10 Steps to Take Before You Hit Publish: SEO Crash Course for CMS Content Publishing

10 Steps to Take Before You Hit Publish: SEO Crash Course for CMS Content Publishing was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

How to Improve Your SEO with a Web CMS from DNN

This week Bruce gave a crash course to those writers, editors, bloggers, and marketing managers who rely on a content management system. The presentation was an SEO crash course — 10 points to help writers and publishers see search engine ranking success for their content.

Are you a writer or someone involved in the publishing process of your business? Do you consider keywords before you hit publish? If you haven’t taken a moment to understand SEO best practices, this webinar is for you.

“Most people don’t know how to do SEO. Most people don’t understand what is important, what isn’t important, and how to set your priorities,” Bruce explains in this webinar. “The priority of SEO is to get you visitors. Search engines rank results based on expertise, authority and trust. The CMS is how you get the right ranking factors in the right place for the search engines to understand that you’re an expert.”

Replay the webinar webcast 10 SEO Tips to Improve Your SEO with a Web CMS from DNN Software.

Update: CitationBurst Redesign + Local Data Aggregator Submissions

Today (25th August) we released a major update to our popular CitationBurst service.

We’ve been working hard behind the scenes to make CitationBurst more comprehensive & easier to use. Today’s release is the first of many updates over the coming few weeks.

Summary of Main Changes:

  • Submit to Local Data Aggregators (&/or Manual Submissions)
  • Streamlined set-up steps focus on Finding & Fixing Existing Citations
  • Slicker, light-weight designs for all Interfaces & Reports
  • Improved Duplicate Removal Process

See Workflow Updates & Data Aggregator Submissions

Watch our short video walkthrough of the updated interfaces & how you can submit to Data Aggregators as well as manual submissions using CitationBurst.

Submit to All Local Data Aggregators for just $55/year

Using CitationBurst you can now push your business data to the big 4 US Aggregators for just $55/year (see price comparison table below)



Order Manual Submissions &/or Data Aggregators

As before, you can still order manual, direct submissions and hand-pick the sites you want us to use.

But now you also have the option to order Data Aggregator submissions at the same time. So you have complete control over what you order & the quantity of sites and aggregators. Nice!

submit to Local Data Aggregators

Order Manual Submissions &/or Data Aggregators

Submit to 4 Big US Data Aggregators

We push data to the following local data aggregators. You can choose 1, some or all of them and we offer 15% discount if you choose all 4!

Note: InfoUSA, Axciom & Neustar Localeze are US-only data aggregators; Factual is a global aggregator and works in all the countries that CitationBurst covers.

Cost-effective solution for submitting to local data aggregators

Our mission has always been to provide a reliable, flexible & high quality service at a price every agency & business can afford.

And we’ve done just that!

Here’s how our data aggregator pricing compares to other, similar services:

Aggregator Service Cost per Location Includes Additional Services?
BrightLocal $55/year No
Moz Local $89/year Yes
Advice Local $100/year No
OpenLocal $999/year Yes
Whitespark $900 (1 time fee) Yes
Single Platform $99/month Yes





Monthly Refresh & Free Data Updates for 12 Months

We push your data every month to each aggregator. The act of doing this refreshes the ‘date-time’ stamp on your data so that your data is seen as super fresh & highly-reliable to the aggregator.

If you need to update any of your data you can do this for free for 12 months after initial submission* – handy to know should you move address, change phone number or want to update your photos!




*NeustarLocaleze – they allow all data to be updated free for 12 months except for business name; they only allow business name to be updated within first 30 days – after that they treat name updates as new listings. 

Want to know more about Local Data Aggregators?

We have put together a list of blog posts and resources at the end of this post.

Streamlined Set-up & New Designs

We have streamlined campaign set-up to make it faster to complete and to focus on Existing Citations and cleaning these up, ahead of creating new citations.

Separate Tables for Existing & New Citations

We still submit to the same citation sites as before. But now we display your existing citations in 1 table and new, possible citation sites in a 2nd table.

You can filter the available sites based on a number of criteria –

Filtering Citations before ordering

You control which sites and how many sites we submit to.

You have complete control & flexibility of your citation campaigns – which is the way it should be!





Slick New Designs

As part of an on-going overhaul of all report interfaces, we have updated the designs for CitationBurst set-up & reports.

The new designs are fresh, light & render nicely on tablets as well as desktop resolution screens.

New CitationBurst Designs

New CitationBurst designs

What’s coming next?

We have a number of further updates coming down the pipeline very soon:

  • View NAP data & issues when you order a Citation campaign
  • 1-click ordering of citations from CitationTracker reports
  • Faster citation look-up & filtering to speed up campaign set-up
  • Audit & view NAP data on over 400 websites

We hope you like these latest updates.

If you have any feedback or questions, let us know in the chat box or comments section.

For common queries on Data Aggregator submissions, jump over to our help & FAQs section.

Want to know more about Local Data Aggregators?

Here are some links to some useful posts all about local data aggregators:

  1. BrightLocal Expert Citation Survey – All About Citations
  2. Local Data Aggregators: Why They Matter to Ranking Your Local Business
  3. A Closer Look at the Local Search Data Providers
  4. The US Local Search Ecosystem
  5. The Smart SEO’s Ultimate Guide to Building Citations for Local SEO

We also have some very relevant stats & charts from our Annual Expert Citation Survey. These provide insights from 20+ local SEO experts into the pros & cons of data aggregator submissions:

Expert Local Citation Survey 2016

The post Update: CitationBurst Redesign + Local Data Aggregator Submissions appeared first on BrightLocal.

How to Properly Implement a 301 Redirect

How to Properly Implement a 301 Redirect was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

What is a 301 Redirect?

A 301 redirect is a command used to tell the search engines that a page has permanently moved, and that you want them to index the new page and drop the old one from their index.

Think of it as a change of address card for the web. As long as everything is done correctly, a 301 redirect will ensure that you keep the rankings earned by the old page and it will prevent duplicate content that should arise if the engines were to index both versions of your site.

Read on to learn how to:

How to Implement 301 Redirects Using .htaccess for Apache

Make sure you have access to your server and your Apache Configuration file, and that you can use your .htaccess files. The ability to use .htaccess files will reside in a command called “Allow Override” in the Apache Configuration file. If you do not have this access, you’ll have to first call your hosting company and get access.

Once you know that you have access to this file, your next step is to locate it. The .htaccess file is a control file that allows server configuration changes on a per-directory basis. It controls that directory and all of the sub-directories contained within. In most cases, this file will be placed in the root web folder for your site. If there’s no .htaccess file present, create one.

To begin using the .htaccess file to redirect page(s) on your site, open up your FTP and login to your site. Work your way into in the root web folder in order to access your .htaccess file.

(Note: the dot in .htaccess makes it a hidden file, so make sure your FTP browser is enabled to view hidden files.)

When you start editing the file, use a UNIX style text editor rather than Notepad. Typically, an HTML editor or code editor such as TextPad works just fine. To 301 redirect pages using the .htaccess file, you will add a line to the file that will tell the server what to do.

301 Redirect a Page

RedirectPermanent /old-file.html http://www.domain.com/new-file.html

301 Redirect an Entire Domain

RedirectPermanent / http://www.new-domain.com/

Once you have inserted the commands to 301 redirect your pages, you need to make sure that there is a blank line at the end of the file. Your server will read the .htaccess file line by line, which means at some point you’ll need to throw them an “endline” character to let them know you’re finished. An easy way to do this is to put a blank line at the bottom of the file.

How to Do a 301 Redirect Using IIS on a Microsoft Windows Server

Navigate your way to Internet Information Services (IIS) Manager, which is found with Administrative Tools within the Start menu. From there, you will find a panel on the left-hand side that lists all your sites. Choose the site you want to work on.

Once you select it, several modules come up. Verify the URL Rewrite module is present. If it is not, you can install it here. Once you have it, double click to open the module. On the right hand side, you will see an option to Add Rules. Click it and then select Blank Rule under the Inbound Rules section. Hit OK. This will take you to an Edit Inbound Rule page. Type a name for the rule, such as Old Domain Redirect or Old Page Redirect.

Go to Match URL Panel. Set the requested ULR at “Matches the Pattern” and the Using as Regular Expressions. Now you will specify if you’re redirecting a single page, a group of pages or an entire domain. What you input

  • To redirect a single page, type in the page name under Pattern (for example, if we were redirecting this blog post, we would input blog/how-to-properly-implement-a-301-redirect/ in the pattern field.
  • If we were redirecting the entire site, we would input (.*) in the Pattern field.
  • If we redirecting all the pages on BruceClay.com within the SEO folder, we would input seo/(.*)

Make sure ignore case is checked.

Skip down to the action panel and select Redirect within the Action Type dropdown. In the Action Properties, type in the new URL. If it’s a single page, input the single page. It’s if the entire domain or a group of pages, type the new destination with a back reference, which is {R:0}. The back reference will keep all page URLs intact with the new domain.

For example, if we were changing BruceClay.com to BCI.com, we would input http://www.bci.com/{R:0}

If you use tracking parameters and you want them to carry through, check Append Query String.

In the Redirect type filed, select Permanent (301).

Click Apply at the top right in the Actions column to save the redirect.

(If you want to review the redirect, hit back to rules in the Right Actions column)

After you save this redirect, the rules you created are save into the web.config file, which you can edit in the future.

Alternative Methods to Implement a 301 Redirect

If you don’t have access to your .htaccess file or your Windows Server Administration Panel, you can still implement 301 redirects with code on your old pages. If your pages are in PHP, ASP, Java, or any other language that allows you to modify Response Headers, simply place code at the top of each page to do the Permanent Redirect.

Why to Implement a 301 Redirect

There are many times a 301 redirect makes sense. Here are a few of the most common:

  • You’re changing your entire root domain.
  • You want to reorganize pages. For example, we used to index blog posts by category. For example, this blog post used to exist as http://www.bruceclay.com/blog/seo/how-to-properly-implement-a-301-redirect/. There were directories for SEO, SMM, PPC, content, etc. At some point, we decided it would advantageous to remove those directories, and as you can see now, the current URL is http://www.bruceclay.com/blog/how-to-properly-implement-a-301-redirect/.
  • Let’s say CNN posted a link to this blog post, but the URL was incorrect. We’d still want that traffic that is going to a 404 page. We can put in a 301 redirect to direct users from the bad link the right link.
  • You want a vanity URL.

Note: If you concerned you’re going to lose PageRank, know that any fluctuations will be temporary. Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes recently commented:


Have any questions about implementing a 301 redirect? Ask us in the comments and we’ll be happy to help you.

Local Content: Why Authenticity Matters in Local SEO

Local search engine optimization is the key to attracting new customers and improving brand visibility within your local area. However, optimizing a local business website isn’t just a matter of inserting keywords, building a few backlinks, and then waiting for the customers to flood in.

If you don’t have an authentic website that offers real value to people in your local area, those visiting your site are likely to bounce away without making a purchase, or having plans to visit your premises.

So here are some key reasons why authenticity matters in local SEO, along with some tips for achieving it.

What do people want from local businesses?

Research strongly suggests that consumers expect local businesses to have websites – many young people won’t contact a business that doesn’t. Therefore, simply by having your own site, you are on the right track to attracting local customers.

What do people want from local businesses?

Chart source: What consumers want from local business websites

An informative website

However, people want more than just a placeholder website. In this recent BrightLocal Survey, consumers said they expected a website to contain details about products, services and prices, as well as an address, map, hours of business, and driving directions.

An informative website

On top of that it’s also important to include a phone number, email address and / or contact form.

Including these contact details will let consumers know that your business is well-established and welcomes interactions with its customers. Accurate data is key, as any outdated information will undermine your credibility.

A strong presence on citation sites

Don’t make the mistake of confining your local SEO strategy to your own website. When looking for local businesses, many people consult local directories, so you need to have a strong presence on them to enhance your credibility.

More importantly, the information on these sites needs to be up to date. If people try to call you using an incorrect number, or follow a broken link to your website, they may assume your business has closed down & not spend anymore time looking for you online.

Equally important is the fact that accurate citations are good for Google. In the Expert Local Citation Survey, 33% say accurate citations are critical to local search ranking.

A strong presence on citation sites

Encourage your customers to write reviews for you on local listing sites. These can boost your local SEO and improve potential customers’ impression of you. The Local Consumer Review Survey showed that consumers of all ages use reviews to judge local businesses, with 97% of young adults (18-34) relying on reviews to decide which local businesses to use.

Reviews on listing sites are a great way of establishing your authenticity, as they prove that local people, who have plenty in common with the customers researching your brand online, trust your business.

Become a strong local voice

Customers want to know that you understand their local area, including what makes local people tick. As someone who works in the area, you should already have this knowledge. The key is getting it across in your content strategy.

How you do this depends on the type of business you run, but here are a few ideas:

  • Food businesses: If you are a food retailer, you need to establish yourself as an authentic food expert. Customers who spend a lot of time browsing your site are likely to be real food lovers who care deeply about where their food comes from and are keen to try new flavors. Why not appeal to them by creating a content strategy based around exciting recipes, details of your high-quality food production processes and the cultural background of your food?

Become a strong local voice

  • Real estate: People who are looking to rent or buy a property need to know what each neighborhood is really like. Where do locals like to eat, drink and hang out? Is a particular neighborhood quiet and peaceful or lively and full of people who like to party? Focus your local content strategy on providing these details to your site visitors.

When to Outsource Local Content Creation

With local knowledge so important in your content strategy, can you afford to outsource your content creation? If you are planning a large-scale revamp of your content strategy, you may need to outsource, as creating content could distract your employees from their main roles. The key to success is to outsource to a content writer who can match your brand’s voice and fill the content with plenty of local details to give your brand the authenticity it needs.

It’s best to have the same content writer or content agency create all your content. This allows you to create a genuine voice that your customers can enjoy getting to know, as they follow your blog or social media updates.

Depending on the nature of your business, you may have a lot of luck with a friendly, informal voice, which can make readers feel at home.


Authenticity is key to any local content strategy. As well as inserting the right keywords and building backlinks, you also need to think about establishing authenticity in your local SEO strategy, which you can do by encouraging customers to write reviews, providing accurate information about your business and creating content that provides real value to your readers.

Ryan Buckley is Co-founder and CEO at Scripted.com. Ryan holds an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management and an MPP from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Still and always a Cal Bear, Ryan graduated from UC Berkeley with degrees in Economics and Environmental Sciences. After several years of doing everything from dishes to prospecting campaigns and even Rails and Python coding, he’s settled into the role of Scripted’s ambassador to the marketing community.

The post Local Content: Why Authenticity Matters in Local SEO appeared first on BrightLocal.

The Always-Up-to-Date SEO Checklis

The Always-Up-to-Date SEO Checklis was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

In Bruce Clay, Inc.’s SEO training course, we offer students an SEO checklist as one of the many take-home materials. Use this excerpt as an in-hand to-do list or basic audit outline.

While this checklist isn’t exhaustive (although it’s constantly updated and growing!) many people find this list to be a helpful reminder of the many items to check during their SEO projects.

SEO Checklist

Mobile Optimization

Mobile internet use isn’t a fad. It’s just our way of life. More searches happen on mobile than desktop. And Google says that 20 percent of mobile queries are voice searches.

For businesses, people’s growing penchant for mobile search and browsing is an opportunity to outshine and outperform the competition.

Digital marketers talk about a mobile-first world. This means positioning a business’ website to fit the mobile browsing experience. Here are basic but important things to check related to a website’s optimizations for a mobile visitor.

1. Mobile Usability

Search engines are invested in providing users a great mobile experience. See how your site is performing on mobile devices with the Mobile Usability Report, located within Search Traffic section of Google Search Console. This report lets you know if your touch elements are too close, if your content is sized to the viewport, your flash usage, font size and more.

You can also use Fetch as Google within the Crawl section of Google Search Console to render your site the way Google sees it different mobile devices. Lastly, you can run important URLs through Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test for developers here. Similarly, Bing offers a Mobile Friendliness Test Tool.

Page load speed is also a ranking factor, especially for mobile. Skip down to Point 37 in this checklist for the tools to check page speed.

2. Mobile and Voice-Related Keywords

When was the last time you tried a voice search of your keywords? Try to find your business and competitors as your customer would with a voice search. Are you optimizing for relevant voice search terms like “near me”? Are you accounting for searches formed as questions and in sentence structure, more and more common with the advance of voice queries?

For a deeper look at mobile and voice search optimization, our SEO Tutorial’s step on mobile SEO provides a starting place.

3. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

Accelerated Mobile Pages, AMP for is an open source project that enables web pages to load instantly for mobile users.

Google intends to broaden the scope of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to extend to all web pages, and as of this writing, AMP is available for news publishers, ecommerce, entertainment, travel and recipe sites.

AMP pages get a ranking boost in the mobile search results. If a business aligns with AMP requirements, create an AMP version of content. At the very least, become familiar with AMP technology so you can implement and be ahead of the curve as Google prioritizes AMP further.

On-Page Optimization

Review each important page, from the home page to a high-priority product page, with an eye to these issues.

4. Head Section Order

BCI’s best practices is to ensure your web pages’ meta tags are in the right order: title, description, keywords. Remember, the information you put in these tags is often used to render the title and description in the search engine results pages, and could likely be what searchers see in the search results.

5. Title Tag

In general, title tags should be about nine words. You want to make sure the most important information, including top keywords, shows up before the cutoff in the SERP in Google around 600 pixels, which translates to approximately 70 characters including spaces.

6. Description Tag

The description tag should also include the most important information and keywords before the SERP cutoff, which translates to approximately 24 words or 156 characters including spaces.

The title and description text can assists in conversions. Don’t forget to craft compelling tags. You don’t want to waste your prime real estate in the SERP with boring copy. Read more about the ins and outs of meta data.

 7. Keywords Tag

The meta keywords tag is not a ranking consideration for Google, but our SEOs use it for basic optimization guidance and tracking over time.

If a page has an SEO keyword target, record a primary and secondary keyword in the meta keywords tag. This way, the target is contained on the page and can translate even when a page changes hands between teams and over generations.

List keywords in order from longest in length to shortest in length, separated by commas. Never keyword stuff this tag to steer clear of trouble with search engines.

8. Heading Tags

Headings serve the purpose of allowing a reader to see the main sections and points of a page. They are a visual cue for a reader of what topics are covered on a page. They’re also a signal to search engines about the topics on a page.

As a technical point, make sure the first heading tag within the body of a page is an <h1>. The following heading tags can be <h2>, <h3>, <h4>, etc., and should be used like a page’s table of contents. Navigation elements and other global text should be styled with CSS and not heading tags.

9. Word Count

The amount of words you have on a web page will vary by topic, keyword, competition and user intent (read about the three types of user intent to the right).

To determine the number of words needed on a page, count the number of body words on the top ranking pages for a keyword you’re targeting. That will give you a ballpark for what a search engine considers the normal word count for that topic. It’s safe to say that informational web pages almost always warrant a minimum of 450 words.

Quality content is key. Since the Google Panda Update penalizing low-quality content, avoid duplicate content and thin content and focus on robust coverage of your website topics that prove your subject matter expertise.

3 Types of User Intent

1. Transactional

These queries happen when a user has an intention to buy something now. For example, the exact brand and model of a product suggest the intention to buy.

2. Informational

These are research-oriented queries. Sometimes research is done in advance of a future transaction. For example, if someone searches for the best electric toothbrushes, there’s a good chance that a purchase in the near future.

3. Navigational

These are queries done to help a searcher get somewhere, whether online or in the physical world. Searching for the name of a restaurant will get the user to that restaurant’s web presence or physical address.

10. Call to Action (CTA)

It is important that your key pages all make it clear what primary action a visitor should take. On a product page, the CTA to “buy” or “call” or “get a quote” should be prominent, clear, and easy to select.

On the home page, it should be easy for the visitor to take the next step in the conversion funnel. The actual language of the call to action should be active and the placement and design of the CTA should draw the visitor’s attention.

Note: A page doesn’t have to be transactional in nature (in contrast to an informational page) to warrant a call to action. If an informational page is a top-performing traffic driver, for example a blog post that answers a common question or a FAQ page, include a CTA to encourage the visitor to further their engagement or enter the conversion funnel.

 11. Image Optimization

An image is an engagement object that adds visual excitement to any page. Images are important to include on a page to break up text elements and keep a reader interested in the content.

Images provide additional ranking opportunities through image search and they do pose some additional optimization considerations.

Images can slow down the load of a page. To reduce file size and to increase speed as much as possible, include width and height attributes in image tags. Also, resize images to the display size rather than uploading the original file and asking the browser to shrink it.

Image file names should be descriptive and include keywords.

Also, make sure to include an ALT attribute with images. The American with Disabilities Act says you should always describe the image on the page for the vision impaired. Ensure your images have proper descriptions associated with them, and if appropriate, keywords for the page. ALT attributes are also required of validated HTML code.

As a general rule, avoid including text in images. Search engine spiders can’t read all the text in an image, and so a search engine can’t index and understand the content of an image.

12. Structured Data Markup

Structured data clarifies for the search engine what content on your page is about. Specifically, it helps the search engines understand what type of information you’re presenting.

On your company’s About page, for example, use structured data markup to indicate your street address and phone number so it has the potential to show up on a SERP.

Along with a location and phone number, other common data types you can use mark up are reviews and ratings, such as on a services page or product page, and events.

There are various structured data markup languages: microdata, microformat and RFDa, and the most often discussed Schema. For more on how to implement structured data on your site, check out How to Use Schema Markup to Improve Your Website Visibility in Search.

 15. Social Markup

Social markup, or social meta tags, refers to the code used to enhance content on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

Facebook Open Graph tags, Twitter Card markup and Pinterest Rich Pins are the major social markup tags. Content in these tags dictate what image and text will show up on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest when someone posts your content on social networks.

By specifying social markup in your HTML, you can ensure you look your best on social media.

There are six types of Rich Pins: app, movie, recipe, article, product and place.

The Twitter Card types are: Summary Card (with or without a large image), Photo Card, Gallery Card, App Card, Player Card and Product Card.

The basic Open Graph tags are title, image, and description; Google+ will use the Open Graph tag content to generate a preview, and Twitter will fall back on Open Graph tags if no Twitter Card markup is specified.

14. URL Optimization

Use dashes rather than underscores for URLs. Underscores are alpha characters and do not separate words. Dashes (or rather, hyphens) are word separators, but should not appear too many times or it could look spammy. For more on this topic, check out this post by Google’s Matt Cutts.

You also want URLs to be descriptive and contain keywords, without being spammy. And shorter URLs are preferable to long URLs.

15. Fully Qualified Links

If you make your internal links fully qualified, there’s no question by search engine spiders, browsers, etc., as to where the file is located and what it’s about. If your link looks something like “../../pagename” (a relative link), then it may result in crawl issues for some search engines.

Rather than relative URLs, use fully qualified links (http://www.domain.com). The sitemap should always have fully qualified URLs.


16. Content Freshness

Make sure to periodically review your content (web pages and blog posts) to make sure that it is up to date.

For example, this very checklist is continually refreshed as SEO best practices evolve with search engine guidelines.

From Google’s Search Quality Rating Guidelines: “unmaintained/abandoned ‘old’ websites or unmaintained and inaccurate/misleading content is a reason for a low E-A-T (expertise, authority and trust) rating.”

What’s on your site that needs a refresh? Update it.

17. Make JavaScript and CSS External

You want to be sure the most important code is the first thing the search engine bots crawl. Work to ensure there aren’t unnecessary lines of code above the body text by externalizing JavaScript and CSS code that gets in the way of keyword-rich content.

Sitewide Optimization

In March 2014, a document called the Google Quality Rating Guidelines introduced the terminology E-A-T to the SEO community. A shorthand way of referring to expertise, authority and trust, E-A-T is now a pillar of search engine optimization.

A site as a whole should signal expertise, authority and trust while conveying subject relevance and optimizing for search engine accessibility. The following items address this.

18. Contact Information

An explicit E-A-T signal, the search engines expect that a trustworthy site will clearly and visibly include contact information, such as a phone number and address.

19. Testimonials

Another E-A-T signal, testimonials located on your site supports your authority as a business and your value to your customer base. Testimonials are great for signaling your value to your human visitors, too!

20. Privacy Statement

Having a privacy statement on your site is considered a trust signal for the search engines. In addition to bolstering your trust with Google and Bing, it’s a best practice to include one. A privacy statement lets site visitors know what you’re doing with any data you collect about them.

21. Text Navigation

Verify there is text navigation, not JavaScript or Flash navigation that spiders can’t see. Make sure you at least have text navigation on the bottom of the page if there aren’t any spiderable navigation links in the top nav. This is a search engine accessibility issue.

22. Sitemaps

Your site should have an HTML sitemap, and every page should link to that sitemap, probably in the footer. You should also have an XML sitemap you submit to search engines. If you already have sitemaps, check them regularly to make sure they’re current.

You can learn how to create a sitemap for users and search engines to easily access all areas of your site in our SEO Tutorial.

23. Robots.txt File

The Robots.txt file tells the search engine spiders what not to index. It’s important this file exists, even if it’s empty. Also make sure the file doesn’t accidentally exclude important files, directories or the entire site. (This has been known to happen!)

24. Keyword Strategy and Research

The keyword strategy development and research is an ongoing process that essentially never ends. It starts with extensive keyword research and iterates with extensive research. One could write novels about this topic; just know it’s part of any solid SEO checklist.

Our SEO Tutorial will get you started and includes a free version of the SEOToolSet Keyword Suggestion Tool.

25. Linking Strategy

This section warrants way more than just a few sentences, but it should be noted as part of the SEO checklist. Your internal linking structure typically stems from your siloing strategy. Your inbound/outbound links should be part of an organic, natural strategy in compliance with search engine guidelines, and be monitored regularly.

27. Server Configuration

Regularly check your server, looking for 404 errors, 301 redirects and other errors.

Here’s a free tool, no sign in required, and instructions on how to use the Check Server Page Tool to monitor your web server for errors.

28. Static Pages

Complex, dynamic URLs could be a problem. If your URLs have more than two query string parameters and/or dynamic pages aren’t getting indexed and/or you have a lot of duplicate content, consider converting them to static pages.

You can also use mod_rewrite or ISAPI_rewrite, as appropriate, to simplify URLs. Rewritten URLs will appear to be static pages. This tends to be a lot of work, but is a surefire way to address this issue. You can also use the canonical tag to tell search engines that the current page is intended to be indexed as the canonical page.

29. Static Content on Home Page

If you have a home page with content that constantly changes, it can result in diluting the theme of your site and cause poor rankings for key terms. Try to maintain sections of consistent text on the home page.

30. No SPAM Tactics

Make sure your SEO strategy is following Google Webmaster Guidelines and Bing Webmaster Guidelines. If ever in doubt about any of your tactics, you can also refer to what Google accepts for SEO.

31. Duplicate Content

Do a search to see if your content exists elsewhere on the World Wide Web. You may want to check out CopyScape.com and use it regularly.

Duplicate content is a problem because it’s a low-quality signal to search engines and can cause your site to rank lower. If you, for example, have three pages on your site with the same content, a search engine will then choose on its own which one to rank for relevant queries — and the page they choose might not be the page you wanted to rank.

Webmaster Tools

What’s an SEO without their tools to surface data that leads to analysis. Just remember, there’s a difference between data and wisdom.

32. Web Analytics

There’s much you could say about web analytics in your SEO strategy. The important thing is to make sure you have it. Ensure your analytics are properly set up and monitor them regularly to find out of if the keywords that are generating traffic are in your keyword list, and that your site is optimized for them.

Per usual, our SEO Tutorial unpacks the role of analytics in the step How to Monitor Your SEO Progress.

33. Webmaster Tools Accounts

Webmaster tools accounts for Google and Bing give site owners insight into how search engines view their sites with reports on issues like crawl errors and penalties. If you haven’t already set up a Google Search Console account, this article will walk you through it. For help setting up a Bing Webmaster Tools account, view the Bing Webmaster Help & How-To Getting Started Checklist.

34. Crawl Errors Report

When a page has a crawl error, it means the search engine is unable to access the page. The first place to begin troubleshooting this issue for Google is the Crawl Errors Report, which can be found in the Crawl section of Google Search Console. In Bing Webmaster Tools, go to the Crawl Information Report in the Reports & Data section. Read more about crawl errors here.

35. Manual Penalty Review

If a manual penalty has been levied against you, Google will report it to you within Google Webmaster Tools. Check the Manual Actions Report within Search Traffic. Read more about the Manual Actions Report here.

You can also find out if you’ve suffered a penalty from Bing. Review the Index Summary chart with the dashboard of Bing Webmaster Tools — if the number of pages for a given site is set at zero, you have been hit with a penalty.

36. Algorithm Updates

If your site is running Google Analytics, use the Panguin Tool to check your traffic levels against known algorithmic updates. If you see any drops or rises in search referrer traffic at a time that coincides with Penguin, Panda and other known algorithm updates, you may be affected by a penalty. Read more about penalty assessment here.

Google is changing its algorithm all the time. The most recent buzz in the industry has been around RankBrain, machine learning — and how new artificial intelligence technology will change the search results. While optimization for AI is not as straight forward as checking for traffic drops, familiarize yourself with how SEOs should approach RankBrain in our recent podcast episode.

37. Site Speed and Performance

Check PageSpeed Insights in Google Search Console or use tools like GTmetrix.com to analyze and improve a website’s performance. For more on improving page speed, read Page Speed Issues Overview for SEO.

Want more SEO tips? Our SEO Tutorial teaches you search engine optimization step-by-step, and it’s free!

New Feature: White Label Themes for External Dashboards

We’ve just released color themes for White-Label Dashboards, which means you can better apply your own branding to external reports. This is really useful if you want to share reports on an external URL, but still retain your company branding.

Apply a color theme to your Location Dashboard

We released a white-label version of the Location Dashboard last month. This meant you could combine reports for any location & share them on an external URL for clients.

We’ve had great feedback, but you’ve also told us you want more options than the default color scheme – which doesn’t always match your company branding.

Today that problem is a thing of the past!

How to set White-Label themes

Here’s a video that explains what’s new & how to set it up.

SEO reports with your logo & color scheme

When you apply a theme, you’ll be able to send external URL reports to clients that not only includes the reports you want them to see, but it will also be customized with a color scheme that closely matches your own branding (like the example below):


Choose from 4 themes to match your brand

As shown in the video, you can choose from the following 4 themes:

  • Default
  • Minimal
  • Red Mist
  • The Blues


Please note that any existing White-Label profiles will be automatically updated to minimal, which has a neutral pallet that is a good fit for many brands. If you want to choose any of the other themes then you can update these at any time in your White-Label profile.

White-Label dashboards are available to all Multi Business & SEO Pro customers.

We hope you enjoy this new update! Let us know if you have any comments or questions!

The post New Feature: White Label Themes for External Dashboards appeared first on BrightLocal.

Long vs. Short Content: Which Ranks Better in 2016? An In-Depth Study on 300k Pages

Long content or short content? Which one is better? What is the case? The more the merrier, or less is more? Well, the answer is rather complicated and needs a bit of unpacking. If you are looking for a short answer you need to know that there is no such thing. Long and short content alike can be better, depending on the context and on your needs: rankings, conversions, followers, popularity, authority, engagement, keyword optimization, etc.

TL;DR – This is quite a large study. If you don’t have time to read it all, you can browse through the main take-aways.


How We Did the Research & Other Relevant Studies

There’s an often cited quote attributed to Blaise Pascal (and a variation of it attributed to Mark Twain) in reference to a letter:

I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter.

Pithiness aside, the quote is a very good illustration of how saying more with fewer words is not only more rewarding, but can also take a lot more effort and time.

Therefore, in order to decide the winner, long or short content form, first we should ask ourselves what our goal is and only afterwards decide. Yet, we’ve made this decision a bit easier for you as we’ve conducted a very in-depth study on approximately 300k pieces of content, randomly chosen, that rank on Google on positions 1 to 10. We’ve used the Pearson correlation coefficient to take the best out of the aggregated data.

We wouldn’t want to bore you with technical details of the research, yet, please allow us to motivate this current research. Except the fact that we always want to keep our readers up to date with the latest findings in the digital marketing area, documented and written by ourselves, we found this study really necessary. There aren’t recent studies (or at least we didn’t find any) on this matter and in a digital marketing world where “content” is a term so widely circulated we felt the need of a in-dept study that could reveal what type of content is helpful and why.  There are some interesting studies  on this matter, yet they are from three or four years ago.

The results of this study will definitely help you figure out what type of content strategy would work for you and why. Without further introduction, I’ll let you grab a big cup of coffee and a notepad as you might want to note things down.

Long or Short content – Which One Is the Winner in Terms of Rankings?

Long or short? Which type of content is the winner? Well, if you’re looking for a brief glimpse, the chart below is a pretty accurate visual representation of the answer. It’s not a perfectly linear relationship, although there are some clear linear segments. At least for the first 5 rank positions, one could assume that, on average, shorter articles are better correlated with a higher rank.



It would be, of course, inaccurate to infer from here that posting shorter articles than your competitors will get you higher up through the rankings. Not just because the data for ranks 6 through seem to invalidate this conclusion, but also because “short” and “long” are not clearly defined. For instance, should you prefer a 20-words article over a 1.000-words article? Intuitive judgment would say that doesn’t seem to make sense.


In fact, in order to be able to draw a valid conclusion from the data analysis, we should first break it down into categories. Which is what we did, by looking at clusters of articles, based on ranges for certain lengths: 0 words, 1-50 words, 51-100 words, 101-500 words, 501-1000 words, 1001-5000 words, 5001-10000 words, 10001-100000 words and >100000 words. What does the landscape look like when divided like this?


We can look at these two post size intervals (measured by number of words) as a somewhat special case. A hundred words is not a lot of space to detail a topic, so for all intents and purposes, these posts are likely to fall under specific categories (social network updates, for instance, are known for their brevity, whether it is sought after or ingrained in their design).


This is, without a doubt, the bulk of the content. Mid-size to long-form posts, they allow for at-length development of a topic. It could be news, opinion or analysis – either way, there’s a high chance we’re dealing with quality posts.


This is, again, a special area. Posts that go beyond 5.000 words are rare and the more they increase in size, the rarer they get. Some of these posts could fit comfortably into a magazine, while others have a size that’s comparable to a thesis or dissertation.

As you’d expect, most articles are between 100 and 5.000 words. There is a very small percentage of articles under 100 words (just over 5%) and a very small amount of articles over 5.000 words (a mere 3.5%). So even though we’ll look at most of these ranges, we’re mainly interested in the ones that represent the largest percentage of the data.

So let’s first take care of the edges. Articles with over 10.000 words are articles that are rare enough (both in size and content quality) that would probably warrant a separate discussion (in fact, most BA or MA thesis are between 10.000 and 100.000 words and most doctoral dissertations are limited to around 100.000 words or less, so any blog post that’s larger than that has earned a separate analysis).

We’ll begin, then, with articles which range from 1 to 50 words. In fact, before you take a closer look at the chart below, bear in mind that this paragraph fits in this range, by summing up exactly 40 words.





So if this is the size of content that we’re talking about, it’s no wonder that a conclusion is hard to make. We’re basically looking at micro-content here. Facebook posts, Google+ headlines – this is what can ideally fit within this range. A conclusion about what works best is difficult to make, because there’s very little variation (a 2.25 range between the lowest and highest value) and all average values are within less than 2 words away from the median value across all ranks.


Basically, this is a very even playing-field and as long as you are around the 23-word mark (give or take), you are on solid ground. Incidentally, that sweet spot is also the middle of the overall interval, but given what the interval is, that’s likely to be a coincidence rather than something to read into. The Pearson Correlation Coefficient between the average length and the rank is medium to strong (-0.71), indicating a potential negative correlation. And if we are to ignore some hiccups in the chart, it sounds about right: a slightly higher number of words might be better. But then again, if you have to choose between a 22-word title and a 25-word title… that’s probably not where the ranking difference will come from.


Tweets and title tags are considered among the prime examples of content that can fit comfortably within this range. Compared to the previous interval, you can notice a much smoother trend (if you ignore the first 3 ranks, it’s actually a fairly linear trend). It makes sense in context, too. Tweets and title tags, on the other hand, are already short by design, so if you want to compete with others the only way to stand out is to make them no longer than they need to be. There’s another good indicator that shorter is better. Median and mode are the same (56), but they’re both lower than the average, suggesting that there’s actually a lot more instances of fewer words rather than more words. The Pearson Correlation Coefficient between the average length and the rank is really strong for this interval, at 0.9, proof of a linear positive correlation: higher values (for number of words) are associated with higher ranks.


Of course, things are still pretty close. The range for the averages is 4.41 (corresponding roughly to a 7% variation), so there are probably other things at work to take into account. But so far, this is the first significant relationship that we’ve seen.


It’s difficult to tell what type of content might fit in well within this range (small stories? teasers? news?) It’s also difficult to draw conclusions based on the chart. The Pearson Correlation Coefficient would normally imply that there is a small negative correlation (-0.35) between average word length and rank. This can be roughly translated into saying that slightly longer content seems to be ranked higher, but that this does not happen uniformly across the 10 ranks. Not only is the average for the 1st ranked content lower than for the 2nd and the 3rd, but the average for the 6th and 8th is also lower than the one for the 9th and 10th.


This is where it’s probably helpful to notice that the range of values only covers 10.12 words (so a mere 3% variation between average lengths) and that the median value is 333, slightly higher than but also fairly close to pretty much all of the averages in the above chart. We’ve seen this before with the 1-50 word interval and the conclusion is similar: as long as you’re within the “golden” interval (which, in this case, seems to be 317-327), there’s isn’t any really good advice in terms of length.



It might no longer be the case nowadays, but conventional wisdom used to be that most newspaper columns had to fit within 500 to 700 words. Which means that we’ve already entered quality, in-depth posting territory. Of course, not all of the content in this word range is automatically good, but it has the potential to be. It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that overall a higher number of words seems to be correlated with a better rank. This is supported not only by the graph, but also by the The Pearson Correlation Coefficient, which seems to indicate a strong negative correlation (-0.84) between post length and ranking (meaning that the higher the number of words, the more likely a post will be on a lower rank).

Of course, it’s not a perfectly smooth linear relationship. There’s a visible aberration from the rule for the 1st and 9th rank. The range of average values is not very big, just 10.4 between the largest and smallest average word count among all intervals. That’s less than 1.5% compared to the smallest average word count value. Still, even when taking all of this into account, this is the strongest linear relationship we’ve seen, next to the one for the 51-100 interval.


Longform articles are alive and well. Some of the most successful news stories from New York Times in 2013 averaged around 2000 words, with some being much longer than that. Even online, where space is not an issue, the ideal blog post revolves in this interval, at around 1600 words. It’s no surprise then, that slightly bigger seems to be slightly better. Even though the chart shows a slightly more bumpy trend line, the Pearson Correlation Coefficient indicates a very strong negative correlation (-0.9), suggesting that, in general, longer posts are more often associated with better ranks. Sure, that trend might be more difficult to support for the second half of the rankings, but the difference between the first and second 5 rankings is so striking that it’s difficult not to see a correlation.


Some other things seem to support the correlation hypothesis as well. The range is 67.02 (3.4% of the smallest value), quite bigger than for the previous word count interval. The median is 1672, significantly lower than all of the average word count scores, meaning the first five ranks probably have posts that are quite a bit longer than the last five ranks (in order to compensate for the difference between the median and the average).



Most scientific papers are usually between 3.000 and 10.000 words in length. This could mean up to 20-something pages of text with no pictures. Even if it’s not a rigorous scientific paper, it’s easy to understand why the success of such a post has less to do with its length (as can be implied from the chart) than with its quality. Of course, shorter might still be better if we were to look at just the first 5 ranks, but not because of the length itself (the effort is already considerable for the reader even at 5.000 words), but because the struggle for conciseness tends to make everyone’s output a little better.



All of this aside, however, it’s important to bear in mind that the range of word lengths is still very small when compared to the average length. The difference between the highest value (6738.58 for the 5th rank) and the lowest one (6603.08 for the 1st rank) is just 135.5, only 2% of the smallest average length. Taking everything into account, the lesson here would probably be that if your content is really long, there’s probably more to gain by making it the shorter of long articles.

How the Google Search Console Help You Choose Between Long or Short Content


Depending on the context, and on the needs, long or short might be suitable in different circumstances. Yet, whatever your needs might be, one thing is sure: more content means more keywords to rank for. And allow me to explain you why.


It’s not just that stories that take their time to build up content are better, they’re also pragmatically more likely to make you relevant. Using Google Console you can find out what type of content makes you rank for what keywords. And obviously, the longer the content, the more keywords to rank for. Simply add the URL of the post you’re interested in and you can see statistics about who has accessed it and why (what they were looking for). It might give you a lot of insight into what people are looking for and how they think.


Let’s take for instance one of our articles: 53 untapped ways to boost your email open rates. Once we’ve inspected this article using Google Search Console we’ve discovered some really useful data. First of all, being a long piece of content (over 10.000 words) is ranking for so many keywords. Secondly, we can find so many ranking possibilities for this article. Along with the positions info you can find data regarding the number of impressions.


search console cognitiveSEO example


More keywords to rank for, more help in figuring out what type of content is working and which one is not. We did the same type of analysis with another article from our blog, 39 rarely used SEO techniques that will double your traffic. This article was a successful one, generating a lot of shares and comments. Along with this metrics, we were able to see the most “valuable” keywords for our article.

search console cognitiveSEO example2


Using Google Search Console to determine which type of content, long or short, is working for you might be a great and still unexploited idea. The benefits are great and the effort invested is minimum.

Long Content or Short Content – Which One Has More Impact?

We’ve already warned you that the answer is not that easy. But what if we were forced to decide? Here’s what the conclusion might look like:

  • Micro-content (1-50 words): you are limited by design, so you might as well take advantage of the wider spectrum, though it might be more important to fit within a certain range, rather than to be on a certain end of the spectrum;
  • Micro-content (51-100 words): you are in a slightly different scenario; you are still limited by design, but you’ve crossed into territory where you can afford to be sparse (your limitations are more accommodating, so now you get to fight for attention – and attention span);
  • Short-form content (101-500 words): length is probably less relevant than content; admittedly, a 150-word post is quite a bit different from a 450-word post, but they both have in common that they’re either too long or too short for what you want to communicate;
  • Medium-form content (501-1000 words): the avenue of traditional newspaper columnists, there’s still power in this format; you actually have a pretty good chance of being able to provide your readers with useful, well-argued analysis on a subject, or at the very least with a well-informed opinion, so you might as well push it a little and get in more words, rather than fewer, if that allows you to be more persuasive;
  • Long-form content (1001-5.000 words): you’re in the big leagues now and if you can craft a post that holds your readers’ attention for long enough, don’t be quick to finish; your readers already know they’re in for the long run, so take your time (and words) to provide more in-depth analysis, more examples or just more clarity;
  • Scientific form (5.001-10.000 words): not all posts this long are necessarily scientific, but that’s probably the best analogy in terms of length; shorter is probably better, but shortness does not guarantee better results;
  • Exceptions with more than 10.000 words: you’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto; we did not go into analysis with this word count because it’s quite difficult to ascertain what kind of content might go here; even so, once you reach this size, any differences in length are probably not going to have significant impact on how you rank (though if we were to venture a guess based on Pearson’s correlation coefficient, shorter is better).



The fact that the most widespread form in our analysis were actually long-form articles is no coincidence, since in-depth analysis seems to perform well consistently regardless of the source . Long-form allows you to run analyses (like the ones we’re usually posting), discuss case studies in detail and generally come up with original content. Shorter content (such as lists, news and examples) are fine, too and still necessary, they’ll even get you shares, but a lot of times short-form content is just re-hashing of original long-form content . Some of the most shared stories in 2015 are not what you’d expect at all: endangered species, screen addiction, walking in nature, Kenya’s elephants, etc.  Sure, a lot of what you see as “viral” are lists and clickbait and kittens, but there’s still a lot of interest for quality content, too. You can’t get ahead by doing what everyone else is doing (or sharing). You need to create your own share-able content and that takes time and length.


Who did this research


  • Razvan Gavrilas
    Researched & Audited the Analysis
  • Cornelia Cozmiuc
    Researched & Wrote the Paper
  • Ionut Astratiei
    Performed the Crawlings
    and Data Validations


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