MozCon 2019: The Top Takeaways From Day One

Posted by KameronJenkins

Rand, Russ, Ruth, Rob, and Ross. Dana and Darren. Shannon and Sarah. We didn’t mean to (we swear we didn’t) but the first day of MozCon was littered with alliteration, takeaways, and oodles of insights from our speakers. Topics ranged from local SEO, link building, and Google tools, and there was no shortage of “Aha!” moments. And while the content was diverse, the themes are clear: search is constantly changing. 

Ready? Let’s make like Roger in his SERP submarine and dive right in!

Sarah’s welcome

Our fearless leader took the stage to ready our attendees for their deep sea dive over the next three days. Our guiding theme to help set the tone? The deep sea of data that we find ourselves immersed in every day.

People are searching more than ever before on more types of devices than ever before… we truly are living in the golden age of search. As Sarah explained though, not all search is created equal. Because Google wants to answer searchers’ questions as quickly as possible, they’ve moved from being the gateway to information to being the destination for information in many cases. SEOs need to be able to work smarter and identify the best opportunities in this new landscape. 

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Rand Fishkin — Web Search 2019: The Essential Data Marketers Need

Next up was Rand of SparkToro who dropped a ton of data about the state of search in 2019.

To set the stage, Rand gave us a quick review of the evolution of media: “This new thing is going to kill this old thing!” has been the theme of panicked marketers for decades. TV was supposed to kill radio. Computers were supposed to kill TV. Mobile was supposed to kill desktop. Voice search was supposed to kill text search. But as Rand showed us, these new technologies often don’t kill the old ones — they just take up all our free time. We need to make sure we’re not turning away from mediums just because they’re “old” and, instead, make sure our investments follow real behavior.

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Rand’s deck was also chock-full of data from Jumpshot about how much traffic Google is really sending to websites these days, how much of that comes from paid search, and how that’s changed over the years.

In 2019, Google sent ~20 fewer organic clicks via browser searches than in 2016.

In 2016, there were 26 organic clicks for every paid click. In 2019, that ratio is 11:1.

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Google still owns the lion’s share of the search market and still sends a significant amount of traffic to websites, but in light of this data, SEOs should be thinking about how their brands can benefit even without the click.

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And finally, Rand left us with some wisdom from the world of social — getting engagement on social media can get you the type of attention it takes to earn quality links and mentions in a way that’s much easier than manual, cold outreach.

Ruth Burr Reedy — Human > Machine > Human: Understanding Human-Readable Quality Signals and Their Machine-Readable Equivalents

It’s 2019. And though we all thought by this year we’d have flying cars and robots to do our bidding, machine learning has come a very long way. Almost frustratingly so — the push and pull of making decisions for searchers versus search engines is an ever-present SEO conundrum.

Ruth argued that in our pursuit of an audience, we can’t get too caught up in the middleman (Google), and in our pursuit of Google, we can’t forget the end user.

Optimizing for humans-only is inefficient. Those who do are likely missing out on a massive opportunity. Optimizing for search engines-only is reactive. Those who do will likely fall behind.

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She also left us with the very best kind of homework… homework that’ll make us all better SEOs and marketers!

  • Read the Quality Rater Guidelines
  • Ask what your site is currently benefiting from that Google might eliminate or change in the future
  • Write better (clearer, simpler) content
  • Examine your SERPs with the goal of understanding search intent so you can meet it
  • Lean on subject matter experts to make your brand more trustworthy
  • Conduct a reputation audit — what’s on the internet about your company that people can find?

And last, but certainly not least, stop fighting about this stuff. It’s boring.

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Thank you, Ruth!

Dana DiTomaso — Improved Reporting & Analytics Within Google Tools

Freshly fueled with cinnamon buns and glowing with the energy of a thousand jolts of caffeine, we were ready to dive back into it — this time with Dana from Kick Point.

This year was a continuation of Dana’s talk on goal charters. If you haven’t checked that out yet or you need a refresher, you can view it here

Dana emphasized the importance of data hygiene. Messy analytics, missing tracking codes, poorly labeled events… we’ve all been there. Dana is a big advocate of documenting every component of your analytics.

She also blew us away with a ton of great insight on making our reports accessible — from getting rid of jargon and using the client’s language to using colors that are compatible with printing.

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And just when we thought it couldn’t get any more actionable, Dana drops some free Google Data Studio resources on us! You can check them out here.

(Also, close your tabs!)

Rob Bucci — Local Market Analytics: The Challenges and Opportunities

The first thing you need to know is that Rob finally did it — he finally got a cat.

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Very bold of Rob to assume he would have our collective attention after dropping something adorable like that on us. Luckily, we were all able to regroup and focus on his talk — how there are challenges aplenty in the local search landscape, but there are even more opportunities if you overcome them.

Rob came equipped with a ton of stats about localized SERPs that have massive implications for rank tracking.

  • 73 percent of the 1.2 million SERPs he analyzed contained some kind of localized feature.
  • 25 percent of the sites he was tracking had some degree of variability between markets.
  • 85 percent was the maximum variability he saw across zip codes in a single market.

That’s right… rankings can vary by zip code, even for queries you don’t automatically associate as local intent. Whether you’re a national brand without physical storefronts or you’re a single-location retail store, localization has a huge impact on how you show up to your audience.

With this in mind, Rob announced a huge initiative that Moz has been working on… Local Market Analytics — complete with local search volume! Eep! See how you perform on hyper-local SERPs with precision and ease — whether you’re an online or location-based business.

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It launched today as an invitation-only limited release. Want an invite? Request it here

Ross Simmonds— Keywords Aren’t Enough: How to Uncover Content Ideas Worth Chasing

Ross Simmonds was up next, and he dug into how you might be creating content wrong if you’re building it strictly around keyword research.

The methodology we marketers need to remember is Research – Rethink – Remix.

Research:

  • Find the channel your audience spends time on. What performs well? How can you serve this audience?

Rethink:

  • Find the content that your audience wants most. What topics resonate? What stories connect?

Remix:

  • Measure how your audience responds to the content. Can this be remixed further? How can we remix at scale?

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If you use this method and you still aren’t sure if you should pursue a content opportunity, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will it give us a positive ROI?
  • Does it fall within our circle of competence?
  • Does the benefit outweigh the cost of creation?
  • Will it give us shares and links and engagement?

Thanks, Ross, for such an actionable session!

Shannon McGuirk — How to Supercharge Link Building with a Digital PR Newsroom

Shannon of Aira Digital took the floor with real-life examples of how her team does link building at scale with what she calls the “digital PR newsroom.”

The truth is, most of us are still link building like it’s 1948 with “planned editorial” content. When we do this, we’re missing out on a ton of opportunity (about 66%!) that can come from reactive editorial and planned reactive editorial.

Shannon encouraged us to try tactics that have worked for her team such as:

  • Having morning scrum meetings to go over trending topics and find reactive opportunities
  • Staffing your team with both storytellers and story makers
  • Holding quarterly reviews to see which content types performed best and using that to inform future work

Her talk was so good that she even changed Cyrus’s mind about link building!

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For free resources on how you can set up your own digital PR newsroom, visit: aira.net/mozcon19.

Darren Shaw— From Zero to Local Ranking Hero

Next up, Darren of Whitespark chronicled his 8-month long journey to growing a client’s local footprint.

Here’s what he learned and encouraged us to implement in response:

  • Track from multiple zip codes around the city
  • Make sure your citations are indexed
  • The service area section in GMB won’t help you rank in those areas. It’s for display purposes only
  • Invest in a Google reviews strategy
  • The first few links earned really have a positive impact, but it reaches a point of diminishing returns
  • Any individual strategy will probably hit a point of diminishing returns
  • A full website is better than a single-page GMB website when it comes to local rankings

As SEOs, we’d all do well to remember that it’s not one specific activity, but the aggregate, that will move the needle!

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Russ Jones — Esse Quam Videri: When Faking it is Harder than Making It

Rounding out day one of MozCon was our very own Russ Jones on Esse Quam Videri — “To be, rather than to seem.”

By Russ’s own admission, he’s a pretty good liar, and so too are many SEOs. In a poll Russ ran on Twitter, he found that 64 percent of SEOs state that they have promoted sites they believe are not the best answer to the query. We can be so “rank-centric” that we engage in tactics that make our websites look like we care about the users, when in reality, what we really care about is that Google sees it.

Russ encouraged SEOs to help guide the businesses we work for to “be real companies” rather than trying to look like real companies purely for SEO benefit.

Thanks to Russ for reminding us to stop sacrificing the long run for the short run!

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Phew — what a day!

And it ain’t over yet! There are two more days to make the most of MozCon, connect with fellow attendees, and pick the brains of our speakers. 

In the meantime, tell me in the comments below — if you had to pick just one thing, what was your favorite part about day one?

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How to Target Featured Snippet Opportunities — Best of Whiteboard Friday

Posted by BritneyMuller

Once you’ve identified where the opportunity to nab a featured snippet lies, how do you go about targeting it? Part One of our “Featured Snippet Opportunities” series focused on how to discover places where you may be able to win a snippet, but today we’re focusing on how to actually make changes that’ll help you do that. 

Joining us at MozCon next week? This video is a great lead up to Britney’s talk: Featured Snippets: Essentials to Know & How to Target.

Give a warm, Mozzy welcome to Britney as she shares pro tips and examples of how we’ve been able to snag our own snippets using her methodology.

Target featured snippet opportunities

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

Video Transcription

Today, we are going over targeting featured snippets, Part 2 of our featured snippets series. Super excited to dive into this.

What’s a featured snippet?

For those of you that need a little brush-up, what’s a featured snippet? Let’s say you do a search for something like, “Are pigs smarter than dogs?” You’re going to see an answer box that says, “Pigs outperform three-year old human children on cognitive tests and are smarter than any domestic animal. Animal experts consider them more trainable than cats or dogs.” How cool is that? But you’ll likely see these answer boxes for all sorts of things. So something to sort of keep an eye on. How do you become a part of that featured snippet box? How do you target those opportunities?

Last time, we talked about finding keywords that you rank on page one for that also have a featured snippet. There are a couple ways to do that. We talk about it in the first video. Something I do want to mention, in doing some of that the last couple weeks, is that Ahrefs can help you discover your featured snippet opportunities. I had no idea that was possible. Really cool, go check them out. If you don’t have Ahrefs and maybe you have Moz or SEMrush, don’t worry, you can do the same sort of thing with a Vlookup.

So I know this looks a little crazy for those of you that aren’t familiar. Super easy. It basically allows you to combine two sets of data to show you where some of those opportunities are. So happy to link to some of those resources down below or make a follow-up video on how to do just that.

1. Identify

All right. So step one is identifying these opportunities. You want to find the keywords that you’re on page one for that also have this answer box. You want to weigh the competitive search volume against qualified traffic. Initially, you might want to just go after search volume. I highly suggest you sort of reconsider and evaluate where might the qualified traffic come from and start to go after those.

2. Understand

From there, you really just want to understand the intent, more so even beyond this table that I have suggested for you. To be totally honest, I’m doing all of this with you. It’s been a struggle, and it’s been fun, but sometimes this isn’t very helpful. Sometimes it is. But a lot of times I’m not even looking at some of this stuff when I’m comparing the current featured snippet page and the page that we currently rank on page one for. I’ll tell you what I mean in a second.

3. Target

So we have an example of how I’ve been able to already steal one. Hopefully, it helps you. How do you target your keywords that have the featured snippet?

  • Simplifying and cleaning up your pages does wonders. Google wants to provide a very simple, cohesive, quick answer for searchers and for voice searches. So definitely try to mold the content in a way that’s easy to consume.
  • Summaries do well. Whether they’re at the top of the page or at the bottom, they tend to do very, very well.
  • Competitive markup, if you see a current featured snippet that is marked up in a particular way, you can do so to be a little bit more competitive.
  • Provide unique info
  • Dig deeper, go that extra mile, provide something else. Provide that value.

How To Target Featured Snippet Examples

What are some examples? So these are just some examples that I personally have been running into and I’ve been working on cleaning up.

  • Roman numerals. I am trying to target a list result, and the page we currently rank on number one for has Roman numerals. Maybe it’s a big deal, maybe it’s not. I just changed them to numbers to see what’s going to happen. I’ll keep you posted.
  • Fix broken links. But I’m also just going through our page and cleaning it. We have a lot of older content. I’m fixing broken links. I have the Check My Links tool. It’s a Chrome add-on plugin that I just click and it tells me what’s a 404 or what I might need to update.
  • Fixing spelling errors or any grammatical errors that may have slipped through editors’ eyes. I use Grammarly. I have the free version. It works really well, super easy. I’ve even found some super old posts that have the double or triple spacing after a period. It drives me crazy, but cleaning some of that stuff up.
  • Deleting extra markup. You might see some additional breaks, not necessarily like that ampersand. But you know what I mean in WordPress where it’s that weird little thing for that break in the space, you can clean those out. Some extra, empty header markup, feel free to delete those. You’re just cleaning and simplifying and improving your page.

One interesting thing that I’ve come across recently was for the keyword “MozRank.” Our page is beautifully written, perfectly optimized. It has all the things in place to be that featured snippet, but it’s not. That is when I fell back and I started to rely on some of this data. I saw that the current featured snippet page has all these links.

So I started to look into what are some easy backlinks I might be able to grab for that page. I came across Quora that had a question about MozRank, and I noticed that — this is a side tip — you can suggest edits to Quora now, which is amazing. So I suggested a link to our Moz page, and within the notes I said, “Hello, so and so. I found this great resource on MozRank. It completely confirms your wonderful answer. Thank you so much, Britney.”

I don’t know if that’s going to work. I know it’s a nofollow. I hope it can send some qualified traffic. I’ll keep you posted on that. But kind of a fun tip to be aware of.

How we nabbed the “find backlinks” featured snippet

All right. How did I nab the featured snippet “find backlinks”? This surprised me, because I hardly changed much at all, and we were able to steal that featured snippet quite easily. We were currently in the fourth position, and this was the old post that was in the fourth position. These are the updates I made that are now in the featured snippet.

Clean up the title

So we go from the title “How to Find Your Competitor’s Backlinks Next Level” to “How to Find Backlinks.” I’m just simplifying, cleaning it up.

Clean up the H2s

The first H2, “How to Check the Backlinks of a Site.” Clean it up, “How to Find Backlinks?” That’s it. I don’t change step one. These are all in H3s. I leave them in the H3s. I’m just tweaking text a little bit here and there.

Simplify and clarify your explanations/remove redundancies

I changed “Enter your competitor’s domain URL” — it felt a little duplicate — to “Enter your competitor’s URL.” Let’s see. “Export results into CSV,” what kind of results? I changed that to “export backlink data into CSV.” “Compile CSV results from all competitors,” what kind of results? “Compile backlink CSV results from all competitors.”

So you can look through this. All I’m doing is simplifying and adding backlinks to clarify some of it, and we were able to nab that.

So hopefully that example helps. I’m going to continue to sort of drudge through a bunch of these with you. I look forward to any of your comments, any of your efforts down below in the comments. Definitely looking forward to Part 3 and to chatting with you all soon.

Thank you so much for joining me on this edition of Whiteboard Friday. I look forward to seeing you all soon. See you.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


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How to Make the Most of MozCon (and Stay Motivated Once it’s Over)

Posted by Kirsten_Barkved

Show of hands if the following scenario has ever happened to you:

You make it to a conference. You sit through three to four days of amazing content, network like a boss, fill up on coffee and donuts, and cover page after page of notes — your wrist is dangerously close to being diagnosed with carpal tunnel. The energy in the room is contagious and everyone leaves the conference with the promise of new strategies, connections, and ideas that have the possibility to transform the way you think about business.

Photo credit: Turk Photos

At least, that’s the dream. But the reality is that once the conference is over, you’re back to the grind. No longer surrounded by that vibrant “we can do anything” energy that had you so inspired just days before — the buzz is now a dull hum. Your notebook is full of scribbles that you can no longer decipher, and you have a daunting to-do list to catch up on while you nurse a sugar hangover from eating three-days worth of the best damn donuts you’ve ever had.

You’ve lost the fire. The conference motivation is gone. You, my friend, have the post-conference scaries.

Now, it’s July and you’ll be at MozCon in less than a week. The excitement is building. But so is the anxiety: you know there’s going to be a ton of insightful talks and takeaways to write home about. But how do you keep all that goodness going after MozCon?

We’ve all been there! And with MozCon fast approaching, we want to make sure you’re set up for success. So we put together an effective guide to make sure you can put all the goodness you’ve absorbed to work straight away. We even asked our Subject Matter Experts for some advice. Read on to see what Britney MullerRob Bucci, Cyrus ShepardDr. Pete, and Miriam Ellis have to offer!

Get your tickets before they’re gone!

Before you head to MozCon, though, make sure you do these things first

We know this isn’t your first rodeo. But on the off chance that it is, or if you need a reminder before you set foot in MozCon, make like the Boy Scouts of America: Be prepared.

Because I’m a keener (remind me to tell you about the time I waited for 24 hours to be first in line for The Fellowship of the Ring movie) with a tendency to overprepare (remind me also to tell you about my first day of school where I packed all my favorite Nancy Drews, my best pencil crayons, a raincoat, and a pair of extra socks), I spend quite a chunk of time ensuring I have everything I need before an event. 

You don’t need to be as prepared as my eight-year-old self, but here’s a brief checklist of things to do before you pack your bags and set sail for MozCon:

  • Study the agenda — You’ve likely already glanced at who’s speaking. Take another skim to get an idea of who is speaking and what topics will fulfill an educational gap. Even if a topic isn’t related to your area of work, it’s still worthwhile to listen — who knows what you’ll uncover. 
  • Set goals for what you’d like to learn — Whatever your game plan looks like, flesh it out to flesh out. Show up ready to learn.
  • Prepare your note-taking tools — There is no such thing as too many pens, not at a conference like MozCon. You’ll be taking a ton of notes, so prepare your note-taking tools, whatever they may be — charge your laptop or tablets, pack a spare notebook and some well-inked pens, or practice your telepathy if you plan on sending takeaways to your team via your mind.
  • Subscribe to the Moz blog — We have oodles of content for you to sink your teeth into and there’s something for everyone, from basic SEO to local search to the nitty-gritty technical. Plus, we’ll be doing conference recaps after each day, so even if you couldn’t make it this year, you’ll get all the juicy details straight to your inbox when you subscribe.
  • Connect — There is ample opportunity at MozCon to network and meet new people but it never hurts to get a lay of the digital land before you step foot in Seattle. Follow the hashtag #mozcon on Twitter to stay up to date with MozCon goers and ask important questions of our speakers, like this:

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You can also join the Facebook group to find out when people are arriving and pop in on conversations to get your name and face out there. If you know of people you want to reconnect that will be attending, now is a good idea to reach out and reconnect. Set up a time to chat over a coffee or maybe make plans to sit together at our Birds of Feather table.

At the conference

It’s Day One of MozCon and you’ve successfully found the coffee. Now what?

Attend every session…

And we mean every. Single. Session. 

The great thing about MozCon is that it’s a single track session, so you don’t have to pick one talk over another. That also means, though, that the temptation can be high for skipping one or two. 

“It may be tempting to sleep in on a morning session, but so much magic happens when you aren’t there. You never know what nuggets of insight you’ll miss.” — Cyrus Shepard

“I often find I have some of my best ideas at conferences, even if they’re not related to anything the speaker is talking about. Capture those ideas, too, and add them to your action plan.” — Dr. Pete

…But don’t be afraid to mingle in-between sessions

“Take breaks if you feel like it and spend some time meeting people out in the lobby. New MozCon friends can help hold each other accountable after the conference. I’ve met some of my closest industry friends in the lobby of conferences during a session — hi, Cyrus!” — Britney Muller

Remember what you learn

There’s a lot of information to digest and chances are that your hurried note-taking isn’t going to make a ton of sense once the MozCon high is over. To make deciphering your notes easier once you’re back at the office, add three key takeaways or any follow up you want to do on the topic after each session.

You can also create a page dedicated to takeaways that you think are worthy. While I’m definitely taking notes during each session, I reserve a separate page for any ideas, theories, or strategies that I think are valuable to explore.

Make sure you’re keeping your goals in mind, too. If you had planned on learning new things at MozCon, keep your ears open for any topics that piqued your interest.

“Write down at least one topic that grabbed your interest but that you felt could be studied further and commit to doing that study at your business and publishing your findings. Don’t forget to ping the original presenter when you do, letting them know their talk inspired your further investigation.” — Miriam Ellis

“At the end of each conference day, I also like to schedule emails to myself (a few weeks out) as reminders to attempt the things I learned about that day.” — Britney Muller

Keep tabs on live tweeters

MozCon has some pretty prolific live tweeters that know just how to distill all the right takeaways into 280 characters (which, IMO, is quite a feat). Some of our past MozCon live-tweeters have included: 

You can also keep up with the conference goers by following the conference hashtag, #mozcon.

“Also, follow Cyrus Shepard on Twitter and do everything he says!” — Britney Muller

Take note of any free templates, tools, or spreadsheets

Much like parents who want nothing but the best from you (and also to sometimes show off your life successes on the family fridge), the speakers want you to excel in life after MozCon. Which is why you’re bound to find a plethora of downloadable templates and spreadsheets during their talk. Take note of any that you’d like to try back at the office. Make sure to also follow the speakers on Twitter for any updates or insider tips on how to make the most of their new resources.

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Download the talks

I’m sure you already know, but on the off chance you didn’t know, you’ll be able to download all the speaker’s slide decks once their talks are over. So if there was something you missed, wanted to share with the team at home base, or needed clarification on, you can do so with one click of a button once they’re available.

After the conference

Write about it

I know the last thing you want to do right after three days of learning and writing is to go and do more writing. But Future You will be so happy that Past You did this one thing. 

The second you’re done MozCon-ing, write everything down. Get it all out of your brain and onto paper. Because otherwise, you’ll forget why you underlined a word or phrase three times or the cool new project ideas you had while chatting at dinner. You won’t mean to, obviously. It’s just one of those unfortunate facts of life. Kind of like drifting off to sleep with a really great idea for a band name — you’ll tuck it away in a pocket of your brain, certain you won’t forget about it in the morning. But you will. And the world will never know of They Might Be Little Pigeons

So, write everything down the second you can.

“I’m one of those people who takes notes like, “Cheese fritters + SEO = YES!” and am very excited about it and have no idea what it meant a week later. So: Re-copy your notes or write a summary, ASAP, while it’s still fresh in your mind— even if it’s on the flight home.” — Dr. Pete

Schedule thinking time

The first week back at the office, block out some time in your calendar to percolate over what you learned at MozCon. I can’t stress this one enough: When we get back into the real world, we dive right into our list of to-dos, at home and at work. And the longer we delay the thinking and brainstorming process, the bigger the chance we’ll lose motivation or get bogged down by more projects. 

Carve out some thinking time for yourself in your calendar the second you’re back at your desk to ask yourself some questions:

  • What really stood out for me?
  • What do I want to apply right away?
  • What is going to be effective short term vs. long term?

I like to ideate to-do lists from these questions — maybe that’s a follow-up email with the speaker or a task to read further resources from their talk. Or maybe it’s to set up a meeting with my team to try out a new strategy. The point is: if I take this time now to marinate, the better chance I have of helping out future me — and future me really appreciates that.

“It’s so easy to go from hundreds of ideas to doing nothing concrete, and as soon as you return to your desk, you’re going to be buried in emails and requests. Commit to something actionable before you open up your inbox.” — Dr. Pete

Review your action items

Now that you’ve done your big thinking, it’s time to turn those takeaways and actions items into, well, action. 

Think back to the goals you outlined before you set foot inside MozCon — did you meet any of them? How well did the topics address your questions? And how will you apply your action items? When I’m looking over my notes for any new ideas we can execute on, I like to make a table with two columns: 1) Things that we don’t do but could and 2) Things we’re currently doing but could be doing better.

Got a lot of action items and feel a tad overwhelmed? Just remember: If you apply just one action item a week, even if it’s small, that’s still fifty small changes you’ve made in one year. And they can all add up to one big change.

You’ll want to prioritize them like so:

  • Strategic initiatives to implement right away
  • Processes you can improve
  • Areas for future learning

“A week after the conference, review your “action items” — either by yourself or with your team. Prepare a presentation for the top things you learned and share with any team members that didn’t attend.” — Cyrus Shepard

“Pin yourself down to three specific to-dos for the month after the conference.” — Dr. Pete

Stay inspired

Remember that anything in life worth having (relationships, bangs, product launches, puzzles) requires more than just an idea — it takes time and work. Rather than let all that enthusiasm you had at MozCon fade away, keep the momentum going by reading and learning new things. A good place to start is by subscribing to daily industry reads that can fuel your inspiration. Here is just a sampling to get you started: 

“Having a go-to list of daily industry reads is a really good way to keep the sense of inspiration up.” — Rob Bucci

Use your connections

What good was all that networking if you don’t put it to use — especially if, like me, you’re a Level-12 Introvert?

Make sure all those hard-earned connections don’t go to waste. Chances are, if you saw them at MozCon, you’ll be seeing them at the same tracks and conferences, so it’d be good to set some sort of foundation

All it takes is a LinkedIn message or an email. And they’ll appreciate you following up — bonus points if you make it personal. I’ve made several follow up emails after conferences and almost all blossomed into successful working relationships thanks in large part to emails that began as though we were continuing the conversation we had at MozCon. It doesn’t have to be the same as “Hi, how’s your dog, is she still afraid of traffic cones?,” but a nice “Hi, how is life after MozCon — are you settling back into the 9-5, yet?” goes a long way.

“It’s great to collect business cards, but it’s better to form life-long relationships. If you haven’t connected with those you met at MozCon, now is the time to do so. At a minimum, email everyone you enjoyed meeting with and let them know that you can be a resource for them.” — Cyrus Shepard

Takeaways

MozCon only comes once a year — like International Pancake Day or 7-11’s Free Slurpee Day — so make sure you’re prepared so you can keep that MozCon fire burning all year round.

Grab my MozCon ticket now!

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New Things I’ve Learned About Google Review Likes

Posted by MiriamEllis

Last time I counted, there were upwards of 35 components to a single Google Business Profile (GBP). Hotel panels, in and of themselves, are enough to make one squeal, but even on a more “typical” GPB, it’s easy to overlook some low-lying features. Often, you may simply ignore them until life makes you engage.

A few weeks ago, a local SEO came to me with a curious real-life anecdote, in which a client was pressuring the agency to have all their staff hit the “like” button on all of the brand’s positive Google reviews. Presumably, the client felt this would help their business in some manner. More on the nitty-gritty of this scenario later, but at first, it made me face that I’d set this whole GBP feature to one side of my brain as not terribly important.

Fast forward a bit, and I’ve now spent a couple of days looking more closely at the review like button, its uses, abuses, and industry opinions about it. I’ve done a very small study, conducted a poll, and spoken to three different Google reps. Now, I’m ready to share what I’ve learned with you.

Wait, what is the “like” button?

Crash course: Rolled out in 2016, this simple function allows anyone logged into a Google account to thumbs-up any review they like. There is no opposite thumbs-down function. From the same account, you can only thumb up a single review once. Hitting the button twice simply reverses the “liking” action. Google doesn’t prevent anyone from hitting the button, including owners of the business being reviewed.

At a glance, do Google review likes influence anything?

My teammate, Kameron Jenkins, and I plugged 20 totally random local businesses into a spreadsheet, with 60 total reviews being highlighted on the front interface of the GBP. Google highlights just three reviews on the GBP and I wanted to know two things:

  1. How many businesses out of twenty had a liked review anywhere in their corpus
  2. Did the presence of likes appear to be impacting which reviews Google was highlighting on the front of the GBP?

The study was very small, and should certainly be expanded on, but here’s what I saw:

60 percent of the brands had earned at least one like somewhere in their review corpus.

15 percent of the time, Google highlighted only reviews with zero likes, even when a business had liked reviews elsewhere in its corpus. But, 85 percent of the time, if a business had some likes, at least one liked review was making it to the front of the GBP.

At a glance, I’d say it looks like a brand’s liked reviews may have an advantage when it comes to which sentiment Google highlights. This can be either a positive or negative scenario, depending on whether the reviews that get thumbed up on your listing are your positive or negative reviews.

And that leads us to…

Google’s guidelines for the use of the review likes function

But don’t get too excited, because it turns out, no such guidelines exist. Though it’s been three years since Google debuted this potentially-influential feature, I’ve confirmed with them that nothing has actually been published about what you should and shouldn’t do with this capability. If that seems like an open invitation to spam, I hear you!

So, since there were no official rules, I had to hunt for the next best thing. I was thinking about that SEO agency with the client wanting to pay them to thumb up reviews when I decided to take a Twitter poll. I asked my followers:

Unsurprisingly, given the lack of guidelines, 15 percent of 111 respondents had no idea whether it would be fishy to employ staff or markers to thumb up brand reviews. The dominant 53 percent felt it would be totally fine, but a staunch 32 percent called it spam. The latter group added additional thoughts like these:

I want to thank Tess Voecks, Gyi Tsakalakis, and everyone else for taking the poll. And I think the disagreement in it is especially interesting when we look at what happens next.

After polling the industry, I contacted three forms of Google support: phone, chat, and Twitter. If you found it curious that SEOs might disagree about whether or not paying for review likes is spam, I’m sorry to tell you that Google’s own staff doesn’t have brand-wide consensus on this either. In three parts:

1. The Google phone rep was initially unfamiliar with what the like button is. I explained it to her. First, I asked if it was okay for the business owner to hit the like button on the brand’s reviews, she confirmed that it’s fine to do that. This didn’t surprise me. But, when I asked the question about paying people to take such actions, she replied (I paraphrase):

“If a review is being liked by people apart from the owner, it’s not considered as spam.”

“What if the business owner is paying people, like staff or marketers, to like their reviews,” I asked.

“No, it’s not considered spam.”

“Not even then?”

“No,” she said.

2. Next, here’s a screenshot of my chat with a Google rep:

The final response actually amused me (i.e. yeah, go ahead and do that if you want to, but I wouldn’t do it if I were you).

3. Finally, I spoke with Google’s Twitter support, which I always find helpful:

To sum up, we had one Google rep tell is it would be fine and dandy to pay people to thumb up reviews (uh-oh!), but the other two warned against doing this. We’ll go with majority rule here and try to cobble together our own guidelines, in the absence of public ones.

My guidelines for use of the review likes function

Going forward with what we’ve learned, here’s what I would recommend:

  1. As a business owner, if you receive a review you appreciate, definitely go ahead and thumb it up. It may have some influence on what makes it to the highly-visible “front” of your Google Business Profile, and, even if not, it’s a way of saying “thank you” to the customer when you’re also writing your owner response. So, a nice review comes in, respond with thanks and hit the like button. End of story.
  2. Don’t tell anyone in your employ to thumb up your brand’s reviews. That means staff, marketers, and dependents to whom you pay allowance. Two-thirds of Google reps agree this would be spam, and 32 percent of respondents to my poll got it right about this. Buying likes is almost as sad a strategy as buying reviews. You could get caught and damage the very reputation you are hoping to build. It’s just not worth the risk.
  3. While we’re on the subject, avoid the temptation to thumbs-up your competitors’ negative reviews in hopes of getting them to surface on GBPs. Let’s just not go there. I didn’t ask Google specifically about this, but can’t you just see some unscrupulous party deciding this is clever?
  4. If you suspect someone is artificially inflating review likes on positive or negative reviews, the Twitter Google rep suggests flagging the review. So, this is a step you can take, though my confidence in Google taking action on such measures is not high. But, you could try.

How big of a priority should review likes be for local brands?

In the grand scheme of things, I’d put this low on the scale of local search marketing initiatives. As I mentioned, I’d given only a passing glance at this function over the past few years until I was confronted with the fact that people were trying to spam their way to purchased glory with it.

If reputation is a major focus for your brand (and it should be!) I’d invest more resources into creating excellent in-store experiences, review acquisition and management, and sentiment analysis than I would in worrying too much about those little thumbs. But, if you have some time to spare on a deep rep dive, it could be interesting to see if you can analyze why some types of your brand’s reviews get likes and if there’s anything you can do to build on that. I can also see showing positive reviewers that you reward their nice feedback with likes, if for no other reason than a sign of engagement.

What’s your take? Do you know anything about review likes that I should know? Please, share in the comments, and you know what I’ll do if you share a good tip? I’ll thumb up your reply!

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How to Make a Technical SEO Recommendation – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by BenjaminEstes

After you’ve put in the work with technical SEO and made your discoveries, there’s one thing left to do: present your findings to the client and agree on next steps. And like many things in our industry, that’s easier said than done. In this week’s episode of Whiteboard Friday, Benjamin Estes from Distilled presents his framework for making technical recommendations to clients and stakeholders to best position you for success

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

Video Transcription

Hi. My name is Ben. I’m a principal consultant at a company called Distilled. Welcome to Whiteboard Friday. Today I’d like to talk to you about something a bit different than most Whiteboard Fridays.

I’d like to talk about how to work with clients or bosses in a different way. Instead of thinking about technical SEO and how to make technical discoveries or see what problems are, I want to talk about how to present your findings to your client after you’ve done that discovery. 

Problem

What’s the problem that we’re dealing with here? Well, the scenario is that we’ve got a recommendation and we’re presenting it to a client or a boss.

Easy enough. But what’s the goal of that situation? I would argue that there’s a very specific goal, and the best way to look at it is the goal is to change the action of the individual or the organization. Now, what if that wasn’t the case? You know, what if you worked with a client and none of their actions changed as a result of that engagement? Well, what was the point?

You know, should they have even trusted you in the first place to come in and help them? So if this is the specific goal that we’re trying to accomplish, what’s the best way to do that? Most people jump right to persuasion. They say, “If only I could something, the client would listen to me.” “If only I could present the forecast.”

If only I could justify the ROI, something, some mysterious research that probably hasn’t been done yet and maybe can’t even be done at all. My argument here is that the idea of persuasion is toxic. When you say, “If only I could this,” really what you mean is, “If only I had the evidence, the client would have to do as I say.” You’re trying to get control over the client when you say these things.

It turns out that human beings basically do whatever they want to do, and no matter how well you make your case, if it’s made for your reasons and not the client’s, they’re still not going to want to do the thing that you recommend. So I’ve introduced a framework at Distilled that helps us get past this, and that’s what I’d like to share with you right now.

Approach

The key to this method is that at each step of the process you allow the client to solve the problem for themselves. You give them the opportunity to see the problem from their own perspective and maybe even come up with their own solution. There are three steps to this. 

1. Suggest

First, you suggest the problem.

When I say “suggest,” I don’t mean suggest a solution. I mean you plant the idea in their mind that this is a problem that needs solving. It’s almost like inception. So you first say, “Here is what I see.” Hold up the mirror to them. Make the observations that they haven’t yet made themselves. 

2. Demonstrate

Step two, demonstrate, and what demonstrate means is you’re allowing them to emulate your behavior.

You’re demonstrating what you would do in that situation if you had to deal with the same problem. So you say, “Here’s what I would do if I were in your shoes.” 

3. Elaborate

Finally, you elaborate. You say, “Here’s why I think this is a reasonable activity.” Now I’ve got to be honest. Most of the time, in my experience, if you use this framework, you never even make it to elaboration, because the client solves the problem somewhere back here and you can just end the meeting.

The key, again, is to let the client solve the problem for themselves, for their own reason, in the way that they feel most comfortable. 

Example

Let’s look at an example, because that is, again, kind of abstract. So let’s say that you’ve made an observation in Google Search Console. The client has all these pages that Google has discovered, but they shouldn’t really be in the index or indexable or discoverable at all.

Start by suggesting

So you start by suggesting. “I see in Search Console that Google has discovered 18 million pages,”when it should be, let’s say, 10,000. “This is from your faceted navigation.” Now notice there’s no judgment. There’s no hint at what should be done about this or even the severity of the problem. You’re just presenting the numbers.

Now we’re already sort of at a turning point. Maybe the client hears this and they do a sort of a head slap and they say, “Of course. You know, I hadn’t seen that problem before. But here’s what I think we should do about it.” You reach some sort of agreement, and the problem is solved and the meeting is over and you get that hour back in your day. But maybe they sort of have some sort of questions about what this means, what this implies, and they want to hear your solution.

Demonstrate what you would do

Well, now it’s time to demonstrate what you would do when presented with that fact. You say, “This would be fixed by adding ‘nofollow’ to links to that faceted content.” Maybe they see how this is an obvious solution to the problem that’s completely compatible with their tech stack, and again you get 50 minutes back in your day because the meeting is done.

You’ve done your job. Or maybe they don’t. Maybe they don’t understand why that would be a good solution. 

Finally, elaborate

So finally, you get to this stage, which is elaboration. “Here’s why I think this is a good idea. These pages are important for user experience. You don’t want to get rid of the faceted navigation in your e-commerce store, but you do want to not link to those pages for SEO reasons, because maybe there’s no search volume for related terms.”

So for a particular cost range for an item or something like that, there’s just no associated search activity. You need the pages still. So you say, “These pages are important for user experience, but they don’t satisfy any search intent.” At that point, the client says, “Of course. You’ve come up with the ideal solution, and I’m going to implement your recommendation exactly as you’ve given it to me.”



Or they don’t. If they don’t, you’re no worse off. You can basically walk out of that meeting saying, “I’ve done everything possible to get the client on board with my recommendation, but it just didn’t work out.” That feeling of being able to know that you did the right thing has been a very powerful one, at least in my experience. I’ve been consulting for about eight years, and just going through this process helps me sleep better at night knowing that I really did my job.

We’ve also found that this has a really high success rate with clients too. Finally, you’ll discover that it’s much, much easier to put together presentations if you know that this is the format that you’re going to be presenting in. So if you think that your job is to give the evidence to the client to convince them of something, there’s really no end to the evidence that you could gather.

You could always gather more evidence, and when you get to that final meeting, you can say, “Oh, it’s not because I saw the problem in the wrong way or I communicated it in the wrong way.It’s that I didn’t justify the ROI enough.” There’s no leaving that. That rabbit hole just keeps going, just keeps going. So again, this method has been extremely successful for Distilled. If you’re interested in engaging with this more, you can read at this URL, dis.tl/present, where I give a more thorough write-up on this.

Of course, I’d love to hear any thoughts or experiences that you have with this method. Thank you very much.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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How To Talk to Your Clients in a Language They Understand

Posted by Lindsay_Halsey

A few years ago, while enjoying a day of skiing at Aspen Highlands with a group of girlfriends, a skier crashed into me from above, out of nowhere. He was a professional skier traveling at an exceptionally fast speed, and I felt lucky to get away with a mere leg injury. I couldn’t put weight on my leg, though, so I went to the local emergency room.

After a few hours of various doctors and nurses running scans to diagnose the issue, a new doctor whom I’d never met walked in the room. The first words out of his mouth were, “You have a radial tear in your medial meniscus”. I had no idea what he was talking about. He continued speaking in words better suited for a medical peer than a patient.

I wasn’t at all interested in medical-speak. I was a new mom, anxious to return to my family. I wanted to know for how long and to what extent this injury would impact us, and how active I could be at home while caring for our son.

I didn’t get the answers to any of those questions. Instead, my doctor left me feeling overwhelmed, lost, and frustrated.

Using industry jargon is easy to do

Whether you are a doctor, marketer, SEO, or another specialized professional, this experience made me realize that using industry jargon is easy to do. And I realized that I was susceptible myself — I speak to clients all the time with words that made them feel alienated and confused.

The words and phrases that mean a lot to us as SEO professionals mean little or nothing to our customers.

When we utilize these phrases in conversations and assume we’re communicating effectively, we may be leaving our prospects and clients feeling overwhelmed, lost, and frustrated.

Years ago, feeling that way motivated businesses to hire SEO consultants and agencies. Ample industry jargon was tossed about in the sales process, leaving a prospect set on hiring a professional since SEO was too hard to understand.

There was no way that prospect felt confident in taking a DIY approach to getting found by the search engines; there was no other option besides signing on the dotted line. With a signature in hand, an SEO consultant could begin working some behind-the-scenes magic and deliver impactful results.

Today — and over the last five years — this approach no longer works.

Collaboration is the foundation of SEO

Today, we drive results by building a business’s expertise, authority, and trust online. Sure, there are technical SEO tasks to accomplish (and we can’t forget about foundational action items like dialing in title tags and meta descriptions). But long term, significant growth comes from impacting a business’s E-A-T. And for that, collaboration is required.

As an SEO professional, I often think of myself as a rafting guide in the search engine waters. I’ve been down this river before and already know what to expect around the next bend. I’m responsible for leading a team; our collaborative success (or failure) ultimately depends on my timely, appropriate guidance.

Yet it’s not all about me. The team (or client) is just as invested in our success. We’re sharing the same raft, and we’ve chosen to navigate the same river. They have their paddles in the water and are actively engaged in our journey, eager to work together. Working together — collaboration — means success for us all.

Communication is key to collaboration

Effective communication is critical to a collaborative environment; communication relies on language. If a rafting guide says “port side paddle forward,” his team will likely look at him with confusion. If he says “left side paddle forward,” his team will understand his language and take the right action.

One way to improve communication with prospects and clients is to remove industry jargon from our vocabulary. Over the past few years, I’ve challenged myself to use more everyday words in client communication. As a result, we are closing more business and have more satisfied customers seeing better results. It’s a win, win, win.

Here are some practical examples for communicating (and therefore better collaborating) with SEO clients:

XML Sitemap // Your Website’s Resume 

Instead of telling a client that their website “lacks an XML sitemap,” I explain that this file is like a website’s resume. You wouldn’t show up to a job interview without a resume that lists out your assets in an easily digestible format. A resume quickly summarizes your “contents,” or the structure of your relevant roles and experience — just like a sitemap summarizes the contents and structure of a website.

Link Building // Relationships 

When a client hears you talk about link building, they instantly recall how they feel when they receive spammy emails requesting a favor in the form of a link exchange. They may worry that this tactic is too aggressive or short-sighted and in violation of Google’s terms of service. Consider describing “link building” as building a network of a business’s professional relationships that the search engines quickly and easily understand. Putting up signposts that search engines can read.

Featured Snippet // Above #1

Clients are often hyper-focused on their rankings. If you talk to them about “gaining a featured snippet result,” that language will leave them lost and therefore unengaged in the initiative. Instead, focus on what they want: to rank #1 for a keyword they’ve chosen. If you’re working with a client on a new piece of complete content (to help propel them to the top of the search results by sharing their expertise), you can get the client onboard by telling them the goal is to be “above #1.” 

SEO // Getting Found

Perhaps the most important term of all is “SEO.” We all assume our prospects and clients understand what SEO stands for and why it is important. But more often than not, the acronym alone can lead to confusion. Try substituting “getting found in Google” anytime you’re tempted to say “SEO,” and your client will be connected to the value instead of confounded by the vocabulary.

Removing industry jargon has been the most impactful of our changes to client communication. We also recommend (and practice) sending monthly reports, actively seeking feedback, and setting clear expectations. Read more client communication tips on the Moz blog and at Pathfinder SEO.

What expressions and words do you use in client communications?

Let’s create a shared, jargon-free vocabulary to improve how we talk to our clients. Let’s stop leaving our clients feeling overwhelmed, lost, or frustrated with SEO. After all, collaboration is the foundation of SEO. And to collaborate, we must create — and meet on — shared ground.

Please share your ideas and experiences in the comments below.

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How to Set up a Well-Integrated Effective Link Building Campaign

Posted by AnnSmarty

Link building remains one of the most effective digital marketing tactics, and not just for higher rankings (even though links do still remain the major organic ranking factor). Links drive referral clicks, and generate leads, making your site less dependent on search and advertising traffic.

But how do you build links these days, now that most self-serving link acquisition tactics are frowned upon by Google and can result in lost search visibility?

Here’s what we know for sure:

  • Link building cannot be scaled
  • Link building is not easy or fast.

A new approach to link building integrates all kinds of marketing assets and processes including content marketing, relationship building, and influencer outreach.

This article outlines exactly how to create an effective link building campaign.

Link Acquisition Campaign Goals:

For your campaign, you want to achieve the following:

  • You want that asset to bring in links
  • You want that asset to rank (because high-ranking content keeps bringing links organically as most writers/bloggers search Google to find sources to reference)

So there’s a little bit of a vicious circle here: You cannot rank without links but links also help to rank.

Link building vicious circle

If you really want your link acquisition campaign to work, you need to aim for both: Your content asset should be linkable as well as rank on top of Google for related keywords.

What Non-Spammy Non-Scaled Link Building Methods Do We Know?

  • Researching and creating linkable content (i.e. Content that attracts backlinks)
  • Vanity baiting (ego-baiting): Featuring influencer(s) in your content for them to link back to the published content as well as attract more links (by name association)
  • Relationship building (i.e. Connecting to publishers and journalists on social media for better brand familiarity and hence higher response rate)
  • Broken link building (i.e. Reaching out to website owners linking to broken pages and offering to link to your live page instead)

If we really want to achieve both links and rankings, we need to combine all of those link acquisition methods within one campaign:

Combine

Before we get into steps and tools, let’s illustrate the above with an example:

Sample Link Building Campaign

We had an ecommerce client manufacturing and selling LED lamps and our research included “light” as the core topic. We came up with the following content angles:

    • Light Therapy
    • Light and (Kids’) Creativity
    • Light and Productivity

While we were doing our content research, we came across multiple articles across a lot of top publications referencing an interview (dating back to 2015) with a professor from NY Lighting Research Center talking about the impact of blue light on Alzheimer’s patients.

The interview had long been deleted but the links were all still there.

With that in mind, we took the following steps:

  • We contacted the professor to get an updated quote on the topic. The professor shared her new interior room designs for Alzheimer’s patients which happened to perfectly align with our client’s main ecommerce focus, i.e. “interior lightning.”
  • We did some additional research (including keyword research) to identify what we want the asset to rank for to be able to get discovered by more bloggers and journalists.
  • At the same time, even before we started working on the actual content, we tracked down all those journalists and bloggers who had written about the deleted interview. We also identified more key influencers who were covering the topic (sticking to our specific angle, e.g. Alzheimer’s disease). We put together a Twitter list and started interacting with them to familiarize them with our team before we reach out.

This way, by the time we started to work on the actual content asset, we knew:

  • The specific linkable asset topic
  • The expert(s) we were able to include in our content
  • The bloggers and journalists we were going to reach out to as soon as it went live
Campaign

By the time we started our actual outreach, we had two strong advantages:

1. We could reference our professor in the outreach email:

Ego-bait

2. We could reference other influencers who interacted with us on Twitter (or even already linked to us). Additionally, we could use our newly-built social media connections to follow up and find more people to reach out to:

Outreach campaign

Note: None of these tactics should be step 1: They are all launched together to inform, direct and empower one another.

Tools for every part of the process

Now that we have agreed there are no “steps” here (because all of those tactics should be connected), here is the tool you can use to launch a well-integrated highly-effective link building campaign:

1. Content asset creation

Like most content creation campaigns, this one starts with brainstorming. It is a specific type of brainstorming, though, one that starts with “linkable” angles, i.e. you want to keep your planned “linking” leads in mind. Generally, the following content angles usually bring in links quite easily:

  • “Safety of XX”
  • “History of XX” (especially if you plan to reach out to educators)
  • Recent research (especially if you plan to reach out to journalists)
  • Industry survey (and stats). This usually goes well with niche bloggers.

Image source and more details: digitaleagles.com.au

But there can be more, depending on what it is you are doing. For example, if you own (or market for) a local business, those angles should be localized.

The format of your linkable asset is another thing to think about. There are many options here:

Formats

Note: There’s no need to stick to one format. You can (and probably should) experiment with several of those by using content re-purposing.

2. TextOptimizer for Brainstorming

Text Optimizer is a great tool to help you find more angles to narrow your research down. It uses semantic analysis to extract related concepts and entities from Google search result snippets, helping you to find more specific angles to cover.

Once you know your specific topic ideas, put them in TextOptimizer, one by one, to find related angles and questions to focus on:

Text Optimizer research

More tools for content research: Research and optimize for niche questions

3. Determining your outreach targets

This is a multi-step, continuous process that never really stops. One of the easiest and quickest way to start is to run the “Top pages” tool inside Serpstat that determines web pages that show up in Google for the variety of queries around your core term:

Serpstat top pages

Note: Export the whole list of top-ranking pages for your core query and determine outreach tactics for each one.

4. Twitter Bio search for more outreach targets

Social media marketing won’t probably bring in organic links on its own but social media (especially Twitter) is an awesome outreach tool to utilize in combination with traditional email outreach.

Twitter bio search is one of the most effective ways to generate link-building leads. Twiangulate is a great Twitter bio search that helps you:

  • Find Twitter users by a certain keyword mentioned in their bio (or the combination of keywords)
  • Find Twitter users by location (this is a great way to find local journalists and bloggers)
  • Find common connections of two Twitter accounts (this is a very useful feature for ego-bait content outreach which allows you to find who is connected to your included experts)
  • Find Twitter followers by a keyword (among friends of a certain account). This one can be used to find active Twitter users that work at the publication you are targeting for links:
Twiangulate

5. Broken link building

Ahrefs has one of the coolest link building features out there allowing you to see (and export) all pages linking to broken pages within any domain. To access the report, run your identified leaders in the target niche and click through to “Backlink Profile -> Broken” report:

Arefs broken report

All you need to do now is to export the report into an Excel spreadsheet, identify most linked-to content on the website, and decide if you can build content to replace the deleted page and claim all those links.

CognitiveSEO is another (newer) tool that shows the most linked-to broken pages on any website:

CognitiveSEO

6. Social media outreach

Since your link building outreach is going to include the social media component, you need to figure out how your link building and social media teams are going to collaborate on that.

ContentCal is a solid collaborative tool that can be used to include your link building team into your social media marketing. Encourage your link building outreach team to use ContentCal’s “Pinboard” feature that will allow them to add social media updates for the social media manager to approve and schedule them to go out from your company’s official Twitter account:

ContentCal

Note: ContentCal allows your link building team to contribute to your brand social media channels without sacrificing on the overall quality: There’s always a moderator making sure everything looks good before updates go live.

7. Email outreach

We have tried multiple tools and ended up building our own in-house solution, but there’s no link building tutorial possible without at least one outreach tool included. So I’ll go ahead and recommend Pitchbox (Disclaimer: This is the only tool here I haven’t tried yet but I’ve heard very good people recommend it, so I have full trust in its awesome-ness):

Pitchbox

Pitchbox stores your contacts and email templates as well as manages the follow-ups and reports]

8. Monitor your campaign performance

If you are managing a multi-format link building campaign that includes more content types beyond text (e.g. a downloadable whitepaper, an embeddable infographic, a video, etc.), you may want to keep a close eye on what content formats your link building leads engage more with.

Finteza is the free analytics software focusing on monitoring and reporting on specific on-page events.

Finteza

While you are actively emailing to your identified link building leads, keep an eye on how they interact with your linkable assets. This is a great experience to learn from for your upcoming campaigns.

Finteza also offers a free WordPress plug-in that makes adding on-page events to monitor easier:

Finteza plugin

9. Personalize your content asset based on the referral

Since your link acquisition campaign includes both email and social media outreach, it is smart to customize your content asset based on the referral source to make sure your link building leads will see exactly what they came for above the fold.

Alter is an easy tool for personalizing your content based on your settings. You will need to add their script to the page to serve a slightly different page copy based on the source.

The first step is to create your audience inside Alter:

Depending on your outreach tactics, you can combine as many criteria as you want

You can create your personalization using Alter’s built-in editor:

Alter personalization

10. Monitor incoming links

Finally, set up link monitoring using Brand Mentions. This tool will promptly alert you of any new linked and unlinked web mentions and allow you to better monitor the effectiveness of the campaign as well as quickly interact with your promoters.

Brand Mentions allows you to authenticate your Google Analytics account. This way you’ll be alerted by new referral traffic immediately — remember: Traffic sending links are the best types of links!

Brand Mentions google analytics

Launching a well-rounded link building campaign: Takeaways

  • An effective link building campaign includes most of effective and legit link acquisition tactics, including linkable content creation, ego-baiting, broken link building and (social media) relationship management.
  • None of the above tactics are step one in the campaign: They all need to be connected — informing and directing one another.
  • A key to successful link building campaign is collaboration (between teams, as well as with niche influencers and experts).
  • One of the major goals behind your linkable content asset is that it needs to rank in top five for a popular query. Once you achieve that, you can stop the proactive outreach process, as links will start coming in naturally: All bloggers and journalists use Google to find sources to reference.
  • An effective link acquisition campaign includes more than one content format. Give your media contacts more reasons to link to you by visualizing results, building embeddable content, and downloadable assets to take home.

With so many ideas, parts and tools, it may also be tough to get organized. In most cases, your campaign manager will be able to put everything together using shared (Google) Spreadsheets (that also easily integrate into online calendars). There are of course many more tools to check out.

Finally, there are many more tools I’ve used at some point or another. There’s no way I could list all of them in one article. I did my best to include newer tools (those that are not already well-covered and well-known) because I believe they bring something innovative to the table allowing you to take a new approach or experiment with new tactics.

If you are using any other link building tools in your process, please list them in the comments below — I am always on the hunt for more tools!

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All Links are Not Created Equal: 20 New Graphics on Google’s Valuation of Links

Posted by Cyrus-Shepard

Twenty-two years ago, the founders of Google invented PageRank, and forever changed the web. A few things that made PageRank dramatically different from existing ranking algorithms:

  • Links on the web count as votes. Initially, all votes are equal.
  • Pages which receive more votes become more important (and rank higher.)
  • More important pages cast more important votes.

But Google didn’t stop there: they innovated with anchor text, topic-modeling, content analysis, trust signals, user engagement, and more to deliver better and better results.

Links are no longer equal. Not by a long shot.

Rand Fishkin published the original version of this post in 2010—and to be honest, it rocked our world. Parts of his original have been heavily borrowed here, and Rand graciously consulted on this update.

In this post, we’ll walk you through 20 principles of link valuation that have been observed and tested by SEOs. In some cases, they have been confirmed by Google, while others have been patented. Please note that these are not hard and fast rules, but principles that interplay with one another. A burst of fresh link can often outweigh powerful links, spam links can blunt the effect of fresh links, etc.

We strongly encourage you to test these yourselves. To quote Rand, “Nothing is better for learning SEO than going out and experimenting in the wild.”

1. Links From Popular Pages Cast More Powerful Votes

Let’s begin with a foundational principle. This concept formed the basis of Google’s original PageRank patent, and quickly help vault it to the most popular search engine in the world.

PageRank can become incredibly complex very quickly—but to oversimplify—the more votes (links) a page has pointed to it, the more PageRank (and other possible link-based signals) it accumulates. The more votes it accumulates, the more it can pass on to other pages through outbound links.

In basic terms, popular pages are ones that have accumulated a lot of votes themselves. Scoring a link from a popular page can typically be more powerful than earning a link from a page with fewer link votes.

Links From Popular Pages Cast More Powerful Votes

2. Links “Inside” Unique Main Content Pass More Value than Boilerplate Links

Google’s Reasonable Surfer, Semantic Distance, and Boilerplate patents all suggest valuing content and links more highly if they are positioned in the unique, main text area of the page, versus sidebars, headers, and footers, aka the “boilerplate.”

It certainly makes sense, as boilerplate links are not truly editorial, but typically automatically inserted by a CMS (even if a human decided to put them there.) Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines encourage evaluators to focus on the “Main Content” of a page.

Links Inside Unique Main Content Pass More Value than Boilerplate Links

Similarly, SEO experiments have found that links hidden within expandable tabs or accordions (by either CSS or JavaScript) may carry less weight than fully visible links, though Google says they fully index and weight these links.

3. Links Higher Up in the Main Content Cast More Powerful Votes

If you had a choice between 2 links, which would you choose?

  1. One placed prominently in the first paragraph of a page, or
  2. One placed lower beneath several paragraphs

Of course, you’d pick the link visitors would likely click on, and Google would want to do the same. Google’s Reasonable Surfer Patent describes methods for giving more weight to links it believes people will actually click, including links placed in more prominent positions on the page.

Links Higher Up in the Main Content Cast More Powerful Votes

Matt Cutts, former head of Google’s Webspam team, once famously encouraged SEOs to pay attention to the first link on the page, and not bury important links. (source)

4. Links With Relevant Anchor Text May Pass More Value

Also included in Google’s Reasonable Surfer patent is the concept of giving more weight to links with relevant anchor text. This is only one of several Google patents where anchor text plays an important role.

Multiple experiments over the years repeatedly confirm the power of relevant anchor text to boost a page’s ranking better than generic or non-relevant anchor text.

It’s important to note that the same Google patents that propose boosting the value of highly-relevant anchors, also discuss devaluing or even ignoring off-topic or irrelevant anchors altogether.

Not that you should spam your pages with an abundance of exact match anchors. Data typically shows that high ranking pages typically have a healthy, natural mix of relevant anchors pointing to them.

Links With Relevant Anchor Text May Pass More Value

Similarly, links may carry the context of the words+phrases around/near the link. Though hard evidence is scant, this is mentioned in Google’s patents, and it makes sense that a link surrounded by topically relevant content would be more contextually relevant than the alternative.

5. Links from Unique Domains Matter More than Links from Previously Linking Sites

Experience shows that it’s far better to have 50 links from 50 different domains than to have 500 more links from a site that already links to you.

This makes sense, as Google’s algorithms are designed to measure popularity across the entire web and not simply popularity from a single site.

In fact, this idea has been supported by nearly every SEO ranking factor correlation study ever performed. The number of unique linking root domains is almost always a better predictor of Google rankings than a site’s raw number of total links.

Links from Unique Domains Matter More than Links from Previously Linking Sites

Rand points out that this principle is not always universally true. “When given the option between a 2nd or 3rd link from the NYTimes vs. randomsitexyz, it’s almost always more rank-boosting and marketing helpful to go with another NYT link.”

6. External Links are More Influential than Internal Links

If we extend the concept from #3 above, then it follows that links from external sites should count more than internal links from your own site. The same correlation studies almost always show that high ranking sites are associated with more external links than lower ranking sites.

Search engines seem to follow the concept that what others say about you is more important than what you say about yourself.

External Links are More Influential than Internal Links

That’s not to say that internal links don’t count. On the contrary, internal linking and good site architecture can be hugely impactful on Google rankings. That said, building external links is often the fastest way to higher rankings and more traffic.

7. Links from Sites Closer to a Trusted Seed Set May Pass More Value

The idea of TrustRank has been around for many years. Bill Slawski covers it here.

More recently, Google updated its original PageRank patent with a section that incorporates the concept of “trust” using seed sites. The closer a site is linked to a trusted seed site, the more of a boost it receives.

In theory, this means that black hat Private Blog Networks (PBNs) would be less effective if they were a large link distance away from more trusted sites.

Links from Sites Closer to a Trusted Seed Set May Pass More Value

Beyond links, other ways that Google may evaluate trust is through online reputation—e.g. through online reviews or sentiment analysis—and use of accurate information (facts). This is of particular concern with YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) pages that “impact the future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety of users.”

This means links from sites that Google considers misleading and/or dangerous may be valued less than links from sites that present more reputable information.

8. Links From Topically Relevant Pages May Cast More Powerful Votes

You run a dairy farm. All things being equal, would you rather have a link from:

  1. The National Dairy Association
  2. The Association of Automobile Mechanics

Hopefully, you choose “b” because you recognize it’s more relevant. Though several mechanisms, Google may act in the same way to toward topically relevant links, including Topic-Sensitive PageRank, phrase-based indexing, and local inter-connectivity.

These concepts also help discount spam links from non-relevant pages.

Links From Topically Relevant Pages Cast More Powerful Votes

While I’ve included the image above, the concepts around Google’s use of topical relevance is incredibly complex. For a primer on SEO relevance signals, I recommend reading: 

  1. Topical SEO: 7 Concepts of Link Relevance & Google Rankings
  2. More than Keywords: 7 Concepts of Advanced On-Page SEO

9. Links From Fresh Pages Can Pass More Value Than Links From Stale Pages

Freshness counts.

Google uses several ways of evaluating content based on freshness. One way to determine the relevancy of a page is to look at the freshness of the links pointing at it.

The basic concept is that pages with links from fresher pages—e.g. newer pages and those more regularly updated—are likely more relevant than pages with links from mostly stale pages, or pages that haven’t been updated in a while. 

For a good read on the subject, Justing Briggs has described and named this concept FreshRank.

    A page with a burst of links from fresher pages may indicate immediate relevance, compared to a page that has had the same old links for the past 10 years. In these cases, the rate of link growth and the freshness of the linking pages can have a significant influence on rankings.

    Links From Fresh Pages Can Pass More Value Than Links From Stale Pages

    It’s important to note that “old” is not the same thing as stale. A stale page is one that:

    • Isn’t updated, often with outdated content
    • Earns fewer new links over time
    • Exhibits declining user engagement

    If a page doesn’t meet these requirements, it can be considered fresh – no matter its actual age. As Rand notes, “Old crusty links can also be really valuable, especially if the page is kept up to date.”

    10. The Rate of Link Growth Can Signal Freshness

    If Google sees a burst of new links to a page, this could indicate a signal of relevance.

    By the same measure, a decrease in the overall rate of link growth would indicate that the page has become stale, and likely to be devalued in search results.

    All of these freshness concepts, and more, are covered by Google’s Information Retrieval Based on Historical Data patent.

    The Rate of Link Growth Can Signal Freshness

    If a webpage sees an increase in its link growth rate, this could indicate a signal of relevance to search engines. For example, if folks start linking to your personal website because you’re about to get married, your site could be deemed more relevant and fresh (as far as this current event goes.)

    11. Google Devalues Spam and Low-Quality Links

    While there are trillions of links on the web, the truth is that Google likely ignores a large swath of them.

    Google’s goal is to focus on editorial links, e.g. “links that you didn’t even have to ask for because they are editorially given by other website owners.” Since Penguin 4.0, Google has implied that their algorithms simply ignore links that they don’t feel meet these standards. These include links generated by negative SEO and link schemes.

    Google Devalues Spam and Low-Quality Links

    That said, there’s lots of debate if Google truly ignores all low-quality links, as there’s evidence that low-quality links—especially those Google might see as manipulative—may actually hurt you.

    12. Link Echos: The Influence Of A Link May Persist Even After It Disappears

    Link Echos (a.k.a. Link Ghosts) describe the phenomenon where the ranking impact of a link often appears to persist, even long after the link is gone.

    Rand has performed several experiments on this and the reverberation effect of links is incredibly persistent, even months after the links have dropped from the web, and Google has recrawled and indexed these pages several times.

    Speculation as to why this happens includes: Google looking at other ranking factors once the page has climbed in rankings (e.g. user engagement), Google assigning persistence or degradation to link value that isn’t wholly dependent on its existence on the page, or factors we can’t quite recognize.

    Link Echos: The Influence Of A Link May Persist Even After It Disappears

    Whatever the root cause, the value of a link can have a reverberating, ethereal quality that exists separately from its HTML roots.

    As a counterpoint, Niel Patel recently ran an experiment where rankings dropped after low-authority sites lost a large number of links all at once, so it appears possible to overcome this phenomenon under the right circumstances.

    13. Sites Linking Out to Authoritative Content May Count More Than Those That Do Not

    While Google claims that linking out to quality sites isn’t an explicit ranking factor, they’ve also made statements in the past that it can impact your search performance.

    “In the same way that Google trusts sites less when they link to spammy sites or bad neighborhoods, parts of our system encourage links to good sites.” – Matt Cutts

    Sites Linking Out to Authoritative Content May Count More Than Those That Do Not

    Furthermore, multiple SEO experiments and anecdotal evidence over the years suggest that linking out to relevant, authoritative sites can result in a net positive effect on rankings and visibility.

    14. Pages That Link To Spam May Devalue The Other Links They Host

    If we take the quote above and focus specifically on the first part, we understand that Google trusts sites less when they link to spam.

    This concept can be extended further, as there’s ample evidence of Google demoting sites it believes to be hosting paid links, or part of a private blog network.

    Pages That Link To Spam May Devalue The Other Links They Host

    Basic advice: when relevant and helpful, link to authoritative sites (and avoid linking to bad sites) when it will benefit your audience.

    15. Nofollowed Links Aren’t Followed, But May Have Value In Some Cases

    Google invented the nofollow link specifically because many webmasters found it hard to prevent spammy, outbound links on their sites – especially those generated by comment spam and UGC.

    A common belief is that nofollow links don’t count at all, but Google’s own language leaves some wriggle room. They don’t follow them absolutely, but “in general” and only “essentially” drop the links from their web graph.

    Nofollowed Links Aren't Followed, But May Have Value In Some Cases

    That said, numerous SEO experiments and correlation data all suggest that nofollow links can have some value, and webmasters would be wise to maximize their value.

    16. ManyJavaScript Links Pass Value, But Only If Google Renders Them

    In the old days of SEO, it was common practice to “hide” links using JavaScript, knowing Google couldn’t crawl them.

    Today, Google has gotten significantly better at crawling and rendering JavaScript, so that most JavaScript links today will count.

    ManyJavaScript Links Pass Value, But Only If Google Renders Them

    That said, Google still may not crawl or index every JavaScript link. For one, they need extra time and effort to render the JavaScript, and not every site delivers compatible code. Furthermore, Google only considers full links with an anchor tag and href attribute.

    17. If A Page Links To The Same URL More Than Once, The First Link Has Priority

    … Or more specifically, only the first anchor text counts.

    If Google crawls a page with two or more links pointing to the same URL, they have explained that while PageRank flows normally through both, they will only use the first anchor text for ranking purposes.

    This scenario often comes into play when your sitewide navigation links to an important page, and you also link to it within an article below.

    If A Page Links To The Same URL More Than Once, The First Link Has Priority

    Through testing, folks have discovered a number of clever ways to bypass the First Link Priority rule, but newer studies haven’t been published for several years.

    18. Robots.txt and Meta Robots May Impact How and Whether Links Are Seen

    Seems obvious, but in order for Google to weigh a link in it’s ranking algorithm, it has to be able to crawl and follow it. Unsurprisingly, there are a number of site and page-level directives which can get in Google’s way. These include:

    • The URL is blocked from crawling by robots.txt
    • Robots meta tag or X-Robots-Tag HTTP header use the “nofollow” directive
    • The page is set to “noindex, follow” but Google eventually stops crawling
    Robots.txt and Meta Robots May Impact How and Whether Links Are Seen

    Often Google will include a URL in its search results if other pages link to it, even if that page is blocked by robots.txt. But because Google can’t actually crawl the page, any links on the page are virtually invisible.

    19. Disavowed Links Don’t Pass Value (Typically)

    If you’ve built some shady links, or been hit by a penalty, you can use Google’s disavow tool to help wipe away your sins.

    By disavowing, Google effectively removes these backlinks for consideration when they crawl the web.

    Disavowed Links Don’t Pass Value (Typically)

    On the other hand, if Google thinks you’ve made a mistake with your disavow file, they may choose to ignore it entirely – probably to prevent you from self-inflicted harm.

    20. Unlinked Mentions May Associate Data or Authority With A Website

    Google may connect data about entities (concepts like a business, a person, a work of art, etc) without the presence of HTML links, like the way it does with local business citations or with which data refers to a brand, a movie, a notable person, etc.

    In this fashion, unlinked mentions may still associate data or authority with a website or a set of information—even when no link is present.

    Unlinked Mentions May Associate Data or Authority With A Website

    Bill Slawski has written extensively about entities in search (a few examples here, here, and here). It’s a heady subject, but suffice to say Google doesn’t always need links to associate data and websites together, and strong entity associations may help a site to rank.

    Below, you’ll find all twenty principals combined into a single graphic. If you’d like to print or embed the image, click here for a higher-res version.

    Please credit Moz when using any of these images.

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    How to Deliver JSON-LD Recommendations the Easy Way – Whiteboard Friday

    Posted by sergeystefoglo

    When you work with large clients whose sites comprise thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of pages, it’s a daunting task to add the necessary markup. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, we welcome Sergey Stefoglo to share his framework for delivering JSON-LD recommendations in a structured and straightforward way.

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

    Video Transcription

    Hello, Moz fans. My name is Serge. I’m a consultant at Distilled, and this is another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today I want to take the next few minutes to talk to you about one of my processes for delivering JSON-LD recommendations.

    Now it’s worth noting upfront that at Distilled we work with a lot of large clients that have a lot of pages on their website, thousands, hundreds of thousands of pages. So if you work at an agency that works with local businesses or smaller clients, this process may be a bit overkill, but I hope you find some use in it regardless.

    So as I mentioned, oftentimes at Distilled we get clients that have hundreds and thousands of pages on their site, and you can imagine if your point of contact comes to you and essentially asks, “Hey, we don’t have any markup on our site. Can you recommend all of the JSON-LD on all the pages, please?” If you’re anything like me, that could be a bit daunting, right, like that’s a big ask. Your wheels start spinning so to speak, and oftentimes that leads to a little bit of unproductivity. So I hope this process kind of helps get you unstuck and get started and get to work.

    Step 1: List out all the page templates

    The first step in this process essentially is to list out all of the templates on the site. I’m assuming you’re going to be dealing with an e-commerce site or something like that. That’s really the way that you’re going to break down this problem and take it from kind of a larger picture, where someone comes to you and says, “Hey, I need all of the things on all of the things,” and you break it down and say, “Okay, well, really what I need to focus on is a section at a time, and what I need to do is give recommendations for each section at a time.” To me, that’s a much more kind of organized way to come at this, and it’s helped me a lot.

    So when you list out the templates, if you’ve had this client for a while, you probably already know the templates that they have. If they’re new, it’s worth getting familiar with their site and thinking about things at a template level regardless. So just simply hopping on the site, browsing around, and making a list of, yes, they have product pages and category pages and some different variations of those. They have blog pages and a bunch of other kinds of pages. It’s good to be familiar with them. Our goal is to essentially recommend JSON-LD for each of those templates. So that’s really the first step is getting clear on which templates we’re looking at and what exists on the site.

    Step 2: Choose one template and note what can be marked up

    The second step is to choose one of those templates, just one, for example, like the product page template, and essentially go through that page and jot down anything you think that can be marked up. Now if you’ve recommended schema before or if you’ve worked with JSON-LD or any kind of markup, you’ll be familiar with a lot of the kind of standards across the board, and it does get familiar over time. So once you do this your 2nd time or 3rd time or 10th time, you’ll have a good idea of what kind of markup goes on a product page or what kind of markup goes on a category page.

    If it’s your first time, just go on the page and I’d encourage you to just browse through and look at schema.org or some other example sites that are similar, see what they’re doing, and kind of jot down by yourself, in a notebook or something, what you think can be marked up. So on a product page, you can note down that, yes, there’s an image of the product. There’s a price. There’s a URL. There are breadcrumbs on the page. There are reviews, etc. You’re just going through and kind of making a list of that very simply.

    Step 3: Convert notes into JSON-LD, validate with the schema testing tool, and paste into doc

    The next step is to essentially take those notes and convert them into JSON-LD. At this point, people tend to kind of freak out a little bit, but you don’t have to be a developer to do this. It’s very accessible. If this is your first time going about it, I’m not going to get into all of the specifics on how to do that. This is more of a framework of approaching that. But there are a lot of great articles that I can link to. Just reach out to me and I can hook you up with that.

      But the third step, again, is to convert those notes into actual JSON-LD. That process is fairly straightforward. What I like to do is open up the page or a representative URL from that template that I’m working on. So for a product page, open that up in my browser. I would like to have schema.org open. That’s kind of the canonical resource for schema information. Then I also like to have a few competitor sites open that are similar. If you’re working on an e-commerce brand, you’re fortunate that there are a lot of great examples of sites that are doing this well, and that’s publicly available to you and you can check out what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.

      So my process is kind of just going through that list, going on schema.org or going on a competitor’s site or a previous site you’ve worked on. If you’re looking at something like, let’s say, the cost of the product, you can look that up on schema.org. You can see that there’s an Offer-type markup. You can copy that into the schema testing tool and essentially validate that it works. Once you validate it, you just go down the list further. If you start off with the price, you can move on to breadcrumbs, etc.

      At the end of step three, you essentially have all of the JSON-LD that you need and certainly the core elements to kind of start down the next step.

      Step 4: Check with your point-of-contact/developer!

      The next step is to pause and check in with your point of contact, because if you’re working on a large-scale site and you’re going to have 10 or 15 of these templates you’re working on for JSON-LD, it’s worthwhile to essentially say, “Hey, can we do a 30-minute check-in because I’m done with the first template and I want to make sure that this all makes sense and this is in a format that’s going to be good for you?”

      Speaking of format, what I like to do personally is just use Google Drive, set up a folder in the client folder and title it JSON-LD, give the client access to that, and within that folder you’re just going to have a bunch of different documents, and each document is going to be per template. So for the product page example, you would have a document in that folder titled “Product JSON-LD,” and you would copy any of the JSON-LD that you validated in the schema testing tool and paste it in that doc. That’s what you would be walking through with your point of contact or with the developer. Pretty much take any feedback they have. If they want it in a different format, take that into account and revise it and meet with them again. But pretty much get a green light before moving forward to work on the other templates.

      Step 5: Repeat from Step 2 onward for all your templates

      That’s really the next step is, at that point, once you have the green light and the developer feels good about it or your point of contact feels good about it, you’re just going to kind of rinse and repeat. So you’re going to go back to Step 2, and you’re going to choose another template. If you’ve done the product page one, hop over to the category page template and do the same thing. Jot down what can be marked up. Transfer those notes into JSON-LD using competitor sites or similar sites, using schema.org, and using the structured data validating tool. It’s the same process. At that point, you’re just kind of on cruise control. It’s nice because it takes, again, something that initially could have been fairly stressful, at least for me, and it breaks it down in a way that makes sense and you can focus because of that.

      So again, this process has worked really well for me. At Distilled, we like to think about kind of frameworks and how to approach bigger problems like this and break them down and kind of make them more simple, because we’ve found that allows us to do our best work. This is just one of those processes.

      So that’s all I have for you all today. Thank you so much for tuning in. If you have any questions or comments, or if you have any experiences kind of implementing or recommending JSON-LD, I’d love to hear them. So give me a shout on Twitter or in the comments or anything like that. Thank you so much for tuning in, and we will see you next time.

      Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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      Using STAT: How to Uncover Additional Value in Your Keyword Data

      Posted by TheMozTeam

      Changing SERP features and near-daily Google updates mean that single keyword strategies are no longer viable. Brands have a lot to keep tabs on if they want to stay visible and keep that coveted top spot on the SERP.

      That’s why we asked Laura Hampton, Head of Marketing at Impressionto share some of the ways her award-winning team leverages STAT to surface all kinds of insights to make informed decisions.

      Snag her expert tips on how to uncover additional value in your keyword data — including how Impression’s web team uses STAT’s API to improve client reporting, how to spot quick wins with dynamic tags, and what new projects they have up their sleeves. Take it away, Laura!

      Spotting quick wins 

      We all remember the traditional CTR chart. It suggests that websites ranking in position one on the SERPs can expect roughly 30 percent of the clicks available, with position two getting around 12 percent, position three seeing six percent, and so on (disclaimer: these may not be the actual numbers but, let’s face it, this formula is way outdated at this point anyway).

      Today, the SERP landscape has changed, so we know that the chances of any of the above-suggested numbers being correct are minimal — especially when you consider the influence of elements like featured snippets on click-through rates.

      But the practical reality remains that if you can improve your ranking position, it’s highly likely you’ll get at least some uplift in traffic for that term. This is where STAT’s dynamic tags can really help. Dynamic tags are a special kind of tag that automatically populates keywords based on changeable filter criteria.

      We like to set up dynamic tags based on ranking position. We use this to flag keywords which are sitting just outside of the top three, top five, or top 10 positions. Layer into this some form of traffic benchmark, and you can easily uncover keywords with decent traffic potential that just need an extra bit of work to tip them into a better position.

      Chasing position zero with featured snippets and PAAs 

      There’s been a lot of chat in our industry about the growing prevalence of SERP features like featured snippets and “People also ask” (PAA) boxes. In fact, STAT has been instrumental in leading much of the research into the influence of these two SERP features on brand visibility and CTRs.

      If your strategy includes a hunt for the coveted position zero, you’re in luck. We like to use STAT’s dynamic tagging feature to monitor the keywords that result in featured snippets. This way, we can track keywords where our client owns the snippet and where they don’t. We can also highlight new opportunities to create optimized content and attempt to capture the spot from their competitors.

      This also really helps guide our overall content strategy, since STAT is able to provide quick feedback on the type of content (and, therefore, the assumed intent) that will perform best amongst a keyword set.

      Making use of data views 

      Data views are one of the most fundamental elements of STAT. They are tools that allow you to organize your data in ways that are meaningful to you. Holding multiple keyword segments (tags) and producing aggregate metrics, they make it possible for us to dissect keyword information and then implement strategically driven decisions.

      For us at Impression, data views are essential. They reflect the tactical aspirations of the client. While you could create a single templated dashboard for all your clients with the same data views, our strategists will often set up data views that mirror the way each client and account work.

      Even if we’re not yet actively working on a keyword set, we usually create data views to enable us to quickly spot opportunities and report back on the strategic progression.

      Here are just some of the data views we’ve grouped our keyword segments into:

      The conversion funnel

      Segmenting keywords into the stages of the conversion funnel is a fairly common strategy for search marketers — it makes it possible to focus in on and prioritize higher intent queries and then extrapolate out.

      Many of our data views are set up to monitor keywords tagged as “conversion,” “education,” and “awareness.”

      Client goals

      Because we believe successful search marketing is only possible when it integrates with wider business goals, we like to spend time getting to know our clients’ audiences, as well as their specific niches and characteristics.

      This way, we can split our keywords into those which reflect the segments that our clients wish to target. For example, in some cases, this is based on sectors, such as our telecommunications client who targets audiences in finance, marketing, IT, and general business. In others, it’s based on locations, in which case we’ll leverage STAT’s location capabilities to track the visibility of our clients to different locales.

      Services and/or categories

      For those clients who sell online — whether it’s products or services — data views are a great way to track their visibility within each service area or product category.

      Our own dashboard (for Impression) uses this approach to split out our service-based keywords, so our data view is marked “Services” and the tags we track within are “SEO,” “PPC,” “web,” and so on. For one of our fashion clients, the data view relates to product categories, where the tracked tags include “footwear,” “accessories,” and “dresses.”

      At-a-glance health monitoring

      A relatively new feature in STAT allows us to see the performance of tags compared to one another: the Tags tab.

      Because we use data views and tags a lot, this has been a neat addition for us. The ability to quickly view those tags and how the keywords within are progressing is immensely valuable.

      Let’s use an example from above. For Impression’s own keyword set, one data view contains tags that represent different service offerings. When we click on that data view and choose “Tags” in the tabbed options, we can see how well each service area is performing in terms of its visibility online.

      This means we can get very quick strategic insights that say our ranking positions for SEO are consistently pretty awesome, while those around CRO (which we are arguably less well known for), tend to fluctuate more. We can also make a quick comparison between them thanks to the layout of the tab.

      Identifying keyword cannibalization risk through duplicate landing pages 

      While we certainly don’t subscribe to any notion of a content cannibalization penalty per se, we do believe that having multiple landing pages for one keyword or keyword set is problematic.

      That’s where STAT can help. We simply filter the keywords table to show a given landing page and we’re able to track instances where it’s ranking for multiple keywords.

      By exporting that information, we can then compare the best and worst ranking URLs. We can also highlight where the ranking URL for a single keyword has changed, signaling internal conflict and, therefore, an opportunity to streamline and improve.

      Monitoring the competitive landscape 

      No search strategy is complete without an understanding of the wider search landscape. Specifically, this means keeping track of your and/or your client’s rankings when compared to others ranking around them.

      We like to use STAT’s Competitive Landscape tab to view this information for a specific data view, or across the whole account. In particular, the Share of Voice: Current Leaders board tells us very quickly who we’re up against for a keyword set.

      This leads to insights such as the competitiveness of the keyword set, which makes it easier to set client expectations. It also surfaces relevance of the keywords tracked, where, if the share of voice is going to brands that aren’t your own, it may indicate the keywords you’re targeting are not that relevant to your own audience.

      You can also take a look at the Share of Voice: Top 10 Trending to see where competitors are increasing or decreasing their visibility. This can be indicative of changes on the SERPs for that industry, or in the industry as a whole.

      Creating a custom connector for GDS 

      Reporting is a fundamental part of agency life. Our clients appreciate formalized insights into campaign progression (on top of regular communications throughout the month, of course) and one of our main challenges in growing our agency lies in identifying the best way to display reports.

      We’ll be honest here: There was a point where we had started to invest in building our own platform, with all sorts of aspirations of bespoke builds and highly branded experiences that could tie into a plethora of other UX considerations for our clients.

      But at the same time, we’re also big believers that there’s no point in trying to reinvent the wheel if an appropriate solution already exists. So, we decided to use Google Data Studio (GDS) as it was released in Beta and moved onto the platform in 2017.

      Of course, ranking data — while we’d all like to reserve it for internal insight to drive bigger goals — is always of interest to clients. At the time, the STAT API was publicly available, but there was no way to pull data into GDS.

      That’s why we decided to put some of our own time into creating a GDS connector for STAT. Through this connector, we’re able to pull in live data to our GDS reports, which can be easily shared with our clients. It was a relatively straightforward process and, because GDS caches the data for a short amount of time, it doesn’t hammer the STAT API for every request.

      Though our clients do have access to STAT (made possible through their granular user permissions), the GDS integration is a simpler way for them to see top-level stats at a glance.

      We’re in the process of building pipelines through BigQuery to feed into this and facilitate date specific tracking in GDS too — keep an eye out for more info and get access to the STAT GDS connector here.

      Want more? 

      Ready to learn how to get cracking and tracking some more? Reach out to our rad team and request a demo to get your very own tailored walkthrough of STAT. 

      If you’re attending MozCon this year, you can see the ins and outs of STAT in person — grab your ticket before they’re all gone! 

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