Competitor Keyword Analysis: 5 Ways to Fill the Gaps in Your Organic Strategy & Get More Traffic via @Kammie_Jenkins

In the eternal pursuit of market share, businesses need to keep tabs on their competitors. Without insight into their relative strengths and weaknesses, businesses will struggle to stay competitive.

In the digital world, it’s no different.

If you manage the organic search presence of a website, at one point or another, your client or boss is going to ask you for competitive SEO insights. There are many reasons they might want this:

  • Staying competitive: They want to avoid falling behind.
  • Finding new opportunities: They want to know what’s working for others in their niche that they may not have thought of.
  • Diagnosing performance issues: They want to understand why their competitor is outranking them or getting more organic traffic.

But what exactly does this type of analysis entail?

What Should a Competitor Analysis Include?

What a competitor analysis (or “competitive analysis”) includes will depend on your unique goals.

For example, if your focus was growing your backlink profile, you could perform a competitor link analysis.

With this option, you might choose to look at a competitor’s top-linked pages to get ideas for linkable assets or analyze their referring URLs to get a better idea of what link building methods they’re using.

Search Engine Journal has some great posts detailing a few of the many different types and methods of competitor analysis, including:

In this article, we’ll be exploring five different methods for finding keyword ideas you can use in your organic search strategy.

By analyzing what keywords our competitors are targeting, we can come up with ideas for new content or improving existing content with the goal of capturing more organic search traffic.

Before You Start: How to Identify Your Competitors

Before diving into a competitor analysis, it’s important to know who your competitors are.

The most obvious type of competitor is the “direct” or “market” competitor. This is a business that offers the same or similar product/ service as you do. Think Coke vs. Pepsi or Nike vs. Adidas.

When you turn to Google, however, the game changes. You likely have different competitors for every keyword that’s important to your business, many of whom aren’t even your direct competitors.

Let’s take the query “How to write a cover letter” for example. Both Zety.com and GlassDoor.com are ranking prominently for the query.

SERP competitors

SERP competitors

This makes them digital competitors even though Zety is a resume builder and Glass Door is a job search engine.

Sometimes your market competitors will also be your digital competitors, but not always. When the tips below call for a competitor’s domain or page, it will note what type of competitor to choose.

Now let’s dive in!

1. Find Keywords Competitors Rank for That You Don’t

One of the most-used methods of SEO competitor analysis is finding keywords that your competitors rank well for that you don’t.

To do this, you’ll want a keyword research tool that allows you to see not only what keywords are ranking for any domain, but also allows you to compare the ranking keywords of two or more domains.

As an example, let’s use market competitors ConvertKit and MailChimp. We’ll pretend ConvertKit is trying to find keywords MailChimp ranks for that they don’t.

You can use a tool like Moz’s Keyword Explorer “Explore by Site” to evaluate the ranking keywords of both domains side-by-side. (Disclosure: I work with Moz! But I also genuinely love their tools and used them long before I started working with them.)

Moz Competitor Keyword Comparison

Moz Competitor Keyword Comparison

Then, select MailChimp and set the rank position to show only positions 1-10 to view keywords that MailChimp ranks on page 1 for that ConvertKit does not.

Moz Competitor Overlap

Moz Competitor Overlap

You can also select the areas of overlap in the middle to view keywords both you and a competitor rank for, and then sort by your competitor’s highest rankings. This will reveal areas where you may already have content, it just isn’t performing as well as your competitor’s.

You’ll be left with a list of keywords that shows you:

  • Existing content you need to improve: Keywords you’re already targeting and just not performing very well for.
  • Content gaps you might want to fill: Keywords you’re not yet targeting and might want to consider creating content for.

2. Find High-Ranking Competitor Content That Doesn’t Match Query Intent Well

Google’s priority is serving up satisfying answers to searchers’ questions. To do this, Google’s algorithm attempts to rank content that best matches the searcher intent behind the query.

I like to think of this as a “desire-content” fit. In other words, there’s a fit between what the searcher likely wanted and the content on the page. It’s exactly what the searcher wanted to find when they typed their question into Google.

For example, if you typed in “how to change a tire” you’d likely be looking for step-by-step instructions, maybe even with pictures, to guide you through that process.

A sales page for a tire store or a long-form article about tires would be much less relevant, and therefore we could say that they don’t match the intent of the query well.

search intent

search intent

How is that helpful in the context of competitor content analysis?

Well, sometimes websites rank for queries they don’t really “deserve” to rank for. They may currently be ranking with a page that’s not a great fit for the query.

Because Google prioritizes the searcher experience, if you come along with more relevant, helpful content, there’s a likelihood that you could overtake your competitor for that query.

Again, using a keyword research tool, pop in a competitor’s domain to see what keywords they’re ranking on Page 1 for.

The next part is a bit more manual, but click to open the URLs ranking for each query and ask yourself, “If I had queried this phrase and landed on this page, would I be fully satisfied?”

If your honest answer is “no,” create a page that is.

3. Find Keywords Competitors Are Paying for That You Can Rank For

Using a tool like SEMrush, you can see what keywords your market competitors are paying for that you don’t yet rank organically for.

semrush keyword gap

semrush keyword gap

Why are we looking at paid keywords in a post on organic competitor analysis?

If your competitor is paying for these terms, that often means they’re valuable and generate highly qualified traffic.

Instead of paying to show up for these keywords, the idea is to see if there’s any opportunity to get free traffic by ranking organically for that term.

In many cases, the keywords you find via this route will be predominantly bottom-funnel, commercial-intent keywords. This may mean that the SERP is crowded with paid ad results and extremely powerful domains.

While there could still be some organic opportunity available, you can also look for research-intent queries containing your competitor’s paid keywords.

For example, if your competitor is running PPC for “automated email tool” you could target “how to create an automated email.”

4. Identify Valuable Topics by Looking for High-Investment Content Assets

Do you know how long it takes to produce a white paper?

How about an ebook or a webinar?

While effort varies, we can say with certainty that the barrier to entry for these content formats is typically much higher than a blog post.

Companies tend not to invest a ton of time and resources on projects that they don’t expect will generate valuable traffic and leads.

If a market competitor has chosen a topic for a big content project, consider that a pre-vetted idea that your desired customers will likely be interested in.

For example, if your competitor is hosting a webinar on “Understanding Your Cash Flow” it might be a good idea to type the phrase “cash flow” into your keyword research tool of choice and see how you could start owning that topic organically.

You can even use Google itself combined with plugins like Keywords Everywhere to find a whole bunch of topically-relevant keywords to target.

cash flow serp

cash flow serp

5. Find Content Improvement Ideas by Viewing Competitor Keyword Overlap

Content not ranking as well as you’d like for your target keyword? Use competitor analysis to see what topics your content might be missing!

One of my favorite ways to do this is by using Moz Keyword Explorer to compare keywords by exact page.

Say you’re trying to rank for the keyword phrase “how to run faster.” Perform a Google search for that term and grab two or three of the top-ranked URLs (your digital competitors) and pop them into the tool.

Moz ranking overlap

Moz ranking overlap

Then, click on the areas of most overlap and set the filter to view keywords ranking on page 1.

moz competitor overlap report

moz competitor overlap report

What you’ll be left with is a list of related keyword ideas that you can use to make your page targeting “how to run faster” more relevant! If Google’s top picks for the best answer to “how to run faster” also touch on these concepts, that’s an indicator that your content should too.

Go Forth & Analyze! (But Proceed With Caution)

Any of the competitor analysis methods mentioned in this article can offer great ideas for capturing more organic traffic, but there’s are some huge caveats here:

  • If your only strategy is imitation, the best you’ll ever become is the second best version of your competitors.
  • Plagiarism can get you into trouble: with search engines, legally, and it can ruin your reputation. Just don’t do it.
  • Don’t be a lemming. Blindly following your competitors could send you straight over a cliff.

Before conducting a competitor analysis, make sure you’re familiar with the business’s current goals and priorities.

Once you do that, it’ll be much easier to identify which competitor strategies you should use to inform your own and which are best left alone.

Now the next time your client or boss asks you for a competitor analysis, I hope you have a few new tricks up your sleeve.

More Resources:


Image Credits

Featured Image: Pexels
All screenshots taken by author, May 2019

Google Marketing Live Day 1: Everything You Need to Know via @digital_future

The moment we’d been waiting months for finally arrived yesterday.

More than 5,000 marketers descended upon San Francisco, eagerly anticipating what Google would unveil at this year’s Google Marketing Live.

We were not disappointed.

Google is shifting search into a new direction with more than 10 product releases and new data features.

Anticipate, smart, machine learning, and responsible were the buzzwords of the day. Each innovation and beta touched on at least two of these themes.

Until now, search strategies aspired to tap into an entire user journey’s path. However, these journeys are increasingly complex.

Users’ thought process is often not linear, making the traditional marketing funnel less relevant.

Interaction with marketing channels is far from siloed, making channel specific strategies less effective.

For example, Google cited a study where a user’s decision to buy a video game involved more than 200 circuitous actions over several weeks.

To provide a relevant online experience, it’s crucial to anticipate a user’s specific needs at each moment in time.

No doubt, one should have the final conversion action in mind. However, to get the user that far, one has to answer each of their question in a highly relevant way.

It is no longer enough to merely show up when triggered by a keyword search. Brands must:

  • Be a trusted adviser.
  • Provide rich answers seamlessly.
  • Give users the option to move as quickly or slowly as they want in their discovery journey.

And they must do so creatively with ever important privacy imperatives and growing data constraints.

6 New Ad Formats

To better anticipate and respond to user queries, Google unveiled six new ad formats.

Google’s new ads are all highly engaging, with visual elements and particularly well suited for with multi-channel strategies.

SEM Gallery Ads

Reminiscent of visual site links and earlier iterations of image integrations, these ads convey what you have to offer in a more interactive format and more easily anticipate everything a user may want to know.

google gallery ad - beta

google gallery ad - beta

Showcase Shopping Ads

Prabhakar Raghavan (SVP, Google Ads & Commerce) shared how this highly visual ad format incorporates rich lifestyle imagery into your Shopping ads now to even more Google properties: for now Google Images and the feed on Discover and soon on YouTube.

People are actively looking in these areas for ideas and they are a natural fit for Shopping ads.

Discovery Ads

Launching later this year, Discovery Ads would run in the Google Discover feed, YouTube home feed and Gmail social and promotions tabs.

Powered by Google’s growing AI capabilities, these ads will not be powered by keyword-driven campaigns. Instead, they will run in a new Discovery campaign type driven by targeted audiences.

More Functionalities for Local Ads

Google Ads on maps are seeing several enhancements, with targeting changes to promoted pins, perhaps one of the main ones.

Using AI to anticipate intent, Google is looking enhance visibility to relevant audiences with automation rather than historic reliance purely on manual targeting.

Bumper Video Ads

Video asset creation has been one of the biggest hurdles for video advertising.

No more.

With the launch of Bumper ads, Google will assist in creating YouTube-friendly ads from long form or other assets. Moreover, it will do so in a way that allows to test into most successful elements through machine learning.

Google Shopping

Several enhancements are happening to shopping campaigns.

From simpler, enhanced UI to buying from ads on Google Assistant through Shopping checkout, Google is making a concerted push into retail.

No doubt, it is after the ever growing share of ad dollars going to Amazon.

To reinforce its vision for user need anticipation, Google checkout will also enables users to buy from retailers in-store, not just on their sites.

Measurement & Reporting

Google is also increasing its commitment to measurement and reporting.

Here are some of the upcoming features.

  • Deep linking into apps will allow reporting on in-app interactions within Google Ads. Google’s initial testing shows 2x higher conversion rates thank to this.
  • Optimization of local campaigns will now include offline KPIs for calls and store visits.
  • Display & Video 360 integrations will bridge gaps within display and video reporting, allowing for long awaited synergies between these platforms.
  • Optimizing not only to multiple conversions, but also varying conversion values will be possible now.

Privacy

Finally, privacy was a big topic of the day.

Google discussed how everyone should be prepared that less data will be available to work with in the future. Users manage their privacy more and more closely.

Google shared that monthly, over 160 million people check or change their Google account privacy settings. It should not surprise that Google Ads will have less user data available.

Furthermore, as announced at Google IO, Google will be changing how its Chrome browser handles cookies and addresses fingerprinting

On the bright side, machine learning will allow us to do more with less.

With more limited first-party data and growing scrutiny of third-party data, machine learning will make targeting less dependent data collection and more aligned with learning behaviors of relevant users and others like them.

11 Google Analytics Reports You Might Not Know About via @coreydmorris

Google Analytics is the primary measurement platform for millions of websites and digital marketing campaigns.

Along with Google Search Console and other third-party measurement tools and platforms, Google Analytics provides insight into key metrics on your audience, organic search, paid search, social media, and website performance.

While it is a given that Google Analytics is a part of our daily routines for monitoring performance and reporting, we can get into a routine of just going in and getting the stats and using the reports we always have.

Or, for those who only rely on a few key metrics and aren’t well versed in all that Google Analytics has to offer, take a moment to see if any of these 11 reports can help you.

1. Custom Dashboards

How many times do you jump into Google Analytics to find the same report, same stats, or slice of data?

How many times do you have to answer the same question for a stakeholder?

If more than once, then custom dashboards are for you.

You can create custom dashboards from pretty much any data view you can drill down into in Google Analytics. Plus, you can add data and reports in widget format from multiple reports into one page.

This is a big time saver. It can also be scheduled for automatic export and delivery to you or key stakeholders once you have it set up the way you want it.

This is a great starting point before jumping over to Google Data Studio, where you can do even more.

Custom Dashboard

Custom Dashboard

2. Lifetime Value

This report still has the “beta” tag in Google Analytics. However, over time, I’ve found more use for it in sites that have a lot of engagement within the 30-90 day cookie window that Google Analytics can track.

If you have a site that engages users and that they come back to often to make one or more purchases, you can track the value of specific users and factor this in with other aspects of the buyer’s journey that you’re measuring.

Note that when something is in beta, I keep in mind that the report could be updated, enhanced, removed, or that data could change over time, so beware.

Lifetime Value

Lifetime Value

3. User Explorer

User explorer allows us to drill down into the journeys of specific website visitors.

While we can’t personally identify the user in Google Analytics by default (and be careful if you try to match up data as Google has specific guidelines on this), we see how individual users consumed content and acted within the website over a period of time.

User Explorer

User Explorer

This information isn’t necessarily as powerful as some third-party user recording and heat mapping tools but it provides some aggregation and insight that rolls up revenue data and other standard Google Analytics metrics in a single report.

Being able to see individual user journeys – including the number of sessions, what pages/activities they did during them, and ultimately when they purchase or make a decision – can help with user experience and conversion rate optimization.

It can also help set expectations for marketing activities and how many steps are realistically part of the customer journey.

User Explorer Detail

User Explorer Detail

4. Interests – Affinity Categories

The Interests/Affinity Categories report can be really interesting and helpful across a wide range of uses.

If you don’t see data by default, you have to simply agree to the terms and give Google authorization to show it for your account.

The categories shown may or may not align with what you expect.

You can leverage these categories by:

  • Further drilling down into them to understand behavior.
  • Sharing this data with those running paid search or social media campaigns and writing content targeting specific audiences.
  • Comparing the segments to each other.

Finding opportunities to leverage specific audiences and segments is powerful when tuning your content strategy.

This data provides a lot of options for adding dimensions and slicing and dicing the views. It can be a great starting point for spending some in-depth time looking at:

  • Who your current audience really is.
  • How they convert.
  • Where you should prioritize your efforts across the digital marketing spectrum.

Interest Affinity Categories

Interest Affinity Categories

5. Benchmarking – Channels

If you’ve ever wondered or been asked about how your website performance compares to others in your industry, the benchmark report is a hidden gem that can help.

You can select some pretty detailed industry verticals and see how your site compares across the different channels in the standard Google Analytics traffic metrics.

This is great data to use to set a baseline and establish goals if you’re struggling to determine how to do so.

It can be a lot more helpful and fun to put some real competitive targets in place rather than looking inward or arbitrarily setting goals that may or may not be realistic.

Benchmarking Channels

Benchmarking Channels

6. Users Flow

This report has visually overwhelmed me for a long time. On first glance, it looks busy and hard to decipher.

Give it a moment, though, and use the zoom slider and move around in the page. Also, use the dropdown above the first column to change the dimensions you want to review.

Once you get the hang of it, this page can provide some solid insight in a way that you would have to drill down through level after level in other reports to get the same info.

Seeing how your users navigate through the site in aggregate and the popular paths can lead to further investigation if there are surprises.

You can also see patterns and tendencies in the user journey to help you shape your content to shape changes in the paths over time.

Users Flow

Users Flow

7. Site Content – Landing Pages

While pretty basic, this report is often overlooked.

Knowing the top landing pages for your website can help validate and connect the dots between specific marketing efforts, organic search, viral content, and more.

By using the dimension tools you can also see the source for each page and quickly know what is driving the most traffic to it.

For SEOs, you want to confirm that over time you’re getting a diversified set of landing pages based on your optimization strategy.

Chances are that you aren’t trying to drive all traffic to and through the home page.

You want to have as many landing pages possible as entry points for the most relevant traffic topically to be entering through them respectively.

Site Content Landing Pages

Site Content Landing Pages

8. Site Search – Search Terms

While most content management systems and ecommerce platforms provide reporting on what terms are being searched through on-site search functions, Google Analytics can help you dig deeper.

With the Google Analytics search terms report, you can see the same terms your web platform likely shows you, but from there you can also apply all of the typical Google Analytics dimensions and see more about the users’ source, behavior, and what they did on the site in a much more extensive and detailed way.

You can then use this data for UX, CRO, and other improvements to make content easier to find and ensure your search is working as intended.

Site Search Search Terms

Site Search Search Terms

9. Multi-Channel Funnels – Assisted Conversions

In many, if not most instances, lead submission or ecommerce purchase goal conversions don’t happen on the first visit. Being able to give credit to visits prior to the visit where the conversion happened is powerful.

Google Analytics provides an assisted conversions report to show us how each channel is involved in the journey when not responsible for the actual conversion visit.

In some cases, you’ll see the same channel as the bulk of your last-click conversions. However, being able to give credit where it is due is important.

For example, you may be getting ready to write off a specific channel like social as it isn’t driving any leads or revenue.

However, the assisted conversion report (plus others showing user paths and journeys) may tell you otherwise.

The great part of having revenue tracking set up is that you can see dollar amounts tied to the specific traffic and how much the assists are worth in helping close the deal.

Multi-channel funnels assisted conversions

Multi-channel funnels assisted conversions

10. Multi-Channel Funnels – Top Conversion Paths

Going a step further than assisted conversions, we can see aggregated data showing the most popular mixes and orders of channels leading to conversions in the customer journey.

This is again another powerful way to see how the channels work together and what revenue comes from it.

Multi-channel funnels top conversion paths

Multi-channel funnels top conversion paths

11. Attribution – Model Comparison Tool

Attribution has been a top concern of digital marketers for a long time.

Google Analytics provides a tool to compare the different models like first-click against the default of last-click. You can even find other models, import them, and create your own to suit your business needs.

Knowing this report exists and how the different models show your data is a great first step that Google Analytics provides for us.

Attribution Model Comparison Tool

Attribution Model Comparison Tool

Conclusion

Because we’re buried in our busy day-to-day routines, we often don’t go deeper into Google Analytics than we need to.

We tend to grab the data we need, create reports, and answer questions.

Know and use the wide range of reports available to you in Google Analytics. It will help improve your marketing on various channels, UX, and CRO. And it will help connect your content with users to ultimately move them toward conversion points.

More Resources:


Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, May 2019

51% of D2C Brands Say SEO is a Top Acquisition Channel via @MattGSouthern

A report on direct-to-consumer (D2C) marketing in 2019 finds that SEO is a top acquisition channel for most brands.

When asked “what are your top 3 acquisition channels?” the responses were:

  • 61% – Social media
  • 51% – SEO
  • 50% – Direct traffic

Paid search came in fourth place (26%), and physical stores were a distant fifth place response (18%).

51% of D2C Brands Say SEO is a Top Acquisition Channel

51% of D2C Brands Say SEO is a Top Acquisition Channel

This data comes from the State of D2C Marketing 2019 report from Yotpo in partnership with Magento.

Data in the report is based on a survey conducted March-April 2019 with responses from 512 eCommerce and marketing decision-makers.

When asked what their top priorities were in 2019, 35% of D2C brands said ‘web traffic.’

Web traffic ranked as the fourth most important KPI behind conversion rates, new customers, and e-commerce sales.

Paid Search and Social Media

When it comes to paid search, specifically Google Ads, 47% of D2C brands say they’re increasing their ad spend in 2019.

Spend on Google Shopping ads is up as well, with 32% of D2C brands saying they’re spending more in that area.

A significant amount of D2C brands are increasing their spend on social media ads. In particular, 49% are spending more on Instagram ads and 52% are spending more on Facebook ads.

Ad spend is up amongst D2C brands in nearly all areas except traditional advertising such as print, outdoor, TV, and radio ads.

More Data

For even more data related to D2C marketing in 2019, see the full report contains over 70 pages of insights.

11 Ways to Increase User Engagement & Why It Matters for SEO by @Carolyn_Lyden

Most SEO professionals know how important user engagement is to their success.

Without searchers coming to our sites and taking action in some way, chances are our place in the SERPs would drop.

Search engines’ main goals include giving the user the best answers to what users are looking for.

When Google determines that your site doesn’t cut the mustard – they’ll replace it in SERPs with one that does give users what they want and need.

What Is User Engagement?

At the most basic level, user engagement is any way in which a visitor to any of your digital properties takes action on that platform as opposed to browsing passively or exiting immediately to find a better source of information.

Types of Engagement

Click-Through Rate (CTR)

CTR offers the entry-level engagement that’s required for further engagement to take place.

CTR requires optimal SEO best practices to show up on the first page of SERPs and gives searchers the content and answers they’re looking for.

Along with decent content, you’ll need to focus on the types of content titles and meta descriptions that encourage users to click through to your site.

You can check this by looking in your Google Search Console account for pages and keywords that have high impressions but low clicks.

Actions From Outside Sources

Not all engagement happens on-site. In fact, come of the most valuable engagement comes from outside sources:

  • Linking to your content.
  • Driving more traffic to your site.
  • Sharing your pieces on platforms that increase your reach.
  • Encouraging users to engage in different ways.

Inbound links remain a top SEO ranking factor year after year. It means that someone read your content and felt it was authoritative enough to use it as a source for the piece they’re writing about a similar or related topic.

While sharing on social media isn’t a ranking factor that directly affects SEO, it does help drive more traffic to your site and encourage more visitors, more links, and more conversions.

Sharing, liking, commenting, and subscribing are versions of user engagement that occur on third-party sites not necessarily affiliated with yours – but can benefit your overall digital presence.

Dwell Time

In a recent SEJ article, Duane Forrester dives into what’s called dwell time.

According to Forrester:

“Dwell time is the length of time a person spends looking at a webpage after they’ve clicked a link on a SERP page, but before clicking back to the SERP results.”

Dwell time is an inherent measurement that helps search engines determine if a searcher’s needs were met with the results the search engine provided.

Searchers will input their query, click through to a top result, and stay on a site that satisfies their need.

For search engines, it’s a measure of their effectiveness.

Forrester points out that there’s not a single way to track dwell time – that search engines alone can do that. However, it’s important for webmasters and SEO pros to be aware that it could affect your site.

Engagement Metrics to Track

While these measures don’t have a direct effect on rankings, they’re important on-site engagement metrics that are crucial for website administrators to track and keep an eye on.

These numbers give you an idea of how well your users are engaging with your site and content. There’s no set “good’ or “bad’ number for each of these metrics. It’s more important to track trends and take anomalies for your site into account.

Pageviews

In Google Analytics, when you go to Audience > Overview, you can get an idea of how many total pageviews your site has received in the given time period.

This metric includes multiple views of a single page. Watch for any large fluctuations in pageviews – whether up or down – to determine if users are drastically increasing or decreasing their engagement with your site.

Top Content

Under Behavior > Site Content > All Pages, you can find which pages/pieces of content on your site are engaging users the most for the selected period of time. Check each week for changes in these pages.

Watch how new pages climb in the ranks to perform well. And ensure that main pages that have always drawn the majority of your visitors and kept users on the site for a long time aren’t dropping in this top content section for any reason.

New vs. Returning Visitors

In Analytics under Audience > Overview, you can see a pie graph of new versus returning visitors. New visitors are always great.

We love new eyes on our sites, discovering our products or services, and potentially converting and becoming returning visitors.

It’s crucial to watch your balance of new vs. returning visitors. Once you’ve established a sort of baseline after a few weeks of observing, you’ll be able to see when and how the balance changes.

Returning users are engaged users, especially depending on your product or service model.

Bounce Rate

Every time I talk to someone who is just learning SEO or digital marketing, I get the question: “What is a good bounce rate?”

The answer (as with everything in SEO) is that it depends – on your business model, your website goals, your content types, and more.

If your goals are to truly serve the searchers’ needs, then someone clicking to your site, reading an article that gives them exactly what they need, and clicking away.

As with all these metrics, tracking bounce rate trends is often what’s most effective.

Any huge drops or jumps can not only tell you something’s off with your Analytics implementation but also if users are engaging with what you’re putting online.

You can find this one under Audience > Overview, as well.

Time on Site

Time on site, or average session duration, gives you a metric for how long users are spending on your site. As with bounce rate, there’s no set good or bad number, but more of a trend to track over time.

Observe how your session duration changes as you engage some of the user engagement tactics below. If you start producing longer-form content for your site:

  • Does it increase because users have a reason to stay longer?
  • Or does it decrease as they are intimidated by long content that would take them too long to read?

Adjust your strategy accordingly.

Conversions

This is one of the most important measurements to track. If you don’t watch the trends for any of the other engagement metrics in this post, at least watch conversions.

Conversions through Analytics are goals you set up to track and assign value to.

However, too many people get caught up in tracking only end-goals (like signups or phone calls).

It’s critical for user engagement metrics to also track micro-conversions that help move users down the funnel.

Whether it’s a newsletter signup, a download of a whitepaper, talking to a chatbot, or the completion of an online survey – these smaller conversions can give you an idea of the funnel toward larger, monetized conversions.

Learn more about how to set up goals in Google Analytics.

Why Does It Matter For SEO?

The above metrics are not ranking factors, so I understand if you’re asking yourself why user engagement matters for SEO. Dwell time is definitely a ranking factor, according to Forrester.

Interpretation of the March 2019 Google algorithm update also indicates that search engines are paying close attention to user engagement through metrics like dwell time to determine if they are serving searchers useful results – essentially, if they’re doing their job:

According to Marcus Tober:

“Looking at the March 2019 Core Algorithm Update, we see another example of Google rewarding user engagement and helpful content. This means that, as the amount of available online content grows, Google is paying more attention to signals that indicate whether users are happy or not.”

This means that instead of focusing on what search engines, SEO pros, and website admins should also be focusing on what users want.

A few ways to do that include doing the audience research, focusing your content to your specific target audiences, and think about the specific stages of the funnel for each group.

Tactical Ways to Increase Engagement

1. Speed up Your Site + Make It Responsive

“If your landing page is too slow, almost half your potential visitors admit they’re less likely to make a purchase,” according to an Unbounce study. And about 25% will go find a competitor with a faster site.

People will stay on your site longer and are more willing to search around for what they need when they don’t feel like they’re wasting time waiting for pages to load (on any device).

2. Eliminate Basic Technical SEO Errors

Nothing is more disruptive to a website’s user experience than weird technical issues.

I was doing some research for a client this week and found a search result that I thought would be the answer to my question. But when I clicked the blue link, it led to a 404.

“No worries,” I thought. “I’m an avid SEO, and will find it elsewhere.”

But the site had gotten rid of the piece altogether and hadn’t redirected it or bothered to publish an updated piece.

I had to go back to SERPs and find another, less satisfying result. That’s traffic lost, but also money down the drain.

3. Give People Different Ways to Engage in Your Content (Text, Video, Audio)

When I was a kid, I remember taking an assessment that determined my learning style.

Some people learn better through visual, auditory, or tactile styles. Think about this when you create content.

We always focus on written word online (because that’s what’s indexable), but we all absorb information in different ways.

Try using video with text transcription to reach new people or recording your written blogs for people to listen to instead of reading.

Go with a trusty infographic or another visual representation of data.

Mix up your content forms and observe how the key metrics on your site change.

4. Produce Helpful Content (a.k.a. Give Knowledge Away for Free)

Create thorough, useful content that serves users’ needs.

Zapier’s blog does a great job of this. They realize that users who come to their site are probably researching the best ways to automate things.

We automate things so we don’t have to do them manually, which saves time and lets us do other tasks that require more brain power (or are more fun!).

So Zapier has focused its blog on productivity. They dig deep on how-tos and tool tips, give examples of some of the best ways to automate things that normally require manual work, and also present good information on the science of productivity as a whole.

I use them as an example because it’s one of the few blogs I go to on my own and peruse what’s new.

When you create useful content that helps your target audience do their jobs better – your site will become a destination for them.

5. Clean up Your Navigation & Site Design

Many businesses start small and scale quickly. While that’s great for the bottom line, it often means your website ends up as a catch-all for new information.

Perform a check every quarter to make sure that your website design and navigation makes sense for users.

Give your aunt or nephew a basic task to perform on your site, and if they struggle to figure where to do it, it’s time to make it simpler.

Figure out what fits in the top-level categories, and organize down from there.

6. Improve Internal Linking & Suggested Posts

Help people find the content that’s most relevant to what they’re currently looking at on your site.

The best ways to do that are through internal linking within pieces of content on your site and suggested posts.

Every time you mention something that you’ve written about before, link to it!

Categorize and tag your posts so you can refer website visitors to something similar once they’re done reading.

7. Have a Site Search Option

If people can’t find what they need when they’re on your site, they’ll leave and find it somewhere else.

Having a good on-site search option allows users to search all the content available on your digital property to find the best fit to serve their own needs.

And then you can use your site search data to write more content.

8. Clear CTAs to the Next Stage of the Funnel

One of my biggest pet peeves is someone trying to shove me down the funnel before I’m ready.

I remember going to a site a few years ago where the only navigation option was “Buy.” I didn’t even know the product/service and why I should buy it.

The same principle should go for the content you create on your site.

If it’s a top of funnel, informational piece, use your CTA to direct people to the corresponding content that’s in the middle of the funnel.

From there, you can encourage people to the bottom to buy.

9. Introduce a Chatbot

If you have the capability for a live chat option, give users the opportunity to ask questions to a real person who’s an expert.

If not, you can create automated chatbot scripts that can help answer top questions on your site and make users feel like they’re getting more personalized treatment.

If they can’t find answers to their questions elsewhere on your site, the chatbot can keep them on your site and engage with suggested content.

10. Collect Email Addresses + Engage With Email

Keep returning visitors coming back by delivering your content directly to their inboxes.

You can have a subscribe box or pop up on your site, or you can collect email addresses by gating middle- to bottom-funnel content and then following up with useful content based on your target audience’s needs.

11. Create Surveys & Publish the Data

Everyone loves original data.

By running experiments, creating surveys, and collecting data in other ways, you become the go-to resource when someone needs information on that topic:

People curate data. Whether it’s to prove a point they believe in strongly, to show their boss they should invest in a strategy or solution, to inform their own next move, etc., we’re a data-driven society.”

Keep engagement trending upward on your site by regularly publishing the data you’re producing. Not only will it drive more engaged traffic, but it will increase your inbound links, too.

Summary

SEO is a puzzle with many pieces. No single piece or small group of pieces alone will give a complete picture of SEO health.

Instead, all the pieces need to be in place and fixed the right way to best serve users’ needs and increase engagement on your sites.

More Resources:

Call Tracking & Reporting: The 7 Most Important Metrics to Track by @grybniak

Sixty-five percent of customers find it more convenient to contact businesses by phone, as compared to only 24% who prefer to fill out a web form.

That is why digital marketers must combine data for offline call conversions and web-based conversions – to show businesses a clear picture of their ad’s performance.

The results of call tracking, attributing and reporting give you insight into:

  • Which keywords are generating calls.
  • Which digital advertising channels are worth the investment.
  • Other useful information that helps mold your business’s marketing strategy.

The one thing you need to consider before enhancing your call tracking and reporting strategy is which metrics you are going to measure to see whether you’ve achieved your goals.

Here are the seven most significant metrics you should track.

1. Call Source

call source table screenshot

call source table screenshot

Knowing which campaigns and ads drive the most calls simplifies the process of deciding where to focus your efforts and budget in the future.

But how exactly can you get this information if you have the same phone number listed in newspapers, social media channels, newsletters, advertisements, and landing pages?

To ensure an effective call tracking and reporting strategy, use dynamic phone numbers.

Pay attention to the ‘Number Dialed’ and ‘Call Routed To/Destination’ columns to see which ads generate the most frequent calls.

Choosing Dynamic Number Insertion (DNI) over ordinary static phone numbers leaves you with a number of advantages:

  • You can independently track the performance of each campaign. This is especially helpful when you need to see how successfully different campaigns perform with the same messaging.
  • Seeing an extensive list of phone numbers on your website can be confusing for your customers. Dynamic phone numbers automatically present only local phone numbers associated with a prospect’s location.
  • Manage your phone numbers effectively. Modern call tracking platforms allow marketers to notice unused numbers and recycle them for new campaigns.

2. Call Volume

By tracking your call volume, you gain access to attribution data, and you can see which ads drive the majority of calls. It also gives you insight for better understanding ROI.

Detailed call volume reports show you valuable call patterns, which is just as important as collecting data on the number of website visits.

Although neither gives a clear picture of marketing-generated revenue, they still highlight which things are working (or not).

Call volume is a perfect metric for tracking the success of recent updates to your SEO and PPC strategies.

For example, you have just optimized your Google My Business account. You fill out most of the fields with company data, upload new photos, and respond to all comments and reviews.

How will you measure the success of this action?

Pay attention to the numbers of:

  • Viewings in search.
  • Viewings in maps.
  • Calls.
  • Photos viewings.
  • Queries, users used to find your business.
  • Website visitors.
  • Maps searches.

Track your call volume metrics to see the growth in the percentage of inbound calls after GMB account optimization.

Knowing whether your changes were successful, you can set further goals for driving more calls.

3. Conversation Duration

inbound concurrent calls screenshot

inbound concurrent calls screenshot

As you can see from the above chart, not all calls have equal value.

You might have 20 calls per day, but what’s the point if most of them last less than a minute?

The longer the conversation lasts, the more chances you have to convert a lead into a customer.

After all, why would a person waste so much time speaking with your team if they aren’t interested in your product or service?

Lasting and meaningful conversations don’t come to your business that easily.

They are generated by the entirety of your marketing efforts (SEO, social, PPC, display advertising and remarketing).

Track call duration metrics to see the length of each call, and to determine which campaigns drive the most effective calls.

4. Time of Phone Calls

One of the most valuable things about call tracking is that it tells you what time of day drives the largest percentage of conversions.

This data is vital for any advertising campaign, regardless of which services or products you are offering, or which PPC providers you are using to track inbound calls.

With this information, you can spot the connection between the time of the day and call frequency. Make note of these patterns and leverage them to arrange your PPC ads more efficiently.

For example, let’s say your client is a local restaurant.

While monitoring major call tracking metrics over a couple of weeks, you are likely to see a call boom on Fridays and weekends around noon.

What about work days? If the restaurant is located in a business area, far away from tourists traps, you may notice a low call rate during weekday working hours.

Your obvious decision would be to increase your ad budget for the period from Thursday evening through the weekend, and to reduce the number of ads shown from Monday to Thursday.

To catch your customers’ attention, consider changing the message and adding special offers for low traffic days and hours.

5. Landing Page Performance

When visiting your PPC landing page, users are usually given several options for contacting your business:

  • Fill out a contact form.
  • Start an online conversation using the on-site chatbot.
  • Pick up the phone and call.

Without call tracking, your PPC conversion rate will seem much lower than it actually is.

If you only gather data about the number of forms filled out and messages in online chat, you will miss out on a lot of helpful details for your marketing strategy.

6. First-Time Callers

A first-time caller is someone who has never called your business before. This is an important segment of your business’s target audience because it represents potential new customers.

Consider separating data on first-time callers from repeat callers. Some Google Analytics integrations even let you parse out the callers’ phone numbers and session details for better data analysis.

By isolating first-time callers, you can more deeply analyze their behavior on the site and see which pages they visited right before calling you.

This can give you an idea of which pages perform well and which pages need improvement. It will also give you insights on how well your marketing strategy is working.

Exclude repeat customers from the list and see how many new leads you got over the past month. Does this number match your initial goals?

In fact, you can even improve your ROI by taking a more personalized approach to first-time callers, and to those who have already reached your business.

7. Previous Interactions

Enterprises that use complex sales cycles and funnels know that a phone call is rarely the first interaction between the customer and the brand.

Prospects tend to go through your website, social media channels and reviews from various sources before deciding to speak with sales.

Therefore, it is important for marketers to track interactions that occurred prior to the inbound call:

  • Queries a prospect used for searching.
  • Keywords that brought the user to your website.
  • Webpages that the visitor read before making a call.
  • The way visitors interact with digital content.

Some sophisticated platforms allow you to capture both website and call metrics, so you can monitor the user’s digital journey leading up to the call.

With such cutting edge technologies, you can see which marketing techniques are most effective for driving prospects deeper into the purchasing funnel.

Choose Your Tracking Metrics Wisely

When deciding which metrics are most necessary to measure, consider your marketing goals and business size.

Small businesses usually set up 3-5 dynamic phone numbers for social networks, Google Ads, and organic and direct traffic. The numbers are changed by the system according to the source, or by a specially developed plugin.

Thanks to cookies in the user’s browser, the visitor will see the same phone number each time they approach your business online.

Larger companies that operate marketing funnels often prefer to connect more complicated systems to their CRMs that allow them to make the best use of call tracking and reporting, enabling them to more accurately measure ROI.

To Sum Up

The most crucial metrics you should track to comprehend the real outcome of your call tracking strategy are call time of day, call volume and source.

Integrating call reporting into your business CRM system is an excellent option for complex marketing solutions, where all conversions must be measured accurately.

More Resources:


Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, March 2019

DuckDuckGo is Google’s Only Competitor to Gain Organic Search Share in Q1 2019 by @MattGSouthern

DuckDuckGo’s organic search growth is outpacing other search engines, with particularly strong gains reported in mobile search.

On mobile devices, DuckDuckGo’s organic search visits are up 78% year-over-year. Overall search visits are up 54%.

By comparison, Google’s total organic search visits fell 2% year-over-year in Q1 2019. However, Google’s mobile search visits grew 6%.

Bing and Yahoo saw either neutral or negative growth in Q1 2019.

DuckDuckGo is Google’s Only Competitor to Gain Organic Search Share in Q1 2019

DuckDuckGo is Google’s Only Competitor to Gain Organic Search Share in Q1 2019

This data was revealed in Merkle’s Q1 2019 Digital Marketing Report, which also includes statistics about paid search, social, and Amazon ads.

In this post, I will highlight the key findings related to organic search.

Organic Search in Q4 2019

Organic search produced 26% of all visits and 24% of mobile website visits in Q1 2019.

Total site visits produced by organic search declined by about 2% in Q1 2019.

On phones, organic search visits were up 13% while desktop visits fell 13% and tablet visits fell 12%.

Phones accounted for over 50% of all organic search visits in Q1 2019, which is a first-ever milestone.

Merkle adds that this past quarter’s desktop visit decline was the largest since Q4 2016.

Google

Google’s share of total US organic search visits was 93% in Q1 2019, up a point from last year.

On mobile devices, Google produced 96% of organic search visits. Google’s Organic search visits on mobile devices are up 6% year-over-year.

The study notes that the share of traffic from mobile for Google and DuckDuckGo are nearly identical.

“In Q1 2019, both saw mobile account for 62% of organic search visits. This is impressive for DuckDuckGo because it did not enjoy the same default search engine status as Google does on iOS and Android devices.”

For more data related to paid search and organic & paid social in Q4 2018, download the full report here.

How to Take Search Console to the Next Level with Google Data Studio by @sam_marsden

It’s been really positive to see how quickly Google Search Console has been changing since the launch of the new version.

However, with all of these developments, it’s important not to put too much focus on working with Search Console data in its native user interface.

To get the most out of Search Console, particularly Performance data, we need to:

  • Extract parts of this rich data source.
  • Visualize it in compelling dashboards that surface organic insights quickly so that we can tell persuasive stories to clients, management and other stakeholders.

I’m going to show you how to get more out of Search Console data by using it in combination with Google Data Studio.

By building custom Search Console dashboards you will be able to:

  • Save a shed load of time by surfacing organic issues, fluctuations, and insights faster.
  • Ditch your boring reports and share compelling visualizations that influence and persuade.

The Setup

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ll have at least some awareness of Google Data Studio and what it’s about.

If you want to learn more about using Google Data Studio, there are some great guides out there so I won’t be delving into that here.

I do, however, want to start by taking you through a couple of options available for pulling Search Console data into Data Studio.

Native Connector

The most obvious way to get Search Console data in Data Studio is by using the native connector to create a data source.

Data Studio Search Console connector

Data Studio Search Console connector

Using this connector is a quick and easy option for getting Search Console Performance insights into Data Studio.

The problem is that it is limited to Performance data alone and has a limited number of dimensions with which to dissect this data source.

Third-Party Tools

A better option is to access Search Console through a third party tool like Supermetrics.

Doing so will give you access to:

  • Sitemap metrics and Performance data.
  • A wide range of dimensions to help you slice and dice the data as required.

There are a number of different options and products available but I use Supermetrics for Google Sheets by:

  • Running Search Console queries in Google Sheets using the Supermetrics add-on.
  • Populating sheets with tables of Search Console data.

Supermetrics for Sheets

Supermetrics for Sheets

  • Setting scheduled data refreshing using the Supermetrics add-on to keep sheets populated with up to date data.

Supermetrics schedule refresh

Supermetrics schedule refresh

  • Creating data sources in Data Studio using the Sheets connector.

Data Studio Google Sheets connector

Data Studio Google Sheets connector

  • Visualizing the data in a variety of Data Studio dashboards.

Data Studio visualisations

Data Studio visualisations

What Search Console Dashboards Can You Build in Data Studio?

With the flow of Search Console data into Data Studio in place, you can get down to the fun stuff: building pretty charts and graphs.

I use two main dashboards that serve different purposes and communicate different aspects of Search Console data.

I’ll spend the rest of the post taking you through them to give you inspiration for some visualizations that you can go off and create.

1. Top Level Trends Dashboard

The top-level organic trends dashboard provides a high-level overview of organic performance.

In addition to aiding SEOs and digital marketers, this could equally be shared with management, clients and other stakeholders who have a limited understanding of organic search but have an interest in its performance as a channel.

Let’s take a look at what this dashboard consists of.

Sitewide Trends

Data Studio GSC Top level trends dashboard

Data Studio GSC Top level trends dashboard

The dashboard kicks off with a sitewide year-on-year comparison scorecard to show how the overall site is performing in terms of impressions, clicks, and CTR compared to the previous year.

Below that, sitewide impressions, clicks, and CTR are trended on a monthly basis to clearly show the overall direction of organic performance.

In the case of the DeepCrawl site, we’ve seen strong and consistent growth in terms of the volume of impressions and clicks. Conversely, CTR has declined over this period, which warrants further investigation.

The key benefit of these graphs is that they remove the noise of the daily trending that you are locked into within Search Console itself, and you can instead visualize this information as clearly as possible.

Branded & Non-Branded Trends

Branded search performance Search Console

Branded search performance Search Console

I’ve also included two sections using a similar format to the above to break out performance for branded and non-branded queries.

Splitting Performance data out in this way is possible as a dimension within Supermetrics, but if you are using the Data Studio connector you can create a filter where the query does/doesn’t include your brand name and its different variations.

Splitting out branded and non-branded performance is important because these could be telling different stories.

Non-branded search performance is more indicative of the effectiveness of SEO work, whereas branded search can speak more to the overall marketing efforts of a site and their success in growing brand visibility.

Directory Breakdown

How to Take Search Console to the Next Level with Google Data Studio

How to Take Search Console to the Next Level with Google Data Studio

Another way of breaking out Performance data in a top-level way is by splitting out clicks and impressions by site sections and trending this on a monthly basis.

This data can easily be pulled using the directory level dimensions provided by default in Supermetrics.

When it’s set up it will show you how various sections on a site are contributing to the overall organic performance and how this has changed over time.

In the graph above you can see where we migrated over a section of our site where the green section turns to yellow.

You can see that the migration was a success because the new site section (in yellow) grew substantially compared to the performance of the old section (green) in the subsequent months (November 2018 onwards).

Long Tail vs. Short Tail Performance

Keyword performance by query length

Keyword performance by query length

Using a similar style of graph to the directory breakdown, you can use query length as a dimension to gain an understanding of long and short tail performance.

This could be taken one step further, by bucketing together different query lengths to group short, mid and long tail queries.

Additionally, I’ve used the device and geographic dimensions to trend desktop vs. mobile performance and country-level performance in similar ways to the above.

2. Monthly Insights Dashboard

The second dashboard takes a more granular view, looking at Search Console Performance data on a monthly basis.

The Monthly Insights dashboard is useful for more regular check-ins to promptly detect changes and review performance.

Monthly Trends

Monthly organic trends

Monthly organic trends

This dashboard features two comparison scorecards with month-on-month and year-on-year comparisons of impressions, clicks, and CTR.

Below the scorecards are three graphs showcasing performance data on a daily basis to identify more immediate fluctuations.

Device, Geographic & Search Type Trends

GSC search type, device and geo graphs

GSC search type, device and geo graphs

Below the sitewide metrics sit a series of graphs configured to detect changes in various types of organic traffic.

Impressions, clicks, and CTR are shown horizontally and device, country and search type breakdowns are shown vertically.

This is useful for flagging the source of fluctuations in organic traffic and forming the basis for further investigation.

Page & Query Performance

GSC top performing pages and queries

GSC top performing pages and queries

Following on from the device, geographic and search type trends are the top performing pages and queries for the last month, with a comparison to the previous month.

Of course, this is information that can be gained from the Search Console UI, but the benefit is that it saves you time as you don’t have to configure filters such as date ranges each time. The insights are there ready for you immediately.

Biggest Winners & Losers

GSC biggest increases and decreases in clicks and impressions

GSC biggest increases and decreases in clicks and impressions

I’ve built some more pre-populated tables which show the biggest changes comparing last month to the previous month.

The biggest winners are queries that have seen the biggest increase in clicks, impressions, CTR and average position and the biggest losers are those that have seen the biggest decrease.

It is worth adding a filter to set a minimum number of impressions or clicks so that you’re displaying changes for queries that you care more about ranking for.

For example, who cares if you move up 50 positions for a query if your average position is 200?

These tables are something I would previously look for in Search Console itself, but it’s handy to have these pre-configured in a dashboard ready for me to review on a monthly basis.

Fraggle Performance

We’ve recently started optimizing our content to get fraggles in the SERPs.

While the name sounds like a rather unpleasant skin condition, fraggles are actually another name for the jump links in SERPs that deep link to specific sections of a page.

Jump links in Google search results

Jump links in Google search results

Getting fraggles for your site’s pages is pretty straightforward and they are particularly useful for sites with a lot of long-form content because they help get searchers to the information they want faster.

Fraggle performance graphs

Fraggle performance graphs

As fraggles are something we’re optimizing for, I decided to include this as part of the reporting in my Search Console dashboards.

I found that by filtering down URLs to those that contain a “#”, this surfaces the performance of fraggle impressions and clicks in search.

The above graphs and table show monthly tracking of fraggle performance in search and the tables below reveal which pages and queries we are receiving fraggles for.

Top performing pages and queries with fraggles

Top performing pages and queries with fraggles

Do Yourself a Favor…

Since I’ve been sharing my work on Data Studio, I’ve spoken to many people who are interested in learning about how they can build dashboards to streamline reporting, but don’t seem to have the time.

We’re all busy, I get it.

But it only takes a handful of hours to set up dashboards like the ones above and the costs are minimal (or free, depending on your setup).

Once you have these dashboards and automated processes in place, the hard work is done and you can reap the benefits in terms of time saved in the long run.

I hope this post has been useful in demonstrating how you can set up simple but effective organic search dashboards.

Google Data Studio is evolving rapidly, so I’d love to see you share your own dashboards and how you’re getting the most out of Search Console and other data sources.

Some Helpful Resources

More Resources:


Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, April 2019

20 Awesome Sources of Free Data by @JulieJoyce

We all like free things right?

The web is practically swimming in free (and sometimes incorrect or misleading) information.

But these 20 sources of free data are widely considered to be quite reputable.

dataset

dataset

This enables you to search available datasets that have been marked up properly according to the schema.org standard.

While this could be viewed as a one-stop shop for datasets that includes data from sources like NASA and ProPublica, there are many niche datasets that may be better for certain purposes.

You’re shown the results and each one is clickable to tell you:

  • The name of the dataset.
  • When it was last updated.
  • A description.

With certain results you get more information, such as the formats in which the dataset is available.

Google Trends

Google Trends

With this tool, you can search for keywords and see a variety of information about them, including:

  • Interest over time.
  • Interest by region.
  • Related topics.
  • Related queries.

You can select options including which country (or worldwide) you want to see, narrow it down to categories, or confine your search to all of the web, images, news, shopping, or YouTube.

You can also compare your search to another topic.

census

census

This allows you to get information related to population, the economy, and geography.

You can browse by topic or search.

This is a great tool if you need statistics for content.

They have some great visualizations that you can embed within your content too.

EU portal

EU portal

Available data includes:

  • Geography.
  • Finance.
  • Statistics.
  • Election results.
  • Legal acts.
  • Information on crime, transport, health, the environment, and science research.

This platform is searchable and browsable.

gov

gov

The home of the U.S. government’s open data, this site allows access to information about a variety of topics provided by federal, state, local, and tribal governments.

UK data

UK data

Similar to the US’s Data.gov, this site allows access to data in a variety of topics.

Data is provided by the central government, local authorities, and public bodies.

health data

health data

Searchable topics include medical devices, environmental health, substance abuse, mental health, and others.

CIA

CIA

Containing information on 267 world entities, this is a treasure trove of data that is updated weekly with information about the world.

You can select a country to view and then click on whatever topic you like (such as Economy or Transportation.)

The site is also searchable.

There is a section for World Leaders and one for CIA Maps.

altmetric

altmetric

Altmetric does offer some paid plans but they have a very useful set of the top 100 most mentioned articles that have been published in a year.

2018 is the latest but there are sets going back to 2013.

They also offer a few free tools.

opencorp

opencorp

The largest open database of companies in the world, Open Corporates gives you access to information about over 100 million companies.

You can search by companies or officers and limit your jurisdiction if you need to.

NOAA

NOAA

This covers geophysical, atmospheric, and oceanic data. They are currently the world’s largest provider of climate and weather information.

They also provide links to older tools that may not be available currently on the website but reside elsewhere.

subreddit

subreddit

You do have to sign up but it’s free. You can search for datasets and find people giving information and requesting it.

Reddit, in general, is also a great place to look for information and see what’s trending.

kaggle

kaggle

Kaggle currently has close to 16,000 datasets. You can find data on anything from sports team player stats to Los Angeles parking citations.

earth data

earth data

The Earth Observing System Data and Information System contain NASA’s earth observation data which includes things like land surface temperature in NC and carbon flux.

pew

pew

If you’re looking for sociological data, this is a great source.

There are some interesting articles that you can find by browsing around too. You do need to sign up to view and download datasets but it’s free.

CDC

CDC

Covering health topics, this site gives you access to an incredible amount of data that is browseable and searchable. You can even create your own filtered datasets through various topic-related portals.

labor

labor

Here you can find data about labor market activity, working conditions, and price changes in our economy.

538

538

They have data on politics, sports, science and health, economics, and culture.

grouplens

grouplens

Group Lens has several available datasets that are useful for more niche projects.

Some datasets are over a decade old. You can get a lot of information on books and films here.

github

github

This one gives you data from Buzzfeed. If you want information about fake news from 2016 to 2018, this one’s for you.

Bonus Source: Find Free Images

I’d like to give an honorable mention to a great list of sources for free images to go along with all this data so definitely check it out: 41 Places to Find Free Images Online That You Will Actually Want to Use.

More Resources:


Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, April 2019

Is Conversion Lift the Future of Attribution? by @Wrodarczyk

How does a typical ecommerce business measure online campaign performance?

It’s simple.

They track users who click their ads and measure how many of them made a purchase within a certain period of time, called conversion window.

It works particularly good for SEM campaigns.

We believe that the correlation between click and conversion is hard proof of effectiveness and justifies virtually any budget spent on search engine ads.

Post-Click & Post-View

The post-click performance of YouTube ads is usually low. Users simply don’t click this type of ad.

On the other hand, nobody clicks radio ads, TV ads, billboards on the roads, or press advertisements – but we know they work.

Example SEM ads have 27 percent CTR. Video ads have 0.08 percent CTR. Outdoor billboard has zero CTR.

Example SEM ads have 27 percent CTR. Video ads have 0.08 percent CTR. Outdoor billboard has zero CTR.

Indeed, in case of the display and video ads, we observe a high number of post-view conversions – but somehow we don’t believe in it as much as we trust the post-click data.

Yes, we know there was an impression of a display ad. We even know it was in the viewable area.

But how do we know that the ad was actually seen? How do we know that it attracted interest?

If there is any other interaction on the path, we attribute the conversion to clicks rather than to the fact that the user potentially saw our ad.

Attribution Modeling

We already know about attribution modeling.

We are aware that there may be many interactions on the conversion path.

There are also a number of tools on the market to track impressions and viewability.

We can create custom attribution models where we can treat clicks, views, and impressions differently.

The problem with these models is that they require arbitrary decisions regarding the importance of traffic sources on the conversion path and weights assigned to particular interactions (clicks, impressions, or video views).

There was a big hope in algorithmic models such as data-driven model or Markov chain analysis.

The biggest problem of these algorithms is that they interpret the correlation of interactions as causation. It can sometimes lead to wrong conclusions.

Let’s have a look at Google’s data-driven attribution methodology. The algorithm compares paths to conversion.

For example, say that the combination of search and email touchpoints leads to a 2 percent probability of conversion.

If there is also display on the path, the probability increases to 3 percent. The observed 50 percent increase serves as the basis for attribution of the display channel.

Combination of search and e-mail has 2 percent probability of conversion. If there is also display on the path, the probability increases to 3 percent. Display increases the probability of conversion by 50 percent.

Combination of search and e-mail has 2 percent probability of conversion. If there is also display on the path, the probability increases to 3 percent. Display increases the probability of conversion by 50 percent.

Illustration based on Google’s Analytics Help article, Data-Driven Attribution Methodology.

Let’s look at another example.

We have observed that people who enter a relationship and find a house, have 2 percent probability of having a baby within two years. However, if there are storks in the neighborhood, the probability increases to 3 percent.

We conclude that storks increase the chance of being pregnant by 50 percent. It actually means that these birds can be credited for at least a number of the childbirths.

People in relationship who find a house, have 2 percent chance of having a baby soon. However, if thee are storks in the neighborhood, the probability increases to 3 percent. We conclude that storks increase the chance of pregnancy by 50 percent.

People in relationship who find a house, have 2 percent chance of having a baby soon. However, if thee are storks in the neighborhood, the probability increases to 3 percent. We conclude that storks increase the chance of pregnancy by 50 percent.

Naturally, we do not believe that storks bring babies or have any impact on fertility.

The reason for this observation is different. There is, for many other reasons, a higher birth rate in rural areas, and storks rarely decide to have their nests in cities.

Of course, the data-driven attribution algorithms are more complex than the examples above, but they still often misinterpret signals, especially if there are both inbound and outbound marketing touchpoints on the path (for example, branded search terms clicks, remarketing ads, and regular prospecting campaigns).

Conversion Lift

In the past years, Facebook and Google made available conversion lift tests. This feature makes it possible to conduct a controlled experiment and to measure the incremental value of marketing campaigns.

Conversion lift test creates a control group out of the pool of users that would have seen our ad (because we have won the auction) but instead of showing the ad, they show the next ad in the ranking.

Afterward, you can track and compare the differences in the downstream behaviors of both of those users who actually saw your ad (test group) and those that should have, but didn’t (control group).

A simple comparison of conversions in these two groups shows the incremental value of the tested campaign.

Is Conversion Lift the Future of Attribution?

Is Conversion Lift the Future of Attribution?

This concept is so simple and obvious.

It’s hard to believe that the online marketing industry has had to wait for this feature for so long.

Case Study: The Value of Video Views

My company made a conversion lift test of a YouTube campaign for an online travel agency.

The test showed that the real impact of the campaign was significantly lower than the number of post-view conversions.

It also revealed the inaccuracy of algorithmic attribution models.

However, it has proven the efficiency of video ads in driving sales, much beyond the post-click effect.

Conversion Lift experiment results. There are only 16 post-click conversions. However, there are 1832 post-view conversions and including view-through conversions there are 2467 conversions. Other attribution models show 1240 to 1334 conversions. Conversion lift result is 664 conversions.

Conversion Lift experiment results. There are only 16 post-click conversions. However, there are 1832 post-view conversions and including view-through conversions there are 2467 conversions. Other attribution models show 1240 to 1334 conversions. Conversion lift result is 664 conversions.

User Buckets

The conversion lift experiment isn’t so far available for all advertisers and all types of campaigns.

However, a long time ago, Google Analytics introduced user buckets. This feature makes it possible to conduct controlled experiments for remarketing campaigns.

Google Analytics randomly assigns each of your users to one of 100 buckets. The User Bucket dimension (values 1 to 100) indicates the bucket to which the user has been assigned.

User Bucket range can be used as a condition in audience definitions, and these audiences can be used as remarketing lists in Google Ads.

For example, the 1-50 range audience can serve as control and the 51-100 audience will be our experiment. You can then compare the effects of remarketing displayed only to the experiment audience.

Testing Remarketing Effectiveness

In order to conduct the conversion lift experiment for remarketing campaigns, you simply have to:

  • Make the control list (User Bucket range) as a negative audience.
  • Observe the differences in conversions between these two segments.

Depending on the advertiser and the campaign, this test can produce completely different results.

For example:

  • In the case of the online travel agency, remarketing has generated a high number of incremental conversions, more than 10 times higher than the post-click conversions.
  • A similar experiment made by a parcel service business showed that the users who saw remarketing ads had even fewer conversions than the control group, despite a significant number of post-click conversions.

Conversion lift experiment for remarketing campaigns: the control list (User Bucket range) is set as negative audience. Then you observe differences in conversions between these two segments. Advertiser 1 had 684 conversions, while the advertiser 2 had negative lift of -298 conversions.

Conversion lift experiment for remarketing campaigns: the control list (User Bucket range) is set as negative audience. Then you observe differences in conversions between these two segments. Advertiser 1 had 684 conversions, while the advertiser 2 had negative lift of -298 conversions.

So, is the remarketing effective?

These results clearly show that there is no universal answer to this question.

Although it’s unlikely for the ads to have a negative effect on conversion rate, the observation of a post-click conversion does not always mean that the sale wouldn’t happen without this click.

Is SEM PPC Worth Its Cost?

Branded term campaigns (i.e., when an advertiser uses its own brand name as a keyword in search engine ads) often have excellent KPIs.

The CTR is high and the conversion rate is usually above average.

However, what would happen if we wouldn’t pay for this ad?

Our website should normally be listed in the first position in organic search results for our own name. It will be placed below our competitors’ ads if they appear there.

Will the average user click the competitor’s ad instead? Or maybe rather scroll a couple of lines down to find our organic listing?

If not, will this user buy from the competitor? Or rather go back to the search engine and try to find what he or she was looking for?

If we turn off or limit the branded term campaign, we can often observe an increased number of organic clicks for branded search terms.

In the example below, the bids in the branded term campaign have been decreased by approximately 50 percent.

The branded term campaign had a 50 percent bid decrease. The CPC decreased and the ad position became worse. Since then we have also observed a decrease of ad clicks but in the same time, an increased number of organic clicks for branded search terms.

The branded term campaign had a 50 percent bid decrease. The CPC decreased and the ad position became worse. Since then we have also observed a decrease of ad clicks but in the same time, an increased number of organic clicks for branded search terms.

So, how many of these users who clicked our branded term ads would convert even if we wouldn’t pay for our own brand keywords?

Conversion lift experiments are not yet available for search campaigns. However, the user buckets can be used to create remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) and at least test the incremental impact on returning users.

This experiment is a little more complicated. As opposed to remarketing, the search engine ads target also new users.

These users have not visited our website before and, for this reason, are not in any of the User Buckets yet. Not yet because immediately after the click, they will be assigned to a random User Bucket.

Therefore, in this test, we should exclude the experiment remarketing lists and use the control list in observation setting.

  • The experiment list: Excluded.
  • The control list: Observation, no bid adjustment.

Conversion lift test: As opposite to remarketing campaigns, the search engine ads target also new users. These users have not visited our website before and for this reason are not in any of the User Buckets yet. Not yet, because immediately afer the click, they will be assigned to a random User Bucket. Therefore, in this test we should exclude the experiment remarketing lists and use the control list in observation setting.

Conversion lift test: As opposite to remarketing campaigns, the search engine ads target also new users. These users have not visited our website before and for this reason are not in any of the User Buckets yet. Not yet, because immediately afer the click, they will be assigned to a random User Bucket. Therefore, in this test we should exclude the experiment remarketing lists and use the control list in observation setting.

The result of this experiment for branded terms campaigns usually shows that the actual incremental value of this campaign is significantly lower than the value of post-click conversions.

Quite often you may see that actual lift is statistically insignificant. So, do you still believe in post-click conversions?

You can also try to test any SEM campaign using this method. Please note that it only tests the behavior of the returning users.

The impact of the campaign on new users can be different. However, based on results you may ad least decide to modify your RLSA bid adjustments.

Do We Need Attribution Modeling?

Attribution modeling isn’t the art for its sake. The purpose of these calculations is to determine the incremental value of each channel.

Marketers need to know how many customers they gain by adding a given campaign to their marketing plan. It makes it possible to calculate how much they can spend on this campaign.

This is exactly what the results of a conversion lift experiment show. Then, why are we still building complicated models if we could actually measure it?

Unfortunately, we can’t use conversion lift to measure the efficiency of all types of ads yet.

Why Do We Trust in Clicks?

Numerous conversion lift experiments have shown that the post-view effect exists. We could also observe that certain clicks have almost no impact on the overall result.

Our strong belief in post-click conversions is being massively abused by some performance marketers and affiliates.

They use branded terms ads, discount coupons, or any other type of conversion hijacking techniques in order to swindle CPA commission.

Hopefully, conversion lift experiments will become a standard in the online advertising industry in the future.

If we will be able to conduct a controlled experiment for any campaign, keyword, or audience, there will be less guesswork in estimating the actual incremental value of advertising.

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In-Post Images: Created by author, March 2019