5 Takeaways from Earning Links in 130 Countries

Posted by kerryjones

I was in Peru earlier this year for a digital marketing conference, and I overwhelmingly heard the same frustration: “It’s really hard to use outreach to earn links or PR coverage in our country.”

This wasn’t for lack of trying. As I continued to hear this sentiment during my visit, I learned there simply weren’t a lot of opportunities. For one thing, in Peru, there aren’t nearly as many publishers as in more populous countries. Most publishers expected payment for mentioning a brand. Furthermore, journalists did a lot of job-hopping, so maintaining relationships was difficult.

This is a conundrum not limited to Peru. I know many people outside of the US can relate. When you see the Fractl team and others sharing stories about how we earn hundreds of links for a single content piece, you might think it must be nice to do outreach somewhere like the US where online publishers are plentiful and they’ll feature great content with no strings attached. While the work my team does isn’t easy by any means, I do recognize that there are ample opportunities for earning links and press coverage from American publishers.

What can you do if opportunities are scarce in your country?

One solution is focusing your outreach efforts on publishers in neighboring countries or countries with the same language and a similar culture. During conversations with the Attachmedia team (the company hosting the conference I was at), I learned they had much greater success earning media stories and building links outside of Peru because publishers in surrounding South American countries were more receptive to their email pitches and publishing third-party content.

But you may not need to do any international outreach if you know how to create the type of content that will organically attract attention beyond your borders.

At Fractl, many of our top-performing client campaigns have secured a lot of international links even without us doing much, or any, international outreach. To dig deeper, we recently conducted an analysis of 290 top-performing client content campaigns to determine which content naturally attracted coverage from international publishers (and thus, international links). Altogether, these campaigns were featured by publishers in 130 countries, earning more than 4,000 international media stories.

In this post, I’ll share what we found about what causes content to spread around the world.

1. Domestic success was a key factor in driving international placements for Fractl’s campaigns.

For years, we’ve noticed that if content gets enough attention in the US, it will organically begin to receive international press and links. Watch how this happens in the GIF below, which visualizes how one of our campaigns spread globally after reaching critical mass in the US:


Our study confirmed that there’s a correlation between earning a high number of links domestically and earning international links.

When we looked at our 50 most successful client campaigns that have earned the highest number of media stories, we discovered that these campaigns also received the most international coverage. Out of the 4,000 international placements we analyzed, 70 percent of them came from these 50 top-performing campaigns.

We also found that content which earned at least 25 international media pickups also earned at least 25 domestic pickups, so there’s a minimum one-to-one ratio of international to domestic pickups.

2. Overcome language barriers with visual formats that don’t rely on text.

Maps showing a contrast between countries were the visualizations of choice for international publishers.


World maps can be easily understood by global audiences, and make it easy for publishers to find an angle to cover. A client campaign, which looked at how much people eat and drink around the world, included maps highlighting differences between the countries. This was our fourth-highest-performing campaign in terms of international coverage.

calories-map.png It’s easy for a writer whose primary language isn’t English to look at a shaded map like the one above and pick out the story about his or her country. For example, a Belgian publisher who covered the consumption campaign used a headline that roughly translated to “Belgians eat more calories than Americans”:


Images were the second most popular visual format, which tells us that a picture may be worth a thousand words in any language. One great example of this is our “Evolution of Miss Universe” campaign, where we created a series of animated and interactive visualizations using photos of Miss Universe winners since 1952:


The simplicity of the visuals made this content accessible to all viewers regardless of the language they spoke. Paired with the international angle, this helped the campaign gain more than 40 pickups from global sites.

As we move down the rankings, formats that relied on more text, such as infographics, were less popular internationally. No doubt this is because international audiences can’t connect with content they can’t understand.

When creating text-heavy visualizations, consider if someone who speaks a different language can understand it — would it still make sense if you removed all the text?

Pro tip: If your outreach strategy is targeting multiple countries or a country where more than one language is widely spoken, it may be worth the effort to produce text-heavy visuals in multiple languages.

3. Topics that speak to universal human interests performed best internationally.

Our top-performing international campaigns show a clear preference for topics that resonate globally. The six topics that performed best internationally were:

  1. Drugs and alcohol
  2. Health and fitness
  3. Entertainment
  4. Sex and relationships
  5. Travel
  6. Technology

Bear in the mind that these topics are reflective of our client campaigns, so every topic imaginable was not included in this study.

We drilled this down a little more and looked at the specific topics covered in our top 50 campaigns. You’ll notice many of the most popular topics would make your grandma blush.


We know that controversial topics are highly effective in grabbing attention, and the list above confirms that pushing boundaries works on a global scale. (We weren’t exactly surprised that a campaign called “Does Size Matter?” resonated internationally.)

But don’t look at the chart above and assume that you need to make your content about sex, drugs, and rock and roll if you want to gain international attention. As you can see, even pedestrian fare performed well globally. Consider how you can create content that speaks to basic human interests, like technology, food, and … Instagram.

4. A global angle isn’t necessary.

While our top five international campaigns did have a global focus, more than half of our 50 top-performing international campaigns did not have a global angle. This tells us that a geographic angle doesn’t determine international success.

Some examples of non-geographic ideas that performed well are:

  • A tool that calculates indirect sexual exposure based on how many partners you’ve had
  • The types of white lies people commonly tell and hear
  • A face-off between Siri, Cortana, and Google Now performance
  • A sampling of how many bacteria and germs are found in hotel rooms

We also found that US-centric campaigns were, unsurprisingly, less likely to succeed. Only three of our campaigns with America-focused titles received more than 25 international placements. If your content topic does have a geographic angle, make sure to broaden it to have a multi-national or worldwide focus.

Pro tip: Consider how you can add an international twist to content ideas that already performed well domestically. The Miss Universe campaign example I shared above? That came to fruition after we successfully did a similar campaign about Miss America. Similarly, we could likely reboot our “Tolerance in America” campaign to look at racism around the world and expect it to be successful, as this topic already proved popular at home and is certainly relevant worldwide.

5. The elements of share-worthy content hold true internationally.

Over the years, we’ve seen time and time again that including certain elements in content greatly increases the chance of success. All of our content that achieved international success included some combination of the following:

  • Surprising information
  • An emotionally resonant topic
  • A universally appealing topic
  • Comparison or ranking of multiple places, things, or ideas
  • A geographic angle
  • A pop culture angle

Look back at the content examples I shared in this post, and make note of how many of the characteristics above are present in each one. To increase the likelihood that your content appeals to global audiences, be sure to read this post about the vital role these elements play in creating content that earns a lot of links and social shares.

What has your experience been like using content to attract international press and links? I’d love to hear what’s worked for you — leave a comment below!

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The 7 Citation Building Myths Plaguing Local SEO

Posted by JoyHawkins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Darren Shaw also agrees on this:

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

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

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

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




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

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

As Darren Shaw puts it,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Myth #7: Google My Business is a citation.

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

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

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5 Lead Generation Ideas to Help You Increase Your Website’s Conversion Rates

Posted by lkolowich

It’s been years since the power’s shifted away from marketers and advertisers and in favor of Internet consumers. Now more than ever, people are empowered to choose their own experiences online. They’re actively avoiding ad content — and instead of living by advertisers’ rule books, they’re deciding what to click on, what to read, what to download, and what to buy … and what not to.

And they have a lot of choices.

When inbound marketers like us are looking to generate more leads from our website, we need to think not just about how to capture people’s attention, but how to capture it in a way that makes people want to learn more from us. A smart lead generation strategy includes creating valuable offers and experiences that fit seamlessly into the context of what people already like and want to do online. It’s the consumer’s world; us marketers are just living in it.

People read calls-to-action that say things like “Sign up here!” as basically synonymous with “We’re gonna spam you.” If you’re recycling these same old lead generation tactics over and over again, it’s quickly going to become white noise. But calls-to-action that fit into the context of what a person’s doing already? That’s smart marketing.

If you want to increase the conversion rate on your website, you need to get smart and creative with your lead generation tactics. Asking for blog subscriptions and gating high-quality content like comprehensive guides, ebooks, and whitepapers behind landing pages still works, but you have to be smart about where you’re offering them on your website. And they shouldn’t be your only lead generation plays.

There are many ways to get creative with lead generation to make sure you’re reaping the benefits of the traffic you’re working so hard to get. Here are some lead generation ideas for B2B and B2C marketers to try. Test them out, tweak them according to your audience’s preferences, and share your own ideas you have in the comments.

1) Put your calls-to-action in people’s natural eye path.

CTA placement can have a profound effect on the number of leads you’re generating from your site. And yet, not many marketers are spending a whole lot of time thinking about, testing, and tweaking CTA placement to optimize their conversions. Many claim that as long as they place their primary CTA above the fold, they’re good to go. (Side note: Even though putting primary CTAs above the fold is often considered a best practice, even that is still up for debate.)

Start your CTA placement tests by putting them where people’s eyes naturally go on a webpage. An eyetracking study found that when people read a webpage, we naturally start by looking in the upper lefthand corner of the page, and then move our eyes in an F-shaped pattern.


[Image credit: Nielsen Norman Group]

Here’s what that looks like:


[Image credit: Envato Studio]

You can capitalize on this natural eye path by placing important information in these key spots. Here’s an example of what that might look like on a website:


[Image credit: Envato Studio]

Notice how the business name is placed in the top left, which is where a person would look first. The navigation bar takes over the #2 spot, followed by the value proposition at #3 and the primary CTA at #4.

Does this order look familiar to you? When you’re browsing the web, you might have noticed that many of them put the primary CTA in the top right corner — in that #2 spot. Here are a few real-life examples:


[Prezi’s homepage]


[Uber’s homepage]


[BarkBox’s homepage]

In the last example from BarkBox, you’ll notice that the secondary CTAs still follow that F-pattern.

Keep this in mind when you’re placing your CTAs, especially on your homepage and your other popular webpages — and don’t be afraid to experiment based on how it makes sense for your own marketing story should be told.

2) Use pop-up and slide-in forms the right way.

Pop-ups have been vilified in the last few years — and quite understandably, too. Far too many marketers use them in a way that disrupts people’s experience on their website instead of enhancing it.

But pop-ups do work — and, more importantly, when they’re used in a way that’s helpful and not disruptive, they can be a healthy part of your inbound strategy. So if you’re wondering whether you should be using pop-up forms, the short answer is yes — as long as you use them in an inbound-y way. First and foremost, that means offering something valuable and relevant to the people visiting that site page.

When you’re considering what type of pop-up to use and what action should trigger them, think about how people are engaging with your pages. When someone reads a blog post, for instance, they’re typically going to scroll down the page to read the content. In that case, you might consider using a slide-in box that appears when someone’s scrolled a certain percentage of the way down the page.

Here’s a great example from a post on OfficeVibe’s blog about how managers gain respect. While I was scrolling, a banner appeared at the bottom of the screen offering me a live report of employee engagement — an offer that was perfectly relevant, given the post was aimed at managers.


It felt helpful, not disruptive. In other words, it was a responsible use of a pop-up.

Similarly, someone who’s spending time reading through a product page might find value in a time-based pop-up that appears when a visitor’s been on the page for a certain number of seconds, like this one from Ugmonk:


The most important takeaway here is to align what you offer on a pop-up with the webpage you’re adding it to, and make sure it’s actually adding substantial value.

If you’re looking for a good free tool to get started with inbound-y pop-up forms, I’d recommend you try HubSpot Marketing Free. We built the Lead Flows feature within this free tool to help marketers generate more leads across their entire website without sacrificing user experience.

3) Add anchor texts to old blog posts that align closely with your gated offers.

It’s common for business bloggers to add an end-of-post banner CTA at the end of every one of their blog posts, like this one:


In fact, you might already be including CTAs like this on your own business blog posts. At HubSpot, we include an end-of-post banner CTA on every single one of our posts, and we also add slide-in CTAs to blog posts that prove themselves to convert visitors into leads at a high rate via organic traffic.

But let’s admit it: At first glance, these types of CTAs look a little bit like ads, which can result in banner blindness from our readers. That’s why it’s thanks to a recent study conducted by my colleague Pam Vaughan that our blogging team has added one more, highly effective lead generation tactic to their arsenal: anchor text CTAs.

In Vaughan’s study, she found that anchor text CTAs are responsible for most of our blog leads. On blog posts that included both an anchor text CTA and an end-of-post banner CTA, she found that 47–93% of a blog post’s leads came from the anchor text CTA alone, whereas just 6% of the post’s leads came from the end-of-post banner CTA.

What’s an anchor text CTA, you might be wondering? It’s a standalone line text in a blog post linked to a landing page that’s styled as an H3 or an H4 to make it stand out from the rest of the post’s body copy. On HubSpot’s blog, we’ll typically put an anchor text CTA between two paragraphs in the introduction, like this:


What makes anchor text CTAs so effective? Let’s say you search for “press release template” in Google, and you click on the first organic search result — which is currently our blog post about how to write a press release, which I’ve screenshotted above.

As a searcher, the next thing you’d probably do is quickly scan the post to see if it satisfies your search. One of the first things that’ll catch your eye is an anchor text that reads, “Download our free press release template here” — which happens to be exactly what you were looking for when you searched “press release template.” There’s a pretty good chance you’re going to click on it.

This is where relevancy becomes critical. The anchor text CTA works really well in this case because it satisfies the visitor’s need right away, within the first few paragraphs of the blog post. The more relevant the anchor text CTA is to what the visitor is looking for, the better it’ll perform. Simply adding an anchor text CTA near the top of every blog post won’t necessarily mean it’ll generate a ton more leads — and frankly, you’ll risk pissing off your loyal subscribers.

If you decide you’d like to experiment with anchor text CTAs, be selective about the posts you add them to. At HubSpot, we typically add them to old posts that rank well in search. We purposely limit our use of anchor text CTAs on brand new posts — because most of the traffic we get to those posts are already leads and some of the biggest fans of our content, whom we want to have the best possible user experience. (You can read more about anchor text CTAs here.)

4) Support the launch of a new campaign with a launch post and other blog posts on related topics.

Every time you launch a new marketing campaign, posting the good news on your blog should be a key part of your launch plan. It’s a great way to let your existing subscribers know what new content, products, and features you’re putting out there, and it also helps introduce these launches to brand-new audiences.

At HubSpot, we’ve found the best strategy for promoting campaigns on the blog is to write one official launch post, followed by a handful of follow-up posts that are relevant to the campaign but are written in the style of a normal blog post. We typically scatter these follow-up posts over the weeks and months following that initial launch.

When done correctly, launch posts and their supporting blog posts have very different formulas:

  • A launch post is between 150–300 words long. It includes a captivating introductory paragraph on the general topic or pain point the campaign is about, followed by a paragraph or two describing how the offer can help and a list of 4–6 bullet points on what the offer includes. It includes one or two in-line text CTAs leading to the campaign, followed by a banner CTA at the end of the post.
  • A supplemental blog post can take on any post format and length typical of what you’d normally publish on your blog, such as a how-to post, a list-based post, or a curated collection post. It includes an end-of-post banner CTA leading to the campaign, and an anchor text CTA in the introduction, if applicable.

Let me show you an example. Earlier this year, HubSpot partnered with Iconosquare to write an ebook on how to use Instagram for business. A few days after we launched the offer online, we published a launch post on HubSpot’s Marketing Blog specifically promoting it to our own audience. Here’s what that launch post looked like:


Notice it has a brief introduction of the topic, an introduction of the ebook as a helpful resource, a bulleted list of what’s inside the ebook, two in-line text CTAs pointing toward the ebook, and an end-of-post banner CTA.

Once we published that initial post, we published a series of follow-up blog posts about the same topic — in this case, Instagram for business — that supported the launch, but promoted it much more subtly. These posts covered topics like:

In each of these cases, we used keyword research to find long-tail keyword phrases related to our offer topic, and then wrote blog posts related to those highly searched terms and included CTAs to our offer.

The goal here? Both to expose our own audience to more content related to the offer and to expose our offer to a new audience: specifically, people who were searching for related topics on search engines, as we’ve found visitors who find our posts through organic search tend to convert at higher rates.

When you’re planning out your next campaign, be sure to include both a launch post and supportive, follow-up blog posts like these — and plan them all out using a blog editorial calendar like the simple one HubSpot’s blogging team uses with Google Calendar.

5) Use social media strategically for lead generation.

Top-of-the-funnel marketing metrics like traffic and brand awareness isn’t all social media is good for. It can still be a helpful — not to mention low-cost — source for lead generation.

In addition to promoting new blog posts and content to your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social sites, be sure to regularly post links to blog posts and even directly to the landing pages of offers that have historically performed well for lead generation. You’ll need to do a lead generation analysis of your blog to figure out which posts perform best for lead generation.

When you link directly to landing pages, be sure the copy in your social posts sets the expectation that clicking the link will send people to a landing page, like Canva did in this Facebook post:


Contests are another way to generate leads from social. Not only are they fun for your followers, but they can also teach you a whole lot about your audience while simultaneously engaging them, growing your reach, and driving traffic to your website.

In addition to posting links to lead generation forms, you’ll also want to make sure you’re using the real estate for lead generation that’s available to you on the social networks that you’re using. On Facebook for example, use the feature available for Pages that lets you put a simple call-to-action button at the top of your Facebook Page. It can help drive more traffic from your Facebook Page to lead generation forms like landing pages and contact sheets.


Here are more lead generation tips for Facebook, and for Twitter.

In addition to optimizing your webpages and social presence for leads, always be looking for opportunities to increase the traffic of your highest-converting pages by optimizing these pages for the keywords they’re already ranking for, and linking to these pages internally and externally.

I hope this list has helped spark some ideas for lead generation tactics to test for your own audience. If you’ve tried any of the tactics I’ve listed above, tell us about your experiences in the comments — and feel free to add more ideas to the list.

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Backlinks from Client Sites, Sites You Own, Widgets, & Embedded Content: How to Maximize Benefits & Avoid Problems – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

When it comes to certain kinds of backlinks, avoiding penalties can be a real gray area. How can you earn the benefits without gaining the scrutiny of Google? In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand will teach you which rules to follow to keep you safe and on the up-and-up, all while improving your link profile.



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

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week, we’re going to chat about a question we see a lot here at Moz, around what you should do with websites that you maybe design or build or do work for, your clients’ websites if you’re an agency or consultant, or a web designer or builder, sites that you own but are not your primary website, and widgets and embeds, blogrolls, all these kinds of things where you control the link infrastructure, or could control it, and should you.

I think one of the challenges here is to understand that many folks have recognized that, over the years, widgets, embeds, links from client websites have gotten other sites penalized, potentially even your sites penalized over the years, because you had all these links that you control pointing back to places, and to Google that can look really sketchy. So I want to talk through some best practices about how you can get link benefit and value from these places without getting yourself into trouble.

The challenge

All right. The challenge here is let’s say that I own sneakerobsessed.com, but it is not my primary website, or maybe it’s a client’s website. But I do own sneakysneakers.com, and I’m thinking to myself, “Gosh, you know the fact that I control, I have the login for the admin here, the site owner, or me, would be fine with linking from these pages to these pages. What should I do there? I don’t want to get into trouble. But I would love to get some benefit, and I think that these links could help me. Should I:

A. Add a link from every page here to a bunch of pages here or to my homepage?

B. Should I link to a variety of my pages, like take a few of these and link them to my homepage, take a few others and link to some internal pages?

C. Should I use a single page on this website to link back to maybe my homepage?

The answer is kind of, it depends. It depends.

My recommendations

Client websites

If it is a client website or a site you’ve done work for, a site you designed or built, or your agency did, if you have clientdomain.com, what I’m going to suggest is that you take a page, the About page or a page you specifically built like About This Site, and you link to that page from the footer or the sidebar or the header. It’s kind of one of those things that gets us linked to from a lot of pages. It’s like the About page or the Contact page or the Privacy Policy, those kinds of things would get on clientdomain.com. You make that the only page where you intentionally specifically link back to your domain. You essentially have some blurb about, “Here are the details about the designer or developer, the technologies used on this website,” those kinds of things. “If you would like to get in touch with the creator of this website, it is these folks over here,” and that points over to you. That means you essentially have a site-wide link to one page, which is flowing a lot of link equity to that single page on your client’s website, and that link is pointing over to you. This is very unlikely to be penalized. It’s very likely to draw in clicks. It has all these beneficial properties.

Site(s) you own

For sites that you own, so myothersite.com and mymainsite.com, what I’m going to suggest here is that you don’t have an intentional specific link strategy like, “Okay, one out of three pages I’m going to have a link. I’m going to have them link to these pages in particular. I’m going to have the anchor text always be this.” Don’t set up that kind of policy or process. Instead, I want you to focus on providing visitor value. Reference things on your main site when they are relevant to content on your other site, and this should happen naturally and organically.

Anytime you’re referencing other content you’ve created or things that you’ve done, or recognition that you have, or someone else from your organization, you would naturally link over here. That’s the way you should play it, not with some specific process and checklist. Anything that matches a very standard pattern is going to be easily recognized by Google, and that can get you into trouble.

Blogrolls, syndicators, etc.

With blogrolls and syndicators and those type of sites, it’s a little less stringent, because blogrolls and syndicators have these unique attributes of basically saying it is the right thing to do for a blogroll when it exists usually on one of the sidebars of a blog, sometimes the blog’s homepage, sometimes every page of a blog, it’s usual for those to be kind of site-wide style links that always point back to the other blogs’ websites’ homepage or blog pages. That’s okay here too. That is not a big problem.

The only time you get into real trouble is if that blogroll is essentially just a paid manipulation. It’s technically a blog network. It’s not that you’re being editorially endorsed by someone else. They’re only linking to you because you’re linking to them. You get into that reciprocity challenge. That’s not to say you should never link to anyone who has you in their blogroll either. It’s just that this has to look natural and editorial to Google, or you can get in trouble.

Syndicators, by the way, it’s okay to link from every syndicated piece of content back to the original piece of content. In fact, that’s the way it should be. If you do your own syndication, like I do sometimes on Medium, where I put up my blog posts that I’ve already put on moz.com/rand on medium.com/randfish, then you should have each of those link back to their original pieces, and that’s just fine.

Widgets & embeds

For widgets and embeds, things get a little dicier, and this is actually where we see a ton of penalties. Not to say that people don’t have problems with their client sites too a lot of the time, but widgets and embeds have been particularly taken to task by Google in the recent past.

So the idea here is that you have this piece of content here that’s being embedded from your site. So Sneaker Obsessed, maybe the guys there went to Sneaky Sneakers. They saw a data graph of Nike shoes versus Adidas shoes sales over the last 12 months, and they were like, “Oh, man. I really want to show that. That’s awesome.” In fact, there’s a little “embed this graph onto your own website.” So they took that, and they put it on there.

More dangerous

You get into more dangerous territory with this type of thing when in the link between here there’s:

  • Keyword-matching anchor text
  • No opt-out option, meaning there’s no way to say, “I don’t want to include the link to the original”
  • When visitors are very unlikely to click that link; when there’s no sort of, “Oh, why would I ever click on the attributed link from the embed?”
  • Remotely controlled via JavaScript, meaning you can remotely update this link and anchor text, that gets real sketchy.
  • Widget’s purpose feels like it exists only for links, like it’s not particularly useful, there’s not a clear reason why this is a widget instead of just a graphic that other people can use or content they can syndicate, why make it a widget as opposed to something like a graph whose data can change, or an interactive content element, or a video player, or something like that?
  • Any sort of payment or discounts that you offer or coercion to get people to embed it gets you into more dangerous territory.

Less dangerous

You’re much less likely to have problems if you:

  • Keep that anchor text branded or omitted entirely. It’s non-branded anchor text. It’s just your brand name, or it’s very limited. It just says “Data Via,” and via is the link itself.
  • Opt-out of the link is available, meaning that someone could say, “Yeah, I want to embed that. Include a link back to sneakysneakers.com? No. No, thank you.”
  • There should be a compelling reason to click.
  • That embed is static.
  • It’s not controlled by JavaScript.
  • The widget feels like it’s reference-focused, so there’s actually some value there.
  • Only embedded intentionally by those who are naturally and editorially choosing to include it.

That will keep you safe.

Hopefully, you will not encounter these problems. I think if you follow these rules, you’ll be in the safe zone, and you’ll also be benefiting from the link value that these can provide. I look forward to your comments. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Featured Snippets: A Dead-Simple Tactic for Making Them Stick

Posted by ronell-smith

Dr. Pete throwing down at MozCon 2015, flexin’ in his retro Gatorade shirt

At MozCon 2015, Dr. Pete delivered a gem that perked up my ears when he discussed Google’s featured snippets during his talk, “Surviving Google: SEO in 2020“:

“Let’s say you’re No. 5 in a competitive query, and you’re trying to get from No. 5 to No.1. That is incredibly difficult; that takes a lot of money, a lot of links, a lot of authority. You might be able to jump past No. 1 to No. 0 with this just by matching the question better. So it may actually be easier to get from No. 5 to No. 0 than it is to get from No. 5 to No. 1 … Be a better match. Be a better answer to the question. It’s good for users.”

Something about those 98 words perked my ears up, especially the last two sentences.

“Be a better answer to the question. It’s good for users.”

Those words rolled around in my head for months, though their impact wouldn’t be felt until even later, when I began to see how prevalent featured snippets had become.

More than a year later, I’m now more convinced than ever that most brands should be making the attainment of featured snippets a priority.


Try as they might, most sites don’t stand a chance of making it to the No.1 position in the SERPs. And today, with so much priority given to ads at the top of the page, above the organic results — not to mention the fact that most people don’t recognize ads from organic results — even those who do reach the coveted position have to feel as though they’ve secured a pyrrhic victory.

In the year-plus since the presentation, rich answers have grown significantly, as depicted by the graph below from Stone Temple Consulting:

And in the span, a number of teams and individuals have made it their charge to better decipher featured snippets, specifically regarding what seems to influence their presence for certain queries, what types of snippets there are, how to optimize your content to make it more likely that you receive one, and what Google is likely looking for when a snippet is ultimately featured.

(For in-depth background information on featured snippets, see the Related Content section at the bottom of the post.)

But not a whole lot has been written on how to keep featured snippets once your brand has one. This fact hit me like a ton of bricks during MozCon 2016, when I listened to Rob Bucci of GetStat during his presentation Taking the Top Spot: How to Earn More Featured Snippets.

This post, which is a wellspring of some comments Bucci shared near the end of his presentation, will be focused very narrowly on how to keep a Featured Snippet once your brand has been fortunate enough to receive one.

The fast five 5 Ws of featured snippets

Before we dive into that aspect, let’s briefly go over a few specifics, surrounding the nuts and bolts of featured snippets.

  • What are they and where do they come from? A featured snippet is the summation of an answer for a web searcher’s query, typically taken from a website and includes a link to the site, the page title and the URL, according to GetStat.
  • Why should you care? You shouldn’t, unless you care about being the top result on the page (snark for the win). Also, since the result can come from any brand on the first page, you have the potential to occupy two positions on page 1.
  • Who needs them? Any brand that desires organic reach, visibility, traffic and, yeah, uhm, conversions.
  • When do they show up? Any time a query is best answered in list, table, or graph form.

For your brand or any other, however, (a) featured snippets provide you with an easy opportunity to better compete against the competition, (b) can amount to a low-investment/high-reward opportunity, and (c) can give you a leg up on the competition.

Keeping your hard-earned featured snippet

One of the main reasons to attend conferences such as MozCon in person is the potential to hear a nugget of wisdom that would be missed in a recap blog, not properly conveyed in a tweet by an attendee, or glossed over when listening to the video after the event.

For example, Dr. Pete’s quote from MozCon 2015 rang clear as a bell when I heard it while sitting in the audience, but I’m not sure I would have noticed it so readily had I simply watched the videos.

During the Q&A that followed Bucci’s talk, he was asked about the real value of investing in featured snippets, a particular concern given that, in most cases, Google is serving up the content with very little benefit to the brand that houses it. (Unless the user clicks on the URL at the bottom of the content and visits the website.)

Bucci did far more than answer the question before him, however.

“Let’s say I was [trying to teach someone] how to make toast. The snippet is, like, step 1 put the bread in the toaster; step 2, toast the bread; step 3, eat it, right? If I added a fourth or fifth step so that it was truncated in the snippet, i.e., they didn’t get the full steps to make toast, people would be more likely to click on it to get the full results. Think about how you can optimize your snippets by making it so that you don’t give away the entire farm in your snippet. They have to go through your website to get the information.”

This tidbit got my attention for two reasons:

  • One of the biggest concerns brands have with regard to investing resources in trying to get a featured snippet is it does very little for the brand if the web searcher does not click on the URL and visit the site. Otherwise, the only entity that benefits to a significant degree is Google.
  • Churn, whereby brands earn and then lose a snippet, is a very real concern, too. Research by Stone Temple Consulting found that more than 55% of the queries that showed featured snippets in January 2016 “either didn’t show a featured snippet in July 2015, OR shows a different URL for the featured snippet than it did in July 2015.”

Image courtesy of Stone Temple Consulting, Google’s Featured Snippets: Automated Continuous Improvement

How to smartly invest in featured snippets

By applying the logic in Bucci’s quote, your brand can employ what I call next-level thinking.

Instead of simply thinking “How do I get a featured snippet?”, think “How do I keep a featured snippet?” This is especially important since, as has been reported by STC, Bucci, and others, Google is likely using engagement metrics (e.g., clicks on the URL) as a factor in determining churn.

“By crafting your snippet content in a way that encourages people to click through to your site for the full detail, you can raise your CTR on that SERP,” says Bucci. “That’s the key thing.”

As you can see from the result below, this result, drawn from the No.1 result on the page, is unlikely to warrant a click since all the needed information is right there for the taking.

However, in the result below, the web searcher will have to click the URL and visit the owner of the content’s website to see the full list.

The important point to delivering a result that’s churn-resistant, says Bucci, is to think strategically.

“The biggest recommendation I made that I think people are only now starting to pay attention to how to strategically use formatting to A) win snippets and B) create great user experiences on the SERP. People were just focused on getting any old snippet, but my advice was that they should look at the query space and measure the most common snippet formats. From there, they should optimize their snippets to match those formats, because Google is clearly indicating that they want to use those formats within the give.”

Bucci made a great point, highlighting how we should pay attention to the formatting and content types — not simply the queries — that consistently show up as featured snippets. This, he says, amounts to Google telling us what they’re looking to reward.

Don’t overthink it. Dive in.

It’s exciting to see brands jump into the fray, beginning to think seriously about featured snippets and how the organic elements can impact their brands.

Dr. Pete, who has remained a passionate advocate for brands taking a serious look at how to get and keep featured snippets, says it’s essential that brands build their attainment into their overall process, not use it as a one-off tactic.

“I think the first step is to think in terms of questions, and build part of your keyword research around that. In natural language search, questions are increasingly common. Which questions are part of your conversion path? Don’t discount them just because they’re early in the funnel or part of the research phase. Find out if those questions are showing snippets and then think about ways to use those snippets as a teaser to draw people into your content and, hopefully, your funnel. Once you’re ranking on page 1, it’s about shaping your content to better answer the question. I think it helps to take an ‘inverted pyramid’ approach — lead with your most compelling question and a summary of your content, and then dive into the details. This makes for better snippets and grabs short attention spans.”

One of the best ways to get started with featured snippets is by taking a step-by-step approach so that everyone on the team knows what you’re going after, why, and its likely impact to the brand.

The graphic below is as specific and as detailed as you need to be to get started.

Image source: Stone Temple Consulting

Remember, though, like all aspects of online marketing, the endeavor will be iterative. What you gain, you might lose. But the process is invaluable.

You’ve still created something worthwhile

Hopefully, I’ve shared at least one small tidbit of information that has you excited about adding the attainment of featured snippets to your content marketing strategy.

For those of you who might be on the fence, wondering if the potential reward warrants the expense, Dr. Pete’s words should nudge you in the right direction.

“I think content that answers questions is naturally compelling, which is what I like about optimizing for featured snippets … Content that answers questions succinctly provides real value and builds a base of value for your visitors, regardless of where they arrive from. Even if you lose the featured snippet, you’ve built something useful.”

It bears repeating:

“Even if you lose the featured snippet, you’ve built something useful.”

Dr. Pete continued:

“Think of featured snippets as much like organic ranking — they aren’t something Google awards you and then lets you keep until a new winner comes along. Featured snippets are generated by the algorithm in real time, just like organic rankings. You have to keep competing for them.”

Has your brand experimented with featured snippets? If so, what’s been the result?

Remember, Moz Pro will help you find and track featured snippets, as well as identify opportunities for acquiring them!

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Automating Technical Reporting for SEO

Posted by petewailes

As the web gets more complex, with JavaScript framework and library front ends on websites, progressive web apps, single-page apps, JSON-LD, and so on, we’re increasingly seeing an ever-greater surface area for things to go wrong. When all you’ve got is HTML and CSS and links, there’s only so much you can mess up. However, in today’s world of dynamically generated websites with universal JS interfaces, there’s a lot of room for errors to creep in.

The second problem we face with much of this is that it’s hard to know when something’s gone wrong, or when Google’s changed how they’re handling something. This is only compounded when you account for situations like site migrations or redesigns, where you might suddenly archive a lot of old content, or re-map a URL structure. How do we address these challenges then?

The old way

Historically, the way you’d analyze things like this is through looking at your log files using Excel or, if you’re hardcore, Log Parser. Those are great, but they require you to know you’ve got an issue, or that you’re looking and happen to grab a section of logs that have the issues you need to address in them. Not impossible, and we’ve written about doing this fairly extensively both in our blog and our log file analysis guide.

The problem with this, though, is fairly obvious. It requires that you look, rather than making you aware that there’s something to look for. With that in mind, I thought I’d spend some time investigating whether there’s something that could be done to make the whole process take less time and act as an early warning system.

A helping hand

The first thing we need to do is to set our server to send log files somewhere. My standard solution to this has become using log rotation. Depending on your server, you’ll use different methods to achieve this, but on Nginx it looks like this:

# time_iso8601 looks like this: 2016-08-10T14:53:00+01:00 
if ($time_iso8601 ~ "^(\d{4})-(\d{2})-(\d{2})") { 
        set $year $1; 
        set $month $2; 
        set $day $3; 
<span class="redactor-invisible-space">
</span>access_log /var/log/nginx/$year-$month-$day-access.log;

This allows you to view logs for any specific date or set of dates by simply pulling the data from files relating to that period. Having set up log rotation, we can then set up a script, which we’ll run at midnight using Cron, to pull the log file that relates to yesterday’s data and analyze it. Should you want to, you can look several times a day, or once a week, or at whatever interval best suits your level of data volume.

The next question is: What would we want to look for? Well, once we’ve got the logs for the day, this is what I get my system to report on:

30* status codes

Generate a list of all pages hit by users that resulted in a redirection. If the page linking to that resource is on your site, redirect it to the actual end point. Otherwise, get in touch with whomever is linking to you and get them to sort the link to where it should go.

404 status codes

Similar story. Any 404ing resources should be checked to make sure they’re supposed to be missing. Anything that should be there can be investigated for why it’s not resolving, and links to anything actually missing can be treated in the same way as a 301/302 code.

50* status codes

Something bad has happened and you’re not going to have a good day if you’re seeing many 50* codes. Your server is dying on requests to specific resources, or possibly your entire site, depending on exactly how bad this is.

Crawl budget

A list of every resource Google crawled, how many times it was requested, how many bytes were transferred, and time taken to resolve those requests. Compare this with your site map to find pages that Google won’t crawl, or that it’s hammering, and fix as needed.

Top/least-requested resources

Similar to the above, but detailing the most and least requested things by search engines.

Bad actors

Many bots looking for vulnerabilities will make requests to things like wp_admin, wp_login, 404s, config.php, and other similar common resource URLs. Any IP address that makes repeated requests to these sorts of URLs can be added automatically to an IP blacklist.

Pattern-matched URL reporting

It’s simple to use regex to match requested URLs against pre-defined patterns, to report on specific areas of your site or types of pages. For example, you could report on image requests, Javascript files being called, pagination, form submissions (via looking for POST requests), escaped fragments, query parameters, or virtually anything else. Provided it’s in a URL or HTTP request, you can set it up as a segment to be reported on.

Spiky search crawl behavior

Log the number of requests made by Googlebot every day. If it increases by more than x%, that’s something of interest. As a side note, with most number series, a calculation to spot extreme outliers isn’t hard to create, and is probably worth your time.

Outputting data

Depending on what the importance is of any particular section, you can then set the data up to be logged in a couple of ways. Firstly, large amounts of 40* and 50* status codes or bad actor requests would be worth triggering an email for. This can let you know in a hurry if something’s happening which potentially indicates a large issue. You can then get on top of whatever that may be and resolve it as a matter of priority.

The data as a whole can also be set up to be reported on via a dashboard. If you don’t have that much data in your logs on a daily basis, you may simply want to query the files at runtime and generate the report fresh each time you view it. On the other hand, sites with a lot of traffic and thus larger log files may want to cache the output of each day to a separate file, so the data doesn’t have to be computed. Obviously the type of approach you use to do that depends a lot on the scale you’ll be operating at and how powerful your server hardware is.


Thanks to server logs and basic scripting, there’s no reason you should ever have a situation where something’s amiss on your site and you don’t know about it. Proactive notifications of technical issues is a necessary thing in a world where Google crawls at an ever-faster rate, meaning that they could start pulling your rankings down thanks to site downtime or errors within a matter of hours.

Set up proper monitoring and make sure you’re not caught short!

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Announcing MozCon Local 2017!

Posted by George-Freitag

Now that location-based searches are growing about 50% faster than any other type of search on mobile, what are you going to do to make sure you’re working on the front lines of this new, local-focused world? Well, you can start by joining us in Seattle for MozCon Local 2017 on February 27–28 for a day full of in-depth workshops from LocalU followed by an all-day conference from the top local speakers and brands.

You’ll come away with another level of understanding related to local strategy, citations, reviews, SEO local link building, content creation, and more, along with some incredible, tactical advice to get you improving your local game the second you get home (or at least your first day back in the office). Plus, you’ll be able to interact directly with speakers both during Q&A sessions and around the conference, and spend time getting to know your fellow local marketers.

So whether you’re a marketer with a portfolio chock-full of local accounts or a brand with hundreds or thousands of locations, MozCon Local 2017 is where you need to be.

Buy your MozCon Local 2016 ticket!

Some of our great speakers (lots more coming!)

Darren Shaw


Darren Shaw is the president and founder of Whitespark, a company that builds software and provides services to help businesses with local search. He’s widely regarded in the local SEO community as an innovator, one whose years of experience working with massive local data sets have given him uncommon insights into the inner workings of the world of citation-building and local search marketing. Darren has been working on the web for over 16 years and loves everything about local SEO.

Mike Blumenthal


Mike grew up sweeping floors in his family retail business at age 7 and saw the challenges of local marketing up close from an early age. Before co-founding GetFiveStars.com and LocalU.org he had been doing what we now know as Local SEO since 2005 and writing at his blog Understanding Google Local since 2006. He loves researching and understanding the issues that confront bricks and mortar storefronts and helping owners, agencies, and franchises tackle the challenges of the ever changing local marketing world.

Heather Physioc


Heather Physioc is Assoc. Director of Organic Search at global digital ad agency VML, performing search engine optimization services for multinational brands like Electrolux/Frigidaire, Colgate-Palmolive, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Bridgestone, Wendy’s and Bayer Animal Health. She has worked in digital marketing for 10 years. Physioc earned her Bachelor’s of Journalism in Strategic Communication (Advertising) from the University of Missouri, and is currently pursuing an Executive Master’s of Business Administration from Rockhurst University. She has spoken at AACS, WordCamp, KCSEMA, SEMPO Cities, PRSA Mid-Missouri and Omaha, TEDxKCWomen and more.

Willys DeVoll


Willys Devoll is a content strategist for Google My Business and a member of the AdWords Content Strategy and Development team. He has also worked as a technical writer and content developer on Google for Work. In the past, DeVoll worked for Major League Baseball Advanced Media in communications, and at the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis, where he contributed to research in the Literary Lab.

Rand Fishkin


Rand Fishkin uses the ludicrous title, Wizard of Moz. He’s founder and former CEO of Moz, co-author of a pair of books on SEO, and co-founder of Inbound.org.

MozCon Local 2017 takes place at the Hyatt in downtown Seattle. In addition to coming home with a ton of knowledge, you’ll also be coming home with some great swag to show off! Monday’s workshops will have a snack break and networking time, and for Tuesday’s conference your ticket includes breakfast, lunch, and two snack breaks. FINALLY, on the last night we’ll have a networking party so you meet speakers, thought leaders, Mozzers, and other attendees. Networking without the ‘net!

We’re expecting around 200 people to join us, including speakers, Mozzers, and Local U staff. MozCon Local sold out last year, and we expect this year to sell out, as well, so you’ll want to buy your ticket now!

Purchase your ticket now!

Our best early-bird prices:

Local U Workshop + MozCon Local Conference – Monday & Tuesday, February 27–28, 2017

$1,048 $748 for Early Bird Moz Subscriber & Local U Forum Members

$1,498 $1,148 for Early Bird General Admission

MozCon Local Conference – Tuesday, February 28, 2017

$599 $399 for Early Bird Moz Subscribers & Local U Forum Members

$899 $699 for Early Bird General Admission

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Competing for Local Queries With No Physical Premises

Posted by Tom.Capper

When we think of local SEO, we think of local packs, Google My Business listings, and local citations. While these things certainly are local SEO, they aren’t the whole picture. Local SEO can be split into three categories:

  • Local pack results for organizations with local premises
  • Organic results for organizations with local premises
  • Organic results for organizations without local premises

It’s the third category that I want to cover here today. This often-neglected and little-discussed area plays host to some of the biggest and most lucrative spaces in organic search. Think about searches like:

  • Chemical engineering jobs in London
  • Flats to rent in London
  • Used Ford Focus for sale in London

These terms are local in nature, and local businesses might compete for them — whether they be recruitment agencies, letting agents, or car dealerships. However, businesses without any local premises might also compete for them — whether they be online-only job boards, property listings sites, or eBay and Craigslist.

Let’s take recruiters as an example. A search for “recruiters near me” from Distilled HQ in London produces this result:

There’s a local pack, but the top result is for a listings site that does not itself have any local premises.

If we search for something more specific:

Firstly, this is a “near me” search with no local pack. The second very noticeable thing is that after the four PPC ads, Totaljobs.com are ranking both first and second(!!!). Neither they nor Indeed.co.uk have any physical premises, and the second result ranking isn’t even location-specific. In case you’re curious, Indeed gets the double-rank if I swap out “near me” for “in London”:

The points I want to make are that:

  • It’s totally legitimate for Indeed and Totaljobs to try to rank for these queries
  • This is local SEO, but there are no local packs, and these are not local sites

There are a whole range of niche concerns around this sort of situation, which I’ll cover in turn:

  • Whether this applies to you: Should you be competing for local queries at all?
  • Granularity: Which local queries should you be competing for?
  • Optimizing pages to compete in these spaces.

A quick side note: It is possible to generate Google My Business listings for locations where you can get someone to sort your verification, but you yourself have no real premises. This is either spam or misleading marketing depending on how you look at it. Like many other spam techniques, some sites are having success with it, but it’s not something I would endorse or recommend, and I won’t be covering it any further here.

Should you be competing for local queries at all?

The example search queries I used above all had something in common — they were different offerings based on the location a user was interested in, so having location pages made absolute sense for the users, for the sites, and for Google.

This isn’t always true. Take this example from Serenata Flowers:

Award-winning florist in West Wellow.

For context, there are no florists in or even particularly near West Wellow, which is a tiny place on the edge of the New Forest National Park in Southern England:

Furthermore, the offerings on this page are identical to those that Serenata appears to offer on every other location page. This page exists purely for SEO benefit — it’s to target local search volume, with no benefit to users other than their ability to find it through that search volume. There’s nothing you can do on this page that you can’t do from any other non-location-specific page on the site.

This isn’t unusual in this vertical, or in several others. In fact, this is one of the last big areas where doing something just for the SEO benefit not only makes sense, but seems sustainable and fairly white-hat.

One might tenuously argue that users want reassurance that their flowers will be cut close to their intended delivery destination, or that Serenata offers delivery in this area. However, in this case it would make far more sense for Serenata to have landing pages for the locations where the flowers are cut, or for logical delivery areas rather than individual villages; nobody would think that a florist in nearby Romsey offering delivery would for some reason refuse to deliver to West Wellow.

The best litmus test for whether you should be pursuing this type of landing page strategy is whether you can actually think of a useful way to differentiate these pages for users (as opposed to for Google). A flower delivery site probably can — by showing local stock and delivery times and distances — but small villages are too fine a granularity for this.

I imagine Serenata drive considerable revenue through some of their location pages for higher volume locations — despite not differentiating these pages in this way — but it’s the fact that users would look for a locally differentiated page in the first place that makes this strategy viable.

Granularity: Which local queries should you be competing for?

When deciding how to target your location pages, there will be a wide range of options, for example:

  • State
  • County
  • City
  • Town
  • Zip/Postal Code
  • Street
  • All of the above

Which of these options makes sense for you comes down to two main factors:

  1. At what level of granularity are your potential customers searching?
  2. What level of indexation can your site support?

The first question initially looks like a simple keyword research problem, but it’s harder than that. We’re getting into the seriously long-tail with some of these groupings, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t volume. Search volume tools like Google Keyword Planner and Moz’s own Keyword Explorer start to struggle to tell the difference between “zero” and “low” when we get into this sort of territory, so you’re probably going to have to do something better than that. Some ideas worth considering:

  • Test for volume and interest with paid search
  • If you already have a variety of pages, find out which ones receive zero or nearly zero organic traffic and conversions
  • Test opening up deeper locations for a small number of areas (small enough that you’re confident the strain on indexation and spreading of equity won’t impact your site as a whole!)
  • Search for the smaller locations you’re considering. Does your higher-level page already rank well?
  • Look at data from your internal site search
  • See what your competitors are doing. They might not be getting it right, but it could be a useful source of ideas to validate

The second question is more complex. Adding thousands or even millions of extra pages to any website is a dangerous game. You should be concerned as to whether Google will allocate enough crawl budget, or whether you’ll damage the strength of existing pages.

Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Test opening up extra locations for half of areas. Monitor the performance of the unaffected half of the site vs. a counterfactual, as well as the affected half of the site vs. the unaffected half.
    • If the affected side underperforms, you’re spreading yourself too thin.
    • If the unaffected side underperforms but the affected side does not, work out whether the aggregate effect was positive or negative.
  • Make sure you’re being clever with your information architecture.
    • Minimize the number of extra URLs Google has to crawl.
    • Consider using HTML sitemap (“browse all areas”) pages that are linked to internally, but “NOINDEX, FOLLOW” to distribute equity without crowding user-facing pages with links.
    • Test using nofollow attributes on individual facet links to control any potential spider traps.
    • Use breadcrumbs (marked up in structured data) to make the structure of the site and location hierarchy as clear as possible to search engines.
    • Monitor server logs to discover any crawling problems.

(How not to) Optimize pages for local search

Here’s what Serenata have done to optimize for local search in the example I used above:

This is sitting at the bottom of the category page and contains such stunners as “Our florists in West Wellow have the experience and the passion to create beautiful bouquets for any occasion.” I’m sure they would, if they existed.

Clearly this is keyword stuffing at its finest. In or out of local search, this kind of category/listing page SEO drivel feels like it shouldn’t work anymore, but in fact your mileage may vary, and again, if you already have this, you should test:

  • Removing it entirely
  • Turning down the keyword density

I’ve seen numerous examples in the last year of sites benefitting from improving or getting rid of this kind of useless content.

So what to do instead? Above, I said:

  • “The best litmus test for whether you should be pursuing this type of landing page strategy is whether you can actually think of a useful way to differentiate these pages for users.”

This means that you should have something genuinely useful that you can put on these pages. Some recommendations:

  • Proprietary data – e.g. what the most popular flowers are in this location.
  • Local differentiation – e.g. are some of the products delivered to this location sourced locally?
  • Genuine local expertise – could any employees or subcontractors in this area contribute?
  • Reviews for this location
  • Reassurance – e.g. if you think a user is looking for a local florist because of delivery concerns, say how long the flowers will be traveling for

Looking forward

As location targeting without physical premises is an area that still feels a little old-fashioned in its SEO trends, it’ll be interesting to see how it develops in the next few years. Personal assistants could have a particularly large impact here, for example. I’d love to hear your thoughts and predictions in the comments below.

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Using Paid Media to Drive Loyalty & Advocacy – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by samanthanoble

If you’re not using your paid media in more creative ways than simply targeting customers at the buying stage, you’ve got a world of opportunity awaiting you. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, we’re delighted to have guest presenter Samantha Noble divulge 10 strategies for using your paid media to get your customers talking about you more and recommending you often.



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

Video Transcription

Hi, my name’s Samantha Noble, and I’m the Director of Strategy over at Koozai in the UK. We’re a digital marketing agency specializing in paid media, SEO, and content marketing, and I’m really, really excited to be here today to share with you some tips on how we can use paid media to basically drive loyal customers and get those loyal customers recommending us to others.

I think what I’ve seen over the years, when it comes to paid media, is people tend to focus on the buying stage. They think that they’re going to put money into a paid media channel and they’re going to get return out of it, which is essentially true. But, when it comes to using paid media for loyalty and advocacy, it’s something that I don’t tend to see very often, and there’s lots of stuff that we can do.

So over the next sort of 8 minutes or so, we’re going to look at 10 different strategies. So it’s five for loyalty and five for advocacy. And I’m hoping to be able to share with you some ideas and some inspiration that you can take away and use with the new paid media campaigns. So let’s get started.


To start with, let’s look at loyalty, and the first thing that we’re going to look at is…

1. Use remarketing lists for search ads (RLSAs) to bid on competitor names

So let’s say we’ve got a customer that has been with you time and time again or even they might have just bought from you once. If they then go back to Google and search for a competitor, you can then start displaying ads to that particular customer, at that moment in time, to try and encourage them to remain a loyal customer of yours by including a unique discount in the advert. So this really works well if the competitor names that you’re using aren’t trademarked. Otherwise, you will come up with a few sticky situations there that may not work. So it’s worth looking to see whether you can try it or not. But it’s a great way of trying to capture people at the stage when they may potentially be looking to go off and buy from a competitor.

2. Unique discounts within your search ads

So in the same way that we were talking about remarketing lists for search before, you can do this by either uploading a list of email addresses, so your CRM database of customers, or as a remarketing list for search ads, so your remarketing list of your existing customers. Now, when they go and search, again, for any of your other products or services that you could do, you can start to show them unique offers within the ads to say, “Hey, as a loyal customer, you get an extra 10% off if you buy a second purchase from us.” So again, this can work really, really well to drive loyalty.

3. Dedicated landing pages

If you’ve got a customer that comes into a store that you know they come to you every single week and they buy from you time and time again, you’re not going to greet them necessarily in the same way as what you would a first-time customer that you’re not aware of. And this should be the same when it comes to search advertising. So, if you’ve got a unique customer that’s bought from you time and time again, why not show them a landing page, when they land on the site, that is targeted to them, that’s talking in a language that shows that you’re talking to them as a loyal customer rather than as a first-time buyer? So again, you can do this with customer match lists or with remarketing lists for search.

4. Countdown ads with time-sensitive deals

So countdown ads are the ads where you see time is ticking down if there’s a unique offer that’s going to expire in, say, a weeks’ time. If you’ve got a customer that’s bought from you once and you want to try and encourage a repeat purchase, why not show them a limited-time offer, so that it’s saying, “Look, if you buy from us a second time within the next week, month, two months…” whatever it is that you want to put in there, and show the offer is ticking down, this can create a real sense of urgency and drive people to buy from you and make a second purchase.

5. Remarketing to cross-sell or upsell to customers

This works really well if you’ve got a product or a service that people can buy from you again, or it might be that you’ve got a product — so let’s say a mobile phone provider as an example. Somebody might have bought a mobile phone. The next logical purchase for that particular customer could be that they’re looking to get a cover or a case for that phone. If you know that somebody’s bought a particular model or make of a phone, why not start following them around with remarketing ads, highlighting the fact that you also sell covers and cases? This can be a really good way of driving extra loyalty from people that have just bought from you.

The reason that I think it’s important to consider loyalty, when it comes to paid, is there was a study done via Access Development, that basically shows that 80% of customers would actually consider switching brands or stores if they were offered the right compelling discount. So I think that’s just really, really important to remember that even though you’ve worked hard to gain a customer, they can still leave you and go to a competitor.


So, moving on from here, let’s look at some ways that we can use advocacy, and what I mean by advocacy is you’ve got a loyal customer base. You’ve spent all this money and time and resource growing that audience. What we want to do now is help them to market you, help them to do that word-of-mouth marketing and actually recommend you to others. And there are five ways that we’re going to look through in terms of how we can drive advocacy using paid media.

1. Gmail ads

Gmail ads are really good if you are using them and targeting them at the right people. And I’ve seen this work really well if you’re trying to promote like forward to a friend discounts. So if you’ve got a list of all your customers, whether it’s again a remarketing list or a customer matched list of email addresses, upload those. When those particular customers are looking at their emails on Gmail and they’re not using a business Gmail account, and they’re in the Promotions tab, they can see various ads at the top. So you’re typically seeing two ads at the moment at the top of Gmail.

And in here, what we can do is we can show an advert that’s saying, “Hey, as a loyal customer of ours, why not recommend us to others?” You can show them and you can give them a unique discount code to pass on to their friends or family. So you can do this and try and encourage people, when they’re opening up that ad, you can make it look like a nice HTML advert, a nice HTML page, and try and drive them to say, “Hey, forward this discount on to a friend, and your friends or family can benefit from this unique offer,” that we’re offering to them.

2. Remarketing for reviews

So similar to what we were talking about before, in terms of using remarketing to generate upsells and cross-sells, you can also do remarketing to try and encourage your existing audience base to go and leave a review of your product or service. And whether that’s on your own website or whether you’re using a third-party review site, if you are using a third-party review site, I’d recommend that you make sure that it’s a site that Google can aggregate that data from, because that’s going to come on to the seller ratings that we’re going to look at next. But you can follow people around saying, “Hey, how did you find your experience with us? What was your product like? What was the service like?” And try and encourage them to go and leave you a review so that other people can then experience what your existing customer base had kind of experienced from their product or service they’ve purchased from you.

3. Seller ratings

So seller ratings are the ads where you see the stars in the listings, and these can be really, really good especially if your competitors aren’t doing this. There is a stipulation. I think it’s 120 reviews you need in the past 12 months, so you need to make sure that you’re getting reviews frequently enough. But Google will then aggregate that data and pool that within your search ads. And as I say, if your competitors aren’t doing it and you are, and you’re seeing that you’ve got a four or a five-star rating, that really entices people to click through and it gives that sense of, “Yeah, they’re a good company to buy from, so I’m going to go and investigate them more.”

4. Gmails ads – cashback sites – referral scheme

If you’ve got a recommend-a-friend scheme or refer-a-friend scheme that you’re wanting to try and promote, people that are signed up to recommend-a-friend-type schemes are kind of looking to get something in exchange for what they’re doing. So the idea here is what you can do is you can upload a load of cashback site domains. So it could be all of the different cashback sites in a particular niche or just the cashback sites that you want to go after. Upload all of those as keywords, and if somebody is receiving an email from a cashback site, your ad can say at the top, “Hey, we’ve got this great refer-a-friend scheme. You can earn money for doing X, Y, and Z with us.” So it’s a way of tapping in to not necessarily your existing customer base, but trying to tap in to a new audience and get them referring you to others as well, and this can work really, really well.

5. Reviews + testimonials on landing pages

Final idea that we’ve got here is making sure that the same, what we were talking about before, about using dedicated landing pages for our loyal customers, what we also want to do on the landing pages for new customers that are coming into a site, is make sure that we’re talking about testimonials from our existing customer base, making sure that we put the reviews on there. People buy from people. I’m hearing the term “human-to-human” bandied around a lot recently. So rather than B2C, B2B, it’s H2H. And this is really, really important because people do buy from people, and people like to feel that the product or service that they’re buying has helped somebody else or somebody else has enjoyed that particular product. So making sure that you’re using reviews and testimonials on landing pages can really help boost your conversion rate.

Now the reason that advocacy is really important, again, another study that was done via Bright Local, this basically shows that 92% of people that they surveyed said that they regularly read online reviews. So it’s really important, in this day and age, that we focus on driving reviews and getting our existing customers to recommend us to others.

So, as I said, there’s lots of other ways that we can use paid media to target loyalty and advocacy, and I’d love to hear what you guys are doing, what other ideas have worked for you, what strategies have worked well for you. If you can leave those in the comments below, that will be fantastic. If you’ve got any questions or you want to run anything past me, then you can get me on my Twitter handle, which is @samjanenoble, and thank you very, very much for having me on Whiteboard Friday.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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The New Moz Local: Make Local Your Advantage!

Posted by dudleycarr

Today we’re excited to share our latest updates to Moz Local. Moz Local is unique in that it serves a large number of small business, enterprise, and agency customers. Today’s release has something for all of our customers, and we believe it’s an important step to providing the best value to everyone, independent of their size and shape.

What are we announcing today?

We’re announcing an exciting set of new functionality and integrations for local marketers to help them be more productive and more effective, and a collection of new product packages. All of this is designed to help you — local businesses, enterprises and agencies — make Local your advantage.

Try the new Moz Local today!

Google My Business Sync

Google My Business (GMB) is Google’s tool used by businesses to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. Now Moz Local automatically associates your GMB listing(s) with your Moz Local listings, enabling you to push updates to, and continuously sync any changes with GMB. Ensuring that your data is accurate on Google is essential to appearing and ranking higher in local pack search results. With this major new feature life just got easier — you no longer have to manage in both Moz Local and Google My Business. You can now manage all your local data from a single dashboard without ever going into GMB again.

Connecting your Google My Business account to Moz Local is a snap.

Your Google My Business listings are automatically associated with your Moz Local listings and any changes in either Moz Local or Google My Business automatically sync between the two systems.

New listing services

Continuing our focus on automating distribution to the services in the local search ecosystem that most impact local search results, we’ve added active management of listings on 5 new services.

Hotfrog: One of the most prominent directories for years, Hotfrog is a mainstay of the Local Search Ecosystem and we’re proud to add them to our direct network.

Apple Maps: Our new partnership with NavAds now gives us direct control over 4 other data sources — the first being Apple Maps. Now you have direct control over your listing information on the second-most popular navigation platform out there.

Here: Next we have Here, which powers the mapping platform for Facebook as well as many other navigation networks worldwide.

TomTom: One of the most popular GPS systems for cars in the country makes TomTom another vital addition.

Navmii: Rounding out our complete mapping coverage is a Navmii, another growing mapping and navigation platform.

Listing Alerts

The best approach to local marketing is one that’s proactive. One of the most frequent complaints from businesses everywhere, regardless of size, is that Google can sometimes change your business information without warning. Though active location data management can help mitigate this, elements like “store hours” can still change, which can be detrimental to your business. Listing Alerts returns your control, notifying you immediately in our new Activity feed whenever your listing information is changed. This means you can proactively correct the problem, preventing potential complaints from customers, your organization, or your client if you’re an agency. This feature is especially powerful for enterprises and agencies who manage listings at scale.

Listing Alerts in our new Activity Feed help you prevent potential customer complaints by bringing listing issues to your attention, helping you proactively correct any problems

Improved reviews

Consumer reviews are becoming more important to local search ranking. In this update we’ve added Google reviews to our list of the most popular review sites that you can monitor from your Moz Local dashboard, also including Citysearch, Foursquare, Superpages, YP, and Yelp. Now you can get Google reviews from Google My Business and reply directly to them from your dashboard. And for other review sites, our workflow provides direct links to the specific reviews on those platforms for fast action. Additionally, review notifications ensure that you never miss a review by showing you when you’ve received new ones.

Now you can get Google reviews right in your Moz Local dashboard — along with reviews from CitySearch, Foursquare, Superpages, YP, and Yelp.

Now you can respond to Google reviews directly from your Moz Local dashboard. And for other review sites, our workflow provides direct links to the specific reviews on those platforms for fast action.

What are the new product packages?

Our core principle is providing the industry’s most effective local marketing solution with great overall value. As local marketing continues to rapidly evolve, customer needs are expanding. To continue delivering on our core principle it became apparent that we needed to restructure our packages to offer greater and more targeted business value to local businesses, enterprises and agencies. Starting today, Moz Local will be available in 3 different product packages:

Moz Local Essential

Moz Local Essential is our new entry-level solution, designed to enable local businesses with one or dozens of locations to easily capitalize on best practices and the latest trends in local SEO. This package offers our industry-leading Active Location Data Management, including Google My Business Sync. In addition, Reputation Monitoring and Management is integral in this package since reviews are becoming more important in local search ranking. At $99/location per year, it’s packed with functionality — while remaining priced less than 50% of the leading competition.

Moz Local Professional

For Enterprise brands and agencies that need an enterprise-class solution to manage their location data at scale (hundreds to thousands of business locations), Moz Local Professional includes everything in the Essential package — PLUS:

  • New Listing Alerts that notify you immediately in the new Activity feed whenever your listing information is changed
  • Local SEO Analytics that enable marketers to analyze results and make informed decisions that improve local marketing performance
  • Our Success Assurance Program, with an assigned Customer Success Manager to oversee your account, perform a listing health audit and competitive ranking analysis to establish your baseline, assist with FastStart onboarding, and provide local SEO insights to help you achieve your search performance goals.

Moz Local Professional is available at $179/location per year.

Moz Local Premium

For Enterprise brands and agencies that have a higher level of business need or unique integration requirements, Moz Local Premium includes everything in the Professional package — PLUS:

  • All of the advantages that Moz Local has to offer made available via Moz Local API
  • With a minimum of 100 listings, the full suite of organic SEO tools from Moz so that no part of your SEO strategy remains unmanaged. With Moz Pro, Keyword Explorer, Open Site Explorer and more, you can make sure the rest of your site is performing well to complement your local listings.

Moz Local Premium is available at $249/location per year.

Learn more

Learn about all of the features in our new product packages by checking our new features page.

See the new Moz Local in action by registering for one of our free webinars.

Local is the new front door

Local search is exploding: According to Google, there are now more searches on mobile than on desktop, and 30% of all mobile searches are related to location. 76% of people who search on their smartphones for something nearby visit a business within a day, and 28% of those searches for something nearby result in a purchase. To borrow a phrase: Local has become the new front door. With this level of consumer behavior and these new product offerings, there’s never been a better time to give Moz Local a try. We look forward to helping you make Local your advantage!

More coming soon!

Today’s just the beginning for the new Moz Local. As the global leader in SEO software, we’re continuing to invest in advancing local marketing with the industry’s most effective location data management solution. By the end of January — and a bunch more pizzas and, okay, some salads from now — we’ll be delivering another update with additional new functionality, including our new Customer-Actions metric, more enhancements to Google My Business Sync, and additional distribution enhancements. We might even have some exciting news to share along the way…

Questions about our new features, product packages or pricing? Leave a comment or contact us at help@moz.com.

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