duplicate content seo

Duplicate Content and SEO Guide

duplicate content seo

When conducting technical SEO audits, one of the most common errors that I see on sites is duplicate content. It is also one of the most important issues to fix because it can hurt your chances of growing your site organically. 

Luckily, with a basic understanding of what duplicate content is, what it means for your site’s SEO, and how to identify and fix it, dealing with it will seem less daunting. 

Table of contents: 

  • What is duplicate content in SEO? 
  • Why is having duplicate content bad for SEO?
  • How to spot duplicate content
  • Examples 
  • How to fix duplicate content

What is duplicate content in SEO? 

Duplicate content is when you have similar or the same content on different pages of your site. 

The definition of duplicate content might seem self-explanatory. However, in practice, the reason your site is flagged for duplicate content and the solution to fix it varies greatly. Therefore, it can be complex for someone that is not familiar with duplicate content or SEO. 

Why is having duplicate content bad for SEO? 

“Why does it matter if we have duplicate content?” I’ve heard variations of this question from several clients. Duplicate content negatively affects your SEO in four main ways.

  • Site health
  • Organic performance and rankings
  • Crawling and indexing
  • User experience

No matter what is causing the duplicate content issue on your site, the issue itself greatly impacts your health and performance because it confuses search engines. 

When you have similar or duplicate pages, Google doesn’t know which URL or version of a page to index. As a result, you could end up not ranking for anything or not appearing in the search results at all. Not to mention, you could be wasting your crawl budget on duplicate pages. 

Lastly, if you have multiple URLs that have similar or identical content it can also negatively impact your user experience. 

Is there a duplicate content penalty? 

You may hear the term “duplicate content penalty” thrown around. Google does not have an official duplicate content penalty. However, many sites experience ranking and health issues because of duplicate content. 

Site health scores also tend to increase—sometimes by as much as ten points or more—after fixing duplicate content SEO issues. I’ve seen sites that were struggling to rank for keywords or had wild fluctuations begin to steady and rank on the first page of search results. 

Duplicate content happens for a variety of reasons, and it’s not usually as simple as “there’s the same content on different pages”. Most of the time, it requires technical SEO fixes. 

The first step to fixing duplicate content is to identify where it is on your site and why it’s happening. 

How to spot duplicate content 

To identify duplicate content, you can use an SEO auditing tool like Semrush or Ahrefs. These are user-friendly tools that will crawl your entire website and generate a report on the technical SEO issues that it finds. 

Typically, if you have duplicate content SEO issues, a crawl report will look similar to the one below. 

duplicate content SEO audit

Even though it’s called duplicate content, title tags and meta descriptions also fall under that umbrella. For example, if I were fixing the site from the above audit, I wouldn’t consider duplicate content issues resolved until all instances—including title tags and meta descriptions—are gone. 

Auditing tools can help you identify SEO errors, but they have limitations. They may tell you where duplicate content appears but you have to understand how to fix it, which requires technical SEO knowledge. 

In addition, if you are using Shopify, I’ve actually seen Semrush miss duplicate content issues in its audits. So, I advise either consulting a technical SEO agency or running a second crawl with another crawling tool like Screaming Frog, and comparing the results. 

4 common duplicate content examples 

Technical SEO issues vary from site to site. The duplicate content issues may be unique to your site, but they tend to fall into one of these categories. 

1. Ecommerce product pages 

A common example of duplicate content happens with ecommerce product pages, specifically when you have the same product but different sizes or colors. 

Let’s look at an example. If you go to the Allbirds site and click on the popular tree runner shoe, there are lots of color options and different sizes. 

allbirds duplicate content seo example

If you choose the “Sol” edition and a size 9, the URL updates to the below. 

Technically, it could be flagged as duplicate, but it isn’t because they’ve set up a canonical tag. If you look at the image below, you’ll see this line of code below. 

canonical tag example

It’s a canonical tag, and it signals to Google that the “Sol” URL is a variation and identifies the original URL “mens-tree-runners” as the one to index. 

Canonical tags are one way to fix duplicate product pages, but it’s not the only solution.

2. Inconsistent URL structures 

If a site has recently gone through a migration or redesign, it is not uncommon to see inconsistent URL structures, specifically in the domain. However, they shouldn’t be there. The best practice is to keep your URL structures consistent across your site. 

For example, the Tuff website’s homepage (https://tuffgrowth.com/) uses https and a non-www in the URL. Every other page of the site follows the same structure. 

You get the idea. If your site has varying URL structures it will also result in duplicate content issues. Variations that you might come across include: 

  • Http or https (you should always have https for security and SEO)
  • Www or non-www
  • Trailing and non-trailing slashes (slashes at the end of a URL)

Even though it may seem like a slight variation of the URL, Google will view them as two separate pages with the same content. Typically, you’d set up 301 redirects (more on those below) to the URLs with the format that you are using and stay consistent.

3. Duplicate content and global SEO

If your company operates in different countries and you have different sites for each, you’ve likely considered what that means for global SEO. 

Luckily, if one site is in the United States and written American English, and another is in Spain and written in Spanish, the pages aren’t usually flagged for duplicate content. Because it is written in two different languages, Google considers them unique. 

However, this gets trickier as you move between countries that have similar languages with small adjustments. For example, a site with American English and British English. Without diving too deeply into the nuances of global SEO and hreflang tags, you could get around this by creating unique content for each market. 

4. Tracking parameters 

When you use tracking parameters, whether they are URL parameters, session IDs, or tracking IDs, it can create duplicate content issues. These URLs may look like this: 

  • https://example.com/folder/?utm_source 

But, they may also have variations like the examples below. 

Primarily, you’ll want to look for the URLs that have a slash (/) followed by a (?). There are ways to get around URL tracking parameters. To fix duplicate content, however, you could use a no-index tag or directive in your robots.txt file. 

It will be a line of code that follows a similar format to this: 

  • Disallow: */?

This acts as a suggestion to Google, where you are asking it not to crawl the URLs that follow this URL format. For example, if you go to IKEA’s robots.txt file, they have several disallow directives. Some of these are for filters and others are for tracking parameters. 

ikea robots file

This is not a comprehensive list of duplicate content examples. Ultimately, you’ll want to conduct a technical SEO audit of your site or hire a technical SEO agency. If you do an SEO audit of your own, it will identify where the errors appear, but it won’t tell you how to fix them or implement the fixes for you. 

A technical SEO agency can fix most duplicate content issues, depending on the CMS that you use. If you are on a traditional CMS like WordPress, a technical SEO specialist can fix duplicate content issues in a few clicks.

On the other hand, if you are using a custom, headless CMS like Contentful and Sanity, it takes longer. This is because everything is custom-coded, and as a result, it requires development. You may work with your in-house development team to make fixes with SEO guidance or hire a developer that has an SEO background. 

How to fix duplicate content 

The solution to fixing duplicate content will depend on why the issue is happening, but generally, there are three technical adjustments that can fix it. 

1. 301 redirects 

You use 301 redirects to signal to Google that the old URL is no longer in use and specify a new URL that it should point to. Keep in mind that this is a permanent redirect, and you’ll use 301s for more than just fixing duplicate content. If you use a 301 redirect, the old URL should be one that you don’t plan on using again, likely a 404 or broken link. 

How to set up a 301 redirect depends on the CMS. For example, if you use WordPress and Yoast Premium, it’s simple. You go to Yoast SEO > Redirects. Then add the URL slugs—the part that appears after the .com slash—in the old and new URL sections. Otherwise, you might directly edit the .htaccess file, which configures your site. Again, this varies by CMS.

2. Canonical tags (rel=”canonical”)

As a reminder, the canonical tag is used to identify one URL as the original. By using it, you can avoid duplicates that have the same or similar content on different URLs. 

  • <link rel=”canonical” href=”https://example.com/” >

First, you need to identify which URL to mark as the canonical one. Then, you add a canonical tag to the head of your HTML code for each of the duplicates.

3. No indexing

Similar to canonical tags, you can ask search engines not to index pages by adding a noindex tag. It looks like this: 

  • <meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”>

As the name suggests, it tells search engines that they shouldn’t index—crawl and show the page in search results. For example, if you are running paid ads with landing pages that look similar, you might no-index them to avoid duplicate content and other technical SEO issues. 

This list is not comprehensive, but each site is unique. To fix duplicate content issues, you first need to identify and diagnose the problem. Then, look at your site structure and CMS to determine the best course of action. It can get pretty technical depending on the error, so if you’re unsure it’s best to consult a technical SEO specialist or agency.

How to do an eCommerce SEO Audit

How Much Does SEO Cost?

migrate to webflow

Naturally, if you are looking for SEO services, one of the first questions you have is how much does SEO cost? 

Many successful brands from Canva to NerdWallet have leveraged SEO, or more formally search engine optimization, to fuel their growth organically. SEO can be a powerful growth engine. Recent estimates show that over 53% of website traffic comes from organic search. It makes sense considering there are roughly 5 to 8 billion searches made on Google each day. However, SEO is a long-term investment. 

As with any digital marketing strategy, you want to know how much you need to invest in both time and money. SEO pricing can be complicated because there’s no standardized cost. Plus, there are several cost factors from the type of SEO service—technical SEO, YouTube SEO, content strategy—to experience, pricing model, and more. 

If that all sounds confusing, don’t worry. We’ll walk you through how SEO services are priced and how to evaluate if an SEO agency or specialist is worth their salt. 

SEO Pricing Models

The answer to how much does seo cost depends on several factors, including: 

  • Pricing model
  • SEO service
  • Expertise and experience

SEO pricing models fall into one of four buckets—monthly retainer, salary, hourly rate, or per project. 

Monthly Retainer – Agency

Many SEO firms and agencies (Tuff included) operate on monthly retainers. As a client, you get the benefit of having a set monthly budget without any unexpected costs that sometimes arise with independent consultants or hourly freelancers. 

You also get tools and a team of experts that most businesses don’t have access to in-house. 

On the lowest end, the monthly retainer for a local SEO agency falls between $2,500 to $5,000 per month. Now, at this price point, SEO firms are usually working with local, small businesses that have minimal SEO needs. It also tends to focus on content and doesn’t include more technical SEO services. 

Typically, the cost of monthly SEO services for higher-end agencies falls between $10,000 and $25,000. Many of Tuff’s clients fall in this range, and services usually include technical and SEO content strategies. 

However, if your SEO needs require website development, custom designs, and landing pages, it can be more. Another factor that will increase the cost of SEO in your monthly retainer is the size of your business. Enterprises may pay upwards of $50,000 to $100,000 plus every month for extensive services, including global SEO and large word counts (15,000 words per month and up).

Salary – In-House

If you look up the average salary for an SEO specialist, it’s all over the place, and frankly, deceptively low. 

According to Glassdoor, the total estimated annual pay for an SEO specialist is $72,539 per year. However, the limitation that many of these salary calculators have is that they tend to use a general average, without accounting for years of experience, special areas of expertise, or location. Although it might be more realistic for an entry-level position at a lower cost of living, it doesn’t reflect the rest of the market.

As someone with over ten years of experience, I’ve gotten to know many skilled SEO professionals. Most in my network would not take a position at a pay rate below $70,000. In reality, an experienced SEO specialist (with expertise in technical and content SEO) will look for a salary between $85,000 and $120,000. 

Although, if they specialize in technical SEO and also have development or coding experience, expect to pay the rate you would for a developer (and then some).

When you are planning your in-house SEO budget, you’ll also need to factor in the cost of tools and subscriptions your team may need. Google Analytics, Search Console, and so on are free. However, many experts use Semrush, Ahrefs, SurferSEO, Screaming Frog, or a combination and those come with a monthly subscription cost.  

Hourly Rate or Per Project – Freelancer

If you work with an independent or freelance SEO consultant, they typically charge per hour or project. 

Again, the rate depends on your project and their experience. However, most freelancers charge between $100 to $150 per hour. 

If they operate on a per-project basis, it ranges depending on the complexity and timeline. You can expect to pay at least $2,500 to $5,000 per project.

Although it is possible to pay for project-based SEO services, it is not always the best type of arrangement. SEO is ongoing. It’s like growing a garden. For anything to grow, you need to water and tend to it consistently. It’s the same for SEO—you need to consistently publish and refresh content to see meaningful results. 

Per project works for temporary or occasional needs, which may make sense for a site migration or technical SEO audit

Is the cost of SEO worth it? 

Of course, as an SEO expert, I’m biased. However, data analyzing the ROI or return on investment of growth marketing strategies also shows that SEO is worth it. 

Based on Smart Insights research, search engine optimization is second only to email marketing when it comes to ROI. On average, every $1 spent on SEO brings in over $22 in revenue. This varies depending on your industry. 

Like PPC, with SEO, you can attract website visitors, get qualified leads, and increase conversions and sales. Unlike PPC, you aren’t paying anything when someone clicks on your site (outside of your SEO fees). So, you can reap the rewards of your organic efforts for years afterward. It may also take years to build up your traffic (which is why we combine SEO with PPC), but it can pay off in the end.  

SEO is absolutely worth the investment, but unfortunately, not all SEO companies or freelancers are worth the cost. If you are tempted to outsource to a cheap SEO freelancer in another country, you can, but I strongly advise against it. At the least, do a very thorough vetting process. (I’ll offer guidance on how to do that and what to look for further in this blog.)

Hiring an inexperienced SEO freelancer or questionable agency can do more damage than doing nothing at all. I’ve come across several companies that unfortunately had these types of experiences. As a result, they end up paying more to fix the mess the last person made.  

On top of that, Google punishes poor SEO practices, whether it’s low-quality content or technical mistakes. It can take months to years to recover from it. 

What Is the Average Cost of SEO? 

To recap, here are the common SEO pricing models and their costs. Keep in mind that each arrangement has pros and cons, and cost can vary based on the factors we mentioned above. 

  • Agency – monthly retainer of $10,000 – $25,000, more if you require web development
  • In-House – salary of $85,000 to $110,000 per year, more depending on experience
  • Freelancer – $100 to $150 per hour or $2,500 to $5,000 per project

What Services Are Included in SEO Packages? 

You might still be scratching your head when asking—how much does SEO cost? If you aren’t familiar with the services SEO providers offer and what they mean for your business, it’s understandably difficult to understand the costs. 

Below is a cheat sheet on common services to help you decide what you should include in your SEO budget. 

Local SEO 

Most entry-level SEO consultants start out doing local SEO, which means that you optimize your website and business so that it appears in local search results. So, if you want to grab an iced latte before work and search “coffee shop” on your phone, you’ll see a list of results like this one. 

local seo

Most of the time, local SEO involves creating a Google Business Profile, managing your listing, reviews, and other factors that help capture people that are nearby your business location. 

Because of its limited scope, it is one of the lowest cost services at about $300 to $2,000 per month. Most small business owners that are just starting out can save money by doing this on their own with some guidance. 

Also, note that Tuff does not offer local SEO services. 

Global or National SEO 

Now, on the other end of the spectrum is national and global SEO. Although these are technically two different services, they both focus on broad searches. As you may have guessed, national SEO focuses on increasing your search visibility in a specific country. 

Most growing startups and ecommerce companies need national SEO. Although, we don’t tend to call it that—it’s just referred to as SEO. 

If you operate your business in multiple countries (and languages), then you’ll want to consider global search engine optimization, also called international SEO. 

Large enterprises and ecommerce businesses from IKEA to Amazon have multiple variations of their sites for the different countries they operate. Each needs global SEO. The actual services vary, but SEO for international sites most commonly includes how to set up URL structures, handle duplicate content, and translate pages to different languages. 

Because these services are similar, many agencies that offer SEO services (not local), have global SEO capabilities. 

Technical SEO

Technical SEO services tend to be the most expensive, and here’s why—it’s specialized expertise that can require web development.

That said, it has a huge impact on your site performance. Great content means nothing if your site has technical issues. 

Technical SEO services may include: 

  • Tech SEO audit – An expert will identify the specific errors that appear on your site and create a roadmap that details how they will be corrected.
  • On-page optimizations – On-page is everything on your site that impacts your SEO. So, these optimizations update anything that impacts your site’s health and organic performance.
  • Speed and Core Web Vitals – Google uses Core Web Vitals to measure your site’s speed, responsiveness, and user experience. Speed optimizations greatly improve your performance, but making them can take a lot of looking through and updating code.
  • Site migration – If you are redesigning your website or moving it to another domain or content management system (CMS), you’ll need a tech SEO expert. They’ll ensure that everything is moved over properly, so you don’t lose valuable traffic.

This is just a small sample of what technical SEO experts offer. Most start off with an audit to identify what your site needs, and that can cost between $2,000 to $5,000. Then, implementation costs more, depending on your CMS and if you need a developer.

Link Building

There are tons of factors that impact how likely you are to appear at the top of search results. One of those factors is your authority score, also called domain rating. It’s a score between zero to 100, and it signals to Google the level of authority or trustworthiness of your site. 

The higher your authority score, the more Google trusts you. Also, the more likely you will appear at the top of the search results faster. 

Now, one of the only ways to accelerate your rankings and increase your own authority score is to get a lot of backlinks from high-quality sites—aka link building. 

News and media publications like Forbes, Hubspot, TechCrunch, and so on have scores of 70 and up. New sites tend to have low scores until they build up their authority, which usually takes over a year. Spam and toxic sites also have low authority scores, so you want to avoid giving and receiving backlinks from them as it could tank your site’s health. 

The cost of link building ranges, and, this might be controversial, but it’s an SEO service that I recommend doing in-house. If you outsource it to an agency, you really have to trust them and know that they understand your company. 

In the old days of the Internet, some sites would swap backlinks easily or pay for them. Similar to never paying for Instagram followers, you should never pay for a backlink. (Sponsored content does not count.)

Buying backlinks is frowned upon by Google and could get you in hot water, especially if the links are from low-quality sites. 

Most quality link-building opportunities originate from partnerships or relationship building. Or, they happen naturally when you create top-quality, original content like studies, research data, and templates.  

Keyword Research and Content Strategy

Keyword research is the process of identifying the specific words and phrases that your target audience is searching for on search engines. It looks at relevant terms and prioritizes the ones that have a high search volume and low difficulty, meaning that you can realistically rank in the top 10 or above. 

In addition to keyword research, you should also conduct a competitor analysis. Competitor research will reveal which brands are beating you in organic search. It will identify which terms and content are driving traffic to your competitor’s site and what you need to do to outrank them. 

The idea is that if you rank for these keywords, you’ll increase your search visibility and reach customers at multiple stages of their buying journey. Your list of keywords helps you build a content strategy. 

An SEO content strategy is more than just blogs. SEO content may include: 

  • Landing pages (with CRO and SEO copywriting)
  • Pillar pages
  • In-depth, how-to guides
  • Templates
  • Infographics
  • Interactive content like quizzes
  • Video (YouTube)

Some content marketing experts may know how to do keyword research and content strategy. However, it doesn’t mean that they have extensive knowledge of search engine optimization, especially technical SEO. Therefore, standalone keyword research and content strategy tend to be less expensive, but they are just as important.

An experienced SEO agency or consultant should help you understand which services you need and build an SEO package that helps you meet your specific business goals. 

Green Flags – What to Look For in an SEO Company or Expert

Some green flags will signal whether or not a person or agency possesses SEO expertise, and consequently if they’re worth the cost. 

If you’re looking for quality SEO services, they tend to have these habits. 

seo audit tool

1. Goes beyond what you’ll find in a tool 

Tools like Ahrefs and Semrush have made SEO auditing easier. They will crawl your site and generate a list of errors that might look like the one below. 

Now, if you are not familiar with SEO, this probably means nothing to you. Also, these are just tools, and they have limitations. 

For example, they can flag items that aren’t actually high-priority SEO issues. An example of this is hreflang tags—these tell Google what language a page should show, depending on a user’s location. They are super important for global businesses, but if you don’t sell outside of the U.S., it isn’t a priority.

On top of that, how issues are fixed will depend on your unique site infrastructure, tech stack, CMS, and so on. These tools lack those personalized, problem-solving capabilities. 

An expert won’t just regurgitate the report from an auditing tool. You can go to Semrush or Ahrefs, get a monthly subscription, and do that yourself. Like any tool, it takes a skilled person to wield it to its full potential. 

2. Prioritizes low-hanging fruit and identifies opportunities

The value of having an SEO expert is that they provide context, prioritize issues, and educate you on what is most important to fix first. 

For example, I create a technical SEO priority list for every new partner that I work with at Tuff. It includes the top three to five opportunities. These are usually low-hanging fruit—big issues that are easier to fix but will have a significant impact on health and performance. 

In addition, an expert can go in and fix simple issues in a few clicks, when it would take someone else hours to weeks to figure it out. 

3. Explains complex topics in simple terms

In addition to creating a priority list, I also provide context. For each issue, I explain in plain terms that anyone can understand: 

  • What the issue is 
  • Where it appears on the site
  • Why it matters
  • How to fix it 

Most people don’t know what an hreflang tag is or why they shouldn’t have duplicate content on their site. If you are hiring an SEO agency, you don’t necessarily need to know what these things are, but you should understand their impact and feel welcome to ask questions. 

4. Sets realistic expectations that are grounded in data

Let’s say an agency promises to grow your organic traffic and sales by 300% in three months, with only 5,000 words of content. They don’t show their data or projections for how they will do it. In that case, run. They are either lying or do not have experience. Either way, they are selling promises they won’t deliver on. 

SEO takes time, but it does lead to incremental growth. Along with how much does SEO cost, you can absolutely and should ask what expectations or results do you expect? 

Although it’s impossible to predict the future completely, you can estimate with experience and data. At Tuff, I also developed an SEO forecasting template and process that I use with new partners. 

I pull two to three years of historical data and look at past organic traffic numbers to predict your future growth. For example, if you’ve hovered around 10,000 to 12,000 monthly organic traffic, you are not going to suddenly jump to 100,000 in a few months. (At least not in a way that is sustainable for months and months, and even then, you’re likely combining several one-off campaigns outside of SEO.)

5. Shows a deep understanding of your business, goals, and audience

The struggle that sometimes comes with outsourcing SEO to a freelancer or agency, is that don’t always understand the nuances of your business and audience. This really shows when they conduct keyword research. 

For example, let’s say you run an online accounting business, but your target audience is large businesses in two or three industries. Someone that doesn’t understand your business fully may pull keywords like “individual income tax returns”, which isn’t relevant for businesses. 

Instead, an expert will take the time to learn about you and your goals. Before even conducting keyword research, they’ll ask you: 

  • What questions do customers and prospects frequently ask your sales team? 
  • Which services do you do better than any of your competitors? 
  • What pain points does your audience have? 

I encourage you to consider all of these options to find the right fit for your business. Hiring the wrong SEO agency or freelancer can do much more harm than good. 

If someone’s cost seems too good to be true, it probably is—and you can’t afford to get SEO wrong. That doesn’t mean that an SEO agency that charges a large monthly retainer will mean better quality. It just means that it takes careful consideration to understand which are worth the value, and which are not. 

using google search console to measure impressions

Compounding Growth: How We Increased Pathstream’s Non-Branded Organic Clicks 486%

using google search console to measure impressions

As a growth marketing agency, when we work with fast-growing startups like Pathstream, a VC-backed startup that offers certificate programs to help people advance their careers, we often hit the ground running on paid acquisition strategies to hit short-term growth goals. 

But for long-term success, it’s important to invest equally in long-term wins like content. For Pathstream, our team focused on optimizing their existing site and creating new SEO content to improve their position in non-branded search results.

Here’s the story of how we increased non-branded organic traffic to account for ~23% of all organic traffic, up from less than 1%, driving a 486% YTD increase in weekly non-branded organic clicks, and helped to drive down Pathstream’s overall CAC.

short term and long term growth

SEO & Non-Branded Traffic

When we first created the SEO strategy for Pathstream, they had no blog on their website, just a Medium blog, and nearly 99% of all organic traffic was coming from branded search terms. There was so much opportunity to improve their site, and we started with the basics – a technical SEO audit, migrating the blog to their root domain, optimizing existing content, and creating new content based on a strategic list of focus keywords.

organic keyword research

Technical SEO

We started by analyzing and optimizing the technical SEO aspects of Pathstream’s website to make sure we were in a good place before we began with the rest of our strategy. 

Pathstream’s core website pages run on a JavaScript application which was causing issues when crawlers tried to scrape the metadata. The metadata wasn’t loading asynchronously, so when the crawlers attempted to scrape the content, it was all empty. 

Of course this was a problem because Pathstream’s pages weren’t being indexed in SERPs with the correct SEO titles and meta descriptions that were present in the source code. 

We worked with Pathstream’s developers to get the metadata to load asynchronously so that these pages could start ranking in SERPs for their target keywords. This was a fairly quick win with a huge potential impact.

Migration

The next step was to get more value out of the original content that Pathstream was creating on their offsite Medium blog. This meant not just migrating it, but migrating it to Pathstream’s main domain as a subdirectory rather than a subdomain

This involved installing a new WordPress instance on a subdirectory of Pathstream’s domain, migrating the content, and internally linking it throughout the website. 

This was a team project that involved our CRO and UX team creating beautiful mockups for the blog homepage and blog category pages.

Keyword Research

Once we had a solid technical SEO foundation, we narrowed in on our competitive analysis and keyword research

The most crucial part of keyword research is nailing down your 5-10 focus keywords that you’ll build pillar page content for. Once we got those keywords we were able to build out a list of semantically-related secondary and tertiary keywords to build our high-quality content strategy around.

Keyword Mapping and On-Page Optimization

This keyword research equipped us with enough ammo for the next few months of content creation. 

But before we start creating new content, we want to make sure we’re getting the most value out of the existing content. 

We do this through keyword mapping. ScreamingFrog is a great tool for keyword mapping, it extracts the URL, SEO title, and meta description of each page on your website. Your job is determine the target keyword of each page based on that information and then decide if you need a new target keyword or not.

organic keyword mapping

We take a look at all of the existing pages on the website and we map them back to a target keyword. 

This helps us find pages that aren’t optimized for any specific target keyword, pages that are targeting the wrong keywords, pages that should be no-indexed, and more.

We then cross-reference that list of keywords with our keyword research to determine if it’s a keyword that we want to target and what it’s going to take to rank on page one for that keyword. 

Will we have to create additional content and is this the best page that we should be attempting to rank with?

Content Creation

Once our foundational technical SEO and on-page SEO was complete, we launched our content creation machine.

We utilized our optimized landing pages as our pillar pages and created supporting blog content to build out the cluster strategy. This allowed us to build comprehensive content throughout the whole website with landing pages, blog posts, and additional types of content. 

We also tapped our UX and Creative team to include original images in all of our blog posts, which helped increase the average time on page.

Keyword Movement

organic keyword rankings

We primarily use SEMrush, Google Search Console, and Google Analytics to track non-branded keyword movement. 

We analyzed Pathstream’s top pages and non-branded keywords at the beginning of our partnership and continuously monitored them week over week and month over month. 

After just a few weeks, we started getting great results from our strategy and seeing significant positive keyword movement for our target keywords. 

seo updates

Organic Traffic – Weekly Organic Scorecard

seo scorecard

We saw significant increases in non-branded organic clicks to Pathstream’s website in our weekly and monthly organic scorecard. We just recently had our two highest back-to-back weeks of non-branded organic clicks ever, according to Google Search Console, with 722 and we’re on pace to beat it next week. 

According to Google Search Console, we’ve seen non-branded organic clicks increase YTD by 1,180% with an increase in average CTR and average position. According to SEMrush, we saw a 258% MoM increase from February to March, alone and at the time of this writing, July 2022, we’ve seen another 194% MoM increase in non-branded organic traffic, and we’re not slowing down.  

Interested in learning how Tuff can help skyrocket your organic search traffic? Hit us up! 

tiktok seo

TikTok SEO: What is it and how to rank

tiktok seo

In the last year, TikTok has proven it has the ability to get more powerful in the social media world, and now the search world as well. Even compelling Google to make statements about TikTok eating into their search market share

On top of that, after Google’s most recent core update, TikTok’s visibility in Google search went up 133%. Though this number is impressive, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to SEOs or folks who have been watching search patterns over the last 5-7 years. 

For the last several years, Google has viewed video as the up-and-coming search result for a majority of searchers. Google began improving its ability to crawl, understand, and index videos across the web. YouTube continued to gain more traction in the search market share as its very own search engine, paving the way for newcomer TikTok. 

There has been recent speculation of TikTok joining the ranks of search engines. It’s no surprise, considering they’ve been running their own ads encouraging users to use the search functionality in-app to discover restaurants, how-tos, and even jobs. 

Knowing this, it begs the question “do you need SEO to be successful on TikTok?” Let’s dive in and figure this out together. 

What is TikTok SEO?

TikTok SEO seems to be taking a very similar approach to general SEO with a focus on keywords and phrases. When using their search functionality to type in a keyword, you see trending variations of that keyword. Once you click to search, top ranking posts in certain topics will populate in order of engagement rates. 

Aside from the obvious similarities in search functionalities, even content optimization techniques (more on these in a bit) are being figured out by the everyday TikTok user. 

So, TikTok uses SEO?

There’s no doubt from the SEO community, it’s TikTok that hasn’t alluded to much about this. Through different TikTok-ers results, it’s safe to say that TikTok has SEO functionalities and it’s working for the users who take the time to do it right.

How do I optimize my content to rank on TikTok?

Through my research (*ahem* watching too many TikToks for my elder-millennial brain to handle), I found there’s a 3-tier formula out there that is doing the trick for those looking to nab ranks on TikTok:

  1. Text Overlay
  2. Captions + Hashtags
  3. Audio (yup.)

tiktok-seo-search-results

Text overlay

This is the text you see on the actual video itself. This happens post-recording in the editing phase. Folks who mention the appropriate target keywords in their overlay are seeing better results for visibility.

Captions + hashtags

This is definitely the most obvious optimization area. Peppering your target keywords into your caption along with hashtagging said keywords, will result in better visibility as well. 

Audio 

Finally, your audio will have an impact on your ability to be more visible for a topic. You must have subtitle functionality turned on (which I recommend). When creating your video, make sure you’re saying the actual keywords (naturally, I hope). Once to the editing screen, turn on the captions and let TikTok scan the audio to produce captions on your behalf.

Let me break that last ranking factor down a bit more… TikTok has AI that will scan your audio to caption each word on your behalf. TikTok-ers who use this functionality will rank better for their videos. 

Similar to Google or YouTube, this functionality helping ranks could be due to 2 very important reasons: universal friendliness and more keyword signals. 

Oftentimes, search engines will favor content that is universally friendly to those with particular impairments that need other features like captions to consume the content. On top of that, captions and video transcripts are features that provide signals to search engines to crawl this content to better rank and understand what the video is about. 

This adds another interesting question: Is YouTube also ranking you by your audio? Though their caption functionality leaves something to be desired, it’s available nonetheless (I’ll save this for another time).

Performing TikTok keyword research

Luckily, you don’t need to learn some crazy new technique to perform quality keyword research for your TikTok SEO campaign. There are 2 simple ways to perform your TikTok keyword research:

  1. In-app
  2. Via Google

In-app

tiktok search

Much like YouTube, in-app keyword research is the most valuable way to see what populates for your keyword targets in terms of variations of the word as you type in the search bar and, of course, what results actually populate.

When performing keyword research in TikTok, take notice of variations and even test out natural variations used in your industry. For example, when doing research for this blog I might search TikTok SEO then variants like TikTok SEO Research or TikTok SEO Keyword Research etc.  

I would also be interested in combing through the top results to note things like the general content of the top TikToks and the language being used in the overlay, captions, hashtags, and audio. 

Via Google

If TikTok isn’t producing how you’d hoped (look at you, trailblazer) then performing keyword research via Google is a safe bet. 

You can do this through manual search by heading to Google and analyzing the SERPs of the keywords you’re looking to target. Take note of the questions being answered, keyword variants being used, and any gaps in knowledge you could fill. 

If you have the resources, this can also be done through trusted SEO tools like SEMrush or ahrefs. 

TikTok SEO strategies to implement

First and foremost, as you’re getting up and running on the platform make sure you optimize your profile as you would with any other social profile for your brand. This looks like a value statement or catchy one-liner and, of course, you must include a link to your website/store/etc.

Quantity + Quality

Well, here’s a first for this SEO, advising folks to boost the quantity of their content. Now, don’t get too crazy, the quality still matters but everyone has to start somewhere!

Being consistently engaging on the platform will help to boost your visibility and prove authority in your industry and over the keywords you’re targeting. It will also be a good sign to engage users who benefit from your content because they’ll know they can count on your updates and will continue to engage with you, only further boosting your ranks. 

Ultimately, get out there and give it your best shot, find what works or what doesn’t work, replicate the good and trash the bad. 

Newsworthy industry TikToks

If you’re in an industry that relates to a lot of newsworthy content, it’s time to dust off some hot takes. 

Younger generations are always looking for ways to be involved, but like to consume most of their content in the exact way TikTok serves it: bite-sized, informational videos. 

If the content presents itself, put yourself and your company out there by staying ahead of the conversation and talking about breaking news in your industry and your take on its impacts. 

This strategy will get you noticed, make you look like a valuable resource, and keep your brand name trending within your industry.

Culture

Going in a completely different direction, culture focused TikToks are a great way to show off your brand’s values, voice, and style. 

A great way to implement this strategy is to share in-office (or remote) sneak peeks around the day-to-day fun and community within the company or day-in-the-life videos to show how the ‘magic’ happens. 

Another great culture technique is to show off any philanthropic efforts your company partakes in as a whole. This is an impactful way to show the younger generations, who are driven by positively influencing the world around them, that your company ‘gets it’. And, it’s just a great way to encourage others to be involved as well!

Paid alignment, influencers, and partnerships

There’s a whole world of TikTok strategies out there for the taking. As you dive into creating campaigns, consider aligning the strategies of your paid efforts with your SEO efforts by covering similar topics and using the same keywords.

Other strategies to consider are tapping into the vast influencer bank TikTok houses or partnering with other brands that would make sense to help boost each other’s visibility and to gain new audiences as well. 

Great. Is TikTok worth it for me?

Generally, yes. 

TikTok is a growing presence, and even if that plateaus at some point, it’s a strong indicator that video content is the new king. 

Like any digital strategy, it will be worth the most bang for your buck if you go in with a strong strategy and an understanding for how you can work to see success on the platform. 

Plan your TikTok strategy by choosing to do TikTok SEO, paid TikTok campaigns, or both! Once that’s in place, line up a general content strategy and make sure to include creative. A major success factor for both TikTok SEO and paid TikTok campaigns relies on your creative. So, make sure you’re putting in the time and effort (and $$$).

If you’re ready to take the leap into the world of TikTok, or just need a little refresh of your TikTok strategy, we’ve got your back. Our savvy team of TikTok experts, creatives, and strategists are ready to help you get the TikTok ranks. 

seo results

Small Pivot, BIG Results: How We Generated a 659% Increase in Non-Branded Organic Site Traffic for AKKO

seo results

In most true SEO stories involving newer websites, results don’t come quickly. Sure, there was that one time we increased organic traffic by 117% in just 90 days, but this wasn’t one of those times. 

As a newer website with few blog posts and an average domain authority, we stumbled in the dark a bit before we found our footing. But once those results began trickling in, it started to downpour. Here’s the story of how we increased AKKO’s non-branded organic traffic by 659% in just 6 months, after months of lackluster SEO performance. 

non branded organic search

Overview 

First, let me explain what AKKO does and what industry they’re in. AKKO specializes in gadget protection a.k.a insurance. They cover your phone, laptop, electronics, and other vital personal items against costly damage and theft – all for just $15 a month.

“Great people and team to work with who produce top notch quality and results!” – Eric Schneider, Co-Founder at AKKO  (see all Google Reviews here)

When we first started working with AKKO, their past SEO efforts were heavily focused on cell phone insurance keywords. Those were just about the only non-branded keywords driving organic traffic to their website. And while their branded keywords were driving a few hundreds clicks per month from search engines, it wasn’t a match for the industry behemoths that they were up against – Verizon, AT&T, and Apple to name a few. 

Technical SEO

technical seo dashboard

Fortunately, AKKO’s website didn’t have a ton of technical SEO issues when we began working with them. 

With just a few small fixes, we were able to get their overall site health to over 90% in SEMrush. Once that was done, we found additional ways to improve the technical SEO by adding structured data where possible, improving internal linking, and improving the CRO on AKKO’s core pages.

Now we could move on to the next step in our SEO strategy, keyword research, and planning. 

Keyword Research

Just like all great SEO content strategies, it begins with keyword research. We do this by conducting competitive analysis on industry leaders, direct competitors, and search competitors. We see which strategies are working for them, what their top pages and keywords are, what they’re doing well and what they’re not doing well. We then conduct a topic and keyword gap analysis to find our biggest areas of opportunity. 

Once equipped with all of this data, we map it back to our partner’s website and determine what makes the most sense for them and what we have the best chances of ranking for. 

We look at a lot of different metrics when determining what are the most appropriate keywords to target. The most common ones are monthly search volume, keyword difficulty, and searcher intent. Then we ask ourselves, will this keyword drive conversions if we rank in position 1?

Along with those metrics, we analyze the existing website content, search competitors, and domain authority to see if it’s the right fit for us. No one metric in itself is enough to determine the quality of a keyword, so it’s important to look at several different metrics when choosing your focus keywords. 

More than 90% of AKKO’s organic traffic was coming from branded searches. Of the less than 10% of non-branded traffic, the majority of it was coming from cell phone insurance keywords. I took a closer look and noticed that almost 100% of this non-branded traffic was going to two places: the homepage and one particular blog post.

In the initial research phase, I identified this as an opportunity and began working on ways to leverage AKKO’s brand recognition for cell phone coverage while expanding to other products that they cover.

Building our SEO Content Strategy

Our initial SEO content strategy began with strengthening AKKO’s existing rankings by building comprehensive coverage around their cell phone protection service. They had some non-branded keyword rankings on pages two and three of SERPs that I identified as low-hanging fruit. 

I worked with our dev, UX, and CRO teams to build a few targeted high-quality landing pages that would give us a better chance of ranking for these high keyword difficulty terms. We also build comparison landing pages that compare AKKO against all of their top competitors – Apple, AT&T, Verizon, and more. 

Unfortunately, in such a competitive industry, these keywords were extremely difficult to rank in the top 3 for and they weren’t driving as much organic traffic as I had hoped. 

After our initial organic efforts didn’t get the results that I had hoped for, I spent some time going through all of the pages on the website and making some changes to the on-page SEO. AKKO only had a few pages on their website when we began, so we didn’t build a full keyword mapping spreadsheet as we typically do for larger partners.

Our main goal was to improve the internal linking throughout the website, especially to the new pages we had just created. 

We did this by including all of our comparison pages in the footer of the website so that they were readily accessible and properly linked.

Content Creation

Once we had pillar pages built for our focus keywords, we used blog posts to create topical relevance around secondary and tertiary keywords and create a cluster strategy of knowledgeable informative content. 

I quickly expanded from cell phone insurance keywords to laptop insurance, camera insurance, tablet insurance, and many others. 

After a few months of tracking our SEO performance, I knew that we needed to pivot. Overall organic traffic had increased but it was mainly due to our other marketing efforts from our social and PPC campaigns. 

Search queries related to gadget insurance were proving extremely difficult to rank for, even though this wasn’t apparent in the keyword data, and we were up against industry behemoths every which way we looked. If it wasn’t Apple or AT&T we were competing against it was AllState or Progressive with their homeowners insurance. 

Content Strategy Pivot

It had been almost 5 months since we began our SEO strategy at this point and I was getting antsy for some good results. I was checking Google Search Console and other performance reports but the SEO impact was minimal no matter how I looked at it. Branded terms still seemed to be dominating our organic search traffic. 

Then I tried something new. 

When conducting new keyword research, I noticed that there were thousands of monthly searches for Xbox warranty but hardly any searches around Xbox insurance. Not only that, but the keyword difficulty was much lower than the keywords I had been targeting previously. 

I did some Google searches to understand searcher intent and noticed that other than Xbox’s own manufacturer warranty pages, which were written in very high-level legal jargon that very few understand, there wasn’t much competition. 

So I tested out a few warranty keywords. We wrote content about the Xbox and Playstation warranty along with the controller warranties and the advantages of having AKKO coverage. 

The results were amazing. 

organic search position

In just a few weeks we had the Featured Snippet and the #1 rank in Google for Xbox warranty and a few keyword variants. A few more weeks later and we were ranking #1 for more than twenty Xbox warranty keywords.

For the first time, we were driving non-branded organic traffic from keywords with high search volume.

I wasn’t sure if this was just a fluke though or if this was enough to build our content strategy around. We also saw some good results for PlayStation (PS5) warranty keywords, but it wasn’t until a few months later that they started driving significant traffic. 

organic keyword movement

I also knew that I couldn’t rely on just these keywords alone to drive quality organic conversions so I build out a list of other high-volume, low-keyword-difficulty warranty keywords and took stock of just how large the playing field was. 

To my surprise, there are a lot of people searching for these warranty keywords and there wasn’t much content out there other than the manufacturer’s legal pages. 

After seeing those initial results and building out the keyword list of other devices with high search volume that AKKO covers, I decided to pivot from insurance keywords to warranty keywords. 

This was a game changer. 

New Content

In the next few months, we wrote content on all of the top gadgets and devices and saw results similar to what we saw with our Xbox warranty keywords. 

We were ranking much quicker than I ever expected, we were driving more traffic than ever before, and non-branded keywords are now accounting for about 70% of all organic traffic, up from less than 10%.

branded vs nonbranded search traffic

Below are just a few of the more than 4,000 non-branded keywords that we’re ranking for today along with the monthly search volume and the position that we’re ranking in. Maybe you’ll be as surprised as I was at the amount of monthly search volume these keywords receive. 

seo keyword rankings

This has helped us create comprehensive coverage on our website and ultimately improve our rankings for the very difficult insurance keywords. Here are a few of our current page one rankings for some insurance keywords. 

top keyword rankings

How we measure branded vs non-branded organic traffic

Tracking branded and non-branded organic keywords

Tracking branded and non-branded organic keywords and traffic is something that I was doing from the beginning and this was the first time that non-branded traffic started to gain traction on branded organic traffic and direct traffic. 

We use a few different SEO tools to periodically pull a performance report and accurately pinpoint how our SEO campaign is performing. The tools we use the most for this are Google Search Console, Google Analytics, and SEMrush

SEMrush gives us daily updates on keyword movement and estimated monthly organic traffic but it’s not as accurate as Google Search Console and Google Analytics.

Using Google Search Console and Google Analytics, we’re able to filter strictly for clicks from branded traffic and non-branded traffic.

In the screenshot below from Google Search Console, you can see the number of monthly clicks and impressions received from non-branded keywords in December 2021 compared to the number of monthly clicks and impressions from non-branded keywords in June 2022. 

search console performance results

In 6 months, we were able to increase non-branded traffic by 659% with 648 organic conversions (sign-ups) and a CVR of 2.72% in June 2022.

We were able to do this for a few reasons. 

One of the biggest reasons is that we have a partner that understands the value of SEO and fully trusts us to do what we do best. They could have given up after the first few months of lackluster performance and shifted their budget to paid campaigns but they didn’t. 

I also have to thank the rest of my growth marketing team for providing exceptional results across multiple different channels and buying me some time to put together a fully optimized search strategy that not only drives traffic but also new customers.

Another huge reason is that our partner has a truly amazing product offering that beats the competition no matter where you look. I was able to write content on just about any popular gadget or device because AKKO covers it. Not only that but no matter how good the manufacturer warranty is, it doesn’t beat AKKO’s pricing when you consider that you can insure up to 20 devices. We were able to add this CTA to all of our blog posts and increase organic sign-ups exponentially. 

Conclusion and Next Steps

Our next steps are to continue to double down on warranty keywords while improving CVR and expanding to B2B search terms.

We’ve had such great success with warranty keywords and there is still so much more to write about that there is no reason to stop. At the same time, we want to make sure we’re constantly optimizing and increasing our CVR and expanding into new territory. 

AKKO’s business is increasing and I know it will be a new challenge to try and dominate search results for B2B keywords and I welcome that challenge. 

man looking at magnifier

How to Do a Keyword Gap Analysis

man looking at magnifier

You can use various methods to conduct keyword research. However, a keyword gap analysis—also sometimes called a content gap or keyword competitor analysis—is a must. 

When it comes to SEO, there are no ties. Only one company can be in the number one spot, and to get the most organic traffic, you want that to be your site.

We know the top result in Google gets over 31% of clicks, with some variation depending on the industry, keyword, and device. However, no matter the industry, the number of clicks (and consequently traffic) that goes to your website drops consistently as you drop from one to two and so on. 

If competitors are outranking you, then they are getting more organic traffic, leads, and likely sales.

How can you make sure you’re on the right side of this equation? It’s all about building a strong SEO strategy, and a keyword gap analysis is part of that. We’ll show you how to conduct one using analysis tools like Semrush.

What is a keyword gap analysis?

A keyword gap analysis is an SEO strategy that compares your site to your competitors to find keywords that rank the highest and drive the most traffic.

Your keyword “gaps” are areas in which you could overtake your competitors and outrank them. In short, it’s a way to reveal keyword opportunities you’re missing out on. 

It’s also an essential part of an SEO competitive analysis. First, you’ll identify keywords that your competitors rank for, but you don’t. You’ll also identify keywords that you have a low ranking for, for example, positions 5 to 15. From there, you can create a strategy to “boost” low rankings and steal keywords from your competitors.

Why is keyword gap analysis important?

The ultimate goal of any holistic SEO content strategy is to drive traffic to your site. But you don’t want just any traffic. You want high-value, high-intent website visitors whose problems you can solve. That’s just what you get when you use a keyword gap analysis to reveal areas of opportunity where you either don’t have content or where you can improve existing content. 

Keyword gap analysis is vital to creating quality content that will capture the right audience at the right time. At Tuff, we use PPC and organic search together, building a strategy in which they complement each other, help drive growth on more competitive keywords, improve rankings and traffic, and increase share of voice. That translates into more traffic – and more revenue.

How to do a keyword gap analysis

You don’t need to be an SEO master to do a keyword gap analysis, but having a professional on your side is always helpful when it comes to interpreting results and creating a list of keywords. Here’s how we do it at Tuff.

1. Identify competitors

If you haven’t already, you’ll need to create a list of at least two to three competitors that have a strong organic traffic strategy. 

If you’re not sure where to start, you can use our two-step guide to identify competitors. Now, that you have your list, you can use it to figure out why those sites are outranking you.

2. Pick your tools

You’re going to need at least one SEO tool in order to perform a keyword gap analysis. The options here are similar to the tools you can use for on-page SEO analysis

We use Semrush, which has a free version available with a limited amount of queries allowed. (That’s another benefit of hiring an agency – we have the tools and the expertise to use them!)

You can also try Ahrefs’ Content Gap tool, but it is not as powerful or intuitive as Semrush when it comes to filtering. 

For example, it is easier to use if you’re looking for keywords that you are not ranking for at all. It is possible to filter search queries to look at your competitor’s position compared to yours but it takes some finesse.

 

3. Get your keyword list

Open up your tool and enter your website domain. Then enter your main competitors and click “Compare.” The tool will show you a list of keywords your competitors rank for and where you appear in the SERPs for those same words. 

If you are using Semrush, you’ll go to the left menu and use the keyword gap tool. 

As an example, let’s compare two popular investment companies—Ellevest and Betterment. We’re not affiliated with either, but you can easily compare their organic strategy using Semrush.

SEMRush keyword gap analysis overview

You can sort by organic, paid, or PLA (this stands for Product Listing Ads and you need a business account in Semrush to use it). 

Semrush will also show you keyword volume, difficulty, competitive density, and CPC among other metrics. For in-depth analysis, download the file as a CSV report so you can sort and search more easily.

4. Interpret your results

Now you need to determine where you can get the most value from your keywords. Your keyword tool will do some of the work for you. 

Semrush, for example, has a section showing “Top Opportunities” for keywords that your site is missing as well as weak keywords—where you have a ranking but it is lower than all of your competitors’ rankings. 

To discover opportunities yourself, look for keywords that are:

  • Highly relevant to your business and your website
  • Regularly searched for by your target audience
  • Not overly competitive, but still high-value
  • Easily filled using existing content or easy to create new content for

We export each keyword gap analysis into a spreadsheet to better sort, analyze, and filter the data. It looks something like this with four core tabs: Shared, Missing, Weak, and Strong.

keyword gap analysis spreadsheet

5. Identify opportunities 

When you’re just starting your research, you’ll want to focus on weak and missing. Here’s why: 

  • Weak – these are words that your competitors rank higher than you for, and there are prime candidates for content remediation
  • Missing – these are words that your competitors are ranking for, and you are not ranking for at all

When planning SEO content, this will help you decide if you need to update a page or create a new one. Generally, you can follow this rule:  

  • Weak = refresh old content
  • Missing = create new content

You can also prioritize which opportunities you should focus on by filtering the keyword gap results. Go to the Positions filter, Competitors, and choose to view only the terms that they are ranking for in the top 10 or 20. 

Using our investment app example, let’s look at gaps in the top 10 results. You can see that Betterment is outranking Ellevest for some relevant keywords like “what does vesting mean” and “roth ira vs sep ira”. 

weak keywords SEMrush overview

Of course, this is the initial research, you’ll want to refine your results further to narrow terms down based on keyword difficulty and intent. 

6. Try a page-level analysis

You already know a few areas where you and a competitor have similar articles. You want to determine what they’re doing right and replicate it. 

To figure this out, do a page-level analysis. You can enter an exact URL of a competitor’s page and compare it to your own to see what you may be missing. You’ll either add those keywords to your page—or create an entirely new page—and start stealing competitors’ traffic.

This can also help you determine the best keywords to go after. For example, if we look closer at the terms that Betterment outranked Ellevest for, you can see exactly which pages rank. 

In Semrush, you can see that Betterment is ranking for a lot of 401k keywords, but which ones are driving the most traffic? Luckily, Semrush will list URLs for each keyword when you export a CSV file. All you need to do is go to Domain Overview, add the URL, and search by Exact URL. 

Most of those 401K terms are coming from a blog on retirement. According to Semrush’s data, a little over 600 people are visiting that page alone. 

SEMrush page level overview

You can see exactly which terms are driving traffic to the URL and decide if it’s worth adding to your content calendar. Scroll down and go to the section marked “Top Organic Keywords”. It will give you a list of every search query that page ranks for and the percent of traffic it contributes.

traffic distribution SEMrush 401k keyword

7. Put it into action

How do you know whether to refresh an existing page or create a new one? What types of content will most effectively attract customers from your competitors? This is where SEO becomes not a science, but an art. 

To determine your plan of action, analyze the top content that is already ranking for that keyword and look for things like:

  • Type of content (video, blog, gallery, etc.)
  • Content length and organization
  • Headers and keywords used

Do you have content that already fulfills these criteria? You can update it to use the new keywords. If you don’t, you’ll want to create something new. 

Organic growth is crucial to the overall growth of your business, but it isn’t always straightforward. Tuff can help you with every step of the process, from performing a keyword gap analysis and determining the best course of action to creating content that outranks the competition. Contact us today to get started.

user forecasting SEO with Google Analytics

SEO Forecasting—A How-to Guide and Free Template

user forecasting SEO with Google Analytics

If you do a quick Google search for SEO forecasting, you’ll find some confusing, and often unhelpful tools and articles. As it turns out, predicting the future is hard to do. 

That’s why we developed our own method and SEO forecasting template to help. As a growth marketing agency, we’ve used this Google Sheet to forecast organic traffic growth for several SEO partners at Tuff, and it’s been eerily spot on with its predictions—as little as 10 or 20 visits off some months. 

What is SEO forecasting? 

SEO forecasting is the process of using data—like keyword volume, click-through rates, and monthly organic traffic—to predict the impact of your SEO efforts. 

In general, all kinds of industries analyze trends and patterns in past data to predict what will happen in the future. We’re applying similar methods but focusing on search engine optimization. 

Since no one can truly predict the future (that I know of), there is some margin or error to be expected. However, forecasting for SEO can help you set realistic expectations and measurable goals that are grounded in data. 

If you invest in SEO content, you want to know how much it will increase your organic traffic growth. SEO forecasting can help you with that and more. 

Want to learn more about how we forecast SEO at Tuff? Check out this video! 👇

SEO forecasting models

There are two basic ways to forecast SEO or predict organic traffic growth. 

1. Keyword forecasting

Keyword forecasting models use keyword search volume and average click-through rate (CTR) to determine website traffic. 

To use this method, you need to know the estimated search volume a target keyword gets each month and the average CTR for each ranking position. 

For example, people are most likely to click the top search result, so that CTR is higher. The CTR drops significantly as you go from position one to two to three and so on. You can pull the average CTR by position from a tool like Advanced Web Ranking’s Organic CTR history

Generally, in keyword forecasting, you take the search volume and multiply it by the CTR. 

For instance, let’s say you have a travel blog, and you are ranking number one for the keyword “what to bring on a road trip”. According to Semrush, the average monthly search volume is 880. 

SEMrush data on keyword volume

Then, if you want to pull the CTR in the US for only the travel industry, you can do that by going to Advanced Web Ranking. According to their data, the average CTR for the top position is 33.1%. 

  • 880 (search volume) × 33.1% (CTR) = 291 monthly organic traffic

Click through rate by position

2. Statistical forecasting 

The statistical forecasting method uses historical data and mathematical formulas to predict what your traffic will be in the future, based on your growth trend in the past. Specifically, it uses linear regression and exponential smoothing. 

You don’t really need to worry about the exact mathematical terms. The purpose is the same for each function—to predict the future by using data from the past. 

It is typically more accurate than keywords alone because it is custom to your website. It looks at how your site has performed in the last two to three years and uses that information to estimate your organic traffic. 

How to Forecast SEO in a Google Sheet

The method that we use combines both keyword and statistical models. You can make a copy of this SEO forecasting template and use it for your website. The step-by-step how-to guide is below, but first, you’ll want a few tools and data handy. 

What tools you’ll need:

  • Google Analytics – to pull your monthly organic traffic numbers
  • Google Search Console – if you are using it for your keyword positions and CTR
  • Semrush or Ahrefs – to conduct keyword research and get search volume

Data that you’ll need: 

  • Your organic website traffic for the last two to three years
  • CTR for each ranking position (or you can use the one in the template)
  • Keyword research – a list of your target keywords, current position, and monthly search volume

1. Pull your historical data 

Once you have all this, open up the forecasting template. Go to the “historical data” tab and update the dates as well as the organic traffic for each month. 

Historical data of site traffic

You’ll pull this from your Google Analytics account under Organic Search. Make sure to adjust it for each month, and remove bot traffic. 

Ideally, you’ll have two to three years of data. This will help you create an accurate forecast. 

If it’s a newer site, you may not have this much data to pull. In that case, pull for however many months you have. It won’t be as accurate, but it’s a starting point.

2. Identify outliers and seasonality

To make your forecast as accurate as possible, you need to look at your historical data numbers for seasonality and outliers. 

Seasonality 

Does the website have defined busy and slow months? For example, a tax business sees a spike in traffic around the beginning of the year through tax time in April. This is seasonality because it happens during the same period of time every year, and it’s predictable.

Outliers 

Are there any months when the website traffic is unusually high? Outliers are data points that are much higher or lower than the rest of the data set. For example, many online businesses saw spikes in traffic during the COVID pandemic.

You might have outliers in your data if: 

  • You ran a one-off campaign that inflated your traffic
  • Your website was hit with bot traffic
  • Your site went through a redesign or overhaul

You’ll want to remove outlier data because it is a one-off event and not representative of your overall performance. It will also skew your forecasting and make it inaccurate.

You can use forecasting to replace it with a number that it would be if there wasn’t a random spike.

3. Get a no-change forecast 

Once you’re happy with your historical data set, go to the “Forecast” tab. Here, you’re going to get a no-change forecast. This tells you what your future organic traffic might look like without any SEO marketing or other changes.  

First, copy over your dates and traffic from the “historical data” tab into the “Forecast” tab for reference. 

Then, go to the “No change forecast” column, and adjust the forecast function so that A29 matches up with the first month you are forecasting. 

For example, it is currently (=FORECAST(A29,’historical data’!B:B,’historical data’!A:A), but the A29 will change based on your date and row. Everything else will stay the same. Drag down to get a forecast for the following months. 

4. Add the average CTR and keyword volume

The no-change forecast uses statistical forecasting. Now we are going to add keyword forecasting. 

You can either use the click-through rates that are listed in the “CTR” tab of the forecasting template or update them with your own. You can estimate your click-through rate with your website’s data or you can use Advanced Web Ranking’s organic CTR data year-over-year or by category.

Either way, you want an average CTR for positions one to twenty. 

5. Add your keyword research

Next, you’ll update the “CTR” tab with your list of target keywords. You’ll also include the monthly search volume and your current position in those columns. 

6. Forecast your traffic for different ranking positions 

Now, you’ll forecast what your organic traffic will be if you start ranking for target keywords. You’ll do this by multiplying the volume for each keyword by the CTR for each position.

I used top twenty, ten, and three but you can use any that you want. More positions can smooth out the growth trend when you add in your keyword movement. If you are currently ranking in the top twenty for one of your keywords, you may want to also add that into the forecast so it’s a little bit more accurate.

This will give you the estimated traffic numbers for each keyword, depending on the SERP. You’ll add those together and get the total estimated traffic for each position.

7. Add the total potential traffic from keywords to the no-change forecast.

Jump back to the “Forecast” tab and go to the column labeled “Keyword movement”. Add the total keyword movement to the no-change forecast number. You decide what this is—if you think most of your keywords will be in the top twenty in the first one to two months, then add that. 

If you think you’ll move to the top ten after three to six months, then use that. You’ll noticed that the chart in the template will update automatically as you add your forecast and keyword movement. 

You’ll adjust this based on how quickly keywords appear in the search results and in what position.

Note, as you add more keywords, you’ll need to update your forecast for keyword movement. You may also want to make adjustments as you get a better sense of your organic click-through-rate. 

A Growth Marketing Spreadsheet to Help Predict the Future

This SEO forecasting Google Sheet focuses on predicting your future organic traffic growth. However, you can go a step further and predict how increasing your organic traffic will affect conversions and revenue. If you want to do this, you’ll need to know your organic conversion rate and average order value. 

Predicting organic traffic can be tricky. After all, you are trying to predict the future. However, by using historical data and keyword movement, you can set benchmarks and expectations for your SEO marketing. Hopefully, this forecasting sheet will help you get started. 

How to do an eCommerce SEO Audit

How to Conduct an eCommerce SEO Audit and Checklist

How to do an eCommerce SEO Audit

eCommerce stores should always be optimizing (ABO). An eCommerce SEO audit and strategy will help you optimize your website and increase organic traffic and conversions. 

The purpose of an SEO site audit is to ensure that your website is optimized to your customers’ expectations and search engine best practices. 

Search engines use complex algorithms with multiple ranking factors to deliver the most relevant search results for user queries. These algorithms are constantly being updated so as to only display search results from relevant and updated websites. This is why it’s so important to periodically conduct SEO audits of your website to ensure that it remains relevant regardless of the changes to Google’s algorithm. 

What Is an eCommerce SEO Audit?

An eCommerce SEO Audit is an extensive review of your eCommerce website’s SEO efforts accompanied by recommendations on how to supercharge your eCommerce growth. It helps you figure out which SEO issues your website has, which issues to prioritize, and how to increase your organic reach, traffic, and conversions.

Essentially, an eCommerce SEO audit points out the problems, if any, and how to fix them. It helps you figure out how to optimize your website better and increase organic traffic

Why Is An eCommerce SEO Audit Important?

An eCommerce SEO audit takes stock of your current SEO efforts and incoming organic traffic. Just like any other channel, maintaining and growing your traffic source is crucial to surviving and thriving in business. 

But unlike paid channels, organic traffic is long-term. The effort that you put in today will likely benefit your business years down the road, which makes it that much more important. 

Organic traffic is typically one of the highest converting channels, if you’ve done your keyword research correctly when building your content strategy

How To Audit an eCommerce Website 

We typically use SEMrush, Google Search Console, Google Analytics, and an extensive manual review to conduct eCommerce SEO audits. These tools will help with technical SEO issues and traffic data but there’s nothing like manually reviewing your most important web pages. 

What To Look For In An SEO eCommerce Audit/ SEO Audit Checklist

There are very important things that you must access while you’re running your eCommerce website audit and they are:

  • Technical SEO
  • Website architecture
  • User experience
  • Off-page SEO
  • On-page SEO & CRO
  • Competitive analysis
  • SEO Content

Technical SEO

Site health audit of a Tuff Client

The technical SEO of your website requires analyzing the structure of your website and its relevance, indexing, and ranking of the website by search engine crawlers. It examines and recommends fixes for indexing, duplicate content, 404 errors, broken internal links, your XML sitemap, and more.

For eCommerce specifically, you’ll want to make sure that you have product structured data schema in place for your product pages. 

Crawlability

The discoverability of a website is hinged on the internal and external links and this is how search engine crawlers are able to discover your website’s content. These crawlers, through the links, analyze the structure of your website and deduce its relevance and ranking in SERPs. 

The homepage is your most important page. The crawler crawls all links from your homepage and determines how important they are based on the crawl depth and the number of internal and external links pointing to it. 

Indexing comes before everything when ranking. If it’s not indexed then it can’t rank in SERPs. So, if your webpage isn’t optimized and relevant for a specific search term, search engines won’t send their users to it. 

XML sitemap 

Your XML sitemap should contain all the indexed pages on your website. It’s important to make sure that your sitemap is auto-populating when pages are added or removed from your website.

Having pages in your XML sitemap that no longer exist and vice versa will cause technical SEO issues and will make it tougher for you to rank in SERPs. The XML sitemap is what is submitted to Google Search Console and is the first place that Google’s crawler will crawl so it’s important to make sure that it’s up-to-date and optimized. 

For eCommerce websites, we’ll also want to make sure that we have an XML sitemap index and separate sitemaps for blog posts and product pages. That way if there’s ever an issue with a product page it’s easier to identify and fix.

No Duplicate Content Issues

Duplicate content refers to content that appears on several pages either on the same domain or across many domains. Most eCommerce websites have filter pages that create the risk of having duplicate content. 

Duplicate content arises from filtering products based on some specifications, and copying and pasting product descriptions from manufacturers. An SEO audit helps to detect and prevent the presence of duplicate content by the introduction of canonical tags. These tags specify to search engines which URL they should index and rank.

No Broken Internal Links, 404 Errors, and Redirect Loops

A technical SEO audit will detect if there are any broken links or 404 errors. Broken links typically occur if a page has been (un)intentionally deleted from a website or two pages are accidentally linked together with the same URL. Broken links distort the user experience and also make it difficult for search engine crawlers to crawl your website.

404 errors really hinder the user experience when a user lands on one, no matter how great your 404 page is. If dozens of broken links or 404 pages are discovered it will severely impact your chances of ranking high in SERPs. The technical SEO portion of the SEO audit helps you find these issues and fix them before your users find them.

A redirect loop is another version of a 404 error and it is essentially a redirect that redirects too many times. This happens when you redirect an old page to a new one and then later on you redirect that new page to a newer page. We want to avoid redirect loops because they’re essentially 404 pages that take even longer to get to.

HTTPS

This ensures a safe connection to your website. The SSL certificate used by HTTPS encrypts the data that is transferred from the website to the server. You must ensure that all your website data is hosted on a secure URL using the HTTPS protocol. Enforcing HTTPS on all your pages is a best practice because Google has confirmed that it is a ranking signal.

On-page Analysis 

An on-page analysis is focused on a webpage’s content strategy as well as the HTML elements that allow search engines to recognize the relevance of the webpage during a search query. Every on-page optimization done on the webpage should be based on keyword research. Keyword research determines your title tag, meta description, heading, and interlinking.

eCommerce Customer Service Content

eCommerce customer service content example

eCommerce Customer Service Content is one of the most important on-page SEO optimizations that an eCommerce website can make. This refers to the SEO-optimized content that is below your product listings on your product listing page. 

Take a closer look next time you’re ordering from a larger retailer such as Amazon, Best Buy, and others. You’ll notice that they all this customer service content. 

The purpose of this content is to answer frequently asked questions while also giving your page a better chance of ranking in SERPs. When selecting which questions to answer, you want to make sure you’re using target keywords and semantically related keywords in your answers. 

Crawl Depth and Orphan Pages

The crawl depth refers to the number of clicks it takes, from the homepage, to reach a page on your website. Crawl depth is important because search engine crawlers consider your homepage your most valuable page and then they value each other page based on the crawl depth, among other factors.

An orphan page is a page that doesn’t have any links pointing to it. A crawl depth is taken during an SEO audit and it is used to find orphan pages and important pages with a crawl depth of more than 3.

You can improve your crawl depth by improving your internal linking. Adding links to the header and/or footer is a quick way to lower your crawl depth.

Title Tags and Meta Description 

Title tags appear when the webpage is displayed in SERP, browser tab title and when you share the link on social media. Since it appears in these places, the primary keyword of the page should always be in the title tag. 

Meta descriptions are very important in boosting click-through rates. Although it doesn’t determine the ranking of your webpage, it increases traffic to your website. 

Keyword Research

Keyword research and competitive analysis are always essential when doing SEO. It’s too much to get into for this article so I’ve linked out to some useful blog posts throughout this article that will help with keyword research. 

Product Pages

Through keyword research and keyword mapping, you want to make sure that every single product page is SEO-optimized for a unique target keyword. 

Example of Ecommerce Keyword Mapping

Here’s how to quickly conduct keyword mapping for your individual product pages:

  1. Export a list of all of your URLs along with their SEO title and meta description to a spreadsheet. ScreamingFrog is a great tool for getting this information. If you’re using WordPress with the Pro feature of Yoast then you can also export the target keyword from the Yoast field as well. 
  2. Once you have a list of all of your product URLs, add a column for the target keyword and fill in the target keyword for each product URL. You can deduce the target keyword from the URL, SEO title, and meta description. If you can’t, then the page isn’t correctly optimized for a target keyword. Make note of it and come back to it. 
  3. As you go through all links, make note of pages with no target keyword, irrelevant or incorrect target keywords, and keyword cannibalization issues. 
  4. Once you’ve built your list of pages that need new keywords, conduct keyword research and optimize each individual page for the new target keyword.

Internal Linking

linking all your web pages makes it easier for search engine crawlers to navigate your site and find all the important pages. More so, it makes it easier for users to find your products if they’re linked throughout blog posts and “Related Products” sections. 

Example of suggested products

Off-page Analysis

This refers to all external backlinks and signals that can influence your eCommerce website’s ranking in SERPs. You can conduct a backlink audit using SEMrush to see what percentage of your backlinks are higher quality or low quality. 

You can also view backlinks that you’ve recently lost and reach out to the webmaster to regain that backlink if you choose to. 

Content Gaps and Opportunities 

By running a keyword gap analysis against your competitors, you’re able to not only find keyword and content gaps but also potentially content type gaps. 

By analyzing your competitors’ top pages you’re able to see which types of content are driving the most organic traffic. Maybe they have an infographic that is outranking all of their product pages or maybe it’s a guide or landing page.

By finding and filling the gaps you’re creating comprehensive coverage on your website and giving yourself a much better chance of ranking in SERPs.

Example of Keyword Gap Analysis

User Experience 

Your website should always meet the expectations of the user and search engines. For example, no user or search engine would like to be on a website that is extremely slow to load. For eCommerce websites specifically, this can lead to cart abandonment and that can decrease your conversion rate. 

Conclusion

Although it takes time, with SEO tools at your disposal, and some experience, you can learn how to quickly conduct audits and spot these issues whenever you’re browsing your eCommerce store. You can also choose to hire an eCommerce growth agency to take care of all your eCommerce needs.

 

As already stated, different aspects of SEO optimization act together to make your website trustworthy, not for the search engines alone, but for your potential customers. As an eCommerce business, it is important to have a reliable website.

How (and Why) You Should Use Internal Link Optimization

If you’re working to improve your website’s structure and search engine optimization you’ve likely focused on publishing great content and building backlinks to that content. However, one aspect of SEO that is easily overlooked is optimizing your internal links as well. Internal link optimization can drive long-term wins for your organic rankings and site traffic. 

First of all, What Are Internal Links?

Internal links are links on your website that point to other pages on your site. These types of links are useful to both users navigating your site and search engines crawling the pages on your site.

The Different Types of Internal Links

  • Contextual Links: These are text links embedded within your content. You may add these to a blog post to link to another post on a specific topic that you think your readers will find valuable or interesting. For example, if we were discussing on-page vs. off-page SEO (← this is a contextual link) in a blog post we could include a link to another one of our blog posts on that topic.
  • Navigational Links: Navigational links are intended to make it easier for visitors to your site to find other pages on your site. These links could be in the header bar of your site, or included on longer pages to take users to specific points on the page.
  • Footer Links: Footer links are any links you add to the footer of your website. These links can be powerful SEO tools because they show up on every page on your website. Adding footer links to your most important pages can help give them an SEO boost by letting search engines know which pages are the most important on your site.
  • Calls To Action: Call to action (CTA) links are typically included on your site’s landing pages and within blog posts to encourage users to convert, which could be buying a product, signing up for your email list, or downloading a lead magnet.

What is the Purpose of Internal Linking?

Internal links can serve a number of purposes – from making your site more user-friendly to making it easier for search engines to crawl your content. Internal link optimization should also accomplish the following two things:  

Give your site structure.

When you add internal links to your existing content in new pages or posts on your site you improve your site’s structure. Adding internal links to your site helps reduce the crawl depth (or the number of clicks it takes to reach a URL) for your content. 

In addition to reducing crawl depth, internal links are another way of grouping related pages on your site. If you have a blog post on a certain topic, it makes sense to add internal links to that post to any other pages on your site that discuss that topic.

Improve User-Experiences

UX and SEO are actually closely related. Higher quality content is more likely to keep users on your site longer. This can be an indication to Google that your site is worthy of ranking for a given keyword. Adding internal links to your site can make it easy for users to visit multiple pages on your site, which will help increase the average time users spend on your site.

Internal Linking Strategy Works Together with Your Content Strategy 

To truly crush your internal link optimization strategy, you need to have a range of pages and blog posts on your site to add those links to. If your goal is to get more organic traffic to your site, you need to focus on content strategy first, and then focus on building internal links into that strategy.

Internal Links Work How People Assume Backlinks Work

Internal links tell Google which pages to prioritize and which to ignore. The more internal links a given page has, the easier it will be for you to rank. The opposite is also true. The fewer internal links a page has, the harder it will be for that page to rank.

Google confirms in its Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide that internal links are a ranking signal that Google uses when crawling and indexing your content. 

How To Improve Your Internal Linking

1. Use Natural Links and Anchor Text

When adding internal links to your pages, it’s important to optimize your anchor text so your links have the maximum impact. You shouldn’t over-optimize your anchor text to the point that it hurts user experiences.

The anchor text should align with the target keyword of the page you’re linking to – and should make it clear to users what the page is about. Having vague or nondescript anchor text will make users less likely to click on your links.

2. Link to Deeper Pages

You can use internal links to deeper pages on your site to make them easier for users to find. For example, if you have a high value blog post on your site but it’s buried deep on your site people may not be able to easily find it. Adding internal links can keep users visiting your old content, and can also make it easier for search engines to crawl your site.

Adding internal links that go to your homepage doesn’t provide much value, because people can already find that page easily. Your homepage is likely already linked from your header and footer, so adding additional links to your content isn’t necessary.

3. Make Links Useful

Including useful links that people will actually be interested in will help maximize the impact of your links. If you’re able to strategically include links within your blog posts, for example, rather than people bouncing off your site – they will continue reading the next article. This will keep users on your site for longer and will give them more opportunities to convert to become customers.

4. Use Follow Links

When adding links to external sites, sometimes it can make sense to add ‘nofollow’ tags to those links. For internal links though, you should use ‘follow’ links. This allows you to pass on the “link juice” to the pages you’re linking to, and allows search engines to crawl those links. 

5. Don’t Use An Unreasonable Amount of Internal Links

All this being said, more internal links doesn’t necessarily mean that your site will be more SEO friendly. A page that has tons of internal links stuffed in won’t provide much value. Too many links could be distracting for users, make it difficult for search engines to know which pages to prioritize, and can make your site look spammy.

Another thing to consider is that adding too many links in your footer can have negative effects. If every page on your site has hundreds of links in the footer, it can cause your site to look spammy, and can even lead to Google penalizing your site.

How We’ve Used Internal Linking To Improve Tuff’s Organic Results

Over the past couple years at Tuff, we’ve placed a strong emphasis on growing our organic traffic. Internal link optimization has played a strong role in contributing to our organic growth, as we’ve continued to publish new content on the site.

We’ve Implemented a Pillar and Cluster Content Strategy

As we develop content strategies for our website, and for our partners, we spend a lot of time on keyword research. If we find a keyword that is especially relevant and high-value to our business and organic goals, we will create a landing page that specifically targets that keyword. That landing page is a “pillar page” – which provides in-depth coverage of the page’s topic, and includes links to more specific pages or blog posts on our site. 

These specific pages targeting more specific keyword variations are known as “cluster pages”. In addition to targeting more long-tail keywords, cluster pages also provide internal links back to our pillar page.

We Implemented a Site-Wide Footer

Part of our internal linking strategy was adding a footer to our site with links back to our key pages. We included links to our key landing pages that are valuable from an organic search perspective, and that are valuable for visitors to our site looking for specific services.

Example of Site Footer Structure from Tuff Site

Footer links are especially powerful because they show up on all the pages on our website. So adding a page link to the footer is a quick way to build hundreds of internal links quickly.

All of Our Blog Posts Include Internal Links to Our Existing Pages

We consistently publish new posts on the Tuff website, and every one of those blog posts includes internal links back to other pages on our site. 

For example, if we’re writing a blog post about growth marketing strategies, we’ll likely include links back to our Growth Marketing Agency landing page. Not only does this improve our site structure and make it easy for Google to crawl our site, it also helps our pillar pages rank for their target keyword.

SEO Doesn’t Have to Be a Mystery

Whether it’s technical SEO improvements, a strong on-page strategy, or marrying a good user experience with traffic-driving content, you don’t have to do it alone. If you’re stuck in the weeds with your content strategy and SEO work, let’s talk!

An Ecommerce Guide to Optimize Product Page SEO

With so many ecommerce companies using paid search ads, you might be thinking—does product page SEO really matter? The answer is yes.

Businesses need a holistic growth marketing strategy that combines SEO and paid search. It is not an either/or situation – and as an ecommerce growth agency, we incorporate both strategies for our partners. 

Paid search can help you grow fast and stay competitive. If your site is new, it can get you to the top of search results faster. However, you pay for every click that comes to your website. On the other hand, organic search provides sustainability and long-term growth. You don’t pay for clicks, and you could get traffic from SEO-optimized product pages and content years after it was first published. 

Here are just a few reasons why organic search is so important to ecommerce businesses.

 

What is product page SEO? 

A product page is a landing page on your website that provides all the product information that a customer needs to make an informed purchase. Great product pages don’t only provide product information–they are intentionally designed to entice visitors to buy. 

Product pages are transactional, meaning that most visitors are in the market to buy. However, that doesn’t mean that they will. If your product pages are not optimized for conversions or SEO, then they aren’t generating nearly as much revenue as they could. 

Product page SEO is the practice of optimizing product page descriptions, structure, content, and other elements to increase your visibility and overall organic search traffic. With SEO-optimized product pages, you can rank higher in search results and get more visitors to your site. 

How to optimize your product pages 

There are a lot of elements to consider when creating product pages–increasing conversions, providing shoppers with product details, creating the best user experience, and more. How does SEO fit in? 

SEO’s impact may not be obvious on the page, but it is a key part of why many ecommerce brands have been successful. To optimize your product page SEO, follow these tips. 

1. Include keywords in your product names and titles. 

What makes a good product page title? It should be descriptive, but also include keywords.

Keywords are the search terms that your potential customers are using when they search for products like yours. To determine if a query is a good keyword for you, conduct keyword research. 

Look for terms that have high monthly search volume and low keyword difficulty. For example, if someone is searching for “fanny pack”, the search volume looks like this: 

Now, the keyword difficulty, or competition to rank is fairly high, but it’s not impossible to rank. To really develop your keyword strategy, you’ll want to add variations and long-tail keywords.

  • A keyword variation might be a description like the available colors “pink fanny pack” or a synonym like “belt bag”.
  • Long-tail keywords are queries that have around 4 words or more. They are usually in the form of questions, but not always. Although they aren’t usually product page keywords, they are great for longer-form how-to or informational SEO content.

Now, once you have a list of keywords that are associated with your products, you can create SEO titles. 

If you search for “fanny pack” (and many other products), you’ll eventually see Amazon in the results. It’s because Amazon is using product page SEO best practices. Its product listings have specific requirements for titles. If you look at Amazon’s product naming guidelines, you may notice that they are designed for SEO. 

For instance, they must include a descriptive keyword, and they have title length limits. Amazon’s title length is 80 characters max, but we recommend under 60. 

Here’s an easy-to-use format for creating SEO-friendly product titles: 

  • Primary Keyword – Description (material, color, or size) – Brand Name

It’s also important to note that you may rank for product category pages with SEO, in addition to individual product pages. Category pages tend to have more general keywords (belt bags and fanny packs), whereas, product pages may be more specific (faux leather belt bag). 

2. Make sure your product URL structure is descriptive.

The URL structure of your product pages is more important than you may think. The URL appears at the top of the browser, and although, it may not be read by shoppers as much as your title, search engines are reading it. 

Good URL structure helps Google crawl and index your site. Bad URL structure can impact your organic search performance. Common URL issues for ecommerce sites are duplicate and non-descriptive text. 

Avoid URLs that look like this: 

https://company.com/skincare/collections/product/index.jsp?productId=1234567

It’s long. It includes a lot of numbers that are not descriptive. Plus, it’s missing keywords. Instead, opt for a URL like this: 

  • https://company.com/product/keyword

Cooking company Caraway does this beautifully. For instance, look at the product page for its fry pan

The keyword “fry pan” is right in the title and URL. Overall, the URL structure is short, descriptive, and SEO friendly. 

3. Use canonical tags to eliminate duplicate content.

Even if you have a consistent, keyword-rich product URL structure, there are common SEO issues that happen with every ecommerce site. This is because ecommerce sites may have many variations of the same product. 

For instance, you could have one product, but different sizes, materials, and colors. Each product variation creates a unique URL, even though the content on the page doesn’t change much. 

In addition, many ecommerce sites use breadcrumb navigation. The URL structure changes based on how you clicked through the site to eventually land on the product page. 

This creates duplicate content issues for ecommerce sites. To solve this, you’ll want to implement canonical tags. 

Canonical tags tell Google and other search engines that a specific URL is the master URL. 

By implementing rel=canonical tags, you let Google know that it’s not duplicate content.

4. Add unique product descriptions.

If you don’t have unique product descriptions, you’ll run into two major problems–duplicate content and likely, lower conversions. Product descriptions are written first for buyers, not bots. 

That said, a good product description for buyers should also be good for SEO. Here are some tips for writing product descriptions for SEO and conversions: 

  • Include the most important information above the fold. 
  • Highlight benefits, but provide a bulleted list of product features.
  • Include keywords in your product description.
  • Put yourself in your buyer’s shoes.
  • Make it skimmable–include icons and bulleted lists.
  • Eliminate empty words–every word should add meaning to the description.
  • Answer common questions–what is the product, what does it do, and why is it worth buying?

For an example of product page descriptions that work, look at Glossier. 

The product description for Glossier’s milky jelly cleanser includes all the important information (pricing, sizes, etc.) above the fold. It includes keywords like “conditioning face wash” and “gel face wash” throughout. It is also easy to read with short descriptions, product images, and bulleted lists. 

5. Add high-quality product images, but watch out for loading speed.

A fast loading speed is critical to ecommerce websites. Unbounce reports that 70% of shoppers say page speed influences their likelihood of buying from an online store. 

Page speed impacts the user experience, and it’s a ranking factor for search engine optimization. Ideally, your pages will load within one to two seconds. 

Many factors impact page loading speed, but the size of images is one of the easiest that you can control. The rule of thumb for images is to keep the size below 70 KB. 

If you are having a difficult time reducing the size without impacting quality, you can try a smaller image size. You can also change image formats. For example, a JPEG image usually has a much smaller file size than a PNG. 

6. Name image files with keywords and add alt text.

Speaking of product images, make sure that when you upload them, they are named descriptively using keywords. For example, instead of adding a product image that is titled “image1.png”, rename it with a descriptive keyword like “blue-fanny-pack.png”

Then, add alt text. This is descriptive text that appears for screen readers, and in case an image doesn’t load on your site. It’s not only important for SEO but for accessibility standards.

7. Embed product videos.

Video content can vastly improve your product page conversions. Combine it with SEO, and you can have more traffic and potential customers. 

Sometimes, the best way to describe how your product works is by showing how it works. Site visitors that watch a product video are 73% more likely to buy. Of course, the quality of the product video is important too. Some quick tips for product videos are: 

  • Keep it short–under 30 seconds.
  • Show how your product solves a problem. 
  • Bring the product to life–go beyond an image and show the product in action.

Another advantage of product videos for SEO is that, if they are set up with schema, they can appear in Google’s rich video snippets. (More on that below.)

8. Add schema markup to appear in rich results.

Google is continuously adding more search results features to help users discover products. Rich results, also called rich snippets, are Google search results that go beyond the basic text and blue link format. They can be image carousels, videos, or interactive elements. Common rich results for ecommerce companies are:

  • Product – (Popular Products)
  • Reviews – (Star ratings and customer reviews)

To appear in rich results, there are specific product page SEO requirements–mainly structured data or schema markup. You can test whether or not your product pages support rich snippets by adding the link to Google’s Rich Results Test.

9. Include social proof, most importantly reviews.

Out of all the elements on a product page, you can bet that people will read reviews no matter what. In fact, 93% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase. 

It is probably obvious by now that reviews influence a customer to buy a product. However, did you know that reviews also impact SEO? 

Reviews act as trust signals for customers and search engines. If you feature reviews from real customers on your site, you could be rewarded with a higher search engine ranking. 

Allbirds has some of the best product page reviews. For example, on the product page for its men’s wool running shoes, visitors can search inside reviews. It signals that Allbirds cares about customers’ experiences, and makes it easier for new customers to research. 

Visitors can sort and filter results to look for past buyers that have similar shoe sizes, widths, and more. 

10. Pair product pages with high-quality SEO content.

Product pages are instrumental to any ecommerce site. However, they are designed for people that already have some idea of what they want. In other words, visitors may be in the consideration or conversion stage of the customer funnel already. But, what if a purchase requires a little more education? What if a customer is familiar with a product, but isn’t sure what size or other features they need? 

High-quality SEO content like how-to blogs can help educate consumers about your products in ways that product pages can’t. 

Take REI for example. The outdoor gear and clothing store is taking a holistic approach to its marketing. You can tell because they appear on the first page of results in paid search, organic results, and rich snippets for highly relevant keywords. It doesn’t cannibalize keywords because each result is different. For example, there are local searches for retail locations and keyword-based results. 

In addition, when you search for “sleeping bags”, REI appears in Google’s Popular Products as well as general search results. 

Now, in addition to optimizing its product pages for SEO, REI is optimizing content. Using sleeping bags as an example, a question that people searching for sleeping bags often have is what temperature rating do you need? 

Temperature ratings are a sleeping bag product feature that new buyers may not be familiar with, so it’s worth educating them through long-form SEO content. In fact, REI does just that. Looking at this blog on How to Choose a Sleeping Bag, you’ll see one of the first sections is “Understanding Sleeping Bag Temperature Ratings”.

 

REI is currently ranking for the keyword “sleeping bag temperature ratings”, as well as other sleeping bag-related queries.

Of course, much more goes into optimizing product pages for ecommerce. It’s a good idea to A/B test changes to a product page to see how it impacts conversions. Fixing technical product page SEO issues can be much more complex too. Features like adding structured schema can take a lot of time and attention to detail. These tips can set you on the right path, but if you want to dive deeper, you may want to seek an ecommerce growth agency with experience in product page SEO to get additional expertise.