The Ultimate Step-By-Step Guide to Content Strategy

This post was originally written by Ian Lurie in 2016. It was recently edited by Portent content strategist Travis McKnight, to include new information and more current data.

This content marketing guide is enormous. There is no TL;DR version because creating a content strategy has a lot of steps. And they’re all necessary.

If you’re a writer and know your way around a computer or a marketing geek who knows how to write, after reading the guide, you should be well-prepared for the endeavors ahead.

Before you dive in, here’s an important caveat: this guide focuses on the “getting started” steps, best practices, and a few of our favorite tools. If you’re only looking for content strategy best practices, we recommend you read our blog. But if you want to learn the whole process, you’re in the right place.

Kicking off any content marketing process starts with the strategy. Afterward, some basic process planning happens. This is how we do it at Portent:

  1. Existing content inventory
  2. Competitive analysis
  3. Drawing conclusions
  4. Building the “machine” around best practices, tools, and people

In the first step, you grab a lot of data and mush it all together; this is the most mechanically involved task we’ll get into. Fortunately, the second step is fast and easy. The third and fourth steps are the most challenging and demanding. Both tasks require critical thinking skills, intuition, and industry knowledge that are impossible-to-automate.

Before You Start

Let’s establish common definitions and outline a few assumptions.

What You’re Doing

My definition of “content” is broad. Content is about a lot more than piles of blog posts. Content is everything you say, in any format.

Conversations are comprised of content. Content is how we converse.

Content drives every exchange you have with a potential customer. Product descriptions are content. So are photos, blog posts, podcasts, your company’s “About Us” page, those 40 ridiculous links you stuff at the bottom of your home page, and every other scrap of information you put—anywhere.

The Goal of Content Marketing

A content strategy has three objectives:

  1. Call out goals, how you’ll accomplish them, and what KPIs you’ll use to measure the accomplishments.
  2. Create a “profile” of particularly successful content types that others can apply for the foreseeable future.
  3. Persuade the reader—your client/boss—that they should believe you, stop barfing keyword essays out on their site, and become a true resource for potential customers.

Content marketing is how you deliver on those goals.

Trust me, none of these are easy. To get started, you must break the connection in your brain between SEO and content.

Forget About Rankings

Wait, what did you say?

I said: Forget about SEO and rankings. This is about content, which affects every inch of your marketing strategy. Content influences everything in marketing.

  1. Content = communications. It helps with inbound and outbound sales, as well as PR, by reinforcing messages and showing you can deliver on promises and create a connection with your customer.
  2. Content impacts how people perceive your brand, too. What you say, and how you say it, establishes this message.
  3. Content is a huge factor in customer retention. It provides information and knowledge that attaches value to you and your brand.

Graphic showing the many components of content layered in a cup with a straw

SEO is one reason to do a fantastic job on content. It’s certainly not the only one. I see SEO as 20 percent of the reason to create great content.

This whole step-by-step content strategy guide is meant to support all of your organization’s communications efforts. But it’ll only support those efforts if you use the data you collect to define “good” content for your site. That will only happen if you look at content as a marketing strategist, rather than an SEO.

Before You Do Anything, Create Personas

There are entire books about persona creation. I’m not going to write about the process here. What I recommend, though, is that each persona include:

  1. Search behavior, because no, you can’t escape search engines.
  2. Devices most often used, which drives content creation and technology.
  3. Fears, frustrations, and aspirations.
  4. Demographic targeting data you can get from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google. This piece is old but still a great overview.
  5. Content that “maps” from “I don’t care” to “I need this!!!” and then back around again.

Sample client persona that includes demographic information as well as goals, motivations, and frustrations

If you can assemble this kind of information, you’ve got the basics. It doesn’t have to be fancy.

Step 1: Collect Your Content Inventory

You could go through your entire web site, by hand, and find every last piece of content. You could.

Or, you can automate the inventory. Which is what I strongly suggest. Here’s what I do, and how I do it:

The Site Crawl: Break It Up, Before You Go-go

Yikes. Awful. I know, but that’s the music I grew up with.

The first step in any inventory is getting a list of your stuff. Here, the first step is getting a list of site pages. All you need is a list of page URLs. If you have a large site (say, more than 1,000 pages), you should group those URLs by category.

Wait, what? Grouped by category? Ian, WTF?!!! I’ll have to do that by hand!!!

Nope. Assuming your site has any semblance of structure, you’ll have categories, and those categories will have a hub page, like this:

Diagram demonstrating e-commerce category hub pages for "outerwear"

On this site, you’d probably create an “Outerwear” URL group that included everything in the Outerwear/ folder, including the outerwear page itself. Then you’d create another one for underwear, and so on. If there’s a blog, you break that up by category, too.

It doesn’t matter if you’re an e-commerce site, by the way. Most sites have category structures. If you don’t, look really carefully—you may have found the first step in your content strategy.

Here’s an easy way to see if you’ve got the right URL groups. Each URL group should:

  1. Share a common desired visitor emotional response, such as “I love this. I want it.” or “This guy totally answered my question. He rocks.” or even “Good god, what the hell were they thinking?!”
  2. Make sense. Are you pairing services information with today’s funny cartoon? Better be a good reason.
  3. Be manageable. The URL group has to be small enough that you can do reasonable measurement, and large enough to give you a decent sampling. There’s no hard-and-fast rule for this, I’m afraid. Usually, it’s obvious: On a 10,000-page site, for example, a 10-page URL group will have little value, but a 5,000-page group may be impossible to work with.

You can get these URL groups fairly easily using a standard site crawler. Keep reading, and I’ll show you how.

Running the Site Crawl

Crawl each category list of links separately. My favorite desktop tool for this is Screaming Frog. Go get it. I’ll wait.

Screaming Frog is so full of awesome; it’d take another 10,000 words to describe it. If you want to learn more about using it, check out SEER’s incredibly complete guide.

First. Before you do anything else, click Configuration > Spider and uncheck every box. That will set the spider to skip external addresses, JavaScript and css links and images. We don’t need those for a basic audit.

Second. If you’re lucky, and each URL group matches a folder on your site, you can enter your web address plus the folder, like this:

Screenshot showing Screaming Frog folder set up

…and Screaming Frog will only crawl links within that folder. Easy-peasy.

If your site doesn’t use folders, try using the Include filter, instead:

  1. Click “Configuration > Include”Screenshot showing how to find and select the Include Filter in Screaming Frog
  2. Type in the URL Pattern you want to match. Don’t let the mention of regular expressions scare you. A plain old pattern like this works brilliantly. Just remember the ‘*’Screenshot showing how to add the URL pattern you want to match in Screaming Frog
  3. Start your crawl

You can also filter the URLs after the fact, using the Filter tool, or by getting creative with Excel. I’m not going to write about all that here, because frankly, this post is long enough, yes?

Third. Save your crawl to a CSV, so you can import it into a spreadsheet, like so:

Screenshot showing how to export your crawl in Screaming Frog

But what about monster sites? 1 million+ pages? My favorite publicly-available tool is Deepcrawl.

Fourth. Finally, take each URL group crawl result and import them into Excel. Keep the Status Code, as well as the H1/H2s, Response Codes, Page Title and Meta Description, Word Count. That gives me a pretty complete list of URLs and basic data you’ll need for page quality.

Finally. Get rid of duplicate source URLs! Don’t forget!

You can use a different tool than Excel. When I do this myself, I dump the list of URLs into Sublime Text and filter for unique URLs, and then use a regular expression to dump any offsite stuff that somehow got into the crawl. But Excel is a great starting point.

Grab Your Performance Data

Now, you’ve got your list(s) of links—the “stuff” part of the inventory. Time to fetch your performance data—this is the “information about the stuff” part of the inventory. You’ll use this data as part of your strategy.

What I do not measure in a content audit (I use inventory and audit interchangeably):

  1. Pageviews: Too deceptive.
  2. Time on page: Panic-inducing, and may not indicate the real “quality” of the page.
  3. Bounce rate: See time on page. If folks read your site through feeds, bounce rate may be really high. But that means nothing.
  4. Visitors or unique visitors.

None of these stats show me whether the content had an impact. They show me whether someone came and looked at the page, and they show me if you left your browser open for 10 minutes. That’s about it.

What I do measure in a content audit:

  1. Facebook likes. If someone “likes” a page on Facebook, something about that page got their juices flowing.
  2. Facebook shares. Ditto.
  3. Facebook comments. Ditto, ditto.
  4. LinkedIn posts, if this is a business site.
  5. Reddit votes, if relevant.
  6. If the page has commenting, the number of comments.
  7. If the page has reviews, the number of reviews.
  8. Authority, based on a tool like Moz’s Link Explorer or Majestic SEO (or both). I don’t care whether you’re doing SEO or not—this is another good measure of audience response.
  9. Revenue/conversions generated by visitors to those pages. Only sometimes. Use with caution, because great content typically gets you conversions later, and attribution is nearly impossible.

Read on if you want some tips on grabbing all of this data without going insane.

Language/Quality Data

Performance data tells you how a specific piece of content helps your overall strategy. Language & quality data provides a snapshot of subject matter and best practices:

  1. (Required) Words/page. You already have this from your Screaming Frog crawl, remember?
  2. Paragraph tags. Clearly, you should have them. But do you?
  3. (Required) Title tag. Because it’s important. You already have this. This is not for SEO evaluation, although you can certainly do that. You’ll examine titles to see if one style of title tag gets more shares/authority/good stuff than another. Forget the rankings.
  4. (Required) Meta description tag. You have this already, too. Again, this is not an SEO thing! It’s about looking at trends: On your site, do pages with good description tags get more shares/authority than those that do not? You want to know.
  5. (Optional) Term Frequency-Inverse Document Frequency (TF-IDF). The top five or so terms by document and group, based on a score that combines the term frequency of a phrase within a document, and the inverse document frequency of the term within the entire URL group (aka, the corpus, in natural language processing-speak). If the idea of calculating TF-IDF makes your eyes roll back in your head, then show the top five terms per document, based on frequency. Again, NOT SEO. This is to help you figure out what each page/section is about, without requiring you to read every one. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than nothing.
  6. (Optional) Flesch-Kincaid grade level and reading ease. These numbers give you a basic look (very basic) at writing complexity.
  7. (Optional) Heading element usage. Track how many elements each page has. To a point, more headings may show a well-thought-out document structure.
  8. (Optional) OGP markup. OGP markup enhances Facebook sharing. If some pages have it and some don’t, you can track the impact.
  9. (Optional) Twitter markup. Same as OGP markup, but for Twitter.
  10. (Optional) Count of possible spelling errors. Tragic that we have to test for this, but there you have it. If you’d like to automate this part of the process, you can copy-paste the content into Grammarly for an in-depth look at its editorial quality.

There is no ideal number of words per page, by the way. Or reading ease. Or anything else. You’re looking at this data to build a profile of particularly successful content within this one category on your site. In one URL group, that may mean 500 words/page and a reading grade level 12. In another, that may mean 100 words and reading grade level 7. It’s up to you to look at the data and draw conclusions.

But still—how do you grab all of this data?! There’s the rub. Keep reading.

Mechanize Data Collection

Collecting all of this by hand could take weeks. Or you can automate it. You’ve got a few options, from super-technical to most accessible:

  1. You can write your own data grabbing script. To me, all marketers should be programmers. If you believe that, writing a little script to fetch this data, page by page, isn’t that hard. I did it, and I code about as well as I dance. Use this option if you’ll be doing repeated audits.
  2. Fancier tools like Content Insight appear to fetch all the data you want and then some. I haven’t tried any of them yet, so I can’t say for sure. If you’ve tried them, let me know.
  3. Use a service like Smartsheet. Set up a blank spreadsheet with all the columns you want, and paste in all the URLs. Write instructions on how to grab each metric. Then use Smartsheet to set up Amazon Mechanical Turk jobs for each URL. Poof. You’re done. Great if you’re only doing occasional content audits.

More likely, you’ll use a mix of tools and manual labor. Here’s how you pull it all together.

Aggregate Your Data

Tools like Moz’s Link Explorer will let you pull a lot of the content performance numbers. Add SEMRush to that, and you have a lot of great information. If you can’t collect every datapoint, work with what you can. In spite of the numbers, this is more art than science.

But data like authority numbers and revenue/conversions require logins, and you don’t want to share those on AMT or Smartsheet. Use Excel VLOOKUP, instead:

  1. Add three tabs to your content data spreadsheet.
  2. In your web analytics software, set up a content report that includes page URLs and revenue or conversions. Download a CSV export of that report.
  3. For Majestic and Moz’s Link Explorer, get Builtvisible’s link API Excel plugin. Paste your URLs into one of the spreadsheet tabs you just created. That’ll give you a bulk lookup of all of your URLs.
  4. For SEMRush data, export the data from SEMRush. Paste that data into another tab.
  5. Paste the web analytics content report into the other tab.
  6. Use VLOOKUP to grab relevant data.

If you need to learn VLOOKUP, check out this excellent tutorial from Distilled.

One Last Bit For Data: Any Disasters?

Record any catastrophic events: a major PR gaffe, or a governance failure, or something similar. These kinds of events may point out the need for a stricter content policy. Or, they may point out how well a particular style of response worked to correct the problem and move on. Either way, there are lessons to be learned.

Step 2: Spy On the Competition

To be honest, I rarely do a deep competitive analysis. We’re not going to imitate the competition, because that probably won’t work. And being a copycat is really, really bad for your brand, as Adecco found out. And we’re not going to learn much from them, because we have no information about their process/challenges/resources.

However, there are times when competitive research and comparisons make sense:

  1. Prompt a response. Nothing gets a team motivated faster than “our biggest competitor is using this strategy, and they’re kicking our butt.” This works well when you’re justifying everything from fully descriptive title tags to content that’s not marketing-focused.
  2. Give you a goal. If you have no idea what to set as a goal, you might check share data for competitor content. That assumes the competitor is doing well, of course.

And, since you’ve already automated so much of the data collection process, it’s easy enough to run the process above for a few dozen pages on your top competitors. So you may want to take a look.

For Portent, that means the following:

  1. Use a tool like Buzzsumo to find the highest-performing sites around a topic and/or,
  2. Go to SEMRush or Ahrefs. Pull up competitors’ sites. Look at the highest-performing content on those sites.
  3. Feed those sites and pages into SEMRush/Ahrefs. Look at the topics they cover.
  4. Use Majestic, too. It shows you “topic flow,” which is a good way to judge overall subject of a site or group of pages using links and content.
  5. Look at the highest-performing pages on those sites. Compare them to the topics. See the kinds of content they produce and the cadence at which they produce it.
  6. Find the weak points: Does the competition fail to update their stuff? If so, consider how you might provide more up-to-date information.
  7. Find the gaps: In your industry, are there topics the competition simply ignores? If possible, target those areas.
  8. Look for other things that stand out.
  9. Put all of that together. There’s no easy if/then, but this thought process usually gives us a reasonably good look at the competitive landscape.

In our case, pretend we discovered that our competition hasn’t written that much about overall Internet marketing. They’re remarkably strong for individual topics, but haven’t pulled it all together. That gives us an opportunity.

Step 3: Draw Conclusions

You now have scads of data on every page in each URL group. Maybe you grabbed every possible data point. Maybe you didn’t. It doesn’t matter. This is the part that matters most. You need to look at all of this data and start to build a profile for “great” content in each URL group.

You could try to use a formula or a statistical technique like Pearson Correlation, but I don’t recommend it. Content is largely about emotional response:

  1. Agreement
  2. Satisfaction
  3. Dislike
  4. Sense of security/lack thereof

You can’t calculate that.

You can, however, look at each URL group, determine what emotional response each group was trying to obtain, and then use the data to see whether you succeeded. Here’s an example.

Portent’s Content Report

I ran a small report—about 150 pages—on the Portent blog using our Content Inventory Analysis tool, which collects most of the data I’ve recommended you analyze. You can view the report here to follow along if you want.

I need to see if any content “sticks out” as particularly successful. The easiest way? Just sort by various columns, looking for pages with the best citation flow, most tweets or Facebook shares, etc. If I find something significant, I’ll create a separate report for it later.

In our report, the top three articles are either super-specific “how-tos” or educational “you should know” content that rambles on about digital marketing best practices. In general, our most successful posts in this report are also more than 2,000 words long, with two of them surpassing 5,000 words. In fact, just about all blog content that got tweeted falls into those two categories, and have more than 1,500 words.

If one of my strategic goals is to build share of voice through social shares (not the best goal on its own, but a decent start), then I can safely assume that:

  1. Longer articles are at least OK, and may be an excellent idea to generate user engagement.
  2. We need to either offer hard-hitting analysis of major, current issues, or truly useful how-tos.
  3. Titles with “why” or “how” at the beginning may somehow get more sharing and authority, which means folks are engaging a bit better. Make a note to test this.

These may seem like “well, duh” discoveries. But now you can back them up with data. Plus, I’m not sure the newsworthy part would’ve jumped out at me without looking at these top 10 pages.

Still, I won’t want to base all of my assumptions on one statistic. And there’s probably more to learn. If I dig deeper, I find:

  1. Majestic SEO’s Citation and Trust Flow seem to back up the social media numbers. So these posts aren’t just social media boosters. They’re getting shared via blogs too.
  2. No one topic is the big driver. Everything from responsive design to PPC to SEO generates attention. That’s good—part of our strategy is to emphasize we’re a full-service agency.
  3. But we lack content about general Internet marketing. Oops.

Here’s the warning about all this: It’s just numbers, and you’re dealing with people. It may be that the top two posts performed so well because we used the word “flibbergibbet” in our tweets, or we tweeted on a Saturday (I checked the tweets we sent, and when we sent them, and didn’t see any huge differences).

So yes, you need to think it through, and explore other information as necessary. That’s research. It’s also why we all still have a job, and aren’t likely to be replaced any time soon by Python scripts that fetch numbers from 10 different APIs.

The Conclusions

In our case, if I think it through and compare goals, audit results, and competitive analysis, I can conclude that:

  1. We want to be known as an all-around internet marketing agency.
  2. Our content covers all topics, but I can’t find much about marketing in general.
  3. Our competitors lack overall marketing content, too.
  4. Therefore, we should probably increase emphasis on general, “pulling it all together” content.

Step 4: Build the Content Strategy

Use “plan” or “strategy.” Regardless, this is the part that brings everything together: Your data, conclusions, competitive analysis, all of it.

Here’s what I put into a strategy.

The Role of Content in the Marketing Plan

First thing’s first. What’s the content supposed to do?

You may know. I may know. But I guarantee at least one critical decision-maker who reads your strategy will not. This is not something most people spend a lot of time thinking about—we’re kind of weird. So no matter how repetitive it feels, write out exactly what you hope content will accomplish. Expectation-setting is critical.

This is yet another place to emphasize that adding keywords to the website so Google will rank your website is not part of the strategy. It’s also a good place to point out content’s vast impact on the entire marketing plan. Get buy-in on these concepts here, and opportunities for great, creative, useful stuff start popping up like sun-starved Seattlites on a clear day.

What You Did

Where did you get your data? How did you draw your conclusions? Again, someone’s going to ask. Nothing fancy—a simple list of sources and methods will do.

Constraints

Carefully and diplomatically list tools, resources, or other things that may limit capabilities. You have to talk about this before you talk about goals and metrics! This is all about setting expectations. If your site lacks a content management system, you can’t publish as often. If you lack writers, you can’t produce as much. If you need photography and don’t have a photographer, well…you see where this is going.

You need to clearly state constraints, from day one. That’s how you manage expectations.

Say what you need! Don’t write: “Our resources are limited. We will not be able to meet these goals.” For the person reviewing the plan, that’s extremely frustrating. They know you do not have enough resources. You’ve told them that. But what do you need? What will let you get the job done?

You have to provide solutions: “We will need to add two people to meet these goals.” Trust me; nothing drives a boss more insane than a problem presented without a solution. Tell them what’s necessary for you to meet your goals. They may say no. But it’s better than grumbling.

Goals and Metrics

What should we measure going forward?

The Goals and Analysis plan below talks about how often to measure your content. But you also need to set out the metrics, and the goals, right away. Check out our guide to content KPIs if you want inspiration.

Like the role of content, putting this into writing really gets folks on the right track.
For Portent, the goal is more shareable content and ultimately, reaching beyond the search community into the marketing community as a whole. We’ll measure that by watching:

  1. Content consumption. Visits plus shares plus links and mentions.
  2. Topics. We want to make sure we don’t over-focus in one area, and we want to talk more about marketing as a whole.
  3. Interaction. Comments generated per page.
  4. Leads. You can connect content to conversions!!! For an intro, read my piece about marketing strategy.

Here’s an example: “I’d like to see comments per page increase by 25 percent, and see an even topic distribution between PPC, SEO, social media, analytics, development, and overall strategy.”

Ideating Essential Topics

The two or three guiding principles behind the organization, translated into central themes for every piece of content you write. This is one of the critical bits that, if you get it right, causes the rest of the audit to fall nicely into place.

The “essential topics” might be “keywords” for some folks. I don’t think keywords are very strategic, and I know what my writing looks like if someone tells me, “Hey, can you write a blog post about bicycle tires?” So I’d rather stick to topics.

A good place to start is with the organization’s “why.” Not sure what your company’s “why” is? Check out Simon Sinek’s masterful book, Start With Why to learn how to develop and use “why” as a motivating force.

For me, the “why” is “help everyone communicate better, because great communications will save the world.”

That doesn’t mean every blog post we write has to talk about communications and a world-ending lack thereof. Instead, break the “why” up into essential topics like this. Every post we write should probably touch on one of these points:

  1. Learn to be a better marketing communicator
  2. Be heard
  3. What’s good, what’s bad
  4. Linking marketing to communications

We don’t have to literally write about each of these topics, either. But any content we create should probably somehow support one of the essential topics. For example:

  1. How to write clearly
  2. Choosing the right images for your blog post
  3. Great communications can save the world (it’s OK to write the why now and then)
  4. Using Python for sentiment analysis
  5. Machine learning and spam link detection
  6. Adecco: anatomy of a social media meltdown

Every one of those posts either offers advice on better communications, calls out great or awful communications, or otherwise trots alongside the communications bandwagon.

Essential topics are a “soft” concept. This makes it even more critical that you make it as concrete as possible, with lots of examples and crystal clear topics. Still, anything this touchy-feely in a world of “give me my ROI now, dammit,” spells nightmare. Here are the properties of a good essential topic:

  1. It works for a how-to, a rant and a philosophical discussion. aka:?WTF*. Any essential topic should be at least that flexible. So “how to program Python” won’t work. But “program Python better” might, and “programming to learn better” is perfect.
  2. It travels on its own: seeing this essential topic, anyone will understand what it means. “Writing Python list iterators” is a total fail. It’s fine as a blog post. It’s just not an essential topic. A better one might be “process data faster” or “do more with data.”
  3. It lets you be funny, serious, or mad. Similar to: ?WTF*, but this is more about pure tone. “Taking better photographs” probably doesn’t work. I can’t get terribly angry about that. “Better visual storytelling” works.

Some of these look like narrow semantic distinctions, right? You probably rolled your eyes at “better visual storytelling.” It’s ok, you can admit it. I backspaced over it three times myself. But it’s not just me making up fancy phrases. Two years from now, someone’s going to have to look at this essential topic and be able to apply it to whatever content they’re dreaming up.

Tone and Audience

If you’re going to write personas, this is not the place to do it. You should have gotten everyone’s buy-in regarding personas way at the start of this article, long before you started writing strategy. If you didn’t, no big deal. Just don’t create the gigantic kerfuffle that’ll result if you throw personas into the mix now. Skip ‘em.

Instead, in this section, write little two-sentence descriptions of each audience type and do the same for a few different tones you think are appropriate.

Content Types

Easiest section in the whole audit. Just explain the kinds of content you think can work. If video and text are the only types, explain why. If an audio podcast makes sense, go with that. Just think it through, so that this is a plan the reader can stick to.

Hierarchy

Now, explain how you’re going to rank content. I don’t mean good to bad—I mean, “stuff we should write a lot” versus “stuff we should write a little,” or “stuff that scales” and “stuff that doesn’t.” For Portent, that’s the 70/20/10 rubric. I won’t bother going into it here—you can read about it in this post.

You can’t just cut-and-paste a standard description, though. You have to make this hierarchy make sense for the client. I usually do that by:

  1. Showing content they’ve already done that fits each position in the hierarchy
  2. Showing examples of content others produced that fits
  3. Providing lots of example titles and content types

Content Calendar

Don’t write out a list of titles. This is a strategic document, remember. Instead, create a calendar showing how often to produce content that fits each position in the hierarchy. For example:

  1. Write 70 percent content seven times per month
  2. Write 20 percent content two times per month
  3. Write 10 percent content once per month

I’d use an actual calendar format if I were you, though. People seem to absorb the information more easily that way.

Best Practices

This is much more tactical. Take a look at the content inventory report you created. If there are any mistakes/omissions/great things that happen more than 20 percent of the time, write a best practice to address it.

Then, picture a content team sitting in your spot, six months from now. What insights might those people miss? Write best practices for each of those realizations, too.

These are often little things, like writing fully-descriptive titles. But sometimes big stuff ends up here. For example:

  1. Don’t copy content from your other sites. Seems obvious to me, maybe, but put yourself in the team’s shoes. Six months from now, under deadline pressure, with a VP telling them she just spent 50 percent of the year’s budget on that research piece for the other web site, is there any chance the team might forget? Or be pressured into duplicating? Yes.
  2. Write a fully-descriptive article title. Again, it seems obvious, but will it be obvious in six months?
  3. Put links where they matter, not in a list at the end of an article. Reason: no one clicks the links at the end. Links in the article have higher utility.
  4. Make sure no image is larger than 500kb in size. Reason: faster content page load times. Use a free tool like Squoosh to compress images without losing perceptible quality.
  5. Always use the singular form of taxonomical tags. Reason: it avoids a common form of tag duplication.
  6. Place a full transcription of all videos on the video page. Place all videos on their own, independent pages within the site. Reason: content discoverability, search, and skim-able versions for people in a hurry.
  7. All pages should be Google AMP and Facebook Instant Articles-ready.
  8. All pages should be responsive.

Our Favorite Content Strategy Tools

When you’re making best practice guidelines, we also recommend listing the tools you use. Some of ours are:

  1. Grammarly, which has saved us many misspellings, grammatical cringing, and lives (maybe).
  2. Hemingway for grade-level analysis and recommendations for simpler, easier-to-read writing.
  3. Coschedule for editorial calendar and production management.

Understand that these are not laws. Sometimes the team has to bypass a best practice. Your job here is to provide the information they need to make an intelligent, informed decision when they do. If they decide to place an image that’s larger than 500kb, fine, just understand that it increases article load time. If they skip the transcript, they may get fewer video views because people can’t get a quick preview, and because search engines may not properly categorize the page.

Examples

Lots and lots of examples. Good, bad, edits you’d make, edits you wouldn’t. The more examples you provide, the easier it is for the reader to figure out best practices and essential topics. We often provide marked-up screen captures showing what we’d change and how.

Example of marked-up screen captures showing good and bad edits, used to support your content strategy best practices

Outreach

Depending on the reader, I might write out basic guidelines for outreach: how much to do and when, who to reach, and how.

In case you’re not familiar with outreach, it is among the best strategies to proactively drive organic and referral traffic to your website. A long-term outreach campaign also builds domain authority, bolsters brand awareness, and engages your audience where they congregate on the web. For more, check out our Outreach 101 guide. It has everything you need to get started.

Governance

Some clients really want governance to be part of their strategy and audit. To me, it’s a whole different thing. I know that’s not the norm, so I’ll explain:

  1. A content strategy is about what you create, when you create it, and how.
  2. Governance is about who’s allowed to create it and what they need to do to get it approved. It’s also about what you can and cannot do. So it actually needs to be in place before the strategy and audit, or you need to do it based on the strategy and audit findings. You can’t do it at the same time.
  3. I can count the number of organizations that have stuck to a content governance framework on one pseudopod, and despite Dr. Pete’s claims to the contrary, I do not have any pseudopods. Unless there was a major governance catastrophe, focus on strategy, first.

Review and Analysis Plan

Write down your plan for measuring and tracking content performance over time. Be really, really specific. Exactly what would you do every time you publish a new piece of content? Exactly what would you regularly check, and exactly how often? And if you aren’t sure what the appropriate cadence is for auditing your content, you can read more about that here.

You might even want to provide basic guidelines for interpreting data: if the numbers go up, do X. If they go down, do Y. But I’m really cautious with this kind of information in a strategy. It’s bound to get transformed from strategic advice to tactical musts. Next thing you know, every time a post gets three Facebook likes, the entire content team has to write on the same topic for three months.

Wrap Up

This sounds really hard. And really complicated. That’s because it is. Content strategies drive communications policy, which, ironically, is really hard to communicate. But it’s priceless information for your organization. A good strategy forms a long-term framework for content, and it keeps everyone honest. It guides more than content marketing. It drives an organization’s entire marketing plan. So it’s well worth the effort.

The post The Ultimate Step-By-Step Guide to Content Strategy appeared first on Portent.

Google Podcasts Search Results and SEO

Google has podcasts in search results!

Neat! Google has yet another feature to push down the ten* blue links, encourage people to never click through to your website, and take credit for your content! Alright, that’s a little more cynical than I usually am but, I’m not wrong.

*your number of blue links may vary

These rich results for podcasts first launched in 2017. Initially, they displayed as a list of playable episodes under an organic listing. Now, podcast search results show up as a card carousel high up on the results page.

Screenshot of Google search results for "stuff you should know" podcasts

My Chrome browser isn’t the only place you will see these Google Podcasts search results either; you can also find them in several Google-owned and operated properties and services:

  • Google Search in any browser
  • The Google Search app for Android
  • The Google Podcasts app
  • Google Home
  • Content Action for the Google Assistant
  • Android Auto

So, How Do I Get My Podcast in Google Search Results?

The first step, after “get yourself a podcast” is to publish your podcast to Google Play Music. It’s a straightforward process that includes creating an RSS feed and having a website that links to the RSS feed.

  • Create an RSS feed for your podcast and follow the episode-level requirements
  • Have a website for your podcast and link to your RSS feed from the homepage
  • Don’t block any users or crawlers from your website with passwords or robots.txt, etc.

Once you have verified and published your podcast, it will be available in the Google Podcasts app and eligible for all the search display opportunities Google has to offer podcasts.

Is There Such a Thing as Podcast SEO?

Anytime a website and Google are involved, there is going to be an opportunity for optimization. And, from what I can tell, there are not a lot of podcasts out there that are optimized for organic search. I mean, two of the three podcast results for “productivity podcasts” use an episode title of “Productivity.”

Screenshot of Google search results for "productivity" podcasts

It also looks like Google is still trying to interpret search intent with a lot of “podcast” related searches; probably because there are podcasts out there for practically everything!

For example, trying to find out which type of schema markup to use on podcasts brings up a handful of pages that don’t actually answer the query and a Google Podcasts result with podcasts talking about structured data. The eighth organic result is the info I needed:

Screenshot of Google search results for "podcast schema markup"

Podcast SEO Best Practices

So, with all of that in mind, here are some SEO fundamentals for podcast SEO:

  • Get a dedicated website for your podcast
  • Don’t gate or block your content
  • Create a unique page for each episode
  • Use your target keywords in all the right places like the URL, title tag, and meta description
  • Your podcast episode title and page title tag do not have to be the same and should pass the Blank Sheet of Paper Test
  • Have a summary introduction on the page
  • If you have episode transcripts available, get those on the page
  • Use the schema markup for OnDemandEvent on each podcast episode page
  • And submit your podcast to Google Play Music along with everywhere else

There you have it. As the art of podcasting continues to grow and gain more momentum, it will become even more necessary to make sure yours is well positioned and easily accessible through Google search results. By following these best practices, you’ll be set up for success. Happy podcasting!

The post Google Podcasts Search Results and SEO appeared first on Portent.

A Developer’s Guide To SEO

Developers don’t do SEO. They make sure sites are SEO-ready.

That means developers hold the key to SEO. It’s true. If you’re a developer and you’re reading this, laugh maniacally. You’re in control.

You control three things: viability, visibility, and site flexibility.

This post provides guidelines for all three.

  1. Viability
    1. Generate And Store HTTP Server Logs
    2. Don’t Turn On Analytics. Configure It.
    3. Consider Robots.txt
    4. Set The Correct Response Codes
    5. Configure Headers
    6. Other Random Things
  2. Visibility
    1. Get Canonicalization Right
    2. Pay Attention To Performance
    3. Engineer Away ‘Thin’ Content
    4. Use Standard Page Structure
    5. Put Videos On Their Own Pages
    6. Generate Readable URLs
    7. Use Subfolders, Not Subdomains
    8. Don’t Use Nofollow
    9. Make Navigation Clickable
    10. Link All Content
    11. Don’t Hide Content (If You Want To Rank For It)
    12. JavaScript & Frameworks
  3. Flexibility
    1. Have One, Editable Title Tag On Each Page
    2. Make Meta Tags Editable In The CMS
    3. Make Image ALTs Editable In The CMS

What’s A Developer?

This isn’t a navel-gazing philosophical question.

For this article’s purposes, a developer connects site to database (or whatever passes for a database, don’t get all anal-retentive on me), builds pages using the design provided, and does all the work those two jobs require.

A developer does not design. They do not write content. If you do all three jobs, tell the designer/content parts of your brain to take a break. This post isn’t for them.

Viability

Viability: Stuff you do on the server and in early software configuration that readies a site for ongoing SEO.

Mostly I chose this word because the other two ended with “ility,” and it just works.

Generate And Store HTTP Server Logs

Server logs are an SEO source of truth. Log file analysis can reveal all manner crawler hijinx.

Every web server on the planet has some kind of HTTP log file.

And now someone’s going to tweet me their platform that, in defiance of all logic, doesn’t generate log files. OK, fine.

99% of web servers on the planet have some kind of log file.

Happy? Great. Now go make sure your server generates and saves HTTP logs.

Most servers are set up correctly out of the box, but just in case, make sure log files include:

  • The referring domain and URL, date, time, response code, user agent, requested resource, file size, and request type
  • IP address helps, too
  • Relevant errors

Also make sure that:

  • The server doesn’t delete log files. At some point, someone’s going to need to do a year-over-year analysis. If your server wipes log files every 72 hours or similar silliness, they can’t do that. Archive logs instead. If they’re gigantic, make the SEO team pay for an Amazon Glacier account
  • The logs are easily retrieved. If you don’t want your SEOs mucking around the server, I understand. But make it easy for you and the rest of the development team to retrieve HTTP logs. It’ll save you time later, and ensure your replacement can find them after you win the lottery

Log files, folks. Love ’em. Keep ’em. Share ’em.

Don’t “Turn On” Analytics. Configure It.

Why does everyone treat analytics like a light switch? Paste the script, walk away, boom, you’ve got data.

Nope.

Before you add that JavaScript, make sure your analytics toolset—Google, Adobe, whatever—can:

  • Track onsite search. People use that little magnifying glass buried in your site navigation. Your SEO (and UX) teams can learn a lot by reviewing onsite query data. Store it now, avoid apologizing later
  • Track across domains and subdomains. If your company operates multiple domains or splits content across subdomains, creepily stalk users across all of those properties. Your SEO team can then see how organic traffic flows from site to site
  • Filter by IP. Exclude users from your company, from competitors, or from your pesky neighbor who keeps asking you for a job. One IP filter your SEO will appreciate: users in your office. Set it up, and they’ll buy you the beverage of your choice, except Southern Comfort, which gave me the worst hangover of my life and is banned from our entire industry, forever
  • Track on-page events. If your Analytics team is ready for you, put the “hooks” in place now, saving everyone precious time later

Is this all SEO stuff? Not exactly. But it all helps the SEO team. Is this your job? Maybe not. But you’re on the Dev team. You know you’re the top of the escalation tree for everything from analytics data to printer malfunctions. When they can’t find the data they need, the SEO team will end up at your door.

Consider Robots.txt

Hopefully, you already know all about robots.txt. If not, read this guide.

Even if you do, keep in mind:

  • Robots.txt tells bots not to crawl a URL or page. The page might remain in the search index if it was previously crawled (at least, in my experience)
  • Robots.txt noindex probably won’t work much longer
  • The meta robots tag tells bots not to index a page, and/or not follow links from that page. The bot has to crawl the page to find the tag
  • When you launch the site remember to remove the robots disallow/and noindex meta tags please gods please I beg you

Set The Correct Response Codes

Use the right response codes:

200: Everything’s OK, and the resource exists

301: The resource you requested is gone forever. Poof. Look at this other one instead

302: The resource you requested is gone, but it might be back. Look at this other one for now

40x: The resource you requested can’t be found. Oops

50x: Gaaaahhhhh help gremlins are tearing my insides out in a very not-cute way. Nothing’s working. Everything’s hosed. We’re doomed. Check back later just in case

Some servers use 200 or 30x responses for missing resources. This makes Sir Tim Berners-Lee cry. It also makes me cry, but I don’t matter. Change it.

Even worse, some CMSes and carts come configured to deliver a 200 response for broken links and missing resources. The visiting web browser tries to load a missing page. Instead of a 404 response, the server delivers a 200 ‘OK’ response and keeps you on that page.

That page then displays a ‘page not found’ message. Crawlers then index every instance of that message, creating massive duplication. Which becomes a canonicalization issue (see below) but starts as a response code problem.

Yes, Google says they’ll eventually figure out whether you meant to use a 302 or a 301. Keyword: eventually. Never wait for Google. Do it right in the first place.

Configure Headers

I make no judgments regarding the pluses or minuses of these. But plan ahead and configure them before you launch:

  • last-modified
  • rel canonical
  • hreflang
  • X-Robots-Tag

Other Random Things

Check ’em off now, so you don’t have to deal with them later:

  • Put your site on a server with solid-state drives (SSDs). Read/write is a lot faster. Argue if you want, but a faster server means a faster site, which makes ranking easier. More about this when I get to Performance
  • Virtual servers. Call me old-fashioned, but putting my site on a server with 900 others gives me hives. I’m not worried about shared IPs or search reputation. I’m worried about what happens when some bozo creates an endless loop and crashes my site

Viability: It’s Like Good Cholesterol

I just found out that I have high cholesterol, which is irritating because I eat carefully and bike 50–100 miles/week. But whatever.

MY POINT HERE is that server viability fights potential blockages by making sure your SEO team can get straight too…

This is a horrible analogy. Moving on.

Visibility

This is what everyone thinks about: How you build a site impacts search engines’ ability to find, crawl, and index content. Visibility is all about the software. How you build the site impacts it.

Get Canonicalization Right

Every resource on your site should have a single valid address. One. Address. Every page, every image.

Canonicalization problems can cause duplicate content that, in turn, wastes crawl budget, reduces authority, and hurts relevance. Don’t take my word for it. Read Google’s recommendation. If you follow these recommendations, you’ll avoid 90% of canonicalization problems:

Home Page Has a Single URL

If your domain is www.foo.com, then your home page should “live” at www.foo.com.

It shouldn’t be

www.foo.com/index.html
www.foo.com/default.aspx
www.foo.com/index.php

or anything else. Those are all canonically different from www.foo.com. Make sure all links back to the home page are canonically correct.

Don’t depend on rel=canonical or 301 redirects for this. Make sure all internal site links point to the same canonical home page address. No site should ever require a 301 redirect from internal links to its own home page.

Pagination Has One Start Page

Make sure that the link to page one of a pagination tunnel always links to the untagged URL. For example: If you have paginated content that starts at /tag/foo.html, make sure that clicking ‘1’ in the pagination links takes me back to /tag/foo.html, not /tag/foo.html?page=1.

Friends don’t let friends create links like this:

Those can create infinitely-expanding URLs:

/en-us/
/en-US/US-Distribution
/en-US/~/link.aspx?_id=6F0F84644AC94212ACA891D5AE1868C9&_z=z
/en-US/~/~/link.aspx?_id=B682300BEAD24C0ABC268DB377B1D5A0&_z=z
/en-US/~/~/~/link.aspx?_id=6F0F84644AC94212ACA891D5AE1868C9&_z=z
/en-US/~/~/~/~/link.aspx?_id=B682300BEAD24C0ABC268DB377B1D5A0&_z=z
/en-US/~/~/~/~/~/link.aspx?_id=6F0F84644AC94212ACA891D5AE1868C9&_z=z
/en-US/~/~/~/~/~/~/link.aspx?_id=B682300BEAD24C0ABC268DB377B1D5A0&_z=z
/en-US/~/~/~/~/~/~/~/link.aspx?_id=6F0F84644AC94212ACA891D5AE1868C9&_z=z
/en-US/~/~/~/~/~/~/~/~/link.aspx?_id=B682300BEAD24C0ABC268DB377B1D5A0&_z=z

Never hard-code relative links, unless you want to be the comic relief in an SEO presentation.

No Query Attributes For Analytics

Don’t use query attributes to tag and track navigation. Say you have three different links to /foo.html. You want to track which links get clicked. It’s tempting to add ?loc=value to each link. Then you can look for that attribute in your analytics reports and figure out which links get clicked most.

You don’t need to do that. Instead, use a tool like Hotjar. It records where people click, then generates scroll, click and heat maps of your page.

If you absolutely must use tags, then use /# instead of ? and change your analytics software to interpret that, so that ?loc=value becomes /#loc=value. Web crawlers ignore everything after the hash sign.

Things to Do

Whether you have canonicalization issues or not, make sure you:

  • Set the preferred domain in Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools (last time I checked, you could do this in both)
  • Set rel=canonical for all pages. Might as well handle it ahead of time
  • Set the canonical HTTP header link

Quick Fixes

It’s best to fix canonicalization issues by doing it right: build your site to have a single address for every page.

If you can’t do that, though, use these:

  • rel=canonical points search engines at the preferred page. It doesn’t fix crawl budget issues, but it’s something. Make sure you use it right! Incorrect rel=canonical setups can hurt more than help
  • Use the URL Parameters Tool in Google Search Console to filter out parameters that cause duplication. Be careful. This tool is fraught with peril

Get Canonicalization Right From The Start

Please don’t do these things:

  • Use robots.txt or meta robots to hide duplicate content. This completely screws up the site’s link structure, doesn’t hide the content, and costs you authority
  • Point rel=canonical for one set of duplicates at different target pages
  • Use either Google Search Console or Bing Webmaster Tools to remove the URLs of duplicate pages

In other words, no funny business. Do it right from the start.

Pay Attention To Performance

Performance is done to death, so I’m going to keep it short. First, a brief sermon: page speed is an easy upgrade that gets you multiple wins. Faster load time means higher rankings, sure. It also means higher conversion rates and better UX.

First, run Lighthouse. Sample several pages. Use the command line to batch things. The Lighthouse Github repository has everything you need.

Lighthouse isn’t perfect, but it’s a helpful optimization checklist. It also tests accessibility for a nice 2-in–1.

Do all the stuff.

Regardless of the test results:

  • Use HTTP/2 if you’re allowed. It has all sorts of performance benefits
  • Use hosted libraries. You don’t have to use Google’s, but here they are
  • Unless you look at code coverage, in which case I suggest you trim the heck out of your included files and work from there
  • Compress images. Teach your team to use squoosh. They’ll remember to use it for about a day. After that, either flog them regularly or use something like Gulp to automatically compress before upload
  • Defer blocking CSS and JavaScript. Because I said so

You can also consider installing page speed modules. I’d never do this. I don’t want Google software running directly on my server. But they do a lot of work for you. You decide.

A few other quick tips:

Third-Party Scripts

Chances are, someone else will add a bunch of third-party scripts and clobber site performance. You can get off to a good start:

  • Defer loading of third-party scripts, where you can
  • Ask the service provider for the compressed version of the script. They often have one
  • Use CDN versions wherever possible. For example, you can use the Google CDN version of jquery

Use DNS Prefetch

If you’re loading assets from a separate site, consider using DNS prefetch. That handles the DNS lookup ahead of time: That reduces DNS lookup time. More on that:

Use Prefetch

Find the most popular resources on your site and use prefetch (not to be confused with DNS prefetch, above). That loads the asset when the browser is idle, reducing load time later: Be careful with prefetch. Too much will slow down the client. Pick the most-accessed pages and other resources and prefetch those.

Engineer Away ‘Thin’ Content

Build your site to avoid ‘thin’ content: pages with very little content and little unique information.

Avoid these things. Don’t laugh. I still find this kind of stuff in audits all the time:

  • Send-to-a-friend links with unique query attributes
  • Member pages with blank bios and/or no other useful content
  • Blank or low-value “more reviews” pages. Some sites have links to separate review pages for each product. That’s helpful, unless there are no reviews, or the text for most reviews is terribly helpful like “great product”
  • Empty, paginated photo galleries. I honestly don’t know how sites manage this, but they do
  • Tag pages for tags with a single piece of content

Don’t wait for an SEO to make you go back and fix it. Build to prevent this kind of stuff:

  • If you must have send-to-a-friend links, use fragments plus window.location or something similar. Crawlers will ignore everything after the hash
  • Require a minimum length bio, or hide member profiles with short or nonexistent bios
  • Don’t display separate review pages unless you have a minimum number of reviews
  • Don’t generate or link to tag pages unless the tags have more than N pieces of content. You can choose “N.” Just please make sure it’s not “1”
  • Use rel=canonical for multiple SKUs, request forms or anything else that might end up generating thin content. This is not a fix. It’s a lousy workaround. But it’s better than nothing, and it’ll catch stuff you miss

Use Standard Page Structure

We’ve already dealt with title elements and such, so this is a lot easier. Every page should:

Have a Single H1

While heading tags don’t necessarily affect rankings, page structure as evidenced by rendering does. H1 is the easiest way to represent the top level in the page hierarchy.

Have a single H1 that automatically uses the page headline, whether that’s a product description, an article title, or some other unique page heading. Do not put the logo, images or content that repeats from page to page in an H1 element.

Make H2, H3, H4 Available to the content creators

Allow multiple H2, H3, and H4 elements on the page. Let content creators use H2, H3, and H4. You can let them drill down even further, but I’ve found that leads to some, er, creative page structures.

Use

Elements for Paragraph Content, Not Hard Breaks or DIVs

Any developer knows this. Content creators sometimes don’t. I still see many writers insert double line breaks. It’s not easy, but if you can somehow enforce the use of

elements for paragraphs, it will make later tweaks to styles a lot easier.

Use Relevant Structured Data

At a minimum, generate structured markup for:

  • Places
  • Products
  • Reviews
  • People

See schema.org for more information. Right now, JSON-LD is the most popular way to add structured data. It’s easiest, and if you (properly) use a tag manager, you can add structured data to the page without changing code.

Oh, Come On Ian

I can hear you. No need to mutter. You’re saying, “None of this impacts rankings.”

It may. It may not. But using standard page structure improves consistency across the site for every content manager and designer who will work on it. That leads to good habits that make for a better site. It leads to less hacky HTML code pasted into the WordPress editor. That means a more consistent user experience. Which is good for rankings.

So there.

Put Videos On Their Own Pages

Video libraries are great, but having all of your videos on a single page makes search engines cry. Put each video on its own page. Include a description and, if you can, a transcript. Link to each video from the library. That gives search engines something to rank.

Generate Readable URLs

Where possible, create URLs that make sense. /products/shoes/running is better than /products?blah–1231323

Readable URLs may not directly impact rankings. But they improve clickthrough because people are more likely to click on readable URLs.

Also, Google bolds keywords in URLs.

Finally, what are you more likely to link to?

/asdf?foo=asdfakjsd;fkljasdf

or

/asdf/shoes/ ?

Use Subfolders, Not Subdomains

Yeah, yeah, go ahead and hurl insults. I’ve heard it all before. If you want to argue about it, go read this post first.

All quality content should ‘live’ on the same domain. Use subfolders. The blog should live at /blog. The store should live at /store or similar. I always get pushback on this one. Google has said in the past that subdomains are OK. Yes, they’re OK. They’re not the best. Google says subdomains are sometimes just as good. Not always.

When Googlebot comes across a subdomain, it decides whether to treat it as a subfolder or not. Like many things Google does and says, they’re unclear about it and results differ. I have no test data. I can say this: in most cases, moving content to a subfolder helps, if by ‘most’ we mean ‘every site I’ve ever worked on.’

So why leave it to chance? Use a subfolder now, and you won’t have to deal with subdomains and unhappy marketers later.

There are two exceptions to the rule:

  • If you’re doing reputation management, you need to control as many listings on the first page of a search result as possible. Google often separately ranks subdomain content. A subdomain can help you eat up an additional spot
  • If you’re having trouble with a large amount of low-quality content or thin content, move that to a subdomain, and you may see rankings improvements

The most common reason folks use subdomains is the blog: The CMS, or server, or something else doesn’t support a blog. So you set up a WordPress.com site.

That ends up being blog.something.com. If you have to do that, consider using a reverse proxy to put it all under one domain. Of course, if you have no choice, use a subdomain. It’s better than nothing.

Don’t Use Nofollow

Just don’t. Nofollow is meant to prevent penalties for links from comments and advertising. It doesn’t help channel PageRank around a site. It does burn PageRank. It’s a bad idea.

The only time to use nofollow is to avoid a penalty because you’re linking to another site via ads or other paid space on your site. A good rule of thumb: If you’re doing something ‘just’ for SEO, think carefully. Nofollow is a good example.

Make Navigation Clickable

Clicking the top-level navigation should take me somewhere other than ‘/#.’.

Top-level nav that expands subnav but isn’t clickable creates three problems:

  • The site’s primary navigation is a hidden rollover. Google and Bing will attribute less importance to it
  • You lose what could be a top-level link to a single page on your site from every other page on your site. That’s scads of internal authority gone to waste
  • Users will click on ‘Dropdown’ and get frustrated

Make sure clicking any visible navigation takes me somewhere.

Link All Content

If you want a page indexed, I need to be able to reach it by clicking on links. Forms, JavaScript maps, etc. aren’t enough. For example: If you have a stores directory, keep the map and ZIP code search.

Just make sure there’s also a clickable index I can use to find stores. That means I can link to it, too. This rule is particularly important when you work with JavaScript frameworks. See the next chapter for more about that.

Don’t Hide Content (If You Want To Rank for It)

Until, oh, last week (seriously, Google just changed this last week), Google said they wouldn’t consider content that only appeared after user interaction. Content behind tabs, loaded via AJAX when the user clicks, etc. got zero attention.

Last week, the big G said they do examine this content, and they do consider it when determining relevance. I believe them, but as always, they’ve left out some details:

  • Do they assign the same weight to content that requires user interaction?
  • Do they differentiate between hidden content (like tabs) and content that doesn’t load without user interaction (like asynchronous content)?

Oh, also: The old tiny-content-at-the-bottom-of-the-page trick still doesn’t work. That’s not what they meant.

JavaScript & Frameworks

JavaScript isn’t bad for indexing or crawling. JavaScript is bad for SEO.

Instead of typing yet another diatribe about the evils of Javascript, I’ll link to mine and add a few quick notes:

Ask Yourself Why

First, before you get into complicated ways to mitigate the SEO problems caused by many frameworks and JavaScript widgets, ask yourself, ‘Why am I building my site this way?’ If there’s no compelling argument–if using a framework doesn’t offer essential features–consider doing something else.

Only Hide Content When Essential

This is the easy part: if you’ve got content on the page for which you want to rank, don’t hide it behind a tab, an accordion, or whatever else. On a well-designed page, people who want to see everything will scroll down. If they don’t want to see it, they weren’t going to click the tab anyway.

Don’t Deliver Content Based on User Events

If you want content indexed, don’t deliver it based on a user event. Yes, Google says they now index content that reveals after user interaction. Play it safe, though, if you can.

Show Content Before the Load Event

Look at your site’s HAR. Anything that appears after the ‘load’ event is probably not going to get indexed: the Load event, in an HAR

Make sure whatever you want indexed appears before then.

Use Indexable URLs

See Make Content Clickable. URLs with /#! and similar won’t get crawled. Google deprecated that as an indexing method.

Mitigation

If you must use JavaScript content delivery, try to mitigate the damage.

Flexibility

No one thinks about this. No. One. SEO requires non-stop tweaks and changes by content managers, analysts, designers, and lots of other non-developers. If they can’t do the work, they bury the resource-strapped development team in requests.

SEO grinds to a halt, and organic performance falls.

I mean, if you have infinite dev resources no worries. Skip the rest of this article. Go back to feeding your pet rainbow-crapping unicorn.

Otherwise, keep reading this relatively brief section.

Have One, Editable Title Tag on Each Page

The title element is a strong on-page organic ranking signal.

  • There must be one element on each page
  • It must be a separate, editable field. Have the title element default to the page headline, but make it separately editable
  • As I write this, the ideal title tag is 60-ish characters in length, but don’t set a limit. It changes all the time. Your users should be using the Portent SERP Preview Tool because it’s the best thing since Nestle KitKats. Right? Right???

Make Meta Tags Editable in the CMS

First: the meta keywords tag is utterly useless and has been since, oh, 2004. Remove it. If your SEO protests, find a new SEO. With that out of the way, make sure each page has the following editable META tags:

Description

Every page should have an editable description meta tag. The description tag doesn’t affect rankings. It does, however, affect clickthrough rate, which can mean organic traffic growth even if rankings don’t improve. Like the title tag, make the description tag a separate, editable field.

If the page is a product page, have the description tag default to the short product description. If the page is a longer descriptive page, have the description tag default to the first 150 characters of the page content. Never have a blank meta description! If you do, Google and Bing will choose what they think is best. Don’t rely on them.

Open Graph Protocol (OGP)

Facebook uses OGP tags to build the text, image, and title of shared content. Without it, Facebook may use the title and meta description tag and pick an image. It may pick something else. OGP tags let the content creator control what will appear on Facebook and, like the meta description tag, they can boost clickthrough.

Have the OGP tags default to the page’s title, meta description and featured image. Then let the author edit them. At a minimum, include og:title, og:type, og:image and og:url. You can read more about OGP tags at http://ogp.me/.

Twitter Card Markup

Twitter cards are more niche. Twitter will use OGP tags as a fallback, so these aren’t required. If you can add them, though, it gives content creators even more control over what Twitter shows for shared content.

Twitter cards can double clickthrough and other engagement. They’re worth the effort. See https://dev.twitter.com/cards/overview for more information.

Make Image ALT Attributes Editable in the CMS

The ALT attribute is another strong ranking signal. Every image uploaded as part of page content must be editable when the user uploads it. If they do not enter an ALT attribute, default to:

  • “Image:” + product name, if this is a product page
  • “Image:” + image caption, if entered
  • “Image” + file name

I recommend including “Image:” so that screen readers and other assistive devices identify the snippet of code as an ALT attribute.

Keep Your CSS Clean

Overuse of classes can create headaches. Use semantic CSS wherever possible: Instead of using “.h2” for example, use “h2” . (lousy punctuation to make sure the CSS is clear).

This tip stolen shamelessly from Martijn Oud.

That’s It

Last updated 2019. Things change. Check back for new stuff.

The post A Developer’s Guide To SEO appeared first on Portent.

The Critical Rendering Path Explained

What is the Critical Rendering Path?

The critical rendering path is the collection of steps made between the time when your browser receives an HTML response from a server, and the painting of the requested web page. In this post, I’ll break down the process so it is a bit more precise, while also providing some tips to optimize each of the steps.

DOM Tree

The DOM, or Document Object Model, is an object-based representation of the parsed HTML. For example:

Screenshot of the DOM code tree

As the HTML is parsed, it will construct what is called the DOM Tree. The DOM Tree is made up of the objects that are parsed via HTML and XML. For example:

Screenshot showing the DOM tree

While this is only one part of the critical render path, making sure you are writing clean semantic markup will help to ensure your HTML is parsed quickly for optimum performance.

CSSOM Tree

Similar to the DOM, the CSSOM is also object-based. The CSS Object Model represents the styles associated with each node that lives in the DOM. Styles can be declared or inherited.

Screenshot of the CSSOM code tree

The above CSS would create the following:

Screenshot showing the CSSOM tree

CSS is a “render-blocking” resource, which means that the render tree (more information on this later in this post) cannot be built until after the CSS is loaded. In past years CSS was typically served as one file style.css. Now, developers are using different techniques that allow you to split your files and serve critical styles, which can help reduce or eliminate any render-blocking sources you might be loading.

How to Reduce Render-Blocking Resources

As developers, we have some techniques we use that can help with render-blocking resources. Here are a few ways you can ensure you are not blocking the render tree from loading.

Start From the Beginning

If you have the resources, the best way to avoid blocking the render tree is during the initial phase of your website build or configure during the website maintenance period.

  1. Map your modules/components/layouts, so you have the header, hero, and content that typically shows up before the fold (initial scroll point) in a critical-styles.css file. This file will usually be much smaller than your entire style.css because it only contains the above the fold styles. You can load the critical styles first, and after page load, the rest of the styles would then load. This technique can drastically increase the speed of your website and remove any unwanted render-blocking CSS.
  2. Make sure you are using base styles. If you are using Bootstrap, Foundation, or other frameworks, these are typically imported in automatically, although it is good to double-check.

Use Autoptimize

For WordPress users, you can prevent render tree blocking by using the Autoptimize plugin, along with the Autoptimize Critical CSS addition. Both plugins offer free and paid versions; you can find the plugin in the WordPress Plugin Repository.

Inheritance

As you create your styles, it is vital to understand inheritance and the role it plays with CSS.

  1. Plan BEFORE you write! It is always beneficial for developers and webmasters alike to create a roadmap before you begin writing styles. Note any similarities between components, create utility classes for each similarity, and keep it simple. Far too often I see new developers (including my “Jr.” self) building from the inside out, and that can get you into trouble. This can lead to you breaking a fundamental development rule, DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself).
  2. Make sure you aren’t overriding styles.
  3. Utilize base styles as much as possible (as shown in the above image).

For more information on how you can optimize your page speed and reduce render-blocking resources, check out Portent’s Ultimate Guide to Page Speed.

JavaScript Execution

JavaScript is a dynamic language that allows you to manipulate the DOM. One of the more popular ways of doing this is by adding interactivity to your websites, like a carousel slider or popup module, for example. The problem with adding these types of interactions is that they are costly to website load times—this is because JavaScript is a “parser-blocking” resource. While your browser is reading the document, a JavaScript file is encountered and construction of the DOM Tree is paused. Once the script has executed, construction continues.

Here is an example of loading your script in the footer:

Screenshot showing JavaScript loaded in a website footer

Here is an example of loading your script asynchronously:

Screenshot showing JavaScript loaded asynchronously on a website

JavaScript can be a costly resource if done incorrectly. Here are a few tips that can help your JavaScript run more efficiently, reducing any/all parser-blocking resources:

  1. Write Vanilla JavaScript rather than employing jQuery.
  2. Dynamically load your scripts based on whether a specific ID lives on the page. That way, a browser only has to make one quick check to see if the ID exists, rather than running the entire script. (For WordPress users, wp_enqueue_script function will do this.)
  3. If possible, serve your JavaScript with the components that the JS is going to be manipulating. That way, you are only loading the JS if the element lives on the page.
  4. HERO SLIDERS ARE BAD, no if’s and’s or but’s about it. IF you must use a slider, try to make sure it is lower on the page, preferably, below the fold.
  5. If you have third-party scripts loading on your page, there isn’t a whole lot you can do. But there are a couple of things to try:
    • Add an “async” attribute to the “script tag.”
    • If available, host the script within your files. That way you aren’t relying on a third-party host.

The Render Tree

Combining the DOM and the CSSOM results in the creation of the Render Tree. The tree represents the computed layouts of each visible layout, which are then served to paint the process that renders the pixels to your screen.

Constructing the Layout

Now that we have a fully rendered tree, we can begin to illustrate layout construction. This step establishes the location and placement of the elements on the page, taking into account the size of the viewport, the width, and height of elements, as well as the position of where the elements are in relation to one another. By default, block-level elements have a width of 100% within their parent element. The parent element, in this case, would be the viewport or screen size.

As we create the markup, it is essential to be responsive in your thinking. One way that we can make sure our app or website is responsive in relation to the viewport is to use the meta tag:

Screenshot showing how to use the meta tag to make sure an app or website is responsive in relation to the viewport

By doing this, you are ensuring that your app or website is visible within the current viewport. There are other steps to ensure your site is fully responsive, but that is a topic for another blog post.

Painting the Picture

The final step of the critical rendering path is painting the picture. Once the DOM, and CSSOM have fully parsed, the JavaScript will execute, the Render Tree is computed, and the layout constructed, the website begins to be painted on your screen. This process converts each node/element of the Render Tree into visible pixels on your screen.

Illustration showing the concept of a web page being painted as it loads

Optimizing the Critical Rendering Path

If you have ever run a site speed test, you have likely seen the “First Contentful Paint” in the metrics section for Google’s Lighthouse tool. This number is the result of the critical rendering path. If you see your score and you aren’t sure if it is good or bad, luckily for us Google provides colors for us to understand.

Green = Good
Yellow = Could use improvements
Red = Trouble is lurking

Often, this can be misleading, which is one of the primary purposes of this post. As you run audits, it would be beneficial for you and your team to begin optimizing at the DOM Tree level. After optimizing the DOM Tree, move forward with optimizing the CSSOM. Often times, after optimizing the DOM and CSSOM, you will see less warnings as these are very critical parts. If you are still getting warnings for JS optimization, try a few of our recommendations listed in the JavaScript Execution section of the post.

To Recap

While website resources and implementations can vary. The critical rendering path is consistent. It is important to understand the ins and outs of the process so you and your team can begin optimizing for the future. To summarize, here are some steps to help your process going forward:

  1. Look for ways to clean up your HTML
  2. Optimize CSS
    • Set base styles for similar elements and components
    • Remove unused CSS
    • Implement critical styles that load above the fold
  3. The JavaScript
    • Use Vanilla JS, rather than entire libraries
    • Dynamically load scripts
    • Use Async, when applicable
    • If you must use sliders or other interactive elements, try to use them below the fold, so they are not render-blocking.
    • Minimize the use of third-party scripts, if possible, if not – try loading asynchronously.

The post The Critical Rendering Path Explained appeared first on Portent.

The Dungeons & Dragons Guide to Digital Marketing

I just gave this presentation at UtahDMC’s 2019 Digital Marketing Conference. It’s nerdy. It’s full of marketing stuff. It’s hard to explain. Have a look, and see the links further down this page:

The Dungeons & Dragons Guide to Marketing from Ian Lurie

Here are the links:

Me, Me, Me

How to find me:

Cool Stuff

Dungeons & Dragons Related

You know you want to learn more:

  • The home of D&D. Be sure to look at “New to D&D.”
  • Critical Role is a podcast where a bunch of nerdy-ass voice actors play D&D. I stole that description from their Dungeon Master Matt Mercer. Give this a listen, but note that you’ll get addicted. The stories are rich, the actors are hilarious one moment and deadly serious the next, and you’ll learn a lot. Oh, also: If you play video games, you’ll recognize the voices.
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_and_the_Dread_Gazebo

The post The Dungeons & Dragons Guide to Digital Marketing appeared first on Portent.

7 Best WordPress Widget Plugins 2019

When you are setting up your website or blog in WordPress, you may decided to add different widgets that make the site easier to navigate, more beautiful, and easier to use. There are a number of things that can be done once these widgets are installed, and each of the widgets has a very simple layout that makes it easy to use. Plus, the results that users see on the website will look clean and professional.

Recent Posts

The recent posts widget is one of the best things that anyone can use on their site. When users come to the site, they may not know much about the content or business. The best way to solve this problem is to have a list of the most recent posts that help people get an idea of what is posted on the site.

This widget will use images to denote what the header of these posts was, their title, and their date. This is completely different than using an archive because the archive does not offer specifics to the user. Plus, the recent post widget will update the posts when new content is added. All you need to do is decide how many recent posts will be featured. Depending on where the widget sits on the page, several posts could be featured so that users have something they can look through.

One final feature of this widget is that the images can be turned off. If the site does not look as nice with images alongside each new post in the recent category. The images can be removed at any time, and they could be put back at any time. You simply need to decide which posts you would like to use, if you want them to be in chronological order, and how much of the preview you want to show.

Social Media Icon Buttons

When social media sharing is vital to the dissemination of content, it helps to show off the company’s social media pages. Instead of just having social media sharing buttons, there should be real icons that will take the user to the actual social media page that is listed. This is because most people who are coming to the site do not know much about the business. They are there to learn what the business does, and they may not want to bookmark a webpage when they can click on the social media buttons and follow those pages.

The icons need to look real because they make the site look cheap if they are poor facsimiles of the original icons. This is especially true when customers have security concerns. No one wants to click on what they think is a fake social media page. Because the threat of information theft is so high, it is best that these buttons be placed in a conspicuous place that people can easily see. You never want to hide the social media buttons because customers do not get the cross-marketing that you planned.

Plus, the icons can take people to a specific post on that feed. This might be especially useful if there is a sale or promotion going on. Taking people directly to the promotion will help to increase sales, spread awareness, and help bolster overall marketing for an event.

Google Maps

The Google Maps widget is vital for all companies that host events, have a physical location, or need to bring in foot traffic every day. The Google maps widget can show the physical location of the company in realtime, and it will help customers click to get directions to the location. This is especially helpful when a company needs people to come to their office or shop.

When the Google maps widget is used, the company can also add the location of an event that is coming up. Each new event can get its own map widget so that customer knows where to go for each new event. If someone is new to the area, they need directions. If someone is trying to get around traffic patterns, they can click on the widget to go into Google maps and see what the problem is.

Check out: Best Google Maps WordPress Plugins for more alternatives!

Plus, the widget allows for directions to be typed below the map if there are several ways to get to the office or shop. Imagine that you live in a large metropolitan area. You may show customers how they can use one or more interstates, how people on both the east and west side of the city can get there, and even offer directions for parking at the site.

Skype Status

Skype is a powerful business tool that a lot of companies use to communicate with clients. Plus, the company might even have a Skype account set aside just for customer care. If you are working alone, your customers can see if you are online. This makes it easier for people to get in touch with the business, and it allows you to set office hours for the company. When people onto the website after-hours, they can see that you are offline. They know that they cannot send you several requests at that time, and they can choose to leave a message instead.

Skype status is also helpful when the business is based on communication. Someone like a private doctor or therapist might want to use the Skype status button because they need to show when they are in the office and when they are not. A company that works online might need to use this status to show that they are in the office because they do not take phone calls. Plus, the Skype status button could show the message that was left on the Skype account. Leaving a message saying that you are out to lunch, on vacation, or closed for the day can be helpful when trying to manage a physical office or call center.

Skype status is also important when you are working with international or distance professionals who need to know when you are in the office. It is hard for these people to remember what time it is where you are because your time zones are so far apart. Checking the site to see your Skype status saves your partners a bit of time when communicating with you.

The Social Counter

The social counter is also a good way to show off how many followers the different social accounts for the business or blog have. This is vital when running contests because users need to know how close you are to 1000 followers because your contest relies on reaching 1000 followers. Plus, you can show which pages are the most popular.

When the social counter is used to explain how many followers the company has, it is very easy to show off a big following. Some people take that large following very seriously, or you could use that follower’s counter as a way to link back to the site. Also, it might be interesting to show off certain followers that the page has. Any celebrities and influencers might be the link in the social counter button, and watching the counterchange is a fun way to add a bit of life to the site.

The Compact Archive

The compact archive might be the most important part of any long term blog or business page. When the site has been around for long periods of time, it would be silly to try and expand the archive because it would go on for pages and pages as someone scrolled through the homepage. You do not want to make your homepage so big that people cannot get to the bottom where they can read things like the About Us page or the badges for the partners that you have.

The compact archive can fit into a very small space on the sidebar of the page, and the archive will go back as far as you need. If you want to go all the way back to the beginning of the site or blog, you could have the years go back to something like 2005. However, you have the power to change the date range of the archive. If you ever need to change the date range, you can do that. Plus, the archive will automatically add your newest months when the time comes.

YouTube Channel Gallery

The YouTube Channel Gallery is a powerful way to show off all the content that you have posted to YouTube. There are several ways to show off your YouTube channel because you can use the social media counter above to show how many subscribers you have. You can use the social media buttons to send people to the YouTube page.

This particular gallery allows your customers to scroll through your videos while still on your webpage. Most people have no desire to open another window and start another search for content. When you show the content on your website, the customers can open a pop-up window for the video, watch the video, and get back to reading your site or blog.

One Final Note

These are not the only useful widgets for a WordPress site. You can use a widget that helps people create a new profile, you can use a widget to publish your contact information, or you could use a widget to allow users to submit their testimonials for your products or services. Every widget that you use brings a bit more life and functionality to the site, but the seven you see above will make your site easier to navigate, more professional, and more intuitive.

The post 7 Best WordPress Widget Plugins 2019 appeared first on webCREATE.

TOP 12 Advantages of JavaScript in 2019

advantages of javascript

Every single day, new people are gaining access to the internet, a new business is coming online, and believe it or not, someone is making their first Facebook account. And so it is safe to assume that web developing isn’t a profession that is going to get extinct soon. However, this does beg one question – Is JavaScript relevant in 2019?

Well, long story short – yes!

Related: Most Popular Javascript Frameworks

95% of all the popular web pages on the World Wide Web use JavaScript in one form or the other. And there is a good reason for this also. For the purpose of this read, we will be going through some of the TOP Advantages of JavaScript. But first:

A Brief Overview of JavaScript

As mentioned, nearly all websites employ HTML, CSS, and JavaScript as its primary building blocks. HTML handles the structure of the website whereas CSS takes care of the designing part. But the site is still static! JavaScript is the soul of the website which breathes life into it.

JavaScript is primarily a frontend web development language which was built as a gap between Java and Scripting Languages. However, it is not related to technical standpoints to the traditional Java Programming language. It is used to make a web page much more interactive and engaging, which results in better user engagement. In fact, without JavaScript, creating an interactive experience for your users can be quite tricky and challenging.

And even though CMS like WordPress and Joomla are making website creation much simpler for people setting up a blog, it still can’t substitute all the amazing things one can achieve with proper JavaScript know-how.

So without further ado, here are some of the Top Advantages of JavaScript in 2018:

Javascript Is Trusted

Your users may not know the first thing about programming or coding, but they know that Javascript is everywhere. All your users have seen the Java logo and used their products at some point. Plus, your users know that Java works well in all situations. You do not need to convince people that your site has been built well when you can show them that you are using Java.

You also must remember that your staff gets a break when they are using Java. This is a very simple system to learn, and it is especially simple for someone who works in coding every day. When you tell your staff that you are using Javascript to handle the majority of your programming, they will thank you for all the headaches that you have prevented. Plus, this means that you can participate in the build even if you are only a business manager. You can learn how Javascript works so that you can talk to your staff about the work they are doing. You do not need to be an expert.

JavaScript Works on the Client-Side

While using a website, when you intend on doing some interaction, say clicking on a button, you are sending a request to the server which gets processed, and in return, you get a response. If you link on a link inside an article in Wikipedia, the page will load, and you will be taken to a new Article/Read.

However, you must have also noticed that when you post a status update on Facebook, the entire page doesn’t load again. Or when you are filling up a form, you are sometimes immediately notified of some errors you have typed. All this is possible thanks to JavaScript.

JavaScript code snippets don’t require to be sent to the server side for being processed. This saves the load on the server side. The JavaScript codes in a website get processed using the resources on the user’s system.

Thanks to this server side processing, all the above-mentioned functionalities are possible. Furthermore, it makes the rendering of animations and similar behaviors much less time consuming and a smoother experience.

JavaScript is Platform Independent

Any  JavaScript-enabled browser, which most browsers are, can easily understand and interpret JavaScript code. It is a free technology and doesn’t require you to go through any installation or configuration procedure. Just open your browser and you can start editing different areas of a webpage.

JavaScript is Easy to Learn

As mentioned, one of the things that threaten the careers of web developers are platforms such as WordPress and Joomla. However, we also stated that these platforms aren’t nearly as capable of overthrowing the necessity of web developers. In fact, all these new CMS have many limitations for which big companies are still hesitant to go on board with them.

So if you want a bridge between learning web developments along with ease of use, then JavaScript is your guy. It doesn’t take much time to understand how the language works, and how to use it to make useful dynamic events for a website. It has a very intuitive syntax which is quick to learn and hard to forget.

Now, we admit, learning is a never-ending process. However, there is still a degree of simplicity, and JavaScript is way below Rocket Science. Anybody, without any prior knowledge of computers, can start learning JavaScript and won’t many concepts that they can’t get their heads around. 

JavaScript has Powerful Frameworks

There is a laundry list of powerful frameworks built around JavaScript which boasts ready to use codes. All such codes are easy to understand as well as debug. Furthermore, depending on the framework in question, you will get access to plenty more features that will increase your productivity ten folds.

So if you are a guy who knows what he is doing, rest assured, there are plenty tools on the market to get your work done easily and most important – quickly.

JavaScript Codes are Triggered as per User Activity

JavaScript is an Event-Based Programming Language. This means different code segments are executed in response to a user clicking a button or hovering a mouse.

So all the code doesn’t get initialized at the time of loading the website. This makes sure that your website’s load time isn’t hampered, all the while loading your site with rich features.

JavaScript Offers Procedural Programming Features

Even though the language is easy to learn, it does offers all the procedure based features that is the making of a popular and powerful programming language. With JavaScript , if you have options to create branches, loops, initiate conditional checking, and much more, which in turn will make your website so much more fun to use.

JavaScript Can Help Run Multiple Tasks at Once

In technical terms, this is called concurrency. With JavaScript , you get an event loop module which can run several different sets of instructions at the same time.

Suppose you are going through a website on your browser and you have activated a JavaScript event. The moment it is triggered, JavaScript runtime stores the information in the message queue. Now if a callback function is executed which contains the stored information then it will be executed again within the loop.

Hence, as you can see, there is the possibility to handle multiple operations with a single thread. This helps the programmers from not having to indulge in additional (or redundant) programming for all the different applications.

JavaScript can Extend the Functionalities of Websites you Visit

Self-help is the best help. You must have often run into a website where you wished for a certain feature to be present, but unluckily it wasn’t. You start asking yourself, oh why did the developer or the owner through this simple feature off their checklist? Should I write an email explaining my concerns? Should I search for an alternative website which might be my dream website?

With a little JavaScript know-how, such problems will never happen. All you need is a third-party add-on on your browser like Greasemonkey. This will allow you to input your own JavaScript snippets into a website you visited which will run on that webpage for your system. So much power huh?!

Building Multi-Functional Websites Require JavaScript

We mentioned this before many times that Content Management Systems such as WordPress is gaining popularity as a platform for code free website building. Typical drag and drop website builders, no matter how convenient, are nevertheless limited by some constraints, whereas JavaScript’s limit is only with its developer. And since a WordPress theme will most likely employ these website builders, they also suffer in terms of limitation to customizability.

It will not be possible to create an application based website without coding knows how, especially without JavaScript. This is why, if you or your client wants to have a website which is unique and boasts standout features and functionalities, JavaScript will be the best way to implement them.

JavaScript is Still Growing

By the way, if you have been thinking that JavaScript is dying, think again. Stuff like games, automated controllers, all have integrated JavaScript into its making. JS even finds some devotees in the field of robotics.

Furthermore, with the ever increasing mobile market, the mobile web development arena has seen a tremendous rise in need of interactivity which can only be received from JavaScript at this moment. Here are a few common necessities which you will be able to easily accomplish with some JS:

  • Creating interactive forms which detect mistakes in user input while a user is typing.
  • Create Search boxes that can respond to user queries in real time.
  • Create websites that constantly update with new information. A feature that you will find necessary for websites displaying stock prices, or scores of football games.
  • JavaScript offers one of the simplest means to add animations on a website.
  • And much more.

Javascript Helps You Cut Back On Overhead

Javascript will help you cut back on overhead significantly to the point where you do not need to spend as much time on each project. You are likely paying for hours and hours of work that can be cut out simply by using Javascript. This alone allows everyone in your office to work on projects because no one is confused. Plus, you do not need to hire outside help that costs more money, send more time checking over the coding, and spend more time trying to decide how you will implement all the design features you planned for.

Javascript is so simple that you will instantly see a change in your office workflow. Ask your staff how long it normally takes to complete a task, compare that with what happens when you use Javascript, and calculate your savings. If you save that much money every day, week, and month, you have recorded thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars of work.

In Conclusion:

The best part of using Javascript is that you keep finding ways that it helps your business. You might have already invested heavily in Javascript because you read a top ten list, and all those things you read are true. However, you will also save a lot of money when you are using Javascript and free up your staff to get a lot more work done during the day. They will thank you, and your programming will improve with this simple change.

We hope now you understand why we still think JavaScript is still useful and has its share of advantages. Even in 2018, with comprehensive knowledge in JavaScript , you still can hope to land a job or start a stable freelancing career. There are plenty of online places where you can enroll yourself to learn the language.

Now if you are a JavaScript developer yourself, feel free to leave your take on the matter. Your fellow readers will love to see other benefits and advantages of the language, which we might have missed out from the list.


Author: Madan Pariyar, a digital marketing strategist helping clients to resolve their website woes. When not busy with all things, you may find me occasionally watching movies, traveling and spending time with my family.

The post TOP 12 Advantages of JavaScript in 2019 appeared first on webCREATE.

13 Fastest WordPress Themes 2019 That Load in 1 Second

fastest wordpress themes 2019

Selecting a fast WordPress theme is the first thing to do after setting up your WP website. Page load time not only decides your ranking but also affect the website UX. You can, of course, speed up the overall website, however, your WordPress theme is what responsible for most of the lag in page load. It is due to embedded features like responsive design, graphical design, elegant palettes, and excessive customization options. So, you need to look for a theme ideally optimized to load faster.

One of the best ways to make your theme faster is removing the unnecessary customization and optimizing the pre-built images specifically. You can find some great web developers and designers on job boards like Workamajobs or WPHired to fix your speed issues. Alternatively, you can also use our personalized web design services managed by some of the best WordPress experts.

Nevertheless, if you are looking for more niche-specific options, take a look at our custom list below.

Publisher – Magazine / Fastest WordPress Theme / (loading time 1.14 sec)

SPEED TEST RESULTS from https://tools.pingdom.com

More Info & Download

Publisher is our favorite WordPress theme and as you might have noticed it’s also our WebCreate.Me theme. We are super happy with the speed and performance. It’s loads in less than a second and it’s one of the fastest WordPress themes on all Themeforest.

You can build stunning blogs or magazines with Publisher. It has plenty of demos and endless functions that you will love (as we do). You can easily install your demo with 1 click and start getting your layout done in few minutes. Make sure you visit those demos and preview them. Admin of the template is super easy and intuitive and one of the easiest we ever worked with. It’s full of amazing functions, such as advertising options, AMP support, super SEO optimized, financial news optimized, push notifications, smart thumbnails cropping, etc.

If you want to build a professional magazine or blog with TOP features this is your best choice. The author did not forget a single detail and coded an amazing fast loading template which won’t disappoint you. Their customer support is outstanding, updates are regular and automated and everything is very well documented. No need to hesitate here, give Publisher a go!

H/Code – Fast WordPress Theme (698ms)

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When you start using H/Code, the programmers have provided you with a number of options that you can demo. You can include your information on a demo page to see how it looks, and you may begin entering your information into Woocommerce to set up your online store. H/Code is very popular because it is very easy to test and edit. If you do not like the demo of a page, you can change it without going through several clicks to get back to the editing phase.

H/Code also allows you to work in a world of shadows and dark open spaces. This theme is the reverse of others that will use open white space to bring the customers closer. When you begin to set up your pages, you can change the color of the text, add images, and add videos to make your site feel a bit more like a microblog. You are appealing to a younger crowd, and you can use new demo pages every time the H/Code updates.

Avada – Multipurpose theme (1.28sec)

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Avada is the #1 best selling WordPress-themes on theme forest and also the fastest multi-purpose WP theme in the entire marketplace. Avada has dozens of elegant demos that are designed to offer you fast loading pages. You can import the demos in a few clicks making the site setup easier.

It’s a flexible WordPress theme that could be customized using fusion builder. There are global shortcode elements to fasten this process. And while Avada creators optimized the theme to load fast, they didn’t remove any of those useful features, i.e. cross-browser compatibility, eye-catchy design or any other advanced feature.

If you want to have full control over the appearance of your website, then Avada is your best choice.

Electro – WooCommerce theme (1.55sec)

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This Ecommerce WordPress theme is designed specifically for creating a WooCommerce store. Do you know a WooCommerce-theme has a lot of integrations in order to provide the right customization for online stores? Embedding these features do make these store themes a bit slow. Thankfully, we have Electro that actually loads in just two seconds. Nevertheless, they didn’t cut down any of those exquisite options like pre-built templates or WPML compatibility (for making your site multilingual).

SEOWP – Digital Agency Theme (1.7sec)

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SEOWP is the ultimate SEO-based them for WordPress. The theme itself it not filled with extra color and styling that slows everything down. You get all the background parts that you need to make your site a success. You are compatible with Gutenberg, and you can use Woocommerce if you are selling to the people that you bring to your site.

You get the social share buttons that make it easier for customers to share what they have found, and there are several plugins that allows you to just your content on each page. You can get the blocked style that is very popular today, and the white pace on the space helps make the site that much faster. Once again, this theme will help you build your site and use SEO, tagging, and social sharing to attract followers.

Pillar – WP Theme (931ms)

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Pillar is responsive WordPress theme that will work quickly on both desktops and mobile devices. When you are using this theme, you can clearly see all the content on the right and the main tabs/content on the left. This is a block-style theme that will load quickly because it is linking together small blocks of information. You can load the theme with many images that will send your visitors to particular pages on the site, and you can use tabs on the left to send users to your most-popular pages.

The header in this theme is not so large that it will take a long time to load, and there is plenty of open space that will help to speed up the experience for the user.

Plus, this theme is based on Bootstrap which is one of the most popular themes on the market today. The difference between the two is that Pillar comes with over 100 demo pages that you can use to begin filling in content. You can choose put up to 50 more of these demo pages on the site, and those pages give you the virtual assurance that Pillar can load in any situation. Even when your site is full of content, it loads instantly.

Sober With Woocommerce (743ms)

Sober - Fastest WordPress Theme for Ecommerce

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Sober is the most modern and futuristic of the themes that you will see on this list. While you want to use a theme that makes your site fast, you also need a modern look that people can connect with. Sober removes lines and grooves on the page that will help make all the text look clean. The theme itself focuses on uses blank space to help draw in the customer. Plus, it uses the blocked format that allows you to build a site with several different pages that are all represented by the picture.

You can put the name of your site and a few tabs on the left so that your customers can navigate. Your customers can choose the tabs if they know where they want to go, or they can explore the blocks on the right. Because the design is segmented into small blocks, it will load very quickly. There is no need for a header that might load too slowly, and you also get the Woocommerce advantage that helps your customers shop with you securely, quickly, and with a bit of freedom.

THEGEM – High performing / Fast / Multi-purpose WordPress Theme (2.34sec)

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Another high performing WordPress theme! TheGem is a real deal. It’s been one of the best sellers on Themeforest for a long time. It comes with everything you can possibly need and imagine on your WordPress website.

It’s loaded with 200+ pre-designed templates which can be imported with 1-click and used for various types of websites. You can build over 70+ different FULL websites from TheGem. For example, you can cover niches, such as creative agency, business website, various online shops and e-commerce websites, portfolio pages & websites, blogs, landing pages, product pages, construction or real estate, gyms, restaurants, hotels, clinics, charities, etc. The list is neverending and all of them can be achieved by importing your demo and working on your website few hours. Hard to imagine, right? Well, you should for sure start with previewing demos and testing.

The author offers outstanding support, regular updates, and very detailed and guided documentation. You can count on them! Also you can be sure that it’s packed with the best plugins and features that you might possibly need for your website, such as, full SEO optimization, WooComerce compatibility (eshop plugin), showcase portfolio options, multilingual options, 7 premium sliders, visual composer (page builder), mobile-friendly, etc. Check out full page, for a complete list of features.

Divi – ULTIMATE BEST THEME

divi - best wordpress themes 2016

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Divi is the most popular WordPress theme in the world. That alone should be a solid selling point for your business. You can use this theme to build your whole site. Plus, you will build the site using visuals. You do not need to do anything special to ensure that the site will look good, and you do not need any coding experience.

When you begin to build the site, you are taken through a number of steps to build the site. You can see the sample of your site when you are done, and you can go back into the building mode when you would like to alter or add pages.

Plus, this platform ensures the fastest performance on mobile and desktop devices. Because the theme is meant to be responsive, all your guests or customers can use it with no problem. If you feel as though you need a little help building your site, Divi can do it for you.

Writing – Personal blog theme (1.24sec)

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Writing is a minimal theme designed for personal bloggers. It has one of the cleanest designs with a loading speed of 1.9 seconds and a great range of features.

This theme has a rating of 4.8/5 on Themeforest and is one of the most price-effective choices. To provide great UX, every template of this theme is designed for easy readability. One of the best benefits of a simplistic theme is its fast loading pages. Coding is SEO friendly along with retina ready pages.

MONSTROID 2 – Faster WordPress Theme 2019 on TemplateMonster (2.63sec)

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Monstroid2 is a multipurpose template that will provide you with infinite possibilities. It does not matter how you imagine an online-project of your dreams. This incredible template allows implementing even the most innovative ideas into life. You will be definitely impressed with a super-light package weight. This ready-made solution weights only 250kb. This means that it has a smooth performance and speedy process of pages loading. There are 500+ pre-designed sections and ready-made pages that you can choose from. Each of them is designed for some specific purposes. All you need to do is to press Magic Button and start exploring lots of pre-styled pages. You will also get multiple skins designed for the most popular topics. Among them, you will find variants to showcase such niches as education, dances, cars, restaurant, night club, electronics, environment, real estate, and many others. By the way, demos are constantly updated which means that there is always something to choose from. One of the most widely-used drag-and-drop builder called Elementor will broaden the horizons of the customization process. It has such advantages as real-time editing and code-free customization. Even if you are not experienced in programming, you can work with various website elements and add content to your pages. In addition to this, this amazing template is installed in one single click. It allows completing the installation process in a blink of an eye that makes it possible to save some of your time. You can also pay your attention to a great WooCommerce Package if you want to turn your website into a large online-store.

MADD – Magazine theme (2.9sec)

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Magazine themes take much more time in loading its landing page as compared to another type of themes. This is because, unlike a business site or personal blog, a magazine (or newspaper) theme needs to load multiple widgets on the homepage.

Madd is the fastest theme we found during our tests. You will really love the structured layout of MADD. This theme has a minimal design to save the load time on less useful elements. It is a responsive theme with Google fonts. MADD is also updated to fit the need of advanced WordPress users. It is Gutenberg ready for those who want to use a page builder over WordPress editor. If you are looking for a simple and fast magazine theme, then you should definitely have a look at it.

Zoner– Real estate theme (2.48sec)

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Zoner is a WordPress theme specifically designed for real estate agencies and business websites. This theme has an integrated Google and street map. You will notice a smooth UI in this theme along with loads of functionality features. This WordPress theme gives you a selection range of 14+ homepages. This is a theme you won’t regret buying. You can find it on themeforest, or know more about this theme from their official website.

Final words

So that was our take on some of the fastest WordPress themes in most common niches. You can always customize the theme based on your design needs and get the less useful elements removed. Some business websites often use page builders for adding elements on a simplistic theme for improving conversion rate. If that’s your case, you can just get a pre-customized theme. Once you have selected and installed your WordPress theme, start publishing content to keep your audience engaged.

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7 Best AD Management WordPress Plugins 2019

best ad management wordpress plugins

When you are looking for a way to manage ads on your website, you need to find a platform that will do everything you need. Your blog or website is too difficult to manage if you are also releasing all your own ads, rotating your ads, and tracking earnings by-hand.

There are seven amazing ad plugins listed below that you should try, and each of the plugins does something different from the next. You may choose to deploy one of these plugins to see what it does, and you can buy into the pro version when you are ready to use it every day.

Other popular WordPress plugin comparisons:

AdSanity

Ad Management WordPress Plugin

AdSanity is a simple ad plugin that takes control of all the things that you do with your ads. There are a number of ads that you may release from banner ads to PPC ads and everything that is created by an outside service like AdSense. You can use this program to rotate your ads, to release ads at particular times, and to check their performance.

On top of all these good traits, this plugin allows you to create ad blocks in your posts so that you do not need to alter your theme or do any tricky coding that is hard for many bloggers to do. You can mix and match your ads as much as you like, and you can check your revenue from the ads so that you know which ads are making you the most money.

If you are running more than one ad style at a time, you can place those ads anywhere you like on your site. Plus, the plugin will allow things like coding from Google AdSense to target the customers who need to see certain ads.

AdRotate

AdRotate does more than maximize your ads by rotating them so that your visitors do not get bored. You do not need to rotate the ads on your own, and you can set up all the ads for your site in this program before it begins its work. You can enter all the information from the ads you related yourself and the ads that are produced by another company. You can rotate everything from a banner ad to every ad that sits in your posts.

The coding for the plugin is free for the most part, but you need to step up to the pro version when you would like to use geo-targeting and the impression management that is required if you sell advertising. You can use affiliate ads when you are on ad rotate because they can be targeted at the people who are most likely to buy. Plus, you need to be sure that you have tried out the ad creation function that allows you to edit some of your ads before they are thrown into the mix.

DoubleClick

ad management wordpress plugin

DoubleClick is made by Google to assist with their AdSense program and all other ads that you would like to create. Part of what makes DoubleClick amazing is that it allows you to work with all ad styles instead of forcing you to only use Google when you are publishing ads. Yes, you can put your Google ads into DoubleClick, and you can use other ads if you think they would be necessary.

You can sell ads through DoubleClick as it allows you to take competitive bids for ad space. The plugin will determine how much space you have, allow you to take bids, and help you choose the best option for your site. You can offer any sort of ad you like including the PPC ads that will help you make a little bit of residual income. This also means that you can change the ads around until you find the right sport or them. You may choose to make your own ads to put into the program, and you can remove any ad that is not performing.

DoubleClick is one of the most popular ad plugins you will find, and it also helps you create reports for your ads so that you can review all your earnings. You can determine which ads are not working well, and you can double down on the ads that you like most. You can put ads into your posts so that you do not need to alter your themes. You get all the functionality you need, and you can even step up to pay extra for more functionality.

AdInserter

AdInserter does exactly what it says. You can use a plugin to ensure that you can plug your ads into any of your posts with no trouble. You can use the AdInserter to make ad blocks for your posts, to choose the location in each post, and you can even alter how ads will be placed in certain categories. In this way, you are targeting ads to the reader who is reading certain types of posts.

AdInserter does have a pro version that will give you more options for geo targeting and reporting. You can use the plugin when you would like to change the sort of ads that you have placed in each of your posts, and you can get the AdInserter to alter your ads. You can make small adjustments to the way that you present your ads, and you may find that a couple of alternations makes your ads more popular.

If you would like to sell ad space or expand to ads that come from a place like Google AdSense, you can place those ads into the inserter. You can use ads that you just made yourself, or you could place the coding for an ad you sold into the plugin. You get reports for all these ads, and you can label all the ads so that you know which ones are yours and which ones belong to Google or a third party.

Quick AdSense

quick adsense - ad management plugin for wordpress

Quick AdSense can speed up your use of the AdSense platform and simplify everything for you. You might find that it is hard for you to use traditional AdSense coding on your site because it does not fit in the places you thought would work. The Quick AdSense plugin will take all the AdSense coding, put it in the right place, and save you time.

You will see reports for your ads that explain how many impressions you have and how much money you have made for something like a PPC ad.

Quick AdSense also has a menu that you can use to randomly insert ads into any post that you like. You can choose the conditions under which your ads will be posted, and you can alter those conditions at any time. Because of that, it is very easy for you to adjust how your ads appear on your site. You do not need to enter all the conditions into WordPress, and you do not need to mess with coding that is often too hard for a blogger to understand.

When you are using Quick AdSense, you can set up your website to rotate ads, to run the same ads, or to sell ads. You can put your ads in the appropriate posts, and you can cut off ads from certain posts that you believe should be ad-free.

OIO Publisher

OIO Publisher is a program meant for ad management that comes to you as a plugin. If you would like to use this program, you must be prepared to make some coding changes when you want to do ad placements. Not every placement works well, but the general feel of the plugin allows you to rotate ads, track ads, and determine how much money you are making on each of those ads.

When you are not making enough money on a certain type of ad, you can move on to another ad that might be much more beneficial to you. Also, you can use the publisher to ensure that you have placed your banner ads in the right spots, improved the way that the ads look when you are trying to arrange each page or post.

Because you may need to make some adjustments to your site themes, this is a good program to use when you have some coding expertise. You will not feel like you are stuck with the options that the widget gives you because you can make it fit into the style that you would prefer.

Insert Post Ads

Insert Post Ads is the perfect plugin for people who do not know how to code and feel confused by even the simplest coding and options on WordPress. You also need to remember that this plugin was designed for people who have just started running a website. You might get more comfortable with WordPress over time, but you need something very basic when you get started.

You copy the ad code that you plan to use on your posts, choose the Insert Post Ads widget, and enter the code. After you have entered the code, you can choose where the ad will go. You can literally choose the exact paragraph where the ad will go, and you can customize each of your posts to ensure that your organization stays the same.

Conclusion

When you are looking for a way to manage ads on your website, you need to think about what you want your ad widget to do. You can sell ad space, manage your ad revenue, make your own ads, or coordinate ads from multiple sources. You may also choose to simply insert your ads or rotate them as you go.

Choose the plugin that you think will work the best on your site. Plus, you must find a plugin that feels intuitive when you use it. Some of the plugins are very simple, and others give you the chance to make complex choices about ad placement.

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What Makes a PPC Campaign Successful for Small Businesses?

What makes a PPC campaign successful?

It’s not measured in pure clicks. It’s not measured in how little you spend on a click. We can’t even measure it solely by conversions.

PPC campaign success comes down to one all-important metric. What’s your PPC ROI? Turning clicks into conversions is what truly matters.

To grow your business it all comes down to this question. What’s it cost to acquire new customers vs. how much is that customer is worth? How much money will they usually generate once they have converted to a customer?

What kind of ROI do you need to see from your PPC campaigns? 5X, 10X, 15X?

Let’s explore how to attain it.

How to Launch a Successful PPC Campaign

1. Keyword Research Done Right

To have a successful PPC campaign, you must choose the right keywords to target. These aren’t just any keywords that relate to your business. They’re strategic and designed to maximize your PPC ROI

Effective keyword research follows 3 essential steps:

  • Build a seed list — These are words off the top of your head. They’re also based on knowledge of your customers, previous campaigns, and competitors.
  • Use research tools to expand this list, or eliminate words — Tools will include keyword planners as well as tools that help you understand what the competition is using.
  • Refining your list — Don’t skip this crucial step. It will cost you.

What Makes a Great Keyword?

A great PPC campaign and SEO keyword is actually a phrase composed of 3-6 words. If you just use a single word, the competition would typically be so high that you wouldn’t be able to get a decent ROI.

In the digital marketing world, we call these phrases long-tail keywords. But they’ve become the norm, replacing single words for many years now.

PPC campaign

A great keyword gets decent traffic without being too competitive.

A great PPC campaign keyword isn’t just any phrase that has to do with your business. It has regard for what your goals are and where the customers who will see your ad are in the buyer’s journey.

Let’s look at 8 categories that you can put keywords into as you align keywords the buyer’s journey and our goals.

  • Audience-based keywords

These are very broad keywords. They are helpful especially in the awareness phase. They may be just what you need if you’re a new kind of company.

Do you have a new product line that people aren’t specifically searching for? Or are you trying to reach newbies who may not know what they’re looking for?

These keywords do the job.

These broad keywords should be used and monitored very carefully to avoid sabotaging your campaign. If they aren’t performing well, it’s time to get rid of them.

If you specialize in organic steel-cut oatmeal, then a very broad audience-based keyword might include “healthy foods” or “breakfast ideas”.

  • Alternate Keywords

You would use alternate keywords when people tend to gravitate toward a very similar product.

People who search for “quick oats” or even “cream of wheat” could be persuaded to try your oatmeal with the right message.

  • Competitor Keywords

If your ad appears when people are looking for your competitor, the right message could encourage them to switch.

These might include a brand name or a specific branded product name.

  • Product/Service-Specific Keywords

What do you actually sell? Here’s where you get more specific with terms like “steel-cut oatmeal” or “organic oatmeal”.

  • High Intention Keywords

These phrases indicate that a person is ready to buy now. They would include things like:

  1. Buy oatmeal
  2. Buy steel-cut oats
  3. Oatmeal reviews
  4. Best steel-cut oatmeal
  5. Healthiest oatmeal
  6. Steel-cut oatmeal coupon

Here’s a great example of a high intention Ads search ad.

PPC campaign

  • Branded Keywords

To avoid a competitor stealing someone who looked up your brand specifically, you can use keywords that include your brand.

  • Negative Keywords

These are keywords that indicate that someone is not your target customer. They may add these words to a keyword you’re targeting when they type a query into Google search.

Because they included this word, you know that you’re not really what they’re looking for.

For example, a person who searches for “digital marketing” is looking for something very different than someone who types “digital marketing jobs”.

In this case, unless it’s a recruitment ad, it’s in everyone’s best interest that the ad not even appear. It would risk a click you’ll have to pay for that you won’t convert into the customer you want. Plus, it makes your ad appear irrelevant to Ads.

When you add negative keywords, you reduce the chances that someone will accidentally click on your ad, thinking it’s something else.

Common negative keywords include the following:

  • Jobs
  • Cheap
  • Tutorial / Guide
  • Video
  • Recipes

As you start your campaign, you’ll find more negative keywords to add to your list. Keeping your ad from appearing where it shouldn’t is just as important as having it appear where it should.

Don’t ignore them if you want to have a successful PPC campaign.

How to Build a Seed List

To begin your list, consider each of these categories and how they align with your campaign goals. Which keyword category or categories make the most sense for your campaign?

Which keywords are customers using to find your company or companies like it? Explore common customer social media hangouts, blogs, and forums to find out.

Create a list for this campaign. You may find that you have some go-to terms that you use across campaigns. But keep in mind that your goals can change the keywords you choose significantly.

How to Use Tools to Expand Your List

Now it’s time to expand the list. Even if you’re an expert in the industry, you need to know what terms people are actually using to find products or services like yours.

Even if your ads aren’t in Ads, start with a tool like Ads Keyword Planner unless the platform has a better tool for you. Or invest in a paid tool. You may find it very worth it.

Google Ads keyword planner

  • Keyword Research in Keyword Planner

A keyword planner will show you similar words you may want to add to your campaign. You’ll see:

  1. Estimated monthly traffic
  2. Competition scale
  3. Average cost per click

Sort by each category to find the best keywords based upon the criteria we discussed.

PPC campaign

As tempted as you might be to focus on the cost per click, remember the big picture is ROI. As a general rule, people are paying more per click because they have a higher ROI.

This may not be the case in all businesses. So you’ll use analytics. Make sure you’re never paying more than that click is actually worth to your business to guarantee a positive ROI for your campaign.

  • Competitor Keyword Research

You can waste a lot of time trying to re-create the wheel. If your competitor already did the work for you, why not see what they’ve got. Paid tools like Spyfu and SEMRush allow you to spy on the competition.

These tools can be cost prohibitive for small businesses who are handling marketing alone. But a digital marketing company is able to spread the cost of these tools across many clients, making them cost-effective.

You can also do competitor research manually by searching for each keyword on your list to see who pops up in the ads. You then have an idea about who you’re competing with. You can take a closer look at their sites and strategies.

How to Refine Your List

You’ll both refine your list before and during the campaign. Before, you’ll want to get rid of words that are just too competitive or don’t get any traffic.

As you begin to refine your list, you may determine that some terms will be more effective in a different campaign.

Avoid doing all of this work over and over. Start categories for lists of words you rule out. They may be useful somewhere else.

Watch your campaign closely once it’s running. If you have words that perform poorly, weed them out. Or move them to a different ad group.

2. Customer Lifetime Value Demystified

When you know what a customer is worth, you know how much you can spend to acquire that customer. You’ll also be able to better calculate your PPC campaign ROI.

PPC campaign

People often use complex formulas to figure a customer’s lifetime value (CLV). These formulas may be more accurate. But they typically result in businesses throwing their hands up and just guessing what a customer is worth.

Here’s the quick and easy way to determine a customer’s value. If you don’t know your CLV, start here. Then refine your estimate later if needed.

What You Need to Know

Gather data to answer 4 questions:

  • What’s the average spend per purchase?
  • How many times a year does the average customer purchase? (frequency)
  • How many years will the average customer be a customer?

If you’re a kid’s clothing company or similarly time-restricted business, this last one may be clear. If it isn’t, you can also look at this on a yearly or 5-year basis.

Finally, you need to know,

  • What’s your margin rate?

CLV  =  average spend  X  frequency  X  years  X  margin rate

Are you a new business? Start tracking these numbers now to learn what each customer is worth to your company.

Segmenting Your CLV

CLV isn’t just one number across your whole company. Some customers are worth more than others. But you don’t have to look at each customer individually. That would be way too cumbersome.

Instead, segment customers by things they have in common like:

  • Job role
  • Location
  • Profession
  • Age group
  • Goals
  • Which channel they came through
  • etc.

You’ll find that some segments have a higher value than others. When you’re creating your PPC budget, you can spend more to acquire those customers.

Let’s look at your budget next.

3. A Clearly Defined Budget

Some small businesses jump right into PPC without a budget. They inevitably overspend. 

They don’t realize that what they are doing really isn’t working. They fail to plan for related expenses. Because they didn’t plan, they turn to the lowest bidder for the unplanned stuff in an effort to keep from breaking the bank after the PPC campaign is in full-swing.

Understanding the expenses involved in advance will allow you to create a more successful plan. Your budget will include allotments for:

a. Ad copy — You’ll either DIY, pay someone in-house or hire a 3rd party. If you’re creating display ads, you’ll also need a designer using one of the options mentioned.

b. Landing page — The most effective PPC campaigns have landing pages that seamlessly align with the ads. Someone needs to write and design them. And keep in mind that whether you have short or long landing pages, both have its own advantages and disadvantages. So here are some points to help you decide.

  • Short copies produce higher number of leads, but typically less qualified. It is more used for low commitment actions and for giving out free downloads.
  • Long copies produce less leads, but typically better qualified. It is more used for big actions and for offering product or service.

c. Cost for clicks — You can set a limit in your campaigns, making this the easiest budget item to calculate.

d. Other labor — You may be paying someone to research, manage and/or monitor your campaigns. Someone’s got to do it. PPC advertising isn’t a “set it and forget it” type of marketing. It requires continuous monitoring and optimization. 

e. UX Optimization — You can’t run an effective PPC campaign if you don’t have a flawless user experience on your website. If you’ve already invested in a responsive website and SEO to create the optimal user experience, skip this.

f. Tools — Many tools are free. You’ll also find some paid tools that make planning, running and analyzing your campaigns easier.

To determine the actual cost of your campaign, you’ll divide up all of these expenses by the number of new customers you generate. In most cases, we’re talking pennies per each. But to know your real ROI, it’s important to factor in all of related marketing expenses.

4. Geo-location that Works

Whether you’re creating social media PPC ads or using Ads, geo-location is a vital component of your ad strategy. It doesn’t matter if you have a Shopify shop or you’re a local business. There will always be locations that are more ideal than others.

Do you think everyone is a potential customer for your ecommerce shop? Consider if that’s true to get the best ROI. Australia, New Zealand, India or Wales? An ad in English might display there, but are these good locations for your ad to display?

Maybe. Maybe not.

If you’re a local business in Atlanta, are people in Nashville, Ashville or Ft. Lauderdale very likely to become your customers? Probably not.

Failing to geo-locate can cause 3 serious problems for your campaign.

  1. You’ll get more accidental clicks. People don’t realize your location before they click. You’ve just wasted their time and the cost of that click by not setting up your ads properly.
  2. They immediately leave your site. This makes the ad platform think that you either have a poor user experience or the ad was irrelevant.
  3. If you’re using Ads, they’ll start penalizing your campaign if this keeps happening. Your cost per click will go up and you’ll become less visible against your competitors.

PPC campaign

Using geo-location is easy in both Ads and on the various social media sites. Depending on the platform, you may choose to target:

  • Certain zip codes
  • Cities
  • States
  • Countries
  • A specified radius

In a Facebook or Instagram PPC campaign, you can even target people who are visiting in your area. Each platform will walk you through it step-by-step.

5. Aligned Landing Pages

Does your ad point to your home page? You’re making a mistake far too many small businesses make. Your home page is a general page that tells people about your company.

Companies that create multiple landing pages aligned with their ads generate 12X the leads. And yet 44% of companies point their ads at their homepage. 61% have fewer than 5 landing pages.

A landing page is a page that is specifically designed to meet a goal. It is built to directly align with your ad. If the ad is speaking to plumbers, the landing page also speaks to plumbers. If the ad offers 20%, the landing page tells the clicker more about what you offer and then tells them how to redeem that offer.

Landing pages are conversion tools. They give the clicker a straightforward next step that aligns with the ad. Congruency across your keywords, ads, and landing pages is your best friend.

Here’s the landing page for the ad we showed a bit earlier. Notice how it sends you right to the oatmeal page, not just an overall products page. It’s more specific.

PPC campaign
Here’s another fantastic landing page from Ties.com. Click the ad that offers a $75 worth of ties for just $9. Go straight to this page that tells you how to redeem it. Now that’s seamless!

PPC campaign

This is PPC at its finest. Why settle for the average small business conversion rate? It’s about 3%-6%. You could be tripling it or more simply by aligning landing pages with your ads.

6. Maintaining a High Quality Score

While other PPC platforms have similar quality models, Ads is the one where you really need to understand what your quality score is and how it impacts your PPC campaign success.

Ignoring it will cost you a lot of money.

Why Quality Score Exists

In an effort to provide the best user experience, Google Ads wants to show the most relevant ads to searchers. If they didn’t, they’d lose money because fewer people would click the ads.

To accomplish this, they’ve established a system called “Quality Score”. It rewards businesses who provide an exceptional user experience.

PPC campaign

What is Factored into a Quality Score?

To determine your quality score, Ads looks at:

  • What percentage of ad appearances earned a click
  • How long people stayed on your website after clicking
  • Whether they clicked on anything else on your website
  • Performance history (how well you’ve done over time)

If people aren’t clicking, this tells Ads that your ad is irrelevant. This might happen because you have poorly written copy. Or you may be appearing in searches that don’t really apply to your ad. To fix this, improve your ad copy or remove irrelevant keywords and locations from your ad.

You may need to add negative keywords if they’re causing the irrelevance.

If people leave your page immediately or don’t click on anything it’s a bad sign to Ads. It tells them one of two things. Either people thought they were clicking on something else. Or your website provided a poor user experience.

The page may take over 3 seconds to load. Or maybe it wasn’t mobile friendly. In either case, fix the experience to recover your score.

How a Quality Score Impacts Your Bottom Line

Ads wants you to fix the problem. That’s why they tell you what your score is. But if you ignore it, they will begin penalizing you by making you pay more for ad space. That’s as much as 400% more.

PPC campaign

But there’s a flip-side to this. Get your score up. That’s a 7 or higher. They will give you a discount on your cost per click and increase your visibility.

This is just one more reason a successful PPC campaign isn’t a set it and forget task.

7. Target to Connect

If you’re running a PPC campaign, your ad should compel people to click. To do this, target someone specific.

Similar to segmenting, target people with a specific:

  • Occupation
  • Goal
  • Challenge
  • Age range
  • Where they are in the Buyer’s Journey

Once you’ve decided what characteristics to target, divide your ads up into ad groups. Each ad group will represent a specific target. You might further subdivide ad groups based on a specific service or product line.

Who you’re targeting with that ad group will impact:

  • What keywords you choose for that ad group
  • How you design your ad copy
  • What your landing page says

Align everything for a seamless experience for that target.

8. Tracking & Improving Your Campaign

What’s a common theme throughout this article? It’s that you can’t set and forget a PPC campaign. To be successful, you need to:

  • Measure the right metrics
  • Know what those metrics are telling you
  • Adapts you PPC campaign based on your findings

So what should you be tracking while running a PPC campaign?

Website Responsiveness

Test your site’s speed and mobile-friendliness. You can use free tools from Google. Or you may choose to invest in real-time site monitoring. Not a day should go by that you aren’t very aware of how your website is treating people.

If you make changes to the site, always test them. Make sure they display like you expect them to.

Marketing Analytics company Kissmetrics performed an extensive study on how site speed impacts people leaving your site. For every additional second your page takes to load, you lose about 10% of your visitors. If your page takes 5 seconds to load, that just won’t cut it. You’ve lost almost 50% of your visitors. But you paid for those clicks.

page load time vs page abandonement

Think mobile is an exception? Think again. Only 11% of mobile users said they accept that a site will load more slowly on mobile. If their phone can handle it, they expect you to deliver that speed.

Over 50% of web traffic is now mobile. Your website should be responsive on all devices.

Impressions

You can’t earn clicks that convert if you’re not being seen. Keep track of your impressions. If it’s very low, reevaluate your bid caps and keywords to make sure you appear when you should and where you should.

Click Through Rate

People should be clicking on your ad. If they aren’t then one or more of your keywords may be irrelevant. Or your copy isn’t compelling them to click. Make the adjustment to increase clicks.

The average CTR across industries is around 3% for search ads and 0.46% for display ads. This excludes remarketing ads. These are the ads for your business that appear on another website after someone visited your site. These CTRs are much higher, but conversions are generally lower.

Cost Per Click

As we discussed, you’ll pay more for clicks if you let your quality score drop. Compare the cost per click to your conversion rate and customer value to know you’re spending the right amount on each click.

If it’s too high to give you a decent ROI, then increasing your conversion rate is your best move.

In Ads, the average cost per click is $2-$3 across all industries. But it can be significantly higher for more expensive services with highly competitive keywords such as legal, medical, and insurance.

Average Position

This tells you whether or not your ad is appearing in ideal spots. If it isn’t it may not be seen. You may need to work on your quality score or raise your bid for certain keywords.

Conversions

If you have a very low conversion rate, it makes your cost per click seem astronomical. But when you have the system in place to convert more clicks, cost per click becomes a very reasonable investment. To determine your ROI, spread the cost of clicks that didn’t convert across the ones that did.

The average conversion rate in Ads is 3.75%. It’s much higher in service industries.

Quality Score

We’ve discussed this in detail so here we’ll just remind you to track it.

Run a Better PPC Campaign

With these strategies, you can run a more successful PPC campaign. Spend some time evaluating those keywords. Align your landing pages with the ads to get the best results. And don’t ignore your quality score. You’ll pay more.

If you need help growing your business through digital marketing strategies that work, contact us today.

The post What Makes a PPC Campaign Successful for Small Businesses? appeared first on Digital Marketing Blog.