Tag Archive | "Myths"

SearchCap: Google’s latest algorithm update, local SEO myths & the Mary G. Ross doodle

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.



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3 Content Marketing Myths and Their Reality-Based Solutions

We all know that creating content can be hard work. One of our goals at Copyblogger is to help you make sure you’re putting your work into the right things, so you get results and not just a fistful of disappointment. This week, we looked at three myths and mistakes that can hold writers back
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The Myths and Truths About How Google Hires

“Today we are going to talk about two things,” said Sean McGaughran, Engineering and Technology Recruiter at Google. “One, we are going to talk about some common Google myths and busts them and two, we are going to talk about how Google actually hires.”

Visit Google’s Career Site…

Busting Google Hiring Myths

“Let’s get right into some myth busting,” says Rachel Bonds, Business Recruiter and Talent Guru. “The first myth is about only hiring people from Ivey League institutions. That’s not true. We hire people from all sorts of backgrounds, colleges and even people who haven’t attended college. We are really looking to hire a diverse set of candidates from all sorts of experiences and your GPA is only taken into consideration if you graduated recently from school.”

“The second big myth we hear a lot is about brain teasers,” she said. “We won’t be asking you crazy questions about how many golf balls fit into the Empire State Building. We really spend that time getting to know you and we try to limit it to about four interviews during the course of your process, not a multitude of conversations. So it’s not impossible to get hired at Google!”

The Google Hiring Process

“The first step in getting hired is really to get us your application,” notes Shadan Deleveaux, also a Business Recruiter at Google. “Our career site has some great tips on putting together a powerful and compelling resume. For example, your resume should be concise, generally less than two pages. Also, you really want to make sure that it has no errors or mistakes. Read it top to bottom, bottom to top. Have a friend take a look at it for you. Pay extra special attention to it. Finally, you want to make sure that your bullet points on your resume convey impact. Don’t just list the things you did at your current job, but really how you impacted that role. It’s one of the things that we care about a lot here at Google.”

“Perfect, because living, breathing human beings just like us actually look at your resume, thoughtful trained professionals who can help connect you with some great opportunities right here at Google,” added McGaughran.

“Once your resume is reviewed you may hear back from a recruiter,” added Bonds. “If you don’t after a couple of months you can assume that that role has likely been filled. But if you do the next step is a phone conversation with a recruiter like one of us. We’ll want to learn more about your experience, your background and your potential fit with the role. From there, you may have an additional phone interview with another relevant Googler for that team. On the technical side that may include a coding interview. On the business side it may include a conversation that’s more specific to the role.”

In-Person Interviews at Google

“Now comes the exciting and slightly nerve racking on-site interviews, where you get a chance to come on-site and interview with between 4-5 interviewers,” said McGaughran. “If you are interviewing for a technical role, typically those interviews will revolve around data structure, coding algorithms and if you are interviewing for a non-technical position there are often more structured interview questions. You will often have a couple more minutes to chat with the interviewer, get to know them a little bit, talk about the roll and also have an opportunity for some breaks in between to grab a water or snack. Sometimes you will have an opportunity to have a lunch with another member of the team or even a hiring manager.”

“If you make it past that point in the process your packet goes to our hiring committee, which is really just a team of Googlers that take a look at your packet,” added Deleveaux. “Your packet is nothing more than your interviews, your resume and any work samples you may have submitted to us. It the hiring committee signs off on it, it then goes to one of our senior level Googlers for a final round of approval for an extra set of objective eyes. If that senior level Googler signs off on it, that’s when you get a call from your recruiter saying… congratulations, here’s your offer!”

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The 7 Citation Building Myths Plaguing Local SEO

Posted by JoyHawkins

Previously, I wrote an article unveiling some of the most common myths I see in the Local SEO space. I thought I’d do a follow-up that specifically talked about the myths pertaining to citations that I commonly hear from both small business owners and SEOs alike.

Myth #1: If your citations don’t include your suite number, you should stop everything you’re doing and fix this ASAP.

Truth: Google doesn’t even recognize suite numbers for a whopping majority of Google business listings. Even though you enter a suite number in Google My Business, it doesn’t translate into the “Suite #” field in Google MapMaker — it simply gets eliminated. Google also pays more attention to the location (pin) marker of the business when it comes to determining the actual location and less to the actual words people enter in as the address, as there can be multiple ways to name a street address. Google’s Possum update recently introduced a filter for search queries that is based on location. We’ve seen this has to do with the address itself and how close other businesses in the same industry are to your location. Whether or not you have a suite number in Google My Business has nothing to do with it.

Darren Shaw from Whitespark, an expert on everything related to citations, says:

“You often can’t control the suite number on your citations. Some sites force the suite number to appear before the address, some after the address, some with a # symbol, some with “Ste,” and others with “Suite.” If minor discrepancies like these in your citations affected your citation consistency or negatively impacted your rankings, then everyone would have a problem.”

In summary, if your citations look great but are missing the suite number, move along. There are most likely more important things you could be spending time on that would actually impact your ranking.

Myth #2: Minor differences in your business name in citations are a big deal.

Truth: Say your business name is “State Farm: Bob Smith,” yet one citation lists you as “Bob Smith Insurance” and another as “Bob Smith State Farm.” As Mike Blumenthal states: “Put a little trust in the algorithm.” If Google was incapable of realizing that those 3 names are really the same business (especially when their address & phone number are identical), we’d have a big problem on our hands. There would be so many duplicate listings on Google we wouldn’t even begin to be able to keep track. Currently, I only generally see a lot of duplicates if there are major discrepancies in the address and phone number.

Darren Shaw also agrees on this:

“I see this all the time with law firms. Every time a new partner joins the firm or leaves the firm, they change their name. A firm can change from “Fletcher, McDonald, & Jones” to “Fletcher, Jones, & Smith” to “Fletcher Family Law” over the course of 3 years, and as long as the phone number and address stay the same, it will have no negative impact on their rankings. Google triangulates the data it finds on the web by three data points: name, address, and phone number. If two of these are a match, and then the name is a partial match, Google will have no problem associating those citations with the correct listing in GMB.”

Myth #3: NAP cleanup should involve fixing your listings on hundreds of sites.

Truth: SEO companies use this as a scare tactic, and it works very well. They have a small business pay them for citation cleanup. They’ll do a scan of your incorrect data and send you a list of hundreds of directories that have your information wrong. This causes you to gasp and panic and instantly realize you must hire them to spend hours cleaning all this up, as it must be causing the ranking of your listing on Google to tank.

Let’s dive into an example that I’ve seen. Local.com is a site that feeds to hundreds of smaller directories on newspaper sites. If you have a listing wrong on Local.com, it might appear that your listing is incorrect on hundreds of directories. For example, these three listings are on different domains, but if you look at the pages they’re identical and they all say “Local.com” at the top:

http://directory.hawaiitribune-herald.com/profile?listingid=108895814

http://directory.lufkindailynews.com/profile?listingid=108895814

http://flbiz.oscnewsgazette.com/profile?listingid=108895814

Should this cause you to panic? No. Fixing it on Local.com itself should fix all the hundreds of other places. Even if it didn’t, Google hasn’t even indexed any of these URLs. (Note: they might index my examples since I just linked to them in this Moz article, so I’m including some screenshots from while I was writing this):

If Google hasn’t even indexed the content, it’s a good sign that the content doesn’t mean much and it’s nothing you should stress about. Google would have no incentive or reason to index all these different URLs due to the fact that the content on them is literally the same. Additionally, no one links to them (aside from me in this article, of course).

As Darren Shaw puts it,

“This one really irks me. There are WAY more important things for you to spend your time/money on than trying to fix a listing on a site like scranton.myyellowpageclassifieds.biz. Chances are, any attempt to update this listing would be futile anyway, because small sites like these are basically unmanaged. They’re collecting their $ 200/m in Adsense revenue and don’t have any interest in dealing with or responding to any listing update requests. In our Citation Audit and Cleanup service we offer two packages. One covers the top 30 sites + 5 industry/city-specific sites, and the other covers the top 50 sites + 5 industry/city-specific sites. These are sites that are actually important and valuable to local search. Audit and cleanup on sites beyond these is generally a waste of time and money.”

Myth #4: There’s no risk in cancelling an automated citation service.

People often wonder what might happen to their NAP issues if they cancel their subscription with a company like Yext or Moz Local. Although these companies don’t do anything to intentionally cause old data to come back, there have been some recent interesting findings around what actually happens when you cancel.

Truth: In one case, Phil Rozek did a little case study for a business that had to cancel Moz Local recently. The good news is that although staying with them is generally a good decision, this business didn’t seem to have any major issues after cancelling.

Yext claims on their site that they don’t do anything to push the old data back that was previously wrong. They explain that when you cancel, “the lock that was put in place to protect the business listing is no longer present. Once this occurs, the business listing is subject to the normal compilation process at the search engine, online directory, mobile app, or social network. In fact, because Yext no longer has this lock in place, Yext has no control over the listing directly at all, and the business listing data will now act as it normally would occur without Yext.”

Nyagoslav Zhekov just recently published a study on cancelling Yext and concluded that most of the listings either disappear or revert back to their previous incorrect state after cancelling. It seems that Yext acts as a sort of cover on top of the listing, and once Yext is cancelled, that cover is removed. So, there does seem to be some risk with cancelling Yext.

In summary, there is definitely a risk when you decide to cancel an ongoing automated service that was previously in place to correct your citations. It’s important for people to realize that if they decide to do this, they might want to budget for some manual citation building/cleanup in case any issues arise.

Myth #5: Citation building is the only type of link building strategy you need to succeed at Local SEO.

Many Local SEO companies have the impression that citation building is the only type of backlinking strategy needed for small businesses to rank well in the 3-pack. According to this survey that Bright Local did, 72% of Local SEOs use citation building as a way of building links.

Truth: Local SEO Guide found in their Local Search Ranking Factors study that although citations are important, if that’s the only backlinking strategy you’re using, you’re most likely not going to rank well in competitive markets. They found also found that links are the key competitive differentiator even when it comes to Google My Business Rankings. So if you’re in a competitive industry or market and want to dominate the 3-pack, you need to look into additional backlinking strategies over and above citations.

Darren adds more clarity to the survey’s results by stating,

“They’re saying that citations are still very important, but they are a foundational tactic. You absolutely need a core base of citations to gain trust at Google, and if you don’t have them you don’t have a chance in hell at ranking, but they are no longer a competitive difference maker. Once you have the core 50 or so citations squared away, building more and more citations probably isn’t what your local SEO campaign needs to move the needle further.”

Myth #6: Citations for unrelated industries should be ignored if they share the same phone number.

This was a question that has come up a number of times with our team. If you have a restaurant that once had a phone number but then closes its doors, and a new law firm opens up down the street and gets assigned that phone number, should the lawyer worry about all the listings that exist for the restaurant (since they’re in different industries)?

Truth: I reached out to Nyagoslav Zhekov, the Director of Local Search at Whitespark, to get the truth on this one. His response was:

“As Google tries to mimic real-life experiences, sooner or later this negative experience will result in some sort of algorithmic downgrading of the information by Google. If Google manages to figure out that a lot of customers look for and call a phone number that they think belongs to another business, it is logical that it will result in negative user experience. Thus, Google will assign a lower trust score to a Google Maps business record that offers information that does not clearly and unquestionably belong to the business for which the record is. Keeping in mind that the phone number is, by design and by default, the most unique and the most standardized information for a business (everything else is less standardize-able than the phone number), this is, as far as I am concerned, the most important information bit and the most significant identifier Google uses when determining how trustworthy particular information for a business is.”

He also pointed out that users finding the phone number for the restaurant and calling it continually would be a negative experience for both the customer and the law firm (who would have to continually confirm they’re not a restaurant) so there would be added benefit in getting these listings for the restaurant marked closed or removed.

Since Darren Shaw gave me so much input for this article, he also wanted to add a seventh myth that he comes across regularly:

Myth #7: Google My Business is a citation.

“This one is maybe more of a mis-labelling problem than a myth, but your listing at Google isn’t really a citation. At Whitespark we refer to Google, Bing, and Apple Maps as ‘Core Search Engines’ (yes, Yahoo has been demoted to just a citation). The word ‘citation’ comes from the concept of ‘citing’ your sources in an academic paper. Using this conceptual framework, you can think of your Google listing as the academic paper, and all of your listings out on the web as the sources that cite the business. Your Google listing is like the queen bee and all the citations out there are the workers contributing to keep the queen bee alive and healthy.”

Hopefully that lays some of the fears and myths around citations to rest. If you have questions or ideas of other myths on this topic, we’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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Weird, Crazy Myths About Link Building in SEO You Should Probably Ignore – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

The rules of link building aren’t always black and white, and getting it wrong can sometimes result in frustrating consequences. But where’s the benefit in following rules that don’t actually exist? In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand addresses eight of the big link building myths making their rounds across the web.

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

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about some of the weird and crazy myths that have popped up around link building. We’ve actually been seeing them in the comments of some of our blog posts and Whiteboard Fridays and Q&A. So I figured, hey, let’s try and set the record straight here.

1. Never get links from sites with a lower domain authority than your own

What? No, that is a terrible idea. Domain authority, just to be totally clear, it’s a machine learning system that we built here at Moz. It takes and looks at all the metrics. It builds the best correlation it can against Google’s rankings across a broad set of keywords, similar to the MozCast 10K. Then it’s trying to represent, all other things being equal and just based on raw link authority, how well would this site perform against other sites in Google’s rankings for a random keyword? That does not in any way suggest whether it is a quality website that gives good editorial links, that Google is likely to count, that are going to give you great ranking ability, that are going to send good traffic to you. None of those things are taken into account with domain authority.

So when you’re doing link building, I think DA can be a decent sorting function, just like Spam Score can. But those two metrics don’t mean that something is necessarily a terrible place or a great place to get a link from. Yes, it tends to be the case that links from 80- or 90-plus DA sites tend to be very good, because those sites tend to give a lot of authority. It tends to be the case that links from sub-10 or 20 tend to not add that much value and maybe fail to have a high Spam Score. You might want to look more closely at them before deciding whether you should get a link.

But new websites that have just popped up or sites that have very few links or local links, that is just fine. If they are high-quality sites that give out links editorially and they link to other good places, you shouldn’t fret or worry that just because their DA is low, they’re going to provide no value or low value or hurt you. None of those things are the case.

2. Never get links from any directories

I know where this one comes from. We have talked a bunch about how low-quality directories, SEO-focused directories, paid link directories tend to be very bad places to get links from. Google has penalized not just a lot of those directories, but many of the sites whose link profiles come heavily from those types of domains.

However, lots and lots of resource lists, link lists, and directories are also of great quality. For example, I searched for a list of Portland bars — Portland, Oregon, of course known for their amazing watering holes. I found PDX Monthly’s list of Portland’s best bars and taverns. What do you know? It’s a directory. It’s a total directory of bars and taverns in Portland. Would you not want to be on there if you were a bar in Portland? Of course, you would want to be on there. You definitely want those. There’s no question. Give me that link, man. That is a great freaking link. I totally want it.

This is really about using your good judgment and about saying there’s a difference between SEO and paid link directories and a directory that lists good, authentic sites because it’s a resource. You should definitely get links from the latter, not so much from the former.

3. Don’t get links too fast or you’ll get penalized

Let’s try and think about this. Like Google has some sort of penalty line where they look at, “Oh, well, look at that. We see in August, Rand got 17 links. He was under at 15 in July, but then he got 17 links in August. That is too fast. We’re going to penalize him.”

No, this is definitely not the case. I think what is the case, and Google has filed some patent applications around this in the past with spam, is that a pattern of low-quality links or spammy-looking links that are coming at a certain pace may trigger Google to take a more close look at a site’s link profile or at their link practices and could trigger a penalty.

Yes. If you are doing sketchy, grey hat/black hat link building with your private networks, your link buys, and your swapping schemes, and all these kinds of things, yeah, it’s probably the case that if you get them too fast, you’ll trip over some sort of filter that Google has got. But if you’re doing the kind of link building that we generally recommend here on Whiteboard Friday and at Moz more broadly, you don’t have risk here. I would not stress about this at all. So long as your links are coming from good places, don’t worry about the pace of them. There’s no such thing as too fast.

4. Don’t link out to other sites, or you’ll leak link equity, or link juice, or PageRank

…or whatever it is. I really like this illustration of the guys who are like, “My link juice. No!” This is just crap.

All right, again, it’s a myth rooted in some fact. Historically, a long time ago, PageRank used to flow in a certain way, and it was the case that if a page had lots of links pointing out from it, that if I had four links, that a quarter each of the PageRank that this page could pass would go to each of them. So if I added one more, oh, now that’s one-fifth, then that becomes one-fifth, and that becomes one-fifth. This is old, old, old-school SEO. This is not the way things are anymore.

PageRank is not the only piece of ranking algorithmic goodness that Google is using in their systems. You should not be afraid of linking out. You should not be afraid of linking out without a “nofollow” link. You, in fact, should link out. Linking out is not only correlated with higher rankings. There have also been a bunch of studies and research suggesting that there’s something causal going on, because when followed links were added to pages, those pages actually outranked their non-link-carrying brethren in a bunch of tests. I’ll try and link to that test in the Whiteboard Friday. But regardless to say, don’t stress about this.

5. Variations in anchor text should be kept to precise proportions

So this idea that essentially there’s some magic formula for how many of your keyword anchor text, anchor phrases should be branded, partially branded, keyword match links that are carrying anchor text that’s specifically for the keywords you’re trying to rank for, and random assorted anchor texts and that you need some numbers like these, also a crazy idea.

Again, rooted in some fact, the fact being if you are doing sketchy forms of link building of any kind, it’s probably the case that Google will take a look at the anchor text. If they see that lots of things are kind of keyword-matchy and very few things contain your brand, that might be a trigger for them to look more closely. Or it might be a trigger for them to say, “Hey, there’s some kind of problem. We need to do a manual review on this site.”

So yes, if you are in the grey/black hat world of link acquisition, sure, maybe you should pay some attention to how the anchor text looks. But again, if you’re following the advice that you get here on Whiteboard Friday and at Moz, this is not a concern.

6. Never ask for a link directly or you risk penalties

This one I understand, because there have been a bunch of cases where folks or organizations have sent out emails, for example, to their customers saying, “Hey, if you link to us from your website, we’ll give you a discount,” or, “Hey, we’d like you to link to this resource, and in exchange this thing will happen,” something or other. I get that those penalties and that press around those types of activities has made certain people sketched out. I also get that a lot of folks use it as kind of blackmail against someone. That sucks.

Google may take action against people who engage in manipulative link practices. But for example, let’s say the press writes about you, but they don’t link to you. Is asking for a link from that piece a bad practice? Absolutely not. Let’s say there’s a directory like the PDX Monthly, and they have a list of bars and you’ve just opened a new one. Is asking them for a link directly against the rules? No, certainly not. So there are a lot of good ways that you can directly ask for links and it is just fine. When it’s appropriate and when you think there’s a match, and when there’s no sort of bribery or paid involvement, you’re good. You’re fine. Don’t stress about it.

7. More than one link from the same website is useless

This one is rooted in the idea that, essentially, diversity of linking domains is an important metric. It tends to be the case that sites that have more unique domains linking to them tend to outrank their peers who have only a few sites linking to them, even if lots of pages on those individual sites are providing those links.

But again, I’m delighted with my animation here of the guys like, “No, don’t link to me a second time. Oh, my god, Smashing Magazine.” If Smashing Magazine is going to link to you from 10 pages or 50 pages or 100 pages, you should be thrilled about that. Moz has several links from Smashing Magazine, because folks have written nice articles there and pointed to our tools and resources. That is great. I love it, and I also want more of those.

You should definitely not be saying “no.” You shouldn’t be stopping your link efforts around a site, especially if it’s providing great traffic and high-quality visits from those links pointing to you. It’s not just the case that links are there for SEO. They’re also there for the direct traffic that they pass, and so you should definitely be investing in those.

8. Links from non-relevant sites or sites or pages or content that’s outside your niche won’t help you rank better

This one, I think, is rooted in that idea that Google is essentially looking and saying like, “Hey, we want to see that there’s relevance and a real reason for Site A to link to Site B.” But if a link is editorial, if it’s coming from a high-quality place, if there’s a reason for it to exist beyond just, “Hey, this looks like some sort of sketchy SEO ploy to boost rankings,” Googlebot is probably going to count that link and count it well.

I would not be worried about the fact that if I’m coffeekin.com and I’m selling coffee online or have a bunch of coffee resources and corvettecollectors.com wants to link to me or they happen to link to me, I’m not going to be scared about that. In fact, I would say that, the vast majority of the time, off-topic links from places that have nothing to do with your website are actually very, very helpful. They tend to be hard for your competitors to get. They’re almost always editorially given, especially when they’re earned links rather than sort of cajoled or bought links or manipulative links. So I like them a lot, and I would not urge you to avoid those.

So with that in mind, if you have other link ideas, link myths, or link facts that you think you’ve heard and you want to verify them, please, I invite you to leave them in the comments below. I’ll jump in there, a bunch of our associates will jump in there, folks from the community will jump in, and we’ll try and sort out what’s myth versus reality in the link building world.

Take care. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Seven Myths About Solar Panels Debunked




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It was easy to rule out solar energy as science fiction in the early days. Not only the technology was irregular and inconsistent, but also very expensive. But now, affordable residential models that are available, people are finally taking this form of energy seriously. Not surprisingly, critics have grown more desperate in recent years. You are trying to protect a source of power established, or simply do not believe in solar panels, critics were spreading lies and half truths at an unprecedented pace. Take a moment to discredit some of our favorites.

Myth: Only the rich can afford them.

Fact: According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the price of the installation has dropped more than 73 percent since 2006. State and federal subsidies have made solar panels generous affordable for all Americans economic strata.

Myth: They need much maintenance.

Fact: Because no moving parts, residential systems require minimal maintenance. The only advise installers is to inspect dirt and debris every few months. Apart from this, these units are virtually maintenance free.

Myth: They will not work in certain fields.

Fact: It is true that solar panels work more efficiently in areas that receive a lot of sunlight, that can still produce energy from ambient light on rainy or cloudy days. As such, they will work well in the country.

Myth: They damage ceilings.

Reality: In fact, the opposite is true. Many studies have found that the panels effectively protect roof surfaces of the weather. We must also add that equipment, when installed correctly, no damage to your roof in any way. You can put in or taken without damaging the wood shingles or below them.

Myth: It hurts resale value.

Fact: Again, this is not even close! Several studies have shown that residential work system can add thousands of dollars to the value of the average home. In fact, a recent report found that ownership of the host system could add up to $ 15,000 and resale value of a home.

Myth: They are not made to last.

Fact: As with any new technology, there are bound to be some people who have had a bad experience. Critics have seized on incomplete reports of disgruntled to question the structural integrity of residential systems. Are really hard and durable enough to withstand the elements? According to the companies that sell they are! That’s why most vendors offer warranties of 20-25 years in their units. Not surprisingly, most have proven to last as long or longer.

Myth: It’s easy to use.

Reality: Again, critics seek to scare people to use new technologies tell half the story. Yes, there was a time when you had to be a techie to harness the power of the sun. But because of recent improvements, solar panels today are as easy to use as a microwave, DVD player, or any other appliance in your home.

Now that you know the truth about solar energy, you can make your own decision on the fastest growing form of alternative energy.

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UX Myths That Hurt SEO – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

User experience and SEO: friends or enemies? They've had a rocky past, but it's time we all realized that they live better in harmony. Dispelling the negative myths about how UX and SEO interact is the first step in improving both the look and search results of your website. 

In today's Whiteboard Friday, Rand talks about some persistent UX myths that we should probably ignore.

Have anything to add that we didn't cover? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!


Video Transcription

"Howdy, SEOmoz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week I wanted to talk a little about user experience, UX, and the impact that it has on SEO.

Now, the problem historically has been that these two worlds have had a lot of conflict, especially like late '90s, early 2000s, and that conflict has stayed a little bit longer than I think it should have. I believe the two are much more combined today. But there are a few things that many people, including those who invest in user experience, believe to be true about how people use the web and the problems that certain user experience, types of functionality, certain design types of things cause impact SEO, and they impact SEO negatively. So I want to dispel some of those myths and give you things that you can focus on and fix in your own websites and in your projects so that you can help not only your SEO, but also your UX.

So let's start with number one here. Which of these is better or worse? Let's say you've got a bunch of form fields that you need a user to fill out to complete some sort of a registration step. Maybe they need to register for a website. Maybe they're checking out of an e-commerce cart. Maybe they're signing up for an event. Maybe they're downloading something.

Whatever it is, is this better, putting all of the requests on one page so that they don't have to click through many steps? Or is it better to break them up into multiple steps? What research has generally shown and user experience testing has often shown is that a lot of the time, not all of the time certainly, but a lot of the time this multi-step process, perhaps unintuitively, is the better choice.

You can see this in a lot of e-commerce carts that do things very well. Having a single, simple, direct, one step thing that, oh yes, of course I can fill out my email address and give you a password. Then, oh yeah, sure I can enter my three preferences. Then, yes, I'll put in my credit card number. Those three things actually are more likely to carry users through a process because they're so simple and easy to do, rather than putting it all together on one page.

I think the psychology behind this is that this just feels very overwhelming, very daunting. It makes us sort of frustrated, like, "Oh, do I really have to go through that?"

I'm not saying you should immediately switch to one of these, but I would fight against this whole, "Oh, we're not capturing as many registrations. Our conversion rate is lower. Our SEO leads aren't coming in as well, because we have a multi-step process, and it should be single step." The real key is to usability test to get data and metrics on what works better and to choose the right path. Probably if you have something small, splitting it up into a bunch of steps doesn't matter as much. If you have something longer, this might actually get more users through your funnel.

Number two. Is it true that if we give people lots of choice, then they'll choose the best path for them, versus if we only give people a couple options that they might not go and take the action that they would have, had we given them those greater choices? One of my favorite examples from this, from the inbound marketing world, the SEO world, the sharing world, the social world is with social sharing buttons themselves. You'll see tons of websites, blogs, content sites, where they offer just an overwhelming quantity of tweet this, share this on Facebook, like this on Facebook, like us on Facebook, like our company page on Facebook, plus one this on Google+, follow us on Google+, embed this on your own webpage, link to this page, Pinterest this.

Okay. Yes, those are all social networks. Some of them may be indeed popular with many of your users. The question is:  Are you overwhelming them and creating what psychologists have often called the "paradox of choice," which is that we as human beings, when we look at a long list of items and have to make a decision, we're often worse at making that decision than we would be if we looked at a smaller list of options? This is true whether it's a restaurant menu or shopping for shoes or crafting something on the Internet. Etsy has this problem constantly with an overwhelming mass of choice and people spending lots of time on the site, but then not choosing to buy something because of that paradox of choice.

What I would urge you to do is not necessarily to completely get rid of this, but maybe to alter your philosophy slightly to the three or four or if you want to be a little religious about it, even the one social network or item that you think is going to have the very most impact. You can test this and bear it out across the data of your users and say, "Hey, you know what? 80% of our users are on Facebook. That's the network where most of the people take the action even when we offer them this choice. Let's see if by slimming it down to just one option, Twitter or Facebook or just the two, we can get a lot more engagement and actions going." This is often the case. I've seen it many, many times.

Number three. Is it true that it's absolutely terrible to have a page like this that is kind of text only? It's just text and spacing, maybe some bullet points, and there are no images, no graphics, no visual elements. Or should we bias to, hey let's have a crappy stock photo of some guy holding up a box or of a team smiling with each other?

In my experience, and a lot of the tests that I've seen around UX and visual design stuff, this is actually a worse idea than just going with a basic text layout. If for some reason you can't break up your blog post, your piece of content, and you just don't have the right visuals for it, I'd urge you to break it up by having different sections, by having good typography and good visual design around your text, and I'd urge you to use headlines and sub-headlines. I wouldn't necessarily urge you to go out and find crappy stock photos, or if you're no good at creating graphics, to go and make a no good graphic. This bias has created a lot of content on the web that in my opinion is less credible, and I think some other folks have experienced that through testing. We've seen it a little bit with SEOmoz itself too.

Number four. Is it true that people never scroll, that all the content that you want anyone to see must be above the fold on a standard web page, no matter what device you think someone might be looking at it on? Is that absolutely critical?

The research reveals this is actually a complete myth. Research tells us that people do scroll, that over the past decade, people have been trained to scroll and scroll very frequently. So content that is below the fold can be equally accessible. For you SEO folks and you folks who are working on conversion rate optimization and lead tracking, all that kind of stuff, lead optimization, funnel optimization, this can be a huge relief because you can put fewer items with more space up at the top, create a better visual layout, and draw the eye down. You don't have to go ahead and throw all of the content and all of the elements that you need and sacrifice some of the items that you wanted to put on the page. You can just allow for that scroll. Visual design here is obviously still critically important, but don't get boxed into this myth that the only thing people see is the above the fold stuff.

Last one. This myth is one of the ones that hurts SEOs the most, and I see lots of times, especially when consultants and agencies, or designers, developers are fighting with people on an SEO team, on a marketing team about, "Hey, we are aiming for great UX, not great SEO." I strongly disagree with this premise. This is a false dichotomy. These two, in fact, I think are so tied and interrelated that you cannot separate them. The findability, the discover bility, the ability for a page to perform well in search engines, which remains the primary way that we find new information on the Internet, that is absolutely as critically important as it is to have that great user experience on the website itself and through the website's pages.

If you're not tying these two together, or if you're like this guy and you think this is a fight or a competition, you are almost certainly doing one of these two wrong. Oftentimes it's SEO, right? People believe, hey we have to put this keyword in here this many times, and the page title has to be this big on the page. Or, oh we can't have this graphic here. It has to be this type of graphic, and it has to have these words on it.

Usually that stuff is not nearly important as it was, say, a decade ago. You can have fantastic UX and fantastic SEO working together. In fact, there almost always married.

If you're coming up with problems like these, please leave them in the comments. Reach out to me, tweet to me and let me know. I guarantee you almost all of them have a creative solution where the two can be brought together.

All right, gang, love to hear from you, and we will see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care."

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20 Common Social Media Marketing Myths BUSTED

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As the former dark horse of the marketing world (I think we’re past those days though, right?), social media has had plenty of time to accumulate some big, cuhraaaazy myths. Myths some marketers have held onto because, well, it’s just kind of hard to keep up to date on what’s really going on with social media.

So I donned my walrus mustache and beret (any Mythbusters fans out there?) and drudged up some of the most common social media myths out there … so I could officially bust them in this blog post. Let’s dive in to some social media myths we’ve all probably heard around the water cooler, and explain why they are now all officially BUSTED!

20 Common Social Media Myths BUSTED

1) My customers aren’t on social media.

Poppycock. Facebook has 1 billion active users, according to Yahoo! Finance. TechCrunch reports Twitter has 170 million active users, and Google+ has 100 million. You’re telling me your customers aren’t using any of those social networks? Or Pinterest? Or LinkedIn? Or YouTube? Or Quora? Or Meetup? Or ThirdAge? I can keep going

2) Social media is awesome! Join every network right now!

Just because I can name a lot of social networks, doesn’t mean I should set up a profile on all of them. By all means, research other social networks. Set up a company profile or page and give ‘em the old college try. But you may find that some of them aren’t really worth your time. That’s alright! The best marketers use data to identify which marketing activities yield the best results — if a social network isn’t helping you out, cut it loose.

For a little help evaluating the usefulness of new social networks, reference this blog post, “8 Questions to Evaluate Whether That New Social Network Is Worth Your Company’s Time.”

3) Google+ is dumb.

If you went through that new social network evaluation I just linked you to and you think it’s dumb, alright, I believe you. But don’t discount the tremendous SEO value in Google+. Posts from Google+ are being indexed in the SERPs, and authors’ Google+ profiles are showing up next to those results and improving clickthrough rates on listings. Even if you’re not seeing a lot of engagement on Google+, you might see a bump in your organic search rankings as a result of your activity there.

 

google plus author tag

4) Pinterest is only for B2C organizations.

It is totally awesome for B2C marketers, to be sure. But usually when someone says a channel is only for B2C, the B2B marketer in me takes that as a challenge to prove it’s not so. Turns out some of my colleagues feel the same way, because one of them wrote an epic blog post detailing exactly how B2B organizations can get value out of Pinterest. You can also check out the accounts of brands like GE, Microsoft, Econsultancy, and yours truly for some B2B Pinterest inspiration!

5) I should only try to get fans and followers that will become customers.

Quality is important, yes, but don’t underestimate the power of a large social reach. Remember some of these points next time you bemoan acquiring a fan or follower that lives outside of your sales territory or target demographic:

  • More fans and followers means you’re gaining access to their fans and followers.
  • If they’re an influencer, their clout transfers to you by association.
  • When they share your content, your SEO improves.
  • They may still refer business your way.

Learn more about why you need social media fans and followers who won’t even become customers in this blog post.

6) Social media is a M-F gig.

That might be when your community manager works, but that doesn’t mean it correlates to when people are using social media. Not exclusively, anyway. Our social media scientist, Dan Zarrella, found out that you might actually have more success if you embrace contra-competitive timing.

CTR by day resized 600

7) If my friends and family Like every update, my social presence will rock.

You can’t just have your mom and uncle Like every post you put up on Facebook. The EdgeRank algorithm is a liiiiiittle bit more sophisticated than that. You need a variety of people interacting with your content — both to grow your reach, and to show up in users’ news feeds!

8) I have to respond to social activity immediately.

There’s no doubt a speedy response is appreciated, but it isn’t always required. People understand that you’re running a business. There are other things going on. If you get back in a timely manner, but not in mere seconds, it’s alright.

There are exceptions, of course. For instance, Verizon runs a few Twitter accounts … one is exclusively for support. The people who manage that account should be responding immediately to inquiries that come in, because, well, it’s the whole point of the account.

9) Social media is all about engaging conversation.

It’s not that conversations aren’t important. I mean, you can’t just ignore your fans. And it’s awesome to stimulate conversation among your fans and followers! It’s, you know, engaging. But it’s not the be-all, end-all, of social media marketing. Take a look at this data from Dan Zarrella, for example: 

reply percentafe resized 600

It shows there isn’t necessarily a positive correlation between the percentage of tweets that start with @ replies, and the number of followers these Twitter users have. Consider that social media is also (gasp!) a lead generator! If you share valuable, lead generation content, it won’t necessarily stimulate conversation … but people might eat it up. And so will your leads database.

10) Social media marketing activity doesn’t drive bottom line results.

Piggybacking off of the social-media-is-more-than-engaging-conversation thing, you can actually generate value beyond just “engagement” and “brand equity” from social media. Social media drives leads and customers, period. Don’t believe me? Here, I have a couple ebooks for you:

Oh, and a few stats from our own research, too:

  • Companies that use Twitter average 2X more leads than those that don’t.
  • Companies with 1000+ more Twitter followers get 6X more traffic.
  • 45% of marketers note social media has a below average cost-per-lead compared to other channels.
  • 62% of companies using LinkedIn for marketing have acquired a customer from it.
  • 52% of companies using Facebook for marketing have acquired a customer from it.
  • 44 % of companies using Twitter for marketing have acquired a customer from it.

11) Do NOT get personal.

The content you publish in social media should always keep your target audience in mind — but that doesn’t mean you can’t also publish content that shows your brand’s personality. Or, frankly, even your community manager’s personality. There are people behind your company; don’t be afraid to show that with your own special brand of humor, pictures of people that work at your company, and links to news content that you find particularly entertaining … even if it’s not directly related to your industry.

12) Hashtags are wicked important.

You know those tweets that look like this?

Love this article on #socialmedia #marketing that talks about #pinterest and has an image of a #puppy #lol

The point of hashtags is that they join together common conversation threads. So while it’s nice to have a hashtag for an event, like a webinar or a trade show, don’t lose your mind if it doesn’t become a trending topic. It’s not necessarily going to blow your leads goal out of the water if it does … think of hashtags as a way to be more user-friendly for those following the hashtag, not a way to make all your marketing dreams come true.

13) Social media monitoring takes forever.

One social media monitoring scenario: Glue your eyes to your computer screen, open 5 tabs for each of your social networks, chug three espressos, click between tabs and hit refresh like a maniac.

Alternate social media monitoring scenario: Use social media monitoring software that alerts you when important terms are mentioned; check back to your accounts briefly every hour or two to see if you need to respond to anyone, follow someone back, etc.

That second one takes you, in aggregate, maybe 30 minutes a day. No big deal. Everybody breathe. Everything’s gonna be alright.

14) Your social media manager should be really young, they’re the only ones who “get it.” 

And the flip side to this absurd debate is that you could NEVER hire a young social media manager — you need someone who has been working in the industry for years!

There’s been a debate raging on the internet about whether it’s better to have a 21-year old social media manager who can’t remember a time before Facebook, or someone a little more seasoned. It’s a ridiculous debate. Being good at social media marketing has nothing to do with whether you’re 21 or 41 — you can learn the tools and strategies at any age, and muck ‘em up at any age, too. Instead, focus on finding someone who is both creative and analytically minded to manage your presence — with a flair for dealing with people, of course.

15) Social media is only for young people.

Those young kids and their newfangled myfaces and twitbooks!

That’s not really an accurate picture of social media users these days. If you think the only people using social media are millennials — and they’re just not part of your target audience — think again.

  • 40% of Facebook’s active users are over age 35.
  • 52% of 55-64 year old internet users have joined a social network.
  • 93% of U.S. adult internet users are on Facebook.

16) Social media is just a “get found” channel.

By “get found” I mean it’s only good for driving traffic — it doesn’t address the next stage of the funnel, where you have to convert and nurture those leads into customers. Not true! So not true, in fact, that we’ve recently rolled out a new feature in HubSpot’s software called “Social Contacts” that lets you use the data you’ve collected about your leads based on their social media profiles and interactions, and segment and nurture them with it.

Top-of-the-funnel, meet the middle-of-the-funnel. I always thought you two crazy kids would get together.

17) I don’t have enough content to feed the beast.

The thing with social media is that it moves really fast … so the things you put up there go away really fast. You can think of this as a problem — I don’t have enough content to post! — or remember that because social media moves so fast, you can repurpose content all the time. Because people missed it. Or forgot about it. Or it’s evergreen content, so it’s always useful! This doesn’t mean you should share the exact same link and update commentary day after day, but if a few weeks go by and you want to re-promote an evergreen ebook, then hey, go nuts! Just do your loyal fans a favor, and find a new interesting nugget of information to call out in your update.

18) Social media gives people a venue to publicly bash my company.

They already have a venue, and it’s called the internet. You not putting up a Facebook page isn’t protecting you from their angry wrath.

Instead, get ahead of the conversation by being aware that it’s taking place. And if you need some help dealing with those negative nancies, well, we’ve got a blog post that will walk you through the steps to calm her (or him!) down.

19) Social media is too fluffy to have solid metrics around.

Unless you have closed-loop reporting, that is. Again, social media isn’t about fluffy things we talked about earlier, like “brand equity” and “engaging conversation.” Yeah, those things ** happen ** but it doesn’t mean you can’t measure the effectiveness of your social media activities. With closed-loop reporting, you can identify exactly how much traffic social media drives to your website, how many leads social media generates, and how many of those leads become customers. From there, you can even calculate things like the average cost-per-lead and customer — across individual social media networks, and in aggregate — just like you do with every other marketing channel (right?).

20) Social media is free marketing.

It’s free to join, but it’s still a resource investment. Yes, it’s often cheaper — according to HubSpot’s 2012 State of Inbound Marketing Report, 45% of marketers cite social media has a below average cost per lead, surpassed only by leads generated from their blog. But just like any other marketing channel, you’ll have to invest some resources behind social media marketing … and to really make it take off, it’s only natural you’ll have to up that investment. But, I am confident that investment is worth your while!

What other social myths are out there that are totally bunk? Any other myths you’d like busted?

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B2B Social Media: Video of Jay Baer destroying social media myths

B2B marketers often hold misguided beliefs about the impacts of social media on their industry. Watch the excerpt video to learn three takeaways on social media myths from Jay Baer’s keynote discussion at the B2B Summit 2011.
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3 Myths of Guest Writing for Big Websites … and 6 Tactics for Doing it Well

image of empty stage

You’ve got a book to promote, or a product, or a service — and you need a bigger audience to get it moving out into the world.

Why not borrow one (an audience, that is)?

Guest writing for other websites is a fantastic way to get your name, message, and offer in front of tens of thousands of readers (depending on the size of the site you’re writing for). And the best part? It won’t cost you a penny.

Why aren’t more writers, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders doing it? Why aren’t you doing it?

Because you think you’re not ready. Even though you almost certainly are …

I work with writers every day, and I hear the three “Myths of Guest Blogging” you’ll see below again and again. Let’s dispel them right now, before we get into the good stuff …

Myth #1: “I need to have a well-established blog”

You don’t need to have thousands of readers before you start guest writing for other sites.

Content editors don’t care about the size of your audience: they care about the quality of your writing.

I used to guest post without a blog at all — and not a single editor ever cared. It’s usually a good idea to have a site of your own to send readers back to, but don’t let a small audience be the excuse that keeps you from guest posting.

Myth #2: “I don’t write well enough”

Yes, your guest post needs to be well-written. That doesn’t mean you need a PhD in English Literature, or a glittering résumé.

Pick a single topic. Write a clear, concise, useful post. Then edit it … carefully. You’ll put yourself way ahead of the crowd.

Myth #3: “I have to build up a relationship before pitching a guest post”

Some blogs don’t accept unsolicited guest posts; others are so overwhelmed with submissions that they only use a fraction of the material they receive. It can help if the site owner knows your name — but that’s definitely not a requirement.

Sure, you want to cultivate relationships with editors … and writing a terrific guest post makes a great start. Tweets and blog comments are fine, but they shouldn’t be your primary strategy. Your primary strategy is writing excellent posts.

The Takeaway: To be a successful guest writer for other websites, you don’t need to have a huge audience of your own, you don’t need to be the next Shakespeare, and you don’t need the big blog editors to know your name. All you need to do is write well.

Getting your guest post onto a big blog in your niche means:

  • Extra traffic to your blog
  • More sales of your products
  • The opportunity to add “I’ve written for …” to your résumé or About page

Even if your post gets rejected, you’ll have a fantastic piece of pillar content for your own site.

But to maximize your chances of acceptance, here are 5 steps you need to master:

Step #1: Research your target site carefully

Some bloggers write a guest post, then look for a blog to submit it to.

Often, that means the post won’t be a great fit — and the editor will reject it.

Instead, pick your target blog first. Read at least ten posts, ideally a mix of guest posts and posts by the regular blogger(s). If you’re not finding any guest posts, that’s a sign that you need to pick another blog, at least for now.

  • How long are the posts, particularly the guest posts? Is there a range from long to short? Or do they mostly tend to fall into a fairly narrow range of word counts?
  • What’s the writing style like? Chatty, aggressive, kooky, gentle?
  • What topics have been covered recently? Could you contribute something that’s relevant, but that also fills a gap?
  • Can you figure out what their “bread and butter” topics are — the topics that they’ll always need to find fresh content for?
  • Could you write a compelling, useful follow-up to a recent ultra-popular post?

Look for guest post guidelines, most large blogs have them. Follow any instructions about formatting, images, writing style, linking, and so on.

Step #2: Develop your idea

A strong idea will make the writing easy; a weak idea will just waste your time.

Come up with a list of five possible topics, then pick the best one.

Make sure you can do justice to your idea.

Don’t choose something that sounds amazing if you know you’ll struggle to write it. A simple idea, executed well, is worth far more than a hyped-up but ultimately disappointing post.

Instead of “Everything you need to know about WordPress”, try “7 Essential Tips for WordPress Beginners”.

Step #3: Write your guest post

Set aside time for writing your guest post.

It’s all too easy to keep putting it off for another day. Aim to write when you’re at your best, whether that’s at 7 am or 10 pm.

If you’re struggling to get started, skip the introduction and move straight into the main body of the post.

If you’re still stuck, set a timer for 20 minutes and just write. Don’t worry if it’s horrible, just keep your fingers moving.

Even if you end up scrapping a lot of your material, you’ll find something that’s worth keeping.

Step #4: Edit your post

Few writers produce great first drafts. Editing is your chance to hone your words so they’re as effective and powerful as possible.

Start by editing the post as a whole. Look for unnecessary tangents (sometimes these make good seeds for follow-up posts), badly-ordered information, and vital missing pieces. Fix these before you move on.

Once you’re happy with the shape and flow of the post, focus on the individual sentences and words. Rewrite any clumsy, awkward, or weak sentences. Change any words that hit the wrong note.

Don’t neglect the all-powerful Rule of 24.

Step #5: Add your bio

Sure, it’s exciting to see your name on a big blog — but you’ve got other motives for guest writing too.

If you want to drive traffic to your blog, newsletter, or sales page, you’ll need to make good use of your bio.

It should:

  • Be written in the third person
  • Have a clear call to action
  • Include a link

If you’re linking to your blog, choose a specific post, ideally one that’s related to the guest post. “Click here to learn how to get your blog set up” is a stronger call to action than “Read my blog.”

For some good examples of guest writer bios, scroll through the posts here on Copyblogger.

Step #6: Send it off!

This is the hardest step.

My very first guest post for Copyblogger sat on my hard drive for at least a week before I plucked up the courage to email it in.

Once you’ve edited and polished your post, you have to let it go.

Write that email, take a deep breath, and hit “send.”

A few weeks from now, you could have your writing in front of an audience of tens of thousands of readers.

So write that guest post.

Trust me, you’re ready.

About the Author: Ali Luke is a writer and writing coach. If you’re struggling to get inspired, check out her Twenty-Five Ways to Come Up With Great Ideas for Your Writing.

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