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10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive Analysis

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10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive Analysis

A successful search engine optimization strategy includes competitive analysis. The tools available today offer incredible value at generally reasonable fees.

They help users accomplish more in less time, and many may find that the tools are so useful that they essentially end up paying for themselves. Here are 10 popular SEO competitive analysis tools, their pricing, and how you can use them to bolster the success of your SEO strategy.

1. Semrush

  • Pricing: Plans start at $119.95 per month.

Semrush not only offers good data for search results analysis, but everything functions the way you expect it to – it’s that easy to use.

There is no need to read a manual to use Semrush’s SERP analysis tool.

Every link, button, and heading has a tooltip that explains what it is so that everything makes sense.

Semrush Tooltip Explains SERP Analysis Tool Data

Screenshot from Semrush, January 2023

Semrush Tooltip Explains Jargon

10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive AnalysisScreenshot from Semrush modified by author, January 2023

Semrush’s Authority Score is assigned to every URL listed in the SERP Analysis.

Like any third-party metric, the Authority Score is just a score based on factors like backlinks, traffic, and referring domains.

The metric makes it easy to make a quick judgment about a webpage without having to spend hours researching all of the factors for each webpage.

The research is already done; that’s what Semrush’s Authority Score is about.

That’s just one part of the Semrush SERP analysis, but it’s the part that is directly tied to competitor research.

Semrush is useful for researching competitor backlinks. The ease of use makes the workflow of researching links a pleasure.

There’s no need to read a manual. Everything is self-explanatory.

Starting an analysis consists of entering a domain name or an entire URL.

The resulting page shows various metrics that help you see the competition at a glance, literally.

There’s a graph that shows the growth of referring domains and also backlinks by year, which provides a quick idea of how aggressively they’re building links, organized by time.

10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive AnalysisScreenshot from Semrush modified by author, January 2023

Beneath that graph, there’s another visual representation of the backlinks organized by the categories of referring domains.

The categories are the general niche areas that the backlinks belong to.

10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive AnalysisScreenshot from Semrush, January 2023

When you click through a category, the tool presents a filter where you can add a word, a phrase, or a TLD, which means Top Level Domain (.net or .org), to find all the relevant links.

There’s also a drop-down menu for selecting “zones by TLD,” but I found that typing in the TLD works better.

Or you can get granular and click on the View Full Report button to see all of the categories in granular detail.

It’s easy to recommend Semrush because it truly is designed for researching competitors and for link building.

The tools for competitive research are easy to use and give a visual snapshot of their activities and offer a useful user interface for drilling down by category.

2. Ahrefs SERP Checker (Free And Paid)

  • Pricing: Free checker tool, then starts at $99 per month.

Ahrefs has a free SERP checker that shows the same SERP data as the paid version, only for just the first few positions.

The paid version has more data. But if you’re on a budget, the free version is a useful start.

Below is a screenshot of the SERP overview that lists featured snippets, people also ask, and the sitelinks enhancements.

This extra data gives a good overview of what the SERPs look like, plus page and domain rating metrics.

10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive AnalysisScreenshot from Ahrefs, December 2022

Here is a screenshot showing more data from the SERP analysis tool.

All of the column headings show a tooltip that explains what each column means.

10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive AnalysisScreenshot from Ahrefs, December 2022

Ahrefs is a solid choice for search results competitor analysis.

3. Serpstat

  • Pricing: Free version, then starts at $69 per month.

Serpstat is an affordably priced SEO platform that offers SERP analysis tools. It’s possible to sign up for free to test it out.

Serpstat is focused on analyzing the search results and is useful for Backlinks Analysis and Competitor Analysis.

4. SpyFu

  • Pricing: Free analysis tool, then starts at $39 per month (or $16 per month on an annual plan).

SpyFu is a very reasonably priced service that is dedicated specifically to competitive research and offers many useful features.

The benefit of the tool is that it generates all the data necessary for competitive research.

SpyFu basically takes the “research” part out of competitive research tasks and provides the data.

The SERP Analysis tool, which can be used for free, offers unique information, such as indicators that signal a website rises or drops in the search results.

10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive AnalysisScreenshot from SpyFu, January 2023

Another interesting feature is that it offers a Ranking Difficulty score, data on whether .gov or .edu sites are ranking, and the number of homepages that are ranking in the top 100 positions.

10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive AnalysisScreenshot from SpyFu modified by author, January 2023

SpyFu Backlinks Report

Another unique feature is how SpyFu identifies what it determines are the strongest webpages to get a link from.

Just enter a keyword phrase into the search box, and SpyFu searches the backlinks of the top 5,000 ranked sites, including for similar keyword phrases, and identifies all the backlinking domains that the ranked sites have in common.

Even better, SpyFu allows users to filter those webpages by backlink types.

The backlink types one can filter for are .gov/.edu/, sites with affiliate links, blogs, news sites, forums, and directories.

Filtering for forums reveals all the strongest forum backlinks, filtering for .edu domains shows the best .edu sites to get a link from, and so on.

Another cool feature is called Backlink Kombat.

10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive AnalysisScreenshot from SpyFu, January 2023

This tool allows you to enter two competitor domains and then exclude your own domain. It will then show you all the links the competitors have in common that your site does not.

I like using tools in creative ways to get even more or better data.

What I would suggest doing with the SpyFu Backlink Kombat tool is comparing sites that aren’t your direct competitors. This can help you discover opportunities you might not otherwise.

So if your topic is plumbers in City X, compare roofers in City X.

Competitor backlink research with SpyFu is incredibly easy. I would like the flexibility to filter by keywords (like Favorite Sites) or by TLD (to find .org or .us domains).

A limited amount of this data is free, and the complete data set is available to paid subscribers.

SpyFu is an interesting tool because it takes the extra step of presenting the data while minimizing research.

It’s easy to use, specific to competitor research, and reasonably priced.

5. Sandboxweb.io SERP Analysis Tool

  • Pricing: Free version, then pricing starts at $19 per month.

Sandboxweb.io offers a SERP analysis tool that provides data on top-ranked competitors.

This tool shows the schema types, Core Web Vitals data, and word counts.

You can click on each competitor in the SERP to research further.

The free version of this tool offers a lot of information. But it’s limited to 10 keywords per month.

The data is somewhat limited, but it does offer a quick analysis.

6. Screaming Frog

  • Pricing: Free version and a paid version at $209 per year.

Screaming Frog has a SERP analysis function. It’s not easy to use, but it’s not excessively difficult.

I’d like to see Screaming Frog make it easier to run this kind of analysis without getting technical.

If you take the time to figure it out, Screaming Frog can scrape the SERPs and provide analysis.

It’s also useful for analyzing competitors one at a time to get a sense of what sites they link to, how much content they have, interlinking patterns, headings used across the site, and many other competitor data points.

7. Inlinks

  • Pricing: Free version, then pricing starts at $39 per month.

Inlinks is a content optimization-focused tool that can extract relevant data points from search results and competitors.

Inlinks features a SERP analysis function that offers multiple data points about the sites in the search results, such as semantically related topics and user intent data.

The user intent data and topic suggestion features are quite unique.

There is also a Topic Analysis feature that provides competitors’ related topics and other data that is useful for creating content.

Other SERP Analysis tools look at the top 100 through the top 5,000 for their analyses.

But in my opinion, what really matters most are the top 10 search results because not every site in the top 100 or even the top 10 is a competitor.

So, I really appreciate that Inlinks’ SERP analysis tool focuses on the top 10.

The Inlinks SERP analysis tool offers data on the following:

  • Topic density.
  • Internal and external link counts.
  • Readability scores.
  • List of H2 headings.

I asked one of the founders, Dixon Jones, to explain what Inlinks does regarding competitor analysis.

Dixon answered:

“Inlinks analyzes ten competing pages for any Keyword. It aggregates the combined number of times entities are used in the SERP and uses this to build a Knowledge Graph of entities related to a given search.

This is then compared to the entities in the content on YOUR competing page, highlighting material gaps in your content.

At a site level, Inlinks can build a knowledge graph of any site, but does not currently have many tools to compare whole sites.

We look at the verbs used to describe entities (in competing pages for a SERP) and cluster them into verb based intent.

This helps content publishers answer a genuine user query, rather than use words in the wrong context.”

Inlinks offers more tools; it’s more than just competitor analysis.

There is a free, pro, and enterprise level.

8. MarketMuse

  • Pricing: Free version and paid plans starting at $600 per month.

MarketMuse is an AI-based content analysis tool that functions within the entire content creation workflow, from research to content brief and more.

What I appreciate about MarketMuse is that it looks at the top-ranked pages and offers a keyword overview of the topics.

A key competitor analysis function in MarketMuse is called Compete.

The Compete tool analyzes the competition and suggests what to write about and ways to do better than the competitors, such as covering overlooked related topics.

Compete’s unique selling proposition, in my opinion, is that it is focused on helping users create content that is better than the competition.

My understanding of MarketMuse is that it’s not just focused on helping users beat their competition.

The tool streamlines the entire content creation workflow, with competitor research being one part of the process.

There is a learning curve to MarketMuse.

9. SimilarWeb

  • Pricing: Free version and paid plans starting at $167 per month for the starter package.

SimilarWeb is a unique competitor analysis tool.

It’s focused less on SEO and more on providing a clear image of the differences between the two websites.

There are multiple data points related to traffic, keywords, traffic share by country, and even a comparison of audience demographics.

SimilarWeb offers a free and paid version.

The free version offers a generous amount of data that helps users compare competitors.

10. LinkResearchTools

  • Pricing: Starts at $599 per month. One-week trial for $17.

LinkResearchTools is an enterprise-class link research tool.

It’s the most sophisticated and comprehensive link-building tool I’ve ever used.

One of the qualities I like most is that it feels like it has a comprehensive inventory of crawled links.

The tool makes it easy to find links with normal searching, like adding a TLD, but you can also find links multiple sites have in common.

Most of the functionality is geared toward businesses that want to disavow backlinks, which is useless for link builders.

I’d like to see a tool that does away with all of the link-disavowing-related features and just focuses on researching competitor backlinks.

One can subscribe to most of the other lower-priced tools and use their combined competitor backlink research features and still pay less than LinkResearchTools.

For most people, that’s more than enough.

But the data in LinkResearchTools is, in my experience, possibly the most comprehensive backlink data available.

Backlink Analysis

Backlink analysis is more than just poaching keywords from competitors.

It’s a way to understand what the barrier to entry might be, which means how easy or difficult it might be to compete.

Competitor links can be a starting point for building better links as well.

Sometimes a group of links might stand out, giving you an idea of a direction to take.

Doing solid link building requires a flexible backlink analysis tool.

Competitor Research

There are many useful SEO tools available today. They don’t do the SEO for you, but they make it easier to accomplish better results faster.

The tools also provide time-saving access to a huge amount of data that would ordinarily take days to compile.

Saving time, being more productive, and having the data to make informed decisions is the hallmark of all of these SEO tools.


Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal



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What Are They Really Costing You?

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What Are They Really Costing You?

This post was sponsored by Adpulse. The opinions expressed in this article are the sponsor’s own.

As managers of paid media, one question drives us all: “How do I improve paid ad performance?”. 

Given that our study found close variant search terms perform poorly, yet more than half of the average budget on Google & Microsoft Ads is being spent on them, managing their impact effectively could well be one of your largest optimization levers toward driving significant improvements in ROI. 

“Close variants help you connect with people who are looking for your business, despite slight variations in the way they search.” support.google.com

Promising idea…but what about the execution?

We analyzed over 4.5 million clicks and 400,000 conversions to answer this question: With the rise in close variants (intent matching) search terms, what impact are they having on budgets and account performance? Spoiler alert, the impact is substantial. 


True Match Vs. Close Variants: How Do They Perform?

To understand close variant (CV) performance, we must first define the difference between a true match and a close variant. 

 

What Is a True Match? 

We still remember the good-old-days where keyword match types gave you control over the search terms they triggered, so for this study we used the literal match types to define ‘close variant’ vs ‘true match’. 

  • Exact match keyword => search term matches the keyword exactly. 
  • Phrase match keyword => search term must contain the keyword (same word order).
  • Broad match keyword => search term must contain every individual word in the keyword, but the word order does not matter (the way modified broad match keywords used to work).   

 

What Is a Close Variant? 

If you’re not familiar with close variants (intent matching) search terms, think of them as search terms that are ‘fuzzy matched’ to the keywords you are actually bidding on. 

Some of these close variants are highly relevant and represent a real opportunity to expand your keywords in a positive way. 

Some are close-ish, but the conversions are expensive. 

And (no shocks here) some are truly wasteful. 

….Both Google and Microsoft Ads do this, and you can’t opt-out.

To give an example: if you were a music therapist, you might bid on the phrase match keyword “music therapist”. An example of a true match search term would be ‘music therapist near me’ because it contains the keyword in its true form (phrase match in this case) and a CV might be ‘music and art therapy’.


How Do Close Variants Compare to True Match?

Short answer… poorly, on both Google and Microsoft Ads. Interestingly however, Google showed the worst performance on both metrics assessed, CPA and ROAS. 

Image created by Adpulse, May 2024

1718772963 395 What Are They Really Costing You

Image created by Adpulse, May 2024

Want to see the data – jump to it here…

CVs have been embraced by both platforms with (as earlier stated), on average more than half of your budget being spent on CV variant matches. That’s a lot of expansion to reach searches you’re not directly bidding for, so it’s clearly a major driver of performance in your account and, therefore, deserving of your attention. 

We anticipated a difference in metrics between CVs and true match search terms, since the true match search terms directly align with the keywords you’re bidding on, derived from your intimate knowledge of the business offering. 

True match conversions should therefore be the low-hanging fruit, leaving the rest for the platforms to find via CVs. Depending on the cost and ROI, this isn’t inherently bad, but logically we would assume CVs would perform worse than true matches, which is exactly what we observed. 


How Can You Limit Wastage on Close Variants?

You can’t opt out of them, however, if your goal is to manage their impact on performance, you can use these three steps to move the needle in the right direction. And of course, if you’re relying on CVs to boost volume, you’ll need to take more of a ‘quality-screening’ rather than a hard-line ‘everything-must-go’ approach to your CV clean out!

 

Step 1: Diagnose Your CV Problem 

We’re a helpful bunch at Adpulse so while we were scoping our in-app solution, we built a simple spreadsheet that you can use to diagnose how healthy your CVs are. Just make a copy, paste in your keyword and search term data then run the analysis for yourself. Then you can start to clean up any wayward CVs identified. Of course, by virtue of technology, it’s both faster and more advanced in the Adpulse Close Variant Manager 😉.

 

Step 2: Suggested Campaign Structures for Easier CV Management  

Brand Campaigns

If you don’t want competitors or general searches being matched to your brand keywords, this strategy will solve for that. 

Set up one ad group with your exact brand keyword/s, and another ad group with phrase brand keyword/s, then employ the negative keyword strategies in Step 3 below. You might be surprised at how many CVs have nothing to do with your brand, and identifying variants (and adding negative keywords) becomes easy with this structure.

Don’t forget to add your phrase match brand negatives to non-brand campaigns (we love negative lists for this).

Non-Brand Campaigns with Larger Budgets

We suggest a campaign structure with one ad group per match type:

Example Ad Groups:

    • General Plumbers – Exact
    • General Plumbers – Phrase
    • General Plumbers – Broad
    • Emergency Plumbers – Exact
    • Emergency Plumbers – Phrase
    • Emergency Plumbers – Broad

This allows you to more easily identify variants so you can eliminate them quickly. This also allows you to find new keyword themes based on good quality CVs, and add them easily to the campaign. 

Non-Brand Campaigns with Smaller Budgets

Smaller budgets mean the upside of having more data per ad group outweighs the upside of making it easier to trim unwanted CVs, so go for a simpler theme-based ad group structure:

Example Ad Groups:

    • General Plumbers
    • Emergency Plumbers

 

Step 3: Ongoing Actions to Tame Close Variants

Adding great CVs as keywords and poor CVs as negatives on a regular basis is the only way to control their impact.

For exact match ad groups we suggest adding mainly root negative keywords. For example, if you were bidding on [buy mens walking shoes] and a CV appeared for ‘mens joggers’, you could add the single word “joggers” as a phrase/broad match negative keyword, which would prevent all future searches that contain joggers. If you added mens joggers as a negative keyword, other searches that contain the word joggers would still be eligible to trigger. 

In ad groups that contain phrase or broad match keywords you shouldn’t use root negatives unless you’re REALLY sure that the root negative should never appear in any search term. You’ll probably find that you use the whole search term added as an exact match negative much more often than using root negs.


The Proof: What (and Why) We Analyzed

We know CVs are part of the conversations marketers frequently have, and by virtue of the number of conversations we have with agencies each week, we’ve witnessed the increase of CV driven frustration amongst marketers. 

Internally we reached a tipping point and decided to data dive to see if it just felt like a large problem, or if it actually IS a large enough problem that we should devote resources to solving it in-app. First stop…data. 

Our study of CV performance started with thousands of Google and Microsoft Ads accounts, using last 30-day data to May 2024, filtered to exclude:

  • Shopping or DSA campaigns/Ad Groups.
  • Accounts with less than 10 conversions.
  • Accounts with a conversion rate above 50%.
  • For ROAS comparisons, any accounts with a ROAS below 200% or above 2500%.

Search terms in the study are therefore from keyword-based search campaigns where those accounts appear to have a reliable conversion tracking setup and have enough conversion data to be individually meaningful.

The cleaned data set comprised over 4.5 million clicks and 400,000 conversions (over 30 days) across Google and Microsoft Ads; a large enough data set to answer questions about CV performance with confidence.

Interestingly, each platform appears to have a different driver for their lower CV performance. 

CPA Results:

Google Ads was able to maintain its conversion rate, but it chased more expensive clicks to achieve it…in fact, clicks at almost double the average CPC of true match! Result: their CPA of CVs worked out roughly double the CPA of true match.                 

Microsoft Ads only saw slightly poorer CPA performance within CVs; their conversion rate was much lower compared to true match, but their saving grace was that they had significantly lower CPCs, and you can afford to have a lower conversion rate if your click costs are also lower. End outcome? Microsoft Ads CPA on CVs was only slightly more expensive when compared to their CPA on true matches; a pleasant surprise 🙂.

What Are They Really Costing You

Image created by Adpulse, May 2024

ROAS Results:

Both platforms showed a similar story; CVs delivered roughly half the ROAS of their true match cousins, with Microsoft Ads again being stronger overall. 

 

1718772963 395 What Are They Really Costing You

Image created by Adpulse, May 2024

Underlying Data:

For the data nerds amongst us (at Adpulse we self-identify here !) 

1718772963 88 What Are They Really Costing You

Image created by Adpulse, May 2024


TL;DR

Close variant search terms consume, on average, more than half an advertiser’s budget whilst in most cases, performing significantly worse than search terms that actually match the keywords. How much worse? Read above for details ^. Enough that managing their impact effectively could well be one of your largest optimization levers toward driving significant improvements in account ROI. 


Image Credits

Featured Image: Image by Adpulse. Used with permission.

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How To Uncover Traffic Declines In Google Search Console And How To Fix Them

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How To Uncover Traffic Declines In Google Search Console And How To Fix Them

Google Search Console is an essential tool that offers critical insights into your website’s performance in Google search results.

Occasionally, you might observe a sudden decline in organic traffic, and it’s crucial to understand the potential causes behind this drop. The data stored within Google Search Console (GSC) can be vital in troubleshooting and understanding what has happened to your website.

Before troubleshooting GSC traffic declines, it’s important to understand first what Google says about assessing traffic graphs in GSC and how it reports on different metrics.

Understanding Google Search Console Metrics

Google’s documentation on debugging Search traffic drops is relatively comprehensive (compared to the guidance given in other areas) and can, for the most part, help prevent any immediate or unnecessary panic should there be a change in data.

Despite this, I often find that Search Console data is misunderstood by both clients and those in the first few years of SEO and learning the craft.

Image from Google Search Central, May 2024

Even with these definitions, if your clicks and impressions graphs begin to resemble any of the above graph examples, there can be wider meanings.

Search Central description  It could also be a sign that…
Large drop from an algorithmic update, site-wide security, or spam issue This could also signal a serious technical issue, such as accidentally deploying a noindex onto a URL or returning the incorrect status code – I’ve seen it before where the URL renders content but returns a 410.
Seasonality You will know your seasonality better than anyone, but if this graph looks inverse it could be a sign that during peak search times, Google is rotating the search engine results pages (SERPs) and choosing not to rank your site highly. This could be because, during peak search periods, there is a slight intent shift in the queries’ dominant interpretation.
Technical issues across your site, changing interests This type of graph could also represent seasonality (both as a gradual decline or increase).
Reporting glitch ¯_(ツ)_/¯ This graph can represent intermittent technical issues as well as reporting glitches. Similar to the alternate reasons for graphs like Seasonality, it could represent a short-term shift in the SERPs and what meets the needs of an adjusted dominant interpretation of a query.

Clicks & Impressions

Google filters Click and Impression data in Google Search Console through a combination of technical methods and policies designed to ensure the accuracy, reliability, and integrity of the reported data.

Reasons for this include:

  • Spam and bot filtering.
  • Duplicate data removal.
  • User privacy/protection.
  • Removing “invalid activities.”
  • Data aggregation and sampling.

One of the main reasons I’ve seen GSC change the numbers showing the UI and API is down to the setting of thresholds.

Google may set thresholds for including data in reports to prevent skewed metrics due to very low-frequency queries or impressions. For example, data for queries that result in very few impressions might be excluded from reports to maintain the statistical reliability of the metrics.

Average Position

Google Search Console produces the Average Position metric by calculating the average ranking of a website’s URLs for a specific query or set of queries over a defined period of time.

Each time a URL appears in the search results for a query, its position is recorded. For instance, if a URL appears in the 3rd position for one query and in the 7th position for another query, these positions are logged separately.

As we enter the era of AI Overviews, John Mueller has confirmed via Slack conversations that appearing in a generative snapshot will affect the average position of the query and/or URL in the Search Console UI.

1718702762 996 How To Uncover Traffic Declines In Google Search Console AndSource: John Mueller via The SEO Community Slack channel

I don’t rely on the average position metric in GSC for rank tracking, but it can be useful in trying to debug whether or not Google is having issues establishing a single dominant page for specific queries.

Understanding how the tool compiles data allows you to better diagnose the reasons as to why, and correlate data with other events such as Google updates or development deployments.

Google Updates

A Google broad core algorithm update is a significant change to Google’s search algorithm intended to improve the relevance and quality of search results.

These updates do not target specific sites or types of content but alter specific systems that make up the “core” to an extent it is noteworthy for Google to announce that an update is happening.

Google makes updates to the various individual systems all the time, so the lack of a Google announcement does not disqualify a Google update from being the cause of a change in traffic.

For example, the website in the below screenshot saw a decline from the March 2023 core update but then recovered in the November 2023 core update.

GSC: the website saw a decline from the March 2023 core updateScreenshot by author from Google Search Console, May 2024

The following screenshot shows another example of a traffic decline correlating with a Google update, and it also shows that recovery doesn’t always occur with future updates.

traffic decline correlating with a Google updateScreenshot by author from Google Search Console, May 2024

This site is predominantly informational content supporting a handful of marketing landing pages (a traditional SaaS model) and has seen a steady decline correlating with the September 2023 helpful content update.

How To Fix This

Websites negatively impacted by a broad core update can’t fix specific issues to recover.

Webmasters should focus on providing the best possible content and improving overall site quality.

Recovery, however, may occur when the next broad core update is rolled out if the site has improved in quality and relevance or Google adjusts specific systems and signal weightings back in the favour of your site.

In SEO terminology, we also refer to these traffic changes as an algorithmic penalty, which can take time to recover from.

SERP Layout Updates

Given the launch of AI Overviews, I feel many SEO professionals will conduct this type of analysis in the coming months.

In addition to AI Overviews, Google can choose to include a number of different SERP features ranging from:

  • Shopping results.
  • Map Packs.
  • X (Twitter) carousels.
  • People Also Ask accordions.
  • Featured snippets.
  • Video thumbnails.

All of these not only detract and distract users from the traditional organic results, but they also cause pixel shifts.

From our testing of SGE/AI Overviews, we see traditional results being pushed down anywhere between 1,000 and 1,500 pixels.

When this happens you’re not likely to see third-party rank tracking tools show a decrease, but you will see clicks decline in GSC.

The impact of SERP features on your traffic depends on two things:

  • The type of feature introduced.
  • Whether your users predominantly use mobile or desktop.

Generally, SERP features are more impactful to mobile traffic as they greatly increase scroll depth, and the user screen is much smaller.

You can establish your dominant traffic source by looking at the device breakdown in Google Search Console:

Device by users: clicks and impressionsImage from author’s website, May 2024

You can then compare the two graphs in the UI, or by exporting data via the API with it broken down by devices.

How To Fix This

When Google introduces new SERP features, you can adjust your content and site to become “more eligible” for them.

Some are driven by structured data, and others are determined by Google systems after processing your content.

If Google has introduced a feature that results in more zero-click searches for a particular query, you need to first quantify the traffic loss and then adjust your strategy to become more visible for similar and associated queries that still feature in your target audience’s overall search journey.

Seasonality Traffic Changes

Seasonality in demand refers to predictable fluctuations in consumer interest and purchasing behavior that occur at specific times of the year, influenced by factors such as holidays, weather changes, and cultural events.

Notably, a lot of ecommerce businesses will see peaks in the run-up to Christmas and Thanksgiving, whilst travel companies will see seasonality peaks at different times of the year depending on the destinations and vacation types they cater to.

The below screenshot is atypical of a business that has a seasonal peak in the run-up to Christmas.

seasonal peaks as measured in GSCScreenshot by author from Google Search Console, May 2024

You will see these trends in the Performance Report section and likely see users and sessions mirrored in other analytics platforms.

During a seasonal peak, Google may choose to alter the SERPs in terms of which websites are ranked and which SERP features appear. This occurs when the increase in search demand also brings with it a change in user intent, thus changing the dominant interpretation of the query.

In the travel sector, the shift is often from a research objective to a commercial objective. Out-of-season searchers are predominantly researching destinations or looking for deals, and when it is time to book, they’re using the same search queries but looking to book.

As a result, webpages with a value proposition that caters more to the informational intent are either “demoted” in rankings or swapped out in favor of webpages that (in Google’s eyes) better cater to users in satisfying the commercial intent.

How To Fix This

There is no direct fix for traffic increases and decreases caused by seasonality.

However, you can adjust your overall SEO strategy to accommodate this and work to create visibility for the website outside of peak times by creating content to meet the needs and intent of users who may have a more research and information-gathering intent.

Penalties & Manual Actions

A Google penalty is a punitive action taken against a website by Google, reducing its search rankings or removing it from search results, typically due to violations of Google’s guidelines.

As well as receiving a notification in GSC, you’ll typically see a sharp decrease in traffic, akin to the graph below:

Google traffic decline from penaltyScreenshot by author from Google Search Console, May 2024

Whether or not the penalty is partial or sitewide will depend on how bad the traffic decline is, and also the type (or reason) as to why you received a penalty in the first place will determine what efforts are required and how long it will take to recover.

Changes In PPC Strategies

A common issue I encounter working with organizations is a disconnect in understanding that, sometimes, altering a PPC campaign can affect organic traffic.

An example of this is brand. If you start running a paid search campaign on your brand, you can often expect to see a decrease in branded clicks and CTR. As most organizations have separate vendors for this, it isn’t often communicated that this will be the case.

The Search results performance report in GSC can help you identify whether or not you have cannibalization between your SEO and PPC. From this report, you can correlate branded and non-branded traffic drops with the changelog from those in command of the PPC campaign.

How To Fix This

Ensuring that all stakeholders understand why there have been changes to organic traffic, and that the traffic (and user) isn’t lost, it is now being attributed to Paid.

Understanding if this is the “right decision” or not requires a conversation with those managing the PPC campaigns, and if they are performing and providing a strong ROAS, then the organic traffic loss needs to be acknowledged and accepted.

Recovering Site Traffic

Recovering from Google updates can take time.

Recently, John Mueller has said that sometimes, to recover, you need to wait for another update cycle.

However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be active in trying to improve your website and better align with what Google wants to reward and relying on Google reversing previous signal weighting changes.

It’s critical that you start doing all the right things as soon as possible. The earlier that you identify and begin to solve problems, the earlier that you open up the potential for recovery. The time it takes to recover depends on what caused the drop in the first place, and there might be multiple factors to account for. Building a better website for your audience that provides them with better experiences and better service is always the right thing to do.

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SEO

Barriers To Audience Buy-In

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Barriers to audience buy-in with lead generation

This is an excerpt from the B2B Lead Generation ebook, which draws on SEJ’s internal expertise in delivering leads across multiple media types.

People are driven by a mix of desires, wants, needs, experiences, and external pressures.

It can take time to get it right and convince a person to become a lead, let alone a paying customer.

Here are some nuances of logic and psychology that could be impacting your ability to connect with audiences and build strong leads.

1. Poor Negotiations & The Endowment Effect

Every potential customer you encounter values their own effort and information. And due to something called the endowment effect, they value that time and data much more than you do.

In contrast, the same psychological effect means you value what you offer in exchange for peoples’ information more than they will.

If the value of what you’re offering fails to match the value of what consumers are giving you in exchange (read: their time and information), the conversions will be weak.

The solution? You can increase the perceived value of the thing you’re offering, or reduce the value of what the user “pays” for the thing you offer.

Want an exclusive peek into tactics we use when developing our own lead gen campaigns? Check out our upcoming webinar.

Humans evaluate rewards in multiple dimensions, including the reward amount, the time until the reward is received, and the certainty of the reward.

The more time before a reward occurs, and the less certain its ultimate value, the harder you have to work to get someone to engage.

Offering value upfront – even if you’re presenting something else soon after, like a live event, ebook, or demo – can help entice immediate action as well as convince leads of the long-term value of their investment.

It can even act as a prime for the next step in the lead gen nurturing process, hinting at even more value to come and increasing the effectiveness of the rest of your lead generation strategy.

It’s another reason why inbound content is a critical support for lead generation content. The short-term rewards of highly useful ungated content help prepare audiences for longer-term benefits offered down the line.

3. Abandonment & The Funnel Myth

Every lead generation journey is carefully planned, but if you designed it with a funnel in mind, you could be losing many qualified leads.

That’s because the imagery of a funnel might suggest that all leads engage with your brand or offer in the same way, but this simply isn’t true – particularly for products or services with high values.

Instead, these journeys are more abstract. Leads tend to move back and forth between stages depending on their circumstances. They might change their minds, encounter organizational roadblocks, switch channels, or their needs might suddenly change.

Instead of limiting journeys to audience segments, consider optimizing for paths and situations, too.

Optimizing for specific situations and encounters creates multiple opportunities to capture a lead while they’re in certain mindsets. Every opportunity is a way to engage with varying “costs” for time and data, and align your key performance indicators (KPIs) to match.

Situational journeys also create unique opportunities to learn about the various audience segments, including what they’re most interested in, which offers to grab their attention, and which aspects of your brand, product, or service they’re most concerned about.

4. Under-Pricing

Free trials and discounts can be eye-catching, but they don’t always work to your benefit.

Brands often think consumers will always choose the product with the lowest possible price. That isn’t always the case.

Consumers work within something referred to as the “zone of acceptability,” which is the price range they feel is acceptable for a purchasing decision.

If your brand falls outside that range, you’ll likely get the leads – but they could fail to buy in later. The initial offer might be attractive, but the lower perception of value could work against you when it comes time to try and close the sale.

Several elements play into whether consumers are sensitive to pricing discounts. The overall cost of a purchase matters, for example.

Higher-priced purchases, such as SaaS or real estate, can be extremely sensitive to pricing discounts. They can lead to your audience perceiving the product as lower-value, or make it seem like you’re struggling. A price-quality relationship is easy to see in many places in our lives. If you select the absolute lowest price for an airline ticket, do you expect your journey to be timely and comfortable?

It’s difficult to offer specific advice on these points. To find ideal price points and discounts, you need good feedback systems from both customers and leads – and you need data about how other audiences interact. But there’s value in not being the cheapest option.

Get more tips on how we, here at SEJ, create holistic content campaigns to drive leads in this exclusive webinar.

5. Lead Roles & Information

In every large purchasing decision, there are multiple roles in the process. These include:

  • User: The person who ultimately uses the product or service.
  • Buyer: The person who makes the purchase, but may or may not know anything about the actual product or service being purchased.
  • Decider: The person who determines whether to make the purchase.
  • Influencer: The person who provides opinions and thoughts on the product or service, and influences perceptions of it.
  • Gatekeeper: The person who gathers and holds information about the product or service.

Sometimes, different people play these roles, and other times, one person may hold more than one of these roles. However, the needs of each role must be met at the right time. If you fail to meet their needs, you’ll see your conversions turn cold at a higher rate early in the process.

The only way to avoid this complication is to understand who it is you’re attracting when you capture the lead, and make the right information available at the right time during the conversion process.

6. Understand Why People Don’t Sign Up

Many businesses put significant effort into lead nurturing and understanding the qualities of potential customers who fill out lead forms.

But what about the ones who don’t fill out those forms?

Understanding these values and the traits that drive purchasing decisions is paramount.

Your own proprietary and customer data, like your analytics, client data, and lead interactions, makes an excellent starting place, but don’t make the mistake of basing your decisions solely on the data you have collected about the leads you have.

This information creates a picture based solely on people already interacting with you. It doesn’t include information about the audience you’ve failed to capture so far.

Don’t fall for survivorship bias, which occurs when you only look at data from people who have passed your selection filters.

This is especially critical for lead generation because there are groups of people you don’t want to become leads. But you need to make sure you’re attracting as many ideal leads as possible while filtering out those that are suboptimal. You need information about the people who aren’t converting to ensure your filters are working as intended.

Gather information from the segment of your target audience that uses a competitor’s products, and pair them with psychographic tools and frameworks like “values and lifestyle surveys” (VALS) to gather insights and inform decisions.

In a digital world of tough competition and even more demands on every dollar, your lead generation needs to be precise.

Understanding what drives your target audience before you capture the lead and ensuring every detail is crafted with the final conversion in mind will help you capture more leads and sales, and leave your brand the clear market winner.

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