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Geomodified Searches, Localized Results, and How to Track the Right Keywords and Locations for Your Business – Next Level

Posted by jocameron

Welcome to the newest installment of our educational Next Level series! In our last episode, our fearless writer Jo Cameron shared how to uncover low-value content that could hurt your rankings and turn it into something valuable. Today, she’s returned to share how to do effective keyword research and targeting for local queries. Read on and level up!


All around the world, people are searching: X sits at a computer high above the city and searches dreamily for the best beaches in Ko Samui. Y strides down a puddle-drenched street and hastily types good Japanese noodles into an expensive handheld computer. K takes up way too much space and bandwidth on the free wireless network in a chain coffee house, which could be located just about anywhere in the world, and hunts for the best price on a gadgety thing.

As we search, the engines are working hard to churn out relevant results based on what we’re searching, our location, personalized results, and just about anything else that can be jammed into an algorithm about our complex human lives. As a business owner or SEO, you’ll want to be able to identify the best opportunities for your online presence. Even if your business doesn’t have a physical location and you don’t have the pleasure of sweeping leaves off your welcome mat, understanding the local landscape can help you hone in on keywords with more opportunity for your business.

In this Next Level post, we’ll go through the different types of geo-targeted searches, how to track the right keywords and locations for your business in Moz Pro, and how to distribute your physical local business details with Moz Local. If you’d like to follow along with this tutorial, get started with a free 30-day trial of Moz Pro:

Follow along with a free trial

Whether your customer is two streets away or gliding peacefully above us on the International Space Station, you must consider how the intertwining worlds of local and national search impact your online presence.


Geomodified searches vs. geolocated searches

First, so you can confidently stride into your next marketing meeting and effortlessly contribute to a related conversation on Slack, let’s take a quick look at the lingo.

Geomodified searches include the city/neighborhood in the search term itself to target the searcher’s area of interest.

You may have searched some of these examples yourself in a moment of escapism: “beaches in Ko Samui,” “ramen noodles in Seattle,” “solid state drive London,” or “life drawing classes London.”

Geomodified searches state explicit local intent for results related to a particular location. As a marketer or business owner, tracking geomodified keywords gives you insight into how you’re ranking for those searches specifically.

Geolocated searches are searches made while the searcher is physically located in a specific area — generally a city. You may hear the term “location targeting” thrown about, often in the high-roller realm of paid marketing. Rather than looking at keywords that contain certain areas, this type of geotargeting focuses on searches made within an area.

Examples might include: “Japanese noodles,” “Ramen,” “solid state drive,” or “coffee,” searched from the city of Seattle, or the city of London, or the city of Tokyo.

Of course, the above ways of searching and tracking are often intertwined with each other. Our speedy fingers type demands, algorithms buzz, and content providers hit publish and bite their collective nails as analytics charts populate displaying our progress. Smart SEOs will likely have a keyword strategy that accounts for both geomodified and geolocated searches.

Researching local keywords

The more specific your keywords and the location you’re targeting, generally, the less data you’ll find. Check your favorite keyword research tool, like Keyword Explorer, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. In this example, I’m looking at search volume data for “japanese noodles” vs. “japanese noodles london.”

“Japanese noodles”

“Japanese noodles London”

So, do I toss this geomodified keyword? Hold on, buddy — while the Monthly Volume decreases, take a look at that Difficulty score — it increases. It’s an easy search term to dismiss, since the search volume is so low, but what this tells me is that there’s more to the story.

A search for “japanese noodles” is too broad to divine much of the searcher’s intent — do they want to make Japanese noodles? Learn what Japanese noodles are? Find an appetizing image?… and so on and so forth. The term itself doesn’t give us much context to work with.

So, while the search volume may be lower, a search for “japanese noodles london” means so much more — now we have some idea of the searcher’s intent. If your site’s content matches up with the searcher’s intent, and you can beat your competition in the SERPs, you could find that the lower search volume equates to a higher conversion rate, and you could be setting yourself up for a great return on investment.

Digging into hyperlocal niches is a challenge. We’ve got some handy tips for investigating hyperlocal keywords, including using similar but slightly larger regions, digging into auto-suggest to gather keyword ideas, and using the grouping function in Keyword Explorer.

Testing will be your friend here. Build a lovely list, create some content, and then test, analyze, and as the shampoo bottle recommends, rinse and repeat.


Localized ranking signals and results

When search engines impress us all by displaying a gazillion results per point whatever of a second, they aren’t just looking inwards at their index. They’re looking outwards at the searcher, figuring out the ideal pairing of humans and results.

Local rankings factors take into consideration things like proximity between the searcher and the business, consistency of citations, and reviews, to name just a few. These are jumbled together with all the other signals we’re used to, like authority and relevancy. The full and glorious report is available here: https://moz.com/local-search-ranking-factors

I often find myself returning to the local search ranking factors report because there’s just so much to digest. So go ahead bookmark it in a folder called “Local SEO” for easy reference, and delight in how organized you are.

While you may expect a search for “life drawing” to turn up mostly organic results, you can see the Local Pack is elbowing its way in there to serve up classes near me:

And likewise, you may expect a search for “life drawing london” to show only local results, but lookie here: we’ve also got some top organic results that have targeted “life drawing london” and the local results creep ever closer to the top:

From these examples you can see that localized results can have a big impact on your SEO strategy, particularly if you’re competing with Local Pack-heavy results. So let’s go ahead and assemble a good strategy into a format that you can follow for your business.


Tracking what’s right for your business

With your mind brimming with local lingo, let’s take a look at how you can track the right types of keywords and locations for your business using Moz Pro. I’ll also touch on Moz Local for the brick-and-mortar types.

1. Your business is rocking the online world

Quest: Track your target keywords nationally and keep your eye on keywords dominated by SERP features you can’t win, like Local Packs.

Hey there, w-w-w dot Your Great Site dot com! You’re the owner of a sweet, shiny website. You’re a member of the digital revolution, a content creator, a message deliverer, a gadgety thingy provider. Your customers are primarily online. I mean, they exist in real life too, but they are also totally and completely immersed in the online world. (Aren’t we all?)

Start by setting up a brand-new Moz Pro Campaign for your target location.

Select one of each search engine to track for your location. This is what I like to call the full deck:

Another personal favorite is what I call the “Google Special.” Select Google desktop and Google Mobile for two locations. This is especially handy if you want to track two national locations in a single Campaign. Here I’ve gone with the US and Canada:

I like to track Google Mobile along with Google desktop results. Ideally you want to be performing consistently in both. If the results are hugely disparate, you may need to check that your site is mobile friendly.

Pour all your lovely keywords into the Campaign creation wizard. Turn that keyword bucket upside-down and give the bottom a satisfying tap like a drum:

Where have we found all these lovely keywords? Don’t tell me you don’t know!

Head over to Keyword Explorer and enter your website. Yes, friend, that’s right. We can show you the keywords your site is already ranking for:

I’m going to leave you to have some fun with that, but when you’re done frolicking in keywords you’re ranking for, keywords your competitors are ranking for, and keywords your Mum’s blog is ranking for, pop back and we’ll continue on our quest.

Next: Onward to the SERP features!

SERP features are both a blessing and a curse. Yes, you could zip to the top of page 1 if you’re lucky enough to be present in those SERP features, but they’re also a minefield, as they squeeze out the organic results you’ve worked so hard to secure.

Luckily for you, we’ve got the map to this dastardly minefield. Keep your eye out for Local Packs and Local Teasers; these are your main threats.

If you have an online business and you’re seeing too many local-type SERP features, this may be an indication that you’re tracking the wrong keywords. You can also start to identify features that do apply to your business, like Image Packs and Featured Snippets.

When you’re done with your local quest, you can come back and try to own some of these features, just like we explored in a previous Next Level blog post: Hunting Down SERP Features to Understand Intent & Drive Traffic

2. Your business rocks customers in the real world

Quest: Track keywords locally and nationally and hone in on local SERP features + the wonderful world of NAP.

What if you run a cozy little cupcake shop in your cozy little city?

Use the same search engine setup from above, and sprinkle locally tracked keywords into the mix.

If you’re setting up a new Campaign, you can add both national and local keywords like a boss.

You can see I’ve added a mouthwatering selection of keywords in both the National Keywords section and in the Local Keywords field. This is because I want to see if one of my cupcake shop’s landing pages is ranking in Google Desktop, Google Mobile, and Yahoo and Bing, both nationally and locally, in my immediate vicinity of Seattle. Along with gathering comparative national and local ranking data, the other reason to track keywords nationally is so you can see how you’re doing in terms of on-page optimization.

Your path to cupcake domination doesn’t stop there! You’re also going to want to be the big player rocking the Local Pack.

Filter by Local Pack or Local Teaser to see if your site is featured. Keep your eye out for any results marked with a red circle, as these are being dominated by your competitors.

The wonderful world of NAP

As a local business owner, you’ll probably have hours of operation, and maybe even one of those signs that you turn around to indicate whether you’re open or closed. You also have something that blogs and e-commerce sites don’t have: NAP, baby!

As a lingo learner, your lingo learning days are never over, especially in the world of digital marketing (actually, just make that digital anything). NAP is the acronym for business name, address, and phone number. In local SEO you’ll see this term float by more often than a crunchy brown leaf on a cold November morning.

NAP details are your lifeblood: You want people to know them, you want them to be correct, and you want them to be correct everywhere — for the very simple reason that humans and Google will trust you if your data is consistent.

If you manage a single location and decide to go down the manual listing management route, kudos to you, my friend. I’m going to offer some resources to guide you:

3. You manage multiple local businesses with multiple locations

Quest: Bulk-distribute business NAP, fix consistency issues, and stamp out duplicates.

If you are juggling a bunch of locations for your own business, or a client’s, you’ll know that in the world of citation building things can get out of hand pretty gosh-darn quick. Any number of acts can result in your business listing details splitting into multiple fragments, whether you moved locations, inherited a phone number that has an online past, or someone in-house set up your listings incorrectly.

While a single business operating out of a single location may have the choice to manually manage their listing distribution, with every location you add to your list your task becomes exponentially more complex.

Remember earlier, when we talked about those all-important local search ranking factors? The factors that determine local results, like proximity, citation signals, reviews, and so on? Well, now you’ll be really glad you bookmarked that link.

You can do all sorts of things to send appealing local signals to Google. While there isn’t a great deal we can do about proximity right now — people have a tendency to travel where they want to — the foundational act of consistently distributing your NAP details is within your power.

That’s where Moz Local steps in. The main purpose of Moz Local is to help you publish and maintain NAP consistency in bulk.

First, enter your business name and postcode in the free Check Listing tool. Bounce, bounce…

After a few bounces, you’ll get the results:

Moz Local will only manage listings that have been “verified” to prevent spam submissions.

If you’re not seeing what you’d expect in the Check Listing tool, you’ll want to dig up your Google Maps and Facebook Places pages and check them against these requirements on our Help Hub.

When you’re ready to start distributing your business details to our partners, you can select and purchase your listing. You can find out more about purchasing your listing, again on our Help Hub.

Pro Tip: If you have lots of local clients, you’ll probably want to purchase via CSV upload. Follow our documentation to get your CSV all spruced up and formatted correctly.

If tracking your visibility and reputation is high on your to-do list, then you’ll want to look at purchasing your listings at the Professional or Premium level.

We’ll track your local and organic rankings for your Google My Business categories by default, but you can enter your own group of target keywords here. We account for the geographic location of your listings, so be sure to add keywords without any geomodifiers!

If you want to track more keywords, we’ve got you covered. Hop on over to Moz Pro and set up a Campaign like we did in the section above.

4. You’re a dog trainer who services your local area without a storefront

Quest: Help owners of aspiring good dogs find your awesome training skills, even though you don’t have a brick-and-mortar storefront.

At Moz HQ, we love our pooches: they are the sunshine of our lives (as our Instagram feed delightfully confirms). While they’re all good doggos, well-trained pooches have a special place in our hearts.

But back to business. If you train dogs, or run another location-specific business without a shop front, this is called a service-area business (or SAB, another term to add to the new lingo pile).

Start by tracking searches for “dog trainer seattle,” and all the other keywords you discovered in your research, both nationally and locally.

I’ve got my Campaign pulled up, so I’m going to add some keywords and track them nationally and locally.

You may find that some keywords on a national level are just too competitive for your local business. That’s okay! You can refine your list as you go. If you’re happy with your local tracking, then you can remove the nationally tracked keywords from your Campaign and just track your keywords at the local level.

Pro Tip: Remember that if you want to improve your Page Optimization with Moz Pro, you’ll have to have the keyword tracked nationally in your Campaign.

In terms of Moz Local, since accuracy, completeness, and consistency are key factors, the tool pushes your complete address to our partners in order to improve your search ranking. It’s possible to use Moz Local with a service-area business (SAB), but it’s worth noting that some partners do not support hidden addresses. Miriam Ellis describes how Moz Local works with service-area businesses (SABs) in her recent blog post.

Basically, if your business is okay with your address being visible in multiple places, then we can work with your Facebook page, provided it’s showing your address. You won’t achieve a 100% visibility score, but chances are your direct local competitors are in the same boat.


Wrapping up

Whether you’re reaching every corner of the globe with your online presence, or putting cupcakes into the hands of Seattleites, the local SEO landscape has an impact on how your site is represented in search results.

The key is identifying the right opportunities for your business and delivering the most accurate and consistent information to search engines, directories, and your human visitors, too.

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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How to Turn Low-Value Content Into Neatly Organized Opportunities – Next Level

Posted by jocameron

Welcome to the newest installment of our educational Next Level series! In our last post, Brian Childs offered up a beginner-level workflow to help discover your competitor’s backlinks. Today, we’re welcoming back Next Level veteran Jo Cameron to show you how to find low-quality pages on your site and decide their new fate. Read on and level up!


With an almost endless succession of Google updates fluctuating the search results, it’s pretty clear that substandard content just won’t cut it.

I know, I know — we can’t all keep up with the latest algorithm updates. We’ve got businesses to run, clients to impress, and a strong social media presence to maintain. After all, you haven’t seen a huge drop in your traffic. It’s probably OK, right?

So what’s with the nagging sensation down in the pit of your stomach? It’s not just that giant chili taco you had earlier. Maybe it’s that feeling that your content might be treading on thin ice. Maybe you watched Rand’s recent Whiteboard Friday (How to Determine if a Page is “Low Quality” in Google’s Eyes) and just don’t know where to start.

In this edition of Next Level, I’ll show you how to start identifying your low-quality pages in a few simple steps with Moz Pro’s Site Crawl. Once identified, you can decide whether to merge, shine up, or remove the content.

A quick recap of algorithm updates

The latest big fluctuations in the search results were said to be caused by King Fred: enemy of low-quality pages and champion of the people’s right to find and enjoy content of value.

Fred took the fight to affiliate sites, and low-value commercial sites were also affected.

The good news is that even if this isn’t directed at you, and you haven’t taken a hit yourself, you can still learn from this update to improve your site. After all, why not stay on the right side of the biggest index of online content in the known universe? You’ll come away with a good idea of what content is working for your site, and you may just take a ride to the top of the SERPs. Knowledge is power, after all.

Be a Pro

It’s best if we just accept that Google updates are ongoing; they happen all.the.time. But with a site audit tool in your toolkit like Moz Pro’s Site Crawl, they don’t have to keep you up at night. Our shiny new Rogerbot crawler is the new kid on the block, and it’s hungry to crawl your pages.

If you haven’t given it a try, sign up for a free trial for 30 days:

Start a free trial

If you’ve already had a free trial that has expired, write to me and I’ll give you another, just because I can.

Set up your Moz Pro campaign — it takes 5 minutes tops — and Rogerbot will be unleashed upon your site like a caffeinated spider.

Rogerbot hops from page to page following links to analyze your website. As Rogerbot hops along, a beautiful database of pages is constructed that flag issues you can use to find those laggers. What a hero!

First stop: Thin content

Site Crawl > Content Issues > Thin Content

Thin content could be damaging your site. If it’s deemed to be malicious, then it could result in a penalty. Things like zero-value pages with ads or spammy doorway pages — little traps people set to funnel people to other pages — are bad news.

First off, let’s find those pages. Moz Pro Site Crawl will flag “thin content” if it has less than 50 words (excluding navigation and ads).

Now is a good time to familiarize yourself with Google’s Quality Guidelines. Think long and hard about whether you may be doing this, intentionally or accidentally.

You’re probably not straight-up spamming people, but you could do better and you know it. Our mantra is (repeat after me): “Does this add value for my visitors?” Well, does it?

Ok, you can stop chanting now.

For most of us, thin content is less of a penalty threat and more of an opportunity. By finding pages with thin content, you have the opportunity to figure out if they’re doing enough to serve your visitors. Pile on some Google Analytics data and start making decisions about improvements that can be made.

Using moz.com as an example, I’ve found 3 pages with thin content. Ta-da emoji!

I’m not too concerned about the login page or the password reset page. I am, however, interested to see how the local search page is performing. Maybe we can find an opportunity to help people who land on this page.

Go ahead and export your thin content pages from Moz Pro to CSV.

We can then grab some data from Google Analytics to give us an idea of how well this page is performing. You may want to look at comparing monthly data and see if there are any trends, or compare similar pages to see if improvements can be made.

I am by no means a Google Analytics expert, but I know how to get what I want. Most of the time that is, except when I have to Google it, which is probably every second week.

Firstly: Behavior > Site Content > All Pages > Paste in your URL

  • Pageviews – The number of times that page has been viewed, even if it’s a repeat view.
  • Avg. Time on Page – How long people are on your page
  • Bounce Rate – Single page views with no interaction

For my example page, Bounce Rate is very interesting. This page lives to be interacted with. Its only joy in life is allowing people to search for a local business in the UK, US, or Canada. It is not an informational page at all. It doesn’t provide a contact phone number or an answer to a query that may explain away a high bounce rate.

I’m going to add Pageviews and Bounce Rate a spreadsheet so I can track this over time.

I’ll also added some keywords that I want that page to rank for to my Moz Pro Rankings. That way I can make sure I’m targeting searcher intent and driving organic traffic that is likely to convert.

I’ll also know if I’m being out ranked by my competitors. How dare they, right?

As we’ve found with this local page, not all thin content is bad content. Another example may be if you have a landing page with an awesome video that’s adding value and is performing consistently well. In this case, hold off on making sweeping changes. Track the data you’re interested in; from there, you can look at making small changes and track the impact, or split test some ideas. Either way, you want to make informed, data-driven decisions.

Action to take for tracking thin content pages

Export to CSV so you can track how these pages are performing alongside GA data. Make incremental changes and track the results.

Second stop: Duplicate title tags

Site Crawl > Content Issues > Duplicate Title Tags

Title tags show up in the search results to give human searchers a taste of what your content is about. They also help search engines understand and categorize your content. Without question, you want these to be well considered, relevant to your content, and unique.

Moz Pro Site Crawl flags any pages with matching title tags for your perusal.

Duplicate title tags are unlikely to get your site penalized, unless you’ve masterminded an army of pages that target irrelevant keywords and provide zero value. Once again, for most of us, it’s a good way to find a missed opportunity.

Digging around your duplicate title tags is a lucky dip of wonder. You may find pages with repeated content that you want to merge, or redundant pages that may be confusing your visitors, or maybe just pages for which you haven’t spent the time crafting unique title tags.

Take this opportunity to review your title tags, make them interesting, and always make them relevant. Because I’m a Whiteboard Friday friend, I can’t not link to this title tag hack video. Turn off Netflix for 10 minutes and enjoy.

Pro tip: To view the other duplicate pages, make sure you click on the little triangle icon to open that up like an accordion.

Hey now, what’s this? Filed away under duplicate title tags I’ve found these cheeky pages.

These are the contact forms we have in place to contact our help team. Yes, me included — hi!

I’ve got some inside info for you all. We’re actually in the process of redesigning our Help Hub, and these tool-specific pages definitely need a rethink. For now, I’m going to summon the powerful and mysterious rel=canonical tag.

This tells search engines that all those other pages are copies of the one true page to rule them all. Search engines like this, they understand it, and they bow down to honor the original source, as well they should. Visitors can still access these pages, and they won’t ever know they’ve hit a page with an original source elsewhere. How very magical.

Action to take for duplicate title tags on similar pages

Use the rel=canonical tag to tell search engines that https://moz.com/help/contact is the original source.

Review visitor behavior and perform user testing on the Help Hub. We’ll use this information to make a plan for redirecting those pages to one main page and adding a tool type drop-down.

More duplicate titles within my subfolder-specific campaign

Because at Moz we’ve got a heck of a lot of pages, I’ve got another Moz Pro campaign set up to track the URL moz.com/blog. I find this handy if I want to look at issues on just one section of my site at a time.

You just have to enter your subfolder and limit your campaign when you set it up.

Just remember we won’t crawl any pages outside of the subfolder. Make sure you have an all-encompassing, all-access campaign set up for the root domain as well.

Not enough allowance to create a subfolder-specific campaign? You can filter by URL from within your existing campaign.

In my Moz Blog campaign, I stumbled across these little fellows:

https://moz.com/blog/whiteboard-friday-how-to-get-an-seo-job

https://moz.com/blog/whiteboard-friday-how-to-get-an-seo-job-10504

This is a classic case of new content usurping the old content. Instead of telling search engines, “Yeah, so I’ve got a few pages and they’re kind of the same, but this one is the one true page,” like we did with the rel=canonical tag before, this time I’ll use the big cousin of the rel=canonical, the queen of content canonicalization, the 301 redirect.

All the power is sent to the page you are redirecting to, as well as all the actual human visitors.

Action to take for duplicate title tags with outdated/updated content

Check the traffic and authority for both pages, then add a 301 redirect from one to the other. Consolidate and rule.

It’s also a good opportunity to refresh the content and check whether it’s… what? I can’t hear you — adding value to my visitors! You got it.

Third stop: Duplicate content

Site Crawl > Content Issues > Duplicate Content

When the code and content on a page looks the same are the code and content on another page of your site, it will be flagged as “Duplicate Content.” Our crawler will flag any pages with 90% or more overlapping content or code as having duplicate content.

Officially, in the wise words of Google, duplicate content doesn’t incur a penalty. However, it can be filtered out of the index, so still not great.

Having said that, the trick is in the fine print. One bot’s duplicate content is another bot’s thin content, and thin content can get you penalized. Let me refer you back to our old friend, the Quality Guidelines.

Are you doing one of these things intentionally or accidentally? Do you want me to make you chant again?

If you’re being hounded by duplicate content issues and don’t know where to start, then we’ve got more information on duplicate content on our Learning Center.

I’ve found some pages that clearly have different content on them, so why are these duplicate?

So friends, what we have here is thin content that’s being flagged as duplicate.

There is basically not enough content on the page for bots to distinguish them from each other. Remember that our crawler looks at all the page code, as well as the copy that humans see.

You may find this frustrating at first: “Like, why are they duplicates?? They’re different, gosh darn it!” But once you pass through all the 7 stages of duplicate content and arrive at acceptance, you’ll see the opportunity you have here. Why not pop those topics on your content schedule? Why not use the “queen” again, and 301 redirect them to a similar resource, combining the power of both resources? Or maybe, just maybe, you could use them in a blog post about duplicate content — just like I have.

Action to take for duplicate pages with different content

Before you make any hasty decisions, check the traffic to these pages. Maybe dig a bit deeper and track conversions and bounce rate, as well. Check out our workflow for thin content earlier in this post and do the same for these pages.

From there you can figure out if you want to rework content to add value or redirect pages to another resource.

This is an awesome video in the ever-impressive Whiteboard Friday series which talks about republishing. Seriously, you’ll kick yourself if you don’t watch it.

Broken URLs and duplicate content

Another dive into Duplicate Content has turned up two Help Hub URLs that point to the same page.

These are no good to man or beast. They are especially no good for our analytics — blurgh, data confusion! No good for our crawl budget — blurgh, extra useless page! User experience? Blurgh, nope, no good for that either.

Action to take for messed-up URLs causing duplicate content

Zap this time-waster with a 301 redirect. For me this is an easy decision: add a 301 to the long, messed up URL with a PA of 1, no discussion. I love our new Learning Center so much that I’m going to link to it again so you can learn more about redirection and build your SEO knowledge.

It’s the most handy place to check if you get stuck with any of the concepts I’ve talked about today.

Wrapping up

While it may feel scary at first to have your content flagged as having issues, the real takeaway here is that these are actually neatly organized opportunities.

With a bit of tenacity and some extra data from Google Analytics, you can start to understand the best way to fix your content and make your site easier to use (and more powerful in the process).

If you get stuck, just remember our chant: “Does this add value for my visitors?” Your content has to be for your human visitors, so think about them and their journey. And most importantly: be good to yourself and use a tool like Moz Pro that compiles potential issues into an easily digestible catalogue.

Enjoy your chili taco and your good night’s sleep!

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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The Voice Playbook – Building a Marketing Plan for the Next Era in Computing

Posted by SimonPenson

Preface

This post serves a dual purpose: it’s a practical guide to the realities of preparing for voice right now, but equally it’s a rallying call to ensure our industry has a full understanding of just how big, disruptive, and transformational it will be — and that, as a result, we need to stand ready.

My view is that voice is not just an add-on, but an entirely new way of interacting with the machines that add value to our lives. It is the next big era of computing.

Brands and agencies alike need to be at the forefront of that revolution. For my part, that begins with investing in the creation of a voice team.

Let me explain just how we plan to do that, and why it’s being actioned earlier than many will think necessary….

Jump to a section:

Why is voice so important?
When is it coming in a big way?
Who are the big players?
Where do voice assistants get their data from?
How do I shape my strategy and tactics to get involved?
What skill sets do I need in a “voice team?”

Introduction

“The times, they are a-changing.”
– Bob Dylan

Back in 1964, that revered folk-and-blues singer could never have imagined just what that would mean in the 21st century.

As we head into 2018, we’re nearing a voice interface-inspired inflection point the likes of which we haven’t seen before. And if the world’s most respected futurist is to be believed, it’s only just beginning.

Talk to Ray Kurzweil, Google’s Chief Engineer and the man Bill Gates says is the “best person to predict the future,” and he’ll tell you that we are entering a period of huge technological change.

For those working across search and many other areas of digital marketing, change is not uncommon. Seismic events, such as the initial roll out of Panda and Penguin, reminded those inside it just how painful it is to be unprepared for the future.

At best, it tips everything upside down. At worst, it kills those agencies or businesses stuck behind the curve.

It’s for exactly this reason that I felt compelled to write a post all about why I’m building a voice team at Zazzle Media, the agency I founded here in the UK, as stats from BrightEdge reveal that 62% of marketers still have no plans whatsoever to prepare for the coming age of voice.

I’m also here to argue that while the growth traditional search agencies saw through the early 2000s is over, similar levels of expansion are up for grabs again for those able to seamlessly integrate voice strategies into an offering focused on the client or customer.

Winter is coming!

Based on our current understanding of technological progress, it’s easy to rest on our laurels. Voice interface adoption is still in its very early stages. Moore’s Law draws a (relatively) linear line through technological advancement, giving us time to take our positions — but that era is now behind us.

According to Kurzweil’s thesis on the growth of technology (the Law of Accelerating Returns),

“we won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century – it will be more like 20,000 years.”

Put another way, he explains that technology does not progress in a linear way. Instead, it progresses exponentially.

“30 steps linearly get you to 30. One, two, three, four, step 30 you’re at 30. With exponential growth, it’s one, two, four, eight. Step 30, you’re at a billion,” he explained in a recent Financial Times interview.

In other words, we’re going to see new tech landing and gaining traction faster than we ever realized it possible, as this chart proves:

Above, Kurzweil illustrates how we’ll be able to produce computational power as powerful as a human brain by 2023. By 2037 we’ll be able to do it for less than a one-cent cost. Just 15 years later computers will be more powerful than the entire human race as a whole. Powerful stuff — and proof of the need for action as voice and the wider AI paradigm takes hold.

Voice

So, what does that mean right now? While many believe voice is still a long ways off, one point of view says it’s already here — and those fast enough to grab the opportunity will grow exponentially with it. Indeed, Google itself says more than 20% of all searches are already voice-led, and will reach 50% by 2020.

Let’s first deal with understanding the processes required before then moving onto the expertise to make it happen.

What do we need to know?

We’ll start with some assumptions. If you are reading this post, you already have a good understanding of the basics of voice technology. Competitors are joining the race every day, but right now the key players are:

  • Microsoft Cortana – Available on Windows, iOS, and Android.
  • Amazon AlexaVoice-activated assistant that lives on Amazon audio gear (Echo, Echo Dot, Tap) and Fire TV.
  • Google Assistant – Google’s voice assistant powers Google Home as well as sitting across its mobile and voice search capabilities.
  • Apple Siri – Native voice assistant for all Apple products.

And (major assistants) coming soon:

All of these exist to allow consumers the ability to retrieve information without having to touch a screen or type anything.

That has major ramifications for those who rely on traditional typed search and a plethora of other arenas, such as the fast-growing Internet of Things (IoT).

In short, voice allows us to access everything from our personal diaries and shopping lists to answers to our latest questions and even to switch our lights off.

Why now?

Apart from the tidal wave of tech now supporting voice, there is another key reason for investing in voice now — and it’s all to do with the pace at which voice is actually improving.

In a recent Internet usage study by KPCB, Andrew NG, chief scientist at Chinese search engine Baidu, was asked what it was going to take to push voice out of the shadows and into its place as the primary interface for computing.

His point was that at present, voice is “only 90% accurate” and therefore the results are sometimes a little disappointing. This slows uptake.

But he sees that changing soon, explaining that “As speech recognition accuracy goes from, say, 95% to 99%, all of us in the room will go from barely using it today to using it all the time. Most people underestimate the difference between 95% and 99% accuracy — 99% is a game changer… “

When will that happen? In the chart below we see Google’s view on this question, predicting we will be there in 2018!

Is this the end for search?

It is also important to point out that voice is an additional interface and will not replace any of those that have gone before it. We only need to look back at history to see how print, radio, and TV continue to play a part in our lives alongside the latest information interfaces.

Moz founder Rand Fishkin made this point in a recent WBF, explaining that while voice search volumes may well overtake typed terms, the demand for traditional SERP results and typed results will continue to grow also, simply because of the growing use of search.

The key will be creating a channel strategy as well as a method for researching both voice and typed opportunity as part of your overall process.

What’s different?

The key difference when considering voice opportunity is to think about the conversational nature that the interface allows. For years we’ve been used to having to type more succinctly in order to get answers quickly, but voice does away with that requirement.

Instead, we are presented with an opportunity to ask, find, and discover the things we want and need using natural language.

This means that we will naturally lengthen the phrases we use to find the stuff we want — and early studies support this assumption.

In a study by Microsoft and covered by the brilliant Purna Virji in this Moz post from last year, we can see a clear distinction between typed and voice search phrase length, even at this early stage of conversational search. Expect this to grow as we get used to interacting with voice.

The evidence suggests that will happen fast too. Google’s own data shows us that 55% of teens and 40% of adults use voice search daily. Below is what they use it for:

While it is easy to believe that voice only extends to search, it’s important to remember that the opportunity is actually much wider. Below we can see results from a major 2016 Internet usage study into how voice is being used:

Clearly, the lion’s share is related to search and information retrieval, with more than 50% of actions relating to finding something local to go/see/do (usually on mobile) or using voice as an interface to search.

But an area sure to grow is the leisure/entertainment sector. More on that later.

The key question remains: How exactly do you tap into this growing demand? How do you become the choice answer above all those you compete with?

With such a vast array of devices, the answer is a multi-faceted one.

Where is the data coming from?

To answer the questions above, we must first understand where the information is being accessed from and the answer, predictably, is not a simple one. Understanding it, however, is critical if you are to build a world-class voice marketing strategy.

To make life a little easier, I’ve created an at-a-glance cheat sheet to guide you through the process. You can download it by clicking on the banner below.

In it, you’ll find an easy-to-follow table explaining where each of the major voice assistants (Siri, Cortana, Google Assistant, and Alexa) retrieve their data from so you can devise a plan to cover them all.

The key take away from that research? Interestingly, Bing has every opportunity to steal a big chunk of market share from Google and, at least at present, is the key search engine to optimize for if voice “visibility” is the objective.

Bing is more important now.

Of all the Big Four in voice, three (Cortana, Siri, and Alexa) default to Bing search for general information retrieval. Given that Facebook (also a former Bing search partner) is also joining the fray, Google could soon find itself in a place it’s not entirely used to being: alone.

Now, the search giant usually finds a way to pull back market share, but for now a marketers’ focus should be on Microsoft’s search engine and Google as a secondary player.

Irrespective of which engine you prioritize there are two key areas to focus on: featured snippets and local listings.

Featured snippets

The search world has been awash with posts and talks on this area of optimization over recent months as Google continues to push ahead with the roll out of the feature-rich SERP real estate.

For those that don’t know what a “snippet” is, there’s an example below, shown for a search for “how do I get to sleep”:

Not only is this incredibly valuable traditional search real estate (as I’ve discussed in an earlier blog post), but it’s a huge asset in the fight for voice visibility.

Initial research by experts such as Dr. Pete Myers tells us, clearly, that Google assistant is pulling its answers from snippet content for anything with any level of complexity.

Simple answers — such as those for searches about sports results, the weather, and so forth — are answered directly. But for those that require expertise it defaults to site content, explaining where that information came from.

At present, it’s unclear how Google plans to help us understand and attribute these kinds of visits. But according to insider Gary Illyes, it is imminent within Search Console.

Measurement will clearly be an important step in selling any voice strategy proposal upwards and to provide individual site or brand evidence that the medium is growing and deserving of investment.

User intent and purchase

Such data will also help us understand how voice alters such things as the traditional conversion funnel and the propensity to purchase.

We know how important content is in the traditional user journey, but how will it differ in the voice world? There’s sure to be a rewrite of many rules we’ve come to know well from the “typed Internet.”

Applying some level of logic to the challenge, it’s clear that there’s a greater degree of value in searches showing some level of immediacy, i.e. people searching through home assistants or mobiles for the location of something or time and/or date of the same thing.

Whereas with typed search we see greater value in simple phrases that we call “head terms,” the world is much more complex in voice. Below we see a breakdown of words that will trigger searches in voice:

To better understand this, let’s examine a potential search “conversation.”

If we take a product search example for, let’s say, buying a new lawn mower, the conversation could go a little like this:

[me] What’s the best rotary lawn mower for under £500?

[voice assistant] According to Lawn Mower Hut there are six choices [reads out choices]

Initially, voice will struggle to understand how to move to the next logical question, such as:

[voice assistant] Would you like a rotary or cylinder lawn mower?


Or, better still…

[voice assistant] Is your lawn perfectly flat?


[me] No.


[voice assistant] OK, may I suggest a rotary mower? If so then you have two choices, the McCulloch M46-125WR or the BMC Lawn Racer.

In this scenario, our voice assistant has connected the dots and asks the next relevant question to help narrow the search in a natural way.

Natural language processing

To do this, however, requires a step up in computer processing, a challenge being worked on as we speak in a bid to provide the next level of voice search.

To solve the challenge requires the use of so-called Deep Neural Networks (DNNs), interconnected layers of processing units designed to mimic the neural networks in the brain.

DNNs can work across everything from speech, images, sequences of words, and even location before then classifying them into categories.

It relies on the input of truckloads of data so it can learn how best to bucket those things. That data pile will grow exponentially as the adoption of voice accelerates.

What that will mean is that voice assistants can converse with us in the same way as a clued-up shop assistant, further negating the need for in-store visits in the future and a much more streamlined research process.

In this world, we start to paint a very different view of the “keywords” we should be targeting, with deeper and more exacting phrases winning the battle for eyeballs.

As a result, the long tail’s rise in prominence continues at pace, and data-driven content strategies really do move to the center of the marketing plan as the reward for creating really specific content increases.

We also see a greater emphasis placed on keywords that may not be on top of the priority list currently. If we continue to work through our examples, we can start to paint a picture of how this plays out…

In our lawnmower purchase example, we’re at a stage where two options have been presented to us (the McCulloch and the BMC Racer). In a voice 1.0 scenario, where we have yet to see DNNs develop enough to know the next relevant question and answer, we might ask:

[me] Which has the best reviews?

And the answer may be tied to a 3rd party review conclusion, such as…

[voice assistant] According to Trustpilot, the McCulloch has a 4.5-star rating versus a 3.5-star rating for the BMC lawn mower.

Suddenly, 3rd party reviews become more valuable than ever as a conversion optimization opportunity, or a strategy that includes creating content to own the SERP for a keyword phrase that includes “review” or “top rated.”

And where would we naturally go from here? The options are either directly to conversion, via some kind of value-led search (think “cheapest McCulloch M46-125W”), or to a location-based one (“nearest shop with a McCulloch M46-125WR”) to allow me to give it a “test drive.”

Keyword prioritization

This single journey gives us some insight into how the interface could shape our thinking on keyword prioritization and content creation.

Pieces that help a user either make a decision or perform an action around the following trigger words and phrases will attract greater interest and traffic from voice. Examples could include:

  • buy
  • get
  • find
  • top rated
  • closest
  • nearest
  • cheapest
  • best deal

Many are not dissimilar to typed search, but clearly intent priorities change. The aforementioned Microsoft study also looked at how this may work, suggesting the following order of question types and their association with purchase/action:

Local opportunity

This also pushes the requirement for serious location-based marketing investment much higher up the pecking order.

We can clearly see how important such searches become from a “propensity to buy/take action” perspective.

It pays to invest more in ensuring the basics are covered, for which the Moz Local Search Ranking Factors study can be a huge help, but also in putting some weight behind efforts across Bing Places. If you are not yet set up fully over there, this simple guide can help.

Local doesn’t start and end with set up, of course. To maximize visibility there must be an ongoing local marketing plan that covers not just the technical elements of search but also wider marketing actions that will be picked up by voice assistants.

We already know, for instance, that engagement factors are playing a larger part of the algorithmic mix for local, but our understanding of what that really means may be limited.

Engagement is not just a social metric but a real world one. Google, for instance, knows not just what you search for but where you go (via location tracking and beacon data), what you watch (via YouTube), the things you are interested in, and where you go (via things such as Flight search and Map data). We need to leverage each of these data points to maximize effect.

As a good example of this in action, we mentioned review importance earlier. Here it plays a significant part of the local plan. A proactive review acquisition strategy is really important, so look to build this into your everyday activity by proactively incentivizing visitors to leave them. This involves actively monitoring on all the key review sites, not just your favorite!

Use your email strategy to drive this behavior as well by ensuring that newsletters and offer emails support the overall local plan.

And a local social strategy is also important. Get to know your best customers and most local visitors and turn them into evangelists.

Doing it is easier than you might think; you can use Twitter mention monitoring not only to search for key terms, but also mentions within specific latitude/longitude settings or radius.

Advanced search also allows you to discover tweets by location or mentioning location. This can be helpful as research to discover the local questions being asked.

The awesome team at Zapier covered this topic in lots of detail recently, so for those who want to action this particular point I highly recommend reading this post.

Let’s go deeper

There is new thinking needed if the opportunity is to be maximized. To understand this, we need to go back to our user journey thought process.

For starters, there’s the Yelp/Alexa integration. While the initial reaction may be simply to optimize listings for the site, the point is actually a wider one.

Knowing that many of the key vertical search engines (think Skyscanner [travel], Yelp [local], etc.) will spend big to ensure they have the lion’s share of voice market, it will pay to spend time improving your content on these sites.

Which is most important will be entirely dependent upon what niche you are working in. Many will only offer limited opportunity for optimization, but being there and spending time ensuring your profile is 110% will be key. It may even pay to take sponsored opportunities within them for the added visibility it may give you in the future.

There’s also the really interesting intellectual challenge of attempting to map out as many potential user journeys as possible to and from your business.

Let’s take our lawnmower analogy again, but this time from the perspective of a retailer situated within 20 miles of the searcher. In this scenario, we need to think about how we might be able to get front and center before anyone else if we stock the McCulloch model they are looking for.

If we take it as a given that we’ve covered the essentials, then we need to think more laterally.

It’s natural to not only look for a local outlet that stocks the right model, but when it may be open. We might also ask more specific questions like whether they have parking, or even if they are busy at specific times or offer appointments.

The latter would be a logical step, especially for businesses that work in this way; think dentists, doctors, beauty salons, and even trades. The opportunity to book a plumber at a specific time via voice would be a game changer for those set up to offer it.

Know your locality

As a local business, it is also imperative that you know the surrounding areas well and to be able to prove you’ve thought about it. This includes looking at how people talk about key landmarks from a voice perspective.

We often use slang or shortened versions of landmark naming conventions, for instance. In a natural, conversational setting, you may find that you miss out if you don’t use those idiosyncrasies within the content you produce and feature on your site or within your app.

Fun and entertainment

Then, of course, comes the “fun.” Think of it as the games section of the App Store — it makes little logical sense, but in it lies a whole industry of epic proportions.

Voice will give birth to the next era in entertainment. While some of you may be thinking about how to profit from such an active audience, the majority of brands would be smart to see it as an engagement and brand awareness world.

Game makers will clamber to create hit mind games and quizzes, but those that play around the edges may well be the monarchs of this opportunity. Think about how voice could change the dynamic for educators, play the part of unbiased referees in games, or teach birdsong and the birds to which they relate. The opportunity is endless — and it will claim 25% of the overall pie, according to current usage research.

The monetization methods are yet to be uncovered, but the advertising opportunity is significant, as well as how clever technology like Blockchain may enable frictionless payments and more.

User journey mapping

So how do you tie all of this together into a seamless plan, given the complexity and number of touch points available? The answer starts and ends with user journey mapping.

This is something I find myself doing more and more now as part of the wider marketing challenge. Fragmented audiences and a plethora of devices and technology mean it’s more difficult than ever to build an integrated strategy. Taking a user-centric approach is the only way to make sense of the chaos.

Voice is no different, and the key differentiator here is the fact that in this new world a journey is actually a conversation (or a series of them).

Conversation journey mapping

While the tech may not yet be there to support conversations in voice, given the point at the beginning of this piece around the law of Accelerating Returns, it’s clear that it’s coming — and faster than we realize.

In some respects, the timing of that advancement is irrelevant, however, as the process of working through a series of conversations that a potential client or customer may have around your product or service is invaluable as research for your plan.

To go back to our lawnmower example, a conversation mapping exercise may look a little like this:

[me] What’s the best lawnmower for under £500?

[voice assistant] How large is your lawn?

[me] It’s not very big. I don’t need a ride-on.
[voice assistant] OK so would you prefer a cylinder or rotary version?

[me] I don’t know. How do I choose?

[voice assistant] If you want stripes and your lawn is very flat, a cylinder gives a better finish. If not, a rotary is better.

[me] OK, definitely a rotary then!

[voice assistant] Good choice. In that case, your best options are either the McCulloch M46-125WR or the BMC Lawn Racer.

[me] Which is best?

[voice assistant] According to Trustpilot, the McCulloch has 4.5 stars from 36 reviews versus 3.5 stars for the BMC. The McCulloch is also cheaper. Do you want me to find the best deal or somewhere nearby that stocks it?

[me] I’d like to see it before buying if possible.

[voice assistant] OK, ABC Lawn Products is 12 miles away and has an appointment at 11am. Do you want to book it?

[me] Perfect.

Where are the content or optimization opportunities?

Look carefully above and you’ll see that there are huge swathes of the conversation that lend themselves to opportunity, either through content creation or some other kind of optimization.

To spell that out, here’s a possible list:

  • Guide – Best lawnmower for £500
  • Guide – Rotary versus cylinder lawnmowers
  • Review strategy – Create a plan to collect more reviews
  • Optimization – Evergreen guide optimization strategy to enhance featured snippet opportunities
  • Local search – Optimize business listing to include reviews, opening times, and more
  • Appointments – Open up an online appointment system and optimize for voice

In developing such a roadmap, it’s also important to consider the context within which the conversation is happening.

Few of us will ever feel entirely comfortable using voice in a crowded, public setting, for instance. We’re not going to try using voice on a bus, train, or at a festival anytime soon.

Instead, voice interfaces will be used in private, most likely in places such as homes and cars and places where it’s useful to be able to do multiple things at once.

Setting the scene in this way will help as you define your conversation possibilities and the optimization opportunities from it.

What people do we need to create all this?

The one missing piece of the jigsaw as we prepare for the shift to voice? People.

All of the above require a great deal of work to perfect and implement, and while the dust still needs to clear on the specifics of voice marketing, there are certain skill sets that will need to pull together to deliver a cohesive strategy.

For the majority, this will simply mean creating project groups from existing team members. But for those with the biggest opportunities (think recipe sites, large vertical search plays, and so on), it may be that a standalone team is necessary.

Here’s my take on what that team will require:

  • Developer – with specific skill in creating Google Home Actions, Alexa Skills, and so on.
  • Researcher – to work with customer groups to understand how voice is being used and capture further opportunities for development.
  • SEO – to help prioritize content creation and how it’s structured and optimized.
  • Writer – to build out the long-tail content and guides necessary.
  • Voice UX expert – A specialist in running conversation mapping sessions and turning them into brilliant user journeys for the different content and platforms your brand utilizes.

Conclusion

If you’ve read to this point, you at least have an active interest in this fast-moving area of tech. We know from the minds of the most informed experts that voice is developing quickly and that it clearly offers significant benefits to its users.

When those two key things combine, alongside a lowering cost to the technology needed to access it, it creates a tipping point that only ends one way: in the birth of a new era for computing.

Such a thing has massive connotations for both digital and wider marketing, and it will pay to have first-mover advantage.

That means educating upwards and beginning the conversation around how voice interfaces may change your own industry in the future. Once you have that running, who knows where it might lead you?

For some, it changes little, for others everything, and the good news for search marketers is that there are a lot of existing tactics and skill sets that will have an even bigger part to play.

Existing skills

  • The ability to claim featured snippets and answer boxes becomes even more rewarding as they trigger millions of voice searches.
  • Keyword research has a wider role in forming strategies to reach into voice and outside traditional search, as marketers become more interested in the natural language their audiences are using.
  • Local SEO wins become wider than simply appearing in a search engine.
  • Micro-moments become more numerous and even more specific than ever before. Research to uncover these becomes even more pivotal.

New opportunities to consider

  • Increases in content consumption through further integration in daily life — so think about what other kinds of content you can deliver to capture them.
  • Think Internet of Things integration and how your brand may be able to provide content for those devices or to help people use connected home.
  • Look at what Skills/Actions you can create to play in the “leisure and entertainment” sector of voice. This may be as much about an engagement/awareness play than pure conversion or sales, but it’s going to be a huge market. Think quick games, amazing facts, jokes, and more…
  • Conversation journey mapping is a powerful new skill to be learned and implemented to tie all content together.

Here’s to the next 50 years of voice interface progress!

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Digital Commerce Academy Opens to New Students Next Week

Just a heads up that our Digital Commerce Academy (DCA) — the resource that gives you real-world instruction on how to build a digital business — will be opening to new students next week for a limited time. Whether you want to launch a side hustle, take your small business to the next level, or
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3 days of SEO and SEM tactics at the lowest rates. SMX East prices increase next week!

Super early bird rates expire next week for SMX East, the East Coast’s largest search marketing conference. Attend for three days of actionable, cutting-edge search marketing tactics presented by experts that will leave your competition in the dust. Here’s what to expect October 24–26 in NYC:…



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How to Find Your Competitor’s Backlinks – Next Level

Posted by BrianChilds

Welcome to the newest installment of our educational Next Level series! In our last episode, Brian Childs equipped copywriters with the tools they need to succeed with SEO. Today, he’s back to share how to use Open Site Explorer to find linking opportunities based upon your competitors’ external inbound links. Read on and level up!


In Moz’s SEO training classes, we discuss how to identify and prioritize sources of backlinks using a mix of tools. One tactic to quickly find high Domain Authority sites that have a history of linking to pages discussing your topic is to study your competitors’ backlinks. This process is covered in-depth during the SEO Link Building Bootcamp.

In this article, I’ll show how to create and export a list of your competitor’s backlinks that you can use for targeting activities. This assumes you’ve already completed keyword research and have identified competitors that rank well in the search results for these queries. Use those competitors for the following analysis.


How to check the backlinks of a site

Step 1: Navigate to Open Site Explorer

Open Site Explorer is a tool used to research the link profile of a website. It will show you the quality of inbound links using metrics like Page Authority, Domain Authority, and Spam Score. You can do a good amount of research with the free version, but to enjoy all its capabilities you’ll need full access; you can get that access for free with a 30-day trial of Moz Pro.

Step 2: Enter your competitor’s domain URL

I suggest opening your competitor’s site in a browser window and then copying the URL. This will reduce any spelling errors and the possibility of incorrectly typing the domain name. An example of a common error is incorrectly adding “www” to the URL when that’s not how it renders for the site.

Step 3: Navigate to the “Inbound Links” tab

The Inbound Links tab will display all of the pages that link to your competitor’s website. In order to identify sources of links that are delivering link equity, I set the parameters above the list as follows: Target This – Root Domain, Links Source – Only External, and Link Type – Link Equity. This will show all external links providing link equity to any page on your competitor’s site.

Step 4: Export results into .csv

Most reports in Open Site Explorer will allow you to export to .csv. Save these results and then repeat for your other competitors.

Step 5: Compile .csv results from all competitors

Once you have Open Site Explorer exports from the top 5–10 competitors, compile them into one spreadsheet.

Step 6: Sort all results by Page Authority

Page Authority is a 1–100 scale developed by Moz that estimates the likelihood of a page’s ability to rank in a search result, based on our understanding of essential ranking factors. Higher numbers suggest the page is more authoritative and therefore has a higher likelihood of ranking. Higher Page Authority pages also will be delivering more link equity to your competitor’s site. Use Page Authority as your sorting criteria.

Step 7: Review all linking sites for opportunities

Now you have a large list of sites linking to your competitors for keywords you are targeting. Go down the list of high Page Authority links and look for sites or authors that show up regularly. Use your preferred outreach strategy to contact these sites and begin developing a relationship.


Want to learn more SEO processes?

If you like these step-by-step SEO processes, you’ll likely enjoy the SEO training classes provided by Moz. These live, instructor-led webinars show you how to use a variety of tools to implement SEO. If you’re in need of comprehensive SEO training, you can save 20% by purchasing the 5-class bundle:

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How to Target Multiple Keywords with One Page – Next Level

Posted by BrianChilds

Welcome to our newest installment of our educational Next Level series! In our last episode, Jo Cameron taught you how to whip up intelligent SEO reports for your clients to deliver impressive, actionable insights. Today, our friendly neighborhood Training Program Manager, Brian Childs, is here to show you an easy workflow for targeting multiple keywords with a single page. Read on and level up!


For those who have taken any of the Moz Training Bootcamps, you’ll know that we approach keyword research with the goal of identifying concepts rather than individual keywords. A common term for this in SEO is “niche keywords.” I think of a “niche” as a set of related words or concepts that are essentially variants of the same query.

Example:

Let’s pretend my broad subject is: Why are cats jerks?

Some niche topics within this subject are:

  • Why does my cat keep knocking things off the counter?
  • Why does my cat destroy my furniture?
  • Why did I agree to get this cat?

I can then find variants of these niche topics using Keyword Explorer or another tool, looking for the keywords with the best qualities (Difficulty, Search Volume, Opportunity, etc).

By organizing your keyword research in this way, it conceptually aligns with the search logic of Google’s Hummingbird algorithm update.

Once we have niche topics identified for our subject, we then we dive into specific keyword variants to find opportunities where we can rank. This process is covered in-depth during the Keyword Research Bootcamp class.

Should I optimize my page for multiple keywords?

The answer for most sites is a resounding yes.

If you develop a strategy of optimizing your pages for only one keyword, this can lead to a couple of issues. For example, if a content writer feels restricted to one keyword for a page they might develop very thin content that doesn’t discuss the broader concept in much useful detail. In turn, the marketing manager may end up spreading valuable information across multiple pages, which reduces the potential authority of each page. Your site architecture may then become larger than necessary, making the search engine less likely to distinguish your unique value and deliver it into a SERP.

As recent studies have shown, a single high-ranking page can show up in dozens — if not hundreds — of SERPs. A good practice is to identify relevant search queries related to a given topic and then use those queries as your H2 headings.

So how do you find niche keyword topics? This is the process I use that relies on a relatively new SERP feature: the “People also ask” boxes.

How to find niche keywords

Step 1: Enter a relevant question into your search engine

Question-format search queries are great because they often generate featured snippets. Featured snippets are the little boxes that show up at the top of search results, usually displaying one- to two-sentence answers or a list. Recently, when featured snippets are displayed, there is commonly another box nearby showing “People also ask” This second box allows you to peer into the logic of the search algorithm. It shows you what the search engine “thinks” are closely related topics.

Step 2: Select the most relevant “People also ask” query

Take a look at those initial “People also ask” suggestions. They are often different variants of your query, representing slightly different search intent. Choose the one that most aligns with the search intent of your target user. What happens? A new set of three “People also ask” suggestions will populate at the bottom of the list that are associated with the first option you chose. This is why I refer to these as choose-your-own-adventure boxes. With each selection, you dive deeper into the topic as defined by the search engine.

Step 3: Find suggestions with low-value featured snippets

Every “People also ask” suggestion is a featured snippet. As you dig deeper into the topic by selecting one “People also ask” after another, keep an eye out for featured snippets that are not particularly helpful. This is the search engine attempting to generate a simple answer to a question and not quite hitting the mark. These present an opportunity. Keep track of the ones you think could be improved. In the following example, we see the Featured Snippet being generated by an article that doesn’t fully answer the question for an average user.

Step 4: Compile a list of “People also ask” questions

Once you’ve explored deep into the algorithm’s contextually related results using the “People also ask” box, make a list of all the questions you found highly related to your desired topic. I usually just pile these into an Excel sheet as I find them.

Step 5: Analyze your list of words using a keyword research tool

With a nice list of keywords that you know are generating featured snippets, plug the words into Keyword Explorer or your preferred keyword research tool. Now just apply your normal assessment criteria for a keyword (usually a combination of search volume and competitiveness).

Step 6: Apply the keywords to your page title and heading tags

Once you’ve narrowed the list to a set of keywords you’d like to target on the page, have your content team go to work generating relevant, valuable answers to the questions. Place your target keywords as the heading tags (H2, H3) and a concise, valuable description immediately following those headings.

Measure niche keywords in your campaign

While your content writers are generating the content, you can update your Moz Pro campaign and begin baselining your rank position for the keywords you’re using in the heading tags. Add the keywords to your campaign and then label them appropriately. I recommend using a label associated with the niche topic.

For example, let’s pretend I have a business that helps people find lost pets. One common niche topic relates to people trying to find the phone numbers of kennels. Within that topic area, there will be dozens of variants. Let’s pretend that I write a useful article about how to quickly find the phone numbers of nearby animal shelters and kennels.

In this case, I would label all of the keywords I target in that article with something like “kennel phone numbers” in my Moz Pro campaign rankings tool.

Then, once the post is written, I can report on the average search visibility of all the search terms I used, simply by selecting the label “kennel phone numbers.” If the article is successful, I should see the rank positions moving up on average, showing that I’m ranking for multiple keywords.

Want to learn more SEO shortcuts?

If you found this kind of article helpful, consider signing up for the How to Bring SEO In-House seminar. The class covers things like how to set up your team for success, tips for doing research quickly, and how to report on SEO to your customers.

See upcoming classes here


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The Cognitive Era is the Next Societal Revolution That Will Change the World

“The transformational nature of artificial intelligence requires new metrics of success for our profession,” says Guru Banavar who is responsible for advancing the next generation of cognitive technologies and solutions with IBM’s global scientific ecosystem including academia, government agencies and other partners. “It is no longer enough to advance the science of AI and the engineering of AI-based systems. We now shoulder the added burden of ensuring these technologies are developed, deployed and adopted in responsible, ethical and enduring ways.”

IBM is at the cutting edge of the practical integration of artificial intelligence into real-world solutions as evidenced by IBM Watson’s recent integration with H&R Block software to improve tax deduction possibilities for the average consumer. Now that’s something that everybody can relate to!

Dr. Banavar recently delivered the 2017 Turing Lecture, a prestigious annual lecture co-hosted by the British Computer Society (BCS) and the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). “

“Most of the really exciting work going on in AI today is not about this at all (referring to the movie Morgan which focused on artificial general intelligence)”, noted Dr. Banavar. “It’s not about machines that look and talk and feel like humans. It’s not about machines that work like humans, but its about machines that work with humans.” He says that although this is a rather fine distinction, it’s a really important distinction.

The Cognitive Era

“There is a big revolution going on and in my mind is of the same magnitude of the Industrial Revolution,” says Dr. Banavar. “Every time one of these revolutions has happened we have seen tremendous changes in society, in the economy’s of the world and in all our lives. I believe we are at the beginning of yet another such revolution. I call that the Cognitive Era.”

“I think that we as human beings are now getting overwhelmed with respect to our cognitive capabilities,” commented Dr. Banavar. “Just trying to understand all of the data around us, all of the knowledge around us and trying make the right decisions about our daily lives, about our jobs, is getting really hard. We need to augment our cognition with the cognition of machines.”

Dr. Banavar gave the example that we all know that doctors can often be years behind the latest research and data. “What if your doctor had the benefit of a machine that could help do this kind of analysis before they make their final decision?”

View Dr. Banavar’s lecuture in its entirety starting at the 18:10 mark:

The post The Cognitive Era is the Next Societal Revolution That Will Change the World appeared first on WebProNews.


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Hunting Down SERP Features to Understand Intent & Drive Traffic – Next Level

Posted by jocameron

Welcome to the seventh installment of our educational Next Level series! In our last episode, Jo showed us how to better optimize our sites when we think we’ve done it all (but still aren’t ranking). This time around she’s giving us the tools and the knowledge to finally capture ourselves a SERP feature. Read on and level up!

Are you within striking distance of traffic-bumping SERP features?

The content on your freakin’ awesome site better be targeting the intent of the searcher.

People of the world want different types of content depending on what they search. If you get this right, your content will earn the engagement signals that tell search engines you’re fighting the good fight.

The stakes are even higher now. Not only are you battling it out in the organic results, but there are attention-grabbing features that draw clicks away from organic results.

But, hey now, chin up! You can use these features to focus on keywords with higher opportunity and win those bobby-dazzlers to drive even more traffic.

I’m going to show you how to use the ever-impressive SERP features to check whether you’re targeting intent and whether the entirety of your content satisfies searcher intent, putting you within striking distance of owning some of those queue-jumping features.

Follow along in your Moz Pro account or start a free trial, it’ll be fun, trust me.

What is searcher intent?

Intent is the nuanced language people use to search different things, and it drastically changes what they’re really, truly seeking.

Every single time a human inputs their heart’s desire into that blank, judgement-free rectangle, they’re asking Google to satisfy their intent.

Show me your best “headphone reviews,” your most reliable “sewing machine repairs,” your funniest “cat vs printer gifs,” I command thee!

Headphone reviews – I want comparisons, specs, images, first-hand experiences. Maybe I’ll buy something, eventually.

Sewing machine repairs – I’m looking for a local business who I can call or visit. Or an instructional article or video.

Cat vs printer gifs – Desperately seeking images in the .gif format of a furry friend freaking out over a machine friend.

With a few simple clicks on my keyboard, my intention is revealed. As a marketer, if you’re targeting keywords with particular intent, then this needs to be reflected in your content. As a searcher, I haven’t got time to read a long article about cat gifs and printers. I want an array of images to choose from. Likewise, I don’t want to scroll through an image gallery when I’m looking for a service, or an in-depth guide when I’m on the precipice of entering that ever-so-tempting sales funnel.

Now let’s look more specifically at the headphone niche. If you sell headphones you might think, “If I can stuff my landing page with a bit of jazzy content and get it in front of every person who searches for ‘headphones’ in every weird and wonderful way, I’m bound to get a chunk of traffic and *bam*, I’ll sell a bunch of headphones.”

It doesn’t really work like that. If your content doesn’t satisfy the intent indicated by the searcher, they’re likely to head back to search — and you just know Google is paying attention to this behavior. So you could end up sending signals to Google that your content isn’t all that good as it sends your visitors back to search. And because Google wants everyone to find what they’re after, your rankings could take a trip to page-two obscurity.

The different types of searcher intent

Intent for the purpose of marketing your content can be lumped into three different types that broadly encapsulate what warm bodies are looking for. This is explained in more detail in this post by Tom Anthony. Here is a brief recap that looks at how searches in the headphone niche can fit into vastly different intent types:

Informational: what were the first earbud headphones?*

Navigational: cnet headphone reviews

Transactional: cheap travel headphones

* I’m going to go all hipster on you and say it was the stethoscope, which morphed into it’s current shape around the 1850s according to Wiki.

Can you see how the implied intent varies depending on the phrasing around the search term? As you research your own target keywords, build up lists, and use those lists to formulate content, the implied intent of the searcher plays an important role in what form your awesome content will take.

It also goes hand-in-hand with your journey into long-tail keywords.

As the marketers of the world have been paying attention to the implied intent to guide their content creation, so indeed has the biggest website on the planet. The website that reduced internet usage by 40% when it went down for 2 minutes a few years ago. Yeah, you’ve heard of them, right? Well, they’re taking a big, old, sloppy bite of the intent pie. In their quest to give the people what they want right in the results pages, Google unleashed The Glorious SERP Feature.

What the wicky-wack are SERP features?

The fancy-schmancy SERP feature is Google’s way of dazzling users with its more-than-a-result result.

It’s Google’s way of saying ‘I hear you’ with its finger guns out, blowing imaginary smoke and reholstering them back into its pockets whilst leaning over the back of your chair, all pleased with itself.

Features might pop up all over the results, like this:

The one with its paw in the air ready to swat? Argh, too cute.

Or they might shuffle into the results, like so:

Then again, they may hang out over here, all nonchalant but desperate to please at the same time:

With 16 different varieties currently documented, they’re like the chameleon of the SERP kingdom: taking relevant content and reinventing itself like a shapeshifting lizard queen (or Madonna).

What SERP features can I win?

There are a handful of features you can reasonably have a punt at without throwing cash at Google: Featured Snippets, Related Questions, Image Packs, Site Links, Tweets, Videos, and the News Box. I’m going to focus on Featured Snippets, Related Questions, and Image Packs.

The rest of the features are within the reach of larger sites, Google partners, or local businesses. I’m not going to dive into the local aspect in this post, as our Local Learning Center is a good place to start that journey.

For regular schmoes like us, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on all 16 features and their presence in the results for keywords you’re tracking. Even if you can’t win them they will elbow out organic results.

Featured Snippets: These are like having those fast-track passes at your local theme park. You can jump from somewhere else in the results to position ZERO, and then you’re pretty much owning that SERP.

Rob Bucci is my featured snippet guru and you’ll probably join the ranks after watching his talk at Brighton SEO.

Related Questions: If you’re tracking Featured Snippets, then you’ll want to familiarize yourself with their buddies, the Related Question.

Winning a Related Question will most likely get you a small bump in clicks through to your site; nothing wrong with that. However, the treat you don’t want to miss out on is grabbing those questions and adding them to your tracked keywords in Moz Pro. Often, this will help you sniff out a Featured Snippet you can target.

Image Packs: I looove image packs — there aren’t enough ways to display that in text form. I’m very visually motivated and I spend a fair bit of time searching for animated .gifs. If you watch Rob Bucci’s talk then you’ll know that they didn’t tend to find overlap with Featured Snippets. So these are a good opportunity to target the visually minded and increase your chances of getting traffic through features across more keywords.

How to use SERP Features to target intent

Back in the olden days, like 6 months ago, you would look at keyword modifiers and find transactional terms like ‘buy,’ ‘cheap,’ and so on, then bundle these into the ‘transactional’ pile, and so on and so forth and rinse and repeat.

Now, in the bright and shiny land-of-the-future, we can use the presence of particular features to understand the intent as Google sees it. You’re doing two very important things here: lumping your keywords into piles to understand intent that you will use to guide your content, AND identifying features you can win and those that may push you out of the results.

Identify the features present for your target keywords

As with every job there is a manual method and a tool-based method. Manual is totally fine for people with small sites, like a personal blog, and a handful of keywords. I hope that by explaining the basic manual method it will lay the foundation of understanding when we ramp up to the tool-based method.

Okey dokey spreadsheet fans, get ready for the keyboard + mouse dance we do when filling up a spreadsheet with lovely data. Start by searching your keywords one-by-one, use incognito mode to avoid personalised results, and add a mark to the sheet next to the features that are present.

Here’s a sheet with all the features already added to get you started. I even added some gentle colors inspired by the first episode of Black Mirror Season 3. Lacie’s giving it 5 stars.

Don’t forget to check out the second tab with your handy-dandy SERP feature cheatsheet.

This is a good way to start understanding more about the different SERP features, identify what they look like, where they hang out, and how intrusive they are.

Identify and track SERP features with Moz Pro

Got more than a handful of keywords? Want all this data for your site and your competitors? Want a tool to do the heavy lifting for you? Don’t we all.

Did I mention before about the Moz Pro has a 30-day free trial? I’m pretty sure I did, but it was so far up the page and the follow-along-with-me part is starting right now! It will do all the SERP feature hunting, tracking, and cataloguing for you.

Moz Pro will identify the presence of all 16 SERP features and will also be able to show you if your site is present in Featured Snippets, Image Packs, In-depth Articles, Local Packs, Reviews, Site Links, and Videos.

First off, head to the SERP Features tab under Rankings.

You’ll see the percentage of features present for the keywords you’re tracking (in gray), along with the percentage of features your site is present in (in blue).

Find out how you are performing against your competitors

Underneath the Overview chart look for the filter icon, click it and scroll down to choose SERP Features and enter your desired feature. I’m going to start with Image Packs. It’s fairly easy to optimize some image — don’t forget to add informative file names, alt text, and correctly compress your images.

This little feature key will help you decipher the results:

blue Blue: Your site is in the feature.
orange Orange: You and one or more of your competitors are in the feature.
red Red: You are not in the feature, but one or more of your competitors are.
gray Gray: A SERP Feature exists but no one in your campaign is present.

Keep an eye out for features your competitor is dominating by clicking the SERP Features header to filter the results.

Identify keywords you’re on page one for with features that you could win

If you’re on page one for your desired keyword, and there is a Feature Snippet present, then there is a gift there, just waiting for you. Kind of like when you had that Amazon parcel sitting on your front doorstep, getting chewed on by your neighbor’s dog and piddled on by their cat and you’re in your house just meters away, blissfully unaware.

Become aware by heading to the SERP Features tab and filtering by Featured Snippets.

Hit that Rank header until the arrow is pointing up, then scroll down to peruse keywords with Feature Snippets present sorted by your rank. The tooltip Insights indicates I’m within striking distance of owning this snippet.

Ronell outlines a strategy for winning and keeping a Featured Snippet. At its heart, it’s about pure laser-focus on intent, find the question, answer said question, add value, and make it accessible to humans and bots.

Identify pages that are dropping in the rankings and check that the content matches intent

For this I’m going to head to my Rankings tab, containing all the keywords I’m tracking in my Moz Pro campaign.

Double click the little up/down icon header twice to filter all the down-arrow keywords to the top of the pile.

I’ve noticed that my rankings have dropped for my coveted keyword ”learn how to moz,” and I want to figure out if there are some SERP features present that could indicate whether my content could be targeting intent better. So I’ll click the keyword to open up the Keyword Analysis. Then scroll down to Your Performance and toggle to SERP Features from the drop-down menu.

You’ll see all the different types of features on the left-hand column and when they were present in the results for your keyword indicated by the light gray line.

I’m not seeing any Featured Snippets or Image Packs, but lookie here! A Related Question…

Remember what we said about Related Questions? Track those beauties down and add the questions to your bundle — you might just find a Featured Snippet hiding out there.

So that’s what I’m going to do. I’ll snap up those questions and add them to my Moz Pro campaign.

Now the next time my campaign updates I can check for tasty little Featured Snippets to target.

Now back to analyzing intent. I’m going to look at that page and see what can be improved to better match the intent as implied by Google.

I can see that videos are present, so I’m going to pop a video into my content. It may not show up as a feature on the results page, but I’m responding to what the searchers of the world are seeking, and I’m also thinking this will keep people on the page whilst serving their needs.

Repeat, and sort your Tracked Keywords by Rank

You can also follow this same process by sorting by Rank to find keywords where you’re on the bottom of the first page or the top of the second page to suss out the intent as indicated by the presence of certain SERP Features.

Then zip back up to the last step and repeat the process of analyzing keywords for features to figure out intent and hunt down those tasty features.

Wrapping up

Here’s a quick recap: SERP features are your insight into what content Google thinks best serves the needs of searchers for any given keyword.

You can use the presence of features to quickly understand the implied intent for your target keywords and cross-reference this with a drop in rankings to improve how your content meets the needs of searchers.

By combining the feature power of Image Packs, Related Keywords, and Featured Snippets you’ll be covering the most effective organic features and potentially queue-jumping your way to position ZERO.

For the organic fanatics, you’ll also be able to track all 16 features and give more love to those with features you can win whilst artfully stepping around keywords with unobtainable features overcrowding the results and pushing your tasty URL into the lost land of page 2.

Happy hunting!

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