Structured Data Testing Tool Bye Bye! Top 6 alternatives to validate your markup

Structured Data Testing Tool Bye Bye! Top 6 alternatives to validate your markup

Google’s decision to shut down the Structured Data Testing Tool to enhance Rich Results Test usage has raised an engaging debate in the world of SEO. Is this good news for experts around the world or it’s time to look for better alternatives? We might have the answer to this question.

On July 7, 2020, Google announced the upcoming shutdown of the Structured Data Testing Tool, an instrument widely used to date by SEO experts to verify the correct implementation of the structured data on a webpage. The decision is closely linked to the announcement of the release from the beta version of a new, more effective, testing tool, Rich Results Test. As Google explains:

“Rich results are experiences on Google Search that go beyond the standard blue link. They’re powered by structured data and can include carousels, images, or other non-textual elements. Over the last couple of years, we’ve developed the Rich Results Test to help you test your structured data and preview your rich results.”

To announce the transition from one tool to another, Google has also added a new message to the closing tool.

As you can read in the official documentation, the new tool brings more advantages to the analysis and more targeted advice on improving structured data, including:

  • Showing which Search feature enhancements are valid for the markup you are providing
  • Handling dynamically loaded structured data markup more effectively
  • Rendering both mobile and desktop versions of a result
  • It is fully aligned with Search Console reports

The tool can be used to test both code snippets and web page URLs and provides users with errors and warnings. The errors prevent a page from being displayed with the multimedia results in SERP, while the warnings indicate that one or more elements concerned will not be shown in the rich results. For example, as specified in the documentation, if there was a warning for a missing image property, that page could still appear as a rich result, just without an image.

The analysis of valid structured data on Rich Results Test
Here’s how the new tool highlights errors and helps you improve them

As announced by Google earlier this month, Rich Results Test is finally out of beta and fully supports all Google Search rich result features. The tool was born in 2017 as a solution to test rich snippets, rich cards, and all other multimedia search results. When it was launched, however, it only supported four types of structured data: recipes, job listings, films, and courses. It has now been updated and finally supports all types of structured data that can be seen in SERP on Google.

Rich Results Test: is it the best solution to test structured data? What are the limits of the tool?

Rich Results Test is ready to replace the old Structured Data Testing Tool. Is it good news? For now only in part, as the international SEO consultant Aleyda Solis points out in a tweet:

When Aleyda Solis wrote this feedback it was clear that Rich Results Test wouldn’t support all types of structured data, but only those that trigger Google Rich Results. Turns out she wasn’t the only one raising the issue and this week Google’s John Mueller said that the company heard the feedbacks and that “we are planning on expanding the Rich Results Testing Tool.”

As he explained, the original idea was to simplify the job for those who were only interested in the “types of structured data that actually have an effect in search. And that’s why we focus on the Rich Results Tool which focuses on the things that we would show as Google in the search results.” But SEO experts want it all. We’ll stay updated to learn more about future improvements to the new testing tools.

However, the launching of a new tool is always an exciting time to discover new features and understand how they can help us improve our content to win the front row seats on Google Search, especially if we are talking about Rich Results. But it also opens up an important question: what if there are other, better, tools out there? Let’s take off the tooth right away and find out the best alternatives outside the Googleplex.

Top Structured Data Testing Tools

First of all: do you really need to use a structured data testing tool? Absolutely yes. These testing tools are extremely useful as they give you a lot of important information on the deployment of the structured data in your web pages, providing insights about how the search engines read these data and if they are eligible for Rich Results. Of course, each testing tool is different and can help you improve your structured data through several features. Let’s take a look at the most interesting structured data testing tool out there!

SEO Site Checkup

Price: $39.95 with a 14-day free trial

SEO SiteCheckup is a website analysis tool that contains more than one tool, including the “dear old” Structured Data Testing Tool, in one-window service. All you need to do is paste the URL of the site and click Checkup to validate the structured data, check the schema usage, monitor your website SEO, and display any issues that need to be fixed such as page load speed, URL redirects, and mobile responsiveness.

Yandex Structured Data Validator

Price: Free

If you think you’ll miss the Structured Data Testing Tool, Yandex Structured Data Validator is a suitable alternative as is very similar to the Google tool. Along with check the markup on your site, this site helps you monitor how the structured data is processed and “seen” by search engines and whether the crawlers will be able to extract the information present in the structured data. 

RDF Translator

Price: Free

RDF Translator is a multi-format conversion tool for structured markup. The main value of this tool is that, unlike most other free tools out there, it supports data formats such as XML, N3, and N-Triples. Along with the use of RDF Translator to validate your structured data, you can also incorporate the tool on your website, as it comes with REST API for developers.

JSON-LD Playground

Price: Free

It comes by itself that JSON-LD Playground is the best tool for validating JSON-LD structured data format. The use is quite simple: you just have to enter the markup code with <script type=’application/ld+json‘> or the URL of the remote document and wait to get a detailed report.

Bing Markup Validator

Price: Free

Bing Markup Validator is a part of the Bing Webmaster Tools that also includes SEO Analyzer and Keyword Research Tool. This tool is particularly useful to verify your webpages markup and get an on-demand report that helps you validate different types of structured data such as HTML Microdata, RDFa, JSON-LD, OpenGraph, and Schema.org.

Structured Data Linter

Price: Free

Structured Data Linter is a pretty minimalistic tool that helps you verify the structured data present in your web pages by simply pasting the URL of a page or a code or by just uploading a file. It supports RDFa and JSON-LD but at the moment does not support microformats.

We’ve seen the best alternative to Google’s Rich Results Testing Tool, but what about data quality monitoring?

Ok, at this point you have an overview of the new Rich Results Tool and of the most suitable alternatives out there that will help you check the markup in your web pages. But is that the best you can get? Our answer is simply: no.

As avid structured data users ourselves, having developed a powerful AI SEO tool that relies on data quality in order to enhance the content of a website and make sure that connects in the right way with search engines, we decided to build our own testing and monitoring tool.

Yes, you heard right! We think to know exactly what you need not only to validate structured data and find any error but also to do it in a smart, time-saving way. How? Take a look at the most relevant features of our tool:

  1. UPTIME. Test your structured data availability automatically worldwide
  2. VALIDATION. Ensure that data is always valid. We alert when something breaks, or if Google’s rules have changed
  3. ALERTING. Get alerted by WordLift when errors or warnings are found
  4. GUIDES. Learn how to improve your website rich result’s performance

Testing is crucial, but what about monitoring? Our new WordLift tool not only gives you an exhaustive report to constantly keep control of your quality data but also alerts you when you need to intervene, making your job easy and your markup secure.  

Uh, didn’t I tell you? You can also take advantage of our dedicated technical support!

Schema Markup to Boost Local SEO

Schema Markup to Boost Local SEO

Is it really worth it? 

Let’s start with the end. In the experiment I am sharing today we measured the impact of a specific improvement on the structured data of a website that references 500+ Local Business (more specifically the site promotes Lodging Business such as hotels and villas for rent). Before diving into the solution; let’s have a look at the results that we obtained using a Causal Impact analysis. If you are a marketing person or an SEO you constantly struggle to measure the impact of your actions in the most precise and irrefutable way; Casual Impact, a methodology originally introduced by Google, helps you exactly with this. It’s a statistical analysis that builds a Bayesian structural time series model that helps you isolate the impact of a single change being made on a digital platform. 

Cumulative result achieved after the first week (click data exported from GSC).

In a week, after improving the existing markup, we could see a positive increase of +5.09% of clicks coming from Google Search – this improvement is statistically relevant, unlikely to be due to random fluctuations and the probability of obtaining this effect by chance is very small 🔥🔥

We did two major improvements to the markup of these local businesses: 

  1. Improve the quality of NAP (Name, Address and Phone number) by reconciling the entities with entities in Google My Business (viia Google Maps APIs) and by making sure we had the same data Google has or better;
  2. Adding, for all the reconciled entities, the hasMap property with a direct link to the Google CID Number (Customer ID Number), this is an important identifier that  business owners and webmasters should know – it helps Google match entities found by crawling structured data with entities in GMB. 

Problem Statement

Google My Business is indeed the simplest and most effective way for a local business to enter the Google Knowledge Graph. If your site operates in the travel sector or provides users with immediate access to hundreds of local businesses, what should you do to market your pages using schema markup against a fierce competition made of the business themselves or large brands such as booking.com and tripadvisors.com?

How can you be more relevant for both travelers abroad searching for their dream holiday in another country and for locals trying to escape from large urban areas?

Approach

The approach, in most of our projects, is the same regardless of the vertical we work for: knowledge completion and entity reconciliation; these really are two essential building blocks of our SEO strategy. 

By providing more precise information in the form of structured linked data we are helping search engines find the searchers we’re looking for, at the best time of their customer journey. 

Another important aspect is that, while we’re keen on automating SEO (and data curation in general), we understand the importance of the continuous feedback loop between humans and machines: domain experts need to be able to validate the output and to correct any inaccurate predictions that the machine might produce. 

There is no way out – tools like WordLift needs to facilitate the process and web scale it but they cannot replace human knowledge and human validation (not yet at least). 

Agentive SEO = Human-in-the-Loop 

The Solution

LocalBusiness markup works for different types of businesses from a retail shop to a luxury hotel or a shopping center and it comes with sub-types (here is the full list of the different variants from the schema.org website). 

All the sub-types, when it comes to SEO and Google in particular, shall contain the following set of information: 

  1. Name, Address and Phone number (and here consistency plays a big role and we want to ensure that the same entity on Yelp shows the same data on Apple Maps, Google, Bing and all the other directories that clients might use)
  2. Reference to the official website (this becomes particularly relevant if the publisher does not coincide with the business owner) 
  3. Reference to the Google My Business entity (the 5% lift – we have seen above is indeed related to this specific piece of information) using the hasMap property
  4. Location data (and here, as you might image, we can do a lot more than just adding the address as a string of text)

The JSON-LD behind a Local Business 

Here is the gist.

.gist {width:800px; overflow:auto; height: 400px} .gist .file-data {max-height: 500px;max-width: 500px;}

Google My Business reconciliation

In order to improve the markup and to add the hasMap property on hundreds of pages we’ve added a new functionality in WordLift’s WordPress plugin (that also works already for non-WordPress websites) that helps editors: 

  • Trigger the reconciliation using Google Maps APIs
  • Review/Approve the suggestions 
  • Improve structured data markup for Local Business
Google My Business Reconciliation by WordLift

From the screen below the editor can either “Accept” or “Discard” the provided suggestions. 

WordLift reconciles an entity with a loose match with the name of the business, the address and/or the phone number. 

Improving the name of the local business by adding a new alias, adding the hasMap and the International Phone  number

Adding location markup using containedInPlace/containsPlace and linked data

As seen in the json-ld above we have added – in a previous iteration (and independently from the testing that was done this time) two important properties:

  1. containedInPlace and 
  2. the inverse-property containsPlace (on the pages related to villages and regions) to help search engines clearly understand the location of the local businesses. 

This data is also very helpful to compose the breadcrumbs as it will help the searcher understand and confirm the location of a business. Most of us, still make searches like “WordLift, Rome” to find a local business and more likely we will click on results where we can confirm that – yes, WordLift office is indeed located in Italy > Lazio > Rome.

administrative divisions in GeoNames for rione Regola in Rome
The administrative divisions in GeoNames for the rione Regola in Rome where our office is located

To extract this information along with the sameAs links to Wikidata and GeoNames (one of the largest geographical databases with more than 11 million locations) we used our linked data stack and an extension called WordLift Geo to automatically populate the knowledge graph and the JSON-LD with the containedInPlace and containsPlace properties. 

Are you dealing with geographical data on your website? Want to learn more about WordLift GEO and local SEO? Contact us.

Conclusions

  • We have seen a +5.09% increase in clicks (after only one week) on pages where we added the hasMap property and improved the consistency of NAP (business name, address and phone number) on a travel website listing over 500+ local businesses
  • We did this by interfacing the Google Maps Places APIs and by providing suggestions for the editor to validate/reject the suggestions
  • Using containedInPlace/containsPlace is also  a good way to improve the structured data of a local business and you should do this by adding also sameAs links to Wikidata and/or GeoNames to facilitate disambiguation
    • As most of the searches for local businesses (at least in travel) are in the form of “[business name][location where the business is located]”; we have seen in the past an increased in the CTR when schema Breadcrumb use this information from containedInPlace/containsPlace (see below 👇)
Breadcrumbs using the administrative divisions from GeoNames

FAQs on LocalBusiness markup

One key aspect in SEO, if you are a local business (or deal with local business), is to have  the correct location listed in Google Maps and link your website with Google My Business.  The best way to do that is to properly markup your Google Map URL using schema markup. 

What is the hasMap property and how should we use it?
In 2014 (schema v 1.7) the hasMap property was introduced to link a web page of a place with the URL of a map. In order to facilitate the link between a web page and the corresponding entity on Google Maps we can use the following snippet in the JSON-LD “hasMap”: “https://maps.google.com/maps?cid=YOURCIDNUMBER”  

What is the Google CID number? 
Google customer ID (CID) is a unique number used to identify a Google Ads account. This number can be used to link a website with the corresponding entity in Google My Business.

How can I find the Google CID number using Google Maps?
Search the business in Google Maps using the business nameView the source code (use view-source: followed by the url in your browser)Click CTRL+F and search the source code for “ludocid”The CID will be the string of numbers after “ludocid\\u003d” and before #lrd

Measuring SEO effectiveness using Causal Impact Analysis

Measuring SEO effectiveness using Causal Impact Analysis

Open In Colab

If you are an SEO you constantly struggle to measure the impact of your strategy in the most precise and irrefutable way; Causal Impact, a methodology originally introduced by Google, helps you exactly with this. In this blog post I will share a Colab notebook that will help you, starting from data coming downloaded from the Google Search Console, to run a Causal Impact Analysis. The data you will find in Colab is related to a LocalBusiness markup optimization task.

What is Causal Impact Analysis?

It’s a statistical analysis that builds a Bayesian structural time series model that helps you isolate the impact of a single change being made on a digital platform.

Let’s say you have decided to improve the structured data markup of a local business and you want to know how this particular change has actually made impacts on traffic that we see coming from Google.

This sounds simple because you could just compare the measures before adding the new markup and after the change. But, it’s actually hard to measure in the real world because there are so many attributes that could influence the end results (e.g. clicks from Google). The so called “noise” makes it hard to say – yes, this actually has created a positive impact.

Google had the same problem and Kay Brodersen and the team at Google built this algorithm called Causal Impact to address this very challenge and open-sourced it as an R package. In the code I provide you here I am using a library called pycausalimpact developed by William Fuks 🙌

Let’s look at the code

1. Install libraries

Installing pandas, numpy and causalimpact

2. Download data from Google Search Console and publish it using Google Sheets

Publishing CSV from Google Sheets
publishing the CSV downloaded from GSC using Google Sheets (Dates.csv is the file we need)

3. Plot data

Here we only want to make sure we’re getting the right data into the analysis.

Plotting Clicks and Impressions

4. Configure pre and post periods

Here you will need to be careful and configure the dates before (pre_period) and after (post_period) the change.

Keep in mind that CI will create a prediction by analyzing the data in the pre_period and it will subtract the prediction from the post_period to see the actual impact.

4. Run the analysis and get the response

With a few simple instructions you will get:

  • the graphical response as well as
  • the detailed summary of your experiment in written form.

Are you dealing with a complex SEO project? Find out more about our SEO Management Services.

Why Structured Data for E-Commerce Can Make or Break Your Sales

Why Structured Data for E-Commerce Can Make or Break Your Sales

2020 is a turning point for e-commerce SEO

Nothing like search marketing can impact your e-commerce traffic and sales. If you are an e-commerce owner — or an e-commerce manager — you know that SEO is a key factor to drive sales, especially if paid traffic is too expensive. This year we are at a turning point: in fact, in 2020 using structured data has really become crucial to get the best exposure on Google. For free.

Here is what happened: back in April this year, Bill Ready, President of Commerce at Google, made an announcement that was going to change the game rules for e-commerce owners. Its title was loud and clear: It’s now free to sell on Google. The core message in there was:

Search results on the Google Shopping tab will consist primarily of free listings, helping merchants better connect with consumers, regardless of whether they advertise on Google.

After a few months, Bill published another important announcement: free retail listings landed on Google Search.

Now, we’re bringing free listings to the main Google Search results page in the U.S., helping shoppers choose the products and sellers that will serve them best, from the widest variety of options.

Boom! That’s really a game-changer. It allows e-commerce sites to get more exposure for their products and increase the CTR.

How can you get into Google’s Free Product Listings?

Here is where structured data comes handy. Adding a layer of metadata to all your products allows Google to display them to potential customers. So, here is the real question: how do you add structured data to your products?

In this article, I will show you how to use structured data to get organically into Google’s free product listings and also how to benefit from the same technology to gently push your users to shift from informational pages to product pages.

Why Google is selling your goods for free

Let’s take a few steps back and set the context.

Behind this openness, of course Big G is chasing its own interests.

When looking for a product, often users go straight to Amazon’s search box and skip Google search. In 2018, a research published by Jumpshot found that Amazon, with 54% of the marketshare, took over Google in terms of product search. For Google, that’s an issue.

Amazon Vs Google in the product search battle

Advertising money and sales need to stay on the same track.

To put it simply, in order to collect more money from advertisers that want to sell their products, Google needs more traffic made by users that specifically search for products. On the other side, users tend to choose Amazon because it has a larger and well organized offer of products.

In the product search battle, Google is competing with Jeff Bezos’ war machine. Some argue that even if more product searches take place directly within Amazon, Google is still an important source of traffic for all online retailers, including Amazon. Keep this in mind, because we are going to dive deeper into this specific aspect in the next paragraphs.

To overcome its most feared competitor Google needs to showcase more products — and to escalate its capacity, what Big G needs, in the end, is to have more data.

That’s why Mountain View’s giant is opening its doors to free product listing. In the long-run the data about products provided by e-commerce websites will help Google win the product search battle.

What’s in it for you?

On the bright side, between two parties, the third gain. And in this fight between two giants, e-commerce sites of all sizes are going to earn free visibility and better exposure if they play their cards well.

Implementing (or improving) structured data on your e-commerce is the way to win more visibility for your products on Google’s SERP, get a higher CTR from organic search, and ultimately close more sales.

What is structured data for e-commerce?

In the context of SEO for e-commerce, structured data is a specific piece of code that follows the standards of schema.org and allows search engines understand and classify the content of your web pages, identify your products and their specific features, and easily interact with the content architecture of your website.

Using structured data impacts SEO results because schema.org markup makes your content eligible for specific rich results and SERP features such as Google’s Free Product Listings — which help your pages gain a higher CTR.

The advantages of structured data go far beyond SEO, and also include opportunities of content reuse, internal findabilty, and semantic analytics. But, let’s start from the SERP.

How does structured data for e-commerce look like in the SERP?

Adding structured data to your products allows you to be eligible for Google Merchant and, therefore, to get into Google’s Product Listings. How your products look like on the SERP depends on how deep and accurate your data is.

With lack of structured data, your product looks poor. But when you add structured data, it’s another story. Product features and categories, rating, availability, and other relevant information create an informative rich snippet that helps your product stand out in the crowded Google Shopping page.

Think at structured data as a special trick to grab the user’s attention and improve your CTR.

As you can see in the screenshot above, accurate and complete structured data results in exhaustive Product Snippets. Inaccurate or poor structured data results in simpler snippets like the one in the screenshot below — or it may not get a spot on the SERP at all.

How to add state-of-the-art structured linked data to your e-commerce

WordLift adds to your products state-of-the-art structured data and extended product markup that allows you to get more visibility on Google’s retail listing. 

Furthermore, WordLift allows you to create a Product Graph out of the relevant connections between products, brands, product categories and features. 

This e-commerce specific form of knowledge graph is a powerful tool to enhance the findability of your products. On one side, it helps you get better results in terms of organic search traffic and, on the other, it helps you improve the internal linking structure and refine your product recommendations

If you want to learn more about this and discuss your e-commerce SEO with one of our experts, just book a call.

Grow your organic traffic and give a boost to your conversions

If you want to learn more about this topic, don’t miss Doreid Haddad’s webinar: how structured data impacts e-commerce sales. In 43 minutes, he shares with you best practices, practical tips, and tools to improve your e-commerce SEO through structured data.

If you don’t know where to start with SEO, have a look at our SEO Management Service and discover how we can build business results together.

Transactional, informational, and mixed search intents

Sure, when a user searches for a specific product, this search is most likely going to result in a conversion. That’s why the so-called transactional queries worth so much to Google and to its advertisers — and most of the time they are also very competitive in terms of CPC.

But transactional queries are not the only way to get a sale done.

Informational searches can also play a role into the customer journey — and here is where content marketing makes the most sense: in fact, when you help potential customers to better understand a matter connected with your products and you can trigger them to buy your products.

Mixed search intents are often overlooked, but they can play a key role for your sales.

What are mixed search intents and how to target them

Search intent is not always binary. Many SERPs try to give an answer to mixed search intents.

In these cases, Google populates the SERP with both informational and transactional result, allowing customers to disambiguate their need by making a choice.

Let’s say that you have an eyewear e-commerce. Of course, in terms of SEO you are targeting eyeglasses brands and specific products that you are selling. But, there is more potential in users’ searches.

For example, a potential customer who wants to buy new sunglasses may not look for a specific brand or model, and instead try to figure out what are the latest trends before making a purchase. The query would look something like this: sunglasses 2020. Here is what Google gives to these kind of users, whose real intent is ambiguous.

As you can see the search engine result page (SERP) contains a Sponsored Product Carousel on the top, while most of the blue links are informative pieces of content related with sunglasses trends for this year.

What does it mean? As an e-commerce owner, you can target these mixed search intents to attract potential customers on your website both by entering into Google’s Product listings (paid, in this specific case), and by creating a page which puts together informative content and a showcase of your products related with the search.

How to gently push your readers to shift from informational to product pages

For sure, Content marketing is a powerful way to attract potential customers that are just looking for information, exploring a topic, and maybe planning to buy. How do you trigger your readers to buy a product? 

To shift from informational to transactional intents, you need to gently push your readers to become customers. WordLift puts in the hands of any e-commerce owner the tools to help potential customers take the leap and buy something.

1. Product Navigator

WordLift’s Product Navigator gives a concrete shape to your readers’ desires by suggesting a series of products that they might be interested in. 

The Product Navigator of WordLift for WooCommerce on Oakley.com USA

2. Product Faceted Search

In a way, the Product Faceted Search is similar to the product Navigator, with the difference that, interacting with the refinement chips, users can narrow the selection of products on the basis of their own interest. 

With the Product Faceted Search, users can refine the selection following their own interests

3. Product Context Card

When you mention a specific product on a page, Context Cards allow your readers to have a sneak peek on that product by looking at a very nice preview.  

How Product Context Cards look like in the context of an editorial piece of content

Wrap-up: the pillars of e-commerce SEO strategy in 2020

Structured Data is the key

Nowadays, adding structured data to your e-commerce product is not only the easiest way to enter into Google Free Product Listings, but it’s also the best one, as it allows you to dive deep into the product features. In this way, the users will get an outstanding first glance of your product on the SERP and be enticed to click.

If you use WordLift, you can add state-of-the-art structured linked data to your e-commerce without writing a single line of code. The AI will take care of that.

Mixed search intents are the low hanging fruit in search marketing for e-commerce websites

Searches are not black or white. The fact that Google can’t disambiguate the intent behind generic searches is an opportunity in terms of content marketing. Creating content that targets mixed intent queries could untapp many sales.

Always Be Closing

Pushing your content readers and potential customers to click on one of your products and buy it requires an intelligent mix of content and UX. Showcasing your products on informational pages or giving to your customers several alternatives and product pairings create a number of chances for the users to see, desire, buy what you’re selling.

If you have an e-commerce and you want to discuss your SEO strategy with us, book a call with one of our experts.

Schedule a free audit of the structured data on your e-commerce

How To Turn Web SEO Know-how Into A Successful YouTube Channel

How To Turn Web SEO Know-how Into A Successful YouTube Channel

If you’ve ever spent time thinking about marketing, you know how important it is to find new uses for old tools. But how can you use something as specific as SEO knowledge in other parts of your marketing strategy? Could you find a way to translate that knowledge into other channels?

YouTube has become a media juggernaut. Whether you go there to get entertainment, follow news, connect with people, or learn a new skill, YouTube has established itself as the first (and, in some cases, only) place people go for content.

Don’t believe me? According to Hootsuite, 2 billion people log into YouTube every month. Each of them spends (on average) at least 11 minutes on YouTube each day. And each of these visits averages to 6.5 page views. 

One common misconception about popular YouTube channels is that they found success because of a single viral video. 

That may be true of content creators who make travel videos, share DIY tutorials, or play music. But most “business” channels on YouTube find success because they came into the platform with a strategy.

There are ideas and concepts shared by those channels, and today I’ll break down four easy steps to build a successful YouTube channel using SEO best practices that you probably already use.

Step #1. Know Your Target Market

Before your web content can rank on Google, you’ve got to know what your target audience is searching for. Keyword research is an absolutely essential tool for digital marketers, because it’s how we find where our products or services intersect with what our target audience is looking for.

You can transfer that same mindset to your YouTube channel. We now know that YouTube is the second most popular search engine (I’ll let you guess which is number one), and that means the only way to make sure people find your content is by positioning it in a way that will outrank the millions of videos already covering the topics you care about.

There is a whole fleet of YouTube keyword tools out there that will help you do this, and all of them offer different perks. But there is also something you can explore on your own without investing into a third-party app:

  • Use the search bar to see what’s trending now
  • Type in your desired keyword and let the autofill suggestions tell you which long-tail keywords are popular on YouTube.

You won’t have a full breakdown of related keywords, but it’s an entry point into YouTube SEO that anyone can do.

Step #2. Check Out The Competition

No company will find (and maintain) success without getting very familiar with other brands in the same market. That’s not an SEO secret by any means, but it’s something that can easily help you improve your success rate on YouTube.

YouTube actually makes this process easy. You can easily research competitors by going to their channels, browsing through videos that match your own target keywords, and seeing which tags are used. Which brings me to Step #3.

Step #3. Choose Your Tags Carefully

It can be tempting to tag a video with every keyword imaginable. If Google SEO can pick out multiple keywords in a single piece of content, we tend to think YouTube would just use the same algorithms as the site’s parent company.  

After all, that’s how you can get the video to show up in the most searches, right?

Wrong. YouTube’s algorithms have evolved a lot — not quite the same as Google’s, but close enough that the same strategy can apply to both. You want to base your video tag selection around the keyword, using only a couple of long-tail versions.

Here’s an example: You made a video about a new social media posting tool. If you use 35 different tags that mention every possible related keyword, YouTube will assume your video covers a lot of topics in a very shallow way.

On the other hand, what if you stick to a handful of keywords that are all fairly similar to the video or your channel? Well, in that case YouTube will read that as being a deeper, more authoritative piece of content about a very focused topic.

It works just like traditional SEO practices. And while there is no hard and fast ruling on how many tags to use, there is research that shows that using fewer keyword tags helps videos rank better in YouTube search results.

Step #4. Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone

The only way to establish your voice on YouTube is to build engagement with your audience. Viewers won’t remember how educational your videos are or how much expertise you bring to the field. But if you drop a call to action at the end of your video, you might just convince them to answer a question in a comment, share the video with a friend, or click through to learn more about your product or service.

“Engagement” has become a keyword for social media marketing. And with YouTube becoming a key platform for social media, companies are now chasing audience engagement on their video channels like never before.

As the market becomes more and more saturated with brands investing in video marketing, consumers are learning to avoid static companies and looking for options who feel a little more accessible or personable.

People won’t just watch a video and decide your company is perfect for their needs — they’ll want some kind of interaction, or at least to know that you are actively engaging with people. That might be showing up in the comments, creating videos to address common questions and feedback, using Youtube background music to increase entertainment value, or even collaborating with customers and other industry experts.

That transition might feel strange for your team, but if you’re doing your SEO research (finding good keywords, going after competitive topics, and choosing the right tags) you’ll position your videos to get in front of the right audience. Then it’s all up to you to connect with those viewers and show them why your product is the right fit for them.

A Final Word Of Advice

One thing YouTube doesn’t have is a parallel to pillar pages. You’ll still want to build content clusters on a YouTube channel, of course. That’s a huge benefit to make the most of the “Suggestions” sidebar, and also how you’ll keep people coming back to your content.

However, without a way to build a centralized hub, it’s up to you to make sure each video targets a keyword that will help your brand outside of YouTube.

YouTube itself can be a valuable resource to get your content in front of more people. But embedding those videos into existing blog posts is a way to double down on the weight of YouTube keywords. If YouTube sees the SEO value of your video content, then you know Google will recognize that when it crawls your website.

Chasing views and shares on YouTube can become a hamster wheel for digital marketers. And if YouTube is a new channel for you, it’s easy to put all of your eggs into that basket — after all, with 2 billion monthly users actively searching for new videos, even 0.001% of that number would be a huge win.

So to really make the most of your YouTube channel, make sure you are using those skills in your video marketing strategy. It might not win you any awards, but following these four steps will help you leverage your SEO knowledge into a straightforward, tried-and-true process toward YouTube success.

Drew Gula is the copywriter at Soundstripe, a company that creates royalty free music to help businesses produce better video content.

Drew Gula

Copywriter, Soundstripe

How the SEO game has changed — And why you need a paradigm shift

How the SEO game has changed — And why you need a paradigm shift

The SEO game has changed. That’s a fact. Just look at any Google‘s SERP to see how much.

One of the main things you will notice if you compare the same SERP in the last five years is that the first position is continuously shifting down on the SERP, often falling below the folding line.

SERP: 2015-2020 - How the SERP changed in the last 5 Years
The screenshot above shows how a specific SERP evolved in the last 5 years. Andy Crestodina explored this evolution on Orbit Media.

This is not even just Google or Bing. Have a look at what happens on Baidu’s SERP in the Chinese search market.

Here is how a SERP on Baidu looks like today

What does really happen when a SERP is such rich and visual?

The presence of rich snippets, such as a sponsored product carousel, video carousel, featured snippet, a knowledge panel, a PAA, and many others, changes the way a user looks at the SERP. According to a study by the Nielsen Norman Group, 74% of the users look at the rich results.

In other words, the visual impact of SERP features influences the path of the user’s gaze and, since the number of features can vary from query to query, the gaze pattern is nonlinear. It bounces around between visual elements, resembling the path of a pinball.

The Pinball Pattern for the Nielsen Norman Group

A User Centered Search (and Discover) Experience

Another few things that you might notice, is that the SERP is moving in two directions that are complementary.

Once Google was reactive: the user typed a search, it answered to the search with a bunch of results. And those results were common, meaning that every user would have got the same list of links while typing the same phrase.

Nowadays, Google is proactive and the results are personalized and vary by user, location, time in the day, device… and many other factors. In this way you might not have the same SERP twice.

Google Discover is an example on how Google is moving from reactivity to proactivity, offering the users a selection of content based on their previous searches and behaviour.

Which are the winning strategies in SEO today?

Here are some practical tips that could help you get some rich results and therefore the attention of the users.

  • Create an entity in the Knowledge Graph — the best way to start doing this is publishing 5-stars linked open data. And that’s WordLift’s job. 😎
  • Write quality content which will help you build your brand authoritativeness and uplift your rankings.
  • Frequently update your content to stay relevant and useful to your users.
  • Think mobile-first, paying attention to critical technical factors such as speed and performance.
  • Work on a multi-format strategy, producing different kinds of format such as texts, images, videos — possibly around the same content.

Have a look at the video below, to see a practical demonstration of how WordLift can help you get rich results through structured data.

How Google works — and how you can get users’ attention

Learn more

If you want to learn more tips and tricks about SEO, just click on the button below and book a demo with one of our experts.

Stand out on search in 2019. Get 50% off WordLift until January 7th Buy Now!

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