Getting Started with Screaming Frog for Technical SEO

A lot of different skills go into being a great SEO. On the one hand, you need to have classic marketing skills that allow you to empathize with a prospective customer, speak to their needs and wants and understand their behavior. On the other hand, you must have at least a working knowledge of web technology, including HTML and server administration, that will allow you to properly publish content on the Internet.

This latter is referred to with the blanket term “Technical SEO”. In this article I’m going to give a brief introduction to technical analysis for SEO purposes, including an intro to my favorite SEO tool on the market, the Screaming Frog SEO Spider.

Technical SEO Analysis

Before we dive into the tactics of how to use a crawler, let’s go over some of the basics of SEO. When analyzing on-site and on-page SEO, we are concerned with the following general areas:

  • On-page Content (Text, Images/Alt Tags).
  • URL Structure (Keyword inclusion in URLs, not too long, etc).
  • Meta Data (Title Tags, Meta Descriptions, Canonical Tags, etc).
  • Server Errors or Redirects (i.e. 404 errors, 301 redirects).
  • Internal Linking (how the website links to itself).

Let’s break down quickly what we want from an ideal website when it comes to these areas:

On-Page Content

Speaking very generally here, you will want lots of text, images and other media. The exact structure and content of your page will depend on your niche, but will always content text and images. (PRO TIP: To see what Google is favoring, just check out what the top 5 ranking sites are doing, and mimic that).

URL Structure

No need to go crazy here: Use keywords in your URLs, and don’t make them crazy long, you’ll be fine.

Meta Data

Title Tags are the most important thing to keep in mind here, they should be well crafted to include 1 main keyword, plus a few other secondary keywords, along with your brand name. “Well crafted” means making a sentence that makes sense to humans (NOT “red widget Blue widgets green widgets widgets for sale”)

Meta data also includes your meta description (sales copy, helps increase click-thru-rates from SERPs), and other data associated with each URL, like canonical URL, robots tags, etc.

Server Errors and Redirects

Server errors happen when a URL is pointing to a resource that doesn’t exist. Redirects are used purposefully when old resources move to a new location, BUT you should never rely on redirects for your internal linking (doesn’t make sense, just update the links to point to correct URLs)

This is the most important thing I look for when doing an initial review, usually you can find a few items you can fix quickly, such as a malformed links that lead to 404 pages, or unintentional 301 redirects.

Internal Linking

Ah, links. The focus of so much SEO effort. Internal linking, just like external links (i.e. backlinks) is extremely important, but you don’t have to go crazy trying to figure out the best approach. As a simple rule: Make sure all your pages can be reached by a simple web crawl, starting at your homepage.

Ok, now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, let’s dive into using Screaming Frog to check out all these elements out…

Crawling and Technical SEO Analysis with Screaming Frog

So go on and download Screaming Frog, don’t worry, it’s free (although you can only crawl 500 URLs at a time). I’ve started it up and plugged in “https://www.ebay.com”

screaming-frog-1

Neat, eh?

Let’s break down what it’s done here:

  • It fetched https://www.ebay.com.
  • Captures all the appropriate data for that URL.
  • Captures all the URLs that are linked on https://www.ebay.com, adds those to the queue to get crawl next.
  • Rinse and repeat.

Hypothetically, if you left the crawl running, you would capture every page on Ebay.com (unless of course, they are “orphaned”, i.e. not linked from anywhere, which is something we will check for in our analysis.)

So how would we go about addresses our technical SEO areas with screaming frog? Easy, let’s go into it:

On-page Content

You can get a very high-level view of on-page content. It won’t diagnose quality issues or duplicate content issues, but it will let you see word count, H1/H2/etc. tags. These can be easily scanned for quality issues.

It also has something that’s so useful I must mention it every time I speak about this stuff. You can download a list of all the Images that are missing alt text. Just go to: Export -> Images -> Images without alt text inlinks.

URL Structure

This one is easy, you can see all your URLs in a handy spreadsheet. This is great for spotting any weird parameters, any broken URLs, checking for keywords and URL length.

Meta Data

Meta data can be easily checked by either exporting the data to a spreadsheet, or scrolling through the tool. The key data points you want to check are:

  • Title Tags
  • Meta Descriptions
  • Canonical Tags
  • Meta Robots
  • Server Errors

The first thing I check when running these audits is for inadvertent 404 and 301 response codes. Every internal link should ideally be pointing to a 200 URL. If there are any non-200 response codes, be sure to investigate the cause. Often it will be because of a broken link that is easily fixed.

Internal Linking

Internal linking is the cause of much debate in SEO circles. There’s a million different “Silo” techniques, but I’ve come to ignore specific silo’ing methods and instead just focus on making sure your pages are heavily interlinked.
In a quick audit I will usually do the following:

  • Let the crawl run to its completion.
  • See how many HTML pages are in the final crawl.

Go to google.com and type the site: command for you domain (i.e. site:example.com). Take note of the results.

Compare those numbers. Are they way off? It means you either have orphaned pages, or google isn’t including some pages of yours for some reason.

For a deeper analysis you can check each of your money pages for their “inlinks” (i.e what internal links are pointing to it), and see where there might be room for improvement. That data is readily available by highlighting a URL and using the lower pain of the screaming frog window to browse through that URLs link data.

Conclusion

Technical analysis is all about viewing a website how a search engine spider (i.e. Googlebot) would view it. This can be done manually, by checking source code, clicking links, etc., but it is tedious, prone to human error and never comprehensive on larger sites.

Therefore, it is imperative that an analyst use an automated tool (such as Screaming Frog), to crawl and collect data on a website. It will give a bird’s eye view of the status of the website and allow for relatively easy diagnosis of any issues.
Happy crawling!

About the author:
Michael Hayes founded Darby Hayes Consulting in 2015 to help business owners grow their revenue through aggressive digital marketing. He expertise is in SEO, having worked in the industry since 2008. He can be reached at mike (at) darbyhayesconsulting.com.

How to Use Ahrefs to Create a Data-Backed Content Strategy

You’ve probably been there.

You put your blood, sweat, and coffee into a killer blog-post of 2,000 words with a strong composition and actionable advice. With research, writing, and editing you’ve spent a good couple of days working on that bad boy. And now you’re eager to see the likes, shares, and comments drip in as rain in the Amazon.

But instead you’re left with a draught of the likes only seen in the Sahara. And all that coffee is turned into tears.

So how do you avoid this happening?

When you create content, you could either go the way of producing material that you think your target audience will like. Or you can take the route of creating content that your target audience has already shown interest in.

If you’re going to spend hours upon hours creating and promoting content, wouldn’t it be nice knowing that someone else has already validated it? You bet it would.

And that’s where Ahrefs comes in. Ahrefs is a super powerful SEO and content tool that could help you in a variety of ways in your SEO ventures. But for now, we’ll focus on how you can quickly create a validated content strategy using Ahrefs.

Step 1: Know Your Competitors

First and foremost, you need to know your competitors. And not necessarily your business competitors, but your content competitors. This goes whether you’re looking for people who want to hire a PHP developer or a plumber. And if you’re in the plumbing business, your main content competitor might not be your business competitor.

Your main content competitor might be Plumber Magazine.

If you have big, established competitors with a strong online presence, chances are that they will also be your content competitors. But ensure you find the type of content that your target audience will like and find who do it best.

ahrefs1

2. Analyze Their Content

Once you’ve got a clear idea of who your content competitors are, it’s time to map their content.

First, log into Ahrefs. If you don’t have an Ahrefs account, you can get a free account here. Next, click on the “Site explorer” and type your content competitor’s URL in the text field.

ahrefs1

Here you’ll be presented with a wealth of information. Start by clicking the “Top pages” section in the menu.

ahrefs2

If you’re a plumber, for example, you might now be presented with a list of Plumber Magazine’s top pages. Sort the pages by traffic, and you will see which pages Ahrefs estimate bring the most traffic to the site.

On the right side of the menu, you will see the top keyword that page ranks for, the volume of the keyword, and the position which the page ranks for that keyword.

Next, export this list of keywords into a spreadsheet.

In order to find other potential candidates for your competitor content analysis, click the “Competing domains” tab.

ahrefs3

Here you’ll see competitors which share the same type of content that you can add to your competitor content list. If you find suitable candidates, repeat the procedure above for them.

3. Spot the Opportunities

Once you’ve gathered enough information on your competitors, it’s time to look at the top keyword opportunities. Do this by filtering your keywords by monthly search volume in the spreadsheet. Aim for keywords with at least 2,000-3,000 monthly searches.

The next thing you should pay attention to is the buyer intent behind each keyword. This is actually a key element that many people forget. Long tail keywords of three or more words are usually easier to rank for and have higher buyer intent behind them.

Also it’s important to keep track of the CPC — or cost per click — for each keyword. The higher the cost per click, the higher the buyer intent usually is. And if your goal is to drive lucrative traffic, focus on long tail, high-CPC keywords.

You can analyze the CPC for different markets with the Google Keyword Planner as well.

Once you’ve found at least ten keywords with a 2,000 search volume and a CPC of at least $5-7 you can proceed. Plug these keywords into Ahrefs “Keywords explorer”.

ahrefs4

Here you should look for keyword difficulty as well as search volume. Since backlinks are the main ranking factor for Google, Ahrefs quickly tells you how many backlinks you’ll need to rank in the top ten for that keyword. Estimate how many backlinks you’ll be able to build and filter keywords based on that.

In summary, you should find keywords with:

At least 2,000+ monthly search volume;
A CPC of at least $5;
A keyword difficulty of less than 20 if you’re just starting out.

4. Find Topics

As the final step, it’s time to find good topics around those keywords. Click on “Content explorer” in Ahrefs to find similar content on that keyword that has performed well.

Type your keyword into the search bar and sort the results by shares. Below, for example, we can see a strong interest in how to plumb a basement bathroom. Perhaps you could take a spin on that topic and write “The Step-by-Step Guide to Plumbing a Basement Bathroom”

ahrefs5

That way you’ll ensure you’re writing about a topic that’s popular with your target audience. Look at the top performing posts and see if there’s a pattern for that keyword, perhaps they all have similar headlines. If you could do your own, better, version of that headline, you’ll optimize your post’s CTR.

In addition to this, it’s also a good idea to check the first page of the search results on Google.

If we search Google for “how to plumb” we get these results:

ahrefs6

Again we see how three of the top five results deal with plumbing bathrooms, and two are videos. A good idea for “how to plumb” would deal with plumbing bathrooms, and preferably include explanatory video as well.

This is the basic method for using Ahrefs to creating a validated content strategy. You can go more in-depth as well, for example by exploring Ahrefs “Content gap” feature described below.

But by following these four steps, you should be well on your way to a powerful content strategy that is optimized for SEO and engagement. Simply remember to promote your content and build backlinks and you should be able to rank your posts in Google in a few months’ time.

Getting Started with Email Marketing

Email is one of the cheapest and the easiest tools you have in your marketing arsenal.

Taking advantage of it can help you raise brand awareness and put you on the right track to boosting your profits.

This step-by-step guide gives you all the information you need to start a successful email marketing campaign today (and yes we have a podcast on more tips and tricks).

Read on…

Step 1: Outline Your Goals
Before spending your time and money on the campaign, you have to jot down the goals you want email marketing to achieve for your business. The obvious “get more conversion” goal is often just the first step.

The goals of your campaign depend on the size and the nature of your business. Here are the examples:

  • Let your potential customers know that your company exists.
  • Send dedicated clients special promotions/rewards.
  • Remind your existing customers about your business.
  • Encourage referrals.
  • Communicate with your existing/potential customers to raise brand awareness.
  • Nurture the relationship with your clients.
  • Increase the number of visitors to your website.
  • Create a desire to explore your business further even after a client has made a purchase.

Choose one main and several secondary goals for your campaign and use it to proceed with the rest of the steps. Keeping the goal in mind can help you stay on the right track.

Step 2: Find a Good Email Marketing Service
A proper email marketing service can make a difference between a fast and easy campaign and long nights in front of the computer display.  Here are a few to choose from:

  1. Constant Contact – Largest email marketing service available. Good choice for beginners.
  2. AWeber – One of the most popular email marketing services for small and mid-size businesses.
  3. GetResponse – A great choice for beginner’s email marketing campaign if you have a small business.
  4. MailChimp – A service with a simple interface and a great online support. The cost is rather low too.
  5. Mad Mimi – A simple approach to email marketing. Can be a great choice for beginners, who never have time for anything.
  6. SendinBlue – A great choice for newbies, who have no designing experience. Offers an impressive template gallery.

Step 3: Build Your Email List

Building an email list is one of the toughest and most important steps in your email marketing campaign. In order to reduce the bounce and spam rate, you need to find the right target audience.

  1. List Existing Contacts

Make a list of the existing emails and see which one of these people can help you with email marketing. You can pump this list up by networking.

  1. Use Your Website

Your website can generate contacts for your email list if you manage to post the right content. In order to get people on your mailing list, encourage them to fill out a subscription form.

The subscription form should be readily available on your website.

  1. Take Advantage of Forwarding

Forwarding is similar to word of mouth. The best help you can get during your email marketing campaign is from people, who already use your services.

Encourage your existing clients to forward your messages by creating catchy titles and informative content.

  1. Don’t Forget Social Media

Social media is a perfect email list-building tool. Become active on all the popular platforms and attract good contacts. In short, socialize.

  1. Don’t Buy Ready-to-Use Lists

The temptation to purchase a perfect email list may be high. However, you must remember that no successful business owner is ready to share such a priceless possession as a good mailing list.

By using this shortcut, you may end up getting a low-quality product that can lead to unfortunate consequences, such as a high spam rate.

Step 4:  Spend Time on Subject Lines
The subject lines are the front man of your email marketing campaign. More than half of your audience won’t get past reading the subject line and send the email to the trash.

A compelling subject line is a key to your campaign. It makes sense to spend more time on them than on anything else in this guide.

Creating an attention-grabbing subject line is a tough job. It may be smart to hire a professional writer to deal with them.

Step 5:  Write Amazing Content

The right content is another key to a high conversion rate. There are a few rules you should be following when writing an email.

  1. Keep the email short. Wandering attention of average internet users won’t allow them to start reading a long email.
  2. Be personal. Ask your audience questions. Try to interact inside the email. Always use “you”. Forget about passive voice.
  3. Don’t use standard greetings such as “dear ma’am” or “good day”. Come up with something catchy like “happy sunny afternoon from Greenland”.

Be passionate about writing an email. If there is no passion in your words, the conversion rate is likely to be low.

Step 6: Edit and Preview
Editing your email a thousand times is the key to success. The best way to check if it truly rocks is to give it to some of your friends to read.

Always send the email to yourself first to check the format, typos, and other problems. Check the way it looks from mobile gadgets as well.

Step 7: Analyze Your Efforts
Most email services offer an analytics option that you should take advantage of in order to see if the campaign is working.

  • Low open rate – emails are deleted upon receipt.
  • Low click through rate – messages are not catching the attention.
  • High unsubscribe rate – the campaign needs an overhaul.

These three indicators can give you an idea of how you can improve your campaign.

Final Thoughts
When you have the right tools at hand, you can create a solid email marketing campaign that can bring impressive results.
If you learn how to build the right email list, the rest of the steps become much easier. Hiring help to help you with the campaign is a good idea if you are running out of time.

Analyzing your campaign in full or each email individually can help you avoid most of the mistakes that newbies make.

The Most Accurate (and Free) Way to Track Google Rankings

Organic rankings on Google are widely misunderstood, and ranking data is often obtained improperly and misinterpreted as a result.

Naturally, if you are conducting an SEO campaign, you will want to review ranking data; otherwise, you will not have an easy time evaluating whether your efforts are having a positive or negative result. The good news is, there is an accurate way to track rankings — and the even better news is, this method is free.

How Do Google Results Work Today?

The first point to understand is this: There is no longer any such thing as a single, consistent and universal keyword ranking. Google results are personalized based on your IP address, device type, search history, web history and other factors. Thus, when different people search Google for the same keyword, they see different results. In addition, a website rarely appears in the same position for the same keyword for searches during the span of even one day.

How Do Third-Party Google Ranking Tools Get Their Results?

Third-party tools used to check rankings commonly connect to Google through proxy networks. A proxy network provides the ability to make requests from a large pool of IP addresses (from locations throughout the world). These third-party ranking tools send huge numbers of automated requests to Google, which violates Google’s Terms of Service and Webmaster Guidelines, as they scrape the results and store the websites that are returned in each position.

Why Are Third-Party Google Ranking Tools Inaccurate?

With Google personalizing results for each searcher, a website will rank in different positions for the same keyword during the same day. The problem is that third-party ranking tools provide only a snapshot of where a website ranked at the exact moment in time when the automated query was sent to Google. Furthermore, the ranking that is returned may be personalized based on the IP address that the tool used to run the query. If you compare ranking results from two different tools for the same keyword, you are likely to see two different sets of results.

Some tools make use of the UULE Google parameter in an attempt to bypass localization and present “National” search results. The issue here is that a searcher will rarely see these “National” search results because their searches are being personalized. So, these results have little, if any, value in the real world of SEO.

Where Can I Get Accurate Google Ranking Data?

Google Search Console is the only place to get accurate ranking data: Google tracks all keywords that resulted in a searcher seeing your website in the results. Since your website is shown in different positions for the same keyword each day, Google provides an average ranking down to the hundredth decimal.

How Can I Use Google Search Console To Track My Rankings?

Using Search Console to track rankings is a matter of following a few fairly simple steps. Below are instructions, along with a few screenshots of the type of data you will see.
1. Make sure you have set up and verified Google Search Console for your website.
2. Log in to your Google Search Console account.
3. Once logged in, click on “Search Analytics” from the “Search Traffic” nav dropdown on the lefthand side of the page.
4. Once you are on the “Search Analytics” page, make sure the “Position” box is checked.
5. Next, click the “Queries” dropdown and select “Filter Queries”.
6. Once the “Filter Queries” overlay pops up, select “Query is exactly” and type the keyword you want to see rankings for in the “keyword” form field:

image1

7. Next, click on the “Pages” dropdown and select “Filter Pages”.

8. Once the “Filter Pages” overlay pops up, select “URL is exactly” and enter the URL that the keyword you filtered is targeting:

image2

9. You should see the average position for that keyword and target page:

image3

Continuously Improve

Reviewing Google Search Console data regularly will help you identify where your SEO is working, and where it isn’t. At Straight North, we look at this data constantly, for our marketing as well as for each client. Whenever results change significantly — up or down — the next step is to probe deeper to understand why. This process, repeated over time, is a sure way to continuously improve your keyword focus and execution.

5 Ways to Boost Your Marketing Campaign With Animation

Video has become a critical component of marketing campaigns these days.

A recent study by Nielsen found out that Facebook marketing videos boost brand awareness by 32-65%, increase purchase intent by 44-72%, and enhance video recall by 47-74% during the first 10 seconds of a video.

These statistics speak for themselves. And within the umbrella of video marketing, animation is beginning to show its strength.

During the last few years, animated videos have become more popular than ever. Brands use animation to deliver short and humorous business stories, present company values and culture, explain products or services, and deliver engaging brand messages.

Are you looking for a way to include animation in your marketing campaign? Here are five smart ways to use the power of animation to in your content marketing.

1. Animated explainer videos

Animated explainer videos are popular because they describe a product or service in an engaging,emotional, and visual way. You can use this type of videos to talk about a complex idea in a simple way. Animated videos also allow creating visual metaphors that help audiences in understanding brand messages.

Another perk of animated explainer videos is that they're mobile-friendly and mobile devices have a huge impact on the sharing of video content these days. That's why addressing users who consume your content from mobile devices is critical. Consider that video makes up for over a half of all mobile online traffic today and it’s expected to grow by 61%.

A professional motion picture developed by an animation studio will also allow you to easily measure the performance of your campaign, in more specific ways than other online content. You’ll be able to get in-depth information such as the number of re-watches by the same user or the full viewership rates of a video.

2. Animations in social media

Short animated videos and GIFs are bound to attract and hold the attention of your target audience because they're easy to consume and exciting. Create an animated video with simple lines, attention-grabbing colors and constant movement – you're bound to keep your audience glued to the screen.

Just like animated explainer videos, such short videos have an enormous potential for shareability on social media. You can be sure that users will share your video all over the place. In fact, video is the easiest content to grow on social media. Videos have 12 times more chances to be shared than links or text. And they tend to go viral.

3. Direct emails and newsletters

Another marketing use of animated video to include it in the emails and newsletters you sent to your target audience. Instead of featuring images and paragraphs that explain what's going on, add animated videos and GIFs to show your products.

According to Inc. Magazine, one big brand increased their ROI by 400% thanks to that type of content marketing. Another company that sent an animated cartoon to their email subscribers increased their open rate by 40 to 50%.

The only thing you need to consider when sending out that type of email is its compatibility with the devices your target audience is using, as well as downloading times and demographics.

4. Animated infographics

Infographics have been with us for a while, and their popularity is still on the rise. In fact, infographics are shared and liked on social media three times more than any other type of content.

While some infographics delve deep into a topic, others present instructions for completing a particular task. Research shows that people who follow directions with text and illustration do 323% better than those who follow textual directions without any illustration.

You can only imagine how useful animated infographics could be for your audience, especially if your product or service is complex and requires explanation. You could create a series of product tutorials in the form of animated infographics that might quickly go viral.

5. Cartoons

The focus on visual content makes it difficult for brands to stand out. With everyone investing in visual marketing, you need to create content that instantly attracts the attention of your audience and holds it long enough to deliver your message.

Since the visual content has become so homogeneous, you need something different. And that could be animated cartoons.

In a recent case study, Mark Anderson revealed that readers choose cartoon-illustrated content over content with generic photos by even 90%. He also discovered that 64% of users preferred to share the cartoon article over the article featuring the stock photo. Finally, the cartoon text received twice as many responses.

If you’ve got a well-performing ad, consider commissioning a cartoony image for it.

Then conduct some A/B testing to see how the cartoon performs versus the original ad. If you find out that your target responds well to the cartoon, it's time to invest time in animation by creating some fun cartoons and distributing them in your marketing channels.

You can locate cartoons in your blog posts, replace your boring PPC ads with cartoons and create marketing materials that stick with your prospects.

Key takeaway

It pays to be original on the incredibly competitive content marketing scene. Animated videos come in various shapes and sizes, but they all have one thing in common: they're emotional, visual, and bring incredible ROI.

A single investment in an animated explainer video is bound to boost your marketing campaign on many fronts, starting with your email marketing to your social media presence.

Cool Marketing Blogs of the Week

Brand Strategy Insider by Martin Lindstrom, Brad VanAuken, Derrick Daye.

Relevance 5.0
Insightful 5.0
Frequency 5.0
Educational 5.0
Interesting 5.0
Useful 5.0

Cool Posts Smash Your Brand , 10 New Rules of Branding.

The Brand Builder Blog by Olivier Blanchard

Relevance 4.5
Insightful 5.0
Frequency 4.0
Educational 4.5
Interesting 5.0
Useful 4.5

Cool Posts Archetypes and Brands, Reach Your Audience, The Brand Erosion Spiral of Doom.

My Personal MBA

Is an MBA worth the tuition and opportunity costs for today’s marketer?

While my mind battles this one out, I have found a great alternative to the traditional $55,000 dollar business school. I’ve enrolled in a free online MBA program called The Personal MBA, in which you read from a selection of books and then discuss your thoughts in a forum.

Seth Godin writes in Small is the New Big that “you can learn 100 percent of the MBA curriculum at home in a month, just by reading books.” Will Hunting played by Matt Damon said “You wasted $150,000 on an education you coulda got for a buck fifty in late charges at the public library.”

Despite the disadvantages from the lack of social networking, prestige, and recruiting, it is a great way to expand your knowledge of business. It can also work as a source of motivation to read the books that can spark new ideas and enhance your current thinking.
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