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How to calculate Retained Entrances

October 28, 2021
📓 Article

Organic pageviews are a simple way to measure which pages are working for search. You go to the trusty “All Pages” view in Google Analytics, apply an Organic Traffic segment…

Google-Analytics-organic-traffic.png

…then scan down the list to see what’s what, with a focus on that “entrances” metric that tells you where people came into the site.

Googl-Analytics-All-Pages-metrics.png

That’s fine, although entrances aren’t that useful if your visitors immediately exit. Take two scenarios:

  • A page that gets 10,000 organic entrances, but has a bounce rate of 99%
  • A page that gets 500 entrances, but has a bounce rate of 10%

The first page with its amazing traffic is only retaining 100 visitors. The second page, with much less traffic, is retaining 450 visitors.

In a very real sense, that second page is providing you a lot more value.

So we have a metric we use called “Retained Entrances”.


🔢 The equation for Retained Entrances

Retained entrances equals entrances minus bounces.

However, Google Analytics only provides a Bounce Rate percentage. Oh, Google. So calculating the number of bounces will require a little bit of work.

Let’s look at an example from Google Analytics, with two (fictitious… or are they?) example pages:

smoothjazz-vs-blackmetal.png

To calculate your Retained Entrances, first we need to know the retention rate, which is the opposite of the Bounce Rate.

In other words, the Bounce Rate tells us what percentage of visitors left, so if we subtract that rate from 1, we’ll know how many visitors stayed.

On the /smoothjazz page, this gives us:

  • 5454 Entrances
  • Bounce Rate of about 85%, which means 15% of visitors stayed
  • That means 15% x 5454 = 818 Retained Entrances

(This is meant to be a pretty simple equation. You can even round the numbers like we did here.)

On the /blackmetal page, this gives us:

  • 3033 Entrances
  • Bounce Rate of about 54%, which means 46% of visitors stayed
  • That means 46% x 3033 = 1395 Retained Entrances

So, even though the /blackmetal page has many fewer entrances, it’s actually retaining way more people than the page with almost double the amount of traffic. This might be a better page to invest in converting visitors from.


🏄 What you can do with Retained Entrances

This metric helps a team shift focus from page traffic to page engagement.

The results guide strategic action to improve performance across your site – for example, deciding which pages need…

  • Updates
  • Rewrites
  • Redistribution
  • Better promotion

…and which ones should be left alone because they’re already SEO superstars.

Feel free to schedule office hours to look at this together!

Or just to tell us that you think we’re dead wrong on this topic.

Should you copy UTM parameters from one page to another? And if so, how?

October 23, 2021
📓 Article

One problem with UTM parameters – which most organizations use for tracking where incoming traffic is coming from – is that they only “last” for one page. That is to say, once someone lands on your website, if they go to another page, the UTM tags in the URL disappear.

https://yoursite.com/page1?utm_source=inside_the_house, but then
https://yoursite.com/page2

This is, by default, OK. It’s the behavior that tools like Google Analytics expect, and so you’ll get normal behavior in those tools.

However, once you’re dealing with conversion (and not just traffic) tracking, you may have a problem. Systems like Hubspot, for example, will only, by default, track UTM parameters on the page where a conversion happens. That means those parameters aren’t available to be attached to that contact in their various records that you use for marketing attribution. So, depending on how your analytics are set up, the original sources of your traffic might not show up in your reports. (We’ve written some JavaScript that can help with lead source tracking with the help of your web developer.)

This can be a particular problem with platforms like Google Ads, which depend on UTMs or, often, another parameter called a Google Click ID (gclid) to properly attribute a conversion to Google. So if you have an ad campaign that’s sending people to the front page, and then a visitor goes on to convert on another page, that might not be tracked correctly. And you want to fix that.

On the other hand!

Tagging internal links – links within your site – with UTMs is not great, either. For example, we see a lot of clients tag links from the homepage, even within their own site, with a URL that looks something like this:

https://theirsite.com/nextpage?utm_source=homepage_carousel

This is a problem because it confuses Google Analytics. A UTM parameter means a new session, so this results in sessions being double-counted. It also causes your bounce rate to go up, since a new session indicates that the previous session only visited one page. That’s not good, either.

So what do you do if you (a) want to track conversions from a lot of campaigns that don’t lead directly to a conversion page, and (b) are relying on UTMs to do that?

We’ll point you to this script from Analytics Mania, which we’ve also put a copy of in our Content Stack Utilities.

This script:

  • Lets you enter your domain (or another domain you care about, let’s say a 3rd-party form that you want visitors to fill out)
  • Adds the original UTM parameters from the first page your user visited, to subsequent pages in that visit with those domains

You’ll need your web developer to finish setting it up and implement it in Google Tag Manager or in your CMS.

Should you use this script?

It depends. If you’re running a limited number of ad campaigns to pages that don’t convert directly, and you need to track conversions, then it might be OK to use it. Keep a close eye on bounce rate and sessions to make sure your data isn’t distorted too much. But once you start scaling these campaigns, you’ll need a solution that doesn’t depend on UTM parameters. (Send us an email if you have questions and we’ll do what we can to help.)

What to do with MUM, Google's latest computational model

October 21, 2021
📗 Field Note

You’re still smarter than the machines, especially when it comes to sweet Youtube vids.

Like, when landing on this cool video about mushrooms, you probably noticed certain facts that went unmentioned. Perhaps you identified mushroom species in the video, or simply felt the joy of microscopic life on film. Ethereal data.

Google, however, could not do that. Its analysis has generally been limited to the written language on a page (eg. title, meta descriptions, text, etc.).

That’s about to change with its latest computational model: MUM, or, Multitask Unified Model.

(The latest one that got any attention was BERT, and maybe now the headline of this email makes sense.)

The big revelation? MUM is better at understanding topics, beyond keywords. This will apply to material like…

  • Your accounting software explainer video, or
  • Charts and photos on product pages, or
  • The blog post you thought nobody would ever find about “night cheese”

We don’t think you need to care about the computing model itself, but you might want to anticipate the changes it will bring to Google Search.


Look out for the “Things To Know” feature

The updated Google SERP includes a “Things to Know” feature, which could be a big deal, especially for B2B organic search. It’s a series of drop-downs that will appear on Page 1, inviting users to broaden or narrow their scope of search. In other words, Page 1 is adopting the features of a traditional blog explainer page.

The example that Google gave is that of the search term ‘acrylic paint.’ Search that broad term and ‘Things To Know’ will offer longer-tail options: step-by-step painting instructions, how to clean up acrylic pains, etc.

This means that your longer-tail keyword pages could also appear on Page 1 for shorter-tail, top-of-funnel terms!


🏄 What you can do

In theory, MUM will do a better job of finding the highest quality content for any search term. So your job is still to make and maintain that content. Consider MUM a new set of opportunities to be as useful as possible to your audience.

  • Update content for accuracy, search intent, and formatting. Make sure heading tags are in place on all blogs and explainers. Those technical subjects in the subheads have a chance to appear on Page 1 now, all by themselves.
  • Review search volume for longer-tail keyword posts, and update older posts for relevance and keyword strategy.
  • Optimize the images on your blogs. High-quality visual assets might be more helpful than in the past. And get rid of stock images! They were never doing much for you anyway.

And, if you’re feeling unsure about how to do any of this, you can always schedule office hours with us.

Is keyword cannibalization really a problem?

October 7, 2021
📗 Field Note

Occasionally, numerous pages on your site will rank for the same keyword or topic. SEO industry people commonly call this “keyword cannibalization.”

Very dramatic term, right? The pages are eating each other! But the facts are way less scary.

Let’s look at 3 common scenarios.


🥣 1) You’ve got two pages ranking in the top 5 for one keyword.

Congrats!

This means that you’re doing a lot of things right. You’re in competition with yourself because you are so great.

These pages are well constructed and proving relevant, compelling, and effective for the keyword.

Is there an opportunity to get some of these pages ranking well for different, adjacent keywords?

Yep. But realistically, if you’ve got other priorities, you don’t need to worry about it today.

🏄 What you can do

You could probably leave them alone for a while, spending your time instead on all the other keywords you’re trying to rank in the top 5.

Though… if you’ve got everything else buttoned up, you can do some further exploration.

Keywords are ultimately all about intent.

  • Do you have two pages that are ranking for the same keyword, but really align to two different intents?
  • Can you make that alignment more clear to Google?

For example, if you have two pages ranking for “accounting software”, maybe one of them should really be “accounting software” (because it’s a great introduction to the topic), and the other should be refocused around “how to buy accounting software”.

And then maybe you can keep your high-ish original ranks for both pages while ranking for something important, closely related, and new.


🥣 2) Two pages, not ranking all that well, for the same keyword

Neither page has reached its potential yet. If one page is ranking #9 and the other is ranking #15, it’s possible that neither one is really giving users what they’re looking for with this keyword.

Plus, maybe each one is getting rather tepid promotion, as opposed to a more concerted effort behind just one.

You have an opportunity to consolidate and improve.

🏄 What you can do

Choose the higher-ranking page (ie. #9) and optimize the heck out of it.

Take all relevant material from the lower-ranking page and insert it in the higher one. Then optimize that lower-ranking page for a different keyword.

If your content is simply spread thin, this is a great opportunity to consolidate and optimize.


🥣 3) The “wrong” page is ranking for a keyword

What this means: Google didn’t pick the page that you thought it would. For example, you wrote an explainer page to rank for the keyword “accounting software” – that’s a top-of-the-funnel search term, and explainers are great for top-of-the-funnel leads.

But Google chose your product page instead, even though that page is designed for bottom-of-the-funnel leads who already know the basics and are ready to buy.

🏄 What you can do

Look critically at the reasons why exactly Google has chosen one page over the other:

  • What does the ranking page offer, in terms of content?
  • Is that value present on the non-ranking page?

There’s probably an opportunity here to significantly improve the quality of the non-ranking page.

So keyword cannibalism is actually a good problem to have, or at least an informative one. And maybe not a problem at all. Just an opportunity to build on the momentum you’ve already got going.

Feel free to schedule office hours to look at your site’s problems in depth. Or just to tell us that you think we’re dead wrong on this topic.

What is a keyword strategy?

October 3, 2021
📓 Article

A keyword strategy is a prioritized list of which specific keywords you’re aiming to rank for in search.

Generally a keyword strategy is built by researching possible topics, researching which related keywords people search for on Google, and then balancing factors like search volume, competition, and relevance to your business.

A keyword strategy often takes the form of a spreadsheet, or a list, saying what you want to rank for, and why. An effective keyword strategy can then help you make a lot of other decisions, including:

  • What content to produce
  • How to edit, optimize, or re-position existing content
  • What pillars to organize your blog around
  • Where to spend money in paid search

Taking your keyword strategy a step further, it can also be an important factor in figuring out what topics you want your brand to be known for generally, what topics to follow, and contribute to, on social, what communities to join, and so on.

Often, “keyword strategy” refers specifically to organic search strategy, but it can refer to paid search strategy, too.

Why do you need a keyword strategy?

You can’t pursue every possible keyword. But everybody has different opinions of what should happen, in what order, when, and why.

These opinions can vary across the company, and not only that, they can vary across time. What, off the cuff, seems strategically important today might not have seemed that way a month or two ago.

Having a documented strategy ensures that you’re focusing on a limited number of goals, at least for a while. And the process of putting that strategy together helps you decide what your goals are in the first place – including getting input and agreement from other stakeholders in your organization.

Once you’ve completed your strategy, you’ll have a condensed version of a priority list that everyone has agreed on. And you’ll have a guide to help you decide the right actions for pursuing these goals. That, in turn, can help you:

  • Produce the right content. Do you need to produce lots of in-depth content, or lots of shorter content? Which subject areas are most important? How often do you need to create new content, as opposed to optimizing what you already have?
  • Prioritize some tactics over others, and explain why. If we’ve decided to rank for “accounting software”, that will mean that we should produce certain content and pursue certain technical improvements, for example, related to that topic. Or maybe we’ve come up with a product-led SEO motion, or programmatic content, that will help us rank for that term. But if we’ve chosen “small business accounting”, we’ll have to do different things.
  • Give others in the organization information about what you’re planning to do, when, and what they should expect. Collaboration between marketing – and other departments – is critical for success with content. Measure correctly. If your goals were to pursue more brand reach, you’ll want to focus on traffic and make sure you’re instrumented correctly for that. If you want to pursue lead generation, that’s a different set of instrumentation.

How to build a keyword strategy

Building a keyword strategy has several discrete steps. We cover these in more detail in our guide to building a keyword strategy, but in short:

  • Gathering seed keywords. First, you’ll need to generate good keyword ideas – there are lots of places to get these. Our end goal is somewhere between 30 - 70 high-quality terms.
  • Determining keyword relevance. Relevance simply means: How likely is someone to convert if they land on your site after searching for that keyword? Relevance looks different for every company, but some of the ways to approach relevance include figuring out how much your company wants to be known for a keyword, how much your CEO or board would want to rank for a term, and how easily you can align your existing or planned content with a term.
  • Pulling volume and competition data. You can think of volume as the demand for information on a topic (and later we’ll look at competition, which is supply). And competition is the existing supply. You’ll need to pull this data one of the many available tools out there to include it in your strategy.

We’ve built a simple spreadsheet that will help you work with this model.

  • On the first tab, “Keyword Data”, we’ll gather all of the information we have about what your seed keywords are, including relevance, volume, and competition. There’s also a formula that combines these different parameters to tell you in what order you should pursue your keywords.
  • On the second tab, “Strategy Output”, we have a formula that gives you an ordered list. It’s the same data from the first tab, just put into something that’s a little easier to read.

Learn more in our guide to building a keyword strategy.

Organic vs. paid keyword strategy

Organic and paid search activities both happen on search engines, and they both take investment in order to see results. Organic search doesn’t have any upfront cost, and tends to take a more sustained investment over time, but also continue to show results for a long time. Paid search works more quickly, but requires a constant investment of both time and money in order to continue to generate leads and revenue.

We’ve focused on organic search strategy in this guide, but the truth is that getting a keyword strategy in place can help you structure your paid account as well. There are a few different ways to pursue this, including:

  • Starting with paid keywords to build initial traction in certain areas, and then replacing those efforts with organic keywords
  • Owning keywords from both a paid and organic search perspective

The quality of your content will be extremely important to success in paid search, just as it is in organic search. Paid search is organic search plus one additional ranking factor: money. The ranking algorithm for ads takes into account very similar factors to those used for organic rankings, like readability, relevance, and landing page UX, plus how much you’re willing to bid for a certain keyword.

Getting started with your keyword strategy

With your keyword strategy in hand, the next step is to convert your strategy into action – creating content.

As you decide where to start, some general rules:

  • If you already have a page on your site that’s ranking for a term – especially just outside of the first page of results, let’s say ranks 11 - 30 – and you haven’t revisited it in the last several months, your first priority should be tweaking or updating the relevant page.
  • Otherwise, we recommend creating new content. Blog posts are generally fine. If the content is very high-volume or top-of-funnel, we often recommend making explainer pages.
  • Overall, we don’t recommend making more than 1 - 2 pieces of content for any specific keyword, because generally, you will only have 1 page rank for any given keyword. Especially for companies with less ability to produce content, it’s better to create content horizontally.

You also want to make sure you revisit your keyword strategy regularly. Most companies build a keyword strategy once, then forget about it and don’t touch it again for years.

This is bad, especially at fast-growing companies that need to be responsive to changing conditions around the strategy they’ve built. You need to revisit your keyword strategy consistently, around every 6 to 12 months, and make sure everyone’s still on board.

Google is changing your page titles on SERPs

September 22, 2021
📗 Field Note

Does your page title look different in search results than it used to? You’re not imagining it. Google has started amending HTML titles as it sees fit, the same way it started amending meta descriptions a while back.

Google released this statement about its new policy and this gist is this: if your title tag isn’t optimized, Google’s going to take a crack at it.

“HTML title tags don’t always describe a page well,” according to Google’s statement. Specifically, they’re altering title tags that are:

  • Too long
  • Lacking descriptive language
  • Keyword-stuffed
  • Empty (no title tag used)

🏄 What you can do

While they claim that the title change isn’t going to affect ranking, it might affect conversion – Google’s improvised titles are a bit clunky.

In order to stay in control over how your page is presented in search, try this:

  • Search a few of your pages right now. How are your titles looking?
  • Inventory your site – is every page using a title tag?
  • Revise: short, concise, specific, direct
  • Consult Google’s best practices for titles

Goodbye backlinks, hello inferred links

September 22, 2021
📗 Field Note

Most people in our marketing community have probably, at one time or another, deliberately pursued backlinks – usually by emailing other sites and asking for them. Google says it doesn’t like this, but it’s probably fine, unless you’re pursuing a link scheme. (Cue the dramatic hamster.)

For certain sites, backlinks still have a place. Probably. We would never tell you not to pursue backlinking.

But we will tell you not to prioritize backlinking. There are so many reasons, including the huge amount of time it takes to get even a small number of relevant, high-quality links – time you could be spending creating excellent content. And another argument is becoming increasingly strong for deprioritizing backlink strategy – inferred links.

Inferred links are, basically, mentions of a brand or page in the text of other sites – no hyperlink required. The hope is that this is a more accurate measurement of a page’s usefulness. Google is placing more and more emphasis on these, as the eminent Rand Fishkin noted earlier this year.

🏄 What you can do

There’s no hack for inferred links (yet). The way to start building inferred links is by investing in a useful, authentic, content program:

  • Focus on PR, not backlink acquisition
  • Be generous, not transactional (i.e. be part of a community)
  • Create more truly useful content, not clickbait
  • Distribute your own content, don’t guest post

You can keep spending time on backlinks, but it’s going to be diminishing returns. An investment that results in inferred links is really just an investment in better marketing.