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How to Target Featured Snippet Opportunities — Best of Whiteboard Friday

Posted by BritneyMuller

Once you’ve identified where the opportunity to nab a featured snippet lies, how do you go about targeting it? Part One of our “Featured Snippet Opportunities” series focused on how to discover places where you may be able to win a snippet, but today we’re focusing on how to actually make changes that’ll help you do that. 

Joining us at MozCon next week? This video is a great lead up to Britney’s talk: Featured Snippets: Essentials to Know & How to Target.

Give a warm, Mozzy welcome to Britney as she shares pro tips and examples of how we’ve been able to snag our own snippets using her methodology.

Target featured snippet opportunities

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Video Transcription

Today, we are going over targeting featured snippets, Part 2 of our featured snippets series. Super excited to dive into this.

What’s a featured snippet?

For those of you that need a little brush-up, what’s a featured snippet? Let’s say you do a search for something like, “Are pigs smarter than dogs?” You’re going to see an answer box that says, “Pigs outperform three-year old human children on cognitive tests and are smarter than any domestic animal. Animal experts consider them more trainable than cats or dogs.” How cool is that? But you’ll likely see these answer boxes for all sorts of things. So something to sort of keep an eye on. How do you become a part of that featured snippet box? How do you target those opportunities?

Last time, we talked about finding keywords that you rank on page one for that also have a featured snippet. There are a couple ways to do that. We talk about it in the first video. Something I do want to mention, in doing some of that the last couple weeks, is that Ahrefs can help you discover your featured snippet opportunities. I had no idea that was possible. Really cool, go check them out. If you don’t have Ahrefs and maybe you have Moz or SEMrush, don’t worry, you can do the same sort of thing with a Vlookup.

So I know this looks a little crazy for those of you that aren’t familiar. Super easy. It basically allows you to combine two sets of data to show you where some of those opportunities are. So happy to link to some of those resources down below or make a follow-up video on how to do just that.

1. Identify

All right. So step one is identifying these opportunities. You want to find the keywords that you’re on page one for that also have this answer box. You want to weigh the competitive search volume against qualified traffic. Initially, you might want to just go after search volume. I highly suggest you sort of reconsider and evaluate where might the qualified traffic come from and start to go after those.

2. Understand

From there, you really just want to understand the intent, more so even beyond this table that I have suggested for you. To be totally honest, I’m doing all of this with you. It’s been a struggle, and it’s been fun, but sometimes this isn’t very helpful. Sometimes it is. But a lot of times I’m not even looking at some of this stuff when I’m comparing the current featured snippet page and the page that we currently rank on page one for. I’ll tell you what I mean in a second.

3. Target

So we have an example of how I’ve been able to already steal one. Hopefully, it helps you. How do you target your keywords that have the featured snippet?

  • Simplifying and cleaning up your pages does wonders. Google wants to provide a very simple, cohesive, quick answer for searchers and for voice searches. So definitely try to mold the content in a way that’s easy to consume.
  • Summaries do well. Whether they’re at the top of the page or at the bottom, they tend to do very, very well.
  • Competitive markup, if you see a current featured snippet that is marked up in a particular way, you can do so to be a little bit more competitive.
  • Provide unique info
  • Dig deeper, go that extra mile, provide something else. Provide that value.

How To Target Featured Snippet Examples

What are some examples? So these are just some examples that I personally have been running into and I’ve been working on cleaning up.

  • Roman numerals. I am trying to target a list result, and the page we currently rank on number one for has Roman numerals. Maybe it’s a big deal, maybe it’s not. I just changed them to numbers to see what’s going to happen. I’ll keep you posted.
  • Fix broken links. But I’m also just going through our page and cleaning it. We have a lot of older content. I’m fixing broken links. I have the Check My Links tool. It’s a Chrome add-on plugin that I just click and it tells me what’s a 404 or what I might need to update.
  • Fixing spelling errors or any grammatical errors that may have slipped through editors’ eyes. I use Grammarly. I have the free version. It works really well, super easy. I’ve even found some super old posts that have the double or triple spacing after a period. It drives me crazy, but cleaning some of that stuff up.
  • Deleting extra markup. You might see some additional breaks, not necessarily like that ampersand. But you know what I mean in WordPress where it’s that weird little thing for that break in the space, you can clean those out. Some extra, empty header markup, feel free to delete those. You’re just cleaning and simplifying and improving your page.

One interesting thing that I’ve come across recently was for the keyword “MozRank.” Our page is beautifully written, perfectly optimized. It has all the things in place to be that featured snippet, but it’s not. That is when I fell back and I started to rely on some of this data. I saw that the current featured snippet page has all these links.

So I started to look into what are some easy backlinks I might be able to grab for that page. I came across Quora that had a question about MozRank, and I noticed that — this is a side tip — you can suggest edits to Quora now, which is amazing. So I suggested a link to our Moz page, and within the notes I said, “Hello, so and so. I found this great resource on MozRank. It completely confirms your wonderful answer. Thank you so much, Britney.”

I don’t know if that’s going to work. I know it’s a nofollow. I hope it can send some qualified traffic. I’ll keep you posted on that. But kind of a fun tip to be aware of.

How we nabbed the “find backlinks” featured snippet

All right. How did I nab the featured snippet “find backlinks”? This surprised me, because I hardly changed much at all, and we were able to steal that featured snippet quite easily. We were currently in the fourth position, and this was the old post that was in the fourth position. These are the updates I made that are now in the featured snippet.

Clean up the title

So we go from the title “How to Find Your Competitor’s Backlinks Next Level” to “How to Find Backlinks.” I’m just simplifying, cleaning it up.

Clean up the H2s

The first H2, “How to Check the Backlinks of a Site.” Clean it up, “How to Find Backlinks?” That’s it. I don’t change step one. These are all in H3s. I leave them in the H3s. I’m just tweaking text a little bit here and there.

Simplify and clarify your explanations/remove redundancies

I changed “Enter your competitor’s domain URL” — it felt a little duplicate — to “Enter your competitor’s URL.” Let’s see. “Export results into CSV,” what kind of results? I changed that to “export backlink data into CSV.” “Compile CSV results from all competitors,” what kind of results? “Compile backlink CSV results from all competitors.”

So you can look through this. All I’m doing is simplifying and adding backlinks to clarify some of it, and we were able to nab that.

So hopefully that example helps. I’m going to continue to sort of drudge through a bunch of these with you. I look forward to any of your comments, any of your efforts down below in the comments. Definitely looking forward to Part 3 and to chatting with you all soon.

Thank you so much for joining me on this edition of Whiteboard Friday. I look forward to seeing you all soon. See you.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


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How to Make a Technical SEO Recommendation – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by BenjaminEstes

After you’ve put in the work with technical SEO and made your discoveries, there’s one thing left to do: present your findings to the client and agree on next steps. And like many things in our industry, that’s easier said than done. In this week’s episode of Whiteboard Friday, Benjamin Estes from Distilled presents his framework for making technical recommendations to clients and stakeholders to best position you for success

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Video Transcription

Hi. My name is Ben. I’m a principal consultant at a company called Distilled. Welcome to Whiteboard Friday. Today I’d like to talk to you about something a bit different than most Whiteboard Fridays.

I’d like to talk about how to work with clients or bosses in a different way. Instead of thinking about technical SEO and how to make technical discoveries or see what problems are, I want to talk about how to present your findings to your client after you’ve done that discovery. 

Problem

What’s the problem that we’re dealing with here? Well, the scenario is that we’ve got a recommendation and we’re presenting it to a client or a boss.

Easy enough. But what’s the goal of that situation? I would argue that there’s a very specific goal, and the best way to look at it is the goal is to change the action of the individual or the organization. Now, what if that wasn’t the case? You know, what if you worked with a client and none of their actions changed as a result of that engagement? Well, what was the point?

You know, should they have even trusted you in the first place to come in and help them? So if this is the specific goal that we’re trying to accomplish, what’s the best way to do that? Most people jump right to persuasion. They say, “If only I could something, the client would listen to me.” “If only I could present the forecast.”

If only I could justify the ROI, something, some mysterious research that probably hasn’t been done yet and maybe can’t even be done at all. My argument here is that the idea of persuasion is toxic. When you say, “If only I could this,” really what you mean is, “If only I had the evidence, the client would have to do as I say.” You’re trying to get control over the client when you say these things.

It turns out that human beings basically do whatever they want to do, and no matter how well you make your case, if it’s made for your reasons and not the client’s, they’re still not going to want to do the thing that you recommend. So I’ve introduced a framework at Distilled that helps us get past this, and that’s what I’d like to share with you right now.

Approach

The key to this method is that at each step of the process you allow the client to solve the problem for themselves. You give them the opportunity to see the problem from their own perspective and maybe even come up with their own solution. There are three steps to this. 

1. Suggest

First, you suggest the problem.

When I say “suggest,” I don’t mean suggest a solution. I mean you plant the idea in their mind that this is a problem that needs solving. It’s almost like inception. So you first say, “Here is what I see.” Hold up the mirror to them. Make the observations that they haven’t yet made themselves. 

2. Demonstrate

Step two, demonstrate, and what demonstrate means is you’re allowing them to emulate your behavior.

You’re demonstrating what you would do in that situation if you had to deal with the same problem. So you say, “Here’s what I would do if I were in your shoes.” 

3. Elaborate

Finally, you elaborate. You say, “Here’s why I think this is a reasonable activity.” Now I’ve got to be honest. Most of the time, in my experience, if you use this framework, you never even make it to elaboration, because the client solves the problem somewhere back here and you can just end the meeting.

The key, again, is to let the client solve the problem for themselves, for their own reason, in the way that they feel most comfortable. 

Example

Let’s look at an example, because that is, again, kind of abstract. So let’s say that you’ve made an observation in Google Search Console. The client has all these pages that Google has discovered, but they shouldn’t really be in the index or indexable or discoverable at all.

Start by suggesting

So you start by suggesting. “I see in Search Console that Google has discovered 18 million pages,”when it should be, let’s say, 10,000. “This is from your faceted navigation.” Now notice there’s no judgment. There’s no hint at what should be done about this or even the severity of the problem. You’re just presenting the numbers.

Now we’re already sort of at a turning point. Maybe the client hears this and they do a sort of a head slap and they say, “Of course. You know, I hadn’t seen that problem before. But here’s what I think we should do about it.” You reach some sort of agreement, and the problem is solved and the meeting is over and you get that hour back in your day. But maybe they sort of have some sort of questions about what this means, what this implies, and they want to hear your solution.

Demonstrate what you would do

Well, now it’s time to demonstrate what you would do when presented with that fact. You say, “This would be fixed by adding ‘nofollow’ to links to that faceted content.” Maybe they see how this is an obvious solution to the problem that’s completely compatible with their tech stack, and again you get 50 minutes back in your day because the meeting is done.

You’ve done your job. Or maybe they don’t. Maybe they don’t understand why that would be a good solution. 

Finally, elaborate

So finally, you get to this stage, which is elaboration. “Here’s why I think this is a good idea. These pages are important for user experience. You don’t want to get rid of the faceted navigation in your e-commerce store, but you do want to not link to those pages for SEO reasons, because maybe there’s no search volume for related terms.”

So for a particular cost range for an item or something like that, there’s just no associated search activity. You need the pages still. So you say, “These pages are important for user experience, but they don’t satisfy any search intent.” At that point, the client says, “Of course. You’ve come up with the ideal solution, and I’m going to implement your recommendation exactly as you’ve given it to me.”



Or they don’t. If they don’t, you’re no worse off. You can basically walk out of that meeting saying, “I’ve done everything possible to get the client on board with my recommendation, but it just didn’t work out.” That feeling of being able to know that you did the right thing has been a very powerful one, at least in my experience. I’ve been consulting for about eight years, and just going through this process helps me sleep better at night knowing that I really did my job.

We’ve also found that this has a really high success rate with clients too. Finally, you’ll discover that it’s much, much easier to put together presentations if you know that this is the format that you’re going to be presenting in. So if you think that your job is to give the evidence to the client to convince them of something, there’s really no end to the evidence that you could gather.

You could always gather more evidence, and when you get to that final meeting, you can say, “Oh, it’s not because I saw the problem in the wrong way or I communicated it in the wrong way.It’s that I didn’t justify the ROI enough.” There’s no leaving that. That rabbit hole just keeps going, just keeps going. So again, this method has been extremely successful for Distilled. If you’re interested in engaging with this more, you can read at this URL, dis.tl/present, where I give a more thorough write-up on this.

Of course, I’d love to hear any thoughts or experiences that you have with this method. Thank you very much.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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How to Deliver JSON-LD Recommendations the Easy Way – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by sergeystefoglo

When you work with large clients whose sites comprise thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of pages, it’s a daunting task to add the necessary markup. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, we welcome Sergey Stefoglo to share his framework for delivering JSON-LD recommendations in a structured and straightforward way.

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Video Transcription

Hello, Moz fans. My name is Serge. I’m a consultant at Distilled, and this is another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today I want to take the next few minutes to talk to you about one of my processes for delivering JSON-LD recommendations.

Now it’s worth noting upfront that at Distilled we work with a lot of large clients that have a lot of pages on their website, thousands, hundreds of thousands of pages. So if you work at an agency that works with local businesses or smaller clients, this process may be a bit overkill, but I hope you find some use in it regardless.

So as I mentioned, oftentimes at Distilled we get clients that have hundreds and thousands of pages on their site, and you can imagine if your point of contact comes to you and essentially asks, “Hey, we don’t have any markup on our site. Can you recommend all of the JSON-LD on all the pages, please?” If you’re anything like me, that could be a bit daunting, right, like that’s a big ask. Your wheels start spinning so to speak, and oftentimes that leads to a little bit of unproductivity. So I hope this process kind of helps get you unstuck and get started and get to work.

Step 1: List out all the page templates

The first step in this process essentially is to list out all of the templates on the site. I’m assuming you’re going to be dealing with an e-commerce site or something like that. That’s really the way that you’re going to break down this problem and take it from kind of a larger picture, where someone comes to you and says, “Hey, I need all of the things on all of the things,” and you break it down and say, “Okay, well, really what I need to focus on is a section at a time, and what I need to do is give recommendations for each section at a time.” To me, that’s a much more kind of organized way to come at this, and it’s helped me a lot.

So when you list out the templates, if you’ve had this client for a while, you probably already know the templates that they have. If they’re new, it’s worth getting familiar with their site and thinking about things at a template level regardless. So just simply hopping on the site, browsing around, and making a list of, yes, they have product pages and category pages and some different variations of those. They have blog pages and a bunch of other kinds of pages. It’s good to be familiar with them. Our goal is to essentially recommend JSON-LD for each of those templates. So that’s really the first step is getting clear on which templates we’re looking at and what exists on the site.

Step 2: Choose one template and note what can be marked up

The second step is to choose one of those templates, just one, for example, like the product page template, and essentially go through that page and jot down anything you think that can be marked up. Now if you’ve recommended schema before or if you’ve worked with JSON-LD or any kind of markup, you’ll be familiar with a lot of the kind of standards across the board, and it does get familiar over time. So once you do this your 2nd time or 3rd time or 10th time, you’ll have a good idea of what kind of markup goes on a product page or what kind of markup goes on a category page.

If it’s your first time, just go on the page and I’d encourage you to just browse through and look at schema.org or some other example sites that are similar, see what they’re doing, and kind of jot down by yourself, in a notebook or something, what you think can be marked up. So on a product page, you can note down that, yes, there’s an image of the product. There’s a price. There’s a URL. There are breadcrumbs on the page. There are reviews, etc. You’re just going through and kind of making a list of that very simply.

Step 3: Convert notes into JSON-LD, validate with the schema testing tool, and paste into doc

The next step is to essentially take those notes and convert them into JSON-LD. At this point, people tend to kind of freak out a little bit, but you don’t have to be a developer to do this. It’s very accessible. If this is your first time going about it, I’m not going to get into all of the specifics on how to do that. This is more of a framework of approaching that. But there are a lot of great articles that I can link to. Just reach out to me and I can hook you up with that.

    But the third step, again, is to convert those notes into actual JSON-LD. That process is fairly straightforward. What I like to do is open up the page or a representative URL from that template that I’m working on. So for a product page, open that up in my browser. I would like to have schema.org open. That’s kind of the canonical resource for schema information. Then I also like to have a few competitor sites open that are similar. If you’re working on an e-commerce brand, you’re fortunate that there are a lot of great examples of sites that are doing this well, and that’s publicly available to you and you can check out what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.

    So my process is kind of just going through that list, going on schema.org or going on a competitor’s site or a previous site you’ve worked on. If you’re looking at something like, let’s say, the cost of the product, you can look that up on schema.org. You can see that there’s an Offer-type markup. You can copy that into the schema testing tool and essentially validate that it works. Once you validate it, you just go down the list further. If you start off with the price, you can move on to breadcrumbs, etc.

    At the end of step three, you essentially have all of the JSON-LD that you need and certainly the core elements to kind of start down the next step.

    Step 4: Check with your point-of-contact/developer!

    The next step is to pause and check in with your point of contact, because if you’re working on a large-scale site and you’re going to have 10 or 15 of these templates you’re working on for JSON-LD, it’s worthwhile to essentially say, “Hey, can we do a 30-minute check-in because I’m done with the first template and I want to make sure that this all makes sense and this is in a format that’s going to be good for you?”

    Speaking of format, what I like to do personally is just use Google Drive, set up a folder in the client folder and title it JSON-LD, give the client access to that, and within that folder you’re just going to have a bunch of different documents, and each document is going to be per template. So for the product page example, you would have a document in that folder titled “Product JSON-LD,” and you would copy any of the JSON-LD that you validated in the schema testing tool and paste it in that doc. That’s what you would be walking through with your point of contact or with the developer. Pretty much take any feedback they have. If they want it in a different format, take that into account and revise it and meet with them again. But pretty much get a green light before moving forward to work on the other templates.

    Step 5: Repeat from Step 2 onward for all your templates

    That’s really the next step is, at that point, once you have the green light and the developer feels good about it or your point of contact feels good about it, you’re just going to kind of rinse and repeat. So you’re going to go back to Step 2, and you’re going to choose another template. If you’ve done the product page one, hop over to the category page template and do the same thing. Jot down what can be marked up. Transfer those notes into JSON-LD using competitor sites or similar sites, using schema.org, and using the structured data validating tool. It’s the same process. At that point, you’re just kind of on cruise control. It’s nice because it takes, again, something that initially could have been fairly stressful, at least for me, and it breaks it down in a way that makes sense and you can focus because of that.

    So again, this process has worked really well for me. At Distilled, we like to think about kind of frameworks and how to approach bigger problems like this and break them down and kind of make them more simple, because we’ve found that allows us to do our best work. This is just one of those processes.

    So that’s all I have for you all today. Thank you so much for tuning in. If you have any questions or comments, or if you have any experiences kind of implementing or recommending JSON-LD, I’d love to hear them. So give me a shout on Twitter or in the comments or anything like that. Thank you so much for tuning in, and we will see you next time.

    Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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    How to Strategically Think About Technical SEO – Whiteboard Friday

    Posted by BenjaminEstes

    We’ve all agreed that technical SEO is integral, and many of us know at least a little bit about the subject if we’re not already practitioners. But have you considered that the way you think about technical SEO could be hindering or helping your success? Today, Ben Estes from Distilled shares the agency’s tried-and-true framework for tackling technical SEO quandaries strategically.

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    Video Transcription

    Hi. Welcome to another Whiteboard Friday. My name is Ben, and I’m a principal consultant at a company called Distilled. Today I’d like to talk to you about how we think about technical SEO at Distilled. Now, technical SEO is something that a lot of people know a lot of stuff about.

    You accumulate knowledge over time from a lot of different sources, and that’s where a lot of the value that we deliver comes from. But not everyone can think about technical SEO from a strategic perspective, and that’s the skill that I think we should talk more about. 

    Framing the problem

    Let’s start by framing the problem. So look at these charts. Now, I would argue that most people’s mental model of technical SEO matches this first chart.

    So in this chart, the solid black line is the actual traffic that you’re getting, whereas the dotted line is the hypothetical traffic you could be getting if all of the technical problems on your site were resolved. So some people see this and say, “Well, you know, if I can just keep fixing technical things, I can keep getting more traffic to my site.”

    That’s one way of looking at it, but I would argue that it’s not the best way of looking at it, because really there are only so many technical things that can go wrong with your site. There’s a finite number of problems. It’s not an opportunity so much as an issue that needs to be resolved. So what I try and encourage my clients and colleagues to do is think about it in this way.

    So it’s the same chart and the same situation. Here’s the actual traffic that you’re getting and the hypothetical traffic you could be getting. But really what’s happening is your technical problems are keeping you from realizing the most potential traffic that you could be capturing. In other words, there are technical issues preventing us from capturing all the traffic that we could. Now, once you’ve framed the problem in this way, how do you solve it?

    So some people just say, “Well, I’ve got this big problem. I need to understand how all the things that could be wrong with this site. I’m just going to dive in. I’m going to go through page by page, and I’ll finish when either I run out of pages or more realistically I run out of time or I run out of the client’s budget. So what if there’s a better way to actually solve that problem and know that it’s been solved?

    Well, that’s what this framework that I’m going to present to you is about. The way that we would recommend doing that is by taking the big problem, the overall problem of technical SEO and breaking it down into subproblems and breaking those down again until you have problems that are so small that they are trivially solvable. Now, I’m going to explain to you exactly how we accomplish that, and it’s going to be a little bit abstract.

    The approach

    So if you want something concrete to follow along with, I’d recommend checking out the blog post at this URL. That’s dis.tl/tech-audit. Okay. So when you have a big problem that you’re trying to break down, many people’s first attempt winds up looking something like this Venn diagram. So we take one problem, break it down into three subproblems, but there’s some sort of overlap between those problems.

    Once there’s overlap, you lose a lot of confidence. There is, are you duplicating effort across these different areas? Or did you miss something because these two things are kind of the same? Everything just gets a little hazy very quickly. So to get past that, what I’ve used at Distilled is this consulting concept called MECE.

    Mutually exclusive and comprehensively exhaustive

    MECE stands for mutually exclusive and comprehensively exhaustive. That’s a lot of fancy words, so I’ll show you pictorially what I mean. So instead of having a Venn diagram like this, what if each of the problems was completely independent? Now they still cover the same area. There’s just no overlap between them, and that’s what MECE means.

    Because there is no overlap between them, they are mutually exclusive. Because they cover all of the original problem, they’re comprehensively exhaustive. So what does this mean in technical SEO specifically? Now remember the problem that we’re dealing with is that there are technical issues preventing us from capturing traffic that we would otherwise be able to. So what are the three ways that that could happen? 

    1. Maybe our content isn’t being indexed. There’s a technical reason our content isn’t being indexed. 
    2. Our content doesn’t rank as well as it could, and therefore we’re losing this traffic. 
    3. There is a technical reason our content isn’t being presented as well as it could be in the SERPs.

    This is things like having rich snippets, stars, things like that that could increase click-through rate. These things seem kind of trivial, but actually all of the technical problems that you can find on your site contribute to one or more of these three categories. So again, that was pretty abstract. So let’s talk about an example of how that actually plays out. This is actually the first technical check in this audit at that blog post.

    An example

    So, for instance, we’re starting by considering there is a technical reason our content isn’t being indexed. Well, what are all the ways that that could happen? One of the ways is that URLs are not discoverable by crawlers, and, again, that is a whole thing in itself that can be broken down further.

    So maybe it’s that our XML sitemaps aren’t uploaded to Google Search Console. Of course, this isn’t a guarantee that we have a problem. But if there’s a problem down here, there’s a pretty good chance that that trickles back up to a problem up here that we’re really concerned about. The beauty of this isn’t just that it winds up helping us create a checklist so that we know all of the technical issues we ought to be looking at.

    

    But it also helps us convey exactly what the meaning is of our findings and why people should care about them. So this is the template that I encourage my colleagues to use at Distilled. “We are seeing ________. This is a problem because something.You should care about that because something else.” The way this works is like Mad Lib style, except we work like inside out.

    So we start with this point here. We are seeing that our XML sitemaps aren’t uploaded to Google Search Console. This is a problem because maybe URLs are not discoverable by crawlers. We should care about that because there is a technical reason our content isn’t being indexed, and that right there is exactly the message that you deliver to your client.

    So again, this is exactly the framework that we use for our technical audits at Distilled. It’s given us a lot more confidence. It’s given us a lot more insight into how long this process should take for our analysts and consultants, and it’s also got us better outcomes particularly because it’s helped us communicate better about what we found. Thank you very much. I would love if more people use this, and feel free to reach out to me personally if you have any thoughts or questions.

    Thank you.

    Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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    7 SEO Title Tag Hacks for Increased Rankings + Traffic – Best of Whiteboard Friday

    Posted by Cyrus-Shepard

    We’re bringing back an oldie but a goodie this Friday! In today’s highly popular throwback, Cyrus Shepard calls out seven super-easy and timeless hacks to keep your title tags clickable in the SERPs. Check them out and share your own with us in the comments below!

    Title tag hacks for increased rankings and traffics

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

    Video Transcription

    Howdy, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. I’m very excited to be here today. My name is Cyrus. I’m a Moz associate. Today I want to talk you about title tags, specifically title tag hacks to increase your traffic and rankings.

    Now, you may be asking yourself, “Are title tags even still important today in SEO?” You bet they are. We’ve done a lot of correlation studies in the past. Those correlation studies have shown different things sort of decreasing in the past years. But we’ve also seen a lot of experiments recently where people have changed their title tag and seen a significant, measurable increase in their rankings.

    Now, the other aspect of title tags that people sometimes forget about is the click-through rate that you get, which can measurably increase your traffic if you get the title tag right. Now, what’s neat about increasing your traffic through click-through rate is we’ve seen a lot of experiments, Rand has experimented a lot, that if you can increase this, you can measurably increase this.

    Traffic through increased clicks can seem to increase your rankings under certain circumstances. So you get the dual benefit. So that’s what I want to talk to you about today — increasing those rankings, increasing that traffic by changing the first thing that your visitor is going to see in the SERPs.

    So the important thing to remember is that these are things to experiment with. Not all of these hacks are going to work for you. SEO is founded in best practices, but true success is founded when you experiment and try different things. So try some of these out and these will give you an idea of where to get started in some of your title tag experiments.

    1. Numbers

    Numbers kind of pop out at you. These are examples: “5 Signs of a Zombie Apocalypse” or “How Mutants Can Save 22% on Car Insurance.”

    • Cognitive Bias – Standout specific – When you see these in SERPs, they tend to get a slightly higher click-through rate sometimes. This works because of a cognitive bias. Our brains are trained to find things that stand out and are specific. When you’re scanning search results, that’s a lot of information. So your brain is going to try to find some things that it can grasp on to, and numbers are the ultimate things that are both specific and they stand out. So sometimes, in certain circumstances, you can get a higher click-through rate by using numbers in your title tags.

    2. Dates

    Rand did an excellent Whiteboard Friday a few weeks ago, we’ll link to it below. These are things like “Best Actress Oscar Nominee 2017″ or even more specific, you can get the month in there, “Top NFL Fantasy Draft Picks September 2017.”

    Now, Rand talks about this a lot. He talks about ways of finding dates in your keyword research. The key in that research is when you’re using tools like Keyword Explorer or Google AdWords or SEMrush, you have to look for previous years. So if I was searching for this year’s, we don’t have enough data yet for 2017, so I would look for “Best Actress Oscar Nominee 2016.”

    • Leverage your CMS – If you use WordPress, if you use Yoast plugin, you can actually have your title tags update automatically year-to-year or even month-to-month leveraging that. It’s not right for all circumstances, but for certain keyword queries it works pretty well.

    3. Length

    This is one of the most controversial, something that causes the most angst in SEO is when we’re doing audits or looking at title tags. Inevitably, when you’re doing an SEO audit, you find two things. You find title tags that are way too short, “Pantsuit,” or title tags that are way, way, way too long because they just want to stuff every keyword in there, “Tahiti ASL Red Pantsuit with Line Color, Midrise Belt, Hook-eye Zipper, Herringbone Knit at Macy’s.”

    Now, these two, they’re great title tags, but there are two problems with this. This is way too broad. “Pantsuit” could be anything. This title tag is way too diluted. It’s hard to really know what that is about. You’re trying to scan it. You’re trying to read it. Search engines are going to look at it the same way. Is this about a pantsuit? Is it about herringbone knit? It’s kind of hard.

    • Etsy study – So Etsy recently did a study where Etsy measured hundreds of thousands of URLs and they shortened their title tags, because, more often than not, the longer title tag is a problem. Shorter title tags, not so much. You see longer title tags in the wild more often. When they shortened the title tags, they saw a measurable increase in rankings.
    • 50–60 Characters – This is one of those things where best practices usually is the best way to go because the optimal length is usually 50 to 60 characters.
    • Use top keywords – When you’re deciding what keywords to put it when you’re shortening this, that’s where you want to use your keyword research and find the keywords that your visitors are actually using.

    So if I go into my Analytics or Google Search Console, I can see that people are actually searching for “pantsuit,” “Macy’s,” and maybe something like that. I can come up with a title tag that fits within those parameters, “Tahiti ASL Red Pantsuit,” “pantsuits” the category, “Macy’s.” That’s going to be your winning title tag and you’ll probably see an increase in rankings.

    4. Synonyms and variants

    Now, you’ll notice in this last title tag, the category was a plural of pantsuit. That can actually help in some circumstances. But it’s important to realize that how you think your searchers are searching may not be how they’re actually searching.

    Let’s say you do your keyword research and your top keywords are “cheap taxis.” You want to optimize for cheap taxis. Well, people may be looking for that in different ways. They may be looking for “affordable cabs” or “low cost” or “cheap Ubers,” things like that.

    So you want to use those variants, find out what the synonyms and variants are and incorporate those into your title tag. So my title tag might be “Fast Affordable Cabs, Quick Taxi, Your Cheap Ride.” That’s optimized for like three different things within that 50 to 60 word limit, and it’s going to hit all those variants and you can actually rank a little higher for using that.

    • Use SERPs/keyword tools – The way you find these synonyms and variants, you can certainly look in the SERPs. Type your keyword into the SERPs, into Google and see what they highlight bold in the search results. That will often give you the variants that people are looking for, that people also ask at the bottom of the page. Your favorite keyword tool, such as Keyword Explorer or SEMrush or whatever you choose and also your Analytics. Google Search Console is a great source of information for these synonyms and variants.

    5. Call to action

    Now, you won’t often find the call-to-action words in your keyword research, but they really help people click. These are action verbs.

    • Action wordsbuy, find download, search, listen, watch, learn, and access. When you use these, they give a little bit more excitement because they indicate that the user will be able to do something beyond the keyword. So they’re not necessarily typing it in the search box. When they see it in results, it can create, “Oh wow, I get to download something.” It provides a little something extra, and you can increase your click-through rates that way.

    6. Top referring keywords

    This is a little overlooked, and it’s sort of an advanced concept. Oftentimes we optimize our page for one set of keywords, but the traffic that comes to it is another set of keywords. But what’s very powerful is when people type their words into the search box and they see those exact same words in the title tags, that’s going to increase your click-through rate.

    For an example, I went into the analytics here at Moz and I looked at Followerwonk. I found the top referring keywords in Google Search Console are “Twitter search,” “search Twitter bios,” and “Twitter analytics.” Those are how people or what people are looking for right before they click on the Followerwonk listing in Google.

    So using that information, I might write a title tag like “Search Twitter Bios with Followerwonk, the Twitter Analytics Tool.” That’s a pretty good title tag. I’m kind of proud of that. But you can see it hits all my major keywords that people are using. So when I type in “Twitter analytics” into the search box and I see “The Twitter Analytics Tool,” I’m more likely to click on that.

    So I’ve written about this before, but it’s very important to optimize your page, not only for the traffic you’re trying to get, but the traffic you’re actually receiving. When you can marry those two, you can be stronger in all aspects.

    7. Questions

    Questions are great tools to use in your title tags. These are things like, “Where Do Butterflies Migrate?” Maybe your keyword is just “butterflies migrate.” But by asking a question, you create a curiosity gap, and you give people an incentive to click. Or “What is PageRank?” That’s something we do here at Moz. So you get the curiosity gap.

    But oftentimes, by asking a question, you get the bonus of winning a featured snippet. Britney Muller wrote an awesome, awesome post about this a while back about questions people also ask, how to find those in your keyword research and claim those featured snippets and claim “people also ask” boxes. It’s a great, great way to increase your traffic.

    So these are seven tips. Let us know your tips for title tags in the comments below. If you like this video, I’d appreciate a thumbs up. Share it with your friends on social media. I’ll see you next time. Thanks, everybody.

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    10 Basic SEO Tips to Index + Rank New Content Faster – Whiteboard Friday

    Posted by Cyrus-Shepard

    In SEO, speed is a competitive advantage.

    When you publish new content, you want users to find it ranking in search results as fast as possible. Fortunately, there are a number of tips and tricks in the SEO toolbox to help you accomplish this goal. Sit back, turn up your volume, and let Cyrus Shepard show you exactly how in this week’s Whiteboard Friday.

    [Note: #3 isn't covered in the video, but we've included in the post below. Enjoy!]

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

    Video Transcription

    Howdy, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. I’m Cyrus Shepard, back in front of the whiteboard. So excited to be here today. We’re talking about ten tips to index and rank new content faster.

    You publish some new content on your blog, on your website, and you sit around and you wait. You wait for it to be in Google’s index. You wait for it to rank. It’s a frustrating process that can take weeks or months to see those rankings increase. There are a few simple things we can do to help nudge Google along, to help them index it and rank it faster. Some very basic things and some more advanced things too. We’re going to dive right in.

    Indexing

    1. URL Inspection / Fetch & Render

    So basically, indexing content is not that hard in Google. Google provides us with a number of tools. The simplest and fastest is probably the URL Inspection tool. It’s in the new Search Console, previously Fetch and Render. As of this filming, both tools still exist. They are depreciating Fetch and Render. The new URL Inspection tool allows you to submit a URL and tell Google to crawl it. When you do that, they put it in their priority crawl queue. That just simply means Google has a list of URLs to crawl. It goes into the priority, and it’s going to get crawled faster and indexed faster.

    2. Sitemaps!

    Another common technique is simply using sitemaps. If you’re not using sitemaps, it’s one of the easiest, quickest ways to get your URLs indexed. When you have them in your sitemap, you want to let Google know that they’re actually there. There’s a number of different techniques that can actually optimize this process a little bit more.

    The first and the most basic one that everybody talks about is simply putting it in your robots.txt file. In your robots.txt, you have a list of directives, and at the end of your robots.txt, you simply say sitemap and you tell Google where your sitemaps are. You can do that for sitemap index files. You can list multiple sitemaps. It’s really easy.

    Sitemap in robots.txt

    You can also do it using the Search Console Sitemap Report, another report in the new Search Console. You can go in there and you can submit sitemaps. You can remove sitemaps, validate. You can also do this via the Search Console API.

    But a really cool way of informing Google of your sitemaps, that a lot of people don’t use, is simply pinging Google. You can do this in your browser URL. You simply type in google.com/ping, and you put in the sitemap with the URL. You can try this out right now with your current sitemaps. Type it into the browser bar and Google will instantly queue that sitemap for crawling, and all the URLs in there should get indexed quickly if they meet Google’s quality standard.

    Example: https://www.google.com/ping?sitemap=https://example.com/sitemap.xml

    3. Google Indexing API

    (BONUS: This wasn’t in the video, but we wanted to include it because it’s pretty awesome)

    Within the past few months, both Google and Bing have introduced new APIs to help speed up and automate the crawling and indexing of URLs.

    Both of these solutions allow for the potential of massively speeding up indexing by submitting 100s or 1000s of URLs via an API.

    While the Bing API is intended for any new/updated URL, Google states that their API is specifically for “either job posting or livestream structured data.” That said, many SEOs like David Sottimano have experimented with Google APIs and found it to work with a variety of content types.

    If you want to use these indexing APIs yourself, you have a number of potential options:

    Yoast announced they will soon support live indexing across both Google and Bing within their SEO WordPress plugin.

    Indexing & ranking

    That’s talking about indexing. Now there are some other ways that you can get your content indexed faster and help it to rank a little higher at the same time.

    4. Links from important pages

    When you publish new content, the basic, if you do nothing else, you want to make sure that you are linking from important pages. Important pages may be your homepage, adding links to the new content, your blog, your resources page. This is a basic step that you want to do. You don’t want to orphan those pages on your site with no incoming links. 

    Adding the links tells Google two things. It says we need to crawl this link sometime in the future, and it gets put in the regular crawling queue. But it also makes the link more important. Google can say, “Well, we have important pages linking to this. We have some quality signals to help us determine how to rank it.” So linking from important pages.

    5. Update old content 

    But a step that people oftentimes forget is not only link from your important pages, but you want to go back to your older content and find relevant places to put those links. A lot of people use a link on their homepage or link to older articles, but they forget that step of going back to the older articles on your site and adding links to the new content.

    Now what pages should you add from? One of my favorite techniques is to use this search operator here, where you type in the keywords that your content is about and then you do a site:example.com. This allows you to find relevant pages on your site that are about your target keywords, and those make really good targets to add those links to from your older content.

    6. Share socially

    Really obvious step, sharing socially. When you have new content, sharing socially, there’s a high correlation between social shares and content ranking. But especially when you share on content aggregators, like Reddit, those create actual links for Google to crawl. Google can see those signals, see that social activity, sites like Reddit and Hacker News where they add actual links, and that does the same thing as adding links from your own content, except it’s even a little better because it’s external links. It’s external signals.

    7. Generate traffic to the URL

    This is kind of an advanced technique, which is a little controversial in terms of its effectiveness, but we see it anecdotally working time and time again. That’s simply generating traffic to the new content. 

    Now there is some debate whether traffic is a ranking signal. There are some old Google patents that talk about measuring traffic, and Google can certainly measure traffic using Chrome. They can see where those sites are coming from. But as an example, Facebook ads, you launch some new content and you drive a massive amount of traffic to it via Facebook ads. You’re paying for that traffic, but in theory Google can see that traffic because they’re measuring things using the Chrome browser. 

    When they see all that traffic going to a page, they can say, “Hey, maybe this is a page that we need to have in our index and maybe we need to rank it appropriately.”

    Ranking

    Once we get our content indexed, talk about a few ideas for maybe ranking your content faster. 

    8. Generate search clicks

    Along with generating traffic to the URL, you can actually generate search clicks.

    Now what do I mean by that? So imagine you share a URL on Twitter. Instead of sharing directly to the URL, you share to a Google search result. People click the link, and you take them to a Google search result that has the keywords you’re trying to rank for, and people will search and they click on your result.

    You see television commercials do this, like in a Super Bowl commercial they’ll say, “Go to Google and search for Toyota cars 2019.” What this does is Google can see that searcher behavior. Instead of going directly to the page, they’re seeing people click on Google and choosing your result.

    1. Instead of this: https://moz.com/link-explorer
    2. Share this: https://www.google.com/search?q=link+tool+moz

    This does a couple of things. It helps increase your click-through rate, which may or may not be a ranking signal. But it also helps you rank for auto-suggest queries. So when Google sees people search for “best cars 2019 Toyota,” that might appear in the suggest bar, which also helps you to rank if you’re ranking for those terms. So generating search clicks instead of linking directly to your URL is one of those advanced techniques that some SEOs use.

    9. Target query deserves freshness

    When you’re creating the new content, you can help it to rank sooner if you pick terms that Google thinks deserve freshness. It’s best maybe if I just use a couple of examples here.

    Consider a user searching for the term “cafes open Christmas 2019.” That’s a result that Google wants to deliver a very fresh result for. You want the freshest news about cafes and restaurants that are going to be open Christmas 2019. Google is going to preference pages that are created more recently. So when you target those queries, you can maybe rank a little faster.

    Compare that to a query like “history of the Bible.” If you Google that right now, you’ll probably find a lot of very old pages, Wikipedia pages. Those results don’t update much, and that’s going to be harder for you to crack into those SERPs with newer content.

    The way to tell this is simply type in the queries that you’re trying to rank for and see how old the most recent results are. That will give you an indication of what Google thinks how much freshness this query deserves. Choose queries that deserve a little more freshness and you might be able to get in a little sooner.

    10. Leverage URL structure

    Finally, last tip, this is something a lot of sites do and a lot of sites don’t do because they’re simply not aware of it. Leverage URL structure. When Google sees a new URL, a new page to index, they don’t have all the signals yet to rank it. They have a lot of algorithms that try to guess where they should rank it. They’ve indicated in the past that they leverage the URL structure to determine some of that.

    Consider The New York Times puts all its book reviews under the same URL, newyorktimes.com/book-reviews. They have a lot of established ranking signals for all of these URLs. When a new URL is published using the same structure, they can assign it some temporary signals to rank it appropriately.

    If you have URLs that are high authority, maybe it’s your blog, maybe it’s your resources on your site, and you’re leveraging an existing URL structure, new content published using the same structure might have a little bit of a ranking advantage, at least in the short run, until Google can figure these things out.

    These are only a few of the ways to get your content indexed and ranking quicker. It is by no means a comprehensive list. There are a lot of other ways. We’d love to hear some of your ideas and tips. Please let us know in the comments below. If you like this video, please share it for me. Thanks, everybody.

    Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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    The One-Hour Guide to SEO: Technical SEO – Whiteboard Friday

    Posted by randfish

    We’ve arrived at one of the meatiest SEO topics in our series: technical SEO. In this fifth part of the One-Hour Guide to SEO, Rand covers essential technical topics from crawlability to internal link structure to subfolders and far more. Watch on for a firmer grasp of technical SEO fundamentals!

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

    Video Transcription

    Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome back to our special One-Hour Guide to SEO Whiteboard Friday series. This is Part V – Technical SEO. I want to be totally upfront. Technical SEO is a vast and deep discipline like any of the things we’ve been talking about in this One-Hour Guide.

    There is no way in the next 10 minutes that I can give you everything that you’ll ever need to know about technical SEO, but we can cover many of the big, important, structural fundamentals. So that’s what we’re going to tackle today. You will come out of this having at least a good idea of what you need to be thinking about, and then you can go explore more resources from Moz and many other wonderful websites in the SEO world that can help you along these paths.

    1. Every page on the website is unique & uniquely valuable

    First off, every page on a website should be two things — unique, unique from all the other pages on that website, and uniquely valuable, meaning it provides some value that a user, a searcher would actually desire and want. Sometimes the degree to which it’s uniquely valuable may not be enough, and we’ll need to do some intelligent things.

    So, for example, if we’ve got a page about X, Y, and Z versus a page that’s sort of, “Oh, this is a little bit of a combination of X and Y that you can get through searching and then filtering this way.Oh, here’s another copy of that XY, but it’s a slightly different version.Here’s one with YZ. This is a page that has almost nothing on it, but we sort of need it to exist for this weird reason that has nothing to do, but no one would ever want to find it through search engines.”

    Okay, when you encounter these types of pages as opposed to these unique and uniquely valuable ones, you want to think about: Should I be canonicalizing those, meaning point this one back to this one for search engine purposes? Maybe YZ just isn’t different enough from Z for it to be a separate page in Google’s eyes and in searchers’ eyes. So I’m going to use something called the rel=canonical tag to point this YZ page back to Z.

    Maybe I want to remove these pages. Oh, this is totally non-valuable to anyone. 404 it. Get it out of here. Maybe I want to block bots from accessing this section of our site. Maybe these are search results that make sense if you’ve performed this query on our site, but they don’t make any sense to be indexed in Google. I’ll keep Google out of it using the robots.txt file or the meta robots or other things.

    2. Pages are accessible to crawlers, load fast, and can be fully parsed in a text-based browser

    Secondarily, pages are accessible to crawlers. They should be accessible to crawlers. They should load fast, as fast as you possibly can. There’s a ton of resources about optimizing images and optimizing server response times and optimizing first paint and first meaningful paint and all these different things that go into speed.

    But speed is good not only because of technical SEO issues, meaning Google can crawl your pages faster, which oftentimes when people speed up the load speed of their pages, they find that Google crawls more from them and crawls them more frequently, which is a wonderful thing, but also because pages that load fast make users happier. When you make users happier, you make it more likely that they will link and amplify and share and come back and keep loading and not click the back button, all these positive things and avoiding all these negative things.

    They should be able to be fully parsed in essentially a text browser, meaning that if you have a relatively unsophisticated browser that is not doing a great job of processing JavaScript or post-loading of script events or other types of content, Flash and stuff like that, it should be the case that a spider should be able to visit that page and still see all of the meaningful content in text form that you want to present.

    Google still is not processing every image at the I’m going to analyze everything that’s in this image and extract out the text from it level, nor are they doing that with video, nor are they doing that with many kinds of JavaScript and other scripts. So I would urge you and I know many other SEOs, notably Barry Adams, a famous SEO who says that JavaScript is evil, which may be taking it a little bit far, but we catch his meaning, that you should be able to load everything into these pages in HTML in text.

    3. Thin content, duplicate content, spider traps/infinite loops are eliminated

    Thin content and duplicate content — thin content meaning content that doesn’t provide meaningfully useful, differentiated value, and duplicate content meaning it’s exactly the same as something else — spider traps and infinite loops, like calendaring systems, these should generally speaking be eliminated. If you have those duplicate versions and they exist for some reason, for example maybe you have a printer-friendly version of an article and the regular version of the article and the mobile version of the article, okay, there should probably be some canonicalization going on there, the rel=canonical tag being used to say this is the original version and here’s the mobile friendly version and those kinds of things.

    If you have search results in the search results, Google generally prefers that you don’t do that. If you have slight variations, Google would prefer that you canonicalize those, especially if the filters on them are not meaningfully and usefully different for searchers. 

    4. Pages with valuable content are accessible through a shallow, thorough internal links structure

    Number four, pages with valuable content on them should be accessible through just a few clicks, in a shallow but thorough internal link structure.

    Now this is an idealized version. You’re probably rarely going to encounter exactly this. But let’s say I’m on my homepage and my homepage has 100 links to unique pages on it. That gets me to 100 pages. One hundred more links per page gets me to 10,000 pages, and 100 more gets me to 1 million.

    So that’s only three clicks from homepage to one million pages. You might say, “Well, Rand, that’s a little bit of a perfect pyramid structure. I agree. Fair enough. Still, three to four clicks to any page on any website of nearly any size, unless we’re talking about a site with hundreds of millions of pages or more, should be the general rule. I should be able to follow that through either a sitemap.

    If you have a complex structure and you need to use a sitemap, that’s fine. Google is fine with you using an HTML page-level sitemap. Or alternatively, you can just have a good link structure internally that gets everyone easily, within a few clicks, to every page on your site. You don’t want to have these holes that require, “Oh, yeah, if you wanted to reach that page, you could, but you’d have to go to our blog and then you’d have to click back to result 9, and then you’d have to click to result 18 and then to result 27, and then you can find it.”

    No, that’s not ideal. That’s too many clicks to force people to make to get to a page that’s just a little ways back in your structure. 

    5. Pages should be optimized to display cleanly and clearly on any device, even at slow connection speeds

    Five, I think this is obvious, but for many reasons, including the fact that Google considers mobile friendliness in its ranking systems, you want to have a page that loads clearly and cleanly on any device, even at slow connection speeds, optimized for both mobile and desktop, optimized for 4G and also optimized for 2G and no G.

    6. Permanent redirects should use the 301 status code, dead pages the 404, temporarily unavailable the 503, and all okay should use the 200 status code

    Permanent redirects. So this page was here. Now it’s over here. This old content, we’ve created a new version of it. Okay, old content, what do we do with you? Well, we might leave you there if we think you’re valuable, but we may redirect you. If you’re redirecting old stuff for any reason, it should generally use the 301 status code.

    If you have a dead page, it should use the 404 status code. You could maybe sometimes use 410, permanently removed, as well. Temporarily unavailable, like we’re having some downtime this weekend while we do some maintenance, 503 is what you want. Everything is okay, everything is great, that’s a 200. All of your pages that have meaningful content on them should have a 200 code.

    These status codes, anything else beyond these, and maybe the 410, generally speaking should be avoided. There are some very occasional, rare, edge use cases. But if you find status codes other than these, for example if you’re using Moz, which crawls your website and reports all this data to you and does this technical audit every week, if you see status codes other than these, Moz or other software like it, Screaming Frog or Ryte or DeepCrawl or these other kinds, they’ll say, “Hey, this looks problematic to us. You should probably do something about this.”

    7. Use HTTPS (and make your site secure)

    When you are building a website that you want to rank in search engines, it is very wise to use a security certificate and to have HTTPS rather than HTTP, the non-secure version. Those should also be canonicalized. There should never be a time when HTTP is the one that is loading preferably. Google also gives a small reward — I’m not even sure it’s that small anymore, it might be fairly significant at this point — to pages that use HTTPS or a penalty to those that don’t. 

    8. One domain > several, subfolders > subdomains, relevant folders > long, hyphenated URLs

    In general, well, I don’t even want to say in general. It is nearly universal, with a few edge cases — if you’re a very advanced SEO, you might be able to ignore a little bit of this — but it is generally the case that you want one domain, not several. Allmystuff.com, not allmyseattlestuff.com, allmyportlandstuff.com, and allmylastuff.com.

    Allmystuff.com is preferable for many, many technical reasons and also because the challenge of ranking multiple websites is so significant compared to the challenge of ranking one. 

    You want subfolders, not subdomains, meaning I want allmystuff.com/seattle, /la, and /portland, not seattle.allmystuff.com.

    Why is this? Google’s representatives have sometimes said that it doesn’t really matter and I should do whatever is easy for me. I have so many cases over the years, case studies of folks who moved from a subdomain to a subfolder and saw their rankings increase overnight. Credit to Google’s reps.

    I’m sure they’re getting their information from somewhere. But very frankly, in the real world, it just works all the time to put it in a subfolder. I have never seen a problem being in the subfolder versus the subdomain, where there are so many problems and there are so many issues that I would strongly, strongly urge you against it. I think 95% of professional SEOs, who have ever had a case like this, would do likewise.

    Relevant folders should be used rather than long, hyphenated URLs. This is one where we agree with Google. Google generally says, hey, if you have allmystuff.com/seattle/ storagefacilities/top10places, that is far better than /seattle- storage-facilities-top-10-places. It’s just the case that Google is good at folder structure analysis and organization, and users like it as well and good breadcrumbs come from there.

    There’s a bunch of benefits. Generally using this folder structure is preferred to very, very long URLs, especially if you have multiple pages in those folders. 

    9. Use breadcrumbs wisely on larger/deeper-structured sites

    Last, but not least, at least last that we’ll talk about in this technical SEO discussion is using breadcrumbs wisely. So breadcrumbs, actually both technical and on-page, it’s good for this.

    Google generally learns some things from the structure of your website from using breadcrumbs. They also give you this nice benefit in the search results, where they show your URL in this friendly way, especially on mobile, mobile more so than desktop. They’ll show home > seattle > storage facilities. Great, looks beautiful. Works nicely for users. It helps Google as well.

    So there are plenty more in-depth resources that we can go into on many of these topics and others around technical SEO, but this is a good starting point. From here, we will take you to Part VI, our last one, on link building next week. Take care.

    Video transcription by Speechpad.com

    In case you missed them:

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    The One-Hour Guide to SEO: Searcher Satisfaction – Whiteboard Friday

    Posted by randfish

    Satisfying your searchers is a big part of what it means to be successful in modern SEO. And optimal searcher satisfaction means gaining a deep understanding of them and the queries they use to search. In this section of the One-Hour Guide to SEO, Rand covers everything you need to know about how to satisfy searchers, including the top four priorities you need to have and tips on how to avoid pogo-sticking in the SERPs.

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    Video Transcription

    Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to our special edition One-Hour Guide to SEO Part III on searcher satisfaction. So historically, if we were doing a guide to SEO in the long-ago past, we probably wouldn’t even be talking about searcher satisfaction.

    What do searchers want from Google’s results?

    But Google has made such a significant number of advances in the last 5 to 10 years that searcher satisfaction is now a huge part of how you can be successful in SEO. I’ll explain what I mean here. Let’s say our friend Arlen here is thinking about going on vacation to Italy.

    So she goes to Google. She types in “best places to visit in Italy,” and she gets a list of results. Now Google sorts those results in a number of ways. They sort them by the most authoritative, the most comprehensive. They use links and link data in a lot of different ways to try and get at that. They use content data, what’s on the page, and keyword data.

    They use historical performance data about which sites have done well for searchers in the past. All of these things sort of feed into searcher satisfaction. So when Arlen performs this query, she has a bunch of questions in her head, things like I want a list of popular Italian vacation destinations, and I want some comparison of those locations.

    Maybe I want the ability to sort and filter based on my personal preferences. I want to know the best times of year to go. I want to know the weather forecast and what to see and do and hotel and lodging info and transportation and accessibility information and cultural tips and probably dozens more questions that I can’t even list out here. But when you, as a content creator and as a search engine optimization professional, are creating and crafting content and trying to optimize that content so that it performs well in Google’s results, you need to be considering what are all of these questions.

    How to craft content that satisfies your searchers

    This is why searcher empathy, customer empathy, being able to get inside Arlen’s head or your customer’s head and say, “What does she want? What is she looking for?” is one of the most powerful ways to craft content that performs better than your competition in search engines, because it turns out a lot of people don’t do this.

    Priority 1: Answer the searcher’s questions comprehensively and with authority

    So if I’m planning my page, what is the best page I could possibly craft to try and rank for “best places to visit in Italy,” which is a very popular search term, extremely competitive? I would think about obviously there’s all sorts of keyword stuff and on-page optimization stuff, which we will talk about in Part IV, but my priorities are answer the searcher’s primary questions comprehensively and authoritatively. If I can do that, I am in good shape. I’m ahead of a lot of the pack.

    Priority 2: Provide an easy-to-use, fast-loading, well-designed interface that’s a pleasure to interact with

    Second, I want to provide a great user experience. That means easy to use, fast-loading, well-designed, that’s a pleasure to interact with. I want the experience of a visitor, a searcher who lands on this page to be, “Wow, this is much better than the typical experience that I get when I land on a lot of other sites.”

    Priority 3: Solve the searcher’s next tasks and questions with content, tools, or links

    Priority three, I want to solve the searcher’s next tasks and questions with either content on my own site or tools and resources or links or the ability to do them right here so that they don’t have to go back to Google and do other things or visit other websites to try and accomplish the tasks, like figuring out a good hotel or figuring out the weather forecast. A lot of sites don’t do this comprehensively today, which is why it’s an advantage if you do. 

    Priority 4: Consider creative elements that may give you a long-term competitive advantage

    Priority four is consider some creative elements, maybe interactive tools or an interactive map or sorting and filtering options that could give you a long-term, competitive advantage, something that’s difficult for other people who want to rank for this search term to build.

    Maybe that’s the data that you get. Maybe it’s the editorial content. Maybe it’s your photographs. Maybe it’s your tools and interactive elements. Whatever the case. 

    Do NOT give searchers a reason to click that back button!

    One of the biggest goals of searcher satisfaction is to make sure that this scenario does not happen to you. You do not want to give searchers a reason to click that back button and choose someone else.

    The search engine literature calls this “pogo sticking.” Basically, if I do a search for “best places to visit in Italy”and I click on, let’s say, US News & World Reports and I find that that page does not do a great job answering my query, or it does a fine job, but it’s got a bunch of annoying popovers and it’s slow loading and it has all these things that it’s trying to sell me, and so I click the back button and I choose a different result from Touropia or Earth Trackers.

    Over time, Google will figure out that US News & World Reports is not doing a good job of answering the searcher’s query, of providing a satisfactory experience, and they will push them down in the results and they will push these other ones, that are doing a good job, up in the results. You want to be the result that satisfies a searcher, that gets into their head and answers their questions and helps them solve their task, and that will give you an advantage over time in Google’s rankings.

    All right, we’ll see you next time for Part IV on on-page optimization. Take care.

    Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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    The One-Hour Guide to SEO, Part 2: Keyword Research – Whiteboard Friday

    Posted by randfish

    Before doing any SEO work, it’s important to get a handle on your keyword research. Aside from helping to inform your strategy and structure your content, you’ll get to know the needs of your searchers, the search demand landscape of the SERPs, and what kind of competition you’re up against.

    In the second part of the One-Hour Guide to SEO, the inimitable Rand Fishkin covers what you need to know about the keyword research process, from understanding its goals to building your own keyword universe map. Enjoy!


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

    Video Transcription

    Howdy, Moz fans. Welcome to another portion of our special edition of Whiteboard Friday, the One-Hour Guide to SEO. This is Part II – Keyword Research. Hopefully you’ve already seen our SEO strategy session from last week. What we want to do in keyword research is talk about why keyword research is required. Why do I have to do this task prior to doing any SEO work?

    The answer is fairly simple. If you don’t know which words and phrases people type into Google or YouTube or Amazon or Bing, whatever search engine you’re optimizing for, you’re not going to be able to know how to structure your content. You won’t be able to get into the searcher’s brain, into their head to imagine and empathize with them what they actually want from your content. You probably won’t do correct targeting, which will mean your competitors, who are doing keyword research, are choosing wise search phrases, wise words and terms and phrases that searchers are actually looking for, and you might be unfortunately optimizing for words and phrases that no one is actually looking for or not as many people are looking for or that are much more difficult than what you can actually rank for.

    The goals of keyword research

    So let’s talk about some of the big-picture goals of keyword research. 

    Understand the search demand landscape so you can craft more optimal SEO strategies

    First off, we are trying to understand the search demand landscape so we can craft better SEO strategies. Let me just paint a picture for you.

    I was helping a startup here in Seattle, Washington, a number of years ago — this was probably a couple of years ago — called Crowd Cow. Crowd Cow is an awesome company. They basically will deliver beef from small ranchers and small farms straight to your doorstep. I personally am a big fan of steak, and I don’t really love the quality of the stuff that I can get from the store. I don’t love the mass-produced sort of industry around beef. I think there are a lot of Americans who feel that way. So working with small ranchers directly, where they’re sending it straight from their farms, is kind of an awesome thing.

    But when we looked at the SEO picture for Crowd Cow, for this company, what we saw was that there was more search demand for competitors of theirs, people like Omaha Steaks, which you might have heard of. There was more search demand for them than there was for “buy steak online,” “buy beef online,” and “buy rib eye online.” Even things like just “shop for steak” or “steak online,” these broad keyword phrases, the branded terms of their competition had more search demand than all of the specific keywords, the unbranded generic keywords put together.

    That is a very different picture from a world like “soccer jerseys,” where I spent a little bit of keyword research time today looking, and basically the brand names in that field do not have nearly as much search volume as the generic terms for soccer jerseys and custom soccer jerseys and football clubs’ particular jerseys. Those generic terms have much more volume, which is a totally different kind of SEO that you’re doing. One is very, “Oh, we need to build our brand. We need to go out into this marketplace and create demand.” The other one is, “Hey, we need to serve existing demand already.”

    So you’ve got to understand your search demand landscape so that you can present to your executive team and your marketing team or your client or whoever it is, hey, this is what the search demand landscape looks like, and here’s what we can actually do for you. Here’s how much demand there is. Here’s what we can serve today versus we need to grow our brand.

    Create a list of terms and phrases that match your marketing goals and are achievable in rankings

    The next goal of keyword research, we want to create a list of terms and phrases that we can then use to match our marketing goals and achieve rankings. We want to make sure that the rankings that we promise, the keywords that we say we’re going to try and rank for actually have real demand and we can actually optimize for them and potentially rank for them. Or in the case where that’s not true, they’re too difficult or they’re too hard to rank for. Or organic results don’t really show up in those types of searches, and we should go after paid or maps or images or videos or some other type of search result.

    Prioritize keyword investments so you do the most important, high-ROI work first

    We also want to prioritize those keyword investments so we’re doing the most important work, the highest ROI work in our SEO universe first. There’s no point spending hours and months going after a bunch of keywords that if we had just chosen these other ones, we could have achieved much better results in a shorter period of time.

    Match keywords to pages on your site to find the gaps

    Finally, we want to take all the keywords that matter to us and match them to the pages on our site. If we don’t have matches, we need to create that content. If we do have matches but they are suboptimal, not doing a great job of answering that searcher’s query, well, we need to do that work as well. If we have a page that matches but we haven’t done our keyword optimization, which we’ll talk a little bit more about in a future video, we’ve got to do that too.

    Understand the different varieties of search results

    So an important part of understanding how search engines work — we’re going to start down here and then we’ll come back up — is to have this understanding that when you perform a query on a mobile device or a desktop device, Google shows you a vast variety of results. Ten or fifteen years ago this was not the case. We searched 15 years ago for “soccer jerseys,” what did we get? Ten blue links. I think, unfortunately, in the minds of many search marketers and many people who are unfamiliar with SEO, they still think of it that way. How do I rank number one? The answer is, well, there are a lot of things “number one” can mean today, and we need to be careful about what we’re optimizing for.

    So if I search for “soccer jersey,” I get these shopping results from Macy’s and soccer.com and all these other places. Google sort has this sliding box of sponsored shopping results. Then they’ve got advertisements below that, notated with this tiny green ad box. Then below that, there are couple of organic results, what we would call classic SEO, 10 blue links-style organic results. There are two of those. Then there’s a box of maps results that show me local soccer stores in my region, which is a totally different kind of optimization, local SEO. So you need to make sure that you understand and that you can convey that understanding to everyone on your team that these different kinds of results mean different types of SEO.

    Now I’ve done some work recently over the last few years with a company called Jumpshot. They collect clickstream data from millions of browsers around the world and millions of browsers here in the United States. So they are able to provide some broad overview numbers collectively across the billions of searches that are performed on Google every day in the United States.

    Click-through rates differ between mobile and desktop

    The click-through rates look something like this. For mobile devices, on average, paid results get 8.7% of all clicks, organic results get about 40%, a little under 40% of all clicks, and zero-click searches, where a searcher performs a query but doesn’t click anything, Google essentially either answers the results in there or the searcher is so unhappy with the potential results that they don’t bother taking anything, that is 62%. So the vast majority of searches on mobile are no-click searches.

    On desktop, it’s a very different story. It’s sort of inverted. So paid is 5.6%. I think people are a little savvier about which result they should be clicking on desktop. Organic is 65%, so much, much higher than mobile. Zero-click searches is 34%, so considerably lower.

    There are a lot more clicks happening on a desktop device. That being said, right now we think it’s around 60–40, meaning 60% of queries on Google, at least, happen on mobile and 40% happen on desktop, somewhere in those ranges. It might be a little higher or a little lower.

    The search demand curve

    Another important and critical thing to understand about the keyword research universe and how we do keyword research is that there’s a sort of search demand curve. So for any given universe of keywords, there is essentially a small number, maybe a few to a few dozen keywords that have millions or hundreds of thousands of searches every month. Something like “soccer” or “Seattle Sounders,” those have tens or hundreds of thousands, even millions of searches every month in the United States.

    But people searching for “Sounders FC away jersey customizable,” there are very, very few searches per month, but there are millions, even billions of keywords like this. 

    The long-tail: millions of keyword terms and phrases, low number of monthly searches

    When Sundar Pichai, Google’s current CEO, was testifying before Congress just a few months ago, he told Congress that around 20% of all searches that Google receives each day they have never seen before. No one has ever performed them in the history of the search engines. I think maybe that number is closer to 18%. But that is just a remarkable sum, and it tells you about what we call the long tail of search demand, essentially tons and tons of keywords, millions or billions of keywords that are only searched for 1 time per month, 5 times per month, 10 times per month.

    The chunky middle: thousands or tens of thousands of keywords with ~50–100 searches per month

    If you want to get into this next layer, what we call the chunky middle in the SEO world, this is where there are thousands or tens of thousands of keywords potentially in your universe, but they only have between say 50 and a few hundred searches per month.

    The fat head: a very few keywords with hundreds of thousands or millions of searches

    Then this fat head has only a few keywords. There’s only one keyword like “soccer” or “soccer jersey,” which is actually probably more like the chunky middle, but it has hundreds of thousands or millions of searches. The fat head is higher competition and broader intent.

    Searcher intent and keyword competition

    What do I mean by broader intent? That means when someone performs a search for “soccer,” you don’t know what they’re looking for. The likelihood that they want a customizable soccer jersey right that moment is very, very small. They’re probably looking for something much broader, and it’s hard to know exactly their intent.

    However, as you drift down into the chunky middle and into the long tail, where there are more keywords but fewer searches for each keyword, your competition gets much lower. There are fewer people trying to compete and rank for those, because they don’t know to optimize for them, and there’s more specific intent. “Customizable Sounders FC away jersey” is very clear. I know exactly what I want. I want to order a customizable jersey from the Seattle Sounders away, the particular colors that the away jersey has, and I want to be able to put my logo on there or my name on the back of it, what have you. So super specific intent.

    Build a map of your own keyword universe

    As a result, you need to figure out what the map of your universe looks like so that you can present that, and you need to be able to build a list that looks something like this. You should at the end of the keyword research process — we featured a screenshot from Moz’s Keyword Explorer, which is a tool that I really like to use and I find super helpful whenever I’m helping companies, even now that I have left Moz and been gone for a year, I still sort of use Keyword Explorer because the volume data is so good and it puts all the stuff together. However, there are two or three other tools that a lot of people like, one from Ahrefs, which I think also has the name Keyword Explorer, and one from SEMrush, which I like although some of the volume numbers, at least in the United States, are not as good as what I might hope for. There are a number of other tools that you could check out as well. A lot of people like Google Trends, which is totally free and interesting for some of that broad volume data.

    

    So I might have terms like “soccer jersey,” “Sounders FC jersey”, and “custom soccer jersey Seattle Sounders.” Then I’ll have these columns: 

    • Volume, because I want to know how many people search for it; 
    • Difficulty, how hard will it be to rank. If it’s super difficult to rank and I have a brand-new website and I don’t have a lot of authority, well, maybe I should target some of these other ones first that are lower difficulty. 
    • Organic Click-through Rate, just like we talked about back here, there are different levels of click-through rate, and the tools, at least Moz’s Keyword Explorer tool uses Jumpshot data on a per keyword basis to estimate what percent of people are going to click the organic results. Should you optimize for it? Well, if the click-through rate is only 60%, pretend that instead of 100 searches, this only has 60 or 60 available searches for your organic clicks. Ninety-five percent, though, great, awesome. All four of those monthly searches are available to you.
    • Business Value, how useful is this to your business? 
    • Then set some type of priority to determine. So I might look at this list and say, “Hey, for my new soccer jersey website, this is the most important keyword. I want to go after “custom soccer jersey” for each team in the U.S., and then I’ll go after team jersey, and then I’ll go after “customizable away jerseys.” Then maybe I’ll go after “soccer jerseys,” because it’s just so competitive and so difficult to rank for. There’s a lot of volume, but the search intent is not as great. The business value to me is not as good, all those kinds of things.
    • Last, but not least, I want to know the types of searches that appear — organic, paid. Do images show up? Does shopping show up? Does video show up? Do maps results show up? If those other types of search results, like we talked about here, show up in there, I can do SEO to appear in those places too. That could yield, in certain keyword universes, a strategy that is very image centric or very video centric, which means I’ve got to do a lot of work on YouTube, or very map centric, which means I’ve got to do a lot of local SEO, or other kinds like this.

    Once you build a keyword research list like this, you can begin the prioritization process and the true work of creating pages, mapping the pages you already have to the keywords that you’ve got, and optimizing in order to rank. We’ll talk about that in Part III next week. Take care.

    Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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    The One-Hour Guide to SEO, Part 1: SEO Strategy – Whiteboard Friday

    Posted by randfish

    Can you learn SEO in an hour? Surprisingly, the answer is yes, at least when it comes to the fundamentals! 

    With this edition of Whiteboard Friday, we’re kicking off something special: a six-part series of roughly ten-minute-long videos designed to deliver core SEO concepts efficiently and effectively. It’s our hope that this will serve as a helpful resource for a wide range of people:

    • Beginner SEOs looking to get acquainted with the field concisely & comprehensively
    • Clients, bosses, and stakeholders who would benefit from an enhanced understanding of your work
    • New team members who need quick and easy onboarding
    • Colleagues with SEO-adjacent roles, such as web developers and software engineers

    Today we’ll be covering Part 1: SEO Strategy with the man who wrote the original guide on SEO, our friend Rand. Settle in, and stay tuned next Friday for our second video covering keyword research!

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

    Video Transcription

    Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to a special edition of the Whiteboard Friday series. I’m Rand Fishkin, the founder and former CEO of Moz, and I’m here with you today because I’m going to deliver a one-hour guide to SEO, front and back, so that you can learn in just an hour the fundamentals of the practice and be smarter at choosing a great SEO firm to work with, hiring SEO people. 

    A handy SEO resource for your clients, team, and colleagues

    If you are already in SEO, you might pick up some tips and tactics that you didn’t otherwise know or hadn’t previously considered. I want to ask those of you who are sort of intermediate level and advanced level SEOs — and I know there are many of you who have historically watched me on Whiteboard Friday and I really appreciate that — to give this video a chance even though it is at the beginner level, because my hope is that it will be valuable to you to send to your clients, your potential customers, people who join your team and work with you, developers or software engineers or web devs who you are working with and whose help you need but you want them to understand the fundamentals of SEO.

    If those are the people that you’re talking to, excellent. This series is for you. We’re going to begin with SEO strategy. That is our first part. Then we’ll get into things like keyword research and technical SEO and link building and all of that good stuff as well. 

    The essentials: What is SEO, and what does it do?

    So first off, SEO is search engine optimization. It is essentially the practice of influencing or being able to control some of the results that Google shows when someone types in or speaks a query to their system.

    I say Google. You can influence other search engines, like Bing and DuckDuckGo and Yahoo and Seznam if you’re in the Czech Republic or Baidu. But we are primarily focused on Google because Google has more than a 90% market share in the United States and, in fact, in North America and South America, in most of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East with a few exceptions.

    Start with business goals

    So SEO is a tactic. It’s a way to control things. It is not a business goal. No one forms a new company or sits down with their division and says, “Okay, we need to rank for all of these keywords.” Instead what you should be saying, what hopefully is happening in your teams is, “We have these business goals.”

    Example: “Grow our online soccer jersey sales to a web-savvy, custom heavy audience.”

    Let’s say we’re an online e-commerce shop and we sell customized soccer jerseys, well, football for those of you outside of the United States. So we want to grow our online soccer jersey sales. Great, that is a true business goal. We’re trying to build a bigger audience. We want to sell more of these jerseys. In order to do that, we have marketing goals that we want to achieve, things like we want to build brand awareness.

    Next, marketing goals

    Build brand awareness

    We want more people to know who we are, to have heard of our particular brand, because people who have heard of us are going to be more likely to buy from us. The first time you hear about someone, very unlikely to buy. The seventh time you’ve heard about someone, much more likely to buy from them. So that is a good marketing goal, and SEO can help with that. We’ll talk about that in a sec.

    Grow top-of-funnel traffic

    You might want to grow top-of-funnel traffic. We want more people coming to the site overall so that we can do a better job of figuring out who is the right audience for us and converting some of those people, retargeting some of those people, capturing emails from some of those people, all those good things. 

    Attract ready-to-buy fans

    We want to attract ready-to-buy fans, people who are chomping at the bit to buy our soccer jerseys, customize them and get them shipped.

    SEO, as a strategy, is essentially a set of tactics, things that you will do in the SEO world to rank for different keywords in the search engines or control and influence what already ranks in there so that you can achieve your marketing goals so that you can achieve your business goals.

    Don’t get this backwards. Don’t start from a place of SEO. Especially if you are an SEO specialist or a practitioner or you’re joining a consulting firm, you should always have an excellent idea of what these are and why the SEO tactics that you are undertaking fit into them. If you don’t, you should be asking those questions before you begin any SEO work.

    Otherwise you’re going to accomplish things and do things that don’t have the impact or don’t tie directly to the impact that the business owners care about, and that’s going to mean probably you won’t get picked up for another contract or you won’t accomplish the goals that mean you’re valuable to the team or you do things that people don’t necessarily need and want in the business and therefore you are seen as a less valuable part of it.

    Finally, move into SEO strategy

    But if you’re accomplishing things that can clearly tie to these, the opposite. People will really value what you do. 

    Rank for low-demand, high-conversion keywords

    So SEO can do things like rank for low demand, things that don’t have a lot of searches per month but they are high conversion likely keywords, keywords like “I am looking for a customized Seattle Sounders soccer jersey that’s in the away colors.” Well, there’s not a lot of search demand for that exact phrase. But if you’re searching for it, you’re very likely to convert. 

    Earn traffic from high-demand, low-competition, less commerce-focused keywords

    You could try and earn traffic from high-demand, low competition keywords that are less focused directly on e-commerce. So it could be things like “Seattle Sounders news” or “Seattle Sounders stats” or a comparison of “Portland Timbers versus Seattle Sounders.” These are two soccer or football clubs in the Pacific Northwest. 

    Build content that attracts links and influencer engagement

    Or you might be trying to do things like building content that attracts links and influencer engagement so that in the future you can rank for more competitive keywords. We’ll talk about that in a sec. SEO can do some amazing things, but there are also things that it cannot do.

    What SEO can do:

    If you put things in here, if you as an SEO pitch to your marketing team or your business owners that SEO can do things that it can’t, you’re going to be in trouble. So when we compose an SEO strategy, a set of tactics that tries to accomplish marketing goals that tie to business goals, SEO can do things like:

    • Attract searchers that are seeking your content.
    • Control how your brand is seen in search results when someone searches for your particular name. 
    • Nudge searchers toward queries by influencing what gets suggested in the auto suggest or by suggesting related searches or people also ask boxes. 

    Anything that shows up in the search results, nearly anything can be influenced by what we as SEOs can do.

    What SEO cannot do:

    Grow or create search demand on its own

    But SEO cannot grow or create search demand by itself. So if someone says, “Hey, I want us to get more traffic for this specific keyword,” if you’re already ranking number one and you have some videos showing in the results and you’re also in the image results and you’ve got maybe a secondary page that links off to you from the results, you might say, “Hey, there’s just not more demand,” and SEO by itself can’t create that additional demand.

    Build brand (by itself)

    SEO also can’t build brand, at least not by itself. It can certainly be a helpful part of that structure. But if someone says, “Hey, I want us to be better known among this audience,”you can say, “Well, SEO can help a little, but it can’t build a brand on its own, and it certainly can’t build brand perception on its own.” People are going to go and visit your website. They’re going to go and experience, have an interaction with what you’ve created on the web. That is going to be far more of a brand builder, a brand indicator than just what appears in the search results. So SEO can’t do that alone. 

    Directly convert customers

    It also can’t directly convert customers. A lot of the time what we find is that someone will do a great job of ranking, but when you actually reach the website, when visitors reach the website, they are unsatisfied by the search, which by the way is one of the reasons why this one-hour guide is going to include a section on searcher satisfaction.

    When Google sees over time that searchers are unsatisfied by a result, they will push that result down in the rankings and find someone who does a great job of satisfying searchers, and they will rank them instead. So the website has to do this. It is part of SEO. It’s certainly part of the equation, but SEO can’t influence it or control it on its own.

    WORK OVERNIGHT!

    Finally, last but not least, SEO cannot work overnight. It just won’t happen. SEO is a long-term investment. It is very different from paid search ads, PPC, also called SEM sometimes, buying from Google ads or from Bing ads and appearing in the sponsored results. That is a tactic where you can pour money in and optimize and get results out in 24 hours. SEO is more like a 24-month long process. 

    The SEO Growth Path

    I’ve tried to show that here. The fundamental concept is when you have a new website, you need to earn these things — links and engagement and historical performance in the rankings.

    As you earn those things, other people are linking to you from around the web, people are talking about you, people are engaging with your pages and your brand, people start searching for your brand specifically, people are clicking you more in the search results and then having good experiences on your website, as all those great things happen, you will grow your historical engagement and links and ranking factors, all these things that we sort of put into the bucket of the authority and influence of a website.

    3–6 months: Begin to rank for things in the long tail of search demand

    As that grows, you will be able to first, over time, this might be three to six months down here, you might be able to rank for a few keywords in the long tail of search demand. 

    6–9 months: Begin to rank for more and more competitive keywords

    After six to nine months, if you’re very good at this, you may be able to rank for more and more competitive keywords.

    12–18 months: Compete for tougher keywords

    As you truly grow a brand that is well-known and well thought of on the internet and by search engines, 12 to 18 months in, maybe longer, you may be able to compete for tougher and tougher keywords. When I started the Moz website, back in the early days of Google, it took me years, literally two or three years before I was ranking for anything in Google, anything in the search engines, and that is because I had to first earn that brand equity, that trust, that relationship with the search engines, those links and that engagement.

    Today this is more true than ever because Google is so good at estimating these things. All right. I look forward to hearing all about the amazing strategies and structures that you’ve got probably in the comments down below. I’m sure it will be a great thread. We’ll move on to the second part of our one-hour guide next time — keyword research. Take care.

    Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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