One of the most important technical toolkits at the fingertips of any SEO pro is Google Chrome.
Now, there have been plenty of articles outlining some of the ways that DevTools can help SEO professionals and developers alike.
However, I want to share a couple of different use cases where SEO pros can lean on DevTools.
- Troubleshoot site performance.
- Double-check how Google sees your site.
- Spot-check crawl errors.
1. Setting Up DevTools for Ad Hoc SEO Troubleshooting
For anyone who hasn’t ventured into Chrome’s DevTools, accessing it is as simple as right-clicking a webpage and clicking Inspect.
Approaching this from the lens of SEO professionals, I recommend using both the Element pane – allowing you to look at the DOM and CSS – as well as enabling a few different tools in the console drawer.
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To get started, right-click, and select Inspect.
By default, this brings up the Elements panel, giving you a glimpse of the DOM and the style sheets used to compose the page.
This view alone offers us plenty of things to dive into, but to take full advantage of the toolkit, enable the console drawer.
Click on the three dots next to the settings icon, and scroll down to Show console drawer.
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Alternatively, click the Escape key.
With both the console drawer and the element panel enabled, users are able to get a glimpse of the code that’s being rendered in the DOM and the style sheets that are being used to paint that code in the browser.
As well as a host of other tools that can be accessed from the console drawer.
Depending on how frequently you use DevTools, the console drawer may just show the console itself.
Instead, we’ll focus on enabling three additional tools:
- Network conditions.
Under More Tools, select each of these three items until they appear as tabs in the console drawer.
Our DevTools panel should look something like this:
Now that these three panes are enabled, let’s get into troubleshooting.
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2. Switching User-Agent in DevTools
One of the most overlooked ways to use DevTools is leaning on Chrome’s built-in ability to switch User-Agent.
This simple test has helped uncover a number of different issues by providing insight into how Googlebot is seeing and processing the information on a site.
For the investigative SEO professional, DevTools can often act as a trusty magnifying glass allowing users to zoom in on a particular issue to uncover a root cause.
How to Switch Your User-Agent
In order to switch your user-agent in Chrome, use the Network Conditions tab in the console drawer.
Uncheck Select automatically, and you can view the content using Googlebot Smartphone, Bingbot, or any number of other user agents to see how content is being delivered.
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The Case of the Mobile Alternate Site
Take a site where Google may not be showing the updated title tag or meta description in SERPs.
It may be difficult to ascertain why Google has seemingly chosen another title altogether or failed to update the title in SERPs from a previous title tag.
In one case, after switching the User-Agent to Googlebot Smartphone, it became quickly apparent that the site was still serving an alternate mobile site to Googlebot.
Because Google had already made the switch to mobile-first indexing, Google was processing and indexing the changes on the mobile site, while failing to catch the updates that had been made on the desktop version of the domain.
Mobile sites may seem like a relic of the distant past, but they certainly still exist.
In fact, a site: search for m.*.com sites reveals over 2 billion in Google search:
While it may be easy enough to spot an issue like this in a crawl by looking for the rel=”alternate” meta tag, switching the User-Agent in Google Chrome offers a great opportunity to spot a potential issue without ever having to leave the browser.
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Spotting Overzealous Server Protection
It’s no secret that there are plenty of bad actors out there on the web.
Additionally, it’s no secret that many hackers and generally malicious miscreants may try to use the power of Google against a site.
This is why we can’t have nice things.
As a result, some server stacks, CDNs, and hosting providers may offer some built-in security features that block Googlebot spoofs in an effort to ensure a site stays safe from spammy crawlers.
However, sometimes a site may get a little too overzealous, and end up accidentally blocking Googlebot!
If you see a message like the one here, it might be time to do some testing:
When we saw this message on Google’s SERPs, it was clear something foul was afoot.
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However, the browser loaded all content without issue.
Was Google seeing something different?
By using the User-Agent switcher in DevTools, we were able to see that the site was serving that message when the User-Agent was set to Googlebot Smartphone.
While this may be a fine way to keep Googlebot spoofs at bay, they had accidentally blocked the real Googlebot!
The User-Agent switcher is not without its flaws, and certainly not a catch-all.
In fact, CDNs like Cloudflare are notorious for blocking traffic from visits that might spoof a search engine’s User-Agent.
When visiting Cloudflare’s own site with Googlebot set as the User-Agent, you’re greeted with a page like this:
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However, it’s a nice spot-check if what you’re seeing in SERPs is unexpected.
Diagnosing Core Web Vitals in DevTools
One important tab in DevTools is the Performance tab.
This is a great gateway for troubleshooting issues that relate to page speed and performance and can offer some actionable takeaways when it comes to Core Web Vitals.
While the metrics that are part of Google’s Core Web Vitals have been a part of page speed and performance reports for some time, it is super important for SEO professionals to be familiar with how to dissect these issues.
Especially as webmasters become more acutely aware of the importance of Core Web Vitals to Search.
Using the Performance tab in DevTools is a step to better understanding these important web metrics.
How to Set Up the Performance Tab for Debugging Core Web Vitals
On the top tab in DevTools, click the Performance tab.
Ensure the Screenshots button is checked, then click the Refresh icon in the Performance tab to record the page load.
The profile that loads gives an overview of how long it took to load the page, with timings highlighted for significant events.
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Within the timings section, users can see flags for things like FCP (First Contentful Paint), and LCP (Largest Contentful Paint), one of our Core Web Vitals.
In hovering over the flag for LCP, we can actually see the piece of content flagged to be the largest contentful paint during the page load.
This can help remove the guesswork as technical SEO pros work together with development and performance teams to troubleshoot Core Web Vitals.
Checking for Cumulative Layout Shift
DevTools also lets you identify what elements may cause layout shifting.
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Often, when images and ads finish loading, content may appear to jump around on the screen.
This occurs when the page hasn’t reserved the real estate required for these assets, causing the layout to shift and move as the content is loaded.
In order to help detect layout shift, use the Rendering tab in the console drawer.
Check the option for Layout Shift Regions, which will highlight areas of the page that undergo a layout shift as content is loaded.
Layout shifts will then be highlighted in blue as you interact with the page.
This can help webmasters and developers understand what resources may need placeholders.
3. Double-Check Your HTTP Headers & Review Unused Code
We often hear about soft 404s in SEO audits.
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Soft 404s are when the browser may show a 404 page, but instead, return a 200 OK Response Code.
In some cases, you may see content load exactly as expected on the browser, yet the HTTP Response Code may show a 404, a 302, or is generally incorrect or different than expected.
In any case, it’s helpful to see the HTTP response codes for every page and resource.
While there are a host of awesome Chrome Extensions that give you information about response codes, this is something you can check straight from DevTools.
Use DevTools and navigate to the Network tab.
Here, DevTools shows all of the individual resources being called to compile the page, the corresponding status codes, and a waterfall visualization.
There are two incredibly helpful views here to help filter and sort through status code information.
First, the filetype filter at the top of the Network tab allows us to narrow our focus to specific content types:
After selecting a resource, the Headers sub-menu in the Network tab allows us to see a host of information regarding the selected file.
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This includes all HTTP header information, like the Request URL, the Request Method, the Status Code, content-encoding, last-modified date, server, and so much more.
This can be incredibly useful information when troubleshooting.
You can lean on this info to:
- Verify GZip compression is enabled.
- Double-check that cache-control is working as expected.
- Verify we’re sending Googlebot and other user-agents the appropriate status code.
Review Unused Code
Lastly, I always like to leave the Coverage tab available in the console drawer.
Using this tab, you can quickly hit reload and identify how much of the code being shipped is actually being used.
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When troubleshooting site speed or performance, these are often the first render-blocking resources that should be evaluated for optimization.
If you’re shipping a ton of CSS that’s never used, it’s going to be a massive drain on performance.
CSS is always render-blocking – as a result, large CSS files can drastically slow down page speed and performance.
By identifying the scripts that are unused, SEO professionals can often help developers and webmasters troubleshoot what resources require better optimization for increased performance.
In short, Google Chrome is a critically important SEO tool in your arsenal.
DevTools offers a powerful glimpse under the hood of any website and can be a critical part of a technical audit.
However, one of the best parts about using DevTools is its speed.
Without ever leaving your browser, SEO professionals can feel empowered to spot check issues from crawlability to performance.
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All screenshots taken by author, November 2020
SUPPORT THE TIMES CLOCK
Which government censors the tech giants the most?
In 2009, Google started recording the number of content removal requests it received from courts and government agencies all over the world, disclosing the figures on a six-month basis. Soon after, several other companies followed suit, including Twitter, Facebook, Microsoft, and Wikimedia.
This year, we’ve extended our study of the above to include Pinterest, Dropbox, Reddit, LinkedIn, TikTok, and Tumblr. Our study looks at the number of content removal requests by platform, which countries have the highest rates of content removal per 100,000 internet users, and how things have changed on a year-by-year basis.
What did we find?
Some governments avidly try to control online data, whether this is on social media, blogs, or both. And not all of the worst offenders may be who you expect.https://public.tableau.com/views/Governmentcontentremovalrequestsbyplatform/Dashboard1?:embed=y&:showVizHome=no&:host_url=https%3A%2F%2Fpublic.tableau.com%2F&:embed_code_version=3&:tabs=no&:toolbar=yes&:animate_transition=yes&:display_static_image=no&:display_spinner=no&:display_overlay=yes&:display_count=yes&:language=en-US&publish=yes&:loadOrderID=0
Top 10 countries by number of content removal requests
According to our findings, the countries with the highest rate of content removal requests per 100,000 internet users are:
- Monaco – 341 content removal requests per 100,000 internet users
- Russia – 146 content removal requests per 100,000 internet users
- Turkey – 138 content removal requests per 100,000 internet users
- France – 97 content removal requests per 100,000 internet users
- Israel – 91 content removal requests per 100,000 internet users
- Liechtenstein – 68 content removal requests per 100,000 internet users
- Pakistan – 62 content removal requests per 100,000 internet users
- South Korea – 49 content removal requests per 100,000 internet users
- Mexico – 49 content removal requests per 100,000 internet users
- Japan – 49 content removal requests per 100,000 internet users
With 130 content removal requests to less than 39,000 internet users, Monaco has had the most content removal requests per 100,000 internet users. The majority of these (116) were directed at Facebook with over 98 percent in 2019.
In second and third place are Russia and Turkey with 146 and 138 content removal requests per 100,000 internet users respectively. Russia had 179,013 requests in total with 69 percent of these being directed toward Google. In contrast, Turkey had 90,696 requests in total with the majority of these (55 percent) being directed toward Twitter.
We’ll delve into the whats and whys of these removals below. But which countries submitted the most requests overall?
If we switch the top 10 to be the countries that submitted the highest number of requests overall, things do change slightly:
- Russia – 179,013 content removal requests submitted in total. The majority of these (69 percent) were directed toward Google
- India – 97,631 content removal requests submitted in total. The majority of these (76 percent) were directed toward Facebook
- Turkey – 90,696 content removal requests submitted in total. The majority of these (55 percent) were directed toward Twitter
- Japan – 56,861 content removal requests submitted in total. The majority of these (98 percent) were directed toward Twitter
- France – 54,627 content removal requests submitted in total. The majority of these (80 percent) were directed toward Facebook
- Mexico – 45,671 content removal requests submitted in total. The majority of these (99 percent) were directed toward Facebook
- Brazil – 36,151 content removal requests submitted in total. The majority of these (72 percent) were directed toward Facebook
- South Korea – 24,658 content removal requests submitted in total. The majority of these (44 percent) were directed toward Twitter
- Pakistan – 23,377 content removal requests submitted in total. The majority of these (84 percent) were directed toward Facebook
- Germany – 19,040 content removal requests submitted in total. The majority of these (68 percent) were directed toward Facebook
Russia outranked all other countries with a 6-digit figure for government content requests, making 179,765 requests across all platforms. It’s also the highest-ranking country for the number of requests submitted to Google, Reddit, TikTok, and Dropbox.
Interesting, too, is how the United Kingdom and the United States rank in eleventh and twelfth place respectively for the number of content requests submitted. The UK had 17,406 content removal requests in total with 64 percent being submitted to Facebook. Meanwhile, the US had 12,474 in total with 80 percent submitted to Google. In relation to the number of internet users, however, the UK submitted 27 per 100,000 and the US just 4 per 100,000. This places them 16th and 50th in the number of requests per 100,000 internet user rankings respectively.
Highest content removal requests by platform
Now we know which countries have submitted the most requests, which country comes out on top for each platform?
- Google: Russia accounts for 60 percent of requests – 123,607 of 207,066
- Facebook: India accounts for 24 percent of requests – 74,674 of 308,434
- Twitter: Japan accounts for 31 percent of requests – 55,590 of 181,689
- Microsoft: China accounts for 52 percent of requests – 8,665 of 16,817
- Pinterest: South Korea accounts for 46 percent of requests – 2,345 of 5,134
- Tumblr: South Korea accounts for 71 percent of requests – 2,260 of 3,193
- Wikimedia: United States accounts for 23 percent of requests – 977 of 4,256
- Dropbox: Russia accounts for 34 percent of requests – 752 of 2,217
- TikTok: Russia accounts for 24 percent of requests – 150 of 620
- Reddit: Russia accounts for 29 percent of requests – 143 of 488
- LinkedIn: China accounts for 71 percent of requests – 72 of 102
What about China’s lower rankings across every category but Microsoft?
China tends not to bother going through content providers and their in-house reporting mechanisms to censor content. It simply blocks entire sites and apps outright, forcing internet service providers to bar access on behalf of the government. China has banned all of the websites we have used in this comparison, except for LinkedIn and some of Microsoft’s services–the two areas where it dominates the content removal requests.
Which tech giant is receiving the highest percentage of removal requests in each country?
If we look at which tech giant is receiving the highest percentage of removal requests in each country, we can see that Google and Facebook tend to receive the vast majority.
Many Central European, South East Asian, and some South American countries submit the majority of their removal requests to Facebook, while many African and Eastern European countries, as well as the US, Canada, and Australia, submit most of theirs to Google. A large number of Middle Eastern countries submit the majority of requests to Twitter.
Biggest years for government content removal requests
Following a slight dip in 2019 (a 2 percent decrease on the number of requests submitted in 2018), removal requests bounced back up by 69 percent from 2019 to 2020. Twitter accounted for the largest percentage of these requests with 80,744 (40 percent) of the 203,698 requests submitted in total. It was closely followed by Facebook (62,314 or 31 percent) and Google (44,065 or 22 percent).https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/x62QQ/3/
Over the years, these platforms have made the most content removal requests. But, when you take into consideration that all three are the highest used of all the platforms we’ve covered, that’s perhaps no surprise.
However, what the above does show us is how the focus on platforms has changed over the years.
Facebook’s biggest year for content removal requests came in 2015 when 76,395 requests were submitted (25 percent of its overall total). These requests then dropped significantly in 2016 before increasing by 155 and 21 percent from 2016 to 2017 and 2017 to 2018 respectively. Figures then dropped by 34 percent from 2018 to 2019 before almost doubling again from 2019 to 2020.
Google also witnessed a similar drop in 2019 when requests dipped by 30 percent, having been growing by around 10,000 each year from 2016 to 2018. In 2020, the number of requests rose again by 46 percent.
Twitter, however, didn’t follow this trend. In 2019, Twitter saw a 97 percent increase in the number of requests submitted (rising from 23,464 in 2018 to 46,291 in 2019). The number of content removals submitted to Twitter continued to rise significantly in 2020, too, when they nearly doubled to 80,744. In fact, of all the platforms we’ve studied, Twitter is the only platform (bar LinkedIn and Reddit which have only recently begun to submit reports) that has noticed an increase in content removal requests each and every year.
Why does Twitter appear to be dominating content removal requests? After all, it doesn’t have the largest number of users (it has around 396.5m users compared to Facebook’s 2.8bn).
The majority of the increase comes from Japan, India, South Korea, and Indonesia. As we’ll see further on, Japan Twitter has recently been under fire for censoring government critics. Other reasons could be increases in scams, misinformation around elections, and general violations of local laws.https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/JEZwL/2/
Russia accounts for 60 percent of Google’s content removal requests
As mentioned previously, Russia dominates the number of content request removals made to Google, accounting for 123,607 (60 percent) in total. Despite Russia’s requests dropping from over 30,000 in 2018 to just under 20,000 in 2019, they jumped back up to a record-breaking 31,384 in 2020. This dip in 2019 was a worldwide trend, however, with a 30 percent decrease in removal requests in 2019 followed by a 46 percent increase in 2020.
Nearly 34 percent of Russia’s requests come under the reason of national security, closely followed by copyright (26 percent) and regulated goods and services (18 percent).
Russia’s requests are significantly higher than second-place Turkey, which sent just 14,242 requests–7 percent of all requests received. Turkey was closely followed by India (10,138 with 4.89 percent) and the US (9,933 with 4.79 percent). Defamation is the main reason for all of these countries’ requests, accounting for 39 percent of Turkey’s total, 27 percent of India’s total, and 58 percent of the US’s total.
Which of Google’s products are being targeted by these removal requests?
YouTube and web searches are all prime targets for these removal requests. Of all the requests, 50 percent are directed toward YouTube and 30 percent toward web searches.
Examples of Google content removal requests
Some examples of the requests submitted by Russia, Turkey, and India include:
Russia: “Roskomnadzor requested that we block a Russian-language summary of a Financial Times report claiming that the content was “extremist”. The article stated that the real number of coronavirus deaths in Russia is potentially 70% higher than what official statistics report.” – The content wasn’t removed, which was, in part, due to errors in the way the request had been served. This included procedural defects in the way the request was served (Jan-Jun, 2020).
Turkey: “We received a court order to delist 5 URLs from Google Search and to remove 1 Blogger blog post on the basis of “right-to-be-forgotten” legislation, on behalf of a high-ranking official. The news articles reported accusations of organised crime, which allegedly led to a criminal complaint.” – The URLs were not delisted or removed (Jul-Dec, 2020).
Turkey: “We received a court order to remove 2 Google Groups posts, 2 Blogger posts, 1 Blogger image, and an entire Blogger blog publishing political caricatures of a very senior Government official of Turkey.” – The content was not removed (Jul-Dec, 2016).
India: “We received multiple requests from Indian law enforcement for 173 YouTube URLs depicting content related to COVID-19. The reported content ranged from conspiracy theories and religious hate speech related to COVID-19 to news reports and criticism of the authorities’ handling of the pandemic.” 14 URLs were removed for violating YouTube’s community guidelines, 30 URLs were restricted in India based on cited local laws. Further information was requested for 106 URLs, of which 10 URLs were not removed and 13 URLs were already down.
India accounts for 24 percent of Facebook’s content removal requests
Facebook received the largest number of government content requests overall with 308,434 in total. India made up for the vast majority of these, with its 74,674 requests accounting for nearly 25 percent of the total. Most of India’s requests (40 percent) were made in 2015 when 30,126 requests were submitted. Since then, India’s requests have remained much lower, only reaching two or three thousand per year, except for in 2018 when requests spiked again at just over 19,000.
Interestingly, in 2015, the Supreme Court of India struck down section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, which made posting “offensive” comments online a crime that was punishable by jail. Perhaps this led to an influx in offensive comments on mediums like Facebook, or authorities turned to Facebook’s content removal system to try and combat things differently.
In second place for removal requests via Facebook is Mexico with 45,217. Most of these requests (45 percent) were placed in the first half of 2017, shortly after Mexico first started submitting removal requests (its first figures are recorded for the latter part of 2016). Therefore, Mexican officials were perhaps “catching up” on the content that they thought violated local law. Mexico’s removal requests dropped dramatically in 2018 (2,040 submitted in total) before rising in 2019 (by 240 percent to 6,946) and in 2020 (by 93 percent to 13,399).
Mexico was closely followed by France with 43,816 requests. Again, the majority of these requests were submitted years ago (37,695 or 86 percent were submitted in the second half of 2015). But unlike Mexico, France’s requests have continued to decline year on year with just 298 submitted in all of 2020. This dramatic peak in removal requests does coincide with the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris.
Oddly, the US doesn’t feature anywhere near the top for removal requests, ranking 57th for its mere 27 removal requests since reporting began. Facebook’s Transparency Report suggests a country might not make the list either because Facebook’s services aren’t available there or there haven’t been any items of this type to report. The US doesn’t fall into the former, but the latter doesn’t seem likely either, especially when you consider the United States’s removal requests across other platforms. Furthermore, there is a case study (like the ones depicted below) for the US, which suggests:
“We received a request from a county prosecutor’s office to remove a page opposing a county animal control agency, alleging that the page made threatening comments about the director of the agency and violated laws against menacing.” Facebook reviewed the page and found there to be no credible threats so it, therefore, didn’t violate their Community Standards. (Oct 2015)
Examples of Facebook content removal requests
India: “We received a request from law enforcement in India to remove a photo that depicted a sketch of the Prophet Mohammed.” – The content didn’t violate Facebook’s Community Standards but was made unavailable in India where any depiction of Mohammed is forbidden. (Jun 2016)
France: “Following the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, we received a request from L’Office Central de Lutte Contre la Criminalité Liée aux Technologies de l’Information et de la Communication (OCLCTIC), a division of French law enforcement, to remove a number of instances of a photo taken inside the Bataclan concert venue depicting the remains of several victims. The photo was alleged to violate French laws related to protecting human dignity.” – The content didn’t violate Facebook’s Community Standards but 32,100 instances of the photo were restricted in France. It was still available in other countries. (Nov 2015)
Mexico: “We received a request from the Mexican Federal Electoral Court to remove 239 items in connection with two complaints filed by the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (“PRD”) against Governmental Entities in Mexico. The PRD alleged that the content violated Mexico’s election laws.” – The content didn’t violate Facebook’s Community Standards but access to 63 posts were restricted in Mexico as they were deemed unlawful. 159 items were duplicated or had already been removed. (Jan 2020)
Japan accounts for 31 percent of Twitter’s content removal requests Twitter
Japan had the largest number of government content requests on Twitter with 55,590 requests submitted in total. This made up for 31 percent of all of the requests recorded by Twitter. Most of these requests (36,573 or 66 percent) were submitted in 2020. In fact, Japan’s content removal requests to Twitter have increased dramatically in recent years, jumping by 1,916 percent from 2018 to 2019 (from 875 to 17,640) and by 107 percent from 2019 to 2020 (from 17,640 to 36,573).
While the removal requests across Twitter have increased on a yearly basis (worldwide), Japan’s growth exceeds the worldwide average of 97 percent from 2018 to 2019 and 74 percent from 2019 to 2020. This comes amid recent reports that Twitter Japan seems to be suspending government critics. However, Twitter’s official report suggests the majority of the removal requests relate to laws surrounding narcotics and psychotropics, obscenity, or money lending.
In second place was Turkey with 49,525 requests, followed by Russia with 36,787 requests. Although Russia follows Japan’s trend with yearly increases in removal requests (99 percent from 2018 to 2019 and 54 percent from 2019 to 2020), Turkey’s removal requests are in decline (dropping by 20 percent from 2018 to 2019 and by 28 percent from 2019 to 2020).
Examples of Twitter content removal requests
Turkey: “Twitter received a court order from Turkey regarding two Tweets containing insulting language towards a high-level official of a prominent bank in Turkey for violation of personal rights. Twitter withheld both Tweets in Turkey in response to the court order.” (Jul-Dec, 2020)
Russia: “We received the first Periscope removal request from Roskomnadzor concerning a prisoner’s account. Citing Article 82 of the Russian Criminal Executive Code, the reporter asked us to ‘block the account from which the violating broadcast was made’. However, the reported account had no broadcasts, so we did not take any action.” (Jan-Jun 2017)
France: “We withheld one Tweet in response to a legal demand from the Office Central de Lutte contre la Criminalité liée aux Technologies de l’Information et de la Communication (OCLCTIC) for glorification of terrorist attacks.” (Jul-Dec 2017)
China accounts for 52 percent of Microsoft’s content removal requests
As we have already seen, China barely features across all of the aforementioned removal platforms for its content removal requests. This is due to the widespread blocking of these platforms, which removes the need for such requests. However, as some of Microsoft’s products are available in China, it accounts for over half of all the requests submitted to this tech giant.
Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn’t offer any insight into why the content removal requests are submitted. What it does indicate, however, is how many requests result in any action being taken. From July to December 2020, 96 percent of China’s requests were actioned. Russia (the second-highest submitter of requests) had just 41 percent of its requests actioned, while France had 89 percent.
Since the second half of 2018, China has always submitted over 1,000 removal requests every six months to Microsoft. Russia, however, upped its requests significantly in the second half of 2019, submitting nearly 300 percent more than the first half (2,951 compared to 743). But these started to drop off again in 2020, reducing by 45 percent and 58 percent in the first and second half of 2020, respectively.
Content removal requests across other platforms
Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft account for the vast majority of content removal requests, but the following also show interesting insights into where governments are focusing their online censorship efforts.
Russia submitted 34 percent of all the content removal requests to Dropbox, followed by France with 24 percent and the UK with 21 percent. Russia’s requests peaked in 2017 with 243 of its 752 (32 percent) requests submitted during this time. France’s came in 2018 with 63 percent of its total (331 of 524) submitted then. The UK also submitted the majority of its (41 percent) in 2017.
Since 2017/18, Dropbox’s removal requests have decreased quite significantly, falling by 38 percent from 2018 to 2019 and by 52 percent from 2019 to 2020.
Dropbox doesn’t provide insight into the types of content removal requests that are submitted but does appear to action the majority of requests it receives for most countries. For example, the US submitted 33 requests which affected 45 accounts. All but 2 of these accounts had action taken against them. However, of the 48 requests submitted by Russia in 2020, which affected 13 accounts, only 7 accounts had content blocked on them.
LinkedIn receives very few content removal requests according to its transparency report and the vast majority of these are submitted by China. 42 out of 50 of the requests in 2020 came from China with only 14 countries having ever submitted one of these reports in the last three years (from 2018 to 2020).
The number of requests submitted to Pinterest has grown significantly within the last two reporting periods, increasing by 500 percent from 2019 to 2020 (from 680 to 4,078). South Korea and Russia account for the majority of these requests, submitting 46 and 43 percent of the total requests respectively.
Most of South Korea’s requests (99 percent) came in 2020 while Russia has been upping its requests since 2018. Russia submitted 102 in 2018, increasing by 376 percent to 486 in 2019 before rising by a further 234 percent to 1,622 in 2020.
Most of the content removal requests submitted to Pinterest are due to violations of community guidelines. For example, in 2020, 90 percent of the requests submitted were due to content that violated Pinterest’s community guidelines. No specific examples are available.
Even though government content removal requests for Reddit have increased in recent years, the numbers are still within the low hundreds. Furthermore, as Reddit’s report demonstrates, a lot of the content that is restricted due to these requests is done so in the local area (over 71 percent of the pieces of content flagged by government requests in 2020 was only restricted in the local area).
Russia is, again, the main culprit for these requests, submitting over 29 percent of all the requests. Turkey has submitted the second-highest number of requests (100 or 20 percent) but most of these came in 2018 and 2019. In 2020, South Korea upped its requests with 60 in total (it only submitted 1 in 2019 and none before that).
No further information on the type of requests is available.
Data is only available from mid-2019 for Tumblr so it’s hard to conduct real comparisons on how things have changed on a year-by-year basis here. However, from the second half of 2019 to the first half of 2020, requests jumped by 229 percent (from 224 to 738) before rising by another 202 percent in the second half of 2020 (from 738 to 2,231).
South Korea dominates the requests submitted to this platform, accounting for 71 percent of all requests ever submitted. According to Tumblr’s report, 96 percent of the requests submitted by South Korea in 2020 resulted in data being removed–the global average was 95 percent.
No further details on the requests are available.
The number of requests submitted to TikTok has been steadily increasing in recent years. Most of these have come from Russia (24 percent), India (15 percent), and Pakistan (16 percent). While India and Pakistan submitted requests in 2019 and 2020, all of Russia’s requests came in 2020 alone.
TikTok doesn’t provide an insight into the reason for the content removal requests but does give figures for how much content is affected by the requests. Pakistan’s 97 removal requests in the second half of 2020 saw the greatest amount of content affected with 14,263 pieces implicated in total. In contrast, Russia’s 135 requests implicated 429 pieces of content.
From 2018 to 2019, Wikimedia’s content removal requests dropped by 35 percent (from 880 to 573), before rising again by 29 percent (from 573 to 741) from 2019 to 2020.
The United States accounts for the greatest chunk of these requests (across all years), accounting for 23 percent in total. However, the US’s requests have decreased in recent years.
What is particularly interesting about these Wikimedia content removal requests is that they are hardly ever actioned. According to the reports, only 2 of the 380 requests submitted in the second half of 2020 were actioned. Before that, the only content removal request accepted was from Ukraine in 2014. A blogger included a photo of his visa to visit Burma/Myanmar on his website. He had scrubbed his personal details from the image. The same picture later appeared on English Wikipedia in an article about the country’s visa policy. The redactions were removed and his information exposed. Given the nature of the information and the circumstances of how it was exposed, Wikimedia granted the takedown request.
Our team extracted the data from the transparency reports for Twitter, Facebook, Microsoft, Wikimedia, Pinterest, Dropbox, Reddit, LinkedIn, TikTok, and Tumblr. We analyzed the data by country and year, while also noting any other significant details where available.
In Facebook’s latest report for the second half of 2020, every country was listed as having at least 12 removal requests. Due to the volume of countries with a 12, this appeared to be a glitch in the report as the majority of countries normally had 0. Therefore, we omitted the ones with 12 and replaced them with a 0 to avoid over-exaggerating the number of requests received.
When creating a ratio of content removal requests to internet users, we omitted two countries from the top 10–Tokelau and Cook Islands. This is due to them having 1 and 6 content removal requests in total but, because of their low populations, they were classed as having a high rate of requests per 100,000 users, which would be an unfair representation.
60+ Google Search Tips, Tricks, Operators, and Commands To Master Google
I’m sure you’d agree, using Google is easy!
Simply type a query in the search bar, and voila, you get a relevant set of results organized and ranked in order.
While searching Google is a straightforward task, if you’re looking for something a bit more specific, like a website accepting guest posts on a niche topic, you’ll know that regular keyword searches don’t hit the mark.
If you want to get the most out of Google, you can’t rely on basic queries. You need to leverage the power of advanced search operators.
Whether you’re a seasoned search professional or have only the most basic Googling skills…
This special Google search guide will walk you through every Google search operator out there so you can leverage these “cheat codes” and become a Google search master.
Not only will you obtain more refined search results, but you’ll also have the ability to focus your search queries to target your particular niche or objective.
In this guide, I cover the complete list of Google search operators as well as some fun Google tricks and easter eggs you can use to surprise your co-workers.
I’ve also put together 15 actionable tips and tactics to help you make your Google search tasks more productive and efficient.
- Basic Google Search Operators for SEO
- Advanced Google Search Operators for SEO
- Google Search Tips for Everyone (How to Google Better)!
- Unreliable Search Commands to Avoid
- Hidden Google Search Tricks You (Probably) Didn’t Know
- 15 Actionable Tips to Master Google Search Operators
Let’s jump into it.
Free Bonus: Access a search command generator that will instantly produce dozens of search operators you can copy and paste to Google to find roundups, resource pages, guest post opportunities and much more.
What are Google Search Operators?
Search operators are special characters and parameters you can include in your search query to return more refined and granular search results.
Search operators cover a whole range of functions, from allowing you to narrow results to an exact phrase or exclude specific terms from your results. Using a mixture of search operators lets you uncover detailed information hidden away in a typical query.
For instance, say you run a food blog and have recently written a guide on succeeding with the paleo diet.
After all that work, you want to get your post included in paleo-related resources.
A search of paleo diet resources returns a wide array of results, from how-to guides to resource pages.
5.84 million results are too many for you to comb through.
Here is where search operators come into play.
By using the right search commands, you can turn that 5.8 million results into a mere 6,990.
A much more manageable number!
What’s more, all of the links in the search results are purely resource pages, allowing you to pick and choose which sites you want to reach out to for that all-important backlink.
In other words:
By using the right combination of search operators, you narrow down those convoluted results into highly targeted and relevant findings.
But before we tackle how you can apply these search operators in your daily Google search tasks, let’s break down each command in more detail.
Basic Google Search Operators and Commands List
These basic search operators are useful commands that help transform your standard text searches into more practical and filtered search results.
Applying these attributes to your search terms will open up a whole new world of search possibilities.
Using quotes (” “) refines search results by forcing an exact-match search. When wrapped around a single word, quotation marks exclude synonyms.
A search directive that tells Google to return results between two different search terms. This is useful for finding search results related to the two keywords. A pipe symbol (|) can also be used in place of OR.
The AND operator will return results related to the search terms that have been typed into the search bar. Because Google’s algorithm can accurately determine the difference between multiple search terms and phrase search, the AND operator doesn’t make much difference.
Example: sunflower AND garden
Adding a hyphen (or minus) in front of a search term will exclude any pages containing that keyword within its content. To exclude multiple search terms from appearing in your search result, additional hyphens are required.
Example: social media -facebook -instagram
“Site:” is a search operator that allows you to restrict your search results to a given domain. The “site:” command is most effective when used in conjunction with other operators like “intitle:” to find specific pages that mention your search term or the minus (-) operator to exclude a specified domain.
The asterisk symbol is considered a wildcard character in search because Google treats the asterisk as a “fill in the blank” or placeholder command. When the asterisk is used, Google will try to find the best match for the search term or phrase.
Example: obama * donation
Brackets help to control search results by grouping multiple search terms or operators. Putting keywords in parentheses allows you to be more strategic with your search and refine your search results.
Example: (basketball AND football) athletes
Using (..) with two numbers on both sides will narrow your search results to the range of numbers included. The (..) operator helps find specific information within a date range or even prices, though the results can be inconsistent.
If you want to restrict your search to display only results posted from social media handles, use the “@” symbol in front of your keyword. The “@” symbol can be used to find a brand’s social media handles as well as businesses with a specific social media platform.
Advanced Google Search Operators and Commands: The Complete List
Now you are familiar with the basic building blocks of search operators.
Let’s now delve into the more advanced search operators that will help you return precise search results.
The “intitle:” command will return the results of pages that contain the word or phrase used in the page title.
To find only pages with exact match phrases, use quotations (” “) around your search term.
Similar to “intitle”.
However, the “allintitle:” operator allows you to return results for page titles that contain all of the words in your search term.
This search operator is handy for SEO content and link building research and helps you quickly identify relevant content that could be a good target for outreach.
Example: allintitle:image seo guide
If you want to find pages that contain a certain word (or words) in their URL use “inurl:”
The “allinurl:” command is a specific search operator that returns results containing all searched keywords in the page’s URL. Using a search phrase that is too long may drastically reduce search volume or return no results at all.
Example: allinurl:seo content writing
The “intext:” Google search operator helps you find individual words or phrases within a page’s body. “Intext:” is rarely used as this search operator virtually functions the same as any Google search.
This command is most effective when used with another search operator like “site:” to find specific page content.
Example: intext:samsung smartphone
“Allintext:” allows you to search a page’s body or document text for all of the specified keywords included in your search term.
Combining quotations (” “) to the search term will further narrow down the search to display exact match results.
Using “filetype:” will restrict your search results to the specified file type such as PDF, DOCX, PPT, etc. The “filetype:” operator cannot be used on its own. Instead, it must be combined with another term to display results.
“Filetype:” can also be used to specify image types (PNG, JPG, GIF, etc.).
The “ext:” command can replace “filetype:” in the search term and return identical results.
Example: content marketing filetype:pdf
When performing market or competitor research, “related:” will come in handy. The “related:” operator will help you find similar domains to the target URL you’ve included in the search bar.
This search command works best with larger domains.
A proximity search operator, “AROUND(X)”, lets you find pages that contain any given search term with X words from each other. A search term like “digital marketing AROUND(3) SEO” will return results where “digital marketing” and “SEO” are separated by three words or less.
Example: digital marketing AROUND(3) SEO
If you want to know when a site or domain was last crawled by Google’s bots, use the “cache:” command. The “cache:” operator will return the most recent cache of a particular domain or URL. This will only work for sites that Google has indexed.
Note: The cached version of a domain will look different and displays a banner that specifies the date of the cached version.
The “source:” operator lets you view news content from a specified source in Google News. Using the “source:” command will display all of the keyword-related web pages from the source listed in the search.
Example: apple source:forbes
If you want to find the blog of a particular domain, use the “blogurl:” operator. The “blogurl:” command was initially used with the Google Blogs search, which got discontinued in 2011. While this command is now deprecated, it still returns relevant results from time to time, albeit inconsistently.
To narrow your search to a specific location, use the “loc:” command. Location-specific searching is most effective when targeting a particular brand or business in one geographic area.
While not fully deprecated, the results tend to be unreliable.
Example: marketing agency loc:new york
While similar to “loc:”, the “location:” operator returns news results from Google News for that given geographic area.
And just like the above, while “location:” is not officially deprecated, search results can be inconsistent.
Example: marketing agency location:new york
Google Search Tips and Tricks (How to Google Better)!
Want to use Google search more effectively for non-SEO tasks?
Here are my top Google search tips and tricks to maximize your search efficiency for day-to-day Googling:
The US and Euro symbols are handy when you need to search for products by their prices. Currently, $ and € are the only currency symbols that display prices. Other common currencies like GBP (£), JPY (¥) provide inconsistent results.
To further refine your search, you can combine a period with the currency symbol to display exact prices like “earphones $19.99”.
Example: iphone 12 $1000
When you want to convert between two equivalent units, use the “in” or “to” search command. The “in” and “to” operator can be used for numerous conversion applications such as currencies, temperatures, speed, etc.
Using the “in” command will display a Knowledge Card search result.
Using the “define:” operator will enable you to access Google’s built-in dictionary, which Oxford Languages provide.
The Knowledge Card-style dictionary result also includes an audio player that phonetically sounds out the word and synonyms of your search term.
To access the dictionary with multiple keywords like content marketing, quotations must be used. Otherwise, the search will simply return a traditional Google search result.
The “weather:” operator lets you check the weather and temperature of any given location.
The search result will be a weather-featured snippet. Beneath the weather featured snippet will be other popular and highly authoritative weather websites.
To view map results directly from Google’s SERPs without clicking on the Maps tab in search results, use the “map:” command.
The “map:” operator will deliver a locational search as the top result.
Example: map:san francisco
Are you looking to learn more information about a certain movie?
The “movie:” command will return results about your specific movie such as trailers, film summaries, reviews, and so on. If the movie is still playing in cinemas, the results will also show movie showtimes.
Example: movie:the social network
To see the stock information of a given ticker, use the “stocks:” command.
The search will return a Knowledge Card style result above the organic listings. “Stocks:” will work with either the company name or the stock’s ticker symbol.
A Google Maps search operator, the “near” command will list specific businesses matching your search term that are geographically situated near your IP address or location.
Even when “near” is used for a basic Google search, the first result tends to be a Google Maps widget and a local 3-pack.
Example: gas stations near work
Another Google Maps search operator, the “business type” command will return a selection of known businesses in a specific geographic area, typically near your location unless specified otherwise.
It’s important you consider your business category carefully for your Google My Business listing to ensure your business shows up for relevant results.
Example: cafe or restaurant
Unreliable or Deprecated Search Operators and Commands
With the basic and advanced search commands covered, let’s look at Google search operators that have become deprecated or are now defunct.
In other words, these are search operators you should stop using since they do not work now – or won’t in the future.
The tilde (~) symbol was previously used to search for similar keywords or phrases. By using “~”, Google search would deliver synonyms related to your search query. Google is now able to return synonyms by default, making this search operator obsolete.
Example: easter ~decorations
A prefix like a tilde symbol, using the “+” operator would force Google to return an exact-match search result for your given query. Google deprecated this search operator when it launched its social network Google+.
The “+” command was replaced by the quotation marks (” “) functionality in Google search.
Example: gates +microsoft
To search between specific dates, you were required to use the “daterange:” operator.
The only caveat was that this search command needed the use of Julian dates (yyddd date format). And since we now use the Gregorian calendar (mm/dd/yyyy), this operator is tricky to use.
What’s more, Google search returns inconsistent results with the “daterange:” functionality.
Example: wwdc daterange:11278-13278
The “inposttitle:” operator was used in conjunction with Google blog search and allowed search users to find blog posts with the given search term in the blog title. When Google discontinued its blog search, this search command no longer works.
Example: inposttitle:weight loss exercises
The “allinpostauthor:” let search users find specific authors on the Google Blog search vertical. The command was a quick and easy way to find content written by particular individuals.
This search operator became defunct when Google Blog search was discontinued in 2011.
Example: allinpostauthor:rand fishkin
Another Google blog search operator, the “postauthor:” command allowed you to search for blog content written by a specific author. Unlike “allinpostauthor:”, you needed to use quotation marks (” “) to narrow down your search to a particular author.
Example: inpostauthor:”james reynolds”
The “info:” operator previously gave you more details about a site, ranging from its search snippet and Google cache link to similar sites that relate to your search query. Google deprecated that search command in 2017, and now “info:” only shows the search snippet.
The “id:” command is identical to the “info:” operator and returns the same results.
If you wanted to find pages linked to your target domain, you would use the “link:” command. While Google officially deprecated this search operator in 2017, it can occasionally return some results that prove beneficial.
With that said, since there are numerous backlink analysis tools out there, I’d recommend
If you wanted to find a number via Google search, you were once able to use the “phonebook:” command. Google decided to drop this search operator in 2010 after many businesses and individuals claimed this feature caused an “endless source of hassles.”
Example: phonebook:bill gates
Introduced to Google search as part of the search engine’s social network Google+, the hashtag/pound symbol “#” operator allowed search users to return hashtags from social media networks like Facebook and Twitter.
While deprecated by Google when Google+ ceased to function, the hashtag command still returns results, though inconsistently.
Hidden Google Seach Tricks You’ll Want to Try Out
Now that you know how to maximize your Google search performance and get Google to deliver better results let me show you some fun Google tricks that you can use to surprise your friends and co-workers or accomplish more with your Googling.
A nifty Google search feature, the “timer” functionality allows you to set a timer right down to the second. To access Google’s built-in timer, either enter “timer” into the search bar or type in the amount of time you want Google to count down to.
The latter will start a countdown immediately, while the former will allow you to add your custom time.
do a barrel roll/z or r twice
Want to see Google’s search page perform a 360-degree somersault? Simply type in “do a barrel roll” or “z or r twice” in the search bar and hit enter. The “do a barrel roll” easter egg was first introduced in November 2011 and has since been a staple of Google’s many hidden tricks.
The term “do a barrel roll” was popularized by the 1997 video game Star Fox 64 by a non-playable (NPC) character named Peppy Hare. The “z or r twice” command was how the player would execute the maneuver on the Nintendo 64 controller.
Have you ever wanted to see what Google search would look like tilted slightly to the right? Well, a software engineer at Google has heard your request and included just the easter egg for you. Typing “askew” into Google’s search bar will return results that are, well, slightly skewed.
While similar searches like “slanted” and “tilt” used to work in the past, “askew” seems to be the only search term left that still results in Google search becoming lopsided.
How to trigger this Google trick: askew
If you’re a Seinfeld fan, then you’ve probably heard of “Festivus,” a Christmas alternative celebrated on December 23. If you’d like to start celebrating this anti-consumerism holiday, CNN has a great article that helps get you in the Festivus mood.
With the holiday becoming a cult classic among Seinfeld fans, it’s evident that someone at Google must celebrate the Festivus holiday. To experience this Festivus miracle for yourself, type “festivus” into Google search, and you’ll see Google’s search page adorned with a Festivus pole.
How to trigger this Google trick: festivus
By definition, an anagram is a word or phrase that’s formed by rearranging the letters of another word or phrase. Some examples of anagrams include cinema from iceman, silent from listen, and dormitory from dirty room.
When you type “anagram” into Google search, the search engine willfully plays along and delivers an anagram of its own, which you can see below.
Typing in “define anagram” shows another playful anagram.
Popularized by the video game StarCraft, “zerg rush” is a real-time strategy video game tactic where an overwhelming number of weak enemies attacks a player. Google decided to join the ranks of real-time strategy games by introducing the “zerg rush” easter egg.
Originally, one simply had to type “zerg rush” into Google’s search bar to access the hidden game. The search user had to destroy the army of Google Os that appeared in the SERP to win. The Os could be defeated by repeatedly clicking on them.
Google added the “zerg rush” easter egg in 2012 but has since removed it.
To access it today, head over to Google’s homepage and type “zerg rush”, and click the I’m Feeling Lucky button. You’ll be redirected to elgooG, a mirrored website of Google that maintains all of Google’s previous easter eggs.
How to trigger this Google trick: zerg rush
Google in 1998
When Google was founded in 1998, the search engine’s design is vastly different to what it looks like today. The original logo, for example, was far from polished and included an exclamation mark to match the Yahoo! logo.
If you’re curious about what Google looked like in its early days, before Google began rolling out its many SERP features, type “Google in 1998” in the search bar and hit enter. This easter egg was included in Google search to celebrate the search engine’s 15th birthday.
While you can’t perform any actual searches on this nostalgic version of Google, it’s fun to see how Google transformed over the years. Google even has a list of search engines around in 1998 at the bottom of the page.
How to trigger this Google trick: Google in 1998
Do you have an appreciation for coding? Then you’ll love Google’s blinking easter egg. By typing “blink html” into Google search, you’ll trigger an easter egg that returns search results where the words “blink” and “html” turn into flashing text.
Other terms you can use to create blinking text in Google’s search results are <blink> and blink tag.
How to trigger this Google trick: blink html
As part of Atari Breakout’s 37th anniversary, Google decided to join in on the fun and release an easter egg for its search page. Search users could play this classic video arcade game directly on Google search by searching for “atari breakout” and clicking on the Images tab.
Unfortunately, the search term “atari breakout” was deprecated by Google, much like “zerg rush.” To play this Pong-style game today, you need to head to Google’s homepage, type in “atari breakout”, and click I’m Feeling Lucky.
How to trigger this Google trick: atari breakout
What does Elmer Fudd, Klingons, Pirates, the Leet Language, and the Swedish Chef from the Muppets Show all have in common?
They’re the fictional languages Google offers its users.
To set one of these fictional languages as your search setting’s preferred language, navigate to the top right corner of Google and select Account > Data & personalization > Language. Click the + Add another language button and type in your desired fictional language.
There is another hidden fictional language, Pig Latin, though this cannot be accessed from your Account’s settings.
To try out the Pig Latin language interface, type in “www.google.com/?hl=xx-piglatin” into your browser’s address bar.
Another classic arcade game, Pac-Man, was first released to the world in December 1980. Over 40 years later, Google continues to pay homage to this beloved video game classic with their Pac-Man Doodle.
To start playing a Google-inspired version of the classic game, simply type in “pac-man”, “play pac-man”, or “google pac-man” into the search bar and hit enter. An interactive featured snippet will appear, allowing you to play directly in the SERPs.
Use your arrow keys to control the eponymous character.
How to trigger this Google trick: pac-man
The Answer to Life
Any fan of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy will know that “the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything” is 42. And while seemingly cryptic, Adams has gone on record to state that there has never been a deep, symbolic significance to the number 42.
Whether or not the number 42 has the special meaning ascribed to it, Google’s own “supercomputer” has decided to play along with Adams’ version of the true meaning of life. By typing in “the answer to life, the universe, and everything”, Google search will respond with 42.
How to trigger this Google trick: the answer to life, the universe, and everything
Find Chuck Norris
Fans of internet memes will know all about the Chuck Norris facts, a list of satirical (and often exaggerated) factoids regarding the martial artist and actor Chuck Norris.
Some prominent examples of Chuck Norris facts include:
- Chuck Norris can divide by zero.
- Chuck Norris does not sleep. He waits.
- Chuck Norris counted to infinity… twice.
- Chuck Norris can build a snowman out of the rain.
- Chuck Norris can start a fire with an ice cube.
Google has decided to play along with this internet phenomenon by including Chuck Norris as one of their hidden easter eggs.
When you type “find chuck norris” or “where’s chuck norris” into Google’s homepage and click I’m Feeling Lucky, Google won’t return a search result or direct you to a website.
That’s because, as the absurd hyperbolic claims go, “you don’t find Chuck Norris; he finds you.”
How to trigger this Google trick: find chuck norris
Flip a Coin
Another nifty visual feature, searching “flip a coin”, results in a coin-flipping game appearing above Google’s organic listings. The coin will automatically flip once you click enter on the search bar.
To flip the coin again, simply click the FLIP AGAIN text.
How to trigger this Google trick: flip a coin
Roll a Dice
If you prefer to roll dice over flipping a coin, then Google has the easter egg for you. All you have to do to unlock this Google trick is to search for “roll a dice” or “roll dice.” Google also offers several-sided dice to choose from, ranging from six-sided to twenty-sided die.
Users can also select their combination of dice, making the dice easter egg completely customizable.
How to trigger this Google trick: roll a dice
“42” is not the only graphical calculator easter egg that Google provides its users. Google can also help users quickly calculate the tip for their bill directly in the search results. The calculator can even divide the total amount of tip per person, making a convenient feature for a fun night out.
Other calculator easter eggs you can try out through Google are:
- the number of horns on a unicorn
- what is the loneliest number
- once in a blue moon
How to trigger this Google trick: tip calculator
When Alex Trebek, host of the game show Jeopardy, died in 2020, Google decided to honour the late game show host by including a special Jeopardy tribute to its search results page. When you search for Trebek’s name, Google corrects your search term by suggesting “who is alex trebek.”
This is a touching reference to the rules of Jeopardy, where contestants must answer the game’s clues with a “who is” or “what is” response.
How to trigger this Google trick: alex trebek
Super Mario Bros.
Another classic video game, Super Mario Bros., was first released in 1985 for the Famicom in Japan and the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in the United States. Super Mario Bros. has since gone on to become one of the most successful video game franchises.
Acknowledging Super Mario Bros’s storied legacy, Google has included a Mario-themed easter egg directly to its search results page. By typing “super mario brothers”, users will be shown a Knowledge Panel of Super Mario Bros., complete with a flashing “?” block.
This glittering box is an in-game reference, where players can hit the block to earn coins. And just like in the video games, clicking on the coin box in Google’s search result will give you 200 points and produce the same coin sound effect from the Super Mario Bros. game.
And just like in the game, if you click the box enough times to collect 100 coins, you’ll be rewarded with the 1-UP sound.
Another classic video game, Sonic the Hedgehog, also has his own animated gif in his Knowledge Panel. Clicking on the waiting Sonic will make him spin. After a few clicks, you’ll see Sonic transform into Super Sonic.
I’m Feeling Lucky
Google will often edit its logo to commemorate special events, holidays, or notable historical figures. These unique, temporary alterations to Google’s logo are known as Google Doodles and have been appearing on Google’s homepage since 1998.
If you miss any of these special logo edits or want to see every Google Doodle created, visit Google’s homepage and click on the I’m Feeling Lucky without typing anything into the search bar.
This will redirect you to the Google Doodle archive, where you can see all of the logo variations ever created and learn more about the history of Google Doodles. To view a random interactive Google Doodle directly in search results, type in “google doodle.”
How to trigger this Google trick: google doodle
15 Ways to Get the Most out of Your Google Search Operators
All of the search commands mentioned above will help transform your Google search skills from basic Googler to search powerhouse. But, to accomplish more with these search operators, you need to know how to mix and match them to your advantage.
Fortunately for you, I’ve compiled a list of 15 productivity boosters that will elevate your search capabilities beyond fun tricks and regular text searches towards Google mastery.
(1). Combine Numerous Operators Together
When it comes to search operators there is an infinite number of combinations.
The variety of commands you use is only dependent on your search requirement – and your imagination.
For example, if you’re looking for link building opportunities, namely sharing your content through link roundups, you can refine your search by using this set of search operators:
[keyword] “link roundup”
Using this combination of Google search modifiers, and the keyword “content marketing” I get 23,400 results:
But, I can focus the search even further by using the “intitle:” or “inurl:” search operators like so:
[keyword] intitle:”roundup” inurl:”round-up”
Now I’m down to 394 results:
Yet, I can still narrow my link roundup search even further by limiting the results to specific TLDs.
To do that, I combine the “site:” operator with the logical OR command:
[keyword] intitle:”roundup” inurl:”round-up” (site:com OR site:org)
And, now I’m down to just six results:
You get the point.
The more search operators you combine in your search string, the more refined your search will be.
(2). Finding and Removing Duplicate Content with Search Operators
Having the same content appear on multiple URLs within your site can result in duplicate content issues. When search engines like Google see duplicate content, they have a hard time differentiating between versions.
As a site owner, this can mean:
- Dilution of link metrics (e.g. link equity) resulting in ranking loss
- Lowering of search visibility, resulting in traffic loss
In some (though rare) cases, duplicate content can result in the site being de-indexed from the search engine.
To double-check your site for any duplicate content issues, you can use “site:” and “intitle:” search operators:
site:yourdomainname.com intitle:”suspected duplicate title goes here”
Using this example, you’ll be able to return results where pages have been duplicated with the exact (or similar) content throughout the domain.
Here’s one example I found when searching the Farfetch domain:
And, as you can see these pages are EXACTLY the same:
What’s more, replace “intitle:” with “intext:” and you can find entire content passages that have been repeated within a website. Here’s the specific Google search syntax:
site:yourdomainname.com intext:”suspected duplicate text goes here”
Digging deeper into the Farfetch duplicate content issue, I copied the product description that was used on both pages:
Pasted it in to my search string.
And found the text had been repeated across seven pages.
Duplicate content is a big issue among e-commerce sites.
Many sites have thousands, if not tens of thousands, of products.
So if you run an e-commerce store, I recommend you put these search operators to the test to help you locate duplicate content pages that may exist on your website.
SIDENOTE: For e-commerce sites with duplicate content issues, check out our URL slugs guide. It explains why you should never serve the same content across different URLs and what you can do to address any duplicate URL issues.
But duplicate content doesn’t just sit on your website alone. Some sites may copy your content in a bid to wipe away your rankings.
The following actionable tip will help you deal with plagiarism issues.
(3). Hunt Down Content Plagiarism with Search Operators
When there are two identical documents on the web, Google will pick the one with a higher PageRank and use it in the search results.
If your domain is new and weak, you post content, and it gets stolen, you may be outranked by your own (plagiarized) article.
As you can imagine, if you’ve done the work to produce amazing SEO content, and you see that content outranked by copycat heavy-weights, it’s massively frustrating.
The good news is, you can easily hunt down plagiarism culprits with this search operator:
intitle:”suspected plagiarized content” -site:yourdomainname.com
Using the “intitle:” operator with quotation marks will ensure Google only returns results with exact-match titles. By including the “-site:” command in your search, you exclude any sites you don’t want to appear in the results.
Which, in this case, is your own domain as that is the originator of the content.
For example, if I perform this search using James’ post about SEO experiments, I uncover eight duplicate versions.
Thankfully, SEO Sherpa ranks top for this keyword, and each page links to our post as the source.
But if that wasn’t the case, I could reach out to these sites and ask them to remove the content or add a “rel=canonical” to our post.
SIDENOTE: You’ll notice I also excluded pinterest.com. This was because there were many Pinterest results for my query and I wanted to narrow the results further. There is no limit to the number of domains you can exclude.
Of course, someone else just copying your blog post’s page title is not necessarily indicative of outright plagiarism. To double-check that a block of text has been copied wholesale without your knowledge, use the “intext:” and quotation marks (” “) command. Here’s how it looks:
intext:”suspected plagiarized content” -site:yourdomainname.com
As you’ll see below, using the “intext:” operator with a passage from James’ post, returns many more results.
Both the quotation marks and “intext:” commands do perform similar functions.
However, the “intext:” operator is more nuanced than quotation marks and likely to yield larger results. Not all plagiarists will include your page title in their duplicate after all.
With that said, its well worth trying both.
(4). Use Search Operators to Assess Keyword Difficulty
The overwhelming majority of pages that appear on the first of Google contains the keyword they rank for in the title tag.
This means if you want to know whether a keyword is easy (or difficult) to rank for, knowing how many pages target that keyword in the title tag is particularly handy.
Enter the “allintitle:” search operator.
As the name suggest the “allintitle:” operator displays results where all specified keywords are included in the title tag. To use the command simply type allintitle: followed the keyword phrases you want to check for.
Here is an example:
And another example of the allintitle: operator:
As you can see, despite my example keywords being similar, the number of results returned for each is wildly different.
If I was considering writing a post, and wanted quick and easy rankings, I’d choose the second keyword.
With only 59 pages actively targeting that keyword (Vs 12,500 for “best seo practices”) my chances of ranking would be much higher.
(5). Find and Address Indexing Issues with Google Advanced Search Operators
Getting your website indexed is an essential first step to appearing on search engines.
If your pages are not indexed, they cannot rank. If your pages are indexed but not properly, expect lower search visibility and subpar rankings.
A basic search operator that will show you all the indexed pages for your domain is the site: command.
Here is what the site: operator returns when searching the seosherpa.com root domain:
It reveals Google has 112 pages indexed for the domain, which looks about right.
If there were a big mismatch between the actual number of pages on our website and the number of pages in Google’s index, this would cause investigation.
I can also use the same search operator to see if a specific page is indexed. To do that, use a complete URL with its respective slug, instead of only the domain:
This basic search operator is useful for checking if a page has gotten indexed after publishing.
Beyond the single-site search operator, there are other combinations of search operators that are useful for auditing indexation issues.
Find Non-Secure Pages
If you’ve recently migrated your site from HTTP to HTTPS, combining the”site:” and “inurl:” commands allow you to audit your website for rogue non-secure (HTTP) pages. Here’s how it looks:
As the example demonstrates, be sure to include the exclusionary command “-” in front of the “inurl:” operator to omit any web pages on your site that have HTTPS in their URL.
When I searched for the National Football League (NFL) with the search operators listed above, Google returned 7,350 non-secure pages.
Despite the website being on secure https protocol:
That’s an issue.
Another search operator combo that can be used to help find indexation issues is:
By including the wildcard (*) operator to the “site:” search term, you’re able to find all of the subdomains that exist within a domain. The exclusionary (-) command removes any domain results that contain the www in its URL.
This combination of search operators helps you identify rogue subdomains indexed on Google.
For instance, when I run this search operator on Yas Water World, I discover a staging website that requires a no-index tag adding to it to avoid duplicate content issues:
Give these indexation checkers a test on your own website. You may surprised by what you find.
(6). How to Keep Track of Forgotten Files on Your Site Using Search Operators
Knowing how to perform a file search is useful.
It can help find unused or old files that have been forgotten on your website over the years.
One of the most common file types you should check for on your website is PDF files.
But the “filetype:” command will let you search for all sorts of files hidden away in your domain.
Besides PDF, here is a list of all the file types that Google indexes and supports:
- Adobe Flash (.swf)
- Adobe Portable Document Format (.pdf)
- Adobe PostScript (.ps)
- Autodesk Design Web Format (.dwf)
- Google Earth (.kml, .kmz)
- GPS eXchange Format (.gpx)
- Hancom Hanword (.hwp)
- HTML (.htm, .html, other file extensions)
- Microsoft Excel (.xls, .xlsx)
- Microsoft PowerPoint (.ppt, .pptx)
- Microsoft Word (.doc, .docx)
- OpenOffice presentation (.odp)
- OpenOffice spreadsheet (.ods)
- OpenOffice text (.odt)
- Rich Text Format (.rtf)
- Scalable Vector Graphics (.svg)
- TeX/LaTeX (.tex)
- Text (.txt, .text, other file extensions)
- Basic source code (.bas)
- C/C++ source code (.c, .cc, .cpp, .cxx, .h, .hpp)
- C# source code (.cs)
- Java source code (.java)
- Perl source code (.pl)
- Python source code (.py)
- Wireless Markup Language (.wml, .wap)
- XML (.xml)
Remember, you can also replace the “filetype:” command with the “ext:” operator. Both are interchangeable and will perform the same task.
Using these search commands on Econsultancy’s domain, here’s what I found:
And when I clicked on the link, it simply returned a 404 error that I’m sure the webmaster at Econsultancy doesn’t want to appear in search results.
Multiple file types can also be used at the same time, for example:
site:yourdomainname.com (filetype:pdf OR filetype:docx)
This search query is looking for all files on a given domain with PDF and Microsoft Word extensions.
Super useful if you want to check if gated content like ebooks and guides have found their way in to Google’s index.
Now, let’s transition from searching for unwanted file types to improving your content marketing strategy.
(7). Find Missing Content Opportunities with the “Filetype:” Operator
The versatility of the “filetype:” search operator means it can also be used to support your content marketing strategy.
Depending on how large your site is or the age of your domain, you may have old yet relevant content that’s sitting hidden in the depths of your site in non-search optimized formats like PDF or Word Document.
As Andy Crestodina points out, PDF files are the “rust” of your site and only rank on search engines by accident.
“No serious search optimizer would recommend targeting a competitive phrase with a PDF file.”
Word Documents are just as bad, if not worse, than PDF files. Not only are Word Docs incapable of being optimized for search, but they’re also risky to open as they can contain viruses.
So if you have any of these files hidden on your website, doing a “site:” and “filetype:” search can help you pinpoint opportunities to transform them into rank-worthy HTML content.
(8). Use Search Operators and Find Relevant Link Building Opportunities
Link building gurus recommend using paid tools to bolster your link prospecting efforts, more often than not.
And while I’m not here to knock SEO tools (we use several to deliver our own SEO services), software is out of budget for many small businesses.
So how can you find relevant link building opportunities with limited resources?
By using search operators, of course.
One little-known search command that’s useful for your link building efforts, is this:
The “related:” operator helps you uncover domains similar to the website stated in your operator.
Really handy if you’re trying to find relevant websites for your link-building campaigns.
A search for similar sites related to the Hubspot’s blog page returns 32 results.
That’s a really good number of opportunities you may not have found through other means.
What’s cool is, you can also use search operators to vet your opportunities for topical relevancy.
Ahrefs’ has outlined this formula which works really well:
- Pick a domain to target from your list of results.
- Perform a “site:” query and note the number of search results.
- Add a [niche] search to your “site:” query and note the number from that result.
- Divide your two numbers.
You want the quotient of your two numbers to be no less than 0.5 to be considered a relevant prospect. If the results are higher than 0.75, then the link prospect is incredibly relevant.
In short, this process measures the ratio of niche relevant content on the target website. The higher the quotient, the more relevant the website.
Let’s try this with the top result in the Hubspot example.
First, we perform a “site:” search:
Then we add our niche to the query:
Once we have two numbers from the results, we just divide the two numbers like so:
56,900 / 101,000 = ~0.56
As you can see, Marketo is a good prospect for Hubspot.
Of course, don’t just rely on search operators to find link prospects.
While the Ahrefs formula is a great way to eliminate irrelevant link prospects, I recommend you still manually check your potential prospect’s site before reaching out.
Link prospecting is not the only link-building capability of search operators. Let’s see how search operators can be used for guest posting opportunities.
(9). Leverage Search Operators to Find Guest Blogging Sites
Even after all these years, guest posting as a link-building practice is viewed with differing opinions. Some fully support guest posting, and some stay clear away from it.
Before I reveal how to find guest post opportunities with search operators, let’s see what Google actually says about guest posting.
Search Engine Journal has noted that Google has given out penalties or manual actions for sites that publish guest posts in several articles.
John Mueller has clarified Google’s stance on guest posting, saying that Google devalues links within guest posts.https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=SEOsherpa_Dubai&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-0&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X2hvcml6b25fdHdlZXRfZW1iZWRfOTU1NSI6eyJidWNrZXQiOiJodGUiLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X3NwYWNlX2NhcmQiOnsiYnVja2V0Ijoib2ZmIiwidmVyc2lvbiI6bnVsbH19&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1292535655256522752&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fseosherpa.com%2Fsearch-operators%2F&sessionId=14c44727fbce93e78587f3f7d4b57c887615f50d&siteScreenName=SEOsherpa_Dubai&theme=light&widgetsVersion=f001879%3A1634581029404&width=550px
So does this mean you should completely ignore guest posting?
As many in the SEO industry point out, guest posting still has value in amplifying brand awareness, especially if you target highly relevant and quality websites. And, Mueller specifically referenced paid guest posts rather than guest posting as a practice.
SEMrush’s Melissa Fach best sums up how you should go about writing guest posts in 2021 and beyond:
So how do you look for these highly relevant sites with search operators?
The most basic way of finding these sites is by using the “intitle:” command:
intitle:”write for us” [niche or keyword]
You can even include “inurl:” into your query to further qualify sites as a guest posting opportunity:
intitle:”write for us” inurl:”write-for-us” [niche or keyword]
This query will help you find sites looking for writers that relate to your keyword or content topic.
Other search terms you can try to find qualified guest posting sites are below:
- “Become a contributor”
- “Guest post opportunities”
- “Submit your content”
- “Contributing writer”
- “Suggest a post”
- “Contributor guidelines”
- “Guest post guidelines”
- “Accepting guest posts”
Be inventive with the phrases you use, as these are just a few examples of the many search terms available out there.
If your topic of expertise is email marketing, then your search results will look something similar:
Notice how I’ve added my niche in speech marks (” “) to narrow my results further.
Just like I’ve done, experiment with multiple search commands to find guest posting opportunities:
(intitle:”write for us” OR intitle:”become a contributor” OR inurl:”contributor-guidelines”) [niche or keyword]
That way you’ll uncover the greatest array of opportunities.
Once you find the right websites, carefully review their content and writing guidelines. You want to be sure that you’re offering to write content related to the blog you’re reaching out to.
It’s just a waste of your time and the editor’s time if you don’t do this research beforehand.
With guest posting covered, let’s see how search operators can be used to find sites that feature infographics.
(10). Use Search Operators to Find and Pitch Infographics
Infographics continue to be an effective visual medium for content marketing.
Infographics are the perfect creative outlet for conveying complex information in an impactful and visually pleasing way.
A well-designed infographic can make your content stand out, be easier to understand, and leave a significant impression on your readers’ minds.
But like in guest posting, you can’t simply blast your infographic outreach without rhyme or reason. It would be best to find websites that want to feature your infographics not to waste your outreach efforts.
And similar to guest posting, the best way to find sites to submit your infographic is to use the “intitle:” and “inurl:” search operators.
intitle:infographic inurl:infographic [niche/keyword]
To further ensure you find highly qualified sites for your infographic, consider using Google’s in-built date filter found under settings > advanced search. After all, a site that heavily published infographics two or three years ago may have pivoted and no longer accept infographics.
SIDENOTE: When pitching infographics to websites, the main thing to remember is the quality of the infographic and the message it’s trying to convey. You’ll want to create an infographic that’s visually persuasive and highlights your expertise.
Now let’s continue with link building operators to find resource page opportunities.
(11). Locate Resource Page Opportunities within Your Niche
Resource page link building is one of the most popular link building tactics out there, meaning that your business can benefit from building links with resource pages no matter your niche or industry.
But before we get into how you can find resource pages for link-building opportunities, let’s quickly define a resource page.
Resource pages are web pages that include a curated list of helpful industry resources. For example, a food blog that’s focused on the Keto diet may have a web page dedicated to Keto recipes, cooking tips, how-to guides, and so on.
Such a page would be considered a resource page.
Resource pages are a go-to link-building strategy (only second behind content publication or guest posting) for many businesses.
This is because resource pages link out to authoritative content on other sites and are typically aged and authoritative pages themselves.
Site owners want to keep the quality and quantity of their resource page links as high as possible. This means if you have a relevant resource (and it’s good) site owners won’t need much convincing to include it.
So how can you use search operators to find these resource pages and start building links?
You use the “intitle:” and the “inurl” operators.
intitle:”resources” inurl:”resources” [niche/keyword]
You can further narrow down your searches to avoid a lot of junk by using the search command “allintitle:”.
Once you’ve generated a list of resource pages that work with your niche, then you need to find their contact information and reach out and offer your content as a resource.
Speaking of outreach here’s an easy way to find contact details with search operators:
(12). How to Improve Outreach Prospecting with These Search Operators
If you have used any of these above strategies to find link-building opportunities, then it’s time to find the right people to contact so you can pitch your content.
Finding the correct contact details can be tricky but can be done with search operators.
site:targetdomain.com “name of author”
Typically, authors have their email address listed in their author bio or byline. But if their email address is not readily available, then another way to reach out to your prospective contact is through social media.
You can use the “site:” operator to find your contact’s social profiles.
author name targetsite.com (site:twitter.com OR site:facebook.com OR site:linkedin.com)
Once you have their social media handles, then you can contact them directly through their social accounts. At times, some authors may even mention their email address in their responses.
If these tactics still fail to produce the desired results for your outreach efforts, you can check our complete guide on finding anyone’s email address.
(13). Use This Search Operator to Steal Your Competitors’ Links
Without links, you cannot rank, period.
And, don’t just take my word for it. Google themselves admit that links are one of the top-ranking factors out there:
If your competitors are outranking you in search results, then chances are, their backlinks are better than yours.
Now, what if you could steal your competitors’ links and replace them with yours?
While it sounds too good to be true, this is possible with the “link:” operator.
NOTE: Google officially deprecated the “link:” command back in 2017. Still, as you can see below, it can yield results that may prove beneficial to your link-building efforts.
As you can see from the example, using the “link:” command will allow you to find any sites that refer to your competitors, while the exclusionary “site:” operator removes your competitor’s domain from the search results.
Since the “link:” operator is unreliable, I recommend you experiment with it to see what kind of backlinks you can loot from your competitors.
By the way, there’s another search operator you can use to further spy on your competitors.
(14). How to Use Search Operators to Find Competitor Mentions
Knowing where your competitors are mentioned on the web is a great way to inform your marketing strategy.
Even better if you can swipe their mentions list and use it for yourself.
To find a complete list of competitor mentions, use a combination of the “intext:” operator and an exclusionary “site:” command. Here’s how it looks:
You can also include the OR operator to finding multiple competitors at the same time, like so:
(intext:”competitor 1″ OR intext:”competitor 2″) -site:competitorone.com -site:competitortwo.com
Competitor mentions also extend to content opportunities.
For instance, you can use search operators to find websites for whom your competitors have written content and approach those sites yourself.
To find these sites, use the quotation (” “) operator and the exclusionary or minus (-) command.
“Author name is” -competitordomain.com
Now that you’ve gone through all the trouble of finding guest posting opportunities and competitor mentions, let’s apply some search operator knowledge to your content writing efforts.
(15). How to Use Search Operators to Enhance Your Content with Relevant Statistics
Few things help your blog posts gain trust from their readers as research-backed statistics.
Compelling statistics from influential, high-authority websites makes readers believe you and can make your posts more persuasive.
In fact, a study was conducted on the impacts of statistics in writing, and researchers found that after a week of reading a story, statistical evidence was “more persuasive” and more memorable than anecdotal or story evidence.
So how can you find statistics that support your content from reliable sites?
You turn to Google, of course!
Using the “site:” operator, you can find trustworthy sites with research-backed statistics for your content.
For example, say you’re writing a blog post on the science of color and its impact on marketing and branding. To find actual research, rather than just a list of benefits or definitions, search for a scientific site with your keyword.
You can add the OR command to search for additional sources at the same time.
Just remember, when organizing your content, some statistics are best served as visuals. After all, we’re visual creatures and can process visual data much faster than text data. So when you really want to grab the attention of your reader, use visuals.
If you want to learn more strategies and techniques to improve your writing for SEO, you can check out this article on SEO content frameworks.
Over to you!
Mastering these search operators can turn your Googling skills into a powerful SEO and marketing tool. Knowing how to combine different search operators can help you uncover detailed information previously hidden away in Google’s SERPs.
Of course, I recommend you play around with all of these operators, from the most basic to the obscure ones, to understand their usefulness.
If there are any fantastic combinations you discover that help improves your Googling, which haven’t been mentioned in this post, leave a comment below.
I’ll happily include it in this database of search operators.
To help you out further, I’ve created a search operator generator you can use to quickly and easily find link-building opportunities for SEO.
Simply plug in your target keyword, and my generator will spit out dozens of search operators you can copy and paste in to Google.
Get access to the tool now (it’s free).
4 Emerging SaaS Security Risks to Consider in 2021
Last year, we wrote about the threat landscape we saw on the horizon for 2020 in our SaaS threat landscape post. Focusing on apps like Slack, we honed in on the risks that would matter in 2020. Although our analysis was written well ahead of the COVID-19, some of our concerns were exacerbated as a result of the pandemic. With the pandemic continuing into 2021, we wanted to take the time to review the state of cloud adoption in 2020 and update our threat assessment going into the new year.
Soaring new heights for cloud adoption in 2020
Currently, Gartner estimates that the public cloud services market will grow over 50% in the next two years to $364 billion. That’s over $30 billion more than was projected by Gartner in its 2019 industry assessment. The accelerated growth projection no doubt reflects COVID-19’s impacts on the industry. This new projection, however, is also the convergence of a number of trends from the previous decade, as cloud adoption was expected to accelerate this year, well before the pandemic happened. In fact, IDG’s Cloud Computing Survey, which was conducted right on the cusp of the COVID outbreak indicated that nearly 95% of companies were expecting to be partially migrated to the cloud between early 2020 and late 2021.
When it comes to SaaS specifically, adoption has been fairly pronounced. SaaS continues to be the largest public cloud market segment according to Gartner, making up 42% of the industry. The segment is expected to grow 15% in 2021, from $104.6 billion to $120.9 billion. Additionally, over 70% of organizations will be leveraging SaaS solutions by the end of 2021. With SaaS continuing to play such an important role within organizations, especially as an enabler of remote work, here are the risks we expect to see going into 2021.
1. Organizations will need to strategically manage the systems that are part of their attack surface
As we’ve discussed in this post, 2020 has been defined by an unprecedented amount of digital adoption by organizations. But as companies turn to cloud and other technologies to enable remote work, their security posture may suffer, as many organizations are seeing their attack surface increase substantially. Failure to either implement the tools to manage the cloud systems, networks, and devices storing corporate data or reducing the overall number of places data is stored will result in increased breach risks. Doing both will prove essential for organizational security, though the latter might prove to be more difficult without adopting a means to enforce what applications and devices are sanctioned for corporate use.
2. Increased exfiltration risk will threaten data wherever it lives
Data exfiltration, from either external threat actors or insider threats, continues to be a substantial risk as companies migrate to the cloud. This is a fact not helped by the pandemic which, as stated above, has increased the number of devices and systems containing business-critical data. Just as the pandemic is accelerating the need for cloud within organizations, security teams will likely find that in order to adapt to the post-Covid era they’ll need to embrace a data-centric approach to information security. A data-centric or data-first approach means understanding that data is the new security parameter. Rather than solely focusing on hardening environments, teams need tools that automate data discovery so that they have eyes on their data regardless of where it is. Data-centric security is also well complimented by controls like data loss prevention and identity and access management, which allow you to enforce your data security, acceptable use, and access management policies even in scenarios where your employees break these policies (unintentionally or otherwise).
3. Employees will need to be continuously educated about security best practices in an increasingly uncertain environment
As COVID persists and more employees work from home, cybercriminals continue to set their sights on targeting employees, who in the absence of oversight might adopt bad security habits. Any security program that doesn’t take into account human behavior is doomed to fail. Successful security programs leverage employees as assets by empowering them to be compliant with policy and aid others in doing the same. This is usually through education as well as providing clear lines of communication between IT, security, and the rest of the organization. Organizations that understand this and truly begin to build a culture of security will likely see it pay dividends given that employees have become increasingly vulnerable to cyberattacks post-COVID.
4. Organizations will need to chart a path across an expanding universe of compliance legislation
The amount of data privacy legislation in the world has exploded over the past decade, and it’s likely to continue growing. In the US in this year alone 30 bills were considered (though few were enacted). Most notably, California began CCPA enforcement in early July and extended its data privacy rules with the passage of Prop 24, which will usher in the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA or CalPRA). Outside of the US, the Brazil’s LGPD (Lei Geral de Proteção de Dados) went into effect, and in India discussions about the country’s Personal Data Protection Bill (PDPB) are ongoing. One of the challenges that companies will face going forward is navigating the unique particularities of these regulatory regimes. While many of these bills are at a high level very similar, companies might encounter difficulties operationalizing all of them simultaneously. For example, early analysis of India’s PDPB suggests that as it is, aspects of it might conflict with the GDPR. If such analyses hold true then companies will face significant costs determining how to navigate the regulatory minefield posed by the limited interoperability of emerging privacy regimes.
5. Last year’s risks remain a persistent part of the threat landscape, too
Although not explicitly mentioned here, everything from last year’s list is fair game. In fact, most of the risks discussed in our analysis last year are exacerbated for organizations that may be struggling with the items on this year’s list. The good news is that the key to mitigating many of these threats revolves around getting a handle on the types of data within your organization’s silos.
Are you interested in better understanding the SaaS threat landscape going into 2021? Join us on Thursday, December 10 at 10 AM PT/1 PM ET for a live discussion with security industry veteran Ty Sbano of Sisense about securing best of breed SaaS tools in the post-COVID era. Learn more and register here.
Nightfall is the industry’s first cloud-native DLP platform that discovers, classifies, and protects data via machine learning. Nightfall is designed to work with popular SaaS applications like Slack, Google Drive, GitHub, Confluence, Jira, and many more via our Developer Platform. You can schedule a demo with us below to see the Nightfall platform in action.
The State of Affiliate Marketing & Campaign Management with Adam Riemer [Podcast]
How does affiliate marketing tie in to SEO? More than you’d think. Google algorithm updates have led to mega affiliates and their listicles ranking higher than ever. How do you get your product or service in the mix?
Adam Riemer joins Loren Baker to discuss affiliate marketing, the state of the affiliate industry and crossing the streams of SEO and Affiliate Marketing.
Here is the entire transcript of the show (please excuse any transcription errors) :
Loren Baker, founder of Search Engine Journal, and welcome to today’s SEJ show. With me, I have Adam Riemer. Adam, how’s it doing? How’s it going?
Good. How are you? Thanks for having me.
Good. Thank you. Good. For those of you who don’t know Adam, he is an affiliate marketing genius. So I’m really excited to have him on the show today to talk a little bit about the affiliate side of things, how that works with SEO and then yeah, how… Oops. I got a little bit of stream here, stuff going on in my back end here. Okay, back. How that works with SEO and how things are really changing in that landscape. But before we get started, I’d like to give a shout out to our sponsor, Awesomic. So Awesomic is sponsoring today’s episode of the SEJ show. That’s Awesomic.io. If you’re struggling with fresh visuals for your affiliate marketing offer, Awesomic has your back. So our friends are Awesomic we’ll cover your design needs for a fixed monthly fee. It’s a subscription service.
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So it’s all kinds of design stuff, very professional matching up their best designers with your needs for a small monthly fee, a fixed monthly fee. Just sign up, place a task and see first results on your next business day. No more hiring and no more stress to get those landing pages set up. So that’s all from Awesomic. Again, that’s Awesomic.io, and I’m going to be dropping a link in the comments a little bit later, but in the meantime, Adam, let’s talk affiliate marketing in the world of SEO and PR. What’s going on now? What are you spending most of your time doing? And also give everybody a little bit of a background on yourself.
Okay. So yeah, I’ve just been dealing with stuff since… Well, my first website went up in the mid-nineties and then I’ve been doing this professionally since about 2002, 2003 and yeah. Affiliate Summit Pinnacle award winner twice for affiliate manager of the year, regular speaker at Pubcon Advance Search Summit now. I’ve been all over the world with big digital Adelaide, Australia, two shows in London, and just kind of me.
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Awesome. Awesome. So I’m really interested because you do kind of cross over a little bit. There’s not very many affiliate marketers that I know that are so ingrained in the world of SEO and then vice versa. So I really like connecting with folks like yourself that do a little bit of everything, that are great at what they do, but you also know how to speak SEO as much as you know how to speak affiliate, right? You do quite a bit on the SEO side don’t you?
Yeah, definitely. I kind of really can’t choose the other place I love is lead gen and conversion rate optimization. So it’s fun to be able to play across all three industries pretty substantially.
Yeah, it was pretty funny. I found myself over the past year or two, I feel like I’m more of a lead gen expert through the SEO channels and other channels versus an SEO that drives traffic that may or may not convert. Do you feel that there’s more, especially in the past, maybe the past five years or so, there’s more focus on actually the quality of the traffic, what they’re doing, what they’re doing after they convert then there used to be, especially from the SEO side?
There is and to answer your first question about where I am with both, having the experience across all three of those really helps me substantially with my helping my clients succeed. So for example, I can take a program that has some great bloggers or maybe some up and coming people or influencers. And I can take a look at their site and be like, “Okay, well you have this fantastic list, but it’s only sitting in position eight or nine. Maybe it’s on the second page.” So I can then go in and use some of the SEO skills to help them install schema for list items and to say, this is this. And then there’ll be associations through same as, an additional type. So that way they can say, “Okay, this is the same as Cadillac,” if it’s a list of cars and then additional type and you go to the specific models or if it’s vintage or can reference the toys and that gives them the advantage.
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So that way, if I have a client that’s trying to show up for product X, Y, Z inside Google, now we can not only get that client ranking in the top position, but we can get positions two through five with affiliates, so now the number one result, no matter what, is my client, and they have just substantial power inside the search engines. The next part is by doing conversion rate optimization, I’m able to sit there and say, “Okay, we know that this works and this works for this file.” Then I can get the affiliate to give me their stats, what’s coming in from Pinterest or Facebook. We can say, “Okay, we know this traffic works this way from the client’s site. Let’s tweak the wording here. Let’s tweak the images here because we know this is what’s selling.” Or if we know that the affiliate has the color green, the green version of the product on their site, but we know that blue is converting better off their traffic, I can get them to change this.
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And those are certain things that come over from the conversion rate optimization that I can apply. And by having client data, I can also say, “We know that your traffic is more Facebook. Have you been Google [inaudible 00:05:28], for example. Let’s change the wording here to pre-sell it better for when it hits the client site here and that will increase overall too.” Then we can also use that learning to adjust the client’s site for a better overall traffic across the board. So it kind of just plays nicely together having that weird, unique skillset.
I really like that approach. There’s a couple of reasons. And we’ll talk about this in a bit, but there has been kind of a blurred line in between affiliate SEO and PR. A lot of us know this, especially anyone that’s in the health space, but there’s multiple health sites, which are really affiliate sites at the end of the day, that have enough authority and equity and just authority halo over top of them where they’re ranking for just about everything. And a lot of it’s listicles, a lot of it’s lists that click over to products and things like that. Which is, from an organic SEO perspective, it’s what we’re working with. It’s an environment that we’re working within with Google. So one thing I’ve found myself doing much more of is looking at well, how does a featured image on that site, is our product in the middle? If it’s a listicle in the top 10, where’s my client’s product?
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I might not be the person that is in touch with Healthline or health.com or shape.com or whatever it may be. But if I can talk to the affiliate manager or whoever the team is at that specific publication and get them to bump up or maybe get them a better offer, I know that search intent traffic at the end of the day, it’s going to convert better. It’s probably going to have a better long-term residual benefit, especially if it’s a subscribe and save type product or something like that. Therefore, it’s kind of my job to be on top of that as well as it is to rank the organic listing. And at the same time, it’s also my job, if the organic listing is ranking, one, to make sure it’s converting, and two to make sure that we’re tracking back that longterm attribution back to SEO.
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Because I think that SEO… I was kind of chatting with myself today about this on Twitter, but I was responding to Lily Ray about it, is I think that organic SEO is one of the only forms of marketing where that residual sale that long-term customer lifetime value is not always looked at by our industry. Instead, we’re looking at ranking, traffic and conversion, but what can we do after the fact to make sure that, hey, that high intent user, it’s clicked over, that’s found the answer of what they’re looking for is going to stay, and what is the real value of that at the end of the day?
Yeah. Another metric that’s often overlooked is so email’s always one of the highest returns on investment for a company because the list is people that are already engaged with the brand. So one of the things that I like to do is I track the total email signups and newsletter signups and then the click-throughs after, and then conversions after that originated through affiliate or through organic search. Because if it’s growing that list, then you can more easily make a case on why these channels need more attention or more budget. Now it also depends on how your affiliate program is managed and the type of affiliates. If it’s just people like a coupon site jumping at the very end of the sale, that’s not growing your list. That’s just intercepting at the checkout, and sure, you might still get a sign up, but it wasn’t an introduction to your company overall.
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So the first tool that actually used to measure that was Convertro, years and years ago. I think they’re still around. It was an awesome tool back then. I hope they are. And that just led me down a pretty massive rabbit hole. Actually no, the very first one was when I was with a skills assessment testing company, I think it was Clicktales. Was that the name of it? Yeah. Years ago, about 2002, 2003, when I just got my first professional jobs.
Was Clicktale the one that used to animate the entire, it almost had a heat map component, where it animated the entire affiliate process. Yeah.
Yeah, gosh. Yeah. I think that was the name of it. God, there was a long time ago. Talk about companies that just kind of disappeared.
Yeah. It is. I love diving into that and I think that as SEOs, we have to also remember that we’re also digital marketers. So yeah, I can deliver the customer on a silver platter, but I also want to make sure that you’re the one that’s serving them what they intend to get at the end of the day. We do have a question that came in. Tony wants to know where Frost is at. Do you have Frost with you?
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Frost is with his babysitter back at my condo. I’m in Philadelphia right now, visiting my PPC team.
Awesome. Hey Tony, how’s it going? If you all have any questions on affiliate marketing or SEO just feel free to drop a-
You make a good point about major media. So like CNN, which is one of the biggest sites in the world, they have an entire affiliate section. If you go to CNN underscore, every single thing in there is an affiliate [inaudible 00:10:37]. Now what’s cool is it has a lot of authority to rank on its own. But CNN underscored also has a major feature space right on the homepage of cnn.com and Buzzfeed… I keep thinking Buzzstream, that’s the CRM system I use for my affiliate outreach. I freaking love them. But basically Buzzfeed, they are… So weird to see people walking by.
But Buzzfeed, almost every link on that site now is also an affiliate. What’s pretty cool is they also combined in magic links and some other things. So as they’re advertising realistic ones across their own site, you’re actually able to see what came through organic search and what’s coming through their own ad efforts. The same thing applies to CNN underscore as they run ads. So they have their new Mother’s Day ad going up soon. Today.com from the Today Show, that is now almost all affiliate links. So it’s no longer just PR. PR Needs affiliate to ensure that they’re going to get that coverage. So it kind of just works hand in hand.
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We had Bosna on the show previously, who’s the product manager, or I believe that’s her role, at CNN underscored and was really talking about how SEO has become such an important component of that. I was not necessarily aware of, and I didn’t even think about this, about how much these publications are promoting this within their own ecosystem as well, which is a huge benefit. I’m thinking about how we do stuff at SEJ where we’re always promoting things via our email newsletter, via popups and everything else on the site. That is a nice benefit on the major mass media side of things. So speaking of PR and SEO and affiliate all kind of rolled into one, should these be siloed anymore? I think there’s going to have to be some communication between the SEO teams and the PR teams and the affiliate teams, if one or the other, or the ability for all to work together is going to get a product or brand featured on a CNN or a Buzzfeed or Rolling Stone, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
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So the interesting thing is you don’t have to silo. You don’t have to merge it. You can keep it siloed, but there is some cross pollination here. And some of the ways that I like to measure that is if you go into the code on each page, it might say it was published… Let’s see. Today’s the 16th, on April 16th, but you can actually go into the source code and you could see that it was actually published three years ago in March and then it was updated. So then you go into the cache or the way back machine, you see where you moved up higher, where you added to this page originally, and that could now be PR talking to the specific editor, or it could be the affiliate manager working with the ad team there. And there’s a lot of different ways. It goes publication by publication.
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Some publications you’re allowed to send product to, and it’s a natural pickup with the editors. Hearst Media is very famous for that. They’re very strict where the editors do have control. It is pure journalism and editorial. Now at the same time, you can do advertorials and you can reduce the costs with affiliate links. The same thing goes for Buzzfeed and with Penske Media Company and all of the other big ones, Meredith Corporation. But some of them have more journalistic integrity, where the editors do have full control, the ad team doesn’t. But the ad team can say, “You must include these brands. They’ve paid for it,” and the journalism will. Similar to doing advertorials in newspapers years ago, where they would label it’s an advertorial, it would just be kind of hidden.
Yeah, speaking of Hearst-
Well the New York Times, for example, they are still very much journalistic whether you agree with them or not, but Wirecutter is almost purely affiliated at this point. So it’s a big part of the New York Times, but it’s their affiliate side. So they’re making money serving ads, they’re making money off affiliate likes. They’re making money with a lot of different things.
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Really interesting. So speaking of which, and speaking of journalistic integrity when putting together these product reviews and these product lists, Google rolled out an algorithm update, or more so an announcement more than likely, last week about product reviews, best practices for product reviews. What’s important from the Google side, what shouldn’t be done. I’ll drop a link in the comments for anybody out there. What are your thoughts on Google’s announcements or their algorithm tweak around product reviews? Do you see any movement on that side or you think it’s something that commerce, it’s just kind of more of a hey, we’ve noticed this is a big deal. This is what you should be doing on this front.
I think it’s just, you should have been doing this from the first place anyways. If you were just writing thin little things like this is a great product, it’s not ever going to move the needle and you’re eventually going to fall. If you actually take the time to update your product reviews with correct information and you sit there and you fix things that weren’t correct, or you add new details as features go if it’s something that updates software wise, that’s going to help users. So it’s just still providing the best experience. If all you do is add paragraph after paragraph and there’s pros and cons, they’re lumped into a big bulky chunk of text, try breaking that out under a pros and cons list.
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If it’s a comparison product review where you’re comparing and you have a section that compares maybe an iPhone to a Samsung Galaxy phone or something like that, then why not, instead of just doing paragraphs, do a table. It’s all still about providing the best possible user experience, combining different features that make it easier to absorb and accurate details. The better you can do without just drowning people in nonsense is the better your content is going to do in the search engines. I’m not expecting to see any actual changes unless you only wrote really bad reviews or things that weren’t factional. Sorry, what’s the word? Fictional, I guess. Yeah.
Factional, fictional, nonfictional/.
And that’s your own fault for taking shortcuts.
Agreed, agreed. It’s kind of like when Google rolled out EAT guidelines, we’ve been doing Eat for years. But there are some tweaks-
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Writing content or digital PR. Now has the word digital in front of it. Nothing’s changed.
The blurred line is kind of interesting though. I have been on meetings where we’ve had our PR team or a client’s PR team or another PR vendor kind of get on and be like, “Oh, we got you this win on Buzzfeed. Or we got you this win here.” First of all, sometimes they’ll list things as wins that were a result of the link acquisition work that we do. So that’s always a little bit of a conflict that’s interesting. And they roll out the, “Hey, this publication, HuffPost gets like 24 billion unique views a month metric.” But at the same time, I have been on meetings where the PR teams are listing the successes that they’ve had and we’ve looked and they’ve been all affiliate links. So is that still a success from the PR side? How does all of that work at the end of the day? Who gets attribution? How do you split that between SEO, PR and affiliate marketing?
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Good call. Or good questions. So what I do is ask the PR team privately without the client, so that there’s no judging or yelling at each other, say, can you share where you had the conversation with the editor? Can you share this? Because if they didn’t and they just sent out a mass email, that’s not going to work. Or I ask them, can you send me the pitch that you sent to this, to your list or to your wire, if you’re not doing individual outreach. Loren, you’ve seen some of my outreach, you know it’s very specific and customized for everyone and different products. And that’s why I’m able to say, “No. This came from me because it follows this theme that I sent on this date.” And if the PR team isn’t able to do that, then I don’t count towards them. If PR team said, “We went out with this theme and we sent out these three specific skews,” then I would say, “You know what, this isn’t my channel, but there’s a darn good chance it went from you and from your efforts.”
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So it’s really just depends on if they can do that. The other reality is so there’s different monetization tools out there that have a marketplace that say, “You’re a part of this media or these affiliate programs. Here’s the commissions. Choose from these products from these stores.” So if you’re listed there, it could come up naturally. That could be because they’re looking on season and maybe the PR team went through. Maybe it’s also because the affiliate managers keeping for the listing in that marketplace up-to-date so that’s where it’s sort of combined. And at that point you just got to play nice with each other and say, it’s probably from both of our efforts.
Let’s play nice with each other. Let’s all get along. Let’s all help the client at the end of the day. And yeah, I love it. I love it. So I want to pivot a little bit in the SEO and affiliate, but before I do so, I’m going to go ahead and talk a little bit more about our sponsor, Awesomic. Search engine optimization is vital for affiliate marketing, but so is design. With catchy and memorable creatives, your ads will bring up to 10 times more traffic and generate new leads. The only challenge is finding a high-class designer who knows how to work in a specific niche. But the good news is you don’t have to spend hours looking for a professional designer anymore. We recommend you check out Awesomic and again, that’s Awesomic.io. I dropped the link to it earlier in the comments. An app where your task is automatically matched with the best fit designer who has proven industry expertise at Awesomic.io. Adam, how am I doing on my read-throughs there? Pretty good, right? That was the first time I-
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I can barely see. My eyes, I feel like my eyes are bright red and swollen. It’s just allergies.
I remember when I was in college, I used to do radio DJ a little bit. And that was the big thing, when you’re reading a radio ad or a PSA, you have to repeat the thing. The phone number twice, that was the old thing back in the day. So all of that’s coming back to fruition. Anyway, so speaking of SEO and affiliate marketing, not only is your creative very important, your design, your landing page, et cetera, et cetera, your branding, your banners, but also the content within where your affiliate links live.
Now, this has been an ongoing debate in the world of SEO, in the world of Google. We have natural links. We have natural links that have a no-follow or a UGC or a sponsored attribute. And then we have affiliate links. What’s the best way, in your opinion, your professional opinion, your expertise, your extremely professional expertise on how to link out to an affiliate link on the site to get your affiliate revenue or your percentage from it, but also not to trip anything on the Google side, Google things that you’re just putting sponsored links left and right. Should someone be using a plugin to do that? Is it a redirecting or should they just link directly utilizing their share sale link or whatever it may be?
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I’m not going to say it depends. What I am going to do is say, this is going to rely on how advanced you want to get. If you want some severe tracking and some really cool features, you can always use something pretty like pro or an advanced tracking system, so that way you can get more stats and data for yourself. I’ve also gone through and done a redirect through, a redirect on my website, into a redirect through the affiliate links so I can actually measure it through analytics and get demographic information out of it. Because if you’re redirecting through a fake page on your site, Google Analytics is going to pull those stats for you. There’s also the chance you can just go directly to the affiliate network. The affiliate network could give you a link that redirects through one of their servers, or it could be just a direct first party link to the website with a parameter or to a unique landing page on the website.
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Now, depending on what you have there, if it is an affiliate that redirects through a server, I would recommend putting sponsored all, not more follow. The reason for sponsored is you’re not putting that link there just because you’re a good person. You want to give them backlink. It’s an actual sponsored link. There is some form of hopeful compensation. You’re trying to get paid for using this affiliate link. If you were doing it because you just wanted to help your reader, or you were just trying to say, I support this website, then you would have a backlink and it would be follow, but because there is compensation it gets sponsored. If it is a, what’s it called? If it would look like a backlink, it has a parameter, I would do no follow, because… And then I would put a disclaimer on the top of the website, Google before this whole UGC sponsored and everything else attribute on links. Before that happened, they started penalizing websites for not disclosing relationships for advertising.
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So my personal opinion, and I’m probably wrong on this. The only people who would answer with some certainty would be Gary or John or Martin or something. And basically what I would do then is I would just make sure that there’s a disclaimer and disclosure on the top that says sponsored. And then I would make sure anything paid or anything where there could be compensation gets a no follow at that point. And now you’ve addressed sponsored and no follow. I don’t think putting sponsor and no follow on the same link in the code is really necessary. That’s probably overkill and it might not make sense why no follow and sponsor. You’d still want the no opener software security and tab mapping. But personally, I would just say, put a disclosure on the top and then put no follow on anything that’s compensated, whether it’s affiliate or a paid link or something like that and now you have both bases covered.
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Yeah. You can cover your butt by doing so. I like that. I like that advice. We’ll transcribe it, and we’ll include that in the wrap up for today. Anything else? So you were talking a little bit about coupon sites earlier, and we can’t get into some of the work that we do together publicly, but I know that we’ve cleaned up various different affiliate accounts in the past where we’re making sure that, hey, someone’s not on the site already. They go to the cart. Why are you serving them a box that says apply coupon code? Okay. You’re serving a box that says apply coupon code. You’re not pre-filling it with your own coupon code. Therefore, what are they going to do? They’re going to go to Google and search for brand coupon code. Brand offer code. Why? Because you told them to do it.
So you being the e-commerce site, what’s your thought process on the world of couponing sites utilizing affiliate links, attribution that what once came from SEO or came from PPC suddenly may get reshifted over to a coupon affiliate engagement? What’s your view process on that? How does it work? What do you typically recommend that your clients do to make sure proper attribution is given et cetera, et cetera. I’d love to hear your, I know you’re very passionate about this. So here’s a couple of minutes. The floor is yours.
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It’s important to always test. There is couponing for the life cycle and the process for almost every site online that has a coupon code box at checkout. And it is a part of the system, there’s no questioning that. But how much value does just showing up for the brand plus coupon actually add, and does it close more sales? Does it increase the total sales and would the sales happen regardless if the site’s up there? So it’s up to the brand to determine. So the first thing I like to do is run tests, and that would take me about 20 minutes to go through and explain how to do that properly, which we probably don’t have time for. And so-
I can leave you on here for 20 minutes.
It would get really boring for people really fast. Happy to do it though.
I’ll leave it on all night. It won’t be so boring around downtown South Street. Okay, go ahead. Sorry.
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There’s been one or two cases where I did see that total sales dropped. This is over the 18 or so years I’ve been doing this with just God knows how many hundreds of companies. Where we did actually see some sort of decrease, but in almost every case, we don’t see any actual increase or decrease from allowing coupon sites that show up for brand plus coupons inside the store. And the way that we start by looking, is this a problem or is this not? Are these sites introducing customers to us? Now, in some cases, the coupon site could be showing up for lingerie coupons, or it could be showing up for Halloween costume coupons or Christmas coupons or something like that. And if that is the case, they could be actually sending you traffic from those pages. And if they’re not showing up for your own trademark when they’re not using browser extensions, then there’s a darn good chance that coupon site is adding a ton of value to you and you want to keep them and reward them because they’re introducing.
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Now, there’s also the chance that coupon site has an email list and that email list… So what you want to do in this case, is that email list might contain a lot of people who are your customers but haven’t shopped with you for two or three years. Because they’re trusting that coupon site and that coupon site’s list, if they do an email blast, you’re going to see a big lift in traffic to your website that you did not have on your own. And if the conversions come, even though they were your customers, this is a massive value add. So coupon sites can add value and can do good. The problem is it’s working with them in the right way. If the majority of your sales are just shopping cart interceptions, you probably shouldn’t be working with that coupon site until they can drive nine new transactions for every one they’re intercepting.
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That point, I personally believe there’s a ton of value there, and we should allow them, but only if you also have protection for your influencers and for your other affiliates that are top huddle. So our sheriff’s sale, for example, you can do what’s called leapfrogging, impact radius, or sorry, the impact [inaudible 00:29:28] and partner rise, for example, and ever flow. And most of the networks now, not all of them have the ability to say, “Okay, this is the lower priority one to commission. This is the higher priority. If there’s a click from the higher priority and a click from the lower priority, always give it to the higher priority.” Some of them allow you to split it 10 ways like sheriff sale does. So each network has, in each tracking platform, has their own way of handling it. But it’s all about testing and seeing is this adding value to our process and is it not?
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If the coupon sites are just intercepting your shopping part of checkout, chances are there is no value being added. There’s always the chance there is, but at that point, you have to look at it. It is part of the cycle. It is part of the process. So do we just lower the percentage or do we just remove it until they’re ready to add value in a more substantial way? And a way you can look at that is the click to close time. If it takes 10 minutes on average for a customer to hit your website from PPC non-branded to get to checkout, and these coupon sites magically close everything in five minutes, chances are, it’s just the interception. So you would measure from shopping cart checkout to close what’s the average time? Does this match our coupon sites?
If the conversion rates are insanely high, so if your e-commerce conversion rate is 4%, these coupon sites are at 10% and 30% chances are, they are just intercepting your checkout. And that’s when you really need to ask yourself, how much is this worth? Can we run a test? And it may turn out, they’re adding a ton of value. It may turn out they’re not adding any, but it is an individual basis and it is something that you need to hire someone who can go in with an open mind and who is not compensated in the affiliate channel to test this properly. Only match your own traffic patterns. If you do a massive sale and you’re generating your own spike and the coupon sites match identically, chances are, they’re just intercepting you. And then you should ask them, create the same spike a week before we do ours. If they can’t and then they magically climb with yours, they’re just intercepting you most of the time.
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So this is not a question of setting up some codes, working with your affiliate software, to sign up with all these coupon sites and just let them serve those codes for when someone’s in your cart. These are actually partnership opportunities that you can explore, but first run the data first and do some test.
Exactly. I also, I mean, I found a lot of big issues with influencers companies, and they really don’t like to me very much right now because I throw that into a big loop. So a lot of influencer companies will use coupon codes as a tracking platform and a way to track their sales. Like, oh, these are our top influencers. They’re doing amazing. So the first thing I do there is I go to YouTube and I type brand plus reviews. And then I also go to the Google search because there’s a lot of Google searches that have videos in it. And sure enough, those are the influencers. And then the next place I look are those coupon sites. And I click to reveal all the coupon codes and chances are, there’s a bunch of the top influencers codes are just sitting there at the brand’s interception.
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Because they track back to your influencer platform, it looks like it’s the influencer driving sales regularly. It’s just that coupon site at the very end, so now you’re paying commission. You’re also crediting your influencer channel. The reality is that came in from your own email list or it came from somewhere else, and they’re just finding, they’re getting that click from the coupon site and the affiliate channel, and they’re using an influencer code so it looks like it’s an influencer sale too. And now you’ve lost a bunch of money to influencers you shouldn’t have been paying and to the coupon site who just intercepted you through affiliate, but it was actually your email.
Is it worth it for e-comm site owners, et cetera, D2C companies to set up their own coupon page on their site so they may have the ability to outrank some of the different coupon aggregates and things like that within the market, that way you’re keeping the attribution internal?
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Absolutely 100%. You can also pay the coupon sites. And that way, if you have a paid deal with them and they’re showing up in the second and third position, you can say, “Look, I’m going to give you X, Y, Z a month. You’re going to keep this updated with only codes we want to have there. You’re going to remove the rest, turn off new user generated content,” and you could do it that way and really take control of it and not have to worry about interfering with your affiliate channel. And now you have a value adding program. You’re going to have top funnel affiliates happier to work with you because they’re not worried about that interception at the end. And you control the codes that exist there, whether or not the coupon site just depends on them is going to be open to a media fee instead or not.
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And whether your finance team, they’re going to get pretty off when you ask about that, just from my… Yeah, it’s like, there’s a lot of different ways. It’s just going to depend on the company, how open they are to trying things, and if it’s really that important to them. A lot of times, if you do decide the coupon sites are not part of your program or worth it, once they’re removed, the links become direct links and you can watch them hit the referral channel inside, excuse me, your analytics package. Sorry about all the sneezing, the eye wiping and stuff. Allergies are kicking my butt.
No problem. It’s that time of the year. It’s almost time to go. So I’m going to go ahead and drop where people can find you on Twitter. You have a very interesting Twitter handle @rollerblader as well as I’m going to drop the link to your site. Anything you’d like to say before we sign off?
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Well, thank you all for listening. If you want, and you can find me at adamreamer.me. It’s my blog. And thank you for having me, Loren.
It’s really been a pleasure.
Advanced Search Summit in Napa in June.
I know first in-person event in about a year and a half, I’m looking forward to it. I’m going to make it up there. You’re emceeing, correct?
I’m going to go ahead and drop a link. Nice. Again, that’s Advanced Search Summit, Napa, California. I think there’s some seats left. So go ahead and just search Google for that, anyone who’s listening or viewing at the moment. And there’s quite a lineup of speakers and expertistes. Two-day event. Lots of cool things like visiting castles and falcons and stuff like that. Mr. Reamer is emceeing. So it’s-
My favorite people are speaking there too, so I’m so excited. We have Melanie Mitchell. We have Rebecca from Third Love. She’s just a brilliant human being. I’m so excited. And I mean, you always have Lily Ray, who’s just holy crud on knowledge, like wow. And it’s just, it’s awesome. I’m so excited to see everyone and yeah, it’s going to be good.
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Agreed, agreed. Much love out there to the search community from Search Engine Journal. Always happy to support all of the different events and outings that are going on within the industry. Adam, it’s been a pleasure. I really enjoyed talking about things that are on the outward perimeter of SEO. So it’s been great to learn about affiliate marketing from you today to learn about the world of couponing, the intersection of PR, SEO and affiliate. And I really hope you enjoy your weekend in Philly.
Thanks. Yeah, it’s weird. It’s my first trip since over a year for the most part. But I’m fully vaccinated now. The person I’m with, my PPC person, his company’s Blue Route Marketing, they are fully vaccinated right now. So my first time in a room with someone else without a mask on too.
Yeah, it’s weird.
Grab some Claritin, you’ll be good. A little bit of vaccine, a little bit of Claritin for the allergies. You’re going to have a great weekend.
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Thanks. It’s been a pleasure. Before you all drop off, here’s an advertising message from our sponsor Awesomic. Hi, this is Loren Baker, founder of Search Engine Journal. And thank you again for watching today’s episode of the Search Engine Journal Show, brought to you by our sponsors, Awesomic. Are you going to launch a new Facebook campaign, but you lack the visuals? Freelance marketplaces are not the easiest option anymore now that we have Awesomic. Awesomic is an app that matches your design tasks with the best fit specialist for the job. Simple subscription and faster iterations, make your work both easy and efficient, providing consistency and saving you a lot of headache down the line. Sign up today at all. sonic.io. Again, that’s Awesomic.io. With our special promo code Design 10 and get a 10% discount off your first month. Again, that’s Awesomic.io and promo code Design 10 for 10% off your first month with Awesomic. Thanks again from the team at SEJ and our sponsor, Awesomic.
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Elementor Update Addresses Core Web Vitals
According to the Elementor’s announcement:
Elementor’s plan ensures that all aspects of performance receive significant improvements, front and back.”
Elementor has also introduced a way for publishers to indicate how to load Google Fonts more efficiently:
“A new Google font loading feature personalizes users’ loading experience, enabling them to modify how Elementor loads Google Fonts. Elementor dashboard settings offer auto, swap, block, optional, and fallback.”
Core Web Vitals
Core Web Vitals are metrics designed to measure the actual web page experience for actual users on mobile devices. The measurements are collected by users on Chrome who have opted in to provide the information which is then collected as the Chrome User Experience (CrUX) Report.
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It is this data that is used to create the Core Web Vitals scores for websites which in turn will become a ranking signal in June 2021.
Hosting a website at a fast server will not improve the core web vitals scores because the problems that cause core web vitals are in the code of the website itself.
Delivering that code faster from a fast web host won’t fix the code that has to be downloaded and rendered on a mobile device.
That’s why it’s important for the makers of website templates and page builders to make the code their users rely on more efficient.
What Elementor announced is their renewed effort to deliver the web page code more efficiently to help publishers give their site visitors a better user experience and help the publishers rank better.
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While there are coding tactics to delay downloading the files or to download them in parallel (simultaneously with other files), those files still need to be activated (so to speak) in order to complete the rendering of the web page.
For example, if a web page doesn’t contain a contact form then there is no need to download the files necessary to create a contact form.
And that is part of what Elementor announced.
Elementor Is Now More Efficient
According to Elementor:
“The Lightbox, Screenful, Dialog, and Share links libraries are all loaded conditionally…”
Elementor also announced:
“The e-icons CSS file has also been split into two separate libraries – frontend and backend – saving up to 50KB on any given page load.”
Another improvement is that CSS that only affects site visitors who are Editors will not be loaded automatically for all users. That means if a site visitor is not an Editor their browser will download less files to make the web page render, saving 17 kilobytes.
The Elementor team shared this with me:
“Both our R&D team and our SEO team have been working on this project for the past 6 months, making sure that Elementor is fully compatible with the upcoming Web Vitals Google algorithm change. We’ve been focusing on reducing the number of DOM elements, rendering process optimization, dynamic asset loading, and much more.”
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Elementor Publishes Courses for Improving Core Web Vitals
In addition to the code changes Elementor has taken the extra step to provide YouTube courses to help them better understand best practices for building sites that provide a faster user experience.
“To guide people through this update, we’ve made some excellent educational materials, including a new course on improving performance on your website. This will take a look at the whole process, since performance is based on a combination of factors, not just your website building platform of choice.”
Elementor Takes the Initiative
It’s very heartening to see more and more companies step up to make these important updates. The announcement by Elementor is an exciting development for users of the plugin and puts the pressure on the rest of the WordPress ecosystem from plugins to theme makers to keep up with Elementor.
Pinterest Expands Shopify Integration Worldwide
Pinterest’s integration with Shopify is expanding worldwide, giving 1.7 million merchants the ability to turn products from their e-commerce store into shoppable pins.
Shopify’s Pinterest app, which launched last year in the US and Canada, is now available in 27 additional countries.
The Pinterest app for Shopify stores lets merchants upload their product catalogues and convert their products into pins.
Users can then buy products featured in a merchant’s pins without ever having to leave Pinterest.
In addition to expanding its Pinterest app to more countries, Shopify is adding support for multiple product feeds, and the ability to market products via dynamic retargeting ads.
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Here’s more about all the updates announced this week.
Updates to Shopify’s Pinterest App
Expansion to 27 More Countries
Shopify offers a free app that merchants can install on their site to upload their product catalogs to Pinterest.
Uploading a product catalog to Pinterest gives merchants the ability to publish shoppable product pins.
It can take up to 48 hours for a product catalog to sync for the first time, but after that it will automatically update every day.
The use of Shopify’s Pinterest app was previously limited to merchants in North America. Now it’s available worldwide.
Countries where the app is available include: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States.
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Multi-Feed Support For Catalogs
Shopify merchants can now upload multiple product feeds to Pinterest.
Previously limited to one product feed, Pinterest now allows merchants to upload up to 20 product feeds.
Merchants can add specific local data to their product feeds such as currency, language, and product availability. This makes it possible to upload a separate feed for each market they serve.
Dynamic Retargeting Ads
Shopify merchants advertising on Pinterest now have access to dynamic retargeting ads for the first time.
Dynamic retargeting ads enable Pinterest advertisers to re-engage with users who have previously expressed interest in their products.
Merchants can retarget exact or similar products to people who have either shopped with them before or shown some form of interest.
In order to utilize Pinterest’s dynamic retargeting ads, merchants need to meet a threshold for a minimum number of PageVisit and AddToCart events in the last 7 days.
Those metrics are tracked by the Pinterest Tag that merchants are required to install on their website.
Bill Watkins, Global Head of Mid-Market and Small Business Sales at Pinterest, on the Shopify partnership expansion:
“Pinterest is an inspiring place to shop and we’re excited to expand our partnership with Shopify to help merchants in 27 more countries grow their shopping presence on Pinterest globally. Small and medium businesses in particular have the opportunity to thrive on Pinterest because they connect with consumers in a positive environment when they are early in their decision-making journey and full of purchase intent.”
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These updates are now available in the previously mentioned countries.
Source: Pinterest Newsroom
Instagram to Add New Ways For Creators to Make Money
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg shares details about new features coming to Instagram that will allow creators to get paid for their content.
The features, announced this week during a livestream which included Instagram chief Adam Mosseri, will enable content creators to earn multiple revenue streams.
Creators will be able to generate income through:
- Partnerships with brands
- Selling merchandise
- Recommending affiliate products
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There’s nothing to stop Instagram users from earning revenue in those ways already. But they have to do it through their own means, which requires contacting brands, setting up e-commerce stores, and joining affiliate programs.
Instagram is aiming to streamline those processes by making it easy for creators to accomplish everything within the app.
That also serves Instagram’s interests, as the company makes no money when creators establish partnerships with brands on their own, or sell goods through their own stores.
By keeping all revenue-earning activity within Instagram the company can take a cut for itself, and/or charge service fees.
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How Instagram plans to profit from the new features is unclear at this time. Here’s what we do know about the new ways for creators to make money.
New Ways For Instagram Creators to Earn Revenue
Connecting Brands With Creators
Instagram is developing a “marketplace” for brands where they can discover and sponsor emerging creators.
“We should be able to help brands find creators that are uniquely aligned with the work they’re trying to do and vice versa.”
This will simplify the process of establishing brand partnerships for both parties. And it sounds like it can help draw attention to creators who otherwise may not end up on a brand’s radar.
Instagram Creator Shops
Instagram creator shops will allow users with regular accounts to sell merchandise on their profile.
Creator shops are an extension of Facebook & Instagram shops that were introduced last year. Previously only available to business accounts, regular users will soon be able to create their own store on Instagram.
“We see a lot of creators setting up shops too, and one part of being a content creator business model is you create great content, and then you can sell stuff, and so having creator shops is awesome,”
Affiliate Recommendation Marketplace
Instagram plans to help creators get paid for promoting content in the app.
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“Creators should be able to get a cut of the sales of things that they’re recommending and we should build up an affiliate recommendation marketplace to enable that to all happen.”
This will make it easier for creators to find opportunities to earn commission through recommending products.
The development of an affiliate recommendation marketplace may allow creators to find more products to recommend that align with their values.
Given that the whole thing will be facilitated by Instagram, it has the potential to offer more favorable terms for creators than existing affiliate programs.
Zuckerberg and Mosseri did not say when these features will be available, though they promised to reveal more information soon.
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