Crisis Adaptation – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by BritneyMuller

Businesses all over the globe are struggling with new challenges as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With consumers turning to the internet for the majority of their needs, it’s never been more vital to ensure your online presence is easily found and your business updates clearly communicated.

In this special edition of Whiteboard Friday, Britney Muller outlines a checklist that businesses can use to meet the changing needs of consumers and improve visibility for local searches.

Bonus — We’ve adapted these tips into a free checklist you can download and share:

Get the checklist

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

Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today we’re going over crisis adaptation, and I first have to give a huge shout-out to Miriam Ellis, who really helped me package all of this up to deliver to you today.

If you’re not already following Miriam on Twitter, I highly suggest you do. She is a local SEO genius. So let’s dive right in. 

Meet your customers where they are

You often hear this phrase in marketing and in SEO about meeting your customers where they are. This might be important now more than ever because the current landscape, it’s changed so much.

Listen to your customers & understand how their needs have shifted

In order to better meet your customers where they are, you really first have to listen and understand how their needs have shifted, how have their concerns shifted. What are they searching for now? Just really paying attention and listening online to your current target market.

One of the things I also like to suggest is listen to competitive reviews. Keep an eye on competitive reviews being posted on Google and other spaces to get a gauge of how things have perhaps moved. 

Know where your audience is

This could have also shifted a bit. Whiteboard Friday’s OG, Rand Fishkin, launched SparkToro that does exactly that. So you can really deep dive into current data around what your audience is listening to, who they follow, all sorts of great stuff for you to leverage in today’s climate.

Connect with potential customers in meaningful ways

Now is a great time to reach out and engage with not only potential customers but current customer base and remind people that you are still here, you’re still serving them in various ways. So it’s really, really key.

Partner with relevant businesses

I’ve seen this do really well in some great examples of pivoting, where a fruit delivery company partnered with a bakery to include these free cakes within orders. What a great way to get some visibility for that bakery, and vice versa — they could do different things. I think it’s a great time to leverage those relationships and help one another out. I absolutely love that tip. 

Communicate all changes and updates

Now the other big, big priority right now is all around communicating changes and updates to your website visitors. So what do you need to cover?

  • Changes to hours is so important right now. It’s essential that you have that information readily visible to anyone visiting your website, if this applies to you. All forms of availability, video, curbside, no touch delivery, have that information available.
  • Any expected delays and product availability challenges. This is a really great tip too. 
  • Sanitation and any adopted safety precautions. 
  • Payment methods accepted. This can be really helpful in the transaction. 
  • Any philanthropic efforts that you’re doing to help support people in need.

I’m seeing a lot of these show up in banners and readily available information for people visiting websites. I think it’s great to consider making sure that this information is easy for people to access. 

Immediately communicate this information:

Set up online orders and catalog inventory/services

In addition to these things, set up online orders. At the very least, catalog your online inventory or services for people to still have that awareness of what you’re currently offering.

I would suggest if you’re a struggling business and you don’t want to go into a huge website build, you can absolutely check out and explore things like Squarespace or Shopify. I would have never thought I would be suggesting these platforms a year ago just because they’re not usually great for SEO reasons. But they can do a beautiful job of solving this problem so quickly, and then you can roll out V2 and V3 down the road when you’re ready to make those improvements. But I think just getting businesses off the ground is so important right now. 

Add products for free on Google Shopping

This was such a neat thing that Google offered I believe several weeks ago, and it’s doing great. What it basically does is it allows you to list products for free on Google Shopping, giving you that extra visibility right now. So if you’re an e-commerce brand, definitely check that out. 

Create maps showing delivery radiuses

Miriam had this great idea to create maps showing delivery radiuses, if that applies to you, so really giving someone visiting your site an easy to consume idea of the areas that you serve. Sometimes when you see the ZIP codes, it’s a little overwhelming. You have to do a little work. But that’s kind of a great idea. 

Routific

Then this was mentioned in a recent GatherUp webinar by Darren Shaw — Routific. So if you are doing local deliveries and they’re getting a little out of hand, Routific is a company that creates delivery routes to make them most efficient for you, which I thought was so cool.

I didn’t even know that existed. So it’s a good little tool tip. 

Double down on SEO and content marketing

I absolutely loved Mike King’s post on this — I think it was a couple weeks ago — where he explains why economic downturns favor the bold. It’s brilliant. There are incredible use cases around this, and we’ll link to that down below. 

Someone who has impressed the heck out of me the last couple of weeks is Kristin Tynski — I hope I’m saying that right — over at Fractl. She is going above and beyond to create content pieces that are not only genius but are link building opportunities, apply to various clients, and use traditional journalism tactics to gather offline, unique data to present online. I highly suggest you pay attention to what Kristin is up to. She is a genius. Kristin, we have to meet sometime. I’m a huge fan of you. Keep up the great work. 

Local & Google My Business

Now let’s dive into some GMB stuff. While this might not apply to you if you’re not a local business, I think there are still things to take away for larger companies that also either have a local listing or just to be aware of.

So here’s an example of Uptown China Restaurant, a local Chinese restaurant. It’s awesome in Queen Anne, and it’s going to be our example. So what’s the first thing? 

Correct any GMB errors

Just correct any GMB errors. Make sure that the current data shown and information is correct and up to date.

Update hours to remove warning

Then this is probably my favorite hack of all, from Joy Hawkins, about this warning that we see on all businesses currently, because of the pandemic, that says hours or services may differ. You can get this removed simply by updating your hours. How incredible is that?

So I highly suggest you just update your hours. Joy also mentioned in this webinar I keep referring to, that was so good, she suggests using the hours that you are available to take phone calls. Google has never had an issue with that, and it tends to make the most sense. So something to think about.

Respond to reviews

Now is also a great time to invest and be engaged with these reviews. I think it’s one of the most overlooked PR and marketing tactics available, where customers exploring your brand, exploring your location want to know that (a) you care and that (b) you’re going to engage with a customer and that you have a timely response. So I think it’s important to respond to reviews, especially on behalf of the business side. 

Confirm or reject any new Google My Business prompts

So we’re going to continue to see different things roll out. There were senior hours available to, I believe, grocery stores that popped up as an option. No-contact delivery. These things will always be changing. So I think it’s important to maybe put a reminder in your calendar just to keep an eye on are there any new options within Google My Business that I could activate or clarify. Google loves that, and it also helps fill out your listing better.

Update menu and product listings

What a great time to take some good, new photos. Update your menu items. I wish Uptown China Restaurant did this, and I might suggest it to them that they can add those offerings. They can add those things to really pop up on the listing and kind of make it shine.

Use Posts

Posts have always been really, really great for Google My Business listings because it gives you a big photo. It lasts for a while up here, I believe up to 14 days. It’s very prevalent when you see it. Now Google has also been offering COVID-19 posts.

There isn’t an option to add an image with the COVID-19 posts. It’s text only, but it lasts longer and it’s more prominent than a regular post. So it will show up higher in your Google My Business listing, and we’ve also seen it pop up in actual SERPs in the organic area. So pretty cool. Good to know. I suggest you doing that. You have control over the messaging. You can say whatever you would like. You can provide updated info, all that good stuff. 

Use Product Posts

So a shout-out to Darren Shaw, who noticed this.

People are getting really savvy with product posts, which again it would show up in your Google My Business listing with a big photo and a description. What he’s seen people do is basically have a photo of a car with text on it that says “No-Touch Delivery” or different service options as the product.

Google is currently letting that slide. I don’t know if that will last forever. But it’s an interesting thing to explore if you really want that visibility if someone is struggling with their business right now, and you can kind of get that to pop up on the SERPs. 

Enable text messaging

So I’ve heard from so many SEOs that this has continued to go up into the right during the pandemic, and it makes sense.

People want to just quickly get information from businesses. You can create a welcome message. So I highly suggest exploring that if that’s available to you. 

Update images

Again, I think I’ve said this like three times, but update images. It’s a great time to do that, and it can really help make your stuff pop. 

Share these tips with businesses in need!

Lastly, don’t forget to share these tips with businesses.

Understand that there are a lot of people in need right now, and if there’s anything that we can do to help, by all means let’s make all of that stuff happen. The fact is that you’re not alone. So whether you’re doing this work on behalf of a client, or you yourself or family or friends are really struggling with a business right now, there are different support groups and options as far as financial support.

We’ve created a free PDF checklist of all this information that you can download and share with any marketers, clients, or businesses in need:

Download the free checklist

I know we at Moz are going to be putting everything we have into helping you and others during this time, and so I created a form at the bottom of this post where you can fill in some information and let us know if there are specific problems that we could help with. We’re in this together.

We want to help you all as much as we can. I will be taking that very seriously and spending lots of time on replying or creating material to help individuals struggling. So please fill that out. Also, feel free to leave comments and suggestions in the comments. I think some of the best, most valuable takeaways sometimes happen in the comments where you’re either clarifying something that I said or adding something really great. I would really appreciate that. Just want to get all the good information out there so that we can help everyone out. I really appreciate you taking the time to watch this edition of Whiteboard Friday, and I will see you all again soon. Thanks.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Executing a Domain Migration: An Inside Look From OnLogic (Formerly Logic Supply)

Posted by ErikaOnLogic

In October 2019, our 16-year-old company rebranded from Logic Supply to OnLogic. The recovery from a traffic standpoint has been pretty smooth (and much faster than we expected), and our customers have embraced our new name and look. We want to share our story, the steps we took to prepare for this major change, and some things we learned along the way about what it takes to execute a successful domain transition (with minimal impact on organic results) in an effort to help those facing the same challenge.

Take a deep breath, it’s going to be okay.

First, a little history and background. Logic Supply was founded in 2003 as an e-commerce website that sold components and parts for small form factor computers. Over the years, the company has built up engineering and manufacturing capabilities that today allow us to offer complete industrial and ruggedized computers and technology solutions for a wide range of industries. We’ve known for almost 10 years that our ambitions would someday outgrow our name, and in 2015 we settled on a new one and began laying the groundwork for the transition.

Once we’d gotten past all the research and legal efforts related to the new name itself, we began formulating the website transition plans in 2018. This kind of project requires a long list of individual and team supporters, from the Design and Communications team who helped conceptualize and choose the name OnLogic, to the IT team who would be responsible for making sure the digital transition was executed effectively.

This piece is coming from the perspective of Erika Austin, who has worked in digital marketing for Logic Supply since 2009, with special credit to Tim van der Horst in our Netherlands office who led the roll-out of the new domain and the resulting SEO recovery efforts. Tim applied structure to all the data I had gathered in my head over the past 10 years of decision-making in SEO.

Unstructured Data / Structured Data = Erika / Tim

As I take you through the process and cite our plan, including what we did and didn’t do, as well as the decisions made along the way, you can download a copy of our Go-Live Checklist for your own reference.

Phase one: scoping and planning

I had full confidence that our team could lead a successful transition. The only thing was, I had never done this before. Few have, with the exception of our new IT director who had undergone a few brand and domain migrations in her career.

I had been working on building Logic Supply’s domain authority for 10 years, so the idea of moving to a new domain brought up a lot of questions. To help us along the way, I sought out an expert who could validate our work and answer questions if anything came up. While many of the recommendations online were people that had cited, or written for, authoritative sites such as Moz, I decided to ask Rand Fishkin, the SEO Rockstar himself, who he would recommend as a Jungle Guide for a project like this. He was kind enough to connect us with KickPoint.

Dana DiTomaso at KickPoint was able to quickly understand where we were in the process, and what we needed. Dana proved to be instrumental in validating our efforts along the way, but we were very encouraged by her assessment that our existing plan was thorough and covered the necessary steps. Admittedly, we would have been disappointed otherwise — it was a really detailed plan.

Tim outlined a six-phase project with specifications and definitions of our SEO strategy in a website migration document with an accompanying spreadsheet, complete with an RACI (responsible, accountable, consult, and inform) matrix and timeline. Tim’s plan was extremely clear, with positive outcome scenarios including possible growth as a result of the migration.

I will credit Tim again — my head was spinning with only the potential pitfalls (detailed below) of such a huge change. What about E-A-T? This new domain had no expertise, authority, or trust to it, and growth in traffic wasn’t something I had even considered. Our IT Director agreed that she had never seen that happen in her career, so we set expectations to have about a ten percent decline over six weeks before a full recovery. I squirmed a bit, but okay.

Along with traffic loss, it was important for us to lay out all the possible risks associated with this execution.

Risks

Many of the risks we faced revolved around implementation uncertainty and resource allocation on the IT side. Of the risks that were introduced, the one that I had the most reservations about was migrating our blog to a new URL path. This was decided to be too much of a risk, and we removed it from the initial plan.

*Credit to Modestos Siotos: The Website Migration Guide: SEO Strategy, Process, & Checklist

Redirect strategy for the main brand domain

To help mitigate some of the risks, we discussed options for an overlay notifying customers of the change. But as much as we wanted to get customers excited about our new name and look, we didn’t want it to be too disruptive or be penalized for a disruptive interstitial.

The more we spoke to customers leading up to the big changeover, the more we realized that — while this was a big deal to us — it ultimately didn’t impact them, as long as they could still expect the high quality products and support they’d come to know us for. We ended up implementing a persistent banner on every page of the site that pointed to a page about the brand evolution, but we didn’t choose to force users into interacting with that modal.

Phase two: pre-launch preparation

Technical SEO specification

At this point in the project, we realized we had an XML sitemap that would change, but that we wanted the old sitemaps around to help reinforce the transition in Google Search Console. We also determined that an HTML sitemap would help in laying out our structure. We were six months out from our brand transition, so any changes we wanted to make to our website had to be made ASAP.

So, we cleaned up our URL structure, removing many of the existing server redirects that weren’t being used or followed much anymore by only keeping links from our referral traffic.

We also created more logical URL paths to show relationships, for example:

/products/industrial-computers/ >> /computers/industrial/

/products/rugged-computers/ >> /computers/rugged/

And updated the redirects to point to the right end path without following redirect chains:

Technical CMS specification

When doing a migration to a new domain, the depth and complexity of the technical CMS specification really depends on if you are migrating your existing platform or switching to a new one. The CMS of choice in our case didn’t change from the previous, which made our lives a little easier. We were porting our existing website over to the new domain as-is. It would mostly come down to content at this stage in the plan.

Content updates

One of the most important things at this step was to make sure our content was displaying our new brand properly. Essentially, we planned for a “simple” find/replace:

Find: *Logic Supply*

Replace: *OnLogic*

We took inventory of every attribute and field on our website that mentions the company, and applied the change across the board: descriptions, short descriptions, meta titles, meta descriptions, manufacturer, etc.

At one point we asked ourselves, “What do we do with press releases or past content that says ‘Logic Supply’? Should that be replaced with ‘OnLogic’?” In the end, we decided to exclude certain parts of the website from the script (articles, events, news from our past), but made sure that all the links were updated. We didn’t have to bury Logic Supply as a brand name, as there would be an advantage in having references to this name during the period of transition to remind customers we’re still the same company.

During this phase, we prepared what needed to be changed in Google Ads, such as headlines, descriptions, URLs, sitelinks, and videos. We ramped up our paid search budget for both terms “Logic Supply” and “OnLogic”, and prioritized pages and keywords to elevate in Google Ads in case the domain change did have an impact on our core keyword rankings.

Priority page identification

Since the intent of our migration was to port our existing platform over to a new domain and make very few changes in the process, we didn’t have to list pages we would have to prioritize over others. What we did do was think about external factors that would impact our SEO, and how to limit this impact for our biggest referral traffic sources and top ranking pages.

External Links

We compiled a spreadsheet to help us address, and ideally update, backlinks to our former domain. The categories and data sources are worth noting:

Backlinks: We downloaded all of our backlinks data compiled from SEMRush and Google Search.

Referral traffic and top organic landing pages: This list was pulled from Google Analytics to determine high-traffic, priority pages we’d need to monitor closely after the transition. It also helped to prioritize links that were actively being used.

Partners: We wrote to each of our partners and suppliers about the changes in advance, and asked them to make updates to the links on their websites by certain deadlines. I was delighted to see how quickly this was implemented — a testament to our amazing partners.

Publishers: Anywhere we had a mention in a news story or website that we thought could be updated, we reached out via email at go-live. We did decide at some point we couldn’t erase our history as www.logicsupply.com, but we could at least let those contacts know we had changed. There were a few direct placement advertisements we also had to update.

Directories: We used various internet resources, and a great deal of Googling, to identify business, product, or industry directories that pointed to our old domain and/or used our old name. I hate that directories still have a place in SEO these days, since they date back to the early ages of the internet, but we wanted to cover our bases.

Redirect specification

Redirect mapping

When you’re performing a domain migration, one of the most important things for sustaining organic traffic is to help Google — and any search engine — understand that a page has moved to a new location. One way to do this is with a permanent (301) redirect.

So began our redirect mapping. Our migration scenario was fortunate in the sense that everything remained the same as far as URL structure goes. The only thing that changed was the domain name.

The final redirect map (yes, it’s the world’s most complicated one, ever) was:

logicsupply.com/* -> onlogic.com/*

Internal link redirects

As IT had their redirection mapping server-side prepared, we needed to make sure our internal links weren’t pointing to a 301 redirect, as this would hurt our SEO. Users had to be sent straight to the correct page on the new domain.

Objective: update all links on the site’s content to point to the new domain. Below is the “find/replace” table that our IT team used to help us update all the content for the transition to onlogic.com:

We also launched an HTML sitemap as soon as possible under logicsupply.com after our URL restructure, six months prior to launch.

Contingency plan

We took 15 weeks to prepare, test, and get comfortable with the migration. Once live, there is no going back. Executing thoroughly and exactly on the plan and checking every box is the only approach. So in short: there was no contingency plan. Whatever happened, once we switched domains, that was it.

GULP.

Phase two ended when we started to move away from the specifications and into exactly what needed to happen, and when. We used our Go-Live Checklist to make sure that we had every box checked for creative needs, third party integrations, and to configure file review. Making the checklist highly detailed and accurate was the only way to make sure we succeeded.

Phase three: pre-launch testing

To kick off phase three, we had to get a baseline of where we were at. We had a few errors to correct that had been outstanding in Google Search Console, like submitting noindex links through our XML sitemap. This project also alerted us to the fact that, if everything went well, site speed would be our next project to tackle.

Content review

As content wouldn’t change except for “Logic Supply” becoming “OnLogic”, we didn’t really have to do a lot of reviewing here. We did extensively test the find/replace functionality in the go-live scripts to make sure everything looked as it was supposed to, and that the sections we chose to exclude were in fact left untouched. Updated designs were also part of this review.

Technical review

The technical review involved checking everything we had planned out in the second phase, so making sure redirects, sitemaps, links, and scripts were working and crawlable. IT implemented all server-side conditions, and set up the new domain to work internally for all testing tasks that needed to be executed. Again, the checklist was leading in this endeavor.

Redirect testing

Using ScreamingFrog, we crawled both the sitemaps as well as the staging website we had internally launched for testing purposes — hidden away from the outside world. Any redirect errors that appeared were resolved on the spot.

Site launch risk assessment

Risk assessment was a continuous activity throughout the testing. We had a go or no-go decision prior to go-live, as we couldn’t go back once we flipped the switch on the domain migration. Everything that popped up as an error or flag we swiftly assessed and decided whether to mitigate or ignore for the sake of time. Surprisingly, very few things came up, so we could quickly begin the benchmarking process.

Benchmarking

The template above was what we used to track our site speed before and after. Our benchmarks were consistent between the website before and after our staged migration using both Lighthouse and GTMetrix, meaning we were on track for our go-live date.

Phase four: go-live!

The least impactful day to make this change was over the weekend, because as a B2B company, we’ve noticed that our customers tend to be online during regular office hours.

Our team in the Netherlands, including Tim, flew in to support, and our IT and marketing teams dedicated a Saturday to the migration. It also happened to be my birthday weekend, so I was excited to be able to celebrate with my colleagues while they were in town, and in turn celebrate them for all their hard work!

So, on Saturday, October 19, 2019, around 8 a.m., IT confirmed we were good to go and the maintenance page was up. This was returning a “503 — service temporarily unavailable” server response to make sure Google wouldn’t index our site during the migration.

It was at this point in the process that our Go-Live Checklist took over. It was a lot of work up front, but all of this preparation made the final execution of the domain transition a matter of a few clicks to move and/or publish items.

Among all our other tasks, we updated our page title suffix, which was previously “Logic Supply”, to “Logic Supply is now OnLogic” (today it’s “OnLogic formerly Logic Supply”). This was an indication to Google that we were the same company.

The hardest part was the waiting.

Phases five and six: post-launch and performance review

I had planned to camp out next to my computer for the next few days to watch for problems, but nothing surfaced right away. While organic traffic did take an expected dip, it wasn’t nearly as dramatic or prolonged as we’d been warned it might be. We are still seeing logicsupply.com indexed months later, which is frustrating, but doesn’t seem to be affecting our traffic on the new domain.

Overall, we view our website transition as a success. Our traffic returned to where we were and we surpassed our project benchmarks for both traffic and site performance.

Following the move, we looked for follow-on opportunities to help improve our site speed, including identifying inactive or out-of-date plugins from our blog. Our blog made up at least 40 percent of our organic traffic, so this change made our site faster and helped to reach our organic growth recovery goals in less than six weeks.

We are constantly looking at and prioritizing new opportunities to improve the website experience for our customers, and make doing business with OnLogic as easy as possible. The domain change project was a huge undertaking by the entire organization, and required a great deal of planning and constant communication and collaboration to pull off. That said, the time spent up-front was paid back twice over in the time saved recovering our organic traffic, and making things seamless for our website users to ensure everyone could carry on with business-as-usual.

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Google Alerts for Link Building: A Quick and Easy Guide

Posted by David_Farkas

If you’re a link builder, you know how tough it can be to persuade other site owners to link to your site with “out-of-the-blue” pitches. This is true even if you have great content or have been building links for years.

That’s why the mantra “link building is relationship building” exists. Often, before you build a link, you have to build a relationship with the site owner first. This means anything from following them on Twitter, commenting mindfully on their posts, writing emails to them to discuss their content without pitching links, etc. It’s a productive strategy, but also a time-intensive one.

However, there’s another — relatively quick — link building strategy. 

Is your ear itching? If you’re the superstitious type, this means that someone is talking about you.

Sometimes a webmaster will publish your brand name, products, or target keywords on their site without actually linking to your site. In SEO, these are known as “fresh mention” opportunities. These are typically some of the easiest link building opportunities available, since you don’t really have to explain yourself to the site owner. Mostly, you just have to ask them to put an <a href> tag in the code.

But how do you find these fresh mentions? There are multiple methods and tools, but today I’m going to highlight the one I use most often: Google Alerts.

Google Alerts is beneficial in a myriad of ways beyond the world of link building and SEO, but there’s no doubt that it’s the best way to stay on top of your fresh mention opportunities. Allow me to explain how you can use it!

Setting up Google Alerts

First off, the obvious: you need the correct link. To start using Google Alerts, head over to Google Alerts. You can technically set up alerts without a Gmail account, but I would recommend having one. If you don’t have one, click here to find out how to set one up.

When you have an account set up and land on Google Alerts, you will see a page that looks like this:

No, there’s not much to see. Not yet anyway.

Let’s take a basic example. Say you want to create an alert for mentions of link building. Simply type the phrase into the bar at the top.

You will see something similar to the image above, even before you click on anything else. The first box asks for which email address you want to receive the alerts (I’ve erased mine for the purpose of this article, but trust me, it’s there). Below that will be examples of recent alerts for your query.

Click the “Create Alert” button, and alerts will be sent to your selected inbox going forward. However, you can customize a few settings before you do so. Click the “Show options” dropdown next to the button to see a list of settings you can adjust:

Each item is auto-filled with the default setting. You can adjust the settings so that you only get alerts from specific regions, for certain types of content, and more. In general, I have found the default settings to suffice, but there are valid reasons you might want to change them (if you’re only interested in video content, for example).

When you’re done with the settings, you can create the alert!

Google Alert tips

Quotation Marks

From that point on, assuming you stuck with the default option of once-a-day emails, you’ll get an email every 24 hours that looks like this:

Notice the returns in this example include pages that talk about each individual word from your query (in this example the word “link” and the word “building”). Obviously, this isn’t helpful, and it’s a waste of time to sift through these results.

So, how can you make sure that you only get results for an exact phrase? Quotation marks!

I (intentionally) made this mistake when setting up this alert. Notice in the image from the first section that “link building” didn’t include quotation marks around it. Without them, Google Alerts will return results like the ones in the image above.

The quotation marks indicate that you’re looking for an exact match of that phrase, so when you set up an alert using them you will get something that looks like this:

Much better, right?

Note that you can combine terms with and without quotation marks in one alert. Say for example I was looking for content related to link building around images. Instead of “link building images,” a phrase not likely to occur too often, I could use:

This will return results that include both the exact phrase “link building” AND the term “images”.

Set up multiple alerts

If you’re using Google Alerts for link building, I recommend setting up more than one alert. Consider some of the following:

  • Your brand name
  • Your products or services
  • Your focus keywords
  • Personalities associated with your brand

If you’re concerned about all the emails flooding your inbox, adjust the settings to decrease the frequency or stagger delivery days. You can also set up a separate Gmail account that only serves to receive these emails. I personally find the former to be the better option, but I know people who do the latter.

Consider setting up alerts for your competitors as well. Doing so may give you a window into their link building and publicity strategies that you can learn from. Along with that, you might find new potential target sites that aren’t mentioning you. If they mention your competitor, it’s likely they are relevant to your niche.

Also include common misspellings of any of the list items above. While Google’s algorithm is typically smart enough to correct such misspellings in its search, a few valuable results may seep through even still.

Conclusion

Google Alerts can be helpful for other purposes other than link building. Certainly, if you’re engaged in an online reputation management campaign, they’re a necessity. Some use Alerts to track the kind of publicity their competitors are getting as well.

There are other excellent link building tools out there that can complement your “fresh mention” strategy if you are a link builder, but Google Alerts is an essential. I hope you find Google Alerts as helpful for link building as I have. If you have other tools or suggestions, please mention them in the comments below.

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Three Steps to a Better-Performing About Page

Posted by AnnSmarty

Somehow, many businesses I’ve come across online have one glaring problem in common: a very weak and unconvincing About Us page.

This doesn’t make any sense in my mind, as the About page is one of the most important brand assets, and unlike link building and social media marketing, it doesn’t require any ongoing effort or investment.

An About page is often part of a buying journey. It can drive people to your site and help convince them to deal with you. And, in these uncertain times, you can use it to help build trust in you and your business.

Creating a solid About page is a one-time task, but it will boost both brand loyalty and conversions for many months to come.

Why is your About page so important?

It is often an entry page

Whether you’re a business owner or blogger, your About page tends to rank incredibly well for brand-driven search queries (those that contain your name or your brand name). If nothing else, it shows up in your sitelinks:

Or your mini-sitelinks:

This means your customers will often enter your site through your About page. Is it making a good first impression to convince them to browse your site further (or engage)?

Let’s not forget that branded queries have high intent, because people typing your brand name in the search box already know you or have heard about your products. Failing to meet their needs equals a missed opportunity.

It is often a conversion trigger (and more)

How often have you checked a business’s About page before buying anything from them? I always do, especially if it’s a new brand I haven’t heard of before.

Or maybe it’s not even about buying.

Anytime someone approaches me with a quote or an interview request, I always check their About page. I refuse to deal with bloggers who don’t take themselves seriously.

Likewise, I often look to the About page when trying to find a press contact to feature a tool in my article.

On a personal level, I always open an About page to find a brand’s social media profiles when I want to follow them.

A lack of a detailed, well-structured About page often means leaked conversions as well as missed backlinks or follows.

It is an important entity optimization asset

We don’t know exactly how Google decides whether a site can be considered a brand, but we have well-educated theories so we can help Google in making this decision. The About page is a perfect entity optimization asset.

First, what we know: An About page is mentioned in Google’s human rating guidelines as one of the ways to determine the “expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness”, or E-A-T, of any page.

Human raters don’t have a direct impact on search results, but their assessments are used to teach Google’s algorithm to better rank pages. So if the About page comes up in their guidelines, it’s likely they use it as a ranking signal.

Second, Google is using information you choose to put on your About page to put your business inside their knowledge base, so it’s important to include as much detail as you can.

With all of this in mind, how should you put together a great About page?

1. Start strong

This step is not unique to this particular page, but that doesn’t make it any less important.

Treat your About page as a business card: People should be willing to learn more as soon as they see it. Your page should be eye-catching and memorable, and grab attention at first sight without the need to scroll down.

For example, Cisco starts with a powerful picture and message:

Nextiva starts with their main tagline:

Slack tells us exactly what they are doing and sums up its most impressive stats:

Telling your brand’s story is a great way to make your About page more memorable and relatable. Terminus does a very good job at starting their page with some history about the company that leaves you wanting to know more:

And Zoom starts with a video and a list of the company’s values:

Starting your page with a quick, attention-grabbing video is probably the best idea because video has been proven to convince visitors to linger a little bit longer and start engaging with the page.

You can create a short and professional video within minutes using web-based video editors like InVideo (in fact, InVideo is probably the most affordable solution I’m aware of).

To create a video intro using InVideo:

  • Pick a template
  • Upload your images and videos (or use the ones inside the platform)
  • Edit subtitles to tell your brand’s story
  • Add music or a voiceover

It’ll take you just 30 minutes to create a captivating video to put on your landing page:

2. Link your brand to other entities

With all that Google-fueled nonsense going around about nofollowing external links, or even linking out in general, marketers and bloggers tend to forget about one important thing: A link is the only way for Google to crawl the web.

More than that, Google needs links to:

  • Understand how well-cited (and hence authoritative) any page is
  • Create a map of sites, entities behind them, and concepts they represent

This is where linking out to other “entities” (e.g. brands, organizations, places, etc.) is so important: it helps Google identify your place within their own knowledge base.

To give you some ideas, make sure to link to:

  • Your company’s professional awards
  • Your featured mentions
  • Conferences you were/are speaking at

For personal blogs, feel free to include references to your education, past companies you worked for, etc.

To give you a quick example of how useful this may turn out to be, here’s my own Google Knowledge Graph:



How did I get it?

To start, “Shorty Awards” is Google’s recognized entity. When I was nominated, I linked to that announcement from my blog, so Google connected me to the entity and generated a branded Knowledge Graph.

This nomination is hardly my only — or even most notable — accomplishment, but that’s all Google needed to put me on the map.

Google may know you exist, but without making a connection to a known entity, you can’t become one yourself. So start by making those associations using your About page.

To help Google even more, use semantic analysis to create copy containing related concepts and entities:

  • Register at Text Optimizer and type in your core keyword (something that describes your business model/niche in the best possible way)
  • Choose Google and then “New Text”

Text Optimizer will run your query in Google, grab search snippets, and apply semantic analysis to generate the list of related concepts and entities you should try and include in your content. This will make it easier for Google to understand what your business is about and what kinds of associations it should be building:

Using some structured markup is also a good idea to help Google connect all the dots. You can point Google to your organization’s details (date it was founded, founder’s name, type of company, etc.) as well as some more details including official social media channels, awards, associated books, and more.

Here are a few useful Schema generators to create your code:

For WordPress users, here are a few plugins to help with Schema integration.

3. Include your CTA

Most About pages I’ve had to deal with so far have one issue in common: It’s unclear what users are supposed to do once they land there.

Given the page role in the buying journey (customers may be entering your site through it or using it as a final research touchpoint), it is very important to help them proceed down your conversion channel.

Depending on the nature of your business, include a CTA to:

  • Request a personal demo
  • Contact you
  • Check out your catalogue
  • Talk to your chatbot
  • Opt-in to receive your downloadable brochure or newsletter

Apart from your CTAs, there are helpful ways to make your About page easier to navigate from. These include:

Whatever you do, start treating your About page as a commercial landing page, not just a resource for information about your business. Turn it into a conversion funnel, and this includes monitoring that funnel.

On WordPress, you can set up each link or button on your About page as an event to track using Finteza’s plugin. This way, you’ll be able to tell which of those CTAs bring in more customers and which are leaking conversions.

Finteza allows you to keep a close eye on your conversion funnel and analyze its performance based on traffic source, user location, and more.

For example, here’s us tracking all kinds of “Free Download” buttons. It’s obvious that the home page has many more entries, but the About page seems to do a better job at getting its visitors to convert:

[I am using arrows to show “leaked” clicks. The home page us obviously losing more clicks than the “About” page]

You can absolutely use Google Analytics to analyze your conversion funnel and user journeys once they land on your About page, but it will require some setup. For help, read about Google Analytics Attribution and Google Analytics Custom Dimensions — both resources are helpful in uncovering more insights with Google Analytics, beyond what you would normally monitor.

Like any other top- and middle-of-the-funnel pages, you’re welcome to reinforce your CTA by using social proof (recent reviews, testimonials, featured case studies, etc.). Here are a few ideas for placing testimonials.

Takeaways

Creating and optimizing your About page is a fairly low-effort initiative, especially if you compare it with other marketing tasks. Yet it can bring about several positive changes, like more trust in your brand and better conversion rates.

You should treat this page as a business card: It needs to create a very good impression in an instant. Put something attention-grabbing and engaging in the above-the-fold area — for example, a quick video intro, a tagline, or a photo.

Consider using links, semantic analysis, and structured markups to help Google associate your brand with other niche entities, and put it into its knowledge base.

Add CTAs (and experiment with different kinds of CTAs) to prompt your page visitors to follow your conversion funnel. An About page is often an underestimated, yet a very important part of your customers’ buying journeys, so make sure it’s clear where you want them to proceed.

Thanks for reading, hope it was helpful, let me know your thoughts/questions in the comments. Let’s discuss!

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



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5 Common Objections to SEO (&amp; How to Respond) – Best of Whiteboard Friday

Posted by KameronJenkins

With marketing budgets taking a hit under the economic strain of COVID-19, advocating for the value SEO can bring to a struggling business is a new take on an old battle. This popular Whiteboard Friday episode by Kameron Jenkins covers five common objections you’ll hear to SEO and how to counter them with smart, researched, fact-based responses — an important skill to brush up on now more than ever.

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

Video Transcription

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

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

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

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

Success follows investment

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

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

Every channel serves a different purpose

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

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

Assists vs last click only

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

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



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

What SERPs are you looking at? 

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

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

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

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

People research before buying

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

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

Better together

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

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

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

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

Branded vs non-branded

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

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

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

Assists are important too

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

It can be highly qualified

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

4. “SEO takes too long”

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

SEO is not a growth hack

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

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

Methodology + time = growth

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

So that’s how I respond to that one. 

5. “You can’t measure the ROI.”

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

A) Predicting ROI

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

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

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

B) Measuring ROI



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

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

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

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

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

Come back again next week for another one.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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The MozCon Virtual 2020 Initial Agenda

Posted by cheryldraper

It’s the question that’s been on plenty of people’s minds: What’s up with MozCon this year?

We’re happy to report that 2020’s MozCon is on like Donkey Kong, and as you can tell from its brand-new name, the format this year is just a tad bit different. MozCon 2020 is now MozCon Virtual, an online conference experience delivering every ounce of digital marketing expertise you expect in-person with the safety and security of social distancing at home.

Today, we’re here to tell you all about it — changes, challenges, nitty-gritty details, who’s speaking and what you’ll learn, and more!

Here’s the skinny on MozCon Virtual

MozCon Virtual will take place from the comfort of your at-home office space across July 14 & 15, 2020. Business on top, social distancing sweatpants on the bottom — you’ll be cozier than ever while learning all the latest and greatest in the world of SEO.

Twenty-two industry thought leaders will walk you through the hottest topics of 2020, covering everything from SEO automation to modern content promotion to strategies for handling keyword research in the midst of a crisis. You’ll see fondly familiar faces and exciting new names to the MozCon stage, and you can rest assured that we’re keeping the bar as high as it’s ever been for content quality.

Additionally, we know that budgets are tight right now. We want to do our part to help by making MozCon Virtual as accessible to everyone as we can. Tickets are now priced at $129. This also includes full access to the MozCon video bundle once it’s released!

Save my spot at MozCon Virtual!

Changes, challenges, & nitty-gritty details

A note about transparency and making really hard decisions

We’re not going to lie — organizing this year’s MozCon was a challenge. As it became more and more clear that an in-person event was neither feasible nor responsible (not to mention illegal here in Washington state!), we had a relatively short window of time to pivot from a 1,600-attendee event that we ran year after year using a concrete, smooth-as-butter process, to the virtual unknown. (Pardon the pun.)

There were many, many meetings. There was research and projections and debate, and more than one idea changed form three or four times before it took shape.

In the end, it came down to what was best for our community. MozCon has never operated from a profit standpoint — most years we aim to break even — but even with the risk and cost associated with such a monumental change to the event, we knew the show must go on. SEO doesn’t just stop. And right now, it’s picking up speed: People are turning to the internet to solve their problems now more than ever before, and businesses of all stripes are depending on that online visibility to sustain them through hardship. SEOs and digital marketers still need access to cutting-edge thought leadership, techniques, and strategies, and MozCon can deliver — even if it means we only get to daydream about all the high fives, fist bumps, and Roger hugs.

Not your typical marketing couchference

It was important that we find ways to maintain that special MozCon magic that makes folks excited to wake up extra early on a Monday morning, don their conference badge, and skip happily to the Washington State Convention Center for a day full of educational goodness.

We’re gonna miss the snacks — that’s just the truth. Doughnuts and coffee aside, we’ve energized our virtual conference with that snazzy MozCon spirit you look forward to every year:

  • The highest caliber speakers and topics in town: Twenty-two of digital marketing’s top experts will share their very best advice, strategies, tactics, and research over two jam-packed days of learning. You’ll have all their decks available for download, and the new choice of attending the talks that most interest you.
  • Friendly neighborhood Mozzers emceeing the event: MozCon stage superstars Cyrus Shepard and Britney Muller will keep the sparkle going between session.
  • Interactive Q&A with the experts: You’ll be able to participate in live Q&A sessions with speakers to answer your most burning digital marketing questions and quandaries.
  • Virtual networking with Birds of a Feather breakout sessions: Birds of a Feather tables are a lunchtime hit every single year. And we’ve heard your feedback: networking is a huge part of the MozCon experience. That’s why we’re introducing Birds of a Feather virtual discussions — a special online experience where you’ll be able to join expert-hosted events, connect with like-minded marketers, and forge professional relationships through the magic of the internet.
  • Charitable donations: Our belief in giving back hasn’t changed just because we’re going online. For every ticket sold we’ll be making a donation, with more details to come as we draw closer to showtime.
  • Awesome partners: MozCon is fortunate to have the support of our fantastic sponsors who have stuck with us through all the changes this year. They’ll be sharing their expertise in special hosted breakout groups. Curious about who our partners are? Check them out: 97th Floor, Base Search Marketing, CallRail, Crowd Content, Duda, GatherUp, and PAGES!

Two days chock full of conference goodness

We know it’s tough to take a full three days away from your day job, so we’re approaching MozCon Virtual with multi-track options to let attendees choose their own conference adventure — with full access to every talk via the MozCon video bundle once the conference is over.

A global experience at a more accessible price

We’re streaming MozCon!

Every year we’ve heard our community ask: I can’t make the trip. Will you be streaming MozCon? To our friends around the world, we’re glad to be able to answer yesthis year, MozCon will be fully available to remote attendees. While those in particularly opposite timezones may be enjoying the show in your jammies, for the first time MozCon will serve you on your sofa. And you won’t miss out on a single session — every ticket holder will have full access to the MozCon video bundle after the event, meaning you can re-watch your favorites and catch up on any you missed.

MozCon quality at a price more folks can afford: Tickets are now $129

We’ve lowered the price to attend this year’s conference for a couple of reasons.

One, while there are still some pretty significant costs to throwing a large virtual conference, those costs don’t include some of our biggest-ticket items, such as a conference space and food & beverage. Delicious treats and comfy seats are a real investment!

And two, times are really darn tough right now. We know agencies, brands, and freelancers are struggling in the midst of the economic downturn, and that it’s more important than ever to hone skills and build new ones. We originally lowered ticket prices by about 40%. Then, based on community feedback and suggestions, we decided to forego the idea of shipping out swag and snacks and lowered them again — to the tune of $129.

Every MozCon ticket purchased also includes full access to the MozCon video bundle, a $349 value. Our video bundles are professionally produced and fully shareable with your team, so you can keep the learning going throughout the rest of the year and revisit the talks that mattered most.

Register for MozCon Virtual


Initial agenda

Ready to explore what we’ve got planned for this year? Check out our current speakers and topics — and stay tuned for more information as the agenda evolves!

Alexis Sanders

Senior SEO Account Manager, Merkle
The Science of Seeking Your Customer

Users are at the core of everything we do in modern SEO. However, finding and understanding audiences can be daunting. Alexis will cover how to find your audience, share tools that are available for all price points, and show ways in which she’s found audience research to be useful as an SEO.

Andy Crestodina

Co-founder and CMO, Orbit Media
Thought Leadership and SEO: The 3 Key Elements and Search Ranking Strategies

Everyone wants to do it, but no one really knows what it is. So what is thought leadership? What isn’t it? And how does it affect search rankings?

This presentation is a data-rich perspective on the oh-so-popular topic of thought leadership, filled with practical takeaways for becoming an authority. And it’s all about the relationship between thought leadership and SEO. We’ll see how the research answers the questions and informs the tactics: Can brands be thought leaders? Can it be outsourced? Do you need to publish research? Or strong opinion? And how does it attract links and authority, rankings, and qualified visitors? Learn how a personal brand combines with content to drive big wins in SEO.

Britney Muller

Senior SEO Scientist, Moz
TBD

Last year, Britney wowed the crowd with a bevy of new research, data, and actionable tactics for understanding and winning featured snippets. We’re still piecing together all the intricate details of this year’s talk, so keep an ear to the ground as we continue to evolve our agenda!

Brian Dean

Founder, Backlinko
How to Promote Your Content Like a Boss

Creating content is easy. But getting people to see your content? That’s a different story. Brian Dean shares over a dozen practical strategies that you can use to spread the word about your latest blog post, podcast episode, or YouTube video.

Casie Gillette

Senior Director of Digital, KoMarketing
Counterintuitive Content: How New Trends Have Disrupted Years of Bad Advice

Content marketers don’t have it easy. We’re constantly adapting to our ever-shifting landscape and juggling an overwhelming amount of information and advice: Do we produce as much content as possible? Should we focus on quality, while still maintaining consistent schedules? And now, what about YouTube, voice search, and even TikTok?

The fact is, there’s no one way to do content marketing. Casie will showcase content in an entirely new light, with ideas and tips on how you can start creating content on your own terms.

Dana DiTomaso

President and partner, Kick Point
TBD

MozCon veterans know the value and vibrancy Dana brings to the stage, and this year will be no exception. Be on the lookout for juicy details about her 2020 talk — we can’t wait to share.

David Sottimano

VP, Keyphraseology
Everyday Automation for Marketers

As a general rule, we shouldn’t be doing things that a computer can do better. However, a lot of automation is achieved through programming expertise — and that expertise isn’t usually a marketer’s forte. In this session, you’ll learn how to gather data, use machine learning, and automate everyday tasks for marketers using low-code or no-code solutions.

Flavilla Fongang

Brand Strategist, 3 Colours Rule
How to Go Beyond Marketing for Clients: The Value of a Thriving Brand Ecosystem

Too many marketers serve their clients the bare minimum of what’s expected from an agency. To stand out among the crowd, cultivate real loyalty, and maximize the lifetime value of your clients, you have to go beyond mere marketing — developing a thriving brand ecosystem that aligns with the brand’s ultimate goals. Flavilla Fongang shares her tried-and-true framework for optimizing the customer journey, improving acquisition and retention, and going beyond what’s expected to serve your clients well.

Francine Rodriguez

Manager of Customer Success, WordStream
Let It Go: How to Embrace Automation and Get Way More Done

Let the robot uprising begin! We’ve all heard horror stories about the dangers of automating your tasks, but now is not the time to deny yourself extra help. Robots never sleep. They don’t get tired or overwhelmed by their to-do lists, and they’re ready to work round-the-clock to accomplish whatever task we set before them. In this talk, you’ll explore all the areas were automation is kicking butt in PPC — and how you can harness the power of robots to make more time for other efforts.

Heather Physioc

Group Connections Director, Discoverability, VMLY&R
Competitive Advantage in a Commoditized Industry

SEO isn’t dead — it’s commoditized. In a world where search companies are a dime a dozen and brands tout bland “unique selling propositions” that aren’t unique at all, how can you avoid drowning in the sea of sameness? What are you doing that’s any different from every other SEO firm? In this talk, you’ll learn how to find, activate, and articulate your competitive advantage. Learn how to identify unique strengths and innovative offerings that equate to competitive advantage through these real, working examples so you can bring them to life in search. You’ll leave with actionable tips and homework to help your search business stand out — and that you can use with clients to help them find their competitive edge, too.

Izzi Smith

Technical SEO Analyst, Ryte
How to Be Ahead of the (CTR) Curve

Let’s face it: Carrying out SEO magic is all in vain when you’re forgetting about how your brand and products are being surfaced in the SERPs. By not properly analyzing or enhancing our organic CTR, we’re greatly limiting our potential. Izzi will help you create the perfect SERP engagement strategy by covering practical ways to uplift your significant CTR, such as remedying your critical keyword rankings that could soon be lost, leveraging brand-empowering entity features (and assessing the risks of doing so), more intelligent testing of rich & featured snippet optimizations, and a whole lot more. CTR-you-ready?? You better be!

Joy Hawkins

Owner, Sterling Sky Inc.
Google My Business: Battling Bad Info & Safeguarding Your Search Strategy

What’s the harm in a little misinformation here and there? In the realm of local SEO, Joy Hawkins is here to outline exactly that. When it comes to local search and Google My Business, it can be make or break for your campaigns. Follow real data from a recent case study that illustrates why strategic decisions should be based on accurate information — and what can happen when that info is bad, wrong, or just plain incomplete.

Mike King

Managing Director, iPullRank
TBD

Mike redefined technical SEO and its importance in our industry back in 2016. In 2018, he taught us everything we didn’t know about SEO. This year, he’s back to share the hottest technical tactics to uplevel your efforts, plus the case studies and data that should be guiding your decisions.

Dr. Peter J. Meyers

Marketing Scientist, Moz
Moving Targets: Keywords in Crisis

Too often, we take a once-and-done approach to keyword research, but Google changes at the pace of information, and that pace speeds up even more during a crisis. How do we do keyword research in fast-paced industries and during world-changing moments? Dr. Pete provides concrete tactics for adaptive keyword research and spotting trends as they happen.

Phil Nottingham

Brand and Video Marketing Strategist, Phil Nottingham Ltd.
How to Build a Global Brand Without a Global Budget

As funnel-based marketing becomes less effective and harder to measure, “building a brand” is frequently touted as the panacea for all marketer’s woes. But it’s unclear how this can be achieved scalably and with a limited budget. Large enterprises resort to huge creative advertising campaigns that get their names out there by force of spend alone — but this isn’t realistic for the smaller companies and the number of impressions is not the number of people impressed. In this session, Phil explains how modern brands are built through advocacy more than awareness alone, offering a deliverable method of brand marketing to radically shake up your content strategy.

Rob Ousbey

VP Product, Moz
TBD

Rob is no stranger to the MozCon stage — he’s graced it in the past as emcee, and in 2019 he covered the intimidating topic of running your own SEO tests (and how to do it right.) While we’re still nailing down the details of his 2020 talk, we’re confident that this year’s topic will be every bit as impressively daunting.

Robin Lord

Consultant, Distilled
Whatever You Do, Put Billboards in Seattle – Getting Brand Awareness Data from Google

How can you harness the vast power of Google data to gain special insight into city- and product-level brand awareness? Robin will lead us on a journey through his Google Trends methodology to use Adwords search volume data for better brand intelligence.

Ross Simmonds

CEO, Foundation
Designing a Content Engine: Going from Ideation to Creation to Distribution

What does it take to develop a content engine that drives results? In this presentation, Ross will share data around the power of having a content engine, tools & strategies for content ideation, tools and tactics for content creation, and frameworks that brands can use to ensure that their content is distributed effectively after hitting publish. This presentation will help you not only uncover content-market fit, but also capitalize on it.

Russ Jones

Principal Search Scientist, Moz
I Wanna Be Rich: Making Your Consultancy Profitable

How will your company weather the next update? How will you avoid layoffs and salary cuts? Being a master of SEO doesn’t guarantee that your consultancy will succeed. After a decade and a half of experience, Russ Jones will outline the techniques that will keep your clients happy and your bottom line healthy.

Sarah Bird

CEO, Moz
Welcome to MozCon Virtual + the State of the Industry

Sarah has a storied history of kicking MozCon off with a bright, sparkly bang. The fearless leader of Moz will be welcoming each and every one of us to this year’s virtual event, laying out all the pertinent details of the conference, and setting the tone for two jam-packed days of learning with a look at the State of the Industry.

Shannon McGuirk

Head of PR & Content, Aira
Great Expectations: The Truth About Digital PR Campaigns

In her talk, Shannon will challenge the desire for virality over consistency when it comes to digital PR and link building campaigns, while exploring the impact on the industry, team morale, and client expectations. By honestly sharing her own shortcomings, she’ll push you to learn from your own campaign failures using tried and tested frameworks that’ll mean you can face any creative campaign or outreach struggle head-on.

Wil Reynolds

Founder & Vice President of Innovation, Seer InteractiveThe CMO Role Has Been Disrupted – Are You Ready for Your New Boss?

CMOs have the shortest tenure in the c-suite, and the CMO role has been eliminated at some of the largest brands. CEOs are now asking tougher and tougher questions about the value of marketing — and oftentimes marketers are not prepared.

Connecting your data and building your data flywheel is one way to support the swift answers CEOs expect from their CMOs. We need to get stronger at bridging our day-to-day work to the value it drives. And more than ever, “brand lift” isn’t enough to satisfy CEOs.

This presentation will start at the top. How businesses are run, how CEOs talk, and how we as search marketers can use the data we have access to everyday in new ways to answer the questions of the c-suite and raise our visibility and value in organizations.


We hope to see your smiling faces online in July!

Thanks to each and every one of you for your patience as we hammered out the details of this year’s conference, for the questions you’ve asked and the honest feedback you’ve given us. We’re super excited to try out something new this year! Join us this July for our first MozCon Virtual and let’s explore the future of digital marketing together:

Yes, I’m going to MozCon!

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



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Interdisciplinarity: How to Integrate Organic Search, Paid Search, and Content Teams

Posted by HeatherPhysioc

As an industry, we talk a good game about collaboration, but the truth is it’s not really happening the way we tell our clients and bosses it happens. We stroll into new business pitches and make big claims about how “integrated” we are. We preach that our recommendations are better because we have a more “holistic” offering. But whether it’s across agencies working on the same client, different teams working within the same agency, or different teams in-house on the client side, collaboration is much harder to achieve in reality than we make it look on the outside.

More often than not, experts get sucked into their respective silos, buried by the day-to-day task lists of their jobs, focusing on their own areas of expertise. Agencies write SEO scopes and PPC scopes separately, often without accounting for content resource needs to make the channels successful. Teams bring recommendations forward to their bosses that don’t have buy-in from their peers. We don’t bring each other in, but we complain about not being brought in.

Learnings from multiple mergers

My company has gone through many mergers and acquisitions over the years, and just in the last three, we’ve merged with three other agencies in our network. We doubled in size and tripled our global footprint overnight. With those mergers came tons of complementary skill sets and client lists we could do great work for.

Through the mergers, we had a unique opportunity presented to us to solve persistent collaboration and content problems by bringing the organic search, paid search, and performance content teams together under one unified group. Now our “Discoverability” group is nearly 35 people in four offices across North America.

With all this change and merging of teams, we had some hard choices to make and hard work to do to make this integration of different capabilities and cultures successful.

Introducing interdisciplinarity

I want to introduce you to the concept of interdisciplinarity.

It’s an academic term describing when two or more areas of expertise join forces to solve new kinds of problems together. It’s when they combine and bust traditional silos to solve shared challenges, benefiting from integrating and updating their individual approaches into a new, holistic approach. Interdisciplinarity helps with the negative effects of siloing and over-specialization.

In the rapidly evolving and increasingly commoditized field of search, we need to be talking about this.

Interdisciplinarity is common in well-known technical and scientific fields like neuroscience, biochemistry, and cybernetics. There is new ground to be forged in our industry.

There is a key difference between complementarity and interdisciplinarity. Just about anyone can go online and learn SEO or PPC. Plenty of companies do “complementary” search work — sitting next to one another and at least not harming each other’s work.

But few do truly interdisciplinary work — offering new, evolved capabilities in search. In the next five years, interdisciplinarity will be the difference between search teams with a competitive edge, and search teams that stagnate.

True interdisciplinarity is when the sum of the whole is greater than its parts. It’s the Gestalt benefit of bringing distinct specialties together to create a completely custom solution for a problem. People with relevant expertise bring unique knowledge and experiences for a more cohesive, end-to-end offering that is bespoke for each need. But the work is repeatable and refinable as similar problems arise.

This concept has been a driving force guiding our way through merging teams to create something new. And now we consult with clients in complex organizations to help them achieve interdisciplinarity, too. This is more than enhancing our implementation of tactical SEO and PPC. This is about helping companies evolve how they think about and deliver on the promise of search.

Why bother with integration?

As a search professional, you have probably been perfectly smart and successful independently, so why go to the trouble of moving away from separate swim lanes to one cohesive, unified practice? And equally important, how?

Increase advocacy

The majority of our growth typically comes from better serving and expanding existing relationships, not winning big chunks of new business. You go from a select few team members on different teams advocating for their own work, to a combined force of all the team members advocating for all of each other’s work.

Cross-sell and up-sell more

An integrated search team finds it easier to cross-sell and up-sell when clients get stuck on related services. Merging our teams helps us shift budget seamlessly between practices based on demand, pilot other services to our clients, and show our chops and prove outcomes we can earn. We can also talk to our clients about capturing every opportunity possible on whole search engine results pages, instead of thinking of SERPs in chunks.

Increased speed and scale

Having an integrated team with areas of overlap allows leaders to better distribute labor across the team. For example, our performance content team now writes SEO metas and PPC ad copy. Our paid and organic search teams are conducting keyword research and competitive analysis together, reducing duplication of effort. We’re dividing and conquering to cover more research ground more quickly, share learnings from our own areas of expertise, delivering a stronger product, and speeding it up by weeks.

Create a culture of knowledge-sharing

Data-sharing becomes second-nature to an integrated search and content team. It helps you to find opportunities you wouldn’t have spotted before. A deeper and wider pool of knowledge builds a deeper and smarter search talent bench. This creates a culture of crowd-sourcing and sharing where no one feels the pressure to know everything. We solve digital marketing problems faster by pooling our knowledge.

Reduce cannibalism and competition

When individual teams have individual objectives, it runs the risk of being “every team for themselves.” But ultimately, everyone in the company or at the agency is held to a set of central, core objectives. A unified team can help search and content practitioners stop worrying about whose budgets and whose targets, and instead focus on what’s best for the business. It allows you to steer resources to where the greatest impact will be felt. It doesn’t matter so much which channels deliver — as long as we deliver.

Increase trust in recommendations

Recommendations have more weight and credibility together when they’re vetted from multiple experts. Experts should talk about joint opportunities, discuss how channels perform together and separately, and balance paid and organic recommendations. A more thoughtful, utilitarian approach is more easily defensible to a client. Demonstrating more bang for their marketing bucks makes it easier for them to say yes and invest.

Identify new capabilities

When you integrate different specialties, you are likely to develop new capabilities at the intersections between those practices. This enables you to build and launch new, unified services that increase the value we can add for clients. In our case, this led to an end-to-end digital shelf optimization offering and enhanced landing page development.

Create competitive advantage

True interdisciplinarity is difficult to accomplish, so it’s hard for competitors to replicate. Competitive advantage happens when you put in the legwork that competitors can’t, don’t, or won’t. Mastering integrated services can give you unique points of distinction that competitors don’t have, and you become increasingly indispensable to your clients and your company.

Risks and roadblocks to integration

There will be no shortage of risks, roadblocks, and obstacles to integrating teams. Following are some of the growing pains you can anticipate as a driver of change.

Moving from theory to reality

We deceive ourselves into thinking we collaborate well for so long that it’s easy to become complacent and fail to see how things could be better. We have to make the case for the benefits of working together to our colleagues and counterparts. As a group, we have to agree on the importance of collaborating on projects and proving joint outcomes with meaningful case studies. It’s a massive cultural shift to change from individual athletes on three different teams to a single, all-star, world champion team. It doesn’t happen overnight.

Risk of becoming less agile

Counterintuitively, the larger the team, the harder it is to collaborate. This is especially true when the team does several different things. Integration runs the risk of making your group too big to move quickly. It’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to force adoption of one team or the other’s way of doing things, or to collaborate constantly on everything. But we quickly learned that design-by-committee doesn’t work and we can’t force it. Group identity doesn’t negate the need for autonomy. In fact, interdisciplinary teams fail without being able to maintain their identity and autonomy, and being empowered to make decisions that are right for their team and clients. Now we keep the connective tissue that bonds us as a group, but allow for “slicing and dicing” into smaller teams to serve any need and combat the problem of getting too big to stay nimble.

Negotiating roles and defending turf

When integrating teams, conflicts are inevitable, whether it’s perceived competition for diminishing budgets, or vying for the final say on a course of action. With teams of very smart people in different areas there is bound to be some negotiating of roles, maybe even turf-defending. But through integration, we’re all sharing the same turf. It takes extra effort to give the benefit of the doubt, assume good intent, and get on the same page. It’s an exercise in humility to give everyone’s expertise equal weight, and actively seek perspective instead of it being an accidental afterthought. You have to create a culture where everyone wins when one of us wins.

Merging processes creates complexity in the short-term

Merging processes that worked reasonably well before is a common challenge. Each team had its own comfortable way of doing things, so they might be resistant and slow to change. You may encounter conflicting expertise and opinions. It’s important to understand each team’s processes thoroughly before ripping them apart and sewing them back together — take the time to learn why things are the way they are.

Change fatigue

A constant barrage of non-stop change makes it hard for evolution to stick. It’s too much for people to absorb and adopt. It causes them to burn out and lose interest because it feels like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. Companies that have a culture of ongoing testing, learning and optimization and where change is always expected for growth tend to fare well in the face of change, but everyone has their limits.

12 tips for integration success

Now that you are going into the process of integrating other teams informed on the risks and rewards, here are tactical tips to get it right.

1. Announce change quickly

Search team leaders should move quickly to announce the change and inform their teams. Make it clear what you’re doing and why, make the case for the benefits, and be honest about the challenges to get buy-in. Get the teams involved in the mission as soon as possible. Set the expectation that we sink or swim together. The most successful people in the face of change are those who don’t waste time obstructing the inevitable, but instead roll up their sleeves and look for ways to help.

2. Introduce and immerse immediately

Once announced, quickly take action to bring the teams together and activate. Get search and content practitioners in the room face-to-face as early and often as possible, and start a dialogue about a common mission and vision. Work together to brainstorm ideas on how to move forward. Our integration sessions included introductions and ice-breakers, overarching sessions about the department and teams, capability and case study sharing, and team-building exercises. Once you have established the new team or process, reintroduce the team to the organization to put faces with names, and educate others on what the new group is capable of and responsible for.

Get a sample agenda for an integration workshop here.

3. Implement change jointly and steadily

Announce and immerse quickly, but slow down to speed up when beginning to implement the changes. Don’t try to boil the ocean — focus on one-percent changes, one change at a time at natural points of intersection. Give ownership of different initiatives to people from each side to make sure you’re considering all the angles, which helps with buy-in across the group. Charge everyone with making it successful.

Also, try to make early changes iteratively and at natural points of friction at first, so change actually feels like a relief. For example, every SEO can relate to being left out of the content process, where keyword research is an afterthought (if it happens at all). One simple change is adding keywords and questions to a new content brief prior to creating content. This will make both writers’ and SEOs’ jobs easier. As a bonus, small wins can build momentum and endurance for more change.

4. No process is precious

Process is supposed to be a flexible framework, not a rigid set of rules that stifles innovation. Commit to establishing clear processes that incorporate key search and content stakeholders, and bring those voices to the table to collaborate in creating and refining workflows. Create a living wiki to document recurring processes, which reinforces the message of steady evolution. Update and reorganize them regularly — everyone on the team should have access and trust to refine them. Finally, check in periodically on what isn’t working and discard what doesn’t serve you.

5. Cross-train to build advocacy

Conduct cross-trainings both in immersion and continuously over time. The intent is not to be able to do each other’s jobs, but rather to be able to speak about them, advocate for them and cross-sell them. We’ve done workshops, hands-on training, and even short-term job swaps like having SEOs write e-commerce product detail pages. It creates empathy and builds trust, and makes it easier to advocate for each other’s work. It helps create mental checks, too, for search experts to ask, “Am I including the right people?” or content writers to ask, “Can someone else add value here?” Make it a habit for your group by course-correcting people when they forget, and validating and rewarding when they get it right.

6. Productize service offerings

As your search and content (or other integrated) team develops all-new joint services and processes, appoint small, cross-team committees to productize those offerings. They should clearly articulate the service, define the value, identify inputs and outputs, and ballpark costs and timing. These should be simple packages that can be “pulled off the shelf” when a relevant opportunity arises. For our team, these included things like search-driven content insights to support big burst campaigns, an end-to-end e-commerce discoverability process, and a meticulous approach to website rebuilds and redesigns.

7. Recommend and report together

Integrated search and content teams should be recommending and reporting together. It sounds obvious, but it’s rarely done well. Too often, experts regurgitate data in a silo and then smash some slideware together. Instead, compile and discuss your data together to identify the story the information tells, and how clients and marketers can make decisions across channels to best optimize. Search and content practitioners should be working together to roadmap and prioritize where to focus for the biggest opportunities, rather than one channel dictating to the other or operating on independent tracks.

8. Monthly account strategy sessions

It’s easy to retire to our individual corners and get stuck in the status quo, where search and content teams don’t talk to each other. These account strategy sessions are bigger than a task list — they are a time to collaborate, share what’s happening, and talk about the future. Discuss how the brand is performing in each channel, problems the search and content experts are solving, opportunities we see, big risks or threats, and potential joint efforts, tests, or case studies. This simple meet-up model can benefit any group you’re trying to collaborate with. Establish recurring round tables between search and other departments or global regions.

Get a sample account strategy discussion guide here.

9. Build a networked team

As your teams grow in size, geography, and complexity, a “networked team” model might make sense. A networked team has central sources of truth and process (we document ours on Confluence in living wikis), but the operations and execution are decentralized. In this model you have common standards and best practices that all practitioners can draw from, but a networked team can shapeshift and adjust to deliver the work however necessary. It’s a balance of centralized control and local team empowerment.

10. Create a culture of feedback

When merging search and content teams, coaching and direct, immediate feedback greatly speeds integration. Make transparency and accountability a part of your group’s culture. This means providing feedback to each other and feedback to you. It means peer reviewing each other’s search and content work. It means scrutinizing your shared processes and ways of working. It makes the discoverability work stronger and reduces the margin for error. Creating a culture of feedback depersonalizes the feedback and makes it about the quality of the work.

11. Market collaborative successes

Marketing success can be a major driver of integration across discoverability teams. You should always look for wins (or warnings) to create case studies that demonstrate how your team is most effective together. Find meaningful wins that cross teams, and make sure your team, clients, bosses, and colleagues hear these stories. It increases buy-in, understanding, and engagement with your newly integrated group.

12. Stay close to collaborate

Who you “sit with” matters — even in a world where a majority of us are now working from home. Connect your search and content experts as much as possible. Make it easy to strike up a conversation about things they’re working on, and turn around their chairs (or turn on their video chat) and ask questions of each other. While rearranging the floorplan at the office isn’t in the cards for everyone, or if people in different cities or companies are collaborating, look for every possible opportunity for human connection. That means video chat, traveling for in-person meetings, desk drive-bys, spending part of your day parked with colleagues in their part of the office, real-time instant messaging, or phone calls. Do whatever it takes to be present and engaged with people in other disciplines as much as possible.

Integration is the future of search and content

To quote my colleague, Britt Hankins, “As individual teams, we’re experts. As an integrated practice, we’re a powerhouse.”

Creating whole, end-to-end services that have greater impact together than separately makes us more indispensable to clients who can’t imagine going back to the disjointed world of silos. Combining and evolving our search and content capabilities into one discoverability group helps us stand out from the competition.

The cultural shift can be huge, but worth it. It’s an iterative process with plenty of growing pains along the way. Even if it doesn’t make sense to reorganize or merge teams, it does make sense to break down barriers between other disciplines. These steps can help integrate search with any other department. It could be as simple as creating a competency circle around a certain type of work or client that transcends your org chart.

As time goes on, new things are created, the group and its processes mature, and the lines between them start to blur. When your new culture is established, hire and promote for the traits to sustain it, like communication, collaboration, accountability, transparency, and empathy.

There will always be bumps along the way as you integrate search with other practices like content, technology, analytics, or user experience. It can be frustrating and time-consuming up front. People won’t always agree and conflicts will happen.

But as a leader of discoverability in your organization, you can create a culture of openness, vulnerability, and feedback. You can create the expectation of iteration, evolution, and change. You can push through obstacles together and forge something entirely new.

Remember that competitive advantage comes from doing the work your competitors can’t, don’t, or won’t. Because if it were easy, everyone would do it.

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How to Get Quick Results With SEO Sprints: The DriveSafe Case Study

Posted by ChristopherHofman

Currently, many businesses face challenging times and are moving their SEO budget to disciplines which offer quicker wins.

But you can also create instant results with SEO, and it can be done on a small budget even when you are up against bigger players in your industry.

In this blog post I will show you my framework to do SEO sprints. I will show you how you can use Google’s ability to index and rank faster to your advantage. Later, you will be presented with a case study, where we used SEO sprints for a chain of opticians. The result: an increase in bookings of vision tests of 73%.

But first, let’s have a look at the layout on page one of Google (for most queries).

Google never took SEOs into account when designing for the user. As a result, their transformation over the last few years from the “10 blue links” format to “the portal” has pushed the organic results on page one down by several pixels.

Today, the four Google Ads at the top of the SERP cover most of the pixels above the fold. In many cases, your screen can also be covered with a Google Shopping ad. Apart from the ads, Google fills up the space on page one with SERP features such as featured snippets or their own platforms such as Youtube or Google Maps.

In some industries, Google will even place their booking search engine at the top. Examples are Google Flights or Google Hotels.

During the last few months we have seen more desktop traffic, but in general users are moving to mobile. An iPhone’s screen of 758 pixels makes it nearly impossible to rank above the fold for an organic result.

We, as SEOs, have to rethink our way of doing SEO.

The Google challenge

Do you know your numbers?

For a particular query, how high is the expected click-through-rate if you rank number one? Is it 20%? Twenty-five? These are the typical estimations coming from CTR benchmark studies. But in reality, for competitive queries, the right CTR will be much lower, which means that you could be basing your business case on the wrong numbers.

Instead, I would recommend looking at your Google Search Console data to see what your CTR is when ranking number one for a non-branded term.

As an example: In the retail industry I have a client ranking consistently at number one for a broad generic term with a monthly search volume of 2.8K. How high do you think their CTR is?

3.8%!

They are not the only ones with a meager CTR. Doing some research, I discovered that positions three and four for this query had CTRs of 1.1% and 2.4%, respectively.

When CTRs used to be higher, I went after the big keywords. At the peak of my “Big Keywords” career, I reached the number one ranking in Google (Denmark) for the biggest keyword in the banking industry: “Lån” (loan). It took one and a half years to go from the bottom of page three to number one in Google, and the investment paid off handsomely for the client.

The strategy was straightforward, with a focus on technical SEO, on-page, and off-page factors. In other words, SEO as we have always approached it. However, working with SEO in a silo frustrated me, because I felt that we could get better and faster results by working together across disciplines and across departments.

In October 2018, a new insight gave me the chance to rewire my SEO thought process. This led me to develop a new framework aligning SEO with other marketing activities.

The big insight: Google indexes and ranks faster

Back in the year 2000, Google updated their index every five to eight weeks. This gave SEO a reputation as a discipline where patience was key, and where results were a long-term project. This understanding is still common inside the industry, and many SEOs will still tell their clients to be patient and expect the results to come inside one or two years.

However, if you do it right, this is not the case anymore.

Let’s fast-forward to 2018: I discovered that Google had changed gears.

My client was planning to run a marketing campaign starting in October. My SEO team was invited late to the party, as I only met with the client two weeks before the campaign launch.

I was not too optimistic about the time frame to get them results, but we gave it a shot.

The results surprised me.

Inside 20 days, they went from not being indexed to ranking in the top three for their main keyword.

I was baffled. This was not the Google I knew.

This insight was huge, because it meant that SEO could break free of the classic silo and be part of other marketing activities.

The idea of the SEO sprint was born.

What is an SEO sprint?

Let’s stop and think for a minute.

How often do marketing campaigns ignore SEO? SEO data can actually be a central element in marketing, because the data reveals the inner feelings of users when they search on Google. This is data which would be very hard to get from qualitative interviews.

Have you tried to convert mentions to links months after a PR campaign ran?

Ever worked on an SEO project where you never talked to the PPC team (even though they have valuable information, like which keywords convert, that you can use for your SEO work)?

Have you delivered a tech audit with a long list of to-dos without really knowing what the business strategy was, hence the priorities of the SEO tasks?

These are examples of SEO working in a silo. Silos waste knowledge and they miss the big picture. Instead, SEO activities should be aligned with the marketing plan.

When you rank at the top of Google for the keywords and user intentions which support your business strategy, it is due to teamwork across your marketing department.

This is what SEO sprints are all about: Based on the company’s business strategy, SEO sprints are an integrated part of your marketing mix. They are SEO activities which support a marketing campaign, where the objective is to be present at the most important touch points in Google for particular customer journeys.

An SEO sprint consists of five steps:

  1. Strategy
  2. Data
  3. Insights
  4. Execution
  5. Measurement

I’ll dig into each of these steps in the case study below.

The secret behind a successful SEO sprint

In late 2018, I performed other SEO sprints, which proved to me that there was an opportunity to work differently within SEO. For example: a New Year’s campaign where the client’s main keyword went from out-of-index to the bottom of page one within 10 days. While they didn’t make the top three, they still obtained a 6% CTR from a ready-to-buy audience.

So, how can you use a sprint to rank faster in Google? Do sprints focus on links, content, or page speed?

Those factors are only partly important. The main ranking factor is the competition. Let’s face it: You rank number one at the mercy of your competition. It matters a lot for your ranking if competitors don’t focus their SEO efforts in the same direction as you.

In my experience, when broad media sites and forums rank, it’s a good sign that competition is not so strong. The ideal scenario is when competition is manageable and Google results have low volatility, meaning the results don’t fluctuate much. This is a signal to me that I can rank quickly and remain at the top of Google for a longer period.

While you should try to rank for all your keywords, the key is to identify and prioritize important, low-competition keywords to get results quickly. When you have established yourself, then you can start to build out your topical authority and aim for the keywords with tougher competition.

The DriveSafe case study

Let’s put the SEO sprint framework into practice. Nyt Syn is a Danish chain of 57 opticians. They have a 6% market share in a market dominated by three bigger players. During 2018 and 2019, I ran two successful SEO sprints for their DriveSafe campaign.

DriveSafe glasses are glasses produced by ZEISS. You can use them as normal eye glasses, but they are particularly useful to avoid being blinded by the headlights of oncoming cars at night. They retail at $500 (USD), so it is not a low-priced item, but they are the safest solution in the market.

The target group of the DriveSafe campaign is primarily 35-year-old women and above. They are not worse off than men when it comes to seeing badly at night, but our research showed that they are more ready to do something about it. Our main objective was to have them book an eyesight test at their local Nyt Syn optician.

The results

After running the first DriveSafe campaign in Q4 2018, which was fairly successful, we managed to triple the organic traffic during the second SEO sprint a year later.

During the period, 23.7% of the organic traffic to nytsyn.dk went to the DriveSafe pages. More importantly, Nyt Syn increased their bookings by 73% for the second campaign when compared to the first.

How we did it

1. Strategy

Before we started our SEO tasks, we needed to understand the objective of the DriveSafe campaign and how SEO would support the business goals.

In order to translate the marketing strategy into SEO activities, I use customer journeys to map out the customer needs and define the content touchpoints on Google.

This was our SEO mission statement:

“We are present in Google when users make queries related to night vision with the intent to solve a user challenge leading to the booking of an eyesight test.”

2. Data

You need to understand user behavior before you can execute your strategy. Fortunately, it has never been easier to get access to data. While many still stick to one tool (e.g. Google Keyword Planner or Moz), I have come to realize that the more tools you add, the more you will identify your user’s intentions. I use Google’s own tools (Google Search Console, Google Analytics) and different Clickstream tools (e.g. Moz Keyword Explorer). Each tool will bring something new to the table.

To this stack I also add the company’s own data sources, like live chat. It’snot only a tool to communicate with your customers! No one ever contacts a company simply to engage in small talk. The data from the chat history is a gold mine of user questions. Zendesk and Internal Site Search are two other underestimated resources, where small observations can turn into big insights.

In the end we managed to identify hundreds of keywords within the range from general symptom searches to specific product requests.

3. Insights

Insights depend on the strength of your data. If you don’t dive deep enough during data retrieval, you won’t get a full understanding of user behavior, thus missing out on important user intentions. By looking at the keyword list, we identified various user intentions. With them in hand we created customer journeys to map out which content to build or repurpose.

Here are the user intentions mapped out in different stages of the customer journey for this campaign:

Awareness: What is night blindness?

Consideration: Do I have a bad night vision? Can I use glasses with yellow tint?

Decision: DriveSafe glasses from ZEISS

We discovered four interesting insights from the data:

1. Early funnel content is notoriously underestimated. We identified the bridge between the symptom searches for “night blindness” in the early stage of the customer journey and the need to drive safely at night. By creating the page “What is night blindness?”, we answered the users’ symptom questions and moved them on in the funnel towards our solution.

2. The keyword data revealed a need from users to test their eye sight online. We converted a general eye vision test into a night vision test. The test took off. More than 180,000 users ended up completing the test via different channels.

To boost the general authority of the DriveSafe pages and this particular online test, we also acquired links. Apart from the extra authority, the referral traffic was decent.

3. We could see that users went for a premature choice when looking for a solution. If you are a mountain bike rider, you probably use cheap plastic glasses with yellow tint. These are not good for driving at night, but this was the best guess for many users.

An interview with a professor from the School of Optometry in Denmark revealed that glasses with yellow tint let in too much blue light. This is the light which our eyes are exposed to at night. Instead of ignoring users searching for yellow tinted glasses, we decided to warn them instead. The page “Don’t use glasses with yellow tint!” attracted a lot of traffic. It also showed that you can rank number one for keywords which counter the primary user intention on page one of Google.

4. The optometry industry jargon is different than the terms that users search for. Company policy can sometimes prevent you from optimizing your site for the user terms, but Nyt Syn embraced the opportunity.

There are 800 monthly searches for the query “natbriller” (night glasses). This is not an industry term, but we decided to create a page with it anyway It paid off. Nyt Syn has now ranked consistently number one and two on Google for this important keyword for more than a year, bringing in lots of profitable traffic.

The search terms mentioned in the last two insights. are low competition, low volatility keywords, which made us rank quickly. An instant result motivates the team, and it builds authority in the eyes of Google. Subsequently, this enabled us to rank for more difficult search terms. Today we rank in the top three for over 100 non-branded keywords, and every tenth search results in a click on a DriveSafe page.

4. Execution

From these insights, the Nyt Syn content team went to work on the pages we needed to be present at every important touch point in Google.

The team is small with only one content writer. However, this case shows that you don’t need to be a big team to beat your competitors as long as you know where to focus. In total, five pages were created and a couple of existing pages were repurposed.

You need some time at this step, since it takes time to write great content. At this point we also prepared a link building strategy based on advertorials, which we rolled out during the campaign.

We were ready to launch.

5. Measurement

We use a dashboard to constantly measure the performance and gain new insights. This enabled us to change course midway if necessary.

Here are two good examples:

1. One month after the launch of the second SEO sprint, Nyt Syn decided to run two Facebook campaigns based on the SEO data. The first campaign aimed at getting users to take the online night vision test. The second campaign told users to avoid glasses with yellow tint for night driving.

The two campaigns worked great and increased the number of bookings significantly. This was a perfect example of using SEO data across channels.

2. During the campaign we obtained some nice customer testimonials. With the customers’ permission, we placed them on the DriveSafe pages. This enabled us to display the five star ratings in the Google SERPs, which lifted the general CTR overnight by 2-5%.

Learning and adjusting is central to SEO sprints. With Google’s ever-changing landscape, we need to be agile and ready to adapt. We learn from each SEO sprint and use what worked for the next sprint to constantly improve the results.

The third SEO sprint for DriveSafe is set for September. What can we do to build upon our past achievements?

Let me leave you with some insights gained, which you can hopefully use for your own campaigns:

1. GSC data tells us when users will start searching for night vision search terms. This means that we know when to launch our campaign next time. For SEO sprint one, we had a blank page. We could only use Google Trends data, so it started in October. Now we run it from mid-September because the data tells us that users are asking Google earlier.

2. GSC data will reveal new user intentions because we are building up more data. This data, coupled with customer feedback, creates a base to produce even more relevant content and thereby a better chance to own the most important touch points on Google.

3. From our PPC data, we now have more data to know which keywords generate orders and vice versa. We will have more GSC data to add new keywords to our Google Ads.

4. By A/B testing the communication on Google Ads and Facebook, we know which words and which USPs work. We can use these insights to update titles and meta descriptions to communicate more directly on Google.

5. We know that SEO insights can be used to create successful Facebook campaigns. We will double down on Facebook and test other channels such as Instagram.

6. We know which links brought us referral traffic, so we will focus on similar links for the third sprint. While it is only correlated data, we can compare the ranking history with the publication of advertorials to look for keyword jumps. Some advertorials are duds. Some are gold. It does help us to pick the better link opportunities.

7. We got the star ratings for the DriveSafe pages. By studying the Google landscape, we can see which other Schema markups we should add.

Summary

Companies are currently looking for instant results, which make them put SEO on hold. However, with SEO sprints you have an agile framework to get quick results — when done right.

You can use Google’s speed in indexing and ranking results to your advantage. It will enable your organization to integrate SEO as part of the marketing mix. While you can now rank inside a few days or weeks, fast rankings will depend on the level of competition on page one in Google. When you have low competition and low volatility for keywords with strategic importance, then you have found your sweet spot for quicker results and stable traffic long-term.

SEO sprints consist of five steps, and they can be performed on a small budget inside a short period. The learnings from one SEO sprint are passed on to the next one, so you can reuse what worked efficiently.

Good luck with your SEO sprint!

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Risk Averse Links

Risk-Averse Link Building – Best of Whiteboard Friday

Posted by rjonesx.

Building links is an incredibly common request of agencies and consultants, and some ways to go about it are far more advisable than others. Whether you’re likely to be asked for this work or you’re looking to hire someone for it, it’s a good idea to have a few rules of thumb. In this classic Whiteboard Friday chock full of evergreen advice, Russ Jones breaks things down.

Risk Averse Links

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

Video Transcription

Hey, folks, welcome to another great Whiteboard Friday. I am Russ Jones, Principal Search Scientist here at Moz. I get to do a lot of great research, but I’ll tell you, my first love in SEO is link building. The 10 years I spent before joining Moz, I worked at an agency and we did a lot of it, and I’ll tell you, there’s nothing more exciting than getting that great link.

Now, today I’m going to focus a little bit more on the agency and consultant side. But one takeaway before we get started, for anybody out there who’s using agencies or who’s looking to use a consultant for link building, is kind of flip this whole presentation on its head. When I’m giving advice to agencies, you should use that as rules of thumb for judging whether or not you want to use an agency in the future. So let me jump right in and we’ll get going.

What I’m going to talk about today is risk-averse link building. So the vast majority of agencies out there really want to provide good links for their customers, but they just don’t know how. Let’s admit it. The majority of SEO agencies and consultants don’t do their own link building, or if they do, it’s either guest posting or maybe known placements in popular magazines or online websites where you can get links. There’s like a list that will go around of how much it costs to get an article on, well, Forbes doesn’t even count anymore because they’ve no-followed their links, but that’s about it. It’s nothing special.

So today I want to talk through how you can actually build really good links for your customers and what really the framework is that you need to be looking into to make sure you’re risk averse so that your customers can come out of this picture with a stronger link profile and without actually adopting much risk.

1. Never build a link you can’t remove!

So we’re going to touch on a couple of maxims or truisms. The first one is never build a link you can’t remove. I didn’t come upon this one until after Penguin, but it just occurred to me it is such a nightmare to get rid of links. Even with disavow, often it feels better that you can just get the link pulled from the web. Now, with negative SEO as being potentially an issue, admittedly Google is trying to devalue links as opposed to penalize, but still the rule holds strong. Never build a link that you can’t remove.

But how do you do that? I mean you don’t have necessarily control over it. Well, first off, there’s a difference between earnings links and building links. So if you get a link out there that you didn’t do anything for, you just got it because you wrote great content, don’t worry about it. But if you’re actually going to actively link build, you need to follow this rule, and there are actually some interesting ways that we can go about it.

Canonical “burn” pages

The first one is the methodology that I call canonical burn pages. I’m sure that sounds a little dark. But it actually is essentially just an insurance policy on your links. The idea is don’t put all of your content value and link value into the same bucket. It works like this. Let’s say this article or this Whiteboard Friday goes up at the URL risk-averse-links and Moz decided to do some outreach-based link building. Well, then I might make another version, risk-averse-linkbuilding, and then in my out linking actually request that people link to that version of the page. That page will be identical, and it will have a canonical tag so that all of the link value should pass back to the original.

Now, I’m not asking you to build a thousand doorway pages or anything of that sort, but here’s the reason for the separation. Let’s say you reach out to one of these webmasters and they’re like, “This is great,” and they throw it up on a blog post, and what they don’t tell you is, “Oh yeah, I’ve got 100 other blogs in my link farm, and I’m just going to syndicate this out.” Now you’ve got a ton of link spam pointing to the page. Well, you don’t want that pointing to your site. The chances this guy is going to go remove his link from those hundreds if not thousands of pages are very low. Well, the worst case scenario here is that you’ve lost this page, the link page, and you drop it and you create a new one of these burn pages and keep going.

Or what if the opposite happens? When you actually start ranking because of this great content that you’ve produced and you’ve done great link building and somebody gets upset and decides to spam the page that’s ranking with a ton of links, we saw this all the time in the legal sector, which was shocking to me. You would think you would never spam a lawyer, but apparently lawyers aren’t afraid of another lawyer.

But regardless, what we could do in those situations is simply get rid of the original page and leave the canonical page that has all the links. So what you’ve done is sort of divided your eggs into different baskets without actually losing the ranking potential. So we call these canonical burn pages. If you have questions about this, I can talk more about it in the comments.

Know thy link provider

The other thing that’s just stupidly obvious is you should know thy link provider. If you are getting your links from a website that says pay $50 for so and so package and you’ll get x-links from these sources on Tier 2, you’re never going to be able to remove those links once you get them unless you’re using something like a canonical burn page. But in those cases where you’re trying to get good links, actually build a relationship where the person understands that you might need to remove this link in the future. It’s going to mean you lose some links, but in the long run, it’s going to protect you and your customers.

That’s where the selling point becomes really strong. Imagine you’re on a client call, sales call and someone comes to you and they say they want link building. They’ve been burned before. They know what it’s like to get a penalty. They know what it’s like to have somebody tell them, “I just don’t know how to do it.”

Well, what if you can tell them, hey, we can link build for you and we are so confident in the quality of our offering that we can promise you, guarantee that we can remove the links we build for you within 7 days, 14 days, whatever number it ends up taking your team to actually do? That kind of insurance policy that you just put on top of your product is priceless to a customer who’s worried about the potential harm that links might bring.

2. You can’t trade anything for a link (except user value)!

Now this leads me to number two. This is the simplest way to describe following Google’s guidelines, which is you can’t trade anything for a link except user value. Now, I’m going to admit something here. A lot of folks who are watching this who know me know this, but my old company years and years and years ago did a lot of link buying. At the time, I justified it because I frankly thought that was the only way to do it. We had a fantastic link builder who worked for us, and he wanted to move up in the company. We just didn’t have the space for him. We said to him, “Look, it’s probably better for you to just go on your own.”

Within a year of leaving, he had made over a million dollars selling a site that he ranked only using white hat link building tactics because he was a master of outreach. From that day on, just everything changed. You don’t have to cheat to get good links. It’s just true. You have to work, but you don’t have to cheat. So just do it already. There are tons of ways to justify outreach to a website to say it’s worth getting a link.

So, for example, you could

  • Build some tools and reach out to websites that might want to link to those tools.
  • You can offer data or images.
  • Accessibility. Find great content out there that’s inaccessible or isn’t useful for individuals who might need screen readers. Just recreate the content and follow the guidelines for accessibility and reach out to everybody who links to that site. Now you’ve got a reason to say, “Look, it’s a great web page, but unfortunately a certain percentage of the population can’t use it. Why don’t you offer, as well as the existing link, one to your accessible version?”
  • Broken link replacement.
  • Skyscraper content, which is where you just create fantastic content. Brian Dean over at Backlinko has a fantastic guide to that.

There are just so many ways to get good links.

Let me put it just a different way. You should be embarrassed if you cannot create content that is worth outreach. In fact, that word “embarrassment,” if you are embarrassed to email someone about your content, then it means you haven’t created good enough content. As an SEO, that’s your responsibility. So just sit down and spend some more time thinking about this. You can do it. I’ve seen it happen thousands of times, and you can end up building much better links than you ever would otherwise.

3. Tool up!

The last thing I would say is tool up. Look, better metrics and better workflows come from tools. There are lots of different ways to do this.

First off, you need a good backlink tool. Our new Link Explorer is 29 trillion links strong and it’s fantastic. There’s also Fresh Web Explorer for doing mentions. So you can find websites that talk about you but don’t link. You’re also going to want some tools that might do more specific link prospecting, like LinkProspector.com or Ontolo or BrokenLinkBuilding.com, and then some outreach tools like Pitchbox and BuzzStream.

But once you figure out those stacks, your link building stack, you’re going to be able to produce links reliably for customers. I’m going to tell you, there is nothing that will improve your street cred and your brand reputation than link building. Link building is street cred in our industry. There is nothing more powerful than saying, “Yeah, we built a couple thousand links last year for our customers,” and you don’t have to say, “Oh, we bought,” or, “We outsourced.” It’s just, “We just do link building, and we’re good at it.”

So I guess my takeaway from all of this is that it’s really not as terrible as you think it is. At the end of the day, if you can master this process of link building, your agency will be going from a dime a dozen, where there are 100 in an averaged-sized city in the United States, to being a leading provider in the country just by simply mastering link building. If you follow the first two rules and properly tool up, you’re well on your way.

So I hope to talk more to you in the comments below. If you have any questions, I can refer you to some other guides out there, including some former Whiteboard Fridays that will give you some great link building tips. Hope to talk to you soon.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Google’s May 2020 Core Update: Winners, Winnerers, Winlosers, and Why It’s All Probably Crap

Posted by Dr-Pete

On May 4, Google announced that they were rolling out a new Core Update. By May 7, it appeared that the dust had mostly settled. Here’s an 11-day view from MozCast:

We measured relatively high volatility from May 4-6, with a peak of 112.6° on May 5. Note that the 30-day average temperature prior to May 4 was historically very high (89.3°).

How does this compare to previous Core Updates? With the caveat that recent temperatures have been well above historical averages, the May 2020 Core Update was our second-hottest Core Update so far, coming in just below the August 2018 “Medic” update.

Who “won” the May Core Update?

It’s common to report winners and losers after a major update (and I’ve done it myself), but for a while now I’ve been concerned that these analyses only capture a small window of time. Whenever we compare two fixed points in time, we’re ignoring the natural volatility of search rankings and the inherent differences between keywords.

This time around, I’d like to take a hard look at the pitfalls. I’m going to focus on winners. The table below shows the 1-day winners (May 5) by total rankings in the 10,000-keyword MozCast tracking set. I’ve only included subdomains with at least 25 rankings on May 4:

Putting aside the usual statistical suspects (small sample sizes for some keywords, the unique pros and cons of our data set, etc.), what’s the problem with this analysis? Sure, there are different ways to report the “% Gain” (such as absolute change vs. relative percentage), but I’ve reported the absolute numbers honestly and the relative change is accurate.

The problem is that, in rushing to run the numbers after one day, we’ve ignored the reality that most core updates are multi-day (a trend that seemed to continue for the May Core Update, as evidenced by our initial graph). We’ve also failed to account for domains whose rankings might be historically volatile (but more on that in a bit). What if we compare the 1-day and 2-day data?

Which story do we tell?

The table below adds in the 2-day relative percentage gained. I’ve kept the same 25 subdomains and will continue to sort them by the 1-day percentage gained, for consistency:

Even just comparing the first two days of the roll-out, we can see that the story is shifting considerably. The problem is: Which story do we tell? Often, we’re not even looking at lists, but anecdotes based on our own clients or cherry-picking data. Consider this story:

If this was our only view of the data, we would probably conclude that the update intensified over the two days, with day two rewarding sites even more. We could even start to craft a story about how demand for apps was growing, or certain news sites were being rewarded. These stories might have a grain of truth, but the fact is that we have no idea from this data alone.

Now, let’s pick three different data points (all of these are from the top 20):

From this limited view, we could conclude that Google decided that the Core Update went wrong and reversed it on day two. We could even conclude that certain news sites were being penalized for some reason. This tells a wildly different story than the first set of anecdotes.

There’s an even weirder story buried in the May 2020 data. Consider this:

LinkedIn showed a minor bump (one we’d generally ignore) on day one and then lost 100% of its rankings on day two. Wow, that May Core Update really packs a punch! It turns out that LinkedIn may have accidentally de-indexed their site — they recovered the next day, and it appears this massive change had nothing to do with the Core Update. The simple truth is that these numbers tell us very little about why a site gained or lost rankings.

How do we define “normal”?

Let’s take a deeper look at the MarketWatch data. Marketwatch gained 19% in the 1-day stats, but lost 2% in the 2-day numbers. The problem here is that we don’t know from these numbers what MarketWatch’s normal SERP flux looks like. Here’s a graph of seven days before and after May 4 (the start of the Core Update):

Looking at even a small bit of historical data, we can see that MarketWatch, like most news sites, experiences significant volatility. The “gains” on May 5 are only because of losses on May 4. It turns out that the 7-day mean after May 4 (45.7) is only a slight increase over the 7-day mean before May 4 (44.3), with MarketWatch measuring a modest relative gain of +3.2%.

Now let’s look at Google Play, which appeared to be a clear winner after two days:

You don’t even need to do the math to spot the difference here. Comparing the 7-day mean before May 4 (232.9) to the 7-day mean after (448.7), Google Play experienced a dramatic +93% relative change after the May Core Update.

How does this 7-day before/after comparison work with the LinkedIn incident? Here’s a graph of the before/after with dotted lines added for the two means:

While this approach certainly helps offset the single-day anomaly, we’re still showing a before/after change of -16%, which isn’t really in line with reality. You can see that six of the seven days after the May Core Update were above the 7-day average. Note that LinkedIn also has relatively low volatility over the short-range history.

Why am I rotten-cherry-picking an extreme example where my new metric falls short? I want it to be perfectly clear that no one metric can ever tell the whole story. Even if we accounted for the variance and did statistical testing, we’re still missing a lot of information. A clear before/after difference doesn’t tell us what actually happened, only that there was a change correlated with the timing of the Core Update. That’s useful information, but it still begs further investigation before we jump to sweeping conclusions.

Overall, though, the approach is certainly better than single-day slices. Using the 7-day before-vs-after mean comparison accounts for both historical data and a full seven days after the update. What if we expanded this comparison of 7-day periods to the larger data set? Here’s our original “winners” list with the new numbers:

Obviously, this is a lot to digest in one table, but we can start to see where the before-and-after metric (the relative difference between 7-day means) shows a different picture, in some cases, than either the 1-day or 2-day view. Let’s go ahead and re-build the top 20 based on the before-and-after percentage change:

Some of the big players are the same, but we’ve also got some newcomers — including sites that looked like they lost visibility on day one, but have stacked up 2-day and 7-day gains.

Let’s take a quick look at Parents.com, our original big winner (winnerer? winnerest?). Day one showed a massive +100% gain (doubling visibility), but day-two numbers were more modest, and before-and-after gains came in at just under half the day-one gain. Here are the seven days before and after:

It’s easy to see here that the day-one jump was a short-term anomaly, based in part on a dip on May 4. Comparing the 7-day averages seems to get much closer to the truth. This is a warning not just to algo trackers like myself, but to SEOs who might see that +100% and rush to tell their boss or client. Don’t let good news turn into a promise that you can’t keep.

Why do we keep doing this?

If it seems like I’m calling out the industry, note that I’m squarely in my own crosshairs here. There’s tremendous pressure to publish analyses early, not just because it equates to traffic and links (frankly, it does), but because site owners and SEOs genuinely want answers. As I wrote recently, I think there’s tremendous danger in overinterpreting short-term losses and fixing the wrong things. However, I think there’s also real danger in overstating short-term wins and having the expectation that those gains are permanent. That can lead to equally risky decisions.

Is it all crap? No, I don’t think so, but I think it’s very easy to step off the sidewalk and into the muck after a storm, and at the very least we need to wait for the ground to dry. That’s not easy in a world of Twitter and 24-hour news cycles, but it’s essential to get a multi-day view, especially since so many large algorithm updates roll out over extended periods of time.

Which numbers should we believe? In a sense, all of them, or at least all of the ones we can adequately verify. No single metric is ever going to paint the entire picture, and before you rush off to celebrate being on a winners list, it’s important to take that next step and really understand the historical trends and the context of any victory.

Who wants some free data?

Given the scope of the analysis, I didn’t cover the May 2020 Core Update losers in this post or go past the Top 20, but you can download the raw data here. If you’d like to edit it, please make a copy first. Winners and losers are on separate tabs, and this covers all domains with at least 25 rankings in our MozCast 10K data set on May 4 (just over 400 domains).

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