Tag Archive | "steps"

Quit Annoying Your Audience! Take 3 Simple Steps to Focus Your Content

Ever have a friend who tells stories that never seem to go anywhere? It sounds okay at first, then it spins off to a tangent about how they met their spouse, then we go into their first college dorm room, with a side trip to that deeply formative event that happened in third grade, then
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How to Prove the Value of Content Marketing to Your CMO in 3 Easy Steps

Content Marketing Value

“ROI” can be a blurry idea in the world of content marketing. With often hard-to-measure costs and returns, content marketing ROI or value isn’t always crystal clear. Dealing in metrics like pageviews, time-on-page, organic impressions, and others aren’t always directly translatable into business revenue, which — let’s face it — is what your bosses really care about.

Even though only 8% of content marketers consider themselves successful in tracking content marketing ROI, we all know that content marketing is incredibly valuable. As our CEO Lee Odden has said for a long time:

“Content is the reason search engines exist and it’s the cornerstone of what people share on the social web. A quantity of quality content that answers readers’ questions in a useful and entertaining way serves everything from demand generation to lead generation.”

But how can you prove it with evidence that your chief marketing officer (CMO) or content director actually cares about?

Content is the foundation of everything we do here at TopRank Marketing. And our clients deserve and expect us to be able to connect our content marketing services to tangible business benefits. In just three easy steps, we can help you make that same connection and prove the value of your content marketing up the ladder.

Step 1: Identify Your Content Marketing Goals

As a marketer, you’re no doubt aware that you need to set a measurable goal before launching campaigns, but just because you know you should, doesn’t mean it always happens. Without setting a measurable goal, one could argue that your content marketing didn’t accomplish anything of real business value.

To set your goals, take a look at the current state of things to understand opportunities and what’s working well. Is there a dip in organic traffic that you hope to recover? Do you aim to increase conversions and marketing qualified leads (MQLs)? If you’re not sure where to start, review your current website performance in Google Analytics or in Google Search Console to identify potential KPIs.

As an example, if you notice in Google Search Console that your top performing organic search pages have a low click through rate (CTR), your goal may be to increase your CTR by 1% in 30 days. Keep in mind that when looking at goals and KPIs, it’s important not to lock yourself into just one metric. As our own digital marketing analyst, Allysia Kveberg, points out that:

“Sometimes marketing campaigns work a little differently than you expect, and that isn’t necessarily a negative thing.”

So, even if you’re driving results that aren’t directly tied to your goals, there might be a different marketing success lying in a related KPI that can help you sell value up the food chain.

Once you have your goals and KPIs locked down, you can now measure your content’s performance against them in real-time.


Without setting a measurable goal, one could argue that your #contentmarketing didn’t accomplish anything of real business value.
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Step 2: Measure Content Performance More Effectively

You know you need to measure content performance so you can see how you’re progressing towards your objectives. But how can you do it more effectively and efficiently? Depending on your goals, there are usually three areas of focus you’ll want to measure: awareness, engagement, and conversions. Or in other words, the top, middle, and bottom of the funnel.

Brand Awareness

For measuring your brand awareness, you’ll need to track social shares, impressions, mentions, and overall website traffic from first-time visitors. For our own campaigns, we like using tools like BuzzSumo to see the traction our content is getting on social media.

Another component to awareness, is search visibility. To see if you’re gaining more organic impressions, rankings, or clicks, log into Google Search Console. It’ll take some digging to see the new keywords you may be ranking for and to identify new positions, but it’s worth the extra work to see how your content is impacting your organic traffic.

Audience Engagement

If you’re looking to develop your connection with your audience, improve trust and retention, or promote your thought leadership, you’ll want to track your audience’s engagement with your content. Engagement metrics to measure are time on page, blog pageviews, bounce rates, pages visited per session, or number of return visitors.

Often referred to as “vanity metrics,” this data can still provide you with valuable insight when looking at the numbers in the context of content. For example, an average session duration of 10 minutes overall is nice to have, but it doesn’t tell you anything about why people stayed so long. By looking at the average session duration for individual webpages, however, you can start to identify common characteristics that people stick around for.

You can drill down on these metrics for each webpage in your Google Analytics account in the “Site Content” section of the “Behavior” menu, as pictured below.

Snapshot of TopRank Marketing Google Analytics

Conversions

Conversions are all about content marketing results that have the power to drive revenue. This means form fills, conversions, MQLs, or a growing subscription base. To track most of these items, you’ll want to have your website set up with conversion or event tracking. We like using Google Tag Manager to identify and track these events as they happen. Then, to really see how our content impacts conversions, we’ll also see how many form fills or conversions happened after interacting with a piece of content.

After you’ve identified your metrics and how to track them, take a look at the data as is to set your benchmarks for each metric. Going forward on a monthly basis, make sure to document or export the data you’re seeing to see if you’re meeting or exceeding the benchmarks you’ve set. This makes it easier to see trends and wins now and later when you’re putting together your report.

When tracking these items, you’ll also want to record which pieces of content are your high performers at each stage of the funnel or customer journey. This will give you the information you need to determine the types of content that move people from top to bottom.

Step 3: Educate Your CMO

Your CMO is probably more concerned about things of business value like sales, savings, or retention over blog sessions or time on page. As Joe Pulizzi, CEO of Content Marketing Institute, shared with us:

“Skip analytics reports for your CMO.”

But to translate your performance into real business value, takes some work.

Perhaps the best place to start is in conversions. How many MQLs and form fills has your content marketing generated? Are you filling the sales pipeline with qualified prospects? Once you have that number, you can use your sales team’s closure rate and average deal size to determine the potential revenue for each lead you generated. This gives your bosses a dollar amount they can easily understand and appreciate.

The value of brand awareness and audience engagement is a little harder to determine as they don’t “directly” influence purchasing decisions. But if you have been tracking your customer journey and marketing funnel, you can show your CMO how that funnel is filling up and how content helps attract and move people from stage to stage.

Below is an illustration of some of the metrics that you should consider highlighting at each stage and in the most business-tangible way possible.

Attract, Engage, Convert Model

In addition, you can compare your social shares, likes, and mentions to that of your competitors. If you come out on top, this proves that your content marketing gives you greater visibility over your competition.

Bullet-Proof Evidence

To present your CMO with hard evidence that speaks for itself, you need to:

  • Set relevant, measurable goals and KPIs
  • Track your progress throughout the funnel
  • Translate your findings into the results your CMO cares about

If you follow the steps above, you’ll have no problem proving that content marketing is a valuable, revenue-driving tactic. For more ways to impress your CMO with real business results, use these content marketing measurement and ROI tips from brand marketing experts at Kraft and 3M.


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A Quick-Start Guide to Video Content: Become Confident on Camera in 5 Steps

Videos are everywhere. They’re on your Facebook feed, your Instagram wall, and they also come up in search engine results. As a former TV journalist, I know that video is a powerful way to reach people — and being on camera regularly solidifies your connection with your audience. I had the pleasure (sarcasm intended) of
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7 Steps to Grow a Blog Post

Last week I talked about how writers seem like magicians, because we have the power to create something out of nothing. An important point to note about magicians, though: They don’t really do magic. Instead, they study and practice specific behaviors until they can create that illusion of creating something out of nothing. And of
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5 Steps to Website Security You Can Trust

Website security has never been more critical. Hackers, ransomware, and denial of service attacks are all concerns for modern business websites. Nothing will erode your audience’s trust in you faster than visiting your website and getting a security warning, or having Google flash a “You can’t trust this site” message in your search results. Even
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3 Important SEO Steps to Take Right Away

"True masters of search engine optimization are masters of listening and empathy." – Jerod Morris

What if we’re thinking about SEO all wrong?

You won’t be shocked to see such a question posed on this site — one that harbors posts in its archive with headlines like SEO is Dead and What if You Could Simply Eliminate SEO from Your Life?

Don’t get me wrong: we’re not anti-SEO.

Heck, we were recently awarded a U.S. patent for the Content Optimizer we developed that now powers the SEO tools bundled with our premium WordPress hosting.

We’re just anti some of the misguided notions and incomplete narratives about SEO that masquerade as good advice.

And one of the most fundamental mistakes I see people make is not fully appreciating the full breadth of each of the three terms that comprise S-E-O: Search. Engine. Optimization.

Notice the placement of that first period after “Search.”

It’s time to think beyond traditional notions of “search engines”

It’s easy to group the terms “search” and “engine” together. And for a long, long time, it made sense to do so.

When we used to discuss “search engine optimization,” we were mostly talking about searches typed into Google, perhaps Bing, or (going back further) Yahoo.

But now it’s 2017.

The new search

Gone are the days of only typed searches. People now conduct more and more searches with voice commands. A recent article on Forbes, 2017 Will Be the Year of Voice Search, makes a compelling case.

And who knows what will happen when we all have chips implanted in our brains that can read our thoughts. We might just be able to think our search and get results via the screens on our contact lenses. ”</p

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7 Easy-to-Forget SEO Steps You Need to Consider Every Time You Publish

"Remember these elements to help more of the right people find your content." – Jerod Morris

“But I don’t really think about SEO very much anymore.”

That was my initial reaction when we all agreed that March would be SEO month here at Copyblogger. At which point, of course, I knew I’d have to write about it.

“Look, I just create useful content for people. Do that, get it read, get it shared, get links, have good hosting and fast page-load times … and productive search engine results will follow, right? I mean, what else is there to say?”

Turns out, plenty.

Keyword research is more fundamental to your content marketing strategy than you may think. Also, you may already be making fatal optimization mistakes. Plus, who knew SEO advice could be so … practical? (Including #8, which will punch you square between the eyes.)

I read those articles, rethought my position, and decided to examine exactly how much I actually think about SEO on a post-by-post basis.

And, turns out, plenty. (Whether or not I realized it.)

It’s easy to forget about the basic steps I’m going to outline below, but they shouldn’t be overlooked. Because the minute I stop doing them is the minute my content starts attracting fewer targeted visitors. Same goes for you.

So let’s start at the top, because the first one is by far the most important of the seven — and it will take me the longest to explain.

(Note: I’m going to use my site AssemblyCall.com as an example throughout this post. It’s built on the Rainmaker Platform, which has all of the tools I’m about to mention built right in. And thank goodness, or I’d probably forget about them. StudioPress Sites has all of these tools built in, too.)

1. Be extra intentional about your SEO title tag

You don’t have to set an SEO title tag for each post. If nothing is defined in your post’s meta data, search engines will simply pull your on-page headline.

And if you’ve done your headline homework and know how to write good ones, chances are your headline can double as your SEO title without massive negative repercussions.

But is it ideal? That’s the question. (It’s not.) And if it’s not, why wouldn’t you take an extra minute to be more intentional with your SEO title?

Let me give you an example …

Here’s a recent post from AssemblyCall.com. Backstory: our resident expert bracketologist posted his final projections for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 1.41.43 PM

The headline follows the same simple and straightforward pattern that you see on all of our bracketology posts.

But here is the SEO title, set from the post edit screen inside of Rainmaker:

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 1.44.06 PM

You can’t see the full title, but here it is:

March Madness: Final Bracket Projections for 2017 NCAA Tournament by @AndyBottoms.

So why the differences?

First, because “March Madness” is an oft-searched term by basketball fans seeking this information — which I know from having done my keyword research. But the headline “March Madness: Final 2017 NCAA Tournament Bracket Projections” would look goofy and cluttered at the top of the page, especially on mobile.

Adding it to the SEO title allows me to get it into the search result, where it will have the most impact.

Second, I know that the first five to six words in an SEO title are the most important real estate. After that, people may not see the rest because it can get truncated in search results (as you can see in the screenshot).

So I rearranged the on-page headline to get “Final Bracket Projections” in before “2017 NCAA Tournament.” Why? Because the latter phrase is somewhat redundant with “March Madness.” But it’s essential that searchers know what, specifically, this post will tell them about March Madness, otherwise they won’t click.

This arrangement of the words balances the more generally searched terms with the essential specifics about the content — which is the part that actually drives clicks.

Third, notice the Twitter handle (@AndyBottoms) there at the end. Did you know that when people click the share button to tweet your post, Twitter usually pulls the SEO title, not the on-page headline? It’s true.

Since Andy is a known entity among college basketball fans for his bracketology prowess, I included his Twitter handle to add authority to the link when it’s included in the tweet text. Plus, he’ll be alerted when someone shares it and can retweet the share or reach out to that person.

Three small, subtle differences. All important. And each opportunity would have been wasted if I’d just been happy with the on-page headline and not considered the SEO title.

And here’s the fun part:

It took me way longer to type this, and for you to read this, than it did for me to edit the headline for the SEO title. I’ve been at this for a while, so it’s second nature at this point. So much so that I sometimes take it for granted.

If you haven’t developed this habit yet, take it seriously. Start doing it. And once it’s a habit, you’ll be creating usefully distinct SEO titles in less time than it takes you to floss.

2. While you’re at it, be strategic with your meta description too

You might as well take a minute to define your meta description. Typically, this is what shows along with your SEO title in search engine results.

Sure, search engines sometimes take liberties and pull their own excerpt from inside of your post for the meta description — usually when the search result is generated by a keyword that is not in the meta description but appears elsewhere in your content.

But we can’t worry about that. We’re worrying about the results we can control.

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 3.42.34 PM

See how I used the phrase “NCAA Tournament bracket projections” in the screenshot above? I did this to ensure that the “NCAA Tournament” part was visible in the search engine result, since the addition of “March Madness” to the SEO title had pushed “NCAA Tournament” toward the cutoff point. (Remember from my first example?)

I also wanted to include the phrase “field of 68,” which is a tertiary phrase that might draw some search interest.

The meta description is important because it’s your second chance to include important keywords that might not make it into your title tag.

In hindsight, I probably could have been even more strategic with keywords in this description. I had more real estate available. But I was also trying to balance my tone and connecting with the audience — because, remember, the meta description often auto-populates when someone shares your post on Facebook.

This was a good opportunity to display some gratitude to the loyal audience members who had kept up with Andy’s daily updates throughout the previous week.

And don’t forget: optimizing for humans is optimizing for search engines. ”</p

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Mastering Google Search Operators in 67 Easy Steps

Posted by Dr-Pete

Any SEO worth their sustainably harvested pink Himalayan salt knows that Google offers a variety of advanced search operators – special commands that take you above and beyond regular text searches. Learning search operators is a bit like learning chess, though. It’s easy to memorize how each piece moves, but that’s about 1% of your path toward mastery. I know that the pointy-hat guy in chess moves diagonally, but that doesn’t mean I’m about to take on Kasparov or Deep Blue.

Instead of just listing all of the operators and telling you what they do, I’d like to try something different. This post is a journey in 67 parts, split into five functional stories:

  1. Content Research
  2. Title Research
  3. Plagiarism Check
  4. Competitive Research
  5. Technical SEO/Audits

You can skip around, but I’d suggest following the story from the beginning. When you’re done, you’ll understand not only what each operator does, but how to use it in real-world situations and mix-and-match it with other useful operators.


I. Content Research

Crafting original content in 2017 requires wading into the sea of content that’s already been created, and Google remains the most complete map of that sea. Advanced search operators are invaluable research tools for content marketers. Let’s walk through a sample content journey…

1. Find all the content

tesla

Let’s say you’ve got a blog post to write about the inventor Nikola Tesla. You hop over to Google and search “tesla,” only to find a lot of results like this:

Google has decided that Tesla Motors is the dominant intent for this phrase, which doesn’t help you very much for your current project.

2. Narrow your search

nikola tesla

So, of course you add more keywords and narrow your search. Now you’re on the right track:

Anyone who’s ever run a Google search understands this, but there’s an important point here that we often overlook. Whenever you string together more than one word in a Google search, Google connects them with a logical AND. This is true of both keywords and operators. If you combine operators, Google will assume that you meant AND and will try to meet all conditions.

3. Mind special characters

tesla ac/dc

Let’s say you want to specifically find pages with the phrase “ac/dc”, so you try the search above:

Notice the highlighted words – Google has returned anything matching “AC” and “DC” separately. In this case, they’ve treated the forward slash as the same as a space, which probably isn’t what you intended.

4. Force exact match with quotes

tesla “ac/dc”

By putting quotation marks around a phrase, you can force an exact-match search. This requires Google to match the specific, full phrase – with all terms and in the order specified:

This is a lot closer to what you probably expected. Notice the highlighting in the second result, where Google seems to have matched “AC-DC”. This is a lot closer than the previous attempt, but Google is still taking some liberties with the forward slash. Be sure to do a sanity check of results any time you use non-alphanumeric characters in a search.

5. Force a logical OR

tesla OR edison

If you specifically want a logical OR between keywords or operators, use the “OR” operator. OR must be in all-caps, or, alternatively you can use the pipe symbol (|):

Note that, in most cases, Google is still going to give priority to results that contain both terms. Specifying logical OR is most useful when two terms only co-occur rarely.

6. Group terms with parentheses

(tesla OR edison) alternating current

Some operators, including OR, are more useful in complex searches. Here, we’re using parentheses to group “tesla OR edison” and then are adding “alternating current” as an AND condition:

Requiring all three terms might be unnecessarily restrictive. By using both ANDs and ORs in the same search, we’re giving Google a bit more flexibility. Since you probably don’t want to memorize the precedence of all Google search operators, I highly recommend using parentheses whenever you’re in doubt.

7. Exclude specific terms

tesla -motors

Maybe you want to know what other uses of “tesla” are out there, beyond Tesla Motors. You could use the (-) operator to tell Google to exclude any result with “motors” in it:

Browsing these results, you can see quickly that Tesla is also a band and a unit of measurement. In addition, Tesla the company makes products other than cars. Keyword exclusions are also called “negative keywords” (thus the minus sign).

8. Exclude multiple terms

tesla -motors -car -battery

Just like positive keywords, you can chain together negative keywords:

Keep in mind that each minus sign should only be paired with a single keyword or operator.

9. Exclude exact-match phrases

tesla -motors -”rock n roll”

You can exclude full phrases by using the (-) sign followed by the phrase in quotes:

You can combine individual negative keywords with negative exact-match phrases as needed.

10. Match broadly with wildcards

tesla -motors “rock * roll”

What if you specifically wanted to include more about the rock-n-roll band, but you didn’t care whether it was spelled “rock-n-roll,” “rock and roll,” or “rock & roll,” etc.? You can use the asterisk (*) operator as a wildcard to replace any single word:

Wildcards behave most predictably within an exact-match phrase, allowing you to find near-matches when you can’t pin down your search to a single phrase. The (*) operator only operates on the word level. There is no single-character wildcard operator.

11. Find terms near each other

tesla AROUND(3) edison

Here’s a nifty one. Maybe you want to find results where “Tesla” and “Edison” not only appear in the document but are fairly close to each other. The AROUND(X) operator tells Google to only return results where the two words are within X words of each other:

Phrases like “Tesla vs. Thomas Edison” show up as matches, but an article where the two men were mentioned in separate paragraphs wouldn’t.

12. Find near exact-match phrases

“nikola tesla” AROUND(2) “thomas alva edison”

What if, for some reason, you really needed references to include full names? You can combine AROUND(X) with exact-match phrases (in quotes):

AROUND(X) only works on the entities immediately preceding and following it, so be careful when combining it with other operators or phrases that aren’t exact-match. Note that AROUND(0) returns strange results – if you want to return two words only if they appear together, use an exact-match phrase instead.

13. Find content on specific sites

nikola tesla site:pbs.org

The “site:” operator is an advanced command that lets you specify a specific domain you want to search on. We usually think of it as a technical SEO and audit tool, but it can also help you refine content searches. Let’s say you remembered reading an article on PBS about Tesla, but lost the URL:

Typically, you’ll use “site:” with a root domain (i.e. leave subdomains, like “www”, off) to match as broadly as possible. Advanced operators like “site:” can be combined with each other and with keywords.

14. Find content on specific TLDs

nikola tesla site:edu

You don’t have to include a full domain with “site:”. For example, let’s say you wanted to find any content about Nikola Tesla on a university website. You could search on all “.edu” domains (also known as a Top-Level Domain, or TLD):

The “site:” operator will not work on a partial domain name. It only accepts full domains, root domains, or TLDs. You can use it on country-specific TLDs (ccTLDs), such as “co.uk” or “com.sg”.

15. Find content on multiple TLDs

nikola tesla (site:gov OR site:edu)

Just as with keywords, you can combine “site:” operators with logical OR to search multiple domains:

Often, it’s easier and a bit less confusing to run individual searches, but this example is just to illustrate that you can combine advanced operators in complex ways.

16. Dealing with broad matches

discount airfare

Google is getting better at matching synonyms, which is usually good thing, but it sometimes means that results are a lot broader than you might have expected:

Here, a search for “discount airfare” is returning keywords like “cheapest flights,” “cheap flights,” “airfare deals,” and a variety of other combinations.

17. Use exact-match to block synonyms

“discount airfare”

This is another situation where exact-match can help. It doesn’t just tell Google to use the full phrase, but it blocks Google from returning any kind of broad match, including synonyms:

Obviously, the results may still contain synonyms (naturally written content often does), but using exact-match ensures that there will be at least one instance of “discount airfare” in each of the results you get back.

18. Exact-match on a single word

discount “airfare”

This may seem counter-intuitive, but you can apply exact match to just one word. In this case, putting an exact match on “airfare” blocks Google from using synonyms just for that word:

Here, Google is free to match on synonyms for “discount” (such as “cheapest”), but every result is forced to include “airfare.” Exact-match single words when you want to exclude variations of that word.

19. What to do when exact-match fails

“orbi vs eero vs google wifi”

The other day, I was searching for articles that specifically compared Orbi, Eero, and Google Wifi networking hardware. Something odd happened when I searched on the exact-match phrase:

It’s not obvious from the search results themselves, but the first result doesn’t contain the phrase anywhere in the body of the text. On rare occasion, Google may match a phrase on secondary relevance factors, such as inbound link anchor text.

20. Search only in the body text

intext:”orbi vs eero vs google wifi”

In these rare cases, you can use the “intext:” operator. This forces Google to find the text in the body of the document. Now, all of the top results clearly have an exact match in the content itself:

Interestingly, the second result reveals what happened with our last search. A Reddit post featured an article from The Verge with an alternate title and used that title as the anchor text. Reddit apparently had enough authority to generate a match via the anchor text alone.

21. Find a set of keywords in the text

allintext: orbi eero google wifi

What if you want to find a set of words, but they don’t need to be in an exact-match phrase? You could use a separate “intext:” operator for each word, or you could use “allintext:” which tells Google to apply “intext:” to all of the words following the operator:

All of the results have the target keywords in the body text, in some combination or order. Be very careful about mixing “allintext:” (or any “allin…:” operator) with other commands, or you could end up with unexpected results. The “allintext:” operator will automatically try to process anything that follows it.

(Special thanks to Michael Martinez for working through some “intext:” examples with me on Twitter, and to Google’s Gary Illyes for clarifying some of the details about how exactly “intext:” works)


II. Title Research

You’ve done your content research, and now it’s time to pin down a title. You want to capture those clicks, but, of course, you don’t want to be unoriginal. Here are some search operator combos for title research.

22. Check for a specific phrase

“tesla vs edison”

You’ve settled on using “Tesla vs. Edison” in your title, so let’s do a quick check on content with that exact-match phrase:

You’ve pinned down Google to an exact-match phrase, but that phrase can occur anywhere in the text. How do we look for it in just the document title?

23. Check for a phrase in the title

intitle:”tesla vs edison”

Use the “intitle:” operator to specify that a keyword or phrase (in quotes) has to occur in the document title:

Be aware that sometimes Google may rewrite a display title in search results, so it’s possible to get a result back where the phrase doesn’t seem to match the title because Google has rewritten it.

24. Check multiple keywords in title

intitle:tesla intitle:vs intitle:edison

If you want to check for multiple keywords in a title, but don’t want to restrict yourself to exact-match, you can string together multiple “intitle:” operators with single keywords:

Of course, this can be a bit clunky. Luckily, there’s an easier way…

25. Check multiple keywords easily

allintitle: tesla vs edison

Like “allintext:”, there’s an “allintitle:” operator. It will match any of the keywords following it:

This returns roughly the same results as #24, which doesn’t make for a very interesting screenshot, but is exactly what we want it to do. Again, be careful combining “allintitle:” with other operators, as it will try to consume everything following it.

26. Check for titles with lists

intitle:”top 10 facts” tesla

Maybe you’ve got your heart set on a listicle, but you want to make sure it hasn’t been done to death. You can combine an “intitle:” operator with a general keyword search on a topic:

These results are all pages that talk about Tesla but have “Top 10 Facts” in the title.

27. Find lists and exact-match phrases

intitle:”top 10 facts” “nikola tesla”

Oops, we ‘re pulling in results about Tesla Motors again. Luckily, you can combine “intitle:” with exact-match phrases and other, more complex operator combos:

This is much closer to what you probably had in mind, but the bad news is that the “Top 10″ things does seem like it’s been overdone, even in the realm of Nikola Tesla.

28. Check for Top X lists

intitle:”top 7..9 facts” “nikola tesla”

The range (..) operator lets you search for a specific range of numbers. Maybe you’re tired of Top 10, but don’t want too short of a list. Let’s check out what Top 7, 8, and 9 lists are out there:

This returned only four results, and they were all videos. So, at least you’re on the right track, originality-wise. Once you master search operators, you’ll eventually reach the mythical end of the Internet.

29. Check the title for this post

intitle:”search operators” “in * easy steps”

Let’s put all of this to the test – how original is my title for this post? I’m not expecting an exact match to a post with 67 steps, but what about any post mentioning “Search Operators” in the title that also uses some variation of “in * easy steps” anywhere in the result?

It looks like I did alright, from an originality standpoint. Of course, there are many ways to mix-and-match operators to find similar titles. Ultimately, you have to decide how you define “unique.”


III. Plagiarism Check

You’ve finally published that article, but you suspect someone else may have copied it and is taking your traffic. Advanced search operators can be great for hunting down plagiarism.

30. Find articles with your exact title

intitle:”duplicate content in a post-panda world”

Use the “intitle:” operator with your exact-match title to easily spot whether someone has copied your entire article with no modifications. Here’s a search based on a post I wrote a couple of years back:

Ok, you probably didn’t need to know about the original article, so let’s try again…

31. Find title matches, excluding sites

intitle:”duplicate content in a post-panda world” -site:moz.com

Use (-) with the “site:” operator to exclude specific sites. In this case, we already know that the original title was posted on Moz.com:

It turns out that two of these sites are just linking to the post in kind of a low-quality but not outright malicious way. What you really want to know if someone is copying the text wholesale…

32. Find unique, exact-match text

“they were frolicking in our entrails” -site:moz.com

Another alternative is to run exact-match on a long, unique phrase. Luckily, this particular blog post has some pretty unique phrases. I’m going to keep the Moz.com exclusion:

The first result is a harmless (if slightly odd) Facebook post, but the other two are full, copied-and-pasted duplicates of the original post.

33. Find unique text only in the body

intext:”they were frolicking in our entrails” -site:moz.com -site:facebook.com

If you want to be completely sure that the unique text is in the body of the document, you can use the “intext:” operator. Here, I’ve added both “intext:” and a Facebook exclusion. Within reason, it’s ok to mix-and-match a variety of operators:

Practically speaking, “intext:” often returns similar results to the exact-match phrase by itself. I typically use “intext:” only when I’m seeing strange results or want to make absolutely sure that I’m only looking at document body text.

34. Find a quote you’re not sure about

i would rather kiss a wookiee

What if you’re looking for a long quote, but you can’t remember if you’re getting that quote quite right? We often equate exact-match with long searches, but sometimes it’s better to let Google go broad:

Here, Google is helpfully reminding me that I’m a lousy Star Wars fan. I’ve even got an article about all the other people who are wrong about this, too.


IV. Competitive Research

In some cases, your research may be very focused on what kind of content the competition is creating. Google search operators can help you easily narrow down what your competitors are up to…

35. Start with a basic search

tesla announcements

Let’s say you want to find out who’s publishing Tesla Motors announcements, so you start with the simplest query you can think of:

You’re probably not looking for Tesla’s own announcements, so you do an exclusion…

36. Exclude obvious sites

tesla announcements -site:tesla.com

You grab the handy “site:” operator and run a negative (-) on Tesla’s own site, resulting in:

That’s a little better. These are all pretty familiar competitors if you’re in the news game.

37. Target specific competitors

tesla announcements site:nytimes.com

Maybe you want to focus on just one competitor. You can use the “site:” operator for that, too:

Obviously, this approach is going to work best for large competitors with a high volume of content.

38. Target a specific subdomain

tesla announcements site:wheels.blogs.nytimes.com

Remember that you can use “site:” with a full subdomain. Maybe you just want to find out what CNN’s “Wheels” auto industry blog is posting about.

You can, of course, exclude specific subdomains with “-site:” as well.

39. Target a specific author on a site

tesla announcements site:nytimes.com “neal e boudette”

Maybe you’re interested in just a single author. There’s no reliable author search operator for organic results, but in most cases, just including the author’s name as exact-match text will do the trick:

Make sure to pull up an article first to see how the author’s name is presented (middle initial, etc.).

40. Target by keywords, site, and title

tesla announcements site:nytimes.com intitle:earnings

If you wanted Tesla announcements in the New York Times that only mention “Earnings” in the title, then you can mix-and-match operators as needed:

Don’t be afraid to get creative. The Google index is a big, big place and there’s always more to be found, especially on very large sites.

41. Find related competitors

related:nytimes.com

What if you wanted to branch out to other publications? By using the “related:” operator with a root domain, Google will show you other sites/domains like the one you specify:

The “related:” operator is great when it works, but be warned that it only works for certain niches and typically for larger sites. It’s also one of the rare Google search operators that can’t be combined with other operators.

42. Find content in a specific path

tesla announcements site:fortune.com/2016

If you want to drill down into a site, you can specify URL folders with the “site:” operator. Forbes, for example, is conveniently organized with year-based folders, so you can easily see just articles from 2016:

Keep in mind that this only works for parts of the URL directly following the domain name. So, how do you search on text in other parts of the URL?

43. Search broadly for a “folder”

tesla announcements inurl:2016

Luckily, Google also has an “inurl:” operator. By searching on a year, for example, you can find that year anywhere it happens to appear in the result URL:

Keep in mind that the text you specify “inurl:” can appear anywhere in the URL, not just at the folder level.

44. Search by a specific date range

tesla announcements daterange:2457663-2457754

What if you really want to narrow down your date range? Google also has a “daterange:” operator which lets you pinpoint publication dates to the day, in theory. For example, here’s a search for Q4 of 2016:

Unfortunately, in regular organic results, publication dates aren’t always accurate, and “daterange:” can, in practice, return some pretty strange results. You may have noticed, too, that that’s not your typical date format. The “daterange:” operator uses the Julian date format.

45. Search by broad date range

tesla announcement 2015..2017

If you don’t need your date range to be particularly precise, consider using the range (..) operator with a year on either side of it. As numbers go, years are generally unique enough to return reasonable results:

Please note that this is not specifically a date search, but as cheats go, it’s not a bad one. Unfortunately, the range operator doesn’t always work properly paired with “inurl:” and other advanced operators.

46. Target just one type of file

tesla announcements filetype:pdf

The “filetype:” operator lets you specify an extension, such as PDF files. Let’s say you only want Tesla announcements that have been published as PDFs:

Other file extensions to try are “doc” (Word), “xls” (Excel), “ppt” (PowerPoint), and “txt” (text files). You can also use “filetype:” to specify certain varieties of web pages, including “html”, “php”, “asp”, etc. Keep in mind that the file extension typically has to be listed in the URL, so these searches are not exhaustive.

47. Find sites linking to competitors

link:nytimes.com tesla

The “link:” operator lets you do competitive link research. For example, the search above looks for all documents relevant to Tesla that have links from The New York Times:

Ok, so mostly this tells you that The New York Times links a lot to The New York Times. That’s probably not quite what you were looking for…

48. Find links excluding the source

link:nytimes.com -site:nytimes.com tesla

Let’s combine “link:” with a negative (-) “site:” operator to remove links from The New York Times:

Please note that Google has deprecated a lot of the functionality of the “link:” operator and the results it returns are just a sample (and, potentially, an unreliable sample). For in-depth competitive link research, we strongly recommend third-party tools, including our own Open Site Explorer.

49. Search inside link anchor text

inanchor:”tesla announcements”

You can use the “inanchor:” operator to search inside linked text. So, for example, the search above looks for sites being linked to from sites using “tesla announcements” in the linked text. In other words, the results represent the targets of those links (not the sources):

Please note that, like the “link:” operator, the “inanchor:” operator represents only a small sample of the index and is no longer actively supported by Google. Use it with a grain of salt.

50. Search multiple words in anchor text

allinanchor: tesla announcements “model x”

Like the other “allin…” varieties, “allinanchor:” applies to every word after it, looking for all of those words in the anchor text, but not as an exact-match:

The three link-based operators (“link:”, “inanchor:”, “allinanchor:”) can be useful for your initial research, but do not expect them to return a full, accurate representation of all links to your site or your competitors.


V. Technical SEO/Audits

Advanced Google search operators can also be powerful tools for understanding how sites are indexed and for performing technical audits. Technical SEO is a complex subject, of course, but here are a few examples to get you started:

51. Glimpse into a site’s index

site:amazon.com

It all starts with the “site:” operator, which, at its most basic level, can help you get a glimpse of how Google indexes a site. Here are a few results from Google’s index of Amazon.com:

Please note that the result count here (and for any large-volume search) is at best an estimate. Given an estimate of 119,000,000 pages, though, we can be assured that the real number is massive. On the scale of any decent-sized site, you’re going to want to drill down…

52. Filter out the “www” subdomain

site:amazon.com -inurl:www

To drill deep into a site’s index, the combination of “site:” with “inurl:” will quickly become your best friend. For example, maybe you want to see only pages on Amazon that aren’t under the “www” subdomain. You could use “site:” along with a negative match (-) on the “inurl:” operator:

Even in the first few results, you can see a sampling of the other subdomains that Google is indexing. This can give you a good starting point for where to drill down next.

53. Filter out multiple subdomains

site:amazon.com -inurl:www -inurl:logistics -inurl:developer -inurl:kdp

You can extend this concept pretty far, building successively on earlier searches to return narrower and narrower lists of pages. Here’s an example with four “-inurl:” operators:

I’ve done this with over a dozen “inurl:” statements and am not aware of any fixed limit on how many operators you can combine in a single search. Most sites aren’t big enough to require those kinds of extremes, but it’s good to know that it’s possible if and when you need it.

54. Focus on a single subdomain

site:developer.amazon.com

Alternatively, you can focus on a single subdomain. For this, I generally prefer to include the subdomain in the “site:” operator instead of using “inurl:”. Otherwise, you could find the text anywhere in the URL:

You could extend this concept to dive deeper into any of the sub-folders returned here (“/ios”, “/ja”, etc.) and even combine a more specific “site:” operator with additional “inurl:” operators.

55. Filter for non-secure pages

site:amazon.com -inurl:https

Interestingly, you can use “inurl:” to include or exclude secure (https:) pages:

If you’re moving a site from “http:” to “https:”, this trick can help you make sure that new pages are being indexed properly and old pages are gradually disappearing from the index.

56. Search for a URL parameter

site:amazon.com inurl:field-keywords

You can also use “inurl:” to target URL parameters on dynamic pages. For example, let’s say you want to see what kind of internal search pages Google is indexing on Amazon:

Please note that there’s no way to specify a URL parameter – Google may find the text anywhere in the URL. On the bright side, many URL parameters tend to have unique names.

57. Search multiple URL attributes

allinurl: amazon field-keywords nikon

Much like “allintitle:” and “allintext:”, there’s an “allinurl:” operator. In this example, you’re looking for internal search pages on Amazon that have the word “Nikon” in the URL:

Unfortunately, “allinurl:” suffers from two problems. One, you can’t reliably combine it with “site:”, which limits your options. Two, it tends to return strange results. For example, notice that the top results for my US search were from Amazon France. In most cases, I recommend using multiple “inurl:” statements instead.

58. Find stray text files

site:amazon.com filetype:txt -inurl:robots.txt

You might be wondering if you left any stray documentation files laying around your site that happened to get picked up by Google. You can do this using a combination of “site:” and “filetype:”:

In this case, you want to exclude “robots.txt” (using “-inurl:”) because Amazon has dozens of Robots files. This combo is a good way to clean up files that have been accidentally left live on a site.

59. Dig deep into duplicate content

site:amazon.com “hot wheels 20 car gift pack”

A site like Amazon has massive potential for internal duplicate content. By using the “site:” operator with exact match phrases, you can start to pin down near-duplicates:

In this case, Google is still returning almost 1,000 results. Time to dig deeper…

60. Dig through duplicate titles

site:amazon.com intitle:”hot wheels 20 car gift pack”

You can specifically using “site:” plus “intitle:” to find pages on a site that may be exact duplicates.

Believe it or not, Google still returns over 100 matching pages. Let’s keep at it…

61. Find title duplicates with exclusions

site:amazon.com intitle:”hot wheels 20 car gift pack” -inurl:review -inurl:reviews

You dig in and notice that many of the results in #60 are review pages, with either “review” or “reviews” in the URL. So, you build on the previous search and add two exclusions:

Voilà… you’re down to just a half-dozen results. You just leveled up in technical SEO.

62. Find similar products with different counts

site:amazon.com “hot wheels * car gift pack”

Maybe you’re curious about other Hot Wheels gifts packs that represent similar products but not exactly the same one. You could replace “20″ with the wildcard (*) operator:

Unfortunately, wildcards don’t play well with the “intitle:” operator, so you’ll generally be restricted to exact-match phrases outside of advanced operators.

63. Find similar products with exclusions

site:amazon.com “hot wheels * car gift pack” -20

Given all of the previous searches, you probably don’t need to know about the 20-packs, so you can add an exclusion on the number 20 (just treat it as a word with negative match):

Looks like there’s a healthy number of 5-car gift packs as well. The plot thickens…

64. Follow the rabbit hole to Wonderland

site:amazon.com “hot wheels * car gift pack” -20 -5

It’s time to take the red pill and find out just how deep this rabbit hole goes. You can keep adding exclusions and take out the 5-packs as well:

Finally, you’re nearing the bottom. This process may seem a bit obsessive, but auditing large sites is a process of identifying potential problems and drilling down until you either you pin down the issues or decide they aren’t worth worrying about. Once you master them, advanced search operators shine at drill-downs.

65. Bonus: Show me the money!

site:amazon.com “hot wheels” $ 19.95

I woke up in a cold sweat at 2am realizing I had forgotten a search operator (sadly, while you may find it funny, this is not a joke). I warned earlier that special characters can produce weird results, but one that Google does recognize is the dollar sign ($ ):

This isn’t really a site audit example, but it fits well with our Amazon story. Keep in mind that, while Google will honor the ($ ) in the results, they could appear anywhere in those results. Many Amazon pages list multiple prices. Still, it can be a useful tool to add to your arsenal.

66. Find results in a price range

site:amazon.com “hot wheels” $ 19..$ 20

You can also combine a ($ ) search with the range operator (..) and search a range of prices. Let’s say you wanted to find any pages mentioning “Hot Wheels” and prices in the $ 19-20 range:

While this tactic can definitely be useful for general product research, e-commerce sites can also use it in an audit to find pages with incorrect or outdated prices.

67. Find other TLDs for your brand

site:amazon.* -site:amazon.com

This last tip could be either an audit trick or a way to track down the competition, depending on how you use it. Use the wildcard (*) in the top-level domain (TLD) to find any site with the same name, and then exclude the main site:

For a large site, like Amazon, this could help you find other legitimate TLDs, including country-specific TLDs (ccTLDs). Alternatively, you could use this trick to find competitors who have registered your brand name under other TLDs.


Wait, You’re Still Here?

Congratulations for making it this far. I hope you’ve picked up at least a handful of useful tricks and the confidence to experiment. If you have favorites I’m missing, please feel free to share them in the comments. I’m sure there’s a good trick or ten I’ve never seen.

If you need a quick reference, we’ve launched a new Search Operators reference and cheat sheet in the Learning Center. This resource reflects the current state of Google’s search operators, as best we know, including deprecated operators.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!


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5 Stress-Free Steps for Pricing Your Services

how to price any project

Why does pricing our services provoke such fear and dread?

Even when we’re certain that we provide an exceptional service and charge what we’re worth, we still worry that clients will view our prices as unreasonable.

Of course, we don’t want to underprice our services, either.

Where does this leave us?

Most of the time, it leaves us paralyzed and stuck. So when it comes time to actually give a prospective client a price estimate, we often just take a wild guess.

That’s a huge mistake.

To help you calculate your service prices accurately, I’m going to share a step-by-step method for setting your project rates.

Let’s get started.

Step #1: Perform research and determine your hourly rate

The first step in figuring out your rate is researching the project and asking yourself critical questions (examples below). These questions help you clarify all the details of the project.

You’ll also use the information you gather to determine your hourly rate, and that’s the starting point for the entire process.

At Copyblogger, we highly recommend quoting a project rate, rather than an hourly rate — it protects you and the client.

When you carefully consider your project price, you’ll be able to work comfortably until the project is completed — and you won’t be penalized if you finish faster than anticipated.

And because freelance services are notoriously variable in cost, your client will appreciate knowing their fixed cost going into a new project.

Why, then, do you need to determine your hourly rate if you’re going to quote a project rate?

Your hourly rate is the first variable in your project price. Your client doesn’t need to know this rate — it’s for your own calculations only.

During this step, consider:

  • The project scope. Make sure you have a clear understanding of the client’s expectations and your role in helping him meet his goals for the project.
  • Whether or not this project will lead to ongoing work. Is the client already talking about additional projects he’ll need help with, or is this a one-time assignment?
  • The client’s budget for the project. Carol Tice, a freelance writer and founder of Freelance Writers Den, recommends inquiring about the budget for a new project. Clients won’t always have an answer, but when they do, it gives you a great piece of data to work with. Carol also adds that asking about the prospective client’s budget helps you weed out low-paying clients who don’t value your services!

After you’ve researched the project, your role as the service provider, and the budget, determine an hourly rate. This is the first component you’ll use to calculate your project base rate.

Step #2: Estimate how many hours the project will take

Break down the project into parts, and then estimate how many hours each part will take to complete.

Add up the hours for each part to get the total number of hours for the entire project. This is the second component you’ll use to calculate your project base rate.

Step #3: Multiply your hourly rate by the number of hours, then add padding

Calculate your project base rate by multiplying your hourly rate (from Step #1) by the total number of hours the project will take to complete (from Step #2).

Base rate = (Hourly rate) x (Hours the project will take to complete)

Then add some padding. We recommend adding a markup of 25-50 percent to your project base rate to cover additional expenses, overhead, and that affliction most service providers suffer from, which we call “Acute This-will-be-easy-itis.”

In other words, pad your total time just in case you’re underestimating it (which is extremely common).

Padding will cover aspects of the project like:

  • Client interaction and ongoing project questions. To provide great service, you’ll want to be available to answer client questions and provide status updates — that time can add up.
  • Revisions and additional changes. Are revisions included in your project fee? If so, include them in your markup number if that time isn’t already reflected in Step #2.
  • Other unexpected additions. Ideally, the project will unfold as expected. But if it doesn’t, padding allows you to be flexible (within reason). It enables you to be a helpful service provider who goes the extra mile to meet your client’s needs — because you know your own needs are covered.

Once you’ve added your markup, you have your final project price.

Project price = (Base rate) + (Markup)

Step #4: Communicate the price clearly to the client

Now you can clearly communicate the project price to your client and how you will proceed if the work scope expands beyond the original expectations set for the project.

Actively manage your client’s expectations and avoid miscommunications during this stage of the process.

Step #5: Track your hours and adjust future pricing accordingly

Here’s a critical last step of the pricing process that many service providers overlook: If you want to get better at pricing your services, you must track your hours when working on a project to determine if your original estimate was accurate.

Carol advises:

“Track your time, and find out how long it really takes you to do a project. Most people underbid when they’re getting started, so careful time tracking makes it all about the data. That’s useful.”

If you closely monitor your time and discover you consistently underestimate or overestimate the amount of time you spend on your client projects, you can adjust your future price quotes accordingly.

My favorite time-tracking tools are Harvest and FreshBooks.

Price your services with confidence and clarity

Pricing your services doesn’t have to be a nerve-racking process. When you use a smart method like this, creating price quotes can even be (dare I say it?) fun.

Check out the first two articles in this series on pricing your services:

And remember:

Communicate price quotes to clients with confidence and don’t apologize for your prices.

What’s your method for assessing a project and calculating your fee?

Share in the comments below.

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You can add your email to our waiting list below to be the first to hear about it.

Find out when our Certified Content Marketer training program reopens:

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4 Trust-Building Steps that Get Your Prospects to Eat Out of Your Hands

attract & engage your best prospects

Are you scaring away your best prospects?

When you’re new to content marketing, you might inadvertently send a frightening message to your potential customers and clients.

Your heart is probably in the right place. You’re trying to provide value and put your best offers in front of people — but your approach might miss the mark.

And that wrong approach might cause terrible conversion rates for your opt-in forms and low sales of your products and services.

Want to know how to stop scaring off your prospects, build trust, and start attracting tons of subscribers and sales?

The key is learning how to get birds to eat out of your hands.

Why content marketing is like ornithology

Let’s say you have a cute little group of finches in your backyard, and your dream is to get the little fellas to eat birdseed out of your hand.

The trick to earning the trust of the birds is to move slowly and quietly, so you don’t scare them off. Stand next to the tree or bird feeder where they gather, and let them get used to you. Demonstrate your trustworthiness and let them know you’re not going to hurt them.

Then continue to take tiny steps toward your goal, all the while being careful not to scare them. Let the birds discover you’re a source of yummy food by sprinkling birdseed on the ground and hanging out nearby while they nibble.

If you are infinitely patient, take baby steps, and don’t frighten them, eventually you can train the birds to eat directly out of your hands.

Here’s what you don’t want to do:

  • Scream “I HAVE BIRDSEED!” at the trees where the birds hang out
  • Shove your hands in their little faces to show them what you’re offering
  • Wave your arms around to get their attention
  • Anything else that makes you look scary, aggressive, risky, or alarming

How this bird story affects your content marketing

If you never plan on trying to get finches to eat from your hands — who cares?

But this story has an important lesson for all content marketers: Your prospects are just like birds.

They are highly risk-averse and hypervigilant, constantly searching for a reason to take flight and leave your website.

If you offer too much too soon or shove your paid products in their faces, they’ll fly away.

And you’ll be left alone, holding a handful of birdseed, wondering what happened.

Building relationships the bird whisperer way

How can you frame your offers to avoid scaring away your prospects?

  1. Start slow. Patience is essential when you’re building relationships with your audience. Be sure to establish trust before you ask for anything. When in doubt, err on the side of caution.
  2. Provide value first. When your website is new, it’s critical that you establish yourself as an expert (and build trust with your audience members) by giving away free value before you present your audience with an offer for your paid products and services. Start with a free report, educational video, or content library, and gather feedback from your audience on that content before you make your next move.
  3. Don’t ask for multiple actions. Whether you have an email list opt-in form or free registration page for your site, one major mistake new content marketers make is trying to do too much with a single page. If you present paid offers on the same page or form as your free content, you might confuse your prospects and they won’t take any action at all.
  4. Send emails with useful content to build relationships and increase trust. Once a prospect has signed up for your email list, you still need to proceed with caution. To build relationships, send consistent content notifications or email newsletters to prove your authority in your niche and provide value to your community members.

Win your prospects’ trust with a steady, consistent approach

When you approach your prospects carefully and consistently over time (and prove you’re a safe person), they’ll eventually feel comfortable buying from you.

So take small and steady steps, and don’t overdo it with aggressive sales messages. Your prospects will learn to trust you, and they’ll be far more likely to buy your products and services.

A little birdie told me you (and your prospects) are going to be a lot happier with this approach.

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