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Diagnosing Why a Site’s Set of Pages May Be Ranking Poorly – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Your rankings have dropped and you don’t know why. Maybe your traffic dropped as well, or maybe just a section of your site has lost rankings. It’s an important and often complex mystery to solve, and there are a number of boxes to check off while you investigate. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand shares a detailed process to follow to diagnose what went wrong to cause your rankings drop, why it happened, and how to start the recovery process.

Diagnosing why a site's pages may be ranking poorly

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to talk about diagnosing a site and specifically a section of a site’s pages and why they might be performing poorly, why their traffic may have dropped, why rankings may have dropped, why both of them might have dropped. So we’ve got a fairly extensive process here, so let’s get started.

Step 1: Uncover the problem

First off, our first step is uncovering the problem or finding whether there is actually a problem. A good way to think about this is especially if you have a larger website, if we’re talking about a site that’s 20 or 30 or even a couple hundred pages, this is not a big issue. But many websites that SEOs are working on these days are thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of pages. So what I like to urge folks to do is to

A. Treat different site sections as unique segments for investigation. You should look at them individually.

A lot of times subfolders or URL structures are really helpful here. So I might say, okay, MySite.com, I’m going to look exclusively at the /news section. Did that fall in rankings? Did it fall in traffic? Or was it /posts, where my blog posts and my content is? Or was it /cities? Let’s say I have a website that’s dealing with data about the population of cities. So I rank for lots of those types of queries, and it seems like I’m ranking for fewer of them, and it’s my cities pages that are poorly performing in comparison to where they were a few months ago or last year at this time.

B. Check traffic from search over time.

So I go to my Google Analytics or whatever analytics you’re using, and you might see something like, okay, I’m going to look exclusively at the /cities section. If you can structure your URLs in this fashion, use subfolders, this is a great way to do it. Then take a look and see, oh, hang on, that’s a big traffic drop. We fell off a cliff there for these particular pages.

This data can be hiding inside your analytics because it could be that the rest of your site is performing well. It’s going sort of up and to the right, and so you see this slow plateauing or a little bit of a decline, but it’s not nearly as sharp as it is if you look at the traffic specifically for a single subsection that might be performing poorly, like this /cities section.

From there, I’m going to next urge you to use Google Trends. Why? Why would I go to Google Trends? Because what I want you to do is I want you to look at some of your big keywords and topics in Google Trends to see if there has been a serious decline in search volume at the same time. If search demand is rising or staying stable over the course of time where you have lost traffic, it’s almost certainly something you’ve done, not something searchers are doing. But if you see that traffic has declined, for example, maybe you were ranking really well for population data from 2015. It turns out people are now looking for population data for 2016 or ’17 or ’18. Maybe that is part of the problem, that search demand has fallen and your curve matches that.

C. Perform some diagnostic queries or use your rank tracking data if you have it on these types of things.

This is one of the reasons I like to rank track for even these types of queries that don’t get a lot of traffic.

1. Target keywords. In this case, it might be “Denver population growth,” maybe that’s one of your keywords. You would see, “Do I still rank for this? How well do I rank for this? Am I ranking more poorly than I used to?”

2. Check brand name plus target keyword. So, in this case, it would be my site plus the above here plus “Denver population growth,” so My Site or MySite.com Denver population growth. If you’re not ranking for that, that’s usually an indication of a more serious problem, potentially a penalty or some type of dampening that’s happening around your brand name or around your website.

3. Look for a 10 to 20-word text string from page content without quotes. It could be shorter. It could be only six or seven words, or it could be longer, 25 words if you really need it. But essentially, I want to take a string of text that exists on the page and put it in order in Google search engine, not in quotes. I do not want to use quotes here, and I want to see how it performs. This might be several lines of text here.

4. Look for a 10 to 20-word text string with quotes. So those lines of text, but in quotes searched in Google. If I’m not ranking for this, but I am for this one … sorry, if I’m not ranking for the one not in quotes, but I am in quotes, I might surmise this is probably not duplicate content. It’s probably something to do with my content quality or maybe my link profile or Google has penalized or dampened me in some way.

5. site: urlstring/ So I would search for “site:MySite.com/cities/Denver.” I would see: Wait, has Google actually indexed my page? When did they index it? Oh, it’s been a month. I wonder why they haven’t come back. Maybe there’s some sort of crawl issue, robots.txt issue, meta robots issue, something. I’m preventing Google from potentially getting there. Or maybe they can’t get there at all, and this results in zero results. That means Google hasn’t even indexed the page. Now we have another type of problem.

D. Check your tools.

1. Google Search Console. I would start there, especially in the site issues section.

2. Check your rank tracker or whatever tool you’re using, whether that’s Moz or something else.

3. On-page and crawl monitoring. Hopefully you have something like that. It could be through Screaming Frog. Maybe you’ve run some crawls over time, or maybe you have a tracking system in place. Moz has a crawl system. OnPage.org has a really good one.

4. Site uptime. So I might check Pingdom or other things that alert me to, “Oh, wait a minute, my site was down for a few days last week. That obviously is why traffic has fallen,” those types of things.

Step 2: Offer hypothesis for falling rankings/traffic

Okay, you’ve done your diagnostics. Now it’s time to offer some hypotheses. So now that we understand which problem I might have, I want to understand what could be resulting in that problem. So there are basically two situations you can have. Rankings have stayed stable or gone up, but traffic has fallen.

A. If rankings are up, but traffic is down…

In those cases, these are the five things that are most typically to blame.

1. New SERP features. There’s a bunch of featured snippets that have entered the population growth for cities search results, and so now number one is not what number one used to be. If you don’t get that featured snippet, you’re losing out to one of your competitors.

2. Lower search demand. Like we talked about in Google Trends. I’m looking at search demand, and there are just not as many people searching as there used to be.

3. Brand or reputation issues. I’m ranking just fine, but people now for some reason hate me. People who are searching this sector think my brand is evil or bad or just not as helpful as it used to be. So I have issues, and people are not clicking on my results. They’re choosing someone else actively because of reputation issues.

4. Snippet problems. I’m ranking in the same place I used to be, but I’m no longer the sexiest, most click-drawing snippet in the search results, and other people are earning those clicks instead.

5. Shift in personalization or location biasing by Google. It used to be the case that everyone who searched for city name plus population growth got the same results, but now suddenly people are seeing different results based on maybe their device or things they’ve clicked in the past or where they’re located. Location is often a big cause for this.

So for many SEOs for many years, “SEO consultant” resulted in the same search results. Then Google introduced the Maps results and pushed down a lot of those folks, and now “SEO consultant” results in different ranked results in each city and each geography that you search in. So that can often be a cause for falling traffic even though rankings remain high.

B. If rankings and traffic are down…

If you’re seeing that rankings have fallen and traffic has fallen in conjunction, there’s a bunch of other things that are probably going on that are not necessarily these things. A few of these could be responsible still, like snippet problems could cause your rankings and your traffic to fall, or brand and reputation issues could cause your click-through rate to fall, which would cause you to get dampened. But oftentimes it’s things like this:

1. & 2. Duplicate content and low-quality or thin content. Google thinks that what you’re providing just isn’t good enough.

3. Change in searcher intent. People who were searching for population growth used to want what you had to offer, but now they want something different and other people in the SERP are providing that, but you are not, so Google is ranking you lower. Even though your content is still good, it’s just not serving the new searcher intent.

4. Loss to competitors. So maybe you have worse links than they do now or less relevance or you’re not solving the searcher’s query as well. Your user interface, your UX is not as good. Your keyword targeting isn’t as good as theirs. Your content quality and the unique value you provide isn’t as good as theirs. If you see that one or two competitors are consistently outranking you, you might diagnose that this is the problem.

5. Technical issues. So if I saw from over here that the crawl was the problem, I wasn’t getting indexed, or Google hasn’t updated my pages in a long time, I might look into accessibility things, maybe speed, maybe I’m having problems like letting Googlebot in, HTTPS problems, or indexable content, maybe Google can’t see the content on my page anymore because I made some change in the technology of how it’s displayed, or crawlability, internal link structure problems, robots.txt problems, meta robots tag issues, that kind of stuff.

Maybe at the server level, someone on the tech ops team of my website decided, “Oh, there’s this really problematic bot coming from Mountain View that’s costing us a bunch of bandwidth. Let’s block bots from Mountain View.” No, don’t do that. Bad. Those kinds of technical issues can happen.

6. Spam and penalties. We’ll talk a little bit more about how to diagnose those in a second.

7. CTR, engagement, or pogo-sticking issues. There could be click-through rate issues or engagement issues, meaning pogo sticking, like people are coming to your site, but they are clicking back because they weren’t satisfied by your results, maybe because their expectations have changed or market issues have changed.

Step 3: Make fixes and observe results

All right. Next and last in this process, what we’re going to do is make some fixes and observe the results. Hopefully, we’ve been able to correctly diagnose and form some wise hypotheses about what’s going wrong, and now we’re going to try and resolve them.

A. On-page and technical issues should solve after a new crawl + index.

So on-page and technical issues, if we’re fixing those, they should usually resolve, especially on small sections of sites, pretty fast. As soon as Google has crawled and indexed the page, you should generally see performance improve. But this can take a few weeks if we’re talking about a large section on a site, many thousands of pages, because Google has to crawl and index all of them to get the new sense that things are fixed and traffic is coming in. Since it’s long tail to many different pages, you’re not going to see that instant traffic gain and rise as fast.

B. Link issues and spam penalty problems can take months to show results.

Look, if you have crappier links or not a good enough link profile as your competitors, growing that can take months or years even to fix. Penalty problems and spam problems, same thing. Google can take sometimes a long time. You’ve seen a lot of spam experts on Twitter saying, “Oh, well, all my clients who had issues over the last nine months suddenly are ranking better today,” because Google made some fix in their latest index rollout or their algorithm changed, and it’s sort of, okay, well we’ll reward the people for all the fixes that they’ve made. Sometimes that’s in batches that take months.

C. Fixing a small number of pages in a section that’s performing poorly might not show results very quickly.

For example, let’s say you go and you fix /cities/Milwaukee. You determine from your diagnostics that the problem is a content quality issue. So you go and you update these pages. They have new content. It serves the searchers much better, doing a much better job. You’ve tested it. People really love it. You fixed two cities, Milwaukee and Denver, to test it out. But you’ve left 5,000 other cities pages untouched.

Sometimes Google will sort of be like, “No, you know what? We still think your cities pages, as a whole, don’t do a good job solving this query. So even though these two that you’ve updated do a better job, we’re not necessarily going to rank them, because we sort of think of your site as this whole section and we grade it as a section or apply some grades as a section.” That is a real thing that we’ve observed happening in Google’s results.

Because of this, one of the things that I would urge you to do is if you’re seeing good results from the people you’re testing it with and you’re pretty confident, I would roll out the changes to a significant subset, 30%, 50%, 70% of the pages rather than doing only a tiny, tiny sample.

D. Sometimes when you encounter these issues, a remove and replace strategy works better than simply upgrading old URLs.

So if Google has decided /cities, your /cities section is just awful, has all sorts of problems, not performing well on a bunch of different vectors, you might take your /cities section and actually 301 redirect them to a new URL, /location, and put the new UI and the new content that better serves the searcher and fixes a lot of these issues into that location section, such that Google now goes, “Ah, we have something new to judge. Let’s see how these location pages on MySite.com perform versus the old cities pages.”

So I know we’ve covered a ton today and there are a lot of diagnostic issues that we haven’t necessarily dug deep into, but I hope this can help you if you’re encountering rankings challenges with sections of your site or with your site as a whole. Certainly, I look forward to your comments and your feedback. If you have other tips for folks facing this, that would be great. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Should SEOs & Content Marketers Play to the Social Networks’ "Stay-On-Our-Site" Algorithms? – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Increasingly, social networks are tweaking their algorithms to favor content that remains on their site, rather than send users to an outside source. This spells trouble for those trying to drive traffic and visitors to external pages, but what’s an SEO or content marketer to do? Do you swim with the current, putting all your efforts toward placating the social network algos, or do you go against it and continue to promote your own content? This edition of Whiteboard Friday goes into detail on the pros and cons of each approach, then gives Rand’s recommendations on how to balance your efforts going forward.

Should SEOs and content marketers play to the social networks "stay-on-our-site" algorithms?

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re chatting about whether SEOs and content marketers, for that matter, should play to what the social networks are developing in their visibility and engagement algorithms, or whether we should say, “No. You know what? Forget about what you guys are doing. We’re going to try and do things on social networks that benefit us.” I’ll show you what I’m talking about.

Facebook

If you’re using Facebook and you’re posting content to it, Facebook generally tends to frown upon and lower the average visibility and ability of content to reach its audience on Facebook if it includes an external link. So, on average, posts that include an external link will fare more poorly in Facebooks’ news feed algorithm than on-site content, exclusively content that lives on Facebook.

For example, if you see this video promoted on Facebook.com/Moz or Facebook.com/RandFishkin, it will do more poorly than if Moz and I had promoted a Facebook native video of Whiteboard Friday. But we don’t want that. We want people to come visit our site and subscribe to Whiteboard Friday here and not stay on Facebook where we only reach 1 out of every 50 or 100 people who might subscribe to our page.

So it’s clearly in our interest to do this, but Facebook wants to keep you on Facebook’s website, because then they can do the most advertising and targeting to you and get the most time on site from you. That’s their business, right?

Twitter

The same thing is true of Twitter. So it tends to be the case that links off Twitter fare more poorly. Now, I am not 100% sure in Twitter’s case whether this is algorithmic or user-driven. I suspect it’s a little of both, that Twitter will promote or make most visible to you when you log in to Twitter the posts that have been made or the tweets that have been made that are self-contained. They live entirely on Twitter. They might contain a bunch of different stuff, a poll or images or be a thread. But links off Twitter will be dampened.

Instagram

The same thing is true on Instagram. Well, on Instagram, they’re kind of the worst. They don’t allow links at all. The only thing you can do is a link in profile. More engaging content on Instagram, as of just a couple weeks ago, more engaging content equals higher placement in the feed. In fact, Instagram has now just come out and said that they will show you content posts from people you’re not following but that they think will be engaging to you, which gives influential Instagram accounts that get lots of engagement an additional benefit, but kind of hurts everyone else that you’re normally following on the network.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn, LinkedIn’s algorithm includes extra visibility in the feed for self-contained post content, which is why you see a lot of these posts of, “Oh, here’s all the crazy amounts of work I did and what my experience was like building this or doing that.” If it’s a self-contained, sort of blog post-style content in LinkedIn that does not link out, it will do much better than posts that contain an external link, which LinkedIn sort of dampens in their visibility algorithm for their feed.

Play to the algos?

So all of these sites have these components of their algorithm that basically reward you if you are willing to play to their algos, meaning you keep all of the content on their sites and platform, their stuff, not yours. You essentially play to what they’re trying to achieve, which is more time on site for them, more engagement for them, less people going away to other places. You refuse or you don’t link out, so no external linking to other places. You maintain sort of what I call a high signal to noise ratio, so that rather than sharing all the things you might want to share, you only share posts that you can count on having relatively high engagement.

That track record is something that sticks with you on most of these networks. Facebook, for example, if I have posts that do well, many in a row, I will get more visibility for my next one. If my last couple of posts have performed poorly on Facebook, my next one will be dampened. You sort of get a string or get on a roll with these networks. Same thing is true on Twitter, by the way.

$ #@! the algos, serve your own site?

Or you say, “Forget you” to the algorithms and serve your own site instead, which means you use the networks to tease content, like, “Here’s this exciting, interesting thing. If you want the whole story or you want to watch full video or see all the graphs and charts or whatever it is, you need to come to our website where we host the full content.” You link externally so that you’re driving traffic back to the properties that you own and control, and you have to be willing to promote some potentially promotional content, in order to earn value from these social networks, even if that means slightly lower engagement or less of that get-on-a-roll reputation.

My recommendation

The recommendation that I have for SEOs and content marketers is I think we need to balance this. But if I had to, I would tilt it in favor of your site. Social networks, I know it doesn’t seem this way, but social networks come and go in popularity, and they change the way that they work. So investing very heavily in Facebook six or seven years ago might have made a ton of sense for a business. Today, a lot of those investments have been shown to have very little impact, because instead of reaching 20 or 30 out of 100 of your followers, you’re reaching 1 or 2. So you’ve lost an order of magnitude of reach on there. The same thing has been true generally on Twitter, on LinkedIn, and on Instagram. So I really urge you to tilt slightly to your own site.

Owned channels are your website, your email, where you have the email addresses of the people there. I would rather have an email or a loyal visitor or an RSS subscriber than I would 100 times as many Twitter followers, because the engagement you can get and the value that you can get as a business or as an organization is just much higher.

Just don’t ignore how these algorithms work. If you can, I would urge you to sometimes get on those rolls so that you can grow your awareness and reach by playing to these algorithms.

So, essentially, while I’m urging you to tilt slightly this way, I’m also suggesting that occasionally you should use what you know about how these algorithms work in order to grow and accelerate your growth of followers and reach on these networks so that you can then get more benefit of driving those people back to your site. You’ve got to play both sides, I think, today in order to have success with the social networks’ current reach and visibility algorithms.

All right, everyone, look forward to your comments. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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How to Rank in 2018: The SEO Checklist – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

It’s hard enough as it is to explain to non-SEOs how to rank a webpage. In an increasingly complicated field, to do well you’ve got to have a good handle on a wide variety of detailed subjects. This edition of Whiteboard Friday covers a nine-point checklist of the major items you’ve got to cross off to rank in the new year — and maybe get some hints on how to explain it to others, too.

How to Rank in 2018: An SEO Checklist

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to a special New Year’s edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to run through how to rank in 2018 in a brief checklist format.

So I know that many of you sometimes wonder, “Gosh, it feels overwhelming to try and explain to someone outside the SEO profession how to get a web page ranked.” Well, you know what? Let’s explore that a little bit this week on Whiteboard Friday. I sent out a tweet asking folks, “Send me a brief checklist in 280 characters or less,” and I got back some amazing responses. I have credited some folks here when they’ve contributed. There is a ton of detail to ranking in the SEO world, to try and rank in Google’s results. But when we pull out, when we go broad, I think that just a few items, in fact just the nine we’ve got here can basically take you through the majority of what’s required to rank in the year ahead. So let’s dive into that.

I. Crawlable, accessible URL whose content Google can easily crawl and parse.

So we want Googlebot’s spiders to be able to come to this page, to understand the content that’s on there in a text readable format, to understand images and visuals or video or embeds or anything else that you’ve got on the page in a way that they are going to be able to put into their web index. That is crucial. Without it, none of the rest of this stuff even matters.

II. Keyword research

We need to know and to uncover the words and phrases that searchers are actually using to solve or to get answers to the problem that they are having in your world. Those should be problems that your organization, your website is actually working to solve, that your content will help them to solve.

What you want here is a primary keyword and hopefully a set of related secondary keywords that share the searcher’s intent. So the intent behind of all of these terms and phrases should be the same so that the same content can serve it. When you do that, we now have a primary and a secondary set of keywords that we can target in our optimization efforts.

III. Investigate the SERP to find what Google believes to be relevant to the keywords’s searches

I want you to do some SERP investigation, meaning perform a search query in Google, see what comes back to you, and then figure out from there what Google believes to be relevant to the keywords searches. What does Google think is the content that will answer this searcher’s query? You’re trying to figure out intent, the type of content that’s required, and whatever missing pieces might be there. If you can find holes where, hey, no one is serving this, but I know that people want the answer to it, you might be able to fill that gap and take over that ranking position. Thanks to Gaetano, @gaetano_nyc, for the great suggestion on this one.

IV. Have the most credible, amplifiable person or team available create content that’s going to serve the searcher’s goal and solve their task better than anyone else on page one.

There are three elements here. First, we want an actually credible, worthy of amplification person or persons to create the content. Why is that? Well, because if we do that, we make amplification, we make link building, we make social sharing way more likely to happen, and our content becomes more credible, both in the eyes of searchers and visitors as well as in Google’s eyes too. So to the degree that that is possible, I would certainly urge you to do it.

Next, we’re trying to serve the searcher’s goal and solve their task, and we want to do that better than anyone else does it on page one, because if we don’t, even if we’ve optimized a lot of these other things, over time Google will realize, you know what? Searchers are frustrated with your result compared to other results, and they’re going to rank those other people higher. Huge credit to Dan Kern, @kernmedia on Twitter, for the great suggestion on this one.

V. Craft a compelling title, meta description.

Yes, Google still does use the meta description quite frequently. I know it seems like sometimes they don’t. But, in fact, there’s a high percent of the time when the actual meta description from the page is used. There’s an even higher percentage where the title is used. The URL, while Google sometimes truncates those, also used in the snippet as well as other elements. We’ll talk about schema and other kinds of markup later on. But the snippet is something that is crucial to your SEO efforts, because that determines how it displays in the search result. How Google displays your result determines whether people want to click on your listing or someone else’s. The snippet is your opportunity to say, “Come click me instead of those other guys.” If you can optimize this, both from a keyword perspective using the words and phrases that people want, as well as from a relevancy and a pure drawing the click perspective, you can really win.

VI. Intelligently employ those primary, secondary, and related keywords

Related keywords meaning those that are semantically connected that Google is going to view as critical to proving to them that your content is relevant to the searcher’s query — in the page’s text content. Why am I saying text content here? Because if you put it purely in visuals or in video or some other embeddable format that Google can’t necessarily easily parse out, eeh, they might not count it. They might not treat it as that’s actually content on the page, and you need to prove to Google that you have the relevant keywords on the page.

VII. Where relevant and possible, use rich snippets and schema markup to enhance the potential visibility that you’re going to get.

This is not possible for everyone. But in some cases, in the case that you’re getting into Google news, or in the case that you’re in the recipe world and you can get visuals and images, or in the case where you have a featured snippet opportunity and you can get the visual for that featured snippet along with that credit, or in the case where you can get rich snippets around travel or around flights, other verticals that schema is supporting right now, well, that’s great. You should take advantage of those opportunities.

VIII. Optimize the page to load fast, as fast as possible and look great.

I mean look great from a visual, UI perspective and look great from a user experience perspective, letting someone go all the way through and accomplish their task in an easy, fulfilling way on every device, at every speed, and make it secure too. Security critically important. HTTPS is not the only thing, but it is a big part of what Google cares about right now, and HTTPS was a big focus in 2016 and 2017. It will certainly continue to be a focus for Google in 2018.

IX. You need to have a great answer to the question: Who will help amplify this and why?

When you have that great answer, I mean a specific list of people and publications who are going to help you amplify it, you’ve got to execute to earn solid links and mentions and word of mouth across the web and across social media so that your content can be seen by Google’s crawlers and by human beings, by people as highly relevant and high quality.

You do all this stuff, you’re going to rank very well in 2018. Look forward to your comments, your additions, your contributions, and feel free to look through the tweet thread as well.

Thanks to all of you who contributed via Twitter and to all of you who followed us here at Moz and Whiteboard Friday in 2017. We hope you have a great year ahead. Thanks for watching. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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3 Creative Ways to Give Your Content Efforts a Boost – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

We know that content is our doorway to earning countless SEO benefits for our sites. Admittedly, though, it’s too easy to get stuck in a rut after one too many content marketing campaigns. In this extra-special holiday edition of Whitebeard Friday (see what we did there?), Rand offers three novel ways to add sparkle to your content creation efforts

3 way to give your content efforts a boost

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to a special Christmas edition of Whitebeard Friday. This week, I wanted to try and help with just a few tactical suggestions on some creative ways to pump up those content marketing campaigns.

I’ve seen that many, many folks in the SEO world, of course, naturally, are investing in content marketing because content is the path to links and amplification and search traffic. Sometimes those content campaigns can feel a little stale or repetitive. So I have some creative ideas, things that I’ve seen some people executing on that I think we might be able to leverage for some of our work.

1. Niche groups

First one, if you can identify in your community these sort of small but vocal niche groups that are . . . when I say your community, it doesn’t have to be people you already reach. It can be people inside the community of content generation and of topical interest around your subject matter. Then help them to amplify their voices or their causes or their pet projects, etc.

So I’ll use the example of being in the foodie and gourmand world. So here’s a bunch of foodies. But this particular tiny group is extremely passionate about food trucks, and, in particular, they really hate the laws that restrict food truck growth, that a lot of cities don’t allow food trucks to be in certain spaces. They have to jump through a bunch of hoops to get licensed. They are not permitted to be permanently in a place for a whole week. Whatever it is, whatever those legal restrictions are. So by serving this small group, you might think that content is way too niche.

The wonderful part is that content is the kind that gets amplified very loudly, very repetitively, that can help you earn links and traffic to this small community. If that community is small and loud and feels like their voices aren’t being heard elsewhere, you can build some great brand advocacy inside that group as well. By the way, I would urge you to be authentic, choose causes that you or your company also care about. Don’t just pick something at random.

2. Products and services

Second, if you can, try and seek out products and services that your audience uses or needs, but that doesn’t actually directly conflict with your business. Then create a resource that lists or rates or ranks and recommends those top choices. We’ve actually done this a few times at Moz. I have this recommended list of agency and consultant providers, but Moz does not compete with any of those. But it’s a helpful list. As a result of listing those folks and having this sort of process around it, many of those people are pumping up that content.

Now here’s another example. Foodie Moz, Foodie Moz sounds like a great domain. I should go register that right after this hat stops hitting me in the back of the head. I don’t know how Santa deals with that. So Foodie Moz presents the best cookbooks of 2017. Now, Foodie Moz might be in the food and recipe world. But it turns out, the wonderful part is cookbooks are something that is used by their audience but not directly conflicting with them.

Since it’s not self-promotional, but it is useful to your audience, the likelihood that you can earn links and amplification because you seem like a non-self-interested party is much greater. You’re providing value without asking anything in return. It’s not like anyone buying these cookbooks would help you. It’s not like you have some ulterior motive in ranking this one number one or that one number two. You’re merely putting together an unbiased set of resources that help your audience. That is a great way to get a piece of content to do well.

3. Content creators

Third, last but not least here, if you can, find content creators who have been very successful. You can recruit them, the people who have had hit pieces, to create content for your brand. In a lot of ways, this is like cheating. It’s almost like buying links, except instead of buying the links, you’re buying the time and energy of the person who creates content that you have high likelihood or high propensity for being successful in that content niche with what they create because of their past track record and the audience they’ve already built.

Pro-tip here. Journalists and media contributors, even contributors to online media, like a BuzzFeed or something like that, are great targets. Why? Well, because they’re usually poorly paid and they are desperate to build a portfolio of professional work. Some of these folks are insanely talented, and they already have networks of people who have liked their work in the past and have helped amplify them.

So if you can use a tool like BuzzSumo — that would be generally what I’d recommend, there’s a few others, but BuzzSumo is really great for this — you can search for, for example, recipes and see the most shared content in the recipe world in, say, the last three months. Then we can identify, “Oh, here we go. This person wrote the hardest recipe challenge gifts. Oh, all right. That did really, really well. I wonder if we can see who that is. Oh look, she does freelance work. I bet she can write for us.”

It’s like cheating. It’s a great hack. It’s a great to way to recruit someone who you know is likely to have a great shot at their work doing well, give them the freedom to write what they want, to create what they want, and then host it on your site. A great way to do content creation, for a decent price, that has a high likelihood of solid amplification.

All right, everyone, look forward to some of your thoughts and tactics. For those of you who celebrate Christmas, a Merry Christmas from all of us at Moz. For those of you who celebrate Hanukkah, happy belated Hanukkah. I know that I’m filming this during Hanukkah, but it’s probably after Hanukkah that you’re seeing it. For those of you who are celebrating any other holiday this year, a very happy holiday season to you. We look forward to joining you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Image Link Building – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by BritneyMuller

Image link building is a delicate art. There are some distinct considerations from traditional link building, and doing it successfully requires a balance of creativity, curiosity, and having the right tools on hand. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Moz’s own SEO and link building aficionado Britney Muller offers up concrete advice for successfully building links via images.

Image Link Building

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Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans, welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today we’re going to go over all things image link building, which is sort of an art. I’m so excited to dig into this with you.

Know your link targets

So first and foremost, you need to know your link targets:

I. Popular industry platforms – top pages

What are those top platforms or websites that you would really like to acquire a link from? Then, from there, you can start to understand who might be influencers on those platforms, who’s writing the content, who might you contact, and also what are the top pages currently for those sites. There are a number of tools that give you a glimpse into that information. Moz’s OSE, Open Site Explorer, will show you top pages. SEMrush has a top page report. SimilarWeb has a popular page report. You can dig into all that information there, really interesting stuff.

II. Old popular images – update!

You can also start to dig into old, popular images and then update them. So what are old popular images within your space that you could have an opportunity to revamp and update? A really neat way to sort of dig into some of that is BuzzSumo’s infographics filter, and then you would insert the topic. You enter the industry or the topic you’re trying to address and then search by the infographics to see if you can come across anything.

III. Transform popular content into images

You can also just transform popular content into images, and I think there is so much opportunity in doing that for new statistics reports, new data that comes out. There are tons of great opportunities to transform those into multiple images and leverage that across different platforms for link building.

IV. Influencers

Again, just understanding who those influencers are.

Do your keyword research

So, from here, we’re going to dive into the keyword research part of this whole puzzle, and this is really understanding the intent behind people searching about the topic or the product or whatever it might be. Something you can do is evaluate keywords with link intent. This is a brilliant concept I heard about a couple weeks back from Dan Shure’s podcast. Thank you, Dan. Essentially it’s the idea that keywords with statistics or facts after the keyword have link intent baked into the search query. It’s brilliant. Those individuals are searching for something to reference, to maybe link to, to include in a presentation or an article or whatever that might be. It has this basic link intent.

Another thing you want to evaluate is just anything around images. Do any of your keywords and pictures or photos, etc. have good search volume with some opportunities? What does that search result currently look like? You have to evaluate what’s currently ranking to understand what’s working and what’s not. I used to say at my old agency I didn’t want anyone writing any piece of content until they had read all of the 10 search results for that keyword or that phrase we were targeting. Why would you do that until you have a full understanding of how that looks currently and how we can make something way better?

Rand had also mentioned this really cool tip on if you find some keywords, it’s good to evaluate whether or not the image carousel shows up for those searches, because if it does, that’s a little glimpse into the searcher intent that leads to images. That’s a good sign that you’re on the right track to really optimize for a certain image. It’s something to keep in mind.

Provide value

So, from here, we’re going to move up to providing value. Now we’re in the brainstorming stage. Hopefully, you’ve gotten some ideas, you know where you want to link from, and you need to provide value in some way. It could be a…

I. Reference/bookmark Maybe something that people would bookmark, that always works.

II. Perspective is a really interesting one. So some of the most beautiful data visualizations do this extremely well, where they can simplify a confusing concept or a lot of data. It’s a great way to leverage images and graphics.

III. Printouts still work really well. Moz has the SEO Dev Cheat Sheet that I have seen printed all over at different agencies, and that’s really neat to see it adding value directly.

IV. Curate images. We see this a lot with different articles. Maybe the top 25 to 50 images from this tradeshow or this event or whatever it might be, that’s a great way to leverage link building and kind of getting people fired up about a curated piece of content.

Gregory Ciotti — I don’t know if I’m saying that right — has an incredible article I suggest you all read called “Why a Visual Really Is Worth a Thousand Words,” and he mentions don’t be afraid to get obvious. I love that, because I think all too often we tend to overthink images and executing things in general. Why not just state the obvious and see how it goes? He’s got great examples.

Optimize

So, from here, we are going to move into optimization. If any of you need a brush-up on image optimization, I highly suggest you check out Rand’s Whiteboard Friday on image SEO. It covers everything. But some of the basics are your…

Title

You want to make sure that the title of the image has your keyword and explains what it is that you’re trying to convey.

Alt text

This was first and foremost designed for the visually impaired, so you need to be mindful of visually impaired screen readers that will read this to people to explain what the image actually is. So first and foremost, you just need to be helpful and provide information in a descriptive way to describe that image.

Compression

Compression is huge. Page speed is so big right now. I hear about it all the time. I know you guys do too. But one of the easiest ways to help page speed is to compress those huge images. There’s a ton of great free tools out there, like Optimizilla, where you can bulk upload a bunch of large images and then bulk download. It makes it super easy. There are also some desktop programs, if you’re doing this kind of stuff all the time, that will automatically compress images you download or save. That might be worth looking into if you do this a lot.
You want to host the image. You want it to live on your domain. You want to house that. You can leverage it on other platforms, but you want sort of that original to be on your site.

SRCSET

Source set attribute is getting a little technical. It’s super interesting, and it’s basically this really incredible image attribute that allows you to set the minimum browser size and the image you would prefer to show up for different sizes. So you can not only have different images show up for different devices in different sizes, but you can also revamp them. You can revamp the same image and serve it better for a mobile user versus a tablet, etc. Jon Henshaw has some of the greatest stuff on source set. Highly suggest you look at some of his articles. He’s doing really cool things with it. Check that out.

Promotion

So, from here, you want to promote your images. You obviously want to share it on popular platforms. You want to reach back out to some of these things that you might have into earlier. If you updated a piece of content, make them aware of that. Or if you transformed a really popular piece of content into some visuals, you might want to share that with the person who is sharing that piece of content. You want to start to tap into that previous research with your promotion.

Inform the influencers

Ask people to share it. There is nothing wrong with just asking your network of people to share something you’ve worked really hard on, and hopefully, vice versa, that can work in return and you’re not afraid to share something a connection of yours has that they worked really hard on.

Monitor the image SERPs

From here, you need to monitor. One of the best ways to do this is Google reverse image search. So if you go to Google and you click the images tab, there’s that little camera icon that you can click on and upload images to see where else they live on the web. This is a great way to figure out who is using your image, where it’s being held, are you getting a backlink or are you not. You want to keep an eye on all of that stuff.

Two other tools to do this, that I’ve heard about, are Image Raider and TinEye. But I have not had great experience with either of these. I would love to hear your comments below if maybe you have.

Reverse image search with Google works the best for me. This is also an awesome opportunity for someone to get on the market and create a Google alert for images. I don’t think anyone is actually doing that right now. If you know someone that is, please let me know down below in the comments. But it could be a cool business opportunity, right? I don’t know.

So for monitoring, let’s say you find your image is being used on different websites. Now you need to do some basic outreach to get that link. You want to request that link for using your image.

This is just a super basic template that I came up with. You can use it. You can change it, do whatever you want. But it’s just:

Hi, [first name].
Thank you so much for including our image in your article. Great piece. Just wondering if you could link to us.com as the source.
Thanks,
Britney

Something like that. Something short, to the point. If you can make it more personalized, please do so. I can’t stress that enough. People will take you way more seriously if you have some nugget of personal information or connection that you can make.

From there, you just sort of stay in this loop. After you go through this process, you need to continue to promote your content and continue to monitor and do outreach and push that to maximize your link building efforts.
So I hope you enjoyed this. I look forward to hearing all of your comments and thoughts down below in the comments. I look forward to seeing you all later. Thanks for joining us on this edition of Whiteboard Friday. Thanks.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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What Do Google’s New, Longer Snippets Mean for SEO? – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Snippets and meta descriptions have brand-new character limits, and it’s a big change for Google and SEOs alike. Learn about what’s new, when it changed, and what it all means for SEO in this edition of Whiteboard Friday.

What do Google's now, longer snippets mean for SEO?

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re chatting about Google’s big change to the snippet length.

This is the display length of the snippet for any given result in the search results that Google provides. This is on both mobile and desktop. It sort of impacts the meta description, which is how many snippets are written. They’re taken from the meta description tag of the web page. Google essentially said just last week, “Hey, we have officially increased the length, the recommended length, and the display length of what we will show in the text snippet of standard organic results.”

So I’m illustrating that for you here. I did a search for “net neutrality bill,” something that’s on the minds of a lot of Americans right now. You can see here that this article from The Hill, which is a recent article — it was two days ago — has a much longer text snippet than what we would normally expect to find. In fact, I went ahead and counted this one and then showed it here.

So basically, at the old 165-character limit, which is what you would have seen prior to the middle of December on most every search result, occasionally Google would have a longer one for very specific kinds of search results, but more than 90%, according to data from SISTRIX, which put out a great report and I’ll link to it here, more than 90% of search snippets were 165 characters or less prior to the middle of November. Then Google added basically a few more lines.

So now, on mobile and desktop, instead of an average of two or three lines, we’re talking three, four, five, sometimes even six lines of text. So this snippet here is 266 characters that Google is displaying. The next result, from Save the Internet, is 273 characters. Again, this might be because Google sort of realized, “Hey, we almost got all of this in here. Let’s just carry it through to the end rather than showing the ellipsis.” But you can see that 165 characters would cut off right here. This one actually does a good job of displaying things.

So imagine a searcher is querying for something in your field and they’re just looking for a basic understanding of what it is. So they’ve never heard of net neutrality. They’re not sure what it is. So they can read here, “Net neutrality is the basic principle that prohibits internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon from speeding up, slowing down, or blocking any . . .” And that’s where it would cut off. Or that’s where it would have cut off in November.

Now, if I got a snippet like that, I need to visit the site. I’ve got to click through in order to learn more. That doesn’t tell me enough to give me the data to go through. Now, Google has tackled this before with things, like a featured snippet, that sit at the top of the search results, that are a more expansive short answer. But in this case, I can get the rest of it because now, as of mid-November, Google has lengthened this. So now I can get, “Any content, applications, or websites you want to use. Net neutrality is the way that the Internet has always worked.”

Now, you might quibble and say this is not a full, thorough understanding of what net neutrality is, and I agree. But for a lot of searchers, this is good enough. They don’t need to click any more. This extension from 165 to 275 or 273, in this case, has really done the trick.

What changed?

So this can have a bunch of changes to SEO too. So the change that happened here is that Google updated basically two things. One, they updated the snippet length, and two, they updated their guidelines around it.

So Google’s had historic guidelines that said, well, you want to keep your meta description tag between about 160 and 180 characters. I think that was the number. They’ve updated that to where they say there’s no official meta description recommended length. But on Twitter, Danny Sullivan said that he would probably not make that greater than 320 characters. In fact, we and other data providers, that collect a lot of search results, didn’t find many that extended beyond 300. So I think that’s a reasonable thing.

When?

When did this happen? It was starting at about mid-November. November 22nd is when SISTRIX’s dataset starts to notice the increase, and it was over 50%. Now it’s sitting at about 51% of search results that have these longer snippets in at least 1 of the top 10 as of December 2nd.

Here’s the amazing thing, though — 51% of search results have at least one. Many of those, because they’re still pulling old meta descriptions or meta descriptions that SEO has optimized for the 165-character limit, are still very short. So if you’re the person in your search results, especially it’s holiday time right now, lots of ecommerce action, if you’re the person to go update your important pages right now, you might be able to get more real estate in the search results than any of your competitors in the SERPs because they’re not updating theirs.

How will this affect SEO?

So how is this going to really change SEO? Well, three things:

A. It changes how marketers should write and optimize the meta description.

We’re going to be writing a little bit differently because we have more space. We’re going to be trying to entice people to click, but we’re going to be very conscientious that we want to try and answer a lot of this in the search result itself, because if we can, there’s a good chance that Google will rank us higher, even if we’re actually sort of sacrificing clicks by helping the searcher get the answer they need in the search result.

B. It may impact click-through rate.

We’ll be looking at Jumpshot data over the next few months and year ahead. We think that there are two likely ways they could do it. Probably negatively, meaning fewer clicks on less complex queries. But conversely, possible it will get more clicks on some more complex queries, because people are more enticed by the longer description. Fingers crossed, that’s kind of what you want to do as a marketer.

C. It may lead to lower click-through rate further down in the search results.

If you think about the fact that this is taking up the real estate that was taken up by three results with two, as of a month ago, well, maybe people won’t scroll as far down. Maybe the ones that are higher up will in fact draw more of the clicks, and thus being further down on page one will have less value than it used to.

What should SEOs do?

What are things that you should do right now? Number one, make a priority list — you should probably already have this — of your most important landing pages by search traffic, the ones that receive the most search traffic on your website, organic search. Then I would go and reoptimize those meta descriptions for the longer limits.

Now, you can judge as you will. My advice would be go to the SERPs that are sending you the most traffic, that you’re ranking for the most. Go check out the limits. They’re probably between about 250 and 300, and you can optimize somewhere in there.

The second thing I would do is if you have internal processes or your CMS has rules around how long you can make a meta description tag, you’re going to have to update those probably from the old limit of somewhere in the 160 to 180 range to the new 230 to 320 range. It doesn’t look like many are smaller than 230 now, at least limit-wise, and it doesn’t look like anything is particularly longer than 320. So somewhere in there is where you’re going to want to stay.

Good luck with your new meta descriptions and with your new snippet optimization. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Designing a Page’s Content Flow to Maximize SEO Opportunity – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Controlling and improving the flow of your on-site content can actually help your SEO. What’s the best way to capitalize on the opportunity present in your page design? Rand covers the questions you need to ask (and answer) and the goals you should strive for in today’s Whiteboard Friday.

Designing a page's content flow to maximize SEO opportunity

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about a designing a page’s content flow to help with your SEO.

Now, unfortunately, somehow in the world of SEO tactics, this one has gotten left by the wayside. I think a lot of people in the SEO world are investing in things like content and solving searchers’ problems and getting to the bottom of searcher intent. But unfortunately, the page design and the flow of the elements, the UI elements, the content elements that sit in a page is discarded or left aside. That’s unfortunate because it can actually make a huge difference to your SEO.

Q: What needs to go on this page, in what order, with what placement?

So if we’re asking ourselves like, “Well, what’s the question here?” Well, it’s what needs to go on this page. I’m trying to rank for “faster home Wi-Fi.” Right now, Lifehacker and a bunch of other people are ranking in these results. It gets a ton of searches. I can drive a lot of revenue for my business if I can rank there. But what needs to go on this page in what order with what placement in order for me to perform the best that I possibly can? It turns out that sometimes great content gets buried in a poor page design and poor page flow. But if we want to answer this question, we actually have to ask some other ones. We need answers to at least these three:

A. What is the searcher in this case trying to accomplish?

When they enter “faster home Wi-Fi,” what’s the task that they want to get done?

B. Are there multiple intents behind this query, and which ones are most popular?

What’s the popularity of those intents in what order? We need to know that so that we can design our flow around the most common ones first and the secondary and tertiary ones next.

C. What’s the business goal of ranking? What are we trying to accomplish?

That’s always going to have to be balanced out with what is the searcher trying to accomplish. Otherwise, in a lot of cases, there’s no point in ranking at all. If we can’t get our goals met, we should just rank for something else where we can.

Let’s assume we’ve got some answers:

Let’s assume that, in this case, we have some good answers to these questions so we can proceed. So pretty simple. If I search for “faster home Wi-Fi,” what I want is usually it’s going to be…

A. Faster download speed at home.

That’s what the searcher is trying to accomplish. But there are multiple intents behind this. Sometimes the searcher is looking to do that..

B1. With their current ISP and their current equipment.

They want to know things they can optimize that don’t cause them to spend money. Can they place their router in different places? Can they change out a cable? Do they need to put it in a different room? Do they need to move their computer? Is the problem something else that’s interfering with their Wi-Fi in their home that they need to turn off? Those kinds of issues.

B2. With a new ISP.

Or can they get a new ISP? They might be looking for an ISP that can provide them with faster home internet in their area, and they want to know what’s available, which is a very different intent than the first one.

B3. With current ISP but new equipment.

maybe they want to keep their ISP, but they are willing to upgrade to new equipment. So they’re looking for what’s the equipment that I could buy that would make the current ISP I have, which in many cases in the United States, sadly, there’s only one ISP that can provide you with service in a lot of areas. So they can’t change ISP, but they can change out their equipment.

C. Affiliate revenue with product referrals.

Let’s assume that (C) is we know that what we’re trying to accomplish is affiliate revenue from product referrals. So our business is basically we’re going to send people to new routers or the Google Mesh Network home device, and we get affiliate revenue by passing folks off to those products and recommending them.

Now we can design a content flow.

Okay, fair enough. We now have enough to be able to take care of this design flow. The design flow can involve lots of things. There are a lot of things that could live on a page, everything from navigation to headline to the lead-in copy or the header image or body content, graphics, reference links, the footer, a sidebar potentially.

The elements that go in here are not actually what we’re talking about today. We can have that conversation too. I want a headline that’s going to tell people that I serve all of these different intents. I want to have a lead-in that has a potential to be the featured snippet in there. I want a header image that can rank in image results and be in the featured snippet panel. I’m going to want body content that serves all of these in the order that’s most popular. I want graphics and visuals that suggest to people that I’ve done my research and I can provably show that the results that you get with this different equipment or this different ISP will be relevant to them.

But really, what we’re talking about here is the flow that matters. The content itself, the problem is that it gets buried. What I see many times is folks will take a powerful visual or a powerful piece of content that’s solving the searcher’s query and they’ll put it in a place on the page where it’s hard to access or hard to find. So even though they’ve actually got great content, it is buried by the page’s design.

5 big goals that matter.

The goals that matter here and the ones that you should be optimizing for when you’re thinking about the design of this flow are:

1. How do I solve the searcher’s task quickly and enjoyably?

So that’s about user experience as well as the UI. I know that, for many people, they are going to want to see and, in fact, the result that’s ranking up here on the top is Lifehacker’s top 10 list for how to get your home Wi-Fi faster. They include things like upgrading your ISP, and here’s a tool to see what’s available in your area. They include maybe you need a better router, and here are the best ones. Maybe you need a different network or something that expands your network in your home, and here’s a link out to those. So they’re serving that purpose up front, up top.

2. Serve these multiple intents in the order of demand.

So if we can intuit that most people want to stick with their ISP, but are willing to change equipment, we can serve this one first (B3). We can serve this one second (B1), and we can serve the change out my ISP third (B2), which is actually the ideal fit in this scenario for us. That helps us

3. Optimize for the business goal without sacrificing one and two.

I would urge you to design generally with the searcher in mind and if you can fit in the business goal, that is ideal. Otherwise, what tends to happen is the business goal comes first, the searcher comes second, and you come tenth in the results.

4. If possible, try to claim the featured snippet and the visual image that go up there.

That means using the lead-in up at the top. It’s usually the first paragraph or the first few lines of text in an ordered or unordered list, along with a header image or visual in order to capture that featured snippet. That’s very powerful for search results that are still showing it.

5. Limit our bounce back to the SERP as much as possible.

In many cases, this means limiting some of the UI or design flow elements that hamper people from solving their problems or that annoy or dissuade them. So, for example, advertising that pops up or overlays that come up before I’ve gotten two-thirds of the way down the page really tend to hamper efforts, really tend to increase this bounce back to the SERP, the search engine call pogo-sticking and can harm your rankings dramatically. Design elements, design flows where the content that actually solves the problem is below an advertising block or below a promotional block, that also is very limiting.

So to the degree that we can control the design of our pages and optimize for that, we can actually take existing content that you might already have and improve its rankings without having to remake it, without needing new links, simply by improving the flow.

I hope we’ll see lots of examples of those in the comments, and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Which of My Competitor’s Keywords Should (& Shouldn’t ) I Target? – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

You don’t want to try to rank for every one of your competitors’ keywords. Like most things with SEO, it’s important to be strategic and intentional with your decisions. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand shares his recommended process for understanding your funnel, identifying the right competitors to track, and prioritizing which of their keywords you ought to target.

Which of my competitor's keyword should I target?

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. So this week we’re chatting about your competitors’ keywords and which of those competitive keywords you might want to actually target versus not.

Many folks use tools, like SEMrush and Ahrefs and KeywordSpy and Spyfu and Moz’s Keyword Explorer, which now has this feature too, where they look at: What are the keywords that my competitors rank for, that I may be interested in? This is actually a pretty smart way to do keyword research. Not the only way, but a smart way to do it. But the challenge comes in when you start looking at your competitors’ keywords and then realizing actually which of these should I go after and in what priority order. In the world of competitive keywords, there’s actually a little bit of a difference between classic keyword research.

So here I’ve plugged in Hammer and Heels, which is a small, online furniture store that has some cool designer furniture, and Dania Furniture, which is a competitor of theirs — they’re local in the Seattle area, but carry sort of modern, Scandinavian furniture — and IndustrialHome.com, similar space. So all three of these in a similar space, and you can see sort of keywords that return that several of these, one or more of these rank for. I put together difficulty, volume, and organic click-through rate, which are some of the metrics that you’ll find. You’ll find these metrics actually in most of the tools that I just mentioned.

Process:

So when I’m looking at this list, which ones do I want to actually go after and not, and how do I choose? Well, this is the process I would recommend.

I. Try and make sure you first understand your keyword to conversion funnel.

So if you’ve got a classic sort of funnel, you have people buying down here — this is a purchase — and you have people who search for particular keywords up here, and if you understand which people you lose and which people actually make it through the buying process, that’s going to be very helpful in knowing which of these terms and phrases and which types of these terms and phrases to actually go after, because in general, when you’re prioritizing competitive keywords, you probably don’t want to be going after these keywords that send traffic but don’t turn into conversions, unless that’s actually your goal. If your goal is raw traffic only, maybe because you serve advertising or other things, or because you know that you can capture a lot of folks very well through retargeting, for example maybe Hammer and Heels says, “Hey, the biggest traffic funnel we can get because we know, with our retargeting campaigns, even if a keyword brings us someone who doesn’t convert, we can convert them later very successfully,” fine. Go ahead.

II. Choose competitors that tend to target the same audience(s).

So the people you plug in here should tend to be competitors that tend to target the same audiences. Otherwise, your relevance and your conversion get really hard. For example, I could have used West Elm, which does generally modern furniture as well, but they’re very, very broad. They target just about everyone. I could have done Ethan Allen, which is sort of a very classic, old-school furniture maker. Probably a really different audience than these three websites. I could have done IKEA, which is sort of a low market brand for everybody. Again, not kind of the match. So when you are targeting conversion heavy, assuming that these folks were going after mostly conversion focused or retargeting focused rather than raw traffic, my suggestion would be strongly to go after sites with the same audience as you.

If you’re having trouble figuring out who those people are, one suggestion is to check out a tool called SimilarWeb. It’s expensive, but very powerful. You can plug in a domain and see what other domains people are likely to visit in that same space and what has audience overlap.

III. The keyword selection process should follow some of these rules:

A. Are easiest first.

So I would go after the ones that tend to be, that I think are going to be most likely for me to be able to rank for easiest. Why do I recommend that? Because it’s tough in SEO with a lot of campaigns to get budget and buy-in unless you can show progress early. So any time you can choose the easiest ones first, you’re going to be more successful. That’s low difficulty, high odds of success, high odds that you actually have the team needed to make the content necessary to rank. I wouldn’t go after competitive brands here.

B. Are similar to keywords you target that convert well now.

So if you understand this funnel well, you can use your AdWords campaign particularly well for this. So you look at your paid keywords and which ones send you highly converting traffic, boom. If you see that lighting is really successful for our furniture brand, “Oh, well look, glass globe chandelier, that’s got some nice volume. Let’s go after that because lighting already works for us.”

Of course, you want ones that fit your existing site structure. So if you say, “Oh, we’re going to have to make a blog for this, oh we need a news section, oh we need a different type of UI or UX experience before we can successfully target the content for this keyword,” I’d push that down a little further.

C. High volume, low difficulty, high organic click-through rate, or SERP features you can reach.

So basically, when you look at difficulty, that’s telling you how hard is it for me to rank for this potential keyword. If I look in here and I see some 50 and 60s, but I actually see a good number in the 30s and 40s, I would think that glass globe chandelier, S-shaped couch, industrial home furniture, these are pretty approachable. That’s impressive stuff.

Volume, I want as high as I can get, but oftentimes high volume leads to very high difficulty.
Organic click-through rate percentage, this is essentially saying what percent of people click on the 10 blue link style, organic search results. Classic SEO will help get me there. However, if you see low numbers, like a 55% for this type of chair, you might take a look at those search results and see that a lot of images are taking up the other organic click-through, and you might say, “Hey, let’s go after image SEO as well.” So it’s not just organic click-through rate. You can also target SERP features.

D. Are brands you carry/serve, generally not competitor’s brand names.

Then last, but not least, I would urge you to go after brands when you carry and serve them, but not when you don’t. So if this Ekornes chair is something that your furniture store, that Hammers and Heels actually carries, great. But if it’s something that’s exclusive to Dania, I wouldn’t go after it. I would generally not go after competitors’ brand names or branded product names with an exception, and I actually used this site to highlight this. Industrial Home Furniture is both a branded term, because it’s the name of this website — Industrial Home Furniture is their brand — and it’s also a generic. So in those cases, I would tell you, yes, it probably makes sense to go after a category like that.

If you follow these rules, you can generally use competitive intel on keywords to build up a really nice portfolio of targetable, high potential keywords that can bring you some serious SEO returns.

Look forward to your comments and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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How Google AdWords (PPC) Does and Doesn’t Affect Organic Results – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

It’s common industry knowledge that PPC can have an effect on our organic results. But what effect is that, exactly, and how does it work? In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand covers the ways paid ads influence organic results — and one very important way it doesn’t.

How Google AdWords does and doesn't affect Organic Results

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re chatting about AdWords and how PPC, paid search results can potentially impact organic results.
Now let’s be really clear. As a rule…

Paid DOES NOT DIRECTLY affect organic rankings

So many of you have probably seen the conspiracy theories out there of, “Oh, we started spending a lot on Goolge AdWords, and then our organic results went up.” Or, “Hey, we’re spending a lot with Google, but our competitor is spending even more. That must be why they’re ranking better in the organic results.” None of that is true. So there’s a bunch of protections in place. They have a real wall at Google between the paid side and the organic side. The organic folks, the engineers, the product managers, the program managers, all of the people who work on those organic ranking results on the Search Quality team, they absolutely will not let paid directly impact how they rank or whether they rank a site or page in the organic results.

However:

But there are a lot of indirect things that Google doesn’t control entirely that cause paid and organic to have an intersection, and that’s what I want to talk about today and make clear.

A. Searchers who see an ad may be more likely to click and organic listing.

Searchers who see an ad — and we’ve seen studies on this, including a notable one from Google years ago — may be more likely to click on an organic listing, or they may be more likely if they see a high ranking organic listing for the same ad to click that ad. For example, let’s say I’m running Seattle Whale Tours, and I search for whale watching while I’m in town. I see an ad for Seattle Whale Tours, and then I see an organic result. It could be the case, let’s say that my normal click-through rate, if there was only the ad, was one, and my normal click-through rate if I only saw the organic listing was one. Let’s imagine this equation: 1 plus 1 is actually going to equal something like 2.2. It’s going to be a little bit higher, because seeing these two together biases you, biases searchers to generally be more likely to click these than they otherwise would independent of one another. This is why many people will bid on their brand ads.

Now, you might say, “Gosh, that’s a really expensive way to go for 0.2 or even lower in some cases.” I agree with you. I don’t always endorse, and I know many SEOs and paid search folks who don’t always endorse bidding on branded terms, but it can work.

B. Searchers who’ve been previously exposed to a site/brand via ads may be more likely to click>engage>convert.

Searchers who have been previously exposed to a particular brand through paid search may be more likely in the future to click and engage on the organic content. Remember, a higher click-through rate, a higher engagement rate can lead to a higher ranking. So if you see that many people have searched in the past, they’ve clicked on a paid ad, and then later in the organic results they see that same brand ranking, they might be more likely and more inclined to click it, more inclined to engage with it, more inclined actually to convert on that page, to click that Buy button generally because the brand association is stronger. If it’s the first time you’ve ever heard of a new brand, a new company, a new website, you are less likely to click, less likely to engage, less likely to buy, which is why some paid exposure prior to organic exposure can be good, even for the organic exposure.

C. Paid results do strongly impact organic click-through rate, especially in certain queries.

Across the board, what we’ve seen is that paid searches on average, in all of Google, gets between 2% and 3% of all clicks, of all searches result in a paid click. Organic, it’s something between about 47% and 57% of all searches result in an organic click. But remember there are many searches where there are no paid clicks, and there are many searches where paid gets a ton of traffic. If you haven’t seen it yet, there was a blog post from Moz last week, from the folks at Wayfair, and they talked about how incredibly their SERP click-through rates have changed because of the appearance of ads.

So, for example, I search for dining room table lighting, and you can see on your mobile or on desktop how Google has these rich image ads, and you can sort of select different ones. I want to see all lighting. I want to see black lighting. I want to see chrome lighting. Then there are ads below that, the normal paid text ads, and then way, way down here, there are the organic results.

So this is probably taking up between 25% and 50% of all the clicks to this page are going to the paid search results, biasing the click-through rate massively, which means if you bid in certain cases, you may find that you will actually change the click-through rate curve for the entire SERP and change that click-through rate opportunity for the keyword.

D. Paid ad clicks may lead to increased links, mentions, coverage, sharing, etc. that can boost organic rankings.

So paid ad clicks may lead to other things. If someone clicks on a paid ad, they might get to that site, and then they might decide to link to it, to mention that brand somewhere else, to provide media coverage or social media coverage, to do sharing of some kind. All of those things can — some of them directly, some of them indirectly — boost rankings. So it is often the case that when you grow the engagement, the traffic of a website overall, especially if that website is providing a compelling experience that someone might want to write about, share, cover, or amplify in some way, that can boost the rankings, and we do see this sometimes, especially for queries that have a strong overlap in terms of their content, value, and usefulness, and they’re not just purely commercial in intent.

E. Bidding on search queries can affect the boarder market around those searches by shifting searcher demand, incentivizing (or de-incentivizing) content creation, etc.

Last one, and this is a little subtler and more difficult to understand, but basically by bidding on paid search results, you sort of change the market. You affect the market for how people think about content creation there, for how they think about monetization, for how they think about the value of those queries.

A few years ago, there was no one bidding on and no one interested in the market around insurance discounts as they relate to fitness levels. Then a bunch of companies, insurance companies and fitness tracking companies and all these other folks started getting into this world, and then they started bidding on it, and they created sort of a value chain and a monetization method. Then you saw more competition. You saw more brands entering this space. You saw more affiliates entering. So the organic SERPs themselves became more competitive with the entry of paid, and this happens very often in markets that were under or unmonetized and then become more monetized through paid advertising, through products, through offerings.

So be careful. Sometimes when you start bidding in a space that previously no one was bidding in, no was buying paid ads in, you can invite a lot of new and interesting competition into the search results that can change the whole dynamic of how the search query space works in your sector.

All right, everyone, hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. I look forward to your thoughts in the comments, and we’ll see you again next week for another edition. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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How Google Gives Us insight into Searcher Intent Through the Results – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

When Google isn’t quite sure what a searcher means just by their search query, the results (appropriately) cater to multiple possible meanings. Those SERPs, if we examine them carefully, are full of useful information. In this episode of Whiteboard Friday, Rand offers some real-world examples of what we can glean just by skimming the kinds of things Google decides are relevant.

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about how Google is giving us insight through their search results, their suggested searches, and their related searches into the intent that searchers have when they perform their query and how if we’re smart enough and we look closely and study well, we can actually get SEO and content opportunities out of this analysis.

So the way I thought I’d run this Whiteboard Friday is a little bit different than usual. Rather than being purely prescriptive, I thought I’d try and illustrate some actual results. I’ve pared them down a bit and removed the descriptions and taken some out, but to try and show the process of that.

Query 1: Damaged furniture

So here’s a query for damaged furniture. If I am trying to reach searchers for this query — let’s assume that I’m in the furniture business — I might see here that there are some ads up at the top, like this one from Wayfair, inexpensive furniture up to 70% off. I scroll through the organic results — Everyday Clearance Furniture Outlet, MyBobs.com, okay, that’s a local place here in Seattle, Seattle Furniture Repairs and Touchups. Okay, this is interesting. This is a different type of result, or it’s serving a different searcher intent. This is, “We will repair your furniture,” not, “We will sell you cheap, damaged furniture,” which these two are. Then How Stuff Works, which is saying, “We will show you how to repair wooden furniture.”

Now I scroll down even further and I get to the related searches — scratch and dent furniture near me, which suggests one of the intents absolutely behind this query is what Wayfair and My Bob’s are serving, which is cheap furniture, inexpensive furniture that’s been previously damaged in some way. Clearance Furniture Outlet, similar intent, Bob’s Discount Furniture Pit, I’m not totally sure about the pit naming convention, and then there are some queries that are similar to these other ones.

So here’s what’s happening. When you see search results like this, what you should pay close attention to is the intent to position ratio. Let’s say…

Intent A: I want to buy furniture

Intent B: I am looking to touch up or repair my furniture

Intent C: Show me how to do it myself

If you see more A’s ranking near the top, not in the advertising results, because those don’t need a very high click-through rate in order to exist. They can be at 1% or 2% and still do fine here. But if you see these higher up here, that is an indication that a higher percent of Google searchers are preferring or looking for this A intent stuff. You can apply this to any search that you look at.

Thus, if you are doing SEO or creating content to try and target a query, but the content you’re creating or the purpose you’re trying to serve is in the lower ranked stuff, you might be trapped in a world where you can’t rise any higher. Position four, maybe position three is the best you’re going to do because Google is always going to be serving the different intent, the intent that more of the searchers for this query are seeking out.

What’s also nice about this is if you perform this and you see a single intent being served throughout and a single intent in the related searches, you can guess that it’s probably going to be very difficult to change the searcher intent or to serve an entirely different searcher intent with that same query. You might need to look at different ones.

Query 2: E-commerce site design

All right. Next up, e-commerce site design. So an ad up here, again, from Shopify. This one is “Our e-commerce solution just works.” They’re trying to sell something. I’m going to go with they’re trying to sell you e-commerce site design.

Intent A: They are trying to sell you ecommerce design

Intent B: I am looking for successful e-commerce design inspiration/ideas

30 Beautiful and Creative E-commerce Website Designs, this is also from Shopify, because they just took my advice, well, okay, obviously they took my advice long before this Whiteboard Friday. But they’re ranking with exactly what we talked about in intent B, which was essentially, “Hey, I am looking for inspiration. I’m looking for ideas. I’m trying to figure out what my e-commerce website should look like or what designs are successful.” You can see that again — intent B. So what’s ranking higher here? It’s not the serve the purchase intent. It’s serve the examples intent.

When we get to related searches, you see that again, e-commerce website examples, top e-commerce websites, best e-commerce sites 2016, these are all intent B. If you’re trying to serve intent A, you better advertise, because ranking in the top results here is just not going to happen. That’s not what searchers are seeking. It’s going to be very, very tough.

Slight side note:

Whenever you see this, this late in the year, we’re in October right now as we’re filming this Whiteboard Friday. I did this search today, and I saw Best E-commerce Sites 2016 still in here. That suggests to me that there were a lot more people searching for it last year than there are this year. You will see there’s like the same thing for 2017 down below, but it’s lower in the related searches. It doesn’t have as much volume. Again, that suggests to me it’s on a downward trend. You can double-check that in Google trends, but good to pay attention to. Okay, side note over.

Query 3: Halloween laboratory props

Let’s move on to our last example here, Halloween laboratory props. So Halloween is coming up. Lots and lots of people looking for laboratory props and props and costumes and decorations of all kinds. There’s a huge business around this, especially in the United States and emerging in the United Kingdom and Australia and other places.

So, up at the top, Google is showing us ads. They are showing us the shopping ads, shop for Halloween laboratory props, and they’ve got some chemistry sets and a Frankenstein-style light switch that you can buy and some radioactive props and that kind of thing from Target, Etsy, and Oriental Trading Company.

Then they show images, which is not surprising. But hot tip, if you see images ranking in the top of the organic results, you should absolutely be doing image SEO. This is a clear indication that a lot of the searchers want images. That means Google Images is probably getting a significant portion of the search volume. When I see this up here, my guess is always it’s going to be 20% plus of searchers are going to the image results rather than the organic search results, and ranking here is often way easier than ranking here.

More interesting things happening next. This result is from Pinterest, “Best 25 Mad Scientist Lab Ideas on Pinterest,” “913 Best Laboratory, Frankenstein, Haunt Ideas Images on Pinterest,” “DIY Mad Scientist Lab Prop on Pinterest.” By the way, there’s a video segment in here, which is all YouTube. This happens quite a bit when there is heavy, heavy visual content. You essentially see the domain crowding single-domain domination of search results. What does that mean? Don’t do SEO on your site, or fine, do it on your site, but also do it on Pinterest and also do it on YouTube.

If you’re creating content like these guys are over here, BigCommerce and Shopify created these great pieces for beautiful ecommerce designs, they’ve put together a ton of images, wonderful. You can apply that same strategy for this. But then what should you do? Go to Pinterest, upload all those images, create a board, try and get your images shared, do some Pinterest SEO essentially. Do the same thing on YouTube. Have a bunch of examples in a short video that shows all the stuff that you’re creating and then upload that to YouTube. Preferably have a channel. Preferably have a few videos so that you can potentially rank multiple times in here, because you know that many people are going here. This is pretty far down. So this is probably less than 10% of searchers make it here, but still a ton of opportunity. Very different type of search intent than what we saw in these previous two.

Look at the related searches — homemade mad scientist lab props, mad scientist props DIY, do it yourself, how to make mad scientist props. These intents are, generally speaking, not being served by any of these results yet. If you scroll far enough in the YouTube videos here, there’s actually one video that is a how-to, but most of these are just showing stuff off. That to me is a content opportunity. You could make your Pinterest board potentially using some of these, DIY homemade, how to make, make that your Pinterest board, and probably, I’m going to guess that you will have a very good chance of pushing these other Pinterest results out of here and dominating those.

So a few takeaways, just some short ones before we end here.

  1. In the SEO world, don’t target content without first understanding the searcher. We can be very misled by just looking at keywords. If we look at the search results first, we can get inside the searcher’s head a little bit. Hopefully, we can have some real conversations with those folks too.
  2. Second, Google SERPs, search suggest, related searches, they can all help with problem number one.
  3. Three, gaps in serving intent can yield ranking opportunity, like we showed in a few of these examples.
  4. Finally, don’t be afraid to disrupt your own business or your own content or your own selfish interest in order to serve searchers. In the long term, it will be better for you.

You can see that exemplified here by Shopify saying, “We’re going to show off a bunch of beautiful ecommerce designs even though some of them are not from Shopify.” BigCommerce did the same thing. Even though some of them are not using BigCommerce’s platform, they basically are willing to sacrifice some of that in order to serve searchers and build their brand, because they know if they don’t, somebody else clearly will.

All right, everyone. Hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. I would love to hear your examples in the comments about how you’ve done search intent interpretation through looking at search results. We’ll see you again next week. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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