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Using the Flowchart Method for Diagnosing Ranking Drops – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by KameronJenkins

Being able to pinpoint the reason for a ranking drop is one of our most perennial and potentially frustrating tasks as SEOs. There are an unknowable number of factors that go into ranking these days, but luckily the methodology for diagnosing those fluctuations is readily at hand. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, we welcome the wonderful Kameron Jenkins to show us a structured way to diagnose ranking drops using a flowchart method and critical thinking.

Flowchart method for diagnosing ranking drops

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Video Transcription

Hey, everyone. Welcome to this week’s edition of Whiteboard Friday. My name is Kameron Jenkins. I am the new SEO Wordsmith here at Moz, and I’m so excited to be here. Before this, I worked at an agency for about six and a half years. I worked in the SEO department, and really a common thing we encountered was a client’s rankings dropped. What do we do?

This flowchart was kind of built out of that mentality of we need a logical workflow to be able to diagnose exactly what happened so we can make really pointed recommendations for how to fix it, how to get our client’s rankings back. So let’s dive right in. It’s going to be a flowchart, so it’s a little nonlinear, but hopefully this makes sense and helps you work smarter rather than harder.

Was it a major ranking drop?: No

The first question I’d want to ask is: Was their rankings drop major? By major, I would say that’s something like page 1 to page 5 overnight. Minor would be something like it just fell a couple positions, like position 3 to position 5.

We’re going to take this path first. It was minor.

Has there been a pattern of decline lasting about a month or greater?

That’s not a magic number. A month is something that you can use as a benchmark. But if there’s been a steady decline and it’s been one week it’s position 3 and then it’s position 5 and then position 7, and it just keeps dropping over time, I would consider that a pattern of decline.

So if no, I would actually say wait.

  • Volatility is normal, especially if you’re at the bottom of page 1, maybe page 2 plus. There’s going to be a lot more shifting of the search results in those positions. So volatility is normal.
  • Keep your eyes on it, though. It’s really good to just take note of it like, “Hey, we dropped. Okay, I’m going to check that again next week and see if it continues to drop, then maybe we’ll take action.”
  • Wait it out. At this point, I would just caution against making big website updates if it hasn’t really been warranted yet. So volatility is normal. Expect that. Keep your finger on the pulse, but just wait it out at this point.

If there has been a pattern of decline though, I’m going to have you jump to the algorithm update section. We’re going to get there in a second. But for now, we’re going to go take the major rankings drop path.

Was it a major ranking drop?: Yes

The first question on this path that I’d want to ask is:

Was there a rank tracking issue?

Now, some of these are going seem pretty basic, like how would that ever happen, but believe me it happens every once in a while. So just before we make major updates to the website, I’d want to check the rank tracking.

I. The wrong domain or URL.

That can be something that happens a lot. A site maybe you change domains or maybe you move a page and that old page of that old domain is still listed in your ranking tracker. If that’s the case, then the rank tracking tool doesn’t know which URL to judge the rankings off of. So it’s going to look like maybe you dropped to position 10 overnight from position 1, and that’s like, whoa, that’s a huge update. But it’s actually just that you have the wrong URL in there. So just check that. If there’s been a page update, a domain update, check to make sure that you’ve updated your rank tracker.

II. Glitches.

So it’s software, it can break. There are things that could cause it to be off for whatever reason. I don’t know how common that is. It probably is totally dependent on which kind of software you use. But glitches do happen, so I would manually check your rankings.

III. Manually check rankings.

One way I would do that is…

  • Go to incognito in Google and make sure you’re logged out so it’s not personalized. I would search the term that you’re wanting to rank for and see where you’re actually ranking.
  • Google’s Ad Preview tool. That one is really good too if you want to search where you’re ranking locally so you can set your geolocation. You could do mobile versus desktop rankings. So it could be really good for things like that.
  • Crosscheck with another tool, like Moz’s tool for rank tracking. You can pop in your URLs, see where you’re ranking, and cross-check that with your own tool.

So back to this. Rank tracking issues. Yes, you found your problem. If it was just a rank tracking tool issue, that’s actually great, because it means you don’t have to make a lot of changes. Your rankings actually haven’t dropped. But if that’s not the issue, if there is no rank tracking issue that you can pinpoint, then I would move on to Google Search Console.

Problems in Google Search Console?

So Google Search Console is really helpful for checking site health matters. One of the main things I would want to check in there, if you experience a major drop especially, is…

I. Manual actions.

If you navigate to Manual Actions, you could see notes in there like unnatural links pointing to your site. Or maybe you have thin or low-quality content on your site. If those things are present in your Manual Actions, then you have a reference point. You have something to go off of. There’s a lot of work involved in lifting a manual penalty that we can’t get into here unfortunately. Some things that you can do to focus on manual penalty lifting…

  • Moz’s Link Explorer. You can check your inbound links and see their spam score. You could look at things like anchor text to see if maybe the links pointing to your site are keyword stuffed. So you can use tools like that.
  • There are a lot of good articles too, in the industry, just on getting penalties lifted. Marie Haynes especially has some really good ones. So I would check that out.

But you have found your problem if there’s a manual action in there. So focus on getting that penalty lifted.

II. Indexation issues.

Before you move out of Search Console, though, I would check indexation issues as well. Maybe you don’t have a manual penalty. But go to your index coverage report and you can see if anything you submitted in your sitemap is maybe experiencing issues. Maybe it’s blocked by robots.txt, or maybe you accidentally no indexed it. You could probably see that in the index coverage report. Search Console, okay. So yes, you found your problem. No, you’re going to move on to algorithm updates.

Algorithm updates

Algorithm updates happen all the time. Google says that maybe one to two happen per day. Not all of those are going to be major. The major ones, though, are listed. They’re documented in multiple different places. Moz has a really good list of algorithm updates over time. You can for sure reference that. There are going to be a lot of good ones. You can navigate to the exact year and month that your site experienced a rankings drop and see if it maybe correlates with any algorithm update.

For example, say your site lost rankings in about January 2017. That’s about the time that Google released its Intrusive Interstitials Update, and so I would look on my site, if that was the issue, and say, “Do I have intrusive interstitials? Is this something that’s affecting my website?”

If you can match up an algorithm update with the time that your rankings started to drop, you have direction. You found an issue. If you can’t match it up to any algorithm updates, it’s finally time to move on to site updates.

Site updates

What changes happened to your website recently? There are a lot of different things that could have happened to your website. Just keep in mind too that maybe you’re not the only one who has access to your website. You’re the SEO, but maybe tech support has access. Maybe even your paid ad manager has access. There are a lot of different people who could be making changes to the website. So just keep that in mind when you’re looking into it. It’s not just the changes that you made, but changes that anyone made could affect the website’s ranking. Just look into all possible factors.

Other factors that can impact rankings

A lot of different things, like I said, can influence your site’s rankings. A lot of things can inadvertently happen that you can pinpoint and say, “Oh, that’s definitely the cause.”

Some examples of things that I’ve personally experienced on my clients’ websites…

I. Renaming pages and letting them 404 without updating with a 301 redirect.

There was one situation where a client had a blog. They had hundreds of really good blog posts. They were all ranking for nice, long tail terms. A client emailed into tech support to change the name of the blog. Unfortunately, all of the posts lived under the blog, and when he did that, he didn’t update it with a 301 redirect, so all of those pages, that were ranking really nicely, they started to fall out of the index. The rankings went with it. There’s your problem. It was unfortunate, but at least we were able to diagnose what happened.

II. Content cutting.

Maybe you’re working with a UX team, a design team, someone who is looking at the website from a visual, a user experience perspective. A lot of times in these situations they might take a page that’s full of really good, valuable content and they might say, “Oh, this is too clunky. It’s too bulky. It has too many words. So we’re going to replace it with an image, or we’re going to take some of the content out.”

When this happens, if the content was the thing that was making your page rank and you cut that, that’s probably something that’s going to affect your rankings negatively. By the way, if that’s happening to you, Rand has a really good Whiteboard Friday on kind of how to marry user experience and SEO. You should definitely check that out if that’s an issue for you.

III. Valuable backlinks lost.

Another situation I was diagnosing a client and one of their backlinks dropped. It just so happened to be like the only thing that changed over this course of time. It was a really valuable backlink, and we found out that they just dropped it for whatever reason, and the client’s rankings started to decline after that time. Things like Moz’s tools, Link Explorer, you can go in there and see gained and lost backlinks over time. So I would check that out if maybe that might be an issue for you.

IV. Accidental no index.

Depending on what type of CMS you work with, it might be really, really easy to accidentally check No Index on this page. If you no index a really important page, Google takes it out of its index. That could happen. Your rankings could drop.So those are just some examples of things that can happen. Like I said, hundreds and hundreds of things could have been changed on your site, but it’s just really important to try to pinpoint exactly what those changes were and if they coincided with when your rankings started to drop.

SERP landscape

So we got all the way to the bottom. If you’re at the point where you’ve looked at all of the site updates and you still haven’t found anything that would have caused a rankings drop, I would say finally look at the SERP landscape.

What I mean by that is just Google your keyword that you want to rank for or your group of keywords that you want to rank for and see which websites are ranking on page 1. I would get a lay of the land and just see:

  • What are these pages doing?
  • How many backlinks do they have?
  • How much content do they have?
  • Do they load fast?
  • What’s the experience?

Then make content better than that. To rank, so many people just think avoid being spammy and avoid having things broken on your site. But that’s not SEO. That’s really just helping you be able to compete. You have to have content that’s the best answer to searchers’ questions, and that’s going to get you ranking.

I hope that was helpful. This is a really good way to just kind of work through a ranking drop diagnosis. If you have methods, by the way, that work for you, I’d love to hear from you and see what worked for you in the past. Let me know, drop it in the comments below.

Thanks, everyone. Come back next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Tracking Your Link Prospecting Using Lists in Link Explorer

Posted by Dr-Pete

I’m a lazy marketer some days — I’ll admit it. I don’t do a lot of manual link prospecting, because it’s a ton of work, outreach, and follow-up. There are plenty of times, though, where I’ve got a good piece of content (well, at least I hope it’s good) and I want to know if it’s getting attention from specific sites, whether they’re in the search industry or the broader marketing or PR world. Luckily, we’ve made that question a lot easier to answer in Link Explorer, so today’s post is for all of you curious but occasionally lazy marketers. Hop into the tool if you want to follow along:

Open Link Explorer

(1) Track your content the lazy way

When you first visit Link Explorer, you’ll see that it defaults to “root domain”:

Some days, you don’t want to wade through your entire domain, but just want to target a single piece of content. Just enter or paste that URL, and select “exact page” (once you start typing a full path, we’ll even auto-select that option for you):

Now I can see just the link data for that page (note: screenshots have been edited for size):

Good news — my Whiteboard Friday already has a decent link profile. That’s already a fair amount to sort through, and as the link profile grows, it’s only going to get tougher. So, how can I pinpoint just the sites I’m interested in and track those sites over time?

(2) Make a list of link prospects

This is the one part we can’t automate for you. Make a list of prospects in whatever tool you please. Here’s an imaginary list I created in Excel:

Obviously, this list is on the short side, but let’s say I decide to pull a few of the usual suspects from the search marketing world, plus one from the broader marketing world, and a couple of aspirational sites (I’m probably not going to get that New York Times link, but let’s dream big).

(3) Create a tracking list in Link Explorer

Obviously, I could individually search for these domains in my full list of inbound links, but even with six prospects, that’s going to take some time. So, let’s do this the lazy way. Back in Link Explorer, look at the very bottom of the left-hand navigation and you’ll see “Link Targeting Lists”:

Keep scrolling — I promise it’s down there. Click on it, and you’ll see something like this:

On the far-right, under the main header, click on “[+] Create new list.” You’ll get an overlay with a three-step form like the one below. Just give your list a name, provide a target URL (the page you want to track links to), and copy-and-paste in your list of prospects. Here’s an example:

Click “Save,” and you should immediately get back some data.

Alas, no link from the New York Times. The blue icons show me that the prospects are currently linking to Moz.com, but not to my target page. The green icon shows me that I’ve already got a head-start — Search Engine Land is apparently linking to this post (thanks, Barry!).

Click on any arrow in the “Notes” column, and you can add a note to that entry, like so:

Don’t forget to hit “Save.” Congratulations, you’ve created your first list! Well, I’ve created your first list for you. Geez, you really are lazy.

(4) Check in to track your progress

Of course, the real magic is that the list just keeps working for you. At any time, you can return to “Link Tracking Lists” on the Link Explorer menu, and now you’ll see a master list of all your lists:

Just click on the list name you’re interested in, and you can see your latest-and-greatest data. We can’t build the links for you, but we can at least make keeping track of them a lot easier.

Bonus video: Now in electrifying Link-o-Vision!

Ok, it’s just a regular video, although it does require electricity. If you’re too lazy to read (in which case, let’s be honest, you probably didn’t get this far), I’ve put this whole workflow into an enchanting collection of words and sounds for you:

I hope you’ll put your newfound powers to good. Let us know how you’re using Tracking Lists (or how you plan to use them) in the comments, and where you’d like to see us take them next!

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Antonio Centeno: How This US Marine Turned Entrepreneur Earns Over $1 Million Teaching Men How To Dress Better Using YouTube

[ Download MP3 | Transcript | iTunes | Soundcloud | Raw RSS ] I met Antonio Centeno at the first ever Youpreneur conference in London, hosted by Chris Ducker. Antonio was seated next to me, one of the only men dressed in a suit, and we immediately struck up a…

The post Antonio Centeno: How This US Marine Turned Entrepreneur Earns Over $ 1 Million Teaching Men How To Dress Better Using YouTube appeared first on Yaro.blog.

Entrepreneurs-Journey.com by Yaro Starak

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Antonio Centeno: How This US Marine Turned Entrepreneur Earns Over $1 Million Teaching Men How To Dress Better Using YouTube

[ Download MP3 | Transcript | iTunes | Soundcloud | Raw RSS ] I met Antonio Centeno at the first ever Youpreneur conference in London, hosted by Chris Ducker. Antonio was seated next to me, one of the only men dressed in a suit, and we immediately struck up a…

The post Antonio Centeno: How This US Marine Turned Entrepreneur Earns Over $ 1 Million Teaching Men How To Dress Better Using YouTube appeared first on Entrepreneurs-Journey.com.

Entrepreneurs-Journey.com by Yaro Starak

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The Problem With Only Using Social Media To Grow Your Business

In recent year’s a new crop of entrepreneur/freelancer/coaches have risen off the back of social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. These people use the tools to distribute their knowledge and thus attract clients. You share some pictures, write short updates, do live videos, and eventually, a few people…

The post The Problem With Only Using Social Media To Grow Your Business appeared first on Entrepreneurs-Journey.com.

Entrepreneurs-Journey.com by Yaro Starak

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The Problem With Only Using Social Media To Grow Your Business

In recent year’s a new crop of entrepreneur/freelancer/coaches have risen off the back of social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. These people use the tools to distribute their knowledge and thus attract clients. You share some pictures, write short updates, do live videos, and eventually, a few people…

The post The Problem With Only Using Social Media To Grow Your Business appeared first on Entrepreneurs-Journey.com.

Entrepreneurs-Journey.com by Yaro Starak

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Transform Your Business Website Using Our Free ‘Design 101’ Ebook

Is your current website design working for your business as well as it could be? You might know that it’s not, but don’t know where to start when it comes to a redesign. We understand that. Choosing a WordPress theme for your website can be a little overwhelming and leave you with lots of further
Read More…

The post Transform Your Business Website Using Our Free ‘Design 101’ Ebook appeared first on Copyblogger.


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How to drive conversion using a value proposition-focused testing strategy in email marketing

Value proposition is the maximized, optimized force of the perceived value that you are offering to potential customers. Many marketers, however, leave it on the website and forget about it in email. We’re busy testing this subject line or that, without any real strategy in mind.
A peer example in this blog post will show examples of how to formulate a testing strategy for every element of email marketing, giving you an advantage over the competition and driving conversion.

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Paint by Numbers: Using Data to Produce Great Content

Posted by rjonesx.

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

Numbers.

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

Expose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Relate

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

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

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

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

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

Surprise

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

Perspective.

Let’s start with a simple statistic:

The cost of ending polio between 2013 and 2018 is

$ 5.5 Billion Dollars.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Share

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

Putting it all together

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

This piece played the geography card for relatability:

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

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

How do I get started?

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

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3 tactics we’re using for Answer Boxes

The featured snippet (answer box) that sometimes appears at the top of the SERPs is a coveted spot for marketers, but how can you get your content there? Columnist Brian Patterson has some tips.

The post 3 tactics we’re using for Answer Boxes appeared first on Search Engine Land.



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