What Do Dolphins Eat? Lessons from How Kids Search — Best of Whiteboard Friday

Posted by willcritchlow

We’re bringing back this slightly different-from-the-norm Whiteboard Friday, in which the fantastic Will Critchlow shares lessons from how kids search. Kids may search differently than adults, but there are some interesting insights from how they use Google that can help deepen our understanding of searchers in general. Comfort levels with particular search strategies, reading only the bold words, taking search suggestions and related searches as answers — there’s a lot to dig into. 

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Video Transcription

Hi, everyone. I’m Will Critchlow, founder and CEO of Distilled, and this week’s Whiteboard Friday is a little bit different. I want to talk about some surprising and interesting and a few funny facts that I learnt when I was reading some research that Google did about how kids search for information. So this isn’t super actionable. This is not about tactics of improving your website particularly. But I think we get some insights — they were studying kids aged 7 to 11 — by looking at how kids interact. We can see some reflections or some ideas about how there might be some misconceptions out there about how adults search as well. So let’s dive into it.

What do dolphins eat?

I’ve got this “What do dolphins eat?” because this was the first question that the researchers gave to the kids to say sit down in front of a search box, go. They tell this little anecdote, a little bit kind of soul-destroying, of this I think it was a seven-year-old child who starts typing dolphin, D-O-L-F, and then presses Enter, and it was like sadly there’s no dolphins, which hopefully they found him some dolphins. But a lot of the kids succeeded at this task.

Different kinds of searchers

The researchers divided the ways that the kids approached it up into a bunch of different categories. They found that some kids were power searchers. Some are what they called “developing.” They classified some as “distracted.” But one that I found fascinating was what they called visual searchers. I think they found this more commonly among the younger kids who were perhaps a little bit less confident reading and writing. It turns out that, for almost any question you asked them, these kids would turn first to image search.

So for this particular question, they would go to image search, typically just type “dolphin” and then scroll and go looking for pictures of a dolphin eating something. Then they’d find a dolphin eating a fish, and they’d turn to the researcher and say “Look, dolphins eat fish.” Which, when you think about it, I quite like in an era of fake news. This is the kids doing primary research. They’re going direct to the primary source. But it’s not something that I would have ever really considered, and I don’t know if you would. But hopefully this kind of sparks some thought and some insights and discussions at your end. They found that there were some kids who pretty much always, no matter what you asked them, would always go and look for pictures.

Kids who were a bit more developed, a bit more confident in their reading and writing would often fall into one of these camps where they were hopefully focusing on the attention. They found a lot of kids were obviously distracted, and I think as adults this is something that we can relate to. Many of the kids were not really very interested in the task at hand. But this kind of path from distracted to developing to power searcher is an interesting journey that I think totally applies to grown-ups as well.

In practice: [wat do dolfin eat]

So I actually, after I read this paper, went and did some research on my kids. So my kids were in roughly this age range. When I was doing it, my daughter was eight and my son was five and a half. Both of them interestingly typed “wat do dolfin eat” pretty much like this. They both misspelled “what,” and they both misspelled “dolphin.” Google was fine with that. Obviously, these days this is plenty close enough to get the result you wanted. Both of them successfully answered the question pretty much, but both of them went straight to the OneBox. This is, again, probably unsurprising. You can guess this is probably how most people search.

“Oh, what’s a cephalopod?” The path from distracted to developing

So there’s a OneBox that comes up, and it’s got a picture of a dolphin. So my daughter, a very confident reader, she loves reading, “wat do dolfin eat,” she sat and she read the OneBox, and then she turned to me and she said, “It says they eat fish and herring. Oh, what’s a cephalopod?” I think this was her going from distracted into developing probably. To start off with, she was just answering this question because I had asked her to. But then she saw a word that she didn’t know, and suddenly she was curious. She had to kind of carefully type it because it’s a slightly tricky word to spell. But she was off looking up what is a cephalopod, and you could see the engagement shift from “I’m typing this because Dad has asked me to and it’s a bit interesting I guess” to “huh, I don’t know what a cephalopod is, and now I’m doing my own research for my own reasons.” So that was interesting.

“Dolphins eat fish, herring, killer whales”: Reading the bold words

My son, as I said, typed something pretty similar, and he, at the point when he was doing this, was at the stage of certainly capable of reading, but generally would read out loud and a little bit halting. What was fascinating on this was he only read the bold words. He read it out loud, and he didn’t read the OneBox. He just read the bold words. So he said to me, “Dolphins eat fish, herring, killer whales,” because killer whales, for some reason, was bolded. I guess it was pivoting from talking about what dolphins eat to what killer whales eat, and he didn’t read the context. This cracked him up. So he thought that was ridiculous, and isn’t it funny that Google thinks that dolphins eat killer whales.

That is similar to some stuff that was in the original research, where there were a bunch of common misconceptions it turns out that kids have and I bet a bunch of adults have. Most adults probably don’t think that the bold words in the OneBox are the list of the answer, but it does point to the problems with factual-based, truthy type queries where Google is being asked to be the arbiter of truth on some of this stuff. We won’t get too deep into that.

Common misconceptions for kids when searching

1. Search suggestions are answers

But some common misconceptions they found some kids thought that the search suggestions, so the drop-down as you start typing, were the answers, which is bit problematic. I mean we’ve all seen kind of racist or hateful drop-downs in those search queries. But in this particular case, it was mainly just funny. It would end up with things like you start asking “what do dolphins eat,” and it would be like “Do dolphins eat cats” was one of the search suggestions.

2. Related searches are answers

Similar with related searches, which, as we know, are not answers to the question. These are other questions. But kids in particular — I mean, I think this is true of all users — didn’t necessarily read the directions on the page, didn’t read that they were related searches, just saw these things that said “dolphin” a lot and started reading out those. So that was interesting.

How kids search complicated questions

The next bit of the research was much more complex. So they started with these easy questions, and they got into much harder kind of questions. One of them that they asked was this one, which is really quite hard. So the question was, “Can you find what day of the week the vice president’s birthday will fall on next year?” This is a multifaceted, multipart question.

How do they handle complex, multi-step queries?

Most of the younger kids were pretty stumped on this question. Some did manage it. I think a lot of adults would fail at this. So if you just turn to Google, if you just typed this in or do a voice search, this is the kind of thing that Google is almost on the verge of being able to do. If you said something like, “When is the vice president’s birthday,” that’s a question that Google might just be able to answer. But this kind of three-layered thing, what day of the week and next year, make this actually a very hard query. So the kids had to first figure out that, to answer this, this wasn’t a single query. They had to do multiple stages of research. When is the vice president’s birthday? What day of the week is that date next year? Work through it like that.

I found with my kids, my eight-year-old daughter got stuck halfway through. She kind of realized that she wasn’t going to get there in one step, but also couldn’t quite structure the multi-levels needed to get to, but also started getting a bit distracted again. It was no longer about cephalopods, so she wasn’t quite as interested.

Search volume will grow in new areas as Google’s capabilities develop

This I think is a whole area that, as Google’s capabilities develop to answer more complex queries and as we start to trust and learn that those kind of queries can be answered, what we see is that there is going to be increasing, growing search volume in new areas. So I’m going to link to a post I wrote about a presentation I gave about the next trillion searches. This is my hypothesis that essentially, very broad brush strokes, there are a trillion desktop searches a year. There are a trillion mobile searches a year. There’s another trillion out there in searches that we don’t do yet because they can’t be answered well. I’ve got some data to back that up and some arguments why I think it’s about that size. But I think this is kind of closely related to this kind of thing, where you see kids get stuck on these kind of queries.

Incidentally, I’d encourage you to go and try this. It’s quite interesting, because as you work through trying to get the answer, you’ll find search results that appear to give the answer. So, for example, I think there was an About.com page that actually purported to give the answer. It said, “What day of the week is the vice president’s birthday on?” But it had been written a year before, and there was no date on the page. So actually it was wrong. It said Thursday. That was the answer in 2016 or 2017. So that just, again, points to the difference between primary research, the difference between answering a question and truth. I think there’s a lot of kind of philosophical questions baked away in there.

Kids get comfortable with how they search – even if it’s wrong

So we’re going to wrap up with possibly my favorite anecdote of the user research that these guys did, which was that they said some of these kids, somewhere in this developing stage, get very attached to searching in one particular way. I guess this is kind of related to the visual search thing. They find something that works for them. It works once. They get comfortable with it, they’re familiar with it, and they just do that for everything, whether it’s appropriate or not. My favorite example was this one child who apparently looked for information about both dolphins and the vice president of the United States on the SpongeBob SquarePants website, which I mean maybe it works for dolphins, but I’m guessing there isn’t an awful lot of VP information.

So anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed this little adventure into how kids search and maybe some things that we can learn from it. Drop some anecdotes of your own in the comments. I’d love to hear your experiences and some of the funny things that you’ve learnt along the way. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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6 Connectors to Spice Up Your Reporting: Introducing Google Data Studio Connectors for STAT

Posted by brian.ho

Data visualization platforms have become a vital tool to help illustrate the success of a body of work. Painting a clear picture of your SEO efforts is as important as ever, whether you’re reporting out to clients or to internal stakeholders at your own company. More and more SEOs are turning to data visualization tools to do so — pulling in data from across multiple SEO tools, blending that data in unique ways, and helping to pull back the curtain on the mystery of SEO.

Platforms like Tableau and Google Data Studio are becoming more commonplace in the SEO community as we seek better ways to communicate with our teams. We’ve heard from a number of folks in the Moz community that having a central dashboard to present data has streamlined their own reporting processes. It’s also made information more digestible for colleagues and clients, as they can see everything they need in one place.

Thanks to the helpful feedback of many, many STAT customers, we’ve been hard at work building six Google Data Studio Community Connectors to help pull STAT data into Data Studio. Fortified by beta testing and your thoughtful input, we’re excited to launch the six connectors today: Historical Keyword Rankings (site and tag level), Share of Voice (site and tag level), and Ranking Distributions (site and tag level).

If you’re already using STAT, dive into our documentation in the Knowledge Base to get all the nitty-gritty details on the connectors. If you’re not yet a STAT customer, why not chat with a friendly Mozzer to learn more?

See STAT in Action

Want to hear a bit more about the connectors and how to implement them? Let’s go!

Historical Keyword Rankings

Tracking daily keyword positions over time is a central part of STAT and the long-term success of your site. The Historical Keyword Rankings connectors send historical highest rank data to Data Studio for every keyword you’re currently tracking in a site or a tag.

You can start out with a simple table: perhaps if you have a group of keywords in a dynamic tag, you might want to create a table of your top keywords ranking on page one, or your top keywords ranking in positions 1-3.

Turn that table into a line graph to understand average rank for the whole site or tag and spot trends:

Find the Site Level Historical Keyword Rankings connector here and the Tag Level Historical Keyword Rankings connector here.

Share of Voice

In STAT, share of voice measures the visibility of a group of keywords on Google. This keyword set can be keywords that are grouped together into a tag, a data view, or a site. Share of voice is calculated by assigning each ranking a click-through rate (CTR) and then multiplying that by the keyword’s search volume.

It’s important to remember that share of voice is based on the concept that higher ranks and higher search volume give you more share of voice.

The default chart type will display a doughnut chart for current share of voice, and a line graph will show share of voice over time:

Find the Site Level Share of Voice connector here and the Tag Level Share of Voice connector here.

Ranking Distribution

Ranking Distribution, available in the Daily Snapshot and Ranking Trends views in the STAT app, shows how your keyword rankings are distributed across the top 119 Google results.

View your top ranking positions as a bar chart to easily eyeball how your rankings are distributed, where shifts are taking place, and where there is clear opportunity for improvement.

Find the Site Level Ranking Distributions connector here and the Tag Level Ranking Distributions connector here.

Getting started with the connectors

Whether you’re a Google Data Studio pro or a bit newer to the tool, setting up the connectors shouldn’t be too arduous. Get started by visiting the page for the connector of your choice. Authorize the connector by clicking the Authorize button. (Tip: Each connector must be authorized separately.)

Once you authorize the connector, you’ll see a parameters table like this one:

Complete the fields using the proper information tied to your STAT account:

  • STAT Subdomain: Fill in this field with the subdomain of your STAT login URL. This field ensures that the GDS connector directs its request to the correct STAT subdomain.
  • STAT API Key: Find your API key in STAT by visiting Options > Account Management > Account Settings > API Key.
  • STAT Site/Tag ID: Retrieve IDs through the API. Visit our documentation to ensure you use the proper API calls.
  • Allow “STAT Site/Tag ID” to be modified in reports: Tick this box to be able to edit the site or tag ID from within the report, without reconfiguring the connector.
  • Include Keyword Tags: Tick this box to add a column to your report populated with the tags the keyword is a member of (only applicable to site and tag historical keyword rankings connectors).
  • Allow “Include Keyword Tags?” to be modified in reports: Tick this box to be able to turn the inclusion of the Keyword Tags column on or off from within the report, without reconfiguring the connector (only applicable to site and tag historical keyword rankings connectors).

Once you’ve filled in the table, click Connect in the top right.

Confirm which columns you’d like to include in the report. Review the columns, and click Create Report.

Once you’ve created a report, the exciting part begins! Whether you’re pulling in your STAT data for a fresh report, adding it into a report with other pieces of data, or using Data Studio’s data blending feature to create compelling views of your search presence — there are so many ways to slice and dice.

Ready to put the connectors into production? We can’t wait to hear how your Google Data Studio reports are strengthened by adding in your STAT data. Let us know how it goes in the comments.

Not yet a STAT user but curious how it might fit into your SEO toolkit? Take a tour of the product from your friendly neighborhood Mozzer:

Learn More About STAT

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The Real Short-Term and Long-Term Results of Content Marketing and Digital PR

Posted by amandamilligan

One of the best ways (and in my opinion, the best way) to earn top-quality links is to create your own studies, surveys, reports, etc., and pitch them to online publishers. This is what we do at Fractl, because it’s a tried-and-true way to elevate organic growth:

Over the years, we’ve received a lot of questions about what results to expect. Sure, everyone wants links now, but where does the real growth come in, and how long does it take? And in either case, people want to know what wins they can report on to their superiors, even in the short-term.

There are so many benefits to this combination of content marketing and digital PR, and I’ll walk through what you can realistically expect, and feature examples and data from our experience working with Porch.com.

Short-term benefits

It’s true that content marketing is an investment, which I’ll explain properly in the next section. But there are certainly short-term wins you can celebrate and report on, and that can have an impact on your business.

We started working with Porch.com in early 2018. We created 4-5 content projects per month for them back then, and I’m going to show you two of our early wins — a small win and a big win — so you can get a sense of what’s possible as well as what’s probable.

The small win: “Fixer Upper” by the numbers

This project was my idea, so naturally I think it deserved way more coverage. It was during the heyday of “Fixer Upper” featuring Chip and Joanna Gaines.

We secured top-tier coverage for it on Apartment Therapy, and while I would’ve liked to have seen more media coverage, there are still plenty of wins to identify here (and elements for you to keep an eye out for in your own content):

  • Brand mentions: Porch is mentioned four times in the article (six if you count image credits). Every time your brand is mentioned, you’re upping your brand awareness.
  • Link quality: The article linked to our project three separate times! (Bonus: More links means higher likelihood of referral traffic.) The site has a domain authority of 90, making it a very high-value earned link.
  • Audience relevance: Porch is about connecting people to home renovation contractors. Their audience probably has a ton of overlap with the Apartment Therapy audience, and are presumably interested in improving the look of their homes.
  • Publication readership: Then there’s the matter of the publication’s statistics, which can help you get a sense of potential reach. SimilarWeb is used by tools like Cision and Meltwater to highlight publications’ readership. In this case, Apartment Therapy is ranked #17 in the “Home Garden” category of sites, and has an estimated 9.16 million visitors per month.

So, even in one average-performing project, you can get some great links and brand exposure.

The big win: “Cooking Nightmares”

Okay, “big” win is kind of an understatement. This campaign was a huge win and remained one of our top-performing projects for Porch.

We surveyed people of all ages to determine their cooking skills and confidence, and then broke the results down by generation. People found the results fascinating, and all-in-all, the project garnered about 50 dofollow links.

In measuring this project’s success, you can look at the same qualities I mentioned for smaller wins: brand mentions, link quality, and audience relevance.

But here are some other considerations for bigger wins:

  • Amount of coverage: The project went wild, earning media coverage on Washington Post, USA Today, Bustle, Thrillist, MSN, Real Simple, Southern Living, Better Homes & Gardens, and more. This coverage meant more high-quality links and significantly more brand exposure, including to a more general audience.
  • Nature of brand mention: Exactly where and how is your brand mentioned? For example, in the Washington Post coverage and Thrillist coverage, they mentioned Porch.com in the second sentence. Bustle included a description of what Porch.com is: “an online resource for connecting homeowners and contractors,” which not only gets the Porch name out there, but also explains what they do.
  • Writer connections: The more writers who are happy with what you’re pitching, the higher the chance they’ll open your next email. All secured media coverage is a win in this way, but it’s a significant element that’s often overlooked.

There are plenty of short-term wins to this kind of work, but odds are you’re looking for sustained growth. That’s where the long-term benefits come in.

Long-term benefits

On our site, we have a full content marketing case study that details the impact of the work we did for Porch.com in the span of a year.

That includes building links from 931 unique linking domains and adding 23,000 monthly organic visitors to the site.

This is the kind of long-term growth most people are looking for, and the key is that all of this work compounds.

Building authoritative links is critical to off-site SEO, as Google views your site as more of an authority, which subsequently means your on-site content is more likely to rank higher. And when people see your brand mentioned in the media because you’ve completed these interesting studies, they’re more likely to click on your content when they see it later because they’re familiar with you, again signaling that you have quality content.

This is our philosophy on things:

And this doesn’t even include the brand awareness aspect that I mentioned before. Which is why, to really assess the long-term impact of a content marketing and digital PR investment, you can look at the following:

  • Backlink portfolio health: High-quality, relevant links will always be valued, even if they’re older. But newer links can signal to Google that you remain relevant and continue to actively provide value to audiences.
  • Organic brand mentions: When your brand name is consistently in the media, it increases the chances people know who you are. Are your branded searches increasing? What are people searching for related to your brand? Are you appearing more often organically in content?
  • Organic traffic: This is the primary metric many look at, because as I mentioned, earning brand coverage and links from top publishers means you’re building your authority, which improves your chances of ranking in Google and for being trusted by audiences, all of which impact your organic search numbers.

We ended up working with Porch.com for longer than a year, from about January 2018 to March 2020. In total, we earned them 1,894 dofollow links and the brand mentions and awareness that accompanied all of that media coverage.

But I want to show you what it looks like to get to this place of growth, and how it’s not by going viral on a monthly basis. It’s about sustained, ongoing work.

This is what it looked like for our work with Porch:

As you can see, we had some projects that earned a very high number of dofollow links. This often occurs when you’re producing a high volume of content over the course of many months.

However, the bulk of your content will fall in the average. Most of our work earned somewhere between 1 and 50 dofollow links, with top performers in the 50 to 100 range.

To see this spread, you have to keep doing the work. You won’t get all of those projects that earn 50-100 dofollow links right off the bat and in a row, and even if you did, while you’d get a big boost, it wouldn’t last you forever. You have to demonstrate your ongoing effort to provide value.


It’s true that content marketing is a long game, at least in order to see significant growth for your company. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t wins in the short-term. You can absolutely see a lift from a high-performing project and at the very least start setting up a stronger foundation for brand awareness and backlink building.

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SEO Negotiation: How to Ace the Business Side of SEO — Best of Whiteboard Friday

Posted by BritneyMuller

SEO has become more important than ever, but it isn’t all meta tags and content. A huge part of the success you’ll see is tied up in the inevitable business negotiations. In this helpful Whiteboard Friday from August of 2018, our resident expert Britney Muller walks us through a bevy of smart tips and considerations that will strengthen your SEO negotiation skills, whether you’re a seasoned pro or a newbie to the practice.

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Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. So today we are going over all things SEO negotiation, so starting to get into some of the business side of SEO. As most of you know, negotiation is all about leverage.

It’s what you have to offer and what the other side is looking to gain and leveraging that throughout the process. So something that you can go in and confidently talk about as SEOs is the fact that SEO has around 20X more opportunity than both mobile and desktop PPC combined.

This is a really, really big deal. It’s something that you can showcase. These are the stats to back it up. We will also link to the research to this down below. Good to kind of have that in your back pocket. Aside from this, you will obviously have your audit. So potential client, you’re looking to get this deal.

Get the most out of the SEO audit

☑ Highlight the opportunities, not the screw-ups

You’re going to do an audit, and something that I have always suggested is that instead of highlighting the things that the potential client is doing wrong, or screwed up, is to really highlight those opportunities. Start to get them excited about what it is that their site is capable of and that you could help them with. I think that sheds a really positive light and moves you in the right direction.

☑ Explain their competitive advantage

I think this is really interesting in many spaces where you can sort of say, “Okay, your competitors are here, and you’re currently here and this is why,”and to show them proof. That makes them feel as though you have a strong understanding of the landscape and can sort of help them get there.

☑ Emphasize quick wins

I almost didn’t put this in here because I think quick wins is sort of a sketchy term. Essentially, you really do want to showcase what it is you can do quickly, but you want to…

☑ Under-promise, over-deliver

You don’t want to lose trust or credibility with a potential client by overpromising something that you can’t deliver. Get off to the right start. Under-promise, over-deliver.

Smart negotiation tactics

☑ Do your research

Know everything you can about this clientPerhaps what deals they’ve done in the past, what agencies they’ve worked with. You can get all sorts of knowledge about that before going into negotiation that will really help you.

☑ Prioritize your terms

So all too often, people go into a negotiation thinking me, me, me, me, when really you also need to be thinking about, “Well, what am I willing to lose?What can I give up to reach a point that we can both agree on?” Really important to think about as you go in.

☑ Flinch!

This is a very old, funny negotiation tactic where when the other side counters, you flinch. You do this like flinch, and you go, “Oh, is that the best you can do?” It’s super silly. It might be used against you, in which case you can just say, “Nice flinch.” But it does tend to help you get better deals.

So take that with a grain of salt. But I look forward to your feedback down below. It’s so funny.

☑ Use the words “fair” and “comfortable”

The words “fair” and “comfortable” do really well in negotiations. These words are inarguable. You can’t argue with fair. “I want to do what is comfortable for us both. I want us both to reach terms that are fair.”

You want to use these terms to put the other side at ease and to also help bridge that gap where you can come out with a win-win situation.

☑ Never be the key decision maker

I see this all too often when people go off on their own, and instantly on their business cards and in their head and email they’re the CEO.

They are this. You don’t have to be that, and you sort of lose leverage when you are. When I owned my agency for six years, I enjoyed not being CEO. I liked having a board of directors that I could reach out to during a negotiation and not being the sole decision maker. Even if you feel that you are the sole decision maker, I know that there are people that care about you and that are looking out for your business that you could contact as sort of a business mentor, and you could use that in negotiation. You can use that to help you. Something to think about.

Tips for negotiation newbies

So for the newbies, a lot of you are probably like, “I can never go on my own. I can never do these things.” I’m from northern Minnesota. I have been super awkward about discussing money my whole life for any sort of business deal. If I could do it, I promise any one of you watching this can do it.

☑ Power pose!

I’m not kidding, promise. Some tips that I learned, when I had my agency, was to power pose before negotiations. So there’s a great TED talk on this that we can link to down below. I do this before most of my big speaking gigs, thanks to Mike Ramsey who told me to do this at SMX Advanced 3 years ago.

Go ahead and power pose. Feel good. Feel confident. Amp yourself up.

☑ Walk the walk

You’ve got to when it comes to some of these things and to just feel comfortable in that space.

☑ Good > perfect

Know that good is better than perfect. A lot of us are perfectionists, and we just have to execute good. Trying to be perfect will kill us all.

☑ Screw imposter syndrome

Many of the speakers that I go on different conference circuits with all struggle with this. It’s totally normal, but it’s good to acknowledge that it’s so silly. So to try to take that silly voice out of your head and start to feel good about the things that you are able to offer.

Take inspiration where you can find it

I highly suggest you check out Brian Tracy’s old-school negotiation podcasts. He has some old videos. They’re so good. But he talks about leverage all the time and has two really great examples that I love so much. One being jade merchants. So these jade merchants that would take out pieces of jade and they would watch people’s reactions piece by piece that they brought out.

So they knew what piece interested this person the most, and that would be the higher price. It was brilliant. Then the time constraints is he has an example of people doing business deals in China. When they landed, the Chinese would greet them and say, “Oh, can I see your return flight ticket? I just want to know when you’re leaving.”

They would not make a deal until that last second. The more you know about some of these leverage tactics, the more you can be aware of them if they were to be used against you or if you were to leverage something like that. Super interesting stuff.

Take the time to get to know their business

☑ Tie in ROI

Lastly, just really take the time to get to know someone’s business. It just shows that you care, and you’re able to prioritize what it is that you can deliver based on where they make the most money off of the products or services that they offer. That helps you tie in the ROI of the things that you can accomplish.

☑ Know the order of products/services that make them the most money

One real quick example was my previous company. We worked with plastic surgeons, and we really worked hard to understand that funnel of how people decide to get any sort of elective procedure. It came down to two things.

It was before and after photos and price. So we knew that we could optimize for those two things and do very well in their space. So showing that you care, going the extra mile, sort of tying all of these things together, I really hope this helps. I look forward to the feedback down below. I know this was a little bit different Whiteboard Friday, but I thought it would be a fun topic to cover.

So thank you so much for joining me on this edition of Whiteboard Friday. I will see you all soon. Bye.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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MozCon Virtual 2020: Top Takeaways from Day One

Posted by cheryldraper

Today marked day one of the first-ever MozCon Virtual! Even though we weren’t together in person, it was so exciting to get the best people in the industry together again.

So much of the day was different from what we expected six months ago, but the one thing we can always count on from our speakers is a MASSIVE amount of value. We’re talking insights, game plans, cheat codes — you name it, we’ve got it — and this year was no different.

Let’s get to it.

Sarah Bird — Welcome & State of the Industry

It’s always inspiring to hear from our fearless leader. Sarah hit on some of the changes that we’ve seen this year and how they’ve affected both us as people and us as an industry.

Sarah also laid out her thoughts on major SEO trends for 2020.

In closing, Sarah reminded us that we rise and fall collectively and that in the end, the world is our work. In difficult times we must all come together.

We’re all so happy to be able to create this virtual experience and allow for everyone to have something (somewhat) predictable to look forward to for two days.

Andy Crestodina — Thought Leadership and SEO: The 3 Key Elements and Search Ranking Strategies

Andy started off by walking us through the three key aspects of thought leadership: personal brand, taking a stand, and proving expert insights.

Then, very kindly, Andy laid out exactly what to do to fulfill each aspect.

Expert Insights

  • Create original research
  • Write books
  • Share novel ideas

Take a stand

  • Have a strong opinion
  • Don’t shy away from controversy
  • Inspire others

Build a personal brand

  • Have a social following
  • Be cited by others
  • Be influential

This presentation was 163 slides of actionable insights. It’s definitely one that we’ll have to watch a few times over!

Shannon McGirk — Great Expectations: The Truth About Digital PR Campaigns

Shannon came to set us straight: we aren’t showing the full picture when it comes to Digital PR, and it’s quite toxic.

She started out by showing a few of her own tweets and pointing out that she rarely, if ever, shares anything about campaigns that don’t “go viral”.

Shannon explained that we talk about Digital PR campaigns as if the majority of them are “huge wins”. The reality, however, is that most of our campaigns will be steady performers and the huge wins are actually just anomalies.

How we talk about campaigns:

How campaigns actually perform:

Aira put out a state of digital PR study and found that most campaigns only got between one and 20 links. When Shannon broke down the numbers for Aira, they were consistent: about 17 links were gained per campaign!

What do we do about this? Shannon challenged us to take as much time looking into what didn’t work as we do looking into what did work.

Using a custom made success matrix, Shannon and her team were able to spot the trends for both “successful” and “not successful” campaigns and implement plans accordingly.

Her parting strategy:

  1. Take off the pressure of “virality” and focus on steady performers and fails.
  2. Realize that steady performers can consistently impact weighty SEO KPIs.
  3. Use the success matrix to review campaigns and catch trends early.

Robin Lord — Whatever You Do, Put Billboards in Seattle: Getting Brand Awareness Data from Google

Wow! Our minds are still blown from this presentation. Robin took us through some extremely valuable workflows for collecting and analyzing data.

When it comes to determining the success of your “brand,” the numbers aren’t straightforward. There are a lot of data points to take into consideration. In fact, Robin started off by asking us if we used multiple datasets, collected data on our competitors, and got granular. Needless to say, many of us knew we were in for a ride.

Honestly, this presentation was so jam-packed with information that we had a hard time keeping up! Thankfully, at the end of his presentation, Robin laid out step-by-step instructions on how he collected, compiled, and analyzed all of this data.

Alexis Sanders — The Science of Seeking Your Customer

Determining your audience is about more than demographics and affinity data; it’s about truly understanding your audience as people.

Alexis took us through four questions we should try to answer when defining our audience:

  1. What’s the key information?
  2. What are they like at their core?
  3. How do they choose products?
  4. What’s their relationship with technology?

She even provided a list of free and paid resources that anyone can use to collect this information.

Alexis also explained that audience research is not something that happens only once (at the beginning of a campaign), but instead should inform the entire customer journey.

Her parting words encouraged us to learn fast and become in-tune with the constant change, instead of always trying to guess correctly!

Phillip Nottingham — How to Build a Global Brand Without a Global Budget

The marketing funnel is broken, we all know that. But if we aren’t focusing on getting people to work down a funnel, what are we working towards? Building our brand. Right. Well, how do we go about doing that?

Phil blew our minds with insights on how he helped Wistia change their mindset when it came to creating “brand awareness.” The first step was to stop calling it brand awareness and instead call it brand affinity.

Building an affinity to a brand means spending time with a brand. A KPI that usually gets lost in the mix of impressions, clicks, etc.

In his presentation, Phil breaks down the exact method he used with Wistia to get people to spend as much time on the site watching four videos as they did reading all 1,170 blogs.

Greg Gifford shared a great summary slide here:

Dr. Pete — Moving Targets: Keywords in Crisis

We were so thrilled to have Dr. Pete back to speak at his NINTH MozCon this year. While this year’s conference was unlike any other, his presentation was just as insightful.

Dr. Pete talked all about spotting trends. Nothing about this year could have been predicted. There was no way that hair salons could have predicted that “how to cut hair” was going to be an opportunity keyword.

However, there is still a way to capitalize on these opportunities as we spot them.

Dr. Pete showed us exactly how we can use tools that we’re familiar with, and a few that we might not be familiar with, to spot trends and turn them into opportunities including Google Trends, Pinterest, Twitter search, and even Boing Boing Store.

There were some real gems in this presentation!

Needless to say, Dr. Pete has officially gone nine straight years impressing MozCon.

Francine Rodriguez — Let It Go: How to Embrace Automation and Get Way More Done

2020 has really come out swinging. Francine voiced exactly what we were all thinking: “that’s enough!”

We have enough to worry about, do we really need to keep adding to the list?

When it comes to search engine marketing, there are a lot of moving parts and it can be excruciating to try and keep up with it all. There is a solution though: ROBOTS! (Someone call Roger!)

Google is constantly learning, so why not let them leverage their new knowledge?

Francine walked us through the different areas of PPC automation:

  • Bidding
  • Ad copy
  • Smart campaigns
  • Keyword matching

If you’re looking for a great example of letting go and embracing automation, Microsoft Ads is a good place to go. They allow you to import all of your Google Ads right into Microsoft ads so they can start running right away.

Rob Ousbey — A Novel Approach to Scraping Websites

What do we even say about this presentation? Rob is one of a kind.

If you take a look at the #MozCon feed on Twitter, you’ll notice far fewer people live-tweeting — that’s because they were busy taking notes!

Rob showed us how he scrapes websites (including the big G) in seconds using a few lines of code. He walked us through every piece of code needed to scrape G2, Google, and even Google’s Lighthouse tool.

He wrapped it all up by showing off exactly what he did to integrate Lighthouse data into Moz Pro’s SERP analysis.

Again, this is going to be one of those presentations that you have to rewatch multiple times. Or maybe even at half-speed!

Ross Simmonds — Designing a Content Engine: Going from Ideation to Creation to Distribution

We closed out day one with the Coolest of Cool.

Ross came in hot with some Disney references to make us think.

Disney movies — where do the storylines usually come from? Other stories!

In recent years we’ve seen Disney “revise” their previous movies to make them fit today’s world. And actually, some of the original Disney movies were “remixes” of Shakespeare’s plays.

Ross loves his four Rs (revise, remix, remove, redirect), and this year he gave us even more actionable plans.

This closing session really encouraged us to put on our “Sherlock Homeboy” hat and get curious about what others are doing, and how we can do it better.

A few places to find inspiration for innovation that Ross mentioned:

  • Your favorite website’s site map
  • Wayback machine for industry leaders’ sites
  • Wikipedia

There’s so much to do

For now, we’re calling it a day and getting some rest because we get to do it all again tomorrow!

If you want to access the speaker slides, you can sign in with your Moz Community credentials and download them on this page.

If you did join us today, what was your favorite session? Your biggest takeaway? We can’t wait to see you tomorrow!

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Introducing the Moz API for Google Sheets

Posted by DaveSottimano

We’ve officially released the Moz API for Google Sheets and want to take you on a quick feature tour.

This Google Sheets add-on allows users to gather Moz URL metrics easily without using code directly in a Google Sheet and provides a few extra functions to help you manipulate data.

In the past, if you wanted link metrics for hundreds of URLs, you either had to enter them manually one at a time, or you needed technical expertise to use the LinkScape API. So, I built this free Google Sheets add-on, and now you can pull link metrics for those URLs in seconds, no coding required.

Here are a few use cases for the Moz API for Sheets add-on:

  1. Get Moz Spam Score in metric to assist toxic link analysis (paid plan required).
  2. Get domain authority and page authority in bulk to help you assess the quality of sites for link outreach, domain valuation, and more (available with free and paid plans).
  3. Use built-in custom formulas to parse URLs, save URLs to the Wayback Archive, etc., all without having to write complicated nested formulas or use regular expressions.

Here’s what you can expect as output from the add-on:

The only thing you’ll need to get started is a Google account and Mozscape API credentials (a free plan is available).

Important limitations:

  1. The free plan will allow the collection of domain authority and page authority for 200 URLs at a time, at a rate of 10 URLs per 10 seconds.
  2. The paid plan will allow all metrics for 10,000 URLs at a time with no rate limiting.

Once you have the add-on installed, you’ll need to enter your Mozscape API credentials to activate the tool. From there, simply select your metrics and add in your URLs to get the report working.

The formulas tab

There are a few helpful custom formulas that come with the add-on. Simply click on the “formulas” tab at the bottom of the add-on to see them. As you type any of these formulas, a help file will pop up to guide you.

For example, use the =PARSE_URL formula to quickly parse URLs into the root, path, anchor, and more without having to write novel-length formulas or remember difficult regular expressions.

Stuck? Click on the “help” tab to display additional information.


That’s it! We hope you enjoy the add-on and we welcome your feedback.

P.S. A massive thank you to Britney Muller and Cyrus Shepard for giving me the opportunity to build the add-on and being incredibly patient/helpful during the process.

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What to do when content fails.

The Campaign Comeback: What to Do When Content Fails — Best of Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Shannon-McGuirk

We’ve all been there: you plan, launch, and eagerly await the many returns on a content campaign, only to be disappointed when it falls flat. But all is not lost: there are clever ways to give your failed campaigns a second chance at life and an opportunity to earn the links you missed out on the first time. In this popular Whiteboard Friday from 2018, MozCon speaker Shannon McGuirk graciously gives us a five-step plan for breathing new life into a dead content campaign.

What to do when content fails.

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

Video Transcription

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

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

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

Step one: Reevaluate your outreach efforts

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

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

Step two: Stories vs. statements

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

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

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

Step three: Create a package

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

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

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

Step four: Ask an expert

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

Step five: Re-launch timings

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

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

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

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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That’s a Wrap: MozCon Virtual 2020 Day Two Recap

Posted by cheryldraper

Wow! What a crazy ride MozCon has been this year. In case you missed it, we were able to double the number of attendees and include over 2,800 people.

Not only were we able to include them, we were also able to see their families, pets, and home offices. It was an unusual experience for sure, but one we won’t be forgetting any time soon.

As always, the speakers served up some flaming hot content (including an actual movie). We can’t wait to share some of these takeaways with you!

Britney Muller — Accessible Machine Learning Workflows for SEOs

Britney started off by assuring everyone that they absolutely can use machine learning. She knows this because she was able to teach her dad how to use it!

Let’s jump right in.

Basically, machine learning can be used for a lot of things.

Britney suggests starting with a notebook in Colaboratory for increased accessibility. She showed us to do the basics like upload, import, and download data before jumping into the fun stuff:

  • Using Google NLP API to extract entities and their categories from URL
  • Using Facebook’s Prophet data for time-series predictions
  • Keyword research using Search Console Data and a filtering function

Honestly, we were surprised at how easy she made machine learning look. Can’t wait to try it ourselves!

Izzi Smith — How to Be Ahead of the (CTR) Curve

Not all clicks are created equal! While you may want as many clicks as possible from the SERP, there’s a specific type of click you should be striving for — the almighty long click.

“What is a click without the intent to be there?”

Google’s patent clearly states that reactions to search results are gauged, and short interactions (clicks) can lower rankings while longer interactions (clicks) can lead to higher rankings.

Are you ready to track your clicks and get to work? Good! Izzi broke it all down for you:

  1. Pull your data from Google Search Console, specifically by using their API.
  2. Know what you are looking for BEFORE getting into the data.
  3. Look for these patterns:
    1. Performance-based core update impacts — decrease in positions and impressions
    2. Identifying Irrelevant rankings — large impression spike (with low CTR) then a sharp decline in impressions
    3. Losing SERP feature — a sharp decrease in CTR and a decrease in impressions

Izzi, you’re a rockstar! We can’t wait to go play with all of our data later.

Flavilla Fongang — How to Go Beyond Marketing for Clients: The Value of a Thriving Brand Ecosystem

Flavilla is a true gem. Instead of focusing on the top of the funnel, she focused on how we can keep customers coming back.

She told us that “business is like love”. You don’t want to move too fast. You don’t want to move too slow. You have to add value. You have to keep things exciting.

Flavilla challenged us to find what makes us remarkable:

  • Can you offer a unique experience?
  • Can you create a community?
  • Can you offer integrations?
  • Can you partner with people to bring something new?

Really sit down and think about why you started your brand and reflect on it. If you build a brand people come back to, you’ll have far less to worry about.

Brian Dean — How to Promote Your Content Like a Boss

We finally did it! We got Brian Dean to speak at an SEO conference.

If you don’t know him by now, you haven’t been searching hard enough. Brian is a master of content creation and marketing.

It wasn’t always that way, though. Brian’s first blog never took off because he spent more time creating content than he did promoting it. Once he realized just how important promotion was, he went all-in and ended up reaping the benefits.

This year, he finally shared with us some of his Jedi-like promotion tactics.

He shared multiple tips for each of these strategies, but here is a quick summary:

  • Social sites hate it when you post links. Instead, tease the content with a “hook, lead, summary, link, call-to-action”.
  • Ask journalists or bloggers if they’d be interested in reading your pieces, but do so before you publish it to take some pressure off.
  • Actually personalize your outreach by mentioning something on the contact’s site.
  • Boost Facebook posts with ample engagement to audiences who have interacted with previous posts.

Just implementing one of these tactics could change the way your content is received by the internet. Who knows what could happen if you implemented all of them?

Joy Hawkins — Google My Business: Battling Bad Info & Safeguarding Your Search Strategy

Not everyone does local SEO, but if you do (or if it ties into what you do at all) you’re going to want to buckle your seatbelt.

Joy showed us some of the insights she was able to pull from a large study she did with her team. They had noticed a major discrepancy in the data between Google My Business and Google Search Console, and wanted to get to the root of it.

Joy shared some major findings:

  1. Google My Business “views” are a lot of different things (not just the traditional impressions we’re used to tracking).
  2. Mobile searches don’t show website icons in the local pack.
  3. The search queries that show up in GMB are different from the ones that are shown in Search Console.
  4. Explicit intent does not always mean higher intent than implicit intent

If you work in local search, Joy wants to challenge you to move away from views and Search Console impressions. Instead, focus on the search data that GMB provides for keywords and on click data in Search Console.

Michael King — Runtime: The 3-Ring Circus of Technical SEO

In true Michael King style (with a ton of flare), he showed us just what’s possible at a virtual conference and blew our minds with technical SEO awesomeness.

We watched “Jamie” get through the three rings using slick techniques.

There were so many of these, friends!

The thing is, all of this has been out there and accessible, but as Mike says in Runtime, “Doing things the same way everyone else does them is going to get you everyone else’s results. Do things your own way.”

Dana DiTomaso — Red Flags: Use a Discovery Process to Go from Red Flags to Green Lights

The idea of discovery is not a new one, but Dana came ready to shine a new light on an old tactic. Most of us do minimal research before agreeing to do a project — or at least minimal compared to Dana and her team!

These are just a few questions from Kick Point’s discovery process:

  • If there were no limitations, what would you want to be able to say at the end of this project?
  • Which of these metrics affects your performance report?
  • What does your best day ever look like?
  • What didn’t work last time?

The discovery process isn’t just about talking to the client, though, it’s about doing your own research to see if you can find the pain points.

As always, Dana shared some true gems that are sure to make our industry better.

David Sottimano — Everyday Automation for Marketers

David brought us automation greatness all the way from Colombia! There were so many practical applications and all of them required little to no coding:

  • Wit.ai for search intent classification
  • Using cron for scheduling things like scraping
  • Webhooks for passing data
  • Creating your own IFTTT-like automation using n8n.io on Heroku

We got to see live demonstrations of David doing each of these things as he explained them. They all seemed super user-friendly and we can’t wait to try some of them.

Oh yeah, David also helped us build and release the Moz API for Sheets!

Russ Jones — I Wanna Be Rich: Making Your Consultancy Profitable

Most businesses fail within their first five years, and that failure often comes down to business decisions. Now, Russ doesn’t enjoy all of this decision-making, but he has learned a few things from doing it and then seeing how those decisions affect a business’s bottom line.

The number one way to become more profitable is to cut costs. Russ looked at cutting costs by having fewer full-time employees, renting/owning less space, making leadership changes, and cutting lines of service.

When it comes to actually bringing in more money though, Russ suggests:

  • Adding new service lines
  • Raising prices
  • Automating tasks
  • Acquiring new business

At the end of the day, Russ boiled it down to two things: Don’t be afraid to change, and experiment when you can — not when you must.

Heather Physioc — Competitive Advantage in a Commoditized Industry

SEO is not dead, it’s commoditized. A strong line to start off a presentation! We can always count on Heather to bring forth some real business-minded takeaways.

First, she helped us understand what a competitive advantage actually is.

Then, it was time to go through her competitive advantage framework.

As we went through this framework, Heather assigned A LOT of homework:

  • Examine your brand: What do you do? Who do you serve? Why? Find the patterns within the answers.
  • Write a brand statement.
  • Activate your advantage: How can you live it fully? What things can’t you do in support of your purpose? How will you know you’re putting it to work?

She mentioned a lot of great tools throughout her presentation. Get a list of those tools and access to her slides here.

Wil Reynolds — The CMO Role Has Been Disrupted: Are You Ready for Your New Boss?

Have you ever thought about who holds the fate of the CMO in their hands? Wil started out by explaining that the CEO, CFO, and CIO actually have far more power over marketing than we give them credit for. While they all know that data is what will make their businesses successful, they also hold keys to our success: budget, IT teams/implementations, veto authority.

The issue we face isn’t that we don’t know what we are doing, but more so that we don’t know how to communicate it.

How can you show up to talk the talk and walk the walk? Use your data, and use it to give the customers a voice at the table (something all executive teams are attempting to achieve).

Wil’s team has done an amazing job simplifying and documenting this process for all of us in search. If you haven’t yet, we highly suggest checking out their blog.

That’s a wrap

Folks, this was fun. We’re so happy that we could bring people together from all over the world for two days during this crazy time.

While there weren’t any Roger hugs or fist pumps, there were still lessons learned and friendships made. It doesn’t get any better than that. We hope you feel the same.

If you were able to attend the live conference, we would love to hear your thoughts and takeaways! Be sure to take time to reflect on what you’ve learned and start plans for implementation — we want to see you make a difference with your new knowledge.

Until next year, Moz fans!

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Core Web Vitals: The Next Official Google Ranking Factor – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Cyrus-Shepard

There’s a new ranking factor in town: Core Web Vitals. Expected in 2021, this Google-announced algorithm change has a few details you should be aware of. Cyrus Shepard dives in this week on Whiteboard Friday.

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. I’m Cyrus Shepard here at Moz. Today we’re talking about the next official Google ranking factor — Core Web Vitals. Now what do I mean by official ranking factor?

Google makes hundreds of changes a year. Every week they introduce new changes to their algorithm. Occasionally they announce ranking factor changes. They do this in particular when something is important or they want to encourage people, webmasters to make changes to their site beforehand. They do this for important things like HTTPS and other signals.

So this is one they actually announced. It’s confusing to a lot of people, so I wanted to try to demystify what this ranking signal means, what we can do to diagnose and prepare for it, and basically get in a place where we’re ready for things to happen. So what is it? Big first question. 

What are Core Web Vitals?

So these are real-world experience metrics that Google is looking at, that answer things like: How fast does the page load? How fast is it interactive? How fast is it stable? So basically, when visitors are using your web page on a mobile or a desktop device, what’s that experience like in terms of speed, how fast can they interact with it, things like that.

Now it’s joining a group of metrics that Google calls Page Experience signals. It’s not really a standalone. It’s grouped in with these Page Experience metrics that are separate from the text on the page. So these are signals like mobile friendliness, HTTPS, intrusive interstitials, which are those pop-ups that come on and appear.

It’s not so much about the text of the page, which are traditional ranking signals, but more about the user experience and what it’s like, how pleasant it is to use the page, how useful it is. These are especially important on mobile when sometimes the speed isn’t as high. So that’s what Google is measuring here. So that’s what it is.

Where is this going to affect rankings? 

Well, it’s going to affect all regular search results, mobile and desktop, based on certain criteria. But also, and this is an important point, Core Web Vitals are going to become a criteria to appear in Google Top Stories. These are the news results that usually appear at the top of search results.

Previously, AMP was a requirement to appear in those Top Stories. AMP is going away. So you still have to meet the requirements for regular Google News inclusion, but AMP is not going to be a requirement anymore to appear in Top Stories. But you are going to have to meet a minimum threshold of Core Web Vitals.

So that’s an important point. So this could potentially affect a lot of ranking results. 

When is it going to happen? 

Well, Google has told us that it’s going to happen sometime in 2021. Because of COVID-19, they have pushed back the release of this within the algorithm, and they want to give webmasters extra time to prepare.

They have promised us at least six months’ notice to get ready. As of this recording, today we have not received that six-month notice. When that updates, we will update this post to let you know when that’s going to be. So anytime Google announces a ranking factor change, the big question is: 

How big of a change is this going to be?

How much do I have to worry about these metrics, and how big of results are we going to see shift in Google SERPs? Well, it’s important to keep in mind that Google has hundreds of ranking signals. So the impact of any one signal is usually not that great. That said, if your site is particularly poor at some of these metrics, it could make a difference.

If you’re in a highly competitive environment, competing against people for highly competitive terms, these can make a difference. So it probably is not going to be huge based on past experience with other ranking signals, but it is still something that we might want to address especially if you’re doing pretty poorly.

The other thing to consider, some Google signals have outsized impact beyond their actual ranking factors. Things like page speed, it’s probably a pretty small signal, but as users experience it, it can have outsized influence. Google’s own studies show that for pages that meet these thresholds of Core Web Vitals, visitors are 24% less likely to abandon the site.

So even without Core Web Vitals being an official Google ranking factor, it can still be important because it provides a better user experience. Twenty-four percent is like gaining 24% more traffic without doing anything, simply by making your site a little more usable. So even without that, it’s probably still something we want to consider.

Three signals for Core Web Vitals

So I want to jump briefly into the specifics of Core Web Vitals, what they’re measuring. I think people get a little hung up on these because they’re very technical. Their eyes kind of glaze over when you talk about them. So my advice would be let’s not get hung up on the actual specifics. But I think it is important to understand, in layman’s terms, exactly what’s being measured.

More importantly, we want to talk about how to measure, identify problems, and fix these things if they happen to be wrong. So very briefly, there are three signals that go into Core Web Vitals. 

1. Largest contentful paint (LCP)

The first being largest contentful paint (LCP). This basically asks, in layman’s terms, how fast does the page load? Very easy concept. So this is hugely influenced by the render time, the largest image, video, text in the viewport.

That’s what Google is looking at. The largest thing in the viewport, whether it be a desktop page or a mobile page, the largest piece of content, whether it be an image, video or text, how fast does that take to load? Very simple. That can be influenced by your server time, your CSS, JavaScript, client-side rendering.

All of these can play a part. So how fast does it load? 

2. Cumulative layout shift (CLS)

The second thing, cumulative layout shift (CLS). Google is asking with this question, how fast is the page stable? Now I’m sure we’ve all had an experience where we’ve loaded a page on our mobile phone, we go to click a button, and at the last second it shifts and we hit something else or something in the page layout has an unexpected layout shift.

That’s poor user experience. So that’s what Google is measuring with cumulative layout shift. How fast is everything stable? The number one reason that things aren’t stable is that image sizes often aren’t defined. So if you have an image and it’s 400 pixels wide and tall, those need to be defined in the HTML. There are other reasons as well, such as animations and things like that.

But that’s what they’re measuring, cumulative layout shift. 

3. First input delay (FID)

Third thing within these Core Web Vitals metrics is first input delay (FID). So this question is basically asking, how fast is the page interactive? To put it another way, when a user clicks on something, a button or a JavaScript event, how fast can the browser start to process that and produce a result?

It’s not a good experience when you click on something and nothing happens or it’s very slow. So that’s what that’s measuring. That can depend on your JavaScript, third-party code, and there are different ways to dig in and fix those. So these three all together are Core Web Vitals and play into the page experience signals. So like I said, let’s not get hung up on these.

How to measure & fix

Let’s focus on what’s really important. If you have a problem, how do you measure how you’re doing with Core Web Vitals, and how do you fix those issues? Google has made it very, very simple to discover. The first thing you want to do is look in Search Console. They have a new report there — Core Web Vitals. They will tell you all your URLs that they have in their index, whether they’re poor, needs improvement, or good.

If you have URLs that are poor or needs improvement, that’s when you want to investigate and find out what’s wrong and how you can improve those pages. Every report in Search Console links to a report in Page Speed Insights. This is probably the number-one tool you want to use to diagnose your problems with Core Web Vitals.

It’s powered by Lighthouse, a suite of performance metric tools. You want to focus on the opportunities and diagnostics. Now I’m going to be honest with you. Some of these can get pretty technical. You may need a web developer who is an expert in page speed or someone else who can comfortably address these problems if you’re not very technical.

We have a number of resources here on the Moz Blog dealing with page speed. We’ll link to those in the comments below. But generally, you want to go through and you want to address each of these opportunities and diagnostics to improve your Core Web Vitals score and get these out of poor and needs improvement into good. Now if you don’t have access to Search Console, Google has put these reports in many, many tools across the web.

Lighthouse, of course, you can run for any page. Chrome Dev Tools, the Crux API. All of these are available and resources for you to find out exactly how your site is performing with Core Web Vitals and go in and we have until sometime in 2021 to address these things. All right, that’s it.

That’s Core Web Vitals in a nutshell. We’ve got more than six months to go. Get ready. At least at a very minimum dive in and see how your site is performing and see if we can find some easy wins to get our sites up to speed. All right. Thanks, everybody.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Proximity Third: A Deeper Dive into a Local Ranking Factors Surprise

Posted by MiriamEllis

Image credit: J.B. Hill

What’s the good of a survey if it doesn’t result in at least a few surprises?

I know my own eyebrows leapt skyward when the data first came in from the Moz State of the Local SEO Industry 2020 Survey and I saw that, in a break with tradition, participants had placed user-to-business proximity at a lowly third place in terms of influencing Google local pack rankings. Just a year ago, our respondents had voted it #1.

If you’re feeling startled, too, here’s our chance to take a more granular look at the data and see if we can offer some useful theories for proximity’s drop in perceived dominance.

First, a quick definition of user-to-business proximity

What do local SEOs mean when they speak of user-to-business proximity? Imagine an Internet searcher is standing in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, looking on their phone, laptop or other device for “pizza”. Local SEOs observe that it’s more typical for Google to show that person Pasquale’s Pizzeria, right next to the park, than to show them Yummy Pizza across town in the Glen Park neighborhood.

Make an identical query as you move around your city and you’re likely to see the local pack and mapped results change a little or a lot, depending on the competitiveness, density and diversity of local commerce in your town, relative to where you are standing when you search.

In 2014, the annual survey of world class local SEO experts known as the Local Search Ranking Factors survey rated proximity as having the 8th greatest influence on local pack rankings. By 2017 and in subsequent editions, proximity had hit #1. As mentioned, the 2019 Moz State of the Local SEO Industry report placed it first. But this year, something changed…

Proximity third: the data

Our large survey group of over 1,000 respondents ranked Google My Business elements (keywords in name, categories, etc.) and Google review elements (count, sentiment, owner responses, etc.) as having a greater influence on local pack rankings than does user-to-business proximity.

Now, let’s take a closer look at which participants ordered ranking influence in this way.

GMB elements ranked #1

It’s fascinating to see that, on average, agency workers rated Google My Business elements as having the most influence on local pack rankings. These would be practitioners who are presumably working directly with local clients on a day-to-day basis and continuously studying local packs.

Google review elements ranked #2

Overall, Google review elements rank second, and within this statistic, it’s survey takers who market one small local business who rate the influence of reviews most highly, on average. These would presumably be independent business owners or their in-house marketing staff who are regularly eyeing the local packs to see what seems to move the needle.

Proximity ranked #3

Overall, the proximity of the searcher to the place of business ranks third, and within this group, it’s agency workers who, on average, rate the influence of proximity most highly. So, again, it’s this group of marketing professionals who are contributing to the depiction of proximity being of less influence than GMB factors.

Three theories for making sense of the proximity shift

I was startled enough by the data to begin considering how to account for it. I came up with three different theories that helped make more sense of this to me, personally.

1. Could respondents just be wrong?

Certainly, it’s fair to ask this. I’ll be honest — my first reaction to the data when it crossed my desk was, “Wait…this can’t be right. How can proximity be in third place?”

I thought about how the long-running Local Search Ranking Factors project, which is confined to local SEO experts, has been placing proximity first for several years, and how our survey group is inclusive of every type of job title involved in marketing local businesses. Owners, creative directors, writers, in-house and agency SEOs, and many other types of practitioners contribute to marketing local businesses and participate in our initiative. Could it be that respondents who don’t do day-to-day SEO work swayed this result?

But I stopped asking that question when I saw that it was, in fact, agency workers who had contributed most to this view of GMB factors outweighing proximity. Digital marketing brands offering local SEO as a service can’t be summarily written off as mistaken. So, next, I asked myself what these agency workers could be seeing that would make them rank proximity lower than two other factors.

2. Could “it depends” be making absolutes impossible?

Here’s the thing: sophisticated local SEO practitioners know that there actually is no absolute #1 local ranking factor. What shows up in a local pack depends hugely on Google’s understanding of intent and its varied treatment of different industries and keywords.

For example, Google can decide that for a query like “coffee near me”, the user wants the closest option, and will cluster results in a tight proximity to the searcher. Meanwhile, a customer in any location looking for “used car dealership” may see results skewed to a certain part of town where there’s an auto row filled with such businesses — a phenomenon long ago dubbed the “industry centroid” effect. But, for the user seeking something like “sports arena”, Google can believe there’s a willingness to drive further away and can make up a local pack of businesses all over a city, or even all over a state.

So, the truth is, dubbing any factor #1 is an oversimplification we put up with for the sake of giving some order to the chaos of Google results. Proximity may be the dominant influence for some queries, but definitely not for all of them.

Taking this into consideration, it could well be that our survey’s respondents who work at agencies are observing such a diversity of behavior from Google that they are losing confidence in pinning it all down to proximity as the leading factor. And this leads me to my third theory.

3. Could a desire for control be at play here?

Proximity can be problematic. In a separate question in our survey in which we asked whether Google’s emphasis on proximity was always generating high quality results, only 38.6% of respondents felt satisfied. Most of us are frequently encountering local pack results that may be closest, but not best. This can leave agencies and business owners feeling a bit dubious about Google and even a bit helpless about acting in an environment that often ranks mere nearness over quality.

Unless a business is willing to move to a different location which Google appears to be favoring for core search phrase targets, proximity isn’t really something you can optimize for. In this scenario, what is left to local business marketers that they can control?

Of course — it’s GMB factors and reviews. You can control what you name your business, what categories you choose, your use of Google posts and Q&A, your photos, videos, and description. You can control your review acquisition campaigns and your rate and quality of owner responses.

Seeing respondents weigh GMB elements above proximity made me wonder if the strong desire for being able to have some control over local pack outcomes might subconsciously cause subjects to give a slight bump to factors they can observably influence. I’m not a psychologist, but I know I’m always writing here at Moz about focusing on what you can control. It could be that this internal emphasis might cause me to give more importance to factors other than proximity. Just a theory, but one to consider, and I’d love to hear in the comments if you have different hypotheses!

Can we know the truth?

I was so intrigued by our survey’s results that I ran a very quick Twitter poll to take another snapshot of current sentiment about proximity. Most of my followers are interested in or involved with local SEO, so I was eager to see the outcome of this:

While a robust 66% placed proximity first, an interesting 34% didn’t. In other words, there just isn’t total agreement about this topic. Most revealingly, more than one respected SEO tweeted back at me, “It depends.”

This is why I believe that my second theory above is likely as close to the truth as we’re going to get. All surveys which aggregate anecdotal opinion must take into account the variety of respondents’ experiences. Consider:

  • If my agency specializes in working with convenience stores or coffee shops, proximity may well be ruling my workday because Google draws such a tight net around users for my target keywords.
  • If most of my clients operate tourist attractions or B2B brands, it could be that reviews or the names on Google Business profiles appear to shape my world much more than proximity does.
  • Or, I may have such a wide array of clients, each experiencing different Google behavior, that my overall confidence in putting proximity first has simply eroded the more I observe the variations in the results.

What we can say with certainty is that there has been a year-over-year shift in how participants in the Moz State of the Local SEO Industry 2020 survey rate the influence of proximity. They believe it’s less dominant than it was just a year ago. Knowing this may not change your local pack strategy, because as we’ve noted, you could never do much to influence proximity in the first place.

What takeaway can we glean, then, if there is no absolute #1 local ranking factor upon which all parties agree? I’d boil it down to this: our survey shows that participants are heavily focused on GMB factors and reviews. In your competitive landscape, awareness of these elements is lively, and your ability to compete means taking an active approach to managing what you can control.

Moz Local software offers one smart solution for taking maximum charge of your Google Business Profiles, and I’ll close here with my short list of links to assist you in marketing local businesses in Google’s competitive environment:

Curious about what other insights you’ll find in our survey? Download the full, free Moz State of the Local SEO Industry 2020 report.

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