Tag Archive | "Friday"

Hypothesis Testing in SEO & Statistical Significance – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Emily.Potter

A/B testing your SEO changes can bring you a competitive edge and dodge the bullet of negative changes that could lower your traffic. In this episode of Whiteboard Friday, Emily Potter shares not only why A/B testing your changes is important, but how to develop a hypothesis, what goes into collecting and analyzing the data, and thoughts around drawing your conclusions.

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

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans. I’m Emily Potter, and I work at Distilled over in our London office. Today I’m going to talk to you about hypothesis testing in SEO and statistical significance.

At Distilled, we use a platform called ODN, which is the Distilled Optimization Delivery Network, to do SEO A/B testing. Now, in that, we use hypothesis testing. You may not be able to deploy ODN, but I still think today that you can learn something valuable from what I’m talking about.

Hypothesis testing

The four main steps of hypothesis testing

So when we’re using hypothesis testing, we use four main steps:

  1. First, we formulate a hypothesis.
  2. Then we collect data on that hypothesis.
  3. We analyze the data, and then… 
  4. We draw some conclusions from that at the end.

The most important part of A/B testing is having a strong hypothesis. So up here, I’ve talked about how to formulate a strong SEO hypothesis.

1. Forming your hypothesis

Three mechanisms to help formulate a hypothesis

Now we need to remember that with SEO we are trying to look to impact three things to increase organic traffic.

  1. We’re either trying to improve organic click-through rates. So that’s any change you make that makes yours appearance in the SERPs seem more appealing to your competitors and therefore more people will click your ad.
  2. Or you can improve your organic ranking so you’re moving higher up.
  3. Or we could also rank for more keywords.

You could also be impacting a mixture of all three of these things. But you just want to make sure that one of these is clearly being targeted or else it’s not really an SEO test.

2. Collecting the data

Now next, we collect our data. Again, at Distilled, we use the ODN platform to do this. Now, with the ODN platform, we do A/B testing, and we split pages up into statistically similar buckets. 

A/B test with your control and your variant

So once we do that, we take our variant group and we use a mathematical analysis to decide what we think the variant group would have done had we not made that change.

So up here, we have the black line, and that’s what that’s doing. It’s predicting what our model thought the variant group would do if we had not made any change. This dotted line here is when the test began. So you can see after the test there was a separation. This blue line is actually what happened. 

Now, because there’s a difference between these two lines, we can see a change. If we move down here, we’ve just plotted the difference between those two lines.

Because the blue line is above the black line, we call this a positive test. Now this green part here is our confidence interval, and this one, as a standard, is a 95% confidence interval. Now we use that because we use statistical testing. So when the green lines are all above the zero line, or all below it for a negative test, we can call this a statistically significant test.

For this one, our best estimate is that this would have increased sessions by 12%, and that roughly turns out to be about 7,000 monthly organic sessions. Now, on either side here, you can see I have written 2.5%. That’s to make this all add up to 100, and the reason for that is that you never get a 100% confident result. There’s always the opportunity that there’s a random chance and you have a false negative or positive. That’s why we then say we are 97.5% confident this was positive. That’s because we have 95 plus 2.5.

Tests without statistical significance

Now, at Distilled, we’ve found that there are a lot of circumstances where we have tests that are not statistically significant, but there’s pretty strong evidence that they had an uplift. If we move down here, I have an example of that. So this is an example of something that wasn’t statistically significant, but we saw a strong uplift.

Now you can see our green line still has an area in it that is negative, and that’s saying there’s still a chance that, at 95% confidence interval, this was a negative test. Now if we drop down again below, I’ve done our pink again. So we have 5% on both sides, and we can say here that we’re 95% confident there was a positive result. That’s because this 5% is always above as well.

3. Analyze the data to test hypothesis

Now the reason we do this is to try and be able to implement changes that we have a strong hypothesis with and be able to get those wins from those instead of just rejecting it completely. Now part of the reason for this is also that we say we’re doing business and not science.

Here I’ve created a chart of when we would maybe deploy a test that was not statistically significant, and this is based off how strong or weak the hypothesis is and how cheap or expensive the change is.

Strong hypothesis / cheap change

Now over here, in your top right corner, when we have a strong hypothesis and a cheap change, we’d probably deploy that. For example, we had a test like this recently with one of our clients at Distilled, where they added their main keyword to the H1.

This final result looked something like this graph here. It was a strong hypothesis. It wasn’t an expensive change to implement, and we decided to deploy that test because we were pretty confident that that would still be something that would be positive.

Weak hypothesis / cheap change

Now on this other side here, if you have a weak hypothesis but it’s still cheap, then maybe evidence of an uplift is still reason to deploy that. You’d have to communicate with your client.

Strong hypothesis / expensive change

On the expensive change with strong hypothesis point, you’re going to have to weigh out the benefit that you might get from your return on investment if you calculate your expected revenue based off that percentage change that you’re getting there.

Weak hypothesis / cheap change

When it’s a weak hypothesis and expensive change, we would only want to deploy that if it’s statistically significant.

4. Drawing conclusions

Now we need to remember that when we’re doing hypothesis testing, all we’re doing is trying to test the null hypothesis. That does not mean that a null result means that there was no effect at all. All that that means is that we cannot accept or reject the hypothesis. We’re saying that this was too random for us to say whether this is true or not.

Now 95% confidence interval is being able to accept or reject the hypothesis, and we’re saying our data is not noise. When it’s less than 95% confidence, like this one over here, we can’t claim that we learned something the way that we would with a scientific test, but we could still say we have some pretty strong evidence that this would produce a positive effect on these pages.

The advantages of testing

Now when we talk to our clients about this, it’s because we’re aiming really here to give a competitive advantage over other people in their verticals. Now the main advantage of testing is to avoid those negative changes.

We want to just make sure that changes we’re making are not really plummeting traffic, and we see that a lot. At Distilled, we call that a dodged bullet.

Now this is something I hope that you can bring into your work and to be able to use with your clients or with your own website. Hopefully, you can start formulating hypotheses, and even if you can’t deploy something like ODN, you can still use your GA data to try and get a better idea if changes that you’re making are helping or hurting your traffic. That’s all that I have for you today. Thank you.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Machine Learning 101 – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by BritneyMuller

Machine learning is only growing in importance for anyone working in the digital world, but it can often feel like an inaccessible subject. It doesn’t have to be — and you don’t have to miss out on the competitive edge it can give you when it comes to SEO task automation. Put on your technical SEO cap and get ready to take notes, because Britney Muller is walking us through Machine Learning 101 in this week’s episode of Whiteboard Friday.

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

Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today I’m talking about all things machine learning, something, as many of you know, I’m super passionate about and love to talk about. So hopefully, this sparks a seed in some of you to explore it a bit further, because it is truly one of the most powerful things to happen in our space in a very long time. 

What is machine learning?

So a brief overview, in a nutshell, machine learning is actually a subset of AI, and some would argue we still haven’t really reached artificial intelligence. But it’s just one facet of the overall AI. 

Traditional programming

The best way to think about it is in comparison to traditional programming. So traditional programming, you input data and a program into a computer and out comes the output, whether that be a web page or calculator you built online, whatever that might be.

Machine learning

With machine learning, what you do is you put in the data and the desired output and put this into a computer, and you get a program, otherwise known as a machine learning model. So it’s a bit flipped, and it works extremely well. There are two primary types of machine learning:

  1. You have supervised, which is where you’re basically feeding a model labeled training data, 
  2. And then unsupervised, which is where you’re feeding a program data and letting it create clusters or associations between data points. 

The supervised is a bit more common. You’ll see things like classification, linear regression, and image recognition. Things like that are all very common. If you think about machine learning in terms of, okay, there’s all of this data that you’re putting into the model, data is the biggest part of machine learning. A lot of people would argue that if machine learning was a vehicle, data would be the fuel.

It’s a really important part to understand, because unless you have the right types of data to feed a model, you’re not going to get the desired outcome that you would like. 

A machine learning model example

So let’s look at an example. If you wanted to build a machine learning model that predicts housing prices, you might have all of this information.

You might have the current price, square foot of these homes, land, the number of bathrooms, the number of bedrooms, you name it. It goes on and on. These are also known as features. So what a model is going to try to do, when you put in all of this data, it’s going to try to understand associations between this information and come up with a model that best predicts home prices in the future.

The most basic of these machine learning models is linear regression. So if you think about inputting the data where maybe you just put in the price and the square foot, and you can kind of see the data like this. 

You see that as the square foot goes up, so does the price. A model over time, in looking at this data, is going to start to find the smoothest line through the data to have the most accurate predictions in the future.

What you don’t want it to do is to fit every single data point and have a line that looks like that — that’s also known as overfitting — because it doesn’t play nice for new data points. You don’t want a model to get so calculated to your dataset that it doesn’t predict accurately in the future.

A way to look at that is by the loss function. That’s maybe getting a bit deeper in this, but that’s how you would measure how the line is being fit. Let’s see. 

What are the machine learning possibilities in SEO?

So what are some of the possibilities in SEO? How can we leverage machine learning in the SEO space?

Automate meta descriptions

So there are couple ways that people are already doing this. You can automate meta descriptions by looking at the page content and using a machine model to summarize the text. So this literally summarizes the content for you and pares it down to a meta description length. Pretty incredible. 

Automate titles

You could similarly do this for titles, although I don’t suggest you do this for primary pages. This isn’t going to be perfect. But if you have a huge, huge website, with hundreds of thousands of pages, it gets you halfway there. It’s really interesting to start playing around in that space with these large websites.

Automate image alt text

You can also automate alt text for images. We see these models getting really good at understanding what’s in an image. 

Automate 301 redirects

301 redirects, Paul Shapiro has an incredible write-up and basically process for that already. 

Automate content creation

Content creation, and if that scares some of you or if you doubt that these models can currently create content that is decent, I challenge you to go check out Talk to Transformer.

It is a pared-back version of OpenAI, which was founded by Elon Musk. It’s pretty incredible and a little scary as to how good the content is just from that pared back model. So that is for sure possible in the future and even today. 

Automate product/page suggestions

In addition to product and page suggestions.

So this is just going to get better. Imagine us providing content and UX specifically for the unique users that come to our site, highly personalized content, highly personalized experiences. Really exciting stuff moving forward. 

Resources

I’ve got some resources I highly suggest you check out.

Google Codelabs is one of my favorites, just because it walks you through the steps. So if you go to Google Codelabs, filter by TensorFlow or machine learning, you can see the possible examples there. Colab notebooks or Jupyter notebooks are where you’ll likely be doing any of the machine learning that you want to do on your own.

Kaggle.com is the number one resource for data science competitions. So you get to really see what are the examples, how are people using machine learning today. You’ll see things like TSA has put up over $ 1 million for a data science team to come up with a model that predicts potential threats from security footage.

This stuff gets really interesting really fast. It’s also so important to have diversity and inclusion in this space to avoid really dangerous models in the future. So it’s something to definitely think about. 

TensorFlow is a great resource. It’s what Google put out, and it’s what a lot of their machine learning models is built off of. They’ve got a really great JavaScript platform that you can play around with. 

Andrew Ng has an incredible machine learning course. I highly suggest you check that out. 

Then Algorithmia is sort of a one-stop shop for models. So if you don’t care to dip your toes into machine learning and you just want say a summarizer model or a particular type of model, you could potentially find one there and do a plug-and-play of sorts.



So that’s pretty interesting and fun to explore. The last thing is a machine learning model is only as good as the data. I can’t express that enough. So a lot of machine learning and data scientists, it’s all data cleaning and parsing, and that’s the bulk of the work in this field.

It’s important to be aware of that. So that’s it for Machine Learning 101. Thank you so much for joining me, and I hope to see you all again soon. Thanks.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


If you enjoyed this episode of Whiteboard Friday, you’ll be delighted by all the cutting-edge SEO knowledge you’ll get from our newly released MozCon 2019 video bundle. Catch more useful technical tips in Britney’s talk, plus 26 additional future-focused topics from our top-notch speakers:

Grab the sessions now!

We suggest scheduling a good old-fashioned knowledge share with your colleagues to educate the whole team — after all, who didn’t love movie day in school? ;-)

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!


Moz Blog

Posted in IM NewsComments Off

Machine Learning 101 – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by BritneyMuller

Machine learning is only growing in importance for anyone working in the digital world, but it can often feel like an inaccessible subject. It doesn’t have to be — and you don’t have to miss out on the competitive edge it can give you when it comes to SEO task automation. Put on your technical SEO cap and get ready to take notes, because Britney Muller is walking us through Machine Learning 101 in this week’s episode of Whiteboard Friday.

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

Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today I’m talking about all things machine learning, something, as many of you know, I’m super passionate about and love to talk about. So hopefully, this sparks a seed in some of you to explore it a bit further, because it is truly one of the most powerful things to happen in our space in a very long time. 

What is machine learning?

So a brief overview, in a nutshell, machine learning is actually a subset of AI, and some would argue we still haven’t really reached artificial intelligence. But it’s just one facet of the overall AI. 

Traditional programming

The best way to think about it is in comparison to traditional programming. So traditional programming, you input data and a program into a computer and out comes the output, whether that be a web page or calculator you built online, whatever that might be.

Machine learning

With machine learning, what you do is you put in the data and the desired output and put this into a computer, and you get a program, otherwise known as a machine learning model. So it’s a bit flipped, and it works extremely well. There are two primary types of machine learning:

  1. You have supervised, which is where you’re basically feeding a model labeled training data, 
  2. And then unsupervised, which is where you’re feeding a program data and letting it create clusters or associations between data points. 

The supervised is a bit more common. You’ll see things like classification, linear regression, and image recognition. Things like that are all very common. If you think about machine learning in terms of, okay, there’s all of this data that you’re putting into the model, data is the biggest part of machine learning. A lot of people would argue that if machine learning was a vehicle, data would be the fuel.

It’s a really important part to understand, because unless you have the right types of data to feed a model, you’re not going to get the desired outcome that you would like. 

A machine learning model example

So let’s look at an example. If you wanted to build a machine learning model that predicts housing prices, you might have all of this information.

You might have the current price, square foot of these homes, land, the number of bathrooms, the number of bedrooms, you name it. It goes on and on. These are also known as features. So what a model is going to try to do, when you put in all of this data, it’s going to try to understand associations between this information and come up with a model that best predicts home prices in the future.

The most basic of these machine learning models is linear regression. So if you think about inputting the data where maybe you just put in the price and the square foot, and you can kind of see the data like this. 

You see that as the square foot goes up, so does the price. A model over time, in looking at this data, is going to start to find the smoothest line through the data to have the most accurate predictions in the future.

What you don’t want it to do is to fit every single data point and have a line that looks like that — that’s also known as overfitting — because it doesn’t play nice for new data points. You don’t want a model to get so calculated to your dataset that it doesn’t predict accurately in the future.

A way to look at that is by the loss function. That’s maybe getting a bit deeper in this, but that’s how you would measure how the line is being fit. Let’s see. 

What are the machine learning possibilities in SEO?

So what are some of the possibilities in SEO? How can we leverage machine learning in the SEO space?

Automate meta descriptions

So there are couple ways that people are already doing this. You can automate meta descriptions by looking at the page content and using a machine model to summarize the text. So this literally summarizes the content for you and pares it down to a meta description length. Pretty incredible. 

Automate titles

You could similarly do this for titles, although I don’t suggest you do this for primary pages. This isn’t going to be perfect. But if you have a huge, huge website, with hundreds of thousands of pages, it gets you halfway there. It’s really interesting to start playing around in that space with these large websites.

Automate image alt text

You can also automate alt text for images. We see these models getting really good at understanding what’s in an image. 

Automate 301 redirects

301 redirects, Paul Shapiro has an incredible write-up and basically process for that already. 

Automate content creation

Content creation, and if that scares some of you or if you doubt that these models can currently create content that is decent, I challenge you to go check out Talk to Transformer.

It is a pared-back version of OpenAI, which was founded by Elon Musk. It’s pretty incredible and a little scary as to how good the content is just from that pared back model. So that is for sure possible in the future and even today. 

Automate product/page suggestions

In addition to product and page suggestions.

So this is just going to get better. Imagine us providing content and UX specifically for the unique users that come to our site, highly personalized content, highly personalized experiences. Really exciting stuff moving forward. 

Resources

I’ve got some resources I highly suggest you check out.

Google Codelabs is one of my favorites, just because it walks you through the steps. So if you go to Google Codelabs, filter by TensorFlow or machine learning, you can see the possible examples there. Colab notebooks or Jupyter notebooks are where you’ll likely be doing any of the machine learning that you want to do on your own.

Kaggle.com is the number one resource for data science competitions. So you get to really see what are the examples, how are people using machine learning today. You’ll see things like TSA has put up over $ 1 million for a data science team to come up with a model that predicts potential threats from security footage.

This stuff gets really interesting really fast. It’s also so important to have diversity and inclusion in this space to avoid really dangerous models in the future. So it’s something to definitely think about. 

TensorFlow is a great resource. It’s what Google put out, and it’s what a lot of their machine learning models is built off of. They’ve got a really great JavaScript platform that you can play around with. 

Andrew Ng has an incredible machine learning course. I highly suggest you check that out. 

Then Algorithmia is sort of a one-stop shop for models. So if you don’t care to dip your toes into machine learning and you just want say a summarizer model or a particular type of model, you could potentially find one there and do a plug-and-play of sorts.



So that’s pretty interesting and fun to explore. The last thing is a machine learning model is only as good as the data. I can’t express that enough. So a lot of machine learning and data scientists, it’s all data cleaning and parsing, and that’s the bulk of the work in this field.

It’s important to be aware of that. So that’s it for Machine Learning 101. Thank you so much for joining me, and I hope to see you all again soon. Thanks.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


If you enjoyed this episode of Whiteboard Friday, you’ll be delighted by all the cutting-edge SEO knowledge you’ll get from our newly released MozCon 2019 video bundle. Catch more useful technical tips in Britney’s talk, plus 26 additional future-focused topics from our top-notch speakers:

Grab the sessions now!

We suggest scheduling a good old-fashioned knowledge share with your colleagues to educate the whole team — after all, who didn’t love movie day in school? ;-)

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!


Moz Blog

Posted in IM NewsComments Off

Intro to SEO Competitive Analysis 101 – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Cyrus-Shepard

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

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

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

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

Video Transcription

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

What is competitive analysis for SEO?

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

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

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

How to do an SEO competitive analysis

How does it do this?

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

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

1. Identify your top competitors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Perform a keyword gap analysis

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

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

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

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

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

3. Perform a link gap analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Perform a top content analysis

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

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

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

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


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

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

New Guide & Free Template

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

Get the Guide + Free Template

Guide to SEO Competitive Analysis

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

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

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!


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Featured Snippets: What to Know & How to Target – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by BritneyMuller

Featured snippets are still the best way to take up primo SERP real estate, and they seem to be changing all the time. Today, Britney Muller shares the results of the latest Moz research into featured snippet trends and data, plus some fantastic tips and tricks for winning your own.

(And we just can’t resist — if this whets your appetite for all things featured snippet, save your spot in Britney’s upcoming webinar with even more exclusive data and takeaways!)

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Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday.

Today we’re talking about all things featured snippets, so what are they, what sort of research have we discovered about them recently, and what can you take back to the office to target them and effectively basically steal in search results.

What is a featured snippet?

So to be clear, what is a featured snippet?

If you were to do a search for “are crocs edible,” you would see a featured snippet like this:

Essentially, it’s giving you information about your search and citing a website. This isn’t to be confused with an answer box, where it’s just an answer and there’s no citation. If you were to search how many days are in February, Google will probably just tell you 28 and there’s no citation. That’s an answer box as opposed to a featured snippet.

Need-to-know discoveries about featured snippets

Now what have we recently discovered about featured snippets?

23% of all search result pages include a featured snippet

Well, we know that they’re on 23% of all search result pages. That’s wild. This is up over 165% since 2016.

We know that they’re growing.

There are 5 general types of featured snippets

We know that Google continues to provide more and more in different spaces, and we also know that there are five general types of featured snippets:

  1. Paragraph
  2. List
  3. Table
  4. Video
  5. Accordion

The most common that we see are the paragraph and the list. The list can come in numerical format or bullets.

But we also see tables and then video. The video is interesting because it will just show a specific section of a video that it thinks you need to consume in order to get your answer, which is always interesting.

Lately, we have started noticing accordions, and we’re not sure if they’re testing this or if it might be rolled out. But they’re a lot like People Also Ask boxes in that they expand and almost show you additional featured snippets, which is fascinating.

Paragraphs (50%) and lists (37%) are the most common types of featured snippets

Another important thing to take away is that we know paragraphs and lists are the most common, and we can see that here. Fifty percent of all featured snippet results are paragraphs. Thirty-seven percent are lists. It’s a ton. Then it kind of whittles down from there. Nine percent are tables, and then just under two percent are video and under two percent are accordion. Kind of good to know.

Half of all featured snippets are part of a carousel

Interestingly, half of all featured snippets are part of a carousel. What we mean by a carousel is when you see these sort of circular options within a featured snippet at the bottom.

So if you were to search for I think this was comfortable shoes, you have options for women is a circular carousel button, for work, and stylish. What happens when you click these is it recalibrates that featured snippet and changes it into what you clicked. So it starts to get very, very niche. You might have started with this very general search, and Google is basically begging you to refine what it is that you’re looking for. It’s very, very interesting and something to keep in mind.

People Also Ask boxes are on 93.8% of featured snippet SERPs

We also know that people also ask boxes are on 93.8% of featured snippet SERPs, meaning they’re almost always present when there’s a featured snippet, which is fascinating. I think there’s a lot of good data we can get from these People Also Ask questions to kind of seed your keyword research and better understand what it is people are looking for.

“Are Crocs supposed to be worn with socks?” It’s a very important question. You have to understand this stuff.

Informational sites are winning

We see that the sites that are providing finance information and educational information are doing extremely well in the featured snippet space. So again, something to keep in mind.

Be a detective and test!

You should always be exploring the snippets that you might want to rank for.

  • Where is it grabbing from the page?
  • What sort of markup is it?

Start being a detective and looking at all those things. So now to kind of the good stuff.

How to win featured snippets

What is it that you can specifically do to potentially win a featured snippet?

These are sort of the four boiled down steps I’ve come up with to help you with that.

1. Know which featured snippet keywords you rank on page one for

So number one is to know which featured snippet keywords your site already ranks for. It’s really easy to do in Keyword Explorer at Moz.

Animated gif of using Keyword Explorer to search crocs.com

So if you search by root domain and you just put in your website into Moz Keyword Explorer, it will show you all of the ranking keywords for that specific domain.

From there, you can filter by ranking or by range, from 1 to 10:

What are those keywords that you currently rank 1 to 10 on?

Then you add those keywords to a list. Once they populate in your list, you can filter by a featured snippet.

This is sort of the good stuff. This is your playground. This is where your opportunities are. It gets really fun from here.

2. Know your searchers’ intent

Number two is to know your searchers’ intent.

If one of your keywords was “Halloween costume DIY” and the search result page was all video and images and content that was very visual, you have to provide visual content to compete with an intent like that.

There’s obviously an intent behind the search where people want to see what it is and help in that process. It’s a big part of crafting content to rank in search results but also featured snippets. Know the intent.

3. Provide succinct answers and content

Number three, provide succinct answers and content. Omit needless words. We see Google providing short, concise information, especially for voice results. We know that’s the way to go, so I highly suggest doing that.

4. Monitor featured snippet targets

Number four, monitor those featured snippet targets, whether you’re actively trying to target them or you currently have them. STAT provides really, really great alerts. You can actually get an email notification if you lose or win a featured snippet. It’s one of the easiest ways I’ve discovered to keep track of all of these things.

Pro tip: Add a tl;dr summary

A pro tip is to add a “too long, didn’t read” summary to your most popular pages.

You already know the content that most people come to your site for or maybe the content that does the best in your conversions, whatever that might be. If you can provide summarized content about that page, just key takeaways or whatever that might be at the top or at the bottom, you could potentially rank for all sorts of featured snippets. So really, really cool, easy stuff to kind of play around with and test.

Want more tips and tricks? We’ve got a webinar for that!

Lastly, for more tips and tricks, you should totally sign up for the featured snippet webinar that we’re doing. I’m hosting it in a couple weeks.

Save my spot!

I know spots are limited, but we’ll be sharing all of the research that we’ve discovered and even more takeaways and tricks. So hopefully you enjoyed that, and I appreciate you watching this Whiteboard Friday.

Keep me posted on any of your featured snippet battles or what you’re trying to get or any struggles down below in the comments. I look forward to seeing you all again soon. Thank you so much for joining me. I’ll see you next time.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Custom Extraction Using an SEO Crawler for CRO and UX Insights – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by MrLukeCarthy

From e-commerce to listings sites to real estate and myriad verticals beyond, the data you can harness using custom extraction via crawler tools is worth its weight in revenue. With a greater granularity of data at your fingertips, you can uncover CRO and user experience insights that can inform your optimizations and transform your customer experience.

In this episode of Whiteboard Friday, we’re delighted to welcome Luke Carthy to share actionable wisdom from his recent MozCon 2019 presentation, Killer CRO and UX Wins Using an SEO Crawler.

Video Transcription

Hey, Moz. What’s up? Wow, can I just say it’s incredible I’m here in Seattle right now doing a Whiteboard Friday? I can’t wait to share this cool stuff with you. So thanks for joining me.

My name is Luke Carthy. As you can probably tell, I’m from the UK, and I want to talk to you about custom extraction, specifically in the world of e-commerce. However, what I will say is this works beautifully well in many of the verticals as well, so real estate, in job listings. In fact, any website that can pretty much spit out HTML in a web crawler, you can use custom extraction.

What is custom extraction?

Let’s get started. What is custom extraction? Well, as I kind of just alluded to, it allows you, when you’re crawling using like Screaming Frog, for example, or DeepCrawl or whatever it is you want to use, it allows you to grab and extract specific parts of the HTML and export it to a file, a CSV, in Excel, or whatever you prefer.



As a principle, okay, great, but I’m going to give you some really good examples of how you can really leverage that. So e-commerce, right here we’ve got a product page that I’ve beautifully drawn, and everything in red is something that you can potentially extract. Although, as I said, anything on the page you can. These are just some good examples.

Product information + page performance

Think about this for a moment. You’re an e-commerce website, you’re a listing site, and of course you have listing pages, you have product pages. Wouldn’t it be great if you could very quickly, at scale, understand all of your products’ pricing, whether you’ve got stock, whether it’s got an image, whether it’s got a description, how many reviews it has, and of the reviews, what’s the aggregate score, whether it’s four stars, five stars, whatever it is?

That’s really powerful because you can then start to understand how good pages perform based upon the information that they have, based upon traffic, conversion, customer feedback, and all sorts of great stuff, all using custom extraction and spitting it out on say a CSV or an Excel spreadsheet file.

Competitive insights

But where it gets super powerful and you get a lot of insight from is when you start to turn the lens to your competitors and you think about ways in which you can get those really good insights. You may have three competitors. You may have some aspirational competitors. You may have a site that you don’t necessarily compete with, but you use them on a day-to-day basis or you admire how easy their site was to use, and you can go away and do that.

You can fire up a crawl, and there’s no reason why you couldn’t extract that same information from other competitors and see what’s going on, to see what pricing your competitors are selling an item at, do they have that in stock or not, what are the reviews like, what FAQs do people have, can you then leverage that in your own content. 

Examples of how to glean insights from custom extraction in e-commerce

Example 1: Price increases for products competitors don’t stock

Let me give you a perfect example of how I’ve managed to use this.

I’ve managed to identify that a competitor doesn’t have a specific product in stock, and, as a result of that, I’ve been able to increase our prices because they didn’t sell it. We did at that specific time, and we could identify the price point, the fact that they didn’t have any stock, and it was awesome. Think about that. Really powerful insights at massive amounts of scale. 

Example 2: Improving facets and filters on category pages

Another example I wanted to talk to you about. Category pages, again incredibly gorgeous illustrations. So category pages, we have filters, we have a category page, and just to switch things up a little bit I’ve also got like a listings page as well, so whether it’s, as I said, real estate, jobs, or anything in that environment.

If you think about the competition again for a second, there is no reason why you wouldn’t be able to extract via custom extraction the best filters that people use, the top filters, the top facets that people like to select and understand. So you can then see whether you’re using the same kind of combinations of features and facets on your site and maybe improve that.

Equally, you can then start to understand what specific features correlate to sales and performance and impacts and really start to improve the performance of how your website performs and behaves for your customers. The same thing applies to both environments here. 

If you are a listing site and you list jobs or you list products or classified ads, is it location filters that they have at the top? Is it availability? Is it reviews? Is it scores? You can crawl a number of your competitors across a number of areas and identify whether there’s a pattern, see a theme, and then see whether you can leverage and better that and take advantage of that. That’s a great way in which you can use it. 

Example 3: Recommendations, suggestions, and optimization

But on top of that and the one that I am most fascinated with is by far recommendations.

In the MozCon talk I did earlier I had a statistic, and I think I can recall it. It was 35% of what people buy on Amazon comes from recommendations, and 75% of what people watch on Netflix comes from suggestions, from recommendations.

Think about how powerful that is. You can crawl your own site, understand your own recommendations at scale, identify the stock of those recommendations, the price, whether they have images, in what order they are, and you can start to build a really vivid picture as to what products people associate with your items. You can do that on a global scale. You can crawl the entire of your product portfolio or your listing portfolio and get that. 



But again, back to powerful intelligence, your competitors, especially when you have competitors that might have multivariable facets or multivariable recommendations. What I mean by that is we’ve all seen sites where you’ve got multiple carousels. So you’ve got Recommended for You.

You might have People Also Bought, alternative suggestions. The more different types of recommendations you have, the more data you have, the more intelligence you have, the more insight you have. Going back to say a real estate example, you might be looking at a property here. It’s at this price. What is your main aspirational real estate competitor recommending to you that you may not be aware of?

Then you can think about whether the focus is on location, whether it’s on price, whether it’s on number of bedrooms, etc., and you can start to understand and behave how that can work and get some really powerful insights from that. 

Custom extraction is all about granular data at scale

To summarize and bring it all to a close, custom extraction is all about great granular data at scale. The really powerful thing about it is you can do all of this yourself, so there’s no need to have to have meetings, send elaborate emails, get permission from somebody.

Fire up Screaming Frog, fire up DeepCrawl, fire up whatever kind of crawler you want to use, have a look at custom extraction, and see how you can make your business more efficient, find out how you can get some really cool competitive insights, and yeah, hopefully, fingers crossed that works for you guys. Thank you very much.

Bonus resources:

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


This is a meaty topic, we know — if you enjoyed this Whiteboard Friday and find yourself eager to know more, you’re in luck! Luke’s full presentation at MozCon 2019 goes even more in-depth into what custom extraction can do for you. Catch his talk along with 26 other forward-thinking topics from our amazing speakers in the MozCon video bundle:

Access the sessions now!

We recommend sharing them with your team and spreading the learning love. Happy watching!

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How to Write Content for Answers Using the Inverted Pyramid – Best of Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Dr-Pete

If you’ve been searching for a quick hack to write content for featured snippets, this isn’t the article for you. But if you’re looking for lasting results and a smart tactic to increase your chances of winning a snippet, you’re definitely in the right place.

Borrowed from journalism, the inverted pyramid method of writing can help you craft intentional, compelling, rich content that will help you rank for multiple queries and win more than one snippet at a time. Learn how in this fan-favorite Whiteboard Friday starring the one and only Dr. Pete!

Content for Answers

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Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans, Dr. Pete here. I’m the Marketing Scientist at Moz and visiting you from not-so-sunny Chicago in the Seattle office. We’ve talked a lot in the last couple years in my blog posts and such about featured snippets.

So these are answers that kind of cross with organic. So it’s an answer box, but you get the attribution and the link. Britney has done some great Whiteboard Fridays, the last couple, about how you do research for featured snippets and how you look for good questions to answer. But I want to talk about something that we don’t cover very much, which is how to write content for answers.

The inverted pyramid style of content writing

It’s tough, because I’m a content marketer and I don’t like to think that there’s a trick to content. I’m afraid to give people the kind of tricks that would have them run off and write lousy, thin content. But there is a technique that works that I think has been very effective for featured snippets for writing for questions and answers. It comes from the world of journalism, which gives me a little more faith in its credibility. So I want to talk to you about that today. That’s called the inverted pyramid.

Content for Answers

1. Start with the lead

It looks something like this. When you write a story as a journalist, you start with the lead. You lead with the lead. So if we have a story like “Penguins Rob a Bank,” which would be a strange story, we want to put that right out front. That’s interesting. Penguins rob a bank, that’s all you need to know. The thing about it is, and this is true back to print, especially when we had to buy each newspaper. We weren’t subscribers. But definitely on the web, you have to get people’s attention quickly. You have to draw them in. You have to have that headline.

2. Go into the details

So leading with the lead is all about pulling them in to see if they’re interested and grabbing their attention. The inverted pyramid, then you get into the smaller pieces. Then you get to the details. You might talk about how many penguins were there and what bank did they rob and how much money did they take.

3. Move to the context

Then you’re going to move to the context. That might be the history of penguin crime in America and penguin ties to the mafia and what does this say about penguin culture and what are we going to do about this. So then it gets into kind of the speculation and the value add that you as an expert might have.

How does this apply to answering questions for SEO?

So how does this apply to answering questions in an SEO context?

Content for Answers

Lead with the answer, get into the details and data, then address the sub-questions.

Well, what you can do is lead with the answer. If somebody’s asked you a question, you have that snippet, go straight to the summary of the answer. Tell them what they want to know and then get into the details and get into the data. Add those things that give you credibility and that show your expertise. Then you can talk about context.

But I think what’s interesting with answers — and I’ll talk about this in a minute — is getting into these sub-questions, talking about if you have a very big, broad question, that’s going to dive up into a lot of follow-ups. People who are interested are going to want to know about those follow-ups. So go ahead and answer those.

If I win a featured snippet, will people click on my answer? Should I give everything away?

Content for Answers

So I think there’s a fear we have. What if we answer the question and Google puts it in that box? Here’s the question and that’s the query. It shows the answer. Are people going to click? What’s going to happen? Should we be giving everything away? Yes, I think, and there are a couple reasons.

Questions that can be very easily answered should be avoided

First, I want you to be careful. Britney has gotten into some of this. This is a separate topic on its own. You don’t always want to answer questions that can be very easily answered. We’ve already seen that with the Knowledge Graph. Google says something like time and date or a fact about a person, anything that can come from that Knowledge Graph. “How tall was Abraham Lincoln?” That’s answered and done, and they’re already replacing those answers.

Answer how-to questions and questions with rich context instead

So you want to answer the kinds of things, the how-to questions and the why questions that have a rich enough context to get people interested. In those cases, I don’t think you have to be afraid to give that away, and I’m going to tell you why. This is more of a UX perspective. If somebody asks this question and they see that little teaser of your answer and it’s credible, they’re going to click through.

“Giving away” the answer builds your credibility and earns more qualified visitors

Content for Answers

So here you’ve got the penguin. He’s flushed with cash. He’s looking for money to spend. We’re not going to worry about the ethics of how he got his money. You don’t know. It’s okay. Then he’s going to click through to your link. You know you have your branding and hopefully it looks professional, Pyramid Inc., and he sees that question again and he sees that answer again.

Giving the searcher a “scent trail” builds trust

If you’re afraid that that’s repetitive, I think the good thing about that is this gives him what we call a scent trail. He can see that, “You know what? Yes, this is the page I meant to click on. This is relevant. I’m in the right place.” Then you get to the details, and then you get to the data and you give this trail of credibility that gives them more to go after and shows your expertise.

People who want an easy answer aren’t the kind of visitors that convert

I think the good thing about that is we’re so afraid to give something away because then somebody might not click. But the kind of people who just wanted that answer and clicked, they’re not the kind of people that are going to convert. They’re not qualified leads. So these people that see this and see it as credible and want to go read more, they’re the qualified leads. They’re the kind of people that are going to give you that money.

So I don’t think we should be afraid of this. Don’t give away the easy answers. I think if you’re in the easy answer business, you’re in trouble right now anyway, to be honest. That’s a tough topic. But give them something that guides them to the path of your answer and gives them more information.

How does this tactic work in the real world?

Thin content isn’t credible.

Content for Answers

So I’m going to talk about how that looks in a more real context. My fear is this. Don’t take this and run off and say write a bunch of pages that are just a question and a paragraph and a ton of thin content and answering hundreds and hundreds of questions. I think that can really look thin to Google. So you don’t want pages that are like question, answer, buy my stuff. It doesn’t look credible. You’re not going to convert. I think those pages are going to look thin to Google, and you’re going to end up spinning out many, many hundreds of them. I’ve seen people do that.

Use the inverted pyramid to build richer content and lead to your CTA

Content for Answers

What I’d like to see you do is craft this kind of question page. This is something that takes a fair amount of time and effort. You have that question. You lead with that answer. You’re at the top of the pyramid. Get into the details. Get into the things that people who are really interested in this would want to know and let them build up to that. Then get into data. If you have original data, if you have something you can contribute that no one else can, that’s great.

Then go ahead and answer those sub-questions, because the people who are really interested in that question will have follow-ups. If you’re the person who can answer that follow-up, that makes for a very, very credible piece of content, and not just something that can rank for this snippet, but something that really is useful for anybody who finds it in any way.

So I think this is great content to have. Then if you want some kind of call to action, like a “Learn More,” that’s contextual, I think this is a page that will attract qualified leads and convert.

Moz’s example: What is a Title Tag?

So I want to give you an example. This is something we’ve used a lot on Moz in the Learning Center. So, obviously, we have the Moz blog, but we also have these permanent pages that answer kind of the big questions that people always have. So we have one on the title tag, obviously a big topic in SEO.

Content for Answers

Here’s what this page looks like. So we go right to the question: What is a title tag? We give the answer: A title tag is an HTML element that does this and this and is useful for SEO, etc. Right there in the paragraph. That’s in the featured snippet. That’s okay. If that’s all someone wants to know and they see that Moz answered that, great, no problem.

But naturally, the people who ask that question, they really want to know: What does this do? What’s it good for? How does it help my SEO? How do I write one? So we dug in and we ended up combining three or four pieces of content into one large piece of content, and we get into some pretty rich things. So we have a preview tool that’s been popular. We give a code sample. We show how it might look in HTML. It gives it kind of a visual richness. Then we start to get into these sub-questions. Why are title tags important? How do I write a good title tag?

One page can gain the ability to rank for hundreds of questions and phrases

What’s interesting, because I think sometimes people want to split up all the questions because they’re afraid that they have to have one question per page, what’s interesting is that I think looked the other day, this was ranking in our 40 million keyword set for over 200 phrases, over 200 questions. So it’s ranking for things like “what is a title tag,” but it’s also ranking for things like “how do I write a good title tag.” So you don’t have to be afraid of that. If this is a rich, solid piece of content that people are going to, you’re going to rank for these sub-questions, in many cases, and you’re going to get featured snippets for those as well.

Then, when people have gotten through all of this, we can give them something like, “Hey, Moz has some of these tools. You can help write richer title tags. We can check your title tags. Why don’t you try a free 30-day trial?” Obviously, we’re experimenting with that, and you don’t want to push too hard, but this becomes a very rich piece of content. We can answer multiple questions, and you actually have multiple opportunities to get featured snippets.

So I think this inverted pyramid technique is legitimate. I think it can help you write good content that’s a win-win. It’s good for SEO. It’s good for your visitors, and it will hopefully help you land some featured snippets.

So I’d love to hear about what kind of questions you’re writing content for, how you can break that up, how you can answer that, and I’d love to discuss that with you. So we’ll see you in the comments. Thank you.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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How to Onboard Clients with Immersion Workshops – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by HeatherPhysioc

Spending quality time getting to know your client, their goals and capabilities, and getting them familiar with their team sets you up for a better client-agency relationship. Immersion workshops are the answer. Learn more about how to build a strong foundation with your clients in this week’s Whiteboard Friday presented by Heather Physioc.

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Video Transcription

Hey, everybody, and welcome back to Whiteboard Friday. My name is Heather Physioc, and I’m Group Director of Discoverability at VMLY&R. So I learned that when you onboard clients properly, the rest of the relationship goes a lot smoother.

Through some hard knocks and bumps along the way, we’ve come up with this immersion workshop model that I want to share with you. So I actually conducted a survey of the search industry and found that we tend to onboard clients inconsistently from one to the next if we bother to do a proper onboarding with them at all. So to combat that problem, let’s talk through the immersion workshop.

Why do an immersion workshop with a client?

So why bother taking the time to pause, slow down, and do an immersion workshop with a client? 

1. Get knowledgeable fast

Well, first, it allows you to get a lot more knowledgeable about your client and their business a lot faster than you would if you were picking it up piecemeal over the first year of your partnership. 

2. Opens dialogue

Next it opens a dialogue from day one.

It creates the expectation that you will have a conversation and that the client is expected to participate in that process with you. 

3. Build relationships

You want to build a relationship where you know that you can communicate effectively with one another. It also starts to build relationships, so not only with your immediate, day-to-day client contact, but people like their bosses and their peers inside their organization who can either be blockers or advocates for the search work that your client is going to try to implement.

4. Align on purpose, roadmap, and measuring success

Naturally the immersion workshop is also a crucial time for you to align with your client on the purpose of your search program, to define the roadmap for how you’re going to deliver on that search program and agree on how you’re going to measure success, because if they’re measuring success one way and you’re measuring success a different way, you could end up at completely different places.

5. Understand the DNA of the brand

Ultimately, the purpose of a joint immersion workshop is to truly understand the DNA of the brand, what makes them tick, who are their customers, why should they care what this brand has to offer, which helps you, as a search professional, understand how you can help them and their clients. 

Setting

Do it live! (Or use video chats)

So the setting for this immersion workshop ideally should be live, in-person, face-to-face, same room, same time, same place, same mission.

But worst case scenario, if for some reason that’s not possible, you can also pull this off with video chats, but at least you’re getting that face-to-face communication. There’s going to be a lot of back-and-forth dialogue, so that’s really, really important. It’s also important to building the empathy, communication, and trust between people. Seeing each other’s faces makes a big difference. 

Over 1–3 days

Now the ideal setting for the immersion workshop is two days, in my opinion, so you can get a lot accomplished.

It’s a rigorous two days. But if you need to streamline it for smaller brands, you can totally pull it off with one. Or if you have the luxury of stretching it out and getting more time with them to continue building that relationship and digging deeper, by all means stretch it to three days. 

Customize the agenda

Finally, you should work with the client to customize the agenda. So I like to send them a base template of an immersion workshop agenda with sessions that I know are going to be important to my search work.

But I work side-by-side with that client to customize sessions that are going to be the right fit for their business and their needs. So right away we’ve got their buy-in to the workshop, because they have skin in the game. They know which departments are going to be tricky. They know what objectives they have in their heads. So this is your first point of communication to make this successful.

Types of sessions

So what types of sessions do we want to have in our immersion workshop? 

Vision

The first one is a vision session, and this is actually one that I ask the clients to bring to us. So we slot about 90 minutes for the client to give us a presentation on their brand, their overarching strategy for the year, their marketing strategy for the year.

We want to hear about their goals, revenue targets, objectives, problems they’re trying to solve, threats they see to the business. Whatever is on their mind or keeps them up at night or whatever they’re really excited about, that’s what we want to hear. This vision workshop sets the tone for the entire rest of the workshop and the partnership. 

Stakeholder

Next we want to have stakeholder sessions.

We usually do these on day one. We’re staying pretty high level on day one. So these will be with other departments that are going to integrate with search. So that could be the head of marketing, for example, like a CMO. It could be the sales team. If they have certain sales objectives they’re trying to hit, that would be really great for a search team to know. Or it could be global regions.

Maybe Latin America and Europe have different priorities. So we may want to understand how the brand works on the global scale as opposed to just at HQ. 

Practitioner

On day two is when we start to get a little bit more in the weeds, and we call these our practitioner sessions. So we want to work with our day-to-day SEO contacts inside the organization. But we also set up sessions with people like paid search if they need to integrate their search efforts.

We might set up time with analytics. So this will be where we demo our standard SEO reporting dashboards and then we work with the client to customize it for their needs. This is a time where we find out who they’re reporting up to and what kinds of metrics they’re measured on to determine success. We talk about the goals and conversions they’re measuring, how they’re captured, why they’re tracking those goals, and their existing baseline of performance information.

We also set up time with developers. Technology is essential to actually implementing our SEO recommendations. So we set up time with them to learn about their workflows and their decision-making process. I want to know if they have resource constraints or what makes a good project ticket in Jira to get our work done. Great time to start bonding with them and give them a say in how we execute search.

We also want to meet with content teams. Now content tends to be one of the trickiest areas for our clients. They don’t always have the resources, or maybe the search scope didn’t include content from day one. So we want to bring in whoever the content decision-makers or creators are. We want to understand how they think, their workflows and processes. Are they currently creating search-driven content, or is this going to be a shift in mentality?

So a lot of times we get together and talk about process, editorial calendaring, brand tone and voice, whatever it takes to get content done for search.

Summary and next steps

So after all of these, we always close with a summary and next steps discussion. So we work together to think about all the things that we’ve accomplished during this workshop and what our big takeaways and learnings are, and we take this time to align with our client on next steps.

When we leave that room, everybody should know exactly what they’re responsible for. Very powerful. You want to send a recap after the fact saying, “Here’s what we learned and here’s what we understand the next steps to be. Are we all aligned?” Heads nod. Great. 

Tools to use

So a couple of tools that we’ve created and we’ll make sure to link to these below.

Download all the tools

Onboarding checklist

We’ve created a standard onboarding checklist. The thing about search is when we’re onboarding a new client, we pretty commonly need the same things from one client to the next. We want to know things about their history with SEO. We need access and logins. Or maybe we need a list of their competitors. Whatever the case is, this is a completely repeatable process. So there’s no excuse for reinventing the wheel every single time.

So this standard onboarding checklist allows us to send this list over to the client so they can get started and get all the pieces in place that we need to be successful. It’s like mise en place when you’re cooking. 

Discussion guides

We’ve also created some really helpful session discussion guides. So we give our clients a little homework before these sessions to start thinking about their business in a different way.

We’ll ask them open-ended questions like: What kinds of problems are your business unit solving this year? Or what is one of the biggest obstacles that you’ve had to overcome? Or what’s some work that you’re really proud of? So we send that in advance of the workshop. Then in our business unit discussions, which are part of the stakeholder discussions, we’ll actually use a few of the questions from that discussion guide to start seeding the conversation.

But we don’t just go down the list of questions, checking them off one by one. We just start the conversation with a couple of them and then follow it organically wherever it takes us, open-ended, follow-up, and clarifying questions, because the conversations we are having in that room with our clients are far more powerful than any information you’re going to get from an email that you just threw over the fence.

Sticky note exercise

We also do a pretty awesome little sticky note exercise. It’s really simple. So we pass out sticky notes to all the stakeholders that have attended the sessions, and we ask two simple questions. 

  1. One, what would cause this program to succeed? What are all the factors that can make this work? 
  2. We also ask what will cause it to fail.

Before you know it, the client has revealed, in their own words, what their internal obstacles and blockers will be. What are the things that they’ve run into in the past that have made their search program struggle? By having that simple exercise, it gets everybody in the mind frame of what their role is in making this program a success. 

Search maturity assessment

The last tool, and this one is pretty awesome, is an assessment of the client’s organic search maturity.

Now this is not about how good they are at SEO. This is how well they incorporate SEO into their organization. Now we’ve actually done a separate Whiteboard Friday on the maturity assessment and how to implement that. So make sure to check that out. But a quick overview. So we have a survey that addresses five key areas of a client’s ability to integrate search with their organization.

  • It’s stuff like people. Do they have the right resources? 
  • Process. Do they have a process? Is it documented? Is it improving? 
  • Capacity. Do they have enough budget to actually make search possible? 
  • Knowledge. Are they knowledgeable about search, and are they committed to learning more? Stuff like that.

So we’ve actually created a five-part survey that has a number of different questions that the client can answer. We try to get as many people as possible on the client side to answer these questions as we can. Then we take the numerical answers and the open-ended answers and compile that into a maturity assessment for the brand after the workshop.

So we use that workshop time to actually execute the survey, and we have something that we can bring back to the client not long after to give them a picture of where they stand today and where we’re going to take them in the future and what the biggest obstacles are that we need to overcome to get them there. 

So this is my guide to creating an immersion workshop for your new clients. Be sure to check out the Whiteboard Friday on the maturity assessment as well.

We’d love to hear what you do to onboard your clients in the comments below. Thanks and we’ll see you on the next Whiteboard Friday.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


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Friday The 13th Google Search Ranking Algorithm Update Chatter

I am seeing some early chatter of a Google search ranking algorithm update today on Friday the 13th, September 13, 2019. The chatter is super early but I am seeing it not just across WebmasterWorld, but also Black Hat World and social media. Some of the automated tracking tools are also picking up on some of these signs.


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E-A-T and the Quality Raters’ Guidelines – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by MarieHaynes

EAT — also known as Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness — is a big deal when it comes to Google’s algorithms. But what exactly does this acronym entail, and why does it matter to your everyday work? In this bite-sized version of her full MozCon 2019 presentation, Marie Haynes describes exactly what E-A-T means and how it could have a make-or-break effect on your site.

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

Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans. My name is Marie Haynes, from Marie Haynes Consulting, and I’m going to talk to you today about EAT and the Quality Raters’ Guidelines. By now, you’ve probably heard of EAT. It’s a bit of a buzzword in SEO. I’m going to share with you why EAT is a big part of Google’s algorithms, how we can take advantage of this news, and also why it’s really, really important to all of us.

The Quality Raters’ Guidelines

Let’s talk about the Quality Raters’ Guidelines. These guidelines are a document that Google has provided to this whole army of quality raters. There are apparently 16,000 quality raters, and what they do is they use this document, the Quality Raters’ Guidelines, to determine whether websites are high quality or not.

Now the quality raters do not have the power to put a penalty on your website. They actually have no direct bearing on rankings. But instead, what happens is they feed information back to Google’s engineers, and Google’s engineers can take that information and determine whether their algorithms are doing what they want them to do. Ben Gomes, the Vice President of Search at Google, he had a quote recently in an interview with CNBC, and he said that the quality raters, the information that’s in there is fundamentally what Google wants the algorithm to do.

“They fundamentally show us what the algorithm should do.”
- Ben Gomes, VP Search, Google

So we believe that if something is in the Quality Raters’ Guidelines, either Google is already measuring this algorithmically, or they want to be measuring it, and so we should be paying close attention to everything that is in there. 

How Google fights disinformation

There was a guide that was produced by Google earlier, in February of 2019, and it was a whole guide on how they fight disinformation, how they fight fake news, how they make it so that high-quality results are appearing in the search results.

There were a couple of things in here that were really interesting. 

1. Information from the quality raters allows them to build algorithms

The guide talked about the fact that they take the information from the quality raters and that allows them to build algorithms. So we know that it’s really important that the things that the quality raters are assessing are things that we probably should be paying attention to as well. 

2. Ranking systems are designed to ID sites with high expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness

The thing that was the most important to me or the most interesting, at least, is this line that said our ranking systems are designed to identify sites with a high indicia of EAT, of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.

So whether or not we want to argue whether EAT is a ranking factor, I think that’s semantics. What the word “ranking factor” means, what we really need to know is that EAT is really important in Google’s algorithms. We believe that if you’re trying to rank for any term that really matters to people, “your money or your life” really means if it’s a page that is helping people make a decision in their lives or helping people part with money, then you need to pay attention to EAT, because Google doesn’t want to rank websites that are for important queries if they’re lacking EAT.

The three parts of E-A-T

So it’s important to know that EAT has three parts, and a lot of people get hung up on just expertise. I see a lot of people come to me and say, “But I’m a doctor, and I don’t rank well.” Well, there are more parts to EAT than just expertise, and so we’re going to talk about that. 

1. Expertise

But expertise is very important. In the Quality Raters’ Guidelines, which each of you, if you have not read it yet, you really, really should read this document.

It’s a little bit long, but it’s full of so much good information. The raters are given examples of websites, and they’re told, “This is a high-quality website. This is a low-quality website because of this.” One of the things that they say for one of the posts is this particular page is to be considered low quality because the expertise of the author is not clearly communicated.

Add author bios

So the first clue we can gather from this is that for all of our authors we should have an author bio. Perhaps if you are a nationally recognized brand, then you may not need author bios. But for the rest of us, we really should be putting an author bio that says here’s who wrote this post, and here’s why they’re qualified to do so.

Another example in the Quality Raters’ Guidelines talks about was a post about the flu. What the quality raters were told is that there’s no evidence that this author has medical expertise. So this tells us, and there are other examples where there’s no evidence of financial expertise, and legal expertise is another one. Think about it.

If you were diagnosed with a medical condition, would you want to be reading an article that’s written by a content writer who’s done good research? It might be very well written. Or would you rather see an article that is written by somebody who has been practicing in this area for decades and has seen every type of side effect that you can have from medications and things like that?

Hire experts to fact-check your content

Obviously, the doctor is who you want to read. Now I don’t expect us all to go and hire doctors to write all of our content, because there are very few doctors that have time to do that and also the other experts in any other YMYL profession. But what you can do is hire these people to fact check your posts. We’ve had some clients that have seen really nice results from having content writers write the posts in a very well researched and referenced way, and then they’ve hired physicians to say this post was medically fact checked by Dr. So-and-so. So this is really, really important for any type of site that wants to rank for a YMYL query. 

One of the things that we started noticing, in February of 2017, we had a number of sites that came to us with traffic drops. That’s mostly what we do. We deal with sites that were hit by Google algorithm updates. What we were noticing is a weird thing was happening.

Prior to that, sites that were hit, they tended to have all sorts of technical issues, and we could say, “Yes, there’s a really strong reason why this site is not ranking well.” These sites were all ones that were technically, for the most part, sound. But what we noticed is that, in every instance, the posts that were now stealing the rankings they used to have were ones that were written by people with real-life expertise.

This is not something that you want to ignore. 

2. Authoritativeness

We’ll move on to authoritativeness. Authoritativeness is really very, very important, and in my opinion this is the most important part of EAT. Authoritativeness, there’s another reference in the Quality Raters’ Guidelines about a good post, and it says, “The author of this blog post has been known as an expert on parenting issues.”

So it’s one thing to actually be an expert. It’s another thing to be recognized online as an expert, and this should be what we’re all working on is to have other people online recognize us or our clients as experts in their subject matter. That sounds a lot like link building, right? We want to get links from authoritative sites.

The guide to this information actually tells us that PageRank and EAT are closely connected. So this is very, very important. I personally believe — I can’t prove this just yet — but I believe that Google does not want to pass PageRank through sites that do not have EAT, at least for YMYL queries. This could explain why Google feels really comfortable that they can ignore spam links from negative SEO attacks, because those links would come from sites that don’t have EAT.

Get recommendations from experts

So how do we do this? It’s all about getting recommendations from experts. The Quality Raters’ Guidelines say in several places the raters are instructed to determine what do other experts say about this website, about this author, about this brand. It’s very, very important that we can get recommendations from experts. I want to challenge you right now to look at the last few links that you have gotten for your website and look at them and say, “Are these truly recommendations from other people in the industry that I’m working in? Or are they ones that we made?”

In the past, pretty much every link that we could make would have the potential to help boost our rankings. Now, the links that Google wants to count are ones that truly are people recommending your content, your business, your author. So I did a Whiteboard Friday a couple of years ago that talked about the types of links that Google might want to value, and that’s probably a good reference to find how can we find these recommendations from experts.

How can we do link building in a way that boosts our authoritativeness in the eyes of Google? 

3. Trustworthiness

The last part, which a lot of people ignore, is trustworthiness. People would say, “Well, how could Google ever measure whether a website is trustworthy?” I think it’s definitely possible. Google has a patent. Now we know if there’s a patent, that they’re not necessarily doing this.

Reputation via reviews, blog posts, & other online content

But they do have a patent that talks about how they can gather information about a brand, about an individual, about a website from looking at a corpus of reviews, blog posts, and other things that are online. What this patent talks about is looking at the sentiment of these blog posts. Now some people would argue that maybe sentiment is not a part of Google’s algorithms.

I do think it’s a part of how they determine trustworthiness. So what we’re looking for here is if a business really has a bad reputation, if you have a reputation where people online are saying, “Look, I got scammed by this company.” Or, “I couldn’t get a refund.” Or, “I was treated really poorly in terms of customer service.” If there is a general sentiment about this online, that can affect your ability to rank well, and that’s very important. So all of these things are important in terms of trustworthiness.

Credible, clear contact info on website

You really should have very credible and clear contact information on your website. That’s outlined in the Quality Raters’ Guidelines. 

Indexable, easy-to-find info on refund policies

You should have information on your refund policy, assuming that you sell products, and it should be easy for people to find. All of this information I believe should be visible in Google’s index.

We shouldn’t be no indexing these posts. Don’t worry about the fact that they might be kind of thin or irrelevant or perhaps even duplicate content. Google wants to see this, and so we want that to be in their algorithms. 

Scientific references & scientific consensus

Other things too, if you have a medical site or any type of site that can be supported with scientific references, it’s very important that you do that.

One of the things that we’ve been seeing with recent updates is a lot of medical sites are dropping when they’re not really in line with scientific consensus. This is a big one. If you run a site that has to do with natural medicine, this is probably a rough time for you, because Google has been demoting sites that talk about a lot of natural medicine treatments, and the reason for this, I think, is because a lot of these are not in line with the general scientific consensus.

Now, I know a lot of people would say, “Well, who is Google to determine whether essential oils are helpful or not, because I believe a lot of these natural treatments really do help people?” The problem though is that there are a lot of websites that are scamming people. So Google may even err on the side of caution in saying, “Look, we think this website could potentially impact the safety of users.”

You may have trouble ranking well. So if you have posts on natural medicine, on any type of thing that’s outside of the generally accepted scientific consensus, then one thing you can do is try to show both sides of the story, try to talk about how actually traditional physicians would treat this condition.

That can be tricky. 

Ad experience

The other thing that can speak to trust is your ad experience. I think this is something that’s not actually in the algorithms just yet. I think it’s going to come. Perhaps it is. But the Quality Raters’ Guidelines talk a lot about if you have ads that are distracting, that are disruptive, that block the readers from seeing content, then that can be a sign of low trustworthiness.

“If any of Expertise, Authoritativeness, or Trustworthiness is lacking, use the ‘low’ rating.”

I want to leave you with this last quote, again from the Quality Raters’ Guidelines, and this is significant. The raters are instructed that if any one of expertise, authoritativeness, or trustworthiness is lacking, then they are to rate a website as low quality. Again, that’s not going to penalize that website. But it’s going to tell the Google engineers, “Wait a second. We have these low-quality websites that are ranking for these terms.How can we tweak the algorithm so that that doesn’t happen?”



But the important thing here is that if any one of these three things, the E, the A, or the T are lacking, it can impact your ability to rank well. So hopefully this has been helpful. I really hope that this helps you improve the quality of your websites. I would encourage you to leave a comment or a question below. I’m going to be hanging out in the comments section and answering all of your questions.

I have more information on these subjects at mariehaynes.com/eat and also /trust if you’re interested in these trust issues. So with that, I want to thank you. I really wish you the best of luck with your rankings, and please do leave a question for me below.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


Feeling like you need a better understanding of E-A-T and the Quality Raters’ Guidelines? You can get even more info from Marie’s full MozCon 2019 talk in our newly released video bundle. Go even more in-depth on what drives rankings, plus access 26 additional future-focused SEO topics from our top-notch speakers:

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Invest in a bag of popcorn and get your whole team on board to learn!

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!


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