Tag Archive | "Really"

These 4 Copywriting Techniques Work Really Well … Right Up Until They Don’t

Search on Google and you’ll find hundreds of thousands of pages devoted to copywriting secrets, tips, tricks, and techniques. Go…

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7 Lessons Copywriters Can Learn from Simply Listening to a Really Good Conversation

The easy part of this process is following the seven lessons below. It’s much harder to find a good conversation. The sad truth is, most of us are terrible at holding even a half-decent conversation. We’re in too much of a hurry. We’re too anxious to get our own points of view across, and we
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What’s Really Broken in the ‘Content Marketing Playbook’

Sometimes it bums me out that we’ve become a culture of contrarians. Whether it’s Black Panther, 3D printing, or strawberry ice cream, there’s nothing so excellent that someone on the internet won’t tell you why you’re wrong for liking it. So sometimes it’s easy to miss the signals when a genuine problem does develop. And
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Do Content Writers Really Need to Think about SEO?

In my experience, creative writing pros have an endless appetite for writing advice. How to add more color and texture to your writing, storytelling techniques, endless discussions about the serial comma and finer points of usage. Elements like copywriting and conversion strategy? That tends to start to divide people up. Some writers want to pick
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The Path to Freedom, More Creativity, and … Really Good Audio Quality

The Path to Freedom, More Creativity, and ... Really Good Audio Quality

We kicked off the holiday week on Monday with your July creativity and productivity prompts.

Each month this year, we’re suggesting practical ideas to improve your content and help you get more done. In July, we’re challenging you to select two content types that are new to you and schedule an extra hour each day to work on something meaningful.

(If one of your new content types is audio, be sure to check out Wednesday’s post this week as well.)

Tuesday was U.S. Independence Day, and I shared my latest thoughts on three steps toward greater economic and time independence: growing your audience, creating a revenue stream, and committing to growth and learning.

Each of those three is a big topic, which is why it’s our privilege to help you with them throughout the year.

On Wednesday, Toby Lyles, who was instrumental to the development of our Rainmaker FM podcast network, gave some of his best tips on how to get that smooth pro sound from your audio — without killing your budget.

Toby has given me some fantastic tips for improving my own recordings over the years, and I’m so glad we convinced him to write a post for us!

That’s it for this week — have a great weekend, and we’ll see you Monday. :)

— Sonia Simone

Chief Content Officer, Rainmaker Digital


Catch up on this week’s content


2017 Content Excellence Challenge: The July Prompts2017 Content Excellence Challenge: The July Prompts

by Sonia Simone


How to Carve Out Your Own Slice of IndependenceHow to Carve Out Your Own Slice of Independence

by Sonia Simone


your sound should be a welcome mat that invites the listener in for what feels like a face-to-face conversation10 Easy Tips for Professional Audio Quality

by Toby Lyles


How to Attract Your Ideal Customer with Perfectly Positioned ContentHow to Attract Your Ideal Customer with Perfectly Positioned Content

by Jerod Morris


How to Create Stability and Success as an ArtistHow to Create Stability and Success as an Artist

by Sonia Simone


How Award-Winning Short Story Writer Abigail Ulman Writes: Part OneHow Award-Winning Short Story Writer Abigail Ulman Writes: Part One

by Kelton Reid


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What Link Building Success Really Looks Like

Posted by mark-johnstone

A few weeks ago, a post was published entitled The SEO Myth of Going Viral. It referenced 8 pieces of content across 4 different sites that went viral and, most importantly for SEO, gained hundreds of linking root domains. I was the creative director on a lot of those campaigns while working as the VP of Creative at Distilled. Today, I’d like to add some important context and detail to the original post.

I actually agree with much of what it said. However, it’s based on the assumption that one big viral piece of content would result in a visible jump in rankings across the domain within about 3 months of the content being released. There are a few challenges with this as a basis for measuring success.

I wouldn’t advise setting your hopes on one big viral hit boosting your rankings across the domain. Not by itself. However, if that viral hit is part of ongoing link building efforts in which you build lots of links to lots of pieces of content, you can begin to see an upwards trend.

“Trend” is the important word here. If you’re looking for a dramatic step or jump as a direct result of one piece of viral content, this could cause you to overlook a positive trend in the right direction, and even tempt you to conclude that this form of content-based link building doesn’t work.

With regards to this type of link building and its impact on domain-wide rankings, I’d like to focus on the follow 4 points:

  1. How success really looks
  2. Why success looks like it does
  3. Other factors you need to consider
  4. How we can improve our approach

What successful link building really looks like

Simply Business was held up in the SEO myth post as an example of this kind of link building not working. I would argue the opposite, holding it up as an example of it working. So how can this be?

I believe it stems from a misunderstanding of what success looks like.

The post highlighted three of the most successful pieces of content Distilled created for Simply Business. However, focusing on those three pieces of content doesn’t provide the full picture. We didn’t make just three pieces of content; we made twenty-one. Here are the results of those pieces:

Note: Data missing for the first two pieces of content

That’s links from 1466 domains built to 19 pieces of content over a period of 3 years.

The myth in question is as follows:

Building lots of links to one piece of content will result in a jump in domain-wide rankings within a reasonable timeframe, e.g. 3 months.

Though this wasn’t the hypothesis explicitly stated at the start of the post, it was later clarified in a comment. However, that’s not necessarily how this works.

An accurate description of what works would be:

Building lots of links to lots of pieces of content sustainably, while taking other important factors into consideration, can result in an increase in domain-wide rankings over time.

To hold up, the myth required a directly attributable jump in rankings and organic traffic within approximately 3 months of the release of each piece of content. So where was the bump? The anticipated reward for all those links?

No. The movement we’re looking for is here:

Not a jump, but a general trend. Up and to the right.

Below is a SEMRush graph from the original post, showing estimated organic traffic to the Simply Business site:

At first glance, the graph between 2012 and 2014 might look unremarkable, but that’s because the four large spikes on the right-hand side push the rest of the chart down, creating a flattening effect. There’s actually a 170% rise in traffic from June 2012 to June 2014. To see that more clearly, here’s the same data (up to June 2014) on a different scale:

Paints quite a different picture, don’t you think?

Okay, but what did this do for the company? Did they see an increase in rankings for valuable terms, or just terms related to the content itself?

Over the duration of these link building campaigns, Simply Business saw their most important keywords (“professional indemnity insurance” and “public liability insurance”) move from positions 3 to 1 and 3 to 2, respectively. While writing this post, I contacted Jasper Martens, former Head of Marketing and Communications at Simply Business, now VP of Marketing at PensionBee. Jasper told me:

“A position change from 3 to 1 on our top keyword meant a 15% increase in sales.”

That translates to money. A serious amount of it!

Simply Business also saw ranking improvements for other commercial terms, too. Here’s a small sample:

Note: This data was taken from a third-party tool, Sistrix. Data from third-party tools, as used both in this post and the original post, should be taken with a grain of salt. They don’t provide a totally accurate picture, but they can give you some indication of the direction of movement.

I notice Simply Business still ranks #1 today for some of their top commercial keywords, such as “professional indemnity insurance.” That’s pretty incredible in a market filled with some seriously big players, household UK names with familiar TV ads and much bigger budgets.

Why success looks like it does

I remember the first time I was responsible for a piece of content going viral. The social shares, traffic, and links were rolling in. This was it! Link building nirvana! I was sitting back waiting for the rankings, organic traffic, and revenue to follow.

That day didn’t come.

I was gutted. I felt robbed!

I’ve come to terms with it now. But at the time, it was a blow.

I assume most SEOs know it doesn’t work that way. But maybe they don’t. Maybe there’s an assumption that one big burst in links will result in a jump in rankings, as discussed in the original post. That’s the myth it was seeking to dispel. I get it. I’ve been there, too.

It doesn’t necessarily work that way. And, actually, it makes sense that it doesn’t.

  • In two of the examples, the sites in question had one big viral hit, gaining hundreds of linking root domains, but this on its own didn’t result in a boost in domain-wide rankings. That’s true.
  • Google would have pretty volatile search results if every time someone had a viral hit, they jumped up in the rankings for all their head terms.
  • But if a site continues to build lots of links regularly over time, like Simply Business did, Google might want that site to be weighted more favorably and worthy of ranking higher.

The Google algorithm is an incredibly complex equation. It’s tempting to think that you put links in and you get rankings out, and a big jump in one will correspond to a big jump in the other. But the math involved is far more complicated than that. It’s not that linear.

Other factors to consider

Link building alone won’t improve your rankings.

There are a number of other influential factors at play. At a high level, these include:

  1. A variety of on-site (and technical) SEO factors
  2. Algorithmic updates and penalties
  3. Changes to the SERPs, like the knowledge box and position of paid results
  4. Competitor activity

I’m not going to go into great detail here, but I wanted to mention that you need to consider these factors and more when reviewing the impact of link building on a site’s rankings.

Below is the graph from SearchMetrics for Concert Hotels, also via the original post. This is another site to which Distilled built a high volume of links.

As you can possibly tell from the large drop before Distilled started working with Concert Hotels, the site was suffering from an algorithmic penalty. We proceeded under the hypothesis that building high-quality links, alongside other on-site activity, would be important in the site’s recovery.

However, after three or four large link building successes without any corresponding uplift, we recommended to the client that we stop building links and shift all resources to focus on other activities.

As you’ll see at the end of the chart, there appears to be some positive movement happening. If and when the site fully recovers, we’ll never be able to tell exactly what contribution, if any, link building made to the site’s eventual rankings.

You can’t take the above as proof that link building doesn’t work. You have to consider the other factors that might be affecting a site’s performance.

How can we improve our approach?

As I mentioned at the start of this post, I actually agree with a lot of the points raised in the original post. In particular, there were some strong points made about the topical relevance of the content you create and the way in which the content sits within the site architecture.

Ideally, the content you create to gain links would be:

  • Topically relevant to what you do
  • Integrated into the site architecture to distribute link equity
  • Valuable in its own right (even if it weren’t for links and SEO)

This can be a challenge, though, especially in certain industries, and you might not hit the sweet spot every time.

But let’s look at them in turn.

Topical relevance

If you can create a piece of content that gains links and is closely relevant to your product and what you do for customers, that’s great. That’s the ideal.

To give you an example of this, Distilled created a career aptitude test for Rasmussen, a career-focused college in America. This page earned links from 156 linking root domains (according to the Majestic Historic Index), and the site continues to rank well and drive relevant search traffic to the site.

Another example would be Moz’s own Search Engine Ranking Factors. Building lots of links to that page will certainly drive relevant and valuable traffic to the Moz site, as well as contributing to the overall strength of the domain.

However, your content doesn’t have to be about your product, as long as it’s relevant to your audience. In the case of Simply Business, the core audience (small business owners) doesn’t care about insurance as much as it cares about growing its businesses. That’s why we created several guides to small business marketing, which also gained lots of links.

As Jasper Martens explains:

“Before I left Simply Business, the guides we created attracted 15,000 unique visits a month with a healthy CTR to sign-up and sales. It was very effective to move prospects down the funnel and make them sales-ready. It also attracted a lot of small business owners not looking for insurance right now.”

Integrating the content into the site architecture

Distilled often places content outside the main architecture of the site. I’ll accept this isn’t optimal, but just for context, let me explain the reasons behind it:

  1. It creates a more immersive and compelling experience. Consider how impactful New York Times’ Snowfall would have been if it had to sit inside the normal page layout.
  2. It prevents conflicts between the site’s code and the interactive content’s code. This can be particularly useful for organizations that have restrictive development cycles, making live edits on the site difficult to negotiate. It also helps reduce the time, cost, and frustration on both the client-side and agency-side.
  3. It looks less branded. If a page looks too commercial, it can deter publishers from linking.

While it worked for Simply Business, it would make sense, where you can, to pull these things into the normal site architecture to help distribute link equity further.

Content that’s valuable in its own right (even if it weren’t for links and SEO)

Google is always changing. What’s working now and what’s worked in the past won’t necessarily continue to be the case. The most future-proof way you can build links to your site is via activity that’s valuable in its own right — activities like PR, branding, and growing your audience online.

So where do we go from here?

Link building via content marketing campaigns can still make a positive impact to domain-wide rankings. However, it’s important to enter any link building campaign with realistic expectations. The results might not be as direct and immediate as you might hope.

You need to be in it for the long haul, and build links to a number of pieces of content over time before you’ll really see results. When looking for results, focus on overall trends, not month-to-month movements.

Remember that link building alone won’t solve your SEO. You need to make sure you take other on-site, technical, and algorithmic factors into consideration.

It’s always worth refining the way you’re building links. The closer the topics are aligned with your product or core audience’s interests, the more the content is integrated into your site’s architecture, and the more the content you’re creating is valuable for reasons beyond SEO, the better.

It’s not easy to manage that every time, but if you can, you’ll be in a good position to sustainably build links and improve your site’s rankings over time.

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How to Tie Marketing Metrics to the Data that Boards, CxOs, and Investors Really Care About – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

SEOs and executives speak different languages. It’s a simple fact, but it’s one that often acts as a blocker for getting your ideas and investments approved. A simple change in how you communicate your marketing goals, triumphs, and challenges could be what’s standing between you and getting the C-suite buy-in that’s integral to your success. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand helps you translate your marketing jargon into financial metrics and data that the folks in charge will actually care about.

How to Tie Marketing Metrics to the Data that Boards, CXOs, and investors really care about whiteboard

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about tying marketing metrics that marketers use to the things that CEOs, CXOs, whatever the C-level titles that you’ve got are, investors, board members, to the metrics and data that they care about.

This is a problem that I’ve talked about with many marketers over the last few weeks, especially at some conferences and events where folks say, “Hey, we’ve got our metrics dialed in. We know what we’re doing. But when we present it to the Board, or when we present it to our CMO, or our CEO, when we show it to our investors, not only do they not get it, it’s like we’re not speaking the same language, and therefore we’re not able to have a conversation productively about where investment should and shouldn’t be made, and they’re not able to give input into whether they think our idea is a good one, or whether they think there’s a good return on investment there.” This can be tough.

Start with the metrics that marketers care about

So what happens is you’re a marketer, you’re presenting here to your Board of Directors or to your executive team, and you say, “Hey look, we’ve got traffic growing in every category. SEO is up. Social is up. We’ve grown our link profile, which is going to help us with search, all these great things.” Fantastic, but the Board is sort of sitting there like, “Well, I don’t really know how to contribute, and how does that tie in to higher lifetime value of customers, because that’s the thing that I know and the thing that I care about, and I’m not sure this marketer person is really investing in the right kind of ways for the organization.”

That sucks. As a marketer, that totally sucks, because it means that you are not communicating your message, and that means you’re not going to get, you’re unlikely to get buy-in from all these people that you really care about and need their permission and their acceptance in order to make the investments you need.

The thing is, marketers are very focused on the funnel.

We care about metrics that show top-of-funnel growth. We care about which channels send that top-of-funnel traffic. We care about how people are moving through the funnel. We want to see conversions and conversion rate, which is why we work so much on conversion rate optimization, and we care about marketing metrics that predict better retention or greater recidivism, meaning people are buying again or coming back and becoming customers again.

This is our world and we live in it. It does translate okay, decently to the Board level.

Translate marketing metrics to the financial ones that investors care about

But if you think about what folks care about at the highest levels of a company’s strategic imperatives — that could be a Board of Directors, could be investors, could be C-level folks — they’re really focused on things like market size, meaning: How big is our addressable market? Who could we potentially reach? What if we run out of those people — can we keep growing? Are more of them coming into the fold, or are people exiting this market and going somewhere else?

They care about cost of customer acquisition. How much does it cost us to get one new customer?

They care about customer revenue, the revenue that we actually get from those customers that we’re bringing in, whether that’s going up, and overall growth rate. Are we getting more customers over time? Is that rate of growth expanding, meaning acceleration?

They care about customer lifetime value. Customer lifetime value is something that pretty much every metric we calculate as marketers should tie back to that, especially when we’re having conversations with these kinds of people. Essentially it is when a new customer comes in and they make any kind of purchase from us, they spend any type of dollars with us — a product, a service, a subscription, whatever it is — how much do we get over their customer lifetime? Meaning if it’s an e-commerce play, it could be the case that they come and they buy five things from us over the course of two years on average, and that dollar total is $ 360, and 40% of that is gross margin for us. Essentially, the rest is cost of goods. Okay, that’s customer lifetime value.

Or if you have a subscription business, like Moz is a subscription business, if you subscribe to our tools, we’ll charge you $ 99 a month or $ 149 a month. I think on average our customer lifetime value is essentially $ 120 times the average customer lifetime span, which is somewhere around 11 months all in. So it’s that number multiplied out. So $ 1200 or $ 1300, somewhere around there, that’s customer lifetime value.

That doesn’t actually count recidivism, people who quit and then come back again. We’re trying to get to that metric, and we need it, because you want to be able to speak to true customer lifetime value. This is sort of the underpinning of all the rest of this.

But other things these folks are going to care about, comparison of cohorts. So it’s not the case that all customers are exactly the same. You know this as a marketer, because you know that it costs you a different amount of money to acquire folks through one channel, and they perform differently than folks who are acquired through a different channel. You know that different cohorts of personas, for example, people let’s say who work in an agency versus who work in-house, maybe those are two different kinds of people that you serve in a B2B model. Or you know that folks who are higher income versus lower income spend different amounts at your e-commerce shop, that type of stuff. That comparison is very interesting to these folks as well.

Another comparison that matters is a competitive comparison. How big are we, how big are they? How fast are they growing, how fast are we growing? What’s their customer lifetime value, what’s ours? What’s their retention and recidivism rate, what’s ours? Those things, massively interesting to this group as well.

Then there’s a bunch of other stuff that they care about, like cost of goods and teams and market dynamics, etc. Marketers generally don’t touch that stuff and don’t usually need to worry about it.

But the solution to our problem here is to speak this language.

So let’s go back to our initial story.

Instead of saying, “Here’s traffic growth from all these different channels, and here’s how we’re investing in search, versus social, versus paid ads, versus trade shows,” all this kind of stuff, what we want to say is something like, “Hey, here’s the traffic from SEO, and here’s the traffic from social, and as those have been growing, our cost to acquire a new customer has been falling, because those channels are organic, and that means we don’t pay each time we get a new customer from them. We only pay for the upfront investment in sweat equity, creativity, engineering needs, web engineering needs, and whatever we’re doing. But then it keeps paying dividends, and because of that you can see this CAC falling as our search traffic has risen.”

Now you have the attention of these folks. Now you’ve engaged them in a way that they care about, because they say, “Aha, more organic search, lower cost to acquire a customer,” — which is great because CLTV to CAC ratio, the ratio of lifetime value to acquisition cost, this ratio right here, is something that every investor, every Board of Directors member, every CXO cares deeply about. It’s the underpinnings of the company. That’s what makes a profitable company work and what gives it the ability to grow. When you speak their language, you get this type of response.

So what I’m going to urge you to do as a marketer is to take any metric, any data point, any story you’re trying to tell around return on investment, around a project you have, and turn it into something that makes sense to the group of people that you’re talking to, especially if that’s strategic-level. You want to tie those to tangible improvements or to issues. It could be problems. It may not be just positive things. It could be negative things too, in the areas your CXO or Board or investor cares about.

So let’s imagine — and this is a conversation that many, many folks have — they say to me, “Rand, we want to hire an SEO consultant, or we want to bring an SEO in-house full-time, but we’ve been having trouble getting buy-off from our CEO or our CMO or our Board.”

Well, let’s change the conversation. Instead of, “We need to hire an SEO consultant because SEO is really important, search engines send a lot of traffic, and search traffic is something we’re not competing in well right now,” to, “CAC is high. CAC is too high. Our cost to acquire a new customer right now is too high, and our CLTV is too low for customers that we buy via paid search. So we’re spending a lot of money on paid ads right now, and the customers we get via that have this high customer acquisition cost, because we have to spend money to get them, and the CLTV isn’t as high because customers who come through paid, on average, usually tend to underperform compared to those who come through organic. It’s just a fact of who clicks on ads versus who clicks on organic results. But, if we ranked organically for more of these keywords, and we could get more SEO traffic compared to our PPC traffic, we could stop (a) losing those searches to our competitors, who are outranking us now, and (b) we would bump up the CLTV and we’d be lowering cost of customer acquisition.”

Boom. You have changed the conversation to something that this group of folks really gets, and you’ve made it much more likely that they are going to say yes to your proposal.

Same thing here. Let’s say you say, “Hey, we’re going to do something crazy. We want to actually spend more on trade shows, on events, on speaking, on going places physically in-person. It’s expensive. We don’t reach as many people as we do over web channels or over traditional ad channels, but we’ve been getting good customers via events.”

That’s a real tough sell unless you do this. “Dear Board, here’s a comparison of customers acquired via our five major marketing channels. Here’s SEO, here’s PPC, here’s our Facebook ads, here’s organic social, and this is events. You can see cost to acquire, you can see lifetime value, you can see the ratio, and you can see the numbers of folks that we’ve gotten via each of those channels and the revenue they bring in.”

Awesome. Now, repeat buyers and referrals are so much stronger from events, from this group over here, that even though it costs much more, the math works out that it is the best investment we can make over the next couple of quarters. We want to bring this up by two or threefold, and if we keep seeing continued investment or continued metrics in the same way we have the last few months, we’re going to have the highest positive ROI from that investment versus any of these other channels.

Awesome. Change the conversation, made it something these folks understand. Speak their language, and you get the buy-in you want.

All right, everyone, look forward to your comments and thoughts, 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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What It’s Really Like to Start an Ultra-Successful Company: Meet Moz’s Rand Fishkin

rand fishkin - build a business on a foundation of core values

Rand Fishkin is known for founding an incredibly successful company — while keeping an unwavering commitment to his core values.

You may have noticed, if you look around at the general business landscape, that a lot of successful founders are a bit cocky. They tend to overestimate the role of their own genius in their success — and underestimate the hard work of their teams and the luck that went into that success.

(And no, for the curious, I’m not counting Rainmaker Digital founder Brian Clark in that group.) ”</p

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What Does It Really Mean to Go “Green”?




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Let’s face it… Most of us, if honest, will humbly acknowledge that we have been thrust into this wave of environmentally focused awareness having only a limited scope of perspective and true understanding of what it means to actually live and function in a “green” society. Various media vehicles such as the Internet, World News, and even in casual conversations among our peers or co-workers have all greatly massaged our need to know more. Long gone are the days of feeling responsible because we separated the plastics from the paper in our recycling receptacles. Oh no… the responsibility has become so much greater. There is an evolving and complex world of a global proportion that begs further investigation.

Let us begin…

“Going green” means to pursue knowledge and practices that can lead to more environmentally friendly and ecologically responsible decisions and lifestyles, which can help protect the environment and sustain its natural resources for current and future generations.

And so, let us delve into these “practices” that are designed to make us more ecologically responsible citizens and truly discover how adopting “green” traditions can change the way we live and ultimately change the world in which we live.

It can be argued that one of the major factors in positively contributing to the environment’s vitality is the practice of sustaining what has been given to us as natural resources. The idea of ecological sustainability points directly to the ability of a society to balance the depletion of renewable and non-renewable resources with the exact equivalent substitution of the said same with no discontinuity in between. What this means is that, as we use a specific resource, we have to ensure that the availability of that same resource is afforded the opportunity to thrive thereafter.

A very relatable and practical practice of sustainability is found in the business concept behind the online auction giant, eBay. This company upholds sustainability in that it offers people all around the world the opportunity to buy and exchange used goods that would otherwise go to waste, thereby lengthening its lifespan and productive energy. Where the environment is concerned, there should be a similar exchange of conscious replacement of resources used that becomes an effortless way of living. The result is a never-ending and plenteous stockpile of products and goods from which we can constantly create, re-create, and sustain.

Another practice closely associated with “going green” can be found in the implementation of the Green Supply Chain Management Program. What this is, is an adoption of widely used sub-programs by large and small companies who have dedicated a large portion of their production efforts to the implementation and execution of environmentally conscious practices. One such program is the recycling initiative where employees are encouraged to eliminate their usual practices of throwing away renewable resources and instead place them into receptacles that will later be transported to larger facilities who will, in turn, use green processes to sustain the vitality of the items used. These ecologically driven actions are positively reinforced with rewards, special privileges, and other forms of recognition that are designed to boost morale and encourage similar positive behaviors.

Also growing rapidly in popularity in small and large businesses alike is heightened focus on the reduction of carbon emissions and the use of environmentally harmful toxins in the production aspects of their industries. More and more, businesses are employing carbon-free or reduced-carbon sources of energy such as wind power and solar power in order to drastically affect the amount of carbon-based fuels emitted into the atmosphere. Not only has this proven to be a strategic business strategy for some, but it has also contributed to a healthier and cleaner environment for the whole to enjoy. Businesses of varied trades, specifically in the construction and home building industries, are also taking a more considerate look at the products they use in their production phases and end projects. Most have adopted the use of more efficient, and sometimes more costly, eco-friendly brands to supplement the toxic and bio-accumulative ones. This simple change has contributed to improved air quality and cleaner work environments in a notably impactful way.

So, there is a part that we can all play in the global effort to create a “greener” environment. We can agree that the effort really begins in understanding why changes to the way we have done things in the past are minimal when compared to the hugely beneficial harvest we will enjoy in the future. If we intend to be here for a while, we should all endeavor to make it a place worth being.

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Scaling Geo-Targeted Local Landing Pages That Really Rank and Convert – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

One question we see regularly come up is what to do if you’re targeting particular locations/regions with your site content, and you want to rank for local searches, but you don’t actually have a physical presence in those locations. The right track can depend on a few circumstances, and in today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand helps you figure out which one is best for your organization.

For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard!

Scaling Geo-Targeted Local Landing Pages That Really Rank and Convert - Whiteboard Friday

Video Transcription

Howdy Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re talking about geo-targeted or geo-specific local landing pages for companies that are trying to reach many geographic regions and need to have that scale, but don’t necessarily have a local physical location in every city they’re trying to target.

So if you can imagine I’m going to use the fictitious Rand’s Whisky Company, and Rand’s Whisky Company is going to be called Specialty Whisky. We’re going to be running events all over the country in all sorts of cities. We’re going to be trying to reach people with a really local approach to whisky, because I’m very passionate about whisky, and I want everyone to be able to try scotches and bourbons and American whiskies as well.

Okay, this sounds great, but there’s going to be a big challenge. Rand’s Whisky Company has no physical location in any city other than our main Seattle headquarters. This is a big challenge, and I’ve talked to many startups and many companies who have this same problem. Essentially they need to rank for a core set of terms in many different geographies.

So they might say, “Hey, we want to be in Nashville, Tennessee, and in Atlanta, Georgia, and we’ve identified a lot of whisky consumers in, let’s say, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. But we can’t open physical, local office space in every one of those geographies. In fact, we could probably only start by having a Web presence in each of those. We haven’t yet necessarily achieved sort of scale and service in every single one of those geos.” It’s not like I’m running events in every one of these the day I start. I might start with Seattle and Portland and maybe Boise, Idaho, or Spokane or something like that, and then eventually I’ll grow out.

This presents a big challenge in search results, because the way Google’s results work is that they bias to show kind of two things in a lot of categories. They’ll try and show you the local purveyors of whatever it is that the person is searching for in the local or maps results. Obviously, Pigeon had a big change and update to these, changing the geographic areas and changing the ordering of those results and now many map results show up, and those sorts of things. But obviously they’re still very present.

We see them a lot. MozCast sees a very high percent of local intent queries even sometimes without the city modifier. If you’re in a geography, you search for a whisky store, and you know what? Liquor stores and specialty liquor companies and that kind of stuff, they’re going to show up in your search results here in Seattle in those Maps local boxes. So that makes it tough.

Then the other category is, of course, the organic web results. That’s where folks like this, Rand’s Whisky Company and other folks who are trying to scale their local presence, need to show up because you really won’t have an opportunity in those local results unless and until you have true local physical space. So you’re aiming for those Web results.

You’re oftentimes competing with people like Yelp and Angie’s List. A lot of the old Yellow Pages folks are in their directories and guides. Then sometimes, occasionally there will be a company that does a great job with this.

So there two companies that I want to call out. One is Uber, which everyone is pretty much familiar with, and Uber has done a great job of having their website contained in unique portals for each city in which they operate, unique social accounts, unique blogs. They really have put together a segmented operation that targets each city that they’re in. They do have physical space, so they’re cheating a little bit on this front.

Then another one is a company called Ride the Ducks, and Ride the Ducks has different websites for every city that they operate in. So there’s a duck tour in Boston, a duck tour in Seattle, a duck tour in Los Angeles, all this kind of stuff. You can ride the ducks in any of these cities.

Now let’s say that you’re a startup or a company starting out, and you’re thinking, “Okay, fine. I’m going to have my Specialty Whisky page for Seattle, and I’ll just put some generic information in there, and then I’ll replace Seattle with Portland, with Los Angeles, with Baton Rouge.” That’s my Baton Rouge page. That’s my Los Angeles page. This is called the find and replace.

Even if you push this out, even if you customize some of the content on this page, try and make it a little more specific, have a few addresses or locations, you will fail. Unfortunately, Angie’s List, who I mentioned, they do a really terrible job of this. They have a lot of pages that are what I call find and replace pages. You could just plug in nearly any city, and that’s what the results would look like. They do rank. They are ranking because they were early and because they’ve got a lot of domain authority. Do not think that you can copy their content strategy and succeed.

The next one is a little bit more scaled out. This is a little bit more like what someone such as a Yelp or TripAdvisor might do for some of their landing pages. They’ve got some unique info in each city. It’s the same for each city, but it’s scaled out and it’s relatively comprehensive. So, my Specialty Whisky Seattle page might show our favorite bars in Seattle. It might show some recommended stores where you can buy whisky. It might show some purveyors, some vendors, that we like. It could have some local events listed on the page. Fine, great. That could be good enough if the intent is always the same.

So if every city’s intent, the people who are searching for restaurants in Portland versus restaurants in Seattle, you’re basically looking for the same thing. It’s the same kind of people looking for the same kind of thing, and that’s how Yelp and TripAdvisor and folks like that have scaled this model out to success.

If you want to take it even one step further, my final recommendation is to go in that direction of what Uber and Ride the Ducks and those types do, which is they essentially have a customized experience created by a local team in that city, even if they don’t necessarily have a physical office. Uber, before they open the physical office, will send people out. They’ll go team gathering. Yelp did this, too, in their history as they were scaling out.

That kind of thing is like, “Hey, we’ve got some photos from some of our events. We’ve got a representative in the city.” This is Seattle Whiskey Pete, and Whiskey Pete says, “Yar, you should buy some whiskey.” It’s got a list of events. So Knee High is stocking up for the holiday (presumably at the Knee High Stocking Company, which is a great little speakeasy here in Seattle), and whisky at Bumbershoot. You can follow our @WhiskySeattle account on Twitter, and that’s different from our @WhiskyPortland, our @WhiskyLosAngeles or our @WhiskyNewYork accounts. Great.

There’s a bunch of top Seattle picks. So this is a very customized page. This experience is completely owned and controlled by a team that’s focused purely on Seattle. This is sort of the Holy Grail. It’s hard to scale to this, which is why this other approach can really be okay for a lot of folks trying to scale up and rank for all of those geo terms plus their keywords.

What’s the process by which you go about this? I’m glad you asked because I wrote it down. Number one, we want to try and determine the searcher’s intent and how we can satisfy the query and at the same time delight visitors. We’ve got to create a unique, special experience for them and delight visitors in addition to satisfying their query.

So for Seattle whisky, I can show them where they can buy whisky in the city. I can recommend some bars that have a great whisky selection, and then I can delight them by showing some tips and tricks from our community. I can delight them by giving them special priority access to events. I can delight them by giving them a particular guide that they could print out and take with them or the ability to register for special things that they couldn’t get elsewhere, buy whiskies that they’d never be able to get, whatever it is, something special to delight them.

Number two, I want to select the group of keywords, and I say group because usually there are a few keywords in every one of the verticals that I’ve talked to people about. There are usually between 3 and about 20 sets of keywords that they really, deeply care about per each geography. Do be careful. You’ve got to be wary of local colloquialisms. For example, if you’re in the United States, whiskey is often spelled with an “e”, W-H-I-S-K-E-Y, whereas in the U.K. and most of Europe, most of the rest of the English language speaking world, it’s spelled W-H-I-S-K-Y with no “e”.

Also you want to take those groups, and you want to actually combine them. So say I’ve got a bunch of keywords over here. I might want to say, “Hey, you know what? These three keywords, whisky tastings and whisky events, that’s the same intent.” I don’t need to create two different landing pages for those. Let’s take those and bunch them up and group them and make that one page. That’ll be our Seattle Whisky Events page, and we’ll target tastings and events and festivals and whatever other synonyms might go in there.

Third, I want to create a few of these, one of these two models of really amazing pages as a sample, as an instruction for all future ones. This is what we want to get to. Let’s make the best, most perfect page for Seattle, and then we’ll go make one for Portland and we’ll go make one for Los Angeles. Then we’ll see how do we get that into a process that will scale for us. You want that process to be repeatable. You want it to be well-defined. You want it to be so that a content team, who comes in, or contractor, an agency can take that document, can look at the examples, and replicate that on a city by city basis. That’s going to require a lot of uniqueness. You need to have those high bars set up so that they can achieve them.

The fourth and last thing for these pages you’re creating is you’ve got to be able to answer this question: Who will amplify this page and why? By amplify, I mean share socially, share via word of mouth, share via email, link to it. Who will amplify it and why? How are we going to reach them?

Then go get them. Go prove to yourself that with those two or three amazing example pages that you made that you can actually do it, and then make that part of your scaling process.

Now you’ve got something where you can truly say, “Yes, we can go geo by geo and have the potential to rank in market after market for the terms and phrases that we care about in the organic results.”

Long term, if you have a lot of success in a city, my next suggestion would be that you move from this model to this model where you actually have a local team, just one person, even a contractor, someone who visits. It doesn’t have to be a permanent resident of that city. It can be someone who goes there a month out of the year, whatever it is, every few weekends and owns that page and that experience and that section of your site for that specific geo that produces remarkable results.

They build relationships. That furthers your press, and that furthers your brand in that town. There’s a lot of opportunity there. So that’s eventually where you want to move to.

All right, everyone. I hope all of you out there who are building local, geo-targeted landing pages at scale have found this valuable, and I hope you’re going to go build some phenomenal pages. Maybe someone will even start a whisky company for me.

All right, everyone. Take care. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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