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Google Tag Manager: A GA4 Beginners Guide

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Google Tag Manager: A GA4 Beginners Guide

Learning a new skill, like Google Analytics 4, is intimidating. Add to this the fact that there’s a looming deadline, and you can’t afford to be dragging your feet on getting started.

I’m sharing an easy-to-follow beginners guide for setting up GA4 using Google Tag Manager to get you up and running.

In it, we’ll take a look at how Google Tag Manager works, followed by an easy five-step GA4 setup tutorial with pictures.

Google Tag Manager Defined

Google Tag Manager (GTM) is a free tag management solution that allows you to add and edit segments of code (tags) that collect and send data to Google Analytics.

For example, “back in the day,” marketers would receive a segment of code from a third-party vendor – like Facebook Ads.

This code would collect and send information about how users from Facebook Ads engaged with the site back to Facebook.

Site owners and marketers relied heavily on developers to install the code directly on the website.

But if we use Google Tag Manager, all we need to do is place one snippet of code on the website, and that container acts as a middleman between your site and third-party vendors.

Any tags we need to add or edit can be adjusted from within the GTM interface.

Aside from ease of use, the major benefit is condensed code and a much faster site.

Difference Between Google Tag Manager And Google Analytics

Google Tag Manager (GTM) and Google Analytics (GA) are completely different tools that work together to get you the data you need to make smart marketing decisions.

Google Tag Manager is used for storing and managing the code – it is literally a container.

There are no reporting features and no option to analyze data within the tag manager.

Google Analytics is used for data analysis.

All reporting – user reports, conversions and engagement, sales, etc. – can be viewed within Google Analytics.

To understand why you need GTM in addition to Google Analytics, you need to know how GA gets the data you see in reports.

Google Analytics can report on traffic acquisition and user interactions, thanks to the help of a tracking code – technically a “GA Javascript code snippet” or “gtag.js.”

When an interaction occurs on your site – a pageview, for example – the Javascript snippet tells Google Analytics.

Getting Started With Google Tag Manager

At a high level, the main steps to getting started with Google Tag Manager are creating an account, installing the container on your website, and adding tags (like the GA4 configuration tag) to collect and send the information you need.

Below, we will walk through each step for getting started with Google Tag Manager.

Consider Account Management

First, you’ll need to decide how account management will be handled.

Should someone change roles or leave your organization, you want to retain the work put into developing your analytics.

It is best practice to create the Tag Manager account using the login credentials of the person managing the account in the long term (most likely the website owner).

Tip for managing client accounts: If a client cannot create a Tag Manager account themselves, hop on a video call where you can control their screen and walk through each step.

After creating a Tag Manager account, you can add users and set permissions within the Admin screen in the top navigation.

Create A Google Tag Manager Account

Below are instructions for creating a Google Tag Manager account. This will take approximately three minutes.

Login to Tag Manager (Tag Manager tends to work best in Chrome) and click Create an account.

Enter an account name; this is commonly the organization’s name.

A Tag Manager account represents the organization’s topmost level, meaning only one account is needed per company.

A company with multiple websites with separate revenue channels can create separate containers under the same GTM account.

Select a Country and whether or not you’d like to share data to improve Google products.

Enter a Container Name. Choose a descriptive container name for internal use, most often the site URL or name of the app.

Select the Target Platform. Are you creating an account for a website (Web), app (iOS, Android), AMP, or Server?

Your final screen will look similar to the example below. Click Create.

Screenshot from Google Tag Manager, October 2022Create a GTM Account screenshot of required fields.

After this screen, you will be prompted to install your new GTM code. Click OK to clear this dialog, or follow the install directions.

After closing out of the snippet dialog box, you will be on the workspace screen, where you will be creating your marketing tags and triggers.

Install Google Tag Manager On Your Website

If you close the web container installation dialog box, you can find instructions to install Google Tag Manager within the Admin tab.

Instructions for installation will look like this:

GTM Container Snippet Screenshot ExampleScreenshot from Google Tag Manager, October 2022GTM Container Snippet Screenshot Example

Examining the container code will help you understand how Google Tag Manager works.

In the first part, highlighted in yellow, you will see <script>.

This loads your GTM container on your page. It also tells your site that the page can continue loading while Google is doing its magic.

You will see a no-script tag in the second part, highlighted in yellow.

This no-script tag is your backup.

It tells the browser to render an iframe version of the GTM Container to the page, allowing you to still track users when JavaScript is disabled.

A common question while installing the GTM container is: Does placement really matter as long as it is in the <head> section?

The answer is yes; the placement of the GTM container really does matter.

Google Tag Manager is not dependent on any plugins; it runs in raw JavaScript.

Placing the container snippet as high in the <head> as possible improves accuracy.

Placing the snippet lower on your page may result in incorrect data.

And don’t skip out on the second part; it needs to be placed directly after your <body> tag.

If you plan on using GTM to verify Google Search Console, you will need both tags placed as Google recommends; otherwise, verification will fail.

Tip for managing client accounts: When multiple marketing agencies have worked on a site, there tend to be numerous marketing tags. You can check for extra tags using Google Tag Assistant (legacy). Remove any additional tags on the site because deploying tags twice will cause inaccurate data.

Setting Up Google Analytics 4 With GTM: Step-By-Step

Google Tag Manager makes setting up Google Analytics 4 easy. There are only three steps: creating a trigger, creating a tag, and testing your setup.

The entire process will take less than five minutes to complete.

Please note: If you have not installed GTM on your website yet, scroll up and complete the section above titled “Getting Started With GTM.”

1. Create GA4 Trigger In GTM

The trigger you create in GTM tells the tag (segment of code) under which circumstances to collect the data.

To create a trigger, open your Google Tag Manager account and click Triggers in the left-hand navigation.

Then hit the blue New button to create a new trigger.

Name your Trigger: Page View – All.

Click within the Trigger Configuration box and choose Page View as the trigger type in the right-hand menu. You want this trigger to fire on All Page Views.

Your final screen will look like the screenshot below. Click Save.

GA4 Trigger Configuration screenshot exampleScreenshot from Google Tag Manager, October 2022GA4 Trigger Configuration screenshot example

Step 1 is complete! You have created a rule that tells Google Tag Manager to deploy tags associated with the Page View – All trigger when a page (any and all pages) on your website is viewed.

2. Create GA4 Tag In GTM

To send this information to GA4, we need to create a tag telling GTM what to do with the page-view data it captures.

To create a tag, open Tags in the left-hand navigation and click the blue New button.

Name your tag “GA4 Config.”

Click within the Tag Configuration box and select Google Analytics: GA4 Configuration from the right-side menu under featured tag types, highlighted in the example below.

GA4 GTM Tag Configuration screenshot exampleScreenshot from Google Tag Manager, October 2022GA4 GTM Tag Configuration screenshot example

Enter your GA4 Measurement ID.

Click within the Triggering box and select the trigger you made in the previous step, Page View – All trigger.

Your completed GA4 configuration tag will look like the image below. Click Save.

Completed GA4 Configuration in GTM screenshot exampleScreenshot from Google Tag Manager, October 2022Completed GA4 Configuration in GTM screenshot example

Where To Find GA4 Measurement ID

Hold on – what is a Measurement ID, and where can I find it?

To find your unique Measurement ID open your GA4 Property. Click the gear icon in the lower left-hand corner to enter the Admin section.

Tip for managing client accounts: If you cannot open the Admin section of the GA4 account, that is because you don’t have admin permissions on the account. Remember to set up GA4 under the owner’s email address, not your own.

Within the Admin section, find the property column and open Data Streams.

Finding GA4 Measurement ID screenshot exampleScreenshot from Google Tag Manager, October 2022Finding GA4 Measurement ID screenshot example

Select your data stream, and you will see the associated Measurement ID in the top right corner; it will look like G-A2ABC2ABCD.

Create a GTM Account screenshot of required fields.Screenshot from Google Tag Manager, October 2022Create a GTM Account screenshot of required fields.

3. Publishing A GTM Container

After you have added the Page View – All Pages trigger and GA4 Configuration tag, you need to publish your container to make the additions live.

To publish a container, click the blue button Submit in the top right corner of the Google Tag Manager Workspace.

Publishing a GTM ContainerScreenshot from Google Tag Manager, October 2022Publishing a GTM Container

4. Testing GA4 Configuration In GTM

Data can take a day or more to start showing up in GA4.

To test your setup, click Preview within Tag Manager, enter your website’s URL, and click Connect.

Your site will open in another tab, and you should see that the GA4 Config tag has fired.

Click on the fired GA4 Config tag and ensure that you are sending the page-view event to the correct GA4 account by double-checking the Measurement ID.

Testing the GA4 configurationScreenshot from Google Tag Manager, October 2022Testing the GA4 configuration

GA4 Events

Hooray! You have successfully added the GA4 configuration tag to your website.

This one tag (GA4 configuration tag) will set Google Analytics cookies for your property and automatically send some events to your analytics account.

Automatically collected events are easy to toggle on and off within the Google Analytics 4 interface.

Because this is a beginner’s guide, we will be focusing on best practices and terminology to help you use the different types of GA4 events available.

Creating An Analytics Strategy And Implementation Plan

The best practice is to have an analytics strategy and tag implementation plan.

I promise creating this plan is not as complicated as it sounds.

Sit down with the marketing team, content team, and decision-makers at your company to have a conversation about what information you need to collect.

If you don’t know what information you need to collect, start by creating an SEO goal pyramid.

Google Tag Manager: A GA4 Beginners GuideScreenshot from Ahrefs, October 2022Google Tag Manager: A GA4 Beginners Guide

In short, you will define your overall SEO goal, what performance goals will get you closer to achieving this goal, and which process goals are 100% within your control.

What events do you need to track on your website to measure whether you are achieving the goals you mapped out above?

Now, identify all the tags you have deployed on your site (I use a spreadsheet for this step). If this is a brand-new GTM account, you won’t have any yet, and that’s ok!

Taking the time to complete an SEO goal pyramid and mapping out your event tags will ensure that you cover everything you need to make smart marketing decisions.

Understanding The Types Of Events Available

There are three basic types of events you’ll work with in Google Analytics 4 and GTM: automatically collected events, enhanced measurement events, and custom events.

Below you will learn what types of events fall under each category.

  • Automatically Collected Events are collected… well, automatically; you will not need to do anything extra to collect a user’s first visit, page views, or session start.
  • Enhanced Measurement provides events you can toggle on and off within Google Analytics 4 web stream details.
Google Tag Manager: A GA4 Beginners GuideScreenshot from Google Analytics 4, October 2022Google Tag Manager: A GA4 Beginners Guide

No code changes are required to capture scroll events, outbound clicks, site search information, video engagement, and file downloads.

  • Custom Events can measure anything that’s not automatically collected or a recommended event.

In GA4, custom dimensions are limited to 50 event-scoped and 25 user-scoped custom dimensions.

Final Thoughts

This beginner’s guide to Google Tag Manager and GA4 merely scratches the surface of what analytics can do for your company.

Even if you’re not a developer, I highly recommend reading Google Tag Manager’s Developer Guide.

More Resources:


Featured Image: Merkushev Vasiliy/Shutterstock

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11 Disadvantages Of ChatGPT Content

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11 Disadvantages Of ChatGPT Content

ChatGPT produces content that is comprehensive and plausibly accurate.

But researchers, artists, and professors warn of shortcomings to be aware of which degrade the quality of the content.

In this article, we’ll look at 11 disadvantages of ChatGPT content. Let’s dive in.

1. Phrase Usage Makes It Detectable As Non-Human

Researchers studying how to detect machine-generated content have discovered patterns that make it sound unnatural.

One of these quirks is how AI struggles with idioms.

An idiom is a phrase or saying with a figurative meaning attached to it, for example, “every cloud has a silver lining.” 

A lack of idioms within a piece of content can be a signal that the content is machine-generated – and this can be part of a detection algorithm.

This is what the 2022 research paper Adversarial Robustness of Neural-Statistical Features in Detection of Generative Transformers says about this quirk in machine-generated content:

“Complex phrasal features are based on the frequency of specific words and phrases within the analyzed text that occur more frequently in human text.

…Of these complex phrasal features, idiom features retain the most predictive power in detection of current generative models.”

This inability to use idioms contributes to making ChatGPT output sound and read unnaturally.

2. ChatGPT Lacks Ability For Expression

An artist commented on how the output of ChatGPT mimics what art is, but lacks the actual qualities of artistic expression.

Expression is the act of communicating thoughts or feelings.

ChatGPT output doesn’t contain expressions, only words.

It cannot produce content that touches people emotionally on the same level as a human can – because it has no actual thoughts or feelings.

Musical artist Nick Cave, in an article posted to his Red Hand Files newsletter, commented on a ChatGPT lyric that was sent to him, which was created in the style of Nick Cave.

He wrote:

“What makes a great song great is not its close resemblance to a recognizable work.

…it is the breathless confrontation with one’s vulnerability, one’s perilousness, one’s smallness, pitted against a sense of sudden shocking discovery; it is the redemptive artistic act that stirs the heart of the listener, where the listener recognizes in the inner workings of the song their own blood, their own struggle, their own suffering.”

Cave called the ChatGPT lyrics a mockery.

This is the ChatGPT lyric that resembles a Nick Cave lyric:

“I’ve got the blood of angels, on my hands
I’ve got the fire of hell, in my eyes
I’m the king of the abyss, I’m the ruler of the dark
I’m the one that they fear, in the shadows they hark”

And this is an actual Nick Cave lyric (Brother, My Cup Is Empty):

“Well I’ve been sliding down on rainbows
I’ve been swinging from the stars
Now this wretch in beggar’s clothing
Bangs his cup across the bars
Look, this cup of mine is empty!
Seems I’ve misplaced my desires
Seems I’m sweeping up the ashes
Of all my former fires”

It’s easy to see that the machine-generated lyric resembles the artist’s lyric, but it doesn’t really communicate anything.

Nick Cave’s lyrics tell a story that resonates with the pathos, desire, shame, and willful deception of the person speaking in the song. It expresses thoughts and feelings.

It’s easy to see why Nick Cave calls it a mockery.

3. ChatGPT Does Not Produce Insights

An article published in The Insider quoted an academic who noted that academic essays generated by ChatGPT lack insights about the topic.

ChatGPT summarizes the topic but does not offer a unique insight into the topic.

Humans create through knowledge, but also through their personal experience and subjective perceptions.

Professor Christopher Bartel of Appalachian State University is quoted by The Insider as saying that, while a ChatGPT essay may exhibit high grammar qualities and sophisticated ideas, it still lacked insight.

Bartel said:

“They are really fluffy. There’s no context, there’s no depth or insight.”

Insight is the hallmark of a well-done essay and it’s something that ChatGPT is not particularly good at.

This lack of insight is something to keep in mind when evaluating machine-generated content.

4. ChatGPT Is Too Wordy

A research paper published in January 2023 discovered patterns in ChatGPT content that makes it less suitable for critical applications.

The paper is titled, How Close is ChatGPT to Human Experts? Comparison Corpus, Evaluation, and Detection.

The research showed that humans preferred answers from ChatGPT in more than 50% of questions answered related to finance and psychology.

But ChatGPT failed at answering medical questions because humans preferred direct answers – something the AI didn’t provide.

The researchers wrote:

“…ChatGPT performs poorly in terms of helpfulness for the medical domain in both English and Chinese.

The ChatGPT often gives lengthy answers to medical consulting in our collected dataset, while human experts may directly give straightforward answers or suggestions, which may partly explain why volunteers consider human answers to be more helpful in the medical domain.”

ChatGPT tends to cover a topic from different angles, which makes it inappropriate when the best answer is a direct one.

Marketers using ChatGPT must take note of this because site visitors requiring a direct answer will not be satisfied with a verbose webpage.

And good luck ranking an overly wordy page in Google’s featured snippets, where a succinct and clearly expressed answer that can work well in Google Voice may have a better chance to rank than a long-winded answer.

OpenAI, the makers of ChatGPT, acknowledges that giving verbose answers is a known limitation.

The announcement article by OpenAI states:

“The model is often excessively verbose…”

The ChatGPT bias toward providing long-winded answers is something to be mindful of when using ChatGPT output, as you may encounter situations where shorter and more direct answers are better.

5. ChatGPT Content Is Highly Organized With Clear Logic

ChatGPT has a writing style that is not only verbose but also tends to follow a template that gives the content a unique style that isn’t human.

This inhuman quality is revealed in the differences between how humans and machines answer questions.

The movie Blade Runner has a scene featuring a series of questions designed to reveal whether the subject answering the questions is a human or an android.

These questions were a part of a fictional test called the “Voigt-Kampff test“.

One of the questions is:

“You’re watching television. Suddenly you realize there’s a wasp crawling on your arm. What do you do?”

A normal human response would be to say something like they would scream, walk outside and swat it, and so on.

But when I posed this question to ChatGPT, it offered a meticulously organized answer that summarized the question and then offered logical multiple possible outcomes – failing to answer the actual question.

Screenshot Of ChatGPT Answering A Voight-Kampff Test Question

Screenshot from ChatGPT, January 2023

The answer is highly organized and logical, giving it a highly unnatural feel, which is undesirable.

6. ChatGPT Is Overly Detailed And Comprehensive

ChatGPT was trained in a way that rewarded the machine when humans were happy with the answer.

The human raters tended to prefer answers that had more details.

But sometimes, such as in a medical context, a direct answer is better than a comprehensive one.

What that means is that the machine needs to be prompted to be less comprehensive and more direct when those qualities are important.

From OpenAI:

“These issues arise from biases in the training data (trainers prefer longer answers that look more comprehensive) and well-known over-optimization issues.”

7. ChatGPT Lies (Hallucinates Facts)

The above-cited research paper, How Close is ChatGPT to Human Experts?, noted that ChatGPT has a tendency to lie.

It reports:

“When answering a question that requires professional knowledge from a particular field, ChatGPT may fabricate facts in order to give an answer…

For example, in legal questions, ChatGPT may invent some non-existent legal provisions to answer the question.

…Additionally, when a user poses a question that has no existing answer, ChatGPT may also fabricate facts in order to provide a response.”

The Futurism website documented instances where machine-generated content published on CNET was wrong and full of “dumb errors.”

CNET should have had an idea this could happen, because OpenAI published a warning about incorrect output:

“ChatGPT sometimes writes plausible-sounding but incorrect or nonsensical answers.”

CNET claims to have submitted the machine-generated articles to human review prior to publication.

A problem with human review is that ChatGPT content is designed to sound persuasively correct, which may fool a reviewer who is not a topic expert.

8. ChatGPT Is Unnatural Because It’s Not Divergent

The research paper, How Close is ChatGPT to Human Experts? also noted that human communication can have indirect meaning, which requires a shift in topic to understand it.

ChatGPT is too literal, which causes the answers to sometimes miss the mark because the AI overlooks the actual topic.

The researchers wrote:

“ChatGPT’s responses are generally strictly focused on the given question, whereas humans’ are divergent and easily shift to other topics.

In terms of the richness of content, humans are more divergent in different aspects, while ChatGPT prefers focusing on the question itself.

Humans can answer the hidden meaning under the question based on their own common sense and knowledge, but the ChatGPT relies on the literal words of the question at hand…”

Humans are better able to diverge from the literal question, which is important for answering “what about” type questions.

For example, if I ask:

“Horses are too big to be a house pet. What about raccoons?”

The above question is not asking if a raccoon is an appropriate pet. The question is about the size of the animal.

ChatGPT focuses on the appropriateness of the raccoon as a pet instead of focusing on the size.

Screenshot of an Overly Literal ChatGPT Answer

11 Disadvantages Of ChatGPT ContentScreenshot from ChatGPT, January 2023

9. ChatGPT Contains A Bias Towards Being Neutral

The output of ChatGPT is generally neutral and informative. It’s a bias in the output that can appear helpful but isn’t always.

The research paper we just discussed noted that neutrality is an unwanted quality when it comes to legal, medical, and technical questions.

Humans tend to pick a side when offering these kinds of opinions.

10. ChatGPT Is Biased To Be Formal

ChatGPT output has a bias that prevents it from loosening up and answering with ordinary expressions. Instead, its answers tend to be formal.

Humans, on the other hand, tend to answer questions with a more colloquial style, using everyday language and slang – the opposite of formal.

ChatGPT doesn’t use abbreviations like GOAT or TL;DR.

The answers also lack instances of irony, metaphors, and humor, which can make ChatGPT content overly formal for some content types.

The researchers write:

“…ChatGPT likes to use conjunctions and adverbs to convey a logical flow of thought, such as “In general”, “on the other hand”, “Firstly,…, Secondly,…, Finally” and so on.

11. ChatGPT Is Still In Training

ChatGPT is currently still in the process of training and improving.

OpenAI recommends that all content generated by ChatGPT should be reviewed by a human, listing this as a best practice.

OpenAI suggests keeping humans in the loop:

“Wherever possible, we recommend having a human review outputs before they are used in practice.

This is especially critical in high-stakes domains, and for code generation.

Humans should be aware of the limitations of the system, and have access to any information needed to verify the outputs (for example, if the application summarizes notes, a human should have easy access to the original notes to refer back).”

Unwanted Qualities Of ChatGPT

It’s clear that there are many issues with ChatGPT that make it unfit for unsupervised content generation. It contains biases and fails to create content that feels natural or contains genuine insights.

Further, its inability to feel or author original thoughts makes it a poor choice for generating artistic expressions.

Users should apply detailed prompts in order to generate content that is better than the default content it tends to output.

Lastly, human review of machine-generated content is not always enough, because ChatGPT content is designed to appear correct, even when it’s not.

That means it’s important that human reviewers are subject-matter experts who can discern between correct and incorrect content on a specific topic.

More resources: 


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9 Common Technical SEO Issues That Actually Matter

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9 Common Technical SEO Issues That Actually Matter

In this article, we’ll see how to find and fix technical SEO issues, but only those that can seriously affect your rankings.

If you’d like to follow along, get Ahrefs Webmaster Tools and Google Search Console (both are free) and check for the following issues.

Indexability is a webpage’s ability to be indexed by search engines. Pages that are not indexable can’t be displayed on the search engine results pages and can’t bring in any search traffic. 

Three requirements must be met for a page to be indexable:

  1. The page must be crawlable. If you haven’t blocked Googlebot from entering the page robots.txt or you have a website with fewer than 1,000 pages, you probably don’t have an issue there. 
  2. The page must not have a noindex tag (more on that in a bit).
  3. The page must be canonical (i.e., the main version). 

Solution

In Ahrefs Webmaster Tools (AWT):  

  1. Open Site Audit
  2. Go to the Indexability report 
  3. Click on issues related to canonicalization and “noindex” to see affected pages
Indexability issues in Site Audit

For canonicalization issues in this report, you will need to replace bad URLs in the link rel="canonical" tag with valid ones (i.e., returning an “HTTP 200 OK”). 

As for pages marked by “noindex” issues, these are the pages with the “noindex” meta tag placed inside their code. Chances are most of the pages found in the report there should stay as is. But if you see any pages that shouldn’t be there, simply remove the tag. Do make sure those pages aren’t blocked by robots.txt first. 

Recommendation

Click on the question mark on the right to see instructions on how to fix each issue. For more detailed instructions, click on the “Learn more” link. 

Instruction on how to fix an SEO issue in Site Audit

A sitemap should contain only pages that you want search engines to index. 

When a sitemap isn’t regularly updated or an unreliable generator has been used to make it, a sitemap may start to show broken pages, pages that became “noindexed,” pages that were de-canonicalized, or pages blocked in robots.txt. 

Solution 

In AWT:

  1. Open Site Audit 
  2. Go to the All issues report
  3. Click on issues containing the word “sitemap” to find affected pages 
Sitemap issues shown in Site Audit

Depending on the issue, you will have to:

  • Delete the pages from the sitemap.
  • Remove the noindex tag on the pages (if you want to keep them in the sitemap). 
  • Provide a valid URL for the reported page. 

Google uses HTTPS encryption as a small ranking signal. This means you can experience lower rankings if you don’t have an SSL or TLS certificate securing your website. 

But even if you do, some pages and/or resources on your pages may still use the HTTP protocol. 

Solution 

Assuming you already have an SSL/TLS certificate for all subdomains (if not, do get one), open AWT and do these: 

  1. Open Site Audit
  2. Go to the Internal pages report 
  3. Look at the protocol distribution graph and click on HTTP to see affected pages
  4. Inside the report showing pages, add a column for Final redirect URL 
  5. Make sure all HTTP pages are permanently redirected (301 or 308 redirects) to their HTTPS counterparts 
Protocol distribution graph
Internal pages issues report with added column

Finally, let’s check if any resources on the site still use HTTP: 

  1. Inside the Internal pages report, click on Issues
  2. Click on HTTPS/HTTP mixed content to view affected resources 
Site Audit reporting six HTTPS/HTTP mixed content issues

You can fix this issue by one of these methods:

  • Link to the HTTPS version of the resource (check this option first) 
  • Include the resource from a different host, if available 
  • Download and host the content on your site directly if you are legally allowed to do so
  • Exclude the resource from your site altogether

Learn more: What Is HTTPS? Everything You Need to Know 

Duplicate content happens when exact or near-duplicate content appears on the web in more than one place. 

It’s bad for SEO mainly for two reasons: It can cause undesirable URLs to show in search results and can dilute link equity

Content duplication is not necessarily a case of intentional or unintentional creation of similar pages. There are other less obvious causes such as faceted navigation, tracking parameters in URLs, or using trailing and non-trailing slashes

Solution 

First, check if your website is available under only one URL. Because if your site is accessible as:

  • http://domain.com
  • http://www.domain.com
  • https://domain.com
  • https://www.domain.com

Then Google will see all of those URLs as different websites. 

The easiest way to check if users can browse only one version of your website: type in all four variations in the browser, one by one, hit enter, and see if they get redirected to the master version (ideally, the one with HTTPS). 

You can also go straight into Site Audit’s Duplicates report. If you see 100% bad duplicates, that is likely the reason.

Duplicates report showing 100% bad duplicates
Simulation (other types of duplicates turned off).

In this case, choose one version that will serve as canonical (likely the one with HTTPS) and permanently redirect other versions to it. 

Then run a New crawl in Site Audit to see if there are any other bad duplicates left. 

Running a new crawl in Site Audit

There are a few ways you can handle bad duplicates depending on the case. Learn how to solve them in our guide

Learn more: Duplicate Content: Why It Happens and How to Fix It 

Pages that can’t be found (4XX errors) and pages returning server errors (5XX errors) won’t be indexed by Google so they won’t bring you any traffic. 

Furthermore, if broken pages have backlinks pointing to them, all of that link equity goes to waste. 

Broken pages are also a waste of crawl budget—something to watch out for on bigger websites. 

Solution

In AWT, you should: 

  1. Open Site Audit.
  2. Go to the Internal pages report.
  3. See if there are any broken pages. If so, the Broken section will show a number higher than 0. Click on the number to show affected pages.
Broken pages report in Site Audit

In the report showing pages with issues, it’s a good idea to add a column for the number of referring domains. This will help you make the decision on how to fix the issue. 

Internal pages report with no. of referring domains column added

Now, fixing broken pages (4XX error codes) is quite simple, but there is more than one possibility. Here’s a short graph explaining the process:

How to deal with broken pages

Dealing with server errors (the ones reporting a 5XX) can be a tougher one, as there are different possible reasons for a server to be unresponsive. Read this short guide for troubleshooting.

Recommendation

With AWT, you can also see 404s that were caused by incorrect links to your website. While this is not a technical issue per se, reclaiming those links may give you an additional SEO boost.

  1. Go to Site Explorer
  2. Enter your domain 
  3. Go to the Best by links report
  4. Add a “404 not found” filter
  5. Then sort the report by referring domains from high to low
How to find broken backlinks in Site Explorer
In this example, someone linked to us, leaving a comma inside the URL.

If you’ve already dealt with broken pages, chances are you’ve fixed most of the broken links issues. 

Other critical issues related to links are: 

  • Orphan pages – These are the pages without any internal links. Web crawlers have limited ability to access those pages (only from sitemap or backlinks), and there is no link equity flowing to them from other pages on your site. Last but not least, users won’t be able to access this page from the site navigation. 
  • HTTPS pages linking to internal HTTP pages – If an internal link on your website brings users to an HTTP URL, web browsers will likely show a warning about a non-secure page. This can damage your overall website authority and user experience.

Solution

In AWT, you can:

  1. Go to Site Audit.
  2. Open the Links report.
  3. Open the Issues tab. 
  4. Look for the following issues in the Indexable category. Click to see affected pages. 
Important SEO issues related to links

Fix the first issue by changing the links from HTTP to HTTPS or simply delete those links if no longer needed.

For the second issue, an orphan page needs to be either linked to from some other page on your website or deleted if a given page holds no value to you.

Sidenote.

Ahrefs’ Site Audit can find orphan pages as long as they have backlinks or are included in the sitemap. For a more thorough search for this issue, you will need to analyze server logs to find orphan pages with hits. Find out how in this guide.

7. Mobile experience issues

Having a mobile-friendly website is a must for SEO. Two reasons: 

  1. Google uses mobile-first indexing – It’s mostly using the content of mobile pages for indexing and ranking.
  2. Mobile experience is part of the Page Experience signals – While Google will allegedly always “promote” the page with the best content, page experience can be a tiebreaker for pages offering content of similar quality. 

Solution

In GSC: 

  1. Go to the Mobile Usability report in the Experience section
  2. View affected pages by clicking on issues in the Why pages aren’t usable on mobile section 
Mobile Usability report in Google Search Console

You can read Google’s guide for fixing mobile issues here.  

8. Performance and stability issues 

Performance and visual stability are other aspects of Page Experience signals used by Google to rank pages. 

Google has developed a special set of metrics to measure user experience called Core Web Vitals (CWV). Site owners and SEOs can use those metrics to see how Google perceives their website in terms of UX. 

Google's search signals for page experience

While page experience can be a ranking tiebreaker, CWV is not a race. You don’t need to have the fastest website on the internet. You just need to score “good” ideally in all three categories: loading, interactivity, and visual stability. 

Three categories of Core Web Vitals

Solution 

In GSC: 

  1. First, click on Core Web Vitals in the Experience section of the reports.
  2. Then click Open report in each section to see how your website scores. 
  3. For pages that aren’t considered good, you’ll see a special section at the bottom of the report. Use it to see pages that need your attention.
How to find Core Web Vitals in Google Search Console
CWV issue report in Google Search Console

Optimizing for CWV may take some time. This may include things like moving to a faster (or closer) server, compressing images, optimizing CSS, etc. We explain how to do this in the third part of this guide to CWV. 

Bad website structure in the context of technical SEO is mainly about having important organic pages too deep into the website structure. 

Pages that are nested too deep (i.e., users need >6 clicks from the website to get to them) will receive less link equity from your homepage (likely the page with the most backlinks), which may affect their rankings. This is because link value diminishes with every link “hop.” 

Sidenote.

Website structure is important for other reasons too such as the overall user experience, crawl efficiency, and helping Google understand the context of your pages. Here, we’ll only focus on the technical aspect, but you can read more about the topic in our full guide: Website Structure: How to Build Your SEO Foundation.

Solution 

In AWT

  1. Open Site Audit
  2. Go to Structure explorer, switch to the Depth tab, and set the data type to Data table
  3. Configure the Segment to only valid HTML pages and click Apply
  4. Use the graph to investigate pages with more than six clicks away from the homepage 
How to find site structure issues in Site Audit
Adding a new segment in Site Audit

The way to fix the issue is to link to these deeper nested pages from pages closer to the homepage. More important pages could find their place in site navigation, while less important ones can be just linked to the pages a few clicks closer.

It’s a good idea to weigh in user experience and the business role of your website when deciding what goes into sitewide navigation. 

For example, we could probably give our SEO glossary a slightly higher chance to get ahead of organic competitors by including it in the main site navigation. Yet we decided not to because it isn’t such an important page for users who are not particularly searching for this type of information. 

We’ve moved the glossary only up a notch by including a link inside the beginner’s guide to SEO (which itself is just one click away from the homepage). 

Structure explorer showing glossary page is two clicks away from the homepage
One page from the glossary folder is two clicks away from the homepage.
Link that moved SEO glossary a click closer to the homepage
Just one link, even at the bottom of a page, can move a page higher in the overall structure.

Final thoughts 

When you’re done fixing the more pressing issues, dig a little deeper to keep your site in perfect SEO health. Open Site Audit and go to the All issues report to see other issues regarding on-page SEO, image optimization, redirects, localization, and more. In each case, you will find instructions on how to deal with the issue. 

All issues report in Site Audit

You can also customize this report by turning issues on/off or changing their priority. 

Issue report in Site Audit is customizable

Did I miss any important technical issues? Let me know on Twitter or Mastodon.



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New Google Ads Feature: Account-Level Negative Keywords

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New Google Ads Feature: Account-Level Negative Keywords

Google Ads Liaison Ginny Marvin has announced that account-level negative keywords are now available to Google Ads advertisers worldwide.

The feature, which was first announced last year and has been in testing for several months, allows advertisers to add keywords to exclude traffic from all search and shopping campaigns, as well as the search and shopping portion of Performance Max, for greater brand safety and suitability.

Advertisers can access this feature from the account settings page to ensure their campaigns align with their brand values and target audience.

This is especially important for brands that want to avoid appearing in contexts that may be inappropriate or damaging to their reputation.

In addition to the brand safety benefits, the addition of account-level negative keywords makes the campaign management process more efficient for advertisers.

Instead of adding negative keywords to individual campaigns, advertisers can manage them at the account level, saving time and reducing the chances of human error.

You no longer have to worry about duplicating negative keywords in multiple campaigns or missing any vital to your brand safety.

Additionally, account-level negative keywords can improve the accuracy of ad targeting by excluding irrelevant or low-performing keywords that may adversely impact campaign performance. This can result in higher-quality traffic and a better return on investment.

Google Ads offers a range of existing brand suitability controls, including inventory types, digital content labels, placement exclusions, and negative keywords at the campaign level.

Marvin added that Google Ads is expanding account-level negative keywords to address various use cases and will have more to share soon.

This rollout is essential in giving brands more control over their advertising and ensuring their campaigns target the appropriate audience.


Featured Image: Primakov/Shutterstock



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