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Building a Local Marketing Strategy for Franchises [Guide Sneak Peek]

Posted by MiriamEllis

A roller is a good tool for painting a house in big, broad strokes. But creating a masterpiece of art requires finer brushes.

Franchises face a unique challenge here: they know how to market at the national level, but often lack the detailed tools for reaching their local customers at a granular level. Google has stated that localization of search results is the greatest form of personalization they currently engage in. For franchises, where local sensitivity is lacking in the marketing plan, opportunity is being lost.

Don’t settle for this. Know that less-motivated competitors are losing this opportunity, too. This creates a large, blank canvas for a franchise you’re marketing to paint a new picture which takes state, regional and community nuances into account.

One famous example of localized marketing is McDonald’s offering SPAM in Hawaii and green chile cheeseburgers in New Mexico. For your franchise, it could revolve around customizing content for regional language differences (sub sandwich vs. po’ boy), or knowing when to promote seasonal merchandise at which locations (California vs. North Dakota weather).

What you need is marketing plan capable of scaling from national priorities to hyperlocal customers. Want the complete strategy now?

Get The Practical Guide to Franchise Marketing

From paint roller to sumi-e brush: A franchise marketing plan

Today, we’ll explore the basics of getting to know your local customers, so that your national franchise can customize how you serve them. Build a strategy around the following:



Your step-by-step guide to how to create a local marketing strategy

Finding your target audience

First, you need to understand who your customers are. If you have an existing franchise, you can do this fairly easily by simply observing or asking them. You might run an online survey, or you might do some quick spot interviews right in your place of business. What you want to work out is:

  • Demographics: What are the common ages, genders, income levels, and other relevant characteristics of your customers.
  • Psychographics: How do your customers think? What are their attitudes, behaviors and beliefs as they relate to your franchise?
  • Pain points: What problems do your customers have that you could potentially solve? Maybe they want to eat healthy but have no time. Maybe they want a gym that will help them become better athletes.
  • Consumption habits: How do your customers decide where to buy? Are they online? Do they have smartphones? Do they prioritize reviews/recommendations? Do they like video, or podcasts? Which social platforms do they frequent? What events do they attend?

Understanding the customer’s journey

Marketers spend a lot of time thinking about what we call the “customer journey.” This is just another way of saying we want to understand what happens between us and customers before they know our brand exist, after they discover it, up until they buy, and then beyond.

The best way to do this is to divide that experience into steps, understanding that some people will drop out of the process at every stage. Most corporate franchisers will recognize this as the “sales funnel.”

Here’s a simplified version of a sales funnel. Take the time to determine what happens at each stage in your own customers’ experience, and you’ll be a long way toward understanding how you can influence and help customers from one step to the next. 

Mapping a sales funnel


  1. Awareness
    This is where a customer first discovers you exist and starts to form an opinion about you based on what they see. Often, this is managed by the activities being conducted by corporate franchisors (like a national TV ad campaign). But, it can also happen through franchisee-generated references and referrals (like a searcher discovering you via a Google Maps search on their phone).
  2. Discovery
    This is where a customer has already absorbed information about you and your product and begins to actively try to learn more about it. This stage often encompasses online research. It local word-of-mouth queries between potential customers and their friends and family.
  3. Evaluation
    This is where a customer has decided to probably purchase something similar to what you offer, but is trying to decide where to buy. They might stop by your business in this stage, or they may give you a call. They might visit your online website or listings to look at your hours, or menu or price list. This stage is influenced by both franchisor and franchisee activity.
  4. Intent
    Now the customer has decided to buy from you — which means they are your customer to lose. Franchisors can lose them at this stage through misinformation in the brand’s local business listings — like incorrect hours or bad directions that lead customers to the wrong place and cause them to give up. Franchisees could lose the business through poor on-premises experiences — like uncleanliness, long wait times, low inventory, pricing, or poor customer service.
  5. Purchase
    This is where the transaction takes place, and is generally entirely within the control of the franchisee.
  6. Loyalty
    This stage determines whether the customer will return to buy again, and whether or not they will become an advocate for your business, give you good reviews, or rate you poorly. Again, this is typically within the control of the franchisee unless the issue is a decision made at the franchisor level, such as product/menu, pricing or policy.

Sometimes this whole funnel can take place in the time it takes to spot a sign for ice cream and purchase a double scoop sundae. Sometimes it may take weeks, as your customers labor over the right financial advisor to choose.

Understanding how your customer is thinking and what goes into making the decision to use you is important and will guide decision-making and sales activity at both the franchisor and franchisee levels.

Scoping out the competition

Most brands have already worked out their positioning with regard to other national brands, so this one is mainly for franchisees. Take some time to figure out who your direct competitors are in your local market. They might be other big brands, but there will also probably be local SMBs that are not on the corporate franchisor’s radar.

Understand:

  • Where they are stronger or weaker, compared to you
  • Who they attract, compared to you
  • How they are marketing their business

Having this information should help you to position yourself to win a bigger piece of the local pie. Is your competitor a gym that has better weight training and machines than you? Are they marketing mainly to younger men and athletes? Are they advertising on local radio? Perhaps you should double down on your cardio and yoga classes and try to attract more women or older clientele. Maybe adding some nutrition classes will encourage people trying to lose weight. And so on.

Building your authority

Once you’ve figured out who your customers are, how they buy, and how you plan to position your franchise in the local market, it’s time to put that plan into action by creating some content to support it.

For franchisors at corporate this means putting in the time to create an informative, interesting brand website with dynamic, engaging content. Your content should aim to educate, inform and/or entertain, rather than only sell. The more points of engagement your website offers to customers, the more reason they have to read, share, and link to your content, building authority. Your most valuable content will, of course, be the elements or pages that directly convert visitors into customers.

The content you put out over social media should follow this same precept, and lead back to your site as often as possible. Experts suggest that “60% of your posts you create should be engaging, timely content, 30% should be shared content, and only 10% should be promoting your products & services.” (Medium)

Invest some time in link building, in order to show Google’s algorithm how influential your site is and boost your authority and ranking.

Here are a few tips:

    • Use Moz’s “Find Opportunities” feature to locate sites which are linking to your competitors and not you (yet).
    • Look for people who are already referencing your site and ask them to hyperlink to you.
    • Do a little PR or news-making and ask articles to link to your site. (This is something local franchisees can excel at.)
    • Ask for links from local trade organizations, community organizations or commerce groups.
    • Sponsor events and ask for a link.
    • Start a scholarship and post it on local .edu sites.

Find out more about link building and unstructured citation and how to increase them in The Guide to Building Linked Unstructured Citations for Local SEO

Managing channels and budgets efficiently

Armed with good, authoritative content and an effective website, you’ll want to focus on how you manage all the channels available to you. This also includes managing your budget effectively. Most franchisor budgets are focused on the brand, and many franchisees don’t have a lot left over for local marketing, but here are some things to think about.

  • Listings first: Your listings aren’t expensive to manage, but they give your marketing it’s biggest overall value — in some cases literally guiding people to your registers. Make great local business listings your top priority.
  • Claim everything: Franchisors, be sure you are the one in control of your directory listings and social profiles. Complete your Google My Business profile and establish a presence on key social media and review platforms like Facebook and Yelp.
  • Budget wisely: Do the strategy work to understand who your customers are and how best to reach them before you allocate your franchisor or franchisee marketing dollars.


Pointillism for franchises

Adept franchise marketing requires the eye of Seurat: the ability to see life in hundreds of tiny points, making up a masterpiece. For you, franchise pointillism includes:

  • Points representing each customer
  • Points for the customer’s community, as a whole
  • Points representing your locations on the map
  • Points across the web where engagement happens
  • Points offline where engagement happens
  • Points of resource at all levels of the franchise, from franchisor to franchisee

Ready for expert help from Moz in seeing the finer points? Download your copy:

The Practical Guide to Franchise Marketing

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The Unique World of Franchise Marketing [Guide Sneak Peek]

Posted by MiriamEllis


Image credit: Dion Gillard

Can franchises make good digital marketing agency clients? There are almost 750,000 of them in the US alone, employing some 9 million Americans. Chances are good you’ll have the opportunity to market a business with this specialized model at some point. In this structure:

The Franchisor grants permission to others to operate under its trademark, selling approved goods and services supported by an operating system and marketing.

The Franchisee is the person or group paying the franchisor for the right to use the trademark and the benefits of the operating system and marketing.

Seems simple enough. But it’s this structure that gives franchise marketing its unique complexities. For your agency, the challenge is that you can’t enter these marketing relationships equipped solely with your knowledge of corporate or local search marketing.

You need to deeply understand the setup to avoid bewilderment over why implementation bogs down with franchise clients and why players lose track of their roles, or even overwrite one another’s efforts.

In this post, we’ll give you some quick and useful coaching on the franchise model, but if your agency just got a phone call from Orangetheory or Smoothie King, you can get the bigger playbook right away.

Download The Practical Guide to Franchise Marketing

Roles and goals make franchises unique clients


Image credit: woodleywonderworks

Imagine a post-game locker room scene. On the field, all players seemed united by the goal of winning. But now, at different press conferences, the owner is saying the coach failed to meet standards, the coach is saying the owner should keep his opinions to himself, and several of the star players are saying they didn’t get the ball enough.

Franchises can be just like that when there’s confusion over roles and goals. Read on to get a peek into the playbook we’ve prepared to help the team as a whole work better together:



This post is excerpted from our new primer: The Practical Guide to Franchise Marketing.

Franchise marketing is a unique kind of activity. It does share a lot of qualities with corporate marketing (on the awareness side) and with SMB marketing (on the local side) but as we noted earlier, it’s sort of a joint custody arrangement that — like all custody arrangements — can get contentious at times.

Everyone wants the best for the brand, but everyone’s “best” is very much a matter of their own perspective and goals. Typically in this arrangement, there are at least two stakeholders, though sometimes there are more. The stakeholders and their goals tend to play out as follows:

Corporate Franchisor goals

  • Creating a strong brand to license more franchisors.
  • Controlling that brand so it isn’t negatively impacted.
  • Supporting franchisees with strong branding and resources so they succeed.

Master Franchisor goals

  • Working with corporate to protect the brand.
  • Licensing more local franchisors.
  • Supporting franchisees with resources so they succeed.

Regional or Area Franchisee goals

  • Driving customer traffic and revenue at individual locations.
  • Growing their portfolio of locations.
  • Supporting location managers with resources so they succeed.

Owner/Operator Franchisee goals

  • Increasing location(s) foot traffic.
  • Increasing location(s) revenue.
  • Building customer loyalty at the location(s).

In what ways is franchise marketing different from corporate or standard SMB marketing? There are some unique challenges that franchisors and franchisees face which are worth unpacking. Some of them are:

    • Conflicting goals between franchisor/franchisee
    • Faster turnover of locations and addresses
    • Different opening hours, menus and promotions from location to location
    • Unique local sales and marketing opportunities and challenges
    • Competitors on both the brand side but also among local SMBs
    • Lack of clearly defined marketing roles causing work to be overwritten, duplicated, or even neglected


    Getting your agency’s head in the game


    Image credit: yourgoodpaljoe

    Your agency can be a better coach to franchises by having a playbook that respects how they differ from corporate or SMB clients at the very outset. But differences don’t have to equal weaknesses. Are you ready to draft a game plan that draws from the strengths of both franchisors and franchisees? 

    The Practical Guide to Franchise Marketing

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    Shopify SEO: The Guide to Optimizing Shopify

    Posted by cml63

    A trend we’ve been noticing at Go Fish Digital is that more and more of our clients have been using the Shopify platform. While we initially thought this was just a coincidence, we can see that the data tells a different story:

    Graph Of Shopify Usage Statistics

    The Shopify platform is now more popular than ever. Looking at BuiltWith usage statistics, we can see that usage of the CMS has more than doubled since July 2017. Currently, 4.47% of the top 10,000 sites are using Shopify.

    Since we’ve worked with a good amount of Shopify stores, we wanted to share our process for common SEO improvements we help our clients with. The guide below should outline some common adjustments we make on Shopify stores.

    What is Shopify SEO?

    Shopify SEO simply means SEO improvements that are more unique to Shopify than other sites. While Shopify stores come with some useful things for SEO, such as a blog and the ability to redirect, it can also create SEO issues such as duplicate content. Some of the most common Shopify SEO recommendations are:

    • Remove duplicate URLs from internal linking architecture
    • Remove duplicate paginated URLs
    • Create blog content for keywords with informational intent
    • Add “Product,” “Article,” & “BreadcrumbList” structured data
    • Determine how to handle product variant pages
    • Compress images using crush.pics
    • Remove unnecessary Shopify apps

    We’ll go into how we handle each of these recommendations below:

    Duplicate content

    In terms of SEO, duplicate content is the highest priority issue we’ve seen created by Shopify. Duplicate content occurs when either duplicate or similar content exists on two separate URLs. This creates issues for search engines as they might not be able to determine which of the two pages should be the canonical version. On top of this, often times link signals are split between the pages.

    We’ve seen Shopify create duplicate content in several different ways:

    1. Duplicate product pages
    2. Duplicate collections pages through pagination

    Duplicate product pages

    Shopify creates this issue within their product pages. By default, Shopify stores allow their /products/ pages to render at two different URL paths:

    • Canonical URL path: /products/
    • Non-canonical URL path: /collections/.*/products/

    Shopify accounts for this by ensuring that all /collections/.*/products/ pages include a canonical tag to the associated /products/ page. Notice how the URL in the address differs from the “canonical” field:

    URL In Address Bar Is Different Than Canonical Link

    While this certainly helps Google consolidate the duplicate content, a more alarming issue occurs when you look at the internal linking structure. By default, Shopify will link to the non-canonical version of all of your product pages.

    Shopify collection page links to non-canonical URLs

    As well, we’ve also seen Shopify link to the non-canonical versions of URLs when websites utilize “swatch” internal links that point to other color variants.

    Thus, Shopify creates your entire site architecture around non-canonical links by default. This creates a high-priority SEO issue because the website is sending Google conflicting signals:

    1. “Here are the pages we internally link to the most often”
    2. “However, the pages we link to the most often are not the URLs we actually want to be ranking in Google. Please index these other URLs with few internal links”

    While canonical tags are usually respected, remember Google does treat these as hints instead of directives. This means that you’re relying on Google to make a judgement about whether or not the content is duplicate each time that it crawls these pages. We prefer not to leave this up to chance, especially when dealing with content at scale.

    Adjusting internal linking structure

    Fortunately, there is a relatively easy fix for this. We’ve been able to work with our dev team to adjust the code in the product.grid-item.liquid file. Following those instructions will allow your Shopify site’s collections pages to point to the canonical /product/ URLs.

    Duplicate collections pages

    As well, we’ve seen many Shopify sites that create duplicate content through the site’s pagination. More specifically, a duplicate is created of the first collections page in a particular series. This is because once you’re on a paginated URL in a series, the link to the first page will contain “?page=1”:

    First page in Shopify pagination links to ?page=1 link

    However, this will almost always be a duplicate page. A URL with “?page=1” will almost always contain the same content as the original non-parameterized URL. Once again, we recommend having a developer adjust the internal linking structure so that the first paginated result points to the canonical page.

    Product variant pages

    While this is technically an extension of Shopify’s duplicate content from above, we thought this warranted its own section because this isn’t necessarily always an SEO issue.

    It’s not uncommon to see Shopify stores where multiple product URLs are created for the same product with slight variations. In this case, this can create duplicate content issues as often times the core product is the same, but only a slight attribute (color for instance) changes. This means that multiple pages can exist with duplicate/similar product descriptions and images. Here is an example of duplicate pages created by a variant: https://recordit.co/x6YRPkCDqG

    If left alone, this once again creates an instance of duplicate content. However, variant URLs do not have to be an SEO issue. In fact, some sites could benefit from these URLs as they allow you to have indexable pages that could be optimized for very specific terms. Whether or not these are beneficial is going to differ on every site. Some key questions to ask yourself are:

    • Do your customers perform queries based on variant phrases?
    • Do you have the resources to create unique content for all of your product variants?
    • Is this content unique enough to stand on its own?

    For a more in-depth guide, Jenny Halasz wrote a great article on determining the best course of action for product variations. If your Shopify store contains product variants, than it’s worth determining early on whether or not these pages should exist at a separate URL. If they should, then you should create unique content for every one and optimize each for that variant’s target keywords.

    Crawling and indexing

    After analyzing quite a few Shopify stores, we’ve found some SEO items that are unique to Shopify when it comes to crawling and indexing. Since this is very often an important component of e-commerce SEO, we thought it would be good to share the ones that apply to Shopify.

    Robots.txt file

    A very important note is that in Shopify stores, you cannot adjust the robots.txt file. This is stated in their official help documentation. While you can add the “noindex” to pages through the theme.liquid, this is not as helpful if you want to prevent Google from crawling your content all together.

    An example robots.txt file in Shopify

    Here are some sections of the site that Shopify will disallow crawling in:

    • Admin area
    • Checkout
    • Orders
    • Shopping cart
    • Internal search
    • Policies page

    While it’s nice that Shopify creates some default disallow commands for you, the fact that you cannot adjust the robots.txt file can be very limiting. The robots.txt is probably the easiest way to control Google’s crawl of your site as it’s extremely easy to update and allows for a lot of flexibility. You might need to try other methods of adjusting Google’s crawl such as “nofollow” or canonical tags.

    Adding the “noindex” tag

    While you cannot adjust the robots.txt, Shopify does allow you to add the “noindex” tag. You can exclude a specific page from the index by adding the following code to your theme.liquid file.

    {% if template contains 'search' %}
    <meta name="robots" content="noindex">
    {% endif %}

    As well, if you want to exclude an entire template, you can use this code:

    {% if handle contains 'page-handle-you-want-to-exclude' %}
    <meta name="robots" content="noindex">
    {% endif %}

    Redirects

    Shopify does allow you to implement redirects out-of-the-box, which is great. You can use this for consolidating old/expired pages or any other content that no longer exists. You can do this by going to Online Store > Navigation > URL Redirects.

    So far, we havn’t found a way to implement global redirects via Shopify. This means that your redirects will likely need to be 1:1.

    Log files

    Similar to the robots.txt, it’s important to note that Shopify does not provide you with log file information. This has been confirmed by Shopify support.

    Structured data

    Product structured data

    Overall, Shopify does a pretty good job with structured data. Many Shopify themes should contain “Product” markup out-of-the-box that provides Google with key information such as your product’s name, description, price etc. This is probably the highest priority structured data to have on any e-commerce site, so it’s great that many themes do this for you.

    Shopify sites might also benefit from expanding the Product structured data to collections pages as well. This involves adding the Product structured data to define each individual product link in a product listing page. The good folks at Distilled recommend including this structured data on category pages.

    Every product in Shopify collections page marked up with Product structured data

    Article structured data

    As well, if you use Shopify’s blog functionality, you should use “Article” structured data. This is a fantastic schema type that lets Google know that your blog content is more editorial in nature. We’ve seen that Google seems to pull content with “Article” structured data into platforms such as Google Discover and the “Interesting Finds” sections in the SERPs. Ensuring your content contains this structured data may increase the chances your site’s content is included in these sections.

    BreadcrumbList structured data

    Finally, one addition that we routinely add to Shopify sites are breadcrumb internal links with BreadcrumbList structured data. We believe breadcrumbs are crucial to any e-commerce site, as they provide users with easy-to-use internal links that indicate where they’re at within the hierarchy of a website. As well, these breadcrumbs can help Google better understand the website’s structure. We typically suggest adding site breadcrumbs to Shopify sites and marking those up with BreadcrumbList structured data to help Google better understand those internal links.

    Keyword research

    Performing keyword research for Shopify stores will be very similar to the research you would perform for other e-commerce stores.

    Some general ways to generate keywords are:

    • Export your keyword data from Google AdWords. Track and optimize for those that generate the most revenue for the site.
    • Research your AdWords keywords that have high conversion rates. Even if the volume is lower, a high conversion rate indicates that this keyword is more transactional.
    • Review the keywords the site currently gets clicks/impressions for in Google Search Console.
    • Research your high priority keywords and generate new ideas using Moz’s Keyword Explorer.
    • Run your competitors through tools like Ahrefs. Using the “Content Gap” report, you can find keyword opportunities where competitor sites are ranking but yours is not.
    • If you have keywords that use similar modifiers, you can use MergeWords to automatically generate a large variety of keyword variations.

    Keyword optimization

    Similar to Yoast SEO, Shopify does allow you to optimize key elements such as your title tags, meta descriptions, and URLs. Where possible, you should be using your target keywords in these elements.

    To adjust these elements, you simply need to navigate to the page you wish to adjust and scroll down to “Search Engine Listing Preview”:

    Optimization Options For Metadata in Shopify

    Adding content to product pages

    If you decide that each individual product should be indexed, ideally you’ll want to add unique content to each page. Initially, your Shopify products may not have unique on-page content associated with them. This is a common issue for Shopify stores, as oftentimes the same descriptions are used across multiple products or no descriptions are present. Adding product descriptions with on-page best practices will give your products the best chance of ranking in the SERPs.

    However, we understand that it’s time-consuming to create unique content for every product that you offer. With clients in the past, we’ve taken a targeted approach as to which products to optimize first. We like to use the “Sales By Product” report which can help prioritize which are the most important products to start adding content to. You can find this report in Analytics > Dashboard > Top Products By Units Sold.

    Shopify revenue by product report

    By taking this approach, we can quickly identify some of the highest priority pages in the store to optimize. We can then work with a copywriter to start creating content for each individual product. Also, keep in mind that your product descriptions should always be written from a user-focused view. Writing about the features of the product they care about the most will give your site the best chance at improving both conversions and SEO.

    Shopify blog

    Shopify does include the ability to create a blog, but we often see this missing from a large number of Shopify stores. It makes sense, as revenue is the primary goal of an e-commerce site, so the initial build of the site is product-focused.

    However, we live in an era where it’s getting harder and harder to rank product pages in Google. For instance, the below screenshot illustrates the top 3 organic results for the term “cloth diapers”:

    SERP for "cloth diaper" keyword.

    While many would assume that this is primarily a transactional query, we’re seeing Google is ranking two articles and a single product listing page in the top three results. This is just one instance of a major trend we’ve seen where Google is starting to prefer to rank more informational content above transactional.

    By excluding a blog from a Shopify store, we think this results in a huge missed opportunity for many businesses. The inclusion of a blog allows you to have a natural place where you can create this informational content. If you’re seeing that Google is ranking more blog/article types of content for the keywords mapped to your Shopify store, your best bet is to go out and create that content yourself.

    If you run a Shopify store (or any e-commerce site), we would urge you to take the following few steps:

    1. Identify your highest priority keywords
    2. Manually perform a Google query for each one
    3. Make note of the types of content Google is ranking on the first page. Is it primarily informational, transactional, or a mix of both?
    4. If you’re seeing primarily mixed or informational content, evaluate your own content to see if you have any that matches the user intent. If so, improve the quality and optimize.
    5. If you do not have this content, consider creating new blog content around informational topics that seems to fulfill the user intent

    As an example, we have a client that was interested in ranking for the term “CRM software,” an extremely competitive keyword. When analyzing the SERPs, we found that Google was ranking primarily informational pages about “What Is CRM Software?” Since they only had a product page that highlighted their specific CRM, we suggested the client create a more informational page that talked generally about what CRM software is and the benefits it provides. After creating and optimizing the page, we soon saw a significant increase in organic traffic (credit to Ally Mickler):

    The issue that we see on many Shopify sites is that there is very little focus on informational pages despite the fact that those perform well in the search engines. Most Shopify sites should be using the blogging platform, as this will provide an avenue to create informational content that will result in organic traffic and revenue.

    Apps

    Similar to WordPress’s plugins, Shopify offers “Apps” that allow you to add advanced functionality to your site without having to manually adjust the code. However, unlike WordPress, most of the Shopify Apps you’ll find are paid. This will require either a one-time or monthly fee.

    Shopify apps for SEO

    While your best bet is likely teaming up with a developer who’s comfortable with Shopify, here are some Shopify apps that can help improve the SEO of your site.

    • Crush.pics: A great automated way of compressing large image files. Crucial for most Shopify sites as many of these sites are heavily image-based.
    • JSON-LD for SEO: This app may be used if you do not have a Shopify developer who is able to add custom structured data to your site.
    • Smart SEO: An app that can add meta tags, alt tags, & JSON-LD
    • Yotpo Reviews: This app can help you add product reviews to your site, making your content eligible for rich review stars in the SERPs.

    Is Yoast SEO available for Shopify?

    Yoast SEO is exclusively a WordPress plugin. There is currently no Yoast SEO Shopify App.

    Limiting your Shopify apps

    Similar to WordPress plugins, Shopify apps will inject additional code onto your site. This means that adding a large number of apps can slow down the site. Shopify sites are especially susceptible to bloat, as many apps are focused on improving conversions. Often times, these apps will add more JavaScript and CSS files which can hurt page load times. You’ll want to be sure that you regularly audit the apps you’re using and remove any that are not adding value or being utilized by the site.

    Client results

    We’ve seen pretty good success in our clients that use Shopify stores. Below you can find some of the results we’ve been able to achieve for them. However, please note that these case studies do not just include the recommendations above. For these clients, we have used a combination of some of the recommendations outlined above as well as other SEO initiatives.

    In one example, we worked with a Shopify store that was interested in ranking for very competitive terms surrounding the main product their store focused on. We evaluated their top performing products in the “Sales by product” report. This resulted in a large effort to work with the client to add new content to their product pages as they were not initially optimized. This combined with other initiatives has helped improve their first page rankings by 113 keywords (credit to Jennifer Wright & LaRhonda Sparrow).

    Graph of first-page keyword rankings over time

    In another instance, a client came to us with an issue that they were not ranking for their branded keywords. Instead, third-party retailers that also carried their products were often outranking them. We worked with them to adjust their internal linking structure to point to the canonical pages instead of the duplicate pages created by Shopify. We also optimized their content to better utilize the branded terminology on relevant pages. As a result, they’ve seen a nice increase in overall rankings in just several months time.

    Graph of total ranking improvements over time.

    Moving forward

    As Shopify usage continues to grow, it will be increasingly important to understand the SEO implications that come with the platform. Hopefully, this guide has provided you with additional knowledge that will help make your Shopify store stronger in the search engines.

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    The Ultimate Guide to Exploring Seattle This MozCon

    Posted by Kirsten_Barkved

    So, you’ve been debating for years about whether to attend MozCon and you’re finally ready to pull the trigger. Or, maybe you’re still not sure if MozCon is right for you and you’re wondering what the big deal is (a fair and reasonable thought).

    Whether you’re still on the fence or looking to get hyped, here’s the spiel for why you should attend this year’s MozCon. And if, after seeing our awesome agenda, you’re in need more than our stellar line-up and amazing donuts to convince you, then look no further than this post.

    We’re less than four weeks away from MozCon, so we thought we’d dust off the old “things to do while in Seattle” list. So, if you’re attending or still doing research to see if the juice is worth the squeeze (how responsible of you!), here’s a sampling of the places you’ll go whilst in Seattle for MozCon this July 15–17. 

    Get your tickets before they’re gone!

    We asked our Mozzers where to go

    Not only do our Mozzers have their fingers on the pulse of the city itself, but they’ve also got a few MozCons under their belt, so they know exactly what you need after a day’s worth of information-absorbing and networking.

    The Underground Tour — “It’s strange and very Seattle specific.” — Rob Lisy

    Fremont Brewery — “Great beer and outdoor seating with a view of lake union and the city.” — Kelley Manuel

    Cinerama — “Movie theatre with the best chocolate popcorn in the world.” — Tyler Taggart

    Canon — “I have to advocate for Canon. Best chicharron I’ve ever had and incredible cocktails, obviously.” —Kavi Kardos

    Pacific Inn — “Best fish and chips.” —David Joslin

    Rachel’s Ginger Beer — “I like to get something from anywhere and then eat it here — hint: they will put booze in your ginger beer if you ask nicely. And pay more.” — David Pierce

    Michou — “A good choice for a quick grab-and-go sandwich.” — David Pierce

    Museum of Flight — “They have the Apollo 11 spacecraft on display. First time the National Air and Space Museum has shown it outside of DC!” — Chris Lowe

    Alki Beach — “Water taxi to West Seattle to walk along the beach and soak up some sun!” — Katarina Anderson

    Intrigued? We’re just easing you in.

    Iconic stops

    We’d be remiss if we didn’t include a few “of course” stops in our post — there’s a reason these make it to every “30 things to do in Seattle” blog post. Cross a few of these iconic Seattle stops off your bucket list this July.

    The Space Needle 

    Picturesque views of Puget Sound and a rotating glass floor make this spot a must for the ‘gram.

    Seattle Great Wheel

    Want to see Seattle from 157 ft above? Unless you’re afraid of heights, of course, you do! Tip: Stop by at sunset to see the sun dip behind the Olympic mountain range.

    Gas Works Park

    Beautiful, expansive views of downtown Seattle. Unwind after a day of being constantly “on” and enjoy the sun and the Pacific Northwest air. 

    Insider Mozzer tip from David Pierce: “Get a sandwich from Paseo on Fremont and then go down the hill to eat it at Gasworks Park.”

    Fremont Troll

    For obvious reasons.

    Fun fact: The film crew behind the show, Once Upon a Time, filmed the Fremont Troll scenes right outside our Vancouver office. It was fun to watch them turn an underpass into the troll. But the magic quickly waned — ask our YVR Mozzers how much fun it was to not be able to park (or walk, or talk) outside the office during filming for a week or two.

    Weird stops

    Sometimes, you have to go off the beaten path to really get an idea of the soul of a city. And Seattle certainly has some soul. Here’s just a sprinkling of some of the weird things you can do in Seattle.

    Hat n’ Boots

    It’s exactly how it sounds. Originally a gas station, this 1954 must-see “soul of Georgetown” has been billed the largest hat and boots in North America, and we truly don’t know how you could live with yourself if you make it to 80 and didn’t see the largest hat and boots in North America. 

    Official Bad Art Museum 

    One man’s trash is another man’s treasure at the “OBAMA.” Enjoy a cup of coffee or a pint as you peruse the uniquely curated selection of bad art at Cafe Racer

    Twin Peaks Cafe 

    If you 1) have a car, or know someone who would carpool, and, 2) more importantly, are an uber fan of Twin Peaks, the greatest show to ever live, then it is definitely worth the 40 min drive up to Snoqualmie Falls to visit the actual town and cafe (Twede’s Cafe) where the series was filmed in. Bring us back a piece of cherry pie, please.

    Go and see this house that looks like it’s from the movie Up

    Every few years, rumors swirl that the house that Edith Macefield refused to sell to developers is finally being sold. But while the outside may have changed, this little hold out home isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and is symbolic to changing Seattle. You can find Edith’s home here — it’s hard to miss. Bonus points if you bring a balloon and know a dog named Doug.

    Meowtropolitan Cat Café 

    Okay, this one isn’t really all that weird — it’s plain freakin’ adorable! This cat café focuses on placing rescue cats and kitten into loving homes, but if you aren’t able to house a kitty or two, that’s perfectly fine! Cats need to be socialized and told they are very pretty and have nice whiskers. If you go, take a pic or it didn’t happen. Just think of the conversation starters at our birds of a feather you’d have if you went. Tuesday or Thursdays are for Cat Yoga. Just saying. 

    Outdoor stops

    We know that the reason people move to Seattle is because of all the tech jobs. But a close second? The great outdoors. Seattle has SO much to do in its own backyard — hikes, bike paths, beaches, lakes. And enjoying nature is always free. So stretch your legs and get out to any one of these stellar spots our locals haunt.

    Kerry Park

    If you’re a camera buff, this is a must-see, especially at sunset. You get a full view of the city, the water, the Space Needle, all with the glorious backdrop of Mount Rainier. Be prepared for a crowd, though — this spot gets pretty popular. Insider tip from Mozzer, Marcin Narozny: “Take postcard photos from Queen Anne.”

    Golden Gardens Park

    People don’t really equate sandy beaches to Seattle, but we have them in spades! Golden Gardens is a popular destination for strolls along the seawall. There’s also a designated dog park if you’re in the mood for dog spotting (which, like, is our favorite game).

    Waterfall Garden Park

    Want something a little more urban that doesn’t require a ton of travel? This hidden retreat is one of Seattle’s best-kept secrets in the heart of Pioneer Square. You can find it behind Occidental Square Park on 2nd Ave. Plus? It marks the birthplace of UPS!

    Myrtle Edwards Park 

    Birkenstocks are optional. Dog pats are non-negotiable. 

    Booze-y stops

    We’re barely scratching the surface here with the best bars and pubs of Seattle, but for the sake of time, we had to keep it short and sweet. If there’s something you didn’t see on our list and feel strongly that it should have made it, don’t be afraid to @ us in the comments.

    Rock Box

    For obvious reasons, this karaoke bar is top of the list for post-MozCon-feels — it’s the perfect afterpart to let all that pent up conference energy out. Bring your best renditions of Total Eclipse of the Heart for some all night, much-needed crooning.

    Bathtub Gin Co.

    Don’t go if you don’t like gin. We can’t be more transparent than that.

    Needle & Thread

    In the mood for something a little more low-key? Scope out this speakeasy, hidden above Tavern Law. There’s no official drink menu, but they take their cocktails seriously — just tell the barkeep your poison of choice and they’ll concoct something just for you.

    Shultzy’s 

    We do love our beer in the Pacific Northwest, and this little German bar is home to some of Germany’s best brews. Plus: sausages.  

    Unicorn & Narwhal 

    Whimsical food and drink options galore, complete with an arcade, claw machine, and photo booth. Go on Sunday for their Mimosas Cabaret!

    Coffee stops

    The best coffee in Seattle isn’t in a Starbucks cup. It’s also not Seattle’s Best (is anyone shocked?). Because we take our coffee as seriously as we do our SEO, we updated this list and curated the top 5 best coffee places in Seattle.

    Bedlam 

    For a taste of old Seattle, go to Bedlam. It has that pre-boom feel of old Belltown. Plus, real good espresso, comfy seating, toast and pie, and private meeting rooms to go and ponder over all the SEO magic you absorbed.

    Victrola Coffee 

    There’s a reason locals haunt this cafe. Besides having one of the best pour-over cuppas in town, this cafe is also one of the quieter spaces, with ample seating and plenty of outdoor space should you want to bask in the sun. Bonus: There’s a roastery on site, so if it ain’t too busy, ask for a tour!

    Espresso Vivace 

    If you’re looking for the best coffee in the city, look no further. Their scientific attention to detail and flavor is legendary, so much so that they’ll even offer you advice on how best to actually drink your coffee in order to achieve the fullest experience.

    Sound & Fog

    We’re cheating a little with this one because it’s not just a cafe — it’s also a wine bar, offering beer on tap and rotating coffee roasters.

    Tougo Coffee Co. 

    We can’t not have Tougo on the list. As one of Seattle’s oldest coffee shops, it also has some of the most down-to-earth, passionate baristas who are happy to answer all your brewing and roasting questions.

    Hanging out in Seattle longer than just for MozCon?

    If you’re looking for more things to do and you’re staying in our neck of the woods for longer than three days, we have tons more you can busy yourself with! 

    Soccer fan? See the Sounders FC vs. Portland Timbers

    The Pacific Northwest’s biggest rivalry is on Sunday, July 21st at 6:30 p.m. Make sure to join our MozCon Facebook Group and make plans to see the game with other MozCon attendees.

    More of a baseball fan? Stop by to catch a Mariner’s game.

    In town until the 21st? You better be now: July 21st is Bark at the Park. Tickets also include a postgame walk around the bases, so bring your goodest boy or girl. 

    In the mood for a festival?

    The Capitol Hill Block Party is where it’s at. Local music, great food, art (both good and bad), people watching. 

    Interested in exploring some of Seattle’s neighborhoods and cultural celebrations?

    Not convinced yet? Take a peek at why conferences like MozCon belong on your resume and how you can convince your boss to send you there.

    Grab your ticket!

    Obviously, this is just a small sampling of what Seattle has to offer. If you’re a returning visitor, we’d love to know what you got up to during your post-MozCon hours — any suggestions to new Seattle-goers?

    Don’t forget to buy your ticket to MozCon! We’re 80 percent sold out and you don’t want to miss this one.

    Grab my MozCon ticket now!

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


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    SEO guide to optimizing your LinkedIn profile for more connections, better leads

    Learn how to craft messages for new connections and attract clients to your profile with this SEO guide to LinkedIn optimization.



    Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


    Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

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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

    In case you missed them:

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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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    The One-Hour Guide to SEO: Keyword Research – Whiteboard Friday

    Posted by randfish

    Before doing any SEO work, it’s important to get a handle on your keyword research. Aside from helping to inform your strategy and structure your content, you’ll get to know the needs of your searchers, the search demand landscape of the SERPs, and what kind of competition you’re up against.

    In the second part of the One-Hour Guide to SEO, the inimitable Rand Fishkin covers what you need to know about the keyword research process, from understanding its goals to building your own keyword universe map. Enjoy!


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

    Video Transcription

    Howdy, Moz fans. Welcome to another portion of our special edition of Whiteboard Friday, the One-Hour Guide to SEO. This is Part II – Keyword Research. Hopefully you’ve already seen our SEO strategy session from last week. What we want to do in keyword research is talk about why keyword research is required. Why do I have to do this task prior to doing any SEO work?

    The answer is fairly simple. If you don’t know which words and phrases people type into Google or YouTube or Amazon or Bing, whatever search engine you’re optimizing for, you’re not going to be able to know how to structure your content. You won’t be able to get into the searcher’s brain, into their head to imagine and empathize with them what they actually want from your content. You probably won’t do correct targeting, which will mean your competitors, who are doing keyword research, are choosing wise search phrases, wise words and terms and phrases that searchers are actually looking for, and you might be unfortunately optimizing for words and phrases that no one is actually looking for or not as many people are looking for or that are much more difficult than what you can actually rank for.

    The goals of keyword research

    So let’s talk about some of the big-picture goals of keyword research. 

    Understand the search demand landscape so you can craft more optimal SEO strategies

    First off, we are trying to understand the search demand landscape so we can craft better SEO strategies. Let me just paint a picture for you.

    I was helping a startup here in Seattle, Washington, a number of years ago — this was probably a couple of years ago — called Crowd Cow. Crowd Cow is an awesome company. They basically will deliver beef from small ranchers and small farms straight to your doorstep. I personally am a big fan of steak, and I don’t really love the quality of the stuff that I can get from the store. I don’t love the mass-produced sort of industry around beef. I think there are a lot of Americans who feel that way. So working with small ranchers directly, where they’re sending it straight from their farms, is kind of an awesome thing.

    But when we looked at the SEO picture for Crowd Cow, for this company, what we saw was that there was more search demand for competitors of theirs, people like Omaha Steaks, which you might have heard of. There was more search demand for them than there was for “buy steak online,” “buy beef online,” and “buy rib eye online.” Even things like just “shop for steak” or “steak online,” these broad keyword phrases, the branded terms of their competition had more search demand than all of the specific keywords, the unbranded generic keywords put together.

    That is a very different picture from a world like “soccer jerseys,” where I spent a little bit of keyword research time today looking, and basically the brand names in that field do not have nearly as much search volume as the generic terms for soccer jerseys and custom soccer jerseys and football clubs’ particular jerseys. Those generic terms have much more volume, which is a totally different kind of SEO that you’re doing. One is very, “Oh, we need to build our brand. We need to go out into this marketplace and create demand.” The other one is, “Hey, we need to serve existing demand already.”

    So you’ve got to understand your search demand landscape so that you can present to your executive team and your marketing team or your client or whoever it is, hey, this is what the search demand landscape looks like, and here’s what we can actually do for you. Here’s how much demand there is. Here’s what we can serve today versus we need to grow our brand.

    Create a list of terms and phrases that match your marketing goals and are achievable in rankings

    The next goal of keyword research, we want to create a list of terms and phrases that we can then use to match our marketing goals and achieve rankings. We want to make sure that the rankings that we promise, the keywords that we say we’re going to try and rank for actually have real demand and we can actually optimize for them and potentially rank for them. Or in the case where that’s not true, they’re too difficult or they’re too hard to rank for. Or organic results don’t really show up in those types of searches, and we should go after paid or maps or images or videos or some other type of search result.

    Prioritize keyword investments so you do the most important, high-ROI work first

    We also want to prioritize those keyword investments so we’re doing the most important work, the highest ROI work in our SEO universe first. There’s no point spending hours and months going after a bunch of keywords that if we had just chosen these other ones, we could have achieved much better results in a shorter period of time.

    Match keywords to pages on your site to find the gaps

    Finally, we want to take all the keywords that matter to us and match them to the pages on our site. If we don’t have matches, we need to create that content. If we do have matches but they are suboptimal, not doing a great job of answering that searcher’s query, well, we need to do that work as well. If we have a page that matches but we haven’t done our keyword optimization, which we’ll talk a little bit more about in a future video, we’ve got to do that too.

    Understand the different varieties of search results

    So an important part of understanding how search engines work — we’re going to start down here and then we’ll come back up — is to have this understanding that when you perform a query on a mobile device or a desktop device, Google shows you a vast variety of results. Ten or fifteen years ago this was not the case. We searched 15 years ago for “soccer jerseys,” what did we get? Ten blue links. I think, unfortunately, in the minds of many search marketers and many people who are unfamiliar with SEO, they still think of it that way. How do I rank number one? The answer is, well, there are a lot of things “number one” can mean today, and we need to be careful about what we’re optimizing for.

    So if I search for “soccer jersey,” I get these shopping results from Macy’s and soccer.com and all these other places. Google sort has this sliding box of sponsored shopping results. Then they’ve got advertisements below that, notated with this tiny green ad box. Then below that, there are couple of organic results, what we would call classic SEO, 10 blue links-style organic results. There are two of those. Then there’s a box of maps results that show me local soccer stores in my region, which is a totally different kind of optimization, local SEO. So you need to make sure that you understand and that you can convey that understanding to everyone on your team that these different kinds of results mean different types of SEO.

    Now I’ve done some work recently over the last few years with a company called Jumpshot. They collect clickstream data from millions of browsers around the world and millions of browsers here in the United States. So they are able to provide some broad overview numbers collectively across the billions of searches that are performed on Google every day in the United States.

    Click-through rates differ between mobile and desktop

    The click-through rates look something like this. For mobile devices, on average, paid results get 8.7% of all clicks, organic results get about 40%, a little under 40% of all clicks, and zero-click searches, where a searcher performs a query but doesn’t click anything, Google essentially either answers the results in there or the searcher is so unhappy with the potential results that they don’t bother taking anything, that is 62%. So the vast majority of searches on mobile are no-click searches.

    On desktop, it’s a very different story. It’s sort of inverted. So paid is 5.6%. I think people are a little savvier about which result they should be clicking on desktop. Organic is 65%, so much, much higher than mobile. Zero-click searches is 34%, so considerably lower.

    There are a lot more clicks happening on a desktop device. That being said, right now we think it’s around 60–40, meaning 60% of queries on Google, at least, happen on mobile and 40% happen on desktop, somewhere in those ranges. It might be a little higher or a little lower.

    The search demand curve

    Another important and critical thing to understand about the keyword research universe and how we do keyword research is that there’s a sort of search demand curve. So for any given universe of keywords, there is essentially a small number, maybe a few to a few dozen keywords that have millions or hundreds of thousands of searches every month. Something like “soccer” or “Seattle Sounders,” those have tens or hundreds of thousands, even millions of searches every month in the United States.

    But people searching for “Sounders FC away jersey customizable,” there are very, very few searches per month, but there are millions, even billions of keywords like this. 

    The long-tail: millions of keyword terms and phrases, low number of monthly searches

    When Sundar Pichai, Google’s current CEO, was testifying before Congress just a few months ago, he told Congress that around 20% of all searches that Google receives each day they have never seen before. No one has ever performed them in the history of the search engines. I think maybe that number is closer to 18%. But that is just a remarkable sum, and it tells you about what we call the long tail of search demand, essentially tons and tons of keywords, millions or billions of keywords that are only searched for 1 time per month, 5 times per month, 10 times per month.

    The chunky middle: thousands or tens of thousands of keywords with ~50–100 searches per month

    If you want to get into this next layer, what we call the chunky middle in the SEO world, this is where there are thousands or tens of thousands of keywords potentially in your universe, but they only have between say 50 and a few hundred searches per month.

    The fat head: a very few keywords with hundreds of thousands or millions of searches

    Then this fat head has only a few keywords. There’s only one keyword like “soccer” or “soccer jersey,” which is actually probably more like the chunky middle, but it has hundreds of thousands or millions of searches. The fat head is higher competition and broader intent.

    Searcher intent and keyword competition

    What do I mean by broader intent? That means when someone performs a search for “soccer,” you don’t know what they’re looking for. The likelihood that they want a customizable soccer jersey right that moment is very, very small. They’re probably looking for something much broader, and it’s hard to know exactly their intent.

    However, as you drift down into the chunky middle and into the long tail, where there are more keywords but fewer searches for each keyword, your competition gets much lower. There are fewer people trying to compete and rank for those, because they don’t know to optimize for them, and there’s more specific intent. “Customizable Sounders FC away jersey” is very clear. I know exactly what I want. I want to order a customizable jersey from the Seattle Sounders away, the particular colors that the away jersey has, and I want to be able to put my logo on there or my name on the back of it, what have you. So super specific intent.

    Build a map of your own keyword universe

    As a result, you need to figure out what the map of your universe looks like so that you can present that, and you need to be able to build a list that looks something like this. You should at the end of the keyword research process — we featured a screenshot from Moz’s Keyword Explorer, which is a tool that I really like to use and I find super helpful whenever I’m helping companies, even now that I have left Moz and been gone for a year, I still sort of use Keyword Explorer because the volume data is so good and it puts all the stuff together. However, there are two or three other tools that a lot of people like, one from Ahrefs, which I think also has the name Keyword Explorer, and one from SEMrush, which I like although some of the volume numbers, at least in the United States, are not as good as what I might hope for. There are a number of other tools that you could check out as well. A lot of people like Google Trends, which is totally free and interesting for some of that broad volume data.

    

    So I might have terms like “soccer jersey,” “Sounders FC jersey”, and “custom soccer jersey Seattle Sounders.” Then I’ll have these columns: 

    • Volume, because I want to know how many people search for it; 
    • Difficulty, how hard will it be to rank. If it’s super difficult to rank and I have a brand-new website and I don’t have a lot of authority, well, maybe I should target some of these other ones first that are lower difficulty. 
    • Organic Click-through Rate, just like we talked about back here, there are different levels of click-through rate, and the tools, at least Moz’s Keyword Explorer tool uses Jumpshot data on a per keyword basis to estimate what percent of people are going to click the organic results. Should you optimize for it? Well, if the click-through rate is only 60%, pretend that instead of 100 searches, this only has 60 or 60 available searches for your organic clicks. Ninety-five percent, though, great, awesome. All four of those monthly searches are available to you.
    • Business Value, how useful is this to your business? 
    • Then set some type of priority to determine. So I might look at this list and say, “Hey, for my new soccer jersey website, this is the most important keyword. I want to go after “custom soccer jersey” for each team in the U.S., and then I’ll go after team jersey, and then I’ll go after “customizable away jerseys.” Then maybe I’ll go after “soccer jerseys,” because it’s just so competitive and so difficult to rank for. There’s a lot of volume, but the search intent is not as great. The business value to me is not as good, all those kinds of things.
    • Last, but not least, I want to know the types of searches that appear — organic, paid. Do images show up? Does shopping show up? Does video show up? Do maps results show up? If those other types of search results, like we talked about here, show up in there, I can do SEO to appear in those places too. That could yield, in certain keyword universes, a strategy that is very image centric or very video centric, which means I’ve got to do a lot of work on YouTube, or very map centric, which means I’ve got to do a lot of local SEO, or other kinds like this.

    Once you build a keyword research list like this, you can begin the prioritization process and the true work of creating pages, mapping the pages you already have to the keywords that you’ve got, and optimizing in order to rank. We’ll talk about that in Part III next week. Take care.

    Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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