Punch people in the face through the internet

The Link Building Webslog

Posted by rjonesx.

This is not the link building article you — or really anyone — were probably hoping for. It isn’t a step-by-step guide to getting the best backlinks, it isn’t some list of hot tips or new opportunities, and it isn’t the announcement of some great tool. What it is, unashamedly, is a window into the brutal slog that is outreach-based link building. 

What can you expect?


2. Some tips and tricks.

3. Weeping and gnashing of teeth

Punch people in the face through the internet
Courtesy Some Ecards

All kidding aside, one of the few aphorisms I’ve come to believe is that sharing how we do things as SEOs is almost never a problem, because 99% of people don’t have the follow-through and resources to make it happen. I would love to be proven wrong by the readers on Moz.

My goal here is to give a realistic understanding of the monotonous slog that is white-hat, outreach-based link building. I happen to think that link building is a perfect counterexample to the “Pareto Principle”. Unlike the Pareto Principle, which states that 80% of the effect comes from 20% of the cause, I find that unless you put in 60-80% of the effort, you won’t see more than 20% of the potential effect. The payoff comes when you have outworked your competitors, and I promise you they are putting in more than 20%.

pareto principle
Courtesy Quotiss

The goal of this “Webslog” is to document the weeks and months that go into a link building campaign, at least as far as how I go about the process.

Courtesy Aaron Burden

Also, look at that gorgeous fountain pen. I frickin’ love fountain pens.

I will try and update this document every week or so with progress reports, my motivation level, the tips and tricks I’ve employed over the last few days, the headaches, wins, and losses. By the end of this, I hope to have accomplished something along the lines of a link building journal. It won’t be a blueprint for link building success, but hopefully it will mark on the map of your link building journey the things to avoid, the best way to get through certain jams, and when you’re just going to have to tough it out.

Journal Entry Day One

Day one is almost always the best day. It’s a preparation day. It’s the day you buy the gym membership, purchase a veritable ton of whey protein and protein shaker bottles, weigh yourself — in all reality you accomplish nothing, but feel like you have done so much. Day one is important because it can provide momentum and clear a path to success, but it also presents the problem of motivation being incredibly disproportionate to success. It’s likely that your first day will be the most discordant with respect to motivation and results. 

Rand does a great job explaining the relationship between ROI and Effort:

However, I think the third component here is motivation. While it does largely track the chart Rand provides, I think there are some notable differences, the first of which is that, in the first few days, your motivation will be high despite not having any results. Your motivation will probably dip very quickly and become parallel with the remainder of the “effort” line on the graph, but you get the point.

Courtesy Drew Beamer

It’s essential to keep your motivation up over the course of the “slog”, and the trick is to disconnect your motivation from your ROI and attach it instead to attainable goals which lead to ROI. It’s a terribly difficult thing to do. 

Alright, so, Day One prep.

Project description

For this project, I’ll be employing a unique form of broken link building (Part 2). If you’ve seen any of my link building presentations in the last 2-3 years, you may have caught a glimpse of some of the techniques in the process. Nevertheless, the link building method really isn’t important for the sake of this project. All that matters for the sake of our discussion in the method is:

  1. Outreach Based (requires contacting other webmasters).
  2. Neutral with regard to Black/White hat (it could be done either way).
  3. Requires Prospecting.
  4. Ultimately brings Return on Investment through either advertising or an exit.

In addition, I won’t be using any aliases in this project. For once, I’m building something respectable enough that I don’t mind my name being associated with it. I do still need to be careful (avoid negative SEO, for example) as this is a YMYL industry (health related). The site is already in existence, but with almost no links.

So, what are the returns on investment (or effort) that I’ll be tracking and, importantly, won’t be tracking?

Return on Investment
Courtesy financereference.com

1. Emails sent to links placed relative to:

  • Subject line
  • Pitch email
  • Target broken link

2. Contact forms filled to links placed:

  • Subject line
  • Pitch email
  • Target broken link

3. Anchor text used in links placed

4. Not tracking:

  • Deliverability
  • Open rate
  • Reply rate
  • Domain Authority of source

I know #4 will sound like a cardinal sin to many of the professional link builders reading this, but I’m really just not interested in bothering a recipient who chooses to overlook the email. I’m certain that the speed of emails sent will not impact deliverability, so the other statistics just seem like continuing to ring the doorbell at someone’s house until they are forced to answer. Sure, it might work, but it also might get you reported.


There are a couple of steps I take every time I begin a project like this.

1. Set up email, obviously. I typically set up [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] and a catch all. I don’t use Google. It just seems, well, wrong. I have had success with Zoho before, although honestly I just need the email so I often go with a CPANEL host and then add the MX records to Cloudflare.

2. Set up a phone number for voice mail. I like Grasshopper, personally. This is not to improve rankings (although I do put it on the site), it’s to improve conversion rates. Email messages with a real phone number and real email address from a real person, with the same domain promoted as the domain in the email, just seem to do better when your project is truly above-board.

3. Set up SPF and DKIM records for better deliverability.

4. Set up a number of Google Docs sheets which will help with some of the prospecting and mail sending.

5. Set up my emailer. I know this is vague, but one of the things I try to do is create stumbling blocks to cheating. There are some awesome tools out there Pitchbox, BuzzStream, LinkProspector and more, but I find each very tempting to take shortcuts. I want to make sure I pull the trigger personally on every email that goes out. Efficient, no. Effective, not really. Safe, yeah.

Honestly, this is about as much as I can do in one day. I look forward to updating this regularly, make sure you follow @moz or @rjonesx on Twitter to get notified when we update this journal.

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They’re Simply the Best: The Top 25 Moz Blog Posts of 2020

Posted by morgan.mcmurray

Here we are again — that time of year filled with wrap-ups and lookbacks and “best of” compilations. 2020 was a year like no other, and that’s certainly reflected in the topics covered by the blogs in the list below.

We published 170 blog posts this year (including Whiteboard Friday episodes) — not too shabby for a year rife with personal and professional challenges! We’re looking forward to what 2021 has in store, but in case you missed anything, we’ve compiled the top 25 most-read pieces from the last 12 months*. You’ll find several Whiteboard Friday episodes (past and present), local SEO tips, and advice for empathetic marketing, along with the optimistic SEO predictions for 2020 and beyond — made in pre-COVID times. 

So without further ado, here are the best Moz Blog posts of 2020. Enjoy!

*The top 25 Moz Blog posts listed below were published between January 1 – December 22, 2020, and are in order by unique pageviews generated during that timeframe.

1. What Readers Want During COVID-19: Content Ideas for Every Niche

Author: Amanda Milligan | Published: March 31, 2020 | Unique Pageviews: 49,889

Amanda tested a variety of keywords to see which ones exhibited a trend during the initial COVID-19 outbreak, and might warrant some attention from content marketers. Here’s what she found. 

2. Pay Attention to These SEO Trends in 2020 and Beyond

Author: Suganthan Mohanadasan | Published: February 4, 2020 | Unique Pageviews: 45,553

In the past several years, we’ve already seen a sea of change in how we think and execute on SEO, but the future holds even more change — and more opportunity. Explore a rundown of key SEO topics to keep an eye on in the future.

3. Are H1 Tags Necessary for Ranking? [SEO Experiment]

Author: Cyrus Shepard | Published: February 25, 2020 | Unique Pageviews: 35,414

In earlier days of search marketing, SEOs often heard the same two best practices repeated so many times it became implanted in our brains: Wrap the title of your page in H1 tags and use only one H1 tag per page. Despite assertions from one of Google’s most trusted authorities that sites “can do perfectly fine with no H1 tags or with five H1 tags”, many SEOs didn’t believe it. So of course, we decided to test it scientifically.

4. Google My Business: FAQ for Multiple Businesses at the Same Address

Author: Miriam Ellis | Published: February 17, 2020 | Unique Pageviews: 31,883

How should I get listed in Google My Business if I’ve got multiple businesses at the same address? How many listings am I eligible for if I’m running more than one business at my location? Get answers to your top questions in this comprehensive FAQ.

5. Google’s January 2020 Core Update: Has the Dust Settled?

Author: Dr. Peter J. Meyers | Published: January 27, 2020 | Unique Pageviews: 31,800

The January 2020 Core Update peaked from January 13-15. We dig into the numbers, including winners and losers.

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

Author: Dr. Peter J. Meyers | Published: May 14, 2020 | Unique Pageviews: 24,159

The May 2020 Core Update was the second-hottest update since the August 2018 “Medic” Update. Dr. Pete takes a hard look at the numbers, including why measuring winners and losers has turned out to be a tricky business.

7. Core Web Vitals: The Next Official Google Ranking Factor

Author: Cyrus Shepard | Published: July 17, 2020 | Unique Pageviews: 21,281

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. 

8. SEO for 2020

Author: Britney Muller | Published: January 31, 2020 | Unique Pageviews: 20,783

SEO Scientist Britney Muller offers a seventeen-point checklist of things you ought to keep in mind for executing on modern, effective SEO. You’ll encounter both old favorites (optimizing title tags, anyone?) and cutting-edge ideas to power your search strategy into the future.

9. 4 Google My Business Fields That Impact Ranking (and 3 That Don’t)

Author: Joy Hawkins | Published: October 23, 2020 | Unique Pageviews: 20,330

Joy and her team at Sterling Sky have come to the conclusion that there are only four things inside the Google My Business dashboard that a business owner or a marketing agency can edit that will have a direct influence on where they rank in the local results on Google.

10. Crawled — Currently Not Indexed: A Coverage Status Guide

Author: Christopher Long | Published: March 9, 2020 | Unique Pageviews: 18,354

Within Google’s Index Coverage report, there are many different statuses that provide webmasters with information about how Google is handling their site content. While many of the statuses provide some context around Google’s crawling and indexation decisions, one remains unclear: “Crawled — currently not indexed”. This post will help you identify some of the most common reasons this mysterious status might be affecting your website, and how to address them.

11. How to Get Backlinks in 2020 [Series]

Author: Britney Muller | Published: June 26, 2020 | Unique Pageviews: 15,523

A little creativity and smart tactics can uncover high-quality link building opportunities. This week, Britney Muller kicks off a new Whiteboard Friday series on modern link building.

12. Position Zero Is Dead; Long Live Position Zero

Author: Dr. Peter J. Meyers | Published: February 5, 2020 | Unique Pageviews: 14,825

On January 22, 2020, Google started removing Featured Snippet URLs from organic listings. We take a deep dive into the before and after of this change, including its implications for rank-tracking.

13. 2020 Local SEO Success: How to Feed, Fight, and Flip Google

Author: Miriam Ellis | Published: January 6, 2020 | Unique Pageviews: 13,969

Feed Google the right information, fight spam, and flip it into an opportunity: these are the top three ways to chase local SEO success.

14. Which of My Competitor’s Keywords Should (& Shouldn’t) I Target?

Author: Rand Fishkin | Published: February 21, 2020 | Unique Pageviews: 13,638

Which of your competitor’s keywords are worth targeting, and which can be ignored? Learn how to tell the difference in this fan favorite Whiteboard Friday.

15. 10 Basic SEO Tips to Index + Rank New Content Faster

Author: Cyrus Shepard | Published: October 16, 2020 | Unique Pageviews: 13,381

When you publish new content, you want users to find it ranking in search results as fast as possible. Fortunately, there are a number of tips and tricks in the SEO toolbox to help you accomplish this goal. 

16. 7 SEO Processes That Get Easier with Increased PageRank/Domain Authority

Author: Cyrus Shepard | Published: February 7, 2020 | Unique Pageviews: 12,883

What factors are affected as you improve PageRank or Domain Authority, and how? Cyrus details seven SEO processes that are made easier by a strong investment in link building and growing your authority.

17. Marketing in Times of Uncertainty

Author: Rand Fishkin | Published: April 3, 2020 | Unique Pageviews: 12,861

Our work as marketers has transformed drastically in 2020. Our good friend Rand talks about a topic that’s been on the forefront of our minds lately: how to do our jobs empathetically and effectively through one of the most difficult trials in modern memory.

18. A Beginner’s Guide to Ranking in Google Maps

Author: Alex Ratynski | Published: March 16, 2020 | Unique Pageviews: 12,836

The majority of your potential customers still use Google to find local businesses near them. In fact, 80% of searches with “local intent” result in a conversion. This begs the question: “What’s the best way to catch the attention of local searchers on Google?” The answer: through Google Maps marketing.

19. The Rules of Link Building

Author: Britney Muller | Published: February 28, 2020 | Unique Pageviews: 12,532

Are you building links the right way? Or are you still subscribing to outdated practices? Britney Muller clarifies which link building tactics still matter and which are a waste of time (or downright harmful) in one of our very favorite classic episodes of Whiteboard Friday.

20. How We Ranked a Single Page for 2.6K Keywords Driving 30K Monthly Searches [Case Study]

Author: Kristin Tynski | Published: May 4, 2020 | Unique Pageviews: 12,359

In rare cases, SEOs create content that generates results so far beyond what was anticipated that a single project can greatly move the needle. Kristin walks through one such instance for her team’s client, ADT.

21. Understanding & Fulfilling Search Intent

Author: Britney Muller |  Published: June 12, 2020 | Unique Pageviews: 12,262

Understanding what your target audience is searching and why is more important than ever. Britney Muller shares everything you need to begin understanding and fulfilling search intent, plus a free Google Sheets checklist download to help you analyze the SERPs you care about most.

22. Title Tags SEO: When to Include Your Brand and/or Boilerplate

Author: Cyrus Shepard | Published: August 31, 2020 | Unique Pageviews: 11,850

If your websites are like most, they include a fair amount of extra “stuff” in the title tags: things like your brand name or repeating boilerplate text that appears across multiple pages. But should you include these elements in your titles automatically?

23. How to Query the Google Search Console API

Author: Brian Gorman | Published: March 18, 2020 | Unique Pageviews: 11,095

If you’ve been an SEO for even a short time, you’re likely familiar with Google Search Console (GSC). It’s a valuable tool for getting information about your website and its performance in organic search. That said, it does have its limitations. In this post, you’ll learn how to get better-connected data out of Google Search Console and increase the size of your exports by 400%.

24. How to Choose Google My Business Categories (With Cool Tools!)

Author: Miriam Ellis | Published: September 9, 2020 | Unique Pageviews: 10,873

Your choice of your primary and secondary categories contributes a lot to Google’s understanding and handling of your business. With so much riding on proper categorization, let’s empower you to research your options like a pro today!

25. A Must-Have Keyword Research Process for Winning SEO

Author: Cyrus Shepard | Published: May 8, 2020 | Unique Pageviews: 10,745

Smart keyword research forms the basis of all successful SEO. Cyrus Shepard shares the basics of a winning keyword research process that you can learn and master in a short amount of time. 

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!


The Local SEO Stats & Practical Tactics of Google’s Top-Ranked Grocery Stores

Posted by MiriamEllis

Grocery stores belong at the center of the 2021 local SEO industry conversation.

Other than medical facilities, no enterprise stands out more clearly on the map as essential to daily life in the US, and few verticals have had to adapt more rapidly in mid-flight than our neighborhood food stores in the COVID-19 era. From independent grocers to major supermarket chains, there are heroes in every aisle keeping the nation fed. Any data that supports the strong continuance of these businesses is well worth sharing.

In this article, I’ll provide results from 900 data points I pulled while analyzing the top local-pack-ranked grocery store in each of the 50 US capital cities. I’ll also summarize the practical tactics I’ve learned from listening to grocers and their marketers, highlighting how they’re adapting and succeeding in unprecedented times.

It’s my hope that both in-house and agency grocery marketers will discover important takeaways in my analysis to ensure a successful 2021 for each vital store.


I manually queried Google for “grocery store”, modified with the city name of each of the 50 US capital cities. I was not physically located in any of the cities where I searched, which should exclude the influence of user-to-business proximity. In a spreadsheet, I manually recorded 18 characteristics for each of the winning grocery stores, and then drew my statistics from this data.

The GMB characteristics of top-ranked grocery stores

Review these statististics to assess how a grocery store you’re marketing measures up.

Location within city limits

100% of the grocery stores ranking #1 had a physical location within the city limits of the specified search phrase city. No shop, however strong, was getting the number one spot in the local pack if it wasn’t within the city.

Takeaway: Having a location within city limits correlates with a good chance of ranking for searches that contain that city’s name.

Keywords in business title

Only 6% of the top-ranked businesses had business titles that matched any part of my search phrases. This was good to see, given Google’s known (and unfortunate) rewarding of brands that stuff keywords into their business titles in violation of Google’s guidelines. I saw only one business that had extraneous keywords in its title.

Takeaway: You don’t need to spam Google with keywords in your business title to rank as a top grocery store.

Brand diversity

No one brand is winning the top spot across the country. Results were extremely diverse, and made up of a vibrant mix of independent grocers and large chains. Some brands were winning out in more than one state, however. Safeway won five local packs, Whole Foods won four, and Hy-Vee and Hannaford each won three. Beyond this, brands were very varied.

Takeaway: Any brand, large or small, can compete for premium local visibility. No one brand has a monopoly on rankings.

Page Authority of GMB landing page

Page Authority (PA) is a 100-point score developed by Moz that predicts how well a specific website page will rank within search engine results. PA is believed to exert a strong influence on local pack rankings.

Examining the PA of the website landing page linked to from each grocery store’s Google My Business listing, I found that the average PA was 40. The highest PA was 58 and the lowest was 26. Five of the top-ranked supermarkets had no website link at all, amazingly, and this must be a source of mystery and frustration for lower-ranked grocery stores in these cities with GMB listings that do link to their websites.

Takeaway: An average PA of 40 is not prohibitively high. Using Moz Pro to measure competitive PA and actively seeking relevant local links for each location of a grocery brand can help you beat out sleepier competitors. When low PA or even a missing website link are still being rewarded with a high ranking for a competitor of the brand you’re marketing, it’s time to conduct a local business audit to discover which other local search ranking factors might be at play.

Primary GMB category

82% of top-ranked grocery stores use “grocery store” as their primary category. The remainder of brands had chosen a few other categories, like “supermarket” or “organic food store”. The primary category chosen for the GMB listing is believed to have the most impact on which terms the business ranks for in Google’s local packs.

Takeaway: “Grocery store” has a much higher estimated monthly search volume than any other keyword phrase I investigated, such as “supermarket” or “food store”. Grocers wishing to rank for this top term are best off choosing “grocery store” as their primary GMB category.


The average rating of top-ranked grocery stores is 4.2 stars. The highest rated market had 4.7 stars, and the lowest had 3.6. Star ratings are believed to influence local rank.

Takeaway: No top-ranked grocery store had a perfect 5-star rating. Don’t be overly concerned about the occasional negative review, but do aim for customer satisfaction that yields ratings in the 4-star range, cumulatively.

Review count

Grocery stores receive a massive number of reviews, and review counts are believed to influence rank. Overall, the 50 grocery stores I analyzed had received a total of 62,415 reviews, indicating just how common usage of Google as a dominant consumer review platform has become.

The average review count per store location is 1,248. The count for the most-reviewed grocery store in my data set is 3,632. The fewest reviews a top-ranked store received is 227. Bear in mind that the reviews each store location needs to achieve maximum visibility will be predicated on their unique geographic market and level of competition.

Takeaway: The fact that the overwhelming majority of reviews I saw are unmanaged (have no brand responses) leads me to believe that professional review acquisition campaigns aren’t likely the force driving the high number of total reviews in the grocery industry. Rather, I’d suggest that Americans are self-motivated to review the places they shop for food. Nevertheless, if a brand you’re marketing is being outranked by a competitor with more consumer sentiment, launching a formal review acquisition program is a smart bet for impacting rank and improving customer service for a store location.

Review recency

The recency of your reviews signals to Google and consumers whether your business is a place of bustling activity or a bit on the quiet side. It’s long been theorized that review recency might have some impact on rank as a user behavior signal. In my data set, 52% of top-ranked stores had been reviewed within the last day. 46% had received a review within the last week. Only 2% had seen more than a week go by without receiving a new review.

Takeaway: Multiple consumer surveys have found that customers tend to be most interested in your most recent reviews when making a decision about where to shop. If a grocery store location you’re marketing hasn’t been reviewed in weeks or months (or years!), it’s definitely a signal to begin actively asking customers for feedback.

Always remember that your customers are your grocery store’s best sales force. They freely convince one another to shop with your company by dint of what they say about your brand in reviews. A steady stream of recent, positive sentiment is priceless sales copy for your market.

Owner responses to reviews in 2020

Making use of Google’s owner response function on the reviews a grocery store receives is absolutely basic to providing good customer service. However, in my data set, 60% of top-ranked grocery stores had not responded to a single review in 2020, and of the 40% that had responded to some reviews, not one brand had responded to all of their reviews.

Takeaway: While ignoring reviews appears to have had no negative impact on grocery stores’ ability to achieve top local pack rankings, I can’t emphasize enough what a waste of opportunity is happening in this vertical.

Every review is a customer starting a conversation with a brand, whether their goal is to thank the business or to complain in hopes of receiving help. Ignoring the majority of conversations customers are starting must be extremely deleterious to consumer satisfaction and reputation. 2020 was a year like no other, and grocers have had their hands full adapting and surviving, but going forward, supermarkets that allocate resources to responding to every review will have an incredible customer experience edge over less-engaged competitors.

Place topics

Google excerpts common topics from the body of each store’s reviews and puts them at the top of the review display. 40% of top-ranked grocery stores have “produce” as their most-mentioned place topic, and it was also present for many, many other stores even if it wasn’t their #1 topic. 6% have “organic” and another 6% have “to go” as the most-talked about element, but beyond this, place topics are greatly varied. This area of Google’s interface is sprinkled with terms like “clean”, “cashier”, “deals”, “sales”, and many other words.

Takeaway: I’m not yet convinced of the usefulness or ultimate staying power of this aspect of Google’s review displays. However, it provides very shorthand sentiment analysis for grocers and marketers wanting an at-a-glance idea of what customers are saying in reviews for a brand and its competitors. You need to drill down into the text of the reviews, though, to see whether frequent mentions of something like “clean” are from customers saying a business is or isn’t clean. Place topics just aren’t terribly sophisticated sentiment analysis, at this point.

My data set reveals that Americans are putting premium focus on produce, so one takeaway here is that the quality of your produce department drives consumers to leave reviews. A great produce department could lead to a great rating and great consumer-created content about your market. A disappointing produce section could create the reverse. I also found the prevalence of “organic” place topics revealing, given stats I had seen on the 10X growth in purchases of organic produce between January and March of 2020. There is a clear demand trend here for healthy food that should be informing inventory.

Price attributes

Google places a 1-4 point “$” attribute on many listings as an evaluation of costliness. It’s believed these designations stem, in part, from attribute questions Google asks users, but the overall data set is incomplete. In my sampling, Google only had a price attribute for 42% of the top-ranked grocery stores. Of that number, 76% were marked with the moderate “$$” price attribute.

Takeaway: As I found in my previous piece on The Google Characteristics of America’s Top-Ranked Eateries, neither Google nor consumers tend to consider either the cheapest or most expensive food options to be the most relevant. Concepts of thrift and spendiness differ greatly across the US, but it’s good to know that a modest price evaluation tends to correlate with top local rankings. That seems to be in-step with the current economic picture. The grocery brands you’re marketing don’t need to be the cheapest or the most expensive; the ideal would be delivering good value for a reasonable price.

Google Posts usage before and during COVID-19

Google Posts are a form of microblogging that enables brands to post fresh content to their Google Business Profiles. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 24% of grocers were publishing Google Posts, but in 2020, only 16% were actively making any use of this feature.

Takeaway: Google offered special COVID-19 post capabilities to businesses in 2020, but top-ranked grocery stores largely ignored this opportunity. Pre-pandemic usage was very meager, with only about a quarter of grocers using Google Posts to boost engagement. The 8% falloff in 2020 may paint a picture of a vertical too preoccupied with other, more urgent priorities to give this feature a try.

Use of Google posts is not believed to impact ranking, and neglect of this feature clearly didn’t hold any of the subjects back from achieving top rankings, but if a brand you’re marketing can allocate resources to this type of publishing, it’s worth trying. Moz Local can help you publish Google Posts to your listings, and increase the opportunities for consumers to engage with your profiles.

Google Questions & Answers

Google Q&A is a Google Business Profile function that lets a company publish and answer its FAQs, as well as letting the public ask and answer questions. Cumulatively, the fifty grocery stores in my survey have received 1,145 questions. The highest number of questions for a single location is 192, and the lowest is two.

Just 14% of grocers have responded to any of the questions their stores have received, and in no case had a grocery store responded to all of its questions.

Takeaway: The majority of the questions I saw were leads — customers asking if a market had this or that product, or offered a particular service or amenity. Sadly, public answers, often left by Google’s Local Guides, were often flippant and barren of information to help the customer making the query. While Q&A is not believed to have any impact on rankings, ignoring customers is not consistent with goals of providing excellent customer service.

Moreover, ignoring leads has a monetary context. One source estimates that the average American grocery trip bill is $60. This means that the total number of questions in my survey, if answered, could bring in $68,700 for that pool of stores. However, in my household, the average grocery bill is about $150 per trip, which could make answering this many questions in California worth something like $171,750, if the shops have the goods and services the customers are seeking. My numbers are just estimates, but one thing I know is that few brands can afford to leave money on the table.

I would highly recommend that grocery stores make the time to populate Google Q&A with their top FAQs, including whether the business offers delivery, curbside service, and requires mask-wearing. Beyond this, using a product like Moz Local will let you know each time a new question comes in at any of your locations, so that you can be sure no potential customer is being ignored and that all leads are the subject of careful stewardship.

The COVID-19 adaptations top-ranked grocery stores have made

Beyond analyzing the GMB listing elements in my data set, I phoned each of the grocery stores to ask them a few questions to understand how they have adapted fulfillment and policies in response to the pandemic.

I could have relied on the Google attributes depicting curbside and delivery service, but I’m glad I made the calls, because I found discrepancies in use of these attributes and actual services provided. In some cases, stores with these amenities had not been tagged with these attributes yet, and in others, the attributes that were displayed were wrong.

These are my findings:

Home grocery delivery

62% of the stores in my survey set are now offering home grocery delivery. I was surprised that this number wasn’t higher, given consumer demand for the safest ways to keep their households supplied, coupled with the clear need to keep grocery workers as safe as possible.

Of this number, only 12% of grocery stores I spoke with have managed to create an in-house delivery service. 31 of the 50 brands in my data set were having to go with the costly option of third-party last-mile fulfillment. Of this number, 29% are using Instacart, 26% are using Doordash, 8% are using Amazon Prime, 4% are using Peapod and Shipt, and 2% are using Grubhub. Three brands were partnering with more than one third-party service, and two were offering both third-party and in-house delivery options.

Finally, I saw multiple instances of Google allowing third-party fulfillment companies to advertise on the Google Business Profiles of grocery stores. Grocery store staff who told me they had no delivery service are almost certainly unaware of this practice. I find this scenario to be one of the least-acceptable in Google’s local playbook, particularly because they place the burden on business owners to try to get such advertising removed from their listings.

A business working hard to develop an in-house delivery team doesn’t deserve to have Doordash or Instacart or Grubhub parked on their listing, eating away at profits. Be sure you’re checking the Google Business Profiles of any grocery stores you’re marketing and seeking removal of any third-party links you don’t want.

Google Trends recorded the massive spike in searches related to grocery delivery that occurred in spring of 2020 as Americans sought strategies for keeping their households supplied while staying safely at home. When you couple this with the tragic reporting UFCW has been offering on the COVID-19 mortality of grocery workers, increasing delivery options is essential.

Keeping the majority of the public at home and limiting face-to-face contact for grocery store staff has made home delivery a vital COVID-19 adaptation that must expand beyond the 62% adoption rate I saw in my study.

Curbside service

For brands that are still struggling to develop a workable delivery program, curbside pickup has been a welcome option. 64% of the stores in my study are offering curbside service now — a number just slightly higher than the home delivery figure. I saw that in multiple cases, brands that weren’t yet set up to do delivery were at least able to create this fulfillment alternative, but we’d need to see this figure at 100% to ensure no one has to walk into a grocery store and risk infection.

Mask policy

When I asked grocery store staff if their location required all employees and shoppers to wear masks, 83% said yes and 17% said no. This was the most important question in my survey, given the state of the pandemic in the United States, and I want to share what I learned beyond the numbers.

  • In the cities/states where grocery store workers reported no masking requirements, they invariably told me they “lacked the authority to enforce mask-wearing”. Lack of government policy has left the people in these communities helpless to protect themselves.
  • Reviews sometimes told a different story for the 83% of grocery stores where employees told me masks are required. Despite a stated mask-requirement policy, reviewers report instances of encountering unmasked staff and patrons at some locations and express distress over this, sometimes stating they won’t return to these venues. This means that the actual enforcement of PPE-wearing is actually less than 83%.
  • On a purely human level, I sensed that my question about masking made some employees anxious, as if they feared a negative response from me when they told me that masks were required. I can only imagine the experiences some of these staff members have had trying to cope with customers refusing to protect themselves and others from contagion. The exchanges I had with staff further cemented my understanding of the need for clear, national policy to reduce and, hopefully, eliminate COVID-19 so that everyone in our local communities is safeguarded.

My friend and colleague Mike Blumenthal has done the best job in the local SEO industry documenting consumer demand for masking as evinced in reviews, and also, how to get political rant reviews from anti-maskers removed from your GMB listings, should the store you’re marketing receive them. Out of my deep concern for grocery store workers and communities, it’s my strong hope that national leadership will result in 100% participation in grocery industry masking requirements in 2021.

Full contactless fulfillment

0% of the grocery store brands in my study have switched to contactless-only fulfillment, but this methodology may become essential in overcoming the public health emergency. When grocery stores can operate as warehouses where food is stored for curbside pickup and delivery, instead of any in-store shopping, workers and customers can substantially reduce contact.

When the COVID-19 pandemic first emerged in America, markets like Oneota Community Food Coop in Decorah, Iowa switched to pick-up-only for a time, and may need to do so again. Meanwhile, my neighbor is receiving her complete grocery delivery every week from Imperfect Foods, which launched in San Francisco in 2015 and has experienced phenomenal expansion in the past few years on its mission to deliver economical foods in a convenient manner. This comes on the heels of the meal kit delivery bubble, encompassing Blue Apron, HelloFresh, Purple Carrot, and many other options. Even convenience stores like 7-11 are making a strong effort to go contactless.

In April of 2020, 40 million Americans placed online grocery orders. Rapid adaptation is absolutely possible, and until COVID-19 can be placed in the country’s rearview mirror, a national effort may be essential to recast grocery brands as curators of food delivery rather than places to shop in person. Local search marketers should fully participate in grocery store client ideation on how to shape public perception that supports safety for all.

Satisfaction, reputation, and rankings

Delivery, curbside service, and strict masking policies may not seem to have a direct connection to local search rankings, but in the larger scheme of things, they do. Customers reward businesses they love with positive reviews. When a customer is extremely satisfied with how a business like a grocery store takes care of them, studies show this motivates them to award reviews as a thank-you.

The more you demonstrate to customers and communities that the grocery store you’re marketing cares for them, the more you’ll grow your corpus of positive reviews with high star ratings. This, then, will support the local pack ranking goals you’re hoping to meet for maximum online visibility. And your reputation will have become the sort that generates high conversions. 79% of shoppers say contactless pickup is very important to them — whatever you can do to deliver satisfaction to the consumer majority is a very smart move.

What I’ve learned about agility from grocers and their marketers

“There shouldn’t be a brand between you and your customer. You shouldn’t be introducing them to somebody else and nobody should own your information.” — Brian Moyer, CEO, Freshop

It’s not overstating the case to say that the grocery industry is undergoing a revolution. Annual online grocery sales in the US increased from $1.2 billion in August of 2019 to $7.2 billion in June of 2020.

As a local SEO, I can’t think of another industry I can learn more from about adaptation, ingenuity, and resilience. I’ve been following food industry news, and was especially engaged by a webinar I tuned into hosted by digital grocery software provider, Freshop. I’ll summarize seven key takeaways here:

1) If you can develop an in-house delivery program, do it, because it’s the only way to maintain ownership of the full customer experience with your brand. It also makes financial sense in the long run, as I covered previously here in my column on Third Party vs. In-house delivery: A Guide to Informed Choice. In the Freshop webinar, Brian Moyer reminded attendees that Blockbuster once had the opportunity to buy Netflix, but passed on the chance. Now is the time for grocery stores to protect themselves from giving their trade away to the Instacarts and Doordashes on the scene.

2) Whatever software you use to digitize your grocery inventory, it should be strong on POS integration, inventory management, and analytics. I was impressed with the short demo I saw of Freshop’s analytics dashboard coverage of pick times and slot fulfillment for delivery management, profitability across time, tracking of both non-transactional and transactional behaviors, and integration of Google Analytics for measuring conversion rates.

3) Take a page from meal kit services and offer them yourself. Create breakfast kits, supper kits, dessert kits, holiday meal kits, etc. Make it easy for customers to think in terms of meals and get everything they need in a couple of clicks.

4) Consider leveraging digital ads on your grocery store website from brands you already carry. This can create an additional revenue stream.

5) Create online shoppable circulars. Remember that I saw “deals” and “sales” showing up as GMB place topics? Many customers who used to take cues from print circulars can learn to transfer this habit to clickable digital circulars.

6) Carefully evaluate the community support options of the digital shopping software you choose. Most grocery stores aren’t direct competitors and can help one another out. A great example I saw was how one grocer shared the letter he wrote to apply for taking SNAP payments. He was happy to let other grocers copy this form letter to use for their own applications.

7) Celebrate the fact that online commerce has removed historic barriers to customers locating store inventory in a complex floor plan. With a search box, any customer can find any product in any aisle. As difficult as things are right now, this is one silver lining of genuine value to grocers and their marketers.

Summing up

The dominant characteristics of Google’s top ranked grocery stores in the 50 US capitals are:

  • Being located in the city specified in the search
  • Accomplishing GMB landing page PA in the 40 range
  • Not relying on spamming GMB business titles
  • Using “grocery store” as their primary category
  • Winning a 4+ star rating
  • Being heavily reviewed and having received a review in the last week
  • Receiving leads in the form of Q&A
  • Offering delivery and curbside shopping options
  • Requiring masks

The key areas of GMB opportunity that are not yet being utilized by this group to protect dominant visibility are:

  • Customer service in the form of review responses
  • Lead management in the form of answers to Q&A
  • PR in the form of Google Posts

The grocery industry is undergoing a period of significant challenge and opportunity encompassing:

  • The challenge of digitizing inventory
  • The challenge of managing the full consumer experience with delivery and curbside service to avoid being cut out by third parties and to greatly increase safety
  • The opportunity of selling to customers in new ways by fulfilling new needs
  • The opportunity of building permanent loyalty by creating memorable experiences of care and satisfaction during the pandemic that will inform post-pandemic relationships

I want to close with a thank-you note to my favorite, great-hearted neighborhood grocer — a family-owned country store in a rural area. You found me ice during a power shutoff in the midst of a fire, you found me bath tissue during the shortage, and locally-distilled hand sanitizer to keep my family safe. You set up curbside pickup to protect me, and when my car was out of service, your family offered to bring groceries to my home, even though you don’t yet have the staff for a full delivery service.

My grateful loyalty is yours.

As a local search marketer, I may look at data, I may share numbers, but really what I’m thinking about is people. People feeding the nation, deserved of every protection and safeguard ingenuity can devise to get us through these hard times together. If you’re running or marketing a grocery store and have local SEO questions, please ask them in the comments and I’ll do my best to provide helpful answers to support your success. Thank you for all that you’re doing!

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Avoiding False Conversions in Google Analytics

Posted by R0bin_L0rd


The first half of this post is a quick rundown of some of the standard ways in which your conversions could be going awry.

The second half of this post — everything after “How to filter conversions with Tag Manager” is an advanced way of intelligently filtering conversions using Tag Manager and cookies.

If you’re confident you’ve already covered your bases, feel free just to skip to the advanced section, I just feel it’s important to go through some of the basic stuff before diving into more complex solutions.

Avoiding false conversions

Aside from failing to record important data, one of the best ways to screw up your analytics is to record the wrong thing and lump it in with all the times you’ve recorded the right thing.

For example: if you’re counting conversions when you shouldn’t be, that can screw up automated ad bidding, how much you value individual channels, or even how well you think your business is doing. For this post, we’ll be referring to this issue as “false conversions”.

There are a huge number of ways you can track conversions in Google Analytics, and a huge number of ways to screw it up. This post is going to focus on some of the main ways you can mess up conversions when you’re basing them on users completing a form and then landing on a thank-you page.

We’ll cover:

  • Some useful tools
  • Things to check — how might users be accidentally converting?
  • How to protect destination-based goals from false conversions
  • An ideal event-based goal approach
  • How to protect event-based goals from false conversions

Useful tools

The tools below will help you with some of the checks in this post.

Chrome DevTools

F12 will open Chrome DevTools (you may need to press the “function” key depending on your keyboard). You can test JavaScript in “Console”, and view active cookies in “Application”.

Google Tag Manager preview

Google Tag Manager has a new preview which will show you what happens on a series of pages over time.

Adswerve dataLayer Inspector

This plugin summarizes dataLayer information in Chrome Console.

Analytics Tracking Monitor plugin

I’ve found this plugin really useful for checking what information is being sent to GA. One nice feature is being able to block hits from actually being sent to GA while recording what would be sent.

Tag Assistant

The Chrome Tag Assistant plugin will show you what Tag Manager tags are present on the page. If you click to record the session, it’ll also give you a breakdown of everything that’s happened on each page. That said — I don’t tend to rely on the recordings as much if I have Tag Manager access, because a lot of the useful information is covered between the new GTM preview and the tracking monitor plugin.

Tag Mapper

I created a free Tag Mapper tool to make it easier to see what impact Tag Manager changes might have. If you’re planning on changing something in your GTM account, you can see what else might be impacted. Likewise, if you’ve noticed that something is broken, it can help you find the root cause.

Things to check

It can be tempting to leap straight to a catch-all solution, but if you’re recording conversions when you shouldn’t be, that could be because your website visitors are doing things they shouldn’t be.

Let’s start with a quick rundown of checks you should do to make sure you’re not making the numbers look right by just ignoring problems on your site.

1. Are you only recording conversions on thank-you pages?

To check if you’re recording conversions on pages you shouldn’t be (like, every page on your site or something) have a quick look at the Reverse Goal Path report in Google Analytics:

Conversions > Goals > Reverse Goal Path.

The first column on the left should show you where your goal conversions are taking place, unless you’re doing something unusual. If you’re seeing a bunch of pages in that column which you don’t expect, that’s a sign you need to change your criteria for conversions.

One thing to bear in mind here: if you’re recording conversions based on events rather than pageviews, and you’re seeing the wrong page appearing in that left-hand column, make sure your conversion event only ever fires after your pageview.

2. Are you linking to conversion pages in other ways besides form completions?

If you’re using any goals based on a user loading a specific page (like a thank-you page), and you know you’re only recording conversions on thank-you pages, another way you could be screwing things up is accidentally linking to those thank-you pages. If a user can click on the wrong link and end up on a conversion page, you need to fix that.

One way to check for this is using a tool like Screaming Frog to crawl the site and just see if your conversion pages appear. If they appear at all, you know that’s probably a problem. To find out how to fix the problem, you can select the offending pages and check the “Inlinks” panel, which will give you a list of where you’re linking to them.

3. Are users landing directly on thank-you pages?

A quick way to check if users are landing on your thank-you pages is to use segments. If you create a segment where the landing page is your thank-you page, you can get an idea of how often Google Analytics thinks users are landing on your conversion page.

Below, you can see a screenshot of the segment interface. I’ve set it to include any session where the first interaction was a user landing on a thank-you landing page. As you can see, that was the case for 339 sessions on this site:

Once you see how often users are landing on your thank-you pages, you can pinpoint the sources which are bringing those users to the site.

Below, I’ve applied a “lands on thank-you page” segment to the Source/Medium report, and it looks like we’re getting a bunch of direct sessions, but also some CPC sessions, and organic sessions elsewhere, too:

An important thing to bear in mind here is that this is based on what Google Analytics thinks is happening. It doesn’t necessarily mean users are landing on these pages directly from adverts. In fact, in this example, we know this isn’t always the case, and sometimes it’s a symptom of our tracking code being broken or confused in another way. Even so, it gives us some things to investigate.

For example:

  • Do we have adverts or other activity pointing straight to conversion pages?
  • Are our conversion pages indexed in Google?
  • Do we have a page in the middle of our conversion flow that isn’t being tracked?
  • Is our tracking code broken, or are users doing things on-site which would confuse GA?

3.1 Do you have adverts or other activity pointing straight to conversion pages?

I won’t be able to walk you through all of this, but all advertising platforms should allow you to check active landing pages. It’s also important to make sure that you don’t have any affiliates linking directly to conversion pages — either accidentally or maliciously — as you could be paying them a lot more than they deserve.

It may be harder to check non-paid links, like social media activity. That said, it’s worth spending the time checking. If you find you’re linking to these conversion pages by accident, you can work with relevant teams to put policies in place for that in future.

3.2 Are your conversion pages indexed in Google?

Google can be a frequent cause of conversion page issues. It’s a ravenous crawler. It’ll follow links inside and outside of your site, and if there’s a machine-crawlable link to your thank-you page, it’ll probably find it.

A quick way to check if Google has saved your thank-you pages (and might be sending users straight to them) is to search for the pages in Google.

Using “site:” filters Google results to just pages on your site. Using “inurl:” filters results to just pages that contain a specific string.

Below is an example of a check we did for one of our clients. We found that they had a lot of “thank-you” pages in the index (over 600). Some of those pages were fine, but it highlighted a number of conversion pages for us to deal with:

3.3 Is your tracking code broken, or are users doing things on-site which would confuse GA?

We don’t have time to go through all the things that could go wrong here. Some things to check are:

  • Are you missing tracking code on some pages? Perhaps you’re failing to record the user before they land on the thank-you page.
  • Do you have different versions of Google Analytics on different pages? This can, again, cause confused or split sessions.
  • Are you including UTM parameters on any internal links? Any website crawler should help you find this.
  • Do you have the wrong timezone set in GA? Sessions can’t cross “midnight” — if they do, GA will split them into two separate sessions.
  • Are you including important information on the thank-you page that could cause users to bookmark the page, or try to come back to it later? One solution here is to include pretty much nothing visitor-specific on the thank-you page, and assure them that you’ll email them details. It’s worth testing this to make sure it doesn’t hurt visitor confidence.
  • Do you have any forms, that take more than half an hour to fill out, and don’t record interactions in the meantime? You can avoid this by splitting the form into different pages and tracking when visitors fill out a form field or when they hit errors. Entirely aside from what we’re looking at in this post, but all of these things should help you make your forms more user-friendly.

Once you have all of those checked off, you can start to look at ways to improve the way you filter your conversion data.

How to protect destination-based goals from false conversions

If you have your goal type set to “Destination” in Google Analytics, that means that any time GA records a pageview for a specific page, it’ll count as a conversion.

You can make your destination goals require users to have visited other pages first by using a funnel. If you edit the goal and switch “Funnel” on, you can specify the steps leading up to the goal. This means you can make sure that you don’t record goal conversions when users land directly on your thank-you pages.

You can also use it to separate out different kinds of goal conversions. For example, if you use the same thank-you page for multiple forms, you could have one goal where the funnel involves traveling through one form page, and another goal which involves traveling through another.

This will work if you:

  • Have a smaller (and fairly static) number of different goals.
  • There is a small (and fairly static) number of ways users can legitimately complete each goal.

However, funnel steps don’t allow things like regex, so they aren’t very flexible. Also, you can only use funnels with destination-type goals. So, funnels won’t help if:

  • Your goals are event-based.
  • You have lots of ways users could reach a goal.
  • You have multiple teams managing the site, and it doesn’t make sense to keep track of all the ways users could reach a goal.

You should be aware that if you have a problem like internal UTMs or sessions timing out, these form funnels can mean you stop recording some conversions you should be. Seriously, make sure those problems are fixed.

The ideal approach: event-based goals

The ideal approach involves using event-based conversions rather than destination-based ones. You work with your developers so that as the users complete the form you tell GA that an event has occurred, rather than GA having to wait for a thank-you page pageview. GA then records each instance of that event as a Goal conversion.

Below is the criteria for one event-based goal conversion, if you haven’t seen them before and are struggling to picture how they’re set up. It records a conversion for this goal any time GA receives an event of the category “thank_you_page”:

The reason this is ideal is, you’ll only record a conversion when the user actually does what you want them to do. Most conversion goals based on pageviews are just us trying to guess what the user has done. That’s why you run into problems with destination-based goals, like users landing directly on your thank-you page without completing the form you wanted them to complete.

You might think it’s a bit strange to leave this “ideal” solution until so late in the post, but I’m doing so because this is often not the simplest solution. It can require the most work on the developer side, and you could be using something built into your CMS that your dev team has to edit, or even worse, you could be working with an external form solution that they have to hack their way into.

I’m bringing this solution up at this point because if you don’t already have this in place, you’ll need to convince someone to do it. Their first question may be “have you considered other options?” When you have that conversation, you can say:

  • We’ve made sure we’re only recording conversions on the right pages.
  • We’ve made sure users aren’t getting to those pages in ways we can prevent.
  • We’ve made sure there aren’t other issues with how we’re tracking the site.
  • Our conversion data is being polluted in a way we can’t prevent because we have to rely on thank-you pageviews.
  • We can’t filter out those conversions using Google Analytics.
  • The best way to make sure our data is accurate is to use events, and the most accurate events to use are ones that only occur when the user does exactly what we want them to.
  • If you can help me I’ll be your best friend.

An alternative to Google Analytics funnels

It could turn out that the events-based solution above is impossible. Life has its frustrations, we soldier on.

An alternative is to switch to event-based conversions anyway and use Tag Manager to handle it all yourself. Using Tag Manager and cookies, you can create a more flexible version of GA’s funnel to only send conversion events when users land on a thank-you page having visited a qualifying page. How does that work? In short:

  1. When a user visits one of your qualifying pages, you put a cookie in their browser.
  2. When the user loads a thank-you page, you check for the cookie, and, if it exists, you send a conversion event to Google Analytics. If it doesn’t, you don’t.
  3. Then you clear the cookie.

That means you won’t record the following false conversions:

  • Users landing direct on thank-you pages.
  • Users accidentally clicking to thank-you pages when they haven’t visited the relevant form.
  • Users leaving the thank-you tab open, or bookmarking it, and clicking back to it later after their GA session expires.

The section below gets into some specific Tag Manager terminology (the most confusing being that a “Custom Event” and a “Google Analytics Event” are two different things entirely).

Some terminology to know

I’ve color coded Tag Manager terminology in blue and all Google Analytics terminology in orange, but if you find yourself getting lost, you might want to read around a bit or talk to a knowledgeable colleague or consultant.

Event: Something we send to Google Analytics to record a specific action.

Custom event: Something that happens on the web page, which we can use as part of the criteria for a Tag Manager trigger.

Trigger: A set of conditions we lay out in Tag Manager. When these conditions are all fulfilled at the same time, the trigger fires and usually activates a tag.

Tag: Something in Tag Manager that does something. This sounds vague because it could be almost anything from sending an event to Google Analytics to completely rewriting the page.

Variable: A piece of information in Tag Manager that we can easily reference in triggers, tags, or other variables.

Data layer: Structured information on the page which makes it easier to pass information to Tag manager.

How to filter conversions with Tag Manager

1. Make sure Google Tag Manager is installed on your site

It’ll need to be on every page. Google has shared a Tag Manager quick-start guide if you need further guidance.

If you’re switching from standard GA code to Tag Manager, make sure you don’t include both GA and Tag Manager, or you’ll double-count.

2. Tell Tag Manager every time a thank-you page is loaded

We’ll assume your thank-you pages are all the same type of page, so you can reasonably say to your dev team, “please make this change to all of our thank you pages”. Ask them to add something like the script below.

Example script

   “event”: “conversion”


If you need to test this process before getting the devs involved, you can try adding the code yourself by pasting it into the console using Chrome DevTools.

When the page loads, that script will add information to the data layer. Tag Manager will detect the change, and you can use it as one of the conditions for a trigger. In this case, Tag Manager would detect a Custom Event called conversion as this data is added. We’ll come back to that.

3. Tell Tag Manager every time a qualifying page is loaded

We’ll also assume there are some similarities between your qualifying pages. For one thing, they’ll probably all have a form on them. You can coordinate with your dev team to automatically add/activate a script any time one of those forms is added.

Example script

 “event”: “qualifying”

In this case, you’d see a Custom Event called qualifying. Again, you can test this by pasting directly into Console.

4. Whenever a user lands on a qualifying page, set a cookie

You’ll use your “qualifyingCustom Event as the criteria for a trigger. Below is a screenshot of the trigger setup:

Then you’ll create a tag which will be activated by that trigger. The tag will add some content to the page, in this case adding JavaScript (even though the tag type specifies HTML). The JavaScript will run as soon as it’s added and set a cookie for the user, that way you can pass information from one page to another.

Example script

// Get time 30 minutes from now (this is because the default GA session timeout
// is half an hour and we want our cookie timeout to match)
var dt = new Date();
dt.setHours( dt.getHours() + 0.5 );

// Set a cookie called ‘qualified’ with the value being ‘true’ which expires in 30 minutes
document.cookie = “qualified=true; path=/; expires=”+dt;

5. Get the cookie value

Use a Tag Manager variable to make sure you’re detecting the value of the cookie, which will give you the current value of your “qualified” cookie each time you check.

6. Determine whether you should filter the conversion

In step two, you created a dataLayer event that will occur on all of your final conversion pages.

Now you create a trigger which fires on your “conversion” event.

Then create a tag which is activated by that trigger, and creates another Custom Event.

Below is the custom HTML to add. It checks if your qualifying cookie is set to “true”, which shows the user has already visited a qualifying page this session. If it is true, you create another Custom Event called “create_filtered_conversion”. If it’s false, you don’t. Either way, delete the cookie by setting its expiry time to be far in the past.

Example script

// When we are about to fire a conversion – check if we should.
// If we should – create an event that will trigger the conversion
// otherwise, don’t. Either way – clear the cookie

// Get variables
var isQualified = {{Variable – qualified cookie}}

// Check if the conversion is qualified
if (isQualified === “true”){
  // If the user has a qualifying cookie
  “event”: “conversion_confirmed”,
} else {
  // Do nothing if we have determined the conversion shouldn’t fire

// Set cookie expiry in the past to clear it
document.cookie = “qualified=false; path=/; expires=Thu, 01 Jan 1970 00:00:00”;

7. Send event to GA

First you create a trigger which is waiting for that “conversion_confirmedevent.

Then you create a tag, activated by the trigger above, which sends the relevant event to GA. The specifics of the event sent to GA can be whatever you want, you just need to make sure they match the criteria of your goal in GA.

8. Don’t switch off your old conversions straight away

One nice thing about this is you can run it alongside your existing conversion tracking to see how often conversions are being filtered out. Keep your old conversion setup running for a while (how long depends on how often you get conversions).

Watch the two numbers and check if you’re filtering out loads of conversions. This check will help you spot mistakes in either the old setup or the new one.

Let me know what you think

Google Analytics will never be a perfect record of everything on your website, but these checks and processes should help you weed out some of the ways it can mislead you.

What do you think? What GA improvements do you think people have been missing? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @robinlord8. <strong style="color:orange" event

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5 SEo tips to maximize internal links

SEO Competitive Analysis for B2B &mdash; Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Joyce.Obility

In the B2B space, it’s important to be realistic about who your competitors are. 

Keeping that rule in mind, in our last Whiteboard Friday episode before 2021, guest presenter Joyce Collardé of Obility walks you through how to conduct a competitive SEO audit, helping you address your improvement areas and surpass your competition in the SERPs. 

5 SEo tips to maximize internal links

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

Video Transcription

Hi, Moz fans. Thank you for joining me today as we talk about SEO competitive analysis for B2B businesses. My name is Joyce Collardé. I am the SEO Supervisor at Obility. Obility is a digital marketing agency based out of Portland, Oregon, with offices in Austin and Boston and that specializes in B2B businesses. 

So I wanted to talk about SEO competitive analysis because it is a really crucial part of your SEO strategy and of your SEO success. As you know, SEO doesn’t work in a vacuum. So if you want to be able to improve your SEO traffic, your click-through rate, your keyword position, and eventually your conversions, you have to be able to take the space of some existing competitors. 

Today I’m going to walk you through the five phases of the competitive analysis. We’ll start with how to select your competitors. Then we’ll discuss the keyword distribution and what is important to understand the keyword distribution. Then we’ll discuss keywords and content gaps and opportunities. Then we’ll move on to technical health of your website and your competitors’ websites.

And we’ll finish with backlink analysis. 

Selecting competitors

So selecting competitors is the step that is really important, especially in the B2B space, because the B2B space is very competitive, and in this space we have a few marketing giants like Oracle, AWS, Marketo, Google, that can be considered the de facto competitors for everyone. 

Unfortunately, with that line of thinking, you are really missing out on a lot of interesting insights because those websites are so huge that they might rank for hundreds of thousands of keywords. Sometimes we see millions of links and have a Domain Authority of 98. So when you compare yourself to them, then it will be really difficult to actually find good nuggets of information about your website.

You will always be at the bottom, and it’s also really discouraging. 

So I really would recommend that you are realistic about who your real competitors are. And nothing prevents you from refreshing your competitors in six months or a year from now if you feel like you’ve outgrown the competitors you selected in the first place. 

One thing I want to highlight as well is that you should have different sets of competitors for each funnel stage. For example, let’s say your target keyword list includes definitional keywords like “what is cloud computing.” So your competitors for “what is cloud computing” might be ZDNet or TechTarget, for example. 

But let’s say you want to target “cloud computing solution,” then your competitors could be IBM. But the intent of the user who is looking for “what is cloud computing” versus “cloud computing solution” or “cloud computing software” is very different, so you cannot target the same competitors for each level of the stage funnel.

You will miss out on a lot of good insights, too. 

I also do want to point out that your competitors will be very different in different areas of digital marketing or even offline marketing. Your PPC, your paid search keywords, or your paid social keywords will not be the same as your SEO keywords.

Really the best way for you to identify good competitors is just to Google your target keywords. It’s really as simple as that. And then see who comes up and see what their strategies are. 

Keyword distribution

So let’s take a look now at keyword distribution. One thing that I want to point out is that sometimes we audit competitors that seem like they’re ranking for thousands of keywords, and it’s a little intimidating.

But really ranking for thousands of keywords isn’t the end-all be-all. You should really pay attention to their keyword distribution. Out of those thousands of keywords, how many are branded, how many are not branded? 

Of course, you won’t be able to rank for your competitors’ branded name. So you really have to focus on the non-branded keywords.

Also, those keywords, do they have a lot of volume? Are they really difficult to rank for? Are they ranking for hundreds of keywords with zero searches or 10 searches per month, for example? Are those the keywords that you really want to target? And if you do manage to take their place on the first page, is it really going to help your overall SEO strategy? 

Another good thing to look at is diversification. Are your competitors only ranking for one keyword category, or are they targeting different categories? A competitor that, let’s say, ranks for only branded keywords or keywords that have very little search volume or that is targeting only one specific category wouldn’t be very dangerous keywords.

And as we talked about earlier, you should not have the same competitors for every set of target keywords that you are working with. So make sure that you repeat this step for each set of competitors. 

Keyword gaps and opportunities

Next comes the content and keyword gaps and opportunities. So in this stage, you should really think about the keyword gaps — the content gaps between you and your competitors.

It’s not just how often do they post or what do they target. It’s also which topics do they publish on the most, or which topics do they focus on the most on their product or their solution pages. What kind of content type do they prefer? Are they publishing only blog posts?

Are they publishing mostly videos, glossary pages, e-books, white papers, webinars? You really have to pay attention to that, because if all of your competitors are using blog posts and then you come in with your webinar that people need to sign up for and give you their information, then you are not going to be able to beat them at their own game.

You have to kind of align to what is available in the competitive space. 

Frequency is important, too. If your competitors publish twice a week on their blog or have a live demo every week, or release a new e-book every month that they will email to their customer base, you also have to align on that frequency.

I would say out of the competitive analysis, this is one of the most important stages because you really have to be aware of the type of opportunities that you are going for. 

And it really comes back to what we were talking about earlier with the competitor selection. You have to be realistic.

It is very important to know what you’re going against. Otherwise, you can keep publishing blog post after blog post after blog post, but if you have not identified the proper competitors or have not identified the proper type of content that you need to create, all of those blog posts will not amount to improved performance on your site. 

Technical health

The fourth stage of the competitive analysis is technical health.

So I think we can all relate to how annoying it is when you get to a website and it’s full of 404 errors and the links are broken and it’s too slow. It’s just a really bad user experience. And Google is very smart, and they know that we don’t like a bad user experience, and that if the user experience is bad, then they are going to put other websites above you. 

So I did mention page speed, so don’t be scared. I know it’s always a huge ask to fix your page speed. But I would recommend that you use the Google PageSpeed Insights and take a look at those easier things to fix. One thing that comes up all the time is images being too big or too heavy, taking too long to load.

So if that’s the case, take a look at your main images and see if you can reduce the size of them. Usually, the images that are the heaviest are the ones that will be on your homepage slider or in the background on your product or solution pages. So just by fixing a few pages on your website, you could improve your page speed by several seconds, and we know it means a lot when you’re a user.

Definitely do those two steps with your competitors, too. 

For example (you can do it with Moz or you can do an on-site crawl for any website), let’s say that all your competitors are missing H1s or are missing meta descriptions or have a lot of 404 errors, then you know those are the top priorities that you need to fix.

Again, think about your competitive advantage. If all your competitors’ websites are really slow, then fix your page speed first. If it’s a horrible user experience because you keep hitting 404 errors, fix your 404 errors first. 

Backlink opportunities

The last part of the competitive audit should be the backlinks opportunities.

So you can use the Moz link discovery tool to find out about everyone’s lost and discovered new links. This makes link building a little more approachable than just saying, “Oh, I will target The New York Times,” because by looking at people’s competitors and lost and discovered websites, you can identify websites that probably know you, or know your competitor, or at least know your industry, and so may be more willing to link to you. Especially if they used to link to your competitor or are currently linking to your competitors. 

Definitely do this for your own website as well, to identify the links that you have recently lost and that you can try to reacquire. I would recommend that you repeat this step on a monthly basis because you have better chances of reacquiring links that you recently lost rather than if you contact someone saying, “Oh, two years ago you used to link to me. Can you please link to me again?”

You’re out of that person’s thoughts. So try to stay on top of it. And you might have a lot of links at the beginning, but if you do it regularly, then it’s much more manageable. 

Also, when we’re talking about backlinks, I would advise you to look at your competitors’ Spam Score and link diversity. For example, I did a competitive analysis recently and I saw that one of the competitor’s Spam Score was 23%, which I had never seen before.

It was so high. It was ridiculously high. So it made me happy in a way, because it seemed unachievable at first to get to the number of external links that they had, but then it turns out that the majority of their links were spammy. And with a Spam Score of 23%, I don’t think they’ll be able to carry on much longer. 

Link diversity is also really important because you don’t want all links coming from blog posts or all links coming from one type of publication. So when you think about new links that you can acquire, definitely make sure that you have different types of websites linking back to you, that they’re using varied anchor text, that sort of thing, so that you don’t look spammy and you don’t end up with a Spam Score of 23%. 

Time management

So I wanted to also talk a little bit about this pie chart over there. It was how much time you’re supposed to spend on each of these steps. So the biggest one, as I mentioned earlier, was the gaps and opportunities audit. That is really where you should spend the majority of your time.

Something that is also really important is the competitor selection as I talked about earlier. If you don’t have the proper competitors to audit, then you won’t get the helpful type of insight that you are looking for. Technical health would be the third most time-consuming, important step of this competitive analysis.

As we talked about, good user experience is very important. And the last two that should take you a little less time are keyword distribution and backlinks. So if you’re really, really pressed for time, you can forgo the backlinks for now and do it later and focus on that part of the on-site SEO.


So to recap, the five stages of the competitive analysis that you should include in your own competitive analysis are selecting the right competitors, auditing the keyword distribution, looking for content and keyword gaps and analysis, performing a technical check on your website and your competitors’ websites, and auditing your backlinks and the competitors’ backlinks.

If I can leave you with one more thing is really to be realistic. That goes back to the competitor selection and even when we’re talking about distribution. Be realistic in your target keywords. Don’t go for keywords that are extremely difficult if you are a website with a lower Domain Authority or you’re just starting with SEO.

And don’t go after those B2B giants if you’re a mid-market B2B company. Know that you can refresh this at any time if you feel like you’ve outgrown your competitors. So thank you again for spending time to talk about competitive analysis with me. Now go and audit those competitors.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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What’s Changed (and What Hasn’t): The 2020 Moz Blog Reader Survey Results

Posted by morgan.mcmurray

You’re tired of hearing it and I’m tired of saying it, but 2020 really has been a year like no other. SEOs and marketers around the world had to deal with their day-to-day work moving home, alongside a host of natural disasters, civil rights issues, and a pandemic that will alter our industry and global economy for years to come. 

We could have held off on launching this year’s reader survey, but we decided to move forward anyway because we know your work and your interests have been impacted, and we wanted to know how much. 

I’m excited to share with you the results from that survey in this post. We’ll go through what’s changed — and what hasn’t — for our readership since our last survey in 2017, and detail what those insights mean for the Moz Blog in 2021. 


We published this survey in July 2020, with questions asking for details on the professional occupations of our readers, how those readers interact with the blog, and what those readers like to see from the blog. We also included COVID-19-specific questions to gauge the pandemic’s impact on our readers. The survey was shared on the blog, through email blasts, and on our social media accounts.

The percentages shared in the sections below are part of a total of 388 responses we received over four months. This is actually our first data point, showing that engagement with surveys has shifted drastically since our 2017 survey, which got nearly 600 responses in just one month. Given the interruptive nature of 2020’s events, we won’t let that difference discourage us from utilizing surveys in the future. Where able, I’ve compared 2020’s results to those of the 2017 survey, to better visualize the differences. 

Answers were not required for all questions, so if something did not apply to a respondent, they could leave the answer blank or choose a variety of “no opinion” or “N/A” options. 

We don’t typically include demographic or geographic questions in our reader surveys, but given the overwhelmingly positive response to the Gender Gap in SEO and Diversity and Inclusion in SEO surveys published this year, we will do so moving forward. Understanding the struggles SEOs and marketers face in the industry due to race, gender, and sexual orientation is imperative to understanding how to best work with and for everyone, and we acknowledge that shortcoming in this year’s survey. 

Who our readers are

Let’s dive in. First up: the questions asking readers to tell us more about themselves. 

What is your job title?

The word cloud below is an amalgamation of the top-used words in response to this question, and the size of the word correlates to the number of mentions that word received. 

No surprises here: number one (by far) was “SEO”. Our readership remains heavily SEO-focused in their occupations, with content marketers coming in close second.

What percentage of your day-to-day work involves SEO?

That said, 2020 saw an increase in respondents in the lower percentage brackets of readers who use SEO strategies in their daily work, specifically the 1-10% and 41-50% ranges. This could be due, in part, to the broadening of tasks assigned to SEOs in the marketing industry, as several respondents also mentioned a need to wear multiple hats in their organization. 

On a scale of 1-5, how advanced would you say your SEO knowledge is?

The majority of our readers remain intermediately knowledgeable about SEO concepts, leaving plenty of room for new learnings across skill levels.

Do you work in-house, or at an agency/consultancy?

While the majority of Moz Blog readers are still in-house SEOs and marketers, an interesting takeaway for us in 2020 is the increase of those who are independent consultants or freelancers from 11% in 2017 to just under 17% in 2020. We’ll make sure to take that into account for our content strategy moving forward. 

What are some of the biggest challenges you face in your work today?

Far and away, the challenge most often mentioned in response to this question was the high volume and rapid cadence of new SEO information, new tools, and algorithm updates. Readers are struggling to determine what to focus on and when, what to prioritize, and what even applies to their work. We can certainly help you with that in 2021.

Other frequently-mentioned struggles were familiar to us from previous surveys, showing us that the SEO industry still needs to address these issues, and that the Moz Blog can continue offering up content in response. These issues included: 

  • Lack of resources and cross-functional collaboration at work.
  • SEO prioritization at work.
  • Lack of consolidation in analytics and reporting tools.
  • Difficulty explaining the value of SEO to bosses/clients/non-SEOs.
  • Difficulty explaining what SEO CAN’T do to bosses/clients/non-SEOs.
  • Attracting new clients and customers.
  • Having to wear multiple hats.

How our readers read

Keeping in mind all that context of who our readers are, we dug into preferences in terms of formats, frequency, and subject matter on the blog.

How often do you read posts on the Moz Blog?

As an increasing number of readers rely on social media channels for their news and content consumption, the shift from frequent readers to “every once in a while” readers is not a surprise, but it is a concern. It also necessitates our incorporation of social media engagement as a top KPI for blog performance. 

Given the multiple off-blog distribution methods and frequency of prompts to take this year’s survey, we saw a sharp increase in “non-reader” responses from 1% in 2017 to 6% in 2020. That said, it’s interesting that Moz email and social media subscribers who weren’t Moz Blog readers felt motivated to take a survey entitled “Moz Blog Reader Survey”. We’ve taken note of the topics requested from those respondents, in the hopes of encouraging more engagement with the blog. 

On which types of devices do you prefer to read blog posts?

While desktop and laptop computers remain the most common way to consume blog content, mobile phone use saw an increase of nearly 10 percentage points. Mobile phones have only improved in the last three years, and it’s no secret that we’re using them more often for actions we’d normally take on a computer. As we move toward blog CMS improvements in 2021, mobile-friendliness will be a priority. 

Which other site(s), if any, do you regularly visit for information or education on SEO?

Across the board, we saw a decrease in the number of respondents listing other SEO news resources, as well as the first instance of a social media platform in the top 10 resources mentioned. This only serves as further evidence that social media is continuing its growth as a news and content medium. 

What our readers think of the blog

Here’s where we get into more specific feedback about the Moz Blog, including whether it’s relevant, how easy it is for readers to consume, and more. 

What percentage of the posts on the Moz Blog would you say are relevant to you and your work?

While the trends regarding readers’ opinions on relevancy remained similar between 2017 and 2020, we saw about a 6% dip in respondents who said 81-90% of posts are relevant to them, and increases in the bottom four percentage brackets. These results, paired with the topic requests we’ll cover later, indicate a need to shift and slightly narrow our content strategy to include more posts specific to core SEO disciplines, like on-page SEO and analytics. 

Do you feel the Moz Blog posts are generally too basic, too advanced, or about right?

Given the breadth of topics on the blog and the wide range of reader skill levels, we’re happy to see that, for the most part, readers find our posts just about right on a scale of too easy to too advanced. 

In general, what do you think about the length of Moz Blog posts?

Similarly, it’s great to see that readers continue to be satisfied with the amount of content served up in each post. 

How often do you comment on blog posts? 

RIP, comment section. A trend we’ve seen over the last several years continues its downward slope: 82% of readers who took part in the survey never comment on posts.

When asked for the reasons why they never comment, we saw some frequent responses: 

  • “I have nothing to add.”
  • “It wouldn’t add value.”
  • “I’m still learning.” 
  • “I never comment anywhere.” 
  • “I don’t have enough time.” 
  • “Follow-up questions go unanswered.” 
  • “I read posts in the RSS feed.”
  • “English isn’t my first language.”
  • “I’m not signed in.” 

Blog comment sections and forums used to be the place for online conversations, so this drop in engagement certainly signals the end of an era. However, these concerns also give us some areas of improvement, like working with our authors to be more responsive and improving comment accessibility. But sorry to those who prefer not to sign in — without that gate, we’d be inundated with spam.

In contrast, here were the reasons for commenting: 

  • “I have a question.”
  • “I have a strong emotional connection to the material.”
  • “I strongly agree or disagree.” 
  • “I want to add my personal experience or advice.” 

We definitely encourage readers who do have questions or concerns to continue commenting! 

What, if anything, would you like to see different about the Moz Blog?

Outside the responses along the lines of “No changes! Keep up the good work!” for which we thank you, these were the top asks from readers: 

  • More thoughtful feedback from and interaction with authors.
  • More variety and diversity in our author pool.
  • More video content.
  • More specific case studies, tests, and experiments.
  • More step-by-step guides with actionable insights showing how to solve problems.
  • Ability to filter or categorize by skill level.
  • Diversity in location (outside the US). 

These are great suggestions, some of which we’ve already begun to address! 

We also received only a few responses along the lines of “keep your politics out of SEO”, specifically referencing our Black Lives Matter support and our posts on diversity. To those concerned, I will reiterate: human rights exist beyond politics. Our understanding of the experiences our co-workers and clients have had is essential to doing good, empathetic work with and for them. The Moz Blog will continue our practice of the Moz TAGFEE code in response to these ongoing issues. 

What our readers want to see

Which of the following topics would you like to learn more about?

Survey respondents could choose multiple topics from the list below in their answers, and the most-requested topics look very similar to 2017. A noticeable shift is in the desire for mobile SEO content, which dropped from being requested in 33% of responses in 2017 to just under 20% in 2020. 

In 2020, we certainly had more content addressing the broader marketing industry and local SEOs impacted by the pandemic. To better address the relevancy issue mentioned earlier, the top four core SEO subjects of on-page SEO, keyword research, link building, and analytics (all included in over 50% of responses) will become blog priorities in 2021.

Which of the following types of posts would you most like to see on the Moz Blog?

The way readers want to consume those topics hasn’t changed much at all in the last three years — the desire for actionable, tactical insights is as strong as ever, with the request for tools, tips, and techniques remaining at 80% of respondents. These types of posts have been and will remain our go-to moving forward. 


Moving into our last and newest section for the survey, we asked readers questions regarding the way in which they consume SEO-related content during the COVID-19 era. 

Has your consumption of SEO-related content changed due to COVID-19?

Only 34% of respondents said that their consumption of SEO-related content had changed as a result of the pandemic, a number we expected to be higher. It’s encouraging to see that so many readers were able to maintain a sense of normalcy in this area.

Of those who did see a shift, these were the most common reasons why: 

  • Job loss and job hunting
  • Shift to work from home and being online 24-7
  • E-Commerce industry shifts
  • Online engagement shifts and ranking and traffic drops
  • Loss of clients and constricting budgets
  • More time to read paired with less time or opportunity to implement learnings

Would any of the following topics be helpful for you as a result of COVID-19 impacts? 

Along those same lines, the most popular topic requested as a result of COVID-19 impacts with 27% of responses was tracking/reporting on traffic and ranking drops. Content and marketing strategies during a crisis came in close second and third, with 24% and 21%, respectively. 

The answers to these questions show us that pivoting our content strategy in spring 2020 to address areas of concern was helpful for about a third of our readers, and probably contributed to the relevancy issue for the other two-thirds. We’ll continue to include these topics (on a smaller scale) until we see the other side of this crisis.

What happens next?

Primary takeaways

You asked, and we hear you. Moving into 2021, we’ll be writing on more technical, core SEO topics along with issues on the business side of SEO. We’ll also be building out our Whiteboard Friday series to provide more fresh video content. And as always, we’ll strive to provide you with actionable insights to apply to your daily work.

Given the steep decline in comment section engagement, we’ll be encouraging our authors to be more responsive to questions, and to interact with you on social media. Make sure to follow Moz on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn to stay up-to-date with the blog and our guest authors. 

Finally, stay tuned, as next year we’re planning UX improvements to our blog CMS to address usability and accessibility concerns.

My genuine thanks goes out to those readers who took the time to give us their feedback. It is immeasurably valuable to us, and we’re looking forward to applying it to all the amazing content we have coming your way in 2021.

Have a safe and healthy holiday season, Moz fans, and happy reading! 

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Google’s December 2020 Core Update: By the Numbers

Posted by Dr-Pete

On December 3rd, Google announced that they were rolling out the latest Core Update. Initially, the bulk of the impact seemed to arrive on that date, with MozCast spiking at 112.4°F:

We measured above-average ranking flux in the three days prior to the update announcement, and a few days after the announcement, but the bulk of the flux seemed to occur on the roll-out day. (The dotted line represents the 30-day average prior to December 3rd.)

How did December 2020 compare to other Core Updates?

While technically the third largest named core update, Google’s December Core Update was very close in measured impact to the May 2020 Core Update and the August 2018 “Medic” Update.

Winners and more winners

Back in May, I came down pretty hard on winners and losers reports. I don’t want to discourage all core update analyses, but our rush to publish can produce misleading results, especially with multi-day updates. In May, I settled on a 7-day update analysis, comparing the full week before the update to the full week after. This helps better reflect multi-day roll-outs and also cleans up the noise of sites with naturally high flux, such as news sites (which often wax and wane on a weekly cycle).

Below are the top 20 overall winners in our MozCast data set, by percentage gain:

Note the 1-day comparisons (December 4th vs. December 2nd) vs. 7-day and in particular the orange values — five of our top 20 picked up considerably more gains after the bulk of the update hit. We also saw some reversals, but the majority of sites recorded their wins and losses early in this update.

Another challenge with winners and losers analyses is that it’s easy for large percentage gains and losses from small sites to overshadow larger sites that might see much larger traffic and revenue impact. Here are the top 20 winners across the 100 largest sites in our tracking set:

Note that New York Magazine picked up considerably more gains after December 4th. Of course, for any given site, we can’t prove these gains were due to the core update. While Apple’s App Store was the big winner here, a handful of big sites saw gains over +20%, and eBay fared particularly well.

Winningest content / pages

We tend to focus on domain-level winners and losers, simply because grouping by domains gives us more data to work with, but we also know that many of Google’s changes work at the page level. So, I decided to try something new and explore the winners among individual pages in our data set.

I stuck to the top 100 most visible pages in our data set, removed home pages, and then looked only at the 7-day (before vs. after) change. Here are the top 10 winners, along with their 7-day gain (I’ve opted for a text list, so that you can click through to these pages, if you’d like to explore):

  1. +126%https://www.cashnetusa.com/paydayloans.html
  2. +65%https://www.trulia.com/rent/
  3. +58%https://www.customink.com/products/t-shirts/4
  4. +53%https://turbotax.intuit.com/tax-tools/calculators/taxcaster/
  5. +41%https://www.whitepages.com/person
  6. +40%https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/gardening/advice/…
  7. +38%https://www.nerdwallet.com/mortgages/mortgage-rates
  8. +33%https://www.bankrate.com/calculators/mortgages/…
  9. +26%https://www.wellsfargo.com/mortgage/rates/
  10. +23%https://smartasset.com/mortgage/mortgage-calculator

It’s interesting to note a number of shifts in financial services and especially around mortgage rates and calculators. Of course, we can’t speak to causality. It’s entirely possible that some of these pages moved up because competitors lost ground. For example, https://www.mortgagecalculator.org lost 23% of their visibility in the 7-day over 7-day comparison.

While it’s interesting to explore these pages to look for common themes, please note that a short-term ranking gain doesn’t necessarily mean that any given page is doing something right or was rewarded by the core update.

What trends are you seeing?

Now that the dust has mostly settled, are you seeing any clear trends? Are any specific types of pages performing better or worse than before? As an industry, analyzing Core Updates has a long way to go (and, to be fair, it’s an incredibly complex problem), but I think what’s critical is that we try to push a little harder each time and learn a little bit more. If you have any ideas on how to expand on these analyses, especially at a page level, let us know in the comments.

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What You May Have Missed: Moz Resources to Prioritize Community Learning and Professional Development in 2020

Posted by clschwartz

It goes without saying that 2020 has been a wild ride. If you’re like me, you’ve missed some exciting news or even taken some time away from all things digital when it felt like the world was just too much. At Moz, we created a lot of helpful content in 2020, publishing community resources, reports, and guides across topics like local SEO analytics, competitor analysis, keyword research, campaign management, and more. With all that coming your way, there’s bound to be some oversight. Here’s a recap of what you might have missed in the chaos that has been 2020.

The State of Local SEO Industry Report 2020

The State of Local SEO Industry Report 2020 provides a snapshot of local SEO — both before and during COVID-19 — helping you understand the trends, ideas, and biggest challenges shaping your work in the new decade.

We found that 43% of respondents thought there weren’t enough quality resources to train teams and clients. That insight led to some of the resources we created this year, and those we’ll be launching in early 2021.

How to Rank on Google

The freshly updated How to Rank on Google 25-step master checklist walks you through how to rank a page, from page ideation all the way to traffic pouring into your Google Analytics account. This framework for beginner to intermediate SEOs provides everything you need to get started.

The Keyword Research Master Guide

The Keyword Research Master Guide helps you understand exactly what content to create to best help achieve business goals and target relevant traffic. This guide provides concrete keyword research workflows that act as a practical place to start, and introduces intermediate and advanced SEO techniques that will help you step up your keyword game.

The Web Developer’s SEO Cheat Sheet

An enhanced web dev cheat sheet, this updated resource has been downloaded tens of thousands of times by SEOs and developers alike, to better align on the goals between both types of practitioners. It’s the go-to tool to explain technical and on-page best practices, and is easy to digest by all.

Other content you may have missed

Our favorite Marketing Scientist, Dr. Pete, published deep, technical research on Youtube and Google to understand how video is served in the SERP (shocker — we learned that there’s little room for competition when it comes to video and Google), as well as Google Core Update analyses to understand the impact and implications of Google’s algorithm changes.

In addition, we transitioned MozCon to a virtual platform, doubling the number of attendees of previous years and providing the most cutting edge insights and strategies from leading marketers across the country.

As most marketing work moved home due to lockdowns around the globe, so too did our Whiteboard Friday episodes. These included videos from SEO expert Britney Muller’s house as she took us through a series of link building tips and tricks, as well as guest presenters like Joy Hawkins, who showed us which GMB fields actually affect ranking from her makeshift film set in her living room.

Moz’s commitment to the digital marketing community has helped the company thrive in a challenging year, but community-building means more than just business success. Moz has taken stances on diversity, equity, and inclusion by making a statement and taking action to support the Black Lives Matter movement, publishing diversity and gender in SEO reports with Nicole DeLeon of North Star Inbound, and making historic changes to the board of directors with the addition of Asia Orangio and Tara Reed.

As we turn the corner into 2021, we expect the challenges to continue, but remain hopeful that things will improve. No matter what surprises the new year has in store, we’ll be here to support you with resources and tools to help you improve your SEO proficiency and reach your goals. You’ll see a new course from Moz Academy, a guide on local SEO, and much more. If you have any suggestions on what resources would be helpful to you, please let us know in the comments below.

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Maximize Return During Tough Times Through Testing

Posted by timaj100

We are living in a fast-moving time with new technology, ever-evolving social and political landscapes, and a pandemic on top of that. Any predictions about what to expect in 2020 for marketers was no doubt lightyears off what we’re experiencing now.

So what can we learn from this year as we move forward? You can bet things will continue to change and evolve in unpredictable ways. What worked last year might not work now. Heck, what worked last week might not work next week! How, then, can you be sure you’re getting the most out of your marketing efforts?

Evolving and finding opportunities

There are a few ways you can try to stay on top of things. No matter what, having a strategy for post-COVID is important.

Learn from others

For one, pay attention to those around you. Learn from your peers and competitors. Some may be sharing: read blogs, watch webinars, consume all you can in your space. But you can uncover even more by doing things like conducting a competitive analysis of other sites, advertising messaging, advertising spend, and content creation.

Learn from yourself and adapt

Pay attention to your own analytics and results closely. Take in what you are seeing and adapt. Have a willingness to branch out and pivot strategy based on what the data is telling you. Again, something that worked before may not be working now, and vice versa.

Always. Be. Testing.

Knowing for sure what is going to work for your business, in your space, and at this particular time is a tough task. So the only way to find out for sure and stay on top of the changing trends is testing. We’re all vulnerable right now — and any time tough circumstances fall on us. Figuring out a new course of action, whether it is macro marketing decisions or micro adjustments, is key.

What to test

It’s easy to sit here and say “test to see what works and go with that”, but that can mean a lot of things. As I tie this back into maximizing your return during tough times, let’s talk about where to start first as you look to elevate your marketing and drive revenue and return.

Too often I see brands being timid in times of crisis. There is something to be said about caution, but testing and learning shouldn’t be a risk — it’s an opportunity.

The reality is, every industry is being affected in different ways in 2020. But challenging times come for us all, and when they do, focus on these few areas first.


Advertising is always one of the first areas I look to when testing. It’s a fantastic testing ground that is often more controlled, and in which it’s easier to identify new, successful opportunities. You can look at ad copy, keywords, landing page content, calls to action, audiences, and different strategies altogether within the advertising platform.

We’ve measured positive results for clients in varying industries and in different platforms by changing aspects of the ads we ran.

For an SMB bike helmet retailer, we focused on creating social media ads during the peak of the pandemic that showcased a single rider as opposed to a group, typically in a more open environment instead of the city. Copy was also shifted to emphasize things like “embrace open space” and alluded to socially distanced riding without explicitly saying.

Due to the economic uncertainty of the time, our client scaled back the budget by nearly 44% in April, contributing to a 43% decrease in overall impression share. Despite this overall decrease, the click-through rate (CTR) increased by 61% in that month, the return on ad spend (ROAS) jumped from 0.25 to 1.34, and overall purchases more than doubled.

We saw similar results in a PPC campaign for a network security client. As many employees began working from home, we needed to position our client as a security solution provider for remote workers. Competition rose during the pandemic, which resulted in higher click costs and, despite increasing the overall ad spend, fewer clicks.

To improve our ads, we updated the copy to speak to users in need of remote security solutions and included free trial messaging. We also moved away from taking users to the homepage, instead directing them to a product-specific landing page that served as a remote worker solution hub. Doing this helped to focus the user’s path of exploration to pages that are more relevant to them at the time versus a homepage where their scope of exploration is wider and less tailored.

Making these adjustments in our paid ad campaigns increased the CTR by 11% and conversions by 31%. And since we were sending users to a more focused landing page and not the homepage, the user’s path to conversion was shortened and the conversion rate increased by 44%.

Use your advertising as a way to learn and inform other marketing efforts. A great example of this is ad copy headlines. Consider A/B testing headlines to see which is more captivating and clickable, and then roll those findings out to title tags on the SEO side of things to see similar benefits there.


Run A/B tests for different aspects of your on-site content. Conversion rate optimization is a powerful tactic. This might mean trying new copy, new design, new imagery, new calls to action, or simply title tags and on-page SEO updates. Really everything on your site, in your emails, or any pieces of content you have created falls into this category. I’m not suggesting overhauling things, but don’t just stick with the tried-and-true when the industry and users are changing around you.

To give you an idea of what testing can do, Portent ran an A/B test for a client to see which of two forms performed better, the original form they had been using or a modified version, which removed non-pertinent information from the top of the form.

Switching to the modified form increased form fills by 6% across all devices and a 14% increase on mobile devices. On top of that, phone calls increased by 22%—all from a simple A/B test.


Experiment with different ideas of what a conversion even is. If sales are down, consider something like driving more email sign-ups as an alternative. It may not be the primary end goal, but can still add value and contribute to your marketing funnel.

If lead form submissions are down, consider driving traffic to a white paper download, or some alternative value-add to the end user. As primary conversion points slow, look for other ways to drive value and build to the future productively.


More specific to the e-commerce space traditionally, testing new and creative promotions and sales may help provide a much needed lift in conversion rates. In today’s space specifically, many customers are experiencing tough times, too. Something as simple as offering a discount, even if it’s a small one, could be what is needed to get them to purchase. You may need to get creative with your promotions to drive people to your site, especially when competition is fierce.

A streaming service client ran a campaign in April when competition in the streaming industry was extremely high. To really stand out against competitors, most of which were offering free trials or adding new content, we needed to take a different approach. We offered to pay someone to do what they were already doing during quarantine—bingeing TV.

This campaign resulted in the site gaining over 1,200 new links and media coverage on various online outlets, driving nearly 154,000 referrals to the site (a 634% increase in referral traffic period over period). Overall, we saw an 86% increase in organic traffic period over period and there were over 343,000 new sessions on the site, more than 83% of which were new users. We also offered an extended free trial during the campaign, resulting in over 650 conversions.

Outside the e-commerce space, find ways to lower the barrier to entry and boost conversion rates in the short term. That might mean pushing traffic to more simplified forms or just asking less of the individual converting. In circumstances like what we are currently experiencing, something is better than nothing.

How to test

The “how” of testing is very easily its own post with many layers to it, from user research to focus groups. For most that are trying to maximize return for their business, that can be overcomplicating things. That said, there are some simple things you can easily do to test smarter and learn quickly.


To start, do your homework. As mentioned before, do competitive research and learn from others. Review the keyword landscape and understand search trends so you can make updates to copy and content intelligently. Know your audience and personas before making updates.

This is essentially taking the guesswork out of it. If you are going to the trouble of testing something new, have research and data to support your hypothesis.

Use tools

Marketing testing tools come in many different shapes and sizes. There really is something for all situations. Here are a few great tools that can help you accomplish the following:

Hopefully, you’ve been using some of these or your own preferred tools already. Lean into your tools—they will make things easier and help you drive results more quickly.

Don’t rush

Set your tests up as scientifically as you can and require statistical significance before drawing conclusions. It’s easy to get impatient and quickly make changes when you see results coming in. But, let the data do the talking and give your tests time to run their course.

Have a testing budget

Remember: this is a test! It’s easy to see results that you don’t want, panic and pull the plug. If you are investing in testing, have a budget that allows for that.

Set clear goals and expectations

Before you start your test, define success. What are you trying to accomplish? Make sure all stakeholders have the same set of expectations for what you are trying to discover and what goals your test supports.

Wrapping it all up

Tough times happen. Many businesses are facing them right now and will likely continue to. Don’t give up hope. Do your research and be nimble. You can find where your biggest pain points are and thoughtfully test solutions.

And remember, testing never ends. It’s an ongoing process in the continuous quest to drive the best results you can.

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How Lead Generation Tactics Can Boost Your Link Building Results

Posted by AnnSmarty

How effective is your link building campaign? I bet your answer is “I wish it could be better.”

Talking to business owners and executives on a daily basis, I have yet to meet one who would be satisfied with their link building strategy.

Everyone needs links, yet they are getting harder and harder to get.

The solution?

Change your link building mindset.

How link building is similar to lead generation

In any business marketing strategy, we’re really interested in one thing: sales.

Yet, if we keep focusing on that end goal, we won’t achieve much. A customer may need up to eight touchpoints before they finally make a purchase. If you only focus on that final sale, you’re missing out on all those extra steps that drive your customer to buy.

It may sound obvious (so I’ll stop here) but the point I’m trying to make is: Marketers cannot focus on the final sale. We need something in between — a secondary metric that will bridge the gap between “a stranger” and a “a buyer”.

This is where the notion of a “lead” came from, i.e. a contact which we consider our prospective/possible/future customer.

A journey from a “a stranger” to a “lead” is shorter and much more predictable than a journey from “a stranger” to a “a buyer”, and once we turn a visitor into a lead, we can reach out to them in a much more meaningful and personalized way (via email, Facebook re-marketing, on-site personalizations, etc.).

What does this have to do with link building?

In link building we need links, just like in marketing we want sales. But focusing on the final goal is just as limiting in link building as it is in marketing.

Very few link builders these days do anything beyond sending an email, then using automated follow-ups. There’s no “lead generation” in link building. It’s either “link or no link” reporting.

And that’s where that process is broken.

In link building, all those bloggers, publishers, editors, etc. may also need several touchpoints (from something beyond an email). Furthermore, they may not be proper decision makers within the publication you are targeting.

If you apply that lead generation process to link building, you may see much better results, and more importantly, those results will keep growing the more leads you acquire.

How to add lead generation processes to your link building strategy

1. Define your linking leads prior to creating content

In B2B marketing, this is called outcomes-focused data strategy, which basically means you need to know exactly what you want to achieve (the outcome) before you start developing your strategy of achieving said outcome.

This concept is — sadly — seldom applied to link building.

What usually happens:

  1. The content team creates what they think is a great content asset.
  2. The outreach team identifies website owners who are likely to be interested in that asset, and starts the outreach.

Both teams are working in isolation.

But what happens if you turn that process around?

  1. The outreach team shows the content team what’s attracting links on a specific topic (with examples). This insight should come from prospect research, current or upcoming trends, from previous outreach campaign data, etc.
  2. The content team (in collaboration with the outreach team) creates something better than what currently exists on that topic. At this point, both the teams may involve those linking leads in the actual content creation (by reaching out and asking for expert opinions on the topic).
  3. The outreach team delivers that content to the contacts they identified prior to the content creation.

Depending on the outlined link building opportunities, the linkable assets should take a specific format or angle, for example:

  • Curated lists of resources: Make sure your article fits one of the existing categories in the list, better fills a gap, or fixes an existing broken link.
  • Links from influencers or experts: Prior to publishing your article, reach out to those influencers and get their quote (opinion) to include in your article. Influencers are more likely to link when they’re featured on that page.
  • Links from peers and friends: Follow those people everywhere and start interacting with them on a daily basis. Think of this as “lead nurturing” — increasing your chances of creating long-lasting partnerships.
  • Editorial links from popular blogs: Track down authors and editors of those sites and start interacting with them on social media. Consider inviting them to contribute a quote to your article as well.

By letting your link building research guide the content creation process, you will end up with a highly successful campaign that is still delivering links (without the need to do the active outreach anymore).

2. Organize your linking leads

As we said previously, in link building the end goal is a link. But different leads will need a different number of touchpoints to finally link. Plus, more links are better than one.

This is where a lead nurturing process comes into play.

Just like B2B marketers using different methods to “warm up” leads and take them close to a sale, in link building you will get many more links if you keep reaching out to your leads to remind them of your asset.

If you’re using an outreach tool (both Pitchbox and Link Hunter are good options, depending on your budget and complexity of your project), it will handle some of the lead nurturing for you. At the very least, any outreach solution will:

  • Save all the emails you sent
  • Update the email status and dates (replied, bounced back, followed up, etc.)

Many link building teams will find that sufficient. I recommend going further and using a solid customer relationship management approach, which would also include:

  • Creating a detailed profile for each lead (which would also include their sites and columns, social media profiles, etc.)
  • Reaching out on social media (through ads and/or manual outreach)

If you want to go even further, you can adopt a well-organized customer relationship management strategy towards your linking leads. To get you started, here’s a solid comparison of major CRM types, as well as lead generation and nurturing platforms allowing you to properly organize and monitor your link building prospects.

You can set your link acquisition workflow and automate some parts of it (like follow-ups) while being in full control of everything that is going on.

3. Find alternative contacts and decision makers within each publication

In B2B, this process is called “account-based marketing”, i.e. when you know exactly which company would make your ideal customer and you start researching how to best onboard it.

In link building, this strategy applies to huge multi-author publications that would make ideal and ongoing backlink providers for your content. Think of the New York Times, Mashable, or a huge research magazine in your niche.

Emailing one of their authors with a request to link to your study or your infographic may not be enough (in fact, it will hardly ever be enough).

To investigate publications I’m really interested in getting links from, I use the following tools:


I don’t use Linkedin for outreach, but I just love its company profiles, which show me which friends (or friends of friends) I have associated with those entities. I have been introduced to quite a few great publications this way:

Twitter bio search

While Linkedin may be useful to identify existing contacts, Twitter is great for building new ones. For bigger publications, all you need is to find people including that publication in their bios.

A tool called Twiangulate is a great and free option for doing that: Just specify the company name (or its Twitter handle) as a keyword and the tool will find all the Twitter profiles that include it:

Now create a separate Twitter list to keep in touch with all of them.

Website’s “About Us” page

This may seem obvious, but it’s often a missed step. Many publications list their whole editorial team with all the emails included on their “About” page.

Try developing an outreach strategy for each of those emails. For example, a CEO may not be the best contact to request a link from, but they may reply and give you clearer directions for who to speak with, so ask for a contact!

4. Diversify your touchpoints

In my experience, an email is still the most effective link building outreach method. Truthfully, I’ve seen better success with a follow-up email versus the initial email.

But other ways to reach out certainly increase your chances of hearing back. These include:

  • A simple Twitter follow or retweet (no requests here)
  • A DM (especially when journalists claim their DMs are open for pitches and ideas)
  • A comment on their personal site
  • A LinkedIn message
  • Adding a contact to a Twitter list (Twitter will notify them)
  • Tagging them on social media (especially when they’re referenced or quoted in your content)

The bottom line here: Simply being there may remind them of your request and prompt them to open your email.

5. Diversify your assets

With diverse touchpoints comes the need to diversify your assets. Your outreach will be more effective if you give your linking leads something of value to include in their article.

If your initial email and the first follow-up weren’t successful, try creating a visual summary (an infographic) in your second follow-up to give them something fresh.

The process may turn quite easy and effective if you provide your outreach and content teams with tools enabling them to handle the creation of those assets. These tools include:

6. Keep an eye on your team performance

Your team is everything. If you fail to train them properly or distribute tasks among your team members effectively, the whole process will fail to move along.

At the very least:

  • Include your outreach team in your social media marketing so they can extend their outreach methods beyond emailing. Tools like Agorapulse will help in that process. You can set up lists, monitor certain keywords, save and delegate certain updates to turn them into tasks, etc.
  • Track your outreach activity. Tools like Email Analytics will help you with that. It will generate daily and weekly reports showing you how actively your team was emailing and how many responses they got. It will also save all emails to backup conversations.

7. Optimize your landing page

Your linkable asset should make an instantly positive impression on the people you email. There may by different ways to achieve that, but certain things help for just about any SEO campaign:

Your page needs to be ad-free

I’ve seen lots of people not willing to provide “a free link” to a page that is monetized with ads. There’s no point in arguing with your linking leads on that. It’s easier to remove the ads from the page you’re actively link building for at the moment. Besides, more often than not, it’s very easy to do.

Create CTAs targeting your linking leads

This one is a little bit advanced, but it will help a lot. Adjust your CTAs on the linkable asset page to fit your linking leads rather than your regular ads.

For example, instead of “Sign up for a free trial”, you may include a press coverage link or invite visitors to download additional data or resources.

Using Facebook pixel to record everyone who initially landed on the site through your linkable asset is another great way to re-market your asset to your linking leads.

8. Keep an eye on those links

Very few people will reply to you saying they have indeed linked to your content. But knowing if they have is important because conversion is a crucial part in the lead nurturing process. It doesn’t stop your relationships with your lead, but it impacts your interactions going forward. Those leads who end up linking to you are your best friends. Cancel your follow-ups, thank them, and keep interacting with them on social media.

Again, if you are using an outreach platform, chances are the link tracking will be included. Otherwise, check out Site Checker that has a handy link monitoring feature included.


Safe links mean those we cannot control. This turns a link building process almost into a form of art, or a well-manufactured serendipity (one of my favorite business concepts). You need to do a lot before reaching your end goal, all while keeping your end goal in mind.

These days, when any site owner — professional or amateur — is bombarded with link requests, you need to up your link building game. Luckily, there’s a neighboring marketing area that you can learn from: lead generation. Adopt more complicated and more diverse outreach methods to acquire great links to your website. Good luck!

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