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Intro to SEO Competitive Analysis 101 – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Cyrus-Shepard

A good, solid competitive analysis can provide you with priceless insights into what’s working for other folks in your industry, but it’s not always easy to do right. In this week’s edition of Whiteboard Friday, Cyrus walks you through how to perform a full competitive analysis, including:

  • How to identify your true competitors
  • Keyword gap analysis
  • Link gap analysis
  • Top content analysis

Plus, don’t miss the handy tips on which tools can help with this process and our brand-new guide (with free template) on SEO competitive analysis. Give it a watch and let us know your own favorite tips for performing a competitive analysis in the comments!

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. I’m Cyrus Shepard. Today we’re talking about a really cool topic — competitive analysis. This is an introduction to competitive analysis.

What is competitive analysis for SEO?

It’s basically stealing your competitors’ traffic. If you’re new to SEO or you’ve been around awhile, this is a very valuable tactic to earn more traffic and rankings for your site.

Instead of researching blindly what to go after, competitive analysis can tell you certain things with a high degree of accuracy that you won’t find other ways, such as:

  • what keywords to target, 
  • what content to create, 
  • how to optimize that content, and 
  • where to get links.

How to do an SEO competitive analysis

How does it do this?

Well, instead of researching just in a keyword tool or a link tool, with competitive analysis you look at what’s actually working for your competitors and use those tactics for yourself.

This often works so much better than the old-style ways of research, because you can actually improve upon what other people are actually doing and make those tactics work for you.

1. Identify your top competitors

So to get started with competitive analysis, the first challenge is to actually identify your top competitors.

This sounds easy. You probably think you know who your competitors are because you type a keyword into Google and you see who’s ranking for your desired keyword. This does work, to certain degree.

Another way to do it is to look at the keywords you rank for, because the challenge is you probably rank for far more keywords than you believe you do.

Moz, for instance, ranks for hundreds of thousands or possibly even millions of keywords, and we want to know at scale who are all the competitors ranking for all those different queries. This is very hard to do manually.

Fortunately there are a lot of SEO tools out there — Ahrefs, SEMrush — many tools that can tell you look at all the keywords that you rank for across thousands of SERPs and then calculate, using advanced metrics, exactly who your true competitors are.

I’m happy to announce that Moz just released a tool that does exactly this. We’re going to link to it in the transcript below.

It’s called Domain Analysis. It’s a free tool. Anybody can use it.

You simply type in your domain, and we look through all the keywords that your site ranks for in our database, we look at all the competitors, and we use some advanced heuristics and we match those up and we tell you who your true competitors are. Once you know your true competitors, you can continue with the rest of the analysis.

2. Perform a keyword gap analysis

The first step that most people take in doing an SEO competitive analysis is identifying the keyword gap. Now for a long time, when I was new to SEO, I heard this term “keyword gap” and I didn’t really know what it meant. But it’s actually really simple.

It’s simply what keywords do my competitors rank for that I don’t rank for, and that’s the gap. The idea is that we want to close that gap if the keyword is valuable or high volume. The trick is you can do this on your own manually. You can see all the keywords you rank for using an advanced keyword tool and then list all the keywords your competitors rank for and then combine those lists in Excel. It’s a long, tedious process.

Fortunately, again, major SEO tools, such as Moz, can do this at scale for you within seconds. If you go to Moz Keyword Explorer, you simply enter your domain, enter your top competitor’s domain that we found in this first step, and it will list all the keywords that your competitors rank for that you don’t rank for. 

You can then pull this into a spreadsheet and find keywords with high volume or keywords that are valuable and relevant to your business.

This is an important point. You don’t just want to go willy-nilly after any keyword your competitor ranks for. You want to actually find the keywords that are relevant to your business.

3. Perform a link gap analysis

So after you do that, we also have the cousin of a keyword gap analysis — link gap analysis.

This is a very similar concept, because you need links to rank. But where do you find the links? So you want to ask, “Who links to my competitors but does not link to me?”

The theory here is that if someone is linking to your competitor on a similar topic, they are more likely to link to you because they are in that business of linking out to that type of content.

An advanced tip is you often want to look at two or more competitors. The idea is that if someone is linking to multiple sources but not to you, it’s more likely they’ll link to you if you have superior content.

Again, SEO tools can provide something like this. You can list all the backlinks to yourself or your competitors and combine them in a spreadsheet. But the tools make it much easier.

In Moz’s Link Explorer, you simply enter your competitor, you enter another competitor and yours, and you can find all the people who are linking to those competitors but not to you.

An advanced tip that I like to use is do it at the page level. Don’t look for domains that are linking to your competitors. Look for specific pages and you can do this in Link Explorer. We’re going to show you in a little more detail in a guide I’m going to link to at the bottom of this post.

4. Perform a top content analysis

So we understand links, we understand the keywords. But what content do we want to create?

Top content analysis, this is very easy to do these days. You’re basically looking for content that earns your competitors a lot of traffic or a lot of links.

The idea is if other people are linking to these things, then it’s highly probable that you can earn links with similar but better content. So the idea is you go to a tool like Link Explorer. You can sort by top pages, and you pick out the content that has the most links for your competitor. Then don’t just re-create the content, but make it better. This is called the skyscraper technique, the idea of finding content that does really well and then making it better.

Then once you have this, you go back to your link gap analysis and you reach out to those people who are linking to that content and you ask them for links, showing them the better content.


So that’s it in a nutshell. When we put it all together, we have a very valuable process. We can go back to our individual pages, look at those pages that are ranking for our competitors. When you’re all done, you can actually take your page, plug it into your keyword gap, and see all the keywords the page is ranking for.

Our original keyword gap analysis looked at the domain, but now we just want to know what the page is ranking for. We can add that into our own page and make the page even better. We can again reach out to the same people who are linking to this page, show them our better content, and that is the process.

New Guide & Free Template

Whew, I’m exhausted. This is a huge process. I went over it really quickly. Fortunately, if it went by a little fast for you, we just released a guide, “An Introduction to SEO Competitive Analysis.” We’re going to link to it.

Get the Guide + Free Template

Guide to SEO Competitive Analysis

It explains all these processes in much more detail. It’s free to use. I hope you enjoy it.

Hey, I really enjoyed making this video. If you found value in it, give it a thumbs up. Please share on social media and we’ll talk to you next time. Thanks, everybody.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Why businesses should implement structured data

It goes without saying that the world of SEO is becoming ever more technical, and over the past decade, webmasters, SEOs, and in-house teams have been widening their knowledge and skillsets to help their sites compete in search engine results pages.

One of these areas, which has seen the most development since its launch in 2011, is, of course, schema.org markup.

Although it has been eight years since the data schema was introduced, whether due to lack of development capability or technical knowledge, many popular brands are still to implement structured data to their websites.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at what structured data is, and the benefits that the markup can provide for websites.

A brief introduction to structured data

Put simply, structured data is a form of markup that is implemented in the code of a website and provides search engines with specific pieces of information about a page, site, or organization.

By improving the knowledge that a search engine has about a particular page or site, it can, therefore, provide users with the information that they need when conducting a search.

It also means that if a business invests in structured data throughout its site, it could enjoy higher and more relevant levels of traffic.

But how does this happen?

Structured data can enhance AMP pages

Despite structured data not being a direct ranking factor, it can, however, influence other elements of your website which are ranking factors.

In a world where a lot of searches (even the biggest part) are made through mobile devices, site speed has never been more important, especially when you consider that users will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load.

For this reason, many businesses have implemented Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) on their site (read more about them here), which can help overcome critical mobile speed issues and improve the usability of pages.

But most people don’t realize that AMPs can actually be enhanced via structured data markup.

Google states that by implementing structured data to AMPs, they can enhance the appearance of the page in mobile search results while offering the ability to appear within rich results.

If a site gains the opportunity to appear within rich results for an important search term, the site could gain a great amount of search traffic as a result.

You can learn a little more about how structured data enhances AMP pages in this handy Google guide.

Structured data helps sites appear in Google’s Knowledge Graph

For sites that appear in highly competitive verticals, getting the edge over your competition is critical, and one way to do this is by establishing your site presence with Google and appearing in the Knowledge Graph.

Knowledge Graph cards appear on the right-hand side of search results and they provide users with functional and visual elements of your site; making it far easier for users to familiarise themselves with it.

To enable your business Knowledge Graph card, you need to add the necessary Corporate Contact markup on the homepage of your website.

Structured data knowledge graph

Like all types of markup however, there are important guidelines and rules that you must follow, such as ensuring that markup is not blocked from crawling by robots.txt directives.

You can find more information on how to properly implement Corporate Contact markup in this Google Developers Guide.

Structured data can be vital for improving a site’s click-through rates

CTR of a website is rather important for its rankings. And according to Neil Patel, the best way to increase it is to research and use keywords, especially long-tail keywords. Serpstat can help you make deep and useful keyword research and improve your rankings as well.

Also, the whole point of structured data is to provide clean and concise parcels of information to search engines so that you can clarify the purpose of your site and its pages to quickly provide users with the accurate information that they require.

This means that by implementing well-written and relevant structured data into your pages, your site should be shown to a more relevant audience base, meaning that your click-through rates will inevitably improve.

In fact, sites that implemented structured data found that their CTRs improved by at least 10%.

How to implement structured data

We’ve already learned the meaning and value of structured data on the site. Now, we’ll explore two of the main approaches for adding schema markup to your website.

How to add Schema.org micro-markup with Schema plugin

The easiest way to add a micro-markup to the site is to use the Schema plugin. It works with any available schema options and is embedded in the Yoast SEO plugin.

To install, go to Plugins – Add New in the WordPress console and find “Schema.” Activate it and go to Settings.

Structured data schema plugin

 

Fill in basic information, such as the location of your About Us page, Contacts, upload your website logo.

By filling out additional information, content, knowledge graph, and search results, you can optimize your site for each of the areas.

Then, you can go to Schema – Types and add the selected schema type or publication category.

Types of schema plugins

If the above-mentioned plugin doesn’t suit you, you can choose from a large number of WordPress plugins alternatives for schema markup. Here are some of them:

How to add Schema.org markup manually

Here, you should work more with the code, but you can add your schema markup individually to any page or post.

With arbitrary schema markup, you can include several different types of markup on the same page. For example, if you have an event page, and you also want to place a feedback schema on it, you can easily do it.

The most efficient way to manually add schema to your site is JSON-LD. This method is also recommended by Google. It’s based on JavaScript. You’ll add schema markup to your site as a script, so it’ll be much easier to read and debug.

Remember to follow all Google structured data guidelines while creating the code for your markup.

If you don’t know how to write markup code, you can use the Structured Data Markup Wizard from Google or JSON-LD Generator to create your code.

To use this approach, go to any post or page where you want to put the markup. Click Screen Settings at the top of the page and check the “Custom Fields” box. Now, scroll down to the “Custom Fields” settings and press “Enter new” to create a new field. Name it “Schema” and enter the code. For example, local businesses data type:

Custom fields box

 

Please provide the source and a possible caption for the above image

Next, you’ll need to edit your header.php file. Open it and paste the following code before the closing </head> tag:

 

Header.php file

Thanks to these actions, your schema code will load separately with metadata. You can add any kind of custom schema markup to your WordPress website with the above-described approach.

Just remember to run your page or post in the Google structured data testing tool to check your markup for errors. This validator understands the following formats:

  • Schema.org
  • Microdata
  • RDFa
  • JSON-LD

Using it, you can check the page in two ways:

  • Copy in HTML format
  • Specify a link to the page

If the site is being developed on a PC or if you need to test some options, you need to use the first method. The second one is suitable for the final verification of the finished markup. Also, here you can check the site pages when using ready-made CMS templates. They may contain some errors in markups.

For example, let’s check the Phase 5 Analytics page. After copying the URL and clicking the “Run test” button, the result of the verification appeared on the screen. There was the HTML code on the left, and markup on the right with errors if they were found.

Google structured data testing tool

 

Final word

Adding structured data to the site will not take a lot of time. This action will help improve the look of the snippet in the search engine and increase traffic to the site.

The process may seem a little technically complicated, but you’ll discover that even the option to manually add it is not as hard as you’d assume. In addition, many available plugins will make developing structured data very simple.

Inna Yatsyna is a Brand and Community Development Specialist at Serpstat. She can be found on Twitter @erin_yat.

The post Why businesses should implement structured data appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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The Practical Guide to Franchise Marketing: How People Buy Now

Posted by MiriamEllis

This post contains an excerpt from our new primer: The Practical Guide to Franchise Marketing.

Planet Fitness, Great Clips, Ace Hardware… you can imagine the sense of achievement the leadership of these famous franchises must enjoy in making it to the top of lists like Entrepreneur’s 500. Behind the scenes of success, all competitive franchisors and franchisees have had to manage a major shift — one that centers on customers and their radically altered consumer journeys.

Research online, buy offline. Always-on laptops and constant companion smartphones are where fingers do the walking now, before feet cross the franchise threshold. Statistics tell the story of a public that searches online prior to the 90% of purchases they still make in physical stores.

And while opportunity abounds, “being there” for the customers wherever they are in their journey has presented unique challenges for franchises. Who manages which stage of the journey? Franchisor or franchisee? Getting it right means meeting new shopping habits head-on, and re-establishing clear sight-lines and guidelines for all contributors to the franchise’s ultimate success.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be publishing a series of articles dedicated to franchises. Want all the info now? Download The Practical Guide to Franchise Marketing:

Download now



Seeing the Shift

Whoever your franchise’s customers are, demographically, we can tell you one thing: they aren’t buying the same way they were ten, or even five years ago. For one thing, they used to decide to buy at your business as they browsed shelves or a menu. Now, 82% of smartphone users consult their devices before making an in-store purchase. Thank you, digital marketing!

Traditionally, online marketing wasn’t something that franchisees had to think much about. And that was sort of a good thing because everyone knew their lane.

  • Franchisors handled national or regional marketing through broadcast, print, and other media. They also handled digital marketing — which, within recent recall, consisted mainly of a website, social media accounts, and paid search.
  • Franchisees managed the local beat with coupons, flyers, direct mail, and other community and word-of-mouth marketing efforts.

Then people started shopping differently and traditional lanes began merging. Customers started using online directories to get information. They started using online listings for discovering local businesses “near me” on a map. They started reading online reviews to make choices. They started browsing online inventories or menus in advance. They started using cell phones to make reservations, click to call you, or to get a digital voice assistant like Siri or Alexa to give them directions to the nearest and best local option.

Suddenly, what used to be a “worldwide” resource — the internet — began to be a local resource, too. And a really powerful one. People were finding, choosing, and building relationships online not just with the national brand, but with local shops, services and restaurants, often making choices in advance and showing up merely to purchase the products or services they want.

Stats State the Case

Consider how these statistics are impacting every franchise:

  • 76% of people who search for something nearby on their smartphone visit a related business within a day, and 28% of those searches result in a purchase. – Google
  • 88% of shoppers regularly or occasionally browse products online before purchasing them in a store. – Adweek
  • 45% of brick-and-mortar sales in 2018 started with an online review — a 15% year-over-year increase from 2017. – Bazaarvoice
  • According to Google, “near me” mobile searches that contain a variant of “can I buy” or “to buy” have grown over 500% in the past two years, and we’ve seen a 900% growth in mobile search for “___near me today/tonight.” – Google
  • Search interest in ”open now” has increased 300% in the past two years. – Google

These are huge changes — and not ones the franchise model was entirely ready for.

There used to be a clear geographic split between a franchise’s corporate awareness marketing and franchisee local sales marketing that was easy to understand. But the above statistics tell new tales. Now there is an immediacy and urgency to the way customers search and shop that’s blurring old lines.



Ace is the place with the helpful hardware folks

Even a memorable jingle like this one goes nowhere unless the franchisor/franchisee partnership is solid. How do customers know a brand like Ace stands by its slogan when they see a national TV campaign like this one which strives to distinguish the franchise from understaffed big box home improvement stores?

Customers feel the nation-wide promise come true as soon as they walk into an Ace location:

  • Place located where the internet said it was? Check!
  • Abundance of staff? Check!
  • Friendly? Check!
  • Online purchase ready for pickup? Check!
  • Trust earned? Check!

A brand promo only works when all sides are equally committed to making each location of the business visible, accessible, and trusted. This joint effort applies to every aspect of how the business is marketed. From leadership to door greeter, everyone has a role to play. It’s defining those roles that can make or break the brand in the new consumer environment.

We’ll be exploring the nuts and bolts of building ideal partnerships in future installments of this series. Up next is The Unique World of Franchise Marketing. Keep an eye out for it on the blog at the end of the month!

Don’t want to wait for the blog posts to come out? Download your copy now of our comprehensive look at unique franchise challenges and benefits: 

Get my copy

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Optimizing for voice search: Q&A with Mastercard’s Guillaume Conteville

One in five searches are now made via voice with digital assistants, which are becoming an increasingly prominent feature in our homes and on mobile devices. How are brands optimizing for voice search?

In fact, there are now more than one billion voice searches per month, and this number will only rise over the coming years.

But just how big an impact is voice having on search in real terms? What are the specific strategies brands need to apply to avail of this trend?

This is another topic we’re excited to learn more about next week at the Transformation of Search Summit here in New York.

One of the experts we’ll be hearing from is Guillaume Conteville, SVP of Global Digital Marketing at Mastercard.

guillaume conteville, SVP global digital marketing at mastercard, speaker at the search summit

Guillaume will be part of the panel titled “Optimizing for position 0: Everything you need to know about Voice Search.”

1. What are your key priorities over the next twelve months?

In my role I’ll be focusing on driving change in the way we do marketing to adapt to new usage, and to leverage technology and data to their maximum potential.

The hot topics for us at the moment are CX, Voice, AR, marketing automation, and data-based customization.

2. What is your biggest challenge in achieving those?

Prioritization and execution.

There are so many potential initiatives you could start, identifying the real game-changing ones is always tricky.

Then, like always with tech-based projects, executing on your vision is always more complex than anticipated.

3. What’s your advice to others who may be facing similar challenges?

You really need to establish a broad climate of trust among all stakeholders, in order to have a real test-and-learn approach.

In adtech, it’s impossible to get it right the first time.

Success always come after a lot of optimizing and fine tuning.

4. What’s an interesting trend you’re seeing in the market right now?

It’s not search-related, but it’s fascinating to see how the changes that web browsers have made in regard to third-party cookies are having a massive impact on the whole adtech ecosystem.

The end of third-party cookie tracking will potentially be more disruptive than regulation.

5. Tell us a bit about your session at the Search Summit?

In this session, I’ll be sharing about the journey we’re going through at Mastercard to future-proof our content and ensure its discoverability in a future where people increasingly interact with machines through voice.

6. What are you looking forward to most at the Summit?

This is a unique opportunity for me to learn more about latest developments around search.

7. What’s something you do every day that helps you be more successful or productive?

It might sound cliché but, in this type of role, keeping a learning mindset is absolutely key. So every day I make sure to put some time toward talking to a lot of people and doing a lot of reading.

The post Optimizing for voice search: Q&A with Mastercard’s Guillaume Conteville appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Advanced Google Ads script to forecast ad performance

Putting projections together is tedious and time consuming but this advanced Google Ads script can create forecasts for you based on past performance.



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


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Different ways voice search is affecting your brand

We live in a world where a large number of people like to engage with their favorite brands online, and business owners are understanding that now.

Today, a chunk of people find new products online and also place the orders online. However, a paradigm shift can be observed in how they approach this which is how we see more and more people searching for information on the web using voice-commands rather than textual queries.

1. Brand voice

AI has impacted lots of industries and the branding industry has not escaped its reach, nowadays we have machines that can create brands based on user inputs. However, while AI has made building a brand identity more accessible, it can also present a challenge, and one of these challenges is the rise of voice assistants.

The voice assistants we have today are finite in number. Some of the most popular options that we use are Google’s Assistance, Amazon’s Alexa, and Microsoft’s Cortona. However, as artificial intelligence technology is becoming stronger, we will have a wider range of these services to choose from. When this happens, then the voice of the virtual assistant may interfere with a brand’s personality. For instance, if someone is using a female virtual assistant to look up information about a masculine brand, then it can hurt the brand’s impact. To tackle this problem, brands must keep these potential situations in mind. So, in this very example, a brand could alter the content that the voice assistance finds in a way that it’s able to retain the brand’s tone (masculine and rough) even if it’s in a female voice.

2. Consistency

Consistency is the key to successful branding – there is no denying that. However, you need to keep that in mind when you work with voice searches as well. For instance, you want to ensure that the tone and language used in the results of voice searches are optimized and in line with the brand book. These affect the following results returned by voice commands – product descriptions, social media content, ad copy, chatbot dialog, and more.

3. Payments

Virtual assistants are mainly used to find information on the Internet. However, service providers are also looking into new ways of using these services. For instance, Google Assistant now allows Google Pay users to send and receive money using voice commands. In the same way, payments leader MasterCard is aiming to bring its Masterpass online payment platform into Google and Amazon’s voice systems. So, what does this mean for the brands? Well, for one thing, they need to think about making provisions like this, that is, making payments easier and simpler with voice commands so that they can enjoy first-mover advantages.

4. Optimized content

What’s meant to be read doesn’t always sound good when voiced. For instance, if you define “SEO” on your blog by starting with the words “SEO is one of the most-effective digital marketing techniques used by brands today”, then you may fail to arouse the interest of the user if and when they search for the content using an appropriate voice command. However, if you ignore the introduction and focus on the main content by optimizing the content, then you can let the virtual assistant read something like “SEO refers to Search Engine Optimization which combines different kinds of techniques…” which is far more effective and engaging.

As you can see, voice search isn’t only making the lives of people around the world easier, but it’s also interfering with the practices of old and new brands. Those who are adapting to the changing trends have nothing to fear. However, the rest of them who have decided to remain unchanged can face all kinds of problems in the future.

Remember – branding isn’t just for big businesses. It doesn’t matter how big or small your company is, you need to take as many branding measures as possible. Naturally, voice search must be an integral part of the plan.

This is a sponsored post from PRchitects.

The post Different ways voice search is affecting your brand appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Vlog #20: Dan Shure On Podcasting & Winning Google Core Ranking Updates

Dan Shure (@dan_shure) founded a company named Evolving SEO, but before that, he was a music teacher, he has a degree in classical piano. When he was approaching 30 and had a home and wife…


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Cisco CEO Says 5G Networks Could Be Active In 2 to 3 Years

“The carriers today are building the consumer 5G networks, and they don’t require a massive backbone upgrade when you just increase bandwidth to lots of mobile phones.”

Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins stopped by Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria to discuss 5G, intellectual property and reports of China bullying companies.

“When they begin to build out enterprise 5G services, then that will require them to build a dedicated, next generation, high-performance backbone because of all the traffic that will be generated and…that will be over the next two to three years. So right now, they are focused on the radios needed for the consumer side.

“If you think about the speeds that are going to be supported at the edge, and the number of those connections, it’s only logical that you’re going to have to update…your infrastructure to accommodate all the bandwidth that’s going to be…given out around the world. So we would expect to ultimately be a beneficiary of that when it happens.”

Mr. Robbins goes on to discuss the challenges the world is facing economically, emphasizing his belief that the economic slowdown is a global one, not isolated to the U.S.

While highlighting that intellectual property theft is by no means unique to the Chinese market, Mr. Robbins was adamant that respect for intellectual property needs to be a fundamental aspect of doing business.

“The lack of theft should be a core principle in every country around the world….I think that’s a broad issue that should just be a basic premise of doing business around the world, is that your intellectual property should be respected.”

He also discussed recent reports of companies being bullied by the Chinese government. While he said Cisco has never been able to reach the level of business they would like to within the country, they had never felt bullied by China.

https://video.foxbusiness.com/v/6094650754001/

The post Cisco CEO Says 5G Networks Could Be Active In 2 to 3 Years appeared first on WebProNews.


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New SEO Experiments: A/B Split Testing Google’s UGC Attribute

Posted by Cyrus-Shepard

When Craig Bradford of Distilled reached out and asked if we’d like to run some SEO experiments on Moz using DistilledODN, our reply was an immediate “Yes please!”

If you’re not familiar with DistilledODN, it’s a sophisticated platform that allows you to do a number of cool things in the SEO space:

  1. Make almost any change to your website through the ODN dashboard. Since the ODN is a cloud platform that sits in front of your website (like a CDN) it doesn’t matter how your website is built or what CMS it uses. You can change a single page — or more likely — entire sections.
  2. The ODN allows you to A/B split test these changes and both measure and predict their impact on organic traffic. They also have a feature called full-funnel testing allowing you to measure impact on both SEO and CRO at the same time.

When you find something that works, you see a positive result like this:

DistilledODN Positive Result

SEO experimentation is great, but almost nobody does it right because it’s impossible to control for other factors. Yes, you updated your title tags, but did Google roll out an update today? Sure, you sped up your site, but did a bunch of spam just link to you?

A/B split testing solves this problem by applying your changes to only a portion of your pages — typically 50% — and measuring the difference between the two groups. Fortunately, the ODN can deploy these changes near-instantly, up to thousands of pages at a time.

It then crunches the numbers and tells you what’s working, or not.

Testing Google’s UGC link attribute

For our first test, we decided to tackle something simple and fast. Craig suggested looking at Google’s new link attributes, and we were off!

To summarize: Google recently introduced new link attributes for webmasters/SEOs to label links. Those attributes are:

  • rel=”sponsored” – For paid and sponsored links
  • rel=”ugc” – For links in user-generated content (UGC)
  • rel=”nofollow” – Remains a catch-all for all followed links

On the Moz blog, all comments links are currently marked “nofollow” — following years of SEO best practices. Google has stated that using the new attributes won’t give you a rankings boost. That said, we wanted to test for ourselves if changing these links to “ugc” would impact the rankings/traffic of our blog pages.

To be clear: We are not testing if the pages we link to change rankings, but instead the source page that hosts the link — in this case, the blog pages with comments.

Here’s an example of a comment the ODN modified.

UGC Comment

After we set the test running, 50% of blog posts had comments with “ugc” links, while 50% kept their original “nofollow” attributes.

Experiment results

We expected a “null” test — meaning we wouldn’t see a significant impact.

In fact, that’s exactly what happened.

DistilledODN Null Results

If we detected a significant change, the probability cone at the bottom right would have pointed more dramatically up or down.

In fact, at a 95% confidence interval, the test predicted traffic would either fall 26,000 visits/month or gain 9,300 visits/month.

Hence, a null result.

This validates Google’s statements that using the “ugc” attribute won’t give you a ranking boost.

What should Moz test next?

While “null” tests aren’t as fun as a positive result, we have a lot of cool A/B SEO testing ahead of us.

The great thing is we can now test out changes with the ODN, and when we find one that works, pass that to our developers to make the changes permanently. This cuts down on needless development work and stops the guessing game.

We have a Trello board set up for test ideas, and we’d love to add some community ideas to the mix. The ODN is currently running on the Moz Blog and Q&A, so anything in these site sections is fair game.

We’re also looking at experiments where we use Moz data to inform these decisions. For example, a Moz Pro crawl identified that the Moz Blog titles currently use H2 tags instead of H1. Google recently indicated this likely shouldn’t impact rankings, but wouldn’t it be good to test?

Missing H1 Tags

What wild/clever/ridiculous/obvious SEO things should we test? With each good test, we’ll publish the results. Leave your ideas in the comments below.

Big thanks to the Distilled Team, including Will Critchlow and Tom Anthony, for embarking on this journey with us.

And if you’d like to learn more about DistilledODN and SEO split testing in general, this post is highly recommended.

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