Thursday, October 12, 2017

The SEO Apprentice’s Toolbox: Gearing Up for Analysis

Being new to SEO is tricky. As a niche market within a niche market there many tools and resources unfamiliar to most new professionals. And with so much to learn it is nearly impossible to start real client work without first dedicating six months exclusively to industry training. Well...that’s how it may seem at first.

While it may be intimidating, investigating real-world problems is the best way to learn SEO. It exposes you to industry terminology, introduces you to valuable resources and gets you asking the right questions.

As a fairly new Analyst at Distilled, I know from experience how difficult it can be to get started. So here’s a list of common SEO analyses and supporting tools that may help you get off on the right foot.

Reviewing on-page elements

Page elements are essential building blocks of any web page. And pages with missing or incorrect elements risk not being eligible for search traffic. So checking these is necessary for identifying optimization opportunities and tracking changes. You can always go to the HTML source code and manually identify these problems yourself, but if you’re interested in saving a bit of time and hassle, Ayima’s Google Chrome extension Page Insights is a great resource.

This neat little tool identifies on-page problems by analyzing 24 common on-page issues for the current URL and comparing them against a set of rules and parameters. It then provides a list of all issues found, grouped into four priority levels: Errors, Warnings, Notices and Page Info. Descending from most to least severe, the first 3 categories (Errors, Warnings & Notices) identify all issues that could impact organic traffic for the page in question. The last category (Page Info) provides exact information about certain elements of the page.

For every page you visit Page Insights will give a warning next to its icon, indicating how many vulnerabilities were found on the page.

Clicking on the icon gives you a drop-down listing the vulnerabilities and page information found.

What makes this tool so useful is that it also provides details about each issue, like how it can cause harm to the page and correction opportunities. In this example, we can see that this web page is missing an H1 tag, but in this case, could be corrected by adding anH1 tag around the page’s current heading (which is not coded as an H1).

In a practical setting, Page Insights is great for quickly identify common on-page issues that should be fixed to ensure best SEO practice.

Additional tools for reviewing on-page elements:

Supplemental readings:

Analyzing page performance

Measuring the load functionality and speed of a page is an important and common practice since both metrics are correlated with user experience and are highly valued by search engines. There are a handful of tools that are applicable to this task but because of its large quantity of included metrics, I recommend using WebPagetest.org.

Emulating various browsers, this site allows users to measure the performance of a web page from different locations. After sending a real-time page request, WebPagetest provides a sample of three tests containing request details, such as the complete load time, the load time breakdown of all page content, and a final image of the rendered page. There are various configuration settings and report types within this tool, but for most analyses, I have found that running a simple test and focusing on the metrics presented in the Performance Results supply ample information.

There are several metrics presented in this report, but data provided in Load Time and First Byte work great for most checks. Factoring in Google’s suggestion to have desktop load time no greater than 2 seconds and a time to first byte of 200ms or less, we can gauge whether or not a page’s speed is properly optimized.

Prioritizing page speed performance areas

Knowing if a page needs to improve its performance speed is important, but without knowing what areas need improving you can’t begin to make proper corrections. Using WebPagetest in tandem with Google’s PageSpeed Insights is a great solution for filling in this gap.

Free for use, this tool measures a page’s desktop and mobile performance to evaluate whether it has applied common performance best practices. Scored on a scale of 0-100 a page’s performance can fall into one of three categories: Good, Needs Work or Poor. However, the key feature of this tool, which makes it so useful for page speed performance analysis, is its optimization list.

Located below the review score, this list highlights details related to possible optimization areas and good optimization practices currently in place on the page. By clicking the “Show how to fix” drop down for each suggestion you will see information related to the type of optimization found, why to implement changes and specific elements to correct.

In the image above, for example, compressing two images to reduce the amount bytes that need to be loaded can improve this web page’s speed. By making this change the page could expect a reduction in image byte size by 28%.

Using WebPagetest and PageSpeed Insights together can give you a comprehensive view of a page’s speed performance and assist in identifying and executing on good optimization strategies.

Additional tools for analyzing page performance:

Supplemental readings:

Investigating rendering issues

How Googlebot (or Bingbot or MSNbot) crawls and renders a page can be completely different from what is intended, and typically occurs as a result of the crawler being blocked by a robots.txt file. If Google sees an incomplete or blank page it assumes the user is having the same experience and could affect how that page performs in the SERPs. In these instances, the Webmaster tool Fetch as Google is ideal for identifying how Google renders a page.

Located in Google Search Console, Fetch as Google allows you to test if Googlebot can access pages of a site, identify how it renders the page and determines if any resources are blocked from the crawler.

When you look up a specific URL (or domain) Fetch as Google gives you two tabs of information: fetching, which displays the HTTP response of the specified URL; and rendering, which runs all resources on the page, provides a visual comparison of what Googlebot sees against what (Google estimates) the user sees and lists all resources Googlebot was not able to acquire.

For an analysis application, the rendering tab is where you need to look. Begin by checking the rendering images to ensure both Google and the user are seeing the same thing. Next, look at the list to see what resources were unreachable by Googlebot and why. If the visual elements are not displaying a complete page and/or important page elements are being blocked from Googlebot, there is an indication that the page is experiencing some rendering issues and may perform poorly in the search engine.

Additional tools for investigating rendering issues:

Supplemental readings:

Checking backlink trends

Quality backlinks are extremely important for making a strong web page, as they indicate to search engines a page’s reliability and trustworthiness. Changes to a backlink profile could easily affect how it is ranked in the SERPs, so checking this is important for any webpage/website analysis. A testament to its importance, there are several tools dedicated to backlinks analytics. However, I have a preference for the site Ahrefs due to its comprehensive yet simple layout, which makes it great for on-the-spot research.

An SEO tool well known for its backlink reporting capabilities, Ahrefs measures several backlink performance factors and displays them in a series of dashboards and graphs. While there is plenty to review, for most analysis purposes I find the “Backlinks” metric and “New & lost backlinks” graph to be the best places to focus.

Located under the Site Explorer tab, “Backlinks” identifies the total number of backlinks pointing to a target website or URL. It also shows the quantitative changes in these links over the past 7 days with the difference represented by either a red (negative growth) or green (positive growth) subscript. In a practical setting, this information is ideal for providing quick insight into current backlink trend changes.

Under the same tab, the “New & lost backlinks” graph provides details about the total number of backlinks gained and lost by the target URL over a period of time.

The combination of these particular features works very well for common backlink analytics, such as tracking backlinks profile changes and identifying specific periods of link growth or decline.

Additional tools for checking backlink trends:

Supplemental readings:

Creating your toolbox

This is only a sample of tools you can use for your SEO analyses and there are plenty more, with their own unique strengths and capabilities, available to you. So make sure to do your research and play around to find what works.

And if you are to take away only one thing from this post, just remember that as you work to build your own personal toolbox what you choose to include should best work for your needs and the needs of your clients.


The SEO Apprentice’s Toolbox: Gearing Up for Analysis was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

Gen X, Gen Y Targeting: How to Target Different Generations on Social Media

hv-blog-ppc-ecommerce Gen X, Gen Y Targeting: How to Target Different Generations on Social Media

Highly compelling copy—the kind that rattles the questions of your audience, and shockingly, (and instantly) gives them the answer—isn’t easy to do. It’s an even greater challenge when you’re targeting multiple generations at once. In this article, you’ll learn the three components of turning ‘good’ copy into ‘I gotta buy this’ branding, no matter how old or young your viewers may be.

First Up: Know the Difference Between X and Y (Even Z!)

While you may know a millennial when you see one, do you know how to reach them in a sentence or two? Do you know how to turn a Generation X viewer (otherwise known as a ‘latchkey kid’) into a devoted consumer?  Don’t sweat it out. Instead, learn the key psychological components of what makes them ‘click and buy’ – and then sit back, ride the waves of high sales and repeat:

  • Generation X. Generation X are those who were born between 1966-1976. From no technology to highly sophisticated technology, they’ve come a long way. However, they also tend to get overwhelmed by too much digital ‘noise.’ Consider Generation X your highest educated generation (26% have a bachelor’s degree, or higher). Lead them into full-fledged online engagement by education based products, facts or interview-type posts.
  • Generation Y. Generation Y, otherwise known as the Millennials, dominate on social media. Born between 1977-1994 they are career professionals, many of whom learned in the early 2000’s how to create a website, sell a product and market it to the masses.

Now in their 30’s and 40’s, they are prone to ignoring the typical marketing pitch, and look for compelling content, fine-tuned sales funnels and impeccable images to stay engaged.  They’ve been in the presence of technology since childhood, and crave a variety of digital content, such as ezines, podcasts, and blog posts. Blast them with a variety of marketing content and you’ll keep them engaged and excited for what’s next.

Want to grab hundreds (or thousands) of leads within days and watch your business skyrocket? Give them a free gift (like an ebook or meditation track) in exchange for their email. They want instant gratification now, and they’ll become a loyal customer if you can offer something of high value.

  • Generation Z. There isn’t as much market research for Generation Z, because they’re the ‘babies’ of all generations. Born between 1995-2012, they may grow up to be the most technologically savvy of any generation. Chances are, they will be raised to expect diversity in their classroom (and online learning, such as social media), through interactive learning platforms (live streaming, anyone?). One of the greatest marketing tactics you can use to reach them as they grow up? Interactive webinars, and eCourse platforms.

Three Techniques to Reach Each Generation on Social Media Instantly

Now that you know what each generation is about, it’s time to dive head first into targeting each generation on social media—and meet them where they already are. Here they are: three generations, and three strategies that payoff:

  • Generation X. The baby boomer generation is most responsive to emails, so use it to your advantage! Create an email marketing campaign (do this easily by using a service like Aweber or MailChimp) and grab their attention with three inspiring or informative blog posts a week—sent right to their inbox.

Being the most financial responsible of all generations, hook their loyalty with online deals, home ownership tips, or ‘freebies’ (for example: offer free customization on a product you sell).

  • Generation Y. Ah, the millennials. The generation that makes up for over 70 million, and the potential to become your target audience, alone. Sharp, smart and innovative, they are thirsty for more knowledge constantly.

According to The New York Times, over 64% of millennials would rather make less than $45,000 a year doing what they love than make more money, doing something they aren’t inspired by.

Create content that inspires them. Promote a product that will trigger fearlessness in them to do what they love, increase their productivity, or allow them to instantly achieve greater work/life balance. Just make sure it’s 100% ‘you’. Don’t fake your way to building a brand. Speak, write about, or post videos that are in alignment with your vision, and that you’re passionate about. When you’re ‘you’ and your brand is authentic, they’ll beg for more.

  • Generation Z. According to a study done by Forbes.com, Generation Z spends 74% of their time on social media While they might not be as technologically experienced as Generation Y, they’re on social media constantly—and expect instant contact. Cater to your generation Z audience by developing (and maintaining) a strong presence on Snapchat, or with Instagram Stories (they respond well to stunning visuals and fun filters!) Kill two birds with one stone by live streaming videos on Facebook, and/or weekly YouTube videos.

Do you know what generation your audience is composed of? Or, is it a combination X, Y and Z? To know your audience is to compel them to fall in love with your brand. Use the above techniques and see what works best!


Gen X, Gen Y Targeting: How to Target Different Generations on Social Media was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

Three Powerful Strategies to Hack On-Page SEO [Case Study]

Three Powerful Strategies to Hack On-Page SEO

As part of the WordLift team and as a blogger, I run several experiments each week to see what kind of strategies can help hack on-page SEO. These experiments provided more in-depth information regarding on-page SEO, along with the discovery of how to properly do it to help my SEO campaign.

In this article, I want to show you three factors that affect on-page SEO up to the point that if you learn to leverage them, you can hack on-page SEO.

We’ll start with a practical case study. I asked Google “what is a featured snippet,” and this is what I got:

featured snippet definition

How did they know what to show? And why is this crucial for your on-page SEO?

But, before we delve on the case study, let me clarify the main difference between on-page and off-page SEO and what they really mean:

SEO 101: Off-Page vs. On-Page SEO

When you want to make your website rank through search engines, like Google, you learn right away that there are two kinds of strategies to adopt: on-page and off-page. Often the two walk hand in hand. Yet some content marketers choose either the former or the latter.

What is the main difference?

Each time Google ranks a page, it crawls and indexes the page. Therefore, before your pages get in Google’s ranking, you may want to make sure that the previous steps of the process are taken care of, which you can do by simply publishing content or submitting your sitemap to search engines.

What we look at in this article is the final part of the process- ranking. How does a search engine decide whether a page or website deserves to rank?

It looks at authority and relevance.

Simply put, authority is about off-page SEO; while relevance is about on-page SEO.

A good proxy for authority is domain and page authority. Those are two metrics that MOZ created to assess how a domain or a page are seen through Google’s lenses.

Domain authority is connected to off-page SEO activity. In short, when other sites link to your website, from your website’s perspective those are called backlinks. The more quality backlinks you get, the more your domain authority will improve over time.

The other factor is relevance. Relevance is about on-page SEO. How is relevance assessed? There are several ways to evaluate how relevant a page can be. The main ones would be: keywords, internal linking, page formatting, user experience, and quality of data.

If I had to put it in a simple diagram, it would be:

Ranking factors diagram

Now that we clarified the distinction between on-page and off-page SEO let’s jump into the three steps to hack your on-page.

Step One: Target the Featured Snippet

A featured snippet is a box you see before any result on Google.

featured snippet screenshot

The objective is clear: give a quick answer to a user’s question.

By targeting the featured snippet, you’re going after Rank Zero. In other words, you’re not anymore targeting the first positions in Google’s SERP (Search Engine Results Page).

You may ask, why do I go for the featured snippet when I don’t even get my page to rank first? That’s the thing. Ranking first on Google isn’t enough anymore. In fact, in a few cases, Google takes content that comes from the other nine results and places it as a featured snippet.

You can see it also in this example:

Ahrefs featured snippet ranking

On the long-tail query “what is a featured snippet”, Google is using the content coming from Ahrefs.com even though it is ranking 9th in the SERP.

Yet this is not the primary reason you want to target the featured snippet. For instance, when I compared Ahrefs and Search Engine Watch’s domain and page authority with Open Site Explorer I was stunned with the results:

open site explorer domain and page authority screenshot

Although the authority of both pages are 68; when it comes to domain authority, Ahrefs loses against Search Engine Watch.

So, why did Ahrefs gain the featured snippet? And how can you get a featured snippet when your domain authority is lower, and you’re not even ranking as number one?

First, regarding this long-tail keyword, Ahrefs won because it targeted Google’s featured snippet. In fact, when you focus on the featured snippet you shift your mindset. Therefore, your overall on-page SEO strategy changes accordingly.

How? You start doing the following things:

  • Optimize for long-tail keywords
  • Look for user intent to come up with a list of questions
  • Structure your content to give accurate answers

In short, by changing your mindset, you automatically apply a whole new set of tactics that will make your content less conversational and more transactional. Also, your overall strategy will change. You’ll stop thinking about keywords and start focusing on user intent. That will bring your on-page SEO to a new whole level.

That also leads us to another aspect of hacking your on-page SEO strategy.

Step Two: Use Headings Strategically

The first thing you should do when writing an article (if you want to optimize for the featured snippet) is to list the questions a user might have. How? You got to be creative on that. For instance, you could use Google related searches.

Yet, if you sell a product or service, you could dig into the customer support questions and come up with a list of FAQ.

Once you have your list of questions, keep this in mind: your average reader is like a crawler.

What do I mean? Most readers won’t read the whole article. They will skim it. Therefore, headings will be a way for them to know where to focus their attention. The same applies to Google’s crawlers. When they crawl a page, headings are signals that “tell” crawlers where to focus their effort on trying to index the page.

In other words, headings are some of the most fundamental yet powerful ways to signal to crawlers that a piece of content is relevant.

That is also how the article managed to rank for that featured snippet. The most effective heading to use for the snippet is H2:

Use heading 2 tags

The more H2 tags you use within the article to answer specific questions the more you’re signaling toward search engines where to focus their effort. Therefore, your content’s chances to be a featured snippet increases.

That leads us to the third step.

Step Three: Structured Data

I used a Google Chrome extension called open link structured data sniffer to see what kind of data both Ahrefs had on-page compared to Search Engine Watch.

This is Ahrefs:

Ahrefs structured data

Compared to Search Engine Watch:

search engine watch structured data

Both those websites use structured data. Yet Ahrefs uses JSON-LD while Search Engine Watch uses Microdata.

However, before we go further in-depth, let Google explain what structured data is:

Google Search works hard to understand the content of a page. You can help us by providing explicit clues about the meaning of a page to Google by including structured data on the page. Structured data is a standardized format for providing information about a page and classifying the page content; for example, on a recipe page, what are the ingredients, the cooking time and temperature, the calories, and so on.

Google uses structured data that it finds on the web to understand the content of the page, as well as to gather information about the web and the world in general.

Source: Google Developers

Therefore, structured data helps Google understand what a page or website is about. But the question is, what format does Google like the most?

JSON-LD recommendation

The answer is JSON-LD. In fact, it is a lightweight format that allows the creation of linked data. In short, where you have a piece of content, the JSON-LD translates that in data, which is linked. Therefore, it contributes to building a smarter and better online landscape.

To keep things short, JSON-LD allows open data to be linked. For instance, to say “John Lennon’s spouse is Cynthia Lennon” the JSON-LD expresses it as it follows:

JSON-LD example

Source: json-ld.org

With this kind of strategy, you can have your website “talk” to search engines and thereby increasing your chances of being discovered by your target audience. Coincidentally, there are tools, like WordLift, that allows you to do that in a few clicks.

Connecting the Dots

At times on-page SEO seems more of an art than a science. At least that is how it seems at first sight. However, three things are crucial in my opinion:

  • Switch your mindset from ranking to the snippet
  • Optimize the headings
  • Quality content has to walk hand in hand with the quality of data

In conclusion, by optimizing for the featured snippet you change your mindset. Suddenly, you look for long-tail keywords that resemble questions. By doing so, you also address the most specific problem points that your users and potential customers might have. Therefore, your content goes from generic to specific; from informational to transactional; and from author-centric to reader-centric.

In addition, by using your headings strategically you signal to both users and search engine crawlers where to focus when skimming your content.

Lastly, by combining the quality of content with the quality of data by using the JSON-LD format you make your readers happy while feeding Google’s crawlers what they’re looking for.

That is how you hack your on-page SEO.

Author Bio

Gennaro Cuofano Author Bio Photo Gennaro Cuofano is a Content Marketer and Business Developer at WordLift. After three years in the financial industry in San Diego, California, Gennaro created his blog FourWeekMBA.com where he shares his experiments and findings. He is part of the growth team at WordLift and brings his business insight to spread the value of WordLift and support its community of users.


Three Powerful Strategies to Hack On-Page SEO [Case Study] was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

How to Think About Email Capture Forms Like a Customer

What keeps customers from filling out one of your email capture forms? Is it because they don’t believe you will deliver what you say? Is it because it’s too long? Too short?

In this clip from an in-person training session at 2016’s NIO Summit hosted by NextAfter at MECLABS, Austin McCraw talks about the two essential factors that we can influence to produce more leads through our capture forms.


How to Think About Email Capture Forms Like a Customer was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

Blurring the Line Between CDN and CMS

Cloudflare recently announced that they’re launching a new feature, called “Cloudflare Workers”. It provides the ability for anybody who’s using Cloudflare as a CDN to write arbitrary JavaScript (based on the standard Service Worker API), which runs on Cloudflare’s edge nodes.

In plain English, you’ll be able to write code which changes the content, headers, look, feel and behaviour of your pages via the Cloudflare CDN. You can do this without making development changes on your servers, and without having to integrate into existing site logic.

If you’re familiar with JavaScript, you can just log into Cloudflare, and start writing logic which runs on top of your server output.

Why is this helpful?

As SEOs, we frequently work with sites which need technical improvements or changes. But development queues are often slow, resources restricted, and website platforms complex to change. It’s hard to get things changed or added.

So many of us have grown comfortable with using workarounds like Google Tag Manager to implement SEO changes - like fixing broken canonical URL tags, or adding robots directives to pages - and hoping that Google respects or understand the conflicting signals we send when we mix on-page and JavaScript-based rules.

But whilst Google professes to be capable of crawling, indexing and understanding JavaScript content and websites, all of the research suggests that they get it wrong as often as they get it right.

Cloudflare’s announcement is significant because, unlike tag management platforms, the alterations are made server-side, before the page is sent to the user - Google only sees the final, altered code and content. There’s no messy JavaScript in the browser, no cloaking, and no conflicting logic.

Service workers on the edge

Cloudflare, like other CDNs, has servers all over the world. When users request a URL on your website, they’re automatically routed to the nearest geographic ‘edge node’, so that users access the site via a fast, local connection. This is pretty standard stuff.

What’s new, however, is that you can now write code which runs at those edge nodes, which allows fine-grained control over how the page is presented to the end user based on their location, or using any logic you care to specify.

With full control over the response from the CDN, it’s possible to write scripts which change title tags, alter canonical URLs, redirect the user, change HTTP headers, or which add completely new functionality; you can adapt, change, delete, build upon or build around anything in the content which is returned from the server.

It’s worth noting that other platforms, like AWS, already launched something like this in July 2017. The concept of making changes at the edge isn’t completely new, but AWS uses a different approach and technology stack.

Specifically, AWS requires users to write functions in Node.js (a common server-side JavaScript framework), using a specific and proprietary approach to how requests/responses are handled. This comes with some advantages (like being able to use some Node.js libraries) but locks you into a very specific approach.

Cloudflare’s solution is based on the Service Worker API (as opposed to Node.js), which might look like a more future-proof approach.

Service workers are the current framework of choice for progressive web apps (PWAs), managing structured markup, and playing with new/emerging formats as Google (and the wider web) moves from favouring traditional websites to embracing more app-like experiences. That makes it a good skill set to learn, to use, and potentially to recycle existing code and solutions from elsewhere in your ecosystem.

That PWAs look likely to be the next (arguably, the current) big thing means that service workers aren't going anywhere anytime soon, but Node.js might just be the current flavour of the month.

Getting hands-on

Cloudflare provides a sandbox for you to test and visualise changes on any website, though it’s unclear whether this is part of their launch marketing or something which will be around for the long-term (or a component of the editor/deployment system itself).

That’s a lot of power to play with, and I was keen to explore what it looks like in practice.

It took me just a few minutes to modify one of the scripts on their announcement page to add the word ‘awesome’ (in a pleasing shade of orange) to Distilled’s homepage. You can check out the code here.

Whilst this is hugely powerful, it doesn’t come without risks and drawbacks. For a start, you’ll need to have some sharp JavaScript skills to write any rules, and you’re going to have to do it without any external supporting libraries of frameworks (like jQuery).

Service workers can be complex to work with, too. For example, all of your changes are asynchronous; they all run in parallel, at the same time. That makes things lightning fast, but it means that some complex logic which relies on specific ordering or dependencies might be challenging to write and maintain.

And with all of this, there’s also no nice WYSIWYG interface, guides or tutorials (other than general JS or service worker questions on StackOverflow). You’ll be flying by the seat of your pants, spending most of your time trying to work out why your code doesn’t work. And if you need to turn to your developers for help, you’re back at our initial problem - they’re busy, they have other priorities, and you’re fighting for resources.

A meta CMS is not a toy

As we increasingly find ourselves turning to workarounds for long development cycles, issues which “can’t be fixed”, and resolving technical challenges, it’s tempting to see solutions like Google Tag Manager and Cloudflare Workers as viable solutions.

If we can’t get the thing fixed, we can patch over it with a temporary solution which we can deploy ‘higher up the stack’ (a level ‘above’/before the CMS), and perhaps reprioritise and revisit the actual problem at a later date.

You can fix your broken redirects. You can migrate to HTTPS and HTTP/2. You can work through all those minor template errors which the development team will never get to.

But as this way of working becomes habit, it’s not unusual to find that the solutions we’re using (whether it’s Google Tag Manager, Cloudflare, or our own ODN) take on the characteristics of ‘Meta CMSs’; systems which increasingly override our templates, content and page logic, and which use CMS-like logic to determine what the end user sees.

Over time, we build up more and more rules and replacement, until we find that there’s a blurring of lines between which bits of our website and content we manage in each platform.

This creates a bunch of risks and challenges, such as:

  • What happens when the underlying code changes, or when rules conflict?
    If you’re using a tag manager or CDN to layer changes ‘on top’ of HTML code and pages, what happens when developers make changes to the underlying site logic?

    More often than not, the rules you’ve defined to layer your changes break, with potentially disastrous consequences. And when you’ve multiple rules with conflicting directives, how do you manage which ones win?

  • How do you know what does what?
    Writing rules in raw JavaScript doesn’t make for easily readable, at-a-glance understanding of what’s being altered.

    When you’ve got lots of rules or particularly complex scripts, you’ll need a logging or documentation process to provide human-friendly overviews of how all of the moving parts work and interact.

  • Who logs what’s where?
    If conflicts arise, or if you want to update or make new changes you’ll need to edit or build on top of your existing systems. But how do you know which systems - your CMS or your meta CMS - are controlling which bits of the templates, content and pages you want to modify?

    You’ve got rules and logic in multiple places, and it’s a headache keeping track.

    When the CEO asks why the page he’s looking at is broken, how do you begin to work out why, and where, things have gone wrong?

  • How do you do QA and testing?
    Unless your systems provide an easy way to preview changes, and allow you to expose testing URLs for the purposes of QA, browser testing and similar, you’ve got a system with a lot of power and very little quality control. At the moment, it doesn’t look like Cloudflare supports this.

  • How do you manage access and versioning?
    As your rules change, evolve and layer over time, you’ll need a way of managing version control, change logging, and access/permissions. It’s unclear if, or how Cloudflare will attack this at the moment, but the rest of their ecosystem is generally lacking in this regard.

  • How do you prevent accidental exposure/caching/PII etc?
    When you’ve full access to every piece of data flowing to or from the server, you can very easily do things which you probably shouldn’t - even accidentally. It doesn’t take much to accidentally store, save, or expose private user information, credit card transaction details, and other sensitive content.

    With great power comes great responsibility, and just writing-some-javascript can have unintended consequences.

In general then, relying overly on your CDN as a meta CMS feels like a risky solution. It’s good for patching over problems, but it’s going to cause operational and organisational headaches.

That’s not to say that it’s not a useful tool, though. If you’re already on Cloudflare, and you have complex challenges which you can resolve as a one-off fix using Cloudflare Workers, then it’s a great way to bypass the issue and get some easy wins.

Alternatively, if you need to execute geographically specific content, caching or redirect logic (at the closest local edge node to the user), then this is a really great tool - there are definitely use cases around geographically/legally restricted content where this is the perfect tool for the job.

Otherwise, it feels like trying to fix the problem is almost always going to be the better solution. Even if your developers are slow, you’re better off addressing the underlying issues at their source than patching on layers of (potentially unstable) fixes over the top.

Sometimes, Cloudflare Workers will be an elegant solution - more often than not, you should try to fix things the old-fashioned way.

ODN as a meta CMS

Except, there may be an exception to the rule.

If you could have all of the advantages of a meta CMS, but with provisions for avoiding all of the pitfalls I’ve identified - access and version control, intuitive interfaces, secure testing processes, and documentation - you could solve all of your technical SEO challenges overnight, and they’d stay solved.

And whilst I want to stress that I’m not a sales guy, we have a solution.

Our ‘Optimisation Delivery Network’ product (Distilled ODN for short) does all of this, with none of the disadvantages we’ve explored.

We built, and market our platform as an SEO split-testing solution (and it’s a uniquely awesome way to measure the effectiveness of on-page SEO changes at scale), but more interestingly for us, it’s essentially a grown-up meta CMS.

It works by making structured changes to pages, between the request to the server and the point where the page is delivered back to the user. It can do everything that Google Tag Manager or Cloudflare can do to your pages, headers, content and response behaviour.

And it has a friendly user interface. It’s enterprise-grade, it’s scalable, safe, and answers to all of the other challenges we’ve explored.

We have clients who rely on ODN for A/B testing their organic search traffic and pages, but many of these also use the platform to just fix stuff. Their marketing teams can log in, define rules and conditions, and fix issues which it’d typically take months (sometimes years) for development teams to address.

So whilst ODN still isn’t a perfect fix - if you’re in need of a meta CMS then something has already gone wrong upstream - it’s at least a viable, mature and sophisticated way of bypassing clunky development processes and delivering quick, tactical wins.

I expect we’ll see much more movement in the meta CMS market in the next year or so, especially as there are now multiple players in the space (including Amazon!); but how viable their products will be - if they don’t have usable interfaces and account for organisational/operational challenges - is yet to be seen.

In the meantime, you should have a play with Cloudflare’s sandbox, and if you want more firepower and a stronger safety net, get in touch with us for a Distilled ODN demo.


Blurring the Line Between CDN and CMS was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

Black Friday SEO Advice to Get More Sales in 2017

hv-blog-on-page Black Friday SEO Advice to Get More Sales in 2017

Black Friday is just around the corner, and for many business owners (small and large) it’s the most profitable time of year. According to Techradar, a whopping $3.34 billion was spend last Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Ready to get your piece of the pie this November? It starts, and ends with optimizing your website. Learn the most effective SEO tips to strengthen your brand, achieve higher sales and surpass your ecommerce dreams!

First Things First: Cheat Your Way to Sales Success (With a Checklist)

It’s not really cheating—in fact, it’s a strategy to blow your competition out of the water so that you reach the true ecommerce sales potential that you deserve. While Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year, it can also be the most stressful day of the year as well. How do you guarantee your website won’t crash with high volume traffic? How do you best increase the amount of spending per customer? With this handy checklist, of course! Cross off each task one by one, and you’ll skyrocket your sales just in time for Black Friday:

  • Set up an autoresponder series for abandoned cart visitors. If you already use an automated email marketing series to keep your customer engaged, make sure to add a ‘Black Friday’ campaign. All you have to do is capture those viewers who added your product to their cart (but then left your site). Send a reminder email to them with a special, additional 10% off coupon – if they come back by midnight to complete their checkout.
  • Create a pop-up landing page with a discount code. The average viewer only takes three seconds to view your site. Instantly grab their attention with a compelling pop-up landing page, placed front and center on your homepage. Do you want to create a greater sense of urgency? Design a landing page that includes a timer, counting down the hours, minutes and seconds before your deal expires.
  • Create a banner to display your too-good-to-pass-up Black Friday deal. Banners are easy to create (just head over to canva.com to create a free one). Create a bold heading and font that specifies what your deal is. The more instantly visible your Black Friday deals are, the more viewers are likely to buy.
  • Be absolutely sure your store can deal with the demand. Don’t underestimate the power of your product. When Black Friday comes, consumers (old and new) will want to take advantage of your deals. Check ahead of time with your suppliers, making sure they can handle your surplus of orders.

Now that you have a website equipped for high sales and a low drop-off rate, it’s time to optimize your online business to reach the masses in record time. Apply these five tips to your site ASAP, and you’ll become the epitome of #salesgoals.

Create SEO-Focused Gift Guides

Forget struggling to optimize your sales. One highly effective shortcut is by suggestive gift guide pop-ups as they go through check-out.  According to Google’s trend report from 2016, over 70 percent of online consumers start shopping without having something particular in mind that they want to buy! For example, if you sell women’s clothing, put together a few gift guides that include related interests for women, such as fashion bracelets, necklaces and a subscription to a women’s magazine.

Utilize YouTube

Make a few ‘Black Friday Gift Idea’ videos on YouTube and reach even more potential customers (a whopping 68 percent of consumers turn to YouTube when they don’t know what they want to buy!) Just make sure you follow YouTube’s SEO rules by including no more than 2% density keywords and 700 words—max—in your video description (or your video won’t get uploaded).

Add Popular Keywords for Holiday Gifts in Your Marketing Copy

Black Friday is the perfect time to utilize SEO keywords in all platforms of your marketing copy, including: emails, landing pages, PPC ads, blog posts and product descriptions. Start off your search with ‘Black Friday’, and make sure to also utilize ‘related searches’ for more keyword ideas.

Know Your Buzz Words

Once you have your list of Black Friday keywords, make sure that you add holiday specific buzz words to your marketing copy. For example, it’s not enough to simply describe what your product is with ‘Black Friday’ keywords. You have to hook your audience with additional words like ‘Best,’ ‘Incredible,’ ‘Rare,’ or ‘One of a Kind.’

Peak their curiosity with buzz words, so that whether you’re selling champagne filled chocolates or cashmere sweaters, you’ve hooked them and compelled them to click, buy—and become a customer for years to come.

Force the Masses to Discover Your Sale

While content has been and always will be king, never underestimate the power of a really good image. Many businesses use images in their blog posts or web content, but fail to maximize their exposure by forgetting about the alt tags. This holiday season (as well as any other day of the year) remember that your audience is visually inspired. Add stock photos of a picturesque setting, or of a child receiving the perfect gift on Christmas morning. Find images that evoke Universal desires we all have: a sense of joy, wonder and even magic. Then, take advantage of alt tags so that visitors can find you—and inevitably, the perfect Black Friday deal they just can’t pass up.


Black Friday SEO Advice to Get More Sales in 2017 was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing