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Taming the local search beast in a post-Possum and Fred world

It's estimated that 46 percent of all searches performed on Google have a local intent, and the Map Pack appears for 93 percent of these.

In September 2016 Google unveiled a new local search algorithm, dubbed Possum, and it pretty much went unnoticed in comparison to the real-time Penguin update released in the same month.

In short, Possum made it harder for businesses to fake being in locations that they're not (through the likes of virtual offices), as well as tackling Google My Business spam.

Possum, however, isn't a single algorithm update, as it affected both localized search results as well as the Map Pack, which of course are two separate algorithms both triggered by search queries that are interpreted as having a local search intent.

The Google Fred update, which hit SERPs back in March, has also had an impact on local search, much like the Phantom updates before it.

A lot of local SERPs are extremely spammy, where websites have been built cheap and location names have been liberally applied to every menu link and keyword on the page, such as this home page sidebar menu:

This of course, is only a snapshot of the page the menu and tile icons go on a lot more. Spam such as this still ranks on page one, because Google still has to provide results to its users.

Take advantage of the market conditions

A lot of locally-focused websites aren't built by agencies; the vast majority tend to be self-built or built by bedroom level developers who can churn out a full website for 300 (or less).

Some verticals have seen some significant online investment in recent years, while others lag behind considerably. By investing in a good website and avoiding the same spammy tactics of your competitors, you can create a powerful resource offering user value that Google will appreciate.

Directory submissions and citations

Just to be clear, I'm not talking about just backlinks. Recent studies have shown that citations with a consistent NAP (Name, Address & Phone number) are important to both local algorithms.

There is no magic number to how many directory submissions you should have, but they need to be relevant.

I've worked on local campaigns in the UK where they have been previously submitted to directories in Vietnam, Thailand and Australia. Yes, it's a backlink, but it's not relevant in the slightest.

Think local with your directories, and exhaust those before moving onto national ones. The number of local directories should also outweigh the nationals were possible. To do this properly, it's a manual process and to ensure quality it can't be automated.


Review volume, velocity and diversity factors are important, and in my opinion, they're going to become more important in the coming months particularly following the recent release of verified customer reviewsfor online businesses.

In Google's Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, the evaluators are instructed to research a website/brand's online reputation from external sources in order to assessthe quality of the website.

This is why getting reviews on your Google My Business listing, Facebook pages, positive tweets, Yell, Trip Advisor reviews etc are all great. Having testimonials and reviews on your website is great for users, but you wouldn't publish bad reviews on your own website, would you?

Google accepts that negative reviews appear, but as long the good outweighs the bad, you shouldn't have anything to worry about. If you do get a negative review, demonstrate your customer service and respond to it. You can set up Google Alerts to monitor for your brand and flag up any external reviews.

Google My Business & Bing Places

Believe it or not, Google My Business is considered a directory, as is Bing Places. It's important that you have one if you're a local business, and that you've optimised it correctly. This means the correct business name, address and phone number (keep your NAP as consistent as possible), choose an appropriate category and include a thorough description.

localBusiness structured data mark-up

Structured data mark-up (or schema) is an addition to a website's code that enables Google's RankBrain (and other AI algorithms from other search engines) to better understand a website's context by providing it with additional information.

Not all websites are currently utilizing this schema (or any schema), and Google wants you to use it.

If you don't have developer resource to hand, and you're not a coder you can use Google's Data Highlighter to mark-up content you will need a verified Google Search Console however to make this work.

Other considerations

As well as focusing locally, you need to also consider other ranking factors such as SERP click-through rates.

Optimizing your meta title and description to appeal to local users can have a huge impact on click-through rates, and the change could be as simple as including the phone number in the title tag.

You also need to be on https and have a secure website. Getting hacked, suffering a SQL injection or having malware put on your site can seriously damage your reputation within Google and take a long, long time to recover.

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A visual guide to Pinterest advertising

Pinterest has slowly been building itself up as an advertising alternative to Google and Facebook over the past 12 months.

The company's focus has historically been on building an engaged user base through its intuitive, visual interface.

As a social network, it has always offered something a little different.

However, advertisers have been skeptical about whether Pinterest could 'monetize' this model, due to the nature of engagements users have and also the demographics that typically spend time on the site.

Those concerns have not been allayed altogether, but Pinterest has made some fascinating moves of late. They have launched a paid search partnership with Kenshoo, completely upgraded their visual search capabilities, and expanded their reach by adding a new Google Chrome extension.

By combining an engaged user base with advertising that doesn't disrupt their experience, Pinterest may have a formula that works in an age of ad blockers and decreased consumer attention spans. Their stated aim has been to own the 'discovery' phase of the purchase journey, suggesting products to users before they know exactly what they are looking for.

Google has clearly taken notice, too. The search giant's recent product launches, such as its 'similar items' feature and the recent announcement of Google Lens, demonstrate Google's strategy to stymie Pinterest's growth. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all.

That said, Pinterest remains a relative unknown in the advertising space. Many advertisers would no doubt welcome a third, genuine alternative for their digital ad dollars, a fact that will likely benefit Amazon as well as Pinterest. But before taking the plunge and launching a paid campaign, there are some things we need to know.

As such, it seems timely to take a step back and assess what really differentiates Pinterest from the competition, what options are open to marketers, and what you need to know before getting started with Pinterest advertising.

Since this is Pinterest we're talking about, we thought a visual guide would be most fitting.

Enjoyed this? Check out some of our other recent visual guides and infographics:

7 advanced Google Shopping strategiesA visual history of Google SERPS: 1996 to 2017What will the future of Google search results pages look like?

Infographic created by Clark Boyd, VP Strategy at Croud, and graphic designer Chelsea Herbert.

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A guide to setting up Google Analytics for your WordPress site

Of the many tools available for tracking visitor behavior, Google Analytics is one of the most famous ones.

This free tool provides website owners with insightful information about the traffic driven to their website, helping them to determine exactly where each user originated and how they ended up on the site.

So, if you are an enthusiast who is setting up a website or a new blog using WordPress as your CMS, it is highly recommended to install Google Analytics to your WordPress site.

Why Google Analytics?

A lot of visitors and subscribers visit your website daily and hence, it becomes increasingly important to track information about their visit. If you are focused and determined to monitor your website's traffic statistics, data drawn with the help of Google Analytics can be extremely useful.

This tool helps you track how your visitors are moving ahead and navigating through your website. This information is vital because it will help you identify the key areas of your website which are doing well and the others, that need a little more attention.

After installing Google Analytics on your website, you can learn about the geographical location of your visitors, their browser information, their duration of stay at your website, pages visited and much more.

With so much information available to access, we hope that we have answered your question as to why you even need this tool. In this blog post, we will provide a step-by-step guide to help you use Google Analytics with your WordPress site. So, let's read on.

Getting started with your Google Analytics account

For the very first step, you are required to create a Google Analytics account by using your Gmail account. A Gmail account is imperative if you want to start using the Google Analytics tool with your WordPress site.


Visit the signup page for Google Analytics. You will be presented with the Gmail login page. Simply, enter your Gmail account login credentials to move forward with the process.You will be asked to provide information regarding what would you like to track with this service. You can either track statistics for your website or your mobile apps.Since this blog post is about tracking results for your WordPress website; select the 'Website' option. Fill in the other relevant information to start tracking with the Google Analytics.


Enter your website's name, its URL and the type of industry it is related to. Select your time zone so that the service can accurately track the results as per your requirement.Finally, get your Tracking ID by agreeing to Google's terms of service usage.


Once you have your Tracking code, copy it and keep it handy.Adding Google Analytics to your WordPress site

There are several methods that will help you add Google Analytics to your WordPress website. We will mainly discuss two methods here that are suited to readers with a non-technical approach to blogging.

Using the plugin 'MonsterInsights'

A very popular plugin with over 13 million downloads, has proved its worth when it comes to seamlessly integrating Google Analytics with a WordPress site.

With a free and a premium version on the shelf, this Google Analytics plugin works well for even the most basic users. Let's see how you can use this plugin to add Google Analytics to your WordPress site.

Download the plugin and activate it on your WordPress site. Once the activation is confirmed, the plugin will add a new label to your admin dashboard by the name, 'Insights'.For configuration of the plugin, visit the 'Settings' tab under the 'Insights' label.  A tab will be presented to you that will read 'Authenticate with your Google Account'. Click on it and then you will be asked to enter a Google Code. Above it will be a tab that will ask you to click on it, in order to receive the code. Click on it and then click on the Next button.Allow 'MonsterInsights to access your Google Analytics data'. Finally, provide the plugin with the permission to view and manage your Google Analytics data.A Success Code popup will follow. You will be required to copy it carefully and paste it on the popup (discussed above) in point number d.)In a final step, select the profile that you want to track with the Google Analytics plugin.

Whenever you want to view reports regarding your site's visitors and subscribers, you can simply go to 'Reports' tab in the 'Insights' label of your Admin dashboard.

Using your WordPress theme

In the process discussed earlier, you received a Tracking ID from Google Analytics signup procedure. To use this method, locate the Theme settings option of your WordPress site's theme. Then, find the label that leads you to a tab asking you to add a Footer Script.

You can simply paste the Tracking code to this section and you will be good to go. Always save the settings in order to confirm your changes.

Once your settings are done and you are ready to take off with your Google Analytics tools, always wait at least 12 hours to let the tool reflect proper results.

Other alternatives

There are other ways to add Google Analytics to your WordPress site. The ones mentioned above are easy to pursue and are highly recommendable. The following are methods that can involve some technical briefing.

You can manually add the tracking code by editing the header.php fileIf you don't want to edit your theme file, you can install and activate the Insert Headers and Footers plugin to insert the Google Analytics codeYou can also use the Google Analytics + plugin to access the visitor performance of your WordPress website.Summing up

Google Analytics is of huge help when you are looking to track results about a recent marketing campaign and are expecting some conversions to take place. This tool will also help you identify the keywords that are relevant to your site's search engine optimization.

With so much to offer, Google Analytics is a must-use tool for all website owners out there. I sincerely hope that this detailed guide will help you make the right decision without having to expend too much time and energy on the implementation.

If you still have questions, feel free to drop them in the comments below. We are always open to receiving feedback and awesome suggestions.


Lucy Barret is a Sr. WordPress Developer at HireWPGeeks, a WordPress Development Company, and a contributor to SEW.

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What Makes Mozzers Tick? (An April Fools' Day Alternative)

Posted by Nick_Sayers

After five years at Moz, I've found that I work with some of the most creative and talented people I've ever met. When it came time to brainstorm ideas for an April Fools video this year, rather than tricking people like every other company does, we decided instead to showcase a few of the talented folks around the Mozplex. Alongside Kristina Keyser, we shot and edited this video so you can see what makes us Mozzers tick when we aren't building sweet SEO software.

We know a lot of you, in the community, have random hobbies like us - we'd love to hear about them! Please share them with us in the comments.

Looking for more information on all the cool stuff you just saw? We have that for you, too!

Check out my movie, The Last Buck Hunt, on Amazon Prime.

If you want to sing Teenage Dirtbag like Chiaryn, start with this karaoke wiki.

David would like for you to check out his Seattle-based band, Your Favorite Friend.

The Modern Quilt Guild is a great place to meet other quilters and find meet-ups to show off your work.

If you're looking for a great community around knitting, Alex recommends Ravelry.

In the mood for some pop punk? Check out Kevin's old band, Miracle Max. (But we also secretly think you should check out this article as well.)

Abe would like for you to know more about making old-school gaming beats by checking out Chip Music's forum.

It's really cool to see that Katie does martial arts at Seven Star Women's Kung Fu, because it's rare to see schools like this just for ladies.

Looking for beautiful pictures from around the world? Peep Kristina's photography.

Looking to get super duper ripped like Lucas? Learn more about Bodypump.

Looking to adopt a dog in the Seattle area? Janisha recommends starting your adoption search now.

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

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Your Daily SEO Fix: Keywords, Concepts, Page Optimization, and Happy NAPs

Posted by FeliciaCrawford

Howdy, readers! We're back with our last round of videos for this go of the Daily SEO Fix series. To recap, here are the other topics we've covered previously:

Your Daily SEO Fix: The Keyword Research EditionYour Daily SEO Fix: Link Building & Ranking Zero

Today we'll be delving into more keyword and concept research, quick wins for on-page optimization, and a neat way to stay abreast of duplicates and inaccuracies in your local listings. We use Moz Pro, the MozBar, and Moz Local in this week's fixes.

Fix #1: Grouping and analyzing keywords by label to judge how well you're targeting a concept

The idea of "concepts over keywords" has been around for a little while now, but tracking rankings for a concept isn't quite as straightforward as it is for keywords. In this fix, Kristina shows you how to label groups of keywords to track and sort their rankings in Moz Pro so you can easily see how you're ranking for grouped terms, chopping and analyzing the data as you see fit.

Fix #2: Adding alternate NAP details to uncover and clean up duplicate or inaccurate listings

If you work in local SEO, you know how important it is for listings to have an accurate NAP (name, address, phone number). When those details change for a business, it can wreak absolute havoc and confuse potential searchers. Jordan walks you through adding alternate NAP details in Moz Local to make sure you uncover and clean up old and/or duplicate listings, making closure requests a breeze. (This Whiteboard Friday is an excellent explanation of why that's really important; I like it so much that I link to it in the resources below, too. ;)

Remember, you can always use the free Check Listing tool to see how your local listings and NAP are popping up on search engines:

Is my NAP accurate?

Fix #3: Research keywords and concepts to fuel content suggestions - on the fly

You're already spying on your competitors' sites; you might as well do some keyword research at the same time, right? Chiaryn walks you through how to use MozBar to get keyword and content suggestions and discover how highly ranking competitor sites are using those terms. (Plus a cameo from Lettie Pickles, star of our 2015 Happy Holidays post!)

Fix #4: Discover whether your pages are well-optimized as you browse - then fix them with these suggestions

A fine accompaniment to your on-the-go keyword research is on-the-go on-page optimization. (Try saying that five times fast.) Janisha gives you the low-down on how to check whether a page is well-optimized for a keyword and identify which fixes you should make (and how to prioritize them) using the SEO tool bar.

Further reading & fond farewells

I've got a whole passel of links if you're interested in reading more educational content around these topics. And by "reading," I mean "watching," because I really stacked the deck with Whiteboard Fridays this time. Here you are:

Keywords to Concepts: The Lazy Web Marketer's Guide to Smart Keyword Research - Our inaugural post on concepts versus keywords.Can SEOs Stop Worrying About Keywords and Just Focus on Topics? - Whiteboard Friday - Well... Can they? Rand describes each approach, then discusses a smarter hybrid answer in this video.Using Related Topics and Semantically Connected Keywords in Your SEO - Whiteboard Friday - A how-to on incorporating related topics and semantic keywords in your on-page processes.Why You Need to Find All Your NAP Variations Before Building Local Citations - Whiteboard Friday - If you don't sniff out all your inaccurate, out-of-date listings, you could be creating a big duplicates problem for yourself without even knowing.Why Listing Accuracy is Important - Whiteboard Friday - A very necessary primer on just why those NAPs need to be accurate.It's Time to Stop Doing On-Page SEO Like It's 2012 - There are a ton of practices that are now behind the times; Rand details what you should be forgetting and what you should be doing in this post.

And of course, if you need a better handle on all this SEO stuff and reading blog posts just doesn't cut the mustard, we now offer classes that cover all the essentials.

My sincere thanks to all of you tuning in to check out our Daily SEO Fix video series over the past couple of weeks - it's been fun writing to you and hearing from you in the comments! Be sure to keep those ideas and questions comin' - we're listening.

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

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Google Algorithmic Penalties Still Happen, Post-Penguin 4.0

Posted by MichaelC-15022

When Penguin 4.0 launched in September 2016, the story from Gary Illyes of Google was that Penguin now just devalued spammy links, rather than penalizing a site by adjusting the site's ranking downward, AKA a penalty.

Apparently for Penguin there is now "less need" for a disavow, according to a Facebook discussion between Gary Illyes and Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Land back in September. He suggested that webmasters can help Google find spammy sites by disavowing links they know are bad. He also mentioned that manual actions still happen - and so I think we can safely infer that the disavow file is still useful in manual penalty recovery.

But algorithmic penalties DO still exist. A client of mine, who'd in the past built a lot of really spammy links to one of their sites, had me take a look at their backlinks about 10 days ago and build a disavow file. There was no manual penalty indicated in Search Console, but they didn't rank at all for terms they were targeting - and they had a plenty strong backlink profile even after ignoring the spammy links.

I submitted the disavow file on March 2nd, 2017. Here's the picture of what happened to their traffic:

4 days after the disavow file submission, their traffic went from just a couple hundred visits/day from Google search to nearly 3,000.

Penguin might no longer be handing out penalties, but clearly there are still algorithmic penalties handed out by Google. And clearly, the disavow file still works on these algorithmic penalties.

Perhaps we just need to give them another animal name. (Personally, I like the Okapi... goes along with the black-and-white animal theme, and, like Google algorithmic penalties, hardly anyone knows they still exist.)

Image courtesy Chester Zoo on Flickr.

I look forward to animated comments from other SEOs and webmasters who might have been suspecting the same thing!

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

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Challenges and opportunities for inbound marketing in 2017

It's not easy to create a successful inbound marketing strategy, but it still offers great opportunities once marketers understand its potential. What do we need to know, then, about inbound marketing in 2017?

Content can be a powerful tool for a business when used strategically, and that's how inbound marketing has become an effective method of capturing leads and increasing traffic.

More marketers are ready to explore its benefits, which is why we're examining the best ways to use it in 2017. It's interesting to look into Hubspot's State of Inbound 2016 to see what other businesses think of inbound marketing and how to take advantage of its potential.

Top marketing priorities

Marketers are leaving 2016 behind, and their top priorities for the year ahead are:

converting leads into customersgrowing traffic to their websiteincreasing revenue from existing customersproving the ROI from their marketing activities

All these priorities have to do with the effectiveness and the profit coming from their marketing efforts. As competition increases, it is becoming more important to find the tactics that will boost a brand's goals, and inbound marketing has played a key role in this attempt.

Top inbound marketing priorities

According to Hubspot, inbound marketers are much more likely to be satisfied with the tactics their organisations are prioritizing. Ranking their priorities for the past year, the growth of SEO and their organic presence was their main focus, while content creation and distribution were next.

Another interesting priority was marketing automation: there seems to be a growing interest in the best ways of including automation in a marketing strategy.

Moreover, blog content doesn't seem to be the only concern, as marketers also included interactive and visual content among their main priorities.

All these priorities demonstrate the complexity of inbound marketing and how each organization interprets it differently, depending on their goals and their plans.

Top marketing challenges

Inbound marketing is not just about great opportunities, but also about big challenges, ranging from finding effectiveness to budget and training.

It's not easy to create a successful inbound marketing strategy, and the main challenge for marketers is to generate traffic and leads from it, while justifying their activities through ROI is also a big concern.

Moreover, as content evolves, so does the need for a bigger budget. This is a challenge that small businesses understand, especially when they're trying to compete with bigger ones.

Adding new content distribution channels

A good way to overcome the challenges in inbound marketing is to explore new content distribution channels. For this reason, marketers are ready to focus more on Youtube, Facebook videos, Instagram and messaging apps, as these seem to be the biggest trends in content marketing.

Moreover, podcasts are still among their preferences when trying to reach a different audience, while Medium is also an interesting choice in terms of simplistic content consumption.

Their first three choices for 2017 indicate that visual content and video, in particular, is a key choice for the coming months, and as it seems to increase engagement, we can expect more businesses to try it out this year.

Inbound vs Outbound

When it comes to marketers' primary approach to marketing, Hubspot's State of Inbound shows that 73% of respondents pick inbound marketing over outbound marketing.

Although both aspects are important, the preference over inbound marketing proves how the rise of content turned it into a powerful weapon for every marketing strategy. Despite the challenges and the budget limitations it may occasionally bring, the consistency in inbound marketing can lead to great long term results.

Inbound marketing in 2017

It's an interesting time to explore inbound marketing, as content creation and distribution reaches new levels of maturity. This means that more businesses will be able to find the desired ROI when embracing inbound marketing techniques as part of their bigger marketing strategy.

Although marketers are aware of the challenges that come with inbound marketing, they seem to be focused on finding the best ways to make it work along with their goals.

The best way to start exploring the benefits of inbound marketing is to analyse your existing content and explore its potential and how it can affect your marketing and sales goals.

How can you improve it? How can you create more strategic content from now on?

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How marketers can dive into growth marketing

Growth marketing enables marketers to explore how sales and customer success can still be part of their marketing strategy. Here's how a business can benefit from the latest tactics in growth marketing.

Growth marketing refers to an effective combination of marketing, sales and customer success and is an integrated approach to modern content marketing. It has the potential to increase the effectiveness of a marketing strategy with the use of the most relevant tactics for each case.

Hubspot recently hosted a webinar on how content marketers can use growth marketing, with Sujan Patel, co-founder of Mailshake & Web Profits, sharing his insights on the latest trends in content marketing.

Creating a growth marketing mindset

Growth marketing can help marketers solve the problems that arise from the emergence of new platforms. It is challenging to pick the right channels for your marketing strategy, especially when cross-channel marketing requires the right strategy to maintain a consistent message across all platforms.

Moreover, as competition increases, it becomes clear that you can't win in just one channel, but you need to explore a multifaceted approach.

A growth marketing mindset is all about:

Getting the new approach instilled into the organisation

Every department has different goals, but they can all contribute to a modern marketing strategy. Once marketers understand the problems of each department and how they are all connected, it's time to explore how marketing can help tackle these problems.

Having an understanding of your marketing funnel

It's critical to be aware of how people come through your funnel. What are the strengths and the weaknesses of your current marketing funnel? How can you improve it?

Setting up a framework

Sujan Patel suggests you examine the use of the bullseye framework as a way to organise your channels and decide the ones to focus on.

This splits the channels you're using into three rings:

The centre ring: The centre rings consists of your top three channels, the ones that have the highest potential of gaining traction for your business. These are the most effective channels and you should keep working on maintaining their ROI. The middle ring: The middle ring is about the channels that have the potential to gain traction. These may be the channels that are winning ground, but you still haven't fully focused on their growth. This is a reminder that you should not ignore them. The outer ring: The outer ring refers to the prospective opportunities, either from new and trending channels, or possible suggestions that you haven't included yet as part of your marketing strategy.

The bullseye framework allows you to set your priorities for your planning, with the test phase still being important. You don't need to spend too much time on long-term opportunities if you can't offer short-term results, and also, you can't leave out future opportunities by focusing only on what's currently working.

Including brainstorming in the framework

The stage of brainstorming is where you can use your creativity to explore how your ideas can fit in your actual framework.

According to Sujan Patel, this is a two-stage process:

Ideation: this is the stage that all the team is involved to come up with new ideas Implementation: this is the time to organize your ideas and see how they can be part of the ringers in your bullseye framework.

It's useful to add as many ideas as possible. However, it's equally important to know the problem they are going to solve. A spreadsheet can help the organisation of the ideas and how they can be part of your framework, while agility is also useful when trying to re-evaluate previous ideas.

Takeaway tips

Here are three tips to keep in mind as a takeaway from Sujan Patel on how to use growth marketing:

Use your email list. If you still don't have an email list, start building it. Upload the contacts on Facebook and use the list to create Lookalike Audiences. This way you can reach your contacts in a new platform to test click rates, try out retargeting options, find new leads and optimize the strategy accordingly. Consider podcast advertising. Podcasts can help you advertise your business on a very specific target audience. After creating your customer persona, find similar demographics and reach them in the most relevant way. Explore secondary SEO. SEO is not always a long-term goal, as your brand can still explore the idea of secondary SEO, or else the links in other sites that already rank well for particular keywords. Once your content gets mentioned in other sites, you're increasing your chances of ranking higher once you start building your on-page SEO.
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How to Prioritize Your Link Building Efforts & Opportunities - Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

We all know how effective link building efforts can be, but it can be an intimidating, frustrating process - and sometimes even a chore. In today's Whiteboard Friday, Rand builds out a framework you can start using today to streamline and simplify the link building process for you, your teammates, and yes, even your interns.

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

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. As you can see, I'm missing my moustache, but never mind. We've got tons of important things to get through, and so we'll leave the facial hair to the inevitable comments.

I want to talk today about how to prioritize your link building efforts and opportunities. I think this comes as a big challenge for many marketers and SEOs because link building can just seem so daunting. So it's tough to know how to get started, and then it's tough to know once you've gotten into the practice of link building, how do you build up a consistent, useful system to do it? That's what I want to walk you through today.

Step 1: Tie your goals to the link's potential value

So first off, step one. What I'm going to ask you to do is tie your SEO goals to the reasons that you're building links. So you have some reason that you want links. It is almost certainly to accomplish one of these five things. There might be other things on the list too, but it's almost always one of these areas.

A) Rank higher for keyword X. You're trying to get links that point to a particular page on your site, that contain a particular anchor text, so that you can rank better for that. Makes total sense. There we go. B) You want to grow the ranking authority of a particular domain, your website, or maybe a subdomain on your website, or a subfolder of that website. Google does sort of have some separate considerations for different folders and subdomains. So you might be trying to earn links to those different sections to help grow those. Pretty similar to (A), but not necessarily as much of a need to get the direct link to the exact URL. C) Sending real high-value traffic from the ranking page. So maybe it's the case that this link you're going after is no followed or it doesn't pass ranking influence, for some reason - it's JavaScript or it's an advertising link or whatever it is - but it does pass real visitors who may buy from you, or amplify you, or be helpful to achieving your other business goals. D) Growing topical authority. So this is essentially saying, "Hey, around this subject area or keyword area, I know that my website needs some more authority. I'm not very influential in this space yet, at least not from Google's perspective. If I can get some of these links, I can help to prove to Google and, potentially, to some of these visitors, as well, that I have some subject matter authority in this space." E) I want to get some visibility to an amplification-likely or a high-value audience. So this would be things like a lot of social media sites, a lot of submission type sites, places like a Product Hunt or a Reddit, where you're trying to get in front of an audience, that then might come to your site and be likely to amplify it if they love what they see.

Okay. So these are our goals.

Step 2: Estimate the likelihood that the link target will influence that goal

Second, I'm going to ask you to estimate the likelihood that the link target will pass value to the page or to the section of your site. This relies on a bunch of different judgments.

You can choose whether you want to wrap these all up in sort of a single number that you estimate, maybe like a 0 to 10, where 0 is not at all valuable, and 10 is super, super valuable. Or you could even take a bunch of these metrics and actually use them directly, so things like domain authority, or linking root domains to the URL, or page authority, the content relevance.

You could be asking:

Is this a nofollowed or a followed link? Is it passing the anchor text that I'm looking for or anchor text that I control or influence at all? Is it going to send me direct traffic?

If the answers to these are all positive, that's going to bump that up, and you might say, "Wow, this is high authority. It's passing great anchor text. It's sending me good traffic. It's a followed link. The relevance is high. I'm going to give this a 10."

Or that might not be the case. This might be low authority. Maybe it is followed, but the relevance is not quite there. You don't control the anchor text, and so anchor text is just the name of your brand, or it just says "site" or something like that. It's not going to send much traffic. Maybe that's more like a three.

Then you're going to ask a couple of questions about the page that they're linking to or your website.

Is that the right page on your site? If so, that's going to bump up this number. If it's not, it might bring it down a little bit. Does it have high relevance? If not, you may need to make some modifications or change the link path.Is there any link risk around this? So if this is a - let's put it delicately - potentially valuable, but also potentially risky page, you might want to reduce the value in there.

I'll leave it up to you to determine how much link risk you're willing to take in your link building profile. Personally, I'm willing to accept none at all.

Step 3: Build a prioritization spreadsheet

Then step three, you build a prioritization spreadsheet that looks something like this. So you have which goal or goals are being accomplished by acquiring this link. You have the target and the page on your site. You've got your chance of earning that link. That's going to be something you estimate, and over time you'll get better and better at this estimation. Same with the value. We talked about using a number out of 10 over here. You can do that in this column, or you could just take a bunch of these metrics and shove them all into the spreadsheet if you prefer.

Then you have the tactic you're going to pursue. So this is direct outreach, this one's submit and hope that it does well, and who it's assigned to. Maybe it's only you because you're the only link builder, or maybe you have a number of people in your organization, or PR people who are going to do outreach, or someone, a founder or an executive who has a connection to some of these folks, and they're going to do the outreach, whatever the case.

Then you can start to prioritize. You can build that prioritization by doing one of a couple things. You could take some amalgamation of these numbers, so like a high chance of earning and a high estimated value. We'll do some simple multiplication, and we'll make that our prioritization. Or you might give different goals. Like you might say, "Hey, you know what? (A) is worth a lot more to me right now than (C). So, therefore, I'm going to rank the ones that are the (A) goal much higher up." That is a fine way to go about this as well. Then you can sort your spreadsheet in this fashion and go down the list. Start at the top, work your way down, and start checking off links as you get them or don't get them. That's a pretty high percentage, I'm doing real well here. But you get the idea.

This turns link building from this sort of questionable, frustrating, what should I do next, am I following the right path, into a simple process that not only can you follow, but you can train other people to follow. This is really important, because link building is an essential part of SEO, still a very valuable part of SEO, but it's also a slog. So, to the degree that you can leverage other help in your organization, hire an intern and help train them up, work with your PR teams and have them understand it, have multiple people in the organization all sharing this spreadsheet, all understanding what needs to be done next, that is a huge help.

I look forward to hearing about your link building prioritization, goals, what you've seen work well, what metrics you've used. We will see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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Scooped by Aaron Cook

Can Pinterest crack (and monetise) visual search?

Pinterest made a clear declaration of intent last week with the announcement that Randy Keller, Google's former head of image search, has joined the photo sharing site as Head of Search.

This appointment is reflective of a strategy to challenge both Google and Amazon in the product-based visual search market. Notably, Pinterest also rolled out their paid search offering, driven initially through a partnership with Kenshoo, in 2016.

Due to the glacial pace of advertising product launches from Pinterest over the past few years, some in the industry felt their opportunity to monetise their user base may have passed.

Moreover, the keyword-based paid search market is saturated as it is, with Google constantly trialling new ways to eke out more searches.

However, in many of the potential growth areas for the industry, such as voice search, personalisation, and most obviously, image search, Pinterest believe they have something different to offer.

As a social platform focused more on nourishing the self than sharing selfies, Pinterest is inherently driven by the power of images. Nonetheless, the history of image search has shown that mastering the requisite technology to tap into this potential is no mean feat.

How Pinterest plans to tackle visual search

On February 7, Pinterest launched their new Visual Discovery Tools, including Lens. Built into the Pinterest app, through Lens users can point their camera at an item and the app will make suggestions based on what it sees. Point the camera at some asparagus, for example, and the app will suggest some recipes.

This is a further stage of development from Amazon's Firefly (available through the Amazon app), which can recognise objects and suggest similar items to purchase, but is not yet able to make the conceptual leap to suggest complementary products or ideas.

Pinterest posted the following in relation to the Lens launch:

“Sometimes you spot something out in the world that looks interesting, but when you try to search for it online later, words fail you. You have this rich, colorful picture in your mind, but you can't translate it into the words you need to find it.

At Pinterest, we've developed new experimental technology that, for the first time ever, is capable of seeing the world the way you do.

It's called Lens (currently in beta), and it lets you use the camera in your Pinterest app to discover ideas inspired by objects you see out in the real world.”

This is in beta and works best with food, clothing and decor at the moment, but the possibilities are endless if the technology continues to develop. With an estimated 75 billion Pins to sift through, it may take a while.

However at Pinterest, there is clearly a belief that cracking visual search can start to bridge the gap between language and the world around us.

The fact that they routinely refer to 'idea searches' rather than 'keywords' is indicative of this focus on adding a new spin to a deeply-ingrained feature of internet usage. This is intriguing on many levels, but strikingly it may offer a new avenue for advertisers to engage with consumers at an optimal time, through the ideal medium.

Pinterest and ad blockers

This leads on nicely to the current ad landscape, one in which many internet users have resorted to ad blockers to avoid overbearing messaging.

Another stated aim at Pinterest is to re-frame ads as a welcome way to discover new ideas, concepts and products, rather than an intrusion into a user's browsing experience.

An advertiser's product feed, if synced to Pinterest's image search algorithms, could deliver increasingly timely and relevant results to users. Where this becomes most compelling is in the 'related searches' that Pinterest provides. So for example, a search for shoes could also provide recommendations for the rest of an outfit.

If advertising can become synonymous with the discovery of new and exciting ideas, it suddenly seems much more appealing to the consumer. As such, consumers could be much more willing to jettison their ad blockers and engage with promoted results.

This is a tall order and perhaps quite a utopian aspiration at this stage, but the theory is seductive nonetheless.

Offering an alternative to Amazon and Google

Much has been made of Amazon's continued rise in the search market, and an oft-cited 2016 survey from Power Reviews placed them as the preferred starting point for product searches among US consumers.

This was particularly newsworthy for the fact that it relegated Google to second place. The battle for supremacy in such a profitable arena has only intensified since, with commercial searches the main prize.

The most interesting aspects of this – and where Pinterest comes back into the fray – are the reasons why Amazon has taken this lofty position.

Predictably, variety of products ranks as the most popular reason, followed by free shipping and competitive pricing.

Amazon led with these value propositions and they continue to drive the company's success, even with the advent of more innovative home technologies like the Echo and Echo Dot.

Google has been at pains to streamline its purchasing processes too, in search, shopping, and their rival to the Echo, Google Home.

What these platforms ultimately provide to the consumer is a frictionless way to purchase products from reliable sources. The consumer knows what they want and they reveal this by searching for it, and companies are willing to pay for the chance to get in front of customers at this high-intent purchase stage.

But there is more to some product-consumer relationships than just a seamless transaction, and it is one that either Google or Amazon would have to work hard to avail of in its entirety.

Pinterest's competitive advantage

Pinterest has the enviable asset of an engaged user base, not on the premise of deals or free shipping, but on the experience the platform allows them to create and the ideas it allows them to access.

Pinterest may not be a credible threat when it comes to some clear transactional searches, where the consumer knows what they want and is really looking for a comparison, by price or by review ratings. But this seems very unlikely to be Pinterest's natural marketplace anyway.

It would be very interesting to segment the Power Reviews survey results further to understand the different categories within product searches. The act of searching can be nuanced; it implies uncertainty and a desire to be provided with an answer.

The answers Pinterest can provide, if technologies like Lens take hold and it delivers on the enticing promise to read the world through visual search, will go far beyond a traditional list of links and images, and into the realm of something much more inspirational for consumers.

As such, it would be fascinating to know how many product searches, whether on Google, Facebook, Amazon or Pinterest, fall into this category. Or perhaps more appropriately, how many searches would fall into this category if people knew the technology existed.

Combined with the one-click purchase technology Pinterest plans to integrate worldwide, this would see Pinterest tick many of the boxes that shape the 'Why Shoppers Start on Amazon' graph featured above, and also generate new demand.

Consumers can be fickle and if they prize the variety of products on offer (as evidence suggests they do), the platform that provides this will become their preferred destination. If it can do this by resolving the awkward paradox inherent in 'traditional' image search (using words to search for images, often with unconvincing results), it will be all the more attractive and effective.

Advertisers, of course, will follow where consumers go, especially if Pinterest continues to develop their paid search offering through 2017.

Delivering better search results through new technology and a growing pool of users is a model ripe for monetisation, a possibility not lost on Pinterest.  For luxury goods, home decor, and fashion companies, this platform seems a natural fit and it would not be surprising to see these brands among the early adopters of paid advertising on Pinterest.

What does the future hold for Pinterest?

Attention spans are a precious, dwindling commodity, and simply shouting at consumers just won't cut through.

By connecting to, and enhancing, our experience of the world around us, Pinterest may be in a position to steal a march on the competition – in technological terms, at least. A monthly user base of 150 million lags behind the giants in this arena and Pinterest will not gather the clout to tackle Google for Search dominance, but its development is no less compelling for that.

Ours is an increasingly visual culture, and Pinterest is well placed to challenge on the basis of the big focal points in search today; local, personalisation, voice, image, video, and app integration. It also offers a different experience to users that potentially allows advertisers to sell without intruding.

That makes for a potent combination and, should it all come together as planned, could see Pinterest offer a welcome alternative to Google and Amazon for marketers and consumers alike.

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How to target high-income consumers with Adwords

There are many industries in which being able to target high net worth individuals is useful within AdWords.

Whether you are selling high-end investments, expensive cars, loans or clothes, targeting high-end individuals within AdWords will help you improve your return on investment.

Today I am going to be showing you a deeply hidden gem within AdWords that allows you to target people based on their household income. It works using data from Google that is sourced from this AdWords Help post.

“Target locations by demographics to reach groups of people based on their location's approximate average household income. Based on publicly available data from the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS), advertisers are able to target ads to certain areas according to their average household income. This feature is currently available for U.S. locations only.”

You can target people by household incomes that are in:

Top 10% 11-20% 21-30% 31-40% Lower 50%

One of the issues however with targeting users by household income is that if you are using very granular targeting such as by city or zip code Google will respect this targeting over income targets.

So for example if you are targeting the whole of the USA with a household income target and then you target New York with a bid modifier of 20% then Google would respect the bid modifier for New York over the modifier for high income targets.

What percentage of traffic comes from each target bucket?

Early reports of the percentage of traffic from each target bucket have been published by bloggers. You will see that on average, users in the top 10% will have an income of $146,001 per year, with the bottom 50% having an income of less than $64,000 per year.

When looking at the percentage of clicks, 19.7% come from users with an average household income of $64,000 or less per year, with just 1.8% coming from households with an average income of $146,001 or more.

How To Target High Net Worth Individuals in Adwords

STEP 1. Go to your campaign settings along the top menu, and then select all settings from the sub menu as shown below.

STEP 2. Within the targeting options go to advanced targeting as shown in the screenshot below.

STEP 3. In the advanced settings menu select location groups and then from the drop down select “demographics” as shown below.

STEP 4. Enter the location that you would like to target within the location box and then select the household income tier that you would like to target.

How to layer targeting methods to change bids

If you have a product which people from lower income households are likely to purchase, but a larger majority of your customers will be higher net worth individuals, you may want to consider using layered targeting.

For example, if I am targeting New York, I would add both New York as a location and then add New York (Top 10% by Income) as a location as shown below.

You can then use bid modifiers to appear higher in Google's results for higher net worth individuals. You can see in the example that bids would be increased by 10% for higher net worth individuals. 


There are countless industries where this deeply hidden targeting feature will be very effective at improving your Adwords performance.

There are hundreds of different keywords that where the intention is dramatically changed when you compare the top 10% of earners with the bottom 50%. If you are targeting one of these markets, you should definitely consider testing this strategy.

If you have any questions about this feature please feel free to comment below with your questions.

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What's been going on with Google's mobile indexing?

Back in October, Google announced the impending rollout of a mobile-first search index, a sure to be massive overhaul of the way Google indexes its search results which has had SEOs scrambling to prepare their businesses.

In fairly typical Google fashion, a few months on from the announcement, we're still no closer to a definitive date on when the change will take place. But some strange behaviour in mobile search results, combined with turbulent search 'weather' over the past few days, indicates that we could be approaching a launch.

What happened?

The first sign that something a little strange was happening came on Monday 6th February, when Glynn Davies, Head of Search Strategy at Pi Datametrics, noticed separate mobile sites dropping out of mobile search on Google, to be replaced with their desktop versions.

Noticing separate mobile sites dropping out of Google Mobile in favour of desktop versions across several major sites… #seo #mobile pic.twitter.com/LYoEVNUgOn

- Glynn Davies (@glynndaviesesq) February 6, 2017

As alarming as it might seem, this situation isn't without precedent on Google. Google confirmed back in 2015 that it uses the desktop version of a site for ranking on mobile, while still comparing the two to check for any major discrepancies (such as users creating a spammy desktop website purely for the purposes of ranking high).

And last November it was revealed that desktop pages might be ranked over AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) in certain circumstances in the upcoming mobile-first index.

Still, this sudden switch seemed unprecedented, and Mozcast's weather report – which reflects the current turbulence of Google's algorithms by how hot and stormy the weather is – was showing some distinctly tempestuous weather on Sunday 5th and Monday 6th November.

Image: Mozcast

There was some speculation on Twitter as to whether this could be due to Google's recently-implemented penalty against intrusive mobile interstitials, but there appeared to be no link between the presence of interstitials and the sites which were being affected.

@BritneyMuller None of affected sites we've seen have interstitials. We'll blog more today at https://t.co/UEqRuAMBRu @PiDatametrics

- Glynn Davies (@glynndaviesesq) February 7, 2017

Of course, in these situations one of the best ways to gain clarity is to ping Google on Twitter. As it happened, Twitter user Vishal Marathe had already contacted John Mueller, Google's webmaster trends analyst, a few days earlier about the same issue. Mueller's theory was that the swap in rankings might be due to a problem in the way the sites themselves were set up.

@VishMarathe411 Happy to look at examples. My guess is the sites might not be set up correctly.

- John ☆.o(≧▽≦)o.☆ (@JohnMu) February 3, 2017

Glitchy Google

Pi Datametrics tracked the ranking of the affected sites on both mobile and desktop with its data-driven SEO platform, in order to try and determine what might be causing the change. Glynn Davies explained Pi's thinking in trying to determine the cause:

“Our first suspicion on noticing this was an error in configuration that was being “punished” by Google's switch to mobile-first indexing. Google recommend a bi-directional rel=“canonical”/rel=“alternate”, which identifies the relationship between equivalent but separate mobile and desktop pages.

However, that doesn't appear to be the cause. Some affected sites are correctly configured, others appear not to be. Plus, all examples we've seen conditionally redirect, i.e. clicking the desktop site result on a mobile device will pass the user back to the mobile site.”

An image from Pi Datametrics' platform highlighting the sites that were affected by the mysterious change – and those which weren't. | Image: Pi Datametrics

Fashion retailer ASOS is one of the brands whose sites were affected by the switch in rankings. Image: Pi Datametrics

Major fashion retailer ASOS was one of those affected, and its mobile and desktop sites exhibited some particularly strange behaviour with regard to US and UK search. Davies explained:

“One of the examples, a large fashion retailer (ASOS), is further complicated by the fact that the US mobile page ranking 1st in UK mobile search has been replaced by the UK desktop equivalent (which now still redirects to the US version when accessed through SERPs).

In short, there doesn't appear to be either a clear cause or a reason why some are affected while others aren't.”

Things became significantly clearer when, on Wednesday 8th February, John Mueller tweeted to confirm that this was in fact a glitch (or “quirk”) on Google's end, rather than intentional behaviour, and that Google was actively looking into the issue.

@razbithume yeah, looks weird :). We noticed too and are looking into it on our side. Seems like a quirk on our side.

- John ☆.o(≧▽≦)o.☆ (@JohnMu) February 8, 2017

As of right now, the glitch seems to still be ongoing while Google looks into things. There is a chance that the issue could be unrelated to mobile-first indexing – after all, Google has any number of algorithm updates, both big and small, in the pipeline for throughout the year – most of which we won't even know about until they're on top of us. Mobile-first indexing just happens to be a major one that we know is coming.

But given the fact that this glitch affects mobile sites specifically, and the timing of it, it doesn't seem too far-fetched to conclude that it could be the result of tests that Google is carrying out ahead of a full implementation of the new index.

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Seven tools to help you run multichannel digital marketing campaigns

With exponential changes in the marketing landscape over the last decade, Marshall McLuhan's proclamation “The medium is the message” has gained new meaning.

Faced with a constant deluge of information and brand messaging, it has become a necessity for companies to be in front of customers' eyes more than ever before, thanks to perpetual connectivity.

A strong multichannel marketing campaign uses a combination of direct and indirect means of communication to reach a broad target audience. In turn, customers are encouraged to take action through the channel of their choice. At the end of the day, multichannel marketing is all about options.

There's no denying that customers these days have a lot of control over the buying process and consumption of information. They determine both the “how” and the “when” of the cycle leading to a conversion.

Today, there are a myriad of ways to reach consumers. As the number of applicable platforms rises, multichannel digital marketing will be more than just advantageous – it will be vital to a brand's success.

Here are seven tools to consider when putting your strategy together.

1. ClearVoice for content marketing

Content marketing is an entity that needs to be on every brand's radar. It is arguably THE MOST crucial element to any digital marketing campaign. According to a Curata report, 75% of marketers are still increasing their investment in content. Producing high-value material addressing issues or concerns within the industry is perhaps the best way to engage and grow a target audience.

A strong reliable content strategy needs an efficient way to facilitate and streamline discovery, development, and distribution. Enter ClearVoice. This multi-faceted tool gives the user all necessary functionality to manage content through the entire marketing process from A to Z.

This interface allows you to create content on your own or outsource to freelancers if needed. It is also linked to WordPress as well as a number of other content management systems to ensure that publication and distribution are integrated and simple to execute. Some key features include:

Audience targeting Content categorization Publication scheduling Collaboration with content creators Subscription to publisher/author database Campaign management Progress tracking

Through the content measurement function, you will gain in-depth insights on what or who performs the best, and what can be improved upon in the future.

Content marketing is one of the most effective ways to create a lasting relationship between brands and consumers. If your company is planning to automate your content process from planning to distribution, consider ClearVoice as a customizable resource to build a powerful strategy.

2. Mention for social media

The best social media campaigns do not start with postings right off the bat. They start with critical observation. They key to establishing a strong social media presence is putting yourself in the shoes of the ideal customer. Although a post may seem valuable in your eyes, the masses have a completely different perspective of your industry and what excites you might be totally irrelevant to them.

Mention is a user-friendly tool that monitors all the major social media channels on the web to keep you up-to-date and informed every time someone mentions you, you brand, competitors, or targeted keywords.

Some of the premier features enable you to:

Track mentions across an array of online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. Create alerts to notify you of any mentions of your business name, competitors, or other keywords Filter and prioritize alerts Assign tasks across a team Track and analyze data to determine the top sources of mentions

Mention is also available on mobile so you can keep up on activity while you're on the go and act quickly when needed.

Monitoring your brand/industry is a must. An essential part of creating a social media campaign is learning what your audience wants to hear and when they want to hear it. Without these crucial insights, your messages can easily fall victim to getting lost in the never-ending stream of updates and new content. Mention is a very affordable path to get the inside scoop on your audience's voice.

3. MailChimp for email marketing

Email will always be one of the most important tools in the realm of digital marketing. In fact, 89% of marketers swear by email's effectiveness as the primary channel for lead generation. This is one of the best forms of direct marketing as it seamlessly bypasses all the hustle and bustle of the internet while guiding viewers down the sales funnel.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of email marketing is that the people you are contacting have already shown interest in your brand. They have signed up to receive messages from you and are ready to hear more. Emailing each of your potential customers one-by-one is virtually impossible. One of the most popular tools companies are using to make the process more efficient is MailChimp.

The simply-designed dashboard gives you everything you need to:

Set up campaigns Create segmented lists Build forms to increase engagement Invite colleagues to work on campaigns

What I absolutely love about MailChimp is how it makes it dead simple to track the success rates of each email blast:

This platform is great for businesses of all sizes, especially if you are just starting out. A few of the additional benefits of the service are:

FREE for up to 2000 subscribers and 12,000 monthly emails Works great with WordPress User-friendly HTML template creation (no coding experience needed)

Regardless of what stage your business is in, MailChimp offers an affordable solution to keep in touch with your leads and previous customers. Optimizing your mass emailing system is a great way to ensure nothing slips through the cracks when reaching out to customers.

4. Marketo for marketing automation

Marketing automation is what even enterprise businesses dreamt of only a few decades ago. It is utopian technology that enables brands to streamline marketing tasks and workflows in a manner that boosts efficiency (and revenue) across the board.

One of the biggest advantages of marketing automation is that it levels the playing field for the smaller companies, enabling them to take on entrenched behemoths by optimizing elements like:

Lead nurturing Audience segmentation Customer lifecycle marketing Cross-selling Upselling Tracking tangible and intangible metrics

With automated marketing, you can engineer your website and customer interaction points to provide a more personal, customized user experience. It enables you to answer two crucial questions:

What can I do to give my buyers more of what they want? What can I do to help improve my customer's buying experience?

Marketo is a versatile tool that provides companies of all sizes with the necessary resources and information to navigate the waters of automated marketing and do all of the above.

Integrated with SaaS providers via its Launchpoint ecosystem, this platform gives marketers in practically every industry the upper hand over their competitors. Some of the primary features this tool encompasses are:

Robust mobile tools Email A/B testing Micro targeting Smart lists Engagement programs

From optimizing your staff's time to pinpointing the most promising leads for your sales team, automated marketing with Marketo can be a game-changer in boosting your revenue and growing your brand. Check out their pricing options to find what would best suit your business.

5. WordStream for search advertising

PPC with search and social media marketing is a quick route to take when you're looking to generate traffic to your website or capitalize on a trending event or occasion. However, if you decide to include PPC into your multichannel digital marketing strategy, you will need a firm understanding of the workings of digital ad platforms, networks, exchanges, SaaS products and services, as well as publishers.

WordStream is a top-notch tool that will not only set you up and provide proper data on your Google AdWords and social media PPC campaigns, but also will alert you with insights on how to adjust your approach to save money and see better results.

Additionally, the WordStream Advisor includes a number of useful features such as:

Identification of KPIs Landing page optimization Call tracking Grading of existing campaigns Account management services Cross platform integration Facebook advertising

Research indicates that search ads are clicked on more often than any other form of digital marketing. PPC is a non-disruptive advertising option that can do wonders to drive traffic to your website. Perhaps the most unique element of PPC is that Google doesn't just reward the brands with the deepest pockets, they reward quality (referring to user preference).

Basically, the more popular and relevant your ads are, the higher rankings you will receive, driving traffic to your website at a lower cost. WordStream has generous pricing options so you can determine if guided PPC is working for your business.

6. Yotpo for online reviews

There are all kinds of business benefits to online customer reviews. For starters, 90% of buying decisions are influenced by them (as BrightLocal found). There's no denying that today's consumers are growing increasingly immune to and skeptical of brand messaging and sales tactics. Online reviews provide third-party validation and social proof that play a significant role in boosting conversion rates.

Online reviews and testimonials are all over the internet. You will find them on:

Regional business directories Niche listing sites Product review sites Social media Blog posts Company websites

Going out of your way to gather online reviews needs to be a priority, especially from a local SEO perspective. You are losing out on a lot of potential business otherwise. Perhaps the biggest benefit is in the form of trust that reviews build between brands and consumers.

If you are just starting out and your product isn't exactly selling like hot cakes yet, turning to Yotpo is a great way to consistently generate authentic content from your customers and boost exposure.

Through its automated system, Yotpo uses functions such as Mail After Purchase to send review requests to customers at the most opportune time following a purchase. After a review is created, you will be able to keep the conversation going by thanking them, offering suggestions, or resolving any grievances. Additionally, each Yotpo email is designed to upsell your products with an algorithm that wisely chooses products based on the customer's previous activity. You can go a step further and also use Yotpo Ads to by turning your reviews into promoted stories on Facebook. That way, you can let your customers do the talking for you.

Yotpo's review system can lead to a positive ripple effect for your online presence by improving:

Web traffic Search engine rankings Customer engagement Brand trust Depth and breadth of content

Online reviews serve as great indicators as to how your business is fairing in the public eye. The challenge is getting happy customers, brand loyalists and advocates, and industry influencers to do them. Based on your needs, take a step back and examine which plan would work best to help generate the most valuable feedback for your business.

7. WorkZone for campaign management

Putting a multichannel digital marketing strategy in motion is one thing, managing every aspect of integrated campaigns is a whole different ballgame. Without the proper resources and organization to execute your strategies, it is inevitable that some parts will fall through the cracks and results won't match up to expectations.

Understanding the ins and outs of effective communication, collaboration, and task scheduling is essential in carrying out tasks for businesses of all sizes. It is a concept that seems relatively simple until you get into the finer details.

Luckily, there are a number of helpful tools to make program management simple. WorkZone is an easy-to-grasp platform that will make sure you have all your bases covered – it beautifully toes the line between simplistic, drag-and-drop tools and complex, multi-user software.

Through its simplified dashboard, you will be able to:

Efficiently assign and implement all tasks Manage risk factors Oversee quality Identify issues and roadblocks Set individual calendars

WorkZone lets you use group calendars to schedule team tasks, workload reports to see who has bandwidth for the next project, threaded timelines to identify dependencies, and develop campaign assets real-time document sharing, image markup, file versioning and approval workflows.

With 15 years of real world brand usage, WorkZone has task execution down to a science. If used properly, this tool will be your strongest ally in making sure each facet of your multichannel marketing campaign is carried out efficiently. Look into their demos to find which plan suits your needs.

Parting thoughts

Customer experience is one of the most prominent competitive differentiators among brands. With more touchpoints of communication coming up as shopping behavior evolves, creating a strong multichannel digital marketing campaign is the best way to get your message out there in the hope of attracting eyes and ears. This means catering to the masses and their preference of media consumption. While each channel is unique in its own way, the most important thing you can do is remain consistent with your approach across your entire campaign.

Hopefully these tools will put you on the right track to succeed and grow your business!

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What does Google's Project Owl mean for search and fake news?

Have you heard of Google's Project Owl yet?

If not, then you're in for some fun, because this is a hoot.

Let's start at the beginning.

Fall of 2016: Trump gets nominated to the presidency.

Still in fall of 2016: All around the world, people are asking WHO? WHAT? HOW? That's when researchers found that American voters were influenced by misinformation on the internet.

The world is completely distressed. They demand that 1) someone be responsible and 2) for them to take action and fix the 'fake news' problem.

Oh hi Larry Page and Mark Zuckerberg.

Who else other than Google and Facebook, right?

The public wants solutions from search engines and social media giants to tackle 'fake news' and any other misinformation on the internet.

May 2017: TA-DA! Welcome Project Owl.

Project Owl is introduced as Google's answer to addressing fake news. It plans to do this with new feedback forms for search suggestions and the answer box, and authoritative content prioritization in the answer box.

And no, we don't see this affecting marketers or SEOs. As long as you continue to practice white hat methods, your day-to-day should be the same. However, given this can affect searchers' user experience, we see a few challenges.

Challenge #1: Search engines are supposed to be neutral

Google is walking on a tight rope. If search engines manage to accomplish tackling fake news, then first, that feels like a violation of the first amendment but second, they will come off as bias to specificnews/media sources.

Remember, feedback from some users will change the search experience for all on that query. It will be difficult to differentiate what's 'right' for one searcher versus what's 'right' for the other.

But, you know what? When personalized search engines are the new thing, this may not even be a challenge.

Challenge #2: The proposed plan

Let's take a step back andlook at Google'strack record when they are working to fix something.Just like many updates in thepast, Googlesaysone thingandmarketersnotice somethingcompletely different.

Rightnow,ProjectOwl,accordingto Google, will rely on the searcher to provide feedback on the autocomplete or on the featured snippet.

But, we're missing the obvious.

Let me ask you: Whenwas thelast time you went in and changed any of yourGooglesearch settings?Or rather, did you even know that it was possible to change Google search settings?

Don't feel bad I know SEOs who didn't even knowthey could do that!

Googlesaid and I quote, We plan to use this feedback to help improve our algorithms. That is what they told us years ago about link disavow and theystill don't have thatright. My take is that it will be several years before Google is able to filter out fake news.

I personally think TMZ.com spreads lots of fake news, yet they rank for 2,133,648 keywords on Google; and I don't think Google is going to start taking their keywords away anytime soon.

As you can see I don't think Google is going to put much into this and even if they do it will take years before it's perfected. I believe Google is in crisis mode right now but sooner than later people will forget and Google will move on or deprioritize this.

Challenge #3: Obscure and infrequent queries

The third part of Google's solution is prioritizing authoritative content specifically for obscure and infrequent queries. But, when it's already such a niche group, how can you determine who that authority should go to?

Challenge #4: The blackhats

Like every other SEO tactic, there is always the one group of SEOs that capitalize on Google making an algorithmic change or giving us the capabilities to affect how the algorithm reacts.

I know blackhat SEOs are going to jump at this chance to devalue other people's content that don't serve theirs or their client's interest. They will probably work from C class IP addresses and run bots on specific timing intervals to make it seem natural.

Now what?

Overall, a first step is better than no step at all, but here are two ways I recommend as a stronger combat against fake news.

First, Google should not only rely on end users to report content that is fake or offensive. Its focus should be less on that and more on perfecting RankBrain, Google's artificial intelligence.

Second, it's not just up to the Googles and the Facebooks to take action. It's also a user's responsibility to determine whether a search listing is worthy of your click and trust.

When you see something that sounds outrageous, it probably is. Hoaxes appeal to natural human curiosity, which is why it's hard not to click, but still, that's a choice you get to make.

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7 advanced Google Shopping strategies [Infographic]

Google Shopping Ads now make up 56% of retailer ad spend in the USA, and a study by Merkle has shown that Shopping ads also accounted for 46% of clicks to retailers in the second quarter of 2016.

The current trends indicate that Google Shopping revenue is only going to grow in the next few years, making it more vital than ever to have a strong Google Shopping strategy as a retailer.

The infographic below, produced by Clicteq, will give you a quick visual and entertaining summary of seven advanced Google Shopping strategies that can supercharge your Google Shopping performance and help you compete in 2017.

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Grace the Stage at MozCon 2017: The Door is Open for Community Speaker Pitches

Posted by ronell-smith

Some of the best talks at MozCon each year come from the community speakers-those who're able to make a pitch to grace the stage.

This group enjoys the same privileges as the other speakers, including being able to deliver a keynote-style talk, and are always well-received by the audience.

If you're eager to be a member of this group, step right up.

We're now open for MozCon community speaker's pitches.

We'd be happy to have your best effort.

(This year, we'll have six speakers.)

The nuts & bolts: Submitting is as simple as filling out the form belowOnly submit one talk (the one you're most passionate about) Pitches must be related to online marketing & 15 minutes longSubmissions close Sunday, April 16th at 5pm PDTAll decisions are finalTalks must must adhere to the MozCon Code of ConductYou'll be required to be present at MozCon in Seattle

if you submit a pitch, you'll hear back from us regardless of whether you're accepted or denied.


Community speakers receive...At least 15 minutes on the MozCon stage for a keynote-style presentation, plus 5 minutes of Q&AA free ticket to MozCon. (If you already have one, we'll either refund or transfer the ticket to someone else.)Four nights of lodging covered by us at our partner hotelA reimbursement for your travel (flight, train, car, etc.), up to $500 domestic and $750 internationalA free ticket for you to give to anyone, plus a code for $300 off another ticketAn invitation for you and your significant other to join us for the speakers' dinner.

If you're curious about what the process look like, take a look at what Zeph Snapp wrote about his experience as a community speaker.

Long-time community member Samuel Scott, one of our fantastic community speakers at MozCon 2016!

How do you pick speakers?

The selection committee, comprised of Mozzers, reviews every pitch. Initially, we review only the topics. This helps us make sure the topics match our audience.

Later we look at the entirety of the pitch, with an eye for what the finished product would look like on stage.

Things to consider for your pitch:

Focus your pitch on online marketing. MozCon is all about actionable information.Your pitch is for MozCon organizations, so detail what you're talking about. We need to know the actual tactics you'll be sharing.Read this post on how to prepare for speaking, from pitching to the actual gig.Review the topics already accepted to ensure there is no overlap.Honor the form's word limits. (Linking to Google Docs, for example, will result in an immediate disqualification.)No one from the speaker selection committee will be able to evaluate your pitch in advance.Lobbying on social media is frowned upon and won't do you any good. Link to a video of you presenting and to your SlideShare channel (or wherever we can take a look at decks you've created in the past)A little weak in the knees about speaking at MozCon?

Don't be scurred.

We've got your back.

Whether a speaker has hundreds of talks under her belt or is giving her first talk, we work with them to deliver a product she'lll be proud of and the audience will both love and learn from.

We provide instruction on topics and review the content in its entirety.

We encourage pitches from speakers of all backgrounds, knowledge levels, and speaking experiences.

A few additional things we help with:

Discuss and refine your topicAssist in honing topic title and descriptionReview outlines and drafts Best practices and guidance for slide decks, specifically for our stageA comprehensive, step-by-step guide for show flowServe as an audience for practicing your talkReview your final deckSunday night pre-MozCon tour of the stage to meet our A/V crew, see your presentation on the screens, and test the clickerA 15-person dedicated crew to make your A/V outstandingWhatever else we can do to make your talk outstanding

Now over to you.

If you've ever had a vision of making onto the MozCon stage, this is your best shot.

So, umm, shouldn't you be typing feverishly in the Google Form above?

Good luck.

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The 6 Values (and 4 Benefits) of Agile Marketing - Whiteboard Friday

Posted by AgileJim

You've probably heard of agile processes in regards to software development. But did you know those same key values can have a huge impact if applied to marketing, as well? Being adaptive, collaborative, and iterative are necessary skills when we live in a world where Google can pull the rug out from under us at a moment's notice.

In today's Whiteboard Friday, we welcome guest host Jim Ewel, founder of AgileMarketing.net, as he describes what's important in the agile marketing process and why incorporating it into your own work is beneficial.

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

Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans, this is Jim Ewel. I'm the blogger behind AgileMarketing.net, the leading blog on agile marketing, and I'm here to talk to you today about agile marketing.

Agile marketing is an approach to marketing that takes its inspiration from agile software development. Like agile software development, it has a set of values and it has a set of benefits, and we're going to talk about those values and benefits today.

6 Values of Agile MarketingValue number one: Responding to change over following a plan.

It's not that we don't plan. It's just that we don't write 30- to 40-page marketing plans. Instead, every quarter, we write a one-page plan that specifies our goals, our aspirations to get everybody on the same page, and then every two to four weeks, we reset our priorities. We say, "This is what we're going to get done during this two- to four-week period."

Value number two: Rapid iterations over "big bang" campaigns.

In traditional marketing, we get together in a room and we say, "We're going to run a campaign for three to six months to a year."

We hash out the idea of what we're going to do for that campaign. Then we communicate to the agency. They come up with creative. They review it with us. We go back and forth, and eventually we'll run that campaign for three to six months. And you know what happens at the end of that campaign? We always declare victory because we've spent so much money and time on that campaign that every time we say, "It worked."

Well, we take a very different approach in agile marketing. We take an iterative approach. We start out with a little strategy. We meet for half an hour or an hour to figure out what do we think might work. Then we figure out how to test it. We measure the results, and this is very important, we document the learning.

If something doesn't work, we test it out and it doesn't work, it's okay because we've learned something. We've learned what doesn't work. So then we iterate again, and we try something else and we do that, we get that cycle going in a very effective way.

Value number three: Testing and data over opinions and conventions

Here, again, the importance is that we're not following the highest-paid person's opinion. No HiPPOs. It's all about: "Did we test it? Do we have data? Do we have the right metrics?" It's important to select the right metrics and not vanity metrics, which make us feel good, but don't really result in an improvement to the business.

Value number four: Many small experiments over a few big bets

And I like to talk about here the 70:20:10 rule. The idea behind the 70:20:10 rule is that we spend 70% of our budget and 50% of our time on the things that we know that work. We do it broadly across all our audiences.

We then spend 20% of our budget and 25% of our time modifying the things that we know that work and trying to improve them. Maybe we distribute it in a little different way or we modify the content, we modify what the page looks like. But, anyways, we're trying to improve that content.

And the last 10% of our budget and 25% of our time, we spend on wild ideas, things where we fully expect that only about 2 or 3 out of 10 ideas is really going to work, and we focus those things on those creative, wild ideas that are going to be the future 70% and 20%.

Value number five: Individuals and interactions over one-size-fits-all

Now, I like to think about this in terms of one of the experiences that I have with SEO. I get a lot of requests for link building, and a lot of the requests that I get are form requests. They write me a little message that they're writing to hundreds of other people, and I don't pay any attention to those requests.

I'm looking for somebody who really knows that I'm writing a blog about agile marketing, who's interacting with me, who maybe says something about a post that I put on Agile Marketing, and those people are the ones that I'm going to give my business to, in effect, and I'm going to do some link building with them. Same thing applies to all of our marketing.

Value number six: Collaboration over hierarchy and silos

One of the key things in many marketing organizations is that different silos of the organization don't seem to talk to each other. Maybe marketing isn't talking to sales, or marketing hasn't got the ear of senior management.

Well, one of the things we do in agile marketing is we put some processes in place to make sure that all of those groups are collaborating. They're setting the priorities together, and they're reviewing the results together.

4 Benefits of Agile Marketing

As a result of these six values, there are four important benefits to agile marketing.

I. The first is that you can get more done

I've taught a lot of teams agile marketing, and, as a whole, they tell me that they get about 30% to 40% more done with agile marketing. I had one team tell me they got 400% more done, but that's not typical. So they're getting more done, and they're getting more done because they're not doing rework and they're working on the right priorities.

II. Getting the right things done

Because you're working with sales, you're working with senior management to set the priorities, you're making sure with agile marketing that you're getting the right things done, and that's important.

III. Adapting to change

Part of our life today in marketing is that things change. We know that Google is going to change their PageRank algorithm in 2017. We don't know exactly how, but we know it's going to happen, and we need to be able to adapt to that change quickly and accurately, and we put processes in place in agile marketing to make sure that happens.

IV. Improved communications

Improved communications both within the marketing team and, probably even more important, outside the marketing team to sales and senior management.

By representing what we're getting done on something like a Kanban board, everybody can see exactly what marketing is working on, where it's at, and what they're getting done.

So that's agile marketing in a nutshell. I'd love to hear your comments, and thanks for watching.

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Ranking Multiple Domains to Own More SERP Real Estate - Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Is it better to rank higher in a single position frequently, or to own more of the SERP real estate consistently? The answer may vary. In today's Whiteboard Friday, Rand presents four questions you should ask to determine whether this strategy could work for you, shares some high-profile success cases, and explores the best ways to go about ranking more than one site at a time.

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

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we're going to chat about ranking multiple domains so you can own a bunch of the SERP real estate and whether you should do that, how you should do that, and some ways to do that.

I'll show you an example, because I think that will help kick us off. So you are almost certainly familiar, if you've played around in the world of real estate SERPs, with Zillow and Trulia. Zillow started up here in Seattle. They bought Trulia a couple of years ago and have been doing pretty amazingly well. In fact, I was speaking at a real estate conference in New York recently, and my God, I did an example where I was searching for tons of cities plus homes for sale or plus real estate or houses, and Zillow and Trulia, along with a couple others, are in the top five for every single city I checked no matter how big or small. So very, very impressive SEO.

One of the things that a lot of SEOs have seen, not just with Zillow and Trulia, but with a few others like them is that, man, they own multiple listings in the SERPs, and so they kind of dominate the real estate here and get even more clicks as an entity, a combined entity than they would if Zillow had, for example, when they bought Trulia, redirected Trulia.com to Zillow. On Whiteboard Friday and at Moz and a lot of people in the SEO world often recommend that when you buy another domain or when you're combining entities, that you do actually 301 redirect, because it can help bring up the rankings here.

The reason Zillow did not do that, and I think wisely so, is that they already dominated these SERPs so well that they figured pushing Trulia's rankings into their own and combining the two entities would, yes, probably move them from number two and three to number one in some places, but they already own number one in a ton of these. Trulia was almost always one or two or three. Why not own all of that? Why not own 66% of the top three consistently, rather than number one a little more frequently? I think that was probably the right move for them.

Questions to ask

As a result, many SEOs asked themselves, "Should I do something similar? Should I buy other domains, or should I start other domains? Should I run multiple sites and try and rank for many different keyword phrases or a few keywords that I care very, very deeply about?" The answer is, well, before you do that, before you make any call, ask yourself these four questions. The answers to them will help you determine whether you should follow in these footsteps.

1. Do I need to dominate multiple results for a keyword or set of keywords MORE than I need better global rankings or a larger set of keywords sending visits?

So first off, do you need to dominate multiple results for a keyword or a small set of keywords more than you need to improve global rankings? Global rankings, I mean like all the keywords that your site could rank for potentially or that you do rank for now or could help you to rank a larger set of keywords that send visits and traffic.

You kind of have to weigh these two things. It's either: Do I want two out of the top three results to be mine for this one keyword, or do I want these 10 keywords that I'm ranking for to broadly move up in rankings generally?
A lot of the time, this will bias you to go, "Wait a minute, no, the opportunity is not in these few keywords where I could dominate multiple positions. It's in moving up the global rankings and making my ability to rank for any set of keywords greater."

Even at Moz today, Moz does very well in the rankings for a lot of terms around SEO. But if, for example, let's say we were purchased by Search Engine Land or we bought Search Engine Land. If those two entities were combined, and granted, we do rank for many, many similar keywords, but we would probably not keep them separate. We would probably combine them, because the opportunity is still greater in combination than it is in dominating multiple results the way Zillow and Trulia are. This is a pretty rare circumstance.

2. Will I cannibalize link equity opportunities with multiple sites? Can I get enough link equity & authority signals to rank both?

Second, are you going to cannibalize link equity opportunities with multiple sites, and do you have the ability to get enough equity and authority signals to rank both domains or all three or all four or whatever it is?

A challenge that many SEOs encounter is that building links and building up the authority to rank is actually the toughest part of the SEO equation. The keyword targeting and ranking multiple domains, that's nice to have, but first you've got to build up a site that's got enough link equity. If it is challenging to earn links, maybe the answer is, hey, we should combine all our efforts or we should on work on all our efforts. Remember, even though Zillow owns Trulia, Trulia and Zillow are one entity, the links between them don't help the other one rank very much. It was already a case, before Zillow bought them, that Trulia and Zillow independently ranked. The two sites offer different experiences and some different listings and all that kind of stuff.

There are reasons why Google keeps them separately and why Zillow and Trulia keep them separately. But that's going to be really tough. If you're a smaller business or a smaller website starting out, you're trying to decide where should you put your link equity efforts, it might lean a little more this way.

3. Should I use my own domain(s), should I buy an existing site that ranks, or should I do barnacle SEO?

Number three. Should you use your own domain if you decide that you need to have multiple domains ranking for a single keyword? A good example of this case scenario is reputation management for your own brand name or for maybe someone who works at your company, some particular product that you make, whatever it is, or you're very, very focused and you know, "Hey, this one keyword matters more than everything else that we do."

Okay. Now the question would be: Should you use your own domain or a new domain that you buy and register and start building up? Should you buy an existing domain, something that already ranks, or should you do barnacle SEO? So mysite2.com, that would be basically you're registering a new domain, you're building it up from scratch, you're growing that brand, and you're trying to build all the signals that you'll need.

You could buy a competitor that's already ranking in the search results, that already has equity and ranking ability. Or you could say, "Hey, we see that this Quora question is doing really well. Can we answer that question tremendously well?" Or, "We see that Medium can perform tremendously well here. You know what? We can write great posts on Medium." "We see that LinkedIn does really well in this sector. Great. We can do some publishing on LinkedIn." Or, "There's a list of companies on this page. We can make sure that we're the number-one listed company on that page." Okay. That kind of barnacle SEO, we did a Whiteboard Friday about that a few months ago, and you can check that out too.

4. Will my multi-domain strategy cost time/money that would be better spent on boosting my primary site's marketing? Will those efforts cause brand dilution or sacrifice potential brand equity?

And number four, last but not least, will your multi-site domain strategy cost you time and money that would be better spent on boosting your primary site's marketing efforts? It is the case that you're going to sacrifice something if you're putting effort into a different website versus putting all your marketing efforts into one domain.

Now, one reason that people certainly do this is because they're trying riskier tactics with the second site. Another reason is because they've already dominated the rankings as much as they want, or because they're trying to build up multiple properties so that they can sell one off. They're very, very good at link building this space already and growing equity and those sorts of things.

But the other question you have to ask is: Will this cause brand dilution? Or is it going to sacrifice potential brand equity? One of the things that we've observed in the SEO world is that rankings alone do not make for revenue. It is absolutely the case that people are choosing which domains to click on and which domains to buy from and convert on based on the brand and their brand familiarity. When you're building up a second site, you've got to be building up a second brand. So that's an additional cost and effort.

Now, I don't want to rain on the entire parade here. Like we've said in a few of these, there are reasons why you might want to consider multiple domains and reasons why a multi-domain strategy can be effective for some folks. It's just that I think it might be a little less often and should be undertaken with more care and attention to detail and to all these questions than what some folks might be doing when they buy a bunch of domains and hope that they can just dominate the top 10 right out of the gate.

All right, everyone, look forward to your thoughts on multi-domain strategies, and we'll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Better Alternatives to "Expert Roundup"-Style Content - Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

You may be tempted to publish that newest round of answers you've gotten from industry experts, but hold off - there's a better way. In today's Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains why expert roundups just aren't the best use of your time and effort, and how to pivot your strategy to create similar content that'll make the juice worth the squeeze.

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

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we're going to look at some better alternatives to the expert roundup-style content that's become extremely popular on the web. There are a few reasons why it's popular. So let's talk about why SEOs and content marketers do so many expert roundups, why this became a popular content format.

Why do SEOs and content marketers even use "expert roundups?"

Okay. It turns out if you've got a piece of content that's like "75 Experts Share Their Favorite Constitutional Law Cases," maybe you interviewed a bunch of constitutional laws scholars and you put together this article, there's a bunch of nice things that you actually do get from this, which is why people use this format, right?

You kind of get automatic outreach, because if you talk to these people, you've had a connection with them. You've built a little bit of a relationship. There's now something of an incentive to share for these folks and the potential for a link. All of those are sort of elements that people are looking for, well, that marketers are looking for from their content.

The nice thing is you've got this long cadre of individuals who have contributed, and they create the content, which means you don't have to, saving you a bunch of time and energy. They become your amplifier so you can kind of sit back and relax when it comes time to broadcast it out there. You just tell them it's ready, and they go and push it. They lend your content credibility. So even if you don't have any credibility with your brand or with your website, they deliver it for you. You don't have to do that.

There are a few big problems with this kind of content.

Those are all really nice things. Don't get me wrong. I understand why. But there are some big, big problems with expert roundup-style content.

1. Like many easy-to-replicate tactics, expert roundups become WAY overdone.

First one, like many of the easy to replicate tactics, expert roundup has got spam to hack. They became way, way overdone. I get emails like this. "Dear Fishkin, I roundup. You write. Do this. Then share. Okay. Bye, Spammy McSpams-A-Lot."

Look, Mr. McSpams-A-Lot, I appreciate how often you think of me. I love that every day there are a couple of offers like this in my inbox. I try to contribute to less than one every two or three weeks and only the ones that look super credible and real interesting. But jeez, can you imagine if you are truly an expert, who can lend credibility and create lots of amplification, you're getting overwhelmed with these kinds of requests, and people are probably getting very tired of reading them, especially in certain market segments where they've become way too overdone.

2. It's hard for searchers to get valuable, useful info via this format - and search engines don't like it, either.

But even if it's the case that you can get all these experts to contribute and it's not overdone in your market space, there are two other big problems. One, the content format is awful, awful for trying to get valuable and useful information. It rarely actually satisfies either searchers or engines.

If you search for constitutional law cases and you see "75 Experts Share Their Favorite Constitutional Law Cases," you might click. But my god, have you gone through those types of content? Have you tried to read a lot of those roundups? They are usually awful, just terrible.

You might get a nugget here or there, but there's a bunch of contributions that are multiple paragraphs long and try to include links back to wherever the expert is trying to get their links going. There's a bunch of them that are short and meaningless. Many of them overlap.

It's annoying. It's bad. It's not well-curated. It's not well-put together. There are exceptions. Sometimes people put real effort into them and they get good, but most of the time these are real bad things, and you rarely see them in the search results.

BuzzSumo did a great analysis of content that gets shares and gets links and gets rankings. Guess what did not fall into it - expert roundups.

3. Roundups don't earn as many links, and the traffic spike from tweets is temporary.

Number three. That's number three. The links that the creators want from these roundups, that they're hoping they're going to get, it doesn't end up there most of the time. What usually happens is you get a short traffic spike, some additional engagement, some additional activity on mostly Twitter, sometimes a little bit Facebook or LinkedIn, but it's almost all social activity, and it's a very brief spike.

5 formats to try instead

So what are some better alternatives? What are some things we can do? Well, I've got five for you.

1. Surveys

First off, if you're going to be creating content that is around a roundup, why not do almost exactly the same process, but rather than asking a single question or a set of questions that people are replying to, ask them to fill out a short survey with a few data points, because then you can create awesome graphs and visuals, which have much stronger link earning potential. It's the same outreach effort, but for much more compelling content that often does a better job of ranking, is often more newsworthy and link worthy. I really, really like surveys, and I think that they can work tremendously well if you can put them together right.

2. Aggregations of public data

Second, let's say you go, "Oh, Rand, that would be great, but I want to survey people about this thing, and they won't give me the information that I'm looking for." Never fear. You can aggregate public data.

So a lot of these pieces of information that may be interesting to your audience, that you could use to create cool visuals, the graphs and charts and all that kind of thing and trend lines, are actually available on the web. All you need to do is cite those sources, pull in that data, build it yourself, and then you can outreach to the people who are behind these companies or these organizations or these individuals, and then say, "Hey, I made this based on public data. Can you correct any errors?" Now you've got the outreach, which can lead to the incentive to share and to build a link. Very cool.

3. Experiments and case studies

So this is taking a much smaller group, saying, "I'm only going to work with this one person or these couple of people, or I'm going to do it myself. Here's what Seattle's most influential law firm found when they challenged 10 state laws." Well, there you go. Now I've got an interesting, wholly formed case study. I only had to work with one expert, but chances are good that lots and lots of people will be interested in this. It's also excellent for newsworthiness. It often can get lots of press coverage in whatever industry you're in.

4. Seeking out controversial counter-opinions on a topic

Fourth, if you're going to do a roundup-style thing and you're going to collect multiple opinions, if you can find a few points or a single subject around which multiple experts have different opinions, that could be just two people, it could be four or five, it could be seven or eight, but you're basically trying to create this controversy.

You're saying like, "Here are these people on this side of this issue. Here are these people on this side of this issue, Wil Reynolds versus Rand Fishkin on link building." I think we did a presentation like that in Minneapolis last year or a couple years ago. It was super fun. Wil and I got up on stage, and we sort of debated with each other. There were no losers in that debate. It was great.

This leverages the emotional response you're seeking of conflict. It creates more engaging content by far, and there's more incentive for the parties who participate to link and share, because they're sort of showing off their opinion and trying to make counterpoints. You can get a lot of good things.

5. Not just text!

Number five. If you've decided, "You know what? None of these formats or any others work. I really, really want to do a roundup. I think it can work for me," okay. But do me a favor and try something that is not just text, not just text.

Muzli is a newsletter I subscribe to in the design world that does lots of roundup-style content, but the roundups are all visuals. They're visuals. They're like UI interactions and GIFs and animations and illustrations. I actually really love those. Those get great engagement, and they rank, by the way. They rank quite well. Many of the ones that they link to in the newsletter do well.

You can do this with visuals. You can do it with data. You could do it with revenue numbers. You could do it with tools. You could do it with products, whatever it is.

I would suggest thinking a little more broadly than, "Dear Fishkin, I roundup. You write." I think that there's a lot more opportunity outside of the pure expert roundup space, and I hope you'll share your creative ideas with us and the successes you've seen.

We look forward to seeing you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Aren't 301s, 302s, and Canonicals All Basically the Same? - Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Dr-Pete

They say history repeats itself. In the case of the great 301 vs 302 vs rel=canonical debate, it repeats itself about every three months. In today's Whiteboard Friday, Dr. Pete explains how bots and humans experience pages differently depending on which solution you use, why it matters, and how each choice may be treated by Google.

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

Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans, it's Dr. Pete, your friendly neighborhood marketing scientist here at Moz, and I want to talk today about an issue that comes up probably about every three months since the beginning of SEO history. It's a question that looks something like this: Aren't 301s, 302s, and canonicals all basically the same?

So if you're busy and you need the short answer, it's, "No, they're not." But you may want the more nuanced approach. This popped up again about a week [month] ago, because John Mueller on the Webmaster Team at Google had posted about redirection for secure sites, and in it someone had said, "Oh, wait, 302s don't pass PageRank."

John said, "No. That's a myth. It's incorrect that 302s don't pass PR," which is a very short answer to a very long, technical question. So SEOs, of course, jumped on that, and it turned into, "301s and 302s are the same, cats are dogs, cakes are pie, up is down." We all did our freakout that happens four times a year.

So I want to get into why this is a difficult question, why these things are important, why they are different, and why they're different not just from a technical SEO perspective, but from the intent and why that matters.

I've talked to John a little bit. I'm not going to put words in his mouth, but I think 95% of this will be approved, and if you want to ask him, that's okay afterwards too.

Why is this such a difficult question?

So let's talk a little bit about classic 301, 302. So a 301 redirect situation is what we call a permanent redirect. What we're trying to accomplish is something like this. We have an old URL, URL A, and let's say for example a couple years ago Moz moved our entire site from seomoz.org to moz.com. That was a permanent change, and so we wanted to tell Google two things and all bots and browsers:

First of all, send the people to the new URL, and, second, pass all the signals. All these equity, PR, ranking signals, whatever you want to call them, authority, that should go to the new page as well.

So people and bots should both end up on this new page.

A classic 302 situation is something like a one-day sale. So what we're saying is for some reason we have this main page with the product. We can't put the sale information on that page. We need a new URL. Maybe it's our CMS, maybe it's a political thing, doesn't matter. So we want to do a 302, a temporary redirect that says, "Hey, you know what? All the signals, all the ranking signals, the PR, for Google's sake keep the old page. That's the main one. But send people to this other page just for a couple of days, and then we're going to take that away."

So these do two different things. One of these tells the bots, "Hey, this is the new home," and the other one tells it, "Hey, stick around here. This is going to come back, but we want people to see the new thing."

So I think sometimes Google interprets our meaning and can change things around, and we get frustrated because we go, "Why are they doing that? Why don't they just listen to our signals?"

Why are these differentiations important?

The problem is this. In the real world, we end up with things like this, we have page W that 301s to page T that 302s to page F and page F rel=canonicals back to page W, and Google reads this and says, "W, T, F." What do we do?

We sent bad signals. We've done something that just doesn't make sense, and Google is forced to interpret us, and that's a very difficult thing. We do a lot of strange things. We'll set up 302s because that's what's in our CMS, that's what's easy in an Apache rewrite file. We forget to change it to a 301. Our devs don't know the difference, and so we end up with a lot of ambiguous situations, a lot of mixed signals, and Google is trying to help us. Sometimes they don't help us very well, but they just run into these problems a lot.

In this case, the bots have no idea where to go. The people are going to end up on that last page, but the bots are going to have to choose, and they're probably going to choose badly because our intent isn't clear.

How are 301s, 302s, and rel=canonical different?

So there are a couple situations I want to cover, because I think they're fairly common and I want to show that this is complex. Google can interpret, but there are some reasons and there's some rhyme or reason.

1. Long-term 302s may be treated as 301s.

So the first one is that long-term 302s are probably going to be treated as 301s. They don't make any sense. If you set up a 302 and you leave it for six months, Google is going to look at that and say, "You know what? I think you meant this to be permanent and you made a mistake. We're going to pass ranking signals, and we're going to send people to page B." I think that generally makes sense.

Some types of 302s just don't make sense at all. So if you're migrating from non-secure to secure, from HTTP to HTTPS and you set up a 302, that's a signal that doesn't quite make sense. Why would you temporarily migrate? This is probably a permanent choice, and so in that case, and this is actually what John was addressing in this post originally, in that case Google is probably going to look at that and say, "You know what? I think you meant 301s here," and they're going to pass signals to the secure version. We know they prefer that anyway, so they're going to make that choice for you.

If you're confused about where the signals are going, then look at the page that's ranking, because in most cases the page that Google chooses to rank is the one that's getting the ranking signals. It's the one that's getting the PR and the authority.

So if you have a case like this, a 302, and you leave it up permanently and you start to see that Page B is the one that's being indexed and ranking, then Page B is probably the one that's getting the ranking signals. So Google has interpreted this as a 301. If you leave a 302 up for six months and you see that Google is still taking people to Page A, then Page A is probably where the ranking signals are going.

So that can give you an indicator of what their decision is. It's a little hard to reverse that. But if you've left a 302 in place for six months, then I think you have to ask yourself, "What was my intent? What am I trying to accomplish here?"

Part of the problem with this is that when we ask this question, "Aren't 302s, 301s, canonicals all basically the same?" what we're really implying is, "Aren't they the same for SEO?" I think this is a legitimate but very dangerous question, because, yes, we need to know how the signals are passed and, yes, Google may pass ranking signals through any of these things. But for people they're very different, and this is important.

2. Rel=canonical is for bots, not people.

So I want to talk about rel=canonical briefly because rel=canonical is a bit different. We have Page A and Page B again, and we're going to canonical from Page A to Page B. What we're basically saying with this is, "Look, I want you, the bots, to consider Page B to be the main page. You know, for some reason I have to have these near duplicates. I have to have these other copies. But this is the main one. This is what I want to rank. But I want people to stay on Page A."

So this is entirely different from a 301 where I want people and bots to go to Page B. That's different from a 302, where I'm going to try to keep the bots where they are, but send people over here.

So take it from a user perspective. I have had in Q&A all the time people say, "Well, I've heard that rel=canonical passes ranking signals. Which should I choose? Should I choose that or 301? What's better for SEO?"

That's true. We do think it generally passes ranking signals, but for SEO is a bad question, because these are completely different user experiences, and either you're going to want people to stay on Page A or you're going to want people to go to Page B.

Why this matters, both for bots and for people

So I just want you to keep in mind, when you look at these three things, it's true that 302s can pass PR. But if you're in a situation where you want a permanent redirect, you want people to go to Page B, you want bots to go to Page B, you want Page B to rank, use the right signal. Don't confuse Google. They may make bad choices. Some of your 302s may be treated as 301s. It doesn't make them the same, and a rel=canonical is a very, very different situation that essentially leaves people behind and sends bots ahead.

So keep in mind what your use case actually is, keep in mind what your goals are, and don't get over-focused on the ranking signals themselves or the SEO uses because all off these three things have different purposes.

So I hope that makes sense. If you have any questions or comments or you've seen anything weird actually happen on Google, please let us know and I'll be happy to address that. And until then, we'll see you next week.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Strategic SEO Decisions to Make Before Website Design and Build

Posted by Maryna_Samokhina

The aim: This post highlights SEO areas that need to be addressed and decided on before the website brief is sent to designers and developers.

Imagine a scenario: a client asks what they should do to improve their organic rankings. After a diligent tech audit, market analysis, and a conversion funnel review, you have to deliver some tough recommendations:

“You have to redesign your site architecture,” or

“You have to migrate your site altogether,” or even

“You have to rethink your business model, because currently you are not providing any significant value.”

This can happen when SEO is only seriously considered after the site and business are up and running. As a marketing grad, I can tell you that SEO has not been on my syllabus amongst other classic components of the marketing mix. It's not hard to imagine even mentored and supported businesses overlooking this area.

This post aims to highlight areas that need to be addressed along with your SWOT analysis and pricing models - the areas before you design and build your digital 'place':

Wider strategic areas Technical areas to be discussed with developers. Design areas to be discussed with designers.

Note: This post is not meant to be a pre-launch checklist (hence areas like robots.txt, analytics, social, & title tags are completely omitted), but rather a list of SEO-affecting areas that will be hard to change after the website is built.

Wider strategic questions that should be answered:1. How do we communicate our mission statement online?

After you identify your classic marketing 'value proposition,' next comes working out how you communicate it online.

Are terms describing the customer problem/your solution being searched for? Your value proposition might not have many searches; in this case, you need to create a brand association with the problem-solving for specific customer needs. (Other ways of getting traffic are discussed in: “How to Do SEO for Sites and Products with No Search Demand”).

How competitive are these terms? You may find that space is too competitive and you will need to look into alternative or long-tail variations of your offering.

2. Do we understand our customer segments?

These are the questions that are a starting point in your research:

How large is our market? Is the potential audience growing or shrinking? (A tool to assist you: Google Trends.) What are our key personas - their demographics, motivations, roles, and needs? (If you are short on time, Craig Bradford's Persona Research in Under 5 Minutes shows how to draw insights using Twitter.) How do they behave online and offline? What are their touch points beyond the site? (A detailed post on Content and the Marketing Funnel.)

This understanding will allow you to build your site architecture around the stages your customers need to go through before completing their goal. Rand offers a useful framework for how to build killer content by mapping keywords. Ideally, this process should be performed in advance of the site build, to guide which pages you should have to target specific intents and keywords that signify them.

3. Who are our digital competitors?

Knowing who you are competing against in the digital space should inform decisions like site architecture, user experience, and outreach. First, you want to identify who fall under three main types of competitors:

You search competitors: those who rank for the product/service you offer. They will compete for the same keywords as those you are targeting, but may cater to a completely different intent. Your business competitors: those that are currently solving the customer problem you aim to solve. Cross-industry competitors: those that solve your customer problem indirectly.

After you come up with the list of competitors, analyze where each stands and how much operational resource it will take to get where they are:

What are our competitors' size and performance? How do they differentiate themselves? How strong is their brand? What does their link profile look like? Are they doing anything different/interesting with their site architecture?

Tools to assist you: Open Site Explorer, Majestic SEO, and Ahrefs for competitor link analysis, and SEM rush for identifying who is ranking for your targeted keywords.

Technical areas to consider in order to avoid future migration/rebuild1. HTTP or HTTPS

Decide on whether you want to use HTTPS or HTTP. In most instances, the answer will be the former, considering that this is also one of the ranking factors by Google. The rule of thumb is that if you ever plan on accepting payments on your site, you need HTTPS on those pages at a minimum.

2. Decide on a canonical version of your URLs

Duplicate content issues may arise when Google can access the same piece of content via multiple URLs. Without one clear version, pages will compete with one another unnecessarily.

In developer's eyes, a page is unique if it has a unique ID in the website's database, while for search engines the URL is a unique identifier. A developer should be reminded that each piece of content should be accessed via only one URL.

3. Site speed

Developers are under pressure to deliver code on time and might neglect areas affecting page speed. Communicate the importance of page speed from the start and put in some time in the brief to optimize the site's performance (A three-part Site Speed for Dummies Guide explains why we should care about this area.)

4. Languages and locations

If you are planning on targeting users from different countries, you need to decide whether your site would be multi-lingual, multi-regional, or both. Localized keyword research, hreflang considerations, and duplicate content are all issues better addressed before the site build.

Using separate country-level domains gives an advantage of being able to target a country or language more closely. This approach is, however, reliant upon you having the resources to build and maintain infrastructure, write unique content, and promote each domain.

If you plan to go down the route of multiple language/country combinations on a single site, typically the best approach is subfolders (e.g. example.com/uk, example.com/de). Subfolders can run from one platform/CMS, which means that development setup/maintenance is significantly lower.

5. Ease of editing and flexibility in a platform

Google tends to update their recommendations and requirements all the time. Your platform needs to be flexible enough to make quick changes at scale on your site.

Design areas to consider in order to avoid future redesign1. Architecture and internal linking

An effective information architecture is critical if you want search engines to be able to find your content and serve it to users. If crawlers cannot access the content, they cannot rank it well. From a human point of view, information architecture is important so that users can easily find what they are looking for.

Where possible, you should look to create a flat site structure that will keep pages no deeper than 4 clicks from the homepage. That allows search engines and users to find content in as few clicks as possible.

Use keyword and competitor research to guide which pages you should have. However, the way pages should be grouped and connected should be user-focused. See how users map out relationships between your content using a card sorting technique - you don't have to have website mockup or even products in order to do that. (This guide discusses in detail how to Improve Your Information Architecture With Card Sorting.)

2. Content-first design

Consider what types of content you will host. Will it be large guides/whitepapers, or a video library? Your content strategy needs to be mapped out at this point to understand what formats you will use and hence what kind of functionality this will require. Knowing what content type you will producing will help with designing page types and create a more consistent user interface.

3. Machine readability (Flash, JS, iFrame) and structured data

Your web pages might use a variety of technologies such as Javascript, Flash, and Ajax that can be hard for crawlers to understand. Although they may be necessary to provide a better user experience, you need to be aware of the issues these technologies can cause. In order to improve your site's machine readability, mark up your pages with structured data as described in more detail in the post: “How to Audit a Site for Structured Data Opportunities”.

4. Responsive design

As we see more variation in devices and their requirements, along with shifting behavior patterns of mobile device use, 'mobile' is becoming less of a separate channel and instead is becoming an underlying technology for accessing the web. Therefore, the long-term goal should be to create a seamless and consistent user experience across all devices. In the interest of this goal, responsive design and dynamic serving methods can assist with creating device-specific experiences.

Closing thoughts

As a business owner/someone responsible for launching a site, you have a lot on your plate. It is probably not the best use of your time to go down the rabbit hole, reading about how to implement structured data and whether JSON-LD is better than Microdata. This post gives you important areas that you should keep in mind and address with those you are delegating them to - even if the scope of such delegation is doing research for you (“Give me pros and cons of HTTPS for my business” ) rather than complete implementation/handling.

I invite my fellow marketers to add other areas/issues you feel should be addressed at the initial planning stages in the comments below!

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How We Increased Our Email Response Rate from ~8% to 34%

Posted by STMartin

It's no secret that reply rate is the golden metric of email campaigns.

The reason is obvious. As opposed to open and click rate, reply rate tracks how many recipients were interested (or annoyed) enough to actually write you back. For guest blogging and email outreach, your reply rate will determine your campaign's success.

We still believe that guest blogging is a great opportunity to improve your site's link profile and brand exposure. However, the time-investment needed in prospecting/email outreach can leave you questioning its ROI.

It doesn't often make sense to spend 3 hours prospecting and emailing different opportunities to get only 3 replies.

So how do you make all your prospecting and emailing worth your while?

Simple: Boost your reply rate to generate more "opportunities won" in the same timeframe.

The pain point: Time

At Directive Consulting, we rely on guest posting for our most valuable backlinks. ;) With that said, four months ago our email outreach was still struggling at around an 8% reply rate.

This is actually around the industry standard; guest blogger outreach emails might expect a reply rate in the 5–15% range.

With the below template, we were sending out 20–50 emails a week and receiving no more than 2–4 positive replies.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

To make the system more time-efficient, we had to get our reply rate at least into the double digits.

The hypothesis: Value

To boost our reply rate, we asked ourselves: What makes the best online content so engaging?

The answer: The best online content speaks to the user in terms of value. More specifically, the user's personal values.

So, what are these user values that we need to target? Well, to look at that we need to understand today's average user.

Image source

As opposed to their predecessors, today's savvy post-digital users value personalization, customization, and participation.

Our hypothesis was as follows: If we can craft an email user experience that improves upon these three values, our reply rate will spike.

The results: Too hot to handle

3 successful tests later, our reply rate has gone from 8% all the way up to 34%.

And our guest blog content queue is piling up faster than the lines at the mall the night before Black Friday.

In three tests we addressed those three values: personalization, customization, and participation. Each new test brought a spike in reply rate.

How did we do it? Don't worry, I'll tell you how.

3 reply rate tests (& a mini test) and what we learned

We started by stepping into the user's shoes. Everyone knows that receiving random outreach emails from strangers can be jarring. Even if you're in the industry, it can at least be annoying.

So how do you solve that problem? The only way you can: delight.

How we approached creating a more delightful and comfortable email experience took testing. This is what we learned.

Test #1 - The personalized introduction (8%–16%)

The first feature of our email we tackled was the introduction. This included the subject line of the email, as well as how we introduced ourselves and the company.

Here's what it looked like:

As you can see, while the subject line packs some serious authority, it's not very personable. And if you look at the in-email introduction, you'd see a similar problem.

Plenty of professional context, but hardly a personalized first impression. This user-experience screams BLOGGER TRYING TO GET GUEST BLOG OPPORTUNITY.

Now let's look at the variant we tested:

Big difference, huh?

While all the same authoritative references are still there, this is already far more personal.

A few noteworthy differences in user-experience:

Subject line: Natural, single sentence (almost seems like the email could have been forwarded by a co-worker).Name and title: The letterhead not only replaces a useless sentence, it supplies a smiling face the user can match the name/title with.Creative/disruptive branding: The creative letterhead is a real disrupter when you compare it to any old email. It also gets our logo above the fold in the email, and actually saves space all together.

Packing all the context of the email into a single, creative, and delightful image for the user was a huge step.

In fact, this first test alone saw our biggest jump in reply rate.

The results? Our reply rate doubled, jumping all the way from 8% to 16% - above the industry benchmark!

Mini test: The psychology behind "Because" (16%–20%)

If that wasn't a big enough jump to please us, we added on one more addition after the initial test.

If you don't know who Brian Dean is, I'll leave his bio for you to read another time. For now, all you need to know is that his "because" tactic for increasing reply rates works.

Trust me. He tested it. We tested it. It works.

The tactic is simple:

Provide the exact context for your email in a single sentence.Use the phrasing "I am emailing you because..." in that sentence.Isolate that sentence as it's own paragraph as early in the email as possible.


That's it.

And this little change bumped our reply rate another 4% - all the way up to 20%. And this was before we even ran test #2!

Test #2 - Customizing/segmenting the offer (20%–28%)

Test #2 focused on customization. We had nailed the personalized first impression.

Now we needed to customize our offer to each individual recipient. Again, let's take a look at where we started:

As far as customization goes, this isn't half bad. There are plenty of prospective topics that the editor or blogger could choose from. But there's always room for improvement.

Customization is a fancy word for segmentation, which is our industry's fancy word for breaking lists into smaller lists.

So why not segment the topics we send to which editors? We can customize our email's offer to be more relevant to the specific recipient, which should increase our chances of a positive reply.

Instead of a single list of prospective topics, we built 8.

Each list was targeted to a different niche industry where we wanted to guest post. Each list had 10 unique topics all specified to that blog's niche.

Now, instead of 10 topics for the umbrella category "digital marketing," we had 10 topics for:

Pay-per-click advertising blogs Content marketing blogs Social media management blogs Software as a service (SaaS) blogs Interactive design blogs Search engine optimization blogs Agency management blogsE-commerce optimization blogs

Not only did the potential topics change, we also changed the email copy to better target each niche.

This test took a bit of time on its own. It's not easy to build a list of 80 different targeted, niche, high-quality topics based on keyword research. But in the end, the juice was definitely worth the squeeze.

And what was the juice? Another spike in our reply rate - this time from 20% up to 28%!

Test #3 - Participating in topic selection (28%–34%)

We were already pretty pleased with ourselves at this point, but true link builders are never satisfied. So we kept on testing.

We had already addressed the personalization and customization issues. Now we wanted to take a crack at participation. But how do you encourage participation in an email?

That's a tricky question.

We answered it by trying to provide the most adaptive offer as possible.

In our email copy, we emphasized our flexibility to the editor's timeline/content calendar. We also provided a "open to any other options you may have" option in our list of topics. But the biggest change to our offer was this:

As opposed to a list of potential topics, we went one step further. By providing options for either long or short pieces (primary and focalized) we give them something to think about. They can choose from different options we are offering them.

This change did increase our reply rate. But what was surprising was that the replies were not immediately positive responses. More often than not, they were questions about the two different types of guest posts we could write.

This is where the participation finally kicked in.

(Chasing your first reply like Leo's first oscar….)

We were no longer cold-emailing strangers for one-time guest posts. We were conversing and building relationships with industry bloggers and editors.

And they were no longer responding to a random email. They were actively participating in the topic selection of their next blog post.

Once they started replying with questions, we knew they were interested. Then all we had to do was close them with fast responses and helpful answers.

This tiny change (all we did was split the targeted list we already had into two different sizes) brought big results. Test #3 brought the final jump in our reply rate - from 28% up to the magic 34%.

After we had proved that our new format worked, then we got to have some real fun - taking this killer system we built and scaling it up!

But that's a post for another day.


So what have our reply rate tests taught us? The more personal you are and the more segmented your approach, the more success you'll see.

2017 is going to be the year of relationship building.

This means that for each market interaction, you need to remember that the user's experience is the top priority. Provide as much delight and value to your user as possible. Every blog post. Every email. Every market interaction.

That's how you triple reply rates. And that's how you triple success.

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The psychology of search intent: Converting moments that matter

Nineteen years ago, the company that is now called Alphabet Inc. launched Google Web Search, which would quickly become the most widely used internet search engine in the world.

That search engine, which at first relied primarily on text data and backlinks to determine search priority ranking, has become increasingly sophisticated where its myriad features are concerned. Users can now search images, social, video content, equations, geographic locations and much more, and each of these things impact a brand's search ranking over all, for better or worse.

But perhaps even more impressive, and particularly relevant to marketers, is the continuous improvement of Google's understanding of user intent.

Beyond matching keywords alone, Google has parsed its massive stores of data to better understand the phrases, search history and other elements of query to better understand user priorities and states of mind when using the web search platform. As a result, they have optimized their search ranking algorithm and user experience to better align with what data says users really want.

By recognizing how Google and other search engines understand user intent, marketers can poise themselves to put themselves along the route of customer trains of thought. Below, find a breakdown of Google's intent-recognition methodology–and strategic recommendations for those who want to take advantage of them.

Micro-Moments: How Google understands user priorities

On mobile-which has increasingly become the focus of search marketers after disrupting the way we access information and shop on the go-as well as on desktop, users use a range of terms, exhibit a range of behaviors, and seek out a range of answer-types that, according to Google, develop a profile of the user's intent. These intent profiles, conveniently articulated by Google as “micro-moments”, are said to be the critical micro-moments at which users are most likely to be swayed by search results.

“I want to know.”

These are the types of searches people launch when they are seeking “information or inspiration”. Users who signify this search intent typically ask questions like “what did the president talk about today”, “what's the phone number to the chamber of commerce”, and “how much money does a data analyst make?”

“I want to go.”

These are location-based searches that signal an intent to travel to a location whether that be international, regional, local or hyperlocal. Users who signify this search intent increasingly input queries like “restaurants near me”, “directions to the University” and “lodging in North Lake Tahoe.” Searches like these make localization an important question for marketers to be thinking about; how are you reaching people in specific-rather than general-markets?

“I want to do.”

When people want to know how to do something, they turn to action-oriented “I want to do searches”. This search intent is signaled by queries that inquire after methodology like, “How do I get my passport?”, “How do I train my dog?”, and “How to lose weight.”

“I want to buy.”

The consumers have done their research, have looked up coupons, have (one way or another) learned what they want to know about a product or service. Now, they are intent on making a purchase. Prepared to “put their dollars behind their decision”, these users are likely to input more specific search queries like “mixer”, “Las Vegas hotel deal”, and “Amazon Echo”.

Each of these search types articulate-in part through contextualized linguistic triggers like “how”, “why”, “when” and “where”-a different chief priority on the part of the user. Google responds to these priorities by crafting algorithmic outcomes which work to bring hosted content, both organic and paid, before the users based both on terminological relevance and likely user behaviors like-like purchase, or access.

Understanding user experience segmentation

Google's understanding of user intent also emerges in its segmentation of user experience. Because Google is attempting to serve its users with what it is they want as immediately and seamlessly as possible, the Search Engine Ranking Page (SERP) displays differently from one micro-moment to the next.

Consider the difference in user experience between a search which signals that a person wants to attempt a do-it-yourself project versus a search which signals that a person would like to find a hotel in Central London.

A search for “how to bake a chocolate cake” will likely feature action-oriented instructional content like recipes and will prominently feature organic search results toward the top of the SERP, revealing that Google has detected a primary intent to take an action-”I want to do”-that is not prominently transactional.

On the other hand, a search for a “hotel in Central London” will display a different set of information, prominently featuring a Google map populated with pins that indicate hotels in the requested region. Along with those pins, hotel prices will be displayed-and above the map users will likely notice a number of sponsored search results linking to information about lodging deals they can purchase. This reveals that Google has detected an intent to go someplace-hence the map-with a secondary intent to make a purchase.

Google's Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines break down and categorise different types of user intent

Small keyword changes still make a big difference

It should also be mentioned that, even as Google becomes increasingly responsive to user intent signals and perceived states of mind, it remains sensitive to the more specific keywords that users input when looking for more specific information.

Consider, once more, that Google bases part of its understanding of intent on how questions are phrased-and that the increasing prominence of voice search is helping Google to understand how people formulate questions in their everyday lives.

For example: while a search for “hotels in Central London” will lead primarily to geographic and transactional data (Google is “thinking” that users want to go and buy in this case), a search for “best hotels in Central London” will more likely point to the geographic information mentioned in the first example, but also more qualitative information in the form of articles (such as top ten lists) that will help users to better understand which Central London hotels are the “best”.

Marketers will likely gather here that the key difference between the two searches is the use of the word “best”–and they'd be correct in that perception. By adding the word “best” to their search for Central London hotels, users have indicated that their chief priorities are to know more about a destination-and then to go there.

Attempting an array of searches across the full spectrum of micro-moments-and exploring small differentiations in keyword usage-will reveal similar differences in user experience on Google and other search platforms.

This suggests that there is significant opportunity for marketers to reach users along very specific trains of thought by understanding the relationship between micro-moments, intent and keywords, and then respond accordingly.

Customer journeys are not always linear, or cut-and-dry

For many marketers, the “customer journey” is the relied-upon model to acquire, convert and retain customers no matter what product or service category they offer; but while the customer journey is of critical importance, it is also important for marketers to carefully consider what they understand the customer journey to be.

Often, when we hear the word “journey”, we tend to think of a linear narrative. We assume that people know where they want to go, and chart a course from one point to the next in a straight line-in large part because mobile has introduced a massive array of data and decision points into our lives, shaping our decisions on a near-constant basis.

The micro-moments model rightly throws this understanding of the journey into question, revealing that people interface with search and content at many different stages and in many different states of mind. Once again, this information can be gathered in part from observations about how search results are displayed.

Consider Google's sensitivity to primary and secondary orders of intent-like the “hotels in Central London” search example mentioned earlier. That example does not simply reveal that Google is responsive to intent in general; it also specifically suggests that Google understands that users may have more than one intent at any given time, or that their intent could change very quickly-someone who wants to know something could find the information they were looking for and decide that, now that they have come across the key findings they were in search of, they want to buy.

Marketers would be wise to operate from a similar viewpoint, thinking carefully about how their users might articulate searches and develop search-friendly content in response.

Destination marketers might consider pairing pricing, deals and other transactional data with qualitative information about the experiences their region offers; marketing technology vendors might pair service descriptions with instructional material about effective web design, and so on.

Moving ahead

Essentially: it is key that brands recognize the many forms customer intent will take, and adopt a practice of flexibility where responding to that intent is concerned.

Customers' journeys, segmentation and search are not rigid step-by step processes. Google's vast data as interpreted through its micro-moments model reveals that in plain terms.

While this complicates the work of marketers and search engine specialists-continuously, since search engines are always collecting and responding to data-it also reveals a number of high-impact opportunities for brands to think and act in conversation with their users, in the end building richer and more vibrant experiences at every point of the brand-to-customer relationship.

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Scooped by Aaron Cook

How do the recent updates to Google Data Studio benefit marketers?

In a slew of recent posts on their Analytics blog, Google has announced the removal of the 5 report limit in Data Studio in the US, integration with Search Console, and most recently, enhanced support for AdWords MCC accounts.

So what is Data Studio, why has Google focused so much attention on improving it, and what benefits does it provide for marketers?

Data Studio: A brief recap

Data Studio was launched in beta as part of Google's Analytics 360 suite in May 2016. The aim of the platform was (and remains) clear: to provide Analytics users with an intuitive, shareable dashboard solution that allows them to make sense of their data.

Its functionality reflects this purpose. Users can drag and drop a range of graphs and charts onto a blank canvas, then populate them using the dimensions, metrics and goals from their GA account. As such, anyone familiar with Google Analytics should be able to create polished, professional dashboards to help inform their business decisions.

Data Studio delivers on that promise, but the restrictive 5 dashboard limit and a lack of platform integrations curbed its widespread uptake last year beyond the expensive 360 Suite.

However, these recent announcements go some way to creating a solution with universal appeal.

Data Studio integrations

Following the announcement of Search Console integration and enhanced MCC support, the list of connectors (connections to a specific type or source of data) now looks as follows:

Marketers who have adopted the full suite of Google products will find a wide variety of new opportunities for data analysis and reporting here. The addition of Search Console support brings SEO into the fold too, adding the capability to show keyword-level performance through impression, clicks and CTR data.

Furthermore, the MCC updates provide two new benefits:

Users can now select up to 75 sub-accounts to include within their dashboard, rather than having to connect the whole account Currency fields are removed if they differ across sub-accounts, removing some of the difficulties seen when Google aggregates multiple currencies into one report.

The addition of Search Console support to Google Data Studio adds the capability to show keyword-level performance through impression, clicks and CTR data

But what about non-Google products? Do they integrate with Data Studio?

Yes, albeit in a slightly roundabout fashion.

Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed Google Sheets among the list of available connectors. So if data from Facebook, for example, is scheduled to export automatically to Sheets, this information will then be included within your Data Studio dashboard quite seamlessly.

Although not as direct an integration as other enterprise-level reporting suites can provide, this is still a hugely beneficial capability. Moreover, the customizable, intuitive nature of Data Studio should make up for this inefficiency among a large user base.

Does this mean the democratization of data analysis?

At a basic level, it might do – and this is a platform designed to engage novices, after all.  But if the improvements keep coming at the recent pace, we could be looking at a very powerful contender for more advanced data analysts too.

These highly customizable reports also allow users to circumvent many of the inefficiencies that arise from searching in GA to collect data, synthesize it and then produce compelling visualizations.

This is clearly good news for marketers and business owners alike, removing some of the barriers to entry for useful, everyday data analysis.

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Scooped by Aaron Cook

What were Google's biggest search algorithm updates of 2016?

Yes, we're well into 2017 now and Google has already rolled out a significant algorithm update this year. But of course every SEO worth her salt knows that last year's algo updates are significant indicators of the changes to come – search engines are known for making slow and incremental adjustments to their filters.

So while we're still piecing together lessons from wins and losses in organic search last year, here's a visual and entertaining summary of Google's moves in 2016 that might well help us in predicting where SEO will take us in 2017.

Google's Biggest Search Algorithm Updates Of 2016 – a visual representation by E2M



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