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Spectator to Partner: Turn Your Clients into SEO Allies – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by KameronJenkins

Are your clients your allies in SEO, or are they passive spectators? Could they even be inadvertently working against you? A better understanding of expectations, goals, and strategy by everyone involved can improve your client relations, provide extra clarity, and reduce the number of times you’re asked to “just SEO a site.” In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Kameron Jenkins outlines tactics you should know for getting clients and bosses excited about the SEO journey, as well as the risks involved in passivity.

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

Video Transcription

Hey, everyone, and welcome to this week’s edition of Whiteboard Friday. I am Kameron Jenkins, and I’m the SEO Wordsmith here at Moz. Today I’m going to be talking with you about how to turn your clients from spectators, passive spectators to someone who is proactively interested and an ally in your SEO journey.

So if you’ve ever heard someone come to you, maybe it’s a client or maybe you’re in-house and this is your boss saying this, and they say, “Just SEO my site,” then this is definitely for you. A lot of times it can be really hard as an SEO to work on a site if you really aren’t familiar with the business, what that client is doing, what they’re all about, what their goals are. So I’m going to share with you some tactics for getting your clients and your boss excited about SEO and excited about the work that you’re doing and some risks that can happen when you don’t do that.

Tactics

So let’s dive right in. All right, first we’re going to talk about tactics.

1. Share news

The first tactic is to share news. In the SEO industry, things are changing all the time, so it’s actually a really great tactic to keep yourself informed, but also to share that news with the client. So here’s an example. Google My Business is now experimenting with a new video format for their post feature. So one thing that you can do is say, “Hey, client, I hear that Google is experimenting with this new format. They’re using videos now. Would you like to try it?”

So that’s really cool because it shows them that you’re on top of things. It shows them that you’re the expert and you’re keeping your finger on the pulse of the industry. It also tells them that they’re going to be a part of this new, cutting-edge technology, and that can get them really, really excited about the SEO work you’re doing. So make sure to share news. I think that can be really, really valuable.

2. Outline your work

The next tip is to outline your work. This one seems really simple, but there is so much to say for telling a client what you’re going to do, doing it, and then telling them that you did it. It’s amazing what can happen when you just communicate with a client more. There have been plenty of situations where maybe I did less tangible work for a client one week, but because I talk to them more, they were more inclined to be happy with me and excited about the work I was doing.

It’s also cool because when you tell a client ahead of time what you’re going to do, it gives them time to get excited about, “Ooh, I can’t wait to see what he or she is going to do next.” So that’s a really good tip for getting your clients excited about SEO.

3. Report results

Another thing is to report on your results. So, as SEOs, it can be really easy to say, hey, I added this page or I fixed these things or I updated this.

But if we detach it from the actual results, it doesn’t really matter how much a client likes you or how much your boss likes you, there’s always a risk that they could pull the plug on SEO because they just don’t see the value that’s coming from it. So that’s an unfortunate reality, but there are tons of ways that you can show the value of SEO. One example is, “Hey, client, remember that page that we identified that was ranking on page two. We improved it. We made all of those updates we talked about, and now it’s ranking on page one. So that’s really exciting. We’re seeing a lot of new traffic come from it.I’m wondering, are you seeing new calls, new leads, an uptick in any of those things as a result of that?”

So that’s really good because it shows them what you did, the results from that, and then it kind of connects it to, “Hey, are you seeing any revenue, are you seeing new clients, new customers,” things like that. So they’re more inclined to see that what you’re doing is making a real, tangible impact on actual revenue and their actual business goals.

4. Acknowledge and guide their ideas

This one is really, really important. It can be hard sometimes to marry best practices and customer service. So what I mean by that is there’s one end of the pendulum where you are really focused on best practices. This is right. This is wrong. I know my SEO stuff. So when a client comes to you and they say, “Hey, can we try this?” and you go, “No, that’s not best practices,”it can kind of shut them down. It doesn’t get them involved in the SEO process. In fact, it just kind of makes them recoil and maybe they don’t want to talk to you, and that’s the exact opposite of what we want here. On the other end of that spectrum though, you have clients who say, “Hey, I really want to try this.I saw this article. I’m interested in this thing. Can you do it for my website?”

Maybe it’s not the greatest idea SEO-wise. You’re the SEO expert, and you see that and you go, “Mm, that’s actually kind of scary. I don’t think I want to do that.” But because you’re so focused on pleasing your client, you maybe do it anyway. So that’s the opposite of what we want as well. We want to have a “no, but” mentality. So an example of that could be your client emails in and says, “Hey, I want to try this new thing.”

You go, “Hey, I really like where your head is at. I like that you’re thinking about things this way. I’m so glad you shared this with me. I tried this related thing before, and I think that would be actually a really good idea to employ on your website.” So kind of shifting the conversation, but still bringing them along with you for that journey and guiding them to the correct conclusions. So that’s another way to get them invested without shying them away from the SEO process.

Risks

So now that we’ve talked about those tactics, we’re going to move on to the risks. These are things that could happen if you don’t get your clients excited and invested in the SEO journey.

1. SEO becomes a checklist

When you don’t know your client well enough to know what they’re doing in the real world, what they’re all about, the risk becomes you have to kind of just do site health stuff, so fiddling with meta tags, maybe you’re changing some paragraphs around, maybe you’re changing H1s, fixing 404s, things like that, things that are just objectively, “I can make this change, and I know it’s good for site health.”

But it’s not proactive. It’s not actually doing any SEO strategies. It’s just cleanup work. If you just focus on cleanup work, that’s really not an SEO strategy. That’s just making sure your site isn’t broken. As we all know, you need so much more than that to make sure that your client’s site is ranking. So that’s a risk.

If you don’t know your clients, if they’re not talking to you, or they’re not excited about SEO, then really all you’re left to do is fiddle with kind of technical stuff. As good as that can be to do, our jobs are way more fun than that. So communicate with your clients. Get them on board so that you can do proactive stuff and not just fiddling with little stuff.

2. SEO conflicts with business goals

So another risk is that SEO can conflict with business goals.

So say that you’re an SEO. Your client is not talking to you. They’re not really excited about stuff that you’re doing. But you decide to move forward with proactive strategies anyway. So say I’m an SEO, and I identify this keyword. My client has this keyword. This is a related keyword. It can bring in a lot of good traffic. I’ve identified this good opportunity. All of the pages that are ranking on page one, they’re not even that good. I could totally do better. So I’m going to proactively go, I’m going to build this page of content and put it on my client’s site. Then what happens when they see that page of content and they go, “We don’t even do that. We don’t offer that product. We don’t offer that service.”

Oops. So that’s really bad. What can happen is that, yes, you’re being proactive, and that’s great. But if you don’t actually know what your client is doing, because they’re not communicating with you, they’re not really excited, you risk misaligning with their business goals and misrepresenting them. So that’s a definite risk.

3. You miss out on PR opportunities

Another thing, you miss out on PR opportunities. So again, if your client is not talking to you, they’re not excited enough to share what they’re doing in the real world with you, you miss out on news like, “Hey, we’re sponsoring this event,”or, “Hey, I was the featured expert on last night’s news.”

Those are all really, really good things that SEOs look for. We crave that information. We can totally use that to capitalize on it for SEO value. If we’re not getting that from our clients, then we miss out on all those really, really cool PR opportunities. So a definite risk. We want those PR opportunities. We want to be able to use them.

4. Client controls the conversation

Next up, client controls the conversation. That’s a definite risk that can happen. So if a client is not talking to you, a reason could be they don’t really trust you yet. When they don’t trust you, they tend to start to dictate. So maybe our client emails in.

A good example of this is, “Hey, add these 10 backlinks to my website.” Or, “Hey, I need these five pages, and I need them now.” Maybe they’re not even actually bad suggestions. It’s just the fact that the client is asking you to do that. So this is kind of tricky, because you want to communicate with your client. It’s good that they’re emailing in, but they’re the ones at that point that are dictating the strategy. Whereas they should be communicating their vision, so hey, as a business owner, as a website owner, “This is my vision. This is my goal, and this is what I want.”

As the SEO professional, you’re receiving that information and taking it and making it into an SEO strategy that can actually be really, really beneficial for the client. So there’s a huge difference between just being a task monkey and kind of transforming their vision into an SEO strategy that can really, really work for them. So that’s a definite risk that can happen.

Excitement + partnership = better SEO campaigns

There’s a lot of different things that can happen. These are just some examples of tactics that you can use and risks. If you have any examples of things that have worked for you in the past, I would love to hear about them. It’s really good to information share. Success stories where maybe you got your client or your boss really bought into SEO, more so than just, “Hey, I’m spending money on it.”

But, “Hey, I’m your partner in this. I’m your ally, and I’m going to give you all the information because I know that it’s going to be mutually beneficial for us.” So at the end here, excitement, partner, better SEO campaigns. This is going to be I believe a recipe for success to get your clients and your boss on board. Thanks again so much for watching this edition of Whiteboard Friday, and come back next week for another one.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Become a Writing Champion by Turning the Hard Stuff into a Game

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A Look Back at a Great 2017: 5 Major Moz Product Investments and a Sneak Peek Into 2018

Posted by adamf

It’s hard to believe that 2017 is already past. We entered the year with big ambitions and we’ve made some great strides. As has become tradition, I’ve compiled a rundown of some of the most interesting updates that you may have seen (or missed) this past year. We’ve intentionally focused on significant product updates, but I’ve also shared a little about some newer programs that provide value for customers in different ways.

TL;DR, here are some of the larger and more interesting additions to Moz in 2017:

  1. Keywords by Site: Keyword Explorer adds site-based keyword research and competitive intelligence
  2. Site Crawl V2: Overhauled Site Crawl for better auditing and workflow
  3. Major investments in infrastructure: Better performance and resilience across the Moz toolset
  4. New instructor-led training programs: Targeted classes to level-up your SEO knowledge
  5. Customer Success: Custom walkthroughs to help you get the most out of Moz
  6. Bonus! MozPod: Moz’s new free podcast keeps you up to date on the latest industry topics and trends

Big updates

This year and last, we’ve been spending a disproportionate focus on releasing large infrastructural improvements, new datasets, and foundational product updates. We feel these are crucial elements that serve the core needs of SEOs and will fuel frequent improvements and iterations for years to come.

To kick things off, I wanted to share some details about two big updates from 2017.


1) Keywords by Site: Leveling up keyword research and intelligence

Rank tracking provides useful benchmarks and insights for specific, targeted keywords, but you can’t track all of the keywords that are relevant to you. Sometimes you need a broader look at how visible your sites (and your competitors’ sites) are in Google results.

We built Keywords by Site to provide this powerful view into your Google presence. This brand-new dataset in Moz significantly extends Keyword Explorer and improves the quality of results in many other areas throughout Moz Pro. Our US corpus currently includes 40 million Google SERPs updated every two weeks, and allows you to do the following:

See how visible your site is in Google results

This view not only shows how authoritative a site is from a linking perspective, but also shows how prominent a site is in Google search results.

Compare your ranking prominence to your competitors

Compare up to three sites to get a feel for their relative scale of visibility and keyword ranking overlap. Click on any section in the Venn diagram to view the keywords that fall into that section.

Dig deep: Sort, filter, and find opportunities, then stash them in keyword lists

For example, let’s say you’re looking to determine which pages or content on your site might only require a little nudge to garner meaningful search visibility and traffic. Run a report for your site in Keyword Explorer and then use the filters to quickly hone in on these opportunities:

Our focus on data quality

We’ve made a few decisions to help ensure the freshness and accuracy of our keyword corpus. These extend the cost and work to maintain this dataset, but we feel they make a discernible difference in quality.

  • We recollect all of our keyword data every 2 weeks. This means that the results you see are more recent and more similar to the results on the day that you’re researching.
  • We cycle up to 15 million of our keywords out on a monthly basis. This means that as new keywords or terms trend up in popularity, we add them to our corpus, replacing terms that are no longer getting much search volume.

A few improvements we’ve made since launch:

  • Keyword recommendations in your campaigns (tracked sites) are much improved and now backed by our keyword corpus.
  • These keyword suggestions are also included in your weekly insights, suggesting new keywords worth tracking and pages worth optimizing.
  • Coming very soon: We’re also on the cusp of launching keyword corpuses for the UK, Canada, and Australia. Stay tuned.

A few resources to help you get more from Keywords by Site:

Try out Keywords by Site!


2) Site Crawl V2: Big enhancements to site crawling and auditing

Another significant project we completed in 2017 was a complete rewrite of our aging Site Crawler. In short, our new crawler is faster, more reliable, can crawl more pages, and surfaces more issues. We’ve also made some enhancements to the workflow, to make regular crawls more customizable and easy to manage. Here are a few highlights:

Week-over-week crawl comparisons

Our new crawler keeps tabs on what happened in your previous crawl to show you which specific issues are no longer present, and which are brand new.

Ignore (to hide) individual issues or whole issue types

This feature was added in response to a bunch of customer requests. While Moz does its best to call out the issues and priorities that apply to most sites, not all sites or SEOs have the same needs. For example, if you regularly noindex a big portion of your site, you don’t need us to keep reminding you that you’ve applied noindex to a huge number of pages. If you don’t want them showing your reports, just ignore individual issues or the entire issue type.

Another workflow improvement we added was the ability to mark an issue as fixed. This allows you to get it out of your way until the next crawl runs and verifies the fix.

All Pages view with improved sorting and filtering

If you’re prioritizing across a large number of pages or trying to track down an issue in a certain area of your site, you can now sort all pages crawled by Issue Count, Page Authority, or Crawl Depth. You can also filter to show, for instance, all pages in the /blog section of my site that are redirects, and have a crawl issue.

Recrawl to verify fixes

Moz’s crawler monitors your site by crawling it every week. But if you’ve made some changes and want to verify them, you can now recrawl your site in between regular weekly crawls instead of waiting for the next crawl the start.

Seven new issues checked and tracked

These include such favorites as detecting Thin Content, Redirect Chains, and Slow Pages. While we were at it, we revamped duplicate page detection and improved the UI to help you better analyze clusters of duplicate content and figure out which page should be canonical.

A few resources to help you get more from Site Crawl:


3) Major investments in infrastructure for performance and resilience

You may not have directly noticed many of the updates we’ve made this year. We made some significant investments in Moz Pro and Moz Local to make them faster, more reliable, and allow us to build new features more quickly. But here are a few tangible manifestations of these efforts:

“Infinite” history on organic Moz Pro search traffic reports

Okay, infinite is a bit of a stretch, but we used to only show the last 12 months or weeks of data. Now we’ll show data from the very inception of a campaign, broken down by weeks or months. This is made possible by an updated architecture that makes full historical data easy to surface and present in the application. It also allows for custom access to selected date ranges.

Also worth noting is that the new visualization shows how many different pages were receiving organic search traffic in context with total organic search traffic. This can help you figure out whether traffic increase was due to improved rankings across many pages, or just a spike in organic traffic for one or a few pages.

More timely and reliable access to Moz Local data at all scales

As Moz Local has brought on more and bigger customers with large numbers of locations, the team discovered a need to bolster systems for speed and reliability. A completely rebuilt scheduling system and improved core location data systems help ensure all of your data is collected and easy to access when you need it.

Improved local data distribution

Moz Local distributes your location data through myriad partners, each of which have their own formats and interfaces. The Local team updated and fine-tuned those third-party connections to improve the quality of the data and speed of distribution.


4) New instructor-led training programs: Never stop learning

Not all of our improvements this year have shown up in the product. Another investment we’ve made is in training. We’ve gotten a lot of requests for this over the years and are finally delivering. Brian Childs, our trainer extraordinaire, has built this program from the ground up. It includes:

  • Boot camps to build up core skills
  • Advanced Seminars to dig into more intensive topics
  • Custom Training for businesses that want a more tailored approach

We have even more ambitious plans for 2018, so if training interests you, check out all of our training offerings here.


5) Customer Success: Helping customers get the most out of Moz

Our customer success program took off this year and has one core purpose: to help customers get maximum value from Moz. Whether you’re a long-time customer looking to explore new features or you’re brand new to Moz and figuring out how to get started, our success team offers product webinars every week, as well as one-on-one product walkthroughs tailored to your needs, interests, and experience level.

The US members of our customer success team hone their skills at a local chocolate factory (Not pictured: our fantastic team members in the UK, Australia, and Dubai)

If you want to learn more about Moz Pro, check out a webinar or schedule a walkthrough.


Bonus! MozPod: Moz’s new free podcast made its debut

Okay, this really strays from product news, but another fun project that’s been gaining momentum is MozPod. This came about as a side passion project by our ever-ambitious head trainer. Lord knows that SEO and digital marketing are fast-moving and ever-changing; to help you keep up on hot topics and new developments, we’ve started the Mozpod. This podcast covers a range of topics, drawing from the brains of key folks in the industry. With topics ranging from structured data and app store optimization to machine learning and even blockchain, there’s always something interesting to learn about. If you’ve got an idea for an episode or a topic you’d like to hear about, submit it here.

Join Brian every week for a new topic and guest:


What’s next?

We have a lot planned for 2018 — probably way too much. But one thing I can promise is that it won’t be a dull year. I prefer not to get too specific about projects that we’ve not yet started, but here are a few things already in the works:

  • A significant upgrade to our link data and toolset
  • On-demand Site Crawl
  • Added keyword research corpuses for the UK, Australia, and Canada
  • Expanded distribution channels for local to include Facebook, Waze, and Uber
  • More measurement and analytics features around local rankings, categories, & keywords
  • Verticalized solutions to address specific local search needs in the restaurant, hospitality, financial, legal, & medical sectors

On top of these and many other features we’re considering, we also plan to make it a lot easier for you to use our products. Right now, we know it can be a bit disjointed within and between products. We plan to change that.

We’ve also waited too long to solve for some specific needs of our agency customers. We’re prioritizing some key projects that’ll make their jobs easier and their relationships with Moz more valuable.


Thank you!

Before I go, I just want to thank you all for sharing your support, suggestions, and critical feedback. We strive to build the best SEO data and platform for our diverse and passionate customers. We could not succeed without you. If you’d like to be a part of making Moz a better platform, please let us know. We often reach out to customers and community members for feedback and insight, so if you’re the type who likes to participate in user research studies, customer interviews, beta tests, or surveys, please volunteer here.

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There’s Treasure Everywhere: Turning waste into profit

Throughout history, curious business people have launched entirely new companies off their company’s waste. Read on to learn how you can you find similar waste-to-winning opportunities.
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An Investigation Into Google’s Maccabees Update

Posted by Dom-Woodman

December brought us the latest piece of algorithm update fun. Google rolled out an update which was quickly named the Maccabees update and the articles began rolling in (SEJ , SER).

The webmaster complaints began to come in thick and fast, and I began my normal plan of action: to sit back, relax, and laugh at all the people who have built bad links, spun out low-quality content, or picked a business model that Google has a grudge against (hello, affiliates).

Then I checked one of my sites and saw I’d been hit by it.

Hmm.

Time to check the obvious

I didn’t have access to a lot of sites that were hit by the Maccabees update, but I do have access to a relatively large number of sites, allowing me to try to identify some patterns and work out what was going on. Full disclaimer: This is a relatively large investigation of a single site; it might not generalize out to your own site.

My first point of call was to verify that there weren’t any really obvious issues, the kind which Google hasn’t looked kindly on in the past. This isn’t any sort of official list; it’s more of an internal set of things that I go and check when things go wrong, and badly.

Dodgy links & thin content

I know the site well, so I could rule out dodgy links and serious thin content problems pretty quickly.

(For those of you who’d like some pointers on the kinds of things to check for, follow this link down to the appendix! There’ll be one for each section.)

Index bloat

Index bloat is where a website has managed to accidentally get a large number of non-valuable pages into Google. It can be sign of crawling issues, cannabalization issues, or thin content problems.

Did I call the thin content problem too soon? I did actually have some pretty severe index bloat. The site which had been hit worst by this had the following indexed URLs graph:

However, I’d actually seen that step function-esque index bloat on a couple other client sites, who hadn’t been hit by this update.

In both cases, we’d spent a reasonable amount of time trying to work out why this had happened and where it was happening, but after a lot of log file analysis and Google site: searches, nothing insightful came out of it.

The best guess we ended up with was that Google had changed how they measured indexed URLs. Perhaps it now includes URLs with a non-200 status until they stop checking them? Perhaps it now includes images and other static files, and wasn’t counting them previously?

I haven’t seen any evidence that it’s related to m. URLs or actual index bloat — I’m interested to hear people’s experiences, but in this case I chalked it up as not relevant.

Appendix help link

Poor user experience/slow site

Nope, not the case either. Could it be faster or more user-friendly? Absolutely. Most sites can, but I’d still rate the site as good.

Appendix help link

Overbearing ads or monetization?

Nope, no ads at all.

Appendix help link

The immediate sanity checklist turned up nothing useful, so where to turn next for clues?

Internet theories

Time to plow through various theories on the Internet:

  1. The Maccabees update is mobile-first related
    • Nope, nothing here; it’s a mobile-friendly responsive site. (Both of these first points are summarized here.)
  2. E-commerce/affiliate related
    • I’ve seen this one batted around as well, but neither applied in this case, as the site was neither.
  3. Sites targeting keyword permutations
    • I saw this one from Barry Schwartz; this is the one which comes closest to applying. The site didn’t have a vast number of combination landing pages (for example, one for every single combination of dress size and color), but it does have a lot of user-generated content.

Nothing conclusive here either; time to look at some more data.

Working through Search Console data

We’ve been storing all our search console data in Google’s cloud-based data analytics tool BigQuery for some time, which gives me the luxury of immediately being able to pull out a table and see all the keywords which have dropped.

There were a couple keyword permutations/themes which were particularly badly hit, and I started digging into them. One of the joys of having all the data in a table is that you can do things like plot the rank of each page that ranks for a single keyword over time.

And this finally got me something useful.

The yellow line is the page I want to rank and the page which I’ve seen the best user results from (i.e. lower bounce rates, more pages per session, etc.):

Another example: again, the yellow line represents the page that should be ranking correctly.

In all the cases I found, my primary landing page — which had previously ranked consistently — was now being cannabalized by articles I’d written on the same topic or by user-generated content.

Are you sure it’s a Google update?

You can never be 100% sure, but I haven’t made any changes to this area for several months, so I wouldn’t expect it to be due to recent changes, or delayed changes coming through. The site had recently migrated to HTTPS, but saw no traffic fluctuations around that time.

Currently, I don’t have anything else to attribute this to but the update.

How am I trying to fix this?

The ideal fix would be the one that gets me all my traffic back. But that’s a little more subjective than “I want the correct page to rank for the correct keyword,” so instead that’s what I’m aiming for here.

And of course the crucial word in all this is “trying”; I’ve only started making these changes recently, and the jury is still out on if any of it will work.

No-indexing the user generated content

This one seems like a bit of no-brainer. They bring an incredibly small percentage of traffic anyway, which then performs worse than if users land on a proper landing page.

I liked having them indexed because they would occasionally start ranking for some keyword ideas I’d never have tried by myself, which I could then migrate to the landing pages. But this was a relatively low occurrence and on-balance perhaps not worth doing any more, if I’m going to suffer cannabalization on my main pages.

Making better use of the Schema.org “About” property

I’ve been waiting a while for a compelling place to give this idea a shot.

Broadly, you can sum it up as using the About property pointing back to multiple authoritative sources (like Wikidata, Wikipedia, Dbpedia, etc.) in order to help Google better understand your content.

For example, you might add the following JSON to an article an about Donald Trump’s inauguration.

[
          {
            "@type": "Person",
            "name": "President-elect Donald Trump",
            "sameAs": [
              "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki\Donald_Trump",
              "http://dbpedia.org/page/Donald_Trump",
              "https://www.wikidata.org/wiki/Q22686"
            ]
          },
          {
            "@type": "Thing",
            "name": "US",
            "sameAs": [
              "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States",
              "http://dbpedia.org/page/United_States",
              "https://www.wikidata.org/wiki/Q30"
            ]
          },
          {
            "@type": "Thing",
            "name": "Inauguration Day",
            "sameAs": [
              "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_inauguration",
              "http://dbpedia.org/page/United_States_presidential_inauguration",
              "https://www.wikidata.org/wiki/Q263233"
            ]
          }
        ]

The articles I’ve been having rank are often specific sub-articles about the larger topic, perhaps explicitly explaining them, which might help Google find better places to use them.

You should absolutely go and read this article/presentation by Jarno Van Driel, which is where I took this idea from.

Combining informational and transactional intents

Not quite sure how I feel about this one. I’ve seen a lot of it, usually where there exist two terms, one more transactional and one more informational. A site will put a large guide on the transactional page (often a category page) and then attempt to grab both at once.

This is where the lines started to blur. I had previously been on the side of having two pages, one to target the transactional and another to target the informational.

Currently beginning to consider whether or not this is the correct way to do it. I’ll probably try this again in a couple places and see how it plays out.

Final thoughts

I only got any insight into this problem because of storing Search Console data. I would absolutely recommend storing your Search Console data, so you can do this kind of investigation in the future. Currently I’d recommend paginating the API to get this data; it’s not perfect, but avoids many other difficulties. You can find a script to do that here (a fork of the previous Search Console script I’ve talked about) which I then use to dump into BigQuery. You should also check out Paul Shapiro and JR Oakes, who have both provided solutions that go a step further and also do the database saving.

My best guess at the moment for the Maccabees update is there has been some sort of weighting change which now values relevancy more highly and tests more pages which are possibly topically relevant. These new tested pages were notably less strong and seemed to perform as you would expect (less well), which seems to have led to my traffic drop.

Of course, this analysis is currently based off of a single site, so that conclusion might only apply to my site or not at all if there are multiple effects happening and I’m only seeing one of them.

Has anyone seen anything similar or done any deep diving into where this has happened on their site?


Appendix

Spotting thin content & dodgy links

For those of you who are looking at new sites, there are some quick ways to dig into this.

For dodgy links:

  • Take a look at something like Searchmetrics/SEMRush and see if they’ve had any previous penguin drops.
  • Take a look into tools Majestic and Ahrefs. You can often get this free, Majestic will give you all the links for your domain for example if you verify.

For spotting thin content:

  • Run a crawl
    • Take a look at anything with a short word count; let’s arbitrarily say less than 400 words.
    • Look for heavy repetition in titles or meta descriptions.
    • Use the tree view (that you can find on Screaming Frog, for example) and drill down into where it has found everything. This will quickly let you see if there are pages where you don’t expect there to be any.
    • See if the number of URLs found is notably different to the indexed URL report.
  • Soon you will be able to take a look at Google’s new index coverage report. (AJ Kohn has a nice writeup here).
  • Browse around with an SEO chrome plugin that will show indexation. (SEO Meta in 1 Click is helpful, I wrote Traffic Light SEO for this, doesn’t really matter what you use though.)

Index bloat

The only real place to spot index bloat is the indexed URLs report in Search Console. Debugging it however is hard, I would recommend a combination of log files, “site:” searches in Google, and sitemaps when attempting to diagnose this.

If you can get them, the log files will usually be the most insightful.

Poor user experience/slow site

This is a hard one to judge. Virtually every site has things you can class as a poor user experience.

If you don’t have access to any user research on the brand, I will go off my gut combined with a quick scan to compare to some competitors. I’m not looking for a perfect experience or anywhere close, I just want to not hate trying to use the website on the main templates which are exposed to search.

For speed, I tend to use WebPageTest as a super general rule of thumb. If the site loads below 3 seconds, I’m not worried; 3–6 I’m a little bit more nervous; anything over that, I’d take as being pretty bad.

I realize that’s not the most specific section and a lot of these checks do come from experience above everything else.

Overbearing ads or monetization?

Speaking of poor user experience, the most obvious one is to switch off whatever ad-block you’re running (or if it’s built into your browser, to switch to one without that feature) and try to use the site without it. For many sites, it will be clear cut. When it’s not, I’ll go off and seek other specific examples.

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Jump into a Creative and Productive New Year

Happy new year! I hope your holidays were good and that you’ve managed to re-find some semblance of your routine. (Or maybe even some cool new routines.) On Tuesday this week, Stefanie Flaxman gave us seven ideas for how to thrill your boss, editor, or clients with your writing professionalism. And on Wednesday, Brian Clark
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How Google Gives Us insight into Searcher Intent Through the Results – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

When Google isn’t quite sure what a searcher means just by their search query, the results (appropriately) cater to multiple possible meanings. Those SERPs, if we examine them carefully, are full of useful information. In this episode of Whiteboard Friday, Rand offers some real-world examples of what we can glean just by skimming the kinds of things Google decides are relevant.

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

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about how Google is giving us insight through their search results, their suggested searches, and their related searches into the intent that searchers have when they perform their query and how if we’re smart enough and we look closely and study well, we can actually get SEO and content opportunities out of this analysis.

So the way I thought I’d run this Whiteboard Friday is a little bit different than usual. Rather than being purely prescriptive, I thought I’d try and illustrate some actual results. I’ve pared them down a bit and removed the descriptions and taken some out, but to try and show the process of that.

Query 1: Damaged furniture

So here’s a query for damaged furniture. If I am trying to reach searchers for this query — let’s assume that I’m in the furniture business — I might see here that there are some ads up at the top, like this one from Wayfair, inexpensive furniture up to 70% off. I scroll through the organic results — Everyday Clearance Furniture Outlet, MyBobs.com, okay, that’s a local place here in Seattle, Seattle Furniture Repairs and Touchups. Okay, this is interesting. This is a different type of result, or it’s serving a different searcher intent. This is, “We will repair your furniture,” not, “We will sell you cheap, damaged furniture,” which these two are. Then How Stuff Works, which is saying, “We will show you how to repair wooden furniture.”

Now I scroll down even further and I get to the related searches — scratch and dent furniture near me, which suggests one of the intents absolutely behind this query is what Wayfair and My Bob’s are serving, which is cheap furniture, inexpensive furniture that’s been previously damaged in some way. Clearance Furniture Outlet, similar intent, Bob’s Discount Furniture Pit, I’m not totally sure about the pit naming convention, and then there are some queries that are similar to these other ones.

So here’s what’s happening. When you see search results like this, what you should pay close attention to is the intent to position ratio. Let’s say…

Intent A: I want to buy furniture

Intent B: I am looking to touch up or repair my furniture

Intent C: Show me how to do it myself

If you see more A’s ranking near the top, not in the advertising results, because those don’t need a very high click-through rate in order to exist. They can be at 1% or 2% and still do fine here. But if you see these higher up here, that is an indication that a higher percent of Google searchers are preferring or looking for this A intent stuff. You can apply this to any search that you look at.

Thus, if you are doing SEO or creating content to try and target a query, but the content you’re creating or the purpose you’re trying to serve is in the lower ranked stuff, you might be trapped in a world where you can’t rise any higher. Position four, maybe position three is the best you’re going to do because Google is always going to be serving the different intent, the intent that more of the searchers for this query are seeking out.

What’s also nice about this is if you perform this and you see a single intent being served throughout and a single intent in the related searches, you can guess that it’s probably going to be very difficult to change the searcher intent or to serve an entirely different searcher intent with that same query. You might need to look at different ones.

Query 2: E-commerce site design

All right. Next up, e-commerce site design. So an ad up here, again, from Shopify. This one is “Our e-commerce solution just works.” They’re trying to sell something. I’m going to go with they’re trying to sell you e-commerce site design.

Intent A: They are trying to sell you ecommerce design

Intent B: I am looking for successful e-commerce design inspiration/ideas

30 Beautiful and Creative E-commerce Website Designs, this is also from Shopify, because they just took my advice, well, okay, obviously they took my advice long before this Whiteboard Friday. But they’re ranking with exactly what we talked about in intent B, which was essentially, “Hey, I am looking for inspiration. I’m looking for ideas. I’m trying to figure out what my e-commerce website should look like or what designs are successful.” You can see that again — intent B. So what’s ranking higher here? It’s not the serve the purchase intent. It’s serve the examples intent.

When we get to related searches, you see that again, e-commerce website examples, top e-commerce websites, best e-commerce sites 2016, these are all intent B. If you’re trying to serve intent A, you better advertise, because ranking in the top results here is just not going to happen. That’s not what searchers are seeking. It’s going to be very, very tough.

Slight side note:

Whenever you see this, this late in the year, we’re in October right now as we’re filming this Whiteboard Friday. I did this search today, and I saw Best E-commerce Sites 2016 still in here. That suggests to me that there were a lot more people searching for it last year than there are this year. You will see there’s like the same thing for 2017 down below, but it’s lower in the related searches. It doesn’t have as much volume. Again, that suggests to me it’s on a downward trend. You can double-check that in Google trends, but good to pay attention to. Okay, side note over.

Query 3: Halloween laboratory props

Let’s move on to our last example here, Halloween laboratory props. So Halloween is coming up. Lots and lots of people looking for laboratory props and props and costumes and decorations of all kinds. There’s a huge business around this, especially in the United States and emerging in the United Kingdom and Australia and other places.

So, up at the top, Google is showing us ads. They are showing us the shopping ads, shop for Halloween laboratory props, and they’ve got some chemistry sets and a Frankenstein-style light switch that you can buy and some radioactive props and that kind of thing from Target, Etsy, and Oriental Trading Company.

Then they show images, which is not surprising. But hot tip, if you see images ranking in the top of the organic results, you should absolutely be doing image SEO. This is a clear indication that a lot of the searchers want images. That means Google Images is probably getting a significant portion of the search volume. When I see this up here, my guess is always it’s going to be 20% plus of searchers are going to the image results rather than the organic search results, and ranking here is often way easier than ranking here.

More interesting things happening next. This result is from Pinterest, “Best 25 Mad Scientist Lab Ideas on Pinterest,” “913 Best Laboratory, Frankenstein, Haunt Ideas Images on Pinterest,” “DIY Mad Scientist Lab Prop on Pinterest.” By the way, there’s a video segment in here, which is all YouTube. This happens quite a bit when there is heavy, heavy visual content. You essentially see the domain crowding single-domain domination of search results. What does that mean? Don’t do SEO on your site, or fine, do it on your site, but also do it on Pinterest and also do it on YouTube.

If you’re creating content like these guys are over here, BigCommerce and Shopify created these great pieces for beautiful ecommerce designs, they’ve put together a ton of images, wonderful. You can apply that same strategy for this. But then what should you do? Go to Pinterest, upload all those images, create a board, try and get your images shared, do some Pinterest SEO essentially. Do the same thing on YouTube. Have a bunch of examples in a short video that shows all the stuff that you’re creating and then upload that to YouTube. Preferably have a channel. Preferably have a few videos so that you can potentially rank multiple times in here, because you know that many people are going here. This is pretty far down. So this is probably less than 10% of searchers make it here, but still a ton of opportunity. Very different type of search intent than what we saw in these previous two.

Look at the related searches — homemade mad scientist lab props, mad scientist props DIY, do it yourself, how to make mad scientist props. These intents are, generally speaking, not being served by any of these results yet. If you scroll far enough in the YouTube videos here, there’s actually one video that is a how-to, but most of these are just showing stuff off. That to me is a content opportunity. You could make your Pinterest board potentially using some of these, DIY homemade, how to make, make that your Pinterest board, and probably, I’m going to guess that you will have a very good chance of pushing these other Pinterest results out of here and dominating those.

So a few takeaways, just some short ones before we end here.

  1. In the SEO world, don’t target content without first understanding the searcher. We can be very misled by just looking at keywords. If we look at the search results first, we can get inside the searcher’s head a little bit. Hopefully, we can have some real conversations with those folks too.
  2. Second, Google SERPs, search suggest, related searches, they can all help with problem number one.
  3. Three, gaps in serving intent can yield ranking opportunity, like we showed in a few of these examples.
  4. Finally, don’t be afraid to disrupt your own business or your own content or your own selfish interest in order to serve searchers. In the long term, it will be better for you.

You can see that exemplified here by Shopify saying, “We’re going to show off a bunch of beautiful ecommerce designs even though some of them are not from Shopify.” BigCommerce did the same thing. Even though some of them are not using BigCommerce’s platform, they basically are willing to sacrifice some of that in order to serve searchers and build their brand, because they know if they don’t, somebody else clearly will.

All right, everyone. Hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. I would love to hear your examples in the comments about how you’ve done search intent interpretation through looking at search results. We’ll see you again next week. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Take a Deep Dive into Comprehensive Content Marketing Strategy

This week was all about the bigger picture of content marketing strategy. “Great content” is a wonderful start, but you need the strategic context that pulls it all together. Whether you’re a pro or just getting started, the posts and podcasts below will give you a framework to make your project really strong. On Monday,
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