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Date: Tuesday, 16 Sep 2014 14:59


Any time you make a significant change related to your website, whether that’s content or the underlying architecture, you should check to see if your changes have impacted the SEO best practices you’ve already put into place.

A few weeks ago, a client unexpectedly informed me that they migrated their web server to a different platform. As I scrambled to see if there were any SEO issues (there were), I realized how little was written on this topic, so I began asking questions and taking notes.

Disclaimer: I’m no expert on servers and web hosting.* However, I am one of the world’s most prolific practitioners of freaking out about things that could hurt a site’s search engine rankings.

Below are a few big takeaways regarding how server software can impact SEO and how to ensure your server switch is smooth with SEO.

The More You Change, the More You Should Check

If the server hardware is upgraded, but the server software and all the configuration remains the same, there’s really no SEO-specific issues that can arise (though it might pay to check one more time that everything really is configured the same).

But if you change server settings, there are likely some SEO checkpoints. You may even want to hold off making that additional configuration change until everything else checks out. And if you are switching server software, you’ll definitely want to consider the points in this article.

*Seriously, consult your IT person before messing around with the server.

Don’t Leave Anything Behind

It seems like a no-brainer, but when you’re copying files from one server to another, make sure you copy EVERYTHING. This includes resources like images, downloads, or configuration files.

  • Make sure all the hidden files are moved (like the .htacess file).
  • If you have HTTPS, don’t forget to move your HTTPS certificate when upgrading your server. HTTPS is now a search engine ranking factor, by the way.

Redirects & Rewrites

Messing up redirects is probably the most common, major problem for SEO when changing up things with the server. This problem is most likely to occur when switching to different server software, for the following reasons:

  • The syntax on rewrite rules vary.
  • There’s differing means of configuring redirects and rewrites. For example, Apache has the famous .htacess file, Nginx has a rewrite engine module, and IIS has multiple methods of configuring its <httpRedirect> element.
  • Order of operations can vary. If you have different types of redirects (for example, some rewrite rules in .htacess plus some redirects that are set in the CMS), you may find these handled differently by different server platforms ― for example, Nginx processes rewrite rules in a different manner than Apache.
  • Default rules vary. For example, IIS – unlike Apache and Nginx – has the camel case URL issue, where URLs are case insensitive (for example, www.example.com/canonicalization and www.example.com/CANONICALIZATION both return valid status 200 URLs with the same page content in IIS).

NEVER assume your redirects will transfer over seamlessly. Test some URLs on your current rewrite rules and redirects before you start the switch; then test those URLs under the new server environment.

Custom 404 Page

Make sure you still have your custom 404 page, if you had that set up. Make sure it’s triggered in all scenarios – on all subdomains, subdirectories, and URL suffixes. Make sure 404s are returned when they should be, as opposed to soft 404s.

Understanding Site Speed & SEO

Yes, there are some algorithmic signals relating to site speed; see this. And there’s evidence that time to first byte, which is impacted by server performance, is a specific ranking signal.

But really, a fast server is just good for your site regardless of SEO considerations, because it is good for the user. Certainly overloaded servers, timeouts, and refused connections are definitely bad for the user and bad for SEO. If the server upgrade doesn’t impact user accessibility and speed noticeably (where humans could actually detect the difference), I doubt it will impact search engine rankings (certainly not enough for you to notice).

In other words, if your server speed performance isn’t a non-SEO concern; don’t fret about its impact on SEO. That said, faster is better.

Don’t Block the Search Engine Spiders

I haven’t seen this issue myself, but I’ve talked to a fellow that configured his server to block traffic from a certain country and accidentally blocked Google. So be careful with those settings!

Crawl and Review Your Site

Crawl that sucker. See if HTTPS status codes or anything else has changed. It’s easier if you can crawl the site before the switch and then after the switch so you can compare apples to apples. I’m a Screaming Frog fan myself. Here’s a few questions you might want to ask after the “after” crawl:

  • Are there more or less URLs?
  • Are 301 redirects still 301 (instead of 302)
  • Are there additional 404s?
  • Are 404s still returning status code 404 (instead of being soft 404s)?

Keep Watching It

If there’s ever a time to monitor your site and its traffic, now is the time. Here are a few things to keep an eye out for.

  • Traffic  from all major sources – have any search engines stopped sending traffic?
  • How’s the site speed and accessibility?
  • Any shakeups in rankings; indexation stats; or crawl stats? There’s good SEO data in Webmaster tools.
  • Log files – if you really know what you’re doing!

Other Hosting Considerations

  • Location of the server can help you rank slightly better in the search results of nearby users; particularly users in the same country. These benefits are said to be quite substantial in Russia (Yandex) and China (Baidu).
  • Stay out of bad neighborhoods. Search engines don’t want to send their users to networks known for spam and malware.


Though it’s an infrequent concern, server changes can sometimes impact SEO a lot. Below are the 4 biggest SEO tips on server changes:

  • The more you change, the more you should check.
  • Check your custom settings: redirects and 404s.
  • Crawl and review your site before and after server changes.
  • Make sure you don’t block search engines from crawling your site.

Related Links

Author: "Reid Bandremer" Tags: "Search Engine Optimization"
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Date: Thursday, 11 Sep 2014 12:44


During the start of my professional career, I stubbornly favored SEO and never entertained the idea of picking up some PPC skills in my free time. As time went on, the sands began to shift and I was asked to do some “light” work in paid advertising. I quickly became overwhelmed by the complicated user interface that had enough options to keep you clicking for days.

The flaw in my approach is obvious now, but hindsight is 20/20. I tried to jump into the middle of an intricate setup and understand it by clicking around, which was ineffective and a waste of my time. It was then that I realized I had to learn PPC from the ground up.

I learned the most and the fastest by planning, creating, managing, and tweaking my own AdWords account. These are the three most insightful things I learned from building a paid search account from the ground up:

1) Have a Plan

It’s easy to get excited about creating your very own paid search account. You may feel like diving in right away and making it up as you go. Don’t do it.

I started by working offline with a pen and paper. Jot down the top goals you wish to achieve with your account; may they be a light for you in dark places, when all other lights go out.

Next, start drawing out some simple account structures. How will you arrange your campaigns and ad groups, and the keywords within them?

It helps to begin with a smaller list of keywords, but if you have a larger account to build, consider starting with a silo of your organization to aid the learning process. You may go through many ideas before you find the right layout for your new account. It’s vital to keep in mind how budgeting and targeting are managed across the account during this planning phase, as well. 

2) Make it Simple

Simplicity will keep you, your coworkers, and anyone who manages your account in the future sane. As part of your plan, make a clear and concise naming convention for your account. Don’t personalize campaign names. Make them objective and obvious. For example, if you have a campaign advertising t-shirts, don’t name it “ts” because it makes sense to you. Name it “t-shirts” because it makes sense to everyone!

When deciding how to structure your account, start simple. Don’t feel the need to create a new campaign for every keyword you have, it will only overwhelm you and reduce your effectiveness as an account manager.

Remember that you can always break out keywords into their own campaigns and ad groups later. Most settings and changes are not permanent. Building your account while keeping simplicity in mind will help you learn the core concepts of PPC sooner, in turn enabling you to grow it into something much more complex down the road.

“Truth is ever to be found in the simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.”

-Isaac Newton

3) Keep Growing

growingstrong-smallOnce you’ve successfully carried out your plan and the account is finally built, you’ll get those satisfying feelings of accomplishment. It will be tempting to click Enable and never look at the account again, but you’ve only just begun. You must keep growing the account, exploring the countless options available and learning as you go.

At this point you’ve only planted the seed. Soon, it will begin to grow and if you don’t take proper care it will waste your budget.

Maintenance should begin by building negative keyword lists from query data in your search term reports. Negative keywords are nearly as important as the keywords you bid on themselves as they will reduce wasteful spending in your account.

Next, look for opportunities to upgrade the effectiveness of your account. These opportunities would include: add new keywords, ad extensions, automated rules, advanced campaign settings, improving targeting using dimensions tab, auction insights reports, remarketing, and more.

There’s always ways to improve your PPC account. Keep growing strong!

Understanding PPC, and Google AdWords, requires time and research. Google every and any question or idea about PPC that pops into your head during the learning phase. Use Google AdWord’s excellent help section as a learning resource.

Not interested in teaching yourself how to use AdWords? Learn more about LunaMetrics’ nationwide Google AdWords, Google Analytics, & Google Tag Manager trainings taught by certified experts.

Author: "Chris Vella" Tags: "Paid Search"
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Date: Wednesday, 10 Sep 2014 12:52


Firing a Google Analytics Virtual Pageview with Google Tag Manager is easy, and far more powerful than ever before.

When our clients or training attendees upgrade from classic Google Analytics to Universal Analytics implemented through Google Tag Manager, we often get questions about how to transition these Virtual Pageviews from inline code to being implemented through GTM.

There are a number of different ways you can implement Virtual Pageviews, and hopefully this will provide one solution to help ease the transition to a GTM implementation of Google Analytics.

What Is a Virtual Pageview

Virtual Pageviews, for those not in the know, are when we send page hits to Google Analytics, without reloading the page. A standard page hit occurs when Google Analytics loads on a page. Sometimes though we want to fire ANOTHER page hit without actually going to another page, or reloading the page itself.

There are various reasons you would want to do this:

  • A contact form that submits dynamically to itself without reloading the page
  • Tracking downloads of PDF files on your site as pages
  • Modal popup windows of images, or with information capture forms
  • Multi-step dynamic shopping cart pages

For these concepts and more, Virtual Pageviews are the answer to your problem. You can fire a Pageview just as if the page was loaded, and Google Analytics will treat it as just another page hit on the site, allowing the use of URL Destination goals, Goal Funnels, and more.

How Was It Fired Before

Prior to Google Tag Manager a Virtual Pageview was fired in primarily one of two ways. Either within a script, or inline. When it was within JavaScript you could include a line like below inside any other code, and as long as Google Analytics was loaded on the page, it would fire a Pageview hit.

Classic Google Analytics Example:

_gaq.push(['_trackPageview', '/downloads/pdfs/corporateBrief.pdf']);

Universal Analytics Example:

ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’, ‘page path’);

This code could also be placed “inline” on elements on a page, such as within the HTML code for a link, so that when someone clicked a link, certain JavaScript within the link itself would fire. This has been fairly common, but it’s prone to human error, with sometimes hundreds of links manually tagged.

Implementing or changing any of these Virtual Pageviews could be difficult, and require developer resources and time that simply didn’t exist.

How Can We Fire a Virtual Pageview With Google Tag Manager

First obviously, you need to install Google Tag Manager on your website.

If you are able to access the code of the website, it can be relatively easy to swap code. Instead of the above code snippets, we are going to do a dataLayer.push that looks like this:

‘virtualPageTitle’ : ‘Order Step 1 – Contact Information’

The dataLayer is an object that Google Tag Manager reads on the page, and it lets us send instructions to Google Tag Manager. In this case we’re saying “An event named ‘VirtualPageview’ is occuring. The value of virtualPageURL is ‘/order/step1/ and the value of ‘virtualPageTitle’ is ‘Order Step 1 – Contact Information“.

Obviously this would change depending on what fake virtual URL or title you wanted to have sent to Google Analytics. This code can be put inline, or can be put into a JavaScript function anywhere on the page, and when it runs, it will insert those instructions into the dataLayer which will be read and acted upon by Google Tag Manager.

Creating the Necessary Tags, Rules, and Macros

We could implement that code in 100 places though, and nothing would fire, because we still need to set it up in Google Tag Manager. That part is simple.

First create two macros, one for virtualPageURL and one for virtualPageTitle both as Data Layer Variable types.




Next create a rule for {{event}} containing VirtualPageview


Lastly create a Universal Analytics Pageview tag, that fires on the rule you created, and in its configuration under More Settings, and Basic Configuration, put the macro values you just created in place for Document Path, and Document Title.


Save and Preview/Debug!

Now when that code on the page fires, it will fire a Vitual Pageview with whatever values that dataLayer.push passes. Those hundreds of inline and script implementations will all fire off those 2 macros, 1 rule, and 1 tag.

But what if we can’t access the code, or don’t want to

Sometimes you actually can’t access the code and put those dataLayer.push lines in, or maybe you don’t even want to. How about our example of having thousands of pdf files that are on your site, and you want to track them all as a Virtual Pageview from within Google Tag Manager without modifying any of their links? No problem.

First, if you don’t already have one, create a Link Click Listener tag in Google Tag Manager and either put it on All Pages, or on the pages you want to track your PDFs.


Second, create a rule that fires when event contains gtm.linkClick (i.e. someone clicked on a link) and where {{element url}} matches the regular expression (regardless of case) for the PDF extension as shown in this screenshot. {{element url}} is a prebuilt macro that should already exist in your GTM and in this case, just pulls in the URL of the link that was clicked.


Third, create a tag that fires a Pageview on that rule, and replace the Document Path and Title in the Basic Configuration settings for that Pageview with the element url and title so that the URL of the Pageview is the PDF file location, and the title of the page view is the text in the link for the PDF.


As long as your developers have put Google Tag Manager on your site, you could have a million PDF downloads, and by adding a single rule and two tags you are now tracking all of them as Virtual Pageviews really in a matter of minutes.

What else? What if it’s a modal window and I’m not looking for a file extension?

You can look for some aspect of the link that causes the Virtual Pageview to happen. For instance, maybe you have a dynamic contact form, and it has a form that submits. Find the name of the form by looking at the source code of the page, for something like this:

<form id=”testForm”>

The form ID is a unique value that you can use to target that specific form. If you want to fire a Virtual Pageview when someone submits that form just do the following:

First, create a Form Submit Listener tag and put it on the page you want with a firing rule (I’m using All Pages).


Next make a new rule with the conditions of an event containing gtm.formSubmit (i.e. a form was submitted), as well as where {{element id}} contains (or equals) that ID value, which in this case is testForm.


Finally, make a new Pageview tag, and have it fire on the Form Submit rule you just made, where you specify the values of the Document Path and Title again.


Notice here how I put all of these Virtual Pageviews into their “directory.” This helps with clearly identifying Virtual Pageviews from regular Pageviews, and also makes it easier to filter these out of a view if needed.

It’s that easy. You can use the same techniques to essentially track the clicks of any element, link, or submission of any form on a page as a Virtual Pageview. Is there a button or link that sends the user to the next virtual step in your contact form? Do it on that. Does that link launch a lightbox window? Track it.


Tracking Virtual Pageviews with Google Tag Manager is a huge improvement on the old way of doing things. It’s easy, and with Google Tag Manager it’s fast. Your transition to a GTM and UA implemenation might actually be sped up using some of these tricks, and hopefully you’ll be encouraged to track more things on your page where before you may have hesitated because of the development cost.

And don’t forget…

Remember. You defense. Points come. Concentrate. Focus power. Remember balance. Make good fight.


You’re the best! AROUND! Nothing’s gonna ever keep you down!

Author: "Sayf Sharif" Tags: "Analytics, Google Analytics"
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Date: Tuesday, 09 Sep 2014 13:19


UTM campaign parameters. We love them. We hate them.

They make it easy to track both online and offline marketing efforts. But they aren’t very pretty to look at, and they’re difficult to implement reliably, especially for a layperson (i.e. non-technical person).

Often, there’s a situation where we want to track a number of different approaches or people contributing to a campaign. Imagine the pushback you’ll get when you suggest each person modifies their UTM parameters to personally identify themselves or the approach they’re using.

Fortunately, there’s an easier way to track certain types of activities without having to resort to including all those UTM parameters. We can use a simple URL hash and some Google Tag Manager magic to uniquely identify each person.

The Problem

To illustrate this problem, I thought a personal anecdote would help. I was recently looking to buy some extra RAM for an older Mac Pro. I wasn’t sure what to get, and I had questions about sizes and configurations. Googling for answers brought up a host of forums with the same questions I had, and answers to those questions.

Now, imagine for a minute, that you own a company called RAM and You, which sells RAM for Mac Pros. You know the answers to a lot of computer hardware questions, including mine. And you have a support team that actively goes on third-party forums to answer questions, often linking back to your site and specific products.

Now, when you look at your Referrals report in Google Analytics, how do you know which users (and associated revenue) came from people who clicked on links left by your support team vs. people who clicked on links left by other people?

In other words, how much value is your support team driving by spending their time on these forums answering questions?

It’s always been possible to track this type of activity. You just had to have each member of the support team add UTM campaign parameters to the end of the links they shared on these forums. So if they shared a link on MacRumors, it would look something like:


Not only is that an ugly link to share in an answer on a forum, it’s also hard for a non-technical person to remember and get right (there are 73 characters/opportunities for typos in those utm parameters!).

The Solution

What if, instead, you just shared the following link:


Two extra characters. Simple. Clean. Not ugly.

Two extra characters & GTM

There are two basic parts to making this work. The first part is modifying the link (adding those two extra characters). The second part is capturing the value included in the link and passing that through to Google Analytics.

The steps below will illustrate how to do the second part using Google Tag Manager (GTM). It can also be done without GTM, you’ll just need to write some scripts and add them to your site manually.

Part 1: Identify Yourself

To track your support team’s efforts (while at the same time making it easy for them to implement) simply add a number to the end of the link URL being posted in the answer (like shown above). This number can identify which support person left the answer or which team/office/vertical was involved.

For example, if you have 3 support team members posting answers on third-party forums, you would assign each person a number - 1, 2, and 3. If person 1 posts an answer linking back to your RAM installation videos, the link URL would be:


A couple of things to note about this format:

1. We’re setting this number as part of the URL fragment. A URL fragment is the part after the hashmark (#). This is important because Google Analytics ignores URL fragments, so you won’t see the same page showing up three different ways in your reports.

2. The number after the hash (#) would identify which support team member left the response. So each support team member would have their own number, and each would add a different number to the end of their links (e.g. #1, #2 and #3).

If this is not important to you, you could use this parameter to identify other information you’d like to know (e.g. which brand or product the post was about). Just keep it simple, easy to remember and easy to to type in for the support team members leaving the answers.

3. This works as long as the page you’re sharing doesn’t already include a fragment. For example, if you’re sharing www.example.com/awesome-page#section2, you can’t just add an additional hash at the end (www.example.com/awesome-page#section2#1 will not work). In this case, you would need a slightly different solution (e.g. use query parameters instead of URL fragments).

4. Rather than messing with source/medium/campaign, we’re using a Custom Dimension to group all activity from one of these links together. If that link that was posted by your support specialist gets tweeted or passed around, you’ll still see exactly where the traffic is coming from, but you’ll also be able to attribute it back to the correct team member.

Part 2: GTM

In Google Tag Manager, we can capture the value of this URL fragment (when it exists) and send it as a session-level custom dimension.

To do this, first we need to create a macro in GTM to grab the URL fragment. This is easy (see below):


This macro will grab the value after the hash (#). So for ramandyou.com/installvideos/#1, the value of this macro will be 1.

Then, we need to create a Lookup Table Macro that matches the value of the previous macro to the appropriate support team member.

lookup table macro

This macro looks at the {{url fragment}} macro we just created, and based on that value sets the appropriate name for the support specialist.

So now that we have our {{support specialist}} macro, we can use that in our Google Analytics pageview tag. I recommend setting this as a session-level custom dimension (which requires first setting up the custom dimension in Google Analytics).

custom dimensions google tag manager

Now that you’re sending this as a custom dimension, you can use this in your reports or build a custom report that shows you exactly how much each of your support team members contribute to site traffic and revenue!


Author: "Jim Gianoglio" Tags: "Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager"
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Date: Monday, 08 Sep 2014 13:47


Every discussion about the importance of specialization in marketing comes with a disclaimer: it cannot come with the risk of total tunnel vision. Digital marketers must maintain a broad understanding of each channel in their marketing mix, applying lessons and strategies from one to the others.

This article provides a brief overview of public relations (PR) and the three things that we should all learn from publicists: Personalize, Evolve, and Provide Value.

Quick PR Overview

Just to make sure we are all together, let’s cover some basics. If you feel fairly comfortable with these concepts, scroll ahead.

PR has several functions that we’ll discuss. A company or organization has a variety of relationships, called stakeholders, and must communicate with all of them in some capacity to be successful.

Companies have internal communication, like employee handbooks or investor newsletters, and that is a whole different conversation. Today we are focusing on external communication, which is broken into paid, owned and earned.

Paid media is created any time you have to pay to get it in front of the audience. Think banner ads or a full-page spread on the back of the local sports section. It would also include paid promotion on social media or a sponsored blog post.


Owned media is controlled. You or your company can carefully craft the message, edit it as things change and guide distribution. Our LunaMetrics blog is an example of owned media.


Earned media comes from an independent third party that is unpaid, although those lines can be uncomfortably blurry at times. The best example of earned is a news story by a trusted publication.


Why Do We Like Earned Media?

1. Independent sources carry a lot of weight because it is less likely that the subject (of the story) controls the message. For example, Forbes naming Twitter a top company for employees means a lot more than Twitter calling themselves a top company for employees.

2. The Code of Ethics by theSociety of Professional Journalists (SPJ) is a set of guidelines to which many top reporters and publications adhere. It promises the things that news consumers want from a trusted source, like honesty, integrity and accountability.

3. The reach of a publication like, say, Mashable has obvious opportunities for us at LunaMetrics. Mashable reaches more people and different people than this blog, which would expose new potential customers to Google Analytics training.

4. The authority passed through links from leading publications can have a tremendous impact on SEO performance. It might not be the top reason for everyone at the company, but it is a solid #4.

Lessons to Learn from Digital PR

Personalization is key.

It used to be that people rewarded personalization. Now they expect it and penalize standardization, especially from corporate communication or digital curation. Successful publicists tailor their pitch letters to each recipient. At this point, the idea of mass distribution of press releases is laughable.

Questions to Ask Yourself about Personalization:

  • Which corporate communication channels have been automated or standardized?
  • Among those channels, is there an opportunity to increase engagement or effectiveness?
  • Are there ways to test a more personalized approach?

Evolve to survive.

The best way to #FAIL in PR is to follow the best practices outlined by textbooks and professors. Fax a press release to the managing editor? Forget successful campaigns — I had to purge everything I learned while getting a master’s in PR to even keep a job.

Questions to Ask Yourself about Evolving:

  • What marketing practices are done out of habit or legacy?
  • Are they providing a return that is greater than their investment?
  • How can you test tactics so each piece of the marketing mix is earned?

Picture of the inverted pyramid for public relationsProvide value immediately.

The inverted pyramid is perhaps the most basic concept of journalism. It places the most important information first so readers get information and value as quickly as possible. For a journalist, it means front-loading a story with the things that are most important to the reader or community. For PR outreach, it is brevity and respect for other people’s time.

Questions to Ask Yourself about Message Value:

  • Do you quickly and efficiently provide value to your reader or visitor?
  • Is there a way to make your message easier to digest?
  • Can you use tools like Google Analytics to test your performance by assessing drop-off rate or bounce rate?

This short list is not everything that we should learn from PR, but it does include things that every marketer must know: Personalize when possible, always evolve and  focus on offering immediate value.

Are there any other PR lessons that marketers should keep in mind? Please share in the comments. 



Author: "Andrew Garberson" Tags: "Miscellaneous"
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Date: Thursday, 04 Sep 2014 14:31

8 AdWords Changes That Could Impact Your Account

If you’ve been working with Google AdWords for some time, then you understand how quickly features and tools within the platform can change. If you’re new to the AdWords game, welcome to the ongoing challenges of AdWords management and optimization. With this in mind, I can’t stress how important it is to stay up to date on the latest greatest AdWords updates.

So let’s bring you up-to-date and take a look at the AdWords changes that have been introduced or announced within the last month or so!

Callout Ad Extensions

This new extension allows you to add an extra line of text to your ads to include callouts like “Free Shipping!” or “24-7 Customer Service.” The benefit here is that these display with your normal ad copy, allowing you to focus on things that are more important to you. The extension displays directly below your standard copy and can be used in conjunction with other ad formats and extensions.

Who will be affected? Everyone! I would encourage everyone to start experimenting with this. It’s a great feature, but you’ll want to see if it works for your business. This feature was just announced on September 3rd, so you should start seeing this option appear soon, if not already.

Read the official announcement.


Close Variant Matching for Exact & Phrase Match Keywords

This AdWords change is relatively huge for some advertisers. The Big G will simply be removing the “Keyword matching options” as a campaign setting moving forward. Advertisers will lose the ability to simply opt out of what are known as Phrase or Exact match “close variants.”

Google AdWords keyword matching campaign setting

What does that mean? It means that optimizing your account for very specific keywords will become slightly more challenging. You will have to invest more time in reviewing search term reports and adding negative keyword to really fine-tune your keyword strategy.

Who will be affected? If you’ve taken the time to review your account settings and opt out of the default “Keyword matching options” for exact and phrase match keywords, then you will be affected by this change. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you will be largely unaffected.

Close variant keyword matching in Google AdWords

Read the official announcement.

Dynamic Sitelinks

A pretty simple change to the AdWords platform here: if you are not serving your own sitelinks, Google may serve them for you. Be proactive in your accounts and ensure that you have sitelinks in place to guarantee your website visitors are landing on the pages that you intend.

Who will be affected? Everyone.

Google AdWords Sitelinks example

Read official announcement.

PLAs Transitioning to Shopping Campaigns

If you haven’t heard about this change, then you need to get out from under that rock. First announced on October 22, 2013, AdWords will be upgrading the features and functionality of Product Listing Ads – now called Shopping Campaigns. This change, which should have already taken effect in your account by the first of September, is meant to address the complexity of this product-oriented campaign type.

The AdWords interface will be more elegantly integrated with your Google Merchant Center product feeds and much of the heavy lifting (working within Google Merchant Center itself) will be unburdened from search marketers.  There are also some useful advanced reports that are available in Shopping Campaigns following the upgrade.

Who will be affected? Everyone in Ecommerce. If you have been running PLAs and didn’t know about this change, review your account immediately to familiarize yourself with the new campaign format. Again, this change should have already taken effect in your account as of September 2014.

Read latest announcement.

Improved App Promotions

Currently in beta is a new app-specific functionality which allows advertisers to reengage with users across both Google Search and YouTube. The new feature allows marketers to target an audience that has already downloaded and installed their app.

In terms of functionality, AdWords advertisers will now be able to deep link to specific locations within the app that relates to user searches. The previously installed app will open after an ad click in this scenario, rather than opening a new page in the user’s browser.

New app promotion ad features from Google AdWords

Who will be affected? Everyone with an app looking to experiment with new ways to engage with their existing audience.

Read official announcement.

Website Call Conversions

The call extension has been around for quite some time and the addition of website call conversions was an obvious choice for the AdWords product team. It’s been a long time coming, but now you can track calls from your website that originated from an AdWords ad click. This provides more insight into how people are using your ads and gives you yet another conversion for which to optimize.

Who will be affected? Everyone with a phone. That probably means you, too. If you haven’t been tracking the source of your calls, I’d recommend giving this one a shot. It does require adding code to your site.

See how to get started with website call conversions.

Search Network with Display Select

The campaign networks setting known as “Search and Display Networks” will forever come to be known as “Search Network with Display Select.” This is a simple change that is unlikely to affect most advertisers, but, if you’re currently running Search and Display (combined) campaigns, you should check this out and prepare your account accordingly.

The upgrade is meant to provide better performance, easier management and certain levels of customization within the campaign. Search with Display Select will roll out in all accounts starting September 16.

Search Network with Display Select

Who should be affected? No one. As a general best practice and as I tell attendees in our PPC trainings, you should really keep your Search and Display campaigns separate as a means to effectively control how and where your budget is being spent. These channels have separate functions in the grand scheme of things. As such you should be budgeting for them separately.

Read official announcement.

Conversions for Optimization

The last change on my list will affect how your bidding strategies work in your account, it’s a potential game-changer, and it should be rolling out in accounts over the next few weeks. As marketers we know that there are many important conversions to track for our websites or our clients’ site. However, not all conversions are created equally.

This update takes this into account and gives you the ability to specify which conversions should be optimized for when you are using bidding strategies like Conversion Optimizer, Enhanced CPC bidding or Target ROAS.

For example, you might be tracking both form fills and PDF downloads in your account. Soon you will be able to specify that these bidding strategies only use your most profitable conversions when being applied rather than all conversions.

Who will be affected? Everyone who optimizes for conversions – probably you.

Read details.

Remember, one of the most important best practices in PPC account management is to stay on top of the many AdWords changes that happen over time. Be proactive in your account and see if any of the aforementioned features will affect you. Happy optimizing!

Are you pleased or displeased with these changes? Let us know in the comments below.

Author: "Stephen Kapusta" Tags: "Paid Search"
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Date: Tuesday, 02 Sep 2014 15:17


Google Analytics export to BigQuery is great for getting at the raw session-level data of Google Analytics. But, it’s only for GA Premium (GAP) subscribers. If you have other reasons to need GAP – like increased sampling limits, DoubleClick integration, or additional custom dimensions — and you have the money to spend, GAP is a great option.

Raw GA data?

But what if you’re not a GAP subscriber? Can you still get the raw, session-level data?

In a word: no (at least not from GA). All of the data in GA reports and in its associated reporting APIs is aggregated data. You can create and export reports full of dimensions and metrics, but there’s no report that can give you all of the information for each session the way BigQuery can.

We can do this

Fortunately, there’s an alternative: send the raw data into a repository where it’s easily accessible. Especially if you’re using Google Tag Manager, it’s pretty easy to fire an additional tag at the same time using the same rules as Google Analytics.

There’s a third-party tool that’s perfect for this kind of logging: Keen IO. Keen IO is intended for gathering unstructured event data from any source you like: websites, games, devices. I say “unstructured” because you are free to send any kind of data you like; there are no requirements except a timestamp and whatever set of properties you’d like to record.

Keen IO is a subscription software service. You don’t have to worry about any of the details of how the data is stored or where, and you pay based on the number of events you send per month (up to 50,000/month is free, so it’s easy to try out with no commitment, and it scales at reasonable prices from there). You can send data using a really simple REST API and JSON for the data, or there are ready-to-go SDKs in a variety of languages (including JavaScript, which is good for us in collecting web data).

There are also simple APIs for querying or exporting the data for analysis. Keen’s query APIs are fairly limited (compared to BigQuery, for example), but for moderate volumes of data (like the number of hits within the non-Premium GA limit of 10 million/month), they’re absolutely fine. Keen doesn’t have any built-in reports, so you’ll be pulling queries or extracting data to use with another tool for analysis or visualization (just like BigQuery).

(Would I recommend that you only use Keen IO and drop GA altogether? Definitely not. They’re both great at what they do. Keen IO fills a gap in GA, but it doesn’t recreate all the functionality of GA.)

How it works

  1. Keen IO JavaScript library and configuration. First, you’ll have to sign up for a (free) Keen IO account. Then we can use Keen IO’s JavaScript library by including the following script in your pages:
    <script type="text/javascript">
      !function(a,b){if(void 0===b[a]){b["_"+a]={},b[a]=function(c){b["_"+a].clients=b["_"+a].clients||{},b["_"+a].clients[c.projectId]=this,this._config=c},b[a].ready=function(c){b["_"+a].ready=b["_"+a].ready||[],b["_"+a].ready.push(c)};for(var c=["addEvent","setGlobalProperties","trackExternalLink","on"],d=0;d<c.length;d++){var e=c[d],f=function(a){return function(){return this["_"+a]=this["_"+a]||[],this["_"+a].push(arguments),this}};b[a].prototype[e]=f(e)}var g=document.createElement("script");g.type="text/javascript",g.async=!0,g.src="https://d26b395fwzu5fz.cloudfront.net/3.0.7/keen.min.js";var h=document.getElementsByTagName("script")[0];h.parentNode.insertBefore(g,h)}}("Keen",this);
      var keenTracker = new Keen({
        projectId: "your_project_id",
        writeKey: "your_write_key"

    This just loads the library and sets up a tracker object (here I’ve called it keenTracker) with the project ID and write key that Keen supplies you when you sign up.

  2. Tracking pageviews, events, and any other interactions. To log something to Keen, we can use the following script:
    keenTracker.addEvent("www.example.com", keenData);

    Of course, we’re going to have to fill in that data bit (it takes a JSON object) but we’ll get to that in a second. If you’re using GTM (which will be by far the easiest way to do this, rather than hard-coding in your pages), you’ll probably want to create one or more tags with the code from step 1 plus the code from step 2, that then take various macros and information from your dataLayer to fill in the data (which we’ll get to next).

  3. Leveraging Google Analytics & Tag Manager data. So how are we filling in all of this data? First off, let’s leverage all the things GA or GTM can tell us. GA has a client ID (a unique ID for the device which is used to count users), as well as a bunch of information about the size of the screen and other details we might be interested in. You can access these properties by using the get command in GA, like this:
            "clientId": tracker.get("clientId")

    Here I simply pushed the value to the dataLayer, since it will be easy to grab in GTM. Besides clientId, there’s a slew of system details you may want to grab like screen size and so on – the field reference for GA gives all the names of these properties. Note that these values won’t be available until after GA does its thing, so you want to use tag priority to manage their order.

    Besides the stuff GA knows, GTM can also get the value of items such as the URL of the page, the referrer, the values of cookies, and more. Use whatever you need!

    Then we’ll likely want to fill all this in for the Keen data using some macros (from the dataLayer or anywhere else you like). In your tag, before the addEvent command, let’s set up the data:

    var keenData = {
        'clientId': {{Client Id macro}},
        ...and so on...

    You may need a couple of different kinds of tags (one to match the types of data in GA pageviews, another in GA events). You’ll want to set them up on the same rules as your GA tags in GTM.

    (Keen even gives a full recipe for capturing pageviews, although we’re short-circuiting some of the steps by leveraging information that already exists in GA & GTM.)

  4. Enrich data with Keen’s add-ons. Keen also has some add-ons that help enrich the data. For example, it can capture the user agent (browser type and version) and parse that into its various pieces. The most important of these is for geo-location by IP address. If you capture the IP address in the data you send, you can have Keen add a city, state, country, and postal code. That’s something that GA also does, but it happens after the data is sent, so we’ll want to replicate this in our Keen data. More documentation on Keen’s add-ons here.

Reading the data

Once the data is in Keen IO, it’s just a big list of all the properties you sent. You can query it using Keen IO’s read APIs, which let you do a variety of types of queries from simple counting and summing, to filtering and funnel analysis.

This process is a little different from BigQuery, in that Keen uses a simple REST API with parameters to define the query rather than a SQL-like query syntax. Many of the most common tasks can be accomplished through this API, but note that you can also use the API to extract an entire data set to another tool (BigQuery, even, or to an analysis or visualization tool like Tableau or R).


There’s lots of additional logic you could use to enhance this data and make it even better:

  • Implement a cookie to sessionize events on the client side.
  • Process GA campaign tags contained in URL query parameters into the data.
  • Leverage GA’s new tasks feature to improve your Keen IO data collection. For example, you could abort the event if the page is rendering in a “Top Sites” preview in Safari, or check whether cookies are enabled.

Other tools

Snowplow Analytics is similar to Keen IO, and is available both as software-as-a-service, as well as open source software for running your own data warehouse on top of technologies like Amazon S3 and Redshift for storage. It’s a solid solution, and in some ways even better suited than Keen IO to this problem, albeit a bit more complicated to set up since it relies on underlying Amazon Web Services. Definitely worth taking a look at if you are seriously considering a solution like this one.

BigQuery itself recently started supporting streaming data import (rather than batch jobs), but given the way authorization works in BigQuery, it’s not really appropriate for client-side tracking. If you were sending data from the server-side, it would be a possibility.

Whatever tool you choose, it should be obvious that the power of Google Tag Manager and one of these data logging tools in combination can empower you to collect raw interaction data for research and analysis.

Author: "Jonathan Weber" Tags: "Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager"
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Date: Thursday, 28 Aug 2014 13:15


As we look towards the end of this year and the beginning of 2015, consider how a training in Google Analytics, Google AdWords, or Google Tag Manager may help your career! Choose from seven different cities in the first quarter, ranging from Boston to San Francisco, with stops in Chicago and Denver along the way.

With trainings in cities around the country, we hope you can find a location that is easy to travel to and fun to explore!

Whether you’re just starting out in a new field or looking to get a deeper understandable of the tools you’re currently using, we have a class for you.

Learn how to better collect and analyze your data with our Google Analytics series, futureproof your website with the flexible Google Tag Manager, or drive qualified traffic to your site through paid search with our Google AdWords trainings.

Choose an option below to learn more about the specific topics we cover and decide which trainings would be right for you!

Google Analytics Google AdWords Google Tag Manager

Check out our list of upcoming cities for a training near you! View the schedule here.

Where to Next?

Should we add a city? Tell us where we should go next in the survey below!

Author: "Jon Meck" Tags: "Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, Pa..."
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Date: Tuesday, 26 Aug 2014 13:03


In 2013, LunaMetrics hosted its first free SEO training, designed for local students and recent graduates and partnering with local non-profit organizations. The event was so successful for all who attended that LunaMetrics will offer the free training again this year, over the weekend of October 18-19.

The students who were chosen to participate in last year’s program left with knowledge of SEO best practices and experience optimizing a website for search engine traffic. These employable skills and experiences could be added to their professional résumés to help kickstart their professional careers in essentially any field.

LaToya Johnson, then a Carlow University MBA student, participated in the 2013 training. She gave this advice, “…I would encourage other students to take advantage; not only will you gain knowledge, great networking opportunities, and a certificate. You may also discover a passion that you didn’t know that you possessed.”

seo-training-lunametricsI also attended this training in 2013 and I also possessed the undiscovered passion that LaToya Johnson spoke of. I had an interest in social media marketing but very little knowledge of search engine optimization, so I eagerly applied and was accepted to attend the training.

That training, led by Andrew Garberson (@Garberson), was unlike any college class or public internet marketing seminar I had ever attended. Andrew’s ability to convey the complexity of SEO to the entire room seemed effortless. Instead of being lectured, we discussed the topics together in a workshop style environment.

So rarely are you offered the opportunity to make a real impact as a college student, but this wasn’t the case. Instead of hypothetical scenarios, we worked with real organizations, real websites, and real challenges!

I made connections with many organizations during the training and followed up with them shortly after the training. I was offered and accepted a digital marketing internship with a non-profit organization. After its conclusion, I applied for an SEO internship with none other than LunaMetrics!

Fast-forward one year and today I’m a bona fide member of the LunaMetrics Search Department working in SEO, SEM, and Google Analytics. This year, I’m returning the favor by conducting the training that I attended just over a year ago. This year’s training will be held on October 18-19th, 2014.

If you’re a local student or a local non-profit who could use some SEO help, read through the descriptions here and consider applying!



LunaMetrics is a company that cares deeply for the Pittsburgh region & its non-profit organizations. This summer, a wacky company-wide scavenger hunt raised over $400 to benefit a local non-profit that was chosen by the winning team.

The Search Department recently began to implement policies that enable its members to offer consultation to their favorite charities. This training strengthens the local non-profits and helps ensure the future of a technologically informed Pittsburgh region.

Author: "Chris Vella" Tags: "Search Engine Optimization, Trainings"
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Date: Monday, 25 Aug 2014 15:16


While Google AdWords is a terrific platform for getting your advertising message in front of the right audience, it can take years to master. That’s why we offer our Google AdWords Training courses. The sessions are a terrific opportunity to get your questions answered and learn everything you need to know to maximize your ad spend and generate revenue for your business.

It doesn’t matter if you are brand new to pay-per-click advertising or a seasoned pro, you will learn about strategies and settings to help you maximize your account. Every training is unique as attendees work in different industries and have different business models. We really try to speak to specific examples in attendees’ accounts and industries.

Fortunately, our trainers have years of experience managing AdWords accounts for a wide variety of business types and actively work on accounts in addition to providing training, so you can be sure the recommendations you receive are time-tested.

However, some questions come up during each training session, and rightly so, as PPC advertising isn’t cut and dry. As I look forward to my next training (2 weeks away in Los Angeles!) I thought it might be helpful to review some common questions.

1. Is AdWords Right For My Business?

AdWords can be an effective use of your marketing budget for all types of businesses. Do you work in a long lead cycle and need new sign-ups or registrations? Do you provide a service to a specific geographic area? Does your company sell industry-specific enterprise software? Are you a local pizzeria?

All of these business models could benefit from AdWords’ ability to lower your cost-per-lead and drive qualified traffic to your website.

How it works:

2. How Do I Choose The Right Keywords?

The entire AdWords Search PPC system is designed around displaying your ad when a user searches for a specific term. For example, we might want the ad for our fictional theme park below to trigger and show when someone searches for the words Florida theme parks. When the ad is clicked on, our account will be billed a per-click cost.


In order to find search volume for keywords like “Florida theme parks” and other related terms, we do keyword research! We start by brainstorming various phrases and words that relate to our business with the Marketing team. Then we can run those keywords through a variety of programs to find out how much search interest exists around those terms, and roughly how much we may have to pay if those terms trigger an ad click.

AdWords Keyword Planner, SpyFu and Ubersuggest are a few of the most popular tools to get you started.

3. Seriously Though, What Are These Match Types About?

Just having the keywords isn’t enough. You can control their exposure to searches using match types. These are additional keyword settings that narrow or broaden the search terms triggering your ad. Match types are critical in setting up a profitable account.

Broad match, Phrase Match and Exact Match all control how your ad will display based on the user’s search.

Broad Match is the shotgun approach that reaches the largest possible audience (even related search terms).

Exact Match lasers in on only the keyword you specify.

Negative Keywords allow you to specify terms that you do not want triggering your ad, like the name of a competitor or an acronym that may have many meanings.

This chart gives you a quick idea of how match types effect an advertiser who wants to show ads when users search for women’s hats:


Google provides a short & sweet walk-through about match types:

4. Did I Structure My Account Correctly?

A well-structured AdWords account gives you better control of your budget, makes management easier, and provides the maximum targeting opportunities of your keywords. But let’s back up. AdWords accounts contain Campaigns > Ad Groups > Ads & Keywords.

Once you’ve completed keyword research, organize your keywords into tightly-themed groups, these will become your Campaigns (Example: “AdWords Training”). Each Campaign contains Ad Groups that are smaller breakdowns (like “AdWords Seminars”, “AdWords Workshops”, “AdWords Training Company”). Then each of those Ad Groups will contain Ads and Keywords.

It will look something like this:


It’s considered a best practice to break your Campaigns and Ad Groups down into themed groups based on your business model. Unfortunately, this isn’t usually a right or wrong situation. It needs to make sense to your particular business!

Need help with this? Look at your website navigation! Below we can see that I may want to have a Campaign called “Training” and a separate Ad Group for each of the training options:


5. Should I Target Mobile?

If you are using the Search network in Google AdWords, you ARE targeting mobile by default. But there are many factors involved in deciding whether or not you really should be targeting mobile users with paid ads.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is your website mobile-friendly?
  • Can a user complete a sign-up or transaction easily on a mobile device?
  • Are these users worth more or less to you than a desktop user?

If so, then go for it! There are even mobile-specific sitelinks that you can use, including ones that display a click-to-call button on mobile phones viewing your ad!


Very commonly, advertisers will want to opt out of mobile targeting for business reasons. There’s no option to check in AdWords to prevent ads from displaying on mobile, but if you use a Device Bid Adjustment set to -100%, you are effectively not bidding on mobile ad placements.

mobile adjustment

These commonly asked questions are just some of the topics we review in our AdWords 101 course. In that first day, we focus on building your account and your message. AdWords 201 takes a deep dive into account settings for granular fine-tuning and maximum profitability.

Do you have any questions you’d like an AdWords expert to answer? There’s a comment box below.

Author: "Michael Bartholow" Tags: "Paid Search, Trainings"
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Date: Friday, 22 Aug 2014 13:41


Spurred on by the Edward Snowden revelations, Google has begun taking security more seriously. After the revelations came out, Google quickly secured and patched their own weaknesses. Now they are pushing to encrypt all internet activity by incentivizing websites that use SSL certificates by giving them a boost in rankings.

During a Google I/O presentation this year called HTTPS Everywhere, speakers Ilya Grigorik and Pierre Far made it clear that this move is not just about encrypting the data being passed between server to browser, but also to protect users from having the meta data surrounding those requests collected.

Though the meta data collected by visiting a single unencrypted website is benign, when you aggregate that data it can pose serious security risk for the user. Thus by incentivizing HTTPS, Google has begun to eliminate instances on the web where users could be vulnerable to having information unknowingly collected about them.

I will give you the spark notes version of the HTTPS Everywhere presentation, but even that will warrant a TL;DR stamp. My hope is that this outline and the resource links contained within it give you a hub you can use when evaluating and implementing HTTPS on your site.

What is Internet SecurityWhen Google talks about securing websites and users with HTTPS, they are really talking about three things: Authentication, Data Integrity, and Encryption

Authentication involves making sure the site you are visiting is who they say they are.

Data Integrity revolves around protecting the data from being modified while in transit.

Encryption, probably what you first think of, is about making data unreadable if someone does get ahold of your data.

Together this trio works to prevent passive attackers from listening in on user activity, prohibits attackers from tampering with data while in transit, and inhibits attackers from impersonating the destination site. In the past implementing this level of protection was met with some resistance because of the cost and latency added to running a website.

Ilya and Pierre acknowledge this in their HTTPS presentation and present us with a process of implementing HTTPS in a way that reduces the cost and latency traditionally associated with adding a TLS layer to your site. Their recommendations come straight from Google’s own HTTPS implementations which saw double digit page load improvements over their HTTP counterparts.

There are two checklists, first is the System Admin Checklist; second is the Webmaster checklist. The System Admin checklist should be followed in order.

It’s important to note that as of right now HTTPS as a ranking factor is only affecting 1% of sites in search results. So making this change is not urgent. I assume if you are selling things online then you already have HTTPS set up on your site, in which case you’re ahead of the curve.

If you already have HTTPS, I would suggest you use the Qualys SSL Tool to evaluate the level of security your certificate is offering you, talk to your developers about how they’re leveraging keep-alives and session resumption, and ask them if SPDY implemented on your server. Note: SPDY is currently only available on Apache servers.

Webmasters, consistency is very important when moving a site to HTTPS. Any link or 301 that could direct a user to an HTTP version of the site opens a hole in the security you invested so much time setting up. So take protocol relative URLs seriously and monitor webmaster tools following implementation.

System Admin Checklist: Configuring the Transport Layer Security (TLS) and making it fast.

1. Get a 2048-bit TLS certificate

  • Presentation Start: 10:03
  • Must be 2048-bit, sites using 1024-bit certificates should upgrade
  • You must decide between single domain(example.com), multi-domain(example.com, cdn.example.com, example.us), or wild card(*.example.com) certificate
  • Cost depends on use case
    1. Non-commercial: Free certificates for non-commercial use from StartSSL
    2. Open-Source Project: Free certificate from GlobalSign
    3. Commercial multi-domain certificates for $30+

2. Configure TLS on your server

3. Verify your configuration

  • Presentation Start: 13:20
  • Use Qualys SSL Labs SSL Report Tool to test that your server has been configured correctly

4. Monitor Performance

  • Presentation Start: 14:42
  • Two steps: Asymmetric and symmetric cryptography
  • Asymmetric
    1. Optimize keep-alives
    2. Utilize session resumption
    3. These two work together to eliminate the need for a full authentication handshake which reduces your CPU usage.

5. Tune your server configuration

6. Enable SPDY HTTP2

Webmaster Checklist: Making HTTPS search engine friendly

1. Update site content to request HTTPS resources

  • Fix hardcoded URLs by implementing protocol relative URLs
  • “Protocol relative URLs” just means that your links will adopt the https header automatically when moving the site from the development server to the live site. Protocol relative URLs are also used to prevent security gaps from cropping up by making sure all links on the site are pointing to https versions of a page. It saves both the developer and SEOs a lot of headaches.
  • These links should be implemented across the entire site, including resource links. If resources like javascript or css files have an http link on an https page, the browser will not load those pages.

2. Set up redirects from http to https, add HSTS, set up rel=canonical, and robots.txt

  • Make sure your reducing redirect or eliminating redirect chains, they make latency much worse for mobile users.
  • Eliminate redirects by using HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS)
    1. Presentation Start: 26:39
    2. Using HSTS, the browser remembers that it should automatically request HTTPS resources for this site and its subdomains.
    3. Here’s the HSTS Documentation by Mozilla
  • Rel=canonical
    1. Make sure https pages contain self-referencing canonicals as a means of reinforcing the signal sent to Google with the redirect
    2. Canonical URLs should be hard coded as opposed to protocol relative
    3. Here is the Google Documentation about using canonical URLs
  • Robots.txt
    1. Make sure you are not blocking the http version of the website with robots.txt
    2. If you block the http version of the site then search engines will be unable to crawl the 301s redirecting users from http to https

3. Verify robots.txt, rel=canonical, and 301 redirects are correct

  • Verify all variants. This includes https & https for all www, non-www, and mobile sites.
  • Check the index status of each http and https site. After launching https, HTTP should drop to zero and HTTPS should spike to the HTTP’s previous version. If not, then you have probably missed some redirects, hard coded URLs, or have accidentally blocked something in robots.txt
  • Check Crawl Errors. Check the webmaster tools crawl error report for additional monitoring of the site move. Google recommends you check out this documentation about site moves to help smooth out the process.
Author: "Sean McQuaide" Tags: "Industry News, Search Engine Optimizatio..."
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Date: Wednesday, 20 Aug 2014 18:46


Here’s a quick tutorial on how to use Excel to analyze the keywords that have more than one of your site’s pages ranking in Google organic search results.

Your site may have plenty of keywords that have more than one landing page ranking for a variety of reasons. For example, when someone googles “Google Analytics Training”, there are many different LunaMetrics pages that might display, based largely on where the user is located.

Let’s look at how we can break these out and analyze them further.

Step 1: Export all your Google keywords with the associated landing pages.

This can be done in a few seconds.

1. First, open Google Webmaster Tools and go to the landing pages tab of the Search Queries report.

2. Add the parameter &grid.s=100000 to the URL. This displays all landing pages by changing from the default of 25 to up to 100,000 pages.

step 1.2 - change the url

3. Next, use the Search Queries exporter bookmarklet by Noah Haibach to export ALL the queries by landing page. It can take a minute or two if you have a high-traffic site.


Step 2: Isolate the keywords with more than one landing page.

Now we’ll just pull our desired list of keywords in Excel. Note: I use Excel 2010.

1. Import text file into Excel.

Step 2.1 - Import

2. Make a table.

In Excel, go to Insert > Table.

step 2.2 - make table

3. Use conditional formatting to highlight duplicate keywords.

Highlight the keyword column. Then go to home > Conditional Formatting > Highlight Cells Rules > Duplicate Values. Now any keyword that appears more than once is highlighted.

Excel table with duplicate keywords highlighted

4. Filter the table to show only cells of color you used for highlighting.

Go to the little arrow button in B1; then Filter by Color.

All pages ranking for a keyword

All done! 

Step 3: Analyze.

Easy enough to pull that list right? Now let’s talk about what to do with it.

Too much data!?

First, if your list seems overwhelming and non-useful at first, I feel you. My list for lunametrics.com had over 2,300 keywords with more than one landing page. Deeply analyzing all of these columns isn’t very valuable. Additionally, manipulating tables like this can be resource intensive if you have a lot of data; it’s possible that Excel could freeze here.

So, you might want to cut out unimportant data. One way is to exclude the lowest trafficked landing pages before you perform step 1.

Alternatively, you can skim off the fat after you exported but before you make the table. I like to Advanced Sort by clicks and then by impressions, and then I delete columns at the bottom. I reduced the 2,300 columns for lunametrics.com to about 500 by deleting columns with 0 clicks and less than 10 impressions. In the last screenshot, I did this, then I alpha-sorted by keyword.

Figure out why your keywords might have more than one page ranking.

Understanding why you have multiple pages ranking can help you understand your search engine visibility better, and help you identify opportunities for improvement. Below are a few common reasons this could happen:

  • Localization Sometimes a search query made by a nearby user will return one page (for example, your homepage or store page shows in a local 7 pack); whereas the same query from a more distant user will return a different page. This technique is one of the best ways I know to grab a nice list of relevant keywords impacted by location.
  • Rankings changes – Perhaps one page was ranking consistently for a search query, and now another one is.
  • Multiple pages ranking simultaneously - if you’re really dominating the rankings.
  • Sitelinks or other extra links (CAUTION). The data I often see in GWT on Sitelinks, breadcrumb links, event listing links, or other rich snippet links is often not what I’d expect, and I’m not sure what is going on. For example, I always see Sitelinks when I Google “lunametrics”; however, the # of impressions listed by GWT for the  home page for the query “lunametrics” is several times greater than any other landing page for that query. As another example, the breadcrumb links to a category page within the Google listings for a client’s product pages do not appear to show up either.
  • To that last point, be wary of  jumping to conclusions with GWT search query data. It’s probably better to use this analysis for creating general hypotheses.

Sample analysis questions:

  • What queries are impacted by localization? Should I change up how we’re doing geo-targeting and local SEO?
  • Which page do I want to rank for keyword X?
  • Why is page x ranking for these keywords? Should I shift the targets on page x?
  • Do I have keyword cannibalism? (See #4 in 11 Keyword Targeting Mistakes for a definition.)
  • Are there any pages getting substantial traffic from unexpected queries? Why?
  • Are there landing page optimization opportunities to give said unexpected traffic a better experience (and improve conversion rates?)


Happy analyzing. Let us know in the comments what pearls of insight you’ve found by analyzing the landing pages of keywords.

Author: "Reid Bandremer" Tags: "Miscellaneous"
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