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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Categorizing Keywords

For those of you SEO's that manage very large sites and map your keyword categories to sections of your website - you know how difficult it is to categorize your terms and track their performance. Well, I have to say that after searching, asking, and digging around for a tool that does exactly what I am talking about, I finally came up with a solution. It's a bit of a workaround in Excel - but it's the best I can do until someone comes up with a tool that categorizes keywords for SEO.

Know Your Keywords and Categories

Before you get started categorizing the terms that come to your site, you should know what keywords you are targeting, and the combinations of terms as well. I'm going to use a flower shop's website as an example for this particular blog post. Categorizing is something you can do with any website. At the very least, you can categorize terms into "Broad" and "Branded", to get you started.

Most keyword tools can help you establish what categories to target. Google's Keyword Tool or WordTracker are just a couple of the many tools available on the web.

Another way to figure out terms that fit in categories is by grabbing search data (referring terms in Google Analytics) on your site for the past few months or year. I personally spent some time going through and categorizing keywords in Excel by using the filters and then having the sheet show all words including "anniversary" for terms around "anniversary flowers". It takes a lot of work and time, but in the long run you will have a more accurate account of the terms you will need to do the Lookup against.

Setting Up Your Template

Download the Template

Now that you have all the terms possible in all of your categories it's time to start setting up your template. You are going to want to Download the template I have set up in Excel. You can start from a fresh Excel document if you want, but the template has directions (in case you lose this blog post somehow) and the Lookup formula is in there.

Once you have downloaded the template it's time to get it set up to work for your keywords.

In the following steps - I am going to walk you through setting up the template and then categorizing the terms. If you don't have terms that you can use already, I have a zip file you can download and walk through the example with me to get familiar with how this works.

Copy and paste your first set of categorized terms and paste them into the first Tab marked "Broad". Since every site usually has a "Broad" category of terms, I figure that's probably the best to get started with. In the case of this example "flower shop", "online flower shop", and "best flower shop" terms are the ones that fit under the Broad category.

If you have the .zip folder downloaded, open up the "Terms" Excel doc and you will see the words already categorized for you. There are "Broad", "Branded", "Birthday", "Anniversary", and "Wedding". Click the Drop Down next to "Category" and click "select all (to deselect all) and then click "Broad". You will see all of the terms sort by just that "Broad" category.

Next select all of the terms in the "Keyword" list - copy and paste them into the "Broad" Tab.
We will then need to sort the terms in alphabetical order so that the Lookup string can go through them in order. If you don't then the Lookup won't work.

Highlight the Column with your keywords
Click "data" > "sort"
Select "My data has headers"
Select under "sort by" the column you keywords are under (should be column A)
Click OK

Double click the Tab and rename it with the one word name of your category.
Highlight all of your keywords in the column (just the cells that have words, not any blank cells).
Type the name of the category (stick to one word naming) into the upper left field. You have now named your table.

Do this for "Branded" and the other categories as well. You are going to have to create a new tab in the template to fit all the categories.

If you have not downloaded the .zip file and are working off of your own terms, creating new tabs and naming them is probably going to be something you will need to do. But don't worry, the template will still work.

Now that you have all of your keywords in your Template's Tabs with names and sorted it's time to set up your Lookup string.

Setting up Your Lookup

The way the Lookup works in this case is we are going to ask Excel to look at one Keyword (one cell) and match it up to one of the terms in the Tabs we have set up. If it matches one of those terms then we tell Excel to place the word into that Cell. If it doesn't, then we just leave that cell blank.

The string looks like this:
  • B2 is the cell of the keyword we want to look for.
  • the first "Broad" is the Table name we want to look for that keyword in.
  • Broad!A$2:Broad!A$9999998 is the Tab and range that the Table exists in.
  • FALSE is telling the Lookup to do an exact match. TRUE would look through to see if letters from that Keyword exist in the Cells we are looking in, so in this case it won't work.
  • We leave the ,"", as a blank - but you can put "not categorized" or "misc" to show that it isn't in a category. Though for our purposes here, we keep it blank.
  • ,"Broad" is telling Excel to put the word "Broad" in the cell if the keyword matches one of those in the Broad Table or Tab.

See - it's that easy...

What you are going to do next is replace the word "Broad" or "Cat1" with the name of your table, Tab, and category. This is why we name the Table, the Tab, and the Category the same so that our life is much easier when setting this string up.

Now your template is ready for you to paste some keywords with data and grab some numbers.

Gathering Your Data

Open up your Google Analytics account - if you don't have Google Analytics, pretty much any tracking tool that has a list of referring terms with some sort of data is fine. You can expand and contract the columns to the right of the terms as you wish. The template you will download will have the columns set up just for the purpose of exporting referring terms with visits and such from Google Analytics though.

Log into your Google Analytics account.
Click "Traffic Sources" > "Sources" > "Search" > "Organic"
Select the date range you would like to report on.
Scroll to the bottom of the report and show 5,000 rows.
Scroll back to the top and click "Export" the select "CSV".
After the file has downloaded, open the excel file.
Highlight JUST the cells that include the keywords and your data (ignore the first few at the top with date and information, and the bottom that summarize the data and below).
Copy those cells, and paste into your "Master" Tab.

Note: If you have multiple dates you would like to track, you can export the different date ranges, and then add which keywords go with what date in the Master Tab. This will allow you to see trends of categories.

I added an Excel doc called "Analytics Organic Search Traffic" with some terms and fake data that you can play with. There are three tabs that I added dates for each day's data. Start with just the one day and play with that to get familiar with percentages. From there you can play with all three dates and work on your trends to see what categories are trending up and down.

Completing Your Lookup

Now that you have copied and pasted the keywords into the "Master" Tab it's time to get all of those terms categorized.

Select the top row with your categories and your "All Categories" cell
Copy just those cells in the top row
Highlight the next row (same cells just below) hold down the "shift" key
Scroll down to the last keyword record
Holding down the shift key select the last cell under the "All categories" - this highlights all of those cells for those categories to Lookup the keywords.
Hit "CTRL+V" on your keyboard (this quickly pastes the Lookup formulas for each line)
Be patient, as it may take a while for your Lookup to complete (depending on how many keywords, and records you have)
The "Master" Tab should look something like this:

Playing With Your Data

The most efficient way to gather information from your data is to copy the entire "Master" Tab and paste as values into a new Excel sheet.  This way you won't have to wait for the Lookup to complete each time you sort, pivot, etc.

Click the top left "Arrow" in the "Master" Tab
Right Click and select "Copy"
Open a new Excel Doc
Right Click and select

From here you can create pivot tables then sort them into pie charts, graphs, and all sorts of fun reports to see how your keywords are performing.

I personally like to start with a quick pie chat to see what category of terms brings int he most traffic. At times we will have a drop or rise in traffic, and it's good to understand which category of terms are fluctuating. By copying and pasting terms by dates (weeks, months, or even a set of a few days) will help me see which categories are fluctuating on a timeline trend. Knowing which categories bring int he most traffic, I can then make decisions on which parts of the website we need to focus our efforts on to increase traffic.

See how much fun categorizing your terms can be?
Now that I have a template I work off of, when traffic goes up I can quickly categorize the terms and let our executives know if our recent efforts have worked.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

How long does it take for Google to recognize 301s?

Or Better Yet - 

It's been over a year and Google still doesn't have the new URLs in the Index

Just over a year ago, I started working on this website that had over 900k top level domain files. We changed the structure of the URLs to a more organized hierarchy. The pages content changed slightly, but most importantly instead of all of the site's pages residing directly under the main domain (Let's use a computer broad to longtail term structure for example - like domain.com/computer.html and domain.com/laptop-computer.html and domain.com/500gb-laptop-computer.html) we changed them to a more representative hierarchy directory to file structure (example - domain.com/computer/ to domain.com/computer/laptop-computer/ then domain.com/computer/laptop-computer/500gb.html).

Why the URL Hierarchy?

The quick and simple explanation as to why we did this is that while URLs are fairly dynamic these days,  the bots like to see and understand how a website is organized on a server. Remember your old school folder and file structure back when sites were in html were built?  The URLs you have today should represent that organize file structure as much as possible. I cover this in my SEO Workshop  (slide 23)- but I also found a pretty good article that explains the hierarchy relatively simply and quickly.

The process in setting the 301

The Since the entire 27+ million pages on the site were mostly files located directly under the main domain, it was difficult to understand what pages fit under what category so that we could organize them. I went to our keyword analysis and bucketed each focus term out and then organized the correlating URLs to fit within that bucket. Once that was done, I worked with the Developers to pull the naming from the database (dynamically) into the directory and file structure that fit the buckets. Some of the keywords I knew I eventually wanted to build out with supporting pages, so those got directory levels instead of page levels for future optimization (and limit more 301 redirecting later on).

I mention a bit about breaking the site up into sections for analytics purposes in my previous post "SEO Issues - is it Penguin? Is it Panda? or is it me?" under "Figuring out what was hit by Penguin". The "video" to the left is a quick (and very raw) animation to help explain exactly what we did. Now that the site was organized it not only helps the bots understand the structure, but helps us understand what sections bring in what SEO traffic in Google Analytics.

How Long Does it Take Google to See New URL via 301 Redirect?

This whole undertaking was completed over a course of 2-3 months starting in June 2012 (last year) and finished up with the last of the redesigns and URL changes in August with one last directory change (no redesigned pages) in January of this year (2013). The most important ones are still are showing 550,000 pages in Google's Index (11 months later):
As I Google to see if others have a solution for speeding up the indexing of these old URLs, or if even if anyone has had the same problem I found a lot of questions in various forums (both reliable and unreliable) but no real articles, blog posts, or anything from reputable SEO's. The most common answer in the forums is to just "wait". It's, of course, what I tell others when they ask me "Be patient, Google will eventually hit those pages again and recognize that they have changed then correct the index then." But after nearly a year and so many pages, this is getting ridiculous.

I spoke with my friend (and SEO mentor) Bruce Clay who came back with the suggestion to add an .xml sitemap and submit it to Google with the old URLs we want removed.

It was kinda making sense that because those old URLs are no longer linked to, and there are so many, that Google wasn't crawling them as much anymore. They are just sitting there in the index - and not getting "updated"

Unfortunately getting a sitemap added is not an easy feat. I would have to define the strategy, present it to the powers that be with data to backup the success metrics in order to get the project prioritized. With so many other initiatives needed for SEO, all of which were more important and affect the business in a positive way, it was in my best interest to keep pushing those and not deal with the sitemap.

My work around, though, was about as black hat as I would get (Matt Cutts if you are reading this, I apologize and throw myself at your mercy, but it had to be done). One weekend over a month ago, I grabbed one of my many impulsive purchased domains and quickly set up hosting and an old school html site that consisted of one page. I then exported all of the links on the Google "site:" search through a Firefox plugin called SEOquake that exports the results into a csv file. It's not the prettiest, and there was a lot of work still needed to get to just the URLs, but it was the best solution I could find (note: if any SEO reading this knows of an easier way to do this - please add to the comments for prosperity). I then parsed out the parameters in the URLs in a separate document and used those as the anchor text for each URL. Finally, using excel I then concatenated the URLs and parameters (that were now anchor text) into an html href string.
Then copying and pasting the "string" column into the html code, the page looked like:
The page wasn't the prettiest, and it had thousands of links (the above is just an example) so it was bad all around, but the point was to get those links crawled by Google.

Of course every SEO knows that you can't just build a website and expect it to immediately get crawled - right? 

So I set it up in Google Webmaster Tools and submitted the page to the the index:
I even got more fancy to ensure Google would see the page and crawl all of those old URLs and +1'd it on Google. 

Did it work?

I checked the URLs this evening to see how many Google is seeing and the number has dropped from 550,000 to now only 175.

I took the domain off of the server, and now have it parked elsewhere (back where it belongs) and removed the webmaster tools account. All traces of it ever existing are now gone, and the small moment of my attempt to get those URLs removed has passed.

Thank For the Advice Jenn - Now I'm Going to Try This!

If you have come across this post and you need to do something similar - I'm going to put the same disclaimer they do when a very dangerous stunt is performed in commercials. 
Do not attempt this at home - this stunt was performed by a trained professional on a closed course.

So, don't go adding a bunch of links to a random domain thinking that your attempt just weeks ago to 301 pages isn't working. The links on the external domain were too many for the domain and page, and were extremely spammy. In addition, all those links pointing to pages that were redirecting and were supposed to pass value to the new URLs, now had many spammy links pointing to them from a very spammy domain. If left up too long, or not done correctly, it could actually cause more damage than ever helping.

If you have any questions, or feel you need to try this same strategy, please don't hesitate to contact me. I'm here to help, and want to ensure that your website has considered all possible options before attempting any such trickery.

Some Helpful Links on the Very Subject:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Conference Adventures Part..: Dernier Versement (final installment)

All-in-all the event went as well as could be expected. Financially, I am left with having to put up ~$1,000 to still cover the expenses of the event. The total cost for the event ran me ~$9,000.00 (slightly under) with ~$8,500 (give or take a few hundred) in registrations and no money from sponsors (sponsors this year received their sponsorships in exchange for distributing swag, or offering award prizes).

Why do I do This?

When I started writing my first post documenting the organizing of this conference, I mentioned in my post titled "Conference Adventures Part Un - 18 Days 'til"

Planning and organizing a conference is not an easy feat by any means, and I often ask myself why I keep doing it...

Which is now bringing me back to asking myself once again why do I keep doing it? I honestly can't find a one sentence answer that rationalizes the time, effort, stress, financial strain, or the pressure it all puts on me.

I'm sure you're probably reading frustration in my post here, and probably in my previous posts, but know this - the last few days I have been coming up with ideas, excited that registrations are already coming in, and I almost have a full speaker list for EmMeCon Seattle that isn't happening until June. I have even started the groundwork of organizing a 2 day Search and Social Series, and/or an SEOGoddess 4 hour SEO Workshop in April so that I don't have to wait too long to do another event).

So why this odd addiction to holding events? I got to talking with a few of the attendees and speakers at this last EmMeCon and the one word that kept popping out of my mouth (and repeated back to me) was integrity. My events, though small, and not highly profitable, still have integrity. I haven't sold out with mindless topics, uninspiring speakers, and selling tickets at an insanely low cost just to appease sponsors with more attendees. Even after all these years of organizing conferences, I still constantly remind myself through the entire process what it is that I wanted to do when I started these events. With EmMeCon, I want people to gain inspiration from the amazing people I have been lucky enough to have access to. People like David Evans Ph.D. who has taught at the University of Washington educating Masters students on Psychographic Segmentation and the importance of understanding the minds of the users they are marketing to. Or Gillian Muessig who has guided not one, but 3 children into thriving adults and in the process molded 2 of them into very successful and inspiring SEO's. The list of inspirational individuals that I feel privileged at the ability to pick their brains, gain inspiration from, or have been helped by in some way is a mile long, and ever growing.

Because of this desire to share, I take careful consideration into the details of every event I organize. It may run me rampant and I get flustered and exhausted from it, but reading the tweets, hearing the feedback, and knowing that at least one person (if not many) has gained inspiration from the event is what I deem as success. 

On Thursday night we wrapped up the event with a packed house for the Meetup Group organized by Chase McMichael (CEO of Infinigraph) the tweets were still coming through strong, and the room was full of questions and discussions. After the Meetup wrapped I began packing things up, and while exhausted I was bouncing around with excitement as the folks that lagged behind thanked me for putting on such a great event, and asked me all sorts of questions on how I got into this, how I came up with the idea for the event, and even asked more about the event in Seattle.

It's that feedback that I get that keeps me going. 

I promise that I won't "sell out" and start making this about the money, I won't ever forget what this event (or any of my events) are there to accomplish, and I promise never to lose the integrity that I still hold onto.

If I do - someone please take me out back and put me out of my misery...?