The Perfect Blog Post Length and Publishing Frequency is B?!!$#÷x – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

The perfect blog post length or publishing frequency doesn’t actually exist. “Perfect” isn’t universal — your content’s success depends on tons of personalized factors. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains why the idea of “perfect” is baloney when it comes to your blog, and lists what you should actually be looking for in a successful publishing strategy.

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the perfect blog post length and frequency

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about blog posts and, more broadly, content length and publishing frequency.

So these are things where a lot of the posts that you might read, for example, if you were to Google “ideal blog post length” or “ideal publishing frequency” will give you data and information that come from these sources of here’s the average length of content of the top 10 results in Google across a 5,000-keyword set, and you can see that somewhere between 2,350 and 2,425 words is the ideal length, so that’s what you should aim for.

I am going to call a big fat helping if baloney on that. It’s not only dead wrong, it’s really misleading. In fact, I get frustrated when I see these types of charts used to justify this information, because that’s not right at all.

When you see charts/data like this used to provide prescriptive, specific targets for content length, ask:

Any time you see this, if you see a chart or data like this to suggest, hey, this is how long you should make a post because here’s the length of the average thing in the top 10, you should ask very careful questions like:

1. What set of keywords does this apply to? Is this a big, broad set of 5,000 keywords, and some of them are navigational and some of them are informational and some of them are transactional and maybe a few of them are ecommerce keywords and a few of them are travel related and a few of them are in some other sector?

Because honestly, what does that mean? That’s sort of meaningless, right? Especially if the standard deviation is quite high. If we’re talking about like, oh, well many things that actually did rank number one were somewhere between 500 words and 15,000 words. Well, so what does the average tell me? How is that helpful? That’s not actually useful or prescriptive information. In fact, it’s almost misleading to make that prescriptive.

2. Do the keywords that I care about, the ones that I’m targeting, do they have similar results? Does the chart look the same? If you were to take a sample of let’s say 50 keywords that you cared about and you were to get the average content length of the top 10 results, would it resemble that? Would it not? Does it have a high standard deviation? Is there a big delta because some keywords require a lot of content to answer them fully and some keywords require very, very small amounts of content and Google has prioritized accordingly? Is it wise, then, to aim for the average when a much larger article would be much more appreciated and be much more likely to succeed, or a much shorter one would do far better? Why are you aiming for this average if that’s the case?

3. Is correlation the same as causation? The answer is hell no. Never has been. Big fat no. Correlation doesn’t even necessarily imply causation. In fact, I would say that any time you’re looking at an average, especially on this type of stuff, correlation and causation are totally separate. It is not because the number one result is 2,450 words that it happens to rank number one. Google does not work that way. Never has, never will.

INSTEAD of trusting these big, unknown keyword set averages, you should:

A. look at your keywords and your search results and what’s working versus not in those specific ones.

B. Be willing to innovate, be willing to say, “Hey, you know what? I see this content today, the number one, number two, number three rankings are in these sorts of averages. But I actually think you can answer this with much shorter content and many searchers would appreciate it.” I think these folks, who are currently ranking, are over-content creating, and they don’t need to be.

C. You should match your goals and your content goals with searcher goals. That’s how you should determine the length that you should put in there. If you are trying to help someone solve a very specific problem and it is an easily answerable question and you’re trying to get the featured snippet, you probably don’t need thousands of words of content. Likewise, if you are trying to solve a very complex query and you have a ton of resources and information that no one else has access to, you’ve done some really unique work, this may be way too short for what you’re aiming for.

All right. Let’s switch over to publishing frequency, where you can probably guess I’m going to give you similar information. A lot of times you’ll see, “How often should I publish? Oh, look, people who publish 11 times or more per month, they get way more traffic than people who publish only once a month. Therefore, clearly, I should publish 11 or more times a month.”

Why is the cutoff at 11? Does that make any sense to you? Are these visits all valuable to all the companies that were part of whatever survey was in here? Did one blog post account for most of the traffic in the 11 plus, and it’s just that the other 10 happened to be posts where they were practicing or trying to get good, and it was just one that kind of shot out of the park there?

See a chart like this? Ask:

1. Who’s in the set of sites analyzed? Are they similar to me? Do they target a similar audience? Are they in my actual sector? What’s the relative quality of the content? How savvy and targeted are the efforts at earning traffic? Is this guy over here, are we sure that all 11 posts were just as good as the one post this person created? Because if not, I’m comparing apples and oranges.

2. What’s the quality of the traffic? What’s the value of the traffic? Maybe this person is getting a ton of really valuable traffic, and this person over here is getting very little. You can’t tell from a chart like this, especially when it’s averaged in this way.

3. What things might matter more than raw frequency?

  • Well, matching your goals to your content schedule. If one of your goals is to build up subscribers, like Whiteboard Friday where people know it and they’ve heard of it, they have a brand association with it, it’s called Whiteboard Friday, it should probably come out once a week on Friday. There’s a frequency implied in the content, and that makes sense. But you might have goals that only demand publishing once a quarter or once a month or once a week or once every day. That’s okay. But you should tie those together.
  • Consistency, we have found, is almost always more important than raw frequency, especially if you’re trying to build up that consistent audience and a subscriber base. So I would focus on that, not how I should publish more often, but I should publish more consistently so that people will get used to my publishing schedule and will look forward to what I have to say, and also so that you can build up a cadence for yourself and your organization.
  • Crafting posts that actually earn attention and amplification and help your conversion funnel goals, whatever those might be, over raw traffic. It’s far better if this person got 50 new visits who turned into 5 new paying customers, than this person who published 11 posts and got 1 new paying customer out of all 11. That’s a lot more work and expense for a lot less ROI. I’d be careful about that.

*ASIDE:

One aside I would say about publishing frequency. If you’re early stage, or if you were trying to build a career in blogging or in publishing, it’s great to publish a lot of content. Great writers become great because they write a lot of terrible crap, and then they improve. The same is true with web publishers.

If you look at Whiteboard Friday number one, or a blog post number one from me, you’re going to see pretty miserable stuff. But over time, by publishing quite a bit, I got better at it. So if that is your goal, yes, publishing a lot of content, more than you probably need, more than your customers or audience probably needs, is good practice for you, and it will help you get better.

All right, everyone. Hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. We’ll see you again next week. Take care.

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5 Tips to Help Show ROI from Local SEO

Posted by JoyHawkins

Earlier this year, when I was first writing my advanced local SEO training, I reached out to some users who work for local SEO agencies and asked them what they’d like more training on. The biggest topic I got as a result was related to tracking and reporting value to small business owners.

My clients will often forward me reports from their prior SEO company, expressing that they have no idea what they were getting for their money. Some of the most common complaints I see with these reports are:

  • Too much use of marketing lingo (“Bounce Rate,” “CTR,” etc.)
  • Way too much data
  • No representation of what impact the work done had on the business itself (did it get them more customers?)

If a small business owner is giving you hundreds or thousands of dollars every month, how do you prove to them they’re getting value from it? There’s a lot to dig into with this topic — I included a full six pages on it in my training. Today I wanted to share some of the most successful tips that I use with my own clients.


1. Stop sending automated Google Analytics reports

If the goal is to show the customer what they’re getting from their investment, you probably won’t achieve it by simply sending them an Analytics report each month. Google Analytics is a powerful tool, but it only looks awesome to you because you’re a marketer. Over the past year, I’ve looked at many monthly reports that made my head spin — it’s just too much data. The average SMB isn’t going to be able to look at those reports and figure out how their bounce rate decreasing somehow means you’re doing a great job at SEO.

2. Make conversions the focus of your report

What does the business owner care about? Hint: it’s not how you increased the ranking for one of their 50 tracked keywords this month. No, what they care about is how much additional business you drove to their business. This should be the focus of the report you send them. Small business call conversions

3. Use dynamic number insertion to track calls

If you’re not already doing this, you’re really killing your ability to show value. I don’t have a single SEO or SEM client that isn’t using call tracking. I use Call Tracking Metrics, but CallRail is another one that works well, too. This allows you to see the sources of incoming calls. Unlike slapping a call tracking number on your website, dynamic number insertion won’t mess up NAP consistency.

The bonus here is that you can set up these calls as goals in Google Analytics. Using the Landing Page report, you can see which pages on the site were responsible for getting that call. Instead of saying, “Hey customer, a few months ago I created this awesome page of content for you,” you can say “Hey customer, a few months ago, I added this page to your site and as a result, it’s got you 5 more calls.”
Conversion goal completion in Google Analytics

4. Estimate revenue

I remember sitting in a session a couple years ago when Dev Basu from Powered by Search told me about this tactic. I had a lightbulb moment, wondering why the heck I didn’t think to do this before.

The concept is simple: Ask the client what the average lifetime value of their customer is. Next, ask them what their average closing ratio is on Internet leads. Take those numbers and, based on the number of conversions, you can calculate their estimated revenue.

Formula: Lifetime Value of a Customer x Closing Ratio (%) x Number of Conversions = Estimated Revenue

Bonus tip: Take this a step further and show them that for every dollar they pay you, you make them $X. Obviously, if the lifetime value of the customer is high, these numbers look a lot better. For example, an attorney could look like this:Example monthly ROI for an attorneyWhereas an insurance agent would look like this:
Example monthly ROI for an insurance agent

5. Show before/after screenshots, not a ranking tracker.

I seriously love ranking trackers. I spend a ton of time every week looking at reports in Bright Local for my clients. However, I really believe ranking trackers are best used for marketers, not business owners. How many times have you had a client call you freaking out because they noticed a drop in ranking for one keyword? I chose to help stop this trend by not including ranking reports in my monthly reporting and have never regretted that decision.

Instead, if I want to highlight a significant ranking increase that happened as a result of SEO, I can do that by showing the business owner a visual — something they will actually understand. This is where I use Bright Local’s screenshots; I can see historically how a SERP used to look versus how it looks now.


At the end of the day, to show ROI you need to think like a business owner, not a marketer. If your goals match the goals of the business owner (which is usually to increase calls), make sure that’s what you’re conveying in your monthly reporting.

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SEO Above the Funnel: Getting More Traffic When You Can’t Rank Any Higher

Posted by Tom.Capper

Normally, as SEOs, we follow a deceptively simple process. We identify how people are searching for our product, then we build or optimize pages or websites to match searcher intent, we make sure Google can find, understand, and trust it, and we wait for the waves of delicious traffic to roll in.

It’s not always that simple, though. What if we have the right pages, but just can’t rank any higher? What if we’re already satisfying all of the search volume that’s relevant to our product, but the business demands growth? What if there is no search volume relevant to our product?

What would you do, for example, if you were asked to increase organic traffic to the books section on Amazon? Or property search traffic to Rightmove (UK) or Zillow (US)? Or Netflix, before anyone knew that true online streaming services existed?

In this post, I’m going to briefly outline four simple tactics for building your relevant organic traffic by increasing the overall size of the market, rather than by trying to rank higher. And none of them require building a single link, or making any changes to your existing pages.

1. Conquer neighboring territories

This is a business tactic as well as an SEO one, but it’s worth keeping an eye out for reasonably uncompetitive verticals adjacent to your own. You have an advantage in these, because you already have a brand, a strong domain, a website to build upon, and so forth. New startups trying to make headway in these spaces will struggle to compete with a fairly low-effort execution on your part, if you judge it well.

Start by ideating related products. For example, if you’re a property listings site, you might look at:

  • Home insurance
  • Home valuation
  • Flat-sharing listings
  • Area guides

Once you’ve outlined your list (it’s probably longer than my example), you can do your basic keyword research, and take a look at the existing ranking pages. This is a bit like identifying keyword opportunities, except you’re looking at the core landing pages of a whole vertical — look at their Domain Authorities, their branded search volumes, the quality of their landing pages, the extent to which they’ve done basic SEO, and ask whether you could do better.

In the example above, you might find that home insurance is well served by fairly strong financial services or comparison sites, but flat-sharing is a weak vertical dominated by a few fairly young and poorly executed sites. That’s your opportunity.

To minimize your risk, you can start with a minimal viable version — perhaps just a single landing page or a white-labeled product. If it does well, you know it merits further investment.

You’ve already established a trusted brand, with a strong website, which users are already engaging in — if you can extend your services and provide good user experiences in other areas, you can beat other, smaller brands in those spaces.

2. Welcome the intimidated

Depending on your vertical, there may be an untapped opportunity among potential customers who don’t understand or feel comfortable with the product. For example, if you sell laptops, many potential customers may be wary of buying a laptop online or without professional advice. This might cause them not to buy, or to buy a cheaper product to reduce the riskiness.

A “best laptops under £500,” or “lightest laptops,” or “best laptops for gaming” page could encourage people to spend more, or to buy online when they might otherwise have bought in a store. Pages like this can be simple feature comparisons, or semi-editorial, but it’s important that they don’t feel like a sales or up-sell function (even though that’s what the “expert” in the store would be!).

This is even more pertinent the more potentially research intensive the purchase is. For example, Crucial have done amazingly for years with their “system scanner,” linked to prominently on their homepage, which identifies potential upgrades and gives less savvy users confidence in their purchase.

Guaranteed compatible!

If this seems like too much effort, the outdoor retailer Snow and Rock don’t have the best website in the world, but they have taken a simpler approach in linking to buying guides from certain product pages — for example, this guide on how to pick a pair of walking boots.

Can you spot scenarios where users abandon in your funnels because of fear or complexity, or where they shift their spend to offline competitors? If you can make them feel safe and supported, you might be able to change their buying behavior.

3. Whip up some fervor

At the opposite end of the spectrum, you have enthusiasts who know your vertical like the back of their hand, but could be incited to treat themselves a little more. I’ve been really impressed recently by a couple of American automotive listings sites doing this really well.

The first is Autotrader.com, who have hired well-known automotive columnist Doug Demuro from Jalopnik.com to produce videos and articles for their enthusiast news section. These articles and videos talk about the nerdy quirks of some of the most obscure and interesting used cars that have been listed on the site, and it’s not uncommon for videos on Doug’s YouTube channel — which mention Autotrader.com and feature cars you could buy on Autotrader.com — to get well into 7-figure viewing counts.

These are essentially adverts for Autotrader.com’s products, but I and hundreds of thousands of others watch them religiously. What’s more, the resulting videos and articles stand to rank for the types of queries that curious enthusiasts may search for, turning informational queries into buying intent, as well as building brand awareness. I actually think Autotrader.com could do even better at this with a little SEO 101 (editorial titles don’t need to be your actual title tag, guys), but it’s already a great tactic.

Another similar site doing this really well is Bringatrailer.com. Their approach is really simple — whenever they get a particularly rare or interesting car listed, they post it on Facebook.

These are super low-effort posts about used cars, but if you take a step back, Bring a Trailer are doing something outrageous. They’re posting links to their product pages on Facebook a dozen or more times a day, and getting 3-figure reaction counts. Some of the lesson here is “have great product pages,” or “exist in an enthusiast-rich vertical,” and I realize that this tactic isn’t strictly SEO. But it is doing a lot of things that we as SEOs try to do (build awareness, search volume, links…), and it’s doing so by successfully matching informational or entertainment intents with transactional pages.

When consumers engage with a brand emotionally or even socially, then you’re more likely to be top-of-mind when they’re ready to purchase — but they’re also more likely to purchase if they’re seeing and thinking about your products, services, and sector in their feed.

4. Tell people your vertical exists

I won’t cover this one in too much detail, because there’s already an excellent Whiteboard Friday on the subject. The key point, however, is that sometimes it’s not just that customers are intimidated by your product. They may never have heard of it. In these cases, you need to appear where they’re looking using demographic targeting, carefully researched editorial sections, or branded content.

What about you, though?

How do you go about drumming up demand in your vertical? Tell me all about it in the comments below.

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Google (Almost Certainly) Has an Organic Quality Score (Or Something a Lot Like It) that SEOs Need to Optimize For – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Entertain the idea, for a moment, that Google assigned a quality score to organic search results. Say it was based off of click data and engagement metrics, and that it would function in a similar way to the Google AdWords quality score. How exactly might such a score work, what would it be based off of, and how could you optimize for it?

While there’s no hard proof it exists, the organic quality score is a concept that’s been pondered by many SEOs over the years. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand examines this theory inside and out, then offers some advice on how one might boost such a score.

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Google's Organic Quality Score

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about organic quality score.

So this is a concept. This is not a real thing that we know Google definitely has. But there’s this concept that SEOs have been feeling for a long time, that similar to what Google has in their AdWords program with a paid quality score, where a page has a certain score assigned to it, that on the organic side Google almost definitely has something similar. I’ll give you an example of how that might work.

So, for example, if on my site.com I have these three — this is a very simplistic website — but I have these three subfolders: Products, Blog, and About. I might have a page in my products, 14axq.html, and it has certain metrics that Google associates with it through activity that they’ve seen from browser data, from clickstream data, from search data, and from visit data from the searches and bounces back to the search results, and all these kinds of things, all the engagement and click data that we’ve been talking about a lot this year on Whiteboard Friday.

So they may have these metrics, pogo stick rate and bounce rate and a deep click rate (the rate with which someone clicks to the site and then goes further in from that page), the time that they spend on the site on average, the direct navigations that people make to it each month through their browsers, the search impressions and search clicks, perhaps a bunch of other statistics, like whether people search directly for this URL, whether they perform branded searches. What rate do unique devices in one area versus another area do this with? Is there a bias based on geography or device type or personalization or all these kinds of things?

But regardless of that, you get this idea that Google has this sort of sense of how the page performs in their search results. That might be very different across different pages and obviously very different across different sites. So maybe this blog post over here on /blog is doing much, much better in all these metrics and has a much higher quality score as a result.

Current SEO theories about organic quality scoring:

Now, when we talk to SEOs, and I spend a lot of time talking to my fellow SEOs about theories around this, a few things emerge. I think most folks are generally of the opinion that if there is something like an organic quality score…

1. It is probably based on this type of data — queries, clicks, engagements, visit data of some kind.

We don’t doubt for a minute that Google has much more sophistication than the super-simplified stuff that I’m showing you here. I think Google publicly denies a lot of single types of metric like, “No, we don’t use time on site. Time on site could be very variable, and sometimes low time on site is actually a good thing.” Fine. But there’s something in there, right? They use some more sophisticated format of that.

2. We also are pretty sure that this is applying on three different levels:

This is an observation from experimentation as well as from Google statements which is…

  • Domain-wide, so that would be across one domain, if there are many pages with high quality scores, Google might view that domain differently from a domain with a variety of quality scores on it or one with generally low ones.
  • Same thing for a subdomain. So it could be that a subdomain is looked at differently than the main domain, or that two different subdomains may be viewed differently. If content appears to have high quality scores on this one, but not on this one, Google might generally not pass all the ranking signals or give the same weight to the quality scores over here or to the subdomain over here.
  • Same thing is true with subfolders, although to a lesser extent. In fact, this is kind of in descending order. So you can generally surmise that Google will pass these more across subfolders than they will across subdomains and more across subdomains than across root domains.

3. A higher density of good scores to bad ones can mean a bunch of good things:

  • More rankings in visibility even without other signals. So even if a page is sort of lacking in these other quality signals, if it is in this blog section, this blog section tends to have high quality scores for all the pages, Google might give that page an opportunity to rank well that it wouldn’t ordinarily for a page with those ranking signals in another subfolder or on another subdomain or on another website entirely.
  • Some sort of what we might call “benefit of the doubt”-type of boost, even for new pages. So a new page is produced. It doesn’t yet have any quality signals associated with it, but it does particularly well.

    As an example, within a few minutes of this Whiteboard Friday being published on Moz’s website, which is usually late Thursday night or very early Friday morning, at least Pacific time, I will bet that you can search for “Google organic quality score” or even just “organic quality score” in Google’s engine, and this Whiteboard Friday will perform very well. One of the reasons that probably is, is because many other Whiteboard Friday videos, which are in this same subfolder, Google has seen them perform very well in the search results. They have whatever you want to call it — great metrics, a high organic quality score — and because of that, this Whiteboard Friday that you’re watching right now, the URL that you see in the bar up above is almost definitely going to be ranking well, possibly in that number one position, even though it’s brand new. It hasn’t yet earned the quality signals, but Google assumes, it gives it the benefit of the doubt because of where it is.

  • We surmise that there’s also more value that gets passed from links, both internal and external, from pages with high quality scores. That is right now a guess, but something we hope to validate more, because we’ve seen some signs and some testing that that’s the case.

3 ways to boost your organic quality score

If this is true — and it’s up to you whether you want to believe that it is or not — even if you don’t believe it, you’ve almost certainly seen signs that something like it’s going on. I would urge you to do these three things to boost your organic quality score or whatever you believe is causing these same elements.

1. You could add more high-performing pages. So if you know that pages perform well and you know what those look like versus ones that perform poorly, you can make more good ones.

2. You can improve the quality score of existing pages. So if this one is kind of low, you’re seeing that these engagement and use metrics, the SERP click-through rate metrics, the bounce rate metrics from organic search visits, all of these don’t look so good in comparison to your other stuff, you can boost it, improve the content, improve the navigation, improve the usability and the user experience of the page, the load time, the visuals, whatever you’ve got there to hold searchers’ attention longer, to keep them engaged, and to make sure that you’re solving their problem. When you do that, you will get higher quality scores.

3. Remove low-performing pages through a variety of means. You could take a low-performing page and you might say, “Hey, I’m going to redirect that to this other page, which does a better job answering the query anyway.” Or, “Hey, I’m going to 404 that page. I don’t need it anymore. In fact, no one needs it anymore.” Or, “I’m going to no index it. Some people may need it, maybe the ones who are visitors to my website, who need it for some particular direct navigation purpose or internal purpose. But Google doesn’t need to see it. Searchers don’t need it. I’m going to use the no index, either in the meta robots tag or in the robots.txt file.”

One thing that’s really interesting to note is we’ve seen a bunch of case studies, especially since MozCon, when Britney Muller, Moz’s Head of SEO, shared the fact that she had done some great testing around removing tens of thousands of low-quality, really low-quality performing pages from Moz’s own website and seen our rankings and our traffic for the remainder of our content go up quite significantly, even controlling for seasonality and other things.

That was pretty exciting. When we shared that, we got a bunch of other people from the audience and on Twitter saying, “I did the same thing. When I removed low-performing pages, the rest of my site performed better,” which really strongly suggests that there’s something like a system in this fashion that works in this way.

So I’d urge you to go look at your metrics, go find pages that are not performing well, see what you can do about improving them or removing them, see what you can do about adding new ones that are high organic quality score, and let me know your thoughts on this in the comments.

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

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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How to Find Your Competitor’s Backlinks – Next Level

Posted by BrianChilds

Welcome to the newest installment of our educational Next Level series! In our last episode, Brian Childs equipped copywriters with the tools they need to succeed with SEO. Today, he’s back to share how to use Open Site Explorer to find linking opportunities based upon your competitors’ external inbound links. Read on and level up!


In Moz’s SEO training classes, we discuss how to identify and prioritize sources of backlinks using a mix of tools. One tactic to quickly find high Domain Authority sites that have a history of linking to pages discussing your topic is to study your competitors’ backlinks. This process is covered in-depth during the SEO Link Building Bootcamp.

In this article, I’ll show how to create and export a list of your competitor’s backlinks that you can use for targeting activities. This assumes you’ve already completed keyword research and have identified competitors that rank well in the search results for these queries. Use those competitors for the following analysis.


How to check the backlinks of a site

Step 1: Navigate to Open Site Explorer

Open Site Explorer is a tool used to research the link profile of a website. It will show you the quality of inbound links using metrics like Page Authority, Domain Authority, and Spam Score. You can do a good amount of research with the free version, but to enjoy all its capabilities you’ll need full access; you can get that access for free with a 30-day trial of Moz Pro.

Step 2: Enter your competitor’s domain URL

I suggest opening your competitor’s site in a browser window and then copying the URL. This will reduce any spelling errors and the possibility of incorrectly typing the domain name. An example of a common error is incorrectly adding “www” to the URL when that’s not how it renders for the site.

Step 3: Navigate to the “Inbound Links” tab

The Inbound Links tab will display all of the pages that link to your competitor’s website. In order to identify sources of links that are delivering link equity, I set the parameters above the list as follows: Target This – Root Domain, Links Source – Only External, and Link Type – Link Equity. This will show all external links providing link equity to any page on your competitor’s site.

Step 4: Export results into .csv

Most reports in Open Site Explorer will allow you to export to .csv. Save these results and then repeat for your other competitors.

Step 5: Compile .csv results from all competitors

Once you have Open Site Explorer exports from the top 5–10 competitors, compile them into one spreadsheet.

Step 6: Sort all results by Page Authority

Page Authority is a 1–100 scale developed by Moz that estimates the likelihood of a page’s ability to rank in a search result, based on our understanding of essential ranking factors. Higher numbers suggest the page is more authoritative and therefore has a higher likelihood of ranking. Higher Page Authority pages also will be delivering more link equity to your competitor’s site. Use Page Authority as your sorting criteria.

Step 7: Review all linking sites for opportunities

Now you have a large list of sites linking to your competitors for keywords you are targeting. Go down the list of high Page Authority links and look for sites or authors that show up regularly. Use your preferred outreach strategy to contact these sites and begin developing a relationship.


Want to learn more SEO processes?

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11 Lessons Learned from Failed Link Building Campaigns

Posted by kerryjones

We’ve created more than 800 content campaigns at Fractl over the years, and we’d be lying if we told you every single one was a hit.

The Internet is a finicky place. You can’t predict with 100% accuracy if your content will perform well. Sometimes what we think is going to do OK ends up being a massive hit. And there have been a few instances where we’d expect a campaign to be a huge success but it went on to garner lackluster results.

While you can’t control the whims of the Internet, you can avoid or include certain things in your content to help your chances of success. Through careful analysis we’ve pinpointed which factors tend to create high-performing content. Similarly, we’ve identified trends among our content that didn’t quite hit the mark.

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In this this post, I’ll share our most valuable lessons we learned from content flops. Bear in mind this advice applies if you’re using content to earn links and press pickups, which is what the majority of the content we create at Fractl aims to do.

1. There’s such a thing as too much data.

For content involving a lot of data, it can be tempting to publish every single data point you collect.

A good example of this is surveying. We’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of not only sharing all of the data we’ve collected in a survey, but also segmenting the data out by demographics — regardless of whether or not all of that data is super compelling. While this can give publishers a large volume of potential angles to choose from, the result is often unfocused content lacking a cohesive narrative.

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Only include the most insightful, interesting data points in your content, even if that means tossing aside most of the data you’ve gathered.

One example of this was a survey we did for a home security client where we asked people about stalker-ish behaviors they’d committed. The juiciest survey data (like 1 in 5 respondents had created a fake social account to spy on someone — yikes!) ended up getting buried because we included every data point from the survey, some of which wasn’t so interesting. Had we trimmed down the content to only the most shocking findings, it probably would have performed far better.

Furthermore, the more data you include, the more time it takes for a publisher to wade through it. As one journalist told us after we sent over an epic amount of data: “Long story short, this will take too much time.”

Consider this: It shouldn’t take a publisher more than 10 seconds of looking at your project to grasp the most meaningful data points. If they can’t quickly understand that, how will their readers?

2. Turning published data into something cool doesn’t always yield links.

If you’re going to use data that’s already been reported on, you better have a new spin or finding to present. Journalists don’t want to cover the same stats they have already covered.

A great example of this is a project we created about the reasons startups fail. The majority of the data we used came from CB Insights’ startup post mortems list, which had performed really well for them. (As of the time I’m writing this, according to Open Site Explorer it has 197 linking root domains from sites including BBC, Business Insider, Fortune, Vox, CNBC, and Entrepreneur — impressive!)

It worked well once, so it should work again if we repackage it into a new format, right?

We used the startups featured on the CB Insights list, added in a handful of additional startups, and created a sexy-looking interactive node map that grouped together startups according to the primary reasons they went under.

While the content didn’t end up being a failure (we got it picked up by Quartz, woo!), it definitely didn’t live up to the expectations we had for it.

Two problems with this project:

  1. We weren’t saying anything new about the data.
  2. The original data had gotten so much coverage that many relevant publishers had already seen it and/or published it.

But of course, there are exceptions. If you’re using existing data that hasn’t gotten a ton of coverage, but is interesting, then this can be a smart approach. The key is avoiding data that has already been widely reported in the vertical you want to get coverage in.

3. It’s difficult to build links with videos.

Video content can be extremely effective for viral sharing, which is fantastic for brand awareness. But are videos great for earning links? Not so much.

When you think of viral content, videos probably come to mind — which is exactly why you may assume awesome videos can attract a ton of backlinks. The problem is, publishers rarely give proper attribution to videos. Instead of linking to the video’s creator, they just embed the video from YouTube or link to YouTube. While a mention/link to the content creator often happens organically with a piece of static visual content, this is often not the case with videos.

Of course, you can reach out to anyone who embeds your video without linking to you and ask for a link. But this can add a time-consuming extra step to the already time-intensive process of video creation and promotion.

4. Political ideas are tough to pull off.

Most brands don’t want to touch political topics with a ten-foot pole. But to others, creating political content is appealing since it has strong potential to evoke an emotional reaction and get a lot of attention.

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We’ve had several amazing political ideas fail despite solid executions and promotional efforts. It’s hard for us to say why this is, but our assumption has been publishers don’t care about political content that isn’t breaking (because it’s always breaking). For this reason, we believe it’s nearly impossible to compete with the constant cycle of breaking political news.

5. Don’t make content for a specific publisher.

We’ve reached out to publishers to collaborate during content production, assuming that if the publisher feels ownership over the content and it’s created to their specifications, they will definitely publish it.

In general, we’ve found this approach doesn’t work because it tends to be a drain on the publishers (they don’t want to take on the extra work of collaborating with you) and it locks you into an end result that may only work for their site and no other publishers.

Remember: Publishers care about getting views and engagement on their site, not link generation for you or your client.

6. Hyperlocal content is a big risk.

If you focus on one city, even with an amazing piece of content featuring newsworthy information, you’re limited in how many publishers you can pitch it to. And then, you’re out of luck if none of those local publishers pick it up.

On the flip side, we’ve had a lot of success with content that features multiple cities/states/regions. This allows us to target a range of local and national publishers.

Note: This advice applies to campaigns where links/press mentions are the main goal – I’m not saying to never create content for a certain locality.

7. Always make more than one visual asset.

And one of those assets should always be a simple, static image.

Why?

Many websites have limits to the type of media they can publish. Every publisher is able to publish a static graphic, but not everyone can embed more complex content formats (fortunately, Moz can handle GIFs).

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In most cases, we’ve found publishers prefer the simplest visualizations. One classic example of this is a project where we compared reading levels and IQ across different states based on a analysis of half a million tweets. Our Director of Creative, Ryan Sammy, spent a painstaking amount of time (and money) creating an interactive map of the results.

What did most publishers end up featuring? A screenshot of a Tableau dashboard we had sent as a preview during outreach…

8. Be realistic about newsjacking.

Newsjacking content needs to go live within 24 to 48 hours of the news event to be timely. Can you really produce something in time to newsjack?

We’ve found newsjacking is hard to pull off in an agency setting since you have to account for production timelines and getting client feedback and approval. In-house brands have a more feasible shot at newsjacking if they don’t have to worry about a long internal approval process.

9. Watch out for shiny new tools and content formats.

Just because you are using cool, new technology doesn’t automatically make the content interesting. We’ve gotten caught up in the “cool factor” of the format or method only to end up with boring (but pretty) content.

10. Avoid super niche topics.

You greatly increase your risk of no return when you go super niche. The more you drill down a topic, the smaller your potential audience becomes (and potential sites that will link become fewer, too).

There are a ton of people interested in music, there are fewer people interested in rap music, there are even fewer people interested in folk rap music, and finally, there are so few people interested in ’90s folk rap. Creating content around ’90s folk rap will probably yield few to no links.

Some questions to ask to ensure your topic isn’t too niche:

  • Is there a large volume of published content about this topic? Do a Google search for a few niche keywords to see how many results come up compared to broader top-level topics.
  • If there is a lot of content, does that content get high engagement? Do a search in Buzzsumo for keywords related to the niche topic. Is the top content getting thousands of shares?
  • Are people curious about this topic? Search on BloomBerry to see how many questions people are asking about it.
  • Are there online communities dedicated to the topic? Do a quick search for “niche keyword + forum” to turn up communities.
  • Are there more than 5 publishers that focus exclusively on the niche topic?

11. Don’t make content on a topic you can’t be credible in.

When we produced a hard-hitting project about murder in the U.S. for a gambling client, the publishers we pitched didn’t take it seriously because the client wasn’t an authority on the subject.

From that point on, we stuck to creating more light-hearted content around gambling, partying, and entertainment, which is highly relevant to our client and goes over extremely well with publishers.

It’s OK to create content that is tangentially related to your brand (we do this very often), but the connection between the content topic and your industry should be obvious. Don’t leave publishers wondering, why is this company making this content?”

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Learning from failure is crucial for improvement.

Failure is inevitable, especially when you’re pushing boundaries or experimenting with something new (two things we try to do often at Fractl). The good news is that with failure you tend to have the greatest “a-ha!” moments. This is why having a post-campaign review of what did and didn’t work is so important.

Getting to the heart of why your content is rejected by publishers can be extremely helpful — we collect this information, and it’s invaluable for spotting things we can tweak during content production to increase our success rate. When a publisher tells you “no,” many times they will give a brief explanation why (and if they don’t, you can ask nicely for their feedback). Collect and review all of this publisher feedback and review it every few months. Like us, you may notice trends as to why publishers are passing up your content. Use these insights to correct your course instead of continuing to make the same mistakes.

And one last note for anyone creating content for clients: What should you do when your client’s campaign is a flop? To mitigate the risk to our clients, we replace a campaign if it fails to get any publisher coverage. While we’ve rarely had to do this, putting this assurance in place can give both you and your client peace of mind that a low-performing campaign doesn’t mean their investment has gone to waste.

What have you observed about your content that didn’t perform well? Does your experience contradict or mirror any of the lessons I shared?

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Overcoming Corporate Roadblocks for Enterprise SEO Efficacy

Posted by jaredgardner

“You don’t have an SEO strategy problem. You have an organizational efficacy problem.”

That is typically what I tell our new clients at Red Door Interactive (RDI). Poor organizational efficacy can be caused by several things, most commonly a lack of labor, a lack of knowledge, or a lack of senior executive buy-in and direction. Many people would say “efficiency” is a more accurate term than “efficacy,” but I like to remind people that you can do ineffective SEO in a very efficient manner. If the work doesn’t move the needle, then there’s a fatal flaw in your SEO program.

At RDI, we specialize in marketing services for mid to large enterprise clients with annual revenues of our ideal client ranging from $50M/year to $20B/year. The size of clients that we work with have 50+ person marketing departments, and some with more than 1,000. Implementing profitable and evolving SEO programs is much more difficult for non-agile companies and those with marketing that predates the internet. Despite having more resources and built-in topical authority, enterprise SEO can be much harder than SMB SEO — not only because the SEO challenges are greater, but because it introduces another layer of organizational challenges.

What is enterprise SEO?

This same question was on a slide at a recent SEO meetup lead by Ratish Naroor, Director of SEO at Overstock.com. Ratish’s opinion of what constitutes enterprise SEO differed from mine in a few areas. Ratish’s main qualification was that the site in question had one million organic landing pages. At RDI, we work with companies that drive hundreds of millions of dollars a year in revenue through organic search. Often these sites have less than 5,000 pages, yet their digital marketing departments are twice the size of many marketing teams at e-commerce-first companies. In my opinion, there’s more to consider than just the number of pages. I like to focus on the organization itself and not the size of its site; organizations whose website is its product take SEO more seriously. E-commerce retailers like Overstock, real estate sites like Zillow, and travel sites like Trip Advisor or Expedia all invest heavily in SEO programs. Many times, “old companies” that have been around 40+ years will have “old management” stakeholders who are a little late to the digital marketing party and more resistant to change. Does this late adoption of SEO and digital marketing make the organization itself any less enterprise? I don’t believe so.

If it’s not just page count that matters, where do you draw the line for “enterprise SEO”? Here’s how I classify it:

  1. Corporate team structure, budgeting, and approval process. There’s no hard number here, but typically 20 or more people are involved in taking web pages from an idea to a 200 status code. Some companies are so lean it will blow you away, so think more than just the total head count.
  2. Organic search as a channel can drive realistic business. SEO isn’t for every company, so it’s crucial that the company can drive top-line revenue growth through organic search.
  3. Unique and difficult SEO challenges. This may include large page counts where scaling on-page changes and crawl control is important, competitive industries where search terms have high paid CPAs, or international SEO operating in multiple languages and countries.

How do you succeed at enterprise SEO?

When working with an enterprise organization, there are three major areas to address in order to minimize internal SEO challenges and to see real follow-through in implementing high-value SEO ideas, strategies, and tactics.

1. Create a culture of SEO through visibility

SEO can’t succeed in a silo. To get your strategies implemented, you will need full participation and cooperation with content producers, developers, legal, and department heads. It’s important to remember that companies of this size will have an established culture. Sometimes this culture is dysfunctional, and overcoming it will be an uphill battle. Tom Critchlow recently described this culture as a “grain.” The direction and depth of this “grain” is going dictate how much time you spend on this step, and the best way to get people involved is to keep your work visible to the decision makers:

  • Automated reporting: Focus on showing each team/person metrics they can control
    • Dev teams: Technical crawl reports with issues such as internal redirects or 404 reports are relevant things that they can control. We like DeepCrawl for crawl reporting.
    • VPs and directors: High-level performance reports like M/M and Y/Y traffic and conversions give them a bird’s eye view of the site and the effects of your SEO efforts. Tying this data to a dollar figure will help make your case. This can include simple analytics data from Google Analytics, or more advanced tools such as our favorite BI tool, DOMO, or its competitor Tableau.
    • Product owners/business units: Keyword-level data and traffic to a specific site section that a team works on. An enterprise SEO tool like BrightEdge or Conductor can make these reports easy to manage.
    • Pro tip: Include the email of the SEO lead on these reports and encourage questions.
  • Trainings
    • Many marketers still think SEO is something you sprinkle on at the end of a content project, or “something our IT team handles.” It’s up to you to break down those assumptions and educate their team on the idea that that SEO is symbiotic with every marketing channel and department. These trainings can vary quite a bit, so find what works for the company you are working in/with. We have seen success with the following formats: lunch and learns, video recordings for SEO suites mentioned above, team-specific trainings focused on the area the team controls such as development or content research. While I’d love to say that we turned all the marketers into great SEOs, that’s rarely the case. What we typically see — and are thrilled when it happens — is an email from a product manager that says, “Hey, we are launching a new product next quarter and you mentioned it’s good to do keyword research for new pages; can you help?”
  • Open brainstorms
    • Share your knowledge and promote contributions to the program. When I started at RDI 2.5 years ago, our SEO program was good, but it was siloed. We had 3 people working on their own projects for clients and not really collaborating with each other. To share ideas between the (much larger) SEO team and other teams, we started hosting weekly meetings called the “SEO Brainshare.” Each week, one team member picks a topic or challenge and we workshop it with whoever wants to participate. We typically see 5–10 people from other teams at RDI join the meeting, which increases SEO knowledge and keeps our department top of mind. After a year of hosting these meetings religiously, we have seen a large influx in SEO work being incorporated into new and existing client programs, as well as a more multi-channel approach to everything we do at RDI.

2. Teamwork and navigating a political environment

As an agency, we have to be clear with our main point of contact: “You can’t change your SEO results without changing your site. We need you to be the driver of change at your organization. RDI will arm you with the ideas, rationale, and detailed instructions, but you have to get the people in your organization to act.”

While my experience is very agency-focused, in-house SEOs will have to explain a similar scenario to their managers, and the managers of the content, creative, and development teams. The best way to enable yourself for success is make sure you have access to all the players needed for SEO greatness, and they each know what’s at stake and have a certain degree of ownership from their managers. If the product owner doesn’t have a KPI tied to organic traffic or conversions on their pages, it’s highly unlikely they will prioritize and take ownership of organic traffic to those pages.

For a real-world example, I’ve presented challenges and opportunities to Senior VPs and CMOs at Fortune 100 companies where executives have said, “Wow this is a huge opportunity. Why haven’t we done this yet?” and our main client contact responds, “Because XX department hasn’t been tasked with supporting us from their management, so this isn’t their problem.” That’s where the politics really start to come in. You typically need to go high enough up the marketing department ladder to convince someone with power to back your initiative and direct people outside of your department to support you, holding those other people accountable for the results of the team.

3. Don’t get lost in the noise — focus on return

This is undoubtedly the hardest to nail. SEO results by nature are highly ambiguous. There is a constant flux of right vs wrong, causation vs correlation, and my least favorite, the best choice between two “good” options. I recently listened to a podcast where Bill Hunt (an OG of SEO, BTW) said, “If you can’t put a dollar number on it, you won’t get a dollar for it.” The hardest thing for me to do as I grew my SEO strategies from local businesses to enterprises was to eliminate SEO busy work. I needed to move away from tasks like updating ALT tags because a crawl tool flagged them as “errors,” and start focusing on projects that would have a monetary impact — like creating new site sections, reworking high-ranking titles for CTR, and consolidating competing content.

There are a few ways to estimate the impact of a fix. Most involve some form of search volume X expected CTR X conversion rate. Here’s the formula in theory:

(Expected click-through rate at current position X search volume for that term) X (conversion rate of site section) = Current non-brand conversions for a keyword

Now you need to see how many non-brand conversions you would get if you achieved the rank you feel is plausible (this is more of an art than science; I like to use the rank of the top competitor as “achievable”):

(Expected click-through rate at target position X search volume for that term) X (conversion rate of site section) = Target non-brand conversions for a keyword

Then run a percent change for delta for those two numbers and you have the amount of new conversions for your project.

Ideally you want to do this at scale, since you want to look at more than a single search term for a site change. Here is the excel formula for that:

=IFERROR(B3*(VLOOKUP(G3,’Rank CTR’!A:B,2,0)),0)

For this you’ll need to have a CTR curve table in a table labeled “Rank CTR.” We used the CTR table from AWR for unbranded search, but feel free to use any CTR curve you feel is most accurate for your industry. You can even build upon your own data in Google Search Console.

You will need to do this once for current estimated traffic and again after you have set your target rank numbers, then run a delta to get percent change. (The above formula and CTR curve can be found in the Content Gap Analysis template on our site.)

Working in the agency world, the pressure for our recommendations to have a return is extremely high because those recommendations are measured against the cost of the retainer, even when the project might be something that tends to have a negative impact, like a domain migration. At RDI, the closest thing we have to a secret sauce for this is our Content Gap Analysis. Here’s a sample of how we present findings to clients:

You can grab the Excel template from our site linked above.

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In the Content Gap Analysis we look at what competitors are doing, then measure the estimated traffic for a topic area. This kind of analysis looks for gaps on our client’s site where competitors have content and we do not. We can examine the likelihood of us being successful in our next content endeavor and to put a number on the estimated traffic a competitor’s site section or page is getting. Once you find opportunities with a forecastable impact, prioritize them in content or site projects and try not to juggle too many balls at once — at least until some content projects have shipped. Don’t forget to quickly communicate the success of a project to accelerate the two factors mentioned above, even if it’s just a quick email with a screenshot from Google/Adobe Analytics.

Focus on the needle-movers and communicate the value of your ideas clearly

Enterprise SEO is great because it allows you the opportunity to work on sites with serious impact and serious challenges. Sometimes you must take the good with the bad, and in enterprise SEO the bad is typically the bureaucracy that comes with large companies. Focus on what matters, don’t piss anyone off, and don’t relent on the need for progress. Happy optimizing! Please share how you have conquered organization challenges in your work in the comments below!

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