What Readers Want During COVID-19: B2B Edition

Posted by amandamilligan

I couldn’t believe the response to my last post about coming up with content ideas in the B2C space during COVID-19. Thank you to all who read and commented — I truly hope it was helpful.

One piece of feedback we received was an ask to see some B2B content ideas, which, frankly, is an excellent subject. At first I was stumped about how to determine this, but then I decided that a different tool could do the trick.

Exploding Topics, the new tool by Brian Dean (Backlinko) and Josh Howarth, explores topics that are surging in popularity but haven’t hit their peak.

This time around, rather than focusing on specific keywords, I focused on overall trends so we can identify which categories might be of interest to your target businesses and their audiences. Then, you can examine whether these trends make sense for your niche and draw inspiration from them for your content.

All things remote

This trend obviously applies to B2C as well, but it’s an important consideration for B2B. Nearly everything has been either canceled, paused, or moved into the world of the virtual. For many companies and industries, this is uncharted territory, and they need guidance.

There is another category I could have included here that focuses on website and app development, programming, and the open source tools that help people build those types of assets as they lean more into digital.

If you’re not one of these B2B providers, there are still ways to gain inspiration from this data. Consider if your brand can provide:

  • The logistics of how to set up remote platforms
  • Best practices on how to make anything remote more successful and engaging
  • Comparison guides for different tools and solutions
  • The platform for people to lend the help and support they’re hoping to (like in the case of virtual tip jars)
  • Communication tips and solutions to help people stay productively connected

Shipping and delivery

Consumers are interested in having things shipped directly to them, but not everyone has the infrastructure to deal with shipping to begin with, let alone an increased order volume with the (understandable) safety limitations now in place.

Consumers and businesses alike are curious about how to make the shipping and delivery process more effective.

Consider if your brand can provide:

  • Guides for small businesses who’ve never had to ship product before
  • Tips on how companies can message shipping updates and delays to consumers
  • Advice on how to improve the delivery component of a business
  • UX or language tips for updating delivery messaging in apps or on websites

Transactions and payment

As we’re all staying six feet away from each other, we’re also trying not to hand off credit cards (let alone cash). Companies used to brick-and-mortar business models are also needing to adapt to fully digital payment systems.

Not all of these searches apply to business (like Venmo), but they do point to a concern everyone’s having: How do we pay for things now?

Consider if your brand can provide:

  • Answers about privacy or security questions people have regarding digital payments
  • A detailed list of all the payment options available
  • Advice on how to optimize storefronts and purchasing processes
  • Explanations of how payment processes can impact sales, and how to optimize them

Design tools

This section speaks to an overall trend I touched on before: Professionals now build their own assets if they can’t afford to hire web developers, designers, etc. More and more people are trying to figure out how to keep their businesses going when they can’t keep on as much staff or hire as many contractors.

Perhaps you can identify what your target audience might be struggling with and suggest free or inexpensive online tools to help.

Consider if your brand can provide:

  • A list of tools that can assist your target audience in communicating, organizing, creating, etc.
  • Design advice to help them get up to speed as quickly as possible
  • Resources in how to complete tasks on a smaller team
  • Recommendations for what should be prioritized when money is tight

Ethical trends

This is perhaps the most fascinating trend I saw arise. The four brands below have something in common: they all have to do with either sustainability or a transparent, mission-driven approach.

My theory is now that people don’t have as much disposable income, they’re becoming more mindful in their shopping choices, selecting items they believe match their own values.

Consider if your brand can provide:

  • A greater level of analysis on this potential trend
  • Research into how the consumer perspective has shifted during COVID-19
  • Advice on how to potentially shift marketing, branding, and advertising messaging
  • Tips on how your target audience can better understand their marketing during this tumultuous time

And finally (*sigh of relief*), marketing

Yes, as I was doing my research, my instinct that marketing would remain crucial during this time was confirmed.

That doesn’t mean you won’t lose business. We’ve had clients pull back because even though they’d like to keep marketing, keeping the company afloat by fulfilling their product orders and services and paying their employees will always (and very understandably) come first by a long shot.

But for businesses that can still afford marketing, they’ll likely need it, and they’re looking for the tools and insight they need to thrive.

Consider if your brand can provide:

  • Marketing 101 tips for smaller businesses
  • Specific how-to guides for different aspects of inbound or outbound marketing
  • Tool recommendations to help people get marketing tasks done quickly and cheaply
  • Advice on the kind of marketing that’s most successful during an economic downturn


Remember: This is only for inspiration. What matters most is what your target audience needs and wants. Put yourself in their shoes to be able to best address their challenges and concerns.

But hopefully some of these concepts spark some ideas for how your B2B brand can provide value to your target audiences. Companies around the world are looking for guidance and support now more than ever, and if you’re in a position to provide it to them, your content can go a long way in building trust.

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Content Authority: Potential Measures of Authoritative Content – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by rjonesx.

When it boils down to it, every idea in SEO can be understood as a set of measurements we use to rank one page over another. And that means that when it comes to measuring a concept like the authoritativeness of your content, there are almost certainly factors that you can analyze and tweak to improve it. 

But if Google were to use a measure of content authority, what might go into it? Against what yardstick should SEOs be measuring their content’s E-A-T? In this episode of Whiteboard Friday, Russ Jones walks us through a thought experiment as to what exactly might constitute a “content authority” score and how you can begin to understand your content’s expertise like Google.

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

Video Transcription

Hey, folks, this is Russ Jones here with another Whiteboard Friday, and today we’re going to have fun. Well, at least fun for me, because this is completely speculative. We’re going to be talking about this concept of content authority and just some ideas around ways in which we might be able to measure it.

Maybe Google uses these ways to measure it, maybe not. But at the same time, hopefully what we’ll be able to do is come up with a better concept of metrics we can use to get at content authority. 

Now, we know there’s a lot of controversy around this. Google has said quite clearly that expertise, authority, and trustworthiness are very important parts of their Quality Rater Guidelines, but the information has been pretty flimsy on exactly what part of the algorithm helps determine exactly this type of content.

We do know that they aren’t using the quality rater data to train the algorithm, but they are using it to reject algorithm changes that don’t actually meet these standards. 

How do we measure the authoritativeness of content?

So how can we go about measuring content authority? Ultimately, any kind of idea that we talk about in search engine optimization has to boil down in some way, shape, or form to a set of measurements that are being made and in somehow shape or form being used to rank one page over another.

Now sometimes it makes sense just to kind of feel it, like if you’re writing for humans, be a human. But authoritative content is a little bit more difficult than that. It’s a little harder to just off the top of your head know that this content is authoritative and this isn’t. In fact, the Quality Rater Guidelines are really clear in some of the examples of what would be considered really highly authoritative content, like, for example, in the News section they mention that it’s written by a Pulitzer Prize winning author.

Well, I don’t know how many of you have Pulitzer Prize winning authors on your staff or whose clients have Pulitzer Prize winning authors. So I don’t exactly see how that’s particularly helpful to individuals like ourselves who are trying to produce authoritative content from a position of not being an award-winning writer.

So today I want to just go through a whole bunch of ideas, that have been running through my head with the help of people from the community who’ve given me some ideas and bounced things off, that we might be able to use to do a better job of understanding authoritative content. All right.


So these are what I would consider some of the potential measures of authoritative content. The first one, and this is just going to open up a whole rat’s nest I’m sure, but okay, ALBERT. We’ve talked about the use of BERT for understanding language by Google. Well, ALBERT, which stands for “a lighter BERT,” is a similar model used by Google, and it’s actually been trained in specific circumstances for the goal of answering questions.

Now that might not seem like a particularly big deal. We’ve been doing question answering for a whole long time. Featured snippets are exactly that. But ALBERT has jumped on the scene in such a dominant fashion as to have eclipsed anything we’ve really seen in this kind of NLP problem.

So if you were to go to the SQuAD dataset competition, which is Stanford’s Question Answering competition, where they’ve got these giant set of questions and giant set of documents and then they had humans go in and find the answers in the documents and say which documents don’t have answers and which do, and then all sorts of different organizations have produced models to try and automatically find the answers.

Well, this competition has just been going back and forth and back and forth for a really long time between a bunch of heavy hitters, like Google, Baidu, multiple Microsoft teams. We’re talking the smartest people in the world, the Allen Institute, all fighting back and forth.

Well, right now, ALBERT or variations thereof have the top 5 positions and 9 of the top 10 positions, and all of them perform better than humans. That is dominance. So we’ve got right here this incredible technology for answering questions.

Well, what does this have to do with content authority? Why in the world would this matter? Well, if you think about a document, any kind of piece of content that we produce, the intention is that we’re going to be answering the questions that our customers want answered. So any topic we start with, let’s say the topic we started with was data science, well, there are probably a lot of questions people want to know about that topic.

They might want to know: What is a data scientist? How much money do they make? What kind of things do you need to know to be a data scientist? Well, this is where something like ALBERT could come in and be extremely valuable for measuring the authoritativeness of the content. You see, what if one of the measures of the authoritative content is how well that content answers all of the related questions to the topic?

So you could imagine Google looking at all of the pages that rank for data science, and they know the top 10 questions that are asked about it, and then seeing which piece of content answers those 10 questions best. If they were able to do that, that would be a pretty awesome metric for determining how thorough and how significant and valuable and useful and authoritative that content is.

So I think this one, the ALBERT algorithm really has a lot of potential. But let’s move on from that. There are all sorts of other things that might have to do with content authority. 

2. Information density

One that I really like is this idea of information density. So a lot of times when we’re writing content, especially when we’re not familiar with the topic, we end up writing a lot of fluff.

We kind of are just putting words in there to meet the word length that is expected by the contract, even though we know deep down that the number of words on the page really doesn’t determine whether or not it’s going to rank. So one of the ways that you can get at whether a piece of content is actually valuable or not or at least is providing important information is using natural language programs to extract information.

ReVerb + OpenIE

Well, the probably most popular NLP open source or at least openly available technology started as a project called ReVerb and now has merged into the Open IE project. But essentially, you can give it a piece of content, and it will extract out all of the factual claims made by that content.

So if I gave it a paragraph that said tennis is a sport that’s played with a racket and a ball and today I’m having a lot of fun, something of that sort, it would be able to identify the factual claim, what tennis is, that it’s a sport played with a racket and a ball.

But it would ignore the claim that I’m having a lot of fun today, because that’s not really a piece of information, a factual claim that we’re making. So the concept of information density would be the number of facts that can be extracted from a document versus the total number of words. All right.

If we had that measurement, then we could pretty easily sift through content that is just written for length versus content that is really information rich. Just imagine a Wikipedia article, how dense the information is in there relative to the type of content that most of us produce. So what are some other things? 

3. Content style

Let’s talk about content style.

This would be a really easy metric. We could talk about the use of in-line citations, which Wikipedia does, in which after stating a fact they then link to the bottom of the page where it shows you the citation, just like you would do if you were writing a paper in college or a thesis, something that would be authoritative. Or the use of fact lists or tables of contents, like Wikipedia does, or using datelines accurately or AP style formatting.

These are all really simple metrics that, if you think about it, the types of sites that are more trustworthy more often use. If that’s the case, then they might be hints to Google that the content that you’re producing is authoritative. So those aren’t the only easy ones that we could look at. 

4. Writing quality

There are a lot of other ones that are pretty straightforward, like dealing with writing quality.

How easy is it to make sure you are using correct spelling and correct grammar? But have you ever looked at the reading level? Has it ever occurred to you to make sure that the content that you’re writing isn’t written at a level so difficult that no one can understand it, or is written at a level so low as to be certainly not thorough and not authoritative? If your content is written at a third-grade level and the page is about some health issue, I imagine Google could use that metric pretty quickly to exclude your site.

There are also things like sentence length, which deals with readability, the uniqueness of the content, and also the word usage. This is a pretty straightforward one. Imagine that once again we’re looking at data science, and Google looks at the words you use on your page. Then maybe instead of looking at all sites that mention data science, Google only looks at edu sites or Google only looks at published papers and then compares the language usage there.

That would be a pretty easy way for Google to identify a piece of content that’s meant for consumers that is authoritative versus one that’s meant for consumers and isn’t. 

5. Media styles

Another thing we can look at is media styles. This is something that is a little bit more difficult to understand how Google might actually be able to take advantage of.

But at the same time, I think that these are measurable and easy for search engine optimizers, like ourselves, to use. 

Annotated graphs

One would be annotated graphs. I think we should move away from graph images and move more towards using open source graphing libraries. That way the actual factual information, the numbers can be provided to Google in the source code.

Unique imagery

Unique imagery is obviously something that we would care about. In fact, it’s actually listed in the Quality Rater Guidelines. 


Then finally, accessibility matters. I know that accessibility doesn’t make content authoritative, but it does say something about the degree to which a person has cared about the details of the site and of the page. There’s a really famous story about, and I can’t remember what the band’s name was, but they wrote into their contracts that for every concert they needed to have a bowl of M&Ms, with all of the brown M&Ms removed, waiting for them in the room.

Now it wasn’t because they had a problem with the brown M&Ms or they really liked M&Ms or anything of that sort. It was just to make sure that they read the contract. Accessibility is kind of one of those things of where they can tell if you sweat the details or not. 

6. Clickbait titles, author quality, and Google Scholar

Now finally, there are a couple of others that I think are interesting and really have to be talked about. The first is clickbait titles.

Clickbait titles

This is explicitly identified as something that Google looks at or at least the quality raters look at in order to determine that content is not authoritative. Make your titles say what they mean, not try to exaggerate to get a click. 

Author quality

Another thing they say specifically is do you mention your author qualifications. Sure, you don’t have a Pulitzer Prize writer, but your writer has some sort of qualifications, at least hopefully, and those qualifications are going to be important for Google in assessing whether or not the author actually knows what they’re talking about.

Google Scholar

Another thing that I think we really ought to start looking at is Google Scholar. How much money do you think Google makes off of Google Scholar? Probably not very much. What’s the point of having a giant database of academic information when you don’t run ads on any of the pages? Well, maybe that academic information can be mined in a way so that they can judge the content that is made for consumers as to whether or not it is in line with, whether we’re talking about facts or language or authoritativeness, with what academia is saying about that same topic.

Now, course, all of these ideas are just ideas. We’ve got a giant question mark sitting out there about exactly how Google gets at content authority. That doesn’t mean we should ignore it. So hopefully these ideas will help you come up with some ideas to improve your own content, and maybe you could give me some more ideas in the comment section.

That would be great and we could talk more about how those might be measured. I’m looking forward to it. Thanks again.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Announcing: The Keyword Research Master Guide [New for 2020]

Posted by Cyrus-Shepard

Why a new guide?

Often in SEO, we get so preoccupied with technical SEO (pagination, site speed, the latest Python course, etc.) that we forget the basis of winning SEO begins and ends with keywords.

  • Not choosing keywords before you start with SEO means shooting in the dark — a likely losing gamble if your content will succeed or not.
  • Choosing the wrong keywords means wasting your time and budget on content that will never gain visibility in search results.
  • Conversely, choosing smart, targeted keywords can help carve out and dominate a traffic niche that raises you above the competition.

No doubt, the difference between good SEOs and mediocre SEOs is often their keyword research strategy.

Here at Moz, a question we often hear after people finish reading the famous Beginner’s Guide to SEO is: What do I read next?

To give people a practical place to start, we wanted to provide you with concrete keyword research workflows. It’s as if you’re looking over our shoulder as we do strategic keyword research.

We also included a few intermediate-to-advanced concepts, such as keyword grouping, understanding keyword priority, and on-page keyword optimization.

And finally, we wanted to make sure it was free.

If you want, feel free to jump to the guide now, or read below about what the guide covers and how it differs from any other guide on keyword research.


1. Understanding seed keywords

We call them “seed” keywords because all your other keywords grow out of them. Finding the right seed keywords will absolutely make or break your entire keyword research strategy.

Finding the right seed keywords is about asking and answering three key questions:

  1. What do you think you want to rank for?
  2. What do you already rank for?
  3. What do your competitors rank for?

After this, you validate your answers with data to find the absolute best seeds.

We also show you the exact process and tools we use to extract these seeds, such as Google Search Console (shown below).

The cool thing about seed keywords is this: they grow more seeds! Once you find the right seeds, you can reiterate the process again and again to grow a complete keyword strategy for an entire site, even one that’s thousands of pages.

Read Chapter 1: Seed Keywords

2. Building perfect keyword lists

This is where the rubber hits the road. Here you expand your seed keywords into complete lists. These lists support multiple pages and topics, and can even grow more seeds.

This is also the place you want to be as comprehensive as possible, in order to uncover the opportunities your competition probably missed.

Read Chapter 2: Keyword Lists

3. Prioritizing keywords

Nearly any old keyword tool can give you lists of hundreds or thousands of keywords. The secret to success is knowing which keywords to prioritize and pursue.

Which keywords will actually prove profitable? Which keywords can you actually rank for?

To answer these questions, we do a deep dive into the keyword metrics that help us to prioritize our keyword lists:

  • Relevance
  • Monthly volume
  • Keyword difficulty
  • Organic click-through rate (CTR)
  • Priority

Understanding how to use these metrics goes a long way in choosing the exact right keywords to invest in.

Read Chapter 3: Prioritizing Keywords

4. Grouping keywords

Keywords never exist in a vacuum. Instead, they almost always appear with other keywords.

Adding related keywords to a page is a smart strategy for increasing topical relevance. At the same time, trying to target too many keywords on the same page may dilute their relevance and make it more difficult to rank.

Here, we show you techniques to address both of these problems:

  1. When to create separate pages for each keyword
  2. How to group related keywords together

We’ll also show you some grouping tips to help set you up for your next task: on-page keyword optimization.

Read Chapter 4: Grouping Keywords

5. On-page keyword optimization

Very few keyword research guides ever even mention on-page keyword optimization.

We wanted to do better.

Because keyword research uncovers intent, this is a great starting point for on-page optimization. If you understand not only what your users are searching for, but also what they expect to find, you can better create your content to satisfy their expectations.

We’ve also included a brief overview of where and how to incorporate keywords on the page. While this section is mostly beginner level, more immediate SEOs should find the refresher useful.

Read Chapter 5: On-page Keyword Optimization

6. Tracking keyword rankings

If you’re a consultant, agency, in-house SEO, or simply work for yourself, you want to know how your keywords perform in search engines.

Traditionally, keyword tracking was synonymous with “ranking” — but times have changed. Today, with personalization, localization, and shifting competitive environments, keyword tracking has grown much more sophisticated.

In this chapter, we’ll cover:

  1. Traditional keyword ranking
  2. Local rank tracking
  3. Rank indexes
  4. Share of Voice (SOV) and visibility

By the end of this chapter, you’ll understand which type of keyword tracking is right for you, and how to report these numbers to the people who matter.

Read Chapter 6: Tracking Keyword Rankings

7. Keyword research tools and resources

Bonus time!

We couldn’t squeeze everything in the previous chapters, so we added all our extra resources here. The crème de la crème is the Keyword Research Cheat Sheet. You can download, print, share with your team, or pin to your wall.

We’ve also made a handy list of our favorite keyword research tools, along with a few other useful resources on keyword research.


We hope you enjoy! Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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How the test was split up and the layouts we wanted to test for

How Google SERP Layouts Affect Searching Behavior

Posted by Stephen_Job

There are several studies (and lots of data) out there about how people use Google SERPs, what they ignore, and what they focus on. An example is Moz’s recent experiment testing whether SEOs should continue optimizing for featured snippets or not (especially now that Google has announced that if you have a featured snippet, you no longer appear elsewhere in the search results).

Two things I have never seen tested are the actual user reactions to and behavior with SERPs. My team and I set out to test these ourselves, and this is where biometric technology comes into play.

What is biometric technology and how can marketers use it?

Biometric technology measures physical and behavioral characteristics. By combining the data from eye tracking devices, galvanic skin response monitors (which measure your sweat levels, allowing us to measure subconscious reactions), and facial recognition software, we can gain useful insight into behavioral patterns.

We’re learning that biometrics can be used in a broad range of settings, from UX testing for websites, to evaluating consumer engagement with brand collateral, and even to measuring emotional responses to TV advertisements. In this test, we also wanted to see if it could be used to help give us an understanding of how people actually interact with Google SERPs, and provide insight into searching behavior more generally.

The plan

The goal of the research was to assess the impact that SERP layouts and design have on user searching behavior and information retrieval in Google.

To simulate natural searching behavior, our UX and biometrics expert Tom Pretty carried out a small user testing experiment. Users were asked to perform a number of Google searches with the purpose of researching and buying a new mobile phone. One of the goals was to capture data from every point of a customer journey.

Participants were given tasks with specific search terms at various stages of purchasing intent. While prescribing search terms limited natural searching behavior, it was a sacrifice made to ensure the study had the best chance of achieving consistency in the SERPs presented, and so aggregated results could be gained.

The tests were run on desktop, although in the future we have plans to expand the study on mobile.

Users began each task on the Google homepage. From there, they informed the moderator when they found the information they were looking for. At that point they proceeded to the next task.

How the test was split up and the layouts we wanted to test for

Data inputs

  • Eye tracking
  • Facial expression analysis
  • Galvanic skin response (GSR)

Data sample

  • 20 participants

Key objectives

  • Understand gaze behavior on SERPs (where people look when searching)
  • Understand engagement behavior on SERPs (where people click when searching)
  • Identify any emotional responses to SERPs (what happens when users are presented with ads?)
  • Interaction analysis with different types of results (e.g. ads, shopping results, map packs, Knowledge Graph, rich snippets, PAAs, etc.).

Research scenario and tasks

We told participants they were looking to buy a new phone and were particularly interested in an iPhone XS. They were then provided with a list of tasks to complete, each focused on searches someone might make when buying a new phone. Using the suggested search terms for each task was a stipulation of participation.


  1. Find out the screen size and resolution of the iPhone XS
    Search term: iPhone XS size and resolution
  2. Find out the talk time battery life of the iPhone XS
    Search term: iPhone XS talk time
  3. Find reviews for the iPhone XS that give a quick list of pros and cons
    Search term: iPhone XS reviews
  4. Find the address and phone number of a phone shop in the town center that may be able to sell you an iPhone XS
    Search term: Phone shops near me
  5. Find what you feel is the cheapest price for a new iPhone XS (handset only)
    Search term: Cheapest iPhone XS deals
  6. Find and go on to buy a used iPhone XS online (stop at point of data entry)
    Search term: Buy used iPhone XS

We chose all of the search terms first for ease of correlating data. (If everyone had searched for whatever they wanted, we may not have gotten certain SERP designs displayed.) And second, so we could make sure that everyone who took part got exactly the same results within Google. We needed the searches to return a featured snippet, the Google Knowledge Graph, Google’s “People also ask” feature, as well as shopping feeds and PPC ads.

On the whole, this was successful, although in a few cases there were small variations in the SERP presented (even when the same search term had been used from the same location with a clear cache).

“When designing a study, a key concern is balancing natural behaviors and giving participants freedom to interact naturally, with ensuring we have assets at the end that can be effectively reported on and give us the insights we require.” — Tom Pretty, UX Consultant, Coast Digital

The results

Featured Snippets

This was the finding that our in-house SEOs were most interested in. According to a study by Ahrefs, featured snippets get 8.6% of clicks while 19.6% go to the first natural search below it, but when no featured snippet is present, 26% of clicks go to the first result. At the time, this meant that having a featured snippet wasn’t terrible, especially if you could gain a featured snippet but weren’t ranking first for a term. who doesn’t want to have real estate above a competitor?

However, with Danny Sullivan of Google announcing that if you appear in a featured snippet, you will no longer appear anywhere else in the search engine results page, we started to wonder how this would change what SEOs thought about them. Maybe we would see a mass exodus of SEOs de-optimising pages for featured snippets so they could keep their organic ranking instead. Moz’s recent experiment estimated a 12% drop in traffic to pages that lose their featured snippet, but what does this mean about user behavior?

What did we find out?

In the information-based searches, we found that featured snippets actually attracted the most fixations. They were consistently the first element viewed by users and were where users spent the most time gazing. These tasks were also some of the fastest to be completed, indicating that featured snippets are successful in giving users their desired answer quickly and effectively.

All of this indicates that featured snippets are hugely important real estate within a SERP (especially if you are targeting question-based keywords and more informational search intent).

In both information-based tasks, the featured snippet was the first element to be viewed (within two seconds). It was viewed by the highest number of respondents (96% fixated in the area on average), and was also clicked most (66% of users clicked on average).

People also ask

The “People also ask” (PAA) element is an ideal place to find answers to question-based search terms that people are actively looking for, but do users interact with them?

What did we find out?

From the results, after looking at a featured snippet, searchers skipped over the PAA element to the standard organic results. Participants did gaze back at them, but clicks in those areas were extremely low, thus showing limited engagement. This behavior indicates that they are not distracting users or impacting how they journey through the SERP in any significant way.

Knowledge Graph

One task involved participants searching using a keyword that would return the Google Knowledge Graph. The goal was to find out the interaction rate, as well as where the main interaction happened and where the gaze went.

What did we find out?

Our findings indicate that when a search with purchase intent is made (e.g. “deals”), then the Knowledge Graph attracts attention sooner, potentially because it includes visible prices.

By also introducing heat map data, we can see that the pricing area on the Knowledge Graph picked up significant engagement, but there was still a lot of attention focused on the organic results.

Essentially, this shows that while the knowledge graph is useful space, it does not wholly detract from the main SERP column. Users still resort to paid ads and organic listings to find what they are looking for.

Location searches

We have all seen data in Google Search Console with “near me” under certain keywords, and there is an ongoing discussion of why, or how, to optimise for them. From a pay-per-click (PPC) point of view, should you even bother trying to appear in them? By introducing such a search term in the study, we were hoping to answer some of these questions.

What did we find out?

From the fixation data, we found that most attention was dedicated to the local listings rather than the map or organic listings. This would indicate that the greater amount of detail in the local listings was more engaging.

However, in a different SERP variant, the addition of the product row led to users spending a longer time reviewing the SERP and expressing more negative emotions. This product row addition also changed gaze patterns, causing users to progress through each element in turn, rather than skipping straight to the local results (which appeared to be more useful in the previous search).

This presentation of results being deemed irrelevant or less important by the searcher could be the main cause of the negative emotion and, more broadly, could indicate general frustration at having obstacles put in the way of finding the answer directly.

Purchase intent searching

For this element of the study, participants were given queries that indicate someone is actively looking to buy. At this point, they have carried out the educational search, maybe even the review search, and now they are intent on purchasing.

What did we find out?

For “buy” based searches, the horizontal product bar operates effectively, picking up good engagement and clicks. Users still focused on organic listings first, however, before returning to the shopping bar.

The addition of Knowledge Graph results for this type of search wasn’t very effective, picking up little engagement in the overall picture.

These results indicate that the shopping results presented at the top of the page play a useful role when searching with purchasing intent. However, in both variations, the first result was the most-clicked element in the SERP, showing that a traditional PPC or organic listing remains highly effective at this point in the customer journey.

Galvanic skin response

Looking at GSR when participants were on the various SERPs, there is some correlation between the self-reported “most difficult” tasks and a higher than normal GSR.

For the “talk time” task in particular, the featured snippet presented information for the iPhone XS Max, not the iPhone XS model, which was likely the cause of the negative reaction as participants had to spend longer digging into multiple information sources.

For the “talk time” SERP, the challenges encountered when incorrect data was presented within a featured snippet likely caused the high difficulty rating.

What does it all mean?

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the largest study in the world, but it was a start. Obviously, running this study again with greater numbers would be the ideal and would help firm up some of the findings (and I for one, would love to see a huge chunk of people take part).

That being said, there are some solid conclusions that we can take away:

  1. The nature of the search greatly changes the engagement behavior, even when similar SERP layouts are displayed. (Which is probably why they are so heavily split tested).
  2. Featured snippets are highly effective for information-based searching, and while they led to some 33% of users choosing not to follow through to the site after finding the answer, two-thirds still clicked through to the website (which is very different from the data we have seen in previous studies).
  3. Local listings (especially when served without a shopping bar) are engaging and give users essential information in an effective format.
  4. Even with the addition of Knowledge Graph, “People also ask”, and featured snippets, more traditional PPC ads and SEO listings still play a big role in searching behavior.

Featured snippets are not the worst thing in the world (contrary to the popular knee-jerk reaction from the SEO industry after Google’s announcement). All that has changed is that now you have to work out what featured snippets are worth it for your business (instead of trying to just claim all of them). On purely informational or educational searches, they actually performed really well. People stayed fixated on them for a fairly lengthy period of time, and 66% clicked through. However, we also have an example of people reacting badly to the featured snippet when it contained irrelevant or incorrect information.

The findings also give some weight to the fact that a lot of SEO is now about context. What do users expect to see when they search a certain way? Are they expecting to see lots of shopping feeds (they generally are if it’s a purchasing intent keyword), but at the same time, they wouldn’t expect to see them in an educational search.

What now?

Hopefully, you found this study useful and learned something new about search behavior . Our next goal is to increase the amount of people in the study to see if a bigger data pool confirms our findings, or shows us something completely unexpected.

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Why Site Speed Still Matters (Revisited)

Posted by mwiegand

The marketing stack dictates infrastructure before content

Success in an earned media channel like organic search hinges on content. Specifically, on producing helpful content that has the ability to rank. Google has focused its recent algorithmic updates largely on promoting great content and natural links, and penalizing weak content with unscrupulous links (see also: Medic, BERT, and its legacy predecessors like Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird).

But as SEO professionals prioritize content recommendations, keyword research, and link acquisition strategies (the more immediate factors in obtaining rankings), they risk devaluing technical changes — including site speed — that absolutely make clients more money on their existing organic audiences.

No content or channel initiative works without infrastructure (i.e. fast websites) and analytics. They are foundational to digital marketing success.

Content marketing is undeniably effective at getting sites to rank in search engines, which might satiate a client’s curiosity about what SEO can do for their visibility. And you might even be able to get slow sites to rank consistently, but the lack of attention to infrastructure will eventually come back to haunt you in conversion rates.

Site speed study

Sending prospective customers generated by good content to websites with slow experiences erodes trust literally by the second.

Our latest site speed study refresh looked at 10 websites spanning a number of industries and 26,000 different landing pages, ranging in performance from extremely slow pages (upwards of 9 seconds) to extremely fast (under one second).

The results showed that every second you can shave off your page load speed has intense conversion rate benefits that defy differences in verticals or selling approaches.

Pages that loaded in under one second converted at a rate around 2.5 times higher than pages that loaded slower than five seconds or more.

But the gains weren’t limited to fast vs. slow pages. The difference in conversion rates between “fast” pages (two-second load times) and “really fast” pages (under one second) was also more than double. This brings me to my next point.

Users will demand even faster sites

We first ran this survey in 2014 and, compared to today, the difference between “really fast” sites and “fast” sites wasn’t as stark as it is now. When we run it again in five years, expect the difference to be even more dramatic. Why? 5G adoption.

Ericsson’s mobility report, run back in November of last year, predicted 5G coverage would cover 65% of the world’s population in 2025.

Another study run by Parks Associates last April shows that, while gigabit internet adoption has slowed in the US, worldwide broadband adoption is expected to reach one billion households worldwide by 2023.

When you factor in both those trends, the only thing throttling a mobile or desktop user’s experience will be poor web infrastructure.

Prioritizing site speed

If you’ve read this far, then you’ll agree the conversion rate benefits of a fast site are significant and the marketplace demand for fast user experiences is widening quickly. But what practical steps should you take toward a faster page speed and which of those steps should you prioritize?

Moz, of course, has a great guide on page speed best practices. From that list, you have the following recommendations:

  • Enable compression
  • Minify JavaScript, CSS, and HTML
  • Rede redirects
  • Remove render-blocking JavaScript
  • Leverage browser caching
  • Improve server response time
  • Use a content distribution network (CDN)
  • Optimize images and video

If you were to reorder those recommendations in terms of difficulty to implement for the average search marketer and impact on site speed, it would probably go something like this:

Low difficulty, low impact

Optimize images and video

Marketers at any skill level can install a WordPress plugin like Smush and automatically reduce the size of any image uploaded in a piece of new or existing content. It saves a surprising amount of time when every image on a page is appropriately sized and compressed.

Minify JavaScript, CSS, and HTML

Minifying code is another quick win. There are plenty of tools out there that minify code, like minifycode.com. These tools essentially strip out all the spaces in the code, which can save a few kilobytes of size here and there. Those add up across an entire experience. It may take a developer to put these changes into place, but anybody can copy and paste code into the tools and send the minified version to the team doing the work.

Remove render-blocking JavaScript

Migrating to a tag management platform like Google Tag Manager can take the JavaScript weight off of your pages and put them in a container where they can load as fast or as slow as they need to without impairing the rest of the content or functionality on the page. Tag Managers are really easy to use for non-technical folks, too!

Medium difficulty, medium impact

The three recommendations below can be a little harder depending on who manages your CMS or existing web server. It could be as easy as clicking a checkbox, or as difficult as writing custom redirect rules on your setup. You’ll probably need to consult with either an IT and/or web developer to get these done.

Reduce redirects

Most SEOs can relay a URL redirect map to a client or internal stakeholder to determine server-side redirects with ease. But some sites include more complicated client-side redirect schemes using JavaScript. Working with a front end developer to tackle changes to script-based redirects can be tricky if those JS files impact the site functionality in other material ways.

Enable compression

Enabling compression in Apache or IIS is a pretty straightforward process, but requires access to servers and htaccess files that IT organizations are reluctant to hand marketers control over.

Leverage browser caching

Similarly, browser caching of website resources that don’t change very often is easy to do if you have control of the htaccess file. If you don’t, there are caching plugins or extensions for various CMS platforms that marketers can install to manage these settings.

High difficulty, high impact

Improve server response time

Common ways to improve response times include finding a more reliable web hosting service, optimizing databases that deliver functionality to the site, and monitoring PHP usages. Again, all these things fall under IT purview and require additional decision-makers and costs to execute.

Use a content distribution network (CDN)

Adopting a CDN can be time-consuming, expensive (hundreds or thousands of dollars per month per domain depending on site traffic), and require expertise that the average marketer or consultant doesn’t have to enable. But if you can do it, studies suggest Google is measuring time to first byte as a ranking factor and the payoffs can be huge.

Godspeed, everyone!

Hopefully, this inspires you to go out and make progress on site speed initiatives in your organization or for your clients. Not only is it worth the undertaking from a business perspective, but it’s actively making the internet a better place to be for the average person. Those are both things every search marketer can be proud of.

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Matter. How SEOs Can Help… Now – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by rjonesx.

As SEOs, we hold a surprising amount of influence over how the world gets its information. In times like these, when businesses of all stripes are facing uncertainty and we may be looking for ways to help, the skills you use in your day job can be your superpower. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Russ Jones outlines five ways SEOs can make a difference amid the chaos of COVID-19 — just by doing your job and doing it well.

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

Video Transcription

Hey, folks. This is Russ Jones here, Adjunct Search Scientist at Moz and Principal Search Scientist at System1. Today is my first day giving a Whiteboard Friday from my home here in Cary, North Carolina.

Unfortunately, it’s with a somber attitude as many of you are at home right now realizing what’s going on in the world. Normally, at this time of night, I figured I’d be having a scotch, so maybe I’ll start with that. You see, we all need to relax a bit because things are tough and difficult.

But at the same time one of the things that’s been troubling me a lot lately through this whole crisis has been how much do I matter? How do I make myself matter? Now, sure, I’ve got kids and a wife, so I work and I do things that help them to thrive.

But in my day-to-day job, most of what I do is work on search engine optimization and trying to get sites to rank, which can sometimes be really good and sometimes be really bad, and most of the time it’s just somewhere in the middle. You’re helping businesses do better.

How can SEOs help now?

But in a time like this, it almost feels like there’s a calling for us to do something more. Today I want to talk a little bit about some of the ideas I’ve had on how as search engine optimizers and web professionals in general we might be able to matter just a little bit more and make just a little bit more of a difference during this pressing time.

So let’s start off. How can SEOs help now? 

1. Combat misinformation

Well, I think one of the first things that search engine optimizers have the ability to do obviously is to influence the search results. But we know right now that a serious problem that’s plaguing social media and search engines and really just to all information in general is misinformation, information getting out there about what works and what doesn’t to try and help stop the coronavirus.

Whether this information is well-intentioned or not is of no impact if it actually does cause harm. So as a search engine optimizer, one of the things that you have the ability to do is actually try and help out the sites that deserve to rank, the sites that are providing information.

I noticed if you were to search in Google for alternate cures for COVID, the first two things that would come up were colloidal silver and garlic. It seems like for some reason everything can be cured with the same stuff that kills vampires and werewolves. I’m not sure where this came from, but regardless it’s there.

It’s in the SERPs. In fact, you can search right now for how to cure COVID-19 with silver, and you’ll find sites that rank that try and tell you this works, and we know it doesn’t. So I’m not telling you that we should Google-bomb everybody out there who has a good website that’s doing the right thing and providing good information.

But perhaps when you’re writing your blog posts or presenting information online to your customers about COVID-19, you should take the time to think about: Who can I link to, what sites can I link to that are going to give information that will help my customers, and not just think of them as customers, but help their families?

So when you write an article about the discount that your business is offering, perhaps you might want to link to maybe the CDC’s website, which will list off the different treatments available. Or if you run a local business, perhaps you can list off the various sites which are available for COVID testing. Now there are lots of different ways that we can go about this, and I’m not going to give you a list of sites that you should link to.

But there are probably sites that you visit almost every day, checking on the stats, seeing how things are going, and perhaps you should share those with the world and share them in a way that can make Google better. 

2. Hire the best writers

Now the second thing that I want to bring up right now is actually an interesting opportunity. You see, right now, a lot of professionals, a lot of experts are simply out of work.

You see, as much as it’s nice to be a search engine optimizer and work on a computer where you could be on the beach or in the basement or in a cubicle if you have to, but where you can work from anywhere, that’s just not the case for most people in America. In fact, a recent study came out and said that only 40% of jobs could possibly be completed remotely, and that’s possibly.

That’s not meaning that they will be or that it’s easy to or efficient to or effective to, just possible. That number is staggering. But there is one thing that we can tap into in these times, and that thing we can tap into is expertise.

You see, we always talk about producing evergreen content for our clients. I just gave a Whiteboard Friday a couple of days back about how it’s difficult, as an SEO, to write content about things you are not an expert in. Well, for once, it turns out that there are lots of experts who need work and who would be let’s just say the best opportunity you will ever have to produce truly evergreen content.

I mean think about the various areas of experts that are available to you. Hospitality, think about calling your local hotel and asking whether or not they can put you in touch with any concierge staff, even just by email. They know more about your city and about what tourists or individuals want in that city than perhaps anybody else.

Or you could talk about travel agents, and the same sort of information could be available to your website. You can understand how that if you’re an SEO that works with a lot of local businesses, works with say a couple of different restaurants, well, then this concierge can then help provide you with third-party, unbiased information about these types of restaurants.

Then you can assist in the process of helping these restaurants move to an online and delivery service during their time of need. The same thing is true with entertainment. Recently an old employee of mine offered to fix the jingle, to come up with a new intro for some video production that Moz had made in the past. He’s an incredibly talented individual. Luckily, he’s also an SEO, so he can work remotely. But at the same time, maybe there’s an opportunity to work with a truly talented artist or a truly talented musician to make the kinds of changes to your brand that you’ve always wanted to but have never been able to get access to.

Maybe the same thing is true if you’re an information website and you write about sports, for example. Just because games aren’t going on doesn’t mean that the history of the sport doesn’t need to be reported on and that there isn’t an opportunity to produce some of the best content, the most reflective content that’s ever existed on the web.

3. Adwords SMB credits

Then third I think we can tap into almost any kind of sales representative out there. These people not only pride themselves on the knowledge, but the knowledge that they have of the products that they sell is what makes them able to sell it. These types of sales reps, whether they’re in technology, whether they’re selling who knows, audiovisual equipment, it doesn’t really matter.

What matters is the fact that they are experts and they have the unique capability to write about content better than anybody else. For once, for this short period of time, they’re looking for that opportunity. So that’s one thing that I want you to really focus on is the opportunity here for you to serve yourself and your customers and those in need all at the same time.

It’s possible if you only look in all of the right places. Now that’s not all that we can do. Now one of the things that has been really interesting has been the response of a handful of the larger companies or organizations across the world. One of them — or two of them, for that matter — have been Google and Facebook.

Both of them have announced just enormous sums of money that they are going to pour into free credits for small and medium businesses inside of their representative ad platforms. But here’s the thing. They can’t really distinguish between the small businesses that are going to suffer and the small businesses that are going to do well during these times.

They’re not necessarily sure whether or not the local store that’s advertising on their website is already set up for e-commerce or whether or not they’re just trying to bring people to the front door. Well, here’s a unique opportunity, and I normally give a lot of grief to people in the paid search space because I think search engine optimization is just so wonderful.

But this is really for you paid search folks out here. What kind of opportunities are there amongst your clientele where you can co-market, where you can work with your customers who are healthy in this time of need to co-market on behalf of the customers who are not? You see, people are going to wake up with credits in their account.

Some of them are going to need it, and some of them are not. You are in a unique position to put those people together. Right now, if you’re thinking about how you can help, I bet most of your customers are wondering how they might be able to as well. By simply putting them together, maybe, just maybe you’ll have an opportunity to do well by all of your customers and hopefully help some people out who really need it.

4. Healthy business? Help out by making your offer free

The fourth thing I want to bring up is something we’ve seen a lot, which is how healthy businesses of all sizes are responding. A lot of them are providing some sort of discounts or offers. I want to be really careful here because I don’t want to say that providing discounts and offers in these times is in any way let’s say taking advantage or not giving respect to what’s going on.

It’s actually really important that we seek out opportunities to help those in times of need. But I think that you really ought to be careful and be thoughtful and respectful of those who you will be helping in this manner. So one of the first things that I want to say is that if you are going to offer something, do your best to make it free.

You see, there aren’t lots of businesses right now who are going through just a little bit of hurt. There aren’t a lot of people out there who are just going through a little bit of hurt. We’re talking about a lot of people going through really difficult times. The deeper you can dig, even if it’s carved out specifically for the individuals or businesses that are in the most desperate of times, the better it’s going to be for them in the long run.

Don’t set time traps

Now one of the first tips I want to say is don’t set time traps. I don’t know what the word is for this, but I call them time traps. They’re popping up left and right, which is, “Hey, we’re going to give you the first X number of days free. Put in your credit card.” It’s a subtle but pretty obvious attempt that, over time, these individuals will forget about the credit card and hope that they end up just rolling into some payments that they otherwise wouldn’t make.

Don’t do that. If at all possible inside of your payment system, make some free trials or some free tools available to people that just don’t require a credit card. That credit card right now is often meaning food for some of these people. So let’s just be thoughtful. 

Do target those most affected

Now what you can do is target those who are most affected.

For example, a lot of businesses are offering services and discounts specifically for the families of first responders, doctors, and any kind of individual who’s been identified as an employee or a place of business that must be open, like your pharmacy. Now the reason why you want to target these people is they’re having to put their lives on the line literally every day, even though that’s not something they really signed up for when they got into the business. So the least we can do is offer them our biggest discounts. 

Do target those most helpful

Third, we’ve got to be able to target those who are most helpful as well. You see, it’s not just about the people who are in need. It’s about the people who are helping those in need. I’ll give you an example. Right now there’s a serious crisis with domestic abuse in America.

You see, the quarantine has meant that people have had to stay home. It’s, in that time, meant that the abused have had to spend more and more time with their abusers. Now there’s probably a dozen domestic shelters within your area if you live in a larger city and certainly those across the state.

But how easy is it for those resources to be found? How much can they actually handle at this point? What do they need donations of? Do they need money? Do they need food? These are things you can find out and take advantage of.

But most importantly, as an SEO, you can help these organizations be easily discoverable, which is incredibly important right now, because people are in dire situations and need information fast. So there are opportunities here for you to offer services yourself, for the businesses that you support to offer services, and for you as an individual to simply contribute to all sorts of different individuals who are doing their best to get us through this crisis.

5. Online transition army

Now the fifth thing I’d like to think about is some sort of online transition army. Now most of us here are some sort of web professional or we own a business that has a website. But in all that we have done, there is some degree of experience that involves putting a business online or putting an organization online.

Whatever that skill is that you’ve developed — maybe it’s e-commerce, maybe it’s shipping, maybe it’s paid search, who knows what it is — it’s time to pick up the phone and start calling the organizations that don’t have this kind of representation and help them make the transition.

We know that there are tens of thousands of talented SEOs across the country and even more search marketers and even more web designers and developers. We know that they’ve got free cycles. I know I do. I’m recording this right now at I think it’s about 9:30 EST. It was either this or Netflix.

We have the opportunity to make a really big difference. So whether that’s helping a local business create an e-commerce version or helping them with shipping or even more often than not helping nonprofits collect donations online, there are just tons of opportunities for you and your organization to get involved and help make a difference for the companies that aren’t already online.

Now I know you could think about this from the other direction, which is to say my business and my clients are online, and now is our chance to win because our competitors just weren’t prepared. This is one of those times where I think you’ve got to question whether or not you really want to bring that karma upon you.

Now is the opportunity to matter. 

The last thing I would recommend is to let your employees and your benefactors and your deeds speak for themselves. You don’t need to go out touting left and right all of the things that you’re doing.

Certainly you should advertise the offers that you’re giving so that you actually extend the reach. Certainly you should advertise the fact that you’re looking for nonprofit organizations to help out online. While you should do that, the question you should ask yourself before you put out any kind of information about what you’ve done, about how you’ve helped is whether or not the time you’re spending putting together that information and the dollars that you’re spending putting out that information is worth the cost of the good that you could have done with that time and money doing something else.

Share your ideas in the comments

Now I want to end on a positive note. These are difficult times. But if there’s one thing that I’ve seen time and time again is that people in our industry care and they’re trying to make a difference. Now these are just some of the ideas that I came up with, and I’m betting in the Moz audience and across the Twittersphere and Reddit and all of social media that there are people who have other excellent ideas.

I want you to fill the comments with those types of ideas, and we’ll do our best to promote them. Thank you again for spending another Whiteboard Friday with me. God bless. Be healthy and I’ll see you soon again. Bye.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Featured Snippets Experiment

Opting-Out of Google Featured Snippets Led to 12% Traffic Loss [SEO Experiment]

Posted by Cyrus-Shepard

Note: This post was co-authored by Cyrus Shepard and Rida Abidi.

Everyone wants to win Google featured snippets. Right?

At least, it used to be that way. Winning the featured snippet typically meant extra traffic, in part because Google showed your URL twice: once in the featured snippet and again in regular search results. For publishers, this was known as “double-dipping.”

All that changed in January when Google announced they would de-duplicate search results to show the featured snippet URL only once on the first page of results. No more double-dips.

Publishers worried because older studies suggested winning featured snippets drove less actual traffic than the “natural” top ranking result. With the new change, winning the featured snippet might actually now lead to less traffic, not more.

This led many SEOs to speculate: should you opt-out of featured snippets altogether? Are featured snippets causing publishers to lose more traffic than they potentially gain? 

Here’s how we found the answer.

The experiment

Working with the team at SearchPilot, we devised an A/B split test experiment to remove Moz Blog posts from Google featured snippets, and measure the impact on traffic.

Using Google’s data-nosnippet tag, we identified blog pages with winning featured snippets and applied the tag to the main content of the page.

Our working hypothesis was that these pages would lose their featured snippets and return to the “regular” search results below. A majority of us also expected to see a negative impact on traffic, but wanted to measure exactly how much, and identify whether the featured snippets would return after we removed the tag. 

In this example, Moz lost the featured snippet almost immediately. The snippet was instead awarded to Content King and Moz returned to the top “natural” position.

Featured Snippets Experiment

Here is another example of what happened in search results. After launching the test, the featured snippet was awarded to Backlinko and we returned to the top of the natural results.

Featured Snippets Experiment Examples

One important thing to keep in mind is that, while these keywords triggered a featured snippet, pages can rank for hundreds or thousands of different keywords in different positions. So the impact of losing a single featured snippet can be somewhat softened when your URL ranks for many different keywords — some which earn featured snippets and some which don’t.

The results

After adding the data-nosnippet tag, our variant URLs quickly lost their featured snippets.

How did this impact traffic? Instead of gaining traffic by opting-out of featured snippets, we found we actually lost a significant amount of traffic quite quickly.

Overall, we measured an estimated 12% drop in traffic for all affected pages after losing featured snippets (95% confidence level).

Featured Snippets Experiment Results
This chart represents the cumulative impact of the test on organic traffic. The central blue line is the best estimate of how the variant pages, with the change applied, performed compared to how we would have expected without any changes applied. The blue shaded region represents our 95% confidence interval: there is a 95% probability that the actual outcome is somewhere in this region. If this region is wholly above or below the horizontal axis, that represents a statistically significant test.

What did we learn?

With the addition of the “data-nosnippet” attribute, the test had a significantly negative impact on organic traffic. In this experiment, owning the featured snippet and not ranking in the top results provides more value to these pages in terms of clicks than not owning the featured snippet and ranking in the top results.

Adding in the “data-nosnippet” attribute, not only were we able to stop Google from pulling data in that section of the HTML page to use as a snippet, but we were also able to confirm that we would rank again in the SERP, whether that is ranking in position one or lower.

As an additional tool, we were also tracking keywords using STAT Search Analytics. We were able to monitor changes in ranking for pages that had featured snippets, and noticed that it took about seven days or more from the time of launching the test for Google to cache the changes we made and for the featured snippets to be overtaken by another ranking page, if another page was awarded a featured snippet spot at all. The turnaround was quicker after we ended the test, though, as some of these featured snippets returned as quickly as the next day.

However, a negative aspect of running this test was that, although some pages were crawled and indexed with the most recent changes, the featured snippet did not return and has now either been officially given to competing pages or never returned at all.

To summarize the significant findings of this test:

  1. Google’s nosnippet tags can effectively opt-out publishers from featured snippets.
  2. In this test, we measured an estimated 12% drop in traffic for all affected pages after losing featured snippets.
  3. After ending the test, we failed to win back a portion of the featured snippets we previously ranked for.

For the vast majority of publishers winning the featured snippet likely remains the smart strategy. There are undoubtedly exceptions but as a general “best practice” if a keyword triggers a featured snippet, it’s typically in your best interest to rank for it.

What are your experiences with winning featured snippets? Let us know in the comments below.

Join Moz SEO Scientist, Dr. Pete Meyers, Wednesdays in April at 1:30 p.m. PT on Twitter and ask your most pressing questions about how to navigate SEO changes and challenges in a COVID-19 world. Tweet your questions all week long to @Moz using the hashtag #AskMoz. 

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The SEO Elevator Pitch – Best of Whiteboard Friday

Posted by KameronJenkins

This week, we’re revisiting an important topic for SEOs everywhere: how to show your value. In the wake of everything that’s happened recently with COVID-19, being able to describe your worth to potential clients or stakeholders is an integral skill. In this favorite episode of Whiteboard Friday, Kameron Jenkins shares how to effectively and succinctly build an SEO elevator pitch that highlights the value you bring to a business and three warnings on what not to do.

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

Video Transcription

Hey guys, welcome to this week’s edition of Whiteboard Friday. My name is Kameron Jenkins. Today we’re going to be talking about creating an SEO elevator pitch, what is it, why we need one, and what kind of prompted this whole idea for an SEO elevator pitch.

So essentially, I was on Twitter and I saw John Mueller. He tweeted, “Hey, I meet with a lot of developers, and a lot of times they don’t really know what SEOs do.” He was genuinely asking. He was asking, “Hey, SEO community, how do you describe what you do?” I’m scrolling through, and I’m seeing a lot of different answers, and all of them I’m resonating with.

They’re all things that I would probably say myself. But it’s just interesting how many different answers there were to the question, “What do SEOs do and what value do they provide?” So I kind of thought to myself, “Why is that? Why do we have so many different explanations for what SEO is and what we do?” So I thought about it, and I thought that it might be a good idea for myself and maybe other SEOs if you don’t already have an elevator pitch ready.

What is an SEO elevator pitch?

Now, if you’re not familiar with the concept of an elevator pitch, it’s basically — I have a definition here — a succinct and persuasive speech that communicates your unique value as an SEO. It’s called an elevator pitch essentially because it should take about the length of time it takes to ride the elevator with someone. So you want to be able to quickly and concisely answer someone’s question when they ask you, “Oh, SEO, what is that?I think I’ve heard of that before. What do you do?”

Why is this so hard?

So let’s dive right in. So I mentioned, in the beginning, how there are so many different answers to this “what do you say you do here” type question. I think it’s hard to kind of come up with a concise explanation for a few different reasons. So I wanted to dive into that a little bit first.

1. Lots of specialties within SEO

So number one, there are lots of specialties within SEO.

As the industry has advanced over the last two plus decades, it has become very diverse, and there are lots of different facets in SEO. I found myself on quite a rabbit trail. I was on LinkedIn and I was kind of browsing SEO job descriptions. I wanted to see basically: What is it that people are looking for in an SEO?

How do they describe it? What are the characteristics? So basically, I found a lot of different things, but I found a few themes that emerged. So there are your content-focused SEOs, and those are people that are your keyword research aficionados. There are the people that write search engine optimized content to drive traffic to your website. You have your link builders, people that focus almost exclusively on that.

You have your local SEOs, and you have your analysts. You have your tech SEOs, people that either work on a dev team or closely with a dev team. So I think that’s okay though. There are lots of different facets within SEO, and I think that’s awesome. That’s, to me, a sign of maturity in our industry. So when there are a lot of different specialties within SEO, I think it’s right and good for all of our elevator pitches to differ.

So if you have a specialty within SEO, it can be different. It should kind of cater toward the unique brand of SEO that you do, and that’s okay.

2. Different audiences

Number two, there are different audiences. We’re not always going to be talking to the same kind of person. So maybe you’re talking to your boss or a client. To me, those are more revenue-focused conversations.

They want to know: What’s the value of what you do? How does it affect my bottom line? How does it help me run my business and stay afloat and stay profitable? If you’re talking to a developer, that’s going to be a slightly different conversation. So I think it’s okay if we kind of tweak our elevator pitch to make it a little bit more palatable for the people that we’re talking to.

3. Algorithm maturity

Three, why this is hard is there’s been, obviously, a lot of changes all the time in the algorithm, and as it matures, it’s going to look like the SEO’s job is completely different than last year just because the algorithm keeps maturing and it looks like our jobs are changing all the time. So I think that’s a reality that we have to live with, but I still think it’s important, even though things are changing all the time, to have a baseline kind of pitch that we give people when they ask us what it is we do.

So that’s why it’s hard. That’s what your elevator pitch is.

My elevator pitch: SEO is marketing, with search engines

Then, by way of example, I thought I’d just give you my SEO elevator pitch. Maybe it will spark your creativity. Maybe it will give you some ideas. Maybe you already have one, and that’s okay. But the point is not to use mine.

The point is essentially to kind of take you through what mine looks like, hopefully get your creative juices flowing, and you can create your own. So let’s dive right into my pitch.

So my pitch is SEO is marketing, just with search engines. So we have the funnel here — awareness, consideration, and decision.

Awareness: Rank and attract clicks for informational queries.

First of all, I think it’s important to note that SEO can help you rank and attract clicks for informational queries.

Consideration: Rank and attract clicks for evaluation queries.

So when your audience is searching for information, they want to solve their pain points, they’re not ready to buy, they’re just searching, we’re meeting them there with content that brings them to the site, informs them, and now they’re familiar with our brand. Those are great assisted conversions. Rank and attract clicks for evaluation queries. When your audience is starting to compare their options, you want to be there. You want to meet them there, and we can do that with SEO.

Decision: Rank, attract clicks, and promote conversion for bottom-funnel queries

At the decision phase, you can rank and attract clicks and kind of promote conversions for bottom of funnel queries. When people are in their “I want to buy” stage, SEO can meet them there. So I think it’s important to realize that SEO isn’t kind of like a cost center and not a profit center. It’s not like a bottom of funnel thing. I’ve heard that in a lot of places, and I think it’s just important to kind of draw attention to the fact that SEO is integrated throughout your marketing funnel. It’s not relegated to one stage or another.

But how?

We talked about rank and attract clicks and promote conversions. But how do we do that? That’s the what it does.

But how do we do it? So this is how I explain it. I think really, for me, there are two sides to the SEO’s coin. We have driving, and we have supporting.

1. Driving

So on the driving side, I would say something like this. When someone searches a phrase or a keyword in Google, I make sure the business’ website shows up in the non-ad results. That’s important because a lot of people are like, “Oh, do you bid on keywords?”

We’re like, “No, no, that’s PPC.” So I always just throw in “non-ad” because people understand that. So I do that through content that answers people’s questions, links that help search engines find my content and show signs of authority and popularity of my content, and accessibility. So that’s kind of your technical foundation.

You’re making sure that your website is crawlable and it that it’s index the way that you want it to be indexed. When people get there, it works. It works on mobile and on desktop. It’s fast. So I think these are really the three big pillars of driving SEO — content, links, and making sure your website is technically sound. So that’s how I describe the driving, the proactive side of SEO.

2. Supporting

Then two, we have supporting, and I think this is kind of an underrated or maybe it’s often seen as kind of an interruption to our jobs.

But I think it’s important to actually call it what it is. It’s a big part of what we do. So I think we should embrace it as SEOs.

A. Be the Google Magic 8-ball

For one, we can serve as the Google Magic 8-Ball. When people come to us in our organization and they say, “Hey, I’m going to make this change, or I’m thinking about making this change.Is this going to be good or bad for SEO?”

I think it’s great that people are asking that question. Always be available and always make yourself ready to answer those types of questions for people. So I think on the reactionary side we can be that kind of person that helps guide people and understand what is going to affect your organic search presence.

B. Assist marketing

Two, we can assist marketing. So on this side of the coin, we’re driving.

We can drive our own marketing strategies. As SEOs, we can see how SEO can drive all phases of the funnel. But I think it’s important to note that we’re not the only people in our organization. Often SEOs maybe they don’t even live in the marketing department. Maybe they do and they report to a marketing lead. There are other initiatives that your marketing lead could be investigating.

Maybe they say, “Hey, we’ve just done some market research, and here’s this plan.” It could be our job as SEOs to take that plan, take that strategy and translate it into something digital. I think that’s a really important value that SEOs can add. We can actually assist marketing as well as drive our own efforts.

C. Fix mistakes

Then number three here, I know this is another one that kind of makes people cringe, but we are here to fix mistakes when they happen and train people so that they don’t happen again. So maybe we come in on a Monday morning and we’re ready to face the week, and we see that traffic has taken a nosedive or something. We go, “Oh, no,” and we dive in.

We try to see what happened. But I think that’s really important. It’s our job or it’s part of our job to kind of dive in, diagnose what happened, and not only that but support and be there to help fix it or guide the fixes, and then train and educate and make sure that people know what it is that happened and how it shouldn’t happen again.

You’re there to help train them and guide them. I think that’s another really important way that we can support as SEOs. So that’s essentially how I describe it.

3 tips for coming up with your own pitch

Before I go, I just wanted to mention some tips when you’re coming up with your own SEO elevator pitch. I think it’s really important to just kind of stay away from certain language when you’re crafting your own “this is what I do” speech.

So the three tips I have are:

1. Stay away from jargon.

If you’re giving an SEO elevator pitch, it’s to people that don’t know what SEO is. So try to avoid jargon. I know it’s really easy as SEOs. I find myself doing it all the time. There are things that I don’t think are jargon.

But then I take a couple steps back and I realize, oh yeah, that’s not layman’s terms. So stay away from jargon if at all possible. You’re not going to benefit anyone by confusing them.

2. Avoid policing.

It can be easy as SEOs I’ve found and I’ve found myself in this trap a couple of times where we kind of act as these traffic cops that are waiting around the corner, and when people make a mistake, we’re there to wag our finger at them.

So avoid any language that makes it sound like the SEOs are just the police waiting to kind of punish people for wrongdoing. We are there to help fix mistakes, but it’s in a guiding and educating and supporting, kind of collaborative manner and not like a policing type of manner. Number three, I would say is kind of similar, but a little different.

3. Avoid Supermanning.

I call this Supermanning because it’s the type of language that makes it sound like SEOs are here to swoop in and save the day when something goes wrong. We do. We’re superheroes a lot of times. There are things that happen and thank goodness there was an SEO there to help diagnose and fix that.

But I would avoid any kind of pitch that makes it sound like your entire job is just to kind of save people. There are other people in your organization that are super smart and talented at what they do. They probably wouldn’t like it if you made it sound like you were there to help them all the time. So I just think that’s important to keep in mind. Don’t make it seem like you’re the police waiting to wag your finger at them or you’re the superhero that needs to save everyone from their mistakes.

So yeah, that’s my SEO elevator pitch. That’s why I think it’s important to have one. If you’ve kind of crafted your own SEO elevator pitch, I would love to hear it, and I’m sure it would be great for other SEOs to hear it as well. It’s great to information share. So drop that in the comments if you feel comfortable doing that. If you don’t have one, hopefully this helps. So yeah, that’s it for this week’s Whiteboard Friday, and come back again next week for another one.

Thanks, everybody.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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How Your Local Business Can Be a Helper

Posted by MiriamEllis

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.” — Fred Rogers

This quote is one I find myself turning to frequently these days as a local SEO. It calls to mind my irreplaceable neighborhood grocer. On my last essential run to their store, they not only shared a stashed 4-pack of bath tissue with me, but also stocked their market with local distillery-produced hand sanitizer which I was warned will reek of bourbon, but will get the job done.

When times are hard, finding helpers comes as such a relief. Even the smallest acts that a local business does to support physical and mental health can be events customers remember for years to come.

While none of us gets to live in Mister Rogers’ idealized neighborhood, the adaptations I’m seeing local businesses and organizations make to sustain communities during COVID-19 are a meaningful expression of caring worthy of his humanitarian vision. Almost any brand, large or small, has the chance to be a good neighbor. Please use the following industry and platform examples to spark local business creativity when it’s needed most so that brands you care about can stay helpfully productive during the public health emergency.

Inspirational local business pivots and plans

Everyone at Moz is full of admiration for the way different industries are responding in a time that’s not business-as-usual. My thanks to the many teammates who contributed to this roundup of examples we’ve been personally encountering, and we hope you’ll find an actionable path for your business here.

Food and hospitality

1. From fancy to fundamental, famed Seattle restaurant Canlis quickly transitioned from fine dining to offering drive-thru bagels, family meal delivery, and community-supported agriculture (CSA) boxes from local farms.

2. From pizza place to pantry, multiple restaurants and caterers are putting their supply chain to work for their customers. California Pizza Kitchen is delivering meal kits and pantry staples as a pop-up market.

3. Caterers with big hearts like Kay Catering asked parents whose schoolchildren she normally feeds whether they’d be willing to donate unused lunch fees so her company could cook for families in need. Through the generosity of these parents, Kay Kim is now serving dinner to the residents at the Sand Point Public Housing Center at Magnuson Park as part of Seattle Public Schools’ overall effort to feed its students.

4. Pike Place Market on your doorstep is the offering of Savor Seattle, which has shifted from offering tasting tours to aggregating the iconic products of an entire marketplace for home delivery and curbside pickup.

5. To keep grocery shelves stocked, Santa Rosa, California food manufacturer Amy’s Kitchen has ramped up production by erecting tent kitchens with social distancing so that the company’s canned soups can be produced in greater quantities. Meanwhile, distilleries across the country have converted operations to manufacture of hand sanitizer.

6. Community-support agriculture may well see a boom with the appeal of boxes of fresh, local foods delivered to your door, allowing customers to entirely forego trips to grocery stores. Farm stands have become extra precious community resources. Role models like Heron Pond Farm in New Hampshire are accepting SNAP payments and providing discounts to SNAP shoppers.

7. Caring for our most vulnerable community members, grocery stores large and small are setting senior shopping hours. Raley’s is offering curbside pickup of $20 “Senior Essential Bags” filled with fresh and dry goods. Kroger-owned stores are donating $3 million to deploy groceries to food-insecure communities via their Zero Hunger/Zero Waste program.

8. Looking to the future, Instagram co-founder Mike Krieg has launched SaveOurFaves.com, an San Francisco Bay Area directory of restaurants hosting the purchase of gift cards to keep cherished eating spots afloat. These gift cards, meant to be used later, are in the nature of a small business loan.

9. Serving up support for displaced restaurant workers, Food Network star and restaurateur Guy Fieri has created a relief fund.This Bay Area celebrity has repeatedly come to the rescue in disasters, cooking for impacted communities, and now, offering $500 in cash to unemployed restaurant employees on a first-come, first-served basis.

10. Hotels are housing health care workers in need of lodging, with some 6,500 properties participating in the Hotels for Hope initiative nationwide. Meanwhile, in San Francisco alone, more than 30 hotels have offered housing for homeless Americans in response to local and state government requests.

Home services

1. Contractors put safety first by implementing new sanitary protocols when making home visits. Roto-Rooter is doing an outstanding job of explaining how plumbers will wear protective equipment, practice social distancing, and use disinfectant. They are also publishing how-to videos for simple home plumbing and offering advice regarding sanitary products. HVAC brand Vaughan Comfort Services created this section of their website to explain their enhanced safety measures.

2. Cleaning services are making tough decisions about whether to remain operational. Some, like Molly Maid, are still cleaning residences while implementing increased safety practices, but others are diversifying into the commercial cleaning space, cleaning offices that are temporarily empty. Meanwhile, professional biohazard cleaning services like Aftermath are creating new pages on their websites to describe their in-demand practices for disinfecting impacted properties.

3. Computer repair services are adapting, where state regulations allow, to 100% mobile operations and are fixing issues over the phone where possible. One independent shop, DreamNet Computers, created this page to explain how they are sanitizing devices being picked up or dropped off, and how they can repair some computers remotely if they can connect to the Internet.

4. The landscaping services market is haphazard at the moment, with some professionals concerned that state-by-state regulations are not clear enough for their industry, while others are embracing virtual meetings and 3D modeling with the thought that people working from home will now be more invested in having livable outdoor spaces.

Professional and instructional services

1. Much of medicine has become telemedicine and therapy has become teletherapy, barring cases which require direct one-on-one contact. Practitioners able to navigate privacy regulations can still provide vital patient support. Bridges Therapy & Wellness Center of Fairfax, Virginia is just one example of a practice putting online appointment availability front and center on its website. Check out how the telehealth platform PatientPop has quickly pivoted their roll out for medical clients.

2. Movement, meditation, and multiple forms of self-care have made a quick transition online. Religious institutions are putting their services on the web, from Pope Francis celebrating Mass at the Vatican, to Ann Arbor’s Temple Beth Emeth observing virtual Shabbat and the Imams of the Islamic Center of America broadcasting live, daily lectures from Dearborn, Michigan. I’ve found Indigenous invitations to prayer for healing especially moving in these times. Meanwhile, dance studio Dance Church has thousands of folks boogying to their livestreams, and yoga, martial arts, fine arts, and music instructors have shifted to both public and private online sessions. Check out the business support being offered by Your Yoga Alliance to instructors needing to transition operations.

3. Banks and financial institutions are responding by offering various forms of relief including deferring or waiving fees, and providing some forms of mortgage assistance. With concerns over ATM contamination, some advisors in the financial industry are suggesting customers bring their own sanitizer, gloves, and a stylus to transactions.

4. Realtors can manage most meetings virtually, and thanks to technology like Kleard and Immoviewer, buyers can get a very good idea of what properties look like and even handle closings online. However, it’s vital to follow state and local regulations regarding home showings.

5. The National Association of Bar Executives offers abundant guidance for legal professionals via their pandemic preparedness resource. They are hosting roundtables, publishing lists of tech vendors appropriate to the industry, and highlighting government and philanthropic news.

6. Personal care professionals may be struggling most, with hair stylists, manicurists, massage therapists, and related practitioners having no way to replicate their work via the Internet. Kaleidoscope Salon in Chattanooga, Tennessee held a fundraiser offering a prize of a full year of hair services in order to meet its payroll during its closure. Professionals seeking to maintain client relationships during this pause in business can head to YouTube, like R’s Just Hair Salon’s chief hairstylist Ruchi Sawhney, to demo do-it-yourself beauty tips. Stay-at-home orders are making it harder for people to access personal care products. If your salon has inventory, consider curbside pick-up of health and beauty supply kits, as is being offered by Sally Beauty.


1. Retail is taking a hard hit, and there’s no gainsaying this, but vendors who can transition at least part of their operations to e-commerce selling may be able to remain operational simply because the demand is so high now for home delivery. If you are sitting on unsold inventory and are having trouble imagining how to sell it, check out eBay, which recently announced that it is waiving seller fees to help retailers get their products onto the web for sale.

2. Major clothing retailers like Macy’s and Kohl’s have closed their stores, but continue to sell online. Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette has stated that the fewest employee furloughs have been in their digital operations, and that they hope to start bringing workers back on through a staggered process in the future. Meanwhile, smaller basic clothing retailers like the Vermont Country Store have temporarily shuttered their premises, but are continuing to ship with the proviso that an overload of orders has slowed down shipping speeds.

3. Electronics retailers are finding their product lines in high demand as all of us seek ways to conduct more of life online. T-Mobile stores may be closed, but they are offering free two-day shipping and have published a whole new section of service resources during the health emergency. Best Buy is offering contactless curbside pickup and delivery. Batteries Plus Bulbs has remained largely operational and is supplying the medical field with essential technology, while also offering curbside pickup to retail customers.

4. Plant nurseries are finding themselves inundated with customers eager to plant food crops in any gardening space they have. In my state of California, agricultural businesses are considered essential. Many nurseries and garden supply shops remain open, but — like the San Francisco Bay Area Sloat Nursery chain — are taking steps to limit the number of customers allowed in at a time, and also offer curbside pickup and delivery. Nurseries should be growing as many veggie starts and stocking as much vegetable seed as possible right now.

5. Home Improvement and hardware stores offering free delivery, like Home Depot, and free curbside pickup, like Ace Hardware, have a good chance of weathering this storm so long as customers can afford to improve their dwellings, in which they are now spending so much more of their time. In a related category, large home furnishings brands like Crate & Barrel are selling online and have their design consultants working from home with clients via phone and web chat.

6. Auto dealers have embraced tech to keep car sales moving. Toyota’s SmartPath tool takes customers from inventory search, to applying for a line of credit, to the point where a vehicle can be delivered to your home. I’ve noticed several dealerships deferring first-month payments to stimulate purchases. Meanwhile, General Motors has begun producing ventilators at its Kokomo, Indiana facility and face masks at its plant in Warren, Michigan.

Where to publicize what you’re doing

Once you’ve determined how your business can best pivot to continue serving the public, you’ll want to update your website to ensure you’re communicating your offerings. You should also update your local business listings, as described in the last edition of my column. Beyond this, here is an example-filled list of resources for maximizing publicity:


About a decade ago, local SEO experts were strongly promoting the idea of creating hyperlocal blogs to engage communities. Bloggers who were up to the challenge now have platforms in place through which the most recent and useful information can be quickly communicated to neighbors, as in this excellent example of the West Seattle Blog. If your community lacks a hyperlocal resource like this, your business could be of great help in creating one now. If such a blog is already in place, see if your business can contribute content.

Hyperlocal business association sites

If you don’t want to go it alone in creating a blog, joining with others in a local business association like the West Seattle Junction or Chamber of Commerce will enable many hands to lighten the work. Community hubs like this one are publishing vital information including PSAs, updates on which businesses offer delivery and pickup, and highlighting local merchants. If your neighborhood has platforms like these, contact them to see how you can contribute content. If no such resources exist, contact your neighboring business owners to discuss what you can create together.


If you aren’t in a position to build a hyperlocal website or blog right now, Facebook may be your next best option. The Yurok Tribe of California is inspiring in their use of Facebook for continuous dialog with their community. Many tribes are role-modeling how to support one another, and particularly the most vulnerable, in these times. The above example shows how one tribe is phoning its elders and has created a hotline to ensure they’re receiving vital services. I came across another example in which a tribe’s Facebook post instructed elders to hang something red in their windows if they needed any help from younger members of the community. Now is a good time to double down on Facebook with any supportive information your local business can broadcast. Of note, Facebook is offering $100 million in small business cash grants and ad credits.


Nextdoor is a particularly lively community hub and this is a very good time to join it as a business. It should go without saying that publishing anything that could seem self-serving would be a poor choice. Instead, take inspiration from the spirit demonstrated in the above example of a neighborhood converting their Little Free Library into a mini dry goods pantry, or this independent restaurant using Nextdoor to offer a discount to anyone in their industry who may have lost their local job. This is a good, ready-do-go platform for outreach to your community.


Check out how the Downtown Business Association of Edmonton is using Twitter to promote virtual local events and a new directory they’re building on their website specifically highlighting operational local businesses. The instantaneous communication capacity of Twitter is a resource your company should consider right now, even if you haven’t done much tweeting in the past. Follow and share the content of other local businesses to create a stronger community with timely messaging for the public.


Instagram is proving extremely helpful in alerting communities to offerings and changes, as in this example of a Richland, Washington cookie cutter manufacturer transitioning operations to produce face shields for medical personnel, and providing DIY instructions for anyone with access to a 3D printer.


This excellent Los Angeles Times article by Randy Lewis reminds us of how radio remains a strong resource even for those in our community who lack Internet access. People are tuning the dials for hyperlocal information about the availability of resources, for comfort, and hope. If your business is doing something that would help local customers, consider calling into the nearest radio station to share your story. Obviously, avoid being overly-promotional, and do consider whether this might be a good time to invest a little more in formal radio advertising.


Almost any town with a newspaper is printing abundant information about community resources right now, including lists of operational companies like this one in the Marin Independent Journal. Reach out with your news and volunteer to be interviewed to spread the word about how your business is serving the community. These unstructured citations from trusted online news outlets can help local searchers find your business and even boost your rankings. Consider paid news ad spots as well, if it’s in your budget.

Local television and video media

I thought this multi-location appliance company, Airport Home Appliances, did an excellent job with their local TV ad spot regarding their current operations, which they also posted to YouTube. Your audience is mainly homebound now, and Nielsen finds that local TV is becoming the preferred choice for accessing news and information in the United States. If it’s in your budget, even a basic local television ad could reach many customers at this time. If now isn’t a good time for your brand to invest, get something up on YouTube and embed it on your website.

Local, regional, or industry podcasts

If your area or business category is lucky enough to have a good podcast, reaching out to the podcaster to share what your business is doing could help you broadcast your offering to a wider audience. Check out this episode of the Tennessee Farm Table (theme song guaranteed to get stuck in your head), in which podcaster Amy Campbell gives a running list of Appalachian businesses providing local food to residents. Whether you simply get mentioned or take the next step of being interviewed by a podcaster, this medium is one to embrace. And, if your area has no local podcast, think about launching one to create a more connected community.

Being the helpers

Fred Rogers Memorial Statue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Image Credit: Wally Gobetz.

I hope you’ve seen something in this article that could help support your local brand’s goals to sustain itself in the coming months. A commonality across all the examples I’ve reviewed of COVID-19 business adjustments is that regular, open communication with customers to understand and meet their needs is simply essential right now. Your customers’ stated requests are your best playbook for this unscripted moment.

It’s my heartfelt wish that you’ll see the fruits of today’s extraordinary efforts in tomorrow’s customer loyalty. My teammate, Dr. Pete, recently shared an article with me in which the author described how Marks & Spencer’s provision of clothing during Great Britain’s World War II textile rationing earned decades of devoted patronage because customers felt the retailer had “been there” for them when it mattered.

Being there at the present may mean transitioning some operations online, onto street curbs and parking lots, or into delivery vans, and how you communicate availability matters more than ever before. I’m inspired by seeing the ingenuity and kindness of the “helpers” Fred Rogers spoke of, in community after community.

There’s no denying that this is a challenging time for local search marketing, and yet, at the same time, local promotional skills have never been more critical. Take a second to imagine our communities if we were still limited to once-a-year phone book updates of business information, and I think you’ll quickly see just how vital a resource the local Internet has become.

Can you be a helper today? Please, comment about your own business, your clients’ brands, or any company in your town that you’re seeing make a special endeavor to serve communities. Your story could spark a new idea for a local business owner to keep a neighborhood or even an entire city afloat. Thanks for being a helper.

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Why and How to Bring Empathy Into Your Content

Posted by DaisyQ

Creating content can feel incredibly difficult right now. If you’re like me, you’ve spent the last few weeks oscillating between a can-do approach and hours of staring into space. Here’s how to tap into those very real emotions and channel them into more impactful content.

What empathy is and isn’t

We commonly confuse sympathy with empathy. Sympathy is understanding and perhaps feeling bad for the struggles that someone may be experiencing. Empathy means understanding the person’s feelings and thoughts from their point of view. Sympathy is when you feel compassion, sorrow, or pity for what the other person is going through. Empathy is about putting yourself in their shoes.

In this post, I focus on cognitive empathy, which is the ability to understand how another person may be thinking or feeling. Cognitive empathy helps communication by helping us convey information in a way that resonates with the other person.

Feelings, who needs ’em?

I’ve always struggled with how to deal with my emotions. For much of my life, I thought that I needed to keep how I felt under wraps, especially at work. I recall tough days when I Googled reasons to get out of bed, and when I reached my desk, I would try to leave my emotions at home and just focus on working. Sometimes, the office felt like an escape. But usually, pretending to be unfeeling was a difficult if not impossible task. When this strategy backfires, our feelings overrule us. I’ve come to embrace the fact that emotions are what make me whole and human.

There’s a lot going on, and we’re all grappling with it

Creating marketing content can be incredibly hard right now because there is just so much going on — not only in your mind but in your readers’ minds, too. Rather than shy away from the current emotional challenge, embrace it to transform your work and get more joy out of the content creation process.

People are looking for information, and depending on your industry, there may be several content opportunities for you to dig into. Or maybe you are in an industry where it’s business as (un)usual, and you have to create email newsletters or blog content like you always have.

Whether you sell industrial components to obscure parts of machines or homemade broths, there’s room in your content for empathy. For example, are you creating a blog post on how to work from home? Think about the parent who’s never had to juggle homeschooling their kids while holding conference calls. Are you writing about cyber threats and the need to protect firmware? Think about how the risk of a cyberattack is the last thing a dispersed IT team wants to deal with right now.

Your readers are all grappling with different issues. The ability to convey empathy in your writing will make your work much more captivating, impactful, shareable, and just plain better — whether we’re dealing with a pandemic or not.

Do I have to pretend to be a mom now?

No, you don’t. In fact, pretending can come off as disingenuous. You are not required to have the same lived-in experiences or circumstances that your reader does. Instead, just try to understand their perspective.

See if you can tell the difference between these messages:

“Chin up! It’s hard, but I’m sure it will get better.”

“I know everything looks bleak right now, but you will get through this.”

While there is nothing wrong with the first sentence in the above example, the second sentence comes across as more caring and compassionate.

Done well, empathizing can make it easier to understand the challenges, frustrations, fears, anxieties, or worries your readers might be experiencing.

How to infuse content marketing with empathy

Empathy is a skill. Those who master it gain the ability to create content that not only addresses a surface problem or issue, but also hits a deeper level by accessing the perspectives and emotions involved.

Picture the person reading

Want your readers to take action? Try to understand them.

Take your health, for example. Pretty much any advice given by your doctor would be critical, right? Yet we often struggle to implement it. Why is that? One reason could be empathy. Studies show that better health outcomes result when a physician shows empathy towards their patient.

Are you trying to incite action with your post? Maybe you want your readers to do more than just read your blog and carry on with their lives, then seek to understand where they are coming from first. Whether you’re creating a blog post or a video, picture the person who will read or watch what you are sharing, and speak directly to them. Better yet, find an image of someone that represents your intended audience online and pull it up while creating. Make your audience real. In turn, your content will become more productive because a reader who feels understood is more likely to apply what they read.

This tactic works for me when I have to create a how-to video or break something down. I pick an image from the web and ask, “Would they get it?”

Set a goal for your content

Creating content can be a slog. Setting an intention is one of my favorite ways to give purpose to my process. It helps me push through the mornings when I don’t care about finishing that first draft. I like to think about where I want to take the audience, then revisit that goal again and again until the project is complete.

For example, the goal of this blog post is:

To help business owners and marketers who need to send out emails or write blog posts while we’re dealing with a pandemic. It’s not business as usual, and empathy is what we need now more than ever. I will share why empathy works, and give practical tips on how writing in a more relatable, humane, and approachable way can help get the point across.

When I start a new post, I print a paragraph like this right at the top of my word doc. I revisit it multiple times while I’m writing and reviewing the draft. Then, I delete it right before I submit the post. Moment of truth: Does the post stand on its own? Does it express what I need to say? If so, I know it’s ready.

Share personal stories or anecdotes

I read a story by Leo Tolstoy recently that really stuck with me— in fact, the ending haunted me for a while. It was a story about greed titled, “How Much Land Does a Man Need?

Tolstoy could have written an essay on how greed is wrong, but I probably wouldn’t have remembered it. Instead, I can vividly recall the farmer who dies during the struggle to get one more foot of land even though he has more than enough already.

Personal stories give meaning to your work, and you don’t need to travel to a Russian prairie to find examples. There is material in your everyday life that you can put onto paper. Think of childhood memories, past events, relationships — heck, your favorite passage from a book. How can you weave these into your narrative in a way that will connect with the reader? How can you share a tidbit from your personal life that will pull your readers in?

The ultimate question is: Who’s your audience? Once you know that, you’ll know what to share.

If you have to write about budgeting tips, put yourself in your reader’s shoes. Think back to a time when you had to watch where every dollar went. How did you cope? What resources did you use? Relate that to what your reader’s budget struggles may be today. How can your experiences help you empathize with a mom in a single-income household who now has to file for unemployment? Or the business owner who needs to re-shuffle a budget and maybe cut ancillary services? You don’t have to be in their position to appreciate what they are going through.

Think less self-promotional and more educational

Have you ever gotten to the end of a blog post and wondered why you bothered reading at all? That writer probably made an impression on you, and it wasn’t great.

Reward the reader by giving them something actionable. Help them achieve a goal they have, or include something worth retelling that’ll impress their boss, friends, or spouse. Look beyond what you’re immediately selling and appreciate how it relates to the bigger picture. Even an external hard drive or a peppercorn grinder can take on new meaning when you look at it from this perspective.

Perhaps that external hard drive is not just gigabytes but a way to digitize a family album to share with distant relatives. Or for the budding YouTuber, it may be a way to store all their outtakes without slowing down their computer. Show them how they can get more storage space or pick the best product for their needs. How can they use your advice to live their best life?

Learn from the masters

Put down the business book and try fiction.

As marketers, we can get stuck in a cycle of reading marketing content. I have at least 12 books that I could (and should) be reading instead of a Hemingway classic. But reading non-marketing materials will improve your empathetic skills by demonstrating how storytelling works.

I’m halfway through “A Farewell to Arms”, and I think the point of the story is that wars are long and pointless. I could be wrong, but I haven’t stopped reading it yet. That’s the key — the narrative is carrying me along. I’m invested in the characters and their endings. I want to find out what happens to Catherine Barkley because I empathize with her.

If you want to kick it up a notch, learn from works like Stephen King’s “On Writing” or Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”. These classics pinpoint principles of narrative that work consistently across time and space. They’re as relevant and essential as ever, and they can inform, strengthen, and enliven your content. Bonus: maybe they’ll inspire you to write that novel someday.

Creating content with empathy helps you and your readers

Really good content makes us feel something. It’s a feeling that sticks with us long, long after the words have escaped our minds. That’s the kind of impression you can leave in your readers’ minds, but not without getting to know where they are coming from. Simply stating numbers and stats and figures won’t cut it. We don’t operate in a vacuum. Our relationships with people, our shared experiences, and our connections are what drive us, and in times like this, that doesn’t change. Let it be the glue that helps you bond with your audience.

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