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SEO

How to Forecast Natural Organic Traffic Growth

Forecasting organic SEO traffic to fit in a digital marketing plan is a very difficult task to do, there are many variables controlling organic traffic and many of them are not under our control. Let us go through the most popular forces behind organic traffic growth and try to evaluate their impact on our forecast:

Population and internet user growth of the target country:

Most countries grow their population by a certain percentage annually, here in Canada we grow by 1.4% annually, so if all things equal organic traffic should grow by this percentage. Internet user growth (internet penetration) can contribute also to organic traffic growth (please note that there is some overlap between population growth and internet user growth), in Canada our internet users grew by 1.5% last year, for most advanced countries this number will be low, but it could be much higher for developing countries like India where it reached 18% last year.

Do some research and some estimation to come up with a number that you feel comfortable with, if this number is 2.9% and the population of the target country is 1,000,000 then you will get 40,000 extra visits next year through population and internet user growth.

Popularity growth (brand awareness) :

Brand popularity can grow in many different ways:

  • Off-line advertisement (e.g. old media like TV, radio and newspapers).
  • Online advertisement (e.g. Google and Facebook ads).
  • Word of mouth (great products can generate a lot of word of mouth popularity).

First time advertisers in traditional media like TV can expect a large increase in their branded traffic (you can track that number in Google Search Console by monitoring branded keywords impressions and clicks), if branded traffic is 10,000/month a good ad campaign can take it to 20,000/month and that is a 100% YOY increase in branded search, the annual traffic growth as a result of that = (branded traffic grow/last year total organic traffic), let us assume this number is 2%

Please note that an increase in brand awareness can also improve the overall organic traffic for all keywords as people tend to click more on brands that they know in the SERPs (higher CTR is expected in this case).

Authority growth  (link profile):

Link profile's strength is the most important ranking factor with all major search engines, if the website you are working on has:

  • A weak link profile.
  • Large number of quality unique pages.

Then you know that a with a good link building campaign you can possibly double this traffic, on the other hand if you are working on website with a strong link profile, a good link building campaign will have a smaller impact (in the single digit range at best).

Please note that brand popularity growth should help with link growth as more people will be talking about the brand on social media websites, forums and blogs.

I am going to assume that link building can provide a 10% YOY traffic increase.

Content growth:

Websites grow their content by adding more pages on a regular basis, it is very difficult to grow marketing pages (pages where products and services are sold) on a high rate, that is where a blog can be a good tool to keep a high content growth. First you need to check the average traffic on posts that are 1+ month old that were published in the previous year, then multiple that number with the number of posts you are planning to publish next year to get the traffic gain forecast.

Content enhancement:

There are three type of content that you need to optimize and enhance on a regular basis:

  • Pages that are losing traffic YOY, this content could be expiring/outdated content that needs to be refreshed or it is content that is getting a lot of competition and needs enhancement.
  • Content that is not getting any organic traction (could be thin content or low quality content), this content needs to be enhanced otherwise removed or redirected.
  • Content that ranks at the bottom of the first page or at the top of the second page in the SERPs, with some extra work this content can gain few more spots in ranking which can make a big difference in the amount of traffic it can generate.

It will be very difficult to estimate the amount of traffic growth that content enhancement will generate without going back to historical data and calculate the growth, so for this one you need to wait for year 2 to come up with the right amount, for year one you can:

  • Assume you are going to restore the lost traffic for pages that are losing traffic.
  • Use search volume on the keywords you are optimizing for and assume you can double their CTR.

The tally:

Once you have the percentages or numbers from the four items above just add them up to find the organic traffic increase forecast for next year.

Disclaimers you need to include in your forecast when you submit it to your manager for review:

Make sure your manager understands that this is an estimate (educated guess) and there are many variables that can throw this plan off like:

  • Popularity decline as a result of a brand crisis.
  • Algorithmic update (Google does multiple updates every year that can affect rankings positively or negatively).
  • SERPs layout update (Google keeps changing SERPs above the fold area by adding featured snippets or more ads which can negatively affect CTR and traffic).
  • Technical issues (the website can go down for a while or the technical team can make a mistake that can cause traffic loss like blocking Google bots form crawling the website).
  • Production delays (executing the SEO plan is not guaranteed especially in a tight resource situation).

Another disclaimer that you need to include,  the website will go throw a traffic loss situation in a case your SEO plan is not approved. The risk of stopping or slowing SEO efforts could result in:

  • Website/content stagnation which is a bad signal to send to search engines and it can cause reduction in authority (if you are the authority in your space you are expected to produce and refresh content on a regular basis).
  • Expiring/outdated content (e.g. legal related content will lose ranking YOY if stayed unchanged).
SEO Tracking & Analytics

How to Diagnose Organic Traffic Loss

Traffic loss is one of the most popular issues that can face SEO specialists, traffic can not go up forever and each website at some point will face a traffic loss situation that needs to be diagnosed. To help you to diagnose a traffic loss situation I will take you first thorough the most popular reasons to lose organic traffic, understanding those reasons and learning how to monitor them will make diagnosing traffic loss an easier task.

Most popular reasons to lose traffic:

1- Ranking loss:

Position #1 in the SERP can enjoy 30% or more click through rate, after that CTR will go down for every lower position in the SERP, position #10 can get 5% CTR or less. If a website losses ranking for highly searched keywords, the overall organic traffic will go down.

The most popular reasons for ranking loss are:

  • Algorithm updates (search engines like Google runs multiple updates every year).
  • Losing authority (e.g. Losing a lot of quality inbound links) or slow link growth.
  • Losing popularity (e.g. Less social signals and lower branded searches).
  • Website stagnation (no new content or no content refreshment).
  • CMS change or content change (e.g. website redesign which can include CMS change, URL change and content change).
  • Increase in competition, competitors could be providing better content and promoting their website more, so they get higher ranking.
  • Technical issues with search engines like crawlability, indexability, downtime, slow loading and manual actions.

2- SERP layout Change:

Google keeps changing the SERP layout, putting more ads at the top sometimes or featured snippets which can affect CTR while keeping the same ranking.

In the example above even a website ranks #1 it will be still below the fold, which can bring CTR significantly down, so we are not going to enjoy 30% CTR being number one anymore, we could be receiving 10% CTR only with the new layout.

3- Trending change and user behaviour:

Human needs and behaviours change throughout the years. Products and brands get disrupted sometimes and that can change search volume. A product like mini DVD has been disrupted by smart phones and tablets, what brought the search volume for it close to zero:

Another example could be online dating, the need for dating did not decline nor the need for online dating, but social media websites like Facebook are becoming a go-to destination for people that are looking for dating, which brought down the interest for the keyword online dating:

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Step by step traffic loss audit:

Now that you know the most popular reasons to lose traffic, it is time to run some analysis on key metrics that can help us to evaluate a website against each traffic loss reason.

1- Identify which keywords are losing traffic using GSC:

Any traffic loss will be linked eventually to ranking and search volume for the keywords that are driving organic traffic, when a website is losing organic traffic the direct reason for that is either some keywords are getting less traffic or less keywords getting traffic, so the main focus of any traffic loss audit should be identifying which keywords are losing traffic, thankfully this analysis is made easier with GSC, just use the comparison feature and choose the too time spans that you want to analyse for traffic loss and identify which keywords are causing that loss:

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Once you identify the keywords you need to assess what is causing them to lose traffic by running them against the reasons of losing ranking explained above.

2- Check the brand name in Google trends to make sure that the brand is not losing any popularity.

Run the checking for the last 5 years in the target audience country.

3- Link profile analysis:

Check the domain using Majestic SEO or Ahrefs to see if there is any recent link loss, the screen shot below is taken from Majestic:

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Link loss will lead to lower authority which in most cases will cause ranking loss.

4- Check index growth in Google Search Console:

This will help to identify any deindexation issue:

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Losing more indexed pages means losing ranking for any keywords those pages are ranking for. Deindexation could be a result of:

  • Technical errors in the website (e.g. server errors or very slow load time).
  • Duplicate or thin content.
  • Issues with setting up the canonical tags.
  • Algorithm update that affect crawling standards.
  • Losing authority (e.g. the link profile is getting weaker).

Summary:

Organic traffic loss can happen to any website, diagnosing the situation and finding the reasons behind it is not quick nor easy in most cases, sometimes you get lucky to find out that a technical issue on the site caused it, the webmaster can fix it quickly and things will go back to normal in few weeks, but for most other cases recovering may not be even possible or can take a very long time. The key thing when it comes to traffic loss is finding about early and start reacting to it immediately.

 

 

SEO

SEO Job Interview Questions You Need to Be Ready to Answer

As you are reading this post I hope you have written a good SEO resume and got your first interview, I am going to go through the basics of an interview before going to the technical SEO questions

  • Expect more than one person to be in that interview (a technical person and an HR person), some companies do a preliminary interview (could be over the phone) to ask some question and do some personality check before bringing you to an onsite interview
  • Research well what does the company (your future employer) do, see also if you can find their HR person and their marketing manager on Linkedin and read more about them
  • Remember the old saying "be on time be prepared" try to arrive early, possibly an hour early where you can stop by a close coffee shop for a while then go to their office and arrive 10 minutes earlier than you interview time
  • Dress professionally
  • Greet respectfully with a smile and mind culture and personality differences, I live in Toronto it is a multicultural city you never know the background of the person interviewing you, to be on the safe side just stand up for them when they approach you and do no initiate a hand shake just wait for them
  • Remind yourself every minute during the interview that there are interpersonal skills and personality checks going all the time, failing in the personality check may lead you to lose that opportunity no matter how technically good you are
  • Breath well, do not talk with your hands too much, speak clearly and slowly

 

In the second part of this post I will take you through the most popular technical SEO questions that you may face in an interview (I will leave it to you to research the answers, if you have any questions leave them in the comment section):

  • How deep is you keyword research experience? What is intent keyword research? what is your favorite keyword research tool?
  • Crawling, rendering and indexing, what are they and who does them?
  • What is your favorite website crawling technology
  • How important a site map is?
  • GSC (Google Search Console) experience? what are the most important sections? what do you do if you find bad links pointing back to your website in GSC? how long GSC saves data for a website?
  • Have you used Majestic or Ahrefs before? How to find the best links your competitors have using those tools?
  • Client move from a page A to page B (The URL was changed) what is the best practice to avoid organic traffic loss
  • 301 redirect VS 302 VS meta refresh VS JavaScript redirect VS canonical can you explain the difference?
  • What is AMP (Accelerated mobile pages) and progressive web apps (PWA)?
  • Where are AMP pages hosted (stored) and how to track them using Google Analytics
  • What tools can measure website speed and what numbers to look at? what is speed index? What is rendering path?
  • What does Google recommend to use to create mobile website
  • What are the best tools to test if a website mobile friendly
  • Difference between Schema, structured data and Microdata (expect some trick questions)
  • Google analytics, do you know how to install it using GTM? How to create a goal tracking for a thank you page that doesn’t have a dedicated thank you page URL?
  • How does Google ranking work and what makes a website rank at the top?
  • What makes a quality link?
  • The most important on page elements to optimize for a keyword?
  • How to find out how many pages of a website are indexed by Google?
  • What is negative SEO?
  • How to promote a client ranking in the local 3 pack?
  • Traffic is down, ranking is down what do you recommend in this case to the client?
  • What is Angular JS? Can goolge index JS? What is the best solution to make an Angular website crawlable by Google?
  • (Quick technical questions) What is AJAX? what is Cpanel? what is visual composer? How often does WordPress get updates?  what is curl in PHP? What is DOM document object model? how does the browser render a page from reading the code to painting?
  • How to get featured snippet ranking in SERP?
  • How to optimize for voice search

 

Excerpt more advanced questions if you are interviewing for a SEO specialist role in an agency, the question will be less technical when applying to an in-house SEO role

SEO

SEO Resume Template

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Please note that the resume in this post may not apply to you 100% but it will give you an idea what do employers look for in a SEO resume which will help you to find any gaps in your resume (possible missing skills)

The work experience section will include only one company, if you worked with more than one you need to add them all

It is very important to read the job listing carefully and tweak your resume especially the summary and work experience sections to be more attractive based on that job listing (click here to see a sample of a SEO job listing)

Please note that a good resume is a ticket to an interview (click here to read the most popular SEO interview questions), you need to be able to backup what you say in your resume with actual knowledge in the interview and eventually with real results on the job

Your Name

Summary:

Data driven SEO specialist who understands well how search engines work, from crawlability to indexability to ranking, understands also website structure, codes, content management systems and how they interact with search engines. Able to provide SEO work that satisfies search engines and appeal also to users with a good understanding of users' intent and their location in the purchase cycle

Certifications and Key skills:

Advance Google Analytics certified      Google Ads certified (Fundamentals, Display, Mobile, search, Videos and shopping)

Google Partners Digital Sales certification   Google Mobile Sites certified

SEMrush Academy certified   Ahrefs, Majestic, Moz, Google Search Console, Webpagetes (advanced user)

Work Experience

Company A  from 2010-2019

  • Technical SEO audits to ensure the site is crawlable and indexable by Google without any problems
  • Keyword research to find bottom of the funnel keywords to be targeted using site main content and top of the funnel content to be targeted using blog content
  • Recommend and implement on page recommendations that includes optimization key page elements (title tags, meta tags and schema)
  • Optimising Google My Business with a custom Google Analytics tracking, monitor reviews and build citations
  • Internal linking optimization to insure that top pages are getting more authority assigned to them
  • Content marketing, from idea to implementation to promotion
  • Running blogger outreach programs to promote content and attract high quality links
  • Setting up goals and events using Google analytics and Google Tag Manger based on the client's KPIs

Education

Bachelor degree in Marketing "University name" from 2000 to 2004

SEO

SEO Job Listing Sample

This post will provide a SEO job listing template, I hope that listing helps employer that are hiring a SEO specialist for the first time to understand what to expect form that role, also helping SEO specialists to understand what employers are looking for.

If you are an HR professional and planning to post for a SEO role the template below is almost ready to use, with some modifications, customization and a quick chat with our technical people you should be able to produce a SEO job listing in a matter of one hour

Company introduction:

Company Inc is a digital marketing agency that provides a full stack marketing solutions to our clients across Canada. Located in Downtown Toronto, we’re a passionate group of innovators that love digital marketing, supporting the career growth of our staff is one of our highest priorities. We are always on the hunt for talented, digital marketing professionals with a strong track record.

Summary of the job (about this position):

We are seeking a SEO specialist to manage search engine optimization activities to increase rankings and improve traffic on all major search engines. This role involves a lot of research and analytics that require knowing on-site and off-site SEO techniques, technical SEO, tracking and analysis.

Key Responsibilities:

  • Coordinate of all SEO efforts including link building, keyword research  and onsite and offsite optimization
  • Conduct technical SEO audits that analyse crawlability, indexability and mobile friendliness, those audits must provide recommendations to achieve best practices then work with the development team to ensure SEO best practices are properly implemented
  • Make recommendations to website information architecture, content, interlinking and other factors to improve SEO positions for target keywords
  • Competitive analysis from an inbound links profile point of you and organic market share analysis
  • Develop and produce monthly and quarterly metrics reports that track the success of SEO
  • Provide detailed analysis by channel (site referral, organic, social etc) along with engagement metrics like bounce rate, time on site and conversion rate.
  • Responsible for the set-up and maintenance of Google Tag Manager (GTM), Google Analytics and Google.
  • Develop a consistent process for company tracking needs including UTM, GTM and other tagging
  • Excellent oral, written and interpersonal skills; the ability to effectively communicate with all levels within the organization
  • Independent learner – ability to learn on their own and discover new industry trends.
  • Execute tests, collect and analyze data, identify trends and insights in order to achieve maximum ROI
  • Optimize copy and landing pages for search engine optimization

Required Education, Experience and Technical Skills:

  • University Degree or college diploma, preferably with a digital marketing major
  • Minimum of 1 – 3 years of search engine optimization experience
  • Proven track record of results with improving search rankings and/or developing and managing website reporting tools
  • Strong knowledge of PHP, HTML, CSS and JavaScript;
  • Basic understanding of paid advertising methods and platforms;
  • Advance Google Analytics certified
  • Google Ads certified (Fundamentals, Display, Mobile, search, Videos and shopping)
  • Google Partners Digital Sales certification
  • Google Mobile Sites certified
  • SEMrush Academy certified Ahrefs, Majestic, Moz, Google Search Console, Webpagetes (advanced user)

Why to work for us, What We Offer:

  • Competitive compensation plan, great perks & benefits.
  • An incredible opportunity for advancement within the organization.
  • A leadership team that trains and mentors its staff to ensure success for new team members.
  • Flexible working hours and working form home days (we understand the importance of a work / life balance, but showing deep commitment to our clients)
  • A fun and casual place to work!

Please note that this position requires the candidate to work from our office in downtown Toronto

 

 

SEO

Where to Look for a SEO Job in Canada

Looking for a SEO job in Canada is not a big different from looking for other professional jobs, and if you have a solid career (a good experience and a good knowledge) you should be able to land yourself a job by sending few resumes (so I am not sure if you will need all the tools below but I am going to list them either way)

Google has added a job list widget that will be triggered automatically most of the time when you search for a term that includes profession + job + locations

Most large companies, agencies and head hunters will start their job posting there, just type in SEO and your location to start searching, an easy apply button is available for every job listing

Indeed has a very large database of jobs with a sophisticated search engine

It might look old for many people but it is still working, you can subscribe to any job search alert and receive email notifications on a regular basis (this feature is probably available with many other websites), a feature like this is helpful even when you are not looking for a job as it keeps you posted with SEO demand and trends.

Another old website that is still worth checking

This search will return Google job widgets along with other companies that posted the job only on their website, you can change we are hiring with other phrases like job opportunity

  • Work your network:

An old school way of finding a job that still works well, in case you started your SEO career recently many of your old friends and relatives may not know about that (it is difficult to explain what you do even if they know about it), talk to them and let them about the new career you are starting. Updating your Linkedin profile and other social media profiles will also help

  • Build your own website and rank for SEO related keywords (make sure you state that you do freelancing work):

This will help you to get attention and to proof that you know what are you doing. Some companies or small business may reach out to you for work, you can also get short term contracting offers or full employment offers

As I said at the beginning landing a SEO job for a skilled experienced individual should not be a difficult task, the more you enhance your career the easier your job search well be

The expected salary will depend on your skills and experience, it will also depend on the position (specialist, manager, director etc), you can check the SEO entry level salary here