SPI 292: The Dark Side of Affiliate Marketing (and How to Do It Right!)

Everything has a sort of yin and yang, dark and white, and affiliate marketing is no different. It’s important to understand the light and the darkness, so let’s go a level deeper on our affiliate marketing journey; let’s talk about the dark side of affiliate marketing.

I don’t want you to be scared of going down the affiliate marketing path; that’s not the purpose of today’s episode. I want to equip you so you know what to look out for, because affiliate marketing can be abused if you take an income-first—rather than a serve-first—approach. For a long time it had a very negative connotation, but affiliate marketing can be done in a legit way that’s a big win for everyone, so I want to change that perception.

Personally, I’ve earned over $2.5 million with affiliate marketing and have had wonderful experiences doing so. I feel that it’s my personal responsibility to teach you how to do affiliate marketing right, but also how not to do it. Take a deep breath; we’re about to venture over to the dark side. Pay close attention, because when it comes to affiliate marketing, understanding what not to do can be just as important as what you should do.

If you want to go even deeper, check out my brand-new course, 1•2•3 Affiliate Marketing, which I will be pre-selling starting Cyber Monday and closing at midnight on November 30, 2017!

I’ll be talking more about the course later this month, and you can sign up for the waitlist at 123AffiliateMarketing.com.

And if you want to check out a free (yes, free!) affiliate marketing resource in the meantime, Affiliate Marketing the Smart Way will walk you through the more foundational affiliate marketing strategies you should use.

And hey, if you’re not following me on YouTube already, check out YouTube.com/smartpassiveincome. A lot of the gameplan for next year is very video-centric. My team and I are devoting a lot of time and energy into YouTube next year (don’t worry though, the podcast and blog aren’t going anywhere). I built out a top-of-the-line, 900 square foot studio space this year, so I’m excited to use it to share some exciting SPI videos with you soon!

Thanks for Listening!

To share your thoughts:

To help out the show:

  • Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.
  • Subscribe on iTunes or download our mobile app.
At CreditMaster top 10 personal loan money lender in Singapore they offers fast cash at the lowest interest rates to all foreigners, expat and work permit holders working in Singapore. At Katong Credit top 10 personal loan money lender in Singapore they offers fast cash at the lowest interest rates to all foreigners, expat and work permit holders working in Singapore. digital marketing malaysia

My October 2017 Income Report

Important Goings-On in October

In October, I did more traveling than I had ever done in my whole life.

Before I even get started, I just have to say, I’m so thankful to have an an amazingly supportive wife at home. April basically works overtime when I leave to speak at conferences, and with how hard it is to be a stay-at-home mom, I definitely can understand how much more challenging I make it for her when I leave. She’s always been 100 percent supportive and never makes me feel bad for leaving. For that, I’m one of the luckiest guys in the world.

So, where was I off to first?

VidSummit

On October 11, I traveled to Los Angeles for VidSummit, a conference run in the video and content creator space by a man named Darrel Eves. It was just a couple of hours north of San Diego where I live, so it was a fairly easy and convenient conference to get to.

VidSummit was unique, however, in that I did not come to teach. I specifically came to learn, since YouTube and video creation is going to be a large part of the strategy moving forward into 2018.

I attended several sessions. And beyond that, I met so many friendly and super talented creators. It was awesome. I was thankful to have the opportunities to learn more about them, their stories, and their amazing journey into YouTube. Several of them own channels with hundreds of thousands of subscribers, and some even with millions.

From Roberto Blake, Owen Hemsath, Jeremy Vest, Rob Sandie, Shonduras, Dan Lok, Judy & Benjo Travis, Sean Cannell, and many more.

I even ran into a number of my friends at the conference, such as Caleb Wojcik, Michael Stelzner, Luria Petrucci, Richie Norton (from SPI Podcast Session 270), Gary Vaynerchuk, and also several SPI fans. It was a ton of fun, and I learned a whole bunch about the YouTube space and strategies for performing well on the platform.

I started my SPI YouTube Channel a long time ago, back in 2009, and initially it did very well. As soon as podcasting was added to the equation, I put all of my focus into that and sort of just let the YouTube channel sit there. Well, over the years, the views declined, and although I had about 60k subscribers, new videos were only getting 1-2k views, at most.

Consistency, I’ve found, is very important, because like many of these other platforms where we post content, algorithms can make or break your views and engagement.

Beyond that, I also learned that watch time and session time are some of the most important metrics to pay attention to when it comes to YouTube favoring or highlighting your videos. The longer you can keep people watching your videos (total minutes watched, not percentage of videos watched), and the more you can keep viewers on YouTube itself after your video is over, the greater rewards. If you can have that approach, your videos will be better off than most of the videos that are uploaded to YouTube each day.

At VidSummit, I also attended an hour-long session that was specifically related to the thumbnails of your videos. The thumbnail, I’ve found, is one of the most important aspects of your video because it’s what people see before they click. In this crowded space, it’s easy to get lost. But if you put an effort into it, it can also be easy to get noticed.

It was a very successful trip, and I did manage to film quite a bit while I was there. Those will be posted soon on my YouTube Channel, so make sure to click here to subscribe if you haven’t already!

Also, big shout out to Derral Eves, the man who put on this amazing event. It was absolutely well done. I had an amazing experience, and I’d love to be back again in 2018!

Make sure you check out Derral’s YouTube Channel here—it’s full of info for those of you looking to make an impact in the world of YouTube. He’s the guy to follow!

Converted 2017

As an official advisor to LeadPages, Converted 2017 is a conference (run by the LeadPages team) that I look forward to speaking at each and every year.

It’s held in Minneapolis, MN, and over the years I’ve had my fair share of COLD. I’m from San Diego, CA so I’ve become very spoiled when it comes to weather. This time, however, the weather was absolutely perfect, so I knew it was going to be a good trip.

And it was.

I flew in on Tuesday October 17, and set to speak the next morning. As always, I went straight from the airport to the hotel to begin rehearsing, like I always do before I speak. I always like to put in some final, last-minute improvements to my presentations.

The next morning, I woke up, went to soundcheck, and got “in the zone,” which is where I begin my breathing exercises and start pacing up and down the back area running through the first few minutes of the presentation in my head. To me, those first few minutes are the most important. If I can get past the first few minutes, the rest sort of takes care of itself on autopilot.

Then, at 9 a.m., Clay Collins, co-founder of LeadPages, introduced and invited me onto the stage.

I was a little nervous about this presentation specifically because I was testing a lot of brand new material I hadn’t offered to live audiences before. I was interested in how the crowd would react to certain stories I was going to tell, because depending on how it’s received, I can use those stories in presentations in the future, including webinars and other places where I’m in front of an audience.

Well, it went off without a hitch, and I’m thankful that I had such a welcoming audience to enjoy my talk. Thank you to everyone who was there. It was awesome!

With this conference in particular, I get a little competitive. Each year there’s a survey for the attendees and one of the questions is who their favorite speaker is. Since the conference started three years ago, I’ve been voted best speaker each time, so I wanted to make sure I delivered for LeadPages and the audience like I had done in the past.

I haven’t heard anything back yet, either way, but Clay promised me he’d let me know once he finds out. Hehe!

Another significant moment of the trip was when I met with the new CEO of LeadPages, John Tedesco. Clay stepped down as CEO recently to focus on some other projects of his, and John stepped in with a ton of professional experience to help the company grow even more than it has. He was super friendly, and I’m excited to work with him into the future to help the company grow.

It was just two days in Minneapolis, but a lot was accomplished. The night after my presentation, I met with a lot of Team Flynn who was in town for a planning session, and we had some BBQ and played some games to bond even more. For many team members, it was their first time meeting each other in person, which was great!

The morning after, I held a meet-up at a local co-working space for about 30-35 entrepreneurs and SPI fans who were in the area. I had a blast! It was so great to share some insights on what’s coming into the world of SPI next year, gain some feedback on that, and also answer as many questions as I could for a couple of hours. I always love meeting SPI fans when I travel. It doesn’t always happen, but I love to get everyone together to meet each other if possible. I know a lot of new friendships were made that day.

Thanks to everyone who came out!

SPI Meetup in Saint Paul, Minnesota!

Success Incubator and FINCON17

After a few days at home with the family, it was time for another trip the week after. On Monday, October 23, I made my way to Dallas, TX to visit some friends over at the Success Incubator Conference (Formerly known as Digi-colab), and FINCON!

Although this was the longest trip of the month out of all of my travels (four days), it went by so fast—partly because I was so busy, partly because I had a lot of fun!

At Success Incubator, I spoke in front of an audience of about sixty highly enthusiastic entrepreneurs and taught them how to use an editorial calendar to plan not just their blog content, but also their launches, and how planning launches actually influence what the blog content should be about.

After the talk, I heard some rave reviews of my presentation, and saw about a dozen people in the audience start to fill out their editorial calendars for the next year of content. It was great to see them take action right then and there!

I also sat in on a number of great presentations from people like Darren Rowse (Problogger), Steve Chou (MyWifeQuitHerJob.com), Leslie Samuel (Become a Blogger), and several more. Although I came to speak, I actually learned quite a bit while I was there. One extremely helpful thing I learned came thanks to Steve Chou, who opened up the backend of his business and shared his exact email funnel strategy. The one thing I learned was that I needed to simplify, and not think too hard about some of these things.

As a result, I had a chat with my team the next day, and I actually hired someone to help me define my funnels a little better. Now that there are a ton of lead magnets and courses in my business, I need to put the puzzle together a little better—and, like I said, make things a little easier.

The next morning, Success Incubator continued. But this time, instead of presentations, there were roundtable mastermind sessions. I sat with eight other entrepreneurs in a roundtable and we each had a turn for thirty minutes to share something we need help with. I got a lot of tremendous feedback, specifically about my upcoming affiliate marketing course, and how to best promote that for the segments of my audience I’ve already built.

By the way, in case you didn’t know, I have an affiliate marketing course coming out this month on Cyber Monday. It’ll be a 72-hour limited beta launch only available to the first 500 students who sign up, so click here to get on the waitlist now so you can be one of the first to be notified!

FINCON, a four-date event, started the next day, but I only planned to attend the first day knowing I had more travel coming up during the month, I wanted to get back home and provide support for April and relieve her from the kids for a while. Even though I was there for only a day, it was a ton of fun.

First up, basketball. That’s right. Traditionally, FINCON starts off with a friendly basketball game between attendees. It’s a pick-up game, so nothing formal, but for the past two years we’ve had about twenty to twenty-five friends come out to play. This year, we played at a local college gym, so the venue was the best we’d ever had. Best of all, we had about fifty-five basketball players show up this year!

And boy, some of them got game. I held my own, especially as one of the shorter guys there, but everyone won because no one got hurt, and we came away with some great memories.

The next morning, I had a panel scheduled with Grant Baldwin, a good friend who teaches people how to become great speakers. This panel, however, was unlike anything I’ve ever participated in before. Grant and I, as seasoned speakers, found a guinea pig to present an upcoming talk in front of us (and the viewing audience) so that we could interrupt the presentation to better improve it as it went along.

It was purely experimental, and I have to thank Erin Chase from 5dollardinners.com for being such a courageous presenter!

As Erin began her presentation, Grant and I watched from the side with a microphone and got very nit-picky with what she was doing. We talked about her storytelling, how she moved, the pauses she took, how she integrated with the audience, and a whole lot more. Afterward, the attendees in the audience told us it was one of the coolest and most informative panels they had ever seen! Win!

Nice job, Grant! And thanks again, Erin!

Business Boutique

The final part of October was spent focused on two things:

  1. Halloween with the family (one of our favorite holidays), which includes watching The Nightmare Before Christmas at least a dozen times. The kids know the tunes better than I do. It’s awesome!
  2. Preparing for the biggest presentation of my life.

I was invited months ago to speak at a conference in Nashville, TN called Business Boutique, a Dave Ramsey-affiliated event hosted by Christy Wright of BusinessBoutique.com. I didn’t realize how big the conference was until Christy had me on her podcast, and I started to receive dozens of messages from future attendees telling me how excited they were to hear me speak.

That never happens; especially at that scale.

I learned about a couple of friends who spoke at the event the year before, and they said it was one of the most well-produced and biggest presentations ever. But when I finally found out there were going to be 3,000 people there, I nearly fainted!

Truth. I still get scared before I speak, but I do it anyway because it’s fun once I’m up there, and the impact I can make on a person’s life while on stage is unlike anything else. But, catch me right before, and I’m basically dry heaving backstage. LOL. Ask anyone, and they’ll tell you!

But 3,000 people, that’s four times the biggest audience I had ever spoken in front of before, and for the Dave Ramsey team too! I needed to make a great impression on this crowd, which I think added to the pressure I had leading up to my presentation.

The event didn’t happen until early November, so I’ll save the details of what happened while I was there for next month’s report, but I did bring a camera crew with me to capture the moment, and here’s an Instagram post showing you a bit about that nervousness in action:

So, the end of October’s work consisted of me focusing on Business Boutique, and the two presentations I had to give. One was a breakout session about creating content that crushes the competition, and the other was about the proven path to passive income. Topics I know a lot about, obviously, but also I wanted to knock it out of the park while I was there.

Lots of late night rehearsals, slide tweaks, and pretending to speak in front of people in my home office. All worth it, because that’s how you get better!

I also brought a film crew with me to capture the moments in Nashville. So, like I said, look out for next month’s report where those videos will be. And if you want to catch them as soon as they come up, subscribe to my YouTube channel!

Build Your Own Brand

Among all of the hectic travel, my team and I were still hard at work producing content for you. Beyond the normal blog and podcast content, I published a new course!

It’s a free course called Build Your Own Brand (BYOB for short), all about helping you define your brand position, build your website, plan your website’s content, and finally make your mark on the internet! If you haven’t yet taken the course, it’s open, so feel free to get access to it now—it’s a full-on, highly-produced course within the Teachable platform.

The reason it’s free is two-fold:

  1. I’ve already produced two premium courses during the year: Smart from Scratch, and Power-Up Podcasting®. I felt it was time for an incredibly valuable free course within the brand to bring new people into the SPI ecosystem.
  2. It perfectly fits into the already existing structure of what else is being offered.

For example, for those who validate their business idea using Smart from Scratch, they are likely ready to build a website, and BYOB is there for them. Since it’s in the same Teachable platform, their username and login is already in the system and it’s a simple one-click unlock to get free access to it. The same with Power-Up Podcasting. Podcasters need websites, and now there’s a step-by-step walkthrough to help them make it happen, for free.

And it works the other way around too. Those who get into BYOB, maybe they’re looking to start a podcast, in which case it’s an easy offer to get into Power-Up Podcasting from there. And the Affiliate Marketing Course (1·2·3 Affiliate Marketing) coming out later this month will be a great continuation from the BYOB course.

In addition to all of that, there are affiliate opportunities within BYOB. For starting a website, and for those who choose to follow my advice and start an email list too, offerings for hosting packages, and email service providers are mentioned as well.

Already, the results of BYOB have been amazing. With over 5,300 students enrolled, the daily emails that are coming in with people’s wins and new websites are the best part. Here’s an email I got the other day that really made me happy:

Email from Melissa Davis

It’s easy to go through, and crafted with love, so if you haven’t yet built your website because you just don’t know what to do, now you’ve got a free resource to go and make it happen!

Click here to get free access to the Build Your Own Brand course!

Trademarks

In other news, a fun one to share with you. The name of my course, Power Up Podcasting®, is now a registered trademark!

It’s not really for marketing purposes, but rather more for protection purposes. Now that I’m finally building my own products and courses (versus affiliate marketing, which I’ve been doing for years), I want to make sure I do my best to protect these assets I’m building for business and my future. Registered trademarks are just one part of that puzzle, but an important one.

The worry up front was that no parts of the mark are very specific. It could have been rejected because “Power Up” doesn’t really tell much, and “Podcasting” is too general to own. Put them together, it’s all good!

Smart from Scratch was also trademarked, although I never really announced that before.

Fun times!

That’s a ton of info about what happened in October. But, like I said, all good stuff. I have one more trip for the year, a trip to London to support my best friend Chris Ducker and his inaugural Youpreneur Summit. I’m stoked to be giving the closing keynote at the event! Around 350 entrepreneurs from around the world are going to be here, and I’m super proud of my boy for selling the event out and really making it happen. I was there in conversation with him when this was all just an idea!

There’s no better way to end the year of public speaking in my opinion. In fact, the day this income report gets published, I will have just finished my closing keynote the night before! So, if you catch me on Instagram (Instagram.com/PatFlynn) you might find some pictures and stories related to the event.

And yes, I’m bringing a camera to vlog this trip too, so in case you couldn’t make it, I’ll show you what it was like!

Let’s get to the income report for October 2017:

Black Friday SEO: Last-minute tips for the holiday season

SEO TIPS FOR THE HOLIDAY SEASON

Black Friday kicks off a shopping season that lasts through Christmas each year, with online retailers vying for the profitable attention of consumers. With spending expected to rise by 47% this year, competition will be fierce.

SEO can make a significant ecommerce contribution; some final tweaks can make the difference between rising to the top of results and languishing at the bottom of page one.

The holiday season begins in earnest for ecommerce companies with the Black Friday weekend, bookended by Black Friday (November 24) and Cyber Monday (November 27).

Black Friday (the day retailers traditionally go ‘into the black’ due to the bumper sales) follows Thanksgiving in the US and kicks off a spending spree that typically continues through the Christmas period. The digital revolution has facilitated huge growth in spending worldwide, even spawning the online-focused Cyber Monday counterpart to satiate consumers’ desire to pick up a bargain.

Although dwarfed by China’s equivalent, known as ‘Singles Day’, which recently posted $12 billion in sales on Alibaba alone within just 2 hours, Black Friday holds particular significance for retailers in the US and beyond.

For context, the following statistics should paint a clear picture of the importance of this period for online stores:

  • 2017 spending is predicted to rise by 47% over the same period in 2016
  • Shoppers in the US spent $3.39 billion on Cyber Monday last year and $3.34 billion on Black Friday
  • The Black Friday week brought sales of £6.5 billion in the UK in 2016
  • The average American consumer will spend $745 over the Black Friday weekend
  • Target sold 3,200 TVs per minute during the first hour of Black Friday last year.

Brands have been planning for the holidays for a long time already, so the focus will now turn to any last-minute changes that can help tempt consumers to their site and provide a seamless transaction experience when they get there.

SEO is quite rightly considered a long-term investment and strategies take time to come into effect, but some fine-tuning can still reap dividends in the immediate short term.

The tips below are intended to give ecommerce sites an SEO performance boost – just in time for the holiday period.

Focus on keyword groups with a high ROI

All brands are aiming to maximize revenues over the holidays, which leads to an increase in activity as their marketing strategies kick into action.

Search demand patterns change too, as consumers seek inspiration across a range of digital media.

This opens opens up new opportunities; search results are affected by these forces and they change in response to the surrounding stimuli. Intelligent targeting of the right queries at the right moments can see brands move into top positions and capitalize on demand peaks.

Historical data from Google Trends or Keyword Planner can highlight the types of queries that tend to increase around this time of year. Typically, modifiers including ‘best’, ‘gift’, ‘deals’, or ‘cheap’ will be popular with shoppers on the lookout for the right present.

There’s nothing revolutionary about that, but adding these terms to basic SEO elements like internal links, title tags and meta descriptions can make all the difference.

Our guide to advanced keyword research is a great place to start this process, as it helps marketers to isolate short-term opportunities and strategize accordingly.

Use existing landing pages for high-volume terms

It helps if you are using an authoritative page to target profitable queries at the most competitive time of year. With only a couple of weeks until Black Friday, it would be a pretty tall order to launch a brand new page and rank in positions 1-3 for the most important terms,

And yet, many brands do exactly this every year. Rather than having one static Black Friday page and another for Cyber Monday that can be updated every year, they launch a new page every time the holidays roll round.

After all, the trend is predictable; we know searches for [black friday] are about to take off:

black_friday_searches

The retailers that make the most of this will have had a Black Friday page in place for years already, which benefits from the backlinks that have been sent to the site every year. Small updates, such as adding the year 2017 into the copy and title tag, will help the page gain relevance for this year’s searches.

Once the holidays pass, update the content to move shoppers to more relevant deals and allow the page to accrue SEO value until next year.

Add new content to cover new SEO opportunities

There are less obvious trends to make use of, too.

Recent analysis of BrightEdge data by Eugene Feygin revealed a very significant increase in the number of rich snippets returned for ecommerce queries over the past year. In fact, the research found that there has been an increase in the number of rich snippets of over 26% within the last five months.

Unsurprisingly, Amazon has benefited to a greater degree than most:

BrightEdge_QA

But the same opportunity exists for all retailers.

Given the prominence that is afforded the these quick answers, in what has come to be known as ‘position zero’, it seems too great a prize to ignore.

The question, then, is how to format content to increase its likelihood of being pulled programmatically as a rich snippet.

There are no black-and-white rules to this, but there are steps we can take to help our chances. For example, using Schema.org mark-up to provide Google with structured data about product features or prices will help greatly, and tools like Moz Keyword Explorer can help identify popular questions.

Repurpose old content to create gift guides

According to Google’s trend report from 2016, more than 70 percent of digital shoppers started their holiday shopping without something particular in mind that they wanted to buy.

The search journey doesn’t end when someone clicks through to a website, of course. With user engagement factors continuing to play a pivotal role in SEO successes, we need to understand the consumer’s intent and match that up to the experience they receive when they land on the site.

Walmart provides a good example of how this can be achieved. They have a range of gift guides, which are categorized by the type of gift the consumer is thinking of, and also for whom they are planning to buy.

walmart seo

It is possible to go further still, through segmentation of content by the consumer’s level of certainty about the product they want to buy. The site can ask these questions to use as prompts to personalize the experience, with live chatbots playing an ever greater role in this area.

This must be complemented by an oft-overlooked aspect of ecommerce SEO: optimization of internal search. A report by Visualsoft found that 17% of UK retailers do not pay attention to the effectiveness of their internal search engine, but this should be taken into account by all ecommerce sites. To do so means making use of autocomplete searches, product recommendations based on search history, and personalized results.

These points require the refinement and adaptation of existing assets for most brands, so they can still be considered quick win activities for the holidays.

Optimize for speed

Back in 2012, Amazon calculated that just one second of slowdown in page load speed costs them $1.6 billion in lost sales, a number that can only have grown in the intervening years.

The aforementioned report from Visualsoft made blunt a point of which we are all aware: when providing a great ecommerce experience, speed matters. It also highlighted how far a lot of online retailers are from meeting the benchmarks expected of them by their customers:

Page_loading

Source: Visualsoft

In addition, new research from BrightEdge (full report here) has highlighted the peak traffic days across devices:

brightedge

This data shows that while mobile traffic peaks on Thanksgiving, it is desktop that takes the lion’s share of visits on Cyber Monday. Moreover, BrightEdge’s research found that desktop takes 67% of overall conversions in the holiday season, as its traffic converts at a significantly higher rate than mobile visits.

Marketers need to be in prime position to move these consumers through to their intended transaction, as they research on one device and come back to convert on another.

Therefore, if there is only one area of on-site experience that SEOs can contribute towards, it should be page load speed. Improved speed can help rankings directly, but it is also a proven way to improve conversion rates on mobile, desktop, and tablet.

The road to achieving this will depend on the website in question, but some best practices would be:

  • Minimize the number of HTTP requests required to load the page
  • Reduce the number of redirects needed to arrive at the final URL
  • Compress or re-size images.

Optimize mixed media assets

It stands to reason that with so many shoppers seeking inspiration, images and videos are essential components of an SEO strategy for the holidays.

At the last minute, brands are likely to have their media strategies set in stone, but SEO can always help to attract more traffic to these assets.

As such, we should be thinking about optimization for search engines like Pinterest and YouTube, and not just Google and Bing.

That said, Google’s universal results provide an excellent opportunity to draw more traffic if images and videos are optimized for the right queries.

Therefore, SEO research for the holiday season should aim to identify the keyword categories and types for which images and videos are returned in the SERPs. Keyword tools like BrightEdge and SEMrush provide a way to do this at scale, helping marketers to evaluate the best areas to apply their efforts.

Take lessons from other digital marketing channels

With such limited time left to test SEO changes, retailers should look to paid media channels to find quick, substantial lessons to apply to organic search. PPC ad copy can be a goldmine for these insights, as is reveals the triggers most likely to appeal to consumers when they are searching. Take the best-performing ad copy variations from paid search and incorporate these into SEO messaging to draw a higher click-through rate.

Recent research into social media ad performance also found that informal, conversational language works best. People tend to be in a different mindset when on social media compared to search, which is driven by their underlying intent and the different natures of the platforms. However, this tone of voice could still be worth testing within PPC ads to see if it helps brands stand out and connect.

That said, we need to bear in mind that consumers don’t think in terms of SEO, PPC, or social media when they are shopping for gifts. They move between these channels and expect a consistent tone in their interactions with a brand.

SEOs should look to broader consumer surveys to understand the role their channel can play to ensure that this consistency is achieved.

One such study from Astound Commerce asked, “Which of the following will most likely prompt you to visit a retailer online this holiday season?”

Consumers, who were prompted to select all of the responses that applied to them, revealed just how many factors can potentially come into play:

Black_friday_1

This is a complex set of interconnected communications, but there are a few clear takeaways for SEO. For example, promotions are a key driver of traffic, so we should add any relevant deals into on-page copy and meta tags.

Make sure your servers are ready

The SEO team at any retailer has important responsibilities on the technical side of things over the holidays.

If all goes to plan, there should be a significant surge in the number of visitors to the site over a short period of time, which can play havoc with servers. Downtime is particularly disastrous at this time of year, so take steps to prepare.

It is worth visiting the site’s error logs to see if there is anything you can fix in advance of the traffic increase, and make sure you have a dedicated point of contact on stand-by if any issues should arise over the holiday season.

Related reading

Here’s how to get executives excited about SEO

As an SEO expert at your company – maybe the SEO expert – you may find yourself needing to persuade executives to invest more in your company’s SEO practices.

Championing SEO means successfully selling the right company leaders on the benefits, demonstrating the effectiveness and wisdom of your specific SEO strategy, and, more often than not, including a few convincing facts about why it will make them look good.

Here are four practices you should use to your advantage when trying to win executive support for your SEO proposals:

1) Understand your executive audience before you even step in the room

When you enter the executive meeting to present your SEO plan, know exactly what you’re getting into. Is this a group discussion, or are you going in one-on-one? What will keep the attention of this particular individual or group, and what are the expectations for this meeting on the other side of the table?

In presenting your plan, it’s important to tell executives everything they need to know in order to say yes. This means explaining the very specific goals that your SEO proposal will help the business achieve. Clearly explain any costs and risks as well, so that executives have the information to make a fully informed decision.

Remember that they may even have to sell what you’re proposing at the level above them. If it’s possible to tailor what your asking for and how you present it to align well with current budgeting and company strategy, do so.

Overall, try to hand executives the ready-made case they need to fully convince both themselves and others how a greater investment in SEO will positively affect the bottom line.

2) Prepare a presentation that’s focused, powerful, and to the point

Take the time to practice and refine your presentation, focusing on a tight collection of points that you want – and need – to make. It also doesn’t hurt to use a few tricks from the advertising world, from plain old flattery to the bandwagon approach.

Make it clear that a proper focus on SEO is what smart companies are doing to succeed, and that this focus will serve to increase exposure for the tremendous work being done by creative and other teams. Also explain how “everyone else is doing it,” especially through presenting information that highlights where competitors have superior SEO practices and are beating your company in search rankings.

A little competitive spirit and FOMO can help put the push for SEO in perspective and get executives animated about how your company can respond – a response plan you ought to have ready as well.

3) Stick to terminology your audience can understand

Remember that the executives in your audience probably don’t understand SEO terminology at an expert level. That said, you shouldn’t hesitate to provide specific examples and information that will help draw them in; just be sure to avoid SEO jargon with which non-experts aren’t familiar.

For example, you may want to talk about metadata and KPIs, but your audience may need a bit of guidance to navigate these terms. You can accomplish this with rephrasing, such as changing metadata to “how searchers view your result on the search engine results page”, and KPIs to “specific data points that matter.”

4) Present those specific data points that matter

When weaving the narrative you present to executives as to how an investment in SEO will achieve intended results for your company, ensure that they take it as more than a fairy tale: ground everything in actual data.

From an internal execution standpoint, this means getting specific with the costs, personnel, and bandwidth required. It also means setting target goals the potential visibility and profit your company’s SEO efforts will deliver.

Don’t be afraid to dive into the real metrics that your proposal has been crafted to improve. This will likely include specific information like customer acquisition cost (CAC), the marketing percentage of CAC, the ratio of customer lifetime value to CAC, the time to payback the CAC, and the marketing originated/influenced customer percentages.

If your presentation can convincingly demonstrate how your SEO efforts will return favorable numbers for these metrics, there’s a good chance that executives would be smart to listen to you – and that they will.

Kevin Gamache is Search Strategist at Wire Stone, a digital marketing agency part of Accenture Interactive.

Related reading

visual search engine

How One University Used Social Media to Raise $28M in a Single Day

Attributing revenue to social media is a big challenge for businesses, but Purdue University may have cracked the code with their annual fundraising campaign.

In 2017 they raised $28.2 million in single day—$10 million more than their single-day campaign in 2016. They also increased support from international donors by 87 percent.

In this episode of the Hootcast podcast, we chat with Steve Schlenk, who is the director of philanthropic communications for Purdue University’s development office, and Kate Jolly, director of digital fundraising at the Purdue Research Foundation.

In this podcast, Schlenk and Jolly tell us about:

  • The social media strategy behind their fundraising campaign
  • How to get people excited about social media contests
  • How to run an effective Snapchat campaign

Press play to hear the show in its entirety, or if you don’t have a set of earbuds handy, read the transcription of our conversation below.

Q&A with Purdue University

Purdue’s Day of Giving Campaign is a fundraising campaign that you run every year. Where did it come from and what is it about?

Day of Giving started in 2014. It began as an initiative from our vice president. He asked us with coming up with a way to garner new donors for the fiscal year.

We thought ‘why not go big or go home?’. And so we created Purdue Day of Giving, which targets the whole Purdue community on the day.

You’ve had some big year-over-year improvements. Last year you raised $18.3 million and this year you raised $28.2 million, and you had an 87% increase in international donations. What are some big changes on social from 2016 to now?

We’ve added social platforms each year. In our first year we only focused on Facebook. Since then we’ve added Twitter, Instagram, and we do a little bit on LinkedIn as well. But this year we added Snapchat, where we had three days of scavenger hunts for some very desirable prizes. And our primary goal with that was to raise awareness with students, though anyone following Purdue’s Snapchat channel could participate.

We also launched a series of user-generated content challenges in the week leading up to the day where we invited our colleges and schools and programs and other units across campus, as well as individuals, to share Purdue Day of Giving-themed images and videos.

We also continued with our video sharing challenge, which awards bonus dollars to the campus units who have had the most shares of our Purdue Day of Giving video, which is a piece create each year to help promote the day.

Our social team was particularly interested in the Snapchat scavenger hunt and the leader board challenges that you guys did. They thought that was really cool. Do you think you could dive into that a little bit and walk us through what that looked like?

This year we held our very first Snapchat scavenger hunt to promote Purdue Day of Giving. We had multiple opportunities for participants to win throughout a three-day period leading up to the big day, and we learned a lot. We’ve got a few tips and tricks for anyone who wants to try it.

First off, plan ahead, and secure desirable prizes and show them off in a post previewing the scavenger hunt to help drive some interest and participation. Our prizes included Roku devices, Amazon, Echo Dot, Snapchat Spectacles, a pizza party for ten, football suite tickets and lots more.

Second, share a teaser post about five or ten minutes ahead of you clue for the first prize, so that those who want to participate will have a chance to prepare and have a moment to get ready to stand by.

You should always be clear on how someone wins, and as soon as you have a winner, take a picture of them with their prize within Snapchat rather than on the camera roll so that the post looks as good as it can within that Snapchat app.

And finally, before the scavenger hunt begins you can promote it on your other social media channels to let everyone know that if they want to follow you on Snapchat, they can win some really great prizes.

How did experimenting with some new platforms, like Snapchat, and doing new things on Instagram, contribute to success this year?

We feel that Snapchat and Instagram really helped us raise awareness for the day, especially on campus, and everyone seemed to have a lot of fun. In fact the scavenger hunt was more popular than we anticipated.

We also had the Snapchat filters available across campus during the Purdue Day of Giving, and we had a huge turnout for the comedy show that we presented to celebrate the day. It was open to the general public, and this year it featured then-Saturday Night Live cast member Vanessa Bayer and Anna Drezen.

Did you find one tactic particularly successful out of all of the campaign pieces?

I wouldn’t say one is more successful than the other; all of them serve a purpose. So the most creative selfie and Instagram video really create great user-generated content, whereas the 50th original tweet is decided on in the first 45 seconds because people are literally posting right at that time. But it helps to get it trending on Twitter, it helps to get the word out.

Can you talk a little bit more about how social has contributed to the fundraising results? Like would you attribute the amazing participation and widespread engagement to the increase in donations that you saw this year?

Absolutely, social is definitely part of it. With annual giving, you’ll have traditional channels (direct mail, phone) and web (email or online giving). Without social media, we wouldn’t be able to reach people outside those channels.

It’s a really important way for reaching young alumni or people in our database that we have their parents’ home address, and we don’t have an active email address because it’s still their Purdue.edu that doesn’t exist anymore.

Did you find that increasing the number of challenges to 33 hourly challenges and increasing the number of networks also helped to amplify that reach and contribute to the big bump in the amount that you fundraised?

Absolutely, and we also have a metric for engagement, so we have impressions, and that number of impressions has increased year over year. We had 34 million impressions last year, so getting those units to serve as ambassadors in garnering their own social ambassadors increases that number.

Has your strategy changed a lot from network to network?

Yes and no. Facebook is still the king for us in terms of where we get the biggest bang for our buck, because there are so many of our target audiences on Facebook. You have parents, students, young alumni, old alumni, and grandparents. With other platforms you have more defined audiences. Twitter is mainly just going to be your students and younger alumni. Same with Instagram, and then LinkedIn is a more professional network with maybe a higher base of international alums seeing things.

We have to look at our target audiences and what platforms they’re using and then adjust for that.

Where do you focus most of your resources leading up to and during this campaign?

When we were starting out, we focused on building awareness around the day. Each year we’ve shifted more of those resources away from awareness and education in the weeks leading up to the big day to spending more money on the day itself, so we can let people know that Purdue Day of Giving is here.

Thank you so much for joining us in the podcast today. You’re given us a lot of really great information that our listeners I’m sure will be really excited to hear.

I would also say that all the planning and preparation that goes into Purdue Day of Giving wouldn’t mean a thing if it weren’t for all the wonderful donors who make it possible and set records every year. So we just want to say a big thank you to all of them, and we’re ever grateful to everyone who’s participated.

Well thanks again for joining us today, it was great to have you both on.

Listen to the Full Episode

Killer demand gen strategy, Part 2: Google Display Network targeting

This is Part 2 of my blog series on crafting and executing killer demand gen strategies.

In Part 1, I discussed building out various personas to target, as well as how to craft the right creative. Now let’s chat through how to actually target these personas!

Both Google Display Network and Facebook have great audience targeting capabilities that allow you to get in front of your target audiences and the personas you have built out. Full disclosure: I was planning to wrap the GDN and Facebook together for this post, but both have so many features that they warrant their own edition.

So let’s dive into how to target your personas and audiences on the GDN, and save Facebook for Part 3.

Keyword contextual targeting (KCT)

Keyword contextual targeting is where you bid on keywords and Google will match you to pages relevant to your terms. You’ll notice two options when it comes to KCT:

  1. Content – shows ads on relevant webpages, etc.
  2. Audience – with this option, the ad will show on relevant pages and to people who might be interested in these keywords (so basically you are giving Google more control to do its thing).

My recommendation is to start off with Content, because you know exactly what you are getting into; don’t give Google control right away and make it hard to understand true performance. Content will have a lot less reach, but you have full visibility into things. As you begin seeing results, you can always adjust accordingly.

My general recommendation is to start off with your top 10-15 performing search terms – and then, of course, layer on demographic age and gender information so you are getting in front of the most relevant eyes.

Additionally, think about the personas you developed. In Part 1, I gave the example of a persona that loved celebrity fashion and gossip; building terms around those interests to get onto those pages is another way to get in front of the right eyes.

Custom Affinity Audiences

With Custom Affinity Audiences, you can input domains and Google will look at the types of users visiting those domains – makeup, demographics, topics of sites they visit, etc. Then Google crafts an audience similar to those users, which you can target.

With Custom Affinity Audiences, I recommend creating different audiences to target based off of:

  1. Competitor domains
  2. Industry-relevant websites
  3. Persona-relevant websites (think of the personas you have created and the types of websites they would visit)

In-Market Audiences

With In-Market Audiences, Google identifies people who are actively shopping for certain products and services. This is pretty clear-cut – choose In-Market Audiences relevant to your business.

Don’t forget to leverage the audience insights that Google gave you when developing your personas; those typically showcase other products/services that your core audience is typically in market for!

Refine your targeting to get closer to your target personas

For both KCT and In-Market Audiences, I recommend that you further refine your targeting by applying demographic layering onto those campaigns to get closer to your target personas. (With Custom Affinity Audiences, Google already incorporates demographic information from the data they pull as they analyze the audiences visiting the sites you enter.)

The above strategies are well worth testing out as you look to get in front of the right eyes and scale your business.

In part 3, we’ll dive into Facebook and how to best leverage its advanced targeting capabilities to get in front of your personas and target market!

Related reading

Pinterest Ads

How to use your data to supercharge paid search

In today’s marketing climate, data is key. Indeed, more data is generated in a 24-hour period than ever before, with 2.5 quintillion bytes of data being created daily across the globe (IBM, 2017).

The challenge lies in being able to harness this data to optimize marketing activities. After all, without an understanding of what your customers are doing, it is almost impossible to increase conversions and ROI.

One of the key channels for marketers is paid search. Indeed, this is rapidly becoming the most powerful digital marketing channel, with over 2.3 million searches occurring per day. With all these interactions, marketers are paying a premium to get their brand, reflected in the fact that pay-per-click advertising costs are sky rocketing.

Marketers can gain visibility on their paid search activities, and overcome the rising cost of customer acquisition and retention in this channel, by taking control of their customer data.

In my previous article on how to stop Google AdWords campaigns from failing, I looked at how businesses can use a Customer Data Platform to gain a holistic overview of customer conversion, and properly attribute the role of each keyword in the conversion path.

In this article, I’ll expand on how data-driven attribution and the use of a Customer Data Platform can supercharge your paid search activities.

Content produced in partnership with Fospha.

Step 1: Integrate

The key challenge of the rise in multi-channel and multi-device customer journeys is the fact that businesses store this multitude of data in disparate silos, as illustrated in Figure 1.

The result? No unified view of the customer journey, and no understanding of how they are interacting with various marketing channels and campaigns. Businesses must therefore look to integrate their various data sources, using a Customer Data Platform, to provide this granular single customer view.

As well as integrating customer data, a Customer Data Platform will stitch data together, and link typically anonymised data with known identifiers. In doing so, multiple visits – across numerous sessions, channels and devices – are linked to one individual, so marketers can begin to understand who specific customers are, where they came from, what they viewed, and how they interacted with marketing channels on their path to purchase.

Once this view is in place, marketers are better equipped to understand the role of specific marketing channels – in this instance, paid search activities – in relation to customer conversions, as they have a full view of where customers interacted with their business before purchase.

Step 2: Attribute

Once your customer data is integrated and providing a clearer picture of what your customers are doing, marketers must then look to accurately attribute the role of their paid search channels in customer conversions.

For this, a data-driven attribution model – defined as ‘accurately assigning value to each digital channel marketing touchpoint across the complete user journey’ – is key. This model uses advanced algorithmic modelling to help marketers understand the real value and cost associated with each of their marketing touchpoints.

With these insights, you can identify where marketing activity in a particular channel plays little to no role in driving conversions. Marketers can then drill down into their paid search channel, to understand which individual keywords are leading to these conversions.

With this in-depth view, and the granular data source from the Customer Data Platform, marketers gain a much more comprehensive understanding of which keywords are a drain on resources, and which are bringing in high ROI. With this knowledge, they can redistribute spend to help accelerate growth without a drop in leads.

Step 3: Operationalize

Once marketers have access to these insights, the final step in supercharging their paid search activities is being able to operationalize at scale and in real-time. A Customer Data Platform can integrate directly with bid management platforms – which are already great at optimizing and automating PPC campaigns – to boost their efforts.

The granular understanding of keyword performance, derived through the Customer Data Platform’s rich data and attribution modelling layer, is pushed directly into a bid management platform, like Kenshoo or Marin, to automatically optimize the algorithms that inform their bidding.

This data-driven approach, executed in an automated and frictionless way, helps marketers optimize their paid search channel at scale.

Once you have taken these steps to optimize your paid search channels, you can use your Customer Data Platform to tackle other priority channels – to reduce costs and boost ROI – simply by integrating that data source into your Customer Data Platform and applying the same data-driven attribution modelling.

Content produced in partnership with Fospha. Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Search Engine Watch.

Related reading

Pinterest Ads

A search marketer’s guide to using paid social media

The battle between those who specialize in certain marketing practices is prevalent throughout the industry. Individuals, departments and indeed agencies are all involved.

After all, they are often competing for the same budget, beating their chests and promoting their own channel as the most valuable. It is understandable. We all need to make a living.

But in reality they should all be working together to deliver economies of scale. Fully integrated campaigns can deliver far better results than the sum of its component parts.

SEO and social media would at first appear to be very different practices, especially when taking into account paid social advertising. However, there are significant SEO benefits to be gained from utilizing social media advertising as both an outreach platform and also as an analytics platform. Let’s jump straight into it.

We are assuming a certain level of knowledge when it comes social media advertising. For those not ‘in the know’, you can be pretty darn specific in regards to your demographics when advertising on major platforms such as Facebook.

Make the most of your content

For years now content has been one of the major focal points of SEO campaigns, giving birth to potentially the most irritating and overused saying in SEO: “Content is King”! Jayson Demers noted back in 2015 that SEO is now synonymous with content marketing and that as a result SEO teams are investing heavily in content creation.

Let’s assume you are doing all the right things. You have a solid grasp of your buyer personas and inbound funnels. You have thoroughly researched content opportunities within your specific market, using this research to help influence your strategy. You’re also ensuring that your on-site optimization for each article is top notch so that you attract that ever growing portion of traffic from long tail keywords.

This is great, genuinely it is. Although are you missing a trick by not integrating additional marketing channels into your content strategy? Email is awesome at disseminating content to both prospective and current clients, but what of social media advertising?

To paint an industry with an awfully large brush, content creation is sometimes too heavily focused on gaining traffic directly from search engines due to the user intent associated with those actively searching, and the fact that often this is what the client is basing payment of their invoice on!

However, taking a quick step back, if this content is aligned to your conversion funnel then surely getting in front of as many eyes as possible (via other channels) should therefore still have a significant benefit. SEO teams can utilize social media advertising platforms to push this content to users that fall within their buyer persona profiles which should ultimately produce conversions (it may require a few more touch points, but you get the point).

Of course the advertising spend would have to be included in your cost per acquisition calculations but hopefully the following points show how you can use social media advertising to make your investment into content pay a higher rate of dividends.

Keep them coming back

Inbound marketing often works best through multiple touch points during the buyer’s journey. If your traffic is converting to customers directly from a single piece of content then that’s awesome, good for you! For the rest of the world that aren’t unicorns we need to keep our readers coming back in order to help them find their way down our own sales funnels.

Re-targeting the traffic to your website via social media with awesome content is one such tactic to keep your traffic returning. Use retargeting tools on social media to maintain your touch points with users, building brand authority and trust.

Some friendly persuasion

Sometimes people just need a little nudge. Ultimately you don’t want people clicking on your retargeting posts, consuming your content and then leaving time and time again. That can be a costly ego boost. Eventually you want them to convert!

Assess how your content strategy aligns with your sales funnel. Do you have set pieces of content that lead on from one another which will help you become more specific with your retargeting? Does this pathway eventually lead to a conversion?

Your conversions may not be in monetary form. They may involve the user providing some additional contact information in order to download a brochure or them signing up to a free trial. Whatever that conversion looks like, don’t be afraid to ask the question. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. When the time is right, your social retargeting campaigns should include conversion related posts that relate to said individual’s status in your sales funnel.

We all love a good link

We covered the benefits that social media provide for a link building campaign in a recent article, so jump over there for a deeper look.

Suffice to say that again, if you are investing heavily in content, then why not use social media to spread the net even wider and potentially earn links? Paul Shapiro had an interesting tactic for Marketing Land of targeting employees at specific publishing companies as a link building tactic!

Gain analytics insights!

When it comes to analytics tools for SEO, data from the website and SEO specific platforms steal the limelight. The likes of Google Analytics, Search Console and those offered by Moz, SEMrush and Majestic may be the first ones off the tongue but we should also be using analytics gained from other channels in our decisions. You guessed it, social media advertising can be particularly useful in this respect.

In fact, you don’t even need to be using social advertising to get these insights but the specific demographic targeting within social advertising should help provide a higher level of actionable data.

Understanding how to drive clicks

In much the same way as Google Adwords, via Facebook Insights or other social media analytics tools, you can view your click-through rate per post. Whilst this is also influenced by other factors such as time of post, engagement or demographic targeting, you can also draw insights into what content is proving most popular with your audience.

  • Is the subject matter performing or does the content strategy need to be revisited?
  • Are titles really attention grabbing or lack the ability to drive enthusiasm?

This type of data can be used to influence your content strategy, even if it is as simple as creating article titles that increase click through rates.

Just starting out?

Some content pieces can be spectacularly well researched and written but receive far less traffic than expected. There are additional factors that will dictate the ability of your website’s content to rank in search engines including the overall authority of your website, the link profile of that article or load speed.

More often than not a lack of traffic will mean that the analytics associated with that content piece becomes less reliable, subsequently preventing you from really fine tuning your content strategy.

Social media advertising can be incredibly valuable in driving ‘pay per play’ traffic to your content and therefore allowing you to capture that all important data. It doesn’t need to be specific to your content either. Conversion rate optimization is an important part of any digital marketing campaign so you can also capitalize on social traffic to help identify opportunities within your website’s user flow.

So there you have it. Yet another reason to make sure that your social media and SEO teams are working together.

Of course, you don’t need to try to implement of the above points at once – in fact we would advise taking them one step at a time. The most important point? Move away from marketing channels operating within their own silo.

Integrate your marketing, share data, use content across multiple channels and collaborate to increase your results across the board!

Related reading

SPI 291: A Blueprint for a Successful Short-Term JV (Joint Venture) Affiliate Campaign

November is Affiliate Month here on SPI. Last week we talked about long-term affiliate relationships, so today we’re going to be talking in depth about how to create a successful blueprint for a short-term JV (joint venture) affiliate promotion. How is a short-term affiliate opportunity different, and how can you plan your campaigns to take advantage of the opportunity in a shorter time span?

Often there are times when you have the opportunity to promote a product that has some scarcity involved. Maybe it has limited access, discounted prices for a short time only—your goal is to crush it and become the top affiliate. Depending on the promotion, these opportunities can be golden, and you don’t want to waste the short time that you have. I’ll be talking about the different kinds of short-term affiliate opportunities available, how to get involved, and how to stand out from the other affiliates who may be promoting the same product. With the step-by-step blueprint I’ll give you, you’ll learn how to outline your short-term campaign, how to draw your audience in, and how to track your progress on the way to success.

Affiliate marketing has totally changed my life. As a result of becoming the top affiliate for a lot of products—including short-term JV promotions—I’ve made connections with A-listers and created important partnerships, all while continuing to serve my audience and provide some awesome products for their online businesses . . . It’s just one big win for everyone involved. This episode is packed full of strategy and information so listen close, maybe get out a notepad (or a note-taking app), and good luck on your affiliate marketing journey!

If you want to go even deeper, check out my brand-new course, 1•2•3 Affiliate Marketing. I’ll be talking more about the course later this month, and you can sign up for the waitlist at 123AffiliateMarketing.com. And if you want to check out a free (yes, free!) affiliate marketing resource in the meantime, Affiliate Marketing the Smart Way will walk you through the more foundational affiliate marketing strategies you should use.

Thanks to our episode sponsor, Ahrefs, we have a contest this week! Register to win a free annual account (a $3,990 package!) by answering the following question in the comment section below: What is one big goal that you have for 2018?

Leave your answer below for a chance to win. To start your free trial today, go to Ahrefs.com. I’ll pick my favorite comment from all entries; contest closes on December 7, 2018 at midnight Pacific. The winner will be notified via email using the email address associated with the comment.

And hey, if you’re not following me on YouTube already, check out YouTube.com/smartpassiveincome. A lot of the game plan for next year is very video-centric. My team and I are devoting a lot of time and energy into YouTube next year (don’t worry, the podcast and blog aren’t going anywhere). I built out a top-of-the-line, 900-square-foot studio space this year, so I’m excited to use it to share some exciting SPI videos with you soon!

Thanks for Listening!

To share your thoughts:

To help out the show:

  • Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.
  • Subscribe on iTunes or download our mobile app.

What factors should you consider before choosing a web crawler tool?

The goal of any business serious about SEO is for prospective customers to find them through search. The reason is simple: these leads are more qualified, and are already looking for what the business has to offer.

But SEO is a many-headed beast. There are just too many rules, guidelines and things to look out for. From off-page elements to on-page elements, covering all aspects of SEO can easily become a Herculean task, especially when dealing with large websites.

That is why a tool that crawls your website on a regular basis and brings back reports on what needs to be fixed is a must-have.

A good web crawler tool helps you understand how efficient your website is from a search engine’s point of view. The crawler basically takes search engine ranking factors and checks your site against the list one by one. By identifying these problems and working on them, you can ultimately improve your website’s search performance.

Before, webmasters had to perform these tasks manually, usually using several tools for different functions. As you might expect, the process was laborious and webmasters would end up with several discrete reports they needed to make sense of. Today, there are all-in-one tools that can perform these functions in a matter of seconds, presenting detailed reports about your website search performance.

These tools come under a variety of names and perform varying functions. That is why you should give some thought to the process of selecting a tool for your business.

What exactly do you need to be looking out for?

First, identify your needs

Start from your own end. In your search for a web crawler tool, are there specific errors on your site that require a fix?

What are these things? Non-indexed pages? Broken links?

Take a look at your website features. The needs of a small website differ significantly from that of a large website such as The Huffington Post or Wikipedia. A small website can get by with a free tool such as Screaming Frog and achieve reasonable results. For a large site, however, free tools won’t cut it.

Most software comes with a free plan for a limited number of features/queries. But prices can quickly hit the roof when the size of the pages to be crawled and the details required increase.

That is why you should factor in your budget, decide on minimum and a maximum number of pages to be crawled, and then choose a tool that provides the best value for your money.

Basic features to look out for

A good web crawler tool must be able to perform the following basic functions:

Detect robot.txt file and sitemap

This is the very least a web crawler should do. Not only should it be able to detect these files, it should also detect non-indexable pages. These pages are not indexed by search engines due to restrictions from your hosting, for example, specific instructions in the robot.txt file.

Uncover broken pages and links

Broken pages and links cause a bad experience for your website users. That is why Google recommends checking your site regularly for broken links.

A good crawler immediately detects the broken links and pages on your website. Some even provide an interface where you can directly update the links right there in the software’s dashboard. You should put all these into consideration before paying for a software.

Identify redirect problems, HTTP, and HTTPS conflicts

Redirects are commonplace on the web. A good crawler should not only detect faulty redirects but should also give you the options to audit them.

With security as a factor in search engine rankings, your website definitely needs to switch to HTTPS. For sites with several pages and posts, making sure that every link directed at your website reflects the new status can be daunting. That is why a good SEO crawler should be able to detect these conflicts and give you easy options for updating them.

Advanced features

While the features mentioned above are the basic features you need to look out for in a good SEO crawler, you should also consider software that comes bundled with the following extra packages:

Ability to detect mobile elements

Mobile friendliness is now compulsory on the web, and although you may have implemented the necessary changes by switching to a responsive theme or implementing AMP, hitches can still occur.

Certain areas or functions on your website may not render well on mobile. An SEO crawler that is able to detect these problem areas is worth considering.

Ability to connect with Google Analytics

Google Analytics has rightfully earned its place as one of the favorite tools of any webmaster. It’s the hub where you monitor just how well your efforts are paying off and what you might need to change.

Therefore, choosing a crawler that integrates with Google Analytics would make your job easier, as you will have visibility over all of your reports in one place.

Options for keyword tracking

Keywords are the soul of SEO. The name of the SEO game, even in 2017, is to identify and rank for the keywords that your customers are searching for.

That is why an SEO tool that allows you to track how you are performing on keywords, or even uncover untapped keywords can be a gold mine. If these are features you’d love to have, then you should go for a tool with keyword tracking options.

User interface

Your aim with an SEO crawler is to your improve your website performance in search. Therefore, an SEO tool should be able to show you, at a glance, what is wrong and what needs to be improved. It shouldn’t complicate your life even further.

When choosing your web crawler, go for one that presents reports in a clean, clear and uncluttered way so that you can cut time spent figuring out what really needs to be done.

Conclusion

A good web crawler will help you to streamline your SEO efforts, ensuring that you get the best value for your money. The best software for your business ultimately depends on your specific needs and the features you require.

On a basic level, an SEO crawler should be able to analyze your site for broken links/pages, faulty redirects, HTTP and HTTPS conflicts, and non-indexable pages.

You may also consider crawlers which can detect faulty mobile elements, integrate with Google Analytics (or other marketing tools) and have options for tracking keywords.

Finally, be sure to choose a crawler with a user-friendly interface so that you can take in at a glance what works, what needs fixing, and what you need to monitor.

Related reading