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7 Methods To Research & Analyze Your Audience For SEO

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7 Methods To Research & Analyze Your Audience For SEO

When I describe SEO, I explain that it is a mix of marketing, technical know-how, and psychology.

From a marketing perspective, you must have an overall understanding of your product, the problems it solves, and how to best communicate to your audience.

From a technical perspective, you must be able to create a foundation for your website that improves search performance.

Now, from a psychological perspective… that is where an SEO can really make a difference.

If you can learn how to not only identify your ideal website visitor but also determine who they are and what motivates them, your SEO work will really pay off. You’ll have the traffic numbers and also the ROI to support your efforts.

SEO isn’t just about the numbers (i.e., keyword ranking positions, number of backlinks, traffic, etc.). It is also about understanding the audience and building an SEO campaign around that information.

When SEO is centered around the right audience, targeted traffic increases, which leads to more conversions.

There are several methods that will help you research and analyze your audience for SEO.

As you will see in the list below, there are tools weaved throughout each method to make things easier along the way.

1. Use Keywords To Gather Demographics Data

Keyword research is one of the core tasks of SEO. Keywords should be targeted and relevant to your products or services, which is something you likely already know.

Once you have a solid list of keywords, select the top five that represent your brand the best and find out the demographics associated with those words and phrases.

Google Trends will provide you with demographic information tied to the location and will show you how the keyword has trended over time.

Google Trends really came in handy during the pandemic when people’s online behaviors were quickly shifting.

One of my clients publishes recipes, and the question came up regarding the types of recipes people were searching for when they were stuck at home.

It was banana bread.

Apparently, comfort food was the focus when we couldn’t leave our homes. You can see in the screenshot below how the trend for “banana bread” skyrocketed.

Screenshot from Google Trends, June 2022

But, what about the demographic data?

Google Trends provides great data on the location, but there is also another tool I like to use for further demographic information, Demographics.io. This tool ties demographic data to keywords.

Using the same banana bread example, below is the data of people who were searching this keyword.

Demographics toolScreenshot from Demographics.io, June 2022

Tip: How To Apply This Information

Identifying demographic information, including age, gender, and location can help you in SEO in many ways.

You can look for local link opportunities in the geographic areas where queries occur.

In terms of age and gender, you can determine topics, interests, and other terminology that is relevant to those groups.

2. Identify Who Is Visiting Your Website

This method is kind of like painting the target around the arrow.

However, it is important to understand who is coming to your website and then you can determine if that is the correct audience.

One of the easiest ways to get this information is from Google Analytics.

Under the Audience section, you are able to view a range of audience information, including age, gender, location, and interests, as shown below:

Analytics DemographicsScreenshot from Google Analytics, June 2022

Tip: How To Apply This Information

This data can give insight into the audience and will help you as you recommend content topics and target geographic areas.

On the other hand, you might look at this information and realize that it does not align with your organization’s target markets.

In that case, you need to take a close look at your keywords and content to make sure there is no misalignment.

3. Analyze Other Brands

To gather information about your target audience, you can look beyond your own website and analyze other brands and competitors.

You would be looking for demographics and psychographics – basically, you want to collect as many insights as possible. The following tools can help you with this type of analysis.

Quantcast

Quantcast pulls together insights on purchase behaviors, occupations, device usage, demographics, domain affinity, and more. The example below is an analysis of Goodreads.com.

Analysis of Goodreads.comScreenshot from Quantcast, June 2022

 

Analysis of Goodreads.comScreenshot from Quantcast, June 2022

Audiense

Note: I love this tool and use it often.

According to Audiense.com, they build the audience using eight different criteria, “which can be combined together allowing the creation of highly targeted audiences: Demography, Relationships, Behavior (activity), Conversations, IBM Watson Personality Insights, Location, Interests, and Twitter profile.”

Audiense then creates audience segments by “clustering individuals based on ‘who knows who’ i.e., how these individuals are interconnected. We take into account who follows who and cluster them together – for instance, if person A follows person B then they’ll be clustered together.”

The first screen of the report provides a snapshot of the audience data, as shown below.

Audiense InsightsScreenshot from Audiense, June 2022

What is so great about this tool is that you can drill down even more. Just check out the breakdown of information available (see the red box on the screenshot).

Audiense Insights GoodreadsScreenshot from Audiense, June 2022

Tip: How To Apply This Information

Similar to the last method, this data can give insight into the audience and will help you as you recommend content topics and target geographic areas.

You might also find some great link building ideas based on your interests.

4. Use Social Insights

Social platforms are one of the quickest ways to get information about an audience.

You can view follower/fan information directly on your company’s Facebook page, as shown below:

Facebook InsightsScreenshot from Facebook, June 2022

You can also view competitors’ and other brands’ audience information on Followerwonk.

What’s great about this tool is it also provides you with a word cloud to show you what users are talking about:

Followerwonk word cloudScreenshot from Followerwonk, June 2022

Tip: How To Apply This Information

Specifically, the word cloud in Followerwonk can help you identify other keywords you might have missed and can also present content marketing ideas.

5. Send Out Surveys

This method is the most straightforward out of all of them on this list. If you want to understand your audience better, send out a survey.

To get a decent number of surveys returned, keep it short and sweet. Ask questions about basic demographics, overall interests, pain points, and needs.

Here is a great resource on how to create your survey: How To Create & Use Surveys For Content Marketing.

Tip: How To Apply This Information

Use the information you gather in the survey to identify content opportunities, including images and videos, keyword targets, etc.

6. Identify Questions

With Google increasingly showing answers directly in SERPs, identifying common user questions has become that much more important.

Plus, we want to anticipate the long-tail queries of our potential audience, so we can get in front of them at the right time. There are many tools that provide common questions, including:

These tools pull from various data sources, so it is worthwhile to check out them all. Below is an example from AnswerThePublic.

Search listening tool AnswerThePublicScreenshot from AnswerThePublic, June 2022
Electric cars keyword from Answer The PublicScreenshot from AnswerThePublic, June 2022

Tip: How To Apply This Information

Create content around common questions to attract long-tail searches among your audience and to increase your odds of showing up as a direct answer in Google SERPs.

7. Research Secondary Data

Once you know age/interests/etc. of your audience, you can fill in the blanks through further research. Look for studies regarding one of the key aspects of your audience.

For example, if you determine that your audience is in the Baby Boomer generation, head to Google Scholar and look for published research on this group.

Tip: How To Apply This Information

Use this additional research to sketch your personas and get a better view of who it is you are trying to target via SEO.

Final Thoughts

It might seem like a lot of extra work to dive into your audience before getting into SEO tasks. However, it is well worth the time.

You will be able to drive better traffic to your website and improve your ROI on SEO.

More Resources:


Featured Image: fizkes/Shutterstock



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Google Search Leak: Conflicting Signals, Unanswered Questions

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Google Search Leak: Conflicting Signals, Unanswered Questions

An apparent leak of Google Search API documentation has sparked intense debate within the SEO community, with some claiming it proves Google’s dishonesty and others urging caution in interpreting the information.

As the industry grapples with the allegations, a balanced examination of Google’s statements and the perspectives of SEO experts is crucial to understanding the whole picture.

Leaked Documents Vs. Google’s Public Statements

Over the years, Google has consistently maintained that specific ranking signals, such as click data and user engagement metrics, aren’t used directly in its search algorithms.

In public statements and interviews, Google representatives have emphasized the importance of relevance, quality, and user experience while denying the use of specific metrics like click-through rates or bounce rates as ranking-related factors.

However, the leaked API documentation appears to contradict these statements.

It contains references to features like “goodClicks,” “badClicks,” “lastLongestClicks,” impressions, and unicorn clicks, tied to systems called Navboost and Glue, which Google VP Pandu Nayak confirmed in DOJ testimony are parts of Google’s ranking systems.

The documentation also alleges that Google calculates several metrics using Chrome browser data on individual pages and entire domains, suggesting the full clickstream of Chrome users is being leveraged to influence search rankings.

This contradicts past Google statements that Chrome data isn’t used for organic searches.

The Leak’s Origins & Authenticity

Erfan Azimi, CEO of digital marketing agency EA Eagle Digital, alleges he obtained the documents and shared them with Rand Fishkin and Mike King.

Azimi claims to have spoken with ex-Google Search employees who confirmed the authenticity of the information but declined to go on record due to the situation’s sensitivity.

While the leak’s origins remain somewhat ambiguous, several ex-Googlers who reviewed the documents have stated they appear legitimate.

Fishkin states:

“A critical next step in the process was verifying the authenticity of the API Content Warehouse documents. So, I reached out to some ex-Googler friends, shared the leaked docs, and asked for their thoughts.”

Three ex-Googlers responded, with one stating, “It has all the hallmarks of an internal Google API.”

However, without direct confirmation from Google, the authenticity of the leaked information is still debatable. Google has not yet publicly commented on the leak.

It’s important to note that, according to Fishkin’s article, none of the ex-Googlers confirmed that the leaked data was from Google Search. Only that it appears to have originated from within Google.

Industry Perspectives & Analysis

Many in the SEO community have long suspected that Google’s public statements don’t tell the whole story. The leaked API documentation has only fueled these suspicions.

Fishkin and King argue that if the information is accurate, it could have significant implications for SEO strategies and website search optimization.

Key takeaways from their analysis include:

  • Navboost and the use of clicks, CTR, long vs. Short clicks, and user data from Chrome appear to be among Google’s most powerful ranking signals.
  • Google employs safelists for sensitive topics like COVID-19, elections, and travel to control what sites appear.
  • Google uses Quality Rater feedback and ratings in its ranking systems, not just as a training set.
  • Click data influences how Google weights links for ranking purposes.
  • Classic ranking factors like PageRank and anchor text are losing influence compared to more user-centric signals.
  • Building a brand and generating search demand is more critical than ever for SEO success.

However, just because something is mentioned in API documentation doesn’t mean it’s being used to rank search results.

Other industry experts urge caution when interpreting the leaked documents.

They point out that Google may use the information for testing purposes or apply it only to specific search verticals rather than use it as active ranking signals.

There are also open questions about how much weight these signals carry compared to other ranking factors. The leak doesn’t provide the full context or algorithm details.

Unanswered Questions & Future Implications

As the SEO community continues to analyze the leaked documents, many questions still need to be answered.

Without official confirmation from Google, the authenticity and context of the information are still a matter of debate.

Key open questions include:

  • How much of this documented data is actively used to rank search results?
  • What is the relative weighting and importance of these signals compared to other ranking factors?
  • How have Google’s systems and use of this data evolved?
  • Will Google change its public messaging and be more transparent about using behavioral data?

As the debate surrounding the leak continues, it’s wise to approach the information with a balanced, objective mindset.

Unquestioningly accepting the leak as gospel truth or completely dismissing it are both shortsighted reactions. The reality likely lies somewhere in between.

Potential Implications For SEO Strategies and Website Optimization

It would be highly inadvisable to act on information shared from this supposed ‘leak’ without confirming whether it’s an actual Google search document.

Further, even if the content originates from search, the information is a year old and could have changed. Any insights derived from the leaked documentation should not be considered actionable now.

With that in mind, while the full implications remain unknown, here’s what we can glean from the leaked information.

1. Emphasis On User Engagement Metrics

If click data and user engagement metrics are direct ranking factors, as the leaked documents suggest, it could place greater emphasis on optimizing for these metrics.

This means crafting compelling titles and meta descriptions to increase click-through rates, ensuring fast page loads and intuitive navigation to reduce bounces, and strategically linking to keep users engaged on your site.

Driving traffic through other channels like social media and email can also help generate positive engagement signals.

However, it’s important to note that optimizing for user engagement shouldn’t come at the expense of creating reader-focused content. Gaming engagement metrics are unlikely to be a sustainable, long-term strategy.

Google has consistently emphasized the importance of quality and relevance in its public statements, and based on the leaked information, this will likely remain a key focus. Engagement optimization should support and enhance quality content, not replace it.

2. Potential Changes To Link-Building Strategies

The leaked documents contain information about how Google treats different types of links and their impact on search rankings.

This includes details about the use of anchor text, the classification of links into different quality tiers based on traffic to the linking page, and the potential for links to be ignored or demoted based on various spam factors.

If this information is accurate, it could influence how SEO professionals approach link building and the types of links they prioritize.

Links that drive real click-throughs may carry more weight than links on rarely visited pages.

The fundamentals of good link building still apply—create link-worthy content, build genuine relationships, and seek natural, editorially placed links that drive qualified referral traffic.

The leaked information doesn’t change this core approach but offers some additional nuance to be aware of.

3. Increased Focus On Brand Building and Driving Search Demand

The leaked documents suggest that Google uses brand-related signals and offline popularity as ranking factors. This could include metrics like brand mentions, searches for the brand name, and overall brand authority.

As a result, SEO strategies may emphasize building brand awareness and authority through both online and offline channels.

Tactics could include:

  • Securing brand mentions and links from authoritative media sources.
  • Investing in traditional PR, advertising, and sponsorships to increase brand awareness.
  • Encouraging branded searches through other marketing channels.
  • Optimizing for higher search volumes for your brand vs. unbranded keywords.
  • Building engaged social media communities around your brand.
  • Establishing thought leadership through original research, data, and industry contributions.

The idea is to make your brand synonymous with your niche and build an audience that seeks you out directly. The more people search for and engage with your brand, the stronger those brand signals may become in Google’s systems.

4. Adaptation To Vertical-Specific Ranking Factors

Some leaked information suggests that Google may use different ranking factors or algorithms for specific search verticals, such as news, local search, travel, or e-commerce.

If this is the case, SEO strategies may need to adapt to each vertical’s unique ranking signals and user intents.

For example, local search optimization may focus more heavily on factors like Google My Business listings, local reviews, and location-specific content.

Travel SEO could emphasize collecting reviews, optimizing images, and directly providing booking/pricing information on your site.

News SEO requires focusing on timely, newsworthy content and optimized article structure.

While the core principles of search optimization still apply, understanding your particular vertical’s nuances, based on the leaked information and real-world testing, can give you a competitive advantage.

The leaks suggest a vertical-specific approach to SEO could give you an advantage.

Conclusion

The Google API documentation leak has created a vigorous discussion about Google’s ranking systems.

As the SEO community continues to analyze and debate the leaked information, it’s important to remember a few key things:

  1. The information isn’t fully verified and lacks context. Drawing definitive conclusions at this stage is premature.
  2. Google’s ranking algorithms are complex and constantly evolving. Even if entirely accurate, this leak only represents a snapshot in time.
  3. The fundamentals of good SEO – creating high-quality, relevant, user-centric content and promoting it effectively – still apply regardless of the specific ranking factors at play.
  4. Real-world testing and results should always precede theorizing based on incomplete information.

What To Do Next

As an SEO professional, the best course of action is to stay informed about the leak.

Because details about the document remain unknown, it’s not a good idea to consider any takeaways actionable.

Most importantly, remember that chasing algorithms is a losing battle.

The only winning strategy in SEO is to make your website the best result for your message and audience. That’s Google’s endgame, and that’s where your focus should be, regardless of what any particular leaked document suggests.



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Google’s AI Overviews Shake Up Ecommerce Search Visibility

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Google's AI Overviews Shake Up Ecommerce Search Visibility

An analysis of 25,000 ecommerce queries by Bartosz Góralewicz, founder of Onely, reveals the impact of Google’s AI overviews on search visibility for online retailers.

The study found that 16% of eCommerce queries now return an AI overview in search results, accounting for 13% of total search volume in this sector.

Notably, 80% of the sources listed in these AI overviews do not rank organically for the original query.

“Ranking #1-3 gives you only an 8% chance of being a source in AI overviews,” Góralewicz stated.

Shift Toward “Accelerated” Product Experiences

International SEO consultant Aleyda Solis analyzed the disconnect between traditional organic ranking and inclusion in AI overviews.

According to Solis, for product-related queries, Google is prioritizing an “accelerated” approach over summarizing currently ranking pages.

She commented Góralewicz’ findings, stating:

“… rather than providing high level summaries of what’s already ranked organically below, what Google does with e-commerce is “accelerate” the experience by already showcasing what the user would get next.”

Solis explains that for queries where Google previously ranked category pages, reviews, and buying guides, it’s now bypassing this level of results with AI overviews.

Assessing AI Overview Traffic Impact

To help retailers evaluate their exposure, Solis has shared a spreadsheet that analyzes the potential traffic impact of AI overviews.

As Góralewicz notes, this could be an initial rollout, speculating that “Google will expand AI overviews for high-cost queries when enabling ads” based on data showing they are currently excluded for high cost-per-click keywords.

An in-depth report across ecommerce and publishing is expected soon from Góralewicz and Onely, with additional insights into this search trend.

Why SEJ Cares

AI overviews represent a shift in how search visibility is achieved for ecommerce websites.

With most overviews currently pulling product data from non-ranking sources, the traditional connection between organic rankings and search traffic is being disrupted.

Retailers may need to adapt their SEO strategies for this new search environment.

How This Can Benefit You

While unsettling for established brands, AI overviews create new opportunities for retailers to gain visibility without competing for the most commercially valuable keywords.

Ecommerce sites can potentially circumvent traditional ranking barriers by optimizing product data and detail pages for Google’s “accelerated” product displays.

The detailed assessment framework provided by Solis enables merchants to audit their exposure and prioritize optimization needs accordingly.


FAQ

What are the key findings from the analysis of AI overviews & ecommerce queries?

Góralewicz’s analysis of 25,000 ecommerce queries found:

  • 16% of ecommerce queries now return an AI overview in the search results.
  • 80% of the sources listed in these AI overviews do not rank organically for the original query.
  • Ranking positions #1-3 only provides an 8% chance of being a source in AI overviews.

These insights reveal significant shifts in how ecommerce sites need to approach search visibility.

Why are AI overviews pulling product data from non-ranking sources, and what does this mean for retailers?

Google’s AI overviews prioritize “accelerated” experiences over summarizing currently ranked pages for product-related queries.

This shift focuses on showcasing directly what users seek instead of traditional organic results.

For retailers, this means:

  • A need to optimize product pages beyond traditional SEO practices, catering to the data requirements of AI overviews.
  • Opportunities to gain visibility without necessarily holding top organic rankings.
  • Potential to bypass traditional ranking barriers by focusing on enhanced product data integration.

Retailers must adapt quickly to remain competitive in this evolving search environment.

What practical steps can retailers take to evaluate and improve their search visibility in light of AI overview disruptions?

Retailers can take several practical steps to evaluate and improve their search visibility:

  • Utilize the spreadsheet provided by Aleyda Solis to assess the potential traffic impact of AI overviews.
  • Optimize product and detail pages to align with the data and presentation style preferred by AI overviews.
  • Continuously monitor changes and updates to AI overviews, adapting strategies based on new data and trends.

These steps can help retailers navigate the impact of AI overviews and maintain or improve their search visibility.


Featured Image: Marco Lazzarini/Shutterstock



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Google’s AI Overviews Go Viral, Draw Mainstream Media Scrutiny

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Google's AI Overviews Go Viral, Draw Mainstream Media Scrutiny

Google’s rollout of AI-generated overviews in US search results is taking a disastrous turn, with mainstream media outlets like The New York Times, BBC, and CNBC reporting on numerous inaccuracies and bizarre responses.

On social media, users are sharing endless examples of the feature’s nonsensical and sometimes dangerous output.

From recommending non-toxic glue on pizza to suggesting that eating rocks provides nutritional benefits, the blunders would be amusing if they weren’t so alarming.

Mainstream Media Coverage

As reported by The New York Times, Google’s AI overviews struggle with basic facts, claiming that Barack Obama was the first Muslim president of the United States and stating that Andrew Jackson graduated from college in 2005.

These errors undermine trust in Google’s search engine, which more than two billion people rely on for authoritative information worldwide.

Manual Removal & System Refinements

As reported by The Verge, Google is now scrambling to remove the bizarre AI-generated responses and improve its systems manually.

A Google spokesperson confirmed that the company is taking “swift action” to remove problematic responses and using the examples to refine its AI overview feature.

Google’s Rush To AI Integration

The flawed rollout of AI overviews isn’t an isolated incident for Google.

As CNBC notes in its report, Google made several missteps in a rush to integrate AI into its products.

In February, Google was forced to pause its Gemini chatbot after it generated inaccurate images of historical figures and refused to depict white people in most instances.

Before that, the company’s Bard chatbot faced ridicule for sharing incorrect information about outer space, leading to a $100 billion drop in Google’s market value.

Despite these setbacks, industry experts cited by The New York Times suggest that Google has little choice but to continue advancing AI integration to remain competitive.

However, the challenges of taming large language models, which ingest false information and satirical posts, are now more apparent.

The Debate Over AI In Search

The controversy surrounding AI overviews adds fuel to the debate over the risks and limitations of AI.

While the technology holds potential, these missteps remind everyone that more testing is needed before unleashing it on the public.

The BBC notes that Google’s rivals face similar backlash over their attempts to cram more AI tools into their consumer-facing products.

The UK’s data watchdog is investigating Microsoft after it announced a feature that would take continuous screenshots of users’ online activity.

At the same time, actress Scarlett Johansson criticized OpenAI for using a voice likened to her own without permission.

What This Means For Websites & SEO Professionals

Mainstream media coverage of Google’s erroneous AI overviews brings the issue of declining search quality to public attention.

As the company works to address inaccuracies, the incident serves as a cautionary tale for the entire industry.

Important takeaway: Prioritize responsible use of AI technology to ensure the benefits outweigh its risks.



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