Writing with Markdown for Better Content & HTML: Why & How To – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by wrttnwrd

Content creation is hard enough without adding bad HTML into the mix. Echoing his recent talk at MozCon, we’re excited to welcome Ian Lurie from Portent, Inc. on this episode of Whiteboard Friday. Learn how to cut out the cruddy code produced from writing in word processors by adopting Markup and text editors as your go-to writing solution.

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Markdown Why and How-to

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Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans. My name’s Ian Lurie. I am the CEO and founder of Portent Inc. I am also the Chief Content Badger there. I’m here today to talk to you about Markdown and how you can use Markdown to avoid all sorts of content and HTML tragedies.

1. The tragedy of content creation

So first thing you’ve got to understand: The one great tragedy of content creation is HTML. If you’re a writer or producer or someone like that and you’re creating content, you always run into the problem of trying to get that blog post live or trying to get that page live or whatever else, and you end up with one of four possibilities.

  • You get bad HTML, because you’re trying to write it yourself and you don’t know how. I’m one of those people, at least I was until recently.
  • You have no HTML at all because you can’t do it, and there’s no one else to do it, so you end up pasting plain text directly into your word processor.
  • You get really slow HTML, because it takes you a long time to punch in all of those tags, or you can find a producer, but it’s going to take a long time to find that producer.
  • You get really bad HTML, because you write in a word processor, like Word or OpenText or something like that, and you save as HTML, which delivers something that would make any decent HTML programmer pretty much weep tears of blood because it looks so horrible. It adds all this extra stuff. It doesn’t render correctly in most browsers, so you don’t want to do that either.

So the problem is: How do you create HTML as a writer, without having it interfere with your writing process, right? You don’t want to be typing stuff in and all of a sudden you have to stop to write in tags. Without slowing things down because you don’t want to have to go back and edit all the HTML either. How do you do that?

2. Yay, markdown!

Well, yay for us, there’s this thing called Markdown, and Markdown was created by a developer who runs a blog called Daring Fireball, and I will link to the Markdown Syntax Guide on that site so you can very easily look at it and see it. It is designed to be a really simple way to write in plain text and, with a few simple characters, tag it so that it will turn into really clean, really good HTML.

The great things about Markdown:

  • You do write in plain text, so any text editor. You can use one on your phone. You can use one on your laptop. It can be TextEdit, Notepad, anything. I’m going to name a specific text editor in a minute that I think is the best one for you to use. But it could be anything, and you can edit it in anything. It’s fully portable.
    • That means it’s really fast, right? Text editors don’t bog down with updates, generally. They don’t run into those kinds of problems, so they run really, really fast.
    • Text is future-proof. When the day comes that we’re no longer reading stuff in text and opening text files, we’ll all be communicating directly head-to-head, and we won’t worry about all this stuff anyway because you won’t need HTML. I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself, but it is future-proof, because 50 years from now you will still be able to open a plain text file.
    • It’s relatively crash-free. I’ve always said I’ve never had a text editor crash. It’s true. I’ve never had one, but as soon as I say that, everybody starts raising their hands and saying, “I had my text editor crash.” Maybe it’s because you’re on Windows. I don’t know. I shouldn’t say that. But it’s relatively crash-free, all right? So it’s much more stable than using a word processor.

So you’ve got all these big advantages. You’ve still got the problem of how are you going to turn it into what you want it to be?

  • Well, Markdown converts to just about anything. If you’re willing to go out and study the tools and learn more advanced things like Pandoc, which I’m not going to really talk about today, you can convert Markdown into Word documents. You can convert them into HTML. You can convert them into slides. I’ve turned them directly into PDFs. You can even do this really fancy typesetting with a piece of software called LaTeX. So there is nothing you can’t do with Markdown.

3. Tools & process

How do you do it? Well, the first thing is you need certain tools to fit a process. Like almost any writing process, you write, you preview, and then you convert. If you do that in Microsoft Word, you use Microsoft Word to do your writing, you use Word to do your preview, and then you convert by either saving the file and giving it to someone else, or converting it to PDF or, and please don’t do this, converting it to HTML.

If you’re doing Markdown…

  • You do your writing in any text editor. I will strongly recommend Atom.io, and you’ll see why in a minute. And I’ll include a link in the text. But just understand Atom.io has many, many advantages. It’s really lightweight. It’s fast. It’s built to handle Markdown, so everything you need is built into it. There’s tons of advantages.
  • Then you preview it. Well, you can use a website called Dillinger.io. You can use a piece of software on the Mac called Marked 2. But the best way is to just use Atom.io, because it has preview built into it.
  • Then you convert it to HTML, and again you can use Atom.io.

I should point out just five to seven days ago, I talked about using a tool called Sublime Text. Sublime Text is excellent for this. I hadn’t fully tested Atom.io yet. I have now, and I’m actually switching. I’ve been using Sublime Text for probably five years now. I’m very sorry Sublime folks, but I’m actually switching to Atom.io, because as a primarily Markdown writer and a very basic text writer, it’s very good for me.

4. Making it work

So now it’s time to actually get to work, right? So you need to go and download Atom.io. Install it. It’s free, by the way. It costs nothing. Did I mention free? Like zero dollars.

  • You start writing. Usually, as soon as I start writing, I…
  • Save my file and then I save it a lot. And again, because it’s a text editor, saving only takes a couple seconds, so it’s much, much easier. You save it whatever you want your file name to be with a .md on the end. The .md tells Atom.io and, by the way, almost any other Markdown-literate tool out there, that this is a Markdown file so that when you open it, it will highlight your syntax correctly. I’m going to get to syntax in a minute, but it will highlight and differentiate between the markup and the actual words and sentences that you’re writing. So it’s very easy to spot that you formatted something as a heading, for example.
  • You do more writing. You keep saving. Always save it. They don’t crash. I’ve never had them crash, but apparently other people have.
  • Then you go to Packages in the menu, click Markdown Preview and you click TogglePreview. Now, you can do that at the very start, and then what you’ll have is two parallel panes where in one pane you’re doing your writing, and in the other one it’s showing you exactly how the page is going to look. Or you can just do it at the end. I do it at the end because it’s distracting. I don’t like seeing how it’s going to look at the same time.
  • You right-click in that preview. You click Copy HTML, and you’ll have flawless HTML. I mean flawless. It even converts little single quotes and double quotes to the correct smart quote, so double left-hand, double right-hand curly quotes, whatever.

5. Syntax

Syntax is really simple. Again, I’m going to link to the syntax. I’m not going to give you the complete course on the syntax. The truth is this is 50% of what you’ll probably need right here.

But just as an example, if you want to do a level one heading, you do a single pound sign or a hash, a space, and then whatever your text is. When you convert it to HTML, it will automatically become H1, heading one, closing H1. Same thing with H2. You just do two hashes. You can imagine what you do for H3. It’s three hashes.

Paragraphs are created automatically. So if you write some text and you hit Enter or return twice, you’ll get a clean paragraph. If you want, by the way, for this to be a hard break instead, then you just do two spaces and then return, and it’ll put a BR there instead of a paragraph.

Lists become lists, and this is one of the toughest things for writers. It was always the thing that slows me down the most is lists are pretty complicated in HTML. Well, here, you just go one, two, three, just normally your text, and when you save it and convert it, it’s going to become order list, list item, list item, list item, closing order list. It’s that easy. If you want to do a bulleted list, you just use asterisks instead. It’ll do the same thing.

Links, I got really excited so I had to add this up here. Links are also really simple and in fact, again, super simplified in Markdown. What you’ve got here is you put your text in brackets, then in parentheses you put your web address. It will convert to a full link with the text as your proper link text. You can do the same thing with images. All you do is add an exclamation mark at the start.

So Markdown really lets you take your skills as a writer, focus on those skills, write really well, and convert it to equally good HTML. Then you’ve got HTML that’s ready to be pasted into WordPress or whatever other system you want, or just to be used as a separate page.

That’s it. I hope you have fun working with Markdown, and please leave any questions you have in the comments and I will get to them and answer them as quickly as I can. Thanks.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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

Posted by jcar7

In the nearly three years the MeetEdgar blog went live, we’ve published more than 250 posts, written over 300,000 words, searched for hundreds of .gifs, and used our own tool to share our content 2,600 times to over 70,000 fans on social media.

After all that work, it seems silly to share a post just once. Nobody crumples up an oil painting and chucks it in the trash after it’s been seen one time — and the same goes for your content.

You’ve already created an “art gallery” for your posts. Resharing your content just lets the masses know what you’ve got on display. Even if hundreds or thousands of people have seen it all before, there’s always someone new to your content.

In a social media landscape that’s constantly changing, building a solid foundation of evergreen content that can be shared and shared again should be a key part of your social media strategy.

Otherwise, your art gallery is just another building in the city.

But wait… aren’t we supposed to be writing fresh content?

Yes! One of the biggest misconceptions about resharing is that it’s a spammy tactic. This is just not true — provided that you’re resharing responsibly. We’ll explain how to do that in just a moment.

Resharing actually does double-duty for your brand. It not only gets the content that you spent your valuable time creating in front of more eyeballs (and at optimal times, if you want to get fancy), it also frees you up to have more authentic, real-time social interactions that drive people to your site from social media — since you’ve got content going out no matter what.

Did we mention that resharing is good for SEO? Moz Blog readers know that the more people engage with a post, the better your blog or site looks to search engines. And that’s only one facet of the overall SEO boost (and traffic boost!) resharers can see.

How resharing impacts SEO

Big brands are probably the most prolific content resharers. Heck, they don’t even think twice about it:

BuzzFeed is a perfect example of the value of repeating social updates, because they don’t necessarily NEED to.

So why do they do it anyway? Because it gets results.

Social sharing alone has an impact on SEO, but social engagement is really where it’s at. Quality content is totally worth the up-front time and cost, but only if it gets engagement! You up your chances of engagement with your content if you simply up your content’s exposure. That’s what resharing does awesomely.

With literally zero tweaks to the content itself, BuzzFeed made each of those social posts above double in value. Chances are, the people who saw these posts the first time they were shared are not the same people who saw them when they were reshared.

But simply resharing social posts isn’t the only way to get more engagement with your content. This post covers how companies large and small do resharing right, and highlights some of the best time-saving content strategies you can implement for your brand right now.

1 – Start at the source: Give old posts a new look

Lots has changed in five years — the world got three new Fast & Furious movies and LKR Social Media transformed from a consulting service into social media automation software.

We’ve done the math: three months is one Internet year and five years is basically another Internet epoch. (This may be a slight exaggeration.) So when we transferred some of our founder’s older evergreen blog posts to the new MeetEdgar blog, we took stock of which of those posts had picked up the most organic traffic.

One thing that hadn’t changed in five years? A blog post about how Vin Diesel was winning the social media game was still insanely popular with our readers:

Screen Shot 2017-07-24 at 11.53.06 AM.pngScreen Shot 2017-07-24 at 11.54.34 AM.png

Writing blog posts with an eye toward making them as evergreen as possible is one of the smartest, most time-saving-est content marketing strategies out there.

There weren’t a ton of tweaks to make, but we gave this popular post some love since so many people were finding it. We pepped up the headline, did a grammar and content rundown, refreshed links and images, updated social share buttons, and added more timely content. The whole process took less time than writing a brand new post, and we got to share it with tens of thousands of followers who hadn’t seen it when it was originally published.

So… check your metrics! Which evergreen posts have performed the best over time? Which have lots of awesome organic traffic? Make a list, do a content audit, and start updating!

2 – Find your social sharing “sweet spot” by repackaging your content

When you read studies that say many social media users reshare social posts without ever clicking through to the content itself… it can be a little disheartening.

Okay, a LOT disheartening.

You’ve probably spent tons of time creating your content, and the thought that it’s not getting read NEARLY as often as it could be is a recipe for content marketing burnout. (We’ve all been there.)

But it’s not all for naught — you might just need to experiment until you find the “sweet spot” that gets people to read and share. One way to do that is to simply repackage content you’ve already written.

The tried-and-true “best of” post offers a reprieve from the content-creation grind while still delivering tons of value to your fans and readers.

Repackaging is best when it reframes your content with a new focus — like rounding up similar posts based on a theme. (You can do this in reverse, too, and turn one great post into a bunch of fresh content to then share and reshare!)

If you can get people to your site, a “best of” post encourages readers to stay longer as they click links for the different articles you’ve gathered up, and engage with content they may never have thought to look up separately.

Most fun of all, you can repackage your content to target new or different subsets of your audience on social media. (More on that in the next section.)

3 – Social shake-up: Reaching and testing with different audiences

“What if the same person recognizes something that I’ve already posted in the past?” you might be asking right about now. “I don’t want to annoy my followers! I don’t want to be spammy!”

Forget about people resharing social posts without reading the content behind the links — most people don’t see your social posts at all in the first place.

This is just one of those uncomfortable facts about the Internet, like how comment sections are always a minefield of awful, and how everyone loves a good startled cat .gif.

That doesn’t mean you should repeat yourself, word-for-word, all the time. Chances are, you have more than one type of reader or customer, so it’s important not just to vary your content, but also to vary how you share it on social media.

Savvy marketers are all over this tactic, marketing two sides (or more) of the same coin. Here are a couple of examples of social sharing images from a Mixpanel blog post:

Option A

Option B

Both Option A and Option B go to the same content, but one highlights a particularly juicy stat (problem statement: “97% of users churn”) and the other hits the viewer with an intriguing subheader (solution statement: “behavior-based messaging”). In this way, Mixpanel can find out what pulls in the most readers and tweak and promote that message as needed.

Pull a cool anecdote from your post or highlight a different stat that gets people excited. It can be as easy as changing up the descriptions of your posts or just using different images. There’s so much to test and try out — all using the same post.

4 – Automate, automate, automate

Remember, your best posts are only as good as the engagement they get. That fact, however, doesn’t mean you have to keep manually resharing them on social media day in and day out.

Unless, of course, you’re into that boring busywork thing.

Automating the whole process of resharing evergreen content saves tons of time while keeping your brand personality intact. It also frees you up to have real-time interactions with your fans on social media, brainstorm new post ideas, or just go for a walk, and it solves the time crunch and the hassle of manually re-scheduling posts, while actually showcasing more of your posts across the massive social media landscape. Just by spacing out your updates, you’ll be able to hit a wider range of your followers.

(This is probably a good time to check whether your social media scheduling tool offers automatic resharing of your content.)

Now, social media automation isn’t a substitute for consistently creating great new content, of course, but it does give your existing evergreen content an even better opportunity to shine.

Win with quality, get things DONE with resharing

It’s noisy out there. The law of diminishing returns — as well as declining social reach — means that a lot of what you do on social media can feel like shouting into the void.

And there’s not a huge ROI for shouting into voids these days.

Responsible resharing is an important part of your overall content marketing strategy. As long as you keep your content fresh, create new quality content regularly, and talk to your fans where and when they’re most active, chances are people won’t see the same thing twice. The data shows you’ll get more clicks, more traffic, and better SEO results — not a bad bonus to that whole “saving lots of time” thing.

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45 Local SEO Pitfalls & How to Avoid Them

Posted by MiriamEllis

localseopitfallfinal.jpg

The classic 1982 Activision game, Pitfall!, was so challenging that most players believed you could only win by running out the 20-minute clock. The real point of this adventure, however, was to gather up all of the treasures before the clock ran out on you.

Isn’t that just like business?

You’ve opened the doors of your local enterprise in hopes of gathering up enough revenue before it’s time to retire, and you’re determined to make enough of a success to secure some dignity in your golden years.

I’m not a professional economist, but I’ve read their statistics on how half of US businesses don’t make it past their 5th year. I’m a local SEO, and what I’ve learned is that to be agile enough to beat the odds, local business owners have to swing over the obvious pitfalls that less savvy competitors are doomed to become mired in. A plumbing company fakes a string of locations by using their siblings’ houses to build citations, a dentist hires a notorious marketing agency to pay global workers for fictitious reviews, an auto dealership takes a quick link building shortcut and ends up with a long-term search engine penalty. Missteps like these can force a local business to bog down, coping with cleaning up mess instead of making a beeline towards lasting success.

I’m a local business fan, and I don’t want to see you fail. So hang on tight to that vine in your local jungle. This is your guide to riding high, right over those bottomless pits.


Business plan

This is all about starting out on the right foot, long before opening day. Avoid these common mistakes before they become deep-seated liabilities.

1. Indistinct name

Consumers need to be able find you via a branded search, looking your business up by name after they hear it mentioned. If you name your men’s clothing shop “Yacht Club,” don’t be surprised if Google shows searchers local marinas instead of a branded result for your business. You can plan to build the kind of authority that lets Google know that people looking up “Banana Republic” are searching for clothing and not a political science lesson, but in your early days, a vague name could slow the growth of your brand recognition and rankings.

2. Limiting name

If your business plan includes growth into other service offerings or other geographic markets, don’t tie yourself to a name that limits you. For example, a new lawn care business in Plano hopes to one day offer full landscaping services and open a second office in Dallas. They’ll find this harder to do if they’ve named their business “Plano Lawn Care.” Be sure your name can encompass future growth. While it’s very smart to use core keywords in your business name, be sure they won’t hold you back in the future.

3. Ineligible location

Don’t make the mistake of believing you can fully market a local business with a PO box or unstaffed virtual office as your public address. Both of these will render your company ineligible to create local business listings, severely limiting your Internet visibility. If you don’t yet have a real office, use your home address and list yourself on only those directories that allow you to hide your address if you have privacy concerns.

4. Undesirable location

You will likely only rank in Google’s local packs for the city in which you’re physically located. If you’re opening a location beyond the borders of a big city you’re hoping to serve, don’t expect to rank locally for big-city searchers. If the success of your business depends on serving a major nearby city, then having an office in that locale is a must. To see Google’s concept of any city’s borders, look it up in Google Maps. Anything outside the red boundary is likely to be out of the running.

5. Filter-sensitive location

In the past, it was considered a best practice to locate your business next to other businesses in the same industry (think of doctors parks and auto rows). Being near this “industry centroid” was believed to be beneficial for rankings. However, since Google’s Possum update rolled out in 2016, a new business located within the same building or block as its competitors may find itself filtered out of the local results. Because of this, you may want to base your business some distance from others in your geo-industry, if possible. Depending on your city or town’s layout, this may or may not be possible to do.

6. Lack of policies

Without clear staff training documentation or customer service policies, you’re likely to earn more negative reviews. A lack of a user-generated content policy for your website may end up in spammy or abusive use of your blog/forum comments or onsite testimonials.

7. Unrealistic expectations

Don’t expect to open your doors on day one and unseat all of your established online competitors on day two. Don’t let any agency persuade you that it will be easy to dominate the local or local-organic results. Your competitors have likely worked long and hard to get where they are, and you’ll need to do the same. Have a realistic plan for financial survival until you reach the point where a good portion of your traffic and transactions are stemming from your web presence. Be prepared to invest in PPC if you want early traffic.

8. Lack of demand

Even the best local SEO in the world isn’t going to be able to make up for a business idea that’s a non-starter. Does your city have need for another laundromat with 5 already available in your neighborhood, another book store with Amazon in the mix, a vegan restaurant when less than 1% of the local population dines that way? Maybe yes, maybe no. Maybe you’ll be able to create the demand with exceptional service and marketing, but don’t expect your local SEO marketer to be able to do it for you. Business research comes first, SEO second.

9. Lack of clarity

If you can’t clearly communicate the value proposition of your business in a few powerful words, you can’t expect your customers or marketers to. Every day, agencies hear from business owners who are unable to verbalize what their business offers that’s valuable to the public. While good marketers can often help a company hone its message for maximum impact, the local business owner must first research their own geo-industry to hit on the realization of what makes their company a desirable community resource. Maybe their service is the fastest in town, their clients’ white teeth cost less, their rooms are the only pet-friendly stays in the city. Whatever the unique selling point is, the business owner needs to be able to say what it is before the consumer or marketer can interpret it for further use.


Website

If you can get your website right the first time around, you’ll avoid the hassle of having to undergo a complete overhaul of your most valuable online asset a year or two down the road.

10. Limiting URL

As with the business name, don’t limit yourself with a domain name that only features one facet of your business if you have plans for future expansion of services or geography. For example, don’t choose a URL like sugarlandmuffler.com if you hope one day to open full-service auto repair garages in Dallas and Houston as well. Choose your domain name with an eye to the future.

11. Strange URL

Know that .com extensions are still the most recognized type of domain name. If you want consumers to easily remember and easily find your website, get a .com whenever possible. When not possible, watch this Whiteboard Friday on choosing domain names for other options.

12. Long URL

Long domain names are harder to type, harder to speak out loud, and may get shortened on social media. Local businesses should aim for a delicate balance between brevity, branding, and keyword usage in choosing a domain name, weighing which factors will ultimately have the most positive impact on the business.

13. Limiting provider

Don’t sign up for any hosting or marketing service that a) limits the size or SEO opportunities of the website you build, or b) results in your business assets being held hostage by a particular provider. For example, a website-builder-type offer that restricts you to having a 10-page website or only 300 words on a page will stifle growth. Similarly, an agency that threatens to undo any work you’ve paid for if you choose to end your contract in future is an undesirable choice. Be sure you are in direct control of your domain, hosting, and website, and that no service you sign up for limits your growth.

14. Limiting technology

Any website development technology that prevents your website from being discovered, crawled or indexed by Google represents a waste of investment. For example, websites built entirely in Flash present technical problems to both search engines and users and should be avoided. Similarly, any website development approach that fails to serve users on all devices (laptop, tablet, mobile, ambient) guarantees a loss of marketing opportunity.

On another note, should you choose to use unusual or unpopular technology to develop your website, future agencies you want to hire may not want to work with you. For example, a site built on Wix might be difficult to fully optimize, and an SEO agency may require you to switch to something like WordPress in order to accept you as a client. Read more about the basics of SEO friendly design.

15. Multi-site approach

The practice of building multiple websites to represent different locations or different services of a business is particularly prevalent in local commerce. This approach often stems from a desire to rank more broadly on the basis of exact match domains, but there are many reasons why this strategy isn’t commonly endorsed by experts, including:

  1. Marketing efforts being spread too thin, divided up across multiple sites instead of concentrated into building a single brand.
  2. Thin or duplicate content resulting from lack of resources needed to manage more than one site.
  3. Possible NAP confusion leading to local ranking problems if the same name, address, or phone number appear on more than one website.
  4. A fundamental dishonesty in which a single business attempts to fool consumers into thinking it’s multiple companies

With rare exceptions, it’s better to pour all your efforts into building a single, powerful local brand on a single, powerful website.

16. Poor content strategy

Local businesses don’t benefit by publishing website content that is insufficient, cursory, unedited, duplicative, or developed solely for the purpose of feeding keywords to search engine bots. At a minimum, each local business should create the basic pages (home, about, contact, testimonials) + a page for each main service they offer and each of their physical locations. Service-area businesses (like plumbers) should develop a page for each of their main service cities. Each page that is built should feature original, thorough, intelligently optimized copy that serves a specific goal.

Beyond the basic pages, each local business should have a plan for ongoing content publication that’s proportional to its level of local/industry competition and consumer demand. This could include on-site blogging, off-site social sharing, and other strategies.

For more on local content development, read:

17. Poor architecture

If the size, complexity, or navigational options of your website are preventing consumers from getting to the pages you’ve built for their use, you’re actively losing opportunities. The larger your site, the more likely it is that you’ll have to research solutions like siloing to maximize discovery of your content by the right users and resultant conversions.

18. Lack of contact info

At minimum, your name, address, and phone number (NAP) should be published on every page of your website, either in its masthead or footer, and you should have a “Contact Us” page highly featured in your main navigation menu. Be sure your complete NAP are the first things presented on the contact page. Phone numbers should be click-to-call enabled for mobile users. Don’t forget thorough driving directions and a map. For larger enterprises, contact information should include options for live chat and after-hours support.

Finally, beware of inconsistencies and typos. Audit the entire text of your website and all of its design elements to catch NAP irregularities. Don’t be “Green Tree Consulting” in your logo and “Green Tree Consultants” on your About page. Your website remains the most authoritative source of information about your business, both in the eyes of consumers and search engines.

19. Lack of CTAs

A page without a call-to-action is a page without a point. A website exists to support the desires of consumers, while simultaneously supporting the objectives of the business. Don’t leave it up to chance that people will intuit which actions you’re hoping they’ll take; tell them in plain, bold language that you’d like them to click for further reading, to make a call, to fill out a form, to attend an event, or to take advantage of a special. Every page of your website, from homepage to landing page to contact page, should feature a totally obvious call to action.

20. Link building shortcuts

Every local business wants to earn links that boost their visibility and ranking strength, but because of the extreme value search engines continue to place on links as a measure of relevance, the temptation to take shortcuts is irresistible to some business owners. A local business might intentionally or accidentally get mixed up in a link farm or get caught buying links. Before you take a risky step that might result in a horrendously costly Google penalty, read our beginner’s guide to good and bad linking practices.

21. Mishandling changes

When fundamental business changes occur, like a rebrand or a move to a new website, failure to adhere to specific best practices can result in a massive loss of rankings, traffic, and transactions. For example, a chiropractor hopes to maintain as much of their Internet visibility as possible while transitioning from their old domain, mychiro.net, to a new one, joneschiropractic.com, but they fail to set up permanent 301 redirects between the two sites and lose all of the former authority they’d built up. When a foundational aspect of your business changes, research proper technical procedures for managing the transition in a way that helps (instead of hurts) your SEO and marketing. Our Moz Q&A forum is an excellent place to search for current best practices, or to ask your own question if you’re a Moz Pro member.


Local business listings

They’re highly visible, highly interactive, and can drive major traffic to your website and your business, but if managed incorrectly, local business listings can end up undermining your entire operation. Take maximum control of your citations to avoid these prevalent problems.

22. Guideline non-compliance

Failure to adhere to a local business platform’s guidelines can result in suspensions and/or public shaming. Guideline violations can be detected both algorithmically and manually, and can be reported to platforms by the public, competitors, and marketers. Google can read street-level signage and can tell if your businesses are located in a series of legitimate commercial offices or in a string of your friends’ houses. Before you list yourself on any platform, know its policies and be sure you stick to them to avoid negative outcomes.

23. NAP inconsistency

Consistency of your listings on the primary data sources is considered the fifth most important local search ranking factor. This means that your name, address, phone number, and website must be accurate and consistent on the majors (Acxiom, Factual, Localeze, and Ingroup) as well as on powerful platforms like Google My Business, Facebook, Apple Maps, Foursquare, Yelp, and Bing. Inconsistencies not only weaken search engines’ trust in the validity of your data, but also misdirect your potential customers. While Google doesn’t look at suite numbers and doesn’t care about differences of abbreviation (st. vs. street), conflicting versions of your NAP must be discovered and corrected ASAP. Try our free Check Listing tool for an instant consistency check.

24. Listing incompleteness

A complete local business listing can feature your name, address, phone number, website, email address, hours of operation, driving directions, images, social media links, videos or video links, additional phone numbers, fax number, attributes, reviews, owner responses, and links to other media like menus. Whether you manage your listings manually or use software like Moz Local to automate distribution of your location data at scale, make sure you fill out as many available fields as possible. This ensures that a customer is given every chance to connect with your business in a variety of ways. Missing data = missed opportunities.

25. Duplicate listings

At their worst, duplicate listings can misdirect consumers, violate guidelines, and divide your ranking strength and reviews among multiple entities. For each physical location you operate, you should have just one listing per platform, unless you qualify for multi-practitioner or multi-department listings. Discovering and resolving duplicates is one of the core tasks of local SEO, and because duplicates can originate from a variety of scenarios (accidental creation, automated creation, business moves, mergers/acquisitions, rebrands, etc.) every business must be on the lookout. Not sure if you have duplicates? Enter your name and zip in the Moz Check Listing tool to begin your search.

26. Wrong focus

Local business listings are critical infrastructure for nearly every local enterprise, but it’s possible to overdo it or to put focus on the wrong platforms. Rule of thumb: Get accurately listed on the major sites that serve all industries and then hand-select a few additional platforms that are authoritative for your industry and geography. Don’t waste effort getting listed on dozens or hundreds of low-level directories that receive little human use or don’t rank for your core terms.

Once you’ve built your core set of listings, have a plan for monitoring them on an ongoing basis, make edits to them as needed, post updates to them where appropriate, and respond to your reviews. Once that’s done, attend to other tasks. If you and your direct competitors each have about 50 citations, you getting another 25 of them from low-quality directories isn’t going to move the ranking, traffic, or conversion needle. Shift focus to something that will.

27. Poor photos

It’s been reported that good photos on your GMB listing will earn you 35% more clicks-to-website and 42% more clicks-for-driving directions. Given that it’s increasingly speculated that user actions influence local rankings, these statistics alone encourage you to select high-quality local business listing photos. Moreover, because many platforms take a crowd-sourcing approach to the imagery that represents your business, it’s important to monitor your listing photos to catch anything that’s inappropriate.

You might choose to hire a Google Trusted Photographer, or, you can use some pro tips like these to go solo in creating the best possible imagery for your business.

28. Map marker misplaced

Google has been known to place map markers in the middle of oceans. If something this peculiar happens to you, your best bet is to report it in their support forum as it could stem from a bug. However, strange map marker locations can also stem from an error on your part, or the placement of your marker in the center of a bunch of zip codes you’ve entered in the GMB dashboard. If the normal process of moving the pin inside your GMB dashboard doesn’t result in a fix, definitely reach out to the forum for support, fully documenting your issue. A misplaced pin can equal totally lost customers.

29. Driving directions wrong

If your map marker is misplaced, your driving directions will be inaccurate, but bad driving directions can result from other scenarios, too. Bad or incomplete mapping on Google’s part has lead to tragic accidents and litigation, but even where no physical peril is involved, incorrect directions should be reported to Google’s forum or via this process to prevent customer inconvenience and loss.

30. Lack of monitoring

Because of the way local data flows across the ecosystem and the way in which many listings are subject to public editing, citations aren’t a one-and-done task. Ongoing monitoring is essential to catch inaccurate data appearing, as well as the appearance of new duplicate listings and the ongoing influx of consumer sentiment in the form of reviews.

The need for ongoing monitoring has led to the development of automated programs like Moz Local which will alert you if core NAP on your Google My Business listing changes, if a new duplicate arises, or if you receive a new review. For larger enterprises and multi-location businesses, the ability to scale monitoring is a major time-saver.

31. Mishandling changes

Rebrands, mergers/acquisitions, moves, change of phone number or website, opening or closing branches, bringing new practitioners aboard… there are many changes the average local business may face, and for each one, there’s a set of correct steps to follow to defend your local rankings. Mishandling changes can result in lost visibility, lost transactions, lost reviews, and more. When your business goes through a transition, big or small, be sure you’ve researched best practices for handling the technical side of it well. Here’s a good place to get started when it comes to your Google My Business listing.


Reviews

Reviews aren’t opt-in. Your customers are telling the story of your business whether you create a profile or not. Reviews impact rankings and can have an incredible effect on the success or failure of your local business… so choose success, with the right strategy.

32. Too few

A business without reviews is like a job applicant without references. 84% of people trust reviews as much as a personal recommendation, and if too few people are recommending your business, a critical piece of your marketing is missing. This looks particularly unappealing when your competitors have earned a good body of positive sentiment. At the same time, Google-based reviews are believed to impact local pack rankings, mainly by sheer numbers but also with a growing emphasis on sentiment. Again, a shortage of reviews = a missing piece of your ranking strategy.

33. Too fast

You need a review acquisition plan, but avoid any tactic that results in a large number of reviews coming in all at once on a single platform — they may be filtered out due to suspicious velocity. Aim for a steady trickle of incoming sentiment instead of a flood.

34. Guideline non-compliance

Each review platform has its own guidelines, and knowing them can make the difference between a healthy online reputation and public shaming. It’s important to know the unique guidelines of the various sites, as some are more stringent than others. Yelp, for example, forbids business owners from asking for reviews, while Google allows it. Across the board, review sites prohibit paying for reviews and conflicts of interest, but if you’re about to launch a new campaign requesting reviews on specific platforms, be sure your strategy won’t lead to review takedowns or being called out by the public or the platform.

35. Lack of acquisition plan

Studies show that 91% of consumers read online reviews, that 82% of people visit a review site because they intend to make a purchase, and that 7/10 customers will leave a review if asked to. And yet, it’s startlingly clear looking at the neglected review profiles of countless local businesses that no plan has been put into place to earn these highly influential assets. While Yelp specifically forbids direct asks for Yelp reviews, most other platforms are fine with it, and each company should try a variety of techniques (time-of-service, email, print, social, etc) for acquiring reviews to find out what works best for them. Without an acquisition plan, the business is opting to forego all of the traffic and transactions that reviews could yield.

36. Lack of monitoring

No big brand would want to face a 33% decline in revenue or the closure of 13% of its stores, but outcomes like these can arise when a business ignores trending consumer sentiment citing problems that require urgent fixes. Reviews provide free quality control data to businesses large and small, and it’s only by monitoring this sentiment on an ongoing basis you can quickly identify emerging problems and step in with solutions that could save the brand. For example, a restaurant chain could notice from reviews that a particular location is suddenly being cited for broken fixtures or long wait times, signaling a need for intervention at that branch.

At minimum, brands large and small must either manually monitor their profiles on a schedule proportional to the daily or weekly volume of reviews they typically receive, or automate the process with software like Moz Local that tracks incoming reviews on the majors.

37. Lack of owner responses

The owner response function offered by many review platforms signifies direct reputation management, free marketing, free advertising, damage control, and quality control all in one feature. And yet, countless local businesses forego the immense power of this capability, allowing the public to have a totally one-sided conversation about their brands with zero company input. It would be impossible to count the number of review profiles out there heaping praise and blame on brands that sit unanswered, without thanks, without apologies or rectification. If your local business prides itself on customer service, it’s essential to integrate reviews and owner responses in your concept of what modern consumer relations look like.

You’d never advocate ignoring an in-store customer who congratulated you or voiced a complaint, but if your business is overlooking owner responses, this is precisely what you’re doing.

38. Poor owner responses

Kudos to every business owner who actively engages with their customer base via owner responses… unless those responses make things worse. Hallmarks of a poor response include lack of apology, lack of accountability, rude language, blame shifting and dishonesty. Here’s a real-world example of an unfortunate owner response that made a bad situation worse, with tips for how a better reply could have saved the day.

One of the most helpful things to remember in crafting owner responses is that as few as 4% of customers may take the time to complain about a problem they encountered with your business. Complaints give you the chance to act, but silence leaves you in the dark about your company’s true satisfaction rating. Complaints, including negative reviews, are invaluable. Treat complainers very, very well.

39. Poor staff training

One revealing survey discovered that 57% of customer complaints relate to poor/absent service and poor employee behavior. The fault here is obvious and lies squarely on the shoulders of the any owner who hasn’t done their due diligence in creating clear customer support documentation, detailed employee guidelines, and regular staff training sessions. Owners must hire people who can be taught to represent the brand well to the public. The viability of your business is in the hands of your staff — hire, train, and support them with this in mind.

40. Review kiosks

Whether it’s okay to set up a device in your shop to ask customers for reviews at the time of service continues to be a local marketing forum FAQ. Google is partly to blame for this, because they’ve changed their position on this practice radically over time. Their current guidelines specifically prohibit review kiosks, and sentiment received in this manner is likely to be filtered out. In fact, there’s anecdotal evidence to support reviews getting removed when left by customers using in-store Wi-Fi, even on their own devices. While you can’t prevent that scenario, formal kiosks shouldn’t be part of your marketing plan. Better to collect emails at the time of service and write to the customer within a few days.


Social media

Consumers expect to be able to contact you via social media with their requests for help, their complaints, and their suggestions. Modern customer service must include social media listening and responsiveness, but take notes from the mistakes other brands have made so that you can avoid them.

41. Poor social skills

Anyone tasked with representing your brand on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, etc. should be familiar with infamous social media “fails” and have the skills to avoid them. Sadly, there have been numerous cases like that of a major auto brand whose marketing agency insulted the city of Detroit with a profane tweet suggesting that locals don’t know how to drive. Your social media expert must constantly guard against typos, poor wording that can be misconstrued, poor timing, and anything that reveals any type of insensitivity to any audience.

42. Guideline non-compliance

Each social platform has its own rules which, if broken, can result in removal of specific content or suspension of your profile. For example, if your local business decides to run a promotion, Facebook forbids the use of personal timelines and friend connections for the event. Failure to familiarize your company and social staff with each platform’s guidelines can result in wasted investments and public embarrassment.

43. Wrong platform

Different social media platforms tend to serve different demographics, and while it’s good to experiment with a variety of communities, knowing usage statistics can be helpful in picking the best places to connect with the most relevant audience. For example, if your business want to publicize a senior discount day it hosts once a week, you’ll likely reach more interested customers on Facebook (used by 36% of US citizens 65+) than on Instagram (used by only 5% of this age group). Similarly, certain industries tend to be natural matches for different platforms, like Twitter for tech-related companies, or Pinterest for businesses with a strong visual component. Be prepared to explore your options so that you’re not wasting efforts on the wrong platform for your specific geo-industry.

44. Neglect

Social media platforms have become a component of customer service, as they are viewed by consumers as a convenient way to contact your business. If you set up a profile on a site where your local community is active, don’t neglect it. Regularly monitor the account for questions and complaints and respond quickly.

45. Selling vs. sharing

If you’re new to social media, the first lesson to learn is that while being helpful, generous, entertaining, and empathetic can win your brand a loyal following, the hard sell is better placed elsewhere. Yes, you can promote your products and specials as part of your social media campaigns, but a business that does nothing but “sell” isn’t going to engage any social community.

Social media, managed properly, can be an immensely powerful environment for local businesses to connect with customers, to learn about their preferences, to become household words in local consumers’ daily lives because of the way the business integrates itself as a go-to resource for a particular type of experience on Facebook, Snapchat, Google Posts, or Twitter. Experimentation and regular practice can point the way to a winning mix of sharing vs. selling over time.


Success ahead!

Marketers know that one of the most important things they teach clients is what not to do. Local search marketing, with its mirror connection to the real world and its real-time pace, is particularly riddled with potential pitfalls. Being human, business owners are entitled to make a few mistakes. It’s okay! Particularly if you recover from them with some grace, good humor, and a determination not to repeat them. But it’s my hope that this article is one you’ll share with clients and team members so that no one gets tangled up in errors that are easy to avoid with a little quiet thought and a great deal of good planning.

By knowing what not to do, your adventure is more than half-won. Wishing you all the treasures and success ahead!

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

Posted by randfish

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

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5 tactics to earn links without having to ask

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week, I’m going to help you avoid having to directly ask for links.

Some people in the SEO world, some link builders are extremely effective. If you go to the Russ Jones School of Link Outreach, you need to make a big list of people to contact, get in front of those folks, outreach them, and have these little success rates. But for some of us, myself included, I just absolutely hate begging people for links. So even though I often produce content that I want people to link to, it’s the outreach process that stops me from having success. But there are ways around this. There are ways to earn links, even from very specific sources, without needing to directly say, “Hey, will you please link to this?” I’ll try and illustrate that.

The problem

So the problem is I think that most of the web at this point is sort of burned out on this conversation of, “Hey, I have this great resource.” Or, “Hey, you linked to this thing which is currently broken and so maybe you’d like to,” or “Hey, I noticed that you frequently mention or link to blah, blah, blah. Well I have a blah, blah, blah like blah, blah, blah.”

Folks I think are just like, “Oh, my God, I hate these SEOs, like I’m so done with this.” Most of these folks, the journalists, the bloggers, the content creators of all kinds start to detest the link requests even when they’re useful, even when they help your success rates. I mean, great success rates.

The world’s best link builders, link outreach specialists, when I talked to agencies, they say, “Our absolute best folks ever hover in the 5% to 10% success range.” So that means you’re basically like, “No. Nope. Nuh-uh. Uh-uh. No way. Sorry. Uh-uh. Yeah, no. Uh, no.” Then, maybe you’ll get one, “Okay, fine. I’ll actually link to you.”

This can be a really demoralizing practice, and it also hurts your brand every time you outreach to someone and have no success. They’re basically associating you with . . . and in fact, there are many people in the SEO world who my only association with them is, gosh, they have asked me for a lot of links over the years. It kind of sucks the souls from people who hate doing it. Now granted, there are some people who like doing it, but you have two options.

Number one, you can optimize the outreach to try and get a higher success rate, to do less damage to your brand when you do this, to make this less of a soul-sucking process, and we have some Whiteboard Fridays on exactly that topic and some great blog posts on that too. But there are ways to build links without it, and today I’m going to cover four and a half of them, because the fifth one is barely a tactic.

5 Tactics to earn links

1. The “I made this thing you’ll probably use”

The first one is the tactic — I’m going to use very conversational naming conventions for these — the “I made this thing you will probably use.” So this is, in effect, saying not, “Hey, I made this thing. Will you link to it?” but rather, “I made this thing and I can have some confidence that you and people like you, others like you, will probably want to link to it because it fulfills a specific need.”

So there’s some existing content that you find on the web, you locate the author of that content or the publisher of that content, and you form a connection, usually through social, through email, or through a direct comment on that content. You have an additional resource of some kind that is likely to be included, either in that particular element or in a future element.

This works very well with bloggers. It works well with journalists. It works well with folks who cover data and studies. It works well with folks who are including visuals or tools in their content. As a result, it tends to work well if you can optimize for one of those types of things, like data or visuals or ego-bait. Or supporting evidence works really well. If you have someone who’s trying to make an argument with their content and you have evidence that can help support that argument, it will very often be the case that even just a comment can get you included into the primary post, because that person wants to show off what you’ve got.

It tends not to work very well with commercial content. So that is a drawback to the tactic.

2. The “You list things like X, I have or I am an X.”

So this is rather than saying, “I would like a link,” it’s a very indirect or a relatively indirect ploy for the same thing. You find resources that list Xs, and there’s usually either an author or some process for submission, but you don’t have to beg for links. You can instead just say, “I fit your criteria.”

So this could be, “Hey, are there websites in the educational world that are ADA-compliant and accessible for folks?” You might say, “Well, guess what? I’m that. Therefore, all of these places that list resources like that, that are ADA-compliant, will fit in here.”

Or for example, we’re doing design awards for pure CSS design, and it turns out you have a beautifully-designed site or page that is pure CSS, and so maybe you can fit in to that particular criteria. Or websites that load under a second, even on a super slow connection, and they list those, and you have one of those. So there’s a process, and you can get inclusion.

3. The “Let me help you with that.”

This can be very broad, but, basically, if you can identify sources and start to follow those sources wherever they publish and however they publish, whether that’s social or via content or broadcast or other ways, if you find those publications, those authors expressing a need or an interest or that they are in the process of completing something, by offering to assist you will almost always get a link for your credit. So this is a way where you’re simply monitoring these folks that you would like to get links from, waiting for them to express some sort of need, fulfilling that need, and then reaping the benefit through that link.

4. The “I’d be happy to provide an endorsement.”

This is sort of a modified version of “I made this thing you’ll probably like.” But instead of saying, “Here’s the thing that you will probably like and maybe include,” you’re saying, “I noticed that you have a product, a piece of content, a tool, a new piece of hardware, some physical product, whatever it is, and I like it and I use it and I happen to fit into the correct demographic that you are trying to reach. Therefore, I am happy to contribute an endorsement or a testimonial.” Oftentimes, almost always, whenever there’s a testimonial, you will get a link back to your source, because they’ll want to say, “Well, Rand Fishkin from Moz says X and Y and Z,” and there’s the link to either my page or to Moz’s page.

5. The “Guest contribution.”

The one you’re probably most familiar with, and it was probably the first one that came to mind when you thought about the “How do I get links without asking for them?” and that is through guest contributions, so guest blogging and guest editorials and authorship of all kinds. There are a few Whiteboard Fridays on that, so I won’t dive deep in here.

But I hope you can leverage some or all of these tactics, because if you hate link building the outreach way, these all have more work that goes into them, but far, far better results than this 5% to 10% as the top. Five to ten percent is probably the bottom range for each of these, and you can get 50%, 75% on some of these tactics. Get a lot of great links from great sources. It just requires some elbow grease.

All right, everyone. Thanks for watching. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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

Posted by BritneyMuller

You, a content marketing ninja, are able to wield immense SEO reach with your content in ways most SEOs (*cough* like myself) can only dream of.

BUT, you’re not leveraging keyword research to your advantage!

The fact that you can discover how many people per month are searching for something, what words they’re using, and what questions they’re asking still blows my mind!

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.


Why keyword research is essential [Case Study]

My previous company, Pryde Marketing, was not founded on out-of-this-world high-quality content. It was founded on leveraging online data strategically for private medical practices.

When we were hired to do keyword research for an MRI company, we discovered that hundreds of people a month were searching “open vs closed mri” but no one was providing any good answers, content, or photos for these searchers.

We decided to create an “Open Vs. Closed MRI” page for our client that, to our surprise, continues to see over double the traffic of the homepage. Plus, it’s brought in over 50k+ unique visitors.

We were not successful because we thought of this content idea.

We were successful because we listened to the keyword data.


5 keyword research hacks in under 30 minutes

Example client: Hunter & Company (Wedding & Event Planning)

Objective: Write better content for their website and assist with digital marketing efforts.

#1: Blog category keyword research

Having five to ten data-driven blog categories can help you rank for popular topics, allow readers to find more relevant content, and help to organize your blog.

Evaluate top industry websites (10 mins)

Identify the most common navigation items and blog categories on leading industry sites.

Top Wedding Site Eval.png

Advanced search operators (3 mins)

While exploring top websites, you can use advanced Google operators to dig deeper.

Example: Bride.com has topic pages like /topic/wedding-beauty. To view all of Bride.com’s topics search this: site:brides.com/topic

Wedding advanced search operator.png

Google Suggest (10 mins)

Google “wedding” and don’t hit enter!

Instead, make note of the drop-down search suggestions. You can also search “wedding a” [don’t hit enter], “wedding b” [don’t hit enter], all the way through to z to get the most popular and/or trending wedding-related searches.

Screen Shot 2017-03-13 at 11.20.18 AM.png

Now that we have aggregated keywords from the above tactics, we have a solid list:

wedding venues, wedding photographers, wedding dj, wedding beauty, wedding videographers, wedding bands, wedding budget, wedding invitations, wedding registry, wedding colors, wedding decorations, wedding party, wedding ideas, wedding cakes, wedding centerpieces, wedding hairstyles, wedding bouquets, engagement rings, wedding dresses, bridesmaid dresses, mother of the bride dresses, wedding rings, flower girl dresses, wedding accessories, wedding jewelry, wedding tuxedos, wedding registry, wedding ceremony, wedding reception, wedding cake, wedding food, wedding favors, wedding flowers

Keep up the pace — we can’t stop here!

Next, let’s determine which categories are most popular by average monthly Google searches.

There are two primary tools to view average monthly search volume (AKA to know how many times a query like “wedding flowers” are searched per month): Google Keyword Planner and Moz Keyword Explorer. (Check out GKP vs. MKE to learn more.)

Google Keyword Planner (5 mins)

Step 1: Paste your saved keyword list into the box under “Enter one or more of the following” and click “Get Ideas”:

Step 2: Evaluate and save search volume data while being mindful of the large search data ranges and limited data:Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 10.09.51 AM.png

Note: Google will occasionally change your keywords to something different; “wedding videographers” was changed to “wedding videos” in this case. It’s important to be mindful of this as you’re deciding on the exact category names.

You should also explore the keywords below your immediate keyword search section. Sort by average monthly searches (highest to lowest) to make sure you aren’t missing any other big category items.

Moz Keyword Explorer (5 mins)

Step 1: Create a new list.

Step 2: Paste your keyword list into the “Enter Keywords” box:

Step 3: Take a quick water break, because KWE will take a minute to gather data. Once the data is in view, sort by and evaluate average monthly search volume:

Woohoo! We reached the finish line with two minutes to spare.

To finalize our blog categories, we need to ask ourselves two things: Which topics are the most popular and the most relevant to a wedding planner site?

With that in mind, you’ve chosen six of the most popular wedding topics and have nested several sub-categories within “Wedding Decorations” — brilliant!

  • Wedding Dresses
  • Wedding Invitations
  • Wedding Photography
  • Wedding Cakes
  • Wedding Venues
  • Wedding Decorations
    • Wedding Flowers
    • Wedding Colors
    • Wedding Centerpieces
    • Wedding Venues

#2: FAQ keyword research

Answering the most commonly searched-for questions about your product/service will provide value to your readers and solidify you as an industry expert.

Here’s how to gather the most commonly asked questions on a topic:

AnswerThePublic.com (10 mins)

Search for your product/service.

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 10.40.06 AM.png

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 10.40.20 AM.png

How cool is this snazzy question wheel?! While the visuals are fun, it’s easier to gather the questions by clicking the top-right yellow “export to csv” button and deleting non-relevant questions in a .csv or Google Sheet.

Moz Keyword Explorer (10 mins)

Step 1: Search and filter “display keyword suggestions” by “are questions”:

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 11.09.02 AM.png

Step 2: Add relevant questions to a new keyword list:

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 11.12.32 AM.png

Step 3: Add relevant AnswerThePublic questions to list:

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 11.06.30 AM.png

Research done!

I wouldn’t worry about evaluating search volume too closely for FAQs because questions are typically more long-tail (meaning they have lower search volume and are usually easier to rank for). In multitudes, these can be very valuable to your site.

Now you can start adding your newly discovered FAQs to an FAQ page (while trying to avoid duplicate types of questions):

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 11.19.47 AM.png

#3: Competitive content research

Evaluate your competitor’s 10 most popular pages on SimilarWeb (5 mins)

This uncovers the specific type of content your audience is interested in. Here are the 10 most popular pages for One Fine Day Events:

Screen Shot 2017-03-16 at 9.14.50 PM.png

Evaluate each of the top pages & gather 3 key takeaways (20 mins)

  1. The most popular “Gallery” page confirms that images are extremely popular in the wedding and event space. Maintaining an optimized gallery and incorporating more images into on-page content should be a top digital marketing priority.
  2. Interestingly, the “Preferred Vendors” page is a Category page! It’s something we should consider implementing on Hunter & Co. It would also be a great link building opportunity (to get vendors to link back to Hunter & Co)… but I digress.
  3. Testimonials are also be a top priority and live off the primary navigation.

Pro tip: Use Google Trends to evaluate seasonal searches and prepare competitive content months before it spikes:

#4: Expand your keyword reach

Expanding your page’s topical content will expand your digital SEO reach. This is why you’ll see definitive guides like Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO ranking so well, and for such a wide range of keywords (~1,665!).

Download MozBar (Chrome add-on) (1 minute)

Step 1: Activate MozBar. Enter in your primary keyword and click “optimize.”

Step 2: Click “On-Page Content Suggestions”:

Step 3: View the 23+ content integration ideas for your webpage:

Decide which topics you want to integrate (5 mins)

You never want to force non-relevant content onto a page for SEO reasons. Instead, look through the topics and think about which would provide value to your readers.

Then, devise a plan to naturally integrate those topics into the page’s content.

Topic integrations for the Hunter & Co. homepage:

  • Wedding Planning Checklist (create a checklist page that’s linked to from homepage)
  • Wedding Vendors (confirms our popular page strategy! Add a page link from the homepage)
  • Wedding Venues
  • Couples

#5: Keep up with Google

We are seeing a big rise in “no-click” Google searches.

No-click searches occur when individuals search for something and find their answer, without ever having to click on a search result.

Example: If you search “Denver weather,” Google will show you an 8-day weather forecast for Denver. Most searchers are satisfied with that and leave, resulting in a no-click Google search.

Image from State of Searcher Behavior Revealed

No-click searches are rising because Google continues to provide searchers answers within search features such as featured snippets (answer boxes), People Also Ask boxes, knowledge graphs, weather forecasts, etc.

Know which search features show up most often for your keywords (5 mins)

Knowing which search features occur most frequently for your product/service-related searches can help you to steal search features by optimizing for them. Keep in mind that if you’re ranking on page one or two of a desired featured snippet search, you’re better positioned to steal that featured snippet than if you were on page 3+.

Remember our FAQs about “wedding planning” above? Twenty-four of 28 questions found in Moz Keyword Explorer have featured snippets (answer boxes) in their search results:

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 11.04.04 AM.png

RealSimple currently has a large featured snippet for “wedding checklist”:

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 11.28.18 AM.png

Looking more closely into that page, you’ll notice RealSimple’s <html> check-box markup and definitive style content.

Brainstorm a better (and more useful) wedding checklist (10 mins)

  • Hire a freelance developer to create a beautiful, printable wedding checklist calendar that, once a reader enters their wedding date, populates with scheduled to-dos.
  • Create an IFTTT (If This Then That) recipe to schedule Google Calendar To-Do Reminders based on the user’s wedding date.
  • Provide a more detailed and more beautiful wedding checklist.

Now, my content marketing ninjas, go forth and tap gloves with a wider audience! Your content deserves it!

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A Beginner’s Guide to Marketing Automation

Posted by Angela_Petteys

To say marketing automation is a complex subject is putting it mildly. On the surface it seems simple enough, but once you get just a little bit deeper into it, it’s overwhelming. Even if you work with marketing automation on a daily basis, it can be hard to describe.

When used correctly, marketing automation can be useful in helping sales and marketing teams do their jobs more effectively so they can reach their goals. But there are also a lot of misunderstandings about what marketing automation is and isn’t. Let’s try to get a better understanding of what marketing automation is and how it can potentially help a business.

What is marketing automation?

Marketing automation is the use of software to deliver personalized messages to customers and leads. The software allows you to create a dynamic series of messages to send to your contacts. The message a person receives is decided by factors you specify, like what their spending habits are, where they are in the buying process, and past interactions they’ve had with your site.

Delivering content that’s tailored to a person’s needs and interests helps build stronger relationships which, in turn, can help increase conversions and revenue. Marketing automation can help you accomplish all these things while streamlining your operations at the same time.

In the broad scope of things, marketing automation incorporates several different aspects of marketing and business development, including email marketing, content development, conversion rate optimization, and lead generation.

The benefits of using marketing automation

By far, one of the biggest benefits of marketing automation is that it helps sales and marketing teams work more efficiently. People love personalized content; sending out personalized emails generates six times more revenue than sending non-personalized emails. But manually sending out customized messages to contacts simply isn’t practical. Marketing automation platforms handle the mundane and repetitive work that goes into delivering personalized content, giving sales and marketing professionals more time to focus on things that are more interesting and challenging.

Not only does marketing automation make it easier to deliver messages, it makes it easier to figure out where people are in the conversion process. Marketing automation programs typically have a lead scoring feature which helps users quickly identify which leads are the most sales-ready.

One of the most common reasons why businesses consider using marketing automation in the first place is because they want to improve their conversion rates and revenues. Marketing automation is a way to encourage customers to stay engaged longer, making it more likely they’ll stick around long enough to convert. On average, companies that use marketing automation have 53% higher conversion rates and an annual revenue growth rate 3.1% higher compared to companies that don’t.

For products and services with longer conversion cycles, marketing automation can also help speed up the process. In one example cited by VentureHarbour, Thomson Reuters was able to reduce their conversion time by 72% by using marketing automation software.

What applications are there for marketing automation?

While marketing automation has several different applications, email messaging and lead generation/nurturing are among the most common.

Yes, email is still relevant as a marketing tool. While it’s easy to say things like “Everybody’s on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram,” it’s simply not true. However, most Internet users do have at least one email address. Email inboxes also tend to move at a slower pace than social media feeds, giving you the best chance at making a direct connection with your contacts. There’s a multitude of ways marketing automation can be used with email:

  • Welcome messages
  • Product retargeting
  • Abandoned cart reminders
  • Personalized product recommendations

And that’s just to name a few.

Many companies use marketing automation to solicit feedback from their contacts, regardless if they’ve converted or not. Whether it’s by sending out surveys or asking people to send comments directly to them, the information they garner can be extremely valuable in guiding changes that will help improve their revenues in the long run.

Given that personalized emails generate so much more revenue than non-personalized emails, marketing automation can be an effective way to nurture your leads. According to Marketo, about 50% of leads in any system are not ready to buy and nearly 80% of all new leads will never become sales. With marketing automation, the goal is to give people something of value when they need it most so that they’re more likely to convert. Effective lead nurturing generates 50% more sales-ready leads at a 33% lower cost. Nurtured leads also tend to make larger purchases than non-nurtured leads.

Marketing automation platforms are also often commonly used to manage social media campaigns, create landing pages, and conduct ongoing A/B testing.

B2B vs. B2C marketing automation

Businesses of all sizes can potentially benefit from marketing automation, but whether a business has a B2B or B2C model is going to have an impact on the type of messaging used in their campaigns. While both types of businesses would have the main goals of improving conversions and revenue, there are differences in how they’ll reach that goal.

B2B sales

B2B sales tend to have longer conversion cycles than B2C sales and often involve products or services that require a more long-term commitment. (Of course, there are some exceptions.) Because of this, B2B messaging has a greater emphasis on long-form content like whitepapers, case studies, and e-books. When major purchases are being considered for a business, multiple people are often involved in the decision-making process, so it’s not always a matter of winning over one person like it is with B2C sales. It’s important for the business with something to sell to establish themselves as an authority in their industry — offering in-depth informational content is a great way to do that.

B2C sales

Since B2C sales move at a faster pace, the content used in their messaging is typically much simpler. For example, Sephora customers aren’t going to be interested in long case studies about a product, but they might appreciate a 30-second video demonstrating how to use a product instead. For B2C companies, the focus tends to be more on brand building and giving customers reasons to come back, so their messaging typically includes things like abandoned shopping cart reminders, personalized product recommendations, and offers tailored to specific types of customers.

Key concepts

Although many different aspects of marketing and business development come together in marketing automation, the whole process is ultimately driven by a few core concepts.

Conversion funnels

A conversion funnel is the process a person takes toward becoming a customer. Now that it’s so easy to find product reviews and shop around, a lot of people don’t just buy things from the first place they see it for sale. Marketing automation is a way to keep people engaged so they’re more likely to convert.

The conversion funnel can be broken down into a few basic stages:

  • Awareness: The customer initially becomes aware of a company, product, or service. It’s too soon for a person to want to make any decisions, but a business has made its way onto their radar.
  • Interest: Not everyone who is aware of a business/product/service is going to have a need for it. At this point, those who are interested will start becoming more engaged by doing things like requesting a quote, signing up for a free trial, following a business on social media, looking for reviews, or reading blog posts and other content on a company’s site.
  • Consideration: By now, a person is familiar enough with a business to know they like what’s being offered. They’re not quite ready to make a decision, but a business is in the running.
  • Action: This is the point where a person decides to convert. You’ve won them over and they’re ready to do business with you.

Ideally, after a person converts once, they’ll be so happy with their decision that they become a repeat customer. But as people move through the conversion funnel, whether they do it once or several times, some of them will always drop out at each level. On average, only 1–5 % of people who enter a conversion funnel actually convert. When people drop out, it’s known as churn, and while some churn is inevitable, marketing automation can help reduce it. By understanding the needs and interests of people at each stage of the conversion funnel, you’re better able to keep them engaged by providing them with the type of content they’re most interested in.

For example, let’s say a company installs vinyl windows and they advertise heavily in the local media. At any given time, a large percentage of the thousands of people who see their ads won’t take any action after seeing one because they either don’t need new windows or because they live in a rental property. No amount of additional messaging will win those people over. But since replacing windows can be very expensive, the people who actually do need them typically spend time doing research to make sure they choose the right type of window and get the best price. If this company were to send additional information about vinyl windows to the people who contact them to get an estimate, they may be able to convince more people to convert.

Feedback loops and metrics

One of the basic laws of physics is that for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. A very similar concept also applies in the world of marketing automation, and it’s known as a feedback loop. When you send a message to a person, the recipient will have some kind of reaction to it, even if that reaction is to do nothing at all. That reaction is part of your feedback loop and you’ll need to pay attention to your metrics to get an idea of what those reactions are.

Feedback loops and metrics are a reflection of how effective your marketing automation strategy is. Whether a person converts, clicks through to your site, ignores the message, flags it as spam, or unsubscribes from your list, that tells you something about how the recipient felt about your message.

When you look at your metrics, you’ll ideally want to see high open rates, clickthrough rates, and maybe even some forwards, since those are signs your content is engaging, valuable, and not annoying to your contacts. Some unsubscribes and abuse reports are inevitable, especially since a lot of people get confused about the difference between the two. But don’t ignore those metrics just because they’re not what you want to see. An increasing number of either could be a sign your strategy is too aggressive and needs to be reworked.

User flow

While conversion funnels refer to the process taken toward converting, user flow refers to the series of pages a person visits before taking an action.

When you have traffic coming to your site from different sources like PPC ads, social media, and email messages, you want to direct users to pages that will make it easy for them to take the action you want them to take, whether it’s buying something, signing up for a free trial, or joining an email list.

You also have to keep in mind that people often have different needs depending on how they arrive at a page, so you’ll want to do your best to make sure people are being taken to a page that would appeal to them. For example, if a person is directly taken to a product page after doing a search for a long-tail keyword, that’s fine since they’re clearly looking for something specific and are more likely to be ready to convert. But someone who clicks on a PPC ad and fills out a form on a landing page is probably going to want more information before they make any decisions, so it’s not time to give them a hard sell.

Workflows

Workflows are where the automation part of marketing automation comes into play. Your workflow is the series of triggers you create to deliver messages. Creating a workflow involves taking yourself through the entire process and asking yourself, “If this happens, what should happen next?”

Workflows can consist of many different triggers, such as how long it’s been since a person has taken an action, interactions you’ve had with a person, or actions they’ve previously taken on your site. Some types of workflows commonly used by retailers include sending discount codes to customers who haven’t made any purchases in a while, reminding people to review products after they’ve had some time to enjoy their purchase, and sending reminders to people who have recently added items to their cart without actually making a purchase.

Important steps in creating a marketing automation strategy

1. Define your goals

This might seem like an obvious point to make, but before you do anything else, you need to decide exactly what you want marketing automation to help you achieve so you can plan your strategy accordingly. Are you trying to generate more leads? Working to build up business from return customers? Trying to boost sales during an off season? Each of those goals is going to require a different strategy, so it’s important to understand exactly what your main objectives are.

2. Identify who to target

Of course it’s important to understand the needs of your customers at all points of the conversion process. But depending on what your main goals are, your time and energy may be best spent focusing on people who are at a specific point of the process. For instance, if you’re not really having a problem with lead generation but you want more people to convert, your time and energy would be better spent focusing on the middle and lower parts of the conversion funnel.

3. Map user flows

By using marketing automation, you’re trying to get people to take some kind of action. Mapping user flow is a way to visualize the steps people need to go through to be able to take that action.

Depending on the way a person arrives at your site, some people might need more information than others before they’re willing to take that action. You don’t want to make people go through more steps than are necessary to do something, but you don’t want to hit people with a hard sell too soon, either. By using state diagrams to map user flows, as recommended by Peep Laja of ConversionXL, you’ll see exactly how people are arriving at a page and how many steps it takes for them to take the desired action.

4. Segment and rate your leads

It’s important to remember that not all leads are necessarily equal in terms of quality. Your database of contacts is inevitably going to be a mix of people who are on the verge of buying, people who are still researching their options, and people who probably won’t convert, so it’s not possible to create broad messages that will somehow appeal to all of those types of people. Rating your leads helps you figure out exactly who needs further nurturing and who is ready to be handed over to a sales team.

The interactions a person has had with your content and the actions they’ve taken on your site can be a reflection of how ready they are to convert. A person who has viewed a pricing page is most likely going to be closer to buying than someone who has simply read a blog post on a site. A person who has visited a site multiple times over the course of a few weeks is clearly more interested than someone who has only visited once or twice in the past year. Marketing automation software lets you assign values to certain actions and interactions so that it can calculate a score for that lead.

Marketing automation also lets you segment your database of contacts to a very high degree so you can deliver messages to very specific types of people. For example, when working with a B2B business, a marketer might want to target messages to people with certain job titles who work at businesses of a certain size. With B2C sales, a retailer might want to segment their lists to give special offers to people who have spent a certain amount of money with the company or send product recommendations to people who live in certain locations.

Building and maintaining a contact database

There’s no easy way around it: Building a high-quality database of contacts takes time. Marketing automation should come into play once you already have a fairly sizeable database of contacts to work with, but you will need to keep adding new names to that database on a regular basis.

One of the most effective ways to build a database of highly qualified contacts is by creating informative content. Blog content is great for providing high-level information, and it helps businesses build trust and establish themselves as an authority in their field. On the other hand, things like whitepapers and e-books are best for attracting people who want more in-depth information on a subject and are more inclined to be interested in what a business is offering, which is why those types of content are usually gated. With gated content, a person’s contact information is essentially the price of accessing the content.

For businesses that offer a service, free trials are an excellent way to get contact information since the people who sign up for them are obviously interested in what’s being offered.

Just say “no” to purchased lists

Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to buy a list of contacts. Purchased lists may give you a quick boost up front, but they’ll work against you in the long run.

First of all, high-quality lists of contacts aren’t for sale. The kinds of lists you can buy or rent are typically full of invalid and abandoned email addresses. Even if a person actually does see your message, they likely either won’t be interested or will be skeptical about doing business with a company they’re not familiar with.

If you were to start sending messages to a list full of contacts of questionable quality, you’ll most likely end up with high bounce rates, lots of unsubscriptions, low open rates, and a whole lot of abuse reports. Email service providers pay attention to those sorts of metrics and if they start seeing them on a regular basis, they’ll view you as a spammer, which will only make it harder for you to get your message to more qualified leads once you have them.

Best practices for marketing automation messaging

Get to the point

Make your point quickly and make it clear. We all have a limited amount of time each day and one thing people have little patience for is long messages. People just want to know what’s in it for them. How would your product or service solve their problem? What’s unique about what you’re offering?

Keep it active

By implementing marketing automation strategies, you’re trying to keep people engaged. Therefore, your messages should be written in an active tone and encourage recipients to take some kind of action, whether it’s downloading a whitepaper, reading a blog post, watching a video, or making a purchase.

Remember where people are in the process

Don’t forget that some types of content will be more appealing than others depending on where a person is in the conversion funnel. People who are just starting to learn more about a company or product are not going to be happy if they get hit with a hard sell, but highly promotional content could potentially be effective on someone further down in the conversion funnel.

Avoid looking spammy

When used correctly, marketing automation is not spam — we’ll talk more about why that is in just a little bit. But don’t give your contacts the wrong impression. Certain things will always look spammy, such as typing in all capital letters, overusing the color red, and using too many links in the body of the message. If you’re going to use symbols in your subject lines or messages, don’t use too many of them. Avoid using words known to trigger spam filters.

If you’re unfamiliar with the CAN-SPAM Act, take some time to learn about what it means for your campaign. Subject lines need to be accurate and not misleading. Companies that send marketing messages through email need to provide a physical mailing address. (PO box addresses are allowed.) You also need to provide an unsubscribe option in all messages and make sure all opt-out requests are honored as soon as possible.

Hone your list

Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to contact lists. One of the key goals for marketing automation is to get your message to precisely the right people. Pay close attention to your metrics so you know who your most qualified leads are and get rid of the ones who aren’t responding anymore. You’re better off with a smaller list of highly qualified leads than with a large list of contacts who don’t care. If it’s been months since a person last opened a message from you, just remove them from your list and focus more on the leads who are more interested.

Misconceptions about marketing automation

It’s impersonal

When done correctly, marketing automation can and should feel personal. In all fairness, it’s easy to understand how people get the wrong impression here — after all, the word “automation” is usually associated with things like computerization and robots. But for a marketing automation strategy to be successful, there needs to be a human touch behind it. Marketing automation simply makes it easier for you to get your message out there. It’s up to you to come up with content that will appeal to people and to create the strategy for getting it out there.

It’s spam

We all know how obnoxious spam is — marketers included. Marketers also understand how ineffective it is. While spam is an unsolicited message promoting something irrelevant to the vast majority of its recipients, the goal of marketing automation is to deliver highly relevant messages to users who clearly express an interest in it.

Unlike spam, marketing automation also frequently involves non-promotional content. Marketing automation messages absolutely can be promotional in nature, but ultimately, the goal is to foster positive relationships by offering something of value — and that doesn’t always involve a hard sell.

You can set it and forget it

This is another case where the word “automation” can give the wrong impression. When you think of something being automated, it’s easy to think you can just set it up, sit back, and let it run on its own. In reality, marketing automation is anything but a hands-off process. Marketing automation needs constant attention and refinement to make sure it’s as successful as possible. Many people use the A/B testing functionality of marketing automation software to run ongoing tests to see which sorts of content, subject lines, design variations, and CTAs people best respond to.

It’s just email marketing

Email is a significant part of marketing automation, but marketing automation isn’t just a new name for email marketing.

First of all, the types of messages involved in basic email marketing and marketing automation are distinctly different. When most people think of email marketing, they’re thinking of broad email blasts that go out to an entire list of contacts, but that’s just what you’re trying to avoid doing with marketing automation. Marketing automation messages are much more fine-tuned to a user’s interests and needs. Although basic email marketing programs do allow for some list segmentation, marketing automation programs allow you to get much more hyper-segmented.

Basic email marketing and marketing automation programs also offer different functionality and insights. While regular email marketing platforms give some basic information about how people interact with your message, marketing automation programs offer more measurable, in-depth insights.

While marketing automation offers a lot of benefits, it’s not going to be an ideal solution for all businesses. For some types of businesses, basic email marketing is all they really need. Studies have shown that marketers often feel like marketing automation software isn’t worth the investment, but many marketers also fail to use it to its full potential or businesses try using it before they have a large enough database of contacts to truly make it worthwhile. Before using marketing automation, the key things to consider are whether or not you have the time and resources to dedicate to training on the software so they can use it to its full potential.

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Optimizing Sites for Featured Snippets with Q&A Content [Case Study]

Posted by NickRebuildGroup

Ranking near the top of the SERPs for short-tail keywords in competitive business verticals can be extremely difficult. Wikipedia, Dictionary.com, and similar sites have the market cornered on ranking at the top of search results. Even if you manage to rank in the first position, there are featured snippets, ads, map packs, and other SERP layouts that are dominating the space as well.

Because short-tail keywords have such broad search intents, it’s in the search engine’s best interest to try and answer questions directly in SERPs. That is the intent of featured snippets. If a search engine is able to answer a user’s query without them leaving the results page, they believe that delivers the best result. And the proliferation of featured snippets is only beginning. According to Search Engine Land, 19.45% of queries will display rich answers (a form of featured snippets) in Google.

A search for “what is orthodontics” in an incognito Google Chrome window displayed the following featured snippet:

orthodontics Google Search.png

This search result satisfies at least one large search intent: “What is orthodontics?” I use this as an example because my agency and I had been trying to get a client to rank for this keyword for some time. They were a dental practice with locations across the US that offered both orthodontic and general dental procedures. We had optimized their locations for their orthodontic procedures, but we wanted to get their non-localized service pages to rank as well in order to draw new patients that may be in the beginning stages of looking for a new orthodontist. But without a local qualifier, it was difficult to get the pages to rank for the short-tail searches.

After a year and change of writing, optimizing, re-writing, and re-optimizing the content — all while building links — we weren’t getting any movement with our organic rankings. It seemed that business websites were not meant to rank for these short-tail keywords. Content creators have long lamented that featured snippets don’t attribute where the content in the SERP comes from, thus leaching traffic away from the site.

We believed that rich snippets in SERPs would become more prominent — especially with mobile and voice search on the rise — and that, even without proper attribution, it would benefit our client to appear in these types of search results, especially if we were able to rank in long-tail, question-oriented searches. If we could rank in a featured snippet, where a potential consumer was asking a question about a service that we provide, it would benefit us to answer that question for them. Not only would we achieve the coveted “zero position,” we would position our client as authorities in their vertical, potentially increasing conversions.

With this in mind, we began developing the strategy that would ultimately lead us to ranking in featured snippet searches.

Q&A content

Question and answer content on websites is fairly standard. Many companies will place Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) content on their sites to help users with any questions they may have instead of answering them directly. Noting the prevalence of featured snippets in SERPs, we used the Q&A format to create new content to find out: a) could we rank for these queries? and b) would it benefit our client to rank in these queries?

Research & content creation

Using SEMRush, we conducted keyword research to find long-tail keywords with high monthly search volumes. Some of the phrases we decided to create the content around were “how long does it take to put on braces,” “how much does Invisalign cost without insurance,” and other similar queries. We also asked our client’s call team and Livechat correspondents to send us the most-asked questions they receive about orthodontics. The questions that the internal teams provided were primarily about pricing and insurance. This information was vital for our new Q&A content, as it allowed us to create answers we knew our users were looking for.

While researching current featured snippets, we gleaned that the content must emphasize the answer, not the answerer. Meaning, the content needed to be straightforward and answer the query without any marketing fluff. We ensured that our headers included the targeted keyword, along with the title tags. Once the content was created, we placed each question in the main navigation bar on the site, with each one leading to a separate landing page.

Link building

As most SEOs will tell you, backlinks are still a very important ranking factor. It was our belief that building links to our new Q&A content would be essential in ensuring that it ranked well. We built links exclusively via sites like Quora and Reddit, the idea being that these are places where people are already asking questions that we can answer as experts, while linking back to our site. In order to avoid spamming, we limited the number of links that we built per month.

Results

After a year of collecting data, we can confidently say that not only were we successful in getting the site to rank for a featured snippet, but traffic to the orthodontics content increased by 46.10%, conversions from the content increased by 235%, and the conversion rate increased by 129.30%.

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs.jpg

Organic sessions to the orthodontic Q&A content

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Organic conversions from orthodontic Q&A content

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs3.jpg

Organic conversion rate from orthodontic Q&A content

The results were even more striking on mobile, where traffic increased by 91.46%, conversions increased by 322.22%, and conversion rate increased by 120.53%.

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs4.jpg

Mobile organic sessions to the orthodontic Q&A content

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Mobile organic conversions from orthodontic Q&A content

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Mobile organic conversion rate from orthodontic Q&A content

Measurement method

For this study we only looked at organic and mobile organic traffic. We also only looked at traffic that landed on our site via the orthodontics content (meaning we only measured users that entered the site via one of the orthodontics pages from an organic source).

Attention metrics

It should be noted that this implementation was not successful in every facet. One of the most important goals for new content is making sure that users engage with it. And at Rebuild Group, we normally measure content engagement through attention metrics: pages/session, average time on site, bounce rate, etc.

Upon collecting the data, we noticed that all attention metrics decreased year over year. Our hypothesis is that because the content is both meant to answer a question and is easily digestible, users were more likely to leave the site after their question was answered. It explains why traffic, conversions, and conversion rate increased so much year over year and attention metrics decreased.

Rankings

Most important to this experiment, we were able to have our site rank in the first position — or zero position — in search results for the query “how long do you wear invisalign a day,” while also ranking on the first page (though not the first position) for other Q&A orthodontic terms.

how long do you wear invisalign a day 3:14:17.png

We started ranking in the first position for this term in mid-January, though we lost the ranking shortly thereafter. We began to consistently rank in the first position in March and are still ranked there as of this writing.

Our belief is that by simply answering the question and including the keyword in crawlable parts of the content, we were able to rank in the first position for one of our targeted Q&A phrases, resulting in a featured snippet.

Conversions

Conversions were measured as the number of contact form submissions sent during sessions where a user entered the site via the orthodontic content. As mentioned above, conversions and conversion rates for all organic and mobile organic traffic increased greatly year over year. However, the effects were not seen until 9 months into the experiment.

When the traffic was measured at 90 and 180 days, organic traffic to the new content was steadily increasing overall and via mobile devices, but conversions and conversion rate had not gone up compared to the previous year. It wasn’t until 270 days in, when we first ranked in the featured snippet SERP, that conversions began to increase.

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs7.jpg

Organic traffic to the orthodontic Q&A content

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs8.jpg

Organic conversions from orthodontic Q&A content

Once we were consistently ranking in the first position for a featured snippet SERP, while also ranking on the first page of SERPs for other queries, our conversions and conversion rates began to greatly increase.

Google Home

As stated earlier, voice search is on the rise. Once we were able to rank as a featured snippet in a targeted SERP, we wanted to see if that featured snippet would affect how Google Home provided an answer to the targeted query:

*Note: This video was recorded on my phone, so the quality is not the best. You may need to turn up your volume to hear the question and answer.

As you can see, Google Home clearly attributes the answer to our client, answers the question, and then sends the user to the Home App, where the answer is again shown:

IMG_1667.PNG

From there they can click through to the site on their mobile device:

IMG_1668.PNG

In the end we drew a strong correlation between the implementation of the Q&A orthodontics content, ranking highly in rich snippet SERPs, and increased conversions and conversion rates. But like all things SEO, there are no definites when implementing this kind of strategy. We implemented content that drove users to a site that offered services they were looking for. Someone searching “how to boil water” is not likely looking to buy new pots and pans. Ultimately, it’s important to know what your users are looking for and cater to their searches. Once you’re able to answer their questions with simple, to-the-point content, the rest is easy.

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