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The Very Best of the Moz Blog 2017: Our Top 50 Posts

Posted by FeliciaCrawford

Now, I know we technically have a few days left in 2017, but I’m ready to dive head-first into a fond, full-blown retrospective. Each year we look back on what we’ve published, compiling and sharing the pieces you liked best. Normally we divvy it up via various metrics: traffic, 1Metric score, total thumbs up, total comments, the best of YouMoz, and so on and so forth. This year, however, we’re doing things just a little differently.

A lot has changed in the past year…

The way we run the blog has changed in a few significant ways from the days of yesteryear. YouMoz, our user-generated content blog, was retired in the autumn of 2016 (though we hope to resurrect it in another form someday). We reduced our publishing frequency a bit, and refocused our content on core SEO topics after spending 2015 and 2016 branching out into other marketing subjects (like social media and content marketing). We also made some big changes with regards to commenting: we closed comments on posts older than 30 days (they became veritable spam factories), and implemented stricter moderation filters to better catch spammy comments fishing for either a link or easy MozPoints.

And if I’m being completely honest, I don’t think the “Best of” posts from years past have offered you, our beloved readers, as much value as they should’ve. The most excited comments on those posts occur when someone discovers a gem they’d missed, when a post reaches out to you from the masses of online content clamoring for your attention and speaks to you. The way we formerly ranked “the best” resulted in a lot of overlap; the same few posts with lots of thumbs up, a busy comments section, and high traffic overwhelmed the leaderboard.

What criteria now determines “best”?

At the end of 2017, we’re starting fresh. First, I’ve taken our ten most popular blog post categories by traffic — these represent the topics readers are actively seeking information on. Next, I thought about which metric matters most to me when I consider the success of a blog post. Traffic, thumbs, social shares… Nice to see, yes, but they don’t paint a very clear picture of a post’s impact. I found myself returning to my favorite blog post metric again and again: the comments.

A post with a lively comments section can be many things. Perhaps it sparked questions or debate; perhaps the findings were controversial; perhaps it was simply inspiring. Whatever the reason, a heavily commented-on post represents something that struck a chord, that convinced a person to peek out from behind their keyboard shield and contribute a thought, something that coaxed a little extra effort and commitment from our community. As a silent lurker myself, I am consistently blown away by the humility, genius, and generosity you all display in the blog comments section every day.

So there we have it: this year’s Best of the Moz Blog 2017 is a list of the top five most-commented posts in the top ten blog categories. That’s fifty unique blog posts throughout the year on a variety of topics, some of which you may have missed. Most blog posts fall into several of our categories, but every post will only be listed once; if it’s hit the top five in a more popular category, I’ve taken it out of the running for the rest. It’s my sincere hope that this list uncovers something useful for you, something that helps make your job and day just a little easier.

Without further ado, let’s get this party started!

(If you’re curious, check out the Best of 2016 and the Best of 2015, too.)


The top 5 Whiteboard Fridays

Whiteboard Friday is far and away our most popular blog category, earning three times as much traffic as the rest. Because it always overlaps with at least one other category, you’re bound to get a tidy grab bag of SEO takeaways with this list!

10 Things that DO NOT (Directly) Affect Your Google Rankings

Rand Fishkin, September 22nd

Thumbs: 85
Comments: 180

What do the age of your site, your headline H1/H2 preference, bounce rate, and shared hosting all have in common? You might’ve gotten a hint from the title: not a single one of them directly affects your Google rankings. In this rather comforting Whiteboard Friday, Rand lists out ten factors commonly thought to influence your rankings that Google simply doesn’t care about.

What Do Google’s New, Longer Snippets Mean for SEO?

Rand Fishkin, December 8th

Thumbs: 100
Comments: 136

Featured snippets and meta descriptions have brand-new character limits, and it’s a huge change for Google and SEOs alike. Learn about what’s new, when it changed, and what it all means for SEO in this episode of Whiteboard Friday. (And this is cheating, but for good measure, you might follow up with Dr. Pete’s official recommendation for meta description lengths in 2018.)

What Links Can You Get that Comply with Google’s Guidelines?

Marie Haynes, January 20th

Thumbs: 68
Comments: 112

If you’ve ever been the victim of a Google penalty, you know how painful it can be to identify the problem and recover from the hit. Even if you’ve been penalty-free thus far, the threat of getting penalized is a source of worry. But how can you avoid it, when it seems like unnatural links lurk around every corner?

In this Whiteboard Friday, we warmly welcome Google penalty and unnatural link expert Marie Haynes as she shares how to earn links that do comply with Google’s guidelines, that will keep your site out of trouble, and that can make a real impact.

7 ‹Title Tag› Hacks for Increased Rankings + Traffic – Whiteboard Friday

Cyrus Shepard, May 5th

Thumbs: 185
Comments: 103

You may find yourself wondering whether the humble title tag still matters in modern SEO. When it comes to your click-through rate, the answer is a resounding yes! In this Whiteboard Friday, we welcome back our good friend Cyrus Shepard to talk about 7 ways you can revamp your title tags to increase your site traffic and rankings.

Comment Marketing: How to Earn Benefits from Community Participation

Rand Fishkin, January 13th

Thumbs: 53
Comments: 97

It’s been a few years since we’ve covered the topic of comment marketing, but that doesn’t mean it’s out of date. There are clever, intentional ways to market yourself and your brand in the comments sections of sites, and there’s less competition now than ever before. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand details what you can do to get noticed in the comments and the benefits you’ll reap from high-quality contributions.


The top 5 posts in On-Page SEO

The results of our recent Moz Blog Reader Survey highlighted on-page SEO as the topic you’d most like to learn about, so it’s not surprising to see that this category sits right under Whiteboard Friday for popularity. There’s an interesting theme that emerges from these top posts: it seems we’re still working on many of the same things, but how we treat them has necessarily changed over time.

How Links in Headers, Footers, Content, and Navigation Can Impact SEO – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, October 20th

Thumbs: 68
Comments: 92

Which link is more valuable: the one in your nav, or the one in the content of your page? Now, how about if one of those in-content links is an image, and one is text? Not all links are created equal, and getting familiar with the details will help you build a stronger linking structure. This Whiteboard Friday covers links in headers and footers, in navigation versus content, and how that can affect internal and external links, link equity, and link value between your site and others.

It’s Time to Stop Doing On-Page SEO Like It’s 2012

Rand Fishkin, February 6th

Thumbs: 84
Comments: 91

On-page SEO has evolved in the past five years. Rand outlines the changes in five succinct tactics: move beyond keyword repetition rules; searcher intent matters more than raw keywords; related topics are essential; links don’t always beat on-page; and topical authority is more important than ever.

The Wonderful World of SEO Meta Tags [Refreshed for 2017]

Kate Morris, April 13th

Thumbs: 46
Comments: 67

Which meta tags are absolutely necessary, which are dependent on your situation, and which should you absolutely ignore or remove? Kate Morris refreshes her original 2010 post on the subject of meta tags, sharing a few new tips and reiterating what’s remained the same over the past 7 years.

Designing a Page’s Content Flow to Maximize SEO Opportunity – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, December 1st

Thumbs: 54
Comments: 48

Controlling and improving the flow of your on-site content can actually help your SEO. What’s the best way to capitalize on the opportunity present in your page design? Rand covers the questions you need to ask (and answer) and the goals you should strive for in this edition of Whiteboard Friday.

How to Do a Content Audit [Updated for 2017]

Everett Sizemore, March 22nd

Thumbs: 49
Comments: 31

Learn how to do content audits for SEO in this comprehensive, updated guide by Everett Sizemore, including tips for crawling large websites, rendering JavaScript content, and auditing dynamic mobile content.


The top 5 posts in Local SEO

Local SEO overlaps with what we think of as traditional SEO in many ways, so it’s not surprising at all to see this category near the top. There’s still a lot of doubt and apprehension, it seems, when it comes to local SEO best practices and what really works, and the top posts in this category reflect that.

Local SEO Spam Tactics Are Working: How You Can Fight Back

Casey Meraz, March 28th

Thumbs: 48
Comments: 75

It’s very clear that spam tactics in Google’s local results are earning higher rankings. In this post, Casey Meraz identifies exactly what spammers are doing to get ahead, what they can get away with, and what you can do to fight back against the problem plaguing local results.

Not-Actually-the-Best Local SEO Practices

Miriam Ellis, December 11th

Thumbs: 47
Comments: 72

Not all common practices in local SEO are the best practices. In fact, some of them can be pretty darn harmful. Check out Miriam’s list of what-not-to-dos (and what-you-should-actually-dos) in this comprehensive blog post.

The 2017 Local SEO Forecast: 10 Predictions According to Mozzers

Miriam Ellis, February 14th

Thumbs: 35
Comments: 67

From Google providing intimate details about businesses to Amazon expanding even further into the local scene, local SEO stood to see a lot of change this year. Check out what the SEOs at Moz had to say about what to prepare for in 2017.

Proximity to Searcher is the New #1 Local Search Ranking Factor

Darren Shaw, February 22nd

Thumbs: 58
Comments: 65

Forget everything you thought you knew about the most impactful local ranking factors — searcher proximity just may be the number-one thing influencing where a local business shows on the SERPs.

How to Perform a Basic Local Business Competitive Audit

Miriam Ellis, August 22nd

Thumbs: 32
Comments: 65

Are you outranked in Google’s Local Pack? Then it’s high time to perform a competitive business audit. Use this example analysis and downloadable spreadsheet to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of multiple businesses and devise a plan to win.


The top 5 posts in Basic SEO

Basic SEO is another category that enjoys a lot of overlap with other topics; perhaps that’s one reason why it’s so popular. This year’s top posts in this category cover a range of subjects, and all are pretty useful for someone learning (or leveling up in) SEO.

Aren’t 301s, 302s, and Canonicals All Basically the Same? – Whiteboard Friday

Dr. Pete, March 3rd

Thumbs: 62
Comments: 69

They say history repeats itself. In the case of the great 301 vs 302 vs rel=canonical debate, it repeats itself about every three months. In this Whiteboard Friday, Dr. Pete explains how bots and humans experience pages differently depending on which solution you use, why it matters, and how each choice may be treated by Google.

How to Prioritize SEO Tasks [+Worksheet]

Britney Muller, September 21st

Thumbs: 41
Comments: 64

An absolute essential if you want to keep yourself from getting overwhelmed, Moz’s own SEO Britney Muller offers five tips for prioritizing your SEO work: setting specific goals, identifying important pages for conversions, uncovering technical opportunities via a site crawl, time management, and providing consistent benchmarks and reporting.

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

Rand Fishkin, July 28th

Thumbs: 71
Comments: 63

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

“SEO Is Always Changing”… Or Is It?: Debunking the Myth and Getting Back to Basics

Bridget Randolph, July 19th

Thumbs: 56
Comments: 60

We’re so fond of the idea that SEO is hard because it’s always changing. But is that really true? Bridget Randolph challenges a common industry refrain and brings us back to the basics of what’s really important in our work.

How to Target Multiple Keywords with One Page – Next Level

Brian Childs, June 15th

Thumbs: 45
Comments: 56

In this edition of our educational Next Level series, you’ll learn an easy workflow for researching and targeting multiple keywords with a single page.


The top five posts in Link Building

A thousand years from now, when the Space Needle has toppled into Puget Sound and our great-great-great-great-etc. grandchildren are living on Mars, link building will still prove to be one of the most popular subjects on the Moz Blog. And you get a double-whammy of goodness this year, because they just so happen to all be Whiteboard Fridays!

Should SEOs Care About Internal Links? – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, May 26th

Thumbs: 85
Comments: 87

Internal links are one of those essential SEO items you have to get right to avoid getting them really wrong. Rand shares 18 tips to help inform your strategy, going into detail about their attributes, internal vs. external links, ideal link structures, and much, much more in this edition of Whiteboard Friday.

How to Prioritize Your Link Building Efforts & Opportunities – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, February 17th

Thumbs: 73
Comments: 81

We all know how effective link building efforts can be, but it can be an intimidating, frustrating process — and sometimes even a chore. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand builds out a framework you can start using today to streamline and simplify the link building process for you, your teammates, and yes, even your interns.

The 3 Easiest Link Building Tactics Any Website Can Use to Acquire Their First 50 Links – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, September 8th

Thumbs: 81
Comments: 77

Without a solid base of links, your site won’t be competitive in the SERPs — even if you do everything else right. But building your first few links can be difficult and discouraging, especially for new websites. Never fear — Rand is here to share three relatively quick, easy, and tool-free (read: actually free) methods to build that solid base and earn yourself links.

When and How to Use Domain Authority, Page Authority, and Link Count Metrics – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, June 16th

Thumbs: 50
Comments: 71

How can you effectively apply link metrics like Domain Authority and Page Authority alongside your other SEO metrics? Where and when does it make sense to take them into account, and what exactly do they mean? In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand answers these questions and more, arming you with the knowledge you need to better understand and execute your SEO work.

Image Link Building – Whiteboard Friday

Britney Muller, December 15th

Thumbs: 48
Comments: 63

Image link building is a delicate art. There are some distinct considerations from traditional link building, and doing it successfully requires a balance of creativity, curiosity, and having the right tools on hand. In this Whiteboard Friday, Moz’s own SEO and link building aficionado Britney Muller offers up concrete advice for successfully building links via images.


The top 5 posts in Advanced SEO

2017′s top posts in the advanced SEO category cover just about every post type we like to publish (and that you like to read): in-depth case studies, Whiteboard Fridays, best practice advice, and solid how-tos.

[Case Study] How We Ranked #1 for a High-Volume Keyword in Under 3 Months

Dmitry Dragilev, April 19th

Thumbs: 73
Comments: 140

If you’ve been struggling to take the number-one spot in the SERPs for a competitive keyword, take a cue from this case study. Dmitry Dragilev shares his team’s 8-step methodology for ranking first in a popular niche.

How Google AdWords (PPC) Does and Doesn’t Affect Organic Results – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, November 17th

Thumbs: 68
Comments: 89

It’s common industry knowledge that PPC can have an effect on our organic results. But what effect is that, exactly, and how does it work? In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand covers the ways paid ads influence organic results — and one very important way they don’t.

SEO Best Practices for Canonical URLs + the Rel=Canonical Tag – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, July 14th

Thumbs: 62
Comments: 87

If you’ve ever had any questions about the canonical tag, well, have we got the Whiteboard Friday for you. In this episode, Rand defines what rel=canonical means and its intended purpose, when it’s recommended you use it, how to use it, and sticky situations to avoid.

How to Uncover Hidden Keyword-Level Data Using Google Sheets

Sarah Lively, February 13th

Thumbs: 42
Comments: 83

Which keywords are driving your organic traffic? Keyword-level data doesn’t have to be (not provided). Sarah Lively shares a smart solution using two free add-ons for Google Sheets.

How Long Should Your Meta Description Be? (2018 Edition)

Dr. Pete, December 19th

Thumbs: 49
Comments: 76

The end of November saw a spike in the average length of SERP snippets. Across 90K results, we found a definite increase but many oddities, such as video snippets. Our data suggests that many snippets are exceeding 300 characters, and we recommend a new meta description limit of 300 characters.


The top 5 posts in Technical SEO

Technical SEO posts are some of my favorite categories to publish (which is perhaps a strange sentiment coming from a poetry major). The debate that recently raged — about whether it’s necessary or unnecessary for SEO — will always stick with many of us, as will Rand’s excellent Whiteboard Friday rebuttal on the topic.

XML Sitemaps: The Most Misunderstood Tool in the SEO’s Toolbox

Michael Cottam, April 11th

Thumbs: 43
Comments: 83

XML sitemaps are a powerful tool for SEOs, but are often misunderstood and misused. Michael Cottam explains how to leverage XML sitemaps to identify and resolve indexation problems.

JavaScript & SEO: Making Your Bot Experience As Good As Your User Experience

Alexis Sanders, June 20th

Thumbs: 56
Comments: 79

More and more, we’re realizing it’s incredibly important for us as SEOs to understand JavaScript’s impact on search experience. Can search engines see your content and experience your site the way a user does? If not, what solutions can you use to fix it?

Pros and Cons of HTTPS Services: Traditional vs Let’s Encrypt vs Cloudflare

JR Ridley, September 13th

Thumbs: 38
Comments: 78

Thinking about going secure? It’s more important than ever, with Google issuing security warnings for many non-secure sites in Chrome. This comparison of three popular HTTPS services will help you determine the best option for implementing an SSL certification on your site.

Mastering Google Search Operators in 67 Easy Steps

Dr. Pete, March 1st

Thumbs: 82
Comments: 76

Google search operators are like chess – knowing how the pieces move doesn’t make you a master. Dive into 67 examples, from content research to site audits, and level up your search operator game.

Unlocking Hidden Gems Within Schema.org

Alexis Sanders, October 18th

Thumbs: 45
Comments: 69

Schema.org can be a confusing resource if you’re trying to learn how to use and implement structured data. This mini-guide arms you with the right kind of thinking to tackle your next structured data project.


The top 5 posts in Keyword Research

The posts generating the most buzz in our keyword research category seem to revolve around quick yet effective wins and tactical advice. And with time constraints being one of the biggest challenges reported in our Reader’s Survey, it’s really no surprise.

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

Britney Muller, July 26th

Thumbs: 52
Comments: 54

Keyword research doesn’t have to be a marathon bender. A brisk 30-minute walk can provide incredible insights — insights that connect you with a wider audience on a deeper level. Britney Muller shares several ways to get your keyword research tasks done efficiently and well.

The Keyword + Year Content/Rankings Hack – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, February 10th

Thumbs: 63
Comments: 49

What’s the secret to earning site traffic from competitive keywords with decent search volume? The answer could be as easy as 1, 2, 3 — or more precisely, 2, 0, 1, 7. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand lets you in on a relatively straightforward tactic that can help you compete in a tough space using very fresh content.

3 Tactics for Hyperlocal Keywords – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, February 24th

Thumbs: 63
Comments: 47

Trying to target a small, specific region with your keywords can prove frustrating. While reaching a high-intent local audience is incredibly valuable, without volume data to inform your keyword research, you’ll find yourself hitting a wall. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand shares how to uncover powerful, laser-focused keywords that will reach exactly the right people.

Which of My Competitor’s Keywords Should (& Shouldn’t ) I Target? – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, November 24th

Thumbs: 45
Comments: 44

You don’t want to try to rank for every one of your competitors’ keywords. Like most things with SEO, it’s important to be strategic and intentional with your decisions. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand shares his recommended process for understanding your funnel, identifying the right competitors to track, and prioritizing which of their keywords you ought to target.

NEW in Keyword Explorer: See Who Ranks & How Much with Keywords by Site

Rand Fishkin, October 23rd

Thumbs: 41
Comments: 43

It’s not often that a product-focused post makes our blog’s Best of the Year list, so this is both interesting and heartening to see. We worked really hard to bring better data and more usefulness to Keyword Explorer this year, and y’all left some really kind sentiments in the comments. Thanks for always being here for us, folks! :)


The top 5 posts in Content

I won’t say it, I promise. ;) But content is just as important as ever, and the rather vague advice of “create great content and the rest will come” has certainly gotten a bit exhausting over the years. We’ve made an effort to publish more actionable ways to think about and use content, and it seems like that’s been resonating with you so far!

Refurbishing Top Content – Whiteboard Friday

Britney Muller, February 3rd

Thumbs: 66
Comments: 82

You’ve got top-performing content on your site that does really well. Maybe it’s highly converting, maybe it garners the most qualified traffic — but it’s just sitting there gathering dust. Isn’t there something else you can do with content that’s clearly proven its worth?

As it turns out, there is! In this Whiteboard Friday, Britney Muller shares three easy steps for identifying, repurposing, and republishing your top content to juice every drop of goodness out of it.

What We Learned From Analyzing 1.4 Million Featured Snippets

A.J. Ghergich, January 17th

Thumbs: 48
Comments: 78

From optimal snippet length, to practical application tips, to which queries prefer tables, lists, or paragraphs, learn everything you need to know to supercharge your snippet wins.

The Perfect Blog Post Length and Publishing Frequency is B?!!$ #÷x – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, August 18th

Thumbs: 76
Comments: 65

The perfect blog post length or publishing frequency doesn’t actually exist. “Perfect” isn’t universal — your content’s success depends on tons of personalized factors. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains why the idea of “perfect” is baloney when it comes to your blog, and lists what you should actually be looking for in a successful publishing strategy.

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

Jen Carney, August 2nd

Thumbs: 31
Comments: 51

You’ve spend too much time and effort on content creation to share it only once. Check out four smart strategies you can implement today to improve the reach of your existing content.

How to Build the Right Content Marketing Strategy for SEO Growth

Alli Berry, November 15th

Thumbs: 30
Comments: 51

Keywords are important for innumerable SEO tasks, but driving your content marketing strategy isn’t one of them. Your strategy should be based on the audience you’re trying to reach if you want your organic traffic to convert.


Paid Search Marketing

While it perhaps seems a little strange for an SEO blog to cover, paid search plays an important part in our digital marketing world, and as reported in our Reader’s Survey, plenty of us wear more than one hat. Here are the top posts from 2017 that generated the most commentary about all things paid:

Do iPhone Users Spend More Online Than Android Users?

Martin Meany, October 11th

Thumbs: 27
Comments: 71

iPhone users tend to spend 3x as much as Android users, according to an analysis of 31 million mobile e-commerce sessions. Digital marketers can capitalize on this revelation via Facebook and AdWords.

Branding Success: How to Use PPC to Amplify Your Brand

Purna Virji, February 21st

Thumbs: 34
Comments: 44

You might be surprised to learn that branding and PPC go hand-in-hand. Find out how to leverage your PPC campaigns to strengthen your brand and win conversions and loyalty from your customers.

No, Paid Search Audiences Won’t Replace Keywords

Kirk Williams, May 30th

Thumbs: 33
Comments: 29

Keywords or audience targeting? Kirk Williams sets out to argue that far from being dead, keywords are still the most useful tool in the paid search marketer’s toolbox.

Paid Social for Content Marketing Launches – Whiteboard Friday

Kane Jamison, September 29th

Thumbs: 31
Comments: 29

Stuck in a content marketing rut? Relying on your existing newsletter, social followers, or email outreach won’t do your launches justice. Boosting your signal with paid social both introduces your brand to new audiences and improves your launch’s traffic and results. In this Whiteboard Friday, we’re welcoming back our good friend Kane Jamison to highlight four straightforward, actionable tactics you can start using ASAP.

The Step-By-Step Guide to Testing Voice Search Via PPC

Purna Virji, March 21st

Thumbs: 30
Comments: 24

Conversational interfaces are becoming more and more popular, but it’s hard to know where to start when it comes to voice search. A $ 50 PPC budget is enough to jumpstart your voice search keyword list and strategy — learn how in this step-by-step guide.


Top comments by thumbs up

Comments are my favorite blog post success metric, and it simply wouldn’t do if we didn’t honor the folks who contributed the most popular comments in 2017. Thank you, all of you, for sharing your thoughts with the greater Moz and SEO community, and for taking precious time out of your day to make the blog a more interesting and better place. And for all the comment lurkers out there like me, I offer you solemn solidarity and zero judgment (but I’d be delighted to see y’all venture out from behind the screen now and again ;) .

1. Praveen Sharma on “10 Things that DO NOT (Directly) Affect Your Google Rankings – Whiteboard Friday” – 58 thumbs up

Short, sweet, accurate, relevant advice is the name of the game. :) We’ve had feedback before that some readers come to the blog for the comments as much as the post itself, and this example shows why. Thanks for sharing your insight, Praveen!

2. SEOMG on “7 ‹Title Tag› Hacks for Increased Rankings + Traffic – Whiteboard Friday” – 42 thumbs up

Much like the above, this comment exemplifies clear, useful examples related to the post topic. You rock, SEOMG!

3. Praveen Sharma on “The 3 Easiest Link Building Tactics Any Website Can Use to Acquire Their First 50 Links – Whiteboard Friday” – 39 thumbs up

Swooping in again with another helpful tidbit to add to the blog post at hand, Praveen’s made it on the Top 10 list twice. We really appreciate your contributions, Praveen!

4. Trevor Klein on “Moz Transitions: Rand to Step Away from Operations and into Advisory Role in Early 2018” – 38 thumbs up

A bittersweet comment that clearly struck a chord with many in our community. Rand, I hope you know how much we all love and appreciate you! And Trevor, thank you so much for your candid and genuine thoughts; you truly spoke for all of us there.

5. Gianluca Fiorelli on “SEO Best Practices for Canonical URLs + the Rel=Canonical Tag – Whiteboard Friday” – 30 thumbs up

Gianluca’s comments on the Moz Blog are legendary; each one is a treasure, a miniature blog post in and of itself. Thank you for sharing your smarts with us, Gianluca!

6. Rand Fishkin on “What Do Google’s New, Longer Snippets Mean for SEO? – Whiteboard Friday” – 28 thumbs up

By using the comments section to clarify a few points about his Whiteboard Friday video and highlight his advice, Rand adds extra value and oomph to the post as a whole… and the community responded. :) Thank you for always leaving 10X comments, Rand!

7. Eric Hahn on “10 Things that DO NOT (Directly) Affect Your Google Rankings – Whiteboard Friday” – 26 thumbs up

The discussion in the thread spurred by this helpful, on-topic comment is the kind of lively, educational back-and-forth we love to witness. Thank you for inspiring folks to ask questions and learn, Eric!

8. Igor Gorbenko on “What Do Google’s New, Longer Snippets Mean for SEO? – Whiteboard Friday” – 25 thumbs up

It makes me really happy that our community has — and rewards — such awesome personality. Igor, thank you for your wit and your insights! ᕕ(⌐■_■)ᕗ ♪♬

9. Tim Soulo on “Moz Transitions: Rand to Step Away from Operations and into Advisory Role in Early 2018” – 22 thumbs up

The blog community definitely resonated with all the heartfelt, personal stories shared on this post. Tim, thank you for sharing!

10. Gianluca Fiorelli on “Comment Marketing: How to Earn Benefits from Community Participation – Whiteboard Friday” – 21 thumbs up

In an incredibly meta turn of events, Gianluca’s comment on our Comment Marketing Whiteboard Friday rounds out the list of 2017′s top comments on the Moz Blog. I don’t think there’s a person on this Internet that’s done a better job of personal comment marketing than Gianluca! :)


Here’s to you!

Thank you all, each and every one of you, for helping to keep our little community a thriving, nurturing place to learn SEO, share ideas, and hey, even make mistakes now and again. It’s an honor to have a hand in providing content to such a TAGFEE and brilliant group of people, and I can’t describe how excited I am for all that 2018 will bring.

Let me know in the comments how you liked the change-up this year, what other “Best of” formats or lists you might find helpful, and any other ponderings or thoughts you might have — and thank you again for reading!

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!


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Best of 2017: MarketingSherpa’s most popular content about email, customer-first marketing, and competitive analysis

To give you that little extra oomph before we cross the line into 2018, here’s a look at some of our readers’ favorite content from the MarketingSherpa Blog this past year.
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Best of Copyblogger: 2017 Edition

The task of selecting the top Copyblogger posts from 2017 is a bit like asking me to choose my favorite child. Each post is crafted with care, and I value all of them. But I rolled up my sleeves and devised a strategy. In fact, this year was all about the power of the individual
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SEO Best Practices for Canonical URLs + the Rel=Canonical Tag – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

If you’ve ever had any questions about the canonical tag, well, have we got the Whiteboard Friday for you. In today’s episode, Rand defines what rel=canonical means and its intended purpose, when it’s recommended you use it, how to use it, and sticky situations to avoid.

SEO best practices for canonical URLs

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

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week, we’re going to chat about some SEO best practices for canonicalization and use of the rel=canonical tag.

Before we do that, I think it pays to talk about what a canonical URL is, because a canonical URL doesn’t just refer to a page upon which we are targeting or using the rel=canonical tag. Canonicalization has been around, in fact, much longer than the rel=canonical tag itself, which came out in 2009, and there are a bunch of different things that a canonical URL means.

What is a “canonical” URL?

So first off, what we’re trying to say is this URL is the one that we want Google and the other search engines to index and to rank. These other URLs that potentially have similar content or that are serving a similar purpose or perhaps are exact duplicates, but, for some reason, we have additional URLs of them, those ones should all tell the search engines, “No, no, this guy over here is the one you want.”

So, for example, I’ve got a canonical URL, ABC.com/a.

Then I have a duplicate of that for some reason. Maybe it’s a historical artifact or a problem in my site architecture. Maybe I intentionally did it. Maybe I’m doing it for some sort of tracking or testing purposes. But that URL is at ABC.com/b.

Then I have this other version, ABC.com/a?ref=twitter. What’s going on there? Well, that’s a URL parameter. The URL parameter doesn’t change the content. The content is exactly the same as A, but I really don’t want Google to get confused and rank this version, which can happen by the way. You’ll see URLs that are not the original version, that have some weird URL parameter ranking in Google sometimes. Sometimes this version gets more links than this version because they’re shared on Twitter, and so that’s the one everybody picked up and copied and pasted and linked to. That’s all fine and well, so long as we canonicalize it.

Or this one, it’s a print version. It’s ABC.com/aprint.html. So, in all of these cases, what I want to do is I want to tell Google, “Don’t index this one. Index this one. Don’t index this one. Index this one. Don’t index this one. Index this one.”

I can do that using this, the link rel=canonical, the href telling Google, “This is the page.” You put this in the header tag of any document and Google will know, “Aha, this is a copy or a clone or a duplicate of this other one. I should canonicalize all of my ranking signals, and I should make sure that this other version ranks.”

By the way, you can be self-referential. So it is perfectly fine for ABC.com/a to go ahead and use this as well, pointing to itself. That way, in the event that someone you’ve never even met decides to plug in question mark, some weird parameter and point that to you, you’re still telling Google, “Hey, guess what? This is the original version.”

Great. So since I don’t want Google to be confused, I can use this canonicalization process to do it. The rel=canonical tag is a great way to go. By the way, FYI, it can be used cross-domain. So, for example, if I republish the content on A at something like a Medium.com/@RandFish, which is, I think, my Medium account, /a, guess what? I can put in a cross-domain rel=canonical telling them, “This one over here.” Now, even if Google crawls this other website, they are going to know that this is the original version. Pretty darn cool.

Different ways to canonicalize multiple URLs

There are different ways to canonicalize multiple URLs.

1. Rel=canonical.

I mention that rel=canonical isn’t the only one. It’s one of the most strongly recommended, and that’s why I’m putting it at number one. But there are other ways to do it, and sometimes we want to apply some of these other ones. There are also not-recommended ways to do it, and I’m going to discuss those as well.

2. 301 redirect.

The 301 redirect, this is basically a status code telling Google, “Hey, you know what? I’m going to take /b, I’m going to point it to /a. It was a mistake to ever have /b. I don’t want anyone visiting it. I don’t want it clogging up my web analytics with visit data. You know what? Let’s just 301 redirect that old URL over to this new one, over to the right one.”

3. Passive parameters in Google search console.

Some parts of me like this, some parts of me don’t. I think for very complex websites with tons of URL parameters and a ton of URLs, it can be just an incredible pain sometimes to go to your web dev team and say like, “Hey, we got to clean up all these URL parameters. I need you to add the rel=canonical tag to all these different kinds of pages, and here’s what they should point to. Here’s the logic to do it.” They’re like, “Yeah, guess what? SEO is not a priority for us for the next six months, so you’re going to have to deal with it.”

Probably lots of SEOs out there have heard that from their web dev teams. Well, guess what? You can end around it, and this is a fine way to do that in the short term. Log in to your Google search console account that’s connected to your website. Make sure you’re verified. Then you can basically tell Google, through the Search Parameters section, to make certain kinds of parameters passive.

So, for example, you have sessionid=blah, blah, blah. You can set that to be passive. You can set it to be passive on certain kinds of URLs. You can set it to be passive on all types of URLs. That helps tell Google, “Hey, guess what? Whenever you see this URL parameter, just treat it like it doesn’t exist at all.” That can be a helpful way to canonicalize.

4. Use location hashes.

So let’s say that my goal with /b was basically to have exactly the same content as /a but with one slight difference, which was I was going to take a block of content about a subsection of the topic and place that at the top. So A has the section about whiteboard pens at the top, but B puts the section about whiteboard pens toward the bottom, and they put the section about whiteboards themselves up at the top. Well, it’s the same content, same search intent behind it. I’m doing the same thing.

Well, guess what? You can use the hash in the URL. So it’s a#b and that will jump someone — it’s also called a fragment URL — jump someone to that specific section on the page. You can see this, for example, Moz.com/about/jobs. I think if you plug in #listings, it will take you right to the job listings. Instead of reading about what it’s like to work here, you can just get directly to the list of jobs themselves. Now, Google considers that all one URL. So they’re not going to rank them differently. They don’t get indexed differently. They’re essentially canonicalized to the same URL.

NOT RECOMMENDED

I do not recommend…

5. Blocking Google from crawling one URL but not the other version.

Because guess what? Even if you use robots.txt and you block Googlebot’s spider and you send them away and they can’t reach it because you said robots.txt disallow /b, Google will not know that /b and /a have the same content on them. How could they?

They can’t crawl it. So they can’t see anything that’s here. It’s invisible to them. Therefore, they’ll have no idea that any ranking signals, any links that happen to point there, any engagement signals, any content signals, whatever ranking signals that might have helped A rank better, they can’t see them. If you canonicalize in one of these ways, now you’re telling Google, yes, B is the same as A, combine their forces, give me all the rankings ability.

6. I would also not recommend blocking indexation.

So you might say, “Ah, well Rand, I’ll use the meta robots no index tag, so that way Google can crawl it, they can see that the content is the same, but I won’t allow them to index it.” Guess what? Same problem. They can see that the content is the same, but unless Google is smart enough to automatically canonicalize, which I would not trust them on, I would always trust yourself first, you are essentially, again, preventing them from combining the ranking signals of B into A, and that’s something you really want.

7. I would not recommend using the 302, the 307, or any other 30x other than the 301.

This is the guy that you want. It is a permanent redirect. It is the most likely to be most successful in canonicalization, even though Google has said, “We often treat 301s and 302s similarly.” The exception to that rule is but a 301 is probably better for canonicalization. Guess what we’re trying to do? Canonicalize!

8. Don’t 40x the non-canonical version.

So don’t take /b and be like, “Oh, okay, that’s not the version we want anymore. We’ll 404 it.” Don’t 404 it when you could 301. If you send it over here with a 301 or you use the rel=canonical in your header, you take all the signals and you point them to A. You lose them if you 404 that in B. Now, all the signals from B are gone. That’s a sad and terrible thing. You don’t want to do that either.

The only time I might do this is if the page is very new or it was just an error. You don’t think it has any ranking signals, and you’ve got a bunch of other problems. You don’t want to deal with having to maintain the URL and the redirect long term. Fine. But if this was a real URL and real people visited it and real people linked to it, guess what? You need to redirect it because you want to save those signals.

When to canonicalize URLs

Last but not least, when should we canonicalize URLs versus not?

I. If the content is extremely similar or exactly duplicate.

Well, if it is the case that the content is either extremely similar or exactly duplicate on two different URLs, two or more URLs, you should always collapse and canonicalize those to a single one.

II. If the content is serving the same (or nearly the same) searcher intent (even if the KW targets vary somewhat).

If the content is not duplicate, maybe you have two pages that are completely unique about whiteboard pens and whiteboards, but even though the content is unique, meaning the phrasing and the sentence structures are the same, that does not mean that you shouldn’t canonicalize.

For example, this Whiteboard Friday about using the rel=canonical, about canonicalization is going to replace an old version from 2009. We are going to take that old version and we are going to use the rel=canonical. Why are we going to use the rel=canonical? So that you can still access the old one if for some reason you want to see the version that we originally came out with in 2009. But we definitely don’t want people visiting that one, and we want to tell Google, “Hey, the most up-to-date one, the new one, the best one is this new version that you’re watching right now.” I know this is slightly meta, but that is a perfectly reasonable use.

What I’m trying to aim at is searcher intent. So if the content is serving the same or nearly the same searcher intent, even if the keyword targeting is slightly different, you want to canonicalize those multiple versions. Google is going to do a much better job of ranking a single piece of content that has lots of good ranking signals for many, many keywords that are related to it, rather than splitting up your link equity and your other ranking signal equity across many, many pages that all target slightly different variations. Plus, it’s a pain in the butt to come up with all that different content. You would be best served by the very best content in one place.

III. If you’re republishing or refreshing or updating old content.

Like the Whiteboard Friday example I just used, you should use the rel=canonical in most cases. There are some exceptions. If you want to maintain that old version, but you’d like the old version’s ranking signals to come to the new version, you can take the content from the old version, republish that at /a-old. Then take /a and redirect that or publish the new version on there and have that version be the one that is canonical and the old version exist at some URL you’ve just created but that’s /old. So republishing, refreshing, updating old content, generally canonicalization is the way to go, and you can preserve the old version if you want.

IV. If content, a product, an event, etc. is no longer available and there’s a near best match on another URL.

If you have content that is expiring, a piece of content, a product, an event, something like that that’s going away, it’s no longer available and there’s a next best version, the version that you think is most likely to solve the searcher’s problems and that they’re probably looking for anyway, you can canonicalize in that case, usually with a 301 rather than with a rel=canonical, because you don’t want someone visiting the old page where nothing is available. You want both searchers and engines to get redirected to the new version, so good idea to essentially 301 at that point.

Okay, folks. Look forward to your questions about rel=canonicals, canonical URLs, and canonicalization in general in SEO. And we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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