|What is the most tricky part in device troubleshooting ? My experience says “If a problem happens in the middle of doing something, it is relatively easy to find the root cause and troubleshoot it (probably I might have over-simplified the situation -:), but if something happened before anything started, it would be a nightmare.” For example, you set the all the parameters at thenetwork emulator for a UE you want to test and then turned on the UE. In a several second UE start booting and then in a couple of second you see a couple of antenna bars somewhere at the top of UE screen.. and then in several seconds you see ‘SOS’ or ‘Service Not Available’ in stead of your network operator name displayed on your screen and normal Antenna bars. This is what I mean by “problem in the middle of doing something”. In this case, if you collect UE log and equipment log, at least you can easily pin point out the location the problem happens and start from there for further details. But what if you are in this situation ? you set the all the parameters at the network emulator side and turn on the UE.. UE start booting up .. showing the message saying “Searching Network ….” and got stuck there.. with no Antenna bars .. not even ‘SOS’ .. just saying “No service”. And I collected UE side log and Network Emulator side log, but no signalling message. This is where our headache starts.
i) What if you don’t see ‘RRC Connection Request’ when your turned on the WCDMA UE ?
ii) What if you don’t see ‘Channel Request’ when your turned on the GSM UE ?
iii) What if you don’t see ‘RACH Preamble’ when your turned on the LTE UE ?
First thing you have to do is to understand the every details of this procedure not only in the higher signaling layer, but also all the way down to the physical layers related to these first step. And also you have to use proper equipment which can show these detailed process. If you have an equipment that does not provide the logging or it provides log but only higher layer singnaling log, it will be extremly difficult to troubleshoot. Given that you have the proper tools, the next thing you have to be ready is to understand the detailed knowledge of these process. Without the knowledge, however good tools I have it doesn’t mean anything to me. So ? I want to teach myself here about the first step of LTE signaling which is RACH process. (Somebody would say there are many of other steps even before the RACH, like frequency Sync, Time Sync, MIB/SIB decoding.. but it put these aside for now.. since it is more like baseband processing).
It would be helpful to understand if you think about when ‘RRC Connection’ happens (or when PRACH process happens if you are interested in lower layer stuffs) in WCDMA. It would also be helpful if you think about when ‘Channel Request’ happens in GSM UE.
My impression of LTE RACH process is like the combination of PRACH process (WCDMA) and Channel Request (GSM). It may not be 100% correct analogy.. but anyway I got this kind of impression. In LTE, RACH process happens in following situation (3GPP specification, 10.1.5 Random Access Procedure of 36.300 )
i) Initial access from RRC_IDLE
ii) RRC Connection Re-establishment procedure
iv) DL data arrival during RRC_CONNECTED requiring random access procedure
E.g. when UL synchronisation status is “non-synchronised”
v) UL data arrival during RRC_CONNECTED requiring random access procedure
E.g. when UL synchronisation status is “non-synchronised” or there are no PUCCH resources for SR available.
vi) For positioning purpose during RRC_CONNECTED requiring random access procedure;
E.g. when timing advance is needed for UE positioning
When a UE transmit a PRACH Preamble, it transmits with a specific pattern and this specific pattern is called a “Signature”. In each LTE cell, total 64 preamble signatures are available and UE select randomly one of these signatures.
UE select “Randomly” one of these signatures ?
Does this mean that there is some possibility that multiple UEs send PRACH with identical signatures ?
There is such a possibility. It means the same PRACH preamble from multipe UE reaches the NW at the same time.. this kind of PRACH collision is called “Contention” and the RACH process that allows this type of “Contention” is called “Contention based” RACH Process. In this kind of contention based RACH process, Network would go through additional process at later step to resolve these contention and this process is called “Contention Resolution” step.
But there is some cases that these kind of contention is not acceptable due to some reason (e.g, timing restriction) and these contention can be prevented. Usually in this case, the Network informs each of the UE of exactly when and which preamble signature it has to use. Of course, in this case Network will allocate these preamble signature so that it would not collide. This kind of RACH process is called “Contention Free” RACH procedure. To initiate the “Contention Free” RACH process, UE should be in Connected Mode before the RACH process as in Handover case.
Typical ‘Contention Based’ RACH Procedure is as follows :
i) UE –> NW : RACH Preamble (RA-RNTI, indication for L2/L3 message size)
ii) UE <– NW : Random Access Response (Timing Advance, T_C-RNTI, UL grant for L2/L3 message)
iii) UE –> NW : L2/L3 message iv) Message for early contention resolution
Now let’s assume that a contention happened at step i). For example, two UEs sent PRACH. In this case, both of the UE will recieve the same T_C-RNTI and resource allocation at step ii). And as a result, both UE would send L2/L3 message through the same resource allocation(meaning with the same time/frequency location) to NW at step iii). What would happen when both UE transmit the exact same information on the exact same time/frequency location ? One possibility is that these two signal act as interference to each other and NW decode neither of them. In this case, none of the UE would have any response (HARQ ACK) from NW and they all think that RACH process has failed and go back to step i). The other possibility would be that NW could successfully decode the message from only one UE and failed to decode it from the other UE. In this case, the UE with the successful L2/L3 decoding on NW side will get the HARQ ACK from Network. This HARQ ACK process for step iii) message is called “contention resolution” process.
Typical ‘Contention Free’ RACH Procedure is as follows :
i) UE <–NW : RACH Preamble Assignment
ii) UE –> NW : RACH Preamble (RA-RNTI, indication for L2/L3 message size)
iii) UE <–NW : Random Access Response (Timing Advance, C-RNTI, UL grant for L2/L3 message)
To answer to this question, you need to refer to 3GPP specification TS36.211 – Table 5.7.1-2.
Did you open the specification now ? It shows exactly when a UE is supposed to send RACH depending on a parameter called “PRACH Configuration Index”.
For example, if the UE is using “PRACH Configuration Idex 0”, it should transmit the RACH only in EVEN number SFN(System Frame Number). Is this good enough answer ? Does this mean that this UE can transmit the RACH in any time within the specified the SFN ? The answer to this question is in “Sub Frame Number” colulmn of the table. It says “1” for “PRACH Configuration Idex 0”. It means the UE is allowed to transmit RACH only at sub frame number 1 of every even SFN.
Checking your understanding of the table, I will give you one question. With which “PRACH Configuration Idex”, it would be the easiest for the Network to detect the RACH from UE ? and Why ?
The answer would be 14, because UE can send the RACH in any SFN and any slots within the frame.
In a big picture, you should know all the dimmensions in the following diagram. (The Red rectangle is PRACH signal).
The R_Slot is determined by PRACH Configuration Index and R_length is determined by Premable format. F_offset is dermined by the following equation when the preamble format is 0~3. n_RA_PRBoffset in this equation is specified by prach-FreqOffset in SIB2. (Refer to 36.211 5.7 Physical random access channel for the details )
< FDD >
< TDD : Preamble format 0-3 >
< TDD : Preamble format 4 >
If you see the table 5.7.1-1 show above, you see the column titled as “Preamble Format”. What is the preamble format ? It is defined as following diagram.
You would see that the length of PRACH preamble varies depending on the preamble format. For example, the length of PRACH with preamble format is (3186 + 24567) Samples. (As you know, one sample (Ts) is 1/30.72 us. It is defined as 1/(15000 x 2048) seconds in 36.211 4 Frame structure).
You may ask “Why we need this kind of multiple preamble format ?”, especially “Why we need various PRACH format with different length in time ?”.
One of the main reason would be that they use different preamble format depending on cell radius, but this is oversimplified answer.
I want to recommend a book titled “LTE : The UMTS From Theory to Practice” Section 19.4.2 The PRACH Structure. This is the material that describes the PRACH in the most detailed level I have ever read.
It is simple. Network knows when UE will send the RACH even before UE sends it because Network tells UE when the UE is supposed to transmit the RACH. (If UE fails to decode properly the network information about the RACH, Network will fail to detect it even though UE sends RACH).
Following section will describe network informaton on RACH.
Which RRC Message contains RACH Configuration ?
It is in SIB2 and you can find the details in 3GPP 36.331.
numberOfRA-Preambles : There are total 64 RA preambles that UE can randomly choose from. But usually a cell reserve several Preambles for ‘Non-contention based’ PRACH procedure and let UE use the rest of Preambles randomly (contention based). numberOfRA-Preambles indicates how many RA preambles (RA sequences) is available for the contention based RACH process.
Following figure shows the PRACH Premable signal structure in comparison with normal Uplink subframe. A couple of points to be specially mentioned are
You don’t have to know the details of this procedure unless you are the DSP or FPGA engineer implementing LTE PHY. Just as a common sense about LTE, let’s know that PRACH is a kind of ZaddOff Chu Sequence generated by the following equation.
, where u = physical root sequence index
There are 64 preambles available for each cell and UE has to be able to generate the 64 preambles for the cell it want to camp on.
You can easily generate 64 different preambles just by cyclically shifting an existing sequence, but there is a condition for this. All the preamle sequences should be authogonal to each other. Otherwise, various preambles from multiple UEs within the same cell can interfere each other. So we have to shift the generated sequence by a specifically designed value and this value is called Cv (Cyclic Shift Value) and it is defined as follows. (I think determining the Cv is one of the most complicated process in PRACH preamble generation because it gets involved with so many different parameters in cascading manner).
First, you would notice that we use different process to calculate Cv depending on whether we use ‘unrestricted sets’ or ‘restricted sets’. This decision is made by ‘Highspeedflag’ information elements in SIB2. If Highspeedflag is set to be TRUE, we have to use ‘restricted sets’ and if Highspeedflag is false, we have to use ‘unrestricted sets’.
N_cs is specified by zeroCorrelationZoneConfig information elements in SIB2. As you see in this mapping, N_cs values also gets different depending on whether we use ‘restricted sets’ or ‘unrestricted sets’.
Now let’s look at how we get Nzc. This is pretty straightforward. Nzc is determined by the following table.
If the Preamble is using the unrestricted sets, it is pretty simple. You only have to know Nzc, Ncs to figure out Cv.
The problem is when the Preamble is using the ‘restricted sets’. As you see the equation above, you need to know the following 4 values to figure out Cv in ‘restricted sets’.
The problem is that the calculation of these four variable is very complicated as shown below.
You would noticed that you need another value to calculate to determine which of the three case we have to use. It is du. So we need another process to determine du.
We went through a complicated procedure just to determin one number (Cv). Once we get Cv, we can generate multiple preambles using the following function.
Anyway, now we got a PRACH Preamble sequence in hand, but this is not all. In order to transmit this data. We have to convert this data into a time domain sequence and this conversion is done by the following process.
For the whole PRACH generation procedure, please refer to 5.7.2/5.7.3 of TS 36.211.
We all knows that Network should transmit RACH Response after it recieved RACH Preamble from UE, but do we know exactly when, in exactly which subframe, the network should transmit the RACH Response ? The following is what 3GPP 36.321 (section 5.1.4) describes.
Once the Random Access Preamble is transmitted and regardless of the possible occurrence of a measurement gap, the UE shall monitor the PDCCH for Random Access Response(s) identified by the RA-RNTI defined below, in the RA Response window which starts at the subframe that contains the end of the preamble transmission  plus three subframes and has length ra-ResponseWindowSize subframes.
It means the earliest time when the network can transmit the RACH response is 3 subframe later from the end of RACH Preamble. Then what is the latest time when the network can transmit it ? It is determined by ra-ResponseWindowSize. This window size can be the number between 0 and 10 in the unit of subframes. This means that the maximum time difference between the end of RACH preamble and RACH Response is only 12 subframes (12 ms) which is pretty tight timing requirement.
< prach-ConfigIndex >
< zeroCorrelationZoneConfig and Highspeedflag >
< prach-FreqOffset >
< rootSequenceIndex >
Follwing is an example of RACH procedure which happens during the initiail registration. If you will be an engineer who is working on protocol stack development or test case development, you should be very familiar with all the details of this process.
Again, we have to know every details of every step without missing anything to be a developer, but of course it is not easy to understand everything at a single shot. So, let’s start with something the most important part, which I think is the details of RACH response. Following diagram shows one example of RACH Response with 5 Mhz bandwidth. We don’t have to memorize the detailed value itself but should be familiar with the data format and understand which part of this bit string means what.
If you decode UL Grant part, you will get the following result. You will notice that the information it carries would be very similar to DCI format 0 which carries Resource Allocation for uplink data. This information in UL Grant in RACH Response message is the resource allocation for msg3 (e.g, RRC Connection Request). Note : This is example of RAR for System BW 5 Mhz. If the sytem BW gets different, you should have different RIV values (if you want to have the same Start_RB, N_RB as in this example) or you will have different Start_RB, N_RB (if you keep RIV as below and just change the system BW)
Let me describe this procedure in verbal form again.
i) UE initiate a Random Access Procedure on the (uplink) Random Access Channel (RACH).(The location of RACH in the frequency/time resource grid the RACH is known to the mobile via the (downlink) Broadcast Channel (BCH). The random access message itself only consists of 6 bits and the main content is a random 5 bit identity)
ii) Network sends a Random Access Response Message(RARM) at a time and location on the Physical Downlink Shared Channel (PDSCH) (The time and location of RARM on PDSCH can be calculated from the time and location the random access message was sent. This message contains the random identity sent by the device, a Cell Radio Network Temporary ID (T_C-RNTI) which will be used for all further bandwidth assignments, and an initial uplink bandwidth assignment)
iii) The mobile device then uses the bandwidth assignment to send a short (around 80 bits) RRC Connection Request message which includes it’s identity which has previously been assigned to it by the core network
Only the step i) uses physical-layer processing specifically designed for random access. The remaining steps utilizes the same physical layer processing as used for normal uplink and downlink data transmission
“5.1.4 Random Access Response reception” in “TS36.321” says how to calculate RA_RNTI as follows.
The RA-RNTI associated with the PRACH in which the Random Access Preamble is transmitted, is computed as:
RA-RNTI = 1 + t_id + 10 * f_id
Where t_id is the index of the first subframe of the specified PRACH (0 <≤ t_id <10), and f_id is the index of the specified PRACH within that subframe, in ascending order of frequency domain (0≤ f_id< 6).
For FDD, f_id is fixed as 0.
Therefore, RA_RNTI is decided by the sending timing (SubFrame) of PRACH Preamble by UE. It means that (the subframe number (number between 0000~0009) of PRACH transmission + 1) is RA-RNTI.
It means that UE specifies RA_RNTI by the sending timing (SubFrame) of PRACH Preamble.
Following is an example of Full RACH process with a commercialized LTE device and LTE Network Emulator. I would not explain anything in detail. Just check if the following diagram make any sense to you. If it does, I would say you understand all the details that I explained above.
Most part of previous section was about the ideal RACH process, which means that UE send PRACH and Network send RACH Response at the first trial and went through all the way to the end of process at the first trial.
What if UE does not receive RACH Response at the first trial ? What is UE supposed to do in this case ?
The answer is simple. Just retry (resend) PRACH. (In this case, UE might not have any Backoff Indicator value which normally transmitted in MAC CE being sent with RAR).
There is another case where UE needs to retry PRACH. It is the case where UE received RAR from the network, but the RAPID is not for it (It means that RAR is not for some other UE). In this case, it is highly probable that a Backoff Indicator value is transmitted with RAR to control the PRACH retransmission timing.
Then you would have more question. (“I” in the following description is “UE”)
i) When do I have to retry ? (What should be the time delay between the previous transmission and the next transmission ?)
ii) Do I have to retransmit the PRACH with the same power as previous one ? Or try with a little bit higher power ? If I have to try with a little bit higher power, how much power do I have to increase ?
iii) If I keep failing to receive RACH response, how many time I have to retry ? Do I have to retry until the battery runs out ? or retry only several times and give up ? If I have to give up after a certain amount of retry, exactly how many times do I have to retry ?
The answers to all of these questions are provided by the network.
The answer (instruction) to question i) is provided by Network via a special RAR MAC PDU called “Backoff Indicator”.
The answer to question ii) and iii) are provided by Network via SIB2 as follows. powerRampingStep is the answer to question ii) and preambleTransMax is the answer to question iii).
In the following example, powerRampingStep = dB2. It means UE has to increase PRACH power by 2 dB everytime it retries.
preambleTransMax = n6. It means UE retries PRACH retransmit only 6 times and then give up. (This is my understanding at least as of now. But trying with real device, I see many cases UE does not give up even after it reaches preambleTransMax. I will get this updated as I find more)
| +-radioResourceConfigCommon ::= SEQUENCE
| | +-rach-Config ::= SEQUENCE
| | | +-preambleInfo ::= SEQUENCE 
| | | | +-numberOfRA-Preambles ::= ENUMERATED [n52]
| | | | +-preamblesGroupAConfig ::= SEQUENCE OPTIONAL:Omit
| | | +-powerRampingParameters ::= SEQUENCE
| | | | +-powerRampingStep ::= ENUMERATED [dB2]
| | | | +-preambleInitialReceivedTargetPower ::= ENUMERATED [dBm-104]
| | | +-ra-SupervisionInfo ::= SEQUENCE
| | | | +-preambleTransMax ::= ENUMERATED [n6]
| | | | +-ra-ResponseWindowSize ::= ENUMERATED [sf10]
| | | | +-mac-ContentionResolutionTimer ::= ENUMERATED [sf48]
| | | +-maxHARQ-Msg3Tx ::= INTEGER (1..8) 
Additional Factors :
PRACH Config Index (in SIB2)
Backoff Indicator (in MAC CE)
T-300 (in SIB2)
Following is an example of PRACH Retry being observed in a real device. This is the case where UE send PRACH and NW does not send RAR (Yellow cell indicates the timing determined by PRACH Config Index when UE is allowed to send PRACH. See Exactly when and where Network transmit RACH Response . Green cell indicates the timing when UE send PRACH in this specific example)
I have explained long about the RACH process. Now you may ask “What is the trigger that let UE initiate the RACH process ?”. You will see various triggers in 3GTS 36.300 (10.1.5) : Overall description of RACH Process.
“Turning on UE” is one of the trigger for sure. And following is another trigger for this process.
This is basically the same sequence that I explained in previous sections, but I simplified the diagram in previous sections to let reader focused more on messaging part of RACH procedure. In this diagram, you see some additional steps like HARQ ACK, DCI 0 (UL Grant). This flow is more similar to real live network procedure.
3GTS 36.300 (10.1.5) : Overall description of RACH Process. Read this first.
3GTS 36.211 (5.7) : RRC Messages and IE (Information Elements) which are involved in RACH process.
3GTS 36.213 (6) : MAC Layer Procedure related to RACH Process.
In a GSM network, when a Mobile Station (MS) is switched on, the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) attach procedure is executed. This procedure is required for the Mobile Switching Center(MSC) and Visitor Location Register (VLR) to register the MS in the network. If the MS has changed Location area (LA) while it was powered off the IMSI attach procedure will lead to a Location update.
When the MS is switched on, it searches for a mobile network to connect to. Once the MS identifies its desired network, it sends a message to the network to indicate that it has entered into an idle state. The Visitor Location Register (VLR) checks its database to determine whether there is an existing record of the particular subscriber.
If no record is found, the VLR communicates with the subscriber’s Home Location Register (HLR) and obtains a copy of the subscription information. The obtained information is stored in the database of the VLR. Then an acknowledge message is sent to the MS. Steps for IMSI attach procedure are as follows:
1.The MS will send a Channel Request message to the BSS on the RACH.
2. The BSS responds on the AGCH with an Immediate Assignment message and assigns an SDCCH to the MS.
3. The MS immediately switches to the assigned SDCCH and sends a Location Update Request to the BSS. The MS will send either an IMSI or a TMSI to the BSS.
4. The BSS will acknowledge the message. This acknowledgement only tells the MS that the BTS has received the message, it does not indicate the location update has been processed.
5. The BSS forwards the Location Update Request to the MSC/VLR.
6. The MSC/VLR forwards the IMSI to the HLR and requests verification of the IMSI as well as Authentication Triplets.
7. The HLR will forward the IMSI to the Authentication Center (AuC) and request authentication triplets.
8. The AuC generates the triplets and sends them along with the IMSI, back to the HLR.
9. The HLR validates the IMSI by ensuring it is allowed on the network and is allowed subscriber services. It then forwards the IMSI and Triplets to the MSC/VLR.
10. The MSC/VLR stores the SRES and the Kc and forwards the RAND to the BSS and orders the BSS to authenticate the MS.
11. The BSS sends the MS an Authentication Request message to the MS. The only parameter sent in the message is the RAND.
12. The MS uses the RAND to calculate the SRES and sends the SRES back to the BSS on the SDCCH in an Authentication Response. The BSS forwards the SRES up to the MSC/VLR.
13. The MSC/VLR compares the SRES generated by the AuC with the SRES generated by the MS. If they match, then authentication is completed successfully.
14. The MSC/VLR forwards the Kc for the MS to the BSS. The Kc is NOT sent across the Air Interface to the MS. The BSS stores the Kc and forwards the Set Cipher Mode command to the MS. The CIPH_MOD_CMD only tells the MS which encryption to use (A5/X), no other information is included.
15. The MS immediately switches to cipher mode using the A5 encryption algorithm. All transmissions are now enciphered. It sends a Ciphering Mode Complete message to the BSS.
16. The MSC/VLR sends a Location Updating Accept message to the BSS. It also generates a new TMSI for the MS. TMSI assignment is a function of the VLR. The BSS will either send the TMSI in the LOC_UPD_ACC message or it will send a separate TMSI Reallocation Command message. In both cases, since the Air Interface is now in cipher mode, the TMSI is not compromised.
17. The MS sends a TMSI Reallocation Complete message up to the MSC/VLR.
18. The BSS instructs the MS to go into idle mode by sending it a Channel Release message. The BSS then deassigns the SDCCH.
19. The MSC/VLR sends an Update Location message to the HLR. The HLR records which MSC/VLR the MS is currently in, so it knows which MSC to point to when it is queried for the location of the MS.
IMSI detach is the process of detaching a MS from the mobile network to which it was connected. The IMSI detach procedure informs the network that the Mobile Station is switched off or is unreachable.
At power-down the MS requests a signaling channel. Once assigned, the MS sends an IMSI detach message to the VLR. When the VLR receives the IMSI detach-message, the corresponding IMSI is marked as detached by setting the IMSI detach flag. The HLR is not informed of this and the VLR does not acknowledge the MS about the IMSI detach.
If the radio link quality is poor when IMSI detach occurs, the VLR may not properly receive the IMSI-detach request. Since an acknowledgment message is not sent to the MS, it does not make further attempts to send IMSI detach messages. Therefore the GSM network considers the MS to be still attached.
Implicit IMSI detach
The GSM air-interface, designated Um, transmits network-specific information on specific broadcast channels. This information includes whether the periodic location update is enabled. If enabled, then the MS must send location update requests at time intervals specified by the network. If the MS is switched off, having not properly completed the IMSI detach procedure, the network will consider the MS as switched off or unreachable if no location update is made. In this situation the VLR performs an implicit IMSI detach.
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Beneath the graph, you’ll see more data laid out with summaries and scorecards prominently displaying important overall metrics, such as pages per visit and time on site. Most reports have three different tabs in the top left above the scorecards: Site Usage, Goal Conversion and Ecommerce.
More granular measurements of these data sets can be found in a table below. You can visualize the table in a pie chart or a bar graph by clicking the icons just above and to the right of the scorecards. Table information can be sorted in ascending or descending order by clicking on the column heading you want to reorganize. To increase or decrease the number of results displayed, click the “Show Rows” drop down menu at the bottom right of the report. The default is 10 and you can show up to 500 results per page.
You can also refine data with the “Find Source” box at the bottom left of the report. Enter keywords relevant to your search such as “source” or “keyword” and select “containing” or “excluding” to reveal more specific information.
If you’re unsure of what a specific measurement means, click the question mark next to it and an explanation bubble will pop up.
You’ll find an email button at the top of all reports, just beneath the title. You can send the email immediately, schedule a recurring report email or add the report to an existing pre-scheduled email. If you’re presenting the report, you can export it as a PDF (recommended), XML, CSV or TSV file.
Are you having a hard time finding out which keywords to target for your SEO and PPC campaigns?
Let me show you 5 Keyword Research Tips that will end your Keyword research problems.
1. Swipe your Competitor’s Keyword Research
Why not let your “established” and “authority” competitors do the keyword research for you?
You can ethically “swipe” your competitor’s keywords by using these Google’s Free Keyword Tool.
Use Google Keyword Tool
Here’s what you need to do.
List at least 5 top competitors that are ranking in the top results for your targeted terms or niche.
Let me use “Keyword Research Tips” as an example of a keyword/keyword theme that I would like to target.
I will then Paste the Top 5 URLs that are ranking for this term in Google Keyword Tool’s Website Box
Change your location and language based on your targeted demographic. Choose Global and English if you are targeting a worldwide audience.
Choose exact match or phrase match as keyword match types. I prefer to use phrase matches because it can help me find “hidden long tail keywords” later on.
The great thing about this strategy is that you’ll immediately see the search volumes for the keywords you’ve chosen.
Select keywords that you think will be relevant to your niche and group them together to create tightly themed set of keywords.
2. Find hidden long tail keywords in the phrase-match/exact match difference
This strategy can help you uncover hidden long tail keywords that might be less competitive than most keywords.
The secret here is the difference between Phrase Match and Exact Match Search volumes.
Google Keyword Tool usually shows the Phrase match and Exact match search volumes, but they seldom release related long tail keywords to target for your SEO and PPC campaigns.
Basically, you’ll need to find the phrase match and exact match search volume of a particular keyword.
If there’s a huge difference between the search volumes, then you have a winning keyword.
Try to find the “missing long tail keywords” through Google instant searches or try some PPC advertising to drive some impressions and clicks which will help you identify these “hidden keyword opportunities”.
Here’s an example of what I mean:
SEO Tools (in Google Global Search)
“seo tools” (phrase match) = 90,500
[seo tools] (exact match) = 33,100
“SEO Tools” Phrase Match/Exact Match Difference = 57,400
SEO Services (in Google Global Search)
“seo services” (phrase match) = 246,000
[seo services] (exact match) = 49,500
“SEO Services” Phrase Match/Exact Match Difference = 196,500
Obviously the bigger opportunity lies in optimizing for the term “SEO Services” since it has 196,500 hidden long tail keywords.
These hidden long tail keywords includes:
“seo services canada”
“seo services toronto”
The idea here is to find keywords that have huge differences between the search volumes of the phrase and exact match and create content around those keywords.
3. Blog on upcoming events and product launches
Monitor competitor product releases, industry updates and industry news.
If you can rank and optimize for keywords that are not being searched today, but will be highly searched in the future, then you’re in a great position to generate tons of traffic for that search term.
Here are just a few examples:
Date Based Searches
Black Friday 2013
Boxing Day 2013
[Product name] launch
[Product name] review
[Product name] information
Basically, these strategy relies on anticipating keywords that will be highly searched in the future. These keywords are easier to rank in the search engines because no one is still optimizing for these terms.
4. Add geo-targeted search terms to your Keywords for Local Search
If you are promoting a local business, or you offer products and services to a local demographic, adding geo-location keywords for search can help you rank a lot faster than regular keywords.
Here’s another example.
If you want to optimize for “Seo Services” it might take you several months, or even years to outrank your competition.
Instead try adding geo locations to your keywords:
“Seo services Canada”
“Seo services Toronto”
These keywords might have less search volumes, but they are highly targeted and more likely to convert than the Fat Head keywords.
5. Mine your existing Google Analytics Data for Long Tail Keywords that you might have missed
Do you know that you can find tons of keyword research data from your existing Google Analytics data? Of course this will only work for old websites with some organic or paid search traffic before. Using Google Analytics Regular Filters you can create a list of long tail keywords.
You can filter keywords with 3,4,5,6,7 or more keywords in the search phrase. This will help you find content ideas, keywords opportunities that you might want to include in your next blog post.
I’ve created a Google Analytics Dashboard to help you find these keywords quickly. Make sure you’re signed in to Google Analytics and Click here to Copy my SEO Dashboard. And there you have it, 5 Unconventional Keyword Research Tips that can help solve your Keyword research problems.
Companies are defined today by their unique story. Anyone can sell a product but why buy that product over another? Creating radio spots and billboard ads are not enough in today’s consumer centric marketplace to connect with customers, it’s content that helps craft a story about your business, drive home your unique value and inform potential customers why they should buy your product or service over others.
Jumpstarting your content marketing efforts can be an uphill battle if you don’t have the right tools in place to get the job done. It’s time to think like a journalist and a marketer to offer your audiences content that is both useful and entertaining, similar to the value a publication brings to its readers. Here are 50 tools to help bolster your content marketing strategy for the future:
Tools for Content Discovery & Ideas
1. SPUN for iPhone – SPUN is an app for the iPhone with a beautiful interface that curates the best of the web from millions of websites, Tumblrs, YouTube channels, online magazine and blogs.
2. Feedly – Since Google Reader has shut down July 1st, Feedly has become the best option for RSS having grown to 7 million users in recent months. Add your favorite blogs and websites to start filling up your feed with content.
3. Pulse – Purchased by LinkedIn not too long ago, Pulse is an app that serves as a RSS feed from other sources allowing users to curate based on their interests and topics of choice.
4. Quora – The popular social network is a platform for question and answer discussions. Identify trends from consistently asked questions to inform your content creation efforts.
5. Trapit – This content discovery app personalizes the content feed based on your passions and interests, designed just for the iPad. The app learns from your feedback, giving you better content each time it’s used.
6. Inbound.org – Use Inbound.org to find great content from the world of inbound marketing from other marketers, curated by the community.
8. Alltop – Content is indexed from a variety of top publications, categorized by topics like Work, Health, Culture, Interests, Tech, People, Good, News, Geos and Sports.
9. Twitter – Search trending topics on Twitter to see what is popular worldwide or in a specific region to gain insights on what content to develop. Also search hashtags that are relevant to your expertise and industry to research what subjects of our interest to your existing audience and potential audiences.
10. Reddit – Discover what’s trending worldwide on Reddit for content inspiration on a variety of topics from across the web. Observing which headlines are more effective on Reddit can bring insights to the subject of your next article, infographic, video or other type of content.
Tools for Marketing & Distribution
11. Buffer – Use Buffer to schedule your content across Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for posting at the best times optimized for your account or at the times of your choosing. Buffer helps streamline the process of distributing content to each channel quickly and effectively.
12. Slideshare – An often overlooked tool for content marketing, create a deck to draw attention to a resource or service on your website. Like this deck on YouTube Virality, that drove 20,000+ views to the creator’s content.
13. Yoast – The best search engine optimization plugin for WordPress that helps bolster your website and its content to its full potential with all the major search engines. It simplifies the process making it easier for website owners of all levels keep their web properties inline with SEO best practices.
14. MailChimp – MailChimp is one of the easiest email marketing platforms to use to market your content to your email list. Don’t have an email list? The exclusive content your business will create and distribute using this platform will help fuel new subscribers to your email list.
15. Promoted Posts on Facebook – Facebook advertising can bolster the visibility of your content in the newsfeed far greater than it would reach on its own organically. Pay per post to get your content featured in front of a larger audience on Facebook with your fans and non-fans alike.
16. Inbound Writer – This content optimization application lets your business monitor topics of interest, understand your readers and reach your readers by providing insights on what type of content to create that match’s the passions of your audience.
17. PRWeb – Use this syndication platform to send SEO optimized press releases about your most valuable content to 30,000 journalists, 250,000 opt-in news subscribers and to the 3 million monthly visitors on PRWeb.com. The platform is easy to use and allows many effective tools to create your press release, distribute it and monitor its success.
18. Followgen – Targeting tool that allows a business to find a meaningful audience on the social web with the goal of getting your content in front of the right audience. It’s a strong fusion of a targeting system and social advertising.
19. Tweriod – Twitter tool that helps determine the best time to tweet your content for your business. The tool gets your content in front of more tweeters and comes in the form of a free simple report that outlines the best times to tweet.
20. Bundlr – Create topic pages with photos, videos, tweets, articles and more to distribute with everyone in your network. The “Bundle This!” plugin allows users to clip content from their browser as they browse, making it quick and easy to bundle your content with other quality sources of information.
Tools for Organization
21. Trello – A completely free tool for organizing everything from media to ideas on neatly organized cards. Streamline your content ideas and collaborate with your other team members by gathering votes on particular cards to have real time feedback on the best content to pursue further.
22. Evernote – Evernote is the multi-use organizational platform that’s widely known as the way to remember everything from your business to personal life. Use Evernote to keep track of your content ideas and editorial calendar from the computer or your mobile phone on the go.
23. Google Calendar – One of Google’s many helpful tools, the Google Calendar is an effective way to organize and collaborate on your editorial and production calendar for your company’s content.
25. Wunderlist – Create beautiful and more importantly, powerful lists that outline your content strategy, content ideas from your desktop at work or on mobile while you’re on the go.
26. Pinterest – Use Pinterest to organize your resources, the content from others and your favorite websites for content marketing inspiration. Utilize the secret board function if there’s anything your team doesn’t wish to curate to the public.
27. Pocket – Save videos, articles and other helpful resources away to check out later. The Pocket app helps keep your favorite resources organized from apps like Twitter, Flipboard, Pulse, Zite and 300+ apps.
28. Remember That Milk – Manage all your tasks with this app that seamlessly integrates with Gmail, Outlook, Twitter, Evernote, Google Calendar and more. Think of this app as the to-do list reinvented.
29. Harvest – The time tracking tool can help keep your content marketing efforts on schedule with accurate and effective software to help make smarter decisions for your business. Understanding where your time is spent and on what tasks will help strengthen your content creation efforts.
30. MindNode – Map out your brainstorm sessions and ideas to better understand what’s on track and what’s not working for your content strategy using the MindNode app. Think about your content as ideas that merely need to be flesh out, connect the dots with this visual experience for the iPhone, iPad or Mac.
Tools for Content Creation
31. Meme Generator – If you need to add a comical spin to your content, then look to add a meme from this easy to use web resource. For inspiration, check out which memes generated by the service are gaining traction on the web.
32. Visual.ly – Create stunning inforgraphics and data visualizations using Visual.ly from their marketplace of infographic experts and designers. Explore the 30,000+ infographics already created on the website for inspiration for your content marketing.
33. Google Keyword Tool – Using the Google keyword tool you’ll be able to search for the right pairings of keywords to use in the headlines and body of your articles that are more often searched in Google. Don’t take this data as the final say on your headline, but use this info has an approximation of the search traffic certain keywords are currently receiving.
34. GIMP – Create visuals for your content using GIMP, which is a free, simplified Photoshop like software. Including images in your posts is very crucial since 40% of people will respond better to visual information than plain text.
35. Resize.it – An online image resizing tool to bring the images you’ve created or curated to the right dimensions for publishing. Resize.it is a helpful resource for non-technical users to fix their images for use in their articles, e-books and PDF’s.
36. Issuu – A visually striking tool for creating online magazines and lookbooks with both free and paid versions depending on your content needs and budget.
37. Utrak – Utrak is a tool that allows you to embed a simple web-based poll into your content. Adding a poll to your content is another way to make it more engaging for readers.
38. Embedded Tweets – Add live tweets to your online content to add credibility to a topic and interactive aspect to your article or website. Tweets display with expanded media like photos, videos, and article summaries, and also include real-time retweet and favorite counts. When embedded, Tweets are interactive and enable your readers to follow the Tweet author, and reply, retweet, favorite all directly from the page.
39. Thinglink – Tag images to make them more engaging with links to music, video, text, images, Twitter, Facebook, shops and more using Thinglink. This tool allows readers to comment on images and follow image channels of creative users. ThingLink images are also shareable, and embeddable, with a click to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and email.
40. PowToon – Create animated videos and presentations with PowToon to add a commercial quality experience to your original content.
41. UberFlip – Optimize your PDF’s to add social widgets, audio and video elements to make the content both interactive and measurable.
Tools for Writing
42. Contently – A platform that allows businesses to work with high-quality freelance writers that also handles the payment and management of the editorial process.
43. Skyword – This tool offers businesses different levels of content creation services with their access to 20,000 writers, as well as an exclusive partnership with Thomson Reuters for business intelligence and Bigstock Imagery for stock images.
44. Textbroker – Textbroker is a content creation service offering a quick turnaround on articles, press releases, written snippets for websites and more from a database of authors.
45. Compendium – The Compendium platform empowers publishers with the tools necessary to plan, produce, publish, promote and measure their content marketing all from one dashboard.
46. Shareist – Shareist is editorial platform for small to medium size businesses that helps with the entire content marketing life cycle. The tool helps your business capture content from around the web, easily incorporating text, links, videos, images and more. Export this content for use anywhere, such as email newsletters, and eBooks.
47. Lingospot – The Lingospot software offers automated content marketing for your website, automatically updating the content throughout your web properties. With flexible control of the level of automation to use on each of your pages, businesses can create thousands of dynamically refreshing topic pages.
48. NewsCred – An enterprise content development platform that offers businesses 2,500 sources, millions of full text articles, images and video to help bolster their content strategy. The platform also streamlines the legal and billing process of using the content owned by other publications, companies and individuals.
49. XYDO – Create and curate editorial content to meet your online and email marketing needs with XYDO. Integrates smoothly with MailChimp and Constant Contact to amplify your messaging with trending and relevant content.
50. Brafton – The Brafton platform offers content marketing, as well as search engine optimization, social media marketing and content analytics services to ensure the content created on your company’s behalf will perform well on the social web and with the right audience.
BONUS – The Best Infographics on Content Marketing Tools
The Content Marketing Landscape via Content AMP
What’s Your Content Marketing Challenge via Curata
The Content of Integrity in the Age of the Consumer via Econsultancy
What content marketing tools has your business found the most effective? Are there any tools that should be added to the list? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Do you do SEO for a brand involved in a straight fight with another company? It’s pretty common for brands to become fixated on one particular competitor; I’ve seen entire marketing strategies geared towards beating another brand, rather than hitting a specific revenue target.
While some would argue it’s unhealthy to define any market as a two-horse race (especially in today’s fast-changing world), some marketing leaders like to do it to motivate their staff. They believe that you can better channel your team’s competitive spirit when your staff can relate to what / who the “enemy” is.
Pros and cons aside, there’s a good chance you will eventually work for a company that thinks this way. In the long term maybe you’ll be able to convince them to broaden their competitive focus, but in the meantime, wouldn’t it be awesome to deliver a content strategy specifically to them that is designed to help them build market share at the expense of their SEO nemesis?
How to Design Your Content Strategy
To do this I’m going to use the following model to visualize the content landscape:
By using the following methodology you should be able to build a content strategy, which enables you to:
- Expand your visibility into areas currently considered business threats.
- Understand in detail the dogfight between you and your competitor, as well as how to gain the upper hand in this battle.
- Expand your visibility through a focus on where your audience is being underserved.
The methodology pits two companies against each other across an unlimited number of keywords, using search volume and click curve data to understand each brand’s current reach. It then classifies each keyword so that they can be slotted into the model above. We can then understand the relative size of each part of the content landscape and tell the client what topics they should be publishing on in future.
If you don’t care about the methodology there is a template you can download here.
Use Keyword & Click Curve Data
You will need as many relevant keywords as you can lay your hands on, grouped by topic. For each keyword you will need:
- Your organic rank.
- Your competitor’s organic rank.
- Exact match local search volume.
You will also need click curve data in a separate table. If you don’t have the data to build your own click curve, there is a ready made one here.
Once you have that data in two tables you’ll first need to estimate current traffic for both you and your competitor from each keyword.
Do this by multiplying the exact match search volume by the CTR figure corresponding to current rank (simple vlookup to retrieve this).
Determine Traffic Differences
Work out the percentage difference between your traffic and your competitors. If your competitor receives more traffic for a keyword, the figure should be negative.
Use if statements to ensure that where both brands receive no traffic a figure of 0 is returned, or a large positive figure (I use 1000 percent) if your brand receives a lot of traffic and your competitor receives none at all. You need to use these statements because percentage change involves division and if 0 figures you will have errors returned.
Classify Each Keyword
We can classify each keyword based on our content landscape model using nested if statements. The criteria is described below:
Once we have applied your nested if statement across all keywords and related each keyword to a place on the content landscape we can use filters to quickly isolate the keywords we’re interested in.
Use pivot tables to quickly show the number of searches in each sector, and other details, such as how much traffic each brand is getting within the dogfight sector, or the size of the business success sector relative to the business threat sector.
Here your keyword grouping comes into their own as you can visualize both the overall content landscape and the landscape for just a small subset of similar terms.
I’ve yet to build a Venn diagram or bubble chart that can show the relative sizes of each sector of the content landscape; I’d love to know if you can do this in the comments!
Despite the lack of a proportionally sized Venn, you have been able to visualize for your client how well their content serves the consumers need, as well as indicating which topics they should be focusing their content creation on in order to take the SEO fight to their main competitor and steal their SEO market share.
As a next step, you could prioritize the most important terms, a process which enables you to make the task of content ideation much more disciplined and less prone to becoming one endless, unfocused brainstorm.
Simply take all the opportunity and threat keywords from above and estimate how difficult it will be to improve ranking for these keywords using a tool like SEOmoz’s keyword difficulty estimator.
You can then multiply the difficulty score by the search volume for each keyword to give a weighted score for how important each keyword is.
Following this step my recommendation would be to hold a brainstorming session focused on the topics identified as a priority in the graph above, but that’s a topic that could take up a series of posts in itself!
For this piece I’ll leave you with a template for the process outlined above: there are a lot of possibilities for making this process even better; for instance, you could quickly use the click curve to model what the content landscape would look like if you managed to alter your clients visibility, leading to a forecast of how market share might change based on your content strategy.
All in all, I hope this template will enable you to compare and contrast your content strategy and SEO performance with that of your SEO nemesis and come up with a way to vanquish your most dreaded foe once and for all!
Many companies as well as clients have a difficult time accepting that they may have been the reason for an SEO failure. In most situations, the blame goes immediately to the SEO company, department, or expert, and rightfully so. These are the people in charge of making sure SEO succeeds, so these are the people that will most likely take the blame (and be happy to do it). However, it’s important to realize that just because they are forced (in a sense) to take the blame doesn’t mean they are actually to blame.
The Client vs. The Expert vs. Google: Who Is Really to Blame for an SEO Failure?
If you want to be an informed client or informed SEO expert, it’s important to see all different sides to a failure and consider all different outcomes. Below explains the three different parties that are most likely to be at fault and some of the reasons and instances that might put them in that position:
The Client: Yes, it’s possible!
The clients are always right; except when they’re wrong. Even when it comes to SEO, it’s important that the client is involved in the campaign. It’s completely OK if a client doesn’t understand SEO, but there are a few things a client needs to do in order to make sure the efforts are successful. A few times when a failure really is the client’s fault include:
- Changes Weren’t Made. In most cases, an SEO firm or expert will make recommendations about how to optimize the website. Oftentimes, these recommendations have to do with changing content slightly to include certain keywords or changing something in the Meta data. If the client completely ignores this advice and decides not to ask its developers to do anything, that’s really not the fault of the agency/expert that worked hard to offer suggestions.
- A Plan Wasn’t Discussed. Even if a client doesn’t really understand SEO and how it works, he/she surely has some idea about the goals wanted for the company. These goals should be used by an SEO agency and a plan should be laid out ahead of time. The client needs to be paying attention to every step of the process and reading reports that the SEO will send.
- Stop Efforts Too Soon. When all is said and done, it is usually the client who can stop the SEO efforts for the company. If the client simply too impatient to wait for results (sometimes six months are needed) and pulls the plug too early, it wasn’t for lack of trying on the agency’s part. It’s easy to be impatient in SEO, but that will surely be any campaigns killer.
The SEO Company: Often the problem, but most likely to take the blame either way.
As you would assume, this is where most of the problems lie. SEO departments or experts are the ones who have the most control when it comes to a campaign, so there are several things that could go wrong:
- Black Hat Tactics. Any black hat tactic that is used—cloaking, keyword stuffing, duplicate content, etc.—is entirely the fault of the SEO department. You can learn more about black hat tactics here.
- Poor Communication. Those in charge of SEO need to make sure that they are communicating with the client. The client might not always know that they should be asking about a particular method or approach, so it’s your job to keep them completely in the loop. This will often spark questions and will help keep that partnership between client and agency/expert strong. If an SEO simply decides not to communicate a change with the client and the client doesn’t like it in the future, that’s the SEO’s fault.
- General Laziness. This might seem obvious, but as with anything, an SEO agency or expert can get lazy and just not feel like helping. It’s as simple as that.
- False Guarantees. Many SEOs give false guarantees such as “Number 1 Ranking in One Month Or Your Money Back.” If an agency couldn’t deliver on this, it’s their own fault because they should know that guarantees are not possible in SEO.
There are of course more detailed reasons that could occur based on the specific situation, but these are just a few of the most common ways that an SEO company might be the reason for a campaign’s failure.
The Search Engine: They don’t mean any harm.
Sometimes SEO campaigns fail because of the search engines. Search engines only rock an current SEO campaigns in order to improve search results for users, so they don’t mean any harm, but they can cause harm because of a few reasons:
- Algorithm Updates. An SEO could be optimizing a website for certain keywords and doing great, but the minute a Panda or Penguin update hits you might find the website back at the bottom. If the SEOs are building links and optimizing correctly the website should be able to bypass the very negative effects of an algorithm update, but some changes might shake the campaign whether you’ve been following the rules or not, and all anyone can really do at this point is just try and recover.
- Negative SEO. It is the SEOs responsibility to take action against negative SEO through the disavow links tool and reconsideration requests. Now negative SEO is the fault of competitors or from spam sites that are trying to bring the website down, so you really can’t blame the search engines for this one. However, it is the search engines who are going to take the action of bringing a site down because of negative SEO (particularly if they missed a spam site or directory). This is the perfect example of the “no hard feelings” mentality.
Analyzing Why It Matters and How to Deal With the Blame Game
Understanding who is to blame can help an SEO agency/expert and a client work together to create the most successful campaign possible for that company. If a client knows when he/she would be in the wrong, he/she can try and prevent this from happening altogether. If it does happen, then no time will need to be wasted yelling at the SEOs. The exact same can be said for SEOs when they are in the wrong. Be up front and honest so that the relationship between SEO and client can move forward.
Have you ever had an instance where you haven’t felt like you were at fault when it came to an SEO blunder? What did you do in response (and who were you in the scenario)? Let us know your story and give us your thoughts in the comments below.
Photo Credit: patentpracticeliability.com