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A Look Back at a Great 2017: 5 Major Moz Product Investments and a Sneak Peek Into 2018

Posted by adamf

It’s hard to believe that 2017 is already past. We entered the year with big ambitions and we’ve made some great strides. As has become tradition, I’ve compiled a rundown of some of the most interesting updates that you may have seen (or missed) this past year. We’ve intentionally focused on significant product updates, but I’ve also shared a little about some newer programs that provide value for customers in different ways.

TL;DR, here are some of the larger and more interesting additions to Moz in 2017:

  1. Keywords by Site: Keyword Explorer adds site-based keyword research and competitive intelligence
  2. Site Crawl V2: Overhauled Site Crawl for better auditing and workflow
  3. Major investments in infrastructure: Better performance and resilience across the Moz toolset
  4. New instructor-led training programs: Targeted classes to level-up your SEO knowledge
  5. Customer Success: Custom walkthroughs to help you get the most out of Moz
  6. Bonus! MozPod: Moz’s new free podcast keeps you up to date on the latest industry topics and trends

Big updates

This year and last, we’ve been spending a disproportionate focus on releasing large infrastructural improvements, new datasets, and foundational product updates. We feel these are crucial elements that serve the core needs of SEOs and will fuel frequent improvements and iterations for years to come.

To kick things off, I wanted to share some details about two big updates from 2017.


1) Keywords by Site: Leveling up keyword research and intelligence

Rank tracking provides useful benchmarks and insights for specific, targeted keywords, but you can’t track all of the keywords that are relevant to you. Sometimes you need a broader look at how visible your sites (and your competitors’ sites) are in Google results.

We built Keywords by Site to provide this powerful view into your Google presence. This brand-new dataset in Moz significantly extends Keyword Explorer and improves the quality of results in many other areas throughout Moz Pro. Our US corpus currently includes 40 million Google SERPs updated every two weeks, and allows you to do the following:

See how visible your site is in Google results

This view not only shows how authoritative a site is from a linking perspective, but also shows how prominent a site is in Google search results.

Compare your ranking prominence to your competitors

Compare up to three sites to get a feel for their relative scale of visibility and keyword ranking overlap. Click on any section in the Venn diagram to view the keywords that fall into that section.

Dig deep: Sort, filter, and find opportunities, then stash them in keyword lists

For example, let’s say you’re looking to determine which pages or content on your site might only require a little nudge to garner meaningful search visibility and traffic. Run a report for your site in Keyword Explorer and then use the filters to quickly hone in on these opportunities:

Our focus on data quality

We’ve made a few decisions to help ensure the freshness and accuracy of our keyword corpus. These extend the cost and work to maintain this dataset, but we feel they make a discernible difference in quality.

  • We recollect all of our keyword data every 2 weeks. This means that the results you see are more recent and more similar to the results on the day that you’re researching.
  • We cycle up to 15 million of our keywords out on a monthly basis. This means that as new keywords or terms trend up in popularity, we add them to our corpus, replacing terms that are no longer getting much search volume.

A few improvements we’ve made since launch:

  • Keyword recommendations in your campaigns (tracked sites) are much improved and now backed by our keyword corpus.
  • These keyword suggestions are also included in your weekly insights, suggesting new keywords worth tracking and pages worth optimizing.
  • Coming very soon: We’re also on the cusp of launching keyword corpuses for the UK, Canada, and Australia. Stay tuned.

A few resources to help you get more from Keywords by Site:

Try out Keywords by Site!


2) Site Crawl V2: Big enhancements to site crawling and auditing

Another significant project we completed in 2017 was a complete rewrite of our aging Site Crawler. In short, our new crawler is faster, more reliable, can crawl more pages, and surfaces more issues. We’ve also made some enhancements to the workflow, to make regular crawls more customizable and easy to manage. Here are a few highlights:

Week-over-week crawl comparisons

Our new crawler keeps tabs on what happened in your previous crawl to show you which specific issues are no longer present, and which are brand new.

Ignore (to hide) individual issues or whole issue types

This feature was added in response to a bunch of customer requests. While Moz does its best to call out the issues and priorities that apply to most sites, not all sites or SEOs have the same needs. For example, if you regularly noindex a big portion of your site, you don’t need us to keep reminding you that you’ve applied noindex to a huge number of pages. If you don’t want them showing your reports, just ignore individual issues or the entire issue type.

Another workflow improvement we added was the ability to mark an issue as fixed. This allows you to get it out of your way until the next crawl runs and verifies the fix.

All Pages view with improved sorting and filtering

If you’re prioritizing across a large number of pages or trying to track down an issue in a certain area of your site, you can now sort all pages crawled by Issue Count, Page Authority, or Crawl Depth. You can also filter to show, for instance, all pages in the /blog section of my site that are redirects, and have a crawl issue.

Recrawl to verify fixes

Moz’s crawler monitors your site by crawling it every week. But if you’ve made some changes and want to verify them, you can now recrawl your site in between regular weekly crawls instead of waiting for the next crawl the start.

Seven new issues checked and tracked

These include such favorites as detecting Thin Content, Redirect Chains, and Slow Pages. While we were at it, we revamped duplicate page detection and improved the UI to help you better analyze clusters of duplicate content and figure out which page should be canonical.

A few resources to help you get more from Site Crawl:


3) Major investments in infrastructure for performance and resilience

You may not have directly noticed many of the updates we’ve made this year. We made some significant investments in Moz Pro and Moz Local to make them faster, more reliable, and allow us to build new features more quickly. But here are a few tangible manifestations of these efforts:

“Infinite” history on organic Moz Pro search traffic reports

Okay, infinite is a bit of a stretch, but we used to only show the last 12 months or weeks of data. Now we’ll show data from the very inception of a campaign, broken down by weeks or months. This is made possible by an updated architecture that makes full historical data easy to surface and present in the application. It also allows for custom access to selected date ranges.

Also worth noting is that the new visualization shows how many different pages were receiving organic search traffic in context with total organic search traffic. This can help you figure out whether traffic increase was due to improved rankings across many pages, or just a spike in organic traffic for one or a few pages.

More timely and reliable access to Moz Local data at all scales

As Moz Local has brought on more and bigger customers with large numbers of locations, the team discovered a need to bolster systems for speed and reliability. A completely rebuilt scheduling system and improved core location data systems help ensure all of your data is collected and easy to access when you need it.

Improved local data distribution

Moz Local distributes your location data through myriad partners, each of which have their own formats and interfaces. The Local team updated and fine-tuned those third-party connections to improve the quality of the data and speed of distribution.


4) New instructor-led training programs: Never stop learning

Not all of our improvements this year have shown up in the product. Another investment we’ve made is in training. We’ve gotten a lot of requests for this over the years and are finally delivering. Brian Childs, our trainer extraordinaire, has built this program from the ground up. It includes:

  • Boot camps to build up core skills
  • Advanced Seminars to dig into more intensive topics
  • Custom Training for businesses that want a more tailored approach

We have even more ambitious plans for 2018, so if training interests you, check out all of our training offerings here.


5) Customer Success: Helping customers get the most out of Moz

Our customer success program took off this year and has one core purpose: to help customers get maximum value from Moz. Whether you’re a long-time customer looking to explore new features or you’re brand new to Moz and figuring out how to get started, our success team offers product webinars every week, as well as one-on-one product walkthroughs tailored to your needs, interests, and experience level.

The US members of our customer success team hone their skills at a local chocolate factory (Not pictured: our fantastic team members in the UK, Australia, and Dubai)

If you want to learn more about Moz Pro, check out a webinar or schedule a walkthrough.


Bonus! MozPod: Moz’s new free podcast made its debut

Okay, this really strays from product news, but another fun project that’s been gaining momentum is MozPod. This came about as a side passion project by our ever-ambitious head trainer. Lord knows that SEO and digital marketing are fast-moving and ever-changing; to help you keep up on hot topics and new developments, we’ve started the Mozpod. This podcast covers a range of topics, drawing from the brains of key folks in the industry. With topics ranging from structured data and app store optimization to machine learning and even blockchain, there’s always something interesting to learn about. If you’ve got an idea for an episode or a topic you’d like to hear about, submit it here.

Join Brian every week for a new topic and guest:


What’s next?

We have a lot planned for 2018 — probably way too much. But one thing I can promise is that it won’t be a dull year. I prefer not to get too specific about projects that we’ve not yet started, but here are a few things already in the works:

  • A significant upgrade to our link data and toolset
  • On-demand Site Crawl
  • Added keyword research corpuses for the UK, Australia, and Canada
  • Expanded distribution channels for local to include Facebook, Waze, and Uber
  • More measurement and analytics features around local rankings, categories, & keywords
  • Verticalized solutions to address specific local search needs in the restaurant, hospitality, financial, legal, & medical sectors

On top of these and many other features we’re considering, we also plan to make it a lot easier for you to use our products. Right now, we know it can be a bit disjointed within and between products. We plan to change that.

We’ve also waited too long to solve for some specific needs of our agency customers. We’re prioritizing some key projects that’ll make their jobs easier and their relationships with Moz more valuable.


Thank you!

Before I go, I just want to thank you all for sharing your support, suggestions, and critical feedback. We strive to build the best SEO data and platform for our diverse and passionate customers. We could not succeed without you. If you’d like to be a part of making Moz a better platform, please let us know. We often reach out to customers and community members for feedback and insight, so if you’re the type who likes to participate in user research studies, customer interviews, beta tests, or surveys, please volunteer here.

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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10 great reasons to book your ticket NOW for SMX West!

The largest gathering of the search marketing community is happening March 13-15 in San Jose, California. Search marketers from around the globe are flocking to SMX West for three days of unrivaled training alongside industry experts in a warm, welcoming environment. But that’s not the only reason…



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

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Keys to Greatness (or Just Getting More Great Stuff Done)

This week, we have lots of pragmatic advice for you on how to be a happier, more productive person. Because you’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and gosh darn it, this joke has now been permanently rendered un-funny. On Monday, Morgan Dix (he happens to be one of our Certified Content Marketers) revealed what meditation
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Thanksgiving Week (and a Great Sale) on Copyblogger

It’s Thanksgiving week in the U.S.! My creative output this week will be mainly culinary — I’ve got three kinds of pie to bake tomorrow, plus all of the other fun things we’ll have on the table. So this week is a short one for you. On Monday, the editorial team got together to talk
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Countdown to Launch: How to Come Up with Great Testing Ideas

Posted by ChrisDayley

Whether you are working on a landing page or the homepage of your website, you may be asking yourself, “Why aren’t people converting? What elements are helping or hurting my user experience?”

Those are good questions.

When it comes to website or landing page design, there are dozens — if not hundreds — of potential elements to test. And that’s before you start testing how different combinations of elements affect performance.

Launching a test

The good news is, after running thousands of tests for websites in almost every industry you can imagine, we’ve created a simple way to quickly identify the most important areas of opportunity on your site or landing page.

We call this approach the “launch analysis”.

Why? Well, getting someone to convert is a lot like trying to launch a rocket into outer space. To succeed in either situation, you need to generate enough momentum to overcome any resistance.

To get a rocket into orbit, the propulsion and guidance systems have to overcome gravity and air friction. To get a potential customer to convert, your CTA, content and value proposition have to overcome any diversions, anxiety or responsiveness issues on your site.

So, if you really want your conversion rate to “take off” (see what I did there?), you need to take a hard look at each of these six factors.

Prepping for launch

Before we dive into the launch analysis and start testing, it’s important to take a moment to review 3 important testing factors. After all, no matter how good your analysis is, if your test is fundamentally broken, you’ll never make any progress.

With that in mind, here are three questions to ask yourself before you dive into the launch analysis:

What is my business question?

Every good website or landing page test should answer some sort of important business question. These are usually open-ended questions like “how much content should be on the page to maximize conversions?” or “what does the best-converting above-the-fold experience look like?”

If your test is designed to answer a fundamental business question, every test is a success. Even if your new design doesn’t outperform the original, your test still helps get you get some data around what really matters to your audience.

What is my hypothesis?

Where your business question may be relatively broad, your testing hypothesis should be very specific. A good hypothesis should be an if/then statement that answers the business question (if we do X, Y will happen).

So, if your business question is “how much content should be on the page?”, your hypothesis might be: “if we reduce the amount of content on our page, mobile conversions will increase.” (If you’re interested, this is actually something we studied at Disruptive Advertising.)

What am I measuring?

We hinted at this in the last section, but every good test needs a defined, measurable success metric. For example, “if we reduce the amount of content on our page, people will like our content more” is a perfectly valid hypothesis, but it would be incredibly difficult to define or measure, which would make our test useless.

When it comes to online advertising, there are tons of well-defined, actually measurable metrics you can use (link clicks, time on page, bounce rate, conversion rate, cart abandonment rate, etc.) to determine success or failure. Pick one that makes sense and use it to measure the results of your test.

The launch analysis and countdown

Now that we have the testing basics out of the way, we can dive into the launch analysis. When performing a launch analysis on a page of your site, it is critical that you try to look at your page objectively, and identify potential opportunities instead of immediately jumping into things you need to change. Testing is about discovering what your audience wants, not about making assumptions.

With that being said, let’s countdown to launch!

6. Value proposition

To put it simply, your value proposition is what motivates potential customers to buy.

Have you ever wanted something really badly? Badly enough that you spent days, weeks, or even months figuring out how to get it for an affordable price? If you want something badly enough (or, in other words, if the value proposition is good enough), you’ll conquer any obstacle to get it.

This same principle applies to your website. If you can really sell people on your value proposition, they’ll be motivated enough to overcome a lot of potential obstacles (giving their personal information, dealing with poor navigation, etc.).

For example, a while back, we were helping a college optimize the following page on their site:

It wasn’t a bad page to begin with, but we believed there was opportunity to test some stronger value propositions. “Get Started on the Right Path: Prepare yourself for a better future by earning your degree from Pioneer Pacific College” doesn’t sound all that exciting, does it?

There’s a reason for that.

In business terms, your value proposition can be described as “motivation = perceived benefits – perceived costs.” Pioneer Pacific’s value proposition made it sound like going to all the work to get a degree from their college was just the beginning of a long, hard process. Not only that, but it wasn’t really hitting on any of the potential pain points an aspiring student might have.

In this particular case, the value proposition minimized the perceived benefits while maximizing the perceived costs. That’s not a great way to get someone to sign up.

With that in mind, we decided to try something different. We hypothesized that focusing on the monetary benefits of earning a degree (increased income) would increase the perceived benefits and talking about paying for a degree as an investment would decrease the perceived cost.

So, we rewrote the copy in the box to reflect our revised value proposition and tested it:

As you can see above, simply tweaking the value proposition increased form fills by 49.5%! The form didn’t change, but because our users were more motivated by the value proposition, they were more willing to give out their information.

Unfortunately, many businesses struggle with this essential step.

Some websites lack a clear value proposition. Others have a value proposition, but it makes potential customers think more about the costs than the benefits. Some have a good cost-benefit ratio, but the proposition is poorly communicated, and users struggle to connect with it.

So, if you’re running the launch analysis on your own site or landing page, start by taking a look at your value proposition. Is it easy to find and understand? Does it address the benefits and costs that your audience actually cares about? Could you potentially focus on different aspects of your value propositions to discover what your audience really cares about?

If you think there’s room for improvement, you’ve just identified a great testing opportunity!

5. Call to action

If you’ve been in marketing for a while, you’ve probably heard all about the importance of a good call to action (CTA), so it should come as no surprise that the CTA is a key part of the launch analysis.

In terms of our rocket analogy, your CTA is a lot like a navigation system for your potential customers. All the rocket fuel in the world won’t get you to your destination if you don’t know where you’re going.

In that regard, it’s important to remember that your CTA typically needs to be very explicit (tell them what to do and/or what to expect). After all, your potential customers are depending on your CTA to navigate them to their destination.

For example, another one of our clients was trying to increase eBook downloads. Their original CTA read “Download Now”, but we hypothesized that changing the CTA to emphasize speed might improve their conversion rate.

So, we rephrased the CTA to read “Instant Download” instead. As it turned out, this simple change to the CTA increased downloads by 12.6%!

The download was just as instantaneous in both cases; but, simply by making it clear that users would get immediate access to this content, we were able to drive a lot more conversions.

Of course, there is such a thing as being too explicit. While people want to know what to do next, they also like to feel like they are in the driver’s seat, so sometimes soft CTAs like “Get More Information” can deliver better results than a more direct CTA like “Request a Free Demo Today!”

As you start to play around with CTA testing ideas, it’s important to remember the 2-second rule: If a user can’t figure out what they are supposed to do within two seconds, something needs to change.

To see if your CTA follows this rule, ask a friend or a coworker who has never seen your page or site before to look at it for two seconds and then ask them what they think they are supposed to do next. If they don’t have a ready answer, you just discovered another testing opportunity.

Case in point: On the page below, a client of ours was trying to drive phone calls with the CTA on the right. From a design perspective, the CTA fit the color scheme of the page nicely, but it didn’t really draw much attention.

Since driving calls was a big deal for the client, we decided to revamp the CTA. We made the CTA a contrasting red color and expanded on the value proposition.

The result? Our new, eye-catching CTA increased calls by a whopping 83.8%.

So, if your CTA is hard to find, consider changing the size, location and/or color. If your CTA is vague, try being more explicit (or vice versa). If your CTA doesn’t have a clear value proposition, find a way to make the benefits of converting more obvious. The possibilities are endless.

4. Content

Like your value proposition, your content is a big motivating factor for your users. In fact, great content is how you sell people on your value proposition, so content can make or break your site.

The only problem is, as marketers and business owners, we have a tendency towards egocentrism. There are so many things that we love about our business and that make it special that we often overwhelm users with content that they frankly don’t care about.

Or, alternatively, we fail to include content that will help potential customers along in the conversion process because it isn’t a high priority to us.

To really get the most out of your content, you have to lay your ego and personal preference aside and ask yourself questions like:

  • How much content do my users want?
  • What format do they want the content in?
  • Do mobile and desktop users want different amounts of content?

As a quick example of this, we were working with a healthcare client (an industry that is notoriously long-winded) to maximize eBook downloads on the following page:

As you can see above, the original page included a table of contents-style description of what readers would get when they downloaded the guide.

We hypothesized that this sort of approach, with its wordy chapter titles and and formal feel, did not make the eBook seem like a user-friendly guide. There was so much content that it was hard to get a quick feel for what the eBook was actually about.

To address this, we tried boiling the copy down to a quick, easy-to-read summary of the eBook content:

Incredibly, paring the content down to a very simplified summary increased eBook downloads by 57.82%!

However, when it comes to content, less is not always more.

While working on a pop-up for Social Media Examiner, we tested a couple different variants of the following copy in an effort to increase eBook downloads and subscriptions:

Just like the preceding example, this copy was a bit wordy and hard to read. So, we tried turning the copy into bullet points…

…and even tried boiling it down to the bare essentials:

However, when the test results came in, both of these variants had a lower conversion rate than the original, word-dense content!

These results fly in the face of the whole “less is more” dogma marketers love to preach, which just goes to show how important it is to test your content.

So, when it comes to content, don’t be afraid to try cutting things down. But, you might also try bulking things up in some places — provided that your content is focused on what your potential customers want and need, not just your favorite talking points. Our suggestion: challenge whatever you have on your site. Try less, more, and different variations of the same. It should ultimately be up to your audience!

3. Diversions

Unfortunately, having a great value proposition, CTA and content doesn’t guarantee you a great conversion rate. To get a rocket to its destination, the launch team has to overcome a variety of obstacles.

Same goes for the launch analysis.

Now that we’ve talked about how to maximize motivation, it’s time to talk about ways to reduce obstacles and friction points on your site or page that may be keeping people from converting, starting with diversions.

When it comes to site testing, diversions could be anything that has the potential to distract your user from reaching their destination. Contrasting buttons, images, other offers, menus, links, content, pop ups…like cloud cover on launch day, if it leads people off course, it’s a diversion.

For example, take a look at the page below. There are 5 major elements on the page competing for your attention – none of which are a CTA to view the product – and that’s just above the fold!

What did this client really want people to do? Watch a video? Read a review? Look at the picture? Read the Q&A? Visit their cart?

As it turns out, the answer is “none of the above”.

What the client really wanted was for people to come to their site, look at their products and make a purchase. But, with all the diversions on their site, people were getting lost before they even had a chance to see the client’s products.

To put the focus where it belonged—on the products—we tried eliminating all of the diversions by redesigning the site experience to focus on product call to actions. That way, when people came to the page, they immediately saw Cobra’s products and a simple CTA that said “Shop Our Products”.

The new page design increased revenue (not just conversions) by 69.2%!

We’ve seen similar results with many of our eCommerce clients. For example, we often test to see how removing different elements and offers from a client’s homepage affects their conversion rates (this is called “existence testing”).

Existence testing is one of the easiest, fastest ways to discover what is distracting from conversions and what is helping conversions. If you remove something from your page and conversion rates go down, that item is helpful to the conversion process. If you remove something and conversion rates go up – Bingo! You found a distraction.

The GIF below shows you how this works. Essentially, you just remove a page element and then see which version of the page performs better. Easy enough, right?

For this particular client, we tested to see how removing 8 different elements from their home page would affect their revenue. As it turned out, 6 of the 8 elements were actually decreasing their revenue!

By eliminating those elements during our test, their revenue-per-visit (RPV) increased by 59%.

Why? Well, once again, we discovered things that were diversions to the user experience (as it turns out, the diversions were other products!).

If you’re curious to see how different page or site elements affect your conversion rate, existence testing can be a great way to go. Simply create a page variant without the element in question and see what happens!

2. Anxiety

Ever have that moment when you’re driving a car and you suddenly get hit by a huge gust of wind? What happens to your heart rate?

Now imagine you’re piloting a multi-billion dollar rocket…

Whether you’re in the driver’s seat or an office chair, anxiety is never a good thing. Unfortunately, when it comes to your site, people are already in a state of high alert. Anything that adds to their stress level (clicking on something that isn’t clickable, feeling confused or swindled) may lead to you losing a customer.

Of course, anxiety-inducing elements on a website are typically more subtle than hurricane-force winds on launch day. It might be as simple as an unintuitive user interface, an overly long form or a page element that doesn’t do what the user expects.

As a quick example, one of our eCommerce clients had a mobile page that forced users to scroll all the the way back up to the top of the page to make a purchase.

So, we decided to try a floating “Buy Now” button that people could use to quickly buy the item once they’d read all about it:

Yes, scrolling to the top of the page seems like a relatively small inconvenience, but eliminating this source of anxiety improved the conversion rate by 6.7%.

Even more importantly, it increased the RPV by $ 1.54.

Given the client’s traffic volume, this was a huge win!

As you can probably imagine, the less confusion, alarm, frustration and work your site creates for users, the more likely they are to convert.

When you get right down to it, conversion should be a seamless, almost brainless process. If a potential customer ever stops to think, “Wait, what?” on their journey to conversion, you’ve got a real problem.

To identify potential anxiety-inducing elements on your site or page, try going through the whole conversion process on your site (better yet, have someone else do it and describe their experience to you). Watch for situations or content that force you to think. Odds are, you’ve just discovered a testing opportunity.

1. Responsiveness

Finally, the last element of the launch analysis is responsiveness—specifically mobile responsiveness.

To be honest, mobile responsiveness is not the same thing as having a mobile responsive site, just like launching a rocket on a rainy day is not the same thing as launching a rocket on a clear day.

The days of making your site “mobile responsive” and calling it good are over. With well over half of internet searches taking place on mobile devices, the question you need to ask yourself isn’t “Is my site mobile responsive?” What you should be asking yourself is, “Is my site customized for mobile?”

For example, here is what one of our clients’ “mobile responsive” pages looks like:

While this page passed Google’s “mobile friendly” test, it wasn’t exactly a “user friendly” experience.

To fix that problem, we decided to test a couple of custom mobile pages:

The results were truly impressive. Both variants clearly outperformed the original “mobile responsive” design and the winning variant increased calls by 84% and booked appointments by 41%!

So, if you haven’t taken the time yet to create a custom mobile experience, you’re probably missing out on a huge opportunity. It might take a few tests to nail down the right design for your mobile users, but most sites can expect big results from a little mobile experience testing.

As you brainstorm ways to test your mobile experience, remember, your mobile users aren’t usually looking for the same things as your desktop users. Most mobile users have very specific goals in mind and they want it to be as easy as possible to achieve those goals.

Launch!

Well, that’s it! You’re ready for launch!

Go through your site or page and take a look at how what you can do to strengthen your value proposition, CTA and content. Then, identify things that may potentially be diversions, anxiety-inducing elements or responsiveness issues that are preventing people from converting.

By the time you finish your launch analysis, you should have tons of testing ideas to try. Put together a plan that focuses on your biggest opportunities or problems first and then refine from there. Happy testing!

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A Desert Island Paradise … and a Great Podcasting Course

On Monday, Stefanie Flaxman showed off an incredibly easy (no, really) way to boost the power of your content, make it more audience-friendly, and even enhance your SEO. On Tuesday, things got a little silly when we asked our editorial team what their “desert island” copywriting technique would be. Come check them out — with
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Paint by Numbers: Using Data to Produce Great Content

Posted by rjonesx.

It’s not every day that I write about content. To be honest, it’s probably a once-a-year kind of thing. I will readily admit that I’m a “links are king” kind of SEO, and have been since starting in this industry more than a decade ago. However, I do look over the fence from time to time to see if the grass is greener and, on occasion, I actually like what I see. Prior to joining Moz, I was a consultant at an agency like many of you reading this blog post. More often than not, one of the key concerns of my clients was what to write about. It seems that webmasters and business owners alike can easily acquire writer’s block after trudging through the uninspiring task of turning a list of keywords into website copy. So where do you look when you have run out of words

Numbers.

Alright, stick with me here. I imagine for some of you the idea of poring over numbers to remedy writer’s block would be like trying to stop a headache with a brick. It’s adding insult to injury. What I hope to show you in the next couple of paragraphs is how data can be an incredible source of inspiration in writing, especially if you can hit a few key principles: expose, relate, surprise, and share.

Expose

Chances are your business or website generates some amount of unique, first party data that you can expose to the world. It might be from analytics, your rank tracker like Moz, or from raw user data if you operate a forum. I’ll give you examples of how you might tap into these resources (especially when they don’t seem obvious or plenteous) but let’s start with a canonical example of one great use of first-party data in an industry that seems directly at odds with — dating.

The thought of quantifying and analyzing our love lives seems like an oxymoron of sorts. However, one of the most successful uses of data for content has been produced by the team at OK Cupid, whose “data”-tagged blog posts have earned thousands of solid backlinks and enviable traffic. The team at OK Cupid accomplishes this by tapping their huge resource for unique data, generated by their user base. Let’s look at one quick example: Congrats Graduates: No One Gives a Sh*t.

22% of female and 16% of male millenials say a college degree is mandatory for dating.

The blog post is fairly straightforward (and not particularly long) but it used unique data that isn’t really available to the average person. Because OK Cupid is in a privileged position, they can provide this kind of insight to their audience at large.

But maybe you don’t have a million customers with profiles on your site; where can you look for first party data? Well, here are a couple of ideas of the types of data your company or organization might have which can easily be turned into interesting content:

  • Google Analytics, Search Console data and Adwords data: Do you see trends around holidays that are interesting? Perhaps you notice that more people search for certain keywords at certain times. This could be even more interesting if there’s a local holiday (like a festival or event) that makes your data unique from the rest of the country.
  • Sales data: When do your sales go up or down? Do they coincide with events? Or do they happen to coincide with completely different types of keywords? Try using Google Correlate, which will identify keywords that follow the same patterns as your data.
  • Survey data: Use your sales or lead history to run surveys and generate insightful content.
    • A clothing store could compare responses to questions about personality by the colors of clothing that people purchase (Potential headline: Is It True What They Say About Red?)
    • A car parts store could compare the size of certain accessories to favorite sports (Potential headline: Big Trucks and Big Hits)
    • An insurance provider could compare the type of insurance requested vs. the level of education (Potential headline: What Smart People Do Differently with Insurance)

There are probably tons more sources of unique, first-party data that you or your business have generated over the years which can be turned into great content. If you dig through the data long enough, you’ll hit pay dirt.

Relate

Data is foreign. It’s a language almost no one speaks in their day-to-day conversations, a notation meant for machines. This consideration requires that we make data immediately relatable to our readers. We shouldn’t just ask “What does the data say?”, but instead “What does the data say to me?” How we make data relatable is simple — organize your data by how people identify themselves. This can be geographic, economic, biological, social, or cultural distinctions with which we regularly categorize ourselves.

Many of the best examples of this kind of strategy involve geography (perhaps because everyone lives somewhere, and it’s pretty non-controversial to make generic claims about one location or another). Take a look at a map of your country and try not to look first towards where you live. I’m a North Carolinian, and I almost immediately find myself interested in anything that compares my state to others.

So maybe you aren’t OK Cupid with millions of users and you can’t find unique data to share — don’t worry, there’s still hope. The example below is a rather ingenious method of using Google Adwords data to build a geographical story that’s relatable to any potential customer in the United States. The webmasters at Opulent used state-level Keyword Planner to visualize popularity across the country in a piece they call the “State of Style.

When I found this on Reddit’s DataIsBeautiful (where most of these examples come from), I immediately checked to see what performed best in North Carolina. I honestly couldn’t care less about popular fashion or jewelry brands, but my interest in North Carolina eclipsed that lack of interest. Geography-based data visualization has produced successful content related to in sports, politics, beer, and even knitting.

If you walk away with any practical ideas from this post, I think this example has got to be it. Fire up an Adwords campaign and find out how consumer demand breaks down in your industry at a state-by-state level. Are you a marketer and want to attract clients in a particular sector? Here’s your chance to write a whitepaper on national demand. If you’re a local business, you can target Google Keyword Planner to your city and compare it to other cities around the country.

Surprise

Perhaps the greatest opportunity with data-focused content is the chance to truly surprise your reader. There’s something exciting about learning an interesting fact (who hasn’t seen one of these lying around and didn’t pick it up?). So, how do you make your data “pop?” How do you make numbers fascinating?

Perspective.

Let’s start with a simple statistic:

The cost of ending polio between 2013 and 2018 is

$ 5.5 Billion Dollars.

How does that number feel to you? Does it feel big or little? Is it interesting on its own? Probably not, let’s try and spice it up a bit.

$ 5.5 billion dollars doesn’t seem that much when you realize people spend that amount on iPhones every 2 weeks. We could rid the world of polio for that much! Or, what if we present it like this…

In this light, it seems almost insane to spend that much money preventing just a couple more polio cases relative to the huge gains we could make on malaria. Of course, the statistics don’t tell the full story. Polio is in the end-stages of eradication where the cost-per-case is much higher, and as malaria is attacked, it too will see cost-per-case increase. But the point remains the same: by giving the polio numbers some sort of context, some sort of forced perspective, we make the data far more intriguing and appealing.

So how would this work with content for your own site? Let’s look at an example from BestPlay.co, which wrote a piece on Board Games are Getting Worse. Board games aren’t a data-centric industry, but that doesn’t keep them from producing awesome content with data. Here’s a generic graph they provide in the piece which shows off average board game ratings.

There really isn’t much to see here. There’s nothing intrinsically shocking about the data as we look at it. So how do they add perspective to make their point and give the user intrigue? Simple — apply a historical perspective.

With this historical perspective, we can see board game scores getting better and better up until 2012, when they began to take a dive — the first multi-year dive in their recorded history. To draw users in, you use comparison to provide surprising perspectives.

Share

This final method is the one that I think is most overlooked. Once you’ve created your fancy piece of content, let your audience do some leg work for you by releasing the data set. There’s an entire community of the Internet just looking for great data sets which could take advantage of your data and cite your content in their own publications. You can find everything from All of Donald Trump’s Tweets to Everything Lost at TSA to Hand-drawn Pictures of Pineapples. While there is a good chance your data set won’t ever be used, it can pick up a couple of extra links in the event that it does.

Putting it all together

What happens when a webmaster combines these types of methods — exposing unique data, making it relatable and surprising, even for a topic that seems averse to data? You get something like this: Jeans vs. Leggings.

This piece played the geography card for relatability:

They compared user interest in jeans to give perspective to the growth of demand for leggings:

Slice.com reveals their first-party data to make interesting, data-driven content that ultimately scores them links from sites like In Style Magazine, Shape.com, and the NY Post. Looking at fashion through the lens of data meant great traffic and great shares.

How do I get started?

Get down and dirty with the data. Don’t wait until you end up with a nice report in your hand, but start slicing and dicing things looking for interesting patterns or results. You can start with the data you already have: Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Google Adwords, and, if you’re a Moz customer, even your rank tracking data or keyword research data. If none of these avenues work, dig through the amazing data resources found on Reddit or WebHose. Look for a story in the numbers by relating the data to your audience and making comparisons to provide perspective. It isn’t a foolproof formula, but it is pretty close. The right slice of data will cut straight through writer’s block.

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Writers: Here’s Why You Aren’t Getting More Great Clients

"It’s a particularly good time to join our list of recommended writers." – Sonia Simone

We’ve been saying it for years — writers run the web.

The internet depends on a wealth of content that’s worth reading, watching, and listening to.

And writers are the ones who put those words together. Who create and shape ideas, who teach us, who move us to action … while making all of it interesting and engaging.

It’s difficult work, and it’s necessary work if we want to attract and persuade the people who will become our customers.

So why do so many writers have a hard time making a living?

There are two ugly problems that keep writers from making what they’re worth, and I’m going to talk about both of them today.

Ugly Problem #1

The first ugly problem of freelancing is finding enough clients.

It turns out that getting really good at putting words together doesn’t always translate to marketing our own businesses.

Word-of-mouth can be a great way to find clients — but it’s not necessarily how you’re going to find the right number of clients to fill your schedule, or to find them when you actually need them.

We talk about freelancing as though it’s different from other forms of business … but it isn’t. Every business needs to have marketing systems in place, so you’re putting a compelling message in front of enough people, and converting a sufficient number to customers or clients.

“My clients love me” is not a marketing system.

Some day, if you’re very good, your marketing might be able to rest on your reputation alone.

You don’t have to starve before you get there.

Make sure you have a reliable way to get in front of people looking to hire a good writer. That might be spending time on LinkedIn, it might be cold-calling, or you could do the work to get onto our list of recommended writers.

The important thing is to make yourself visible to the kind of people who hire writers.

There’s another reason professional writers struggle, and it’s even uglier than the first one.

Ugly Problem #2

What’s even worse than not having enough clients?

Not having enough good clients.

Crummy clients burn all of your time, energy, and enthusiasm getting you to do ineffective work for lousy rates.

You won’t have the time, much less the emotional energy, to work on your own marketing. You’ll be too busy writing dreadful listicles for pennies — for people who don’t respect you or what you do.

What causes a lack of good clients?

Bad positioning.

Your marketing can’t just communicate, “Hey, I’m available.”

It has to communicate, “Hey, I’m different.”

Well-paid writers work hard to become true experts. Many of them specialize in desirable formats (sales letters, email sequences) or lucrative niches (healthcare, law). And they understand the structures that make marketing effective.

Well-paid writers don’t write dreadful listicles, because dreadful listicles don’t create great results for clients.

And knowing what kind of content creates results — and what kind of content should be kicked to the curb — is an important part of why well-paid writers deserve those great rates.

How to fix your positioning

Writers need to do two things to improve their positioning:

  1. Get very good at things that clients care about.
  2. Communicate that they’re very good at things that clients care about.

One of those, “sounds simple, is actually really hard” things, I know.

So how do you do it?

Well, getting very good is a matter of becoming a bit obsessed with your craft, and doing a whole bunch of it. Learn everything you can about persuasive copy. Read this blog, listen to podcasts, connect with writers whose voices you enjoy.

Study content strategy, then try it out. Write. A lot. Publish — on your own blog, on someone else’s blog, on any copywriting project you can. Pay close attention to what works and what doesn’t.

Once you’ve got the “being really good” part down, if you’re having trouble getting that across, you may just need a supportive community to get you over the confidence hurdle. In my experience, nothing quiets impostor syndrome better than finding a community of professionals who have your back when you’re feeling low.

So is Content Certification the answer to everything?

Right about now, you probably think I’m going to tell you that our Certified Content Marketer program is going to solve all your problems for you.

Well, it might … depending on what problems you’re having.

  • It will get you in front of people who are looking for writers.
  • It will teach you the strategies that allow you to get better client results.
  • It will give you the opportunity to ask questions about specific hurdles you’re encountering.
  • It will open a door to a supportive community that can help you find your professional confidence.
  • It will show you models for marketing systems to find an abundance of really good clients.

Here’s what it definitely won’t do for you:

It won’t teach you the art and magic of stringing the words together. You have to bring that magic with you. This program is intended for folks who are already solid writers.

This is a particularly good time …

At this point, I’ve seen a lot of writers get fantastic benefits from the program. Which has been a lot of fun to watch, to tell you the truth.

But I have reason to believe that we were just getting started … because once Copyblogger starts offering done-for-you services for the Rainmaker Platform, we think the demand for “our kind of writers” is going to spike pretty dramatically.

Now I don’t have a crystal ball, and I’m not going to make any guesses about precisely what the demand will look like.

But I do know that if I was still freelancing and I had a chance to be on the list of recommended writers right as Copyblogger was ramping up their ability to offer writing services … I’d be all over that.

Here’s how to take the next step

We’re going to be reopening the Certification program in the next few days. Just add your email address below to get all the details, and you’ll be the first to know when we open the doors to our new group of students.

Find out when our Certified Content Marketer training program reopens:

The post Writers: Here’s Why You Aren’t Getting More Great Clients appeared first on Copyblogger.


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How to Become a Truly Great Copywriter

"Shut up and listen." – Robert Bruce

Copywriting is not writing. It is assembling.

The best copywriters collect the varied parts of their research and assemble those parts into a true story that resonates with the particular worldview of an audience.

Then that story is tested, tweaked, and deployed again. A story that enters the conversation an audience is already having, can be a story that travels.

The assembly of these parts is key.

Though you’ll never know if a headline, or a collection of bullet points, or a call to action will resonate with your audience — not until you let it out into the real world and test it — there is one commonly overlooked practice that’s turned out to be the best copywriting advice I’ve ever put to use …

Shut up and listen.

  • Listen to the creator of the product you’re selling. Let her talk (for hours if necessary) about what makes it work, why she built it, what she hopes it will do for her customers. This practice alone can give you the bulk of your copy.
  • Listen to your audience. What are they telling you — directly or indirectly — about what they really want and need? If social media has given us anything, it’s an unprecedented ability to hear the demands and desires of real people, in real time.
  • Listen to your competitors. It’s wise to have a view of the entire field. What’s working in your market? What’s not working? What can you learn from others’ success and failure (and from the language that got them there)?

If you’ve built a useful and/or captivating product or service, you don’t need to sweat and agonize over dreaming up some dumb marketing campaign.

Real people will tell you precisely how to assemble the various parts of your copy … many times they’ll even give you the actual bullet points and headlines that you’ll end up using, word for word.

This is not laziness; it’s wisdom in practice. Talk less, listen more.

Humble yourself and serve your audience, listen to their needs and desires, listen to the language they use.

If you listen carefully, your audience can eventually give you everything you need, including much of your copy. Oh, and remember …

Shut up and listen.

Image source: Eugenio Mazzone via Unsplash.

The post How to Become a Truly Great Copywriter appeared first on Copyblogger.


Copyblogger

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How to Become a Great Copywriter

"Shut up and listen." – Robert Bruce

Copywriting is not writing. It is assembling.

The best copywriters collect the varied parts of their research and assemble those parts into a true story that resonates with the particular worldview of an audience.

Then that story is tested, tweaked, and deployed again. A story that enters the conversation an audience is already having, can be a story that travels.

The assembly of these parts is key.

Though you’ll never know if a headline, or a collection of bullet points, or a call to action will resonate with your audience — not until you let it out into the real world and test it — there is one commonly overlooked practice that’s turned out to be the best copywriting advice I’ve ever put to use …

Shut up and listen.

  • Listen to the creator of the product you’re selling. Let her talk (for hours if necessary) about what makes it work, why she built it, what she hopes it will do for her customers. This practice alone can give you the bulk of your copy.
  • Listen to your audience. What are they telling you — directly or indirectly — about what they really want and need? If social media has given us anything, it’s an unprecedented ability to hear the demands and desires of real people, in real time.
  • Listen to your competitors. It’s wise to have a view of the entire field. What’s working in your market? What’s not working? What can you learn from others’ success and failure (and from the language that got them there)?

If you’ve built a useful and/or captivating product or service, you don’t need to sweat and agonize over dreaming up some dumb marketing campaign.

Real people will tell you precisely how to assemble the various parts of your copy … many times they’ll even give you the actual bullet points and headlines that you’ll end up using, word for word.

This is not laziness; it’s wisdom in practice. Talk less, listen more.

Humble yourself and serve your audience, listen to their needs and desires, listen to the language they use.

If you listen carefully, your audience can eventually give you everything you need, including much of your copy. Oh, and remember …

Shut up and listen.

Image source: Eugenio Mazzone via Unsplash.

The post How to Become a Great Copywriter appeared first on Copyblogger.


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