Semantic search adds context and meaning to search results. For example, if someone is searching for “Lego” – do they want to buy Lego toys, or see a Lego movie or TV show (Ninjago is great). Another example might be “Tesla” – do people want to see the latest self-driving car, or learn more about Tesla the scientist and inventor?
How to Optimise for Semantic Search
Make sure you understand search intent and any confusing searches like Tesla(inventor or car?), Jaguar (car or animal?), etc
Look for structured data opportunities
Optimise internal links – especially if you are using a “Pillar Post” and “Cluster Page” structure
Follow traditional on page SEO best practices with headers, meta titles, alt tags etc
Tools for Semantic Search
SMA Marketing have done a cool YouTube video about Semantic Search and they recommend tools including:
Advanced Custom Fields for WordPress
Google Colab with a SpaCy
Before you publish a post – look at the search results for the keyword(s) you are optimising the post for. Check in incognito in Chrome to remove most of the personalisation of the results.
For any answer boxes or snippets, you can click the “3 dots” to get information about the results:
As well as the snippets, you can click the 3 dots next to any organic result. Here’s another result for “MMA training program pdf” with some additional information:
With this in mind – if you are looking to rank for “MMA training program pdf” then you will want to include the search terms highlighted in the “About this result” box: mma, training, program, pdf and ideally LSI keywords “workout” and “plan”.
It’s also a good idea to scroll down to the bottom of the SERP and check out the “related searches”
Take a look too at any breadcrumb results that pull through below the organic listings. Combining all this information will give you a good idea as to what Google understands by your search query and what people are looking for too.
You can then click the different tabs/headings and get some cool insights
Remember to scroll right down to the bottom, as you’ll find some additional insights about important terms and their relevance
The Google NLP API is pretty interesting. You can also copy and paste your existing page copy into it, and see what Google categories different terms as, and how “salient” or important/relevant it thinks each term is. For some reason, it thinks “band” is an organisation in the above screenshot. You can look to improve the interpretations by adding relevant contextual copy around the term on the page, by using schema and internal links.
Speed Up Data Studio Reports (Significantly) – Extract Data
To speed up your reports – you can “Extract Data” and cache it.
It can help to have 2 copies of the report up – so you can see which metrics and dimensions you need to select when adding the data to extract and cache (also a good idea to test the extract data method on a copy of the report in case you faff anything up)
Go to “Add Data” in the top menu-bar
Click on “Extract Data”
Choose the data you need – eg Google Analytics
Add the dimensions and metrics you need for the report
On the Right hand side – click to turn “Auto Update” on
Click “Save and Extract”
Sometimes you have to faff around a bit with the dimensions – Google Analytics doesn’t seem to like caching a dimension, but still goes super-quick if you cache the metrics only.
Edit in Bulk
If you want to edit all of the charts or tables on the page, in “Edit” mode, right click – go to “Select” and then choose “Tables on page” or whatever type of chart, scorecard or table you’ve selected.
This works instead of CTRL clicking or SHIFT clicking – but you can only change charts or visualisations of the same type at the same time. You can change the style, add a comparison date range etc.
Brand Colour Theme in Data Studio
Click on “Them and Layout” at the top of the screen and then, near the bottom right click “Extract Theme from Image” – you can then upload your logo and choose a theme with your brand colours.
If your shite at presentation like me, this is helpful.
Copy & Paste Styles
In Data Studio – If you want to copy a style from a chart or table, right click it, then choose “copy”
Click another chart/table and the right click – Paste Special – Paste Style Only
Add Chart Filters to an Entire Report
If you want to add a filter to all the data in a report, then it can be a pain going through the charts individually.
Right click on a blank part of the page –
Click “Current Page Settings”
On the right hand side – click “Create a Filter”
Choose or create a filter to apply to all the page
To add a filter to multiple pages
Right click on a blank part of the page
click “Report Settings”
click “Add a filter” in the right side-menu
Add Elements to All Pages of a Report in Data Studio
If you want to add a header and date range selector, for example, to all the pages in the report – add the elements to a page, then right click on the element – and choose “Make report-level”
Quickly Align Elements in Data Studio
Click and drag to select all the elements
Right click – choose “align” – “middle” to get everything inline horizontally
To get an equal space between all the elements, so they’re spaced evenly:
– click and drag to select the elements
– right click – select “Distribute”
– “horizontally” to space evenly across the page, or “vertically” to distribute evenly in a vertical manner.
You can also tidy up individual tables to align the columns vertically – right click and select “”Fit to data”
I only want the URLs that reside at the third level – i.e. /productpage/
Go to your XML sitemap – usually at Myshop.com/sitemap.xml
Right click and “save as” – save on your computer
Go to the Developer Tab (you might need to add this as it’s not there by default)
Browse to find your sitemap.xml and import it into Excel
This usually pulls all your URLs into column 1 and other info like priority into separate columns
Delete all the columns except the first one with your URLs in it
Remove the https:// from the URLs with “find and replace” – On “Home” tab under “Find & Select” on the right
In cell B2 add the function: (change A2 – to the cell you have put the first URL in)
11. Drag the formula down the rest of column B
12. You can now order column B by the number of “/” found in each URL
If different categories have different folder structures then you can conditionally format and use different colours for different categories and then do a multiple criteria sort – by colour, then folder depth (column B)
You can download an example spreadsheet with the formula in here
*Great for tailoring copy and pages. Just turn it on and add query parameter
Tech SEO 1 – The Website Build & Setup
The website setup – a neglected element of many SEO tech audits.
Storage Do you have enough storage for your website now and in the near future? you can work this out by taking your average page size (times 1.5 to be safe), multiplied by the number of pages and posts, multiplied by 1+growth rate/100
for example, a site with an average page size of 1mb with 500 pages and an annual growth rate of 150%
1mb X 1.5 X 500 X 1.5 = 1125mb of storage required for the year.
You don’t want to be held to ransom by a webhost, because you have gone over your storage limit.
How is your site Logging Data? Before we think about web analytics, think about how your site is storing data. As a minimum, your site should be logging the date, the request, the referrer, the response and the User Agent – this is inline with the W3 Extended Format.
When, what it was, where it came from, how the server responded and whether it was a browser or a bot that came to your site.
Blog Post Publishing Can authors and copywriters add meta titles, descriptions and schema easily? Some websites require a ‘code release’ to allow authors to add a meta description.
Site Maintenance & Updates – Accessibility & Permissions Along with the meta stuff – how much access does each user have to the code and backend of a website? How are permissions built in? This could and probably should be tailored to each team and their skillset.
For example, can an author of a blog post easily compress an image? Can the same author update a menu (often not a good idea) Who can access the server to tune server performance?
Tech SEO 2 – The Crawl
Carry out a site: search and check the number of pages compared to a crawl with Screaming Frog.
With a site: search (for example, search in Google for site:businessdaduk.com) – don’t trust the number of pages that Google tells you it has found, scrape the SERPs using Python on Link Clump:
Too many or too few URLs being indexed – both suggest there is a problem.
Correct Files in Place – e.g. Robots.txt Check these files carefully. Google says spaces are not an issue in Robots.txt files, but many coders and SEOers suggest this isn’t the case.
XML sitemaps also need to be correct and in place and submitted to search console. Be careful with the <lastmod> directive, lots of websites have lastmod but don’t update it when they update a page or post.
Response Codes Checking response codes with a browser plugin or Screaming Frog works 99% of the time, but to go next level, try using curl and command line. Curl avoids JS and gives you the response header.
You need to download cURL which can be a ball ache if you need IT’s permission etc.
Anyway, if you do download it and run curl, your response should look like this:
Next enter an incorrect URL and make sure it results in a 404.
Canonical URLs Each ‘resource’ should have a single canonical address.
common causes of canonical issues include – sharing URLs/shortened URLs, tracking URLs and product option parameters.
The best way to check for any canonical issues is to check crawling behaviour and do this by checking log files.
You can check log files and analyse them, with Screaming Frog – the first 1,000 log files can be analysed with the free version (at time of writing).
Most of the time, your host will have your logfiles in the cPanel section, named something like “Raw Access”. The files are normally zipped with gzip, so you might need a piece of software to unzip them or just allow you to open them – although often you can still just drag and drop the files into Screaming Frog.
Lighthouse Use lighthouse, but use in with command line or use it in a browser with no browser add-ons.If you are not into Linux, use pingdom, GTMetrix and Lighthouse, ideally in a browser with no add-ons.
Look out for too much code, but also invalid code. This might include things such as image alt tags, which aren’t marked up properly – some plugins will display the code just as ‘alt’ rather than alt=”blah”
Use a browser add-on that lets you turn off JS and then check that your site is still full functional.
Finally, possibly in the wrong place down here – but use Screaming Frog or Deepcrawl to check your schema markup is correct.
You can add schema using the Yoast or Rank Math SEO plugins
The Actual Tech SEO Checklist (Without Waffle)
Google Analytics, Search Console and Tag Manager all set up
Sitemap & Robots.txt set up
Check appropriate use of robots tags and x-robots
Check site: search URLs vs crawl
Check internal links pointing to important pages
Check important pages are only 1 or 2 clicks from homepage
For render blocking JS and stuff, there are WordPress plugins like Autoptimize and the W3 Total Cache.
Make sure there are no unnecessary redirects, broken links or other shenanigans going on with status codes. Use Search Console and Screaming Frog to check.
Mobile Friendly Test, Site Speed, time to interactive, consistent UX across devices and browsers
Consider adding breadcrumbs with schema markup.
Make sure URLs – Include a keyword, are short – use a dash/hyphen –
Secure Server HTTPS
Use a secure server, and make sure the unsecure version redirects to it
Allow Google to Crawl Resources
Google wants to crawl your external CSS and JS files. Use “Fetch as Google” in Search Console to check what Googlebot sees.
Check that you are using and implementing hreflang properly.
Tracking – Make Sure Tag Manager & Analytics are Working
Check tracking is working properly. You can check tracking coed is on each webpage with Screaming Frog.
Make sure your ‘money pages’ or most profitable pages, get the most internal links
Redirect or unpublish thin content that gets zero traffic and has no links. **note on this, I had decent content that had no visits, I updated the H1 with a celebrity’s name and now it’s one of my best performing pages – so it’s not always a good idea to delete zero traffic pages**
Consider combining thin content into an in depth guide or article.
Use search console to see what keywords your content ranks for, what new content you could create (based on those keywords) and where you should point internal links.
Use Google Analytics data regarding internal site searches for keyword and content ideas 💡
Update old content
Fix meta titles and meta description issues – including low CTR
Find & Fix KW cannibalization
Optimize images – compress, alt text, file name
Check proper use of H1 and H2
See what questions etc. are pulled through into the rich snipetts and answer these within content
“You’ll never get yourself off the treadmill of paid ads, if you don’t build your brand”
Someone on a Search Podcast, 2019
It’s very easy to dismiss online content, blogs, image assets and even display ads as pretty much useless – because you don’t have the instant gratification of seeing leads and/or sales.
This is completely understandable; especially if you have a background in sales – where your job has been to ‘finish off the lead’ and get a sale.
However, if you are in it for the long (or medium) run, then building your brand is a must. Whether you are a tradesman or a giant corporation, your brand’s reputation and the brand-awareness is your safety net when it comes to consistent website traffic, leads & sales.
It takes time to build a brand – but once it is built, those people who come to you direct because they know who you are – are effectively free – or at least very cheap in comparison to some of the cost per click of Google Search Ads these days.
The blog has over 600 pages of content, lots of it really long, in-depth and time-consuming to produce. The site has 5,000-10,000 visitors per month, but virtually nobody comes to my website via a branded search on Google.
This could be down to one specific reason – the domain name is crap and hard to remember.
I’ve bought a few more memorable domains (like WokeMMA.com “Woke” being an ironic term for self-awareness used in the MMA & Jiu Jitsu communities) and I am currently weighing up the time & effort of re-branding everything like GoogleMyBusiness, TrustPilot etc. – plus all my back-links currently point to blackbeltwhitehat.com (I’m aware of 301s etc. but I’ll still definitely see a drop in rankings).
My blog is ultimately a hobby that I’ve invested less than $50 into over 6 years. But if I had some more budget – I’d put together a plan to build my brand online…
How to Build a Brand Online
First make sure you know your target audience & do one of those SWOT analysis. Then make specific goals to establish some brand KPIs.
Here are some ideas on what to do next:
Get a relevant, easy to remember domain name!
Learn from my mistake, a short catchy domain name is an easy-win if you are just starting out from scratch. A lot of the best and obvious domain name will be taken however, so you’ll have to do some research first. If you are just starting out, don’t name your business until you secure your domain name!
Depending on your niche, you can set tiny max CPC bids in some instances – and they’ll still get thousands of impressions for very little spend. Gmail ads work particularly well for (potential) low CPM (cost per 1000 impressions).
Rotate your display ads’ design & colours to stop people ignoring them due to ‘banner blindness’.
Blog & Outreach
Blog are great for reaching people who are researching a potential purchase.
For example, I landed on Perfect Keto’s blog a few times whilst researching Exogenous Ketones. Then ended up buying their branded product on Keto-pro.co.uk; because, for what ever reason, I trusted their brand.
Create great content, with statistics, images and video – and then outreach it – i.e. send it to relevant blogs and websites.
If you can afford it, use “PR-Level” outreach and contact national newspapers etc. This can be done via websites such as gorkana
If you content gets links too – then great – that’s good for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Doing some of your own exclusive research and generating tables of statistics are great for generating back-links naturally i.e. passively.
To turn blog’s into direct sales, you can also use relevant ‘CTA’ images below your blog.
For example, if you post a blog about the Walking Path’s of Snowdonia on your Snowdonia-based-bed-&-breakfast website; consider adding a relevant & clickable ‘book now’ and/or ‘get your free brochure’ button with eye-catching image at the bottom of the post. Many people now do this with newsletter sign up pop ups, which are a bit annoying but do work.
Content is great – but tools tend to do better than copy. For example, NerdWallet’s top page in terms of organic traffic – is their mortgage calculator.
As well as brand awareness, you want some social-proofing of your brand. Start with a free account on Trustpilot and GoogleMyBusiness
Video & Social Media
The number 1 mistake people make on social media is to harp on about their brand all the time. Be entertaining, provide useful information and insightful comments. If you are over-promotional, people will not follow you. Build some authority by providing helpful insights that your target market will appreciate.
Videos & podcasts can be costly in terms of time. If you don’t want to set up your own podcast, guest-appearance on other people’s podcasts can generate valuable awareness and also back-links to your website (important for Search Engine Optimisation/Rankings).
Build an amazing product and/or service
This is your foundation and one of the reasons that Apple is so successful. An LSD-fueled Steve Jobs came up with some amazing ideas and concepts. The brand also turned itself into unique hybrid of tech & fashion thanks to their pioneering products.
The big, light-up apple on the back of Macbooks no doubt was a design aimed at building brand awareness too!
For some blogs and websites, even keywords with 0 monthly searches may be relevant.
My other blog – blackbeltwhitehat.com has built all of its traffic off KWs that Google KW planner says has 0 searches.
It all depends on how authoritative your website is and your competitors are. You can go after bigger, more popular KWs if you are a huge website with a DA of 90. It’s a different ball game if you are running a personal blog with a DA of 15
Try and include a number of the relevant searches in your articles etc.
Check Competitors & KWs Their Relevant Pages Rank for
If you have a tool like semrush.com,
Check what keywords competitors are ranking for.
If your head keyword is “football goals”, see who’s ranking top 5 for that term and see what other keywords the top URLs are ranking for.
If you don’t have an SEO Tool, you can just check the copy and meta title & description to see what keywords the top websites are trying to opimise for.