Friday Talk: Steve Jobs’ Marketing Strategy for Apple

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple, the business was not doing well. Mostly, the brand wasn’t doing well. And Jobs was about to change that. In this video he introduces the famous commercial ‘Here’s to the crazy ones’ from 1997 and the strategy behind it.

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Mike

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The Local SEO Agency’s Complete Guide to Client Discovery and Onboarding

Posted by MiriamEllis

Why proper onboarding matters

Imagine getting three months in on a Local SEO contract before realizing that your client’s storefront is really his cousin’s garage. From which he runs two other “legit” businesses he never mentioned. Or that he neglected to mention the reviews he bought last year. Worse yet, he doesn’t even know that buying reviews is a bad thing.

The story is equally bad if you’re diligently working to build quality unique content around a Chicago client’s business in Wicker Park but then realize their address (and customer base) is actually in neighboring Avondale.

What you don’t know will hurt you. And your clients.

A hallmark of the professional Local SEO department or agency is its dedication to getting off on the right foot with a new client by getting their data beautifully documented for the whole team from the start. At various times throughout the life of the contract, your teammates and staff from complementary departments will be needing to access different aspects of a client’s core NAP, known challenges, company history, and goals.

Having this information clearly recorded in shareable media is the key to both organization and collaboration, as well as being the best preventative measure against costly data-oriented mistakes. Clear and consistent data play vital roles in Local SEO. Information must not only be gathered, but carefully verified with the client.

This article will offer you a working Client Discovery Questionnaire, an Initial Discovery Phone Call Script, and a useful Location Data Spreadsheet that will be easy for any customer to fill out and for you to then use to get those listings up to date. You’re about to take your client discovery process to awesome new heights!

Why agencies don’t always get onboarding right

Lack of a clearly delineated, step-by-step onboarding process increases the potential for human error. Your agency’s Local SEO manager may be having allergies on Monday and simply forget to ask your new client if they have more than one website, if they’ve ever purchased reviews, or if they have direct access to their Google My Business listings. Or they could have that information and forget to share it when they jump to a new agency.

The outcomes of disorganized onboarding can range from minor hassles to disastrous mistakes.

Minor hassles would include having to make a number of follow-up phone calls to fill in holes in a spreadsheet that could have been taken care of in a single outreach. It’s inconvenient for all teammates when they have to scramble for missing data that should have been available at the outset of the project.

Disastrous mistakes can stem from a failure to fully gauge the details and scope of a client’s holdings. Suddenly, a medium-sized project can take on gigantic proportions when the agency learns that the client actually has 10 mini-sites with duplicate content on them, or 10 duplicate GMB listings, or a series of call tracking numbers around the web.

It’s extremely disheartening to discover a mountain of work you didn’t realize would need to be undertaken, and the agency can end up having to put in extra uncompensated time or return to the client to renegotiate the contract. It also leads to client dissatisfaction.

Setting correct client expectations is completely dependent on being able to properly gauge the scope of a project, so that you can provide an appropriate timeline, quote, and projected benchmarks. In Local, that comes down to documenting core business information, identifying past and present problems, and understanding which client goals are achievable. With the right tools and effective communication, your agency will be making a very successful start to what you want to be a very successful project.

Professional client discovery made simple

There’s a lot you want to learn about a new client up front, but asking (and answering) all those questions right away can be grueling. Not to mention information fatigue, which can make your client give shorter and shorter answers when they feel like they’ve spent enough time already. Meanwhile your brain reaches max capacity and you can’t use all that valuable information because you can’t remember it.

To prevent such a disaster, we recommend dividing your Local SEO discovery process into a questionnaire to nail down the basics, a follow-up phone call to help you feel out some trickier issues, and a CSV to gather the location data. And we’ve created templates to get you started…

Client Discovery Questionnaire

Use our Local SEO Client Discovery Questionnaire to understand your client’s history, current organization, and what other consultants they might also be working with. We’ve annotated each question in the Google Doc template to help you understand what you can learn and potential pitfalls to look out for.

If you want to make collecting and preserving your clients’ answers extra easy, use Google Forms to turn that questionnaire into a form like this:

Loading…

You can even personalize the graphic, questions, and workflow to suit your brand.

Client Discovery Phone Script

Once you’ve received your client’s completed questionnaire and have had time to process the responses and do any necessary due diligence (like using our Check Listings tool to check how aggregators currently display their information), it’s time to follow up on the phone. Use our annotated Local SEO Client Discovery Phone Script to get you started.

No form necessary this time, because you’ll be asking the client verbally. Be sure to pay attention to the client’s tone of voice as they answer and refer to the notes under each question to see what you might be in for.

Location Data CSV

Sometimes the hardest part of Local SEO is getting all the location info letter-perfect. Make that easier by having the client input all those details into your copy of the Location Data Spreadsheet.

local seo location data csv

Then use the File menu to download that document as a CSV.

You’ll want to proof this before uploading it to any data aggregators. If you’re working with Moz Local, the next step is an easy upload of your CSV. If you’re working with other services, you can always customize your data collection spreadsheet to meet their standards.

Keep up to date on any business moves or changes in hours by designing a data update form like this one from SEER and periodically reminding your client contact to use it.

Why mutual signals of commitment really matter

There are two sides to every successful client project: one half belongs to the agency and the other to the company it serves. The attention to detail your agency displays via clean, user-friendly forms and good phone sessions will signal your professionalism and commitment to doing quality work. At the same time, the willingness of the client to take the necessary time to fill out these documents and have these conversations signals their commitment to receiving value from their investment.

It’s not unusual for a new client to express some initial surprise when they realize how many questions you’re asking them to answer. Past experience may even have led them to expect half-hearted, sloppy work from other SEO agencies. But, what you want to see is a willingness on their part to share everything they can about their company with you so that you can do your best work.

Anecdotally, I’ve fully refunded the down payments of a few incoming clients who claimed they couldn’t take the time to fill out my forms, because I detected in their unwillingness a lack of genuine commitment to success. These companies have, fortunately, been the exception rather than the rule for me, and likely will be for your agency, too.

It’s my hope that, with the right forms and a commitment to having important conversations with incoming clients at the outset, the work you undertake will make your Local team top agency and client heroes!

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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Mike

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The Goals Tracking Guide for Analytics [Infographic]

If I could highlight THE one single thing, identifying wannabes from real online marketing & PPC professionals it would be tracking the right conversion actions on landing pages and wesbites.

It is not easy, it is site-specific and it is not automatic (at least not completely, up to now). When an analytics comes straight off the shelf it has to be fully configured and of course an ecommerce site may not track the same things of a branding mini-site, in terms of goals or conversions.

There are several ways to track conversions in Universal Analytics and it is not always easy to spot what can be useful to track and how to do it (if it is possible to do it).

What to track

First of all… What is a conversion?

Any online activity enabling us to get in touch with users after their visit or denoting a strong interest in our contents

Besides sales on an ecommerce site and contact forms sent in from a lead generation site, there are in fact several online interactions that could give a clear view of where our best prospects are coming from, even when they do not perform any “classic” goal or conversion.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Registration to reserved areas / newsletter
  • Posts commenting
  • Posts sharing in social networks
  • Following feed RSS
  • Following our social profiles
  • Files or tools downloads (whitepapers, ebooks etc)
  • Video views
  • Visits to site key pages
  • Longer (session time) or deeper (pages seen) than average visits

Why should you track goals

The importance of tracking classic goals is self-evident from many points of views. But… why track “behavioral goals”?

The main reason is to understand what campaigns, keywords or placements are working better to bring the best prospects on our site even when classic goals numbers are not statistically relevant.

How to track goals

There are 5 ways to track goals in Universal Analytics and here is an infographic summarising them:Track-them-all-infographics

 

 

Final thoughts

Given that doing online marketing campaigns without tracking conversions is like driving a car blindfolded, the question is not IF you need to track goals, but what you can track on your website and how to do it.

Appending campaign parameters in your incoming links and importing goals in AdWords (or other PPC platforms) will close the circle and let you finally have a full view of where your most valuable prospects are coming from.

Now it is up to you. Move on from opinions and start taking your online investment decisions by looking at numbers.

May PPC force be with you 😉

Post from Gianpaolo Lorusso

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Measuring Content: You’re Doing it Wrong

Posted by MatthewBarby

The traditional ways of measuring the success or failure of content are broken. We can’t just rely on metrics like the number of pageviews/visits or bounce rate to determine whether what we’re creating has performed well.

“The primary thing we look for with news is impact, not traffic,” says Jonah Peretti, Founder of BuzzFeed. One of the ways that BuzzFeed have mastered this is with the development of their proprietary analytics platform, POUND.

POUND enables BuzzFeed to predict the potential reach of a story based on its content, understand how effective specific promotions are based on the downstream sharing and traffic, and power A/B tests — and that’s just a few examples.

Just because you’ve managed to get more eyeballs onto your content doesn’t mean it’s actually achieved anything. If that were the case then I’d just take a few hundred dollars and buy some paid StumbleUpon traffic every time.

Yeah, I’d generate traffic, but it’s highly unlikely to result in me achieving some of my actual business goals. Not only that, but I’d have no real indication of whether my content was satisfying the needs of my visitors.

The scary thing is that the majority of content marketing campaigns are measured this way. I hear statements like “it’s too difficult to measure the performance of individual pieces of content” far too often. The reality is that it’s pretty easy to measure content marketing campaigns on a micro level — a lot of the time people don’t want to do it.

Engagement over entrances

Within any commercial content marketing campaign that you’re running, measurement should be business goal-centric. By that I mean that you should be determining the overall success of your campaign based on the achievement of core business goals.

If your primary business goal is to generate 300 leads each month from the content that you’re publishing, you’ll need to have a reporting mechanism in place to track this information.

On a more micro-level, you’ll want to be tracking and using engagement metrics to enable you to influence the achievement of your business goals. In my opinion, all content campaigns should have robust, engagement-driven reporting behind them.

Total Time Reading (TTR)

One metric that Medium uses, which I think adds a lot more value than pageviews, is “Total Time Reading (TTR).” This is a cumulative metric that quantifies the total number of minutes spent reading a piece of content. For example, if I had 10 visitors to one of my blog articles and they each stayed reading the article for 1 minute each, the total reading time would be 10 minutes.

“We measure every user interaction with every post. Most of this is done by periodically recording scroll positions. We pipe this data into our data warehouse, where offline processing aggregates the time spent reading (or our best guess of it): we infer when a reader started reading, when they paused, and when they stopped altogether. The methodology allows us to correct for periods of inactivity (such as having a post open in a different tab, walking the dog, or checking your phone).” (source)

The reason why this is more powerful than just pageviews is because it takes into account how engaged your readers are to give a more accurate representation of its visibility. You could have an article with 1,000 pageviews that has a greater TTR than one with 10,000 pageviews.

Scroll depth & time on page

A related and simpler metric to acquire is the average time on page (available within Google Analytics). The average time spent on your webpage will give a general indication of how long your visitors are staying on the page. Combining this with ‘scroll depth’ (i.e. how far down the page has a visitor scrolled) will help paint a better picture of how ‘engaged’ your visitors are. You’ll be able to get the answer to the following:

“How much of this article are my visitors actually reading?”

“Is the length of my content putting visitors off?”

“Are my readers remaining on the page for a long time?”

Having the answers to these questions is really important when it comes to determining which types of content are resonating more with your visitors.

Social Lift

BuzzFeed’s “Social Lift” metric is a particularly good way of understanding the ‘virality’ of your content (you can see this when you publish a post to BuzzFeed). BuzzFeed calculates “Social Lift” as follows:

((Social Views)/(Seed Views)+1)

Social Views: Traffic that’s come from outside BuzzFeed; for example, referral traffic, email, social media, etc.

Seed Views: Owned traffic that’s come from within the BuzzFeed platform; e.g. from appearing in BuzzFeed’s newsfeed.

This is a great metric to use when you’re a platform publisher as it helps separate out traffic that’s coming from outside of the properties that you own, thus determining its “viral potential.”

There are ways to use this kind of approach within your own content marketing campaigns (without being a huge publisher platform) to help get a better idea of its “viral potential.”

One simple calculation can just involve the following:

((social shares)/(pageviews)+1)

This simple stat can be used to determine which content is likely to perform better on social media, and as a result it will enable you to prioritize certain content over others for paid social promotion. The higher the score, the higher its “viral potential.” This is exactly what BuzzFeed does to understand which pieces of content they should put more weight behind from a very early stage.

You can even take this to the next level by replacing pageviews with TTR to get a more representative view of engagement to sharing behavior.

The bottom line

Alongside predicting “viral potential” and “TTR,” you’ll want to know how your content is performing against your bottom line. For most businesses, that’s the main reason why they’re creating content.

This isn’t always easy and a lot of people get this wrong by looking for a silver bullet that doesn’t exist. Every sales process is different, but let’s look at the typical process that we have at HubSpot for our free CRM product:

  1. Visitor comes through to our blog content from organic search.
  2. Visitor clicks on a CTA within the blog post.
  3. Visitor downloads a gated offer in exchange for their email address and other data.
  4. Prospect goes into a nurturing workflow.
  5. Prospect goes through to a BOFU landing page and signs up to the CRM.
  6. Registered user activates and invites in members of their team.

This is a simple process, but it can still be tricky sometimes to get a dollar value on each piece of content we produce. To do this, you’ve got to understand what the value of a visitor is, and this is done by working backwards through the process.

The first question to answer is, “what’s the lifetime value (LTV) of an activated user?” In other words, “how much will this customer spend in their lifetime with us?”

For e-commerce businesses, you should be able to get this information by analyzing historical sales data to understand the average order value that someone makes and multiply that by the average number of orders an individual will make with you in their lifetime.

For the purposes of this example, let’s say each of our activated CRM users has an LTV of $100. It’s now time to work backwards from that figure (all the below figures are theoretical)…

Question 1: “What’s the conversion rate of new CRM activations from our email workflow(s)?”

Answer 1: “5%”

Question 2: “How many people download our gated offers after coming through to the blog content?”

Answer 2: “3%”

Knowing this would help me to start putting a monetary value against each visitor to the blog content, as well as each lead (someone that downloads a gated offer).

Let’s say we generate 500,000 visitors to our blog content each month. Using the average conversion rates from above, we’d convert 15,000 of those into email leads. From there we’d nurture 750 of them into activated CRM users. Multiply that by the LTV of a CRM user ($100) and we’ve got $75,000 (again, these figures are all just made up).

Using this final figure of $75,000, we could work backwards to understand the value of a single visitor to our blog content:

 ((75,000)/(500,000))

Single Visitor Value: $0.15

We can do the same for email leads using the following calculation:

(($75,000)/(15,000))

Individual Lead Value: $5.00

Knowing these figures will help you be able to determine the bottom-line value of each of your pieces of content, as well as calculating a rough return on investment (ROI) figure.

Let’s say one of the blog posts we’re creating to encourage CRM signups generated 500 new email leads; we’d see a $2,500 return. We could then go and evaluate the cost of producing that blog post (let’s say it takes 6 hours at $100 per hour – $600) to calculate a ROI figure of 316%.

ROI in its simplest form is calculated as:

(((($return)-($investment))/($investment))*100)

You don’t necessarily need to follow these figures religiously when it comes to content performance on a broader level, especially when you consider that some content just doesn’t have the primary goal of lead generation. That said, for the content that does have this goal, it makes sense to pay attention to this.

The link between engagement and ROI

So far I’ve talked about two very different forms of measurement:

  1. Engagement
  2. Return on investment

What you’ll want to avoid is actually thinking about these as isolated variables. Return on investment metrics (for example, lead conversion rate) are heavily influenced by engagement metrics, such as TTR.

The key is to understand exactly which engagement metrics have the greatest impact on your ROI. This way you can use engagement metrics to form the basis of your optimization tests in order to make the biggest impact on your bottom line.

Let’s take the following scenario that I faced within my own blog as an example…

The average length of the content across my website is around 5,000 words. Some of my content way surpasses 10,000 words in length, taking an estimated hour to read (my recent SEO tips guide is a perfect example of this). As a result, the bounce rate on my content is quite high, especially from mobile visitors.

Keeping people engaged within a 10,000-word article when they haven’t got a lot of time on their hands is a challenge. Needless to say, it makes it even more difficult to ensure my CTAs (aimed at newsletter subscriptions) stand out.

From some testing, I found that adding my CTAs closer to the top of my content was helping to improve conversion rates. The main issue I needed to tackle was how to keep people on the page for longer, even when they’re in a hurry.

To do this, I worked on the following solution: give visitors a concise summary of the blog post that takes under 30 seconds to read. Once they’ve read this, show them a CTA that will give them something to read in more detail in their own time.

All this involved was the addition of a “Summary” button at the top of my blog post that, when clicked, hides the content and displays a short summary with a custom CTA.

Showing Custom Summaries

This has not only helped to reduce the number of people bouncing from my long-form content, but it also increased the number of subscribers generated from my content whilst improving user experience at the same time (which is pretty rare).

I’ve thought that more of you might find this quite a useful feature on your own websites, so I packaged it up as a free WordPress plugin that you can download here.

Final thoughts

The above example is just one example of a way to impact the ROI of your content by improving engagement. My advice is to get a robust measurement process in place so that you’re able to first of all identify opportunities, and then go through with experiments to take advantage of the opportunity.

More than anything, I’d recommend that you take a step back and re-evaluate the way that you’re measuring your content campaigns to see if what you’re doing really aligns with the fundamental goals of your business. You can invest in endless tools that help you measure things better, but if core metrics that you’re looking for are wrong, then this is all for nothing.

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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Mike

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23 brilliant non-SEO tools to boost your agency’s productivity

At every fast-moving digital agency, everyone has a lot on their plate. Productivity apps are incredibly useful when managing roles and tasks that shift between writing, coding, designing and whatever else might come up. We thought we’d ask a few leading agency CEOs what apps their teams can’t live without and how did these impact their business. Beyond the classics — spreadsheets and docs — we found some great apps and inspiring success stories that might motivate you to boost your team’s productivity.

The apps marked with a star are free or have an extended freemium version.

7 tools to improve the success of your sales team

1. Pipedrive

It’s a simple, very visual sales pipeline tool, ideal for result-oriented teams. “Pipedrive has been particularly impactful for us – purely because we actually stick to maintaining and reporting on our pipeline. The ability to assign tasks to different people, forecast sales and generally maintain a CRM has been great for us”, said Paul Rogers, founder of Audited.org and Replatforming.com.

Starting from: €12/month per user (30 days free trial – no billing information required).

2. Conspire*

Conspire does a brilliant job at helping you find the right path to meeting the people you’re interested in. It taps into your Gmail or Google Apps email and then runs an analysis to find the best chain of connections. It doesn’t just show you who knows who, but (depending on the communication frequency) it can also tell you how strong the relationship is.

It’s a very helpful tool for any salesperson who’s looking for ways to get in touch with new prospects. Conspire’s best case study is actually given by the company’s founder himself.

Great for everyone: It’s free to use. At least for now.

3-4. Sidekick* + HubSpot CRM

These two just had to be mentioned together.

Sidekick is a free email extension that gives you contact insights, email tracking, and email scheduling. It’s extremely useful as it is, but if you integrate it with HubSpot’s CRM, you get even more tools to help you establish better connections. Once you send an email from your Google Apps email, it gets mapped into CRM’s contact record.

If you’re a small agency owner or a sales representative, you just have to try these.

Great for everyone: It has a freemium version.

5. Nimble

Another alternative to a sales and marketing CRM for small to medium agencies is Nimble. It has a smart alert to help you keep in touch with your prospects and it pulls in data from different data-points, so you waste as little as possible on updating contact information.

Starting from: $15/month per user (14-day trial, with no credit card information required).

6. ZohoCRM*

Zoho is especially amazing for mid-size to large agencies. It has plenty of features and it integrates with many other productivity apps, from Google Apps to Gmail, Outlook, MailChimp, Unbounce and many others.

Great for everyone: Free for 10 users.

7. Consumer Barometer*

Did you know that over 70% of UK’s population is now using a smartphone?

consumer_barometer_uk

If you’re putting together an SEO proposal and you’re looking for market information such as this one, then Consumer Barometer is the go-to platform for you. Google is the data provider for this tool that is designed to help you understand how people use the Internet across the world. There are even great insights on different audience profiles, such as digital moms or millennials.

Great for everyone: It’s free.

9 tools to optimize your time and project management

1. Basecamp

“Basecamp has significantly improved our team’s productivity, time management, and client communication on a daily basis. This tool enables us to keep a track record of project status and communication, if there’s quite a few team members or client team members involved in an account activity, and has truly helped us manage our time in a more defined and effective way”, said Saija Mahon, the founder of Mahon Digital Marketing Ltd, an international, award-winning digital media agency.

Pricing: $29/month, no matter how many employees you have; $79/month, to use it with your clients.

2. Trello*

We asked Dawn Anderson, the Director of Move It Marketing, specialising in technical and architectural SEO along with SEO Web Developing, what tool had the biggest impact on her team’s success. Here’s what she had to say:
We have found that Trello has become an invaluable part of our day-to-day workflow efficiencies. A lot of our team is remote or on the move, so Trello allows everyone to collaborate very effectively, wherever they are. We have team members working in the UK, Italy, Romania and even Australia, so it’s key that they have this central place to know the stage where every project is at. We are also able to show clients with transparency, the work that we have underway for them and this gives them comfort that we’re making headway in implementing their projects. It’s one of the key components in keeping a strong communication between ourselves and also with clients.”

Great for small teams: It has a freemium version, that you can later upgrade.

3. TeamGantt

TeamGantt is a Gantt chart app with key improvements for team collaboration. It offers a very visual way of planning projects and assigning a task.

Starting from: $29/month for 5 users and 10 projects.

4. Slack*

One of the tools on this list that you may already know about. It’s an instant messaging app for teams. This may not sound like much, but wait till you hear Rob Kerry’s story. He’s the Chief Strategy Officer of Ayima, a global search marketing agency, and the way they are using Slack really improved their team’s productivity.

If you’re afraid this is one of those cheesy success stories, don’t worry. Rob admits people weren’t in love and happy to adopt the product from the beginning. It took a lot of work to achieve better productivity. “Slack was first introduced as a potential solution by Tony Spencer, who heads up Ayima’s office in North Carolina. The communication and collaboration platform had only recently been launched and, due to a number of strategic changes happening in our company, Slack wasn’t unfortunately adopted by enough of Ayima to become a success at this point. A conversation over beers at SMX West in March 2015, between Tony and fellow co-founder Mike Nott, re-ignited interest in using Slack to solve our communication issues”, says Rob.

“Making Slack work in a company of our size required a strong commitment from the top down. Ayima decreed that the use of Slack was compulsory for all team members and should be the sole online internal communication method. Email was reserved for client and supplier communications. Key team members were evangelised into pushing any stray internal email threads into Slack. The journey wasn’t without fault and it was a sizeable commitment of trust to move sensitive HR and Senior Management discussions onto the SaaS.

“A year later, it’s hard to imagine Ayima running without Slack. Slack has brought our globally-distributed team closer together, almost eliminating timezone issues and going a long way to solving the previous feelings of office isolation. Some clients have now adapted the platform themselves, allowing us to add them into our own Slack channels, for almost instant client delivery. Never-ending email threads have been replaced by niche Slack channels, so team members only need to read the information that’s important to them and their clients. There are plenty of fun and social channels for the team to read over lunch or between tasks, but these can easily be muted when it’s time to knuckle down and work. I need to be a member of all Slack channels, to get a full picture of how the company and individual offices are doing, but only get specifically alerted on new messages in a dozen of them”, concluded Rob.

Great for small teams: It has a freemium version, that you can later upgrade.

5. Asana*

Asana is another great tool for task and project management. “It really works for a service agency business“, says Nichola Stott, Managing Director of theMediaFlow. “As an agency, it suits a collaborative multi-disciplinary project with component tasks. It works for editorial calendars, internal tasks, client calendar sharing, client task and project task management. Plus, it integrates with Toggl, which we use for time-tracking.

Great for small teams: It is free for teams of up to 15 members.

6. TeamWork.com*

Task management + HelpDesk + Chat. You can have them all integrated or choose one stand-alone product. Ayima’s Chief Strategy Officer, Rob Kerry listed TeamWork as part of their essentials, along with Trello, Slack, and Asana.

Great for startups: If you’re a startup, you can get a 1-year-free account (task management + helpdesk + chat).

7. Apollo

“Huston, we found something that might help with your problem!”. And yes, it’s called Apollo. It is a Project and Contact Management Software. Paul Hunter, the Marketing Manager at Liberty Marketing, says that the majority of their Account Managers use Apollo. “It can be used to assign tasks to team members, keep track of all project time, comment on tasks and also upload any files that are relevant to the project. It also has the functionality to include people from outside your organisation into the project. This is great for transparency towards clients, as they can see exactly what is being done. It’s also great for anyone new to projects, as all files and previous work can be accessed centrally, allowing someone to get up to speed with a project quickly and easily.”

Starting from: $23/month for 7 users and 18 projects.

8. Liquid Planner

If your digital agency has an extended development team, you might want to try this app. It’s designed to be a project management tool for Technology Teams. Anicca Digital, a team of data-driven marketing specialists from Leicester, UK, uses it for task and time management.

Starting from: $29/month per user (based on an annual plan).

9. Microsoft Office 365

Office 365 is our company’s go-to tool for productivity. We use it for Outlook, Skype for Business, SharePoint, PowerPoint and, of course, Excel. OneNote is a fantastic addition for note taking, storing ideas and inspiration and keeping lists of tasks the team needs to be working on. The killer functionality lies in the iPhone apps and cloud storage, which makes working on the go a dream“, says Mel Carson, founder of Seattle-based consultancy – Delightful Communications.

7 tools to boost your PR & Outreach activities

1. Buzzsumo

If you’re working in this industry you have to know Buzzsumo. Aside from the fact that this is an essential tool for any content specialist out there, you should be following their knowledge-base for “how-to” tips on using Buzzsumo and their blog. Their posts are always useful are very well documented.

Starting from: $99/month.

2. Buzzstream

Almost all of the agency representatives we asked have said their teams are using Buzzstream for managing their outreach projects.

Starting from: $29/month for 2 users.

3. Outbrain

An app to amplify the content your agency produces in a network of over 100.000 blogs and websites. Liberty Marketing is using both Outbrain and Taboola for boosting their content campaigns.

4. Taboola

Speaking of which, this app also does a great job at promoting sponsored content across numerous highly-trafficked sites.

5. Pitchbox

One of my favorite new tools right now is Pitchbox“, says John Lincoln, the CEO of Ignite Visibility. “It’s a great way to streamline guest blogging outreach. It really helps aggregate editorial contacts and keep a running list. I don’t think I’ve seen any tool that’s done such a good job, from making the initial contact, to following up, to getting the story secured, and then to maintaining the relationship. You can tell that the team at Pitchbox worked really hard on it and they did a good job.

Starting from: $49/month.

6. SimpleReach

If you’re doing native advertising, have a look at SimpleReach. This startup helps marketers and publishers measure the effectiveness of their content and ads. Plus, it has a special set of features for agencies.

7. Idio

This Content Intelligence Platform offers a very bold promise: to help you read your customer’s mind. It analyzes the content your prospects read, in order to predict their most likely interest and intent. That’s why Idio is not only useful for your content team, but also for your sales team.

Not sure how to choose the best tool for your agency?

David McDermott, a seasoned digital professional with over 13 years’ experience within the industry and currently the COO for Harvest Digital, shared his approach when deciding on which tool is the best for his team. “It is my job, along with the operations team, to evaluate the true impact which a tool will have, by answering a couple of very simple questions:

  1. Will it make us more efficient?
  2. Will it improve our quality of work?
  3. Can it integrate into our entire agency offering?

Still looking for “the perfect tool”?

During the interviews, we learned that Assertive Media is using their own software for improving both sales activities and SEO campaign management.

For sales, we use our own proprietary software to generate online ranking and visibility reports, which are used as part of the selling process. We also generate our own ranking reports, link reports, and competitor analysis, and we use API data from Majestic, MOZ, etc.“, says Daniel Foley, SEO specialist for Assertive Media.

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What 300+ Content Marketing Campaigns Can Teach You About Earning Links

Posted by KelseyLibert

[Estimated read time: 9 minutes]

In a recent Whiteboard Friday about 10x content, Rand said to expect it to take 5 to 10 attempts before you’ll create a piece of content that’s a hit.

If you’ve been at the content marketing game for a while, you probably agree with Rand. Seasoned content marketers know you’re likely to see a percentage of content flops before you achieve a big win. Then, as you gain a sense for why some content fails and other content succeeds, you integrate what you’ve learned into your process. Gradually, you start batting fewer base hits and more home runs.

At Fractl, we regularly look back at campaign performance and refine our production and promotion processes based on what the data tells us. Are publishers rejecting a certain content format? Is there a connection between Domain Authority (DA) and the industry vertical we targeted? Do certain topics attract the most social shares? These are the types of questions we ask, and then we use the related data to create better content.

We recently dug through three years of content marketing campaigns and asked: What factors increase content’s ability to earn links? In this post, I’ll show you what we found.

Methodology

We analyzed campaign data from a sample of 345 Fractl campaigns that launched between 2013 and 2016. To compare linking performance, we set benchmarks based on the industry averages for links per campaign from our content marketing agency survey: High success (more than 100 placements), moderate success (20–100 placements), and low success (fewer than 20 placements).

We looked at the relationship between the number of placements and the content’s topic, visual assets, and formatting. “Placement” refers to any time a publisher wrote about the campaign. In terms of links, a placement could mean dofollow, cocitation, nofollow, or text attribution.

Which content elements can increase link earning potential?

The chart below highlights the largest differences between our high- and low-success campaigns.

Content Marketing Campaigns-02.png

We found the following characteristics were present in content that earned the most links:

  1. Highly emotional
  2. Broad appeal
  3. Comparison
  4. Pop culture-themed

The data confirmed our assumptions about why some content is better than others at attracting links, as all four of the above characteristics were present in some of our biggest hits. As an example, our Women in Video Games campaign checked all four of those boxes.

vice-screenshot.pngIt paired a highly emotional topic (body image issues) with a strong visual contrast. It also included a pop culture theme that appealed to a niche audience (video game fans) while also resonating with a broader audience. To date, this campaign has amassed nearly 900 placements, including links from high-authority sites such as BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, MTV, and Vice Motherboard.

Read on for more takeaways on how to increase your content’s link-earning potential.

Content that evokes a strong emotional response is extremely effective at earning links.

Emotional impact was the greatest differentiator between our most successful campaigns and all other campaigns, with those that secured over 100 placements being 3 times more likely to feature a strong emotional hook than less successful campaigns.

Example: The Truth About Hotel Hygiene

hotel-hygiene-exposed.png

Our Truth About Hotel Hygiene earned more than 700 placements thanks to a high “ick” factor, which gave it emotional resonance paired with universal interest (most people use hotels). We’ve also found including an element of surprise helps strengthen the content’s emotional impact. This study definitely surprised readers with a shocking finding: The nicest hotels had the most germs.

Example: Perceptions of Perfection

perceptions.png

In our Perceptions of Perfection campaign, audiences were surprised to see drastically how designers altered a woman’s photo to fit their country’s standards of beauty. The surprise factor added an additional layer of emotionality to the already emotional topic of women’s body image issues, which helped this campaign get nearly 600 placements.

Choose content topics with wide appeal to increase potential for high-quality links.

So we’ve proven emotionally provocative content can attract a lot of links, but what about high-quality links? We found a correlation between high average domain authority and content topics with mass appeal. Broad topics appeal to a greater range of publishers, thus increasing the number of relevant high-authority sites your content can be placed on.

Some verticals may have an advantage when it comes to link quality too. Campaigns for our travel, entertainment, and retail clients tend to have a high average domain authority per placement since these verticals naturally lend themselves to content ideas with mass appeal.

Some examples of campaign topics with a DA-per-placement average above 55:

  • Cities That Hate Tourist
  • Most Googled Brands in Each State
  • Data Breaches by State and Sector
  • Airline Hygiene Exposed
  • Deadliest Driving States

Pro tip: A site’s influence matters more than the type of link you’ll acquire from it. Don’t fear nofollow links; for two of our best-performing campaigns of all time, the initial links were nofollows from high-authority sites. A nofollow link on a high-authority site can lead to syndication on hundreds of other sites that will give dofollow links.

Use rankings and comparisons to fuel online discussion.

Contrast was a recurring theme in our high-performing campaigns, with strong contrasts achieved through visual or numerical comparisons. More than half of our highest-performing campaigns centered around a ranking or comparison, compared to just a third of our lowest-performing campaigns. Pitting two or more things against one another fuels discussion around the content, which can lead to more placements.

Example: Comparing Siri, Cortana, and Google Now

cortana-compared.png

Comparing Cortana was a hands-on study for which participants gave a command to their virtual assistant and rated their satisfaction with the response. Comparing the three most widely used smartphone assistants attracted the attention of techies (especially Apple fans) as well as the broader public, since most people have one of these assistants on their smartphone.

Example: Airport Rankings

airport-rankings.png

The Airport Rankings campaign looked at which airports offered the best and worst experiences, based on data including the volume of canceled flights, delays, and lost luggage. Local publishers loved this campaign; many focused on the story around how their regional airport fared in the rankings. Since most travelers have lived through at least one terrible airport experience, the content was extremely relatable too.

Pro tip: Side-by-side visualizations pack a high-contrast visual punch that helps drive linking and social shares. This type of contrasting imagery is extremely powerful visually since it’s easy to process. It helps evoke an immediate response that quickly engages viewers.

Incorporate a geographic angle to earn international or regional links.

Did you notice a majority of the broad-topic campaigns with a high domain authority listed above also had a geographic angle? In addition to broad appeal, geography-focused topics help attract interest from international and regional publishers, thus securing additional links.

Example: Most Popular Concert Drugs

concert-drug-mentions.png

The Most Popular Concert Drugs, one of our most successful campaigns to date with nearly 1,900 placements, examined the connection between music festivals and drug mentions on Instagram. Many global sites featured the story for its worldwide festivals, including publishers in the U.K., France, Italy, Australia, and Brazil. Had we limited our selection to U.S. festivals, it’s doubtful this campaign would have attracted as much attention.

Example: Most Instagrammed Locations

instagram-locations-us.jpg

As with the example above, pairing a geographic angle with Instagram data proved to be a winning formula for the Most Instagrammed Locations campaign. We featured the most Instagrammed places in both the U.S. and Canada, which helped the campaign secure additional coverage from Canadian publishers.

Pro tip: To extend a campaign’s reach to the offline world, consider pitching relevant TV and radio stations with geo-themed content that offers new data; traditional news outlets seem to love these stories. We’ve had multiple geo-focused campaigns featured on national and local news stations simply because they saw the story getting covered by online media.

Include pop culture references to pique audience interest.

Our campaigns with more than 100 pickups were nearly twice as likely to incorporate a pop culture theme than our campaigns with fewer than 20 pickups. Content that ties in pop culture is primed for targeting a niche of dedicated fans who will want to share and discuss it like crazy, while it simultaneously resonates on a surface level for many people. Geek-culture themes, such as comic books and sci-fi movies, tend to attract a lot of attention thanks to rabid fan bases.

New School vs. Old School

Trending pop culture phenomena are best for making your content feel relevant to the current zeitgeist (think: a Walking Dead theme that appeals to fans of the show while also playing up the current cultural obsession with zombies).

On the other hand, old school pop culture references are effective for creating strong feelings of nostalgia (think: everything in BuzzFeed’s ’90s category). If your audience falls within a certain age bracket, consider what would be nostalgic to them. What did they grow up with, and how can you weave this into your content?

Example: Fictional Power Sources

fictional-power-sources.png

Fictional Power Sources looked at which iconic weapons, vehicles, and superpowers featured in movies were the most powerful. Rather than focusing on one movie, we featured a handful of popular movies — including Star Wars, Back to the Future, and The Matrix — which increased it the campaign’s appeal to movie fans.

Example: Sitcom Cribs

sitcom-cribs.png

Sitcom Cribs looked at the affordability of the living spaces on various TV shows — could the “Friends” characters really afford their trendy Manhattan digs? By featuring a lot of older TV shows, this campaign had a high nostalgia factor for audiences familiar with classic ’90s sitcoms. Including newer TV shows kept the campaign relevant to younger audiences too.

Pro tip: To increase the appeal, feature a range of pop culture icons as opposed to just one, such as a list of movies, musicians, or TV shows. This adds to the range of pop culture fans who will connect with the content, rather than limiting the potential audience to one fan base.

Earning high-quality links is just one benefit of creating content that incorporates high emotionality, contrast, broad appeal, or pop culture references. We’ve also found these characteristics present in our campaigns that perform well in terms of social sharing.

In particular, emotional resonance is a key ingredient, not only for earning links but also for getting your content widely shared. Our campaigns that received more than 20,000 social shares were 8 times more likely to include a strong emotional hook than campaigns that received fewer than 1,000 shares.

Content Marketing Campaigns-03.png

How can you ensure these elements are incorporated into your content, thus increasing its linking and sharing potential? In a previous post, I walk through exactly how we create campaigns like the examples I shared above. Check it out for a step-by-step guide to creating engaging, highly shareable content.

shareworthy-content-guide.png

What observations have you made about your most successful content? I’d love to hear your thoughts on which content elements attract the most links and shares.

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Global SEO Strategizing 2016: An Interview with Motoko Hunt

Whether driven by brick and mortar businesses in new markets or expansion of e-services, it is becoming increasingly common for websites to go global regardless of size. Global expansion presents several challenges when it comes to SEO plans and practices. After picking markets, it is difficult to figure out first steps to account for both language and localization. Beyond these aspects, SEO strategists must also consider SEO rankings and algorithms from more than one search engine.

Motoko Hunt, one of the industries top experts on global SEO strategies and US Search Awards 2014 “Best Consultant,” agreed to share some of her knowledge with State of Digital readers interested in learning more on the topic. Motoko specializes in providing online marketing services with both SEO and PPC expertise. Motoko is well known in the industry for speaking and writing about her thought leadership on many topics but especially recognized for her international focus.

I started by asking Motoko about some of the most common questions she gets about multilingual SEO. She replied, “Questions related to geo targeting methods are popular. Hosting location, ccTLD vs. gTLD, hreflang tag, URLs with Japanese characters, etc. They are great questions, and show how businesses are serious about doing multilingual SEO right. There is plenty of information related to geo targeting already on the web, but a lot of the information is conflicting or not painting the whole picture, making them confusing.”

Recognizing the risks of generalizing Motoko specified that there are many factors to consider and although there are best practices, a one-size fits all approach really isn’t applicable. Motoko noted website size, resources, and budget are all factors, explaining, “The solution that worked for Apple’s website may not work for the local tourism site. It goes the other way around, too. As a consultant, I try to identify the best solution that work for each client, and never push the same set of recommendations to everyone.”

In comparison to questions Motoko was typically asked years ago, I was curious how common questions today show development of global expansion. Motoko explained that people used to ask her when to go multilingual or global. “They weren’t sure how to build a business case to create a multilingual or global website. This is not the case anymore thanks to a variety of ways they can collect the website performance and the business data.” Motoko attributes global change to many websites or businesses watching their competitors going multilingual and reading their success stories, concluding, “Going global has become a norm for many businesses even for small-mid sized businesses.”

Today, Motoko gets newer questions about algorithms of specific search engines such as Baidu, Naver, Yahoo Japan, and Yandex. In parallel with this topic, I asked how this relates to an overwhelming amount of Google SEO specialists and fewer English speaking or Western based specialists who are familiar with other search engines.

According to Motoko, “Many Google SEO specialists lack knowledge of SEO for other search engines. Some of them never had to care for another search engine. Still some may have had interests in learning about other search engines, but there isn’t much information about engines such as Baidu and Naver available in English, driving a lot of questions to specialists.”

global search engines

She continued, “One of the first things they realize is that their site may not be crawl-able or only partially-crawl-able because of the use of JavaScript and AJAX. The pages are not providing enough information to the search engines such as Baidu because they’ve stopped using meta description and meta keywords.

On another note, Motoko added, “Other websites may take forever to load the pages in other countries. Even though countries like Korea and Japan have much faster Internet connection than metropolitan cities in the US, it takes much longer for a page to load. I’ve seen pages load in 1-2 seconds in the US that took 15 seconds to load in Tokyo, Japan.”

I asked Motoko what she suggests for people facing these challenges. She started with some very practical advice about seeking out resources. First, she advised others to use each search engine’s Webmaster Tools because it is one of the best ways to see how those search engines view your site. Next she suggested, reading as much as possible about each search engine, and asking questions to other SEO professionals with experience; adding, “Yandex offers lots of information in English. Though not much, yet, Baidu is offering some information in English too.”

More specifically, Motoko advised, “As mentioned previously, don’t use JavaScript and AJAX for links and content that you want the search engines to crawl and index. Following Google’s algorithm changes is important for SEO specialists, but if you change the site every time Google changes something, it may cause negative impact to your site’s performance in some countries.”

When it comes to more specifics with language and localization, I asked Motoko, when a client is working to translate and make multilingual versions of their website, which is first translation or SEO? Excited with this topic, Motoko replied, “The best-case scenario would be, “SEO-Localization-SEO”. First, you want to make sure that website you are going to localize is well optimized. You don’t want to create new website inheriting problems from the original site. Then, do some local keyword research so that you can have a localization agency to use them while translating the content. Finally, review and optimize the localized content prior to the launch. Then you need to build local links on-going basis.”

However, as many webmasters know and also often ask Motoko, it takes more than that to create a website that performs well in different countries especially in Asia. Apart from SEO, webmasters should research the market about how people behave online, what they want and how they want products or information, and make necessary changes to the content, messages, purchase options, etc. Many webmasters come to Motoko seeking this sort of information as well. Experts and resources that specialize in providing information on these topics are especially useful. Beyond making multilingual sites, Motoko notes, these components are what actually drives success.

To conclude, I requested Motoko’s top three pieces of advice for webmasters working with both another language and another search engine. Her advice is as follows:

  • Have a set of rules for all websites: It’s best to decide geo targeting handling, directory naming convention, etc. at the beginning, and don’t leave them up to whoever is working on the site. Because it’s likely that different teams handle different languages or country sites, if you don’t have a set of rules for everyone to follow, you’ll end up with multiple different websites that just look similar.
  • Make sure that any changes you make to the site work for all of your target search engines: Unless you have a luxury of creating completely different website for each language/country, your website has to be crawl-able/index-able by all target engines at least.
  • Be willing to make necessary changes to each language/country site: Each country may have different popular keywords or even different popular products. If you keep pushing what works for your home country, you may miss out opportunities to grow business in other countries.

Having both executed on her advice and regularly discussed with other experts, Motoko is incredibly well practiced in global SEO. Undoubtedly, it requires a lot of attention and care but brings incredible rewards. In addition to speaking and writing, Motoko also started AJRP, a Japanese search marketing service, but also helps clients target other areas outside Japan and Asia. Big thank you to Motoko for sharing her time and knowledge for our readers!

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Can We Predict the Google Weather?

Posted by Dr-Pete

[Estimated read time: 7 minutes]

Four years ago, just weeks before the first Penguin update, the MozCast project started collecting its first real data. Detecting and interpreting Google algorithm updates has been both a far more difficult and far more rewarding challenge than I ever expected, and I’ve learned a lot along the way, but there’s one nagging question that I’ve never been able to answer with any satisfaction. Can we use past Google data to predict future updates?

Before any analysis, I’ve always been a fan of using my eyes. What does Google algorithm “weather” look like over a long time-period? Here’s a full year of MozCast temperatures:

Most of us know by now that Google isn’t a quiet machine that hums along until the occasional named update happens a few times a year. The algorithm is changing constantly and, even if it wasn’t, the web is changing constantly around it. Finding the signal in the noise is hard enough, but what does any peak or valley in this graph tell you about when the next peak might arrive? Very little, at first glance.

It’s worse than that, though

Even before we dive into the data, there’s a fundamental problem with trying to predict future algorithm updates. To understand it, let’s look at a different problem — predicting real-world weather. Predicting the weather in the real world is incredibly difficult and takes a massive amount of data to do well, but we know that that weather follows a set of natural laws. Ultimately, no matter how complex the problem is, there is a chain of causality between today’s weather and tomorrow’s and a pattern in the chaos.

The Google algorithm is built by people, driven by human motivations and politics, and is only constrained by the rules of what’s technologically possible. Granted, Google won’t replace the entire SERP with a picture of a cheese sandwich tomorrow, but they can update the algorithm at any time, for any reason. There are no natural laws that link tomorrow’s algorithm to today’s. History can tell us about Google’s motivations and we can make reasonable predictions about the algorithm’s future, but those future algorithm updates are not necessarily bound to any pattern or schedule.

What do we actually know?

If we trust Google’s public statements, we know that there are a lot of algorithm updates. The fact that only a handful get named is part of why we built MozCast in the first place. Back in 2011, Eric Schmidt testified before Congress, and his written testimony included the following data:

To give you a sense of the scale of the changes that Google considers, in 2010 we conducted 13,311 precision evaluations to see whether proposed algorithm changes improved the quality of its search results, 8,157 side-by-side experiments where it presented two sets of search results to a panel of human testers and had the evaluators rank which set of results was better, and 2,800 click evaluations to see how a small sample of real-life Google users responded to the change. Ultimately, the process resulted in 516 changes that were determined to be useful to users based on the data and, therefore, were made to Google’s algorithm.

I’ve highlighted one phrase — “516 changes”. At a time when we believed Google made maybe a dozen updates per year, Schmidt revealed that it was closer to 10X/week. Now, we don’t know how Google defines “changes,” and many of these changes were undoubtedly small, but it’s clear that Google is constantly changing.

Google’s How Search Works page reveals that, in 2012, they made 665 “improvements” or “launches” based on an incredible 118,812 precision evaluations. In August of 2014, Amit Singhal stated on Google+ that they had made “more than 890 improvements to Google Search last year alone.” It’s unclear whether that referred to the preceding 12 months or calendar year 2013.

We don’t have a public number for the past couple of years, but it is incredibly unlikely that the rate of change has slowed. Google is making changes to search on the order of 2X/day.

Of course, anyone who has experience in software development realizes that Google didn’t evenly divide 890 improvements over the year and release one every 9 hours and 51 minutes. That would be impractical for many reasons. It’s very likely that releases are rolled out in chunks and are tied to some kind of internal process or schedule. That process or schedule may be irregular, but humans at Google have to approve, release, and audit every change.

In March of 2012, Google released a video of their weekly Search Quality meeting, which, at the time, they said occurred “almost every Thursday”. This video and other statements since reveal a systematic process within Google by which updates are reviewed and approved. It doesn’t take very advanced math to see that there are many more updates per year than there are weekly meetings.

Is there a weekly pattern?

Maybe we can’t predict the exact date of the next update, but is there any regularity to the pattern at all? Admittedly, it’s a bit hard to tell from the graph at the beginning of this post. Analyzing an irregular time series (where both the period between spikes and intensity of those spikes changes) takes some very hairy math, so I decided to start a little simpler.

I started by assuming that a regular pattern was present and looking for a way to remove some of the noise based on that assumption. The simplest analysis that yielded results involved taking a 3-day moving average and calculating the Mean Standard Error (MSE). In other words, for every temperature (each temperature is a single day), take the mean of that day and the day on either side of it (a 3-day window) and square the difference between that day’s temperature and the 3-day mean. This exaggerates stand-alone peaks, and smooths some of the noisier sequences, resulting in the following graph:

This post was inspired in part by February 2016, which showed an unusually high signal-to-noise ratio. So, let’s zoom in on just the last 90 days of the graph:

See peaks 2–6 (starting on January 21)? The space between them, respectively, is 6 days, 7 days, 7 days, and 8 days. Then, there’s a 2-week gap to the next, smaller spike (March 3) and another 8 days to the one after that. While this is hardly proof of a clear regular pattern, it’s hard to believe the weekly pacing is entirely a coincidence, given what we know about the algorithm update approval process.

This pattern is less clear in other months, and I’m not suggesting that a weekly update cycle is the whole picture. We know Google also does large data refreshes (including Penguin) and sometimes rolls updates out over multiple days (or even weeks). There’s a similar, although noisier, pattern in April 2015 (the first part of the 12-month MSE graph). It’s also interesting to note the activity levels around Christmas 2015:

Despite all of our conspiracy theories, there really did seem to be a 2015 Christmas lull in Google activity, lasting approximately 4 weeks, followed by a fairly large spike that may reflect some catch-up updates. Engineers go on vacation, too. Notice that that first January spike is followed by a roughly 2-week gap and then two 1-week gaps.

The most frequent day of the week for these spikes seems to be Wednesday, which is odd, if we believe there’s some connection to Google’s Thursday meetings. It’s possible that these approximately weekly cycles are related to naturally occurring mid-week search patterns, although we’d generally expect less pronounced peaks if change were related to something like mid-week traffic spikes or news volume.

Did we win Google yet?

I’ve written at length about why I think algorithm updates still matter, but, tactically speaking, I don’t believe we should try to plan our efforts around weekly updates. Many updates are very small and even some that are large on average may not effect our employer or clients.

I view the Google weather as a bit like the unemployment rate. It’s interesting to know whether that rate is, say, 5% or 7%, but ultimately what matters to you is whether or not you have a job. Low or high unemployment is a useful economic indicator and may help you decide whether to risk finding a new job, but it doesn’t determine your fate. Likewise, measuring the temperature of the algorithm can teach us something about the system as a whole, but the temperature on any given day doesn’t decide your success or failure.

Ultimately, instead of trying to predict when an algorithm update will happen, we should focus on the motivations behind those updates and what they signal about Google’s intent. We don’t know exactly when the hammer will fall, but we can get out of the way in plenty of time if we’re paying attention.

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How to Influence Branded Searches and Search Volumes to Earn Big Rewards – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

What have you been doing with branded searches? If the answer is “not much,” it may be time to shift your focus a bit. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand explores the huge benefits of turning some of your unbranded searches into branded and offers some key tactical advice.

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 a little bit about how to influence branded search and get a load of benefit out of that. Some of these things that I’m going to talk about today are more theoretical. Like we think they work. We’ve experimented. We’ve seen some other folks experiment. We’re pretty sure. Then some of them are solid. We know that these things influence. Regardless, I think I can persuade you that trying to turn more of your unbranded search into branded search is a hugely positive thing. Generating more branded search in general is also hugely positive. Let me show you what I mean with some examples first.

Non-branded search

Non-branded search, these are essentially the search terms, the queries and phrases that we are all pursuing. We’re trying to rank for them. This is searchers who have not yet expressed a brand preference. They’re searching. Let’s say we’re talking to a chemist or a lab instructor at a school and they’re trying to put together all their materials for their lab. So they’re searching for things like test tubes and lab equipment and chemical safety goggles. They’re trying to figure out the best prices and the best products, the ones that’ll be the safest, the ones that’ll be best for their class. Those are unbranded. They have expressed no brand preference. They haven’t said, “Oh I want this kind and I know that.”

Branded search

Branded searches are more like, “Oh I know I want a Fisher test tube, Fisher Scientific.” Fisher test tubes is what I’m looking for, or lab equipment from Thermo. Thermo Scientific makes a bunch of lab equipment that you can buy prepackaged, kind of all together. Or chemical goggles, “I know I want the 3M variety.” 3M has, like, these awesome chemical goggles. They’re very safe, very good for this stuff.

These branded searches are preferable in many ways for the brands that own and control these companies than the non-branded searches. Here’s why.

A. Increase ease of ranking and conversion

Obviously it is way, way easier to rank well for “3M chemical goggles” if you are 3M than ranking for just “chemical goggles” if you’re 3M. You’re competing against far fewer folks. A lot of people won’t even use your brand name. Even the people who do, like maybe on Amazon.com, you’ll still get some benefit from that because they’re searching for your brand.

It also increases the propensity to convert, meaning that if someone performs that branded search, they’re more likely to actually buy that product. They’re generally speaking further down the funnel. They’ve sort of decided to at least investigate your brand, and now you have a chance to pitch them. They’re familiar. They know your brand name at least. That’s a real positive thing.

B. Affecting search suggest

The second thing that’s nice is you can affect search suggest, meaning that if lots of people, for example, started searching for “3M chemical goggles” instead of “chemical safety goggles” or “chemical goggles,” it would actually be the case that over time what you’d see Google do is in the dropdown box for “chemical safety goggles,” 3M, the word, would start to be associated with it. You’d see that in search suggest. It might be at the very bottom.

For example, if you do a search for “whiteboard,” today in Google, Whiteboard Friday is somewhere on that list, but it’s usually way down towards the bottom. In some geographies it’s probably not there at all. Over time if we get more and more people searching for Whiteboard Friday, it’ll move up in search suggest. So that means people will be more likely to perform that query. At least they’ll see it and say, “Oh that must be a brand,” or “I must have some association with that, or maybe I’m supposed to,” or “I want to investigate that, I’m curious about it.”

C. Improve rankings for non-branded queries

This is one of those speculative things. We believe that right now search volume for branded terms does have an impact on ranking for the non-branded version of the query.

We saw Google file some patents around this, but we also saw some tests in this direction that looked promising, basically saying that if . . . Let’s do Fisher for this one. Let’s say people start searching for Fisher test tubes a lot more. Google might say, “You know, I think Fisher is very relevant to the search query ‘test tubes.’ Let’s move Fisher up in the rankings for just the unbranded phrase ‘test tubes,’ because that volume is suggesting to us that this brand is more relevant to this query than maybe we initially presumed.” That’s huge as well. If you can drive up that search volume, now you can start to get benefit in the non-branded rankings.

D. Appear in “related searches” feature

You can appear in the related search feature. Related searches is usually somewhere between the middle of the page and the very bottom of the page, most of the time at the very bottom of the search page. That’s a powerful way for those 10% to 20% of people that scroll all the way to the bottom before making a click selection or before deciding to change their query, those related searches are a powerful way to suggest, just like search suggest is, that they should, instead of searching for the non-branded term, search for your branded query. The related searches, by the way, is also we think influenced by content, which I’ll talk about in a second.

E. Create an association between your brand and a keyphrase

Create an entity-style association. This is essentially the idea of co-occurring keywords. If Google is crawling the web and they see tons of documents, high-quality, trustworthy documents that contain the word “test tubes” that also contain the word “3M,” oftentimes in close proximity to the word “test tubes,” they’ll over time start to associate the word “test tubes” with the word “3M.” That can impact suggest. It can impact related. It can impact rankings. It has a bunch of positive potential impact. That can make you more relevant for all sorts of things around search that are just awesome.

F. Affect future searches and personalization

Then the last one, which is also cool and powerful, is that this can affect search personalization, meaning, for example, let’s say someone does a search for “3M chemical goggles.” They click on 3m.com. Maybe they buy them. Maybe they don’t. Next time they do a search, for example let’s say “chemical aprons,” well it turns out that Google already knows that person has visited 3M in the past. They might see that behavior and, because they’re logged into their account, they might show them 3M higher up in the rankings. They might show them 3M higher in the search suggest as they start typing. That personalization is another powerful way that you’re getting benefit from branded search.

There are all these benefits. We want to make this happen. How do we do it?

What are the tactics that an SEO can actually use?

It turns out SEOs, we’re going to have to work pretty cross-departmentally in our marketing teams to be able to make this happen because some of the best tactics require things that SEO doesn’t always own and control entirely. Sometimes you do, sometimes not.

The first one, if we can create curiosity and drive search volume via brand advertising, that’s an awesome way to go.

You’ve seen more and more of this. You have seen advertisements probably on television and YouTube ads. You’ve seen branded ads on display ads. You’ve probably heard things on the radio that say search for us, all that kind of stuff. All that classic media, everything from billboards to radio — I know I’m drawing televisions with rabbit ears still. There are probably no TVs in the US that still have rabbit ears. Magazines, print, whatever, billboards, all of that brand advertising can drive people to then be curious about the brand and to want to investigate them more. If you hear a lot about 3M goggles and the cool stuff they’re doing, well, you might be tempted to perform a search.

You can embed searches as well.

Be careful with this one. This can get spammy and manipulative and could get you into trouble. You can do it. If you do it in authentic white hat ways, you’ll probably be okay.

The idea is basically telling customers like, “Hey, if you want to research us, learn more about 3M’s goggles, don’t just take our word for it. Search Google. Go find what people are saying, what reviews are saying about our product.” You see I think it was LG or Samsung ran a big one of these where they were suggesting people do a Google search, because it turns out their phone had been very, very highly rated by all the top folks who’d done a review of them. You can do that in email. You could do it over social networks. You could do it in content. You’re essentially driving people directly to the Google search result page. That could be an embedded link, or it simply could be a suggestion to search and check people out.

You can also use public relations and content marketing, especially guest contributions and content marketing.

You can use events and sponsorship, all of that stuff to essentially drive latent interest and curiosity, kind of like we did with brand advertising but in a little more organic fashion. If The New York Times writes a piece about you, if you speak at a conference . . . This is me wildly gesticulating at a conference. It looks like I’m very dangerously, precariously perched to fall into the crowd there. Guest contributions on a website, maybe something like a Fortune.com, which takes some guest posts, driving people to want to learn more about the brand or the product that you’ve mentioned.

Then finally, you can create those keyword associations that we talked about, the entity-style associations, through word proximity and co-occurrence in web documents.

I put just web documents here, but really it’s important, trustworthy web documents from sources that Google likes and trusts and indexes. That means looking at: Where are all the places potentially on the web that lab equipment is talked about or would be talked about maybe in the future? How do I influence those authors, those creators, those publications to potentially consider including my brand, Thermo Scientific, in their documents? Or how do I create content for places like these that include my brand and include the unbranded term “lab equipment?”

Bunch of tactics, bunch of great opportunities here. I’d love to hear from you folks about what you’ve done around influencing branded search and how you’ve seen it affect your SEO campaigns overall. I’ll look forward to catching up with you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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