Digital Marketing News: Facebook’s Subscription Groups & Brand Collabs Manager, New URL Tools at Google, & Employee Advocacy Study

Facebook Brand Collabs Manager, Image by Facebook

Facebook tests ‘subscription Groups’ that charge for exclusive content
Facebook has begun testing subscription-based Groups among a select array of users, which now allow Group managers to charge monthly for exclusive content, and which will open up new possibilities to digital marketers when rolled out to all users. TechCrunch

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Google Search Console URL Inspector Tool Is Still Rolling Out
Google has added several features to its beta Search Console that offer greater insight into indexed URLs, including new more detailed crawl, index, and page-serving information, the Internet giant announced this week. SEO Roundtable

Report: Employee advocacy trumps influencer marketing
Employee advocacy has gotten recommendations that are seen as more trustworthy than those of traditional influencers, while the accurate measurement of return-on-investment (ROI) remains a top challenge for social media marketers, according to interesting recent Sprout Social report data. PR Daily

Advertisers will soon have AdWords tools to test & measure creative elements of YouTube video ads
YouTube advertisers will gain a slew of new testing and measurement utilities in Google AdWords (now known simply as Google Ads), when Google rolls out its Video Experiments, Video Creative Analytics, YouTube Director Mix, and Video Ad Sequencing tools, all currently in beta testing but now being made available to an expanded group of digital marketers. Marketing Land

Influencer Marketing Is Going Mainstream With Facebook’s Upcoming Tool, Brand Collabs Manager
With Facebook Brand Collabs Manager, the social media juggernaut has gone all-in with the increasingly important influencer marketing aspect of digital advertising, providing a slate of tools to easily match audience demographics with suitable influencers. AdWeek

Report: Marketing leaders aren’t keeping up with the speed of data
Leveraging customer data and employee empowerment are sizable challenges among marketing leaders, according to new survey data from Forbes Insights and Treasure Data, with just one in four companies reporting that they can adequately leverage their available data. MarTech Today

June 29, 2018 Sprout Social Statistic Image

Facebook opens up Watch to creators & adds video features to take on YouTube
With new additions to Facebook Watch, the world’s biggest social media service goes head-to-head with YouTube, expanding video options to include Facebook Pages, and the ability to monetize videos with an updated Ad Breaks component. Marketing Land

Performance Card In Google My Business
Google has given companies with a My Business account new ways to measure engagement and reach, with its recently-released Performance Cards for Google Maps feature — a move that offers digital marketers expanded analytics capabilities. Search Engine Roundtable

Facebook now running autoplay video ads in Messenger
Facebook has added auto-play inbox video ads to Messenger, which can be hidden but not entirely turned off, offering digital marketers a greater reach potential, the company announced recently. AdAge

Snapchat experiments with sharing ad revenue with creators
Snapchat’s new ad revenue-sharing program has given Snap digital creators a potential monetary boost similar to the benefits offered by YouTube, the platform announced recently. DigiDay

ON THE LIGHTER SIDE:

Marketoonist Social Media Policy Cartoon

A lighthearted look at social media policy, by Marketoonist Tom Fishburne — Marketoonist

NES Classic Edition makes its long-awaited return to retail on June 29 — Venture Beat

Google Earth’s new measuring tool is a fun toy for geography nerds — The Next Web

U.S. reclaims top spot for world’s fastest supercomputer — Venture Beat

TOPRANK MARKETING & CLIENTS IN THE NEWS:

  • Lee Odden — How can you leverage data to transform social strategy? TopRank CEO Lee Odden spoke with Rival IQ’s Seth Bridges on The Data-Driven Marketer — Rival IQ
  • Lee Odden — Are your influencers buying their followers? — Onalytica (client)
  • Lee Odden — Influencers and Media Partners: How to amplify the reach of content — SEMrush
  • Lee Odden — 18 Expert Tips for Running Your First Influencer Marketing Campaign — Databox
  • Lee Odden — Internet Marketing Influencers with the Widest Social Reach [INFOGRAPHIC] — TechWyse

What are your most important content marketing news stories this week?

Thanks for joining us, and please return next week for another array of the latest digital marketing news, and in the meantime you can follow us at @toprank on Twitter for even more timely daily news. Also, don’t miss the full video summary on our TopRank Marketing TV YouTube Channel.

What Do SEOs Do When Google Removes Organic Search Traffic? – Whiteboard Friday

We rely pretty heavily on Google, but some of their decisions of late have made doing SEO more difficult than it used to be. Which organic opportunities have been taken away, and what are some potential solutions? Rand covers a rather unsettling trend for SEO in this week’s Whiteboard Friday.

What Do SEOs Do When Google Removes Organic Search?

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

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re talking about something kind of unnerving. What do we, as SEOs, do as Google is removing organic search traffic?

So for the last 19 years or 20 years that Google has been around, every month Google has had, at least seasonally adjusted, not just more searches, but they’ve sent more organic traffic than they did that month last year. So this has been on a steady incline. There’s always been more opportunity in Google search until recently, and that is because of a bunch of moves, not that Google is losing market share, not that they’re receiving fewer searches, but that they are doing things that makes SEO a lot harder.

Some scary news

Things like…

  • Aggressive “answer” boxes. So you search for a question, and Google provides not just necessarily a featured snippet, which can earn you a click-through, but a box that truly answers the searcher’s question, that comes directly from Google themselves, or a set of card-style results that provides a list of all the things that the person might be looking for.
  • Google is moving into more and more aggressively commercial spaces, like jobs, flights, products, all of these kinds of searches where previously there was opportunity and now there’s a lot less. If you’re Expedia or you’re Travelocity or you’re Hotels.com or you’re Cheapflights and you see what’s going on with flight and hotel searches in particular, Google is essentially saying, “No, no, no. Don’t worry about clicking anything else. We’ve got the answers for you right here.”
  • We also saw for the first time a seasonally adjusted drop, a drop in total organic clicks sent. That was between August and November of 2017. It was thanks to the Jumpshot dataset. It happened at least here in the United States. We don’t know if it’s happened in other countries as well. But that’s certainly concerning because that is not something we’ve observed in the past. There were fewer clicks sent than there were previously. That makes us pretty concerned. It didn’t go down very much. It went down a couple of percentage points. There’s still a lot more clicks being sent in 2018 than there were in 2013. So it’s not like we’ve dipped below something, but concerning.
  • New zero-result SERPs. We absolutely saw those for the first time. Google rolled them back after rolling them out. But, for example, if you search for the time in London or a Lagavulin 16, Google was showing no results at all, just a little box with the time and then potentially some AdWords ads. So zero organic results, nothing for an SEO to even optimize for in there.
  • Local SERPs that remove almost all need for a website. Then local SERPs, which have been getting more and more aggressively tuned so that you never need to click the website, and, in fact, Google has made it harder and harder to find the website in both mobile and desktop versions of local searches. So if you search for Thai restaurant and you try and find the website of the Thai restaurant you’re interested in, as opposed to just information about them in Google’s local pack, that’s frustratingly difficult. They are making those more and more aggressive and putting them more forward in the results.

Potential solutions for marketers

So, as a result, I think search marketers really need to start thinking about: What do we do as Google is taking away this opportunity? How can we continue to compete and provide value for our clients and our companies? I think there are three big sort of paths — I won’t get into the details of the paths — but three big paths that we can pursue.

1. Invest in demand generation for your brand + branded product names to leapfrog declines in unbranded search.

The first one is pretty powerful and pretty awesome, which is investing in demand generation, rather than just demand serving, but demand generation for brand and branded product names. Why does this work? Well, because let’s say, for example, I’m searching for SEO tools. What do I get? I get back a list of results from Google with a bunch of mostly articles saying these are the top SEO tools. In fact, Google has now made a little one box, card-style list result up at the top, the carousel that shows different brands of SEO tools. I don’t think Moz is actually listed in there because I think they’re pulling from the second or the third lists instead of the first one. Whatever the case, frustrating, hard to optimize for. Google could take away demand from it or click-through rate opportunity from it.

But if someone performs a search for Moz, well, guess what? I mean we can nail that sucker. We can definitely rank for that. Google is not going to take away our ability to rank for our own brand name. In fact, Google knows that, in the navigational search sense, they need to provide the website that the person is looking for front and center. So if we can create more demand for Moz than there is for SEO tools, which I think there’s something like 5 or 10 times more demand already for Moz than there is tools, according to Google Trends, that’s a great way to go. You can do the same thing through your content, through your social media, and through your email marketing. Even through search you can search and create demand for your brand rather than unbranded terms.

2. Optimize for additional platforms.

Second thing, optimizing across additional platforms. So we’ve looked and YouTube and Google Images account for about half of the overall volume that goes to Google web search. So between these two platforms, you’ve got a significant amount of additional traffic that you can optimize for. Images has actually gotten less aggressive. Right now they’ve taken away the “view image directly” link so that more people are visiting websites via Google Images. YouTube, obviously, this is a great place to build brand affinity, to build awareness, to create demand, this kind of demand generation to get your content in front of people. So these two are great platforms for that.

There are also significant amounts of web traffic still on the social web — LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc., etc. The list goes on. Those are places where you can optimize, put your content forward, and earn traffic back to your websites.

3. Optimize the content that Google does show.

Local

So if you’re in the local space and you’re saying, “Gosh, Google has really taken away the ability for my website to get the clicks that it used to get from Google local searches,” going into Google My Business and optimizing to provide information such that people who perform that query will be satisfied by Google’s result, yes, they won’t get to your website, but they will still come to your business, because you’ve optimized the content such that Google is showing, through Google My Business, such that those searchers want to engage with you. I think this sometimes gets lost in the SEO battle. We’re trying so hard to earn the click to our site that we’re forgetting that a lot of search experience ends right at the SERP itself, and we can optimize there too.

Results

In the zero-results sets, Google was still willing to show AdWords, which means if we have customer targets, we can use remarketed lists for search advertising (RLSA), or we can run paid ads and still optimize for those. We could also try and claim some of the data that might show up in zero-result SERPs. We don’t yet know what that will be after Google rolls it back out, but we’ll find out in the future.

Answers

For answers, the answers that Google is giving, whether that’s through voice or visually, those can be curated and crafted through featured snippets, through the card lists, and through the answer boxes. We have the opportunity again to influence, if not control, what Google is showing in those places, even when the search ends at the SERP.

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

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

The Minimum Viable Knowledge You Need to Work with JavaScript & SEO Today

If your work involves SEO at some level, you’ve most likely been hearing more and more about JavaScript and the implications it has on crawling and indexing. Frankly, Googlebot struggles with it, and many websites utilize modern-day JavaScript to load in crucial content today. Because of this, we need to be equipped to discuss this topic when it comes up in order to be effective.

The goal of this post is to equip you with the minimum viable knowledge required to do so. This post won’t go into the nitty gritty details, describe the history, or give you extreme detail on specifics. There are a lot of incredible write-ups that already do this — I suggest giving them a read if you are interested in diving deeper (I’ll link out to my favorites at the bottom).

In order to be effective consultants when it comes to the topic of JavaScript and SEO, we need to be able to answer three questions:

  1. Does the domain/page in question rely on client-side JavaScript to load/change on-page content or links?
  2. If yes, is Googlebot seeing the content that’s loaded in via JavaScript properly?
  3. If not, what is the ideal solution?

With some quick searching, I was able to find three examples of landing pages that utilize JavaScript to load in crucial content.

I’m going to be using Sitecore’s Symposium landing page through each of these talking points to illustrate how to answer the questions above.

We’ll cover the “how do I do this” aspect first, and at the end I’ll expand on a few core concepts and link to further resources.

Question 1: Does the domain in question rely on client-side JavaScript to load/change on-page content or links?

The first step to diagnosing any issues involving JavaScript is to check if the domain uses it to load in crucial content that could impact SEO (on-page content or links). Ideally this will happen anytime you get a new client (during the initial technical audit), or whenever your client redesigns/launches new features of the site.

How do we go about doing this?

Ask the client

Ask, and you shall receive! Seriously though, one of the quickest/easiest things you can do as a consultant is contact your POC (or developers on the account) and ask them. After all, these are the people who work on the website day-in and day-out!

“Hi [client], we’re currently doing a technical sweep on the site. One thing we check is if any crucial content (links, on-page content) gets loaded in via JavaScript. We will do some manual testing, but an easy way to confirm this is to ask! Could you (or the team) answer the following, please?

1. Are we using client-side JavaScript to load in important content?
2. If yes, can we get a bulleted list of where/what content is loaded in via JavaScript?”

Check manually

Even on a large e-commerce website with millions of pages, there are usually only a handful of important page templates. In my experience, it should only take an hour max to check manually. I use the Chrome Web Developers plugin, disable JavaScript from there, and manually check the important templates of the site (homepage, category page, product page, blog post, etc.)

In the example above, once we turn off JavaScript and reload the page, we can see that we are looking at a blank page.

As you make progress, jot down notes about content that isn’t being loaded in, is being loaded in wrong, or any internal linking that isn’t working properly.

At the end of this step we should know if the domain in question relies on JavaScript to load/change on-page content or links. If the answer is yes, we should also know where this happens (homepage, category pages, specific modules, etc.)

Crawl

You could also crawl the site (with a tool like Screaming Frog or Sitebulb) with JavaScript rendering turned off, and then run the same crawl with JavaScript turned on, and compare the differences with internal links and on-page elements.

For example, it could be that when you crawl the site with JavaScript rendering turned off, the title tags don’t appear. In my mind this would trigger an action to crawl the site with JavaScript rendering turned on to see if the title tags do appear (as well as checking manually).

Example

For our example, I went ahead and did a manual check. As we can see from the screenshot below, when we disable JavaScript, the content does not load.

In other words, the answer to our first question for this pages is “yes, JavaScript is being used to load in crucial parts of the site.”

Question 2: If yes, is Googlebot seeing the content that’s loaded in via JavaScript properly?

If your client is relying on JavaScript on certain parts of their website (in our example they are), it is our job to try and replicate how Google is actually seeing the page(s). We want to answer the question, “Is Google seeing the page/site the way we want it to?”

In order to get a more accurate depiction of what Googlebot is seeing, we need to attempt to mimic how it crawls the page.

How do we do that?

Use Google’s new mobile-friendly testing tool

At the moment, the quickest and most accurate way to try and replicate what Googlebot is seeing on a site is by using Google’s new mobile friendliness tool. My colleague Dom recently wrote an in-depth post comparing Search Console Fetch and Render, Googlebot, and the mobile friendliness tool. His findings were that most of the time, Googlebot and the mobile friendliness tool resulted in the same output.

In Google’s mobile friendliness tool, simply input your URL, hit “run test,” and then once the test is complete, click on “source code” on the right side of the window. You can take that code and search for any on-page content (title tags, canonicals, etc.) or links. If they appear here, Google is most likely seeing the content.

Search for visible content in Google

It’s always good to sense-check. Another quick way to check if GoogleBot has indexed content on your page is by simply selecting visible text on your page, and doing a site:search for it in Google with quotations around said text.

In our example there is visible text on the page that reads…

“Whether you are in marketing, business development, or IT, you feel a sense of urgency. Or maybe opportunity?”

When we do a site:search for this exact phrase, for this exact page, we get nothing. This means Google hasn’t indexed the content.

Crawling with a tool

Most crawling tools have the functionality to crawl JavaScript now. For example, in Screaming Frog you can head to configuration > spider > rendering > then select “JavaScript” from the dropdown and hit save. DeepCrawl and SiteBulb both have this feature as well.

From here you can input your domain/URL and see the rendered page/code once your tool of choice has completed the crawl.

Example:

When attempting to answer this question, my preference is to start by inputting the domain into Google’s mobile friendliness tool, copy the source code, and searching for important on-page elements (think title tag, <h1>, body copy, etc.) It’s also helpful to use a tool like diff checker to compare the rendered HTML with the original HTML (Screaming Frog also has a function where you can do this side by side).

For our example, here is what the output of the mobile friendliness tool shows us.

After a few searches, it becomes clear that important on-page elements are missing here.

We also did the second test and confirmed that Google hasn’t indexed the body content found on this page.

The implication at this point is that Googlebot is not seeing our content the way we want it to, which is a problem.

Let’s jump ahead and see what we can recommend the client.

Question 3: If we’re confident Googlebot isn’t seeing our content properly, what should we recommend?

Now we know that the domain is using JavaScript to load in crucial content and we know that Googlebot is most likely not seeing that content, the final step is to recommend an ideal solution to the client. Key word: recommend, not implement. It’s 100% our job to flag the issue to our client, explain why it’s important (as well as the possible implications), and highlight an ideal solution. It is 100% not our job to try to do the developer’s job of figuring out an ideal solution with their unique stack/resources/etc.

How do we do that?

You want server-side rendering

The main reason why Google is having trouble seeing Sitecore’s landing page right now, is because Sitecore’s landing page is asking the user (us, Googlebot) to do the heavy work of loading the JavaScript on their page. In other words, they’re using client-side JavaScript.

Googlebot is literally landing on the page, trying to execute JavaScript as best as possible, and then needing to leave before it has a chance to see any content.

The fix here is to instead have Sitecore’s landing page load on their server. In other words, we want to take the heavy lifting off of Googlebot, and put it on Sitecore’s servers. This will ensure that when Googlebot comes to the page, it doesn’t have to do any heavy lifting and instead can crawl the rendered HTML.

In this scenario, Googlebot lands on the page and already sees the HTML (and all the content).

There are more specific options (like isomorphic setups)

This is where it gets to be a bit in the weeds, but there are hybrid solutions. The best one at the moment is called isomorphic.

In this model, we’re asking the client to load the first request on their server, and then any future requests are made client-side.

So Googlebot comes to the page, the client’s server has already executed the initial JavaScript needed for the page, sends the rendered HTML down to the browser, and anything after that is done on the client-side.

If you’re looking to recommend this as a solution, please read this post from the AirBNB team which covers isomorphic setups in detail.

AJAX crawling = no go

I won’t go into details on this, but just know that Google’s previous AJAX crawling solution for JavaScript has since been discontinued and will eventually not work. We shouldn’t be recommending this method.

(However, I am interested to hear any case studies from anyone who has implemented this solution recently. How has Google responded? Also, here’s a great write-up on this from my colleague Rob.)

Summary

At the risk of severely oversimplifying, here’s what you need to do in order to start working with JavaScript and SEO in 2018:

  1. Know when/where your client’s domain uses client-side JavaScript to load in on-page content or links.
    1. Ask the developers.
    2. Turn off JavaScript and do some manual testing by page template.
    3. Crawl using a JavaScript crawler.
  2. Check to see if GoogleBot is seeing content the way we intend it to.
    1. Google’s mobile friendliness checker.
    2. Doing a site:search for visible content on the page.
    3. Crawl using a JavaScript crawler.
  3. Give an ideal recommendation to client.
    1. Server-side rendering.
    2. Hybrid solutions (isomorphic).
    3. Not AJAX crawling.

Further resources

I’m really interested to hear about any of your experiences with JavaScript and SEO. What are some examples of things that have worked well for you? What about things that haven’t worked so well? If you’ve implemented an isomorphic setup, I’m curious to hear how that’s impacted how Googlebot sees your site.

CMWorld Interview: Path to 1M Monthly Readers Has No Shortcuts, Says J.P. Medved

In her introduction to The Ultimate Guide to Conquering Content Marketing, Content Marketing Institute’s Cathy McPhillips draws several commonalities between content marketing and video games: the interactivity, the trial-and-error learnings, the camradery.

But, while many marketers have their own personal “cheat codes” that help them gain an edge, there are no true hacks in content. Certain video games allow you to tap in a series of commands and gain invincibility, or jump ahead to the next level. Content marketers, however, cannot magically produce an audience or monetization out of thin air.

As the Content Director for Capterra, and also an avowed lover of gaming, J.P. Medved understands this reality. His company’s industry-specific blogs have grown to 1 million monthly readers, and it wasn’t because of any secret elixir.

Instead, Capterra’s success owes to a proven, adoptable strategy tethered to the fundamentals of organization, goals, promotion, and experimentation. Medved will explain this formula in-depth during his Content Marketing World session, Better Than Hacks and Schemes: A Proven Approach to Building Your Audience, and was also kind enough to share some insights with us ahead of the September event.    

Medved has a reputation for being sharply honest and entertaining, and those traits definitely came through during our interview with him. Keep reading to find his thoughts on silent content, scalability, documenting strategies, and content marketing lessons learned from his experience writing fiction.

What does your role as Content Marketing Director at Capterra entail? What are your main areas of focus and key priorities?

My day-to-day as a Content Director involves a lot of email and meetings, at this point. We’ve grown to a team of nine writers, six of whom I manage directly, so a lot of my time is devoted to supporting them. I join monthly topic planning meetings with all of them, as well as frequent check-ins with the editors and the marketing folks that support the content we produce. I also now spend a fair amount of time in our analytics and various content management systems just checking in and tracking things.

As we’ve grown—and I suspect this is common in most roles—I’ve transitioned away from being a content producer, to being a content manager. I no longer write content myself, and we centralized editing early last year so I no longer edit individual pieces either. Instead I spend more time coordinating long-term content plans and calendars with other teams in the business, managing content experiments or helping new projects get off the ground, and working with the folks on my team to help advance their career goals.

Why should content marketers beware of “hacks” and shortcuts when it comes to growing their audience and impact?

The content marketing world, and the digital marketing space more generally, loves the idea of the Cinderella story. That blog that hits everything just right and experiences exponential, “hockey stick” growth and also there’s a royal wedding involved somehow. But our experience, and that of the vast majority of successful content marketing operations I’m aware of, is actually a lot more boring.

Jimmy Daley of the great animalz.co blog calls it “silent content;” that company that has just been plugging away and producing and refining great content for years, and grown a consistent, large audience and strong search position.  

With Capterra’s content, we’ve grown to a million readers a month, writing in an ostensibly boring, B2B software space, and we never had a breakout “viral” hit, or flashy media coverage, or exponential traffic growth (it’s all been linear). We’ve just been working away at it since 2013, publishing consistently and getting a little bit better each month.

I think if you waste all your time and energy chasing new “hacks” and shortcuts sold to you by whatever case study is making the rounds on YouMoz that week, you never get really good at the fundamentals of content marketing; the block-and-tackle of creating and promoting really great, helpful—if unassuming—content. As a result your growth, though it may experience the occasional spike, will actually slow and it’ll take you more time to build a sustainable traffic base in the long-run.

If you waste all your time and energy chasing new “hacks” & shortcuts, you never get really good at the fundamentals of content marketing. @rizzleJPizzle #CMWorld Click To Tweet

What are the most pivotal roles in developing an effective and scalable content strategy?

Scalability is still something we struggle with, having grown the team 6X in the last four years. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is actually to bring on/promote other managers earlier than you think you need it. Assuming an average writer production schedule of two, 1,500 word articles a week, a full-time manager can effectively manage and edit 3-4 writers. If they’re not editing (you bring in a centralized editing team, or use a round-robin method, or delegate to senior writers), that number goes up to 6-7.  

But you should have someone in place to help you well before you hit that number, not only to give them time to ramp-up and learn management skills, but also to allow you to plan effectively for new hires and content coverage growth.

The biggest lesson content I’ve learned is actually to bring on/promote other managers earlier than you think you need it. @rizzleJPizzle #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Why is experimentation so critical in the content creation process?

Most of our content fails. Like, over 90% of it. And that’s not at all uncommon in the content marketing world. If everyone knew the exact ingredients to a “viral” content piece, that’s all anyone would produce. But we don’t know. Pieces I think will do really well, more-often-than-not sink without a trace, and pieces that seem like throwaways can take off because they’ve tapped into some pent-up need in the marketplace of ideas.

So we try to test a lot. 50% or more of our content is trying out new topics or channels or formats, and the other 50% is either updating successful past content, or scaling up a content type that our previous testing has discovered works.

I differ here from the current received-wisdom in the content marketing industry. Right now it’s hip to say content marketers need to produce fewer pieces of longer, higher quality content. But I actually argue you should produce a higher volume of content (at least early on) to discover what “hits” with your particular audience, so you can scale that later.

Brian Dean of Backlinko is often the poster-child of the “publish less, publish higher-quality” model, and I love his content and he’s obviously been very successful. But might he have been more successful publishing weekly instead of monthly? Could he have sacrificed a little bit of length to experiment with a broader range of topic ideas earlier on before scaling the ones that worked? I think it’s possible.

You should produce a higher volume of content (at least early on) to discover what “hits” with your particular audience, so you can scale that later. @rizzleJPizzle #CMWorld Click To Tweet

What are the most common mistakes you see individuals and companies make when developing and launching a blog?

The biggest one is not taking content marketing seriously. That manifests itself in two major tactical mistakes: not hiring someone to do content full-time, and trying to squeeze direct revenue out of content in the first year.

If no one’s doing content full-time, then content just becomes a side project for someone at your company who may-or-may-not get to it once they finish their “real work” for the day. We tried this model for years and never got any traction with our content until someone owned it full-time and could devote themselves to thinking about it strategically and producing content consistently.

And you should not try to monetize your content in the first year. It will distort your writing, even if you think you can guard against it, and result in lower-quality, less helpful, more salesy content. Focus on creating content that is genuinely helpful for your audience first, and you will build reader trust for any kind of monetization scheme you want to implement later down the road.

If no one’s doing content full-time, then content just becomes a side project for someone at your company who may-or-may-not get to it once they finish their real work for the day. @rizzleJPizzle #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Why is it important for businesses to have a documented content strategy, as opposed to an intangible framework?

I think people get intimidated when you say, “You need to have a documented content strategy” because they envision this 30-page document written in corporate buzzwords that will take a month to create. But we literally started with nothing more than a two-page Word doc with some bullet points listing our short and long-term goals/metrics, the type of content we wanted to create, and who was responsible for what aspects.

The benefits to us of even something that basic have been huge. Actually writing it down forced us to think through the specifics and showed us where the gaps in our plan were, having agreed-upon goals and timelines upfront made for easier team and executive buy-in, and it gave us something to refer back to when we had questions about whether a new content idea fit our overall goals.

What have you learned in your ‘side hustle’ as a fiction novelist that applies to your day job as a content marketer?

For writing fiction I spent a lot of time studying story structure, and plot architecture, and all the elements that make a story really “flow” and feel effortless to people reading it. What struck me is how many of the same principles apply to a content piece.

You want to start off with a strong “hook” that introduces an element of mystery and makes the reader want to know more, your “climax” needs to deliver a memorable experience or information, and the dénouement has to be satisfying. A novel that doesn’t tie up loose ends in the last few chapters is as unsatisfying as a blog post that doesn’t include a concrete next step or call to action in the last few paragraphs.

Which speaker presentations are you looking forward to most at Content Marketing World 2018?

I love video games, so I’m excited to hear Jane Weedon of Twitch give her talk. I’ve also always been fascinated by the science behind online behavior, so Brian Massey’s talk on Behavioral Science for Content Marketers is high on my list as well.

Find Your Path to Content Marketing Greatness

Consistency, experimentation, and getting better each month: They might not be the stuff of Cinderella stories, but in the real world these techniques work and Medved’s team serves as living proof.

He is one of many CMWorld speakers who contributed to The Ultimate Guide to Conquering Content Marketing, so as we look forward to seeing them on stage in Cleveland, make sure to soak in all their awesome advice by clicking through the slides below:

How to Diagnose Your SEO Client’s Search Maturity

One of the biggest mistakes I see (and am guilty of making) is assuming a client is knowledgeable, bought-in, and motivated to execute search work simply because they agreed to pay us to do it. We start trucking full-speed ahead, dumping recommendations in their laps, and are surprised when the work doesn’t get implemented.

We put the cart before the horse. It’s easy to forget that clients start at different points of maturity and knowledge levels about search, and even clients with advanced knowledge may have organizational challenges that create barriers to implementing the work. Identifying where your client falls on a maturity curve can help you better tailor communication and recommendations to meet them where they are, and increase the likelihood that your work will be implemented.

How mature is your client?

No, not emotional maturity. Search practice maturity. This article will present a search maturity model, and provide guidance on how to diagnose where your client falls on that maturity spectrum.

This is where maturity models can help. Originally developed for the Department of Defense, and later popularized by Six Sigma methodologies, maturity models are designed to measure the ability of an organization to continuously improve in a practice. They help you diagnose the current maturity of the business in a certain area, and help identify where to focus efforts to evolve to the next stage on the maturity curve. It’s a powerful tool for meeting the client where they are, and understanding how to move forward together with them.

There are a number of different maturity models you can research online that use different language, but most maturity models follow a pattern something like this:

  • Stage 1 – Ad Hoc & Developing
  • Stage 2 – Reactive & Repeatable
  • Stage 3 – Strategic & Defined
  • Stage 4 – Managed & Measured
  • Stage 5 – Efficient & Optimizing

For search, we can think about a maturity model two ways.

One is the actual technical implementation of search best practices — is the client implementing exceptional, advanced SEO, just the basics, nothing at all, or even operating counterproductively? This can help you figure out what kinds of projects make the most sense to activate.

The second way is the organizational maturity around search engine optimization as a marketing program. Is the client aligned to the importance of organic search, allocating budget and personnel appropriately, and systematically integrating search into marketing efforts? This can help you identify the most important institutional challenges to solve for that can otherwise block the implementation of your work.

Technical SEO capabilities maturity

First, let’s dive into a maturity model for search knowledge and capabilities.

SEO capabilities criteria

We measure an organization on several important criteria that contribute to the success of SEO:

  • Collaboration – how well relevant stakeholders integrate and collaborate to do the best work possible, including inside the organization, and between the organization and the service providers.
  • Mobility – how mobile-friendly and optimized the brand is.
  • Technical – how consistently foundational technical best practices are implemented and maintained.
  • Content – how integrated organic search is into the digital content marketing practice and process.
  • On-page – how limited or extensive on-page optimization is for the brand’s content.
  • Off-page – the breadth and depth of the brand’s off-site optimization, including link-building, local listings, social profiles and other non-site assets.
  • New technology –the appetite for and adoption of new technology that impacts search, such as voice search, AMP, even structured data.
  • Analytics – how data-centric the organization is, ranging from not managed and measured at all, to rearview mirror performance reporting, to entirely data-driven in search decision-making.

Search Capabilities Score Card

Click the image to see the full-size version.

SEO capabilities maturity stages

We assign each of the aforementioned criteria to one of these stages:

  • Stage 0 (Counterproductive) – The client is engaging in harmful or damaging SEO practices.
  • Stage 1 (Nonexistent) – There is no discernible SEO strategy or tactical implementation, and search is an all-new program for the client.
  • Stage 2 (Tactical) – The client may be doing some basic SEO best practices, but it tends to be ad hoc inclusion with little structure or pre-planning. The skills and the work meet minimum industry standards, but work is fairly basic and perhaps not cohesive.
  • Stage 3 (Strategic) – The client is aligned to the value of SEO, and makes an effort to dedicate resources to implementing best practices and staying current, as well as bake it into key initiatives. Search implementation is more cohesive and strategic.
  • Stage 4 (Practice) – Inclusion of SEO is an expectation for most of the client’s marketing initiatives, if not mandatory. They are not only implementing basic best practices but actively testing and iterating new techniques to improve their search presence. They use performance of past initiatives to drive next steps.
  • Stage 5 (Culture) – At this stage, clients are operating as if SEO is part of their marketing DNA. They have resources and processes in place, and they are knowledgeable and committed to learning more, their processes are continually reviewed and optimized, and their SEO program is evolving as the industry evolves. They are seeking cutting-edge new SEO opportunities to test.

Search Capabilities Maturity Model

Click the image to see the full-size version.

While this maturity model has been peer reviewed by a number of respected SEO peers in the industry (special thanks to Kim Jones at Seer Interactive, Stephanie Briggs at Briggsby, John Doherty at Credo, Dan Shure at Evolving SEO, and Blake Denman at Rickety Roo for your time and expertise), it is a fluid, living document designed to evolve as our industry does. If necessary, evolve this to your own reality as well.

You can download a Google Sheets copy of this maturity model here to begin using it with your client.

Download the maturity model

Why Stage 0?

In this search capabilities maturity model, I added an unconventional “Stage 0 – Counterproductive,” because organic search is unique in that they could do real damage and be at a deficit, not just at a baseline of zero.

In a scenario like this, the client has no collaboration inside the company or with the partner agency to do smart search work. Content may be thin, weak, duplicative, spun, or over-optimized. Perhaps their mobile experience is nonexistent or very poor. Maybe they’re even engaging in black hat SEO practices, and they have link-related or other penalties.

Choosing projects based on a client’s capabilities maturity

For a client that is starting on the lower end of the maturity scale, you may not recommend starting with advanced work like AMP and visual search technology, or even detailed Schema markup or extensive targeted link-building campaigns. You may have to start with the basics like securing the site, cleaning up information architecture, and fixing title tags and meta descriptions.

For a client that is starting on the higher end of the maturity scale, you wouldn’t want to waste their time recommending the basics — they’ve probably already done them. You’re better off finding new and innovative opportunities to do great search work they haven’t already mastered.

But we’re just getting started…

But technical capabilities and knowledge are only beginning to scratch the surface with clients. This starts to solve for what you should implement, but doesn’t touch why it’s so hard to get your work implemented. The real problems tend to be a lot squishier, and aren’t so simple as checking some SEO best practices boxes.

How mature is your client’s search practice?

The real challenges to implementation tend to be organizational, people, integration, and process problems. Conducting a search maturity assessment with your client can be eye-opening as to what needs to be solved internally before great search work can be implemented and start reaping the rewards. Pair this with the technical capabilities maturity model above, and you have a powerhouse of knowledge and tools to help your client.

Before we dig in, I want to note one important caveat: While this maturity model focuses heavily on organizational adoption and process, I don’t want to suggest that process and procedure are substitutes for using your actual brain. You still have to think critically and make hard choices when you execute a best-in-class search program, and often that requires solving all-new problems that didn’t exist before and therefore don’t have a formal process.

Search practice maturity criteria

We measure an organization on several important criteria that contribute to the success of SEO:

  • Process, policy, or procedure – Do documented, repeatable processes for inclusion of organic search exist, and are they continually improving? Is it an organizational policy to include organic search in marketing efforts? This can mean that the process of including organic search in marketing initiatives is defined as a clear series of actions or steps taken, including both developing organic search strategy and implementing SEO tactics.
  • Personnel resources & integration – Does the necessary talent exist at the organization or within the service provider’s scope? Personnel resources may include SEO professionals, as well as support staff such as developers, data analysts, and copywriters necessary to implement organic search successfully. Active resources may work independently in a disjointed manner or collaboratively in an integrated manner.
  • Knowledge & learning – Because search is a constantly evolving field, is the organization knowledgeable about search and committed to continuously learning? Information can include existing knowledge, past experience, or training in organic search strategy and tactics. It can also include a commitment to learning more, possibly through willingness to undertake trainings, attendance of conferences, regular consumption of learning materials, or staying current in industry news and trends.
  • Means, capacity, & capabilities – Does the organization budget appropriately for and prioritize the organic search program? Means, capacity and capabilities can include being scoped into a client contract, adequate budget being allocated to the work, adequate human resources being allocated to the work, the capacity to complete the work when measured against competing demands, and the prioritization of search work alongside competing demands.
  • Planning & preparation – Is organic search aligned to business goals, brand goals, and/or campaign goals? Is organic search proactively planned, reactive, or not included at all? This measure evaluates how frequently organic search efforts are included in marketing efforts for a brand. It also measures how frequently the work is included proactively and pre-planned, as opposed to reactively as an afterthought. Work may be aligned to or disconnected from the “big picture.”

Organizational search maturity

Click the image to see the full-size version.

Search practice stages of maturity

Stage 1 – Initial & ad hoc

At this stage, the organizations’ search application may be nonexistent, unstable, or uncontrolled. There may be rare and small SEO efforts, but they are entirely ad hoc and inconsistent, and retrofitted to the work after the fact, at best. They tend to lack any discernible goal orientation. If SEO exists, it is disconnected from larger goals, and not integrated with any other practices across the organization. They may be just beginning their search practice for the first time.

Stage 2 – Repeatable but reactive

These organizations are at least doing some search basics, though there is no rigorous use or enforcement of it. It is very reactive and in-the-moment while projects are being implemented; it is rarely pre-planned and often SEO is applied as an afterthought. They are executing only in the present or when it’s too late to do the highest caliber search work, but they are making an effort. SEO efforts may occasionally be going after goals, but it is unlikely to be tied to larger business goals. (Most of my client relationships have started here.)

Stage 3 – Defined & understood

These organizations have started to document their processes and are satisfactorily knowledgeable and competent in search. They have minimum standards for search best practices and process is emerging. Many people inside and outside the organization understand that search is important and are taking steps to integrate. There is a clear search strategy that aligns to organizational goals and processes. Proactive search preparation and planning happens prior to activating projects.

Stage 4 – Managed & capable

These organizations have proactive, predictable implementation of search work. They have quality-focused rules for products and processes, and can quickly detect and correct missteps. They have clearly defined processes for integration, implementation and oversight, but are flexible enough to adapt to a range of conditions without sacrificing quality. These organizations consider search part of their “way of life.”

Stage 5 – Efficient & optimizing

Organizations at this stage have a strong mastery of search and efficiently implementing as a matter of policy. They have cross-organizational integration and proactively work to strengthen their search performance. They are always improving the process through incremental or innovative change. They review and analyze their process and implementation to keep optimizing. These organizations could potentially be considered market-leading or innovative.

Scorecard exercise

Click the image to see the full-size version.

You are here

Before you can know how to get where you want to go, you need to know where you are. It’s important to understand where the organization stands, and then where they need to be in the future. Going through the quantitative exercise of diagnosing their maturity can help everyone align to where to start.

You can use these scorecards to assess factors like leadership alignment to the value of search, employee availability and involvement, knowledge and training, process and standardization, their culture (or lack thereof) of data-driven problem-solving and continuous improvement, and even budget.

A collaborative exercise

This should be a deeper exercise than just punching numbers into a spreadsheet, and it certainly shouldn’t be a one-sided assessment from you as an outsider. It is much more valuable to ask several relevant people at multiple levels across the client organization to participate in this exercise, and can become much richer if you take the time to talk to people at various points in the process.

How to use the scorecard & diagnose maturity

Once you download the scorecards, follow these steps to begin the maturity assessment process.

  1. Client-side distribution – Distribute surveys to relevant stakeholders on the client’s internal team. Ideally, these individuals serve at a variety of levels at the company and occupy a mix of roles relevant to the organic search practice. These could include CEO, CMO, Marketing VPs and directors, digital marketing coordinators, and in-house SEOs.
  2. Agency-side distribution – Distribute surveys to relevant stakeholders on the agency team. Ideally, these individuals serve at a variety of levels at the agency and occupy a mix of roles relevant to the organic search practice. These could include digital marketing coordinators, client engagement specialists, analysts, digital copywriters, or SEO practitioners.
  3. Assign a level of maturity to each criteria – Each survey participant can simply mark one “X” per category row in the column that most accurately reflects perception of the brand organization as it pertains to organic search. (For example, if the survey respondent feels that SEO process and procedure are non-existent based on the description, they can mark an “X” in the “Initial/Ad Hoc” column. Alternatively, if they feel they are extraordinarily advanced and efficient in their processes, they may mark the “X” in the “Efficient & Optimizing” column.)
  4. Collect the surveys – Assign a point value of 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 to the responses from left to right in the scorecard. Average the points to get a final score for each. (For example, if five client stakeholders score their SEO process and procedure as 3, 4, 2, 3, 3 respectively, the average score is 3 for that criteria.)
  5. Comparing client to agency perception – You may also choose to ask survey respondents to denote whether they are client-side or agency-side so you can look at the data both in aggregate, and by client and agency separately, to determine if there is alignment or disagreement on where the brand falls on the maturity curve. This can be great material for discussion with the client that can open up conversations about why those differences in perception exist.

Screenshot of scorecard

To get your own scorecard, click the image and make a copy of the Google Sheet.

Choosing where to start

The goal is to identify together where to start working. This means finding the strengths to capitalize upon, areas of acceptability that can be nudged to a strength with a little work, weaknesses to improve upon, agreeing on areas to focus, and finally, how to get started tackling the first change together.

For a client that is starting on the low end of the maturity scale, it is unrealistic to expect that they have connected all the dots between important stakeholders, that they have a clearly defined and repeatable process, and that their search program is a well-oiled machine. If you don’t work together to solve the underlying problems like knowledge or adequate personnel resources first, you will struggle to get buy-in for the work or the resources to get it done, so it doesn’t matter what projects you recommend.

For a client that is advanced in a few areas, say process, planning, and capacity, but weaker in others like knowledge and capacity, that might suggest that you need to focus efforts on an education campaign to help the client prioritize the work and fit it into a busy queue.

For a client that is already advanced across the board, your role instead may be to keep the machine running while also helping them spot minor areas of improvement so they can keep iterating and perfecting the process. This client might also be ready for more advanced search strategies and tactical recommendations, or perhaps more robust integrations across additional disciplines.

One foot in front of the other

It’s rare that we live in a world of radical change where we overhaul everything en masse and see epic change overnight. We tweak, test, learn, and iterate. A maturity model is a continuum, and brands must evolve from one step to the next. Skipping levels is not an option. Some may also call this a “crawl, walk, run” approach.

Your goal as their trusted search advisor is not to help them leap from Stage 2 to Stage 5. Accomplishing that trajectory and speed of growth is exceedingly difficult and rare. Instead, focus your efforts on how the client can get to the next stage over the next 12 months. As they progress up the maturity model, the length of time it takes to unlock the next level may grow longer and longer.

Organizational Search Maturity

Click the image to see the full-size version.

Even when an organization reaches Stage 5, your/their work is not done. Master-level organizations continue to refine and optimize their processes and capabilities.

There is no finish line to search maturity

There is a French culinary phrase, “mise en place,” that refers to having everything — ingredients, tools, recipe — in its place to begin cooking most successfully. There are several key ingredients to any successful project implementation: buy-in, process, knowledge and skills, capacity, planning, and more.

As your client evolves up the maturity curve, you will see and feel a transition from thinking about aspects only once a project is sliding off the rails, to including these things real-time and reactively, to anticipating these before every project and doing your due diligence to come prepared. Essentially, the client can move from not being able to spell “SEO” to making SEO a part of their DNA by moving up these maturity curves.

It is important to revisit the maturity model discussion periodically — I recommend doing so at least annually — to level-set and realign with the client. Conducting this exercise again can remind us to pause and reflect on all we have accomplished since the first scoring. It can also re-energize stakeholders to make even more progress in the upcoming year.

How to Rock MozCon 2018 Like the Marketing Superhero You Are

MozCon is just around the corner, meaning it’s time to share one of our absolute favorite posts of the year: the semi-official MozCon Guide to Seattle!

For those of you following the yellow brick road of I-5 into the heart of the Emerald City to spend three days absorbing all the SEO insight you can hold, this should help you plan both how you spend your time at the conference and outside of it. For those watching on the sidelines, scroll along and you’ll find a treasure trove of fun Seattle ideas and resources for future cons or trips you might make to this fair city by the sea.

And if you’ve been waffling on whether or not to take the plunge (to attend the conference — I wouldn’t recommend plunging into the Puget Sound, it’s quite cold), there may still be time:

Register for MozCon!

We’re now over 99% sold out, so act fast if you’ve got your heart set on MozCon 2018!

Official MozCon activities:

We know you’re here for a conference, but that’s only part of your day. After you’ve stuffed every inch of space in your brain with cutting-edge SEO insights, you’re going to want to give yourself a break — and that’s exactly why we’ve put together an assortment of events, activities, suggestions, and Seattle insider pro tips for how to fill your time outside of MozCon.

The MozCon kickoff party!

With day one behind you, we’re guessing you’ll be some mix of energized, inspired, and ready to relax just a bit. Celebrate the first day of MozCon at our Monday night kickoff party with a night of networking, custom cocktails, and good music at beautiful Block 41 in Belltown.

Meet with fellow marketers and the Mozzers that keep your SEO software shiny while you unwind after your first full day of conferencing. It’s our privilege and delight to bring our community together on this special night.

Our famously fun MozCon Bash

There ain’t no party like a MozCon party! We invite all MozCon attendees and Mozzers to join us on Wednesday night at the Garage Billiards in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. From karaoke to photobooth, from billiards to shuffleboard, and peppered liberally with snacks and libations, the Wednesday Night MozCon Bash is designed to celebrate the completion of three days of jam-packed learning. This is the industry party of the year — you won’t want to miss it!

Birds of a Feather lunch tables

In between bites of the most delicious lunch you’ll find in the conference circuit, you’ll have the opportunity to connect with your fellow community members around the professional topics that matter most to you. Each day there will be seven-plus tables with different topics and facilitators; find one with a sign noting the topic and join the conversation to share advice, learn new tips and tricks, and discover new friends with similar interests.

Monday, July 9th

  • Google Analytics & Tag Management hosted by Ruth Burr Reedy at UpBuild
  • Content-Driven Link Building hosted by Paddy Moogan at Aira
  • Mobile App Growth hosted by Emily Grossman at Skyscanner
  • Content Marketing hosted by Casie Gillette at KoMarketing
  • Local SEO hosted by Mike Ramsey at Nifty Marketing
  • Podcasting hosted by Heidi Noonan-Mejicanos at Moz
  • Workflow Optimization hosted by Juan Parra at Accelo

Tuesday, July 10th

  • SEO A/B Testing hosted by Will Critchlow at Distilled
  • Community Speaker Connection hosted by Sha Menz at Moz
  • PPC + SEO Integration hosted by Jonathon Emery at Distilled
  • Meet Your Help Team hosted by Kristina Keyser at Moz
  • Agency Collaboration hosted by Yosef Silver at Fusion Inbound
  • Site Speed hosted by Jono Alderson at Yoast
  • Featured Snippets hosted by Rob Bucci at STAT Search Analytics
  • Voice Search hosted by Dr. Pete Meyers at Moz

Wednesday, July 11th

  • Content Marketing Q&A hosted by Kane Jamison at Content Harmony
  • Paid Search Marketing for High-Cost Keywords hosted by Trenton Greener at the Apex Training
  • SEO A/B Testing hosted by Will Critchlow at Distilled
  • Team Hiring, Retention, & Growth hosted by Heather Physioc at VML
  • Local Search hosted by Darren Shaw at Whitespark
  • Machine Learning & Advanced SEO by Britney Muller at Moz
  • Reporting Q&A hosted by Dana DiTomaso at Kick Point

The delight is in the details

MozCon is literally brimming with things to do and ways to support our attendees when they need it. Aside from our hosted events and three days’ worth of talks, we’ve got things to fill in the cracks and make sure your MozCon experience is everything you’ve ever wanted from a conference.

Photobooth with Roger: Admit it — you see that cute, googly-eyed robot face and you just want to hug it forever. At MozCon, you can do just that — and memorialize the moment with a picture at the photobooth! Roger’s a busy bot, but his photobooth schedule will be posted so you can plan your hugs accordingly.

Ping pong play sesh: Don your sweat bands and knee-high socks and keep your paddle arm limber! During breaks, we’ll have ping pong tables available to burn some excess energy and invite a little casual competition.

The world map of MozCon: Ever play pin the tail on the donkey? Well, this is sort of like that, but the donkey is a world map and (thankfully) there’s no blindfold. You’ll place a pin from wherever in the world you traveled from. It’s amazing to see how far some folks come for the conference!

Local snacks galore: Starbucks, Piroshky Piroshky, Ellenos Yogurt, and Top Pot Donuts will happily make themselves acquainted with your tastebuds! Carefully chosen from local Seattle businesses, our snacks will definitely please your local taste pallet and, if past feedback is to be believed, possibly tempt you to move here.

Stay charged: Pining for power? Panicking at that battery level of 15% at 10am? Find our charging sofas to fuel up your mobile device.

MozCon is for everyone

We want marketers of all stripes to feel comfortable and supported at our conference. Being “for everyone” means we’re working hard to make MozCon more accessible in many different ways. The Washington State Convention Center is fully ADA compliant, as are our other networking event venues. But it’s important for us to get even better, and we welcome your feedback and ideas.

Here are a few of the ways we’ve worked to make MozCon a welcoming event for everyone:

  • A ramp on the stage
  • Live closed captioning of the main event
  • Walkways for traffic flow
  • Menus featuring options or special meals (that actually taste good) for dietary restrictions
  • A nursing room
  • Gender-neutral bathroom options
  • Lots of signage
  • T-shirts that fit different body types
  • Visible staff to help make everyone’s experience the best possible
  • A proud partnership with 50/50 Pledge, furthering our commitment to better representation of women on stage
  • Strict enforcement of our Code of Conduct and TAGFEE

Bespoke city exploration — Get to know Seattle!

In years past, Tuesday nights were reserved for our MozCon Ignite event, where brave folks from myriad backgrounds would share stories in lighting-fast Ignite-style talks of five minutes each — the only rule being it can’t be about marketing!

While MozCon Ignite has always been a much-loved and highly anticipated event, we’ve also listened closely to your feedback about wanting more time to network on your own, plan client dinners, go on outings with your team, and in general just catch your breath — without missing a thing. That’s why this year, we’re folding Ignite into the official MozCon schedule so everyone can benefit from the tales shared and enjoy a fun five-minute break between SEO talks.

Wondering about what topics will be covered at Ignite this year?:

  • The Ninja Kit to NOT Get Sick While Traveling by Dana Weber at Seer Interactive
  • My Everest: How 10 Years of Chasing Tornadoes Came Down to One Moment by Tom Romero at Uncommon Goods
  • Baseball Made Me a Better Engineer by Tom Layson at Moz
  • Trailblazer: How Reading One Book Changed My Life for Good by Lina Soliman at OSUWMC
  • Drag Queen Warlocks, Skateboarding Sorcerers, & Other Folks by Jay Ricciardi at Tableau
  • Voice Dialogue Therapy: Listening to the Voices Inside Your Head by Kayla Walker at Distilled

We’re opening up Tuesday night as your chance to explore the Emerald City. We’ll have a travel team onsite at the conference on Tuesday to help you and your friends plan an exciting Seattle adventure. Perhaps you’ve met a fantastic group of like-minded folks at a Birds of a Feather lunch table and would love to talk featured snippets over fresh fish n’ chips at the Pike Place Market. Maybe you’ve always wanted to catch the view at the top of the Space Needle (recently renovated and reopened to provide even better views!). Or perhaps a quiet sunset picnic overlooking the water at Gasworks Park seems like the perfect way to relax after a long day of learning and networking. Regardless of whatever floats your boat, we encourage you to plan local meetups, invite your newfound and long-standing friends, and forge a few irreplaceable Seattle memories.

Wondering what there is to do, drink, eat, and see in Seattle?

Well, who better to ask than us Seattleites? Using tons of real suggestions from real Mozzers, we’ve put together a Google Map you can use to guide your exploration outside the confines of the event venue — check it out below!

Seattle’s got more to offer than we can name — get out there and discover the renowned Emerald City quirks and quaintness we’re famous for!

Travel options:

Seattle’s got a pretty solid transit system that can get you where you need to go, whether you’re traveling by bus or train. The city also has its share of rideshare services, as well as taxis, bikes, ferries, and water taxis, depending on where you’re headed.

Public transportation

  • King County Metro Trip Planner: Traverse the city by bus! You can also download an app to get real-time bus info (I like the One Bus Away app, developed here in Seattle by University of Washington grads)
  • Light Rail: Connecting the north end to the south, the Light Rail can move you across Seattle quickly (and even drop you off right at SeaTac for your flight home!)
  • Water taxis and ferries can float you right across the Sound (and offer a lovely view while they’re at it)
  • A Transit Go ticket or ORCA card will happily power your public transit excursions
  • Bikeshare programs: As you wander the city, you may notice brightly colored bicycles patiently awaiting riders on the sidewalks. That rider could be you! If you’re feeling athletic, take advantage of the city’s bikeshare programs and see Seattle on two wheels.

Rideshares and taxis

  • Uber & Lyft can get you where you need to go
  • Moovn is a Seattle startup rideshare company
  • Two taxi services, Seattle Yellow Cab and Orange Cab, allow for online booking via their apps (or you can call ‘em the old-fashioned way!)

Are you ready to rock MozCon?!

If you’re already MozCon-bound come this July, make sure to download the app (must be on mobile) and join our Facebook group to maximize your networking opportunities, get to know fellow attendees, and stay up-to-date on conference news and activities.

If you’re thinking about grabbing a ticket last-minute, we still have a few left:

Grab a ticket while you can

And whether you’re going to be large, in charge, and live at the conference or just following along at home and eagerly waiting the video release, follow along with the #MozCon hashtag on Twitter to indulge in the juicy tidbits and takeaways attendees will undoubtedly share.

5 Powerful Types (And Examples) of Link-Worthy Content

How to Create Link-Worthy Content

Since the inception of the search engine, marketers have spent an obscene amount of time optimizing their content and strategy for search. And while the old days of keyword stuffing and other black-hat SEO tactics are behind (most marketers), there’s two constants that remain the same for driving organic search results: The importance of good content and getting credible links to that good content.

In fact, Google’s former Search Quality Senior Strategist and current Partner Development Manager, Andre Lippattsev, made it official in a recent interview stating that content and backlinks were the top two ranking factors in Google’s elusive algorithm.

As a result, there’s little doubt that we marketers must create something irresistible for searchers and search engines if we want to score good results.

via GIPHY

To help you create link-worthy content that has the potential to generate credible referrals and backlinks, and give organic visibility a boost, here are five types of content worthy of consideration.

#1 – Original Research

Marketers are always looking for credible facts, statistics, and insights to not only understand more about their industry and keep up on trends, but also bolster their own content. As a result, original research can be an incredibly powerful and link-attracting piece of content.

For example, the Content Marketing Institute’s State of B2B Content Marketing Annual Report is a something we often reference and link to in our own blog posts.

CMI's 2018 B2B Content Marketing Report

With statistics that highlight common content marketing trends, patterns, and pain points for B2B marketers, their report helps us learn more about our industry, but also reinforce our some of our own marketing philosophies and present the facts. As a result, CMI’s 2018 report has over 2,000 inbound links.

018 B2B Content Marketing Report Inbound Link Results

Source: Moz Link Explorer

Conducting your own industry research, however, is a time- and resource-intensive task. We know this first-hand from our own experience working with DivvyHQ to create our 2018 Content Planning Survey.

To make sure that you’re putting together accurate, quality research, there are some guidelines you’ll want to follow. For instance, you’ll want to get a large enough sample size for your survey or study to ensure that your findings represent your industry accurately—you don’t want to collect only a few responses from people you know.

In addition, avoid open-ended questions when conducting research as you’ll want to make sure that your findings are quantitative. And as with any content you create, make sure you have a robust amplification plan in place to drive awareness.

In the end, if you’re able to put together fresh, useful research, your audience will find value and insight, and sources who cite your research will be compelled to link to your report, increasing your number of inbound links and (hopefully) rankings.

#2 – Infographics

Original research isn’t the only thing readers and sources rely on to find new, relevant insights that help them tell their stories. As a visual, engaging way to digest a lot of information at once, infographics are another type of linkable asset that resonates with readers and sources alike.

Loaded with quotes, graphics, statistics, and more, infographics house plenty of information without overwhelming your audience. Packed with helpful insights, it’s no wonder that other sites will link to a beautiful infographic over a text-heavy white paper.

For example, GetVoIP, a cloud communications advisory, created an infographic on “How To Get More Energy At Work.” The infographic resulted in 66 inbound links and was also picked up by Entrepreneur.com.

GetVoIP Infographic

If you’ve already done some original research as suggested above, creating an infographic is a great way to promote or get some additional life out of your research report. However, infographics can also be curated from credible sources representing statistics, quotes, and data in new, visual ways.

To create infographics that readers and sources alike will appreciate, look at your existing content for repurposing opportunities. For example, you could take one of your top-performing, stat-packed blog posts and turn it into an infographic for an easy win. Or, find credible sources with data points that support the tips or takeaways you want to share and turn them into fun graphics. And of course, make sure the data and facts included are highly relevant to your target audience, and you have an amplification plan in place.

#3 – Online Tools & Resources

The two previous types of link-worthy content focus heavily on earning links through data. However, data isn’t the only link-worthy type of content. Inbound links are also earned by providing helpful tools and resources to your readers. The more “bookmark-able” resources you can produce, the more links you have the opportunity to capture.

What kind of tools or resources are we talking about?

Check out HubSpot’s Blog Ideas Generator as an example below. While there isn’t a lot of visible content on the page, there is a lot of value in the tool itself as it can help solve a big pain point among their target audience: writer’s block.

HubSpot Ideas Generator Tool

And the results of providing something so useful are substantial with the tool generating over 12,000 inbound links and 200 ranking keywords.

Linking Results from HubSpot's Blog Idea Generator Tool

Source: Moz Link Explorer

Besides an idea generator, you could also create a calculator, calendar, or even just a listicle of helpful tools and resources. As an example, our own blog post featuring over 100 Search Engine Marketing Resources is one of our most linked-to pages with 3,114 inbound links.

#4 – Rankings

Rankings are also helpful, link-worthy types of content. People want to know who the best people are to follow on LinkedIn, what tools are best for employee advocacy, or what the top tactics are for generating leads. And creating a ranking is one of the ways you can offer those recommendations.

Content that shares valuable, must-know information is what earns the most links, and rankings definitely tick that box. Plus, the individuals or brands featured on your list are also likely to share and link to your ranking in order to promote their accomplishment. In fact, Great Place to Work published their annual list of the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For and received over 350 inbound links in just under six months.

Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For 2018

When creating your own rankings, make sure you have a set process or methodology. There needs to be a clear rationale behind your choices. This shows your readers and potential link sources how you reached your ranking decisions, adding to the credibility of your list. And again, make sure you have an amplification plan in place before launch.

#5 – Guides & Tutorials

Another type of resource that gets a lot of attention from other sources on the web are guides and tutorials. As the “one-stop shop” for everything you need to know on a given subject or task, guides and tutorials are helpful links for others to add to their content. For example, Blockgeeks, a blockchain training and education platform, created an in-depth guide on Bitcoin containing over 2,800 words.

Bitcoin Tutorial Example

The power page has resulted in over 800 inbound links and 180 ranking keywords for Blockgeeks.

Linking Results From the What Is Bitcoin Guide

Source: Moz Link Explorer

To build those in-depth content opportunities, use tools like SEMrush.com to identify relevant variations of a keyword you would like to target. For example, if you want to cover the topic “document management,” the Keyword Magic Tool will give you a list of all of the related long-tail and question keyword variations to tackle in your guide like “document management software,” “what is document management,” “how does document management work,” and “why document management is important.”

Those keyword variations should then serve as the outline for your guide, ensuring that you cover all of the relevant questions and topics your audience and sources might like to learn about. And while it’s already been said in this piece, I’ll say it again: make sure you have an amplification plan beyond SEO to drive awareness, engagement, and clicks.

Give Them Something to “Link About”

Searchers and search engines are on the hunt for quality, insightful content to answer questions, bolster their research, and share with their audiences. By strategically creating guides, resources, research reports, or infographics, you can serve up useful, insightful, and link-worthy content that leaves them thinking:

via GIPHY

Just remember to keep quality and usefulness top of mind when creating your content. As our own CEO, Lee Odden, says:

No matter how many tactics you find here and elsewhere, there simply is no substitute for creating content that others may find useful.

No matter how many tactics you find here and elsewhere, there simply is no substitute for creating content that others may find useful. – @leeodden Click To Tweet

Earning backlinks is one of the most important factors when it comes to improving your organic search rankings. Have a highly competitive word you want to rank for? Check out our guide on how to rank for competitive keywords.

Digital Marketing News: Instagram Adds Hour-Long Videos With IGTV, Weeding Out Influencers Who Buy Followers, & Mobile’s Vast Growth

Instagram IGTV Announcement
With IGTV, Instagram Takes Aim at YouTube
Instagram has added the ability to upload videos up to an hour long, with the launch of its new IGTV feature, offering digital marketers a much bigger video canvas. Instagram also announced that it has broken through the one billion user barrier. Wired
[embedded content]
Unilever stops working with digital media influencers who buy followers
Unilever has ceased working with social media influencers who buy followers, a first-of-its-kind effort to increase influencer transparency, the mega-brand recently announced. Marketing Land

Marketing-driven revenue from mobile apps has grown 80% since 2016
Marketers focusing on mobile may be on the right track, as mobile apps have driven a vast 80 percent marketing revenue expansion since 2016, according to voluminous new report data from Facebook and marketing analytics firm AppsFlyer, detailing major differences among the gaming, shopping, and travel markets. Venture Beat

For $150, Most Users Will Sell Personal Information to Brands
$150 would persuade most consumers to sell certain portions of their personal data to their favorite brands, according to recent survey data of U.S., U.K., and German Internet users. eMarketer

Reddit brings autoplay native video ads to desktop and mobile
Reddit’s traditionally sparse advertising will make way for new auto-play video ads on both its mobile and desktop sites, the increasingly popular social news aggregation, content rating, and discussion website announced recently. Tech Crunch

Instagram’s new shopping bag icon adds e-commerce element to advertisers’ Stories
Instagram has given certain advertisers new e-commerce features that will add a shopping bag icon to Instagram Stories, a move that could eventually be rolled out to all advertisers. Marketing Land

Google replacing video boxes with video carousel on desktop search
Google has moved almost completely to the carousel format for videos among desktop search results, providing new opportunities for digital marketers. Search Engine Land

Friday, June 22, 2018 News Statistics Image

Twitter Launches New Site to Provide Insights into How to Make Best Use of the Platform
Twitter launched its Twitter Media site to help digital marketers best make use of the platform’s latest features, including case studies and other best-practice-oriented content. Social Media Today

Bing Ads With Enhanced Targeting Settings & Dimensions Tab
Bing rolled out new advertising features including more precise location and device targeting, along with upgraded analytics information with a new Bing Ads Dimensions feature. SEO Roundtable

YouTube Like & Dislike Counts Are Now More Accurate
YouTube updated the way it tabulates video likes and dislikes, in an effort to combat spam, a move than should prove beneficial to digital marketers. Search Engine Journal

Want to Win Over Millennials and Gen Z? Vice’s New Study Says Brands Should Get Spiritual
The key elements marketers most need to tap into when targeting millennials and Gen-Z include surprises such as spirituality, according to new study data by Vice. Vice

ON THE LIGHTER SIDE:

Marketoonist Personalization Gap Cartoon

A lighthearted look at the personalization gap in marketing, by Marketoonist Tom Fishburne — Marketoonist

The EU’s bizarre war on memes is totally unwinnable — Wired

Look! Up in the Sky! It’s a Flying Orange Man With Wieners on His Belt! — AdWeek

TOPRANK MARKETING & CLIENTS IN THE NEWS:

  • Ashley Zeckman — What’s Trending: Ride the Marketing Merry-Go-Round — LinkedIn (client)
  • Lee Odden — The Keys to Successful B2B Content and Influence Programs — WriterAccess

What are your top content marketing news stories this week?

Thanks for stopping by, and please join us next week for another lineup of the latest digital marketing news, and in the meantime you can follow us at @toprank on Twitter for even more timely daily news. Also, don’t miss the full video summary on our TopRank Marketing TV YouTube Channel.

The Goal-Based Approach to Domain Selection – Whiteboard Friday

Choosing a domain is a big deal, and there’s a lot that goes into it. Even with everything that goes into determining your URL, there are two essential questions to ask that ought to guide your decision-making: what are my goals, and what’s best for my users? In today’s edition of Whiteboard Friday, we’re beyond delighted to welcome Kameron Jenkins, our SEO Wordsmith, to the show to teach us all about how to select a domain that aligns with and supports your business goals.

Goal-based Approach to Domain Selection

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

Video Transcription

Hey, everyone. Welcome to this week’s edition of Whiteboard Friday. My name is Kameron Jenkins, and I am the SEO Wordsmith here at Moz. Today we’re going to be talking about a goals-based approach to choosing a domain type or a domain selection.

There are a lot of questions in the SEO industry right now, and as an agency, I used to work at an agency, and a lot of times our clients would ask us, “Should I do a microsite? Should I do a subdomain? Should I consolidate all my sites?” There is a lot of confusion about the SEO impact of all of these different types of domain choices, and there certainly are SEO ramifications for each type, but today we’re going to be taking a slightly different approach and focusing on goals first. What are your business goals? What are your goals for your website? What are your goals for your users? And then choosing a domain that matches those goals. By the end, instead of what’s better for SEO, we’re going to hopefully have answered, “What best suits my unique goals?”

Before we start…define!

Before we start, let’s launch into some quick definitions just so we all kind of know what we’re talking about and why all the different terminology we’re going to be using.

Main domain

Main domain, this is often called a root domain in some cases. That’s anything that precedes your dot com or other TLD. So YourSite.com, it lives right before that.

Subdomain

A subdomain is a third-level domain name for your domain. So example, Blog.YourSite.com, that would be a subdomain.

Subfolder

A subfolder, or some people call this subdirectory, those are folders trailing the dot com. An example would be YourSite.com/blog. That /blog is the folder. That’s a subfolder.

Microsite

A microsite, there’s a lot of different terminology around this type of domain selection, but it’s just a completely separate domain from your main domain. The focus is usually a little bit more niche than the topic of your main website.

That would be YourSite1.com and YourSite2.com. They’re two totally, completely separate domains.

Business goals that can impact domain structure

Next we’re going to start talking about business goals that can impact domain structure. There are a lot of different business goals. You want to grow revenue. You want more customers. But we’re specifically here going to be talking about the types of business goals that can impact domain selection.

1. Expand locations/products/services

The first one here that we’re going to talk about is the business wants to expand their locations, their products, or their services. They want to grow. They want to expand in some way. An example I like to use is say this clothing store has two locations. They have two storefronts. They have one in Dallas and one in Fort Worth.

So they launch two websites — CoolClothesDallas.com and CoolClothesFortWorth.com. But the problem with that is if you want to grow, you’re going to open stores in Austin, Houston, etc. You’ve set the precedent that you’re going to have a different domain for every single location, which is not really future-proof. It’s hard to scale. Every time you launch a brand-new website, that’s a lot of work to launch it, a lot of work to maintain it.

So if you plan on growing and getting into new locations or products or services or whatever it might be, just make sure you select a domain structure that’s going to accommodate that. In particular, I would say a main root domain with subfolders for the different products or services you have is probably the best bet for that situation. So you have YourSite.com/Product1, /Product2, and you talk about it in that sense because it’s all related. It’s all the same topic. It’s more future-proof. It’s easier to add a page than it is to launch a whole new domain.

2. Set apart distinct facets of business

So another business goal that can affect your domain structure would be that the business wants to set apart distinct facets within their business. An example I found that was actually kind of helpful is Apple.com has a subdomain for Trailers.Apple.com.

Now, I’m not Apple. I don’t really know exactly why they do this, but I have to imagine that it was because there are very different intents and uses for those different types of content that live on the subdomain versus the main site. So Trailers has movie trailers, lots of different content, and Apple.com is talking more about their consumer products, more about that type of thing.

So the audiences are slightly different. The intents are very different. In that situation, if you have a situation like that and that matches what your business is encountering, you want to set it apart, it has a different audience, you might want to consider a subdomain or maybe even a microsite. Just keep in mind that it takes effort to maintain each domain that you launch.

So make sure you have the resources to do this. You could, if you didn’t have the resources, put it all on the main domain. But if you want a little bit more separation, the different aspects of your business are very disparate and you don’t want them really associated on the same domain, you could separate it out with a subdomain or a microsite. Just, again, make sure that you have the resources to maintain it, because while both have equal ability to rank, it’s the effort that increases with each new website you launch.

3. Differentiate uniquely branded sub-departments

Three, another goal is to differentiate uniquely branded sub-departments. There is a lot of this I’ve noticed in the healthcare space. So the sites that I’ve worked on, say they have Joe Smith Health, and this is the health system, the umbrella health system. Then within that you have Joe Smith Endocrinology.

Usually those types of situations they have completely different branding. They’re in a different location. They reach a different audience, a different community. So in those situations I’ve seen that, especially healthcare, they usually have the resources to launch and maintain a completely different domain for that uniquely branded sub-department, and that might make sense.

Again, make sure you have the resources. But if it’s very, very different, whether in branding or audience or intent, than the content that’s on your main website, then I might consider separating them. Another example of this is sometimes you have a parent company and they own a lot of different companies, but that’s about where the similarities stop.

They’re just only owned by the parent company. All the different subcompanies don’t have anything to do with each other. I would probably say it’s wisest to separate those into their own unique domains. They probably definitely have unique branding. They’re totally different companies. They’re just owned by the same company. In those situations it might make sense, again, to separate them, but just know that they’re not going to have any ranking benefit for each other because they’re just completely separate domains.

4. Temporary or seasonal campaigns

The fourth business goal we’re going to talk about is a temporary or a seasonal campaign. This one is not as common, but I figured I would just mention it. Sometimes a business will want to run a conference or sponsor an event or get a lot of media attention around some initiative that’s separate from what their business does or offers, and it’s just more of an events-based, seasonal type of thing.

In those situations it might make sense to do a microsite that’s completely branded for that event. It’s not necessary. For example, Moz has MozCon, and that’s located on subfolder Moz.com/MozCon. You don’t have to do that, but it certainly is an option for you if you want to uniquely brand it.

It can also be really good for press. I’ve noticed just in my experience, I don’t know if this is widely common, but sometimes the press tends to just link to the homepage because that’s what they know. They don’t link to a specific page on your site. They don’t know always where it’s located. It’s just easier to link to the main domain. If you want to build links specifically for this event that are really relevant, you might want to do a microsite or something like that.

Just make sure that when the event is over, don’t just let it float out there and die. Especially if you build links and attention around it, make sure you 301 that back to your main website as long as that makes sense. So temporary or seasonal campaigns, that could be the way to go — microsite, subfolder. You have some options there.

5. Test out a new agency or consultant

Then finally the last goal we’re going to be talking about that could impact domain structure is testing out a new agency or consultant.

Now this one holds a special place in my heart having worked for an agency prior to this for almost seven years. It’s actually really common, and I can empathize with businesses who are in this situation. They are about to hand over their keys to their domain to a brand-new company. They don’t quite know if they trust them yet.

Especially this is concerning if a business has a really strong domain that they’ve built up over time. It can be really scary to just let someone take over your domain. In some cases I have encountered, the business goes, “Hey, we’d love to test you out. We think you’re great.However, you can’t touch the main domain.You have to do your SEO somewhere else.” That’s okay, but we’re kind of handcuffed in that situation.

You would have to, at that point, use a subdomain or a microsite, just a completely different website. If you can’t touch the main domain, you don’t really have many other options than that. You just have to launch on a brand-new thing. In that situation, it’s a little frustrating, actually quite frustrating for SEOs because they’re starting from nothing.

They have no authority inherited from that main domain. They’re starting from square one. They have to build that up over time. While that’s possible, just know that it kind of sets you back. You’re way behind the starting line in that situation with using a subdomain or a microsite, not being able to touch that main domain.

If you find yourself in this situation and you can negotiate this, just make sure that the company that’s hiring you is giving you enough time to prove the value of SEO. This is tried-and-true for a reason, but SEO is a marathon. It’s not a sprint. It’s not pay to play like paid advertising is. In that situation, just make sure that whoever is hiring you is giving you enough time.

Enough time is kind of dependent on how competitive the goals are. If they’re asking you, “Hey, I’m going to test you out for this really, really competitive, high-volume keyword or group of keywords and you only have one month to do it,” you’re kind of set up to fail in that situation. Either ask them for more time, or I probably wouldn’t take that job. So testing out a new agency or consultant is definitely something that can impact your ability to launch on one domain type versus another.

Pitfalls!

Now that we’ve talked about all of those, I’m just going to wrap up with some pitfalls. A lot of these are going to be repeat, but just as a way of review just watch out for these things.

⃠ Failing to future-proof

Like I said earlier, if you’re planning on growing in the future, just make sure that your domain matches your future plans.

⃠ Exact-match domains

There’s nothing inherently wrong with exact-match domains. It’s just that you can’t expect to launch a microsite with a bunch of keywords that are relevant to your business in your domain and just set it and forget it and hope that the keywords in the domain alone are what’s going to get it to rank. That doesn’t work anymore. It’s not worked for a while. You have to actually proactively be adding value to that microsite.

Maybe you’ve decided that that makes sense for your business. That’s great. Just make sure that you put in the resources to make it valuable outside of just the keywords in the domain.

⃠ Over-fragmenting

One thing I like to say is, “Would you rather have 3 websites with 10 backlinks each, or 1 website with 30 backlinks?” That’s just a way to illustrate that if you don’t have the resources to equally dedicate to each of those domains or subdomains or microsites or whatever you decided to launch, it’s not going to be as strong.

Usually what I see when I evaluate a customer or a client’s domain structure, usually there is one standout domain that has all of the content, all of the authority, all of the backlinks, and then the other ones just kind of suffer and they’re usually stronger together than they are apart. So while it is totally possible to do separate websites, just make sure that you don’t fragment so much that you’re spread too thin to actually do anything effective on the SEO front.

⃠ Ignoring user experience

Look at your websites from the eyes of your users. If someone is going to go to the search results page and Google search your business name, are they going to see five websites there? That’s kind of confusing unless they’re very differently branded, different intents. They’ll probably be confused.

Like, “Is this where I go to contact your business? How about this? Is it this?” There are just a lot of different ways that can cause confusion, so just keep that in mind. Also if you have a website where you’re addressing two completely different audiences within your website — if a consumer, for example, can be browsing blouses and then somehow end up accidentally on a section that’s only for employees — that’s a little confusing for user experience.

Make sure you either gate that or make it a subdomain or a microsite. Just separate them if that would be confusing for your main user base.

⃠ Set it and forget it

Like I said, I keep repeating this just because it’s so, so important. Every type of domain has equal ability to rank. It really does.

It’s just the effort that gets harder and harder with each new website. Just make sure that you don’t just decide to do microsites and subdomains and then don’t do anything with them. That can be a totally fine choice. Just make sure that you don’t set it and forget it, that you actually have the resources and you have the ability to keep building those up.

⃠ Intent overlap between domains

The last one I’ll talk about in the pitfall department is intent overlap between domains.

I see this one actually kind of a lot. It can be like a winery. So they have tastings.winery.com or something like that. In that situation, their Tasting subdomain talks all about their wine tasting, their tasting room. It’s very focused on that niche of their business. But then on Winery.com they also have extensive content about tastings. Well, you’ve got overlap there, and you’re kind of making yourself do more work than you have to.

I would choose one or the other and not both. Just make sure that there’s no overlap there if you do choose to do separate domains, subdomains, microsites, that kind of thing. Make sure that there’s no overlap and each of them has a distinct purpose.

Two important questions to focus on:

Now that we’re to the end of this, I really want the takeaway to be these two questions. I think this will make domain selection a lot easier when you focus on these two questions.

What am I trying to accomplish? What are the goals? What am I trying to do? Just focus on that first. Then second of all, and probably most important, what is best for my users? So focus on your goals, focus on your users, and I think the domain selection process will be a lot easier. It’s not easy by any means.

There are some very complicated situations, but I think, in the end, it’s going to be a lot easier if you focus on your goals and your users. If you have any comments regarding domain selection that you think would be helpful for others to know, please share it in the comments below. That’s it for this week’s Whiteboard Friday, and come back next week for another one. Thanks everybody.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

Q&A: Lost Your Anonymous Google Reviews? The Scoop on Removal and Moving Forward

Did you recently notice a minor or major drop in your Google review count, and then realize that some of your actual reviews had gone missing, too? Read on to see if your experience of removal review was part of the action Google took in late May surrounding anonymous reviews.

Q: What happened?

A: As nearly as I can pinpoint it, Google began discounting reviews left by “A Google User” from total review counts around May 23, 2018. For a brief period, these anonymous reviews were still visible, but were then removed from display. I haven’t seen any official announcement about this, to date, and it remains unclear as to whether all reviews designated as being from “A Google User” have been removed, or whether some still remain. I haven’t been able to discover a single one since the update.

Q: How do I know if I was affected by this action?

A: If, prior to my estimated date, you had reviews that had been left by profiles marked “A Google User,” and these reviews are now gone, that’s the diagnostic of why your total review count has dropped.

Q: The reviews I’ve lost weren’t from “A Google User” profiles. What happened?

A: If you’ve lost reviews from non-anonymous profiles, it’s time to investigate other causes of removal. These could include:

  • Having paid for or incentivized reviews, either directly or via an unethical marketer
  • Reviews stemming from a review station/kiosk at your business
  • Getting too many reviews at once
  • URLs, prohibited language, or other objectionable content in the body of reviews
  • Reviewing yourself, or having employees (past or present) do so
  • Reviews were left on your same IP (as in the case of free on-site Wi-Fi)
  • The use of review strategies/software that prohibit negative reviews or selectively solicit positive reviews
  • Any other violation of Google’s review guidelines
  • A Google bug, in which case, check the GMB forum for reports of similar review loss, and wait a few days to see if your reviews return; if not, you can take the time to post about your issue in the GMB forum, but chances are not good that removed reviews will be reinstated

Q: Is anonymous review removal a bug or a test?

A: One month later, these reviews remain absent. This is not a bug, and seems unlikely to be a test.

Q: Could my missing anonymous reviews come back?

A: Never say “never” with Google. From their inception, Google review counts have been wonky, and have been afflicted by various bugs. There have been cases in which reviews have vanished and reappeared. But, in this case, I don’t believe these types of reviews will return. This is most likely an action on Google’s part with the intention of improving their review corpus, which is, unfortunately, plagued with spam.

Q: What were the origins of “A Google User” reviews?

A: Reviews designated by this language came from a variety of scenarios, but are chiefly fallout from Google’s rollout of Google+ and then its subsequent detachment from local. As Mike Blumenthal explains:

As recently as 2016, Google required users to log in as G+ users to leave a review. When they transitioned away from + they allowed users several choices as to whether to delete their reviews or to create a name. Many users did not make that transition. For the users that chose not to give their name and make that transition Google identified them as ” A Google User”…. also certain devices like the old Blackberry’s could leave a review but not a name. Also users left + and may have changed profiles at Google abandoning their old profiles. Needless to say there were many ways that these reviews became from “A Google User.”

Q: Is the removal of anonymous reviews a positive or negative thing? What’s Google trying to do here?

A: Whether this action has worked out well or poorly for you likely depends on the quality of the reviews you’ve lost. In some cases, the loss may have suddenly put you behind competitors, in terms of review count or rating. In others, the loss of anonymous negative reviews may have just resulted in your star rating improving — which would be great news!

As to Google’s intent with this action, my assumption is that it’s a step toward increasing transparency. Not their own transparency, but the accountability of the reviewing public. Google doesn’t really like to acknowledge it, but their review corpus is inundated with spam, some of it the product of global networks of bad actors who have made a business of leaving fake reviews. Personally, I welcome Google making any attempts to cope with this, but the removal of this specific type of anonymous review is definitely not an adequate solution to review spam when the livelihoods of real people are on the line.

Q: Does this Google update mean my business is now safe from anonymous reviews?

A: Unfortunately, no. While it does mean you’re unlikely to see reviews marked as being from “A Google User”, it does not in any way deter people from creating as many Google identities as they’d like to review your business. Consider:

  • Google’s review product has yet to reach a level of sophistication which could automatically flag reviews left by “Rocky Balboa” or “Whatever Whatever” as, perhaps, somewhat lacking in legitimacy.
  • Google’s product also doesn’t appear to suspect profiles created solely to leave one-time reviews, though this is a clear hallmark of many instances of spam
  • Google won’t remove text-less negative star ratings, despite owner requests
  • Google hasn’t been historically swayed to remove reviews on the basis of the owner claiming no records show that a negative reviewer was ever a customer

Q: Should Google’s removal of anonymous reviews alter my review strategy?

A: No, not really. I empathize with the business owners expressing frustration over the loss of reviews they were proud of and had worked hard to earn. I see actions like this as important signals to all local businesses to remember that you don’t own your Google reviews, you don’t own your Google My Business listing/Knowledge Panel. Google owns those assets, and manages them in any way they deem best for Google.

In the local SEO industry, we are increasingly seeing the transformation of businesses from the status of empowered “website owner” to the shakier “Google tenant,” with more and more consumer actions taking place within Google’s interface. The May removal of reviews should be one more nudge to your local brand to:

  • Be sure you have an ongoing, guideline-compliant Google review acquisition campaign in place so that reviews that become filtered out can be replaced with fresh reviews
  • Take an active approach to monitoring your GMB reviews so that you become aware of changes quickly. Software like Moz Local can help with this, especially if you own or market large, multi-location enterprises. Even when no action can be taken in response to a new Google policy, awareness is always a competitive advantage.
  • Diversify your presence on review platforms beyond Google
  • Collect reviews and testimonials directly from your customers to be placed on your own website; don’t forget the Schema markup while you’re at it
  • Diversify the ways in which you are cultivating positive consumer sentiment offline; word-of-mouth marketing, loyalty programs, and the development of real-world relationships with your customers is something you directly control
  • Keep collecting those email addresses and, following the laws of your country, cultivate non-Google-dependent lines of communication with your customers
  • Invest heavily in hiring and training practices that empower staff to offer the finest possible experience to customers at the time of service — this is the very best way to ensure you are building a strong reputation both on and offline

Q: So, what should Google do next about review spam?

A: A Google rep once famously stated,

The wiki nature of Google Maps expands upon Google’s steadfast commitment to open community.”

I’d welcome your opinions as to how Google should deal with review spam, as I find this a very hard question to answer. It may well be a case of trying to lock the barn door after the horse has bolted, and Google’s wiki mentality applied to real-world businesses is one with which our industry has contended for years.

You see, the trouble with Google’s local product is that it was never opt-in. Whether you list your business or not, it can end up in Google’s local business index, and that means you are open to reviews (positive, negative, and fallacious) on the most visible possible platform, like it or not. As I’m not seeing a way to walk this back, review spam should be Google’s problem to fix, and they are obliged to fix it if:

  • They are committed to their own earnings, based on the trust the public feels in their review corpus
  • They are committed to user experience, implementing necessary technology and human intervention to protect consumers from fake reviews
  • They want to stop treating the very businesses on whom their whole product is structured as unimportant in the scheme of things; companies going out of business due to review spam attacks really shouldn’t be viewed as acceptable collateral damage

Knowing that Alphabet has an estimated operating income of $7 billion for 2018, I believe Google could fund these safeguards:

  1. Take a bold step and resource human review mediators. Make this a new department within the local department. Google sends out lots of emails to businesses now. Let them all include clear contact options for reaching the review mediation department if the business experiences spam reviews. Put the department behind a wizard that walks the business owner through guidelines to determine if a review is truly spam, and if this process signals a “yes,” open a ticket and fix the issue. Don’t depend on volunteers in the GMB forum. Invest money in paid staff to maintain the quality of Google’s own product.
  2. If Google is committed to the review flagging process (which is iffy, at best), offer every business owner clear guidelines for flagging reviews within their own GMB dashboard, and then communicate about what is happening to the flagged reviews.
  3. Improve algorithmic detection of suspicious signals, like profiles with one-off reviews, the sudden influx of negative reviews and text-less ratings, global reviews within a single profile, and companies or profiles with a history of guideline violations. Hold the first few reviews left by any profile in a “sandbox,” à la Yelp.

Now it’s your turn! Let’s look at Google’s removal of “A Google User” reviews as a first step in the right direction. If you had Google’s ear, what would you suggest they do next to combat review spam? I’d really like to know.