Tag Archive | "Better"

10 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer [Free Poster]

Back in the sweltering summer of 2007, I got a bit crazy. I wanted to get across to people that…

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Sharpen Your Writing and Content Focus for Materially Better Results

Our culture glorifies being busy. But we don’t always glorify spending time on the right things. This week was about…

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SEO guide to optimizing your LinkedIn profile for more connections, better leads

Learn how to craft messages for new connections and attract clients to your profile with this SEO guide to LinkedIn optimization.



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4 Unconventional Ways to Become a Better SEO

Posted by meagar8

Let’s get real for a moment: As much as we hear about positive team cultures and healthy work environments in the digital marketing space, many of us encounter workplace scenarios that are far from the ideal. Some of us might even be part of a team where we feel discouraged to share new ideas or alternative solutions because we know it will be shot down without discussion. Even worse, there are some who feel afraid to ask questions or seek help because their workplace culture doesn’t provide a safe place for learning.

These types of situations, and many others like it, are present in far too many work environments. But what if I told you it doesn’t have to be this way? 

Over the last ten years as a team manager at various agencies, I’ve been working hard to foster a work environment where my employees feel empowered to share their thoughts and can safely learn from their mistakes. Through my experiences, I have found a few strategies to combat negative culture and replace it with a culture of vulnerability and creativity.

Below, I offer four simple steps you can follow that will transform your work environment into one that encourages new ideas, allows for feedback and positive change, and ultimately makes you and your team better digital marketers.

Vulnerability leads to creativity

I first learned about the impact of vulnerability after watching a viral TED talk by Dr. Brene Brown. She defined vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” She also described vulnerability as “the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity.” From this, I learned that to create a culture of vulnerability is to create a culture of creativity. And isn’t creativity at the heart of what we SEOs do?

A culture of vulnerability encourages us to take risks, learn from mistakes, share insights, and deliver top results to our clients. In the fast-paced world of digital marketing, we simply cannot achieve top results with the tactics of yesterday. We also can’t sit around and wait for the next Moz Blog or marketing conference, either. Our best course of action is to take risks, make mistakes, learn from those mistakes, and share insights with others. We have to learn from those with more experience than us and share what we know to those with less experience. In other words, we have to be vulnerable.

Below is a list of four ways you can help create a culture of vulnerability. Whether you are a manager or not, you can impact your team’s culture.

1. Get a second pair of eyes on your next project

Are you finishing up an exciting project for your client? Did you just spend hours of research and implementation to optimize the perfect page? Perfect! Now go ask someone to critique it!

As simple as it sounds, this can make a huge difference in fostering a culture of creativity. It’s also extremely difficult to do.

Large or small, every project or task we complete should be the best your team can provide. All too often, however, team members work in silos and complete these projects without asking for or receiving constructive feedback from their teammates before sending it to the client. This leaves our clients and projects only receiving the best one person can provide rather than the best of an entire team.

We all work with diverse team members that carry varying levels of experience and responsibilities. I bet someone on your team will have something to add to your project that you didn’t already think of. Receiving their feedback means every project that you finish or task that you complete is the best your team has to offer your clients.

Keep in mind, though, that asking for constructive feedback is more than just having someone conduct a “standard QA.” In my experience, a “standard QA” means someone barely looked over what you sent and gave you the thumbs up. Having someone look over your work and provide feedback is only helpful when done correctly.

Say you’ve just completed writing and editing content to a page and you’ve mustered up the courage to have someone QA your work. Rather than sending it over, saying “hey can you review this and make sure I did everything right,” instead try to send detailed instructions like this:

“Here is a <LINK> to a page I just edited. Can you take 15 minutes to review it? Specifically, can you review the Title Tag and Description? This is something the client said is important to them and I want to make sure I get it right.”

In many cases, you don’t need your manager to organize this for you. You can set this up yourself and it doesn’t have to be a big thing. Before you finish a project or task this week, work with a team member and ask them for help by simply asking them to QA your work. Worried about taking up too much of their time? Offer to swap tasks. Say you’ll QA some of their work if they QA yours.

Insider tip

You will have greater success and consistency if you make QA a mandatory part of your process for larger projects. Any large project like migrating a site to https or conducting a full SEO audit should have a QA process baked into it.

Six months ago I was tasked to present one of our 200+ point site audits to a high profile client. The presentation was already created with over 100 slides of technical fixes and recommendations. I’m normally pretty comfortable presenting to clients, but I was nervous about presenting such technical details to THIS particular client.

Lucky for me, my team already had a process in place for an in-depth QA for projects like this. My six team members got in a room and I presented to them as if they were the client. Yes, that’s right, I ROLE PLAYED! It was unbearably uncomfortable at first. Knowing that each of my team members (who I respect a whole lot) are sitting right in front of me and making notes on every little mistake I make.

After an agonizing 60 minutes of me presenting to my team, I finished and was now ready for the feedback. I just knew the first thing out of their mouths would be something like “do you even know what SEO stands for?” But it wasn’t. Because my team had plenty of practice providing feedback like this in the past, they were respectful and even more so, helpful. They gave me tips on how to better explain canonicalization, helped me alter some visualization, and gave me positive feedback that ultimately left me confident in presenting to the client later that week.

When teams consistently ask and receive feedback, they not only improve their quality of work, but they also create a culture where team members aren’t afraid to ask for help. A culture where someone is afraid to ask for help is a toxic one and can erode team spirit. This will ultimately decrease the overall quality of your team’s work. On the other hand, a culture where team members feel safe to ask for help will only increase the quality of service and make for a safe and fun team working experience.

2. Hold a half-day all hands brainstorm meeting

Building strategies for websites or solving issues can often be the most engaging work that an SEO can do. Yes that’s right, solving issues is fun and I am not ashamed to admit it. As fun as it is to do this by yourself, it can be even more rewarding and infinitely more useful when a team does it together.

Twice a year my team holds a half-day strategy brainstorm meeting. Each analyst brings a client or issues they are struggling to resolve its website performance, client communication, strategy development, etc. During the meeting, each team member has one hour or more to talk about their client/issue and solicit help from the team. Together, the team dives deep into client specifics to help answer questions and solve issues.

Getting the most out of this meeting requires a bit of prep both from the manager and the team.

Here is a high-level overview of what I do.

Before the Meeting

Each Analyst is given a Client/Issue Brief to fill out describing the issue in detail. We have Analysts answer the following 5 questions:

  1. What is the core issue you are trying to solve?
  2. What have you already looked into or tried?
  3. What haven’t you tried that you think might help?
  4. What other context can you provide that will help in solving this issue?

After all client briefs are filled out and about 1-2 days prior to the half day strategy meeting I will share all the completed briefs to the team so they can familiarize themselves with the issues and come prepared to the meeting with ideas.

Day of the Meeting

Each Analyst will have up to an hour to discuss their issue with the team. Afterwards, the team will deep dive into solving it. During the 60 minute span, ideas will be discussed, Analysts will put on their nerd hats and dive deep into Analytics or code to solve issues. All members of the team are working toward a single goal and that is to solve the issue.

Once the issues is solved the Analyst who first outlined the issue will readback the solutions or ideas to solving the issue. It may not take the full 60 minutes to get to a solution. Whether it takes the entire time or not after one issue is solved another team member announces their issue and the team goes at it again.

Helpful tips

  • Depending on the size of your team, you may need to split up into smaller groups. I recommend 3-5.
  • You may be tempted to take longer than an hour but in my experience, this doesn’t work. The pressure of solving an issue in a limited amount of time can help spark creativity.

This meeting is one of the most effective ways my team practices vulnerability allowing the creativity flow freely. The structure is such that each team member has a way to provide and receive feedback. My experience has been that each analyst is open to new ideas and earnestly listens to understand the ways they can improve and grow as an analyst. And with this team effort, our clients are benefitting from the collective knowledge of the team rather than a single individual.

3. Solicit characteristic feedback from your team

This step is not for the faint of heart. If you had a hard time asking for someone to QA your work or presenting a site audit in front of your team, then you may find this one to be the toughest to carry out.

Once a year I hold a special meeting with my team. The purpose of the meeting is to provide a safe place where my employees can provide feedback about me with their fellow teammates. In this meeting, the team meets without me and anonymously fills out a worksheet telling me what I should start doing, stop doing, and keep doing.

Why would I subject myself to this, you ask?

How could I not! Being a great SEO is more than just being great at SEO. Wait, what?!? Yes, you read that right. None of us work in silos. We are part of a team, interact with clients, have expectations from bosses, etc. In other words, the work we do isn’t only technical audits or site edits. It also involves how we communicate and interact with those around us.

This special meeting is meant to focus more on our characteristics and behaviors, over our tactics and SEO chops, ensuring that we are well rounded in our skills and open to all types of feedback to improve ourselves.

How to run a keep/stop/start meeting in 4 steps:

Step 1: Have the team meet together for an hour. After giving initial instructions you will leave the room so that it is just your directs together for 45 minutes.

Step 2: The team writes the behaviors they want you to start doing, stop doing, and keep doing. They do this together on a whiteboard or digitally with one person as a scribe.

Step 3: When identifying the behaviors, the team doesn’t need to be unanimous but they do need to mostly agree. Conversely, the team should not just list them all independently and then paste them together to make a long list.

Step 4: After 45 minutes, you re-enter the room and over the next 15 minutes the team tells you about what they have discussed

Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:

  • When receiving the feedback from the team you only have two responses you can give, “thank you” or ask a clarifying question.
  • The feedback needs to be about you and not the business.
  • Do this more than once. The team will get better at giving feedback over time.

Here is an example of what my team wrote during my first time running this exercise.

Let’s break down why this meeting is so important.

  1. With me not in the room, the team can discuss openly without holding back.
  2. Having team members work together and come to a consensus before writing down a piece of feedback ensures feedback isn’t from a single team member but rather the whole team.
  3. By leaving the team to do it without me, I show as a manager I trust them and value their feedback.
  4. When I come back to the room, I listen and ask for clarification but don’t argue which helps set an example of receiving feedback from others
  5. The best part? I now have feedback that helps me be a better manager. By implementing some of the feedback, I reinforce the idea that I value my team’s feedback and I am willing to change and grow.

This isn’t just for managers. Team members can do this themselves. You can ask your manager to go through this exercise with you, and if you are brave enough, you can have you teammates do this for you as well.

4. Hold a team meeting to discuss what you have learned recently

Up to this point, we have primarily focused on how you can ask for feedback to help grow a culture of creativity. In this final section, we’ll focus more on how you can share what you have learned to help maintain a culture of creativity.

Tell me if this sounds familiar: I show up at work, catch up on industry news, review my client performance, plug away at my to-do list, check on tests I am running and make adjustments, and so on and so forth.

What are we missing in our normal routines? Collaboration. A theme you may have noticed in this post is that we need to work together to produce our best work. What you read in industry news or what you see in client performance should all be shared with team members.

To do this, my team put together a meeting where we can share our findings. Every 2 weeks, my team meets together for an hour and a half to discuss prepared answers to the following four questions.

Question 1: What is something interesting you have read or discovered in the industry?

This could be as simple as sharing a blog post or going more in depth on some research or a test you have done for a client. The purpose is to show that everyone on the team contributes to how we do SEO and helps contribute knowledge to the team.

Question 2: What are you excited about that you are working on right now?

Who doesn’t love geeking out over a fun site audit, or that content analysis that you have been spending weeks to build? This is that moment to share what you love about your job.

Question 3: What are you working to resolve?

Okay, okay, I know. This is the only section in this meeting that talks about issues you might be struggling to solve. But it is so critical!

Question 4: What have you solved?

Brag, brag, brag! Every analyst has an opportunity to share what they have solve. Issues they overcame. How they out-thought Google and beat down the competition.

In conclusion

Creativity is at the heart of what SEOs do. In order to grow in our roles, we need to continue to expand our minds so we can provide stellar performance for our clients. To do this requires us to receive and give out help with others. Only then will we thrive in a culture that allows us to be safely vulnerable and actively creative.

I would love to hear how your team creates a culture of creativity. Comment below your ideas!

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Make your content better with social media and marketing automation

Content pollution is real. Are you part of the problem?



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How to Set Up GTM Cookie Tracking (and Better Understand Content Engagement)

Posted by Joel.Mesherghi

The more you understand the behaviour of your users, the better you can market your product or service — which is why Google Tag Manager (GTM) is a marketer’s best friend. With built-in tag templates, such as scroll depth and click tracking, GTM is a powerful tool to measure the engagement and success of your content. 

If you’re only relying on tag templates in GTM, or the occasionally limiting out-of-box Google Analytics, then you could be missing out on insights that go beyond normal engagement metrics. Which means you may be getting an incomplete story from your data.

This post will teach you how to get even more insight by setting up cookies in GTM. You’ll learn how to tag and track multiple page views in a single session, track a specific set number of pages, based on specific on-page content elements, and understand how users are engaging with your content so you can make data-based decisions to better drive conversions.

Example use case

I recently worked with a client that wanted to better understand the behavior of users that landed on their blog content. The main barrier they faced was their URL structure. Their content didn’t live on logical URL structures — they placed their target keyword straight after the root. So, instead of example.com/blog/some-content, their URL structure looked like example.com/some-content.

You can use advanced segments in Google Analytics (GA) to track any number of metrics, but if you don’t have a logically defined URL, then tracking and measuring those metrics becomes a manual and time-consuming practice — especially when there’s a large number of pages to track.

Fortunately, leveraging a custom cookie code, which I provide below, helps you to cut through that time, requires little implementation effort, and can surface powerful insights:

  1. It can indicate that users are engaged with your content and your brand.
  2. The stored data could be used for content scoring — if a page is included in the three pages of an event it may be more valuable than others. You may want to target these pages with more upsell or cross-sell opportunities, if so.
  3. The same scoring logic could apply to authors. If blogs written by certain authors have more page views in a session, then their writing style/topics could be more engaging and you may want to further leverage their content writing skills.
  4. You can build remarketing audience lists to target these seemingly engaged users to align with your business goals — people who are more engaged with your content could be more likely to convert.

So, let’s briefly discuss the anatomy of the custom code that you will need to add to set cookies before we walk through a step by step implementation guide.

Custom cookie code

Cookies, as we all know, are a small text file that is stored in your browser — it helps servers remember who you are and its code is comprised of three elements:

  • a name-value pair containing data
  • an expiry date after which it is no longer valid
  • the domain and path of the server it should be sent to.

You can create a custom code to add to cookies to help you track and store numerous page views in a session across a set of pages.

The code below forms the foundation in setting up your cookies. It defines specific rules, such as the events required to trigger the cookie and the expiration of the cookie. I’ll provide the code, then break it up into two parts to explain each segment.

The code

<script>
function createCookie(name,value,hours) {
    if (hours) {
        var date = new Date();
        date.setTime(date.getTime()+(hours*60*60*1000));
        var expires = "; expires="+date.toGMTString();
    }
    else var expires = "";
    document.cookie = name+"="+value+expires+"; path=/";
}
if (document.querySelectorAll("CSS SELECTOR GOES HERE"").length > 0) {
var y = {{NumberOfBlogPagesVisited}}
if (y == null) {
    createCookie('BlogPagesVisited',1,1);
}
  else if (y == 1) {
    createCookie('BlogPagesVisited',2,1);
  } 
  else if (y == 2) {
    var newCount = Number(y) + 1;
    createCookie('BlogPagesVisited',newCount,12);
  }
 if (newCount == 3) {
 dataLayer.push({
 'event': '3 Blog Pages'
 });
 }
}
</script>

Part 1

<script>
function createCookie(name,value,hours) {
    if (hours) {
        var date = new Date();
        date.setTime(date.getTime()+(hours*60*60*1000));
        var expires = "; expires="+date.toGMTString();
    }
    else var expires = "";
    document.cookie = name+"="+value+expires+"; path=/";
}

Explanation:

This function, as the name implies, will create a cookie if you specify a name, a value, and the time a cookie should be valid for. I’ve specified “hours,” but if you want to specify “days,” you’ll need to iterate variables of the code. Take a peek at this great resource on setting up cookies.

    Part 2

    if (document.querySelectorAll("CSS SELECTOR GOES HERE").length > 0) {
    var y = {{NumberOfBlogPagesVisited}}
    if (y == null) {
    createCookie('BlogPagesVisited',1,1);
    }
    else if (y == 1) {
    createCookie('BlogPagesVisited',2,1);
    }
    else if (y == 2) {
    var newCount = Number(y) + 1;
    createCookie('BlogPagesVisited',newCount,12);
    }
    if (newCount == 3) {
    dataLayer.push({
    'event': '3 Blog Pages'
    });
    }
    </script>

    Explanation:

    The second part of this script will count the number of page views:

    • The “CSS SELECTOR GOES HERE”, which I’ve left blank for now, will be where you add your CSS selector. This will instruct the cookie to fire if the CSS selector matches an element on a page. You can use DevTools to hover over an on-page element, like an author name, and copy the CSS selector.
    • “y” represents the cookie and “NumberOfBlogPagesVisited” is the name I’ve given to the variable. You’ll want to iterate the variable name as you see fit, but the variable name you set up in GTM should be consistent with the variable name in the code (we’ll go through this during the step-by-step guide).
    • “createCookie” is the actual name of your cookie. I’ve called my cookie “BlogPagesVisited.” You can call your cookie whatever you want, but again, it’s imperative that the name you give your cookie in the code is consistent with the cookie name field when you go on to create your variable in GTM. Without consistency, the tag won’t fire correctly.
    • You can also change the hours at which the cookie expires. If a user accumulates three page views in a single session, the code specifies a 12 hour expiration. The reasoning behind this is that if someone comes back after a day or two and views another blog, we won’t consider that to be part of the same “session,” giving us a clearer insight of the user behaviour of people that trigger three page views in a session.
    • This is rather arbitrary, so you can iterate the cookie expiration length to suit your business goals and customers.

    Note: if you want the event to fire after more than three page views (for example, four-page views) then the code would look like the following:

    var y = {{NumberOfBlogPagesVisited}}
    if (y == null) {
    createCookie('BlogPagesVisited',1,1);
    }
    else if (y == 1) {
    createCookie('BlogPagesVisited',2,1);
    }
    }
    else if (y == 2) {
    createCookie('BlogPagesVisited',3,1);
    }
    else if (y == 3) {
    var newCount = Number(y) + 1;
    createCookie('BlogPagesVisited',newCount,12);
    }
      
    if (newCount == 4) {
    dataLayer.push({
    'event': '4 Blog Pages'
    });

    Now that we have a basic understanding of the script, we can use GTM to implement everything.

    First, you’ll need the set up the following “Tags,” “Triggers”, and ”Variables”:

    Tags

    Custom HTML tag: contains the cookie script

    Event tag: fires the event and sends the data to GA after a third pageview is a session.

    Triggers

    Page View trigger: defines the conditions that will fire your Custom HTML Tag.

    Custom Event trigger: defines the conditions that will fire your event.

    Variable

    First Party Cookie variable: This will define a value that a trigger needs to evaluate whether or not your Custom HTML tag should fire.

    Now, let’s walk through the steps of setting this up in GTM.

    Step 1: Create a custom HTML tag

    First, we’ll need to create a Custom HTML Tag that will contain the cookie script. This time, I’ve added the CSS selector, below:

     #content > div.post.type-post.status-publish.format-standard.hentry > div.entry-meta > span > span.author.vcard > a

    This matches authors on Distilled’s blog pages, so you’ll want to add your own unique selector.

    Navigate to Tags > New > Custom HTML Tag > and paste the script into the custom HTML tag box.

    You’ll want to ensure your tag name is descriptive and intuitive. Google recommends the following tag naming convention: Tag Type – Detail – Location. This will allow you to easily identify and sort related tags from the overview tag interface. You can also create separate folders for different projects to keep things more organized.

    Following Google’s example, I’ve called my tag Custom HTML – 3 Page Views Cookie – Blog.

    Once you’ve created your tag, remember to click save.

    Step 2: Create a trigger

    Creating a trigger will define the conditions that will fire your custom HTML tag. If you want to learn more about triggers, you can read up on Simo Ahava’s trigger guide.

    Navigate to Triggers > New > PageView.

    Once you’ve clicked the trigger configuration box, you’ll want to select “Page View” as a trigger type. I’ve also named my trigger Page View – Cookie Trigger – Blog, as I’m going to set up the tag to fire when users land on blog content.

    Next, you’ll want to define the properties of your trigger.

    Since we’re relying on the CSS selector to trigger the cookie across the site, select “All Page Views”.

    Once you’ve defined your trigger, click save.

    Step 3: Create your variable

    Just like how a Custom HTML tag relies on a trigger to fire, a trigger relies on a variable. A variable defines a value that a trigger needs to evaluate whether or not a tag should fire. If you want to learn more about variables, I recommend reading up on Simo Ahava’s variable guide.

    Head over to Variables > User-Defined Variables > Select 1st Party Cookie. You’ll also notice that I’ve named this variable “NumberOfBlogPagesVisited” — you’ll want this variable name to match what is in your cookie code.

    Having selected “1st Party Cookie,” you’ll now need to input your cookie name. Remember: the cookie name needs to replicate the name you’ve given your cookie in the code. I named my cookie BlogPagesVisited, so I’ve replicated that in the Cookie Name field, as seen below.

    Step 4: Create your event tag

    When a user triggers a third-page view, we’ll want to have it recorded and sent to GA. To do this, we need to set up an “Event” tag.

    First, navigate to Tags > New > Select Google Analytics – Universal Analytics:

    Once you’ve made your tag type “Google Analytics – Universal Analytics”, make sure track type is an “Event” and you name your “Category” and “Action” accordingly. You can also fill in a label and value if you wish. I’ve also selected “True” in the “Non-interaction Hit” field, as I still want to track bounce rate metrics.

    Finally, you’ll want to select a GA Setting variable that will pass on stored cookie information to a GA property.

    Step 5: Create your trigger

    This trigger will reference your event.

    Navigate to Trigger > New > Custom Event

    Once you’ve selected Custom Event, you’ll want to ensure the “Event name” field matches the name you have given your event in the code. In my case, I called the event “3 Blog Pages”.

    Step 6: Audit your cookie in preview mode

    After you’ve selected the preview mode, you should conduct an audit of your cookie to ensure everything is firing properly. To do this, navigate to the site you where you’ve set up cookies.

    Within the debugging interface, head on over to Page View > Variables.

    Next, look to a URL that contains the CSS selector. In the case of the client, we used the CSS selector that referenced an on-page author. All their content pages used the same CSS selector for authors. Using the GTM preview tool you’ll see that “NumberOfBlogPagesVisited” variable has been executed.

    And the actual “BlogPagesVisited” cookie has fired at a value of “1” in Chrome DevTools. To see this, click Inspect > Application > Cookies.

    If we skip the second-page view and execute our third-page view on another blog page, you’ll see that both our GA event and our Custom HTML tag fired, as it’s our third-page view.

    You’ll also see the third-page view triggered our cookie value of “3” in Chrome DevTools.

    Step 7: Set up your advanced segment

    Now that you’ve set up your cookie, you’ll want to pull the stored cookie data into GA, which will allow you to manipulate the data as you see fit.

    In GA, go to Behaviour > Events > Overview > Add Segment > New Segment > Sequences > Event Action > and then add the event name you specified in your event tag. I specified “3 Blog Page Views.”

    And there you have it! 

    Conclusion

    Now that you know how to set up a cookie in GTM, you can get heaps of additional insight into the engagement of your content.

    You also know how also to play around with the code snippet and iterate the number of page views required to fire the cookie event as well as the expiration of the cookies at each stage to suit your needs.

    I’d be interested to hear what other use cases you can think of for this cookie, or what other types of cookies you set up in GTM and what data you get from them.

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