Tag Archive | "Easy"

7 Easy Creativity Routines that Make Your Day More Rewarding

What does your dream creative career look like? Take a moment to think about it. Now, how many steps are…

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12 Easy Tweaks that Could Lead to Outsized Improvement in Your Content and Writing

We often write about big, strategic changes you can make to give your writing more power. But this week, we…

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Easy Email Inbox: Reply to 3 Types of Messages (and Don’t Sweat the Rest)

When you run a content marketing platform, you’ll get other types of messages from your audience in addition to blog comments. You’ll get emails. Many people have a love/hate relationship with email. When it’s good, it’s really good — but when it’s bad, managing your inbox feels like a huge waste of time. But like
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7 easy ways to multiply your conversions

Personalize your marketing with dynamic content.



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Just How Much is Your Website Worth, Anyhow? An Easy Guide to Valuation

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We all work hard building our businesses.

We put in the sweat equity and all the tears that can come with it to build something truly great. After another day hustling at the office or typing furiously on your keyboard, you might be wondering… what is the end game here?

What are you really going for? Is there a glowing neon sign with the word “Exit” marking the path to your ultimate goal?

For the majority of businesses, the end goal is to eventually sell that business to another entrepreneur who wants to take the reins and simply enjoy the profits from the sale. Alas, most of us don’t even know what our business is worth, much less how to go about selling it — or if it’s even sellable to begin with.

That’s where Empire Flippers comes in. We’ve been brokering deals for years in the online business space, serving a quiet but hungry group of investors who are looking to acquire digital assets. The demand for profitable digital assets has been growing so much that our brokerage was able to get on the Inc. 5000 list two years in a row, both times under the 500 mark.

We can say with confidence that, yes, there is indeed an exit for your business.

By the end of this article you’re going to know more about how online businesses are valued, what buyers are looking for, and how you can get the absolute top dollar for your content website, software as a service (SaaS), or e-commerce store.

(You might have noticed I didn’t include the word “agency” in the last paragraph. Digital agencies are incredibly hard to sell; to do so, you need to have streamlined your process as much as possible. Even though having clients is great, other digital assets are far easier to sell.)

If you’ve built a digital asset you’re looking to exit from, the first question you likely have is, “This sounds fantastic, but how do I go about putting an actual price tag on what I’ve created?”

We’ll dive into those answers below, but first let’s talk about why you’re already in a great position just by being a reader of the Moz Blog.

Why is SEO the most valuable traffic for a digital asset?

SEO is by far the most attractive traffic source for people looking at purchasing online businesses.

The beauty of SEO is that once you’ve put in the work to achieve the rankings, they can maintain and bring in traffic for sometimes months without significant upkeep. That’s in stark contrast with pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, such as Facebook ads, which require daily monitoring to make sure nothing strange is happening with your conversions or that you’re not overspending.

For someone who has no experience with traffic generation but wants to purchase a profitable online business, an SEO-fueled website just makes sense. They can earn while they learn. When they purchase the asset (typically a content website for people just starting out), they can play around with adding new high-quality pieces of content and learn about more complicated SEO techniques down the road.

Even someone who is a master at paid traffic loves SEO. They might buy an e-commerce store that has some real potential with Facebook ads that’s currently driving the majority of its traffic through SEO, and treat the SEO as gravy on top of the paid traffic they plan to drive toward that e-commerce store.

Whether the buyer is a newbie or a veteran, SEO as a traffic method has one of the widest appeals of any other traffic strategy. While SEO itself does not increase the value of the business in most cases, it does attract more buyers than other forms of traffic.

Now, let’s get down to what your business is worth.

How are online businesses actually valued?

How businesses are valued is such a common question we get at our brokerage that we created an automated valuation tool that gives a free estimate of your business’s value, which our audience uses with all of their different projects.

At the heart of any valuation is a fairly basic formula:

You look at your rolling 12-month net profit average and then times that by a multiple. Typically, a multiple will range between 20–50x of the 12-month average net profit for healthy, profitable online businesses. As you get closer to 50x you have to be able to show your business is growing in a BIG way month over month and that your business is truly defensible (something we’ll talk about later in this article).

You might see some brokers using a 2x or 3x EBITDA, which stands for earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization.

When you see this formula, they’re using an annual multiple, whereas at Empire Flippers we use a monthly multiple. There’s really not much of a difference between the two formulas; it mainly depends on your preference, but if you’re brand new to buying and selling online businesses, then it’s helpful to know how different brokers price businesses.

We prefer the monthly multiple since it shows a more granular picture of the business and where it’s trending.

Just like you can influence Google SERPs with SEO knowledge, so can you manipulate this formula to give you a better valuation as long as you know what you’re looking at.

How to move the multiple needle in your favor

There are various things you can do to get a higher multiple. A lot of it comes down to just common sense and really putting yourself in the buyer’s shoes.

A useful thing to ask: “Would I ever buy my business? Why? Why not?”

This exercise can lead you to change a lot of things about your business for the better.

The two areas that most affect the multiple come down to your actual average net profit and how long the business has been around making money.

Average net profit

The higher your average net profit, the higher your multiple will tend to be because it’s a bigger cash-flowing asset. It makes sense then to look at various ways you can increase that net profit and decrease your total amount of expenses.

Every digital asset is a little different in where their expenses are coming from. For content sites, content creation costs are typically the lion’s share of expenses. As you approach the time of sale, you might want to scale back your content. In other cases, you may want to move to an agency solution where you can scale or minimize your content expenses at will rather than having in-house writers on the payroll.

There are also expenses that you might be applying to the business but aren’t really “needed” in operating the business, known as add-backs.

Add-backs

Add-backs are where you add certain expenses BACK into the net profit. These are items that you might’ve charged on the business account but aren’t really relevant to running the business.

These could be drinks, meals, or vacations put on the business account, and sometimes even business conferences. For example, going to a conference about email marketing might not be considered a “required” expense to running a health content site, whereas going to a sourcing conference like the Canton Fair would be a harder add-back to justify when it comes to running an e-commerce store.

Other things, such as SEO tools you’re using on a monthly basis, can likely be added back to the business. Most people won’t need them constantly to run and grow their business. They might subscribe for a month, get all the keyword data they need for a while, cancel, and then come back when they’re ready to do more keyword research.

Most of your expenses won’t be add-backs, but it is good to keep these in mind as they can definitely increase the ultimate sales price of your business.

When not to cut expenses

While there’s usually a lot of fat you can cut from your business, you need to be reasonable about it. Cutting some things might improve your overall net profit, but vastly decrease the attractability of your business.

One common thing we see in the e-commerce space is solopreneurs starting to package and ship all of the items themselves to their customers. The thinking goes that they’re saving money by doing it themselves. While this may be true, it’s not an attractive solution to a potential buyer.

It’s far more attractive to spend money on a third-party solution that can store and ship the product for you as orders come in. After all, many buyers are busy traveling the world while having an online business. Forcing them to settle down just so they can ship products versus hanging out on the beaches of Bali for a few months during winter is a tough ask.

When selling a business, you don’t want to worry only about expenses, but also how easy it is to plug into and start running that business for a buyer.

Even if the systems you create to do that add extra expenses, like using a third party to handle fulfillment, they’re often more than worth keeping around because they make the business look more attractive to buyers.

Length of history

The more history you can show, the more attractive your business will be, as long as it’s holding at a steady profit level or showing an upward trend.

The more your business is trending upward, the higher multiple you’re going to get.

While you can’t do much in terms of lengthening the business’s history, you can prepare yourself for the eventual sale by investing in needed items early on in your business. For example, if you know your website needs a big makeover and you’re 24 months out from selling, it’s better to do that big website redesign now instead of during the 12-month average your business will be priced on.

Showing year-over-year growth is also beneficial in getting a better multiple, because it shows your business can weather growing pains. This ability to weather business challenges is especially true in a business whose primary traffic is Google-organic. It shows that the site has done quality SEO by surviving several big updates over the course of a few years.

On the flipside, a trending downward business is going to get a much worse multiple, likely in the 12–18x range. A business in decline can still be sold, though. There are specific buyers that only want distressed assets because they can get them at deep discounts and often have the skill sets needed to fix the site.

You just have to be willing to take a lower sales price due to the decline, and since a buyer pool on distressed assets is smaller, you’ll likely have a longer sales cycle before you find someone willing to acquire the asset.

Other factors that lead to a higher multiple

While profit and length of history are the two main factors, there are a bunch of smaller factors that can add up to a significant increase in your multiple and ultimate valuation price.

You’ll have a fair amount of control with a lot of these, so they’re worth maximizing as much as possible in the 12–24 month window where you are preparing your online business for sale.

1. Minimize critical points of failure

Critical points of failure are anything in your business that has the power to be a total deal breaker. It’s not rare to sell a business that has one or two critical points, but even so you want to try to minimize this as much as possible.

An example of a critical point of failure could be where all of your website traffic is purely Google-organic. If the site gets penalized by a Google algorithm update, it could kill all of your traffic and revenue overnight.

Likewise, if you’re an Amazon affiliate and Amazon suddenly changes their Terms of Service, you could get banned for reasons you don’t understand or even have time to react to, ending up with a highly trafficked site that makes zero money.

In the e-commerce space, we see situations where the entrepreneur only has one supplier that can make their product. What happens if that supplier wants to jack up the prices or suddenly goes out of business completely?

It’s worth your while to diversify your traffic sources, have multiple monetization strategies for a content site, or investigate having backup or even competing suppliers for your e-commerce products.

Every business has some kind of weakness; your job is to minimize those weaknesses as much as possible to get the most value out of your business from a potential buyer.

2. High amounts of traffic

Higher traffic tends to correlate with higher revenue, which ultimately should increase your net profit. That all goes without saying; however, high traffic also can be an added bonus to your multiple on top of helping create a solid net profit.

Many buyers look for businesses they can optimize to the extreme at every point of the marketing funnel. When you have a high amount of traffic, you give them a lot of room to play with different conversion rate optimization factors like increasing email options, creating or crafting a better abandoned cart sequence, and changing the various calls to action on the site.

While many sellers might be fantastic at driving traffic, they might not exactly be the biggest pro at copywriting or CRO in general; this is where a big opportunity lies for the right buyer who might be able to increase conversions with their own copywriting or CRO skill.

3. Email subscribers

It’s almost a cliche in the Internet marketing space to say “the money is in the list.” Email has often been one of the biggest drivers of revenue for companies, but there’s a weird paradigm we’ve discovered after selling hundreds of online businesses.

Telling someone they should use an email list is pretty similar to telling someone to go to the gym: they agree it’s useful and they should do it, but often they do nothing about it. Then there are those who do build an email list because they understand its power, but then never do anything useful with it.

This results in email lists being a hit-or-miss on whether they actually add any value to your business’s final valuation.

If you can prove the email list is adding value to your business, then your email list CAN improve your overall multiple. If you use good email automation sequences to up-sell your traffic and routinely email the list with new offers and pieces of high-quality content, then your email list has real value associated with it, which will reflect on your final valuation.

4. Social media following

Social media has become more and more important as time goes on, but it can also be an incredibly fickle beast.

It’s best to think of your social media following as a “soft” email list. The reach of your social media following compared to your email list will tend to be lower, especially as social organic reach keeps declining on bigger social platforms like Facebook. In addition, you don’t own the platform that following is built off of, meaning it can be taken away from you anytime for reasons outside of your control.

Plus, it’s just too easy to fake followers and likes.

However, if you can wade through all that and prove that your social following and social media promotion are driving real traffic and sales to your business, it will definitely help in increasing your multiple.

5. How many product offerings you have

Earning everything from a single product is somewhat risky.

What happens if that product goes out of style? Or gets discontinued?

Whether you’re running an e-commerce store or a content site monetizing through affiliate links, you want to have several different product offerings.

When you have several products earning good money through your website, then a buyer will find the business ultimately more attractive and value it more because you won’t be hurt in a big way if one of the “flavors of the month” disappears on you.

6. Hours required

Remember, the majority of buyers are not looking at acquiring a job. They want a leveraged cash-flowing investment they can ideally scale up.

While there’s nothing wrong with working 40–50+ hours per week on a business that is really special, it will narrow your overall buyer pool and make the business less attractive. The truth is, most of the digital assets we’re creating don’t really require this amount of work from the owner.

What we typically see is that there are a lot of areas for improvement that the seller can use to minimize their weekly hour allotment to the business. We recommend that everyone looking to sell their business first consider how they can minimize their actual involvement.

The three most effective ways to cut down on your time spent are:

  • Systemization: Automating as much of your business as possible
  • Developing a team: The biggest wins we see here tend to be in content creation, customer service, general operations, and hiring a marketing agency to do the majority of the heavy lifting for you. While these add costs that drive down the average net profit, they also make your business far more attractive.
  • Creating standard operating procedures (SOPs): SOPs should outline the entire process of a specific function of the business and should be good enough that if you handed them off to someone, they could do the job 80 percent as well as you.

You should always be in a position where you’re working ON your business and not IN.

7. Dig a deeper moat

At Empire Flippers, we’re always asking people if they built a deep enough moat around their business. A deep moat means your business is harder to copy. A copycat can’t just go buy a domain and some hosting and copy your business in an afternoon.

A drop-shipping store that can be copied in a single day is not going to be nearly as attractive as one that has built up a real following and a community around their brand, even if they sell the same products.

This fact becomes more and more important as your business valuation goes into the multiple six-figure and seven-figure valuation ranges because buyers are looking to buy a real brand at this point, not just a niche site.

Here are a few actions you can take to deepen this moat:

  • Niche down and own the market with your brand (a woodworking website might focus specifically on benches, for example, where you’re hiring expert artisans to write content on the subject).
  • Source your products and make them unique, rather than another “me too” product.
  • Negotiate special terms with your affiliate managers or suppliers. If you’ve been sending profitable traffic to an affiliate offer, often you can just email the affiliate manager asking for a pay bump and they’ll gladly give it. Likewise, if you’re doing good business for a drop-shipping supplier, they might be open to doing an exclusivity agreement with you. Make sure all of these special terms are transferable to the buyer, though.

The harder it is to copy what you’ve built, the higher the multiple you’ll get.

But why would you EVER sell your online business in the first place?

You’re now well-equipped with knowledge on how to increase your business’s ultimate value, but why would you actually sell it?

The reasons are vast and numerous — too many to list in this post. However, there are a few common reasons you might resonate with.

Here are a few business reasons why people sell their businesses:

  • Starting a new business or wanting to focus on other current projects
  • Seeking to use the capital to leverage themselves into a more competitive (and lucrative) space
  • Having lost any interest in running the business and want to sell the asset off before it starts reflecting their lack of interest through declining revenue
  • Wanting to cash out of the business to invest in offline investments like real estate, stocks, bonds, etc.

Just as there are a ton of business reasons to sell, there are also a ton of personal reasons why people sell their business:

  • Getting a divorce
  • Purchasing a home for their family (selling one digital asset can be a hefty down payment for a home, or even cover the entirety of the home)
  • Having medical issues
  • Other reasons: We had one seller on our marketplace whose reason for selling his business was to get enough money to adopt a child.

When you can collect 20–50 months of your net profit upfront, you can do a lot of things that just weren’t options before.

When you have a multiple six-figure or even seven-figure war chest, you can often outspend the competition, invest in infrastructure and teams you couldn’t before, and in general jumpstart your next project or business idea far faster without ever having to worry about if a Google update is going tank your earnings or some other unforeseen market change.

That begs the question…

When should you sell?

Honestly, it depends.

The answer to this question is more of an art than a science.

As a rule of thumb, you should ask yourself if you’re excited by the kind of money you’ll get from the successful sale of your online business.

You can use our valuation tool to get a ballpark estimate or do some back-of-the-napkin math of what you’re likely to receive for the business using the basic multiple formula I outlined. I prefer to always be on the conservative side with my estimations, so your napkin math might be taking your 12-month average net profit with a multiple of 25x.

Does that number raise your eyebrows? Is it even interesting?

If it is, then you might want to start asking yourself if you really are ready to part with your business to focus on other things. Remember, you should always set a MINIMUM sales price that you’d be willing to walk away from the business with, something that would still make you happy if you went through with it.

Most of us Internet marketers are always working on multiple projects at once. Sadly, some projects just don’t get the love they deserve or used to get from us.

Instead of letting those projects just die off in the background, consider selling your online business instead to a very hungry market of investors starting to flood our digital realm.

Selling a business, even if it’s a side project that you’re winding down, is always going to be an intimate process. When you’re ready to pull the trigger, we’ll be there to help you every step of the way.

Have you thought about selling your online business, or gone through a sale in the past? Let us know your advice, questions, or anecdotes in the comments.

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How to Prove the Value of Content Marketing to Your CMO in 3 Easy Steps

Content Marketing Value

“ROI” can be a blurry idea in the world of content marketing. With often hard-to-measure costs and returns, content marketing ROI or value isn’t always crystal clear. Dealing in metrics like pageviews, time-on-page, organic impressions, and others aren’t always directly translatable into business revenue, which — let’s face it — is what your bosses really care about.

Even though only 8% of content marketers consider themselves successful in tracking content marketing ROI, we all know that content marketing is incredibly valuable. As our CEO Lee Odden has said for a long time:

“Content is the reason search engines exist and it’s the cornerstone of what people share on the social web. A quantity of quality content that answers readers’ questions in a useful and entertaining way serves everything from demand generation to lead generation.”

But how can you prove it with evidence that your chief marketing officer (CMO) or content director actually cares about?

Content is the foundation of everything we do here at TopRank Marketing. And our clients deserve and expect us to be able to connect our content marketing services to tangible business benefits. In just three easy steps, we can help you make that same connection and prove the value of your content marketing up the ladder.

Step 1: Identify Your Content Marketing Goals

As a marketer, you’re no doubt aware that you need to set a measurable goal before launching campaigns, but just because you know you should, doesn’t mean it always happens. Without setting a measurable goal, one could argue that your content marketing didn’t accomplish anything of real business value.

To set your goals, take a look at the current state of things to understand opportunities and what’s working well. Is there a dip in organic traffic that you hope to recover? Do you aim to increase conversions and marketing qualified leads (MQLs)? If you’re not sure where to start, review your current website performance in Google Analytics or in Google Search Console to identify potential KPIs.

As an example, if you notice in Google Search Console that your top performing organic search pages have a low click through rate (CTR), your goal may be to increase your CTR by 1% in 30 days. Keep in mind that when looking at goals and KPIs, it’s important not to lock yourself into just one metric. As our own digital marketing analyst, Allysia Kveberg, points out that:

“Sometimes marketing campaigns work a little differently than you expect, and that isn’t necessarily a negative thing.”

So, even if you’re driving results that aren’t directly tied to your goals, there might be a different marketing success lying in a related KPI that can help you sell value up the food chain.

Once you have your goals and KPIs locked down, you can now measure your content’s performance against them in real-time.


Without setting a measurable goal, one could argue that your #contentmarketing didn’t accomplish anything of real business value.
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Step 2: Measure Content Performance More Effectively

You know you need to measure content performance so you can see how you’re progressing towards your objectives. But how can you do it more effectively and efficiently? Depending on your goals, there are usually three areas of focus you’ll want to measure: awareness, engagement, and conversions. Or in other words, the top, middle, and bottom of the funnel.

Brand Awareness

For measuring your brand awareness, you’ll need to track social shares, impressions, mentions, and overall website traffic from first-time visitors. For our own campaigns, we like using tools like BuzzSumo to see the traction our content is getting on social media.

Another component to awareness, is search visibility. To see if you’re gaining more organic impressions, rankings, or clicks, log into Google Search Console. It’ll take some digging to see the new keywords you may be ranking for and to identify new positions, but it’s worth the extra work to see how your content is impacting your organic traffic.

Audience Engagement

If you’re looking to develop your connection with your audience, improve trust and retention, or promote your thought leadership, you’ll want to track your audience’s engagement with your content. Engagement metrics to measure are time on page, blog pageviews, bounce rates, pages visited per session, or number of return visitors.

Often referred to as “vanity metrics,” this data can still provide you with valuable insight when looking at the numbers in the context of content. For example, an average session duration of 10 minutes overall is nice to have, but it doesn’t tell you anything about why people stayed so long. By looking at the average session duration for individual webpages, however, you can start to identify common characteristics that people stick around for.

You can drill down on these metrics for each webpage in your Google Analytics account in the “Site Content” section of the “Behavior” menu, as pictured below.

Snapshot of TopRank Marketing Google Analytics

Conversions

Conversions are all about content marketing results that have the power to drive revenue. This means form fills, conversions, MQLs, or a growing subscription base. To track most of these items, you’ll want to have your website set up with conversion or event tracking. We like using Google Tag Manager to identify and track these events as they happen. Then, to really see how our content impacts conversions, we’ll also see how many form fills or conversions happened after interacting with a piece of content.

After you’ve identified your metrics and how to track them, take a look at the data as is to set your benchmarks for each metric. Going forward on a monthly basis, make sure to document or export the data you’re seeing to see if you’re meeting or exceeding the benchmarks you’ve set. This makes it easier to see trends and wins now and later when you’re putting together your report.

When tracking these items, you’ll also want to record which pieces of content are your high performers at each stage of the funnel or customer journey. This will give you the information you need to determine the types of content that move people from top to bottom.

Step 3: Educate Your CMO

Your CMO is probably more concerned about things of business value like sales, savings, or retention over blog sessions or time on page. As Joe Pulizzi, CEO of Content Marketing Institute, shared with us:

“Skip analytics reports for your CMO.”

But to translate your performance into real business value, takes some work.

Perhaps the best place to start is in conversions. How many MQLs and form fills has your content marketing generated? Are you filling the sales pipeline with qualified prospects? Once you have that number, you can use your sales team’s closure rate and average deal size to determine the potential revenue for each lead you generated. This gives your bosses a dollar amount they can easily understand and appreciate.

The value of brand awareness and audience engagement is a little harder to determine as they don’t “directly” influence purchasing decisions. But if you have been tracking your customer journey and marketing funnel, you can show your CMO how that funnel is filling up and how content helps attract and move people from stage to stage.

Below is an illustration of some of the metrics that you should consider highlighting at each stage and in the most business-tangible way possible.

Attract, Engage, Convert Model

In addition, you can compare your social shares, likes, and mentions to that of your competitors. If you come out on top, this proves that your content marketing gives you greater visibility over your competition.

Bullet-Proof Evidence

To present your CMO with hard evidence that speaks for itself, you need to:

  • Set relevant, measurable goals and KPIs
  • Track your progress throughout the funnel
  • Translate your findings into the results your CMO cares about

If you follow the steps above, you’ll have no problem proving that content marketing is a valuable, revenue-driving tactic. For more ways to impress your CMO with real business results, use these content marketing measurement and ROI tips from brand marketing experts at Kraft and 3M.


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One Ridiculously Easy Way to Enhance the Power of Your Blog Posts

The overall aim of your blog is to help your audience with the issues they struggle with while also educating them on what they need to know to do business with you. That’s too much responsibility for just one article, so each blog post you publish can be thought of as a piece of your
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10 Easy Tips for Professional Audio Quality

"Your sound should be a 'welcome mat' that invites the listener in for what feels like a face-to-face conversation." – Toby Lyles

I started working with podcasts because I was an avid podcast listener.

I would be listening to a conversation, hanging on every word, and then it would happen: the guest would bump his mic at the exact moment when he said the one thing I wanted to hear, and I’d miss out.

Our content should connect and engage, not frustrate and push away.

Since I run a podcast production company, I’ve learned that most people think any sound problem can be repaired with the simple twist of a knob. If only that were so.

Do you know how to avoid the most common podcast production pitfalls that distract your listeners?

Read on to discover how your podcast can stand out from the majority of the audio content available on the web.

Quality audio defined

Audio quality can be as subjective as Picasso’s art in a museum. One person says it’s brilliant … the next walks away scratching their head.

Let’s start with what quality audio is not.

You can tell audio needs to be improved when you hear:

  • Hum
  • Buzz
  • Hiss
  • Room reflections (echoes from the recording room)
  • Microphone handling, bumping sounds
  • Other foreign sounds: animals, lawnmowers, keyboard clicks, etc.
  • “Plosives” (the explosive sound consonants make when spoken into a microphone)
  • Extreme audio processing (audio effects that create an unnatural sound)

On the other hand, quality audio can be defined in one word: natural.

Quality audio sounds as if you’re talking around a kitchen table or with a client in your office. Your sound should be a “welcome mat” that invites the listener in for what feels like a face-to-face conversation.

How do you accomplish that? Here are 10 tips that will help you produce the “welcome mat” experience.

1. Value your listeners

Podcasts and blogs are similar.

In the same way that good website design helps attract and keep blog readers, quality audio attracts and keeps listeners around.

Quality audio isn’t about making you sound good, it’s about engaging your audience.

2. Invest in the right microphone

You knew this one was coming.

Microphones are the most important element of quality audio, but podcasters don’t need fancy, expensive ones.

If you record a monologue or interview-style podcast in an office or room in a home, a dynamic microphone is what you need. Other microphones work, but they can require more resources to coax out good sound.

Want some recommendations? My favorites are:

  • Audio-Technica 2100: a great USB microphone at an amazing price
  • RE20: the most popular microphone for radio for decades

The microphones listed above will produce quality sound, but remember that choosing a microphone is mostly about personality and taste. You need to ask yourself if the microphone is right for you, your voice, and your brand.

One way to answer the “which is best for me” question is to book a session at a professional recording studio and try out a variety of microphones. Take those recordings and get some feedback.

Between the engineer at the studio and your friends and family, you should be able to find a clear winner. Also, keep your target audience in mind. Does the microphone help communicate who you are? Does it match the tone your audience needs to hear?

Here are a couple guidelines about microphones to avoid:

  • The headset microphone that came with your smartphone. While those are great for appearing live on Facebook, they’re not ideal for podcasting.
  • A condenser microphone. They’re made for the acoustics in big, fancy, recording studios. Unless you’re planning to build a recording booth in your garage, leave these microphones in the store.

3. Use a microphone stand

Some podcasters like to record with the microphone in their hands. Unless holding the mic is absolutely necessary, avoid that technique.

Another common microphone-stand mistake is connecting it to a surface your hands or feet easily touch. If it’s a desk-mount stand, try connecting it to a nearby piece of furniture that’s not touching the desk. Or, if it’s a floor-mount stand, make sure the feet rest on carpet or padding.

Otherwise, the small movements you make during recording can transfer up the stand and into the microphone, which produces distracting sounds.

4. Find a great place to record

This item alone is a quick win for good sound.

Before you record, double-check that your room doesn’t reflect your voice back into the microphone. Carpet, furniture, wall decorations, and non-parallel walls all help calm the reflections. Trying a smaller room, or even a closet, is often easier than acoustically treating your current recording space.

You should also keep outside noises to a minimum. Common offenders are:

  • Fans
  • Refrigerators
  • Furnaces
  • Cars
  • Phones and other electronics
  • Open windows

5. Speak near the microphone

Nearly everyone shies away from the microphone. Don’t.

Even a slight distance from a mic makes you sound like you’re in a cave.

You’ll want to nearly kiss it. Make it your friend, and it will make you friends as you build your audience.

6. Set up a pop filter

The downside of speaking near the microphone is that it causes “plosives.”

“Plosives” are simply the air from consonant sounds disrupting the sensitive components of the microphone.

The pop filter, a screen that goes around or in front of a microphone, is a tried-and-true solution. Expensive or cheap, they’re all about the same.

7. Select an audio interface

Although many recommend using a mixing board, I’ve found that the never-ending knobs create more headaches than freedom.

The simplest solution is to plug your microphone into an audio interface, which converts your analogue microphone sound into digital, so your computer can understand it.

As a side note, even if you’re using the Audio-Technica 2100, it’s still a good idea to utilize an audio interface instead of the USB connection. It produces a much more detailed and clear sound.

My current audio interface favorites are:

8. Record separate tracks

Take advantage of multiple tracks to make sure every voice has its own separate recording.

With a two-person interview, it’s easy to pan the host to the left track and the guest to the right track. If your guest joins you via video chat, capturing a separate track of their local recording is helpful.

In the past, this was only possible if the guest was well-versed in audio or recording in a radio station. Thankfully, technology has advanced.

One of my favorite tools is Zencastr. It records via a web browser and uploads the best audio possible to your dropbox account.

9. Back up your recordings

Some people prefer to avoid a computer and record into a small recording device. I often do this myself, after having one too many recording sessions ruined by computer glitches.

I know of an author whose power went out while he was recording an audiobook. He lost four hours of recorded audio!

You can avoid that exact situation by recording into an external recorder. Or better yet, record into a computer for convenience and add an external recorder as a backup, just in case.

One of the fastest ways is to simply use an XLR splitter, which will split the signal into both the audio interface and the external recorder. If you have multiple sources, running an output from the interface into the recorder is a great way to use it as a secondary backup.

A couple external recorder favorites of mine are:

10. Edit and produce your content

While creating a good recording is the bulk of what’s involved in producing a podcast, quality editing and production wraps up the package.

If you have audio experience, go for it, but if you’re hesitant, grab someone who’s spent some time in the field. Even if you don’t hire a producer who specifically works with podcasts, their wisdom can help ensure you avoid expensive mistakes and end up with a quality product.

For those producing podcasts on their own, check out Auphonic. Auphonic has turned years of professional audio experience into an inexpensive piece of online software. Their specialty is leveling audio and removing background hiss and noise, an audio producer’s two most important jobs.

Bonus tip: loosen up

Before you record, have some fun: watch a cat video, laugh a little, do some vocal warm-ups.

Think about the person you’re aiming to help and the problem you can’t wait to solve for them.

Better recordings strengthen your message

Remember, audio equipment exists to enhance your message.

Who you are and what you have to say is invaluable … the gear is just a method of transporting the gold.

Special offer for Copyblogger readers only: Contact Toby on Twitter or at TwentyFourSound for a one-time, free podcast review. He’ll help you find the exact steps needed to match your audio to your voice.

The post 10 Easy Tips for Professional Audio Quality appeared first on Copyblogger.


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Structuring URLs for Easy Data Gathering and Maximum Efficiency

Posted by Dom-Woodman

Imagine you work for an e-commerce company.

Wouldn’t it be useful to know the total organic sessions and conversions to all of your products? Every week?

If you have access to some analytics for an e-commerce company, try and generate that report now. Give it 5 minutes.

Done?

Or did that quick question turn out to be deceptively complicated? Did you fall into a rabbit hole of scraping and estimations?

Not being able to easily answer that question — and others like it — is costing you thousands every year.

Let’s jump back a step

Every online business, whether it’s a property portal or an e-commerce store, will likely have spent hours and hours agonizing over decisions about how their website should look, feel, and be constructed.

The biggest decision is usually this: What will we build our website with? And from there, there are hundreds of decisions, all the way down to what categories should we have on our blog?

Each of these decisions will generate future costs and opportunities, shaping how the business operates.

Somewhere in this process, a URL structure will be decided on. Hopefully it will be logical, but the context in which it’s created is different from how it ends up being used.

As a business grows, the desire for more information and better analytics grows. We hire data analysts and pay agencies thousands of dollars to go out, gather this data, and wrangle it into a useful format so that smart business decisions can be made.

It’s too late. You’ve already wasted £1000s a year.

It’s already too late; by this point, you’ve already created hours and hours of extra work for the people who have to analyze your data and thousands will be wasted.

All because no one structured the URLs with data gathering in mind.

How about an example?

Let’s go back to the problem we talked about at the start, but go through the whole story. An e-commerce company goes to an agency and asks them to get total organic sessions to all of their product pages. They want to measure performance over time.

Now this company was very diligent when they made their site. They’d read Moz and hired an SEO agency when they designed their website and so they’d read this piece of advice: products need to sit at the root. (E.g. mysite.com/white-t-shirt.)

Apparently a lot of websites read this piece of advice, because with minimal searching you can find plenty of sites whose product pages that rank do sit at the root: Appleyard Flowers, Game, Tesco Direct.

At one level it makes sense: a product might be in multiple categories (LCD & 42” TVs, for example), so you want to avoid duplicate content. Plus, if you changed the categories, you wouldn’t want to have to redirect all the products.

But from a data gathering point of view, this is awful. Why? There is now no way in Google Analytics to select all the products unless we had the foresight to set up something earlier, like a custom dimension or content grouping. There is nothing that separates the product URLs from any other URL we might have at the root.

How could our hypothetical data analyst get the data at this point?

They might have to crawl all the pages on the site so they can pick them out with an HTML footprint (a particular piece of HTML on a page that identifies the template), or get an internal list from whoever owns the data in the organization. Once they’ve got all the product URLs, they’ll then have to match this data to the Google Analytics in Excel, probably with a VLOOKUP or, if the data set is too large, a database.

Shoot. This is starting to sound quite expensive.

And of course, if you want to do this analysis regularly, that list will constantly change. The range of products being sold will change. So it will need to be a scheduled scrape or automated report. If we go the scraping route, we could do this, but crawling regularly isn’t possible with Screaming Frog. Now we’re either spending regular time on Screaming Frog or paying for a cloud crawler that you can schedule. If we go the other route, we could have a dev build us an internal automated report we can go to once we can get the resource internally.

Wow, now this is really expensive: a couple days’ worth of dev time, or a recurring job for your SEO consultant or data analyst each week.

This could’ve been a couple of clicks on a default report.

If we have the foresight to put all the products in a folder called /products/, this entire lengthy process becomes one step:

Load the landing pages report in Google Analytics and filter for URLs beginning with /product/.

Congratulations — you’ve just cut a couple days off your agency fee, saved valuable dev time, or gained the ability to fire your second data analyst because your first is now so damn efficient (sorry, second analysts).

As a data analyst or SEO consultant, you continually bump into these kinds of issues, which suck up time and turn quick tasks into endless chores.

What is unique about a URL?

For most analytics services, it’s the main piece of information you can use to identify the page. Google Analytics, Google Search Console, log files, all of these only have access to the URL most of the time and in some cases that’s all you’ll get — you can never change this.

The vast majority of site analyses requires working with templates and generalizing across groups of similar pages. You need to work with templates and you need to be able to do this by URL.

It’s crucial.

There’s a Jeff Bezos saying that’s appropriate here:

“There are two types of decisions. Type 1 decisions are not reversible, and you have to be very careful making them. Type 2 decisions are like walking through a door — if you don’t like the decision, you can always go back.”

Setting URLs is very much a Type 1 decision. As anyone in SEO knows, you really don’t want to be constantly changing URLs; it causes a lot of problems, so when they’re being set up we need to take our time.

How should you set up your URLs?

How do you pick good URL patterns?

First, let’s define a good pattern. A good pattern is something which we can use to easily select a template of URLs, ideally using contains rather than any complicated regex.

This usually means we’re talking about adding folders because they’re easiest to find with just a contains filter, i.e. /products/, /blogs/, etc.

We also want to keep things human-readable when possible, so we need to bear that in mind when choosing our folders.

So where should we add folders to our URLs?

I always ask the following two questions:

  • Will I need to group the pages in this template together?
    • If a set of pages needs grouping I need to put them in the same folder, so we can identify this by URL.
  • Are there crucial sub-groupings for this set of pages? If there are, are they mutually exclusive and how often might they change?
    • If there are common groupings I may want to make, then I should consider putting this in the URL, unless those data groupings are liable to change.

Let’s look at a couple examples.

Firstly, back to our product example: let’s suppose we’re setting up product URLs for a fashion e-commerce store.

Will I need to group the products together? Yes, almost certainly. There clearly needs to be a way of grouping in the URL. We should put them in a /product/ folder.

Within in this template, how might I need to group these URLs together? The most plausible grouping for products is the product category. Let’s take a black midi dress.

What about putting “little black dress” or “midi” as a category? Well, are they mutually exclusive? Our dress could fit in the “little black dress” category and the “midi dress” category, so that’s probably not something we should add as a folder in the URL.

What about moving up a level and using “dress” as a category? Now that is far more suitable, if we could reasonably split all our products into:

  • Dresses
  • Tops
  • Skirts
  • Trousers
  • Jeans

And if we were happy with having jeans and trousers separate then this might indeed be an excellent fit that would allow us to easily measure the performance of each top-level category. These also seem relatively unlikely to change and, as long as we’re happy having this type of hierarchy at the top (as opposed to, say, “season,” for example), it makes a lot of sense.

What are some common URL patterns people should use?

Product pages

We’ve banged on about this enough and gone through the example above. Stick your products in a /products/ folder.

Articles

Applying the same rules we talked about to articles and two things jump out. The first is top-level categorization.

For example, adding in the following folders would allow you to easily measure the top-level performance of articles:

  • Travel
  • Sports
  • News

You should, of course, be keeping them all in a /blog/ or /guides/ etc. folder too, because you won’t want to group just by category.

Here’s an example of all 3:

  • A bad blog article URL: example.com/this-is-an-article-name/
  • A better blog article URL: example.com/blog/this-is-an-article-name/
  • An even better blog article URL: example.com/blog/sports/this-is-an-article-name

The second, which obeys all our rules, is author groupings, which may be well-suited for editorial sites with a large number of authors that they want performance stats on.

Location grouping

Many types of websites often have category pages per location. For example:

  • Cars for sale in Manchester – /for-sale/vehicles/manchester
  • Cars for sale in Birmingham. – /for-sale/vehicles/birmingham

However, there are many different levels of location granularity. For example, here are 4 different URLs, each a more specific location in the one above it (sorry to all our non-UK readers — just run with me here).

  • Cars for sale in Suffolk – /for-sale/vehicles/suffolk
  • Cars for sale in Ipswich – /for-sale/vehicles/ipswich
  • Cars for sale in Ipswich center – /for-sale/vehicles/ipswich-center
  • Cars for sale on Lancaster road – /for-sale/vehicles/lancaster-road

Obviously every site will have different levels of location granularity, but a grouping often missing here is providing the level of location granularity in the URL. For example:

  • Cars for sale in Suffolk – /for-sale/cars/county/suffolk
  • Cars for sale in Ipswich – /for-sale/vehicles/town/ipswich
  • Cars for sale in Ipswich center – /for-sale/vehicles/area/ipswich-center
  • Cars for sale on Lancaster road – /for-sale/vehicles/street/lancaster-road

This could even just be numbers (although this is less ideal because it breaks our second rule):

  • Cars for sale in Suffolk – /for-sale/vehicles/04/suffolk
  • Cars for sale in Ipswich – /for-sale/vehicles/03/ipswich
  • Cars for sale in Ipswich center – /for-sale/vehicles/02/ipswich-center
  • Cars for sale on Lancaster road – /for-sale/vehicles/01/lancaster-road

This makes it very easy to assess and measure the performance of each layer so you can understand if it’s necessary, or if perhaps you’ve aggregated too much.

What other good (or bad) examples of this has the community come across? Let’s hear it!

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Mastering Google Search Operators in 67 Easy Steps

Posted by Dr-Pete

Any SEO worth their sustainably harvested pink Himalayan salt knows that Google offers a variety of advanced search operators – special commands that take you above and beyond regular text searches. Learning search operators is a bit like learning chess, though. It’s easy to memorize how each piece moves, but that’s about 1% of your path toward mastery. I know that the pointy-hat guy in chess moves diagonally, but that doesn’t mean I’m about to take on Kasparov or Deep Blue.

Instead of just listing all of the operators and telling you what they do, I’d like to try something different. This post is a journey in 67 parts, split into five functional stories:

  1. Content Research
  2. Title Research
  3. Plagiarism Check
  4. Competitive Research
  5. Technical SEO/Audits

You can skip around, but I’d suggest following the story from the beginning. When you’re done, you’ll understand not only what each operator does, but how to use it in real-world situations and mix-and-match it with other useful operators.


I. Content Research

Crafting original content in 2017 requires wading into the sea of content that’s already been created, and Google remains the most complete map of that sea. Advanced search operators are invaluable research tools for content marketers. Let’s walk through a sample content journey…

1. Find all the content

tesla

Let’s say you’ve got a blog post to write about the inventor Nikola Tesla. You hop over to Google and search “tesla,” only to find a lot of results like this:

Google has decided that Tesla Motors is the dominant intent for this phrase, which doesn’t help you very much for your current project.

2. Narrow your search

nikola tesla

So, of course you add more keywords and narrow your search. Now you’re on the right track:

Anyone who’s ever run a Google search understands this, but there’s an important point here that we often overlook. Whenever you string together more than one word in a Google search, Google connects them with a logical AND. This is true of both keywords and operators. If you combine operators, Google will assume that you meant AND and will try to meet all conditions.

3. Mind special characters

tesla ac/dc

Let’s say you want to specifically find pages with the phrase “ac/dc”, so you try the search above:

Notice the highlighted words – Google has returned anything matching “AC” and “DC” separately. In this case, they’ve treated the forward slash as the same as a space, which probably isn’t what you intended.

4. Force exact match with quotes

tesla “ac/dc”

By putting quotation marks around a phrase, you can force an exact-match search. This requires Google to match the specific, full phrase – with all terms and in the order specified:

This is a lot closer to what you probably expected. Notice the highlighting in the second result, where Google seems to have matched “AC-DC”. This is a lot closer than the previous attempt, but Google is still taking some liberties with the forward slash. Be sure to do a sanity check of results any time you use non-alphanumeric characters in a search.

5. Force a logical OR

tesla OR edison

If you specifically want a logical OR between keywords or operators, use the “OR” operator. OR must be in all-caps, or, alternatively you can use the pipe symbol (|):

Note that, in most cases, Google is still going to give priority to results that contain both terms. Specifying logical OR is most useful when two terms only co-occur rarely.

6. Group terms with parentheses

(tesla OR edison) alternating current

Some operators, including OR, are more useful in complex searches. Here, we’re using parentheses to group “tesla OR edison” and then are adding “alternating current” as an AND condition:

Requiring all three terms might be unnecessarily restrictive. By using both ANDs and ORs in the same search, we’re giving Google a bit more flexibility. Since you probably don’t want to memorize the precedence of all Google search operators, I highly recommend using parentheses whenever you’re in doubt.

7. Exclude specific terms

tesla -motors

Maybe you want to know what other uses of “tesla” are out there, beyond Tesla Motors. You could use the (-) operator to tell Google to exclude any result with “motors” in it:

Browsing these results, you can see quickly that Tesla is also a band and a unit of measurement. In addition, Tesla the company makes products other than cars. Keyword exclusions are also called “negative keywords” (thus the minus sign).

8. Exclude multiple terms

tesla -motors -car -battery

Just like positive keywords, you can chain together negative keywords:

Keep in mind that each minus sign should only be paired with a single keyword or operator.

9. Exclude exact-match phrases

tesla -motors -”rock n roll”

You can exclude full phrases by using the (-) sign followed by the phrase in quotes:

You can combine individual negative keywords with negative exact-match phrases as needed.

10. Match broadly with wildcards

tesla -motors “rock * roll”

What if you specifically wanted to include more about the rock-n-roll band, but you didn’t care whether it was spelled “rock-n-roll,” “rock and roll,” or “rock & roll,” etc.? You can use the asterisk (*) operator as a wildcard to replace any single word:

Wildcards behave most predictably within an exact-match phrase, allowing you to find near-matches when you can’t pin down your search to a single phrase. The (*) operator only operates on the word level. There is no single-character wildcard operator.

11. Find terms near each other

tesla AROUND(3) edison

Here’s a nifty one. Maybe you want to find results where “Tesla” and “Edison” not only appear in the document but are fairly close to each other. The AROUND(X) operator tells Google to only return results where the two words are within X words of each other:

Phrases like “Tesla vs. Thomas Edison” show up as matches, but an article where the two men were mentioned in separate paragraphs wouldn’t.

12. Find near exact-match phrases

“nikola tesla” AROUND(2) “thomas alva edison”

What if, for some reason, you really needed references to include full names? You can combine AROUND(X) with exact-match phrases (in quotes):

AROUND(X) only works on the entities immediately preceding and following it, so be careful when combining it with other operators or phrases that aren’t exact-match. Note that AROUND(0) returns strange results – if you want to return two words only if they appear together, use an exact-match phrase instead.

13. Find content on specific sites

nikola tesla site:pbs.org

The “site:” operator is an advanced command that lets you specify a specific domain you want to search on. We usually think of it as a technical SEO and audit tool, but it can also help you refine content searches. Let’s say you remembered reading an article on PBS about Tesla, but lost the URL:

Typically, you’ll use “site:” with a root domain (i.e. leave subdomains, like “www”, off) to match as broadly as possible. Advanced operators like “site:” can be combined with each other and with keywords.

14. Find content on specific TLDs

nikola tesla site:edu

You don’t have to include a full domain with “site:”. For example, let’s say you wanted to find any content about Nikola Tesla on a university website. You could search on all “.edu” domains (also known as a Top-Level Domain, or TLD):

The “site:” operator will not work on a partial domain name. It only accepts full domains, root domains, or TLDs. You can use it on country-specific TLDs (ccTLDs), such as “co.uk” or “com.sg”.

15. Find content on multiple TLDs

nikola tesla (site:gov OR site:edu)

Just as with keywords, you can combine “site:” operators with logical OR to search multiple domains:

Often, it’s easier and a bit less confusing to run individual searches, but this example is just to illustrate that you can combine advanced operators in complex ways.

16. Dealing with broad matches

discount airfare

Google is getting better at matching synonyms, which is usually good thing, but it sometimes means that results are a lot broader than you might have expected:

Here, a search for “discount airfare” is returning keywords like “cheapest flights,” “cheap flights,” “airfare deals,” and a variety of other combinations.

17. Use exact-match to block synonyms

“discount airfare”

This is another situation where exact-match can help. It doesn’t just tell Google to use the full phrase, but it blocks Google from returning any kind of broad match, including synonyms:

Obviously, the results may still contain synonyms (naturally written content often does), but using exact-match ensures that there will be at least one instance of “discount airfare” in each of the results you get back.

18. Exact-match on a single word

discount “airfare”

This may seem counter-intuitive, but you can apply exact match to just one word. In this case, putting an exact match on “airfare” blocks Google from using synonyms just for that word:

Here, Google is free to match on synonyms for “discount” (such as “cheapest”), but every result is forced to include “airfare.” Exact-match single words when you want to exclude variations of that word.

19. What to do when exact-match fails

“orbi vs eero vs google wifi”

The other day, I was searching for articles that specifically compared Orbi, Eero, and Google Wifi networking hardware. Something odd happened when I searched on the exact-match phrase:

It’s not obvious from the search results themselves, but the first result doesn’t contain the phrase anywhere in the body of the text. On rare occasion, Google may match a phrase on secondary relevance factors, such as inbound link anchor text.

20. Search only in the body text

intext:”orbi vs eero vs google wifi”

In these rare cases, you can use the “intext:” operator. This forces Google to find the text in the body of the document. Now, all of the top results clearly have an exact match in the content itself:

Interestingly, the second result reveals what happened with our last search. A Reddit post featured an article from The Verge with an alternate title and used that title as the anchor text. Reddit apparently had enough authority to generate a match via the anchor text alone.

21. Find a set of keywords in the text

allintext: orbi eero google wifi

What if you want to find a set of words, but they don’t need to be in an exact-match phrase? You could use a separate “intext:” operator for each word, or you could use “allintext:” which tells Google to apply “intext:” to all of the words following the operator:

All of the results have the target keywords in the body text, in some combination or order. Be very careful about mixing “allintext:” (or any “allin…:” operator) with other commands, or you could end up with unexpected results. The “allintext:” operator will automatically try to process anything that follows it.

(Special thanks to Michael Martinez for working through some “intext:” examples with me on Twitter, and to Google’s Gary Illyes for clarifying some of the details about how exactly “intext:” works)


II. Title Research

You’ve done your content research, and now it’s time to pin down a title. You want to capture those clicks, but, of course, you don’t want to be unoriginal. Here are some search operator combos for title research.

22. Check for a specific phrase

“tesla vs edison”

You’ve settled on using “Tesla vs. Edison” in your title, so let’s do a quick check on content with that exact-match phrase:

You’ve pinned down Google to an exact-match phrase, but that phrase can occur anywhere in the text. How do we look for it in just the document title?

23. Check for a phrase in the title

intitle:”tesla vs edison”

Use the “intitle:” operator to specify that a keyword or phrase (in quotes) has to occur in the document title:

Be aware that sometimes Google may rewrite a display title in search results, so it’s possible to get a result back where the phrase doesn’t seem to match the title because Google has rewritten it.

24. Check multiple keywords in title

intitle:tesla intitle:vs intitle:edison

If you want to check for multiple keywords in a title, but don’t want to restrict yourself to exact-match, you can string together multiple “intitle:” operators with single keywords:

Of course, this can be a bit clunky. Luckily, there’s an easier way…

25. Check multiple keywords easily

allintitle: tesla vs edison

Like “allintext:”, there’s an “allintitle:” operator. It will match any of the keywords following it:

This returns roughly the same results as #24, which doesn’t make for a very interesting screenshot, but is exactly what we want it to do. Again, be careful combining “allintitle:” with other operators, as it will try to consume everything following it.

26. Check for titles with lists

intitle:”top 10 facts” tesla

Maybe you’ve got your heart set on a listicle, but you want to make sure it hasn’t been done to death. You can combine an “intitle:” operator with a general keyword search on a topic:

These results are all pages that talk about Tesla but have “Top 10 Facts” in the title.

27. Find lists and exact-match phrases

intitle:”top 10 facts” “nikola tesla”

Oops, we ‘re pulling in results about Tesla Motors again. Luckily, you can combine “intitle:” with exact-match phrases and other, more complex operator combos:

This is much closer to what you probably had in mind, but the bad news is that the “Top 10″ things does seem like it’s been overdone, even in the realm of Nikola Tesla.

28. Check for Top X lists

intitle:”top 7..9 facts” “nikola tesla”

The range (..) operator lets you search for a specific range of numbers. Maybe you’re tired of Top 10, but don’t want too short of a list. Let’s check out what Top 7, 8, and 9 lists are out there:

This returned only four results, and they were all videos. So, at least you’re on the right track, originality-wise. Once you master search operators, you’ll eventually reach the mythical end of the Internet.

29. Check the title for this post

intitle:”search operators” “in * easy steps”

Let’s put all of this to the test – how original is my title for this post? I’m not expecting an exact match to a post with 67 steps, but what about any post mentioning “Search Operators” in the title that also uses some variation of “in * easy steps” anywhere in the result?

It looks like I did alright, from an originality standpoint. Of course, there are many ways to mix-and-match operators to find similar titles. Ultimately, you have to decide how you define “unique.”


III. Plagiarism Check

You’ve finally published that article, but you suspect someone else may have copied it and is taking your traffic. Advanced search operators can be great for hunting down plagiarism.

30. Find articles with your exact title

intitle:”duplicate content in a post-panda world”

Use the “intitle:” operator with your exact-match title to easily spot whether someone has copied your entire article with no modifications. Here’s a search based on a post I wrote a couple of years back:

Ok, you probably didn’t need to know about the original article, so let’s try again…

31. Find title matches, excluding sites

intitle:”duplicate content in a post-panda world” -site:moz.com

Use (-) with the “site:” operator to exclude specific sites. In this case, we already know that the original title was posted on Moz.com:

It turns out that two of these sites are just linking to the post in kind of a low-quality but not outright malicious way. What you really want to know if someone is copying the text wholesale…

32. Find unique, exact-match text

“they were frolicking in our entrails” -site:moz.com

Another alternative is to run exact-match on a long, unique phrase. Luckily, this particular blog post has some pretty unique phrases. I’m going to keep the Moz.com exclusion:

The first result is a harmless (if slightly odd) Facebook post, but the other two are full, copied-and-pasted duplicates of the original post.

33. Find unique text only in the body

intext:”they were frolicking in our entrails” -site:moz.com -site:facebook.com

If you want to be completely sure that the unique text is in the body of the document, you can use the “intext:” operator. Here, I’ve added both “intext:” and a Facebook exclusion. Within reason, it’s ok to mix-and-match a variety of operators:

Practically speaking, “intext:” often returns similar results to the exact-match phrase by itself. I typically use “intext:” only when I’m seeing strange results or want to make absolutely sure that I’m only looking at document body text.

34. Find a quote you’re not sure about

i would rather kiss a wookiee

What if you’re looking for a long quote, but you can’t remember if you’re getting that quote quite right? We often equate exact-match with long searches, but sometimes it’s better to let Google go broad:

Here, Google is helpfully reminding me that I’m a lousy Star Wars fan. I’ve even got an article about all the other people who are wrong about this, too.


IV. Competitive Research

In some cases, your research may be very focused on what kind of content the competition is creating. Google search operators can help you easily narrow down what your competitors are up to…

35. Start with a basic search

tesla announcements

Let’s say you want to find out who’s publishing Tesla Motors announcements, so you start with the simplest query you can think of:

You’re probably not looking for Tesla’s own announcements, so you do an exclusion…

36. Exclude obvious sites

tesla announcements -site:tesla.com

You grab the handy “site:” operator and run a negative (-) on Tesla’s own site, resulting in:

That’s a little better. These are all pretty familiar competitors if you’re in the news game.

37. Target specific competitors

tesla announcements site:nytimes.com

Maybe you want to focus on just one competitor. You can use the “site:” operator for that, too:

Obviously, this approach is going to work best for large competitors with a high volume of content.

38. Target a specific subdomain

tesla announcements site:wheels.blogs.nytimes.com

Remember that you can use “site:” with a full subdomain. Maybe you just want to find out what CNN’s “Wheels” auto industry blog is posting about.

You can, of course, exclude specific subdomains with “-site:” as well.

39. Target a specific author on a site

tesla announcements site:nytimes.com “neal e boudette”

Maybe you’re interested in just a single author. There’s no reliable author search operator for organic results, but in most cases, just including the author’s name as exact-match text will do the trick:

Make sure to pull up an article first to see how the author’s name is presented (middle initial, etc.).

40. Target by keywords, site, and title

tesla announcements site:nytimes.com intitle:earnings

If you wanted Tesla announcements in the New York Times that only mention “Earnings” in the title, then you can mix-and-match operators as needed:

Don’t be afraid to get creative. The Google index is a big, big place and there’s always more to be found, especially on very large sites.

41. Find related competitors

related:nytimes.com

What if you wanted to branch out to other publications? By using the “related:” operator with a root domain, Google will show you other sites/domains like the one you specify:

The “related:” operator is great when it works, but be warned that it only works for certain niches and typically for larger sites. It’s also one of the rare Google search operators that can’t be combined with other operators.

42. Find content in a specific path

tesla announcements site:fortune.com/2016

If you want to drill down into a site, you can specify URL folders with the “site:” operator. Forbes, for example, is conveniently organized with year-based folders, so you can easily see just articles from 2016:

Keep in mind that this only works for parts of the URL directly following the domain name. So, how do you search on text in other parts of the URL?

43. Search broadly for a “folder”

tesla announcements inurl:2016

Luckily, Google also has an “inurl:” operator. By searching on a year, for example, you can find that year anywhere it happens to appear in the result URL:

Keep in mind that the text you specify “inurl:” can appear anywhere in the URL, not just at the folder level.

44. Search by a specific date range

tesla announcements daterange:2457663-2457754

What if you really want to narrow down your date range? Google also has a “daterange:” operator which lets you pinpoint publication dates to the day, in theory. For example, here’s a search for Q4 of 2016:

Unfortunately, in regular organic results, publication dates aren’t always accurate, and “daterange:” can, in practice, return some pretty strange results. You may have noticed, too, that that’s not your typical date format. The “daterange:” operator uses the Julian date format.

45. Search by broad date range

tesla announcement 2015..2017

If you don’t need your date range to be particularly precise, consider using the range (..) operator with a year on either side of it. As numbers go, years are generally unique enough to return reasonable results:

Please note that this is not specifically a date search, but as cheats go, it’s not a bad one. Unfortunately, the range operator doesn’t always work properly paired with “inurl:” and other advanced operators.

46. Target just one type of file

tesla announcements filetype:pdf

The “filetype:” operator lets you specify an extension, such as PDF files. Let’s say you only want Tesla announcements that have been published as PDFs:

Other file extensions to try are “doc” (Word), “xls” (Excel), “ppt” (PowerPoint), and “txt” (text files). You can also use “filetype:” to specify certain varieties of web pages, including “html”, “php”, “asp”, etc. Keep in mind that the file extension typically has to be listed in the URL, so these searches are not exhaustive.

47. Find sites linking to competitors

link:nytimes.com tesla

The “link:” operator lets you do competitive link research. For example, the search above looks for all documents relevant to Tesla that have links from The New York Times:

Ok, so mostly this tells you that The New York Times links a lot to The New York Times. That’s probably not quite what you were looking for…

48. Find links excluding the source

link:nytimes.com -site:nytimes.com tesla

Let’s combine “link:” with a negative (-) “site:” operator to remove links from The New York Times:

Please note that Google has deprecated a lot of the functionality of the “link:” operator and the results it returns are just a sample (and, potentially, an unreliable sample). For in-depth competitive link research, we strongly recommend third-party tools, including our own Open Site Explorer.

49. Search inside link anchor text

inanchor:”tesla announcements”

You can use the “inanchor:” operator to search inside linked text. So, for example, the search above looks for sites being linked to from sites using “tesla announcements” in the linked text. In other words, the results represent the targets of those links (not the sources):

Please note that, like the “link:” operator, the “inanchor:” operator represents only a small sample of the index and is no longer actively supported by Google. Use it with a grain of salt.

50. Search multiple words in anchor text

allinanchor: tesla announcements “model x”

Like the other “allin…” varieties, “allinanchor:” applies to every word after it, looking for all of those words in the anchor text, but not as an exact-match:

The three link-based operators (“link:”, “inanchor:”, “allinanchor:”) can be useful for your initial research, but do not expect them to return a full, accurate representation of all links to your site or your competitors.


V. Technical SEO/Audits

Advanced Google search operators can also be powerful tools for understanding how sites are indexed and for performing technical audits. Technical SEO is a complex subject, of course, but here are a few examples to get you started:

51. Glimpse into a site’s index

site:amazon.com

It all starts with the “site:” operator, which, at its most basic level, can help you get a glimpse of how Google indexes a site. Here are a few results from Google’s index of Amazon.com:

Please note that the result count here (and for any large-volume search) is at best an estimate. Given an estimate of 119,000,000 pages, though, we can be assured that the real number is massive. On the scale of any decent-sized site, you’re going to want to drill down…

52. Filter out the “www” subdomain

site:amazon.com -inurl:www

To drill deep into a site’s index, the combination of “site:” with “inurl:” will quickly become your best friend. For example, maybe you want to see only pages on Amazon that aren’t under the “www” subdomain. You could use “site:” along with a negative match (-) on the “inurl:” operator:

Even in the first few results, you can see a sampling of the other subdomains that Google is indexing. This can give you a good starting point for where to drill down next.

53. Filter out multiple subdomains

site:amazon.com -inurl:www -inurl:logistics -inurl:developer -inurl:kdp

You can extend this concept pretty far, building successively on earlier searches to return narrower and narrower lists of pages. Here’s an example with four “-inurl:” operators:

I’ve done this with over a dozen “inurl:” statements and am not aware of any fixed limit on how many operators you can combine in a single search. Most sites aren’t big enough to require those kinds of extremes, but it’s good to know that it’s possible if and when you need it.

54. Focus on a single subdomain

site:developer.amazon.com

Alternatively, you can focus on a single subdomain. For this, I generally prefer to include the subdomain in the “site:” operator instead of using “inurl:”. Otherwise, you could find the text anywhere in the URL:

You could extend this concept to dive deeper into any of the sub-folders returned here (“/ios”, “/ja”, etc.) and even combine a more specific “site:” operator with additional “inurl:” operators.

55. Filter for non-secure pages

site:amazon.com -inurl:https

Interestingly, you can use “inurl:” to include or exclude secure (https:) pages:

If you’re moving a site from “http:” to “https:”, this trick can help you make sure that new pages are being indexed properly and old pages are gradually disappearing from the index.

56. Search for a URL parameter

site:amazon.com inurl:field-keywords

You can also use “inurl:” to target URL parameters on dynamic pages. For example, let’s say you want to see what kind of internal search pages Google is indexing on Amazon:

Please note that there’s no way to specify a URL parameter – Google may find the text anywhere in the URL. On the bright side, many URL parameters tend to have unique names.

57. Search multiple URL attributes

allinurl: amazon field-keywords nikon

Much like “allintitle:” and “allintext:”, there’s an “allinurl:” operator. In this example, you’re looking for internal search pages on Amazon that have the word “Nikon” in the URL:

Unfortunately, “allinurl:” suffers from two problems. One, you can’t reliably combine it with “site:”, which limits your options. Two, it tends to return strange results. For example, notice that the top results for my US search were from Amazon France. In most cases, I recommend using multiple “inurl:” statements instead.

58. Find stray text files

site:amazon.com filetype:txt -inurl:robots.txt

You might be wondering if you left any stray documentation files laying around your site that happened to get picked up by Google. You can do this using a combination of “site:” and “filetype:”:

In this case, you want to exclude “robots.txt” (using “-inurl:”) because Amazon has dozens of Robots files. This combo is a good way to clean up files that have been accidentally left live on a site.

59. Dig deep into duplicate content

site:amazon.com “hot wheels 20 car gift pack”

A site like Amazon has massive potential for internal duplicate content. By using the “site:” operator with exact match phrases, you can start to pin down near-duplicates:

In this case, Google is still returning almost 1,000 results. Time to dig deeper…

60. Dig through duplicate titles

site:amazon.com intitle:”hot wheels 20 car gift pack”

You can specifically using “site:” plus “intitle:” to find pages on a site that may be exact duplicates.

Believe it or not, Google still returns over 100 matching pages. Let’s keep at it…

61. Find title duplicates with exclusions

site:amazon.com intitle:”hot wheels 20 car gift pack” -inurl:review -inurl:reviews

You dig in and notice that many of the results in #60 are review pages, with either “review” or “reviews” in the URL. So, you build on the previous search and add two exclusions:

Voilà… you’re down to just a half-dozen results. You just leveled up in technical SEO.

62. Find similar products with different counts

site:amazon.com “hot wheels * car gift pack”

Maybe you’re curious about other Hot Wheels gifts packs that represent similar products but not exactly the same one. You could replace “20″ with the wildcard (*) operator:

Unfortunately, wildcards don’t play well with the “intitle:” operator, so you’ll generally be restricted to exact-match phrases outside of advanced operators.

63. Find similar products with exclusions

site:amazon.com “hot wheels * car gift pack” -20

Given all of the previous searches, you probably don’t need to know about the 20-packs, so you can add an exclusion on the number 20 (just treat it as a word with negative match):

Looks like there’s a healthy number of 5-car gift packs as well. The plot thickens…

64. Follow the rabbit hole to Wonderland

site:amazon.com “hot wheels * car gift pack” -20 -5

It’s time to take the red pill and find out just how deep this rabbit hole goes. You can keep adding exclusions and take out the 5-packs as well:

Finally, you’re nearing the bottom. This process may seem a bit obsessive, but auditing large sites is a process of identifying potential problems and drilling down until you either you pin down the issues or decide they aren’t worth worrying about. Once you master them, advanced search operators shine at drill-downs.

65. Bonus: Show me the money!

site:amazon.com “hot wheels” $ 19.95

I woke up in a cold sweat at 2am realizing I had forgotten a search operator (sadly, while you may find it funny, this is not a joke). I warned earlier that special characters can produce weird results, but one that Google does recognize is the dollar sign ($ ):

This isn’t really a site audit example, but it fits well with our Amazon story. Keep in mind that, while Google will honor the ($ ) in the results, they could appear anywhere in those results. Many Amazon pages list multiple prices. Still, it can be a useful tool to add to your arsenal.

66. Find results in a price range

site:amazon.com “hot wheels” $ 19..$ 20

You can also combine a ($ ) search with the range operator (..) and search a range of prices. Let’s say you wanted to find any pages mentioning “Hot Wheels” and prices in the $ 19-20 range:

While this tactic can definitely be useful for general product research, e-commerce sites can also use it in an audit to find pages with incorrect or outdated prices.

67. Find other TLDs for your brand

site:amazon.* -site:amazon.com

This last tip could be either an audit trick or a way to track down the competition, depending on how you use it. Use the wildcard (*) in the top-level domain (TLD) to find any site with the same name, and then exclude the main site:

For a large site, like Amazon, this could help you find other legitimate TLDs, including country-specific TLDs (ccTLDs). Alternatively, you could use this trick to find competitors who have registered your brand name under other TLDs.


Wait, You’re Still Here?

Congratulations for making it this far. I hope you’ve picked up at least a handful of useful tricks and the confidence to experiment. If you have favorites I’m missing, please feel free to share them in the comments. I’m sure there’s a good trick or ten I’ve never seen.

If you need a quick reference, we’ve launched a new Search Operators reference and cheat sheet in the Learning Center. This resource reflects the current state of Google’s search operators, as best we know, including deprecated operators.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!


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