A common problem seen in mid to large websites is the custom or CMS generated URL parameters, which can increase the number of duplicate pages indexed in Google. As a solution, Google Webmasters Tool introduced an advanced feature – URL Parameters. The parameter settings are recommendations for Googlebot. If you want to make sure that BOTS follow crawl and index settings, use NOINDEX directive and robots.txt. They are more powerful.
Warning: Before you start updating the URL parameters, be warned that incorrect changes can remove your pages from the index. Update the settings only under the supervision of an expert.
The URL parameters address a common use case.
Let us say that your e-commerce site shows 100 mobile phones under a category – “Samsung”. The customer is interested in sorting the page according to price and filters the page based on price.
You start with a url
After the customer has sorted by price the URL looks like
The content of the page remains the same but the order has changed.
Should Google index both the pages? No! Remember, each URL should be mapped to a page with unique content. The order does not matter.
So what kind of URLs are eligible for exclusion?
1) Where to Start: As a rule of thumb, URLs with key-value pairs should be first point of attention.
Key: price Value: asc
Key: sort Value: latest
Your category pages does not qualify for this feature
2) Not All Key-Value Pairs: URLs with key-value pairs that sort or displays a subset of the original page qualifies for URL settings but not all key-value pairs qualify.
For Example: If a websites by default shows 10 pages and the customer has an option to show all, then the page with the show all parameter is the page that webmasters should target for indexing.
By default, example.com shows 10 best-selling Samsung Mobile Phones.
At the bottom of the list, there is a button to show all. When the customer clicks the button, the page shows all Samsung Mobile phones.
Webmaster should not include ‘show ‘ as a URL parameter in webmasters tool. Let Google bot decide.
3) Look for Filters
Most e-commerce sites will have standard and custom filters to show a subset of the entire results.
In most e-commerce, there will be standard filters like
Or custom filers like
1) Weekly Best Selling
2) Monthly Best Selling
You can exclude any filters that generate the subset of the entire result. But before you include parameters that represent the subset, check your analytics and see the traffic to the subsets. Don’t exclude subset pages that are more useful for the customer.
4) Dynamic Pages
Many e-commerce sites pass parameters to the URL to display a product.
Although they are not easily readable URLS, still they are unique and eligible for crawling.
Before including any parameters for exclusion, always use one guideline – “Don’t exclude any parameters that generates unique, useful or all pages?”
Blogs, Keyword Research
•on August 14th, 2012
As Online Businesses, our time is divided between analyzing traffic trends, fixing technical issues, building links and interacting through social media. Content creation always takes a back seat. Many companies have writers on its payroll to perform this task. But as businesses, we solve customer problems on a regular basis and learn from each interaction. This gives us a unique advantage over writers who can only create peripheral articles about our Business; we have learned the hard way on what works and what does not.
The first step in content creation is Keyword research. Finding topics for creating content is a tough task. Keyword research tools can only give you popular keyword ideas. But are those keywords profitable?
Let us take the example of a car dealer – Dealer X.
a) Create Psychographic segments: The first step in keyword research is to segment customers based on psychographics. There are many attributes when it comes to doing so. But focus on a few attributes that are relevant for content creation. For Dealer X, the relevant information are:
Income Range: $500000 to $600000 (research and find the range)
Innovator: Risk takers
Traditional: Doesn’t take risk
Aspirers: Want to be accepted by the peer group
Motivation (based on current responsibility and plans)
Marital Status: Single
Car Ownership: Previous Cars/Model (Same Brand or tried different brands?)
Initial Interest: Mid-Segment/High-End?
Plans: Get Married (Ready to take more debt?)
b) Find profitable psychographic segments: Before we open our keyword research tool, find out top contributing markets segments for the Business. Spend 80% of your time on that segment.
For Dealer X, Achiever’s might contribute highest margin per sale but the sales volume of Aspirers gives 10x more revenue. List the top two segments from your customer list.
c) Create keyword list
It is time to create the keyword list for each segment. Almost all car researchers start with ‘top’ and ‘best’. Once you start your keyword research, you will begin to notice the subtlety in the use of words from different personalities.
Innovator: best diesel car in india within 10 lakhs
(This segment is ready to take the risk but knows the limit)
Achiever: the best diesel car in india
(This segment is not worried about the risk. It is all about getting the best)
Traditional – best average diesel car in india
(Not motivated to get the best diesel car)
Aspirers – best selling diesel car in india
(Wants to be accepted by the peer group)
The next step for Dealer X is to visit top review sites for this market and note down the
a) Best Selling Diesel Cars
b) Best Diesel Cars for each budget – 10 lakhs, 5 lakhs etc.
d) Create a landing page
After noting down the best diesel cars in various categories, create landing pages for each personality. Host the brochure with the latest information about the cars on the page. The motivation that we have listed in a) will be useful for creating copy for each landing page.
e) Test your Market
Although we have mapped our keywords to each personality, test the market with PPC campaigns. Create an Ad for each keyword (visit AdWords and PPC sections to learn more)
Best Diesel Car – Under 10 lakhs
Download latest information about
<Car X> and go for a free test drive
f) Create content plan
Now you might ask – Why should I go through all these steps to create a content plan? After these tests, you will have enough information about your customers; their motivation and profitable (high conversion) keywords that they use. The articles that you create should target each keyword. Each article should have a pre-defined conversion action (Download, Sign-Up, Click, Video View). Unlike landing pages, the primary goal of articles is to inform the market. The tone, format and reasoning of the article should persuade the visitor to take the next logical step – perform the pre-defined conversion action.
•on August 13th, 2012
Analytic software does not ignore admin and team visits by default. You have to create filters to ignore the visits. In Google Analytics, filters can be set to exclude IP address visits, and report visits only from a subdomain or directory.
Steps to create a Filter to ignore team and admin visits in GA
1) Under Admin, click the Filters tab
2) Click ‘New Filter’ button and enter an appropriate name – “Exclude Admin”
3) Select ‘Custom Filter’ and enter the action “Exclude IP addresses”
4) To include all the IP range, Google has created a tool to generate the regex for the IPs (Click here)
5) Enter the first and last IP address for your organization and click ‘Generate RegEx’
6) Copy the Regular Expression and paste it in the Filter pattern mentioned in 3)
7) Select the profile, where you want the filter, and click Add. The selected profile will be shown as below:
8) Click Save
Google analytics will exclude visits from all the IPs mentioned in the range.
Steps to create a Filter to ignore team and admin visits in Clicky
1) Visit Preferences-> Visitor Tags and Filters
2) Enter the IP range and give an appropriate name
3) Select “Do not log visits from this IP / UID.”
4) Select “Global” and click ‘Submit’
On August 9th 2012, Google released the guidelines for conducting A/B and multivariate tests. The guidelines were released in response to the commonly asked question – “How will testing impact search ranking?” Google has warned marketers from running the experiments for too long.
Below are some guidelines for running an effective test with minimal impact on your site’s search performance.
1) Don’t Cloak
Cloaking is the process of showing different set of contents to bots and humans based on the user-agent value.
When you visit a site, your browser sends an HTTP request
HTTP Request Header
Server sends an HTTP response.
HTTP Response Header
Status: HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Sat, 11 Aug 2012 09:23:46 GMT
In cloaking, the website checks the USER-AGENT and if it is a search bot like Googlebot, then it will show the SEO optimized page and for other user-agents, it will show a different page.
2) Use rel=”canonical”
Add rel=”canonical” link in the head section for all your variation pages like:
<link rel="canonical" href="http://www.example.com/control "/>
<link rel="canonical" href="http://www.example.com/control "/>
The Google team prefers rel=”canonical” to NOINDEX for testing. If you don’t mention rel=”canonical” and just use NOINDEX, there is a possibility that Google Bot will ignore the “NOINDEX” directive and randomly pick one of the variations as the main page. When the bot sees the actual main page, it will consider it as a duplicate and might de-index the page.
3) Use 302 redirects instead of 301s
Google guidelines recommend use of 302 redirects instead of 301s for all A/B tests. There is a reason behind this guideline. 301 redirects passes nearly 90 to 99 percent of link value (studies by SEOMoz) while 302 passes zero value. When you are running your A/B tests, you don’t want your control pages to lose link juice.
302 redirect is a temporary redirect and search engines will ignore the variation pages as long as you are running the experiments. Once your experiments are complete, 301 redirect all your variation pages. Visitors to your site might have reached the variation page and would have bookmarked it or shared it with their friends. Don’t lose that traffic.
4) Don’t run the experiments for too long
This is a controversial guideline. The Conversion rate optimization evangelists recommend testing the page until you reach statistical significance. Google recommends the same
“A good testing tool should tell you when you’ve gathered enough data to draw a reliable conclusion”
That is great; but here comes the warning:
“If we discover a site running an experiment for an unnecessarily long time, we may interpret this as an attempt to deceive search engines and take action accordingly”
Google does not have access to the visitor data for each variation, unless you have integrated the testing tool with Google Analytics. For low to medium traffic sites, it might take considerable number of months before reaching any statistical significance. The “unnecessarily long time” in the guideline is ambiguous and might scare marketers from more flexible tools like VWO and Optimizely, and force them to use GA Content Experiments (which honestly require lot of work to set up a simple A/B test).
P.S: Don’t forget to remove the scripts and markups after you have found the winner.
Behavioral targeting provides businesses with the ability to serve customized marketing messages, content and products, according to the visitor's preference, demographic and behavior. From 2011, companies started implementing Behavioral Targeting in Ad networks. The result – a 670% improvement in Click Through rate. Re-targeting Ads through Google AdWords is an example of behavioural targeting. If you have seen Ads chasing you based on your browsing and search pattern, then you already know a little bit about BT.
How does Behavioral-targeting work?
What makes Behavioral targeting effective?
Showing relevant marketing message, content and Ads is not what makes BT unique. The algorithm predicts user behaviour based on actions – search, click, page interaction and purchase. BT uses machine-learning algorithms to predict the visitor’s next action.
What it means for Online Marketers?
In Conversion Rate Optimization – testing can only be as good as your ideas. Similarly, for behavioural targeting, you have to:
1) Understand your visitors, their goals, age and preferences.
2) Understand the intent of their search
3) Understand why they bounced from a particular page
Most BT tools will customize content and advertisement according to demographic. But it need not be the most effective way to improve conversion or improve user experience. Before subscribing, understand the functionality of each BT tools. Is it rule based or adaptive? If it is adaptive, find out whether the targeting is based on demographic.
If you have a fair understanding of how your visitors behave, it is time to customize your marketing message and content for each one of them. Conversion rate optimization tools like VWO and Optimizely have integrated simple to complex rule based behavioural targeting in their system. But if you are looking for companies that focus entirely on behavioural targeting, here are a couple of them
BTBuckets is a free* tag-based solution that allows you to automatically segment and target users based on behavioural, demographic, and technographic information. Serve personalized content to these clusters according to the rules that you set.
Personyze is a complete set of tools focused on enhancing user-experience and increasing conversions and revenue. The suite features highly advanced and powerful segmentation and personalization capabilities, as well as analytics and testing tools
Blogs, Google Adwords
•on August 9th, 2012
Adwords Automated rules allow you to set conditions that trigger automatic account changes. For PPC marketers, this feature is useful in campaigns where frequent changes are common. As a Digital agency, you cannot ignore a campaign and expect rules to take over. The daily monitoring and changes are inevitable. But automated rules are useful if you have International clients. The time zone difference restricts you from making hourly changes. The quality and number of visitors to your landing page changes throughout the day.
Let us say that while you were asleep, the conversion rate for your international client increased by over 25% during a 4-hour period. Is it a trend? Find out by increasing the impression share for the keyword. You can do that by bidding for the first page.
Scenario: Increase keyword bid during a 4-hour period when the conversion increases by 25%.
Increased Conversion: 12:00 am to 4 am (time when we were sleeping)
The automated rules are available at campaign, Ad Group, Ads and keyword level. For the above, scenario, we need campaign level (budgeting) and keyword level rules.
1) First let us find out the rules available at the keyword level
• Change Max CPC bids when
• Raise Bids to top of page CPC when
• Raise bids to first page CPC when
• Pause keywords when
• Enable keywords when
2) We need the third rule – “Raise bids to first page CPC”
3) The Increase keyword bids to first page CPC window gives us multiple options for setting the automated rules
a) Apply To: Selected keywords, All Keywords or All but deleted keywords
For the above scenario, apply the rule only for the selected keyword
b) Automatic Action: Max Bid or Manual Bid
If the max cpc bid is within the daily budget for the campaign, then tick the ‘Max bid’ checkbox.
If your average ad position is at the top of the second page, then estimate the additional budget and fill the bid value, manually.
c) Requirements: Conversions, Performance, Ad Group, Ad Group Name, Campaign, Campaign Name, Max CPC, Dest URL, Keyword Text, Auction insights, Status, Qual Score, Match Type and Labels
Requirements are conditions that you can set for triggering the rules. Fourteen variables are available for the requirements.
In the above scenario, we just need the Conversions variable, specifically the conversion rate.
d) Frequency: One Time, Daily, Weekly and Monthly (Time)
We want to test the Ad daily for a week. So we will pick daily at 12:00 am, when we saw the first increase in conversion.
4) Give a recognizable name for the rule and set notification rules through Email results. Email notification will be send when the rules are triggered or when there are changes or errors, or only when there is any error in the rule.
5) Click the Automated Rules under Campaign Tab to find the list and logs of each rule. You can control and monitor the rules from this section.
Like this article? Share it with your PPC Marketing friends.
After you have developed a testable hypothesis, it is to time to create the variations of your control page. Follow these recommendations before creating the variations:
Your test is as good as your ideas. Testing tools like VWO, Optimizely and GA Content Experiments can only implement your ideas. It is your team’s responsibility to come up with variation ideas.
a) Ask your team to list variation ideas
b) Provide an explanation for each variation
c) The recommended variation should be based on data (analytics or experiment results)
2) Start with the best practice list
Follow the best practices for creating web elements and page layout. For example, short forms have proven to convert more than long forms.
Now create the best practice list for each of the following elements:
Call to Action (Use of Verb)
Forms (Number of Fields/Button/Call to Action)
3) Check the Control Page
Check your control page and evaluate whether the page follows the conventions mentioned in the best practice list. Otherwise, develop your variations based on the list.
4) Define Performance Metrics
Before starting the experiment, define the performance metrics. For buttons, it is the percentage of visitors that have clicked (Download Buttons) or percentage of visitors that have purchased (Checkout Buttons).
5) Test Few Elements
It is common to see companies starting tests with many variations. Firstly, this will increase the time for completing the experiment. And most importantly, you will learn very little about the visitors. Pick one element, say Call to Action in a Button. Create variations only for that element.
For example, if you are managing an e-commerce site the ‘Add to Cart’ button contributes directly to the Business’s bottom line. Many experiments have proved that ‘Add to Cart’ is the most effective ‘Call to Action’ (CTA). But can you create a variation that beats ‘Add to Cart’?
6) Pick Experiment Type
After you have defined performance metrics, created variations and picked the elements for the test, select the experiment type. You can pick A/B or multivariate testing.
If you are testing more than one element, choose multivariate testing. If you want to see the impact of changing one element, choose A/B tests.
7) Dramatic or Subtle Change
When you are testing one element of the page like Call to Action, you have a pre-defined set of CTAs. But if you are testing page layout, subtle changes will not give any marked improvement. For such elements, make dramatic changes.
1) Test three-column layout with two-columns.
2) Change background colour
3) Increase the Font of the Copy
4) Change the Navigation
8 Evaluate and Learn from the Experiment
Most often experiments are run indefinitely without any evaluation or marketers stop the experiment when they find a winner. The idea behind Conversion rate optimization is two-fold: find a winner and learn from the experiment.
Make sure that the marketing manager creates a Case Study about the experiment. The Case study should include the elements tested, the duration of the test, the variations created, the logic behind variations and the conclusions.
9) Make Changes and Observe
Once you have found the winner, make the changes. Sadly, on an average, 80% of the experiments fail. If the variation has improved conversion by over 20% then don’t hesitate to make the changes. Monitor the conversion trend for the next three months.
Before you jump into creating variations of your control page, formulate a hypothesis. Hypothesis is an assumption about the occurrence of an event. For example, if you believe that changing your checkout button color from blue to green will improve conversion, then your hypothesis would be something like:
“Green Checkout buttons attract more clicks than blue checkout buttons. According to 2012 Studies on Eye Tracking; Green color has been proven to attract shopper’s attention”
This is a testable hypothesis as you can use the 2012 Studies on Eye tracking to find out variables that prove a higher shopper’s attention. It can be click through rate, time on page, bounce rate or scroll rate.
But a much more effective way to create testable hypothesis is to use analytics data for the control page. In this case, take the page with blue buttons and list the following variable values
1) Click Through Rate (CTR)
2) Time on page
3) Bounce Rate
Now use the most important variable for the experiment to create a testable hypothesis. For this experiment, CTR is the most important one. According to Analytics, Click through Rate is 15% for Blue Checkout button
“Green Checkout buttons will attract more than 25% click through rate compared to 15% for Blue Checkout buttons”
From the start itself, we had shortlisted the web element for this experiment (Button Color). In real-life experiments, you have to run a series of tests to find the web elements that influence conversion in your webpage. Otherwise, you would be guessing and the tests would take considerable number of days to reach statistical significance.
In general, the following web elements influence conversion
4) Page Layout
5) Background colour
What factors influence conversion?
1) Trust: Always assume that your visitors are sceptical about your offer, your product and your company. What can you do to gain the trust of the visitor? It can be guarantees in your offer, testimonials about your product and information about your company (contact, address and team), that can regain the trust.
2) Relevance: Visitors coming from different traffic source (search, social media and paid network, email) behave differently. However, on reaching the page, every visitor immediately asks one question – “Have I reached the right page?” The headline, copy, navigation and related pages will influence relevance.
3) Distraction: If the web elements in the page are distracting and hinder the visitors from completing their task, then the conversion will go down. Some of the distracting elements are advertisement inside the content that obstructs the reader’s eye path, video auto-play and auto-expanded advertisements.
•on August 6th, 2012
Bing SEO Reports is similar to the HTML Improvements feature in Google webmasters tool. In addition to HTML suggestions, Bing creates the report based on 15 SEO Best practices. The reports are run every two weeks. The main difference between SEO Analyzer and SEO Reports is that, the later generates reports based on the domains listed in the account. Some of the SEO suggestions are:
1. The <img> tag does not have an ALT attribute defined
2. The page contains multiple titles
3. Evaluated size of HTML is estimated to be over 125 KB and risks not being fully cached
4. The page is missing meta language information
5. The title is too short or too long
6. The <h1> tag is missing
7. There are multiple <h1> tags on the page
8. The description is missing in the head section of the page
9. The description is too long or too short
Here is an example of an SEO Reports Summary
The webmaster can click one of the SEO suggestions to see all the non-complaint pages.
Let us take an example of a detailed SEO Analysis Report for non-compliance with the rule : Only one <h1> tag should exist in a page.
SEO Suggestion There are multiple <h1> tags on the page.
Severity: High (Explains the need for attention. Severity can be High, Low or Moderate. Give Immediate attention to High Severity issues)
Error Count: 71 (Number of Errors)
Non-Compliant Pages: 26 (Number of pages with the Error)
Recommended Action: Remove redundant <h1> tags from the page source, so that only one <h1> tag exists.
Register your website at Bing Webmaster Tool
•on August 6th, 2012
Microsoft has been trying hard to attract more webmasters to Bing with some nifty tools in the Bing Webmaster’s Tool collection. The latest and the most effective SEO tool is the Bing SEO Analyzer.
As the name suggests, by entering a URL, the SEO Analyzer checks any verified domain pages for SEO errors.
There will be SEO suggestions in the left-hand side with live preview on the right
Webmasters can preview the errors live through SEO Analyzer
Error Count shows the total number of errors detected on the page
Inside the live preview window, you can see button with ‘+’ sign. On clicking it, the buttons will expand showing the issue at that location.
The page source will show the error at code level.