Faceted Navigation Intro – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by sergeystefoglo

The topic of faceted navigation is bound to come up at some point in your SEO career. It’s a common solution to product filtering for e-commerce sites, but managing it on the SEO side can quickly spin out of control with the potential to cause indexing bloat and crawl errors. In this week’s Whiteboard Friday, we welcome our friend Sergey Stefoglo to give us a quick refresher on just what faceted nav is and why it matters, then dive into a few key solutions that can help you tame it.

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Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans. My name is Serge. I’m from Distilled. I work at the Seattle office as a consultant. For those of you that don’t know about Distilled, we’re a full-service digital marketing agency specializing in SEO, but have branched out since to work on all sorts of things like content, PR, and recently a split testing tool, ODN.

Today I’m here to talk to you guys about faceted navigation, just the basics. We have a few minutes today, so I’m just going to cover kind of the 101 version of this. But essentially we’re going to go through what the definition is, why we should care as SEOs, why it’s important, what are some options we have with this, and then also what a solution could look like.

1. What is faceted navigation?

For those that don’t know, faceted navigation is essentially something like this, probably a lot nicer than this to be honest. But it’s essentially a page that allows you to filter down or allows a user to filter down based on what they’re looking for. So this is an example we have here of a list of products on a page that sells laptops, Apple laptops in this case.

Right here on the left side, in the green, we have a bunch of facets. Essentially, if you’re a user and you’re going in here, you could look at the size of the screen you might want. You could look at the price of the laptop, etc. That’s what faceted navigation is. Previously, when I worked at my previous agency, I worked on a lot of local SEO things, not really e-commerce, big-scale websites, so I didn’t run into this issue often. I actually didn’t even know it was a thing until I started at Distilled. So this might be interesting for you even if it doesn’t apply at the moment.

2. Why does faceted navigation matter?

Essentially, we should care as SEOs because this can get out of control really quickly. While being very useful to users, obviously it’s helpful to be able to filter down to the specific thing you want. this could get kind of ridiculous for Googlebot.

Faceted navigation can result in indexing bloat and crawl issues

We’ve had clients at Distilled that come to us that are e-commerce brands that have millions of pages in the index being crawled that really shouldn’t be. They don’t bring any value to the site, any revenue, etc. The main reason we should care is because we want to avoid indexation bloat and kind of crawl errors or issues.

3. What options do we have when it comes to controlling which pages are indexed/crawled?

The third thing we’ll talk about is what are some options we have in terms of controlling some of that, so controlling whether a page gets indexed or crawled, etc. I’m not going to get into the specifics of each of these today, but I have a blog post on this topic that we’ll link to at the bottom.

The main, most common options that we have for controlling this kind of thing would be around no indexing a page and stopping Google from indexing it, using canonical tags to choose a page that’s essentially the canonical version, using a disallow rule in robots.txt to stop Google from crawling a certain part of the site, or using the nofollow meta directive as well. Those are some of the most common options. Again, we’re not going to go into the nitty-gritty of each one. They each have their kind of pros and cons, so you can research that for yourselves.

4. What could a solution look like?

So okay, we know all of this. What could be an ideal solution? Before I jump into this, I don’t want you guys to run in to your bosses and say, “This is what we need to do.”

Please, please do your research beforehand because it’s going to vary a lot based on your site. Based on the dev resources you have, you might have to get scrappy with it. Also, do some keyword research mainly around the long tail. There are a lot of instances where you could and might want to have three or four facets indexed.

So again, a huge caveat: this isn’t the end-all be-all solution. It’s something that we’ve recommended at times, when appropriate, to clients. So let’s jump into what an ideal solution, or not ideal solution, a possible solution could look like.

Category, subcategory, and sub-subcategory pages open to indexing and crawling

What we’re looking at here is we’re going to have our category, subcategory, and sub-subcategory pages open to indexation and open to being crawled. In our example here, that would be this page, so /computers/laptops/apple. Perfectly fine. People are probably searching for Apple laptops. In fact, I know they are.

Any pages with one or more facets selected = indexed, facet links get nofollowed

The second step here is any page that has one facet selected, so for example, if I was on this page and I wanted an Apple laptop with a solid state drive in it, I would select that from these options. Those are fine to be indexed. But any time you have one or more facets selected, we want to make sure to nofollow all of these internal links pointing to other facets, essentially to stop link equity from being wasted and to stop Google from wasting time crawling those pages.

Any pages with 2+ facets selected = noindex tag gets added

Then, past that point, if a user selects two or more facets, so if I was interested in an Apple laptop with a solid state hard drive that was in the $1,000 price range for example, the chances of there being a lot of search volume for an Apple laptop for $1,000 with a solid state drive is pretty low.

So what we want to do here is add a noindex tag to those two-plus facet options, and that will again help us control crawl bloat and indexation bloat.

Already set up faceted nav? Think about keyword search volume, then go back and whitelist

The final thing I want to mention here, I touched on it a little bit earlier. But essentially, if you’re doing this after the fact, after the faceted navigation is already set up, which you probably are, it’s worth, again, having a strong think about where there is keyword search volume. If you do this, it’s worth also taking a look back a few months in to see the impact and also see if there’s anything you might want to whitelist. There might be a certain set of facets that do have search volume, so you might want to throw them back into the index. It’s worth taking a look at that.

That’s what faceted navigation is as a quick intro. Thank you for watching. I’d be really interested to hear what you guys think in the comments. Again, like I said, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. So I’d be really interested to hear what’s worked for you, or if you have any questions, please ask them below.

Thank you.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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A Slice of MozCon Magic: The 2018 Video Bundle is HERE!

Posted by HayleyBowyer

Your tweets haven’t gone unnoticed — we know the MozCon #FOMO is very real. Many of you would be there in a second if it weren’t for busy schedules and pesky back-to-back meetings. So, while you’re hard at work, we’re here to make one thing easy: providing you with the insights you need whenever you need them.

Yes, that’s right — the MozCon 2018 Video Bundle is here and we can’t wait share it with you!

Ready to dive in? Feel free to skip straight to the fun part!

Buy the MozCon 2018 Video Bundle

Did you attend MozCon 2018? You’re in luck! The full video bundle is included with your ticket price. Check your inbox for an email with a link to exclusive video access. Can’t find it? Email us — we’re happy to help!

If you weren’t able to make it, MozCon 2018 was awesome, to say the least. I’m not just saying that because I want to see you at MozCon 2019, but because, in just three short days, I witnessed magic happen.

No, not the kind you find at Disneyland (even though I firmly believe MozCon is Disneyland for marketers… but that’s another story), but the kind you find when you bring hundreds of people together from different walks of life, each with their own special talents, and watch them create one of the most thought-provoking, engaging, and inclusive communities I’ve ever seen. They fostered a wealth of knowledge and resources that left everyone with plenty of new ideas and answers to marketing’s most challenging questions. That, coupled with the impressive speaker line up and innovative topics, made 2018 one of the best MozCons to date. I am honored to have been a part of it.

Even our attendees thought so:

99.1% of attendees said they were either satisfied, very satisfied, or extremely satisfied with the conference overall.

And when it came to the topics, 77.8% said the topics were just the right amount of advanced — there was plenty to learn, but we weren’t too overwhelmed.


Here’s what Lily Ray, SEO Director at Path Interactive, had to say about MozCon 2018:

I’ve made MozCon an annual ritual. I leave each year feeling invigorated with new ideas, new skills, and a refreshed approach to client strategies. The information I’ve learned at MozCon has improved my abilities as an SEO and has led to better results for my clients.


I hope you experience a slice of MozCon magic with the MozCon 2018 Video Bundle. With it, you’ll gain access to 12 hours of content full of actionable tactics you can instantly put to work for you and your team. The sessions are sure to help energize your online marketing strategy.

What you’ll get:

For just $299, you can enjoy the full MozCon experience from the comfort of your home or office. The bundle includes:

  • 26 full-length videos from some of the brightest minds in digital marketing
  • Instant downloads and streaming to your computer, tablet, or mobile device
  • Downloadable slide decks for presentations

Buy the MozCon 2018 Video Bundle

Not convinced yet? Watch a session now… for free!

To help you decide whether the video bundle is right for you, we’re sharing one of our highest-rated sessions with you for free! In this session, Moz’s own marketing scientist and SEO extraordinaire Dr. Pete Meyers discusses mapping keywords to searcher intent and capitalizing on the promise of ranking to drive results that attract clicks and customers. Enjoy!

Ranking is a Promise: Can You Deliver? with Dr. Pete Meyers

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Finally, a BIG thank you to the team who made MozCon and this video bundle possible. We love sharing all this knowledge and couldn’t do it without the support of our vendors, partners, and the entire MozCon team.

And to the community, we wish you happy learning and hope to see you at MozCon 2019!

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Surprising SEO A/B Test Results – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by willcritchlow

You can make all the tweaks and changes in the world, but how do you know they’re the best choice for the site you’re working on? Without data to support your hypotheses, it’s hard to say. In this week’s edition of Whiteboard Friday, Will Critchlow explains a bit about what A/B testing for SEO entails and describes some of the surprising results he’s seen that prove you can’t always trust your instinct in our industry.

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Video Transcription

Hi, everyone. Welcome to another British Whiteboard Friday. My name is Will Critchlow. I’m the founder and CEO at Distilled. At Distilled, one of the things that we’ve been working on recently is building an SEO A/B testing platform. It’s called the ODN, the Optimization Delivery Network. We’re now deployed on a bunch of big sites, and we’ve been running these SEO A/B tests for a little while. I want to tell you about some of the surprising results that we’ve seen.

What is SEO A/B testing?

We’re going to link to some resources that will show you more about what SEO A/B testing is. But very quickly, the general principle is that you take a site section, so a bunch of pages that have a similar structure and layout and template and so forth, and you split those pages into control and variant, so a group of A pages and a group of B pages.

Then you make the change that you’re hypothesizing is going to make a difference just to one of those groups of pages, and you leave the other set unchanged. Then, using your analytics data, you build a forecast of what would have happened to the variant pages if you hadn’t made any changes to them, and you compare what actually happens to the forecast. Out of that you get some statistical confidence intervals, and you get to say, yes, this is an uplift, or there was no difference, or no, this hurt the performance of your site.

This is data that we’ve never really had in SEO before, because this is very different to running a controlled experiment in a kind of lab environment or on a test domain. This is in the wild, on real, actual, live websites. So let’s get to the material. The first surprising result I want to talk about is based off some of the most basic advice that you’ve ever seen.

Result #1: Targeting higher-volume keywords can actually result in traffic drops

I’ve stood on stage and given this advice. I have recommended this stuff to clients. Probably you have too. You know that process where you do some keyword research and you find that there’s one particular way of searching for whatever it is that you offer that has more search volume than the way that you’re talking about it on your website right now, so higher search volume for a particular way of phrasing?

You make the recommendation, “Let’s talk about this stuff on our website the way that people are searching for it. Let’s put this kind of phrasing in our title and elsewhere on our pages.” I’ve made those recommendations. You’ve probably made those recommendations. They don’t always work. We’ve seen a few times now actually of testing this kind of process and seeing what are actually dramatic drops.

We saw up to 20-plus-percent drops in organic traffic after updating meta information in titles and so forth to target the more commonly-searched-for variant. Various different reasons for this. Maybe you end up with a worse click-through rate from the search results. So maybe you rank where you used to, but get a worse click-through rate. Maybe you improve your ranking for the higher volume target term and you move up a little bit, but you move down for the other one and the new one is more competitive.

So yes, you’ve moved up a little bit, but you’re still out of the running, and so it’s a net loss. Or maybe you end up ranking for fewer variations of key phrases on these pages. However it happens, you can’t be certain that just putting the higher-volume keyword phrasing on your pages is going to perform better. So that’s surprising result number one. Surprising result number two is possibly not that surprising, but pretty important I think.

Result #2: 30–40% of common tech audit recommendations make no difference

So this is that we see as many as 30% or 40% of the common recommendations in a classic tech audit make no difference. You do all of this work auditing the website. You follow SEO best practices. You find a thing that, in theory, makes the website better. You go and make the change. You test it.

Nothing, flatlines. You get the same performance as the forecast, as if you had made no change. This is a big deal because it’s making these kinds of recommendations that damages trust with engineers and product teams. You’re constantly asking them to do stuff. They feel like it’s pointless. They do all this stuff, and there’s no difference. That is what burns authority with engineering teams too often.

This is one of the reasons why we built the platform is that we can then take our 20 recommendations and hypotheses, test them all, find the 5 or 6 that move the needle, only go to the engineering team to build those ones, and that builds so much trust and relationship over time, and they get to work on stuff that moves the needle on the product side.

So the big deal there is really be a bit skeptical about some of this stuff. The best practices, at the limit, probably make a difference. If everything else is equal and you make that one tiny, little tweak to the alt attribute or a particular image somewhere deep on the page, if everything else had been equal, maybe that would have made the difference.

But is it going to move you up in a competitive ranking environment? That’s what we need to be skeptical about.

Result #3: Many lessons don’t generalize

So surprising result number three is: How many lessons do not generalize? We’ve seen this broadly across different sections on the same website, even different industries. Some of this is about the competitive dynamics of the industry.

Some of it is probably just the complexity of the ranking algorithm these days. But we see this in particular with things like this. Who’s seen SEO text on a category page? Those kind of you’ve got all of your products, and then somebody says, “You know what? We need 200 or 250 words that mention our key phrase a bunch of times down at the bottom of the page.” Sometimes, helpfully, your engineers will even put this in an SEO-text div for you.

So we see this pretty often, and we’ve tested removing it. We said, “You know what? No users are looking at this. We know that overstuffing the keyword on the page can be a negative ranking signal. I wonder if we’ll do better if we just cut that div.” So we remove it, and the first time we did it, plus 6% result. This was a good thing.

The pages are better without it. They’re now ranking better. We’re getting better performance. So we say, “You know what? We’ve learnt this lesson. You should remove this really low-quality text from the bottom of your category pages.” But then we tested it on another site, and we see there’s a drop, a small one admittedly, but it was helping on these particular pages.

So I think what that’s just telling us is we need to be testing these recommendations every time. We need to be trying to build testing into our core methodologies, and I think this trend is only going to increase and continue, because the more complex the ranking algorithms get, the more machine learning is baked into it and it’s not as deterministic as it used to be, and the more competitive the markets get, so the narrower the gap between you and your competitors, the less stable all this stuff is, the smaller differences there will be, and the bigger opportunity there will be for something that works in one place to be null or negative in another.

So I hope I have inspired you to check out some SEO A/B testing. We’re going to link to some of the resources that describe how you do it, how you can do it yourself, and how you can build a program around this as well as some other of our case studies and lessons that we’ve learnt. But I hope you enjoyed this journey on surprising results from SEO A/B tests.

Resources:

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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The E-Commerce Benchmark KPI Study: The Most Valuable Online Consumer Trend of 2018 Revealed

Posted by Alan_Coleman

The latest Wolfgang E-Commerce Report is now live. This study gives a comprehensive view of the state of digital marketing in retail and travel, allowing digital marketers to benchmark their 2018 performance and plan their 2019 strategy.

The study analyzes over 250 million website sessions and more than €500 million in online revenue. Google Analytics, new Facebook Analytics reports, and online surveys are used to glean insights.

Revenue volume correlations

One of the unique features of the study is its conversion correlation. All website metrics featured in the study are correlated with conversion success to reveal what the most successful websites do differently.

This year we’ve uncovered our strongest success correlation ever at 0.67! Just to give that figure context: normally, 0.2 is worth talking about and 0.3 is noteworthy. Not only is this correlation with success very strong, the insight itself is highly actionable and can become a pillar of your digital marketing strategy.

These are the top factors that correlated with revenue volume. You can see the other correlations in the full study.

Click to see a bigger version

  • Average pages per session (.37)
  • Average session length (.49)
  • Conversion rate by users (.41)
  • Number of sessions per user (.67)
  • Percentage of sessions from paid search (.25)

Average website engagement metrics

Number of sessions per user Average pages per session Average session duration Bounce rate Average page load time Average server response time
Retail 1.58 6 3min 18sec 38.04% 6.84 1.02
Multi-channel 1.51 6 3min 17sec 35.27% 6.83 1.08
Online-only 1.52 5 3min 14sec 43.80% 6.84 0.89
Travel 1.57 3 2min 34sec 44.14% 6.76 0.94
Overall 1.58 5 3min 1sec 41.26% 6.80 0.97

Above are the average website engagement metrics. You can see the average number of sessions per user is very low at 1.5 over 12 months. Anything a digital marketer can do to get this to 2, to 3, and to 4 makes for about the best digital marketing they can do.

At Wolfgang Digital, we’ve been witnessing this phenomenon at a micro-level for some time now. Many of our most successful campaigns of late have been focused on presenting the user with an evolving message which matures with each interaction across multiple media touchpoints.

Click through to the Wolfgang E-Commerce KPI Report in full to uncover dozens more insights, including:

  • Is a social media engagement more valuable than a website visit?
  • What’s the true value of a share?
  • What’s the average conversion rate for online-only vs multi-channel retailers?
  • What’s the average order value for a hotel vs. tour operator?

Video Transcript

Today I want to talk to you about the most important online consumer trend in 2018. The story starts in a client meeting about four years ago, and we were meeting with a travel client. We got into a discussion about bounce rate and its implication on conversion rate. The client was asking us, “could we optimize our search and social campaigns to reduce bounce rate?”, which is a perfectly valid question.

But we were wondering: Will we lower the rate of conversions? Are all bounces bad? As a result of this meeting, we said, “You know, we need a really scientific answer to that question about any of the website engagement metrics or any of the website channels and their influence on conversion.” Out of that conversation, our E-Commerce KPI Report was born. We’re now four years into it. (See previous years on the Moz Blog: 2015, 2016, 2017.)

The metric with the strongest correlation to conversions: Number of sessions per user

We’ve just released the 2019 E-Commerce KPI Report, and we have a standout finding, probably the strongest correlation we’ve ever seen between a website engagement metric and a website conversion metric. This is beautiful because we’re all always optimizing for conversion metrics. But if you can isolate the engagement metrics which deliver, which are the money-making metrics, then you can be much more intelligent about how you create digital marketing campaigns.

The strongest correlation we’ve ever seen in this study is number of sessions per user, and the metric simply tells us on average how many times did your users visit your website. What we’re learning here is any digital marketing you can do which makes that number increase is going to dramatically increase your conversions, your revenue success.

Change the focus of your campaigns

It’s a beautiful metric to plan campaigns with because it changes the focus. We’re not looking for a campaign that’s a one-click wonder campaign. We’re not looking for a campaign that it’s one message delivered multiple times to the same user. Much more so, we’re trying to create a journey, multiple touchpoints which deliver a user from their initial interaction through the purchase funnel, right through to conversion.

Create an itinerary of touchpoints along the searcher’s journey

1. Research via Google

Let me give you an example. We started this with a story about a travel company. I’m just back from a swimming holiday in the west of Ireland. So let’s say I have a fictional travel company. We’ll call them Wolfgang Wild Swimming. I’m going to be a person who’s researching a swimming holiday. So I’m going to go to Google first, and I’m going to search for swimming holidays in Ireland.

2. E-book download via remarketing

I’m going to go to the Wolfgang Wild Swimming web page, where I’m going to read a little bit about their offering. In doing that, I’m going to enter their Facebook audience. The next time I go to Facebook, they’re now remarketing to me, and they’ll be encouraging me to download their e-book, which is a guide to the best swimming spots in the wild west of Ireland. I’m going to volunteer my email to them to get access to the book. Then I’m going to spend a bit more time consuming their content and reading their book.

3. Email about a local offline event

A week later, I get an email from them, and they’re having an event in my area. They’re going for a swim in Dublin, one of my local spots in The Forty Foot, for example. I’m saying, “Well, I was going to go for a swim this weekend anyway. I might as well go with this group.” I go to the swim where I can meet the tour guides. I can meet people who have been on it before. I’m now really close to making a purchase.

4. YouTube video content consumed via remarketing

Again, a week later, they have my email address, so they’re targeting me on YouTube with videos of previous holidays. Now I’m watching video content. All of a sudden, Wolfgang Wild Swimming comes up. I’m now watching a video of a previous holiday, and I’m recognizing the instructors and the participants in the previous holidays. I’m really, really close to pressing Purchase on a holiday here. I’m on the phone to my friend saying, “I found the one. Let’s book this.”

Each interaction moves the consumer closer to purchase

I hope what you’re seeing there is with each interaction, the Google search, the Facebook ad which led to an e-book download, the offline event, back online to the YouTube video, with each interaction I’m getting closer to the purchase.

You can imagine the conversion rate and the return on ad spend on each interaction increasing as we go. This is a really powerful message for us as digital marketers. When we’re planning a campaign, we think about ourselves as though we’re in the travel business too, and we’re actually creating an itinerary. We’re simply trying to create an itinerary of touchpoints that guide a searcher through awareness, interest, right through to action and making that purchase.

I think it’s not just our study that tells us this is the truth. A lot of the best-performing campaigns we’ve been running we’ve seen this anecdotally, that every extra touchpoint increases the conversion rate. Really powerful insight, really useful for digital marketers when planning campaigns. This is just one of the many insights from our E-Commerce KPI Report. If you found that interesting, I’d urge you to go read the full report today.

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Spectator to Partner: Turn Your Clients into SEO Allies – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by KameronJenkins

Are your clients your allies in SEO, or are they passive spectators? Could they even be inadvertently working against you? A better understanding of expectations, goals, and strategy by everyone involved can improve your client relations, provide extra clarity, and reduce the number of times you’re asked to “just SEO a site.” In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Kameron Jenkins outlines tactics you should know for getting clients and bosses excited about the SEO journey, as well as the risks involved in passivity.

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Video Transcription

Hey, everyone, and welcome to this week’s edition of Whiteboard Friday. I am Kameron Jenkins, and I’m the SEO Wordsmith here at Moz. Today I’m going to be talking with you about how to turn your clients from spectators, passive spectators to someone who is proactively interested and an ally in your SEO journey.

So if you’ve ever heard someone come to you, maybe it’s a client or maybe you’re in-house and this is your boss saying this, and they say, “Just SEO my site,” then this is definitely for you. A lot of times it can be really hard as an SEO to work on a site if you really aren’t familiar with the business, what that client is doing, what they’re all about, what their goals are. So I’m going to share with you some tactics for getting your clients and your boss excited about SEO and excited about the work that you’re doing and some risks that can happen when you don’t do that.

Tactics

So let’s dive right in. All right, first we’re going to talk about tactics.

1. Share news

The first tactic is to share news. In the SEO industry, things are changing all the time, so it’s actually a really great tactic to keep yourself informed, but also to share that news with the client. So here’s an example. Google My Business is now experimenting with a new video format for their post feature. So one thing that you can do is say, “Hey, client, I hear that Google is experimenting with this new format. They’re using videos now. Would you like to try it?”

So that’s really cool because it shows them that you’re on top of things. It shows them that you’re the expert and you’re keeping your finger on the pulse of the industry. It also tells them that they’re going to be a part of this new, cutting-edge technology, and that can get them really, really excited about the SEO work you’re doing. So make sure to share news. I think that can be really, really valuable.

2. Outline your work

The next tip is to outline your work. This one seems really simple, but there is so much to say for telling a client what you’re going to do, doing it, and then telling them that you did it. It’s amazing what can happen when you just communicate with a client more. There have been plenty of situations where maybe I did less tangible work for a client one week, but because I talk to them more, they were more inclined to be happy with me and excited about the work I was doing.

It’s also cool because when you tell a client ahead of time what you’re going to do, it gives them time to get excited about, “Ooh, I can’t wait to see what he or she is going to do next.” So that’s a really good tip for getting your clients excited about SEO.

3. Report results

Another thing is to report on your results. So, as SEOs, it can be really easy to say, hey, I added this page or I fixed these things or I updated this.

But if we detach it from the actual results, it doesn’t really matter how much a client likes you or how much your boss likes you, there’s always a risk that they could pull the plug on SEO because they just don’t see the value that’s coming from it. So that’s an unfortunate reality, but there are tons of ways that you can show the value of SEO. One example is, “Hey, client, remember that page that we identified that was ranking on page two. We improved it. We made all of those updates we talked about, and now it’s ranking on page one. So that’s really exciting. We’re seeing a lot of new traffic come from it.I’m wondering, are you seeing new calls, new leads, an uptick in any of those things as a result of that?”

So that’s really good because it shows them what you did, the results from that, and then it kind of connects it to, “Hey, are you seeing any revenue, are you seeing new clients, new customers,” things like that. So they’re more inclined to see that what you’re doing is making a real, tangible impact on actual revenue and their actual business goals.

4. Acknowledge and guide their ideas

This one is really, really important. It can be hard sometimes to marry best practices and customer service. So what I mean by that is there’s one end of the pendulum where you are really focused on best practices. This is right. This is wrong. I know my SEO stuff. So when a client comes to you and they say, “Hey, can we try this?” and you go, “No, that’s not best practices,”it can kind of shut them down. It doesn’t get them involved in the SEO process. In fact, it just kind of makes them recoil and maybe they don’t want to talk to you, and that’s the exact opposite of what we want here. On the other end of that spectrum though, you have clients who say, “Hey, I really want to try this.I saw this article. I’m interested in this thing. Can you do it for my website?”

Maybe it’s not the greatest idea SEO-wise. You’re the SEO expert, and you see that and you go, “Mm, that’s actually kind of scary. I don’t think I want to do that.” But because you’re so focused on pleasing your client, you maybe do it anyway. So that’s the opposite of what we want as well. We want to have a “no, but” mentality. So an example of that could be your client emails in and says, “Hey, I want to try this new thing.”

You go, “Hey, I really like where your head is at. I like that you’re thinking about things this way. I’m so glad you shared this with me. I tried this related thing before, and I think that would be actually a really good idea to employ on your website.” So kind of shifting the conversation, but still bringing them along with you for that journey and guiding them to the correct conclusions. So that’s another way to get them invested without shying them away from the SEO process.

Risks

So now that we’ve talked about those tactics, we’re going to move on to the risks. These are things that could happen if you don’t get your clients excited and invested in the SEO journey.

1. SEO becomes a checklist

When you don’t know your client well enough to know what they’re doing in the real world, what they’re all about, the risk becomes you have to kind of just do site health stuff, so fiddling with meta tags, maybe you’re changing some paragraphs around, maybe you’re changing H1s, fixing 404s, things like that, things that are just objectively, “I can make this change, and I know it’s good for site health.”

But it’s not proactive. It’s not actually doing any SEO strategies. It’s just cleanup work. If you just focus on cleanup work, that’s really not an SEO strategy. That’s just making sure your site isn’t broken. As we all know, you need so much more than that to make sure that your client’s site is ranking. So that’s a risk.

If you don’t know your clients, if they’re not talking to you, or they’re not excited about SEO, then really all you’re left to do is fiddle with kind of technical stuff. As good as that can be to do, our jobs are way more fun than that. So communicate with your clients. Get them on board so that you can do proactive stuff and not just fiddling with little stuff.

2. SEO conflicts with business goals

So another risk is that SEO can conflict with business goals.

So say that you’re an SEO. Your client is not talking to you. They’re not really excited about stuff that you’re doing. But you decide to move forward with proactive strategies anyway. So say I’m an SEO, and I identify this keyword. My client has this keyword. This is a related keyword. It can bring in a lot of good traffic. I’ve identified this good opportunity. All of the pages that are ranking on page one, they’re not even that good. I could totally do better. So I’m going to proactively go, I’m going to build this page of content and put it on my client’s site. Then what happens when they see that page of content and they go, “We don’t even do that. We don’t offer that product. We don’t offer that service.”

Oops. So that’s really bad. What can happen is that, yes, you’re being proactive, and that’s great. But if you don’t actually know what your client is doing, because they’re not communicating with you, they’re not really excited, you risk misaligning with their business goals and misrepresenting them. So that’s a definite risk.

3. You miss out on PR opportunities

Another thing, you miss out on PR opportunities. So again, if your client is not talking to you, they’re not excited enough to share what they’re doing in the real world with you, you miss out on news like, “Hey, we’re sponsoring this event,”or, “Hey, I was the featured expert on last night’s news.”

Those are all really, really good things that SEOs look for. We crave that information. We can totally use that to capitalize on it for SEO value. If we’re not getting that from our clients, then we miss out on all those really, really cool PR opportunities. So a definite risk. We want those PR opportunities. We want to be able to use them.

4. Client controls the conversation

Next up, client controls the conversation. That’s a definite risk that can happen. So if a client is not talking to you, a reason could be they don’t really trust you yet. When they don’t trust you, they tend to start to dictate. So maybe our client emails in.

A good example of this is, “Hey, add these 10 backlinks to my website.” Or, “Hey, I need these five pages, and I need them now.” Maybe they’re not even actually bad suggestions. It’s just the fact that the client is asking you to do that. So this is kind of tricky, because you want to communicate with your client. It’s good that they’re emailing in, but they’re the ones at that point that are dictating the strategy. Whereas they should be communicating their vision, so hey, as a business owner, as a website owner, “This is my vision. This is my goal, and this is what I want.”

As the SEO professional, you’re receiving that information and taking it and making it into an SEO strategy that can actually be really, really beneficial for the client. So there’s a huge difference between just being a task monkey and kind of transforming their vision into an SEO strategy that can really, really work for them. So that’s a definite risk that can happen.

Excitement + partnership = better SEO campaigns

There’s a lot of different things that can happen. These are just some examples of tactics that you can use and risks. If you have any examples of things that have worked for you in the past, I would love to hear about them. It’s really good to information share. Success stories where maybe you got your client or your boss really bought into SEO, more so than just, “Hey, I’m spending money on it.”

But, “Hey, I’m your partner in this. I’m your ally, and I’m going to give you all the information because I know that it’s going to be mutually beneficial for us.” So at the end here, excitement, partner, better SEO campaigns. This is going to be I believe a recipe for success to get your clients and your boss on board. Thanks again so much for watching this edition of Whiteboard Friday, and come back next week for another one.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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How to Improve Your Link Building Outreach Pipeline

Posted by John.Michael123

Link building is probably one of the most challenging pieces of your SEO efforts. Add multiple clients to the mix, and managing the link outreach process gets even tricker. When you’re in the thick of several outreach campaigns, it’s hard to know where to focus your efforts and which tactics will bring you the most return on your time and resources.

Three common questions are critical to understand at any point in your link campaign:

  • Do you need more link prospects?
  • Do you need to revise your email templates?
  • Do you need to follow up with prospects?

Without a proven way to analyze these questions, your link building efforts won’t be as efficient as they could be.

We put together a Google Sheets template to help you better manage your link building campaigns. The beauty of this template is that it allows for customization to better fit your workflow. You’ll want to make a copy to get started with your own version.

Our link building workflow

We’ve been able to improve our efficiency via this template by following a simple workflow around acquiring new guest posts on industry-relevant websites. The first step is to actually go out and find prospects that could be potentially interested in a guest blog post. We will then record those opportunities into our template so that we can track our efforts and identify any area that isn’t performing well.

The next step is to make sure to update the status of the prospect when anything changes like sending an outreach email to the prospect or getting a reply from them. It’s critical to keep the spreadsheet as up to date as possible so that we have an accurate picture of our performance.

Once you’ve used this template for enough time and you’ve gathered enough data, you’ll be able to predict how many link prospects you’ll need to find in order to acquire each link based on your own response and conversion rates. This can be useful if you have specific goals around acquiring a certain number of links per month, as you’ll get a better feel for how much prospecting you need to do to meet that link target number.

Using the link outreach template

The main purpose of this template is to give you a systematic way to analyze your outreach process so you can drill down into the biggest opportunities for improvement. There are several key features, starting with the Prospects tab.

The Prospects tab is the only one you will need to manually edit, and it houses all the potential link prospects uncovered in your researched. You’ll want to fill in the cells for your prospect’s website URL;, and you can also add the Domain Authority of the website for outreach prioritization. For the website URL, I typically put in an example of a guest post that was done on that site or just the homepage if I can’t find a better page.

There’s also a corresponding status column, with the following five stages so you can keep track of where each prospect is in the outreach process.

Status 1: Need to Reach Out. Use this for when you initially find a prospect but have not taken any action yet.

Status 2: Email Sent. This is used as soon as you send your first outreach email.

Status 3: Received Response

Status 4: Topic Approved. Select this status after you get a response and your guest post topic has been approved (this may take a few emails). Whenever I see this status, I know to reach out to my content team so they can start writing.

Status 5: Link Acquired. Selecting this status will automatically add the website to your Won Link Opportunities Report.

The final thing to do here is record the date that a particular link was acquired and add the URL where the link resides. Filling in these columns automatically populates the “Won Link Opportunities” report so you can track all of the links you acquire throughout the lifetime of your campaign.

Link building progress reports

This template automatically creates two reports that I share with my clients on a monthly basis. These reports help us dial in our efforts and maximize the performance of our overall link building campaign.

Link Pipeline report

The Link Pipeline report is a snapshot of our overall link outreach campaign. It shows us how many prospects we have in our pipeline and what the conversion/response rates are of each stage of our outreach funnel.

How to analyze the Link Pipeline report

This report allows us to understand where we need to focus our efforts to maximize our campaign’s performance. If there aren’t enough prospects at the top of the funnel, we know that we need to start looking for new link opportunities. If our contact vs. response rate is low, we know we need to test new email copy or email subject lines.

Won Link Opportunities

The Won Link Opportunities report lists out all the websites where a link has been officially landed. This is a great way to keep track of overall progress over time and to gauge performance against your link building goals.

Getting the most out of your link building campaigns

Organization is critical for maximizing your link building efforts and the return on the time you’re spending. By knowing exactly which stage of your link building process is your lowest performing, you can dramatically increase your overall efficiency by targeting those areas that need the most improvement.

Make a copy of the template

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Follow the Local SEO Leaders: A Guide to Our Industry’s Best Publications

Posted by MiriamEllis

Change is the only constant in local SEO. As your local brand or local search marketing agency grows, you’ll be onboarding new hires. Whether they’re novices or adepts, they’ll need to keep up with continuous industry developments in order to make agile contributions to team strategy. Particularly if local SEO is new to someone, it saves training time if you can fast-track them on who to follow for the best news and analysis. This guide serves as a blueprint for that very purpose.

And even if you’re an old hand in the local SEM industry, you may find some sources here you’ve been overlooking that could add richness and depth to your ongoing education.

Two quick notes on what and how I’ve chosen:

  1. As the author of both of Moz’s newsletters (the Moz Top 10 and the Moz Local Top 7), I read an inordinate amount of SEO and local SEO content, but I could have missed your work. The list that follows represents my own, personal slate of the resources that have taught me the most. If you publish great local SEO information but you’re not on this list, my apologies, and if you write something truly awesome in future, you’re welcome to tweet at me. I’m always on the lookout for fresh and enlightening voices. My personal criteria for the publications I trust is that they are typically groundbreaking, thoughtful, investigative, and respectful of readers and subjects.
  2. Following the leaders is a useful practice, but not a stopping point. Even experts aren’t infallible. Rather than take industry advice at face value, do your own testing. Some of the most interesting local SEO discussions I’ve ever participated in have stemmed from people questioning standard best practices. So, while it’s smart to absorb the wisdom of experts, it’s even smarter to do your own experiments.

The best of local SEO news

Who reports fastest on Google updates, Knowledge Panel tweaks, and industry business?

Sterling Sky’s Timeline of Local SEO Changes is the industry’s premiere log of developments that impact local businesses and is continuously updated by Joy Hawkins + team.

Search Engine Roundtable has a proven track record of being among the first to report news that affects both local and digital businesses, thanks to the ongoing dedication of Barry Schwartz.

Street Fight is the best place on the web to read about mergers, acquisitions, the release of new technology, and other major happenings on the business side of local. I’m categorizing Street Fight under news, but they also offer good commentary, particularly the joint contributions of David Mihm and Mike Blumenthal.

LocalU’s Last Week in Local video and podcast series highlights Mike Blumenthal and Mary Bowling’s top picks of industry coverage most worthy of your attention. Comes with the bonus of expert commentary as they share their list.

TechCrunch also keeps a finger on the pulse of technology and business dealings that point to the future of local.

Search Engine Land’s local category is consistently swift in getting the word out about breaking industry news, with the help of multiple authors.

Adweek is a good source for reportage on retail and brand news, but there’s a limit to the number of articles you can read without a subscription. I often find them covering quirky stories that are absent from other publications I read.

The SEMPost’s local tab is another good place to check for local developments, chiefly covered by Jennifer Slegg.

Search Engine Journal’s local column also gets my vote for speedy delivery of breaking local stories.

Google’s main blog and the ThinkWithGoogle blog are musts to keep tabs on the search engine’s own developments, bearing in mind, of course, that these publications can be highly promotional of their products and worldview.

The best of local search marketing analysis

Who can you trust most to analyze the present and predict the future?

LocalU’s Deep Dive video series features what I consider to be the our industry’s most consistently insightful analysis of a variety of local marketing topics, discussed by learned faculty and guests.

The Moz Blog’s local category hosts a slate of gifted bloggers and professional editorial standards that result in truly in-depth treatment of local topics, presented with care and attention. As a veteran contributor to this publication, I can attest to how Moz inspires authors to aim high, and one of the nicest things that happened to our team in 2018 was being voted the #2 local SEO blog by BrightLocal’s survey respondents.

The Local Search Association’s Insider blog is one I turn to again and again, particularly for their excellent studies and quotable statistics.

Mike Blumenthal’s blog has earned a place of honor over many years as a key destination for breaking local developments and one-of-a-kind analysis. When Blumenthal talks, local people listen. One of the things I’ve prized for well over a decade in Mike’s writing is his ability to see things from a small business perspective, as opposed to simply standing in awe of big business and technology.

BrightLocal’s surveys and studies are some of the industry’s most cited and I look eagerly forward to their annual publication.

Whitespark’s blog doesn’t publish as frequently as I wish it did, but their posts by Darren Shaw and crew are always on extremely relevant topics and of high quality.

Sterling Sky’s blog is a relative newcomer, but the expertise Joy Hawkins and Colan Nielsen bring to their agency’s publication is making it a go-to resource for advice on some of the toughest aspects of local SEO.

Local Visibility System’s blog continues to please, with the thoughtful voice of Phil Rozek exploring themes you likely encounter in your day-to-day work as a local SEO.

The Local Search Forum is, hands down, the best free forum on the web to take your local mysteries and musings to. Founded by Linda Buquet, the ethos of the platform is approachable, friendly, and often fun, and high-level local SEOs frequently weigh in on hot topics.

Pro tip: In addition to the above tried-and-true resources, I frequently scan the online versions of city newspapers across the country for interesting local stories that add perspective to my vision of the challenges and successes of local businesses. Sometimes, too, publications like The Atlantic, Forbes, or Business Insider will publish pieces of a high journalistic quality with relevance to our industry. Check them out!

The best for specific local marketing disciplines

Here, I’ll break this down by subject or industry for easy scanning:

Reviews

  • GetFiveStars can’t be beat for insight into online reputation management, with Aaron Weiche and team delivering amazing case studies and memorable statistics. I literally have a document of quotes from their work that I refer to on a regular basis in my own writing.
  • Grade.us is my other ORM favorite for bright and lively coverage from authors like Garrett Sussman and Andrew McDermott.

Email marketing

  • Tidings’ vault contains a tiny but growing treasure trove of email marketing wisdom from David Mihm, whose former glory days spent in the trenches of local SEO make him especially attuned to our industry.

SABs

  • Tom Waddington’s blog is the must-read publication for service area businesses whose livelihoods are being impacted by Google’s Local Service Ads program in an increasing number of categories and cities.

Automotive marketing

  • DealerOn’s blog is the real deal when it comes to automotive local SEO, with Greg Gifford teaching memorable lessons in an enjoyable way.

Legal marketing

  • JurisDigital brings the the educated voices of Casey Meraz and team to the highly-specialized field of attorney marketing.

Hospitality marketing

Independent businesses

Link building

  • Nifty Marketing’s blog has earned my trust for its nifty local link building ideas and case studies.
  • ZipSprout belongs here, too, because of their focus on local sponsorships, which are a favorite local link building methodology. Check them out for blog posts and podcasts.

Schema + other markup

  • Touchpoint Digital Marketing doesn’t publish much on their own website, but look anywhere you can for David Deering’s writings on markup. LocalU and Moz are good places to search for his expertise.

Patents

  • SEO by the Sea has proffered years to matchless analysis of Google patents that frequently impact local businesses or point to future possible developments.

Best local search industry newsletters

Get the latest news and tips delivered right to your inbox by signing up for these fine free newsletters:

Follow the local SEO leaders on Twitter

What an easy way to track what industry adepts are thinking and sharing, up-to-the-minute! Following this list of professionals (alphabetized by first name) will fill up your social calendar with juicy local tidbits. Keep in mind that many of these folks either own or work for agencies or publishers you can follow, too.

Aaron Weiche
Adam Dorfman
Andrew Shotland
Ben Fisher
Bernadette Coleman
Bill Slawski
Brian Barwig
Carrie Hill
Casey Meraz
Cindy Krum
Colan Nielsen
DJ Baxter
Dan Leibson
Dana DiTomaso
Dani Owens
Darren Shaw
Dave DiGreggorio
David Mihm
Don Campbell
Garrett Sussman
Glenn Gabe
Greg Gifford
Greg Sterling
Jennifer Slegg
Joel Headley
Joy Hawkins
Mary Bowling
Mike Blumenthal
Mike Ramsey
Miriam Ellis
Phil Rozek
Sherry Bonelli
Thibault Adda
Tim Capper
Tom Waddington

Share what you learn

How about your voice? How do you get it heard in the local SEO industry? The answer is simple: share what you learn with others. Each of the people and publications on my list has earned a place there because, at one time or another, they have taught me something they learned from their own work. Some tips:

  • Our industry has become a sizeable niche, but there is always room for new, interesting voices
  • Experiment and publish — consistent publication of your findings is the best way I know of to become a trusted source of information
  • Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, so long as you are willing to own them
  • Socialize — attend events, amplify the work of colleagues you admire, reach out in real ways to others to share your common work interest while also respecting busy schedules

Local SEO is a little bit like jazz, in which we’re all riffing off the same chord progressions created by Google, Facebook, Yelp, other major platforms, and the needs of clients. Mike Blumenthal plays a note about a jeweler whose WOMM is driving the majority of her customers. You take that note and turn it around for someone in the auto industry, yielding an unexpected insight. Someone else takes your insight and creates a print handout to bolster a loyalty program.

Everyone ends up learning in this virtuous, democratic cycle, so go ahead — start sharing! A zest for contribution is a step towards leadership and your observations could be music to the industry’s ears.

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