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Overcoming Blockers: How to Build Your Red Tape Toolkit – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by HeatherPhysioc

Have you ever made SEO recommendations that just don’t go anywhere? Maybe you run into a lack of budget, or you can’t get buy-in from your boss or colleagues. Maybe your work just keeps getting deprioritized in favor of other initiatives. Whatever the case, it’s important to set yourself up for success when it comes to the tangled web of red tape that’s part and parcel of most organizations.

In this week’s Whiteboard Friday, Heather Physioc shares her tried-and-true methods for building yourself a toolkit that’ll help you tear through roadblocks and bureaucracy to get your work implemented.

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

Video Transcription

What up, Moz fans? This is Heather Physioc. I’m the Director of the Discoverability Group at VML, headquartered in Kansas City. So today we’re going to talk about how to build your red tape toolkit to overcome obstacles to getting your search work implemented. So do you ever feel like your recommendations are overlooked, ignored, forgotten, deprioritized, or otherwise just not getting implemented?

Common roadblocks to implementing SEO recommendations

#SEOprobs

If so, you’re not alone. So I asked 140-plus of our industry colleagues the blockers that they run into and how they overcome them.

  • Low knowledge. So if you’re anything like every other SEO ever, you might be running into low knowledge and understanding of search, either on the client side or within your own agency.
  • Low buy-in. You may be running into low buy-in. People don’t care about SEO as much as you do.
  • Poor prioritization. So other things frequently come to the top of the list while SEO keeps falling further behind.
  • High bureaucracy. So a lot of red tape or slow approvals or no advocacy within the organization.
  • Not enough budget. A lot of times it’s not enough budget, not enough resources to get the work done.
  • Unclear and overcomplicated process. So people don’t know where they fit or even how to get started implementing your SEO work.
  • Bottlenecks. And finally bottlenecks where you’re just hitting blockers at every step along the way.

So if you’re in-house, you probably said that not enough budget and resources was your biggest problem. But on the agency side or individual practitioners, they said low understanding or knowledge of search on the client side was their biggest blocker.

So a lot of the time when we run into these blockers and it seems like nothing is getting done, we start to play the blame game. We start to complain that it’s the client who hung up the project or if the client had only listened or it’s something wrong with the client’s business.

Build out your red tape toolkit

But I don’t buy it. So we’re going to not do that. We’re going to build out our red tape toolkit. So here are some of the suggestions that came out of that survey.

1. Assess client maturity

First is to assess your client’s maturity. This could include their knowledge and capabilities for doing SEO, but also their organizational search program, the people, process, ability to plan, knowledge, capacity.

These are the problems that tend to stand in the way of getting our best work done. So I’m not going to go in-depth here because we’ve actually put out a full-length article on the Moz blog and another Whiteboard Friday. So if you need to pause, watch that and come back, no problem.

2. Speak your client’s language

So the next thing to put in your toolkit is to speak your client’s language. I think a lot of times we’re guilty of talking to fellow SEOs instead of the CMOs and CEOs who buy into our work. So unless your client is a super technical mind or they have a strong search background, it’s in our best interests to lift up and stay at 30,000 feet. Let’s talk about things that they care about, and I promise you that is not canonicalization or SSL encryption and HTTPS.

They’re thinking about ROI and their customers and operational costs. Let’s translate and speak their language. Now this could also mean using analogies that they can relate to or visual examples and data visualizations that tell the story of search better than words ever could. Help them understand. Meet them in the middle.

3. Seek greater perspective

Now let’s seek greater perspective. So what this means is SEO does not or should not operate in a silo. We’re one small piece of your client’s much larger marketing mix. They have to think about the big picture. A lot of times our clients aren’t just dedicated to SEO. They’re not even dedicated to just digital sometimes. A lot of times they have to think about how all the pieces fit together. So we need to have the humility to understand where search fits into that and ladder our SEO goals up to the brand goals, campaign goals, business and revenue goals. We also need to understand that every SEO project we recommend comes with a time and a cost associated with it.

Everything we recommend to a CMO is an opportunity cost as well for something else that they could be working on. So we need to show them where search fits into that and how to make those hard choices. Sometimes SEO doesn’t need to be the leader. Sometimes we’re the follower, and that’s okay.

4. Get buy-in

The next tool in your toolkit is to get buy-in. So there are two kinds of buy-in you can get.

Horizontal buy-in

One is horizontal buy-in. So a lot of times search is dependent on other disciplines to get our work implemented. We need copywriters. We need developers. So the number-one complaint SEOs have is not being brought in early. That’s the same complaint all your teammates on development and copywriting and everywhere else have.

Respect the expertise and the value that they bring to this project and bring them to the table early. Let them weigh in on how this project can get done. Build mockups together. Put together a plan together. Estimate the level of effort together.

Vertical buy-in

Which leads us to vertical buy-in. Vertical is up and down. When you do this horizontal buy-in first, you’re able to go to the client with a much smarter, better vetted recommendation. So a lot of times your day-to-day client isn’t the final decision maker. They have to sell this opportunity internally. So give them the tools and the voice that they need to do that by the really strong recommendation you put together with your peers and make it easy for them to take it up to their boss and their CMO and their CEO. Then you really increase the likelihood that you’re going to get that work done.

5. Build a bulletproof plan

Next, build a bulletproof plan.

Case studies

So the number-one recommendation that came out of this survey was case studies. Case studies are great. They talk about the challenge that you tried to overcome, the solution, how you actually tackled it, and the results you got out of that.

Clients love case studies. They show that you have the chops to do the work. They better explain the outcomes and the benefits of doing this kind of work, and you took the risk on that kind of project with someone else’s money first. So that’s going to reduce the perceived risk in the client’s mind and increase the likelihood that they’re going to do the work.

Make your plan simple and clear, with timelines

Another thing that helps here is building a really simple, clear plan so it’s stupid-easy for everybody who needs to be a part of it to know where they fit in and what they’re responsible for. So do the due diligence to put together a step-by-step plan and assign ownership to each step and put timelines to it so they know what pace they should be following.

Forecast ROI

Finally, forecast ROI. This is not optional. So a lot of times I think SEOs are hesitant to forecast the potential outcomes or ROI of a project because of the sheer volume of unknowns.

We live in a world of theory, and it’s very hard to commit to something that we can’t be certain about. But we have to give the client some sense of return. We have to know why we are recommending this project over others. There’s a wealth of resources out there to do that for even heavily caveated and conservative estimate, including case studies that others have published online.

Show the cost of inaction

Now sometimes forecasting the opportunity of ROI isn’t enough to light a fire for clients. Sometimes we need to show them the cost of inaction. I find that with clients the risk is not so much that they’re going to make the wrong move. It’s that they’ll make no move at all. So a lot of times we will visualize what that might look like. So we’ll show them this is the kind of growth we think that you can get if you invest and you follow this plan we put together.

Here’s what it will look like if you invest just a little to monitor and maintain, but you’re not aggressively investing in search. Oh, and here, dropping down and to the right, is what happens when you don’t invest at all. You stagnate and you get surpassed by your competitors. That can be really helpful for clients to contrast those different levels of investment and convince them to do the work that you’re recommending.

6. Use headlines & soundbites

Next use headlines, taglines, and sound bites. What we recommend is really complicated to some clients. So let’s help translate that into simple, usable language that’s memorable so they can go repeat those lines to their colleagues and their bosses and get that work sold internally. We also need to help them prioritize.

So if you’re anything like me, you love it when the list of SEO action items is about a mile long. But when we dump that in their laps, it’s too much. They get overwhelmed and bombarded, and they tune out. So instead, you are the expert consultant. Use what you know about search and know about your client to help them prioritize the single most important thing that they should be focusing on.

7. Patience, persistence, and parallel paths

Last in your toolkit, patience, persistence, and parallel paths. So getting this work done is a combination of communication, follow-up, patience, and persistence. While you’ve got your client working on this one big thing that you recommended, you can be building parallel paths, things that have fewer obstacles that you can own and run with.

They may not be as high impact as the one big thing, but you can start to get small wins that get your client excited and build momentum for more of the big stuff. But the number one thing out of all of the responses in the survey that our colleagues recommended to you is to stay strong. Have empathy and understanding for the hard decisions that your client has to make. But come with a strong, confident point of view on where to go next.

All right, gang, these are a lot of great tips to start your red tape toolkit and overcome obstacles to get your best search work done. Try these out. Let us know what you think. If you have other great ideas on how you overcome obstacles to get your best work done with clients, let us know down in the comments. Thank you so much for watching, and we’ll see you next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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How to Create a Local Marketing Results Dashboard in Google Data Studio – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by DiTomaso

Showing clients that you’re making them money is one of the most important things you can communicate to them, but it’s tough to know how to present your results in a way they can easily understand. That’s where Google Data Studio comes in. In this week’s edition of Whiteboard Friday, our friend Dana DiTomaso shares how to create a client-friendly local marketing results dashboard in Google Data Studio from start to finish.

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

Video Transcription

Hi, Moz fans. My name is Dana DiTomaso. I’m President and partner of Kick Point. We’re a digital marketing agency way up in the frozen north of Edmonton, Alberta. We work with a lot of local businesses, both in Edmonton and around the world, and small local businesses usually have the same questions when it comes to reporting.

Are we making money?

What I’m going to share with you today is our local marketing dashboard that we share with clients. We build this in Google Data Studio because we love Google Data Studio. If you haven’t watched my Whiteboard Friday yet on how to do formulas in Google Data Studio, I recommend you hit Pause right now, go back and watch that, and then come back to this because I am going to talk about what happened there a little bit in this video.

The Google Data Studio dashboard

This is a Google Data Studio dashboard which I’ve tried to represent in the medium of whiteboard as best as I could. Picture it being a little bit better design than my left-handedness can represent on a whiteboard, but you get the idea. Every local business wants to know, “Are we making money?” This is the big thing that people care about, and really every business cares about making money. Even charities, for example: money is important obviously because that’s what keeps the lights on, but there’s also perhaps a mission that they have.

But they still want to know: Are people filling out our donation form? Are people contacting us? These are important things for every business, organization, not-for-profit, whatever to understand and know. What we’ve tried to do in this dashboard is really boil it down to the absolute basics, one thing you can look at, see a couple of data points, know whether things are good or things are bad.

Are people contacting you?

Let’s start with this up here. The first thing is: Are people contacting you? Now you can break this out into separate columns. You can do phone calls and emails for example. Some of our clients prefer that. Some clients just want one mashed up number. So we’ll take the number of calls that people are getting.

If you’re using a call tracking tool, such as CallRail, you can import this in here. Emails, for example, or forms, just add it all together and then you have one single number of the number of times people contacted you. Usually this is a way bigger number than people think it is, which is also kind of cool.

Are people taking the action you want them to take?

The next thing is: Are people doing the thing that you want them to do? This is really going to decide on what’s meaningful to the client.

For example, if you have a client, again thinking about a charity, how many people filled out your donation form, your online donation form? For a psychologist client of ours, how many people booked an appointment? For a client of ours who offers property management, how many people booked a viewing of a property? What is the thing you want them to do? If they have online e-commerce, for example, then maybe this is how many sales did you have.

Maybe this will be two different things — people walking into the store versus sales. We’ve also represented in this field if a person has a people counter in their store, then we would pull that people counter data into here. Usually we can get the people counter data in a Google sheet and then we can pull it into Data Studio. It’s not the prettiest thing in the world, but it certainly represents all their data in one place, which is really the whole point of why we do these dashboards.

Where did visitors com from, and where are your customers coming from?

People contacting you, people doing the thing you want them to do, those are the two major metrics. Then we do have a little bit deeper further down. On this side here we start with: Where did visitors come from, and where are your customers coming from? Because they’re really two different things, right? Not every visitor to the website is going to become a customer. We all know that. No one has a 100% conversion rate, and if you do, you should just retire.

Filling out the dashboard

We really need to differentiate between the two. In this case we’re looking at channel, and there probably is a better word for channel. We’re always trying to think about, “What would clients call this?” But I feel like clients are kind of aware of the word “channel” and that’s how they’re getting there. But then the next column, by default this would be called users or sessions. Both of those are kind of cruddy. You can rename fields in Data Studio, and we can call this the number of people, for example, because that’s what it is.

Then you would use the users as the metric, and you would just call it number of people instead of users, because personally I hate the word “users.” It really boils down the humanity of a person to a user metric. Users are terrible. Call them people or visitors at least. Then unfortunately, in Data Studio, when you do a comparison field, you cannot rename and call it comparison. It does this nice percentage delta, which I hate.

It’s just like a programmer clearly came up with this. But for now, we have to deal with it. Although by the time this video comes out, maybe it will be something better, and then I can go back and correct myself in the comments. But for now it’s percentage delta. Then goal percentage and then again delta. They can sort by any of these columns in Data Studio, and it’s real live data.

Put a time period on this, and people can pick whatever time period they want and then they can look at this data as much as they want, which is delightful. If you’re not delivering great results, it may be a little terrifying for you, but really you shouldn’t be hiding that anyway, right? Like if things aren’t going well, be honest about it. That’s another talk for another time. But start with this kind of chart. Then on the other side, are you showing up on Google Maps?

We use the Supermetrics Google My Business plug-in to grab this kind of information. We hook it into the customer’s Google Maps account. Then we’re looking at branded searches and unbranded searches and how many times they came up in the map pack. Usually we’ll have a little explanation here. This is how many times you came up in the map pack and search results as well as Google Maps searches, because it’s all mashed in together.

Then what happens when they find you? So number of direction requests, number of website visits, number of phone calls. Now the tricky thing is phone calls here may be captured in phone calls here. You may not want to add these two pieces of data or just keep this off on its own separately, depending upon how your setup is. You could be using a tracking number, for example, in your Google My Business listing and that therefore would be captured up here.

Really just try to be honest about where that data comes from instead of double counting. You don’t want to have that happen. The last thing is if a client has messages set up, then you can pull that message information as well.

Tell your clients what to do

Then at the very bottom of the report we have a couple of columns, and usually this is a longer chart and this is shorter, so we have room down here to do this. Obviously, my drawing skills are not as good as as aligning things in Data Studio, so forgive me.

But we tell them what to do. Usually when we work with local clients, they can’t necessarily afford a monthly retainer to do stuff for clients forever. Instead, we tell them, “Here’s what you have to do this month.Here’s what you have to do next month. Hey, did you remember you’re supposed to be blogging?” That sort of thing. Just put it in here, because clients are looking at results, but they often forget the things that may get them those results. This is a really nice reminder of if you’re not happy with these numbers, maybe you should do these things.

Tell your clients how to use the report

Then the next thing is how to use. This is a good reference because if they only open it say once every couple months, they probably have forgotten how to do the stuff in this report or even things like up at the top make sure to set the time period for example. This is a good reminder of how to do that as well.

Because the report is totally editable by you at any time, you can always go in and change stuff later, and because the client can view the report at any time, they have a dashboard that is extremely useful to them and they don’t need to bug you every single time they want to see a report. It saves you time and money. It saves them time and money. Everybody is happy. Everybody is saving money. I really recommend setting up a really simple dashboard like this for your clients, and I bet you they’ll be impressed.

Thanks so much.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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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.

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

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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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.

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

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:

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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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SEO Maturity: Evaluating Client Capabilities – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by HeatherPhysioc

Clients aren’t always knowledgeable about SEO. That lack of understanding can result in roadblocks and delay the work you’re trying to accomplish, but knowing your client’s level of SEO maturity can help. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, we welcome the brilliant Heather Physioc to expound upon the maturity models she’s developed to help you diagnose your client’s search maturity and remove blockers to your success.

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Video Transcription

What up, Moz fans? My name is Heather Physioc. I’m Director of the Discoverability Group at VML. We are in Kansas City. Global ad agency headquartered right in the middle of the map.

Today we’re going to talk about how to diagnose the maturity of your SEO client. I don’t mean emotional maturity. I mean maturity as it pertains to SEO capabilities, their ability to do the work, as well as their organizational search program maturity. Now a lot of times when a client signs a contract with us, we make the assumption that they’re knowledgeable, they’re motivated, they’re bought in to do the search work.

So we go dumping all these recommendations in their lap, and we’re trucking full speed ahead. But then we’re surprised when we start hitting blockers and the work doesn’t go live. I actually surveyed over 140 of our colleagues in the search industry, and they reported running into blockers, like low prioritization and buy-in for the work, limited technical resources for developers or budgeting for copywriters, low advocacy, high turnover, and any number of different things that stand in the way.

I didn’t just ask about the problems. I asked about the solutions, and one of the tools that came out of that was the ability to diagnose the client’s maturity. So a maturity model is intended to evaluate an organization’s capability to continuously evolve in a practice. The point, the purpose of this is to understand where they stand today, where they want to go, and the steps it’s going to take to get there.


The SEO Capabilities matrix

Let’s talk about the SEO capabilities first, the technical ability to do the job.

Harmful

On the low end of the scale, a client may be engaging in spammy, outdated, or harmful SEO practices that are doing more harm than good.

Tactical

From there, they may be tactical. They’re doing some super basic SEO, think title tags and meta description tags, but nothing earth-shattering is happening here, and it’s not very strategic or aligned to brand goals.

Strategic

From there, the brand moves into the strategic phase. They’re starting to align the work to goals. They’re starting to become a little more search savvy. They’re getting beyond the titles and metas, and they’re more thorough with the work. While good stuff is happening here, it’s not too advanced, and it still tends to be pretty siloed from the other disciplines.

Practice

From there, the organization might move into a practice. Search is starting to become a way of life here. They’re getting significantly more advanced in their work. They’re starting to connect the dots between those different channels. They’re using data in smarter ways to drive their search strategy.

Culture

Then from there, maybe they’re at a level of culture for their SEO capabilities. So search here is starting to become a part of their marketing DNA. They’re integrating across practices. They’re doing cutting edge. They’re testing and innovating and improving their SEO implementation, and they’re looking for the next big thing. But these groups know that they have to continually evolve as the industry evolves. So we don’t just look at their whole SEO program and figure out where the client goes on the map.

✓ Data-driven

We actually break it down into a few pieces. First, data-driven. Is the organization using information and analytics and combining it with other sources even to make really smart marketing decisions?

✓ SEO for content

Next is content. Are they doing any SEO for content at all? Are they implementing some SEO basics, but only during and after publication? Or are they using search data to actually drive their editorial calendar alongside other data inputs, like social listening or web analytics?

✓ Mobility

From there, mobility. Do they have no mobile experience at all, or do they have a fully responsive and technically mobile friendly site, but they’re not investing any more in that mobile optimization? Or are they a completely mobile-first mindset? Are they continuously iterating and improving in usability, speed, and content for their mobile users?

✓ Technical ability

Beyond that, we could look at how technically savvy they are. Do they have a lot of broken stuff, or are they on top of monitoring and maintaining their technical health and accessibility?

✓ On-page/off-page SEO

Then some standard SEO best practices here. Are they limited or advanced in on-page SEO, off-page SEO?

✓ Integrating across channels

Are they integrating across channels and not having search live in a silo?

✓ Adopting new technology

Are they adopting new technology as it pertains to search? Some clients have a very high appetite for this, but they chase after the shiny object.

Others have a high appetite and a high tolerance for risk, and they’re making hard choices about which new technology to invest in as it pertains to their search program. You may also want to customize this maturity model and include things like local search or international search or e-commerce. But this is a great place to start. So this does a very good job of choosing which projects to begin with for a client, but it doesn’t really get to the heart of why our work isn’t getting implemented.


The Organizational Search Maturity matrix

I developed a second maturity model, and this one is more traditional and you see it across other industries as well. But this one focuses on the search program inside the organization. This is the squishy organizational stuff.

✓ People

This is people. Do they have the necessary talent within the organization or within their scope? That might not just mean SEOs. That means are they scoping appropriately for content and development needs?

✓ Process

What about process? Are they actually using a defined and continuously improving process for the inclusion of search? Now I don’t mean step-by-step best practices for implementing a title tag. This isn’t instructions or a tutorial. This is a process for including organic search experts at the right moments in the right projects.

✓ Planning

What about planning? A lot of times we find that clients are doing search very reactively and after the fact. We want to reach a point with an organization where it’s preplanned, it’s proactively included, and it’s always aligned to brand, business, or campaign goals.

✓ Knowledge

Next is knowledge. We know that this industry is complicated. There are a lot of moving pieces. We want to know how knowledgeable is the organization about search. That doesn’t necessarily mean how to do SEO, but perhaps the importance or the impact or the outcomes of it. How committed are they to learning more through reading or trainings or conferences? At the very least, the organization they’re hiring to do search needs to be extraordinarily knowledgeable about it.

✓ Capacity

Then capacity. Do they have the prioritization within the organization? Are they budgeting appropriately? Do they have the resources and the means and the capacity to get the work done?

Initial

When we’ve evaluated a client against these criteria, we could find them in an initial phase where the program is very new, they’re not doing any search at all…

Repeatable

…to repeatable, meaning they’re starting to include it, but it’s not super cohesive yet. They’re not enforcing the process. They don’t have super dedicated resources just yet.

Defined

Up into defined, where they actually are documenting their process. It’s continuing to iterate and improve. They’re becoming more knowledgeable. They’re dedicating more resources. They’re prioritizing it better.

Managed

We can move up into managed, where that’s continuing to improve even further…

Optimized

…and into optimized. So again, this is where search programs are part of the organization’s DNA. It’s always included. They are always improving their process. They are maintaining or even increasing the talent that they have dedicated to the work. They’re planning it smarter and better than ever before, and they have adequate capacity to keep iterating and growing in their search program.


With that, the steps to complete this process and figure out where your client falls on either of these maturity models, I want to be clear is not a one-sided exercise. This is not a situation where you’re just punching numbers into a spreadsheet and the agency is grading the client and our job is done. This needs to be a conversation.

We need to invite stakeholders at multiple levels, both on the client side and on the agency side, or if you’re in-house, just multiple levels within the organization, and we should ask for opinions from multiple perspectives to paint a more accurate picture of where the client stands today and agree on the steps that we need to take to move forward. When you do these maturity assessments, this isn’t enough.

This is step one. This isn’t a finish line. We need to be using this as a springboard for a dialogue to uncover their pain points or the obstacles that they run into, inside their organization, that are going to keep you from getting that work done. We need to have honest and frank conversations about the things we need to clear out of the way to do our best work. With that, I hope that you can try this out.

We’ve got a great article that we published on the Moz blog to get into more detail about how to implement this. But try it out in your organization or with your client and let us know. Peer review this and help us make it better, because this is intended to be a living process that evolves as our industry does.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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SEO "Dinosaur" Tactics That You Should Retire – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

It’s tough to admit it, but many of us still practice outdated SEO tactics in the belief that they still have a great deal of positive influence. In this week’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand gently sets us straight and offers up a series of replacement activities that will go much farther toward moving the needle. Share your own tips and favorites in the comments!

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to go back in time to the prehistoric era and talk about a bunch of “dinosaur” tactics, things that SEOs still do, many of us still do, and we probably shouldn’t.

We need to replace and retire a lot of these tactics. So I’ve got five tactics, but there’s a lot more, and in fact I’d loved to hear from some of you on some of yours.

Dino Tactic #1: AdWords/Keyword Planner-based keyword research

But the first one we’ll start with is something we’ve talked about a few times here — AdWords and Keyword Planner-based keyword research. So you know there’s a bunch of problems with the metrics in there, but I still see a lot of folks starting their keyword research there and then expanding into other tools.

Replace it with clickstream data-driven tools with Difficulty and CTR %

My suggestion would be start with a broader set if you possibly can. If you have the budget, replace this with something that is driven by clickstream data, like Ahrefs or SEMrush or Keyword Explorer. Even Google Search Suggest and related searches plus Google Trends tend to be better at capturing more of this.

Why it doesn’t work

I think is just because AdWords hides so many keywords that they don’t think are commercially relevant. It’s too inaccurate, especially the volume data. If you’re actually creating an AdWords campaign, the volume data gets slightly better in terms of its granularity, but we found it is still highly inaccurate as compared as to when you actually run that campaign.

It’s too imprecise, and it lacks a bunch of critical metrics, including difficulty and click-through rate percentage, which you’ve got to know in order to prioritize keywords effectively.

Dino Tactic #2: Subdomains and separate domains for SERP domination

Next up, subdomains and separate domains for SERP domination. So classically, if you wanted to own the first page of Google search results for a branded query or an unbranded query, maybe you just want to try and totally dominate, it used to be the case that one of the ways to do this was to add in a bunch of subdomains to your website or register some separate domains so that you’d be able to control that top 10.

Why it doesn’t work

What has happened recently, though, is that Google has started giving priority to multiple subpages in a single SERP from a single domain. You can see this for example with Yelp on virtually any restaurant-related searches, or with LinkedIn on a lot of business topic and job-related searches.

You can see it with Quora on a bunch of question style searches, where they’ll come up for all of them, or Stack Overflow, where they come up for a lot of engineering and development-related questions.

Replace it with barnacle SEO and subfolder hosted content

So one of the better ways to do this nowadays is with barnacle SEO and subfolder hosted content, meaning you don’t have to put your content on a separate subdomain in order to rank multiple times in the same SERP.

Barnacle SEO also super handy because Google is giving a lot of benefit to some of these websites that host content you can create or generate and profiles you can create and generate. That’s a really good way to go. This is mostly just because of this shift from the subdomains being the way to get into SERPs multiple times to individual pages being that path.

Dino Tactic #3: Prioritizing number one rankings over other traffic-driving SEO techniques

Third, prioritizing number one rankings over other traffic-driving SEO techniques. This is probably one of the most common “dinosaur” tactics I see, where a lot of folks who are familiar with the SEO world from maybe having used consultants or agencies or brought it in-house 10, 15, 20 years ago are still obsessed with that number one organic ranking over everything else.

Replace it with SERP feature SEO (especially featured snippets) and long-tail targeting

In fact, that’s often a pretty poor ROI investment compared to things like SERP features, especially the featured snippet, which is getting more and more popular. It’s used in voice search. It oftentimes doesn’t need to come from the number one ranking result in the SERP. It can come number three, number four, or number seven.

It can even be the result that brings back the featured snippet at the very top. Its click-through rate is often higher than number one, meaning SERP features a big way to go. This is not the only one, too. Image SEO, doing local SEO when the local pack appears, doing news SEO, potentially having a Twitter profile that can rank in those results when Google shows tweets.

And, of course, long-tail targeting, meaning going after other keywords that are not as competitive, where you don’t need to compete against as many folks in order to get that number one ranking spot, and often, in aggregate, long tail can be more than ranking number one for that “money” keyword, that primary keyword that you’re going after.

Why it doesn’t work

Why is this happening? Well, it’s because SERP features are biasing the click-through rate such that number one just isn’t worth what it used to be, and the long tail is often just higher ROI per hour spent.

Dino Tactic #4: Moving up rankings with link building alone

Fourth, moving up the rankings on link building alone. Again, I see a lot of people do this, where they’re ranking number 5, number 10, number 20, and they think, “Okay, I’m ranking in the first couple of pages of Google. My next step is link build my way to the top.”

Why it no longer works on its own

Granted, historically, back in the dinosaur era, dinosaur era of being 2011, this totally worked. This was “the” path to get higher rankings. Once you were sort of in the consideration set, links would get you most of the way up to the top. But today, not the case.

Replace it with searcher task accomplishment, UX optimization, content upgrades, and brand growth

Instead I’m going to suggest you retire that and replace it with searcher task accomplishment, which we’ve seen a bunch of people invest in optimization there and springboard their site, even with worse links, not as high DA, all of that kind of stuff. UX optimization, getting the user experience down and nailing the format of the content so that it better serves searchers.

Content upgrades, improving the actual content on the page, and brand growth, associating your brand more with the topic or the keyword. Why is this happening? Well, because links alone it feels like today are just not enough. They’re still a powerful ranking factor. We can’t ignore them entirely certainly.

But if you want to unseat higher ranked pages, these types of investments are often much easier to make and more fruitful.

Dino Tactic #5: Obsessing about keyword placement in certain tags/areas

All right, number five. Last but not least, obsessing about keyword placement in certain tags and certain areas. For example, spending inordinate amounts of time and energy making sure that the H1 and H2, the headline tags, can contain keywords, making sure that the URL contains the keywords in exactly the format that you want with the hyphens, repeating text a certain number of times in the content, making sure that headlines and titles are structured in certain ways.

Why it (kind of) doesn’t work

It’s not that this doesn’t work. Certainly there’s a bare minimum. We’ve got to have our keyword used in the title. We definitely want it in the headline. If that’s not in an H1 tag, I think we can live with that. I think that’s absolutely fine. Instead I would urge you to move some of that same obsession that you had with perfecting those tags, getting the last 0.01% of value out of those into related keywords and related topics, making sure that the body content uses and explains the subjects, the topics, the words and phrases that Google knows searchers associate with a given topic.

My favorite example of this is if you’re trying to rank for “New York neighborhoods” and you have a page that doesn’t include the word Brooklyn or Manhattan or Bronx or Queens or Staten Island, your chances of ranking are much, much worse, and you can get all the links and the perfect keyword targeting in your H1, all of that stuff, but if you are not using those neighborhood terms that Google clearly can associate with the topic, with the searcher’s query, you’re probably not going to rank.

Replace it with obsessing over related keywords and topics

This is true no matter what you’re trying to rank for. I don’t care if it’s blue shoes or men’s watches or B2B SaaS products. Google cares a lot more about whether the content solves the searcher’s query. Related topics, related keywords are often correlated with big rankings improvements when we see folks undertake them.

I was talking to an SEO a few weeks ago who did this. They just audited across their site, found the 5 to 10 terms that they felt they were missing from the content, added those into the content intelligently, adding them to the content in such a way that they were actually descriptive and useful, and then they saw rankings shoot up with nothing else, no other work. Really, really impressive stuff.

So take some of these dino tactics, try retiring them and replacing them with some of these modern ones, and see if your results don’t come out better too. Look forward to your thoughts on other dino tactics in the comments. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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SEO Negotiation: How to Ace the Business Side of SEO – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by BritneyMuller

SEO isn’t all meta tags and content. A huge part of the success you’ll see is tied up in the inevitable business negotiations. In this week’s Whiteboard Friday, our resident expert Britney Muller walks us through a bevy of smart tips and considerations that will strengthen your SEO negotiation skills, whether you’re a seasoned pro or a newbie to the practice.

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Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. So today we are going over all things SEO negotiation, so starting to get into some of the business side of SEO. As most of you know, negotiation is all about leverage.

It’s what you have to offer and what the other side is looking to gain and leveraging that throughout the process. So something that you can go in and confidently talk about as SEOs is the fact that SEO has around 20X more opportunity than both mobile and desktop PPC combined.

This is a really, really big deal. It’s something that you can showcase. These are the stats to back it up. We will also link to the research to this down below. Good to kind of have that in your back pocket. Aside from this, you will obviously have your audit. So potential client, you’re looking to get this deal.

Get the most out of the SEO audit

☑ Highlight the opportunities, not the screw-ups

You’re going to do an audit, and something that I have always suggested is that instead of highlighting the things that the potential client is doing wrong, or screwed up, is to really highlight those opportunities. Start to get them excited about what it is that their site is capable of and that you could help them with. I think that sheds a really positive light and moves you in the right direction.

☑ Explain their competitive advantage

I think this is really interesting in many spaces where you can sort of say, “Okay, your competitors are here, and you’re currently here and this is why,”and to show them proof. That makes them feel as though you have a strong understanding of the landscape and can sort of help them get there.

☑ Emphasize quick wins

I almost didn’t put this in here because I think quick wins is sort of a sketchy term. Essentially, you really do want to showcase what it is you can do quickly, but you want to…

☑ Under-promise, over-deliver

You don’t want to lose trust or credibility with a potential client by overpromising something that you can’t deliver. Get off to the right start. Under-promise, over-deliver.

Smart negotiation tactics

☑ Do your research

Know everything you can about this clientPerhaps what deals they’ve done in the past, what agencies they’ve worked with. You can get all sorts of knowledge about that before going into negotiation that will really help you.

☑ Prioritize your terms

So all too often, people go into a negotiation thinking me, me, me, me, when really you also need to be thinking about, “Well, what am I willing to lose?What can I give up to reach a point that we can both agree on?” Really important to think about as you go in.

☑ Flinch!

This is a very old, funny negotiation tactic where when the other side counters, you flinch. You do this like flinch, and you go, “Oh, is that the best you can do?” It’s super silly. It might be used against you, in which case you can just say, “Nice flinch.” But it does tend to help you get better deals.

So take that with a grain of salt. But I look forward to your feedback down below. It’s so funny.

☑ Use the words “fair” and “comfortable”

The words “fair” and “comfortable” do really well in negotiations. These words are inarguable. You can’t argue with fair. “I want to do what is comfortable for us both. I want us both to reach terms that are fair.”

You want to use these terms to put the other side at ease and to also help bridge that gap where you can come out with a win-win situation.

☑ Never be the key decision maker

I see this all too often when people go off on their own, and instantly on their business cards and in their head and email they’re the CEO.

They are this. You don’t have to be that, and you sort of lose leverage when you are. When I owned my agency for six years, I enjoyed not being CEO. I liked having a board of directors that I could reach out to during a negotiation and not being the sole decision maker. Even if you feel that you are the sole decision maker, I know that there are people that care about you and that are looking out for your business that you could contact as sort of a business mentor, and you could use that in negotiation. You can use that to help you. Something to think about.

Tips for negotiation newbies

So for the newbies, a lot of you are probably like, “I can never go on my own. I can never do these things.” I’m from northern Minnesota. I have been super awkward about discussing money my whole life for any sort of business deal. If I could do it, I promise any one of you watching this can do it.

☑ Power pose!

I’m not kidding, promise. Some tips that I learned, when I had my agency, was to power pose before negotiations. So there’s a great TED talk on this that we can link to down below. I do this before most of my big speaking gigs, thanks to Mike Ramsey who told me to do this at SMX Advanced 3 years ago.

Go ahead and power pose. Feel good. Feel confident. Amp yourself up.

☑ Walk the walk

You’ve got to when it comes to some of these things and to just feel comfortable in that space.

☑ Good > perfect

Know that good is better than perfect. A lot of us are perfectionists, and we just have to execute good. Trying to be perfect will kill us all.

☑ Screw imposter syndrome

Many of the speakers that I go on different conference circuits with all struggle with this. It’s totally normal, but it’s good to acknowledge that it’s so silly. So to try to take that silly voice out of your head and start to feel good about the things that you are able to offer.

Take inspiration where you can find it

I highly suggest you check out Brian Tracy’s old-school negotiation podcasts. He has some old videos. They’re so good. But he talks about leverage all the time and has two really great examples that I love so much. One being jade merchants. So these jade merchants that would take out pieces of jade and they would watch people’s reactions piece by piece that they brought out.

So they knew what piece interested this person the most, and that would be the higher price. It was brilliant. Then the time constraints is he has an example of people doing business deals in China. When they landed, the Chinese would greet them and say, “Oh, can I see your return flight ticket? I just want to know when you’re leaving.”

They would not make a deal until that last second. The more you know about some of these leverage tactics, the more you can be aware of them if they were to be used against you or if you were to leverage something like that. Super interesting stuff.

Take the time to get to know their business

☑ Tie in ROI

Lastly, just really take the time to get to know someone’s business. It just shows that you care, and you’re able to prioritize what it is that you can deliver based on where they make the most money off of the products or services that they offer. That helps you tie in the ROI of the things that you can accomplish.

☑ Know the order of products/services that make them the most money

One real quick example was my previous company. We worked with plastic surgeons, and we really worked hard to understand that funnel of how people decide to get any sort of elective procedure. It came down to two things.

It was before and after photos and price. So we knew that we could optimize for those two things and do very well in their space. So showing that you care, going the extra mile, sort of tying all of these things together, I really hope this helps. I look forward to the feedback down below. I know this was a little bit different Whiteboard Friday, but I thought it would be a fun topic to cover.

So thank you so much for joining me on this edition of Whiteboard Friday. I will see you all soon. Bye.

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Building Better Customer Experiences – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by DiTomaso

Are you mindful of your customer’s experience after they become a lead? It’s easy to fall in the same old rut of newsletters, invoices, and sales emails, but for a truly exceptional customer experience that improves their retention and love for your brand, you need to go above and beyond. In this week’s episode of Whiteboard Friday, the ever-insightful Dana DiTomaso shares three big things you can start doing today that will immensely better your customer experience and make earning those leads worthwhile.

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Video Transcription

Hi, Moz fans. My name is Dana DiTomaso. I’m the President and partner of Kick Point, and today I’m going to talk to you about building better customer experiences. I know that in marketing a lot of our jobs revolve around getting leads and more leads and why can’t we have all of the leads.

The typical customer experience:

But in reality, the other half of our job should be making sure that those leads are taken care of when they become customers. This is especially important if you don’t have, say, a customer care department. If you do have a customer care department, really you should be interlocking with what they do, because typically what happens, when you’re working with a customer, is that after the sale, they usually get surveys.

- Surveys

“How did we do? Please rate us on a scale of 1 to 10,” which is an enormous scale and kind of useless. You’re a 4, or you’re an 8, or you’re a 6. Like what actually differentiates that, and how are people choosing that?

- Invoices

Then invoices, like obviously important because you have to bill people, particularly if you have a big, expensive product or you’re a SaaS business. But those invoices are sometimes kind of impersonal, weird, and maybe not great.

- Newsletters

Maybe you have a newsletter. That’s awesome. But is the newsletter focused on sales? One of the things that we see a lot is, for example, if somebody clicks a link in the newsletter to get to your website, maybe you’ve written a blog post, and then they see a great big popup to sign up for our product. Well, you’re already a customer, so you shouldn’t be seeing that popup anymore.

What we’ve seen on other sites, like Help Scout actually does a great job of this, is that they have a parameter of newsletter at the end of any URLs they put in their newsletter, and then the popups are suppressed because you’re already in the newsletter so you shouldn’t see a popup encouraging you to sign up or join the newsletter, which is kind of a crappy experience.

- Sales emails

Then the last thing are sales emails. This is my personal favorite, and this can really be avoided if you go into account-based marketing automation instead of personal-based marketing automation.

We had a situation where I was a customer of the hosting company. It was in my name that we’ve signed up for all of our clients, and then one of our developers created a new account because she needed to access something. Then immediately the sales emails started, not realizing we’re at the same domain. We’re already a customer. They probably shouldn’t have been doing the hard sale on her. We’ve had this happen again and again.

So just really make sure that you’re not sending your customers or people who work at the same company as your customers sales emails. That’s a really cruddy customer experience. It makes it look like you don’t know what’s going on. It really can destroy trust.

Tips for an improved customer experience

So instead, here are some extra things that you can do. I mean fix some of these things if maybe they’re not working well. But here are some other things you can do to really make sure your customers know that you love them and you would like them to keep paying you money forever.

1. Follow them on social media

So the first thing is following them on social. So what I really like to do is use a tool such as FullContact. You can take everyone’s email addresses, run them through FullContact, and it will come back to you and say, “Here are the social accounts that this person has.” Then you go on Twitter and you follow all of these people for example. Or if you don’t want to follow them, you can make a list, a hidden list with all of their social accounts in there.

Then you can see what they share. A tool like Nuzzel, N-U-Z-Z for Americans, zed zed for Canadians, N-U-Z-Z-E-L is a great tool where you can say, “Tell me all the things that the people I follow on social or the things that this particular list of people on social what they share and what they’re engaged in.” Then you can see what your customers are really interested in, which can give you a good sense of what kinds things should we be talking about.

A company that does this really well is InVision, which is the app that allows you to share prototypes with clients, particularly design prototypes. So they have a blog, and a lot of that blog content is incredibly useful. They’re clearly paying attention to their customers and the kinds of things they’re sharing based on how they build their blog content. So then find out if you can help and really think about how I can help these customers through the things that they share, through the questions that they’re asking.

Then make sure to watch unbranded mentions too. It’s not particularly hard to monitor a specific list of people and see if they tweet things like, “I really hate my (insert what you are)right now,” for example. Then you can head that off at the pass maybe because you know that this was this customer. “Oh, they just had a bad experience. Let’s see what we can do to fix it,”without being like, “Hey, we were watching your every move on Twitter.Here’s something we can do to fix it.”

Maybe not quite that creepy, but the idea is trying to follow these people and watch for those unbranded mentions so you can head off a potential angry customer or a customer who is about to leave off at the pass. Way cheaper to keep an existing customer than get a new one.

2. Post-sale monitoring

So the next thing is post-sale monitoring. So what I would like you to do is create a fake customer. If you have lots of sales personas, create a fake customer that is each of those personas, and then that customer should get all the emails, invoices, everything else that a regular customer that fits that persona group should get.

Then take a look at those accounts. Are you awesome, or are you super annoying? Do you hear nothing for a year, except for invoices, and then, “Hey, do you want to renew?” How is that conversation going between you and that customer? So really try to pay attention to that. It depends on your organization if you want to tell people that this is what’s happening, but you really want to make sure that that customer isn’t receiving preferential treatment.

So you want to make sure that it’s kind of not obvious to people that this is the fake customer so they’re like, “Oh, well, we’re going to be extra nice to the fake customer.” They should be getting exactly the same stuff that any of your other customers get. This is extremely useful for you.

3. Better content

Then the third thing is better content. I think, in general, any organization should reward content differently than we do currently.

Right now, we have a huge focus on new content, new content, new content all the time, when in reality, some of your best-performing posts might be old content and maybe you should go back and update them. So what we like to tell people about is the Microsoft model of rewarding. They’ve used this to reward their employees, and part of it isn’t just new stuff. It’s old stuff too. So the way that it works is 33% is what they personally have produced.

So this would be new content, for example. Then 33% is what they’ve shared. So think about for example on Slack if somebody shares something really useful, that’s great. They would be rewarded for that. But think about, for example, what you can share with your customers and how that can be rewarding, even if you didn’t write it, or you can create a roundup, or you can put it in your newsletter.

Like what can you do to bring value to those customers? Then the last 33% is what they shared that others produced. So is there a way that you can amplify other voices in your organization and make sure that that content is getting out there? Certainly in marketing, and especially if you’re in a large organization, maybe you’re really siloed, maybe you’re an SEO and you don’t even talk to the paid people, there’s cool stuff happening across the entire organization.

A lot of what you can bring is taking that stuff that others have produced, maybe you need to turn it into something that is easy to share on social media, or you need to turn it into a blog post or a video, like Whiteboard Friday, whatever is going to work for you, and think about how you can amplify that and get it out to your customers, because it isn’t just marketing messages that customers should be seeing.

They should be seeing all kinds of messages across your organization, because when a customer gives you money, it isn’t just because your marketing message was great. It’s because they believe in the thing that you are giving them. So by reinforcing that belief through the types of content that you create, that you share, that you find that other people share, that you shared out to your customers, a lot of sharing, you can certainly improve that relationship with your customers and really turn just your average, run-of-the-mill customer into an actual raving fan, because not only will they stay longer, it’s so much cheaper to keep an existing customer than get a new one, but they’ll refer people to you, which is also a lot easier than buying a lot of ads or spending a ton of money and effort on SEO.

Thanks!

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Do You Need Local Pages? – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Tom.Capper

Does it make sense for you to create local-specific pages on your website? Regardless of whether you own or market a local business, it may make sense to compete for space in the organic SERPs using local pages. Please give a warm welcome to our friend Tom Capper as he shares a 4-point process for determining whether local pages are something you should explore in this week’s Whiteboard Friday!


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Video Transcription

Hello, Moz fans. Welcome to another Whiteboard Friday. I’m Tom Capper. I’m a consultant at Distilled, and today I’m going to be talking to you about whether you need local pages. Just to be clear right off the bat what I’m talking about, I’m not talking about local rankings as we normally think of them, the local map pack results that you see in search results, the Google Maps rankings, that kind of thing.

A 4-step process to deciding whether you need local pages

I’m talking about conventional, 10 blue links rankings but for local pages, and by local pages I mean pages from a national or international business that are location-specific. What are some examples of that? Maybe on Indeed.com they would have a page for jobs in Seattle. Indeed doesn’t have a bricks-and-mortar premises in Seattle, but they do have a page that is about jobs in Seattle.

You might get a similar thing with flower delivery. You might get a similar thing with used cars, all sorts of different verticals. I think it can actually be quite a broadly applicable tactic. There’s a four-step process I’m going to outline for you. The first step is actually not on the board. It’s just doing some keyword research.

1. Know (or discover) your key transactional terms

I haven’t done much on that here because hopefully you’ve already done that. You already know what your key transactional terms are. Because whatever happens you don’t want to end up developing location pages for too many different keyword types because it’s gong to bloat your site, you probably just need to pick one or two key transactional terms that you’re going to make up the local variants of. For this purpose, I’m going to talk through an SEO job board as an example.

2. Categorize your keywords as implicit, explicit, or near me and log their search volumes

We might have “SEO jobs” as our core head term. We then want to figure out what the implicit, explicit, and near me versions of that keyword are and what the different volumes are. In this case, the implicit version is probably just “SEO jobs.” If you search for “SEO jobs” now, like if you open a new tab in your browser, you’re probably going to find that a lot of local orientated results appear because that is an implicitly local term and actually an awful lot of terms are using local data to affect rankings now, which does affect how you should consider your rank tracking, but we’ll get on to that later.

SEO jobs, maybe SEO vacancies, that kind of thing, those are all going to be going into your implicitly local terms bucket. The next bucket is your explicitly local terms. That’s going to be things like SEO jobs in Seattle, SEO jobs in London, and so on. You’re never going to get a complete coverage of different locations. Try to keep it simple.

You’re just trying to get a rough idea here. Lastly you’ve got your near me or nearby terms, and it turns out that for SEO jobs not many people search SEO jobs near me or SEO jobs nearby. This is also going to vary a lot by vertical. I would imagine that if you’re in food delivery or something like that, then that would be huge.

3. Examine the SERPs to see whether local-specific pages are ranking

Now we’ve categorized our keywords. We want to figure out what kind of results are going to do well for what kind of keywords, because obviously if local pages is the answer, then we might want to build some.

In this case, I’m looking at the SERP for “SEO jobs.” This is imaginary. The rankings don’t really look like this. But we’ve got SEO jobs in Seattle from Indeed. That’s an example of a local page, because this is a national business with a location-specific page. Then we’ve got SEO jobs Glassdoor. That’s a national page, because in this case they’re not putting anything on this page that makes it location specific.

Then we’ve got SEO jobs Seattle Times. That’s a local business. The Seattle Times only operates in Seattle. It probably has a bricks-and-mortar location. If you’re going to be pulling a lot of data of this type, maybe from stats or something like that, obviously tracking from the locations that you’re mentioning, where you are mentioning locations, then you’re probably going to want to categorize these at scale rather than going through one at a time.

I’ve drawn up a little flowchart here that you could encapsulate in a Excel formula or something like that. If the location is mentioned in the URL and in the domain, then we know we’ve got a local business. Most of the time it’s just a rule of thumb. If the location is mentioned in the URL but not mentioned in the domain, then we know we’ve got a local page and so on.

4. Compare & decide where to focus your efforts

You can just sort of categorize at scale all the different result types that we’ve got. Then we can start to fill out a chart like this using the rankings. What I’d recommend doing is finding a click-through rate curve that you are happy to use. You could go to somewhere like AdvancedWebRanking.com, download some example click-through rate curves.

Again, this doesn’t have to be super precise. We’re looking to get a proportionate directional indication of what would be useful here. I’ve got Implicit, Explicit, and Near Me keyword groups. I’ve got Local Business, Local Page, and National Page result types. Then I’m just figuring out what the visibility share of all these types is. In my particular example, it turns out that for explicit terms, it could be worth building some local pages.

That’s all. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Thanks.

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