Connect with us


A Step-By-Step Guide With Shopify Example



The end of Universal Analytics is major news for all marketers relying on Google Analytics to analyze traffic, behavior, attribution, and more on a regular basis.

Especially for ecommerce.

You see, GA4 is not your typical software upgrade.

It’s a completely different platform, and setting up GA4 on ecommerce sites is not as easy as flipping a toggle switch anymore.

The following is a comprehensive guide on how to set up GA4 for ecommerce.

1. Basic GA4 Configuration

Understandably, the shift to GA4 is stressful.

And it doesn’t help that the implementation steps are far different from what we were used to with Universal Analytics.

The good news is that GA4 is packed with features that were previously unavailable.

For example, there is no data sampling for standard reports, you’re not stuck with last-click only attribution, and there is a really helpful funnel builder in Explorations.

To get started you will need to add GA4, create a purchase data layer, and create a product view data layer.

Beginners should start with our article Get to Know Google Analytics 4, to learn how to set up a GA4 account and data property.

Screenshot from UA, April 2022

If you’ve already configured Google Tag Manager for GA4, go ahead and jump to step 2 where we get into creating data layers for ecommerce.

After you’ve created the GA4 property, you’ll need to create tags to send data from your website to your Google Analytics account.

There are two methods for configuring GA4 on your shop site: Global Site Tag (gtag.js) or Google Tag Manager (GTM).

If you’re using the Global Site Tag method you will need to communicate with your developer. Here is a link to Google Analytics’ guide for developers to help them get started.

Or, you can use Google Tag Manager (GTM).

Google Tag Manager is a free data container by Google Analytics. You can learn to manage GTM yourself and it does not require a developer on staff.

Read SEJ’s Google Tag Manager GA4 guide for a complete step-by-step covering setup, installation, and the basic GA4 configuration tag.

GA4 and GTM_Tag ConfigurationScreenshot from GA4, April 2022

Once GA4 is configured, you will notice that the GTM container alone is not enough for ecommerce shops.

To get our ecommerce reports working we need to add two additional pieces of code, called a data layer, to pass purchase and product view details to Google Analytics.

Let’s start with the purchase data layer. This is the code that is responsible for conversions and sales revenue.

Note: This article uses Shopify as the ecommerce example. You will need the ability to edit your theme and checkout liquid file.

2. Purchase Data Layer

When a customer completes an order, the purchase data layer will pass variables to Google Tag Manager.

Variables are the data points we want to track such as revenue, tax, and shipping information.

There are four steps to setting up a purchase data layer:

  • Adding the code to the checkout page.
  • Creating a custom event.
  • Creating a data layer variable.
  • Creating a new tag in GTM.

Create Purchase Data Layer Code

Your exact data layer code may vary depending on your data collection strategy and I encourage you to speak with your developer.

Here is an example of a purchase data layer for Shopify written by Adam Gorecki, Chief Solutions Officer at Intigress.

{% if first_time_accessed %}


window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || [];


'page_type': 'purchase',

'event': 'SEJ_purchase', //create a custom event in GTM

'transaction_id': '{{ || order.order_number }}',

'totalValue': {{ total_price | money_without_currency | remove:',' }}, // Includes tax & shipping

'subtotalValue': {{ subtotal_price | money_without_currency | remove:',' }},

'tax': {{ tax_price | money_without_currency | remove:',' }},

'shipping': {{ shipping_price | money_without_currency | remove:',' }},

'currency': '{{ shop.currency }}',

'payment_type': '{{ order.transactions[0].gateway }}', //optional parameter

'items': [

{% for line_item in line_items %}


'item_id': '{{ line_item.sku || line_item.product_id }}', //if no SKU exists, use product Id

'item_name': '{{ line_item.product.title }}',

'discount': {{ line_item.line_level_total_discount | money_without_currency }},

'item_variant': '{{ line_item.variant.title }}',

'price': {{ line_item.final_price | money_without_currency }},

'quantity': {{ line_item.quantity }}


{% endfor %}




{% endif %}

Note: Adjust the custom event parameter “event: SEJ_purchase” by replacing SEJ with the account name you’re working on or use a universal option like “event: checkoutComplete.”

Add Purchase Data Layer To Checkout Page

Copy and paste the purchase data layer into the checkout page of your Shopify store.

Click on Admin settings in the far bottom left-hand corner and select “Checkout” from the left-hand navigation.

Shopify Checkout Settings screenshot_eCom GA4Screenshot from Shopify, April 2022

Scroll down to the Order status page section. Paste the code you copied in Additional scripts right below your GTM container snippet.

Click Save.

Shopify Order status page exampleScreenshot from Shopify, April 2022

If you do not see a GTM container snippet, read SEJ’s Google Tag Manager GA4 guide.

Create Custom Purchase Event Trigger In GTM

Your purchase data layer is ready for Google Tag Manager.

Before you go, copy the custom event from your data layer code.

Using the example above we will copy SEJ_purchase.

Shopify purchase datalayer_purchase event exampleScreenshot from Shopify, April 2022

Time to head over to Google Tag Manager. Open the GTM account and workspace for the company you’re working on.

Select Triggers in the left-hand menu and click the blue button in the top right corner to create a new trigger.

GTM creating a new trigger screenshotScreenshot from GTM, April 2022

Name the new trigger something that will make sense internally.

For example, Custom Purchase Event.

Click to configure the trigger and select custom event from the options on screen.

Paste the event name you copied previously.

It is important that the event name matches the data layer code exactly. Best practice is to copy/paste.

GTM_custom event trigger_purchase data layer exampleScreenshot from GTM, April 2022

For this example, we are creating a trigger for the custom purchase event “SEJ_purchase.” Click to save your event trigger.

It is a good idea to test at this stage before building out your whole GTM just to ensure that the data layer is working as expected.

To test return to your workspace and click Preview in the top right corner.

Enter your site’s URL and wait for the screen to say “Connected!”

Complete a test purchase and watch in Tag Assistant for the new event trigger.

In the left-hand column, Summary, click the event SEJ_purchase.

Then click the API Call dataLayer.push and you should be able to see all the variables in your code.

eCom purchase event_GTM preview_API items exampleScreenshot from GTM debug tool, April 2022

This means that our purchase data layer is successfully sending information to Google Tag Manager. Hooray!

Create Data Layer Variables

Return to your GTM workspace and click Variables in the left-hand navigation.

Here you will see built-in variables and any variables you have defined previously, like your Universal Analytics ID tracking.

GTM _new variables screenshotScreenshot from GTM, April 2022

Click to create a new user-defined variable.

The naming of your variable is for internal use but it helps when other people are working within the Google Tag Manager to use something informative like “dlv-totalValue.”

Click to choose the variable type and select the Data Layer Variable option.

The Data Layer Variable name value must match what is in your data layer exactly, otherwise, it will not work. It’s best to copy and paste.

For example, totalValue.

GTM userdefined datalayer variable eCom purchase total value_screenshotScreenshot from GTM, April 2022

You will need to repeat this process for all seven variables:

  • dlv-currency/currency.
  • dlv-items/items.
  • dlv-payment_type/payment_type.
  • dlv-shipping/shipping.
  • dlv-tax/tax.
  • dlv-totalValue/totalValue.
  • dlv-transaction_id/transaction_id.

At the end of this step, your GTM variable settings should look like the screenshot below.

GTM variable settings for ecommerce exampleScreenshot from GTM, April 2022

Send Conversions To GA4

Now, you need to send this purchase information to your Google Analytics account so your marketing team can start digging into reports.

Click Tags in the left-hand menu and select New.

Name your new tag “GA4 – Purchase Tracking” and click within the body of the first card to configure your tag.

Choose the tag type, Google Analytics GA4 Event.

GTM_creating a new tag screenshotScreenshot from GTM, April 2022

Configuration tag will be your GA4 – Global Tag which we created earlier.

If you do not see a GA4 Global Tag read SEJ’s Google Tag Manager GA4 guide.

The Event Name will be “purchase.”

GTM_creating a purchase event tag exampleScreenshot from GTM, April 2022

With GA4 you also need to add event parameters.

This is a link to the full documentation of available GA4 event parameters.

We will be adding event parameters for the variables in our data layer. Under Event Parameters, click Add Row.

The parameter name you will copy and paste from GA4 documentation.

For example, “transaction_id.”

The value will be the data layer variable we created in step 4.

For example, “dlv-transaction_id.”

To add your data layer variable, you can either click the plus icon to open a popup with all the variables available or type double brackets {{ which will open a dropdown with all of your options.

GTM_double brackets_dropdown menu of purchase event variablesScreenshot from GTM, April 2022

Here is an example of what your final event parameters screen may look like.

Purchase event parameters exampleScreenshot from GTM, April 2022

Trigger will be the custom purchase event previously created. If you do not see a custom purchase event, revisit step 3 above.

Upon completion, your GA4 purchase tracking tag will look similar to the screenshot below. Click Save.

Submit to publish your container.

GTM purchase event tag_Final ViewScreenshot from GTM, April 2022

Now, you are going to want information about which products were viewed before purchasing in your reports. Let’s keep going.

3. Product View Data Layer

To get product-level detail in Google Tag Manager, we will need to add a second data layer. The product view data layer will be added to the Shopify theme.liquid file.

The same five steps are involved.

We will be adding a data layer code, creating a custom event, creating data layer variables, and creating a new trigger in GTM.

You’ve totally got this!

Create A Product Data Layer

Your exact product data layer code may vary and I encourage you to speak with your developer.

Here is an example of a Shopify product data layer.

<script type="text/javascript">

window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || [];

window.appStart = function(){

{% assign template_name = %}

window.productPageHandle = function(){

var productName = "{{ product.title | remove: "'" | remove: '"' }}";

var productId = "{{ }}";

var productPrice = "{{ product.price | money_without_currency }}";

var productBrand = "{{ product.vendor | remove: "'" | remove: '"' }}";

var productCollection = "{{ product.collections.first.title | remove: "'" | remove: '"' }}"


event: 'SEJ_productDetail',

productName: productName,

productId: productId,

productPrice: productPrice,

productBrand: productBrand,

productCategory: productCollection,



{% case template_name %}

{% when 'product' %}


{% endcase %}




Add Product Data Layer To Theme Files

To send product information to GA4, you will need to edit your theme files.

Changes to your theme file are relatively risk-free because Shopify automatically saves change history.

But, if you’re feeling unsure you can absolutely work within a copy of the live theme.

Open your Shopify Admin panel and click Online Store.

Select Themes and choose your live theme. Click Actions and select edit code from the drop-down menu.

Shopify edit theme.liquid file_screenshotScreenshot from Shopify, April 2022

Scroll down to the Snippets‘ section and click Add new snippet.

Name the new snippet GTM-product-datalayer and click create.

Paste the code you copied from step 1 into this newly created snippet file and click Save.

Shopify_product data layer snippet exampleScreenshot from Shopify, April 2022

In the left-hand menu, scroll up to find the theme.liquid file. It is located under the “Layout” section.

Open the theme.liquid file and search for “/head”.

Paste the following code just above “/head”: {% render ‘GTM-product-datalayer.liquid’ %} and save your work.

Shopify_Add render product datalayer snippet to theme liquid_screenshotScreenshot from Shopify, April 2022

Now it’s time to test if the product data layer is passing information about our product views to Google Tag Manager as expected.

Open Google Tag Manager and click Preview.

Follow the onscreen prompts and then complete a test purchase.

If the product detail data layer is working you will see the custom event SEJ_productDetail in the left-hand navigation.

When you click on this custom event you should see all the variables from your code.

GTM preview_product data layer API callScreenshot from GTM debug tool, April 2022

Create Product Detail View Trigger

Your Shopify product view data layer is ready for Google Tag Manager.

Open Google Tag Manager and click Triggers in the left-hand menu and click “Add New.”

From the trigger options, choose “Custom Event” and name the new trigger, “ProductDetailView.”

Now add “SEJ_productDetail” in the custom event name field. This name matches your data layer event name. Remember to save.

GTM_example product detail view triggerScreenshot from GTM, April 2022

GTM Variables

Just as we did before, it is time to add variables from our data layer. This time it will be to pass the product detail information like product name, brand, and category.

In the GTM left-hand menu select Variables and click New under User-Defined Variables.

When adding your GTM variables it is extremely important that the text matches your data layer exactly and that you keep naming consistent.

For example, we will create a variable for the product name. Enter the variable name “dlv-productName.”

Choose the variable type, “Data Layer variable.”

Copy and paste the exact variable from your product data layer code and save.

The screenshot below is an example of the configuration for “dlv-productName.”

GTM_product detail view data layer variable exampleScreenshot from GTM, April 2022

Repeat this process for every variable in your product view data layer. Our example in this article has five variables:

  • dlv-productID/productID.
  • dlv-productName/productName.
  • dlv-productBrand/productBrand.
  • dlv-productCategory/productCategory.
  • dlv-productPrice/productPrice.

At the end, your user-defined variables list will include both purchase and product variables and look similar to the screenshot below.

GTM_Product datalayer variable_completed example screenScreenshot from GTM, April 2022

5. Create Product View Event Tag

Back to Google Tag Manager, this time you will click Tags.

Start a new tag and name it something like “GA4 – ProductView.”

Choose the tag type, “Google Analytics GA4 Event.”

GTM_example product view event tag_step 1 screenshotScreenshot from GTM, April 2022

Configuration tag will be your GA4 – Global Tag which we created earlier. If you do not see a GA4 Global Tag read SEJ’s Google Tag Manager GA4 guide.

The Event Name will be “view_item.”

With GA4 you will also need to add event parameters. This is a link to full GA4 documentation of available event parameters.

The first parameter will be item_id and for the corresponding variable you can either click the plus icon to find your user-generated variables or use a double bracket {{ and a dropdown list will appear.

GTM_product view tag_event parametersScreenshot from Shopify, April 2022

This part is case-sensitive and needs to match GA4 documentation and the data layer variable exactly.

Repeat this process until you have added all of the five parameters and their corresponding variables:

  • item_id/productID.
  • item_name/productName.
  • item_brand/productBrand.
  • item_category/productCategory.
  • item_price/productPrice.

Choose the custom ProductDetailView trigger that we created in step # as the trigger.

The screenshot below is an example of what your final product view tag may look like.

GTM_Product view tag for GA4Screenshot from GTM, April 2022

GA4 Ecommerce Debugging

You are in the final stretch! It is time to make sure everything is working as expected.

Open GTM preview and enter your site URL. Once the GTM preview tool is connected, view a few products, add-to-cart, and complete a purchase.

Watching in Google Tag Assistant for the product view event tag and purchase view event tag to fire.

Under the summary, click on the custom purchase event (SEJ_purchase) and open the API call details. You want to see all of the items from your data layer variable.

For example, below is an example screenshot for product detail.

GTM preview_product data layer API callScreenshot from GTM debug tool, April 2022

And here is an example for purchase.

GTM_Purchase event API_with items exampleScreenshot from GTM debug tool, April 2022

This means your Shopify store is passing ecommerce product view information and transaction data to GTM. Hooray!

Next, we open GA4 Realtime reports and check that user events have recorded our product detail view and purchase event.

GA4 Real Time Report_Shopify Testing exampleScreenshot from GA4 realtime report, April 2022

The final check is to confirm in GA4 Debugger that all of our event parameters and items array are working as intended.

In the left-hand menu navigation, click Configure > DebugView.

It’s not super clear but you will need to find your device in the dropdown menu for DEBUG DEVICE.

From this view, you will see a timeline of your activity on the site. In the far right column titled TOP EVENTS click on the purchase event.

Then click on items to make sure the purchase event is sending the product item information to GA4. Without “items” the full reports can not display.

It should look similar to the screenshot below.

GA4 debugger_purchase event variablesScreenshot from GA4 Debugger, April 2022


This means that your Shopify store is passing purchase and product view data perfectly. Keep in mind that standard GA4 ecommerce reports may take 24 – 48 hours to fully populate.

Ultimately your Monetization > Ecommerce purchases report will look similar to the screenshot below.

GA4 ecommerce purchases report exampleScreenshot from GA4 Debugger, April 2022

Final Thoughts

To use GA4 ecommerce reports, we added a Google Tag Manager container script to our online shop, s purchase data layer to our checkout page, and a product view data layer to our Shopify theme.liquid file.

Then we created a custom trigger, custom event, and data layer variables within Google Tag Manager.

Last we used GA4 tags to send information on revenue, tax, shipping, product name, brand, and category into our GA4 reports.

Don’t forget to test using GTM preview and GA4 debugger tools. Your standard reports may take 24 to 48 hours to populate.

GA4 is an evolving product and I hope ecommerce tracking becomes easier as third-party platforms, like Shopify, make adjustments on their end.

More resources:

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita

Source link

Keep an eye on what we are doing
Be the first to get latest updates and exclusive content straight to your email inbox.
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Invalid email address


Google To Curb Microtargeting In Consumer Finance Ads




Google To Curb Microtargeting In Consumer Finance Ads

Google is updating its policy limiting personalized advertising to include more restrictions on ads related to consumer financial products and services.

Google’s personalized ads policy prohibits targeting users based on sensitive categories like race, religion, or sexual orientation.

Over the years, Google has continued updating the policy to introduce new limitations. The latest update to restrict consumer finance ads is part of Google’s ongoing efforts to refine its ad targeting practices.

What’s Changing?

Google will update its personalized ads policy in February 2024 to prevent advertisers from targeting audiences for credit and banking ads based on sensitive factors like gender, age, parental status, marital status, or zip code.

Google’s current policy prohibiting “Credit in personalized ads” will be renamed “Consumer finance in personalized ads” under the changes.

Google’s new policy will state:

“In the United States and Canada, the following sensitive interest categories cannot be targeted to audiences based on gender, age, parental status, marital status, or ZIP code.

Offers relating to credit or products or services related to credit lending, banking products and services, or certain financial planning and management services.”

Google provided examples, including “credit cards and loans including home loans, car loans, appliance loans, short-term loans,” as well as “banking and checking accounts” and “debt management products.”

When Does The New Policy Take Effect?

The updated limitations on personalized advertising will take effect on February 28, 2024, with full enforcement expected within six weeks.

Google said advertisers in violation will receive a warning at least seven days before any account suspension.

According to Google, the policy change aims to protect users’ privacy better and prevent discrimination in financial services advertising.

However, the company will still allow generalized ads for credit and banking products that do not use sensitive personal data for targeting.

What Do Advertisers Need To Do?

Google will begin enforcing the updated restrictions in late February 2024 but advises advertisers to review their campaigns for compliance issues sooner.

Advertisers should carefully check their ad targeting settings, remove improper personalization based on sensitive categories, and adhere to the revised policy requirements.

Failure to follow the rules could lead to account suspension after an initial warning. Google will work with advertisers to ensure a smooth transition during the ramp-up period over the next six months.

Featured Image: SurfsUp/Shutterstock

Source link

Keep an eye on what we are doing
Be the first to get latest updates and exclusive content straight to your email inbox.
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Invalid email address
Continue Reading


Google Discusses Fixing 404 Errors From Inbound Links




Google Discusses Fixing 404 Errors From Inbound Links

Google’s John Mueller responded to a thread in Reddit about finding and fixing inbound broken links, offering a nuanced insight that some broken links are worth finding and fixing and others are not.

Reddit Question About Inbound Broken Links

Someone asked on Reddit if there’s a way to find broken links for free.

This is the question:

“Is it possible to locate broken links in a similar manner to identifying expired domain names?”

The person asking the question clarified if this was a question about an inbound broken link from an external site.

John Mueller Explains How To Find 404 Errors To Fix

John Mueller responded:

“If you want to see which links to your website are broken & “relevant”, you can look at the analytics of your 404 page and check the referrers there, filtering out your domain.

This brings up those which actually get traffic, which is probably a good proxy.

If you have access to your server logs, you could get it in a bit more detail + see which ones search engine bots crawl.

It’s a bit of technical work, but no external tools needed, and likely a better estimation of what’s useful to fix/redirect.”

In his response, John Mueller answers the question on how to find 404 responses caused by broken inbound links and identify what’s “useful to fix” or to “redirect.”

Mueller Advises On When Not To “Fix” 404 Pages

John Mueller next offered advice on when it doesn’t make sense to not fix a 404 page.

Mueller explained:

“Keep in mind that you don’t have to fix 404 pages, having things go away is normal & fine.

The SEO ‘value’ of bringing a 404 back is probably less than the work you put into it.”

Some 404s Should Be Fixed And Some Don’t Need Fixing

John Mueller said that there are situations where a 404 error generated from an inbound link is easy to fix and suggested ways to find those errors and fix them.

Mueller also said that there are some cases where it’s basically a waste of time.

What wasn’t mentioned was what the difference was between the two and this may have caused some confusion.

Inbound Broken Links To Existing Webpages

There are times when another sites links into your site but uses the wrong URL. Traffic from the broken link on the outside site will generate a 404 response code on your site.

These kinds of links are easy to find and useful to fix.

There are other situations when an outside site will link to the correct webpage but the webpage URL changed and the 301 redirect is missing.

Those kinds of inbound broken links are also easy to find and useful to fix. If in doubt, read our guide on when to redirect URLs.

In both of those cases the inbound broken links to the existing webpages will generate a 404 response and this will show up in server logs, Google Search Console and in plugins like the Redirection WordPress plugin.

If the site is on WordPress and it’s using the Redirection plugin, identifying the problem is easy because the Redirection plugin offers a report of all 404 responses with all the necessary information for diagnosing and fixing the problem.

In the case where the Redirection plugin isn’t used one can also hand code an .htaccess rule for handling the redirect.

Lastly, one can contact the other website that’s generating the broken link and ask them to fix it. There’s always a small chance that the other site might decide to remove the link altogether. So it might be easier and faster to just fix it on your side.

Whichever approach is taken to fix the external inbound broken link, finding and fixing these issues is relatively simple.

Inbound Broken Links To Removed Pages

There are other situations where an old webpage was removed for a legitimate reason, like an event passed or a service is no longer offered.

In that case it makes sense to just show a 404 response code because that’s one of the reasons why a 404 response should be shown. It’s not a bad thing to show a 404 response.

Some people might want to get some value from the inbound link and create a new webpage to stand in for the missing page.

But that might not be useful because the link is for something that is irrelevant and of no use because the reason for the page no longer exists.

Even if you create a new reason, it’s possible that some of that link equity might flow to the page but it’s useless because the topic of that inbound link is totally irrelevant to anyting but the expired reason.

Redirecting the missing page to the home page is a strategy that some people use to benefit from the link to a page that no longer exists. But Google treats those links as Soft 404s, which then passes no benefit.

These are the cases that John Mueller was probably referring to when he said:

“…you don’t have to fix 404 pages, having things go away is normal & fine.

The SEO ‘value’ of bringing a 404 back is probably less than the work you put into it.”

Mueller is right, there are some pages that should be gone and totally removed from a website and the proper server response for those pages should be a 404 error response.

Source link

Keep an eye on what we are doing
Be the first to get latest updates and exclusive content straight to your email inbox.
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Invalid email address
Continue Reading


Site Quality Is Simpler Than People Think




Site Quality Is Simpler Than People Think

Google’s John Mueller, Martin Splitt and Gary Illyes discussed site quality in a recent podcast, explaining the different ways of thinking about site quality and at one point saying it’s not rocket science. The discussion suggests that site quality could be simpler than most people know.

Site Quality Is Not Rocket Science

The first point they touched on is to recommend reading site quality documentation, insisting that site quality is not especially difficult to understand.

Gary Illyes said:

“So I would go to a search engine’s documentation.

Most of them have some documentation about how they function and just try to figure out where your content might be failing or where your page might be failing because honestly, okay, this is patronizing, but it’s not rocket science.”

No Tools For Site Quality – What To Do?

Gary acknowledged that there’s no tool for diagnosing site quality, not in the same way there are tools for objectively detecting technical issues.

The traffic metrics that show a downward movement don’t explain why, they just show that something changed.

Gary Illyes:

“I found the up-down metric completely useless because you still have to figure out what’s wrong with it or why people didn’t like it.

And then you’re like, “This is a perfectly good page. I wrote it, I know that it’s perfect.”

And then people, or I don’t know, like 99.7% of people are downvoting it. And you’re like, ‘Why?’”

Martin Splitt

“And I think that’s another thing.

How do I spot, I wrote the page, so clearly it is perfect and helpful and useful and amazing, but then people disagree, as you say.

How do you think about that? What do you do then?

How can I make my content more helpful, better, more useful? I don’t know.

…There’s all these tools that I can just look at and I see that something’s good or something’s bad.

But for quality, how do I go about that?”

Gary Illyes

“What if quality is actually simpler than at least most people think?

…What if it’s about writing the thing that will help people achieve whatever they need to achieve when they come to the page? And that’s it.”

Martin Splitt asked if Gary was talking about reviewing the page from the perspective of the user.

Illyes answered:

“No, we are reframing.”

Reframing generally means to think about the problem differently.

Gary’s example is to reframe the problem as whether the page delivers what it says it’s going to deliver (like helping users achieve X,Y,Z).

Something I see a lot with content is that the topic being targeted (for example, queries about how to catch a trout) isn’t matched by the content (which might actually be about tools for catching trout) which is not what the site visitor wants to achieve.

Quality In Terms Of Adding Value

There are different kinds of things that relate to site and page quality and in the next part of the podcast John Mueller and Gary Illyes discuss the issue about adding something of value.

Adding something of value came up in the context of where the SERPs offer good answers from websites that people not only enjoy but they expect to see those sites as answers for those queries.

You can tell when users expect specific sites for individual search queries when Google Suggests shows the brand name and the keyword.

That’s a clue that probably a lot of people are turning keywords into branded searches, which signals to Google what people want to see.

So, the problem of quality in those situations isn’t about being relevant for a query with the perfect answer.

For these situations, like for competitive queries, it’s not enough to be relevant or have the perfect answer.

John Mueller explains:

“The one thing I sometimes run into when talking with people is that they’ll be like, “Well, I feel I need to make this page.”

And I made this page for users in air quotes…

But then when I look at the search results, it’s like 9,000 other people also made this page.

It’s like, is this really adding value to the Internet?

And that’s sometimes kind of a weird discussion to have.

It’s like, ‘Well, it’s a good page, but who needs it?’

There are so many other versions of this page already, and people are happy with those.”

This is the type of situation where competitive analysis to “reverse engineer” the SERPs  works against the SEO.

It’s stale because using what’s in the SERPs as a template for what to do rank is feeding Google what it already has.

It’s like, as an example, let’s represent the site ranked in Google with a baseline of the number zero.

Let’s imagine everything in the SERPs has a baseline of zero. Less than zero is poor quality. Higher than zero is higher quality.

Zero is not better than zero, it’s just zero.

The SEOs who think they’re reverse engineering Google by copying entities, copying topics, they’re really just achieving an imperfect score of zero.

So, according to Mueller, Google responds with, “it’s a good page, but who needs it?”

What Google is looking for in this situation is not the baseline of what’s already in the SERPs, zero.

According to Mueller, they’re looking for something that’s not the same as the baseline.

So in my analogy, Google is looking for something above the baseline of what is already in the SERPs, a number greater than zero, which is a one.

You can’t add value by feeding Google back what’s already there. And you can’t add value by doing the same thing ten times bigger. It’s still the same thing.

Breaking Into The SERPs By The Side Door

Gary Illyes next discusses a way to break into a tough SERP, saying the way to do it is indirectly.

This is an old strategy but a good one that still works today.

So, rather than bringing a knife to a gunfight, Gary Illyes suggests choosing more realistic battles to compete in.

Gary continued the conversation about competing in tough SERPs.

He said:

“…this also is kind of related to the age-old topic that if you are a new site, then how can you break into your niche?

I think on today’s Internet, like back when I was doing ‘SEO’, it was already hard.

For certain topics or niches, it was absolutely a nightmare, like ….mesothelioma….

That was just impossible to break into. Legal topics, it was impossible to break into.

And I think by now, we have so much content on the Internet that there’s a very large number of topics where it is like 15 years ago or 20 years ago, that mesothelioma topic, where it was impossible to break into.

…I remember Matt Cutts, former head of Web Spam, …he was doing these videos.

And in one of the videos, he said try to offer something unique or your own perspective to the thing that you are writing about.

Then the number of perspective or available perspectives, free perspectives, is probably already gone.

But if you find a niche where people are not talking too much about, then suddenly, it’s much easier to break into.

So basically, this is me saying that you can break into most niches if you know what you are doing and if you are actually trying to help people.”

What Illyes is suggesting as a direction is to “know what you are doing and if you are actually trying to help people.

That’s one of my secrets to staying one step ahead in SEO.

For example, before the reviews update, before Google added Experience to E-A-T, I was telling clients privately to do that for their review pages and I told them to keep it a secret, because I knew I had it dialed in.

I’m not psychic, I was just looking at what Google wants to rank and I figured it out several years before the reviews update that you need to have original photos, you need to have hands-on experience with the reviewed product, etc.

Gary’s right when he advises to look at the problem from the perspective of “trying to help people.”

He next followed up with this idea about choosing which battles to fight.

He said:

“…and I think the other big motivator is, as always, money. People are trying to break into niches that make the most money. I mean, duh, I would do the same thing probably.

But if you write about these topics that most people don’t write about, let’s say just three people wrote about it on the Internet, then maybe you can capture some traffic.

And then if you have many of those, then maybe you can even outdo those high-traffic niches.”

Barriers To Entry

What Gary is talking about is how to get around the barrier to entry, which are the established sites. His suggestion is to stay away from offering what everyone else is offering (which is a quality thing).

Creating content that the bigger sites can’t or don’t know to create is an approach I’ve used with a new site.

Weaknesses can be things that the big site does poorly, like their inability to resonate with a younger or older audience and so on.

Those are examples of offering something different that makes the site stand out from a quality perspective.

Gary is talking about picking the battles that can be won, planting a flag, then moving on to the next hill.

That’s a far better strategies than walking up toe to toe with the bigger opponent.

Analyzing For Quality Issues

It’s a lot easier to analyze a site for technical issues than it is for quality issues.

But a few of the takeaways are:

  • Be aware that the people closest to the content are not always the best judges of content is quality.
  • Read Google’s search documentation (for on-page factors, content, and quality guidelines).
  • Content quality is simpler than it seems. Just think about knowing the topic well and being helpful to people.
  • Being original is about looking at the SERPs for things that you can do differently, not about copying what the competitors are doing.

In my experience, it’s super important to keep an open mind, to not get locked into one way of thinking, especially when it comes to site quality. This will help one keep from getting locked into a point of view that can keep one from seeing the true cause of ranking issues.

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Stone36

Source link

Keep an eye on what we are doing
Be the first to get latest updates and exclusive content straight to your email inbox.
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Invalid email address
Continue Reading