Tag Archive | "Making"

The Bot Plan: Your Guide to Making Conversations Convert

Posted by purna_v

Let’s start off with a quick “True or False?” game:

“By 2020, the average person will have more conversations with their bot than with their spouse.”

True, or false? You may be surprised to learn that speaking more with bots than our spouse is precisely what Gartner is predicting.

And when Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg says “messaging is one of the few things that people do more than social networking,” it requires no leap of faith to see that chatbots are an integral part of marketing’s future.

But you don’t need to stock up on canned peaches and head for the hills because “the robots are coming.” The truth is, the robots aren’t coming because they’re already here, and they love us from the bottom of their little AI-powered hearts.

Bots aren’t a new thing for many parts of the world such as China or India. As reported by Business Insider, sixty-seven percent of consumers worldwide have used a chatbot for customer support in the last year.

Within the United States, an impressive 60% of millennials have used chatbots with 70% of those reporting positive experiences, according to Forbes.

There’s no putting bots back in the box.

And it’s not just that brands have to jump on board to keep up with those pesky new generations, either. Bots are great for them, too.

Bots offer companies:

  1. A revolutionary way to reach consumers. For the first time in history, brands of any size can reach consumers on a personal level. Note my emphasis on “of any size.” You can be a company of one and your bot army can give your customers a highly personal experience. Bots are democratizing business!
  2. Snackable data. This “one-to-one” communication gives you personal insights and specificity, plus a whole feast of snackable data that is actionable.
  3. Non-robot-like interaction. An intelligent bot can keep up with back-and-forth customer messages in a natural, contextual, human way.
  4. Savings. According to Juniper Research, the average time saving per chatbot inquiry compared to traditional call centers is over four minutes, which has the potential to make a truly extraordinary impact on a company’s bottom line (not to mention the immeasurable impact it has on customers’ feelings about the company).
  5. Always on. It doesn’t matter what time zone your customer is in. Bots don’t need to sleep, or take breaks. Your company can always be accessible via your friendly bot.

Here in the West, we are still in the equivalent of the Jurassic Period for bots. What they can be used for is truly limited only by our imagination.

One of my most recent favorites is an innovation from the BBC News Labs and Visual Journalism teams, who have launched a bot-builder app designed to, per Nieman Lab, “make it as easy as possible for reporters to build chatbots and insert them in their stories.”

So, in a story about President Trump from earlier this year, you see this:

Source: BBC.com

It’s one of my favorites not just because it’s innovative and impressive, but because it neatly illustrates how bots can add to and improve our lives… not steal our jobs.

Don’t be a dinosaur

A staggering eighty percent of brands will use chatbots for customer interactions by 2020, according to research. That means that if you don’t want to get left behind, you need to join the bot arms race right now.

“But where do I start?” you wonder.

I’m happy you asked that. Building a bot may seem like an endeavor that requires lots of tech savvy, but it’s surprisingly low-risk to get started.

Many websites allow you to build bots for free, and then there’s QNAMaker.ai (created by Microsoft, my employer), which does a lot of the work for you.

You simply input your company’s FAQ section, and it builds the foundation for an easy chatbot that can be taken live via almost any platform, using natural language processing to parse your FAQ and develop a list of questions your customers are likely to ask.

This is just the beginning — the potential for bots is wow-tastic.

That’s what I’m going to show you today — how you can harness bot-power to build strong, lasting relationships with your customers.

Your 3-step plan to make conversations convert

Step 1: Find the right place to start

The first step isn’t to build a bot straightaway. After all, you can build the world’s most elaborate bot and it is worth exactly nothing to you or your customer if it does not address their needs.

That’s why the first step is figuring out the ways bots can be most helpful to your customers. You need to find their pain points.

You can do this by pretending you’re one of your customers, and navigating through your purchase funnel. Or better again, find data within your CRM system and analytics tools that can help you answer key questions about how your audience interacts with your business.

Here’s a handy checklist of questions you should get answers to during this research phase:

  • How do customers get information or seek help from your company? ☑
  • How do they make a purchase? ☑
  • Do pain points differ across channels and devices? ☑
  • How can we reduce the number of steps in each interaction? ☑

Next, you’ll want to build your hypothesis. And here’s a template to help you do just that:

I believe [type of person] needs to solve [problem] which happens while [situation], which will allow them to [get value].

For example, you’re the manager of a small spa, whose biggest time-suck is people calling to ask simple questions, meaning other customers are on hold for a long time. If those customers can ask a bot these simple questions, you get three important results:

  1. The hold time for customers overall will diminish
  2. The customer-facing staff in your spa will be able to pay more attention to clients who are physically in front of them
  3. Customers with lengthier questions will be helped sooner

Everybody wins.

Finally, now that you’ve identified and prioritized the situations where conversation can help, you’ll be ready to build a bot as well as a skill.

Wait a minute — what’s a skill in this context, and how do they relate to bots? Here’s a great explanation from Chris Messina:

  • A bot is an autonomous program on a network
  • A chatbot is a bot that uses human language to communicate
  • An AI assistant is a chatbot that performs tasks or services for an individual
  • A skill is a capability that an AI assistant can learn

Each of them can help look things up, place orders, solve problems, and make things happen easier, better, and faster.

A few handy resources to build a bot are:

Step 2: Add conversation across the entire customer journey

There are three distinct areas of the customer decision journey where bots and skills can make a big difference.

Bot as introducer

Bots can help your company by being present at the very first event in a purchase path.

Adidas did this wonderfully when they designed a chatbot for their female-focused community Studio LDN, to help create an interactive booking process for the free fitness sessions offered. To drive engagement further, as soon as a booking was made the user would receive reminders and messages from influencer fitness instructors.

The chatbot was the only way for people to book these sessions and it worked spectacularly well.

In the first two weeks, 2,000 people signed up to participate, with repeat use at 80%. Retention after week one was 60%, which the brand claims is far better compared to an app.

Adidas did something really clever. They advertised the bot across many of their other channels to help promote the bot and help with its discoverability.

You can do the same.

There are countless examples where bots can put their best suit on and act as the first introduction to your company:

  • Email marketing: According to MailChimp research, the average email open rates are between 15% to 26% with click rates being just a fraction of that at approximately 2%–5%. That’s pretty low when you compare that to Messenger messages, which can have an open rate of well over 90%. Why not make your call-to-action within your email be an incentive for people to engage with your chatbot? For example, something like “message us for 10% off” could be a compelling reason for people to engage with your chatbot.
  • Social media: How about instead of running Facebook ads which direct people to websites, you run an ad connecting people to bots instead? For example, in the ad, advise people to “chat to see the latest styles” or “chat now to get 20% off” and then have your bot start a conversation. Instant engagement! Plus, it’s a more gentle call-to-action as opposed to a hard sell such as “buy now.”
  • Video: How about creating instructional YouTube videos on how to use your bot? Especially helpful since one of the barriers to using this new technology is a lack of awareness about how to use it. A short, quick video that demonstrates what your skill can do could be very impactful. Check out this great example from FitBit and Cortana:

  • Search: As you’ve likely seen by now, Bing has been integrating chatbots within the SERPs itself. You can do a search for bots across different platforms and you’ll be able to add relevant bots directly to your preferred platform right from the search results themselves:

Travel Bots

  • You can engage with local businesses such as restaurants via the Bing Business bot that shows up as part of the local listings:

Monsoon Seattle search with chatbot

The key lesson here is that when your bot is acting as an introducer, give your audience plenty of ways and reasons to chat. Use conversation to tell people about new stuff, and get them to kick off that conversation.

Bot as influencer

To see a bot acting as an effective influencer, let’s turn to Chinese giant Alibaba. They developed a customizable chatbot store concierge that they offer free to brands and markets.

Cutely named dian xiao mi, or “little shop bee,” the concierge is designed to be the most helpful store assistant you could wish for.

For example, if a customer interacting with a clothing brand uploads a photograph of a t-shirt, the bot buzzes in with suggestions of pants to match. Or, if a customer provides his height and weight, the bot can offer suggested sizing. Anyone who has ever shopped online for clothing knows exactly how much pain the latter offering could eliminate.

This helpful style is essentially changing the conversation from “BUY NOW!” to “What do you need right now?”

We should no longer ask: “How should we sell to customers?” The gazillion-dollar question instead is: How can we connect with them?

An interesting thing about this change is that, when you think about it for a second, it seems like common sense. How much more trust would you have for a brand that was only trying to help you? If you bought a red dress, how much more helpful would it be if the brand showed you a pic of complementary heels and asked if you want to “complete the look”?

For the chatbot to be truly helpful as an influencer, it needs to learn from each conversation. It needs to remember what you shared from the last conversation, and use it to shape future conversations.

So, say a chatbot from my favorite shoe store knew all about my shoe addiction (is there a cure? Would I event want to be cured of it?), then it could be more helpful via its remarketing efforts.

Imagine how much more effective it would be if we could have an interaction like this:

Shoestore Chatbot: Hi Purna! We’re launching a new collection of boots. Would you like a sneak peek?

Me: YES please!!!

Shoestore Chatbot: Great! I’ll email pics to you. You can also save 15% off your next order with code “MozBlog”. Hurry, code expires in 24 hours.

Me: *buys all the shoes, obvs*

This is Bot-topia. Your brand is being helpful, not pushy. Your bot is cultivating relationships with your customers, not throwing ads at them.

The key lesson here? For your bot to be a successful influencer, you must always consider how they can be helpful and how they can add value.

Bot as closer

Bot: “A, B, C. Always be closing.”

Imagine you want to buy flowers for Mother’s Day, but you have very little interest in flowers, and when you scroll through the endless options on the website, and then a long checkout form, you just feel overwhelmed.

1-800-Flowers found your pain point, and acted on it by creating a bot for Facebook Messenger.

It asks you whether you want to select a bunch from one of their curated collections, instantly eliminating the choice paralysis that could see consumers leave the website without purchasing anything.

And once you’ve chosen, you can easily complete the checkout process using your phone’s payment system (e.g. Apple Pay) to make checkout a cinch. So easy, and so friction-free.

The result? According to Digiday, within two months of launch the company saw 70% of the orders through the bot came from brand-new customers. By building a bot, 1-800 Flowers slam-dunked their way into the hearts of a whole new, young demographic.

Can you think of a better, more inexpensive way to unlock a big demographic? I can’t.

To quote Mr. Zuckerberg again: “It’s pretty ironic. To order from 1-800-Flowers, you never have to call 1-800-Flowers again.”

Think back to that handy checklist of questions from Step 1, especially this one: “How can we reduce the number of steps in each interaction?”

Your goal is to make every step easy and empathetic.

Think of what people would want/need to know to as they complete their tasks. For example, if you’re looking to transfer money from your bank account, the banking chatbot could save you from overdraft fees if it warns you that your account could be overdrawn before you make the transfer.

The key lesson here: Leverage your bots to remove any friction and make the experience super relevant and empathetic.

Step 3: Measure the conversation with the right metrics

One of my favorite quotes around how we view metrics versus how we should view metrics comes from Automat CEO Andy Mauro, who says:

“Rather than tracking users with pixels and cookies, why not actually engage them, learn about them, and provide value that actually meets their needs?”

Again, this is common sense once you’ve read it. Of course it makes sense to engage our users and provide value that meets their needs!

We can do this because the bots and skills give us information in our customers’ own words.

Here’s a short list of KPIs that you should look at (let’s call it “bot-alytics”):

  • Delivery and open rates: If the bot starts a conversation, did your customer open it?
  • Click rates: If your bot delivered a link in a chat, did your customer click on it?
  • Retention: How often do they come back and chat with you?
  • Top messages: What messages are resonating with your customers more than others?
  • Conversion rates: Do they buy?
  • Sentiment analysis: Do your customers express happiness and enthusiasm in their conversation with the bot, or frustration and anger?

Using bot-alytics, you can easily build up a clear picture of what is working for you, and more importantly, what is working for your customer.

And don’t forget to ask: What can you learn from bot-alytics that can help other channels?

The future’s bright, the future’s bots

What were once dumb machines are now smart enough that we can engage with them in a very human way. It presents the opportunity of a generation for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

Our customers are beginning to trust bots and digital personal assistants for recommendations, needs, and more. They are the friendly neighborhood machines that the utopian vision of a robotic future presents. They should be available to people anywhere: from any device, in any way.

And if that hasn’t made you pencil in a “we need to talk about bots” meeting with your company, here’s a startling prediction from Accenture. They believe that in five years, more than half of your customers will select your services based on your AI instead of your traditional brand.

In three steps, you can start your journey toward bot-topia and having your conversations convert. What are you waiting for?

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MozCon 2018: Making the Case for the Conference (& All the Snacks!)

Posted by Danielle_Launders

You’ve got that conference looming on the horizon. You want to go — you’ve spent the past few years desperately following hashtags on Twitter, memorizing catchy quotes, zooming in on grainy snapshots of a deck, and furiously downloading anything and everything you can scour from Slideshare.

But there’s a problem: conferences cost money, and your boss won’t even approve a Keurig in the communal kitchen, much less a ticket to a three-day-long learning sesh complete with its own travel and lodging expenses.

What’s an education-hungry digital marketer to do?

How do you convince your boss to send you to the conference of your dreams?

First of all, you gather evidence to make your case.

There are a plethora of excellent reasons why attending conferences is good for your career (and your bottom line). In digital marketing, we exist in the ever-changing tech space, hurtling toward the future at breakneck speed and often missing the details of the scenery along the way.

A good SEO conference will keep you both on the edge of your seat and on the cutting-edge of what’s new and noteworthy in our industry, highlighting some of the most important and impactful things your work depends on.

A good SEO conference will flip a switch for you, will trigger that lightbulb moment that empowers you and levels you up as both a marketer and a critical thinker.

If that doesn’t paint a beautiful enough picture to convince the folks that hold the credit card, though, there are also some great statistics and resources available:

Specifically, we’re talking about MozCon

Yes, that MozCon!

Let’s just take a moment to address the elephant in the room here: you all know why we wrote this post. We want to see your smiling face in the audience at MozCon this July (the 9th–11th, if you were wondering). There are a few specific benefits worth mentioning:

  • Speakers and content: Our speakers bring their A-game each year. We work with them to bring the best content and latest trends to the stage to help set you up for a year of success.
  • Videos to share with your team: About a month or so after the conference, we’ll send you a link to professionally edited videos of every presentation at the conference. Your colleagues won’t get to partake in the morning Top Pot doughnuts or Starbucks coffee, but they will get a chance to learn everything you did, for free.
  • Great food onsite: We understand that conference food isn’t typically worth mentioning, but at MozCon you can expect snacks from local Seattle vendors – in the past this includes Trophy cupcakes, KuKuRuZa popcorn, Starbucks’ Seattle Reserve cold brew, and did we mention bacon at breakfast? Let’s not forget the bacon.
  • Swag: Expect to go home with a one-of-a-kind Roger Mozbot, a super-soft t-shirt from American Apparel, and swag worth keeping. We’ve given away Roger Legos, Moleskine notebooks, phone chargers, and have even had vending machines with additional swag in case you didn’t get enough.
  • Networking: You work hard taking notes, learning new insights, and digesting all of that knowledge — that’s why we think you deserve a little fun in the evenings to chat with fellow attendees. Each night after the conference, we’ll offer a different networking event that adds to the value you’ll get from your day of education.
  • A supportive network after the fact: Our MozCon Facebook group is incredibly active, and it’s grown to have a life of its own — marketers ask one another SEO questions, post jobs, look for and offer advice and empathy, and more. It’s a great place to find TAGFEE support and camaraderie long after the conference itself has ended.
  • Discounts for subscribers and groups: Moz Pro subscribers get a whopping $ 500 off their ticket cost (even if you’re on a free 30-day trial!) and there are discounts for groups as well, so make sure to take advantage of savings where you can!
  • Ticket cost: At MozCon our goal is to break even, which means we invest all of your ticket price back into you. Check out the full breakdown below:

Can you tell we’re serious about the snacks?

You can check out videos from years past to get a taste for the caliber of our speakers. We’ll also be putting out a call for community speaker pitches in April, so if you’ve been thinking about breaking into the speaking circuit, it could be an amazing opportunity — keep an eye on the blog for your chance to submit a pitch.

If you’ve ever seriously considered attending an SEO conference like MozCon, now’s the time to do it. You’ll save actual hundreds of dollars by grabbing subscriber or group pricing while you can (think of all the Keurigs you could get for that communal kitchen!), and you’ll be bound for an unforgettable experience that lives and grows with you beyond just the three days you spend in Seattle.

Grab your ticket to MozCon!

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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Google making renewed effort to help news publishers drive more subscriptions

Google effort appears to be a modified version of existing tools and approaches with some new, unspecified wrinkles.

The post Google making renewed effort to help news publishers drive more subscriptions 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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Making a Living Writing Ebooks: Here’s How It Works Today

"An excellent ebook can provide both revenue and a doorway to greater things." – Sonia Simone

Once upon a time, there was a straightforward solution to “monetizing” your website when you got tired of trying to make AdSense work:

Write an ebook!

Having something of your own to offer, even a simple $ 7 ebook, virtually always beats trying to monetize your traffic with advertising.

And that’s still true. (In fact, sales of ebooks hit $ 9 billion in 2015.)

But as more and more people have taken that advice, we need to get a little more strategic to build strong businesses around ebooks.

It can still be done, and I’ll be talking about folks who are doing it. But you can also let ebooks become part of a bigger game, within a larger digital business strategy.

The straight ebooks-for-sale play

We all know that some fiction authors are making a killing selling digital-only books on Amazon.

In fact, a few of those authors are dear friends of ours.

But that’s not what we’ll be talking about today. The world of fiction is a fascinating one in its own right, but the other type of ebook — the somewhat traditional “information product” designed to teach something valuable — is one we have a lot of experience with.

Two powerhouse ebook publishers

It’s getting trickier to build a business around ebooks alone, but if you look at Darren Rowse’s Digital Photography School, that site grew to an ecommerce powerhouse on the strength of ebooks.

(In recent years, DPS has expanded to offer courses as well — a natural evolution that can be remarkably profitable.)

The DPS ebooks each focus on a topic the audience wants to know more about — with titles like Life in Natural Light and Captivating Color.

There are a few keys to the success of their library:

  • The books are gorgeous. Darren’s team does an exceptional job with the design of their ebooks, creating digital equivalents of “coffee table books,” featuring, of course, lots of superb photography.
  • The books are also ultra useful, walking the customer through a specific photography technique so she can get better results in her own work.
  • And the ebooks offer impressive value at just $ 10 each. That’s a small transaction, but because there are lots of them, and because DPS enjoys a large and passionate audience, the revenue adds up.

Another person who knows a thing or two about ultra-successful ebooks is Brett Kelly, author of Evernote Essentials.

Brett wrote the definitive guide to the popular app Evernote. Despite the fact that there were dozens of $ 1 and $ 2 guides available, his (at $ 29) won the war — because it was, quite simply, massively more useful than the cheaper guides.

Brett has done lots of projects since then. He even worked for Evernote for a while — the company loved his book so much, they brought him on, while allowing him to keep his lucrative digital business.

Both Darren and Brett showcase three features that any successful ebook needs:

  1. Great design
  2. Incredible usefulness
  3. Excellent value for the investment (of time or money)

The low-cost introductory product

With the explosive rise of Amazon’s Kindle, readers have become accustomed to paying just a few dollars for ebooks.

(Note that isn’t always the case — Brett’s pricing, mentioned above, survived because of that book’s excellent reputation and quality.)

If you’re trying to make your entire living with ebooks, a low price point can be tricky. But you can also use the lower price point to your advantage by using ebooks as ultra low-risk entry points to your business.

For example, on Big Brand System, Pamela Wilson uses low-cost ebook guides as launching points to an ongoing relationship with her business.

Titles like Business Name and Tagline Guide and Quick-Start Guide to Branding your Business showcase Pamela’s expertise and give potential clients a taste of how she can help grow their businesses.

Her library of low-cost ebooks creates a list of buyers for Pamela’s pricier offerings, including private coaching slots.

Why is that cool? Because a list of buyers (even if they’ve just picked up an inexpensive item) is always much more responsive than a simple interest list.

Buyers have already made a micro-commitment with your organization, which research has shown often leads to a greater willingness to take similar actions.

For many of your lower-priced buyers, going on to a more intensive offering will be a natural next step. And if you put the work in to make your low-cost ebook exceptional, there’s no better “ad” for how you will handle a larger project or product.

A list of buyers, of course, also weeds out the “looky-loos” who subscribe to lists but don’t read them or are only on the list to get free resources.

The thought leader

For a long time now, writing a book has been a way to open many more doors beyond the revenue you get from the book itself.

Josh Kaufman, author of The Personal MBA and The First 20 Hours, puts it this way:

“Writing a book still tends to have a positive effect on your reputation: if you invest the effort to write a good/useful book, you’ve spent more time thinking about the topic than other people, which makes you rare and valuable to people who are interested in the topic.”

– Josh Kaufman

Given enough time and exposure, an excellent ebook (or series of books) can provide both revenue and a doorway to greater things.

“When we launched Copy Hackers on Hacker News in 2011, we sold $ 20K worth of ebooks in a few days’ time. That money was everything to me then. It was a signal that our little ebook experiment could turn into a business, that there was a market for what we had, and that the market would pay us for what we knew. Without our ebooks, I would have had to find a job (ugh) at someone else’s business (ugh); with the ebooks, I could afford to try my hand at blogging.

“Years after our launch, our ebooks have become far less about generating revenue. Promoting them on sites like AppSumo and Freelancer has helped us grow our list. And getting them in the hands of makers and influencers has brought us consulting projects, interviews, and speaking engagements.”

– Joanna Wiebe, Copy Hackers

The relationship builder

Many have written about using an ebook as an opt-in reward. In other words, you can use an ebook as an “ethical bribe” to get people to sign up for your email list.

And it works really well for that — but it’s smart to understand the deeper business reasoning.

Offering something valuable, like an ebook, is a reward for taking action. But it also needs to become the cornerstone of an ongoing business relationship.

As any competent sales professional can tell you, before they make a purchase, buyers need to:

  • Know you,
  • like you, and
  • trust you.

An ebook that only gets the prospect to sign up for your email list isn’t living up to its potential.

Those “ethical bribes” need to entice the prospect to take action, and they also need to further the professional relationship to build the case for an eventual purchase.

For example, My Copyblogger is a completely free membership site with an extensive library of free content marketing ebooks.

When we created the free membership library, we took the traditional “trade an ebook for an email opt-in” to a completely new level (and increased our email sign-ups by about 400 percent).

Could we have offered them for sale and made a few dollars? Definitely.

But by using them as the cornerstone of a valuable free membership experience, we’re nurturing relationships for more advanced products like Digital Commerce Academy. (Digital Commerce Academy will reopen to new students on August 21, 2017, so if you’re interested in joining, add your email address to the waitlist below.)

A rose is a rose is a rose

As you’re deciding the role an ebook might play in your business strategy, remember that you don’t actually have to call it an ebook.

In fact, ebooks in other guises can be powerful business-boosters.

So, a values-based, inspirational digital entrepreneur like Chris Guillebeau might (and did) call his ebook a manifesto.

If you offer B2B products or services, at least some of your ebooks will probably be white papers.

At Rainmaker Digital, we’re fans of the special report, but we also like other downloadables like checklists, worksheets, and infographics.

And one of my favorites to play with recently has been the workbook, with the pragmatic, hands-on associations that label brings.

The more flexible you are about how you think about and package your ebooks, the more powerful a tool they can become in your digital business strategy.

Would you like some help with that?

Digital Commerce Academy (DCA) helps you build the business of your dreams by teaching you how to create and sell profitable digital services and goods (like ebooks) without squandering time and money, stumbling to find the right path, or making unnecessary mistakes.

DCA features full-length courses (including Brian Clark’s Build Your Online Training Business the Smarter Way), 20+ webinars featuring in-depth case studies and education on cutting edge tools, as well as Q&As with the Rainmaker Digital team.

The doors to DCA are currently closed, but we are reopening them on August 21, 2017. Join the waitlist below today to get an exclusive offer when DCA reopens.

Enter your Email:


The post Making a Living Writing Ebooks: Here’s How It Works Today appeared first on Copyblogger.


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Stop Making These 12 Word Choice Errors Once and for All

"Write the correct words the first time, and you’ll spend less time editing later." – Stefanie Flaxman

Bill is at a wine bar on Saturday night, enjoying a glass of Pinot Noir.

After striking up a playful conversation with Lisa (who prefers Syrah), he asks for her telephone number. Lisa agrees to Bill’s request, and he creates a new “contact” in his cell phone.

“No,” Lisa stops Bill. “You’ll have to memorize it. I don’t want you to write it down.”

Bill accepts the challenge and confidently repeats the 10-digit number a few times aloud. Lisa proceeds to talk about her cat Nibbles for an hour and then leaves the bar after she realizes how late in the evening it has become.

By the next day, Bill has forgotten Lisa’s phone number. He remembers how much Nibbles loves playing with yarn because he used to have a cat that loved yarn … and although he wants to send Lisa a text message, her digits weren’t meaningful to him.

The same thing happens when you memorize the definitions of two similar words instead of learning how to use them.

When you memorize without any meaningful context, you may quickly forget a definition and continually select a word that doesn’t mean what you think it means.

When you learn how to use the following 12 pairs of words, it will be easier to choose the proper one for your content.

Write the correct words the first time, and you’ll spend less time editing later.

1. Compliment vs. Complement

Compliment

A “compliment (noun)” is an “expression of praise.” When you “compliment (verb)” someone, you praise something about her.

“I like your neon-rainbow, unicorn t-shirt” is a compliment.

The word “compliment,” spelled with the letter “i,” should remind you of saying “I like” — how you begin a compliment.

Complement

A “complement (noun)” is “something that completes something else.” When something “complements (verb)” something else, it “makes it whole/adds value to it/completes it.”

Complete is part of the word “complement.”

2. Premiere vs. Premier

Premiere

“Premiere (noun)” is “the first showing of an event.” “Premiere” as other parts of speech conveys a similar meaning.

Premiere could describe a movie premiere. The words “premiere” and “movie” both end with the letter “e.”

Premier

Use the adjective “premier” to describe “the best ___.”

Premier means premium. Neither word ends with the letter “e.”

“Premier (noun)” is less common. The term describes a person who is first in rank.

For example, a “premier” may be a chief executive officer or president of a company.

3. Effect vs. Affect

Effect

The noun “effect” refers to an “outcome or result.”

If you associate “special effects” in movies with “effects,” you’ll remember that “effect” should be used as the noun to describe an outcome.

Affect

The verb “affect” describes something that “manipulates or causes a change.”

An emotional piece of news may affect how you feel after you hear it.

4. Accept vs. Except

Accept

The verb “accept” means “to take in or receive.”

When using the word “accept,” associate it with the word “acceptance” — you take something in; you receive it.

Except

The word “except” is not a verb. It can be used as a preposition, a conjunction, or an idiom. In each form, the word “except” means “with the exclusion of ___.”

When you use the word “except,” you want to exclude something.

5. Ensure vs. Insure

Ensure

Use the verb “ensure” to convey “make certain or guarantee.”

To remember when to use “ensure,” note that the last two letters of the word “guarantee” are “e” and the word “ensure” begins with the letter “e.”

Insure

The verb “insure” communicates “protecting assets against loss or harm.”

If you are discussing the protection of assets, think of car insurance and then use the word “insure.”

6. Regard vs. Regards

Regard

Use “regard” when you want to express consideration or reference something specific.

Writing “in regards to” is one of my content pet peeves.

“Regard” is typically the proper word choice, unless you are sending your feelings of empathy to someone else. Which brings us to …

Regards

“Regards” are your “best wishes or warm greetings.”

7. Beside vs. Besides

Beside

If you want to convey the meaning of “next to or alongside,” use “beside.”

Associate the word “beside” with the word “alongside.” Both words end with the letters “s-i-d-e.”

Beside can also mean “not connected to.” You would write “that is beside the point.”

Besides

The word “besides” means “in addition to.”

“Besides” ends with the letter “s,” which reminds us of a plural word — two or more of something, additional items.

“Besides can also mean “other than/except.”

Associate the “s” sound in the word “except” with the word “besides,” which ends with the letter “s.”

8. Stationery vs. Stationary

Stationery

“Stationery” is always a noun. It’s typically decorative paper and ornate pens. You might use it to jot down quotes from your favorite writing books.

Associate the noun “stationery” with “paper.” The last three letters of the noun “stationery” contain the letters “er.” The word “paper” also ends with the letters “er.”

Stationary

“Stationary” means “still, grounded, or motionless.” It can be used as a noun or adjective.

Since the word “stationary” can also be used as an adjective, associate the “a” in the word “adjective” with the letter “a” in the last three letters in the adjective “stationary.”

9. Precede vs. Proceed

Precede

“Precede” means “to go before.” It is a verb.

Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace (1999) was a “prequel” to the original Star Wars film (1977).

The events that took place during the prequel came before (or preceded) Star Wars.

Proceed

“Proceed” is also a verb, but it means “carry on, continue, move forward.”

Think of “proceed” as “proactive, taking the next step in a sequence.”

“Precede” is “before” and “proceed” is “after.”

10. Who’s vs. Whose

Who’s

“Who’s” is a contraction of two words — most commonly, “who is” (present tense), “who has,” or “who was” (past tense).

If you are combining a verb with the word “who,” it’s appropriate to use “who’s” (with an apostrophe).

Whose

“Whose” is a possessive pronoun, similar to “mine,” “yours,” “his,” or “hers.”

If you don’t intend to combine two words with an apostrophe, use the possessive pronoun “whose.”

11. Sometime vs. Some time

Sometime

When “sometime” is one word, it’s an adverb that refers to “one point in time.” For example, “I’d love to have coffee with you sometime.”

Some time

When “some” and “time” are separated as two words, think of the word “some” as an “amount.”

“Some time” is “an amount of time.” For example, “I just ate so much ice cream. It will take some time before I’m hungry again.”

12. Into vs. In to

Into

“Into” is a preposition that means “entering or transforming.” For example, “The fashion designer transformed the ugly fabric into a chic dress.”

A noun typically follows the word “into.”

In to

A verb that pairs with the word “in” typically goes before “in to.”

For example, “During the baseball game, the outfielder moved in to catch the ball.”

Your turn …

Do you have any word choice pet peeves? What are your favorite tips for learning how to use certain words correctly?

How could Lisa have helped Bill learn her phone number, rather than memorize it? ”</p

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How Content Can Succeed By Making Enemies – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Getting readers on board with your ideas isn’t the only way to achieve content success. Sometimes, stirring up a little controversy and earning a few rivals can work incredibly well — but there’s certainly a right and a wrong way to do it. Rand details how to use the power of making enemies work to your advantage in today’s Whiteboard Friday.

How content can succeed by making enemies

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. Today, we’re going to chat about something a little interesting — how content can succeed by making enemies. I know you’re thinking to yourself, “Wait a minute, I thought my job was to make friends with my content.” Yes, and one of the best ways to make close friends is to make enemies too.

So, in my opinion, I think that companies and businesses, programs, organizations of all kinds, efforts of all kinds tend to do really well when they get people on their side. So if I’m trying to create a movement or I’m trying to get people to believe in what I’m doing, I need to have positions, data, stories, and content that can bring people to my site. One of the best ways to do that is actually to think about it in opposition to something else, basically try and figure out how you can earn some enemies.

A few examples of content that makes enemies & allies

I’ll give you a few examples, because I think that will help add some context here. I did a little bit of research. My share data is from BuzzSumo, and my link data here is from Ahrefs. But for example, this piece called “There Are Now Twice as Many Solar Jobs as Coal Jobs in the US,” this is essentially just data-driven content, but it clearly makes friends and enemies. It makes enemies with sort of this classic, old-school Americana belief set around how important coal jobs are, and it creates, through the enemy that it builds around that, simply by sharing data, it also creates allies, people who are on the side of this story, who want to share it and amplify it and have it reach its potential and reach more people.

Same is true here. So this is a story called “Yoga Is a Good Alternative to Physical Therapy.” Clearly, it did extremely well, tens of thousands of shares and thousands of links, lots of ranking keywords for it. But it creates some enemies. Physical therapists are not going to be thrilled that this is the case. Despite the research behind it, this is frustrating for many of those folks. So you’ve created friends, allies, people who are yoga practitioners and yoga instructors. You’ve also created enemies, potentially those folks who don’t believe that this might be the case despite what the research might show.

Third one, “The 50 Most Powerful Public Relations Firms in America,” I think this was actually from The Observer. So they’re writing in the UK, but they managed to rank for lots and lots of keywords around “best PR firms” and all those sorts of things. They have thousands of shares, thousands of links. I mean 11,000 links, that’s darn impressive for a story of this nature. And they’ve created enemies. They’ve created enemies of all the people who are not in the 50 most powerful, who feel that they should be, and they’ve created allies of the people who are in there. They’ve also created some allies and enemies deeper inside the story, which you can check out.

“Replace Your Lawn with These Superior Alternatives,” well, guess what? You have now created some enemies in the lawn care world and in the lawn supply world and in the passionate communities, very passionate communities, especially here in the United States, around people who sort of believe that homes should have lawns and nothing else, grass lawns in this case. This piece didn’t do that well in terms of shares, but did phenomenally well in terms of links. This was on Lifehacker, and it ranks for all sorts of things, 11,000+ links.

Before you create, ask yourself: Who will help amplify this, and why?

So you can see that these might not be things that you naturally think of as earning enemies. But when you’re creating content, if you can go through this exercise, I have this rule, that I’ve talked about many times over the years, for content success, especially content amplification success. That is before you ever create something, before you brainstorm the idea, come up with the title, come up with the content, before you do that, ask yourself: Who will help amplify this and why? Why will they help?

One of the great things about framing things in terms of who are my allies, the people on my side, and who are the enemies I’m going to create is that the “who” becomes much more clear. The people who support your ideas, your ethics, or your position, your logic, your data and want to help amplify that, those are people who are potential amplifiers. The people, the detractors, the enemies that you’re going to build help you often to identify that group.

The “why” becomes much more clear too. The existence of that common enemy, the chance to show that you have support and beliefs in people, that’s a powerful catalyst for that amplification, for the behavior you’re attempting to drive in your community and your content consumers. I’ve found that thinking about it this way often gets content creators and SEOs in the right frame of mind to build stuff that can do really well.

Some dos and don’ts

Do… backup content with data

A few dos and don’ts if you’re pursuing this path of content generation and ideation. Do back up as much as you can with facts and data, not just opinion. That should be relatively obvious, but it can be dangerous in this kind of world, as you go down this path, to not do that.

Do… convey a world view

I do suggest that you try and convey a world view, not necessarily if you’re thinking on the political spectrum of like from all the way left to all the way right or those kinds of things. I think it’s okay to convey a world view around it, but I would urge you to provide multiple angles of appeal.

So if you’re saying, “Hey, you should replace your lawn with these superior alternatives,” don’t make it purely that it’s about conservation and ecological health. You can also make it about financial responsibility. You can also make it about the ease with which you can care for these lawns versus other ones. So now it becomes something that appeals across a broader range of the spectrum.

Same thing with something like solar jobs versus coal jobs. If you can get it to be economically focused and you can give it a capitalist bent, you can potentially appeal to multiple ends of the ideological spectrum with that world view.

Do… collect input from notable parties

Third, I would urge you to get inputs from notable folks before you create and publish this content, especially if the issue that you’re talking about is going to be culturally or socially or politically charged. Some of these fit into that. Yoga probably not so much, but potentially the solar jobs/coal jobs one, that might be something to run the actual content that you’ve created by some folks who are in the energy space so that they can help you along those lines, potentially the energy and the political space if you can.

Don’t… be provocative just to be provocative

Some don’ts. I do not urge you and I’m not suggesting that you should create provocative content purely to be provocative. Instead, I’m urging you to think about the content that you create and how you angle it using this framing of mind rather than saying, “Okay, what could we say that would really piss people off?” That’s not what I’m urging you to do. I’m urging you to say, “How can we take things that we already have, beliefs and positions, data, stories, whatever content and how do we angle them in such a way that we think about who are the enemies, who are the allies, how do we get that buy-in, how do we get that amplification?”

Don’t… choose indefensible positions

Second, I would not choose enemies or positions that you can’t defend against. So, for example, if you were considering a path that you think might get you into a world of litigious danger, you should probably stay away from that. Likewise, if your positions are relatively indefensible and you’ve talked to some folks in the field and done the dues and they’re like, “I don’t know about that,” you might not want to pursue it.

Don’t… give up on the first try

Third, do not give up if your first attempts in this sort of framing don’t work. You should expect that you will have to, just like any other form of content, practice, iterate, and do this multiple times before you have success.

Don’t… be unprofessional

Don’t be unprofessional when you do this type of content. It can be a little bit tempting when you’re framing things in terms of, “How do I make enemies out of this?” to get on the attack. That is not necessary. I think that actually content that builds enemies does so even better when it does it from a non-attack vector mode.

Don’t… sweat the Haterade

Don’t forget that if you’re getting some Haterade for the content you create, a lot of people when they start drinking the Haterade online, they run. They think, “Okay, we’ve done something wrong.” That’s actually not the case. In my experience, that means you’re doing something right. You’re building something special. People don’t tend to fight against and argue against ideas and people and organizations for no reason. They do so because they’re a threat.

If you’ve created a threat to your enemies, you have also generally created something special for your allies and the people on your side. That means you’re doing something right. In Moz’s early days, I can tell you, back when we were called SEOmoz, for years and years and years we got all sorts of hate, and it was actually a pretty good sign that we were doing something right, that we were building something special.

So I look forward to your comments. I’d love to see any examples of stuff that you have as well, and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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6 CRO Mistakes You Might Be Making (And How to Fix Them)

Posted by lkolowich

You just ran what you thought was a really promising conversion test. In an effort to raise the number of visitors that convert into demo requests on your product pages, you test an attractive new redesign on one of your pages using a good ol’ A/B test. Half of the people who visit that page see the original product page design, and half see the new, attractive design.

You run the test for an entire month, and as you expected, conversions are up — from 2% to 10%. Boy, do you feel great! You take these results to your boss and advise that, based on your findings, all product pages should be moved over to your redesign. She gives you the go-ahead.

But when you roll out the new design, you notice the number of demo requests goes down. You wonder if it’s seasonality, so you wait a few more months. That’s when you start to notice MRR is decreasing, too. What gives?

Turns out, you didn’t test that page long enough for results to be statistically significant. Because that product page only saw 50 views per day, you would’ve needed to wait until over 150,000 people viewed the page before you could achieve a 95% confidence level — which would take over eight years to accomplish. Because you failed to calculate those numbers correctly, your company is losing business.

A risky business

Miscalculating sample size is just one of the many CRO mistakes marketers make in the CRO space. It’s easy for marketers to trick themselves into thinking they’re improving their marketing, when in fact, they’re leading their business down a dangerous path by basing tests on incomplete research, small sample sizes, and so on.

But remember: The primary goal of CRO is to find the truth. Basing a critical decision on faulty assumptions and tests lacking statistical significance won’t get you there.

To help save you time and overcome that steep learning curve, here are some of the most common mistakes marketers make with conversion rate optimization. As you test and tweak and fine-tune your marketing, keep these mistakes in mind, and keep learning.


6 CRO mistakes you might be making

1) You think of CRO as mostly A/B testing.

Equating A/B testing with CRO is like calling a square a rectangle. While A/B testing is a type of CRO, it’s just one tool of many. A/B testing only covers testing a single variable against another to see which performs better, while CRO includes all manner of testing methodologies, all with the goal of leading your website visitors to take a desired action.

If you think you’re “doing CRO” just by A/B testing everything, you’re not being very smart about your testing. There are plenty of occasions where A/B testing isn’t helpful at all — for example, if your sample size isn’t large enough to collect the proper amount of data. Does the webpage you want to test get only a few hundred visits per month? Then it could take months to round up enough traffic to achieve statistical significance.

If you A/B test a page with low traffic and then decide six weeks down the line that you want to stop the test, then that’s your prerogative — but your test results won’t be based on anything scientific.

A/B testing is a great place to start with your CRO education, but it’s important to educate yourself on many different testing methodologies so you aren’t restricting yourself. For example, if you want to see a major lift in conversions on a webpage in only a few weeks, try making multiple, radical changes instead of testing one variable at a time. Take Weather.com, for example: They changed many different variables on one of their landing pages all at once, including the page design, headline, navigation, and more. The result? A whopping 225% increase in conversions.

2) You don’t provide context for your conversion rates.

When you read that line about the 225% lift in conversions on Weather.com, did you wonder what I meant by “conversions?”

If you did, then you’re thinking like a CRO.

Conversion rates can measure any number of things: purchases, leads, prospects, subscribers, users — it all depends on the goal of the page. Just saying “we saw a huge increase in conversions” doesn’t mean much if you don’t provide people with what the conversion means. In the case of Weather.com, I was referring specifically to trial subscriptions: Weather.com saw a 225% increase in trial subscriptions on that page. Now the meaning of that conversion rate increase is a lot more clear.

But even stating the metric isn’t telling the whole story. When exactly was that test run? Different days of the week and of the month can yield very different conversion rates.

conversion-rate-fluctuation.png

For that reason, even if your test achieves 98% significance after three days, you still need to run that test for the rest of the full week because of how different conversion rate can be on different days. Same goes for months: Don’t run a test during the holiday-heavy month of December and expect the results to be the same as if you’d run it for the month of March. Seasonality will affect your conversion rate.

Other things that can have a major impact on conversion rate? Device type is one. Visitors might be willing to fill out that longer form on desktop, but are mobile visitors converting at the same rate? Better investigate. Channel is another: Be wary of reporting “average” conversion rates. If some channels have much higher conversion rates than others, you should consider treating the channels differently.

Finally, remember that conversion rate isn’t the most important metric for your business. It’s important that your conversions are leading to revenue for the company. If you made your product free, I’ll bet your conversion rates would skyrocket — but you wouldn’t be making any money, would you? Conversion rate doesn’t always tell you whether your business is doing better than it was. Be careful that you aren’t thinking of conversions in a vacuum so you don’t steer off-course.

3) You don’t really understand the statistics.

One of the biggest mistakes I made when I first started learning CRO was thinking I could rely on what I remembered from my college statistics courses to run conversion tests. Just because you’re running experiments does not make you a scientist.

Statistics is the backbone of CRO, and if you don’t understand it inside and out, then you won’t be able to run proper tests and could seriously derail your marketing efforts.

What if you stop your test too early because you didn’t wait to achieve 98% statistical significance? After all, isn’t 90% good enough?

No, and here’s why: Think of statistical significance like placing a bet. Are you really willing to bet on 90% odds on your test results? Running a test to 90% significance and then declaring a winner is like saying, “I’m 90% sure this is the right design and I’m willing to bet everything on it.” It’s just not good enough.

If you’re in need of a statistics refresh, don’t panic. It’ll take discipline and practice, but it’ll make you into a much better marketer — and it’ll make your testing methodology much, much tighter. Start by reading this Moz post by Craig Bradford, which covers sample size, statistical significance, confidence intervals, and percentage change.

4) You don’t experiment on pages or campaigns that are already doing well.

Just because something is doing well doesn’t mean you should just leave it be. Often, it’s these marketing assets that have the highest potential to perform even better when optimized. Some of our biggest CRO wins here at HubSpot have come from assets that were already performing well.

I’ll give you two examples.

The first comes from a project run by Pam Vaughan on HubSpot’s web strategy team, called “historical optimization.” The project involved updating and republishing old blog posts to generate more traffic and leads.

But this didn’t mean updating just any old blog posts; it meant updating the blog posts that were already the most influential in generating traffic and leads. In her attribution analysis, Pam made two surprising discoveries:

  • 76% of our monthly blog views came from “old” posts (in other words, posts published prior to that month).
  • 92% of our monthly blog leads also came from “old” posts.

Why? Because these were the blog posts that had slowly built up search authority and were ranking on search engines like Google. They were generating a ton of organic traffic month after month after month.

The goal of the project, then, was to figure out: a) how to get more leads from our high-traffic but low-converting blog posts; and b) how to get more traffic to our high-converting posts. By optimizing these already high-performing posts for traffic and conversions, we more than doubled the number of monthly leads generated by the old posts we’ve optimized.

hubspot-conversion-increase-chart.jpg

Another example? In the last few weeks, Nick Barrasso from our marketing acquisition team did a leads audit of our blog. He discovered that some of our best-performing blog posts for traffic were actually leading readers to some of our worst-performing offers.

To give a lead conversion lift to 50 of these high-traffic, low-converting posts, Nick conducted a test in which he replaced each post’s primary call-to-action with a call-to-action leading visitors to an offer that was most tightly aligned with the post’s topic and had the highest submission rate. After one week, these posts generated 100% more leads than average.

The bottom line is this: Don’t focus solely on optimizing marketing assets that need the most work. Many times, you’ll find that the lowest-hanging fruit are pages that are already performing well for traffic and/or leads and, when optimized even further, can result in much bigger lifts.

5) You base your CRO tests on tactics instead of research.

When it comes to CRO, process is everything. Remove your ego and assumptions from the equation, stop relying on individual tactics to optimize your marketing, and instead take a systematic approach to CRO.

Your CRO process should always start with research. In fact, conducting research should be the step you spend the most time on. Why? Because the research and analysis you do in this step will lead you to the problems — and it’s only when you know where the problems lie that you can come up with a hypothesis for overcoming them.

Remember that test I just talked about that doubled leads for 50 top HubSpot blog posts in a week? Nick didn’t just wake up one day and realize our high-traffic blog posts might be leading to low-performing offers. He discovered this only by doing hours and hours of research into our lead gen strategy from the blog.

Paddy Moogan wrote a great post on Moz on where to look for data in the research stage. What does your sales process look like, for example? Have you ever reviewed the full funnel? “Try to find where the most common drop-off points are and take a deeper dive into why,” he suggests.

Here’s an (oversimplified) overview of what a CRO process should look like:

  • Step 1: Do your research.
  • Step 2: Form and validate your hypothesis.
  • Step 3: Establish your control, and create a treatment.
  • Step 4: Conduct the experiment.
  • Step 5: Analyze your experiment data.
  • Step 6: Conduct a follow-up experiment.

As you go through these steps, be sure you’re recording your hypothesis, test methodology, success criteria, and analysis in a replicable way. My team at HubSpot uses the template below, which was inspired by content from Brian Balfour’s online Reforge Growth programs. We’ve created an editable version in Google Sheets here that you can copy and customize yourself.

hubspot-experiment-template.png

Don’t forget the last step in the process: Conduct a follow-up experiment. What can you refine for your next test? How can you make improvements?

6) You give up after a “failed” test.

One of the most important pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten around CRO is this: “A test doesn’t ‘fail’ unless something breaks. You either get the result you want, or you learned something.”

It came from Sam Woods, a growth marketer, CRO, and copywriter at HubSpot, after I used the word “fail” a few too many times after months of unsuccessful tests on a single landing page.

test-doesnt-fail.png

What he taught me was a major part of the CRO mindset: Don’t give up after the first test. (Or the second, or the third.) Instead, approach every test systematically and objectively, putting aside your previous assumptions and any hope that the results would swing one way or the other.

As Peep Laja said, “Genuine CROs are always willing to change their minds.” Learn from tests that didn’t go the way you expected, use them to tweak your hypothesis, and then iterate, iterate, iterate.

I hope this list has inspired you to double down on your CRO skills and take a more systematic approach to your experiments. Mastering conversion rate optimization comes with a steep learning curve — and there’s really no cutting corners. You can save a whole lot of time (and money) by avoiding the mistakes I outlined above.

Have you ever made any of these CRO mistakes? Do you have any CRO mistakes to add to the list? Tell us about your experiences and ideas in the comments.

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JavaScript & SEO: Making Your Bot Experience As Good As Your User Experience

Posted by alexis-sanders

Understanding JavaScript and its potential impact on search performance is a core skillset of the modern SEO professional. If search engines can’t crawl a site or can’t parse and understand the content, nothing is going to get indexed and the site is not going to rank.

The most important questions for an SEO relating to JavaScript: Can search engines see the content and grasp the website experience? If not, what solutions can be leveraged to fix this?


Fundamentals

What is JavaScript?

When creating a modern web page, there are three major components:

  1. HTML – Hypertext Markup Language serves as the backbone, or organizer of content, on a site. It is the structure of the website (e.g. headings, paragraphs, list elements, etc.) and defining static content.
  2. CSS – Cascading Style Sheets are the design, glitz, glam, and style added to a website. It makes up the presentation layer of the page.
  3. JavaScript – JavaScript is the interactivity and a core component of the dynamic web.

Learn more about webpage development and how to code basic JavaScript.

javacssseo.gif

Image sources: 1, 2, 3

JavaScript is either placed in the HTML document within <script> tags (i.e., it is embedded in the HTML) or linked/referenced. There are currently a plethora of JavaScript libraries and frameworks, including jQuery, AngularJS, ReactJS, EmberJS, etc.

JavaScript libraries and frameworks:

What is AJAX?

AJAX, or Asynchronous JavaScript and XML, is a set of web development techniques combining JavaScript and XML that allows web applications to communicate with a server in the background without interfering with the current page. Asynchronous means that other functions or lines of code can run while the async script is running. XML used to be the primary language to pass data; however, the term AJAX is used for all types of data transfers (including JSON; I guess “AJAJ” doesn’t sound as clean as “AJAX” [pun intended]).

A common use of AJAX is to update the content or layout of a webpage without initiating a full page refresh. Normally, when a page loads, all the assets on the page must be requested and fetched from the server and then rendered on the page. However, with AJAX, only the assets that differ between pages need to be loaded, which improves the user experience as they do not have to refresh the entire page.

One can think of AJAX as mini server calls. A good example of AJAX in action is Google Maps. The page updates without a full page reload (i.e., mini server calls are being used to load content as the user navigates).

Related image

Image source

What is the Document Object Model (DOM)?

As an SEO professional, you need to understand what the DOM is, because it’s what Google is using to analyze and understand webpages.

The DOM is what you see when you “Inspect Element” in a browser. Simply put, you can think of the DOM as the steps the browser takes after receiving the HTML document to render the page.

The first thing the browser receives is the HTML document. After that, it will start parsing the content within this document and fetch additional resources, such as images, CSS, and JavaScript files.

The DOM is what forms from this parsing of information and resources. One can think of it as a structured, organized version of the webpage’s code.

Nowadays the DOM is often very different from the initial HTML document, due to what’s collectively called dynamic HTML. Dynamic HTML is the ability for a page to change its content depending on user input, environmental conditions (e.g. time of day), and other variables, leveraging HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Simple example with a <title> tag that is populated through JavaScript:

HTML source

DOM

What is headless browsing?

Headless browsing is simply the action of fetching webpages without the user interface. It is important to understand because Google, and now Baidu, leverage headless browsing to gain a better understanding of the user’s experience and the content of webpages.

PhantomJS and Zombie.js are scripted headless browsers, typically used for automating web interaction for testing purposes, and rendering static HTML snapshots for initial requests (pre-rendering).


Why can JavaScript be challenging for SEO? (and how to fix issues)

There are three (3) primary reasons to be concerned about JavaScript on your site:

  1. Crawlability: Bots’ ability to crawl your site.
  2. Obtainability: Bots’ ability to access information and parse your content.
  3. Perceived site latency: AKA the Critical Rendering Path.

Crawlability

Are bots able to find URLs and understand your site’s architecture? There are two important elements here:

  1. Blocking search engines from your JavaScript (even accidentally).
  2. Proper internal linking, not leveraging JavaScript events as a replacement for HTML tags.

Why is blocking JavaScript such a big deal?

If search engines are blocked from crawling JavaScript, they will not be receiving your site’s full experience. This means search engines are not seeing what the end user is seeing. This can reduce your site’s appeal to search engines and could eventually be considered cloaking (if the intent is indeed malicious).

Fetch as Google and TechnicalSEO.com’s robots.txt and Fetch and Render testing tools can help to identify resources that Googlebot is blocked from.

The easiest way to solve this problem is through providing search engines access to the resources they need to understand your user experience.

!!! Important note: Work with your development team to determine which files should and should not be accessible to search engines.

Internal linking

Internal linking should be implemented with regular anchor tags within the HTML or the DOM (using an HTML tag) versus leveraging JavaScript functions to allow the user to traverse the site.

Essentially: Don’t use JavaScript’s onclick events as a replacement for internal linking. While end URLs might be found and crawled (through strings in JavaScript code or XML sitemaps), they won’t be associated with the global navigation of the site.

Internal linking is a strong signal to search engines regarding the site’s architecture and importance of pages. In fact, internal links are so strong that they can (in certain situations) override “SEO hints” such as canonical tags.

URL structure

Historically, JavaScript-based websites (aka “AJAX sites”) were using fragment identifiers (#) within URLs.

  • Not recommended:
    • The Lone Hash (#) – The lone pound symbol is not crawlable. It is used to identify anchor link (aka jump links). These are the links that allow one to jump to a piece of content on a page. Anything after the lone hash portion of the URL is never sent to the server and will cause the page to automatically scroll to the first element with a matching ID (or the first <a> element with a name of the following information). Google recommends avoiding the use of “#” in URLs.
    • Hashbang (#!) (and escaped_fragments URLs) – Hashbang URLs were a hack to support crawlers (Google wants to avoid now and only Bing supports). Many a moon ago, Google and Bing developed a complicated AJAX solution, whereby a pretty (#!) URL with the UX co-existed with an equivalent escaped_fragment HTML-based experience for bots. Google has since backtracked on this recommendation, preferring to receive the exact user experience. In escaped fragments, there are two experiences here:
      • Original Experience (aka Pretty URL): This URL must either have a #! (hashbang) within the URL to indicate that there is an escaped fragment or a meta element indicating that an escaped fragment exists (<meta name=”fragment” content=”!”>).
      • Escaped Fragment (aka Ugly URL, HTML snapshot): This URL replace the hashbang (#!) with “_escaped_fragment_” and serves the HTML snapshot. It is called the ugly URL because it’s long and looks like (and for all intents and purposes is) a hack.

Image result

Image source

  • Recommended:
    • pushState History API – PushState is navigation-based and part of the History API (think: your web browsing history). Essentially, pushState updates the URL in the address bar and only what needs to change on the page is updated. It allows JS sites to leverage “clean” URLs. PushState is currently supported by Google, when supporting browser navigation for client-side or hybrid rendering.
      • A good use of pushState is for infinite scroll (i.e., as the user hits new parts of the page the URL will update). Ideally, if the user refreshes the page, the experience will land them in the exact same spot. However, they do not need to refresh the page, as the content updates as they scroll down, while the URL is updated in the address bar.
      • Example: A good example of a search engine-friendly infinite scroll implementation, created by Google’s John Mueller (go figure), can be found here. He technically leverages the replaceState(), which doesn’t include the same back button functionality as pushState.
      • Read more: Mozilla PushState History API Documents

Obtainability

Search engines have been shown to employ headless browsing to render the DOM to gain a better understanding of the user’s experience and the content on page. That is to say, Google can process some JavaScript and uses the DOM (instead of the HTML document).

At the same time, there are situations where search engines struggle to comprehend JavaScript. Nobody wants a Hulu situation to happen to their site or a client’s site. It is crucial to understand how bots are interacting with your onsite content. When you aren’t sure, test.

Assuming we’re talking about a search engine bot that executes JavaScript, there are a few important elements for search engines to be able to obtain content:

  • If the user must interact for something to fire, search engines probably aren’t seeing it.
    • Google is a lazy user. It doesn’t click, it doesn’t scroll, and it doesn’t log in. If the full UX demands action from the user, special precautions should be taken to ensure that bots are receiving an equivalent experience.
  • If the JavaScript occurs after the JavaScript load event fires plus ~5-seconds*, search engines may not be seeing it.
    • *John Mueller mentioned that there is no specific timeout value; however, sites should aim to load within five seconds.
    • *Screaming Frog tests show a correlation to five seconds to render content.
    • *The load event plus five seconds is what Google’s PageSpeed Insights, Mobile Friendliness Tool, and Fetch as Google use; check out Max Prin’s test timer.
  • If there are errors within the JavaScript, both browsers and search engines won’t be able to go through and potentially miss sections of pages if the entire code is not executed.

How to make sure Google and other search engines can get your content

1. TEST

The most popular solution to resolving JavaScript is probably not resolving anything (grab a coffee and let Google work its algorithmic brilliance). Providing Google with the same experience as searchers is Google’s preferred scenario.

Google first announced being able to “better understand the web (i.e., JavaScript)” in May 2014. Industry experts suggested that Google could crawl JavaScript way before this announcement. The iPullRank team offered two great pieces on this in 2011: Googlebot is Chrome and How smart are Googlebots? (thank you, Josh and Mike). Adam Audette’s Google can crawl JavaScript and leverages the DOM in 2015 confirmed. Therefore, if you can see your content in the DOM, chances are your content is being parsed by Google.

adamaudette - I don't always JavaScript, but when I do, I know google can crawl the dom and dynamically generated HTML

Recently, Barry Goralewicz performed a cool experiment testing a combination of various JavaScript libraries and frameworks to determine how Google interacts with the pages (e.g., are they indexing URL/content? How does GSC interact? Etc.). It ultimately showed that Google is able to interact with many forms of JavaScript and highlighted certain frameworks as perhaps more challenging. John Mueller even started a JavaScript search group (from what I’ve read, it’s fairly therapeutic).

All of these studies are amazing and help SEOs understand when to be concerned and take a proactive role. However, before you determine that sitting back is the right solution for your site, I recommend being actively cautious by experimenting with small section Think: Jim Collin’s “bullets, then cannonballs” philosophy from his book Great by Choice:

“A bullet is an empirical test aimed at learning what works and meets three criteria: a bullet must be low-cost, low-risk, and low-distraction… 10Xers use bullets to empirically validate what will actually work. Based on that empirical validation, they then concentrate their resources to fire a cannonball, enabling large returns from concentrated bets.”

Consider testing and reviewing through the following:

  1. Confirm that your content is appearing within the DOM.
  2. Test a subset of pages to see if Google can index content.
  • Manually check quotes from your content.
  • Fetch with Google and see if content appears.
  • Fetch with Google supposedly occurs around the load event or before timeout. It’s a great test to check to see if Google will be able to see your content and whether or not you’re blocking JavaScript in your robots.txt. Although Fetch with Google is not foolproof, it’s a good starting point.
  • Note: If you aren’t verified in GSC, try Technicalseo.com’s Fetch and Render As Any Bot Tool.

After you’ve tested all this, what if something’s not working and search engines and bots are struggling to index and obtain your content? Perhaps you’re concerned about alternative search engines (DuckDuckGo, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.), or maybe you’re leveraging meta information that needs to be parsed by other bots, such as Twitter summary cards or Facebook Open Graph tags. If any of this is identified in testing or presents itself as a concern, an HTML snapshot may be the only decision.

2. HTML SNAPSHOTS
What are HTmL snapshots?

HTML snapshots are a fully rendered page (as one might see in the DOM) that can be returned to search engine bots (think: a static HTML version of the DOM).

Google introduced HTML snapshots 2009, deprecated (but still supported) them in 2015, and awkwardly mentioned them as an element to “avoid” in late 2016. HTML snapshots are a contentious topic with Google. However, they’re important to understand, because in certain situations they’re necessary.

If search engines (or sites like Facebook) cannot grasp your JavaScript, it’s better to return an HTML snapshot than not to have your content indexed and understood at all. Ideally, your site would leverage some form of user-agent detection on the server side and return the HTML snapshot to the bot.

At the same time, one must recognize that Google wants the same experience as the user (i.e., only provide Google with an HTML snapshot if the tests are dire and the JavaScript search group cannot provide support for your situation).

Considerations

When considering HTML snapshots, you must consider that Google has deprecated this AJAX recommendation. Although Google technically still supports it, Google recommends avoiding it. Yes, Google changed its mind and now want to receive the same experience as the user. This direction makes sense, as it allows the bot to receive an experience more true to the user experience.

A second consideration factor relates to the risk of cloaking. If the HTML snapshots are found to not represent the experience on the page, it’s considered a cloaking risk. Straight from the source:

“The HTML snapshot must contain the same content as the end user would see in a browser. If this is not the case, it may be considered cloaking.”
Google Developer AJAX Crawling FAQs

Benefits

Despite the considerations, HTML snapshots have powerful advantages:

  1. Knowledge that search engines and crawlers will be able to understand the experience.
    • Certain types of JavaScript may be harder for Google to grasp (cough… Angular (also colloquially referred to as AngularJS 2) …cough).
  2. Other search engines and crawlers (think: Bing, Facebook) will be able to understand the experience.
    • Bing, among other search engines, has not stated that it can crawl and index JavaScript. HTML snapshots may be the only solution for a JavaScript-heavy site. As always, test to make sure that this is the case before diving in.

"It's not just Google understanding your JavaScript. It's also about the speed." -DOM - "It's not just about Google understanding your Javascript. it's also about your perceived latency." -DOM

Site latency

When browsers receive an HTML document and create the DOM (although there is some level of pre-scanning), most resources are loaded as they appear within the HTML document. This means that if you have a huge file toward the top of your HTML document, a browser will load that immense file first.

The concept of Google’s critical rendering path is to load what the user needs as soon as possible, which can be translated to → “get everything above-the-fold in front of the user, ASAP.”

Critical Rendering Path – Optimized Rendering Loads Progressively ASAP:

progressive page rendering

Image source

However, if you have unnecessary resources or JavaScript files clogging up the page’s ability to load, you get “render-blocking JavaScript.” Meaning: your JavaScript is blocking the page’s potential to appear as if it’s loading faster (also called: perceived latency).

Render-blocking JavaScript – Solutions

If you analyze your page speed results (through tools like Page Speed Insights Tool, WebPageTest.org, CatchPoint, etc.) and determine that there is a render-blocking JavaScript issue, here are three potential solutions:

  1. Inline: Add the JavaScript in the HTML document.
  2. Async: Make JavaScript asynchronous (i.e., add “async” attribute to HTML tag).
  3. Defer: By placing JavaScript lower within the HTML.

!!! Important note: It’s important to understand that scripts must be arranged in order of precedence. Scripts that are used to load the above-the-fold content must be prioritized and should not be deferred. Also, any script that references another file can only be used after the referenced file has loaded. Make sure to work closely with your development team to confirm that there are no interruptions to the user’s experience.

Read more: Google Developer’s Speed Documentation


TL;DR – Moral of the story

Crawlers and search engines will do their best to crawl, execute, and interpret your JavaScript, but it is not guaranteed. Make sure your content is crawlable, obtainable, and isn’t developing site latency obstructions. The key = every situation demands testing. Based on the results, evaluate potential solutions.

Thanks: Thank you Max Prin (@maxxeight) for reviewing this content piece and sharing your knowledge, insight, and wisdom. It wouldn’t be the same without you.

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How to Add Color and Richness to Your Writing … Without Making Us Want to Barf

"Don't tell me it's 'awesome,' 'epic,' or 'amazing.' Show me why." – Sonia Simone

Your job as a writer is to make your subjects clear and interesting.

Assuming you aren’t working on the next Waiting for Godot, you’ll work to make sure your meaning is clear and easy to grasp.

And assuming you aren’t editing Wikipedia, you’ll work to make it lively and fresh.

But sometimes, well-meaning attempts to give your writing life end up producing writing that’s silly, trivial, cluttered, or condescending.

Lively writing is wonderful. Paragraph after paragraph of neon-rainbow unicorn vomit (with glitter) is less wonderful.

Even if you like sparkle (I do), you just need a little. Too much glitter always looks cheap.

So let’s look at how to make your writing colorful and interesting … without making your audience sick to their stomachs.

The most important thing

Before we start, I want to be completely clear:

I don’t get to dictate what works for your audience.

I can show you some common pitfalls, but if your audience adores something I don’t like — their vote is the one that counts.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s look at some of the contributors to unicorn vomit.

A warm and personal voice is good

Nearly any content (including B2B) benefits from a warm, individual voice.

If you think about your professional life, you know that it’s possible to be absolutely professional and still be warm and likable. That’s the tone you’re after. No matter what kind of content you create, your audience is made of individual human beings.

I like to think about having a coffee (or a glass of wine) with a friend and offering my explanation of the topic I’m writing about. I’ll include conversational asides as they make sense … but I’ll often go back and delete about half of them.

Kindergarten cheerfulness is not so good

Things get ugly when we cross the line into Dora the Explorer territory.

Forced, candy-colored cheerfulness will make your content look repetitive, lightweight, and grating. Please remember that your audience is made of adults.

If you’re a member of Team Relentless Cheer, you might benefit from the following:

  • Stick to one exclamation point per article. Zero would also be fine.
  • A few conversational asides in your article are fine, but if you love them, follow my lead and cut at least half.
  • Avoid at all costs the terms Buddy, Ninja, Rockstar, and BFF.
  • Positivity is great, but reality is even better. Write about problems, too.
  • Don’t tell me it’s “awesome,” “epic,” or “amazeballs.” Show me why.
  • Probably you and I should both pare down our attachment to emojis

Our gentleman content creators sometimes suffer from a variant of this: Gary Vee syndrome.

If your content is an endless stream of ALL CAPS, exclamation points, bossy but earnest pronouncements, and addressing your audience as My Friends, please remember that there is one Gary Vee. And it is not you.

Web clichés that should die in a fire

We already talked about Ninja, Rockstar, and BFF.

Let’s add the tossed alphabet salad of BTW, TFW, TBH, AFAIK, and WTF.

We’re all citizens of this world wide web. It’s part of our identity, particularly for content creators. And our tribe has a distinct language. A language made up by people too lazy to spell things.

One or two make your content feel conversational. Too many and my eyelids start to flutter from TL;DR.

(By the way, if you’re not sure what some of these mean … LMGTFY.)

Richness and color are good

So much content looks like it’s actively trying to win a World’s Dullest Website competition.

There are plenty of facts out there, even if we leave out the “alternative” kind. There’s no shortage of sites for basic instructions, stripped-down numbers, and raw information. We’re all a few seconds away from knowing how long the gestation period of the American Crocodile is.

You can’t compete with Wikipedia and you shouldn’t try. Focus on where you can compete — with an original human voice, using the power of your point of view.

Don’t just tell us what the numbers are … tell us why they matter.

Don’t just analyze … make it vivid.

Use texture, storytelling, slang, analogy, metaphor, nuance, and connotation to sculpt a three-dimensional understanding of your topic.

Sensory language helps create vivid impressions. Think about smells, tastes, and colors.

“Loaded” language carries firepower. Calling something pallid or bleached carries a different connotation than the generic light-colored.

Make sure your nouns and verbs are working hard. Sensory, specific, and concrete language gives writing flavor.

Don’t say The deliciously-scented intricate purple flower. Say The lilac.

Goop is not so good

If you’d like to improve your writing and spend a delightful half-hour at the same time, I encourage you to take a look at the winners of the 2016 Bulwer-Lytton contest. I present just one particularly appealing example:

“After his seventh shot of Jack Daniels, Billy reflected that only a certain kind of man, a Roman Catholic priest, born under the sign of Gemini, whose loved one had been run down by a bus full of inebriated Lazio supporters on a glorious Sunday morning in early April outside a provincial church whose bells were ringing Bach’s Tocatta and Fugue in B minor, would be able to truly understand the abyss of despair in which he was drowning.”

– Neil T. Godden, Nouméa, New Caledonia

Trying to make your writing vivid by pouring on a thick layer of verbal goop will only make it indigestible.

Make sure all of your adjectives and adverbs need to be there. You don’t have to declare war on them, but you should give each one a good stink-eye to make sure it’s pulling its weight.

Fancy Nancy word choice

Do you always have a penchant for doing things, instead of just liking them?

Do you think canapés taste better than snacks and prefer traveling in a vehicle to a car?

You may be suffering from Fancy Nancyism.

Just like glitter — a little can add sparkle. I love unusual and interesting words, too. But too many and you start to look silly.

When writing in English, keep most of your word choices to the plain, straightforward Anglo-Saxon.

  • House is better than residence.
  • Smell is better than odor. When appropriate, stink is even better.
  • Eat is better than partake.

One advantage is that when you do choose a word that’s a bit … luminous, it will stand out.

Vulnerability is good …

Perfect people are boring. And annoying. Most of us are a little fed up with the glossy, the over-curated, and the Instagram-perfect.

If you want to make a connection with an audience, go ahead and talk about problems. If you have insecurities, open up about them. (If you don’t have any insecurities, maybe you should.)

No one becomes an authority without stepping in some stinky stuff. Talk about that. Get real about the whole path that led you to where you are, not just the prettiest views along the way.

Train wrecks are not so good

When do we cross the line from vulnerable leader to oversharing whack job?

I’d argue it’s when you cease to come across as someone your audience can rely on.

Are you a freelancer who goes on and on about how you can’t meet your deadlines? Get a Freedom account, block your access to Facebook, and fix the problem. Clients don’t need another flaky freelancer.

Are you a therapist who flies off the handle over trivia and seems to lurch from one disaster to another? That’s work to save for your therapist. Your clients need to know you can help them with their problems.

It’s a bit like parenting. It’s good to let our kids know that we made mistakes, too … but if they start feeling like they need to parent us, we need to remember which one is the adult.

Your audience isn’t your support group. You’re there to help them, not the other way around.

Of course, seek out a real support group for the tough days. Everyone goes through tough times. Share your troubles with the right people.

How about you?

What are your favorite ways to bring some color into your writing?

Got a little Fancy Nancy or Dora the Explorer going on in your content? You’re among friends here — let us know in the comments. :)

The post How to Add Color and Richness to Your Writing … Without Making Us Want to Barf appeared first on Copyblogger.


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Are your paid search ads making the right impression?

Impression share may not be the ultimate measure of paid search success, but columnist Jacob Baadsgaard shows how tracking this metric can lead to paid search improvements that can really boost your bottom line.

The post Are your paid search ads making the right impression? appeared first on…



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