Tom Capper's Posts



How to rank for head terms

Over the last few years, my mental model for what does and doesn’t rank has changed significantly, and this is especially true for head terms - competitive, high volume, “big money” keywords like “car insurance”, “laptops”, “flights”, and so on. This post is based on a bunch of real-world experience that confounded my old mental model, as well as some statistical research that I did for my presentation at SearchLove London (create a free Distilled account to access the video) in early October . I’ll explain my hypothesis in this post, but I’ll also explain how I think you should react to it as SEOs - in other words, how to rank for head terms.

My hypothesis in both cases is that head terms are no longer about ranking factors, and by ranking factors I mean static metrics you can source by crawling the web and weight to decide who ranks.

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The 30-Minute Information Architecture Audit

The SEO community really doesn’t take much persuading when it comes to the importance of links. Sometimes it feels like they’re all we want to talk about.

And yet, we spend hardly any time talking about the most important and easiest links of all - the ones on our own sites. The links in our templates, our footers, our faceted navs, and our hideous drop down nested mega menus.

Those links might affect your site’s performance, at least as much as those you get from other sites. If you’ve ever done log analysis for large sites, you’ll have seen how Google’s understanding of a site is shaped by internal linking, and how unimportant pages can end up hogging the limelight.

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Getting Started with Measuring Brand Awareness

Few people dispute that brand awareness is an important consideration for companies of all sizes - there’s a half-trillion dollar global advertising industry built largely on that premise, after all. In the SEO industry, however, we’re probably not as aware of it as we should be. I recently published a study on Moz showing that branded search volume is better correlated with organic search ranking in Google than Domain Authority, and as Google gets smarter and links become increasingly unrepresentative of how the web works, we can only expect this relationship to deepen.

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How to Diagnose and Fix a Self-Referral in Google Analytics

A self-referral in Google Analytics is a session where the source is your own site. For example, on Distilled.net in September 2015, we had a bunch of sessions show up in Google Analytics like this:

This is often ignored or considered innocuous, but it represents something very wrong with the sessions it represents. It doesn’t make sense for a user to have arrived on your site via your site - there must have been an original source, and we want to include every subsequent hit after that original landing as part of one big session, providing the user doesn’t leave and come back via some other channel, or go inactive for a long period of time (neither of which would appear as self-referrals).

Back in June, I wrote a post discussing the various ways in which Google Analytics can split sessions, with highly misleading results, and self-referrals are often a symptom of this.

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When is a Session not a Session?

Sessions are pretty arbitrarily defined, all too easily inflated, and far more complex than most realise. It’s possible for apparent step-changes in Google Analytics reports to have little real-world relevance, and common for reports to show numerous mysterious and apparently inexplicable landing pages and traffic sources.

And yet, we put a lot of stock in these concepts - businesses are sold on how many visits their site received in a year. We optimise for conversion rate, a metric calculated using session count. SEOs, ad agencies, consultants and marketing managers can all have targets of a growth in organic sessions. Distilled’s own creative pieces are often judged by clients in terms of how many visits they received. It is therefore essential for Google Analytics users to understand what they’re actually talking about when they reference a “session”, and that’s what this post is all about.

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