It is not too late to start a blog. Sure, the internet has tons of content. But, there is always a need for high-quality content. Especially when written for a specific person. If you have a desire to blog, then do it! Let’s walk through how to start a blog.

We’re going to break it into a 10 step process. That may sound daunting, but you can handle this. Each step will be simple to guide you from start to finish.

Step 1: Choose a Focus

The first step is to decide what you’ll write about on your blog. You want to have a focus. You want to be specific.

This will help everyone. Your readers will know what to expect when they visit your blog. Search engines will better understand where your authority lies. And you’ll have a better idea of what content you should create.

If you’re not sure what topic would be best for your blog, choose one that fits into these categories:

  • A topic that you can educate others about. This doesn’t have to be something you’re an expert in, this can be a new interest that you can walk through together with your audience.
  • A topic you’re passionate about. If you have a hobby or interest you love doing that would be a great topic for your blog. If you’re passionate about the focus of your blog it will make it much easier to create content.

In addition to knowing what type of content your blog will focus on, you also want to understand who you’re talking to. Follow this guide to create a persona.

It is important to understand who your blog is talking to. Each article you write, you want to make sure you are talking to that person. If you try to talk to everyone, you end up talking to no one. Instead, focus on the one person you truly want to attract. Write directly and address that readers interests and concerns.

When your focus and audience are clear, you’ll attract more people than you’ll ever get trying to speak to everyone. And, they’ll become loyal fans.

Step 2: Choose a Platform

Now, you know what you want to write and who you’re writing to, but what tool will you use to write it? We need to choose a blogging platform (also known as a CMS or Content Management System).

Free (Hosted) vs Self-Hosted

When choosing a blogging platform you have two primary options. You can use a free blogging tool (such as blogger or tumblr) or you can go the self-hosted route which will cost money.

The free or hosted blogging options are restrictive. There is not as much freedom with content layout and formatting, you don’t get a custom domain name, and you won’t own your website. Plus, if you ever decide to move to a self-hosted option it will not be an easy process.

A self-hosted blogging platform is the way to go. Sure, there are some costs involved but they don’t have to be much. The flexibility and business value you receive far outweighs the small cost. There is also more setup required but don’t worry, the rest of this blog article will walk you through it.

Choose WordPress.org

There are several different self-hosted platforms you can choose. But, let’s just be clear. You should choose WordPress. WordPress is widely adopted, and because of that there are countless themes, plugins, and troubleshooting documentation that you can leverage. Plus, it is frequently updated for any security vulnerabilities.

Now, when I say to use WordPress, I mean wordpress.org. Not wordpress.com. The .com version is a free hosted platform with the same downsides we just discussed earlier. WordPress.org, however, is a self-hosted platform that will provide endless opportunities for your blog.

The platform itself is completely free. To implement it though you will need a domain and a host which is not free. We’ll discuss that next.

Step 3: Choose a Name and Domain

The next step is to choose a name for your blog. You want something obviously relevant to the focus of your blog. But, you also want your name to be memorable and simple, but not too generic so you can get a matching domain name.

The domain name is the URL that is entered into the browser to access your blog. For example, google.com is the domain for Google.

Your brand name and domain name don’t have to match. But, it’s nice when they do. If they don’t match if can sometimes cause confusion and make it harder for potential readers to remember how they can find you.

To see if the domain you’re interested in is available you can search for it at Bluehost: https://www.bluehost.com/domains

This is just one of several different places you can go to see if a domain name is available. Most places that sell domains also have a tool to search availability.

Right now you’re just coming up with ideas and checking availability. You’ll be able to purchase a domain as part of the next step.

Step 4: Choose a Host

Part of using a self-hosted platform, means you need a host. What that means, is you need somewhere your website can live on the internet for people to access. You need a place to store all of the files, images, and code that create your blog.

There are a ton of hosts to choose from. When looking for a host, make sure they have a one click install option for WordPress. This is going to make the installation process a breeze. It will take out any guesswork and the process is, well, done with one click. It makes the process brainless, no technical knowledge is required.

If you’re just starting out, I’d recommend using Bluehost.

(Disclosure: The Bluehost link is an affiliate link. By purchasing through that link you help support ClearPath Online at no additional cost to yourself.)

Bluehost let’s you start hosting your blog for as low as $3.95 per month. And, they include a free domain for the first year. They are one of the top rated WordPress hosts and they make the process simple for someone without a tech background to use.

If you go with Bluehost, all you need to do is select the plan and follow through their prompts. If you have a domain name in mind you’ll be able to set that up during this process. If not, they’ll assign you a temporary domain to get started and then you can update it once you’ve decided. After you create the account you just need to click the Install WordPress button.

If budget is not an issue, you may want to look into MediaTemple. I have been a MediaTemple customer for over a decade and have been happy with their service. The interface is simple and flexible. Their plans start at $20 a month so it is quite an investment for a new blogger.

They have a few different hosting options to choose from. I’d recommend the Grid hosting option. It has a one-click install option for WordPress but it doesn’t restrict you to WordPress only sites. If you plan to create multiple sites in the future and don’t want to commit to everything on WordPress this could be a good route.

They do also offer a WordPress specific hosting option. Though this would make the process even easier, you lose some flexibility for future websites.

Step 5: Choose a Theme

Now that you have a host and used the one click install to get things set up, you need to choose a theme for your new blog.

You can either use a free theme or a paid theme. There are tons of each.

Generally speaking, a paid theme is less likely to be hacked. But, there is no guarantee. A paid theme is typically updated more often, and therefore, less susceptible to security vulnerabilities.

However, you can find trustworthy free themes as well. We’ll guide you through the process.

Whether you choose a paid or free theme, you want to make sure it has good ratings and has been recently updated (within the last 6 months).

How to Choose a Free Theme

Let’s walk through how to choose a trustworthy free theme.

In the admin panel of your WordPress website, you can navigate to Appearance > Themes. Then click, Add New > Popular.

This will show you the most popular WordPress themes that you can download for free.

This can be a convenient place to browse themes but I normally want more details than this interface provides. You can access the same list by going to WordPress.org > Themes > Popular.

When you view the list on WordPress.org you can click more info on any theme and view the ratings, reviews, and when it was last updated.

Use that data to make an informed decision. Make sure the theme has been updated in the last few months. Make sure there are a decent amount of ratings and that they are good overall. Make sure the comments don’t highlight a glaring issue.

If you’re still not sure which free theme to go with I’d recommend Hello Elementor or Astra.

When you decide, go back to Appearance > Themes in your WordPress admin panel. Click Add New and navigate to the theme you choose. Then click Install.

How to Choose a Paid Theme

To shop around for premium WordPress themes I’d go to ThemeForest.

I like to run a search and then sort the themes by Best Sellers. From there I open each theme that looks like it could be a good match and check for the following items:

  • Last Update: Ideally I’d like the theme to have been updated within the last 3 months. Anytime in the last 6 months would be okay but older than that is a red flag. You want to make sure the theme creator hasn’t abandoned the project or you could have security issues in the future.
  • WordPress Software Version: Determine what the latest WordPress version is. Look at the version number and the release date. Then, look at the theme you’re interested in. Confirm that it supports the most current version. If the newest WordPress version is only a few weeks old the theme creator may still be working on the update. In that case, if it supports the previous version there should be no issue. You’ll likely receive a theme update soon to support the current version.
  • Responsive: Make sure the theme specifies that it is responsive, meaning it looks good on every device including mobile phones and tablets.
  • Ratings and Reviews: Check out the ratings and reviews. Look at the feedback. Make sure it doesn’t sound like there are any glaring issues that would be a problem for you. When looking at the overall rating also take a look at the actual number of ratings it has.

If you decide to buy a paid theme, go through the checkout and download prompts. The theme should come with documentation that you can follow to install it on your website.

Step 6: Configure WordPress

Okay, so you have a host and domain setup. You installed WordPress. You choose and installed a theme. Now, let’s start configuring our site.

Site Configurations

There are several settings and possible configurations in WordPress. But, these are the most important ones you need to go in and configure.

  • Go to Settings > General
    • Site Title: By default this is displayed as the primary title for your website that appears at the top of the browser window and in search results. The text that displays can be adjusted with the Yoast SEO plugin but you want this to be an accurate title regardless.
    • Tagline: Depending on your theme this may be displayed near your logo.
    • Email Address: This is the admin email for the website. You want to make sure this is accurate so you receive notifications.
  • Go to Settings > Reading
    • Your homepage displays: By default this is set to latest posts. For a blog site, chances are that is exactly how you want it and you don’t need to change anything. If instead, you want a static homepage this is where you would select it. If you use a static homepage, you’ll need to select a new page to use as your posts page to display your latest blogs.
    • Search Engine Visibility: By default the discourage search engines from indexing this site checkbox should be unchecked. That is how you want it. If for some reason, you don’t want search engines to index your website you can click the checkbox. If the website is a development website that will never go public then go ahead and check that. If you plan to have this site live and ranked sometime but just don’t want to yet, leave that box unchecked. There are other ways to handle hiding your site temporarily such as a coming soon page or scheduling posts to publish on a future date.
  • Go to Settings > Permalinks
    • Make sure Post name is selected as your permalink structure.

Theme Configurations

Now it’s time for the fun stuff. You get to start customizing your theme to fit the look and feel for your brand.

Go to Appearance > Customize. Start playing around with the options here until the theme fits your needs. Try uploading your logo, customizing the colors, and selecting a font.

Step 7: Install Plugins

The plugins you need will depend on your blog and your goals. Try not to install more plugins than necessary because they can start to conflict with each other and cause issues.

There are a few plugins that are a great addition to just about any blog. I’d recommend installing these ones:

  • Yoast SEO: This helps streamline search engine optimization. You can enter in the keyword you are targeting on each post and Yoast will grade your SEO and recommend improvements.
  • UpdraftPlus: This plugin automates a backup process so you can rest easy.
  • Wordfence: This adds some security to your system and notifies you about suspicious or malicious activity.

Step 8: Create Pages

Even if all you want to do is blog, you should still create a couple of static pages. To do this, go to Pages > Add New.

  • About: The about page is normally the 2nd most viewed page after the homepage. People want to know who you are. Create an about page that shares your story.
  • Contact: If people want to contact you, make it easy. You can use the Contact Form 7 plugin to add a simple webform to a page.

Step 9: Configure Menu

Great, so now you have a couple of pages but how do we get to them? Go to Appearance > Menus.

Select the appropriate menu from the drop-down at the top, then just drag and drop the pages to the menu. You can drag the pages around to rearrange their order. You can click on them to edit the name that displays in the menu. When you’re finished just click Save Menu.

Step 10: Post a Blog Article

You did it! You’re ready to post your first blog article on your new website. Just go to Posts > Add New.

Tip: Focus on Building a Community, Not Monetizing

You’re just starting out your blog. Enjoy it. Focus on building your community and gaining a following. Spend your time and energy making sure you’re writing high-quality content that people care about.

Don’t go into this thinking about how you can monetize. That comes later. Build a community first and then determine what you can do to monetize that would benefit your community.

Did you setup your blog yet? Do you have any advice for others such as a favorite theme or plugin? Let us know in the comments!


Do you want to listen to this article? Here’s the podcast episode:

blog better online course

More and more businesses are understanding that data is a crucial piece of success. But, just collecting data isn’t enough. You need to understand it. You need it to tell a story. You need it to start a conversation and answer questions. To do this, you need a data dashboard tool. We’ve analyzed the best data dashboard tools for bloggers and solopreneurs so you can start leveraging your data.

Before we start comparing data dashboard tools, let’s talk about what we won’t be talking about. We won’t be going over any enterprise business intelligence (BI) tools. We won’t review tools that require a full-time data scientist to analyze.

Instead, we’ll review business dashboards that offer an ideal solution for bloggers and other solopreneurs. As a solopreneur, you still want to understand how your key performance indicators (KPIs) are performing; even if you aren’t a data know-it-all.

The 5 Data Dashboard Tools We Analyzed

There are plenty of data dashboard tools available to choose from these days. To keep things simple, we analyzed the 5 tools that would be the best fit for a company of one. The tools we’ll review are Geckoboard, Cyfe, Klipfolio, Dasheroo, and Google Data Studio. We’ll compare prices, integrations, data freshness, device capability, export options, and report scheduling.

Geckoboard

geckoboard

Geckoboard has a nice look and feel to it. It’s easy to use and the metrics are easy to read and visually appealing. The lowest tier is reasonably priced at $39 per month. It is pretty limited though. It allows 2 dashboards and 1 user. And you can send your dashboard to 1 TV. But, if you need to send it to multiple TVs or access it on mobile you have to subscribe to a higher tier, which jumps up in price substantially.

Here is the analysis breakdown for Geckoboard:

Price: Starts at $39 per month. Also, there is a 30 day free trial.

Integrations: Able to integrate with over 60 platforms. A few of the available integrations include Google Analytics, MailChimp, Stripe, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Can also integrate with Google Sheets and Excel.

Data Freshness: Data is available in real-time.

Device Capability: Can send to 1 TV with the $39 plan. To access on unlimited TVs and use mobile dashboards you need to upgrade to the next tier which is $159/month.

Export Options / Report Scheduling: It doesn’t appear to have options to export or schedule reports.

Cyfe

cyfe

Cyfe is a good looking tool with a great set of features. And they even have a free plan. The free plan does limit you to 2 dashboards but they are fully functional and don’t expire. This tool really shines with the solo plan for $29 per month. The paid plan adds several features such as TV mode, unlimited history, and export options.

Here is the analysis breakdown for Cyfe:

Price: There is a free account available.

Integrations: There are many integrations available. A few popular integrations are Google Analytics, MailChimp, Stripe, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.

Data Freshness: Data is available in real-time.

Device Capability: TV mode is available on all paid plans, which starts at $29 per month.

Export Options / Report Scheduling: Unlimited history and unlimited data exports are available on all paid accounts. You can download or schedule email reports of your data in PNG, JPEG, PDF, and CSV formats.

Klipfolio

klipfolio

Though this is one of the more expensive tools we looked at, it has some nice features for the more advanced user. This tool will have a steeper learning curve, but you’ll have more options to analyze your data intelligently with some self-service BI features. If you’re still a little scared of data, this probably isn’t the tool for you.

Here is the analysis breakdown for Klipfolio:

Price: Free for 14 days, then starts at $70 per month.

Integrations: Yes, there are hundreds of data integrations available.

Data Freshness: The lowest tier has a 1-hour data refresh period.

Device Capability: There is a TV mode available. An app needs to be downloaded to review dashboards on mobile.

Export Options / Report Scheduling: You can export dashboards as a PDF. You can also schedule an email to send a PDF or image.

Dasheroo

dasheroo

This is another good looking dashboard option. The pricing is very reasonable with a completely free option. The free plan does limit you to 1 dashboard with 8 insights. For a reasonable $19 per month you can upgrade to the grande plan and unlock several useful upgrades. It allows 8 dashboards with 40 insights, export options, sharing capabilities, and a slideshow mode to display the dashboards on a TV.

Here is the analysis breakdown for Dasheroo:

Price: There is a free plan available.

Integrations: They do have a handful of integrations available including Google Analytics, Google Sheets, Stripe, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. MailChimp is not an option. One of the integrations available is Zapier, which you can leverage to handle any missing applications.

Data Freshness: Data is updated daily on the free plan. With the $19 per month plan the data is updated hourly.

Device Capability: There is a mobile dashboard available with an app. There is also a slideshow mode available with the $19 per month package.

Export Options / Report Scheduling: You can download a PDF or PNG with the $19 per month package.

Google Data Studio

Google data studio

There is a lot you can do with Google Data Studio. It takes a little more time to make it look as polished as some of the other tools but the customization options far surpass any other free options. You not only have several integration options but you also can create calculated metrics within Data Studio to create custom metrics based on existing metrics.

Here is the analysis breakdown for Google Data Studio:

Price: Completely free.

Integrations: Very easy to integrate with Google products such as Google Analytics, Google Sheets, Google Search Console, and YouTube. There are other integrations that have connections created by Data Studio partners.

Data Freshness: Data is refreshed every 15 minutes by default.

Device Capability: There is a full screen mode available.

Export Options / Report Scheduling: You can receive a PDF either by downloading or scheduling an email.

Conclusion

There isn’t a bad option in this list. The best option for you will vary depending on your needs.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison with all of the tools and features we just went over:

  Geckoboard Cyfe Klipfolio Dasheroo Google Data Studio
Price 30 day free trial. Starts at $39/month. Free account available. 14 day free trial. Starts at $70/month. Free account available. Free
Integrations 60+ integrations including Google Analytics, MailChimp, Stripe, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Google Sheets, and Excel. Yes, many! Some integrations include Google Analytics, MailChimp, Stripe, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Yes, hundreds of integrations available. They do have some including Google Analytics, Google Sheets, Stripe, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. They don’t support MailChimp. They do integrate with Zapier which you can leverage to connect any missing integrations. Very easy to integrate with Google products such as Google Analytics, Google Sheets, Google Search Console, and YouTube. Other integrations have connections created by Data Studio partners.
Data Freshness Real-time data. Real-time data. 1 hour data refresh on lowest tier. Daily on free plan, if you go up to $19/month plan it’s hourly. Every 15 minutes by default.
Device Capability Send to 1 TV with $39 plan. To access on unlimited TVs and use mobile dashboards need to upgrade to next tier which is $159/month. TV mode is available on all paid plans, which start at $29/month. TV mode available. Must download an app to access dashboards on mobile. Can view mobile dashboard with an app. There is a slideshow mode available with the $19/month package. Full screen mode available.
Export Options / Report Scheduling None. Unlimited history and unlimited data exports on all paid accounts. Download or schedule email reports of your data in PNG, JPEG, PDF, and CSV formats. Can export as PDF. Can schedule email to send PDF or image. Can download a PDF or PNG with the $19/month package. PDF available via download or scheduled email.

My go-to choice is Google Data Studio. It provides a lot of flexibility and can handle everything I need. I enjoy the formatting options and being able to add text and images to my dashboards. It makes it easier to tell a story with my data and remind myself what question the metric is answering.

My favorite paid tool on the list is Cyfe. I have used this in the past and been very happy with it. The dashboards and TV mode look great, the data is updated in real-time, and it can integrate easily with just about anything.

If you aren’t sure, start with some of the free options or free trial and get a dashboard set up. Know what questions you want to answer with data and then play around with a few. As long as you’re focused on the KPIs that move your business forward any of these tools will be great. Understanding what is working and what needs improvement will keep you going in the right direction.


Do you want to listen to this article? Here’s the podcast episode:

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It’s important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of any website. And, a great way to do that is by monitoring metrics. We’re going to walk through how to create a metrics dashboard for free!

There are several dashboard tools out there. And if you have the budget, you may want to start with one of those tools. But, don’t let a budget stop you from monitoring the metrics that matter for your website. There are ways to track your website performance even without a budget.

One of the bells and whistles popular dashboarding tools tout is the ability to view your dashboard in a TV mode. Don’t worry, we’ll cover that too. Again, for no cost.

Make Sure You’re Using Google Analytics

First things first, make sure you have Google Analytics set up on your website. If you aren’t tracking your website performance, you won’t have any metrics to monitor.

Make sure you not only have Google Analytics installed, but confirm the metrics you care about are being tracked. That means, look at your goals. Go to Admin and then under View click on Goals.

Do you have goals configured in Google Analytics? Is the primary goal for your website represented in the Google Analytics data?

Add any events for items you’d want to monitor on your dashboard. This can include video plays and resource downloads.

Create Your Dashboard

Option 1: Google Analytics

Creating your dashboard with Google Analytics will be the simplest, but most limited option.

You are limited to 20 dashboards

Each Google Analytics view is limited to 20 private dashboards per user. You can also have 50 shared dashboards per view.

This may be more than enough for some people, but it’s important to know there is a cap. It’s nice to have a few go to dashboards in Google Analytics. But, because of this cap, you’ll want to leverage a different tool to view granular data reports.

Each dashboard can only have 12 widgets

You can adjust the size and column layout of the widgets. But, at the end of the day, no matter how you configure them, you’re limited to 12 widgets per dashboard.

If you are looking to monitor just your primary KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) this will not be a problem. In fact, keeping it simple will be helpful if you’re planning to display the data on a TV later.

However, just like with the dashboard cap, if you want to review granular data reports you’ll need to look into a different dashboard tool.

You have to use the pre-configured dashboard widgets

The Google Analytics dashboard system is simple and easy to use. This is definitely a benefit for beginners.

They have a simple interface that allows you to choose the type of chart and then you insert the Google Analytics dimensions and/or metrics you’d like to include.

You’re able to do quite a bit with the options available. However, if you have a very specific chart in mind, you may not be able to create it in a Google Analytics dashboard.

For example, you can only include up to two metrics in a table. And you can’t display more than 10 rows.

You can’t include data from any source

Not only can you not include data from any outside sources (such as Google Sheets), but you also can’t include data from any other Google Analytics profiles. You are limited to only the data in the profile / view that you are currently in.

You can copy a dashboard and view it in other Google Analytics accounts but that can make it more tedious when it comes time to review.

Option 2: Google Data Studio

Google Data Studio is a great option. It does have a bit of a learning curve, but you can get as simple or advanced as you’d like.

It will function and create beautiful charts even if you don’t understand the majority of the features.

You can add your Google Analytics account as a data source and then create just about any chart you’d like. It’s also easy to format the chart / dashboard to match your brand.

You can leverage calculated metrics

Google Data Studio does include the ability to create calculated metrics. So, you can pull in your Google Analytics data and then make simple calculations to create a new metric.

For example, if you want to show conversion rate as (Transactions / New Users) * 100 instead of (Transactions / Sessions) * 100, you can create that using calculated metrics. You don’t have to add any other data sources, it can manipulate your Google Analytics data.

And, if you create a calculated metric it doesn’t modify the existing metrics. You can create them without worrying about damaging your data.

Option 3: Google Sheets (with or without Data Studio)

The last option is Google Sheets. There are a few different ways to use this as your dashboard tool.

Use Google Analytics Add-On

I would recommend using the Google Sheets add-on for Google Analytics. This add-on lets you create reports in Google Sheets based on your Google Analytics data.

If you want to manipulate your data, and the calculated metric option in Data Studio wasn’t enough, this will give you what you want.

You can add Google Analytics filters and segments to the report and customize it however you’d like. Then, you can schedule the report to run at a regular interval (hourly, daily, weekly).

You can create multiple reports on one spreadsheet. When you run the reports it will create a tab for each of the reports. When you re-run the report (either manually or scheduled) it overwrites the data in the same tab.

Because of this, you can create a new tab to use as a worksheet for any calculations you’d like to make. When you update the report, all of the tabs with Google Analytics data will update, and then any fields you’re using in your worksheet tab will update with the newest data.

Create Full Dashboard in Google Sheets

If you’re happy with using Google Sheets, you can use it to create your entire dashboard.

Just create a new tab with the charts you want to include. You can reference data from the Google Analytics add-on reports and your charts will update when the report is updated.

Display Google Sheets Data with Data Studio

Using Google Data Studio to display the Google Sheets data is my preferred method. It looks beautiful in Data Studio, but you still have all of the flexibility Google Sheets provides. This is how I created my automated post-publish content review dashboard.

When you add Google Sheets as a data source in Data Studio, only add the tabs with fields you want to create charts with. If you enter in all of the analytics data dump and any worksheet tabs you have it will get more complicated if you want to make adjustments in the future to your Data Studio charts.

So, Which Option Should I Choose?

If you want simplicity and the bare minimum, just use the dashboard system built into Google Analytics.

If you want it to look beautiful with only a small learning curve, then use Google Data Studio.

If you want the advanced options and the most wiggle room for future changes, use the Google Analytics add-on for Google Sheets combined with Google Data Studio.

Turn on TV Mode for Your Dashboards

Okay, so now you have your dashboards created and you want to put it on the TV. You’ll need to have a computer hooked up to your TV or use a spare computer and monitor to display in TV mode. Once you have the tech in place, you’re ready to turn your dashboard into TV mode.

If you only have one dashboard, this is pretty simple. Just navigate to your dashboard and make it full screen.

It gets more complicated when you have multiple dashboards that you want to automatically rotate.

To accomplish this, open each dashboard in a new tab in Google Chrome. Then, use the Revolver – Tabs chrome extension. This will allow you to set the duration for each tab and then it will rotate through each.

That’s it! It can be that simple to set up a dashboard to monitor your key metrics, even if you have no budget to allocate to reporting.

Have you configured a dashboard for your website? Let us know in the comments!

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To be successful, marketers need to be able to track their campaigns. One of the tools marketers can leverage to make that happen are UTM tags. Let’s discuss how to create a UTM code to track your marketing campaigns.

What are UTM codes?

First, let’s start with what a UTM tag is. A UTM tag (or code) are the text parameters appended to the end of a URL in order to identify specific criteria when a link is clicked.

UTM tags allow marketers to gain more insight into each click. They make it possible to attribute link clicks to particular marketing campaigns.

Why use UTM codes?

Well, in case it wasn’t clear already, UTM tags allow you to track campaign performance. They provide additional visibility into the acquisition sources. They allow marketers to identify which campaigns and variables (including channels and ad copy) were the most successful.

Adding a UTM code to your campaign link will provide data that otherwise would be lost. In almost every case the data you gain from the UTM tag is not available from a different source.

UTM tags are great, but they aren’t always the answer. UTM tags track acquisition sources (external links) whereas events can be added to track internal links. If you aren’t sure if a UTM tag is right for your need here is some information on UTM tags versus event tracking and when to use them.

How do I make a UTM tag?

Let’s get into the nitty gritty and actually create some UTM codes.

Google offers a Campaign URL Builder that makes it simple to add UTM tags to your URL.

If you use Google’s URL builder, you can enter the desired data into fields and then copy and paste the final URL with the UTM code included. This eliminates the need for any technical knowledge. But, you still want to understand what the fields mean to get the most value out of the data.

Website URL (Required)

The first item you’ll enter is the URL you want the UTM code appended to. If you’re sending traffic to your homepage, then enter your homepage. If you want to add UTM tags to a URL that goes to a specific campaign landing page, then enter the campaign landing page into the Website URL field.

Campaign Source (Required)

In the campaign source field you’ll want to enter the referring source. This will usually be the website where the link could be found. So, it might say the URL of the referring domain, or it may be more vague such as mailchimp or google.

Campaign Medium (Required)

This is where you’ll enter the type of marketing campaign. Some examples would be email, cpc, or banner.

Campaign Name (Required)

This is where you’ll enter the name of the specific marketing campaign.

Campaign Term (Optional)

This is an optional field that can be used to enter in keywords. This field is rarely used with organic efforts or paid Google campaigns. It can be useful for 3rd party (Bing, Quora, and Facebook) paid campaigns.

Campaign Content (Optional)

This is another optional field, but can be very useful. This is where I like to add detail. If you’re creating a link for an email campaign use this field to enter the date sent and subject line.

If the campaign you’re tracking will have different variations, use this field to differentiate them. Trying different ads or send dates? Take advantage of this field. That way you can look at the complete campaign data using the campaign name field, but you still can break the data down by variation when needed.

Make Sure You Entered the Required Fields

Do not forget to add campaign source, medium, and name to your UTM tag. These fields are required. If you forget one, and go to the URL to test it, the page will still load. The page won’t be broken but the data won’t be collected properly. That means, while the page is still accessible you won’t be able to view the data properly in your analytics account.

Use a URL Shortener

Appending all of the UTM parameters to your campaign URL can create a cumbersome and messy looking URL. You don’t want to burden people by asking them to type the entire URL in.

Most of the time you can hyperlink text (create a link) so the actual URL length is irrelevant to the user. But, if you want to track a URL in a printed marketing material or on a social network, you can’t always hide the link URL.

To make your URL with UTM code easier for people to use, shorten it. You can use bitly or ow.ly to shorten the URL to a more manageable length.

UTM Tags are Case Sensitive

It’s important to know that UTM codes are case sensitive. Campaign sources and mediums should be entered in the same way every time. If a medium of email is entered once, and then Email the next time, it will be difficult to analyze the data. Instead of combining those mediums together, they will appear as two separate rows on your data.

For each case variation, added space, and type-o, there will be a new row of data. This is why you’ll want to keep a spreadsheet.

Track Naming Conventions in a Spreadsheet

Track your common UTM tags in a spreadsheet to keep your data as clean as possible. Staying consistent with your naming conventions will make it easy to review and analyze data.

Once you start using UTM tags, you’ll re-use sources and mediums often. Add these to a spreadsheet. Instead of typing them in each time, just copy and paste them. This makes it easier to avoid type-os.

Create some guidelines and document them on your spreadsheet to help reduce future errors. I’d recommend always using lowercase and never allowing spaces. You can choose to replace spaces with hyphens (-) or underscores (_).

Establish a clear naming convention for UTM tags and keep it documented in an easy to share spreadsheet. That way, if anyone else is creating a UTM tag for your company, you can share your rules and keep your data clean and easy to review.

Where Do I View Data From My UTM Tags?

Great, you’ve added UTM tags to all of your marketing campaign links, but now what? Where do I find the data?

Your UTM tag data will be available in your Google Analytics account. To view it, go to Acquisition > Campaigns > All Campaigns.

You’ll be able to adjust the primary dimension to view by name, source, or medium. You can also add a secondary dimension with any of those fields or the optional (term or content) fields.

Which types of marketing campaigns do you add UTM tags to? Let us know in the comments!

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Creating content takes time. That’s why you want to make sure you’re writing content that people want to consume. To do that, you need a keyword research system. We are going to walk through a simple process to find the keywords worth writing about.

Create a Spreadsheet to Track Your Keywords

Use a spreadsheet to track your various keyword ideas. If you don’t already have one, you can use this Keyword Research Template.

To start, you’ll want a column that you can use to document all of your keyword ideas. Create a column with the heading of Topic / Keyword. We’ll add more columns later in the process. Right now, just focus on generating ideas.

Brainstorm Content Ideas

Think about your business and your target audience. Start listing any ideas that come to mind in the first column. Don’t worry about details at this point. We’ll refine the list later, just add some topics as a place to start.

Use Tools to Refine and Grow Your Keyword List

Next, look at some data. There are a number of tools that you can use to help grow your keyword list. We’re going to go over some of the non-paid tools you can leverage. If you already pay for a keyword tool, that’s great, and you should certainly use that data. But, we won’t be discussing any specific paid tools here.

Google Trends

Find out what’s trending. Go to Google Trends and enter in one of the topics you jotted down. Now, you can enter in a similar topic to see which one is more popular, or scroll to the bottom to find related topics and related search queries. Reviewing the related terms can provide new ideas to add to the list. Comparing similar terms can allow you to fine-tune your list.

google trends related queries

Google Suggest

Next, go to Google. When you start typing in keyword ideas there will be a dropdown that tries to predict your desired query. Take a look at the suggestions and add any relevant ideas to your list.

YouTube Suggest

Similar to Google Suggest, you can use the YouTube auto suggestion feature to generate more ideas. Go to YouTube and start typing in your keyword. A dropdown will appear with suggestions, just like Google. Use those suggestions to add more ideas to your list.

Google Related Searches

Go back to Google to get a few more keyword ideas. Perform a search with one of your keyword or topic ideas. Scroll to the bottom of the results page and you’ll see some related searches. Take a look at the related search terms and add any relevant ideas to your spreadsheet.

UberSuggest

Go to UberSuggest and click on Keyword Ideas to start to refine your list. This is a good spot to enter in some of your vague topic or keyword ideas and replace them with popular search terms.

UberSuggest will show you keyword suggestions, related terms, questions, prepositions, and comparisons. This data can provide new ideas as well as assist with refining existing terms.

AnswerThePublic

Another useful tool to find specific topics is AnswerThePublic. This tool expands on a keyword and groups it out in several different variations including questions, prepositions, and comparisons. The result returns a visual chart that makes the data easy and fun to look at.

This is an amazing resource to be able to drill down on some of your topics and find content ideas that are more targeted than your initial thought.

Ubersuggest also allows you to view questions, prepositions, and comparisons now but these two tools don’t always provide the same data. It’s good to look at as much data as you can get your hands on.

Use Your Own Data

Review the queries in your Google Search Console Performance report. Sort the data by highest Impressions.

This will give you an idea of the queries your website already ranks well for. These are the topics Google already sees you as an authority on.

Review these terms to find if there are any phrases that don’t already match content on your website. You likely already have content for the majority of these phrases. But, you may be able to find a topic where you have a gap or be able to expand on the topic.

Add Data to Your Keyword Ideas

Now you have an extensive list of keyword ideas. Next, we need to add some data so you know which terms and topics are worth your time. Let’s start adding more columns to this spreadsheet.

Category

Group your topics into categories. If some topics or keywords are too similar, you’ll most likely want to target them on the same page (or only use one). Creating categories makes it easy to determine where you have overlap.

It’s also nice to have categories clearly defined so you can choose to launch an entire topic at once. You can publish multiple articles in the same category and add internal links so users can jump back and forth where appropriate.

Option

For each keyword, identify if there is an opportunity to rank for a particular type of content. Perform a Google search for your keyword. Make a note whenever the top of the search results displays images, videos, products, or local listings. If they do, you can leverage this information by making sure to include that type of content on your page.

Business Value

Go through each topic and determine what the business value is for you. I would recommend doing this by assigning numbers to your funnel stages. If a topic is at the top of the funnel and the reader of that topic would have a very low chance of converting, than assign it a number such as 1. If the topic is extremely relevant and would likely attract someone in the buying stage, assign it a higher number such as 4. I’d recommend keeping a key with the exact criteria you use to assign the various number ranks so your data could be as objective as possible.

Search Volume & Difficulty

It’s nice to get a rough idea of the average monthly search volume to include on your spreadsheet. This data is easy to get with UberSuggest.

If you have a different tool you prefer this data, that’s not a problem. Just use the same tool to capture the metric for all keywords so you are comparing apples to apples. Even if the numbers aren’t exactly trustworthy, it’s still a great comparison metric to determine which of your topics are more popular than your other topics.

To use UberSuggest, simply enter in your keyword. Then, record the Search Volume and SEO Difficulty metrics found on the Overview tab. These metrics give you an idea of how popular each topic is and how competitive it is to rank for the topic.

Once you have all of the data, sort by category and add some conditional formatting to the business value, monthly searches, and competition metrics to make it easy to review and prioritize the ideas. (If you’re using the template that has already been configured.)

Plan Your Publish Dates

Now that you have the keywords you want to create content for, commit to a timeline. Assign publish dates for the various topics and get started writing that content!

This system generates a great list of ideas to start with. As you continue to think of new ideas follow this system and add them to your spreadsheet. This process is intended to be repeated on a quarterly basis. That way it remains current and full of fresh ideas.

What is your favorite way to generate a new keyword idea? Please share it with us in the comments!

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The best long term SEO strategy is to align the goals of your website with the goals of the search engines.

Search engines are trying to provide the best experience for the user. If your website can provide the best solution for the keyword then your website will rank at the top.

Keep the User in Mind

You can try the next new SEO gimmick but any traffic boost you gain won’t last. Google updates their algorithm more than 500 times a year. At the end of the day, they provide the best result and experience possible for the user.

With each change you make, you need to keep your desired audience in mind. If you are always improving your website for your users and providing a high-quality experience, you will see long term success.

Create an amazing experience for your users because you and Google both want them to be satisfied. Always prioritize the needs of your readers over specific SEO tactics.

With that being said, now we can dig in to some specific items that can be done to provide a good user experience.

Publish High Quality Content

Content is important. For over a decade people have been preaching that ‘content is king’. With such a large stress on more content, it’s easy to publish low quality content.

For content to be a successful SEO tool, it needs to be high quality. Write content people want to read.

Don’t worry about keyword density or word count. Use the keyword as many times as you need to for the article to make sense. And keep the content to the word count you need to express your point clearly. Don’t add fluff just to add words. Don’t worry about metrics like these, just write a good article.

What does high quality content look like?

A high quality article will be easy to read. It gets to the point and provides information the reader cares about.

In addition to the content, a high quality article should be formatted in a way that’s easy to read. Most online readers like to scan content before they read it in its entirety. To make it easier to scan make sure you include subheadings, bullet point lists, and bold text.

Adding media elements such as images, charts, graphs, and video also enhances the content and makes it more appealing to people.

Add Content People Care About

The other piece of the puzzle to long term SEO success is to write about topics people care about.

You know you need to write high quality content. But, if no one is looking for content about that topic than you’ve wasted your time.

Perform keyword research and prioritize your content schedule based on demand.

Make Your Website Easy for Your Readers

So, you have content your readers care about and you’ve spent some time to make that content outstanding. Now, make sure there are no other hurdles for your readers.

Make Your Site Easy to Navigate

Make it as easy as possible for users to find the content they need on your website.

Not only should your main navigation menu be clear and concise, you should also include internal links. Whenever an article mentions a topic discussed in one of your other articles, add a link if it would be a benefit to the reader.

This will help SEO and make it easier for search engines to crawl your website. But, the main reason to add internal links is it will keep readers on your site longer as they browse more and more resources. If you have information that will help them, make it easy for them to find.

Don’t Make Your Readers Wait

The longer you make your readers wait, the higher the chance they’ll leave your site. 53% of mobile site visitors leave a page that takes longer than 3 seconds to load.

Google has a PageSpeed Insights tool that will analyze the page speed of your website. Just enter your URL and it will analyze the page. You will then receive results that display the current speed and a list of changes you can make to improve it.

You can also look into implementing AMP to improve your mobile page speed.

Make Sure Your Site is Great on Every Device

You want your site to be mobile friendly. But, even more than that, you want your site to work great on the resolutions your readers use.

You can find out what resolutions are the most common for your website in Google Analytics. Just go to Audience > Technology > Browser & OS. Then, on the Primary Dimension text link tabs (directly above the data) click Screen Resolution. This report will show you the most common screen resolutions for your website.

screen resolution data in google analytics

Review your website on different devices and resolutions to make sure it’s always a great experience.

Remember: SEO is a Long Term Strategy

It’s important to be patient when trying to improve your SEO. Any SEO strategy worth doing will take time.

If you find a hack that provides quick SEO results, it will probably only help you for a short time.

If you want to see long term success, you need to have a long term plan. Don’t think of SEO as a one-time project. Instead, create habits and routines to make SEO part of your everyday strategy.

What routines do you have in place to make SEO an ongoing part of your marketing efforts? Please let us know in the comments!

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When you try to find SEO competitors you may discover they aren’t who you expect.

SEO competitors are competing for search traffic by targeting the same keywords. This means they’re going after the same audience. But, they may not have the same product.

It is likely that your SEO competitors will differ from the companies you normally consider to be your competitors.

We’re going to go through a process to find your SEO competitors without using any paid tools. If you already have a paid competitor analysis tool, great! You should use it. But, if you don’t have the budget for a paid tool yet that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck.

While using this process, track your competitor research on a spreadsheet. Here is a template you can use: Google Sheets SEO Competitor Template

How can you find your SEO competitors?

The best place to find your SEO competitors is on Google.

Perform a search on Google with one of your targeted keywords. (I’d recommend using your browser in incognito mode so the results aren’t personalized.)

The websites that rank on the first page of Google for the keyword you want to target are your SEO competitors. This method will allow you to identify both your paid and organic competitors.

Here are the steps to identify your SEO competitors using Google:

  1. Go to Google.com and perform a search with one of your targeted keywords.
  2. Review the results on the first page.
  3. Track the organic competitors on a spreadsheet. The organic listings are the standard (non-paid) blue links. List all of the organic websites found on page 1.
    • Optional: If you want to track paid competitors as well, start a new tab on your spreadsheet. List all websites that appear on page 1 of Google with an ad.
  4. Repeat the process with another one of your targeted keywords.

Analyze Your SEO Competitors

Once you know who your competitors are, you should analyze a few key metrics to get a better understanding of how you can compete.

If you have a paid tool such as SEMrush or Ahrefs, use it to analyze the competitors. Since we’re focusing on free methods, we won’t go into the details to use those tools. But, it’s great to utilize all of the resources you have available.

You can use Ubersuggest to get a ton of competitor metrics at no cost. Go to Ubersuggest and one by one, enter the URLs on your SEO competitors spreadsheet.

For each competitor, track their domain score, number of backlinks, number or organic keywords, and organic monthly traffic. All of this data can be found in Ubersuggest.

Remember to get the same metrics for your domain as well. That way you can compare and identify what areas need improvement.

In addition to Ubersuggest, you can get competitor metrics using the free version of the MozBar.

Some metrics you may want to consider including in your spreadsheet from the MozBar are:

  • Page Load Time
  • Domain Authority
  • External Followed Links
  • Linking Root Domains
  • Total Links

Analyze Competitor Keywords

Using Ubersuggest you can review the keywords your competitors receive traffic from. Go to Keywords under Traffic Analyzer. Scroll down and click Export to CSV.

Create a new tab in your spreadsheet to track the keyword data you export.

To import the keyword data into Google Sheets:

  1. Navigate to the tab you are using to collect the keyword data.
  2. Go to File > Import.
  3. Click Upload and then select or drag the file into the window.
  4. Under Import location choose Append to current sheet. Leave the other settings at default and click Import data.
  5. If this is not the first time you’ve done an import to this tab, scroll down to the new header and delete the row. (Keep the header from the first import at the top, any others are unnecessary.)

You’ll want to export the keyword data for each competitor and add it to your keyword data tab. As long as you choose the setting to append the data it will add it to the bottom of the list.

Once you have the data, you can analyze it with a pivot table.

Use a pivot table to easily make sense of the data. Set the keyword as your rows. Set the count of keywords as your primary value and use it to sort your table in a descending order.

This allows you to identify the keywords that multiple competitors are leveraging to drive organic traffic.

Add more values and adjust your sort to get more keyword ideas.

Here are the values that can help you make informed decisions:

  • Count of Keyword (number of competitors that receive traffic from that keyword)
  • Sum of Estimated Visits (total combined traffic competitors receive from that keyword)
  • Max of Volume (the average monthly search volume that keyword receives)
  • Max of SEO Difficulty (how competitive the keyword is)

Review Platforms Competitors Leverage

In addition to your competitor analysis spreadsheet, take a look at your competitors to see which platforms they leverage that you may be able to take advantage of.

Local

Do they have a Google My Business listing? If you perform a search in Google do they have a local listing.

Social

What social platforms are they on? Check Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest. How active are they on these platforms? Do they just have a profile or do they actively post and engage with an audience. How large is their audience?

Video

Do they have a YouTube channel? How many subscribers do they have? How often do they post a video?

Podcast

Do they have a podcast? How often do they post a new episode? What topics do they cover?

Find out what your competitors are doing and what’s working for them. Then figure out what you’re missing. Does your competitor’s strategy make sense for your audience and business goals? If so, come up with a plan to implement it.

How do you like to track your competitors? What competitor metrics do you find most useful when analyzing SEO competitors? Let us know in the comments!

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The Google Analytics Search Console integration allows marketers to get a more complete picture of organic search traffic. Combining the data and metrics from Google Search Console and Google Analytics makes it easier to make informed content decisions.

Let’s walk through exactly how to integrate these two tools.

Step 1: Create a Google Search Console Account

Before you can connect a Search Console account to Google Analytics, you need to add your website to Google Search Console. Review our guide to setup a Google Search Console account if you don’t already have it configured.

You’ll need to add your website as a Search Console property and verify you own the domain. The guide above will walk you through that process.

Step 2: Link Search Console Property in Google Analytics

  1. Click the gear icon to navigate to the Admin panel.
  2. Under Property click on All Products in the Product Linking section.
  3. Scroll down until you see Search Console and click Link Search Console.
  4. Click Add.
  5. Select the Search Console property you want to associate with the Google Analytics property and click Save.

You can only have one website connected with each Google Analytics property. If you need to, you can change the Google Search Console property. To change it, follow the steps above. But, when you get to step 3, you will click Adjust Link. The rest of the process is the same.

What Search Console Data Gets Pulled to Google Analytics?

When you integrate Search Console with Analytics you’ll be able to see search query, landing page, country, and device as dimensions. You’ll be able to see average position, impressions, and clicks as metrics.

And the best part, you’ll be able to see the standard Google Analytics metrics such as bounce rate with the Search Console dimensions.

When can you see the data and for how long?

  • Google Search Console keeps data for 16 months. This same range will be applied to the Search Console data shown in Google Analytics.
  • There is a 48 hour delay before Search Console data will display in Google Analytics.
  • When connected, historical data is pulled through. The data will go back to how old the Google Analytics property is or how old the Search Console verification date is, whichever one is the most recent.

Integrating these tools will allow you to make better use of the data. Combining multiple tools into one place is not only a time-saver but also provides deeper insight.

Have you connected Search Console with Google Analytics? What Search Console report do you find you use most often in Google Analytics?

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