Using the SERP to build your keyword list

This post was originally published on the STAT blog.


Keyword lists keeping you up at night? We feel you — and so does every other SEO. There’s a lot that goes into producing a robust keyword list and having one can make the difference between seeing the whole SERP landscape or getting just a glimpse.

Because we care about how much sleep you’re getting (a healthy eight hours, please), we whipped up a useful guide on our favourite way to keyword list-build, and all you need are three SERP features: the “People also ask” box, related searches, and the “People also search for” box.

We’ll explain why you should give these features a test drive and how you can get your hands on all their Google-vetted queries for the ultimate, competition-crushing keyword list.

Watch us turn 3,413 Nikon-related keywords into 25,349 without lifting a pinky finger.

Google-approved search terms 

Each of these features are keyword goldmines — all three of them link to new SERPs from terms that are semantically related to the searcher’s original query. As a result, they provide excellent insight into how users follow-up, narrow down, or refine their searches and reveal relevant topics that may be overlooked.

Google has put a lot of effort (and dollars) into understanding and mapping how topics and queries are linked, and these SERP features are the direct result of all that research — Google is literally pointing you to how and what everyone is searching. Which is why we dig them so much.

The “People Also Ask”

You’re probably quite familiar with this accordion-like feature. The “People also ask” box contains questions related to the searcher’s initial query, which then expand to reveal answers that Google has pulled from other websites.

Not only are PAA questions excellent long-tail additions to your keyword set, they’re also a great resource for content inspiration. The various ways that they express the same basic question can help you expand on topics — one piece of content could easily answer PAA questions such as “What a photographer needs to get started?” and “What tools do I need to be a photographer?”

Just try not to fall down the query rabbit hole. While the PAA box used to surface anywhere from one to four Q&A combos, most are “infinite” now and can easily multiply into the hundreds — giving you a seemingly endless supply of SERPs to track.

Just where are all these questions coming from, though? Are people actually asking them? If you read our previous write up on the PAA, you’ll know that Google is not always selecting these questions based on actual searched queries, as some return zero search volume when tracked.

If that wasn’t enough to raise our eyebrows, errant capitalization or non-capitalization (“how many mm are there in one Metre?”), wonky grammar (“Is aperture and f stop the same thing?”), and odd follow-up question choices (“how do you take a selfie?” for the query [easy to use digital camera]) suggest that many PAA questions are the result of machine learning.

In other words, Google is doing its darndest to understand actual search queries and spit out relevant subsequent searches to save users the effort. And it makes sense for us to be on those SERPs when searchers decide to take them up on the offer.

In order to capture all the goodies hiding in a PAA, we created a handy report. For each of your keywords that return a PAA box, our .CSV report will list the questions “also asked” (don’t worry, you’ll only get the number of PAAs that exist before things get infinitely overwhelming) and the URLs that Google sourced the answers from, plus the order they appear in.

After we ran the report for our Nikon queries, we found ourselves looking at 2,838 potential new keywords. A quick scan revealed that many of our PAA boxes returned the same questions over and over again (65.57 percent were duplicates), so we set about removing those. This narrowed our PAA keyword list down to 977 topically related queries to explore.

Related searches 

Another go-to for keyword inspiration are the eight related searches found at the bottom of the SERP that, when clicked, become the search query of a new SERP.

For instance, if we’re interested in ranking for “best professional cameras,” a quick look at the related searches will reveal alternative SERPs that Google thinks our searchers may be interested in, like “best professional camera for beginner,” “best dslr camera,” and “best point and shoot camera.” They help us understand how our searcher may refine or expand upon their original query.

Our related searches report makes it so that you don’t have to manually gather the “Searches related to” yourself — it takes them all and combines them into a crisp and clean .CSV spreadsheet.

This report surfaced 12,526 keywords for Nikon, and just like with our PAA suggestions, we noticed a bunch of repeat related search offenders. After trimming out the duplicates (55.09 percent), we were left with 5,626 unique keywords to help us flesh out our Nikon project.

The “People Also Search for” box 

The term “People also search for” (PASF) isn’t new to the SERP, the feature did get a major refresh back in February, which levelled things up.

Now, instead of just being attached to a knowledge graph, the PASF box also attaches itself to organic URLs and contains extra queries (up to eight on desktop; six on mobile) related to the URL that surfaces it. It’s Google’s way of saying, “Didn’t find what you’re looking for? We’ve got you — try these instead.”

This SERP feature requires you to do a little pogo-sticking in order to surface it — you need to click on the organic search result and then navigate back to the SERP before it materializes.

Obviously collecting these terms would involve a lot of work and potential finger cramps. Thankfully, there’s a handy hack to bypass all that, which is great if pogo-sticking isn’t your cup of tea. This lovely bit of JavaScript code originated from Carlos Canterello and reveals all the PASF boxes on a SERP without all the back and forth-ing.

Or, for those of you feeling DIY-y, you can pull all the raw HTML SERPs and parse them yourself — sans pogo stick, sans hack. Since we’re card-carrying data nerds, we opted for this route — we pulled the raw HTML SERPs through the STAT API and had ourselves a parsing party.

With upwards of eight PASF terms per organic result per SERP, we had oodles of keyword ideas on hand — a grand total of 59,284 to be exact (woah). Once we took away the duplicates, we were left with 18,746 unique keywords. That’s quite a drop from our original number — a whopping 68.38 percent of our keywords were repeats.

Keyword evaluation

Once our reports finished generating and we’d removed all those duplicates, we had 25,349 brand new keywords from all three features — that’s 642.71 percent more than what we started with.

While we trust Google to offer up excellent suggestions, we want to be sure we’ve got only the most relevant keywords to our project. To do this, we conducted a little keyword audit.

First, we combined all our queries into a master list and did some work to surface what was useful and remove the ones that, straight up, made zero sense, such as: “Russian ammo website,” “wallmart,” and “how to look beautiful in friends marriage,” which is super specific and very odd, but we applaud the level of dedication.

This removed 2,238 keywords from the mix, leaving us with a grand total of 23,111 keywords to creep on.

Satisfied with our brand spanking new list, we loaded those puppies into STAT to follow them around for a couple of days for further vetting.

Since we like it when things are Monica-level organized (and because smart segmentation will be key to making sense of all 23,111 of our keywords), we bagged and tagged our new queries into groups of the SERP features from whence they came so we can track which makes the best suggestions.

With our data hyper-organized, and with our search volume populated, we then selected keywords that returned no search volume and kicked them to the curb. You should do this too if you want to minimize clutter and focus on queries that will drive traffic.

We also decided to remove keywords with a search volume of less than 100. Just remember though: search volume is relative. Decide what constitutes as “low” for you — low search volume may be par for the course for your particular industry or vertical. You may just decide you want to keep low search volume keywords in your toolbox.

The rest is up to you 

Now that you know how to acquire boatloads of relevant keywords straight from Google’s billion-dollar consumer research project (the SERP), it’s time to figure out what your next steps are, which is entirely dependent on your SEO strategy.

Maybe you head straight to optimizing. Perhaps you want to do more vetting, like finding the keywords that surface certain SERP features.

If, for instance, we’re interested in featured snippets and local packs, we’d look to the SERP Features dashboard in STAT to see if any of our new keywords return these features, and then click to get those exact keywords. (We’ve even got a handy dandy write-up on exploring a SERP feature strategy to help get you started.)

Whatever adventure you choose, you’re now armed and ready with a crazy number of keywords, and it’s all thanks to your comprehensive list-building, courtesy of the SERP.

Want to learn how you can get cracking and tracking some more? Reach out to our rad team and request a demo to get your very own personalized walkthrough.

If you’re ready to dig in even deeper, check out how to build an intent-based keyword list to get next-level insight.

Over 50 Top Social Media Marketing Blogs

Social Media Marketing Blogs

The world of Social Media is probably responsible for more innovation in digital marketing over the past 5 to 10 years than nearly any other discipline. From ephemeral story based content to live video to all the things being done with data for more personalized marketing, staying in top of what’s real vs. the hype in marketing is increasingly difficult.

Top help marketers find great sources of marketing advice, we’ve curated the BIGLIST of marketing blogs and more recently a marketing blogs from martech companies. Adding to that curation effort and our own solid social media marketing advice is today’s list of social media marketing blogs.

This list focuses in on blogs covering all aspects of social media marketing including the usual suspects of platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn as well as newer platforms like TikTok. From trends to strategies to tactics to analytics, this group of blogs about social media and marketing is a great mix of big names, publications, platforms and a few names that are hopefully new to you.

1. Adweek Social Pro Daily @adweek
Platform news, industry trends and plenty of brand examples.
Our favorite post: Social Networks Finally Bypassed Print Newspapers as a Primary Source of News

2. Andrea Vahl Blog @AndreaVahl
Everything you wanted to know about Facebook advertising plus a glimpse of “Grandma Mary”.
Our favorite post: Facebook Video Ads – What’s Working Now

3. Awario Blog @AwarioApp
Social media monitoring, selling, research and influencer marketing advice.
Our favorite post: 10 of the best social media marketing tools for 2019

4. Brian Solis @briansolis
One of the true pioneering thought leaders on social media that continues to offer strategic insights – including how to temper social media use for a more creative, productive and happy life ala Lifescale.
Our favorite post: The Past, Present And Future Of Social Media – How We Fell To The Dark Side And Why The Force Is With Us

5. Brand24 Blog @brand24
Social listening, marketing and industry news plus best practices on everything from hashtags to social influencers.
Our favorite post: A Complete Guide to Social Media Analysis

6. CinchShare Blog @CinchShare
Social Media Marketing tips for small business including Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and blogging advice.
Our favorite post: Grow your team on Facebook by doing these 3 things

7. Digimind Blog @digimindci
Social insight driven marketing advice, competitive social intelligence tips and soup to nuts social media campaign direction for agencies.
Our favorite post: Optimize Your Content Marketing Strategy in 13 Steps with Social Media Intelligence

8. DreamGrow Blog @dreamgrow
Social Media Marketing advice plus curated lists of resources.
Our favorite post: How To Integrate Social Media With eCommerce in 2019

9. Facebook Business Blog @facebook
Official blog from Facebook on advertising news, best practices and thought leadership.
Our favorite post: Turn Interested Shoppers Into Buyers with a Guided Shopping Experience in Messenger

10. Falcon Insights Hub @falconio
Social Media Marketing strategy, tactics and ROI measurement plus platform specific best practices.
Our favorite post: 5 Social Media Trends to Watch in 2019

11. Gary Vaynerchuk Blog @garyvee
The content machine that is Garyvee covers social media marketing thought leadership, trends, news and practical advice for specific social networks.
Our favorite post: 5 LinkedIn Marketing Strategies for 2019

12. Gleam Blog @gleamapp
A lot of how to social media marketing content, tips on using Gleam apps and advice on social contests, giveaways, coupons and product hunts.
Our favorite post: Stop Buying Likes: 25+ Tips to Drive Real Engagement on Facebook

13. Grow @markwschaefer
Mark Schaefer’s blog on the intersection of marketing, technology and humanity featuring provocative insights on industry trends, featured examples of social media and marketing in action and practical advice.
Our favorite post: What Is Your Social Media Marketing Purpose? (If You Don’t Know, This Will Help)

14. Hopper HQ Blog @hopper_hq
All things Instagram marketing ranging from trends to tips and a bit of advice on working with social influencers too.
Our favorite post: How to Measure B2B Social Media Marketing Success

15. Hot in Social Media @hotinsm
Social platform news and tips covering the gamut of social media marketing topics plus curated advice from industry experts.
Our favorite post: How to Use TikTok Like a PRO: Actionable Tips for Marketers

16. Iconosquare Blog @iconosquare
Focused information on marketing with Facebook and Instagram.
Our favorite post: Instagram Marketing Strategy: Your A-Z Guide

17. Instagram Business Blog @instagram
Official blog from Instagram sharing platform updates, features advertising advice.
Our favorite post: Creative Secrets of Instagram Stories

18. Jeff Bullas Blog @jeffbullas
Social Media Marketing best practices from Jeff and guest contributors.
Our favorite post: 9 Insider Tips For Increasing Your LinkedIn Leads

19. Jon Loomer Blog @jonloomer
This blog is Facebook marketing central – everything you ever wanted to know.
Our favorite post: How to Edit a Facebook Ad and Retain Social Proof

20. Karen’s PR & Social Media Blog @kfreberg
Dr. Karen Freberg’s take on social media marketing, PR and crisis communications.
Our favorite post: Super Bowl 2019: Trends & Takeaways from a Social Media Professor

21. Katie Lance Blog @katielance
Great example of a personal brand showcasing social media marketing advice with a slant towards the real estate audience.
Our favorite post: How to Attract Your Dream Client Through Social Media and Storytelling

22. Keyhole Blog @keyholeco
Recent attention to a variety of social media marketing tools as well as practical advice for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and hashtag marketing.
Our favorite post: Hashtags: A Beginner’s Guide and How to Use them Effectively – Keyhole

23. Later Blog @latermedia
Instagram Marketing strategy, tips, tools, resources and guides.
Our favorite post: Real or Fake: 5 Instagram Algorithm Rumors Explained

24. LinkedIn Marketing Solutions Blog @linkedinmktg
Official blog from Linkedin offering marketing thought leadership, industry trends, news and practical advice on how to make the most of marketing and advertising on LinkedIn. (client)
Our favorite post: 10 Content Ideas for your LinkedIn Page

25. Louise Myers Visual Social Media Blog @Louise_Myers
Practice visual social media marketing tips for Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest plus advice on blogging.
Our favorite post: How to Boost Your Social Media Strategy for 2019

26. Madalyn Sklar Blog @MadalynSklar
Literally everything you would ever want to know about building and engaging a community on Twitter with plenty of attention towards tools.
Our favorite post: How to Grow Your Twitter Community: 7 Essential Tips

27. Meltwater Blog: Social Media @MeltwaterSocial
Social Media thought leadership, practical advice and featured brand social media examples.
Our favorite post: Social Sidekick: Your Monthly Guide to Social Holidays, Themes, and Noteworthy Events

28. NetBase Blog @NetBase
Advice on social media listening, analytics and practical advice plus applications for social intelligence.
Our favorite post: Social Media Monitoring vs Social Listening – Yes, There’s a Difference!

29. Planoly Blog @planoly
Stay on top of Instagram and IG Marketing with practical tips and examples.
Our favorite post: How to Stay Motivated with Your Blog and Instagram

30. Problogger @problogger
Dedicated to the art and science of blogging and no one tells that story better than Darren Rowse.
Our favorite post: How to Start a Blog When You’re Not an Expert: 11 Ways to Make it Work

31. Quintly @quintly
Social Media Marketing research and analysis, best practices, trends and news about the platform.
Our favorite post: Instagram Study: We analyzed 9 million posts and here’s what we’ve learned

32. Snapchat for Business @snapchat
Official blog from Snapchat featuring the latest launches, announcements, and insights.
Our favorite post: CPG on Snapchat: Why Gen Z and millennials make all the difference

33. Socialnomics @equalman
Erik Qualman’s long running thought leadership blog on social media and marketing.
Our favorite post: 22 Social Media Tips From The Pros To Skyrocket Your 2019 ROI

34. Social Insider Blog @socialinsiderio
A cornucopia of how to articles on social media marketing plus a fun series of interviews with industry experts called Socialinsider Insta’rviews.
Our favorite post: The Most Impactful Social Media Trend That Businesses Should Integrate It In 2019

35. Social Media Examiner @SMExaminer
Probably the most popular blog about social media marketing from Mike Stelzner and team that also run the Social Media Marketing World conference.
Our favorite post: 10 Metrics to Track When Analyzing Your Social Media Marketing

36. Social Media Explorer @smxplorer
An original social media marketing blog covering the gamut of social media topics including tips, tools, news, and case studies.
Our favorite post: Up And Coming Social Media Trends Driven By Millennials And Generation Z

37. Social Media Lab @agorapulse
A special project from the folks at Agorapulse highlighting their investment of over $15k per month to help “Crack the Code” of social media and then report those results to readers.
Our favorite post: LinkedIn Post Length: Does Data Support the Idea that Longer is Better?

38. Social Media Today @socialmedia2day
A community blog offering a comprehensive view of social media marketing including updates to social platforms, trends, strategy and tactics.
Our favorite post: Social Media Calls to Action: 19 Words & Phrases to Generate More Engagement

39. Social Media Week News & Insights @socialmediaweek
Regular updates on the famous Social Media Week events in New York and Los Angeles plus coverage of social media technologies and marketing tactics.
Our favorite post: Boost Your Instagram Stories Game for 2019 With These 10 Practices

40. Social Report Blog @thesocialreport
A collection of practical posts about marketing on all of the major social networks plus trends and examples.
Our favorite post: 10 Top Social Media Scheduling Tools to Save Time in 2019

41. Social Sorted @SociallySorted
Donna Mortiz offers awesome monthly list posts of social media marketing ideas and in between shares visual and video marketing advice for social media channels.
Our favorite post: 60+ April Social Media Ideas – Videos, GIFs and more!

42. Spiderworking @Spiderworking
Amanda Webb covers social platform updates, examples and practical advice about small business social and content marketing.
Our favorite post: Relationship Marketing With Jessika Phillips, Pots Of Gold And LinkedIn Networking

43. Sue B Zimmerman @SueBZimmerman
The guru of Instagram marketing.
Our favorite post: How To Grow Instagram Followers in 2019

44. The Social Media Hat @SocialMediaHats
Mike Allton’s blog with practical advice about blogging, social media, SEO and email marketing.
Our favorite post: How to Create 26 Pieces Of Content From A Facebook Live

45. Talkwalker Blog @Talkwalker
Social Media Marketing and analytics blog with an emphasis on social monitoring and data applications.
Our favorite post: Social media trends that will impact 2019

46. Twitter Marketing Blog @Twitter
Official blog from Twitter about product news, marketing and advertising best practices and research.
Our favorite post: 10 ways marketing changed with Twitter

47. Unmetric Blog @unmetric
Social Media Marketing strategy, industry trends, and how to articles focused on brands.
Our favorite post: Brands vie for the throne in the game of social media marketing

One trend I’ve noticed is that many individuals that have really made a name for themselves as trusted voices in the social media space during the formative years of the industry simply are not blogging as much or have diversified into other areas of marketing. At the same time, a steady drumbeat of social media marketing advice can be found amongst a smaller number of highly focused industry blogs and companies serving the social media marketing industry.

Speaking of the social media marketing industry, you may have noticed some well known social media marketing technology brands are not on the above list. That’s because we’ve already included them in the martech list, but they certainly belong in this collection, so here they are:

If you’re more interested in following specific people in the world of social media marketing, then be sure to check out this list of social media marketing influencers for 2019.

Which social media marketing blogs would you add?

BIGLIST of Top Social Media Marketing Blogs for 2019 and Beyond

Social Media Marketing Blogs

Social Media Marketing Blogs

The world of Social Media is probably responsible for more innovation in digital marketing over the past 5 to 10 years than nearly any other discipline. From ephemeral story based content to live video to all the things being done with data for more personalized marketing, staying in top of what’s real vs. the hype in marketing is increasingly difficult.

Top help marketers find great sources of marketing advice, we’ve curated the BIGLIST of marketing blogs and more recently a marketing blogs from martech companies. Adding to that curation effort and our own solid social media marketing advice is today’s list of social media marketing blogs.

This list focuses in on blogs covering all aspects of social media marketing including the usual suspects of platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn as well as newer platforms like TikTok. From trends to strategies to tactics to analytics, this group of blogs about social media and marketing is a great mix of big names, publications, platforms and a few names that are hopefully new to you.

1. Adweek Social Pro Daily @adweek
Platform news, industry trends and plenty of brand examples.
Our favorite post: Social Networks Finally Bypassed Print Newspapers as a Primary Source of News

2. Andrea Vahl Blog @AndreaVahl
Everything you wanted to know about Facebook advertising plus a glimpse of “Grandma Mary”.
Our favorite post: Facebook Video Ads – What’s Working Now

3. Awario Blog @AwarioApp
Social media monitoring, selling, research and influencer marketing advice.
Our favorite post: 10 of the best social media marketing tools for 2019

4. Brian Solis @briansolis
One of the true pioneering thought leaders on social media that continues to offer strategic insights – including how to temper social media use for a more creative, productive and happy life ala Lifescale.
Our favorite post: The Past, Present And Future Of Social Media – How We Fell To The Dark Side And Why The Force Is With Us

5. Brand24 Blog @brand24
Social listening, marketing and industry news plus best practices on everything from hashtags to social influencers.
Our favorite post: A Complete Guide to Social Media Analysis

6. CinchShare Blog @CinchShare
Social Media Marketing tips for small business including Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and blogging advice.
Our favorite post: Grow your team on Facebook by doing these 3 things

7. Digimind Blog @digimindci
Social insight driven marketing advice, competitive social intelligence tips and soup to nuts social media campaign direction for agencies.
Our favorite post: Optimize Your Content Marketing Strategy in 13 Steps with Social Media Intelligence

8. DreamGrow Blog @dreamgrow
Social Media Marketing advice plus curated lists of resources.
Our favorite post: How To Integrate Social Media With eCommerce in 2019

9. Facebook Business Blog @facebook
Official blog from Facebook on advertising news, best practices and thought leadership.
Our favorite post: Turn Interested Shoppers Into Buyers with a Guided Shopping Experience in Messenger

10. Falcon Insights Hub @falconio
Social Media Marketing strategy, tactics and ROI measurement plus platform specific best practices.
Our favorite post: 5 Social Media Trends to Watch in 2019

11. Gary Vaynerchuk Blog @garyvee
The content machine that is Garyvee covers social media marketing thought leadership, trends, news and practical advice for specific social networks.
Our favorite post: 5 LinkedIn Marketing Strategies for 2019

12. Gleam Blog @gleamapp
A lot of how to social media marketing content, tips on using Gleam apps and advice on social contests, giveaways, coupons and product hunts.
Our favorite post: Stop Buying Likes: 25+ Tips to Drive Real Engagement on Facebook

13. Grow @markwschaefer
Mark Schaefer’s blog on the intersection of marketing, technology and humanity featuring provocative insights on industry trends, featured examples of social media and marketing in action and practical advice.
Our favorite post: What Is Your Social Media Marketing Purpose? (If You Don’t Know, This Will Help)

14. Hopper HQ Blog @hopper_hq
All things Instagram marketing ranging from trends to tips and a bit of advice on working with social influencers too.
Our favorite post: How to Measure B2B Social Media Marketing Success

15. Hot in Social Media @hotinsm
Social platform news and tips covering the gamut of social media marketing topics plus curated advice from industry experts.
Our favorite post: How to Use TikTok Like a PRO: Actionable Tips for Marketers

16. Iconosquare Blog @iconosquare
Focused information on marketing with Facebook and Instagram.
Our favorite post: Instagram Marketing Strategy: Your A-Z Guide

17. Instagram Business Blog @instagram
Official blog from Instagram sharing platform updates, features advertising advice.
Our favorite post: Creative Secrets of Instagram Stories

18. Jeff Bullas Blog @jeffbullas
Social Media Marketing best practices from Jeff and guest contributors.
Our favorite post: 9 Insider Tips For Increasing Your LinkedIn Leads

19. Jon Loomer Blog @jonloomer
This blog is Facebook marketing central – everything you ever wanted to know.
Our favorite post: How to Edit a Facebook Ad and Retain Social Proof

20. Karen’s PR & Social Media Blog @kfreberg
Dr. Karen Freberg’s take on social media marketing, PR and crisis communications.
Our favorite post: Super Bowl 2019: Trends & Takeaways from a Social Media Professor

21. Katie Lance Blog @katielance
Great example of a personal brand showcasing social media marketing advice with a slant towards the real estate audience.
Our favorite post: How to Attract Your Dream Client Through Social Media and Storytelling

22. Keyhole Blog @keyholeco
Recent attention to a variety of social media marketing tools as well as practical advice for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and hashtag marketing.
Our favorite post: Hashtags: A Beginner’s Guide and How to Use them Effectively – Keyhole

23. Later Blog @latermedia
Instagram Marketing strategy, tips, tools, resources and guides.
Our favorite post: Real or Fake: 5 Instagram Algorithm Rumors Explained

24. LinkedIn Marketing Solutions Blog @linkedinmktg
Official blog from Linkedin offering marketing thought leadership, industry trends, news and practical advice on how to make the most of marketing and advertising on LinkedIn. (client)
Our favorite post: 10 Content Ideas for your LinkedIn Page

25. Louise Myers Visual Social Media Blog @Louise_Myers
Practice visual social media marketing tips for Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest plus advice on blogging.
Our favorite post: How to Boost Your Social Media Strategy for 2019

26. Madalyn Sklar Blog @MadalynSklar
Literally everything you would ever want to know about building and engaging a community on Twitter with plenty of attention towards tools.
Our favorite post: How to Grow Your Twitter Community: 7 Essential Tips

27. Meltwater Blog: Social Media @MeltwaterSocial
Social Media thought leadership, practical advice and featured brand social media examples.
Our favorite post: Social Sidekick: Your Monthly Guide to Social Holidays, Themes, and Noteworthy Events

28. NetBase Blog @NetBase
Advice on social media listening, analytics and practical advice plus applications for social intelligence.
Our favorite post: Social Media Monitoring vs Social Listening – Yes, There’s a Difference!

29. Planoly Blog @planoly
Stay on top of Instagram and IG Marketing with practical tips and examples.
Our favorite post: How to Stay Motivated with Your Blog and Instagram

30. Problogger @problogger
Dedicated to the art and science of blogging and no one tells that story better than Darren Rowse.
Our favorite post: How to Start a Blog When You’re Not an Expert: 11 Ways to Make it Work

31. Snapchat for Business @snapchat
Official blog from Snapchat featuring the latest launches, announcements, and insights.
Our favorite post: CPG on Snapchat: Why Gen Z and millennials make all the difference

32. Socialnomics @equalman
Erik Qualman’s long running thought leadership blog on social media and marketing.
Our favorite post: 22 Social Media Tips From The Pros To Skyrocket Your 2019 ROI

33. Social Insider Blog @socialinsiderio
A cornucopia of how to articles on social media marketing plus a fun series of interviews with industry experts called Socialinsider Insta’rviews.
Our favorite post: The Most Impactful Social Media Trend That Businesses Should Integrate It In 2019

34. Social Media Examiner @SMExaminer
Probably the most popular blog about social media marketing from Mike Stelzner and team that also run the Social Media Marketing World conference.
Our favorite post: 10 Metrics to Track When Analyzing Your Social Media Marketing

35. Social Media Explorer @smxplorer
An original social media marketing blog covering the gamut of social media topics including tips, tools, news, and case studies.
Our favorite post: Up And Coming Social Media Trends Driven By Millennials And Generation Z

36. Social Media Lab @agorapulse
A special project from the folks at Agorapulse highlighting their investment of over $15k per month to help “Crack the Code” of social media and then report those results to readers.
Our favorite post: LinkedIn Post Length: Does Data Support the Idea that Longer is Better?

37. Social Media Today @socialmedia2day
A community blog offering a comprehensive view of social media marketing including updates to social platforms, trends, strategy and tactics.
Our favorite post: Social Media Calls to Action: 19 Words & Phrases to Generate More Engagement

38. Social Media Week News & Insights @socialmediaweek
Regular updates on the famous Social Media Week events in New York and Los Angeles plus coverage of social media technologies and marketing tactics.
Our favorite post: Boost Your Instagram Stories Game for 2019 With These 10 Practices

39. Social Report Blog @thesocialreport
A collection of practical posts about marketing on all of the major social networks plus trends and examples.
Our favorite post: 10 Top Social Media Scheduling Tools to Save Time in 2019

40. Social Sorted @SociallySorted
Donna Mortiz offers awesome monthly list posts of social media marketing ideas and in between shares visual and video marketing advice for social media channels.
Our favorite post: 60+ April Social Media Ideas – Videos, GIFs and more!

41. Spiderworking @Spiderworking
Amanda Webb covers social platform updates, examples and practical advice about small business social and content marketing.
Our favorite post: Relationship Marketing With Jessika Phillips, Pots Of Gold And LinkedIn Networking

42. Sue B Zimmerman @SueBZimmerman
The guru of Instagram marketing.
Our favorite post: How To Grow Instagram Followers in 2019

43. The Social Media Hat @SocialMediaHats
Mike Allton’s blog with practical advice about blogging, social media, SEO and email marketing.
Our favorite post: How to Create 26 Pieces Of Content From A Facebook Live

44. Talkwalker Blog @Talkwalker
Social Media Marketing and analytics blog with an emphasis on social monitoring and data applications.
Our favorite post: Social media trends that will impact 2019

45. Twitter Marketing Blog @Twitter
Official blog from Twitter about product news, marketing and advertising best practices and research.
Our favorite post: 10 ways marketing changed with Twitter

46. Unmetric Blog @unmetric
Social Media Marketing strategy, industry trends, and how to articles focused on brands.
Our favorite post: Brands vie for the throne in the game of social media marketing

One trend I’ve noticed is that many individuals that have really made a name for themselves as trusted voices in the social media space during the formative years of the industry simply are not blogging as much or have diversified into other areas of marketing. At the same time, a steady drumbeat of social media marketing advice can be found amongst a smaller number of highly focused industry blogs and companies serving the social media marketing industry.

Speaking of the social media marketing industry, you may have noticed some well known social media marketing technology brands are not on the above list. That’s because we’ve already included them in the martech list, but they certainly belong in this collection, so here they are:

If you’re more interested in following specific people in the world of social media marketing, then be sure to check out this list of social media marketing influencers for 2019.

Which social media marketing blogs would you add?

 

The post BIGLIST of Top Social Media Marketing Blogs for 2019 and Beyond appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.


Source: SEO blog

What Links to Target with Google’s Disavow Tool – Whiteboard Friday

Do you need to disavow links in the modern age of Google? Is it safe? If so, which links should you disavow? In this Whiteboard Friday, Cyrus Shepard answers all these questions and more. While he makes it clear that the majority of sites shouldn’t have to use Google’s Disavow Tool, he provides his personal strategies for those times when using the tool makes sense.

How do you decide when to disavow? We’d love to hear your process in the comments below!

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

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. I’m Cyrus Shepard. Today we’re going to be talking about a big topic — Google’s Disavow Tool. We’re going to be discussing when you should use it and what links you should target.

Now, this is kind of a scary topic to a lot of SEOs and webmasters. They’re kind of scared of the Disavow Tool. They think, “It’s not necessary. It can be dangerous. You shouldn’t use it.” But it’s a real tool. It exists for a reason, and Google maintains it for exactly for webmasters to use it. So today we’re going to be covering the scenarios which you might consider using it and what links you should target.

Disclaimer! The vast majority of sites don’t need to disavow *anything*

Now I want to start out with a big disclaimer. I want this to be approved by the Google spokespeople. So the big disclaimer is the vast majority of sites don’t need to disavow anything. Google has made tremendous progress over the last few years of determining what links to simply ignore. In fact, that was one of the big points of the last Penguin 4.0 algorithm update.

Before Penguin, you had to disavow links all the time. But after Penguin 4.0, Google simply ignored most bad links, emphasis on the word “most.” It’s not a perfect system. They don’t ignore all bad links. We’ll come back to that point in a minute. There is a danger in using the Disavow Tool of disavowing good links.

That’s the biggest problem I see with people who use the disavow is it’s really hard to determine what Google counts as a bad link or a harmful link and what they count as a good link. So a lot of people over-disavow and disavow too many things. So that’s something you need to look out for. My final point in the disclaimer is large, healthy sites with good link profiles are more immune to bad links.

So if you are The New York Times or Wikipedia and you have a few spam links pointing to you, it’s really not going to hurt you. But if your link profile isn’t as healthy, that’s something you need to consider. So with those disclaimers out of the way, let’s talk about the opposite sort of situations, situations where you’re going to want to consider using the Disavow Tool.

Good candidates for using the Disavow Tool

Obviously, if you have a manual penalty. Now, these have decreased significantly since Penguin 4.0. But they still exist. People still get manual penalties. Definitely, that’s what the Disavow Tool is for. But there are other situations. 

There was a conversation with Marie Haynes, that was published not too long ago, where she was asking in a Google hangout, “Are there other situations that you can use the disavow other than a penalty, where your links may hurt you algorithmically?”

John Mueller said this certainly was the case, that if you want to disavow those obviously dodgy links that could be hurting you algorithmically, it might help Google trust your link profile a little more. If your link profile isn’t that healthy in the first place if you only have a handful of links and some of those are dodgy, you don’t have a lot to fall back on.

So disavowing those dodgy links can help Google trust the rest of your link profile a little more. 

1. Penalty examples

Okay, with those caveats out of the way and situations where you do want to disavow, a big question people have is, “Well, what should I disavow?” So I’ve done this for a number of sites, and these are my standards and I’ll share them with you. So good candidates to disavow, the best examples are often what Google will give you when they penalize you.

Again it’s a little more rare, but when you do get a link penalty, Google will often provide sample links. They don’t tell you all of the links to disavow. But they’ll give you sample links, and you can go through and you can look for patterns in your links to see what matches what Google is considering a spammy link. You definitely want to include those in your disavow file. 

2. Link schemes

If you’ve suffered a drop in traffic, or you think Google is hurting you algorithmically because of your links, obviously if you’ve participated in link schemes, if you’ve been a little bit naughty and violated Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, you definitely want to take a look at those.

We’re talking about links that you paid for or someone else paid for. It’s possible someone bought some shady links to try to bring you down, although Google is good at ignoring a lot of those. If you use PBNs. Now I know a lot of black hat SEOs that use PBNs and swear by them. But when they don’t work, when you’ve been hurt algorithmically or you’ve been penalized or your traffic is down and you’re using PBNs, that’s a good candidate to put in your disavow file.

3. Non-editorial links

Google has a whole list of non-editorial links. We’re going to link to it in the transcript below. But these are links that the webmaster didn’t intentionally place, things like widgets, forum spam, signature spam, really shady, dodgy links that you control. A good judge of all of these links is often in the anchor text.

4. $$ Anchor text

Is it a money anchor text? Are these money, high-value keywords? Do you control the anchor text? You can generally tell a really shady link by looking at the anchor text. Is it optimized? Could I potentially benefit? Do I control that?

If the answer is yes to those questions, it’s usually a good candidate for the disavow file. 

The “maybe” candidates for using the Disavow Tool

Then there’s a whole set of links in a bucket that I call the “maybe” file. You might want to disavow. I oftentimes do, but not necessarily. 

1. Malware

So a lot of these would be malware. You click on a link and it gives you a red browser warning that the site contains spam, or your computer freezes up, those toxic links.

If I were Google, I probably wouldn’t want to see those types of links linking to a site. I don’t like them linking to me. I would probably throw them in the disavow. 

2. Cloaked sites

These are sites when you click on the link, they show Google one set of results, but a user a different set of results. The way you find these is that when you’re searching for your links, it’s usually a good idea to look at them using a Googlebot user agent.

If you use Chrome, you can get a browser extension. We’ll link to some of these in the post below. But look at everything and see everything through Google’s eyes using a Googlebot user agent and you can find those cloaked pages. They’re kind of a red flag in terms of link quality. 

3. Shady 404s

Now, what do I mean by a shady 404? You click on the link and the page isn’t there, and in fact, maybe the whole domain isn’t there. You’ve got a whole bunch of these. It looks like just something is off about these 404s. The reason I throw these in the disavow file is because usually there’s no record of what the link was. It was usually some sort of spammy link.

They were trying to rank for something, and then, for whatever reason, they removed the entire domain or it’s removed by the domain registrar. Because I don’t know what was there, I usually disavow it. It’s not going to help me in the future when Google discovers that it’s gone anyway. So it’s usually a safe bet to disavow those shady 404s. 

4. Bad neighborhood spam

Finally, sometimes you find those bad neighborhood links in your link profile.

These are things like pills, poker, porn, the three P’s of bad neighborhoods. If I were Google and I saw porn linking to my non-porn site, I would consider that pretty shady. Now maybe they’ll just ignore it, but I just don’t feel comfortable having a lot of these bad, spammy neighborhoods linking to me. So I might consider these to throw in the disavow file as well.

Probably okay — don’t necessarily need to disavow

Now finally, we often see a lot of people disavowing links that maybe aren’t that bad. Again, I want to go back to the point it’s hard to tell what Google considers a good link, a valuable link and a poor link. There is a danger in throwing too much in your disavow file, which a lot of people do. They just throw the whole kitchen sink in there.

If you do that, those links aren’t going to count, and your traffic might go down. 

1. Scraper sites

So one thing I don’t personally put in my disavow file are scraper sites. You get a good link in an online magazine, and then a hundred other sites copy it. These are scraper sites. Google is picking them up. I don’t put those in the disavow file because Google is getting better and better at assigning the authority of those links to the original site. I don’t find that putting them in the disavow file has really helped, at least with the sites I work with. 

2. Feeds

The same with feeds. You see a lot of feed links in Google’s list in your link report. These are just raw HTML feeds, RSS feeds. Again, for the same reason, unless they are feeds or scraper sites from this list over here. If they are feeds and scrapers of good sites, no need. 

3. Auto-generated spam 

These are sites that are automatically generated by robots and programs. They’re usually pretty harmless. Google is pretty good at ignoring them. You can tell the difference between auto-generated spam and link scheme again by the anchor text.

Auto-generated spam usually does not have optimized anchor text. It’s usually your page title. It’s usually broken. These are really low-quality pages that Google generally ignores, that I would not put in a disavow. 

4. Simple low quality

These are things like directories, pages that you look at and you’re like, “Oh, wow, they only have three pages on their site. No one is linking to them.”

Leave it up to Google to ignore those, and they generally do a pretty good job. Or Google can count them. For things like this, unless it’s obvious, unless you’re violating these rules, I like to leave them in. I don’t like to include them in the disavow. So we’ve got our list. 

Pro tips for your disavow file

A few pro tips when you actually put your disavow file together if you choose to do so. 

Disavow domain

If you find one bad link on a spammy domain, it’s usually a good idea to disavow the entire domain, because there’s a good chance that there are other links on there that you’re just not spotting.

So using the domain operator in your disavow file is usually a good idea, unless it’s a site like WordPress or something with a lot of subdomains. 

Use Search Console & third-party tools

Where do you find your links to disavow? First choice is generally Search Console, the link report in Search Console, because that’s the links that Google is actually using. It is helpful to use third-party tools, such as Moz Link Explorer, Ahrefs, SEMrush, whatever your link index is, and that’s because you can sort through the anchor text.

When Google gives you their link report, they don’t include the anchor text. It’s very helpful to use those anchor text reports, such as you would get in Moz Link Explorer, and you can sort through and you can find your over-optimized anchor text, your spammy anchor text. You can find patterns and sort. That’s often really helpful to do that in order to sort your information.

Try removing links

If you have a disavow file, and this happens on a lot of older sites, if you’re auditing a site, it’s a really good idea to go in and check and see if a disavow file already exists. It’s possible it was created prior to Penguin 4.0. It’s possible there are a lot of good links in there already, and you can try removing links from that disavow file and see if it helps your rankings, because those older disavow files often contain a lot of links that are actually good, that are actually helping you.

Record everything and treat it as an experiment

Finally, record everything. Treat this as any other SEO process. Record everything. Think of it as an experiment. If you disavow, if you make a mistake and your rankings drop or your rankings go up, you want to know what caused that, and you need to be responsible for that and be a good SEO. All right, that’s all we have for today.

Leave your own disavow comments below. If you like this video, please share. Thanks, everybody.

Bonus: I really liked these posts for detailing alternative ways of finding links to disavow, so I thought I’d share: 

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

Top Takeaways from LinkedIn’s New ‘Enlightened Tech Buyer’ Report

Key Takewaways from LinkedIn's Enlightened Tech Buyer Report

Key Takewaways from LinkedIn's Enlightened Tech Buyer Report

Technology is one of the fastest-growing B2B sectors, for reasons that are self-evident. As new solutions and innovations continue to enhance the way businesses operate across every industry, every key department has increasing tech needs and buying power these days.

The folks at LinkedIn* recently released a 2019 global report, The Enlightened Tech Buyer: Powering Customer Decisions from Acquisition to Renewal, and it merits attention from marketers of all stripes. As the “enlightened” descriptor implies, tech buyers (for reasons that are also self-evident) tend to be ahead of the curve when it comes to research, consumption, and purchase behaviors.

Today we’ll take a deeper look at LinkedIn’s new data around this trendsetting cohort, breaking down five key revelations within.

5 Telling Trends Revealed in LinkedIn’s Tech Buyer Report

Here are some of the most eye-opening tidbits we saw based on LinkedIn’s survey of “5,241 global professionals who participated in or influenced the purchase of various hardware or software solutions at their organization within the last three months.”

#1 – Tech Buying Committees are Expansive and Diverse

We all know that, in general, B2B buying committees are expanding faster than the Night King’s army of wights. This dynamic is especially pronounced in the tech space.

“Where previously 3/4 of enterprise employees were part of technology decision-making,” LinkedIn reports, “today the total universe of end-users and decision-makers who impact business technology investments encompasses 4/5 of employees (roughly 86%).”

Tech Buying Decision-Making

As tech products and services become increasingly integrated with every aspect of an organization, more voices are coming into play. End users, external influencers, and cross-functional stakeholders all tend to have a role. This reinforces the imperative of establishing strong brand awareness throughout a business, which is a central focus of account-based marketing.  

#2 – The Purchase Cycle is Shortening

The report notes that the process of reviewing, selecting, and implementing new tech solutions has accelerated over the past few years, with the average purchase cycle now checking in at about 25 months. This could be viewed as good news or bad news, depending on how you look at it.

On the one hand, that’s still a fairly long timespan, providing plenty of opportunity for marketing content to make an impact. Meanwhile, the increase in velocity could suggest buyers are becoming more deliberate and urgent in identifying solutions.

But on the other hand, this also means that we as marketers have a smaller window than before to engage and persuade. We now need to make each interaction count more than ever — especially if we’re pursuing a new account. LinkedIn’s study shows that shortlists are becoming more competitive than ever for vendors.

#3 – Vendor Websites Are a Prime Resource

Across every B2B tech category, vendor website/mobile app is the top research destination for buyers. In aggregate, this source is followed by blogs/forums/discussion boards, product review websites, and technology media/trade journals:

In short, buyers are seeking out trustworthy information — be it from a company’s own website or from unbiased third party resources. This accentuates the importance of building credibility with best-answer content, which can satisfy a decision maker’s questions during research while also positioning your brand as helpful and knowledgeable.

#4 – Buyers Want Partners, Not Sellers

Above all, tech buyers value the overall quality of a product or service above all when choosing a vendor. (Duh.) But the next two factors are interesting: both the ability to consistently meet a buyer’s needs, and the ability to answer questions to a buyer’s satisfaction, rank above affordability/pricing in importance:

Choosing a Vendor

This is why the customer experience is becoming such an overarching imperative. Effective marketing now goes beyond the scope of traditional functions. Brands need to be readily available, with the right content at the right time. Strategies must account for every touch point. Always-on approaches are becoming the norm. And this level of attentiveness should go beyond the actual purchase itself…  

#5 – Smooth Implementation is Essential

Per LinkedIn, “The #1 indicator of customer renewal success is successful adoption and product satisfaction.” No surprise there. But it’s another reminder of why the full customer experience needs to be addressed.

“The data shows direct vendor engagement among buyers dropping off in later stages of purchase, meaning that there’s an opportunity to be more present and engaged with customers post-sale,” according to the report. “Marketers need to play an active role in the implementation and adoption process of new technology. A seamless customer experience also demands alignment with customer support in activities, training and key education resources.”

How can marketing continue to shape experiences in these later stages and after the sale? It’s a vital consideration for profitability, since we all know the relative cost of acquiring new customers compared to retaining existing ones.

Follow the Tech Buyers

None of the nuggets revealed in LinkedIn’s “Enlightened Tech Buyer” report are especially surprising, but they do reinforce some of the trends we see playing out at large:

  • Buying committees are becoming more distributed
  • Researchers seek out objective information and best-answer content
  • We need to help, not sell
  • Marketing is starting to impact more parts of the customer experience

To get the full scoop on today’s B2B tech buyer preferences, check out LinkedIn’s report.

*Disclosure: LinkedIn is a TopRank Marketing client.

The post Top Takeaways from LinkedIn’s New ‘Enlightened Tech Buyer’ Report appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.


Source: SEO blog

Restaurant Local SEO: The Google Characteristics of America’s Top-Ranked Eateries

“A good chef has to be a manager, a businessman and a great cook. To marry all three together is sometimes difficult.”
– Wolfgang Puck

I like this quote. It makes me hear phones ringing at your local search marketing agency, with aspiring chefs and restaurateurs on the other end of the line, ready to bring experts aboard in the “sometimes difficult” quest for online visibility.

Is your team ready for these clients? How comfortable do you feel talking restaurant Local SEO when such calls come in? When was the last time you took a broad survey of what’s really ranking in this specialized industry?

Allow me to be your prep cook today, and I’ll dice up “best restaurant” local packs for major cities in all 50 US states. We’ll julienne Google Posts usage, rough chop DA, make chiffonade of reviews, owner responses, categories, and a host of other ingredients to determine which characteristics are shared by establishments winning this most superlative of local search phrases.

The finished dish should make us conversant with what it takes these days to be deemed “best” by diners and by Google, empowering your agency to answer those phones with all the breezy confidence of Julia Child.

Methodology

I looked at the 3 businesses in the local pack for “best restaurants (city)” in a major city in each of the 50 states, examining 11 elements for each entry, yielding 4,950 data points. I set aside the food processor for this one and did everything manually. I wanted to avoid the influence of proximity, so I didn’t search for any city in which I was physically located. The results, then, are what a traveler would see when searching for top restaurants in destination cities.

Restaurant results

Now, let’s look at each of the 11 data points together and see what we learn. Take a seat at the table!

Categories prove no barrier to entry

Which restaurant categories make up the dominant percentage of local pack entries for our search?

You might think that a business trying to rank locally for “best restaurants” would want to choose just “restaurant” as their primary Google category as a close match. Or, you might think that since we’re looking at best restaurants, something like “fine dining restaurants” or the historically popular “French restaurants” might top the charts.

Instead, what we’ve discovered is that restaurants of every category can make it into the top 3. Fifty-one percent of the ranking restaurants hailed from highly diverse categories, including Pacific Northwest Restaurant, Pacific Rim Restaurant, Organic, Southern, Polish, Lebanese, Eclectic and just about every imaginable designation. American Restaurant is winning out in bulk with 26 percent of the take, and an additional 7 percent for New American Restaurant. I find this an interesting commentary on the nation’s present gustatory aesthetic as it may indicate a shift away from what might be deemed fancy fare to familiar, homier plates.

Overall, though, we see the celebrated American “melting pot” perfectly represented when searchers seek the best restaurant in any given city. Your client’s food niche, however specialized, should prove no barrier to entry in the local packs.

High prices don’t automatically equal “best”

Do Google’s picks for “best restaurants” share a pricing structure?

It will cost you more than $1000 per head to dine at Urasawa, the nation’s most expensive eatery, and one study estimates that the average cost of a restaurant meal in the US is $12.75. When we look at the price attribute on Google listings, we find that the designation “best” is most common for establishments with charges that fall somewhere in between the economical and the extravagant.

Fifty-eight percent of the top ranked restaurants for our search have the $$ designation and another 25 percent have the $$$. We don’t know Google’s exact monetary value behind these symbols, but for context, a Taco Bell with its $1–$2 entrees would typically be marked as $, while the fabled French Laundry gets $$$$ with its $400–$500 plates. In our study, the cheapest and the costliest restaurants make up only a small percentage of what gets deemed “best.”

There isn’t much information out there about Google’s pricing designations, but it’s generally believed that they stem at least in part from the attribute questions Google sends to searchers. So, this element of your clients’ listings is likely to be influenced by subjective public sentiment. For instance, Californians’ conceptions of priciness may be quite different from North Dakotans’. Nevertheless, on the national average, mid-priced restaurants are most likely to be deemed “best.”

Of anecdotal interest: The only locale in which all 3 top-ranked restaurants were designated at $$$$ was NYC, while in Trenton, NJ, the #1 spot in the local pack belongs to Rozmaryn, serving Polish cuisine at $ prices. It’s interesting to consider how regional economics may contribute to expectations, and your smartest restaurant clients will carefully study what their local market can bear. Meanwhile, 7 of the 150 restaurants we surveyed had no pricing information at all, indicating that Google’s lack of adequate information about this element doesn’t bar an establishment from ranking.

Less than 5 stars is no reason to despair

Is perfection a prerequisite for “best”?

Negative reviews are the stuff of indigestion for restaurateurs, and I’m sincerely hoping this study will provide some welcome relief. The average star rating of the 150 “best” restaurants we surveyed is 4.5. Read that again: 4.5. And the number of perfect 5-star joints in our study? Exactly zero. Time for your agency to spend a moment doing deep breathing with clients.

The highest rating for any restaurant in our data set is 4.8, and only three establishments rated so highly. The lowest is sitting at 4.1. Every other business falls somewhere in-between. These ratings stem from customer reviews, and the 4.5 average proves that perfection is simply not necessary to be “best.”

Breaking down a single dining spot with 73 reviews, a 4.6 star rating was achieved with fifty-six 5-star reviews, four 4-star reviews, three 3-star reviews, two 2-star reviews, and three 1-star reviews. 23 percent of diners in this small review set had a less-than-ideal experience, but the restaurant is still achieving top rankings. Practically speaking for your clients, the odd night when the pho was gummy and the paella was burnt can be tossed onto the compost heap of forgivable mistakes.

Review counts matter, but differ significantly

How many reviews do the best restaurants have?

It’s folk wisdom that any business looking to win local rankings needs to compete on native Google review counts. I agree with that, but was struck by the great variation in review counts across the nation and within given packs. Consider:

  • The greatest number of reviews in our study was earned by Hattie B’s Hot Chicken in Nashville, TN, coming in at a whopping 4,537!
  • Meanwhile, Park Heights Restaurant in Tupelo, MS is managing a 3-pack ranking with just 72 reviews, the lowest in our data set.
  • 35 percent of “best”-ranked restaurants have between 100–499 reviews and another 31 percent have between 500–999 reviews. Taken together that’s 66 percent of contenders having yet to break 1,000 reviews.
  • A restaurant with less than 100 reviews has only a 1 percent chance of ranking for this type of search.

Anecdotally, I don’t know how much data you would have to analyze to be able to find a truly reliable pattern regarding winning review counts. Consider the city of Dallas, where the #1 spot has 3,365 review, but spots #2 and #3 each have just over 300. Compare that to Tallahassee, where a business with 590 reviews is coming in at #1 above a competitor with twice that many. Everybody ranking in Boise has well over 1,000 reviews, but nobody in Bangor is even breaking into the 200s.

The takeaways from this data point is that the national average review count is 893 for our “best” search, but that there is no average magic threshold you can tell a restaurant client they need to cross to get into the pack. Totals vary so much from city to city that your best plan of action is to study the client’s market and strongly urge full review management without making any promise that hitting 1,000 reviews will ensure them beating out that mysterious competitor who is sweeping up with just 400 pieces of consumer sentiment. Remember, no local ranking factor stands in isolation.

Best restaurants aren’t best at owner responses

How many of America’s top chophouses have replied to reviews in the last 60 days?

With a hat tip to Jason Brown at the Local Search Forum for this example of a memorable owner response to a negative review, I’m sorry to say I have some disappointing news. Only 29 percent of the restaurants ranked best in all 50 states had responded to their reviews in the 60 days leading up to my study. There were tributes of lavish praise, cries for understanding, and seething remarks from diners, but less than one-third of owners appeared to be paying the slightest bit of attention.

On the one hand, this indicates that review responsiveness is not a prerequisite for ranking for our desirable search term, but let’s go a step further. In my view, whatever time restaurant owners may be gaining back via unresponsiveness is utterly offset by what they stand to lose if they make a habit of overlooking complaints. Review neglect has been cited as a possible cause of business closure. As my friends David Mihm and Mike Blumenthal always say:“Your brand is its reviews” and mastering the customer service ecosystem is your surest way to build a restaurant brand that lasts.

For your clients, I would look at any local pack with neglected reviews as representative of a weakness. Algorithmically, your client’s active management of the owner response function could become a strength others lack. But I’ll even go beyond that: Restaurants ignoring how large segments of customer service have moved onto the web are showing a deficit of commitment to the long haul. It’s true that some eateries are famous for thriving despite offhand treatment of patrons, but in the average city, a superior commitment to responsiveness could increase many restaurants’ repeat business, revenue and rankings.

Critic reviews nice but not essential

I’ve always wanted to investigate critic reviews for restaurants, as Google gives them a great deal of screen space in the listings:

How many times were critic reviews cited in the Google listings of America’s best restaurants and how does an establishment earn this type of publicity?

With 57 appearances, Lonely Planet is the leading source of professional reviews for our search term, with Zagat and 10Best making strong showings, too. It’s worth noting that 70/150 businesses I investigated surfaced no critic reviews at all. They’re clearly not a requirement for being considered “best”, but most restaurants will benefit from the press. Unfortunately, there are few options for prompting a professional review. To wit:

Lonely Planet — Founded in 1972, Lonely Planet is a travel guide publisher headquartered in Australia. Critic reviews like this one are written for their website and guidebooks simultaneously. You can submit a business for review consideration via this form, but the company makes no guarantees about inclusion.

Zagat — Founded in 1979, Zagat began as a vehicle for aggregating diner reviews. It was purchased by Google in 2011 and sold off to The Infatuation in 2018. Restaurants can’t request Zagat reviews. Instead, the company conducts its own surveys and selects businesses to be rated and reviewed, like this.

10Best — Owned by USA Today Travel Media Group, 10Best employs local writers/travelers to review restaurants and other destinations. Restaurants cannot request a review.

The Infatuation — Founded in 2009 and headquartered in NY, The Infatuation employs diner-writers to create reviews like this one based on multiple anonymous dining experiences that are then published via their app. The also have a SMS-based restaurant recommendation system. They do not accept request from restaurants hoping to be reviewed.

AFAR — Founded in 2009, AFAR is a travel publication with a website, magazine, and app which publishes reviews like this one. There is no form for requesting a review.

Michelin — Founded as a tire company in 1889 in France, Michelin’s subsidiary ViaMichelin is a digital mapping service that houses the reviews Google is pulling. In my study, Chicago, NYC and San Francisco were the only three cities that yielded Michelin reviews like this one and one article states that only 165 US restaurants have qualified for a coveted star rating. The company offers this guide to dining establishments.

As you can see, the surest way to earn a professional review is to become notable enough on the dining scene to gain the unsolicited notice of a critic. 

Google Posts hardly get a seat at best restaurant tables

How many picks for best restaurants are using the Google Posts microblogging feature?

As it turns out, only a meager 16 percent of America’s “best” restaurants in my survey have made any use of Google Posts. In fact, most of the usage I saw wasn’t even current. I had to click the “view previous posts on Google” link to surface past efforts. This statistic is much worse than what Ben Fisher found when he took a broader look at Google Posts utilization and found that 42 percent of local businesses had at least experimented with the feature at some point.

For whatever reason, the eateries in my study are largely neglecting this influential feature, and this knowledge could encompass a competitive advantage for your restaurant clients.

Do you have a restaurateur who is trying to move up the ranks? There is some evidence that devoting a few minutes a week to this form of microblogging could help them get a leg up on lazier competitors.

Google Posts are a natural match for restaurants because they always have something to tout, some appetizing food shot to share, some new menu item to celebrate. As the local SEO on the job, you should be recommending an embrace of this element for its valuable screen real estate in the Google Business Profile, local finder, and maybe even in local packs.

Waiter, there’s some Q&A in my soup

What is the average number of questions top restaurants are receiving on their Google Business Profiles?

Commander’s Palace in New Orleans is absolutely stealing the show in my survey with 56 questions asked via the Q&A feature of the Google Business Profile. Only four restaurants had zero questions. The average number of questions across the board was eight.

As I began looking at the data, I decided not to re-do this earlier study of mine to find out how many questions were actually receiving responses from owners, because I was winding up with the same story. Time and again, answers were being left up to the public, resulting in consumer relations like these:

Takeaway: As I mentioned in a previous post, Greg Gifford found that 40 percent of his clients’ Google Questions were leads. To leave those leads up to the vagaries of the public, including a variety of wags and jokesters, is to leave money on the table. If a potential guest is asking about dietary restrictions, dress codes, gift cards, average prices, parking availability, or ADA compliance, can your restaurant clients really afford to allow a public “maybe” to be the only answer given?

I’d suggest that a dedication to answering questions promptly could increase bookings, cumulatively build the kind of reputation that builds rankings, and possibly even directly impact rankings as a result of being a signal of activity.

A moderate PA & DA gets you into the game

What is the average Page Authority and Domain Authority of restaurants ranking as “best’?

Looking at both the landing page that Google listings are pointing to and the overall authority of each restaurant’s domain, I found that:

  • The average PA is 36, with a high of 56 and a low of zero being represented by one restaurant with no website link and one restaurant appearing to have no website at all.
  • The average DA is 41, with a high of 88, one business lacking a website link while actually having a DA of 56 and another one having no apparent website at all. The lowest linked DA I saw was 6.
  • PA/DA do not = rankings. Within the 50 local packs I surveyed, 32 of them exhibited the #1 restaurant having a lower DA than the establishments sitting at #2 or #3. In one extreme case, a restaurant with a DA of 7 was outranking a website with a DA of 32, and there were the two businesses with the missing website link or missing website. But, for the most part, knowing the range of PA/DA in a pack you are targeting will help you create a baseline for competing.

While pack DA/PA differs significantly from city to city, the average numbers we’ve discovered shouldn’t be out-of-reach for established businesses. If your client’s restaurant is brand new, it’s going to take some serious work to get up market averages, of course.

Local Search Ranking Factors 2019 found that DA was the 9th most important local pack ranking signal, with PA sitting at factor #20. Once you’ve established a range of DA/PA for a local SERP you are trying to move a client up into, your best bet for making improvements will include improving content so that it earns links and powering up your outreach for local links and linktations.

Google’s Local Finder “web results” show where to focus management

Which websites does Google trust enough to cite as references for restaurants?

As it turns out, that trust is limited to a handful of sources:

As the above pie chart shows:

  • The restaurant’s website was listed as a reference for 99 percent of the candidates in our survey. More proof that you still need a website in 2019, for the very good reason that it feeds data to Google.
  • Yelp is highly trusted at 76 percent and TripAdvisor is going strong at 43 percent. Your client is likely already aware of the need to manage their reviews on these two platforms. Be sure you’re also checking them for basic data accuracy.
  • OpenTable and Facebook are each getting a small slice of Google trust, too.

Not shown in the above chart are 13 restaurants that had a web reference from a one-off source, like the Des Moines Register or Dallas Eater. A few very famous establishments, like Brennan’s in New Orleans, surfaced their Wikipedia page, although they didn’t do so consistently. I noticed Wikipedia pages appearing one day as a reference and then disappearing the next day. I was left wondering why.

For me, the core takeaway from this factor is that if Google is highlighting your client’s listing on a given platform as a trusted web result, your agency should go over those pages with a fine-toothed comb, checking for accuracy, activity, and completeness. These are citations Google is telling you are of vital importance.

A few other random ingredients

As I was undertaking this study, there were a few things I noted down but didn’t formally analyze, so consider this as mixed tapas:

  • Menu implementation is all over the place. While many restaurants are linking directly to their own website via Google’s offered menu link, some are using other services like Single Platform, and far too many have no menu link at all.
  • Reservation platforms like Open Table are making a strong showing, but many restaurants are drawing a blank on this Google listing field, too. Many, but far from all, of the restaurants designated “best” feature Google’s “reserve a table” function which stems from partnerships with platforms like Open Table and RESY.
  • Order links are pointing to multiple sources including DoorDash, Postmates, GrubHub, Seamless, and in some cases, the restaurant’s own website (smart!). But, in many cases, no use is being made of this function.
  • Photos were present for every single best-ranked restaurant. Their quality varied, but they are clearly a “given” in this industry.
  • Independently-owned restaurants are the clear winners for my search term. With the notable exception of an Olive Garden branch in Parkersburg, WV, and a Cracker Barrel in Bismarck, ND, the top competitors were either single-location or small multi-location brands. For the most part, neither Google nor the dining public associate large chains with “best”.
  • Honorable mentions go to Bida Manda Laotian Bar & Grill for what looks like a gorgeous and unusual restaurant ranking #1 in Raleigh, NC and to Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen of Tupelo, MS for the most memorable name in my data set. You can get a lot of creative inspiration from just spending time with restaurant data.

A final garnish to our understanding of this data

I want to note two things as we near the end of our study:

  1. Local rankings emerge from the dynamic scenario of Google’s opinionated algorithms + public opinion and behavior. Doing Local SEO for restaurants means managing a ton of different ingredients: website SEO, link building, review management, GBP signals, etc. We can’t offer clients a generic “formula” for winning across the board. This study has helped us understand national averages so that we can walk into the restaurant space feeling conversant with the industry. In practice, we’ll need to discover the true competitors in each market to shape our strategy for each unique client. And that brings us to some good news.
  2. As I mentioned at the outset of this survey, I specifically avoided proximity as an influence by searching as a traveler to other destinations would. I investigated one local pack for each major city I “visited”. The glad tidings are that, for many of your restaurant clients, there is going to be more than one chance to rank for a search like “best restaurants (city)”. Unless the eatery is in a very small town, Google is going to whip up a variety of local packs based on the searcher’s location. So, that’s something hopeful to share.

What have we learned about restaurant local SEO?

A brief TL;DR you can share easily with your clients:

  • While the US shows a predictable leaning towards American restaurants, any category can be a contender. So, be bold!
  • Mid-priced restaurants are considered “best” to a greater degree than the cheapest or most expensive options. Price for your market.
  • While you’ll likely need at least 100 native Google reviews to break into these packs, well over half of competitors have yet to break the 1,000 mark.
  • An average 71 percent of competitors are revealing a glaring weakness by neglecting to respond to reviews – so get in there and start embracing customer service to distinguish your restaurant!
  • A little over half of your competitors have earned critic reviews. If you don’t yet have any, there’s little you can do to earn them beyond becoming well enough known for anonymous professional reviewers to visit you. In the meantime, don’t sweat it.
  • About three-quarters of your competitors are completely ignoring Google Posts; gain the advantage by getting active.
  • Potential guests are asking nearly every competitor questions, and so many restaurants are leaving leads on the table by allowing random people to answer. Embrace fast responses to Q&A to stand out from the crowd.
  • With few exceptions, devotion to authentic link earning efforts can build up your PA/DA to competitive levels.
  • Pay attention to any platform Google is citing as a resource to be sure the information published there is a complete and accurate.
  • The current management of other Google Business Profile features like Menus, Reservations and Ordering paints a veritable smorgasbord of providers and a picture of prevalent neglect. If you need to improve visibility, explore every profile field that Google is giving you.

A question for you: Do you market restaurants? Would you be willing to share a cool local SEO tactic with our community? We’d love to hear about your special sauce in the comments below.

Wishing you bon appétit for working in the restaurant local SEO space, with delicious wins ahead!