Changing the User Agent in Screaming Frog

I was running a crawl for a friend’s site with my favorite SEO tool screaming frog and got the dreaded ‘connection refused’. My first thought was oh no this site is not indexable and the search engines probably dont even know it exists. Which is never a comforting feeling.

Fortunately, I found a work around within screaming frog for crawling websites that may block access to bots other than major search engines. Generally, other sites dont want bots visiting and crawling their websites since it can bloat their analytics. There is nothing worse than opening up your Google analytics account and seeing a spike in traffic for the month just to find out its all bot traffic coming into your website.

The work around is surprisingly simple and a little devious. You want to go into the configuration setting of Screaming frog and click change the user agent. I would recommend changing the user agent to Google bot so you can properly crawl and access the site.


As you can see I can now properly crawl and access the site.

I would also recommend running a simple query if you encounter this issue and see if the site is currently indexed within Google. You can do this by simply doing a query like “Sitedomain.com” remember to leave off the ‘www.’ and ‘https://’.

Unfortunately, when I tried this there were no pages indexed within Google at this time. However, as of writing this I see that two pages have already been indexed upon submitting the sitemap within search console. If this happens you want to submit a sitemap immediately within Search Console and wait for Google bot to come around and index the site properly. If you are worried the robots.txt might be blocking some pages just go to the robots.txt tester within search console.

Input a url you are concerned about and see if your current robots.txt file is blocking anything that would keep Google bot from rendering the page properly. Also be sure to check and make sure there arent any unwanted ‘meta no index’ tags coded within the site to keep search engines from indexing it as well.

Good luck and have fun optimizing your site!

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Pre Launch of my New Website

lineage_dynamic_content

I have decided to build a new website for my project which happens to be a clothing line catering to a specific niche. I noticed there is a need and not many businesses doing a great job in fulfilling the niche. As I get closer to re-launching my website with new products, new features, and better digital marketing I will regularly blog and post updates about my journey.

My first step was identifying a platform to utilize for my store front one that had a significant app marketplace so I could add powerful features to the website that would support my sales efforts and customer retention. I ultimately decided to use Shopify with their beautiful free and responsive website theme’s I figured it was a good choice. The next step was to conduct keyword research to build content around and begin writing content to publish on my site. Next I continued to get all my image files and finalize product mockups and descriptions.

Now I am in the process of publishing the website and running a highly targeted AdWords campaign on a budget to get short term traffic while I continually work on developing my organic traffic initiatives. I have been regularly posting on my social media platforms to drive traffic to my website when it is officially launched.

Moving forward, I will post regular updates about the test I will be running to optimize my store and turn a profit so stay tuned!

5 Free Search Engine Optimization Tools

Free Search Engine Optimization Tools

 

We have all been in a situation where we need a certain tool to get the job done and may not have the resources to purchase paid tools. These are my top 5 favorite SEO tools to get the job done when you are on a budget or you are free-lancing on a budget.

My top favorite tool is SEO Book because it has a few different programs within it that are pretty awesome. I generally use it to do some preliminarily keyword research for content writing.

SEO_book_overview SEO Book’s keyword research tool is a great starting point if you need to do some quick content research for a client and don’t have a paid plan with Moz or another prominent platform. I have had some pretty good results with SEO Book in the past and I highly recommend it. digital_marketing_search

When you are accessing the tool you get a pretty standard search bar you can begin your research. Unfortunately, this tool is not great for discovering long tail keyword opportunities. However, you can export your results and filter through them and gain some insight into your keywords.

Digital_marketing_QuerySEO Book is nice enough to also suggest other related keywords along with search volume and their relative competitiveness. Then you can export your results into excel and proceed to determine if your website is competitive enough to rank or gain any organic traffic from using them.

My next tool I like to use to get some insight into my competition is SEM Rush. While SEM Rush does have a paid version it does have a pretty neat free option. SEM Rush has a pretty generic search bar to research your keywords from SEO Book and gain some industry insight. Or, if you prefer you can spy on your competition fairly easily for free as well. You get an overview of how many backlinks your competition has, how much organic search traffic they have, along with their top organic keywords they are ranking for.

SEM_competitive_research

SEM Rush also gives you insight into their top paid keywords and their referring domains. This will help you compose a more comprehensive SEO and digital marketing strategy.

My next top free tool I like to use is Epicbeat for content research. Epicbeat has another pretty standard search feature that allows you to conduct some research on keywords and phrases. This free tool gives you an overview of which types of content is gaining traction within your niche or industry.

Epic_beat_overview

This free tool lets you know which social platforms are popular for the topic you are researching and even gives examples of types of high-performing content.

The next tool I like to use is Google’s mobile-friendly test tool. With all the Google algorithm updates, there is a preference being placed on mobile-friendly websites. Google has begun using mobile-friendliness as one of its ranking signals so now more than ever it is important to have a mobile-friendly website.

Google_mobile_friendly_testGoogle’s mobile-friendly test tool will analyze and report if the page conforms to Google’s mobile preference. When performing updates and changes to your website it is important to remember to test the impact of the impact on user experience.

Finally the last tool I like to use for SEO purposes is the Moz bar. The Moz bar will give you quick insights into your clients link metrics, meta data along with Moz’s own PageRank and Domain Authority.

moz_bar.png

There are a plethora of Free tools you can take advantage of for SEO and digital marketing purposes. I recommend doing some extensive research prior to purchasing any paid tool to see if there is any free alternative.

 

Why Display Ads Suck and How Marketers Destroy Everything.

Why Marketers Destroy Everything

 

This is probably a little odd considering I am a digital marketer myself but oh well. The problem I have with advertising is display ads and promotional ads that show up within apps, programs or websites. I know people have to eat and pay bills. I’m ok with that, but the problem comes when I am trying to watch Youtube and I am swarmed by a barrage of pop-up ads that are irrelevant and disrupt what I am doing.

Interruption marketing died a long time ago and it is not an effective means of promoting products. Speaking from personal experience online paid ads are generally very poorly targeted. For example, youtube ads are the worse. I would be curious to see the click through rate or ROI on these ads because I know from personal experience I get hit with a lot of irrelevant video ads that usually has nothing to do with my online searches. According to Smart Insights, the average click-through rate for display ads in April 2015 is .06% which is roughly 1 click per 1000 impressions. While this could potentially be attributed to poor copy writing, imagery and poor targeting but this is still a very low Click Through Rate.

I believe moving forward as marketers we need to have better-targeted ads and conduct better research. We need to learn more about our target audience such as their needs, wants and desires. We need research our markets better and understand their needs moving forward rather than running poorly targeted ads and risk tarnishing their brand.

How to Utilize Holidays for your Social Media Campaigns and Inspire Engagement!

How to Inspire Engagement on Social Media During Holiday’s and Special Events

The holidays can be a time to make an emotional connection with your audience and social following and inspire engagement on your platforms. This isn’t just limited to holiday’s though, it is important to stay up to date with current and ongoing trends within your niche or industry to capitalize on them. If there is breaking news in your industry be at the forefront and publicize it or use it for content creation in addition to any scheduled content your business intends to push this week. If there are social justice issues occurring around and it’s appropriate for your industry, use that as well to generate content to inspire greater engagement. Just make sure it is tactful and take into consideration of any backlash that may occur.

To put this tactic into action do  some research into your current followers and see what types of content they share. Spend some time researching their profiles and keep an eye out for trends. That doesn’t mean creep on your audience and stalk them be professional but dig deep. Do some secondary research as well utilize Google and see what sort of issues are currently trending within your niche or industry that your audience may be interested in.

Fortunately, there is an awesome tool for this called Klout. Klout will give you notifications into what is popular and trending within your industry so you can save time searching for content. If that isn’t enough buzz sumo also provides some pretty great insight into trending topics you can reshare as well throughout your social platforms. Let’s not forget another great content tool Google! That’s right Google is great for finding meme’s and hunting down other content to share throughout your niche as well. If you’re particularly handy with the adobe creative suite you can make some pretty neat visual content pieces as well.

So how did this work out in my case? Well, let’s take a look.

Sample PostI was at a bit of an advantage as I am a part of the niche group I am currently targeting. I am a Native American and as such I am aware of social issues surrounding headdresses being worn as a decorative pieces. I knew from current news, events and my own personal dislike for headdresses being used as a decorative piece that this post was highly likely to resonate within my social platforms. Of course performance does depend on the social platform you choose to post on as well. I know from previous experience and research that Tumblr is a hotbed for social issues so beginning on that platform was a no brainer.

Roughly after 30 minutes or so of posting my content piece was picked up and shared a number of times. So let’s take a look at how it performed.

Social Shares

The content piece had been picked up and reblogged an astonished 387 times in the course of under a day. This was impressive considering the small following I had. Before even posting the piece I only had roughly 70 or so followers. This is a good tactic to spread your reach and increase engagement across your platforms when used tactfully. It is important to understand your audience prior to utilizing this tactic and be able to anticipate any potential backlash.

How Killer Customer Service can Improve your Business

Customer Service 

Money

I know there is a lot of talk about the importance of customer service and I think people generally take it for granted. Customer service can make a business, turn shoppers away or turn them into loyal consumers. Think back to when you are walking through Harris Teeter and you can not for the life of you find flour to bake with. So you ask an employee where the hell the baking goods are and guess what? Not only will they tell you where it is with a smile they will walk you down the aisle to where the flour is located and make casual conversation. This is great customer service they stop whatever they are doing at the time and help you find what you need so you can get in and out quickly… fairly quickly. I can not say I get the same level of service at a food lion or a Walmart.

It is this level of customer service that allows businesses to charge a higher price, inspire a greater level of customer loyalty or even win over new customers. For example, I recently purchased a domain from godaddy.com and had no intentions of using them for web hosting. I intended on finding a free web hosting platform to host the website I was in the process of building, However when I called them the customer service rep was very professional and friendly. I had a few technical questions he was able to answer quickly and I felt confident if I had any issues I would be able to quickly resolve them through godaddy. The free webhosting site didn’t have the same level of customer service or a 24/7 help desk. I was not comfortable saving money and getting myself in a bad situation as a result of it.

Another great example of customer service is the vape shop I tend to frequent more often than I would like to. The reason why I go out of my way to give them my money is simply put because of their customer service. I dont feel like I am simply making a purchase I feel like I am visiting friends when I walk in. I usually end up spending 15 to 20 minutes in the shop at a time talking to the owner and other workers. This level of customer service keeps me coming back and has turned me into a loyal customer. The loyalty rewards card doesn’t hurt either.

If you are a small business owner strive to have consistent and solid customer service and treat your shoppers like guest. This will give you a competitive advantage that is not easily replicated. In an increasingly competitive and sometimes automated world that human element can sometimes be all it takes to give you that competitive edge.

How to Identify Duplicate on Page Content

Identifying on Page Duplicate Content and how to Avoid Penalties

Duplicate content can potentially destroy websites and get them thrown into the search engine abyss. Maybe that a bit of an exaggeration but duplicate on page content can pose potential harm and risks to your website and cause penalties. Or a reduction in web traffic and lowered search engine visibility. Which is definitely not good for traffic or revenue.

So I am a big fan of free digital marketing tools and I found myself in a situation where I had to crawl through a client’s website to check for some notoriously duplicate content. In order to illustrate how I go about finding duplicate content first make sure you have the free version of screaming frog downloaded and set up on your computer. Screaming frog can be found @

screaming_frog Here After you have the screaming frog software installed simply copy the url of the website you are trying to crawl and paste it into the bar at the top in within screaming frog. Next, you want to click the meta description tab at the top and hit the duplicate tab.

Dup_meta_descriptionsThis will show you which pages on your website have duplicate meta descriptions to other pages. Sometimes this can be an indication of duplicate on page content other times it is simply an indication of just duplicate meta descriptions. Next, you can manually put the url’s into your preferred search engine and check with ones have duplicate on page content.

The next step I like to do is do a quick check for duplicate title tags on a website as well. Simply click page titles and then pan down the drop down and select duplicate. This will give you a list of duplicate page titles as well.

Dup_page_titles

Again, you can manually check each url in your favorite search engine and see which pages have duplicate content on it. If after you have ran your crawl and identified which pages have duplicate or similar content then you can begin devising a strategy on how to combat this issue.

Moving forward a good strategy may be to combine your duplicate content to form a stronger page that may rank better in search engines. For example, if you have an e-commerce site and have similar products with similar on page content you could 301 to whichever page has a better page rank. Moz has a great tool that you can download for free as an extension and comb through your pages to determine which ones rank better in this instance. Then from there you can devise an appropriate strategy. Or on the other hand if you notice you have similar on page content then you can move forward and further build out the pages to make them different and avoid incurring any penalties.

I hope this helps with identifying on page duplicate content. Please share your duplicate content stories and how you deal with them.

 

17 Items to Look for When Doing an SEO Audit

How to Conduct a Surgical SEO Audit

There are a lot of ways to being an SEO audit recently I worked on a few for some clients I work with. As I reflect over what I learn I want to take the time to share what I have learned. The first thing I like to do before I get into anything else is run a crawl of the website to uncover the more obvious issues. While that is running I like to get a coffee and mentally prepare myself for what is about to begin. Also, while I am drinking my coffee I make sure to have my SEO checklist handy which includes some of the things I look for. I recommend doing this to keep you on task and to make sure you do not overlook or forget anything.

My checklist includes:

H1 Tags | Title Tags – 

Meta Descriptions- While not a ranking factor meta descriptions can help improve click through rates to your website. It is important that your internal pages to your website have appropriate meta descriptions with a call to action to assist with searchers clicking through to visit your site.

Word Count- I know Google and most other search engines do not take a specific word count into consideration but are looking for relevant useful content. There is no specific length that they are looking for. But I recommend researching what your competition is doing and then making judgements accordingly.

URL Structure- Avoid: http://www.mycars.com/exhaust/#parts.sdfgs

Internal Linking Structure– I like to see some internal linking on ideally every page generously spaced out so it does not appear to be spammy in any way. The internal links have to be relevant to the content and useful as well. This helps google crawl through larger website and helps users navigate to various pages and spread page rank more throughout the website.

Sitemap- An example of where a sitemap is usually found (referencing back to my http://www.mycars.com example) http://www.mycars.com/xml.sitemap. Or sometimes you will have to go into Search console or google webmaster tools and see where it is located.

Robots.txt – These can be found if the website your auditing has one at http://www.mycars.com/robots.txt *Example*

Some Sort of Analytics- It is important to make sure your client is tracking their engagement so they can make accurate data based decisions.

Calls to Action (CTA’s) on every page- These can also be micro conversions, but you want your web traffic to interact with your website in some form aside from purchases.

Duplicate Content- A good way to begin checking for this once your crawl is complete and after you had some coffee is to look for duplicate title tags  and meta descriptions. From there check each page with dup title tags and meta descriptions to see if there are duplicate on page content as well.

Webmaster ( Search Console)- When running a crawl I like to check to see if my client has google webmasters installed or I will be left in the dark for some things and not know the overall health of the website.

Mobile Usability- This should be a pretty simple check and there are a few ways to check it. First if you’re like me and do not have a smart phone minimize the web page of the website you are working in and see how the elements interact within the frame. If they distort or if they do not scale down appropriately then it may be time for a redesign.

Site Speed – This can be done from search console or you can do a simple google search for “Free site speed tool” I prefer free tools for obvious reasons.

Backlink Check- This can be done by using majestic seo or ahrefs to check backlinks that are pointing to the website. You will have a problem if there are a lot of spammy or irrelevant links pointing to the website and can lead to being penalized by search engines.

Alt Image Text- 

Local SEO Tactics- If your client has a local business then you want to make sure they have a google my business set up, google + account and a siet up on any other relevant local platform.

Social Media Strategy- Finally I like to look and see if my client has social media profiles set up and icons on their website pointing searchers to their social media platforms.

These are some of the basic items I like to look for when doing a basic SEO audit to get my footing and put together an action plan from there. In my next post I will be doing a deeper dive on a few techniques to identify duplicate content and how to fix it.

Finding Your Brand’s Voice.

All too often I see brands and companies not using their target market’s language when they write copy for their website, post to their social media profiles and structure email marketing campaigns etc. It is pretty easy to fall into the trap of speaking too professional or being dry when writing language or other copy for promotional materials. If you havent already be sure to read my other posts about how to set up a killer social media campaign .

A company recently that has gotten this right as far as their social media campaign is concerned happens to be Ihop they have certainly done their research and know how to speak in a language that engages their target audience. As a result they have generated some buzz.

Ihop brand_voice_2

I think brands can learn a lot from Ihop and other companies doing similar thing in the social media realm. A good way to get started is of course to conduct some research into your audience and what they are doing within their social media profiles and the sort of language they use. This can be as simple as using some sort of free social media monitoring tool to see what users are saying about your brand and looking at the language they use.

For example, if you are a law firm you would use more professional language than a skateboard brand. Essentially it is important to speak to your target audience and engage with them appropriately.

 

4 Social Media Best Practices to Give you an Edge.

Social Media Best Practices

 

Social Media is still a relatively new marketing tool and is often misunderstood and not used properly. Using social media for marketing is still new in the business landscape. Smaller and medium-sized businesses generally do not have the resources to allocate towards social media or cannot justify hiring someone even part time to do it. Even larger organizations do not properly understand how to leverage their social media platforms to yield their full potential and as a result, they come off kind of spammy and alienate their intended audience.

Social Media’s history dates back to 2004 but using social media for marketing was not conceived as a strategy at that time. By 2006, Twitter and Facebook were two new social media sites that became available to users. Eventually, web platforms such as Tumblr, Spotify, Instagram gradually became available to users as well and quickly gained traction.

Generally, small to medium sized businesses have a hard time grasping how to use social media for marketing and tend to stumble along the way. Here are some social media best practices that will give you an edge against your competition.

Hard sales

Social media is not the platform for companies to use hard sales tactics to generate revenue. It seems difficult for businesses to break this habit. We as consumers do not want to be sold to anymore. Social media is a great platform to promote your company and share relevant useful information but not the place for hard sales tactics. Social media for marketing is more useful as building and deepening relationships with that can be leveraged. A best practice for social media is to leverage the technology to nurture relationships and build connections with your audience.

Consolidate  

Another mistake companies make is trying to be on too many social media platforms. It is wonderful to be on a variety of social sites but it would be beneficial to be on a few sites. It is more important to put out strong compelling content rather than trying to be on 5 different platforms and do a mediocre job. Pick one or two platforms in an effort to use social media for marketing rather than trying to be everything to everyone.

Talk less   

It is important for businesses both small and large to realize sometimes it is important to listen more and talk less. One of the main goals of utilizing social media for marketing is to promote a business or service. It is just as important to minimize yourself promotion, at times as well. Just remember the more helpful you are to others the more likely they will be to seek you out for additional information later on. Start asking your customers what they think of your business, why they follow you, what products do they own and you may find out how you can improve your business. A social media best practice is to actively listen to your audience and look for trends among them to leverage for content creation.

You do not need a big budget to appear big  

Sure, companies like Nike, Apple and Coco Cola have a large marketing budget but smaller companies can still leverage social media for marketing to achieve their goals. There is no need to try and keep up with what the big brand are doing. Coupons and giveaways are a great tool to generate engagement and buzz around your brand. Consider developing a promotion and giving away one of your company’s products as a way to drive brand awareness.

In order to do any sort of social media for marketing, there are some important first steps that need to be done for your campaign to be worthwhile.

First, clarify the purpose in starting a social media campaign. It is crucial for an organization or company to understand what they hope to achieve by implementing a social media strategy. I recommend having a brainstorming session with everyone who will be involved. It is also important that everyone is on the same page when the social media campaign does kick off. As a team, it is important to decide whether the campaign will drive brand awareness, generate sales leads or even be used as an inbound marketing strategy.

Next, once everyone who will be involved has decided on the purpose of using social media for marketing the next step is to clarify goals and objectives for the campaign. Like any other marketing strategy, it is important to set clear goals and objectives that can be flexible throughout the campaign. It is important to be flexible and be able to innovate to differentiate yourself from your competition. Some examples of solid goals would be:

  • Drive innovation
  • Create interesting, relevant and shareable content
  • Measure ROI

As a company using social media for marketing, it is important to have achievable, measurable and specific. 

The next step once the goals and objectives of your organization’s social media strategy are addressed it is time to decide which social media platforms to be a part of. Before this step can be done, it is critical to have some sort of understanding of your target audience and what platforms they use if any at all. This could be a great opportunity to utilize your email marketing campaign to ask some questions. Your team can ask what social media platforms your existing customers use. How often they use them and which kind of content they find most engaging. If you ask these important questions, it can save you a lot of headache and time in the beginning. After this step is out of the way as a team pick one or two platforms to utilize at first. If you only have one or two people involved in the social media campaign for your business, it may be necessary to stick to just one channel.

Finally, the last step is to decide on a social media schedule and adhere to it. Mapping out a social media schedule for marketing will allow you to

  • Create consistency with your audience. This is going to allow your audience to know when to expect new content while maximizing your engagement.
  • A social media schedule is also going to allow time to plan for time sensitive content well ahead in the future. This will give you time to develop content for the holidays and other important events.

As an added bonus, there are a variety of free social media tools available to help you scale your efforts. Be sure to do your own research and integrate them into your social media plan.

Keep a balance between promotions and useful engaging content on your social schedule. I hope this is enough to get anyone started on the path to use social media for marketing. In the next post, I will be doing a deeper dive into some of these strategies in my next blog so stay tuned.