Tag Archive | "Research"

Rewriting the Beginner’s Guide to SEO, Chapter 3: Keyword Research

Posted by BritneyMuller

Welcome to the draft of Chapter Three of the new and improved Beginner’s Guide to SEO! So far you’ve been generous and energizing with your feedback for our outline, Chapter One, and Chapter Two. We’re asking for a little more of your time as we debut the our third chapter on keyword research. Please let us know what you think in the comments!


Chapter 3: Keyword Research

Understand what your audience wants to find.

Now that you’ve learned how to show up in search results, let’s determine which strategic keywords to target in your website’s content, and how to craft that content to satisfy both users and search engines.

The power of keyword research lies in better understanding your target market and how they are searching for your content, services, or products.

Keyword research provides you with specific search data that can help you answer questions like:

  • What are people searching for?
  • How many people are searching for it?
  • In what format do they want that information?

In this chapter, you’ll get tools and strategies for uncovering that information, as well as learn tactics that’ll help you avoid keyword research foibles and build strong content. Once you uncover how your target audience is searching for your content, you begin to uncover a whole new world of strategic SEO!

What terms are people searching for?

You may know what you do, but how do people search for the product, service, or information you provide? Answering this question is a crucial first step in the keyword research process.

Discovering keywords

You likely have a few keywords in mind that you would like to rank for. These will be things like your products, services, or other topics your website addresses, and they are great seed keywords for your research, so start there! You can enter those keywords into a keyword research tool to discover average monthly search volume and similar keywords. We’ll get into search volume in greater depth in the next section, but during the discovery phase, it can help you determine which variations of your keywords are most popular amongst searchers.

Once you enter in your seed keywords into a keyword research tool, you will begin to discover other keywords, common questions, and topics for your content that you might have otherwise missed.

Let’s use the example of a florist that specializes in weddings.

Typing “wedding” and “florist” into a keyword research tool, you may discover highly relevant, highly searched for related terms such as:

  • Wedding bouquets
  • Bridal flowers
  • Wedding flower shop

In the process of discovering relevant keywords for your content, you will likely notice that the search volume of those keywords varies greatly. While you definitely want to target terms that your audience is searching for, in some cases, it may be more advantageous to target terms with lower search volume because they’re far less competitive.

Since both high- and low-competition keywords can be advantageous for your website, learning more about search volume can help you prioritize keywords and pick the ones that will give your website the biggest strategic advantage.

Pro tip: Diversify!

It’s important to note that entire websites don’t rank for keywords, pages do. With big brands, we often see the homepage ranking for many keywords, but for most websites, this isn’t usually the case. Many websites receive more organic traffic to pages other than the homepage, which is why it’s so important to diversify your website’s pages by optimizing each for uniquely valuable keywords.

How often are those terms searched?

Uncovering search volume

The higher the search volume for a given keyword or keyword phrase, the more work is typically required to achieve higher rankings. This is often referred to as keyword difficulty and occasionally incorporates SERP features; for example, if many SERP features (like featured snippets, knowledge graph, carousels, etc) are clogging up a keyword’s result page, difficulty will increase. Big brands often take up the top 10 results for high-volume keywords, so if you’re just starting out on the web and going after the same keywords, the uphill battle for ranking can take years of effort.

Typically, the higher the search volume, the greater the competition and effort required to achieve organic ranking success. Go too low, though, and you risk not drawing any searchers to your site. In many cases, it may be most advantageous to target highly specific, lower competition search terms. In SEO, we call those long-tail keywords.

Understanding the long tail

It would be great to rank #1 for the keyword “shoes”… or would it?

It’s wonderful to deal with keywords that have 50,000 searches a month, or even 5,000 searches a month, but in reality, these popular search terms only make up a fraction of all searches performed on the web. In fact, keywords with very high search volumes may even indicate ambiguous intent, which, if you target these terms, it could put you at risk for drawing visitors to your site whose goals don’t match the content your page provides.

Does the searcher want to know the nutritional value of pizza? Order a pizza? Find a restaurant to take their family? Google doesn’t know, so they offer these features to help you refine. Targeting “pizza” means that you’re likely casting too wide a net.

The remaining 75% lie in the “chunky middle” and “long tail” of search.

Don’t underestimate these less popular keywords. Long tail keywords with lower search volume often convert better, because searchers are more specific and intentional in their searches. For example, a person searching for “shoes” is probably just browsing. Whereas, someone searching for “best price red womens size 7 running shoe,” practically has their wallet out!

Pro tip: Questions are SEO gold!

Discovering what questions people are asking in your space, and adding those questions and their answers to an FAQ page, can yield incredible organic traffic for your website.

Getting strategic with search volume

Now that you’ve discovered relevant search terms for your site and their corresponding search volumes, you can get even more strategic by looking at your competitors and figuring out how searches might differ by season or location.

Keywords by competitor

You’ll likely compile a lot of keywords. How do you know which to tackle first? It could be a good idea to prioritize high-volume keywords that your competitors are not currently ranking for. On the flip side, you could also see which keywords from your list your competitors are already ranking for and prioritize those. The former is great when you want to take advantage of your competitors’ missed opportunities, while the latter is an aggressive strategy that sets you up to compete for keywords your competitors are already performing well for.

Keywords by season

Knowing about seasonal trends can be advantageous in setting a content strategy. For example, if you know that “christmas box” starts to spike in October through December in the United Kingdom, you can prepare content months in advance and give it a big push around those months.

Keywords by region

You can more strategically target a specific location by narrowing down your keyword research to specific towns, counties, or states in the Google Keyword Planner, or evaluate “interest by subregion” in Google Trends. Geo-specific research can help make your content more relevant to your target audience. For example, you might find out that in Texas, the preferred term for a large truck is “big rig,” while in New York, “tractor trailer” is the preferred terminology.

Which format best suits the searcher’s intent?

In Chapter 2, we learned about SERP features. That background is going to help us understand how searchers want to consume information for a particular keyword. The format in which Google chooses to display search results depends on intent, and every query has a unique one. While there are thousands of of possible search types, there are five major categories to be aware of:

1. Informational queries: The searcher needs information, such as the name of a band or the height of the Empire State Building.

2. Navigational queries: The searcher wants to go to a particular place on the Internet, such as Facebook or the homepage of the NFL.

3. Transactional queries: The searcher wants to do something, such as buy a plane ticket or listen to a song.

4. Commercial investigation: The searcher wants to compare products and find the best one for their specific needs.

5. Local queries: The searcher wants to find something locally, such as a nearby coffee shop, doctor, or music venue.

An important step in the keyword research process is surveying the SERP landscape for the keyword you want to target in order to get a better gauge of searcher intent. If you want to know what type of content your target audience wants, look to the SERPs!

Google has closely evaluated the behavior of trillions of searches in an attempt to provide the most desired content for each specific keyword search.

Take the search “dresses,” for example:

By the shopping carousel, you can infer that Google has determined many people who search for “dresses” want to shop for dresses online.

There is also a Local Pack feature for this keyword, indicating Google’s desire to help searchers who may be looking for local dress retailers.

If the query is ambiguous, Google will also sometimes include the “refine by” feature to help searchers specify what they’re looking for further. By doing so, the search engine can provide results that better help the searcher accomplish their task.

Google has a wide array of result types it can serve up depending on the query, so if you’re going to target a keyword, look to the SERP to understand what type of content you need to create.

Tools for determining the value of a keyword

How much value would a keyword add to your website? These tools can help you answer that question, so they’d make great additions to your keyword research arsenal:

  • Moz Keyword Explorer – Our own Moz Keyword Explorer tool extracts accurate search volume data, keyword difficulty, and keyword opportunity metrics by using live clickstream data. To learn more about how we’re producing our keyword data, check out Announcing Keyword Explorer.
  • Google Keyword Planner – Google’s AdWords Keyword Planner has historically been the most common starting point for SEO keyword research. However, Keyword Planner does restrict search volume data by lumping keywords together into large search volume range buckets. To learn more, check out Google Keyword Planner’s Dirty Secrets.
  • Google Trends – Google’s keyword trend tool is great for finding seasonal keyword fluctuations. For example, “funny halloween costume ideas” will peak in the weeks before Halloween.
  • AnswerThePublic – This free tool populates commonly searched for questions around a specific keyword. Bonus! You can use this tool in tandem with another free tool, Keywords Everywhere, to prioritize ATP’s suggestions by search volume.
  • SpyFu Keyword Research Tool – Provides some really neat competitive keyword data.

Download our free keyword research template!

Keyword research can yield a ton of data. Stay organized by downloading our free keyword research template. You can customize the template to fit your unique needs (ex: remove the “Seasonal Trends” column), sort keywords by volume, and categorize by Priority Score. Happy keyword researching!

Now that you know how to uncover what your target audience is searching for and how often, it’s time to move onto the next step: crafting pages in a way that users will love and search engines can understand.

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Measuring the quality of popular keyword research tools

Contributor JR Oakes measures the quality of popular keyword research tools against data found in Google search results and performing page data from Google Search Console.



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


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

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SearchCap: Google to sell Zagat, videos in Google My Business & new research

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

The post SearchCap: Google to sell Zagat, videos in Google My Business & new research appeared first on Search Engine Land.



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Keyword Research Beats Nate Silver’s 2016 Presidential Election Prediction

Posted by BritneyMuller

100% of statisticians would say this is a terrible method for predicting elections. However, in the case of 2016’s presidential election, analyzing the geographic search volume of a few telling keywords “predicted” the outcome more accurately than Nate Silver himself.

The 2016 US Presidential Election was a nail-biter, and many of us followed along with the famed statistician’s predictions in real time on FiveThirtyEight.com. Silver’s predictions, though more accurate than many, were still disrupted by the election results.

In an effort to better understand our country (and current political chaos), I dove into keyword research state-by-state searching for insights. Keywords can be powerful indicators of intent, thought, and behavior. What keyword searches might indicate a personal political opinion? Might there be a common denominator search among people with the same political beliefs?

It’s generally agreed that Fox News leans to the right and CNN leans to the left. And if we’ve learned anything this past year, it’s that the news you consume can have a strong impact on what you believe, in addition to the confirmation bias already present in seeking out particular sources of information.

My crazy idea: What if Republican states showed more “fox news” searches than “cnn”? What if those searches revealed a bias and an intent that exit polling seemed to obscure?

The limitations to this research were pretty obvious. Watching Fox News or CNN doesn’t necessarily correlate with voter behavior, but could it be a better indicator than the polls? My research says yes. I researched other media outlets as well, but the top two ideologically opposed news sources — in any of the 50 states — were consistently Fox News and CNN.

Using Google Keyword Planner (connected to a high-paying Adwords account to view the most accurate/non-bucketed data), I evaluated each state’s search volume for “fox news” and “cnn.”

Eight states showed the exact same search volumes for both. Excluding those from my initial test, my results accurately predicted 42/42 of the 2016 presidential state outcomes including North Carolina and Wisconsin (which Silver mis-predicted). Interestingly, “cnn” even mirrored Hillary Clinton, similarly winning the popular vote (25,633,333 vs. 23,675,000 average monthly search volume for the United States).

In contrast, Nate Silver accurately predicted 45/50 states using a statistical methodology based on polling results.

Click for a larger image

This gets even more interesting:

The eight states showing the same average monthly search volume for both “cnn” and “fox news” are Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

However, I was able to dive deeper via GrepWords API (a keyword research tool that actually powers Keyword Explorer’s data), to discover that Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Ohio each have slightly different “cnn” vs “fox news” search averages over the previous 12-month period. Those new search volume averages are:

“fox news” avg monthly search volume

“cnn” avg monthly search volume

KWR Prediction

2016 Vote

Arizona

566333

518583

Trump

Trump

Nevada

213833

214583

Hillary

Hillary

New Mexico

138833

142916

Hillary

Hillary

Ohio

845833

781083

Trump

Trump

Pennsylvania

1030500

1063583

Hillary

Trump

Four out of five isn’t bad! This brought my new prediction up to 46/47.

Silver and I each got Pennsylvania wrong. The GrepWords API shows the average monthly search volume for “cnn” was ~33,083 searches higher than “fox news” (to put that in perspective, that’s ~0.26% of the state’s population). This tight-knit keyword research theory is perfectly reflected in Trump’s 48.2% win against Clinton’s 47.5%.

Nate Silver and I have very different day jobs, and he wouldn’t make many of these hasty generalizations. Any prediction method can be right a couple times. However, it got me thinking about the power of keyword research: how it can reveal searcher intent, predict behavior, and sometimes even defy the logic of things like statistics.

It’s also easy to predict the past. What happens when we apply this model to today’s Senate race?

Can we apply this theory to Alabama’s special election in the US Senate?

After completing the above research on a whim, I realized that we’re on the cusp of yet another hotly contested, extremely close election: the upcoming Alabama senate race, between controversy-laden Republican Roy Moore and Democratic challenger Doug Jones, fighting for a Senate seat that hasn’t been held by a Democrat since 1992.

I researched each Alabama county — 67 in total — for good measure. There are obviously a ton of variables at play. However, 52 out of the 67 counties (77.6%) 2016 presidential county votes are correctly “predicted” by my theory.

Even when giving the Democratic nominee more weight to the very low search volume counties (19 counties showed a search volume difference of less than 500), my numbers lean pretty far to the right (48/67 Republican counties):

It should be noted that my theory incorrectly guessed two of the five largest Alabama counties, Montgomery and Jefferson, which both voted Democrat in 2016.

Greene and Macon Counties should both vote Democrat; their very slight “cnn” over “fox news” search volume is confirmed by their previous presidential election results.

I realize state elections are not won by county, they’re won by popular vote, and the state of Alabama searches for “fox news” 204,000 more times a month than “cnn” (to put that in perspective, that’s around ~4.27% of Alabama’s population).

All things aside and regardless of outcome, this was an interesting exploration into how keyword research can offer us a glimpse into popular opinion, future behavior, and search intent. What do you think? Any other predictions we could make to test this theory? What other keywords or factors would you look at? Let us know in the comments.

Also, if you’ve enjoyed this post, check out Sam Wang’s Google-Wide Association Studies! –Fascinating read.

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How to Use the "Keywords by Site" Data in Tools (Moz, SEMrush, Ahrefs, etc.) to Improve Your Keyword Research and Targeting – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

One of the most helpful functions of modern-day SEO software is the idea of a “keyword universe,” a database of tens of millions of keywords that you can tap into and discover what your site is ranking for. Rankings data like this can be powerful, and having that kind of power at your fingertips can be intimidating. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains the concept of the “keyword universe” and shares his most useful tips to take advantage of this data in the most popular SEO tools.

How to use keywords by site

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

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about the Keywords by Site feature that exists now in Moz’s toolset — we just launched it this week — and SEMrush and Ahrefs, who have had it for a little while, and there are some other tools out there that also do it, so places like KeyCompete and SpyFu and others.

In SEO software, there are two types of rankings data:

A) Keywords you’ve specifically chosen to track over time

Basically, the way you can think of this is, in SEO software, there are two kinds of keyword rankings data. There are keywords that you have specifically selected or your marketing manager or your SEO has specifically selected to track over time. So I’ve said I want to track X, Y and Z. I want to see how they rank in Google’s results, maybe in a particular location or a particular country. I want to see the position, and I want to see the change over time. Great, that’s your set that you’ve constructed and built and chosen.

B) A keyword “universe” that gives wide coverage of tens of millions of keywords

But then there’s what’s called a keyword universe, an entire universe of keywords that’s maintained by a tool provider. So SEMrush has their particular database, their universe of keywords for a bunch of different languages, and Ahrefs has their keyword universe of keywords that each of those two companies have selected. Moz now has its keyword universe, a universe of, I think in our case, about 40 million keywords in English in the US that we track every two weeks, so we’ll basically get rankings updates. SEMrush tracks their keywords monthly. I think Ahrefs also does monthly.

Depending on the degree of change, you might care or not care about the various updates. Usually, for keywords you’ve specifically chosen, it’s every week. But in these cases, because it’s tens of millions or hundreds of millions of keywords, they’re usually tracking them weekly or monthly.

So in this universe of keywords, you might only rank for some of them. It’s not ones you’ve specifically selected. It’s ones the tool provider has said, “Hey, this is a broad representation of all the keywords that we could find that have some real search volume that people might be interested in who’s ranking in Google, and we’re going track this giant database.” So you might see some of these your site ranks for. In this case, seven of these keywords your site ranks for, four of them your competitors rank for, and two of them both you and your competitors rank for.

Remarkable data can be extracted from a “keyword universe”

There’s a bunch of cool data, very, very cool data that can be extracted from a keyword universe. Most of these tools that I mentioned do this.

Number of ranking keywords over time

So they’ll show you how many keywords a given site ranks for over time. So you can see, oh, Moz.com is growing its presence in the keyword universe, or it’s shrinking. Maybe it’s ranking for fewer keywords this month than it was last month, which might be a telltale sign of something going wrong or poorly.

Degree of rankings overlap

You can see the degree of overlap between several websites’ keyword rankings. So, for example, I can see here that Moz and Search Engine Land overlap here with all these keywords. In fact, in the Keywords by Site tool inside Moz and in SEMrush, you can see what those numbers look like. I think Moz actually visualizes it with a Venn diagram. Here’s Distilled.net. They’re a smaller website. They have less content. So it’s no surprise that they overlap with both. There’s some overlap with all three. I could see keywords that all three of them rank for, and I could see ones that only Distilled.net ranks for.

Estimated traffic from organic search

You can also grab estimated traffic. So you would be able to extract out — Moz does not offer this, but SEMrush does — you could see, given a keyword list and ranking positions and an estimated volume and estimated click-through rate, you could say we’re going to guess, we’re going to estimate that this site gets this much traffic from search. You can see lots of folks doing this and showing, “Hey, it looks this site is growing its visits from search and this site is not.” SISTRIX does this in Europe really nicely, and they have some great blog posts about it.

Most prominent sites for a given set of keywords

You can also extract out the most prominent sites given a set of keywords. So if you say, “Hey, here are a thousand keywords. Tell me who shows up most in this thousand-keyword set around the world of vegetarian recipes.” The tool could extract out, “Okay, here’s the small segment. Here’s the galaxy of vegetarian recipe keywords in our giant keyword universe, and this is the set of sites that are most prominent in that particular vertical, in that little galaxy.”

Recommended applications for SEOs and marketers

So some recommended applications, things that I think every SEO should probably be doing with this data. There are many, many more. I’m sure we can talk about them in the comments.

1. Identify important keywords by seeing what you rank for in the keyword universe

First and foremost, identify keywords that you probably should be tracking, that should be part of your reporting. It will make you look good, and it will also help you keep tabs on important keywords where if you lost rankings for them, you might cost yourself a lot of traffic.

Monthly granularity might not be good enough. You might want to say, “Hey, no, I want to track these keywords every week. I want to get reporting on them. I want to see which page is ranking. I want to see how I rank by geo. So I’m going to include them in my specific rank tracking features.” You can do that in the Moz Keywords by Site, you’d go to Keyword Explorer, you’d select the root domain instead of the keyword, and you’d plug in your website, which maybe is Indie Hackers, a site that I’ve been reading a lot of lately and I like a lot.

You could see, “Oh, cool. I’m not tracking stock trading bot or ark servers, but those actually get some nice traffic. In this case, I’m ranking number 12. That’s real close to page one. If I put in a little more effort on my ark servers page, maybe I could be on page one and I could be getting some of that sweet traffic, 4,000 to 6,000 searches a month. That’s really significant.” So great way to find additional keywords you should be adding to your tracking.

2. Discover potential keywords targets that your competitors rank for (but you don’t)

Second, you can discover some new potential keyword targets when you’re doing keyword research based on the queries your competition ranks for that you don’t. So, in this case, I might plug in “First Round.” First Round Capital has a great content play that they’ve been doing for many years. Indie Hackers might say, “Gosh, there’s a lot of stuff that startups and tech founders are interested in that First Round writes about. Let me see what keywords they’re ranking for that I’m not ranking for.”

So you plug in those two to Moz’s tool or other tools. You could see, “Aha, I’m right. Look at that. They’re ranking for about 4,500 more keywords than I am.” Then I could go get that full list, and I could sort it by volume and by difficulty. Then I could choose, okay, these keywords all look good, check, check, check. Add them to my list in Keyword Explorer or Excel or Google Docs if you’re using those and go to work.

3. Explore keywords sets from large, content-focused media sites with similar audiences

Then the third one is you can explore keyword sets. I’m going to urge you to. I don’t think this is something that many people do, but I think that it really should be, which is to look outside of your little galaxy of yourself and your competitors, direct competitors, to large content players that serve your audience.

So in this case, I might say, “Gosh, I’m Indie Hackers. I’m really competing maybe more directly with First Round. But you know what? HBR, Harvard Business Review, writes about a lot of stuff that my audience reads. I see people on Twitter that are in my audience share it a lot. I see people in our forums discussing it and linking out to their articles. Let me go see what they are doing in the content world.”

In fact, when you look at the Venn diagram, which I just did in the Keywords by Site tool, I can see, “Oh my god, look there’s almost no overlap, and there’s this huge opportunity.” So I might take HBR and I might click to see all their keywords and then start looking through and sort, again, probably by volume and maybe with a difficulty filter and say, “Which ones do I think I could create content around? Which ones do they have really old content that they haven’t updated since 2010 or 2011?” Those types of content opportunities can be a golden chance for you to find an audience that is likely to be the right types of customers for your business. That’s a pretty exciting thing.

So, in addition to these, there’s a ton of other uses. I’m sure over the next few months we’ll be talking more about them here on Whiteboard Friday and here on the Moz blog. But for now, I would love to hear your uses for tools like SEMrush and the Ahrefs keyword universe feature and Moz’s keyword universe feature, which is called Keywords by Site. Hopefully, we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Tangential Content Earns More Links and Social Shares in Boring Industries [New Research]

Posted by kerryjones

Many companies still don’t see the benefit of creating content that isn’t directly about their products or brand. But unless you have a universally interesting brand, you’ll be hard-pressed to attract much of an audience if all you do is publish brand-centric content.

Content marketing is meant to solve this dilemma. By offering genuinely useful content to your target customers, rather than selling to them, you earn their attention and over time gain their trust.

And yet, I find myself explaining the value of non-branded content all too often. I frequently hear grumblings from fellow marketers that clients and bosses refuse to stray from sales-focused content. I see companies publishing what are essentially advertorials and calling it content marketing.

In addition to turning off customers, branded content can be extremely challenging for building links or earning PR mentions. If you’ve ever done outreach for branded content, you’ve probably gotten a lot of pushback from the editors and writers you’ve pitched. Why? Most publishers bristle at content that feels like a brand endorsement pretending not to be a brand endorsement (and expect you to pay big bucks for a sponsored content or native advertising spot).

Fortunately, there’s a type of content that can earn your target customers’ attention, build high-quality links, and increase brand awareness…

Tangential content: The cure for a boring niche

At Fractl, we refer to content on a topic that’s related to (but not directly about) the brand that created it as “tangential content.”

Some hypothetical examples of tangential content would be:

  • A pool installation company creating content about summer safety tips and barbeque recipes.
  • A luggage retailer publishing country-specific travel guides.
  • An auto insurance broker offering car maintenance advice.

While there’s a time for branded content further down the sales funnel, tangential content might be right for you if you want to:

  1. Reach a wide audience and gain top-of-funnel awareness. Not a lot of raving fans in your “boring” brand niche? Tangential topics can get you in front of the masses.
  2. Target a greater number of publishers during outreach to increase your link building and PR mention potential. Tangential topics work well for outreach because you can expand your pool of publishers (larger niches vs. a small niche with only a few dedicated sites).
  3. Create more emotional content that resonates with your audience. In an analysis of more than 300 client campaigns, we found the content that received more than 200 media mentions was more likely than low-performing campaigns to have a strong emotional hook. If your brand niche doesn’t naturally tug on the heartstrings, tangential content is one way to create an emotional reaction.
  4. Build a more diverse content library and not be limited to creating content around one topic. If you’ve maxed out on publishing content about your niche, broadening your content repertoire to tangential topics can reinvigorate your content strategy (and your motivation).

Comparison of tangential vs. on-brand content performance

In our experience at Fractl, tangential content has been highly effective for link building campaigns, especially in narrow client niches that lack broad appeal. While we’ve assumed this is true based on our observations, we now have the data to back up our assumption.

We recently categorized 835 Fractl client campaigns as either “tangential” or “on-brand,” then compared the average number of pickups (links and press mentions) and number of social shares for each group. Our hunch was right: The tangential campaigns earned 30% more media mentions and 77% more social shares on average than the brand-focused campaigns.

So what exactly does a tangential campaign look like? Below are some real examples of our client campaigns that illustrate how tangential topics can yield stellar results.

Most Hateful/Most Politically Correct Places

  • Client niche: Apartment listing site
  • Campaign topic: Which states and cities use the most prejudiced/racist language based on geo-tagged Twitter data
  • Results: 67,000+ social shares and 620 media pickups, including features on CNET, Slate, Business Insider, AOL, Yahoo, Mic, The Daily Beast, and Adweek

Why it worked

After a string of on-brand campaigns for this client yielded average results, we knew capitalizing on a hot-button, current issue would attract tons of attention. This topic still ties back into the client’s main objective of helping people find a home since the community and location of that home are important factors in one’s decisions. Check out the full case study of this campaign for more insights into why it was successful.

Most Instagrammed Locations

  • Client niche: Bus fare comparison and booking tool
  • Campaign topic: Points of interest where people post the most Instagram photos in North America
  • Results: 40,000+ social shares and more than 300 pickups, including TIME, NBC News, Business Insider, Today, Yahoo!, AOL, Fast Company, and The Daily Mail

Why it worked

Our client’s niche, bus travel, had a limited audience, so we chose a topic that was of interest to anyone who enjoys traveling, regardless of the mode of transportation they use to get there. By incorporating data from a popular social network and using an idea with a strong geographic focus, we could target a lot of different groups — the campaign appealed to travel enthusiasts, Instagram users, and regional and city news outlets (including TV stations). For more details about our thought process behind this idea, see the campaign case study.

Most Attractive NFL Players and Teams

whitney-mercilus.png

Client niche: Sports apparel retailer

Campaign topic: Survey that rates the most attractive NFL players

Results: 45,000+ social shares and 247 media pickups, including CBS Sports, USA Today, Fox Sports, and NFL.com

Why it worked

Since diehard fans want to show off that their favorite player is the best, even if it’s just in the looks department, we were confident this lighthearted campaign would pique fan interest. But fans weren’t the only ones hitting the share button — the campaign also grabbed the attention of the featured teams and players, with many sharing on their social media profiles, which helped drive exposure.

On-brand content works best in certain verticals

Tangential content isn’t always necessary for earning top-of-funnel awareness. So, how do you know if your brand-centric topics will garner lots of interest? A few things to consider:

  • Is your brand topic interesting or useful to the general population?
  • Are there multiple publishers that specifically cover your niche? Do these publishers have large readerships?
  • Are you already publishing on-brand content that is achieving your goals/expectations?

We’ve seen several industry verticals perform very well using branded content. When we broke down our campaign data by vertical, we found our top performing on-brand campaign topics were technology, drugs and alcohol, and marketing.

Some examples of our successful on-brand campaign topics include:

  • “Growth of SaaS” for a B2B software comparison website
  • “Influencers on Instagram” for an influencer marketplace
  • “Global Drug Treatment Trends” for an addiction recovery client
  • “The Tech Job Network” for a tech career website

Coming up with tangential content ideas

Once you free yourself from only brainstorming brand-centric ideas, you might find it easy to dream up tangential concepts. If you need a little help, here are a few tips to get you started:

Review your buyer personas.

In order to know which tangential topics to choose, you need to understand your target audience’s interests and where your niche intersects with those interests. The best way to find this information? Buyer personas. If you don’t already have detailed buyer personas built out, Mike King’s epic Moz post from a few years ago remains the bible on personas in my opinion.

Find topics your audience cares about with Facebook Audience Insights.

Using its arsenal of user data, this Facebook ads tool gives you a peek into the interests and lifestyles of your target audience. These insights can supplement and inform your buyer personas. See the incredibly actionable post “How to Create Buyer Personas on a Budget Using Facebook Audience Insights” for more help with leveraging this tool.

Consider how trending news topics are tangential to your brand.

Pay attention to themes that keep popping up in the news and how your brand relates back to these stories (this is how the most racist/bigoted states and cities campaign I mentioned earlier in this post came to be). Also anticipate seasonal or event-based topics that are tangential to your brand. For example, a tire manufacturer may want to create content on protecting your car from flooding and storm damage during hurricane season.

Test tangential concepts on social media.

Not sure if a tangential topic will go over well? Before moving forward with a big content initiative, test it out by sharing content related to the topic on your brand’s social media accounts. Does it get a good reaction? Pro tip: spend a little bit of money promoting these as sponsored posts to ensure they get in front of your followers.

Have you had success creating content outside of your brand niche? I’d love to hear about your tangential content examples and the results you achieved, please share in the comments!

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SearchCap: Google image badges, Google Search Console beta reports & keyword research

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

The post SearchCap: Google image badges, Google Search Console beta reports & keyword research appeared first on Search Engine Land.



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


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The Lazy Writer’s Guide to 30-Minute Keyword Research

Posted by BritneyMuller

You, a content marketing ninja, are able to wield immense SEO reach with your content in ways most SEOs (*cough* like myself) can only dream of.

BUT, you’re not leveraging keyword research to your advantage!

The fact that you can discover how many people per month are searching for something, what words they’re using, and what questions they’re asking still blows my mind!

Keyword research doesn’t have to be a marathon bender. A brisk 30-minute walk can provide incredible insights — insights that connect you with a wider audience on a deeper level.


Why keyword research is essential [Case Study]

My previous company, Pryde Marketing, was not founded on out-of-this-world high-quality content. It was founded on leveraging online data strategically for private medical practices.

When we were hired to do keyword research for an MRI company, we discovered that hundreds of people a month were searching “open vs closed mri” but no one was providing any good answers, content, or photos for these searchers.

We decided to create an “Open Vs. Closed MRI” page for our client that, to our surprise, continues to see over double the traffic of the homepage. Plus, it’s brought in over 50k+ unique visitors.

We were not successful because we thought of this content idea.

We were successful because we listened to the keyword data.


5 keyword research hacks in under 30 minutes

Example client: Hunter & Company (Wedding & Event Planning)

Objective: Write better content for their website and assist with digital marketing efforts.

#1: Blog category keyword research

Having five to ten data-driven blog categories can help you rank for popular topics, allow readers to find more relevant content, and help to organize your blog.

Evaluate top industry websites (10 mins)

Identify the most common navigation items and blog categories on leading industry sites.

Top Wedding Site Eval.png

Advanced search operators (3 mins)

While exploring top websites, you can use advanced Google operators to dig deeper.

Example: Bride.com has topic pages like /topic/wedding-beauty. To view all of Bride.com’s topics search this: site:brides.com/topic

Wedding advanced search operator.png

Google Suggest (10 mins)

Google “wedding” and don’t hit enter!

Instead, make note of the drop-down search suggestions. You can also search “wedding a” [don’t hit enter], “wedding b” [don’t hit enter], all the way through to z to get the most popular and/or trending wedding-related searches.

Screen Shot 2017-03-13 at 11.20.18 AM.png

Now that we have aggregated keywords from the above tactics, we have a solid list:

wedding venues, wedding photographers, wedding dj, wedding beauty, wedding videographers, wedding bands, wedding budget, wedding invitations, wedding registry, wedding colors, wedding decorations, wedding party, wedding ideas, wedding cakes, wedding centerpieces, wedding hairstyles, wedding bouquets, engagement rings, wedding dresses, bridesmaid dresses, mother of the bride dresses, wedding rings, flower girl dresses, wedding accessories, wedding jewelry, wedding tuxedos, wedding registry, wedding ceremony, wedding reception, wedding cake, wedding food, wedding favors, wedding flowers

Keep up the pace — we can’t stop here!

Next, let’s determine which categories are most popular by average monthly Google searches.

There are two primary tools to view average monthly search volume (AKA to know how many times a query like “wedding flowers” are searched per month): Google Keyword Planner and Moz Keyword Explorer. (Check out GKP vs. MKE to learn more.)

Google Keyword Planner (5 mins)

Step 1: Paste your saved keyword list into the box under “Enter one or more of the following” and click “Get Ideas”:

Step 2: Evaluate and save search volume data while being mindful of the large search data ranges and limited data:Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 10.09.51 AM.png

Note: Google will occasionally change your keywords to something different; “wedding videographers” was changed to “wedding videos” in this case. It’s important to be mindful of this as you’re deciding on the exact category names.

You should also explore the keywords below your immediate keyword search section. Sort by average monthly searches (highest to lowest) to make sure you aren’t missing any other big category items.

Moz Keyword Explorer (5 mins)

Step 1: Create a new list.

Step 2: Paste your keyword list into the “Enter Keywords” box:

Step 3: Take a quick water break, because KWE will take a minute to gather data. Once the data is in view, sort by and evaluate average monthly search volume:

Woohoo! We reached the finish line with two minutes to spare.

To finalize our blog categories, we need to ask ourselves two things: Which topics are the most popular and the most relevant to a wedding planner site?

With that in mind, you’ve chosen six of the most popular wedding topics and have nested several sub-categories within “Wedding Decorations” — brilliant!

  • Wedding Dresses
  • Wedding Invitations
  • Wedding Photography
  • Wedding Cakes
  • Wedding Venues
  • Wedding Decorations
    • Wedding Flowers
    • Wedding Colors
    • Wedding Centerpieces
    • Wedding Venues

#2: FAQ keyword research

Answering the most commonly searched-for questions about your product/service will provide value to your readers and solidify you as an industry expert.

Here’s how to gather the most commonly asked questions on a topic:

AnswerThePublic.com (10 mins)

Search for your product/service.

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 10.40.06 AM.png

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 10.40.20 AM.png

How cool is this snazzy question wheel?! While the visuals are fun, it’s easier to gather the questions by clicking the top-right yellow “export to csv” button and deleting non-relevant questions in a .csv or Google Sheet.

Moz Keyword Explorer (10 mins)

Step 1: Search and filter “display keyword suggestions” by “are questions”:

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 11.09.02 AM.png

Step 2: Add relevant questions to a new keyword list:

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 11.12.32 AM.png

Step 3: Add relevant AnswerThePublic questions to list:

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 11.06.30 AM.png

Research done!

I wouldn’t worry about evaluating search volume too closely for FAQs because questions are typically more long-tail (meaning they have lower search volume and are usually easier to rank for). In multitudes, these can be very valuable to your site.

Now you can start adding your newly discovered FAQs to an FAQ page (while trying to avoid duplicate types of questions):

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 11.19.47 AM.png

#3: Competitive content research

Evaluate your competitor’s 10 most popular pages on SimilarWeb (5 mins)

This uncovers the specific type of content your audience is interested in. Here are the 10 most popular pages for One Fine Day Events:

Screen Shot 2017-03-16 at 9.14.50 PM.png

Evaluate each of the top pages & gather 3 key takeaways (20 mins)

  1. The most popular “Gallery” page confirms that images are extremely popular in the wedding and event space. Maintaining an optimized gallery and incorporating more images into on-page content should be a top digital marketing priority.
  2. Interestingly, the “Preferred Vendors” page is a Category page! It’s something we should consider implementing on Hunter & Co. It would also be a great link building opportunity (to get vendors to link back to Hunter & Co)… but I digress.
  3. Testimonials are also be a top priority and live off the primary navigation.

Pro tip: Use Google Trends to evaluate seasonal searches and prepare competitive content months before it spikes:

#4: Expand your keyword reach

Expanding your page’s topical content will expand your digital SEO reach. This is why you’ll see definitive guides like Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO ranking so well, and for such a wide range of keywords (~1,665!).

Download MozBar (Chrome add-on) (1 minute)

Step 1: Activate MozBar. Enter in your primary keyword and click “optimize.”

Step 2: Click “On-Page Content Suggestions”:

Step 3: View the 23+ content integration ideas for your webpage:

Decide which topics you want to integrate (5 mins)

You never want to force non-relevant content onto a page for SEO reasons. Instead, look through the topics and think about which would provide value to your readers.

Then, devise a plan to naturally integrate those topics into the page’s content.

Topic integrations for the Hunter & Co. homepage:

  • Wedding Planning Checklist (create a checklist page that’s linked to from homepage)
  • Wedding Vendors (confirms our popular page strategy! Add a page link from the homepage)
  • Wedding Venues
  • Couples

#5: Keep up with Google

We are seeing a big rise in “no-click” Google searches.

No-click searches occur when individuals search for something and find their answer, without ever having to click on a search result.

Example: If you search “Denver weather,” Google will show you an 8-day weather forecast for Denver. Most searchers are satisfied with that and leave, resulting in a no-click Google search.

Image from State of Searcher Behavior Revealed

No-click searches are rising because Google continues to provide searchers answers within search features such as featured snippets (answer boxes), People Also Ask boxes, knowledge graphs, weather forecasts, etc.

Know which search features show up most often for your keywords (5 mins)

Knowing which search features occur most frequently for your product/service-related searches can help you to steal search features by optimizing for them. Keep in mind that if you’re ranking on page one or two of a desired featured snippet search, you’re better positioned to steal that featured snippet than if you were on page 3+.

Remember our FAQs about “wedding planning” above? Twenty-four of 28 questions found in Moz Keyword Explorer have featured snippets (answer boxes) in their search results:

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 11.04.04 AM.png

RealSimple currently has a large featured snippet for “wedding checklist”:

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 11.28.18 AM.png

Looking more closely into that page, you’ll notice RealSimple’s <html> check-box markup and definitive style content.

Brainstorm a better (and more useful) wedding checklist (10 mins)

  • Hire a freelance developer to create a beautiful, printable wedding checklist calendar that, once a reader enters their wedding date, populates with scheduled to-dos.
  • Create an IFTTT (If This Then That) recipe to schedule Google Calendar To-Do Reminders based on the user’s wedding date.
  • Provide a more detailed and more beautiful wedding checklist.

Now, my content marketing ninjas, go forth and tap gloves with a wider audience! Your content deserves it!

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3 Simple and Effective Keyword Research Tips

"This is not a time to guess or assume you know your audience so well that you know what they’re thinking." – Beth Hayden

Keyword research is always a hot topic in content marketing circles.

It’s one of those subjects that never goes out of style — because wise content marketers know that using the right words in their content will give them a big edge over their competition.

Wondering how to find the “right” words to optimize your business’s content? Here are three quick tips for solid keyword research.

1. Discover the language your prospects use when they talk about your topic

My friend Shawn, whose company Clear Harmonies creates custom a cappella arrangements for vocal groups, learned an interesting marketing lesson after performing some focused keyword research and talking to his customers.

He thought that his prospects searched for the term “a cappella arrangements” when they looked for arrangement services online. But he discovered they actually searched for the term “a cappella sheet music” much more often.

Shawn’s story illustrates why it’s important that you discover the actual language your potential customers use when they search for information about your topic (or look for vendors who provide your services).

This is not a time to guess or assume you know your audience so well that you know what they’re thinking.

In addition to online keyword research tools, you can also:

  • Check out the comments you get from your community members and pay attention to the terms they use when they tell stories, ask questions, and offer opinions about your content.
  • Collect keyword data about the terms people were searching for right before they click on your site from most site statistics or analytics programs. It’s a gold mine for you as a content creator.
  • Conduct interviews or social media discussions to ask your prospects and customers about the terms they search for when they’re looking for information about your topic.

2. Study the content your prospects consume

Great copywriters thoroughly research their topics before they start writing projects.

Copywriters want to make sure they understand the language their prospects use before they craft their copy, because without that knowledge, they know their copy won’t convert.

You need to do the same thing with your keyword research. Read the articles your prospects read and study the language the authors use.

Find out which social media platforms your customers prefer and hang out on those sites. Watch for discussions where people ask questions or debate each other.

Popular videos, webinars, and podcasts in your niche are other resources. You can even review social media ads that target your ideal customer.

This technique will not only enhance your keyword research process, it will also ensure that you’ll never run out of content ideas!

3. Remember that language evolves over time

Search terms are always evolving and the way your customer speaks about your topic will change over time, too.

It’s smart to repeat your keyword research on a regular basis to make sure you stay current on the language people use.

To incorporate keyword research into your content marketing routine:

  • Add reminders to your calendar (quarterly, biannually, or annually) to prompt you to conduct additional keyword research.
  • Try a method you haven’t used before: experiment with a different keyword research tool, monitor conversations on social media, or conduct interviews.
  • Make time for keyword research after a task you already perform regularly, like checking your website traffic stats on a monthly basis.

The multiple (and often overlooked) benefits of keyword research

By discovering the language your customers already use, consuming the content that’s popular with your audience, and cultivating consistent research habits, you keep keyword research at the top of your business’s priority list.

Which is smart, because keyword research doesn’t only help you rank higher in search engines, it can also give you an endless supply of content topics and product ideas.

How has keyword research helped you optimize your content? What are your favorite tips? Share in the comments below.

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Infinite ‘People Also Ask’ Boxes: Research and SEO Opportunities

Posted by BritneyMuller

A Glimpse Into Google’s Machine Learning?

You’ve likely seen the People Also Ask (Related Questions) boxes in SERPs. These accordion-like question and answer boxes are Google’s way of saying, “Hey, you beautiful searcher, you! These questions also relate to your search… maybe you’re interested in exploring these too? Kick off your shoes, stay a while!”

However, few people have come across infinite PAAs. These occur when you expand a PAA question box to see 2 or 3 other related questions appear at the bottom. These infinite PAA lists can continue into the hundreds, and I’ve been lucky enough to come across 75+ of these gems!

So, grab a coffee and buckle up! I’d like to take you on a journey of my infinite PAA research, discoveries, machine learning hypothesis, and how you can find PAA opportunities.

Why PAAs should matter to you

PAAs have seen a 1,723% growth in SERPs since 7/31/15 via Mozcast! ← Tweet this stat!

Compare that to featured snippets, which have seen only a 328% growth since that timeframe.

Research has also shown that a single PAA can show up in 21 unique SERPs! How ’bout dem apples?! PAA opportunities can take over some serious SERP real estate.

My infinite PAA obsession

These mini-FAQs within search results have fascinated me since Google started testing of them in 2015. Then in November 2016, I discovered Google’s PAA dynamic testing:

The above infinite PAA expanded into the hundreds! This became an obsession of mine as I began to notice them across multiple devices (for a variety of different searches) and coined them “PAA Black Holes.”

I began saving data from these infinite PAAs to see if I could find any patterns, explore how Google might be pulling this data, and dive deeper into how the questions/topics changed as a result of my expanding question boxes, etc.

After seeing a couple dozen infinite PAAs, I began to wonder if this was actually a test to implement in search, but several industry leaders assured me this was more likely a bug.

They were wrong.

Infinite People Also Ask boxes are live

Now integrated into U.S. SERPs (sorry foreign friends, but get ready for this to potentially migrate your way) you can play with these on desktop & mobile:

Why does Google want people to spend more time on individual SERPs (instead of looking at several)? Could they charge more for advertisements on SERPs with these sticky, expansive PAAs? Might they eventually start putting ads in PAAs? These are the questions that follow me around like a shadow.

To get a better idea of the rise of PAAs, here’s a timeline of my exploratory PAA research:

PAA timeline

April 17, 2015 – Google starts testing PAAs

July 29, 2015 – Dr. Pete gets Google to confirm preferred “Related Questions” name

Aug 15, 2015 – Google tests PAA Carousels on desktop

Dec 30, 2015 – Related Questions (PAAs) grow +500% in 5 months

Mar 11, 2016 – See another big uptick in Related Questions (PAAs) in Mozcast

Nov 11, 2016 – Robin Rozhon notices PAA Black Hole

Nov 23, 2016 – Brit notices PAA Black Hole

Nov 29, 2016 – STAT Analytics publishes a research study on PAAs

Dec 12, 2016 – Realized new PAA results would change based on expanded PAA

Dec 14, 2016 – Further proof PAAs dynamically load based on what you click

Dec 19, 2016 – Still seeing PAA Black Holes

Dec 22, 2016 – Discovered a single PAA result (not a 3-pack)

Jan 11, 2016 – Made a machine learning (TensorFlow) discovery and hypothesis!

Jan 22, 2016 – Discovered a PAA Black Hole on a phone

Jan 25, 2016 – Discovered a PAA Black Hole that maxed out at 9

Feb 10, 2017 – PAA Black Holes go live!

Feb 14, 2017 – Britney Muller is still oblivious to PAA Black Holes going live and continues to hypothesize how they are being populated via entity graph-based ML.


3 big infinite PAA discoveries:

#1 – Google caters to browsing patterns in real time

It took me a while to grasp that I can manipulate the newly populated question boxes based on what I choose to expand.

Below, I encourage more Vans-related PAAs by clicking “Can I put my vans in the washing machine?” Then, I encourage more “mildew”-related ones simply by clicking a “How do you get the mildew smell out of clothes” PAA above:

vans-paa.gif

Another example of this is when I clicked “organic SEO” at the very top of a 100+ PAA Black Hole (the gif would make you dizzy, so I took a screenshot instead). It altered my results from “how to clean leather” to “what is seo” and “what do you mean by organic search”:

leather to seo.png


#2 – There are dynamic dead ends

When I reach an exhaustive point in my PAA expansions (typically ~300+), Google will prompt the first two PAAs, as in: “We aren’t sure what else to provide, are you interested in these again?”

Here is an example of that happening: I go from “mitosis”-related PAAs (~300 PAAs deep) to a repeat of the first two PAAs: “What is Alexa ranking based on?” and “What is the use of backlinks?”:

getting sick of me.gif

This reminds me of a story told by Google machine learning engineers: whenever an early ML model couldn’t identify a photograph, it would say a default ‘I don’t know’ answer of: “Men talking on cell phone.” It could have been a picture of an elephant dancing, and if the ML model wasn’t sure what it was, it would say “Men talking on cell phone.”

My gut tells me that G reverts back to the strongest edge cases (the first two PAAs) to your original query when running out of a certain relational threshold of PAAs.

It will then suggest the third and fourth PAA when you push these limits to repeat again, and so on.


#3 – Expand & retract one question to explore the most closely related questions

This not only provides you with the most relevant PAAs to the query you’re expanding and retracting, but if it’s in your wheelhouse, you can quickly discover other very relevant PAA opportunities.

Here I keep expanding and retracting “What is the definition of SEO?”:

exhaust-paa.gif

Notice how “SEO” or “search engine optimization” is in every subsequent PAA!? This is no coincidence and has a lot to do with the entity graph.

First, let’s better understand machine learning and why an entity-based, semi-supervised model is so relevant to search. I’ll then draw out what I think is happening with the above results (like a 5-year-old), and go over ways you can capture these opportunities! Woohoo!


Training data’s role in machine learning

Mixups are commonplace in machine learning, mostly due to a lack of quality training data.

Machine Learning Process SEO

Well-labeled training data is typically the biggest component necessary in training an accurate ML model.

Fairly recently, the voice search team at Google came across an overwhelming amount of EU voice data that was interpreted as “kdkdkdkd.” An obvious exclusion in their training data (who says “kdkdkdkd”?!), the engineers had no idea what could be prompting that noise. Confused, they finally figured out that it was the trains and subways making that noise!

This is a silly example of adding the “kdkdkd” = Trains/Subways training data. Google is now able to account for these pesky “kdkdkdkd” inclusions.


Relational data to the rescue

Because we don’t always have enough training data to properly train a ML model, we look to relational data for help.

Example: If I showed you the following picture, you could gather a few things from it, right? Maybe that it appears to be a female walking down a street, and that perhaps it’s fall by her hat, scarf, and the leaves on the ground. But it’s hard to determine a whole lot else, right?

Screen Shot 2017-01-10 at 1.21.03 AM.png

What about now? Here are two other photos from the above photo’s timeline:

Screen Shot 2017-01-10 at 1.23.36 AM.pngScreen Shot 2017-01-10 at 1.23.47 AM.png


Aha! She appears to be a U.S. traveler visiting London (with her Canon Ti3 camera). Now we have some regional, demographic, and product understanding. It’s not a whole lot of extra information, but it provides much more context for the original cryptic photo, right?

Perhaps, if Google had integrated geo-relational data with their voice machine learning, they could have more quickly identified that these noises were occurring at the same geolocations. This is just an example; Google engineers are WAY smarter than myself and have surely thought of much better solutions.


Google leverages entity graphs similarly for search

Google leverages relational data (in a very similarly way to the above example) to form better understandings of digital objects to help provide the most relevant search results.

A kind of scary example of this is Google’s Expander: A large-scale ML platform to “exploit relationships between data objects.”

Screen Shot 2017-01-09 at 11.39.57 PM.png

Machine learning is typically “supervised” (training data is provided, which is more common) or “unsupervised” (no training data). Expander, however, is “semi-supervised,” meaning that it’s bridging the gap between provided and not-provided data. ← SEO pun intended!

Expander leverages a large, graph-based system to infer relationships between datasets. Ever wonder why you start getting ads about a product you started emailing your friend about?

Expander is bridging the gap between platforms to better understand online data and is only going to get better.


Relational entity graphs for search

Here is a slide from a Google I/O 2016 talk that showcases a relational word graph for search results:

Screen Shot 2017-01-09 at 11.24.47 PM.png

Slide from Breakthroughs in Machine Learning Google I/O 2016 video.

Solid edges represent stronger relationships between nodes than the dotted lines. The above example shows there is a strong relationship between “What are the traditions of halloween” and “halloween tradition,” which makes sense. People searching for either of those would each be satisfied by quality content about “halloween traditions.”

Edge strength can also be determined by distributional similarity, lexical similarity, similarity based on word embeddings, etc.


Infinite PAA machine learning hypothesis:

Google is providing additional PAAs based on the strongest relational edges to the expanded query.

You can continue to see this occur in infinite PAAs datasets. When a word with two lexical similarities overlaps the suggested PAAs, the topic changes because of it:

Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 7.21.58 PM.png

The above topic change occurred through a series of small relational suggestions. A PAA above this screenshot was “What is SMO stands for?” (not a typo, just a neural network doing its best people!) which led to “What is the meaning of SMO?”, to “What is a smo brace?” (for ankles).

This immediately made me think of the relational word graph and what I envision Google is doing:

I hope my parents hang this on their fridge.

My hypothesis is that the machine learning model computes that because I’m interested in “SMO,” I might also be interested in ankle brace “SMO.”

There are ways for SEOs and digital marketers to leverage topical relevance and capture PAAs opportunities.


4 ways to optimize for machine learning & expand your topical reach for PAAs:

Topical connections can always be made within your content, and by adding additional high quality topically related content, you can strengthen your content’s edges (and expand your SERP real estate). Here are some quick and easy ways to discover related topics:

#1: Quickly discover Related Topics via MozBar

MozBar is a free SEO browser add-on that allows you to do quick SEO analysis of web pages and SERPs. The On-Page Content Suggestions feature is a quick and simple way to find other topics related to your page.

Step 1: Activate MozBar on the page you are trying to expand your keyword reach with, and click the Page Optimization:

Beginner's Guide To SEO Mozbar.png

Step 2: Enter in the word you are trying to expand your keyword reach with:

seo-browser-tool.png

Step 3: Click On-Page Content Suggestions for your full list of related keyword topics.

seo-toolbar.png

Step 4: Evaluate which related keywords can be incorporated naturally into your current on-page content. In this case, it would be beneficial to incorporate “seo tutorial,” “seo tools,” and “seo strategy” into the Beginner’s Guide to SEO.

mozbar related keywords seo.png

Step 5: Some may seem like an awkward add to the page, like “seo services” and “search engine ranking,” but are relevant to the products/services that you offer. Try adding these topics to a better-fit page, creating a new page, or putting together a strong FAQ with other topically related questions.


#2: Wikipedia page + SEOBook Keyword Density Checker*

Let’s say you’re trying to expand your topical keywords in an industry you’re not very familiar with, like “roof repair.” You can use this free hack to pull in frequent and related topics.

Step 1: Find and copy the roof Wikipedia page URL.

Step 2: Paste the URL into SEOBook’s Keyword Density Checker:

Screen Shot 2017-02-13 at 6.15.51 AM.png

Step 3: Hit submit and view the most commonly used words on the Wikipedia page:

Screen Shot 2017-02-13 at 6.12.59 AM.png

Step 4: You can dive even deeper (and often more topically related) by clicking on the “Links” tab to evaluate the anchor text of on-page Wikipedia links. If a subtopic is important enough, it will likely have another page to link to:

keyword density links.png

Step 5: Use any appropriate keyword discoveries to create stronger topic-based content ideas.

*This tactic was mentioned in Experts On The Wire episode on keyword research tools.


#3: Answer the Public

Answer the Public is a great free resource to discover questions around a particular topic. Just remember to change your country if you’re not seeking results from the UK (the default).

Step 1: Enter in your keyword/topic and select your country:

Screen Shot 2017-02-13 at 6.39.14 AM.png

Step 2: Explore the visualization of questions people are asking about your keyword:

Screen Shot 2017-02-13 at 6.40.12 AM.png

Doesn’t this person look like they’re admiring themselves in a mirror (or taking a selfie)? A magnifying glass doesn’t work from that distance, people!

Note: Not all questions will be relevant to your research, like “why roof of mouth hurts” and “why roof of mouth itches.”Screen Shot 2017-02-13 at 6.40.43 AM.png

Step 3: Scroll back up to the top to export the data to CSV by clicking the big yellow button (top right corner):

Screen Shot 2017-02-13 at 12.32.56 PM.png

The magnifying glass looks much larger here… perhaps it would work at that distance?

Step 4: Clean up the data and upload the queries to your favorite keyword research tool (Moz Keyword Explorer, SEMRush, Google Keyword Planner, etc.) to discover search volume and SERP feature data, like featured snippets, reviews, related questions (PAA boxes), etc.

Note: Google’s Keyword Planner does not support SERP features data and provides vague, bucket-based search volume.


#4: Keyword research “only questions”

Moz Keyword Explorer provides an “only questions” filter to uncover potential PAA opportunities.

Step 1: Enter your keyword into KWE:

best keyword research tool.png

Step 2: Click Keyword Suggestions:

Screen Shot 2017-02-13 at 12.53.26 PM.png

Step 3: Filter by “are questions”:

Screen Shot 2017-02-13 at 12.51.59 PM.png

Pro tip: Find grouped question keyword opportunities by grouping keywords by “low lexical similarity” and ordering them from highest search volume to lowest:

Screen Shot 2017-02-13 at 12.52.28 PM.png

Step 4: Select keywords and add to a new or previous list:

Screen Shot 2017-02-13 at 1.14.49 PM.png

Step 5: Once in a list, KWE will tell you how many “related questions” (People Also Ask boxes) opportunities are within your list. In this case, we have 18:

Screen Shot 2017-02-13 at 1.27.03 PM.png

Step 6: Export your keyword list to a Campaign in Moz Pro:

Screen Shot 2017-02-13 at 1.33.15 PM.png

Step 7: Filter SERP Features by “Related Questions” to view PAA box opportunities:

Screen Shot 2017-02-13 at 1.35.02 PM.png

Step 8: Explore current PAA box opportunities and evaluate where you currently rank for “Related Questions” keywords. If you’re on page 1, you have a better chance of stealing a PAA box.

+Evaluate what other SERP features are present on these SERPs. Here, Dr. Pete tells me that I might be able to get a reviews rich snippet for “gutter installation”. Thanks, Dr. Pete!

Screen Shot 2017-02-13 at 1.36.02 PM.png

Hopefully, this research can help energize you to do topical research of your own to grab some relevant PAAs! PAAs aren’t going away anytime soon and I’m so excited for us to learn more about them.

Please share your PAA experiences, questions, or comments below.

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