Search marketers normally focus on optimizing for Google. Since Google has a large percentage of the search engine traffic share, that makes sense. But, how do you rank on Bing? If you optimize for Google will that automatically rank you well on Bing too? And does it even matter? Let’s discuss what you need to know about how to rank on Bing.
Does Bing Matter?
Before we talk about how to rank on Bing, let’s talk about if ranking on Bing even matters. Most marketers focus only on Google because most searches happen on Google. But how big of a share does Bing have?
According to ComScore, Bing (Microsoft Sites) has about 25% of the share for desktop searches. Now, that is specific to desktop. And mobile Bing searches are drastically lower than desktop. But still, 25% of desktop shares is a big enough piece of the pie to matter.
This share might be larger than expected. Bing not only powers the search results on Bing, but they are also used for Yahoo search results.
So, Bing not only has a decent chunk of the market share, but there is also less competition. If you start focusing some effort towards Bing you may find the traffic converts better than Google. The search engines both have different demographics so the traffic you receive from the search engines will not be equal. It’s worth seeing if the Bing audience converts better or worse on your website than the traffic you receive from Google. (Towards the end of the article we’ll go over how to view how much traffic you get from each search engine in Google Analytics.)
Start By Listening to Bing
Bing provides a few options to make it easier to understand how they rank content.
Bing Webmaster Guidelines
The first, are the Bing Webmaster Guidelines. This is a pretty short read. It is a concise overview on some of the most important ranking factors and on-page elements Bing takes into consideration when ranking websites.
It’s good to review the guidelines so you have a clear understanding of what is important to Bing.
Bing Webmaster Tools
Next, are the Bing Webmaster Tools. You’ll want to setup and monitor the Bing Webmaster Tools. This is a portal Bing provides to website owners at no cost that has a ton of free information and tools.
It provides data specific to your website and has a ton of useful tools. It has a tool to submit your sitemap to Bing, an SEO analyzer to identify SEO improvements on a page-by-page basis, and lists out any crawl errors. You can even use it to submit URLs to Bing that you want indexed. It also notifies you of suspicious activity or security issues.
This is the best way for Bing to get in direct contact with you. If there is an issue with your website preventing you from ranking as well as you could be, this is where they are going to tell you about it.
The other nice option about the Bing Webmaster Tools is it not only allows Bing to communicate with you, but you can also contact them. There is a help menu at the top (question mark icon) with a link to contact support.
This will allow you to send them an email with a specific question. Now, if your question is generic and can be answered with their support forum you probably won’t get a response. But, if you have a question specific to your account this is a great option.
Create Content for Searchers, Not Search Engines
Before we worry about the specific ranking factors, we should remember to always create content for searchers, not search engines. This comes directly from the Bing Webmaster Guidelines, but it applies to every search engine.
Whether you want to rank on Google or Bing, your best bet is to provide the best value possible for your target audience. This is how you’ll see long-term SEO success. Search engines want to provide the best experience possible for their audience, and if your website helps accomplish their goals, then you’ll rank higher.
Instead of trying to take advantage of every new trend to rank higher, think about how you can provide the best content and experience for your reader. Then, as search engine algorithms change, your website will only get ranked higher and higher. You won’t need to worry as much about changes and new trends.
Bing Ranking Factors and Differences from Google
User engagement is the primary focus for Bing and their strongest ranking factors are based on engagement. Those factors include pogosticking, social, and site authority. There are several other factors that play a role as well. We’ll go over some of the most important Bing ranking factors and how they vary from Google.
One of the important metrics used to determine engagement is referred to as pogosticking. This is when a user clicks your link in the search results, visits your site, but then immediately clicked back to the search results page and selected the next response. When this happens, the search engine decides the page did not match the search query in a way that was helpful to the user. If that happens often, the page will start to rank lower. This behavior is something Google monitors as well.
The best way to monitor this behavior on your website is by looking at your bounce rate metric.
Bing has made it clear that social networks do play a role in their ranking algorithm. (Google claims social has no impact on their rankings.) Bing has also made it clear that trying to game the system will not help you. They have a system in place to gauge influence. So, by using social networks in a natural manner and building your following over time, you can positively impact Bing rankings as well.
Bing places high value on site authority. They look at factors such as the age of the domain and the name, brand, or keywords in a domain. Google looks more at the authority of each individual page whereas Bing looks more at the site as a whole. The Page Rank metric was actually created by Google and is completely irrelevant on Bing.
Bing prefers exact keyword usage more than Google. Both in the site content and as the text in links. Google uses synonyms interchangeably but exact keyword usage still plays a role in the Bing ranking algorithm.
Bing does want your site to be mobile friendly. It doesn’t use a mobile first index like Google does, but it does still factor into your ranking.
And just like in Google, page speed does matter. However, Bing doesn’t believe the user experience should be jeopardized to improve page speed. You won’t be penalized on Bing for having a 4 second load time instead of a 1 second load time if the experience the site visitor gets on the website is ideal.
Where to Review Bing Data
You can review your Bing data in Google Analytics and the Bing Webmaster Tools.
In Google Analytics go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels. Then, click on Source at the top above the data table. This will list out each search engine as a source. You may see Google, Bing, and Yahoo listed.
Bing Webmaster Tools
You can also see data directly in the Bing Webmaster Tools. Once you login, just click on Search Performance. This will show you your search impressions, clicks, average click-through-rate (CTR), and average position.
If you want to compare the data found in Bing Webmaster Tools to Google, you can log in to your Google Search Console account. In the Performance tab in Google Search Console you’ll see the same metrics listed. This will allow you to easily compare the data.
For the most part, if you’re focused on optimizing for your target audience, your search rankings will increase in both Bing and Google. But, knowing the differences and how you can improve your Bing rankings can help you get an advantage over your competition.
Do you focus on optimizing for Bing or only Google? Do you plan to change that in the future? Please share in the comments!
Do you want to listen to this article? Here’s the podcast episode:
So, you have a blog and you want some more traffic. You’ve heard SEO is a good way to get traffic to your blog. But, you don’t know how, you don’t have a team, and you don’t have a budget to outsource it. Can you do it yourself? The short answer is yes. Let’s go over how to do SEO yourself, even if you’ve never done it before.
Is it hard to do SEO yourself?
If you haven’t done SEO before and you’re starting at the very beginning, it will be as hard as learning any other skill. You will be able to do it, there is a place to start. Just like any other skill, as you continue to learn about SEO, it will become easier and you will be able to do more and more of the SEO tasks that you once considered to be hard.
It has a learning curve just like any other skill. The good news is it isn’t too steep. You don’t have to be scared to start. And you don’t have to be a master to see results. Do what you feel comfortable doing, it will be better than nothing. There’s no reason to overwhelm yourself with advanced SEO tactics until you feel comfortable with the basics.
Here are six steps you can follow to do SEO yourself.
Step 1: Know Your Audience
First off, you need to know who you’re talking to. To do this, create a persona. Really, this should be done before you even begin your blog, but if you haven’t done it already, just do it now.
Creating a persona helps you form a story to better understand your target audience. It allows you to visualize exactly who your website is for.
This will help you create and optimize your content for a specific person. Your SEO will be more effective if you are targeting a particular type of person. Not only does this benefit SEO, it will help the entire process.
Your blogs will resonate with the right people because you are speaking directly to them. Then, that person will sign up for your email list because the lead magnet is exactly what they need. Later, when you have a product or service to sell them, they will buy because it is the exact item they need to solve their original problem that brought them to your site initially.
Having a clear picture of exactly who you’re talking to will help align the content with the goal.
Step 2: Have a Content Plan
Content is going to be an important piece of SEO. You need content in order to optimize it for SEO. You need content pages for search engines to display in the results. And, you need content so your website stays current and continues to help your readers.
You need to post on a regular basis. Posting on a regular basis will help grow your website traffic and make it easier for your readers to know when they can expect a new article.
How often you post depends on your availability and what you can commit to. If you can, add a new post weekly. If that’s too much for your schedule then do every other week or monthly. If you have enough time for daily posts, great!
If you can’t post weekly, that’s okay. It just will take longer to see results. Being consistent is important so choose a schedule that makes sense for you and stick to it.
When you’ve decided on a frequency (weekly, monthly, etc.) choose a specific day of the week and time you will post. You want a specific plan. This is a benefit to your website and readers, and it helps hold you accountable when you have a clear deadline you need to meet.
Perform Keyword Research
When you’re creating your content, don’t just write whatever article comes to mind. Do keyword research to make sure you’re focusing on the ideas that are most likely to see success.
Keyword research will help you organize your brainstorm ideas in a productive manner. It provides a system to prioritize existing ideas while gathering new ideas.
Writing content takes time. That’s why you want to make sure you’re writing content on topics people are looking for.
Create a Content Calendar
The last step in creating a plan is a content calendar. So, you know how often you want to post and you have a list of keyword ideas. Create a content calendar to map it all out.
I like to do this with a spreadsheet. You can use a calendar or a text document if you prefer.
I normally create a spreadsheet with my post dates in the left hand column. Then next to that is the keyword or topic for the article and then I add all of the data from my keyword research in the following columns.
I like to plan out through the quarter as a minimum but sometimes I’ll plan it out all the way up to a year. Just add in the dates you are planning for, then map your keyword ideas to the dates that make sense. This lets you adjust for holidays and seasonal articles.
You don’t have to stick to everything in your calendar. Things change and it’s good to be flexible. But having a content calendar gives you a great place to start and speeds up your process. It allows you to get started on the next article as soon as you’re ready.
Step 3: On-Page Optimizations
You want to have a basic understanding of the on-page optimizations that improve SEO. That way, when you’re writing your blog posts you can add these optimizations as part of your original post.
It will save you time so you aren’t later reviewing your articles to determine how to improve them for SEO. And once you’ve done it a few times, it becomes a very natural process and the SEO updates can appear as natural and authentic additions to your article. And that is exactly how you want them to be for long-term SEO success.
Here are the on-page optimizations you want to be aware of.
Make sure you have your keyword in the title tag. The closer to the beginning of the title the better.
If you’re using WordPress, this will probably be the post title field.
To confirm what text you have in your title tag:
View the page on your website
Right click and select View page source
Use Find (ctrl+F) to search for <title>
The text directly after that tag is your title
<title>This is Your Title</title>
You want to add your keyword to the meta description as well. For information on how to do this view the full article on meta descriptions.
You also want to add the keyword within the body of the article. Specifically you want it to be in the H1 tag, first paragraph and subheadings.
The H1 tag is the primary header on the page. You can check to see what text is in your H1 tag the same way you checked to see what text was in your title tag. But instead of searching for <title>, you search for <h1>. The text between <h1> and </h1> is your H1 tag.
You can also view this by looking at the code for your post in your admin panel. In the interface where you add your blog articles, if you view the post code, you should be able to see what text is in the H1 tag.
You want to include your keyword somewhere in the first paragraph of your article. If this isn’t possible, then include it as close to the top as you can. You want the article to make sense for the readers. Don’t add a keyword for SEO purposes if it doesn’t also make sense for the readers.
Try and include the keyword in at least one subheading. The subheadings are in H2, H3, and H4 tags. You can find them the same way you found the H1 tag. And remember, keep the user in mind. Only add the keyword to subheadings when it makes sense for the reader.
If you can include the keyword in the URL, do it. If the article already has a different URL, or this is not easy to do with your system, then don’t worry about it.
For an easy reference with these on-page optimization tips, download the SEO Cheatsheet for bloggers.
Step 4: Add Internal Links
After you’ve published your article, make sure you add internal links. If you have any questions about how or why to do this you can view the complete guide on internal links.
You want to add internal links on your new article to any older relevant articles within the text of the post. And you also want to do the opposite. Add links to your new article on any older relevant articles.
You are using internal links to create a web. You are making it easier for readers and search engine spiders to navigate through your website. You always want to think of people first, if a link would benefit a reader, add it.
Step 5: Gather Data
Even if you don’t understand analytics yet, start collecting data. You’ll figure out what it all means soon enough.
The data in Google Analytics will start being collected when you install the tracking tag. You will not have any data from before that tag was set up on your website. So start collecting now and worry about what it all means later.
It will be better to have the data so you can make informed decisions when you’re ready.
Whether you subscribe to an email digest, listen to a podcast, or follow some SEO related blogs, you need to have a plan to make sure you’re aware of any big upcoming changes. Here are my favorite marketing resources to stay up to date.
Bonus: Use ClearPath Online
This is a bit of a shameless brag, but another great way to do SEO yourself is to use ClearPath Online. Full disclosure, this is our product and normally our blogs offer free support and advice with no selling. This felt like an important message to add though since it could be a big benefit.
If you want to do SEO yourself, but you need a task list that tells you what to do, when, and how; that is exactly what ClearPath Online does. It breaks down SEO tasks into manageable action items with step-by-step directions.
Instead of staying updated with SEO changes yourself and juggling which tasks you did last and what you need to do next, it takes care of all of that. The system is preloaded with everything you need to do.
The most important part about doing SEO yourself is to start now! It’s a process that takes time. No matter which route you decide to take to get started, do it and it will become easier and more beneficial as time goes on.
Are you ready to start doing SEO yourself? If not, what’s stopping you? Let us know in the comments!
Do you want to listen to this article? Here’s the podcast episode:
SEO is always changing. And you have limited time. How can you make sure your time is spent focusing on the SEO tactics that matter most? Here are four simple ways you can stay up to date with SEO trends.
1. Follow Industry News
The first tip to stay current on SEO tactics, is to follow SEO industry news. You can subscribe to marketing resources to hear the latest changes.
You can find this information in whatever medium you find easiest to consume. You can get SEO news from blogs, podcasts, and email digests. To find links to my favorite marketing news sources, view the full digital marketing resource guide.
The key here is to subscribe to only enough sources to stay informed, not overwhelmed. If you aren’t sure how much marketing news you can add to your current routine, start small. Choose one blog or one podcast or one email digest to follow. Then, start to add more as you find the time.
If you instead follow as much as possible and start to feel overwhelmed, you will end up ignoring all of it.
They are free tools, and there is no reason not to sign up and start benefiting from the extra data and communication.
3. Use a DIY SEO Tool
Another way to stay up to date on SEO trends is to leverage a tool. You can use a DIY SEO tool (such as ClearPath Online) to follow SEO tasks for your website.
Instead of you spending time to figure out the best SEO tactic to tackle, a DIY SEO tool will guide you through every task step-by-step. And when a search engine algorithm changes and completely disrupts the standard SEO tactics, you don’t need to know.
You just keep following the tasks in the DIY SEO tool which update to reflect the newest trends. That way, you know you aren’t wasting time doing something that improved rankings a few years ago, but now can hurt rankings.
4. SEO Periodic Table
Lastly, you can download and reference the SEO Periodic Table. The SEO Periodic Table is a graphic created by Search Engine Land. It visually describes the most important SEO factors. They update it annually.
It’s nice to look at and provides a good overview of what’s important for SEO this year. It won’t keep you updated daily, but it’s still a nice overview of what is the most impactful for SEO this year.
No matter how you choose to do it, if you want to be successful with SEO, you’ll need to find a way to stay up to date with the latest SEO and digital marketing trends. Hopefully one, or multiple, of these methods will be able to help you do so.
What is your favorite way to stay up to date on SEO trends? Let us know in the comments!
Do you want to listen to this article? Here’s the podcast episode:
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.
To track your keywords, you can download the free Google Sheets template below.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
Do you want to listen to this article? Here’s the podcast episode:
Do you know who your search engine competitors are? 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.
Most likely, you’ll find that your SEO competitors are different than the companies you normally consider to be your competitors. Let’s go through a system you can use to determine exactly who your SEO competitors are.
We’ll use 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.
Download a free Google Sheets template below.
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:
Go to Google.com and perform a search with one of your targeted keywords.
Review the results on the first page.
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.
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 (Found under Page Analysis > General Attributes)
Domain Authority (Found under Page Analysis > Link Metrics)
External Followed Links (Found under Page Analysis > Link Metrics)
Linking Root Domains (Found under Page Analysis > Link Metrics)
Total Links (Found under Page Analysis > Link Metrics)
Once you have the metrics for your domain and your competitor domains, see how you compare. Is there an area where you are better or worse than your top competitors? Do you see where you can improve?
Analyze Competitor Keywords
Once you understand who your competitors are, you can dig deeper to gain more insights. One area where you can learn from competitors is keyword ideas. You can analyze competitor keywords to help trigger ideas for your own website.
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. You’ll have to log in to export the keywords, but the account is free.
Create a new tab in your spreadsheet to track the keyword data you export. (If you’re using the template, there’s already a tab prepared for Keyword Data.)
To import the keyword data into Google Sheets:
Navigate to the tab you are using to collect the keyword data.
Go to File > Import.
Click Upload and then select or drag the file into the window.
Under Import location choose Append to current sheet. Leave the other settings at default and click Import data.
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.
The pivot table is already configured in the ‘Organic Keywords’ tab of the Google Sheets template.
Download the template below.
The pivot table allows you to easily 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.
Do they have a Google My Business listing? If you perform a search in Google do they have a local listing.
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?
Do they have a YouTube channel? How many subscribers do they have? How often do they post a video?
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!
Do you want to listen to this article? Here’s the podcast episode:
Google Search Console provides a wealth of information about your website. It is the tool Google leverages to communicate with webmasters. Search Console can notify you of issues and allows you to make requests of Google. It even reports crawl errors. Let’s discuss how to fix crawl errors using the Index Coverage report in Google Search Console.
Finding the Index Coverage Report
To access the Index Coverage report navigate to the property (website) you want to view in Google Search Console. Under Index on the left hand menu, click on Coverage.
The Type of Data Included in the Index Coverage Report
The Index Coverage report will list out four categories of web pages found on your website. Pages with errors, valid pages with warnings, valid pages, and excluded pages.
Pages with Errors
The 1st Tab in the Index Coverage Report
The Error tab should be your highest priority in the Index Coverage report. This is where you’ll find crawl errors. This is the list you need to concentrate on first because these pages are not being indexed.
Valid Pages with Warnings
The 2nd Tab in the Index Coverage Report
These pages are being indexed but Google has identified a potential issue with the page.
The 3rd Tab in the Index Coverage Report
These are the pages currently indexed for your website. This list should steadily increase as your website grows.
The 4th Tab in the Index Coverage Report
These pages are not indexed, but that’s okay. These pages are duplicate or alternate versions of a page that is valid and already indexed.
So, How Do I Fix My Crawl Errors?
Now that we know where the Index Coverage report lives and what data it provides, let’s dig into fixing crawl errors.
Each of the four tabs (error, valid with warning, valid, and excluded) will group pages by a specific type. So, first choose one of the four tabs at the top and then click on a row at the bottom to view the full list of URLs.
The fix for each crawl error will vary depending on the particular type of error. Let’s go over how to fix the various types of issues you’ll find in the error tab.
Fixing Server Errors (5xx)
This error means that Google tried to crawl your site and received some type of 500 error. This was caused by an error at the server level.
The first thing you should do is try and access the page. If it loads for you the issue likely has already been resolved.
If the page is inaccessible try contacting your IT team or hosting company to see if there are any outages.
Fixing a Redirect Error
This error means that there is a broken redirect. This could mean there was a redirect loop or a redirect chain that was too long.
Redirect issues can eat through crawl budget which isn’t good for Google or your website.
Having a redirect in place is not an issue but make sure your redirect goes from point A to point B. Over time your site structure can change and sometimes redirects become longer. When this happens, you just need to clean up your redirects so there are no chains or loops.
Fixing this will vary depending on how the redirect was implemented in the first place.
If you use a CMS such as WordPress you may be utilizing a plugin to implement redirects. If that’s the case you just need to review the current redirects for the URL and clean them up so the redirect is as direct as possible.
If the redirect has been added to the .htaccess file you will need to contact your site admin to assist. To streamline this process have documentation ready with the original URL and the final URL you want the redirect to point to.
Fixing a Submitted URL Blocked by robots.txt
This means that there is a URL you have submitted (in your sitemap) that is being blocked by your robots.txt file. Google can’t index the URL because you have blocked it.
If you want it indexed, then open your robots.txt file. Find the line blocking the URL in question and remove it.
If you don’t want the URL indexed, then take a look at your sitemap.xml file. Find the URL, remove it, and you’ll be good to go.
Fixing a Submitted URL Marked ‘noindex’ Issue
Similar to the previous issue, you have submitted a URL (in your sitemap) but you have marked the URL as noindex either in the meta tag or HTTP header.
View the source code of the page and do a search (ctrl+F) for noindex. This should locate where the issue is on the page.
If you use the Yoast SEO plugin in WordPress you can control this setting under the Advanced tab.
Fixing a Submitted URL Seems to be a Soft 404 Issue
This means you submitted this URL (in your sitemap) but it didn’t get indexed because the page is likely a soft 404.
A soft 404 is what Google uses to identify a page that technically is not an error page (has a 200 status code) but the content makes it appear like it should return a 404 error page instead.
Review the page content. Is there a broken element? Does the page have thin content?
Either update the page, redirect it to a different relevant page, or remove it entirely so the URL goes to a 404 error page.
Fixing a Submitted URL Returns Unauthorized Request (401) Error
This error means you submitted a URL but the page requires credentials and Google can’t proceed.
You don’t want pages that require user logins to be indexed. The best fix for this error is to find out where on your website Google found the link and remove it. Start by reviewing your sitemap.xml file.
Fixing a Submitted URL Not Found (404) Error
This means the URL you submitted for indexing does not exist, and therefore can not be indexed.
If the URL should exist, then check the page. There is likely a type-o in the actual URL or submitted URL. Add a 301 redirect so both versions exist.
If the URL should not exist then find where Google found the link on your website and remove it. Start by checking the sitemap.xml file.
Fixing a Submitted URL has Crawl Issue
You can troubleshoot the error by using the URL Inspection tool in Google Search Console.
How to Tell Google You’ve Fixed the Issue
Go through the errors one type at a time. Review and fix each reported URL in the type list. Once completed, click Validate Fix at the top of the error type page.
This will notify Google that you believe all reported page errors for this error type have been corrected. This will begin their process to confirm the fix and get those pages indexed!
These errors should be a top priority. Once they’re fixed it’s good to continue moving through the tabs and fixing any other potential problems.
Fixing the Warnings
Under the Valid with warnings section you’ll find one type of issue: Indexed, though blocked by robots.txt.
You’ll want to address these because even though the page is indexed, it’s going to be a sub-optimal display in the search results page. Google won’t be able to pull the meta information to include in the search snippet.
If the page should not be indexed, then add a noindex meta tag to the page.
Now we’ve addressed both the errors and warnings. Let’s move on to the valid pages to make sure everything is optimal.
Optimizing Valid Pages
The report under the Valid tab separates the pages into two types. The pages are either submitted and indexed or indexed, not submitted in sitemap.
For pages in the submitted and indexed category your work is done. There is no further action needed. You submitted a page, it was indexed. Done.
For pages in the indexed, not submitted in sitemap category you can take another step to optimize these. Google found these but you could have made it easier for them.
Add these pages to your sitemap. It makes it easier for Google which will only help you. It can increase the crawl frequency which could have an impact on rankings.
Review the Excluded Pages
Now all of the errors and warnings are fixed, plus the valid pages are configured optimally. Let’s just review the excluded pages list to make sure everything looks right.
This list will list pages that have been excluded in robots.txt and with the noindex meta tag. It will also include duplicate pages.
Same as with the other tabs, you can click on any row to view a complete list of pages that fall under each type.
Reviewing this Index Coverage report on a regular basis will keep you on top of any crawl errors so you can fix them and get every page indexed.
Do you have any strategies you like to use when reviewing the Index Coverage report? Let us know in the comments!
Staying on top of technical SEO must-dos can get overwhelming; especially for a non-technical person. Maintaining your website is important, but what should you do about 404 error pages? Do 404 errors hurt SEO? Let’s dig into the 404 error details that matter when it comes to SEO.
Short Answer is No — But it’s Complicated
No, 404 error pages do not have a direct impact search rankings for your website. Every webpage has 404 error pages, they are a normal and expected part of your website.
If you go to your website and then append any random phrase to the end of the URL you will likely get a 404 error page. This is the proper result for the action since it’s unlikely there was a relevant page for your random phrase. Search engines understand this and do not penalize for it.
Your 404 Error Page Will Not Rank — But Your Website Will Not Be Impacted
Just to be clear, if the page you are trying to rank does not exist and returns a 404 error, than it will not be indexed by search engines. It seems like this would go without saying but a page needs to exist to be ranked.
However, merely having 404 error pages will not negatively impact the SEO performance of your website as a whole.
404 error pages can affect link equity and user experience. These are the problems you want to pay attention to regarding 404 error pages as they can negatively impact your SEO efforts.
Broken Links Can Hurt SEO
If you have links pointing to a 404 error page than your website now has a broken link. Whether the 404 error page is on your website or a different website you want to fix this.
Having a broken link on your website is a bad user experience. The 404 page itself won’t cause SEO issues, but if you link to it you can create SEO problems.
I like to periodically test my website to see if there are any broken links. A good tool you can use to search for any broken links is Broken Link Check. Run a scan and review the list. Remove or replace any broken link on your website.
Ensure Your 404 Error Page Offers a Good User Experience
Just because the user got to a 404 error page doesn’t mean you want them to go away. Create a custom 404 error page so you can make the user experience as good as possible.
Add a call-to-action (CTA) to your 404 page to make it easy for users to continue. Most likely, your CTA will direct users to your homepage. But, you may have a search page or category page that makes more sense for your website.
Blank Pages Can Be Indexed If They Don’t Return a 404
If a page loads successfully (200 status code instead of 404) it can be indexed by search engines. It is possible that certain elements don’t load correctly and you essentially have a blank page.
Google classifies these as soft 404s. They are not technically 404 pages but they have broken elements that require attention.
If you want to check to see the status code of a webpage (404 vs 200) you can use the URL inspection tool in the Google Search Console.
To view the status code in Google Search Console:
Enter the URL in the URL inspection tool.
Click View Crawled Page.
Click the More Info tab on the crawled page panel.
The HTTP Response section will indicate the code.
Add Redirects for Common 404 Errors
If you have other websites sending traffic your way you don’t want to miss that opportunity. Yet, sometimes websites accidentally type the URL incorrectly and then you have potential users going to an error page.
If you notice this happening, you can either contact the website and ask them to update the link or you can add a redirect. Chances are a redirect will be the simpler choice.
You don’t want to redirect a 404 error page to your homepage or a different generic or irrelevant location. But, if there is a clear page that users would want to land on when that URL is entered than add a redirect to optimize the experience.
If you find 404 errors for pages that you have a relevant existing page, then add a redirect. If the page is truly no longer there or never existed and not related to your website, then just ignore it. There is nothing wrong with having some 404 errors when they make sense.
Finding 404 Errors in Google Search Console
To find 404 error pages in Google Search Console go to Index > Coverage. Then, look at the pages listed under the Error tab.
Finding 404 Errors in Bing Webmaster Tools
To find 404 error pages in Bing Webmaster Tools go to Reports & Data > Crawl Information. The tab selected by default on that page lists the 400 errors so you will see any 404 errors listed at the bottom of the page.
404 error pages alone won’t hurt your SEO. But, the user experience is always important. So, make sure your 404 page guides the user to the right place and fix any broken links.
Do you have a custom 404 error page? What did you do to try and optimize the user experience? Please share in the comments!