Tag Archive | "Insights"

SearchCap: New PageSpeed Insights, Google AdWords reviews & the Search Engine Land Awards

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

The post SearchCap: New PageSpeed Insights, Google AdWords reviews & the Search Engine Land Awards appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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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SearchCap: Google review guidelines, photo insights & PPC campaigns

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

The post SearchCap: Google review guidelines, photo insights & PPC campaigns appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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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Insights on Business and Community from Two Intense Days in Denver

Copyblogger Weekly

Hey there — welcome back to the Copyblogger Weekly!

I’m writing this the night before I fly back home from Denver, Colorado, where we held our live Digital Commerce Summit last week. I had the pleasure of teaching a small workshop on Wednesday and then switching gears to give a conference keynote on Thursday.

Every time we hold a live event, big or small, I’m struck by the sense of community that comes together around Copyblogger and Rainmaker. Whether we were hollering our heads off singing together (just a few feet from the stage) at the CAKE concert or feverishly taking notes at 8:30 in the morning during Brian Clark’s talk on “what comes next” in digital commerce, the Summit brought us together to take the next step.

This week, I had fun listening to our own Brian Gardner and Lauren Mancke talk with Matt Mullenweg — the founder of WordPress — about the evolution of that community. It’s a fascinating conversation — and interesting to hear what Matt thinks about the WordPress community nurturing such a thriving economic ecosystem.

And if you’re interested in some other ways togetherness can play a part in business, you might take a look at my post from Tuesday, where I dig into the Unity principle from Robert Cialdini’s new book.

Heads up: Digital Commerce Academy will be closing to new students

One thing I want to make sure you see is that Digital Commerce Academy (DCA) is going to close to new students on Friday, October 28 so we can put all of our focus into developing some killer new courses for our members.

Don’t worry, DCA will be back … but not until 2017, and with a substantially higher price.

And if you’re having pangs of regret for missing the live event? Your DCA membership will include presentation videos from the Summit and the video from that small workshop I mentioned (I taught that one with Brian Clark — it’s a focused dive into creating online courses).

As I mentioned, the price is going to be quite a bit higher in 2017 to reflect the quantity and quality of the new content we’re adding, but you can get all the great new stuff and today’s pricing if you jump in now. Jerod Morris’s post from Wednesday gives you all the details.

Hope you enjoy this week’s content, and I’ll catch you next week!

— Sonia Simone

Chief Content Officer, Rainmaker Digital

Catch up on this week’s content

Tips and encouragement from master content marketersContent Marketers Share Their Secrets

by Pamela Wilson

Who we are and why that mattersThe Ultra Powerful 7th Principle of Persuasion

by Sonia Simone

Join Digital Commerce Academy Before the Doors Close (and Price Goes Up)Join Digital Commerce Academy Before the Doors Close (and Price Goes Up)

by Jerod Morris

8 Ways to Use Online Discounts to Grow Sales8 Ways to Use Online Discounts to Grow Sales

by Sean Jackson

 How (and Why It's OK) to Make Money with WordPress, with Matt MullenwegHow (and Why It’s OK) to Make Money with WordPress, with Matt Mullenweg

by Brian Gardner and Lauren Mancke

How to Create a MVP (Minimum Viable Podcast)How to Create a MVP (Minimum Viable Podcast)

by Jerod Morris & Jon Nastor

How Will Falconer Stopped Trading Dollars for Hours and Found His CallingHow Will Falconer Stopped Trading Dollars for Hours and Found His Calling

by Brian Clark and Jerod Morris

A New Book to Make Content Marketing EasierA New Book to Make Content Marketing Easier

by Sonia Simone

How Bestselling Author Jennifer Weiner Writes: Part TwoHow Bestselling Author Jennifer Weiner Writes: Part Two

by Kelton Reid

Create Your First WordPress Product, with Chris LemaCreate Your First WordPress Product, with Chris Lema

by Brian Clark


Authority Q&A Call with Sonia Simone and Pamela Wilson

Friday, October 21

Join Authority members for the opportunity to get your content marketing and business questions answered by two people with almost 60 years of experience between them! No question is too small, and the more specific the better.

Join Authority to attend this session

The post Insights on Business and Community from Two Intense Days in Denver appeared first on Copyblogger.


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How to Use Search Analytics in Google Sheets for Better SEO Insights

Posted by mihai.aperghis

As an SEO, whether you’re working in-house or handling many clients in an agency, you’ve likely been using this tool for a bunch of reasons. Whether it’s diagnosing traffic and position changes or finding opportunities for optimizations and content ideas, Google Search Console’s Search Search Analytics has been at the core of most SEOs’ toolset.

The scope of this small guide is to give you a few ideas on how to use Search Analytics together with Google Sheets to help you in your SEO work. As with the guide on how to do competitive analysis in Excel, this one is also focused around a tool that I’ve built to help me get the most of Search Analytics: Search Analytics for Sheets.

The problem with the Search Analytics UI

Sorting out and managing data in the Google Search Console Search Analytics web UI in order to get meaningful insights is often difficult to do, and even the CSV downloads don’t make it much easier.

The main problem with the Search Analytics UI is grouping.

If you’d like to see a list of all the keywords in Search Analytics and, at the same time, get their corresponding landing pages, you can’t do that. You instead need to filter query-by-query (to see their associated landing pages), or page-by-page (to see their associated queries). And this is just one example.

Search Analytics Grouping

Basically, with the Search Analytics UI, you can’t do any sort of grouping on a large scale. You have to filter by each keyword, each landing page, each country etc. in order to get the data you need, which would take a LOT of time (and possible a part of your sanity as well).

In comes the API for the save

Almost one year ago (and after quite a bit of pressure from webmasters), Google launched the official API for Search Analytics.

Official Google Webmaster Central Blog Search Analytics API

With it, you can do pretty much anything you can do with the web UI, with the added benefit of applying any sort of grouping and/or filtering.

Excited yet?

Imagine you can now have one column filled with keywords, the next column with their corresponding landing pages, then maybe the next one with their corresponding countries or devices, and have impressions, clicks, CTR, and positions for each combination.

Everything in one API call

Query Page Country Device Clicks Impressions CTR Position
keyword 1 https://domain.com/us/page/ usa DESKTOP 92 2,565 3.59% 7.3
keyword 1 https://domain.com/us/page/ usa MOBILE 51 1,122 4.55% 6.2
keyword 2 https://domain.com/gb/ gbr DESKTOP 39 342 11.4% 3.8
keyword 1 https://domain.com/au/page/ aus DESKTOP 21 55 38.18% 1.7
keyword 3 https://domain.com/us/page/ usa MOBILE 20 122 16.39% 3.6

Getting the data into Google Sheets

I have traditionally enjoyed using Excel but have since migrated over to Google Sheets due to its cloud nature (which means easier sharing with my co-workers) and expandability via scripts, libraries, and add-ons.

After being heavily inspired by Seer Interactive’s SEO Toolbox (an open-source Google Sheets library that offers some very nice functions for daily SEO tasks), I decided to build a Sheets script that would use the Search Analytics API.

I liked the idea of speeding up and improving my daily monitoring and diagnosing for traffic and ranking changes.

Also, using the API gave me the pretty useful feature of automatically backing up your GSC data once a month. (Before, you needed to do this manually, use a paid Sheets add-on or a Python script.)

Once things started to take shape with the script, I realized I could take this public by publishing it into an add-on.

What is Search Analytics for sheets?

Simply put, Search Analytics for Sheets is a (completely free) Google Sheets add-on that allows you to fetch data from GSC (via its API), grouped and filtered to your liking, and create automated monthly backups.

If your interest is piqued, installing the add-on is fairly simple. Either install it from the Chrome Web Store, or:

  • Open a Google spreadsheet
  • Go to Add-ons -> Get add-ons
  • Search for Search Analytics for Sheets
  • Install it (It’ll ask you to authorize a bunch of stuff, but you can sleep safe: The add-on has been reviewed by Google and no data is being saved/monitored/used in any other way except grabbing it and putting it in your spreadsheets).

Once that’s done, open a spreadsheet where you’d like to use the add-on and:

Search Analytics for Sheets Install

  • Go to Add-ons -> Search Analytics for Sheets -> Open Sidebar
  • Authorize it with your GSC account (make sure you’re logged in Sheets with your GSC account, then close the window once it says it was successful)

You’ll only have to do this once per user account, so once you install it, the add-on will be available for all your spreadsheets.

PS: You’ll get an error if you don’t have any websites verified on your logged in account.

How Search Analytics for Sheets can help you

Next, I’ll give you some examples on what you can use the add-on for, based on how I mainly use it.

Grab information on queries and their associated landing pages

Whether it is to diagnose traffic changes, find content optimization opportunities, or check for appropriate landing pages, getting data on both queries and landing pages at the same time can usually provide instant insights. Other than automated backups, this is by far the feature that I use the most, especially since it’s fairly hard to replicate the process using the standard web UI.

Best of all, it’s quite straightforward to do this and requires only a few clicks:

  • Select the website
  • Select your preferred date interval (by default it will grab the minimum and maximum dates available in GSC)
  • In the Group field, select “Query,” then “Page”
  • Click “Request Data”

That’s it.

You’ll now have a new sheet containing a list of queries, their associated landing pages, and information about impressions, clicks, CTR, and position for each query-page pair.

Search Analytics for Sheets Example 1

What you do with the data is up to you:

  • Check keyword opportunities

Use a sheets filter to only show rows with positions between 10 and 21 (usually second-page results) and see whether landing pages can be further optimized to push those queries to the first page. Maybe work a bit on the title tag, content and internal linking to those pages.

  • Diagnose landing page performance

Check position 20+ rows to see whether there’s a mismatch between the query and its landing page. Perhaps you should create more landing pages, or there are pages that target those queries but aren’t accessible by Google.

  • Improve CTR

Look closely at position and CTR. Check low-CTR rows with associated high position values and see if there’s any way to improve titles and meta descriptions for those pages (a call-to-action might help), or maybe even add some rich snippets (they’re pretty effective in raising CTR without much work).

  • Find out why your traffic dropped
    • Had significant changes in traffic? Do two requests (for example, one for the last 30 days and one for the previous 30 days) then use VLOOKUP to compare the data.
    • Positions dropped across the board? Time to check GSC for increased 4xx/5xx errors, manual actions, or faulty site or protocol migrations.
    • Positions haven’t dropped, but clicks and impressions did? Might be seasonality, time to check year-over-year analytics, Google Trends, Keyword Planner.
    • Impressions and positions haven’t dropped, but clicks/CTR did? Manually check those queries, see whether the Google UI has changed (more top ads, featured snippet, AMP carousel, “In the news” box, etc.)

I could go on, but I should probably leave this for a separate post.

Get higher granularity with further grouping and filtering options

Even though I don’t use them as much, the date, country and device groupings let you dive deep into the data, while filtering allows you to fetch specific data to one or more dimensions.

Search Analytics for Sheets Grouping

Date grouping creates a new column with the actual day when the impressions, clicks, CTR, and position were recorded. This is particularly useful together with a filter for a specific query, so you can basically have your own rank tracker.

Grouping by country and device lets you understand where your audience is.

Using country grouping will let you know how your site fares internationally, which is of course highly useful if you target users in more than one country.

However, device grouping is probably something you’ll play more with, given the rise in mobile traffic everywhere. Together with query and/or page grouping, this is useful to know how Google ranks your site on desktop and mobile, and where you might need to improve (generally speaking you’ll probably be more interested in mobile rankings here rather than desktop, since those can pinpoint problems with certain pages on your site and their mobile usability).

Search Analytics for Sheets Grouping Example

Filtering is exactly what it sounds like.

Choose between query, page, country and/or device to select specific information to be retrieved. You can add any number of filters; just remember that, for the time being, multiple filters are added cumulatively (all conditions must be met).

Search Analytics for Sheets Grouping Example

Other than the rank tracking example mentioned earlier, filtering can be useful in other situations as well.

If you’re doing a lot of content marketing, perhaps you’ll use the page filter to only retrieve URLs that contain /blog/ (or whatever subdirectory your content is under), while filtering by country is great for international sites, as you might expect.

Just remember one thing: Search Analytics offers a lot of data, but not all the data. They tend to leave out data that is too individual (as in, very few users can be aggregated in that result, such as, for example, long tail queries).

This also means that, the more you group/filter, the less aggregated the data is, and certain information will not be available. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use groups and filters; it’s just something to keep in mind when you’re adding up the numbers.

Saving the best for last: Automated Search Analytics backups

This is the feature that got me into building this add-on.

I use GSC data quite a bit, from client reports to comparing data from multiple time periods. Unless you’ve never used GSC/WMT in the past, it’s highly unlikely you don’t know that the data available in Search Analytics only spans about the last 90 days.

While the guys at Google have mentioned that they’re looking into expanding this window, most SEOs have had to rely on various ways of backing up data in order to access it later.

This usually requires either remembering to manually download the data each month, or using a more complicated (but automated) method such as a Python script.

The Search Analytics for Sheets add-on allows you to do this effortlessly.

Just like when requesting data, select the site and set up any grouping and filtering that you’d like to use. I highly recommend using query and page grouping, and maybe country filtering to cut some of the noise.

Then simply enable the backup.

That’s it.The current spreadsheet will host that backup from now on, until you decide to disable it.

Search Analytics for Sheets Example 2

What happens now is that once per month (typically on the 3rd day of the month) the backup will run automatically and fetch the data for the previous month into the spreadsheet (each month will have its own sheet).

In case there are delays (sometimes Search Analytics data can be delayed even up to a week), the add-on will re-attempt to run the backup every day until it succeeds.

It’ll even keep a log with all backup attempts, and send you an email if you’d like.

Search Analytics for Sheets Backup Log

It’ll also create a separate sheet for monthly aggregated data (the total number of impressions and clicks plus CTR and position data, without any grouping or filtering), so that way you’ll be sure you’re ‘saving’ the real overview information as well.

If you’d like more than one backup (either another backup for the same site but with different grouping/filtering options or a new backup for a different site), simply open a new spreadsheet and enable the backup there. You’ll always be able to see a list with all the backups within the “About” tab.

For the moment, only monthly backups are available, though I’m thinking about including a weekly and/or daily option as well. However that might be more complicated, especially in cases where GSC data is delayed.

Going further

I hope you’ll find the tool as useful as I think it is.

There may be some bugs, even though I tried squashing them all (thanks to Russ Jones and Tori Cushing, Barry Schwartz from Search Engine Roundtable, and Cosmin Negrescu from SEOmonitor for helping me test and debug it).

If you do find anything else or have any feature requests, please let me know via the add-on feedback function in Google Sheets or via the form on the official site.

If not, I hope the tool will help you in your day-to-day SEO work as much as it helps me. Looking forward to see more use cases for it in the comments.

PS: The tool doesn’t support more than 5,000 rows at the moment; working on getting that improved!

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Google My Business Insights updates analytics while dropping Google+ source data

Google My Business updates their analytics to show business owners the source of their views and how they found the listing.

The post Google My Business Insights updates analytics while dropping Google+ source data appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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​Announcing Search Insights from Moz Local!

Posted by David-Mihm

When we launched Moz Local, I said at the time that one of the primary goals of our product team was to “help business owners and marketers trying to keep up with the frenetic pace of change in local search.” Today we take a major step forward towards that goal with the beta release of Moz Local Search Insights, the foundation for a holistic understanding of your local search presence.

As we move into an app-centric world that’s even more dependent on structured, accurate location data than the mobile web, it’s getting harder to keep up with the disparate sources where this data appears — and where customers are finding your business. Enter Moz Local Insights — the hub for analyzing your location-centric digital activity.

What’s included in this beta release?

We’ve heard our customers loud and clear — especially those at agencies and enterprise brands — that while enhanced reporting was a major improvement, they needed a more comprehensive way to prove the value of their efforts to clients and company locations.

We start with daily-updated reporting in three key areas with this release: Location page performance, SERP rankings, and reputation. All of these are available not only within a single location view, but aggregated across all locations in your account, or by locations you’ve tagged with our custom labels.

Location page performance

The goal of our new Performance section is to distill the online traffic metrics that matter most to brick-and-mortar businesses into a single digestible screen. After a simple two-click authentication of your Google Analytics account, you’ll see a breakdown of your traffic sources by percentage:

Clicking into each of the traffic sources on the righthand side will show you the breakdown of traffic from those sources by device type.

There’s also an ordered list of all prominent local directories that are sending potential customers to your website. While we haven’t yet integrated impression data from these directories, this should give you a relative indicator of customer engagement on each.


We’re hoping to add even more performance metrics, including Google My Business and other primary consumer destinations, as they become available.


The Visibility section houses your location-focused ranking reports, with a breakdown of how well you’re performing, both in local packs and in organic results. Similar to the visibility score in Moz Analytics, we’ve combined your rankings across both types of results into a single metric that’s designed to reflect the likelihood that a searcher will click on a result for your business when searching a given keyword.

The Visibility section also lets you see how you stack up against your competitors — up to three at a time. But rather than preselecting a particular competitor, you can choose any competitor you’d like to compare yourself to on the fly.

And, of course, we give you the metrics in full table view below (CSV export coming soon) if you prefer to get a little more granular with your visibility analysis by keyword.

We’ve got a number of other innovative features planned for release later in the beta period, including taking barnacle positions into account (originally heard through Will Scott) when calculating your visibility score, and tracking additional knowledge panel and universal search entries that are appearing for your keywords.


The Reputation section is probably the most straightforward of the bunch — a simple display of how your review acquisition efforts are progressing, both in terms of volume and the ratings that people are leaving for your business.

There’s also a distribution of where people are leaving reviews, so you have a sense of what sites your customers are leaving reviews on, and which ones might need a little extra TLC.

Over time, we’ll be expanding this section to include many more review sources, sentiment analysis, and the ability to receive notifications and summaries of new reviews.

What’s next?

You tell us! This is a true beta, and we’ll be paying close attention to your feedback over the next couple of months.

Search Insights is already enabled for all Moz Local customers by default. Just log in to your dashboard and let us know what you think. And if you’re not yet a Moz Local customer, sign up today to take Search Insights for a free spin during our beta period.

There’s a lot of underlying infrastructure beneath the surface of this release that will allow us to add new features on a modular basis moving forward, and we’re already working on improvements, such as custom date range selection, CSV exporting, emailed reports, and notifications. But your feedback will help us prioritize and add new features to the roadmap.

Before I sign off, I want to give a huge thank you to our engineering, design and UX, marketing, and community teams for their hard work, assistance, and patience as we worked to release Moz Local Search Insights into the wild. And most importantly, thank you to you guys — our customers — whose feedback has already proven invaluable and will be even more so as we enter the newest phase of Moz Local!

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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Behind-the-Scenes Online Marketing Insights from Authority Rainmaker 2015

authority rainmaker 2015 audio recap

Authority Rainmaker 2015 wrapped up a week ago, and those of us who were there are still processing the online marketing insights we had at the live event in Denver.

If you didn’t make it this year — and even if you did — we’d like to invite you to experience some of the energy at the conference.

There were so many smart people — attendees, presenters, and sponsors — gathered in one place. The collective energy of the group could be felt in the opera house seats, in the lobby, at the meals, and at the parties.

Listen below to Clark Buckner of TechnologyAdvice interview Authority Rainmaker 2015 presenters, attendees, and sponsors.

Hear their favorite takeaways below. And read on for the most compelling quotes we heard.

Download audio



Chris Brogan, on a building a feeling of belonging:

I think that there’s a lot of revenue to be made — and a lot of business to be made — by helping add value to the people you most want to help and serve.

Demian Farnworth, on being a misfit:

If the crowd is going that direction … I go the opposite direction.

Sonia Simone, on building a business around belief:

We’re looking for this belief-based tribe to belong to … there is a big part of our brain that wants that.

Arienne Holland, on owning your space:

It’s not “tell your story and people will come,” because that’s not true. But tell your story, and with the right amplification the right customers or audience will find you and identify with you.

Summer Felix, on delivering the right sales message:

We take that approach with all of our videos — sales videos, and informational videos — just to say, “Okay, who’s watching this? What do you want them to do at the end of the video? And why might they be skeptical? And how can you resolve that and answer that in this amount of time?”

Joe Pulizzi, on having two audiences for your marketing:

Our most important marketing assets are our employees. If we don’t have a communication program ready to go for our employees, it’s going to be tough … you’ve got fertile land right there ready to go, but you have to make sure you water it a little bit.

Chris Garrett, on delivering the right content to the right people at the right time:

If [the site visitor owns] product X, then promote product Y, don’t keep promoting product X to customers of product X.

Tony Clark, on adaptive content and marketing automation tactics:

It’s about … putting the right piece of content in front of the right person at the right time to … get them on the process to buy.

Lee Odden, on telling the truth in your marketing:

The thing I heard from a lot of people was just … be honest, be true.

Cory Matthews, on authenticity:

Perfection never comes. I’ve struggled with that myself for years — “Well, I have to do this exactly perfect.” No, you just need to get started.

Kevin Carlson, on Chris Brogan’s unexpected comment to him:

He didn’t need to do that. You know, that’s going above and beyond. … I’m hard-pressed to think of an example or another situation … where one of your featured keynote speakers comes up to an attendee and says ‘Hey, I see you.’

Jerod Morris, on approaching podcast sponsors:

Let’s grow this together. … here’s what it is, but there’s this big, long journey we can go on together.

Scott Stratten, on not selling out when seeking podcast sponsors:

We wanted to look from episode one that we were at the top of the game … I’d rather have no sponsor than to compromise with the values of the show and get any sponsor.

Beth Hayden, on the speakers at this year’s conference:

They are doing things that really make me think, and it’s stuff that’s really actionable, and it’s not just the same old stuff over and over again … I come out of this conference in particular with pages and pages of practical notes of stuff that I can use in my business.

Sarah Eadie, on empathy:

Empathy is an asset … empathy for your customers and for their needs, and hopes, fears, and dreams is really invaluable … is really important.

Selena Vidya (Selena Narayanasamy), on switching her business to a consultancy model:

For us, it’s more of an empowerment education-type thing, rather than being the ones who bring them the content … the goal as a consultant is to be there when they need you, but they really need to be able to do this stuff themselves as well — it’s the only way they’re going to be able to grow.

Ethan Beute, on his main takeaways from Authority Rainmaker 2015:

No matter the angle or the topic, there are all these themes that come through … treating leads as humans, thinking empathetically about other people … intense awareness of, empathy for, focus on delivering to the audience … that the people on the email list need to be treated as people you serve.

Thanks to everyone at Copyblogger Media who made Authority Rainmaker 2015 possible, and to our sponsors:

Legend Sponsors:

Spears Marketing

Wellness Media

Champion Sponsors:


The Draw Shop

Top Rank Online Marketing

Thursday Night Party Sponsor:


Friday Night Party Sponsor:


Media Sponsors:

Search Engine Journal

Marketing Profs


Content Marketing Institute

Many thanks to Ethan Beute for today’s post image.

About the author

Pamela Wilson

Pamela Wilson is Vice President of Educational Content at Copyblogger Media. Follow her on Twitter, listen to her Hit Publish podcast, and find more from her at BigBrandSystem.com.

The post Behind-the-Scenes Online Marketing Insights from Authority Rainmaker 2015 appeared first on Copyblogger.


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Using AdWords Auction Insights To Find Out Who’s Winning On Mobile

The Auction Insights report gives you visibility into the auctions you compete in. Contributor Matt Lawson explains out how to use it to your best advantage.

The post Using AdWords Auction Insights To Find Out Who’s Winning On Mobile appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Auditing the Moz Q&A: Optimization and Insights

Posted by gfiorelli1

One month ago I had a crazy idea: analyzing one year of Moz Q&As, and Trevor was even crazier accepting it.

My original idea was both to understand the most common issues the Moz Community discusses and asks for help with, and also to understand how the trends in our industry are reflected in Q&A.

After the first few days of digging into the data, though, I started seeing that there was a problem: a sub-optimal Q&A structure is preventing a truly accurate analysis of the same.

For this reason, this post has been conceived as a two part series:

  1. Auditing a Q&A site/section;
  2. What insights can the analysis of the Moz Q&A site/section offer?

This first part goes beyond the simple analysis of a community and, using the Moz Q&A section, takes into account and discusses issues that are common to all Q&A sites.

The second part will published within a few weeks (I’m still “digesting” data and discovering great insights).

Auditing a Q&A site/section 

Before people were sharing kittens and selfies on Facebook and Instagram, “social” was a synonym of “forums” in Internet-speak. 

In forums, people were (and still are) sharing knowledge, funny things, and questions. Forums were the first collaborative space in the web, maybe the purest symbol of the web philosophy.

The forum’s collaborative nature and crowdsourced knowledge is so strong that – upon reflection – the success of social networks, which mimic forums (Reddit is a clear example), must be essentially attributed to it.

The advantages and difficulties of a Q&A site/section

Q&A sites are a specific variant of the forum idea, and their model is quite simple: People ask and answer questions about certain topics.

From an SEO point of view a well executed and maintained Q&A site/section has great positive effects:

  1. It may help your site rank for long tails;
  2. It may help your site earn natural links;
  3. It may help your site earn social visibility (hence second-tier links);
  4. It may help you discover ideas for new content;
  5. It’s a great source for content to repurpose into other channels;
  6. The data you collect thanks to the Q&A may help you with other business decisions; or
  7. It may help you understand if a business decision was correct or not.

Its positive effects, then, have clear reflections on branding and thought leadership.

The simplest ideas, though, are usually the most complex to shape into something real.

The first difficulty is building a community that is able to feed the Q&A in the first place.

Even if I know people who could create hundreds of fake accounts all asking and answering questions in order to “show” a lively forum and thus attract new members, if you are creating a Q&A section as a feature in your site, then it may be better to create it when you already have even a small (but loyal) community.

Here is not the place to discuss how to build a community around your brand (check The Truly Monumental Guide to Building Online Communities by Mack Web Solutions for more on that), but if you are creating a Q&A section you must think at it as a product. Hence, first you must conduct an audience analysis, define the personas that you want to target with the Q&A, and from there, build the architecture of the section and shape its voice.

Moz doesn’t have this problem, as it has one of biggest and more loyal communities in its niche. Nevertheless, even if I am sure that Moz has portrayed what kind of personas are using its Q&A well, I tend to believe that this section of the Moz site has been designed more for marketers with at least a minimum of experience in the use of forums than it was for marketing newbies.

A very brief history of the Moz Q&A

The Q&A section was created in 2007 as a a Freemium feature. Only Pro subscribers could ask a limited number of questions per month to SEOmoz, but everybody (if the question wasn’t labeled as “private”) could read the Q&A.

In 2012, Moz revamped the Q&A section, eliminating the “private” questions and opening it to everybody, also introducing gamification rules (the “500 thumbs up rule”) which:

  1. From one side can help fighting forum spam;
  2. Push people to be proactive on the site and in the Q&A in order to fully participate in the community.

What didn’t really change was the architecture of the Q&A itself, which is partly still operating.

From the image above, apart from the funny Roger image, we can see how the categories were very broad back in 2012. That gave way to the more detailed architecture we see today.

First commandment: Strive for a perfect Q&A IA and navigation

Choosing a very broad architecture, especially in Q&As and Forums, can be a great idea in order:

  1. To avoid thin categories;
  2. To avoid “too many choices angst” (a syndrome caused also by eCommerce mega-menus).

But it also has some risks, such as:

  1. Difficulties in extracting unique valuable data;
  2. Too broad of categories may risk looking very similar, especially to a non-expert audience (i.e.: “Technical SEO Issues” and “On Page/Site Optimization”).

The two issues listed above can be enhanced, then, by offering Q&A users the ability to enter their questions in up to a maximum of five categories, also in different topical areas.

This freedom, however, is:

  1. Making it difficult to attribute a question to only one topic when it comes to data analysis;
  2. Maybe contributing to the confusion the question askers may already have.

Hey Gianluca, weren’t you saying Moz Q&A was broad? Here I see a complex taxonomy!

Yes! The Moz Q&A has evolved through the years for the better, and the taxonomy used right now is very clear (check it out by trying to ask a question), but it still has issues, especially from a navigation point of view.

For instance, when we enter the Q&A home page we see by default the latest-submitted questions, but if we want to restrict our search, we may have a panic attack, because we can choose between 45 categories, and many appear to be very similar.

Too much freedom is not freedom, therefore: When offering users navigation through a taxonomy, it is always better to funnel them from broad to a more detailed offering, using both contextual menus and a way to go back in the architecture navigation.

Unfortunately, the Moz Q&A lacks both:

  1. Because the main categories of the Q&A, i.e. “Moz Resources” or “Online Marketing,” are virtual and not made explicit with a real category page, the possibility of creating contextual menus is substantially hindered;
  2. Because the Q&A section doesn’t include a breadcrumb navigation (the lack of which is probably not helping Googlebot in easily understanding the section’s information architecture). 

Avoid confusion between categories and tags

In the recent past there was a sort of “anti-tags” crusade, especially in the blogging world.

This can be attributed to the misuse of tagging, which is usually considered to be a synonym of categorizing things, when the two in reality have a very different nature:

  1. A category is that ontology value that include everything related to a specific topic. For instance, under the category “Link Building” we can find questions about broken link building, guest blogging, news syndication, image link attribution et al;
  2. A tag is that transversal taxonomy value that reunites under its label questions from different categories, which share a same topic. For instance a tag “infographics” could be attached to questions that have been listed in different categories like Web Design, Technical SEO, Link Building and Content/Blogging.

If used well, then, tags can really improve the usability of a Q&A site:

  1. Helping the asker specifying even better the nature of its question;
  2. Help the Q&A community members (and the casual visitors, who are not into the Q&A niche jargon) in following only those specific topics about which they are interested.

From an SEO point of view, then, a well thought-out tagging system (which includes both a suggested tag engine and, ideally, a semantic tagging consolidation engine, and takes into account the duplicated content issue) can help the Q&A site become visible to an even greater set of queries, thanks especially to the semantic topical nature of the Tags’ pages.

Use category pages as topical hubs

When it comes to category pages, Q&As (and Forums in general) may present us some of the same uncertainties that categories in classified ads or eCommerce sites present, the main one being related to the weight we want to give to category pages in relation to the pages of the questions themselves.

In the case of Moz (just speculating here, now) the doubt was certainly greater, because the Moz Blog’s categories tend to overlap those of the Q&A section. This is immediately understandable if we look at the “link building” topic, which is both a Q&A and a Blog category (also because the Q&A categorization was modeled after that of the Blog, which came first).

In this case, Moz has decided that the blog is its main content asset (and has been since the beginning), and therefore the blog categories should have priority. They acted in order to have them ranking over the Q&A’s. And it did well.

But we could choose to follow the opposite path, using Q&A as the main content asset and, therefore, using its categories and sub-categories pages as “topical hubs.”

The concept of the topical hub is becoming more important every day, because of the evolution of Google itself and its shift to semantics and “understanding things” as opposed to simply indexing pages.

A topical hub, to be clear, is a page where people interested in a topic can start their research and navigation about the topic and its subtopics. They find relevant content about the topic itself, and these pages are some of the most important landing pages from an organic search perspective. 

A topical hub, in the case of a Q&A category and tag page, should therefore evolve from being a simple paginated list of questions. It should move from being a transition page to become a full ”reference page”.

What are the elements of a topical hub?

  1. A clear description of what the topic the hub is about. It seems a bit “old-school” SEO, but it really isn’t. In Q&A sites, then, it has the particular function of confirming for people that they have landed on the correct page, which is both good for them and for those of us administering the Q&A. For instance, the category labeled ”Reporting” in the Moz Q&A is quite confusing, as many people refer to it thinking about their Moz Analytics reports (with essentially support-related questions), and not about reporting in the broader sense.
  2. The list of questions, with the visualization options you may desire to offer depending on the priorities you have assigned to the Q&A itself;
  3. Contextual menu, in order to create relations between sister categories;
  4. Tags menu, in order to create relations with transversal topics (also helping facilitate the crawling of questions pertaining to separate categories);
  5. Contextual related content. In the case of Moz, contextual content can be:
    1. Related educational content from Moz Academy;
    2. Related webinars;
    3. Related posts or post categories from the main blog and YouMoz.

Moz should suggest the Link Building Moz Academy videos in its Link Building category page in Q&A.

Help your analysts, empower your moderators

As we have seen, every Moz subscriber can include a question in up to five categories. Even though this is great for the users, from an analysis point of view it can make collecting insights quite difficult.

For instance, when I was analyzing one year of Moz Q&As, it was very hard to understand which category to attributing the main value to, because the large majority of the questions had been associated with more than one category (many in all the five categories allowed).

For this reason, apart from creating a tag system, it would be a wise idea to empower the moderators so that they can eventually place a question in a better-suited category and/or eliminate a question from an inappropriate or inconsistent category.

(Re)discover the importance of internal search

Internal search is the secret feature that makes sites with a massive amount of content stand out and be loved by their users.

It’s obviously not the only one, but when we think of sites like Amazon, Zillow, Tripadvisor, or Yelp, we can easily understand how internal search plays a major role in how a user of those sites is satisfied. 

For that same reason, a certain specialization within SEO (one which is becoming more and more important) is what can be defined as Vertical Search Engine Optimization, meaning optimizing for the internal search algorithms of sites like the ones I just mentioned.

A Q&A site’s internal search, then, is essential for:

  1. Helping users find questions for which they seek the answers; and
  2. Limiting the creation of substantially duplicated content, with all the administrative loss of time it may cause.

We should not forget, finally, how the analysis of internal searches can help us re-discover a big percentage of the keywords Google hides behind the (not provided) wall.

If you have a small Q&A site, maybe the best solution is to rely on the Custom Search Engine offered by Google, which is also relatively easy to connect to Google Analytics

But if you have a big Q&A site, then Google CSE may be not enough. In that case, even if there exist third-party commercial solutions, creating a native internal search algorithm is the best choice.

This is the path Moz followed, but is its algorithm a good one? It is not bad, but it could be improved.

In fact, when we perform an internal search (try “how to use hreflang?”), the internal SERP offered is not really the best one:

The first-ranking question is dated 2012; the second and fourth have responses, but are still tagged as not answered. The best question is ranking third.

Sure, Moz’s internal search allows us to refine our searches using advanced filters (for instance, searching for questions similar to ours in a determined category), but still, that should be an option, not a necessity.

So, what should the ranking factors be in a vertical Q&A search algorithm like the one Moz uses? Here are some suggestions:

  • The presence of keywords in the question title;
  • The presence of keywords in the question body;
  • The presence of keywords in the answers. For instance, “hreflang” may not be present in the question itself, but may be present in one or more responses, which means the question can be relevant for the user’s query;
  • The presence of one or more “Good Answers.” Good Answers are those that, in the Moz Q&A system, earn 3 or more thumbs up or are defined as such by a Q&A moderator. Clearly, a question with one or more good answers deserves better visibility in an internal SERP;
  • The presence of one or more “Staff Endorsements.” When an answer is particularly good, moderators may endorse it, giving it a bigger value than simple answers or even ”Good Answers.” This should be the equivalent of links in the case of Moz Q&A :-) ;
  • Tbe freshness of the question. The reason is obvious: Questions, especially in inbound marketing, tend to become obsolete after a short time (but, remember, there are important exceptions). Therefore, showing the questions that match all the previous factors and that are also fresh as ranking first should be the rule.

Don’t forget the “suggested question” feature

Somehow related to the internal search algorithm issue, we can also find the “suggested question” issue.

This is something Quora was quite able to solve:

When someone is writing a question, Quora interprets the question they are writing (not always very well, to be honest) and presents the asker a list of already-answered questions that might solve the one they are about to ask. If the questions presented are not satisfying the user, they can still proceed to post their own question.

This feature is very helpful, again, for preventing the Q&A from being flooded with very similar questions, which is both useless for the users and the Q&A site itself (not to mention that it could be a potentially substantial duplicate content generator).

Pay attention to design changes

When I started analyzing the more than 20,000 questions users posted in Moz’s Q&A between May 2013 and April 2014, the first thing I noticed was an large decline in the number of questions posted after May 2013.

We must remember that one year ago this site rebranded from SEOmoz to Moz.

At first, then, I thought that the fall in the Q&A postings was due to some SEO factors. But, after sharing this insight and discussing it with the Moz marketing team, I focused on the re-design of the site as the potential reason for that drop.

In fact, if we look how the SEOmoz.org menu was, we will see that the Internal Q&A link was easily reachable by the users from the main menu:

In the Moz.com site, the link to the Moz Q&A can be discovered and clicked only if we first click on “Community,” opening the community hub page, and then click on Q&A.

Just moving the internal link away from the main menu may have caused the drop in posts.

What’s in the second part of this post?

This is the end of the fist part of this “Auditing the Moz Q&A” mini-series.

In the second part we will have a lot of fun, because analyzing 20,000+ questions can really offer us a realistic portrait of our industry’s fears, hopes, and trends.

I want to leave you with a teaser:

The Moz community has an obsession, and it’s not cats, sex, or whatever: It’s Google.

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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