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

Posted by FeliciaCrawford

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

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


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

https://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/0zq8mxouvj?videoFoam=true https://fast.wistia.net/assets/external/E-v1.js

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


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

https://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/6g28a2gx1x?videoFoam=true https://fast.wistia.net/assets/external/E-v1.js

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

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

Is my NAP accurate?


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

https://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/295fbahb9r?videoFoam=true

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


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

https://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/2xbg0gyoju?videoFoam=true https://fast.wistia.net/assets/external/E-v1.js

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


Further reading & fond farewells

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

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

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

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

How to Do a Content Audit [Updated for 2017]

Posted by Everett

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This guide provides instructions on how to do a content audit using examples and screenshots from Screaming Frog, URL Profiler, Google Analytics (GA), and Excel, as those seem to be the most widely used and versatile tools for performing content audits.

{Expand for more background}


TABLE OF CONTENTS


What is a content audit?

A content audit for the purpose of SEO includes a full inventory of all indexable content on a domain, which is then analyzed using performance metrics from a variety of sources to determine which content to keep as-is, which to improve, and which to remove or consolidate.

What is the purpose of a content audit?

A content audit can have many purposes and desired outcomes. In terms of SEO, they are often used to determine the following:

  • How to escape a content-related search engine ranking filter or penalty
  • Content that requires copywriting/editing for improved quality
  • Content that needs to be updated and made more current
  • Content that should be consolidated due to overlapping topics
  • Content that should be removed from the site
  • The best way to prioritize the editing or removal of content
  • Content gap opportunities
  • Which content is ranking for which keywords
  • Which content should be ranking for which keywords
  • The strongest pages on a domain and how to leverage them
  • Undiscovered content marketing opportunities
  • Due diligence when buying/selling websites or onboarding new clients

While each of these desired outcomes and insights are valuable results of a content audit, I would define the overall “purpose” of one as:

The purpose of a content audit for SEO is to improve the perceived trust and quality of a domain, while optimizing crawl budget and the flow of PageRank (PR) and other ranking signals throughout the site.

Often, but not always, a big part of achieving these goals involves the removal of low-quality content from search engine indexes. I’ve been told people hate this word, but I prefer the “pruning” analogy to describe the concept.

How & why “pruning” works

{Expand for more on pruning}


How to do a content audit

Just like anything in SEO, from technical and on-page changes to site migrations, things can go horribly wrong when content audits aren’t conducted properly. The most common example would be removing URLs that have external links because link metrics weren’t analyzed as part of the audit. Another common mistake is confusing removal from search engine indexes with removal from the website.

Content audits start with taking an inventory of all content available for indexation by search engines. This content is then analyzed against a variety of metrics and given one of three “Action” determinations. The “Details” of each Action are then expanded upon.

The variety of combinations of options between the “Action” of WHAT to do and the “Details” of HOW (and sometimes why) to do it are as varied as the strategies, sites, and tactics themselves. Below are a few hypothetical examples:

You now have a basic overview of how to perform a content audit. More specific instructions can be found below.

The process can be roughly split into three distinct phases:

  1. Inventory & audit
  2. Analysis & recommendations
  3. Summary & reporting

The inventory & audit phase

Taking an inventory of all content, and related metrics, begins with crawling the site.

One difference between crawling for content audits and technical audits:

Technical SEO audit crawls are concerned with all crawlable content (among other things).

Content audit crawls for the purpose of SEO are concerned with all indexable content.

{Expand for more on crawlable vs. indexable content}

All of this is changing rapidly, though. URLs as the unique identifier in Google’s index are probably going away. Yes, we’ll still have URLs, but not everything requires them. So far, the word “content” and URL has been mostly interchangeable. But some URLs contain an entire application’s worth of content. How to do a content audit in that world is something we’ll have to figure out soon, but only after Google figures out how to organize the web’s information in that same world. From the looks of things, we still have a year or two.

Until then, the process below should handle most situations.

Step 1: Crawl all indexable URLs

A good place to start on most websites is a full Screaming Frog crawl. However, some indexable content might be missed this way. It is not recommended that you rely on a crawler as the source for all indexable URLs.

In addition to the crawler, collect URLs from Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, XML Sitemaps, and, if possible, from an internal database, such as an export of all product and category URLs on an eCommerce website. These can then be crawled in “list mode” separately, then added to your main list of URLs and deduplicated to produce a more comprehensive list of indexable URLs.

Some URLs found via GA, XML sitemaps, and other non-crawl sources may not actually be “indexable.” These should be excluded. One strategy that works here is to combine and deduplicate all of the URL “lists,” and then perform a crawl in list mode. Once crawled, remove all URLs with robots meta or X-Robots noindex tags, as well as any URL returning error codes and those that are blocked by the robots.txt file, etc. At this point, you can safely add these URLs to the file containing indexable URLs from the crawl. Once again, deduplicate the list.

Crawling roadblocks & new technologies

Crawling very large websites

First and foremost, you do not need to crawl every URL on the site. Be concerned with indexable content. This is not a technical SEO audit.

{Expand for more about crawling very large websites}


Crawling dynamic mobile sites

This refers to a specific type of mobile setup in which there are two code-bases –– one for mobile and one for desktop –– but only one URL. Thus, the content of a single URL may vary significantly depending on which type of device is visiting that URL. In such cases, you will essentially be performing two separate content audits. Proceed as usual for the desktop version. Below are instructions for crawling the mobile version.

{Expand for more on crawling dynamic websites}


Crawling and rendering JavaScript

One of the many technical issues SEOs have been increasingly dealing with over the last couple of years is the proliferation of websites built on JavaScript frameworks and libraries like React.js, Ember.js, and Angular.js.

{Expand for more on crawling Javascript websites}


Step 2: Gather additional metrics

Most crawlers will give you the URL and various on-page metrics and data, such as the titles, descriptions, meta tags, and word count. In addition to these, you’ll want to know about internal and external links, traffic, content uniqueness, and much more in order to make fully informed recommendations during the analysis portion of the content audit project.

Your process may vary, but we generally try to pull in everything we need using as few sources as possible. URL Profiler is a great resource for this purpose, as it works well with Screaming Frog and integrates easily with all of the APIs we need.

Once the Screaming Frog scan is complete (only crawling indexable content) export the “Internal All” file, which can then be used as the seed list in URL Profiler (combined with any additional indexable URLs found outside of the crawl via GSC, GA, and elsewhere).

This is what my URL Profiler settings look for a typical content audit for a small- or medium-sized site. Also, under “Accounts” I have connected via API keys to Moz and SEMrush.

Once URL Profiler is finished, you should end up with something like this:

Screaming Frog and URL Profiler: Between these two tools and the APIs they connect with, you may not need anything else at all in order to see the metrics below for every indexable URL on the domain.

The risk of getting analytics data from a third-party tool

We’ve noticed odd data mismatches and sampled data when using the method above on large, high-traffic websites. Our internal process involves exporting these reports directly from Google Analytics, sometimes incorporating Analytics Canvas to get the full, unsampled data from GA. Then VLookups are used in the spreadsheet to combine the data, with URL being the unique identifier.

Metrics to pull for each URL:

  • Indexed or not?
    • If crawlers are set up properly, all URLs should be “indexable.”
    • A non-indexed URL is often a sign of an uncrawled or low-quality page.
  • Content uniqueness
    • Copyscape, Siteliner, and now URL Profiler can provide this data.
  • Traffic from organic search
    • Typically 90 days
    • Keep a consistent timeframe across all metrics.
  • Revenue and/or conversions
    • You could view this by “total,” or by segmenting to show only revenue from organic search on a per-page basis.
  • Publish date
    • If you can get this into Google Analytics as a custom dimension prior to fetching the GA data, it will help you discover stale content.
  • Internal links
    • Content audits provide the perfect opportunity to tighten up your internal linking strategy by ensuring the most important pages have the most internal links.
  • External links
  • Landing pages resulting in low time-on-site
    • Take this one with a grain of salt. If visitors found what they want because the content was good, that’s not a bad metric. A better proxy for this would be scroll depth, but that would probably require setting up a scroll-tracking “event.”
  • Landing pages resulting in Low Pages-Per-Visit
    • Just like with Time-On-Site, sometimes visitors find what they’re looking for on a single page. This is often true for high-quality content.
  • Response code
    • Typically, only URLs that return a 200 (OK) response code are indexable. You may not require this metric in the final data if that’s the case on your domain.
  • Canonical tag
    • Typically only URLs with a self-referencing rel=“canonical” tag should be considered “indexable.” You may not require this metric in the final data if that’s the case on your domain.
  • Page speed and mobile-friendliness

Before you begin analyzing the data, be sure to drastically improve your mental health and the performance of your machine by taking the opportunity to get rid of any data you don’t need. Here are a few things you might consider deleting right away (after making a copy of the full data set, of course).


Things you don’t need when analyzing the data

{Expand for more on removing unnecessary data}

Hopefully by now you’ve made a significant dent in reducing the overall size of the file and time it takes to apply formatting and formula changes to the spreadsheet. It’s time to start diving into the data.

The analysis & recommendations phase

Here’s where the fun really begins. In a large organization, it’s tempting to have a junior SEO do all of the data-gathering up to this point. I find it useful to perform the crawl myself, as the process can be highly informative.

Step 3: Put it all into a dashboard

Even after removing unnecessary data, performance could still be a major issue, especially if working in Google Sheets. I prefer to do all of this in Excel, and only upload into Google Sheets once it’s ready for the client. If Excel is running slow, consider splitting up the URLs by directory or some other factor in order to work with multiple, smaller spreadsheets.

Creating a dashboard can be as easy as adding two columns to the spreadsheet. The first new column, “Action,” should be limited to three options, as shown below. This makes filtering and sorting data much easier. The “Details” column can contain freeform text to provide more detailed instructions for implementation.

Use Data Validation and a drop-down selector to limit Action options.

Step 4: Work the content audit dashboard

All of the data you need should now be right in front of you. This step can’t be turned into a repeatable process for every content audit. From here on the actual step-by-step process becomes much more open to interpretation and your own experience. You may do some of them and not others. You may do them a little differently. That’s all fine, as long as you’re working toward the goal of determining what to do, if anything, for each piece of content on the website.

A good place to start would be to look for any content-related issues that might cause an algorithmic filter or manual penalty to be applied, thereby dragging down your rankings.

Causes of content-related penalties

These typically fall under three major categories: quality, duplication, and relevancy. Each category can be further broken down into a variety of issues, which are detailed below.

{Expand to learn more about quality, duplication, and relevancy issues}

It helps to sort the data in various ways to see what’s going on. Below are a few different things to look for if you’re having trouble getting started.

{Expand to learn more about what to look for}


Taking the hatchet to bloated websites

For big sites, it’s best to use a hatchet-based approach as much as possible, and finish up with a scalpel in the end. Otherwise, you’ll spend way too much time on the project, which eats into the ROI.

This is not a process that can be documented step-by-step. For the purpose of illustration, however, below are a few different examples of hatchet approaches and when to consider using them.

{Expand for examples of hatchet approaches}

As you can see from the many examples above, sorting by “Page Type” can be quite handy when applying the same Action and Details to an entire section of the website.

After all of the tool set-up, data gathering, data cleanup, and analysis across dozens of metrics, what matters in the end is the Action to take and the Details that go with it.

URL, Action, and Details: These three columns will be used by someone to implement your recommendations. Be clear and concise in your instructions, and don’t make decisions without reviewing all of the wonderful data-points you’ve collected.

Here is a sample content audit spreadsheet to use as a template, or for ideas. It includes a few extra tabs specific to the way we used to do content audits at Inflow.

WARNING!

As Razvan Gavrilas pointed out in his post on Cognitive SEO from 2015, without doing the research above you risk pruning valuable content from search engine indexes. Be bold, but make highly informed decisions:

Content audits allow SEOs to make informed decisions on which content to keep indexed “as-is,” which content to improve, and which to remove.

The reporting phase

The content audit dashboard is exactly what we need internally: a spreadsheet crammed with data that can be sliced and diced in so many useful ways that we can always go back to it for more insight and ideas. Some clients appreciate that as well, but most are going to find the greater benefit in our final content audit report, which includes a high-level overview of our recommendations.

Counting actions from Column B

It is useful to count the quantity of each Action along with total organic search traffic and/or revenue for each URL. This will help you (and the client) identify important metrics, such as total organic traffic for pages marked to be pruned. It will also make the final report much easier to build.

Step 5: Writing up the report

Your analysis and recommendations should be delivered at the same time as the audit dashboard. It summarizes the findings, recommendations, and next steps from the audit, and should start with an executive summary.

Here is a real example of an executive summary from one of Inflow’s content audit strategies:

As a result of our comprehensive content audit, we are recommending the following, which will be covered in more detail below:

Removal of about 624 pages from Google index by deletion or consolidation:

  • 203 Pages were marked for Removal with a 404 error (no redirect needed)
  • 110 Pages were marked for Removal with a 301 redirect to another page
  • 311 Pages were marked for Consolidation of content into other pages
    • Followed by a redirect to the page into which they were consolidated

Rewriting or improving of 668 pages

  • 605 Product Pages are to be rewritten due to use of manufacturer product descriptions (duplicate content), these being prioritized from first to last within the Content Audit.
  • 63 “Other” pages to be rewritten due to low-quality or duplicate content.

Keeping 226 pages as-is

  • No rewriting or improvements needed

These changes reflect an immediate need to “improve or remove” content in order to avoid an obvious content-based penalty from Google (e.g. Panda) due to thin, low-quality and duplicate content, especially concerning Representative and Dealers pages with some added risk from Style pages.

The content strategy should end with recommended next steps, including action items for the consultant and the client. Below is a real example from one of our documents.

We recommend the following three projects in order of their urgency and/or potential ROI for the site:

Project 1: Remove or consolidate all pages marked as “Remove”. Detailed instructions for each URL can be found in the “Details” column of the Content Audit Dashboard.

Project 2: Copywriting to improve/rewrite content on Style pages. Ensure unique, robust content and proper keyword targeting.

Project 3: Improve/rewrite all remaining pages marked as “Improve” in the Content Audit Dashboard. Detailed instructions for each URL can be found in the “Details” column

Content audit resources & further reading

Understanding Mobile-First Indexing and the Long-Term Impact on SEO by Cindy Krum
This thought-provoking post begs the question: How will we perform content inventories without URLs? It helps to know Google is dealing with the exact same problem on a much, much larger scale.

Here is a spreadsheet template to help you calculate revenue and traffic changes before and after updating content.

Expanding the Horizons of eCommerce Content Strategy by Dan Kern of Inflow
An epic post about content strategies for eCommerce businesses, which includes several good examples of content on different types of pages targeted toward various stages in the buying cycle.

The Content Inventory is Your Friend by Kristina Halvorson on BrainTraffic
Praise for the life-changing powers of a good content audit inventory.

http://spot.goinflow.com/ecommerce-content-audit-toolkit

Everything You Need to Perform Content Audits

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The Step-By-Step Guide to Testing Voice Search Via PPC

Posted by purna_v

I was conned into my love of cooking by my husband.

Never having set foot in the kitchen until the grand old age of 22, my husband (then boyfriend) — a former chef — said he’d teach me some simple recipes. I somewhat enjoyed the process but very much enjoyed the lavish praise he’d bestow upon me when eating whatever I whipped up.

Highly encouraged that I seemingly had an innate culinary genius, I looked to grow my repertoire of recipes. As a novice, I found recipe books inspiring but confusing. For example, a recipe that called for cooked chicken made me wonder how on Earth I was meant to cook the chicken to get cooked chicken.

Luckily, I discovered the life-changing power of fully illustrated, step-by-step recipes.

Empowered by the clear direction they provided, I conquered cuisine after cuisine and have since turned into a confident cook. It took me only a few months to realize all that praise was simply a ruse to have me do most of the cooking. But by then I was hooked.

When it comes to voice search, I’ve talked and written a lot about the subject over the past year. Each time, the question I get asked is “What’s the best way to start?”

Today I’ll share with you an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide to empower you to create your own voice search test. It’s sure to become one of your favorite recipes in coming months as conversational interfaces continue their rapid adoption rate.

Testing voice search? But it’s not monetized.

That’s correct. It’s not monetized as of yet. However, the usage rates have been growing exponentially. Already search engines are reporting that:

  • One out of ten searches are voice (per Baidu)
  • Twenty percent of all mobile Android searches are voice (Google)
  • Usage spans all age ranges, as we discovered at Cortana (which is owned by Microsoft, my employer):

1_Cortana.png

With Cortana being integrated into Windows 10, what we’re seeing is that age range demographics are now comparable to what eMarketer is reporting for overall smartphone usage. What this means: Using digital assistants is becoming more and more common. It’s no longer an edge case.

More importantly, voice searches done on the search engines can often have PPC ads in the resultant SERPs — as you’ll see in my examples below.

Why a PPC test?

It’s easier to get started by testing voice search via PPC since you can get more detailed reporting across multiple levels.

I would recommend taking a teeny-tiny budget — even $50 is often good enough — and putting it toward a voice search test. (Don’t fret, SEOs, I do have some tips in here for you as well.)

Before we start…

Here’s a quick reminder of how voice searches differ from text searches:

  1. Voice has longer queries
  2. Natural language means more question phrases
  3. Natural language reveals intent clearly
  4. Voice search has high local value
  5. And greatly impacts third-party listings

You can read about it in more detail in my previous Moz article on the subject.


Let’s get cooking!

Step 1: See what, if any, voice activity exists for you currently

Goal: Find out what voice-related activity exists by identifying Assumed Voice Queries.

Estimated time needed: 30 min

Tools needed: Search Query Reports (SQRs) and Excel

A good place to start is by identifying how your audience is currently using voice to interact with you. In order to do this, we’ll need to look for what we can term “assumed voice queries.”

Sidebar: What are Assumed Voice Queries?

Since the search engines do not currently provide separate detailed reporting on voice queries, we can instead use the core characteristics of these queries to identify them. The subtle difference between keyboard search and voice search is “whom” people think they are interacting with.

In the case of keyboard search, the search box clearly ties to a machine. Searchers input logical keywords they think will give them the best search results. They generally leave out filler words, such as “the,” “of,” “a,” and “and.” They also tend not to use question words; for example, “bicycle store,” rather than “what is a bicycle store?”

But when a searcher uses voice search, he is not using a keyboard. It’s more like he’s talking to an actual human. You wouldn’t say to a person “bicycle store.” You might say: “Hey Cortana, what is the best place to buy a bicycle near me?”

The key difference between text and voice search is that voice queries will be full thoughts, structured the way people speak, i.e. long-tailed queries in natural language. Voice searches tend to be approximately 4.2 words or longer on average, according to research from both Google and Microsoft Cortana.

Thus, assumed voice queries would be keywords that fit in with these types of queries: longer and looking like natural language.

Caveat: This isn’t going to be 100% accurate, of course, but it’s a good place to start for now.

Even just eight months ago, things were fairly black and white. Some clients would have assumed voice queries while others didn’t. Lately, however, I’m seeing that most clients I look at have some element of assumed voice queries, indicative of how the market is growing.

Okay, back to step 1

a.) Start by downloading your search term report from within your Bing Ads or Google AdWords account. This is also commonly referred to as the search query report. You want to run this for at least the past 30 or 60 days (depending on volume). If you don’t have a PPC account, you can pull your search term report from Google Search Console or Bing Webmaster Tools.

2_SQR.png

b.) Open it up in Excel, so we can get sorting.

3_Excel sheet.png

c.) Sort the columns to just the essentials. I usually keep only the search term, as well as the impression columns. For larger accounts, you may prefer to leave on the campaign and ad group name columns as well.

4_SortColumns.png

d.) Sort by query length to isolate the search queries that are 5+ keywords in length — I’m going with 5 here simply to increase the odds that these would be assumed voice queries. A simple Excel formula — taught to me by my colleague John Gagnon—- can help count the number of words:

5_Formula.png

Replace A1 with the actual cell number of your search term, and then drag that formula down the sheet. Here it becomes C2 instead of A1:

6_formulainaction.png

e.) Calculate and sort, first by query length and then by impressions to find the assumed voice search queries with the most impressions. The result? You’ll get your final list — success!

7_finallist.png


Step 2: Extrapolate, theme, sort

Goal: Find additional keywords that could be missing and organize the list based on intent.

Estimated time needed: 45 min

Tools needed: Keyword tools of choice and Excel

Now that you can see the assumed voice queries, you’ll have handy insights into your customer’s motivation. You know what your audience is searching for, and also important, what they are not searching for.

Next, we need to build upon this list of keywords to find high-value potential queries we should add to our list. There are several helpful tools for this, such as Keyword Explorer and Answer the Public.

a.) Go to the keyword research tool of your choice. In this example, I’ve used SEMRush. Notice how they provide data on organic and paid search for our subject area of “buy (a) bicycle.”

8_SEMRUSH.png

b.) Next, let’s see what exists in question form. For any given subject area, the customer could have myriad questions along the spectrum of motivation. This output comes from a query on Answer the Public for “buy a bicycle,” showing the what, when, where, why, and how questions that actually express motivational intent:

9_answer the publix.png

c.) These questions can now be sorted by degree of intent.

  • Is the searcher asking a fact-based question, looking for background information?
  • Are they farther along the process, looking at varieties of the product?
  • Are they approaching making a purchase decision, doing comparison shopping?
  • Are they ready to buy?

Knowing the stage of the process the customer is in can help tailor relevant suggestions, since we can identify core themes and sort by intent. My brilliant colleague Julie Dilleman likes to prepare a chart such as this one, to more effectively visualize the groupings:

10_Intentsort.png

d.) Use a research tool such as Bing Ads Intelligence or your demographic reports in Google Analytics to answer core questions related to these keywords, such as:

  • What’s the searcher age and gender breakdown for these queries?
  • Which device is dominating?
  • Which locations are most popular?

These insights are eminently actionable in terms of bid modifications, as well as in guiding us to create effective ad copy.


Step 3: Start optimizing campaigns

Goal: Review competitive landscape and plan campaign optimizations.

Estimated time needed: 75 min

Tools needed: PPC account, NAP listings, Schema markup

To get the lay of the land, we need to look at what shows up for these searches in the voice platforms with visual interfaces — i.e., the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) and Digital Personal Assistants — to see what type of results show up. Does the search provide map listings and reviews? Where are they pulling the data from? Are ads showing?

a.) Run searches across multiple platforms. In my example, I am using Siri, Google app and Cortana on my desktop.

Near me-type searches:

12_NearME.png

These all had map listings in common — Apple maps, Google maps, and Bing maps, respectively.

Research-type queries:

13_Research.png

Siri got it wrong and led me to a store, while both Google and Bing Ads provided me with SERPs to answer my question.

Quick answer-type queries:

While Siri pulled up multiple results from a Bing search, both Google and Cortana found what they considered to be the most helpful answer and read them aloud to me while also providing the option for looking at additional results.

14_quickanswer.png

b.) Optimize your NAPs. Make sure you have listings that have an accurate name, address, phone number, and open hours on the top business listings such as Apple Maps, Google My Business, and Bing Places for Business.

15_NAP.png

c.) Ensure you have proper Schema markup on your site. The more information you can provide to the search engines, the more effectively they can rank and display your site. Be sure to add in:

  • Contact info
  • Reviews
  • Articles/Events/Content

d.) Optimize your PPC campaigns.

  1. Choose a small handful of voice search queries from your list across different intents.
  2. Add to new ad groups under existing campaigns. This helps you to take advantage of historical quality score benefits.
  3. Adjust bid modifiers based on your research on age, gender, and device.
  4. Adjust bids based on intent. For example, the following keywords demonstrate completely different levels of purchase intent:
    • Do I need a hybrid or mountain bike? – More research-based.
    • Who invented the bicycle? – Zero purchase intent. Add this as a negative keyword.
    • When does bike store XYZ open today? – High likelihood to purchase. Bid up.

Step 4: Be the best answer

Goal: Serve the right message at the right time in the right place.

Estimated time needed: 60 min

Tools needed: Creativity and Excel

Make sure you have the relevant ad for the query. Relevance is critical — the results must be useful or they won’t be used.

Do you have the right extensions to tailor toward the motivational intent noted above and the consumer’s ultimate goal? Make it easy for customers to get what they want without confusion.

Voice searches cover a variety of different intents, so it’s important to ensure the ad in your test will align well with the intent of the query. Let’s consider this example:

If the search query is “what’s the best waterproof digital camera under $500?” then your ad should only talk about digital cameras that are waterproof and around the $500 range. Doing this helps make it more seamless for the customer since the selections steps along the way are much reduced.

A few additional tips and ideas:

a.) Voice searches seem to frequently trigger product listing ads (PLAs) from the search engines, which makes sense since the images make them easier to sort through:

16a_Goog.png16b_Bing.png

If you can but haven’t already done so, look at setting up Shopping Campaigns within your PPC accounts, even just for your top-selling products.

b.) For results when the SERPs come up, be sure to use ad extensions to provide additional information to your target audience. Consider location, contact, conversion, and app information that is relevant. They make it easy for customers to find the info they need.

17_extensions.png

c.) Check citations and reviews to ensure you’re showing up at your best. If reviews are unfavorable, consider implementing reputation management efforts.

18_citations.png

d.) Work to earn more featured snippets, since the search engines often will read them out as the top answer. Dr. Pete has some excellent tips in this Moz article.

e.) Your helpful content will come to excellent use with voice search — share it as a PPC ad for the higher-funnel assumed voice queries to help your test.

19_SEOContent.png

f.) Video has been getting much attention — and rightly so! Given the increased engagement it can provide, as well as its ability to stand out in the SERPs, consider offering video content (as extensions or regular content) for relevant assumed voice queries.

20a_Goog.png20b_Bing.png


Step 5: Analyze. Rinse. Repeat.

Goal: Review performance and determine next steps.

Estimated time needed: 60 min

Tools needed: Analytics and Excel

Here’s where the power of PPC can shine. We can review reporting across multiple dimensions to gauge how the test is performing.

Quick note: It may take several weeks to gather enough data to run meaningful reports. Remember that voice search volume is small, though significant.

a.) First, determine the right KPIs. For example,

  • Lower-funnel content will, of course, have the most conversion-specific goals that we’re used to.
  • Research-type queries will need to be measured by micro-conversions and different KPIs such as form fills, video views, and leads generated.

b.) Pull the right reports. Helpful reports include:

  • The keyword performance report will show you the impressions, clicks, CTR, quality score, conversions, and much more about each individual keyword within your campaigns. Use the keyword report to find out which keywords are triggering your ads, generating clicks, and leading to conversions. You can also identify keywords that are not performing well to determine whether you want to delete them.
  • Ad performance reports show you the impressions, clicks, spend, and conversions for each ad. Use this report to help you determine which ads are leading to the most clicks and conversions, and which are not performing. Remember, having underperforming ads in your campaigns can pull down the quality of your campaign.
  • Filter by device and by demographics. This combination telling us what devices are dominating and who is converting can help us to adjust bids and create more effective ad copy.
  • Create a campaign report looking at your PLA performance. Do tweaks or major overhauls to close gaps versus your expectations.

c.) Determine where you can personalize further. AgilOne research indicates that “more than 70% of consumers expect a personalized experience with the brands they interact with.”

21_personalized.png

Carefully pairing the the most ad messaging with each assumed voice query is incredibly important here.


Let’s recap

Step 1. See what, if any, voice activity exists for you currently.

Step 2. Extrapolate. Theme. Sort.

Step 3. Start optimizing campaigns.

Step 4: Be the best answer.

Step 5. Analyze. Rinse. Repeat.

Pretty do-able, right?

It’s relatively simple and definitely affordable. Spend four or five hours completing your own voice search test. It can open up worlds of opportunity for your business. It’s best to start testing now while there’s no fire under us and we can test things out in a low-risk environment — an ideal way to get a leg-up over the competition. Bon appétit!

Have you tried some other tests to address voice search queries? Please do share in the comments below.

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Helpful Tips for Doing Search in a Low-Volume Niche

Posted by Jeremy_Gottlieb

SEO — you know, that thing you do whereby everyone and their mother will find your site on the web. Easy, right? “Can you SEO this page for me?” or “We’re about to launch a webinar. Can you SEO-ify it, please?” I’m sure most of you reading this can probably relate to these types of questions and the ensuing pressure from bosses or clients. If you’re lucky, you work in a realm where there’s plenty of search volume to chase, featured snippets to occupy, and answer boxes to solve. But what about those who work in the low-search volume niches typically seen in B2B, or with companies pioneering a new product or service that no one really knows about yet (so they obviously can’t be searching for it)?

This blog post is for you, the digital marketer who toils and struggles to drive search visibility where there hardly is any. Let’s get to work.

Search, as I’ll refer to it here, includes both paid and organic. Neither of these may ultimately be the best channel for your organization, but after reading this post, hopefully you’ll be able to verify whether your search channels are humming along and working harmoniously, while leaving other sources of user acquisition to bear the brunt of the load. Three topics I will cover in this post are SEO, paid search, and CRO, but please keep in mind: these are not the only possible digital marketing actions that can be done for an organization in a low-search volume niche. This is just a glimpse into what may be possible, and hopefully it can spark inspiration for you or your client in ways you’d either forgotten about or hadn’t thought of. Whether you’re just starting out in digital marketing or you’ve been around for a while, I hope this will be able to provide some direction.

1. SEO

Sometimes I think of SEO as a skyscraper, though this may just be because I’m surrounded by them in Distilled’s New York City office (come join us!). In order to reach greater heights via SEO, you need to make sure the foundation of your building is in order. And what I mean by “foundation” is the technical structure of your site. Things that you’d want to check will include:

  • Is the link profile clean?
  • Does the site have strong internal linking?
    • Do pages get created and then fall into a black hole?
  • Can search engines crawl the site?
    • Are there noindex, robots.txt, canonical, or other tags that hide desired content from being ranked?
  • Has the site been hacked?
  • Are there descriptive and unique title tags and meta descriptions?
  • Is tracking set up properly (i.e. Google Analytics)?
  • Does the site appear trustworthy and authoritative?

Targeting transactional queries

Once the foundation is in order, it’s time to begin the keyword research. Establish which queries are most vital to the organization, how much search volume they have, and which ones are most likely to yield conversions, whatever that means to the organization. With your foundation in order, you can take the most important queries and try to match them to existing pages on the site, such as the homepage and key product/services pages. It may turn out that the queries an organization should be targeting don’t have pages available yet. That’s okay — you’ll just need to create them. I generally recommend that shorter-tail queries (two or three words) be targeted by primarily by product or service pages, with longer queries either handled by those very pages or by a Q&A section and/or a blog. This is just one way to handle a hierarchy and avoids a cluttered navigation with hundreds of long-tail queries and content, though it is by no means a rule.

Targeting higher-funnel queries

Once the key queries have been locked down and the content plan created, we can move on to more informational queries. It’s very likely that these more higher-part-of-the-funnel queries will require content that’s less sales-y and will be more informational, making desired conversions (like consultation signups) less likely from this crowd, at least on the first interaction. You’ll need to build strong content that answers the users’ queries and establishes the organization as thought leaders and experts at all levels of a particular niche.

Let’s say, for example, we’re responsible for driving traffic for an organization that allows people to invest in solar energy. Lots of people buy stocks and bonds and real estate, but how many invest in solar energy or power purchase agreements? Transactional-type queries, those most likely to provide us with customers, don’t get searched all that much.

Now, let’s take a look at some longer-tail queries that are tangentially related to our main offering:

These queries clearly have more search volume, but appear to be more informational. “CSR” (in the above example) most often means “corporate social responsibility,” a term frequently aligned with impact investing, where investments not only are expected to produce financial returns, but have a positive social effect as well. From these queries we’d be able to help provide proof to users and search engines that the organization is indeed an expert in the particular realm of solar energy and investing. Our desired audience may come to us with different initial intents, but we can begin to funnel people down the path towards eventually becoming clients.

As will be discussed further in this post, the point here is to drive traffic organically, even if that very traffic is unlikely to convert. With optimizations to the content, we’ll be able to solicit emails and try to drive visitors further into the funnel, but first we just need to make sure that we’re enhancing our visibility and driving more unpaid traffic.

Key tips:

  • Target transactional queries with pages optimized for the ideal conversion
  • Target informational queries and modify pages to push the user deeper into the funnel towards more transactional pages
    • If a blog is perceived as a waste of resources and useless traffic, it’s probably not being fully leveraged

2. Paid search

Oftentimes, organizations will use SEO and paid search for their user acquisition, but will silo the two channels so that they don’t work together. Simply put, this is a mistake. Using paid spend for Google or Bing Adwords in conjunction with an organization’s SEO efforts will assist the company’s bottom line.

Get your tracking right

When beginning a paid campaign, it’s absolutely vital to set up tracking properly from the beginning. Do not miss this step. Without setting up tracking properly, it will be impossible to tie back conversions to paid and organic and see their relationship. If you already have paid attribution set up, double-check to ensure that there’s no double counting from having multiple GA tracking snippets, or if you’re using a landing page generator like Unbounce or HubSpot, that you’ve added in tracking on those platforms. Sometimes when using landing page generator tools (like HubSpot), you might elect to have an in-line thank you section display instead of redirecting someone to an external link. If you use an in-line thank you, the URL will not change and will make tracking more difficult in Google Analytics. This is not impossible to get around (events tracking can do the trick), but is something to keep in mind.

Bid on your money keywords

Without getting too fancy, a very important next step is to identify the transactional, important keywords — the ones that might be costly to buy, but that are worth the spend. Waiting for results from organic search or for the different channels to successfully harmonize may take longer than a boss or C-suite might be willing to wait for, so getting results directly from traditional paid search will require a strong setup from the get-go.

The magic of RLSA

Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSAs) allow organizations to remarket to specific people who have visited a specific page on their site, either by bidding on keywords one typically wouldn’t bid on, or by altering the bid up or down. This doesn’t create new traffic; it only displays to those who have visited your site in the past. The magic of this is that when done properly, you can potentially achieve lower cost-per-clicks and conversions, as the audience seeing these ads is already familiar with your brand.

Let’s use, for example, the strategy of creating content around “what are alternative investments?” or “how to invest responsibly?”. These would be informational-level queries, representing topics people would like to investigate further. While the ideal scenario for our business would be that everyone would automatically want to invest with us, we know this isn’t likely to be the typical case. Instead, we’ll use organic search to earn traffic from less competitive, informational queries, and use RLSA to bid on queries that would ordinarily be too competitive for us, like “investing” or “how to start investing.” By using pixels and remarketing to anyone who visited our “what are alternative investments” page, we know that the person is more familiar with us and we can try to bid on broader queries that may have been either too expensive for us in the first place, or unlikely to generate conversions. In this case, because the user is already familiar with the brand, it can lead to higher click-through and conversion rates.

Much has already been written about RLSA strategies, so for more information you can begin here:

Advanced remarketing

Another option is to create more informational content for queries that are less competitive than some other terms, but that also isn’t as likely to get people to convert when they visit (i.e. most blog content). Let’s say that our blog captures email addresses, either through forms, popups, or some other means. With our captured emails, we’d be able to build an email list and submit it to Adwords, then target people in Google Search, Gmail, and YouTube. We can target existing users (people aligned with a particular email) or people who are similar to the audience and share similar web habits. With this tool, we can expand our potential audience.

If one were to run broad-match search ads against a general population (not one that had been cookied by a site), it would likely get very expensive very quickly and would be likely to have low conversion rates. Using broad match with RLSAs is a smart approach that mitigates the risk of complete budget destruction from people with little intent to convert, while allowing organizations to see what people are searching for; it can be an extremely powerful tool for keyword discovery.

By using broad search and RLSAs, your organization will be able to find out faster what people are actually searching for. Any keywords that cost money but that aren’t relevant or aren’t converting can be added to a negative keyword filter. Ones that are valuable should be added to exact match and, depending on the keyword, may be worthy of having content developed for it so that traffic can be captured without paying for each individual click.

Key tips:

  • Make sure tracking is properly set up
  • Ensure you’re bidding on transactional queries
  • Landing pages MUST have a clear goal and be optimized for one desired conversion
  • RLSAs can be used for keyword discovery and may enable you to bid on more transactional, generally competitive keywords

3. CRO

It’s not uncommon for organizations operating in low-search volume niches to also have fairly long sales cycles. The endgame of what we’re trying to accomplish here is to drive people from an informational mindset to a transactional mindset. We’re operating under the assumption that there are few searches for the service or good we’re trying to provide, so we’re going to get people to our service or good via the backdoor. The way we’ll do this is by guiding people from content that speaks to an informational query to our conversion pages.

To be clear, getting the ultimate conversion on our site might not require sending someone to a product page. It’s totally possible that someone may be interested in our ultimate goal after having landed on a tangentially-related page.

Let’s use the example again of the solar energy investment company. We’ll say that our ultimate goal is to get people to open an account where they actually invest in a power purchase agreement (PPA). Understanding what a PPA is isn’t important, but what should be conveyed is that getting anyone to actually spend money and link a bank account to the site is not a simple task. There’s friction — people need to trust that they won’t be robbed, that their financial information will be protected, and that their money is actually going where they expect it to go. Knowing that there’s friction in the funnel, we’re likely going to need multiple points of engagement with the potential client and will need to provide information and trust signals along the way to answer their questions.

Hunting microconversions

That said, our first goal should be to optimize and provide high-quality landing pages for the person who searches “solar energy investment.” Once we handle that low-hanging fruit, we need to move on to the tangential queries, like “what are the advantages of solar energy?”. Within this page, we should frame the benefits of solar energy and use multiple call-to-actions or banners to persuade someone to learn more about how to invest in solar energy. It’s totally plausible that someone who searches for “what are the advantages of solar energy?” has no interest in investing whatsoever and will leave the page as soon as their question is deemed answered. It’s also possible that they never even make it to the landing page itself because the Google SERP has answered the question for them:

We can’t be scared of this tactic just because Google is stealing content and placing the information within the search results. Featured snippets still have very high click-through rates (meaning users still visit that content) and we don’t know which queries will trigger featured snippets tomorrow or in six months from now. All we can do is create the best content for users’ queries.

For the visitors who are interested in the potential of solar energy investment, there are several ways that we can keep them engaged:

  1. Email capture popups
    1. This can be done via time-elapsed or exit intent versions
  2. Static or sticky call-to-actions (for products, demos, or email capture) either within the content or adjacent to the text in right or left-hand rails

AMP to accelerate traffic growth

Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are one of my favorite SERP enhancements that Google has made in the past few years. As a quick reminder, AMP provide cached, streamlined HTML that makes loading pages on mobile crazy-fast. AMP pages also show a little lightning bolt icon in the SERPs; eventually this will condition users that any page without a lightning bolt will be slow. They don’t allow for interstitials or popups, and even have their own area within search results. Google is heavily investing in this space and is incentivizing publishers to do so as well. Creating AMP variations of your organization’s content can be a strong idea for driving more web traffic, but it can come with some potential pitfalls that you should be aware of.

Tracking

AMP pages require their own Google Analytics tracking and it does not come standard. If you use a CMS or GTM that automatically places GA tracking code within the head, you will not automatically be covered with AMP pages. Make sure you set up tracking properly.

No popups

I just mentioned that email capture popups are a great way to ensure multiple points of engagement with users who otherwise may have just visited a particular site one time. By capturing emails, you can doing remarketing, send product emails, keep people apprised of updates with your organization, and create similar audiences, among other benefits as well. However, once you create AMP and they begin to replace your m. or responsive pages on mobile within the search results, your popups will no longer appear. While you won’t be able to get the true functionality of popups, a suitable workaround is to add email form capture in-line within your AMP content:

form-error.gif

When it comes to CRO for pages that receive organic traffic, it’s not the end of the world if a person doesn’t undertake an action; we’re not paying for them. Just by visiting our page, we can cookie them and remarket to them on search and other paid channels like Facebook and Twitter. We’ve extracted value from our visitors and they don’t even know it.

On the other hand, when a visitor arrives via paid search, we need to be doing everything in our power to make sure that the person undertakes a desired action. That desired action could be providing an email in exchange for a download, scheduling a consultation, purchasing a product, or providing other information. It bears repeating, though: if you’re paying for clicks and have not made a concerted effort to design your landing page in such a way that users are most likely to undertake the desired action, you’re wasting money. I do not claim that there is some sort of silver bullet that will work across every single niche and every single audience for every single product. Using a gated landing page for one client may work best for some, while soliciting user information via a form might work best for another. The only way to know is to test and see how users interact.

Key tips:

  • Some ultimate conversions have a lot of friction; don’t shy away from microconversions
  • If you already get traffic and it “doesn’t convert,” think critically about how it would be possible to re-engage with those users or what they might feel comfortable providing you with at their level of interest
  • AMP pages need separate GA tracking and do not allow popups

Tying it all together

Let’s recap this. When an organization cannot bank on a large enough search volume in its particular niche to provide the necessary runway for growth, it needs to think creatively about how to best harmonize organic and paid search channels. Truthfully, all organizations (regardless of the size of the search volume in their niche) should do this, but it’s particularly important in low-search volume niches because without it, growth is likely to be far slower and smaller than it could be.

For the sake of argument, we assume that the product or service doesn’t have much popularity, so we need to expand into informational queries, the topics that one would search before they know that they could use the service or product.

We need to ensure that we quickly and properly identify the transactional queries in our niche, and build pages that fulfill the intent of the user’s query. These pages should almost always have a call-to-action that allows people to take advantage of their interest immediately.

However, we’re looking for growth, so we need to think even bigger. We need to provide content for the people who are searching for queries that demonstrate some sort of interest in our niche, but don’t necessarily know that they want our service or product. We build out those pages, populating them with content and resources that fulfill the user’s query, but also provide calls-to-action that capture emails and/or drive users further into the funnel. People who don’t realize that they want your product or service may not react well to hard sells and high barriers to entry. Asking for an email address can be far more palatable and keep the conversation going.

If using AMP pages to gain more visibility, make sure that you have properly set up Google Analytics first and have added in email form captures at different points within the content, not just at the end — most of your readers won’t make it there. Depending on what our strategy is, we may also want to begin cookie-ing users for remarketing.

When using paid search, as with organic search, we need to make sure that we’re properly targeting the transactional queries we need — the ones where people are most likely to undertake a desired action. By using RLSAs we can also potentially bid on more generic, short-tail queries that might have yielded low conversion rates if we were to have exposed them to the broader Internet community at large, but could prove very successful if we only show them to people who have visited our site or specific pages. In addition to possibly converting at a higher rate than a regular paid search campaign, RLSAs can serve as a great keyword discovery tool without completely decimating your budget.

In the vast majority of cases, traffic for traffic’s sake is useless. If your traffic doesn’t undertake the actions that you want them to, chances are it will be declared useless and investment into content creation may decrease. I’ve seen it happen. Your traffic does not need to convert via buying a product or scheduling a demo the first time they visit, but if you have microconversions (like email capture) set up, you’ll put yourself in a much better position to re-engage with your visitors, find new similar visitors, and drive more conversions.

One last nugget of wisdom from Distilled’s own Head of PPC, Rich Cotton:

The main benefit of one agency running PPC and SEO is communication; aligning marketing messages, sharing data, keeping a consistent user experience, making lines of communication for the client easier. By ensuring that your PPC and SEO teams are working together, PPC can fill gaps in SERP exposure for organic, test new copy, and share important keyword data that PPC still has control of.

Rather than competing, when drawing up attribution models, an integrated approach allows us to share the value driven and work holistically for the benefit of the client, rather than fight to prove that our channel was the more effective one. Your marketing dollars will go where they are most needed, not be argued over by inter-agency politics.

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

Posted by randfish

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

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

Video Transcription

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

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

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

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

Questions to ask

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Giving Away the Farm: Proposal Development for New SEO Agencies

Posted by BrianChilds

There’s a huge difference between making money from selling SEO and actually making a living — or making a difference, for that matter. A new marketing agency will quickly discover that surviving on $1,000 contracts is challenging. It takes time to learn the client and their customers, and poorly written contracts can lead to scope creep and dissatisfied clients.

It’s common for agencies to look for ways to streamline operations to assist with scaling their business, but one area you don’t want to streamline is the proposal research process. I actually suggest going in the opposite direction: create proposals that give away the farm.

Details matter, both to you and your prospective client

I know what you’re thinking: Wait a minute! I don’t want to do a bunch of work for free!

I too am really sensitive to the idea that a prospective client may attempt to be exploitative. I think it’s a risk worth taking. Outlining the exact scope of services forces you to do in-depth research on your prospect’s website and business, to describe in detail what you’re going to deliver. Finding tools and processes to scale the research process is great, but don’t skip it. Detailing your findings builds trust, establishes your team as a high-quality service provider, and will likely make you stand out amongst a landscape of standard-language proposals.

Be exceptional. Here’s why I think this is particularly important for the proposal development process.

Avoid scope creep & unrealistic expectations

Just like the entrepreneur that doesn’t want to tell anyone their amazing idea without first obtaining an NDA, new SEO agencies may be inclined to obscure their deliverables in standard proposal language out of fear that their prospect will take their analysis and run. Generic proposal language is sometimes also used to reduce the time and effort involved in getting the contract out the door.

This may result in two unintended outcomes:

  1. Lack of specific deliverables can lead to contract scope creep.
  2. It can make you lazy and you end up walking into a minefield.

Companies that are willing to invest larger sums of money in SEO tend to have higher expectations, and this cuts both ways. Putting in the work to craft a detailed proposal not only shows that you actually care about their business, but it also helps manage the contract’s inevitable growth when you’re successful.

Misalignment of goals or timelines can sour a relationship quickly. Churn in your contracts is inevitable, but it’s much easier to increase your annual revenue by retaining a client for a few more months than trying to go out and find a replacement. Monetizing your work effectively and setting expectations is an excellent way to make sure the relationship is built on firm ground.

Trust is key

Trust is foundational to SEO: building trustworthy sites, creating valuable and trustworthy content, becoming a trusted resource for your community that’s worth linking to. Google rewards this kind of intent.

Trust is an ethos; as an SEO, you’re a trust champion. You can build trust with a prospect by being transparent and providing overwhelming value in your proposal. Tell your clients exactly what they need to do based on what you discover in your research.

This approach also greases the skids a little when approaching the prospect for the first time. Imagine the difference between a first touch with your prospect when you request a chance to discuss research you’ve compiled, versus a call to simply talk about general SEO value. By developing an approach that feels less like a sales process, you can navigate around the psychological tripwires that make people put up barriers or question your trustworthiness.

This is also referred to as “consultative sales.” Some best practices that business owners typically respond well to are:

  • Competitive research. A common question businesses will ask about SEO relates to keywords: What are my competitors ranking for? What keywords have they optimized their homepage for? One thing I like to do is plug the industry leader’s website into Open Site Explorer and show what content is generating the most links. Exporting the Top Pages report from OSE makes for a great leave-behind.
  • Top questions people are asking. Research forum questions that relate to the industry or products your prospect sells. When people ask questions on Yahoo Answers or Quora, they’re often doing so because they can’t find a good answer using search. A couple of screenshots can spark a discussion around how your prospective client’s site can add value to those online discussions.

Yes, by creating a more detailed proposal you do run the risk that your target company will walk away with the analysis. But if you suspect that the company is untrustworthy, then I’d advise walking away before even building the analysis in the first place; just try getting paid on time from an untrustworthy company.

Insights can be worth more

By creating a very transparent, “give away the farm”-type document, SEOs empower themselves to have important discussions prior to signing a contract. Things like:

  • What are the business goals this company wants to focus on?
  • Who are the people they want to attract?
  • What products or pages are they focused on?

You’ll have to understand at least this much to set up appropriate targeting, so all the better to document this stuff beforehand. And remember, having these conversations is also an investment in your prospect’s time — and there’s some psychology around getting your target company to invest in you. It’s called “advancement” of the sale. By getting your prospect to agree to a small, clearly defined commitment, it pulls them further down the sales funnel.

In the case of research, you may choose to ask the client for permission to conduct further research and report on it at a specified time in the future. You can use this as an opportunity to anchor a price for what that research would cost, which frames the scope of service prices later on.

By giving away the farm, you’ll start off the relationship as a trusted advisor. And even if you don’t get the job to do the SEO work itself, it’s possible you can develop a retainer where you help your prospect manage digital marketing generally.

Prepping the farm for sale

It goes without saying, but making money from SEO requires having the right tools for the job. If you’re brand-new to the craft, I suggest practicing by auditing a small site. (Try using the site audit template we provide in the site audit bootcamp.) Get comfortable with the tools, imagine what you would prioritize, and maybe even do some free work for a site to test out how long it takes to complete relatively small tasks.

Imagine you were going to approach that website and suggest changes. Ask yourself:

  • Who are they selling to?
  • What keywords and resources does this target user value?
  • What changes would you make that would improve search rank position for those terms?
  • What would you do first?
  • How long would it take? (In real human time, not starving-artist-who-never-sleeps time.)

Some of the tools that I find most helpful are:

  • Moz Pro Campaigns > Custom Reports. This is an easy one. Create a Moz Pro campaign (campaigns are projects that analyze the SEO performance of a website over time) and then select “Custom Reports” in the top-right of the Campaign interface. Select the modules you want to include — site crawl and keyword rankings against potential competitors are good ones — and then offer to send this report to your prospect for free. It’s a lot harder for a customer to turn something off than it is to turn something on. Give away a custom report and then set up time to talk through the results on a weekly basis.
  • Builtwith.com. This free service allows you to investigate a number of attributes related to a website, including the marketing software installed. Similar to a WHOIS search, I use this to understand whether the prospect is overloaded with software or if they completely lack any marketing automation. This can be helpful for suggesting tools that will improve their insights immediately. Who better to help them implement those tools or provide a discount than you?
  • Keyword Explorer > Lists. Create a list in Keyword Explorer and look for the prevalence of SERP features. This can tell you a lot about what kinds of content are valuable to their potential visitor. Do images show up a lot? What about videos? These could be opportunities for your customer.
  • MozBar. Use the Page Analysis tab in MozBar to assess some of the website’s most important pages. Check page load speed in the General Attributes section. Also see if they have enticing titles and descriptions.
  • Site crawl. If you don’t have Moz Pro, I recommend downloading Screaming Frog. It can crawl up to 500 pages on a site for free and then allow you to export the results into a .csv file. Look for anything that could be blocking traffic to the site or reducing the chance that pages are getting indexed, such as 4XX series errors or an overly complex robots.txt file. Remedying these can be quick wins that provide a lot of value. If you start a Moz Pro campaign, you can see how these issues are reduced over time.

Want to learn how to add SEO to your existing portfolio of marketing services?

Starting on April 4th, 2017, Moz is offering a 3-day training seminar on How to Add SEO to Your Agency. This class will be every Tuesday for 3 weeks and will cover some of the essentials for successfully bringing SEO into your portfolio.

Sign up for the seminar!

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Your Daily SEO Fix: Link Building & Ranking Zero

Posted by FeliciaCrawford

Last week, we shared a series of four short videos intended to help you accomplish some easy wins using Moz Pro: Your Daily SEO Fix: The Keyword Research Edition. Week Two (that’s this week!) is focused on link building, identifying opportunities to take over SERP features, and doing that all-important competitive research.

This time around, we’re using a mix of Open Site Explorer, Fresh Web Explorer, and Moz Pro. Open Site Explorer has some free capabilities, so if you’d like to follow along…

Open OSE in a new tab!

If you’re a Moz Pro subscriber, crack open your campaigns and settle in. If you’d like to see what all the fuss is about without committing, you can dip your toes in with a free 30-day trial. And now that that’s out of the way, let’s get started!


Fix #1: Link building & brand building via unlinked mentions

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“Moz” is an SEO software company, yes, but it’s also Morissey’s nickname and short for “Mozambique.” All three of those things get mentioned around the web a bunch on any given day, but if we want to identify link building opportunities just to our site, it could get confusing quick. Luckily, Jordan’s here to explain how to quickly find unlinked mentions of your site or brand using Open Site Explorer and keep those pesky Smiths references out of your results.


Fix #2: Prioritizing and organizing your link building efforts

https://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/o5t81pcq1s?videoFoam=truehttps://fast.wistia.net/assets/external/E-v1.js

Link building requires more than just finding opportunities, of course. April shows how you can prioritize your efforts by identifying the most valuable linking opportunities in Open Site Explorer, then dives into how you can cultivate a continuous stream of fresh related content ripe for a link-back with Fresh Web Explorer.


Fix #3: Ranking in position zero with SERP features in Moz Pro

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If you have keywords that aren’t ranking in the first few results pages, don’t despair — there’s hope yet. There are tons of opportunities to rank above the first organic result with the prevalence of SERP features. In this video, Ellie shows how you can identify keywords that need some love, track SERP feature opportunities for them, filter your keywords to show only those that surface certain SERP features, and more.


Fix #4: Gleaning insights from your competitors’ backlink profiles

https://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/uewnq57l9u?videoFoam=truehttps://fast.wistia.net/assets/external/E-v1.js

Remember April from Fix #2? She’s back and ready to show you how to get the skinny on your competitors’ juicy backlink profiles using both your Moz Pro campaign and Open Site Explorer.


One step beyond

That wraps up our latest week of fixes! We’ve got one last round coming at you next Thursday. As always, if you’re curious and want to follow along, you can try it all out firsthand by taking a free trial of Moz Pro. We also offer several SEO bootcamp courses that can get you started on fundamentals if this whole SEO thing is pretty new to you.

If you’re looking for some more meaty info on these topics, I’ve put together a short list of light reading for you:

Thanks for reading along, friends, and we’ll see you again for the last installment of the Daily SEO Fix series next week!

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!