SEO How-To: Quickly Highlight Bad Links with Google Analytics

Link building can be an elaborate process, depending on the website, but sometimes you need a simple way to identify bad links. Google Analytics has a way to help identify

Go into the reporting of  Google Analytics account, and navigate to the Landing Pages report. The Landing Page report is a sub-bullet under the Content report under the Behavior segment (Behavior > Content > Landing Page).

Google Analytics Landing Page

Note: There is another landing page menu item under Acquisition > Search Engine Optimization. It does NOT contain the same second dimension menu as the one pictured, so do NOT use it for this link analysis.

Next, click on the drop down menu of the secondary source and add the following as a secondary dimension: Acquisition > Source.

Google Analytics Landing Page Report

You’ll see the source that generated the visit alongside the page on which the visitor landed to enter your site. You will see those sources that may lead to a quality link – you’ll see Small Business Trends as a favorite for Zimana, for example – and spammy links which should be questioned and removed. You can also see some 404s if that is the case.

Now examine links, using different time periods (30 days, 60 days, 90 days) to see what links appear in each period. The info indicates what people are consistently encountering.

To quickly highlight pages that appear in a long list (over 25 dimensions), use the find bar, a search feature in the Firefox and Chrome browsers, to discover the pages in the dimensions column. Click on the three bar icon in the upper right of the browser window. A Finder window will appear at the top (This may vary by browsers; Firefox displays the finder at the bottom) . Type in the word you want, and the Find Bar will reveal every appearance of that word throughout the page. You can even toggle to the specific instance in which the word appears.

After some evaluation, decide if you want to use disavowal links if you see more than a few spammy back links that appear in the reports. To implement a disavowal link, use the tools provided in either the Bing Webmaster or Google Webmaster tools.

You can also add this link report setting as a shortcut in the Dashboard. Adding the shortcut offers the convenience of not having to manually add the secondary dimension each time you check.

Analytics Tips: Cleaning Referral Traffic Sources to Make Google Analytics Reporting Easier

In 2010, General Motors eliminated three divisions – Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Hummer — in its reorganization under bankruptcy. The interesting part is that one division, Buick, persevered, and was critical to GM’s survival. Over time the brand sold well in the Chinese market, giving GM a foot hold among consumers that it never had before. That factor lead to more investment and to GM putting its bankruptcy behind it.

Referral traffic is like that Buick division – one of those things that becomes important over time. It is a category of website or app traffic that has arrived to a site or app page from another source – a link on a website, a landing page, or through social media.

But over time unwanted sources can appear – the referral traffic becomes the Pontiacs instead of the Buicks. So let’s look at examples of managing referral traffic and see how you can get rolling faster in understanding your traffic sources.

Consolidate the social media referrals

When an analyst reviews dimensions in a referral traffic report, the data can reveal referral traffic sources in an disorganized in a way. Referrals from Facebook related sources can appear listed as several dimension entries such as or

The Network Referrals report offers a means to combine these entries. The report is accessed through clicking Traffic Sources, then Social, and then Network Referrals on the left panel in Google Analytics. The Network Referrals report provides a clear view of consolidated social network sources, so that one metric value appears for Twitter or Facebook regardless of domain.

Duplicated Self Referral

Duplicated self referrals of a website URL can also create confusing results. These duplicated self referrals appear as two separate dimensions in your referral traffic reports, creating double counts of metrics in the process.

To remove the double count of your domain in Google Analytics, consider using the referral exclusion list. To access the list, navigate to the Admin page. Next, click Property, then Tracking Info. The following image on your screen once you have accessed the list.

Google Analytics Referral Excllusion

Monitor the referrals you want

Opposite of removing duplicated self referrals, your business may have a few related domains and subdomains grouped together for an easier reporting structure. Below is an example, which includes a domain for a related app. | |

To set up a report based on desired domains, create a profile view using filtered expression and the regular expression pipe symbol (which means “or”). Navigate to the Admin page, then navigate to the Filters, which appears in the Account column and the View column. Your selection of either will depend on how global the filter would need to be.

Select the custom filter setting, then select “include”, then “hostname” to insert the URLs.

Google Analytics Filter

Make sure to include the escape slashes in the URL – the “/“ before the “.com”, for example. These are used to indicate that the period is read by the filter as a period and not as a “match every character” indicator, which the period is used for.

Make sure to maintain a profile with an unfiltered version of the data. An unfiltered domain provides comparison data for diagnostic purposes, so you can understand if the filter data is not meeting an expected outcome.

Filter bots in the admin

Finally, there is a bot filter within Google Analytics. This is a toggle switch located within the admin section. This is a generic toggle, so you may want to check referral traffic reports for unusual sources that contribute visits but does not influence engagement metrics positively.

Modify the .htaccess file

One easy way to gather referral sites to change or eliminate is to update the .htaccess file. The .htaccess file indicates to search engines which domains should not be considered or how URL should be referred to. Implementing the changes requires modifying the file in a text editor and then uploading the updated file into the same location as the website – in short, the same protocol that would be used to update a HTML webpage or CSS file.

An updated htaccess file with an eliminated website would contain indicating text like the following:

# block visitors referred from
1. RewriteEngine on
2. RewriteBase /
3. RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} [NC]
4. RewriteRule .* – [F]

Let’s run through what this text would mean

The comment with the hash in front of it would not been seen by the search engines – it’s just a comment to indicate the purpose of the update.

The first line that get picked up in the file is the ReWrite. The ReWrite triggers the rewrite engine that will execute the code.

The second line, RewriteBase, highlights the main URL of the website to the engine

The third and fourth lines explain the changes you want to see. The third list the website source to be eliminated, using RegEx nomenclature – note the “.” in the site “”. This tells the engine to include the “.” when it looks for the referral site

Overall the analytics community as a whole is examining how to manage referral traffic better.  With so many sources ultimately influencing traffic, analytic skills are returning to their roots – the need for diagnostics over marketing analysis.

SEO Tips: Why Updating SEO Maintenance Is Critical To Marketing Success

Over the years experts have emphasized or de-emphasized of SEO tactics with the advent of new platforms or technology.  Take social media for example. SEO tactics at first required just a focus on a website content and link structure.  Today, examining social media usage should be included in a SEO plan, since Bing and Google have added social sharing clues into social engine results.  Platforms such as Pinterest have started to verify accounts with associated websites, creating a stronger digital presence in some instances. Moreover, the advent of HTML5 has introduced new variations of web page element which needs to be optimized in some cases. So new technology means updating SEO maintenance is essential.

Another factor is the increased usage of mobile devices – customers search patterns can differ under mobile. Moreover customers can have a immediate purchase intent when accessing a site on the go. Thus deciding how to display your online presence for mobile search is necessary.

Finally, page load speed can also be a factor in encouraging return visitors, so examining page load performance lead to changes which may impact SEO tactics. Minimizing images would mean a new set of image files which can then be named with intended keywords, for example.

All of these factors mean that a website can become limited by both changes in the business (which drive content changes – imagine the need to remove a discontinued service, and you have the idea) and the opportunity to incorporate new web developments to better enhance the customer experience online.

Thus recording SEO audit dates becomes essential in managing website changes and in guiding when to update a site.  Businesses should be particularly aware of how the site generates content. Frequently updated content drives the need to audit. The successful maintenance of that content will be what ultimately drive branding, leads, and customers who will purchase from a business.

Infographic: European Privacy Overview via Mind Your Privacy @MindPrivacy

The team at Mind Your Privacy, based in Spain, issued a terrific infographic last year on the state of privacy in Europe.  If you are an analytics professional or someone with analytic tendencies (smile), take a look at the infographic below to learn more about the DPA, Data Protection Agencies, which are meant to protect the rights of citizens and to investigate instances in which breaches have occurred.

data privacy

A/B test tips that improves an E-commerce site: “4 minutes” for 4 elements

“4 minutes” was the name of a popular song by Madonna and Justin Timberlake, but it can also be an anthem to the amount of time retailers must target in improving their e-commerce product pages.

When launching a website, a retailer should convert product details into the following page elements:

  • Headline/title
  • Product image
  • Product description
  • Purchase details

To best refine those details, a retailer should consider a few ways to conduct an A/B test. An A/B test examines to variations of a website element to determine if visitors are responding to one version over the other.

The test durations can vary, but teasing page elements for basic element qualities can yield quick analysis. The tests can consist of basic straightforward elements such as:

  • Different Headlines
  • A call to action
  • Product Image or Video
  • Different Offers

Landing pages and test pages can be tested in conjunction with each other, or mixed. For example, one test would cover newsletter A with landing page A, and newsletter B with landing page B. A second test experiment would run with newsletter A with landing page B, and vice versa. This methodology can offer a more clarity regarding which broad elements such as offer and call to action are best, particularly if the results are very close.

To gain a reasonable comparison on test results, ensure that each page visitor is always offered the same promotion. For example, consider a test of a free gift (A) against a discount (B). An A/B test should reflect that the same visitors see the free gift as well as the discount.

There are other tips that can make an A/B campaign straightforward. Here are some ideas:

  • Test your product headline to determine how beneficial and keyword rich it is. Adjusting a headline beyond a product name may yield results. (For example: “The most lightweight basketball shoes of 2014: Nike Air Force” versus “Nike Air Force”)
  • Ensure that your product descriptions speak to your customer, instead of sales-speak. The descriptions should mirror the natural way your customers describe the product or service. Product reviews and customer accolades can be useful sources for phrases and ideas.
  • Consider product badging to call out specific product features, selling points, or customer review trigger words to make it easier to digest your product descriptions.
  • Optimizing purchase details means testing how the details are explained, such as delivery details ( “Delivery by such-in-such date,” or “Ships in next 24 hours”) or where they are located on the page. But use basic common sense to display basic details for all-in costs before customers begin the checkout process. When a purchased product is arriving and in-stock availability are examples of all-in costs.

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