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Spectator to Partner: Turn Your Clients into SEO Allies – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by KameronJenkins

Are your clients your allies in SEO, or are they passive spectators? Could they even be inadvertently working against you? A better understanding of expectations, goals, and strategy by everyone involved can improve your client relations, provide extra clarity, and reduce the number of times you’re asked to “just SEO a site.” In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Kameron Jenkins outlines tactics you should know for getting clients and bosses excited about the SEO journey, as well as the risks involved in passivity.

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Video Transcription

Hey, everyone, and welcome to this week’s edition of Whiteboard Friday. I am Kameron Jenkins, and I’m the SEO Wordsmith here at Moz. Today I’m going to be talking with you about how to turn your clients from spectators, passive spectators to someone who is proactively interested and an ally in your SEO journey.

So if you’ve ever heard someone come to you, maybe it’s a client or maybe you’re in-house and this is your boss saying this, and they say, “Just SEO my site,” then this is definitely for you. A lot of times it can be really hard as an SEO to work on a site if you really aren’t familiar with the business, what that client is doing, what they’re all about, what their goals are. So I’m going to share with you some tactics for getting your clients and your boss excited about SEO and excited about the work that you’re doing and some risks that can happen when you don’t do that.

Tactics

So let’s dive right in. All right, first we’re going to talk about tactics.

1. Share news

The first tactic is to share news. In the SEO industry, things are changing all the time, so it’s actually a really great tactic to keep yourself informed, but also to share that news with the client. So here’s an example. Google My Business is now experimenting with a new video format for their post feature. So one thing that you can do is say, “Hey, client, I hear that Google is experimenting with this new format. They’re using videos now. Would you like to try it?”

So that’s really cool because it shows them that you’re on top of things. It shows them that you’re the expert and you’re keeping your finger on the pulse of the industry. It also tells them that they’re going to be a part of this new, cutting-edge technology, and that can get them really, really excited about the SEO work you’re doing. So make sure to share news. I think that can be really, really valuable.

2. Outline your work

The next tip is to outline your work. This one seems really simple, but there is so much to say for telling a client what you’re going to do, doing it, and then telling them that you did it. It’s amazing what can happen when you just communicate with a client more. There have been plenty of situations where maybe I did less tangible work for a client one week, but because I talk to them more, they were more inclined to be happy with me and excited about the work I was doing.

It’s also cool because when you tell a client ahead of time what you’re going to do, it gives them time to get excited about, “Ooh, I can’t wait to see what he or she is going to do next.” So that’s a really good tip for getting your clients excited about SEO.

3. Report results

Another thing is to report on your results. So, as SEOs, it can be really easy to say, hey, I added this page or I fixed these things or I updated this.

But if we detach it from the actual results, it doesn’t really matter how much a client likes you or how much your boss likes you, there’s always a risk that they could pull the plug on SEO because they just don’t see the value that’s coming from it. So that’s an unfortunate reality, but there are tons of ways that you can show the value of SEO. One example is, “Hey, client, remember that page that we identified that was ranking on page two. We improved it. We made all of those updates we talked about, and now it’s ranking on page one. So that’s really exciting. We’re seeing a lot of new traffic come from it.I’m wondering, are you seeing new calls, new leads, an uptick in any of those things as a result of that?”

So that’s really good because it shows them what you did, the results from that, and then it kind of connects it to, “Hey, are you seeing any revenue, are you seeing new clients, new customers,” things like that. So they’re more inclined to see that what you’re doing is making a real, tangible impact on actual revenue and their actual business goals.

4. Acknowledge and guide their ideas

This one is really, really important. It can be hard sometimes to marry best practices and customer service. So what I mean by that is there’s one end of the pendulum where you are really focused on best practices. This is right. This is wrong. I know my SEO stuff. So when a client comes to you and they say, “Hey, can we try this?” and you go, “No, that’s not best practices,”it can kind of shut them down. It doesn’t get them involved in the SEO process. In fact, it just kind of makes them recoil and maybe they don’t want to talk to you, and that’s the exact opposite of what we want here. On the other end of that spectrum though, you have clients who say, “Hey, I really want to try this.I saw this article. I’m interested in this thing. Can you do it for my website?”

Maybe it’s not the greatest idea SEO-wise. You’re the SEO expert, and you see that and you go, “Mm, that’s actually kind of scary. I don’t think I want to do that.” But because you’re so focused on pleasing your client, you maybe do it anyway. So that’s the opposite of what we want as well. We want to have a “no, but” mentality. So an example of that could be your client emails in and says, “Hey, I want to try this new thing.”

You go, “Hey, I really like where your head is at. I like that you’re thinking about things this way. I’m so glad you shared this with me. I tried this related thing before, and I think that would be actually a really good idea to employ on your website.” So kind of shifting the conversation, but still bringing them along with you for that journey and guiding them to the correct conclusions. So that’s another way to get them invested without shying them away from the SEO process.

Risks

So now that we’ve talked about those tactics, we’re going to move on to the risks. These are things that could happen if you don’t get your clients excited and invested in the SEO journey.

1. SEO becomes a checklist

When you don’t know your client well enough to know what they’re doing in the real world, what they’re all about, the risk becomes you have to kind of just do site health stuff, so fiddling with meta tags, maybe you’re changing some paragraphs around, maybe you’re changing H1s, fixing 404s, things like that, things that are just objectively, “I can make this change, and I know it’s good for site health.”

But it’s not proactive. It’s not actually doing any SEO strategies. It’s just cleanup work. If you just focus on cleanup work, that’s really not an SEO strategy. That’s just making sure your site isn’t broken. As we all know, you need so much more than that to make sure that your client’s site is ranking. So that’s a risk.

If you don’t know your clients, if they’re not talking to you, or they’re not excited about SEO, then really all you’re left to do is fiddle with kind of technical stuff. As good as that can be to do, our jobs are way more fun than that. So communicate with your clients. Get them on board so that you can do proactive stuff and not just fiddling with little stuff.

2. SEO conflicts with business goals

So another risk is that SEO can conflict with business goals.

So say that you’re an SEO. Your client is not talking to you. They’re not really excited about stuff that you’re doing. But you decide to move forward with proactive strategies anyway. So say I’m an SEO, and I identify this keyword. My client has this keyword. This is a related keyword. It can bring in a lot of good traffic. I’ve identified this good opportunity. All of the pages that are ranking on page one, they’re not even that good. I could totally do better. So I’m going to proactively go, I’m going to build this page of content and put it on my client’s site. Then what happens when they see that page of content and they go, “We don’t even do that. We don’t offer that product. We don’t offer that service.”

Oops. So that’s really bad. What can happen is that, yes, you’re being proactive, and that’s great. But if you don’t actually know what your client is doing, because they’re not communicating with you, they’re not really excited, you risk misaligning with their business goals and misrepresenting them. So that’s a definite risk.

3. You miss out on PR opportunities

Another thing, you miss out on PR opportunities. So again, if your client is not talking to you, they’re not excited enough to share what they’re doing in the real world with you, you miss out on news like, “Hey, we’re sponsoring this event,”or, “Hey, I was the featured expert on last night’s news.”

Those are all really, really good things that SEOs look for. We crave that information. We can totally use that to capitalize on it for SEO value. If we’re not getting that from our clients, then we miss out on all those really, really cool PR opportunities. So a definite risk. We want those PR opportunities. We want to be able to use them.

4. Client controls the conversation

Next up, client controls the conversation. That’s a definite risk that can happen. So if a client is not talking to you, a reason could be they don’t really trust you yet. When they don’t trust you, they tend to start to dictate. So maybe our client emails in.

A good example of this is, “Hey, add these 10 backlinks to my website.” Or, “Hey, I need these five pages, and I need them now.” Maybe they’re not even actually bad suggestions. It’s just the fact that the client is asking you to do that. So this is kind of tricky, because you want to communicate with your client. It’s good that they’re emailing in, but they’re the ones at that point that are dictating the strategy. Whereas they should be communicating their vision, so hey, as a business owner, as a website owner, “This is my vision. This is my goal, and this is what I want.”

As the SEO professional, you’re receiving that information and taking it and making it into an SEO strategy that can actually be really, really beneficial for the client. So there’s a huge difference between just being a task monkey and kind of transforming their vision into an SEO strategy that can really, really work for them. So that’s a definite risk that can happen.

Excitement + partnership = better SEO campaigns

There’s a lot of different things that can happen. These are just some examples of tactics that you can use and risks. If you have any examples of things that have worked for you in the past, I would love to hear about them. It’s really good to information share. Success stories where maybe you got your client or your boss really bought into SEO, more so than just, “Hey, I’m spending money on it.”

But, “Hey, I’m your partner in this. I’m your ally, and I’m going to give you all the information because I know that it’s going to be mutually beneficial for us.” So at the end here, excitement, partner, better SEO campaigns. This is going to be I believe a recipe for success to get your clients and your boss on board. Thanks again so much for watching this edition of Whiteboard Friday, and come back next week for another one.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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SEO Maturity: Evaluating Client Capabilities – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by HeatherPhysioc

Clients aren’t always knowledgeable about SEO. That lack of understanding can result in roadblocks and delay the work you’re trying to accomplish, but knowing your client’s level of SEO maturity can help. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, we welcome the brilliant Heather Physioc to expound upon the maturity models she’s developed to help you diagnose your client’s search maturity and remove blockers to your success.

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Video Transcription

What up, Moz fans? My name is Heather Physioc. I’m Director of the Discoverability Group at VML. We are in Kansas City. Global ad agency headquartered right in the middle of the map.

Today we’re going to talk about how to diagnose the maturity of your SEO client. I don’t mean emotional maturity. I mean maturity as it pertains to SEO capabilities, their ability to do the work, as well as their organizational search program maturity. Now a lot of times when a client signs a contract with us, we make the assumption that they’re knowledgeable, they’re motivated, they’re bought in to do the search work.

So we go dumping all these recommendations in their lap, and we’re trucking full speed ahead. But then we’re surprised when we start hitting blockers and the work doesn’t go live. I actually surveyed over 140 of our colleagues in the search industry, and they reported running into blockers, like low prioritization and buy-in for the work, limited technical resources for developers or budgeting for copywriters, low advocacy, high turnover, and any number of different things that stand in the way.

I didn’t just ask about the problems. I asked about the solutions, and one of the tools that came out of that was the ability to diagnose the client’s maturity. So a maturity model is intended to evaluate an organization’s capability to continuously evolve in a practice. The point, the purpose of this is to understand where they stand today, where they want to go, and the steps it’s going to take to get there.


The SEO Capabilities matrix

Let’s talk about the SEO capabilities first, the technical ability to do the job.

Harmful

On the low end of the scale, a client may be engaging in spammy, outdated, or harmful SEO practices that are doing more harm than good.

Tactical

From there, they may be tactical. They’re doing some super basic SEO, think title tags and meta description tags, but nothing earth-shattering is happening here, and it’s not very strategic or aligned to brand goals.

Strategic

From there, the brand moves into the strategic phase. They’re starting to align the work to goals. They’re starting to become a little more search savvy. They’re getting beyond the titles and metas, and they’re more thorough with the work. While good stuff is happening here, it’s not too advanced, and it still tends to be pretty siloed from the other disciplines.

Practice

From there, the organization might move into a practice. Search is starting to become a way of life here. They’re getting significantly more advanced in their work. They’re starting to connect the dots between those different channels. They’re using data in smarter ways to drive their search strategy.

Culture

Then from there, maybe they’re at a level of culture for their SEO capabilities. So search here is starting to become a part of their marketing DNA. They’re integrating across practices. They’re doing cutting edge. They’re testing and innovating and improving their SEO implementation, and they’re looking for the next big thing. But these groups know that they have to continually evolve as the industry evolves. So we don’t just look at their whole SEO program and figure out where the client goes on the map.

✓ Data-driven

We actually break it down into a few pieces. First, data-driven. Is the organization using information and analytics and combining it with other sources even to make really smart marketing decisions?

✓ SEO for content

Next is content. Are they doing any SEO for content at all? Are they implementing some SEO basics, but only during and after publication? Or are they using search data to actually drive their editorial calendar alongside other data inputs, like social listening or web analytics?

✓ Mobility

From there, mobility. Do they have no mobile experience at all, or do they have a fully responsive and technically mobile friendly site, but they’re not investing any more in that mobile optimization? Or are they a completely mobile-first mindset? Are they continuously iterating and improving in usability, speed, and content for their mobile users?

✓ Technical ability

Beyond that, we could look at how technically savvy they are. Do they have a lot of broken stuff, or are they on top of monitoring and maintaining their technical health and accessibility?

✓ On-page/off-page SEO

Then some standard SEO best practices here. Are they limited or advanced in on-page SEO, off-page SEO?

✓ Integrating across channels

Are they integrating across channels and not having search live in a silo?

✓ Adopting new technology

Are they adopting new technology as it pertains to search? Some clients have a very high appetite for this, but they chase after the shiny object.

Others have a high appetite and a high tolerance for risk, and they’re making hard choices about which new technology to invest in as it pertains to their search program. You may also want to customize this maturity model and include things like local search or international search or e-commerce. But this is a great place to start. So this does a very good job of choosing which projects to begin with for a client, but it doesn’t really get to the heart of why our work isn’t getting implemented.


The Organizational Search Maturity matrix

I developed a second maturity model, and this one is more traditional and you see it across other industries as well. But this one focuses on the search program inside the organization. This is the squishy organizational stuff.

✓ People

This is people. Do they have the necessary talent within the organization or within their scope? That might not just mean SEOs. That means are they scoping appropriately for content and development needs?

✓ Process

What about process? Are they actually using a defined and continuously improving process for the inclusion of search? Now I don’t mean step-by-step best practices for implementing a title tag. This isn’t instructions or a tutorial. This is a process for including organic search experts at the right moments in the right projects.

✓ Planning

What about planning? A lot of times we find that clients are doing search very reactively and after the fact. We want to reach a point with an organization where it’s preplanned, it’s proactively included, and it’s always aligned to brand, business, or campaign goals.

✓ Knowledge

Next is knowledge. We know that this industry is complicated. There are a lot of moving pieces. We want to know how knowledgeable is the organization about search. That doesn’t necessarily mean how to do SEO, but perhaps the importance or the impact or the outcomes of it. How committed are they to learning more through reading or trainings or conferences? At the very least, the organization they’re hiring to do search needs to be extraordinarily knowledgeable about it.

✓ Capacity

Then capacity. Do they have the prioritization within the organization? Are they budgeting appropriately? Do they have the resources and the means and the capacity to get the work done?

Initial

When we’ve evaluated a client against these criteria, we could find them in an initial phase where the program is very new, they’re not doing any search at all…

Repeatable

…to repeatable, meaning they’re starting to include it, but it’s not super cohesive yet. They’re not enforcing the process. They don’t have super dedicated resources just yet.

Defined

Up into defined, where they actually are documenting their process. It’s continuing to iterate and improve. They’re becoming more knowledgeable. They’re dedicating more resources. They’re prioritizing it better.

Managed

We can move up into managed, where that’s continuing to improve even further…

Optimized

…and into optimized. So again, this is where search programs are part of the organization’s DNA. It’s always included. They are always improving their process. They are maintaining or even increasing the talent that they have dedicated to the work. They’re planning it smarter and better than ever before, and they have adequate capacity to keep iterating and growing in their search program.


With that, the steps to complete this process and figure out where your client falls on either of these maturity models, I want to be clear is not a one-sided exercise. This is not a situation where you’re just punching numbers into a spreadsheet and the agency is grading the client and our job is done. This needs to be a conversation.

We need to invite stakeholders at multiple levels, both on the client side and on the agency side, or if you’re in-house, just multiple levels within the organization, and we should ask for opinions from multiple perspectives to paint a more accurate picture of where the client stands today and agree on the steps that we need to take to move forward. When you do these maturity assessments, this isn’t enough.

This is step one. This isn’t a finish line. We need to be using this as a springboard for a dialogue to uncover their pain points or the obstacles that they run into, inside their organization, that are going to keep you from getting that work done. We need to have honest and frank conversations about the things we need to clear out of the way to do our best work. With that, I hope that you can try this out.

We’ve got a great article that we published on the Moz blog to get into more detail about how to implement this. But try it out in your organization or with your client and let us know. Peer review this and help us make it better, because this is intended to be a living process that evolves as our industry does.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Building Better Customer Experiences – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by DiTomaso

Are you mindful of your customer’s experience after they become a lead? It’s easy to fall in the same old rut of newsletters, invoices, and sales emails, but for a truly exceptional customer experience that improves their retention and love for your brand, you need to go above and beyond. In this week’s episode of Whiteboard Friday, the ever-insightful Dana DiTomaso shares three big things you can start doing today that will immensely better your customer experience and make earning those leads worthwhile.

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

Video Transcription

Hi, Moz fans. My name is Dana DiTomaso. I’m the President and partner of Kick Point, and today I’m going to talk to you about building better customer experiences. I know that in marketing a lot of our jobs revolve around getting leads and more leads and why can’t we have all of the leads.

The typical customer experience:

But in reality, the other half of our job should be making sure that those leads are taken care of when they become customers. This is especially important if you don’t have, say, a customer care department. If you do have a customer care department, really you should be interlocking with what they do, because typically what happens, when you’re working with a customer, is that after the sale, they usually get surveys.

- Surveys

“How did we do? Please rate us on a scale of 1 to 10,” which is an enormous scale and kind of useless. You’re a 4, or you’re an 8, or you’re a 6. Like what actually differentiates that, and how are people choosing that?

- Invoices

Then invoices, like obviously important because you have to bill people, particularly if you have a big, expensive product or you’re a SaaS business. But those invoices are sometimes kind of impersonal, weird, and maybe not great.

- Newsletters

Maybe you have a newsletter. That’s awesome. But is the newsletter focused on sales? One of the things that we see a lot is, for example, if somebody clicks a link in the newsletter to get to your website, maybe you’ve written a blog post, and then they see a great big popup to sign up for our product. Well, you’re already a customer, so you shouldn’t be seeing that popup anymore.

What we’ve seen on other sites, like Help Scout actually does a great job of this, is that they have a parameter of newsletter at the end of any URLs they put in their newsletter, and then the popups are suppressed because you’re already in the newsletter so you shouldn’t see a popup encouraging you to sign up or join the newsletter, which is kind of a crappy experience.

- Sales emails

Then the last thing are sales emails. This is my personal favorite, and this can really be avoided if you go into account-based marketing automation instead of personal-based marketing automation.

We had a situation where I was a customer of the hosting company. It was in my name that we’ve signed up for all of our clients, and then one of our developers created a new account because she needed to access something. Then immediately the sales emails started, not realizing we’re at the same domain. We’re already a customer. They probably shouldn’t have been doing the hard sale on her. We’ve had this happen again and again.

So just really make sure that you’re not sending your customers or people who work at the same company as your customers sales emails. That’s a really cruddy customer experience. It makes it look like you don’t know what’s going on. It really can destroy trust.

Tips for an improved customer experience

So instead, here are some extra things that you can do. I mean fix some of these things if maybe they’re not working well. But here are some other things you can do to really make sure your customers know that you love them and you would like them to keep paying you money forever.

1. Follow them on social media

So the first thing is following them on social. So what I really like to do is use a tool such as FullContact. You can take everyone’s email addresses, run them through FullContact, and it will come back to you and say, “Here are the social accounts that this person has.” Then you go on Twitter and you follow all of these people for example. Or if you don’t want to follow them, you can make a list, a hidden list with all of their social accounts in there.

Then you can see what they share. A tool like Nuzzel, N-U-Z-Z for Americans, zed zed for Canadians, N-U-Z-Z-E-L is a great tool where you can say, “Tell me all the things that the people I follow on social or the things that this particular list of people on social what they share and what they’re engaged in.” Then you can see what your customers are really interested in, which can give you a good sense of what kinds things should we be talking about.

A company that does this really well is InVision, which is the app that allows you to share prototypes with clients, particularly design prototypes. So they have a blog, and a lot of that blog content is incredibly useful. They’re clearly paying attention to their customers and the kinds of things they’re sharing based on how they build their blog content. So then find out if you can help and really think about how I can help these customers through the things that they share, through the questions that they’re asking.

Then make sure to watch unbranded mentions too. It’s not particularly hard to monitor a specific list of people and see if they tweet things like, “I really hate my (insert what you are)right now,” for example. Then you can head that off at the pass maybe because you know that this was this customer. “Oh, they just had a bad experience. Let’s see what we can do to fix it,”without being like, “Hey, we were watching your every move on Twitter.Here’s something we can do to fix it.”

Maybe not quite that creepy, but the idea is trying to follow these people and watch for those unbranded mentions so you can head off a potential angry customer or a customer who is about to leave off at the pass. Way cheaper to keep an existing customer than get a new one.

2. Post-sale monitoring

So the next thing is post-sale monitoring. So what I would like you to do is create a fake customer. If you have lots of sales personas, create a fake customer that is each of those personas, and then that customer should get all the emails, invoices, everything else that a regular customer that fits that persona group should get.

Then take a look at those accounts. Are you awesome, or are you super annoying? Do you hear nothing for a year, except for invoices, and then, “Hey, do you want to renew?” How is that conversation going between you and that customer? So really try to pay attention to that. It depends on your organization if you want to tell people that this is what’s happening, but you really want to make sure that that customer isn’t receiving preferential treatment.

So you want to make sure that it’s kind of not obvious to people that this is the fake customer so they’re like, “Oh, well, we’re going to be extra nice to the fake customer.” They should be getting exactly the same stuff that any of your other customers get. This is extremely useful for you.

3. Better content

Then the third thing is better content. I think, in general, any organization should reward content differently than we do currently.

Right now, we have a huge focus on new content, new content, new content all the time, when in reality, some of your best-performing posts might be old content and maybe you should go back and update them. So what we like to tell people about is the Microsoft model of rewarding. They’ve used this to reward their employees, and part of it isn’t just new stuff. It’s old stuff too. So the way that it works is 33% is what they personally have produced.

So this would be new content, for example. Then 33% is what they’ve shared. So think about for example on Slack if somebody shares something really useful, that’s great. They would be rewarded for that. But think about, for example, what you can share with your customers and how that can be rewarding, even if you didn’t write it, or you can create a roundup, or you can put it in your newsletter.

Like what can you do to bring value to those customers? Then the last 33% is what they shared that others produced. So is there a way that you can amplify other voices in your organization and make sure that that content is getting out there? Certainly in marketing, and especially if you’re in a large organization, maybe you’re really siloed, maybe you’re an SEO and you don’t even talk to the paid people, there’s cool stuff happening across the entire organization.

A lot of what you can bring is taking that stuff that others have produced, maybe you need to turn it into something that is easy to share on social media, or you need to turn it into a blog post or a video, like Whiteboard Friday, whatever is going to work for you, and think about how you can amplify that and get it out to your customers, because it isn’t just marketing messages that customers should be seeing.

They should be seeing all kinds of messages across your organization, because when a customer gives you money, it isn’t just because your marketing message was great. It’s because they believe in the thing that you are giving them. So by reinforcing that belief through the types of content that you create, that you share, that you find that other people share, that you shared out to your customers, a lot of sharing, you can certainly improve that relationship with your customers and really turn just your average, run-of-the-mill customer into an actual raving fan, because not only will they stay longer, it’s so much cheaper to keep an existing customer than get a new one, but they’ll refer people to you, which is also a lot easier than buying a lot of ads or spending a ton of money and effort on SEO.

Thanks!

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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SEO Negotiation: How to Ace the Business Side of SEO – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by BritneyMuller

SEO isn’t all meta tags and content. A huge part of the success you’ll see is tied up in the inevitable business negotiations. In this week’s Whiteboard Friday, our resident expert Britney Muller walks us through a bevy of smart tips and considerations that will strengthen your SEO negotiation skills, whether you’re a seasoned pro or a newbie to the practice.

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Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. So today we are going over all things SEO negotiation, so starting to get into some of the business side of SEO. As most of you know, negotiation is all about leverage.

It’s what you have to offer and what the other side is looking to gain and leveraging that throughout the process. So something that you can go in and confidently talk about as SEOs is the fact that SEO has around 20X more opportunity than both mobile and desktop PPC combined.

This is a really, really big deal. It’s something that you can showcase. These are the stats to back it up. We will also link to the research to this down below. Good to kind of have that in your back pocket. Aside from this, you will obviously have your audit. So potential client, you’re looking to get this deal.

Get the most out of the SEO audit

☑ Highlight the opportunities, not the screw-ups

You’re going to do an audit, and something that I have always suggested is that instead of highlighting the things that the potential client is doing wrong, or screwed up, is to really highlight those opportunities. Start to get them excited about what it is that their site is capable of and that you could help them with. I think that sheds a really positive light and moves you in the right direction.

☑ Explain their competitive advantage

I think this is really interesting in many spaces where you can sort of say, “Okay, your competitors are here, and you’re currently here and this is why,”and to show them proof. That makes them feel as though you have a strong understanding of the landscape and can sort of help them get there.

☑ Emphasize quick wins

I almost didn’t put this in here because I think quick wins is sort of a sketchy term. Essentially, you really do want to showcase what it is you can do quickly, but you want to…

☑ Under-promise, over-deliver

You don’t want to lose trust or credibility with a potential client by overpromising something that you can’t deliver. Get off to the right start. Under-promise, over-deliver.

Smart negotiation tactics

☑ Do your research

Know everything you can about this clientPerhaps what deals they’ve done in the past, what agencies they’ve worked with. You can get all sorts of knowledge about that before going into negotiation that will really help you.

☑ Prioritize your terms

So all too often, people go into a negotiation thinking me, me, me, me, when really you also need to be thinking about, “Well, what am I willing to lose?What can I give up to reach a point that we can both agree on?” Really important to think about as you go in.

☑ Flinch!

This is a very old, funny negotiation tactic where when the other side counters, you flinch. You do this like flinch, and you go, “Oh, is that the best you can do?” It’s super silly. It might be used against you, in which case you can just say, “Nice flinch.” But it does tend to help you get better deals.

So take that with a grain of salt. But I look forward to your feedback down below. It’s so funny.

☑ Use the words “fair” and “comfortable”

The words “fair” and “comfortable” do really well in negotiations. These words are inarguable. You can’t argue with fair. “I want to do what is comfortable for us both. I want us both to reach terms that are fair.”

You want to use these terms to put the other side at ease and to also help bridge that gap where you can come out with a win-win situation.

☑ Never be the key decision maker

I see this all too often when people go off on their own, and instantly on their business cards and in their head and email they’re the CEO.

They are this. You don’t have to be that, and you sort of lose leverage when you are. When I owned my agency for six years, I enjoyed not being CEO. I liked having a board of directors that I could reach out to during a negotiation and not being the sole decision maker. Even if you feel that you are the sole decision maker, I know that there are people that care about you and that are looking out for your business that you could contact as sort of a business mentor, and you could use that in negotiation. You can use that to help you. Something to think about.

Tips for negotiation newbies

So for the newbies, a lot of you are probably like, “I can never go on my own. I can never do these things.” I’m from northern Minnesota. I have been super awkward about discussing money my whole life for any sort of business deal. If I could do it, I promise any one of you watching this can do it.

☑ Power pose!

I’m not kidding, promise. Some tips that I learned, when I had my agency, was to power pose before negotiations. So there’s a great TED talk on this that we can link to down below. I do this before most of my big speaking gigs, thanks to Mike Ramsey who told me to do this at SMX Advanced 3 years ago.

Go ahead and power pose. Feel good. Feel confident. Amp yourself up.

☑ Walk the walk

You’ve got to when it comes to some of these things and to just feel comfortable in that space.

☑ Good > perfect

Know that good is better than perfect. A lot of us are perfectionists, and we just have to execute good. Trying to be perfect will kill us all.

☑ Screw imposter syndrome

Many of the speakers that I go on different conference circuits with all struggle with this. It’s totally normal, but it’s good to acknowledge that it’s so silly. So to try to take that silly voice out of your head and start to feel good about the things that you are able to offer.

Take inspiration where you can find it

I highly suggest you check out Brian Tracy’s old-school negotiation podcasts. He has some old videos. They’re so good. But he talks about leverage all the time and has two really great examples that I love so much. One being jade merchants. So these jade merchants that would take out pieces of jade and they would watch people’s reactions piece by piece that they brought out.

So they knew what piece interested this person the most, and that would be the higher price. It was brilliant. Then the time constraints is he has an example of people doing business deals in China. When they landed, the Chinese would greet them and say, “Oh, can I see your return flight ticket? I just want to know when you’re leaving.”

They would not make a deal until that last second. The more you know about some of these leverage tactics, the more you can be aware of them if they were to be used against you or if you were to leverage something like that. Super interesting stuff.

Take the time to get to know their business

☑ Tie in ROI

Lastly, just really take the time to get to know someone’s business. It just shows that you care, and you’re able to prioritize what it is that you can deliver based on where they make the most money off of the products or services that they offer. That helps you tie in the ROI of the things that you can accomplish.

☑ Know the order of products/services that make them the most money

One real quick example was my previous company. We worked with plastic surgeons, and we really worked hard to understand that funnel of how people decide to get any sort of elective procedure. It came down to two things.

It was before and after photos and price. So we knew that we could optimize for those two things and do very well in their space. So showing that you care, going the extra mile, sort of tying all of these things together, I really hope this helps. I look forward to the feedback down below. I know this was a little bit different Whiteboard Friday, but I thought it would be a fun topic to cover.

So thank you so much for joining me on this edition of Whiteboard Friday. I will see you all soon. Bye.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Do You Need Local Pages? – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Tom.Capper

Does it make sense for you to create local-specific pages on your website? Regardless of whether you own or market a local business, it may make sense to compete for space in the organic SERPs using local pages. Please give a warm welcome to our friend Tom Capper as he shares a 4-point process for determining whether local pages are something you should explore in this week’s Whiteboard Friday!


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Video Transcription

Hello, Moz fans. Welcome to another Whiteboard Friday. I’m Tom Capper. I’m a consultant at Distilled, and today I’m going to be talking to you about whether you need local pages. Just to be clear right off the bat what I’m talking about, I’m not talking about local rankings as we normally think of them, the local map pack results that you see in search results, the Google Maps rankings, that kind of thing.

A 4-step process to deciding whether you need local pages

I’m talking about conventional, 10 blue links rankings but for local pages, and by local pages I mean pages from a national or international business that are location-specific. What are some examples of that? Maybe on Indeed.com they would have a page for jobs in Seattle. Indeed doesn’t have a bricks-and-mortar premises in Seattle, but they do have a page that is about jobs in Seattle.

You might get a similar thing with flower delivery. You might get a similar thing with used cars, all sorts of different verticals. I think it can actually be quite a broadly applicable tactic. There’s a four-step process I’m going to outline for you. The first step is actually not on the board. It’s just doing some keyword research.

1. Know (or discover) your key transactional terms

I haven’t done much on that here because hopefully you’ve already done that. You already know what your key transactional terms are. Because whatever happens you don’t want to end up developing location pages for too many different keyword types because it’s gong to bloat your site, you probably just need to pick one or two key transactional terms that you’re going to make up the local variants of. For this purpose, I’m going to talk through an SEO job board as an example.

2. Categorize your keywords as implicit, explicit, or near me and log their search volumes

We might have “SEO jobs” as our core head term. We then want to figure out what the implicit, explicit, and near me versions of that keyword are and what the different volumes are. In this case, the implicit version is probably just “SEO jobs.” If you search for “SEO jobs” now, like if you open a new tab in your browser, you’re probably going to find that a lot of local orientated results appear because that is an implicitly local term and actually an awful lot of terms are using local data to affect rankings now, which does affect how you should consider your rank tracking, but we’ll get on to that later.

SEO jobs, maybe SEO vacancies, that kind of thing, those are all going to be going into your implicitly local terms bucket. The next bucket is your explicitly local terms. That’s going to be things like SEO jobs in Seattle, SEO jobs in London, and so on. You’re never going to get a complete coverage of different locations. Try to keep it simple.

You’re just trying to get a rough idea here. Lastly you’ve got your near me or nearby terms, and it turns out that for SEO jobs not many people search SEO jobs near me or SEO jobs nearby. This is also going to vary a lot by vertical. I would imagine that if you’re in food delivery or something like that, then that would be huge.

3. Examine the SERPs to see whether local-specific pages are ranking

Now we’ve categorized our keywords. We want to figure out what kind of results are going to do well for what kind of keywords, because obviously if local pages is the answer, then we might want to build some.

In this case, I’m looking at the SERP for “SEO jobs.” This is imaginary. The rankings don’t really look like this. But we’ve got SEO jobs in Seattle from Indeed. That’s an example of a local page, because this is a national business with a location-specific page. Then we’ve got SEO jobs Glassdoor. That’s a national page, because in this case they’re not putting anything on this page that makes it location specific.

Then we’ve got SEO jobs Seattle Times. That’s a local business. The Seattle Times only operates in Seattle. It probably has a bricks-and-mortar location. If you’re going to be pulling a lot of data of this type, maybe from stats or something like that, obviously tracking from the locations that you’re mentioning, where you are mentioning locations, then you’re probably going to want to categorize these at scale rather than going through one at a time.

I’ve drawn up a little flowchart here that you could encapsulate in a Excel formula or something like that. If the location is mentioned in the URL and in the domain, then we know we’ve got a local business. Most of the time it’s just a rule of thumb. If the location is mentioned in the URL but not mentioned in the domain, then we know we’ve got a local page and so on.

4. Compare & decide where to focus your efforts

You can just sort of categorize at scale all the different result types that we’ve got. Then we can start to fill out a chart like this using the rankings. What I’d recommend doing is finding a click-through rate curve that you are happy to use. You could go to somewhere like AdvancedWebRanking.com, download some example click-through rate curves.

Again, this doesn’t have to be super precise. We’re looking to get a proportionate directional indication of what would be useful here. I’ve got Implicit, Explicit, and Near Me keyword groups. I’ve got Local Business, Local Page, and National Page result types. Then I’m just figuring out what the visibility share of all these types is. In my particular example, it turns out that for explicit terms, it could be worth building some local pages.

That’s all. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Thanks.

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Calculated Fields in Google Data Studio – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by DiTomaso

Google Data Studio is a powerful tool to have in your SEO kit. Knowing how to get the most out of its power begins with understanding how to use calculated fields to apply good old-fashioned math to your data. In this week’s Whiteboard Friday, we’re delighted to welcome guest host Dana DiTomaso as she takes us through how to use calculated fields in Google Data Studio to uncover more value in your data and improve your reports.

Calculated Fields in Google Data Studio

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Video Transcription

Hi, Moz fans. I’m Dana DiTomaso, President and partner at Kick Point, and we love Google Data Studio at Kick Point. You may not love Google Data Studio yet, but after you watch this I think you probably will.

One of the first things that you think about Google Data Studio is: Why would I use this? It’s just charts. It’s the same thing I can get in Analytics or a billion other dashboarding tools out there. But one of the things that I really like about Google Data Studio is math. You can do lots of different stuff in Data Studio, and I’m going to go through four of the basic types in Data Studio and then how you can use that to improve your reports, just as you sort of dip your toes into the Google Data Studio pool. What I’ve done here is I have written out a lot of the formulas that you’re going to be using.

The types

It’s a lot of obviously written out formulas, but when you get into Data Studio, you should be able to type these in and they’ll work. Let’s start at the beginning with the types.

  1. Basic math. This is pretty obvious. 1 + 1 = 2. Phone calls plus emails equals this, for example. You can add together different fields.
  2. Transforms. Let’s say people are really bad at writing some things upper case and some things lower case. You have a problem with URLs being written a couple of different ways. You can use a transform to transform upper case into lower case. That’s pretty nice.
  3. Formulas. Formulas is where you’re saying only show this subset of the data. Or how often does this happen? That could be things like the Count function, so count how many times this occurs, for example, and present that as a totally separate metric, which can be really useful for things like when you want to count the number of times an event occurs and then compare that against something else. It can just pull out that kind of data.
  4. Logic. This is the more complex one. If X, then Y. If this happens, then that’s going to happen. There’s a lot of really complex stuff in there. But if you’re just getting started, start with this, and then look at the Google Data Studio documentation. You’ll find some cooler stuff in there.

1. Basic math

Here are some examples of how we use this in our Google Data Studio dashboards. So basic math, one of the things that a lot of people care about is: Are people getting in touch with me?

This is the basics of the reason why we do marketing. Are people getting in touch? So, for example, you can do some basic math and say, “All right. So I know on our website in Google Tag Manager, we have a trigger that fires whenever somebody taps or clicks a MailTo link on the site.” In addition to that, we’re tracking how many people submit a form, as you should.

Instead of reporting these separately, really they’re kind of the same thing. They’re emailing one way or the other. Why don’t we just submit them as one metric? So in that case, you can say grab all the mail to form completions and then grab all the form goal completions, and now you have a total email requests or total requests or whatever you might want to call it. You can do the same thing where it’s like, well, phone calls and emails, does it really matter if they’re in separate buckets?

Just put them all in one. The same thing with the basic math. Just add it all together and then you’ve got one total metric you can present to the client. Here’s how much money we made for you. Boom. That’s a nice one. The next thing — I’m just going to flip over here — is formulas.

2. Formulas

Okay, so formulas, one of the things that I really like doing is looking at your Google Search Console data. This is in Data Studio. You’re going to use Search Console for this, which is a nice data source. We all know Search Console data is not necessarily 100% accurate, but there’s always lots of keyword treasure in there to be found if it’s easy to find, which the Search Console interface isn’t super great.

So you can make a report in Data Studio and say regex match, and so don’t be afraid of regex. I think everyone should learn it. But if you’re not super familiar with it, this is a really easy way to do it. Say, okay, every time a keyword contains why, how, can, what, for example, then those are question searches. You may change it to whatever makes sense for you.

But this is just pulling out that subset of data. Then you can see, so if these are question searches, do we have content that answers that question? No. Maybe this is something we need to think about. Or we’re getting impressions for this. You could filter it and say only show questions searches where our average rank is below 20. Maybe if we improve this content, this is a featured snippet opportunity for us, for example. That’s a real gold mine of data you can play around with.

3. Transforms

The third one is transforms. As I mentioned earlier, this is a really nice way to take Facebook, for example. We had a client who had Facebook in all upper case and Facebook in title case and Facebook in lower case in their sources and mediums, because they were very casual with how they used their UTM codes. We just standardized them all to go to lower, and those are nice text transforms that you can do.

It just makes things look a little bit nicer. I do recommend doing some of this, especially if you have messy data.

4. Logic

Then the big one here. This is logic, and I’m just going to toss over here for a second. Now logic has a lot of different components. What I’m showing you right now is a case when else end transform or logic. We use this to tidy up bad channel data.

So that client that I mentioned, who was just super casual with their UTM tags and they would just put in any old stuff, I think they had retargeting ads as a medium. You can set up channels and whatnot in Google Analytics. But I mean, really, when it comes down to it, not everybody is great at following the rules for UTMs that you’ve set up. Stuff happens.

It’s okay. You can fix it in Data Studio. Especially if you open up Google Analytics and you see that you have this other channel, which I’m sure when we’ve inherited an Analytics account, we take a look at it, and there’s this channel, and it’s just a big bag of crap.

You can go in there and turn that into real, useful, actual channel data that matches up with where it should go. What I’ve got here is a really simple example. This could go on for lines and line and lines. I’ve just included two lines because this whiteboard is only so big.

So you start off by saying case. It is the case when, is the idea when, and then the first line here is source equals direct and medium equals not set or medium none, then direct. So I’m saying, okay, so this is the basics of how direct traffic happens.

If the source is direct and the medium is not set or the medium is none, like if I have no data whatsoever, now it’s direct traffic. Great, that’s basically what Google Analytics does. Nothing fancy is going on here. Now here’s the next thing. In this case, I’m saying now I’m combining a regex match, which we talked about up here, with the case, and so now what I’m saying is when regex match medium, and then I’ve got this here.

Don’t be scared of this. I know it’s regex and maybe you’re not super comfortable with it, but this is pretty elementary stuff, and once you do this, you will feel like a data wizard, I guarantee. The first time I did this I stood up from my computer and said “Yes” the first time it worked. Just play with it. It’s going to be awesome. So you’ve got a little … what’s the thing called? You’ve got a little up arrow thingy there, very bad mediums dollar sign.

What this is saying is that if you’ve got anything in there that’s sort of a weird medium, just write out all the crud that people have put in there over the years, all the weird mediums that totally don’t make any sense at all. Just put it all in there and then you can toss it in a bucket say called paid social. You can do the same thing with referral traffic. Or, for example, this is really useful if a client is saying, “Well, I want to know how this set of affiliate traffic compares to say this set of affiliate traffic,” then you can separate these out into different buckets.

This isn’t just for channel data. I’ve done this, for example, where we were looking at social data and we were comparing NFL teams as an example for another tool, Rival IQ. What I said was, okay, so these teams here are in the AFC East, and these teams are in the AFC West. If I’ve screwed up and I said AFC East and West, please don’t get mad at me in the comments. I promise I play fantasy football. I just don’t remember right now.

But you can combine different areas. This is great for things like sales regions, for example. So North America equals Canada plus the USA plus Mexico, if you’re feeling generous. This is NAFTA politics. It really depends on what you want to do with those sales regions and how your data, what is meaningful for you. That’s the most important thing about this is that you can change this data to be whatever you need it to be to make that reporting so much easier for you.

I mean, Else then, we don’t know if this might actually output. I haven’t tried this myself. If it does, please leave a comment and let me know.

Then you end up with an End. When you’re in Data Studio, when you’re making these calculated formulas, you’ll see right away whether or not it works or not. Just keep trying until you see it happen.

One of the great things about Data Studio is that if it’s right, you’ll see these types of colors, and I’ve used different color whiteboard markers to indicate how it should look. If you see red where you should be seeing black or green where you should be seeing black, for example, then you know you’ve typed in something wrong in your formula. For me, typically I find it’s a misplaced bracket. Just keep an eye on that.

Have fun with Data Studio. One of the great things too is that you can’t mess up your original data when doing calculated fields, so you can go hog wild and it’s not going to mess with the original data. I hope you have a great time in Data Studio. Tell me what you’ve done in the comments, please. Thank you.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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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.

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Reputation Management SEO: How to Own Your Branded Keywords in Google – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

A searcher’s first experience with your brand happens on Google’s SERPs — not your website. Having the ability to influence their organic first impression can go a long way toward improving both customer perception of your brand and conversion rates. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand takes us through the inherent challenges of reputation management SEO and tactics for doing it effectively.

Reputation management SEO: How to Own Your Branded Keywords in Google

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we are chatting about reputation management SEO.

So it turns out I’ve been having a number of conversations with many of you in the Moz community and many friends of mine in the startup and entrepreneurship worlds about this problem that happens pretty consistently, which is essentially that folks who are searching for your brand in Google experience their first touch before they ever get to your site, their first experience with your brand is through Google’s search result page. This SERP, controlling what appears here, what it says, how it says it, who is ranking, where they’re ranking, all of those kinds of things, can have a strong input on a bunch of things.

The challenge

We know that the search results’ content can impact…

  • Your conversion rate. People see that the reviews are generally poor or the wording is confusing or it creates questions in their mind that your content doesn’t answer. That can hurt your conversion rate.
  • It can hurt amplification. People who see you in here, who think that there is something bad or negative about you, might be less likely to link to you or share or talk about you.
  • It can impact customer satisfaction. Customers who are going to buy from you but see something negative in the search results might be more likely to complain about it. Or if they see that you have a lower review or ranking or whatnot, they may be more likely to contribute a negative one than if they had seen that you had stellar ones. Their expectations are being biased by what’s in these search results. A lot of times it is totally unfair.

So many of the conversations I’ve been having, for example with folks in the startup space, are like, “Hey, people are reviewing my product. We barely exist yet. We don’t have these people as customers. We feel like maybe we’re getting astroturfed by competitors, or someone is just jumping in here and trying to profit off the fact that we have a bunch of brand search now.” So pretty frustrating.

How can we influence this page to maximize positive impact for our brand?

There are, however, some ways to address it. In order to change these results, make them better, Minted, for example, of which I should mention I used to be on Minted’s Board of Directors, and so I believe my wife and I still have some stock in that company. So full disclosure there. But Minted, they’re selling holiday cards. The holiday card market is about to heat up before November and December here in the United States, which is the Christmas holiday season, and that’s when they sell a lot of these cards. So we can do a few things.

I. Change who ranks. So potentially remove some and add some new ones in here, give Google some different options. We could change the ranking order. So we could say, “Hey, we prefer this be lower down and this other one be higher up.” We can change that through SEO.

II. Change the content of the ranking pages. If you have poor reviews or if someone has written about you in a particular way and you wish to change that, there are ways to influence that as well.

III. Change the SERP features. So we may be able to get images, for example, of Minted’s cards up top, which would maybe make people more likely to purchase them, especially if they’re exceptionally beautiful.

IV. Add in top stories. If Minted has some great press about them, we could try and nudge Google to use stuff from Google News in here. Maybe we could change what’s in related searches, those types of things.

V. Shift search demand. So if it’s the case that you’re finding that people start typing “Minted” and then maybe are search suggested “Minted versus competitor X” or “Minted card problems” or whatever it is, I don’t think either of those are actually in the suggest, but there are plenty of companies who do have that issue. When that’s the case, you can also shift the search demand.

Reputation management tactics

Here are a number of tactics that I actually worked on with the help of Moz’s Head of SEO, Britney Muller. Britney and I came up with a bunch of tactics, so many that they won’t entirely fit on here, but we can describe a few more for you in the comments.

A. Directing link to URLs off your site (Helps with 1 & 2). First off, links are still a big influencer of a lot of the content that you see here. So it is the case that because Yelp is a powerful domain and they have lots of links, potentially even have lots of links to this page about Minted, it’s the case that changing up those links, redirecting some of them, adding new links to places, linking out from your own site, linking from articles you contribute to, linking from, for example, the CEO’s bio or a prominent influencer on the team’s bio when they go and speak at events or contribute to sources, or when Minted makes donations, or when they support public causes, or when they’re written about in the press, changing those links and where they point to can have a positive impact.

One of the problems that we see is that a lot of brands think, “All my links about my brand should always go to my homepage.” That’s not actually the case. It could be the case that you actually want to find, hey, maybe we would like our Facebook page to rank higher. Or hey, we wrote a great piece on Medium about our engineering practices or our diversity practices or how we give back to our community. Let’s see if we can point some of our links to that.

B. Pitching journalists or bloggers or editors or content creators on the web (Helps with 1, 4, a little 3), of any kind, to write about you and your products with brand titled pieces. This is on e of the biggest elements that gets missing. For example, a journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle might write a piece about Minted and say something like, “At this startup, it’s not unusual to find blah, blah, blah.” What you want to do is go, “Come on, man, just put the word ‘Minted’ in the title of the piece.” If they do, you’ve got a much better shot of having that piece potentially rank in here. So that’s something that whoever you’re working with on that content creation side, and maybe a reporter at the Chronicle would be much more difficult to do this, but a blogger who’s writing about you or a reviewer, someone who’s friendly to you, that type of a pitch would be much more likely to have some opportunity in there. It can get into the top stories SERP feature as well.

C. Crafting your own content (Helps with 1, a little 3). If they’re not going to do it for you, you can craft your own content. You can do this in two kinds of ways. One is for open platforms like Medium.com or Huffington Post or Forbes or Inc. or LinkedIn, these places that accept those, or guest accepting publications that are much pickier, that are much more rarely taking input, but that rank well in your field. You don’t have to think about this exclusively from a link building perspective. In fact, you don’t care if the links are nofollow. You don’t care if they give you no links at all. What you’re trying to do is get your name, your title, your keywords into the title element of the post that’s being put up.

D. You can influence reviews (Helps with 3 & 5). Depending on the site, it’s different from site to site. So I’m putting TOS acceptable, terms of service acceptable nudges to your happy customers and prompt diligent support to the unhappy ones. So Yelp, for example, says, “Don’t solicit directly reviews, but you are allowed to say, ‘Our business is featured on Yelp.’” For someone like Minted, Yelp is mostly physical places, and while Minted technically has a location in San Francisco, their offices, it’s kind of odd that this is what’s ranking here. In fact, I wouldn’t expect this to be. I think this is a strange result to have for an online-focused company, to have their physical location in there. So certainly by nudging folks who are using Minted to rather than contribute to their Facebook reviews or their Google reviews to actually say, “Hey, we’re also on Yelp. If you’ve been happy with us, you can check us out there.” Not go leave us a review there, but we have a presence.

E. Filing trademark violations (Helps with 1 & 3). So this is a legal path and legal angle, but it works in a couple of different ways. You can do a letter or an email from your attorney’s office, and oftentimes that will shut things down. In fact, brief story, a friend of mine, who has a company, found that their product was featured on Amazon’s website. They don’t sell on Amazon. No one is reselling on Amazon. In fact, the product mostly hasn’t even shipped yet. When they looked at the reviews, because they haven’t sold very many of their product, it’s an expensive product, none of the people who had left reviews were actually their customers. So they went, “What is going on here?” Well, it turns out Amazon, in order to list your product, needs your trademark permission. So they can send an attorney’s note to Amazon saying, “Hey, you are using our product, our trademark, our brand name, our visuals, our photos without permission. You need to take that down.”

The other way you can go about this is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) protocols. You can do this directly through Google, where you file and say basically, “Hey, they’ve taken copyrighted content from us and they’re using it on their website, and that’s illegal.” Google will actually remove them from the search results.
This is not necessarily a legal angle, but I bet you didn’t know this. A few years ago I had an article on Wikipedia about me, Rand Fishkin. There was like a Wikipedia piece. I don’t like that. Wikipedia, it’s uncontrollable. Because I’m in the SEO world, I don’t have a very good relationship with Wikipedia’s editors. So I actually lobbied them, on the talk page of the article about me, to have it removed. There are a number of conditions that Wikipedia has where a page can be removed. I believe I got mine removed under the not notable enough category, which I think probably still applies. That was very successful. So wonderfully, now, Wikipedia doesn’t rank for my name anymore, which means I can control the SERPs much more easily. So a potential there too.

F. Using brand advertising and/or influencer marketing to nudge searchers towards different phrases (Helps with 5). So what you call your products, how you market yourself is often how people will search for you. If Minted wanted to change this from Minted cards to minted photo cards, and they really like the results from minted photo cards and those had better conversion rates, they could start branding that through their advertising and their influencer marketing.

G. Surrounding your brand name, a similar way, with common text, anchor phrases, and links to help create or reinforce an association that Google builds around language (Helps with 4 & 5). In that example I said before, having Minted plus a link to their photo cards page or Minted photo cards appearing on the web, not only their own website but everywhere else out there more commonly than Minted cards will bias related searches and search suggest. We’ve tested this. You can actually use anchor text and surrounding text to sort of bias, in addition to how people search, how Google shows it.

H. Leverage some platforms that rank well and influence SERP features (Helps with 2 & 4). So rather than just trying to get into the normal organic results, we might say, “Hey, I want some images here. Aha, Pinterest is doing phenomenal work at image SEO. If I put up a bunch of pictures from Minted, of Minted’s cards or photo cards on Pinterest, I have a much better shot at ranking in and triggering the image results.” You can do the same thing with YouTube for videos. You can do the same thing with new sites and for what’s called the top stories feature. The same thing with local and local review sites for the maps and local results feature. So all kinds of ways to do that.

More…

Four final topics before we wrap up.

  • Registering and using separate domains? Should I register and use a separate domain, like MintedCardReviews, that’s owned by Minted? Generally not. It’s not impossible to do reputation management SEO through that, but it can be difficult. I’m not saying you might not want to give it a spin now and then, but generally that’s sort of like creating your own reviews, your own site. Google often recognizes those and looks behind the domain registration wall, and potentially you have very little opportunity to rank for those, plus you’re doing a ton of link building and that kind of stuff. Better to leverage someone’s platform, who can already rank, usually.
  • Negative SEO attacks. You might remember the story from a couple weeks ago, in Fast Company, where Casper, the mattress brand, was basically accused of and found mostly to be generally guilty of going after and buying negative links to a review site that was giving them poor reviews, giving their mattresses poor reviews, and to minimal effect. I think, especially nowadays, this is much less effective than it was a few years ago following Google’s last Penguin update. But certainly I would not recommend it. If you get found out for it, you can be sued too.
  • What about buying reviewers and review sites? This is what Casper ended up doing. So that site they were buying negative links against, they ended up just making an offer and buying out the person who owned it. Certainly it is a way to go. I don’t know if it’s the most ethical or honest thing to do, but it is a possibility.
  • Monitoring brand and rankings. Finally, I would urge you to, if you’re not experiencing these today, but you’re worried about them, definitely monitor your brand. You could use something like a Fresh Web Explorer or Mention.com or Talkwalker. And your rankings too. You want to be tracking your rankings so that you can see who’s popping in there and who’s not. Obviously, there are lots of SEO tools to do that.

All right, everyone, thanks for joining us, and we’ll see again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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The Rules of Link Building – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by BritneyMuller

Are you building links the right way? Or are you still subscribing to outdated practices? Britney Muller clarifies which link building tactics still matter and which are a waste of time (or downright harmful) in today’s episode of Whiteboard Friday.

The Rules of Link Building

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Video Transcription

Happy Friday, Moz fans! Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today we are going over the rules of link building. It’s no secret that links are one of the top three ranking factors in Goggle and can greatly benefit your website. But there is a little confusion around what’s okay to do as far as links and what’s not. So hopefully, this helps clear some of that up.

The Dos

All right. So what are the dos? What do you want to be doing? First and most importantly is just to…

I. Determine the value of that link. So aside from ranking potential, what kind of value will that link bring to your site? Is it potential traffic? Is it relevancy? Is it authority? Just start to weigh out your options and determine what’s really of value for your site.

II. Local listings still do very well. These local business citations are on a bunch of different platforms, and services like Moz Local or Yext can get you up and running a little bit quicker. They tend to show Google that this business is indeed located where it says it is. It has consistent business information — the name, address, phone number, you name it. But something that isn’t really talked about all that often is that some of these local listings never get indexed by Google. If you think about it, Yellowpages.com is probably populating thousands of new listings a day. Why would Google want to index all of those?

So if you’re doing business listings, an age-old thing that local SEOs have been doing for a while is create a page on your site that says where you can find us online. Link to those local listings to help Google get that indexed, and it sort of has this boomerang-like effect on your site. So hope that helps. If that’s confusing, I can clarify down below. Just wanted to include it because I think it’s important.

III. Unlinked brand mentions. One of the easiest ways you can get a link is by figuring out who is mentioning your brand or your company and not linking to it. Let’s say this article publishes about how awesome SEO companies are and they mention Moz, and they don’t link to us. That’s an easy way to reach out and say, “Hey, would you mind adding a link? It would be really helpful.”

IV. Reclaiming broken links is also a really great way to kind of get back some of your links in a short amount of time and little to no effort. What does this mean? This means that you had a link from a site that now your page currently 404s. So they were sending people to your site for a specific page that you’ve since deleted or updated somewhere else. Whatever that might be, you want to make sure that you 301 this broken link on your site so that it pushes the authority elsewhere. Definitely a great thing to do anyway.

V. HARO (Help a Reporter Out). Reporters will notify you of any questions or information they’re seeking for an article via this email service. So not only is it just good general PR, but it’s a great opportunity for you to get a link. I like to think of link building as really good PR anyway. It’s like digital PR. So this just takes it to the next level.

VI. Just be awesome. Be cool. Sponsor awesome things. I guarantee any one of you watching likely has incredible local charities or amazing nonprofits in your space that could use the sponsorship, however big or small that might be. But that also gives you an opportunity to get a link. So something to definitely consider.

VII. Ask/Outreach. There’s nothing wrong with asking. There’s nothing wrong with outreach, especially when done well. I know that link building outreach in general kind of gets a bad rap because the response rate is so painfully low. I think, on average, it’s around 4% to 7%, which is painful. But you can get that higher if you’re a little bit more strategic about it or if you outreach to people you already currently know. There’s a ton of resources available to help you do this better, so definitely check those out. We can link to some of those below.

VIII. COBC (create original badass content). We hear lots of people talk about this. When it comes to link building, it’s like, “Link building is dead. Just create great content and people will naturally link to you. It’s brilliant.” It is brilliant, but I also think that there is something to be said about having a healthy mix. There’s this idea of link building and then link earning. But there’s a really perfect sweet spot in the middle where you really do get the most bang for your buck.

The Don’ts

All right. So what not to do. The don’ts of today’s link building world are…

I. Don’t ask for specific anchor text. All of these things appear so spammy. The late Eric Ward talked about this and was a big advocate for never asking for anchor text. He said websites should be linked to however they see fit. That’s going to look more natural. Google is going to consider it to be more organic, and it will help your site in the long run. So that’s more of a suggestion. These other ones are definitely big no-no’s.

II. Don’t buy or sell links that pass PageRank. You can buy or sell links that have a no-follow attached, which attributes that this is paid-for, whether it be an advertisement or you don’t trust it. So definitely looking into those and understanding how that works.

III. Hidden links. We used to do this back in the day, the ridiculous white link on a white background. They were totally hidden, but crawlers would pick them up. Don’t do that. That’s so old and will not work anymore. Google is getting so much smarter at understanding these things.

IV. Low-quality directory links. Same with low-quality directory links. We remember those where it was just loads and loads of links and text and a random auto insurance link in there. You want to steer clear of those.

V. Site-wide links also look very spammy. Site wide being whether it’s a footer link or a top-level navigation link, you definitely don’t want to go after those. They can appear really, really spammy. Avoid those.

VI. Comment links with over-optimized anchor link text, specifically, you want to avoid. Again, it’s just like any of these others. It looks spammy. It’s not going to help you long term. Again, what’s the value of that overall? So avoid that.

VII. Abusing guest posts. You definitely don’t want to do this. You don’t want to guest post purely just for a link. However, I am still a huge advocate, as I know many others out there are, of guest posting and providing value. Whether there be a link or not, I think there is still a ton of value in guest posting. So don’t get rid of that altogether, but definitely don’t target it for potential link building opportunities.

VIII. Automated tools used to create links on all sorts of websites. ScrapeBox is an infamous one that would create the comment links on all sorts of blogs. You don’t want to do that.

IX. Link schemes, private link networks, and private blog networks. This is where you really get into trouble as well. Google will penalize or de-index you altogether. It looks so, so spammy, and you want to avoid this.

X. Link exchange. This is in the same vein as the link exchanges, where back in the day you used to submit a website to a link exchange and they wouldn’t grant you that link until you also linked to them. Super silly. This stuff does not work anymore, but there are tons of opportunities and quick wins for you to gain links naturally and more authoritatively.

So hopefully, this helps clear up some of the confusion. One question I would love to ask all of you is: To disavow or to not disavow? I have heard back-and-forth conversations on either side on this. Does the disavow file still work? Does it not? What are your thoughts? Please let me know down below in the comments.

Thank you so much for tuning in to this edition of Whiteboard Friday. I will see you all soon. Thanks.

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Desktop, Mobile, or Voice? (D) All of the Above – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Dr-Pete

We’re facing more and more complexity in our everyday work, and the answers to our questions are about as clear as mud. Especially in the wake of the mobile-first index, we’re left wondering where to focus our optimization efforts. Is desktop the most important? Is mobile? What about the voice phenomenon sweeping the tech world?

As with most things, the most important factor is to consider your audience. People aren’t siloed to a single device — your optimization strategy shouldn’t be, either. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Dr. Pete soothes our fears about a multi-platform world and highlights the necessity of optimizing for a journey rather than a touchpoint.

Desktop, Mobile, or Voice? All of the above.

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Video Transcription

Hey, everybody. It’s Dr. Pete here from Moz. I am the Marketing Scientist here, and I flew in from Chicago just for you fine people to talk about something that I think is worrying us a little bit, especially with the rollout of the mobile index recently, and that is the question of: Should we be optimizing for desktop, for mobile, or for voice? I think the answer is (d) All of the above. I know that might sound a little scary, and you’re wondering how you do any of these. So I want to talk to you about some of what’s going on, some of our misconceptions around mobile and voice, and some of the ways that maybe this is a little easier than you think, at least to get started.

The mistakes we make

So, first of all, I think we make a couple of mistakes. When we’re talking about mobile for the last few years, we tend to go in and we look at our analytics and we do this. These are made up. The green numbers are made up or the blue ones. We say, “Okay, about 90% of my traffic is coming from desktop, about 10% is coming from mobile, and nothing is coming from voice. So I’m just going to keep focusing on desktop and not worry about these other two experiences, and I’ll be fine.” There are two problems with this:

Self-fulfilling prophecy

One is that these numbers are kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy. They might not be coming to your mobile site. You might not be getting those mobile visitors because your mobile experience is terrible. People come to it and it’s lousy, and they don’t come back. In the case of voice, we might just not be getting that data yet. We have very little data. So this isn’t telling us anything. All this may be telling us is that we’re doing a really bad job on mobile and people have given up. We’ve seen that with Moz in the past. We didn’t adopt to mobile as fast as maybe we should have. We saw that in the numbers, and we argued about it because we said, “You know what? This doesn’t really tell us what the opportunity is or what our customers or users want. It’s just telling us what we’re doing well or badly right now, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Audiences

The other mistake I think we make is the idea that these are three separate audiences. There are people who come to our site on desktop, people who come to our site on mobile, people who come to our site on voice, and these are three distinct groups of people. I think that’s incredibly wrong, and that leads to some very bad ideas and some bad tactical decisions and some bad choices.

So I want to share a couple of stats. There was a study Google did called The Multiscreen World, and this was almost six years ago, 2012. They found six years ago that 65% of searchers started a search on their smartphones. Two-thirds of searchers started on smartphones six years ago. Sixty percent of those searches were continued on a desktop or laptop. Again, this has been six years, so we know the adoption rate of mobile has increased. So these are not people who only use desktop or who only use mobile. These are people on a journey of search that move between devices, and I think in the real world it looks more something like this right now.

Another stat from the series was that 88% of people said that they used their smartphone and their TV at the same time. This isn’t shocking to you. You sit in front of the TV with your phone and you sit in front of the TV with your laptop. You might sit in front of the TV with a smartwatch. These devices are being used at the same time, and we’re doing more searches and we’re using more devices. So one of these things isn’t replacing the other.

The cross-device journey

So a journey could look something like this. You’re watching TV. You see an ad and you hear about something. You see a video you like. You go to your phone while you’re watching it, and you do a search on that to get more information. Then later on, you go to your laptop and you do a bit of research, and you want that bigger screen to see what’s going on. Then at the office the next day, you’re like, “Oh, I’ll pull up that bookmark. I wanted to check something on my desktop where I have more bandwidth or something.” You’re like, “Oh, maybe I better not buy that at work. I don’t want to get in trouble. So I’m going to home and go back to my laptop and make that purchase.” So this purchase and this transaction, this is one visitor on this chain, and I think we do this a lot right now, and that’s only going to increase, where we operate between devices and this journey happens across devices.

So the challenge I would make to you is if you’re looking at this and you’re saying, “Only so many percent of our users are on mobile. Our mobile experience doesn’t matter that much. It’s not that important. We can just live with the desktop people. That’s enough. We’ll make enough money.” If they’re really on this journey and they’re not segmented like this, and this chain, you break it, what happens? You lose that person completely, and that was a person who also used desktop. So that person might be someone who you bucketed in your 90%, but they never really got to the device of choice and they never got to the transaction, because by having a lousy mobile experience, you’ve broken the chain. So I want you to be aware of that, that this is the cross-device journey and not these segmented ideas.

Future touchpoints

This is going to get worse. This is going to get scarier for us. So look at the future. We’re going to be sitting in our car and we’re going to be listening — I still listen to CDs in the car, I know it’s kind of sad — but you’re going to be listening to satellite radio or your Wi-Fi or whatever you have coming in, and let’s say you hear a podcast or you hear an author and you go, “Oh, that person sounds interesting. I want to learn more about them.” You tell your smartwatch, “Save this search. Tell me something about this author. Give me their books.” Then you go home and you go on Google Home and you pull up that search, and it says, “Oh, you know what? I’ve got a video. I can’t play that because obviously I’m a voice search device, but I can send that to Chromecast on your TV.” So you send that to your TV, and you watch that. While you’re watching the TV, you’ve got your phone out and you’re saying, “Oh, I’d kind of like to buy that.” You go to Amazon and you make that transaction.

So it took this entire chain of devices. Again now, what about the voice part of this chain? That might not seem important to you right now, but if you break the chain there, this whole transaction is gone. So I think the danger is by neglecting pieces of this and not seeing that this is a journey that happens across devices, we’re potentially putting ourselves at much higher risk than we think.

On the plus side

I also want to look at sort of the positive side of this. All of these devices are touchpoints in the journey, and they give us credibility. We found something interesting at Moz a few years ago, which was that our sale as a SaaS product on average took about three touchpoints. People didn’t just hit the Moz homepage, do a free trial, and then buy it. They might see a Whiteboard Friday. They might read our Beginner’s Guide. They might go to the blog. They might participate in the community. If they hit us with three touchpoints, they were much more likely to convert.

So I think the great thing about this journey is that if you’re on all these touchpoints, even though to you that might seem like one search, it lends you credibility. You were there when they ran the search on that device. You were there when they tried to repeat that search on voice. The information was in that video. You’re there on that mobile search. You’re there on that desktop search. The more times they see you in that chain, the more that you seem like a credible source. So I think this can actually be good for us.

The SEO challenge

So I think the challenge is, “Well, I can’t go out and hire a voice team and a mobile team and do a design for all of these things. I don’t want to build a voice app. I don’t have the budget. I don’t have the buy-in.” That’s fine.
One thing I think is really great right now and that we’re encouraging people to experiment with, we’ve talked a lot about featured snippets. We’ve talked about these answer boxes that give you an organic result. One of the things Google is trying to do with this is they realize that they need to use their same core engine, their same core competency across all devices. So the engine that powers search, they want that to run on a TV. They want that to run on a laptop, on a desktop, on a phone, on a watch, on Goggle Home. They don’t want to write algorithms for all of these things.

So Google thinks of their entire world in terms of cards. You may not see that on desktop, but everything on desktop is a card. This answer box is a card. That’s more obvious. It’s got that outline. Every organic result, every ad, every knowledge panel, every news story is a card. What that allows Google to do, and will allow them to do going forward, is to mix and match and put as many pieces of information as it makes sense for any given device. So for desktop, that might be a whole bunch. For mobile, that’s going to be a vertical column. It might be less. But for a watch or a Google Glass, or whatever comes after that, or voice, you’re probably only going to get one card.

But one great thing right now, from an SEO perspective, is these featured snippets, these questions and answers, they fit on that big screen. We call it result number zero on desktop because you’ve got that box, and you’ve got a bunch of stuff underneath it. But that box is very prominent. On mobile, that same question and answer take up a lot more screen space. So they’re still a SERP, but that’s very dominant, and then there’s some stuff underneath. On voice, that same question and answer pairing is all you get, and we’re seeing that a lot of the answers on voice, unless they’re specialty like recipes or weather or things like that, have this question and answer format, and those are also being driven by featured snippets.

So the good news I think, and will hopefully stay good news going forward, is that because Google wants all these devices to run off that same core engine, the things you do to rank well for desktop and to be useful for desktop users are also going to help you rank on mobile. They’re going to help you rank on voice, and they’re going to help you rank across all these devices. So I want you to be aware of this. I want you to try and not to break that chain. But I think the things we’re already good at will actually help us going forward in the future, and I’d highly encourage you to experiment with featured snippets to see how questions and answers appear on mobile and to see how they appear on Google Home, and to know that there’s going to be an evolution where all of these devices benefit somewhat from the kind of optimization techniques that we’re already good at hopefully.

Encourage the journey chain

So I also want to say that when you optimize for answers, the best answers leave searchers wanting more. So what you want to do is actually encourage this chain, encourage people to do more research, give them rich content, give them the kinds of things that draw them back to your site, that build credibility, because this chain is actually good news for us in a way. This can help us make a purchase. If we’re credible on these devices, if we have a decent mobile experience, if we come up on voice, that’s going to help us really kind of build our brand and be a positive thing for us if we work on it.

So I’d like you to tell me, what are your fears right now? I think we’re a little scared of the mobile index. What are you worried about with voice? What are you worried about with IoT? Are you concerned that we’re going to have to rank on our refrigerators, and what does that mean? So it’s getting into science fiction territory, but I’d love to talk about it more. I will see you in the comment section.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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