Sometime in December, SEO experts started noticing that Google was low-key testing out a new feature inside its search box.
It’s an expanded version of the box that we’re calling the enhanced autocomplete box.
Over in the box’s right column, Google pulls the top three People also ask questions, and a People also search for section presenting numerous related terms and entities.
While there’s a wealth of information out there, most news outlets and blogs just rehash what the box is and how they accessed it.
But this isn’t the fault of those publishers.
That’s all the intelligence there is on that right now, since this is clearly just a beta test that Google isn’t ready to comment on just yet.
At the same time, the information that the new autocomplete feature presents is evident to industry experts.
Many SEO professionals probably noticed the new feature and believe they know what Google is up to.
Maybe we don’t have the full story yet, but I have an idea about where Google might be taking this.
There’s a way that SEO experts can leverage the enhanced autocomplete to perform keyword research and topic research.
What Google’s Enhanced Autocomplete Function Is
First, let’s cover what the new enhanced autocomplete box actually is.
Here’s a screencap of what it looks like:
Google doesn’t give you one for every search. But for a few general topics (check out the other screenshots in this post), all I had to do after hitting Enter was to click back into the search bar once, and the larger box appeared.
Before we get to what’s in the expanded box, the first thing you’ll notice was that this thing appears above the position-zero featured snippet and the knowledge panel on the right.
What does that tell us? We can’t be sure yet.
At a glance, the new expanded box appears to be just a new way for the search engine to organize some of what it thinks are the most important search features for your query.
Down the left column, in their usual place, are the suggested autocompletes for your term.
In the new right column are three People also ask Questions, and below those are a few items in the People also search for section.
Note that the box does not contain organic search results, and I wouldn’t expect Google to start cherry-picking results to put up there.
Well, why would it? The results are already down there for you to see, in the order Google prefers.
Overall, the enhanced autocomplete seems to be a way to make your search a bit easier if you happen to be looking for any of those three PAA question topics, or to buy that digital marketing book, or to do business with GoDaddy.
If you’re wondering why Google would feature elements in its expanded search box that it already features right on the SERP, just chalk it up to further optimization of user experience.
You know why PAA questions exist. You know why Google’s Knowledge Panels exist.
What the enhanced autocomplete box does is simply relocate the most relevant pieces of that extra content to a more prime piece of real estate so you don’t even have to scroll to find it.
If you want organic SERPs, you can head on down the page like normal.
So, how do I feel about the enhanced autocomplete box?
There’s revealing information there that you can leverage for your digital marketing efforts.
Using The Enhanced Autocomplete Box For Keyword And Topic Research
At this stage, anyone can claim to know what exactly the enhanced autocomplete box is and how it can be used.
But I believe I can extrapolate what the box is supposed to represent.
If there is already a PAA section on a given SERP, as well as a knowledge panel for the more mainstream topics out there, Google is selecting a certain few items from each section to present to you.
You know the items you’re being shown are the most authoritative and relevant on the page.
Like what we’re used to seeing in SEO already, digital marketers can take advantage of Google’s selections to perform keyword research and topic research.
Have a look at this version of the box below, for my search query [pizza].
You’ll see the autocompletes, the PAA questions, and then the People also search for.
But now take a look at the regular SERP for [pizza] below.
The SERP is showing me just what you’d expect for such a query. I have a map of my location, the local pack on the left, and the PAAs below that.
Now, look at the enhanced autocomplete box. It’s showing me Domino’s, Papa John’s, Little Caesars, and DoorDash.
Do you see those entities anywhere on the actual SERP that I showed above?
Because Google is presenting me with these results, it’s assuming some things about my query, namely that I want to eat pizza right now.
If that’s the case, those are some options for me to try (like DoorDash), and a convenient way to get it, too.
But what if I was a new pizza franchise that wanted to compete with Domino’s and Papa John’s? What if I, too, wanted to get in Google’s enhanced autocomplete box for a [pizza] query in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania?
If I was savvy in digital marketing, I would look at the websites of those companies to see what their meta information was like, what they were using for H1s, and how they optimized their pages for SEO and user experience.
I’d look at how easy it was to order pizza from their sites or to find a location near me.
After poring over the sites manually, I would then take a look at the sites in a tool such as SEMrush to see what’s going on behind the scenes.
What are they doing right that my pizza franchise’s website would need to do to perform well?
Ultimately, I might find that those sites have healthy domain authorities built on backlinks and Core Web Vitals and content.
However, I could also run through those sites’ keywords to see what opportunities lie there for my franchise.
In the context of this example, any owner of a pizza franchise would have to know that Domino’s, Papa John’s, and Little Caesars are pretty big.
But you never know what your site can do until you observe a competitor’s keyword profile.
There’s a good reason why Google chose to put those three companies in my enhanced autocomplete box rather than three others.
In classic SEO reverse-engineering fashion, we can use Google’s choices to discover what kinds of results the search engine really wants to see.
The pizza example from above is a particularly interesting one for keyword research because Google gave us some search competitors that don’t even appear in my organic results.
As I keep saying, that’s evident.
But what about topic research?
I don’t think there are any particularly great revelations to hash out on that.
Google is moving the top three PAA questions up to the enhanced autocomplete box for some searches, and with those, we can also reverse-engineer those results’ SEO (to see what content works for those websites).
So, in general, the SEO community already knows how to take advantage of the PAA.
However, I suppose we can see the three “featured” PAA in the box as just more of a confirmation of Google’s confidence in those results.
This is to say: if for any reason, you weren’t paying attention to the PAA before, you should definitely be doing so now.
Google is telling content marketers everywhere that many people also ask these three questions related to your query, and that if they’ve searched for the general query [pizza], they might also want to know if pizza is healthy to eat or who invented pizza first.
Depending on your market niche, these content topics might be relevant to you.
Maybe you run a pizza blog.
Anything is possible.
As you might have seen reported in the SEO media, Google has recently been beta testing numerous other SERP features that take up the width of the page, from featured snippets to Map packs.
That tells us that Google’s been wondering whether delivering content in that format is going to be better for the user experience.
Users will just have to get used to any changes that Google implements permanently.
SEO professionals, though, should take note of the enhanced autocomplete box and any other beta tests they’ve seen recently.
Google is giving us some hints about some possible new SERP priorities to come, and it’s up to all of us to rise and meet the challenge.
Featured Image: THEBILLJR/Shutterstock
How to Automate Dull SEO Tasks
Some SEO processes involve repetitively clicking things on a screen. Not the best use of your time.
With the right tools, however, you can automate various SEO processes—and free up resources for tasks that need more creative, human input.
In this post, I’ll share two examples of how I automate SEO tasks.
Imagine being able to record and email article assignments to writers in seconds using a simple form like this:
Let’s look at how to set this up.
1. Set up an Airtable database for your writer and article data
Sign up for Airtable and create a new database with a table called “Writers.” The table should have columns for your writers:
In the same Airtable database, create a separate table called “Articles.”
Set up columns in this table for your:
- Article titles.
- Article outline links.
- Article due dates.
- Assigned writer (set this column up as a linked record to your “Writers” table so that Airtable can retrieve data on your writers from it).
You’ll also need to add a lookup field to pull the writer’s email address from the “Writers” table.
2. Create an Airtable article assignment form
Next, create an article assignment form for the “Articles” table. You’ll use this form to add new article assignments to the “Articles” table.
3. Set up a new Zapier automation with a “New Record in Airtable” trigger
When you submit your details on the new article assignment via the Airtable form, Airtable will automatically record the new article assignment in your “Articles” table. So that’s the first step of the article assignment workflow sorted.
Now, we’ll use the Zapier workflow automation tool to automate the next three steps in the workflow—namely:
- Create a shared Google Drive submission folder for the article.
- Create a Google Doc submission document in the shared Google Drive folder.
- Use Gmail to email the writer the article title, outline link, due date, and link to the shared Google Drive submission folder.
Instead of Zapier, you can also use any other workflow automation tool, such as Make, as long as the tool supports the automation triggers and actions you’ll need.
In Zapier, create a new automated workflow (also known as a “Zap”) with:
- Airtable as the trigger app.
- New Record as the trigger event.
With this trigger, your Zap will start running when you add a new record to Airtable (such as by submitting your Airtable article assignment form).
4. Add a “Create Folder in Google Drive” action step to your Zap
Next, add an action step with:
- Google Drive as the action app.
- Create Folder as the action event.
For the action step’s “Parent Folder” field, select the Google Drive folder in which the new submission folder should be created.
Also, provide a name for the submission folder in the “Folder Name” field. You can map the article title data from Airtable here to name your submission folder after the article’s title.
5. Add an “Add File Sharing Preference in Google Drive” action step to your Zap
The Google Drive folder created by your Zap will have its sharing permissions disabled by default, so let’s add an action step to grant folder access to anyone who has the link to the folder.
This action step should have:
- Google Drive as the action app.
- Add File Sharing Preference as the action event.
Map the file ID of the Google Drive folder created in the previous action step to the “File Id” field of this action step.
In addition, set the “Sharing Preference” field to “Anyone on the internet who has the link can edit.”
6. Add a “Create Document from Text in Google Docs” action step to your Zap
Now, let’s set up the Google Doc that the writer will use to submit their draft.
We’ll have the Zap create this submission Google Doc in the shared Google Drive submission folder. And since the Google Drive folder will have general access enabled, anyone with the link to the Google Drive folder—and this includes you—will also automatically get access to the Google Doc.
No more frustration over writers forgetting to grant access to their Google Docs!
So add a new action step to your Zap with:
- Google Docs as the action app.
- Create Document from Text as the action event.
Map the article title data from Airtable to the action step’s “Document Name” field, and the folder ID of the shared Google Drive folder to the “Folder” field.
You’ll also need to include some default text in the Google Doc, such as “Write your article here!”
7. Add a “Send Email in Gmail” action step to your Zap
Finally, we’ll get the Zap to use your Gmail account to email the writer the article title, outline link, due date, and link to the shared Google Drive submission folder.
Add a last action step to your Zap with:
- Gmail as the action app.
- Send Email as the action event.
Map the writer’s email address from Airtable to the “To” field for this action step. Also, map the article title, outline link, due date, and Google Drive submission folder link in the email body.
I also recommend adding your own email address to either the “Cc” or “Bcc” field so you get a copy of the automated email (and can confirm it’s been sent).
Once you’re happy with your Zap, hit the Publish button to activate your automation!
Finding email addresses for link building outreach can be a massive pain.
After all, most prospects don’t advertise their email addresses publicly. And even if you’ve managed to dig up their email addresses (or guess them using trial and error), there’s no guarantee they work.
But using Ahrefs’ Content Explorer, you can generate a huge Google Sheets list of link building prospects that looks like this:
Then as you fill out the “Approve?” column for each prospect with data—such as “Yes” or “Approved”—a Zapier automation will automatically do all these for you:
- Find the prospect’s email address using the Hunter email lookup tool
- Add the email address to your Google Sheet list of prospects
- Verify the email address using the NeverBounce email verification tool
- Add the verified email address to the Woodpecker.io email outreach tool so you can start sending customized outreach emails
Here’s how to set this up.
1. Get your list of prospects
Launch Ahrefs’ Content Explorer and search for link prospects.
For example, if you recently published a marketing survey with unique insights and statistics, you may want to look for marketing statistics pages to pitch. To do this, simply run an “In title” search for “marketing statistics.”
Next, filter your results to show only webpages that are:
- In English (unless you’re targeting webpages in another language).
- Live, as it’d be weird to reach out and say, “Hey, I found you through [this webpage that no longer exists].”
- On websites with a Domain Rating (DR) of 20 to 80 because you want to prioritize pursuing backlinks from authoritative websites but also that your chances of getting backlinks from super high-authority websites are quite low.
Add a last filter to show only one page per domain (since you want to reach out to only one prospect per website).
Click the Export button to export your list of prospects in a CSV file.
2. Clean up your list of prospects
As mentioned, we’ll be using Hunter to help us find our prospects’ email addresses.
Hunter uses the first names, last names, and domains of prospects to find email addresses, so we’ll clean up our list of prospects to provide Hunter with the exact data it needs.
Import your CSV list of prospects in Google Sheets and delete all columns in it except for:
- Content Title
- Content URL
Also, some of the prospects in the CSV don’t have author names, so it’s worth removing these rows from the CSV. To do this, just filter for rows with empty author names and delete them.
Next, use the SPLIT formula to split the author names into their first and last names based on the space between their names.
Finally, add two new columns to the sheet:
- Approve?: Adding data to this column will trigger the Zapier automation we’ll be setting up next!
- Email Address: This column will store the prospect’s email address (if found).
3. Set up a new Zapier automation with a “New or Updated Spreadsheet Row in Google Sheets” trigger
In Zapier, create a new Zap with:
- Google Sheets as the trigger app.
- New or Updated Spreadsheet Row as the trigger event.
Map the action step’s “Trigger Column” field to your Google Sheet’s “Approve?” column.
With this setup, you’ll trigger your Zap whenever you add new data—such as “Yes” or “Approved”—to the “Approve?” column for any prospect row.
4. Add a “Find Email in Hunter” action step to your Zap
Next, add a new action step with:
- Hunter as the action app.
- Find Email as the action event.
Map the “Content URL,” “First Name,” and “Last Name” columns in your Google Sheet to the “Domain or Company,” “First Name,” and “Last Name” fields for this action step, respectively.
5. Add an “Update Spreadsheet Row in Google Sheets” action step to your Zap
The next action step will update your Google Sheet with a prospect’s email address if Hunter finds it. Use:
- Google Sheets as the action app.
- Update Spreadsheet Row as the action event.
Map the Row Number of the updated row in the trigger step to this action step’s “Row” field.
Also, map the email address that Hunter found in the previous action step to the “Email Address” field of this action step.
This email address does not exist. It is for demo purposes only.
6. Add a Filter action that lets the Zap continue only if Hunter has found an email address
Next, set up a Filter action that lets the Zap proceed only if the email address data found by Hunter contains the “@” symbol.
That’s because all email addresses have the “@” symbol. If Hunter happens to find an email address value that doesn’t include this symbol, we won’t want to waste time verifying it.
7. Add a “Verify Email Address in NeverBounce” action step to your Zap
Now, we’ll use NeverBounce to verify the validity of the email addresses that Hunter found. Add a new action step with:
- NeverBounce as the action app.
- Verify Email Address as the action event.
Map the email address that Hunter found to this action step’s “Email Address to Verify” field:
8. Add a Filter action that lets the Zap continue only if NeverBounce returns a “Valid” or “Catchall” status for the email address
When NeverBounce verifies an email address, it will return one of four status text codes: Valid, Catchall, Invalid, and Unknown. Email addresses marked with the “Valid” and “Catchall” NeverBounce status codes have the highest likelihood of being valid.
So we’ll add a Filter action that lets the Zap proceed only if an email address’s NeverBounce status text code matches either “Valid” or “Catchall” exactly.
9. Add a “Create/Update Prospect in Woodpecker.co” action step to your Zap
Finally, we’ll set up the Zap to add the verified email address to Woodpecker.co.
Create a last action step with:
- Woodpecker.co as the action app.
- Create/Update Prospect as the action event.
Map the verified email address to the action step’s “Email” field, and your prospect’s first and last name (as obtained from Google Sheets) to the “First Name” and “Last Name” fields, respectively.
Hit the Publish button to turn your Zap on.
Now, when you fill out the “Approve?” column for prospects in your Google Sheet, your Zap will automatically do the heavy lifting of finding and verifying their email addresses using Hunter and NeverBounce and adding the verified email addresses to Woodpecker.co.
You can then customize your link building outreach emails in Woodpecker.co for each verified email address and, hopefully, snag yourself some backlinks!
SEO automation takes some initial setup, but it’s amazing to watch your processes run automatically after that. It’s almost like magic.
And apart from the SEO processes we’ve shared here, there are probably plenty others you can automate.
Think of the apps you regularly use for SEO work. If you can connect these apps using Zapier or some other workflow automation tool, automating the workflows they support is likely more than possible.
Got questions? Ping me on Twitter.
10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive Analysis
A successful search engine optimization strategy includes competitive analysis. The tools available today offer incredible value at generally reasonable fees.
They help users accomplish more in less time, and many may find that the tools are so useful that they essentially end up paying for themselves. Here are 10 popular SEO competitive analysis tools, their pricing, and how you can use them to bolster the success of your SEO strategy.
- Pricing: Plans start at $119.95 per month.
Semrush not only offers good data for search results analysis, but everything functions the way you expect it to – it’s that easy to use.
There is no need to read a manual to use Semrush’s SERP analysis tool.
Every link, button, and heading has a tooltip that explains what it is so that everything makes sense.
Semrush Tooltip Explains SERP Analysis Tool Data
Semrush Tooltip Explains Jargon
Semrush’s Authority Score is assigned to every URL listed in the SERP Analysis.
Like any third-party metric, the Authority Score is just a score based on factors like backlinks, traffic, and referring domains.
The metric makes it easy to make a quick judgment about a webpage without having to spend hours researching all of the factors for each webpage.
The research is already done; that’s what Semrush’s Authority Score is about.
That’s just one part of the Semrush SERP analysis, but it’s the part that is directly tied to competitor research.
Semrush is useful for researching competitor backlinks. The ease of use makes the workflow of researching links a pleasure.
There’s no need to read a manual. Everything is self-explanatory.
Starting an analysis consists of entering a domain name or an entire URL.
The resulting page shows various metrics that help you see the competition at a glance, literally.
There’s a graph that shows the growth of referring domains and also backlinks by year, which provides a quick idea of how aggressively they’re building links, organized by time.
Beneath that graph, there’s another visual representation of the backlinks organized by the categories of referring domains.
The categories are the general niche areas that the backlinks belong to.
When you click through a category, the tool presents a filter where you can add a word, a phrase, or a TLD, which means Top Level Domain (.net or .org), to find all the relevant links.
There’s also a drop-down menu for selecting “zones by TLD,” but I found that typing in the TLD works better.
Or you can get granular and click on the View Full Report button to see all of the categories in granular detail.
It’s easy to recommend Semrush because it truly is designed for researching competitors and for link building.
The tools for competitive research are easy to use and give a visual snapshot of their activities and offer a useful user interface for drilling down by category.
2. Ahrefs SERP Checker (Free And Paid)
- Pricing: Free checker tool, then starts at $99 per month.
Ahrefs has a free SERP checker that shows the same SERP data as the paid version, only for just the first few positions.
The paid version has more data. But if you’re on a budget, the free version is a useful start.
Below is a screenshot of the SERP overview that lists featured snippets, people also ask, and the sitelinks enhancements.
This extra data gives a good overview of what the SERPs look like, plus page and domain rating metrics.
Here is a screenshot showing more data from the SERP analysis tool.
All of the column headings show a tooltip that explains what each column means.
Ahrefs is a solid choice for search results competitor analysis.
- Pricing: Free version, then starts at $69 per month.
Serpstat is an affordably priced SEO platform that offers SERP analysis tools. It’s possible to sign up for free to test it out.
Serpstat is focused on analyzing the search results and is useful for Backlinks Analysis and Competitor Analysis.
- Pricing: Free analysis tool, then starts at $39 per month (or $16 per month on an annual plan).
SpyFu is a very reasonably priced service that is dedicated specifically to competitive research and offers many useful features.
The benefit of the tool is that it generates all the data necessary for competitive research.
SpyFu basically takes the “research” part out of competitive research tasks and provides the data.
The SERP Analysis tool, which can be used for free, offers unique information, such as indicators that signal a website rises or drops in the search results.
Another interesting feature is that it offers a Ranking Difficulty score, data on whether .gov or .edu sites are ranking, and the number of homepages that are ranking in the top 100 positions.
SpyFu Backlinks Report
Another unique feature is how SpyFu identifies what it determines are the strongest webpages to get a link from.
Just enter a keyword phrase into the search box, and SpyFu searches the backlinks of the top 5,000 ranked sites, including for similar keyword phrases, and identifies all the backlinking domains that the ranked sites have in common.
Even better, SpyFu allows users to filter those webpages by backlink types.
The backlink types one can filter for are .gov/.edu/, sites with affiliate links, blogs, news sites, forums, and directories.
Filtering for forums reveals all the strongest forum backlinks, filtering for .edu domains shows the best .edu sites to get a link from, and so on.
Another cool feature is called Backlink Kombat.
This tool allows you to enter two competitor domains and then exclude your own domain. It will then show you all the links the competitors have in common that your site does not.
I like using tools in creative ways to get even more or better data.
What I would suggest doing with the SpyFu Backlink Kombat tool is comparing sites that aren’t your direct competitors. This can help you discover opportunities you might not otherwise.
So if your topic is plumbers in City X, compare roofers in City X.
Competitor backlink research with SpyFu is incredibly easy. I would like the flexibility to filter by keywords (like Favorite Sites) or by TLD (to find .org or .us domains).
A limited amount of this data is free, and the complete data set is available to paid subscribers.
SpyFu is an interesting tool because it takes the extra step of presenting the data while minimizing research.
It’s easy to use, specific to competitor research, and reasonably priced.
5. Sandboxweb.io SERP Analysis Tool
- Pricing: Free version, then pricing starts at $19 per month.
Sandboxweb.io offers a SERP analysis tool that provides data on top-ranked competitors.
This tool shows the schema types, Core Web Vitals data, and word counts.
You can click on each competitor in the SERP to research further.
The free version of this tool offers a lot of information. But it’s limited to 10 keywords per month.
The data is somewhat limited, but it does offer a quick analysis.
6. Screaming Frog
- Pricing: Free version and a paid version at $209 per year.
Screaming Frog has a SERP analysis function. It’s not easy to use, but it’s not excessively difficult.
I’d like to see Screaming Frog make it easier to run this kind of analysis without getting technical.
If you take the time to figure it out, Screaming Frog can scrape the SERPs and provide analysis.
It’s also useful for analyzing competitors one at a time to get a sense of what sites they link to, how much content they have, interlinking patterns, headings used across the site, and many other competitor data points.
- Pricing: Free version, then pricing starts at $39 per month.
Inlinks is a content optimization-focused tool that can extract relevant data points from search results and competitors.
Inlinks features a SERP analysis function that offers multiple data points about the sites in the search results, such as semantically related topics and user intent data.
The user intent data and topic suggestion features are quite unique.
There is also a Topic Analysis feature that provides competitors’ related topics and other data that is useful for creating content.
Other SERP Analysis tools look at the top 100 through the top 5,000 for their analyses.
But in my opinion, what really matters most are the top 10 search results because not every site in the top 100 or even the top 10 is a competitor.
So, I really appreciate that Inlinks’ SERP analysis tool focuses on the top 10.
The Inlinks SERP analysis tool offers data on the following:
- Topic density.
- Internal and external link counts.
- Readability scores.
- List of H2 headings.
I asked one of the founders, Dixon Jones, to explain what Inlinks does regarding competitor analysis.
“Inlinks analyzes ten competing pages for any Keyword. It aggregates the combined number of times entities are used in the SERP and uses this to build a Knowledge Graph of entities related to a given search.
This is then compared to the entities in the content on YOUR competing page, highlighting material gaps in your content.
At a site level, Inlinks can build a knowledge graph of any site, but does not currently have many tools to compare whole sites.
We look at the verbs used to describe entities (in competing pages for a SERP) and cluster them into verb based intent.
This helps content publishers answer a genuine user query, rather than use words in the wrong context.”
Inlinks offers more tools; it’s more than just competitor analysis.
There is a free, pro, and enterprise level.
- Pricing: Free version and paid plans starting at $600 per month.
MarketMuse is an AI-based content analysis tool that functions within the entire content creation workflow, from research to content brief and more.
What I appreciate about MarketMuse is that it looks at the top-ranked pages and offers a keyword overview of the topics.
A key competitor analysis function in MarketMuse is called Compete.
The Compete tool analyzes the competition and suggests what to write about and ways to do better than the competitors, such as covering overlooked related topics.
Compete’s unique selling proposition, in my opinion, is that it is focused on helping users create content that is better than the competition.
My understanding of MarketMuse is that it’s not just focused on helping users beat their competition.
The tool streamlines the entire content creation workflow, with competitor research being one part of the process.
There is a learning curve to MarketMuse.
- Pricing: Free version and paid plans starting at $167 per month for the starter package.
SimilarWeb is a unique competitor analysis tool.
It’s focused less on SEO and more on providing a clear image of the differences between the two websites.
There are multiple data points related to traffic, keywords, traffic share by country, and even a comparison of audience demographics.
SimilarWeb offers a free and paid version.
The free version offers a generous amount of data that helps users compare competitors.
- Pricing: Starts at $599 per month. One-week trial for $17.
LinkResearchTools is an enterprise-class link research tool.
It’s the most sophisticated and comprehensive link-building tool I’ve ever used.
One of the qualities I like most is that it feels like it has a comprehensive inventory of crawled links.
The tool makes it easy to find links with normal searching, like adding a TLD, but you can also find links multiple sites have in common.
Most of the functionality is geared toward businesses that want to disavow backlinks, which is useless for link builders.
I’d like to see a tool that does away with all of the link-disavowing-related features and just focuses on researching competitor backlinks.
One can subscribe to most of the other lower-priced tools and use their combined competitor backlink research features and still pay less than LinkResearchTools.
For most people, that’s more than enough.
But the data in LinkResearchTools is, in my experience, possibly the most comprehensive backlink data available.
Backlink analysis is more than just poaching keywords from competitors.
It’s a way to understand what the barrier to entry might be, which means how easy or difficult it might be to compete.
Competitor links can be a starting point for building better links as well.
Sometimes a group of links might stand out, giving you an idea of a direction to take.
Doing solid link building requires a flexible backlink analysis tool.
There are many useful SEO tools available today. They don’t do the SEO for you, but they make it easier to accomplish better results faster.
The tools also provide time-saving access to a huge amount of data that would ordinarily take days to compile.
Saving time, being more productive, and having the data to make informed decisions is the hallmark of all of these SEO tools.
Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal
An In-Depth Guide For Beginners
Every month, 2.98 billion people around the globe open up their laptops or smart devices and navigate their way to Facebook.
That’s roughly a quarter of everyone in the world, visiting the same social media platform, every single day.
These days, nearly everyone uses Facebook, and it’s become as much a part of daily life as watching television.
For marketers, this means a massive opportunity to reach and engage with new audiences.
But you can’t just set up a company page and hope to attract millions of followers. You need a plan to capitalize on these opportunities and make the maximum impact.
If you’re a Facebook marketing beginner, this may sound like a daunting task, but don’t worry – it’s easier than you think.
Continue reading for an in-depth guide to Facebook marketing that you can use to get started right away.
What Is Facebook Marketing?
Facebook marketing is the process of using the social media platform to promote your business to potential buyers.
There are a variety of ways to do this, both paid and organic.
Paid Facebook marketing means using advertising campaigns within the platform to target people on the site and ideally, convert them into customers.
Organic marketing on Facebook occurs when you post content that your targets will find valuable, with the goal of increasing your following and engaging with your audience.
Why You Should Be Marketing On Facebook
If nearly 2 billion potential customers using Facebook didn’t entice you to create your own business profile, maybe this will: There are currently more than 200 million businesses already using Facebook’s free tools and apps.
And, of those, more than 3 million are actively advertising on the platform.
That means there’s a good chance your competition is already using this social media site to grow their business.
And if they’re not, jumping on board now will give you a serious edge over them.
So, with no further ado, let’s get started.
How To Set Up Facebook For Business
The very first thing you need to do to launch your marketing efforts on Facebook is to create a page for your business.
It’s free to set up and gives you a place for people to like or follow you. It also gives you a chance to engage with your customers (and potential customers), and share content with them via posts.
In your web browser, go to facebook.com/pages/create and select the category that best describes your organization. For most people, that’s going to be “Business or Brand.”
You’ll then be directed to a page where you can enter your brand’s name, select the category your business falls under, and add bio information.
If you’re a bit stuck on what to include in your bio, don’t worry – you can always change it later.
You’ll also have an opportunity to add a logo and cover image – again, don’t worry, these can be changed.
Next, you’ll be able to claim your unique URL, which will likely be something along the lines of facebook.com/TheNameOfYourBusiness.
The next step is an important one: editing your page info.
Make sure you provide all relevant details including your address, service hours, and other details customers and prospects might be looking for.
Congratulations – you’ve just created your Facebook business page. Now, it’s time to figure out how to use it for marketing.
How To Build A Facebook Marketing Strategy
As you probably already know, Facebook makes its money via advertising revenue. As such, it has made it simple for even the most technologically inept person to use it for marketing.
And this includes offering free information on how to create your own social media strategy.
You can read that helpful guide at your leisure, but for now, let’s break it down into eight steps:
- Set your goals – What do you hope to accomplish via Facebook marketing? Facebook has three marketing objectives: awareness, consideration, and conversion.
- Identify your audience – How old are they? Where do they live? What is their level of education? How can your offering solve their problem? Facebook lets your market with remarkable precision, so the more information you have on your targets, the better.
- Plan your content – Decide what kind of things you’ll post. It could be industry news, behind-the-scenes pictures, or promotions – get as creative as you like. Just make sure you’re planning content your audience will like.
- Create a content calendar – Decide when you will post specific pieces of content. Be as accurate as you can, right down to publishing time, because there will likely be times when your audience is more active.
- Create your content – It’s time to put step three into action and create engaging pieces. Read this article for tips on keeping your content interesting and relevant.
- Explore Facebook’s free tools – Facebook has several options for sharing content, including text, image, and video posts, as well as Stories and live streams.
- Determine how you will use ads – You have multiple options for advertising on Facebook. We’ll go into them in more detail in the next section so you can choose what’s right for your needs.
- Add the Facebook Pixel to your website – Don’t forget to add the tracking code to your website to collect data, enable retargeting, and track conversions.
Types Of Facebook Posts For Marketing
Facebook offers incredible flexibility when it comes to marketing, with numerous post and paid ad options.
Let’s first dive into the posts.
Facebook Marketing Post Types
The type of post you use when marketing on Facebook will depend on what you’re hoping to accomplish. Some of the more popular are:
- Text posts or status updates – these are a great way to initiate conversations, share information, and educate your followers.
- Photo posts – A great way to capture attention, images are useful for attracting new customers.
- Video posts – Videos are a great way to engage with your audience and encourage interaction.
- Facebook Live – Use the platform’s live streaming capabilities for product demonstrations, answering questions, or interacting with your followers.
- Link posts – Use posts with direct links to your external website or blog. They include an automatic preview.
- Stories – Just like Instagram Stories, Facebook Stories are great for building engagement without disrupting your followers’ feeds.
- Pinned posts – Stuck at the top of your page, these are great for maximizing the reach of top-performing posts or relaying critical information, promotions, or events.
Once you have your business page set up and you’ve begun sharing content, the next phase of Facebook marketing is to venture into paid ads.
Facebook Ad Types
At the moment, there are four main types of ads on the platform:
These are static ads in JPG or PNG format. They should include a headline of up to 40 characters and the main text of 125 characters.
You also have a link description area which should be used for a clear and succinct CTA.
Image ads are easy to set up and work well for driving traffic to your website.
For a list of best practices for this ad format, click here.
Facebook video ads are a great way to boost your brand and don’t require expensive recording equipment or software. You can record these spots using your phone and there are a number of free editing apps that can help you.
Video ads can be placed in-stream (the short commercials that are shown before a video your target wants to watch), in-feed, or in Stories.
As a general rule of thumb, they should be under two minutes long and have an attention grabber within the first three seconds.
For more video best practices, click here.
Carousel ads combine multiple videos and images into a single ad, which is a great way to improve your chances of conversion.
They tend to work best for ecommerce brands, as they allow you to showcase multiple products or angles of a single product in one ad.
Ideally, these should point to a purpose-built landing page.
Here are some other best practices offered by Meta.
Collection ads are another way for e-commerce brands to showcase products but are more similar to image ads than carousels.
You are restricted to a 40-character headline and a 125-character primary text.
Read about collection ads best practices here.
Which Goal Should I Focus on For Facebook Marketing?
The type of marketing that will work best for your brand depends on your goals.
As was mentioned previously, Facebook has three objectives that correspond with the top, middle, and bottom of the sales funnel, respectively:
Facebook has two awareness objectives to help you expand your reach and generate interest:
- Brand awareness – Used to entice a new audience or keep your brand top of mind. This usually results in little audience action.
- Reach – Designed to reach as many people as possible within your ad budget.
Consideration lets you choose from six objectives:
- Traffic – Choose this objective when you want to increase the number of visitors to your external website.
- Engagement – This is used to encourage people to like and comment on your posts, or respond to event invitations.
- App promotion – Used to drive downloads of your app in Google Play or the App Store.
- Video views – If you’re showcasing your brand or highlighting a unique value proposition (UVP). It’s also a good way to lay the groundwork for future retargeting.
- Lead generation – Collect information about your customers and add them to your sales funnel.
- Messages – Use this when you’re seeking to start conversations around your brand.
Conversions lets you choose from three objectives:
- Conversions – This could be making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, or taking any other action.
- Catalog sales – By connecting your e-commerce store with Facebook Ads, you can promote products from your catalog.
- Store traffic – Use this to drive traffic to your physical location by targeting nearby potential customers.
Once you have determined your objectives, you can determine which format will work best to help you accomplish your goals.
From here, you’ll need to determine your budget and schedule. You can opt for either a daily or monthly budget, with the option for an end date for time-sensitive promotions.
Next, you’ll choose your audience – a process we’ll dive into in the next section – and select your placements.
If you’ve never placed ads on Facebook before, you will probably be best served by selecting Automatic Placements, which will allow the social media platform to determine where you’re likely to get the best results.
If you know what you’re doing, you can customize your placement and select things like device type and operating system.
When Not To Use Facebook Ads
There’s no question that running Facebook ad campaigns can be extremely beneficial. But it’s not a magical sales multiplier.
In fact, in some situations, it can be a complete waste of money – and Facebook Ads can be quite costly.
Here are some situations when you should not use Facebook Ads:
- You’re unclear on your targeting – Nothing will blow through your ad spend faster, and with less to show for it, than going after the wrong demographic.
- You’re not using your metrics – As with every marketing campaign, your Facebook Ads should be subject to measurement and A/B testing to find the optimal placement and format.
- You don’t have anything worth sharing – To get engagement, your ads need to be compelling. It could be a unique product, a special event, or a sale, but people need a reason to click your ads.
- Your landing page and ad are disconnected – If you’re promising one thing in your Facebook Ad and then delivering something different on your website, people will not follow through with your CTA.
Using Facebook Analytics
Facebook’s biggest value to marketers lies in its analytics capabilities via Facebook Insights.
To access it, go to your Page Manager and click on Insights.
You’ll be presented with quite a lot of data, created using a default range of 28 days. You can change this as needed.
The first thing you’ll likely want to check is the Overview tab, which will tell you how your page is performing. This gives you key metrics about your page and your most recent posts, and compares you to similar pages.
Use the Likes tab to see the averages, growth, and source of your likes to help you understand how your page is performing.
The Reach tab tracks how many people have seen your posts, their reactions, comments, and shares, as well as how many have hidden them or reported them as spam.
Page views help you identify where your traffic is coming from and how many views your posts are receiving.
Under the Actions of Page tab, you’ll get a report of what actions visitors took on your Facebook page, as well as demographic information on the people who clicked your phone number or website or took another action.
There are also separate tabs to tell you how your posts, events, and videos are performing on the platform.
The People tab gives you information about who saw and engaged with your posts or page. It gives you data on your fans, as well as reach and engagement numbers.
The Messages tab tracks Messenger analytics, including response time, while Promotions gives you an overview of recent sales and promotions.
Branded Content lists your mentions from Verified Pages (those with a blue checkmark).
Finally, there’s the Local tab, which while not relevant for strictly online businesses, is extremely valuable for any company with a physical location.
It gives you information about the foot traffic in your area, as well as demographic information about these people and the number of people nearby who saw your ads.
How To Create Great Facebook Campaigns
There is no question that Facebook can be an excellent marketing tool for virtually any organization.
But if you don’t pay attention to what you’re doing, it can also be an easy way to blow through your advertising budget in no time.
To ensure your Facebook marketing campaigns give you the biggest bang for your buck, here are some key takeaways to keep in mind:
- Identify your audience and write to it – Keep your posts only as long as is required to persuade a target. Keep your ads within specified limits. Keep your CTAs short and to the point.
- Don’t take a “one-size-fits-all” approach – Facebook allows you incredible targeting options. Use them. Highly targeted ads are going to perform much better than those that take a scattergun approach.
- Have a good offer – Even the best copy and image can’t overcome a bad offer. Make sure you’re providing something people want.
- Connect your visuals with your copy – Copy should reinforce your images and videos and vice versa. Make sure yours does.
- Refine your strategy – You’re not going to get everything perfect for your first, second, or even hundredth Facebook campaign. In fact, there are no perfect campaigns. That means you should always be working on your strategy and content, striving to find something better.
Featured Image: Production Perig/Shutterstock
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