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To disavow or not? Getting it right, 10 years later.

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To disavow or not? Getting it right, 10 years later.

To disavow or not Getting it right 10 years later

Google’s disavow links tool launched nearly a decade ago, on October 16, 2012.  As we approach the tenth anniversary, webmasters still have confusion and disagreement regarding how to approach a link analysis and properly use backlink data when considering a disavow.  A lot has changed since 2012!  

Whether you’re disavowing as a preventative measure or a means to recover your rankings, we’ll review current-day approaches to take based on our experience disavowing links over the past decade.  

Let’s begin by answering who likely doesn’t need a disavow, and that’s most of you.  If you’ve stuck with natural link acquisition and SEO traffic is on the rise, a link disavow is unlikely to help.  This is especially true if your site already has a relatively small number of backlinks or is in a less competitive vertical.  Submitting a disavow can even hurt the rankings of otherwise healthy websites if the tool isn’t used wisely.

Consider analyzing your backlinks and submitting a disavow if:

  1. You have an “unnatural links” notice in Google Search Console and corresponding manual action.
  2. You know unnatural links were acquired to your website, either recently or at any time in the past. Even links from years ago can come back to bite you as Google continues mapping out artificial link networks.
  3. You’ve experienced unexplainable traffic/ranking loss or traffic loss near the time of a known Google link-based update or core algorithm update. Similarly, traffic may be flat over long periods of otherwise strong on-page SEO and content creation initiatives, and you suspect off-page factors may be the reason why.
  4. You see a lot of new spammy links pointing to your website regularly and may be the target of a negative SEO attack.
  5. You don’t fully trust the algorithm and want to get a better understanding of your current link profile and level of risk.

Links from scrapers and other obvious spam are likely to get filtered out and ignored by Google, providing no value but also not counting against you. Nearly all websites have them, and you can usually ignore these yourself or include them in your disavow if you’re worried. But links from known link sellers and link networks can become a big problem. Frequent link-building tactics necessitating a link disavow include:

  • Buying guest blog posts or “sponsored content” without the appropriate link attributes. 
  • Buying links with a guaranteed minimum level of “authority.” 
  • Buying links from a list of sites that have varying pricing for placement.
  • Obtaining keyword-rich anchor links pointing directly to SEO landing pages. 
  • Buying links at all, for that matter, especially from anyone offering pre-selected placements.

Compiling your backlinks & properly analyzing them

For an advanced SEO looking for the most comprehensive look and their link data, merging multiple datasets (Google Search Console, Ahrefs, Moz, Majestic, Semrush, and so on) will paint the most complete picture of your backlink profile.  For the rest of you, hiring a professional to help is the best path forward for the rest of you – a second reminder that disavowing can do more harm than good if not fully confident in your approach. Should you choose to do it alone, downloading the links provided in Google Search Console will likely suffice, even if they’re only showing a small “sampling” of your overall link profile.

Once your link data is obtained, you’ll have to make some decisions on how to analyze your backlinks. Most webmasters take shortcuts, relying on software to tell them how “authoritative” or “toxic” a link might be. This is a quick but dangerous way to compile links for your disavow.  

Although convenient, we do not recommend relying on:

  1. Third-party link metrics from SEO software listing the “authority,” “trust,” or “rating” of your links. These scores better represent a site’s ability to rank itself than its ability to pass link equity (or harm) to you. None of the companies who provide these metrics are Google, Google doesn’t use their data, their scoring is based on their unique & often limited crawl, their data and link values all vary from each other, and they generally don’t consider if a website which links to you has disavowed any of its own links or has been penalized by Google for selling links. Ironically, many penalized sites will receive a high “authority,” “trust score,” or “rating” due to the quantity of their (spammy) backlinks, and these are certainly not sites you’d want a link from!
  1. Blindly pasting any software’s “toxic” or “spam” link list into your disavow. We’ve seen webmasters rely on this all too often, leading to further traffic loss. A third reminder: a disavow can do more harm than good if completed improperly.
  2. Making decisions based on a linking site’s traffic levels. A link can be natural and relevant, even from a town library, local nonprofit, or hobbyist website. These sites likely have low traffic levels since they traditionally don’t rank for large amounts of commercial phrases. However, links from them are still natural & freely given to support your overall link profile. Don’t disavow these!

Instead, ask yourself:

  1. Does the site linking to you appear to be a good resource, put online to provide value to its audience? Is it maintained by someone who has subject-matter expertise or a strong interest in the topic at hand? Are they linking to you in a natural way, as an extension of their own content and compiled resources?  If so, this is likely a great link to have and one you won’t have to worry about causing issues.
  2. What does the linking site’s link neighborhood itself look like? Are the backlinks natural, or do they appear manipulated for SEO purposes?  Are the external links throughout the website there to provide more information about the topic being discussed and consistent with the site’s theme? If the site’s internal & external links pass the smell test, you’re likely safe to exclude this link from your disavow file.
  1. Is the website linking to you filled with varying content and many unrelated external links? Is it a blog you’ve never heard of with articles about everything, always linking out to a commercial website within each article?  Links from sites fitting this pattern are likely in a link network or database, can potentially be harmful to your SEO performance, and were a primary target of Google’s link spam update last summer. You’ll want to consider links from websites fitting this mold for your disavow, especially if they’ve never sent you any direct traffic via someone actually clicking on your link.

Preventative or reactionary analysis & disavow frequency

Like most SEO efforts, staying on top of your link profile is rarely a one & done initiative and more often resembles a game of cat & mouse, depending on the scenario. If your website and its traffic levels are healthy and growing, revisiting your backlink profile can be done on a less frequent basis. Semi-annually or yearly may be appropriate depending on your level of concern.

A preventative disavow may make sense in this situation; if troubles arise, Google is months behind on reconsideration requests, and that’s not a situation you want to find yourself in.  Always remember that links are really hard to get and a primary part of Google’s ranking equation, so being conservative with a disavow here is usually the best approach.

On the other hand, webmasters may find it worthwhile to review their backlinks and update their disavow files more regularly if they’ve been affected by manual action or link-based updates in the past, or they suspect they are being targeted by a negative SEO campaign. More frequent revisions can help ensure you’re ahead of the algorithm when disassociating yourself with links that have the potential to cause issues in the near or long term.  

Final thoughts

From its early days a decade ago, Google’s disavow links tool has remained an often misunderstood part of its Search Console for webmasters. From initially being needed solely as a response to 2012’s “Penguin” algorithm rollout and as a way to resolve manual actions, its use cases have evolved for both preventative and reactionary scenarios. Likewise, the way webmasters review their links for a variety of purposes has changed over the past decade. 

Regardless of your need to visit the disavow tool, it’s important to keep in mind how earning natural, trusted links can be one of the biggest SEO growth drivers, directly contributing to traffic and ranking increases over time. Safe & effective link earning reduces risks in your backlink profile and helps avoid the need for disavowing at all. 


About The Author

1643781386 137 To disavow or not Getting it right 10 years later
Internet Marketing Ninjas is a leading digital agency specializing in SEO strategy, link building, content marketing, and site speed optimization. Led by industry veteran Jim Boykin since 1999, IMN’s team of 50 is based in Upstate New York and brings nearly 400 years of combined experience helping their clients improve search rankings and increase organic traffic from Google.


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How to Increase Survey Completion Rate With 5 Top Tips

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How to Increase Survey Completion Rate With 5 Top Tips

Collecting high-quality data is crucial to making strategic observations about your customers. Researchers have to consider the best ways to design their surveys and then how to increase survey completion, because it makes the data more reliable.

→ Free Download: 5 Customer Survey Templates [Access Now]

I’m going to explain how survey completion plays into the reliability of data. Then, we’ll get into how to calculate your survey completion rate versus the number of questions you ask. Finally, I’ll offer some tips to help you increase survey completion rates.

My goal is to make your data-driven decisions more accurate and effective. And just for fun, I’ll use cats in the examples because mine won’t stop walking across my keyboard.

Why Measure Survey Completion

Let’s set the scene: We’re inside a laboratory with a group of cat researchers. They’re wearing little white coats and goggles — and they desperately want to know what other cats think of various fish.

They’ve written up a 10-question survey and invited 100 cats from all socioeconomic rungs — rough and hungry alley cats all the way up to the ones that thrice daily enjoy their Fancy Feast from a crystal dish.

Now, survey completion rates are measured with two metrics: response rate and completion rate. Combining those metrics determines what percentage, out of all 100 cats, finished the entire survey. If all 100 give their full report on how delicious fish is, you’d achieve 100% survey completion and know that your information is as accurate as possible.

But the truth is, nobody achieves 100% survey completion, not even golden retrievers.

With this in mind, here’s how it plays out:

  • Let’s say 10 cats never show up for the survey because they were sleeping.
  • Of the 90 cats that started the survey, only 25 got through a few questions. Then, they wandered off to knock over drinks.
  • Thus, 90 cats gave some level of response, and 65 completed the survey (90 – 25 = 65).
  • Unfortunately, those 25 cats who only partially completed the survey had important opinions — they like salmon way more than any other fish.

The cat researchers achieved 72% survey completion (65 divided by 90), but their survey will not reflect the 25% of cats — a full quarter! — that vastly prefer salmon. (The other 65 cats had no statistically significant preference, by the way. They just wanted to eat whatever fish they saw.)

Now, the Kitty Committee reviews the research and decides, well, if they like any old fish they see, then offer the least expensive ones so they get the highest profit margin.

CatCorp, their competitors, ran the same survey; however, they offered all 100 participants their own glass of water to knock over — with a fish inside, even!

Only 10 of their 100 cats started, but did not finish the survey. And the same 10 lazy cats from the other survey didn’t show up to this one, either.

So, there were 90 respondents and 80 completed surveys. CatCorp achieved an 88% completion rate (80 divided by 90), which recorded that most cats don’t care, but some really want salmon. CatCorp made salmon available and enjoyed higher profits than the Kitty Committee.

So you see, the higher your survey completion rates, the more reliable your data is. From there, you can make solid, data-driven decisions that are more accurate and effective. That’s the goal.

We measure the completion rates to be able to say, “Here’s how sure we can feel that this information is accurate.”

And if there’s a Maine Coon tycoon looking to invest, will they be more likely to do business with a cat food company whose decision-making metrics are 72% accurate or 88%? I suppose it could depend on who’s serving salmon.

While math was not my strongest subject in school, I had the great opportunity to take several college-level research and statistics classes, and the software we used did the math for us. That’s why I used 100 cats — to keep the math easy so we could focus on the importance of building reliable data.

Now, we’re going to talk equations and use more realistic numbers. Here’s the formula:

Completion rate equals the # of completed surveys divided by the # of survey respondents.

So, we need to take the number of completed surveys and divide that by the number of people who responded to at least one of your survey questions. Even just one question answered qualifies them as a respondent (versus nonrespondent, i.e., the 10 lazy cats who never show up).

Now, you’re running an email survey for, let’s say, Patton Avenue Pet Company. We’ll guess that the email list has 5,000 unique addresses to contact. You send out your survey to all of them.

Your analytics data reports that 3,000 people responded to one or more of your survey questions. Then, 1,200 of those respondents actually completed the entire survey.

3,000/5000 = 0.6 = 60% — that’s your pool of survey respondents who answered at least one question. That sounds pretty good! But some of them didn’t finish the survey. You need to know the percentage of people who completed the entire survey. So here we go:

Completion rate equals the # of completed surveys divided by the # of survey respondents.

Completion rate = (1,200/3,000) = 0.40 = 40%

Voila, 40% of your respondents did the entire survey.

Response Rate vs. Completion Rate

Okay, so we know why the completion rate matters and how we find the right number. But did you also hear the term response rate? They are completely different figures based on separate equations, and I’ll show them side by side to highlight the differences.

  • Completion Rate = # of Completed Surveys divided by # of Respondents
  • Response Rate = # of Respondents divided by Total # of surveys sent out

Here are examples using the same numbers from above:

Completion Rate = (1200/3,000) = 0.40 = 40%

Response Rate = (3,000/5000) = 0.60 = 60%

So, they are different figures that describe different things:

  • Completion rate: The percentage of your respondents that completed the entire survey. As a result, it indicates how sure we are that the information we have is accurate.
  • Response rate: The percentage of people who responded in any way to our survey questions.

The follow-up question is: How can we make this number as high as possible in order to be closer to a truer and more complete data set from the population we surveyed?

There’s more to learn about response rates and how to bump them up as high as you can, but we’re going to keep trucking with completion rates!

What’s a good survey completion rate?

That is a heavily loaded question. People in our industry have to say, “It depends,” far more than anybody wants to hear it, but it depends. Sorry about that.

There are lots of factors at play, such as what kind of survey you’re doing, what industry you’re doing it in, if it’s an internal or external survey, the population or sample size, the confidence level you’d like to hit, the margin of error you’re willing to accept, etc.

But you can’t really get a high completion rate unless you increase response rates first.

So instead of focusing on what’s a good completion rate, I think it’s more important to understand what makes a good response rate. Aim high enough, and survey completions should follow.

I checked in with the Qualtrics community and found this discussion about survey response rates:

“Just wondering what are the average response rates we see for online B2B CX surveys? […]

Current response rates: 6%–8%… We are looking at boosting the response rates but would first like to understand what is the average.”

The best answer came from a government service provider that works with businesses. The poster notes that their service is free to use, so they get very high response rates.

“I would say around 30–40% response rates to transactional surveys,” they write. “Our annual pulse survey usually sits closer to 12%. I think the type of survey and how long it has been since you rendered services is a huge factor.”

Since this conversation, “Delighted” (the Qualtrics blog) reported some fresher data:

survey completion rate vs number of questions new data, qualtrics data

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The takeaway here is that response rates vary widely depending on the channel you use to reach respondents. On the upper end, the Qualtrics blog reports that customers had 85% response rates for employee email NPS surveys and 33% for email NPS surveys.

A good response rate, the blog writes, “ranges between 5% and 30%. An excellent response rate is 50% or higher.”

This echoes reports from Customer Thermometer, which marks a response rate of 50% or higher as excellent. Response rates between 5%-30% are much more typical, the report notes. High response rates are driven by a strong motivation to complete the survey or a personal relationship between the brand and the customer.

If your business does little person-to-person contact, you’re out of luck. Customer Thermometer says you should expect responses on the lower end of the scale. The same goes for surveys distributed from unknown senders, which typically yield the lowest level of responses.

According to SurveyMonkey, surveys where the sender has no prior relationship have response rates of 20% to 30% on the high end.

Whatever numbers you do get, keep making those efforts to bring response rates up. That way, you have a better chance of increasing your survey completion rate. How, you ask?

Tips to Increase Survey Completion

If you want to boost survey completions among your customers, try the following tips.

1. Keep your survey brief.

We shouldn’t cram lots of questions into one survey, even if it’s tempting. Sure, it’d be nice to have more data points, but random people will probably not hunker down for 100 questions when we catch them during their half-hour lunch break.

Keep it short. Pare it down in any way you can.

Survey completion rate versus number of questions is a correlative relationship — the more questions you ask, the fewer people will answer them all. If you have the budget to pay the respondents, it’s a different story — to a degree.

“If you’re paying for survey responses, you’re more likely to get completions of a decently-sized survey. You’ll just want to avoid survey lengths that might tire, confuse, or frustrate the user. You’ll want to aim for quality over quantity,” says Pamela Bump, Head of Content Growth at HubSpot.

2. Give your customers an incentive.

For instance, if they’re cats, you could give them a glass of water with a fish inside.

Offer incentives that make sense for your target audience. If they feel like they are being rewarded for giving their time, they will have more motivation to complete the survey.

This can even accomplish two things at once — if you offer promo codes, discounts on products, or free shipping, it encourages them to shop with you again.

3. Keep it smooth and easy.

Keep your survey easy to read. Simplifying your questions has at least two benefits: People will understand the question better and give you the information you need, and people won’t get confused or frustrated and just leave the survey.

4. Know your customers and how to meet them where they are.

Here’s an anecdote about understanding your customers and learning how best to meet them where they are.

Early on in her role, Pamela Bump, HubSpot’s Head of Content Growth, conducted a survey of HubSpot Blog readers to learn more about their expertise levels, interests, challenges, and opportunities. Once published, she shared the survey with the blog’s email subscribers and a top reader list she had developed, aiming to receive 150+ responses.

“When the 20-question survey was getting a low response rate, I realized that blog readers were on the blog to read — not to give feedback. I removed questions that wouldn’t serve actionable insights. When I reshared a shorter, 10-question survey, it passed 200 responses in one week,” Bump shares.

Tip 5. Gamify your survey.

Make it fun! Brands have started turning surveys into eye candy with entertaining interfaces so they’re enjoyable to interact with.

Your respondents could unlock micro incentives as they answer more questions. You can word your questions in a fun and exciting way so it feels more like a BuzzFeed quiz. Someone saw the opportunity to make surveys into entertainment, and your imagination — well, and your budget — is the limit!

Your Turn to Boost Survey Completion Rates

Now, it’s time to start surveying. Remember to keep your user at the heart of the experience. Value your respondents’ time, and they’re more likely to give you compelling information. Creating short, fun-to-take surveys can also boost your completion rates.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in December 2010 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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Take back your ROI by owning your data

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Treasure Data 800x450

Treasure Data 800x450

Other brands can copy your style, tone and strategy — but they can’t copy your data.

Your data is your competitive advantage in an environment where enterprises are working to grab market share by designing can’t-miss, always-on customer experiences. Your marketing tech stack enables those experiences. 

Join ActionIQ and Snowplow to learn the value of composing your stack – decoupling the data collection and activation layers to drive more intelligent targeting.

Register and attend “Maximizing Marketing ROI With a Composable Stack: Separating Reality from Fallacy,” presented by Snowplow and ActionIQ.


Click here to view more MarTech webinars.


About the author

Cynthia RamsaranCynthia Ramsaran

Cynthia Ramsaran is director of custom content at Third Door Media, publishers of Search Engine Land and MarTech. A multi-channel storyteller with over two decades of editorial/content marketing experience, Cynthia’s expertise spans the marketing, technology, finance, manufacturing and gaming industries. She was a writer/producer for CNBC.com and produced thought leadership for KPMG. Cynthia hails from Queens, NY and earned her Bachelor’s and MBA from St. John’s University.

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Revolutionizing Auto Retail: The Game-Changing Partnership Between Amazon and Hyundai

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Revolutionizing Auto Retail: The Game-Changing Partnership Between Amazon and Hyundai

Revolutionizing Auto Retail The Game Changing Partnership Between Amazon and Hyundai

In a groundbreaking alliance, Amazon and Hyundai have joined forces to reshape the automotive landscape, promising a revolutionary shift in how we buy, drive, and experience cars.

Imagine browsing for your dream car on Amazon, with the option to seamlessly purchase, pick up, or have it delivered—all within the familiar confines of the world’s largest online marketplace. Buckle up as we explore the potential impact of this monumental partnership and the transformation it heralds for the future of auto retail.

Driving Change Through Amazon’s Auto Revolution

Consider “Josh”, a tech-savvy professional with an affinity for efficiency. Faced with the tedious process of purchasing a new car, he stumbled upon Amazon’s automotive section. Intrigued by the prospect of a one-stop shopping experience, Josh decided to explore the Amazon-Hyundai collaboration.

The result?

A hassle-free online car purchase, personalized to his preferences, and delivered to his doorstep. Josh’s story is just a glimpse into the real-world impact of this game-changing partnership.

Bridging the Gap Between Convenience and Complexity

Traditional car buying is often marred by complexities, from navigating dealership lots to negotiating prices. The disconnect between the convenience consumers seek and the cumbersome process they endure has long been a pain point in the automotive industry. The need for a streamlined, customer-centric solution has never been more pressing.

1701235578 44 Revolutionizing Auto Retail The Game Changing Partnership Between Amazon and Hyundai1701235578 44 Revolutionizing Auto Retail The Game Changing Partnership Between Amazon and Hyundai

Ecommerce Partnership Reshaping Auto Retail Dynamics

Enter Amazon and Hyundai’s new strategic partnership coming in 2024—an innovative solution poised to redefine the car-buying experience. The trio of key developments—Amazon becoming a virtual showroom, Hyundai embracing AWS for a digital makeover, and the integration of Alexa into next-gen vehicles—addresses the pain points with a holistic approach.

In 2024, auto dealers for the first time will be able to sell vehicles in Amazon’s U.S. store, and Hyundai will be the first brand available for customers to purchase.

Amazon and Hyundai launch a broad, strategic partnership—including vehicle sales on Amazon.com in 2024 – Amazon Staff

This collaboration promises not just a transaction but a transformation in the way customers interact with, purchase, and engage with their vehicles.

Pedal to the Metal

Seamless Online Purchase:

  • Complete the entire transaction within the trusted Amazon platform.
  • Utilize familiar payment and financing options.
  • Opt for convenient pick-up or doorstep delivery.
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The Industry’s Most Comprehensive E-Commerce Marketing Certification For The Modern Marketer. Turn Products Into Profit, Browsers Into Buyers, & Past Purchasers Into Life-Long Customers

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Hyundai’s Cloud-First Transformation:

  • Experience a data-driven organization powered by AWS.
  • Benefit from enhanced production optimization, cost reduction, and improved security.

Alexa Integration in Next-Gen Vehicles:

  • Enjoy a hands-free, voice-controlled experience in Hyundai vehicles.
  • Access music, podcasts, reminders, and smart home controls effortlessly.
  • Stay connected with up-to-date traffic and weather information.

Driving into the Future

The Amazon-Hyundai collaboration is not just a partnership; it’s a revolution in motion. As we witness the fusion of e-commerce giant Amazon with automotive prowess of Hyundai, the potential impact on customer behavior is staggering.

The age-old challenges of car buying are met with a forward-thinking, customer-centric solution, paving the way for a new era in auto retail. From the comfort of your home to the driver’s seat, this partnership is set to redefine every step of the journey, promising a future where buying a car is as easy as ordering a package online.

Embrace the change, and witness the evolution of auto retail unfold before your eyes.


Revolutionizing Auto Retail The Game Changing Partnership Between Amazon and Hyundai

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