The E-Commerce Benchmark KPI Study 2017: 15 Essential Takeaways

Posted by Alan_Coleman

Is your website beating, meeting, or behind the industry average?

Wolfgang Digital’s 2017 E-Commerce Benchmark KPI Study is out with an even bigger sample size than ever before. Analyzing 143 million website sessions and $531 million in online revenues, the study gives e-commerce marketers essential insights to help benchmark their business’s online performance and understand which metrics drive e-commerce success.

This study is our gift to the global e-commerce industry. The objective is to reveal the state of play in the industry over the last 12 months and ultimately help digital marketers make better digital marketing decisions by:

  1. Better understanding their website performance through comparing key performance indicators (KPIs) with industry benchmarks.
  2. Gaining insights into which key metrics will ensure e-commerce success

You can digest the full study here.

Skim through the key takeaways below:


1. Google remains people’s window to the web, but its dominance is in decline.

The search giant generates 62% of all traffic and 63% of all revenue. This is down from 69% of traffic and 67% of revenue in last year’s study. In numerical terms, Google is growing — it’s simply that the big G’s share of the pie is in decline.

2. Google’s influence is declining as consumers’ paths to purchase become more diverse, with “dark traffic” on the rise.

This occurs when Google Analytics doesn’t recognize a source by default, like people sharing links on WhatsApp. Dark traffic shows up as direct traffic in Google Analytics. Direct traffic grew from 17% to 18% of traffic.

3. Consumers’ paths to purchase have gotten longer.

It now takes 12% more clicks to generate a million euro online than it did 12 months ago, with 360,000 clicks being the magic million-euro number in 2017.

4. Mobile earns more share, yet desktop still delivers the dollars.

2017 is the first year mobile claimed more sessions (52%) than desktop (36%) and tablet (12%) combined. Desktop generates 61% of all online revenue, with users 164% more likely to convert than those browsing on mobile. Plus, when desktop users convert, they spend an average of 20% more per order than mobile shoppers.

5. The almighty conversion rate: e-commerce sites average 1.6%.

E-commerce websites averaged 1.6% overall. Travel came in at 2.4%. Online-only retailers saw 1.8% conversion rates, while their multichannel counterparts averaged 1.2%

6. Don’t shop if you’re hungry.

Conversion rates for food ordering sites are fifteen times those of typical retail e-commerce!

***Correlation explanation: The most unique and most useful part of our study is our correlation calculation. We analyze which website metrics correlate with e-commerce success. Before I jump into our correlation findings, let me explain how to read them. Zero means no correlation between the two metrics. One means perfect correlation; for example, “every time I sneeze, I close my eyes.” Point five (0.5) means that as one metric increases 100%, the other metric increases 50%. A negative correlation means that as one variable increases, the other decreases.

From our experience compiling these stats over the years, any correlation over .2 is worth noting. North of 0.4 is a very strong correlation. I’ve ranked the following correlations below in order of strength, starting with the strongest.

7. Sticky websites sell more (0.6).

The strongest correlation in the study was between time spent on a website and conversion rate (0.6 correlation). By increasing time on site by 16%, conversion rates ramp up 10%. Pages per session also correlated solidly with revenue growth (0.25).

8. People trust Google (0.48).

According to Forbes, Google is the world’s second most valuable brand. Our figures agree. People who got more than average organic traffic from Google enjoyed a savagely strong conversion rate (0.48). It seems that when Google gives prominent organic coverage to a website, that website enjoys higher trust and, in turn, higher conversion rates from consumers.

9. Tablet shoppers love a bit of luxury (0.4).

Higher-than-average tablet sessions correlated very strongly with high average order values (0.4). However, pricey purchases require more clicks, no matter the device.

10. Loyal online shoppers are invaluable (0.35).

Your best-converting customers are always your returning loyal customers. Typically they show up as direct traffic, high levels of which correlated very strongly with conversion rates (0.35).

11. Speed matters (0.25).

005Onsite Engagement.jpg

Average site speed was 6 seconds. This is far higher than the generally recommended 2 seconds. There was a strong inverse correlation between average page load time and revenue growth (0.25). Reducing the average load time by 1.6 seconds would increase annual revenue growth by 10%.

12. Mobile is a money-making machine (0.25).

009Revenue Growth.jpg

Websites that got more mobile pageviews (0.25) and more tablet pageviews (0.24) grew revenue faster.

13. Email pays dividends (0.24).

002Source-Rev.jpg

Email delivers three times as much revenue as Facebook on a last-click basis. Those who get more traffic from email also enjoy a higher AOV (0.24).

14. Bing CPC represents a quick win (0.22).

Websites with a higher share of Bing CPC traffic tend to see a higher AOV (0.22). This, coupled with lower CPCs, makes Bing an attractive low-volume high-profit proposition. Bing has made the route into Bing Ads much easier, introducing a simple one-click tool which will convert your AdWords campaigns into Bing Ad campaigns.

15. Pinterest can be powerful (0.22).

Websites with more Pinterest traffic enjoyed higher AOVs (0.22). This demonstrates Pinterest’s power as a visual research engine, a place where people research ideas before taking an action — for example, planning a wedding, designing a living room, or purchasing a pair of pumps. The good news for digital marketers is that Pinterest recently launched its self-service ad platform.


Black holes

We used Google Analytics to compile the report. Once installed correctly, Google Analytics is very accurate in the numbers it does reports. However, there are two areas it struggles to report on that digital marketers need to keep in mind:

  1. Offline conversions: For 99% of our data set, there is no offline conversion tracking setup. Google is introducing measures to make it easier to track this. Once marketing directors get visibility on the offline impact of their online spend, we expect more offline budget to migrate online.
  2. Cross-device conversions: It’s currently very difficult to measure cross device conversions. According to Google themselves, 90% of goals occur on more than one device. Yet Google Analytics favors the sturdy desktop, as it generates the most same-device conversions. The major loser here is social, with 9 out of 10 Facebook sessions being mobile sessions. Instagram and Snapchat don’t even have a desktop version of their app!

Google is preparing to launch enhanced reporting in the coming months, which will give greater visibility on cross-device conversions. Hopefully this will give us a clearer picture of social’s role in conversion for our 2018 study.

The full report is available here and I’d love to answer your questions in the comments section below.

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The Beginner’s Guide to Structured Data for SEO: A Two-Part Series

Posted by bridget.randolph

Part 1: An overview of structured data for SEO

SEOs have been talking about structured data for a few years now — ever since Google, Bing, Yahoo! and Yandex got together in 2011 to create a standardized list of attributes and entities which they all agreed to support, and which became known as Schema.org. However, there’s still a lot of confusion around what structured data is, what it’s for, and how and when to implement structured data for SEO purposes. In fact, a survey carried out last year by Bing found that only 17% of marketers are using (or were planning to use) Schema.org structured data markup.

In this two-part series, you’ll learn the basics of structured data: first we’ll talk about what it is, and how it relates to SEO (Part 1), and then I’ll take you through a simple process for identifying structured data opportunities and implementing structured data on your own site (Part 2).

What is “structured data”?

“Structured data” as a general term simply refers to any data which is organized (i.e., given “structure”). For example, if you have a bunch of scattered Post-It notes with phone messages about meetings, dates, times, people, etc, and you organize these into a table with labeled rows and columns for each type of information, you’re structuring the data.

Example of unstructured data

Post-It 1: “John called, confirming 3pm on Wed at Coffee Shop”

Post-It 2: “Don’t forget your 10am meeting at Mary’s Office this Friday”

Example of structured data

Meeting With

Date

Time

Location

John

Wednesday

3pm

Coffee Shop

Mary

Friday

10am

Office


Structured data can be used in many different ways, such as using Open Graph markup to specify a Facebook title and description, or using SQL to query a relational database. In an SEO context, “structured data” usually refers to implementing some type of markup on a webpage, in order to provide additional detail around the page’s content. This markup improves the search engines’ understanding of that content, which can help with relevancy signals and also enables a site to benefit from enhanced results in SERPs (rich snippets, rich cards, carousels, knowledge boxes, etc). Because this type of markup needs to be parsed and understood consistently by search engines as well as by people, there are standardized implementations (known as formats and/or syntaxes) and classifications of concepts, relationships, and terms (known as vocabularies) which should be used.

There are three syntaxes which search engines will typically support (Microdata, JSON-LD, and microformats) and two common vocabularies which can be used with these syntaxes: Schema.org and Microformats.org. If you’re reading up on this topic, you may also see references to RDFa, which is another syntax.

*This all gets pretty confusing, so if you’re feeling less-than-crystal-clear right now, you might want to check out this great glossary cheat sheet from Aaron Bradley.


When we talk about structured data for SEO, we’re usually talking about the particular vocabulary known as “Schema.org.” Schema.org is the most commonly used approach to structured data markup for SEO purposes. It isn’t the only one, though. Some websites use the Microformats.org vocabulary, most often for marking up product reviews (h-review markup) or defining a physical location (h-card markup).

In addition to being able to use different vocabularies to mark up your site, you can also implement this markup in different ways using syntaxes. For Schema.org vocabulary, the best ways to add markup to your site are either through using the Microdata format, or JSON-LD. With Microdata markup, your structured data is integrated within the main HTML of the page, whereas JSON-LD uses a Javascript object to insert all of your markup into the head of the page, which is often a cleaner, simpler implementation from a development perspective.

The Microdata approach was originally the recommended one for SEO purposes, but Google’s JSON-LD support has improved in the past few years and now it is their recommended approach when possible. Note, however, that Bing does not currently support JSON-LD (although hopefully this may be changing soon).

How does structured data support SEO?

Google, Bing, and other search engines encourage webmasters to use structured data, and incentivize that usage by providing benefits to websites with structured data correctly implemented.

Some of these benefits include search result enhancements and content-specific features, such as:

  • Rich search results: Includes styling, images, and other visual enhancements
  • Rich cards: A variation on rich search results, similar to rich snippets and designed for mobile users
  • Enriched search results: Includes interactive or immersive features
  • Knowledge Graph: Information about an entity such as a brand
  • Breadcrumbs: Breadcrumbs in your search result
  • Carousels: A collection of multiple rich results in a carousel style
  • Rich results for AMP: To have your AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) appear in carousels and with rich results, you’ll need to include structured data

These enhanced search results can also improve your click-through rate (CTR) and drive additional traffic, because they are more visually appealing and provide additional information to searchers. And improved CTR can also indirectly improve your rankings, as a user behavior signal.

Implementing structured data on your site is also a way to prepare for the future of search, as Google in particular continues to move in the direction of hyper-personalization and solving problems and answering questions directly. Tom Anthony gave a presentation about this topic not too long ago, titled Five Emerging Trends in Search.

Common uses for structured data

Part 2 of this series will go into more detail around specific structured data opportunities and how to implement them. However, there are certain common uses for structured data which almost any website or brand can benefit from:

Knowledge Graph

If you have a personal or business brand, you can edit the information which appears on the right-hand side of the SERP for branded searches. Google uses structured data to populate the Knowledge Graph box.

Rich snippets and rich cards

The most commonly used markup allows you to provide additional context for:

  • Articles
  • Recipes
  • Products
  • Star Ratings and Product Reviews
  • Videos

Using this markup allows your site to show up in the SERPs as a rich snippet or rich card:

Google’s rich cards examples for “Recipe”

If your site has several items that would fit the query, you can also get a “host carousel” result like this one for “chicken recipes”:

Image source

In addition to these types of content markup, Google is currently experimenting with “action markup,” which enables users to take an action directly from the SERP, such as booking an appointment or watching a movie. If this is relevant to your business, you may want to express interest in participating.

AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages)

If your site uses AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages), you’ll want to make sure you include structured data markup on both the regular and AMP pages. This will allow your AMP pages to appear in rich results, including the Top Stories carousel and host carousels.

Social cards

Although Open Graph, Twitter cards, and other social-specific markup may not have a big impact from a purely SEO perspective, this markup is visible to search engines and Bing specifically notes that their search engine can understand Open Graph page-level annotations (although at the moment they only use this data to provide visual enhancements for a specific handful of publishers).

If you use any social networks for marketing, or simply want your content to look good when it’s shared on social media, make sure you correctly implement social markup and validate using the various platforms’ respective testing tools:

AdWords

You can include structured data in your AdWords ads, using structured snippet extensions. These allow you to add additional information within your ad copy to help people understand more about your products or services and can also improve click-through rate (CTR) on your ads.

Email marketing

If you have Gmail, you may have gotten a confirmation email for a flight and seen the information box at the top showing your flight details, or seen a similar information box for your last Amazon order. This is possible due to structured data markup for emails. Google Inbox and Gmail support both JSON-LD and Microdata markup for emails about various types of orders, invoices and reservations.

3 common myths about structured data & SEO

Myth #1: Implementing structured data means I will definitely get rich snippets.

Although using structured data markup is necessary to be eligible for rich snippets and rich cards, there is no guarantee that simply adding structured data markup to your site will immediately result in rich snippets or cards. Sometimes it may not show up at all, or may appear inconsistently. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve done anything wrong.

Myth #2: Structured data is a ranking signal.

Using structured data correctly can help search engines to better understand what your content is about and may therefore contribute to a stronger relevancy signal. In addition, studies have shown that rich snippets can improve click-through rate (CTR), which can lead to better rankings indirectly. However, the use of structured data markup on its own is not a direct ranking signal.

Myth #3: Google can figure it out without the extra work.

Sometimes it’s tempting to skip extra steps, like implementing structured data, since we know that Google is getting smarter at figuring things out and understanding content without much help. But this is a short-sighted view. Yes, Google and other search engines can understand and figure out some of this stuff on their own, but if you want them to be able to understand a specific thing about your content, you should use the correct markup. Not only will it help in the short term with the things the algorithms aren’t so good at understanding, it also ensures that your site itself is well structured and that your content serves a clear purpose. Also, Google won’t give you certain features without correct implementation, which could be costing you on a large scale over time, especially if you’re in a competitive niche. Apart from anything else, studies have shown that rich snippets can improve CTR by anywhere from 5%–30%.

Additional resources

In Part 2 of this two-part series, we’ll be looking at the practical side of structured data implementation: how to actually identify structured data opportunities for your site, and how to implement and test the markup correctly.

But for now, here are some resources to help you get started:

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you: Have you implemented structured data markup on your site? Share your results in the comments!

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

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State of Enterprise SEO 2017: Overworked SEOs Need Direction

Posted by NorthStarInbound

This survey and its analysis was co-authored with North Star Inbound’s senior creative strategist, Andrea Pretorian.

In the spring of 2017, North Star Inbound partnered up with seoClarity and BuzzStream to survey the state of enterprise SEO. We had a fair share of anecdotal evidence from our clients, but we wanted a more objective measurement of how SEO teams are assembled, what resources are allocated to them, what methods they use, and how they perform.

We hadn’t seen such data collected, particularly for enterprise SEO. We found this surprising given its significance, evident even in the number of “enterprise SEO tools” and solutions being marketed.

What is enterprise SEO?

There is no single fixed-industry definition of “enterprise” beyond “large business.” For the purposes of this survey, we defined enterprise businesses as being comprised of 500 or more employees. “Small enterprise” means 500–1000 employees, while “large enterprise” means over 1000 employees.

Industry discussion often points to the number of pages as being a potential defining factor for enterprise SEO, but even that is not necessarily a reliable measure.

What was our survey methodology?

We developed the widest enterprise SEO survey to date, made up of 29 questions that delved into every aspect of the enterprise SEO practice. From tools and tactics to content development, keyword strategy, and more, we left no stone unturned. We then picked the brains of 240 SEO specialists across the country. You can check out our complete survey, methodology, and results here.

Team size matters — or does it?

Let’s start by looking at enterprise team size and the resources allocated to them. We focused on companies with an in-house SEO team, and broke them down in terms of small (500–1000 employees) and large enterprise (>1000 employees).

We found that 76% of small enterprise companies have in-house SEO teams of 5 people or less, but were surprised that 68% of large enterprise companies also had teams of this size. We expected a more pronounced shift into larger team sizes paralleling the larger size of their parent company; we did not expect to see roughly the same team size across small and large enterprise companies.

Chart_Q4_170522.png

Interestingly, in larger companies we also see less confidence in the team’s experience in SEO. Of the companies with in-house SEO, only 31.67% of large enterprise teams called themselves “leaders” in the SEO space, which was defined in this survey as part of a team engaged broadly and critically within the business. 40% of small enterprise teams called themselves “leaders.” In terms of viewing themselves more positively (leaders, visionaries) or less (SEO pioneers in their company or else new SEO teams), we did not notice a big difference between small or large enterprise in-house SEO teams.

Large enterprise companies should have more resources at their disposal — HR teams to hire the best talent, reliable onboarding practices in place, access to more sophisticated project management tools, and more experience managing teams — which makes these results surprising. Why are large enterprise companies not more confident about their SEO skills and experience?

Before going too far in making assumptions about their increased resources, we made sure to ask our survey-takers about this. Specifically, we asked for how much budget is allocated to SEO activity per month — not including the cost of employees’ salaries, or the overhead costs of keeping the lights on — since this would result in a figure easier to report consistently across all survey takers.

It turns out that 57% of large enterprise companies had over $10K dedicated strictly to SEO activity each month, in contrast to just 24% of small enterprise companies allocating this much budget. 40% of large enterprise had over $20K dedicated to SEO activity each month, suggesting that SEO is a huge priority for them. And yet, as we saw earlier, they are not sold on their team having reached leader status.

Enterprise SEO managers in large companies value being scalable and repeatable

We asked survey takers to rate the success of their current SEO strategy, per the scale mapped below, and here are the results:

Chart_Q8_170522.png

A smaller percentage of large enterprise SEOs had a clearly positive rating of the current success of their SEO strategy than did small enterprise SEOs. We even see more large enterprise SEOs “on the fence” about their strategy’s performance as opposed to small. This suggests that, from the enterprise SEOs we surveyed, the ones who work for smaller companies tend to be slightly more optimistic about their campaigns’ performance than the larger ones.

What’s notable about the responses to this question is that 18.33% of managers at large enterprise companies would rate themselves as successful — calling themselves “scalable and repeatable.” No one at a small enterprise selected this to describe their strategy. We clearly tapped into an important value for these teams, who use it enough to measure their performance that it’s a value they can report on to others as a benchmark of their success.

Anyone seeking to work with large enterprise clients needs to make sure their processes are scalable and repeatable. This also suggests that one way for a growing company to step up its SEO team’s game as it grows is by achieving these results. This would be a good topic for us to address in greater detail in articles, webinars, and other industry communication.

Agencies know best? (Agencies think they know best.)

Regardless of the resources available to them, across the board we see that in-house SEOs do not show as much confidence as agencies. Agencies are far more likely to rate their SEO strategy as successful: 43% of survey takers who worked for agencies rated their strategy as outright successful, as opposed to only 13% of in-house SEOs. That’s huge!

While nobody said their strategy was a total disaster — we clearly keep awesome company — 7% of in-house SEOs expressed frustration with their strategy, as opposed to only 1% of agencies.

Putting our bias as a link building agency aside, we would expect in-house SEO enterprise teams to work like in-house agencies. With the ability to hire top talent and purchase enterprise software solutions to automate and track campaigns, we expect them to have the appropriate tools and resources at their disposal to generate the same results and confidence as any agency.

So why the discrepancy? It’s hard to say for sure. One theory might be that those scalable, repeatable results we found earlier that serve as benchmarks for enterprise are difficult to attain, but the way agencies evolve might serve them better. Agencies tend to develop somewhat organically — expanding their processes over time and focusing on SEO from day one — as opposed to an in-house team in a company, which rarely was there from day one and, more often than not, sprouted up when the company’s growth made it such that marketing became a priority.

One clue for answering this question might come from examining the differences between how agencies and in-house SEO teams responded to the question asking them what they find to be the top two most difficult SEO obstacles they are currently facing.

Agencies have direction, need budget; in-house teams have budget, need direction

If we look at the top three obstacles faced by agencies and in-house teams, both of them place finding SEO talent up there. Both groups also say that demonstrating ROI is an issue, although it’s more of an obstacle for agencies rather than in-house SEO teams.

When we look at the third obstacles, we find the biggest reveal. While agencies find themselves hindered by trying to secure enough budget, in-house SEO teams struggle to develop the right content; this seems in line with the point we made in the previous section comparing agency versus in-house success. Agencies have the processes down, but need to work hard to fit their clients’ budgets. In-house teams have the budget they need, but have trouble lining them up to the exact processes their company needs to grow as desired. The fact that almost half of the in-house SEOs would rank developing the right content as their biggest obstacle — as opposed to just over a quarter of agencies — further supports this, particularly given how important content is to any marketing campaign.

Now, let’s take a step back and dig deeper into that second obstacle we noted: demonstrating ROI.

Everyone seems to be measuring success differently

One question that we asked of survey takers was about the top two technical SEO issues they monitor:

The spread across the different factors were roughly the same across the two different groups. The most notable difference between the two groups was that even more in-house SEO teams looked at page speed, although this was the top factor for both groups. Indexation was the second biggest factor for both groups, followed by duplicate content. There seems to be some general consensus about monitoring technical SEO issues.

But when we asked everyone what their top two factors are when reviewing their rankings, we got these results:

For both agencies and in-house SEO teams, national-level keywords were the top factor, although this was true for almost-three quarters of in-house SEOs and about half of agencies. Interestingly, agencies focused a bit more on geo/local keywords as well as mobile. From when we first opened this data we found this striking, because it suggests a narrative where in-house SEO teams focus on more conservative, “seasoned” methods, while agencies are more likely to stay on the cutting-edge.

Looking at the “Other” responses (free response), we had several write-ins from both subgroups who answered that traffic and leads were important to them. One agency survey-taker brought up a good point: that what they monitor “differs by client.” We would be remiss if we did not mention the importance of vertical-specific and client-specific approaches — even if you are working in-house, and your only client is your company. From this angle, it makes sense that everyone is measuring rankings and SEO differently.

However, we would like to see a bit more clarity within the community on setting these parameters, and we hope that these results will foster that sort of discussion. Please do feel free to reply in the comments:

  • How do you measure ROI on your SEO efforts?
  • How do you show your campaigns’ value?
  • What would you change about how you’re currently measuring the success of your efforts?

So what’s next?

We’d love to hear about your experiences, in-house or agency, and how you’ve been able to demonstrate ROI on your campaigns.

We’re going to repeat this survey again next year, so stay tuned. We hope to survey a larger audience so that we can break down the groups we examine further and analyze response trends among the resulting subgroups. We wanted to do this here in this round of analysis, but were hesitant because of how small the resulting sample size would be.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

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How to Diagnose Pages that Rank in One Geography But Not Another – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Are you ranking pretty well in one locale, only to find out your rankings tank in another? It’s not uncommon, even for sites without an intent to capture local queries. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand shows you how to diagnose the issue with a few clever SEO tricks, then identify the right strategy to get back on top.

https://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/j1wdwrgcr4?seo=false&videoFoam=true

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Diagnose Why Pages ranks for One Geography But Not Another

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to this edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about rankings that differ from geography to geography. Many of you might see that you are ranking particularly well in one city, but when you perform that search in another city or in another country perhaps, that still speaks the same language and has very similar traits, that maybe you’re not performing well.

Maybe you do well in Canada, but you don’t do well in the United States. Maybe you do well in Portland, Oregon, but you do poorly in San Diego, California. Sometimes you might be thinking to yourself, “Well, wait, this search is not particularly local, or at least I didn’t think of it as being particularly local. Why am I ranking in one and not the other?” So here’s a process that you can use to diagnose.

Confirm the rankings you see are accurate:

The first thing we need to do is confirm that the rankings you see or that you’ve heard about are accurate. This is actually much more difficult than it used to be. It used to be you could scroll to the bottom of Google and change your location to whatever you wanted. Now Google will geolocate you by your IP address or by a precise location on your mobile device, and unfortunately you can’t just specify one particular location or another — unless you know some of these SEO hacks.

A. Google’s AdPreview Tool – Google has an ad preview tool, where you can specify and set a particular location. That’s at AdWords.Google.com slash a bunch of junk slash ad preview. We’ll make sure that the link is down in the notes below.

B. The ampersand-near-equals parameter (&near=) – Now, some SEOs have said that this is not perfect, and I agree it is imperfect, but it is pretty close. We’ve done some comparisons here at Moz. I’ve done them while I’m traveling. It’s not bad. Occasionally, you’ll see one or two things that are not the same. The advertisements are frequently not the same. In fact, they don’t seem to work well. But the organic results look pretty darn close. The maps results look pretty darn close. So I think it’s a reasonable tool that you can use.

That is by basically changing the Google search query — so this is the URL in the search query — from Google.com/search?q= and then you might have ice+cream or WordPress+web+design, and then you use this, &near= and the city and state here in the United States or city and province in Canada or city and region in another country. In this case, I’m going with Portland+OR. This will change my results. You can give this a try yourself. You can see that you will see the ice cream places that are in Portland, Oregon, when you perform this search query.

For countries, you can use another one. You can either go directly to the country code Google, so for the UK Google.co.uk, or for New Zealand Google.co.nz, or for Canada Google.ca. Then you can type that in.You can also use this parameter &GL= instead of &near. This is global location equals the country code, and then you could put in CA for Canada or UK for the UK or NZ for New Zealand.

C. The Mozbar’s search profiles – You can also do this with the MozBar. The MozBar kind of hacks the near parameter for you, and you can just specify a location and create a search profile. Do that right inside the MozBar. That’s one of the very nice things about using it.

D. Rank tracking with a platform that supports location-specific rankings – Some of them don’t, some of them do. Moz does right now. I believe Searchmetrics does if you use the enterprise. Oh, I’m trying to remember if Rob Bucci said STAT does. Well, Rob will answer in the comments, and he’ll tell us whether STAT does. I think that they do.

Look at who IS ranking and what features they may have:

So next, once you’ve figured out whether this ranking anomaly that you perceive is real or not, you can step two look at who is ranking in the one where you’re not and figure out what factors they might have going for them.

  • Have they gotten a lot of local links, location-specific links from these websites that are in that specific geography or serve that geography, local chambers of commerce, local directories, those kinds of things?
  • Do they have a more hyper-local service area? On a map, if this is the city, do they serve that specific region? You serve a broad set of locations all over the place, and maybe you don’t have a geo-specific region that you’re serving.
  • Do they have localized listings, listings in places like where Moz Local or a competitor like Yext or Whitespark might push all their data to? Those could be things like Google Maps and Bing Maps, directories, local data aggregators, Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc., etc.
  • Do they have rankings in Google Maps? If you go and look and you see that this website is ranking particularly well in Google Maps for that particular region and you are not, that might be another signal that hyper-local intent and hyper-local ranking signals, ranking algorithm is in play there.
  • Are they running local AdWords ads? I know this might seem like, “Wait a minute. Rand, I thought ads were not directly connected to organic search results.” They’re not, but it tends to be the case that if you bid on AdWords, you tend to increase your organic click-through rate as well, because people see your ad up at the top, and then they see you again a second time, and so they’re a little more biased to click. Therefore, buying local ads can sometimes increase organic click-through rate as well. It can also brand people with your particular business. So that is one thing that might make a difference here.

Consider location-based searcher behaviors:

Now we’re not considering who is ranking, but we’re considering who is doing the searching, these location-based searchers and what their behavior is like.

  • Are they less likely to search for your brand because you’re not as well known in that region?
  • Are they less likely to click your site in the SERPs because you’re not as well known?
  • Is their intent somehow different because of their geography? Maybe there’s a language issue or a regionalism of some kind. This could be a local language thing even here in the United States, where parts of the country say “soda” and parts of the country say “pop.” Maybe those mean two different things, and “pop” means, “Oh, it’s a popcorn store in Seattle,” because there’s the Pop brand, but in the Midwest, “pop” clearly refers to types of soda beverages.
  • Are they more or less sensitive to a co-located solution? So it could be that in many geographies, a lot of your market doesn’t care about whether the solution that they’re getting is from their local region, and in others it does. A classic one on a country level is France, whose searchers tend to care tremendously more that they are getting .fr results and that the location of the business they are clicking on is in France versus other folks in Europe who might click a .com or a .co.uk with no problem.

Divide into three buckets:

You’re going to divide the search queries that you care about that have these challenges into three different types of buckets:

Bucket one: Hyper-geo-sensitive

This would be sort of the classic geo-specific search, where you see maps results right up at the top. The SERPs change completely from geo to geo. So if you perform the search in Portland and then you perform it in San Diego, you see very, very different results. Seven to nine of the top ten at least are changing up, and it’s the case that almost no non-local listings are showing in the top five results. When you see these, this is probably non-targetable without a physical location in that geography. So if you don’t have a physical location, you’re kind of out of business until you get there. If you do, then you can work on the local ranking signals that might be holding you back.

Bucket two: Semi-geo-sensitive

I’ve actually illustrated this one over here, because this can be a little bit challenging to describe. But basically, you’re getting a mix of geo-specific and global results. So, for example, I use the &near=Portland, Oregon, because I’m in Seattle and I want to see Portland’s results for WordPress web design.

WordPress web design, when I do the search all over the United States, the first one or two results are pretty much always the same. They’re always this Web Savvy Marketing link and this Creative Bloq, and they’re very broad. They are not specifically about a local provider of WordPress web design.

But then you get to number three and four and five, and the results change to be local-specific businesses. So in Portland, it’s these Mozak Design guys. Mozak, no relation to Moz, to my knowledge anyway. In San Diego, it’s Kristin Falkner, who’s ranking number three, and then other local San Diego WordPress web design businesses at four and five. So it’s kind of this mix of geo and non-geo. You can generally tell this by looking and changing your geography in this fashion seeing those different things.

Some of the top search results usually will be like this, and they’ll stay consistent from geography to geography. In these cases, what you want to do is work on boosting those local-specific signals. So if you are ranking number five or six and you want to be number three, go for that, or you can try and be in the global results, in which case you’re trying to boost the classic ranking signals, not the local ones so you can get up there.

Bucket three: Non-geo-sensitive

Those would be, “I do this search, and I don’t see any local-specific results.” It’s just a bunch of nationwide or worldwide brands. There are no maps, usually only one, maybe two geo-specific results in the top 10, and they tend to be further down, and the SERPs barely change from geo to geo. They’re pretty much the same throughout the country.

So once you put these into these three buckets, then you know which thing to do. Here, it’s pursue classic signals. You probably don’t need much of a local boost.

Here, you have the option of going one way or the other, boosting local signals to get into these rankings or boosting the classic signals to get into those global ones.

Here you’re going to need the physical business.

All right, everyone. I hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday, and we’ll see you again next week. Take care.

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What’s Your AMP Traffic Really Doing? Set Up Reporting in 10 Minutes

Posted by Jeremy_Gottlieb

The other day, my colleague Tom Capper wrote a post about getting more traffic when you can’t rank any higher. I was really pleased that he wrote it, because it tackles a challenge I think about all the time. As SEOs, our hands are tied: we’re often not able to make product-level decisions that could create new markets, and we’re not Google’s algorithms — we can’t force a particular page to rank higher. What’s an SEO to do?

What if we shifted focus from transactional queries (for e-commerce, B2C, or B2B sites) and focused on the informational type of queries that are one, two, three, and possibly four or more interactions away from actually yielding a conversion? These types of queries are often quite conversational (i.e. “what are the best bodyweight workouts?”) and very well could lead to conversions down the road if you’re try to sell something (like fitness-related products or supplements).

If we shift our focus to queries like the question I just posed, could we potentially enter more niches for search and open up more traffic? I’d hypothesize yes — and for some, driving this additional traffic is all one needs; whatever happens with that traffic is irrelevant. Personally, I’d rather drive qualified, relevant traffic to a client and then figure out how we can monetize that traffic down the road.

To accomplish this, over the past year I’ve been thinking a lot about Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).


What are Accelerated Mobile Pages?

According to Google,

“The AMP Project is an open-source initiative aiming to make the web better for all. The project enables the creation of websites and ads that are consistently fast, beautiful, and high-performing across devices and distribution platforms.”

What this really means is that Google wants to make the web faster, and probably doesn’t trust the majority of sites to adequately speed up their pages or do so on a reasonable timeframe. Thus, AMP were created to allow for pages to load extremely fast (by cutting out the fat from your original source code) and provide an awesome user experience. Users can follow some basic instructions, use WordPress or other plugins, and in practically no time have mobile variants of their web content that loads super fast.

Why use AMP?

While AMP is not yet (or possibly ever going to be) a ranking factor, the fact that it loads fast certainly helps in the eyes of almighty Google and can contribute to higher rankings and clicks.

Let’s take a look at the query “Raekwon McMillan,” the Miami Dolphins second-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft out of Ohio State University:

Screenshot of mobile SERP for query "Raekwon McMillan"

Notice how of these cards on mobile, two contain a little lightning bolt and the word “AMP?” The prevalence of AMP results in the SERPs is becoming more and more common. It’s reasonable to think that while the majority of people who use Google are not currently familiar with AMP, over time and through experience, they will realize that AMP pages with that little icon load much faster than regular web pages and will gravitate towards AMP pages through a type of subconscious Pavlovian training.

Should I use AMP?

There are rarely any absolutes in this world, and this is no exception. Only you will know, based upon your particular needs at this time. AMP is typically used by news publishers like the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox News, and many others, but it’s important to note that it’s not limited to this type of entity. While there is an AMP news carousel that frequently appears on mobile and is almost exclusively the domain of large publishing sites, AMP results are increasingly appearing in the regular results, like with the Raekwon McMillan example.

I’m a fan of leveraging blog content on AMP to generate as many eyeballs as possible on our pages, but I’m still a bit leery about putting product pages on AMP (though this is now possible). My end goal is to drive traffic and brand familiarity through the blog content and then ultimately drive more sales as people are either retargeted to via paid or come back from other sources, direct, organic or otherwise to actually complete the purchase. If your blog has strong, authoritative content, deploying AMP could potentially be a great way to generate more visibility and clicks for your site.

I must point out, however, that AMP doesn’t come without potential drawbacks. There are strict guidelines around what you can and can’t do with it, such as not having email popups, possible reduction in ad revenue, analytics complications, and requiring maintenance of a new set of pages. If you do decide that the potential gain in organic traffic is worth the tradeoffs, we can get into how to best measure the success of AMP for your site.


Now you have AMP traffic — so what?

If your goal is to drive more organic traffic, you need to be prepared for the questions that will come if that traffic does not yield revenue in Google Analytics. First, we need to keep in mind that GA’s default attribution is via last direct click, but the model can be altered to report different numbers. This means that if you have a visitor who searches something organically, enters via the blog, and doesn’t purchase anything, yet 3 days later comes back via direct and purchases a product, the default conversion reporting in GA would assign no credit to the organic visit, giving all of the conversion credit to the direct visit.

But this is misleading. Would that conversion have happened if not for the first visit from organic search? Probably not.

By going into the Conversions section of GA and clicking on Attribution > Model Comparison Tool, you’ll be able to see a side-by-side comparison of different conversion models, such as:

  • First touch (all credit goes to first point-of-entry to site)
  • Last touch (all credit goes to the point-of-entry of session where conversion took place)
  • Position-based (credit is primarily shared between the first and last points-of-entry, with less credit being shared amongst the intermediary steps)

There are also a few others, but I find them to be less interesting. For more information, read here. You can also click on Multi-Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions to see the number of conversions by channel which were used along the way to a conversion, but was not the channel of conversion.

AMP tracking complications

Somewhat surprisingly, tracking from AMP is not as easy or as logical as one might expect. To begin with, AMP uses a separate Analytics snippet than your standard GA tracking code, so if you already have GA installed on your site and you decide to roll out AMP, you will need to set up the specific AMP analytics. (For more information on AMP analytics, please read Accelerated Mobile Pages Via Google Tag Manager and Adding Analytics to Your AMP Pages).

In a nutshell, the client ID (which tracks a specific user’s engagement with a site over time in GA) is not shared by default between AMP analytics and the regular tracking code, though there are some hack-y ways to get around this (WARNING: this gets very technically in-depth). I think there are two very important questions when it comes to AMP measurement:

  1. How much revenue are these pages responsible for?
  2. How much engagement are we driving from AMP pages?

In the Google Analytics AMP analytics property, it’s simple to see how many sessions there are and what the bounce and exit rates are. From my own experience, bounce and exit rates are usually pretty high (depending on UX), but the number of sessions increases overall. So, if we’re driving more and more users, how can we track and improve engagement beyond the standard bounce and exit rates? Where do we look?

How to measure real value from AMP in Google Analytics

Acquisition > Referrals

I propose looking into our standard GA property and navigating to our referring sources within Acquisition, where we’ll select the AMP source, highlighted below.

Once we click there, we’ll see the full referring URLs, the number of sessions each URL drove to the non-AMP version of the site, the number of transactions associated with each URL, the amount of revenue associated per URL, and more.

Important note here: These sessions are not the total number of sessions on each AMP page; rather, these are the number of sessions that originated on an AMP URL and were referred to the non-AMP property.

Why is this particular report interesting?

  1. It allows us to see which specific AMP URLs are referring the most traffic to the non-AMP version of the site
  2. It allows us to see how many transactions and how much revenue comes from a session initiated by a specific AMP URL
    1. From here, we can analyze why certain pages refer more traffic or end up with more conversions, then apply any findings to other AMP URLs

Why is this particular report incomplete?

  • It only shows us conversions and revenue that happened during one session (last-touch attribution)
    • It is very likely that most of your blog traffic will be higher-funnel and informational, not transactional, so conversions are more likely to happen at later touch points than the first one

Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions

If we really want to have the best understanding of how much revenue and conversions happen from visits to AMP URLs, we need to analyze the assisted conversions report. While you can certainly find value from analyzing the model comparison tool (also found within the conversions tab of GA), if we want to answer the question, “How many conversions and how much revenue are we driving from AMP URLs?”, it’s best answered in the Assisted Conversions section.

One of the first things that we’ll need to do is create a custom channel grouping within the Assisted Conversions section of Conversions.

In here, we need to:

  1. Click “Channel Groupings,” select “Create a custom channel grouping”
  2. Name the channel “AMP”
  3. Set a rule as a source containing your other AMP property (type in “amp” into the form and it will begin to auto-populate; just select the one you need)
  4. Click “Save”

Why is this particular report interesting?

  1. We’re able to see how many assisted as well as last click/direct conversions there were by channel
  2. We’re able to change the look-back window on a conversion to anywhere from 1–90 days to see how it affects the sales cycle

Why is this particular report incomplete?

  • We’re unable to see which particular pages are most responsible for driving traffic, revenue, and conversions

Conclusion

As both of these reports are incomplete on their own, I recommend any digital marketer who is measuring the effect of AMP URLs to use the two reports in conjunction for their own reporting. Doing so will provide the value of:

  1. Informing us which AMP URLs refer the most traffic to our non-AMP pages, providing us a jumping-off point for analysis of what type of content and CTAs are most effective for moving visitors from AMP deeper into the site
  2. Informing us how many conversions happen with different attribution models

It’s possible that a quick glance at your reports will show very low conversion numbers, especially when compared with other channels. That does not necessarily mean AMP should be abandoned; rather, those pages should receive further investment and optimization to drive deeper engagement in the same session and retargeting for future engagement. Google actually does allow you to set up your AMP pages to retarget with Google products so users can see products related to the content they visited.

You can also add in email capture forms to your AMP URLs to re-engage with people at a later time, which is useful because AMP does not currently allow for interstitials or popups to capture a user’s information.

What do you do next with the information collected?

  1. Identify why certain pages refer more traffic than others to non-AMP URLs. Is there a common factor amongst pages that refer more traffic and others that don’t?
  2. Identify why certain pages are responsible for more revenue than other pages. Do all of your AMP pages contain buttons or designated CTAs?
  3. Can you possibly capture more emails? What would need to be done?

Ultimately, this reporting is just the first step in benchmarking your data. From here you can pull insights, make recommendations, and monitor how your KPIs progress. Many people have been concerned or confused as to whether AMP is valuable or the right thing for them. It may or may not be, but if you’re not measuring it effectively, there’s no way to really know. There’s a strong likelihood that AMP will only increase in prominence over the coming months, so if you’re not sure how to attribute that traffic and revenue, perhaps this can help get you set up for continued success.

Did I miss anything? How do you measure the success (or failure) of your AMP URLs? Did I miss any KPIs that could be potentially more useful for your organization? Please let me know in the comments below.

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Building a Community of Advocates Through Smart Content

Posted by Michelle_LeBlanc

From gentle criticism to full-on trolls, every brand social media page or community sometimes faces pushback. Maybe you’ve seen it happen. Perhaps you’ve even laughed along as a corporation makes a condescending misstep or a local business publishes a glaring typo. It’s the type of thing that keeps social media and community managers up at night. Will I be by my phone to respond if someone needs customer service help? Will I know what to write if our brand comes under fire? Do we have a plan for dealing with this?

Advocates are a brand’s best friend

In my years of experience developing communities and creating social media content, I’ve certainly been there. I won’t try to sell you a magic elixir that makes that anxiety go away, but I’ve witnessed a phenomenon that can take the pressure off. Before you can even begin to frame a response as the brand, someone comes out of the woodwork and does it for you. Defending, opening up a conversation, or perhaps deflecting with humor, these individuals bring an authenticity to the response that no brand could hope to capture. They are true advocates, and they are perhaps the most valuable assets a company could have.

But how do you get them?

Having strong brand advocates can help insulate your brand from crisis, lead to referring links and positive media coverage, AND help you create sustainable, authentic content for your brand. In this blog post, I’ll explore a few case studies and strategies for developing these advocates, building user-generated content programs around them, and turning negative community perceptions into open dialogue.

Case study 1: Employee advocates can counter negative perceptions

To start, let’s talk about negative community perceptions. Almost every company deals with this to one degree or another.

In the trucking industry, companies deal with negative perceptions not just of their individual company, but also of the industry as a whole. You may not be aware of this, but our country needs approximately 3.5 million truck drivers to continue shipping daily supplies like food, medicine, deals from Amazon, and everything else you’ve come to expect in your local stores and on your doorstep. The industry regularly struggles to find enough drivers. Older drivers are retiring from the field, while younger individuals may be put off by a job that requires weeks away from home. Drivers that are committed to the industry may change jobs frequently, chasing the next hiring bonus or better pay rate.

How does a company counter these industry-wide challenges and also stand out as an employer from every other firm in the field?

Using video content, Facebook groups, and podcasts to create employee advocates

For one such company, we looked to current employees to become brand advocates in marketing materials and on social media. The HR and internal communications team had identified areas of potential for recruitment — e.g. separating military, women — and we worked with them to identify individuals that represented these niche characteristics, as well as the values that the company wanted to align themselves with: safety, long-term tenure with the company, affinity for the profession, etc. We then looked for opportunities to tell these individuals’ stories in a way that was authentic, reflected current organic social media trends, and provided opportunities for dialogue.

In one instance, we developed a GoPro-shot, vlog-style video program around two female drivers that featured real-life stories and advice from the road. By working behind the scenes with these drivers, we were able to coach them into being role models for our brand advocate program, modeling company values in media/PR coverage and at live company events.

One driver participated in an industry-media live video chat where she took questions from the audience, and later she participated in a Facebook Q&A on behalf of the brand as well. It was our most well-attended and most engaged Q&A to date. Other existing and potential drivers saw these individuals becoming the heroes of the brand’s stories and, feeling welcomed to the dialogue by one of their own, became more engaged with other marketing activities as a result. These activities included:

  • A monthly call-in/podcast show where drivers could ask questions directly of senior management. We found that once a driver had participated in this forum, they were much more likely to stay with the company — with a 90% retention rate!
  • A private Facebook group where very vocal and very socially active employees could have a direct line to the company’s driver advocate to express opinions and ask questions. In addition to giving these individuals a dedicated space to communicate, this often helped us identify trends and issues before they became larger problems.
  • A contest to nominate military veterans within the company to become a brand spokesperson in charge of driving a military-themed honorary truck. By allowing anyone to submit a nomination for a driver, this contest helped us discover and engage members of the audience that were perhaps less likely to put themselves forward out of modesty or lack of esteem for their own accomplishments. We also grew our email list, gained valuable insights about the individuals involved, and were able to better communicate with more of this “lurker” group.

By combining these social media activities with traditional PR pitching around the same themes, we continued to grow brand awareness as a whole and build an array of positive links back to the company.

When it comes to brand advocates, sometimes existing employees simply need to be invited in and engaged in a way that appeals to their own intrinsic motivations — perhaps a sense of belonging or achievement. For many employee-based audiences, social media engagement with company news or industry trends is already happening and simply needs to be harnessed and directed by the brand for better effect.

But what about when it comes to individuals that have no financial motivation to promote a brand? At the other end of the brand advocate spectrum from employees are those who affiliate themselves with a cause. They may donate money or volunteer for a specific organization, but when it comes down to it, they don’t have inherent loyalty to one group and can easily go from engaged to enraged.

Case study 2: UGC can turn volunteers into advocates

One nonprofit client that we have the privilege of working with dealt with this issue on a regular basis. Beyond misunderstandings about their funding sources or operations, they occasionally faced backlash about their core mission on social media. After all, for any nonprofit or cause out there, it’s easy to point to two or ten others that may be seen as “more worthy,” depending on your views. In addition, the nature of their cause tended to attract a lot of attention in the holiday giving period, with times of low engagement through the rest of the year.

Crowdsourcing user-generated content for better engagement

To counter this and better engage the audience year-round, we again looked for opportunities to put individual faces and stories at the forefront of marketing materials.

In this case, we began crowdsourcing user-generated content through monthly contesting programs during the organization’s “off” months. Photos submitted during the contests could be used as individual posts on social media or remixed across videos, blog posts, or as a starting point for further conversation and promotion development with the individuals. As Facebook was the primary promotion point for these contests, they attracted those who were already highly engaged with the organization and its page. During the initial two-month program, the Facebook page gained 16,660 new fans with no associated paid promotion, accounting for 55% of total page Likes in the first half of 2016.

Perhaps even more importantly, the organization was able to save on internal labor in responding to complaints or negative commentary on posts as even more individuals began adding their own positive comments. The organization’s community manager was able to institute a policy of waiting to respond after any negative post, allowing the brand advocates time to chime in with a more authentic, volunteer-driven voice.

By inviting their most passionate supporters more deeply into the fold and giving them the space and trust to communicate, the organization may have lost some measure of control over the details of the message, but they gained support and understanding on a deeper level. These individuals not only influenced others within the social media pages of the organization, but also frequently shared content and tagged friends, acting as influencers and bringing others into the fold.

How you can make it work for your audience

As you can see, regardless of industry, building a brand advocate program often starts with identifying your most passionate supporters and finding a way to appeal to their existing habits, interests, and motivations — then building content programs that put those goals at the forefront. Marketing campaigns featuring paid influencers can be fun and can certainly achieve rapid awareness and reach, but they will never be able to counter the lasting value of an authentic advocate, particularly when it comes to countering criticism or improving the perceived status of your brand or industry.

To get started, you can follow a few quick tips:

  • Understand your existing community.
    • Take a long look at your active social audience and try to understand who those people are: Employees? Customers?
    • Ask yourself what motivates them to participate in dialogue and how can you provide more of that.
  • Work behind the scenes.
    • Send private messages and emails, or pick up the phone and speak with a few audience members.
    • Getting a few one-on-one insights can be incredibly helpful in content planning and inspiring your strategy.
    • By reaching out individually, you really make people feel special. That’s a great step towards earning their advocacy.
  • Think: Where else can I use this?
    • Your advocates and their contributions are valuable. Make sure you take advantage of that value!
    • Reuse content in multiple formats or invite them to participate in new ways.
    • Someone who provides a testimonial might be able to act as a source for your PR team, as well.

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Going Beyond Google: Are Search Engines Ready for JavaScript Crawling & Indexation?

Posted by goralewicz

I recently published the results of my JavaScript SEO experiment where I checked which JavaScript frameworks are properly crawled and indexed by Google. The results were shocking; it turns out Google has a number of problems when crawling and indexing JavaScript-rich websites.

Google managed to index only a few out of multiple JavaScript frameworks tested. And as I proved, indexing content doesn’t always mean crawling JavaScript-generated links.

This got me thinking. If Google is having problems with JavaScript crawling and indexation, how are Google’s smaller competitors dealing with this problem? Is JavaScript going to lead you to full de-indexation in most search engines?

If you decide to deploy a client-rendered website (meaning a browser or Googlebot needs to process the JavaScript before seeing the HTML), you’re not only risking problems with your Google rankings — you may completely kill your chances at ranking in all the other search engines out there.

Google + JavaScript SEO experiment

To see how search engines other than Google deal with JavaScript crawling and indexing, we used our experiment website, http:/jsseo.expert, to check how Googlebot crawls and indexes JavaScript (and JavaScript frameworks’) generated content.

The experiment was quite simple: http://jsseo.expert has subpages with content parsed by different JavaScript frameworks. If you disable JavaScript, the content isn’t visible — i.e. if you go to http://jsseo.expert/angular2/, all the content within the red box is generated by Angular 2. If the content isn’t indexed in Yahoo, for example, we know that Yahoo’s indexer didn’t process the JavaScript.

Here are the results:

As you can see, Google and Ask are the only search engines to properly index JavaScript-generated content. Bing, Yahoo, AOL, DuckDuckGo, and Yandex are completely JavaScript-blind and won’t see your content if it isn’t HTML.

The next step: Can other search engines index JavaScript?

Most SEOs only cover JavaScript crawling and indexing issues when talking about Google. As you can see, the problem is much more complex. When you launch a client-rendered JavaScript-rich website (JavaScript is processed by the browser/crawler to “build” HTML), you can be 100% sure that it’s only going to be indexed and ranked in Google and Ask. Unfortunately, Google and Ask cover only ~64% of the whole search engine market, according to statista.com.

This means that your new, shiny, JavaScript-rich website can cost you ~36% of your website’s visibility on all search engines.

Let’s start with Yahoo, Bing, and AOL, which are responsible for 35% of search queries in the US.

Yahoo, Bing, and AOL

Even though Yahoo and AOL were here long before Google, they’ve obviously fallen behind its powerful algorithm and don’t invest in crawling and indexing as much as Google. One reason is likely the relatively high cost of crawling and indexing the web compared to the popularity of the website.

Google can freely invest millions of dollars in growing their computing power without worrying as much about return on investment, whereas Bing, AOL, and Ask only have a small percentage of the search market.

However, Microsoft-owned Bing isn’t out of the running. Their growth has been quite aggressive over last 8 years:

Unfortunately, we can’t say the same about one of the market pioneers: AOL. Do you remember the days before Google? This video will surely bring back some memories from a simpler time.

If you want to learn more about search engine history, I highly recommend watching Marcus Tandler’s spectacular TEDx talk.

Ask.com

What about Ask.com? How is it possible that Ask, with less than 1% of the market, can invest in crawling and indexing JavaScript? It makes me question if the Ask network is powered by Google’s algorithm and crawlers. It’s even more interesting looking at Ask’s aversion towards Google. There were already some speculations about Ask’s relationship with Google after Google Penguin in 2012, but we can now confirm that Ask’s crawling is using Google’s technology.

DuckDuckGo and Yandex

Both DuckDuckGo and Yandex had no problem indexing all the URLs within http://jsseo.expert, but unfortunately, the only content that was indexed properly was the 100% HTML page (http://jsseo.expert/html/).

Baidu

Despite my best efforts, I didn’t manage to index http://jsseo.expert in Baidu.com. It turns out you need a mainland China phone number to do that. I don’t have any previous experience with Baidu, so any and all help with indexing our experimental website would be appreciated. As soon as I succeed, I will update this article with Baidu.com results.

Going beyond the search engines

What if you don’t really care about search engines other than Google? Even if your target market is heavily dominated by Google, JavaScript crawling and indexing is still in an early stage, as my JavaScript SEO experiment documented.

Additionally, even if crawled and indexed properly, there is proof that JavaScript reliance can affect your rankings. Will Critchlow saw a significant traffic improvement after shifting from JavaScript-driven pages to non-JavaScript reliant.

Is there a JavaScript SEO silver bullet?

There is no search engine that can understand and process JavaScript at the level our modern browsers can. Even so, JavaScript isn’t inherently bad for SEO. JavaScript is awesome, but just like SEO, it requires experience and close attention to best practices.

If you want to enjoy all the perks of JavaScript without worrying about problems like Hulu.com’s JavaScript SEO issues, look into isomorphic JavaScript. It allows you to enjoy dynamic and beautiful websites without worrying about SEO.

If you’ve already developed a client-rendered website and can’t go back to the drawing board, you can always use pre-rendering services or enable server-side rendering. They often aren’t ideal solutions, but can definitely help you solve the JavaScript crawling and indexing problem until you come up with a better solution.

Regardless of the search engine, yet again we come back to testing and experimenting as a core component of technical SEO.

The future of JavaScript SEO

I highly recommend you follow along with how http://jsseo.expert/ is indexed in Google and other search engines. Even if some of the other search engines are a little behind Google, they’ll need to improve how they deal with JavaScript-rich websites to meet the exponentially growing demand for what JavaScript frameworks offer, both to developers and end users.

For now, stick to HTML & CSS on your front-end. 🙂

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from Moz Blog https://moz.com/blog/search-engines-ready-for-javascript-crawling
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from Blogger http://imlocalseo.blogspot.com/2017/08/going-beyond-google-are-search-engines.html
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