Jess Joyce

Jess Joyce is an SEO Consultant physically located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada who's been building and optimizing the web for just over 20 years. Working in-house at startups and at agencies she has a well rounded perspective of the web having built/maintained/optimized for many different industries and businesses.

  • 5 Email Subscriptions To Gather Content & Links

    The idea from this post came out of a lot of conversations in SEO around “0 volume keywords” as it looks to be the trend as of late. If you’re curious there’s been a few posts about it & SEO Notebook just sent out a nugget on “Finding Emerging Keywords” too. I prefer to look for what’s going on around me; these are the ones I’m telling others about lately, so I thought I’d share them here.

    1. HARO – Help a Reporter Out

    Sent out whenever you curate it, this email subscription is a firehose of humans looking for sources for articles. There are some filters but you’ll spend a bunch of time filtering through it yourself and even if you do find a good one you’re looking to be a source on, you have to be quick and even if you are there’s no guarantees your words will make it to print (er digital). It’s a wonderful wonderful resource and I highly suggest signing up, but be prepared for the onslaught of email and please ensure you have Gmail/email filters setup for it so it doesn’t fully distract your day.

    2. Google Trends Newsletter

    Written by Simon Rogers – a Data Editor at Google and put together by the Trends Team https://twitter.com/googletrends at Google. They’re emailed out once a day and it’s filled with Google Trends curated.
    Fill out this form to be added!

    It’s quite American-based in its content but has a lot of great questions in it and topical information that can be helpful for sourcing content and understanding what humans are searching for – topically.

    3. Terkel.

    Billed as a “HARO alternative” they’re a bit new to the market and have a few ways you can contribute. They have a very similar model to Quora on their website where you can answer questions from humans there. Additionally, they have an email roundup where you can contribute to these threads with your answers and they’ll be added to news sources. I really like their model over HARO personally and will be watching how it grows for sure.

    Sign up here!

    4. SearchEye Links 

    3PM links as it ends up in my inbox are marketed as “internet’s best link building opportunities” send to your inbox every day at 3pm and they promise on that task. Every day at 3pm a list arrives in your inbox, but prepare – these aren’t free links like the ones above, they have a price tag associated with them. I haven’t gone through a placement with these humans yet but they also have a list on their portal which you can signup for and there you can see even more opportunities that you can browse. If you’re shopping lists then I highly recommend you start with Loganix, who are also Canadian and wonderful on every level.

    Signup for Search Eye Links!

    5. Buzzsumo Trending

    This one requires a bit of setup but does give you the most flexibility of all of the ones listed here as you can create your own custom feed to email you. Simply, signup for Buzzsumo and then they provide you with a “Trending” feed which you can then customize there – also here’s the how-to. Provides great insight into what’s trending and what you can add to your content that’s happening out in the world right now to help your search traffic!
    Buzzsumo has a ton of other options and are billed as a “content marketing platform” but for this article, felt this piece was most relevant – Signup for Buzzsumo!

    BONUS! Google has a “Fact Check Explorer” that has a recently checked list that’s really comprehensive. Great source for content ideas and Google loves to look for authoritative sources if any of those fact checks fit into your content or you’ve been posting content about the fact-checked content you can always reach out to those sources. Check it out here.

    Image made in Canva, original image from Unsplash by the fantastical SEO human Myriam

  • Google Analytics Alternatives to GA4 That Are Great for 2023.

    Google Analytics is a free analytics tool offered by Google that helps companies track their web traffic and understand the patterns that such traffic takes, but there are drawbacks to using Google Analytics and with the forced move to GA4 and GA3 being tracking turning off as of July 1st, 2023 with an entirely new tracking model it’s nice to know that there are Google Analytics alternatives out there.

    Given how websites have become critical to all companies, analyzing user patterns can provide companies with great insights into their online presence. It’s little wonder that almost 50 million websites are using Google Analytics to inform their online decisions.

    One of the issues that users have struggled with when it comes to Google Analytics is the platform’s footprint. The fact that certain countries deem it illegal takes away from the user’s experience. In this context, then, Google Analytics 4 should be viewed as Google’s way of trying to fix some of these problems.

    In this article, we will look at the latest version of Google Analytics – Google Analytics 4, and we are also going to review some Google Analytics alternatives.

    If you’re curious about GA3 vs GA4 penetration in the market, please be sure to check out the GA4 countdown too.

    Top 5 Google Analytics Alternatives

    1. Fathom Analytics
    2. Matomo
    3. Panelbear
    4. Simple Analytics
    5. Plausible
    6. A few more product analytics & customer insights analytics…

    What is Google Analytics 4?

    The latest version of Google Analytics features several innovations that will make reporting and analysis much more manageable. The new system incorporates machine learning, which is undoubtedly the future of analytics. According to Google, the new system is meant to run in the future where there are no cookies or their use is severely limited. This is due to privacy concerns, with consumers wanting more control over how their data is collected and used.

    With this in mind, Google has designed an analytics tool that uses artificial intelligence to fill in data gaps where these may exist. Currently, any new sites set up will have to use the new Google Analytics tool, although the old ones will remain operational. In fact, experts advise that if you are setting up the new GA4 system, you should leave the older GA tools in place. This allows you to get the hang of the new analytics system without losing any of the data collected by the older systems.

    Why do you need GA4?

    One of the main issues that have dogged the online world is privacy. It is no secret that Google Analytics can analyze web traffic precisely because it tracks the visitors who come to your site and what they get up to when they are there. With this in mind, Google created GA4, which tracks users slightly differently. The other key feature of GA4 is analyzing web traffic both on websites and apps. With companies increasingly using apps to improve user experiences, understanding how users engage with such apps is critical.

    The other great thing is that GA4 now shifts its focus on the user. In this sense, site owners can track the entire user’s journey through the website and associated apps. The fact that you can apply the same metrics on your site and apps means that you can compare both platforms easily and get valuable insights. Unlike the older Universal Analytics, GA4 can track users even if they are accessing different platforms on different devices.

    Differences With The Older (Universal Analytics) Analytics System

    One of the key differences between the new system and the old one is that users have to opt-in for cookies to track them. The system also uses an ‘event-based’ approach to analytics. This approach makes analysis much more insightful, and the system can include additional data such as purchase value and even user location. The current system uses ‘goals’ instead of events, and you can currently set up just four parameters per event. With the new system, users can set up as many as 25 parameters per event, ensuring that you get the precise data you need for decision-making. The GA4 also allows users to define as many as 500 events, giving you more control over the information that you are targeting.

    If you are not keen on using the new system, are there Google Analytics alternatives? Here are some other ways to keep tabs on your website users.

    Alternatives to GA4

    If you find GA4 too complicated for you, there are other options that exist. Although not as popular as Google Analytics, some of these systems are highly effective. They also have particular strengths, as in some handle privacy issues better than others and maybe valuable long-term tracking for your analytics needs.

    Fathom Analytics

    If you are looking for a privacy-focused website analytics platform that is compliant with privacy laws including GDPR, PECR, CCPA and more (+ employs a Privacy Officer!) then Fathom Analytics is precisely worth the investment. Fathom was the first & is a better Google Analytics alternative that started in 2018 and focuses on privacy. Fathom integrates with many content management systems & platforms such as Webflow, WordPress, Drupal.

    They also provide free uptime reporting along with unlimited data retention along with one of the best affiliate programs on the internet that pays you $10.00 US a month.

    Google Analytics Alternatives to GA4 That Are Great for 2023. 1

    Matomo

    For companies looking for privacy-focused analytics, Matomo is an option other than Google Analytics like Fathom. The fact that this is an open-source software is bound to give users maximum flexibility as they use Matomo. Matomo makes it easy to implement as they have a function that allows users to import GA data. This makes the switchover to Matomo seamless

    Panelbear

    Panelbear is a frontend monitoring system that delivers in the same way as analytic systems do. Panelbear looks at the critical parameters of your site. Because it does not have a large footprint, Panelbear is popular with users as it keeps the site quick and easy to load.

    Simple Analytics

    Simple Analytics is an analytics system designed to be as easy to use as possible. For example, it collects no cookies about your users. This helps to protect your organization from privacy issues from your users. The other characteristic of Simple Analytics is that it is free. The company also pledges not to sell your data to any third parties. If you are simply interested in your site’s stats, Simple Analytics may just be the one for you.

    Plausible

    Like Fathom, Plausible is an open-source analytics tool that is lightweight and offers privacy-focused analytics. Plausible Analytics will give users actionable analysis that is highly accurate. The fact that it is lightweight means that websites are not slowed down. This gives your visitors a great user experience.

    A few more…

    Product Analytics & Customer Insights

    Depending on your analytics needs you may need to be able to collect customer data and work with your product teams too! There is quite the market these days for Google Analytics alternatives for your product analytics so here are a few more options that are more product-focused.

    There Are Options Beyond Google Analytics

    While GA4 is an excellent system to use for web analytics, it is good to know that Google Analytics alternatives exist. If you are not happy using GA4, or have seen the amount of setup that we suggest that you try out Fathom Analytics as a great Google Analytics alternative.

    Image generated by DALL·E

  • Canada Goose Citizenship

    Google just released a video for 2021.
    Google 2021 Canada Video Tweet

    Here’s the link to the tweet/video

    In that video they ask the question, “is a Canada Goose born outside of Canada still Canadian” and when you search that term the answer is still not clear so not sure if the marketing humans at Google included that in their specs for the video so here’s a hypothesis to an answer to that question.

    I’d start researching this question by looking for where Canadian Goose are born to begin with. The Canada Goose aka (Branta canadensis) are migratory birds who fly south for winter, and then return north during warmer times. They have an incredible sense of direction and fly in packs, where you’ll see them in a familiar V meant to help with wind like in racing.

    Canada Geese lay somewhere between 4-9 eggs a year and they usually nest in elevated areas so they can see around them that are close to lakes or bodies of water. Because of their keen sense of direction geese also return to the same site to lay eggs each year – sometimes even the exact same spot. They follow what their parents did, and weather that’s in Canada or somewhere else that’s pretty incredible that they remember exactly where it is.

    Is a Canada Goose born outside of Canada… Still Canadian?

    Regardless of where they nest and fly, a Canada Goose born outside of Canada will still remain a Canada Goose and won’t have it’s citizenship checked on entry so we won’t worry too much about where it came from. Once it lands on the shores of Canada we’ll welcome it back and keep our distance as they’re protective animals who although carry Canada in their name, are a bit pokey at most times of the day.

  • Building Your Digital Home

    We’re spending a lot of time at home this year, staying safe and it’s a great time to get online. This means it’s a great time to build an online space for you, your business, your idea, your blog – all the things. You’re looking for a place to build your digital home.

    Lately, I’ve seen a huge rise in questions that start along the lines of, “What should I use to build my website?” that’s always followed by a long list of well-meaning humans who suggest x CMS (Content Management System) or Platform based on what they’ve used and their experience with said systems.

    What I don’t see asked though…. are the human’s goals of this new digital home and asking a bit more about what they’re looking to sign up for.

    The context is important with this decision and there are a lot of places where you can build a website in 2020 and they’re spending a LOT of money to get you to choose them.

    CMS’ & Platforms are BIG Business

    In 2019 it’s quoted that SquareSpace spent 108 million on advertising alone. They’ve had Keanu Reeves say nice things about them, John Malkovich and even Oscar the Grouch (!!!).

    Shopify has been scaling their entire enterprise for years and a large portion of that is their very good marketing. They’ve launched Kylie Cosmetics and Shopify powers so many small business websites that in 2019 it owned 21% of the eCommerce platform market.

    Then Wix, oh Wix. Their YouTube ads are everywhere & they work with an endless list of influencers, most notably Karlie Kloss. Haven’t we all been trying to watch a YouTube video on or listen to a podcast and that dude-like dude-guy interrupts to try to tell you how easy to use Wix is?

    And that advertising is directly moving the needle as we can see in the market share for eCommerce companies.

    The point? There is a lot of money in getting your eyeballs and your dollars into the platform’s by making it sound easy.

    There are also many platforms beyond these three including some noted in @web’s tweet (above) like Magneto, Weebly, WooCommerce (aka WordPress) etc. SquareSpace, Shopify & Wix are just the platforms I see recommended the most. This landscape is big, has a lot of players in it and holds a lot of real estate – digital real estate.

    So how many CMS’ / Platforms are there?

    Too many.

    The big ones we’ve mentioned are SquareSpace, Shopify & Wix but the world has so much more to offer from WordPress, Hubspot, WebFlow, Joomla, Magento, Ghost, Drupal, BigCommerce, Weebly and the list goes on and on and on…

    There are too many options. So it makes sense as to why someone would ask “what should I use to build a website?” – the choice is overwhelming, so I completely understand why it’s easier to have people tell you where to go.

    Also, a lot of these companies are paying publications to say lovely things about them or building websites to also say lovely things about them – causing even more confusion, so who do you believe?

    All I ask when deciding on a digital home, is that you step back from the list of recommendations from strangers on Facebook to take into account these 4 things, regardless of context.

    4 Things to Think About Before Deciding on a Digital Home.

    Building Your Digital Home 2

    YOUR DOMAIN NAME

    My #1 point is if you’re buying a domain, do not purchase your domain name through any of these CMS systems/platforms.

    Please ensure you’ve purchased your domain somewhere where you can control it forever and not just when you move away from that CMS to something else, or that CMS goes out of business, or gets acquired, or countless other reasons I’ve heard.

    Buy your domain through a reputable domain provider and pay the x amount per year yourself. It’s worth it to keep your own domain under your own control.

    I’ve seen too many humans lose control of their domains or have to go through leaps and bounds to have to get control their own domain as these CMS’s make it easy to get setup, often including a domain for free – but if you ever move or want to change anything, watch out.

    Where to buy a domain

    Luckily there are companies that just deal in domain names.

    Hover, Google Domains, NameCheap OR go directly to the registrar for the domain you’re looking for ie. CIRA for a .ca.

    Domains are a whole world onto themselves, they all have a yearly fee and most of those listed above also provide privacy so no one can scrape your email off of the registration and spam you – speaking from personal experience.

    INTEGRATIONS

    #2 is ask yourself – what do you need to connect to your website? Do you have a newsletter? A CRM? Do you use a 3rd party system for signups? Are you a real estate agent and you have to connect your listings? Odds are this point brings up that there’s probably something specific to your industry you need to connect to your website.

    These questions can go on and on, as you unearth all the pieces that get connected to websites and how complicated that can be on today’s internet.

    And you’re not the only one you need to connect all the things together. WordPress has 55,000 plugins in it’s official database. Shopify has 3,100 plugins! The internet is also here to help you with copious amounts of options. The marketing tech landscape is at 8,000 services to help you out as of 2020 with all the variations of those things.

    Lastly, don’t forget tracking.

    Maybe you use Google Analytics out of the box just to see how your visitors interact with your website. BUT! I always check what analytics integrations are available and have seen some surprising answers that have taken us in different directions as not all of these platforms have connectors to all of these things, OR more so they may cost extra $$$.

    UPDATING CONTROL

    #3 is how much control do you want over updating your site? Do you want to be able to change out every piece of it or once the theme/framework is set are you happy to update content and let it run or do you want to never touch it again? Or are you working with developers who can help you out? Or are you a developer and want to look at all the elements?

    Also, think about how much you care about your site being hosted on someone else’s platform that you can’t control personally. I’ve seen clients want to change core functionality sometimes but they’re stuck or the CMS won’t take any suggestions.

    Also something to think about – some of these companies have gone out of business and imagine that COVID-19 will change things even more. What’s your plan if/when they shut down?

    Shopify had a breakup with Mailchimp in 2019 that left it’s users to figure out solutions on their own. The web constantly evolves but thinking about things like these before you make a decision gives you the ability to go in with open eyes and not get shocked when something changes.

    Do they have any rules about adding content and who’s content that ends up being? Also check if you can export everything that you import into your site, you’d be surprised who doesn’t offer that. Can you make backups of the site? Or does that cost extra? How are updates handled or are you going to need a dev to upgrade your PHP when new versions come out?

    LAST BY NOT LEAST – YOUR COMFORT LEVEL

    Lastly, #4 is what is your comfort level with tech, updates, changes, managing the site overall? Some of these CMS’ will tell you it’s going to be easy and there’s no developer required. The truth is a developer may still be required.

    Are you going to be comfortable making the updates yourself or would you just like to have someone else do it? Or would you like to get in just drag things around to where you’d like to place them.

    All of these are trade offs. With dragging elements around you lose access to the code a lot of the time, or the systems add a lot of code in the background that could slow down your website. With adding your own images are you comfortable with re-sizing them so they’ll be optimized or does the CMS/plugins you’ve chosen do that for you?

    There’s a lot to think about as you manage your new digital home.

    Bonus: Do you want to sell things?

    Some of the CMS’ listed above focus on allowing you to sell with their platform and some added that functionality on later. For instance WordPress started as a blogging platform, that’s still its core. It’s only been later that WooCommerce was developed and released to enable merchants access to that. On the other side Shopify started as ecommerce and their blogging functionality is pretty limited.

    Selling is *big* business and choosing a CMS that doesn’t prioritize that could put your business in a pinch, quite literally.

    Write it this all down before you push the buy button.

    Just like when you buy a house, you tour it and get someone to do an assessment or do the assessment yourself – so write it down.

    1. Buy your domain outside of the system you use to build your site.
    2. Make a list of the integrations you’ll want/need.
    3. Think about how much control you’ll want and what you’ll want to change in your digital home.
    4. How comfortable are you with making updates? Do you want to touch code ever?
    5. Bonus: eCommerce.

    That’s it. If the answers to all of these are you want ultimate control over everything, I advise you to look into (but not decide until you’ve done your research!) WordPress as the rest of the options out there always have something missing and WordPress is still a very robust system and provides a ton of flexibility. There’s a plugin/integration for almost everything, you can host it on your own server, your design can be anything and you can ensure that the anyone can update the website – without having to look at (much) code. There are many drawbacks with WordPress too, but that’s another article…

    For your future digital home, asking these questions is worth it as migrations or replatforming are not fun for clients or easy. I’m waiting on one client who’s been doing a redesign for a year now after they put things all over the web and now want to consolidate them and that’s just 1 story.

    If you choose one of these or any other wonderful platform for your digital home and it doesn’t turn out the way you envisioned, I’m one of the weird people who enjoy migrations a lot. I’m always happy to talk to help anyone through them or if you have any questions reach out – I hang out on Twitter and am happy to chat.

  • 4 Months of Freelance – Taking Time.

    I burnt out.

    Earlier this year my brain hit a max that I should have identified earlier but thems the learnings. In February I had a lot going on in life that I was going at head down and with the attitude of “onward through the fog” – not great.

    My job at the time was really stressful (a lot of which I’d put on myself) and my Mother was in the process of moving, all of which I was doing for her. The day her condo sold, I was on the phone with her and the lawyer about 20 times. Meanwhile in between at work I messed up in a large way on the project I was working on, and decided something had to give.

    So I started talking to people internally at that company to see if I could move to a different department, and externally by reaching out to coaches. I started talking to people in my life and questions about what freelance was like and how I was *feeling* about work.

    Then something amazing happened… I gained 3 clients even before I quit.

    Now, this lead to me taking on *much* more than I was able to handle at the time and I had to actually step back and re-evaluate things, but I felt I was onto something  change was happening.

    This is the first time I’ve been freelance full time and I’ve learned more in the last 4 months than I have in the last 4 years. I wouldn’t change it for the world. Knowing my income comes from me and what I do has held me accountable in ways I didn’t expect and has lit a fire under me that I’ve never felt before (and I think frankly needed).

    The beauty of freelance is YOU run your schedule, so these are the things I have taken the time to do.

    Taken time to learn.
    I’ve completed an update to HTML/CSS/JS that I felt *I* needed for years and finally had the time to take, it was incredibly helpful in piecing pieces that had become really fuzzy to me and now I feel confident again.

    I’ve also loved to be able to sit in on online webinars during the day – DURING THE DAY. Listening/watching webinars while I can work is awesome and just taking the hour to listen to the webinar, it’s great.

    Taken the time to help others.
    I’ve been amping up helping out around the city. I’ve been at TA at a good half a dozen workshops at Camp Tech now on various marketing disciplines from Adwords (Google Ads I know..), to Google Analytics and recently HTML/CSS.

    I also volunteer for Women and Color, just helping out at their events and pitching on whatever they need as they scale.

    Taken time to keep growing my network.
    At least once a week I have a meeting/coffee/drink with someone – friend or professionally, and if not I’ll attend an event to chat with people more.

    Something I never realized is networking is *just* talking to people.
    I’ve been paralyzed by the idea of networking being your pitch, but I just talk to people! Ask about them, they ask about you – you make new friends and I love working with my friends.

    Taken time to take care of my Mom. 
    We’ve spent a lot of time organizing her life, like I should have been doing before. Between her finances, and her health now she’s *almost* back on track and when I talk to her now I can hear her in a much better place than she was before too.

    Taken time for me.
    This summer was amazing.
    I was able to take a day and go to the beach, take a standup paddle boarding lesson at sunset, go to Palm Springs for a friends bachelorette, go to my first TedX event, work on my photography skills (like the wonderful sunset on this post, check out my Unsplash & Instagram for more), hang out with friends – I didn’t want summer to come to and end.

    I also have taken time to get a physical and get my own health up to date, something I’ve been *really* worried about for years. I’m not 100% healthy yet, but I’m on a plan now and pointed in the right direction.

    It hasn’t been all lollypops and rainbows as when I quit I told myself I was going to…

    1. Yoga
    2. Make the same $$ as I was making full time
    3. Have breakfast every day and have more time to cook
    4. Building consistency for my own discipline/schedule
    5. Explore more of the city I live in, take pictures
    6. Visit my friends more often, especially those who live outside the city
    7. Attend events outside of the city/country
    8. Update my website(s) – I am the model of the cobblers kids that have no shoes right now
    9. Blogging more (here I am! Stay tuned for my next one on why Twitter is my favourite social platform, controversial I know)  and taking a writing course (that’s next)
    10. And much more…

    I’m working towards achieving a balance of all of those, but I haven’t found good balance yet between taking care of myself and building this new business so I sprinkle in items from the list above as it evolves.

    I also ask my clients and everyone around me now how they balance their days too, it’s fascinating to hear how many people are working non-traditional schedules or doing additional “hustles” beyond their 9-5.

    How does your day look? Are there things you should be prioritizing more? Could you make a change to involve more of those?

    These are the questions I asked myself while having anxiety attacks at work and after making this change, those questions are much easier to navigate.