How to Get Into Google News – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Polemic

Today we’re tackling a question that many of us have asked over the years: how do you increase your chances of getting your content into Google News? We’re delighted to welcome renowned SEO specialist Barry Adams to share the framework you need to have in place in order to have a chance of appearing in that much-coveted Google News carousel.

https://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/y5mkevpmzw?seo=false&videoFoam=true

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

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

Video Transcription

Hi, everyone. I’m Barry Adams. I’m a technical SEO consultant at Polemic Digital and a specialist in news SEO. Today we’re going to be talking about how to get into Google News. I get a lot of questions from a lot of people about Google News and specifically how you get a website into Google News, because it’s a really great source of traffic for websites. Once you’re in the Google News Index, you can appear in the top stories carousel in Google search results, and that can send a lot of traffic your way.

How do you get into Google News’ manually curated index?

So how do you get into Google News? How do you go about getting your website to be a part of Google News’ manual index so that you can get that top stories traffic for yourself? Well, it’s not always as easy as it makes it appear. You have to jump through quite a few hoops before you get into Google News.

1. Have a dedicated news website

First of all, you have to have a dedicated news website. You have to keep in mind when you apply to be included in Google News, there’s a team of Googlers who will manually review your website to decide whether or not you’re worthy of being in the News index. That is a manual process, and your website has to be a dedicated news website.

I get a lot of questions from people asking if they have a news section or a blog on their site and if that could be included in Google News. The answer tends to be no. Google doesn’t want news websites in there that aren’t entirely about news, that are commercial websites that have a news section. They don’t really want that. They want dedicated news websites, websites whose sole purpose is to provide news and content on specific topics and specific niches.

So that’s the first hurdle and probably the most important one. If you can’t clear that hurdle, you shouldn’t even try getting into Google News.

2. Meet technical requirements

There are also a lot of other aspects that go into Google News. You have to jump through, like I said, quite a few hoops. Some technical requirements are very important to know as well.

Have static, unique URLs.

Google wants your articles and your section pages to have static, unique URLs so that an article or a section is always on the same URL and Google can crawl it and recrawl it on that URL without having to work with any redirects or other things. If you have content with dynamically generated URLs, that does not tend to work with Google News very well. So you have to keep that in mind and make sure that your content, both your articles and your static section pages are on fixed URLs that tend not to change over time.

Have your content in plain HTML.

It also helps to have all your content in plain HTML. Google News, when it indexes your content, it’s all about speed. It tries to index articles as fast as possible. So any content that requires like client-side JavaScript or other sort of scripting languages tends not to work for Google News. Google has a two-stage indexing process, where the first stage is based on the HTML source code and the second stage is based on a complete render of the page, including executing JavaScript.

For Google News, that doesn’t work. If your content relies on JavaScript execution, it will never be seen by Google News. Google News only uses the first stage of indexing, based purely on the HTML source code. So keep your JavaScript to a minimum and make sure that the content of your articles is present in the HTML source code and does not require any JavaScript to be seen to be present.

Have clean code.

It also helps to have clean code. By clean code, I mean that the article content in the HTML source code should be one continuous block of code from the headline all the way to the end. That tends to result in the best and most efficient indexing in Google News, because I’ve seen many examples where websites put things in the middle of the article code, like related articles or video carousels, photo galleries, and that can really mess up how Google News indexes the content. So having clean code and make sure the article code is in one continuous block of easily understood HTML code tends to work the best for Google News.

3. Optional (but more or less mandatory) technical considerations

There’s also quite a few other things that are technically optional, but I see them as pretty much mandatory because it really helps with getting your content picked up in Google News very fast and also makes sure you get that top stories carousel position as fast as possible, which is where you will get most of your news traffic from.

Have a news-specific XML sitemap.

Primarily the news XML sitemap, Google says this is optional but recommended, and I agree with them on that. Having a news-specific XML sitemap that lists articles that you’ve published in the last 48 hours, up to a maximum of 1,000 articles, is absolutely necessary. For me, I think this is Google News’ primary discovery mechanism when they crawl your website and try to find new articles.

So that news-specific XML sitemap is absolutely crucial, and you want to make sure you have that in place before you submit your site to Google News.

Mark up articles with NewsArticle structured data.

I also think it’s very important to mark up your articles with news article structured data. It can be just article structured data or even more specific structured data segments that Google is introducing, like news article analysis and news article opinion for specific types of articles.

But article or news article markup on your article pages is pretty much mandatory. I see your likelihood of getting into the top stories carousel much improved if you have that markup implemented on your article pages.

Helpful-to-have extras:

Also, like I said, this is a manually curated index. So there are a few extra hoops that you want to jump through to make sure that when a Googler looks at your website and reviews it, it ticks all the boxes and it appears like a trustworthy, genuine news website.

A. Multiple authors

Having multiple authors contribute to your website is hugely valuable, hugely important, and it does tend to elevate you above all the other blogs and small sites that are out there and makes it a bit more likely that the Googler reviewing your site will press that Approve button.

B. Daily updates

Having daily updates definitely is necessary. You don’t want just one news post every couple of days. Ideally, multiple new articles every single day that also should be unique. You can have some sort of syndicated content on there, like from feeds, from AP or Reuters or whatever, but the majority of your content needs to be your own unique content. You don’t want to rely too much on syndicated articles to fill your website with news content.

C. Mostly unique content

Try to write as much unique content as you possibly can. There isn’t really a clear ratio for that. Generally speaking, I recommend my clients to have at least 70% of the content as unique stuff that they write themselves and publish themselves and only 30% maximum syndicated content from external sources.

D. Specialized niche/topic

It really helps to have a specialized niche or a specialized topic that you focus on as a news website. There are plenty of news sites out there that are general news and try to do everything, and Google News doesn’t really need many more of those. What Google is interested in is niche websites on specific topics, specific areas that can provide in-depth reporting on those specific industries or topics. So if you have a very niche topic or a niche industry that you cover with your news, it does tend to improve your chances of getting into that News Index and getting that top stories carousel traffic.

So that, in a nutshell, is how you get into Google News. It might appear to be quite simple, but, like I said, quite a few hoops for you to jump through, a few technical things you have to implement on your website as well. But if you tick all those boxes, you can get so much traffic from the top stories carousel, and the rest is profit. Thank you very much.

This has been my Whiteboard Friday.

Further resources:

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Advertisements

What Happens When SEO and CRO Conflict?

Posted by willcritchlow

Much has been written and spoken about the interplay of SEO and CRO, and there are a lot of reasons why, in theory, both ought to be working towards a shared goal. Whether it’s simple pragmatism of the business benefit of increasing total number of conversions, or higher-minded pursuits such as the ideal of Google seeking to reward the best user experiences, we have many things that should bring us together.

In practice, though, it’s rarely that simple or that unified. How much effort do the practitioners of each put in to ensure that they are working towards the true shared common goal of the greatest number of conversions?

In asking around, I’ve found that many SEOs do worry about their changes hurting conversion rates, but few actively mitigate that risk. Interestingly, my conversations with CRO experts show that they also often worry about SEOs’ work impacting negatively on conversion rates.

Neither side weights as highly the risks that conversion-oriented changes could hurt organic search performance, but our experiences show that both are real risks.

So how should we mitigate these risks? How should we work together?

But first, some evidence

There are certainly some SEO-centric changes that have a very low risk of having a negative impact on conversion rates for visitors from other channels. If you think about changing meta information, for example, much of that is invisible to users on the page—- maybe that is pure SEO:

And then on the flip side, there are clearly CRO changes that don’t have any impact on your organic search performance. Anything you do on non-indexed pages, for example, can’t change your rankings. Think about work done within a checkout process or within a login area. Google simply isn’t seeing those changes:

But everything else has a potential impact on both, and our experience has been showing us that the theoretical risk is absolutely real. We have definitely seen SEO changes that have changed conversion rates, and have experience of major CRO-centered changes that have had dramatic impacts on search performance (but more on that later). The point is, there’s a ton of stuff in the intersection of both SEO and CRO:

So throughout this post, I’ve talked about our experiences, and work we have done that has shown various impacts in different directions, from conversion rate-centric changes that change search performance and vice versa. How are we seeing all this?

Well, testing has been a central part of conversion rate work essentially since the field began, and we’ve been doing a lot of work in recent years on SEO A/B testing as well. At our recent London conference, we announced that we have been building out new features in our testing platform to enable what we are calling full funnel testing which looks simultaneously at the impact of a single change on conversion rates, and on search performance:

If you’re interested in the technical details of how we do the testing, you can read more about the setup of a full funnel test here. (Thanks to my colleagues Craig Bradford and Tom Anthony for concepts and diagrams that appear throughout this post).

But what I really want to talk about today is the mixed objectives of CRO and SEO, and what happens if you fail to look closely at the impact of both together. First: some pure CRO.

An example CRO scenario: The business impact of conversion rate testing

In the example that follows, we look at the impact on an example business of a series of conversion rate tests conducted throughout a year, and see the revenue uplift we might expect as a result of rolling out winning tests, and turning off null and negative ones. We compare the revenue we might achieve with the revenue we would have expected without testing. The example is a little simplified but it serves to prove our point.

We start on a high with a winning test in our first month:

After starting on a high, our example continues through a bad strong — a null test (no confident result in either direction) followed by three losers. We turn off each of these four so none of them have an actual impact on future months’ revenue:

Let’s continue something similar out through the end of the year. Over the course of this example year, we see 3 months with winning tests, and of course we only roll out those ones that come with uplifts:

By the end of this year, even though more tests have failed than have succeeded, you have proved some serious value to this small business, and have moved monthly revenue up significantly, taking annual revenue for the year up to over £1.1m (from a £900k starting point):

Is this the full picture, though?

What happens when we add in the impact on organic search performance of these changes we are rolling out, though? Well, let’s look at the same example financials with a couple more lines showing the SEO impact. That first positive CRO test? Negative for search performance:

If you weren’t testing the SEO impact, and only focused on the conversion uplift, you’d have rolled this one out. Carrying on, we see that the next (null) conversion rate test should have been rolled out because it was a win for search performance:

Continuing on through the rest of the year, we see that the actual picture (if we make decisions of whether or not to roll out changes based on the CRO testing) looks like this when we add in all the impacts:

So you remember how we thought we had turned an expected £900k of revenue into over £1.1m? Well, it turns out we’ve added less than £18k in reality and the revenue chart looks like the red line:

Let’s make some more sensible decisions, considering the SEO impact

Back to the beginning of the year once more, but this time, imagine that we actually tested both the conversion rate and search performance impact and rolled out our tests when they were net winners. This time we see that while a conversion-focused team would have rolled out the first test:

We would not:

Conversely, we would have rolled out the second test because it was a net positive even though the pure CRO view had it neutral / inconclusive:

When we zoom out on that approach to the full year, we see a very different picture to either of the previous views. By rolling out only the changes that are net positive considering their impact on search and conversion rate, we avoid some significant drops in performance, and get the chance to roll out a couple of additional uplifts that would have been missed by conversion rate changes alone:

The upshot being a +45% uplift for the year, ending the year with monthly revenue up 73%, avoiding the false hope of the pure conversion-centric view, and real business impact:

Now of course these are simplified examples, and in the real world we would need to look at impacts per channel and might consider rolling out tests that appeared not to be negative rather than waiting for statistical significance as positive. I asked CRO expert Stephen Pavlovich from conversion.com for his view on this and he said:

Most of the time, we want to see if making a change will improve performance. If we change our product page layout, will the order conversion rate increase? If we show more relevant product recommendations, will the Average Order Value go up?

But it’s also possible that we will run an AB test not to improve performance, but instead to minimize risk. Before we launch our website redesign, will it lower the order conversion rate? Before we put our prices up, what will the impact be on sales?

In either case, there may be a desire to deploy the new variation — even if the AB test wasn’t significant.


If the business supports the website redesign, it can still be launched even without a significant impact on orders — it may have had significant financial and emotional investment from the business, be a better fit for the brand, or get better traction with partners (even if it doesn’t move the needle in on-site conversion rate). Likewise, if the price increase didn’t have a positive/negative effect on sales, it can still be launched.

Most importantly, we wouldn’t just throw away a winning SEO test that reduced conversion rate or a winning conversion rate test that negatively impacted search performance. Both of these tests would have come from underlying hypotheses, and by reaching significance, would have taught us something. We would take that knowledge and take it back as input into the next test in order to try to capture the good part without the associated downside.

All of those details, though, don’t change the underlying calculus that this is an important process, and one that I believe we are going to need to do more and more.

The future for effective, accountable SEO

There are two big reasons that I believe that the kind of approach I have outlined above is going to be increasingly important for the future of effective, accountable SEO:

1. We’re going to need to do more testing generally

I talked in a recent Whiteboard Friday about the surprising results we are seeing from testing, and the increasing need to test against the Google black box:

https://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/jhr48lal4c?seo=false&videoFoam=true

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

I don’t see this trend reversing any time soon. The more ML there is in the algorithm, and the more non-linear it all becomes, the less effective best practices will be, and the more common it will be to see surprising effects. My colleague Dom Woodman talked about this at our recent SearchLove London conference in his talk A Year of SEO Split Testing Changed How I Thought SEO Worked:

2. User signals are going to grow in importance

The trend towards Google using more and more real and implied user satisfaction and task completion metrics means that conversion-centric tests and hypotheses are going to have an increasing impact on search performance (if you haven’t yet read this fascinating CNBC article that goes behind the scenes on the search quality process at Google, I highly recommend it). Hopefully there will be an additional opportunity in the fact that theoretically the winning tests will sync up more and more — what’s good for users will actually be what’s good for search — but the methodology I’ve outlined above is the only way I can come up with to tell for sure.

I love talking about all of this, so if you have any questions, feel free to drop into the comments.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Taking Local Inventory Online: An Interview with Pointy’s Mark Cummins

Posted by MiriamEllis

Let’s go back in time 20 years so I can ask you the question, “How often do you look at a paper map every month?”

Unless you were a cartographer or a frequent traveler, chances are good that your answer would be, “Hmm, maybe less than once a month. Maybe once or twice a year.”

But in 2019, I’d wager there’s scarcely a day that goes by without you using Google Maps when planning to eat out, find a service provider, or find something fun to do. That web-based map in your hand has become a given.

And yet, there’s one thing you’re still not using the Internet for. And it’s something you likely wonder about almost daily. It starts with the question,

“I wonder who around here carries X?”

A real-world anecdote

After the tragic fires we’ve had this year in California, I wanted to wet mop all the floors in my house instead of vacuuming them, due to my concerns about particulate pollution in the air. My mother recommended I buy a Swiffer. I needed to know where I could find one locally, but I didn’t turn to the Internet for this, because the Internet doesn’t tell me this. Or at least, it hasn’t done so until now. Few, if any, of the local hardware stores, pharmacies, or big box retailers have reliable, live online inventory. At the same time, calling these places is often a huge hassle because staff isn’t always sure what’s in stock.

And so I ended up going to 3 different shops in search of this particular product. It wasn’t a convenient experience, and it was an all-too-common one.

The next big thing in local already exists

My real-world anecdote about a wet mop is exactly why I’m so pleased to be interviewing Mark Cummins, CEO of Pointy. 90% of purchases still take place in physical stores and it’s Mark who has seen this gap in available online knowledge about offline inventory and has now set out to bridge it.

I predict that within a few years, you’ll be using the Internet to find local inventory as frequently and easily as you’ve come to use its mapping capabilities. This chat with Mark explains why.

The real-world roots of an existing local need

Miriam: Mark, I understand that you were formerly a Google Search Team member, with a background in machine learning, but that your journey with Pointy began by walking into retail shops and talking face-to-face with owners. What did these owners tell you about their challenges in relation to offline/online inventory? A memorable real-world anecdote would be great here.

Mark: I started thinking about this problem because of an experience just like your story about trying to find a Swiffer. I’d recently moved to a new country and I had to buy lots of things to set up a new apartment, so I had that kind of experience all the time. It felt like there was a huge gap there that search engines could help with, but they weren’t.

I had been working at Google developing what became Google Lens (Google’s image recognition search feature). It felt strange that Google could do something so advanced, yet couldn’t answer very basic questions about where to buy things locally.

So I started thinking about ways to fix that. Initially I would just walk into retailers and talk to them about how they managed their inventory. I was trying to figure out if there was some uniform way to bring the inventory information online. I quickly learned that it was going to be hard. Almost every retailer I spoke to had a different method of tracking it. Some kept records on paper. Some didn’t count their inventory at all.

My first idea was a little crazy — I wanted to build a robot for retailers that would drive around the store every night and photograph all the shelves, and use image recognition to figure out the inventory and the prices. I spent some time seriously thinking about that, but then landed on the idea of the Pointy box, which is a much simpler solution.

Miriam: Can you briefly describe what a typical Point of Sale system is like for retailers these days, in light of this being technology most retailers already have in place?

Mark: Well, I would almost say that there isn’t a typical Point of Sale system. The market is really fragmented, it sometimes feels like no two retailers have the same system. There’s a huge range, from the old-style systems that are essentially a glorified calculator with a cash drawer, up to modern cloud-connected systems like Clover, Square, or Lightspeed. It’s very disruptive for retailers to change their POS system, so older systems tend to stay in use for a long time. The systems also differ by vertical — there are specialized systems for pharmacies, liquor stores, etc. Dealing with all of that variation is what makes it so hard to get uniform local inventory data.

A simple inventory solution is born

Miriam: So, you spoke with retailers, listened to their challenges and saw that they already have Point of Sale systems in place. And Pointy was born! Please, describe exactly what a Pointy device is, how it solves the problems you learned about, and fits right in with existing Point of Sales technology.

Mark: Right! It was pretty clear that we needed to find a solution that worked with retailers’ existing systems. So we developed the Pointy box. The Pointy box is a small device that attaches to a retailer’s barcode scanner. Basically it links the barcode scanner to a website we create for the retailer. Whenever the retailer scans a product with their barcode scanner, we recognize the barcode, and list the product on the website. The end result is live website listing everything in the store — here’s an example for Talbot’s Toyland, a toy store in San Mateo. They have over ten thousand products listed on their site, without any manual work.

The experience is pretty much seamless — just plug in Pointy, and watch your store website build itself. The Pointy box connects directly via the cell phone network, so there’s really nothing to set up. Just plug it in and it starts working. New products automatically get added to your store page, old products get removed when you no longer sell them, item stock status syncs automatically. We did quite a bit of machine learning to make that all automatic. Once the site is live, we also have some SEO and SEM tools to help retailers drive search traffic for the products they sell.

Miriam: My understanding is that the Pointy Team had to do a ton of legwork to put together various product catalogues from which data is pulled each time a product is scanned so that its information can be displayed on the web. I’m not familiar with this concept of product catalogues. What are they, what types of information do they contain, and what did you have to do to pull all of this together? Also, is it true that your team hand-reviews all the product data?

Mark: If you’re working in shopping search, then product catalogs are really important. Every mass-market product has a unique barcode number, but unfortunately there’s no master database where you can enter a barcode number and get back the product’s name, image, etc. So basically every retailer has to solve this problem for themselves, laboriously entering the product details into their systems. Pointy helps eliminate that work for retailers.

There are some product catalogs you can license, but each one only covers a fraction of products, and errors are common. We built a big data pipeline to pull together all of this product data into a single catalog and clean it up. We automate a lot of the work, but if you want the highest quality then machine learning alone isn’t enough. So every single product we display also gets approved by a human reviewer, to make sure it’s accurate. We’ve processed millions of products like this. The end result for the retailer is that they just plug in a Pointy box, scan a product, and their website starts populating itself, no data entry required. It’s a pretty magical feeling the first time you see it. Especially if you’ve spent countless hours of your life doing it the old way!

Where real-time local inventory appears on the web

Miriam: So, then, the products the retailer scans create the brand’s own inventory catalogue, which appears on their Pointy page. What tips would you offer to business owners to best integrate their Pointy page with their brand website? Linking to it from the main menu of the website? Something else? And do these Pointy pages feature SEO basics? Please describe.

Mark: Some retailers use Pointy as their main website. Others have it as an additional profile, in the same way that they might have a Facebook page or a Yelp page. The main thing Pointy brings is the full live inventory of the store, which generally isn’t listed anywhere else. To integrate with their other web presences, most just link across from their main sites or social media profiles. A few also embed Pointy into their sites via an iframe.

We work a lot on making these pages as SEO-friendly as possible. The queries we focus on ranking for are things like “product name near me” or “product name, location.” For example, a query like “rubber piggy bank san mateo” currently has the Pointy page for Talbot’s Toyland in #1 position. We have an engineering team working on this all the time, and we’ve actually discovered a few interesting things.

Miriam: And how does this work when, for example, a product goes out of stock or goes on sale for a different price?

Mark: We keep that information updated live. The stock status is updated based on the information from the Pointy box. We also handle price data, though it depends on what features the retailers is using. Some retailers prefer not to display their prices online.

See What’s In Store: Google totally sees the opportunity

Miriam: I was fascinated to learn that Pointy is the launch partner for Google’s See What’s In Store feature, and readers can see an example of this with Talbot’s Toyland. Can you explain what’s involved for retailers who want their inventory to appear in the SWIS area of the Google Business Profile (aka “Knowledge Panel”) and why this represents such an important opportunity? Also, does the business have to pay a commission to Google for inclusion/impressions/clicks?

Mark: This is a pretty exciting feature. It lets retailers display their full product catalogue and live inventory information in the Business Profile on the Google search page. It’s also visible from Google Maps. I’m guessing Google will probably start to surface the information in more ways over time.

It’s completely free for retailers, which is pretty interesting. Google Shopping has always been a paid service, so it’s notable that Google is now offering some organic exposure with this new feature.

I think that this is going to become table stakes for retailers in the next year or two, in the same way that having your opening hours online is now. Consumers are simply going to expect the convenience of finding local product information online. I think that’s a good thing, because it will help local businesses win back customers that might otherwise have gone to Amazon.

We’ve worked a lot with Google to make the setup experience for local retailers very simple. You just link your Pointy account to Google, and your live inventory appears in the Google Business Profile. Behind the scenes we do a lot of technical work to make that happen (including creating Merchant Center accounts, setting up feeds, etc). But the user experience is just a few clicks. We’ve seen a lot of uptake from Pointy users, it’s been a very popular feature. We have a bit more detail on it here.

What about special retail scenarios?

Miriam: So, basically, Pointy makes getting real-world inventory online for small and independent retailers who just don’t have the time to deal with a complicated e-commerce system. I understand that you have some different approaches to offer larger enterprises, involving their existing IT systems. Can you talk a bit about that, please?

Mark: Yes, some larger retailers may be able to send us a direct feed from their inventory systems, rather than installing Pointy boxes at every POS location. We aim to support whatever is easiest for the retailer. We are also directly integrated into modern cloud POS systems like Clover, Square, Lightspeed, Vend, and others. Users of those systems can download a free Pointy app from their system’s app store and integrate with us that way. And for retailers not using those systems, they can use a Pointy box.

Miriam: And what about retailers whose products lack labels/barcodes? Let’s say, a farm stand with constantly-changing seasonal produce, or a clothing boutique with hand-knit sweaters? Is there a Pointy solution for them?

Mark: Unfortunately we’re not a great fit for those kind of retailers. We designed the experience for retailers who sell barcoded products.

Miriam: You’re a former Google staffer, Mark. In local search, Google has become aggressive in taking a cut of an increasing number of local consumer actions and this is particularly hard on small businesses. We’ve got Local Service Ads, paid ads in local packs, booking buttons, etc, all of which struggling independent businesses are having to pay Google for. Right now, these retailers are eager for a competitive edge. How can they differentiate themselves? Please, share tips.

Mark: It’s true, lots of channels that used to be purely organic now have a mix of organic and paid. I think ultimately the paid ads still have to be ROI-positive or nobody will use them, but it’s definitely no fun to pay for traffic you used to get for free.

On the positive side, there are still plenty of openings to reach customers organically. If small businesses invest in staying ahead of the game, they can do very well. Lots of local product searches essentially have no answer, because most retailers haven’t been able to get their inventory online yet. It’s easy to rank well for a query when you’re the only one with the answer. There’s definitely still an opening there for early adopters.

“Pointing” the way to the future

Miriam: Finally, Pointy has only been available in the US since 2016, and in that short amount of time, you’re already serving 1% of the country’s retailers. Congratulations! What does the near future look like to you for retailers and for Pointy? What do you see as Pointy’s mission?

Mark: We want to bring the world’s brick-and-mortar retailers online and give them the tools they need to thrive. More than 90% of retail goes through brick and mortar stores, so there’s no reason they shouldn’t have an amazing technology platform to help them. The fragmentation and difficulty of accessing data has held everyone back, but I think Pointy has a shot at fixing that.

Miriam: Thank you, Mark. I believe Pointy has what it takes to be successful, but I’m going to wish you good luck, anyway!

Summing up

In doing this interview, I learned a ton from Mark and I hope you did, too. If a local retailer you market is seeking a competitive advantage in 2019, I’d seriously be considering early adoption of Google’s See What’s In Store feature. It’s prime Google Business Profile (formerly Knowledge Panel) real estate, and so long as SWIS is free and Pointy is so affordable, there’s a pretty incredible opportunity to set yourself apart in these early days with a very modest investment.

I’m feeling confident about my prediction that we’re on the verge of a new threshold in user behavior, in terms of people using local search to find local inventory. We’ll all have the enjoyment of seeing how this plays out over the next couple of years. And if you heard it first at Moz, that will be extra fun!

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

On-Page SEO for 2019 – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by BritneyMuller

Whew! We made it through another year, and it seems like we’re past due for taking a close look at the health of our on-page SEO practices. What better way to hit the ground running than with a checklist? In today’s Whiteboard Friday, the fabulous Britney Muller shares her best tips for doing effective on-page SEO in 2019.

https://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/03b4m6tv90?seo=false&videoFoam=true

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

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

Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today we’re going over all things on-page SEO, and I’ve divided it into three different sections:

  1. How are crawlers and Googlebot crawling through your site and your web pages?
  2. What is the UX of your on-page content?
  3. What is the value in the content of your on-page content?

So let’s just jump right in, shall we?

Crawler/bot-accessible

☑ Meta robots tag allows crawling

Making sure your meta robots tag allows crawling is essential. If that’s blocking Googlebot from crawling, your page will never be in search. You want to make sure that’s all panned out.

☑ Robots.txt doesn’t disallow crawling

You want to make sure that let’s say this page that you’re trying to get to rank in search engines, that you’re not disallowing this URL from your robots.txt.

☑ URL is included in sitemap

Similarly you want to make sure that the URL is in your site map.

☑ Schema markup

You also want to add any schema markup, any relevant schema markup that you can. This is essentially spoon-feeding search engines what your page is about and what your content is about.

☑ Internal links pointing to your page with natural anchor text

So let’s say I am trying to rank for chakra stones. Maybe I’m on a yoga website and I want to make sure that I have other internal pages linking to chakra stones with the anchor text “chakra crystals” or “chakra stones” and making sure that I’m showing Google that this is indeed an internally linked page and it’s important and we want to give it some weight.

☑ HTTPS – SSL

You want to make sure that that is secure and that Google is taking that into consideration as well.

User experience

☑ Meets Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

Does it meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines? Definitely look into that and make sure you check all the boxes.

☑ Responsive mobile design with same content and links

Is it responsive for mobile? Super important with the mobile-first indexing.

☑ Clear CTA

Is there one clear call to action? A lot of pages miss this. So, for this page, maybe I would have a big “Buy Chakra Crystals Here” button or link. That would be a clear CTA. It’s important to have.

☑ Multimedia: Evaluate SERP and add desired media

Are you providing other desired media types? Are there images and video and different forms of content on your page?

☑ Page speed: utilize CDNs, compress images, use reliable hosting

Are you checking the page speed? Are you using CDNs? Are you compressing your images? You want to check all of that.

☑ Integrate social sharing buttons

It’s the easiest thing. Make sure that people can easily share your content.

Content and value

This is where it gets really fun and strategic too.

☑ Unique, high-quality content

Are you providing high-quality content? So if you go to Google and you search “chakra stones” and you take a look at all of those results, are you including all of that good content into your page? Then are you making it even better? Because that should be the goal.

☑ Optimize for intent: Evaluate SERP and PPC, note which SERP features show up

You want to also optimize for intent. So you want to evaluate that SERP. If that search result page is showing tons of images or maybe videos, you should be incorporating that into your page as well, because clearly that’s what people are looking for.

You also want to evaluate the PPC. They have done so much testing on what converts and what doesn’t. So it’s silly not to take that into consideration when optimizing your page.

☑ Title tags and meta descriptions

What are those titles? What are those descriptions? What’s working? Title tags and meta description are still so important. This is the first impression to many of your visitors in Google. Are you enticing a click? Are you making that an enticing call to action to your site?

☑ Header tags

H1, H2, and H3 header tags are still super important. You want to make sure that the title of your page is the H1 and so forth. But just to check on all of that would be good.

☑ Optimize images: compress, title file names, add alt text

Images are the biggest source of bloat of on-page site speed. So you want to make sure that your images are compressed and optimized and keeping your page fast and easily accessible to your users.

☑ Review for freshness

You want to review for freshness. We want to make sure that this is up-to-date content. Maybe take a look at popular content the last year or two of your site and update that stuff. This should be a continual wash and repeat. You want to continue to update the content on your site.

☑ Include commonly asked questions

It’s such an easy thing to do, but it’s commonly overlooked. AnswerThePublic does a great job of surfacing questions. Moz Keyword Explorer has a really great filter that provides some of the most commonly asked questions for a keyword term. I highly suggest you check that out and start to incorporate some of that.

Find common questions now

These help to target featured snippets. So if you’re incorporating some of that, not only do you get the extra traffic, but you find these opportunities of getting featured snippets, which is great. You’re expanding your real estate in search. Awesome. PAA boxes are also a great way to find commonly asked questions for a particular keyword.

☑ Add summaries

Summaries are also hidden gems. We see Google seeking out summaries for content all of the time. They are providing summaries in featured snippets and in different SERP features to help sort of distill information for users. So if you can do that, not only will you make your content more easily scannable, but you’re also making it more accessible for search, which is great.

☑ TF-IDF (term frequency-inverse document frequency)

TF-IDF stands for “term frequency-inverse document frequency.” It sounds a little intimidating. It’s actually pretty simple. What’s the number of times that “chakra stones” is mentioned in this particular page divided by the number of times it’s mentioned anywhere? This is basically just a calculation to determine relevance for the term “chakra stones.” Really cool and commonly used by Google. So if you can do this on your on-page, it will just help you in the long term.

☑ LSI (latent semantic indexing) for relevance

Similarly LSI or LSA, it sometimes referred to, is latent semantic indexing, and it’s also for relevance. This helps determine, okay, if I’m talking about chakra stones, it may also incorporate those other topics that are commonly related to this topic. Relevant.

☑ Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test

What is the readability of this page? The easier it is to read the better, but you just want to keep an eye on that in general.

Bonus tip!

One final tip that Kameron Jenkins put on Twitter, that I love so much, and Kameron is a world-class writer —she’s one of the best I’ve ever had the privilege of working with — mentioned this on-page SEO trick. Find the top three ranking URLs for your target keyword.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

So if I were to put in “chakra stones” in Google and pull the top three URLs, put them into Moz Keyword Explorer and I see what they’re ranking for, I see what those three URLs are specifically ranking for, and I look at what they’re commonly ranking for in the middle here. Then I use those keywords to optimize my page even better. It’s genius. It’s very similar to some of the relevant stuff we were talking about over here.

Discover new keyword ideas

So definitely try some of this stuff out. I hope this helps. I really look forward to any of your comments or questions down below in the comments section.

Thank you so much for joining me on this edition of Whiteboard Friday. I look forward to seeing you all again soon, so thanks. Have a good one.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

How to Research, Monitor, and Optimize for Questions

Posted by AnnSmarty

Have you been optimizing your content for questions? There are a few powerful reasons for you to start doing it now:

  • Niche question research is the most powerful content inspiration source
  • Questions are highly engaging: Asking a question triggers a natural answering reflex in human beings. Using questions on your landing pages and / or social media will improve engagement
  • Questions are very useful for niche and audience research: What can’t people figure out in your industry and how can you best help them?
  • Question research allows you to understand natural language better and optimize for voice search
  • Question optimization allows for increased organic search visibility through both featured snippets and Google’s “People Also Ask” results.

Just to reinforce the latter point, Google is going a bit insane with understanding and featuring questions in SERPs. Here’s just one of their recent experiments showing a multifaceted featured snippet, addressing a possible follow-up question (courtesy of Barry Schwartz):

multifaceted featured snippets

Types of niche questions and how to group them

  • Basic questions (these usually relate to defining concepts). In most cases you don’t need to write lengthy explanations because people searching for those seek quick easy-to-understand answers.
  • How-to questions (these usually relate to step-by-step instructions). Adding videos to better explain the process is almost always a good idea here
  • Branded questions (those usually include your or your competitor’s brand name or a product name). Like any branded queries**, these should be further categorized into:
  • ROPO questions (“research online, buy online / offline”). These are specific questions discussing your product, its pros and cons, reviews, etc.
  • High-intent questions: for example, questions asking how to buy your product.
  • Navigational questions: those addressing your site navigation, e.g. “How to login,” “How to cancel,” etc.
  • Competitive research questions: those comparing your brand to your competitors.
  • Reputational questions: those questions relating to your brand history, culture, etc.

Type of Questions

All branded questions may also be labeled based on possible sentiment.

** Most basic and how-to questions are going to have informational intent (simply due to the essence of the question format: most people asking questions seek to find an answer, i.e. information). But there’s always a chance there’s a transactional intent there that you may want to make note of, too.

For example, “What’s the best CRM” may be a query reflecting a solid commercial intent. Same goes about “How do you use a CRM?” Both can be asked by someone who is willing to give the software a try, and this needs to be reflected within your copy and on-page layout.

Tools to discover questions

1. People Also Ask

“People Also Ask” is a newer Google search element containing related questions to a given query. It’s not clear how Google is generating these (it might be due to enough people typing each question into the search box), but what we do know for sure is:

  • Google is smart: It would only show things to a user when they have found enough evidence that’s helpful and something their users engage with
  • “People Also Ask” boxes present more SERPs real estate which we may want to dominate for maximum organic search visibility

People Also Ask

With that in mind, People Also Ask results are important for content marketers on two fronts:

  • They allow us lots of insight into what our target audience wants to know
  • They allow us additional organic search visibility

To collect as many People Also Ask results as you can, give Featured Snippet Tool a try (disclaimer: This tool has been developed by the company I work for). It checks your domain’s important search queries and generates “People Also Ask” results for all of them:

People Also Ask results

The tool ranks “People Also Ask” questions by the number of queries they were triggered by. This enables you to quickly see most popular questions on your topic.

2. Google / Bing SERPs

Search results give us lots of cues beyond People Also Ask boxes, provided you use smart tools to analyze them. Text Optimizer is a tool that extracts terms and concepts from SERPs and uses semantic analysis to come up with the list of questions you may want to include in your content:

I believe that is partly what Google is doing to generate those “People Also Ask” suggestions, but this tool will give you more ideas than “People Also Ask” boxes alone.

It supports Google and Bing. You can also copy-paste your text in the tool and it will suggest terms and questions to add to optimize your content better for either search engine.

3. Google Suggest

Google Suggest is another search-based tool for content marketers. Google Suggest auto-completes a user’s query based on how other users tend to complete it. This way, we can safely assume that all Google Suggest results have a solid search volume / demand, simply because they ended up in the suggest index.

The problem with this one is that you need to know how to start typing the question to see it properly completed:

Google Suggest

There’s a workaround that forces Google to autocomplete the middle of the query:

  • Type your core query and hit search
  • Put your cursor back at the beginning of the query
  • Type “how” and Google will suggest more popular queries:

Google Suggest middle of the query

Another way to discover more question-type Google Suggest results is to play with the following tools:

Serpstat Questions is a solid keyword research tool allowing you to generate hundreds of niche questions based on your core query. What’s helpful is that Serpstat allows you to sort results by the question word:

Serpstat Questions

…and filter questions by a popular term in the tag cloud, making it easier to make sense of those multiple results (and optimize for several questions within one content asset):

Serpstat questions filter

Ahrefs is another multi-feature SEO platform that allows users to research related questions with one of its recent updates:

Ahrefs questions

If you end up with too many Google-suggested questions, run your list through Serpstat’s clustering tool to break those questions into meaningful groups based on relevancy.

The screenshot is based on the following settings: Linkage strength - Medium, Type of Clustering - Soft. Once you run it, you can re-run the clustering tool for free with different settings within the project. Don’t forget to export your first set of results before re-running it.

4. Quora and discussion boards

Quora is undoubtedly one of the largest sources of questions out there. In fact, it forces users to post new discussions in a question format, so everything you see there is questions.

Quora’s search functionality is highly confusing though. It has an intricate architecture based on topics (many of which overlap) and it won’t show you most popular questions over time. Its search ranking algorithm is a weird mix of personalization (based on your chosen interests and connections), recency, activity, and probably something else.

Because of this, I rarely use Quora itself. Instead I use Buzzsumo Question Analyzer. It aggregates results from all kinds of discussion boards, including Quora and Amazon Q&A. Furthermore, it analyzes your query and generates results for related keywords allowing you to expand your search and see the bigger picture:

/buzzsumo question analyzer

5. Twitter questions

Twitter is an amazing source of content inspiration few content marketers are really using. One of the must-have Twitter search tricks I always use within my social media monitoring dashboard is Twitter’s question search:

Type [brandname ?] (with the space in-between) into Twitter’s search box and you’ll see all questions people are asking when discussing your topic / brand / product.

If you want to get a bit trickier, monitor your bigger competitor’s tweeted questions, too. This will enable your team to be on top of everything your potential customers cannot figure out when buying from your competitor:

Twitter questiio

Cyfe (disclaimer: this is my content marketing client) is a social media dashboard providing an easy way to monitor multiple Twitter search results within one dashboard. You can use it to monitor all kinds of tweeted questions around your core term or brand name:

Cyfe Twitter Monitoring

6. Reddit AMA

Reddit AMAs offer another great way to pick up some interesting questions to use in your content. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a good reliable way to monitor Reddit for keywords (while restricting to a particular Subreddit) but I’ve been using Twitter monitoring for that.

You can use Cyfe to monitor the #redditama hashtag in combination with your core term. Or you can set up an alert inside My Tweet Alerts. The tool has a pretty unique set of options allowing you to find tweets based on keywords, hashtags, and even words in users’ bios. It sends email digests of most recent tweets making the alerts harder to miss.

For Reddit AMA monitoring, you can set it up to search for tweets that have the #redditama hashtag in them together with your main keyword. Or, to make it more targeted, you can only monitor those tweets published by Twitter users with your keyword in the bio:

MyTweetAlerts Settings

Here’s an example of the announced AMA on a related topic of my interest:

mytweetalerts

All I need to do is to open the AMA thread and scroll through comments in search for interesting questions to note for my future content ideas:

Reddit AMA

How to add questions to your (content) marketing strategy

Niche question research provides an almost unending source of content opportunities. To name a few, here are some ideas on how you can use questions:

  • Create a separate FAQ section to address and explain basic questions
  • Identify and optimize existing content to cover the identified questions
  • Add Q&A to important landing pages (this may help get product pages featured in Google).

But it’s not really only about content:

Different actions + teams for different types of questions

Keeping our initial question categorization above in mind, here’s how question research may (or rather, should) involve multiple departments within your company:

You can download this worksheet with clickable links here.

Basic (what-is) questions:

  • Types of content to answer these questions: Glossary, FAQ
  • Specific SEO considerations:
    • Clickable table of contents (see sample)
    • Implement QAPage Schema
  • Other teams to get involved: Customer support and sales team (including for training). You want those teams to use jargon your customers use

How-to questions:

  • Types of content to answer these questions: FAQ (+ videos)
  • Specific SEO considerations: Use HowTo Schema (Including Yoast for WP)
  • Other teams to get involved: Include your CRO expert because these could be transactional

Branded ROPO questions:

  • Types of content to answer these questions: Blog content (+ video tutorials)
  • Specific SEO considerations: Optimize for as many related branded terms as possible
  • Other teams to get involved: Include your product management team for them to collect answers (feedback) and implement required product updates / improvements). Add these to your editorial schedule as high-priority

Branded high-intent questions:

  • Types of content to answer these questions: Product Q&A
  • Specific SEO considerations: Implement QAPage Schema
  • Other teams to get involved: Include your CRO expert and A/B testing expert for optimum on-page conversion optimization

Branded navigational questions:

  • Types of content to answer these questions: Product-specific knowledge base (+ video tutorials)
  • Specific SEO considerations: Implement QAPage Schema or use a Q&A-optimized solution (like this one)
  • Other teams to get involved: Include your design and usability teams to solve navigational issues

Branded competitive research questions:

  • Types of content to answer these questions: Create specific landing pages + videos to explain your product benefits
  • Specific SEO considerations: Optimize for as many related branded terms as possible
  • Other teams to get involved: Include your product management team for them to collect answers (feedback) and implement required product updates / improvements. Include your sales team for them to know how to best explain your product benefits to clients

Branded competitive reputational questions

  • Types of content to answer these questions: Create specific landing pages + videos
  • Specific SEO considerations: Optimize for as many related branded terms as possible
  • Other teams to get involved: Include your reputation management + social media teams to address these questions properly when they have to

Takeaways:

  • Questions are useful on many levels, from audience research to conversion optimization and product development
  • As far as SEO is concerned, optimizing for questions helps you develop better-targeted copy and gain more organic search visibility (especially through appearing in featured and “People Also Ask” boxes)
  • Researching questions is an ongoing process: You need to be constantly discovering new ones and monitoring social media for real-time ideas
  • There are lots of tools to help you discover and organize niche questions (when it comes to organizing them, using your favorite tools or even simply spreadsheets is always a good idea)
  • Question research is not just for SEO or content ideation. It can help improve social media engagement, help you develop a better product, train your internal teams to better explain product advantages to clients, etc.

Are you researching and optimizing for niche questions yet? Please share your tips and tricks in the comments below!

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

The SEO Elevator Pitch – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by KameronJenkins

What is it you do again?

It’s a question every SEO has had to answer at some point, whether to your family members over the holidays or to the developer who will eventually implement your suggestions. If you don’t have a solid elevator pitch for describing your job, this is the Whiteboard Friday for you! Learn how to craft a concise, succinct description of life as an SEO without jargon, policing, or acting like a superhero.

https://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/tzzhuh5j1w?seo=false&videoFoam=true

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

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

Video Transcription

Hey guys, welcome to this week’s edition of Whiteboard Friday. My name is Kameron Jenkins, and I work here at Moz. Today we’re going to be talking about creating an SEO elevator pitch, what is it, why we need one, and what kind of prompted this whole idea for an SEO elevator pitch.

So essentially, a couple of weeks ago, I was on Twitter and I saw John Mueller. He tweeted, “Hey, I meet with a lot of developers, and a lot of times they don’t really know what SEOs do.” He was genuinely asking. He was asking, “Hey, SEO community, how do you describe what you do?” I’m scrolling through, and I’m seeing a lot of different answers, and all of them I’m resonating with.

They’re all things that I would probably say myself. But it’s just interesting how many different answers there were to the question, “What do SEOs do and what value do they provide?” So I kind of thought to myself, “Why is that? Why do we have so many different explanations for what SEO is and what we do?” So I thought about it, and I thought that it might be a good idea for myself and maybe other SEOs if you don’t already have an elevator pitch ready.

What is an SEO elevator pitch?

Now, if you’re not familiar with the concept of an elevator pitch, it’s basically — I have a definition here — a succinct and persuasive speech that communicates your unique value as an SEO. It’s called an elevator pitch essentially because it should take about the length of time it takes to ride the elevator with someone. So you want to be able to quickly and concisely answer someone’s question when they ask you, “Oh, SEO, what is that?I think I’ve heard of that before. What do you do?”

Why is this so hard?

So let’s dive right in. So I mentioned, in the beginning, how there are so many different answers to this “what do you say you do here” type question. I think it’s hard to kind of come up with a concise explanation for a few different reasons. So I wanted to dive into that a little bit first.

1. Lots of specialties within SEO

So number one, there are lots of specialties within SEO.

As the industry has advanced over the last two plus decades, it has become very diverse, and there are lots of different facets in SEO. I found myself on quite a rabbit trail. I was on LinkedIn and I was kind of browsing SEO job descriptions. I wanted to see basically: What is it that people are looking for in an SEO?

How do they describe it? What are the characteristics? So basically, I found a lot of different things, but I found a few themes that emerged. So there are your content-focused SEOs, and those are people that are your keyword research aficionados. There are the people that write search engine optimized content to drive traffic to your website. You have your link builders, people that focus almost exclusively on that.

You have your local SEOs, and you have your analysts. You have your tech SEOs, people that either work on a dev team or closely with a dev team. So I think that’s okay though. There are lots of different facets within SEO, and I think that’s awesome. That’s, to me, a sign of maturity in our industry. So when there are a lot of different specialties within SEO, I think it’s right and good for all of our elevator pitches to differ.

So if you have a specialty within SEO, it can be different. It should kind of cater toward the unique brand of SEO that you do, and that’s okay.

2. Different audiences

Number two, there are different audiences. We’re not always going to be talking to the same kind of person. So maybe you’re talking to your boss or a client. To me, those are more revenue-focused conversations.

They want to know: What’s the value of what you do? How does it affect my bottom line? How does it help me run my business and stay afloat and stay profitable? If you’re talking to a developer, that’s going to be a slightly different conversation. So I think it’s okay if we kind of tweak our elevator pitch to make it a little bit more palatable for the people that we’re talking to.

3. Algorithm maturity

Three, why this is hard is there’s been, obviously, a lot of changes all the time in the algorithm, and as it matures, it’s going to look like the SEO’s job is completely different than last year just because the algorithm keeps maturing and it looks like our jobs are changing all the time. So I think that’s a reality that we have to live with, but I still think it’s important, even though things are changing all the time, to have a baseline kind of pitch that we give people when they ask us what it is we do.

So that’s why it’s hard. That’s what your elevator pitch is.

My elevator pitch: SEO is marketing, with search engines

Then, by way of example, I thought I’d just give you my SEO elevator pitch. Maybe it will spark your creativity. Maybe it will give you some ideas. Maybe you already have one, and that’s okay. But the point is not to use mine.

The point is essentially to kind of take you through what mine looks like, hopefully get your creative juices flowing, and you can create your own. So let’s dive right into my pitch.

So my pitch is SEO is marketing, just with search engines. So we have the funnel here — awareness, consideration, and decision.

Awareness: Rank and attract clicks for informational queries.

First of all, I think it’s important to note that SEO can help you rank and attract clicks for informational queries.

Consideration: Rank and attract clicks for evaluation queries.

So when your audience is searching for information, they want to solve their pain points, they’re not ready to buy, they’re just searching, we’re meeting them there with content that brings them to the site, informs them, and now they’re familiar with our brand. Those are great assisted conversions. Rank and attract clicks for evaluation queries. When your audience is starting to compare their options, you want to be there. You want to meet them there, and we can do that with SEO.

Decision: Rank, attract clicks, and promote conversion for bottom-funnel queries

At the decision phase, you can rank and attract clicks and kind of promote conversions for bottom of funnel queries. When people are in their “I want to buy” stage, SEO can meet them there. So I think it’s important to realize that SEO isn’t kind of like a cost center and not a profit center. It’s not like a bottom of funnel thing. I’ve heard that in a lot of places, and I think it’s just important to kind of draw attention to the fact that SEO is integrated throughout your marketing funnel. It’s not relegated to one stage or another.

But how?

We talked about rank and attract clicks and promote conversions. But how do we do that? That’s the what it does.

But how do we do it? So this is how I explain it. I think really, for me, there are two sides to the SEO’s coin. We have driving, and we have supporting.

1. Driving

So on the driving side, I would say something like this. When someone searches a phrase or a keyword in Google, I make sure the business’ website shows up in the non-ad results. That’s important because a lot of people are like, “Oh, do you bid on keywords?”

We’re like, “No, no, that’s PPC.” So I always just throw in “non-ad” because people understand that. So I do that through content that answers people’s questions, links that help search engines find my content and show signs of authority and popularity of my content, and accessibility. So that’s kind of your technical foundation.

You’re making sure that your website is crawlable and it that it’s index the way that you want it to be indexed. When people get there, it works. It works on mobile and on desktop. It’s fast. So I think these are really the three big pillars of driving SEO — content, links, and making sure your website is technically sound. So that’s how I describe the driving, the proactive side of SEO.

2. Supporting

Then two, we have supporting, and I think this is kind of an underrated or maybe it’s often seen as kind of an interruption to our jobs.

But I think it’s important to actually call it what it is. It’s a big part of what we do. So I think we should embrace it as SEOs.

A. Be the Google Magic 8-ball

For one, we can serve as the Google Magic 8-Ball. When people come to us in our organization and they say, “Hey, I’m going to make this change, or I’m thinking about making this change.Is this going to be good or bad for SEO?”

I think it’s great that people are asking that question. Always be available and always make yourself ready to answer those types of questions for people. So I think on the reactionary side we can be that kind of person that helps guide people and understand what is going to affect your organic search presence.

B. Assist marketing

Two, we can assist marketing. So on this side of the coin, we’re driving.

We can drive our own marketing strategies. As SEOs, we can see how SEO can drive all phases of the funnel. But I think it’s important to note that we’re not the only people in our organization. Often SEOs maybe they don’t even live in the marketing department. Maybe they do and they report to a marketing lead. There are other initiatives that your marketing lead could be investigating.

Maybe they say, “Hey, we’ve just done some market research, and here’s this plan.” It could be our job as SEOs to take that plan, take that strategy and translate it into something digital. I think that’s a really important value that SEOs can add. We can actually assist marketing as well as drive our own efforts.

C. Fix mistakes

Then number three here, I know this is another one that kind of makes people cringe, but we are here to fix mistakes when they happen and train people so that they don’t happen again. So maybe we come in on a Monday morning and we’re ready to face the week, and we see that traffic has taken a nosedive or something. We go, “Oh, no,” and we dive in.

We try to see what happened. But I think that’s really important. It’s our job or it’s part of our job to kind of dive in, diagnose what happened, and not only that but support and be there to help fix it or guide the fixes, and then train and educate and make sure that people know what it is that happened and how it shouldn’t happen again.

You’re there to help train them and guide them. I think that’s another really important way that we can support as SEOs. So that’s essentially how I describe it.

3 tips for coming up with your own pitch

Before I go, I just wanted to mention some tips when you’re coming up with your own SEO elevator pitch. I think it’s really important to just kind of stay away from certain language when you’re crafting your own “this is what I do” speech.

So the three tips I have are:

1. Stay away from jargon.

If you’re giving an SEO elevator pitch, it’s to people that don’t know what SEO is. So try to avoid jargon. I know it’s really easy as SEOs. I find myself doing it all the time. There are things that I don’t think are jargon.

But then I take a couple steps back and I realize, oh yeah, that’s not layman’s terms. So stay away from jargon if at all possible. You’re not going to benefit anyone by confusing them.

2. Avoid policing.

It can be easy as SEOs I’ve found and I’ve found myself in this trap a couple of times where we kind of act as these traffic cops that are waiting around the corner, and when people make a mistake, we’re there to wag our finger at them.

So avoid any language that makes it sound like the SEOs are just the police waiting to kind of punish people for wrongdoing. We are there to help fix mistakes, but it’s in a guiding and educating and supporting, kind of collaborative manner and not like a policing type of manner. Number three, I would say is kind of similar, but a little different.

3. Avoid Supermanning.

I call this Supermanning because it’s the type of language that makes it sound like SEOs are here to swoop in and save the day when something goes wrong. We do. We’re superheroes a lot of times. There are things that happen and thank goodness there was an SEO there to help diagnose and fix that.

But I would avoid any kind of pitch that makes it sound like your entire job is just to kind of save people. There are other people in your organization that are super smart and talented at what they do. They probably wouldn’t like it if you made it sound like you were there to help them all the time. So I just think that’s important to keep in mind. Don’t make it seem like you’re the police waiting to wag your finger at them or you’re the superhero that needs to save everyone from their mistakes.

So yeah, that’s my SEO elevator pitch. That’s why I think it’s important to have one. If you’ve kind of crafted your own SEO elevator pitch, I would love to hear it, and I’m sure it would be great for other SEOs to hear it as well. It’s great to information share. So drop that in the comments if you feel comfortable doing that. If you don’t have one, hopefully this helps. So yeah, that’s it for this week’s Whiteboard Friday, and come back again next week for another one.

Thanks, everybody.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

3 Big Lessons from Interviewing John Mueller at SearchLove London – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by willcritchlow

When you’ve got one of Google’s most helpful and empathetic voices willing to answer your most pressing SEO questions, what do you ask? Will Critchlow recently had the honor of interviewing Google’s John Mueller at SearchLove London, and in this week’s edition of Whiteboard Friday he shares his best lessons from that session, covering the concept of Domain Authority, the great subdomain versus subfolder debate, and a view into the technical workings of noindex/nofollow.

https://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/dyzyhh500a?seo=false&videoFoam=true

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

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

Video Transcription

Hi, Whiteboard Friday fans. I’m Will Critchlow from Distilled, and I found myself in Seattle, wanted to record another Whiteboard Friday video and talk through some things that I learned recently when I got to sit down with John Mueller from Google at our SearchLove London conference recently.

So I got to interview John on stage, and, as many of you may know, John is a webmaster relations guy at Google and really a point of contact for many of us in the industry when there are technical questions or questions about how Google is treating different things. If you followed some of the stuff that I’ve written and talked about in the past, you’ll know that I’ve always been a little bit suspicious of some of the official lines that come out of Google and felt like either we don’t get the full story or we haven’t been able to drill in deep enough and really figure out what’s going on.

I was under no illusions that I might be able to completely fix this this in one go, but I did want to grill John on a couple of specific things where I felt like we hadn’t maybe asked things clearly enough or got the full story. Today I wanted to run through a few things that I learned when John and I sat down together. A little side note, I found it really fascinating doing this kind of interview. I sat on stage in a kind of journalistic setting. I had never done this before. Maybe I’ll do a follow-up Whiteboard Friday one day on things I learned and how to run interviews.

1. Does Google have a “Domain Authority” concept?

But the first thing that I wanted to quiz John about was this domain authority idea. So here we are on Moz. Moz has a proprietary metric called domain authority, DA. I feel like when, as an industry, we’ve asked Google, and John in particular, about this kind of thing in the past, does Google have a concept of domain authority, it’s got bundled up with feeling like, oh, he’s had an easy way out of being able to answer and say, “No, no, that’s a proprietary Moz metric. We don’t have that.”

I felt like that had got a bit confusing, because our suspicion is that there is some kind of an authority or a trust metric that Google has and holds at a domain level. We think that’s true, but we felt like they had always been able to wriggle out of answering the question. So I said to John, “Okay, I am not asking you do you use Moz’s domain authority metric in your ranking factors. Like we know that isn’t the case. But do you have something a little bit like it?”

Yes, Google has metrics that map into similar things

John said yes. He said yes, they have metrics that, his exact quote was, “map into similar things.”My way of phrasing this was this is stuff that is at the domain level. It’s based on things like link authority, and it is something that is used to understand performance or to rank content across an entire domain. John said yes, they have something similar to that.

New content inherits those metrics

They use it in particular when they discover new content on an existing domain. New content, in some sense, can inherit some of the authority from the domain, and this is part of the reason why we figured they must have something like this, because we’ve seen identical content perform differently on different sites. We know that there’s something to this. So yes, John confirmed that until they have some of those metrics developed, when they’ve seen a bit of content for long enough, and it can have its own link metrics and usage metrics, in the intervening time up until that point it can inherit some of this stuff from the domain.

Not wholly link-based

He did also just confirm that it’s not just link-based. This is not just a domain-level PageRank type thing.

2. Subdomains versus subfolders

This led me into the second thing that I really wanted to get out of him, which was — and when I raised this, I got kind of an eye roll, “Are we really going down this rabbit hole” — the subdomain versus subfolder question. You might have seen me talk about this. You might have seen people like Rand talk about this, where we’ve seen cases and we have case studies of moving blog.example.com to example.com/blog and changing nothing else and getting an uplift.

We know something must be going on, and yet the official line out of Google has for a very long time been: “We don’t treat these things differently. There is nothing special about subfolders. We’re perfectly happy with subdomains. Do whatever is right for your business.” We’ve had this kind of back-and-forth a few times. The way I put it to John was I said, “We have seen these case studies. How would you explain this?”

They try to figure out what belongs to the site

To his credit, John said, “Yes, we’ve seen them as well.” So he said, yes, Google has also seen these things. He acknowledged this is true. He acknowledged that it happens. The way he explained it connects back into this Domain Authority thing in my mind, which is to say that the way they think about it is: Are these pages on this subdomain part of the same website as things on the main domain?

That’s kind of the main question. They try and figure out, as he put it, “what belongs to this site.” We all know of sites where subdomains are entirely different sites. If you think about a blogspot.com or a WordPress.com domain, subdomains might be owned and managed by entirely different people, and there would be no reason for that authority to pass across. But what Google is trying to do and is trying to say, “Is this subdomain part of this main site?”

Sometimes this includes subdomains and sometimes not

He said sometimes they determine that it is, and sometimes they determine that it is not. If it is part of the site, in their estimation, then they will treat it as equivalent to a subfolder. This, for me, pretty much closes this loop. I think we understand each other now, which is Google is saying, in these certain circumstances, they will be treated identically, but there are circumstances where it can be treated differently.

My recommendation stays what it’s always been, which is 100% if you’re starting from the outset, put it on a subfolder. There’s no upside to the subdomain. Why would you risk the fact that Google might treat it as a separate site? If it is currently on a subdomain, then it’s a little trickier to make that case. I would personally be arguing for the integration and for making that move.

If it’s treated as part of the site, a subdomain is equivalent to a subfolder

But unfortunately, but somewhat predictably, I couldn’t tie John down to any particular way of telling if this is the case. If your content is currently on a subdomain, there isn’t really any way of telling if Google is treating it differently, which is a shame, but it’s somewhat predictable. But at least we understand each other now, and I think we’ve kind of got to the root of the confusion. These case studies are real. This is a real thing. Certainly in certain circumstances moving from the subdomain to the subfolder can improve performance.

3. Noindex’s impact on nofollow

The third thing that I want to talk about is a little bit more geeked out and technical, and also, in some sense, it leads to some bigger picture lessons and thinking. A little while ago John kind of caught us out by talking about how if you have a page that you no index and keep it that way for a long time, that Google will eventually treat that equivalently to a no index, no follow.

In the long-run, a noindex page’s links effectively become nofollow

In other words, the links off that page, even if you’ve got it as a no index, follow, the links off that page will be effectively no followed. We found that a little bit confusing and surprising. I mean I certainly felt like I had assumed it didn’t work that way simply because they have the no index, follow directive, and the fact that that’s a thing seems to suggest that it ought to work that way.

It’s been this way for a long time

It wasn’t really so much about the specifics of this, but more the like: How did we not know this? How did this come about and so forth? John talked about how, firstly, it has been this way for a long time. I think he was making the point none of you all noticed, so how big a deal can this really be? I put it back to him that this is kind of a subtle thing and very hard to test, very hard to extract out the different confounding factors that might be going on.

I’m not surprised that, as an industry, we missed it. But the point being it’s been this way for a long time, and Google’s view and certainly John’s view was that this hadn’t been hidden from us so much as the people who knew this hadn’t realized that they needed to tell anyone. The actual engineers working on the search algorithm, they had a curse of knowledge.

The curse of knowledge: engineers didn’t realize webmasters had the wrong idea

They knew it worked this way, and they had never realized that webmasters didn’t know that or thought any differently. This was one of the things that I was kind of trying to push to John a little more was kind of saying, “More of this, please. Give us more access to the engineers. Give us more insight into their way of thinking. Get them to answer more questions, because then out of that we’ll spot the stuff that we can be like, ‘Oh, hey, that thing there, that was something I didn’t know.’ Then we can drill deeper into that.”

That led us into a little bit of a conversation about how John operates when he doesn’t know the answer, and so there were some bits and pieces that were new to me at least about how this works. John said he himself is generally not attending search quality meetings. The way he works is largely off his knowledge and knowledge base type of content, but he has access to engineers.

They’re not dedicated to the webmaster relations operation. He’s just going around the organization, finding individual Google engineers to answer these questions. It was somewhat interesting to me at least to find that out. I think hopefully, over time, we can generally push and say, “Let’s look for those engineers. John, bring them to the front whenever they want to be visible, because they’re able to answer these kinds of questions that might just be that curse of knowledge that they knew this all along and we as marketers hadn’t figured out this was how things worked.”

That was my quick run-through of some of the things that I learned when I interviewed John. We’ll link over to more resources and transcripts and so forth. But it’s been a blast. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!