Tag Archive | "Whiteboard"

Programming for SEOs – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by PaulShapiro

Maybe it’s crossed your mind once or twice before: You know, this would be a lot easier if I just knew how to program. But it’s an intimidating subject, especially if you’re not sure of your technical expertise, and there’s so much to learn that it’s hard to know where to start.

In today’s Whiteboard Friday, master technical SEO Paul Shapiro shares why it’s so important for SEOs and marketers to take the programming plunge, explains key concepts, and helps you determine the best course of action for you to get started when it comes to leveling up your technical prowess.

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

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans. Paul Shapiro here, Head of SEO at Catalyst. I’m here to talk to you today about programming for SEOs and marketers. 

Why should you learn how to program? 

I think there are really several key benefits to learning how to program.

1. Improved developer relations

First, being developer relations. As SEOs, we’re constantly working with developers to implement our recommendations. Understanding why they make certain decisions, how they think is really pivotal to working with them better. 

2. Become a better technical SEO

Understanding how to program makes you a better technical SEO. Just understanding the construction of websites and how they operate really helps you do a lot better with your SEO. Automation. As marketers, as SEOs, we all sometimes do very repetitive tasks, and being able to cut down on the time spent to do those repetitive tasks is really key.

It really opens up the opportunity to do things and focus more on strategy and the other things that you can’t leave to automation. 

3. Leveling up your data analysis

If anyone is familiar with this number, 1,048,576, that’s the row limit in Microsoft Excel.

As marketers, we’re swimming in a sea of data. It’s very easy to work with a dataset that well exceeds that. I often work with hundreds of millions of rows of data. Utilizing a program language like R or Python is a really good way of handling that amount of data. 

4. Literacy

It’s becoming really, really more common in the States to be taught how to program in elementary school. So by learning how to program, you’re on equal footing with the children of the world, people that may enter the workplace in the future. So you don’t even have to learn how to program in depth. But I do recommend you at least understand the concepts and logic behind programming.

Which language should you learn? 

Oftentimes I hear people say, “I did a little bit of programming in college or high school. I learned so-and-so language.” To them, I say, “You’re in great shape. Stick to whichever programming language you’re comfortable with.” You don’t have to start from square one.



A lot of the programming languages share a common logic. But if you are starting from square one and you need to just decide on which programming language I’m going to learn today, I have two recommendations. 

Python

If you’re going down the path of data analysis, your primary reason for learning how to program is to work with data and do more sophisticated things with data, then I think there’s no better language than Python.

Python is very well-equipped. There are lots of libraries designed specifically for data analysis, and it’s a very much more robust language than something like R. 

JavaScript

If you’re going down the path of web development, you want to be a better technical SEO, you want to understand how websites are constructed, JavaScript is an incredibly robust programming language that has boomed in usage on websites over the last few years.

It’s also very capable of doing backend web development with a language like Node.js, which is just a variant of JavaScript. The only issue with learning JavaScript is I would say that you need to learn CSS and HTML first. So there’s a little bit more of a learning curve than say learning Python.

Example concepts

Now I want to go through some basic programming concepts so that you walk away feeling a little bit more comfortable with the idea of learning a program so it’s a little less intimidating. 

Variables

The first concept I want to go through is the idea of a variable. These are just like algebra, like basic algebra.

So you can assign x is equal to 2 or any other value, and then we can use that later. So x plus 2 is 4. Variables can have any name. We’re using Python syntax as an example. So the first variable we have is a variable called “animal,”and it’s equal to the value “cat.”

This is a string, which is just a bit of text that we assign to it. Now variables could be of many different types. So the variable “number” can be equal to 2, an integer. Or the variable “colors” can be a list, which is a type of Python array. Arrays are just variables with multiple values. So in this instance, colors is equal to red, blue, and green, and it’s just denoted with the brackets.

Conditions

The next concept I’d like you to understand is conditions, so if/else being a basic condition that we would work with. It reads a lot like English. So if the variable “animal” is equal to “cat,” which it is, print out the text “MEOW!” If “animal” wasn’t equal to “cat,” say it was equal to “dog,”then we would print out “Woof!”

Then the output, since “animal” is equal to “cat,” is “MEOW!” Loops. There are many different types of loops. I’m going to use a for loop as an example. Again, it reads a little bit like the English language. So we have a variable “colors,”which we know is equal to red, blue, and green.

So we want to say for every value in that variable “colors,”print out that value. So for x in colors, print (x). It will go through each one, one at a time and print it out. So the first value is red. It gets printed out. The second value is blue. It gets printed out.

Functions

The last value is green. It gets printed out, and the code ceases. Now the last concept I want to explain is functions. Functions very simply are reusable snippets of code. So we have a very basic function here, which we define as moz, so the function moz, which has the value one line of code print (“WBF!”) for Whiteboard Friday.

If we execute the function moz, it will print out the value “WBF!” So all these concepts in themselves aren’t very useful. But when you start really programming and you start stringing them all together, you’re doing all sorts of sophisticated things, and it becomes very, very powerful building blocks to doing much greater things.

Learning resources

So now that you understand programming and why you should do it, I want to leave you with some resources to actually learn. 

Lynda/LinkedIn Learning

The first resource I recommend is Lynda. It got rebranded LinkedIn Learning. The reason why I recommend Lynda is because many, many public libraries offer you a subscription for free.

There’s a ton of different programming classes in there. You can certainly get a Python class. Many levels of advanced Python and JavaScript. You can also learn other things, which I think is pretty cool. So I definitely recommend Lynda/LinkedIn Learning. 

Codeacademy

When I was learning to program originally, I actually went to the library and had to take out books and try to do it myself. Nowadays, there are tons of other resources, like Codecademy.

Codecademy is fantastic. It’s completely interactive. So it will go through all the various concepts, and one by one it will ask you to sort of perform them in a very logical manner so you learn it in an optimal way. I definitely recommend Codecademy. They have both a JavaScript and a Python module. The MOOCs online.

Coursera

If you are the person that needs a more traditional classroom environment, you can learn for free, replicating that classroom environment at home. These are websites like Coursera. A lot of the major universities offer them. There are courses there. W3Schools, which is very valuable for any sort of web development, they have very good, very basic tutorials on JavaScript and CSS and HTML and anything you might need to learn web development.

Python for Data Analysis

It also acts as an invaluable reference guide. If you’re interested in learning Python for data analysis, there’s one book that I highly recommend. It is “Python for Data Analysis” by McKinney. That’s an O’Reilly book. McKinney was the creator of Pandas, which is a very well used Python library for data analysis. So hopefully you’ve walked away a little less scared of programming and are excited to learn.

Bonus: FreeCodeCamp

Another great free resource for learning web development and JavaScript is FreeCodeCamp.org

Leave your comments in the section below. Thanks for watching. Till next time.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


Did you miss Paul’s awesome talk at MozCon 2019, Redefining Technical SEO? Download the deck here and don’t miss out on next year’s conference — super early bird discounts are available now!

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5 Common Objections to SEO (& How to Respond) – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by KameronJenkins

How many of these have you heard over the years? Convincing clients and stakeholders that SEO is worth it is half the battle. From doubts about the value of its traffic to concerns over time and competition with other channels, it seems like there’s an argument against our jobs at every turn. 

In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Kameron Jenkins cover the five most common objections to SEO and how to counter them with smart, researched, fact-based responses.

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

Video Transcription

Hey, everybody. Welcome to this week’s edition of Whiteboard Friday. My name is Kameron Jenkins, and today we’re going to be going through five common objections to SEO and how to respond. Now I know, if you’re watching this and you’re an SEO, you have faced some of these very objections before and probably a lot of others.

This is not an exhaustive list. I’m sure you’ve faced a ton of other objections, whether you’re talking to a potential client, maybe you’re talking to your friend or your family member. A lot of people have misunderstandings about SEO and that causes them to object to wanting to invest in it. So I thought I’d go through some of the ones that I hear the most and how I tend to respond in those situations. Hopefully, you’ll find that helpful.

1. “[Other channel] drives more traffic/conversions, so it’s better.”

Let’s dive in. The number one objection I hear a lot of the time is this other channel, whether that be PPC, social, whatever, drives more traffic or conversions, therefore it’s better than SEO. I want to respond a few different ways depending. 

Success follows investment

So the number one thing I would usually say is that don’t forget that success follows investment.

So if you are investing a lot of time and money and talent into your PPC or social and you’re not really doing much with organic, you’re kind of just letting it go, usually that means, yeah, that other channel is going to be a lot more successful. So just keep that in mind. It’s not inherently successful or not. It kind of reflects the effort you’re putting into it.

Every channel serves a different purpose

Number two, I would say that every channel serves a different purpose. You’re not going to expect social media to drive conversions a lot of the time, because a lot of the time social is for engagement. It’s for more top of the funnel. It’s for more audience development. SEO, a lot of the time that lives at your top and mid-funnel efforts. It can convert, but not always.

So just keep that in mind. Every channel serves a different purpose. 

Assists vs last click only

The last thing I would say, kind of dovetailing off of that, is that assists versus last click only I know is a debate when it comes to attribution. But just keep in mind that when SEO and organic search doesn’t convert as the last click before conversion, it still usually assists in the process. So look at your assisted conversions and see how SEO is contributing.

2. “SEO is dead because the SERPs are full of ads.”



The number two objection I usually hear is SEO is dead because the SERPs are full of ads. To that, I would respond with a question. 

What SERPs are you looking at? 

It really depends on what you’re querying. If you’re only looking at those bottom funnel, high cost per click, your money keywords, absolutely those are monetized.

Those are going to be heavily monetized, because those are at the bottom of the funnel. So if you’re only ever looking at that, you might be pessimistic when it comes to your SEO. You might not be thinking that SEO has any kind of value, because organic search, those organic results are pushed down really low when you’re looking at those bottom funnel terms. So I think these two pieces of research are really interesting to look at in tandem when it comes to a response to this question.

I think this was put out sometime last year by Varn Research, and it said that 60% of people, when they see ads on the search results, they don’t even recognize that they’re ads. That’s actually probably higher now that Google changed it from green to black and it kind of blends in a little bit better with the rest of it. But then this data from Jumpshot says that only about 2% to 3% of all search clicks go to PPC.

So how can these things coexist? Well, they can coexist because the vast majority of searches don’t trigger ads. A lot more searches are informational and navigational more so than commercial. 

People research before buying

So just keep in mind that people are doing a lot of research before buying.

A lot of times they’re looking to learn more information. They’re looking to compare. Keep in mind your buyer’s entire journey, their entire funnel and focus on that. Don’t just focus on the bottom of the funnel, because you will get discouraged when it comes to SEO if you’re only looking there. 

Better together

Also, they’re just better together. There are a lot of studies that show that PPC and SEO are more effective when they’re both shown on the search results together for a single company.

I’m thinking of one by Seer, they did right now, that showed the CTR is higher for both when they’re on the page together. So just keep that in mind. 

3. “Organic drives traffic, just not the right kind.”

The number three objection I hear a lot is that organic drives traffic, just not the right kind of traffic. People usually mean a few different things when they say that. 

Branded vs non-branded

Number one, they could mean that organic drives traffic, but it’s usually just branded traffic anyway.

It’s just people who know about us already, and they’re searching our business name and they’re finding us. That could be true. But again, that’s probably because you’re not investing in SEO, not because SEO is not valuable. I would also say that a lot of times this is pretty easily debunked. A lot of times inadvertently people are ranking for non-branded terms that they didn’t even know they were ranking for.

So go into Google Search Console, look at their non-branded queries and see what’s driving impressions and clicks to the website. 

Assists are important too

Number two, again, just to say this one more time, assists are important too. They play a part in the eventual conversion or purchase. So even if organic drives traffic that doesn’t convert as the last click before conversion, it still usually plays a role.

It can be highly qualified

Number three, it can be highly qualified. Again, this is that following the investment thing. If you are actually paying attention to your audience, you know the ways they search, how they search, what terms they search for, what’s important to your brand, then you can bring in really highly qualified traffic that’s more inclined to convert if you’re paying attention and being strategic with your SEO.

4. “SEO takes too long”

Moving on to number four, that objection I hear is SEO takes too long. That’s honestly one of the most common objections you hear about SEO. 

SEO is not a growth hack

In response to that, I would say it’s not a growth hack. A lot of people who are really antsy about SEO and like “why isn’t it working right now” are really looking for those instant results.

They want a tactic they can sprinkle on their website for instant whatever they want. Usually it’s conversions and revenue and growth. I would say it’s not a growth hack. If you’re looking at it that way, it’s going to disappoint you. 

Methodology + time = growth

But I will say that SEO is more methodology than tactic. It’s something that should be ingrained and embedded into everything you do so that over time, when it’s baked into everything you’re doing, you’re going to achieve sustained growth.

So that’s how I respond to that one. 

5. “You can’t measure the ROI.”

Number five, the last one and probably one of the most frustrating, I’m sure this is not exclusive to SEO. I know social hears it a lot. You can’t measure the ROI, therefore I don’t want to invest in it, because I don’t have proof that I’m getting a return on this investment. So people kind of tend to mean, I think, two things when they say this.

A) Predicting ROI

Number one, they really want to be able to predict ROI before they even dive in. They want assurances that if I invest in this, I’m going to get X in return, which there are a lot of, I think, problems with that inherently, but there are some ways you can get close to gauging what you’re going to get for your efforts. So what I would do in this situation is use your own website’s data to build yourself a click-through rate curve so that you know the click-through rate at your various rank positions.

By knowing that and combining that with the search volume of a keyword or a phrase that you want to go after, you can multiply the two and just say, “Hey, here’s the expected traffic we will get if you will let me work on improving our rank position from 9 to 2 or 1″ or whatever that is. So there are ways to estimate and get close.

A lot of times, when you do improve, you’re focusing on improving one term, you’re likely going to get a lot more traffic than what you’re estimating because you tend to end up ranking for so many more longer tail keywords that bring in a lot of additional search volume. So you’re probably going to even underestimate when you do this. But that’s one way you can predict ROI. 

B) Measuring ROI



Number two here, measuring ROI is a lot of times what people want to be doing.

They want to be able to prove that what they’re doing is beneficial in terms of revenue. So one way to do this is to get the lifetime value of the customer, multiply that by the close rate so that you can have a goal value. Now if you turn on your conversions and set up your goals in Google Analytics, which you I think should be doing, this assumes that you’re not an e-commerce site.

There’s different tracking for that, but a similar type of methodology applies. If you apply these things, you can have a goal value. So that way, when people convert on your site, you start to rack up the actual dollar value, the estimated dollar value that whatever channel is producing. So you can go to your source/medium report and see Google organic and see how many conversions it’s producing and how much value.

This same thing applies if you go to your assisted conversions report. You can see how much value is in there as well. I think that’s really beneficial just to be able to show people like, “Look, it is generating revenue.My SEO that’s getting you organic search traffic is generating value and real dollars and cents for you.” So those are some of the most common objections that I hear.

I want to know what are some of the ones that you hear too. So pop those in the comments. Let me know the objections you hear a lot of the time and include how you’re either struggling to respond or find the right response to people or something that you found works as a response. Share that with us. We’d all love to know. Let’s make SEO better and something that people understand a lot better. So that’s it for this week’s Whiteboard Friday.

Come back again next week for another one.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Supercharge Your Link Building Outreach! 5 Tips for Success – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Shannon-McGuirk

Spending a ton of effort on outreach and waking up to an empty inbox is a demoralizing (and unfortunately common) experience. And when it comes to your outreach, getting those emails opened is half the battle. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, we welcome recent MozCon 2019 alum Shannon McGuirk to share five of her best tips to make your outreach efficient and effective — the perfect follow-up to her talk about building a digital PR newsroom.

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

Video Transcription

Hi, Moz fans. My name is Shannon McGuirk. I’m the Head of PR and Content at a UK-based digital marketing agency called Aira. So at this year’s MozCon, I spoke about how to supercharge your link building with a digital PR newsroom and spoke about the three different types of media and journalist writing that we should be tapping into.

But I only had half an hour to be able to share my insights and thoughts. As a next step from that presentation, I need to equip you guys with everything in order to be able to go out and actually speak to these journalists. So for my Whiteboard Friday today, I’m going to be sharing my five tips for success for supercharging your outreach, specifically evolved around email outreach alone.

In the U.K. and in the U.S. as well, we’re seeing, as our industry grows and develops, journalists don’t want to be called anymore, and instead the best way to get in touch with them is via email or on social media. So let’s dive straight in. 

1. Subject lines A/B tests

So tip one then. I want to share some insights with you that I did for subject lines and specifically around some A/B testing.

Back in the early part of the summer, around April time, we started working on a tool called BuzzStream. Now that allowed us to be able to send different kinds of tests and emails out with a variety of different subject lines in order for us to understand how many open rates we were getting and to try and encourage journalists, through the use of our language and emojis, to open up those all-important pitch emails so that we could follow up and make sure that we’re bringing those links home.

Journalist’s name in subject line

So we ran two different types of A/B tests. The first one here you can see was with the journalist’s name in the subject line and the journalist’s name without. It turns out then that actually, when we were running this data, we were seeing far more opens if we had the journalist’s name in the subject line. It was getting their attention. It was getting that cut-through that we needed when they’re getting hundreds of emails per day and to see their name in a little nib meant that we were increasing open rates. So that was our first learning from test number one. 

“Data” vs “story tip”

Now test number two, we had a bit of a gut feel and a little bit of an instinct to feel that there were certain types of words and language that we were using that were either getting us more open rates or not. For this one specifically, it was around the use of the word “data.” So we compared the use of the word “data” with story tip, and again including the journalist’s name and not, to try and see how many journalists were opening up our emails.

At Aira, we have around a 33% open rate with any campaigns that we launch, and again this is tracked through BuzzStream. But when we started to do these A/B tests, combine story tip, full name, and then follow with “data,” we increased that to 52%. So that jump up, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to get 52% more links off the back of your outreach, but it means that you are getting more people opening up their email, considering your data, considering your campaigns, which is half of the problem, when we all know as outreachers, content marketers, digital PRs how difficult it can be for someone to even just open that initial approach.

So now, off the back of those A/B tests, make sure that whenever you’re writing those emails out you have story tip for Tom and then followed by data and whatever research you’ve got in that campaign. 

2. Headline language

For tip two then, keeping on the theme of language, I did a piece of research for another conference that I was speaking at earlier in the summer called SearchLeeds and another one called outREACH.

I analyzed 35,000 articles across 6 different top 10 news sites in the U.K. The language that came out of that, around the headlines specifically, was so interesting. So I split these 35,000 articles down into relevant sectors, took the likes of travel, automotive, business, what have you, and then I was able to create around 30 word clouds according to different articles that had been produced within these different industries at different titles.

I was able to start to see common words that were used in headlines, and that got my mind ticking a bit. I was starting to think, well, actually as a team, at Aira, we should be starting to pitch and use language within our pitches that journalists are already using, because they straightaway resonate with the story that we’ve got. So here’s a quick snapshot of the kind of word clouds that the analysis revealed.

You can kind of see some core words shining through. So we’ve got research, best, stats, experts, that kind of thing. Now the top five words that were most commonly used across all sectors within the headlines were: best, worst, data, new, and revealed. Now “data” is really interesting, because if we go back to our A/B testing, we know that that’s a strong word and that that will get you more opens with your subject lines.

But it also reaffirms that that A/B test is right and that we definitely should be using “data.” So combine story tip for that journalist’s name, Tom or what have you, with data and then start to use some of the language here, out of these top five, and again you’re going to increase your open rates, which is half of the problem with what we’re doing with outreach.

3. Use color

So tip three then. Now this was quite an experimental approach that we took, and a huge recommendation of mine, when you’re doing your email outreach, is actually to start to use color within that all-important pitch email itself. So we’ve moved from subject lines into looking at the body of the email. We use color and bolding back at Aira.

So we use color straightaway when we’re writing the email. So we’ll start with something like, “Dear Tom, I have a story that you might be interested in.” Straight under that, so we’re already using again the language that they’ll be using, story, going back to our A/B test. But then straight under that, we will bold, capitalize, and put in a really bright color — reds, greens, blues — nice, strong primary colors there the headline that we think Tom might write off the back of our outreach.

So here’s an example. “New data reveals that 21% of drivers have driven with no insurance.” Not the most exciting headline in the world. But if Tom here is an automotive editor or a digital online automotive writer, straightaway he knows what I’m talking to him about. Again, he can start to see how this data can be used to craft stories for his own audience.

Again, as I said, this is quite experimental. We’re in the early phases of it at Aira, but we know it’s working, and it’s something that I learnt, again, at outREACH conference too. Straight under this use of color with headline, you should pull out your key stats. Now only keep those bullet points to three to five. Journalists are busy.

They’re on deadlines. Don’t be having huge, bulk paragraphs or long-winded sentences. Tell them the headline, follow it up with the key stats. Be clean, be punchy, and get to the point really quickly. Below this, obviously sign off and include any press material, Google Drive links, press packs that you’ve got under that. Again, we’re seeing this work really, really well.

We’re still in the early stages, and I hope to share some insights, some kind of data and metrics as to the success results of it. But we’ve been able to secure links from the likes of the Mail Online, the Telegraph back in the U.K., and also last week just FoxBusiness using this exact approach. 

4. Use emojis

So tip four then, and again this is a really playful technique and something that we only learnt with experimentation.

Start to use emojis within your pitches as well. Now this can be used within the subject line. Again, you’re looking to try and get the journalist to get that piece of attention straightaway and look at your headline. Or start to use them within the body of the email too, because they break up that text and it makes your email stand out far more than if you have someone that’s pitching in a business piece of data and you’ve just got huge stacks and research pieces.

Actually throw in some emojis that are relating to the business world, a laptop or whatever it may be, something that proves your point around the campaign. Again, it’s more engaging for a journalist to read that. It means that they’ll probably remember your email over the other 200 that they’re getting that day. So really nice, simplistic tip then for me.

If you’re pitching something in the automotive world, put a car or traffic lights on the end. If you’re doing something in the travel sphere, sun, beaches, something that just gets that journalist’s eye. It means that your email is going to be opened above anyone else’s. 

5. Use Twitter

Finally then, so I know I’ve kept this around email outreach for the last couple of points.

But one thing that we’re seeing work really well with the implementation of this digital PR newsroom is starting to approach and speak to journalists on Twitter. Twitter we know is a new source for journalists. Trending topics will obviously be picked up in the press and covered on a daily if not hourly basis. As soon as something breaks on Twitter, we’ll see journalists, writers, bloggers turn that trending feature into an article that’s really resonant and relevant for their audience.

So in the run-up to your campaign, way before the launch, we’re talking like three or four weeks here, reach out to the journalists on Twitter. Start to engage with them. Like some articles. Start to let them know that you’re in and engaging with them on their social media platform. Don’t push it too hard.

You don’t want to go overboard with this. But a little bit of engagement here and there means that when your email comes into their inbox, it’s not a new name, and you’re already starting to build the foundations of that relationship. Secondary to this then, feel free and start to experiment with DM’ing journalists as well. We know that they’re getting two, three, or four hundred emails per day. If you take to Twitter and send them a quick overview of your up-and-coming campaign via a Twitter DM, it’s likely that they’ll read that on the journey home or potentially when they’re walking from meeting to meeting.

Again, it puts you one step ahead of your competitors. Recently we’ve got some of our best pieces of coverage through warming the press up and specific journalists through Twitter, because when your campaign launches, you’re not going out with it cold. Instead the journalist knows that it’s coming in. They may even have the editorial space to cover that feature for you too. It’s something that we’ve seen really work, and again I can’t stress enough that you really have to find that balance.

You don’t want to be plaguing journalists. You don’t want to be a pain and starting to like every single tweet they do. But if it is relevant and you find an opportunity to engage and speak to them about your campaign the weeks in advance, it opens up that door. Again, you may be able to secure an exclusive out of it, which means that you get that first huge hit. So there are my five tips for link building in 2019, and it will help you supercharge things.

Now if you have any comments for me, any questions, please pop them in the thread below or reach out to me on Twitter. As I’ve just said, feel free to send me a DM. I’m always around and would love to help you guys a little bit more if you do have any questions for me. Thanks, Moz fans.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


Did you miss Shannon’s groundbreaking talk at MozCon 2019, How to Supercharge Link Building with a Digital PR Newsroom? Download the deck here and don’t miss out on next year’s conference — super early bird discounts are available now!

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


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Aren’t 301s, 302s, and Canonicals All Basically the Same? – Best of Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Dr-Pete

They say history repeats itself. In the case of the great 301 vs 302 vs rel=canonical debate, it repeats itself about every three months. And in the case of this Whiteboard Friday, it repeats once every two years as we revisit a still-relevant topic in SEO and re-release an episode that’s highly popular to this day. Join Dr. Pete as he explains how bots and humans experience pages differently depending on which solution you use, why it matters, and how each choice may be treated by Google.

Aren't 301s, 302s, and canonicals all basically the same?

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Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans, it’s Dr. Pete, your friendly neighborhood marketing scientist here at Moz, and I want to talk today about an issue that comes up probably about every three months since the beginning of SEO history. It’s a question that looks something like this: Aren’t 301s, 302s, and canonicals all basically the same?

So if you’re busy and you need the short answer, it’s, “No, they’re not.” But you may want the more nuanced approach. This popped up again about a week [month] ago, because John Mueller on the Webmaster Team at Google had posted about redirection for secure sites, and in it someone had said, “Oh, wait, 302s don’t pass PageRank.”

John said, “No. That’s a myth. It’s incorrect that 302s don’t pass PR,” which is a very short answer to a very long, technical question. So SEOs, of course, jumped on that, and it turned into, “301s and 302s are the same, cats are dogs, cakes are pie, up is down.” We all did our freakout that happens four times a year.

So I want to get into why this is a difficult question, why these things are important, why they are different, and why they’re different not just from a technical SEO perspective, but from the intent and why that matters.

I’ve talked to John a little bit. I’m not going to put words in his mouth, but I think 95% of this will be approved, and if you want to ask him, that’s okay afterwards too.

Why is this such a difficult question?

So let’s talk a little bit about classic 301, 302. So a 301 redirect situation is what we call a permanent redirect. What we’re trying to accomplish is something like this. We have an old URL, URL A, and let’s say for example a couple years ago Moz moved our entire site from seomoz.org to moz.com. That was a permanent change, and so we wanted to tell Google two things and all bots and browsers:

  1. First of all, send the people to the new URL, and, second,
  2. pass all the signals. All these equity, PR, ranking signals, whatever you want to call them, authority, that should go to the new page as well.

So people and bots should both end up on this new page.

A classic 302 situation is something like a one-day sale. So what we’re saying is for some reason we have this main page with the product. We can’t put the sale information on that page. We need a new URL. Maybe it’s our CMS, maybe it’s a political thing, doesn’t matter. So we want to do a 302, a temporary redirect that says, “Hey, you know what? All the signals, all the ranking signals, the PR, for Google’s sake keep the old page. That’s the main one. But send people to this other page just for a couple of days, and then we’re going to take that away.”

So these do two different things. One of these tells the bots, “Hey, this is the new home,” and the other one tells it, “Hey, stick around here. This is going to come back, but we want people to see the new thing.”

So I think sometimes Google interprets our meaning and can change things around, and we get frustrated because we go, “Why are they doing that? Why don’t they just listen to our signals?”

Why are these differentiations important?

The problem is this. In the real world, we end up with things like this, we have page W that 301s to page T that 302s to page F and page F rel=canonicals back to page W, and Google reads this and says, “W, T, F.” What do we do?

We sent bad signals. We’ve done something that just doesn’t make sense, and Google is forced to interpret us, and that’s a very difficult thing. We do a lot of strange things. We’ll set up 302s because that’s what’s in our CMS, that’s what’s easy in an Apache rewrite file. We forget to change it to a 301. Our devs don’t know the difference, and so we end up with a lot of ambiguous situations, a lot of mixed signals, and Google is trying to help us. Sometimes they don’t help us very well, but they just run into these problems a lot.

In this case, the bots have no idea where to go. The people are going to end up on that last page, but the bots are going to have to choose, and they’re probably going to choose badly because our intent isn’t clear.

How are 301s, 302s, and rel=canonical different?

So there are a couple situations I want to cover, because I think they’re fairly common and I want to show that this is complex. Google can interpret, but there are some reasons and there’s some rhyme or reason.

1. Long-term 302s may be treated as 301s.

So the first one is that long-term 302s are probably going to be treated as 301s. They don’t make any sense. If you set up a 302 and you leave it for six months, Google is going to look at that and say, “You know what? I think you meant this to be permanent and you made a mistake. We’re going to pass ranking signals, and we’re going to send people to page B.” I think that generally makes sense.

Some types of 302s just don’t make sense at all. So if you’re migrating from non-secure to secure, from HTTP to HTTPS and you set up a 302, that’s a signal that doesn’t quite make sense. Why would you temporarily migrate? This is probably a permanent choice, and so in that case, and this is actually what John was addressing in this post originally, in that case Google is probably going to look at that and say, “You know what? I think you meant 301s here,” and they’re going to pass signals to the secure version. We know they prefer that anyway, so they’re going to make that choice for you.

If you’re confused about where the signals are going, then look at the page that’s ranking, because in most cases the page that Google chooses to rank is the one that’s getting the ranking signals. It’s the one that’s getting the PR and the authority.

So if you have a case like this, a 302, and you leave it up permanently and you start to see that Page B is the one that’s being indexed and ranking, then Page B is probably the one that’s getting the ranking signals. So Google has interpreted this as a 301. If you leave a 302 up for six months and you see that Google is still taking people to Page A, then Page A is probably where the ranking signals are going.

So that can give you an indicator of what their decision is. It’s a little hard to reverse that. But if you’ve left a 302 in place for six months, then I think you have to ask yourself, “What was my intent? What am I trying to accomplish here?”

Part of the problem with this is that when we ask this question, “Aren’t 302s, 301s, canonicals all basically the same?” what we’re really implying is, “Aren’t they the same for SEO?” I think this is a legitimate but very dangerous question, because, yes, we need to know how the signals are passed and, yes, Google may pass ranking signals through any of these things. But for people they’re very different, and this is important.

2. Rel=canonical is for bots, not people.

So I want to talk about rel=canonical briefly because rel=canonical is a bit different. We have Page A and Page B again, and we’re going to canonical from Page A to Page B. What we’re basically saying with this is, “Look, I want you, the bots, to consider Page B to be the main page. You know, for some reason I have to have these near duplicates. I have to have these other copies. But this is the main one. This is what I want to rank. But I want people to stay on Page A.”

So this is entirely different from a 301 where I want people and bots to go to Page B. That’s different from a 302, where I’m going to try to keep the bots where they are, but send people over here.

So take it from a user perspective. I have had in Q&A all the time people say, “Well, I’ve heard that rel=canonical passes ranking signals. Which should I choose? Should I choose that or 301? What’s better for SEO?”

That’s true. We do think it generally passes ranking signals, but for SEO is a bad question, because these are completely different user experiences, and either you’re going to want people to stay on Page A or you’re going to want people to go to Page B.

Why this matters, both for bots and for people

So I just want you to keep in mind, when you look at these three things, it’s true that 302s can pass PR. But if you’re in a situation where you want a permanent redirect, you want people to go to Page B, you want bots to go to Page B, you want Page B to rank, use the right signal. Don’t confuse Google. They may make bad choices. Some of your 302s may be treated as 301s. It doesn’t make them the same, and a rel=canonical is a very, very different situation that essentially leaves people behind and sends bots ahead.

So keep in mind what your use case actually is, keep in mind what your goals are, and don’t get over-focused on the ranking signals themselves or the SEO uses because all off these three things have different purposes.

So I hope that makes sense. If you have any questions or comments or you’ve seen anything weird actually happen on Google, please let us know and I’ll be happy to address that. And until then, we’ll see you next week.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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How to Target Featured Snippet Opportunities — Best of 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. 

Joining us at MozCon next week? This video is a great lead up to Britney’s talk: Featured Snippets: Essentials to Know & How to Target.

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 can help you discover your featured snippet opportunities. 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.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

How To Target Featured Snippet 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.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


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How to Make a Technical SEO Recommendation – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by BenjaminEstes

After you’ve put in the work with technical SEO and made your discoveries, there’s one thing left to do: present your findings to the client and agree on next steps. And like many things in our industry, that’s easier said than done. In this week’s episode of Whiteboard Friday, Benjamin Estes from Distilled presents his framework for making technical recommendations to clients and stakeholders to best position you for success

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Video Transcription

Hi. My name is Ben. I’m a principal consultant at a company called Distilled. Welcome to Whiteboard Friday. Today I’d like to talk to you about something a bit different than most Whiteboard Fridays.

I’d like to talk about how to work with clients or bosses in a different way. Instead of thinking about technical SEO and how to make technical discoveries or see what problems are, I want to talk about how to present your findings to your client after you’ve done that discovery. 

Problem

What’s the problem that we’re dealing with here? Well, the scenario is that we’ve got a recommendation and we’re presenting it to a client or a boss.

Easy enough. But what’s the goal of that situation? I would argue that there’s a very specific goal, and the best way to look at it is the goal is to change the action of the individual or the organization. Now, what if that wasn’t the case? You know, what if you worked with a client and none of their actions changed as a result of that engagement? Well, what was the point?

You know, should they have even trusted you in the first place to come in and help them? So if this is the specific goal that we’re trying to accomplish, what’s the best way to do that? Most people jump right to persuasion. They say, “If only I could something, the client would listen to me.” “If only I could present the forecast.”

If only I could justify the ROI, something, some mysterious research that probably hasn’t been done yet and maybe can’t even be done at all. My argument here is that the idea of persuasion is toxic. When you say, “If only I could this,” really what you mean is, “If only I had the evidence, the client would have to do as I say.” You’re trying to get control over the client when you say these things.

It turns out that human beings basically do whatever they want to do, and no matter how well you make your case, if it’s made for your reasons and not the client’s, they’re still not going to want to do the thing that you recommend. So I’ve introduced a framework at Distilled that helps us get past this, and that’s what I’d like to share with you right now.

Approach

The key to this method is that at each step of the process you allow the client to solve the problem for themselves. You give them the opportunity to see the problem from their own perspective and maybe even come up with their own solution. There are three steps to this. 

1. Suggest

First, you suggest the problem.

When I say “suggest,” I don’t mean suggest a solution. I mean you plant the idea in their mind that this is a problem that needs solving. It’s almost like inception. So you first say, “Here is what I see.” Hold up the mirror to them. Make the observations that they haven’t yet made themselves. 

2. Demonstrate

Step two, demonstrate, and what demonstrate means is you’re allowing them to emulate your behavior.

You’re demonstrating what you would do in that situation if you had to deal with the same problem. So you say, “Here’s what I would do if I were in your shoes.” 

3. Elaborate

Finally, you elaborate. You say, “Here’s why I think this is a reasonable activity.” Now I’ve got to be honest. Most of the time, in my experience, if you use this framework, you never even make it to elaboration, because the client solves the problem somewhere back here and you can just end the meeting.

The key, again, is to let the client solve the problem for themselves, for their own reason, in the way that they feel most comfortable. 

Example

Let’s look at an example, because that is, again, kind of abstract. So let’s say that you’ve made an observation in Google Search Console. The client has all these pages that Google has discovered, but they shouldn’t really be in the index or indexable or discoverable at all.

Start by suggesting

So you start by suggesting. “I see in Search Console that Google has discovered 18 million pages,”when it should be, let’s say, 10,000. “This is from your faceted navigation.” Now notice there’s no judgment. There’s no hint at what should be done about this or even the severity of the problem. You’re just presenting the numbers.

Now we’re already sort of at a turning point. Maybe the client hears this and they do a sort of a head slap and they say, “Of course. You know, I hadn’t seen that problem before. But here’s what I think we should do about it.” You reach some sort of agreement, and the problem is solved and the meeting is over and you get that hour back in your day. But maybe they sort of have some sort of questions about what this means, what this implies, and they want to hear your solution.

Demonstrate what you would do

Well, now it’s time to demonstrate what you would do when presented with that fact. You say, “This would be fixed by adding ‘nofollow’ to links to that faceted content.” Maybe they see how this is an obvious solution to the problem that’s completely compatible with their tech stack, and again you get 50 minutes back in your day because the meeting is done.

You’ve done your job. Or maybe they don’t. Maybe they don’t understand why that would be a good solution. 

Finally, elaborate

So finally, you get to this stage, which is elaboration. “Here’s why I think this is a good idea. These pages are important for user experience. You don’t want to get rid of the faceted navigation in your e-commerce store, but you do want to not link to those pages for SEO reasons, because maybe there’s no search volume for related terms.”

So for a particular cost range for an item or something like that, there’s just no associated search activity. You need the pages still. So you say, “These pages are important for user experience, but they don’t satisfy any search intent.” At that point, the client says, “Of course. You’ve come up with the ideal solution, and I’m going to implement your recommendation exactly as you’ve given it to me.”



Or they don’t. If they don’t, you’re no worse off. You can basically walk out of that meeting saying, “I’ve done everything possible to get the client on board with my recommendation, but it just didn’t work out.” That feeling of being able to know that you did the right thing has been a very powerful one, at least in my experience. I’ve been consulting for about eight years, and just going through this process helps me sleep better at night knowing that I really did my job.

We’ve also found that this has a really high success rate with clients too. Finally, you’ll discover that it’s much, much easier to put together presentations if you know that this is the format that you’re going to be presenting in. So if you think that your job is to give the evidence to the client to convince them of something, there’s really no end to the evidence that you could gather.

You could always gather more evidence, and when you get to that final meeting, you can say, “Oh, it’s not because I saw the problem in the wrong way or I communicated it in the wrong way.It’s that I didn’t justify the ROI enough.” There’s no leaving that. That rabbit hole just keeps going, just keeps going. So again, this method has been extremely successful for Distilled. If you’re interested in engaging with this more, you can read at this URL, dis.tl/present, where I give a more thorough write-up on this.

Of course, I’d love to hear any thoughts or experiences that you have with this method. Thank you very much.

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How to Deliver JSON-LD Recommendations the Easy Way – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by sergeystefoglo

When you work with large clients whose sites comprise thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of pages, it’s a daunting task to add the necessary markup. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, we welcome Sergey Stefoglo to share his framework for delivering JSON-LD recommendations in a structured and straightforward way.

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Video Transcription

Hello, Moz fans. My name is Serge. I’m a consultant at Distilled, and this is another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today I want to take the next few minutes to talk to you about one of my processes for delivering JSON-LD recommendations.

Now it’s worth noting upfront that at Distilled we work with a lot of large clients that have a lot of pages on their website, thousands, hundreds of thousands of pages. So if you work at an agency that works with local businesses or smaller clients, this process may be a bit overkill, but I hope you find some use in it regardless.

So as I mentioned, oftentimes at Distilled we get clients that have hundreds and thousands of pages on their site, and you can imagine if your point of contact comes to you and essentially asks, “Hey, we don’t have any markup on our site. Can you recommend all of the JSON-LD on all the pages, please?” If you’re anything like me, that could be a bit daunting, right, like that’s a big ask. Your wheels start spinning so to speak, and oftentimes that leads to a little bit of unproductivity. So I hope this process kind of helps get you unstuck and get started and get to work.

Step 1: List out all the page templates

The first step in this process essentially is to list out all of the templates on the site. I’m assuming you’re going to be dealing with an e-commerce site or something like that. That’s really the way that you’re going to break down this problem and take it from kind of a larger picture, where someone comes to you and says, “Hey, I need all of the things on all of the things,” and you break it down and say, “Okay, well, really what I need to focus on is a section at a time, and what I need to do is give recommendations for each section at a time.” To me, that’s a much more kind of organized way to come at this, and it’s helped me a lot.

So when you list out the templates, if you’ve had this client for a while, you probably already know the templates that they have. If they’re new, it’s worth getting familiar with their site and thinking about things at a template level regardless. So just simply hopping on the site, browsing around, and making a list of, yes, they have product pages and category pages and some different variations of those. They have blog pages and a bunch of other kinds of pages. It’s good to be familiar with them. Our goal is to essentially recommend JSON-LD for each of those templates. So that’s really the first step is getting clear on which templates we’re looking at and what exists on the site.

Step 2: Choose one template and note what can be marked up

The second step is to choose one of those templates, just one, for example, like the product page template, and essentially go through that page and jot down anything you think that can be marked up. Now if you’ve recommended schema before or if you’ve worked with JSON-LD or any kind of markup, you’ll be familiar with a lot of the kind of standards across the board, and it does get familiar over time. So once you do this your 2nd time or 3rd time or 10th time, you’ll have a good idea of what kind of markup goes on a product page or what kind of markup goes on a category page.

If it’s your first time, just go on the page and I’d encourage you to just browse through and look at schema.org or some other example sites that are similar, see what they’re doing, and kind of jot down by yourself, in a notebook or something, what you think can be marked up. So on a product page, you can note down that, yes, there’s an image of the product. There’s a price. There’s a URL. There are breadcrumbs on the page. There are reviews, etc. You’re just going through and kind of making a list of that very simply.

Step 3: Convert notes into JSON-LD, validate with the schema testing tool, and paste into doc

The next step is to essentially take those notes and convert them into JSON-LD. At this point, people tend to kind of freak out a little bit, but you don’t have to be a developer to do this. It’s very accessible. If this is your first time going about it, I’m not going to get into all of the specifics on how to do that. This is more of a framework of approaching that. But there are a lot of great articles that I can link to. Just reach out to me and I can hook you up with that.

    But the third step, again, is to convert those notes into actual JSON-LD. That process is fairly straightforward. What I like to do is open up the page or a representative URL from that template that I’m working on. So for a product page, open that up in my browser. I would like to have schema.org open. That’s kind of the canonical resource for schema information. Then I also like to have a few competitor sites open that are similar. If you’re working on an e-commerce brand, you’re fortunate that there are a lot of great examples of sites that are doing this well, and that’s publicly available to you and you can check out what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.

    So my process is kind of just going through that list, going on schema.org or going on a competitor’s site or a previous site you’ve worked on. If you’re looking at something like, let’s say, the cost of the product, you can look that up on schema.org. You can see that there’s an Offer-type markup. You can copy that into the schema testing tool and essentially validate that it works. Once you validate it, you just go down the list further. If you start off with the price, you can move on to breadcrumbs, etc.

    At the end of step three, you essentially have all of the JSON-LD that you need and certainly the core elements to kind of start down the next step.

    Step 4: Check with your point-of-contact/developer!

    The next step is to pause and check in with your point of contact, because if you’re working on a large-scale site and you’re going to have 10 or 15 of these templates you’re working on for JSON-LD, it’s worthwhile to essentially say, “Hey, can we do a 30-minute check-in because I’m done with the first template and I want to make sure that this all makes sense and this is in a format that’s going to be good for you?”

    Speaking of format, what I like to do personally is just use Google Drive, set up a folder in the client folder and title it JSON-LD, give the client access to that, and within that folder you’re just going to have a bunch of different documents, and each document is going to be per template. So for the product page example, you would have a document in that folder titled “Product JSON-LD,” and you would copy any of the JSON-LD that you validated in the schema testing tool and paste it in that doc. That’s what you would be walking through with your point of contact or with the developer. Pretty much take any feedback they have. If they want it in a different format, take that into account and revise it and meet with them again. But pretty much get a green light before moving forward to work on the other templates.

    Step 5: Repeat from Step 2 onward for all your templates

    That’s really the next step is, at that point, once you have the green light and the developer feels good about it or your point of contact feels good about it, you’re just going to kind of rinse and repeat. So you’re going to go back to Step 2, and you’re going to choose another template. If you’ve done the product page one, hop over to the category page template and do the same thing. Jot down what can be marked up. Transfer those notes into JSON-LD using competitor sites or similar sites, using schema.org, and using the structured data validating tool. It’s the same process. At that point, you’re just kind of on cruise control. It’s nice because it takes, again, something that initially could have been fairly stressful, at least for me, and it breaks it down in a way that makes sense and you can focus because of that.

    So again, this process has worked really well for me. At Distilled, we like to think about kind of frameworks and how to approach bigger problems like this and break them down and kind of make them more simple, because we’ve found that allows us to do our best work. This is just one of those processes.

    So that’s all I have for you all today. Thank you so much for tuning in. If you have any questions or comments, or if you have any experiences kind of implementing or recommending JSON-LD, I’d love to hear them. So give me a shout on Twitter or in the comments or anything like that. Thank you so much for tuning in, and we will see you next time.

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    The Easiest PR-Focused Link Building Tip in the Book – Whiteboard Friday

    Posted by randfish

    Focused on new link acquisition for your clients or company? Link building is always a slog, but Rand has a PR-focused tip that makes it much easier to find people and publications that’ll cover and amplify you. Check it out in this week’s edition of Whiteboard Friday!

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    Video Transcription

    Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we are talking about the easiest link building tip in the book. It is PR-focused, meaning press and public relations focused, and I’ll dive right in.

    If you are trying to get some new links for your new client, for your website, or for your company, start with this process. 

    Step 1: Identify some of your site’s or your business’ unique attributes

    • The type of company that you are. Are you a startup or a scale-up? Are you mid-stage? Are you a small business? Are you a family-owned business?
    • What’s the background of your founders? Do they come from a special place, something that is unique? Almost certainly the answer is yes. But in what kinds of ways?
    • What type of financing do you have? 
    • What is your customer focus, your customer target? 
    • What is your purpose, values, culture? 
    • Geography. Sector or market. 
    • Other attributes, like accessibility. Maybe you do a great job of serving differently-abled folks. Maybe you are a very sustainable business, a super green business. Maybe you have a very high bar of ethics. Or your facilities are absolutely outstanding and super Instagram-worthy.

    Step 2: Find 5–10 others that share these attributes

    >

    Whatever it is, some combination of these, you’re going to take and you’re going to find other people who share those attributes, other businesses, some other businesses that share some of those attributes or some combination of them. For example, I’ve taken a type of business, a startup, and a geography — startups in San Diego. Or a type of financing, angel-financed, but a type of business that is unusually angel-financed, a physical, retail location business. That’s fairly atypical. B corps, a benefit corp that is in the healthcare space. Again, somewhat atypical, somewhat unique. A black-owned business that’s in tech. Tragically, also unusual.

    Step 3: Find publications and people that have covered/amplified others like you

    Now Step 3, I’m going to find publications and people that have covered or amplified other people like you, some combination of other people like you. So we’ll start with my first example here — startups in San Diego. If I am a startup in San Diego, I will plug in several other startups in San Diego.

    So I did a search “startups in San Diego” in Google. I found Cloudbeds and Hire A Helper, two startups that are in San Diego, and I find a bunch of coverage opportunities by searching for the combination of the two of them. Cloudbeds and Hire A Helper leads me to ProgrammableWeb has a page that lists both of them because they both have APIs. San Diego Startup Week lists both of them because they were both panelists or speakers there. Snip2Code has a machine learning directory because they both had some interesting uses for machine learning that they applied. Tampa Bay Times covered both of them because of a data content piece. These are your link opportunities, your press, PR coverage opportunities.

    >

    You can repeat this again and again with combinations like this. The best part is you are using just your brain and Google search. Super, super simple. Of course, you could take this and you could apply this, you could plug in the websites for Cloudbeds and Hire A Helper to Moz’s Link Explorer, and you could get a bunch of other link opportunities. You could plug those two in and you could plug in your own website, and then you could say, “Show me sites that link to these two, but not to me,” through the Link Intersect function.

    Find new link opportunities!

    So there are ways to advance this with tools, but this is some of the simplest, best ways to launch to get coverage, to get people to know you and like you and start to have heard of your brand, and to get those links that Google is going to need to rank your website higher.

    All right, everyone. Hope you’ve enjoyed this. Look forward to some of your tips and advice around easy, PR-focused link building tips. 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 Strategically Think About Technical SEO – Whiteboard Friday

    Posted by BenjaminEstes

    We’ve all agreed that technical SEO is integral, and many of us know at least a little bit about the subject if we’re not already practitioners. But have you considered that the way you think about technical SEO could be hindering or helping your success? Today, Ben Estes from Distilled shares the agency’s tried-and-true framework for tackling technical SEO quandaries strategically.

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    Video Transcription

    Hi. Welcome to another Whiteboard Friday. My name is Ben, and I’m a principal consultant at a company called Distilled. Today I’d like to talk to you about how we think about technical SEO at Distilled. Now, technical SEO is something that a lot of people know a lot of stuff about.

    You accumulate knowledge over time from a lot of different sources, and that’s where a lot of the value that we deliver comes from. But not everyone can think about technical SEO from a strategic perspective, and that’s the skill that I think we should talk more about. 

    Framing the problem

    Let’s start by framing the problem. So look at these charts. Now, I would argue that most people’s mental model of technical SEO matches this first chart.

    So in this chart, the solid black line is the actual traffic that you’re getting, whereas the dotted line is the hypothetical traffic you could be getting if all of the technical problems on your site were resolved. So some people see this and say, “Well, you know, if I can just keep fixing technical things, I can keep getting more traffic to my site.”

    That’s one way of looking at it, but I would argue that it’s not the best way of looking at it, because really there are only so many technical things that can go wrong with your site. There’s a finite number of problems. It’s not an opportunity so much as an issue that needs to be resolved. So what I try and encourage my clients and colleagues to do is think about it in this way.

    So it’s the same chart and the same situation. Here’s the actual traffic that you’re getting and the hypothetical traffic you could be getting. But really what’s happening is your technical problems are keeping you from realizing the most potential traffic that you could be capturing. In other words, there are technical issues preventing us from capturing all the traffic that we could. Now, once you’ve framed the problem in this way, how do you solve it?

    So some people just say, “Well, I’ve got this big problem. I need to understand how all the things that could be wrong with this site. I’m just going to dive in. I’m going to go through page by page, and I’ll finish when either I run out of pages or more realistically I run out of time or I run out of the client’s budget. So what if there’s a better way to actually solve that problem and know that it’s been solved?

    Well, that’s what this framework that I’m going to present to you is about. The way that we would recommend doing that is by taking the big problem, the overall problem of technical SEO and breaking it down into subproblems and breaking those down again until you have problems that are so small that they are trivially solvable. Now, I’m going to explain to you exactly how we accomplish that, and it’s going to be a little bit abstract.

    The approach

    So if you want something concrete to follow along with, I’d recommend checking out the blog post at this URL. That’s dis.tl/tech-audit. Okay. So when you have a big problem that you’re trying to break down, many people’s first attempt winds up looking something like this Venn diagram. So we take one problem, break it down into three subproblems, but there’s some sort of overlap between those problems.

    Once there’s overlap, you lose a lot of confidence. There is, are you duplicating effort across these different areas? Or did you miss something because these two things are kind of the same? Everything just gets a little hazy very quickly. So to get past that, what I’ve used at Distilled is this consulting concept called MECE.

    Mutually exclusive and comprehensively exhaustive

    MECE stands for mutually exclusive and comprehensively exhaustive. That’s a lot of fancy words, so I’ll show you pictorially what I mean. So instead of having a Venn diagram like this, what if each of the problems was completely independent? Now they still cover the same area. There’s just no overlap between them, and that’s what MECE means.

    Because there is no overlap between them, they are mutually exclusive. Because they cover all of the original problem, they’re comprehensively exhaustive. So what does this mean in technical SEO specifically? Now remember the problem that we’re dealing with is that there are technical issues preventing us from capturing traffic that we would otherwise be able to. So what are the three ways that that could happen? 

    1. Maybe our content isn’t being indexed. There’s a technical reason our content isn’t being indexed. 
    2. Our content doesn’t rank as well as it could, and therefore we’re losing this traffic. 
    3. There is a technical reason our content isn’t being presented as well as it could be in the SERPs.

    This is things like having rich snippets, stars, things like that that could increase click-through rate. These things seem kind of trivial, but actually all of the technical problems that you can find on your site contribute to one or more of these three categories. So again, that was pretty abstract. So let’s talk about an example of how that actually plays out. This is actually the first technical check in this audit at that blog post.

    An example

    So, for instance, we’re starting by considering there is a technical reason our content isn’t being indexed. Well, what are all the ways that that could happen? One of the ways is that URLs are not discoverable by crawlers, and, again, that is a whole thing in itself that can be broken down further.

    So maybe it’s that our XML sitemaps aren’t uploaded to Google Search Console. Of course, this isn’t a guarantee that we have a problem. But if there’s a problem down here, there’s a pretty good chance that that trickles back up to a problem up here that we’re really concerned about. The beauty of this isn’t just that it winds up helping us create a checklist so that we know all of the technical issues we ought to be looking at.

    

    But it also helps us convey exactly what the meaning is of our findings and why people should care about them. So this is the template that I encourage my colleagues to use at Distilled. “We are seeing ________. This is a problem because something.You should care about that because something else.” The way this works is like Mad Lib style, except we work like inside out.

    So we start with this point here. We are seeing that our XML sitemaps aren’t uploaded to Google Search Console. This is a problem because maybe URLs are not discoverable by crawlers. We should care about that because there is a technical reason our content isn’t being indexed, and that right there is exactly the message that you deliver to your client.

    So again, this is exactly the framework that we use for our technical audits at Distilled. It’s given us a lot more confidence. It’s given us a lot more insight into how long this process should take for our analysts and consultants, and it’s also got us better outcomes particularly because it’s helped us communicate better about what we found. Thank you very much. I would love if more people use this, and feel free to reach out to me personally if you have any thoughts or questions.

    Thank you.

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    7 SEO Title Tag Hacks for Increased Rankings + Traffic – Best of Whiteboard Friday

    Posted by Cyrus-Shepard

    We’re bringing back an oldie but a goodie this Friday! In today’s highly popular throwback, Cyrus Shepard calls out seven super-easy and timeless hacks to keep your title tags clickable in the SERPs. Check them out and share your own with us in the comments below!

    Title tag hacks for increased rankings and traffics

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    Video Transcription

    Howdy, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. I’m very excited to be here today. My name is Cyrus. I’m a Moz associate. Today I want to talk you about title tags, specifically title tag hacks to increase your traffic and rankings.

    Now, you may be asking yourself, “Are title tags even still important today in SEO?” You bet they are. We’ve done a lot of correlation studies in the past. Those correlation studies have shown different things sort of decreasing in the past years. But we’ve also seen a lot of experiments recently where people have changed their title tag and seen a significant, measurable increase in their rankings.

    Now, the other aspect of title tags that people sometimes forget about is the click-through rate that you get, which can measurably increase your traffic if you get the title tag right. Now, what’s neat about increasing your traffic through click-through rate is we’ve seen a lot of experiments, Rand has experimented a lot, that if you can increase this, you can measurably increase this.

    Traffic through increased clicks can seem to increase your rankings under certain circumstances. So you get the dual benefit. So that’s what I want to talk to you about today — increasing those rankings, increasing that traffic by changing the first thing that your visitor is going to see in the SERPs.

    So the important thing to remember is that these are things to experiment with. Not all of these hacks are going to work for you. SEO is founded in best practices, but true success is founded when you experiment and try different things. So try some of these out and these will give you an idea of where to get started in some of your title tag experiments.

    1. Numbers

    Numbers kind of pop out at you. These are examples: “5 Signs of a Zombie Apocalypse” or “How Mutants Can Save 22% on Car Insurance.”

    • Cognitive Bias – Standout specific – When you see these in SERPs, they tend to get a slightly higher click-through rate sometimes. This works because of a cognitive bias. Our brains are trained to find things that stand out and are specific. When you’re scanning search results, that’s a lot of information. So your brain is going to try to find some things that it can grasp on to, and numbers are the ultimate things that are both specific and they stand out. So sometimes, in certain circumstances, you can get a higher click-through rate by using numbers in your title tags.

    2. Dates

    Rand did an excellent Whiteboard Friday a few weeks ago, we’ll link to it below. These are things like “Best Actress Oscar Nominee 2017″ or even more specific, you can get the month in there, “Top NFL Fantasy Draft Picks September 2017.”

    Now, Rand talks about this a lot. He talks about ways of finding dates in your keyword research. The key in that research is when you’re using tools like Keyword Explorer or Google AdWords or SEMrush, you have to look for previous years. So if I was searching for this year’s, we don’t have enough data yet for 2017, so I would look for “Best Actress Oscar Nominee 2016.”

    • Leverage your CMS – If you use WordPress, if you use Yoast plugin, you can actually have your title tags update automatically year-to-year or even month-to-month leveraging that. It’s not right for all circumstances, but for certain keyword queries it works pretty well.

    3. Length

    This is one of the most controversial, something that causes the most angst in SEO is when we’re doing audits or looking at title tags. Inevitably, when you’re doing an SEO audit, you find two things. You find title tags that are way too short, “Pantsuit,” or title tags that are way, way, way too long because they just want to stuff every keyword in there, “Tahiti ASL Red Pantsuit with Line Color, Midrise Belt, Hook-eye Zipper, Herringbone Knit at Macy’s.”

    Now, these two, they’re great title tags, but there are two problems with this. This is way too broad. “Pantsuit” could be anything. This title tag is way too diluted. It’s hard to really know what that is about. You’re trying to scan it. You’re trying to read it. Search engines are going to look at it the same way. Is this about a pantsuit? Is it about herringbone knit? It’s kind of hard.

    • Etsy study – So Etsy recently did a study where Etsy measured hundreds of thousands of URLs and they shortened their title tags, because, more often than not, the longer title tag is a problem. Shorter title tags, not so much. You see longer title tags in the wild more often. When they shortened the title tags, they saw a measurable increase in rankings.
    • 50–60 Characters – This is one of those things where best practices usually is the best way to go because the optimal length is usually 50 to 60 characters.
    • Use top keywords – When you’re deciding what keywords to put it when you’re shortening this, that’s where you want to use your keyword research and find the keywords that your visitors are actually using.

    So if I go into my Analytics or Google Search Console, I can see that people are actually searching for “pantsuit,” “Macy’s,” and maybe something like that. I can come up with a title tag that fits within those parameters, “Tahiti ASL Red Pantsuit,” “pantsuits” the category, “Macy’s.” That’s going to be your winning title tag and you’ll probably see an increase in rankings.

    4. Synonyms and variants

    Now, you’ll notice in this last title tag, the category was a plural of pantsuit. That can actually help in some circumstances. But it’s important to realize that how you think your searchers are searching may not be how they’re actually searching.

    Let’s say you do your keyword research and your top keywords are “cheap taxis.” You want to optimize for cheap taxis. Well, people may be looking for that in different ways. They may be looking for “affordable cabs” or “low cost” or “cheap Ubers,” things like that.

    So you want to use those variants, find out what the synonyms and variants are and incorporate those into your title tag. So my title tag might be “Fast Affordable Cabs, Quick Taxi, Your Cheap Ride.” That’s optimized for like three different things within that 50 to 60 word limit, and it’s going to hit all those variants and you can actually rank a little higher for using that.

    • Use SERPs/keyword tools – The way you find these synonyms and variants, you can certainly look in the SERPs. Type your keyword into the SERPs, into Google and see what they highlight bold in the search results. That will often give you the variants that people are looking for, that people also ask at the bottom of the page. Your favorite keyword tool, such as Keyword Explorer or SEMrush or whatever you choose and also your Analytics. Google Search Console is a great source of information for these synonyms and variants.

    5. Call to action

    Now, you won’t often find the call-to-action words in your keyword research, but they really help people click. These are action verbs.

    • Action wordsbuy, find download, search, listen, watch, learn, and access. When you use these, they give a little bit more excitement because they indicate that the user will be able to do something beyond the keyword. So they’re not necessarily typing it in the search box. When they see it in results, it can create, “Oh wow, I get to download something.” It provides a little something extra, and you can increase your click-through rates that way.

    6. Top referring keywords

    This is a little overlooked, and it’s sort of an advanced concept. Oftentimes we optimize our page for one set of keywords, but the traffic that comes to it is another set of keywords. But what’s very powerful is when people type their words into the search box and they see those exact same words in the title tags, that’s going to increase your click-through rate.

    For an example, I went into the analytics here at Moz and I looked at Followerwonk. I found the top referring keywords in Google Search Console are “Twitter search,” “search Twitter bios,” and “Twitter analytics.” Those are how people or what people are looking for right before they click on the Followerwonk listing in Google.

    So using that information, I might write a title tag like “Search Twitter Bios with Followerwonk, the Twitter Analytics Tool.” That’s a pretty good title tag. I’m kind of proud of that. But you can see it hits all my major keywords that people are using. So when I type in “Twitter analytics” into the search box and I see “The Twitter Analytics Tool,” I’m more likely to click on that.

    So I’ve written about this before, but it’s very important to optimize your page, not only for the traffic you’re trying to get, but the traffic you’re actually receiving. When you can marry those two, you can be stronger in all aspects.

    7. Questions

    Questions are great tools to use in your title tags. These are things like, “Where Do Butterflies Migrate?” Maybe your keyword is just “butterflies migrate.” But by asking a question, you create a curiosity gap, and you give people an incentive to click. Or “What is PageRank?” That’s something we do here at Moz. So you get the curiosity gap.

    But oftentimes, by asking a question, you get the bonus of winning a featured snippet. Britney Muller wrote an awesome, awesome post about this a while back about questions people also ask, how to find those in your keyword research and claim those featured snippets and claim “people also ask” boxes. It’s a great, great way to increase your traffic.

    So these are seven tips. Let us know your tips for title tags in the comments below. If you like this video, I’d appreciate a thumbs up. Share it with your friends on social media. I’ll see you next time. Thanks, everybody.

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