iMarket Solutions Blog : Archive for July, 2013

The Keyword Cannibalization Survival Guide

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

As terrifying as it may sound, it is true: keyword cannibalization DOES exist! Even in this modern day and age, websites are falling prey to this foul act left and right. And the scariest part? Webmasters don’t even know what’s happening to them. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be this way. You can change your content-writing ways, before it is too late. Through the aid of this content survival guide, I hope to teach you how to identify keyword cannibalization, and help you steer clear of it. If you choose to read this survival guide, I encourage you to consider sharing it with your social circles. You may end up saving some people from themselves!

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What is Keyword Cannibalization?

I was first introduced to the concept of keyword cannibalization through Rand Fishkin’s post, “How to Solve Keyword Cannibalization.” You’ll notice that it was written back on March 9th of 2007, and yet even today, the concept of keyword cannibalization still passes unseen by some SEO companies and consultants. Cannibalization goes beyond just similar pages though; internal duplicate content is actually one of the leading causes of keyword cannibalization.

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The figurative fork in the road: keyword cannibalization

The figurative fork in the road: keyword cannibalization

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To put it simply, keyword cannibalization arises when multiple pages on your website primarily target the same keyword or theme. Imagine walking down a darkened street, and coming to a fork in the road with a sign that reads, “This Way to LA”. With no other indicators, you’d naturally assume they both lead to the same destination. So why the additional road? This is the dilemma posed to visitors by keyword cannibalization. Some Webmasters may unintentionally create these near (and sometimes completely) duplicate content pages (“roads”) with the intention of capturing as much traffic as possible. However, this practice doesn’t always lead to the best user experience, since site visitors and crawlers are often left wondering which road might be best for them to take. As a result, Google tends to rank these pages lower, since they want to direct their visitors to the most useful (and relevant) quality content.[/one-half]

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In order for your page to rank better (or at all), you must earn the trust of the search engines, and ultimately your community; only then – assuming you have provided other clear signals stating why your path is the best for people to take – can you expect Google to direct visitors down your path. I’ll talk more about this after I have shown you how to properly identify and engage keyword cannibalization.

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3 Steps to Surviving Keyword Cannibalization

Now that you have a clearer understanding of what we’re up against, I’ll walk you through the steps for surviving a keyword cannibalization apocalypse. iMarket Solutions actively uses these steps to identify, engage and recover from any potential or confirmed keyword and/or content cannibalization.

Step 1: Know What Tools to Use

Every expert survivalist knows you’re only as good as the tools you use. Over the years, I have encountered many powerful tools that have proven essential to identifying keyword cannibalization in the wild. Maybe you’ve heard of some of them?

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Screaming Frog

Screaming Frog is an SEO spider tool that gathers essential data from all or a specified set of pages within a website. Although it includes many features useful to an avid SEO, I am only discussing the ones that will save your website’s “skin.”[/one-half-first]
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Download Screaming Frog[/one-half]
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Google Search

Yes, you read correctly – Google Search represents one of the most helpful tools in discovering keyword cannibalization. Using the “site:” Google operator, you can determine pages within a site that are relevant to a certain keyword or phrase. The proper syntax for this command resembles this: ‘site:domain.com air conditioning replacement’, with the domain and keyword phrase substituted according to your requirements. The returned results include all pages within the specified domain that contain the included keyword or phrase.

Google site search screenshot

Google and the Google logo are registered trademarks of Google Inc., used with permission.

 

Copyscape

Copyscape is a web-based tool that makes searching for duplicate content a piece of cake! Although this tool is usually used for identifying plagiarism, it’s just as useful at identifying duplicate content within your website: things that might not match exactly, but contain a sufficient amount of duplicate content to pose a threat to your website. Please note that while you can search for duplicate content on a very limited basis using their trial version, Copyscape Premium is much more effective.

Copyscape search screenshot

 

PowerMapper

We have no need for this software at our company, since we build the majority of our client’s sites, and therefore have no need to visualize the URL structure. But for people or SEO agencies with larger websites to optimize that want an easier way to determine the pre-existing URL structure, I strongly recommend using PowerMapper.

A screenshot of a demo PowerMapper sitemap

Step 2: Identify the Enemy!

With the tools needed to save your website now in your possession, we must train you to identify the enemy within. This is in no way a comprehensive list of techniques, only what I consider the best ways to determine keyword cannibalization throughout your site.

Look for near duplicate content.

On the Internal tab of the Screaming Frog interface, you can filter the data to only view HTML pages. Once you are viewing the HTML pages, sort the data by size or word count. Pages with near identical numbers in both of these fields could very well have cannibalization issues. To ensure proper thoroughness, I recommend searching within Copyscape and Google Search as well.

Look for exact duplicate content.

Duplicate content is one of the most obvious versions of keyword cannibalization: easy enough to identify using Copyscape, Screaming Frog and Google Search. Here is a breakdown of how you can use each tool to accomplish what you need:

  1. The best method for finding duplicate content. Copyscape Premium is my go-to tool in this case, as you can easily copy and paste suspected content into their search feature and find pages with identically matching content. This tool will also identify any instances of external duplicate content in the process.
  2. Second place isn’t for losers. Screaming Frog is my runner-up tool, but it is not far behind in pure awesomeness. After running a crawl on your website, click on the URI tab and select “Duplicate” from within the filter section. This exportable report will show you all the pages within the crawled website that have an identical hash tag: indicating that those pages share an identical source code. That’s a surefire way to spot the deadliest of cannibalizing mistakes.

Look for pages that share a theme.

Air conditioning experts and air conditioning specialists – does each keyword deserve a unique page that explicitly describes the target keyword in detail? Of course not. And thanks to Google’s Panda algorithm, we are seeing less and less of these examples slipping through the cracks. Perhaps your own pages have disappeared from Google’s search results, which is why you’re here reading this blog? Then I suggest you make sure you have your online ducks in a row. Here are some things to consider:

  1. Understand the URL structure of your website. Do you have pages in the heating section of your website that also appear in the air conditioning section, such as thermostats or zone control systems? Unless you need to discuss distinct differences, you shouldn’t separate them onto different pages. Screaming Frog can help you crawl and export all files within your website, which shouldn’t take too long to organize if you use proper URL hierarchy. But again, if you’re looking for the quick fix on viewing your URL structure, then PowerMapper is the tool for you.
  2. Understand the intent of each page or post. Google Search, allows you to perform a site: operator search to find pages within your website that mention a specified keyword. Once you have a list of these pages to review, you need to understand their intent. Pages with the same targeted keywords are a cause of keyword cannibalization, and when mixed with identical user intent can be a recipe for disaster.

Look for Incorrect Internal Linking

How websites link to you speaks volumes about how Google ranks your website, but how you link to yourself is equally important. Linking to three different pages with the same anchor text makes it difficult for the search engines to ascertain which page is most useful for anyone searching for that term. So when linking pages within your website to one another, use anchor text accurately and consistently (though not so consistently that you never change up the anchor text).

Screaming Frog can make viewing all internal links within a page much easier than doing it by hand. Have the software spider your targeted website, and then within the Internal tab, select “HTML” from the Filter drop-down box. You are now looking at only the content pages within the website. Go ahead and click on any of the URL’s and select the In Links tab at the bottom of the bottom window pane. Within the below window, you can now see all of the internal hyperlinks used on the URL you previously selected within the top window pane, including their destination page, anchor text, alt text (if the internal link is an image that was assigned alt text) and the nature of the link (follow or nofollow).

Keyword Cannibalization Tip:
Each page on your website should follow a theme, which is reiterated in the content and Meta tags, as well as internal and external linking!

Step 3: Strategize and Launch the Attack Against Keyword Cannibalization

You’ve learned how to identify keyword cannibalization and the most common occurrences of this malpractice. Now it’s time for you to do something about it. Take a stand and let it be known – you WILL NOT fall to keyword cannibalization!

  1. If dealing with near duplicate content – unless there is a small amount of duplicate content, you want to delete this page and then 301 redirect the URL to the next most relevant post you would like to rank within the SERPs. If there is a small amount of content, then consider how you could add content to differentiate the target from the cannibalized page. And if deleting the page is not an option, and there is a significant amount of duplicate content, then you can specify within the canonical tag which URL you would prefer Google to index.
  2. If dealing with exactly duplicate content – unless you have a canonical tag in place informing Google that this page is a duplicate of another, and that they should instead index the latter, you should delete and then 301 redirect this page. After all, you want to provide your visitors with the best possible path to follow!
  3. If dealing with a similar theme – change the intent of the page or post! Remember, each page should target a unique theme. Multiple pages that target the same theme or keywords make it difficult for Google to determine which page is the most relevant, useful and of the highest quality. Just like they say in the UFC – don’t leave it to the refs! If you do, you may be disappointed with the outcome.
  4. If dealing with incorrect internal linking – unfortunately, there is no quick fix to this issue, unless your site is built on a custom CMS with programmed internal hyperlinks. That makes it even more important to develop a content plan that you can consistently maintain in your internal linking. I recommend exporting into Excel a complete list of all HTML pages using Screaming Frog, and enter within the adjacent column of each URL the target keyword or theme of that page. This makes it easier for you to determine which anchor text needs to be changed, if any, when you go through the Screaming Frog UI one page at a time.

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Gaining the Trust of Google and Your Community

Now let’s get back to that fork in the road. Google is having a difficult time ascertaining which path is best to send users down. What are you going to do? I hope your answer was, “make it easier for them!” Figuratively speaking, using clearer signs and lighting the path will increase Google’s chances of directing visitors to your website – so let’s bring some life to this semi-fiction! Put yourself in your visitors’ shoes and pave them a road they’d be willing to send their friends and family down. Perform keyword research to identify the best keywords to target, and start building a well-balanced URL structure for your website. That puts you well on the way to building the trust in Google and your community that translates to better organic search visibility.

Are you a contractor who needs help with identifying and fixing keyword cannibalization?

The SEO team at iMarket Solutions is well equipped and experienced at handling technical issues of this nature. Speak to a representative to learn how we can positively influence the online experience for both you and your website’s visitors!

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The How’s and Why’s of Performing Industry Specific Keyword Research to Maximize Organic Search Leads

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

Practically all of us in the Internet marketing industry have heard the phrase, “content is king”, but just because you have written relevant content for your website does not make it worthy of the 1st position in Google search results (a.k.a. the throne). Sure, your website’s content may rank decently for some keywords and phrases. But without performing industry-specific keyword research, your website’s traffic (and the flow of online organic search leads) will suffer in the long run. And with so many factors contributing to a website’s rank at the top of search engines in today’s competitive world, one must capitalize on every possible strategy to gain the competitive advantage. Again, none of this can be achieved without performing thorough and industry-specific keyword research.

We at iMarket Solutions regularly create and manage relevant content on behalf of our clients. But we understand that some of our clients want to proactively perform keyword research to identify any low-hanging fruit for their online marketing campaigns. To help guide them down the right path, I have put together this blog post that will briefly detail why you should perform keyword research specific to your industry, and how you can go about doing so.

Perform Keyword Research Like You Dress for Work: Appropriately

Would you consider flying to Alaska in October without a jacket? The most likely answer: no. The same concept can be applied to online marketing. What may be appropriate for one region or industry may not necessarily apply to all. One must also take into account seasonal changes. For example, “air conditioning” focused keywords are not as popular in Seattle, WA as “heating” related keywords, especially in the winter months. This is why you need to put in the time and effort to ensure you are targeting as many of the most relevant, likely, and widely searched combinations of keyword phrases used to find businesses of your nature.

This is how you maximize your intake of organic search engine leads.

THIS is how you perform keyword research!

THIS is how you perform keyword research!

Fortunately, your hard work will not go unnoticed, as this keyword research will pave the foundation for the focus of your content creation – both on the main pages of your website and on your blog (if you have one). For the sake of this blog post though, I will focus primarily on how to perform keyword research to rank better in Google search results.

What Are the Best Ways to Perform Keyword Research?

You can utilize many different techniques to help ascertain the best possible keywords to use for your Internet marketing campaign, but I’ll share with you some of the techniques we use here at iMarket Solutions.

  1. One of the best ways for you to perform keyword research is to watch the top-ranking websites in your industry. After all, they are there for a reason. Chances are your competition has put in the time and effort to determine the most viable keywords to pursue. If you notice any particular competitive websites ranking for numerous keywords you would also like to target, then we suggest you reverse engineer them using a tool like SEM Rush or SpyFu. At no cost to you (besides the time spent researching) you can get a better understanding of which keywords your competitors are ranking for, and an estimate of how much search volume they are receiving as a result of their efforts.
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  3. If you have not already done so, set up Google Webmaster Tools. Once you have gathered enough data (we recommend waiting at least one month before viewing the report), you can go to the Search Queries report within the Search Traffic tab and view a list of keywords which your website is ranking for. To better determine the keywords that will drive the most traffic to your site, we recommend you take your filtering a step further by sorting impressions from greatest to least – I refer to this as the “keyword opportunities” report. Search for keywords with large amounts of impressions that are not on the first page, or even better are not in the top 3 positions. At this point, these keywords stand a much better chance at getting to the first page than others, and we have found they can end up being some of the more widely searched keywords in your targeted service area.
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    Perform keyword research using the Google Webmaster Tools search queries report

    Perform keyword research using the Google Webmaster Tools search queries report


     

  5. Even though this SEO tool is being phased out, the Google Adwords Keyword Tool has always been a favorite among SEO consultants and agencies alike. And as it has still not been pulled offline by Google, I figured it was still worthy of at least a farewell posting. The Google Adwords Keyword tool has long been the go to keyword research tool, as it provides data directly “from the horse’s mouth.” Once you have completed your competitive keyword research, you would want to take your list of keywords and input them into “Word or phrase” box. For a more targeted search, you can specify the website you are performing keyword research for, and even choose a relevant category. Additional search filtering options include match types (which allows you to receive search data for broad, exact, and phrase match type keywords), select the location and language of interest, view desktop or mobile search data separately, and even view search volume on either a global or local level.Once the Google Adwords Keyword Tool is phased out, it will be replaced with the Google Adwords Keyword Planner. This modified version of the tool has a much more user-friendly user interface. The most useful of the new features is not only having the ability to combine multiple keyword lists together, but also being able to view and select cities from an interactive map online, making it that much easier to ascertain search volume for targeted keywords in very specific cities or regions.

Help us, help you with your online marketing strategy – call iMarket Solutions today!

Now that you are armed with some basic strategies and tools that can help you further expand your company’s reach on your target demographic, get out there and start researching new potential keywords to use for your site. Once you have a thorough list of keywords to consider, the next thing you need to do is create some awesome content to publish to your website. Not sure where to start? Then learn how to write your own website content first. If you at any time find yourself overwhelmed by any part of the process, or feel more comfortable passing off your duties to a professional online marketing company that specializes in helping HVAC, electrical and plumbing contractors, then consider calling iMarket Solutions.

Internet marketing for electrical, plumbing, heating and air conditioning contractors is what we do.

Our SEO experts will build and market a website that can dominate the plumbing, heating and air conditioning, and electrical SERPs in your region – and all with a goal CPL (cost per lead) that will make your competitors weep. Contact us today for pricing.

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The History and Benefits of Google Authorship

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

June 07, 2011 marks a significant date in the history of Google – the introduction of Google Authorship. Othar Hansson, a software engineer at Google, announced via the Google Webmaster Central blog the introduction of authorship markup in Google’s web search. Experts on search engine optimization and Google’s algorithms could immediately foresee the importance of this feature. But interestingly enough, Google’s authorship markup has flown under the radar for quite some time. To help shed light on the value of Google authorship, allow us to elaborate on the history of authorship and its perceived benefits.

What is Google Authorship?

In the most straightforward terms, Google authorship is a markup (coding) which can be implemented onto websites with blogs, allowing authors who post on those blogs to take credit for their content. When properly set up, the author’s Google Plus profile picture appears next to his or her content in search results (as seen in the below screenshot), along with a home page address, if pertinent. Though initially welcomed with open arms by well-known writers in the SEO industry (such as Barry Schwartz), as well as other large brands (such as the Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly and CNET), authorship has really only recently become more common in Google’s search results.

Google authorship snippet for Nadia Romeo

So the question remains: why is Google authorship only now becoming more common?

We believe there are multiple reasons:

  1. At the time of its introduction, quality content creation did not stand at the forefront of most SEO company proposals (if they even listed it at all). “Fly by the seat of their pants” SEO companies were not prepared for, nor convinced, that delivering quality content would be essential to gaining better rankings, especially when they could still reap the rewards by focusing on large amounts of outsourced or scripted, low-quality link building. And until Penguin reared its “beak” in April of 2012, the majority of Google’s search results reflected these more spammy techniques. Fortunately, with the release of Penguin 2.0, we’re seeing fewer low-quality sites and more original and quality content curators appearing higher in Google searches.
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  3. “We wanted to make sure the markup was as easy to implement as possible,” Othar stated in the original announcement from Google. Ironically enough, that wasn’t the case. The comments of the authorship markup and web search post reflect the frustrations of countless webmasters perplexed at how to implement the new markup onto their websites. Since then, Google has built several resources to help users set up authorship. You can easily set up authorship here, and the structured data testing tool can help you verify the accuracy of your authorship markup code.
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  5. With Panda, Penguin and other Google algorithm updates rolling out on a regular basis, everyone may just be too busy trying to recover and adapt to the new algorithms. After all, who has time to figure out the set-up process for some new complex Google feature that may or may not positively impact their site’s search visibility?

Now that the storm has settled and fewer algorithm updates become public, more and more users are finally setting up and verifying Google authorship for their websites. If you’re contemplating such a step – setting up authorship for either yourself or a client – you need to consider the potential benefits.

Google Authorship Benefits

We can still only speculate on exactly how Google Authorship will tie into Google’s search engine ranking algorithms. However, you can still reap some direct benefits from setting up authorship sooner rather than later.

The benefits of Google authorship include:

  1. Increased Click-Through Rate – Justin Briggs wrote a great post which included statistics on how user behavior is changing in Google’s search results. He makes it clear that one’s authorship image draws far more attention than a regular search snippet. In an attempt to understand why an authorship image increases click-through rates of listings in Google, our SEO Manager Matt Dimock found in a small test done a few years back. It indicates that the addition of an author tag increased the percentage of visitors to a specific landing page by almost 15%, while maintaining the same position in the SERPs.
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  3. Content Ownership – Prior to authorship, it could be difficult to find good quality content from a trusted source. Now people can more easily find the content they want from sources they trust by clicking on the “by [Name]” link. For example, if you click on “by Nadia Romeo” while doing a search for HVAC Nadia Romeo, you will see all content Nadia Romeo, the President of iMarket Solutions, has written and verified ownership of, as well as her own personal Google knowledge graph.Nadia Romeo Google authorship search results
  4. Personal Branding – Everyone is aware of the thought leaders and big brands in their respective industries. Naturally, we gravitate to content written by these more reputable sources because they are probably more inclined to share content worth reading. If you’re well known within your industry, then it makes all kinds of sense to let your image show within Google’s search results.
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  6. Build Trust with Your Community – Unless you look like Barry Schwartz (who speculates that Google removed his authorship image for being ugly), your authorship image could help build trust with your community. After all, they say a picture is worth a thousand words and that you only get one first impression, so don’t blow it; dress sharp and smile for the birdie.

Now that you know the history and some of the known benefits of Google authorship, what are you waiting for? Go and verify your Google authorship today!

If you are in the HVAC, plumbing or electrical business and need help with setting up authorship on your blog, give us a call or contact us today.

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