The Yoast SEO plugin is a popular tool among search engine optimization specialists and bloggers. It helps users optimize their website and suggests popular words and phrases (keywords) people might be using to search for your goods and/or services. You can include those keywords in your blog posts and increase your chances of being eligible to […]

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Getting people to find and visit your website isn’t easy, but it pales in comparison to the challenge of getting visitors to convert.

shows people lined up in a book store waiting to buy the lastest book in the Harry Potter series

RIA Novosti archive, image #168856 / Sergey Pyatakov / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

A website conversion is when a visitor does what you want them to do:

  • give you their email address;
  • register for an event;
  • download a whitepaper;
  • fill out a lead / contact form; or
  • buy something from you.

One way to increase your chances of having someone convert is to spend time learning why people search. If you understand why people search, it’s easier to craft content that will satisfy their information wants and needs so they remember you when they’re ready to do business.

People Search With Intent

People search for a reason. They want to:

  • navigate to a specific website or web page;
  • find information; or
  • transact.

a group of people, young and old, in a park staring up at the sky with binoculars on the how people search blog post

The difference between these three types of searches is intent:

  • The first group knows exactly where they want to go, they just can’t remember how to get there. They type navigational queries into a search engine, typically a brand name like “Sprint” or “Verizon” rather than an actual web address like or
  • The second group doesn’t have a destination in mind. They want information to be able to answer a question or get things done. Informational queries consist of phrases like “cell phone comparisons” or “iPhone vs Samsung”.
  • The third group is ready to transact. They know exactly what they want but don’t know where to get it. Transactional queries include specific brand and product names like “Samsung Galaxy S6 4G” and often contain words like “buy,” “purchase,” or “order” and location names or ZIP codes.

Once you know why people are searching, you can pick and choose the types of searches you want to rank for and then craft content to satisfy their needs.

Give People What They Want and Need

I can tell you right now there’s no point in trying to rank for someone else’s brand. It’s very hard to do and won’t produce the results you want.

characters from the disney movie Pinocchio

If a searcher types “Sprint” into a search engine, they want and expect to be shown search results that will take them to the Sprint website. If they end up somewhere different, they won’t be happy and form a negative impression of your site.

Do not manipulate or mislead searchers. Your reputation (and rankings) will suffer.

50-80% of search queries are informational in nature. People who conduct informational queries want answers to questions and how-to information. The best way to rank for those queries and give people what they want is to create content that is genuine, specific and accurate. If you establish yourself as being trustworthy, honest and helpful, people will remember you when they’re ready to transact.

By Ben Schumin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Ben Schumin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

To get people to transact, you need to augment great content with two additional things:

  • a crystal clear explanation of why people should do business with you (and not your competition); and
  • a quick and easy conversion process.

So how do people search?

People search using keywords.

Keywords are the words and phrases people type into a search engine when they’re trying to find something.

keyword definition

Search engines use those same words to try to match queries to content on the Internet. When the words in a search query match the words on an Internet page or blog post, that content becomes eligible to rank. Eligible to rank content doesn’t necessarily rank at the top of search results, but it is in the running.

People Search Using Google

65 – 85% of the world’s population searches using Google depending on who you ask and what they measure.

Infographic: 1.17 Billion People Use Google Search | Statista

According to, “In December 2012, 77 percent of the 1.52 billion search engine users worldwide conducted a Google search at least once. That’s 1.17 billion Google users, as opposed to 293 million users of Baidu [China] and 292 million users of Yahoo’s search. Microsoft’s Bing was used by 267 million people in December, clearly distancing Yandex [Russia] in terms of reach.”

If you care about getting found on the Internet, focus on Google.

People Search Top-Down

Most people will cycle through using informational, navigational and transactional queries when using the Internet. They start with short, broad informational searches.

Let’s say, for example, that I’m looking to find information about the latest cell phones. If I’m a typical Internet user, I will start with an informational query and type something like “cell phone comparisons” into my favorite search engine (Google).

google search results for "cell phone comparisons"As you can see in the results shown above, Google returned 8.89 million search results for that query. The last 2 look highly relevant.

After reviewing these results, I decide I’m leaning toward the Samsung Galaxy S6 4G phone, but want to find out more about its camera. I lengthen my informational query so it now becomes “Samsung Galaxy S6 4G camera reviews”.

google search results for samsung galaxy s6 4g phone reviews

This time I get about half as many results, roughly 3 million. After reviewing those, I decide I’m ready to buy. I type “buy Samsung Galaxy S6 4G cell phone near Philadelphia” into Google.

search results for "buy Samsung Galaxy S6 4G cell phone near Philadelphia"

I’m starting to catch on now. I realize more specific keyword phrases I type into Google, the fewer and better results get returned. This time I was shown just over 2 million results, and the top results are very familiar to me, Samsung itself, Best Buy and Verizon.

People like to do business with those they know like and trust. I know both Best Buy and Verizon. I know their prices are similar and I know I’m not keen on the Best Buy website checkout process. It’s lengthy and complicated.

I decide to do a navigational search for “Verizon”.

verizon search result

Google’s top organic search result is for the Verizon Wireless website ( I’m also shown a map (off to the right) with red pushpins indicating the stores closest to my searching location.

I have exactly what I need.

People Search Top-Down Using Keywords and Google

The process I used was top-down.

  • It started with a short, broad Informational queries and keyword phrases that returned close to 10 million results.
  • I quickly narrowed my options down to something more manageable using longer, and more specific, keyword phrases.
  • Once I had decided WHAT I wanted, I entered a Transactional search (using the words “buy” and “Philadelphia”) to figure out WHERE I could get it.
  • When that didn’t give me what exactly I wanted, I used a Navigational search (“Verizon”) that gave me exactly what I wanted.

top down search process

What Has All That Got To Do With Search?

There are a couple of lessons that can be learned from this example.

  • It’s important to know how people are searching for your goods and services. Your content has to contain those words for your content to be eligible to rank.
  • There’s no point in optimizing for your competitor’s brand names.
  • Create lots of content to help people find answers to their questions and differentiate you from the competition. When they’re ready to buy, you’ll be top-of-mind or easy to find vis-a-vis a lengthy and specific (long-tail) Informational or Navigational search queries. The more detailed, forthcoming and honest you can be, the better.
  • Most people don’t look beyond the first page of search results.
  • Clear differentiating factors and a quick and easy-to-use checkout process are important to “sealing the deal”.

i want a samsung galaxy S6 G4 phone

Don’t waste time, energy and money chasing short and highly competitive search terms. Savvy business owners can rank faster and convert more customers quickly by optimizing for long-tail, informational keyword phrases, differentiating themselves clearly, and enabling a quick and easy conversion process.

The post Convert More Customers By Understanding Why and How People Search written by Donna Duncan appeared first on .

You are a small business owner who has been trying to optimize your website for a while now. You want to know whether you’re making progress. Rather than just trust your gut, are there any objective measures you can use to assess your website power and influence?

a lion is symbol of power and influence

By Cojharries (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

The answer is yes, there are a few options available. I recommend two, your Alexa score and domain authority (DA). Both are widely accepted, readily available and free.

This post will explain the metrics, tell you where you can find them, and suggest how to best use them.

Alexa Score

An Alexa score is a simple 1 to 30 million numerical ranking of the top websites on the Internet. It’s  based on a rolling 3-month aggregation of unique visitor and page view data derived from millions of volunteer users of the free Alexa toolbar or browser extension. Rankings are updated daily.

Alexa scores are produced by Alexa, a California-based subsidiary of Amazon. Alexa assigns traffic rank to the top 30,000,000 websites and produces a continuously updated list of the top 500. The lower your score the better.

Snapshot showing the top 500 ranked websites on the Internet by Alexa, an Amazon company.

The Alexa Top 500

As you can see above, the current top-ranking websites on the Internet are search engines and social media channels.

There are some limitations to Alexa scores.

  • Only the top 30 million websites on the Internet are ranked. We know there’s about 1 billion websites on the Internet (as of September 2014), so your website might not rank high enough to be assigned a ranking or score.
  • Toolbar and extension users that share their browsing data with Alexa tend to be tech-savy marketing types who are less concerned about privacy. It’s a reasonable sample size, but biased.
  • The toolbar and extensions only work with Chrome, Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers. That leaves out Opera, Android, Safari, Blackberry and Lynx, up to 20% of Internet users, and mobile, 30-60% of all Internet traffic.
  • The rolling 3 month sample of data used to derive Alexa scores also doesn’t account for seasonal fluctuations in traffic and page views.

You can contribute to Alexa’s data collection efforts and/or view your own website’s ranking using browser add-ons or the Alexa website.

To find a browser extension or add-on, go to your browser’s library and search for “Alexa”. To use the Alexa website, go to, enter your domain name in the top right-hand corner window, and press “Find”.

snapshot showing where to enter your website on Alexa

If Alexa has a score for your site, it will tell you. Otherwise it will issue a warning with the message “We don’t have enough data to rank this website”.

If you want to see Alexa’s rank-ordered list of the top 500 websites on the Internet, click on the “Browse Top Sites” link just to the left of the “Find” window shown above, top-right.

Domain Authority

Domain authority (DA) is a metric produced by Moz, a search engine optimization (SEO) tool maker and thought leader. It is a score based on a 100-point logarithmic scale that predicts how well a website will rank on search engines.

A logarithmic scale means that every time your score improves, it’s exponentially harder to repeat that success. In other words, it’s a whole lot harder to bump your score from 60 to 70 than it is to go from 0 to 10, or 10 to 20.

domain authority mountain

Domain Authority, adapted from the 2008 Elliance Page Rank Explained infographic

Domain Authority is calculated using data from 300-400 million websites every 4 to 8 weeks. Scores fluctuate because the sites and data sampled each update vary.

There are a couple of different ways you can find your website’s domain authority. The easiest is to use the Moz Open Site Explorer tool. The other is to download and use the Moz toolbar, available for Chrome and Firefox.

open site explorer tool by Moz

The example above shows where you can enter your domain name when using the Open Site Explorer tool. Note the update stats in the red box on the bottom left under “Mozscape Index”. That’s how you can tell whether scores have been updated since you last checked.

Enter your website’s domain name (URL) in the top left window shown above and press enter.

Here’s a sample result for Its domain authority is 100. (No surprise there!) Domain authority is for your whole site. Page authority is for a single page. In this example, the page authority (97/100) is for Google’s home page.

example domain authority for Google

Your other option is to use the Moz toolbar. After you install the toolbar, website domain (and page) authority will be displayed below search results and at the top or bottom of pages displayed with your browser.

Here’s an example of what you’ll see in search results.

moz toolbar search resultsHigh level website metrics like page authority (PA), domain authority (DA) and the number of incoming links and linking root domains (RDs) is shown below individual search results. You have to subscribe to Moz to see the actual link and root domain counts. If you’re not a subscriber, it will display “PRO ONLY” instead.

This is what you see when you have the toolbar installed and visit a web page. This example is for the Moz toolbar page itself.

snapshot showing the moz toolbar in use on a website

You’re shown the exact same scores you saw in search results, with the exact same caveat, just at the top or bottom of the page depending on how you’ve configured the toolbar.

Sample Scores

To give you a flavor for Alexa and Domain Authority scores, I sampled some popular blog, information, news, search engine, social media and shopping sites. Here are the results.

Sample Alexa and Domain Authority Scores For Popular Sites

Sample Alexa and Domain Authority Scores For Popular Sites

How To Use Scores

So now you have the scores, how should you use them?

First off, I recommend you baseline your, and your competitors’, website scores before you begin optimization. It’s your starting point, your line in the sand from which you can measure improvement over time.

a line in the sand on Warton Beach, Australia. Symbolizes establishing a baseline before you assess your website's power and influence.

Copyright Karl and Ali and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Be realistic. If you’re a small, retail website, for example, don’t benchmark yourself against Amazon. Pick a small niche player like yourself and note both your starting metrics and the date on which you captured them. These are the numbers you want to beat. They are your yardstick for measuring improvement.

Because both scores have their shortcomings and tend to fluctuate over time, it’s best to look for trends and obsess over short-term fluctuations. If you’re doing what you need to, you should see a slow and gradual uptick in your site’s Alexa and Domain Authority scores over time.

Look for relative differences. If your score drops or jumps significantly one update, do competitor scores show a similar pattern? If yes, that could signal the change is a result of the update scope and targets rather than anything you, the competition, or the market may have, or not have, done.

Keep perspective. Remember these metrics are just one measure of site performance. Ultimately, achieving your company’s goals and objectives should be your best measure of success. None of these metrics mean anything if site visitors aren’t converting.

So what do you think? Will these scores be able to help you? Do they make sense? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll get right back to you.


The post Objective Measures You Can Use to Assess Your Website Power and Influence written by Donna Duncan appeared first on .

This article is a detailed guide for how to optimize a blog post using WordPress and Yoast, the popular WordPress SEO plugin by Joost de Valk. It assumes you have already solved the problem of what to write about, and have a draft blog post title and content ready to go. The post is laid out in 12 steps beginning right after you have logged into your WordPress site. It’s detailed and long. If you’re looking for a quick and dirty guide, this is not it.

The post How To Optimize A Blog Post Using WordPress and Yoast written by Donna Duncan appeared first on .

Every small business should have a basic knowledge of search engine optimization. In fact, you should almost be exhausted by the term “SEO” at this point, as you’ve been undoubtedly told time and time again just how important it is. But unlike many trending industry buzzwords, SEO is here to stay. Why? In our web-facing world, the (already) dominant search engines are becoming the cornerstone of the internet. Standard procedure for individuals looking for information is to search first.

Understanding the basic tenets of SEO will keep your business relevant and searchable, which will amount to added business and web traffic. There will be hoards of digital marketers that will tell you your organization needs a professional (and oftentimes expensive) SEO strategy, but understanding a few basics will keep your business in the conversation.

Here’s what you need to know:

What is SEO?

For starters, don’t be intimidated by ‘SEO’ – it sounds much more complicated than it actually is! The acronym stands for ‘search engine optimization’ and it’s the process of aligning your website to the standards and recommendations of search engines in order to get increased traffic and visibility from search engine results.

Web pages, videos, listings, etc. are shown based on what the search engine considers most relevant to users. “Relevancy” is determined by search engine algorithms. The exact algorithms are not made publicly available, but in attempt to create a stronger, safer, more legitimate user experience, search engines are pretty open about what will help or hurt rankings.

What is SERP?

The lesser known but equally important term “SERP” or Search Engine Results Page describes the actual listing or ranking order that an end user is presented with after a search. This is closely connected with SEO because if you’re practicing good SEO practices, your SERP score should also be considerably strong. Small businesses should be especially focused on SERP and aim to be as high as possible on various search engine results pages.

What role do ‘keywords’ play in SEO?

While keywords remain a prominent component of SEO, their importance is waning. It used to be you could simply slap up a page and jam it with the terms users commonly search for, but search engines are growing smarter. Keywords and phrases are still important, but they must be surrounded by impactful content and placed intelligently with end usability in mind.

How does social media impact SEO?

Your business should cultivate a strong social media presence and create a profile on all channels that are appropriate for your industry. Promoting web content on Twitter, Facebook, Vine or other social media avenues will help your business rise through the search engine ranks.

What is the importance of quality content?

At this point, you should know that producing high-quality content is the essence of SEO. Create pages with end users in mind and avoid tricks intended to fool search engine algorithms (keyword jamming). Focus on creating content that is valuable and engaging, and differentiate yourself from your competitors.

Search standards are ever evolving. While this can cause headaches, it’s ultimately to the benefit of us all. Continue to stay up to date with the latest search engine principles and their suggestions on how to maintain a strong organic search presence.