Don’t Be Fooled by Data: 4 Data Analysis Pitfalls & How to Avoid Them

Originally published on: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/seomoz/~3/COElfU7-2lM/data-analysis-pitfalls

Posted by Tom.Capper

Digital marketing is a proudly data-driven field. Yet, as SEOs especially, we often have such incomplete or questionable data to work with, that we end up jumping to the wrong conclusions in our attempts to substantiate our arguments or quantify our issues and opportunities.

In this post, I’m going to outline 4 data analysis pitfalls that are endemic in our industry, and how to avoid them.

1. Jumping to conclusions

Earlier this year, I conducted a ranking factor study around brand awareness, and I posted this caveat:

“…the fact that Domain Authority (or branded search volume, or anything else) is positively correlated with rankings could indicate that any or all of the following is likely: Links cause sites to rank well Ranking well causes sites to get links Some third factor (e.g. reputation or age of site) causes sites to get both links and rankings”
~ Me

However, I want to go into this in a bit more depth and give you a framework for analyzing these yourself, because it still comes up a lot. Take, for example, this recent study by Stone Temple, which you may have seen in the Moz Top 10 or Rand’s tweets, or this excellent article discussing SEMRush’s recent direct traffic findings. To be absolutely clear, I’m not criticizing either of the studies, but I do want to draw attention to how we might interpret them.

Firstly, we do tend to suffer a little confirmation bias — we’re all too eager to call out the cliché “correlation vs. causation” distinction when we see successful sites that are keyword-stuffed, but all too approving when we see studies doing the same with something we think is or was effective, like links.

Secondly, we fail to critically analyze the potential mechanisms. The options aren’t just causation or coincidence.

Before you jump to a conclusion based on a correlation, you’re obliged to consider various possibilities:

Complete coincidence Reverse causation Joint causation Linearity Broad applicability

If those don’t make any sense, then that’s fair enough — they’re jargon. Let’s go through an example:

Before I warn you not to eat cheese because you may die in your bedsheets, I’m obliged to check that it isn’t any of the following:

Complete coincidence – Is it possible that so many datasets were compared, that some were bound to be similar? Why, that’s exactly what Tyler Vigen did! Yes, this is possible. Reverse causation – Is it possible that we have this the wrong way around? For example, perhaps your relatives, in mourning for your bedsheet-related death, eat cheese in large quantities to comfort themselves? This seems pretty unlikely, so let’s give it a pass. No, this is very unlikely. Joint causation – Is it possible that some third factor is behind both of these? Maybe increasing affluence makes you healthier (so you don’t die of things like malnutrition), and also causes you to eat more cheese? This seems very plausible. Yes, this is possible. Linearity – Are we comparing two linear trends? A linear trend is a steady rate of growth or decline. Any two statistics which are both roughly linear over time will be very well correlated. In the graph above, both our statistics are trending linearly upwards. If the graph was drawn with different scales, they might look completely unrelated, like this, but because they both have a steady rate, they’d still be very well correlated. Yes, this looks likely. Broad applicability – Is it possible that this relationship only exists in certain niche scenarios, or, at least, not in my niche scenario? Perhaps, for example, cheese does this to some people, and that’s been enough to create this correlation, because there are so few bedsheet-tangling fatalities otherwise? Yes, this seems possible.

So we have 4 “Yes” answers and one “No” answer from those 5 checks.

If your example doesn’t get 5 “No” answers from those 5 checks, it’s a fail, and you don’t get to say that the study has established either a ranking factor or a fatal side effect of cheese consumption.

A similar process should apply to case studies, which are another form of correlation — the correlation between you making a change, and something good (or bad!) happening. For example, ask:

Have I ruled out other factors (e.g. external demand, seasonality, competitors making mistakes)? Did I increase traffic by doing the thing I tried to do, or did I accidentally improve some other factor at the same time? Did this work because of the unique circumstance of the particular client/project?

This is particularly challenging for SEOs, because we rarely have data of this quality, but I’d suggest an additional pair of questions to help you navigate this minefield:

If I were Google, would I do this? If I were Google, could I do this?

Direct traffic as a ranking factor passes the “could” test, but only barely — Google could use data from Chrome, Android, or ISPs, but it’d be sketchy. It doesn’t really pass the “would” test, though — it’d be far easier for Google to use branded search traffic, which would answer the same questions you might try to answer by comparing direct traffic levels (e.g. how popular is this website?).

2. Missing the context

If I told you that my traffic was up 20% week on week today, what would you say? Congratulations?

What if it was up 20% this time last year?

What if I told you it had been up 20% year on year, up until recently?

It’s funny how a little context can completely change this. This is another problem with case studies and their evil inverted twin, traffic drop analyses.

If we really want to understand whether to be surprised at something, positively or negatively, we need to compare it to our expectations, and then figure out what deviation from our expectations is “normal.” If this is starting to sound like statistics, that’s because it is statistics — indeed, I wrote about a statistical approach to measuring change way back in 2015.

If you want to be lazy, though, a good rule of thumb is to zoom out, and add in those previous years. And if someone shows you data that is suspiciously zoomed in, you might want to take it with a pinch of salt.

3. Trusting our tools

Would you make a multi-million dollar business decision based on a number that your competitor could manipulate at will? Well, chances are you do, and the number can be found in Google Analytics. I’ve covered this extensively in other places, but there are some major problems with most analytics platforms around:

How easy they are to manipulate externally How arbitrarily they group hits into sessions How vulnerable they are to ad blockers How they perform under sampling, and how obvious they make this

For example, did you know that the Google Analytics API v3 can heavily sample data whilst telling you that the data is unsampled, above a certain amount of traffic (~500,000 within date range)? Neither did I, until we ran into it whilst building Distilled ODN.

Similar problems exist with many “Search Analytics” tools. My colleague Sam Nemzer has written a bunch about this — did you know that most rank tracking platforms report completely different rankings? Or how about the fact that the keywords grouped by Google (and thus tools like SEMRush and STAT, too) are not equivalent, and don’t necessarily have the volumes quoted?

It’s important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of tools that we use, so that we can at least know when they’re directionally accurate (as in, their insights guide you in the right direction), even if not perfectly accurate. All I can really recommend here is that skilling up in SEO (or any other digital channel) necessarily means understanding the mechanics behind your measurement platforms — which is why all new starts at Distilled end up learning how to do analytics audits.

One of the most common solutions to the root problem is combining multiple data sources, but…

4. Combining data sources

There are numerous platforms out there that will “defeat (not provided)” by bringing together data from two or more of:

Analytics Search Console AdWords Rank tracking

The problems here are that, firstly, these platforms do not have equivalent definitions, and secondly, ironically, (not provided) tends to break them.

Let’s deal with definitions first, with an example — let’s look at a landing page with a channel:

In Search Console, these are reported as clicks, and can be vulnerable to heavy, invisible sampling when multiple dimensions (e.g. keyword and page) or filters are combined. In Google Analytics, these are reported using last non-direct click, meaning that your organic traffic includes a bunch of direct sessions, time-outs that resumed mid-session, etc. That’s without getting into dark traffic, ad blockers, etc. In AdWords, most reporting uses last AdWords click, and conversions may be defined differently. In addition, keyword volumes are bundled, as referenced above. Rank tracking is location specific, and inconsistent, as referenced above.

Fine, though — it may not be precise, but you can at least get to some directionally useful data given these limitations. However, about that “(not provided)”…

Most of your landing pages get traffic from more than one keyword. It’s very likely that some of these keywords convert better than others, particularly if they are branded, meaning that even the most thorough click-through rate model isn’t going to help you. So how do you know which keywords are valuable?

The best answer is to generalize from AdWords data for those keywords, but it’s very unlikely that you have analytics data for all those combinations of keyword and landing page. Essentially, the tools that report on this make the very bold assumption that a given page converts identically for all keywords. Some are more transparent about this than others.

Again, this isn’t to say that those tools aren’t valuable — they just need to be understood carefully. The only way you could reliably fill in these blanks created by “not provided” would be to spend a ton on paid search to get decent volume, conversion rate, and bounce rate estimates for all your keywords, and even then, you’ve not fixed the inconsistent definitions issues.

Bonus peeve: Average rank

I still see this way too often. Three questions:

Do you care more about losing rankings for ten very low volume queries (10 searches a month or less) than for one high volume query (millions plus)? If the answer isn’t “yes, I absolutely care more about the ten low-volume queries”, then this metric isn’t for you, and you should consider a visibility metric based on click through rate estimates. When you start ranking at 100 for a keyword you didn’t rank for before, does this make you unhappy? If the answer isn’t “yes, I hate ranking for new keywords,” then this metric isn’t for you — because that will lower your average rank. You could of course treat all non-ranking keywords as position 100, as some tools allow, but is a drop of 2 average rank positions really the best way to express that 1/50 of your landing pages have been de-indexed? Again, use a visibility metric, please. Do you like comparing your performance with your competitors? If the answer isn’t “no, of course not,” then this metric isn’t for you — your competitors may have more or fewer branded keywords or long-tail rankings, and these will skew the comparison. Again, use a visibility metric. Conclusion

Hopefully, you’ve found this useful. To summarize the main takeaways:

Critically analyse correlations & case studies by seeing if you can explain them as coincidences, as reverse causation, as joint causation, through reference to a third mutually relevant factor, or through niche applicability. Don’t look at changes in traffic without looking at the context — what would you have forecasted for this period, and with what margin of error? Remember that the tools we use have limitations, and do your research on how that impacts the numbers they show. “How has this number been produced?” is an important component in “What does this number mean?” If you end up combining data from multiple tools, remember to work out the relationship between them — treat this information as directional rather than precise.

Let me know what data analysis fallacies bug you, in the comments below.


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


194: 5 SEO Tools for Bloggers

Originally published on: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/ProbloggerHelpingBloggersEarnMoney/~3/WnNrPUlTYic/

5 Blogger SEO Tools

In today’s episode, I’ve got Jim Stewart from StewArtMedia back on the show to talk about SEO tools to help you to rank your blog higher.

I had Jim on the show back in episode 94 to talk about the biggest mistakes bloggers make with SEO and since that time have had a lot of questions in the Facebook group about what tools to use in SEO.

So in this episode we talk a little about the most commonly advised tool – the Yoast plugin, as well as two great browser extensions that are useful in SEO.

We also talk about Google’s Search console and how it’s really an essential thing all bloggers should be using.

We then talk about the paid tool that Jim recommends to help you find broken links, identify duplicate content, build sitemaps and much more.

In passing we talk about an issue that faces many bloggers – what to do if you’ve got multiple posts on the one topic competing with each other in Google!

Lastly we touch on Google’s most recent updates and how they are impacting bloggers. You’ll want to listen to this part especially if you do affiliate marketing!

Resources on 5 SEO Tools for Bloggers Yoast SERP Trends Stylish Browser Extension User Styles maker of Stylish Google Search Console Screaming Frog Jim’s Site Jim’s Course Jim’s Facebook Group ProBlogger Facebook Group Listen to our previous interview with Jim on the 5 Mistakes bloggers make with SEO and what to do about them Link to the article Jim mentioned on setting up the Stylish extension

Full Transcript Expand to view full transcript Compress to smaller transcript view  Darren: Hi there, my name is Darren Rowse. I’m the blogger behind problogger.com. A blog, podcast, event, job board and a series of ebooks, all designed to help you to grow a blog, a profitable blog. You can learn more about ProBlogger at problogger.com.

                    In today’s episode, I’ve got Jim Stewart from Stew Art Media back on the show to talk about search engine optimization tools to help you to rank higher in Google. I had Jim on the show back in Episode 94 to talk about blogging mistakes or mistakes bloggers make from an SEO perspective. Since that time, we’ve had a lot of questions in our Facebook group and via email about tools to use in SEO and that’s what today’s show is about.

                    We talked about five different tools that you can use in your blogging to help you to rank higher in Google, particularly. We talk about Yoast, the most common tool that gets mentioned. A little bit about how to set that up and what to particularly pay attention to. We talk about two browser extensions, free browser extensions that are both useful in SEO tools that Jim uses every day in his own SEO.

We also talked about Google Search Console and how essential it is for bloggers. I know it can be quite overwhelming, Google Search Console, but it is so important to have it set up and to be monitoring that. Then, we talked a little bit about a paid tool that Jim recommends to help you find broken links, identify duplicate content to build sitemaps, and a lot more.

                    Towards the end of the conversation, we talked a little bit about a really common issue that I find a lot of bloggers are facing. That is when you’ve been blogging for a while and you have posts, multiple posts that are all trying rank for the same search term. Jim gives us some ideas on what we can do there to help one of those to get a higher ranking.

                    Lastly, we talked a little bit about Google’s most recent updates and how they’re impacting bloggers. If you are an affiliate marketer, if you’re doing any kind of affiliate marketing, you want to listen to that last part of the interview as well.

                    It’s not a long show today. You can find it over on iTunes as well, if you wanted to go for a walk and listen to it. You can also find the show notes over at problogger.com/podcast/194.

                    Lastly, join our Facebook group because I do regularly update in there all our new episodes and blog post over on the blog. A couple of new posts a week and we’re having some great discussions in there at the moment. You can find the Facebook group at problogger.com/group. Okay, let’s get into today’s show. Hey Jim, welcome back to the ProBlogger podcast.

Jim: Hey Darren, thanks for having me.

Darren: Yeah. It’s always good to chat. It’s been about 90 episodes since we had you on. He was on at Episode 94. We did 5 Mistakes Bloggers Make with SEO. A very popular episode according to my stats so I thought it was time to get you back on and to talk about tools. Every time I ask people in our Facebook group what they want to learn about, search engine optimization come up and what tools should we be using because there’s so many tools being sold and available on SEO. I thought it would be good to come back to that topic. Is that cool?

Jim: Yeah, very cool.

Darren: The number one advice that everyone always gives when it comes to SEO tools is install Yoast, the plugin for WordPress.

Jim: Yeah, exactly.

Darren: I thought maybe if we start there and you can tell us a little bit about, for those who don’t know about it, what it is, also, what do you then do with it? Do you just install it and then it just looks after itself? What do we need to do once we’ve installed it?

Jim: Any of these SEO tools, they’re not going to make you rank number one. What they’ll do though is help you get you site in order, basically. Yoast is probably the most used in that category.

                    Originally, it was only available for WordPress. I think there’s been a Drupal version as well. Basically what it does, there’s two sides to Yoast. There’s what I call the site configuration side and then there’s a post level side.

                    The post level side is probably the part of Yoast that most people are familiar with. It gives you some guidelines on how many, whether these pages optimize for a particular keyword and has these little lights and codes to guide you into writing a post that’s optimized.

                    We don’t use that side of it. We don’t use that post level side of it. It’s good when you want to get started. It helps you understand some of the concepts behind getting a page ranked. The main reason that we use Yoast is to stop Google crawling things we don’t want it to. These can be things like archives or they might be tag pages. A lot of bloggers will use tags so that people can easily find posts with a keyword that posts are focused on.

That sounds great, but what happens a lot of the time is that people will tag a post. There might only be one post that has that tag. Let’s just say you might have a tag called teddy bears and you have one post with that tag. That tag page is basically then just duplicating the post that you tagged so you’ve got two versions of your post. You’re showing them both to Google and that’s duplication. The problem with that is that Google doesn’t know which one to rank and it makes it hard and can be confusing for the user.

We use Yoast to get rid of a lot of those things. It easily allows you to edit things like no index tags to pages that you don’t want indexed. It allows you to easily set up Google sitemaps and Bing sitemaps. They’re really important to help the search engines find the content on the site. There are other plugins that you can get to do sitemaps and things but Yoast is really nice because it allows so much flexibility over that side of things.

Darren: Excellent. There are a few things you need to I guess tweak. Once you’ve got it installed, where would you suggest people look for those?

Jim: One of the big things that people should do is make sure that they’re not allowing Google assign their titles and methods. You got to make sure that you’re not letting Google crawl things like attachment pages where you might have attached a piece of media to a page and then there’s another page created just with that image on it. Yoast allows you to switch that off so Google can’t crawl that because it’s just a page with an image on it, which is no value to anyone.

                    Make a decision about your tag pages in the text on a meet area. I would usually, for a WordPress site, not let Google index archives, tag pages, and for some sites categories as well but that depends on how you’re using categories. For the most part, those areas, you can sight just another replication of another post or whatever. You don’t need them to crawl post. You don’t need Google to index them twice. Yeah, that’s where I’d start.

Darren: We’ll link to some further reading on Yoast and setting it up in the show notes today as well. What other tools do you use? Let’s start with some free ones for bloggers because a lot of our readers are on a budget. They haven’t got a lot to spend on the SEO but any tools that you would suggest that they just have installed on their computer on their browser?

Jim: Yes. There’s two that I use all the time. Here, it’s maybe a way of the different analysts like different tools. For me, I really like one called SERP Trends which does a few things. The thing that I use it for is that it numbers every result in the search results. We have our search results page in Google set to 100 results whereas Google usually just has 10. The reason that we do that is so we can find sites that are languishing or where are they today? Are they’re moving up? Are they moving down?

This allows us to quickly say what number they are. Just a simple thing, it just numbers each result. It will tell you, “The last time you did this search, it’s gone up or down from when the last time we do the search.” You can also see sites that you’re competing with, how they have moved since the last time you’ve done this search as well. It’s a simple tool and it gives you one measure but it’s really easy to use and it’s just a plugin for Chrome.

Darren: I think it’s also on Firefox. I was just looking at their page. It’s just an extension really for Firefox, for Chrome?

Jim: Yes, it would be.

Darren: I use this one and it is interesting. You do have to keep doing the search.

Jim: Yes, exactly.

Darren: Basically it’s looking at every search that you do and then keeping a record of where things are ranked at that point the last time you searched. Would you be doing that search every day? Do you have a list of things that you search for everyday just so that you can monitor with that?

Jim: Yeah, definitely. For instance and sometimes several times a day, like if we’ve made changes during the day and re fetched it, told Google to go and refetch the page, we’ll go and have a look at it a few hours later. We use it all the time.

                    The only caveat on that is that it’s important to remember, this is sometimes a difficult concept for people to understand, is that ranking doesn’t actually happen until the request is made. A page is not ranked in the search results until someone actually makes that request. There’s no predetermined rank because the reason for that is that the search result depends on who’s doing the search, where they’re doing the search, and when they’re doing the search.

                    If for instance you’re in Melbourne today and then you go to New York tomorrow, you’re going to get different results on those different jurisdictions. Just keep that mind.

Darren: Yeah. It’s not like you’re ranking number three for wedding photography in the world. It used to be a lot more global, didn’t it?

Jim: Yeah, definitely.

Darren: Back in the day, if you rank number one for something, you are pretty much ranking almost everywhere for it.

Jim: Yeah.

Darren: That was nice in some ways. Okay, so that’s our SERP Trends which we’ll link too in the show notes. You mentioned another one you use?

Jim: Yeah, Stylish. Stylish is actually another plugin for Chrome. I think there’s probably one for Firefox as well. It is a design tool so it allows you to basically put a little bit of code to highlight different things on a page when you hit them.

What we use it for is highlighting where heading tags are on a page because what happens with a lot of themes, this is the H1s, Hs2, and H3s. A lot of themes don’t use those as they were intended. They’re designed as the description suggest, they’re heading tags. Headings on posts and subheadings on posts, and those sorts of things. That’s how we like to see them used because that’s good document structure.

What this tool does is it shows you on a page, if you can figure it in this matter. I’ve got a bit of code which I will give you. It’s on a blog post so you can share.

Darren: Yup, we can link to that.

Jim: It allows you to quickly easily see where a heading one tag is. Sometimes with some things, you’ll see that you have a heading one tag on every page and it might be a logo, which really isn’t a good use of a heading tag because there are no words in a logo. Obviously, it’s a picture so it doesn’t make sense to have it in a heading tag.

                    It highlights things like that that you can see. Sometimes you’ll have the H5s all down one side on all your widgets, which really doesn’t help Google understand what the page is about because you’re using the heading tags inappropriately. We’ll tend to ignore them in that situation.

                    If you can use a tool like this to see where your heading tags appear in your site around, you can start to use them in a way that helps Google understand what the pages are about.

Darren: Just for those who don’t really understand heading tags from an SEO perspective, they are telling Google what your site is about and H1 carries more weight, I guess. Is that a simple way of saying it?

Jim: Yeah. I try to explain it to people, think of it as a good document structure. If you’re writing a Word document, you might have a heading one at the start of the document. That’s a title.

Darren: It’s the title.

Jim: Yeah. You’ll have subheadings and they’ll be H2s. If you have a subheading of the H2, becomes a H3, it becomes indented. That’s the same thing for a web page or a blog post.

                    Having that structure is good for the user to read but it also helps machines understand the importance of what’s following in the content.

Darren: That’s a tool called Stylish. I just looked it up. userstyles.org is the people who made it. For me, Install Chrome came up but I suspect it will come up depending what browser you’re using with a different option there. Again, we’ll link that in show notes.

                    You also touched on when we’re talking early at Google Search Console. This is something that I know a lot of bloggers look at and they become incredibly overwhelmed. I don’t really know what to do. Can you give us the beginners guide to the Google Search Console? What do we do with it and how important is it if we sign up for that?

Jim: It’s incredibly important to sign up for that. It’s basically telling you everything that Google knows about your website. It’s telling you, “This is the only place you can get this data. You can’t get in Google Analytics. There’s nowhere else you can find this information.” It’s basically Google saying, “Here’s everything that we know about your site.”

                    It does a lot of things. It will tell you speed, it will tell you errors on your sites, it will tell you what’s being indexed on your sites. It’s where you put your sitemaps after you’ve used Yoast to set them up.

The most important thing I think bloggers should look at because it can be a real eye opener, especially if you’ve been blogging for awhile and you haven’t looked at this, go and look at this because it’s going to open up some massive opportunities for you and specifically the area you should look at is Search Analytics.

                    Have a look in Search Analytics because that will tell you all the keywords that people have been typing in and that your site has appeared for. It not only tells you if someone has clicked, but it will tell you if your site has just appeared and they haven’t clicked.

                    For instance, I was looking in a blogger site this morning. I’ve just found about another 30,000 or 40,000 potential clicks per month we can get to the site just by optimizing two phrases. They’re on bottom of page one for those phrases.

What the Search Analytics shows is that there are so much opportunity because I can see how many impressions they’re up a month. They’re getting maybe 5% of that. It allows you to go and see those. You can see opportunities. You can also see which posts are driving that keyword traffic. You can pick a keyword and then go and have a look at all the pages that have appeared when someone has typed that in.

                    For instance, as the case with the blogger this morning, you might look, let’s just say a chocolate truffle recipe. You might go and have a look at the word in Search Analytics and you find that there’s actually three or four pages all ranking for that phrase. Basically what that does, it dilutes the authority of one page. In the case of the blogger this morning, they had 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15. They had five pages ranking for this one phrase. That would be the only site that had multiple pages.

What our job now is to funnel the authority to one page so Google ranks that one page higher. We’re not dispersing the authority across five pages. We wouldn’t have known to focus on that or even go and search for that had we not looked in Search Analytics, because it wasn’t a phrase, the one we’re looking at this morning, that the blogger said they really want to rank highly for that. It was only because we had a look at Search Analytics and we looked at the volume of search. You can use tools like AdWord Planner and those sorts of things as well to get keyword volume.

When you see it in your own site ranking, you can go and then drill down and see which post it’s ranking for. You can see the position over time, over the last 90 days, it gives you a much better idea. That’s really in your face and you can sort this data any way you want. If you like data, you’ll love Search Analytics.

Darren: Yeah. There’s so much to dig into there. It can be overwhelming. Do go and make sure you’ve got your site is set up and begin to dabble in there a little bit. It is probably the only place you ever get a message from Google?

Jim: Sure, sure, sure.

Darren: I’m looking in there now. I can see a few months ago, we got an alert that we were getting a lot of 404 errors. We wouldn’t have known that if Google hadn’t told us. If there is a problem with your site or if you’re being penalized, I think they’ll let you know in there. This is a good place to go digging if you do notice that you’re getting a lot less search traffic because the answer might actually be there waiting for you.

Jim: Exactly. It’s a good idea to explore that because that data only lasts 90 days. It’s a 90 day window, basically. It’s a good idea to explore it so you’ve got a point of reference and then you can go back and look back at that data as well.

Darren: Great. If our listeners have a little bit of money to spend on search engine optimization, what tool, if you had to choose one, would you recommend they go and have a look at and begin to use?

Jim: Just spend money on, you’d have to say Screaming Frog. There is a free level of access. There’s a lot of rank tracking tools out there but they can be a little bit inconsistent in the data that they provide, because Google’s constantly changing the algorithm.

There are a lot of paid tools. We’re just switching with one of our paid tools at the moment because the data on the one we’re currently using has become unreliable. That’s not uncommon. It’s a tough job building ranking tools. Don’t spend a lot on your ranking tools but you may have to spend some money and just keep double checking and cross checking the results.

Darren: Okay.

Jim: Screaming Frog is the big SEO tool though. There is a free level access that will only do I think 500 pages now. The yearly rate isn’t cheap, I think it’s ?£100 sterling a year, something like that.

Darren: ?£149.

Jim: It just went up. Okay. It’s not a cheap tool but it is the best one out there. If you are using it, one of the things that is invaluable, that you can just do quickly, you do a crawl of your site and then you just sort by status code. That will bring up any broken links that you’ve got on your site. You’ll see them quickly. You’ll see things like redirects that are happening in your site quickly. It is a very complex tool but it can give you some very, very simple valuable information as well.

Darren: It’s basically a Crawler. I’m just going off of their page, you find broken links, auto redirects, discover duplicate content, review robots and directives, integrates it with your Google Analytics, and generate sites maps as well. It does do some things there that if you are wanting to take that SEO to the next level, it can really help, particularly that finding the broken links. It’s tough to find those.

Jim: Yeah, yeah, I know. You gotta start somewhere. That’s probably the best tool for it. Also, just on that duplication, one of the things that we look at as well is finding duplicate titles throughout the sites. You might have written a post five years ago and then you got to write another post on the same topic again. You don’t realize but you’ve used just very, very similar page title.

Darren: Interesting. Just on that question, you mentioned that example before of a blog at ranking for four or five different things. I suspect particularly niche blogs, a lot of bloggers would have that issue of having written almost the same article five times over ten years.

Jim: Yup.

Darren: How are you going to approach fixing that for that particular blogger? Is that a matter of deleting some of those post or linking from one to another? What’s the strategy that we should be looking at there?

Jim: Initially, usually what we will do is, for instance, the one this morning was, it’s just about those recipes. There were five different recipes ranking for this one recipe because they had similar ingredients basically. What we would say in that situation is, “Well, there’s only one of those pages that really is accurate for the user for that particular search.” That’s what we take it back to.

It’s like, “For this search, which page is best for the user?” Then, we would call that our target page for that phrase. Then, we would look at those other posts and say, “Okay, how can we put a little bit of information in here for the reader if they’re interested in our target page post? What do we want to say?” And then we’d link to that tagged page post.

                    For instance, in the case of recipes, I would say, “Hey, if you’re interested in the savory version of this, then here’s the page.” We just put that at the end of the post or whatever. By that, it doesn’t only help the user, it gives Google a better idea of that this page over here is important as far as you’re concerned for the user.

Darren: Sure.

Jim: I don’t like to delay content unless it’s not getting any traffic. If it’s not getting any traffic, it doesn’t have any traffic, it’s up to you how to want to judge that. For me, if it doesn’t have any traffic for six months, I’m probably going to delete that post because I can’t see adding any value. I think that’s a better experience for the user as well because they’re not finding posts that are of no interest or whatever else.

Darren: Sure.

Jim: Usually we will use interlinking strategies. We will look at that tag, a page and say, “Can it be further optimized for this page? Are we just using descriptive file names, images, and those sorts of things? Is the name of the post exactly what the people are searching for? Is there a difference between singular and plural and all those sorts of things?” Typically, we try to make the tagged page more authoritative, and then link from the other pages to that page.

Darren: Great. Work out what you want to rank for, what’s most useful, link to that from the other places and optimize that page the best that you can.

Jim: Yup.

Darren: Yeah, excellent. Last question, not really tools related but it came in our Facebook group a couple of times in the last week, it’s around Google’s latest updates. Can you give us a really quick update on what Google seemed to be doing there and how it might impact bloggers?

Jim: Yeah. A lot of quality type stuff. When I talk quality, I mean is this a good experience or bad experience for a user? There was someone in your group that got hit back in March. I lost that 80% of the traffic overnight.

It was an update that Google rolled up but didn’t announce, and was probably multiple updates. What we found was for that particular blog, was that they were overusing keywords in all the headings. Pretty much every post had a key phrase in every main heading and every subheading.

Like what we were talking about before, they would have the keyword in the H1s, the H2s, the H3s. It was just overly optimized. He went through and he basically called one of the key phrases that he was using and all his rankings and traffics came back. That was globally too.

The other one that we’ve seen is affiliate marketing. If you’re doing a lot of outbound affiliate links, just be careful that they’re not deceptive. The ones that we’ve seen drop have been once where you’re just reading this article and you click through to this thing, and you don’t know it’s an affiliate link. It’s not clear it’s an affiliate link.

It looks like Google was punishing those sites. Because when they took away the affiliate links, their rankings came up. That isn’t to say you cannot have affiliate links but just don’t be deceptive that, “Hi, I’m independent.” Make it clear. There might be a relationship.

Darren: Yup, which is legal anyway.

Jim: Yeah, there you go.

Darren: Yeah, very good. Thanks for that.

Jim: Alright.

Darren: You have your own Facebook group. As much as we keep promoting people to come and join, we actually quite often recommend yours as well. Do you want to tell us a little bit about that? Where people can find it?

Jim: Yeah. It was after PB Event last year, I came away thinking, “Oh, I need to set up a group to go further in depth with SEO because we’ve got a short course at the moment as well.” The idea of the group is just throw your site in there, tell us what you’re doing, what problems you’ve got. We do live training in there as well. It’s all free. We do have paid products if you just want to cut the chase.

Darren: Yup.

Jim: Yeah, we’ll go and have a look at your site. There’s a team of 20 of us here in the office and if I can’t get to the site, someone else will.

Darren: That’s great. That’s called the Bloggers SEO Support. I’ll link to that in our show notes as well. Our listeners can also find you at stewartmedia.com.au.

Jim: Correct.

Darren: You mentioned a course as well. What’s the course?

Jim: Yeah. bloggersseo.com, you can head across to bloggersseo.com. That’s where we’ve got the training there. Basically it’s a system. It’s a step by step system where you can first of all work out what’s wrong with your site, and then have the tools to know how to fix it.

Darren: Excellent. I will link to that in the show notes as well. I am not an affiliate so I’m just placing that so Google doesn’t penalize me.

Jim: I should make you one.

Darren: There we go. Well, maybe by the time this episode comes out. Thanks so much, Jim. I appreciate your time today. We’ll get you on in another 90 episodes.

Jim: No worries. Thanks, Darren.

Darren: Thanks man.

Jim: Okay, bye.

Darren: I hope you enjoyed listening to today’s show with Jim Stewart. You can find Jim and more of what he does over at stewartmedia.com.au and his Facebook group, Bloggers SEO Support. I’ll be linking to Jim’s site, his course, his Facebook group over on the show notes today. It’s at problogger.com/podcast/194.

You can also find the other episode that I did with Jim over in Episode 94. It actually was 100 episodes exactly since I last had Jim on the show. You can find that one at problogger.com/podcast/94 or back in iTunes as well.

Lastly, do check out our Facebook group at problogger.com/group. We’re almost at 5,000 members. We do a weekly live video into the group. We have some great discussions every week. We’re doing some challenges and do some monthly accountability stuff as well. If you are looking to connect to other bloggers, to learn from them, to share what you know about blogging, that’s important as well, do head over to the group, do a search on Facebook for ProBlogger community or hit the problogger.com/group.

I look forward to chatting with you next week in Episode 195 where I’m pretty sure we’re going to be talking about a tool that we use at ProBlogger on creating an editorial calendar. That helps us to really work as a team together but also plan the content that we are creating. I’m going to have Leni on the show who works with me on the ProBlogger team to talk about this particular tool. Look forward to chatting with you next week on the ProBlogger podcast.

How did you go with today’s episode?

Enjoy this podcast? Sign up to our ProBloggerPLUS newsletter to get notified of all new tutorials and podcasts below.

Click Here to Subscribe to ProBloggerPLUS for Free

The post 194: 5 SEO Tools for Bloggers appeared first on ProBlogger.