Tag Archive for: SEO

Youtube SEO Checklist

Youtube SEO Checklist to Skyrocket Your Visibility

Youtube SEO Checklist

If your videos are not ranking at the top of search results, you’re likely missing a few key elements in your Youtube SEO strategy. 

We know the Youtube algorithm aims to match users with the most relevant content. So how can you work with the algorithm to get your videos pushed to the top of the search results? 

That’s exactly what we’ll cover in this detailed Youtube SEO checklist.  Let’s get started!

What is Youtube SEO Exactly? 

Much like traditional search engine optimization, Youtube SEO involves a set of practices aimed at helping your content appear high in the search results. By optimizing your title tag, video description, thumbnail and other key elements (more on that below), you can attract the right viewers to your channel. 

How Does Youtube SEO Work?

If you want to rank videos on Youtube, then there’s one thing you need to understand. Yes, you guessed it. It’s The Youtube algorithm (aka the system that determines what videos appear for each user). Simply put, Youtube analyzes multiple factors from user behavior to video data to determine what videos to present to users.

Getting your videos on the results page or on the sweet real estate that is the youtube homepage requires optimizing them. But what exactly do you optimize for?  Find out below!

Optimize for Youtube Ranking Factors 

So, what is important for YouTube SEO? Well, there are multiple factors at play in the complex Youtube algorithm. 

But at the heart of the Youtube algorithm is a simple goal: Youtube aims to present each user with the videos that align with their interests AND get them to keep watching. To do this, the video platform uses multiple data points. Some of these, like what a user has watched in the past, are out of your control. 

However, the seven elements listed below are ones you do have control over. Let’s dive into these important Youtube ranking factors together!  

Titles, Tags and Descriptions

Your video title, description and tags help Youtube determine what the video is about and who to serve it to. Remember, the algorithm is working to match users with videos that are most relevant to them so filling in these details is essential. This is especially important when you first publish a video since YouTube has no data on watch time, click through rate, like to dislike ratio and other metrics. We’ll dive into some juicy title, description and tag SEO tips in the next section. 

TLDR: Youtube uses title and descriptions to determine who to serve your videos to. Keep them interesting and accurate!

Thumbnails

Think of the Youtube results page as a row of stores on a busy street. Each thumbnail is like the storefront window. Based on a quick glance, someone will determine whether to enter the store (click on your video) or walk into another store with a shinier, more enticing display (click on a competing video) . 

TLDR: Your thumbnail needs to stand out to get those clicks!

CTR (Click-Through Rate)

Speaking of clicks, let’s talk CTR. Out of all the people seeing your video in the search results, how many are clicking on it? This percentage is known as your click-through rate. Wondering how your CTR compares to other channels? Youtube shared that half of all channels and videos have an impressions CTR ranging between 2% and 10%

TLDR: The more people that click through to your video, the better. So make yours irresistibly clickable.

User Engagement

We’ve all heard our favorite Youtubers cheerfully reminding us to “like, comment and subscribe.” This is because user engagement is a key metric on any Youtube SEO checklist. The more comments, shares and likes your video gets, the higher your engagement rates will be. Plus, this data can help guide future video creation. 

TLDR: Don’t just tell people to share and comment. Make videos that people can’t help but engage with. 

Audience Retention

Once a user clicks on your video, what portion of it do they watch? This percentage is your audience retention rate. It’s no secret that videos with high audience retention rates tend to get prioritized in search results. In fact, Youtube admitted to “adjusting the ranking of videos in YouTube search to reward engaging videos that keep viewers watching”. 

From opening with an interesting hook to adding on-screen graphics, there are lots of ways to boost audience retention. The Youtube SEO checklist below will walk you through data-backed retention strategies.

TLDR: Hold audience interest from beginning to end to get on the Youtube algorithm’s good side. 

Watch Time

Watch time is the total amount of time users have spent watching your video since it went live. Videos with lots of accumulated watch time are more likely to be pushed high in search rankings. Holding viewers’ interest is a key component of increasing your watch time. 

TLDR: Gaining more collective eyes on a video can boost your content in rankings.

Session Time 

Remember that Youtube wants users to stay on the platform for as long as possible. Session time is the amount of time users stay on the platform in one visit. After watching your video, do they exit Youtube? Or do they stay on the platform and watch more videos?  Because Youtube generates revenue via ads, it prefers the latter. Using your current video to encourage viewers to watch others on your channel is a great way to boost session time and watch time for your channel. 

TLDR: After getting people to watch, keep them engaged! It’s a win for you and Youtube.

Youtube SEO Checklist: Before You Shoot Your Video

We’ve covered how Youtube SEO works and the key metrics in Youtube’s search and discovery algorithm. Now, here’s what to do for high ranking videos:

Perform Youtube Keyword Research 

Starting with keyword research is essential for any SEO strategy.  After all, there’s no point in optimizing a video that covers a topic no one is searching for. So how do you uncover an in demand topic in your niche?

  • Use Youtube’s auto suggest feature. To learn what people are actually searching for on youtube, go straight to the source. Once you know your main idea, Youtube can help you narrow it down. 

For example, “vegan recipes” is a broad and competitive keyword. But typing the keyword into Youtube’s search bar with the word “for” provides more specific topic ideas. 

youtube auto suggest feature

  • Try Google Trends. To use it, navigate to trends.google.com and type in a topic. Then, hit enter and set the search filter to Youtube search mode. Once here, you can see the relative popularity of the term over time and analyze interest by region. 

Google Trends will even reveal related topics and queries. Sticking with our vegan recipe idea, we can see that vegan casserole, smoothie and low calorie recipes are in demand. 

google trends

  • Leverage Youtube Keyword Research Tools. We’re big fans of keyword research here at Tuff. And we get by with a little help from our friends, like Tube buddy or Vid IQ. These YouTube SEO tools can help inform your video content strategy. Ahrefs also offers a Youtube search function in its Keyword Explorer tool. 

The tool filters in clickstream data to offer thousands of keyword ideas that you can filter by search volume, average clicks and phrase match. Say I notice that vegan cheese content is getting popular. I can input “vegan recipes” and filter results to include the word cheese. Ahrefs will then display related terms and their respective search volumes. 

keyword research tools

You’ve done the work of uncovering a target keyword. Now, weave it into the title, description and content of your video. Read on to learn how to do this with maximum impact!

Create a Captivating Video Intro

Your video intro is a critical part of your Youtube SEO strategy. Here’s why: It’s common for users to click out of a video within the first 30 seconds of watching (yes, we were shocked too). This leads to low audience retention scores and, you guessed it, lower visibility in search results. To enhance your intro:

  • Include your hook and value proposition early in the video 
  • Tease the best part of the video at  the start 
  • Experiment with different intro styles to learn what your audience prefers

In short, you need to convince your audience to continue watching your video once they click on it. 

Script Your Video Body  

Remember our keyword research from step one? This target keyword needs to be in your video. Yes, saying the keyword and related phrases is helpful for Youtube SEO. *Gasp* So Youtube SEO is about more than just placing the keyword in the title? Yup. That’s because Youtube uses speech-recognition technology to learn what your video is about and create closed captions for your viewers.

For a streamlined video that gives the viewer what they came for, write a script before you hit record. This allows you to add structure, remove unneeded information and ensure you deliver on the title.

End with an Optimized Video Outro 

Viewers tend to click away when they know the video is coming to an end. To avoid dips towards, carefully plan your outros. 

First, don’t abruptly end the video. Instead, have a bridge that naturally leads users into the next one. For example, at the end of a vegan cheesecake recipe video, urge viewers to watch your 10 best tools for vegan baking video. 

Next, leverage the end screen. This final card is a great place to promote other videos. Youtube allows you to customize your end screen  so take advantage of this area. A great end screen includes calls to action and links to relevant videos. This is important for increasing session times. 

Youtube SEO Checklist: Before Publishing The Video 

You’ve scripted, filmed and edited. Now it’s time to publish! Use the checklist below to optimize your Youtube video before it’s live.  

Create an Intriguing Video Title 

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of your video title. Youtube uses video titles as a ranking factor. Users decide whether to click on a video based on the title. Here’s how to optimize yours: 

  • Include the target keyword in the title, preferably at the start
  • Avoid confusing language or industry jargon that users may not know
  • Ensure the title aligns with the video content (no clickbait)
  • Look at titles of top performing videos and create similar ones
  • Add interest to your titles power words, numbers and related keywords

Let’s compare two titles for the term “cook a vegan cake”.

youtube video title

This title is straightforward and aligns with user intent. But it’s not very interesting.

youtube video titles

This title incorporates multiple related keywords that someone searching for a vegan cake may look up. A superlative like Best and a fun emoji make this title enticing to the user. 

Craft an Optimized Description 

The description box lets Youtube understand what the video is about so the algorithm can serve it to the correct users. It’s also a great place to encourage users to engage with you and your content. For a strong description: 

  • Create a summary on what the video is about, including your focus keyword
  • Link to any resources you mention in the video
  • Include partial matches and variations of the focus keyword 
  • Add timecodes  that covers the structure of the videos to improve video SEO

While the start of each description should be unique, you can end each description with a templatized blurb about your channel and links to your social media. 

Create a Captivating Thumbnail 

Remember our storefront analogy from earlier? Your thumbnail is the visual representation of your video that users can either click on (yay 🥳)  or scroll past (sigh) as they look at video options. A great thumbnail should:

  • Visually complement your title
  • Stand out from other top videos on the results page
  • Be image focused rather than word-focused 

Let’s compare two thumbnails for the term “vegan dessert recipe”. 

youtube seo title

This thumbnail does display the focal point of the video but it lacks any messaging around why a user should click. There are no overlays, fun fonts, or contrasting colors to add interest.

youtube seo title example

This thumbnail contains bolded words that emphasize what the user will get when they click into the video. In addition to the dessert, the human element of the men baking adds interest.

Add closed captions 

Closed captions might not spring to mind when you think of video optimization. But this feature can increase engagement among viewers, especially on mobile. Plus, having high-quality closed captions expands reach among non native speakers and those who are hard of hearing.

Youtube automatically generates captions for your videos. But these Auto Speech Recognition (ASR) captions are not always accurate. To produce the best captions, you can edit the captions or use a captioning tool. 

Post Publishing: Youtube SEO Tips 

Oh, you thought our SEO strategy was complete? Creating quality video content is essential. But there’s more you can do to give your videos a boost in Youtube search results. 

Promote Your Video

After your video goes live, it’s time for a little good old fashioned promotion. To encourage current subscribers to watch, create a community post on Youtube highlighting the new video. Repeat the process on your other social media platforms. Be sure to include an interesting angle to avoid coming off as too self-promotional. 

In this community post, Vegan focused Youtube channel Pick Up Limes promotes a new video and lets users know the value they will receive.

Use Youtube Analytics for Insights

Youtube Analytics is a treasure trove of data that you can leverage to accelerate your channel growth. In the tool, you can dive into your audience demographics to tailor your content to better serve them. You’ll also be able to analyze the key moments for audience retention to know when people are interested and when they click out of your videos.

As you can tell, there are a lot of moving parts at play when it comes to Youtube SEO. The Tuff team has the tools expertise you need to create and execute a holistic SEO strategy that engages the right users to grow your business.

scale media spend

Free SEO Report Template

scale media spend

Finding the perfect SEO report template is a challenge. You need to provide enough insights so that anyone looking at the data can understand what the numbers mean. 

However, you don’t want to overload your reports with data without providing context. On top of that, your report should reflect your brand, track your SEO progress accurately, and save you time.

At Tuff, we use several tools to track the progress of our SEO efforts, including Google Analytics and Search Console. Then, for some partners, we use Google Data Studio to bring it all together into a dashboard that updates in real-time and includes visuals like charts and graphs. 

In this article, we’ll go over how to use Data Studio to create professional SEO reports. We’ve also provided this free SEO report template and we’ll show you how to customize it with your own site’s data. 

What is an SEO report? 

An SEO report tracks your SEO metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) and provides an overview of the impact of your organic efforts. 

Which SEO metrics should you track in your report? 

The SEO metrics you track may vary slightly depending on your brand’s goals and KPIs. But, for the most part, SEO experts track similar metrics to indicate success. 

At a minimum, you should be tracking organic: 

  • Monthly traffic
  • Leads 
  • Revenue
  • Conversions and CVR 
  • Pages per session
  • Bounce rate 
  • Keyword movement
  • Top performing pages

At Tuff, we use an SEO metrics spreadsheet similar to this one to track our performance each month. 

Although we also use dashboards, a spreadsheet forces us to manually go into Analytics and look at the data every few weeks. 

A dashboard helps you visualize your data in charts. Also, because it is connected to your data sources—whether that’s Google Analytics, Search Console, or another platform—it automatically updates in real time.

With a dashboard, you cut down your time spent pulling data manually. However, it shouldn’t be a set it and forget it solution. You should keep track of your data and check in on your campaigns regularly—at least once a week. 

What does an SEO report include? 

This SEO report dashboard includes organic: 

  • Traffic sessions 
  • Leads 
  • Pages per session
  • Session duration
  • Bounce rate
  • Keyword performance 

Because it is a Data Studio Dashboard, you can customize the data to fit your needs. For example, we created filters to view non-branded keyword traffic. 

What does a good SEO report look like? 

Usually, an SEO report will track metrics like your monthly organic traffic and conversions. However, because SEO is a long-term investment, you should also be able to view your progress over several months to a year. 

It should have a combination of quantity (organic traffic increases) and quality metrics (session duration, bounce rate, leads, and conversions). 

I also recommend including a summary page that includes the most important insights that you pulled from the data. 

For example, if your organic traffic tripled in the last month, you should identify why. It could be that you refreshed several pages and they now rank at the top of the search results. However, it could also be that your site got hit with bot traffic. 

Providing that high-level insight distinguishes experts from everyone else. It also provides you with learnings about your strategy, so you can identify what is working and eliminate what isn’t. If you see that one page gets a lot of traffic and has high session duration and organic conversions, maybe there is something on that page you can apply to others across your site. 

How to Use the SEO Report Template

You don’t need to be an expert in Data Studio to copy this SEO report template and use it. However, you will need access to Google Search Console and Analytics and basic to intermediate knowledge of how to use them. You should also have an understanding of what goals and segments you have set up in Analytics. 

First, go to the SEO Report template here, go to “File”, and click “Make a copy”. Alternatively, you can click the three dots in the corner and select “Make a copy” from the drop-down. 

A box like the one below will appear. You’ll need to be signed into the Google account with access to your analytics data. 

how to copy seo report

Go to “New Data Source” and choose where you want to pull data from—Analytics and Search Console—then hit “Copy Report”. 

You can also pull from other sources once you are inside the template by going to the Data tab on the right. Then, click on “Add Data” at the bottom. 

It will show a popup with options to connect from Google products or to build your own. With this, you can pull in data from social channels or SEO tools like Semrush. For SEO, you likely won’t need social, but Semrush may be useful. However, keep in mind that the more data you add, the more complicated it can get.

seo report data

Our Dashboards often blend data sources from Analytics and Search Console. Blending is more advanced, so we’re not going to cover it for this template. 

Once you have your data sources, you can begin editing and customizing the SEO report template. 

Keep in mind that this example may look different. It is because we are using Google’s sample data rather than revealing website data. 

Before we dive into the report pages, you’ll need to know how to customize them with your site metrics and branding. 

How to Edit Charts 

To edit any of these, you simply click on them. A Chart tab will appear next to the Data tab. Underneath it, there are two options—Setup and Style. 

To configure the data that is used, you’ll choose “Setup”. To customize the look and appearance, for example, to change the bar chart colors, you’ll go to “Style”. 

Inside the “Setup” tab, you’ll need to know these configurations: 

  1. Data Source – This is the data that appears in the chart you select. To update it, choose your Google Analytics as the data source. 
  2. Dimension – We set this to show month and year. For reporting purposes, you’ll probably want to leave this as it is. 
  3. Metric – This is the metric that appears in the bar chart, and in this case, it’s sessions. You can change this by going to the Metrics section and clicking “Add metric”. 
  4. Default date range – You can customize the time frame that appears on the horizontal axis. It is preset for you with a yearly range, but you can adjust it with custom dates. 
  5. Filter – This section is a must. You need to have a filter in your analytics that is organic search only. Otherwise, you’ll be pulling in all website traffic from all sources, not just organic. 

For the most part, you’ll leave the other settings as they are in the template. Once you know how to edit the charts and update them with your site data, it’s pretty simple. 

Cover Page 

You can customize the cover page to match your branding by either inserting an image or editing it inside Data Studio. If you do the latter, click on the elements and background to edit. You can change the color of the background, adjust the font, and add your logo. 

Also, you can go to “Insert” and “New Page” if you want to add a summary page or add other pages to this template. 

Organic Traffic Overview

The second page—organic traffic overview—is one of the most important in the report. It includes the key metrics in cards at the top.

  • Sessions
  • Users
  • New users
  • Pages per session
  • Average session duration
  • Bounce rate

It also automatically updates with the percent increase or decrease from the previous reporting period. 

With this template, you can choose to filter by country and date as well with the boxes at the top. 

In the middle of the page is a bar chart that shows organic sessions for each month. Remember that we are using sample data, so it will show “No Data” until you update the template with your data sources. 

seo report template - organic traffic

When you pull your site’s actual data, it should update to include your organic traffic for each month. You can also choose to change the metric that appears in the bar chart from Sessions to New Users or another metric by updating that in the “Setup” tab. 

Organic Leads 

On this page, you can track how many leads you’ve gotten from your organic efforts. However, you need to have your goals set up in Google Analytics first. 

The chart on this page is blank in the report because it’s pulled from sample data. You have to update it by going to “Metrics” and choosing the goal you are measuring from the “Goal Conversions” list. 

Then, it will update with a bar chart measuring your leads. It should look like the below chart of example data. 

organic leads SEO report example

Top Performing Pages – Organic 

The first few pages pull data from Google Analytics, now we’ll be pulling from Google Search Console. 

Again, because this is pulling data from the Google sample set, it will look different from the report that you generate. 

Mainly, this one is using “Query”, but you’ll be using “Landing Page” instead. The sample data doesn’t include URLs or landing pages, so it is not there. 

For example, Tuff’s report looks like this: 

SEO report - landing page example

The table also includes:

  • Impressions 
  • Clicks 
  • Click-through-rate (CTR)
  • Average position
  • Percent decrease or increase for each

Optionally, you can use the next page, which has the same metrics but also includes a heatmap and ranks the top pages by clicks, CTR, and impressions. 

Keyword Performance (MoM)

One of the most important metrics for tracking SEO progress is keyword movement. You need to know what keywords you are ranking for as well as your past and current position. 

In other words, you need to know where you started to see how far you’ve come. 

For example, let’s say you identify a target keyword and you’re currently ranking in position 12. You want to refresh that page to increase your ranking and get to page one, even better, in the top three results. 

As we know, the top position gets the most clicks. The number of clicks goes down as your position falls, so you get more site traffic when you are higher on the results page. Plus, you need to be on the first page to get any meaningful traffic these days. Only .63% of people go to the second page of Google.

But, you need to track your keyword rankings to know if the changes you make have an impact or not. This is where the Keyword Performance (MoM) page of the SEO report template comes in. It tracks your keyword rankings over time. 

keyword performance

You pull data from Google Search Console and use “Query” as the metric. Again, similar to the top-performing pages slide, you can view clicks, impressions, CTR, and average position. However, you are doing it by keyword rather than landing page. 

You can also track clicks and impressions month-over-month and filter by country and date.

This is helpful to monitor when you lose key positions too. When you see a drop, you can react faster to regain top positions and any traffic you lose in the process. 

Non-Branded Keyword Performance (MoM)

As you can guess, this slide tracks the same metrics as keyword performance. However, we’ve set up a filter to only track non-branded terms. 

SEO often focuses on increasing search visibility for non-branded terms—those keywords that do not include your brand name. Although, this varies. For example, if you are creating comparison content you might want to also track branded, which is why we have the option for both. An example of this is if you optimize for keywords that include [your brand name] + vs + [your competitor]. 

To set up a non-branded filter, you go to “Filter” in the “Setup” chart tab. Then, “Add a filter” that excludes your brand name. 

You can use this as a monthly SEO report template or as a dashboard. Since it is connected to the data sources you use, it will update automatically. 

Although using Data Studio for your SEO reports can increase efficiency, you should still set aside time to assess the data and pull insights and learnings. If you are working with an SEO agency, they should provide you with those high-level insights that help strengthen your SEO strategy and organic growth. 

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! 

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. 

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 UX and SEO Can Work Together to Increase Organic Traffic

You can have a website that is 100% optimized for search engine ranking, but what if that comes at the expense of your site’s user experience? Well, you could actually be holding yourself back from ranking for your target keywords.

Tuff’s SEO team works with our UX designers to publish SEO-friendly landing pages with great user experiences. This collaboration has boosted our SEO team’s results for Tuff’s clients. So what is the link between user-experience (UX) and search engine optimization (SEO)?

What is SEO?

Search engine optimization (SEO) involves making it easier for people to find your business online. You can achieve this by making changes to your website to make it easier for search engines to understand your content. You’ll also need to upload new pages and content to your site to answer people’s questions. And finally, drive traffic back to your site through links and mentions from other sites.

What is UX?

User-experience (UX is how people interact with and experience a product, website or software tool. For websites, it encompasses how users navigate the site, how quickly they find what they’re looking for, and how intuitive the design is on the page.

Is SEO a part of UX?

SEO focuses on aligning your content with the questions people are searching for on Google. After someone clicks on your webpage in the search results, it’s important to make it easy for them to find the answers to their questions. Having a good UX design for your landing pages and blog posts will make it easier for visitors to find what they’re looking for.

There is no reason why you can’t optimize your site from a UX and SEO perspective at the same time. In fact, working to align your SEO and UX efforts can actually boost your results in both areas.

Your SEO efforts will drive traffic to your site, while UX will make sure the information on your site is easy to find.

SEO content that is written only for search engines will be hard to read and not very useful. A website that isn’t designed for PEOPLE will be difficult to navigate and understand.

Why is UX Important for SEO?

UX and SEO Are Both About Making Your Users Happy 😃

The goal of SEO is to bring users to your site to give them the information they are searching for. The goal of UX is to make it easy to navigate the page on your site to find that information. One important aspect of SEO is looking at user-intent and aligning your content with that desire or motivation. Improving the UX design on a page can help meet that user intent faster.

Making your website search engine-friendly is key for driving organic traffic. However, if you want to maximize the impact and reach of your content, user-experience is just as important.

UX Makes Your Website Sticky

A good user-experience will keep people on your website for longer. This can encourage them to visit more pages on your website and can even make the call-to-actions on your site more enticing. 

Optimizing your site’s user experience can make it easier for your visitors to navigate to other pages on your site that interest them. This helps increase the time that visitors spend engaging with your content.

Good User Experience is a Ranking Signal for Google

Google says that “when ranking results, Google Search evaluates whether webpages are easy to use and promotes more usable pages over less usable ones, all other things being equal.”

Google’s RankBrain algorithm looks at “behavior metrics such as the site’s bounce rate, organic CTR, pages per session, and dwell time.” In addition to looking at the quality and structure of your website, it’s also important to look at your site’s user-experience to give your content the best chance of ranking in Google Search.

UX Impacts How People Perceive Your Brand

Your website’s user experience (UX) is partly driven by search engine optimization (SEO). The two work together in the sense that both affect how users perceive your site.

The most prominent component of your website’s UX is, of course, your content. If you want to write SEO-friendly content, you need to make sure that your writing is structured well and easy to understand. If people view your site as a trustworthy source of information they will be more likely to return to your site, or do business with you.

On the other hand, if you write content that reads like it was written for search engines, your users will find it difficult to read and not very useful. This could turn them away from your site and lead to them doing business somewhere else.

UX Helps Improve Your Conversion Rate

While SEO focuses on bringing users to your site, UX focuses on how to best keep those users on your site and how to increase the conversions you get from that traffic. By placing CTAs throughout your pages and by making your site easier to navigate, UX designers can play a key role in conversion rate optimization.

6 Steps to Improve Your Site’s UX and SEO

  • Make your site responsive: This improves user experiences for visitors on mobile devices like phones and tablets. Google predominantly uses mobile versions of content for indexing and ranking, even if your visitors are exclusively on desktop.
  • Break up your content: Use headers, bulleted lists, and graphics to break your content into smaller, easier to read pieces. Avoid large chunks of text, which can cause users to look for the answers to their questions elsewhere. This will keep visitors on your site longer, which can be a strong signal for Google that your content is valuable.
  • Improve your site speed and page load times: When your site loads quickly, visitors won’t have to wait around for your content to load. This allows them to jump right into your content rather than potentially clicking the back button.
  • Make your site easy to navigate: Once users land on your site, it should be easy for them to navigate through your content to find what they are looking for. If you have other pages that they might also be interested in, you should make it easy for them to find those pages as well.
  • Minimize your bounce rate: A high bounce rate indicates that users can’t quickly find the information they are looking for, or they are running into another issue that is causing them to leave your site immediately after arriving. Improving your pages’ UX can help decrease your bounce rate.
  • Improve your site’s hierarchy: By organizing your pages on your site in an intuitive way, you make it easier for users to navigate through your site. The navigation on your site guides users from one page to another, so making this as intuitive as possible will improve user experiences.

Do UX Designers Need to Know SEO?

Not necessarily, but it’s certainly a valuable skill for anyone to have when making changes to your website. If the UX designer isn’t knowledgeable of SEO principles, they can still work alongside an SEO specialist to make sure that their changes are having the intended impact on your site, and that your site is search engine-friendly.

What are Best Practices for UX and SEO?

A strong user experience and search engine optimization are two of the most important aspects of managing a website.

Users and search engines alike benefit from the following practices: 

  • Make your content easier to digest by breaking it down into smaller sections
  • Use bullet points and numbered lists
  • Use more images and illustrations to communicate your message
  • Write content that aligns with your users’ intent
  • Test your pages on different devices (desktop and mobile) and different browsers
  • Minimize your CSS and JavaScript
  • Make your site load quickly
  • Publish content that is user-centered and easy to read

Integrate Your UX and SEO Practices

Rather than publishing SEO landing pages on your site and then trying to go back through them and optimize them from a UX perspective, you should try to implement UX best practices at all stages of the development process.

If your UX and SEO teams can collaborate and exchange constant feedback, you’ll end up with a much better end product.

Conduct a UX/SEO Audit to Find Opportunities to Improve Your User Metrics

  • Look at time-on-site metrics like average session duration or bounce rate. Pages on your site with a low average session duration or high bounce rate, could likely benefit from a UX redesign or content update.
  • Monitor your site for broken links or slow loading pages. Slow loading pages and broken links are frustrating for the people visiting your site. Redirect or replace your broken links and speed up your page load times to improve your user experience.
  • Check for pages with low conversion rates. If certain pages on your site are getting a lot of traffic but aren’t driving conversions, you may need to adjust the CTAs on the page to make them more relevant.

Here’s how our SEO and UX teams go about developing new content for our clients:

  • We identify a need for a certain page on the website. This typically comes from keyword research, if we notice that a relevant term for their business has a high search volume or is especially valuable for our client.
  • Our SEO team creates an outline for the page and works with our writers to source the copy. The outline is where we determine the direction and the structure of the page. We then make sure that the copy is clearly written and aligns with our target keyword and search intent.
  • The SEO team formats the brief and hands it off to our UX team. When providing our UX designers with the copy for a landing page, our SEO team formats it in a way that makes it easy to understand the structure of the page, and the important sections that need to be included.
  • The UX designers create mock-ups of the new landing page. Our UX team creates wireframes and mockups in tools like Figma or Adobe XD, for the client to approve. This step makes sure that the new pages are optimized from a UX and CRO perspective.
  • We present the designs and walk the client through the mockups. After putting together the mockups, we share them with our clients to walk them through the new content and give them a chance to provide any feedback.
  • Then, we hand off the mockups to the developer to implement and push live. Once we’ve received approval, we give the mockups to the developer to implement on the site.
  • The last step is to make sure the page was implemented properly and optimized. We make sure the focus keyword, meta description and other SEO data are set correctly and that the page doesn’t have any bugs or broken links.

How We’ve Combined UX and SEO for Tuff’s Clients

For new landing pages on our clients’ websites, our SEO team works closely with our UX team to produce landing pages that are optimized from both an SEO and UX perspective.

Landing Page for Visory’s Bookkeeping Service

Tuff worked with Visory, an online bookkeeping service, to create landing pages around bookkeeping for specific industries. Our SEO and UX teams collaborated to create pages that were optimized both for ranking on Google and for providing great user experiences.

Homepage example for Visory

This landing page, for example, is targeting keywords related to “bookkeeping for eCommerce”. We looked at the top ranking pages for our target keyword and identified what we needed to include on our page to match the search intent for our target keyword.

Our UX team also considered how we could make this page intuitive to navigate and easy to read. We also looked at how we could make the calls to action (CTAs) more enticing for users to click on, to optimize the page’s conversion rate.

Footer Navigation for Salams

Tuff worked with Salams, a Muslim dating app, to increase organic traffic to their website and to drive organic app installs. We were able to increase organic traffic by 117% in 90 days by publishing new content on their site and making technical SEO optimizations.

Beyond just publishing this new content, we also redesigned the footer on the Salams website to improve both SEO and UX.

Salams footer example

As we started publishing new landing pages, we noticed that many of these new pages were “orphan pages” and weren’t linked to from other pages on the site. Our solution was to add these new pages to the footer so that they would be linked to from every page on the site. This helps show Google that this content is important and is worthy of ranking.

This also helped improve the UX on the Salam’s site. By having these pages linked in the footer, users can easily navigate to other pages that they might be interested in on the site. This helps keep people browsing on the site rather than clicking the back button and looking for more information elsewhere.

building a growth marketing strategy for a business on a computer

Little-Known Ways to Leverage SEMrush

At Tuff, we use SEMrush every day. If you aren’t familiar with SEMrush, it is a powerful tool to conduct marketing research. 

You can run technical SEO audits, keyword research, competitive analysis, and much more. 

With SEMrush, you get a lot of data at your fingertips. However, the challenge with comprehensive tools like SEMrush is figuring out how to use them effectively. 

How can you leverage SEMrush to get better marketing results? Sit tight, and read on. 

  1. Identify your search competitors.
  2. Compare your competitors’ traffic (and where it comes from). 
  3. See how much competitors spend on paid traffic.
  4. Prioritize keyword opportunities with the Keyword Gap Tool and filters.
  5. Outline content with the SEO Content Template. 
  6. Track keyword movement.
  7. View your share of search. 
  8. Get SEO ideas from the On-Page SEO Checker.

1. Identify your search competitors.

Each company has market competitors and search competitors. Market competitors are the companies you directly compete with–you have similar target audiences and products. Some examples of market competitors are: 

  • Samsung and Apple 
  • Peloton and NordicTrack
  • Nike and Adidas
  • McDonald’s and Burger King

Search competitors, also known as organic competitors, are the sites that show up in search results for the same queries or keywords that you are targeting. 

For instance, if you are a company selling indoor house plants online, you might be trying to rank for queries like “indoor succulents”. When you search “indoor succulents”, you will be competing against blogs about plant care as well as direct competitors. 

Sometimes the two buckets overlap, but not always. When we do a competitive analysis, we look at both. 

Here’s how to find your search competitors in SEMrush: 

  • Go to Organic Research, add your site, and search by Root Domain. 
  • Click on the Competitor tab inside organic research to see your results. 

You’ll see a graph called “competitive positioning map”. This shows your top five search competitors based on your current content rankings. You can also see a full list of organic competitors. Note that your market competitors might also be search competitors, but again, not always. 

For fun, let’s see what a competitive positioning map looks like if we use Webflow as an example. 

looking at competitors in semrush

As a website builder, Webflow has a lot of market competitors like WordPress, Shopify, and Squarespace, but currently, Wix is their biggest search competitor. 

Once you have a clear picture of who you are competing with, you can learn how to beat them–with a little help from SEMrush. 

2. Compare your competitors’ traffic (and where it comes from). 

The amount of competitive data that you can pull from SEMrush goes beyond just identifying competitors. In fact, you can learn exactly what marketing strategies competitors use to get traffic within SEMrush. 

Take your top competitors–these can be a combination of search and market competitors–and compare them. 

Here’s how:

  1. Go to SEMrush’s Domain Overview and enter your site domain. 
  2. Click on Compare Domains and add up to four competitors. 
  3. Hit compare.

Let’s take the house plants example that we used earlier. If we use The Sill as an example,  SEMrush will generate a competitive report that looks like this: 

reviewing search competitors in semrush

There’s a lot in this table, but for our purposes, we’re going to look at these columns: 

  • Organic traffic – how much traffic comes from organic search monthly
  • Organic keywords – how many keywords a site ranks for 
  • Paid traffic – the average monthly spend on paid traffic 

As you can see, The Sill is beating Bloomscape and Urbanstems at organic search. Over 1.3 million in traffic each month comes from organic search alone. 

If you look at the non-branded/branded section, you can also get a sense of where that traffic is coming from. 

With this, you can view the percent of non-branded and branded traffic. If a company has significantly more branded traffic than non-branded, it usually signals that most of their organic traffic is direct, meaning it comes from people that already knew the company. They likely don’t have a strong SEO content strategy yet.

3. See how much competitors spend on paid traffic. 

As a holistic growth marketing agency, we know that some of the best and most sustainable results happen when paid and organic marketing efforts work together. 

If a company only focuses on paid traffic, it could end up spending a lot on short-term wins and miss out on the long-term growth opportunities from SEO. Knowing how much your competitors spend on paid can help you determine your own ad budgets, but it can also tell you why competitors are beating you. 

For example, Urbanstems has a large ad budget ($460K+ according to SEMrush), but lower organic traffic than The Sill. On the other hand, the majority of The Sill’s traffic is from organic search, and they are able to have lower ad costs in comparison ($35K). 

4. Prioritize keyword opportunities with the Keyword Gap Tool and filters. 

There are many ways to conduct keyword research. One way to get started is to learn from your competitors. 

The idea isn’t that you should copy your competitors. Rather, by knowing what keywords your competitors rank for, you can identify your strengths and weaknesses. This will help you to identify growth opportunities for keywords and content. 

Here’s how: 

  • Go to the Keyword Gap tool. 
  • Enter your domain and your top competitor. You can technically enter up to four competitors, but we recommend one at a time.

You’ll see a report like this one. 

how to use semrush to find keyword opportunities

As you can see, there are thousands of keyword results. If you’re just starting out, it can be hard to identify which opportunities you should prioritize first. 

Here’s an insider tip for using SEMrush: filters are your friend. These are some of my favorite filters to use to help prioritize keyword research: 

  • Position – Go to the position filter dropdown and competitor domain. Then, depending on the number of results you have, filter by top 10 or top 20. 

This tells you that you or your competitors rank in the top 10 or 20 search results. These are usually the most relevant terms for your business, and the top traffic drivers.

  • KD – In the SEO world, we look for keywords that hit the sweet spot of high search volume and low difficulty to rank (keyword difficulty or KD). Most companies will want to stay below 70 keyword difficulty. 

To filter this, go to the KD and set a custom range between 0 to 70. 

  • Intent – Great SEO content has the potential to also lead to conversions. The key is figuring out which queries are high-intent. 

High-intent keywords are my personal favorite because when someone searches for them, it is a strong indicator that they are looking to buy. If you can rank for high intent keywords, you could bring in more organic conversions

To filter in SEMrush, go to Intent and choose commercial.

Now, with the Keyword Gap and some filtering, you’ll have a solid list of keywords that you can prioritize even further based on relevancy for your business. 

5. Outline content with the SEO Content Template. 

Once you have identified a target keyword for a piece of content, then drop it into the SEO Content Template. Choose the country, region, or city that you are targeting, and hit create SEO Template. 

This tool helps you structure SEO content so that it performs better. For example, a fintech company might be trying to rank for a keyword like “best starter credit card“. When you put the keyword into the SEO Content Template, it will generate a template like this one. 

SEMrush seo content template

We can use this to start a SEO outline, but we don’t want everything here. These are the most important sections to get you started: 

  • Semantically related keywords – Copy and paste the semantically related keywords. These are the words that the top-ranking results use when talking about “best starter credit card”.

Your target keyword is the priority, but try incorporating these words throughout your content at least once to outrank the existing search competitors.

  • Text length – This indicates about how many words you will need to write. For this one, the suggested word count is over 4,000, which is pretty lengthy. With a length like that, this post is likely going to be pillar content.  
  • Competitors – To beat your search competitors, the quality of the content you create has to be greater than their content. Inside the SEO Content Template, you can see the top organic results and how they use your keyword to structure content.

6. Track keyword movement.

SEMrush also makes it easier to track your keyword movement with the Position Tracking tool, but there’s much more to it than that. 

To use position tracking, you first must set up a Project in SEMrush. You can do this by going to Projects, clicking the Create Project button, and entering your website details. 

Now, you can go to the position tracking tool. Here’s how: 

  • Select your project, and hit set up. 
  • Set your targeting parameters. You can set the search engine, device, location, and language.
  • Add your keywords. You can copy and paste them in or import a file of your target keywords list. 
  • Click Start Tracking and SEMrush will gather the data. 

SEMrush’s position tracking is powerful because you can track: 

  • Visibility – This score shows the percent of visibility, or what percent of your keywords appear in the top 100 results in Google. 
  • Positive and negative movement – See what positions you have gained and which you’ve lost by looking at positive and negative impact. Your wins will be in green up arrows and losses are red down arrows. 

Maintaining a top position once you’ve moved up in search results can be a challenge. Position tracking gives you real-time keyword monitoring, so you can identify a drop in position and refresh content when you need to. 

7. View your share of search. 

There are many ways that you can view competitors inside Position Tracking. If you have a business plan, you can track your share of voice, also called share of search.

Share of voice measures brand awareness by comparing how many mentions your brand has in a channel compared to your industry competitors. It usually is used for branded terms, but SEMrush can measure it by all keywords in search, non-branded and branded.

The Share of Voice feature counts the ratio of organic traffic that all of your keywords get from search. Then, it compares that to your organic competitors’ share of search inside a line graph. 

With it, you get a clear picture of the competitive landscape. You can see which brands are dominating organic search, and how you stack up against them. 

8. Get SEO ideas from the On-Page SEO Checker.

Last but not least, if you are still searching for opportunities to improve your SEO, SEMrush’s On Page SEO Checker can help. 

It compiles many different on-page SEO elements from title tags and meta descriptions to readability and even some technical SEO and off-page SEO items like backlinks into one dashboard. 

Here’s what it looks like in SEMrush. 

on page SEO checker in semrush

It breaks the information down into individual landing pages, so you can click on the ideas and see exact recommendations for content, backlinks, technical SEO, and user experience. 

However, to view user experience ideas, you have to connect SEMrush to Google Analytics. 

Like any tool, SEMrush can be used to make smarter decisions but it can’t implement the suggested fixes. It can also take some time to learn how to best leverage SEMrush to level up your SEO strategy. These tips can help you get started. 

testing different desktop landing pages

How Does Site Health Impact SEO?

testing different desktop landing pages

If you’re not familiar with some of the more advanced aspects of SEO, you may not have heard of site health before. However, if you’re trying to get more traffic from Google and other search engines, improving your site health can play a role in getting your site to outrank your competitors.

What is Site Health?

Site health is a metric that SEO tools, like SEMRush and ahrefs, provide to measure your site’s structure, speed, security and technical SEO.

SEO tools provide this metric to give you an idea of how your site compares to other websites from a technical SEO standpoint. If your site is full of broken links, slow-loading pages, and other technical issues, your site will be given a lower site health score than a similar website without those issues.

Site health itself is not a metric that Google looks at to determine whether or not your site ranks, but having an error-filled site could certainly impact your ability to rank for your target keywords. If you want to increase your site’s organic traffic and improve your keyword rankings, improving your technical SEO is a good place to start. Site health is a valuable metric because it allows you to easily monitor the progress you have made over time with your technical SEO changes.

Which Factors Play a Role in Your Site’s Health?

  • Site Architecture and Crawlability: It’s important to make it easy for search engines to crawl and understand the content on your site.
  • On-Page/Content Structure: Along with making sure that search engines can understand the structure of your site, it’s also important to make sure that the content on individual pages is easy to understand. This means making sure each page only has a H1 header, meta description, and title tag.
  • Core Web Vitals: One of the best ways to improve your site health is to look at Google’s Core Web Vitals. Your site should load quickly and when loading it’s best if the content does not shift around due to slower loading elements on your page.
  • HTTPS Security: If your site isn’t using HTTPS (as opposed to HTTP), now is the time to set that up. People visiting your site could be getting a warning message if you don’t have HTTPS setup with a current SSL certificate.

SEMRush and Ahrefs Both Use Three Categories of Site Health Issues

The two leading SEO tools, SEMRush and Ahrefs both assign issues to one of three categories based on the severity of the issue:

  • Errors: Errors are issues of the highest severity detected on your website during the last audit.
  • Warnings: Warnings are issues of medium severity detected on your website during the last audit.
  • Notices: Notices are not considered severe issues, but we recommend that you fix them.

If you’re working on improving the technical SEO on a website, these dashboards are easy ways to see if the changes you’re making are accomplishing their goal.

SEMRush Site Health Dashboard

SEMRush Site Health Dashboard

Ahrefs Site Health Score Report

Ahrefs Site Health Score Report

What is a Good Site Health Score?

At Tuff, we aim to maintain a site health score of 90% or greater for our website and for our partners. This ensures that we don’t have technical issues preventing us from ranking on Google when we start publishing new content on the site.

According to SEMRush, the top 10% of websites have an average site health of 92%. If you want to be sure your site is healthy from a technical SEO perspective, 90% a good goal to shoot for.

Why You Should Monitor Your Site Health Score

If you are consistently publishing content and adding new pages on your site, it’s important to monitor your site health to keep an eye out for any technical issues with the new posts and pages that you’re publishing.

Site health can be useful for identifying issues that you wouldn’t notice when visiting your site, but that could have an impact on your search rankings. New content on your site could be uploaded without proper meta tags or without an SEO-friendly title tag, and this makes it more difficult for Google to understand what your page is about.

What is Site Health’s Impact on Your Site’s SEO?

Improving your site health can actually provide a sizable lift in traffic and search engine visibility for your site. The search console data below is for one of our partner’s websites that increased its site health from 72% to 95%. 

This site saw a 13% increase in organic clicks and a 27% increase in organic impressions following the site health improvements we made. We’ve seen similar results from other sites that we’ve worked with after improving site health.

Google Search Console Results

Fixing technical SEO errors and improving your site health can actually make a noticeable difference in your search rankings and typically these fixes can be made with just a few hours of backend work on your website.

Poor Site Health Could Be Preventing Your Site from Ranking

If you’re frustrated that your SEO efforts aren’t providing the traffic you were hoping for, we strongly recommend improving your site health as that could be something holding your site back from ranking and getting traffic.

Fixing technical SEO issues can require some knowledge of web content management systems (CMS) and some basic HTML skills. If you work with a web developer these fixes should be simple for them to make. If not, a technical SEO agency can help you make these changes to give your site the best possible chance of ranking for your target keywords.