How to Measure Performance with Custom Dimensions in Google Analytics [Tutorial]

Posted by tombennet

Data-driven marketing means understanding what works. This means not only having accurate data, but also having the right data.

Data integrity is obviously critical to good reporting, but Analytics auditing shouldn’t focus solely on the validity of the tracking code. Even amongst digital marketing teams who place importance on reporting, I frequently encounter the attitude that a technically sound, out-of-the-box implementation of Google Analytics will provide all the insight you could require.

Because of this, Google Analytics is rarely used to its full potential. When it comes to deeper insights — analyzing the ROI of top-of-funnel marketing activities, the impact of content engagement on raw business KPIs, or the behavior of certain subsets of your audience, for example — many will overlook the ease with which these can be measured. All it takes is a little investment in your tracking setup and a careful consideration of what insight would be most valuable.

In this article, I’ll be exploring the ways in which the Custom dimensions feature can be used to supercharge your Google Analytics reporting setup. We’ll run through some practical examples before diving into the various options for implementation. By the end, you’ll be equipped to apply these techniques to your own reporting, and use them to prove your prowess to your clients or bosses.

What are custom dimensions?

In a nutshell, they enable you to record additional, non-standard data in Google Analytics. You can then pivot or segment your data based on these dimensions, similarly to how you would with standard dimensions like source, medium, city, or browser. Custom dimensions can even be used as filters at the View-level, allowing you to isolate a specific subset of your audience or traffic for deeper analysis.

In contrast to the Content Grouping feature — which allows you to bucket your existing pages into logical groups — custom dimensions let you attach entirely new data to hits, sessions, or users. This last point is critical; custom dimensions can take advantage of the different levels of scope offered by Google Analytics. This means your new dimension can apply to an individual user and all their subsequent interactions on your website, or to a single pageview hit.

For the purposes of this tutorial, we’re going to imagine a simple scenario: You run a popular e-commerce website with a content marketing strategy that hinges around your blog. We’ll start by illustrating some of the ways in which custom dimensions can provide a new perspective.

1. User engagement

You publish a series of tutorials on your blog, and while they perform well in organic search and in social, you struggle to demonstrate the monetary value of your continued efforts. You suspect that engagement with the tutorials correlates positively with eventual high-value purchases, and wish to demonstrate this in Analytics. By configuring a user-level custom dimension called “Commenter” which communicates a true/false depending on whether the user has ever commented on your blog, you can track the behavior of these engaged users.

2. User demographics

User login status is frequently recommended as a custom dimension, since it allows you to isolate your existing customers or loyal visitors. This can be a great source of insight, but we can take this one step further: Assuming that you collect additional (anonymous) data during the user registration process, why not fire this information to Analytics as a user-level custom dimension? In the case of our example website, let’s imagine that your user registration form includes a drop-down menu for occupation. By communicating users’ selections to Analytics, you can compare the purchase patterns of different professions.

3. Out-of-stock products

Most e-commerce sites have, at one time or another, encountered the SEO conundrum of product retirement. What should you do with product URLs that no longer exist? This is often framed as a question of whether to leave them online, redirect them, or 404 them. Less frequently investigated is their impact on conversion, or of the wider behavioral effects of stock level in general. By capturing out-of-stock pageviews as a custom dimension, we can justify our actions with data.

Now that we have a clear idea of the potential of custom dimensions, let’s dive into the process of implementation.

How to implement custom dimensions

All custom dimensions must first be created in the Google Analytics Admin interface. They exist on the Property level, not the View level, and non-premium Google Analytics accounts are allowed up to 20 custom dimensions per Property. Expand Custom Definitions, hit Custom Dimensions, and then the red New Custom Dimension button.

C:\Users\ThomasB.BUILTVISIBLE\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\creating-custom-dimensions-1.png

In the next screen, you’ll need to give your dimension a name, select a Scope (hit, session, user, or — for enhanced e-commerce implementations — product), and check the Active box to enable it. Hit Create, and you’ll be shown a boilerplate version of the code necessary to start collecting data.

C:\Users\ThomasB.BUILTVISIBLE\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\our-custom-dimension.png

The code — which is documented fully on Google Developers and Google Support — is very simple:

var mozDimensionValue = 'Howdy Moz Fans';
ga('set', 'dimension1', mozDimensionValue);

As you can see, we’re defining the value of our dimension in a JavaScript variable, then using the set method with the ga() command queue to pass that variable to Analytics as a custom dimension. All subsequent hits on the page (pageviews, events, etc) would then include this custom dimension. Note that we refer to our dimension by its index number, which in this instance is 1; return to the main Custom Dimensions screen in the Admin area to see the index number which Analytics assigned to your new dimension.

While your developer will typically handle the nuts and bolts of implementation — namely working out how best to pass your desired value into a JavaScript variable — the syntax is simple enough that it can be modified with ease. Using the first of our examples from earlier — tracking commenters — we want to send a value of ‘commenter’ to the Dimension 2 slot as part of an event hit which is configured to fire when somebody comments on the blog. With this slot pre-configured as a user-level dimension, we would use:

ga('send', 'event', 'Engagement', 'Blog Comment', {
  'dimension2':  'commenter'
});

This approach is all well and good, but it’s not without its drawbacks. It requires on-page tracking code changes, significant developer involvement, and doesn’t scale particularly well.

Thanks to Google Tag Manager, we can make things much easier.

Implementation with Google Tag Manager

If you use GTM to deploy your Analytics tracking — and for all but the simplest of implementations, I would recommend that you do — then deploying custom dimensions becomes far simpler. For those new to GTM, I gave an introductory talk on the platform at BrightonSEO (slides here), and I’d strongly suggest bookmarking both Google’s official documentation and Simo Ahava’s excellent blog.

For the sake of this tutorial, I’ll assume you’re familiar with the basics of GTM. To add a custom dimension to a particular tag — in this case, our blog comment event tag — simply expand “Custom Dimensions” under More Settings, and enter the index number and value of the dimension you’d like to set. Note that to see the More Settings configuration options, you’ll need to check the “Enable overriding settings in this tag” box if you’re not using a Google Analytics Settings Variable to configure your implementation.

C:\Users\ThomasB.BUILTVISIBLE\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\gtm.png

What about our latter two examples, user demographics and out-of-stock products?

Our demographic scenario involved a user registration form which included an “Occupation” field. In contrast to our commenting example, the dimension value in this instance will need to be set programmatically depending on user input — it’s not a simple true/false variable that can be easily attached to a suitable event tag.

While we could use the “DOM Element” variable type to scrape the value of the “Occupation” drop-down field directly off the page, such an approach is not particularly scalable. A far better solution would be to fire the value of the field — along with the values of any other fields you feel may offer — to your website’s data layer.

Attention, people who don’t yet use a data layer:

While your development team will need to be involved in the implementation of a data layer, it’s well worth the effort. The advantages for your reporting can be huge, particularly for larger organizations. Defining the contents of your site’s data layer is a great opportunity for cross-team collaboration, and means that all potentially insightful data points are accessible in a machine-readable and platform-agnostic format, ready to be fired to GA. It’s also less subject to mistakes than ad-hoc tracking code. Much like how CSS separates out style from content, the data layer isolates your data.

Your developer will need to make the required information available in the data layer before you can define it as a Data Layer Variable in GTM and start using it in your tags. In the example below, imagine that the JavaScript variable ‘myValue’ has been configured to return the occupation entered by the user, as a string. We push it to the data layer, then define it as a Data Layer Variable in GTM:

var myValue = 'Professional Juggler';
dataLayer.push({'userOccupation': 'myValue'});

C:\Users\ThomasB.BUILTVISIBLE\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\gtm-dlv.png

Attach a custom dimension to your User Registration event tag, as before, then simply reference this Data Layer Variable as the dimension value. Done!

Our third example follows the exact same principles: Having identified product-in-stock status as a hit-level datapoint with potential reporting insight, and with our data layer configured to return this as a variable on product pages, we simply configure our pageview tag to use this variable as the value for a new custom dimension.

C:\Users\ThomasB.BUILTVISIBLE\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\gtm-stock.png

Reporting & analysis

The simplest way to view custom dimension data in Analytics is to apply a secondary dimension to a standard report. In the example below, we’ve set our new “User Occupation” dimension as the secondary dimension in a New/Returning visitor report, allowing us to identify the professions of our newest users, and those of our frequent visitors.

C:\Users\ThomasB.BUILTVISIBLE\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\secondary-dim.png

By cross-referencing your new dimensions with behavioral data — think social share frequency by occupation — you can gain insight into the subsets of your audience who are most likely to engage or convert.

In truth, however, applying a secondary dimension in this manner is rarely conducive to effective analysis. In many instances, this approach will hugely increase the number of rows of data in your report without providing any immediately useful information. As such, it is often necessary to take things one step further: You can export the data into Excel for deeper analysis, or build a custom dashboard to pivot the data exactly the way you want it. In the example below, a chart and table have been configured to show our most viewed out-of-stock products over the course of the last week. Timely, actionable insight!

C:\Users\ThomasB.BUILTVISIBLE\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\dashboard.png

Sometimes, it’s necessary to completely isolate a subset of data in a dedicated view. This can be particularly powerful when used with a user-level custom dimension. Let’s say we wish to drill down to show only our most engaged users. We can do this by applying a Filter to a new view. In the following example, we have applied a custom ‘Include’ Filter which specifies a value of ‘commenter’ based on our “Blog Commenter” custom dimension.

C:\Users\ThomasB.BUILTVISIBLE\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\filter-include.png

The result? A dedicated view which reports on engaged users only.

For more information on the intricacies of filtering data based on session or user-level custom dimensions — and their implications for your Real Time reports — be sure to check out this great post from LunaMetrics.

Final thoughts

A deeper understanding of your target audience is never a bad thing. Custom dimensions are just one of the many ways in which Google Analytics can be extended beyond its default configuration to provide more granular, actionable insights tailored to the needs of your business.

As with many other advanced Analytics features, execution is everything. It’s better to have no custom dimensions at all than to waste your limited slots with dimensions which are poorly implemented or just plain unnecessary. Planning and implementation should be a collaborative process between your marketing, management, and development teams.

Hopefully this article has given you some ideas for how custom dimensions might offer you a new perspective on your audience.

Thanks for reading!

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How Does Google Handle CSS + Javascript “Hidden” Text? – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Does Google treat text kept behind “read more” links with the same importance as non-hidden text? The short answer is “no,” but there’s more nuance to it than that. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains just how the search engine giant weighs text hidden from view using CSS and JavaScript.

https://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/ehdc609c4f?videoFoam=true

https://fast.wistia.net/assets/external/E-v1.js

How Google handles CSS and Javascript

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat a little bit about hidden text, hidden text of several kinds. I really don’t mean the spammy, black on a black background, white on a white background-like, hidden text type of keyword stuffing from the ’90s and early 2000s. I’m talking about what we do with CSS and JavaScript with overlays and with folders inside a page, that kind of hidden text.

It’s become very popular in modern web design to basically use CSS or to use JavaScript to load text after a user has taken some action on a page. So perhaps they’ve clicked on a separate section of your e-commerce page about your product to see other information, or maybe they’ve clicked a “read more” link in an article to read the rest of the article. This actually creates problems with Google and with SEO, and they’re not obvious problems, because when you use something like Google’s fetch and render tool or when you look at Google’s cache, Google appears to be able to crawl and parse all of that text. But they’re not treating all of it equally.

So here’s an example. I’ve got this text about coconut marble furnishings, which is just a ridiculous test phrase that I’m going to use for this purpose. But let’s say I’ve got page A, which essentially shows the first paragraph of this text, and then I have page B, which only shows part of the first sentence and then a “read more” link, which is very common in lots of articles.

Many folks do this, by the way, because they want to get engagement data about how many people actually read the rest of the piece. Others are using it for serving advertising, or they’re using it to track something, and some people are using it just because of the user experience it provides. Maybe the page is crowded with other types of content. They want to make sure that if someone wants to display this particular piece or that particular piece, that it’s available to them in as convenient a format as possible for design purposes or what have you.

What’s true in these instances is that Google is not going to treat what happens after this “read more” link is clicked, which is that the rest of this text would become visible here, they’re not going to treat that with the same weight that they otherwise would.

All other things being equal

So they’re on similar domains, they have similar link profiles, all that other kind of stuff.

  • A is going to outrank B for “coconut marble furnishings” even though this is in the title here. Because this text is relevant to that keyword and is serving to create greater relevance, Google is going to weight this one higher.
  • It’s also true that the content that’s hidden behind this “read more” here, it doesn’t matter. If it’s CSS-based, JavaScript-based, post load or loaded when the HTML is, it doesn’t matter, it’s going to be weighted less by Google. It will be treated as though that text were not as important.
  • Interestingly, fascinatingly, perhaps, Bing and Yahoo do not appear to discern between these. So they’ll treat these more equally. Google is the only one who seems to be, at least right now, from some test data — I’ll talk about that in a sec — who is treating these differently, who is basically weighting this hidden content less.

Best practices for SEO and “hidden” text

So what can we discern from this? What should SEOs do when we’re working with our web design teams and with our content teams around these types of issues?

I. We have to expect that any time we hide text with CSS, with JavaScript, what have you, that it will have less ranking influence. It’s not that it won’t be counted at all. If I were to search for “hardwood-like material creates beautiful shine,” like that exact phrase in Google with quotes, both of these pages would come up, this one almost certainly first, but both of these pages would come up.

So Google knows the text is there. It just isn’t counting it as highly. It’s like content that isn’t carrying the same weight as it would if it were visible by default. So, given that we know that, we have to decide in the tradeoff situation whether it’s worth it to lose the ranking value and the potential visitors in exchange for whatever we’re gaining by having this element.

II. We’ve got to consider some creative alternatives. It is possible to make text visible by default and to instead have something like an overlay element. We could have a brief overlay here that’s easily close-able with a message. Maybe that could give us the same types of engagement statistics, because 95% of people are going to close that before they scroll down, or they’re going to receive a popover message or those kinds of things. Granted, as we’ve discussed previously on Whiteboard Friday, overlays have their own issues that we need to be aware of, but these are possible. We can also measure scroll depth by doing some JavaScript tracking. There’s lots of software that does that by default and plenty of GitHub repositories, that are open source, that we could use to track that. So there might be other ways to get the same goals.

III. If it is the case that you have to use the “read more” or any other text hiding elements, I would urge you to go ahead and place the crucial information, including the keyword phrases and the most related terms and phrases that you know are going to be very important to rankings, up in that most visible top portion of the page so that you maximize the ranking weight of the most important pieces rather than losing those below or behind whatever sorts of post-loading situation you’ve got. Make those the default visible portions of text.

I do want to give special thanks. One of the reasons that we know this, certainly Google has mentioned it on occasion, but over the course of the last few years there’s been a lot of skepticism, especially from folks in the web design community who have sort of said, “Look, it seems like Google can see this. It doesn’t seem to be a problem. When I search in quotes for this text, Google is bringing it back.” That has been correct.

But thanks to Shai — I’m sorry if I mispronounce your name — Aharony from Reboot Online, RebootOnline.com, and I’ll link to the specific test that they performed, but they performed some wonderful, large-scale, long-term tests of CSS, of text area, of visible text, and of JavaScript hiding across many domains over a long period and basically proved to us that what Google says is in fact true, that they are treating this text behind here with less weight. So we really appreciate the efforts of folks like that, who go through intense effort to give us the truth about how Google works.

That said, we will hopefully see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Site Crawl, Day 1: Where Do You Start?

Posted by Dr-Pete

When you’re faced with the many thousands of potential issues a large site can have, where do you start? This is the question we tried to tackle when we rebuilt Site Crawl. The answer depends almost entirely on your site and can require deep knowledge of its history and goals, but I’d like to outline a process that can help you cut through the noise and get started.

Simplistic can be dangerous

Previously, we at Moz tried to label every issue as either high, medium, or low priority. This simplistic approach can be appealing, even comforting, and you may be wondering why we moved away from it. This was a very conscious decision, and it boils down to a couple of problems.

First, prioritization depends a lot on your intent. Misinterpreting your intent can lead to bad advice that ranges from confusing to outright catastrophic. Let’s say, for example, that we hired a brand-new SEO at Moz and they saw the following issue count pop up:

Almost 35,000 NOINDEX tags?! WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?!!

If that new SEO then rushed to remove those tags, they’d be doing a lot of damage, not realizing that the vast majority of those directives are intentional. We can make our systems smarter, but they can’t read your mind, so we want to be cautious about false alarms.

Second, bucketing issues by priority doesn’t do much to help you understand the nature of those problems or how to go about fixing them. We now categorize Site Crawl issues into one of five descriptive types:

  • Critical Crawler Issues
  • Crawler Warnings
  • Redirect Issues
  • Metadata Issues
  • Content Issues

Categorizing by type allows you to be more tactical. The issues in our new “Redirect” category, for example, are going to have much more in common, which means they potentially have common fixes. Ultimately, helping you find problems is just step one. We want to do a better job at helping you fix them.

1. Start with Critical Crawler Issues

That’s not to say everything is subjective. Some problems block crawlers (not just ours, but search engines) from getting to your pages at all. We’ve grouped these “Critical Crawler Issues” into our first category, and they currently include 5XX errors, 4XX errors, and redirects to 4XX. If you have a sudden uptick in 5XX errors, you need to know, and almost no one intentionally redirects to a 404.

You’ll see Critical Crawler Issues highlighted throughout the Site Crawl interface:

Look for the red alert icon to spot critical issues quickly. Address these problems first. If a page can’t be crawled, then every other crawler issue is moot.

2. Balance issues with prevalence

When it comes to solving your technical SEO issues, we also have to balance severity with quantity. Knowing nothing else about your site, I would say that a 404 error is probably worth addressing before duplicate content — but what if you have eleven 404s and 17,843 duplicate pages? Your priorities suddenly look very different.

At the bottom of the Site Crawl home, check out “Moz Recommends Fixing”:

We’ve already done some of the math for you, weighting urgency by how prevalent the issue is. This does require some assumptions about prioritization, but if your time is limited, we hope it at least gives you a quick starting point to solve a couple of critical issues.

3. Solve multi-page issues

There’s another advantage to tackling issues with high counts. In many cases, you might be able to solve issues on hundreds (or even thousands) of pages with a single fix. This is where a more tactical approach can save you a lot of time and money.

Let’s say, for example, that I want to dig into my 916 pages on Moz.com missing meta descriptions. I immediately notice that some of these pages are blog post categories. So, I filter by URL:

I can quickly see that these pages account for 392 of my missing descriptions — a whopping 43% of them. If I’m concerned about this problem, then it’s likely that I could solve it with a fairly simple CMS page, wiping out hundreds of issues with a few lines of code.

In the near future, we hope to do some of this analysis for you, but if filtering isn’t doing the job, you can also export any list of issues to CSV. Then, pivot and filter to your heart’s content.

4. Dive into pages by PA & crawl depth

If you can’t easily spot clear patterns, or if you’ve solved some of those big issues, what next? Fixing thousands of problems one URL at a time is only worthwhile if you know those URLs are important.

Fortunately, you can now sort by Page Authority (PA) and Crawl Depth in Site Crawl. PA is our own internal metric of ranking ability (primarily powered by link equity), and Crawl Depth is the distance of a page from the home-page:

Here, I can see that there’s a redirect chain in one of our MozBar URLs, which is a very high-authority page. That’s probably one worth fixing, even if it isn’t part of an obvious, larger group.

5. Watch for spikes in new issues

Finally, as time goes on, you’ll also want to be alert to new issues, especially if they appear in large numbers. This could indicate a sudden and potentially damaging change. Site Crawl now makes tracking new issues easy, including alert icons, graphs, and a quick summary of new issues by category:

Any crawl is going to uncover some new pages (the content machine never rests), but if you’re suddenly seeing hundreds of new issues of a single type, it’s important to dig in quickly and make sure nothing’s wrong. In a perfect world, the SEO team would always know what changes other people and teams made to the site, but we all know it’s not a perfect world.

I hope this gives you at least a few ideas for how to quickly dive into your site’s technical SEO issues. If you’re an existing customer, you already have access to Moz’s new Site Crawl and all of the features discussed in this post.

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New Site Crawl: Rebuilt to Find More Issues on More Pages, Faster Than Ever!

Posted by Dr-Pete

First, the good news — as of today, all Moz Pro customer have access to the new version of Site Crawl, our entirely rebuilt deep site crawler and technical SEO auditing platform. The bad news? There isn’t any. It’s bigger, better, faster, and you won’t pay an extra dime for it.

A moment of humility, though — if you’ve used our existing site crawl, you know it hasn’t always lived up to your expectations. Truth is, it hasn’t lived up to ours, either. Over a year ago, we set out to rebuild the back end crawler, but we realized quickly that what we wanted was an entirely re-imagined crawler, front and back, with the best features we could offer. Today, we launch the first version of that new crawler.

Code name: Aardwolf

The back end is entirely new. Our completely rebuilt “Aardwolf” engine crawls twice as fast, while digging much deeper. For larger accounts, it can support up to ten parallel crawlers, for actual speeds of up to 20X the old crawler. Aardwolf also fully supports SNI sites (including Cloudflare), correcting a major shortcoming of our old crawler.

View/search *all* URLs

One major limitation of our old crawler is that you could only see pages with known issues. Click on “All Crawled Pages” in the new crawler, and you’ll be brought to a list of every URL we crawled on your site during the last crawl cycle:

You can sort this list by status code, total issues, Page Authority (PA), or crawl depth. You can also filter by URL, status codes, or whether or not the page has known issues. For example, let’s say I just wanted to see all of the pages crawled for Moz.com in the “/blog” directory…

I just click the [+], select “URL,” enter “/blog,” and I’m on my way.

Do you prefer to slice and dice the data on your own? You can export your entire crawl to CSV, with additional data including per-page fetch times and redirect targets.

Recrawl your site immediately

Sometimes, you just can’t wait a week for a new crawl. Maybe you relaunched your site or made major changes, and you have to know quickly if those changes are working. No problem, just click “Recrawl my site” from the top of any page in the Site Crawl section, and you’ll be on your way…

Starting at our Medium tier, you’ll get 10 recrawls per month, in addition to your automatic weekly crawls. When the stakes are high or you’re under tight deadlines for client reviews, we understand that waiting just isn’t an option. Recrawl allows you to verify that your fixes were successful and refresh your crawl report.

Ignore individual issues

As many customers have reminded us over the years, technical SEO is not a one-sized-fits-all task, and what’s critical for one site is barely a nuisance for another. For example, let’s say I don’t care about a handful of overly dynamic URLs (for many sites, it’s a minor issue). With the new Site Crawl, I can just select those issues and then “Ignore” them (see the green arrow for location):

If you make a mistake, no worries — you can manage and restore ignored issues. We’ll also keep tracking any new issues that pop up over time. Just because you don’t care about something today doesn’t mean you won’t need to know about it a month from now.

Fix duplicate content

Under “Content Issues,” we’ve launched an entirely new duplicate content detection engine and a better, cleaner UI for navigating that content. Duplicate content is now automatically clustered, and we do our best to consistently detect the “parent” page. Here’s a sample from Moz.com:

You can view duplicates by the total number of affected pages, PA, and crawl depth, and you can filter by URL. Click on the arrow (far-right column) for all of the pages in the cluster (shown in the screenshot). Click anywhere in the current table row to get a full profile, including the source page we found that link on.

Prioritize quickly & tactically

Prioritizing technical SEO problems requires deep knowledge of a site. In the past, in the interest of simplicity, I fear that we’ve misled some of you. We attempted to give every issue a set priority (high, medium, or low), when the difficult reality is that what’s a major problem on one site may be deliberate and useful on another.

With the new Site Crawl, we decided to categorize crawl issues tactically, using five buckets:

  • Critical Crawler Issues
  • Crawler Warnings
  • Redirect Issues
  • Metadata Issues
  • Content Issues

Hopefully, you can already guess what some of these contain. Critical Crawler Issues still reflect issues that matter first to most sites, such as 5XX errors and redirects to 404s. Crawler Warnings represent issues that might be very important for some sites, but require more context, such as meta NOINDEX.

Prioritization often depends on scope, too. All else being equal, one 500 error may be more important than one duplicate page, but 10,000 duplicate pages is a different matter. Go to the bottom of the Site Crawl Overview Page, and we’ve attempted to balance priority and scope to target your top three issues to fix:

Moving forward, we’re going to be launching more intelligent prioritization, including grouping issues by folder and adding data visualization of your known issues. Prioritization is a difficult task and one we haven’t helped you do as well as we could. We’re going to do our best to change that.

Dive in & tell us what you think!

All existing customers should have access to the new Site Crawl as of earlier this morning. Even better, we’ve been crawling existing campaigns with the Aardwolf engine for a couple of weeks, so you’ll have history available from day one! Stay turned for a blog post tomorrow on effectively prioritizing Site Crawl issues, and a webinar on Friday at 9am Pacific.

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Win a Ticket to MozCon 2017 – On Us!

Posted by Danielle_Launders

That’s right! We’re bringing back our MozCon contest where you, our community, can submit your creative entries for a chance to come to MozCon 2017 for free! Last year we had so many impressive and deserving entries, it was hard to choose just one… which is why this year there will be three lucky winners. Yes! You read correctly — three lucky people will be able to attend MozCon for free. Moz will not only cover your registration, but you’ll also have reserved VIP front-row seating, and we’ll pick up the bill for accommodations at the Grand Hyatt.

This is your chance to meet Roger, laugh and cry at MozCon Ignite, converse with speakers during lunch, and of course learn all the things! To enter, just send over a unique piece of content telling us why we should send you to MozCon. Make sure your entry is both original and creative!

First up: Create!

Brainstorm and create something new, unique, and compelling. Last year we saw tons of ingenious ideas, including:

  • Videos (must be one minute or less)
  • Blog posts
  • Songs
  • Books
  • Drawings
  • Slide decks
  • Anything else you can dream up!

These are just a few examples; there’s plenty of room for you to come up with your own trail-blazing ideas. Perhaps you’ll film your own Whiteboard Friday detailing why you should come, or record a custom-written, sung-from-the-heart tune about why you love MozCon? Get creative and show us what you got!

Secondly: Submit

Once your content has been perfected and is ready to share, tweet us a link @Moz and use the hashtag #mozcon by Sunday, June 18 at 5:00pm PDT. To keep things fair, there will be no exceptions — so make sure to follow instructions and don’t forget to include your contact information (name and email address) somewhere easily visible within your content. We need to be able to connect with you if you’re a winner!

All submissions will be reviewed and voted on by Moz staff. We’ll let the votes of 150 Mozzers decide the top 3 entries.

Let’s break it down:

  • Submissions close on Sunday, June 18 at 5:00pm PDT
  • Entries will be judged by Mozzers based on creativity and uniqueness of content
  • Winners will be announced and the winning entry shared from @Moz via Twitter on Monday, June 26
  • You must be able to attend MozCon, July 17–19 2017, in Seattle. Prizes are non-transferrable.
  • All submissions must adhere to the MozCon Code of Conduct
  • Contest is void where prohibited by law.
  • The value of the prize will be reported for tax purposes as required by law; the winner will receive an IRS form 1099 at the end of the calendar year and a copy of such form will be filed with the IRS. The winner is solely responsible for reporting and paying any and all applicable taxes related to the prizes and paying any expenses associated with any prize which are not specifically provided for in the official rules.

What 3 lucky people win:

  • A free ticket to MozCon 2017, including optional VIP front-row seating (valued at $1049)
  • Accommodations with suite upgrade at the Grand Hyatt from July 16–20, 2017 (valued at $1,300+)

All right, what are you waiting for? Time to start on those submissions. Best of luck to you all!

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The Mobile SEO Stack: Tools to Develop a Mobile-First SEO Process

Posted by Aleyda

It was a few years ago now that Google announced most of its searches occur on mobile devices across many countries, with confirmation last year from Hitwise reporting that almost 60% of US searches were from mobile, as well. With that, understandably, Google is also moving towards a mobile-first index. However, not all SEO tools have the functionality or reports to deliver mobile-focused data and results.

The reality is that due to high mobile usage across certain industries and countries, it’s already critical to take mobile search behavior and optimization into consideration to establish a winning SEO strategy. For example, as can be seen below in data obtained from SimilarWeb, this is especially important in the restaurants & delivery, health, pets, and beauty sectors, as well as many others:

Since I enjoy testing SEO tools — as you might have already guessed from some of my previous posts — to identify better ways to develop my day-to-day work, I began to check specifically which tools include any type of mobile-targeted functionality. Although the offerings are still far from ideal, with the existing ones we can at least answer the most common mobile-focused questions when developing an SEO process.

While testing out these tools, I could see that a few of them offered different types of mobile-focused functionalities. To facilitate their usage I created a “Mobile SEO Stack” graphic — easy to save and share — where I’ve mapped each tool to the most common mobile-focused SEO questions that they can answer. So without further ado, here it is…

The Mobile SEO Stack

Mobile SEO tools list

View/download a high-resolution version here

You’ll see that some of them have a yellow dot rather than a white one — for example, SEMrush for the “What’s your Mobile Audience Search Behavior?” question. This is because the tool can only partially answer the question due to some type of restriction. In the case of SEMrush, they only provide mobile data for the US at the moment.

Here’s a summary of the questions answered, along with the 28 tools included:

1. What’s your mobile audience search behavior?

Obtain the queries already sending you or your competitors mobile search visibility and/or traffic, the pages earning the existing mobile visibility and traffic, and the mobile search share of these or any other terms you want to assess and potentially target with your mobile web presence.

2. What’s your site mobile search visibility & traffic performance?

From third-party mobile ranking sources which are handy when you’re starting out (or to double-check for terms that you might not be directly tracking) to rank trackers that support mobile search results, it’s fundamental to understand your mobile search performance at a ranking and traffic level to identify opportunities. Are you targeting the right terms and ranking with the right pages?

3. What’s your competition’s mobile web search visibility?

It’s important to give context to your mobile visibility. Remember that just because you’re not getting a high share of mobile visibility, traffic, and conversions it doesn’t mean there’s no opportunity; analyze what your competitors are doing to use alongside your mobile search behavior analysis to establish your own mobile SEO strategy.

4. Does your site have a mobile web version?

From page-level mobile emulators and validators to bulk ones that facilitate the process, it’s critical to verify whether all of your ranking site pages offer a responsive, dynamic-serving, or independent mobile web version:

5. How do mobile search crawlers access your site?

Using historical Google crawling data, some SEO crawlers will offer the option to emulate the smartphone version of Googlebot. There are also log analyzers that allow you to check the actual behavior of mobile search crawlers accessing your site. Are they going where they should and seeing what they’re meant to?

6. What’s your mobile site speed?

Obtain your site’s page speed information (as seen by the mobile search bots as well as mobile users) at a site and page level, and directly obtain recommendations to improve if necessary.

7. Is your mobile web content effectively rendered?

Verify how your mobile web content is being rendered by Google itself at a page level or emulate it at a site level. Are you showing an intrusive interstitial that never finishes loading, or your actual content?

8. Are the different areas of your mobile web content optimized?

Sometimes SEO fundamentals are forgotten when using independent or dynamic-serving mobile sites. Are the titles, meta descriptions, headings, etc. correctly set and targeting the relevant queries?

9. Is AMP effectively implemented?

Verify whether you’re correctly tagging both your site pages referring to the AMP versions & vice-versa, and if they feature the required tags without critical errors that would keep them from appearing in mobile search results.

10. How do your ranked pages look in mobile SERPs?

Check out how your ranking pages are shown in Google’s mobile search results. Is the title being truncated? Are you losing visibility over your competition’s featured snippet? Use these to identify potential reasons for lower CTR.

11. What’s the AMP impact on mobile visibility & traffic?

Identify which queries your AMP pages are being shown for in both rich and non-rich results, and their performance for those queries. What share of additional organic traffic are they bringing to your site?

12. What’s your mobile visibility’s impact on conversions?

Are your mobile SEO efforts paying off? Explore how your mobile search rankings are translating into conversions.


I hope “The Mobile SEO Stack” is useful for your mobile SEO analyses and processes!

This is only the first version, so if you know of any other tools that have mobile-focused functionality or data, please let me know in the comments — I’ll be happy to test and include them.

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How to Delete a Google My Business Listing – A Common Question with a Complex Answer

Posted by MiriamEllis

“How do I delete a Google listing?” is an FAQ on local SEO forums — and it represents an oversimplification of a complicated and multifaceted issue. The truth is, simple deletion is seldom the answer. Rather, most events that arise in the course of doing business require knowing which steps to take to properly manage GMB listings so that they’re helping your business instead of harming it.

When it comes to managing unwanted or problematic Google My Business listings, it’s a case of horses for courses. There isn’t a single set of instructions you can reliably follow, because your particular scenario defines which steps you should take. The following table should help you identify common situations and choose the one that most closely matches yours. From there, you’ll learn which actions are available to you, and which ones, unfortunately, can’t be accomplished.

Because management of problem GMB listings usually requires either being in control of them or unverifying them, our chart begins with three verification scenarios, and then moves on to cover other typical business events.

Scenario

Context

Steps

Notes

Unverify a Verified Listing You Control

You have a listing in your GMB dashboard that you no longer wish to control.

  • Log into your GMB dashboard
  • Click “edit”
  • Click the “info” tab
  • Click “remove listing”
  • Check all the checkboxes
  • Click “delete account”

No worries: The last step does NOT delete your Google account or the listing, itself. It simply un-verifies it so that you are no longer controlling it. The listing will still exist and someone else can take control of it.

Verify an Unverified Listing to Gain Control

You need to take control of an unwanted listing. You can tell it’s not verified, because it’s marked “claim this business” in Google Maps or “own this business?” in the knowledge panel.

Once you’ve verified the listing, you can take next steps to manage it if it’s problematic.

Take Control of a Listing Someone Else Verified

You need to take control of an unwanted listing, but someone else has verified it. You can tell it’s verified, because it lacks the attributes of “claim this business” in Google Maps or “own this business?” in the knowledge panel.

  • Contact Google via these steps
  • Google will contact the owner
  • If Google doesn’t hear back from the owner in one week, you can verify the listing

There are some anecdotal accounts of owners being able to prove to Google their rights to control a listing based on their control of an email address that matches the website domain, but no guarantees. You may need to seek legal counsel to mediate resolution with a third party who refuses to relinquish control of the listing.

Manage a Duplicate Listing for a Brick-and-Mortar Business

Your business serves customers at your location (think a retail shop, restaurant, law practice). You find more than one listing representing the business, either at its present location, at an incorrect location, or at a previous location.

  • If the address exactly matches the correct, current address of the business, contact Google to request that they merge the two listings into one.
  • If the address contains an error and the business never existed there, use the “suggest an edit” link on Google Maps, toggle the yes/no switch to “yes,” and choose the “never existed” radio button.
  • If the address is one the business previously occupied, see the section in this table on business moves.

If reviews have become associated with a business address that contains an error, you can try to request that the reviews be transferred PRIOR to designating that the business “never existed” in Google Maps.

Manage a Duplicate Listing for a Service Area Business (SAB)

Your business serves customers at their locations (think a plumber, landscaper, or cleaning service). You find more than one listing representing the business.

  • Once you’ve verified the duplicate listing, contact Google to request that they merge the two listings into one.

Remember that Google’s guidelines require that you keep addresses for SAB listings hidden.

Manage an Unwanted Listing for a Multi-Practitioner Business

The business has multiple partners (think a legal firm or medical office). You discover multiple listings for a specific partner, or for partners who no longer work there, or for partner who are deceased.

  • Unfortunately, Google will not remove multi-practitioner listings for partners who are presently employed by the business.
  • If the partner no longer works there, read this article about the dangers of ignoring these listings. Then, contact Google to request that they designate the listing as “moved” (like when a business moves) to the address of the practice — not to the partner’s new address. *See notes.
  • If, regrettably, a partner has passed away, contact Google to show them an obituary.

In the second scenario, Google can only mark a past partner’s listing as moved if the listing is unverified. If the listing is verified, it would be ideal if the old partner would unverify it for you, but, if they are unwilling to do so, at least try to persuade them to update the listing with the details of their new location as a last resort. Unfortunately, this second option is far from ideal.

On a separate note, if the unwanted listing pertains to a solo-practitioner business (there’s a listing for both the company and for a single practitioner who operates the company), you can contact Google to ask that they merge the two listings in an effort to combine the ranking power of the two listings, if desired.

Manage a Listing When a Business Moves

Your company is moving to a new location. You want to avoid having the listing marked as “permanently closed,” sending a wrong signal to consumers that you’ve gone out of business.

  • Update your website with your new contact information and driving directions
  • Update your existing GMB listing in the Google My Business dashboard. Don’t create a new listing!
  • Update your other local business listings to reflect your new info. A product like Moz Local can greatly simplify this big task.

Be sure to use your social platforms to advertise your move.

Be sure to be on the lookout for any new duplicate listings that may arise as a result of a move. Again, Moz Local will be helpful for this.

Google will generally automatically move your reviews from your old location to your new one, but read this to understand exceptions.

Manage a Listing Marked “Permanently Closed”

A listing of yours has ended up marked as “permanently closed,” signaling to consumers that you may have gone out of business. Permanently closed listings are also believed to negatively impact the rankings of your open business.

  • If the “permanently closed” label exists on a verified listing for a previous location the business occupied, unverify the listing. Then contact Google to ask them to mark it as moved to the new location. This should rectify the “permanently closed” problem.
  • If the permanently closed listing exists on a listing for your business that someone else as verified (i.e., you don’t control the listing), please see the above section labeled “Take Control of a Listing Someone Else Verified.” If you can get control of it in your dashboard and then unverify it, you’ll then be able to contact Google to ask them to mark it as moved.

The “permanently closed” label can also appear on listings for practitioners who have left the business. See the section of this chart labeled “Manage an Unwanted Listing for a Multi-Practitioner Business.”

Manage a Merger/Acquisition

Many nuances to this scenario may dictate specific steps. If the merger/acquisition includes all of the previous physical locations remaining open to the public under the new name, just edit the details of the existing GMB listings to display that new name. But, if the locations that have been acquired close down, move onto the next steps.

  • Don’t edit the details of the old locations to reflect the new name
  • Unverify the listings for the old locations
  • Finally, contact Google to ask them to mark all the old locations listings as moved to the new location.

Mergers and acquisitions are complex and you may want to hire a consultant to help you manage this major business event digitally. You may also find the workload significantly lightened by using a product like Moz Local to manage the overhaul of core citations for all the businesses involved in the event.

Manage a Spam Listing

You realize a competitor or other business is violating Google’s guidelines, as in the case of creating listings at fake locations. You want to clean up the results to improve their relevance to the local community.

  • Find the listing in Google Maps
  • Click the “suggest an edit” link
  • Toggle the yes/no toggle to “yes”
  • Choose the radio button for “spam”
  • Google will typically email you if/when your edit is accepted

Google doesn’t always act on spam. If you follow the outlined steps and don’t get anywhere with them, you may want to post the spam example in the GMB forum in hopes that a Top Contributor there might escalate the issue.

Unfortunately, spam is very common. Don’t be surprised if a spammer who gets caught comes right back on and continues to spam.

Manage a Listing with Bad Reviews

Your company is embarrassed by the negative reviews that are attached to its GMB listing. You wish you could just make the whole thing disappear.

  • If the reviews violate Google’s policy, consider these steps for taking action. Be advised that Google may not remove them, regardless of clear violations.
  • If the reviews are negative but genuine, Google will not remove them. Remedy the problems, in-house, that consumers are citing and master responding to reviews in a way that can save customers and your business.
  • If the business is unable to remedy structural problems being cited in reviews, the company may lack the necessary components for success.

Short of completely rebranding and moving your business to a new location, your business must be prepared to manage negative reviews. Unless consumers are citing illegal behaviors (in which case, you need legal counsel rather than marketing), negative reviews should be viewed as a FREE blueprint for fixing the issues that customers are citing.

Bear in mind that many unhappy customers won’t take the time to complain. They’ll just go away in silence and never return to your business again. When a customer takes the time to voice a complaint, seize this as a golden opportunity to win him back and to improve your business for all future customers.

Whew! Eleven common Google My Business listing management scenarios, each requiring its own set of steps. It’s my hope that this chart will not only help explain why few cases really come down to deleting GMB listings, and also, that it will serve as a handy reference for you when particular situations arise in your workday.

Helpful links

  1. If you’re not sure if you have problem listings, do a free lookup with the Moz Check Listing tool.
  2. If you’re a Moz Pro member, you have access to our Q&A forum. Please feel free to ask our community questions if you’re unsure about whether a GMB listing is problematic.
  3. The Google My Business Forum can be a good bet for getting advice from volunteer Top Contributors (and sometimes Google staffers) about problem GMB listings. Be prepared to share all of the details of your scenario if you post there.
  4. If you find yourself dealing with difficult Google My Business listing issues on a regular basis, I recommend reading the work of Joy Hawkins, who is one of the best technical local SEOs in the industry.
  5. Sometimes, the only thing you can do is to contact Google directly to try to get help with a tricky problem. Here is their main Contact page. If you’re a Google Adwords customer, you can phone 1-866-2Google and select the option for Google My Business support. Another way to seek help (and this is sometimes the fastest route) is to tweet to Google’s GMB Twitter account. Be advised that not every Google rep has had the benefits of complete training. Some interactions may be more satisfactory than others. And, if you are a digital marketer, do be prepared to set correct client expectations that not all problems can be resolved. Sometimes, even your best efforts may not yield the desired results, due to the limitations of Google’s local product.

Why it’s worth the effort to work to resolve problematic Google listings

Cumulatively speaking, inaccurate and duplicative listings can misinform and misdirect consumers while also sapping your ranking strength. Local business listings are a form of customer service, and when this element of your overall marketing plan is neglected, it can lead to significant loss of traffic and revenue. It can also negatively impact reputation in the form of negative reviews citing wrong online driving directions or scenarios in which customers end up at the old location of a business that has moved.

Taken altogether, these unwanted outcomes speak to the need for an active location data management strategy that monitors all business listings for problems and takes appropriate actions to remedy them. Verifying listings and managing duplicates isn’t glamorous work, but when you consider what’s at stake for the business, it’s not only necessary work, but even heroic. So, skill up and be prepared to tackle the thorniest situations. The successes can be truly rewarding!

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