Posted by Cyrus-Shepard
Link building is hard, but it's not the only way to make traffic gains in Google's search results.
When I first started SEO, building links wasn't my strong suit. Writing outreach emails terrified me, and I had little experience creating killer content. Instead, I focused on the easy wins.
While off-page factors like links typically weigh more heavily than on-page efforts in Google's search results, SEOs today have a number of levers to pull in order to gain increased search traffic without ever building a link.
For experienced SEOs, many of these are established practices, but even the most optimized sites can improve in at least one or more of these areas.
According to the MozCast Feature Graph, 6% of Google search results contain In-depth articles. While this doesn't seem like a huge numbers, the articles that qualify can see a significant increase in traffic. Anecdotally, we've heard reports of traffic increasing up to 10% after inclusion.
By adding a few signals to your HTML, your high quality content could qualify to appear. The markup suggested by Google includes:
While Google seems to favor authorities news sites for In-depth Article inclusion, most sites that may qualify don't have the proper semantic markup implemented.
Can you improve your Google rankings by improving the onsite experience of your visitors?
In many ways the answer is "yes," and the experience of several SEOs hints that the effect may be larger than we realize.
We know that Google's Panda algorithm punishes "low-quality" websites. We also know that Google likely measures satisfaction as users click on search results.
"â€¦ Google could see how satisfied users were. â€¦ The best sign of their happiness was the "long click" â€“ this occurred when someone went to a search result, ideally the top one, and did not return."
-Stephen Levy from his excellent book In the Plex
The idea is called pogosticking, or return-to-SERP, and if you can reduce it by keeping satisfied visitors on your site (or at least not returning to Google to look for the answer somewhere else) many SEOs believe Google will reward you with higher positions in search results.
"If you have enough links to be in the top 5, you have enough links to be position 1â€ł
While we have no direct evidence of pogosticking in Google's search results, we've seen enough patents, interviews and analysis to believe it's possibly one of the most underutilized techniques in SEO today.
The first time I heard about structured data was from a presentation by Matthew Brown at MozCon in 2011. Matthew now works at Moz, and I'm happy to glean from his expertise. His Schema 101 presentation below is well worth studying.
If you're just getting started, check out this amazingly helpful Guide to Generating Rich Snippets from the folks at SEOgadget.
Two of our favorite types of markup for increasing clicks are videos and authorship, so we'll discuss each below.
Pixel for pixel, video snippets capture more search real estate than any other type of rich snippet, even more than authorship photos. Studies show our eyes go straight to them.
Unlike author photos, video snippets are often easier to display and don't require connecting a Google+ account.
To simplify things, many third party services will take care of the technical details for you. Here at Moz we use Wistia, which creates a sitemap and adds schema.org markup automatically.
Pro tip: Both schema.org and XML sitemaps allow you to define the video thumbnail that appears in search results. As the thumbnail highly influences clicks, choose wisely.
Recommended reading: Getting Video Results in Google
Scoring the coveted author photo in Google search results doesn't guarantee more clicks, but getting the right photo can help your click-through rate in many results.
What makes a good author photo? While there are no rules, I've personally tested and studied hundreds of photos and found certain factors help:
Google recently got more selective about the author photos it chooses to show, but if you implement authorship correctly you may find yourself in the 20% (according to MozCast) of all search results that include author photos.
Improving site speed not only improves visitor satisfaction (see point #1) but it may also have a direct influence on your search rankings. In fact, site speed is one of the few ranking factors Google has confirmed.
One of the interesting things we learned this year, with help from the folks at Zoompf, is that actual page load speed may be far less important than Time to First Byte (TTFB). TTFB is the amount of time it takes a server to first respond to a request.
As important as page speed is for desktop search Google considers it even more important for mobile devices. Think about the last time you waited for a page to load on your cell phone with a weak signal.
"Optimizing a page's loading time on smartphones is particularly important given the characteristics of mobile data networks smartphones are connected to."
- Google Developers
Suggested tool: PageSpeed Insights
Aside from speed, if your website isn't configured properly for smartphones, it probably results in lower Google search results for mobile queries. Google confirms that smartphone errors may result in lower mobile rankings.
What is a smartphone error? It could include:
Google recommends making your site responsive, but many of the top brands in the world, including Apple.com, don't have responsive sites. Regardless, a good mobile experience is imperative.
Does your website have traffic potential outside your existing country and/or language?
Our international experts like Aleyda Solis know this well, but folks inside the United States have been slow to target specific languages and countries with SEO.
Oftentimes, the opportunities for appearing in international search results are greater than staying within your own borders, and the competition sometimes less. To see if it's worth your while to make an investment, check out this International SEO Checklist by Aleyda (who is also a mobile SEO expertâ€”it's so unfair!)
When you share content on Facebook and Twitter, your network basically sees it only when they are looking at Facebook and Twitter.
On the other hand, when you share content on Google+, your network can see it every time they search Google.
Google's own research shows that users fixate on social annotations, even when presented with videos and other types of rich snippets.
The easiest way to take advantage of this is to expand your Google+ network and share good content regularly and often. Rand Fishkin elegantly explains how to use Google+ to appear in the top of Google results every time.
Additionally, content shared through Google+ often ranks in regular search results, visible to everyone on the web, regardless of their social connections.
This goes back to basic meta tag and title tag optimization, but it's a good practice to keep in mind.
In the past two years, Google changed the maximum length of title tags so that it's no longer dependent on the number of characters, but on the number of pixels used, generally around 500 pixels in length. This keeps changing as Google tests new layouts.
Because 500 pixels is difficult to determine when writing most titles, best advice is still to keep your titles between 60-80 characters, or use an online snippet optimization tool to find your ideal title tag length.
Google also updated its advice on meta descriptions, further clarifying that duplicate meta descriptions are not a good idea. Matt Cutts tells us that if you can't make your descriptions unique for each page, it's better to have none at all.
"You can either have a unique meta tag description, or you can choose to have no meta tag description."
Google's Matt Cutts
Given that duplicate meta descriptions are one of the few HTML recommendations flags in Webmaster Tools, does this indicate Google treats repetitive meta descriptions as a negative ranking factor? Hmmmâ€¦.
Websites that stop earning new links often lose ground in Google search results. At the same time, sites that never add new content or let their pages go stale can also fall out of favor.
Freshening your content doesn't guarantee a rankings boost, but for certain types of queries it definitely helps. Google scores freshness in different ways, and may include:
Recommended reading: 10 Illustrations on How Fresh Content Can Influence Rankings
The factors listed here only scratch the surface of earning more real estate in search results. Issues such as indexing, crawling, canonicalization, duplicate content, site architecture, keyword research, internal linking, image optimization and 1,000 other things can move ranking mountains.
The job of the Technical SEO becomes more complex each year, but we also have more opportunities now than ever.
It's easy to think nothing is new in SEO, or that SEO is easy, or that Google will simply figure out our sites. Nothing is further from reality.
The truth is, we have work to do.
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Posted by Tom.Capper
Attribution modeling in Google Analytics (GA) is potentially very powerful in the results it can give us, yet few people use it, and those that do often get misleading results. The built-in models are all fairly useless, and creating your own custom model can easily dissolve into random guesswork. If youâ€™re lucky enough to have access to GA Premium, you can use Data-Driven Attribution, and thatâ€™s greatâ€”but if you haven't got the budget to take that route, this post should show you how to get started with the data you already have.
If you've read up on attribution modelling in the past, you probably already know whatâ€™s wrong with the default models. If you havenâ€™t, I recommend you read this post by Avinash, which outlines the basics of how they all work.
In short, theyâ€™re all based on arbitrary, oversimplified assumptions about how people use the internet.
The time decay model is probably the most sensible out of the box, and assumes that after I visit your site, the effect of this first visit on the chance of me visiting again halves every X days. The below graph shows this relationship with the default seven-day half-life. It plots "days since visit" against "chance this visit will cause additional visit." If it takes seven days for the repeat visit to come around, the first visit's credit halves to 25%. If it takes 14 days for the repeat visit to come around, the first visit's credit halves again, to 12.5%. Note that the graph is steppedâ€”I'm assuming it uses GA's "days since last visit" dimension, which rounds to a whole number of days. This would mean that, for example, if both visits were on the day of conversion, neither would be discounted and both would get equal credit.
There might be some site and userbase out there for which this is an accurate model, but as a starting assumption itâ€™s incredibly bold. As an entire model, itâ€™s incredibly simplisticâ€”surely we donâ€™t really believe that there are no factors relevant in assigning credit to previous visits besides how long ago they occurred? We might consider it relevant if the previous visit bounced, for example. This is why custom models are the only sensible approach to attribution modelling in Google Analyticsâ€”the simple one-size-fits-all models are never going to be appropriate for your business or client, precisely because theyâ€™re simple, one-size-fits-all models.
Note that in describing the time decay model, Iâ€™m talking about the chance of one visit generating anotherâ€”an important and often overlooked aspect of attribution modelling is that itâ€™s about probabilities. When assigning partial credit for a conversion to a previous visit, we are not saying that the conversion happened partly because of the previous visit, and partly because of the converting visit. We simply donâ€™t know whether that was the case. It could be that after their first visit, the user decided that whatever happened they were going to come back at some point and make a purchase. If we knew this, weâ€™d want to assign that first visit 100% credit. Or it might be that after their first visit, the user totally forgot that our website existed, and then by pure coincidence found it in their natural search results a few days later and decided to make a purchase. In this case, if we knew this, weâ€™d want to assign the previous visit 0% credit. But actually, we donâ€™t know what happened. So we make a claim based on probabilities. For example, if we have a conversion that takes place with one previous visit, what weâ€™re saying if we assign 40% credit to that previous visit is that we think that there is a 40% chance that the conversion would not have happened without the first visit.
If we did think that there was a 40% chance of a conversion being caused by an initial visit, weâ€™d want to assign 40% credit to â€śPosition in Pathâ€ť exactly matching â€śFirst interactionâ€ť (meaning visits that were the user's first visit). If you want to use â€śPosition in Pathâ€ť as your sole predictor of the chance that a visit generated the conversion, you can. Provided you donâ€™t pull the percentages off the top of your head, itâ€™s better than nothing. If you want to be more accurate, thereâ€™s a veritable smorgasbord of additional custom credit rules to choose from, with any default model as your starting point. All we have to do now is figure out what numbers to put in, and realistically, this is where it gets hard. At all costs, do not be tempted to guessâ€”that renders the entire exercise pointless.
One tempting approach is simply to create a model based to a greater or lesser extent on assumptions and guesswork, then test the conclusions of that model against your existing marketing strategy and incrementally improve your strategy in this manner. This approach is probably better than nothing for improving your market strategy, and testing improvements to your strategy is always worthwhile, but as a way of creating a realistic attribution model this starting point is going to set you on a long, expensive journey.
The ideal solution is to do this process in reverseâ€”run controlled experiments to build your model in the first place. If you can split your users into representative segments, then test, for example,
and so on, you can start filling in your custom credit rules this way. If your tests are done well, you can get really excellent results. But this is expensive, difficult, and time consuming.
The next-best alternative is asking users. If users donâ€™t remember having encountered your brand before, that previous visit they had probably didnâ€™t contribute to their conversion. The most sensible way to do this would be an (optional but incentivised) post-conversion questionnaire, where a representative sample of users are asked questions like:
The results from questions like these can start filling in those custom credit rules in a non-arbitrary way. But this is still somewhat expensive, difficult and time-consuming. What if you just want to get going right away?
In this blog post, Google offers this explanation of the Data-Driven Attribution model in GA Premium:
â€śThe Data-Driven Attribution model is enabled through comparing conversion path structures and the associated likelihood of conversion given a certain order of events. The difference in path structure, and the associated difference in conversion probability, are the foundation for the algorithm which computes the channel weights. The more impact the presence of a certain marketing channel has on the conversion probability, the higher the weight of this channel in the attribution model.The underlying probability model has been shown to predict conversion significantly better than a last-click methodology. Data-Driven Attribution seeks to best represent the actual behaviour of customers in the real world, but is an estimate that should be validated as much as possible using controlled experimentation.â€ť (my emphasis)
Similarly, this paper recommends a combination of a conditional probability approach and a bagged logistic regression model. Don't worry if this doesn't mean much to youâ€”Iâ€™m going to recommend here using a variant of the much simpler conditional probability method.
I'd like to look first at the kind of model that seems to be suggested by Google's explanation above of their Data Driven Attribution feature. For example, say we wanted to look at the most basic credit rule: How much credit should be assigned to a single previous visit? The basic logic outlined in the explanation from Google above would suggest an approach something like this:
To me, this model is somewhat flawed (though Iâ€™m fairly sure that this flaw lies in my application of Googleâ€™s explanation of their Data-Driven Attribution rather than in the model itself). For example, say we had a large group of repeat visitors who were only coming to the site because of a previous visit, but that were converting poorly. Weâ€™d want to assign credit for these (few) conversions to the previous visits, but the model outlined above might assign them low or negative credit; this is because even though conversions among this group are caused by previous visits, their conversion rate is lower than that of new visitors. This is just one example of why this model can end up being misleading.
Figuring out from our data whether a repeat visitor came because of a previous visit or independently of a previous visit is hard. Iâ€™ll be honest: I donâ€™t know how Google does it. My best solution is an approximation, but a non-arbitrary one. The idea is using the percentage of traffic that is either branded or direct as an indicator for brand familiarity. Going back again to how much credit should be assigned to a single previous visit, my solution looks like this:
We can use similar logic applied to users with 3+ visits to calculate the credit deserved by â€śmiddle interactionsâ€ť.
This method is far from perfectâ€”thatâ€™s why I recommended two others above it. But if you want to get started with your existing data in a non-arbitrary way, I think this is a non-ridiculous way to get started. If youâ€™ve made it this far and you have any ideas of your own, please post them in the comments below.
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Posted by dohertyjf
Working as an agency marketer is tough. I did it for a bit over two years and learned a lot of lessons. Along the way and since I have reflected about what would make me more successful as an agency marketer, and now that I am in-house at HotPads.com, I've come up with five things I wish I had known as an agency marketer. Never fear though, as there are some tidbits in there for the in-house crew as well!
For reference, here's a still of this week's whiteboard!
Howdy Moz fans. Welcome to Whiteboard Friday. My name is John Doherty. I currently lead Marketing at HotPads.com. Thank you Moz for having me back here on Whiteboard Friday. It's been a while since I've been here. I'm super-excited to be back in Seattle, able to get here on the camera and talk to you guys about a few things that are near and dear to my heart.
I've been at HotPads for about four months now. I joined them in San Francisco a few months ago, moving out from New York City to lead Marketing for HotPads, working with some of the other rentals businesses as well under the Zillow Inc. umbrella, both on the consumer side and the business-
to-business, B2B side.
But I worked for an agency for a couple of years. I worked for Distilled, based in New York City, and obviously I worked with a lot of clients, small clients, large clients, took a lot of pride in building relationships with my clients and getting things done. Distilled is phenomenal at that, and I felt like I learned a ton. I learned a ton about clients. But over the previous couple of months, I've really been reflecting and trying to figure out: What is really the difference between agency and in-house marketing?
I wrote a post about it on my own personal website, JohnFDoherty.com, which I don't write on there often enough. But I published a post on there recently about that difference. But today I want to take a little bit more focused approach to that, and I want to talk to you from the in-house perspective about five things that I wish I had known when I worked as an agency marketer working for clients.
So I have five points for you. Let's run through them real quick. First one is your client is the industry expert. What I mean by that is your client knows their industry, their vertical better than you know their vertical. You may be able to look at it from a domain authority perspective, who's ranking, who's creating content, who has social media going, who has a full-
fledged marketing team built out, who's just playing around, and who's spamming, who's building link networks. But you don't know their vertical, and you don't know their business. You don't know their monetization model nearly as well as they do.
So while you know the tactics, and one of the great things about agencies and one of the super valuable things about agencies is that you know the tactics and you can see across verticals. You know what's working in travel and what's working in real estate and what's working in video. You know what's going on across the broader spectrum. So that's where you can really add value to your client. You can tell them tactics, and you can tell them tactics that work across different verticals that they may not have thought about. But at the end of the day, they're the ones that know their business, and they know their vertical, from a business perspective, better than you do.
The second one is learn the whole marketing team. This is one that I struggled with early on in my career at Distilled. I was very focused on SEO, especially technical SEO, focused on site architecture and content and things like that. So I made sure to get to know the SEO. I made sure to get to know the SEO team, who does what, what's everyone's skills, all of that. For a long time, though, I failed to get to know their bosses. I failed to get to know who runs the marketing team. I failed to get to know the different sides of the marketing team and who does what. For example, in a big company, the marketing team may have five people in PR and three people in SEO and two people in email.
So talking tactics, such as email marketing strategies, with the SEO team when the SEO team has no ability to change the email marketing tactics isn't going to get you a long ways. However, this can be super valuable when you're talking with the SEO team about how they are going to be able to get buy-in with other teams to work together collaboratively with them to get more done on the SEO side. It's the old you scratch my back, I'm going to scratch yours sort of mentality.
The third is never forget that, as the agency, you are the outsource solution. Whether you like it or not, no matter how closely you get to your client, no matter how well you get to know them, no matter how often you go down to visit them, you are still the outsourced solution. You are not working there in-house with them all the time, part of the politics, seeing what's going on, knowing what the roadblocks are, knowing why certain things aren't getting done, or why certain things do get done. At the end of the day, you are still an outsourced solution that you were brought in for a reason. That's not necessarily a negative thing. Actually, from the in-house perspective now, I don't believe that's a negative thing at all, because you were brought in because you're the expert. You're the expert in SEO or technical SEO or link building or content marketing or social media marketing. You were brought in because that is what you own, and that's what you are known for, and so that is exactly the reason why you are there, not to be part of their marketing team.
However, what I learned in my time at Distilled is the closer you can get to the team, to the in-house team, the better you can get to know them, the more successful you are going to be.
This brings me to my fourth point. As an agency marketer, you're actually less responsible for results than you may think that you are. What I mean by this is ultimately the in-house team is the one that is responsible for the results. Myself, at HotPads, I am responsible for driving traffic, which drives leads which drives the business. If I hire an agency, you are not going to be responsible for driving traffic. You're going to be responsible for giving me deliverables that I can then use to go and turn into actionable things for my development team to do or for my marketing team to execute on.
To be successful as an agency marketer, what you need to do is you need to make sure that you are communicating with your client. That is the first and foremost, that you are communicating with your client, telling them when things are going to be in their inbox, what you're going to be delivering, why you are delivering it, what you're going to deliver next based off of the deliverable that you are currently working on, or spending a lot of time reporting. Honestly, I was really bad at this when I was at Distilled, reporting to my clients and telling them, "This is what we've done over the previous month, and this is what we're going to do over the next month."
That alone is invaluable to an in-house marketer, because then, as in-house marketer, if I'm given that from my agency that I'm working with, I can then go and set expectations with my bosses and tell them, "This is coming down from this agency. I expect it on this date. These are the things that they've done, and this is what we're doing with them."
Finally, this brings me to my fifth point, which is deadlines actually matter less than you think. Deadlines for deliverables actually matter a lot less than you might think. The reason for this is in-house marketers are very, very, very busy. Leading marketing at HotPads, I'm doing SEO. I'm helping out with the content strategy, helping my content manager with the content strategy, helping her meet the right people and get buy-in from the right people and figure out when to publish things and where do we publish things, and how do we push it on social media. I'm helping me email marketer get to know our developers and talk with people up here in our Seattle office, the email marketing team up here to find out what they're doing. We're strategizing about emails. I'm helping my link builder find new places to get links. We're strategizing about link building and measuring that and measuring the ROI on that.
So I'm very, very busy. Everyone on my team is very, very busy. All in-house marketers are very, very busy. We're all over the place. We're touching all sorts of different parts of marketing at some point and working very, very collaboratively, and I would suggest that any very successful in-house marketing team is all working collaboratively and not siloed away from other teams.
So all of this is to say that I really don't care about deadlines, and most in-house people aren't really going to care about deadlines. What's important for you as an agency marketer is going to be communicating with your client when something is going to be delivered. If you're going to be late, communicate that with them as soon as you're able to. If it's going to be a week late, let them know why. Things come up. Everyone understands that things come up. Maybe another client had an emergency. Maybe there was an algorithm change that they were hurt by, that their CEO is about to fire the whole marketing team if you don't jump in. Clients understand this. So what you need to do is you really need to communicate with them as soon as possible, as often as possible.
As an in-house marketer, speaking to the in-house guys for a second, you need to tell the agency exactly what you're dealing with, exactly what your responsibilities are. What keeps you busy day-to-day? There's nothing more frustrating as an agency marketer than being like, "Why can't I get a hold of my client? I know they're around. I know they're in there. Aren't they just like sitting there building links?" The answer is no. They're not just sitting there building links. They have a lot going on. So to be successful as an agency marketer, you need to find out from your clients exactly what keeps them busy day in, day out. So then you are able to not be a pain to them, but rather to help them do their job even better.
So these are five things that I wish I knew as an agency marketer now that I am in-house. Once again, my name is John Doherty. You can find me on Twitter, DohertyJF, and I'm happy to be back here. Please leave any comments you have below in the comments section. Thanks a lot. Have a great weekend.
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Posted by SamuelScott
This post was originally in YouMoz, and was promoted to the main blog because it provides great value and interest to our community. The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of Moz, Inc.
In case you missed it, Googleâ€™s head of web spam, Matt Cutts, wrote this on January 20: â€śOkay, Iâ€™m calling it: if youâ€™re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop.â€ť
Three days later, Jen Lopez of Moz responded with this excellent post on â€śguest blogging with a purposeâ€ť:
As with anything, you don't want to be out there trying willy-nilly to get your posts on every blog for the sole purpose of building (probably bad) links. It's important to have this tied to your business and marketing goals, as you would with any other tactic. SEO is only one piece of the larger strategy, and if you focus solely on writing posts for link building purposes, you're missing out on a ton of other possibilities.
In Lopezâ€™s post, I commented in some detail that â€śguest postsâ€ť are really just another name for what the public relations industry calls â€śby-lined articlesâ€ť and that the goals of the two should be identical. In response later in that thread, Lopez and Everett Sizemore invited me to elaborate on the â€śPR side of SEOâ€ť in a detailed Moz post.
Well, letâ€™s get to it!
(photo courtesy of Marvel Studios)
First, letâ€™s set the record straight.
As Iâ€™ve written elsewhere while using â€śThe Avengersâ€ť as an example (Joss Whedon fans, unite!), "SEO" is actually just a slang term for a collection of best practices -- it is doing web development well, content creation well, social media well, PR well, and so on. This is why successful SEO, and digital marketing in general, necessitates that companies â€śassembleâ€ť a holistic, integrated team with expertise in numerous disciplines. And that includes public relations.
Rand Fishkin once tweeted a similar sentiment:
Here, Iâ€™ll cover how PR relates to content and linkbuilding.
I can already hear the groans: â€śBut, wait! Iâ€™m not a PR flak! Iâ€™m an inbound marketer!â€ť I completely understand â€“ as a former journalist, who only later went into SEO, I specifically had been looking for something in marketing that was not PR. But the fact remains that much of inbound marketing is just PR by another name:
It took me a long time to accept the fact that a lot of what we do as â€śSEOsâ€ť is actually, well, PR. But the sooner that we accept that fact and throw away our preconceived notions about PR, the sooner that we can start to learn, adopt and benefit from its best practices.
Hereâ€™s the kicker: Technologies and communications channels change, but people do not. Publicists, for example, may contact reporters with Twitter more than the telephone today â€“ but it is still one human being talking with another human being. And PR experts know how to work with people. Social media is often just a communications channel â€“ and not a discipline unto itself â€“ that can be used by PR professionals, customer-service representatives, lead generators, and more.
There are many types of PR. But since the idea for this post was born out of a discussion on guest posts, I will discuss PR strategy here specifically on pitching content and story ideas to journalists and bloggers. This is a brief summary of some of the ways that The Cline Group works with our PR clients â€“ and the resulting â€śhitsâ€ť (in PR-speak) give them the added bonus of gaining quality, natural links and social media exposure as well!
The first thing to understand is that public relations is an art, not a science. There are specific, defined ways to create XML sitemaps, ensure that Google can crawl and index a website, avoid duplicate-content issues, reduce page-load time, and more. PR methods, however, can vary as drastically as the number of people using them.
Here, I will present the overall strategy that The Cline Group uses in our public-relations work. This strategic, step-by-step process delivers the best results.
PR is not an end. It is a means to an end. The goal is not to â€śget coverageâ€ť â€“ the goal is to get coverage that supports a companyâ€™s overall business and marketing goals. Here are some examples of our PR clientsâ€™ goals:
It is useless to create a PR strategy without first having a clear sense of the objective.
The PR team must then research and compile a list of the general targeted audiences based on the goals that the client established. Here are some for the above examples:
Once the goals are determined and the target markets are identified, then the PR team can determine the positioning (how will you brand the company/individual/product/content to the target markets) and messaging (what text, images, and more will you use to communicate the positioning).
Take one of our mobile-app clients, MediSafe Project. Which of the following pitches do you think would be more likely to interest reporters, and, in the end, their readers?
The second example is the opening paragraph of a Cult of Mac article. That coverage came from positioning MediSafe as a personal story rather than as just another random app.
The next step is to compile a list of the outlets â€“ and the most-appropriate writers at those outlets â€“ that are read by the identified target audiences. The importance of this phase of the process cannot be emphasized enough.
An ideal media list should usually be comprised of publications that have all of the following (in both PR and digital contexts):
When compiling media lists, remember that time is a limited resource. There are only so many hours that a PR team can devote to a campaign. At one extreme, they could send the same, generic press release to thousands of outlets via a wire service and just hope for the best. At the other extreme, they could focus all of their efforts on a single reporter at a single outlet that is highly desired. A simplistic example: Say a PR executive has one hour of pitching time â€“ should he or she spend one hour on one outlet or five minutes each on twelve outlets? Usually, you want to be somewhere in the middle.
The final stage is to craft the actual pitches and press releases. Sometimes the same press release can be used. Other times, it is best to create individualized, tailored releases for each type of outlet or each specific reporter. It just depends on the context.
One example of online pitching will be discussed in the next section.
A good PR strategy can lead to great SEO results such as this outcome from one single campaign for iOnRoad, a mobile app that was later bought by Harman International following our work (the PowerPoint slide originally contained an animated GIF of Hugh Laurie â€“ a.k.a. Dr. House â€“ from back in his British comedy TV days):
This one campaign netted 591 quality links from 253 authoritative domains â€“ and a lot more.
Whether digital marketers are promoting a company, a product, or a piece of content, those who use this general strategy will be many steps ahead of the competition. Sizemore once summarized the importance with the following statement in this essay of his:
If I had to choose between your average link builder and an expert PR professional who knew how to approach and interact with media outlets and presented well on camera, Iâ€™d go for the public relations person any day of the week.
Twitter specifically is an invaluable tool for PR pitching â€“ but it must be used strategically and wisely in this context.
My colleague Scott Piro, our EMEA Managing Director and Chief Strategy Officer, has written a guide to using Twitter for media relations. I highly suggest that Mozzers read his essay for more details (not that Iâ€™m biased!), but I will summarize some of his points here:
Piro also gives two general examples of Twitter pitches:
Iâ€™d like to close this post with the rest of my comment on Lopezâ€™s earlier Moz essay:
When I was a journalist, the point of submitting freelance articles or op-ed articles was to publish a piece of quality content to build your "brand" (as a writer or pundit). It was not primarily to get links (especially when links did not exist before the public Internet). In PR, companies submit what are called "by-lined articles" to build a brand and raise awareness of your company among the readers of a certain publication. (If you sell widgets, then you want exposure in a media outlet that is read by people who buy widgets.) It is not primarily to get links. Today, it's called "guest posts."
The same is true today. When my company gets articles in specific, targeted media outlets for clients, the point is first to build a brand and second to get referral traffic (and hopefully leads or sales) via a link in the author's biography or elsewhere. No-follow or not, it didn't matterâ€¦
I now advocate that no one do anything with the primary purpose of "getting links." Do the great content, promote it on social media, and the links will come naturally, indirectly, and organically. You are earning them and not building them. One of these links are worth ten of the others.
Example: My agency gets a client a great by-line article in a great outlet. The article may contain a (do-follow or not) backlink or not. But it doesn't matter -- the exposure is what matters. Then, the readers will see the content and perhaps write about the company on their own blogs with links. It snowballs from there. But in the end, it's not directly about the links. As long as a company does all of the "SEO" best-practices, the good links will come themselves over time.
I would submit that this is what Google still likes. It is "guest posting" for reasons other than links. The same is true for press releases -- you distribute news releases to get coverage, not links. The links will then come later.
It all comes down to what Iâ€™ve called the â€śPR-based SEO processâ€ť:
The idea can be summarized as such:
If you can answer this question, youâ€™ve got a great head start. As I wrote in the linked post above:
What can a company do that would interest journalists? The possibilities are limited only by the imagination â€“ release a new product, hire a big-name executive, conduct an authoritative analysis of the state of the industry, and so on. Then, create quality, engaging content in the context of the action â€“ a blog post, an infographic, a press release, a video, a podcast, and so on.
The next step is crucial: use traditional public relations to promote the companyâ€™s news â€“ and use online PR and social media to promote the content created for the news to obtain backlinks, citations, and social-media mentions. This practice will yield far better online PR results than just stuffing backlinks into meaningless press releases.
Hereâ€™s the secret: Reporters want to write about you. Years ago, space in a newspaper and minutes in a broadcast were limited. Journalists could be picky. Today, however, they know as well as we do that â€ścontent is kingâ€ť and the way to maximize traffic and (for their purposes) advertising revenue. Writers are under constant pressure to write and write and write since websites can support an almost-infinite amount of content.
So, it can be easier to convince them. Just give them a nudge through the strategies that weâ€™ve presented here.
Posted by gfiorelli1
A few months ago I published here on Moz SEO in the Personalization Age, where I explained why, once and for all, SEOs need to be aware of the personalization of SERPs and the mechanisms by which Google customizes our search results. I also suggested some ways to convert what at first sight is just a complication into a competitive advantage.
This post is the ideal continuation of that one.
Here, however, I won't dig into SEO theories and patents, but I will try to put order in all of the existing information about the elements that compose MyAnswers, highlighting some clarification that many - wrongly - absent-mindedly forget, and suggesting actions that can mean the difference between winning or not the personalized SERPs.
You can call this post "Guide to MyAnswers" if you want, although I do not pretend to have written a real guide.
When we speak about personalized search results, it would be more correct to use the term private search results.
It is not just semantics but how Google refers to them, and is also a result of the confrontation with the European Community.
Private is slightly different from Personalized, since it implies that a SERP is personalized only by our web history and only by the direct contacts on Google Plus and Gmail.
Keep in mind this detail, because it will explain a point I will affirm later in the post.
A classic example of Private Search is this:
Private Search consists of two elements:
Right now you should be quite used to this feature offered by Google also in the desktop search.
Usually we refer to it for things like flight reminders, hotel and restaurant reservations, packages' deliveries, and for geo-targeted contextual suggestions.
Google Now generally operates in two eco-systems:
As I wrote in SEO in the Personalization Age, everybody can ask to be integrated into Google Now. Be advised that it is not an immediate inclusion, as a nine-step process is needed to obtain the approval from Google).
The integration is possible using one of these Schema for Gmail:
This video from the last Google I/O explains well all these options:
Every Schema for Gmail is interesting, but the most immediately useful ones are:
Review action, which offers us the opportunity to ask and let our clients to write reviews of our product, hotel, or service (or simply to evaluate them with the classic starred system) directly from their inbox. As you can see, it can be a big help in obtaining more reviews, as it responds to the old classic "Don't make me think" principle;
One-click action, which can be especially useful for eCommerce sites. Imagine you have users subscribed to your coupon/offers newsletter. When they will receive the newsletter with the One-click action SaveAction Schema implemented, they will be able to save the coupon in their Google Offers account.
If you want to dig more into the integration with Google Now, you can check out these two great posts:
I must admit that I still see many SEOs confused about how Google Plus influences Private Search.
To be honest, the fact that Google presents both Google Plus and Knowledge Graph (and sometimes Answers cards) in the same positions, or even mixed (i.e.: Google Plus Profiles enriched with Knowledge Graph information) is not helping to dispell this confusion. This, among other things, reflects something that still not everybody understands: Google Plus is a multi-platform product, and not only a Social Network.
Google Plus directly influences Private Search in three different ways, each one depending on the visibility we give to the message we share on G+:
As you can see, the visibility in SERPs is practically immediate (10 seconds is the time I needed to switch accounts).
Privately shared Google Plus posts can be also images, as Giorgio pointed out to me:
Opportunities in sharing privately
Imagine you did a good job building an authoritative profile on Google Plus, so that you have been circled by influencers.
When you don't have a close relationship with those influencers and your outreach emails may very well bounce back or be ignored, then sharing a private post with a link to content you think they may may like and share is a great alternative.
Thanks to this sort of inception marketing, the influencers will quite surely find that post in the first page for those keywords you are targeting them for and about which you have created the content you want them to promote.
If you have wisely crafted the post in order to have a catchy tagline (the first words, which will compose the title of the search snippet) and a convincing description with a strong call to action just after, then your post has a strong opportunity for being clicked, discovered, and shared by that influencer.
There are two kinds of limited Google Plus posts in SERPs.
Opportunities in limited sharing
Usually people tend to share posts only using the Public option. By doing so, they lose the opportunity to obtain more SERP real estate for branded searches.
A posts is public when a user or a brand shares it with all the Google Plus users. These posts are presented as organic search results, and they can rank as if they were a normal web page and even reach the first positions and remain in the SERPs if they earn links.
They aren't tagged with Public as it was once, but they present authorship data, and we always see them in the first page if we have circled that user/brand.
Opportunities in sharing publicly
The opportunities are obvious in this case.
The more people who have circled your profile or your business page, the more they will see your publicly shared posts in a outstanding position in the SERPs, including for very competitive head tail keywords.
Follow those simple rules about Google Plus posts' search snippets, and you will be able to obtain important volumes of organic traffic to your G+ profile and, from there, to your site.
Be aware, though, that Public shares tend to suffer when the Freshness effect decays and, if the post is not reinforced with backlinks, it will tend to slip out of the first page and, ultimately, from the SERPs.
This snapshot above is an example of how SPYW was working.
As you can see, Google was declaring how many personalized results were pulled in, enhancing them with the styled person icon, and showing the photo and name of the person who socially shared the content. It even offered us a list of people and pages on Google+ related to the search we did.
Now, with MyAnswers, this is not so anymore:
No indication of how many search snippets are personalizing the SERP. No person icon.
Of note, there is also no sign of the name of the person who socially shared the content if he is not in our Circles. The SERP, then, is personalized just with those Google Plus posts that were shared by people we have in our Circles.
Finally, there's no sign of "Suggested people and pages" in the right column.
These differences show one extremely important difference between SPYW and MyAnswers:
In SPYW, if we shared something with a friend, it was seen in a preferred position in SERPs by his friends, as well. In MyAnswers it is not.
Giorgio and I did a very simple experiment, with me sharing a post with him and "Extended Circles." The result was that Giorgio could see my post in a SERP when logged in with his personal account, but not when logged in with a test G+ profile that didn't have me circled but did have his personal account circled.
What does this mean? That sharing something with "Extended Circles," as Google itself explains in a somewhat involute way, offers an opportunity to make the post visible to un-circled profiles only in Google Plus, but not in SERPs.
As I was saying in the very beginning of this post, this is why we should speak of Private Search and not of Personalized Search.
And, as we will see, there's just one way to show something shared on Plus to friends of friends: the Google +Post Ads.
The version of the catalogue I outline here must be considered just a snapshot in time of the actual situation. As Dr. Pete taught us with his #MozCast updates, Google is continuously experimenting with new formats and layouts.
MyAnswers elements are present in the SERPs both in the right-hand column and in the main body of the SERPs.
On the right we can find:
Personal profiles of users we have circled
Personal Gmail contact information
This is "Only You" information pushed into the SERP from our Gmail, and Google shows it if the contact we have in Gmail doesn't have a Google Plus profile. Note that if he/she has a Google Plus profile, this one with an "Add to circles" button will be shown instead:
If the brand is not a node in the Knowledge Graph, the business page will be shown only if we have circled it.
If we haven't, that space on the right will be empty:
Please note that this particular example is quite strange, because Moz is present with a page in Wikipedia, so the absence of a Moz Knowledge Graph box, or of Knowledge Graph information in the Google Plus business box seems quite odd and is something we should investigate further.
Google Plus local pages
There are three cases, and in all of them the box is visible whether or not you're signed in. The biggest difference is that we won't see whether our circled friends have reviewed a local business if we are signed out.
1) A non-verified G+ local page, as in the case of the Osteria Satyricon in Bolonia (click and you will see how the "verified business" icon is absent).
2) A verified but not circled page, as in the case of the restaurant of a friend of mine in Valencia:
3) A verified and circled page:
Another possibility: A Knowledge Graph and Google Plus page/business page:
The box, as can be easily seen, is a composition of Knowledge Graph information (extract from Wikipedia and "People also search for") and Google Plus (number of followers and recent posts).
This box is also visible if you're not logged in.
Knowledge Graph, Google Plus, and Google Now
Substantially similar to the previous case, but with the "Keep me updated" button, which functions to push posts by the followed profile in our Google Now Cards.
It seems it is only shown if the person is a node in the Knowledge Graph and it is not available for Business Pages (at least I wasn't able to find any).
Google Plus Hashtags Search
Since last September it has been possible to search for hashtags in Google.
That means that if you tag a post on Plus with a hashtag, your content may have the opportunity to be shown in Google searches to people who have not circled you and are not signed in.
It would be worth an independent analysis of how Google chooses which public posts to show for a given hashtag, but what it is quite clear is that freshness is an important factor, as the posts shown tend to be the ones most recently shared.
Also pay attention to the hashtags you decide to use, as it seems that the hashtag must have at least a minimum of usage in order to be shown in Google search. For instance, I tried to search #MozCast and this was the result:
The only way to be always visible with a box in the right-hand column of the SERPs when people are not logged in and/or have not circled us is being present in the Knowledge Graph and having a Profile/Business Page on Plus, or having a verified Google Plus Local Page.
In the first case:
In the main body of a SERP we can find:
Shared Google Plus posts
As I mentioned previously, the Google Plus posts are visible both to people who are signed in and to those who are signed out if the posts are public, but they only easily rank in a top position for head-tail keywords for people who have circled us.
And, keep in mind that freshness has a key role.
URLs shared on Google Plus
If someone we have circled shares a URL in Google Plus, the web document shared will be shown on the first page in our private searches even if it isn't in a neutral search or in a more prominent position that actually is ranking:
Note that only one person needs to share the URL, which obviously means that if we were able to earn followers on Google Plus, the simple act of sharing the URL with them will make that page stand out in their SERPs, even for very competitive keywords.
URLs that have earned +1s
If someone we have circled +1s a web document, we will see that same page excel in the SERPs for all the keywords that page may rank for:
Google Plus local reviews
This represents a great opportunity for local businesses. If a business has been circled by an influencer, it should have to try being reviewed by him on Google Plus Local (Remember: You can do it using the Schema for Gmail, too).
If he agrees, all his followers will see your search snippet enhanced by his annotation, and if that is 4 or 5 stars...
We should not forget that Google Plus and private search are also influencing our YouTube experience when signed in.
If we click on the Social link in the left menu, we will see all the YouTube videos people we have circled have shared on Google Plus:
Also remember that if someone we have circled not only shares a YouTube video but also comments about it on Google Plus, then we will see his comment in the YouTube page of that video too. Just check the latest Matt Cutts video about Paid Links, and you will see a good example of this. Note, though, that that same Matt Cutts video doesn't show any "Google Plus activity" in the SERPs.
Last December Google launched the Beta of +Post Ads.
+Post Ads may be defined as the Google version of the old (and now dismissed) Facebook Promoted Posts.
For Google they also are:
A brilliant idea, because it is a way to bring more people into Google Plus but making them pay to advertise.
The +Post Ads are included in the Google GDN, therefore we can easily target the right audience and do really targeted inbound marketing with practically every kind of content we can create on Google Plus:
Users can interact with the +Post Ad directly in the site where it is published without the need to visit our Google Plus page. Obviously, they need to have a Google Profile.
From an SEO point of view, +Post Ads are a great opportunity. In fact, the more people who share and +1 the ad (and comment on it if it is a video), the more all the people in their Circles will start seeing our post standing out in SERPs (and YouTube) even for the most competitive keywords.
Private Search, with its combination of Google Now and Social Search (aka: Google Plus) represent a big percentage of the SERPs users see, and its majority in case of mobile search users on Android devices.
Google Plus, then, due to its cross-product platform nature, influences the search experience also of the users not using it as a Social Network.
For these reasons we must understand how Private Search works, recognize its elements in the SERPs and take advantage of the opportunities it offers to us..
Maybe it's time to start optimizing our Google Plus content, don't you think?
Posted by MackenzieFogelson
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that it's hard work to build great content that:
a) people want to read
b) people remember and will be motivated to share
c) helps you further increase the reach of your brand
This becomes especially true when you're building content for a company that's not your own.
This post isn't about Lesson #12,753 we've so valiantly learned here at Mack Web as we grow our small (but mighty) integrated web marketing team.
It's about you and the exceptional content you need to be building on behalf of the clients you work for.
That said, if you're like us, you find solace in, and learn a great deal from, the trials and tribulations other companies face. I've broken this post into three parts, each of which tackles a big question you might be wondering about:
Sit tight. I've got some ideas.
We've got a content generation process that has been working pretty well for us now, but it took a ton of failing to develop it.
For a while, we were treating content generation like a factory. We had clients. They needed a strategy. That strategy called for content. We gave the specs and details for the content to our writer. She generated the content. We optimized it. It went live. We did outreach. Rinse. Repeat.
It's not that the content we were producing in our "factory" was bad. It wasn't thin. It just didn't serve a purpose beyond meeting preconceived frequency expectations for their blog. Although it was intended to add value to the conversation, it wasn't going to rise above the ever-growing noise and help them build their business and further their brand.
Our factory approach was fine for a short while, but as we started to grow, level-up, and recognize that the lack of effectively executed, fully integrated content marketing strategies would make it increasingly difficult for us to earn audience engagement, we realized our content had to be better. It had to serve a higher purpose for the brand and it needed to integrate all the appropriate channels.
Which meant, of course, that we couldn't create it in a silo anymore.
We've found that, for the most part, our clients have needed our help with two distinct types of content in order to build their audience: general brand stuff and expert content.
General brand stuff is the content thatâ€”if you've really done your diligence to fully understand the company, their industry, their persona, and the story they're trying to tellâ€”you can essentially create content without putting too much extra work on their plate.
You still work together throughout the process (which I'll get into more in just a bit), but really you're taking the lead, doing the majority of the work, and ensuring you have approval as you move through the different stages in the content generation process.
Expert content is content that requires the knowledge of a subject matter expert (which hopefully you will find inside the company) to produce. The expert stuff places a great deal of the content generation responsibility on the client. Your job is to act as a guide, facilitator, and editor so that you're ensuring strategic alignment, brand integrity, and that the content actually gets created and connected to its intended audience.
When you're working with a subject matter expert to develop content, it's really important that you're taking as much weight off the expert as possible, and you're also earning their trust. You can do this in a few ways:
You may suggest trending topics and direction based on strategy and goals but, depending on your expert's writing prowess, you don't want to get in the way by controlling the process too much. Their time is extremely limited so you want to make the process as enjoyable and efficient as possible.
If the expert is driving, your goal is to cater to their needs and aid them in any way possible. Take the time to listen, observe, understand their writing process, and how you can fit into that. As facilitator and editor you'll be providing feedback on basic grammar, transitions, focus, and depth, but you're also working to keep them on task and accountable for deadlines.
Maybe the expert doesn't necessarily want the freedom to drive, but they could use your help getting the structure together. It really depends on the expert, what they're comfortable with, and what their schedule will allow.
If they need your help getting the ball rolling, you can interview them for the key takeaways, write the outline for them, and provide them with anything else they need to get that first draft going.
We've also had great success writing the first draft for the expert so that they have something to take apart, integrate their expertise, personal anecdotes and voice, and then we help them put it back together.
In general, expert content will take longer to come together. You're usually talking about people with extremely busy schedules, and unless they find value in what content marketing is doing for their brand and company, it could take months to get content out of them.
What we've found is if you're properly balancing the creation of both expert and general brand stuff, you can fill any production gaps with minimal involvement on the client's part. That way you're still getting content out and you won't have lengthy time lapses in the execution of deliverables from your content strategy.
As we've been growing our team and our content department, we've been working to get more out of less. We have found that investing in processes that document the stages of our everyday operations (like our client on-boarding process and the base ongoing monthly stuff we do for nearly every client) has really helped us to be more efficient, but that hasn't always been the case.
Don't get me wrong; I am a very systems- and process-oriented person. I like things to be neat, organized, and, well, systematic. As much as I believe in investing in them, I've come to learn that you can waste a lot of time and precious resources on processes that don't work, don't get used, and don't help you become more efficient.
With processes, it's not about developing something that stands the test of time (because they never do). It's more about providing guidance and suggestions for a more efficient workflow. That tends to come in the form of checklists that you're continually iterating as living, breathing, dynamic entities inside your organization.
As such, this is what we've discovered to be incredibly helpful when developing our processes:
Clearly you're taking the time to develop a process so that you can make something you do every day (or something you repeat quite often) a whole lot easier. For us, we knew we needed to create better content and work more collaboratively with our clients in order to do that. We thought a process for managing content generation might help us make those improvements.
This is key. If you yourself will not actually be facilitating a process you develop, it will almost certainly die. You need the specific, relevant individuals on your team to not only believe in it, but own it, or it will go unused.
I no longer develop processes for the company and simply present them to the team to be used. I now work with the team to develop processes and the team figures out what checklists and supporting documents they need to make the process work.
These tools don't have to be expensive. We use a lot of free software like Google Docs, Spreadsheets, and Trello. Your tools don't have to be fancy; they just need to be accessible so that the people on the team who are using them can get to them easily.
We've realized that every time we use a process it's going to change. That's just how it goes. There will be specific parts of your processes that won't get altered for long periods of time, but in general, as you use them, be attentive to contrast, taking note of the stuff you'll want to take some time to analyze and eventually change.
At some point, you'll need to dedicate the time to analyze your processes, make the adjustments, and then test those modifications. This is a continuous cycle if you want your processes to really work for you and provide a return on spending the time and resources to create them in the first place. Make sure it's your team who's taking ownership of this, not management.
As we've developed a content generation process to produce better content, we've discovered that engaging the client and using these pieces have really made a big difference:
We're trying to remove as much content responsibility and workload from the client as possible. We definitely need them invested and involved, but they've hired us as an extension of their team with the hopes that we'll free up their internal resources.To that end, we use the "unless we hear differently" model as often as we can throughout the content generation process.
Whether we're developing general brand or expert content stuff, we always take the initiative and pitch the intended direction of the content to the client. We use the goals we've set and the strategy we're working from, as well as trending topics, in order to determine the content we'll be writing.
When we're ready to collect data for the content, the client is familiar with the strategy that has been developed and what we're working toward. We've already done a great deal of listening so that we can come to the client and say (with confidence), "Hey, here's how we'd like this to go. Can we have your feedback?"
Once we've worked through some of these initial conversations, we send over a data collection (a template, if you will) that looks like this:
This data collection doc communicates our intent and requests the information we need. The "unless I hear differently" part comes into play in the suggested key takeaways and then asking the client to help us come up with additional details, photos, and anecdotes to support them.
This requires less work from the client, but involves them in the process. We've found that this also puts more meaning into the content because the client is participating by contributing the stories and first-hand experiences that we don't necessarily know (and that they sometimes forget to tell us during interviews and conversations about content).
Once we get all of the information we need from data collection, we create a more thorough outline of the post to get another level of approval from the client before we proceed to first draft state. This saves a ton of time. From data collection to outline, things shift from the initial, proposed direction, so providing an official outline gives us the opportunity to once again communicate exactly what the client can expect and earn their feedback and approval.
In the official outline, if we have them available at that time, we will integrate all resources and media so that we're clearly communicating what we'll be writing about and what we'll be referencing. This provides the client with an opportunity to investigate the proposed resources and provide any direction change before we fully draft the content.
Once we're ready to present the first draft of the content, there's a couple really important things we do before sending it across:
Indicate key takeaways (and feedback)
This part takes me back to my English teaching days. When we turn in the first draft, we actually diagram the post to illustrate the pieces of the original outline and where the key takeaways ended up. And, if the client provided some very specific direction or feedback to us, we make sure to indicate that they were heard by pointing those out in the diagramming.
This has really helped to reduce revisions because it's a subtle way to remind the client that what we are presenting in this content is what we've all agreed to throughout the process. And, as we're drafting the content, if we feel the need to go in a different direction, we use the diagramming as an opportunity to justify the change.
Provide the entire experience
When we provide the first draft of the content to the client, we sell it. We provide it in ready-to-publish form complete with links, videos, and photos embedded so that the client gets the full experience of what it would look like live.
Writing is a very personal thing and it's very easy to get emotionally invested in the content. Using data collection, outlines, and diagramming first drafts removes the emotion and keeps everyone accountable and focused on the content. If we're reminding the client why things are the way they are throughout our interactions, they're less likely to be distracted by new ideas or different approaches. We can rely on the process to keep the client (and, honestly, sometimes the writer) focused on the intent of this piece of content. And ultimately, this helps us create better content.
These deliverables have also streamlined the way we produce content and they really show the client that we get them and are trying to make life easier for them. Even though they are more involved in the process, we're displaying more initiative and skill which further reduces the burden on their end.
Working with the client in this way has earned more trust and flexibility. We're able to demonstrate better leadership, confidence, and how much we know (and care) about their business.
The more trust we earn and the more efficient the process becomes, the more we accomplish for our clients. But even with improved efficiency, there's only so much a small team can do in-house. In order to scale, we've got to recruit outside help.
Like I mentioned, a team like ours is too small to effectively write all of the content for our clients in-house. Using contract writers has allowed us to conveniently scale our content department and provide better content for our clients.
There are three really important things we've discovered as we've been building our base of trusted writers:
You've got to be willing to do your due diligence and hold out for writers who are a match for your values and expectations as a company.
You need to spend time getting the writers invested in the client they are going to write for. Set them up for success by providing them with as much information about the client that you would expect your in-house, full-time team members to know.
Just like an employee, you need to be willing to help your writers grow. Writing is hard and even the best writers struggle. If you want to develop lasting relationships and continue to get great content from your contract writers, you've got to be willing to invest time in their growth and development.
As we're looking for great writers, we use a Google spreadsheet to keep track of the writers that we're interested in working with.
We review writing samples, check their references, and interview them in person or via video so that we can get a feel for whether they're a value match for us and that their writing style and voice will match up with one of our clients.
Once we've selected a writer, as they write for our clients, we assess their work. After they complete a few pieces of content for us, we can get a feel for their strengths. We can also identify trends. Do they honor their commitments with us? Do they communicate well? Are they responsive? Are they willing to learn? Maybe they're not a match for the client we have them paired with but they'd be great with another. We use the same Google spreadsheet to keep track of this stuff and also include any patterns we're noticing or feedback we're getting from clients about the content.
No matter how well you qualify your writers, there will be a trial-and-error period with every single one. If you want long-term relationships with them, you've really got to invest the time (beyond this trial period) and continue to help them grow.
When we receive a piece of content from a writer, our in-house content strategist reviews it before it's handed off to the client for feedback. She reviews for quality, alignment of purpose, and also basic editing stuff. She diagrams the key takeaways to ensure that the content is on track with what the client approved in the outline/key takeaway part of the process.
If the post needs a little bit of work, our content strategist determines whether the edits are minor enough just to make them as she's diagramming, or if she needs to schedule time with the writer to have them adjust the post.
We are diligent about communicating with our writers. If they're learning and improving along the way, we're spending less time on revisions and providing our clients with the content they need to build their brand.
Content plays such a huge role when building a brand and a business. Trying some of these things in our content generation process has really helped us to create better partnerships with our clients, and certainly, better content.
This stuff may be working for us now, but we realize that building great content is always going to be hard (especially as the saturation problem gets worse). It's our job to continue pushing beyond what could just get us by and discover what's really going to make a difference in our clients' businesses.
Of course, this addresses just one small part of that challenge. I certainly have not covered everything that would help you build great contracted content for your clients. Share your secrets with me below.
Posted by Kristina Kledzik
Now that it's 2014, the question isn't "should I build a mobile site?" It's "how do I build a good mobile site?" Mobile sites are, at their core, just sites; but redesigning your site for very small screens and linking your mobile site to your desktop site gives you a lot more to think about.
I've put together a checklist of a) aspects of mobile sites that are often broken yet overlooked, and b) optimization options that many people miss. Where you need more information, I've included a link rather than a full description, so that people smarter than me can help you with the details.
Don't use pop-ups
Responsive sites: Review where elements end up
Map mobile to desktop pages
Edit wordy content
Remove unnecessary images
Run pages through the W3C's mobileOK checker to make sure you haven't missed any small coding errors. It's fairly finicky, but that makes sure it finds a lot of issues you may have overlooked.
Posted by randfish
There are some great arguments to be made on both sides of the question of whether links are losing value in Google's algorithm. In some ways, it seems that they are -- and in some, they're more valuable than ever. In today's Whiteboard Friday, Rand explores both sides of the argument, offering some concrete advice to SEOs on how they can navigate today's waters.
Here's the link to coverage of Google's testing removing links from the algorithm, and to the roundup post where links as a ranking signal are discussed (in particular, check out Russ Jones' reply in the comments). For reference, here's a still of this week's whiteboard!
Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today, I want to talk a little bit about links losing their value in Google's ranking algorithm.
So Google recently came out and talked about how they had tested a version of their search engine, of search quality algorithms, ranking algorithms, that did not include links as a ranking signal. Of course, a lot of SEOs went "Wait, they did what?"
But it turns out Google actually said they really did not like the results. They didn't like what they saw when they removed links from the ranking elements. So maybe SEOs are going, "Okay, can I breathe easy, or are they going to keep trying to find ways to take links out of the ranking equation?" Certainly, links for a long time have been an extremely powerful way for SEOs and folks to move the needle on indexation, on rankings, on getting traffic from search engines.
I'm going to personally come out and say that, in my opinion, we will continue to see links in Google's rankings systems for at least the next five and probably the next ten years. Whether they continue to be as important and as powerful as they've been, I think is worthy of a discussion, and I do want to bring up some points that some very intelligent marketers and SEOs have made on both sides of the issue.
So, first off, there are some folks who are saying, "No, this is crazy. Links are actually growing in value." I thought Russ Jones from Virante made some excellent comments on a recent blog post where some experts had been asked to do a thought experiment around what Google might do if links were to lose signals.
He made some good points, one of which was as Google filters out . . . so let's say I've got this webpage on Google, and as I filter out the value that are passed from some links through algorithms like Penguin or through filtration systems that remove either Web spam or low-quality links or links that we don't find valuable in our relevancy algorithms, it actually is the case that these other links grow in importance. In fact, as Russ wisely pointed out, many of the other kinds of signals that Google might potentially replace links with, things around user and usage data, things around social signals, all of those things actually can be validated through the link graph, and you can use the link graph to add additional context and information about those other signals. So I think there's a point to be made.
People have also pointed out that as we get into this world where no-follow is very, very common, a lot of websites putting no-follow on there, social sharing is oftentimes a much more common form of evangelizing or sharing information than linking is. Before we had the popularity of Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn and Google+ and all these networks, that social sharing would have been bloggers and people in forums linking out to these resources.
There's also, unfortunately, created a lot by Google themselves, and Bing to a certain extent, too, there are many, many webmasters and site owners and editorial specialists on the Web who have a fear of linking out. They worry that by linking to something bad or if they link out and then something happens to that website they link out to, that maybe something will happen to their site.
As a result, it's actually become a greater and greater challenge over time to earn editorial links for everyone. This is interesting because it actually suggests that there is more value when you do earn those editorial links. So I think there's a very credible case to be made.
On the flip side, there are SEOs who are pointing out, hey, look links are definitely a diminishing signal because there are elements in a ranking system, and anytime you have elements in a ranking system and you add new signals of relevancy, new signals of usefulness, of importance, of popularity, whatever those are, the pie chart has to squish those in. Then, the portion that used to be links, all of this stuff here, just this portion is still link-
based. So links become a smaller piece of the pie chart.
One good way of explaining this is think of, for example, Olympic ice skating, where you have judges who give rankings. Those judges, they'll give a score -- a 7.5 and an 8.5. They have criteria that they look at. As new criteria get added, the criteria for other pieces necessarily becomes a little bit less important.
Now, in Google's ranking system, it's not quite the same logic. We don't have a pie chart that can add signals and remove signals. It's not like everybody has a score out of just 10. But the ability of pages and sites to move up in the rankings is influenced by the elements that are in here in a similar fashion.
So what really should SEOs do? What should we take away from this sort of debate and discussion and this testing of Google by removing links from their algorithmic signals and not liking those results? Well, in an ideal world, in a best-case scenario, as a marketer, the way that I believe we should be thinking about this is to invest in the marketing, in the tactics and channels that provide value in multiple ways.
By "multiple ways," I mean provide value in terms of branding; provide value in terms of direct traffic; provide value in terms of growing my social network; provide value in terms of growing my e-mail network, in terms of growing my influence and thought leadership in this sphere; all those kinds of things.
If I can get those multiple ways and still earn links? So content marketing is one that a lot of SEOs and marketers have been investing in because it does these things. Content marketing means that I get social shares. It means that I get more social followers. It means that I grow the people who pay attention to my brand and are aware of my brand. That content can also earn links, which helps me in the search engine rankings. That's the ideal world. There are many forms of this. Content marketing isn't the only one.
It can also be good, not quite as good, to refocus the energy that you might currently be expending on building all kinds of links and instead concentrate very carefully on the few links that really matter. As we've seen here, even for those who are arguing, "No, it's becoming less important," it's not becoming less important. Those folks are saying, "Hey, there are a lot of things getting filtered out, and it's harder and harder to earn the good editorial links." Focusing on getting those is still very valuable.
Do not do these things -- keep getting any and every link. We've talked about this many times on Whiteboard Friday. You guys are all familiar. Especially the non-editorial kind. It's too dangerous a world. If you're building a site that you want to last in the search engines for a long period of time, many months and years in the future, you can't afford to be actively, proactively going and getting non-editorial links.
Please, don't ignore the value that you get from activities that might not directly earn you a link -- things that could get you brand mentions and grow your brand, things that could build up your resource of content, things that could build up your social channels -- just because those things don't earn you a link.
A great example of this one is a lot of folks have been talking about guest posting. Of course, I did a Whiteboard Friday right before Google made their announcement about guest posting. Guest blogging, guest posting, in that classic SEO for a link fashion, is not a great idea. But it can still be a great channel to earn brand awareness and attention, to earn direct traffic. I mean, a lot of folks can post on forums, on sites that earn them an additional audience, and that additional audience in the future might turn into people who share and link and become customers. So that's a beautiful world. Don't ignore the value of that.
I'm sure there's going to be some great debate and discussion in the comments, and I really look forward to hearing from all of you. Take care. We'll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday.
Posted by Aleyda
If you're reading this post right now, chances are that you have experienced this (or know someone who has): You have the deadline of a blog post coming, but you still don't know what to write about.
Sometimes you get away by writing about breaking news or a trend in your field, by doing a review of a new product or service, or by covering a recent conference or meetup that you have attended, but you can't do this all the time. You also want to write about something that is not only useful but also attractive, something that allows you to connect with your audience.
And you might be an experienced blogger, copywriter, or marketer. You might also know your audience pretty well; you have built your personas, completed and developed keyword research, and have already tried some techniques to get through the "writer's block." You have browsed through the content of prolific creators to get inspired and even tried Portent's content idea generator, but you still have a hard time finding a relevant and exciting blog post idea each time that your deadline approaches.
This likely happens because although you know where to find the dataâ€”and might even have it alreadyâ€”to get you inspired and identify ideas, the hardest part is to make it actionable, since it's so easy to get lost in such a vast amount of information.
What you need in order to identify blog post ideas that will allow you to connect with your audience is an actionable and simple process that is easily repeatable, applicable to any industry, and scalable:
How can we avoid getting lost when there's so much data available through so many sources? By focusing only on gathering the most important data that's relevant to your goal: Identifying a relevant and attractive blog post idea for your web audience.
Here's the data that you will need:
You don't need to go through all of your previous posts, just select the most popular ones:
Most visited posts on your blog: Use Google Analytics to identify those blog posts that have had the highest amount of visits, the most valuable visits (those that generated the highest amount of conversions) and the most engaged visits (those that had the highest duration and generated more pageviews on the blog). Keep only the top 20% of them.
Most shared posts on social networks: Use SocialCrawlytics to crawl your blog and see which are the posts that have been shared the most by your visitors in their favorite social networks. Again, only keep the top 20% of them.
After gathering the data, consolidate these two "Top 20%" lists, eliminate the duplicates, and create a spreadsheet with the following information for each post:
Now you know which of the posts has been, until now, your own most popular content. You know what has attracted better traffic and visibility in social networks, and the social networks that your audience prefers.
It's time to collect the most popular posts from your competitors, and although you don't likely have access to their full analytics, you can still identify some important statistics:
With this information you can consolidate these two lists into one and create a spreadsheet for the top 20% of posts by your competitors that includes the following data:
Here you have another very valuable and highly targeted source of information:
The most popular blog posts of your competitors!
Besides your own top content and that of your competitors, you can also identify which content is most liked in your own social communitiesâ€”the different groups that are connected to each other and form your audience.
For Twitter, you can get your communities and the influencers, topics, and locations per communities by using Tribalytics, just by adding your Twitter handle:
Once you identify your different communities, their most popular topics, and influencers, you can get even more specific by using Twtrland to obtain the most popular tweets for your influencers:
Create a list with the top content shared in your influencers' top tweets and segment it using the different topic areas identified for your communities. Complete it with social and search popularity-related data for each one of them:
Here's another very relevant input for your blog post ideas: The content that your influencers like to share and that has been popular in your own Twitter communities.
After having identified the posts topics and pieces that have performed better for you, your competitors, and in your social communities in the past, you can identify which have been the overall most popular pieces of content in social networks about those same topics in the latest times.
Organize the best-performing content that you have now into different topics categories or areas and use Buzzsumo to search for them.
Download the most shared content in social networks for each category. You will have a list with the following information:
Consolidate the lists, segmenting again per category and organize it by prioritizing the overall best performing content for your topics in social networks.
Another very relevant source of blog post ideas is the questions asked by your online community in social networks, such as Twitter, and on sites like Quora.
Go to your relevant topic's questions, and create a list with the highest-voted questions. Automate this process by creating an IFTTT recipe for their RSS feeds, by adding them directly into a Google Docs Spreadsheet.
You can complete the previous list of questions with the ones that users make directly in Google by using the SEOchat related keywords tool, a multi-level suggestion keyword finder that will give you the queries that your audience searches for in Google about your desired topics.
By doing this, you will learn which are the biggest questions that people ask on the web about your relevant topics. A direct source of ideas to create posts that answer them.
Subscribe to HARO or ProfNet and get daily email alerts each time a media outlet asks for the input of a specialist about your selected categories of content. Create filters to apply a label to those emails that specifically include one of your relevant content topics:
By doing this you will learn how journalists are looking to cover these topics and the type of content they're writing about them already. This can serve as an ongoing reference for content ideas: See what important sites are writing about your relevant topics at the moment.
Once you have gathered all the previous data you will have a very complete, but still manageable, prioritized and categorized source of potential blog post ideas from different type of sources:
Analyze and make this data actionable with the next steps:
Prioritize those ideas that have the highest level of interest and that haven't been published yet.
For each of the highly prioritized potential ideas for posts, ask the following questions to filter them further and validate your opportunities:
The winning idea will be those for which you answer yes to the questions.
In case that you have identified a topic that has been already covered in the past with a blog post, but it complies with the rest of the previous criteria so is still attractive to pursue, then think about how you can create a unique selling proposition that differentiates yours from what came before. Two common options are:
I contribute my writing to Moz, State of Digital, and at WooRank and itÂ´s fundamental for me to have a process to follow to be able to come up each month with new blog posts ideas, so I've followed this process in the past to write these posts:
It has worked pretty well for me in the past and hopefully it does for you too!
Do you use a process to identify your blog posts ideas? I would love to hear about it.
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