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TIPS & TRICKS

7 Growth Hacking techniques for the modern businessman, professional or bank robber.     Lets come to a consensus on what Growth Hacking is before we delve into the depths of these amazing hacks your about to implement and experience unsafe levels of Growth. Growth Hacking is providing rapid analytical and data based Growth that jealous B.A. Marketing (hahahah, Bachelors of Marketing = Robots) have no idea to even wrap their mindless heads around. Creativity + Data + Innovation, everything your current Marketing Manager is NOT.   1) Figure out your strengths and weaknesses. This is the fundamental step to Growth Hacking.The very first thing a Growth Hacker does (aside from growth hacking his breakfast) is analyze the client/company’s digital strengths and weaknesses. Areas they are killing it in and areas they are falling on their face in. Why waste time in areas where theres no for it? Ranked #1 on Google for your keyword but still lacking leads, maybe you need to explore Search Marketing or list building to start an Email marketing campaign. Now I know most of you will say "Duh, of course" to this technique when presented to you by such a brilliant writer I can see why. However actually take a moment and think about how many businesses realistically strategically access and go over their strengths and weaknesses, the answer is…not many. Once you conclude where exactly your strengths and weakenesses lie you can start to develop a Growth Hacking plan focusing on specific needs instead of a general overall growth approach. Understand your strenghts and weaknesses and understand the first step to successful Growth Hacking.     2) Sell your story, not your product. In todays world everyone has a product, everyone has a pitch and everyone has a service to offer. If they are market leaders, they will sell them. However if your a startup or launching a product how do you compete in today’s saturated market? By hiring an amazing Growth Hacker of course. However in the mean time become personable and start selling YOURSELF just as much as your product. This is Growth Hacking psychology 101. People remember personal interaction and connection, ie; like that little email “Company X” sent me after I purchased their item explaining their founding story. A great example of this is Sam Parr, founder of HustleCon and theHustle.co who recently broke a record for the fatest company to reach 500,000 email subscribers in less than six months. How did they do that? Through adding in their companies story at every stage of their founding from the literal assembly of the IKEA chairs they purchased to the founders backgrounds and personal history in each email they sent out and I LOVED it. It drew me in like the smell of fresh donoughts. Get personal, sell your story because everyone remembers the storyline, not everyone remembers the production company.       3) Go “viral” through Incentive based marketing. This is one of those Growth Hacks that will increase your CRO like you injected your brand with digital steroids. This has been a very trending idea amongst top companies that have their digital game on wrap. Give your customer or invited consumer and “incentive or free gift” to buy from you. If you allow your first time buyer to get a 25% coupon, or free membership for a month if he refers somone else within 24 hours, the converson rate on that program will be like a nuclear bomb compared to a musket. People love getting stuff for free or at a  discount because it makes them feel like they “won” and they also love to show their friends/family/co-workers the new things they discovered in order to gain that freebie or incentive. Giving consumers an incentive to invite outside people to buy from you will make your product go viral instantly. Incentive based marketing is similar to the “freemium” model using basic human psychology and marketing to Growth Hack people’s own minds without them knowing. Similiar to the movie Inception where you can implant an idea in someones mind, however this is the real world where it works beautifully and will you on way to going viral.     4) Get Analytics right with Google Analytics & avoiding “Vanity Metrics”. Tracking your website, social, content, email and all inbound marketing channel’s analytics is a cornerstone of Growth Hacking. Some basic metrics to avoid with Google Analytics are the common ones such as Daily Active Users and Monthly Active Users which are what is called “Vanity Metrics” forget them, they don’t tell you how long or how engaged the users were and many other variables. Without analytics there would be no Growth Hacking, in order to “Hack the Growth” you have to know what to “hack” and that starts with analytics. One of the most important analytics is the “Bounce Rate” or how long someone stays on a specific web page, landing page or piece of content. Ideally you want at least a 30 second bounce rate, anything under that is utterly useless for analyzining. A great analytical Growth Hack for Bounce Rates is simply applying a parameter for only recording analytics on people who stay on your site for over 30 seconds, which means they are most likely interested in what your putting out there. Google Analytics records all of these metrics however some other ones you want to monitor is the “heatmap” of your site, or where users are spending the most time and figuring out why that is and applying that metric to other “cold” areas. The King Arthur of all analytics is Conversion. CRO Tracking or Conversion Funnels is one boss of all metrics which tracks the flow of the aquisition of new users and their retention time. Tracking the flow of new user aquistion at a daily rate is key to a succesful analytical approach. However be careful it is easy to go overboard with analytics so make sure your don’t risk compromising your growth hacking philosophy which is wasting time implementing solutions that you don’t need.       5) Redefine traditional distribution outlets. Ever wonder why McDonald’s had famously “Sold Over 1 Million Hamburgers” in such a short peroid of time, they Growth Hacked. Yes of course it was due to their production of “fast food” generation however it was also their growth hacking based marketing efforts. McDonald’s knew the importance the new road systems like the US Interstate System and the German Autobohn and systematically founded their franchises on these roads at popular exits. Now lets fast forward from the medieval ages and get back to normal time. If you can navigate the digital roads that exist on the internet today that direct the users and information online like Search Engines, you can easily set up your own distribution outlets at these “major intersections” getting your name seen by millions. Traditional advertisements meant to been seen from the car are equivelent to modern day SEO and Search Marketing by being seen on Google, Bing, Yandex, etc. Adverts shown before a movie at a theatre is now Video Marketing on YouTube, Newspaper ads are now Mobile Advertising. The true Growth Hacker finds the newest most convertable outlet and attacks it like a mongoose, like implementing Influencer Marketing on Instagram two years ago. Clear your mind from traditional marketing thought and think like a Growth Hacker. Go out and  find that new avenue to dominate like McDonald’s did 50 years ago and if Growth Hacked right…one day you’ll sell a million digital burgers.     6) Start A/B Testing and Experimenting Across All Channels Like analytics, Experimentation and Metrics are two other cornerstones of Growth Hacking. . What Growth Hacking is about is testing out what works and what doesn’t, what drives traffic what doesn’t, what converts users what doesn’t. This is all done through analytics as well as the coveted ancient technique of “A/B Testing” somtimes called “split testing” which is simply testing “Method A” then “Method B” or even “Method C” then analyzing the results of each one to see which had a more positive result in which eve area you were looking to optimize. A/B Testing is like the AK-47 of the Growth Hacker, it never fails, always works, always delivers and was probably invented by Russians. Whether you are A/B Testing or playing around with different Typography in your Email Newsletters, experimentation is the core of Growth Hacking. A great Growth Hack for A/B testing and a way to increase your conversion rate is by flowing traffic to two or three landing pages or pages of content with different features and different products, then assess the feedback on each one to see which one resonated best with your audience. You can also learn from the pages that didn’t convert well, taking the aspects form those pages and breaking down why they didn’t convert will teach you a lot out about audience. Implementing pre-made “A/B Testing” models and very quickly experimenting by swapping out the “bad” pages your new pre-made pages gives you incredible information about your audience and greatly increases your chances of converting prospects into clients.     7) Leveraging your competition for Growth Hacking success (Case Study) When AirBNB first launched they didn’t get the explosive traffic growth seen with other brands like Vine or Snapchat. The idea of renting out extra rooms in your house to total people? Excellent idea (unless your agoraphoic) in a completely unfilled niche however it took time, years in fact for them to gain true national and international traction. In fact Growth Hacking was the reason AirBNB got put on the map. So how did AirBNB go form being an incubator startup in 2008 operating mostly in the Pacific Northwest to having 75% of their bookings being in major international cities by 2011. Yes! you guessed it, by Growth Hacking. AirBNB leveraged one of the most established online brands in US, Craigslist, to Growth Hack their way to success. By creating an “Call-to-Action” option when adding a listing they added in an Opt-In form that “Automated A Duplicate Post on Craigslist” thus creating an extra inbound link for you (the seller) and another backlink for the AirBNB platform. So why don’t other companies use this same method? Because Craigslist didn’t have a public API or an easy way for companies to integrate their services, Craigslist simply used basic Growth Hacking methods to leverage their sales through a larger competitor.   And always remember to; Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save...

((Case Study)) $6,117.50 Profit In 5 days From A Single Affiliate Product Affiliate Marketing case study and guide to success.   Interested in getting an inside look at to how a top affiliate sells 216 copies of a digital product (plus an extra 45 upsells), wins an affiliate contest and makes $6,711.50 in just 5 days? And how YOU can emulate this success and increase your own affiliate commissions? Then you need to read every last bit of this post Whether you're a digital product affiliate on the likes of Clickbank or JVZOO Or you're creating Amazon affiliate sites. (Check out how to make your own coupon website) The insights in this post will increase the amount of affiliate products you sell. So read on...

Masterclass in becoming an entrepreneur to living that location freedom lifestyle   Chatting with Champions #98 by Tyler Basu featuring blogging wizard Yaro Starak   [su_audio url="http://traffic.libsyn.com/chattingwithchampions/CWC_098_-_Yaro_Starak.mp3" width="500px"] “A Blueprint For Building A Profitable Blog In Any Niche”   Yaro Starak is one of the most well-known and highest grossing bloggers online today. After hustling his way through various enterprises, from a card game e-commerce store, to an online proofreading business for international students, to investing in websites in various industries, Yaro decided to create his blog Entrepreneurs-Journey in 2005. Initially, his blog was intended to be a hobby site where he would share stories from the previous years he spent as an entrepreneur. However as his blog grew in popularity, it eventually became his primary business, and to-date it has generated him over a million dollars in revenue. Yaro has since taught thousands of others how to make a full-time income from blogging, how to buy and sell blogs and websites, and how to successfully launch information product businesses. Visit Yaro’s website: www.entrepreneurs-journey.com Topics discussed in this interview: How Yaro got started in business & why he became an entrepreneur The process of starting and growing his blog An overview of his business today How to choose a topic to blog about Ways to increase traffic to your blog and build your audience How to create products your audience will buy Mistakes to avoid when trying to turn a blog into a business Challenges entrepreneurs face and how to overcome them Specific habits that are key to Yaro’s success Yaro’s definition of success Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs Resources mentioned: Problogger.com (Darren Rowse) Living the 80/20 Way by Richard Koch The Perfect Store by Adam Cohen The PayPal Wars by Eric M. Jackson ** FREE BONUS ** Click here to download a free copy of Yaro’s Blog Profits Blueprint Key quotes: Before you start blogging, you really need to spend some time on topic selection. If you get this part wrong, it really doesn’t matter how well you do everything else, you’ll still fail. Since it takes a while to create a product, you don’t want to spend time creating one that may not sell. Don’t drive traffic to a blog that has no mechanism for returning some sort of metric to gauge success. Content creation has by far been the best thing I have ever done for my business. All the hard work I did, I’m living off it now. I still get traffic from articles I wrote 10 years ago. Identify the 20% of tasks that deliver the 80% of value. Find host Tyler Basu @TylerBasu and Yaro Starak at @YaroStarak and his site BlogProfitsBlueprint.     Rise of the Entrepreneur #2 by Zac Johnson featuring entrepreneurial guru Jim Kukral [su_audio url="http://traffic.libsyn.com/zacjohnson/riseoftheentrepreneur02.mp3" width="500px"]   "How To Run A Lifestyle Business"   Podcast: Play in new window | Download | Embed Subscribe: iTunes | Android | RSS The journey from employee to self employed entrepreneur is a long and lonely path. For some it may come faster and easier, but for the majority of us it’s quite the task. Many times people read or hear about the success of others online and think having your own business is the greatest thing in the world (which it is!) and that the majority of us are lucky (which rarely has anything to do with it)… however what many of them don’t realize or get to read about is the long hours of constant work, frustration and failures that we endure until we finally hit that success we’ve been looking for. This is exactly what we are going to be talking about in the latest episode of the Rise of the Entrepreneur. Nothing comes easy in life, especially when you are just entering the work force and trying to make your own path. Jim Kukral is a real life example of someone who has worked their way up from the trenches of the dreaded 9-to-5 to achieving his dreams of being his own boss and doing what he wants with his time. Like many of the special guests on my show, Jim and I go back many years. I first met with Jim back in 2000-2001 on the AffiliateForce cruises when he was working with another ad network and I’ve personally seen him transition himself from being an employee to running his own lifestyle business and now even his own book marketing club and conference. In short, he’s running the “lifestyle business” he’s always wanted. Talking Points Discussed in this Episode: Jim brings us back to 1995 to discuss his first job experience How to achieve the goal of a life-style business When Jim knew he never wanted to work for anyone again Finding your passion and sticking with it Self Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing From online entrepreneur to conference builder Three great Q&A questions for Jim in the Pit of Fire -> Download this episode to your computer. Mentioned URLs and Resources: JimKukral.com (Jim’s Personal Blog) Author Marketing Book Club Author Marketing Live Event Twitter – Follow Jim on Twitter Christmas time came around and I said, “Where are the owners?” They said, “Oh! They went shopping.” We are all sitting around, waiting for our Christmas bonuses. They came back with a truck full of Ikea furniture and then proceeded to say, “Look at all the great, big furniture we bought.” I saw and said, “That is great.” Then, they handed up the Christmas bonus checks. I got mine and it was like, $600. Now you say, “Jim, $600. You should have been really happy with that.” They weren’t paying me very much, and I just found out that they spent 38,000 on Ikea. Zac: Wow. Jim: I looked at them and I said, “I just busted my butt…” We are talking about a million dollar account. “I made all this money for you, guys and you went out and blew all the money on Ikea furniture and gave me a measly $600 for Christmas bonus. That is the exact moment I knew I never wanted to work for anyone ever again because I knew I could not handle letting someone else control my profit, controlling my success. And that is when I started to become an entrepreneur, really take a heavier input in my life and building a lifestyle business. is a really niche audience. There is going to be a high demand for that.Jimget back up. Not only is he a great guy, but he is also a finally found his calling and become quite the authority in the self-publishing and book world. For many of us, we maybe way too envious of this success of others and think that it just comes to them way too easy. Jim’s story was a perfect example of how much work, time and effort goes into finding and paving your own path. The important thing to remember is that nothing happens overnight, and in Jim’s case, this was a journey that took shape over the course of many years. Now is the time to turn your dreams into a reality. It does not matter what you want to accomplish in life as long as you start to take action right now. If you are trying to change your life for the better, create that new business that you always wanted. Or even just figure out how to make a few extra dollars online. You need to take action and make things happen. Today, I want you take that first step to achieving your goal and setting your path in the right direction. Create that new business that you have been thinking about. Call that family member that you have not talk to in a while. Just grab a piece of paper and write down that big goal that you keep pushing to the side. Take that immediate action today. As always, I want to thank you for listening to the Rise of the Entrepreneur and there is nothing I would love more than to hear your feedback on the show. Feel free to leave a review or rating within the iTunes and connect with me on social media and through the blog. Don’t forget to visit zacjohnson.com for show notes and more. Until next time, this is Zac Johnson. Seize the day and go make your dreams become a reality. LET ME KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS! I can’t thank you enough for listening in to the second episode of the Rise of the Entrepreneur. Be sure to check back often as a new episode will go live every TUESDAY and THURSDAY. You can listen to each of the episodes through the blog or itunes, stitcher etc.. Find host Zac Johnson at @ZacJohnson and his personal BLOG and guest Jim Kukral @JimKukral and his site here.     Ending the Grind by #12 by Steve Roy featuring Sean Ogle aka the "LocationRebel" "Creating A Life Worth Writing About" Podcast: Play in new window | Download Sean Ogle runs a very cool blog called Location180, which is about helping people create online businesses that can be run from anywhere in the world. He’s been all over the world and is actually living the lifestyle of his choice. There are so many blogs out there (including mine) that talk about lifestyle design, living on your own terms, and being passionate about life but aren’t actually doing them yet. Sean is. His online businesses afford him to live anywhere he wants, enjoy his life, and experience life to the fullest. If you don’t believe me, watch his video on his “About” page. Pure inspiration. Sean and I had a great chat and I enjoyed his easy going nature and humility. He seems like someone who is genuinely happy with their life. How many people do you know that can say the same? In our conversation, a few things stuck out to me: Instead of letting his fears control his life, he took action towards moving past them. They paid off! Why learning marketable skills can help you end your grind much quicker that you think. The two things that are holding you back from living your ideal lifestyle. How he found an underserved market, filled the demand, and is earning passive income every day from it now. Sean also has an excellent free eBook called Location Rebel Arsenal, which details all the tools he uses to run his businesses from anywhere. I’ve read it and there are a lot of great tips and ideas for online entrepreneurs. Thanks again to Sean and I hope you enjoy the interview! And if you do enjoy this interview,why not listen to the rest of them and subscribe to my Podcast in iTunes. Find host Steve Roy on Twitter @EndGrind and guest Sean Ogle at his Blog and LocationRebel sites. Save Save Save Save Save Save Save...

The Advanced Beginner's Guide to Google Analytics by The Evangelist himself   Being book smart is good. The outcome of book smart is rarely better for analytics practitioners then folks trying to learn how to fly an airplane from how-to books.   Hence, I have been obsessed with encouraging you to get actual data to learn from. This is all the way from Aug 2009: Web Analytics Career Advice: Play In The Real World! Or a subsequent post about how to build a successful career: Web Analytics Career Guide: From Zero To Hero In Five Steps. Or compressing my experience into custom reports and advanced segments I've shared. The problem for many new or experienced analysts has been that they either don't have access to any dataset (newbies) or the data they have access to is finite or from an incomplete or incorrect implementation (experienced). For our Market Motive Analytics training course, we provide students with access to one ecommerce and one non-ecommerce site because they simply can't learn well enough from my magnificent videos. The problem of course is that not everyone is enrolling our course! :) All this context is the reason that I am really, really excited the team at Google has decided to make a real-world dataset available to everyone on planet Earth (and to all intelligent life forms in the universe that would like to learn digital analytics). The data belongs to the Google Merchandise Store, where incredibly people buy Google branded stuff for large sums of money (average order value: $115.67, eat your heart out Amazon!). And, happily, it has almost all of the Google Analytics features implemented correctly. This gives Earth's residents almost all the reports we would like to look at, and hence do almost all the analysis you might want to do in your quest to become an Analysis Ninja. (Deepak, would you kindly add Goal Values for the Goals. Merci!) You'll also be able to create your own custom reports, advanced segments, filters, share with the world everything you create, and all kinds of fun stuff. For consultants and opinion makers you no longer have to accept any baloney peddled to you about what analytics tool is the best or better fit for your company/client. Just get access to this data and play with the actual GA account along with Adobe and IBM and WebTrends et. al. and suddenly your voices/words will have 10x more confidence informed by real-world usage. No NDA's to sign, no software to install, no IT resources required. Awesome, right? In this post I'll highlight some of my favourite things you can do, and learn from, in the Store dataset. Along the way I'll share some of my favourite metrics and analytics best practices that should accelerate your path to becoming a true Analysis Ninja. I've broken the post into these sections: How to get Store Dataset Access? Jump-Start Your Learning 1. Play with Enhanced Ecommerce Reports 2. Gain Attribution Modeling Savvy 3. Learn Event Tracking's Immense Value 4. Obsess, Absolutely Obsess, About Content 5. SEO & PPC, Because You Should! 6. Develop a Smarter Understanding of Your Audiences 7. Icing on the Cake: Benchmarking, #omg I'm sure you are as excited as I am to just get going. Let's go! How to get Store Dataset Access? It is brilliantly easy. Go to the Analytics Help Demo Account page. Read the bit in the gray box titled Important. Digest it. Then click on this text: ––>ACCESS DEMO ACCOUNT<–– Looks scary in the all caps, right? That is just how the Google Analytics team rolls. :) You'll see a tab open, urls will flip around, in two seconds you'll see something like this on your Accounts page… Click on 1 Master View and you are in business. If you ever want to remove access to this real-world data, just go back to the page above and follow the five simple steps to self-remove access. Jump-Start Your Learning. You can start with all the standard reports, but perhaps the fastest way for you to start exploring the best features is to download some of the wonderful solutions in the Google Analytics Solutions Gallery. You'll find my Occam's Razor Awesomeness bundle there as well. It is a collection of advanced segments, custom reports, and dashboards. You'll have lots of features incorporated in them. You can customize them to suit your needs, or as you learn more, but you won't have to start with a blank slate. You can also search for other stuff, like custom reports or attribution models. Another tip. If you are a complete newbie (welcome to our world!), you probably want to start your journey by reading about each type of report, and then looking at the Overview report in each section in Google Analytics. At this point you'll be a little confused about some metric or the other. That's ok. Go, read one of the best pages in the Analytics help center: Understanding Dimensions and Metrics. Go back into GA, you'll understand a whole lot more. This is a beginner's advanced guide, so I'm going to do something different. Through my favourite reports, often hard to find in your company's GA dataset, I'm going to push you beyond other beginner's guides. I'll also highlight frameworks, metrics, custom reports, and other elements I feel most Analyst's don't poke around enough. 1. Play with Enhanced Ecommerce Reports. It is a source of great sadness for me that every single site is not taking advantage of Enhanced Ecommerce tracking and analysis . It is a complete rethink of ecommerce analysis. The kind of reports and metrics you'll get straight out of the box are really amazing. Go to the Reporting section of our Store Demo account, click on Conversions in the left nav, then Ecommerce, and now Overview. You'll see in an instant the very cool things you can track and analyze… With a little bit of smart tagging you can track your internal promotions (buy one Make America Great Again hat and get one Stronger Together hat free!), transactions with coupon codes, affiliate sales and more. Very nicely summarized above. Next go to the report with new things that will help you drive smarter merchandizing on your mobile and desktop websites. Go to Shopping Analysis and click on Shopping Behavior… I adore this report. Most of the time when we do funnel analysis we start at the Cart stage (third bar above). We rarely hold people responsible for Traffic Acquisition accountable, we rarely hold people responsible for Site Design and Merchandizing accountable. The former are promoted on silly metrics like Visits or Visitors or (worse) Clicks. The latter are promoted based on silly metrics like PageViews. The first bar to the second shows the number of visits during which people went from general pages on your website to product pages (places were there is stuff to be sold, add to cart buttons). A lame 26%. See what I mean. Insightful. How are you going to make money if 74% of the visits don't even see a product page! The second bar the third is even more heart-breaking, as if that were possible. Of the sessions with pages with product views, how many added something to cart. A lousy 17%. One. Seven. Percent! On a site were you can do nothing except buy things. See what I mean? Question time for your Acquisition, Design and Merchandizing team. Do you know answers like these for your website? That is why you need Enhanced Ecommerce. I won't cover the last two bars, most of you are likely over indexing on funnel analysis. Practice segmentation while you are here. Click on + Add Segment on top of this report, choose Google (or whatever interests you)… And you can analyze acquisition performance with a unique lens (remember you can't segment the funnel that exists in the old ecommerce reports which is still in your GA account!)… A little better. Still. You spend money on SEO and PPC. It should be a lot better than this. If this were your data, start with questioning your PPC landing page strategy and then move to looking at your top SEO landing pages, and then look at bounce rates and next page analysis for those that stay. I can honestly spend hours on just this report digging using segmentation (geo, media, new and loyal customers, all kinds of traffic, product page types and so on). It has been a great way to immediately influence revenue for my ecommerce engagements. While you are here, you can play and learn to use the new funnel report… it is called Checkout Behavior Analysis… Much simpler, so much easier to understand. You can also, FINALLY, segment this report as well. Try it when you are in the Store demo account. Take a break. A couple days later come back and checkout the new Product Performance and Product List Performance reports. The latter is particularly useful as an aggregated view for senior executives. In case of the Store data, the first report has 500 rows of data, the second just 45. Nice. I wanted to flag three metrics to look at in the Product Performance report. Product Refund Amount is $0.00 in this dataset, but for your company this is a great way to track refunds you might have issued and track were more of that is happening. I love Cart-To-Detail Rate (product adds divided by views of product details) and Buy-to-Detail Rate (unique purchases divided by views of product-detail pages). Remember I was so upset above about the poor merchandizing. Using the sorting option on these two columns I identify where the problem is worse and where I can learn lessons from. Very cool, try it. I could keep going on about more lovely things you'll find in the Enhanced Ecommerce reports, but let me stop here and have you bump into those cool things as, and I can say this now, you have access to this data as well! Bonus: If you are a newbie, in your interview you'll be expected to know a lot about Goals (I call the micro-outcomes). Explore that section. Look the Overview, Goal URLs and Smart Goals. Ignore the eminently useless Reverse Goal Path report (I don't even know why this is still in GA after years of uselessness) and Funnel Visualization (almost totally useless in context of almost all Goals). 2. Gain Attribution Modeling Savvy. My profound disdain for last-click reporting/analysis is well known. If you are using last-click anything, you want your company to make bad decisions. See. Strong feelings. Yet, many don't have access to a well set-up account to build attribution modeling savvy and take their company's analytics the year 2013. Now, you can! I am big believer in evolution (hence my marketing and analytics ladders of awesomeness). Hence, start by looking at the Assisted Conversions report (Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels)… Then metric you want to get your company used to first, to get them ready for savvier attribution anything, is the metric Assisted Conversions. The last column. Here's the official definition: A value close to 0 indicates that this channel functioned primarily as the final conversion interaction. A value close to 1 indicates that this channel functioned equally in an assist role and as the final conversion interaction. The more this value exceeds 1, the more this channel functioned in an assist role . Now scroll just a bit back up, stare at that column, what would your strategy be for Organic Search if it is at 0.46? What about Display advertising driving which plays primarily an "upper funnel" introducing your brand to prospects 1.58? The change required based on this data is not just your marketing portfolio re-allocation, that is almost trivial, what' bigger, huger, crazy-harder is changing how your company thinks. It is painful. Largely because it quickly becomes about how people's budgets/egos/bonuses. But, hundreds of conversions are on the line as well on insights you'll get from this data. Learn how to use this metric to drive those two changes: marketing portfolio – people thinking. Couple bonus learnings on this report. On top of the table you'll see text called Primary Dimension. In that row click on Source/Medium. This is such a simple step, yet brings you next layer of actionable insights so quickly. You'll see some surprises there. Second, look at the top of the report, you'll see a graph. On to top right of the graph you'll see three buttons, click on the one called Days before Conversion… I love this report because it helps me understand the distribution of purchase behavior much better. I profoundly dislike averages, they hide insights. This report is the only place you can see distribution of days to purchase for Assisted Conversions. If you've changed the think in your company with Assisted Conversions… You are ready for the thing that gets a lot of press… Attribution Modeling! You'll find the report here: Conversions > Attribution > Model Comparison. You'll see text called Select Model next to Last Interaction. Click on the drop down, ignore all the other models, they are all value deficient, click on the only one with decent-enough value, Time Decay, this is what you'll see… Half of you reading this post are wondering why I don't like your bff First-Interaction (it is likely the worst one on the list btw) or your bff Linear (the laziest one on the list)… worry not, checkout this post: Multi-Channel Attribution Modeling: The Good, Bad and Ugly Models . The column you are of course looking at is % Change in Conversions. The GA team is also helping you out by helping you understand where the results are significant, green and red arrows, and where it is directional, up or down gray arrows. This is the data you'll use to drive discussions about a change in your marketing $$$ allocations. Where you have CPA, it is is an even more valuable signal. And, such a blessing that the Store demo account has that data for you. You'll need all your brain power to understand the report above (make sure you read the models post above), and then some more to drive the change in how your company thinks. Attribution model is not a software or math problem, it is an entrenched human minds problem. And because I'm the author of the quote all data in aggregate is crap I recommend scrolling up a bit in the attribution modeling report and clicking on the down arrow under the word Conversion…. This is admittedly an advanced thing to learn because even understanding marketing dollars plus user behavior overall is hard, this just makes it a bit more complicated because you can actually understand those two things for every goal you have individually or just ecommerce all by itself. It is incredibly awesome to be able to do that because now you are this super-data-intelligent-genius that can move every variable in a complex regression equation very finely to have max impact on your company. If you can master this, and IF you can evolve how your company does marketing portfolio allocation and how it thinks, then you are ready for the max you can do in Google Analytics when it comes to attribution… custom attribution modeling. On top of the table, click on Select Model, then Create New Custom Model. To get you going, here's one of my models for a client… Custom attribution models are called custom because they are custom to every company. It requires an understanding for everything I've requested you to do above, business priorities (what the business values), and business strategy. Creating a couple different custom attribution models, seeing how it affects the data, what decisions GA recommends, helps you have an intelligent argument with all your stake holders. Again, the decisions from this analysis will flow into changes to your marketing portfolio and how people in your company think. Once you get into custom attribution modeling, and you spend serious amount of money on marketing online (a few million dollars at least), you are ready for the thing that actually will drive the best changes: Controlled Experiments (aka media mix modeling). Hence, it is critical that you approach your learnings in the precise steps above, don't jump steps if at one of them you have not changed how your company thinks. Bonus 1: You might think the above is plenty advanced. It is not. For the higher order bits, when you are all grown up, read this post and internalize the implications of it: Multi-Channel Attribution: Definitions, Models and a Reality Check Bonus 2: The Time Lag and Path Length reports in your Multi-Channel Funnels folder are extremely worth learning about. I like Path Length more, more insightful. When you analyze the data, be sure to play with the options under Conversion, Type (click AdWords), Interaction Type and Lookback Window. With each step absorb the patterns that'll emerge in the data. Priceless. 3. Learn Event Tracking's Immense Value I'm very fond of Event Tracking for one simple reason. You have to create it from scratch. When you open GA, there is no data in these reports. It can only get there if you spend time trying to understand what's important to the business (Digital Marketing and Measurement Model FTW!), what is really worth tracking, and then through intelligent thought implementing the tracking. I love the fact that you have to literally create data from scratch. For any beginner who is trying to get to advanced, Event Tracking will teach you a lot not just about Event Tracking but creating smart data. Lucky for us the GA team has created some data for us to play with. Go to Behavior in the left nav, then Events, and then Top Events… This is what you'll see… The Store team is capturing four events, you can drill down into any one of them to get a deeper peek into user behavior. I choose Contact Us to analyze the Event Labels, I get all these strategies that people… It would be valuable if the Event Value had been populated, which would also give us Avg. Value in the table above. Still. Understand that data, how it is collected, what it implies about user behavior is incredibly valuable. You can also create an advanced segment for any of the events above, example Email. Then, you can apply that segment to any of other reports in Google Analytics and really get deep insights. What cities originate people who call is on the phone? What sites did they come from? How many visits have they made to the site before calling? So on and so forth. The event tracking reports have three options on top of the report. Event, Site Usage, Ecommerce. Try the Ecommerce tab… While we did not see any event values, you can tie the sessions where the events were fired with outcomes on the site. Really useful in so many cases where you invest in special content, rich media, interactive elements, outbound links, merchandizing strategies etc. This report, in those cases, will have data you need to make smarter decisions faster. Bonus: While you are in the Behavior section of Analytics, familiarize yourself with the Site Speed report. Start with the scorecard in the overview report. Move on to Page Timings to find the pages that might be having issues. One cool and helpful visual is Map Overlap, click the link on top of the graph on the Page Timings report. Close with the Speed Suggestions report. Your IT team needs this data for getting things fixed. Your SEO team can do the begging, if required. :) 4. Obsess, Absolutely Obsess, About Content It is a source of intense distress for me that there's an extraordinary obsession about traffic acquisition (PPC! Affiliates! Cheat Sheet for Video Ads!), and there is huge obsession with outcomes (Conversion Rate! Revenue!), there is such little attention paid to the thing that sits in the middle of those two things: Content!! Very few people deeply look at content. Yes, there will be a top pages report or top landing pages report. But, that is barely scratching the surface. Look. If you suck at content, the greatest acquisition strategy will deliver no outcomes. Obsess about content dimensions and content metrics. Since you know some of the normal reports already, let me share with you a report that works on many sites (sadly not all), that not many of you are using. The Content Drilldown report uses the natural folder structure you are using on your website (if you are) and then aggregates content on those folders to show you performance. Here is what you'll see in the Store demo account you are using… Nice, right? You are pretty much seeing all of the content consumption behavior in the top ten rows! A pause though. This report is sub-optimally constructed. It shows Pageviews (good), Unique Pageviews (great) and then three metrics that don't quite work as well: Average Time on Page, Bounce Rate, % Exit (worst metric in GA btw if anyone asks in an interview)… At a folder level these really help provide any decent insights, and might not even make any sense. Think about it. Bounce Rate for a folder? Good time for you to learn simple custom reporting. On top of the report, right under the report title, you'll see a button called Customize. Press it. Choose more optimal metrics, and in a few seconds you'll have a report that you like. This is the one I created for my use with valu-added content metrics that work better: Average Session Duration, Cart-to-Detail Rate (as it is an ecommerce site) and Page Value (to capture both ecom and goal values at a page level)… Much better, right? Would you choose a different metric? Please share it via comments below. Ok. Unpause. Even a quick eyeballing of the report above already raises great questions related to overall content consumption (Unique Pageviews), merchandizing (Cart-to-Detail Rate) and of course money. You can now easily drill-down to other more valuable bits of content and user experience. I click on the first one, most content consumption, to reveal the next level of detail. I can see that Apparel is the biggest cluster of content, with pretty decent Cart-to-Detail Rate… Depending on the business priorities I can ask questions like how come the summer olympic games stuff no one seems to want (and we spent $140 mil on an Olympics sponsorship, kidding). At the moment the company has a huge investment in Google Maps branding, so we can look at how various brands are doing… YouTube FTW! Maps is not doing so well. You can see how this data might make you curious if this list is what your business strategy is expecting will happen? Or, is this how we prioritize content creation? I mean, Go! People are interested in something esoteric like Go (programming language in case you are curious) rather than Nest! What a surprise. That is what this type of content analysis is so good at. You can continue to follow the rabbit hole by the way and get down to the individual pages in any folder, like so… Ten percent Cart-to-Detail Rate is pretty poor, compared to some of the others above. Time to rethink if we should even be selling this combo! If not that, definitely time to look at the page and rethink copy, images, design, and other elements to improve this key metric. The above custom report is really easy to create, for Subscribers of my newsletter I'll also email a downloadable link for this and other custom reports below. Bonus: Most people stop at what the reports show in the default view. The GA team does a great job of adding good think and express it all over the standard reports. For example, in context of our discussion here, try the Content Grouping primary dimension. Here you see what happens to the report when I switch to Brands (Content Group)… Even more useful than what was there before, right? So, how does GA get this data? As in the case of Event Tracking above, the Analyst and business decision making combination are thoughtfully manufacturing data. In this case using the immensely valuable Content Groupings feature. Invest in learning how to use it in the Store demo account, learn how to create content groupings to manufacture useful data. When you interview for higher level Analytics role, or for a first time Analyst role, you'll stand out in the interview because this is hard and requires a lot of business savvy (ironic right, you stand out because of your business savvy in a Data Analyst interview!). 5. SEO & PPC, Because You Should! Ok, you've waited long enough, time to talk about the thing you likely spend a ton of time on: Acquisition. Since you likely already know how to report Traffic Source and how to find the Referring URLs and Sessions and… all the normal stuff. Let me focus on two things that are a bit more advanced, and will encourage you to learn things most people likely ignoring. The first one I want you to immerse yourself in when you are in the Store data is Search Engine Optimization. You know that this is hard because when you go to Acquisition > Campaigns (what!) > Organic Keywords you will see that 95% are labeled "(not provided)". This report is completely useless. You do have other options to analyze SEO performance. Here's the advanced, advanced, lesson: Search: Not Provided: What Remains, Keyword Data Options, the Future. But, you also have some ability in Google Analytics itself to do keyword level analysis for Google's organic search traffic. Go to Acquisition > Search Console > Queries. This report shows you the top thousands of keywords (4,974 precisely today in the Store report today). The data is available because the team has configured the Search Console data to connect with GA. Here's what you'll see… I sort the data by Clicks, because Impressions is a lot less valuable, and with Clicks I get something closer to Sessions (though they are very different metrics). I immediately value CTR as a metric in this context, you can see the variations above. This is perfect immediate data for SEO discussions. Average Position is also interesting, perhaps more so for my peers in the SEO team. As a Business Analyst I value Average Position a lot less in a world of hyper-personalized search. My next data analysis step is to take this data out of GA (click Export on top of the report) and play with it to find macro patterns in the data. I'll start with something simple as creating tag clouds, using Clicks or CTR as contextual metrics. I'll classify each keyword by intent or other clusters to look for insights. Try these strategies, can you find weaknesses in the Google Store's SEO strategy? How do your insights compare to what you just discovered in the content analysis in terms of what site visitors actually want? Really valuable stuff. What you cannot do with this data is tie it to the rest of the data in GA for these visitors. You cannot get conversions for example, or Page Depth etc. This is heart-breaking. But, see the not provided post I've linked to above for more strategies and meanwhile you can do some cool things in Google Analytics when it comes to SEO. Bonus: In the Search Console reports, I also find the Landing Pages report is also helpful because you can flip the center of universe, for the same metrics as above, to landing pages rather than keywords. The insights you get will be helpful for your SEO team but more than that it will be critical for your site content team. A quick note on the above… for the current data you'll see the Landing Pages report looks a little weird with no data in the Behavior and Conversion columns. Something weird is going on, on my other accounts there is data. The team can fix this in the very near future. Next, spend a lot of time in the AdWords section. Both because Paid Search if often a very important part of any company's acquisition strategy, and because at the moment there are few digital acquisition channels as sophisticated and complex as AdWords. When you are getting ready for your interviews, being good at this, really good, is a great way to blow your interviewer away because most people will know only superficial stuff about AdWords. As if those reasons were not enough, in Google Analytics AdWords is a great place to get used to the complexity that naturally arises from mixing two data sources. In almost all GA AdWords reports the first cluster of data (pink below) will come from AdWords and the second cluster (green brace) is the normal collection of metrics you see in GA… This will naturally prod you into trying to understand why are Clicks different from Sessions? After-all it is a click that kicks off a session in GA when the person arrives. It is internalizing these subtle nuances that separate a Reporting Squirrel from an Analysis Ninja. Above view is from the Campaigns report. I usually start there as it gives me great insights into the overall PPC strategy for the company. While you are learning from this report, here's a little smart tip… Click on the Clicks link on top of the graph you see (you'll see it along with Summary, Site Usage, Goal Set 1, and Ecommerce), you'll get a different set of metrics you should know intimately as well… The combination of CPC and RPC is very important. It is nice that they are right next to each other in this view. When you look at Store data I also want you to live-see why ROAS not even remotely a useful metric. It looks alluring. Return On Ad Spend. That sounds so awesome, surely it is in some holy books! No. It is not. For now, invest in understanding what is is measuring, what the data shows, is that good or bad, and what's missing. When you already to move to advanced-advanced stage, read this post: Excellent Analytics Tip #24: Obsess About Real Business Profitability Once I've exhausted the value in Campaign reports (drilling-up, drilling-down, drilling-around), it is time to shift into detail. While it might seem that the very next step will be the AdWords Keyword report, it is not. I like going to the Search Query report first. In AdWords context, Keyword is what you buy from Google. Search Query on the other hand is what people are actually typing into Google when your search ad shows up (triggered by the Keyword of course). Here are the two reports from the Store account, you can clearly see why I like starting with the Search Query report…. I would much rather learn to anchor on what people are typing and then go into the Keyword view to see what I can learn there. The Search Query performance report helps me re-think my AdGroups, Match Types, bidding strategies and more. It also helps me optimize the landing pages, both from a content they contain and what ads I recommend send traffic there. You could spend three months in these reports just learning and finessing your PPS savvy, so I'll leave you to that. :) Bonus: Shopping Campaigns are incredibly successful for most ecommerce properties. Spend time in that report in the AdWords section, drilling-down and segmenting, to learn what makes these campaigns distinct and if you were tasked to identify insights how would you go about it. 6. Develop a Smarter Understanding of Your Audiences Having grown up on cookies, we have typically have had a finite understanding of our audiences. This has slowly changed over time, most recently with the awesomeness of User-ID override empowering us to understand a person. Still, most of the time we are not great at digging into Audiences, and their associated behavior. Hence, to assist with your evolution from beginner to advanced, three often hidden areas of Google Analytics for you to explore now that you have access to real data. Go to Audience > Interests > In-Market Segments. Here's the official definition of what you are looking at: Users in these segments are more likely to be ready to purchase products or services in the specified category. These are users lower in the purchase funnel, near the end of the process. I've developed an appreciation of this report as I think of my performance marketing strategies, especially the ones tied to Display advertising. Far too often we rely on just PPC or email and don't use Display in all of the clever ways possible. This repor, leveraging insights from my users, help me understand how to do smarter Display. You can drill down to Age by clicking on the in-market segment you are interested in, and from there for each Age group you can drill-down to gender. Per normal your goal is to identify the most valuable ones using micro and macro-outcomes for your business. After I've mastered in-market segments by adding near term revenue to my company and helping shift the thinking about Display in my company, I move to leverage the data in the Affinity Categories. Also a report in this section. Affinity categories are great for any display or video advertising strategies you have to build audiences around See Intent (See – Think – Do – Care Business Framework). A bit more advanced from a marketing perspective (you would have had to master strategy #2, attribution, above). For the second hidden area, go to Audience > User Explorer. This lovely beast shows something you think you are dying to see. It is also something I really don't want you to obsess about (except if you are a tech support representative). But you want it. So. Here it is… What you are looking at is a report that shows you the behavior of an individual user on your website, as identified by an anonymous Client-ID. You can loosely think of it as a person, though it is more complicated that. If you have implemented User-ID override (congratulations, you deserve a gold star!), then you areas close to a person as you'll ever be. Because this is everyone on your website, there is no wrong place to start and a hundred thousand terrible places to waste time. You can literally watch each person! See, what I mean when I say I don't want you to get obsessed about this? On the rarest of rare occasions I look at this report, my strategy is to understand the behavior of "Whales", people who spend loads of money on our website (why!). I sort the above report by Revenue, and then look over the users who form the first few rows. The data, fi you do it in the Store account for the person who's at the top at the moment, looks like this… The report is sorted from the last hit (08:16 above) to the first hit (which you don't see above, the person browsed a lot!). You can quite literally watch the behavior, over just five minutes, that lead to an order of $2,211.38! You surely want to know what this person purchased (Men's Cotton Shifts FTW!), what pages did they see, where did they come from, how did they go back and forth (this person did) and so on and so forth. Looking at the top few of these Whales might help know something about a product merchandizing strategy, a unique source, or how to change your influence with your acquisition strategy to get a few more of these people. There will always only be handful of folks. The higher order bit is that the best analytical strategy is to analyze micro-segments rather than individuals. Small groups with shared attributes. You can action these, at scale. Nothing in your marketing, site content delivery, servicing at the moment has the capacity to react to an individual's behavior in real time. And if you can, you don't have enough visitors. Hence, obsess about micro-segments. That is a profitable strategy. The spirit above is also the reason why I don't mention real-time reporting in this guide. Simply not worth it. (For more, see #4: A Big Data Imperative: Driving Big Action) For the third hidden area, ok, not so hidden but to expose all your analytical talent, go to Audience > Mobile > Devices. With greater than 50% of your site traffic coming from mobile platforms, this audience report obviously deserves a lot of attention (in addition to segmenting every single report for Mobile, Desktop, Tablet). The problem is that the report actually looks like this… It is poorly constructed with repetitive metrics, and an under-appreciation for mobile user behavior (why the emphasis on Do outcomes when Mobile has primarily a See-Think intent clusters?). It makes for poor decision making. So. Time to practice your custom reporting skills. (Oh, if you as an Analyst only use custom reports, you are closer to being an Analysis Ninja.) Scroll back to the top of the Mobile Devices report and click on the Customize button. On the subsequent page, pick the metrics you best feel will give you insights into Acquisition, Behavior and Outcomes. While you are at it, you'll see just one dimension in this report, Mobile Device Info, you can add other drill-down dimensions you might find to be of value. I added Screen Resolution (matters so much) and then Page (to analyze each Page's performance by resolution). Here's what the report's Summary view looks like for me… Nice, right? Smarter, tighter, more powerful. My obsession is with people on mobile devices and not just the visits. Hence Users come first. Then, paying homage to See and Think intent, my focus is on Pages/Session. For the same reason, my choice for success is goals and Per Session Value (ideally I would use Per Session Goal Value, but as you saw in the opening this account does not have Goal Values). I would delete the Revenue, it is there mostly in case your boss harassed you. Delete it later. Depending on the role, Acquisition, Behavior or Outcomes, I have everything I need to start my mobile analysis journey. As I recommended with AdWords analysis above, the tabs on top of the report hold more analytical insights for you… You will discover that you'll have to go and practice your custom reporting skills on all these tabs as there are sub-optimal elements on all three of them. For example with Site Usage, I added Think intent metrics. For Goals and Ecommerce tabs there are fewer and more focused metrics. Now almost all of the stuff I need to make smarter decisions from my mobile data is in one place. This exercise requires a lot of introspection and understanding business needs as well as what analysis makes sense. That is how we all move from Reporting Squirrels to Analysis Ninjas! :) As with the above custom report, I'll email a downloadable link to the Subscribers of my newsletter The Marketing – analytics Intersect. You can contrast your choices with my choice of metrics and dimensions. Bonus: If you present screenshots from GA to your management team, make sure you take advantage of the option to show two BFF trends. In my case above you can see I choose to pair mobile Sessions with Goal Completions (again to put the stress on See – Think intent). 7. Icing on the Cake: Benchmarking! One final beginner's advanced recommendation. You just finished looking at a whole bunch of mobile metrics. How do you know if the performance of the Google Merchandizing Store is good or bad? Yes, you do see trends of past performance. But, how about with others in your industry? Others who have your type and size of website? I've convinced that most of the time without that competitive / ecosystem context, Analysis Ninjas are making incomplete decisions. The cool thing is, you can get benchmarking data in Google Analytics. Audience > Benchmarking > Devices. And now you have a really strong sense for what is good performance and what is non-good performance… You might have come to one set of conclusions doing the analysis in the mobile section above, and I suspect that now you have very different priorities with the lens pulled back to how the ecosystem is doing. And, that's the beauty. There's a lot more you can do with benchmarking. You can explore the advanced-advanced version here when you are ready: Benchmarking Performance: Your Options, Dos, Don'ts and To-Die-Fors! I hope you have fun. That is it. A beginner's advanced guide that hopefully accelerates your journey to become an Analysis Ninja. As always, it is your turn now. Be sure to visit the blog formerly known as Occam's Razor by Google Analytic's expert Avinash Kaushik....

15 Timeless Quotes from the original Mad Man of Madison Avenue, David Ogilvy   Fellow Scot, Genius & Marketing expert David Ogilvy was one of the most in tune Psychological Influencers to ever walk this earth, he understood the human mind and how to Persuade it through Marketing, more specifically Content Marketing.   [caption id="attachment_376" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Yeah Ogilvy isn't just some cool name the agency is named after him dummy. Get your name stapled on a Big Four advertising agency then talk to me.[/caption]   Let's face it -- it's really easy to have Shiny Object Syndrome in marketing today. With such a rapidly changing industry, we're always trying to stay up on the latest and greatest. "New tools! New social networks! New audiences! Gotta try them all!" But sometimes, it's helpful to step back and remember that some marketing advice is timeless. Tools change, methodologies develop, but there are some core marketing truths that can stand the test of time. And sometimes, one person can be the source of a ton of timeless marketing advice. Today we wanted to highlight one such person: David Ogilvy. Widely considered the Father of Advertising, Ogilvy was the founder of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide and a prolific writer. Even though his books were published decades ago, his advice is still applicable today. So we rounded up his best advice for marketers to help inspire you on this day. Here's what Ogilvy has to say:   Timeless Marketing Wisdom From David Ogilvy   1) “I don’t know the rules of grammar … If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think. We try to write in the vernacular.” (Tweet This Quote)   2) “It has been found that the less an advertisement looks like an advertisement and the more it looks like an editorial, the more readers stop, look, and read.” (Tweet This Quote)   3) “Never write an advertisement which you wouldn’t want your family to read. You wouldn’t tell lies to your own wife. Don’t tell them to mine.” (Tweet This Quote)   4) “Do not address your readers as though they were gathered together in a stadium. When people read your copy, they are alone. Pretend you are writing to each of them a letter on behalf of your client.” (Tweet This Quote)   5) “Consumers [decide] to buy or not to buy [based on] the content of your advertising, not its form.” (Tweet This Quote)     6) “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.” (Tweet This Quote)   7) “The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible.” (Tweet This Quote)   8) “Good copy can’t be written with tongue in cheek, written just for a living. You’ve got to believe in the product.” (Tweet This Quote)   9) “Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals.” (Tweet This Quote)   10) “Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving.” (Tweet This Quote)   11) “Why should a manufacturer bet his money, perhaps the future of his company, on your instinct?” (Tweet This Quote)     12) “Hire people who are better than you are, then leave them to get on with it. Look for people who will aim for the remarkable, who will not settle for the routine.” (Tweet This Quote)   13) “Training should not be confined to trainees. It should be a continuous process, and should include the entire professional staff of the agency. The more our people learn, the more useful they can be to our clients.” (Tweet This Quote)   14) “If you always hire people who are smaller than you are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. If, on the other hand, you always hire people who are bigger than you are, we shall become a company of giants.”  (Tweet This Quote)   15) “Don’t bunt. Aim out of the ball park. Aim for the company of immortals.” (Tweet This Quote)   More...

The Billion Dollar SEO Empire built under the guise of Google Ventures     Have you ever taken some time to reflect on Google’s massive list of acquisitions and mergers? I mean seriously actually sit down and looked at what Google as actual has accumulated over the years? It's quite staggering. Here's just some of their properties.   For a full list just take a look at their plethora of properties here from advanced robotics to digital marketing CRM's they have their net cast across every field. It’s a bit scary if you do. Actually, it might make some of you go hide in the woods before the robots arrive and take over. For the uninitiated, check out this list on Wikipedia and just scan through some of those prices. Is this for real? Yup, they throw around gazillions of dollars like it’s monopoly money. But that isn’t all, they invest in more than just this list of mergers and acquisitions. This is where “Google Ventures” comes in, their investment arm which allows them to dip into all kinds of cool stuff. And that is where things can get a little sketchy. What happens when an investment is heavily fueled by organic SEO from their very own engine? This is concerning to a lot of people in the SEO community, but let’s be honest, Google doesn’t give a shit about us. The reality of the situation beyond just a bunch of whiny SEOs is the potential anti-trust implications, general shittyness, and hypocrisy from Google’s double dipping. A few years back I wrote a saucy piece about RetailMeNot being backed by Google ventures which led to some more light being shined on the company. All was well, then they received a minor penalty. Shortly there after a full recovery. What’s troubling is this seems to be a reoccurring theme with companies getting outted for questionable SEO who are also backed by Google Ventures. The most recent case was with Thumbtack.com who has done very well with aggressive local SEO growth and also received $100 million from Google ventures. These guys were doing some shady shit, no doubt about that, and once it came in the public spotlight from this post (quite similar to my RetailMeNot piece) it was only a matter of time until the hammer came down. Sorry buddy, but been there done that, check my post date ;-) Okay, maybe a bit of jealousy there because his post got shared by Master Fishkin himself and wound up delivering a straight KO punch right in Thumbtack’s gonads. All pretty standard stuff so far, but then Thumbtack managed to get the fastest “get out of jail free” card in the history of Google penalties. In under a fucking week! That’s right, less than seven days and out of the penalty box with shitloads of new backlinks from us SEOs. Have we been trolled? Kind of seems like it but before we start spazzing out we need an overview of all the Google ventures backed companies who have crushed it with SEO. We need numbers to dig deeper into what is actually going on. The Great Big List of Google Ventures Backed SEO Sites To get started I went to GV.com/portfolio (sorry bros, nofollow) and pulled all the outbound links. Shazam, got a list of all their URLs. Now onto SEMRush to get some data on all these. But before getting there I noticed Thumbtack.com is not on the list of Google Ventures investments. Wait a second, there is another “investment arm”, Google Capital which has some interesting companies under its wing as well. Lendingclub, Surveymonkey, Thumbtack, Glassdoor, Credit Karma, and Auction.com to name a few. So farther down the rabbit hole we go. There was one problem though, it was going to take me all day to download 200+ reports one by one. At this point I was forced to utilize the small amount of tech skill I have and use the SEMrush API. But wait, why not just send a quick email instead? Thankfully I have a contact over there and they helped me out. Big thanks you guys are awesome. Here is the data I pulled, enjoy :-)   Google's Portfolio Monthly SEO Stats Provided by SEMrush Show 10 25 50 100 entries Search: Domain Organic Keywords Organic Traffic Organic Cost creditkarma.com 92,767 5,945,665 $14,900,000 glassdoor.com 1,125,085 7,097,346 $14,200,000 retailmenot.com 331,019 12,128,660 $9,946,189 thumbtack.com 109,262 536,320 $4,500,000 uber.com 12,554 1,750,090 $3,683,236 Lendingclub.com 7,778 390,688 $3,400,000 homeaway.com 222,315 2,218,832 $2,687,534 hubspot.com 28,152 324,900 $1,872,331 lendup.com 5,460 150,432 $1,197,143 tunein.com 156,713 2,168,876 $1,024,655 Showing 1 to 10 of 206 entries PreviousNext Some interesting things to note about the data. The total estimated organic traffic cost is about $67 million per month and that is in the United States only. Certainly some of these domains are doing well in other countries so this number is actually much higher. The next number I found interesting and rather low is the total amount of adwords spend. This is around $2.8 million, not bad compared to their estimated overall organic traffic cost, roughly 23 times the amount. Needless to say, their portfolio is reaping the rewards of their search engine quite strategically. They’ve hit some of the most profitable industries: coupons, legal, loans, etc. But hey, wouldn’t you do the same? Well you’re likely not a billion dollar corporation so the implications aren’t quite the same. The real interesting thing is what these properties have done SEO wise.   Let’s look at some explosive growth shall we? CreditKarma Watch out, you might break the backlink checker with this one. Phew, how is the air up there guys? Uber Google loves them some Uber. Can’t really blame them, they got some big stacks invested there. Thumbtack Now this graph might knock you out of your chair when considering they received a penalty. LendingClub Need a loan after all the money you wasted on blackhatworld PBN links? Well don’t worry G ventures has got your back. Just do a quick search for “loans” and you’ll find Lendingclub at #3 and Creditkarma at #1. Shall we dig into the backlinks? Before we start pointing the finger for anything sketchy, freaking out, and starting a riot let’s consider that most large sites are bound to have at least some spammy links from scraper sites or something similar. So the plan is each site gets the 5 minute Jacob King spam check (trademark pending). If I can find some shit in that amount of time then you can make your own conclusions from there. Let’s take a quick look at these sites hopefully without breaking ahrefs. CreditKarma Well they are doing quite nicely. It must be the social signals pushing them to #1 for “credit score” ;-) Or maybe it’s the 6k+ referring domains? Well I started the spam check timer and found some anchor spam at the 1:35 mark. Take a peak at their anchor profile, the untrained eye might miss it.   Ah but wait, exact match anchor text? It couldn’t be, yup, yup it is.   Almost looks like some contextual link spam I’d throw out there, damn near the anchor text profile I’d build too. I’m not going to dig into the actual links as the spam check time ran out. I saw some weird site wide links for “free credit score” on realtor sites and figured I could call it good there. Uber This one is pretty tough, there are just so many links to look at in only 5 minutes. One thing I did notice that looked a bit strange was links to their geo landing pages with some uniform anchor text. I just randomly clicked to the 7th page of anchors, like trying to find a needle in a haystack.   Thumbtack   Wow, 32k referring domains, I thought my hair might turn grey waiting for this one to load. No need to even spam check these dudes since their recent penalty has been posted about a tonnnnn. I’d like to get an estimate of how many new referring domains they picked up from news of their penalty but it’s tough to say with the link removals they did. LendingClub   This one is just too perfect for a closer. So I started peaking at Lendingclub and nothing popped out at me. Then I decided to navigate to the top pages section and check some link building to specific landing pages. Noticed this guy here with a bunch of spam links and the top anchor “consolidated credit “. But wait, upon closer look that’s our friend negative SEO. It’s almost inevitable to get hit ranking on these big SERPs by some spitefull asshole. It’s next to impossible to drop them and if you’re blasting the main anchor it will probably just help them. How did I know this was neg SEO? It’s easy when you spot these anchors: “visit poster’s website” and “strona www” The first is “visit poster’s website” is a default generic anchor text in the software GSA search engine ranker and the second “strona www” is the default from one of the comment engines. Signing Off What can we conclude from all this? Well obviously these sites have done incredibly well and some insights can be gained from them. Although Google has made statements before that an investment doesn’t provide an extra SEO edge or insider information, one still has to wonder. Is Google double dipping? Is it the ultimate case of “do as we say but not as we do”? You be the judge. Save Save Save Save Save...

How to build out a SEO strategy that will gain you 141% increase in organic search volume. Hint: Its Very Complicated, must have a Growth Mindset.   What would your business be like with 141% more organic search traffic? Unless your website is a CRO nightmare… You would see hockey stick revenue growth. In this post, I’m going to show you how we grew a client’s organic search traffic by 141%. Let’s jump in.   Brief Background I will give you as much detail as possible without revealing the client’s niche or website. Here are some quick facts about the client: Their business is between 1-5 employees. They already had an active blog and were promoting their content on social media. They hadn’t done any SEO in the past. Our SEO Strategy My SEO agency uses two different strategies with our clients and they are as follows:   1. Content Driven Strategy This is our preferred strategy, but it requires significant resources, time, and effort. Which is usually beyond what the majority of clients can afford. With that said, our content driven strategy is simple: Create content that attract backlinks. Promote the content so that it actually gets backlinks. The goal of this strategy is to increase the authority of the client’s website. The more website authority you have, the easier it is to rank for keywords. This content driven strategy is exactly what we teach in Gotch SEO Academy.   2. Non-Content Driven Strategy This strategy is exactly like it sounds: we don’t create and promote content. Instead, we optimize a page or many pages for target keywords. This approach is best for smaller businesses or local businesses with smaller budgets. For this client, we used this strategy. Here are the tactics involved with this strategy: Find keyword ideas, analyze the competitors, and have the client approve the keywords Optimize the target page(s) for those keywords Perform an SEO audit to identify all on-site technical issues and off-site backlink issues Fix all issues found within the SEO audit Prospect for link opportunities Begin securing “easy” backlinks Start our blogger outreach campaign Continue acquiring relevant backlinks until the client ranks Now I will show you how this process works in practice.   Keyword Research Right off the bat, the client supplied us with great ideas/keywords they wanted to rank for. We took this information and immediately tossed it into the Google Keyword Planner. The purpose of doing so is to verify that there was enough search volume. Through quick research we identified the keywords with the highest search volume. We ended up with a rough list of approximately 15 keyword ideas. We cut this list down to 9 target keywords. Here is the search volume for the keywords we are targeting: We were able to trim the list through our competitor analysis strategy.   Competitor Analysis We break our competitor analysis down into two stages. The first stage takes no more than 30 seconds. Within this 30 second timeframe, we are looking at the following: PA & DA: we compare the client’s PA and DA relative to the ranking websites Big Brand Dominance: we look for big brands such as Wikipedia or Amazon ranking on the first page. This is can be a sign that the niche is competitive. Pages That Signal Low Competition: we look for “weak” pages such as those from Q&A sites, PDFs, article directories, press releases, or even web 2.0s. These types of pages are easy to outrank. This quick process can tell us whether a particular keyword is worth pursuing. If the keyword passes this first test, we then move onto stage two of our competitor analysis. The second stage is more comprehensive because we analyze the each competitor one-by-one. In this analysis, we are looking at a few different factors including: Total Linking Root Domains: the quantity of unique domains linking to a page is a strong ranking factor, so it’s at the top of the priority list for us. Link Quality: we examine the link quality of the competitor’s page. We do this to get a general picture of what link quality is “accepted” for the keyword. Domain Age: I don’t believe domain age plays a huge role, but it’s something we still consider. Strength of Content: we rate the quality of the competitor’s content on a scale of 1-10. This rating is based on the length, the intricacy, the exhaustiveness, and the structure of the content (from a readability and design perspective).   We always measure these factors relative to the client. Example: if a competitor has 100 linking root domains, then we know that our client must get a similar amount. This isn’t an unbreakable rule. Sometimes it takes more, sometimes it takes less. But it’s a good goal/benchmark to keep track of during the campaign. This entire competitor analysis process is in Gotch SEO Academy. Make sure you sign-up to secure your spot for the next launch. The next stage of the process is to select what pages we want to optimize. Then, actually optimize those pages.   Page-Level Optimization We decided it would be most effective to target the client’s homepage for the set of 9 keywords we selected. These keywords are related, so this isn’t a problem. In most cases, I don’t think you should ever exceed 1-3 keyword themes per page on your site. One keyword theme, per page is best. For example, if I’m targeting the keyword “anchor text“, I wouldn’t also try to rank the same page for “St Louis SEO”. Yet, I can target keywords related to “anchor text” such as “what is anchor text”. That’s because those variations are within the same keyword theme. With that said, here’s what we did to optimize the page: Are you ready? It’s complicated so make sure you hang onto your hat… We added the keywords to the title and META description We added our the “big hitter” keyword (the one with the most search volume) to the first H1 tag on the page We sprinkled the big hitter keyword a few more times on the page That’s it. Mind blowing, right? After we optimized the target landing page, we then began our SEO audit.   SEO Audit Procedure I’ve explained our SEO audit in-depth before, but I’ll explain here again. The purpose of our audit is to identify technical issues that could harm user experience. Or, technical issues that could be leaking website authority. Common technical issues that hurt user experience or leak authority include: Slow website loading speed Non-mobile friendly websites Distracting elements Ugly, confusing, or outdated design 404 pages (only bad if they have link equity) Broken links Redirect chains 302 redirects Duplicate content Thin content Ineffective internal linking After performing the audit, we were happy to see that the client did not suffer from these issues. Their website loads around 1 second. They have a mobile friendly website. Their SSL certificate installed right. They have a clean and modern design. They only had a few 404 pages and broken links. The only issues we identified had to do with the client’s internal linking practices. This wasn’t an urgent issue, but something we wanted to jump on right away. Their main internal linking issues were: A) they weren’t using keyword rich anchors and, B) they were linking to the wrong pages with keyword-rich anchors. Point B can be the most problematic because it can create keyword cannibalization issues. We knew that by fixing these two issues, we could flow internal authority back to the homepage. So, that’s exactly what we did. We changed the internal links to target the homepage and used exact match anchor text. That simple. After we finished up the on-site optimization we moved onto link acquisition.   Link Building We decided to focus on the following link types: Blogger outreach links Niche relevant blog comments Business citations Branded properties These are the link types that we use for most national SEO campaigns. Here are the rough totals of links we built: 30 + contextual backlinks on relevant blogs 100 + blog comments on relevant blogs 15 citations on the best directories 50 branded properties The client has 31 linking root domains before we started. Now the client has around 84 according to Ahrefs. They have more than this because Ahrefs doesn’t capture all link data on the Internet. I know you are likely wondering: “what about the anchor text ratios!?” I got you covered. For the contextual backlinks, we used exact match, keyword variations, and branded anchor text. We used a name for the blog comment anchor text and the citations produced naked link anchors. The anchor ratios are in line with what I’ve been preaching for years now: Less than 1% exact match anchor text 1-5% keyword variations High percentage of branded and naked link anchors If you need help with anchor text, read our guide: https://www.gotchseo.com/anchor-text/ Now let me show you the results of this work.   The Results Here is the Google Analytics data over the course of 9 months: When we started the client was getting approximately 1,885 organic search visitors per month. After 9 months of work, we increased their organic search traffic to 4,541 per month. A 141% increase. There are a few conclusions you can draw from this growth pattern: Growing organic search traffic takes a long time If you quit early, you will never see the fruits of your labor SEO agencies and businesses who hire them, must both understand that SEO is a long game. My agency has achieved explosive growth for some clients within 3-4 months, but this is rare. For most campaigns, it takes 6, 8, 12, or even 15 months to see growth. SEO is NOT a quick fix. In my opinion, it is a supplemental marketing channel. Businesses that rely on SEO or an SEO agency for growth, will lead themselves down a path of destruction.   This is true for two reasons: 1. When you rely on an SEO agency to grow your business, you will use the agency as a scapegoat. When you aren’t converting leads on your site, you will call up the SEO agency and ask: “why aren’t we getting leads” or “we haven’t been getting leads since you guys started”… Here’s the truth: It’s easy to blame an SEO agency or any type of outside marketing agency for your problems. It’s HARD to reflect on WHY you actually aren’t getting leads. More often than not, traffic is NOT the problem. In an ideal world, more traffic would solve your revenue problems. In reality it doesn’t. Getting traffic is the FIRST part of the process. You have to actually convince that traffic to contact you or buy your product. That means you have to understand sales, copywriting, and conversion rate optimization. The reason why businesses stagnate when they have MORE traffic is because of a weak sales funnel. Business is just like real life. For example, your life will be a struggle if you are always looking for someone to blame for your problems. The same is true for your business. Stop blaming. Start reflecting. Now let me rant onto the second reason why you shouldn’t rely on SEO. 2. Businesses built on organic search traffic, have no other choice but to blame the SEO agency. This is the reason why my agency doesn’t work with startups or businesses that do not already have reliable marketing channels. That’s not because we can’t get them results… It’s because we know how those campaigns turn out. A bootstrapped startup will question your every move. They will ask questions like: “Why aren’t we getting results yet!?” …after two weeks of starting a new campaign. I’m going to end my rant here, but I will be writing a blog post on “Why Startups Should NOT Hire an SEO Agency” to elaborate on this further. Subscribe to get notified when it’s published.   Conclusion This client had a great foundation for SEO and made our job much easier. It’s not always this easy to grow organic search traffic when working with clients. Sometimes the clients have years of ineffective/spammy SEO tactics that you must battle against. That’s why my agency loves working with clients who have done little or no SEO in the past. Working with a fresh slate makes your life a lot easier. With that said, this SEO campaign still has a lot of room for improvement. Have some questions about this case study? Leave it below because I answer every single blog comment. Filed Under: SEO Case Studies Featured Article: You’re Making at Least One of These On-Page SEO Mistakes ...

SEO Strategy To 20 Million+ Visitors A Month Three quarters after Yummly launched, its Chief Growth Officer Ethan Smith watched the food discovery platform log its 10 millionth visit in a month. However, like most enduring recipes, it didn’t become a crowd favorite by tossing together ingredients in a fit of inspiration. Yummly’s SEO strategy, which helped the startup top the charts as the best global recipe app for iPhone, iPad and Android, was years in the making, going back to Smith’s first company. Product Hunt is Everywhere - This is How It Got There Smith started his career as a user experience designer and researcher. At Wize, he managed product, design and marketing, until Nextag acquired the product review startup. Since 2010, he’s held various roles at Yummly, including its Head of Product and VP of Growth, helping it tally over 20 million monthly visits. Beyond Yummly, he actively advises startups such as Wanelo, Vinted and Thumbtack on strategies to improve growth and SEO. In this exclusive interview, Smith shares why a specific inflection point with SEO has led to costly misconceptions and missteps. He outlines how to recognize and sidestep them as well as identifies key tenets for high-performance SEO. For any company that has lost confidence in or hit the wall with SEO, Smith’s tactics can help retrofit and reenergize your strategy. A PARADIGM SHIFT WITH SEO One reason the concept of product-market fit resonates is because the balance and reliance between the two elements — product and market — is front and center in its name. But when many startups think about SEO, minds often jump to sly maneuvers and hacking a way to growth. The truth is that optimization is only as strong as one’s understanding of the search engine part of the equation. When the rules of search change, so must the strategy. Over the last five years, Smith has seen startups neglect a shift that has changed a big part of SEO. “A new era for SEO began in early 2011, when Google launched Panda, its change to its search results ranking algorithm. What was once a very simple algorithm was revamped to penalize low-quality, thin sites. Gone were the days of a formula based mainly on keyword density and pagerank,” says Smith. “In the SEO of the past, one could repeat and conceal a bunch of keywords in a tiny font with camouflaged text to increase word density and pagerank. A SEO manager’s job was to find holes like this and exploit them until Google would slap your wrists and patch the gaps. Because the penalties were short-lived, people would go back to finding and exploiting another loophole as soon as they could.” Together with Google Penguin, which penalizes artificial boosts in page rankings through backlinks, Panda brought in somewhat of a new world order with SEO. “While most of the workings of the Penguin filter is public, there was — and still is — more unknowns with Panda. For example, if your site is penalized by Panda, it could take years to get released from it and it’s not obvious how that happens,” says Smith. “Here’s what I’ve seen occur over and over: Founder starts a company. He’s not an SEO expert, but hears that it’s important. He asks around, and is told to launch 50 million pages. The startup starts with 100,000 and sees traffic go up. Then it launches 1 million more pages. More traffic comes. Then it launches 50 million pages. Traffic soars. Then a few months later, traffic tanks. The founder frantically tries to get the traffic back. Months go by, but nothing works.” Aggressive SEO (red) versus gradual SEO (green) THE ERA OF GOOD CONTENT AND ENGAGEMENT It’s not earth-shattering to learn that Google tweaks its algorithm to reward good content and user experience, but the hard part is figuring out how to act to actually reap those benefits. “What’s required is not only a change in behavior, but a switch of mentality. Nearly every get-traffic-quick scheme pulls the carpet out from under you eventually,” says Smith. “You have to think for the long haul; the growth curve you want is more gradual and steady. It won’t look good in the early days, but it will lead to significantly more long term traffic if you’re consistent.” Here’s where to start to embark on the steady curve: Use Google’s guide — not your guesswork — to define what’s good. If improving your content quality and traffic is your goal, there are levers to pull, but don’t assume you can choose which ones. “Most people instinctively nominate themselves as authorities of what’s good when it comes to content and user experience. With SEO, that’s not what actually matters,” says Smith. “What’s important is what Google has defined as good content and good engagement. Note that I didn’t say what is objectively good, but what is subjectively defined as good by Google. Google has a set of guidelines — about 150 pages of them — and has hired thousands of quality raters to rate pages and sites based on their guidelines.” The closer your page resembles those labeled as good content by Google’s rubric, the better your “content quality” is and the more your page will rise in the rankings. “It’s like any sport or board game. Some rules may not make sense, but you have to abide by them to win over time,” says Smith. “For example, scraping and summarizing content can be arguably a very useful thing for users, but Google has decided it’s not. For Yummly, recipes that have a lot of reviews or that have a ‘cook mode’ are ranked highly because Google decided that these make a recipe high quality.” When it comes to Google’s guide to content quality, it’s big theme is EAT, which stands for expertise, authority and trustworthiness. “The guide goes into detail about what standard of expertise is expected for various topics. For example, medical advice should come from people or organizations with the proper accreditation, but forums for spouses of those who died from an ailment are also considered experts. The differentiating factor is what life experience is necessary to credibly give others value. The guide offers a good guiding question: ‘What kind of expertise is required for the page to achieve its purpose well?’” Smith works with companies to help establish high EAT scores for their particular category. “In order to get a high EAT score in shopping, Wanelo shows reviews and photos for each product as well as return policy and shipping information. To show that Wanelo is a highly reputable company, it highlights press coverage in the New York Times, Fortune and other credible media publications on its press page,” he says. “For local services, Thumbtack highlights how many years a practitioner has been in business, whether they are licensed, how many jobs they have completed and, most importantly, lots of 5 star reviews.” With SEO, you can be righteous or right. To be the latter, follow Google’s guidelines, not your gut. Beyond the few hundred pages of SEO guidelines from Google, Smith highlights a few underappreciated tips to consider as you tweak your search engine optimization strategy. Ethan Smith Keep good hygiene. One of the underappreciated aspects of SEO has less to do with what you do and more with what you don’t. It’s not the type of sexy growth hacking that gets written about, but it’s as critical. “Too many people continue with growth strategies that worked before Panda, but which now penalize them. Don’t spend energy trying to get out of Panda’s penalties; direct your energy toward good hygiene and maintenance. This strategy involves striking a balance between testing new SEO strategies and tracking your pages to detect issues early to prevent future penalties.” The Story Behind How Pocket Hit 20M Users with 20 People Here are a few tips from Smith on keeping good SEO hygiene: Schedule a weekly open-ended crawl of your site. A lot of times, companies’ sites will have pages cluttering Google’s index that they don’t want indexed and don’t know about. “What most people don’t understand is that Google will index whichever page they want. It's not about what you put in your sitemap. It's about any page Google can find it will index unless you tell them not to,” says Smith. “Establish an open-ended crawl of your site weekly to look for pages that shouldn't be there. Detecting those is supremely important to improving SEO — and part of good hygiene. Use tools such as Screaming Frog to crawl your site and QA." Track your number of pages, how many are getting crawled, how many are indexed and how many are getting traffic. "Take note of any big differences in those figures. So, the alarm should sound if you have 1,000 pages, but only 200 are getting crawled. Or 1,000 pages crawled, but only 200 are getting indexed. Or 1,000 are indexed, but only 10 are getting traffic," says Smith. "You want all your pages to be crawled on a weekly basis and 95% indexation rate with the majority getting traffic.” Sample Hygiene Report Eliminate incidental indexed pages. It bears repeating: it doesn’t matter if you think your pages are important; what’s key is what Google deems important. Google will tell you whether your page is important by crawling it often, indexing it and sending it traffic. Google doesn’t like sites with lots of thin pages. Once a crawl catches these “thin” pages, get rid of them. Don’t be surprised if you find "thin" pages indexed unintentionally or unknowingly. “Depending on their site architecture, startups can accidentally create and index tons of pages without knowing its impact on SEO,” says Smith. “For example, Yummly users have profile pages for each of its 18 million users. These millions of pages are core to the Yummly feature set and thus are very useful. However, very few people search Google looking for profile pages — they search for a chicken casserole recipe. The issue is that Google will classify these profile pages as too thin and penalize us. We avoid this by being careful about which pages we allow to be indexed.” Once you’ve found “thin" pages, there are a few ways forward. “The best and fastest way to eliminate them is to remove an entire directory by disallowing it in the robots.txt file or using the directory removal tool in Google Webmaster Tools. You can also remove individual pages either with a noindex tag or by returning a 404/410 error code,” says Smith. “But stay vigilant, as there are other ways 'thin' pages crop up. Many sites have HTTPS and HTTP versions of every page; that means that every single page gets indexed twice. Pages can be indexed with and without a “www.” At Yummly, we noticed our DEV servers — like DEV1.yummly.com, DEV2.yummly.com and so on — created duplicate versions of our site. If we didn’t catch it, we’d accidentally have 10 versions of our site getting indexed and causing duplicate content issues.” Flatten your internal link architecture. Pagerank sculpting is dead. What matters now is a sufficiency of links and pagerank. The more you can flatten your internal architecture, the more each of your pages attain sufficient pagerank, and the more your traffic will increase. “Most internal links are skewed toward just a few pages. You might have internal links that are the most recent posts. If you have a thousand pages, the most recent posts are likely ten pages. Then you're not linking to the other 990, which signals to Google that these pages are not important and so they don't get traffic,” says Smith. “Instead, link across all your pages so that Google has many paths to find all of the pages on your site, not just a small percentage of them. So, if you’re showcasing an easy-to-use digital camera, don’t just link to other cameras. Link to other easy-to-use categories, like headphones or TVs. Cross-linking vertically and horizontally creates a more tightly-connected, flat link architecture.” Steal first. Then innovate. The growth strategy that took Smith three years to find and fine-tune at Wize started to work at Yummly after only three months. Given that long term growth in SEO takes time, startups can’t afford a steep learning curve when just getting started. “Worry about innovation when it comes to your core product, not your SEO. It’s not well publicized but most successful growth teams and companies take the most effective strategies from competitors, apply them in-house, then improve upon them,” says Smith. “SEO is no exception. Most of what works is not obvious at the onset, so startups spend an enormous amount of time reinventing the wheel.” Smith has found success with research — not just secondary, but primary. “We look for the most successful SEO companies. We deeply analyze their site and strategy to understand what’s working. Then we try to connect with the person in charge of their SEO to ask them directly what’s working and what’s not,” he says. “Don't just research and reach out to who you subjectively think might be interesting. We use Sistrix and SimilarWeb to evaluate competitor traffic and engagement. For Yummly, we care about certain growth indicators — such as overall traffic, high SERP rank, and a steady growth trajectory — to identify which sites have the most effective SEO strategy. Then we find people who work at those companies, reach out and ask if they’d be open to a call. I never have open-ended chats over coffee. I do my homework and bring a list of pointed questions about specific parts of their site.” Ninety percent of the people that Smith reached out to share techniques with him. “They might not say everything but they’ll answer if I have specific questions. Taken together with other conversations, this helps keep our strategy current. Of course, I offer them ideas on what has worked for us, too, so that the exchange is mutually beneficial,” he says. “It sounds simple, but many just research from afar. We like to both reach out to other growth experts as well as test common attributes across sites — like Yelp, Zillow and Houzz — that correlate with traffic. In fact, don’t just look at competitors, but those outside your category. We’ve actually learned a lot from TripAdvisor’s page structure.” Recommended Article Take Your Fundraising Pitch from Mediocre to Memorable with These Storytelling Tips At Yummly, Smith used both types of research — along with his personal experience — to successfully revamp its category pages. “We launched category pages at my last company where we would find keywords and create pages that target those keywords. So we did the same at Yummly, basing them on structured taxonomies like shopping categories and filters. So there’d be a page for digital cameras and a page for every filter, such as digital camera between $50 and $100,” he says. “It worked, but not well. By talking with peers and pattern-matching with other sites, we realized that our structured taxonomies were not using the words that people use to search in Google form. We then found the phrases that people are actually searching for on Google, such as ‘digital cameras for wildlife photography,’ and curated category pages for those terms. That worked much better because the page exactly matched an actual query that people type into a search box.” Approach SEO as acquisition. According to Smith, most big companies became very successful by being extremely aggressive with their growth. “Airbnb used Craigslist early on to tap into a broader market. Pinterests emails all your Facebook friends telling them you followed them when you didn’t. Linkedin makes it easy to accidentally send invitations to your entire contact list. The most successful companies are also extremely aggressive — with email marketing, paid advertising and referrals — but not SEO,” says Smith. “In the past, SEO success favored the most aggressive companies. After Google Panda or Penguin, success favors companies those that take a steady long term approach to growth. Be aggressive with SEO in the sense that you want to deploy resources to work on it in the first place, but don’t do too much too fast that’s not in your actual strategy.” In the age of mobile, most will claim that websites aren’t important anymore or that SEO is dead. “The truth is that, when used as an acquisition vehicle, SEO is more effective now than it ever has been. In fact, other than gaming apps, the most successful apps, like Pinterest, Yelp, and Houzz, use web SEO as their main app acquisition channel,” says Smith. “Most SEO visitors come to a site, look at a couple pages, then leave. It’s easy to dismiss these passerby users as not valuable. The goal is to get SEO visitors to come back. Whether it’s by getting someone to register, use an engaging feature or download the app. When viewed as an acquisition channel, SEO can be one of the most impactful channels to drive long term lifetime value.” With SEO, you can never be 100% confident. But once you know that, you’re more likely to be good at it.   THE SEO TEAM YOU (THINK YOU) NEED The first mistake you might make — especially as a startup — is thinking that you need a team or person dedicated to SEO from the get-go. “Your SEO strategy and roadmap might come from someone you have in-house, but it’s as likely that it will — and probably should — come from a consultant or advisor,” says Smith. “At Wize, we turned the corner when our consultant, Leo Haryono, gave me his initial recipe, which I took and built from. I know I could have eventually come to the same result, but calling him in helped us shortcut that learning process.” An SEO hire or consultant should join in once you’ve validated some traction and traffic. “For most consumer companies, that'll be around 100,000 visits per month. The role of the SEO manager will not only be to double-down on what’s started to work, but to build really good content, make engagement better and build PR/marketing backlinks through the methods I’ve mentioned,” says Smith. “At this point, the SEO person needs to become a stakeholder in product decisions and should advise on the parameters that the content creators or Product should consider in their work. Make sure this person can point to an SEO engine they’ve built at another company and explain how exactly she grew traffic with tools that don’t cost a fortune. A lot can be done with Google or Bing Webmaster tools as well as free or low-tier versions of Majestic SEO or Sistrix. If she can’t clearly communicate those two elements, take pause and move onto other referrals.” It’s at this point that a startup should double-down with SEO, but through smartly building out its existing teams and product. “You’ve got a team and a dedicated SEO person or consultant. Now it’s about syncing and scaling the teams in an intentional way. If reviews are a lever for growth for your business, build in hooks into your core product to encourage users to write them. Airbnb has done a great job here in creating hooks that feed SEO into the core product,” says Smith. “Nerdwallet is another great example. By scaling into an army of really great finance writers, they have been able to have great SEO. Its focus was not around weird tricks and hidden text, but about writing high-quality articles on topics that people sought out.” Bringing it All Together There has been a sea change with SEO. With the introduction of Google Panda and Penguin, the game has changed over the last five years. The problem is that the methods of many people tackling SEO have not changed along with it. Through good hygiene and understanding of Google’s guidelines, startups can avoid falling into traps that could penalize their traffic and pagerank for years to come. Schedule a weekly crawl of your site to identify and eliminate “thin” pages on your site. Take proactive measures to flatten your link architecture. Start SEO from Day 1, but don’t be too aggressive too fast — either with your strategy or your investment in an SEO hire. The name of the game is slow and steady wins the race. Instead invest in good content and frame SEO as an acquisition tool. Have faith in in in the long term; quick fixes lead to quick declines. “With SEO, even if you find a way to identify every variable, you won’t be able to control each one. You might change a title tag but there are a thousand other factors that you're not controlling for that influence results. The challenges with causation and correlation abound,” says Smith. “If there’s one thing I hope startups take away about SEO is that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Quick-twitch muscles won’t do any good here — in fact, they’ll likely get you into trouble. Endurance and awareness are the attributes that get rewarded with SEO. I wish people would swap growth hacking for growth harvesting. That’s the type of approach that truly works.” Photography by Bonnie Rae Mills. Save...