deems trustworthy enough (Twitter, Quora, LinkedIn, SlideShare, etc.).Real world authority indicators like published works on Google Books or Google Scholar.

Building your AuthorRank (or consulting with clients to build it) is easy. It’s like Wil Reynolds’s concept of doing #RCS, just for people. Seems logical enough to call it #RPS: Real People $h!t.

Sweet acronyms aside, what do we actually have to do? Here’s how we start building AuthorRank…

First of all, you’ll need to set up Google Authorship. Aside from getting that sweet author rich snippet in search results, setting this up will give Google exactly what they need to assign you an initial AuthorRank: a tie between your online identity and the content you’re creating.

Once you set up Google Authorship, go and track down all the (quality) content you’ve created on the web and make sure your rich snippet markup is correct by using the Rich Snippet Testing Tool. You don’t want to run the risk of knockout content you’ve created not being factored into your AuthorRank.

If you’re working on building your own AuthorRank, this one is easy. Career SEOs have a vested interest putting out killer content. At least, I hope we all have a desire to:

Create content that demonstrates our expertise.Help improve the reputation, and demonstrate the value, of our field.Help other SEOs by sharing knowledge.

If you’re consulting to help another organization with AuthorRank, it’s a bit trickier. Still, no matter what the industry, there’s always an opportunity for a brand to provide content that is relevant and valuable.

If you’re a consultant working with a medium or large brand and you’re hoping to get a head start on AuthorRank, you may have a tough road ahead. It can be difficult to get a CEO or head of marketing to highlight their people when they’re concerned about what that will do to the brand. I’ve had clients who’ve been adamantly opposed to letting their employees create content and be a visible part of the company and I’ve had clients who were absolutely stoked to have that opportunity. It really depends on company culture and there will be some companies who may never accept the very cornerstone of AuthorRank. You may want to hire Wil to fly out and explain #RCS to them.

We’ve covered all the prerequisites at this point, so yes, we can. Here are some strategic ways you can work on building AuthorRank right now. I’ll use the “you’re the one doing it” point of view, but you can apply the concepts to any setting.

It’s just like what we’re doing now. If you’ve been following what’s going down in the inbound industry (particularly, SEOmoz), you know that the definition of link building is slowly, but steadily, changing to “content marketing”. It’s all about creating content your audience cares about. It’s all about creating resources that will help them. It’s all about creating things that they’d actually want to share on their own.

Those concepts are tantamount to content marketing and they’re even more important for AuthorRank. If you’re tying your author identity to content you’ve created just for the sake of creating content or solely for “earning” links, you’re going to be in trouble. Here are a few things that are certain to destroy your AuthorRank as badly as Penguin destroyed sites with questionable backlink profiles:

Publishing content on blog networks.Guest posting through guest blogging communities (of course, there are exceptions).Writing content that’s keyword-stuffed or full of grammatical errors.Submitting content to article directories.Spinning articles.

Instead, create content that people will want to share on their own because they are actually interested in it. Only post content to the best outlets available to you (see “Get Out There” below).

AuthorRank will be much more variable than PageRank in that you can earn a different AuthorRank in different topic areas. Determine what you’re good at/passionate about and create great content in that area. Sure, you can go crazy with different topics but your AuthorRank will probably end up being fairly weak in a lot of different topics instead of strong in one.

If any of you don’t like Google+, too bad. Google is going to use your “in circles” count to determine your AuthorRank. That means you need to make sure people have a reason to follow you. A few quick tips:

Post updates multiple times a day. Shoot for 5-7 (there’s no data-backed reason for that number, it just sounds like a great amount to me).Check in on your feed and on the global feed and +1 and comment on stories you find interesting. +1ing content makes people stoked and commenting (in a genuine and authentic way) adds something to the conversation. This will only benefit you, and your AuthorRank, in the long run.Fill out your “About” section and title. People use this information to decide if they want to put you in their circles (especially when they’re on mobile).

There are some great posts out there on how to build engagement and a following on Google+ that are far better than what I can cover here. Check some out.

Find other authors who would logically have a higher AuthorRank than you (see factors above and consider checking out Tom Anthony’s Author Crawler) and work on getting them to encircle you. Aside from having them in your following, you can also put your content in front of them every time you create something awesome.

Find them on Google+ and start to slowly and naturally build a relationship with them. You can use Twitter, Facebook, or any other means of communicating (in person is probably the best way, hands down) but you’ll want to be sure they have a Google+ profile. It also makes a whole lot of sense to make sure they have authorship set up themselves, but don’t discount them if they don’t: I’m betting that Google is going to make sure the process of verifying authorship much simpler and ubiquitous before they make any move to start using AuthorRank.

Your Google+ profile is the very hub of your authorship; it’s what Google uses to tie all your content together. Building links to it and optimizing it makes a ton of sense. If your Google+ profile has a high PageRank (yes, it gets its own PageRank) when AuthorRank launches, it’s safe to bet that your AuthorRank will be pretty hot.

Attend local industry meet-ups, offer to speak for free at local blogging groups, and apply to speak at conferences. Be genuine and helpful. In your deck, link to a a blog post you published earlier that same day that they can reference for detailed information beyond what you covered in your presentation. Watch as that thing gets social mentions and links like crazy. That's a major AuthorRank win.

Also, consider dropping a few cards with your Google+ profile URL on them.

Building links to your content from within your own site doesn’t carry much value compared to a backlink from another site. You control that site so of course you’re going to link to your own content (you’d be ill-advised not to). Having other sites link to you is much more meaningful because it shows you’re offering value (right?).

It’s the same with AuthorRank. If you only publish blog posts on a site you control, you’re playing with internal links (or at best, sites on the same host). Get out there and guest blog for (Dr.) Pete’s sake (sorry, AJ, even you). Remember to treat this process just like you treat it for link building; focus on site quality. Only pick high quality sites that have carefully curated content, because when that ties back to you as an author, it’s going to be just like a backlink to your site (hopefully you get one of those, too). You don’t want hundreds of guest posts on low-quality blogs with no editorial standards muddying up your AuthorRank. Instead, shoot for a few high quality guest posts.

Building AuthorRank, just like SEO, needs to be an organic and gradual process; you can’t do it in a day, a week, or a month. However, here are a few things you can incorporate into your daily workflow that are sure to help build your AuthorRank over time.

Check your Google+ feed five times and interact.Chip away at your weekly blog post (you blog weekly already, right?).Read a post on a site you’ve targeted for guest blogging and leave a quality comment. Start building visibility (and/or a relationship) with the authors and editors.Look for two or three interesting people on Google+, circle them, and interact with something they’ve posted.

Years ago, Google realized that providing their users with better results would hinge on identifying and ranking the very people who produced those results. Until the launch of Google+, they had a great idea but no viable way to actually get it off the ground. Now they have everything they need: the idea (Agent Rank), the identity platform (Google+), and the verification method (Google Authorship). Now all that’s left is to fine-tune the ranking and roll it into the algorithm.

The impact of AuthorRank will be so significant that we may as well think of it as a penalty designed to punish anonymity and/or a reputation for distributing low-quality content. Regarding the delay between the initial US Panda rollout and the international one, Fabio Ricotta of Mestre SEO in Brazil, said “you have no idea how good it is to have a six month lead on Matt Cutts”. Well, we’ve seen the signs and we know what to do. Let’s make sure this lead doesn’t go to waste. The time to start building AuthorRank (for ourselves and our clients) is today.

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Content Marketing - Think Campaigns Not Just Links, Your Guide to TOFU

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Content Marketing is without doubt the most popular member of buzzword bingo at the moment. With updates like Panda and Penguin (easily track all this with SEOMoz's Algorithm Tracker) and the devaluation of low quality links, the role of content in SEO has never been greater. Many of the large SEO agencies are doubling down on their efforts to sell themselves as content strategists, not just SEO consultants, and where the big agencies go, usually everyone else follows. With the next Google Penguin update (dependent on when this post is published, it may have already been released) touted to be "jarring and jolting" for a lot of webmasters, we can expect content marketing's shine to get even greater.

From an SEO viewpoint, the interest in great content is to attract links, where as a lot of what Google is looking to eliminate are examples of where content is used to build links: articles, spun articles spammed across thousands of directories, blog posts spun across networks, networks that dragged in content form places like Youtube, Yahoo Answers and article directories to create mashup posts, blog comments, spun blog comments using scrapebox so you can hit thousands of sites at a time, web2.0 link wheels made from spun content, reclaiming tumblr blogs with PR and adding posts with links to your site, buying up dropped domains and using to re-add the previous content so you can link to your site, finding squidoo len's to comment on, the list could go on and on and on. It's a lot easier to build links with subpar content, as you don't expect anyone to read it.

What's being sold as "Content Marketing" - is truly great content that people want to share and link to = hey presto ... you're #Number1inGoogleB*tches.

The problem with a lot of SEO's evolution into "Content Marketing" is they are really just thinking about links/shares - it's a blackbox approach, with content going in and links and social shares coming out:

The reality is true content marketing isn't just about links and shares. In the words of copyblogger:

"Content Marketing means creating and sharing valuable free content to attract and convert prospects into customers, and customers into repeat buyers. The type of content you share is closely related to what you sell; in other words, you’re educating people so that they know, like, and trust you enough to do business with you.” CopyBlogger

Content Marketing is so much more than getting links. It's the glue that holds your funnel together. It's the reason a prospect visits your site, it's the reason they choose to move further down the purchase path, buy a product and return to your site time and again. Real content marketing is complex; it's not just building a great infographic and notifying some bloggers about it. If you are purchasing a "Content Marketing" strategy from an SEO agency where the sole objective is to acquire links - you are going to waste money in the long run. Sure links can be a metric, but real content marketing is expensive, as a link building strategy - it's very difficult to make a decent return on.

If you are investing in content marketing, why not put together campaigns that drive goals across your funnel and have links and shares as a metric, but not the sole objective. Let's start with TOFU (Top of Funnel) content marketing campaigns ....

Your approach to content marketing will differ slightly dependent on where the campaign resides within the funnel. For example, the following is a snapshot of what may be involved in a TOFU (Top of Funnel) campaign.

Anything successful in life starts with a clear and concise objective/goal. For example, a goal could be structured as:

Core Objective: Our content campaign is aimed at people who love to camp and are looking for the latest pair of hiking boots from brand X. We want to attract X amount of new visits, rank for keyword “X” on first page of Google, attract 15 links from PR2+ sites and drive X% of these new visits into our product page (which converts at X%) - of course that X% can be improved upon by MOFU (Mid of Funnel Campaigns) via A/B Testing etc

Secondary Goal: We want X amount of these new visits to turn into Facebook Fans and X to turn into new Twitter Followers

The more specific you can be about the goal of your content campaign the better. When asked to explain what you are doing to a VP of marketing, having a well-structured campaign mapped against core business goals will get you a far bigger budget than "I'm trying to get links".

Your Twitter Highlight: Your Content Marketing Strategy Should be aligned to Business Goals

I have purposely left out revenue in the above goal as I am splitting campaigns into Top of Funnel and Mid of Funnel to show the importance of content throughout the purchase path. If you're running a content campaign across the funnel - you should have revenue as a metric. You will need to quantify your own metrics to establish the ROI on your campaign e.g. how do you value Cost Per Link.

1. Persona Development

Persona development is a crucial part of any successful content marketing strategy. There are a number of ways to develop personas:

Using your AnalyticsSocial listening (this is hard, I’ve done it)Interviews with prospectsInterviews with customersInterviews with people you want to become customersCustomer surveys (if you have a big enough Email DB)Google consumer surveys ( running an internal workshop with different teams provides great insights. You would be amazed how much valuable information is stored within the customer support team, example of a previous one I ran with the help of

Something that’s really important to keep in mind is your content campaign may touch multiple personas. For example, in the objectives mapped out above, the persona we are targeting for new visits isn’t necessary the same persona who is going to link to you. Unlike online marketing, where most people have blogs, it’s highly likely in other industries the people who you can get links from and potential customers are not the same person.

Your Twitter Highlight: If Links are your core goal; you need to target the personas who actually have the power to link to you.

2. Strategy

Once you have personas in place, you can build out your content campaign framework. This should be broken into what I call The VP Strategy and The Actual Strategy.

But What's my VP Strategy?

This is for that moment in a meeting when you are asked, "Hey what are you spending my 100k on?" They don’t need your life story, just an overview that makes sense.

We are building an interactive map of the globe where users can click around and learn about the best camping destinations in the world + what camp gear they should bring for each hike.

We are doing 10 posts on our own blog to promote it. We are doing an outreach program with 20 experts on outdoor pursuits; these experts helped us develop the content for the map.

We are doing PR with 10 online camping magazines about our Facebook competition where you can win a holiday to one of the destinations on the map. The clues to this are being given away on our Twitter feed; you have to follow to get them, as they are time sensitive

We are also running paid campaign via remarketing, content network and third-party placements to support our initial launch

The above may not be great, but you get the point :)

The Actual Strategy is your project plan. I usually start everything with a flow diagram (creately is awesome for this) – I am a visual thinker so this helps a lot - how you plan content could be totally different. But you need to plan .... :

Your Twitter Highlight: Divide your content campaign into a VP Strategy and Actual Strategy

3. Resources

Most content campaigns will fail because they have no clear objective and they haven’t considered what resources they require (often not having the correct resources to implement the campaign). You need to define:

How much will this cost in total? This includes any piece of activity related to the campaign, regardless if its coming from your budget or some other department’s e.g. if you are feeding Facebook/Twitter with great content – maybe you have a social media budget that you can steal take from :)What internal resources do you have?What external resources will you be using?

For our campaign we probably need:

Project coordinatorContent strategistOutreach consultant (to get bloggers onboard)Developer (for interactive map)External agency for designPR manager (for pitching of the competition)

Resources should be part of your project plan doc.

Your Twitter Highlight: Your Content Marketing will #fail if you don't have the right resources

4. Content Types

What content types will you be using in your campaign:

Blog postsGuest postsPR pitchesVideoetc

Your Twitter Highlight: Map out every asset your content campaign will include over the whole lifecycle of the project

5. Mediums

What mediums are going to be used to promote your content? For our example we are going to use:

Google (organic): Once our piece lifts off, we expect to acquire traffic for informational key phrases around “camping destinations”. Yes, not all these are going to purchase our product. But some may share it, like our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, join our email list or help us amplify the content. Think both macro and micro conversions.Facebook: Let’s assume we already have an audience on Facebook we can promote it to. We can also use this as a way to acquire new fans via paid ads – but how effective it is to pay for fans is open for debate.Twitter to promote time sensitive clues for our competitionEmail Marketing: Yes, building an email database should still be part of your marketing strategy. Guess what Email Marketing is NOT DEAD. Leveraging it for content campaigns is a great reason why. Just make sure you are doing it right.Remarketing: We are going to build a list of anyone who has visited our product pages on camping gear. Instead of advertising another product to them – we are going to take them back up the funnel a little and show them this great interactive map. Maybe they won't buy, but the might help amplify our message.Display: We are going to run a small display campaign across a select number of outdoors activity sites advertising the interactive map. Google content network campaigns advertising free content tend to perform quite well.Guest posts: Once live we are going to ping the experts who helped us put the map together. There is no requirement for them to post, but we hope they will :). Dependent on your brand, this step is really easy or really hard. The great thing about content marketing is, the better you get, the easier this step becomes.

Your Twitter Highlight: Even the most remarkable Content will #fail without a solid promotion plan

6. Metrics

Doing content for "Brand Awareness" or "Thought Leadership" is easy, as most companies do not put anything measurable against these goals. Putting metrics against what you are doing and reporting to senior execs is a lot more difficult. You will get asked what did I get in return for my spend? Having an answer to this will put on you a par with every other exec (mostly in Sales), who can easily answer that question.

a. Goals

Defining goals for content marketing campaigns is not easy, just as defining goals for whitehat link building campaigns is near impossible (unless you are just doing guest posting). How do you put a number against how many links a piece of content will deliver naturally? But it's critical you have specific goals for any campaign you put live. These will be defined in your objectives:

X Number of VisitsImproved Keyword Rank (To First Page)Attracted X Number of LinksX Number of Visits into Product PageIncrease X Number of Facebook FansIncrease X Number of Twitter Followers

Most TOFU (Top of Funnel) campaigns core goal is not Sales(B2C)/Qualified Leads(B2B), but thinking in terms of Macro and Micro conversions will help put dollar/euro values against each goal. For example, you can get the number of sales generated by your product page (either when it's the landing page or when it's some part of the journey), using this you can put a dollar/euro metric against each visit generated to that product page as part of this campaign. It's then up to your MOFU campaign to split test the hell out of the page and turn these into sales.

b. ROI

ROI isn't going to be a straightforward calculation. How valuable is each new visit? (Google Analytics Mutli Funnels help a lot). How valuable is your improved visibility on Google? How valuable are visits to your product page? How valuable are your Facebook Fans/Twitter followers? In most cases, it might not be possible to answer all these questions, but if you want executive buy in for large content campaigns - have some type of ROI forecast you can give them.

c. Links/Shares

Yes, links and shares are good metrics to have. Trying to put a monetary value against these are a lot more difficult. You are better of measuring what links and shares should bring e.g. new visits from both google and social media.

Your Twitter Highlight: Content Marketing Campaign without metrics is like p*ssing in the dark. Spraying everywhere and just maybe hitting the target

So you are now thinking Top of Funnel Content Marketing Campaigns !! and well on the way to being a ......

But what about the Mid of Funnel (MOFU) Campaigns ... that's going to need a whole other post !! Hope you can hold on for part two !!

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The Role of APIs in the Future of Search

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People talk a lot about APIs in the SEO industry (me especially) - the tools you can build with them, the competitive analysis data you can access, the reports you can automate. However, we tend not to discuss the wider picture, the thousands of APIs out there for other things, and, most importantly, the profound effect that APIs are going to have on the web, and thus the SEO industry, in the coming decade.

I believe that over the next 10 years there will be a huge decline in the number of users visiting websites, and that APIs (and structured data) are going to play a pivotal role in that shift.

To understand why I think this, lets take a look at the evolution of the web over the last 20 years.

(Note - I'm not going to explain APIs in this post - but you only need a broad understanding of them to get my point.)

The (public) web has been around for a little over 20 years, and in that time it has changed a lot. The first website, built by Tim Berners-Lee, looked like this:

(see it here)

With black and white text and no images, it was a pretty static experience, but was the birth of something amazing. Over the next 5 years, although the web grew and moved forward, it didn't see any drastic changes. Over the next 10 years the web got more colourful, with images appearing and layout being improved:

(Image courtesy of

However, it was still a pretty static experience, and a long way from the web we know today, which looks more like:

Good old Bear Grylls. His site (which he updated this week!) shows off animation, high-res imagery and video, is interactive, has embedded social media, and is representative of the dynamic web we know and love today.

Obviously, this was a crude history of the web, but my point here is that in 20 years the web has accelerated from something akin a simple set of interlinked text pages to an interactive multimedia system. Let's tie this together with how the web is consumed and searched.

We've seen the web has become a far richer experience to interact with in the last 20 years. We can see that it has also undergone drastic changes in the way that we consume it. In the beginning, it was almost universally accessed via desktop machines:

Some readers won't even remember the days of having to turn on the external modem, dial up to connect and wait whilst the modem sung its song as it connected for a while. Using the web back then was something you made a slot of time for - you'd decide you need to check your email, and you'd head off and maybe spend 30 minutes or an hour using the painfully slow connection, before disconnecting and turning off the modem.

That slowly changed, and by the early 2000s you were quite possibly looking at the internet on a laptop:

(Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Your laptop maybe had a built in modem giving you 'mobile internet' you could use by a phone line, but we were starting to see 'broadband' connections and the advent of wifi. This was the beginning of always being connected for some people, but still the internet wasn't truly mobile, and there certainly wasn't widespread availability.

Nowadays, the majority of readers here will be accessing the web on their mobile:

There is prolific availability of wifi, most of us have 3G internet built into our phones, and using the internet is completely without thought; on the occasion that I'm not connected I'll inevitably try to do something on my phone before remembering "Yep, that also requires internet."

We have moved from interacting with the web via infrequent and prolonged interactions of minutes or hours to many short interactions of only a few seconds. In 2002, the average internet user used the web for 46 minutes a day, but in 2012 that has gone up to 4 hours a day. We're using the web for more time, more frequently, and in shorter bursts. Using the web has moved from being a task in and of itself and has become ubiquitous tool that we don't even notice. 

Finally, let me briefly discuss the way the web has been searched over the last 10-15 years. Very broadly speaking the general process, which has been changing in the last 2-3 years, has been searching in a generic fashion to searching in a specific fashion. Crudely this could be thought of as 'searching to find the place where you can search for the answer'.

You traditionally have started with the '10 blue links' result, which has taken you to a place where you could often refine your search in a context specific fashion. What do I mean by context specific? I mean that this specific search allows you to specify attributes unique to the type of thing you are searching for.

For example, in the image above, the search page on Amazon allows me to specify attributes such as author, ISBN and others which are specific to the context: book. Whereas the search box on Google / Bing is a single text entry box to cover all types of search for all types of results.

However, we have been seeing a shift in this generic -> specific model. Google has started to detect the context of your search from keywords, and then provide additional context specific inputs to refine your search. The classic example is the hotel search:

Now, beyond the general text field, Google allows me to enter a Check-In and Check-Out (attributes, unique to the context: hotel) date to refine my search, and see real-time prices from a variety of vendors. What is notable is that these prices I'm seeing from sites such as are right here in the search results - I'm not visiting their site to see them. I'm not seeing any of their marketing bumpf, any of their special offers or deals, I'm just seeing their price.

Google has also began customising the display of the results based on context, with various examples from maps to weather:

Rather than the 10 blue links of days gone by, we are increasingly seeing the a context specific SERP with a customised display. With emerging search technologies such as Siri, this is often the norm rather than the exception:

With Siri, there never was 10 blue links, but only ever context specific results, each presented in a fashion appropriate to that context.

Siri's weather results above are provided by Yahoo!, but again the user never visits the Yahoo! Weather site. Likewise, the results about the distance to the sun are from Wolfram Alpha, but the user never visits their website. The results are being server via APIs, allowing Siri to leverage Yahoo! and Wolfram Alpha's services directly.

If we look over this history of the web we can see that the web has become progressively more dynamic, progressively more interactive, and richer and richer. Along the way internet use has become increasingly mobile, increasingly ubiquitous, used increasingly often and in shorter and shorter interactions.

You'll notice above that I distiguish between 'the web' and 'internet use' - not all internet use is via web pages. The internet existed for many years before the web was invented, where email and bulletin boards reigned. We can see above that more and more often APIs are serving people's search requests in place of the web.

Beyond search, wildfire adoption of Apps in the last few years has seen another avenue which has replaced people web use with something else; people are Facebooking and Tweeting, doing internet banking, finding routes, sharing photos and more all directly via apps instead of via the web. Masses of these apps are using publicly available APIs, with others using private APIs.

If we extrapolate from the changes to the way we consume the web, the shift in the way search results are being delivered, the uptake of apps I can't see how there is any conclusion other than the web will continue to give way to these other technologies.

The technological changes that push this are going to keep on coming:

Will the web die? I don't imagine so, and certainly not any time soon. However, it is going to be ever more superceded, and progressively relegated to be where your marketing lives, and less where your customers interact with you.

The majority of the services that will replace the web will be connecting via APIs, whether they are public or private. Having a private API, with an App and other ways to access it is going to be increasingly important. Having a public API allows other people to build on top of your platform; Paul Graham of the startup accelerator YCombinator says "APIs are self serve business development" (Paraphrased from this tweet).

I can imagine a lot of you are thinking 'We don't need an API!' / 'What would we do with an API?' / 'We have a website, so no need for an API.' These all sound strangely familiar to the same arguments we heard 15 years ago with the web. In the 90s hoardes of companies were unconvinced by the web, but later came to regret it. It's how companies such as Nissan ended up spending millions in later trying to secure their domain names ( remains owned by a small computer company with a handful of employees), and how other companies went out of business to their competitors who did embrace the web.

I'm not sure that all companies need an API, and we are in early days still. We're going to see the landscape change more still, and certainly many smaller companies might not need an API. However, my point is that companies need to be thinking about this, we as SEOs need to be thinking about how this will affect the industry over the next few years, how we can be forward looking to help out clients, and I'm mostly hoping this post kicks off some discussion about it all.

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