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

Posted by Dr-Pete

They say history repeats itself. In the case of the great 301 vs 302 vs rel=canonical debate, it repeats itself about every three months. And in the case of this Whiteboard Friday, it repeats once every two years as we revisit a still-relevant topic in SEO and re-release an episode that’s highly popular to this day. Join Dr. Pete as he explains how bots and humans experience pages differently depending on which solution you use, why it matters, and how each choice may be treated by Google.

Aren't 301s, 302s, and canonicals all basically the same?

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Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans, it’s Dr. Pete, your friendly neighborhood marketing scientist here at Moz, and I want to talk today about an issue that comes up probably about every three months since the beginning of SEO history. It’s a question that looks something like this: Aren’t 301s, 302s, and canonicals all basically the same?

So if you’re busy and you need the short answer, it’s, “No, they’re not.” But you may want the more nuanced approach. This popped up again about a week [month] ago, because John Mueller on the Webmaster Team at Google had posted about redirection for secure sites, and in it someone had said, “Oh, wait, 302s don’t pass PageRank.”

John said, “No. That’s a myth. It’s incorrect that 302s don’t pass PR,” which is a very short answer to a very long, technical question. So SEOs, of course, jumped on that, and it turned into, “301s and 302s are the same, cats are dogs, cakes are pie, up is down.” We all did our freakout that happens four times a year.

So I want to get into why this is a difficult question, why these things are important, why they are different, and why they’re different not just from a technical SEO perspective, but from the intent and why that matters.

I’ve talked to John a little bit. I’m not going to put words in his mouth, but I think 95% of this will be approved, and if you want to ask him, that’s okay afterwards too.

Why is this such a difficult question?

So let’s talk a little bit about classic 301, 302. So a 301 redirect situation is what we call a permanent redirect. What we’re trying to accomplish is something like this. We have an old URL, URL A, and let’s say for example a couple years ago Moz moved our entire site from seomoz.org to moz.com. That was a permanent change, and so we wanted to tell Google two things and all bots and browsers:

  1. First of all, send the people to the new URL, and, second,
  2. pass all the signals. All these equity, PR, ranking signals, whatever you want to call them, authority, that should go to the new page as well.

So people and bots should both end up on this new page.

A classic 302 situation is something like a one-day sale. So what we’re saying is for some reason we have this main page with the product. We can’t put the sale information on that page. We need a new URL. Maybe it’s our CMS, maybe it’s a political thing, doesn’t matter. So we want to do a 302, a temporary redirect that says, “Hey, you know what? All the signals, all the ranking signals, the PR, for Google’s sake keep the old page. That’s the main one. But send people to this other page just for a couple of days, and then we’re going to take that away.”

So these do two different things. One of these tells the bots, “Hey, this is the new home,” and the other one tells it, “Hey, stick around here. This is going to come back, but we want people to see the new thing.”

So I think sometimes Google interprets our meaning and can change things around, and we get frustrated because we go, “Why are they doing that? Why don’t they just listen to our signals?”

Why are these differentiations important?

The problem is this. In the real world, we end up with things like this, we have page W that 301s to page T that 302s to page F and page F rel=canonicals back to page W, and Google reads this and says, “W, T, F.” What do we do?

We sent bad signals. We’ve done something that just doesn’t make sense, and Google is forced to interpret us, and that’s a very difficult thing. We do a lot of strange things. We’ll set up 302s because that’s what’s in our CMS, that’s what’s easy in an Apache rewrite file. We forget to change it to a 301. Our devs don’t know the difference, and so we end up with a lot of ambiguous situations, a lot of mixed signals, and Google is trying to help us. Sometimes they don’t help us very well, but they just run into these problems a lot.

In this case, the bots have no idea where to go. The people are going to end up on that last page, but the bots are going to have to choose, and they’re probably going to choose badly because our intent isn’t clear.

How are 301s, 302s, and rel=canonical different?

So there are a couple situations I want to cover, because I think they’re fairly common and I want to show that this is complex. Google can interpret, but there are some reasons and there’s some rhyme or reason.

1. Long-term 302s may be treated as 301s.

So the first one is that long-term 302s are probably going to be treated as 301s. They don’t make any sense. If you set up a 302 and you leave it for six months, Google is going to look at that and say, “You know what? I think you meant this to be permanent and you made a mistake. We’re going to pass ranking signals, and we’re going to send people to page B.” I think that generally makes sense.

Some types of 302s just don’t make sense at all. So if you’re migrating from non-secure to secure, from HTTP to HTTPS and you set up a 302, that’s a signal that doesn’t quite make sense. Why would you temporarily migrate? This is probably a permanent choice, and so in that case, and this is actually what John was addressing in this post originally, in that case Google is probably going to look at that and say, “You know what? I think you meant 301s here,” and they’re going to pass signals to the secure version. We know they prefer that anyway, so they’re going to make that choice for you.

If you’re confused about where the signals are going, then look at the page that’s ranking, because in most cases the page that Google chooses to rank is the one that’s getting the ranking signals. It’s the one that’s getting the PR and the authority.

So if you have a case like this, a 302, and you leave it up permanently and you start to see that Page B is the one that’s being indexed and ranking, then Page B is probably the one that’s getting the ranking signals. So Google has interpreted this as a 301. If you leave a 302 up for six months and you see that Google is still taking people to Page A, then Page A is probably where the ranking signals are going.

So that can give you an indicator of what their decision is. It’s a little hard to reverse that. But if you’ve left a 302 in place for six months, then I think you have to ask yourself, “What was my intent? What am I trying to accomplish here?”

Part of the problem with this is that when we ask this question, “Aren’t 302s, 301s, canonicals all basically the same?” what we’re really implying is, “Aren’t they the same for SEO?” I think this is a legitimate but very dangerous question, because, yes, we need to know how the signals are passed and, yes, Google may pass ranking signals through any of these things. But for people they’re very different, and this is important.

2. Rel=canonical is for bots, not people.

So I want to talk about rel=canonical briefly because rel=canonical is a bit different. We have Page A and Page B again, and we’re going to canonical from Page A to Page B. What we’re basically saying with this is, “Look, I want you, the bots, to consider Page B to be the main page. You know, for some reason I have to have these near duplicates. I have to have these other copies. But this is the main one. This is what I want to rank. But I want people to stay on Page A.”

So this is entirely different from a 301 where I want people and bots to go to Page B. That’s different from a 302, where I’m going to try to keep the bots where they are, but send people over here.

So take it from a user perspective. I have had in Q&A all the time people say, “Well, I’ve heard that rel=canonical passes ranking signals. Which should I choose? Should I choose that or 301? What’s better for SEO?”

That’s true. We do think it generally passes ranking signals, but for SEO is a bad question, because these are completely different user experiences, and either you’re going to want people to stay on Page A or you’re going to want people to go to Page B.

Why this matters, both for bots and for people

So I just want you to keep in mind, when you look at these three things, it’s true that 302s can pass PR. But if you’re in a situation where you want a permanent redirect, you want people to go to Page B, you want bots to go to Page B, you want Page B to rank, use the right signal. Don’t confuse Google. They may make bad choices. Some of your 302s may be treated as 301s. It doesn’t make them the same, and a rel=canonical is a very, very different situation that essentially leaves people behind and sends bots ahead.

So keep in mind what your use case actually is, keep in mind what your goals are, and don’t get over-focused on the ranking signals themselves or the SEO uses because all off these three things have different purposes.

So I hope that makes sense. If you have any questions or comments or you’ve seen anything weird actually happen on Google, please let us know and I’ll be happy to address that. And until then, we’ll see you next week.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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How to Target Featured Snippet Opportunities — Best of Whiteboard Friday

Posted by BritneyMuller

Once you’ve identified where the opportunity to nab a featured snippet lies, how do you go about targeting it? Part One of our “Featured Snippet Opportunities” series focused on how to discover places where you may be able to win a snippet, but today we’re focusing on how to actually make changes that’ll help you do that. 

Joining us at MozCon next week? This video is a great lead up to Britney’s talk: Featured Snippets: Essentials to Know & How to Target.

Give a warm, Mozzy welcome to Britney as she shares pro tips and examples of how we’ve been able to snag our own snippets using her methodology.

Target featured snippet opportunities

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Video Transcription

Today, we are going over targeting featured snippets, Part 2 of our featured snippets series. Super excited to dive into this.

What’s a featured snippet?

For those of you that need a little brush-up, what’s a featured snippet? Let’s say you do a search for something like, “Are pigs smarter than dogs?” You’re going to see an answer box that says, “Pigs outperform three-year old human children on cognitive tests and are smarter than any domestic animal. Animal experts consider them more trainable than cats or dogs.” How cool is that? But you’ll likely see these answer boxes for all sorts of things. So something to sort of keep an eye on. How do you become a part of that featured snippet box? How do you target those opportunities?

Last time, we talked about finding keywords that you rank on page one for that also have a featured snippet. There are a couple ways to do that. We talk about it in the first video. Something I do want to mention, in doing some of that the last couple weeks, is that Ahrefs can help you discover your featured snippet opportunities. I had no idea that was possible. Really cool, go check them out. If you don’t have Ahrefs and maybe you have Moz or SEMrush, don’t worry, you can do the same sort of thing with a Vlookup.

So I know this looks a little crazy for those of you that aren’t familiar. Super easy. It basically allows you to combine two sets of data to show you where some of those opportunities are. So happy to link to some of those resources down below or make a follow-up video on how to do just that.

1. Identify

All right. So step one is identifying these opportunities. You want to find the keywords that you’re on page one for that also have this answer box. You want to weigh the competitive search volume against qualified traffic. Initially, you might want to just go after search volume. I highly suggest you sort of reconsider and evaluate where might the qualified traffic come from and start to go after those.

2. Understand

From there, you really just want to understand the intent, more so even beyond this table that I have suggested for you. To be totally honest, I’m doing all of this with you. It’s been a struggle, and it’s been fun, but sometimes this isn’t very helpful. Sometimes it is. But a lot of times I’m not even looking at some of this stuff when I’m comparing the current featured snippet page and the page that we currently rank on page one for. I’ll tell you what I mean in a second.

3. Target

So we have an example of how I’ve been able to already steal one. Hopefully, it helps you. How do you target your keywords that have the featured snippet?

  • Simplifying and cleaning up your pages does wonders. Google wants to provide a very simple, cohesive, quick answer for searchers and for voice searches. So definitely try to mold the content in a way that’s easy to consume.
  • Summaries do well. Whether they’re at the top of the page or at the bottom, they tend to do very, very well.
  • Competitive markup, if you see a current featured snippet that is marked up in a particular way, you can do so to be a little bit more competitive.
  • Provide unique info
  • Dig deeper, go that extra mile, provide something else. Provide that value.

How To Target Featured Snippet Examples

What are some examples? So these are just some examples that I personally have been running into and I’ve been working on cleaning up.

  • Roman numerals. I am trying to target a list result, and the page we currently rank on number one for has Roman numerals. Maybe it’s a big deal, maybe it’s not. I just changed them to numbers to see what’s going to happen. I’ll keep you posted.
  • Fix broken links. But I’m also just going through our page and cleaning it. We have a lot of older content. I’m fixing broken links. I have the Check My Links tool. It’s a Chrome add-on plugin that I just click and it tells me what’s a 404 or what I might need to update.
  • Fixing spelling errors or any grammatical errors that may have slipped through editors’ eyes. I use Grammarly. I have the free version. It works really well, super easy. I’ve even found some super old posts that have the double or triple spacing after a period. It drives me crazy, but cleaning some of that stuff up.
  • Deleting extra markup. You might see some additional breaks, not necessarily like that ampersand. But you know what I mean in WordPress where it’s that weird little thing for that break in the space, you can clean those out. Some extra, empty header markup, feel free to delete those. You’re just cleaning and simplifying and improving your page.

One interesting thing that I’ve come across recently was for the keyword “MozRank.” Our page is beautifully written, perfectly optimized. It has all the things in place to be that featured snippet, but it’s not. That is when I fell back and I started to rely on some of this data. I saw that the current featured snippet page has all these links.

So I started to look into what are some easy backlinks I might be able to grab for that page. I came across Quora that had a question about MozRank, and I noticed that — this is a side tip — you can suggest edits to Quora now, which is amazing. So I suggested a link to our Moz page, and within the notes I said, “Hello, so and so. I found this great resource on MozRank. It completely confirms your wonderful answer. Thank you so much, Britney.”

I don’t know if that’s going to work. I know it’s a nofollow. I hope it can send some qualified traffic. I’ll keep you posted on that. But kind of a fun tip to be aware of.

How we nabbed the “find backlinks” featured snippet

All right. How did I nab the featured snippet “find backlinks”? This surprised me, because I hardly changed much at all, and we were able to steal that featured snippet quite easily. We were currently in the fourth position, and this was the old post that was in the fourth position. These are the updates I made that are now in the featured snippet.

Clean up the title

So we go from the title “How to Find Your Competitor’s Backlinks Next Level” to “How to Find Backlinks.” I’m just simplifying, cleaning it up.

Clean up the H2s

The first H2, “How to Check the Backlinks of a Site.” Clean it up, “How to Find Backlinks?” That’s it. I don’t change step one. These are all in H3s. I leave them in the H3s. I’m just tweaking text a little bit here and there.

Simplify and clarify your explanations/remove redundancies

I changed “Enter your competitor’s domain URL” — it felt a little duplicate — to “Enter your competitor’s URL.” Let’s see. “Export results into CSV,” what kind of results? I changed that to “export backlink data into CSV.” “Compile CSV results from all competitors,” what kind of results? “Compile backlink CSV results from all competitors.”

So you can look through this. All I’m doing is simplifying and adding backlinks to clarify some of it, and we were able to nab that.

So hopefully that example helps. I’m going to continue to sort of drudge through a bunch of these with you. I look forward to any of your comments, any of your efforts down below in the comments. Definitely looking forward to Part 3 and to chatting with you all soon.

Thank you so much for joining me on this edition of Whiteboard Friday. I look forward to seeing you all soon. See you.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


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How to Make a Technical SEO Recommendation – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by BenjaminEstes

After you’ve put in the work with technical SEO and made your discoveries, there’s one thing left to do: present your findings to the client and agree on next steps. And like many things in our industry, that’s easier said than done. In this week’s episode of Whiteboard Friday, Benjamin Estes from Distilled presents his framework for making technical recommendations to clients and stakeholders to best position you for success

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Video Transcription

Hi. My name is Ben. I’m a principal consultant at a company called Distilled. Welcome to Whiteboard Friday. Today I’d like to talk to you about something a bit different than most Whiteboard Fridays.

I’d like to talk about how to work with clients or bosses in a different way. Instead of thinking about technical SEO and how to make technical discoveries or see what problems are, I want to talk about how to present your findings to your client after you’ve done that discovery. 

Problem

What’s the problem that we’re dealing with here? Well, the scenario is that we’ve got a recommendation and we’re presenting it to a client or a boss.

Easy enough. But what’s the goal of that situation? I would argue that there’s a very specific goal, and the best way to look at it is the goal is to change the action of the individual or the organization. Now, what if that wasn’t the case? You know, what if you worked with a client and none of their actions changed as a result of that engagement? Well, what was the point?

You know, should they have even trusted you in the first place to come in and help them? So if this is the specific goal that we’re trying to accomplish, what’s the best way to do that? Most people jump right to persuasion. They say, “If only I could something, the client would listen to me.” “If only I could present the forecast.”

If only I could justify the ROI, something, some mysterious research that probably hasn’t been done yet and maybe can’t even be done at all. My argument here is that the idea of persuasion is toxic. When you say, “If only I could this,” really what you mean is, “If only I had the evidence, the client would have to do as I say.” You’re trying to get control over the client when you say these things.

It turns out that human beings basically do whatever they want to do, and no matter how well you make your case, if it’s made for your reasons and not the client’s, they’re still not going to want to do the thing that you recommend. So I’ve introduced a framework at Distilled that helps us get past this, and that’s what I’d like to share with you right now.

Approach

The key to this method is that at each step of the process you allow the client to solve the problem for themselves. You give them the opportunity to see the problem from their own perspective and maybe even come up with their own solution. There are three steps to this. 

1. Suggest

First, you suggest the problem.

When I say “suggest,” I don’t mean suggest a solution. I mean you plant the idea in their mind that this is a problem that needs solving. It’s almost like inception. So you first say, “Here is what I see.” Hold up the mirror to them. Make the observations that they haven’t yet made themselves. 

2. Demonstrate

Step two, demonstrate, and what demonstrate means is you’re allowing them to emulate your behavior.

You’re demonstrating what you would do in that situation if you had to deal with the same problem. So you say, “Here’s what I would do if I were in your shoes.” 

3. Elaborate

Finally, you elaborate. You say, “Here’s why I think this is a reasonable activity.” Now I’ve got to be honest. Most of the time, in my experience, if you use this framework, you never even make it to elaboration, because the client solves the problem somewhere back here and you can just end the meeting.

The key, again, is to let the client solve the problem for themselves, for their own reason, in the way that they feel most comfortable. 

Example

Let’s look at an example, because that is, again, kind of abstract. So let’s say that you’ve made an observation in Google Search Console. The client has all these pages that Google has discovered, but they shouldn’t really be in the index or indexable or discoverable at all.

Start by suggesting

So you start by suggesting. “I see in Search Console that Google has discovered 18 million pages,”when it should be, let’s say, 10,000. “This is from your faceted navigation.” Now notice there’s no judgment. There’s no hint at what should be done about this or even the severity of the problem. You’re just presenting the numbers.

Now we’re already sort of at a turning point. Maybe the client hears this and they do a sort of a head slap and they say, “Of course. You know, I hadn’t seen that problem before. But here’s what I think we should do about it.” You reach some sort of agreement, and the problem is solved and the meeting is over and you get that hour back in your day. But maybe they sort of have some sort of questions about what this means, what this implies, and they want to hear your solution.

Demonstrate what you would do

Well, now it’s time to demonstrate what you would do when presented with that fact. You say, “This would be fixed by adding ‘nofollow’ to links to that faceted content.” Maybe they see how this is an obvious solution to the problem that’s completely compatible with their tech stack, and again you get 50 minutes back in your day because the meeting is done.

You’ve done your job. Or maybe they don’t. Maybe they don’t understand why that would be a good solution. 

Finally, elaborate

So finally, you get to this stage, which is elaboration. “Here’s why I think this is a good idea. These pages are important for user experience. You don’t want to get rid of the faceted navigation in your e-commerce store, but you do want to not link to those pages for SEO reasons, because maybe there’s no search volume for related terms.”

So for a particular cost range for an item or something like that, there’s just no associated search activity. You need the pages still. So you say, “These pages are important for user experience, but they don’t satisfy any search intent.” At that point, the client says, “Of course. You’ve come up with the ideal solution, and I’m going to implement your recommendation exactly as you’ve given it to me.”



Or they don’t. If they don’t, you’re no worse off. You can basically walk out of that meeting saying, “I’ve done everything possible to get the client on board with my recommendation, but it just didn’t work out.” That feeling of being able to know that you did the right thing has been a very powerful one, at least in my experience. I’ve been consulting for about eight years, and just going through this process helps me sleep better at night knowing that I really did my job.

We’ve also found that this has a really high success rate with clients too. Finally, you’ll discover that it’s much, much easier to put together presentations if you know that this is the format that you’re going to be presenting in. So if you think that your job is to give the evidence to the client to convince them of something, there’s really no end to the evidence that you could gather.

You could always gather more evidence, and when you get to that final meeting, you can say, “Oh, it’s not because I saw the problem in the wrong way or I communicated it in the wrong way.It’s that I didn’t justify the ROI enough.” There’s no leaving that. That rabbit hole just keeps going, just keeps going. So again, this method has been extremely successful for Distilled. If you’re interested in engaging with this more, you can read at this URL, dis.tl/present, where I give a more thorough write-up on this.

Of course, I’d love to hear any thoughts or experiences that you have with this method. Thank you very much.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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How to Deliver JSON-LD Recommendations the Easy Way – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by sergeystefoglo

When you work with large clients whose sites comprise thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of pages, it’s a daunting task to add the necessary markup. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, we welcome Sergey Stefoglo to share his framework for delivering JSON-LD recommendations in a structured and straightforward way.

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Video Transcription

Hello, Moz fans. My name is Serge. I’m a consultant at Distilled, and this is another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today I want to take the next few minutes to talk to you about one of my processes for delivering JSON-LD recommendations.

Now it’s worth noting upfront that at Distilled we work with a lot of large clients that have a lot of pages on their website, thousands, hundreds of thousands of pages. So if you work at an agency that works with local businesses or smaller clients, this process may be a bit overkill, but I hope you find some use in it regardless.

So as I mentioned, oftentimes at Distilled we get clients that have hundreds and thousands of pages on their site, and you can imagine if your point of contact comes to you and essentially asks, “Hey, we don’t have any markup on our site. Can you recommend all of the JSON-LD on all the pages, please?” If you’re anything like me, that could be a bit daunting, right, like that’s a big ask. Your wheels start spinning so to speak, and oftentimes that leads to a little bit of unproductivity. So I hope this process kind of helps get you unstuck and get started and get to work.

Step 1: List out all the page templates

The first step in this process essentially is to list out all of the templates on the site. I’m assuming you’re going to be dealing with an e-commerce site or something like that. That’s really the way that you’re going to break down this problem and take it from kind of a larger picture, where someone comes to you and says, “Hey, I need all of the things on all of the things,” and you break it down and say, “Okay, well, really what I need to focus on is a section at a time, and what I need to do is give recommendations for each section at a time.” To me, that’s a much more kind of organized way to come at this, and it’s helped me a lot.

So when you list out the templates, if you’ve had this client for a while, you probably already know the templates that they have. If they’re new, it’s worth getting familiar with their site and thinking about things at a template level regardless. So just simply hopping on the site, browsing around, and making a list of, yes, they have product pages and category pages and some different variations of those. They have blog pages and a bunch of other kinds of pages. It’s good to be familiar with them. Our goal is to essentially recommend JSON-LD for each of those templates. So that’s really the first step is getting clear on which templates we’re looking at and what exists on the site.

Step 2: Choose one template and note what can be marked up

The second step is to choose one of those templates, just one, for example, like the product page template, and essentially go through that page and jot down anything you think that can be marked up. Now if you’ve recommended schema before or if you’ve worked with JSON-LD or any kind of markup, you’ll be familiar with a lot of the kind of standards across the board, and it does get familiar over time. So once you do this your 2nd time or 3rd time or 10th time, you’ll have a good idea of what kind of markup goes on a product page or what kind of markup goes on a category page.

If it’s your first time, just go on the page and I’d encourage you to just browse through and look at schema.org or some other example sites that are similar, see what they’re doing, and kind of jot down by yourself, in a notebook or something, what you think can be marked up. So on a product page, you can note down that, yes, there’s an image of the product. There’s a price. There’s a URL. There are breadcrumbs on the page. There are reviews, etc. You’re just going through and kind of making a list of that very simply.

Step 3: Convert notes into JSON-LD, validate with the schema testing tool, and paste into doc

The next step is to essentially take those notes and convert them into JSON-LD. At this point, people tend to kind of freak out a little bit, but you don’t have to be a developer to do this. It’s very accessible. If this is your first time going about it, I’m not going to get into all of the specifics on how to do that. This is more of a framework of approaching that. But there are a lot of great articles that I can link to. Just reach out to me and I can hook you up with that.

    But the third step, again, is to convert those notes into actual JSON-LD. That process is fairly straightforward. What I like to do is open up the page or a representative URL from that template that I’m working on. So for a product page, open that up in my browser. I would like to have schema.org open. That’s kind of the canonical resource for schema information. Then I also like to have a few competitor sites open that are similar. If you’re working on an e-commerce brand, you’re fortunate that there are a lot of great examples of sites that are doing this well, and that’s publicly available to you and you can check out what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.

    So my process is kind of just going through that list, going on schema.org or going on a competitor’s site or a previous site you’ve worked on. If you’re looking at something like, let’s say, the cost of the product, you can look that up on schema.org. You can see that there’s an Offer-type markup. You can copy that into the schema testing tool and essentially validate that it works. Once you validate it, you just go down the list further. If you start off with the price, you can move on to breadcrumbs, etc.

    At the end of step three, you essentially have all of the JSON-LD that you need and certainly the core elements to kind of start down the next step.

    Step 4: Check with your point-of-contact/developer!

    The next step is to pause and check in with your point of contact, because if you’re working on a large-scale site and you’re going to have 10 or 15 of these templates you’re working on for JSON-LD, it’s worthwhile to essentially say, “Hey, can we do a 30-minute check-in because I’m done with the first template and I want to make sure that this all makes sense and this is in a format that’s going to be good for you?”

    Speaking of format, what I like to do personally is just use Google Drive, set up a folder in the client folder and title it JSON-LD, give the client access to that, and within that folder you’re just going to have a bunch of different documents, and each document is going to be per template. So for the product page example, you would have a document in that folder titled “Product JSON-LD,” and you would copy any of the JSON-LD that you validated in the schema testing tool and paste it in that doc. That’s what you would be walking through with your point of contact or with the developer. Pretty much take any feedback they have. If they want it in a different format, take that into account and revise it and meet with them again. But pretty much get a green light before moving forward to work on the other templates.

    Step 5: Repeat from Step 2 onward for all your templates

    That’s really the next step is, at that point, once you have the green light and the developer feels good about it or your point of contact feels good about it, you’re just going to kind of rinse and repeat. So you’re going to go back to Step 2, and you’re going to choose another template. If you’ve done the product page one, hop over to the category page template and do the same thing. Jot down what can be marked up. Transfer those notes into JSON-LD using competitor sites or similar sites, using schema.org, and using the structured data validating tool. It’s the same process. At that point, you’re just kind of on cruise control. It’s nice because it takes, again, something that initially could have been fairly stressful, at least for me, and it breaks it down in a way that makes sense and you can focus because of that.

    So again, this process has worked really well for me. At Distilled, we like to think about kind of frameworks and how to approach bigger problems like this and break them down and kind of make them more simple, because we’ve found that allows us to do our best work. This is just one of those processes.

    So that’s all I have for you all today. Thank you so much for tuning in. If you have any questions or comments, or if you have any experiences kind of implementing or recommending JSON-LD, I’d love to hear them. So give me a shout on Twitter or in the comments or anything like that. Thank you so much for tuning in, and we will see you next time.

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    The Easiest PR-Focused Link Building Tip in the Book – Whiteboard Friday

    Posted by randfish

    Focused on new link acquisition for your clients or company? Link building is always a slog, but Rand has a PR-focused tip that makes it much easier to find people and publications that’ll cover and amplify you. Check it out in this week’s edition of Whiteboard Friday!

    >

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

    Video Transcription

    Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we are talking about the easiest link building tip in the book. It is PR-focused, meaning press and public relations focused, and I’ll dive right in.

    If you are trying to get some new links for your new client, for your website, or for your company, start with this process. 

    Step 1: Identify some of your site’s or your business’ unique attributes

    • The type of company that you are. Are you a startup or a scale-up? Are you mid-stage? Are you a small business? Are you a family-owned business?
    • What’s the background of your founders? Do they come from a special place, something that is unique? Almost certainly the answer is yes. But in what kinds of ways?
    • What type of financing do you have? 
    • What is your customer focus, your customer target? 
    • What is your purpose, values, culture? 
    • Geography. Sector or market. 
    • Other attributes, like accessibility. Maybe you do a great job of serving differently-abled folks. Maybe you are a very sustainable business, a super green business. Maybe you have a very high bar of ethics. Or your facilities are absolutely outstanding and super Instagram-worthy.

    Step 2: Find 5–10 others that share these attributes

    >

    Whatever it is, some combination of these, you’re going to take and you’re going to find other people who share those attributes, other businesses, some other businesses that share some of those attributes or some combination of them. For example, I’ve taken a type of business, a startup, and a geography — startups in San Diego. Or a type of financing, angel-financed, but a type of business that is unusually angel-financed, a physical, retail location business. That’s fairly atypical. B corps, a benefit corp that is in the healthcare space. Again, somewhat atypical, somewhat unique. A black-owned business that’s in tech. Tragically, also unusual.

    Step 3: Find publications and people that have covered/amplified others like you

    Now Step 3, I’m going to find publications and people that have covered or amplified other people like you, some combination of other people like you. So we’ll start with my first example here — startups in San Diego. If I am a startup in San Diego, I will plug in several other startups in San Diego.

    So I did a search “startups in San Diego” in Google. I found Cloudbeds and Hire A Helper, two startups that are in San Diego, and I find a bunch of coverage opportunities by searching for the combination of the two of them. Cloudbeds and Hire A Helper leads me to ProgrammableWeb has a page that lists both of them because they both have APIs. San Diego Startup Week lists both of them because they were both panelists or speakers there. Snip2Code has a machine learning directory because they both had some interesting uses for machine learning that they applied. Tampa Bay Times covered both of them because of a data content piece. These are your link opportunities, your press, PR coverage opportunities.

    >

    You can repeat this again and again with combinations like this. The best part is you are using just your brain and Google search. Super, super simple. Of course, you could take this and you could apply this, you could plug in the websites for Cloudbeds and Hire A Helper to Moz’s Link Explorer, and you could get a bunch of other link opportunities. You could plug those two in and you could plug in your own website, and then you could say, “Show me sites that link to these two, but not to me,” through the Link Intersect function.

    Find new link opportunities!

    So there are ways to advance this with tools, but this is some of the simplest, best ways to launch to get coverage, to get people to know you and like you and start to have heard of your brand, and to get those links that Google is going to need to rank your website higher.

    All right, everyone. Hope you’ve enjoyed this. Look forward to some of your tips and advice around easy, PR-focused link building tips. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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    How to Strategically Think About Technical SEO – Whiteboard Friday

    Posted by BenjaminEstes

    We’ve all agreed that technical SEO is integral, and many of us know at least a little bit about the subject if we’re not already practitioners. But have you considered that the way you think about technical SEO could be hindering or helping your success? Today, Ben Estes from Distilled shares the agency’s tried-and-true framework for tackling technical SEO quandaries strategically.

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    Video Transcription

    Hi. Welcome to another Whiteboard Friday. My name is Ben, and I’m a principal consultant at a company called Distilled. Today I’d like to talk to you about how we think about technical SEO at Distilled. Now, technical SEO is something that a lot of people know a lot of stuff about.

    You accumulate knowledge over time from a lot of different sources, and that’s where a lot of the value that we deliver comes from. But not everyone can think about technical SEO from a strategic perspective, and that’s the skill that I think we should talk more about. 

    Framing the problem

    Let’s start by framing the problem. So look at these charts. Now, I would argue that most people’s mental model of technical SEO matches this first chart.

    So in this chart, the solid black line is the actual traffic that you’re getting, whereas the dotted line is the hypothetical traffic you could be getting if all of the technical problems on your site were resolved. So some people see this and say, “Well, you know, if I can just keep fixing technical things, I can keep getting more traffic to my site.”

    That’s one way of looking at it, but I would argue that it’s not the best way of looking at it, because really there are only so many technical things that can go wrong with your site. There’s a finite number of problems. It’s not an opportunity so much as an issue that needs to be resolved. So what I try and encourage my clients and colleagues to do is think about it in this way.

    So it’s the same chart and the same situation. Here’s the actual traffic that you’re getting and the hypothetical traffic you could be getting. But really what’s happening is your technical problems are keeping you from realizing the most potential traffic that you could be capturing. In other words, there are technical issues preventing us from capturing all the traffic that we could. Now, once you’ve framed the problem in this way, how do you solve it?

    So some people just say, “Well, I’ve got this big problem. I need to understand how all the things that could be wrong with this site. I’m just going to dive in. I’m going to go through page by page, and I’ll finish when either I run out of pages or more realistically I run out of time or I run out of the client’s budget. So what if there’s a better way to actually solve that problem and know that it’s been solved?

    Well, that’s what this framework that I’m going to present to you is about. The way that we would recommend doing that is by taking the big problem, the overall problem of technical SEO and breaking it down into subproblems and breaking those down again until you have problems that are so small that they are trivially solvable. Now, I’m going to explain to you exactly how we accomplish that, and it’s going to be a little bit abstract.

    The approach

    So if you want something concrete to follow along with, I’d recommend checking out the blog post at this URL. That’s dis.tl/tech-audit. Okay. So when you have a big problem that you’re trying to break down, many people’s first attempt winds up looking something like this Venn diagram. So we take one problem, break it down into three subproblems, but there’s some sort of overlap between those problems.

    Once there’s overlap, you lose a lot of confidence. There is, are you duplicating effort across these different areas? Or did you miss something because these two things are kind of the same? Everything just gets a little hazy very quickly. So to get past that, what I’ve used at Distilled is this consulting concept called MECE.

    Mutually exclusive and comprehensively exhaustive

    MECE stands for mutually exclusive and comprehensively exhaustive. That’s a lot of fancy words, so I’ll show you pictorially what I mean. So instead of having a Venn diagram like this, what if each of the problems was completely independent? Now they still cover the same area. There’s just no overlap between them, and that’s what MECE means.

    Because there is no overlap between them, they are mutually exclusive. Because they cover all of the original problem, they’re comprehensively exhaustive. So what does this mean in technical SEO specifically? Now remember the problem that we’re dealing with is that there are technical issues preventing us from capturing traffic that we would otherwise be able to. So what are the three ways that that could happen? 

    1. Maybe our content isn’t being indexed. There’s a technical reason our content isn’t being indexed. 
    2. Our content doesn’t rank as well as it could, and therefore we’re losing this traffic. 
    3. There is a technical reason our content isn’t being presented as well as it could be in the SERPs.

    This is things like having rich snippets, stars, things like that that could increase click-through rate. These things seem kind of trivial, but actually all of the technical problems that you can find on your site contribute to one or more of these three categories. So again, that was pretty abstract. So let’s talk about an example of how that actually plays out. This is actually the first technical check in this audit at that blog post.

    An example

    So, for instance, we’re starting by considering there is a technical reason our content isn’t being indexed. Well, what are all the ways that that could happen? One of the ways is that URLs are not discoverable by crawlers, and, again, that is a whole thing in itself that can be broken down further.

    So maybe it’s that our XML sitemaps aren’t uploaded to Google Search Console. Of course, this isn’t a guarantee that we have a problem. But if there’s a problem down here, there’s a pretty good chance that that trickles back up to a problem up here that we’re really concerned about. The beauty of this isn’t just that it winds up helping us create a checklist so that we know all of the technical issues we ought to be looking at.

    

    But it also helps us convey exactly what the meaning is of our findings and why people should care about them. So this is the template that I encourage my colleagues to use at Distilled. “We are seeing ________. This is a problem because something.You should care about that because something else.” The way this works is like Mad Lib style, except we work like inside out.

    So we start with this point here. We are seeing that our XML sitemaps aren’t uploaded to Google Search Console. This is a problem because maybe URLs are not discoverable by crawlers. We should care about that because there is a technical reason our content isn’t being indexed, and that right there is exactly the message that you deliver to your client.

    So again, this is exactly the framework that we use for our technical audits at Distilled. It’s given us a lot more confidence. It’s given us a lot more insight into how long this process should take for our analysts and consultants, and it’s also got us better outcomes particularly because it’s helped us communicate better about what we found. Thank you very much. I would love if more people use this, and feel free to reach out to me personally if you have any thoughts or questions.

    Thank you.

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    7 SEO Title Tag Hacks for Increased Rankings + Traffic – Best of Whiteboard Friday

    Posted by Cyrus-Shepard

    We’re bringing back an oldie but a goodie this Friday! In today’s highly popular throwback, Cyrus Shepard calls out seven super-easy and timeless hacks to keep your title tags clickable in the SERPs. Check them out and share your own with us in the comments below!

    Title tag hacks for increased rankings and traffics

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    Video Transcription

    Howdy, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. I’m very excited to be here today. My name is Cyrus. I’m a Moz associate. Today I want to talk you about title tags, specifically title tag hacks to increase your traffic and rankings.

    Now, you may be asking yourself, “Are title tags even still important today in SEO?” You bet they are. We’ve done a lot of correlation studies in the past. Those correlation studies have shown different things sort of decreasing in the past years. But we’ve also seen a lot of experiments recently where people have changed their title tag and seen a significant, measurable increase in their rankings.

    Now, the other aspect of title tags that people sometimes forget about is the click-through rate that you get, which can measurably increase your traffic if you get the title tag right. Now, what’s neat about increasing your traffic through click-through rate is we’ve seen a lot of experiments, Rand has experimented a lot, that if you can increase this, you can measurably increase this.

    Traffic through increased clicks can seem to increase your rankings under certain circumstances. So you get the dual benefit. So that’s what I want to talk to you about today — increasing those rankings, increasing that traffic by changing the first thing that your visitor is going to see in the SERPs.

    So the important thing to remember is that these are things to experiment with. Not all of these hacks are going to work for you. SEO is founded in best practices, but true success is founded when you experiment and try different things. So try some of these out and these will give you an idea of where to get started in some of your title tag experiments.

    1. Numbers

    Numbers kind of pop out at you. These are examples: “5 Signs of a Zombie Apocalypse” or “How Mutants Can Save 22% on Car Insurance.”

    • Cognitive Bias – Standout specific – When you see these in SERPs, they tend to get a slightly higher click-through rate sometimes. This works because of a cognitive bias. Our brains are trained to find things that stand out and are specific. When you’re scanning search results, that’s a lot of information. So your brain is going to try to find some things that it can grasp on to, and numbers are the ultimate things that are both specific and they stand out. So sometimes, in certain circumstances, you can get a higher click-through rate by using numbers in your title tags.

    2. Dates

    Rand did an excellent Whiteboard Friday a few weeks ago, we’ll link to it below. These are things like “Best Actress Oscar Nominee 2017″ or even more specific, you can get the month in there, “Top NFL Fantasy Draft Picks September 2017.”

    Now, Rand talks about this a lot. He talks about ways of finding dates in your keyword research. The key in that research is when you’re using tools like Keyword Explorer or Google AdWords or SEMrush, you have to look for previous years. So if I was searching for this year’s, we don’t have enough data yet for 2017, so I would look for “Best Actress Oscar Nominee 2016.”

    • Leverage your CMS – If you use WordPress, if you use Yoast plugin, you can actually have your title tags update automatically year-to-year or even month-to-month leveraging that. It’s not right for all circumstances, but for certain keyword queries it works pretty well.

    3. Length

    This is one of the most controversial, something that causes the most angst in SEO is when we’re doing audits or looking at title tags. Inevitably, when you’re doing an SEO audit, you find two things. You find title tags that are way too short, “Pantsuit,” or title tags that are way, way, way too long because they just want to stuff every keyword in there, “Tahiti ASL Red Pantsuit with Line Color, Midrise Belt, Hook-eye Zipper, Herringbone Knit at Macy’s.”

    Now, these two, they’re great title tags, but there are two problems with this. This is way too broad. “Pantsuit” could be anything. This title tag is way too diluted. It’s hard to really know what that is about. You’re trying to scan it. You’re trying to read it. Search engines are going to look at it the same way. Is this about a pantsuit? Is it about herringbone knit? It’s kind of hard.

    • Etsy study – So Etsy recently did a study where Etsy measured hundreds of thousands of URLs and they shortened their title tags, because, more often than not, the longer title tag is a problem. Shorter title tags, not so much. You see longer title tags in the wild more often. When they shortened the title tags, they saw a measurable increase in rankings.
    • 50–60 Characters – This is one of those things where best practices usually is the best way to go because the optimal length is usually 50 to 60 characters.
    • Use top keywords – When you’re deciding what keywords to put it when you’re shortening this, that’s where you want to use your keyword research and find the keywords that your visitors are actually using.

    So if I go into my Analytics or Google Search Console, I can see that people are actually searching for “pantsuit,” “Macy’s,” and maybe something like that. I can come up with a title tag that fits within those parameters, “Tahiti ASL Red Pantsuit,” “pantsuits” the category, “Macy’s.” That’s going to be your winning title tag and you’ll probably see an increase in rankings.

    4. Synonyms and variants

    Now, you’ll notice in this last title tag, the category was a plural of pantsuit. That can actually help in some circumstances. But it’s important to realize that how you think your searchers are searching may not be how they’re actually searching.

    Let’s say you do your keyword research and your top keywords are “cheap taxis.” You want to optimize for cheap taxis. Well, people may be looking for that in different ways. They may be looking for “affordable cabs” or “low cost” or “cheap Ubers,” things like that.

    So you want to use those variants, find out what the synonyms and variants are and incorporate those into your title tag. So my title tag might be “Fast Affordable Cabs, Quick Taxi, Your Cheap Ride.” That’s optimized for like three different things within that 50 to 60 word limit, and it’s going to hit all those variants and you can actually rank a little higher for using that.

    • Use SERPs/keyword tools – The way you find these synonyms and variants, you can certainly look in the SERPs. Type your keyword into the SERPs, into Google and see what they highlight bold in the search results. That will often give you the variants that people are looking for, that people also ask at the bottom of the page. Your favorite keyword tool, such as Keyword Explorer or SEMrush or whatever you choose and also your Analytics. Google Search Console is a great source of information for these synonyms and variants.

    5. Call to action

    Now, you won’t often find the call-to-action words in your keyword research, but they really help people click. These are action verbs.

    • Action wordsbuy, find download, search, listen, watch, learn, and access. When you use these, they give a little bit more excitement because they indicate that the user will be able to do something beyond the keyword. So they’re not necessarily typing it in the search box. When they see it in results, it can create, “Oh wow, I get to download something.” It provides a little something extra, and you can increase your click-through rates that way.

    6. Top referring keywords

    This is a little overlooked, and it’s sort of an advanced concept. Oftentimes we optimize our page for one set of keywords, but the traffic that comes to it is another set of keywords. But what’s very powerful is when people type their words into the search box and they see those exact same words in the title tags, that’s going to increase your click-through rate.

    For an example, I went into the analytics here at Moz and I looked at Followerwonk. I found the top referring keywords in Google Search Console are “Twitter search,” “search Twitter bios,” and “Twitter analytics.” Those are how people or what people are looking for right before they click on the Followerwonk listing in Google.

    So using that information, I might write a title tag like “Search Twitter Bios with Followerwonk, the Twitter Analytics Tool.” That’s a pretty good title tag. I’m kind of proud of that. But you can see it hits all my major keywords that people are using. So when I type in “Twitter analytics” into the search box and I see “The Twitter Analytics Tool,” I’m more likely to click on that.

    So I’ve written about this before, but it’s very important to optimize your page, not only for the traffic you’re trying to get, but the traffic you’re actually receiving. When you can marry those two, you can be stronger in all aspects.

    7. Questions

    Questions are great tools to use in your title tags. These are things like, “Where Do Butterflies Migrate?” Maybe your keyword is just “butterflies migrate.” But by asking a question, you create a curiosity gap, and you give people an incentive to click. Or “What is PageRank?” That’s something we do here at Moz. So you get the curiosity gap.

    But oftentimes, by asking a question, you get the bonus of winning a featured snippet. Britney Muller wrote an awesome, awesome post about this a while back about questions people also ask, how to find those in your keyword research and claim those featured snippets and claim “people also ask” boxes. It’s a great, great way to increase your traffic.

    So these are seven tips. Let us know your tips for title tags in the comments below. If you like this video, I’d appreciate a thumbs up. Share it with your friends on social media. I’ll see you next time. Thanks, everybody.

    Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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    10 Basic SEO Tips to Index + Rank New Content Faster – Whiteboard Friday

    Posted by Cyrus-Shepard

    In SEO, speed is a competitive advantage.

    When you publish new content, you want users to find it ranking in search results as fast as possible. Fortunately, there are a number of tips and tricks in the SEO toolbox to help you accomplish this goal. Sit back, turn up your volume, and let Cyrus Shepard show you exactly how in this week’s Whiteboard Friday.

    [Note: #3 isn't covered in the video, but we've included in the post below. Enjoy!]

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    Video Transcription

    Howdy, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. I’m Cyrus Shepard, back in front of the whiteboard. So excited to be here today. We’re talking about ten tips to index and rank new content faster.

    You publish some new content on your blog, on your website, and you sit around and you wait. You wait for it to be in Google’s index. You wait for it to rank. It’s a frustrating process that can take weeks or months to see those rankings increase. There are a few simple things we can do to help nudge Google along, to help them index it and rank it faster. Some very basic things and some more advanced things too. We’re going to dive right in.

    Indexing

    1. URL Inspection / Fetch & Render

    So basically, indexing content is not that hard in Google. Google provides us with a number of tools. The simplest and fastest is probably the URL Inspection tool. It’s in the new Search Console, previously Fetch and Render. As of this filming, both tools still exist. They are depreciating Fetch and Render. The new URL Inspection tool allows you to submit a URL and tell Google to crawl it. When you do that, they put it in their priority crawl queue. That just simply means Google has a list of URLs to crawl. It goes into the priority, and it’s going to get crawled faster and indexed faster.

    2. Sitemaps!

    Another common technique is simply using sitemaps. If you’re not using sitemaps, it’s one of the easiest, quickest ways to get your URLs indexed. When you have them in your sitemap, you want to let Google know that they’re actually there. There’s a number of different techniques that can actually optimize this process a little bit more.

    The first and the most basic one that everybody talks about is simply putting it in your robots.txt file. In your robots.txt, you have a list of directives, and at the end of your robots.txt, you simply say sitemap and you tell Google where your sitemaps are. You can do that for sitemap index files. You can list multiple sitemaps. It’s really easy.

    Sitemap in robots.txt

    You can also do it using the Search Console Sitemap Report, another report in the new Search Console. You can go in there and you can submit sitemaps. You can remove sitemaps, validate. You can also do this via the Search Console API.

    But a really cool way of informing Google of your sitemaps, that a lot of people don’t use, is simply pinging Google. You can do this in your browser URL. You simply type in google.com/ping, and you put in the sitemap with the URL. You can try this out right now with your current sitemaps. Type it into the browser bar and Google will instantly queue that sitemap for crawling, and all the URLs in there should get indexed quickly if they meet Google’s quality standard.

    Example: https://www.google.com/ping?sitemap=https://example.com/sitemap.xml

    3. Google Indexing API

    (BONUS: This wasn’t in the video, but we wanted to include it because it’s pretty awesome)

    Within the past few months, both Google and Bing have introduced new APIs to help speed up and automate the crawling and indexing of URLs.

    Both of these solutions allow for the potential of massively speeding up indexing by submitting 100s or 1000s of URLs via an API.

    While the Bing API is intended for any new/updated URL, Google states that their API is specifically for “either job posting or livestream structured data.” That said, many SEOs like David Sottimano have experimented with Google APIs and found it to work with a variety of content types.

    If you want to use these indexing APIs yourself, you have a number of potential options:

    Yoast announced they will soon support live indexing across both Google and Bing within their SEO WordPress plugin.

    Indexing & ranking

    That’s talking about indexing. Now there are some other ways that you can get your content indexed faster and help it to rank a little higher at the same time.

    4. Links from important pages

    When you publish new content, the basic, if you do nothing else, you want to make sure that you are linking from important pages. Important pages may be your homepage, adding links to the new content, your blog, your resources page. This is a basic step that you want to do. You don’t want to orphan those pages on your site with no incoming links. 

    Adding the links tells Google two things. It says we need to crawl this link sometime in the future, and it gets put in the regular crawling queue. But it also makes the link more important. Google can say, “Well, we have important pages linking to this. We have some quality signals to help us determine how to rank it.” So linking from important pages.

    5. Update old content 

    But a step that people oftentimes forget is not only link from your important pages, but you want to go back to your older content and find relevant places to put those links. A lot of people use a link on their homepage or link to older articles, but they forget that step of going back to the older articles on your site and adding links to the new content.

    Now what pages should you add from? One of my favorite techniques is to use this search operator here, where you type in the keywords that your content is about and then you do a site:example.com. This allows you to find relevant pages on your site that are about your target keywords, and those make really good targets to add those links to from your older content.

    6. Share socially

    Really obvious step, sharing socially. When you have new content, sharing socially, there’s a high correlation between social shares and content ranking. But especially when you share on content aggregators, like Reddit, those create actual links for Google to crawl. Google can see those signals, see that social activity, sites like Reddit and Hacker News where they add actual links, and that does the same thing as adding links from your own content, except it’s even a little better because it’s external links. It’s external signals.

    7. Generate traffic to the URL

    This is kind of an advanced technique, which is a little controversial in terms of its effectiveness, but we see it anecdotally working time and time again. That’s simply generating traffic to the new content. 

    Now there is some debate whether traffic is a ranking signal. There are some old Google patents that talk about measuring traffic, and Google can certainly measure traffic using Chrome. They can see where those sites are coming from. But as an example, Facebook ads, you launch some new content and you drive a massive amount of traffic to it via Facebook ads. You’re paying for that traffic, but in theory Google can see that traffic because they’re measuring things using the Chrome browser. 

    When they see all that traffic going to a page, they can say, “Hey, maybe this is a page that we need to have in our index and maybe we need to rank it appropriately.”

    Ranking

    Once we get our content indexed, talk about a few ideas for maybe ranking your content faster. 

    8. Generate search clicks

    Along with generating traffic to the URL, you can actually generate search clicks.

    Now what do I mean by that? So imagine you share a URL on Twitter. Instead of sharing directly to the URL, you share to a Google search result. People click the link, and you take them to a Google search result that has the keywords you’re trying to rank for, and people will search and they click on your result.

    You see television commercials do this, like in a Super Bowl commercial they’ll say, “Go to Google and search for Toyota cars 2019.” What this does is Google can see that searcher behavior. Instead of going directly to the page, they’re seeing people click on Google and choosing your result.

    1. Instead of this: https://moz.com/link-explorer
    2. Share this: https://www.google.com/search?q=link+tool+moz

    This does a couple of things. It helps increase your click-through rate, which may or may not be a ranking signal. But it also helps you rank for auto-suggest queries. So when Google sees people search for “best cars 2019 Toyota,” that might appear in the suggest bar, which also helps you to rank if you’re ranking for those terms. So generating search clicks instead of linking directly to your URL is one of those advanced techniques that some SEOs use.

    9. Target query deserves freshness

    When you’re creating the new content, you can help it to rank sooner if you pick terms that Google thinks deserve freshness. It’s best maybe if I just use a couple of examples here.

    Consider a user searching for the term “cafes open Christmas 2019.” That’s a result that Google wants to deliver a very fresh result for. You want the freshest news about cafes and restaurants that are going to be open Christmas 2019. Google is going to preference pages that are created more recently. So when you target those queries, you can maybe rank a little faster.

    Compare that to a query like “history of the Bible.” If you Google that right now, you’ll probably find a lot of very old pages, Wikipedia pages. Those results don’t update much, and that’s going to be harder for you to crack into those SERPs with newer content.

    The way to tell this is simply type in the queries that you’re trying to rank for and see how old the most recent results are. That will give you an indication of what Google thinks how much freshness this query deserves. Choose queries that deserve a little more freshness and you might be able to get in a little sooner.

    10. Leverage URL structure

    Finally, last tip, this is something a lot of sites do and a lot of sites don’t do because they’re simply not aware of it. Leverage URL structure. When Google sees a new URL, a new page to index, they don’t have all the signals yet to rank it. They have a lot of algorithms that try to guess where they should rank it. They’ve indicated in the past that they leverage the URL structure to determine some of that.

    Consider The New York Times puts all its book reviews under the same URL, newyorktimes.com/book-reviews. They have a lot of established ranking signals for all of these URLs. When a new URL is published using the same structure, they can assign it some temporary signals to rank it appropriately.

    If you have URLs that are high authority, maybe it’s your blog, maybe it’s your resources on your site, and you’re leveraging an existing URL structure, new content published using the same structure might have a little bit of a ranking advantage, at least in the short run, until Google can figure these things out.

    These are only a few of the ways to get your content indexed and ranking quicker. It is by no means a comprehensive list. There are a lot of other ways. We’d love to hear some of your ideas and tips. Please let us know in the comments below. If you like this video, please share it for me. Thanks, everybody.

    Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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    The One-Hour Guide to SEO: Link Building – Whiteboard Friday

    Posted by randfish

    The final episode in our six-part One-Hour Guide to SEO series deals with a topic that’s a perennial favorite among SEOs: link building. Today, learn why links are important to both SEO and to Google, how Google likely measures the value of links, and a few key ways to begin earning your own.

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

    Video Transcription

    Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. We are back with our final part in the One-Hour Guide to SEO, and this week talking about why links matter to search engines, how you can earn links, and things to consider when doing link building.

    Why are links important to SEO?

    So we’ve discussed sort of how search engines rank pages based on the value they provide to users. We’ve talked about how they consider keyword use and relevant topics and content on the page. But search engines also have this tool of being able to look at all of the links across the web and how they link to other pages, how they point between pages.

    

    So it turns out that Google had this insight early on that what other people say about you is more important, at least to them, than what you say about yourself. So you may say, “I am the best resource on the web for learning about web marketing.” But it turns out Google is not going to believe you unless many other sources, that they also trust, say the same thing. Google’s big innovation, back in 1997 and 1998, when Sergey Brin and Larry Page came out with their search engine, Google, was PageRank, this idea that by looking at all the links that point to all the pages on the internet and then sort of doing this recursive process of seeing which are the most important and most linked to pages, they could give each page on the web a weight, an amount of PageRank.

    Then those pages that had a lot of PageRank, because many people linked to them or many powerful people linked to them, would then pass more weight on when they linked. That understanding of the web is still in place today. It’s still a way that Google thinks about links. They’ve almost certainly moved on from the very simplistic PageRank formula that came out in the late ’90s, but that thinking underlies everything they’re doing.

    How does Google measure the value of links?

    Today, Google measures the value of links in many very sophisticated ways, which I’m not going to try and get into, and they’re not public about most of these anyway. But there is a lot of intelligence that we have about how they think about links, including things like more important, more authoritative, more well-linked-to pages are going to pass more weight when they link.

    A.) More important, authoritative, well-linked-to pages pass more weight when they link

    That’s true of both individual URLs, an individual page, and websites, a whole website. So for example, if a page on The New York Times links to yoursite.com, that is almost certainly going to be vastly more powerful and influential in moving your rankings or moving your ability to rank in the future than if randstinysite.info — which I haven’t yet registered, but I’ll get on that — links to yoursite.com.

    This weighting, this understanding of there are powerful and important and authoritative websites, and then there are less powerful and important and authoritative websites, and it tends to be the case that more powerful ones tend to provide more ranking value is why so many SEOs and marketers use metrics like Moz’s domain authority or some of the metrics from Moz’s competitors out in the software space to try and intuit how powerful, how influential will this link be if this domain points to me.

    B.) Diversity of domains, rate of link growth, and editorial nature of links ALL matter

    So the different kinds of domains and the rate of link growth and the editorial nature of those links all matter. So, for example, if I get many new links from many new websites that have never linked to me before and they are editorially given, meaning I haven’t spammed to place them, I haven’t paid to place them, they were granted to me because of interesting things that I did or because those sites wanted to editorially endorse my work or my resources, and I do that over time in greater quantities and at a greater rate of acceleration than my competitors, I am likely to outrank them for the words and phrases related to those topics, assuming that all the other smart SEO things that we’ve talked about in this One-Hour Guide have also been done.

    C.) HTML-readable links that don’t have rel=”nofollow” and contain relevant anchor text on indexable pages pass link benefit

    HTML readable links, meaning as a simple text browser browses the web or a simple bot, like Googlebot, which can be much more complex as we talked about in the technical SEO thing, but not necessarily all the time, those HTML readable links that don’t have the rel=”nofollow” parameter, which is something that you can append to links to say I don’t editorially endorse this, and many, many websites do.

    If you post a link to Twitter or to Facebook or to LinkedIn or to YouTube, they’re going to carry this rel=”nofollow,”saying I, YouTube, don’t editorially endorse this website that this random user has uploaded a video about. Okay. Well, it’s hard to get a link from YouTube. And it contains relevant anchor text on an indexable page, one that Google can actually browse and see, that is going to provide the maximum link benefit.

    So a href=”https://yoursite.com” great tool for audience intelligence, that would be the ideal link for my new startup, for example, which is SparkToro, because we do audience intelligence and someone saying we’re a tool is perfect. This is a link that Google can read, and it provides this information about what we do.

    It says great tool for audience intelligence. Awesome. That is powerful anchor text that will help us rank for those words and phrases. There are loads more. There are things like which pages linked to and which pages linked from. There are spam characteristics and trustworthiness of the sources. Alt attributes, when they’re used in image tags, serve as the anchor text for the link, if the image is a link.

    There’s the relationship, the topical relationship of the linking page and linking site. There’s text surrounding the link, which I think some tools out there offer you information about. There’s location on the page. All of this stuff is used by Google and hundreds more factors to weight links. The important part for us, when we think about links, is generally speaking if you cover your bases here, it’s indexable, carries good anchor text, it’s from diverse domains, it’s at a good pace, it is editorially given in nature, and it’s from important, authoritative, and well linked to sites, you’re going to be golden 99% of the time.

    Are links still important to Google?

    Many folks I think ask wisely, “Are links still that important to Google? It seems like the search engine has grown in its understanding of the web and its capacities.” Well, there is some pretty solid evidence that links are still very powerful. I think the two most compelling to me are, one, the correlation of link metrics over time. 

    So like Google, Moz itself produces an index of the web. It is billions and billions of pages. I think it’s actually trillions of pages, trillions of links across hundreds of billions of pages. Moz produces metrics like number of linking root domains to any given domain on the web or any given page on the web.

    Moz has a metric called Domain Authority or DA, which sort of tries to best replicate or best correlate to Google’s own rankings. So metrics like these, over time, have been shockingly stable. If it were the case someday that Google demoted the value of links in their ranking systems, basically said links are not worth that much, you would expect to see a rapid drop.

    But from 2007 to 2019, we’ve never really seen that. It’s fluctuated. Mostly it fluctuates based on the size of the link index. So for many years Ahrefs and Majestic were bigger link indices than Moz. They had better link data, and their metrics were better correlated.

    Now Moz, since 2018, is much bigger and has higher correlation than they do. So the various tools are sort of warring with each other, trying to get better and better for their customers. You can see those correlations with Google pretty high, pretty standard, especially for a system that supposedly contains hundreds, if not thousands of elements.

    When you see a correlation of 0.25 or 0.3 with one number, linking root domains or page authority or something like that, that’s pretty surprising. The second one is that many SEOs will observe this, and I think this is why so many SEO firms and companies pitch their clients this way, which is the number of new, high quality, editorially given linking root domains, linking domains, so The New York Times linked to me, and now The Washington Post linked to me and now wired.com linked to me, these high-quality, different domains, that correlates very nicely with ranking positions.

    So if you are ranking number 12 for a keyword phrase and suddenly that page generates many new links from high-quality sources, you can expect to see rapid movement up toward page one, position one, two, or three, and this is very frequent.

    How do I get links?

    Obviously, this is not alone, but very common. So I think the next reasonable question to ask is, “Okay, Rand, you’ve convinced me. Links are important. How do I get some?” Glad you asked. There are an infinite number of ways to earn new links, and I will not be able to represent them here. But professional SEOs and professional web marketers often use tactics that fall under a few buckets, and this is certainly not an exhaustive list, but can give you some starting points.

    1. Content & outreach

    The first one is content and outreach. Essentially, the marketer finds a resource that they could produce, that is relevant to their business, what they provide for customers, data that they have, interesting insights that they have, and they produce that resource knowing that there are people and publications out there that are likely to want to link to it once it exists.

    Then they let those people and publications know. This is essentially how press and PR work. This is how a lot of content building and link outreach work. You produce the content itself, the resource, whatever it is, the tool, the dataset, the report, and then you message the people and publications who are likely to want to cover it or link to it or talk about it. That process is tried-and-true. It has worked very well for many, many marketers. 

    2. Link reclamation

    Second is link reclamation. So this is essentially the process of saying, “Gosh, there are websites out there that used to link to me, that stopped linking.” The link broke. The link points to a 404, a page that no longer loads on my website.

    The link was supposed to be a link, but they didn’t include the link. They said SparkToro, but they forgot to actually point to the SparkToro website. I should drop them a line. Maybe I’ll tweet at them, at the reporter who wrote about it and be like, “Hey, you forgot the link.” Those types of link reclamation processes can be very effective as well.

    They’re often some of the easiest, lowest hanging fruit in the link building world. 

    3. Directories, resource pages, groups, events, etc.

    Directories, resource pages, groups, events, things that you can join and participate in, both online or online and offline, so long as they have a website, often link to your site. The process is simply joining or submitting or sponsoring or what have you.

    Most of the time, for example, when I get invited to speak at an event, they will take my biography, a short, three-sentence blurb, that includes a link to my website and what I do, and they will put it on their site. So pitching to speak at events is a way to get included in these groups. I started Moz with my mom, Gillian Muessig, and Moz has forever been a woman-owned business, and so there are women-owned business directories.

    I don’t think we actually did this, but we could easily go, “Hey, you should include Moz as a woman-owned business.We should be part of your directory here in Seattle.” Great, that’s a group we could absolutely join and get links from. 

    4. Competitors’ links

    So this is basically the practice you almost certainly will need to use tools to do this. There are some free ways to do it.

    The simple, free way to do it is to say, “I have competitor 1 brand name and competitor 2 brand name.I’m going to search for the combination of those two in Google, and I’m going to look for places that have written about and linked to both of them and see if I can also replicate the tactics that got them coverage.” The slightly more sophisticated way is to go use a tool. Moz’s Link Explorer does this.

    So do tools from people like Majestic and Ahrefs. I’m not sure if SEMrush does. But basically you can plug in, “Here’s me. Here’s my competitors. Tell me who links to them and does not link to me.” Moz’s tool calls this the Link Intersect function. But you don’t even need the link intersect function.

    You just plug in a competitor’s domain and look at here are all the links that point to them, and then you start to replicate their tactics. There are hundreds more and many, many resources on Moz’s website and other great websites about SEO out there that talk about many of these tactics, and you can certainly invest in those. Or you could conceivably hire someone who knows what they’re doing to go do this for you. Links are still powerful. 

    Okay. Thank you so much. I want to say a huge amount of appreciation to Moz and to Tyler, who’s behind the camera — he’s waving right now, you can’t see it, but he looks adorable waving — and to everyone who has helped make this possible, including Cyrus Shepard and Britney Muller and many others.

    Hopefully, this one-hour segment on SEO can help you upgrade your skills dramatically. Hopefully, you’ll send it to some other folks who might need to upgrade their understanding and their skills around the practice. And I’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

    Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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    The One-Hour Guide to SEO: Keyword Targeting & On-Page Optimization – Whiteboard Friday

    Posted by randfish

    We’ve covered strategy, keyword research, and how to satisfy searcher intent — now it’s time to tackle optimizing the webpage itself! In the fourth part of the One-Hour Guide to SEO, Rand offers up an on-page SEO checklist to start you off on your way towards perfectly optimized and keyword-targeted pages.

    If you missed them, check out the other episodes in the series so far:

    A picture of the whiteboard. The content is all detailed within the transcript below.

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

    Video Transcription

    Howdy, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of our special One-Hour Guide to SEO. We are now on Part IV – Keyword Targeting and On-Page Optimization. So hopefully, you’ve watched Part III, where we talked about searcher satisfaction, how to make sure searchers are happy with the page content that you create and the user experience that you build for them, as well as Part II, where we talked about keyword research and how to make sure that you are targeting the right words and phrases that searchers are actually looking for, that you think you can actually rank for, and that actually get real organic click-through rate, because Google’s zero-click searches are rising.

    A depiction of a site with important on-page SEO elements highlighted, drawn on the whiteboard.

    Now we’re into on-page SEO. So this is essentially taking the words and phrases that we know we want to rank for with the content that we know will help searchers accomplish their task. Now how do we make sure that the page is optimal for ranking in Google?

    On-page SEO has evolved

    Well, this is very different from the way it was years ago. A long time ago, and unfortunately many people still believe this to be true about SEO, it was: How do I stuff my keywords into all the right tags and places on the page? How do I take advantage of things like the meta keywords tag, which hasn’t been used in a decade, maybe two? How do I take advantage of putting all the words and phrases stuffed into my title, my URL, my description, my headline, my H2 through H7 tags, all these kinds of things?

    Most of that does not matter, but some of it still does. Some of it is still important, and we need to run through what those are so that you give yourself the best possible chance for ranking.

    The on-page SEO checklist

    So what I’ve done here is created a sort of brief, on-page SEO checklist. This is not comprehensive, especially on the technical portion, because we’re saving that for Part V, the technical SEO section, which we will get into, of this Guide. In this checklist, some of the most important things are on here. 

    ☑ Descriptive, compelling, keyword-rich title element

    Many of the most important things are on here, and those include things like a descriptive, compelling, keyword-rich but not stuffed title element, also called the page title or a title tag. So, for example, if I am a tool website, like toolsource.com — I made that domain name up, I assume it’s registered to somebody — and I want to rank for the “best online survey tools,” well, “The Best Online Survey Tools for 2019″ is a great title tag, and it’s very different from best online survey tools, best online survey software, best online survey software 2019. You’ve seen title tags like that. You’ve seen pages that contain stuff like that. That is no longer good SEO practices.

    So we want that descriptive, compelling, makes me want to click. Remember that this title is also going to show up in the search results as the title of the snippet that your website appears in.

    ☑ Meta description designed to draw the click

    Second, a meta description. This is still used by search engines, not for rankings though. Sort of think of it like ad text. You are drawing a click, or you’re attempting to draw the click. So what you want to do is have a description that tells people what’s on the page and inspires them, incites them, makes them want to click on your result instead of somebody else’s. That’s your chance to say, “Here’s why we’re valuable and useful.”

    ☑ Easy-to-read, sensible, short URL

    An easy-to-read, sensible, short URL. For example, toolsource.com/reviews/best-online-surveys-2019. Perfect, very legible, very readable. I see that in the results, I think, “Okay, I know what that page is going to be.” I see that copied and pasted somewhere on the web, I think, “I know what’s going to be at that URL. That looks relevant to me.”

    Or reviews.best-online-tools.info. Okay, well, first off, that’s a freaking terrible domain name. /oldseqs?ide=17 bunch of weird letters and tab detail equals this, and UTM parameter equals that. I don’t know what this is. I don’t know what all this means. By the way, having more than one or two URL parameters is very poorly correlated with and not recommended for trying to rank in search results. So you want to try and rewrite these to be more friendly, shorter, more sensible, and readable by a human being. That will help Google as well.

    ☑ First paragraph optimized for appearing in featured snippets

    That first paragraph, the first paragraph of the content or the first few words of the page should be optimized for appearing in what Google calls featured snippets. Now, featured snippets is when I perform a search, for many queries, I don’t just see a list of pages. Sometimes I’ll see this box, often with an image and a bunch of descriptive text that’s drawn from the page, often from the first paragraph or two. So if you want to get that featured snippet, you have to be able to rank on page one, and you need to be optimized to answer the query right in your first paragraph. But this is an opportunity for you to be ranking in position three or four or five, but still have the featured snippet answer above all the other results. Awesome when you can do this in SEO, very, very powerful thing. Featured snippet optimization, there’s a bunch of resources on Moz’s website that we can point you to there too.

    ☑ Use the keyword target intelligently in…

    ☑ The headline

    So if I’m trying to rank for “best online survey tools,” I would try and use that in my headline. Generally speaking, I like to have the headline and the title of the piece nearly the same or exactly the same so that when someone clicks on that title, they get the same headline on the page and they don’t get this cognitive dissonance between the two.

    ☑ The first paragraph

    The first paragraph, we talked about. 

    ☑ The page content

    The page’s content, you don’t want to have a page that’s talking about best online survey tools and you never mention online surveys. That would be a little weird. 

    ☑ Internal link anchors

    An internal link anchor. So if other places on your website talk about online survey tools, you should be linking to this page. This is helpful for Google finding it, helpful for visitors finding it, and helpful to say this is the page that is about this on our website.

    A whiteboard drawing depicting how to target one page with multiple keywords vs multiple pages targeting single keywords.

    I do strongly recommend taking the following advice, which is we are no longer in a world where it makes sense to target one keyword per page. For example, best online survey tools, best online survey software, and best online survey tools 2019 are technically three unique keyword phrases. They have different search volumes. Slightly different results will show up for each of them. But it is no longer the case, whereas it was maybe a decade ago, that I would go create a page for each one of those separate things.

    Instead, because these all share the same searcher intent, I want to go with one page, just a single URL that targets all the keywords that share the exact same searcher intent. If searchers are looking to find exactly the same thing but with slightly modified or slight variations in how they phrase things, you should have a page that serves all of those keywords with that same searcher intent rather than multiple pages that try to break those up, for a bunch of reasons. One, it’s really hard to get links to all those different pages. Getting links just period is very challenging, and you need them to rank.

    Second off, the difference between those is going to be very, very subtle, and it will be awkward and seem to Google very awkward that you have these slight variations with almost the same thing. It might even look to them like duplicate or very similar or low-quality content, which can get you down-ranked. So stick to one page per set of shared intent keywords.

    ☑ Leverage appropriate rich snippet options

    Next, you want to leverage appropriate rich snippet options. So, for example, if you are in the recipes space, you can use a schema markup for recipes to show Google that you’ve got a picture of the recipe and a cooking time and all these different details. Google offers this in a wide variety of places. When you’re doing reviews, they offer you the star ratings. Schema.org has a full list of these, and Google’s rich snippets markup page offers a bunch more. So we’ll point you to both of those as well.

    ☑ Images on the page employ…

    Last, but certainly not least, because image search is such a huge portion of where Google’s search traffic comes from and goes to, it is very wise to optimize the images on the page. Image search traffic can now send significant traffic to you, and optimizing for images can sometimes mean that other people will find your images through Google images and then take them, put them on their own website and link back to you, which solves a huge problem. Getting links is very hard. Images is a great way to do it.

    ☑ Descriptive, keyword-rich filenames

    The images on your page should employ descriptive, keyword-rich filenames, meaning if I have one for typeform, I don’t want it to be pick one, two or three. I want it to be typeformlogo or typeformsurveysoftware as the name of the file.

    ☑ Descriptive alt attributes

    The alt attribute or alt tag is part of how you describe that for screen readers and other accessibility-focused devices, and Google also uses that text too. 

    ☑ Caption text (if appropriate)

    Caption text, if that’s appropriate, if you have like a photograph and a caption describing it, you want to be descriptive of what’s actually in the picture.

    ☑ Stored in same domain and subdomain

    These files, in order to perform well, they generally need to be hosted on the same domain and subdomain. If, for example, all your images are stored on an Amazon Web Services domain and you don’t bother rewriting or making sure that the domain looks like it’s on toolsource.com/photos or /images here, that can cause real ranking problems. Oftentimes you won’t perform at all in Google images because they don’t associate the image with the same domain. Same subdomain as well is preferable.

    If you do all these things and you nail searcher intent and you’ve got your keyword research, you are ready to move on to technical SEO and link building and then start ranking. So we’ll see you for that next edition next week. Take care.

    Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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