Mobile First Index and 7 Things You Need to Stop Doing Immediately

Mobile First Index – Why is Google changing their index after so many years?

Google’s “desktop first” index has been around since the very beginning of this search engine. Why is it now getting abandoned and pushed aside as a backup? What is mobile first index and will the other search engines follow?

The fact that mobile searches have topped the number of searches from desktop devices in many countries around the world is nothing new. Google has been trying to make marketers, developers and business owners pay more attention to users consuming content on their phones ever since they announced ‘Mobilegeddon’ in February 2015, which favours mobile-friendly websites in their rankings.

Some website owners took the hint and invested in developing mobile-optimised and responsive websites, while others created “mobile websites” which would be served to users visiting on mobile device through a redirect. The latter solution often led to less than ideal UX, as the content would often be different that on the original desktop site.

As a result, users who click on the link from search results expecting a certain text from the search snippet will be disappointed when they won’t find what they were looking for.

That’s why Google has decided to change the point of view and start gauging the websites in their index with primarily mobile users’ interests in mind. In technical terms it means that the main user agent crawling the website will be mobile and the content that is accessible to the mobile crawler will be the one that will be considered for ranking.

Timeline of Google’s mobile-targeted actions

  • 26/02/2015 – Google announces change to mobile search results (‘Mobilegeddon’)
  • 21/04/2015 – Google rolls out Mobilegeddon
  • 05/05/2015 – More searches on mobile than on desktop in many countries including USA and UK
  • 01/09/2015 – Google warns to not use mobile interstitials / APP banners
  • 07/10/2015 – Google launches the AMP Project
  • 04/11/2016 – Mobile first index announced
  • 10/01/2017 – Google starts penalising mobile sites with interstitials

What do all these changes mean for us? If you are using mobile-friendly responsive website, probably not much. But even if your website is mobile-optimised, you can do more to get the most out of your SEO strategy. Here are seven things you should definitely stop doing immediately:

1. Stop redirecting based on the device

Having a separate mobile website is a legitimate strategy for many reasons, for example  if your mobile visitor persona is different to the desktop. However in combination with navigating to them through internal redirects based on the viewing device, it can cause a series of problems. To start with, it’s much harder for the mobile first googlebot to discover the desktop version of the site.

The better way to do this is to use rel:alternate tags and canonicals to map the desktop and mobile versions, as Google says that “we’ll continue to use these links as guides to serve the appropriate results to a user searching on desktop or mobile.”

2. Stop using different content on desktop vs. mobile website

It should be an absolute no-brainer that your desktop and mobile version of the same page should show the user the same content. It can be sized differently or lack some visual effects, but it’s important that all the content is the same. Using sneaky redirects for mobile users to show them different content from what the desktop users would see is one of the reasons why Google introduced the mobile first index in the first place.

3. Stop underestimating on page targeting

Mobile screens offer much smaller space to display our content compared to desktops, even if the size of our smartphones and phablets are getting bigger and bigger. This means that we need to get the most out of the available space in a search results page as possible. Mentions of terms in META data, headings, copy & structured data play an even bigger role in mobile search.

4. Stop ignoring structured data

As mentioned above, structured data markup can help make your search results look better, more engaging and thus increase the probability that users will click on your link. Google is constantly increasing the number of supported cases for Schema markup and rich cards, so even if you have ticked this item off your SEO to do list, it’s always good to keep your eye on new opportunities in micro-formats. See how you can easily generate the most common structured data formats here.

5. Start paying attention to local SEO

Mobile searches naturally have very often local intent – we search for restaurants or stores around us in certain areas etc. Whether you are a local business or just have locally-relevant content, it’s important you spend time making sure your page is optimised for local SEO.

 6. Stop being oblivious to your site speed

Site speed can influence your rankings for both desktop as well as mobile searches, but loading speed of page is a much more sensitive issue on mobile phones as the speed of connection usually tends to be slower. Regularly checking how long it takes to load and render your website goes a long way. Make sure you:

  • Avoid using unnecessarily big images
  • Leverage browser caching
  • Deliver your content from cookie-less domain
  • Move your JavaScript to the bottom of the page
  • Eliminate render blocking CSS and JavaScript from above the fold
  • Minify your CSS, HTML and JavaScript
  • Consider switching to newer HTTP/2 protocol

7. Stop failing to verify your mobile site on Google Search Console

In case you are using a separate mobile website you should consider creating a separate property in your Google Search Console account. This gives you great insight into how googlebot sees your website, and spot and fix any potential issues on your site that may affect the way you will rank on Google.

Whatever you do, as long as you make sure that your website offers relevant content in a speedy, non-laggy way – and you let Google know about it – there is no need to be worried. That’s why most of the recommendations above are focused on the user experience of your mobile users. After all, they decide what link they will tap on or not and that’s what the mobile first index is about: letting them pick from the best.

Sources:
https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2016/11/mobile-first-indexing.html
http://searchengineland.com/5-steps-optimizing-site-googles-mobile-first-index-262716
https://searchenginewatch.com/2016/11/14/googles-mobile-first-index-how-to-prepare-your-business/
https://www.searchenginejournal.com/mobile-first-index-actually-mean/178017/
https://stocksnap.io/

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5 Takeaways from Earning Links in 130 Countries

Posted by kerryjones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

top-50-by-format.jpg

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

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

belgian-publisher.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

international-data-by-topic.jpg

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

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

4. A global angle isn’t necessary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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5 Secret Ways You Can Use Google Tag Manager to Boost Your SEO Strategy

In the right hands, Google Tag Manager can be so much more than just a way to install Google Analytics tracking or Facebook pixel. Over the past few years of working with Google Tag Manager, I have come across several surprising and very clever implementations to help improve the SEO strategies I deliver for clients.

Google Tag Manager is tag manager solution used on 25% of the top 1,000 websites and represents a 92.1% market share amongst other tagging alternatives.

These numbers won’t surprise anyone who has had the opportunity to try it out. This JavaScript based program enables marketers (or anyone really) to implement tracking codes without the need to access the source code of their websites and apps.

Here are some of the most interesting ways you can use GTM to boost your SEO efforts.

1. Sanitise your content with structured data injection

Structured data is a method to sort information on your website in a way that is understandable to search engines. This markup can be represented in multiple types of format, such as JSON-LD, Microdata or RDFa. To get your data organised (or structured), you need to insert short snippets of code directly in the source code of your website or app, on each page where you want structured data to appear.

Google can take this additional information about your content and highlight it on search result page and thus increase the chance user will click on your link.

You can read more about the importance of structured data in my blog here.

Google Tag Manager can make the implementation of structured data much faster. Instead of manually including snippets in source code (which usually means asking a developer to do so), deploying markup as custom HTML tag in Google Tag Manager takes few minutes. Here is how:

On the screenshot above you can see example of tag configuration to inject structured data for Organization and Social links. As we want to have this markup implemented on whole website, we have used “All pages” as a trigger.

The same process can be repeated with other types of structured data, such as product, reviews, app and others. You can verify the markup in Google’s Structured Data Testing tool here.

2. Classify blog posts in Google Analytics

If you’ve ever felt the need to see more information about what type of blog posts or pages perform the best on your website, this brilliant solution from Lunametrics has the answers.

Lunametrics suggest boosting Google Analytics’ content grouping feature with few bits of GTM executed JavaScript. This way we can further segment Google Analytics content reports based on the length of a blog post, whether the page contains a YouTube video, how many images are present or what type of headline works best.

Here is an example of JavaScript which needs to be pasted as a custom JavaScript variable in Google Tag Manager:

screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-15-55-20
This script counts number of words in the post using regular expressions and then returns range based on the word count. This value is then passed to a Google Analytics tag which assigns it to a previously defined content group.

The full detailed instructions can be found here.

3. Watch your users watch your YouTube videos: Video tracking

Let’s speaking about your YouTube videos – do you know if they are having any impact at all? Are your customers watching it? How much of them do they watch? Are they impacting the speed of your website?

Here is a nifty Google Tag Manager implementation, which will help you answer all of these questions.

First of all, we need to find out whether a page contains a YouTube video or not. We can do so by using this custom JavaScript variable:

gtm2

Once we have checked whether a page contains a YouTube video, we can proceed to track if users click to play the video, pause it or whether they watch it to its end.

The step-by-step guide can be found here.

4. Scroll tracking: In case people are browsing your website, but not really

Using Google Tag Manager, you can also gain an insight about how far within your website do users really scroll down.

This information can help you make better decision regarding UX of your site, length of the text or its placement on the site.

This scroll tracking plugin sets breakpoints based on the page height, then fires events when anyone scrolls to certain percentages of a page: 10%, 25%, 50%, 75%, 90% and 100%.

Check out the full step-by-step guide here.

5. Be unique: Self referencing rel=canonicals

In the world of scrapers, cashes, cookies and dynamically pushed fragments to URLs on our websites, sometimes it’s very challenging to make sure our pages don’t have duplicates and don’t get copied over in various forms. That’s why it’s important to include self-referencing rel canonical URL tags on each of our unique pages. This way we make it much easier for search engines like Google and Bing to determine which is the original page over its copies.

Implementation of rel canonical URL tags often takes a lot of time and effort from development point of view, which can be eliminated with Google Tag Manager.

This guide by Lucía Marín shows how we can generate and insert self referencing rel canonical URL tags using Google Tag Manager and its variables.

All of the above mentioned scripts and guides can be easily implemented without major coding skills and can contribute to lots of better decisions and saved hours of development resources. I hope you will try at least one if not all of these awesome Google Tag Manager hacks. And as with every Google Tag Manager implementation, don’t forget to test, test and test.

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The 7 Citation Building Myths Plaguing Local SEO

Posted by JoyHawkins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Darren Shaw also agrees on this:

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

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

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

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

http://directory.hawaiitribune-herald.com/profile?listingid=108895814

http://directory.lufkindailynews.com/profile?listingid=108895814

http://flbiz.oscnewsgazette.com/profile?listingid=108895814

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

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

As Darren Shaw puts it,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Myth #7: Google My Business is a citation.

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

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

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

Posted by lkolowich

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

And they have a lot of choices.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Image credit: Nielsen Norman Group]

Here’s what that looks like:

f-pattern-wireframe.jpg

[Image credit: Envato Studio]

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

f-pattern-with-content.jpg

[Image credit: Envato Studio]

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

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

prezi-business-homepage.png

[Prezi’s homepage]

uber-homepage.png

[Uber’s homepage]

barkbox-homepage.png

[BarkBox’s homepage]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

officevibe-banner-pop-up.png

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

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

ugmonk-pop-up.png

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

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

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

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

hubspot-banner-cta-example.png

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

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

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

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

hubspot-anchor-text-cta-example.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

hubspot-launch-post.png

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

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

  • “17 of the Best Brands on Instagram Right Now”
  • “How to Edit Instagram Photos: A Step-by-Step Guide to Using Instagram Filters & More”
  • “48 Instagram Stats That’ll Help You Improve Your Posting Strategy”

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

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

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

5) Use social media strategically for lead generation.

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

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

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

canva-facebook-page.png

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

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

dollar-shave-club-facebook-CTA.png

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

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

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

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

Posted by randfish

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

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

Video Transcription

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

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

The challenge

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

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

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

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

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

My recommendations

Client websites

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

Site(s) you own

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

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

Blogrolls, syndicators, etc.

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

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

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

Widgets & embeds

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

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

More dangerous

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

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

Less dangerous

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

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

That will keep you safe.

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

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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How a hoax Daft Punk website earned 300 links in 10 days

Daft Punk are a music duo who know how to build up mystery around their news. For instance, they only went on tour twice, in 1997 and 2007. Following the pattern, after another 10 years would make sense for them to hit the road again. Meanwhile, in 2013, the french guys released the worldwide hit Random Access Memories and took almost five months from announcing until releasing the album, starting with a 30 seconds sample of Get Lucky. Whatever Daft Punk release, they are great in creating anticipation.

So when a website named alive2017.com popped up, a roller coaster of rumours and emotions started in a matter of days. The story was born and started developing itself on Reddit and didn’t take long to hit the news: 11 days after the domain was registered it became a huge story around the world.

The whole website has just a homepage, as you can see below:

A little secret in the source code

While the page has almost no information, it’s possible to see a small countdown zooming the letter ‘I’. Looking into the source code, there are comment lines pointing October 27th as a ‘wake up’ date, as well geographic coordinates pointing to Paris, Los Angeles, London, New York, Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Ibiza, and Indio. A mix of uncountable fans urging to watch the group live, their tour behaviour together with a story quick to write and very clickable was enough to build up a story.

alive2017-com-counter-source

While is not possible to know precisely when the website went live, here is a timeline of events:

  • Domain registered (protected ownership) on September 24th
  • Reddit Discussions on September 27th
  • Hit the news on October 4th
  • Linked by 302 Domains until October 14th
  • 431 Root Domains earned until November 10th

Take a look at the summary provided by Majestic:

alive2017-com-majestic-summary

Here is the backlink history:

alive2017-com-backlinks-graph

The number is very impressive and quality as well. BBC, MTV, Billboard, NME, Gizmodo and Gawker are among the top sources which linked alive2017.com. A delirium for any link builder:

alive2017-com-majestic-backlinks-list

Most of the stories are just replicating the same information as described previously in this post and pointing October 27th as truth day. So guess what happened in the so expected day? Well, nothing happened.
From the beginning some fans were sceptical. Just in the first thread, it was pointed that the website was very amateur and not related at all to Daft Punk official websites. On the other side, some believed this was also a way to keep the mystery. Anyway, when people want to see something, there are ways to make yourself believe.

Just liked appeared from nowhere, alive2017.com was shut down, receiving the last visit from Googlebot on November 9. You still can see it on Archive.org.

alive2017-com-googlebot

Daft Punk did not officially react in any moment and it’s very hard to point what is the motivation behind someone investing time and knowledge in creating a page like this but it is no news that the internet is full of fake stories. Could it be used for spam in the future? Would be easy to rank with decent content after such a wave of strong and trustable links? These questions are unanswered, but we will keep an eye there.

And guess what? Alive2018.com has got an owner as well. The domain was registered on October 4th, 2016. Daft Punk fans will deal with another similar hoax next year?

Post from Gustavo Pelogia

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

Posted by ronell-smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The fast five 5 Ws of featured snippets

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

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

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

Keeping your hard-earned featured snippet

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

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

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

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

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

This tidbit got my attention for two reasons:

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

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

How to smartly invest in featured snippets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t overthink it. Dive in.

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

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

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

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

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

Image source: Stone Temple Consulting

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

You’ve still created something worthwhile

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

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

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

It bears repeating:

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

Dr. Pete continued:

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

  • Ranking #0: SEO for Answers and How to Rank on Google Home, by Dr. Pete
  • The Definitive Guide to Google’s Rich Answers (part of a three-post series), by Stone Temple Consulting
  • How to Appear in Google’s Answer Boxes, by Rand Fishkin
  • How To Get More Featured Snippets, by GetStat

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


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

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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Automating Technical Reporting for SEO

Posted by petewailes

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

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

The old way

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

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

A helping hand

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

# time_iso8601 looks like this: 2016-08-10T14:53:00+01:00 
if ($time_iso8601 ~ "^(d4)-(d2)-(d2)")  
        set $year $1; 
        set $month $2; 
        set $day $3; 
 
<span class="redactor-invisible-space">
</span>access_log /var/log/nginx/$year-$month-$day-access.log;

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

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

30* status codes

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

404 status codes

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

50* status codes

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

Crawl budget

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

Top/least-requested resources

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

Bad actors

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

Pattern-matched URL reporting

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

Spiky search crawl behavior

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

Outputting data

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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Announcing MozCon Local 2017!

Posted by George-Freitag

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

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

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

Buy your MozCon Local 2016 ticket!


Some of our great speakers (lots more coming!)

Darren Shaw

Whitespark

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

Mike Blumenthal

GetFiveStars

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

Heather Physioc

VML

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

Willys DeVoll

Google

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

Rand Fishkin

Moz

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

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

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

Purchase your ticket now!


Our best early-bird prices:

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

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

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

MozCon Local Conference – Tuesday, February 28, 2017

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

$899 $699 for Early Bird General Admission

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

Mike Deets - Living

 

 

 

Have an incredible day!

 

Mike

http://blog.deetslist.com

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