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    Advanced Local SEO Competition Analysis

    Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

    Posted by Casey_Meraz

    Competition in local search is fierce. While it’s typical to do some surface level research on your competitors before entering a market, you can go much further down the SEO rabbit hole. In this article we will look at how you can find more competitors, pull their data, and use it to beat them in the search game.

    Since there are plenty of resources out there on best practices, this guide will assume that you have already followed the best practices for your own listing and are looking for the little things that might make a big difference in putting you over your competition. So if you haven’t already read how to perform the Ultimate Local SEO Audit or how to Find and Build Citations then you should probably start there.

    Disclaimer: While it’s important to mention that correlation does not mean causation, we can learn a lot by seeing what the competition has done.

    Some of the benefits of conducting competitive research are:

    • You can really dive into your customers’ market and understand it better.
    • You can figure out who your real customers area and better target them.
    • You can get an understanding of what your competitors have done that has been successful without re-inventing the wheel.

    Once you isolate trends that seem to make a positive difference, you can create a hypothesis and test. This allows you to constantly be testing, finding out what works, and growing those positive elements while eliminating the things that don’t produce results. Instead of making final decisions off of emotion, make your decisions off of the conversion data.

    A good competition analysis will give you a strong insight into the market and allow you to test, succeed, or fail fast. The idea behind this process is to really get a strong snapshot of your competition at a glance to isolate factors you may be missing in your company’s online presence.

    Disclaimer 2: It’s good to use competitors’ ideas if they work, but don’t make that your only strategy.

    Before we get started

    Below I will cover a process I commonly use for competition analysis. I have also created this Google Docs spreadsheet for you to follow along with and use for yourself. To make your own copy simply go to File > Make A Copy. (Don’t ask me to add you as an owner please 🙂

    Let’s get started

    1. Find out who your real competitors are

    Whether you work internally or were hired as an outside resource to help with your client’s SEO campaign, you probably have some idea of who the competition is in your space. Some companies may have good offline marketing but poor online marketing. If you’re looking to be the best, it’s a good idea to do your own research and see who you’re up against.

    In my experience it’s always good to find and verify 5-10 online competitors in your space from a variety of sources. You can use tools for this or take the manual approach. Keep in mind that you have to screen the data tools give you with your own eye for accuracy.

    How do you find your “real” competitors?

    We’re going to look at some tools you can use to find competitors here in a second, but keep in mind you want to record everything you find.

    Make sure to capture the basic information for each competitor including their company name, location, and website. These tools will be useful at a later time. Record these in the “competitor research” tab of the spreadsheet.

    Method 1: Standard Google searches for competitors

    This is pointing out the obvious, but if you have a set of keywords you want to rank for, you can look for trends and see who is already ranking where you want to be. Don’t limit this to just one or two keywords, instead get a broader list of the competitors out there.

    To do this, simply come up with a list of several keywords you want to rank for and search for them in your geographic area. Make sure your Geographic preference is set correctly so you get accurate data.

    1. Collect a list of keywords
    2. Search Google to see which companies are ranking in the local pack
    3. Record a list of the companies’ names and website URLs in the spreadsheet under the competitor research tab.

    To start we’re just going to collect the data and enter it into the spreadsheet. We will revisit this data shortly.

    Outside of the basics, I always find it’s good to see who else is out there. Since organic and local rankings are more closely tied together than ever, it’s a good idea to use 3rd party tools to get some insight as to what else your website could be considered related to.

    This can help provide hidden opportunities outside of the normal competition you likely look at most frequently.

    Method 2: Use SEMRUSH.com

    SEMRush is a pretty neat competitive analysis tool. While it is a paid program, they do in fact have a few free visits a day you can check out. It’s limited but it will show you 10 competitors based on keyword ranking data. It’s also useful for recording paid competition as well.

    To use the tool, visit www.SEMRush.com and enter your website in the provided search box and hit search. Once the page loads, you simply have to scroll down to the area that says “main competitors”. If you click the “view full report” option you’ll be taken to a page with 10 competition URLs.

    Put these URLs into the spreadsheet so we can track them later.

    Method 3: Use SPYFU.com

    This is a cool tool that will show your top 5 competitors in paid and organic search. Just like SEMRush, it’s a paid tool that’s easy to use. On the home page, you will see a box that loads where you can enter your URL. Once you hit search, a list of 5 websites will populate for free.

    Enter these competitors into your spreadsheet for tracking.

    Method 4: Use Crunchbase.com

    This website is a goldmine of data if you’re trying to learn about a startup. In addition to the basic information we’re looking for, you can also find out things like how much money they’ve raised, staff members, past employee history, and so much more.

    Crunchbase also works pretty similarly to the prior tools in the sense that you you just enter your website URL and hit the search button. Once the page loads, you can scroll down the page to the competitors section for some data.

    While Crunchbase is cool, it’s not too useful for smaller companies as it doesn’t seem to have too much data outside of the startup world.

    Method 5: Check out Compete.com

    This tool seems to have limited data for smaller websites but it’s worth a shot. It can also be a little bit more high-level than I prefer, but you should still check it out.

    To use the tool visit www.compete.com and enter the URL you want to examine in the box provided then hit search.

    Click the “Find more sites like” box to get list of three related sites. Enter these in the provided spreadsheet.

    Method 6: Use SimilarWeb.com

    SimilarWeb provides a cool tool with a bunch of data to check out websites. After entering your information, you can scroll down to the similar sites section which will show websites it believes to be related.

    The good news about SimilarWeb is that it seems to have data no matter how big or small your site is.

    2. After you know who they are, mine their data

    Now that we have a list of competitors, we can really do a deep dive to see who is ranking and what factors might be contributing to their success. To start, make sure to pick your top competitors from the spreadsheet and then look for and record the information below about each business on the Competitor Analysis tab.

    You will want to to pull this information from their Google My Business page.

    If you know the company’s name, it’s pretty easy to find them just by searching the brand. You can add the geographic location if it’s a multi-location business.

    For example if I was searching for a Wendy’s in Parker, Colorado, I could simply search this: “Wendy’s Parker, CO” and it will pull up the location(s).

    Make sure to take and record the following information from their local listings. Get the data from their Google My Business (Google + Page) and record it in the spreadsheet!

    1. Business name – Copy and paste the whole business name. Sometimes businesses keyword stuff a name or have a geographic modifier. It’s important to account for this.
    2. Address – The full address of the business location. Although we can’t do anything about its physical location, we will search using this information shortly.
    3. City, state, zip code – The city, state, and zip listed on the Google My Business listing.
    4. Phone number – Take the listing’s primary number
    5. Phone number 2 – Take the listing’s secondary number like an 800 number.
    6. Landing page URL – The one connected to their Google My Business listing.

      PRO TIP: The URL will display as the root domain, but click the link to see if it takes you to an internal landing page. This is essential!

    7. Number of categories – Does your listing have more or less categories than the listing?
    8. Categories in Google My Business

      You can find the categories by clicking on the main category of the listing. It will pop out a list of all of the categories the business is listed under. If you only see one after doing this, open your browser and go to View Source. If you do Ctrl+F you can search the page for “GCID” without the quotes. This will show you the categories they’re listed under if you look through the HTML.

    9. Does the profile appear to be 100% complete?
    10. How many reviews do they have?
    11. Is their business name visible in Google Street View? Obviously there is not much we can do about this, but it’s interesting especially considering some patents Bill Slawski was recently talking about.

    ** Record this information on the spreadsheet. A sample is below.

    What can we do with this data?

    Since you’ve already optimized your own listing for best practices, we want to see if there is any particular trends that seem to be working better in a certain area. We can then create a hypothesis and test it to see if any gains are losses are made. While we can’t isolate factors, we can get some insight as to what’s working the more you change it.

    In my experience, examining trends is much easier when the data is side by side. You can easily pick out data that stands out from the rest.

    3. Have a close(r) look at their landing pages

    You already know the ins and outs of your landing page. Now let’s look at each competitor’s landing page individually. Let’s look at the factors that carry the most weight and see if anything sticks out.

    Record the following information into the spreadsheet and compare side by side with your company vs. the successful ones.

    Page title of landing page
    City present? – Is the city present in the landing page meta title?
    State present? – Is the state present in the landing page meta title?
    Major KW in title? Is there a major keyword in the landing page meta title?
    Content length on landing page – Possibly minor but worth examining. Copy/paste into MS Word
    H1 present? – Is the H1 tag present?
    City in H1? – Does the H1 contain the city name?
    State in H1? – Does the H1 have the state or abbreviation in the heading?
    Keyword in H1? – Do they use a keyword in the H1?
    Local business schema present? – Are they using schema? Find out using the Google structured data testing tool here.
    Embedded map present? – Are they embedding a Google map?
    GPS coordinates present? – Are they using GPS coordinates via schema or text?

    4. Off site: See what google thinks is authoritative

    Recently, I was having a conversation with a client who was super-excited about the efforts his staff was making. He proudly proclaimed that his office was building 10 new citations a day and added over 500 within the past couple of months!

    His excitement freaked me out. As I suspected, when I asked to see his list, I saw a bunch of low quality directory sites that were passing little or no value. One way I could tell they were not really helping (besides the fact that some were NSFW websites), was that the citations or listings were not even indexed in Google.

    I think it’s a reasonable assumption that you should test to see what Google knows about your business. Whatever Google delivers about your brand, it’s serving because it has the most relevance or authority in its eyes.

    So how can we see what Google sees?

    It’s actually pretty simple. Just do a Google Search. One of the ways that I try to evaluate and see whether or not a citation website is authoritative enough is to take the competition’s NAP and Google it. While you’ve probably done this many times before for citation earning, you can prioritize your efforts based off of what’s recurring between top ranked competitor websites.

    As you can see in the example below where I did a quick search for a competitor’s dental office (by pasting his NAP in the search bar), I see that Google is associating this particular brand with websites like:

    1. The company’s main website
    2. Whitepages
    3. Amazon Local (New)
    4. Rateadentist.com
    5. DentalNeighbor.com

    Pro Tip: Amazon local is relatively new, but you can see that it’s going to carry a citation benefit in local search. If your clients are willing, you should sign up for this.

    Don’t want to copy and paste the NAP in a variety of formats? Use Andrew Shotland’s NAP Hunter to get your competitor’s variants. This tool will easily open multiple window tabs in your browser and search for combinations of your competitor’s NAP listings. It makes it easy and it’s kind of fun.

    5. Check important citations

    With citations, I’m generally in the ballpark of quality over quantity. That being said, if you’re just getting the same citations that everyone else has, that doesn’t really set you apart does it? I like to tell clients that the top citation sources are a must, but it’s good to seek out opportunities and monitor what your competition does so you can keep up and stay ahead of the game.

    You need to check the top citations and see where you’re listed vs. your competition. Tools like Whitespark’s local citation finder make this much easier to get an easy snapshot.

    If you’re looking to see which citations you should find and check, use these two resources below:

    Just like in the example in the section above, you can find powerful hidden gems and also new website opportunities that arise from time to time.

    Just because you did it once doesn’t mean you should leave it alone

    A common mistake I see is businesses thinking it’s ok to just turn things off when they get to the top.That’s a bad idea. If you’re serious about online marketing, you know that someone is always out to get you. So in addition to tracking your brand mentions through the Fresh Web Explorer, you also need to be tracking your competition at least once a month! The good news is that you can do this easily with Fresh Web Explorer from Moz.

    So what should you setup in Fresh Web Explorer?

    • Your competitor’s brand name – Monitor their mentions and see what type of marketing they’re doing!
    • Your competitor’s NAP – Easily find new citations they’re going after
    • City+Industry+Keywords – Maybe there are some hidden gems outside of your competition you could go after!

    Plus track anything else you can think of related to your brand. This will help the on-going efforts get a bit easier.

    6. Figure out which citations have dofollow links

    Did you know some citation sources have dofollow links which mean they pass link juice to your website? Now while these by themselves likely won’t pass a lot of juice, it adds an incentive for you to be proactive with recording and promoting these listings.

    When reviewing my competition’s citations and links I use a simple Chrome plugin called NoFollow which simply highlights nofollow links on pages. It makes it super easy to see what’s a follow vs. a nofollow link.

    But what’s the benefit of this? Let’s say that I have a link on a city website that’s a follow link and a citation. If it’s an authority page that talks highly about my business, it would make sense for me to link to it from time to time. If you’re getting links from websites other than your own and linking to these high quality citations you will pass link juice to your page. It’s a pretty simple way of increasing the authority of your local landing pages.

    7. Links, links, links

    Since the Pigeon update almost a year ago, links started to make a bigger impact in local search. You have to be earning links and you have to earn high quality links to your website and especially your Google My Business Landing page.

    If the factors show you’re on the same playing field as your competition except in domain authority or page authority, you know your primary focus needs to be links.

    Now here is where the research gets interesting. Remember the data sources we pulled earlier like compete, spyfu.com, etc? We are now going to get a bigger picture on the link profile because we did this extra work. Not only are we just going to look at the links that our competition in the pack has, we’ve started to branch out of that for more ideas which will potentially pay off big in the long run.

    What to do now

    Now we want to take every domain we looked at when we started and run Open Site Explorer on each and every domain. Once we have these lists of links, we can then sort them out and go after the high quality ones that you don’t already have.

    Typically, when I’m doing this research I will export everything into Excel or Google Docs, combine them into one spreadsheet and then sort from highest authority to least authority. This way you can prioritize your road map and focus on the bigger fish.

    Keep in mind that citations usually have links and some links have citations. If they have a lot of authority you should make sure you add both.

    8. But what about user behavior?

    If you feel like you’ve gone above and beyond your competition and yet you’re not seeing the gains you want, there is more you have to look at. Sometimes as an SEO it’s easy to get in a paradigm of just the technical or link side of things. But what about user behavior?

    It’s no secret and even some recent tests are showing promising data. If your users visit your site and then click back to the search results it indicates that they didn’t find what they were looking for. Through our own experiments we have seen listings in the SERPs jump a few positions in hours just based off of user behavior.

    So what does this mean for you?

    You need to make sure your pages are answering the users queries as they land on your page, preferably above the fold. For example, if I’m looking for a haircut place and I land on your page, I might be wanting to know the hours, pricing, or directions to your store. Making information prevalent is essential.

    Make sure that if you’re going to make these changes you test them. Come up with a hypothesis, test the results, and come to conclusion or another test based off of the data. If you want to know more about your users, I say that you need to find as much about them as human possible. Some services you can use for that are:

    1. Inspectlet – Record user sessions and watch how they navigate your website. This awesome tool literally allows you to watch recorded user sessions. Check out their site.

    2. LinkedIn Tracking Script – Although I admit it’s a bit creepy, did you know that you can see the actual visitors to your website if they’re logged into LinkedIn while browsing your website? You sure can. To do this complete the following steps:

    1. Sign up for a LinkedIn Premium Account

    2. Enter this code into the body of your website pages:

    <img src="https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?authToken=zRgB&authType=name&id=XXXXX" />

    3. Replace the XXXXX with your account number of your profile. You can get this by logging into your profile page and getting the number present after viewid?=

    4. Wait for the visitors to start showing up under “who’s viewed your profile”

    3. Google Analytics – Watch user behavior and gain insights as so what they were doing on your website.


    Speaking of user behavior, is your listing the only one without reviews? Does it have fewer or less favorable reviews? All of these are negative signals for user experience. Do you competitors have more positive reviews? If so you need to work getting more.

    Meta descriptions

    While this post was mainly geared towards local SEO as in Google My Business rankings, you have to consider that there are a lot of localized search queries that do not generate pack results. In these cases they’re just standard organic listings.

    If you’ve been deterred to add these by Google picking its own meta descriptions or by their lack of ranking benefit, you need to check yourself before you wreck yourself. Seriously. Customers will make a decision on which listing to click on based on this information. If you’re not thinking about optimizing these for user intent on the corresponding page then you’re just being lazy. Spend the time, increase CTR, and increase your rankings if you’re serving great content.


    The key to success here is realizing that this is a marathon and not a sprint. If you examine the competition in the top areas mentioned above and create a plan to overcome, you will win long term. This of course also assumes you’re not doing anything shady and staying above board.

    While there were many more things I could add to this article, I believe that if you put your focus on what’s mentioned here you’ll have the greatest success. Since I didn’t talk too much about geo-tagged media in this article, I also included some other items to check in the spreadsheet under the competitor analysis tab.

    Remember to actively monitor what those around you are doing and develop a pro-active plan to be successful for your clients.

    What’s the most creative thing you have seen a competitor do successfully local search? I would love to hear about it in the comments below.

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    How Google May Use Searcher, Usage, & Clickstream Behavior to Impact Rankings – Whiteboard Friday

    Friday, June 26th, 2015

    Posted by randfish

    A recent patent from Google suggests a new kind of influence in the rankings that has immense implications for marketers. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand discusses what it says, what that means, and adds a twist of his own to get us thinking about where Google might be heading.

    How Google May Use Their Knowledge of Surfer & Searcher Behavior to Impact the Rankings - Whiteboard Friday

    For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard. Click on it to open a high resolution image in a new tab!

    Video Transcription

    Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week let’s chat about some things that Google is learning about web searchers and web surfers that may be impacting the rankings.

    I was pretty psyched to see a patent a few weeks ago that had been granted actually to Google, so filed a while before that. That patent came from Navneet Panda who, as many in the SEO space may remember, is also the engineer for whom Panda, the Panda Update from Google, is named after. Bill Slawski did a great analysis of the patent on his website, and you can check that out, along with some of the other patent diagrams themselves. Patents can be a little confusing and weird, especially the language, but this one had some surprising clarity to it and some potentially obvious applications for web marketers too.

    Deciphering searcher intent

    So, in this case, Googlebot here — I’ve anthropomorphized him, my Googlebot there, nicely — is thinking about the queries that are being performed in Google search engine and basically saying, “Huh, if I see lots of people searching for things like ‘find email address,’ ’email address tool,’ ’email finder,’ and then I also see a lot of search queries similar to those but with an additional branded element, like ‘VoilaNorbert email tool’ or ‘Norbert email finder’ or ‘how to find email Norbert,’ or even things like ’email site:voilanorbert.com,'” Googlebot might actually say, “Hmm, lots of searchers who look for these kinds of queries seem to be also looking for this particular brand.”

    You can imagine this in tons and tons of ways. Lots of people searching for restaurants also search for Yelp. Lots of people searching for hotels also add in queries like “Trip Advisor.” Lots of people searching for homes to buy also add in Zillow. These brands that essentially get known and combined and perform very well in these non-branded searches, one of the ways that Google might be thinking about that is because they see a lot of branded search that includes the unbranded words around that site.

    Google’s site quality patent

    In Panda’s site quality patent — and Navneet Panda wasn’t the only author on this patent, but one of the ones we recognize — what’s described is essentially that this algorithm, well not algorithm, very simplistic equation. I’m sure much more than simplistic than what Google’s actually using if they are actually using this. Remember, when it comes to patents, they usually way oversimplify that type of stuff because they don’t want to get exactly what they’re doing out there in the public. But they have this equation that looks like this: Number of unique searchers for the brand or keyword X — so essentially, this is kind of a searches, searchers. They’re trying to identify only unique quantities of people doing it, looking at things like IP address and device and location and all of that to try and identify just the unique people who are performing this — divided by the number of unique searches for the non-branded version.

    So branded divided by non-branded equals some sort of site quality score for keyword X. If a lot more people are performing a search for “Trip Advisor + California vacations” than are performing searches for just “California vacations,” then the site quality score for Trip Advisor when it comes to the keyword “California vacations” might be quite high.

    You can imagine that if we take another brand — let’s say a brand that folks are less familiar with, WhereToGoInTheWorld.com — and there’s very, very few searches for that brand plus “California vacations,” and there’s lots of searches for the unbranded version, the site quality score for WhereToGoInTheWorld.com is going to be much lower. I don’t even think that’s a real website, but regardless.

    Rand’s theory

    Now, I want to add one more wrinkle on to this. I think one of the things that struck me as being almost obvious but not literally mentioned in this specific patent was my theory that this also applies to clickstream data. You can see this happening obviously already in personalization, personalized search, but I think it might be happening in non-personalized search as well, and that is essentially through Android and through Chrome, which I’ve drawn these lovely logos just for you. Google knows basically where everyone goes on the web and what everyone does on the web. They see this performance.

    So they can look and see the clickstream for a lot of people’s process is a searcher goes and searches for “find email address tool,” and then they find this resource from Distilled and Distilled mentions Rob Ousbey’s account — I think it was from Rob Ousbey that that original resource came out — and they follow him and then they follow me and they see that I tweeted about VoilaNorbert. Voila, they make it to VoilaNorbert.com’s website, where their search ends. They’re no longer looking for this information. They’ve now found a source that sort of answers their desire, their intent. Google might go, “Huh, you know, why not just rank this? Why rank this one when we could just put this there? Because this seems to be the thing that is answering the searcher’s problem. It’s taking care of their issue.”

    So what does this mean for us?

    This is tough for marketers. I think both of these, the query formatting and the potential clickstream uses, suggest a world in which building up your brand association and building up the stream of traffic to your website that’s solving a problem not just for searchers, but for potential searchers and people with that issue, whether they search or not, is part of SEO. I think that’s going to mean that things like branding and things like attracting traffic from other sources, from social, from email, from content, from direct, from offline, and word-of-mouth, that all of those things are going to become part of the SEO equation. If we don’t do those things well, in the long term, we might do great SEO, kind of classic, old-school keywords and links and crawl and rankings SEO and miss out on this important piece that’s on the rise.

    I’m looking forward to some great comments and your theories as well. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

    Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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    The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Google Analytics

    Friday, June 26th, 2015

    Posted by kristihines

    If you don’t know what Google Analytics is, haven’t installed it on your website, or have installed it but never look at your data, then this post is for you. While it’s hard for many to believe, there are still websites that are not using Google Analytics (or any analytics, for that matter) to measure their traffic. In this post, we’re going to look at Google Analytics from the absolute beginner’s point of view. Why you need it, how to get it, how to use it, and workarounds to common problems.

    Why every website owner needs Google Analytics

    Do you have a blog? Do you have a static website? If the answer is yes, whether they are for personal or business use, then you need Google Analytics. Here are just a few of the many questions about your website that you can answer using Google Analytics.

    • How many people visit my website?
    • Where do my visitors live?
    • Do I need a mobile-friendly website?
    • What websites send traffic to my website?
    • What marketing tactics drive the most traffic to my website?
    • Which pages on my website are the most popular?
    • How many visitors have I converted into leads or customers?
    • Where did my converting visitors come from and go on my website?
    • How can I improve my website’s speed?
    • What blog content do my visitors like the most?

    There are many, many additional questions that Google Analytics can answer, but these are the ones that are most important for most website owners. Now let’s look at how you can get Google Analytics on your website.

    How to install Google Analytics

    First, you need a Google Analytics account. If you have a primary Google account that you use for other services like Gmail, Google Drive, Google Calendar, Google+, or YouTube, then you should set up your Google Analytics using that Google account. Or you will need to create a new one.

    This should be a Google account you plan to keep forever and that only you have access to. You can always grant access to your Google Analytics to other people down the road, but you don’t want someone else to have full control over it.

    Big tip: don’t let your anyone (your web designer, web developer, web host, SEO person, etc.) create your website’s Google Analytics account under their own Google account so they can “manage” it for you. If you and this person part ways, they will take your Google Analytics data with them, and you will have to start all over.

    Set up your account and property

    Once you have a Google account, you can go to Google Analytics and click the Sign into Google Analytics button. You will then be greeted with the three steps you must take to set up Google Analytics.

    google analytics setup

    After you click the Sign Up button, you will fill out information for your website.

    setting up a new account in google analytics

    Google Analytics offers hierarchies to organize your account. You can have up to 100 Google Analytics accounts under one Google account. You can have up to 50 website properties under one Google Analytics account. You can have up to 25 views under one website property.

    Here are a few scenarios.

    • SCENARIO 1: If you have one website, you only need one Google Analytics account with one website property.
    • SCENARIO 2: If you have two websites, such as one for your business and one for your personal use, you might want to create two accounts, naming one “123Business” and one “Personal”. Then you will set up your business website under the 123Business account and your personal website under your Personal account.
    • SCENARIO 3: If you have several businesses, but less than 50, and each of them has one website, you might want to put them all under a Business account. Then have a Personal account for your personal websites.
    • SCENARIO 4: If you have several businesses and each of them has dozens of websites, for a total of more than 50 websites, you might want to put each business under its own account, such as 123Business account, 124Business account, and so on.

    There are no right or wrong ways to set up your Google Analytics account—it’s just a matter of how you want to organize your sites. You can always rename your accounts or properties down the road. Note that you can’t move a property (website) from one Google Analytics account to another—you would have to set up a new property under the new account and lose the historical data you collected from the original property.

    For the absolute beginner’s guide, we’re going to assume you have one website and only need one view (the default, all data view. The setup would look something like this.

    new account information google analytics

    Beneath this, you will have the option to configure where your Google Analytics data can be shared.

    configuring shared info for google analytics

    Install your tracking code

    Once you are finished, you will click the Get Tracking ID button. You will get a popup of the Google Analytics terms and conditions, which you have to agree to. Then you will get your Google Analytics code.

    find google analytics tracking code

    This must be installed on every page on your website. The installation will depend on what type of website you have. For example, I have a WordPress website on my own domain using the Genesis Framework. This framework has a specific area to add header and footer scripts to my website.

    installing google analytics tracking code wordpress genesis

    Alternatively, if you have a WordPress on your own domain, you can use the Google Analytics by Yoast plugin to install your code easily no matter what theme or framework you are using.

    If you have a website built with HTML files, you will add the tracking code before the </head> tag on each of your pages. You can do this by using a text editor program (such as TextEdit for Mac or Notepad for Windows) and then uploading the file to your web host using an FTP program (such as FileZilla).

    adding google analytics tracking code to head tag

    If you have a Shopify e-commerce store, you will go to your Online Store settings and paste in your tracking code where specified.

    adding google analytics tracking code to shopify account

    If you have a blog on Tumblr, you will go to your blog, click the Edit Theme button at the top right of your blog, and then enter just the Google Analytics ID in your settings.

    adding google analytics tracking code to tumblr

    As you can see, the installation of Google Analytics varies based on the platform you use (content management system, website builder, e-commerce software, etc.), the theme you use, and the plugins you use. You should be able to find easy instructions to install Google Analytics on any website by doing a web search for your platform + how to install Google Analytics.

    Set up goals

    After you install your tracking code on your website, you will want to configure a small (but very useful) setting in your website’s profile on Google Analytics. This is your Goals setting. You can find it by clicking on the Admin link at the top of your Google Analytics and then clicking on Goals under your website’s View column.

    setting up goals in google analytics

    Goals will tell Google Analytics when something important has happened on your website. For example, if you have a website where you generate leads through a contact form, you will want to find (or create) a thank you page that visitors end upon once they have submitted their contact information. Or, if you have a website where you sell products, you will want to find (or create) a final thank you or confirmation page for visitors to land upon once they have completed a purchase.

    That URL will likely look something like this.

    In Google Analytics, you will click on the New Goal button.

    adding a new goal to google analytics

    You will choose the Custom option (unless one of the other options are more applicable to your website) and click the Next Step button.

    setting custom goals in google analytics

    You will name your goal something you will remember, select Destination, and then click the Next Step button.

    naming a goal in google analytics

    You will enter your thank you or confirmation page’s URL after the .com of your website in the Destination field and change the drop-down to “Begins with”.

    setting goal details google analytics

    You will then toggle the value and enter a specific dollar value for that conversion (if applicable) and click Create Goal to complete the setup.

    If you have other similar goals / conversions you would like to track on your website, you can follow these steps again. You can create up to 20 goals on your website. Be sure that the ones you create are highly important to your business. These goals (for most businesses) include lead form submissions, email list sign ups, and purchase completions. Depending on your website and its purpose, your goals may vary.

    Note that this is the simplest of all conversion tracking in Google Analytics. You can review the documentation in Google Analytics support to learn more about setting up goal tracking.

    Set up site search

    Another thing you can set up really quickly that will give you valuable data down the road is Site Search. This is for any website with a search box on it, like the search box at the top of the Moz Blog.

    site search moz

    First, run a search on your website. Then keep the tab open. You will need the URL momentarily.

    site search query parameter

    Go to your Google Analytics Admin menu again, and in the View column, click on View Settings.

    setting up search query parameter in google analytics

    Scroll down until you see Site Settings and toggle it to On.

    site search settings in google analytics

    Look back at your URL for your search results. Enter the query parameter (usually s or q) and click Save. On Moz, for example, the query parameter is q.

    entering the query parameter in google analytics site search

    This will allow Google Analytics to track any searches made on your website so you can learn more about what your visitors are looking for on specific pages.

    Add additional accounts and properties

    If you want to add a new Google Analytics account, you can do so by going to your Admin menu, clicking on the drop-down under the Account column, and clicking the Create New Account link.

    add account google analytics

    Likewise, if you want to add a new website under your Google Analytics account, you can do so by going to your Admin menu, clicking on the drop-down under the Property column, and clicking the Create New Property link.

    create new property google analytics

    Then you will continue through all of the above-mentioned steps.

    Once you’ve installed Google Analytics on your website(s), set up your goals, and set up site search(es), you should wait about 24 hours for it to start getting data. Then you will be able to start viewing your data.

    How to view Google Analytics data

    Once you start getting in Google Analytics data, you can start learning about your website traffic. Each time you log in to Google Analytics, you will be taken to your Audience Overview report. Alternatively, if you have more than one website, you will be taken to your list of websites to choose from, and then taken to the Audience Overview report for that website. This is the first of over 50 reports that are available to you in Google Analytics. You can also access these reports by clicking on the Reporting link at the top.

    viewing google analytics

    Standard report features

    Most of the standard reports within Google Analytics will look similar to this. At the top right, you can click on the drop-down arrow next to your website to switch to different websites within all of your Google Analytics accounts. Or you can click the Home link at the top.

    google analytics audience overview

    In the report at the top right, you can click on the dates to change the date range of the data you are viewing. You can also check the Compare box to compare your data from one date range (such as this month) to a previous date range (such as last month) to view your data.

    google analytics date range select

    You can hover over a variety of areas on your Google Analytics reports to get more information. For example, in the Audience Overview, hovering over the line on the graph will give you the number of sessions for a particular day. Hovering over the metrics beneath the graph will tell you what each one means.

    google analytics hover

    Beneath the main metrics, you will see reports that you can switch through to see the top ten languages, countries, cities, browsers, operating systems, services providers, and screen resolutions of your visitors.

    screen resolution report google analytics

    You can click the full report link on each to see the full reports. Or you can click on any of the top ten links to see more details. For example, clicking on the United States in Countries will take you to the full Location report, focused in on visitors from states within the US.

    location report google analytics

    In this view, you can hover over each state to see the number of visitors from that state. You can scroll down to the table and hover over each column name to learn more about each metric.

    visitors by state google analytics

    You can also click on the name of each state to see visitors from cities within the state. Effectively, any time you see a clickable link or a ? next to something, you can click on it or hover over it to learn more. The deeper you dive into your analytics, the more interesting information you will find.

    Types of Google Analytics reports

    Speaking of reports, here is quick summary of what you will find in each of the standard Google Analytics reporting sections, accessible in the left sidebar.

    types of google analytics reports

    Everything in (parenthesis) is a specific report or set of reports within the following sections that you can refer to.

    Audience reports

    These reports tell you everything you want to know about your visitors. In them, you will find detailed reports for your visitors’ age and gender (Demographics), what their general interests are (Interests), where they come from (Geo > Location) and what language they speak (Geo > Language), how often they visit your website (Behavior), and the technology they use to view your website (Technology and Mobile).

    Acquisition reports

    These reports will tell you everything you want to know about what drove visitors to your website (All Traffic). You will see your traffic broken down by main categories (All Traffic > Channels) and specific sources (All Traffic > Source/Medium).

    You can learn everything about traffic from social networks (Social). You can also connect Google Analytics to AdWords to learn more about PPC campaigns and to Google Webmaster Tools / Search Console to learn more about search traffic (Search Engine Optimization)

    Behavior reports

    These reports will tell you everything you want to know about your content. Particularly, the top pages on your website (Site Content > All Pages), the top entry pages on your website (Site Content > Landing Pages), and the top exit pages on your website (Site Content > Exit Pages).

    If you set up Site Search, you will be able to see what terms are searched for (Site Search > Search Terms) and the pages they are searched upon (Site Search > Pages).

    You can also learn how fast your website loads (Site Speed) as well as find specific suggestions from Google on how to make your website faster (Site Speed > Speed Suggestions).


    If you set up Goals within your Google Analytics, you can see how many conversions your website has received (Goals > Overview) and what URLs they happened upon (Goals > Goal URLs). You can also see the path that visitors took to complete the conversion (Goals > Reverse Goal Path).

    Speaking of goals and conversions, most of the tables within Google Analytics standard reports will tie specific data to your conversions. For example, you can see the number of conversions made by visitors from California in the Audience > Geo > Location report. You can see the number of conversions made by visitors from Facebook in the Acquisitions > All Traffic > Source/Medium report. You can see the number of conversions made by visitors who landed on specific pages in the Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages report.

    google analytics conversions

    If you have multiple goals, you can use the dropdown at the top of that section of data to switch to the goal you want to view or all of your goals if you prefer.

    Shortcuts and emails

    While you won’t need every report within Google Analytics, you should explore them all to see what they have to offer. When you find some that you want to visit again and again, use the Shortcut link at the top of the report to add them to the Shortcuts in your left sidebar for faster access.

    google analytics shortcuts

    Or, use the email button to have them emailed to you (or others on your team) on a regular basis.

    google analytics emailed reports

    If you choose to send emails to someone outside of your organization, be sure to regularly check your emails by going to your Admin menu and clicking on the Scheduled Emails box under the View column to ensure only people working with your company are getting your data.

    google analytics admin window

    Answers to common questions about Google Analytics

    Got a few questions? Here are some of the common ones that come up with Google Analytics.

    How do I share my Google Analytics data with someone?

    You don’t have to give your Google account information over to someone who needs access to your Google Analytics data. You just need to go to your Admin menu and under the Account, Property (website) or View you want someone to see, click the User Management menu.

    adding user to google analytics

    From there, you can add the email address of anyone you would like to view your Google Analytics data and choose the permissions you would like them to have.

    user permissions google analytics

    I don’t like viewing the reports in Google Analytics. Can someone just summarize the data for me?

    Yes! Quill Engage is a service that will take your Google Analytics data and summarize it in an easy-to-read report for you. Best of all, it’s free for up to ten profiles (websites).

    quill engage summary report google analytics

    I have a dozen websites, and I don’t want to check each of their Google Analytics on a daily basis. What do I do?

    You have two options in this scenario. You start by going to the Home screen of Google Analytics. There, you will find a listing of all your websites and an overview of the top metrics—sessions, average session duration, bounce rate, and conversion rate.

    google analytics home screen

    You can also try business dashboard solutions like Cyfe. For $19 a month, you can create unlimited dashboards with unlimited widgets, including a large selection of data from Google Analytics, alongside data from your social media networks, keyword rankings, Moz stats, and more.

    cyfe dashboard google analytics

    This solution significantly cuts down on the time spent looking at analytics across the board for your entire business.

    Google Analytics says that 90%+ of my organic keywords are (not provided). Where can I find that information?

    (not provided) is Google’s way of protecting search engine user’s privacy by hiding the keywords they use to discover your website in search results. Tools like Google Webmaster Tools (now Search Console, free), Authority Lab’s Now Provided Reports (paid), and Hittail (paid) can all help you uncover some of those keywords.

    search analytics keyword data

    They won’t be linked to your conversions or other Google Analytics data, but at least you will have some clue what keywords searchers are using to find your website.

    How do I use Custom Reports, Dashboards, and Segments?

    If you’re ready to move to the next level in Google Analytics, Custom Reports, Dashboards, and Segments are the way to go.

    Custom Reports (under the Customization menu at the top) allow you to create reports that look similar to the standard Google Analytics reports with the metrics you want to view.

    custom report google analytics

    Dashboards allow you to view your Google Analytics data in a dashboard format. You can access them at the top of the left sidebar.

    google analytics dashboard

    Segments allow you to view all of your Google Analytics data based on a specific dimension, such as all of your Google Analytics data based on visitors from the United States. You can also use them to compare up to four segments of data, such as United States versus United Kingdom traffic, search versus social traffic, mobile versus desktop traffic, and more. You can access Segments in each of your reports.

    audience comparison google analytics

    The nice part about these is that you don’t have to create them from scratch. You can start by using pre-defined Custom Reports, Dashboards, and Segments from the Google Solutions Gallery.

    google solutions gallery

    There, you will find lots of Custom Reports, Dashboards, Segments, and other solutions that you can import into your Google Analytics and edit to fit your needs. Edit Custom Reports with the Edit button at the top.

    edit custom reports google analytics

    Edit Dashboards using the Add Widget or Customize Dashboard buttons at the top.

    Edit Segments by clicking the Action button inside the Segments selector box and choosing Edit.

    edit segments google analytics

    Or, when you have applied Segments to your reports, use the drop-down arrow at the top right to find the Edit option.

    As you get used to editing Custom Reports, Dashboards, and Segments, you will get more familiar with the way each works so you can create new ones on your own.

    In conclusion

    I hope you’ve enjoyed this beginner’s introduction to Google Analytics for beginners. If you’re a beginner and have a burning questions, please ask in the comments. I’ll be happy to help!

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    What to See, Do, and More at MozCon 2015 in Seattle

    Thursday, June 25th, 2015

    Posted by EricaMcGillivray

    One of our favorite things about MozCon is introducing all of you to Seattle. We love our city, and besides three days of marketing learning, we also host three night events and facilitate other fun activities. We are currently 92% sold out with around 100 tickets left, so if you haven’t already:

    Buy your ticket now!

    Check out the full schedule if you’re interested in knowing more about the MozCon sessions.

    Birds-of-a-feather tables at lunch

    After many requests for more community connecting, this year, we’re launching birds-of-a-feather tables during each lunch. There will be eight labeled tables with different topics each day and a different facilitator each day. (There are also a ton of unlabeled tables for random meeting and gatherings.) Sit down and join a conversation around a professional interest.

    Roger and friends at MozCon

    Table schedule

    Monday tables:

    • Real Estate Marketers, hosted by Brittanie Flegle from Realty Austin
    • Manufacturing, hosted by Crystal Hunt from WTB, Inc.
    • Content Strategy, hosted by Ronell Smith from RS Consulting
    • Women in Digital Marketing, hosted by Susan Wiker from Fodor’s Travel
    • In-house Marketers, hosted by Andy Odom from Santander Consumer USA Inc.
    • Local SEO, hosted by David Mihm from Moz
    • Inbound Marketing, hosted by Eric Hess from REI
    • SEO Executives, hosted by Benjamin Seror from SimilarWeb

    Tuesday tables:

    Wednesday tables:

    Don’t worry, with all of us in the same room, doing the same things for three days, you’ll never miss a lunch or birds-of-a-feather opportunity!

    Our official MozCon evening events

    #MozCrawl: Monday night

    Join us and our partners for a tour of the neighborhood bars in Belltown. This is our second official MozCrawl, and we’re delighted to show off yet another part of Seattle. Each bar will feature a unique MozCon button. Collect all six and be entered in a drawing for a golden Roger. The crawl runs from 7-10pm. Make sure to bring your ID, US driver’s license or passport.

    (Standard disclaimer: Roger is golden, not made of gold.)


    Buckley’s, 2331 2nd Ave, hosted by Moz
    Clever Bottle, 2222 2nd Ave Ste.100, hosted by wordstream
    Rabbit Hole, 2222 2nd Ave, hosted by

    Lava Lounge, 2226 2nd Ave, hosted by whitespark
    Wakefield Bar, 2137 2nd Ave, hosted by Moz
    The Whiskey Bar, 2122 2nd Ave, hosted by kissmetrics

    MozCrawl map

    MozCon Ignite: Tuesday night

    You’ve long asked for a networking-focused event, and in a Mozzy spirit, we’re happy to bring our Tuesday night MozCon Ignite. Starts at 7pm with networking and appetizers with talks starting at 8pm.

    Ignite talks are 5 minutes in length with auto-advancing slides. All these talks are passion topics—no marketing talks—so you can put your notebook down and relax. Get to know your fellow community members and their interests beyond our shared profession.

    MozCon Ignite schedule:

    7:00-8:00pm Networking
    8:00-8:05pm Welcome to MozCon Ignite with Geraldine DeRuiter, aka the Everywhereist Geraldine DeRuiter
    8:05-8:10pm Regales of an Accidental Nightcrawler Stunt Double with Jay Neill from Affiliate Resources, Inc.

    Jay Neill is an online marketing consultant who helps businesses get started in the world of local SEO through education and servicing. In his spare time, Jay enjoys jumping on trampolines and playing with his vast collection of vintage Star Wars action figures.

    Jay Neill
    8:10-8:15pm Sled Dogs, Northern Lights, and Mushing Tails! with Anna Anderson from Art Unlimited

    Anna Anderson is an avid dog lover who owns over 35 sled dogs in Northern MN. Growing up with sled dogs, she and her family now competitively race across North America: training, racing, and traveling for 2-3 months with 20 of her best canine friends across the country! Follow her on Twitter: @boldadgirl

    Anna Anderson
    8:15-8:20pm Performing a Canine C-Section with Marie Haynes from HIS Web Marketing

    Dr. Marie Haynes is recognized as a leader when it comes to dealing with Google penalties and algorithm changes like Panda and Penguin. Prior to her career in SEO, she was a small animal veterinarian for 13 years. It is possible that her strong fear of birds is what launched her in to a new life of battling the Penguins at Google. Follow her on Twitter: @Marie_Haynes

    Marie Haynes
    8:20-8:25pm Bulltown Strutters: The Band That Married Its City with Mark Traphagen from StoneTemple Consulting

    Mark Traphagen is Senior Director of Online Marketing for Stone Temple Consulting. When not disrupting things online, Mark disrupts the sleep of the good citizens of Durham, NC, by making as much noise as possible with the Bulltown Strutters, a New Orleans Second Line style parade band. Follow him on Twitter: @marktraphagen

    Mark Traphagen
    8:25-8:30pm Okay, I Have a Confession: I Was Homeschooled with Garrett Mehrguth from Directive Consulting

    Garrett Mehrguth is digital marketing enthusiast and owner of Directive Consulting, which provides SEO, PPC, and Content for small to mid-market companies. When Garrett’s not in the office, you can catch him playing foosball, surfing, or playing soccer. Follow him on Twitter: @gmehrguth

    Garrett Mehrguth
    8:30-8:35pm Conquering the 100 Best Books of All Time with Kristen Craft from Wistia

    Kristen Craft is Director of Business Development and loves connecting with Wistia’s partner community to spread the word about video marketing. In her spare time, she takes epically long walks, swims in ponds, and brews beer. Follow her on Twitter: @thecrafty

    8:35-8:40pm Tales of Coffee from a Kitchen Window with Scott Callender from La Marzocco Home

    Scott Callendar is the Director of the newly launched La Marzocco Home. He is the definition of a coffee geek and spends his time away from his job in coffee with his family and thinks more about coffee. Follow him on Twitter: @incognitocoffee

    Scott Callender
    8:40-8:45pm Go Frost Yourself: 7 Basic Frostings & Their Uses with Annette Promes from Moz

    Annette Promes has spent the past two decades in and around Seattle working in various marketing roles. She is currently the CMO at Moz, where she and her teams handle everything that is “funnel-related,” such as driving traffic to Moz’s site, converting that traffic into product trials, and reducing customer churn. Annette really loves frosting. Follow her on Twitter: @ahpromes

    Annette Promes
    8:45-9:15pm Networking break
    9:15-9:20pm A Creative Endeavor Inspires & Lengthens a Life with Ralph Legnini from DragonSearch

    Ralph Legnini – Senior Creative Strategist at DragonSearch in NY – is an Aikido 5th Degree Black Belt Sensei, former Saturday Night Live music producer, President of the Board of Education in the 2nd largest school district in New York State, funky rock & roll guitar player, and has worked in the recording studio with music icons Mick Jagger, Madonna, David Bowie, Nile Rodgers, & Todd Rundgren. He used these unique combined skills to create a life sustaining environment for a talented 16-year-old boy with incurable cancer. Follow him on Twitter: @ruaralph2

    Ralph Legnini
    9:20-9:25pm Finding and Embracing Healthy Eating Habits with Carrie Hill from Ignitor Digital Marketing, LLC

    Carrie Hill is the co-founder and technical SEO expert at Ignitor Digital. She loves cooking, eating, reading, and Eddie Vedder…not necessarily in that order. Follow her on Twitter: @CarrieHill

    Carrie Hill
    9:25-9:30pm I Was Told There Would Be Hoverboards. with Dan Petrovic from DEJAN

    Dan Petrovic, the managing director of DEJAN, is one of Australia’s best-known names in the field of search engine optimization. Dan is a web author, innovator, and a highly-regarded search industry event speaker. Follow him on Twitter: @dejanseo

    Dan Petrovic
    9:35-9:40pm The Day I Disremembered with Chris Hanson from 3GEngagement

    Chris Hanson has been involved in digital marketing since 2006 and is currently Founder and CEO of 3GEngagement. After Hanson worked as a Park Ranger, lived without electricity, raced sled dogs, and lived in Alaska, he felt that digital marketing was the next obvious career move. Follow him on Twitter: @FollowUPsuccess

    Chris Hanson
    9:40-9:45pm What Did You Expect in an Opera, a Happy Ending? with Chrissi Reimer from Three Deep Marketing

    A Green Bay native and Minneapolis transplant, Chrissi Reimer spends her days working as an SEO at Three Deep Marketing. Most nights, Chrissi can be found experimenting with different ways to prepare arugula, trying new brews, or taste-testing every ice cream option in the Twin Cities. Follow her on Twitter: @chrissireimer

    Chrissi Reimer
    9:45-9:50pm The Best Practices in Cooking Hot Dogs with Josh Couper from Rafflecopter

    Josh Couper is the director of customer happiness at Rafflecopter and long time hot dog aficionado. Follow him on Twitter: @josh_couper

    Josh Couper
    9:50-9:55pm Raising My Parents with Jen Lopez from Moz

    Jen Sable Lopez is the Director of Community at Moz. She is a renowned Community Strategist who started her marketing career as a technical SEO. Jen is a self-proclaimed geek and faux vegetarian, and she prides herself in having kicked colon cancer’s butt at the young age of 37. Follow her on Twitter: @jennita

    Jen Lopez
    9:55-10:00pm Stoned Nerd versus the Four-Legged Home Invaders with Ian Lurie from Portent, Inc.

    Ian Lurie is founder and CEO of Portent, Inc., a search, social and content agency that helps clients become weird, useful, and significant. He’s also a renowned raccoon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter: @portentint

    Ian Lurie

    Garage Party: Wednesday night

    There ain’t no party like a Moz party, and our annual bash at the Garage is always a blast. Have one last hurrah with us before heading home and back to work.

    Garage Party

    For those who’ve never been to the Garage, there’s something for everyone: bowling, pool, and karaoke. Plus, a ton of food and drinks—including our featured MozCow Mule Mocktail, as well as well liquor, beer, house wine, and of course, our friend H2O. So whether you’re singing your heart out, playing for the corner pocket, bowling a turkey, or just chatting with your new friends, we’ll see you there.

    Coming in early? See and explore Seattle!

    Seattle by CheWei Chang

    MozCon-adjacent activities

    The following events are MozCon-adjacent, meaning they aren’t hosted by Moz and attendees must arrange and pay for their adventures.

    Alki Kayak Tours

    Paddle around Elliott Bay! At 2:30pm Sunday, for $49/per person, you can head out on the water and make new MozCon friends. You can easily catch the water taxi at Pier 50 ($4.75 one-way) from Downtown to West Seattle. Alki tours is located right next to the West Seattle ferry terminal for your convenience.

    Local Craft Tours

    Take a distillery tour at 12pm Sunday and learn about Seattle’s unique craft culture. Conveniently, the tour leaves from the Grand Hyatt Hotel. You can call (206) 455-3740 to reserve your spot on the tour, which costs $87.50/per person.

    Seattle Mariners vs. Los Angeles Angels

    Love baseball? Come see Seattle’s home team play. The Mariners game starts at 1:10pm, and you can see them take on the Angels for $17/per person on the View Level. You must purchase your ticket before 5pm July 10 in order to get the MozCon deal. Enter ‘MOZCON’ as your special offer code.

    Citywide events

    Mozzers recommend their favorite Seattle destinations!

    Rachael KloekAgua Verde, recommended by Rachael Kloek

    “Agua Verde serves great Mexican food in a beautiful lakefront setting. You can rent paddleboards and kayaks right under the restaurant to paddle your way around Lake Union.”

    Chris LoweBallard brewery blocks, recommended by Chris Lowe

    “A dozen really good breweries all within a few blocks of each other: Stoup, Reubens, Red Envelope, Populuxe, Peddler, Maritime, etc., etc. You can easily walk from one brewery to another. Bonus is that most of these breweries host food trucks on the weekends. The area is also just a few blocks from downtown Ballard and the Burke Gilman Trail.”

    Renea NielsenBallard Locks, recommended by Renea Nielsen

    “The Ballard Locks are a bit of a trek from downtown Seattle (~ 45 min. by bus), but they are a perfect Seattle maritime adventure. The Locks abut a beautiful park and show off Seattle’s maritime history. If you’re lucky, you may even find some sea lions playing in one of the closed Locks.”

    Erica McGillivrayPike Place Market, recommended by Erica McGillivray

    “May seen like a ‘touristy’ spot, but Pike Place Market actually thrives on local business. Every day, there’s a farmer’s market, flowers galore, and artisans on everything from cheese and spices to woodworking and jewelry. There are hidden shops (at least three bookstores) and a ton of great food.”

    Rand FishkinElliot Bay Books, recommended by Rand Fishkin

    “One of the best indie bookstores in the country, stocked with good stuff to buy and read, and there’s a lovely cafe, too.”

    Nemecia KaloperFerry ride, recommended by Nemecia Kaloper

    “Takes you to such cool places and allows you to see the city from different view and get a taste of our awesome islands! It requires usually at least 1/2 a day, but is well worth it to be able to hop over and have lunch somewhere other than the city. It’s easy to never take the trip, but well worth it if you do. I recommend Bainbridge in particular and Nola Cafe.”

    Kevin LoeskenThe Fremont Troll, recommended by Kevin Loesken

    “The Fremont Troll, and Fremont in general, perfectly sums up what’s great about Seattle. The troll itself is an amazing piece of art. It’s also near the Lenin Statue and close to a lot of interesting bars, restaurants, and shops.”

    David LeeRodeo Donuts!, recommended by David Lee

    “Best donuts ever. Even better than Voodoo in Portland, OR. This needs to be a 150 characters long so once again, best donuts ever. I really like the donuts here. Don’t go to Krispy Kreme or Top Pot.”

    Abe SchmidtVivace: the Cafe Nico, recommended by Abe Schmidt

    “The Cafe Nico best coffee drink in this city. Orange/nutmeg/ cinnamon paired with the greatest espresso pull in the country (only machine in the world capable of the ‘perfect’ espresso shot).”

    Ben SimpsonStarbucks Roastery, recommended by Ben Simpson

    “Just a few blocks from the convention center, the Starbucks Roastery is one of biggest new attractions in Seattle. Why? To start, walking it it feels like Willy Wonka had one to many espresso shots and got inspired. Starbucks pulled together its best baristas from around the country to put together some amazing craft coffee creations. And to top it all off, they’ve got a Serious Pie on location making all of their delicious food. If you do nothing else during your visit, the Starbucks Roastery is an absolute must!”

    And Mozzer favorite restaurants and bars opened since last MozCon

    Looking for more options?
    Don’t miss our quintessential post from last year,
    our mega post from 2013, Rand’s personal recommendations, and Jon Colman’s Seattle coffee guide.

    Buy your ticket now!

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    Why ccTLDs Should Not Be an Automatic Choice for International Websites

    Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

    Posted by Liam_Curley

    There are many articles on domain structure for international sites. Many, if not all, recommend the use of ccTLDs due to the geo signals they send to Google; but I’ve read very few articles that substantiate this type of claim with any research or evidence. Is this recommendation outdated? With every passing year, Google gets better at reading and setting geo signals. By introducing hreflang and improving Google Webmaster Tools (recently rebranded as Google Search Console) with regards to setting target countries, it’s so much easier to get geo signals right than it was a few years ago.

    With the recent changes Google has been making, I am left questioning whether or not we really need ccTLDs to target other countries. Do they have a positive impact on rankings? If they don’t, why would you use them? If you can set geo signals via webmaster tools or hreflang tags, is it better to consolidate your link equity with one domain and separate everything with subfolders?

    I wanted to look at the market data concerning ccTLDs and their performance on different international versions of Google. I wanted to know whether ccTLDs demonstrated any tendency of outranking sites with gTLDs (as defined here) that had a greater DA or PA. If ccTLDs did demonstrate this trait, then perhaps there is merit in selecting them over subfolder structure. If not, and the ranking of websites on SERPs shows the general trend of order by DA/PA, then surely there is no reason to structure an international website with a ccTLD and the best option is to consolidate all links on one site and geo target the subfolders. I understand that there is more to this decision if we take into account the user’s preference to interact with local domain websites. We’ll touch on that point later. For now, I just want to focus on how Google seems to treat ccTLDs.

    The SERP Research

    The hypothesis

    ccTLDs don’t supersede PA as a ranking signal. I believed that if I gathered a decent sample size, the general trend would show that ccTLDs didn’t tend to outrank sites with a gTLD and higher PA.

    Local link ratio doesn’t correlate with high rankings. Rand’s research suggests local links have a positive impact on a sites ranking on local search engines. Does the ratio of local links correlate with a higher ranking? If they do, then this could lead us to believe that a consolidation of local links on a local ccTLD would support successful international SEO. If there is no correlation, then this would further support that there is little ranking benefit with this regard to using a ccTLD, as we can receive local links to a gTLD.

    A local IP address doesn’t improve rankings. There still seems to be some opinion in the community that hosting a site on a local IP address will help rankings on local versions of Google.


    I wanted to gather data for competitive terms from several competitive markets. The first task was determining which markets to select. I made a decision based on the markets that have the highest B2C spend per digital consumer. I initially picked out the top 10, then selected five from those based on which sites I was able to work with (linguistically). The markets selected were: U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, and Italy.

    Next, I selected the keyword categories that I would use to analyze SERPs. I picked out the sectors based on the biggest digital B2C market sectors in the U.S.. From the top 10, I selected five: clothes, toys and games, computer and consumer electronics, furniture and home furnishings, and auto parts.

    Then, I decided to identify 10 keywords for each category in each market. Keywords were selected by inputting a broad keyword into AdWords for each category (say, “game”), filtering by search volume, and selecting the highest search entries that had an average AdWords suggested bid of higher than £0.05 which would provide terms that had high search volume and commercial relevance.

    This was done for each category in each market.

    I collated data from the top 10 pages ranking for each SERP, giving me a total of 2,500 web pages to analyze. Searches were conducted for each keyword on the local version of Google (e.g., google.it) using the SEO Global Chrome extension from RedFly Marketing, allowing me to see the search results for a local user.

    Analysis of data

    Once the keywords were selected for each market, I collected the following data from each SERP:

    • Ranking position
    • URL
    • Domain structure
    • Domain authority
    • Page authority
    • Page title
    • IP address location
    • Local link ratio

    From this information, I would also collect the following on each web page entry on the SERP:

    • Is there an exact keyword match in the domain?
    • Is there a partial keyword match in the domain?
    • Is the exact keyword used in the URL?
    • Is a broad keyword used in the page title?
    • Is an exact keyword used in the page title?

    Each entry was given a yes or no for the questions above, which would allow me to compare domain performances on a like for like basis with regards some of the basic on-page SEO elements.

    Once this data was collected, I started to identify the following:

    • Whether the ccTLD was outranking a gTLD that had a higher PA
    • Whether the ccTLD was outranking a gTLD that had a higher PA, where both the ccTLD and gTLD in question had matching on-page SEO implementation for the keyword in question

    Research limitations

    Let’s start with the obligatory “correlation does not equal causation.” Nothing discovered in this research will definitively prove or disprove ranking factors for international SEO. However, I believe that this kind of research does throw up interesting data, and any SEO trends and correlations discovered through this type of research can set us on our own path to research further and look for more concrete signals to prove or disprove these results.

    I had a decision to make regards whether to measure ccTLD ranking over TLDs with a higher PA or a higher DA. I decided to go with PA. Predominantly because I’m looking at the ranking performance of a page, not a website. DA has a direct impact on PA, but if we measured performance against DA, I think we’d be less likely to get a true picture (e.g., blogs on subdomains, and small sites with a keyword in the domain ranking with their home page).

    The resources available for this research (i.e., me) meant there was a limit to the volume of SERPs and web pages analyzed. My limited linguistic skills meant I couldn’t analyze SERPs from a broader language base (e.g., Nordic and Japanese), and I could only collect data from the top 10 rankings for each SERP.

    Also, ideally the data would have been drawn from the SERPs over one day. I collected the data manually. (I could have set up a crawl, but at the time I didn’t have the knowledge available to do that.) So, it was taken over the course of around six weeks.

    Finally, I mentioned that I compare the rank of pages based on like for like on-page SEO. Due to time restraints, I was limited to a handful of what I deemed to be key on-page SEO signals. Therefore, it’s open to debate as to whether the signals I selected are the key signals for on-page SEO.

    The results



    ccTLDs are not outranking gTLDs. Graphs 1 and 2 demonstrate that the majority of ccTLDs are not outranking gTLDs that have a higher PA. Graph 1 shows that 46% of ccTLDs reviewed outrank a gTLD with a higher PA. However, when we only count “outranking” to occur when both the ccTLD and the gTLD have the same basic on-page SEO (e.g., keyword in title, URL and/or domain), we see that the percentage of ccTLDs outranking gTLDs falls to 24 percent.

    This information doesn’t definitively tell us whether or not a local ccTLD is a ranking factor in national SERPs, but it does indicate that it’s probably not a signal that generally outweighs PA. That being the case, from a purely SEO perspective (not considering online consumer psychology), a subfolder must be the best domain structure for the majority of international sites. Unless you or your client is a major brand with a large budget, the resources required to launch several ccTLDs and build enough authority for each to make them visible in their respective search engines makes a ccTLD an unwise selection.

    A Local IP address doesn’t pack a punch. Again, this research can’t definitively determine whether an IP address does or doesn’t provide ranking signals for national SERPs, but Graph 5 suggests that if it does, the signals are weak. Of the 474 ccTLDs with a local IP address, only 19 percent were outranking a gTLD with a higher PA. This figure suggests that an IP address has little direct impact on rankings, even when combined with a local ccTLD. That said, it’s worth checking out this article on IP host location from Richard Baxter, which presents a different finding.

    A Local link ratio has no relationship with high local rankings. While Rand’s research indicates local links have an impact on local search results, a local link ratio doesn’t have a relationship with high rankings. There doesn’t appear to be a benefit of setting up a ccTLD to gain local links for an international market. Local links can be earned for any domain and any structure, whether ccTLD or subfolder.

    Implications for international SEO

    It is difficult to make an accurate, broad statement on best practice for international SEO. Every market is likely to be slightly different with regards the way that users interact with content, as well as the way that search engines crawl and rank web pages. You also have to take into account that if you’re working with a client on SEO for different international markets, goals and resources will vary. Toys “R” Us does very well in the SERPs we analyzed with a ccTLD structure, but then they have the resources available to support multiple domains and earn local authority and PR for each domain.

    The research looked at SERPs for five countries and 2,500 web pages. The results for each country did vary, and while analyzing 500 web pages for each country doesn’t represent a sufficient sample size to make a sound opinion on each, it does lead me to believe that the choice of whether to use a ccTLD or a gTLD for an international market could vary depending on the market in question. More information is available here on the data collected from each country. To summarize, here are the findings:


    I’ve omitted the U.S. from the second table, as there were only two web pages with a ccTLD from the 500 analyzed. That confirms what many of us would have suspected or known: ccTLDs aren’t widely used in the U.S. With hindsight, it probably would have been more interesting to swap the U.S. with a different country for analysis.

    The information above suggests that maybe there is some variation in how sites rank in different international search engines. It’s also interesting to note that ccTLDs are more popular in some markets than other, which could have an impact on the user relationship and interaction with a website depending on it’s domain structure.

    Consumer psychology and ccTLDs

    Let’s put aside what I’d consider to be some of the ranking
    implications behind a choice of domain structure. There’s another consideration
    to be made when it comes to selecting a domain structure for an international
    site: Does a local domain have a positive impact on consumer psychology and the
    choice of buying or browsing on one site over another?

    As with the SEO argument for a ccTLD, there are plenty of
    articles and research that suggest consumers prefer to shop on an
    eCommerce site with a local domain rather than a generic domain (U.S. excluded).
    Eli Schwartz recently wrote an article summarizing research he’d conducted on
    searcher perception of
    . The post provided some really interesting results. However, I didn’t
    necessarily agree with the approach taken with one of the questions put to respondents
    regarding eCommerce and the impact of ccTLDs on purchase decisions.

    In the
    study, Eli asked each respondent this: “Of the links below, which is most likely to
    offer the most reliable express shipping to your home?” The respondent was then asked to select either a website with a .com domain, or one with a local ccTLD.
    The results are interesting, but if we’re looking for insight into eCommerce
    buying decisions, I think it’s a bit of a leading question. If you ask the
    respondent a question like this, and give them the choice of a local domain or
    a generic domain, they’re likely to answer yes to the ccTLD. However, I don’t
    believe that this indicates that the ccTLD is used as an aid to make a purchase
    decision. It tells us if you strip all other buying aids from the process, boil
    it down to the choice between one domain and another, the respondent selects
    the local domain. Real-life buying decisions don’t work like this.

    Following on from my research on international rankings, I
    wanted to try and create a real life test environment where respondents pick
    one website over another to purchase a product.

    Test 1 – Impact of domain structure when a consumer is browsing an
    ecommerce store

    Using CrowdFlower and UsabilityHub, I created a test for U.K.-based respondents. First, the respondent was presented with the following

    “You’re looking to
    purchase a new laptop. You’ve done your research and found the make and model
    that you’d like to buy. You find this laptop on two eCommerce websites. Based
    on the page your about to view, which site would you buy the laptop from?”

    The respondent was then presented with the following two
    eCommerce sites:


    Both sell the same laptop with the same specification, same price, same delivery and same returns offer. The key difference between the two is that one is hosted on a .com domain and one is on a .co.uk. The design and layout for each is different, but I’ve attempted to create a real-life situation, and you’d never be choosing between two eCommerce stores with the same design.

    Two hundred sixty-two respondents participated in the Dabs vs. Laptops Direct selection, and 174 of these respondents provided feedback on why they made their decision.

    The results are as follows:


    As you can see, none of the respondents selected either website due to the domain structure of the store. Choices were predominantly made on a preference for less ads or clutter, product information, usability, or branding. It seems clear to me that when the consumer is browsing an eCommerce site, the domain structure plays no part in their purchase decision. Although not tested here, localization indicators such as language, currency, delivery, and returns policy will arguably dictate whether or not you stand a chance of winning their business rather than the domain.

    Test 2 – Impact of domain structure when consumer is browsing the SERPs

    After I’d reviewed consumer decision-making while on the webpage, I wanted to see if ccTLDs were a genuine factor in consumer psychology on a SERP when the user is making their browsing decision.

    In the next test, U.K. respondents were presented with the following text:

    “You’re looking to find an eCommerce site that sells car parts. You go to Google and search for ‘car parts’. You see the following results page. Which website would you click on first?”

    The respondent was presented with a SERP for car parts, making sure that one ccTLD of four websites (the third organic result) was available in the organic results. As you can see, the second organic result, a gTLD, contains U.K. within the domain:


    The following heat map shows the websites selected by the respondents:


    The 200 respondents were then asked to give a reason for their selection. The results are as follows:


    It does seem that a ccTLD can play a part in the browsing selection for a portion of the audience. Eleven percent of the respondents indicate they made their selection because the website was based in the U.K., although they don’t specify how they made that assumption (i.e., could be ccTLD, meta description, etc.). Five percent of the respondents specifically mention the local domain as the reason for their choice (although they seem to be confusing the autopartsuk.com as a U.K. domain). Seventeen percent of our respondents made the website selection based on their belief that the website was based in the U.K.

    The research also shows how important the meta description is in the user-browsing decision, something that I think often gets overlooked by SEOs. In fact, 30 percent of our respondents indicated they made their selection based on information provided in the meta (mentioning things like free delivery, range of stock, and discounts). I think that when we get a website ranking for a really important keyword, SEOs can be a bit like the football (or soccer) team that’s just scored a goal. We’re so engulfed in the success of scoring that we switch off at kickoff, letting the other team score straight away. There is a danger that we think we’ve won when one of our web pages ranks well, when in fact that’s just part of the job. We still need to compete for the user’s attention once we’re on the SERP, and entice them to click on our website instead of the competitor’s.

    Do Google’s new ‘branded breadcrumbs’ change the significance of ccTLDs?

    We’ve seen that a number of users make a SERP selection based on their assumption that the selected website is based locally. At present, the domain structure is used as a key indicator of a websites location. However, as part of the mobile algorithm update, Google’s announced a move from a URL display to a branded breadcrumb that will remove the domain structure from the SERP. On mobile, from a location perspective, the domain structure will no longer influence a users SERP selection. The 17 percent of respondents making the selection based on location will look for other information to aid their decision.

    For now, on mobile at least, the SERPs present a level playing field for ccTLDs and gTLDs with regards to consumer psychology. The meta description is even more important in enticing the click.


    For me, the research shows that choosing a ccTLD as the domain structure for an international site shouldn’t be the automatic decision that it seems to be for many. While further research is required, I don’t believe that a ccTLD domain structure has a big enough impact on rankings to warrant selecting this option over a subfolder, which allows us to consolidate links and boost DA and PA on all of our international content. We can geotarget subfolders via webmaster tools and hreflang tags, and as a local ccTLD doesn’t seem to supersede PA as a ranking factor, we should act accordingly and launch international sites with the highest PA possible (i.e., subfolders).

    The research on consumer psychology does show that a ccTLD can have a positive impact on SERP user selections. However, meta descriptions can also be used to promote local service and delivery. The changes announced by Google for mobile SERPs will remove URLs from the selection equation, and we’ve seen that when a user is on a website, they pay little attention to the domain location.

    While I feel this is the right advice for most brands, it’s probably not the right advice for all. If you’re working with a large brand, you might have the resources available to earn the marginal gains in every facet of what you do. If further research shows that ccTLDs do have some ranking impact, no matter how small, and that improves your ranking by one position for each keyword, then the impact could result in a significant amount of extra traffic if you’re working for a large eCommerce customer.

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