How Does Mobile-First Indexing Work, and How Does It Impact SEO?

Posted by bridget.randolph

We’ve been hearing a lot about mobile-first indexing lately, as the latest development in Google’s ever-continuing efforts to make the web more mobile-friendly and reflect user behavior trends.

But there’s also a lot of confusion around what this means for the average business owner. Do you have to change anything? Everything? If your site is mobile-friendly, will that be good enough?

IS THIS GOING TO BE ANOTHER MOBILEGEDDON?!!

In this post I’ll go over the basics of what “mobile-first indexing” means, and what you may need to do about it. I’ll also answer some frequently asked questions about mobile-first indexing and what it means for our SEO efforts.

What is “mobile-first indexing”?

Mobile-first indexing is exactly what it sounds like. It just means that the mobile version of your website becomes the starting point for what Google includes in their index, and the baseline for how they determine rankings. If you monitor crawlbot traffic to your site, you may see an increase in traffic from Smartphone Googlebot, and the cached versions of pages will usually be the mobile version of the page.

It’s called “mobile-first” because it’s not a mobile-only index: for instance, if a site doesn’t have a mobile-friendly version, the desktop site can still be included in the index. But the lack of a mobile-friendly experience could impact negatively on the rankings of that site, and a site with a better mobile experience would potentially receive a rankings boost even for searchers on a desktop.

You may also want to think of the phrase “mobile-first” as a reference to the fact that the mobile version will be considered the primary version of your website. So if your mobile and desktop versions are equivalent — for instance if you’ve optimized your content for mobile, and/or if you use responsive design — this change should (in theory) not have any significant impact in terms of your site’s performance in search results.

However it does represent a fundamental reversal in the way Google is thinking about your website content and how to prioritize crawling and indexation. Remember that up until now the desktop site was considered the primary version (similar to a canonical URL) and the mobile site was treated as an “alternate” version for a particular use case. This is why Google encouraged webmasters with a separate mobile site (m.domain.com) to implement switchboard tags (which indicated the existence of a mobile URL version with a special rel=alternate tag). Google might not even make the effort to crawl and cache the mobile versions of all of these pages, as they could simply display that mobile URL to mobile searchers.

This view of the desktop version as the primary one often meant in practice that the desktop site would be prioritized by SEOs and marketing teams and was treated as the most comprehensive version of a website, with full content, structured data markup, hreflang (international tags), the majority of backlinks, etc.; while the mobile version might have lighter content, and/or not include the same level of markup and structure, and almost certainly would not receive the bulk of backlinks and external attention.

What should I do about mobile-first indexing?

The first thing to know is that there’s no need to panic. So far this change is only in the very earliest stages of testing, and is being rolled out very gradually only to websites which Google considers to be “ready” enough for this change to have a minimal impact.

According to Google’s own latest guidance on the topic, if your website is responsive or otherwise identical in its desktop and mobile versions, you may not have to do anything differently (assuming you’re happy with your current rankings!).

That said, even with a totally responsive site, you’ll want to ensure that mobile page speed and load time are prioritized and that images and other (potentially) dynamic elements are optimized correctly for the mobile experience. Note that with mobile-first indexing, content which is collapsed or hidden in tabs, etc. due to space limitations will not be treated differently than visible content (as it may have been previously), since this type of screen real estate management is actually a mobile best practice.

If you have a separate mobile site, you’ll want to check the following:

  • Content: make sure your mobile version has all the high-quality, valuable content that exists on your desktop site. This could include text, videos and images. Make sure the formats used on the mobile version are crawlable and indexable (including alt-attributes for images).
  • Structured data: you should include the same structured data markup on both the mobile and desktop versions of the site. URLs shown within structured data on mobile pages should be the mobile version of the URL. Avoid adding unnecessary structured data if it isn’t relevant to the specific content of a page.
  • Metadata: ensure that titles and meta descriptions are equivalent on both versions of all pages.
    • Note that the official guidance says “equivalent” rather than “identical” – you may still want to optimize your mobile titles for shorter character counts, but make sure the same information and relevant keywords are included.
  • Hreflang: if you use rel=hreflang for internationalization, your mobile URLs’ hreflang annotations should point to the mobile version of your country or language variants, and desktop URLs should point to the desktop versions.
  • Social metadata: OpenGraph tags, Twitter cards and other social metadata should be included on the mobile version as well as the desktop version.
  • XML and media sitemaps: ensure that any links to sitemaps are accessible from the mobile version of the site. This also applies to robots directives (robots.txt and on-page meta-robots tags) and potentially even trust signals, like links to your privacy policy page.
  • Search Console verification: if you have only verified your desktop site in Google Search Console, make sure you also add and verify the mobile version.
  • App indexation: if you have app indexation set up for your desktop site, you may want to ensure that you have verified the mobile version of the site in relation to app association files, etc.
  • Server capacity: Make sure that your host servers can handle increased crawl rate.
    • (This only applies for sites with their mobile version on a separate host, such as m.domain.com.)
  • Switchboard tags: if you currently have mobile switchboard tags implemented, you do not need to change this implementation. These should remain as they are.

Common questions about mobile-first indexing

Is mobile-first indexing adding mobile pages to a separate mobile index?

With mobile-first indexing, there is only one index (the same one Google uses now). The change to mobile-first indexing does not generate a new “mobile-first” index, nor is it creating a separate “mobile index” with a “desktop index” remaining active. Instead, it simply changes how content is added to the existing index.

Is the mobile-first index live and affecting my site now? If not, when does it go live?

Google has been experimenting with this approach to indexing on a small number of sites, which were selected based on perceived “readiness”. A wider rollout is likely going to take a long time and in June 2017, Gary Illyes stated that it will probably take a few years before “we reach an index that is only mobile-first.”

Google has also stated the following on the Webmasters Blog, in a blog post dated Dec 18 2017:

“We will be evaluating sites independently on their readiness for mobile-first indexing based on the above criteria and transitioning them when ready. This process has already started for a handful of sites and is closely being monitored by the search team.

“We continue to be cautious with rolling out mobile-first indexing. We believe taking this slowly will help webmasters get their sites ready for mobile users, and because of that, we currently don’t have a timeline for when it’s going to be completed.”

Will Google only use my mobile site to determine my rankings?

Mobile-first means that the mobile version will be considered the primary version when it comes to how rankings are determined. However, there may be circumstances where the desktop version could be taken into consideration (for instance, if you don’t have a mobile version of a page).

That being said, you will potentially still see varying ranking results between mobile search results and desktop search results, so you’ll still want to track both. (In the same way that now, Google primarily uses the desktop site to determine rankings but you still want to track mobile rankings as these vary from desktop rankings based on user behavior and other factors).

When might Google use the desktop site to determine rankings vs. the mobile site?

The primary use case I’ve seen referred to so far is that they will use the desktop site to determine rankings when there is no mobile version.

It is possible that for websites where the desktop version has additional ranking information (such as backlinks), that information could also be taken into consideration – but there is no guarantee that they will crawl or index the desktop version once they’ve seen the mobile version, and I haven’t seen any official statements that this would be the case.

Therefore one of the official recommendations is that once the mobile-first indexing rollout happens, if you’re in the process of building your mobile site or have a “placeholder” type mobile version currently live it would actually be better to have no mobile site than a broken or incomplete one. In this case, you should wait to launch your mobile site until it is fully ready.

What if I don’t have a mobile version of my site?

If you don’t have a mobile version of your site and your desktop version is not mobile-friendly, your content can still be indexed; however you may not rank as well in comparison to mobile-friendly websites. This may even negatively impact your overall rankings on desktop search as well as mobile search results because it will be perceived as having a poorer user experience than other sites (since the crawler will be a “mobile” crawler).

What could happen to sites with a large desktop site and a small mobile site? Will content on your desktop site that does not appear on the mobile version be indexed and appear for desktop searches?

The end goal for this rollout is that the index will be based predominantly on crawling mobile content. If you have a heavily indexed desktop version, they’re not going to suddenly purge your desktop content from the existing index and start fresh with just your thin mobile site indexed; but the more you can ensure that your mobile version contains all relevant and valuable content, the more likely it is to continue to rank well, particularly as they cut back on crawling desktop versions of websites.

How does this change ranking factors and strategy going forward?

This may impact a variety of ranking factors and strategy in the future; Cindy Krum at Mobile Moxie has written two excellent articles on what could be coming in the future around this topic.

Cindy talks about the idea that mobile-first indexing may be “an indication that Google is becoming less dependent on traditional links and HTML URLS for ranking.” It seems that Google is moving away from needing to rely so much on a “URL” system of organizing content, in favor of a more API type approach based on “entities” (thanks, structured data!) rather than URL style links. Check out Cindy’s posts for more explanation of how this could impact the future of search and SEO.

Is there a difference between how responsive sites and separate mobile sites will be treated?

Yes and no. The main difference will be in terms of how much work you have to do to get ready for this change.

If you have a fully responsive site, you should already have everything present on your mobile version that is currently part of the desktop version, and your main challenge will simply be to ensure that the mobile experience is well optimized from a user perspective (e.g. page speed, load time, navigation, etc).

With a separate mobile site, you’ll need to make sure that your mobile version contains everything that your desktop site does, which could be a lot of work depending on your mobile strategy so far.

Will this change how I should serve ads/content/etc. on my mobile site?

If your current approach to ads is creating a slow or otherwise poor user experience you will certainly need to address that.

If you currently opt to hide some of your mobile site content in accordions or tabs to save space, this is actually not an issue as this content will be treated in the same way as if it was loaded fully visible (as long as the content is still crawlable/accessible).

Does this change how I use rel=canonical/switchboard tags?

No. For now, Google has stated that if you have already implemented switchboard tags, you should leave them as they are.


Has this overview helped you to feel more prepared for the shift to mobile-first indexing? Are there any questions you still have?

I’d love to hear what you’re thinking about in the comments!

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!

Advertisements

How to Rank in 2018: The SEO Checklist – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

It’s hard enough as it is to explain to non-SEOs how to rank a webpage. In an increasingly complicated field, to do well you’ve got to have a good handle on a wide variety of detailed subjects. This edition of Whiteboard Friday covers a nine-point checklist of the major items you’ve got to cross off to rank in the new year — and maybe get some hints on how to explain it to others, too.

https://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/gkbat4h7g6?videoFoam=true

https://fast.wistia.net/assets/external/E-v1.js

How to Rank in 2018: An SEO Checklist

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

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to a special New Year’s edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to run through how to rank in 2018 in a brief checklist format.

So I know that many of you sometimes wonder, “Gosh, it feels overwhelming to try and explain to someone outside the SEO profession how to get a web page ranked.” Well, you know what? Let’s explore that a little bit this week on Whiteboard Friday. I sent out a tweet asking folks, “Send me a brief checklist in 280 characters or less,” and I got back some amazing responses. I have credited some folks here when they’ve contributed. There is a ton of detail to ranking in the SEO world, to try and rank in Google’s results. But when we pull out, when we go broad, I think that just a few items, in fact just the nine we’ve got here can basically take you through the majority of what’s required to rank in the year ahead. So let’s dive into that.

I. Crawlable, accessible URL whose content Google can easily crawl and parse.

So we want Googlebot’s spiders to be able to come to this page, to understand the content that’s on there in a text readable format, to understand images and visuals or video or embeds or anything else that you’ve got on the page in a way that they are going to be able to put into their web index. That is crucial. Without it, none of the rest of this stuff even matters.

II. Keyword research

We need to know and to uncover the words and phrases that searchers are actually using to solve or to get answers to the problem that they are having in your world. Those should be problems that your organization, your website is actually working to solve, that your content will help them to solve.

What you want here is a primary keyword and hopefully a set of related secondary keywords that share the searcher’s intent. So the intent behind of all of these terms and phrases should be the same so that the same content can serve it. When you do that, we now have a primary and a secondary set of keywords that we can target in our optimization efforts.

III. Investigate the SERP to find what Google believes to be relevant to the keywords’s searches

I want you to do some SERP investigation, meaning perform a search query in Google, see what comes back to you, and then figure out from there what Google believes to be relevant to the keywords searches. What does Google think is the content that will answer this searcher’s query? You’re trying to figure out intent, the type of content that’s required, and whatever missing pieces might be there. If you can find holes where, hey, no one is serving this, but I know that people want the answer to it, you might be able to fill that gap and take over that ranking position. Thanks to Gaetano, @gaetano_nyc, for the great suggestion on this one.

IV. Have the most credible, amplifiable person or team available create content that’s going to serve the searcher’s goal and solve their task better than anyone else on page one.

There are three elements here. First, we want an actually credible, worthy of amplification person or persons to create the content. Why is that? Well, because if we do that, we make amplification, we make link building, we make social sharing way more likely to happen, and our content becomes more credible, both in the eyes of searchers and visitors as well as in Google’s eyes too. So to the degree that that is possible, I would certainly urge you to do it.

Next, we’re trying to serve the searcher’s goal and solve their task, and we want to do that better than anyone else does it on page one, because if we don’t, even if we’ve optimized a lot of these other things, over time Google will realize, you know what? Searchers are frustrated with your result compared to other results, and they’re going to rank those other people higher. Huge credit to Dan Kern, @kernmedia on Twitter, for the great suggestion on this one.

V. Craft a compelling title, meta description.

Yes, Google still does use the meta description quite frequently. I know it seems like sometimes they don’t. But, in fact, there’s a high percent of the time when the actual meta description from the page is used. There’s an even higher percentage where the title is used. The URL, while Google sometimes truncates those, also used in the snippet as well as other elements. We’ll talk about schema and other kinds of markup later on. But the snippet is something that is crucial to your SEO efforts, because that determines how it displays in the search result. How Google displays your result determines whether people want to click on your listing or someone else’s. The snippet is your opportunity to say, “Come click me instead of those other guys.” If you can optimize this, both from a keyword perspective using the words and phrases that people want, as well as from a relevancy and a pure drawing the click perspective, you can really win.

VI. Intelligently employ those primary, secondary, and related keywords

Related keywords meaning those that are semantically connected that Google is going to view as critical to proving to them that your content is relevant to the searcher’s query — in the page’s text content. Why am I saying text content here? Because if you put it purely in visuals or in video or some other embeddable format that Google can’t necessarily easily parse out, eeh, they might not count it. They might not treat it as that’s actually content on the page, and you need to prove to Google that you have the relevant keywords on the page.

VII. Where relevant and possible, use rich snippets and schema markup to enhance the potential visibility that you’re going to get.

This is not possible for everyone. But in some cases, in the case that you’re getting into Google news, or in the case that you’re in the recipe world and you can get visuals and images, or in the case where you have a featured snippet opportunity and you can get the visual for that featured snippet along with that credit, or in the case where you can get rich snippets around travel or around flights, other verticals that schema is supporting right now, well, that’s great. You should take advantage of those opportunities.

VIII. Optimize the page to load fast, as fast as possible and look great.

I mean look great from a visual, UI perspective and look great from a user experience perspective, letting someone go all the way through and accomplish their task in an easy, fulfilling way on every device, at every speed, and make it secure too. Security critically important. HTTPS is not the only thing, but it is a big part of what Google cares about right now, and HTTPS was a big focus in 2016 and 2017. It will certainly continue to be a focus for Google in 2018.

IX. You need to have a great answer to the question: Who will help amplify this and why?

When you have that great answer, I mean a specific list of people and publications who are going to help you amplify it, you’ve got to execute to earn solid links and mentions and word of mouth across the web and across social media so that your content can be seen by Google’s crawlers and by human beings, by people as highly relevant and high quality.

You do all this stuff, you’re going to rank very well in 2018. Look forward to your comments, your additions, your contributions, and feel free to look through the tweet thread as well.

Thanks to all of you who contributed via Twitter and to all of you who followed us here at Moz and Whiteboard Friday in 2017. We hope you have a great year ahead. Thanks for watching. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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!

The Very Best of the Moz Blog 2017: Our Top 50 Posts

Posted by FeliciaCrawford

Now, I know we technically have a few days left in 2017, but I’m ready to dive head-first into a fond, full-blown retrospective. Each year we look back on what we’ve published, compiling and sharing the pieces you liked best. Normally we divvy it up via various metrics: traffic, 1Metric score, total thumbs up, total comments, the best of YouMoz, and so on and so forth. This year, however, we’re doing things just a little differently.

A lot has changed in the past year…

The way we run the blog has changed in a few significant ways from the days of yesteryear. YouMoz, our user-generated content blog, was retired in the autumn of 2016 (though we hope to resurrect it in another form someday). We reduced our publishing frequency a bit, and refocused our content on core SEO topics after spending 2015 and 2016 branching out into other marketing subjects (like social media and content marketing). We also made some big changes with regards to commenting: we closed comments on posts older than 30 days (they became veritable spam factories), and implemented stricter moderation filters to better catch spammy comments fishing for either a link or easy MozPoints.

And if I’m being completely honest, I don’t think the “Best of” posts from years past have offered you, our beloved readers, as much value as they should’ve. The most excited comments on those posts occur when someone discovers a gem they’d missed, when a post reaches out to you from the masses of online content clamoring for your attention and speaks to you. The way we formerly ranked “the best” resulted in a lot of overlap; the same few posts with lots of thumbs up, a busy comments section, and high traffic overwhelmed the leaderboard.

What criteria now determines “best”?

At the end of 2017, we’re starting fresh. First, I’ve taken our ten most popular blog post categories by traffic — these represent the topics readers are actively seeking information on. Next, I thought about which metric matters most to me when I consider the success of a blog post. Traffic, thumbs, social shares… Nice to see, yes, but they don’t paint a very clear picture of a post’s impact. I found myself returning to my favorite blog post metric again and again: the comments.

A post with a lively comments section can be many things. Perhaps it sparked questions or debate; perhaps the findings were controversial; perhaps it was simply inspiring. Whatever the reason, a heavily commented-on post represents something that struck a chord, that convinced a person to peek out from behind their keyboard shield and contribute a thought, that coaxed a little extra effort and commitment from our community. As a silent lurker myself, I am consistently blown away by the humility, genius, and generosity you all display in the blog comments section every day.

So there we have it: this year’s Best of the Moz Blog 2017 is a list of the top five most-commented posts in the top ten blog categories. That’s fifty unique blog posts throughout the year on a variety of topics, some of which you may have missed. Most blog posts fall into several of our categories, but every post will only be listed once; if it’s hit the top five in a more popular category, I’ve taken it out of the running for the rest. It’s my sincere hope that this list uncovers something useful for you, something that helps make your job and day just a little easier.

Without further ado, let’s get this party started!

(If you’re curious, check out the Best of 2016 and the Best of 2015, too.)


The top 5 Whiteboard Fridays

Whiteboard Friday is far and away our most popular blog category, earning three times as much traffic as the rest. Because it always overlaps with at least one other category, you’re bound to get a tidy grab bag of SEO takeaways with this list!

10 Things that DO NOT (Directly) Affect Your Google Rankings

Rand Fishkin, September 22nd

Thumbs: 85
Comments: 180

What do the age of your site, your headline H1/H2 preference, bounce rate, and shared hosting all have in common? You might’ve gotten a hint from the title: not a single one of them directly affects your Google rankings. In this rather comforting Whiteboard Friday, Rand lists out ten factors commonly thought to influence your rankings that Google simply doesn’t care about.

What Do Google’s New, Longer Snippets Mean for SEO?

Rand Fishkin, December 8th

Thumbs: 100
Comments: 136

Featured snippets and meta descriptions have brand-new character limits, and it’s a huge change for Google and SEOs alike. Learn about what’s new, when it changed, and what it all means for SEO in this episode of Whiteboard Friday. (And this is cheating, but for good measure, you might follow up with Dr. Pete’s official recommendation for meta description lengths in 2018.)

What Links Can You Get that Comply with Google’s Guidelines?

Marie Haynes, January 20th

Thumbs: 68
Comments: 112

If you’ve ever been the victim of a Google penalty, you know how painful it can be to identify the problem and recover from the hit. Even if you’ve been penalty-free thus far, the threat of getting penalized is a source of worry. But how can you avoid it, when it seems like unnatural links lurk around every corner?

In this Whiteboard Friday, we warmly welcome Google penalty and unnatural link expert Marie Haynes as she shares how to earn links that do comply with Google’s guidelines, that will keep your site out of trouble, and that can make a real impact.

7 ‹Title Tag› Hacks for Increased Rankings + Traffic – Whiteboard Friday

Cyrus Shepard, May 5th

Thumbs: 185
Comments: 103

You may find yourself wondering whether the humble title tag still matters in modern SEO. When it comes to your click-through rate, the answer is a resounding yes! In this Whiteboard Friday, we welcome back our good friend Cyrus Shepard to talk about 7 ways you can revamp your title tags to increase your site traffic and rankings.

Comment Marketing: How to Earn Benefits from Community Participation

Rand Fishkin, January 13th

Thumbs: 53
Comments: 97

It’s been a few years since we’ve covered the topic of comment marketing, but that doesn’t mean it’s out of date. There are clever, intentional ways to market yourself and your brand in the comments sections of sites, and there’s less competition now than ever before. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand details what you can do to get noticed in the comments and the benefits you’ll reap from high-quality contributions.


The top 5 posts in On-Page SEO

The results of our recent Moz Blog Reader Survey highlighted on-page SEO as the topic you’d most like to learn about, so it’s not surprising to see that this category sits right under Whiteboard Friday for popularity. There’s an interesting theme that emerges from these top posts: it seems we’re still working on many of the same things, but how we treat them has necessarily changed over time.

How Links in Headers, Footers, Content, and Navigation Can Impact SEO – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, October 20th

Thumbs: 68
Comments: 92

Which link is more valuable: the one in your nav, or the one in the content of your page? Now, how about if one of those in-content links is an image, and one is text? Not all links are created equal, and getting familiar with the details will help you build a stronger linking structure. This Whiteboard Friday covers links in headers and footers, in navigation versus content, and how that can affect internal and external links, link equity, and link value between your site and others.

It’s Time to Stop Doing On-Page SEO Like It’s 2012

Rand Fishkin, February 6th

Thumbs: 84
Comments: 91

On-page SEO has evolved in the past five years. Rand outlines the changes in five succinct tactics: move beyond keyword repetition rules; searcher intent matters more than raw keywords; related topics are essential; links don’t always beat on-page; and topical authority is more important than ever.

The Wonderful World of SEO Meta Tags [Refreshed for 2017]

Kate Morris, April 13th

Thumbs: 46
Comments: 67

Which meta tags are absolutely necessary, which are dependent on your situation, and which should you absolutely ignore or remove? Kate Morris refreshes her original 2010 post on the subject of meta tags, sharing a few new tips and reiterating what’s remained the same over the past 7 years.

Designing a Page’s Content Flow to Maximize SEO Opportunity – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, December 1st

Thumbs: 54
Comments: 48

Controlling and improving the flow of your on-site content can actually help your SEO. What’s the best way to capitalize on the opportunity present in your page design? Rand covers the questions you need to ask (and answer) and the goals you should strive for in this edition of Whiteboard Friday.

How to Do a Content Audit [Updated for 2017]

Everett Sizemore, March 22nd

Thumbs: 49
Comments: 31

Learn how to do content audits for SEO in this comprehensive, updated guide by Everett Sizemore, including tips for crawling large websites, rendering JavaScript content, and auditing dynamic mobile content.


The top 5 posts in Local SEO

Local SEO overlaps with what we think of as traditional SEO in many ways, so it’s not surprising at all to see this category near the top. There’s still a lot of doubt and apprehension, it seems, when it comes to local SEO best practices and what really works, and the top posts in this category reflect that.

Local SEO Spam Tactics Are Working: How You Can Fight Back

Casey Meraz, March 28th

Thumbs: 48
Comments: 75

It’s very clear that spam tactics in Google’s local results are earning higher rankings. In this post, Casey Meraz identifies exactly what spammers are doing to get ahead, what they can get away with, and what you can do to fight back against the problem plaguing local results.

Not-Actually-the-Best Local SEO Practices

Miriam Ellis, December 11th

Thumbs: 47
Comments: 72

Not all common practices in local SEO are the best practices. In fact, some of them can be pretty darn harmful. Check out Miriam’s list of what-not-to-dos (and what-you-should-actually-dos) in this comprehensive blog post.

The 2017 Local SEO Forecast: 10 Predictions According to Mozzers

Miriam Ellis, February 14th

Thumbs: 35
Comments: 67

From Google providing intimate details about businesses to Amazon expanding even further into the local scene, local SEO stood to see a lot of change this year. Check out what the SEOs at Moz had to say about what to prepare for in 2017.

Proximity to Searcher is the New #1 Local Search Ranking Factor

Darren Shaw, February 22nd

Thumbs: 58
Comments: 65

Forget everything you thought you knew about the most impactful local ranking factors — searcher proximity just may be the number-one thing influencing where a local business shows on the SERPs.

How to Perform a Basic Local Business Competitive Audit

Miriam Ellis, August 22nd

Thumbs: 32
Comments: 65

Are you outranked in Google’s Local Pack? Then it’s high time to perform a competitive business audit. Use this example analysis and downloadable spreadsheet to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of multiple businesses and devise a plan to win.


The top 5 posts in Basic SEO

Basic SEO is another category that enjoys a lot of overlap with other topics; perhaps that’s one reason why it’s so popular. This year’s top posts in this category cover a range of subjects, and all are pretty useful for someone learning (or leveling up in) SEO.

Aren’t 301s, 302s, and Canonicals All Basically the Same? – Whiteboard Friday

Dr. Pete, March 3rd

Thumbs: 62
Comments: 69

They say history repeats itself. In the case of the great 301 vs 302 vs rel=canonical debate, it repeats itself about every three months. In this Whiteboard Friday, Dr. Pete explains how bots and humans experience pages differently depending on which solution you use, why it matters, and how each choice may be treated by Google.

How to Prioritize SEO Tasks [+Worksheet]

Britney Muller, September 21st

Thumbs: 41
Comments: 64

An absolute essential if you want to keep yourself from getting overwhelmed, Moz’s own SEO Britney Muller offers five tips for prioritizing your SEO work: setting specific goals, identifying important pages for conversions, uncovering technical opportunities via a site crawl, time management, and providing consistent benchmarks and reporting.

5 Tactics to Earn Links Without Having to Directly Ask – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, July 28th

Thumbs: 71
Comments: 63

Typical link outreach is a tired sport, and we’ve all but alienated most content creators with our constant link requests. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand outlines five smart ways to earn links to your site without having to beg.

“SEO Is Always Changing”… Or Is It?: Debunking the Myth and Getting Back to Basics

Bridget Randolph, July 19th

Thumbs: 56
Comments: 60

We’re so fond of the idea that SEO is hard because it’s always changing. But is that really true? Bridget Randolph challenges a common industry refrain and brings us back to the basics of what’s really important in our work.

How to Target Multiple Keywords with One Page – Next Level

Brian Childs, June 15th

Thumbs: 45
Comments: 56

In this edition of our educational Next Level series, you’ll learn an easy workflow for researching and targeting multiple keywords with a single page.


The top five posts in Link Building

A thousand years from now, when the Space Needle has toppled into Puget Sound and our great-great-great-great-etc. grandchildren are living on Mars, link building will still prove to be one of the most popular subjects on the Moz Blog. And you get a double-whammy of goodness this year, because they just so happen to all be Whiteboard Fridays!

Should SEOs Care About Internal Links? – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, May 26th

Thumbs: 85
Comments: 87

Internal links are one of those essential SEO items you have to get right to avoid getting them really wrong. Rand shares 18 tips to help inform your strategy, going into detail about their attributes, internal vs. external links, ideal link structures, and much, much more in this edition of Whiteboard Friday.

How to Prioritize Your Link Building Efforts & Opportunities – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, February 17th

Thumbs: 73
Comments: 81

We all know how effective link building efforts can be, but it can be an intimidating, frustrating process — and sometimes even a chore. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand builds out a framework you can start using today to streamline and simplify the link building process for you, your teammates, and yes, even your interns.

The 3 Easiest Link Building Tactics Any Website Can Use to Acquire Their First 50 Links – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, September 8th

Thumbs: 81
Comments: 77

Without a solid base of links, your site won’t be competitive in the SERPs — even if you do everything else right. But building your first few links can be difficult and discouraging, especially for new websites. Never fear — Rand is here to share three relatively quick, easy, and tool-free (read: actually free) methods to build that solid base and earn yourself links.

When and How to Use Domain Authority, Page Authority, and Link Count Metrics – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, June 16th

Thumbs: 50
Comments: 71

How can you effectively apply link metrics like Domain Authority and Page Authority alongside your other SEO metrics? Where and when does it make sense to take them into account, and what exactly do they mean? In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand answers these questions and more, arming you with the knowledge you need to better understand and execute your SEO work.

Image Link Building – Whiteboard Friday

Britney Muller, December 15th

Thumbs: 48
Comments: 63

Image link building is a delicate art. There are some distinct considerations from traditional link building, and doing it successfully requires a balance of creativity, curiosity, and having the right tools on hand. In this Whiteboard Friday, Moz’s own SEO and link building aficionado Britney Muller offers up concrete advice for successfully building links via images.


The top 5 posts in Advanced SEO

2017’s top posts in the advanced SEO category cover just about every post type we like to publish (and that you like to read): in-depth case studies, Whiteboard Fridays, best practice advice, and solid how-tos.

[Case Study] How We Ranked #1 for a High-Volume Keyword in Under 3 Months

Dmitry Dragilev, April 19th

Thumbs: 73
Comments: 140

If you’ve been struggling to take the number-one spot in the SERPs for a competitive keyword, take a cue from this case study. Dmitry Dragilev shares his team’s 8-step methodology for ranking first in a popular niche.

How Google AdWords (PPC) Does and Doesn’t Affect Organic Results – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, November 17th

Thumbs: 68
Comments: 89

It’s common industry knowledge that PPC can have an effect on our organic results. But what effect is that, exactly, and how does it work? In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand covers the ways paid ads influence organic results — and one very important way they don’t.

SEO Best Practices for Canonical URLs + the Rel=Canonical Tag – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, July 14th

Thumbs: 62
Comments: 87

If you’ve ever had any questions about the canonical tag, well, have we got the Whiteboard Friday for you. In this episode, Rand defines what rel=canonical means and its intended purpose, when it’s recommended you use it, how to use it, and sticky situations to avoid.

How to Uncover Hidden Keyword-Level Data Using Google Sheets

Sarah Lively, February 13th

Thumbs: 42
Comments: 83

Which keywords are driving your organic traffic? Keyword-level data doesn’t have to be (not provided). Sarah Lively shares a smart solution using two free add-ons for Google Sheets.

How Long Should Your Meta Description Be? (2018 Edition)

Dr. Pete, December 19th

Thumbs: 49
Comments: 76

The end of November saw a spike in the average length of SERP snippets. Across 90K results, we found a definite increase but many oddities, such as video snippets. Our data suggests that many snippets are exceeding 300 characters, and we recommend a new meta description limit of 300 characters.


The top 5 posts in Technical SEO

Technical SEO posts are some of my favorite categories to publish (which is perhaps a strange sentiment coming from a poetry major). The debate that recently raged — about whether it’s necessary or unnecessary for SEO — will always stick with many of us, as will Rand’s excellent Whiteboard Friday rebuttal on the topic.

XML Sitemaps: The Most Misunderstood Tool in the SEO’s Toolbox

Michael Cottam, April 11th

Thumbs: 43
Comments: 83

XML sitemaps are a powerful tool for SEOs, but are often misunderstood and misused. Michael Cottam explains how to leverage XML sitemaps to identify and resolve indexation problems.

JavaScript & SEO: Making Your Bot Experience As Good As Your User Experience

Alexis Sanders, June 20th

Thumbs: 56
Comments: 79

More and more, we’re realizing it’s incredibly important for us as SEOs to understand JavaScript’s impact on search experience. Can search engines see your content and experience your site the way a user does? If not, what solutions can you use to fix it?

Pros and Cons of HTTPS Services: Traditional vs Let’s Encrypt vs Cloudflare

JR Ridley, September 13th

Thumbs: 38
Comments: 78

Thinking about going secure? It’s more important than ever, with Google issuing security warnings for many non-secure sites in Chrome. This comparison of three popular HTTPS services will help you determine the best option for implementing an SSL certification on your site.

Mastering Google Search Operators in 67 Easy Steps

Dr. Pete, March 1st

Thumbs: 82
Comments: 76

Google search operators are like chess – knowing how the pieces move doesn’t make you a master. Dive into 67 examples, from content research to site audits, and level up your search operator game.

Unlocking Hidden Gems Within Schema.org

Alexis Sanders, October 18th

Thumbs: 45
Comments: 69

Schema.org can be a confusing resource if you’re trying to learn how to use and implement structured data. This mini-guide arms you with the right kind of thinking to tackle your next structured data project.


The top 5 posts in Keyword Research

The posts generating the most buzz in our keyword research category seem to revolve around quick yet effective wins and tactical advice. And with time constraints being one of the biggest challenges reported in our Reader’s Survey, it’s really no surprise.

The Lazy Writer’s Guide to 30-Minute Keyword Research

Britney Muller, July 26th

Thumbs: 52
Comments: 54

Keyword research doesn’t have to be a marathon bender. A brisk 30-minute walk can provide incredible insights — insights that connect you with a wider audience on a deeper level. Britney Muller shares several ways to get your keyword research tasks done efficiently and well.

The Keyword + Year Content/Rankings Hack – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, February 10th

Thumbs: 63
Comments: 49

What’s the secret to earning site traffic from competitive keywords with decent search volume? The answer could be as easy as 1, 2, 3 — or more precisely, 2, 0, 1, 7. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand lets you in on a relatively straightforward tactic that can help you compete in a tough space using very fresh content.

3 Tactics for Hyperlocal Keywords – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, February 24th

Thumbs: 63
Comments: 47

Trying to target a small, specific region with your keywords can prove frustrating. While reaching a high-intent local audience is incredibly valuable, without volume data to inform your keyword research, you’ll find yourself hitting a wall. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand shares how to uncover powerful, laser-focused keywords that will reach exactly the right people.

Which of My Competitor’s Keywords Should (& Shouldn’t ) I Target? – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, November 24th

Thumbs: 45
Comments: 44

You don’t want to try to rank for every one of your competitors’ keywords. Like most things with SEO, it’s important to be strategic and intentional with your decisions. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand shares his recommended process for understanding your funnel, identifying the right competitors to track, and prioritizing which of their keywords you ought to target.

NEW in Keyword Explorer: See Who Ranks & How Much with Keywords by Site

Rand Fishkin, October 23rd

Thumbs: 41
Comments: 43

It’s not often that a product-focused post makes our blog’s Best of the Year list, so this is both interesting and heartening to see. We worked really hard to bring better data and more usefulness to Keyword Explorer this year, and y’all left some really kind sentiments in the comments. Thanks for always being here for us, folks! 🙂


The top 5 posts in Content

I won’t say it, I promise. 😉 But content is just as important as ever, and the rather vague advice of “create great content and the rest will come” has certainly gotten a bit exhausting over the years. We’ve made an effort to publish more actionable ways to think about and use content, and it seems like that’s been resonating with you so far!

Refurbishing Top Content – Whiteboard Friday

Britney Muller, February 3rd

Thumbs: 66
Comments: 82

You’ve got top-performing content on your site that does really well. Maybe it’s highly converting, maybe it garners the most qualified traffic — but it’s just sitting there gathering dust. Isn’t there something else you can do with content that’s clearly proven its worth?

As it turns out, there is! In this Whiteboard Friday, Britney Muller shares three easy steps for identifying, repurposing, and republishing your top content to juice every drop of goodness out of it.

What We Learned From Analyzing 1.4 Million Featured Snippets

A.J. Ghergich, January 17th

Thumbs: 48
Comments: 78

From optimal snippet length, to practical application tips, to which queries prefer tables, lists, or paragraphs, learn everything you need to know to supercharge your snippet wins.

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

Rand Fishkin, August 18th

Thumbs: 76
Comments: 65

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 this 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.

Learning to Re-Share: 4 Strategies to Renew, Refresh, and Recycle Content for Bigger Reach

Jen Carney, August 2nd

Thumbs: 31
Comments: 51

You’ve spend too much time and effort on content creation to share it only once. Check out four smart strategies you can implement today to improve the reach of your existing content.

How to Build the Right Content Marketing Strategy for SEO Growth

Alli Berry, November 15th

Thumbs: 30
Comments: 51

Keywords are important for innumerable SEO tasks, but driving your content marketing strategy isn’t one of them. Your strategy should be based on the audience you’re trying to reach if you want your organic traffic to convert.


Paid Search Marketing

While it perhaps seems a little strange for an SEO blog to cover, paid search plays an important part in our digital marketing world, and as reported in our Reader’s Survey, plenty of us wear more than one hat. Here are the top posts from 2017 that generated the most commentary about all things paid:

Do iPhone Users Spend More Online Than Android Users?

Martin Meany, October 11th

Thumbs: 27
Comments: 71

iPhone users tend to spend 3x as much as Android users, according to an analysis of 31 million mobile e-commerce sessions. Digital marketers can capitalize on this revelation via Facebook and AdWords.

Branding Success: How to Use PPC to Amplify Your Brand

Purna Virji, February 21st

Thumbs: 34
Comments: 44

You might be surprised to learn that branding and PPC go hand-in-hand. Find out how to leverage your PPC campaigns to strengthen your brand and win conversions and loyalty from your customers.

No, Paid Search Audiences Won’t Replace Keywords

Kirk Williams, May 30th

Thumbs: 33
Comments: 29

Keywords or audience targeting? Kirk Williams sets out to argue that far from being dead, keywords are still the most useful tool in the paid search marketer’s toolbox.

Paid Social for Content Marketing Launches – Whiteboard Friday

Kane Jamison, September 29th

Thumbs: 31
Comments: 29

Stuck in a content marketing rut? Relying on your existing newsletter, social followers, or email outreach won’t do your launches justice. Boosting your signal with paid social both introduces your brand to new audiences and improves your launch’s traffic and results. In this Whiteboard Friday, we’re welcoming back our good friend Kane Jamison to highlight four straightforward, actionable tactics you can start using ASAP.

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

Purna Virji, March 21st

Thumbs: 30
Comments: 24

Conversational interfaces are becoming more and more popular, but it’s hard to know where to start when it comes to voice search. A $50 PPC budget is enough to jumpstart your voice search keyword list and strategy — learn how in this step-by-step guide.


Top comments by thumbs up

Comments are my favorite blog post success metric, and it simply wouldn’t do if we didn’t honor the folks who contributed the most popular comments in 2017. Thank you, all of you, for sharing your thoughts with the greater Moz and SEO community, and for taking precious time out of your day to make the blog a more interesting and better place. And for all the comment lurkers out there like me, I offer you solemn solidarity and zero judgment (but I’d be delighted to see y’all venture out from behind the screen now and again ;).

1. Praveen Sharma on “10 Things that DO NOT (Directly) Affect Your Google Rankings – Whiteboard Friday” – 58 thumbs up

Short, sweet, accurate, relevant advice is the name of the game. 🙂 We’ve had feedback before that some readers come to the blog for the comments as much as the post itself, and this example shows why. Thanks for sharing your insight, Praveen!

2. SEOMG on “7 ‹Title Tag› Hacks for Increased Rankings + Traffic – Whiteboard Friday” – 42 thumbs up

Much like the above, this comment exemplifies clear, useful examples related to the post topic. You rock, SEOMG!

3. Praveen Sharma on “The 3 Easiest Link Building Tactics Any Website Can Use to Acquire Their First 50 Links – Whiteboard Friday” – 39 thumbs up

Swooping in again with another helpful tidbit to add to the blog post at hand, Praveen’s made it on the Top 10 list twice. We really appreciate your contributions, Praveen!

4. Trevor Klein on “Moz Transitions: Rand to Step Away from Operations and into Advisory Role in Early 2018” – 38 thumbs up

A bittersweet comment that clearly struck a chord with many in our community. Rand, I hope you know how much we all love and appreciate you! And Trevor, thank you so much for your candid and genuine thoughts; you truly spoke for all of us there.

5. Gianluca Fiorelli on “SEO Best Practices for Canonical URLs + the Rel=Canonical Tag – Whiteboard Friday” – 30 thumbs up

Gianluca’s comments on the Moz Blog are legendary; each one is a treasure, a miniature blog post in and of itself. Thank you for sharing your smarts with us, Gianluca!

6. Rand Fishkin on “What Do Google’s New, Longer Snippets Mean for SEO? – Whiteboard Friday” – 28 thumbs up

By using the comments section to clarify a few points about his Whiteboard Friday video and highlight his advice, Rand adds extra value and oomph to the post as a whole… and the community responded. 🙂 Thank you for always leaving 10X comments, Rand!

7. Eric Hahn on “10 Things that DO NOT (Directly) Affect Your Google Rankings – Whiteboard Friday” – 26 thumbs up

The discussion in the thread spurred by this helpful, on-topic comment is the kind of lively, educational back-and-forth we love to witness. Thank you for inspiring folks to ask questions and learn, Eric!

8. Igor Gorbenko on “What Do Google’s New, Longer Snippets Mean for SEO? – Whiteboard Friday” – 25 thumbs up

It makes me really happy that our community has — and rewards — such awesome personality. Igor, thank you for your wit and your insights! ᕕ(⌐■_■)ᕗ ♪♬

9. Tim Soulo on “Moz Transitions: Rand to Step Away from Operations and into Advisory Role in Early 2018” – 22 thumbs up

The blog community definitely resonated with all the heartfelt, personal stories shared on this post. Tim, thank you for sharing!

10. Gianluca Fiorelli on “Comment Marketing: How to Earn Benefits from Community Participation – Whiteboard Friday” – 21 thumbs up

In an incredibly meta turn of events, Gianluca’s comment on our Comment Marketing Whiteboard Friday rounds out the list of 2017’s top comments on the Moz Blog. I don’t think there’s a person on this Internet that’s done a better job of personal comment marketing than Gianluca! 🙂


Here’s to you!

Thank you all, each and every one of you, for helping to keep our little community a thriving, nurturing place to learn SEO, share ideas, and hey, even make mistakes now and again. It’s an honor to have a hand in providing content to such a TAGFEE and brilliant group of people, and I can’t describe how excited I am for all that 2018 will bring.

Let me know in the comments how you liked the change-up this year, what other “Best of” formats or lists you might find helpful, and any other ponderings or thoughts you might have — and thank you again for reading!

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!

Mozzy Good Wishes to You & Yours!

Posted by FeliciaCrawford

As the long holiday weekend draws to a close and we prepare to welcome a brand-new year, we at Moz just want to thank you all for a wonderful, fulfilling year on the blog. Your colorful commentary, delightful debates, thrilling thumbs-up, and vivacious visits have made the past twelve months sparkle and shine (and with that, I’ll bid the alliteration adieu).

Our “card” features a cameo from a little Moz Dog you may recognize: the inimitable Lettie Pickles!

At the Moz HQ, we practice a multitude of holiday traditions. Whether it’s Mozzers gathering in the common room (affectionately named “Roger”) to light candles on the menorah during Hanukkah, trading and stealing gifts for the company-wide White Elephant exchange (someone won a bonafide Commodore 64 this year!), or getting our boogie and our board gaming on at the Moz holiday party, we try to honor this special season with a healthy mix of reverence and good old-fashioned fun.

The folks who come to our blog for digital marketing advice hail from almost every remote corner of the world (we know; we looked at our analytics ;). This week, when things tend to slow down and it’s just a little more difficult than usual to get anyone to reply to your emails, we’d love to invite you to share your own unique tales and traditions in the comments. What’s your favorite way to celebrate, in the office and at home? What mishaps and magical moments alike filled your days, and what’s your resolution for 2018? Let’s take a little breather as we gear up for all the new projects and responsibilities awaiting us just around the corner and share with each other; after all, that’s what being a community is all about! 🙂

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!

3 Creative Ways to Give Your Content Efforts a Boost – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

We know that content is our doorway to earning countless SEO benefits for our sites. Admittedly, though, it’s too easy to get stuck in a rut after one too many content marketing campaigns. In this extra-special holiday edition of Whitebeard Friday (see what we did there?), Rand offers three novel ways to add sparkle to your content creation efforts

https://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/h97523bzt7?videoFoam=true

https://fast.wistia.net/assets/external/E-v1.js

3 way to give your content efforts a boost

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

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to a special Christmas edition of Whitebeard Friday. This week, I wanted to try and help with just a few tactical suggestions on some creative ways to pump up those content marketing campaigns.

I’ve seen that many, many folks in the SEO world, of course, naturally, are investing in content marketing because content is the path to links and amplification and search traffic. Sometimes those content campaigns can feel a little stale or repetitive. So I have some creative ideas, things that I’ve seen some people executing on that I think we might be able to leverage for some of our work.

1. Niche groups

First one, if you can identify in your community these sort of small but vocal niche groups that are . . . when I say your community, it doesn’t have to be people you already reach. It can be people inside the community of content generation and of topical interest around your subject matter. Then help them to amplify their voices or their causes or their pet projects, etc.

So I’ll use the example of being in the foodie and gourmand world. So here’s a bunch of foodies. But this particular tiny group is extremely passionate about food trucks, and, in particular, they really hate the laws that restrict food truck growth, that a lot of cities don’t allow food trucks to be in certain spaces. They have to jump through a bunch of hoops to get licensed. They are not permitted to be permanently in a place for a whole week. Whatever it is, whatever those legal restrictions are. So by serving this small group, you might think that content is way too niche.

The wonderful part is that content is the kind that gets amplified very loudly, very repetitively, that can help you earn links and traffic to this small community. If that community is small and loud and feels like their voices aren’t being heard elsewhere, you can build some great brand advocacy inside that group as well. By the way, I would urge you to be authentic, choose causes that you or your company also care about. Don’t just pick something at random.

2. Products and services

Second, if you can, try and seek out products and services that your audience uses or needs, but that doesn’t actually directly conflict with your business. Then create a resource that lists or rates or ranks and recommends those top choices. We’ve actually done this a few times at Moz. I have this recommended list of agency and consultant providers, but Moz does not compete with any of those. But it’s a helpful list. As a result of listing those folks and having this sort of process around it, many of those people are pumping up that content.

Now here’s another example. Foodie Moz, Foodie Moz sounds like a great domain. I should go register that right after this hat stops hitting me in the back of the head. I don’t know how Santa deals with that. So Foodie Moz presents the best cookbooks of 2017. Now, Foodie Moz might be in the food and recipe world. But it turns out, the wonderful part is cookbooks are something that is used by their audience but not directly conflicting with them.

Since it’s not self-promotional, but it is useful to your audience, the likelihood that you can earn links and amplification because you seem like a non-self-interested party is much greater. You’re providing value without asking anything in return. It’s not like anyone buying these cookbooks would help you. It’s not like you have some ulterior motive in ranking this one number one or that one number two. You’re merely putting together an unbiased set of resources that help your audience. That is a great way to get a piece of content to do well.

3. Content creators

Third, last but not least here, if you can, find content creators who have been very successful. You can recruit them, the people who have had hit pieces, to create content for your brand. In a lot of ways, this is like cheating. It’s almost like buying links, except instead of buying the links, you’re buying the time and energy of the person who creates content that you have high likelihood or high propensity for being successful in that content niche with what they create because of their past track record and the audience they’ve already built.

Pro-tip here. Journalists and media contributors, even contributors to online media, like a BuzzFeed or something like that, are great targets. Why? Well, because they’re usually poorly paid and they are desperate to build a portfolio of professional work. Some of these folks are insanely talented, and they already have networks of people who have liked their work in the past and have helped amplify them.

So if you can use a tool like BuzzSumo — that would be generally what I’d recommend, there’s a few others, but BuzzSumo is really great for this — you can search for, for example, recipes and see the most shared content in the recipe world in, say, the last three months. Then we can identify, “Oh, here we go. This person wrote the hardest recipe challenge gifts. Oh, all right. That did really, really well. I wonder if we can see who that is. Oh look, she does freelance work. I bet she can write for us.”

It’s like cheating. It’s a great hack. It’s a great to way to recruit someone who you know is likely to have a great shot at their work doing well, give them the freedom to write what they want, to create what they want, and then host it on your site. A great way to do content creation, for a decent price, that has a high likelihood of solid amplification.

All right, everyone, look forward to some of your thoughts and tactics. For those of you who celebrate Christmas, a Merry Christmas from all of us at Moz. For those of you who celebrate Hanukkah, happy belated Hanukkah. I know that I’m filming this during Hanukkah, but it’s probably after Hanukkah that you’re seeing it. For those of you who are celebrating any other holiday this year, a very happy holiday season to you. We look forward to joining you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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!

Followerwonk Is Moving On to a New, Loving Home

Posted by adamf

We have exciting news to share with you about our Twitter analytics tool, Followerwonk! For a while now we’ve been looking for a new home for the tool. We’re very pleased to announce that Marc Mims, one of the tool’s original developers, formed a company to acquire it and will continue to operate the popular service under the Followerwonk brand.

A little history

In August 2016, we announced our intention to sell Followerwonk. It’s a useful and powerful application, but since acquiring it in 2012, we discovered that the overlap between users of Followerwonk and users of our core SEO products was smaller than we anticipated. To address that problem, in 2015 we offered it as a separate subscription — part of a larger strategy to extend our services beyond SEO. Last year we made some hard choices, ultimately deciding to refocus our efforts on our SEO core. It was then that we decided to seek a better home for our Twitter analytics tool.

Marc and Followerwonk go way back. As an engineer on the team that originally built and launched the tool, he came on board at Moz in 2012 when Moz first acquired it. He spent his first year on the Moz engineering team working on Followerwonk, and then a year working on Open Site Explorer, after which he returned to Followerwonk to help us relaunch it as a standalone product. In August 2016 we put Followerwonk in a holding pattern while we sought a buyer; during this time, Marc stayed on as a contractor to keep it healthy and operational for existing customers.

When Marc made an offer to acquire the product, it was like everything had come full circle; we were delighted to know Followerwonk will continue in good hands. There are only a few buyers in the world who could bring Marc’s knowledge and passion for Followerwonk to the table.

In the months since August 2016, Marc spent his time making improvements and optimizations to the backend. He has quietly deployed 52 releases of Followerwonk in that time, improving performance and stability. He’s excited to be able to start adding new features now, too.

What does this mean for existing customers?

It means you can expect continued service from the product you love and the addition of new features and capabilities in the future. Moz will continue to host Followerwonk during a transition period while Marc prepares it to run on its own infrastructure. During that time, you can continue to use Followerwonk as you always have.

As Marc and Moz work together to transfer the service, Followerwonk customers should not notice much change; most of the work will be happening behind the scenes. Accounts will be transferred securely, and we will communicate directly with customers if any actions are required.

If you have legacy access to Followerwonk as part of your Moz Pro subscription from before its 2015 relaunch as a separate service, you will continue to have uninterrupted access to the tool through the transition period. Near the end of that period, Marc and Moz will jointly make a special offer allowing you to subscribe to Followerwonk and continue using it after the tool has left Moz’s infrastructure.

The transition period should take between three and six months. During that time, you can access the tool through your Moz login at https://moz.com/followerwonk. Afterwards, you’ll find it at https://followerwonk.com.

We’ll be sure to reach out to all customers and those with legacy access to provide more details well before any changes occur.

Final thoughts

In our hearts and minds, this is absolutely the best possible outcome for Followerwonk. It continues in the hands of a strong engineer, a beloved and respected member of the Moz team, an incredibly TAGFEE person, and someone who knows Followerwonk inside and out. Please join us in wishing Marc great success as he builds a team and a business around Followerwonk, giving it the love and attention it richly deserves.

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!

Use as Directed: A Content Marketing Plan for Robust Business Performance

Posted by Alex-T

The chances that your company invests in a content marketing strategy are very high. Content Marketing Institute revealed that 89% of B2B and 86% of B2C marketers use content marketing, while the money spent on this activity ranges between 26% to 30% of an entire marketing budget.

I believe that spending up to 50% of your overall budget on content marketing needs isn’t too much, if you know how to take advantage of it. Not only will it benefit your brand’s awareness, but it will also help you generate traffic, leads, and sales. My personal experience working with digital businesses has shown that only a few are successful in finding a strategic approach to their content plan. Sadly, most companies practice throwing spaghetti on the wall to see if a piece of content gets any readers.

In this post, you’ll learn how to ensure that every piece of content you create drives traffic, attracts leads, and generates sales. I’ll give you ready-to-use solutions on how you can plan, execute, and measure your content promotion, so that content starts earning your business money.

Disclaimer: If you decide to follow any of my recommendations, make sure to adjust these techniques in accordance to your audience’s interests and your business needs, and test, test, and test again. As we all know, every business is unique, and what’s good for one brand may not be as helpful for another. Remember that blindly following any suggestions and mimicking other brands’ activities may not deliver desirable results.

Numbers don’t lie: Measure how your current content is performing

It’s important to start off your new content marketing campaign by analyzing your current situation. You may discover old content that hasn’t performed well yet, but that has the potential to benefit you with a few changes and a second chance. Working with old content is always a good idea, as the copywriting is already taken care of.

Many marketers don’t understand what’s absolutely required when it comes to measuring a content marketing campaign. Data measurement and analysis can be quite intimidating, especially if you’re just starting out.

Here are two steps to take in order to get some meaningful insights:

1. Figure out how your content ranks in Google and whether it brings you traffic and conversions

To get ahold of this data, you’re going to need a combination of tools.

Start with Google Analytics

The “Landing Pages” report in Google Analytics will show how your pages perform according to the number of impressions, clicks, conversions, and the average position of each page in the search results. To view this report in Google Analytics, your Google Search Console needs to be connected with your Google Analytics account. If you haven’t connected it yet, this data can be viewed directly in Google Search Console via the “Search Traffic” > “Search Analytics” report.

The problem with Google, though, is that it doesn’t give you a page’s exact ranking; it only shows your site’s average position. It also requires you to check each page manually, so you can’t see a bigger picture all at once. Using tools — like SEMrush, SpyFu, Searchmetrics, Ahrefs, SERPstat, etc. — will allow you to see more precise data about your content’s rankings. For example, here’s a screenshot of a Google Analytics report showing a list of keywords for which a specific page appears in the SERPs:

And here’s the same data from SEMrush that allows you to filter pages, export the data, and work with it in a spreadsheet:

2. Find content that can be easily improved/edited to begin bringing value

After completing step #1, you’ll have an all-encompassing picture of your content’s past performance. Geared up with the information you’ve uncovered, find those pages that are showing up in the search results and bringing you clicks and conversions, but that aren’t listed among the top five or ten search results. These pages have a lot of potential to make it to the top of Google. I would recommend checking whether these pieces:

  • Are supported by internal links. The higher the referring article is in the search results, the better it is for you.
  • Are easily discoverable. How long will it take a user to find your article? And I’m not talking only about the number of internal links in your content piece, but also whether it’s featured in a similar content feed on blog posts.
  • Have enough external links. If there are none, then you should definitely consider mentioning your article in one of your next guest posts, or ask your colleagues in the PR department to help spread the word.
  • Have a well-written title and meta descriptions. Sometimes, this is what really affects your click-through rate and, as a result, your traffic.
  • Make a user stay on your page reading longer. If the answer is no, you need to brainstorm what kind of triggers you can add to your page so that your users spend some time browsing around your content. It could be a catchy GIF, educational videos, or product slide presentations.

The needs and wants of your business: Define the right metrics to track your progress

From an early age, we’re taught that there’s a difference between a need and a want, that we only have a few true basic needs, and myriad wants. The same logic can be applied to the business world, but it’s a lot harder to discern and comprehend.

During this stage, you need to select highly meaningful and relevant metrics that align perfectly with your business needs. Please don’t try to use generic metrics — your business may have its own kind of struggles and goals. For some businesses, for instance, a conversion does not equal money. I run a free online conference called Digital Olympus that does not intend to sell anything. For me, a conversion is a registration, and I’ve come to learn that the best conversion for my situation is when a registered user attends my online event. Keep such things in mind at all times!

Another great example of a non-monetary conversion comes from one of my clients. They are a completely free SaaS software for specialists in the agricultural industry. They realized that their conversions aren’t registrations alone, and the reason is quite simple. After carefully analyzing their users’ behavior, they discovered that after a user registers, they aren’t taking advantage of their tool at all. For them, the best conversion is a registered user that is actively involved with their product. Coincidentally, that’s where content marketing can come into play to solve their problems. Their users need help to understand how they can take advantage of the software; adding relevant content to the company’s site will surely add clarity and improve users’ understanding of their product.

When it comes to creating and managing content, it’s always a good idea to see exactly how users interact with it. Do they click on your call-to-action buttons? How many of them read your article in its entirety? All of these metrics are very easy to track if you use Google Tag Manager. It’s a must-have tool, allowing you to track whatever you want without going through the excruciating process of dealing with your dev team. Here’s an excellent post by Simo Ahava that explains which metrics you can track and analyze with the help of GTM.

Have your Google Analytics reports ever shown you something like this?:

img_560d3e8dd6eff.png

If the answer is yes, you must know that elevating feeling of joy and excitement, seeing all these visitors checking out your page. But unless you’re a deliberate YouTuber with a fame complex, you’re not interested in traffic, per se. You want to witness conversions.

The goals of pages that attract traffic but don’t convert, in the majority of cases, don’t match up to the goals of your web visitors. If you haven’t added lead magnets on those pages yet, it should be your top priority, because currently those content pieces aren’t converting your traffic into something tangible.

Don’t neglect the importance of SEO

Yes, it’s definitely important to write meaningful content that will perfectly resonate with your audience — but that’s not all. If you want to bring a steady flow of new visitors with the help of that content, you must optimize each of your posts to make sure that it has a fighting chance to rank on Google.

I highly recommend spending some time researching topics that will increase your chances to rank well. Below are a few ways you can identify them:

1. Find related keywords

Imagine you discovered that keywords related to “content marketing strategy” are the keywords driving the most conversions. Those keywords should be analyzed in order to find other keywords related to that subject. These keywords have proven to mirror your audience’s search behavior the most, and they’re very promising in terms of earning you more paying clients.

One of the easiest ways to find related keywords is to simply check Google’s Autocomplete. You can look for autocomplete suggestions manually or by using tools like AnswerThePublic.com and Keywordtool.io. The latter scans Google Autosuggest and gives you the search volume for each keyword entered. It’s a time-saver.

Another tool worth trying is SEMrush’s Keyword Magic tool. It automatically gives you the most necessary information about a keyword, factoring in metrics such as CPC and volume (basic, but much-needed), keyword difficulty, competition level, SERP features, and exact and broad keyword matches. This tool gathers the data you need and offers a wide range of analysis for both single keywords and groups of keywords.

2. Check the competition level in the SERPs

After you’ve compiled a list of related keywords, it’s time to choose the keywords (e.g., topics for your future articles) that will help you rank higher in Google.

To save time, use a tool like SEMrush’s Keyword Difficulty. It tells you how difficult it will be for you to promote your piece of content based on the domain’s visibility in organic search results. However, the Keyword Difficulty tool doesn’t consider the number of referring domains for the website or page URL you’re trying to look up. Here’s what you can do to make the process of gathering this missing data hassle-free:

  • Begin by collecting the list of domains and pages (URLs) that currently rank in Google for the list of keywords you’ve selected during the previous step. To speed things up, use a tool that allows you to easily export lists of domains and pages.
  • After you collect all the domains and URLs, you’ll need to check the number of referring domains for each of them. Tools like Ahrefs or the Majestic Bulk Backlink Checker will allow you to analyze multiple links at once.
  • Finally, you can get a good understanding of what kinds of keywords have more or less competition based not only on the number of searchers they have, but also on their actual situation in the SERPs.

After these steps are completed, you’ll see how many referring domains each of your content pieces ought to have in order to rank higher. You’ll also be able to identify the number of referring domains by looking at how many links have been acquired by the other pages that currently rank well.

Content promotion that gives short-term results

As I’ve mentioned previously, you need to remember that ranking in Google and attracting organic visitors are among the top goals of any content piece. Ideally, every article you publish on your website should eventually rank well, but you need to give your new SEO campaign some time before it bears fruit. While you’re waiting, you can take advantage of the promotional activities that allow for almost instantaneous results. Depending on your budget and your current rankings, choose one of the following promotional activities that seem most relevant for you.

A. Promote your posts on social media channels

Some people say the world will never be same again thanks to social media. Not sure how to interpret that exactly, but not taking advantage of this powerful channel is reckless! This is a basic and very common way to promote content, and it’s not rocket science to figure out how things work. But let me give you a couple of really actionable tips that will help you to maximize the output:

  1. Create a short video to promote your content. They tend to perform really well on Facebook.
  2. Use GIFs that prove to be very effective. Tools like Canva will help you create them without needing to hire a designer, unless you really want your GIFs to win you an award.
  3. On Twitter, tag users that have recently shared something similar to your content. Search for a term that is related to your article, and you’ll see a list of users who you can tag.
  4. Facebook groups are always a great idea — especially private groups. I recommend researching such groups in advance. Be sure to think of a catchy, unique intro you’ll be able to post to each group. This article explains the benefits of building a Facebook group. Get inspired and get out there to network!
  5. If you want to promote your post on Facebook, make sure that your preview image meets the Facebook Ads Guidelines.
  6. Set up a small ad campaign on Twitter targeting users that have recently shared related content. Use BuzzSumo to find like-minded users.

B. Collect leads

If you choose this way of promotion, then you are going to put in some work. A dull page with “meh”-looking content won’t cut it. You’ll need to prepare something beforehand, something that will look attractive enough to convince a visitor to give you their email. A user is more likely to give you their contact information when they are offered one (or all) of the following options:

  • Exclusive content
  • Content with quotes from or provided by well-known industry experts
  • A webinar with a popular industry expert
  • Useful tools and templates. For instance, it’d be very helpful if a post offered to download a free and ready-to-use content — a promotional plan with a detailed description of all stages and resources one may need to implement a marketing strategy.

In case you don’t have a staff developer to help you with designing and adding a form to your website, there are different online services (like wisepops.com, wishpond.com, popupmonkey.com, or sumo.com) that you can use to create any kind of forms you want.

C. Use remarketing

Typically, only about 30% of visitors are willing to give you their contact details. The remaining 70% read or skim your content, close the tab, and get back to their routine. But you still have a second chance with them. How? The answer is remarketing:

  1. Prepare banners and landing pages that are relevant to your content. These can invite your users to join a webinar or offer an exclusive content. Basically, you can use the same lead magnets that you’ve already integrated into your content page.
  2. Prepare a script to automatically exclude your existing clients and leads from your remarketing campaign. There’s no need to bother them… yet.

D. Use email marketing automation to turn leads into paying clients

If you are somehow collecting leads and aren’t putting them through email marketing funnels, then you might as well just burn the rest of your money. HubSpot will really come in handy here because you can create email marketing funnels based not only on how users interact with your emails, but also on the type of pages your leads have visited. I’ve tried several HubSpot features while working on a few projects in the past, and I couldn’t have asked for a more powerful functionality.

In case you aren’t a Hubspot user, there are other marketing tools that allow you to create email funnels. I’d also suggest involving your leads in as many activities as you possibly can, because every interaction matters and is making them warmer. Ask them to follow you on social media channels. You can also offer some case studies or success stories another client shared about your brand. Real-life cases with your actual clients are very powerful, and the open and click rates of these emails can be a lot higher.

Before you start pushing your products or services to your leads, it’s important to research what brought them to your website in the first place. This is absolutely essential, but sadly, a lot of companies tend to forget to do this research and fail; open rates plummet and users unsubscribe. Don’t let this happen to you.

In conclusion

It’s obvious why some blogs only post a couple of articles a year. What’s the point in creating tons of content that won’t bring any value to the business?

Always keep your SEO goals in mind, and remember that you have to do some preparation in order for them to be delivered accurately and on time. Even short-term results require some leg work. No doubt that, once you’ve adjusted your routine, practiced some of the tactics mentioned above, and are consistent with them, every time you create a piece of meaningful and purposeful content, it will take you less time to manage and promote it.

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!