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Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

The lessons Rand has learned from building and growing Moz are almost old enough to drive. From marketing flywheels versus growth hacks, to product launch timing, to knowing your audience intimately, Rand shares his best advice from a decade and a half of marketing Moz in today’s edition of Whiteboard Friday.

Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we are going to chat about some of the big lessons learned for me personally building this company, building Moz over the last 16, 17 years.

Back in February, I left the company full-time. I’m still the Chairman of the Board and contribute in some ways, including an occasional Whiteboard Friday here and there. But what I wanted to do as part of this book that I’ve written, that’s just coming out April 24th, Lost and Founder, is talk about some of the elements in there, maybe even give you a sneak peek.

If you’re thinking, “Well, what are the two or three chapters that are super relevant to me?” let me try and walk you through a little bit of what I feel like I’ve taken away and what I’m going to change going forward, especially stuff that’s applicable to those of us in web marketing, in SEO, and in broader marketing.

Marketing flywheels > growth hacks

First off, marketing flywheels, in my experience, almost always beat growth hacks. I know that growth hacks are trendy in the last few years, especially in the startup and technology worlds. There’s been this sort of search for the next big growth hack that’s going to transform our business. But I’ve got to be honest with you. Not just here at Moz, but in all of the companies that I’ve had experience with as a marketer, this tends to be what that looks like when it’s implemented.

So folks will find a hack. They’ll find some trick that works for a little while, and it results in this type of a spike in their traffic, their conversions, their success metrics of whatever kind. So they’ve discovered a way to game Facebook or they found this new black hat trick or they found this great conversion device. Whatever it is, it’s short term and short lasting. Why is this? It tends to be because of something Andrew Chen calls — and I’ll use his euphemism here — it’s called the “Law of Shitty Click-through Rates,” which essentially says that over time, as people get experienced with a sort of marketing trend, they become immune to its effects.

Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz - Whiteboard Friday

You can see this in anything that sort of tries to hack at consciousness or take advantage of psychological biases. So you get this pattern of hack, hack, hack, hack, and then none of the hacks you’re doing work anymore. Even if you have a tremendously successful one, even if this is six months in length, it tends to be the case that, over time, those diminish and decline.

Conversely, a marketing flywheel is something that you build that generates inertia and energy, such that each effort and piece of energy that you put into it helps it spin faster and faster, and it carries through. It takes less energy to turn it around again and again in the future after you’ve got it up and spinning. This is how a lot of great marketing works. You build a brand. You build your audience. They come to you. They help it amplify. They bring more and more people back. In the web marketing world, this works really well too.

Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz - Whiteboard Friday

So most of you are familiar with Moz’s flywheel, but I’ll try and give it a rough explanation here. We start down here with content ideas that we get from spending lots of time with SEOs. We do keyword research, and we optimize these posts, including look at Whiteboard Friday itself.

What do we do with Whiteboard Friday? You’re watching this video, but you’ll also see the transcript below. You’ll see the podcast version from SoundCloud so that you can listen to the text rather than watch me if you can do audio only for some reason. Each of these little images have been cut out and placed into the text below so that someone who’s searching in Google images might find some of these and find their way to Whiteboard Friday. A few months after it goes up here, hosted with Wistia on Moz, it will be put up on YouTube.com so that people can find it there.

So we’ve done all these sorts of things to optimize these posts. We publish them, and then we earn amplification through all the channels that we have — email, social media, certainly search engines are a big one for us. Then we grow our reach for next time.

Early in the days, early in Moz’s history, when I was first publishing, I was writing every blog post myself for many, many years. This was tremendously difficult. We weren’t getting much reach. Now, it’s an engine that turns on its own. So each time we do it, we earn more SEO ranking ability, more links, more other positive ranking signals. The next time we publish content, it has an even better chance of doing well. So Moz’s flywheel keeps spinning, keeps getting faster and faster, and it’s easier and easier. Each time I film Whiteboard Friday, I’m a little more experienced. I’ve gotten a little better at it.

Flywheels come in many different forms

Flywheels come in a lot of forms. It’s not just the classic content and SEO one that we’re describing here, although I know many of you who watch Whiteboard Friday probably use something similar. But press and PR is a big one that many folks use. I know companies that are built on primarily event marketing, and they have that same flywheel going for them. In advertising, folks have found these, in influencer-focused marketing flywheels, and community and user-generated content to build flywheels. All of these are ways to do that.

Find friction in your flywheels

If and when you find friction in your flywheel, like I did back in my early days, that’s when a hack is really helpful. If you can get a hack going to grow reach for next time, for example, in my early days, this was all about doing outreach to folks in the SEO space who were already influential, getting them to pay attention and help amplify Moz’s content. That was the hack that I needed. Essentially, it was a combination of the Beginner’s Guide to SEO and the Search Ranking Factors document, which I’ve described here. But that really helped grow reach for next time and made this flywheel start spinning in the way that we wanted. So I would urge you to favor flywheels over hacks.

Marketing an MVP is hard

Second one, marketing an MVP kind of sucks. It’s just awful. Great products are rarely minimum viable products. The MVP is a wonderful way to build. I really, really like what Eric Ries has done with that movement, where he’s taken this concept of build the smallest possible thing you can that still solves the user’s problem, the customer’s problem and launch that so that you can learn and iterate from it.

I just have one complaint, which is if you do that publicly, if you launch your MVP publicly and you’re already a brand that’s well known, you really hurt your reputation. No one ever thinks this. No one ever thinks, “Gosh, you know, Moz launched their first version of new tool X. It’s pretty terrible, but I can see how, with a few years of work, it’s going to be an amazing product. I really believe in them.” No one thinks that way.

What do you think? You think, “Moz launched this product. Why did they launch it? It’s kind of terrible. Are they going downhill? Do they suck now? Maybe I should I trust their other tools less.” That’s how most people think when it comes to an MVP, and that’s why it’s so dangerous.

Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz - Whiteboard Friday

So I made this silly chart here. But if the quality goes from crap to best in class and the amplification worthiness goes from zero to viral, it tends to be the case that most MVPs are launching way down here, when they’re barely good enough and thus have almost no amplification potential and really can’t do much for your marketing other than harm it.

If you instead build it internally, build that MVP internally, test with your beta group, and wait until it gets all the way up to this quality level of, “Wow, that’s really good,” and lots of people who are using it say, “Gosh, I couldn’t live without this. I want to share it with my friends. I want to tell everyone about this. Is it okay to tell people yet?” Maybe it’s starting to leak. Now, you’re up here. Now, your launch can really do something. We have seen exactly that happen many, many times here at Moz with both MVPs and MVPs where we sat on them and waited. I talk about some of these in the book.

MVPs, great to test internally with a private group. They’re also fine if you’re really early stage and no one has heard of you. But MVPs can seriously drag down reputation and perception of a brand’s quality and equity, which is why I generally recommend against them, especially for marketing.

Living the lives of your customer/audience is a startup + marketing cheat code

Last, but not least, living the lives of your customers or your audience is a cheat code. It is a marketing and startup cheat code. One of the best things that I have ever done is to say, “You know what? I am not going to sequester myself in my office dreaming up this great thing I think we should build or I think that we should do. Instead, I’m going to spend real time with our customers.”

Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz - Whiteboard Friday

So you might remember, at the end of 2013, I did this crazy project with my friend, Wil Reynolds, who runs Seer Interactive. They’re an SEO agency based here in the United States, in Philadelphia and San Diego. They do a lot more than SEO. Wil and I traded houses. We traded lives. We traded email accounts. I can’t tell you how weird it is answering somebody’s email, replying to Wil’s mom and being like, “Oh, Mrs. Reynolds, this is actually Rand. Your son, Wil, is answering my email off in Seattle and living in my apartment.”

Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz - Whiteboard Friday

That experience was transformational for me, especially after having gone through the pain of building something that I had conceptualized myself but hadn’t validated and hadn’t even come up with the idea from real problems that real people were facing. I had come up with it based on what I thought could grow the company. I seriously dislike ideas that come from that perspective now.

So since then, I just try not to assume. I try not to assume that I know what people want. When we film a Whiteboard Friday, it is almost always on a topic that someone I have met and talked to either over email or over Twitter or in person at an event or a conference, we’ve had a conversation in person. They’ve said, “I’m struggling with this.” I go, “I can make a Whiteboard Friday to help them with that.” That’s where these content ideas come from.

When I spend time with people doing their job, I was just in San Diego a little while ago meeting with a couple of agencies down there, spending time in their offices showing off a new links tool, getting all their feedback, seeing what they do with Open Site Explorer and Ahrefs and Majestic and doing their work with them, trying to go through the process that they go through and actually experiencing their pain points. I think this right here is the product and marketing cheat code. If you spend time with your audience, experiencing their pain points, the copy you write, what you design, where you place it, who you try and get to influence and amplify it, how you serve them, whether that’s through content or through advertising or through events, or whatever kind of marketing you’re doing, will improve if you live the lives of your customers and their influencers.

Whatever kind of marketing you’re doing will improve if you live the lives of your customers and their influencers.

All right, everyone. Hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. If you have feedback on this or if you’ve read the book and checked that out and you liked it or didn’t like it, please, I would love to hear from you. I look forward to your comments. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Sustainable Link Building: Increasing Your Chances of Getting Links – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Paddy_Moogan

Link building campaigns shouldn’t have a start-and-stop date — they should be ongoing, continuing to earn you links over time. In this edition of Whiteboard Friday, please warmly welcome our guest host Paddy Moogan as he shares strategies to achieve sustainable link building, the kind that makes your content efforts lucrative far beyond your initial campaigns for them.

Sustainable Link Building: Increasing Your Chances of Getting Links

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Video Transcription

Hi, Moz fans. Welcome to Whiteboard Friday. I’m not Rand. I’m Paddy Moogan. I’m the cofounder of Aira. We’re an agency in the UK, focusing on SEO, link building, and content marketing. You may have seen me write on the Moz Blog before, usually about link building. You may have read my link building book. If you have, thank you. Today, I’m going to talk about link building again. It’s a topic I love, and I want to share some ideas around what I’m calling “sustainable link building.”

Problems

Now, there are a few problems with link building that make it quite risky, and I want to talk about some problems first before giving you some potential solutions that help make your link building less risky. So a few problems first:

I. Content-driven link building is risky.

The problem with content-driven link building is that you’re producing some content and you don’t really know if it’s going to work or not. It’s quite risky, and you don’t actually know for sure that you’re going to get links.

II. A great content idea may not be a great content idea that gets links.

There’s a massive difference between a great idea for content and a great idea that will get links. Knowing that difference is really, really important. So we’re going to talk a little bit about how we can work that out.

III. It’s a big investment of time and budget.

Producing content, particularly visual content, doing design and development takes time. It can take freelancers. It can take designers and developers. So it’s a big investment of time and budget. If you’re going to put time and budget into a marketing campaign, you want to know it’s probably going to work and not be too risky.

IV. Think of link building as campaign-led: it starts & stops.

So you do a link building campaign, and then you stop and start a new one. I want to get away from that idea. I want to talk about the idea of treating link building as the ongoing activity and not treating it as a campaign that has a start date and a finish date and you forget about it and move on to the next one. So I’m going to talk a little bit about that as well.

Solutions

So those are some of the problems that we’ve got with content-driven link-building. I want to talk about some solutions of how to offset the risk of content-driven link building and how to increase the chances that you’re actually going to get links and your campaign isn’t going to fail and not work out for you.

I. Don’t tie content to specific dates or events

So the first one, now, when you coming up with content ideas, it’s really easy to tie content ideas into events or days of the year. If there are things going on in your client’s industry that are quite important, current festivals and things like that, it’s a great way of hooking a piece of content into an event. Now, the problem with that is if you produce a piece of content around a certain date and then that date passes and the content hasn’t worked, then you’re kind of stuck with a piece of content that is no longer relevant.

So an example here of what we’ve done at Aira, there’s a client where they launch a piece of content around the Internet of Things Day. It turns out there’s a day celebrating the Internet of Things, which is actually April 9th this year. Now, we produced a piece of content for them around the Internet of Things and its growth in the world and the impact it’s having on the world. But importantly, we didn’t tie it exactly to that date. So the piece itself didn’t mention the date, but we launched it around that time and that outreach talked about Internet of Things Day. So the outreach focused on the date and the event, but the content piece itself didn’t. What that meant was, after July 9th, we could still promote that piece of content because it was still relevant. It wasn’t tied in with that exact date.

So it means that we’re not gambling on a specific event or a specific date. If we get to July 9th and we’ve got no links, it obviously matters, but we can keep going. We can keep pushing that piece of content. So, by all means, produce content tied into dates and events, but try not to include that too much in the content piece itself and tie yourself to it.

II. Look for datasets which give you multiple angles for outreach

Number two, lots of content ideas can lead from data. So you can get a dataset and produce content ideas off the back of the data, but produce angles and stories using data. Now, that can be quite risky because you don’t always know if data is going to give you a story or an angle until you’ve gone into it. So something we try and do at Aira when trying to produce content around data is from actually different angles you can use from that data.

So, for example:

  • Locations. Can you pitch a piece of content into different locations throughout the US or the UK so you can go after the local newspapers, local magazines for different areas of the country using different data points?
  • Demographics. Can you target different demographics? Can you target females, males, young people, old people? Can you slice the data in different ways to approach different demographics, which will give you multiple ways of actually outreaching that content?
  • Years. Is it updated every year? So it’s 2018 at the moment. Is there a piece of data that will be updated in 2019? If there is and it’s like a recurring annual thing where the data is updated, you can redo the content next year. So you can launch a piece of content now. When the data gets updated next year, plug the new data into it and relaunch it. So you’re not having to rebuild a piece of a content every single time. You can use old content and then update the data afterwards.

III. Build up a bank of link-worthy content

Number three, now this is something which is working really, really well for us at the moment, something I wanted to share with you. This comes back to the idea of not treating link building as a start and stop campaign. You need to build up a bank of link-worthy content on your client websites or on your own websites. Try and build up content that’s link worthy and not just have content as a one-off piece of work. What you can do with that is outreach over and over and over again.

We tend to think of the content process as something like this. You come up with your ideas. You do the design, then you do the outreach, and then you stop. In reality, what you should be doing is actually going back to the start and redoing this over and over again for the same piece of content.

What you end up with is multiple pieces of content on your client’s website that are all getting links consistently. You’re not just focusing on one, then moving past it, and then working on the next one. You can have this nice big bank of content there getting links for you all the time, rather than forgetting about it and moving on to the next one.

IV. Learn what content formats work for you

Number four, again, this is something that’s worked really well for us recently. Because we’re an agency, we work with lots of different clients, different industries and produce lots and lots of content, what we’ve done recently is try to work out what content formats are working the best for us. Which formats get the best results for our clients? The way we did this was a very, very simple chart showing how easy something was versus how hard it was, and then wherever it was a fail in terms of the links and the coverage, or wherever it was a really big win in terms of links and coverage and traffic for the client.

Now, what you may find when you do this is certain content formats fit within this grid. So, for example, you may find that doing data viz is actually really, really hard, but it gets you lots and lots of links, whereas you might find that producing maps and visuals around that kind of data is actually really hard but isn’t very successful.

Identifying these content formats and knowing what works and doesn’t work can then feed into your future content campaign. So when you’re working for a client, you can confidently say, “Well, actually, we know that interactives aren’t too difficult for us to build because we’ve got a good dev team, and they really likely to get links because we’ve done loads of them before and actually seen lots of successes from them.” Whereas if you come up with an idea for a map that you know is actually really, really hard to do and actually might lead to a big fail, then that’s not going to be so good, but you can say to a client, “Look, from our experience, we can see maps don’t work very well. So let’s try and do something else.”

That’s it in terms of tips and solutions for trying to make your link building more sustainable. I’d love to hear your comments and your feedback below. So if you’ve got any questions, anything you’re not sure about, let me know. If you see it’s working for your clients or not working, I’d love to hear that as well. Thank you.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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The Pro Marketer’s Product Launch Checklist for 2018 – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

What goes into a truly exceptional product launch? To give your new product a feature the best chance at success, it’s important to wrangle all the many moving pieces involved in pulling off a seamless marketing launch. From listing audience members and influencers to having the right success metrics to having a rollback plan, Rand shares his best advice in the form of an actionable checklist in this Whiteboard Friday. And make sure to check out the last item — it may be the best one to start with!

The Pro Marketer's Product Launch Checklist 2018

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we are chatting about crafting a professional marketer’s product launch checklist for 2018.

So many of you are undoubtedly in the business of doing things around SEO and around web marketing, around content marketing, around social media marketing in service of a product that you are launching or a feature that you are launching or multiple products. I think it pays for us to examine what goes into a very successful product launch.

Of course, I’ve been a part of many of these at Moz, as part of many of the startups and other companies that I advise, and there are some shared characteristics, particularly from the marketing perspective. I won’t focus on the product and engineering perspectives. We’ll talk about marketing product launches today.

☑ A defined audience, accompanied by a list of 10–100 real, individual people in the target group

So to start with, very first, top of our list, a defined audience. That can be a demographic or a psychographic set of characteristics that define your audience or a topic, a niche, a job title or job function type of characteristics that comprise the profile of who’s in your group. That should be accompanied by a list of 10 to 100 real people.

I know that many marketers out there love using personas, and I think it’s fine to use personas to help define this audience. But I’m going to urge you strongly to have that real list. Those could be:

  • Customers that you know you’re targeting,
  • People who have bought from you in the past and you’re hoping will buy again,
  • People who maybe you’ve lost and are hoping to recapture, maybe they use a competitor’s product today or they’re notable in some way.

As long as they fit your characteristics, I want you to have that list of those real people.

The problem with personas is you can’t talk to them. You can’t ask them real questions, or you can, but only in your own mind and your imagination fills in the details. These are real people that you can talk to, email, ask questions, show the product to, show the launch plan to and get real feedback. They should have shared characteristics. They should have an affinity for the product that you’re building or launching, hopefully, and they should share the problem.

Whatever the problem, almost every product, in fact, hopefully every product is actually trying to solve a problem better than the thing that came before it or the many things that came before it. Your audience should share whatever that problem is that you’re trying to solve.

☑ List of 25–500 influential people in the space, + contact info and an outreach plan

Okay. We’ll give this a nice check mark. Next, list of influential people in the space. That could be 25 to even hundreds or thousands of people potentially, plus their contact information and an outreach plan. That outreach plan should include why each target is going to care about the problem, about the solution, and why they’re going to share. Why will they amplify?

This is in answer to the question: Who will help amplify this and why? If you don’t have a great answer to that, your product launch will almost certainly fall flat from a marketing perspective. If you can build a successful one of these, that list, especially if before you even launch, you know that 20 of these 500 people have said, “Yes, I’m going to amplify. Here’s why I care about this. I can’t wait until you give me permission to share it or release this thing or send me the version of it.” That’s an awesome, awesome step.

☑ List of influential publications and media that influencers and target audience members consume

Next, similarly, just like we have a list of influential people, we want a list of influential publications and media that many influencers and many of your target audience members read, watch, subscribe to, listen to, follow, etc. So it’s basically these two groups should be paying attention to the media, to the publications that we’re trying to list out here. Essentially, that could be events that these people go to. It could be podcasts they listen to. It could be shows they watch, blogs or email newsletters they subscribe to. It could be traditional media, magazines, radio, YouTube channel. Whatever those publications are, all of them are the ones we’re trying to build a list of here.

That is going to be part of our outreach target. We might have these influential people, and some of these could overlap. Some of these influential people may work for or at these influential publications and that’s fine. I just worry that too much influencer marketing is focused on individuals and not on publications when, in fact, both are critical to a product launch success.

☑ Metrics for success

Metrics, yes, marketers need metrics for success. Those should be in three buckets — exposure and branding, which include things like press and mentions and social engagement, maybe a survey comparison of before and after. We ran an anonymous survey to a group of our target audience before and after and we measured brand awareness differential. Traffic, so links, rankings, visits, time on site, etc., and conversions. That could be measured through last touch or through preferably full-funnel attribution.

☑ Promotional schedule with work items by team member and rollback plan

A promotion schedule. So this means we actually know what we’re doing and in what order as the launch rolls out. That could be before launch we’re doing a bunch of things around private beta or around sharing with some of these influential people and publications. Or we haven’t defined the audience yet. We need to do that. We have that schedule and work items by each team member, and we’re going to need a rollback plan. So if at any point along the way, the person who owns the product process says, “This is not good enough,” or, “We have a fundamental error,” or, “The flamethrower we’re building shoots ice instead of fire,” we should probably either rename and rebrand it or roll it back. We have that structure set up.

☑ FAQ from the beta/test period, from both potential customers and influencers

Next, frequently asked questions. This is where a beta or test period and test users come in super handy, because they will have asked us a bunch of questions. They’ll have asked as they’re playing with or observing or using the product. We should be able to take all of those questions from both potential customers and from influencers, and we should have those answers set up for our customer service and help teams and for people who are interfacing with the press and with influencers in case they reach out.

In an ideal world, we would also publish these online. We would have a place where we could reference them. They’re already published. This is particularly handy when press and influencers cover a launch and they link to a, “Oh, here’s how the ice thrower,” I’m assuming, “that we’re building is meant to work, and here’s at what temperatures it’s safe to operate,” etc.

☑ Media assets & content for press/influencer use

Next up, media assets and content for those press and publications and influencer use. For example:

  • Videos of people using the product and playing with it
  • Screencasts, screenshots if it’s a digital or software product
  • Photos
  • Demo-able versions if you want to give people login access to something special
  • Guidelines for press usage and citations, as well as things like logo and style guide

All of those types of things. Trust me, if your product launch goes well, people will ask you for this, or they will just use things that they steal from your site. You would much prefer to be able to control these assets and to control where the links and citations point, especially from an SEO perspective.

☑ Paid promotion triggers, metrics to watch, and KPIs

Next up, penultimate on our checklist, paid promotion triggers. So most of the time, when you’re doing a product launch, there will also be some component that is non-organic, i.e., paid such as paid content. It could be pay-per-click ads. It could be Facebook advertising. It could be web advertising. It could be retargeting and remarketing. It could be broadcast advertising. All of those kinds of things.

You will want with each of those triggers, triggers that essentially say, “Okay, we’ve reached the point where we are now ready. We executed along our schedule, so we are now ready to turn on the paid promotion, and channel X is going to be the start of that, then channel Y and then channel Z.”

Then we should have KPIs, key performance indicators, that tell us whether we’re going to grow or shrink that spend, something like this. So we know, hey, the product launch is going this well, so we’re going to keep our current level investment. But if we tick up over here, we’re going to invest more. If we get to here, we’re going to max out our spend. We know that our maximum spend is X. Versus it goes the other way and over here, we’re going to cut. We’re going to cut all spend if we fall below metric Z.

☑ A great set of answers and 100% alignment on the following statement:

Last but not least on our checklist, this should exist even prior to a product design process. In fact, if you’re doing this at the end of a product launch checklist, the rest of this is not going to go so well. But if you start product design with this in mind and then maintain it all the way through launch, through messaging, through all the marketing that you do, you’re going to be in good shape. That is a great set of answers and 100% alignment, meaning everyone on the team, who’s working on this, agrees that this is how we’re going to position this on this statement.

Before the product we’re launching existed, our target audience, the group of people up here, was underserved in these ways or by previous solutions or because of these problems. But now, thanks to the thing that we’ve done, the thing that we’ve created and what is extraordinary about this product, these problems or this problem is solved.

If you design in this fashion and then you roll out in this fashion, you get this wonderful alignment and connection between how you’re branding and marketing the product and how the product was conceived and built. The problem and its solution become clear throughout. That tends to do very, very well for product building and product launching.

All right, everyone, if you have additions to this checklist, I hope you leave them in the comments below. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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How to Target Featured Snippet Opportunities – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by BritneyMuller

Once you’ve identified where the opportunity to nab a featured snippet lies, how do you go about targeting it? Part One of our “Featured Snippet Opportunities” series focused on how to discover places where you may be able to win a snippet, but today we’re focusing on how to actually make changes that’ll help you do that. Give a warm, Mozzy welcome to Britney as she shares pro tips and examples of how we’ve been able to snag our own snippets using her methodology.

Target featured snippet opportunities

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Video Transcription

Today, we are going over targeting featured snippets, Part 2 of our featured snippets series. Super excited to dive into this.

What’s a featured snippet?

For those of you that need a little brush-up, what’s a featured snippet? Let’s say you do a search for something like, “Are pigs smarter than dogs?” You’re going to see an answer box that says, “Pigs outperform three-year old human children on cognitive tests and are smarter than any domestic animal. Animal experts consider them more trainable than cats or dogs.” How cool is that? But you’ll likely see these answer boxes for all sorts of things. So something to sort of keep an eye on. How do you become a part of that featured snippet box? How do you target those opportunities?

Last time, we talked about finding keywords that you rank on page one for that also have a featured snippet. There are a couple ways to do that. We talk about it in the first video. Something I do want to mention, in doing some of that the last couple weeks, is that Ahrefs actually has some of the capabilities to do that all for you. I had no idea that was possible. Really cool, go check them out. If you don’t have Ahrefs and maybe you have Moz or SEMrush, don’t worry, you can do the same sort of thing with a Vlookup.

So I know this looks a little crazy for those of you that aren’t familiar. Super easy. It basically allows you to combine two sets of data to show you where some of those opportunities are. So happy to link to some of those resources down below or make a follow-up video on how to do just that.

I. Identify

All right. So step one is identifying these opportunities. You want to find the keywords that you’re on page one for that also have this answer box. You want to weigh the competitive search volume against qualified traffic. Initially, you might want to just go after search volume. I highly suggest you sort of reconsider and evaluate where might the qualified traffic come from and start to go after those.

II. Understand

From there, you really just want to understand the intent, more so even beyond this table that I have suggested for you. To be totally honest, I’m doing all of this with you. It’s been a struggle, and it’s been fun, but sometimes this isn’t very helpful. Sometimes it is. But a lot of times I’m not even looking at some of this stuff when I’m comparing the current featured snippet page and the page that we currently rank on page one for. I’ll tell you what I mean in a second.

III. Target

So we have an example of how I’ve been able to already steal one. Hopefully it helps you. How do you target your keywords that have the featured snippet?

  • Simplifying and cleaning up your pages does wonders. Google wants to provide a very simple, cohesive, quick answer for searchers and for voice searches. So definitely try to mold the content in a way that’s easy to consume.
  • Summaries do well. Whether they’re at the top of the page or at the bottom, they tend to do very, very well.
  • Competitive markup, if you see a current featured snippet that is marked up in a particular way, you can do so to be a little bit more competitive.
  • Provide unique info
  • Dig deeper, go that extra mile, provide something else. Provide that value.

Examples

What are some examples? So these are just some examples that I personally have been running into and I’ve been working on cleaning up.

  • Roman numerals. I am trying to target a list result, and the page we currently rank on number one for has Roman numerals. Maybe it’s a big deal, maybe it’s not. I just changed them to numbers to see what’s going to happen. I’ll keep you posted.
  • Fix broken links. But I’m also just going through our page and cleaning it. We have a lot of older content. I’m fixing broken links. I have the Check My Links tool. It’s a Chrome add-on plugin that I just click and it tells me what’s a 404 or what I might need to update.
  • Fixing spelling errors or any grammatical errors that may have slipped through editors’ eyes. I use Grammarly. I have the free version. It works really well, super easy. I’ve even found some super old posts that have the double or triple spacing after a period. It drives me crazy, but cleaning some of that stuff up.
  • Deleting extra markup. You might see some additional breaks, not necessarily like that ampersand. But you know what I mean in WordPress where it’s that weird little thing for that break in the space, you can clean those out. Some extra, empty header markup, feel free to delete those. You’re just cleaning and simplifying and improving your page.

One interesting thing that I’ve come across recently was for the keyword “MozRank.” Our page is beautifully written, perfectly optimized. It has all the things in place to be that featured snippet, but it’s not. That is when I fell back and I started to rely on some of this data. I saw that the current featured snippet page has all these links.

So I started to look into what are some easy backlinks I might be able to grab for that page. I came across Quora that had a question about MozRank, and I noticed that — this is a side tip — you can suggest edits to Quora now, which is amazing. So I suggested a link to our Moz page, and within the notes I said, “Hello, so and so. I found this great resource on MozRank. It completely confirms your wonderful answer. Thank you so much, Britney.”

I don’t know if that’s going to work. I know it’s a nofollow. I hope it can send some qualified traffic. I’ll keep you posted on that. But kind of a fun tip to be aware of.

How we nabbed the “find backlinks” featured snippet

All right. How did I nab the featured snippet “find backlinks”? This surprised me, because I hardly changed much at all, and we were able to steal that featured snippet quite easily. We were currently in the fourth position, and this was the old post that was in the fourth position. These are the updates I made that are now in the featured snippet.

Clean up the title

So we go from the title “How to Find Your Competitor’s Backlinks Next Level” to “How to Find Backlinks.” I’m just simplifying, cleaning it up.

Clean up the H2s

The first H2, “How to Check the Backlinks of a Site.” Clean it up, “How to Find Backlinks?” That’s it. I don’t change step one. These are all in H3s. I leave them in the H3s. I’m just tweaking text a little bit here and there.

Simplify and clarify your explanations/remove redundancies

I changed “Enter your competitor’s domain URL” — it felt a little duplicate — to “Enter your competitor’s URL.” Let’s see. “Export results into CSV,” what kind of results? I changed that to “export backlink data into CSV.” “Compile CSV results from all competitors,” what kind of results? “Compile backlink CSV results from all competitors.”

So you can look through this. All I’m doing is simplifying and adding backlinks to clarify some of it, and we were able to nab that.

So hopefully that example helps. I’m going to continue to sort of drudge through a bunch of these with you. I look forward to any of your comments, any of your efforts down below in the comments. Definitely looking forward to Part 3 and to chatting with you all soon.

Thank you so much for joining me on this edition of Whiteboard Friday. I look forward to seeing you all soon. See you.

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The Campaign Comeback: What to Do When Content Fails – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Shannon-McGuirk

We’ve all been there: you plan, launch, and eagerly await the many returns on a content campaign, only to be disappointed when it falls flat. But all is not lost: there are clever ways to give your failed campaigns a second chance at life and an opportunity to earn the links you missed out on the first time. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, we’re delighted to welcome guest host Shannon McGuirk as she graciously gives us a five-step plan for breathing new life into a dead content campaign.

What to do when content fails.

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Video Transcription

Hi, Moz fans. Welcome to this edition of Whiteboard Friday. My name is Shannon McGuirk. I’m the Head of PR and Content at a UK-based digital marketing agency called Aira.

Now, throughout my time, I’ve launched a number of creative content and digital PR campaigns, too many to mention. But the ones that really stick into my head are the campaign fails, the ones that got away from the link numbers that I wanted to achieve and the ones that were quite painful from the client-side and stakeholder-side.

Now, over the last couple of years, I’ve built up a couple of steps and tactics that essentially will help me get campaigns back on track, and I wanted to take you through them today. So, today, I’m going to be talking to you about content campaign comebacks and what to do if your content campaign fails.

Step one: Reevaluate your outreach efforts

Now, take it right back to when you first launched the campaign.

  • Have you contacted the right journalists?
  • Have you gone to the right publications?
  • Be realistic. Now, at this point, remember to be realistic. It might not be a good idea to start going for the likes of ABC News and The Daily Telegraph. Bring it down a level, go to industry blogs, more niche publications, the ones that you’re more likely to get traction with.
  • Do your research. Essentially, is what I’m saying.
  • Less is always more in my eyes. I’ve seen prospecting and media lists that have up to 500 contacts on there that have fired out blank, cold outreach emails. For me, that’s a boo-boo. I would rather have 50 people on that media list that I know their first name, I know the last three articles that they’ve written, and on top of that, I can tell you which publications they’ve been at, so I know what they’re interested in. It’s going to really increase your chances of success when you relaunch.


Step two: Stories vs. statements

So this is when you need to start thinking about stories versus statements. Strip it right back and start to think about that hook or that angle that your whole campaign is all about. Can you say this in one sentence? If you can get it in one sentence, amazing because that’s the core thing that you are going to be communicating to journalists.

Now, to make this really tangible so that you can understand what I’m saying, I’ve got an example of a statement versus a story for a recent campaign that we did for an automotive client of ours. So here’s my example of a statement. “Client X found that the most dangerous roads in the UK are X, Y, Z.” That’s the statement. Now, for the story, let’s spice it up a little bit. “New data reveals that 8 out of 10 of the most dangerous roads in the UK are in London as cyclist deaths reach an all-time high.”

Can you see the difference between a story and a statement? I’m latching it into something in society that’s really important at the moment, because cyclist deaths are reaching an all-time high. On top of that, I’m giving it a punchy stat straightaway and then tying it into the city of London.

Step three: Create a package

So this seems like a bit of a no-brainer and a really obvious one, but it’s so incredibly important when you’re trying to bring your content campaign back from the dead. Think about creating a package. We all know that journalists are up against tight deadlines. They have KPIs in terms of the articles that they need to churn out on a daily basis. So give them absolutely everything that they need to cover your campaign.

I’ve put together a checklist for you, and you can tick them off as you go down.

  • Third-party expert or opinion. If you’re doing something around health and nutrition, why don’t you go out and find a doctor or a nutritionist that can give you comment for free — because remember, you’ll be doing the hard work for their PR team — to include within any press releases that you’re going to be writing.
  • Make sure that your data and your methodology is watertight. Prepare a methodology statement and also get all of your data and research into a Google sheet that you can share with journalists in a really open and transparent way.
  • Press release. It seems really simple, but get a well-written press release or piece of supporting copy written out well ahead of the relaunch timing so that you’ve got assets to be able to give a journalist. They can take snippets of that copy, mold it, adapt it, and then create their own article off the back of it.
  • New designs & images. If you’ve been working on any new designs and images, pop them on a Google shared drive and share that with the press. They can dip into this guide as and when they need it and ensure that they’ve got a visual element for their potential article.
  • Exclusive options. One final thing here that can occasionally get overlooked is you want to be holding something back. Whether that’s some really important stats, a comment from the MD or the CEO, or just some extra designs or images for graphics, I would keep them in your back pocket, because you may get the odd journalist at a really high DA/authority publication, such as the Mail Online or The Telegraph, ask for something exclusive on behalf of their editor.

Step four: Ask an expert

Start to think about working with journalists and influencers in a different way than just asking them to cover your creative content campaigns and generate links. Establish a solid network of freelance journalists that you can ask directly for feedback on any ideas. Now, it can be any aspect of the idea that you’re asking for their feedback on. You can go for data, pitch angles, launch timings, design and images. It doesn’t really matter. But they know what that killer angle and hook needs to be to write an article and essentially get you a link. So tap into it and ask them what they think about your content campaign before you relaunch.

Step five: Re-launch timings

This is the one thing that you need to consider just before the relaunch, but it’s the relaunch timings. Did you actually pay enough attention to this when you did your first initial launch? Chances are you may not have, and something has slipped through the net here.

  • Awareness days. So be sure to check awareness days. Now, this can be anything from National Proposal Day for a wedding client, or it can be the Internet of Things Day for a bigger electrical firm or something like that. It doesn’t really matter. But if you can hook it onto an awareness day, it means that there’s already going to be that interest in the media, journalists will be writing about the topic, and there’s a way in for your content.
  • World events. Again, keep in mind anything to do with elections or perhaps world disasters, such as tornadoes and bad weather, because it means that the press is going to be heavily oversaturated with anything to do with them, and therefore you might want to hold back on your relaunch until the dust is settled and giving your content campaign the best chance of success in round two.
  • Seasonality. Now, this isn’t just Christmas. It’s also Easter, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day. Think about the time of year you’re launching and whether your content campaign is actually relevant at that time of year. For example, back home in the UK, we don’t tend to launch content campaigns in the run-up to Christmas if it’s not Christmas content, because it’s not relevant and the press are already interested in that one seasonal thing.
  • Holidays. Holidays in the sense of half-term and summer holidays, because it means that journalists won’t be in the office, and therefore you’re reducing your chances of success when you’re calling them or when you’re writing out your emails to pitch them.

So there are my five steps for your content campaign comebacks. I know you’ve all been there too, guys, and I would love to hear how you got over some of these hurdles in bringing your content campaigns back to life. Feel free to comment below. I hope you guys join me soon for another Whiteboard Friday. Thanks.

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Where Clickbait, Linkbait, and Viral Content Fit in SEO Campaigns – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

When is it smart to focus on viral-worthy content and clickbait? When is it not? To see fruitful returns from these kinds of efforts, they need to be done the right way and used in the right places. Rand discusses what kind of content investments make sense for this type of strategy and explains why it works in this week’s Whiteboard Friday.

Where clickbait, linkbait, and viral content fit in SEO campaigns

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re chatting about when and where you might use clickbait and linkbait and viral-focused content as compared to other types for your SEO-driven campaigns.

There’s a lot of savvy sort of folks at the intersection of SEO and content marketing who are practicing things like this right now. We’ve actually spoken to a few agencies who are specifically focused on this, and they have really solid businesses because many brands understand that these types of investments can produce significant returns. But you have to apply them in the right scenarios and the right spaces. So let’s walk through that.

Content investments

Let’s say that you’re a payroll software provider. Your goal is to increase traffic and conversions, and so you’re considering what types of content investments you and your consultant or agency or in-house team might be making on the content front. That could be things like what we’ve got here:

A. Viral, news-worthy linkbait

I don’t necessarily love the word “linkbait,” but it still gets a lot of searches, so we’re putting it in the title of the Whiteboard Friday because we practice what we preach here, baby.

So this might be something like “The Easiest and Hardest Places to Start a Company.” Maybe it’s countries, maybe it’s states, regions, whatever it is. So here are the easy ones and the hard ones and the criteria, and you go out to a bunch of press and you say, “Hey, we produced this list. We think it’s worth covering. Here’s the criteria we used.” You go out to a bunch of companies. You go out to a bunch of state governments. You go out to a bunch of folks who cover this type of space, and hopefully you can get some clickbait, some folks actually clicking, some folks linking.

It doesn’t necessarily have the most search volume. Folks aren’t necessarily interested in, “Oh, what are the hardest places to start a company? Or what are the hardest versus easiest places to start a company?” Maybe you get a few, but it’s not necessarily going to drive direct types of traffic that this payroll software provider can convert into customers.

B. Searcher-focused solutions

But there are other options for that, like searcher-focused solutions. So they might say, “Hey, we want to build some content around how to set up payroll as an LLC. That gets a lot of searches. We serve LLCs with our payroll solution. Let’s try and target those folks. So here’s how to set up payrolls in LLCs in six easy steps. There are the six steps.”

C. Competitor comparison content

They see that lots of people are looking for them versus other competitors. So they set up a page that’s “QuickBooks versus Gusto versus Square: Which Software is Right for Your Business?” so that they can serve that searcher intent.

D. Conversion-funnel-serving content

So they see that, after searching for their brand name, people also search for, “Can I use this for owner employees, businesses that have owner employees only?” So no employees who are not owners. What’s the payroll story with them? How do I get that sorted out? So you create content around this.

All of these are types of content that serve SEO, but this one, this viral-focused stuff is the most sort of non-direct. Many times, brands have a tough time getting their head around why they would invest in that. So do SEOs. So let’s explain that.

If a website’s domain authority, their sort of overall link equity at the domain level is already high, they’ve got lots and lots of links going to lots of places on the site and additional links that don’t go to the conversion-focused pages that they’re specifically trying to rank for, for focused keyword targets isn’t really required, then really B, C, and D are where you should spend your time and energy. A is not a great investment. It’s not solving the problem you want to solve.

If the campaign needs…

  • More raw brand awareness – People knowing who the company is, they haven’t heard of them before. You’re trying to build that first touch or that second touch so that people in the space know who you are.
  • Additional visitors for re-targeting – You’re trying to get additional visitors who might fit into your target audience so that you can re-target and remarket to them, reach them again;
  • You have a need for more overall links really to anywhere on the domain – Just to boost your authority, to boost your link equity so that you can rank for more stuff…

Then A, that viral-focused content makes a ton of sense, and it is a true SEO investment. Even though it doesn’t necessarily map very well to conversions directly, it’s an indirect path to great potential SEO success.

Why this works:

Why does this work? Why is it that if I create a piece of viral content on my site that earns a lot of links and attention and awareness, the other pieces of content on my site will suddenly have a better opportunity to rank? That’s a function of how Google operates fundamentally, well, Google and people.

So, from Google’s perspective, it works because in the case where Google sees DomainX.com, which has lots of pages earning many, many different links from all around the web, and DomainY.com, which may be equally relevant to the search query and maybe has just as good content but has few links pointing to it and those links, maybe the same number of links are pointing to the specific pages targeting a specific keyword, but overall across the domain, X is just much, much greater than Y. Google interprets that as more links spread across the content on X makes the search engine believe that X is more authoritative and potentially even more relevant than Y is. This content has been referenced more in more different ways from more places, therefore its relevance and authority are perceived as higher. If Y can go ahead and make a viral content investment that draws in lots and lots of new links, it can potentially compete much better against X.

This is true for people and human beings too. If you’re getting lots and lots of visitors all over Domain X, but very few on Domain Y, even if they’re going in relatively similar proportion to the product-focused pages, the fact that X is so much better known by such a broader audience means that conversions are likely to be better. People know them, they trust them, they’ve heard of them before, therefore, your conversion rate goes up and Domain X outperforms Domain Y. So for people and for search engines, this viral-focused content in the right scenario can be a wonderful investment and a wise one to make to serve your SEO strategy.

All right, everyone. Look forward to your comments below. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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How to Discover Featured Snippet Opportunities – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by BritneyMuller

Winning featured snippets is one of the best ways to get visibility on page one of Google’s SERPs. It’s a competitive environment, though, and there are tons of specific considerations when it comes to increasing your chances of earning that spot. Today’s Whiteboard Friday, number one of an upcoming three-part series, is brought to you by Moz’s resident SEO and mini-pig advocate, Britney Muller. She covers the keyword research you’ll need to do, evaluating your current ranking, and recording relevant data in a spreadsheet with the help of a couple useful tools.

Discover Featured Snippet Opportunities

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Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans, welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today we’re going over all things discovering featured snippet opportunities. So this is the first part to three videos. So this will be the discover, but we’re also going to have a target and a measure video as well. So really, really excited. It’s going to be a ton of fun. I’m doing it with you, so you’re not going to be alone. It’s going to be this cool thing we all do together.

Part 1 of 3: Discover, target, measure

So for those of you that don’t know what a featured snippet is, it is one of those answer boxes at the top of search results. So let’s say you do a search like, oh, I don’t know, “Are teacup pigs healthy?” which they’re not, super sad. I love pigs. But you’ll get a featured snippet box like this that tells you like, “No, they’re actually starved.” It gives you all this information. So it’s different than something like “People also ask…” boxes or your typical search results.

Discover Featured Snippet Opportunities

They’re particularly appealing because of the voice search component. So most voice searches come from those featured snippet boxes as well as it just being really appealing in general to have that top spot.

#1 Keyword research

So this process is pretty straightforward. You’re going to start with just your basic keyword research. So you’re also going to focus on questions. A.J. Ghergich did this incredible study write-up, on SEMrush, about featured snippets, where he discovered that around 41% of all featured snippets come from questions, which makes sense. The how questions are really interesting because those results are most likely to result in lists.

Now, lists take both the form of numerical as well as bullets. So something to kind of keep in mind there. But what’s interesting about these lists is that they tend to be a little bit easier to truncate. So if you know that Google is showing 8 results, maybe you go back to your page and you make sure that you have 10. That way it lures people in to click to see the full list. Really interesting there.

#2 Evaluate your current ranking

You also want to evaluate your current ranking for these particular keywords. You want to prioritize keywords based on ones that you rank on page one for. It tends to be much easier to grab a featured snippet or to steal one if you’re also on page one.

#3 Put data into a spreadsheet

Discover Featured Snippet Opportunities

From there, we’re going to put all of this data and more data into a big spreadsheet so that we can really analyze and prioritize some of these opportunities. So some of the metrics I came up with — feel free to share some ideas below — are your keyword, average monthly search volume, current featured snippet URL, that’s this guy over here. What is that domain authority and page authority? You want to make note of those. Is it a featured snippet hub? This is such a cool term, that A.J. came up with in his article, that essentially coins a featured snippet URL that ranks for 10 or more featured snippet boxes. You probably won’t know this right away, so this might stay blank. But once you start seeing more and more of those same URLs, you might think it’s one of those hubs. It’s kind of cool.

Discover Featured Snippet Opportunities

Featured snippet type. Is it a paragraph, a list, or a table? Is there any markup? Is there schema markup? What’s going on, on the page in general? Just sort of scope all that out. What’s your rank? This is actually supposed to be over here. So, again, you want to see if you’re ranking 10 or under on a particular page, hopefully on page 1.

Then is there an image? So the featured snippet images are really interesting, because Google likes to swap them out and remove them and test them and do all this crazy stuff. I got to talk about these images and the tests that I’ve been doing on them on the Two Peas podcast with Brian Childs, part of his MozPod podcast series. It was super fun. I share some secrets in there, so go check it out.

Then what’s the type of image? So typically, you can start to see a theme of a particular niche or industry in their featured snippet images. Maybe they’re all stock photos, or maybe they’re all informational type photos. Maybe they all have the same color. Really interesting to sort of keep an eye on those.

What’s your desired featured snippet URL? This will typically be whatever URL is ranking. But maybe not. Make note of that.

Other notes, you can mention where Google is pulling the featured snippet from that page. I think that stuff is super interesting. You can do all sorts of fun stuff.

Research tools to use

So two primary tools to do all of this research within are Moz Keyword Explorer and SEMrush. Both have some caveats. Moz Keyword Explorer is great because you can do a bunch of keyword research and save them into lists. However, you can’t do keyword research only viewing the keywords that have featured snippets. You can’t do that. You have to do all the keyword research, put it into a list, and then we give you that data.

With SEMrush, it’s pretty cool. You get to filter only by featured snippet keywords. So that, off the bat, is awesome.

However, once you get a keyword list put together in Keyword Explorer, not only do you get that information of whether or not there’s a featured snippet, but right within your list of keywords, you have the ability to add your website and immediately see your rank for all of those particular keywords in your list, making this super, super easy.

I tried to do this with SEMrush. I know they have all of the features necessary to do so. However, it’s just not as easy. You have to use a combination of their different tools within their tool. I hit a couple different limits within Keyword Analyzer, and then by the time I got to position tracking, I lost my search volume from Keyword Magic tool, which was super frustrating.

There might be a better, easier way to do that. Maybe their API are pulling some stuff a little bit differently. Feel free to comment down below. Maybe there’s a better way than either of these. I don’t know. You could also do it pretty manually too. You could use Google Keyword Planner and look some of this stuff up yourself.

But I hope you enjoyed this. Thank you so much for joining me on this edition of Whiteboard Friday. I look forward to seeing you all soon. Thanks.

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The #1 Reason Paid Ads (On Search, Social, and Display) Fail – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Pouring money into a paid ad campaign that’s destined to fail isn’t a sound growth strategy. Time and again, companies breaking into online ads don’t see success due to the same issue: they aren’t known to their audiences. There’s no trust, no recognition, and so the cost per click remains high and rising.

In this edition of Whiteboard Friday, Rand identifies the cycle many brands get trapped in and outlines a solution to make those paid ad campaigns worth the dollars you put behind them.

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re chatting about the number one reason so many paid ad campaigns, especially from new companies and companies with new products or new ventures that they’re going into, new markets and audiences they’re addressing, fail. They just fall apart. I see this scenario play out so many times, especially in the startup and entrepreneurial world but, to be honest, across the marketing landscape.

Here’s how it usually goes. You’ve got your CEO or your CMO or your business owner and they’re like, “Hey, we have this great new product. Let’s spread the word.” So they talk to a marketer. It could be a contractor. It could be an agency. It could be someone in-house.

The marketer is like, “Okay, yeah, I’ll buy some ads online, help us get the word out there and get us some traffic and conversions.”

Then a few months later, you basically get this. “How’s that paid ad campaign going?” “Well, not so good. I have bad news.”

The cycle

Almost always, this is the result of a cycle that looks like this. You have a new company’s campaign. The campaign is to sell something or get exposure for something, to try and drive visits back to a web page or a website, several pages on the site and then get conversions out of it. So you buy Facebook ads, Instagram ads, maybe LinkedIn and Twitter. You probably use the Google Display Network. You’re probably using AdWords. All of these sources are trying to drive traffic to your web page and then get a conversion that turns into money.

Now, what happens is that these get a high cost per click. They start out with a high cost per click because it’s a new campaign. So none of these platforms have experience with your campaign or your company. So you’re naturally going to get a higher-than-normal cost per click until you prove to them that you get high engagement, at which point they bring the cost per click down. But instead of proving to them you get high engagement, you end up getting low engagement, low click-through rate, low conversion rate. People don’t make it here. They don’t make it there. Why is that?

Why does this happen?

Well, before we address that, let’s talk about what happens here. When these are low, when you have a low engagement rate on the platform itself, when no one engages with your Facebook ads, no one engages with your Instagram ads, when no one clicks on your AdWords ad, when no one clicks on your display ads, the cost to show to more people goes up, and, as a result, these campaigns are much harder to make profitable and they’re shown to far fewer people.

So your exposure to the audience you want to reach is smaller and the cost to reach each next person and to drive each next action goes up. This, fundamentally, is because…

  • The audience that you’re trying to reach hasn’t heard of you before. They don’t know who you are.
  • They don’t know, trust, or like you or your company product, they don’t click. They don’t click. They don’t buy. They don’t share. They don’t like.

They don’t do all the engagement things that would drive this high cost per click down, and, because of that, your campaigns suffer and struggle.

I see so many marketers who think like this, who say yes to new company campaigns that start with an advertising-first approach. I want to be clear, there are some exceptions to the rule. I have seen some brand new companies that fit a certain mold do very well with Instagram advertising for certain types of products that appeal to that audience and don’t need a previously existing brand association. I’ve seen some players in the Google AdWords market do okay with this, some local businesses, some folks in areas where people don’t expect to have knowledge and awareness of a brand already in the space where they’re trying to discover them.

So it’s not the case always that this fails, but very often, often enough that I’m calling this the number one reason I see paid ads fail.

The solution

There’s only one solution and it’s not pretty. The solution is…

You have to get known to your audience before you pour money into advertising.

Meaning you need to invest in organic channels — content or SEO or press and PR or sponsorships or events, what have you, anything that can get your brand name and the names of your product out there.

Brand advertising, in fact, can work for this. So television brand advertising, folks have noticed that TV brand advertising often drives the cost per click down and drives engagement and click-through rates up, because people have heard of you and they know who you are. Magazine and offline advertising works like this. Sometimes even display advertising can work this way.

The second option is to…

Advertise primarily or exclusively to an audience that already has experience with you.

The way you can do this is through systems like Google’s retargeting and remarketing platforms. You can do the same thing with Facebook, through custom audiences of email addresses that you upload, same thing with Instagram, same thing with Twitter. You can target people who specifically only follow the accounts that you already own and control. Through these, you can get better engagement, better click-through rate, better conversion rate and drive down that cost per click and reach a broader audience.

But if you don’t do these things first, a lot of times these types of investments fall flat on their face, and a lot of marketers, to be honest, and agencies and consultants lose their jobs as a result. I don’t want that to happen to you. So invest in these first or find the niches where advertising can work for a first-time product. You’re going to be a lot happier.

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

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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How (and Whether) to Invest in and Structure Online Communities – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Building an online community sounds like an attractive idea on paper. A group of enthusiastic, engaged users working on their own to boost your brand? What’s the hitch?

Well, building a thriving online community takes a great deal of effort, often with little return for a very long time. And there are other considerations: do you build your own platform, participate in an existing community, or a little of both? What are the benefits from a brand, SEO, and content marketing perspective? In this edition of Whiteboard Friday, Rand answers all your questions about building yourself an online community, including whether it’s an investment worth your time.

How and whether to invest in and structure online communities

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week, we’re chatting about how and whether to invest in and structure online communities.

I want to say a thank you to @DaveCraige on Twitter. Dave, thank you very much for the question, an excellent one. I think this is something that a lot of content marketers, web marketers, community builders think about is, “Should I be making an investment in building my own community? Should I leverage someone’s existing community? How can I do that and benefit from an SEO perspective and a content marketing and a brand awareness perspective?” So we’ll try and tackle some of those questions today on Whiteboard Friday.

Strategy first!

First off, before you go and invest anywhere or build anything, I urge you to think strategy first, meaning your business has goals. You have things that you want to accomplish. Maybe those are revenue growth or conversions. Maybe they have to do with entering a new sphere of influence or pursuing a new topic. Maybe you’re trying to launch a new product. Maybe you’re trying to pivot the business or disrupt yourself, change with technology.

Whatever those business goals are, they should lead you to marketing goals, the things that marketing can help to accomplish in those business goals. From that should fall out a bunch of tactics and initiatives. It’s only down here, in your marketing goals and tactical initiatives, that if online communities match up with those and serve your broader business goals, that you should actually make the investment. If not or if they fall below the line of, “Well, we can do three things that we think this year and do them well and this is thing number 4 or number 5 or number 10,” it doesn’t make the cut.

Online communities fit here if…

1. A passionate group of investment-worthy size exists in your topic.

So if, for example, you are targeting a new niche. I think Dave himself is in cryptocurrency. There’s definitely a passionate group of people in that sphere, and it is probably of investment-worthy size. More recently, that investment has been a little rocky, but certainly a large size group, and if you are targeting that group, a community could be worthwhile. So we have passion. We have a group. They are of sizable investment.

2. You/your brand/your platform can provide unique value via a community that’s superior to what’s available elsewhere.

Second, you or your brand or your platform can provide not just value but unique value, unique value different from what other people are offering via a community superior to what’s available elsewhere. Dave might himself say, “Well, there’s a bunch of communities around crypto, but I believe that I can create X, which will be unique in ways Y and Z and will be preferable for these types of participants in this way.” Maybe that’s because it enables sharing in certain ways. Maybe it enables transparency of certain kinds. Maybe it’s because it has no vested interest or ties to particular currencies or particular companies, whatever the case may be.

3. You’re willing to invest for years with little return to build something of great long-term value.

And last but not least, you’re willing to invest potentially for years, literally years without return or with very little return to build something of great long-term value. I think this is the toughest one. But communities are most similar in attribute to content marketing, where you’re going to put in a ton of upfront effort and a lot of ongoing effort before you’re going to see that return. Most of the time, most communities fail because the people behind them were not willing to make the investments to build them up, or they made other types of mistakes. We’ll talk about that in a second.

Two options: Build your own platform, or participate in an existing community

You have two options here. First, you can build your own platform. Second, you can participate in an existing community. My advice on this is never do number one without first spending a bunch of time in number two.

So if you are unfamiliar with the community platforms that already exist in interior decorating or in furniture design or in cryptocurrency or in machining tools or in men’s fashion, first participate in the communities that already exist in the space you’re targeting so that you are very familiar with the players, the platforms, the options, and opportunities. Otherwise, you will never know whether it’s an investment-worthy size, a passionate group. You’ll never know how or whether you can provide unique value. It’s just going to be too tough to get those things down. So always invest in the existing communities before you do the other one.

1. Build your own platform

Potential structures

Let’s talk quickly about building your own platform, and then we’ll talk about investing in others. If you’re deciding that what matches your goals best and your strategy best is to build your own platform, there are numerous opportunities. You can do it sort of halfway, where you build on someone else’s existing platform, for example creating your own subreddit or your own Facebook or LinkedIn group, which essentially uses another community’s platform, but you’re the owner and administrator of that community.

Or you can actually build your own forum or discussion board, your own blog and comments section, your own Q&A board, your own content leaderboard, like Hacker News or like Dharmesh and I did with Inbound.org, where we essentially built a Reddit or Hacker News-like clone for marketers.

Those investments are going to be much more severe than a Facebook group or a Twitter hashtag, a Twitter chat or a LinkedIn group, or those kinds of things, but you want to compare the benefits and drawbacks. In each, there are some of each.

Benefits & drawbacks

So forums and discussions, those are going to have user-generated content, which is a beautiful thing because it scales non-linearly with your investment. So if you build up a community of people who are on an ongoing basis creating topics and answering those topics and talking about those things in either a Q&A board or a forum discussion or a content leaderboard, what’s great is you get that benefit, that SEO benefit of having a bunch of longtail, hopefully high-quality content and discussion you’re going to need to do.

Mostly, what you’re going to worry about is drawbacks like the graveyard effect, where the community appears empty and so no one participates and maybe it drags down Google’s perception of your site because you have a bunch of low quality or thin pages, or people leave a bunch of spam in there or they become communities filled with hate groups, and the internet can devolve very quickly, as you can see from a lot of online communities.

Whatever you’re doing, blog and comments, you get SEO benefits, you get thought leadership benefits, but it requires regular content investments. You don’t get the UGC benefit quite like you would with a forum or a discussion. With Facebook groups or LinkedIn groups, Twitter hashtags, it’s easy to build, but there’s no SEO benefit, usually very little to none.

With a Q&A board, you do get UGC and SEO. You still have those same moderation and graveyard risks.

With content leaderboards, they’re very difficult to maintain, Inbound.org being a good example, where Dharmesh and I figured, “Hey, we can get this thing up and rolling,” and then it turns out no, we need to hire people and maintain it and put in a bunch of effort and energy. But it can become a bookmarkable destination, which means you get repeat traffic over and over.

Whatever you’re choosing, make sure you list out these benefits and then align these with the strategy, the marketing goal, the tactics and initiatives that flow from those. That’s going to help determine how you should structure, whether you should structure your own community.

2. Participate in existing communities

Size/reach

The other option is participating in existing ones, places like Quora, subreddits, Twitter, LinkedIn groups, existing forums. Same thing, you’re going to take these. Well, we can participate on an existing forum, and we can see that the size and reach is on average about nine responses per thread, about three threads per day, three new threads per day.

Benefits & drawbacks

The benefit is that it can build up our thought leadership and our recognition among this group of influential people in our field. The drawback is it builds our competitor’s content, because this forum is going to be ranking for all those things. They own the platform. It’s not our owned platform. Then we align that with our goals and initiatives.

Four bits of advice

1. If you build, build for SEO + owned channels. Don’t create on someone else’s platform.

So I’m not going to dive through all of these, but I do want to end on some bits of advice. So I mentioned already make sure you invest in other people’s communities before you build your own. I would also add to that if you’re going to build something, if you’re going to build your own, I would generally rule these things out — LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups, Twitter hashtag groups. Why? Because those other platforms control them, and then they can change them at any time and your reach can change on those platforms. I would urge you to build for SEO and for an owned media channel.

2. Start with a platform that doesn’t lose credibility when empty (e.g. blog > forum).

Second, I’d start with a platform that doesn’t lose credibility when it’s empty. That is to say if you know you want to build a forum or a content leaderboard or a Q&A board, make it something where you know that you and your existing team can do all the work to create a non-graveyard-like environment initially. That could mean limiting it to only a few sections in a forum, or all the Q&A goes in one place as opposed to there are many subforums that have zero threads and zero comments and zero replies, or every single thing that’s posted, we know that at least two of us internally will respond to them, that type of stuff.

3. Don’t use a subdomain or separate domain.

Third, if you can, avoid using a subdomain and definitely don’t use a separate domain. Subdomains inherit some of the ranking ability and benefits of the primary domain they’re on. Separate domains tend to inherit almost none.

4. Before you build, gather a willing, excited crew via an email group who will be your first active members.

Last, but not least, before you build, gather a willing, excited group of people, your crew, hopefully via an email group — this has served me extremely well — who will be those first active members.

So if you’re building something in the crypto space, as maybe Dave is considering, I might say to him, hey, find those 10 or 15 or 20 people who are in your world, who you talk to online already, create an email group, all be chatting with each other and contributing. Then start your Q&A board, or then start your blog and your comments section, or then start your forum, what have you. If you can seed it with that initial passionate group, you will get over a lot of the big hurdles around building or rolling your own community system.

All right, everyone. Hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday, and we’ll see you again next week. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Using the Cross Domain Rel=Canonical to Maximize the SEO Value of Cross-Posted Content – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Same content, different domains? There’s a tag for that. Using rel=canonical to tell Google that similar or identical content exists on multiple domains has a number of clever applications. You can cross-post content across several domains that you own, you can benefit from others republishing your own content, rent or purchase content on other sites, and safely use third-party distribution networks like Medium to spread the word. Rand covers all the canonical bases in this not-to-be-missed edition of Whiteboard Friday.

Using the Cross Domain Rel=Canonical to Maximize the SEO Value of X-Posted Content

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about the cross-domain rel=canonical tag. So we’ve talked about rel=canonical a little bit and how it can be used to take care of duplicate content issues, point Google to the right pages from potentially other pages that share similar or exactly the same content. But cross-domain rel=canonical is a unique and uniquely powerful tool that is designed to basically say, “You know what, Google? There is the same content on multiple different domains.”

So in this simplistic example, MyFriendSite.com/green-turtles contains this content that I said, “Sure, it’s totally fine for you, my friend, to republish, but I know I don’t want SEO issues. I know I don’t want duplicate content. I know I don’t want a problem where my friend’s site ends up outranking me, because maybe they have better links or other ranking signals, and I know that I would like any ranking credit, any link or authority signals that they accrue to actually come to my website.

There’s a way that you can do this. Google introduced it back in 2009. It is the cross-domain rel=canonical. So essentially, in the header tag of the page, I can add this link, rel=canonical href — it’s a link tag, so there’s an href — to the place where I want the link or the canonical, in this case, to point to and then close the tag. Google will transfer over, this is an estimate, but roughly in the SEO world, we think it’s pretty similar to what you get in a 301 redirect. So something above 90% of the link authority and ranking signals will transfer from FriendSite.com to MySite.com.

So my green turtles page is going to be the one that Google will be more likely to rank. As this one accrues any links or other ranking signals, that authority, those links should transfer over to my page. That’s an ideal situation for a bunch of different things. I’ll talk about those in a sec.

Multiple domains and pages can point to any URL

Multiple domains and pages are totally cool to point to any URL. I can do this for FriendSite.com. I can also do this for TurtleDudes.com and LeatherbackFriends.net and SeaTees.com and NatureIsLit.com. All of them can contain this cross-domain rel=canonical pointing back to the site or the page that I want it to go to. This is a great way to potentially license content out there, give people republishing permissions without losing any of the SEO value.

A few things need to match:

I. The page content really does need to match

That includes things like text, images, if you’ve embedded videos, whatever you’ve got on there.

II. The headline

Ideally, should match. It’s a little less crucial than the page content, but probably you want that headline to match.

III. Links (in content)

Those should also match. This is a good way to make sure. You check one, two, three. This is a good way to make sure that Google will count that rel=canonical correctly.

Things that don’t need to match:

I. The URL

No, it’s fine if the URLs are different. In this case, I’ve got NatureIsLit.com/turtles/p?id=679. That’s okay. It doesn’t need to be green-turtles. I can have a different URL structure on my site than they’ve got on theirs. Google is just fine with that.

II. The title of the piece

Many times the cross-domain rel=canonical is used with different page titles. So if, for example, CTs.com wants to publish the piece with a different title, that’s okay. I still generally recommend that the headlines stay the same, but okay to have different titles.

III. The navigation

IV. Site branding

So all the things around the content. If I’ve got my page here and I have like nav elements over here, nav elements down here, maybe a footer down here, a nice little logo up in the top left, that’s fine if those are totally different from the ones that are on these other pages cross-domain canonically. That stuff does not need to match. We’re really talking about the content inside the page that Google looks for.

Ways to use this protocol

Some great ways to use the cross-domain rel=canonical.

1. If you run multiple domains and want to cross-post content, choose which one should get the SEO benefits and rankings.

If you run multiple domains, for whatever reason, let’s say you’ve got a set of domains and you would like the benefit of being able to publish a single piece of content, for whatever reason, across multiples of these domains that you own, but you know you don’t want to deal with a duplicate content issue and you know you’d prefer for one of these domains to be the one receiving the ranking signals, cross-domain rel=canonical is your friend. You can tell Google that Site A and Site C should not get credit for this content, but Site B should get all the credit.

The issue here is don’t try and do this across multiple domains. So don’t say, “Oh, Site A, why don’t you rel=canonical to B, and Site C, why don’t you rel=canonical to D, and I’ll try and get two things ranked in the top.” Don’t do that. Make sure all of them point to one. That is the best way to make sure that Google respects the cross-domain rel=canonical properly.

2. If a publication wants to re-post your content on their domain, ask for it instead of (or in addition to) a link back.

Second, let’s say a publication reaches out to you. They’re like, “Wow. Hey, we really like this piece.” My wife, Geraldine, wrote a piece about Mario Batali’s sexual harassment apology letter and the cinnamon rolls recipe that he strangely included in this apology. She baked those and then wrote about it. It went quite viral, got a lot of shares from a ton of powerful and well-networked people and then a bunch of publications. The Guardian reached out. An Australian newspaper reached out, and they said, “Hey, we would like to republish your piece.” Geraldine talked to her agent, and they set up a price or whatever.

One of the ways that you can do this and benefit from it, not just from getting a link from The Guardian or some other newspaper, but is to say, “Hey, I will be happy to be included here. You don’t even have to give me, necessarily, if you don’t want to, author credit or link credit, but I do want that sweet, sweet rel=canonical.” This is a great way to maximize the SEO benefit of being posted on someone else’s site, because you’re not just receiving a single link. You’re receiving credit from all the links that that piece might generate.

Oops, I did that backwards. You want it to come from their site to your site. This is how you know Whiteboard Friday is done in one take.

3. Purchase/rent content from other sites without forcing them to remove the content from their domain.

Next, let’s say I am in the opposite situation. I’m the publisher. I see a piece of content that I love and I want to get that piece. So I might say, “Wow, that piece of content is terrific. It didn’t do as well as I thought it would do. I bet if we put it on our site and broadcast it with our audience, it would do incredibly well. Let’s reach out to the author of the piece and see if we can purchase or rent for a time period, say two years, for the next two years we want to put the cross-domain rel=canonical on your site and point it back to us and we want to host that content. After two years, you can have it back. You can own it again.”

Without forcing them to remove the content from their site, so saying you, publisher, you author can keep it on your site. We don’t mind. We’d just like this tag applied, and we’d like to able to have republishing permissions on our website. Now you can get the SEO benefits of that piece of content, and they can, in exchange, get some money. So your site sending them some dollars, their site sending you the rel=canonical and the ranking authority and the link equity and all those beautiful things.

4. Use Medium as a content distribution network without the drawback of duplicate content.

Number four, Medium. Medium is a great place to publish content. It has a wide network, people who really care about consuming content. Medium is a great distribution network with one challenge. If you post on Medium, people worry that they can’t post the same thing on their own site because you’ll be competing with Medium.com. It’s a very powerful domain. It tends to rank really well. So duplicate content is an issue, and potentially losing the rankings and the traffic that you would get from search and losing that to Medium is no fun.

But Medium has a beautiful thing. The cross-domain rel=canonical is built in to their import tool. So if you go to Medium.com/p/import and you are logged in to your Medium account, you can enter in their URL field the content that you’ve published on your own site. Medium will republish it on your account, and they will include the cross-domain rel=canonical back to you. Now, you can start thinking of Medium as essentially a distribution network without the penalties or problems of duplicate content issues. Really, really awesome tool. Really awesome that Medium is offering this. I hope it sticks around.

All right, everyone. I think you’re going to have some excellent additional ideas for the cross-domain rel=canonical and how you have used it. We would love you to share those in the comments below, and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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