A Beginner’s Guide to Marketing Automation

Posted by six times more revenue than sending non-personalized emails. But manually sending out customized messages to contacts simply isn’t practical. Marketing automation platforms handle the mundane and repetitive work that goes into delivering personalized content, giving sales and marketing professionals more time to focus on things that are more interesting and challenging.

Not only does marketing automation make it easier to deliver messages, it makes it easier to figure out where people are in the conversion process. Marketing automation programs typically have a lead scoring feature which helps users quickly identify which leads are the most sales-ready.

One of the most common reasons why businesses consider using marketing automation in the first place is because they want to improve their conversion rates and revenues. Marketing automation is a way to encourage customers to stay engaged longer, making it more likely they’ll stick around long enough to convert. On average, companies that use marketing automation have 53% higher conversion rates and an annual revenue growth rate 3.1% higher compared to companies that don’t.

For products and services with longer conversion cycles, marketing automation can also help speed up the process. In one example cited by VentureHarbour, Thomson Reuters was able to reduce their conversion time by 72% by using marketing automation software.

What applications are there for marketing automation?

While marketing automation has several different applications, email messaging and lead generation/nurturing are among the most common.

Yes, email is still relevant as a marketing tool. While it’s easy to say things like “Everybody’s on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram,” it’s simply not true. However, most Internet users do have at least one email address. Email inboxes also tend to move at a slower pace than social media feeds, giving you the best chance at making a direct connection with your contacts. There’s a multitude of ways marketing automation can be used with email:

  • Welcome messages
  • Product retargeting
  • Abandoned cart reminders
  • Personalized product recommendations

And that’s just to name a few.

Many companies use marketing automation to solicit feedback from their contacts, regardless if they’ve converted or not. Whether it’s by sending out surveys or asking people to send comments directly to them, the information they garner can be extremely valuable in guiding changes that will help improve their revenues in the long run.

Given that personalized emails generate so much more revenue than non-personalized emails, marketing automation can be an effective way to nurture your leads. According to Marketo, about 50% of leads in any system are not ready to buy and nearly 80% of all new leads will never become sales. With marketing automation, the goal is to give people something of value when they need it most so that they’re more likely to convert. Effective lead nurturing generates 50% more sales-ready leads at a 33% lower cost. Nurtured leads also tend to make larger purchases than non-nurtured leads.

Marketing automation platforms are also often commonly used to manage social media campaigns, create landing pages, and conduct ongoing A/B testing.

B2B vs. B2C marketing automation

Businesses of all sizes can potentially benefit from marketing automation, but whether a business has a B2B or B2C model is going to have an impact on the type of messaging used in their campaigns. While both types of businesses would have the main goals of improving conversions and revenue, there are differences in how they’ll reach that goal.

B2B sales

B2B sales tend to have longer conversion cycles than B2C sales and often involve products or services that require a more long-term commitment. (Of course, there are some exceptions.) Because of this, B2B messaging has a greater emphasis on long-form content like whitepapers, case studies, and e-books. When major purchases are being considered for a business, multiple people are often involved in the decision-making process, so it’s not always a matter of winning over one person like it is with B2C sales. It’s important for the business with something to sell to establish themselves as an authority in their industry — offering in-depth informational content is a great way to do that.

B2C sales

Since B2C sales move at a faster pace, the content used in their messaging is typically much simpler. For example, Sephora customers aren’t going to be interested in long case studies about a product, but they might appreciate a 30-second video demonstrating how to use a product instead. For B2C companies, the focus tends to be more on brand building and giving customers reasons to come back, so their messaging typically includes things like abandoned shopping cart reminders, personalized product recommendations, and offers tailored to specific types of customers.

Key concepts

Although many different aspects of marketing and business development come together in marketing automation, the whole process is ultimately driven by a few core concepts.

Conversion funnels

A conversion funnel is the process a person takes toward becoming a customer. Now that it’s so easy to find product reviews and shop around, a lot of people don’t just buy things from the first place they see it for sale. Marketing automation is a way to keep people engaged so they’re more likely to convert.

The conversion funnel can be broken down into a few basic stages:

  • Awareness: The customer initially becomes aware of a company, product, or service. It’s too soon for a person to want to make any decisions, but a business has made its way onto their radar.
  • Interest: Not everyone who is aware of a business/product/service is going to have a need for it. At this point, those who are interested will start becoming more engaged by doing things like requesting a quote, signing up for a free trial, following a business on social media, looking for reviews, or reading blog posts and other content on a company’s site.
  • Consideration: By now, a person is familiar enough with a business to know they like what’s being offered. They’re not quite ready to make a decision, but a business is in the running.
  • Action: This is the point where a person decides to convert. You’ve won them over and they’re ready to do business with you.

Ideally, after a person converts once, they’ll be so happy with their decision that they become a repeat customer. But as people move through the conversion funnel, whether they do it once or several times, some of them will always drop out at each level. On average, only 1–5 % of people who enter a conversion funnel actually convert. When people drop out, it’s known as churn, and while some churn is inevitable, marketing automation can help reduce it. By understanding the needs and interests of people at each stage of the conversion funnel, you’re better able to keep them engaged by providing them with the type of content they’re most interested in.

For example, let’s say a company installs vinyl windows and they advertise heavily in the local media. At any given time, a large percentage of the thousands of people who see their ads won’t take any action after seeing one because they either don’t need new windows or because they live in a rental property. No amount of additional messaging will win those people over. But since replacing windows can be very expensive, the people who actually do need them typically spend time doing research to make sure they choose the right type of window and get the best price. If this company were to send additional information about vinyl windows to the people who contact them to get an estimate, they may be able to convince more people to convert.

Feedback loops and metrics

One of the basic laws of physics is that for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. A very similar concept also applies in the world of marketing automation, and it’s known as a feedback loop. When you send a message to a person, the recipient will have some kind of reaction to it, even if that reaction is to do nothing at all. That reaction is part of your feedback loop and you’ll need to pay attention to your metrics to get an idea of what those reactions are.

Feedback loops and metrics are a reflection of how effective your marketing automation strategy is. Whether a person converts, clicks through to your site, ignores the message, flags it as spam, or unsubscribes from your list, that tells you something about how the recipient felt about your message.

When you look at your metrics, you’ll ideally want to see high open rates, clickthrough rates, and maybe even some forwards, since those are signs your content is engaging, valuable, and not annoying to your contacts. Some unsubscribes and abuse reports are inevitable, especially since a lot of people get confused about the difference between the two. But don’t ignore those metrics just because they’re not what you want to see. An increasing number of either could be a sign your strategy is too aggressive and needs to be reworked.

User flow

While conversion funnels refer to the process taken toward converting, user flow refers to the series of pages a person visits before taking an action.

When you have traffic coming to your site from different sources like PPC ads, social media, and email messages, you want to direct users to pages that will make it easy for them to take the action you want them to take, whether it’s buying something, signing up for a free trial, or joining an email list.

You also have to keep in mind that people often have different needs depending on how they arrive at a page, so you’ll want to do your best to make sure people are being taken to a page that would appeal to them. For example, if a person is directly taken to a product page after doing a search for a long-tail keyword, that’s fine since they’re clearly looking for something specific and are more likely to be ready to convert. But someone who clicks on a PPC ad and fills out a form on a landing page is probably going to want more information before they make any decisions, so it’s not time to give them a hard sell.

Workflows

Workflows are where the automation part of marketing automation comes into play. Your workflow is the series of triggers you create to deliver messages. Creating a workflow involves taking yourself through the entire process and asking yourself, “If this happens, what should happen next?”

Workflows can consist of many different triggers, such as how long it’s been since a person has taken an action, interactions you’ve had with a person, or actions they’ve previously taken on your site. Some types of workflows commonly used by retailers include sending discount codes to customers who haven’t made any purchases in a while, reminding people to review products after they’ve had some time to enjoy their purchase, and sending reminders to people who have recently added items to their cart without actually making a purchase.

Important steps in creating a marketing automation strategy

1. Define your goals

This might seem like an obvious point to make, but before you do anything else, you need to decide exactly what you want marketing automation to help you achieve so you can plan your strategy accordingly. Are you trying to generate more leads? Working to build up business from return customers? Trying to boost sales during an off season? Each of those goals is going to require a different strategy, so it’s important to understand exactly what your main objectives are.

2. Identify who to target

Of course it’s important to understand the needs of your customers at all points of the conversion process. But depending on what your main goals are, your time and energy may be best spent focusing on people who are at a specific point of the process. For instance, if you’re not really having a problem with lead generation but you want more people to convert, your time and energy would be better spent focusing on the middle and lower parts of the conversion funnel.

3. Map user flows

By using marketing automation, you’re trying to get people to take some kind of action. Mapping user flow is a way to visualize the steps people need to go through to be able to take that action.

Depending on the way a person arrives at your site, some people might need more information than others before they’re willing to take that action. You don’t want to make people go through more steps than are necessary to do something, but you don’t want to hit people with a hard sell too soon, either. By using state diagrams to map user flows, as recommended by Peep Laja of ConversionXL, you’ll see exactly how people are arriving at a page and how many steps it takes for them to take the desired action.

4. Segment and rate your leads

It’s important to remember that not all leads are necessarily equal in terms of quality. Your database of contacts is inevitably going to be a mix of people who are on the verge of buying, people who are still researching their options, and people who probably won’t convert, so it’s not possible to create broad messages that will somehow appeal to all of those types of people. Rating your leads helps you figure out exactly who needs further nurturing and who is ready to be handed over to a sales team.

The interactions a person has had with your content and the actions they’ve taken on your site can be a reflection of how ready they are to convert. A person who has viewed a pricing page is most likely going to be closer to buying than someone who has simply read a blog post on a site. A person who has visited a site multiple times over the course of a few weeks is clearly more interested than someone who has only visited once or twice in the past year. Marketing automation software lets you assign values to certain actions and interactions so that it can calculate a score for that lead.

Marketing automation also lets you segment your database of contacts to a very high degree so you can deliver messages to very specific types of people. For example, when working with a B2B business, a marketer might want to target messages to people with certain job titles who work at businesses of a certain size. With B2C sales, a retailer might want to segment their lists to give special offers to people who have spent a certain amount of money with the company or send product recommendations to people who live in certain locations.

Building and maintaining a contact database

There’s no easy way around it: Building a high-quality database of contacts takes time. Marketing automation should come into play once you already have a fairly sizeable database of contacts to work with, but you will need to keep adding new names to that database on a regular basis.

One of the most effective ways to build a database of highly qualified contacts is by creating informative content. Blog content is great for providing high-level information, and it helps businesses build trust and establish themselves as an authority in their field. On the other hand, things like whitepapers and e-books are best for attracting people who want more in-depth information on a subject and are more inclined to be interested in what a business is offering, which is why those types of content are usually gated. With gated content, a person’s contact information is essentially the price of accessing the content.

For businesses that offer a service, free trials are an excellent way to get contact information since the people who sign up for them are obviously interested in what’s being offered.

Just say “no” to purchased lists

Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to buy a list of contacts. Purchased lists may give you a quick boost up front, but they’ll work against you in the long run.

First of all, high-quality lists of contacts aren’t for sale. The kinds of lists you can buy or rent are typically full of invalid and abandoned email addresses. Even if a person actually does see your message, they likely either won’t be interested or will be skeptical about doing business with a company they’re not familiar with.

If you were to start sending messages to a list full of contacts of questionable quality, you’ll most likely end up with high bounce rates, lots of unsubscriptions, low open rates, and a whole lot of abuse reports. Email service providers pay attention to those sorts of metrics and if they start seeing them on a regular basis, they’ll view you as a spammer, which will only make it harder for you to get your message to more qualified leads once you have them.

Best practices for marketing automation messaging

Get to the point

Make your point quickly and make it clear. We all have a limited amount of time each day and one thing people have little patience for is long messages. People just want to know what’s in it for them. How would your product or service solve their problem? What’s unique about what you’re offering?

Keep it active

By implementing marketing automation strategies, you’re trying to keep people engaged. Therefore, your messages should be written in an active tone and encourage recipients to take some kind of action, whether it’s downloading a whitepaper, reading a blog post, watching a video, or making a purchase.

Remember where people are in the process

Don’t forget that some types of content will be more appealing than others depending on where a person is in the conversion funnel. People who are just starting to learn more about a company or product are not going to be happy if they get hit with a hard sell, but highly promotional content could potentially be effective on someone further down in the conversion funnel.

Avoid looking spammy

When used correctly, marketing automation is not spam — we’ll talk more about why that is in just a little bit. But don’t give your contacts the wrong impression. Certain things will always look spammy, such as typing in all capital letters, overusing the color red, and using too many links in the body of the message. If you’re going to use symbols in your subject lines or messages, don’t use too many of them. Avoid using words known to trigger spam filters.

If you’re unfamiliar with the CAN-SPAM Act, take some time to learn about what it means for your campaign. Subject lines need to be accurate and not misleading. Companies that send marketing messages through email need to provide a physical mailing address. (PO box addresses are allowed.) You also need to provide an unsubscribe option in all messages and make sure all opt-out requests are honored as soon as possible.

Hone your list

Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to contact lists. One of the key goals for marketing automation is to get your message to precisely the right people. Pay close attention to your metrics so you know who your most qualified leads are and get rid of the ones who aren’t responding anymore. You’re better off with a smaller list of highly qualified leads than with a large list of contacts who don’t care. If it’s been months since a person last opened a message from you, just remove them from your list and focus more on the leads who are more interested.

Misconceptions about marketing automation

It’s impersonal

When done correctly, marketing automation can and should feel personal. In all fairness, it’s easy to understand how people get the wrong impression here — after all, the word “automation” is usually associated with things like computerization and robots. But for a marketing automation strategy to be successful, there needs to be a human touch behind it. Marketing automation simply makes it easier for you to get your message out there. It’s up to you to come up with content that will appeal to people and to create the strategy for getting it out there.

It’s spam

We all know how obnoxious spam is — marketers included. Marketers also understand how ineffective it is. While spam is an unsolicited message promoting something irrelevant to the vast majority of its recipients, the goal of marketing automation is to deliver highly relevant messages to users who clearly express an interest in it.

Unlike spam, marketing automation also frequently involves non-promotional content. Marketing automation messages absolutely can be promotional in nature, but ultimately, the goal is to foster positive relationships by offering something of value — and that doesn’t always involve a hard sell.

You can set it and forget it

This is another case where the word “automation” can give the wrong impression. When you think of something being automated, it’s easy to think you can just set it up, sit back, and let it run on its own. In reality, marketing automation is anything but a hands-off process. Marketing automation needs constant attention and refinement to make sure it’s as successful as possible. Many people use the A/B testing functionality of marketing automation software to run ongoing tests to see which sorts of content, subject lines, design variations, and CTAs people best respond to.

It’s just email marketing

Email is a significant part of marketing automation, but marketing automation isn’t just a new name for email marketing.

First of all, the types of messages involved in basic email marketing and marketing automation are distinctly different. When most people think of email marketing, they’re thinking of broad email blasts that go out to an entire list of contacts, but that’s just what you’re trying to avoid doing with marketing automation. Marketing automation messages are much more fine-tuned to a user’s interests and needs. Although basic email marketing programs do allow for some list segmentation, marketing automation programs allow you to get much more hyper-segmented.

Basic email marketing and marketing automation programs also offer different functionality and insights. While regular email marketing platforms give some basic information about how people interact with your message, marketing automation programs offer more measurable, in-depth insights.

While marketing automation offers a lot of benefits, it’s not going to be an ideal solution for all businesses. For some types of businesses, basic email marketing is all they really need. Studies have shown that marketers often feel like marketing automation software isn’t worth the investment, but many marketers also fail to use it to its full potential or businesses try using it before they have a large enough database of contacts to truly make it worthwhile. Before using marketing automation, the key things to consider are whether or not you have the time and resources to dedicate to training on the software so they can use it to its full potential.

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!

Posted by six times more revenue than sending non-personalized emails. But manually sending out customized messages to contacts simply isn’t practical. Marketing automation platforms handle the mundane and repetitive work that goes into delivering personalized content, giving sales and marketing professionals more time to focus on things that are more interesting and challenging.

Not only does marketing automation make it easier to deliver messages, it makes it easier to figure out where people are in the conversion process. Marketing automation programs typically have a lead scoring feature which helps users quickly identify which leads are the most sales-ready.

One of the most common reasons why businesses consider using marketing automation in the first place is because they want to improve their conversion rates and revenues. Marketing automation is a way to encourage customers to stay engaged longer, making it more likely they’ll stick around long enough to convert. On average, companies that use marketing automation have 53% higher conversion rates and an annual revenue growth rate 3.1% higher compared to companies that don’t.

For products and services with longer conversion cycles, marketing automation can also help speed up the process. In one example cited by VentureHarbour, Thomson Reuters was able to reduce their conversion time by 72% by using marketing automation software.

What applications are there for marketing automation?

While marketing automation has several different applications, email messaging and lead generation/nurturing are among the most common.

Yes, email is still relevant as a marketing tool. While it’s easy to say things like “Everybody’s on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram,” it’s simply not true. However, most Internet users do have at least one email address. Email inboxes also tend to move at a slower pace than social media feeds, giving you the best chance at making a direct connection with your contacts. There’s a multitude of ways marketing automation can be used with email:

  • Welcome messages
  • Product retargeting
  • Abandoned cart reminders
  • Personalized product recommendations

And that’s just to name a few.

Many companies use marketing automation to solicit feedback from their contacts, regardless if they’ve converted or not. Whether it’s by sending out surveys or asking people to send comments directly to them, the information they garner can be extremely valuable in guiding changes that will help improve their revenues in the long run.

Given that personalized emails generate so much more revenue than non-personalized emails, marketing automation can be an effective way to nurture your leads. According to Marketo, about 50% of leads in any system are not ready to buy and nearly 80% of all new leads will never become sales. With marketing automation, the goal is to give people something of value when they need it most so that they’re more likely to convert. Effective lead nurturing generates 50% more sales-ready leads at a 33% lower cost. Nurtured leads also tend to make larger purchases than non-nurtured leads.

Marketing automation platforms are also often commonly used to manage social media campaigns, create landing pages, and conduct ongoing A/B testing.

B2B vs. B2C marketing automation

Businesses of all sizes can potentially benefit from marketing automation, but whether a business has a B2B or B2C model is going to have an impact on the type of messaging used in their campaigns. While both types of businesses would have the main goals of improving conversions and revenue, there are differences in how they’ll reach that goal.

B2B sales

B2B sales tend to have longer conversion cycles than B2C sales and often involve products or services that require a more long-term commitment. (Of course, there are some exceptions.) Because of this, B2B messaging has a greater emphasis on long-form content like whitepapers, case studies, and e-books. When major purchases are being considered for a business, multiple people are often involved in the decision-making process, so it’s not always a matter of winning over one person like it is with B2C sales. It’s important for the business with something to sell to establish themselves as an authority in their industry — offering in-depth informational content is a great way to do that.

B2C sales

Since B2C sales move at a faster pace, the content used in their messaging is typically much simpler. For example, Sephora customers aren’t going to be interested in long case studies about a product, but they might appreciate a 30-second video demonstrating how to use a product instead. For B2C companies, the focus tends to be more on brand building and giving customers reasons to come back, so their messaging typically includes things like abandoned shopping cart reminders, personalized product recommendations, and offers tailored to specific types of customers.

Key concepts

Although many different aspects of marketing and business development come together in marketing automation, the whole process is ultimately driven by a few core concepts.

Conversion funnels

A conversion funnel is the process a person takes toward becoming a customer. Now that it’s so easy to find product reviews and shop around, a lot of people don’t just buy things from the first place they see it for sale. Marketing automation is a way to keep people engaged so they’re more likely to convert.

The conversion funnel can be broken down into a few basic stages:

  • Awareness: The customer initially becomes aware of a company, product, or service. It’s too soon for a person to want to make any decisions, but a business has made its way onto their radar.
  • Interest: Not everyone who is aware of a business/product/service is going to have a need for it. At this point, those who are interested will start becoming more engaged by doing things like requesting a quote, signing up for a free trial, following a business on social media, looking for reviews, or reading blog posts and other content on a company’s site.
  • Consideration: By now, a person is familiar enough with a business to know they like what’s being offered. They’re not quite ready to make a decision, but a business is in the running.
  • Action: This is the point where a person decides to convert. You’ve won them over and they’re ready to do business with you.

Ideally, after a person converts once, they’ll be so happy with their decision that they become a repeat customer. But as people move through the conversion funnel, whether they do it once or several times, some of them will always drop out at each level. On average, only 1–5 % of people who enter a conversion funnel actually convert. When people drop out, it’s known as churn, and while some churn is inevitable, marketing automation can help reduce it. By understanding the needs and interests of people at each stage of the conversion funnel, you’re better able to keep them engaged by providing them with the type of content they’re most interested in.

For example, let’s say a company installs vinyl windows and they advertise heavily in the local media. At any given time, a large percentage of the thousands of people who see their ads won’t take any action after seeing one because they either don’t need new windows or because they live in a rental property. No amount of additional messaging will win those people over. But since replacing windows can be very expensive, the people who actually do need them typically spend time doing research to make sure they choose the right type of window and get the best price. If this company were to send additional information about vinyl windows to the people who contact them to get an estimate, they may be able to convince more people to convert.

Feedback loops and metrics

One of the basic laws of physics is that for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. A very similar concept also applies in the world of marketing automation, and it’s known as a feedback loop. When you send a message to a person, the recipient will have some kind of reaction to it, even if that reaction is to do nothing at all. That reaction is part of your feedback loop and you’ll need to pay attention to your metrics to get an idea of what those reactions are.

Feedback loops and metrics are a reflection of how effective your marketing automation strategy is. Whether a person converts, clicks through to your site, ignores the message, flags it as spam, or unsubscribes from your list, that tells you something about how the recipient felt about your message.

When you look at your metrics, you’ll ideally want to see high open rates, clickthrough rates, and maybe even some forwards, since those are signs your content is engaging, valuable, and not annoying to your contacts. Some unsubscribes and abuse reports are inevitable, especially since a lot of people get confused about the difference between the two. But don’t ignore those metrics just because they’re not what you want to see. An increasing number of either could be a sign your strategy is too aggressive and needs to be reworked.

User flow

While conversion funnels refer to the process taken toward converting, user flow refers to the series of pages a person visits before taking an action.

When you have traffic coming to your site from different sources like PPC ads, social media, and email messages, you want to direct users to pages that will make it easy for them to take the action you want them to take, whether it’s buying something, signing up for a free trial, or joining an email list.

You also have to keep in mind that people often have different needs depending on how they arrive at a page, so you’ll want to do your best to make sure people are being taken to a page that would appeal to them. For example, if a person is directly taken to a product page after doing a search for a long-tail keyword, that’s fine since they’re clearly looking for something specific and are more likely to be ready to convert. But someone who clicks on a PPC ad and fills out a form on a landing page is probably going to want more information before they make any decisions, so it’s not time to give them a hard sell.

Workflows

Workflows are where the automation part of marketing automation comes into play. Your workflow is the series of triggers you create to deliver messages. Creating a workflow involves taking yourself through the entire process and asking yourself, “If this happens, what should happen next?”

Workflows can consist of many different triggers, such as how long it’s been since a person has taken an action, interactions you’ve had with a person, or actions they’ve previously taken on your site. Some types of workflows commonly used by retailers include sending discount codes to customers who haven’t made any purchases in a while, reminding people to review products after they’ve had some time to enjoy their purchase, and sending reminders to people who have recently added items to their cart without actually making a purchase.

Important steps in creating a marketing automation strategy

1. Define your goals

This might seem like an obvious point to make, but before you do anything else, you need to decide exactly what you want marketing automation to help you achieve so you can plan your strategy accordingly. Are you trying to generate more leads? Working to build up business from return customers? Trying to boost sales during an off season? Each of those goals is going to require a different strategy, so it’s important to understand exactly what your main objectives are.

2. Identify who to target

Of course it’s important to understand the needs of your customers at all points of the conversion process. But depending on what your main goals are, your time and energy may be best spent focusing on people who are at a specific point of the process. For instance, if you’re not really having a problem with lead generation but you want more people to convert, your time and energy would be better spent focusing on the middle and lower parts of the conversion funnel.

3. Map user flows

By using marketing automation, you’re trying to get people to take some kind of action. Mapping user flow is a way to visualize the steps people need to go through to be able to take that action.

Depending on the way a person arrives at your site, some people might need more information than others before they’re willing to take that action. You don’t want to make people go through more steps than are necessary to do something, but you don’t want to hit people with a hard sell too soon, either. By using state diagrams to map user flows, as recommended by Peep Laja of ConversionXL, you’ll see exactly how people are arriving at a page and how many steps it takes for them to take the desired action.

4. Segment and rate your leads

It’s important to remember that not all leads are necessarily equal in terms of quality. Your database of contacts is inevitably going to be a mix of people who are on the verge of buying, people who are still researching their options, and people who probably won’t convert, so it’s not possible to create broad messages that will somehow appeal to all of those types of people. Rating your leads helps you figure out exactly who needs further nurturing and who is ready to be handed over to a sales team.

The interactions a person has had with your content and the actions they’ve taken on your site can be a reflection of how ready they are to convert. A person who has viewed a pricing page is most likely going to be closer to buying than someone who has simply read a blog post on a site. A person who has visited a site multiple times over the course of a few weeks is clearly more interested than someone who has only visited once or twice in the past year. Marketing automation software lets you assign values to certain actions and interactions so that it can calculate a score for that lead.

Marketing automation also lets you segment your database of contacts to a very high degree so you can deliver messages to very specific types of people. For example, when working with a B2B business, a marketer might want to target messages to people with certain job titles who work at businesses of a certain size. With B2C sales, a retailer might want to segment their lists to give special offers to people who have spent a certain amount of money with the company or send product recommendations to people who live in certain locations.

Building and maintaining a contact database

There’s no easy way around it: Building a high-quality database of contacts takes time. Marketing automation should come into play once you already have a fairly sizeable database of contacts to work with, but you will need to keep adding new names to that database on a regular basis.

One of the most effective ways to build a database of highly qualified contacts is by creating informative content. Blog content is great for providing high-level information, and it helps businesses build trust and establish themselves as an authority in their field. On the other hand, things like whitepapers and e-books are best for attracting people who want more in-depth information on a subject and are more inclined to be interested in what a business is offering, which is why those types of content are usually gated. With gated content, a person’s contact information is essentially the price of accessing the content.

For businesses that offer a service, free trials are an excellent way to get contact information since the people who sign up for them are obviously interested in what’s being offered.

Just say “no” to purchased lists

Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to buy a list of contacts. Purchased lists may give you a quick boost up front, but they’ll work against you in the long run.

First of all, high-quality lists of contacts aren’t for sale. The kinds of lists you can buy or rent are typically full of invalid and abandoned email addresses. Even if a person actually does see your message, they likely either won’t be interested or will be skeptical about doing business with a company they’re not familiar with.

If you were to start sending messages to a list full of contacts of questionable quality, you’ll most likely end up with high bounce rates, lots of unsubscriptions, low open rates, and a whole lot of abuse reports. Email service providers pay attention to those sorts of metrics and if they start seeing them on a regular basis, they’ll view you as a spammer, which will only make it harder for you to get your message to more qualified leads once you have them.

Best practices for marketing automation messaging

Get to the point

Make your point quickly and make it clear. We all have a limited amount of time each day and one thing people have little patience for is long messages. People just want to know what’s in it for them. How would your product or service solve their problem? What’s unique about what you’re offering?

Keep it active

By implementing marketing automation strategies, you’re trying to keep people engaged. Therefore, your messages should be written in an active tone and encourage recipients to take some kind of action, whether it’s downloading a whitepaper, reading a blog post, watching a video, or making a purchase.

Remember where people are in the process

Don’t forget that some types of content will be more appealing than others depending on where a person is in the conversion funnel. People who are just starting to learn more about a company or product are not going to be happy if they get hit with a hard sell, but highly promotional content could potentially be effective on someone further down in the conversion funnel.

Avoid looking spammy

When used correctly, marketing automation is not spam — we’ll talk more about why that is in just a little bit. But don’t give your contacts the wrong impression. Certain things will always look spammy, such as typing in all capital letters, overusing the color red, and using too many links in the body of the message. If you’re going to use symbols in your subject lines or messages, don’t use too many of them. Avoid using words known to trigger spam filters.

If you’re unfamiliar with the CAN-SPAM Act, take some time to learn about what it means for your campaign. Subject lines need to be accurate and not misleading. Companies that send marketing messages through email need to provide a physical mailing address. (PO box addresses are allowed.) You also need to provide an unsubscribe option in all messages and make sure all opt-out requests are honored as soon as possible.

Hone your list

Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to contact lists. One of the key goals for marketing automation is to get your message to precisely the right people. Pay close attention to your metrics so you know who your most qualified leads are and get rid of the ones who aren’t responding anymore. You’re better off with a smaller list of highly qualified leads than with a large list of contacts who don’t care. If it’s been months since a person last opened a message from you, just remove them from your list and focus more on the leads who are more interested.

Misconceptions about marketing automation

It’s impersonal

When done correctly, marketing automation can and should feel personal. In all fairness, it’s easy to understand how people get the wrong impression here — after all, the word “automation” is usually associated with things like computerization and robots. But for a marketing automation strategy to be successful, there needs to be a human touch behind it. Marketing automation simply makes it easier for you to get your message out there. It’s up to you to come up with content that will appeal to people and to create the strategy for getting it out there.

It’s spam

We all know how obnoxious spam is — marketers included. Marketers also understand how ineffective it is. While spam is an unsolicited message promoting something irrelevant to the vast majority of its recipients, the goal of marketing automation is to deliver highly relevant messages to users who clearly express an interest in it.

Unlike spam, marketing automation also frequently involves non-promotional content. Marketing automation messages absolutely can be promotional in nature, but ultimately, the goal is to foster positive relationships by offering something of value — and that doesn’t always involve a hard sell.

You can set it and forget it

This is another case where the word “automation” can give the wrong impression. When you think of something being automated, it’s easy to think you can just set it up, sit back, and let it run on its own. In reality, marketing automation is anything but a hands-off process. Marketing automation needs constant attention and refinement to make sure it’s as successful as possible. Many people use the A/B testing functionality of marketing automation software to run ongoing tests to see which sorts of content, subject lines, design variations, and CTAs people best respond to.

It’s just email marketing

Email is a significant part of marketing automation, but marketing automation isn’t just a new name for email marketing.

First of all, the types of messages involved in basic email marketing and marketing automation are distinctly different. When most people think of email marketing, they’re thinking of broad email blasts that go out to an entire list of contacts, but that’s just what you’re trying to avoid doing with marketing automation. Marketing automation messages are much more fine-tuned to a user’s interests and needs. Although basic email marketing programs do allow for some list segmentation, marketing automation programs allow you to get much more hyper-segmented.

Basic email marketing and marketing automation programs also offer different functionality and insights. While regular email marketing platforms give some basic information about how people interact with your message, marketing automation programs offer more measurable, in-depth insights.

While marketing automation offers a lot of benefits, it’s not going to be an ideal solution for all businesses. For some types of businesses, basic email marketing is all they really need. Studies have shown that marketers often feel like marketing automation software isn’t worth the investment, but many marketers also fail to use it to its full potential or businesses try using it before they have a large enough database of contacts to truly make it worthwhile. Before using marketing automation, the key things to consider are whether or not you have the time and resources to dedicate to training on the software so they can use it to its full potential.

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!

“”

Optimizing Sites for Featured Snippets with Q&ampA Content [Situation Study]

Published by featured snippets, ads, map packs, along with other SERP layouts which are dominating the area too.

Because short-tail keywords have such broad search intents, it’s within the search engine’s welfare to respond to questions directly in SERPs. That’s the intent of featured snippets. If your internet search engine has the capacity to answer a user’s query without one departing the outcomes page, they feel that gives the very best result. And also the proliferation of featured snippets is just beginning. Based on Internet Search Engine Land, 19.45% of queries displays wealthy solutions (a kind of featured snippets) in the search engines.

Searching for “what is orthodontics” within an incognito Google Chrome window displayed the next featured snippet:

orthodontics Google Search.png

This google listing satisfies a minumum of one large search intent: “What is orthodontics?” I personally use this for example because my agency and I used to be looking to get a customer to position with this keyword for a while. These were a verbal practice with locations over the US that offered both orthodontic and general dental procedures. We’d enhanced their locations for his or her orthodontic procedures, but we would have liked to have their non-localized service pages to position too to be able to draw new patients which may be just starting out of searching for any new orthodontist. But with no local qualifier, it had been nearly impossible to find the web pages to position for that short-tail searches.

Following a year and alter of writing, optimizing, re-writing, and re-optimizing the information — all while link building — we were not getting any movement with this organic rankings. It appeared that business websites weren’t designed to rank well for these short-tail keywords. Content creators have lengthy lamented that featured snippets don’t attribute in which the content within the SERP originates from, thus leaching traffic from the site.

We thought that wealthy snippets in SERPs would be prominent — particularly with mobile and voice search increasing — which, even without correct attribution, it might benefit our client to look in these kinds of search engine results, particularly if we could rank in lengthy-tail, question-oriented searches. When we could rank inside a featured snippet, in which a potential consumer was asking an issue in regards to a service that people provide, it might benefit us to reply to that question on their behalf. Not just would we attain the coveted “zero position,” we’d position our client as government bodies within their vertical, potentially growing conversions.

With this thought, we started developing the process that will ultimately bring us to ranking in featured snippet searches.

Q&A content

Question and answer content online is rather standard. A lot of companies will set Faq’s (FAQ) content on their own sites to assist users with any queries they’ve already rather of answering them directly. Noting the prevalence of featured snippets in SERPs, we used the Q&A format to produce new content to discover: a) could we rank well for these queries? and b) wouldn’t it benefit our client to position during these queries?

Research & article marketing

Using SEMRush, we conducted market and keyword research to locate lengthy-tail keywords rich in monthly search volumes. A few of the phrases we made the decision to produce the information around were “how lengthy will it take to use braces,” “how much does Invisalign cost without being insured,Inches along with other similar queries. We requested our client’s call team and Livechat correspondents to transmit us probably the most-requested questions they receive about orthodontics. The questions the internal teams provided were mainly about prices and insurance. These details was vital for the new Q&A content, because it permitted us to produce solutions we understood our users were searching for.

While researching current featured snippets, we gleaned the content must highlight the solution, and not the answerer. Meaning, the information must be straightforward and answer the query with no marketing fluff. We ensured our headers incorporated the targeted keyword, combined with the title tags. When the content was produced, we placed each question within the primary navigation bar on the website, with every one resulting in another website landing page.

Backlink building

Since many SEOs will explain, backlinks continue to be an essential ranking factor. It had been our thought that link building to the new Q&A content could be crucial in making certain it rated well. We built links solely via sites like Quora and Reddit, the concept because they are places where individuals happen to be asking them questions that people can answer as experts, while backlinking to the site. To prevent spamming, we limited the amount of links that people built monthly.

Results

Following a year of collecting data, we are able to with confidence state that not just were we effective to get the website to position for any featured snippet, but visitors to the orthodontics content elevated by 46.10%, conversions in the content elevated by 235%, and also the rate of conversion elevated by 129.30%.

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs.jpg

Organic sessions towards the orthodontic Q&A content

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs2.jpg

Organic conversions from orthodontic Q&A content

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs3.jpg

Organic rate of conversion from orthodontic Q&A content

The outcomes were much more striking on mobile, where traffic elevated by 91.46%, conversions elevated by 322.22%, and rate of conversion elevated by 120.53%.

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs4.jpg

Mobile organic sessions towards the orthodontic Q&A content

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs5.jpg

Mobile organic conversions from orthodontic Q&A content

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs6.jpg

Mobile organic rate of conversion from orthodontic Q&A content

Measurement method

With this study we simply checked out organic and mobile organic traffic. We only checked out traffic that arrived on our website through the orthodontics content (meaning we simply measured users that joined the website via among the orthodontics pages from your organic source).

Attention metrics

It ought to be noted this implementation wasn’t effective in each and every facet. Probably the most important goals for brand new submissions are ensuring users build relationships it. And also at Rebuild Group, we normally measure content engagement through attention metrics: pages/session, average time on-site, bounce rate, etc.

Upon collecting the information, we observed that attention metrics decreased annually. Our hypothesis is the fact that since the submissions are both designed to answer an issue and it is easily digestible, users were more prone to leave the website after their question was clarified. It explains why traffic, conversions, and rate of conversion elevated a lot annually and a focus metrics decreased.

Rankings

Most significant for this experiment, we could have our website rank within the first position — or zero position — searching recent results for the query “how lengthy would you put on invisalign each day,Inches whilst ranking on page one (though and not the first position) for other Q&A orthodontic terms.

how long do you wear invisalign a day 3:14:17.png

We began ranking within the first position with this term in mid-The month of january, though we lost the ranking shortly after that. We started to consistently rank within the first position in March and still rated there at this moment.

Our belief is the fact that simply by answering the issue and such as the keyword in crawlable areas of the information, we could rank within the first position for our targeted Q&A phrases, producing a featured snippet.

Conversions

Conversions were measured as the amount of contact page submissions sent during sessions in which a user joined the website through the orthodontic content. As pointed out above, conversions and conversions for those organic and mobile organic traffic elevated greatly annually. However, the results weren’t seen until 9 several weeks in to the experiment.

Once the traffic was measured at 90 and 180 days, organic visitors to the brand new content was continuously growing overall and via cellular devices, but conversions and rate of conversion hadn’t increased when compared to previous year. It was not until 270 days in, whenever we first rated within the featured snippet SERP, that conversions started to improve.

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs7.jpg

Organic visitors to the orthodontic Q&A content

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs8.jpg

Organic conversions from orthodontic Q&A content

After we were consistently ranking within the first position for any featured snippet SERP, whilst ranking on page one of SERPs for other queries, our conversions and conversions started to greatly increase.

Google Home

As mentioned earlier, voice search is rising. After we could rank like a featured snippet inside a targeted SERP, we would have liked to find out if that featured snippet would affect how Google Home provided a solution to the targeted query:

*Note: This video was recorded on my cell phone, therefore the quality isn’t the best. You may want to show up your volume to listen to the issue and answer.

As you can tell, Google Home clearly attributes the solution to our client, solutions the issue, after which transmits the consumer towards the Home Application, where the reply is again proven:

IMG_1667.PNG

After that they are able to click on towards the site on their own mobile phone:

IMG_1668.PNG

Within the finish we came a powerful correlation between your implementation from the Q&A orthodontics content, ranking highly in wealthy snippet SERPs, and elevated conversions and conversions. But like several things Search engine optimization, there aren’t any definites when applying this sort of strategy. We implemented content that drove users to some site that offered services these were searching for. Someone searching “how to boil water” isn’t likely searching to purchase new containers and pans. Ultimately, you need to understand what your users are searching for and focus on their searches. Once you are here to answer their questions with simple, to-the-point content, the remainder is simple.

Join The Moz Top Ten, a semimonthly mailer updating you on top ten hottest bits of Search engine optimization news, tips, and rad links uncovered through the Moz team. Consider it as being your exclusive digest of stuff you do not have time for you to search lower but wish to read!

Published by featured snippets, ads, map packs, along with other SERP layouts which are dominating the area too.

Because short-tail keywords have such broad search intents, it’s within the search engine’s welfare to respond to questions directly in SERPs. That’s the intent of featured snippets. If your internet search engine has the capacity to answer a user’s query without one departing the outcomes page, they feel that gives the very best result. And also the proliferation of featured snippets is just beginning. Based on Internet Search Engine Land, 19.45% of queries displays wealthy solutions (a kind of featured snippets) in the search engines.

Searching for “what is orthodontics” within an incognito Google Chrome window displayed the next featured snippet:

orthodontics Google Search.png

This google listing satisfies a minumum of one large search intent: “What is orthodontics?” I personally use this for example because my agency and I used to be looking to get a customer to position with this keyword for a while. These were a verbal practice with locations over the US that offered both orthodontic and general dental procedures. We’d enhanced their locations for his or her orthodontic procedures, but we would have liked to have their non-localized service pages to position too to be able to draw new patients which may be just starting out of searching for any new orthodontist. But with no local qualifier, it had been nearly impossible to find the web pages to position for that short-tail searches.

Following a year and alter of writing, optimizing, re-writing, and re-optimizing the information — all while link building — we were not getting any movement with this organic rankings. It appeared that business websites weren’t designed to rank well for these short-tail keywords. Content creators have lengthy lamented that featured snippets don’t attribute in which the content within the SERP originates from, thus leaching traffic from the site.

We thought that wealthy snippets in SERPs would be prominent — particularly with mobile and voice search increasing — which, even without correct attribution, it might benefit our client to look in these kinds of search engine results, particularly if we could rank in lengthy-tail, question-oriented searches. When we could rank inside a featured snippet, in which a potential consumer was asking an issue in regards to a service that people provide, it might benefit us to reply to that question on their behalf. Not just would we attain the coveted “zero position,” we’d position our client as government bodies within their vertical, potentially growing conversions.

With this thought, we started developing the process that will ultimately bring us to ranking in featured snippet searches.

Q&A content

Question and answer content online is rather standard. A lot of companies will set Faq’s (FAQ) content on their own sites to assist users with any queries they’ve already rather of answering them directly. Noting the prevalence of featured snippets in SERPs, we used the Q&A format to produce new content to discover: a) could we rank well for these queries? and b) wouldn’t it benefit our client to position during these queries?

Research & article marketing

Using SEMRush, we conducted market and keyword research to locate lengthy-tail keywords rich in monthly search volumes. A few of the phrases we made the decision to produce the information around were “how lengthy will it take to use braces,” “how much does Invisalign cost without being insured,Inches along with other similar queries. We requested our client’s call team and Livechat correspondents to transmit us probably the most-requested questions they receive about orthodontics. The questions the internal teams provided were mainly about prices and insurance. These details was vital for the new Q&A content, because it permitted us to produce solutions we understood our users were searching for.

While researching current featured snippets, we gleaned the content must highlight the solution, and not the answerer. Meaning, the information must be straightforward and answer the query with no marketing fluff. We ensured our headers incorporated the targeted keyword, combined with the title tags. When the content was produced, we placed each question within the primary navigation bar on the website, with every one resulting in another website landing page.

Backlink building

Since many SEOs will explain, backlinks continue to be an essential ranking factor. It had been our thought that link building to the new Q&A content could be crucial in making certain it rated well. We built links solely via sites like Quora and Reddit, the concept because they are places where individuals happen to be asking them questions that people can answer as experts, while backlinking to the site. To prevent spamming, we limited the amount of links that people built monthly.

Results

Following a year of collecting data, we are able to with confidence state that not just were we effective to get the website to position for any featured snippet, but visitors to the orthodontics content elevated by 46.10%, conversions in the content elevated by 235%, and also the rate of conversion elevated by 129.30%.

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs.jpg

Organic sessions towards the orthodontic Q&A content

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs2.jpg

Organic conversions from orthodontic Q&A content

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs3.jpg

Organic rate of conversion from orthodontic Q&A content

The outcomes were much more striking on mobile, where traffic elevated by 91.46%, conversions elevated by 322.22%, and rate of conversion elevated by 120.53%.

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs4.jpg

Mobile organic sessions towards the orthodontic Q&A content

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs5.jpg

Mobile organic conversions from orthodontic Q&A content

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs6.jpg

Mobile organic rate of conversion from orthodontic Q&A content

Measurement method

With this study we simply checked out organic and mobile organic traffic. We only checked out traffic that arrived on our website through the orthodontics content (meaning we simply measured users that joined the website via among the orthodontics pages from your organic source).

Attention metrics

It ought to be noted this implementation wasn’t effective in each and every facet. Probably the most important goals for brand new submissions are ensuring users build relationships it. And also at Rebuild Group, we normally measure content engagement through attention metrics: pages/session, average time on-site, bounce rate, etc.

Upon collecting the information, we observed that attention metrics decreased annually. Our hypothesis is the fact that since the submissions are both designed to answer an issue and it is easily digestible, users were more prone to leave the website after their question was clarified. It explains why traffic, conversions, and rate of conversion elevated a lot annually and a focus metrics decreased.

Rankings

Most significant for this experiment, we could have our website rank within the first position — or zero position — searching recent results for the query “how lengthy would you put on invisalign each day,Inches whilst ranking on page one (though and not the first position) for other Q&A orthodontic terms.

how long do you wear invisalign a day 3:14:17.png

We began ranking within the first position with this term in mid-The month of january, though we lost the ranking shortly after that. We started to consistently rank within the first position in March and still rated there at this moment.

Our belief is the fact that simply by answering the issue and such as the keyword in crawlable areas of the information, we could rank within the first position for our targeted Q&A phrases, producing a featured snippet.

Conversions

Conversions were measured as the amount of contact page submissions sent during sessions in which a user joined the website through the orthodontic content. As pointed out above, conversions and conversions for those organic and mobile organic traffic elevated greatly annually. However, the results weren’t seen until 9 several weeks in to the experiment.

Once the traffic was measured at 90 and 180 days, organic visitors to the brand new content was continuously growing overall and via cellular devices, but conversions and rate of conversion hadn’t increased when compared to previous year. It was not until 270 days in, whenever we first rated within the featured snippet SERP, that conversions started to improve.

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs7.jpg

Organic visitors to the orthodontic Q&A content

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs8.jpg

Organic conversions from orthodontic Q&A content

After we were consistently ranking within the first position for any featured snippet SERP, whilst ranking on page one of SERPs for other queries, our conversions and conversions started to greatly increase.

Google Home

As mentioned earlier, voice search is rising. After we could rank like a featured snippet inside a targeted SERP, we would have liked to find out if that featured snippet would affect how Google Home provided a solution to the targeted query:

*Note: This video was recorded on my cell phone, therefore the quality isn’t the best. You may want to show up your volume to listen to the issue and answer.

As you can tell, Google Home clearly attributes the solution to our client, solutions the issue, after which transmits the consumer towards the Home Application, where the reply is again proven:

IMG_1667.PNG

After that they are able to click on towards the site on their own mobile phone:

IMG_1668.PNG

Within the finish we came a powerful correlation between your implementation from the Q&A orthodontics content, ranking highly in wealthy snippet SERPs, and elevated conversions and conversions. But like several things Search engine optimization, there aren’t any definites when applying this sort of strategy. We implemented content that drove users to some site that offered services these were searching for. Someone searching “how to boil water” isn’t likely searching to purchase new containers and pans. Ultimately, you need to understand what your users are searching for and focus on their searches. Once you are here to answer their questions with simple, to-the-point content, the remainder is simple.

Join The Moz Top Ten, a semimonthly mailer updating you on top ten hottest bits of Search engine optimization news, tips, and rad links uncovered through the Moz team. Consider it as being your exclusive digest of stuff you do not have time for you to search lower but wish to read!

“”

Is the New, Most Powerful Ranking Factor "Searcher Task Accomplishment?" – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Searcher Task Accomplishment

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

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week, we’re chatting about a new Google ranking factor.

Now, I want to be clear. This is not something that’s directly in Google’s algorithm for sure. It’s just that they’re measuring a lot of things that lead us to this conclusion. This is essentially what Google is optimizing toward with all of their ranking signals, and therefore it’s what SEOs nowadays have to think about optimizing for with our content. And that is searcher task accomplishment.

So what do I mean by this? Well, look, when someone does a search like “disinfect a cut,” they’re trying to actually accomplish something. In fact, no matter what someone is searching for, it’s not just that they want a set of results. They’re actually trying to solve a problem. For Google, the results that solve that problem fastest and best and with the most quality are the ones that they want to rank.

In the past, they’ve had to do all sorts of algorithms to try and get at this from obtuse angles. But now, with a lot of the work that they’re doing around measuring engagement and with all of the data that’s coming to them through Chrome and through Android, they’re able to get much, much closer to what is truly accomplishing the searcher’s task. That’s because they really want results that satisfy the query and fulfill the searcher’s task.

So pretty much every — I’m excluding navigational searches — but every informational and transactional type of search — I mean, navigational, they just want to go to that website — but informational and transactional search query is basically this. It’s I have an expression of need. That’s what I’m telling Google. But behind that, there’s a bunch of underlying goals, things that I want to do. I want to know information. I want to accomplish something. I want to complete an activity.

When I do that, when I perform my search, I have this sort of evaluation of results. Is this going to help me do what I want? Then I choose one, and then I figure out whether that result actually helps me complete my task. If it does, I might have discovery of additional needs around that, like once you’ve answered my disinfect a cut, now it’s, okay, now I kind of want to know how to prevent an infection, because you described using disinfectant and then you said infections are real scary. So let me go look up how do I prevent that from happening. So there’s that discovery of additional needs. Or you decide, hey, this did not help me complete my task. I’m going to go back to evaluation of results, or I’m going to go back to my expression of need in the form of a different search query.

That’s what gives Google the information to say, “Yes, this result helped the searcher accomplish their task,” or, “No, this result did not help them do it.”

Some examples of searcher task accomplishment

This is true for a bunch of things. I’ll walk you through some examples.

If I search for how to get a book published, that’s an expression of need. But underlying that is a bunch of different goals like, well, you’re going to be asking about like traditional versus self-publishing, and then you’re going to want to know about agents and publishers and the publishing process and the pitch process, which is very involved. Then you’re going to get into things like covers and book marketing and tracking sales and all this different stuff, because once you reach your evaluation down here and you get into discovery of additional needs, you find all these other things that you need to know.

If I search for “invest in Ethereum,” well maybe I know enough to start investing right away, but probably, especially recently because there’s been a ton of search activity around it, I probably need to understand: What the heck is the blockchain and what is cryptocurrency, this blockchain-powered currency system, and what’s the market for that like, and what has it been doing lately, and what’s my purchase process, and where can I actually go to buy it, and what do I have to do to complete that transaction?

If I search for something like “FHA loans,” well that might mean I’m in the mindset of thinking about real estate. I’m buying usually my first house for an FHA loan, and that means that I need to know things about conditions by region and the application process and what are the providers in my area and how can I go apply, all of these different things.

If I do a search for “Seattle event venues,” well that means I’m probably looking for a list of multiple event venues, and then I need to narrow down my selection by the criteria I care about, like region, capacity, the price, the amenities. Then once I have all that, I need contact information so that I can go to them.

In all of these scenarios, Google is going to reward the results that help me accomplish the task, discover the additional needs, and solve those additional needs as well, rather than the ones that maybe provide a slice of what I need and then make me go back to the search results and choose something else or change my query to figure out more.

Google is also going to reward, and you can see this in all these results, they’re going to reward ones that give me all the information I need, that help me accomplish my task before they ask for something in return. The ones that are basically just a landing page that say, “Oh yeah, Seattle event venues, enter your email address and all this other information, and we’ll be in touch with a list of venues that are right for you.” Yeah, guess what? It doesn’t matter how many links you have, you are not ranking, my friends.

That is so different from how it used to be. It used to be that you could have that contact form. You could have that on there. You could not solve the searcher’s query. You could basically be very conversion rate-focused on your page, and so long as you could get the right links and the right anchor text and use the right keywords on the page, guess what? You could rank. Those days are ending. I’m not going to say they’re gone, but they are ending, and this new era of searcher task accomplishment is here.

Challenge: The conflict between SEO & CRO

There’s a challenge. I want to be totally up front that there is a real challenge and a problem between this world of optimizing for searcher task accomplishment and the classic world of we want our conversions. So the CRO in your organization, which might be your director of marketing or it might be your CEO, or maybe if your team is big enough, you might have a CRO specialist, conversation rate optimization specialist, on hand. They’re thinking, “Hey, I need the highest percent of form completions possible.”

So when someone lands on this page, I’m trying to get from two percent to four percent. How do we get four percent of people visiting this page to complete the form? That means removing distractions. That means not providing information up front. That means having a great teaser that says like, “Hey, we can give this to you, and here are testimonials that say we can provide this information. But let’s not give it right up front. Don’t give away the golden goose, my friend. We want these conversions. We need to get our qualified leads into the funnel,” versus the SEO, who today has to think about, “How do I get searchers to accomplish their task without friction?” This lead capture form, that’s friction.

So every organization, I think, needs to decide which way they’re going to go. Are they going to go for basically long-term SEO, which is I’m going to solve the searcher’s task, and then I’m going to figure out ways later to monetize and to capture value? Or am I going to basically lose out in the search results to people who are willing to do this and go this route instead and drive traffic from other sources? Maybe I’ll rank with different pages and I’ll send some people here, or maybe I will pay for my traffic, or I’ll try and do some barnacle SEO and get links from people who do rank up top there, but I won’t do it directly myself. This is a choice we all have.

How do we nail searcher task accomplishment?

All right. So how do you do this? Let’s say you’ve gone the SEO path. You’ve decided, “Yes, Rand, I’m in. I want to help the searcher accomplish their task. I recognize that I’m going to have to be willing to sacrifice some conversion rate optimization.” Well, there are two things here.

1. Gain a deep understanding of what drives searchers to search.

2. What makes some searchers come away unsatisfied.

Once they’ve performed this query, why do they click the back button? Why do they choose a different result? Why do they change their query to something else? There are ways we can figure out both of these.

To help with number 1 try:

Some of the best things that you can do are talk to people who actually have those problems and who are actually performing those searches or have performed them through…

  • Interviews
  • Surveys

I will provide you with a link to a document that I did around specifically how to get a book published. I did a survey that I ran that looked at searcher task accomplishment and what people hoped that content would have for them, and you can see the results are quite remarkable. I’ll actually embed my presentation on searcher task accomplishment in this Whiteboard Friday and make sure to link to that as well.

  • In-person conversations, and powerful things can come out of those that you wouldn’t get through remote or through email.
  • You can certainly look at competitors. So check out what your competitors are saying and what they’re doing that you may not have considered yet.
  • You can try putting yourself in your searcher’s shoes.

What if I searched for disinfect a cut? What would I want to know? What if I searched for FHA loans? I’m buying a house for the first time, what am I thinking about? Well, I’m thinking about a bunch of things. I’m thinking about price and neighborhood and all this. Okay, how do I accomplish all that in my content, or at least how do I provide navigation so that people can accomplish all that without having to go back to the search results?

To help with number 2 try:

Understanding what makes those searchers come away unsatisfied.

  • Auto-suggest and related searches are great. In fact, related searches, which are at the very bottom of the page in a set of search results, are usually searches people performed after they performed the initial search. I say usually because there can be some other things in there. But usually someone who searched for FHA loans then searches for jumbo loans or 30-year fixed loans or mortgage rates or those kinds of things. That’s the next step. So you can say, “You know what? I know what you want next. Let me go help you.” Auto-suggest related searches, those are great for that.
  • Internal search analytics for people who landed on a page and performed a site search or clicked on a Next link on your site. What did they want to do? Where did they want to go next? That helps tell you what those people need.
  • Having conversations with those who only got partway through your funnel. So if you have a lead capture at some point or you collect email at some point, you can reach out to people who initially came to you for a solution but didn’t get all the way through that process and talk to them.
  • Tracking the SERPs and watching who rises vs falls in the rankings. Finally, if you track the search results, generally speaking what we see here at Moz, what I see for almost all the results I’m tracking is that more and more people who do a great job of this, of searcher task accomplishment, are rising in the rankings, and the folks who are not are falling.

So over time, if you watch those in your spaces and do some rank tracking competitively, you can see what types of content is helping people accomplish those tasks and what Google is rewarding.

That said, I look forward to your comments. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Why We Can’t Do SEO WIthout CRO from Rand Fishkin

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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!

Posted by Searcher Task Accomplishment

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

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week, we’re chatting about a new Google ranking factor.

Now, I want to be clear. This is not something that’s directly in Google’s algorithm for sure. It’s just that they’re measuring a lot of things that lead us to this conclusion. This is essentially what Google is optimizing toward with all of their ranking signals, and therefore it’s what SEOs nowadays have to think about optimizing for with our content. And that is searcher task accomplishment.

So what do I mean by this? Well, look, when someone does a search like “disinfect a cut,” they’re trying to actually accomplish something. In fact, no matter what someone is searching for, it’s not just that they want a set of results. They’re actually trying to solve a problem. For Google, the results that solve that problem fastest and best and with the most quality are the ones that they want to rank.

In the past, they’ve had to do all sorts of algorithms to try and get at this from obtuse angles. But now, with a lot of the work that they’re doing around measuring engagement and with all of the data that’s coming to them through Chrome and through Android, they’re able to get much, much closer to what is truly accomplishing the searcher’s task. That’s because they really want results that satisfy the query and fulfill the searcher’s task.

So pretty much every — I’m excluding navigational searches — but every informational and transactional type of search — I mean, navigational, they just want to go to that website — but informational and transactional search query is basically this. It’s I have an expression of need. That’s what I’m telling Google. But behind that, there’s a bunch of underlying goals, things that I want to do. I want to know information. I want to accomplish something. I want to complete an activity.

When I do that, when I perform my search, I have this sort of evaluation of results. Is this going to help me do what I want? Then I choose one, and then I figure out whether that result actually helps me complete my task. If it does, I might have discovery of additional needs around that, like once you’ve answered my disinfect a cut, now it’s, okay, now I kind of want to know how to prevent an infection, because you described using disinfectant and then you said infections are real scary. So let me go look up how do I prevent that from happening. So there’s that discovery of additional needs. Or you decide, hey, this did not help me complete my task. I’m going to go back to evaluation of results, or I’m going to go back to my expression of need in the form of a different search query.

That’s what gives Google the information to say, “Yes, this result helped the searcher accomplish their task,” or, “No, this result did not help them do it.”

Some examples of searcher task accomplishment

This is true for a bunch of things. I’ll walk you through some examples.

If I search for how to get a book published, that’s an expression of need. But underlying that is a bunch of different goals like, well, you’re going to be asking about like traditional versus self-publishing, and then you’re going to want to know about agents and publishers and the publishing process and the pitch process, which is very involved. Then you’re going to get into things like covers and book marketing and tracking sales and all this different stuff, because once you reach your evaluation down here and you get into discovery of additional needs, you find all these other things that you need to know.

If I search for “invest in Ethereum,” well maybe I know enough to start investing right away, but probably, especially recently because there’s been a ton of search activity around it, I probably need to understand: What the heck is the blockchain and what is cryptocurrency, this blockchain-powered currency system, and what’s the market for that like, and what has it been doing lately, and what’s my purchase process, and where can I actually go to buy it, and what do I have to do to complete that transaction?

If I search for something like “FHA loans,” well that might mean I’m in the mindset of thinking about real estate. I’m buying usually my first house for an FHA loan, and that means that I need to know things about conditions by region and the application process and what are the providers in my area and how can I go apply, all of these different things.

If I do a search for “Seattle event venues,” well that means I’m probably looking for a list of multiple event venues, and then I need to narrow down my selection by the criteria I care about, like region, capacity, the price, the amenities. Then once I have all that, I need contact information so that I can go to them.

In all of these scenarios, Google is going to reward the results that help me accomplish the task, discover the additional needs, and solve those additional needs as well, rather than the ones that maybe provide a slice of what I need and then make me go back to the search results and choose something else or change my query to figure out more.

Google is also going to reward, and you can see this in all these results, they’re going to reward ones that give me all the information I need, that help me accomplish my task before they ask for something in return. The ones that are basically just a landing page that say, “Oh yeah, Seattle event venues, enter your email address and all this other information, and we’ll be in touch with a list of venues that are right for you.” Yeah, guess what? It doesn’t matter how many links you have, you are not ranking, my friends.

That is so different from how it used to be. It used to be that you could have that contact form. You could have that on there. You could not solve the searcher’s query. You could basically be very conversion rate-focused on your page, and so long as you could get the right links and the right anchor text and use the right keywords on the page, guess what? You could rank. Those days are ending. I’m not going to say they’re gone, but they are ending, and this new era of searcher task accomplishment is here.

Challenge: The conflict between SEO & CRO

There’s a challenge. I want to be totally up front that there is a real challenge and a problem between this world of optimizing for searcher task accomplishment and the classic world of we want our conversions. So the CRO in your organization, which might be your director of marketing or it might be your CEO, or maybe if your team is big enough, you might have a CRO specialist, conversation rate optimization specialist, on hand. They’re thinking, “Hey, I need the highest percent of form completions possible.”

So when someone lands on this page, I’m trying to get from two percent to four percent. How do we get four percent of people visiting this page to complete the form? That means removing distractions. That means not providing information up front. That means having a great teaser that says like, “Hey, we can give this to you, and here are testimonials that say we can provide this information. But let’s not give it right up front. Don’t give away the golden goose, my friend. We want these conversions. We need to get our qualified leads into the funnel,” versus the SEO, who today has to think about, “How do I get searchers to accomplish their task without friction?” This lead capture form, that’s friction.

So every organization, I think, needs to decide which way they’re going to go. Are they going to go for basically long-term SEO, which is I’m going to solve the searcher’s task, and then I’m going to figure out ways later to monetize and to capture value? Or am I going to basically lose out in the search results to people who are willing to do this and go this route instead and drive traffic from other sources? Maybe I’ll rank with different pages and I’ll send some people here, or maybe I will pay for my traffic, or I’ll try and do some barnacle SEO and get links from people who do rank up top there, but I won’t do it directly myself. This is a choice we all have.

How do we nail searcher task accomplishment?

All right. So how do you do this? Let’s say you’ve gone the SEO path. You’ve decided, “Yes, Rand, I’m in. I want to help the searcher accomplish their task. I recognize that I’m going to have to be willing to sacrifice some conversion rate optimization.” Well, there are two things here.

1. Gain a deep understanding of what drives searchers to search.

2. What makes some searchers come away unsatisfied.

Once they’ve performed this query, why do they click the back button? Why do they choose a different result? Why do they change their query to something else? There are ways we can figure out both of these.

To help with number 1 try:

Some of the best things that you can do are talk to people who actually have those problems and who are actually performing those searches or have performed them through…

  • Interviews
  • Surveys

I will provide you with a link to a document that I did around specifically how to get a book published. I did a survey that I ran that looked at searcher task accomplishment and what people hoped that content would have for them, and you can see the results are quite remarkable. I’ll actually embed my presentation on searcher task accomplishment in this Whiteboard Friday and make sure to link to that as well.

  • In-person conversations, and powerful things can come out of those that you wouldn’t get through remote or through email.
  • You can certainly look at competitors. So check out what your competitors are saying and what they’re doing that you may not have considered yet.
  • You can try putting yourself in your searcher’s shoes.

What if I searched for disinfect a cut? What would I want to know? What if I searched for FHA loans? I’m buying a house for the first time, what am I thinking about? Well, I’m thinking about a bunch of things. I’m thinking about price and neighborhood and all this. Okay, how do I accomplish all that in my content, or at least how do I provide navigation so that people can accomplish all that without having to go back to the search results?

To help with number 2 try:

Understanding what makes those searchers come away unsatisfied.

  • Auto-suggest and related searches are great. In fact, related searches, which are at the very bottom of the page in a set of search results, are usually searches people performed after they performed the initial search. I say usually because there can be some other things in there. But usually someone who searched for FHA loans then searches for jumbo loans or 30-year fixed loans or mortgage rates or those kinds of things. That’s the next step. So you can say, “You know what? I know what you want next. Let me go help you.” Auto-suggest related searches, those are great for that.
  • Internal search analytics for people who landed on a page and performed a site search or clicked on a Next link on your site. What did they want to do? Where did they want to go next? That helps tell you what those people need.
  • Having conversations with those who only got partway through your funnel. So if you have a lead capture at some point or you collect email at some point, you can reach out to people who initially came to you for a solution but didn’t get all the way through that process and talk to them.
  • Tracking the SERPs and watching who rises vs falls in the rankings. Finally, if you track the search results, generally speaking what we see here at Moz, what I see for almost all the results I’m tracking is that more and more people who do a great job of this, of searcher task accomplishment, are rising in the rankings, and the folks who are not are falling.

So over time, if you watch those in your spaces and do some rank tracking competitively, you can see what types of content is helping people accomplish those tasks and what Google is rewarding.

That said, I look forward to your comments. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Why We Can’t Do SEO WIthout CRO from Rand Fishkin

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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!

“”

"SEO Is Always Changing"… Or Is It?: Debunking the Myth and Getting Back to Basics

Posted by Find Your Site’s Biggest Technical Flaws in 60 Minutes – Moz blog

  • SEO Tools to Analyze Your Site Like Google Does – Hubspot blog
  • What Web Dev Taught Me About SEO – Distilled blog
  • Site structure

    In addition to making sure that your content is accessible and crawlable, it’s also important to help search engines understand the hierarchy and relative importance of that content. It can be tempting to think that every page is equally important to rank, but failing to structure your site in a hierarchical way often dilutes the impact of your “money” pages. Instead, you should think about what the most important pages are, and structure the rest of your site around these.

    When Google and other search engine crawlers visit a site, they attempt to navigate to the homepage; then click on every link. Googlebot assumes that the pages it sees the most are the most important pages. So when you can reach a page with a single click from the homepage, or when it is linked to on every page (for example, in a top or side navigation bar, or a site footer section), Googlebot will see those pages more, and will therefore consider them to be more important. For less important pages, you’ll still need to link to them from somewhere for search engines to be able to see them, but you don’t need to emphasize them quite as frequently or keep them as close to the homepage.

    The main question to ask is: Can search engines tell what your most important pages are, just by looking at the structure of your website? Google’s goal is to to save users steps, so the easier you make it for them to find and prioritize your content, the more they’ll like it.

    For more in-depth guides to good site structure, check out the following posts:

    • Information Architecture for SEO – Moz (Whiteboard Friday)
    • How to Create a Site Structure That Will Enhance SEO – Kissmetrics blog
    • How to Create a Site Structure Google Will Love – Wordtracker
    • The SEO Benefits of Developing a Solid Site Structure – Search Engine Land

    Keywords

    Once the content you create is accessible to crawlers, the next step is to make sure that you’re giving the search engines an accurate picture of what that content is about, to help them understand which search queries your pages would be relevant to. This is where keywords come into the mix.

    We use keywords to tell the search engine what each page is about, so that they can rank our content for queries which are most relevant to our website. You might hear advice to use your keywords over and over again on a page in order to rank well. The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t always create a great experience for users, and over time Google has stopped ranking pages which it perceives as being a poor user experience.

    Instead, what Google is looking for in terms of keyword usage is that you:

    1. Answer the questions that real people actually have about your topic
    2. Use the terminology that real people (specifically, your target audience) actually use to refer to your topic
    3. Use the term in the way that Google thinks real people use it (this is often referred to as “user intent” or “searcher intent”).

    You should only ever target one primary keyword (or phrase) per page. You can include “secondary” keywords, which are related to the primary keyword directly (think category vs subcategory). I sometimes see people attempting to target too many topics with a single page, in an effort to widen the net. But it is better to separate these out so that there’s a different page for each different angle on the topic.

    The easiest way to think about this is in physical terms. Search engines’ methods are roughly based on the concept of library card catalogs, and so we can imagine that Google is categorizing pages in a similar way to a library using the Dewey decimal system to categorize books. You might have a book categorized as Romance, subcategory Gothic Romance; but you wouldn’t be able to categorize it as Romance and also Horror, even though it might be related to both topics. You can’t have the same physical book on 2 different shelves in 2 different sections of the library. Keyword targeting works the same way: 1 primary topic per page.

    For more in-depth guides to keyword research and keyword targeting, check out the following posts:

    • More than Keywords: 7 Concepts of Advanced On-Page SEO – Moz blog
    • Keyword Research in 2016: Going Beyond Guesswork – Moz blog
    • Guide to Keyword Research – Backlinko
    • Complete Guide to Keyword Research for SEO – SearchEngineWatch

    Backlinks

    Another longstanding ranking factor is the number of links from other sites to your content, known as backlinks.

    It’s not enough for you to say that you’re the expert in something, if no one else sees it that way. If you were looking for a new doctor, you wouldn’t just go with the guy who says “I’m the world’s best doctor.” But if a trusted friend told you that they loved their doctor and that they thought you’d like her too, you’d almost certainly make an appointment.

    When other websites link to your site, it helps to answer the question: “Do other people see you as a trustworthy resource?” Google wants to provide correct and complete information to people’s queries. The more trusted your content is by others, the more that indicates the value of that information and your authority as an expert.

    When Google looks at a site’s backlinks, they are effectively doing the same thing that humans do when they read reviews and testimonials to decide which product to buy, which movie to see, or which restaurant to go to for dinner. If you haven’t worked with a product or business, other people’s reviews point you to what’s good and what’s not. In Google’s case, a link from another site serves as a vote of confidence for your content.

    That being said, not all backlinks are treated equally when it comes to boosting your site’s rankings. They are weighted differently according to how Google perceives the quality and authority of the site that’s doing the linking. This can feel a little confusing, but when you think about it in the context of a recommendation, it becomes a lot easier to understand whether the backlinks your site is collecting are useful or not. After all, think about the last time you saw a movie. How did you choose what to see? Maybe you checked well-known critics’ reviews, checked Rotten Tomatoes, asked friends’ opinions, looked at Netflix’s suggestions list, or saw acquaintances posting about the film on social media.

    When it comes to making a decision, who do you trust? As humans, we tend to use an (often unconscious) hierarchy of trust:

    1. Personalized recommendation: Close friends who know me well are most likely to recommend something I’ll like;
    2. Expert recommendation: Professional reviewers who are authorities on the art of film are likely to have a useful opinion, although it may not always totally match my personal taste;
    3. Popular recommendation: If a high percentage of random people liked the movie, this might mean it has a wide appeal and will likely be a good experience for me as well;
    4. Negative association: If someone is raving about a movie on social media and I know that they’re a terrible human with terrible taste… well, in the absence of other positive signals, that fact might actually influence me not to see the movie.

    To bring this back to SEO, you can think about backlinks as the SEO version of reviews. And the same hierarchy comes into play.

    1. Personalized/contextual recommendation: For local businesses or niche markets, very specific websites like a local city’s tourism site, local business directory or very in-depth, niche fan site might be the equivalent of the “best friend recommendation”. They may not be an expert in what everyone likes, but they definitely know what works for you as an individual and in some cases, that’s more valuable.
    2. Expert recommendation: Well-known sites with a lot of inherent trust, like the BBC or Harvard University, are like the established movie critics. Broadly speaking they are the most trustworthy, but possibly lacking the context for a specific person’s needs. In the absence of a highly targeted type of content or service, these will be your strongest links.
    3. Popular recommendation: All things being equal, a lot of backlinks from a lot of different sites is seen as a signal that the content is relevant and useful.
    4. Negative association: Links that are placed via spam tactics, that you buy in bulk, or that sit on sites that look like garbage, are the website equivalent of that terrible person whose recommendation actually turns you off the movie.

    If a site collects too many links from poor-quality sites, it could look like those links were bought, rather than “earned” recommendations (similar to businesses paying people to write positive reviews). Google views the buying of links as a dishonest practice, and a way of gaming their system, and therefore if they believe that you are doing this intentionally it may trigger a penalty. Even if they don’t cause a penalty, you won’t gain any real value from poor quality links, so they’re certainly not something to aim for. Because of this, some people become very risk-averse about backlinks, even the ones that came to them naturally. But as long as you are getting links from other trustworthy sources, and these high quality links make up a substantially higher percentage of your total, having a handful of lower quality sites linking to you shouldn’t prevent you from benefiting from the high quality ones.

    For more in-depth guides to backlinks, check out the following posts:

    Theory of Links

    • All Links are Not Created Equal: 10 Illustrations on Search Engines’ Valuation of Links – Moz blog
    • What Links Comply with Google’s Guidelines – Moz (Whiteboard Friday)

    Getting More Links

    • What Is Linkbuilding? – Moz (Beginner’s Guide to SEO)
    • High-Value Tactics, Future-Proof Link Building – Moz (Whiteboard Friday)
    • How to Create Content That Keeps Earning Links (Even After You Stop Promoting It) – Moz blog
    • Targeted Link Building in 2016 – Moz (Whiteboard Friday)
    • 7 Easy Local Link Building Tactics – Whitespark blog
    • Guide to Linkbuilding – Backlinko

    Mitigating Risk of Links

    • Step-by-step Guide to a Manual Backlinks Audit – Search Engine Land
    • Link Audit Guide for Effective Link Removals & Risk Mitigation – Moz blog
    • How to Conduct a Backlink Audit in 45 Minutes – Neil Patel

    Does anything about SEO actually change?

    If SEO is really this simple, why do people talk about how it changes all the time? This is where we have to separate the theory of SEO from the tactics we use as SEO professionals to grow traffic and optimize for better rankings.

    The fundamentals that we’ve covered here — crawlability, keywords, backlinks, and site structure — are the theory of SEO. But when it comes to actually making it work, you need to use tactics to optimize these areas. And this is where we see a lot of changes happening on a regular basis, because Google and the other search engines are constantly tweaking the way the algorithm understands and utilizes information from those four main areas in determining how a site’s content should rank on a results page.

    The important thing to know is that, although the tactics which people use will change all the time, the goal for the search engine is always the same: to provide searchers with the information they need, as quickly and easily as possible. That means that whatever tactics and strategies you choose to pursue, the important thing is that they enable you to optimize for your main keywords, structure your site clearly, keep your site accessible, and get more backlinks from more sites, while still keeping the quality of the site and the backlinks high.

    The quality test (EAT)

    Because Google’s goal is to provide high-quality results, the changes that they make to the algorithm are designed to improve their ability to identify the highest quality content possible. Therefore, when tactics stop working (or worse, backfire and incur penalties), it is usually related to the fact that these tactics didn’t create high-quality outputs.

    Like the fundamentals of SEO theory which we’ve already covered, the criteria that Google uses to determine whether a website or page is good quality haven’t changed all that much since the beginning. They’ve just gotten better at enforcing them. This means that you can use these criteria as a “sniff test” when considering whether a tactic is likely to be a sustainable approach long-term.

    Google themselves refer to these criteria in their Search Quality Rating Guidelines with the acronym EAT, which stands for:

    • Expertise
    • Authoritativeness
    • Trustworthiness

    In order to be viewed as high-quality content (on your own site) or a high-quality link (from another site to your site), the content needs to tick at least one of these boxes.

    Expertise

    Does this content answer a question people have? Is it a *good* answer? Do you have a more in-depth degree of knowledge about this topic than most people?

    This is why you will see people talk about Google penalizing “thin” content — that just refers to content which isn’t really worth having on its own page, because it doesn’t provide any real value to the reader.

    Authority

    Are you someone who is respected and cited by others who know something about this topic?

    This is where the value of backlinks can come in. One way to demonstrate that you are an authority on a topic is if Google sees a lot of other reputable sources referring to your content as a source or resource.

    Trust

    Are you a reputable person or business? Can you be trusted to take good care of your users and their information?

    Because trustworthiness is a factor in determining a site’s quality, Google has compiled a list of indicators which might mean a site is untrustworthy or spammy. These include things like a high proportion of ads to regular content, behavior that forces or manipulates users into taking actions they didn’t want to take, hiding some content and only showing it to search engines to manipulate rankings, not using a secure platform to take payment information, etc.

    It’s always the same end goal

    Yes, SEO can be technical, and yes, it can change rapidly. But at the end of the day, what doesn’t change is the end goal. Google and the other search engines make money through advertising, and in order to get more users to see (and click on) their ads, they have to provide a great user experience. Therefore, their goal is always going to be to give the searchers the best information they can, as easily as they can, so that people will keep using their service.

    As long as you understand this, the theory of SEO is pretty straightforward. It’s just about making it easy for Google to answer these questions:

    1. What is your site about?
      1. What information does it provide?
      2. What service or function does it provide?
    2. How do we know that you’ll provide the best answer or product or service for our users’ needs?
    3. Does your content demonstrate Expertise, Authoritativeness, and/or Trustworthiness (EAT)?

    This is why the fundamentals have changed so little, despite the fact that the industry, technology and tactics have transformed rapidly over time.

    A brief caveat

    My goal with this post is not to provide step-by-step instruction in how to “do SEO,” but rather to demystify the basic theory for those who find the topic too overwhelming to know where to start, or who believe that it’s too complicated to understand without years of study. With this goal in mind, I am intentionally taking a simplified and high-level perspective. This is not to dismiss the importance of an SEO expert in driving strategy and continuing to develop and maximize value from the search channel. My hope is that those business owners and entrepreneurs who currently feel overwhelmed by this topic can gain a better grasp on the way SEO works, and a greater confidence and ease in approaching their search strategy going forward.

    I have provided a few in-depth resources for each of the key areas — but you will likely want to hire a specialist or consultant to assist with analysis and implementation (certainly if you want to develop your search strategy beyond simply the “table stakes” as Rand calls it, you will need a more nuanced understanding of the topic than I can provide in a single blog post).

    At the end of the day, the ideas behind SEO are actually pretty simple — it’s the execution that can be more complex or simply time-consuming. That’s why it’s important to understand that theory — so that you can be more informed if and when you do decide to partner with someone who is offering that expertise. As long as you understand the basic concepts and end goal, you’ll be able to go into that process with confidence. Good luck!

    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!

    Posted by Find Your Site’s Biggest Technical Flaws in 60 Minutes – Moz blog

  • SEO Tools to Analyze Your Site Like Google Does – Hubspot blog
  • What Web Dev Taught Me About SEO – Distilled blog
  • Site structure

    In addition to making sure that your content is accessible and crawlable, it’s also important to help search engines understand the hierarchy and relative importance of that content. It can be tempting to think that every page is equally important to rank, but failing to structure your site in a hierarchical way often dilutes the impact of your “money” pages. Instead, you should think about what the most important pages are, and structure the rest of your site around these.

    When Google and other search engine crawlers visit a site, they attempt to navigate to the homepage; then click on every link. Googlebot assumes that the pages it sees the most are the most important pages. So when you can reach a page with a single click from the homepage, or when it is linked to on every page (for example, in a top or side navigation bar, or a site footer section), Googlebot will see those pages more, and will therefore consider them to be more important. For less important pages, you’ll still need to link to them from somewhere for search engines to be able to see them, but you don’t need to emphasize them quite as frequently or keep them as close to the homepage.

    The main question to ask is: Can search engines tell what your most important pages are, just by looking at the structure of your website? Google’s goal is to to save users steps, so the easier you make it for them to find and prioritize your content, the more they’ll like it.

    For more in-depth guides to good site structure, check out the following posts:

    • Information Architecture for SEO – Moz (Whiteboard Friday)
    • How to Create a Site Structure That Will Enhance SEO – Kissmetrics blog
    • How to Create a Site Structure Google Will Love – Wordtracker
    • The SEO Benefits of Developing a Solid Site Structure – Search Engine Land

    Keywords

    Once the content you create is accessible to crawlers, the next step is to make sure that you’re giving the search engines an accurate picture of what that content is about, to help them understand which search queries your pages would be relevant to. This is where keywords come into the mix.

    We use keywords to tell the search engine what each page is about, so that they can rank our content for queries which are most relevant to our website. You might hear advice to use your keywords over and over again on a page in order to rank well. The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t always create a great experience for users, and over time Google has stopped ranking pages which it perceives as being a poor user experience.

    Instead, what Google is looking for in terms of keyword usage is that you:

    1. Answer the questions that real people actually have about your topic
    2. Use the terminology that real people (specifically, your target audience) actually use to refer to your topic
    3. Use the term in the way that Google thinks real people use it (this is often referred to as “user intent” or “searcher intent”).

    You should only ever target one primary keyword (or phrase) per page. You can include “secondary” keywords, which are related to the primary keyword directly (think category vs subcategory). I sometimes see people attempting to target too many topics with a single page, in an effort to widen the net. But it is better to separate these out so that there’s a different page for each different angle on the topic.

    The easiest way to think about this is in physical terms. Search engines’ methods are roughly based on the concept of library card catalogs, and so we can imagine that Google is categorizing pages in a similar way to a library using the Dewey decimal system to categorize books. You might have a book categorized as Romance, subcategory Gothic Romance; but you wouldn’t be able to categorize it as Romance and also Horror, even though it might be related to both topics. You can’t have the same physical book on 2 different shelves in 2 different sections of the library. Keyword targeting works the same way: 1 primary topic per page.

    For more in-depth guides to keyword research and keyword targeting, check out the following posts:

    • More than Keywords: 7 Concepts of Advanced On-Page SEO – Moz blog
    • Keyword Research in 2016: Going Beyond Guesswork – Moz blog
    • Guide to Keyword Research – Backlinko
    • Complete Guide to Keyword Research for SEO – SearchEngineWatch

    Backlinks

    Another longstanding ranking factor is the number of links from other sites to your content, known as backlinks.

    It’s not enough for you to say that you’re the expert in something, if no one else sees it that way. If you were looking for a new doctor, you wouldn’t just go with the guy who says “I’m the world’s best doctor.” But if a trusted friend told you that they loved their doctor and that they thought you’d like her too, you’d almost certainly make an appointment.

    When other websites link to your site, it helps to answer the question: “Do other people see you as a trustworthy resource?” Google wants to provide correct and complete information to people’s queries. The more trusted your content is by others, the more that indicates the value of that information and your authority as an expert.

    When Google looks at a site’s backlinks, they are effectively doing the same thing that humans do when they read reviews and testimonials to decide which product to buy, which movie to see, or which restaurant to go to for dinner. If you haven’t worked with a product or business, other people’s reviews point you to what’s good and what’s not. In Google’s case, a link from another site serves as a vote of confidence for your content.

    That being said, not all backlinks are treated equally when it comes to boosting your site’s rankings. They are weighted differently according to how Google perceives the quality and authority of the site that’s doing the linking. This can feel a little confusing, but when you think about it in the context of a recommendation, it becomes a lot easier to understand whether the backlinks your site is collecting are useful or not. After all, think about the last time you saw a movie. How did you choose what to see? Maybe you checked well-known critics’ reviews, checked Rotten Tomatoes, asked friends’ opinions, looked at Netflix’s suggestions list, or saw acquaintances posting about the film on social media.

    When it comes to making a decision, who do you trust? As humans, we tend to use an (often unconscious) hierarchy of trust:

    1. Personalized recommendation: Close friends who know me well are most likely to recommend something I’ll like;
    2. Expert recommendation: Professional reviewers who are authorities on the art of film are likely to have a useful opinion, although it may not always totally match my personal taste;
    3. Popular recommendation: If a high percentage of random people liked the movie, this might mean it has a wide appeal and will likely be a good experience for me as well;
    4. Negative association: If someone is raving about a movie on social media and I know that they’re a terrible human with terrible taste… well, in the absence of other positive signals, that fact might actually influence me not to see the movie.

    To bring this back to SEO, you can think about backlinks as the SEO version of reviews. And the same hierarchy comes into play.

    1. Personalized/contextual recommendation: For local businesses or niche markets, very specific websites like a local city’s tourism site, local business directory or very in-depth, niche fan site might be the equivalent of the “best friend recommendation”. They may not be an expert in what everyone likes, but they definitely know what works for you as an individual and in some cases, that’s more valuable.
    2. Expert recommendation: Well-known sites with a lot of inherent trust, like the BBC or Harvard University, are like the established movie critics. Broadly speaking they are the most trustworthy, but possibly lacking the context for a specific person’s needs. In the absence of a highly targeted type of content or service, these will be your strongest links.
    3. Popular recommendation: All things being equal, a lot of backlinks from a lot of different sites is seen as a signal that the content is relevant and useful.
    4. Negative association: Links that are placed via spam tactics, that you buy in bulk, or that sit on sites that look like garbage, are the website equivalent of that terrible person whose recommendation actually turns you off the movie.

    If a site collects too many links from poor-quality sites, it could look like those links were bought, rather than “earned” recommendations (similar to businesses paying people to write positive reviews). Google views the buying of links as a dishonest practice, and a way of gaming their system, and therefore if they believe that you are doing this intentionally it may trigger a penalty. Even if they don’t cause a penalty, you won’t gain any real value from poor quality links, so they’re certainly not something to aim for. Because of this, some people become very risk-averse about backlinks, even the ones that came to them naturally. But as long as you are getting links from other trustworthy sources, and these high quality links make up a substantially higher percentage of your total, having a handful of lower quality sites linking to you shouldn’t prevent you from benefiting from the high quality ones.

    For more in-depth guides to backlinks, check out the following posts:

    Theory of Links

    • All Links are Not Created Equal: 10 Illustrations on Search Engines’ Valuation of Links – Moz blog
    • What Links Comply with Google’s Guidelines – Moz (Whiteboard Friday)

    Getting More Links

    • What Is Linkbuilding? – Moz (Beginner’s Guide to SEO)
    • High-Value Tactics, Future-Proof Link Building – Moz (Whiteboard Friday)
    • How to Create Content That Keeps Earning Links (Even After You Stop Promoting It) – Moz blog
    • Targeted Link Building in 2016 – Moz (Whiteboard Friday)
    • 7 Easy Local Link Building Tactics – Whitespark blog
    • Guide to Linkbuilding – Backlinko

    Mitigating Risk of Links

    • Step-by-step Guide to a Manual Backlinks Audit – Search Engine Land
    • Link Audit Guide for Effective Link Removals & Risk Mitigation – Moz blog
    • How to Conduct a Backlink Audit in 45 Minutes – Neil Patel

    Does anything about SEO actually change?

    If SEO is really this simple, why do people talk about how it changes all the time? This is where we have to separate the theory of SEO from the tactics we use as SEO professionals to grow traffic and optimize for better rankings.

    The fundamentals that we’ve covered here — crawlability, keywords, backlinks, and site structure — are the theory of SEO. But when it comes to actually making it work, you need to use tactics to optimize these areas. And this is where we see a lot of changes happening on a regular basis, because Google and the other search engines are constantly tweaking the way the algorithm understands and utilizes information from those four main areas in determining how a site’s content should rank on a results page.

    The important thing to know is that, although the tactics which people use will change all the time, the goal for the search engine is always the same: to provide searchers with the information they need, as quickly and easily as possible. That means that whatever tactics and strategies you choose to pursue, the important thing is that they enable you to optimize for your main keywords, structure your site clearly, keep your site accessible, and get more backlinks from more sites, while still keeping the quality of the site and the backlinks high.

    The quality test (EAT)

    Because Google’s goal is to provide high-quality results, the changes that they make to the algorithm are designed to improve their ability to identify the highest quality content possible. Therefore, when tactics stop working (or worse, backfire and incur penalties), it is usually related to the fact that these tactics didn’t create high-quality outputs.

    Like the fundamentals of SEO theory which we’ve already covered, the criteria that Google uses to determine whether a website or page is good quality haven’t changed all that much since the beginning. They’ve just gotten better at enforcing them. This means that you can use these criteria as a “sniff test” when considering whether a tactic is likely to be a sustainable approach long-term.

    Google themselves refer to these criteria in their Search Quality Rating Guidelines with the acronym EAT, which stands for:

    • Expertise
    • Authoritativeness
    • Trustworthiness

    In order to be viewed as high-quality content (on your own site) or a high-quality link (from another site to your site), the content needs to tick at least one of these boxes.

    Expertise

    Does this content answer a question people have? Is it a *good* answer? Do you have a more in-depth degree of knowledge about this topic than most people?

    This is why you will see people talk about Google penalizing “thin” content — that just refers to content which isn’t really worth having on its own page, because it doesn’t provide any real value to the reader.

    Authority

    Are you someone who is respected and cited by others who know something about this topic?

    This is where the value of backlinks can come in. One way to demonstrate that you are an authority on a topic is if Google sees a lot of other reputable sources referring to your content as a source or resource.

    Trust

    Are you a reputable person or business? Can you be trusted to take good care of your users and their information?

    Because trustworthiness is a factor in determining a site’s quality, Google has compiled a list of indicators which might mean a site is untrustworthy or spammy. These include things like a high proportion of ads to regular content, behavior that forces or manipulates users into taking actions they didn’t want to take, hiding some content and only showing it to search engines to manipulate rankings, not using a secure platform to take payment information, etc.

    It’s always the same end goal

    Yes, SEO can be technical, and yes, it can change rapidly. But at the end of the day, what doesn’t change is the end goal. Google and the other search engines make money through advertising, and in order to get more users to see (and click on) their ads, they have to provide a great user experience. Therefore, their goal is always going to be to give the searchers the best information they can, as easily as they can, so that people will keep using their service.

    As long as you understand this, the theory of SEO is pretty straightforward. It’s just about making it easy for Google to answer these questions:

    1. What is your site about?
      1. What information does it provide?
      2. What service or function does it provide?
    2. How do we know that you’ll provide the best answer or product or service for our users’ needs?
    3. Does your content demonstrate Expertise, Authoritativeness, and/or Trustworthiness (EAT)?

    This is why the fundamentals have changed so little, despite the fact that the industry, technology and tactics have transformed rapidly over time.

    A brief caveat

    My goal with this post is not to provide step-by-step instruction in how to “do SEO,” but rather to demystify the basic theory for those who find the topic too overwhelming to know where to start, or who believe that it’s too complicated to understand without years of study. With this goal in mind, I am intentionally taking a simplified and high-level perspective. This is not to dismiss the importance of an SEO expert in driving strategy and continuing to develop and maximize value from the search channel. My hope is that those business owners and entrepreneurs who currently feel overwhelmed by this topic can gain a better grasp on the way SEO works, and a greater confidence and ease in approaching their search strategy going forward.

    I have provided a few in-depth resources for each of the key areas — but you will likely want to hire a specialist or consultant to assist with analysis and implementation (certainly if you want to develop your search strategy beyond simply the “table stakes” as Rand calls it, you will need a more nuanced understanding of the topic than I can provide in a single blog post).

    At the end of the day, the ideas behind SEO are actually pretty simple — it’s the execution that can be more complex or simply time-consuming. That’s why it’s important to understand that theory — so that you can be more informed if and when you do decide to partner with someone who is offering that expertise. As long as you understand the basic concepts and end goal, you’ll be able to go into that process with confidence. Good luck!

    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!

    “”

    Fighting Review Spam: The Complete Guide for the Local Enterprise

    Posted by putting her own hair in her food in hopes of extorting a free meal under threat of negative reviews as a form of blackmail. And then there’s blackmail as a business model, as this unfortunate business reported to the GMB forum after being bulk-spammed with 1-star reviews and then contacted by the spammer with a demand for money to raise the ratings to 5-stars.

    Revenge

    The classic case is the former employee of a business venting his frustrations by posing as a customer to leave a highly negative review. There are also numerous instances of unhappy personal relationships leading to fake negative reviews of businesses.

    Protest or punishment

    Consumer sentiment may sometimes appear en masse as a form of protest against an individual or institution, as the US recently witnessed following the election of President Trump and the ensuing avalanche of spam reviews his various businesses received.

    It should be noted here that attempting to shame a business with fake negative reviews can have the (likely undesirable) effect of rewarding it with high local rankings, based on the sheer number of reviews it receives. We saw this outcome in the infamous case of the dentist who made national news and received an onslaught of shaming reviews for killing a lion.

    Finally, there is the toxic reviewer, a form of Internet troll who may be an actual customer but whose personality leads them to write abusive or libelous reviews as a matter of course. While these reviews should definitely be reported and removed if they fail to meet guidelines, discussion is open and ongoing in the local SEO industry as to how to manage the reality of consumers of this type.

    Ranking manipulation

    The total review count of a business (regardless of the sentiment the reviews contain) can positively impact Google’s local pack rankings or the internal rankings of certain review platforms. For the sake of boosting rankings, some businesses owners review themselves, tell their employees to review their employer, offer incentives to others in exchange for reviews, or even engage marketers to hook them up to a network of review spammers.

    Public perception manipulation

    This is a two-sided coin. A business can either positively review itself or negatively review its competitors in an effort to sway consumer perception. The latter is a particularly prevalent form of review spam, with the GMB forum overflowing with at least 10,000 discussions of this topic. Given that respected surveys indicate that 91% of consumers now read online reviews, 84% trust them as much as personal recommendations and 86% will hesitate to patronize a business with negative reviews, the motives for gaming online sentiment, either positively or negatively, are exceedingly strong.

    Wages

    Expert local SEO, Mike Blumenthal, is currently doing groundbreaking work uncovering a global review spam network that’s responsible for tens or hundreds of thousands of fake reviews. In this scenario, spammers are apparently employed to write reviews of businesses around the world depicting sets of transactions that not even the most jet-setting globetrotter could possibly have experienced. As Mike describes one such reviewer:

    “She will, of course, be educated at the mortuary school in Illinois and will have visited a dentist in Austin after having reviewed four other dentists … Oh, and then she will have bought her engagement ring in Israel, and then searched out a private investigator in Kuru, Philippines eight months later to find her missing husband. And all of this has taken place in the period of a year, right?”

    The scale of this network makes it clear that review spam has become big business.

    Lack of awareness

    Not all review spammers are dastardly characters. Some small-timers are only guilty of a lack of awareness of guidelines or a lack of foresight about the potential negative outcomes of fake reviews to their brand. I’ve sometimes heard small local business owners state they had their family review their newly-opened business to “get the ball rolling,” not realizing that they were breaking a guideline and not considering how embarrassing and costly it could prove if consumers or the platform catch on. In this scenario, I try to teach that faking success is not a viable business model — you have to earn it.

    Lack of consequences

    Unfortunately, some of the most visible and powerful review platforms have become enablers of the review spam industry due to a lack of guideline enforcement. When a platform fails to identify and remove fake reviews, either because of algorithmic weaknesses or insufficient support staffing, spammers are encouraged to run amok in an environment devoid of consequences. For unethical parties, no further justification for manipulating online sentiment is needed than that they can “get away with it.” Ironically, there are consequences to bear for lack of adequate policing, and until they fall on the spammer, they will fall on any platform whose content becomes labeled as untrustworthy in the eyes of consumers.

    What is the scope of review spam?

    No one knows for sure, but as we’ve seen, the playing field ranges from the single business owner having his family write a couple of reviews on Yelp to the global network employing staff to inundate Google with hundreds of thousands of fake reviews. And, we’ve see two sides to the review spam environment:

    1. People who write reviews to help themselves (in terms of positive rankings, perception, and earnings for themselves either directly from increased visibility or indirectly via extortion, and/or in terms of negative outcomes for competitors).
    2. People who write reviews to hurt others (for the sake of revenge with little or no consequence).

    The unifying motive of all forms of review spam is manipulation, creating an unfair and untrustworthy playing field for consumers, enterprises and platforms alike. One Harvard study suggests that 20% of Yelp reviews are fake, but it would be up to the major review platforms to transparently publicize the total number of spam reviews they receive. Just the segment I’ve seen as an individual local SEO has convinced me that review spam has now become an industry, just like “black hat” SEO once did.

    How to spot spam reviews

    Here are some basic tips:

    Strange patterns:

    A reviewer’s profile indicates that they’ve been in too many geographic locations at once. Or, they have a habit of giving 1-star reviews to one business and 5-star reviews to its direct competitor. While neither is proof positive of spam, think of these as possible red flags.

    Strange language:

    Numerous 5-star reviews that fawn on the business owner by name (e.g. “Bill is the greatest man ever to walk the earth”) may be fishy. If adulation seems to be going overboard, pay attention.

    Strange timing:

    Over the course of a few weeks, a business skyrockets from zero reviews to 30, 50, or 100 of them. Unless an onslaught of sentiment stems from something major happening in the national news, chances are good the company has launched some kind of program. If you suspect spam, you’ll need to research whether the reviews seem natural or could be stemming from some form of compensation.

    Strange numbers:

    The sheer number of reviews a business has earned seems inconsistent with its geography or industry. Some business models (restaurants) legitimately earn hundreds of reviews each year on a given platform, but others (mortuaries) are unlikely to have the same pattern. If a competitor of yours has 5x as many reviews as seems normal for your geo-industry, it could be a first indicator of spam.

    Strange “facts”:

    None of your staff can recall that a transaction matching the description in a negative review ever took place, or a transaction can be remembered but the way the reviewer is presenting it is demonstrably false. Example: a guest claims you rudely refused to seat him, but your in-store cam proves that he simply chose not to wait in line like other patrons.

    Obvious threats:

    If any individual or entity threatens your company with a negative review to extort freebies or money from you, take it seriously and document everything you can.

    Obvious guideline violations:

    Virtually every major review platform prohibits profane, obscene, and hateful content. If your brand is victimized by this type of attack, definitely report it.

    In a nutshell, the first step to spotting review spam is review monitoring. You’ll want to manually check direct competitors for peculiar patterns, and, more importantly, all local businesses must have a schedule for regularly checking their own incoming sentiment. For larger enterprises and multi-location business models, this process must be scaled to minimize manual workloads and cover all bases.

    Scaling review management

    On an average day, one Moz Local customer with 100 retail locations in the U.S. receives 20 reviews across the various platforms we track. Some are just ratings, but many feature text. Many are very positive. A few contain concerns or complaints that must be quickly addressed to protect reputation/budget by taking action to satisfy and retain an existing customer while proving responsiveness to the general consumer public. Some could turn out to be spam.

    Over the course of an average week for this national brand, 100–120 such reviews will come in, totaling up to more than 400 pieces of customer feedback in a month that must be assessed for signs of success at specific locations or emerging quality control issues at others. Parse this out to a year’s time, and this company must be prepared to receive and manage close to 5,000 consumer inputs in the form of reviews and ratings, not just for positive and negative sentiment, but for the purposes of detecting spam.

    Spam detection starts with awareness, which can only come from the ability to track and audit a large volume of reviews to identify some of the suspicious hallmarks we’ve covered above. At the multi-location or enterprise level, the solution to this lies in acquiring review monitoring software and putting it in the hands of a designated department or staffer. Using a product like Moz Local, monitoring and detection of questionable reviews can be scaled to meet the needs of even the largest brands.

    What should your business do if it has been victimized by review spam?

    Once you’ve become reasonably certain that a review or a body of reviews violates the guidelines of a specific platform, it’s time to act. The following list contains links to the policies of 7 dominant review platforms that are applicable to all industries, and also contains tips and links outlining reporting options:

    Google

    Policy: https://support.google.com/business/answer/2622994?hl=en

    Review reporting tips

    Flag the review by mousing over it, clicking the flag symbol that appears and then entering your email address and choosing a radio button. If you’re the owner, use the owner response function to mention that you’ve reported the review to Google for guideline violations. Then, contact GMB support via their Twitter account and/or post your case in the GMB forum to ask for additional help. Cross your fingers!

    Yelp

    Policy: https://www.yelp.com/guidelines

    Review reporting tips

    Yelp offers these guidelines for reporting reviews and also advises owners to respond to reviews that violate guidelines. Yelp takes review quality seriously and has set high standards other platforms might do well to follow, in terms of catching spammers and warning the public against bad actors.

    Facebook

    Policy: https://www.facebook.com/communitystandards

    Review reporting tips

    Here are Facebook’s instructions for reporting reviews that fail to meet community standards. Note that you can only report reviews with text — you can’t report solo ratings. Interestingly, you can turn off reviews on Facebook, but to do so out of fear would be to forego the considerable benefits they can provide.

    Yellow Pages

    Policy: https://www.yellowpages.com/about/legal/terms-conditions#user-generated-content

    Review reporting tips

    In 2016, YP.com began showing TripAdvisor reviews alongside internal reviews. If review spam stems from a YP review, click the “Flag” link in the lower right corner of the review and fill out the form to report your reasons for flagging. If the review spam stems from TripAdvisor, you’ll need to deal with them directly and read their extensive guidelines, TripAdvisor states that they screen reviews for quality purposes, but that fake reviews can slip through. If you’re the owner, you can report fraudulent reviews from the Management Center of your TripAdvisor dashboard. Click the “concerned about a review” link and fill out the form. If you’re simply a member of the public, you’ll need to sign into TripAdvisor and click the flag link next to the review to report a concern.

    SuperPages

    Policy: https://my.dexmedia.com/spportal/jsp/popups/businessprofile/reviewGuidelines.jsp

    Review reporting tips

    The policy I’ve linked to (from Dex Media, which owns SuperPages) is the best I can find. It’s reasonably thorough but somewhat broken. To report a fake review to SuperPages, you’ll need either a SuperPages or Facebook account. Then, click the “flag abuse” link associated with the review and fill out a short form.

    CitySearch

    Policy: http://www.citysearch.com/aboutcitysearch/about_us

    Review reporting tips

    If you receive a fake review on CitySearch, email [email protected] In your email, link to the business that has received the spam review, include the date of the review and the name of the reviewer and then cite the guidelines you feel the review violates.

    FourSquare

    Policy: https://foursquare.com/legal/terms

    Review reporting tips

    The “Rules and Conduct” section I’ve linked to in Foursquare’s TOS outlines their content policy. Foursquare is a bit different in the language they use to describe tips/reviews. They offer these suggestions for reporting abusive tips.

    *If you need to find the guidelines and reporting options for an industry-specific review platform like FindLaw or HealthGrades, Phil Rozek’s definitive list will be a good starting point for further research.

    Review spam can feel like being stuck between a rock and a hard place

    I feel a lot of empathy in this regard. Google, Facebook, Yelp, and other major review platforms have the visibility to drive massive traffic and revenue to your enterprise. That’s the positive side of this equation. But there’s another side — the uneasy side that I believe has its roots in entities like Google originating their local business index via aggregation from third party sources, rather than as a print YellowPages-style, opt-in program, and subsequently failing to adequately support the millions of brands it was then representing to the Internet public.

    To this day, there are companies that are stunned to discover that their business is listed on 35 different websites, and being actively reviewed on 5 or 10 of them when the company took no action to initiate this. There’s an understandable feeling of a loss of control that can be particularly difficult for large brands, with their carefully planned quality structures, to adjust to.

    This sense of powerlessness is further compounded when the business isn’t just being listed and discussed on platforms it doesn’t control, but is being spammed. I’ve seen business owners on Facebook declaring they’ve decided to disable reviews because they feel so victimized and unsupported after being inundated with suspicious 1-star ratings which Facebook won’t investigate or remove. By doing so, these companies are choosing to forego the considerable benefits reviews drive because meaningful processes for protecting the business aren’t yet available.

    These troubling aspects of the highly visible world of reviews can leave owners feeling like they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. Their companies will be listed, will be reviewed, and may be spammed whether the brand actively participates or not, and they may or may not be able to get spam removed.

    It’s not a reality from which any competitive enterprise can opt-out, so my best advice is to realize that it’s better to opt-in fully, with the understanding that some control is better than none. There are avenues for getting many spam reviews taken down, with the right information and a healthy dose of perseverance. Know, too, that every one of your competitors is in the same boat, riding a rising tide that will hopefully grow to the point of offering real-world support for managing consumer sentiment that impacts bottom-line revenue in such a very real way.

    There ought to be a law

    While legitimate negative reviews have legal protection under the Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016, fraudulent reviews are another matter.

    Section 5(a) of the Federal Trade Communication Act states:

    Unfair methods of competition in or affecting commerce, and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce, are hereby declared unlawful.”

    Provisions like these are what allowed the FTC to successfully sue Sage Automotive Group for $3.6 million dollars for deceptive advertising practices and deceptive online reviews, but it’s important to note that this appears to be the first instance in which the FTC has involved themselves in bringing charges on the basis of fraudulent reviews. At this point, it’s simply not reasonable to expect the FTC to step in if your enterprise receives some suspicious reviews, unless your research should uncover a truly major case.

    Lawsuits amongst platforms, brands, and consumers, however, are proliferating. Yelp has sued agencies and local businesses over the publication of fake reviews. Companies have sued their competitors over malicious, false sentiment, and they’ve sued their customers with allegations of the same.

    Should your enterprise be targeted with spam reviews, some cases may be egregious enough to warrant legal action. In such instances, definitely don’t attempt to have the spam reviews removed by the host platform, as they could provide important evidence. Contact a lawyer before you take a step in any direction, and avoid using the owner response function to take verbal revenge on the person you believe has spammed you, as we now have a precedent in Dietz v. Perez for such cases being declared a draw.

    In many scenarios, however, the business may not wish to become involved in a noisy court battle, and seeking removal can be a quieter way to address the problem.

    Local enterprises, consumers, and marketers must advocate for themselves

    According to one survey, 90% of consumers read less than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business. If some of those 10 reviews are the result of negative spam, the cost to the business is simply too high to ignore, and it’s imperative that owners hold not just spammers, but review platforms, accountable.

    Local businesses, consumers, and marketers don’t own review sites, but they do have the power to advocate. A single business could persistently blog about spam it has documented. Multiple businesses could partner up to request a meeting with a specific platform to present pain points. Legitimate consumers could email or call their favorite platforms to explain that they don’t want their volunteer hours writing reviews to be wasted on a website that is failing to police its content. Marketers can thoughtfully raise these issues repeatedly at conferences attended by review platform reps. There is no cause to take an adversarial tone in this, but there is every need for squeaky wheels to highlight the costliness of spam to all parties, advocating for platforms to devote all possible resources to:

    • Increasing the sophistication of algorithmic spam detection
    • Increasing staffing for manual detection
    • Providing real-time support to businesses so that spam can be reported, evaluated and removed as quickly as possible

    All of the above could begin to better address the reality of review spam. In the meantime, if your business is being targeted right now, I would suggest using every possible avenue to go public with the problem. Blog, use social media, report the issue on the platform’s forum if it has one. Do anything you can to bring maximum attention to the attack on your brand. I can’t promise results from persistence and publicity, but I’ve seen this method work enough times to recommend it.

    Why review platforms must act aggressively to minimize spam

    I’ve mentioned the empathy I feel for owners when it comes to review platforms, and I also feel empathy for the platforms, themselves. I’ve gotten the sense, sometimes, that different entities jumped into the review game and have been struggling to handle its emerging complexities as they’ve rolled out in real time. What is a fair and just policy? How can you best automate spam detection? How deeply should a platform be expected to wade into disputes between customers and brands?

    With sincere respect for the big job review sites have on their hands, I think it’s important to state:

    • If brands and consumers didn’t exist, neither would review platforms. Businesses and reviewers should be viewed and treated as MVPs.
    • Platforms which fail to offer meaningful support options to business owners are not earning goodwill or a good reputation.
    • The relationship between local businesses and review platforms isn’t an entirely comfortable one. Increasing comfort could turn wary brands into beneficial advocates.
    • Platforms that allow themselves to become inundated with spam will lose consumers’ trust, and then advertisers’ trust. They won’t survive.

    Every review platform has a major stake in this game, but, to be perfectly honest, some of them don’t act like it.

    Google My Business Forum Top Contributor and expert Local SEO, Joy Hawkins, recently wrote an open letter to Google offering them four actionable tips for improving their handling of their massive review spam problem. It’s a great example of a marketer advocating for her industry, and, of interest, some of Joy’s best advice to Google is taken from Yelp’s own playbook. Yelp may be doing the best of all platforms in combating spam, in that they have very strong filters and place public warnings on the profiles of suspicious reviewers and brands.

    What Joy Hawkins, Mike Blumenthal, other industry experts, and local business owners seem to be saying to review platforms could be summed up like this:

    “We recognize the power of reviews and appreciate the benefits they provide, but a responsibility comes with setting your platform up as a hub of reputation for millions of businesses. Don’t see spammed reputations as acceptable losses — they represent the livelihoods of real people. If you’re going to trade responsibly in representing us, you’ve got to back your product up with adequate quality controls and adequate support. A fair and trustworthy environment is better for us, better for consumers and better for you.”

    Key takeaways for taking control of review spam

    • All local enterprises need to know that review spam is a real problem
    • Its scope ranges from individual spammers to global networks
    • Enterprises must monitor all incoming reviews, and scale this with software where necessary
    • Designated staff must be on the lookout for suspicious patterns
    • All major review platforms have some form of support for reporting spam reviews, but its not always adequate and may not lead to removal
    • Because of this, brands must advocate for better support from review platforms
    • Review platforms need to listen and act, because their stake in game is real

    Being the subject of a review spam attack can be a stressful event that I wish no brand ever had to face, but it’s my hope that this article has empowered you to meet a possible challenge with complete information and a smart plan of action.

    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!

    Posted by putting her own hair in her food in hopes of extorting a free meal under threat of negative reviews as a form of blackmail. And then there’s blackmail as a business model, as this unfortunate business reported to the GMB forum after being bulk-spammed with 1-star reviews and then contacted by the spammer with a demand for money to raise the ratings to 5-stars.

    Revenge

    The classic case is the former employee of a business venting his frustrations by posing as a customer to leave a highly negative review. There are also numerous instances of unhappy personal relationships leading to fake negative reviews of businesses.

    Protest or punishment

    Consumer sentiment may sometimes appear en masse as a form of protest against an individual or institution, as the US recently witnessed following the election of President Trump and the ensuing avalanche of spam reviews his various businesses received.

    It should be noted here that attempting to shame a business with fake negative reviews can have the (likely undesirable) effect of rewarding it with high local rankings, based on the sheer number of reviews it receives. We saw this outcome in the infamous case of the dentist who made national news and received an onslaught of shaming reviews for killing a lion.

    Finally, there is the toxic reviewer, a form of Internet troll who may be an actual customer but whose personality leads them to write abusive or libelous reviews as a matter of course. While these reviews should definitely be reported and removed if they fail to meet guidelines, discussion is open and ongoing in the local SEO industry as to how to manage the reality of consumers of this type.

    Ranking manipulation

    The total review count of a business (regardless of the sentiment the reviews contain) can positively impact Google’s local pack rankings or the internal rankings of certain review platforms. For the sake of boosting rankings, some businesses owners review themselves, tell their employees to review their employer, offer incentives to others in exchange for reviews, or even engage marketers to hook them up to a network of review spammers.

    Public perception manipulation

    This is a two-sided coin. A business can either positively review itself or negatively review its competitors in an effort to sway consumer perception. The latter is a particularly prevalent form of review spam, with the GMB forum overflowing with at least 10,000 discussions of this topic. Given that respected surveys indicate that 91% of consumers now read online reviews, 84% trust them as much as personal recommendations and 86% will hesitate to patronize a business with negative reviews, the motives for gaming online sentiment, either positively or negatively, are exceedingly strong.

    Wages

    Expert local SEO, Mike Blumenthal, is currently doing groundbreaking work uncovering a global review spam network that’s responsible for tens or hundreds of thousands of fake reviews. In this scenario, spammers are apparently employed to write reviews of businesses around the world depicting sets of transactions that not even the most jet-setting globetrotter could possibly have experienced. As Mike describes one such reviewer:

    “She will, of course, be educated at the mortuary school in Illinois and will have visited a dentist in Austin after having reviewed four other dentists … Oh, and then she will have bought her engagement ring in Israel, and then searched out a private investigator in Kuru, Philippines eight months later to find her missing husband. And all of this has taken place in the period of a year, right?”

    The scale of this network makes it clear that review spam has become big business.

    Lack of awareness

    Not all review spammers are dastardly characters. Some small-timers are only guilty of a lack of awareness of guidelines or a lack of foresight about the potential negative outcomes of fake reviews to their brand. I’ve sometimes heard small local business owners state they had their family review their newly-opened business to “get the ball rolling,” not realizing that they were breaking a guideline and not considering how embarrassing and costly it could prove if consumers or the platform catch on. In this scenario, I try to teach that faking success is not a viable business model — you have to earn it.

    Lack of consequences

    Unfortunately, some of the most visible and powerful review platforms have become enablers of the review spam industry due to a lack of guideline enforcement. When a platform fails to identify and remove fake reviews, either because of algorithmic weaknesses or insufficient support staffing, spammers are encouraged to run amok in an environment devoid of consequences. For unethical parties, no further justification for manipulating online sentiment is needed than that they can “get away with it.” Ironically, there are consequences to bear for lack of adequate policing, and until they fall on the spammer, they will fall on any platform whose content becomes labeled as untrustworthy in the eyes of consumers.

    What is the scope of review spam?

    No one knows for sure, but as we’ve seen, the playing field ranges from the single business owner having his family write a couple of reviews on Yelp to the global network employing staff to inundate Google with hundreds of thousands of fake reviews. And, we’ve see two sides to the review spam environment:

    1. People who write reviews to help themselves (in terms of positive rankings, perception, and earnings for themselves either directly from increased visibility or indirectly via extortion, and/or in terms of negative outcomes for competitors).
    2. People who write reviews to hurt others (for the sake of revenge with little or no consequence).

    The unifying motive of all forms of review spam is manipulation, creating an unfair and untrustworthy playing field for consumers, enterprises and platforms alike. One Harvard study suggests that 20% of Yelp reviews are fake, but it would be up to the major review platforms to transparently publicize the total number of spam reviews they receive. Just the segment I’ve seen as an individual local SEO has convinced me that review spam has now become an industry, just like “black hat” SEO once did.

    How to spot spam reviews

    Here are some basic tips:

    Strange patterns:

    A reviewer’s profile indicates that they’ve been in too many geographic locations at once. Or, they have a habit of giving 1-star reviews to one business and 5-star reviews to its direct competitor. While neither is proof positive of spam, think of these as possible red flags.

    Strange language:

    Numerous 5-star reviews that fawn on the business owner by name (e.g. “Bill is the greatest man ever to walk the earth”) may be fishy. If adulation seems to be going overboard, pay attention.

    Strange timing:

    Over the course of a few weeks, a business skyrockets from zero reviews to 30, 50, or 100 of them. Unless an onslaught of sentiment stems from something major happening in the national news, chances are good the company has launched some kind of program. If you suspect spam, you’ll need to research whether the reviews seem natural or could be stemming from some form of compensation.

    Strange numbers:

    The sheer number of reviews a business has earned seems inconsistent with its geography or industry. Some business models (restaurants) legitimately earn hundreds of reviews each year on a given platform, but others (mortuaries) are unlikely to have the same pattern. If a competitor of yours has 5x as many reviews as seems normal for your geo-industry, it could be a first indicator of spam.

    Strange “facts”:

    None of your staff can recall that a transaction matching the description in a negative review ever took place, or a transaction can be remembered but the way the reviewer is presenting it is demonstrably false. Example: a guest claims you rudely refused to seat him, but your in-store cam proves that he simply chose not to wait in line like other patrons.

    Obvious threats:

    If any individual or entity threatens your company with a negative review to extort freebies or money from you, take it seriously and document everything you can.

    Obvious guideline violations:

    Virtually every major review platform prohibits profane, obscene, and hateful content. If your brand is victimized by this type of attack, definitely report it.

    In a nutshell, the first step to spotting review spam is review monitoring. You’ll want to manually check direct competitors for peculiar patterns, and, more importantly, all local businesses must have a schedule for regularly checking their own incoming sentiment. For larger enterprises and multi-location business models, this process must be scaled to minimize manual workloads and cover all bases.

    Scaling review management

    On an average day, one Moz Local customer with 100 retail locations in the U.S. receives 20 reviews across the various platforms we track. Some are just ratings, but many feature text. Many are very positive. A few contain concerns or complaints that must be quickly addressed to protect reputation/budget by taking action to satisfy and retain an existing customer while proving responsiveness to the general consumer public. Some could turn out to be spam.

    Over the course of an average week for this national brand, 100–120 such reviews will come in, totaling up to more than 400 pieces of customer feedback in a month that must be assessed for signs of success at specific locations or emerging quality control issues at others. Parse this out to a year’s time, and this company must be prepared to receive and manage close to 5,000 consumer inputs in the form of reviews and ratings, not just for positive and negative sentiment, but for the purposes of detecting spam.

    Spam detection starts with awareness, which can only come from the ability to track and audit a large volume of reviews to identify some of the suspicious hallmarks we’ve covered above. At the multi-location or enterprise level, the solution to this lies in acquiring review monitoring software and putting it in the hands of a designated department or staffer. Using a product like Moz Local, monitoring and detection of questionable reviews can be scaled to meet the needs of even the largest brands.

    What should your business do if it has been victimized by review spam?

    Once you’ve become reasonably certain that a review or a body of reviews violates the guidelines of a specific platform, it’s time to act. The following list contains links to the policies of 7 dominant review platforms that are applicable to all industries, and also contains tips and links outlining reporting options:

    Google

    Policy: https://support.google.com/business/answer/2622994?hl=en

    Review reporting tips

    Flag the review by mousing over it, clicking the flag symbol that appears and then entering your email address and choosing a radio button. If you’re the owner, use the owner response function to mention that you’ve reported the review to Google for guideline violations. Then, contact GMB support via their Twitter account and/or post your case in the GMB forum to ask for additional help. Cross your fingers!

    Yelp

    Policy: https://www.yelp.com/guidelines

    Review reporting tips

    Yelp offers these guidelines for reporting reviews and also advises owners to respond to reviews that violate guidelines. Yelp takes review quality seriously and has set high standards other platforms might do well to follow, in terms of catching spammers and warning the public against bad actors.

    Facebook

    Policy: https://www.facebook.com/communitystandards

    Review reporting tips

    Here are Facebook’s instructions for reporting reviews that fail to meet community standards. Note that you can only report reviews with text — you can’t report solo ratings. Interestingly, you can turn off reviews on Facebook, but to do so out of fear would be to forego the considerable benefits they can provide.

    Yellow Pages

    Policy: https://www.yellowpages.com/about/legal/terms-conditions#user-generated-content

    Review reporting tips

    In 2016, YP.com began showing TripAdvisor reviews alongside internal reviews. If review spam stems from a YP review, click the “Flag” link in the lower right corner of the review and fill out the form to report your reasons for flagging. If the review spam stems from TripAdvisor, you’ll need to deal with them directly and read their extensive guidelines, TripAdvisor states that they screen reviews for quality purposes, but that fake reviews can slip through. If you’re the owner, you can report fraudulent reviews from the Management Center of your TripAdvisor dashboard. Click the “concerned about a review” link and fill out the form. If you’re simply a member of the public, you’ll need to sign into TripAdvisor and click the flag link next to the review to report a concern.

    SuperPages

    Policy: https://my.dexmedia.com/spportal/jsp/popups/businessprofile/reviewGuidelines.jsp

    Review reporting tips

    The policy I’ve linked to (from Dex Media, which owns SuperPages) is the best I can find. It’s reasonably thorough but somewhat broken. To report a fake review to SuperPages, you’ll need either a SuperPages or Facebook account. Then, click the “flag abuse” link associated with the review and fill out a short form.

    CitySearch

    Policy: http://www.citysearch.com/aboutcitysearch/about_us

    Review reporting tips

    If you receive a fake review on CitySearch, email [email protected] In your email, link to the business that has received the spam review, include the date of the review and the name of the reviewer and then cite the guidelines you feel the review violates.

    FourSquare

    Policy: https://foursquare.com/legal/terms

    Review reporting tips

    The “Rules and Conduct” section I’ve linked to in Foursquare’s TOS outlines their content policy. Foursquare is a bit different in the language they use to describe tips/reviews. They offer these suggestions for reporting abusive tips.

    *If you need to find the guidelines and reporting options for an industry-specific review platform like FindLaw or HealthGrades, Phil Rozek’s definitive list will be a good starting point for further research.

    Review spam can feel like being stuck between a rock and a hard place

    I feel a lot of empathy in this regard. Google, Facebook, Yelp, and other major review platforms have the visibility to drive massive traffic and revenue to your enterprise. That’s the positive side of this equation. But there’s another side — the uneasy side that I believe has its roots in entities like Google originating their local business index via aggregation from third party sources, rather than as a print YellowPages-style, opt-in program, and subsequently failing to adequately support the millions of brands it was then representing to the Internet public.

    To this day, there are companies that are stunned to discover that their business is listed on 35 different websites, and being actively reviewed on 5 or 10 of them when the company took no action to initiate this. There’s an understandable feeling of a loss of control that can be particularly difficult for large brands, with their carefully planned quality structures, to adjust to.

    This sense of powerlessness is further compounded when the business isn’t just being listed and discussed on platforms it doesn’t control, but is being spammed. I’ve seen business owners on Facebook declaring they’ve decided to disable reviews because they feel so victimized and unsupported after being inundated with suspicious 1-star ratings which Facebook won’t investigate or remove. By doing so, these companies are choosing to forego the considerable benefits reviews drive because meaningful processes for protecting the business aren’t yet available.

    These troubling aspects of the highly visible world of reviews can leave owners feeling like they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. Their companies will be listed, will be reviewed, and may be spammed whether the brand actively participates or not, and they may or may not be able to get spam removed.

    It’s not a reality from which any competitive enterprise can opt-out, so my best advice is to realize that it’s better to opt-in fully, with the understanding that some control is better than none. There are avenues for getting many spam reviews taken down, with the right information and a healthy dose of perseverance. Know, too, that every one of your competitors is in the same boat, riding a rising tide that will hopefully grow to the point of offering real-world support for managing consumer sentiment that impacts bottom-line revenue in such a very real way.

    There ought to be a law

    While legitimate negative reviews have legal protection under the Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016, fraudulent reviews are another matter.

    Section 5(a) of the Federal Trade Communication Act states:

    Unfair methods of competition in or affecting commerce, and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce, are hereby declared unlawful.”

    Provisions like these are what allowed the FTC to successfully sue Sage Automotive Group for $3.6 million dollars for deceptive advertising practices and deceptive online reviews, but it’s important to note that this appears to be the first instance in which the FTC has involved themselves in bringing charges on the basis of fraudulent reviews. At this point, it’s simply not reasonable to expect the FTC to step in if your enterprise receives some suspicious reviews, unless your research should uncover a truly major case.

    Lawsuits amongst platforms, brands, and consumers, however, are proliferating. Yelp has sued agencies and local businesses over the publication of fake reviews. Companies have sued their competitors over malicious, false sentiment, and they’ve sued their customers with allegations of the same.

    Should your enterprise be targeted with spam reviews, some cases may be egregious enough to warrant legal action. In such instances, definitely don’t attempt to have the spam reviews removed by the host platform, as they could provide important evidence. Contact a lawyer before you take a step in any direction, and avoid using the owner response function to take verbal revenge on the person you believe has spammed you, as we now have a precedent in Dietz v. Perez for such cases being declared a draw.

    In many scenarios, however, the business may not wish to become involved in a noisy court battle, and seeking removal can be a quieter way to address the problem.

    Local enterprises, consumers, and marketers must advocate for themselves

    According to one survey, 90% of consumers read less than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business. If some of those 10 reviews are the result of negative spam, the cost to the business is simply too high to ignore, and it’s imperative that owners hold not just spammers, but review platforms, accountable.

    Local businesses, consumers, and marketers don’t own review sites, but they do have the power to advocate. A single business could persistently blog about spam it has documented. Multiple businesses could partner up to request a meeting with a specific platform to present pain points. Legitimate consumers could email or call their favorite platforms to explain that they don’t want their volunteer hours writing reviews to be wasted on a website that is failing to police its content. Marketers can thoughtfully raise these issues repeatedly at conferences attended by review platform reps. There is no cause to take an adversarial tone in this, but there is every need for squeaky wheels to highlight the costliness of spam to all parties, advocating for platforms to devote all possible resources to:

    • Increasing the sophistication of algorithmic spam detection
    • Increasing staffing for manual detection
    • Providing real-time support to businesses so that spam can be reported, evaluated and removed as quickly as possible

    All of the above could begin to better address the reality of review spam. In the meantime, if your business is being targeted right now, I would suggest using every possible avenue to go public with the problem. Blog, use social media, report the issue on the platform’s forum if it has one. Do anything you can to bring maximum attention to the attack on your brand. I can’t promise results from persistence and publicity, but I’ve seen this method work enough times to recommend it.

    Why review platforms must act aggressively to minimize spam

    I’ve mentioned the empathy I feel for owners when it comes to review platforms, and I also feel empathy for the platforms, themselves. I’ve gotten the sense, sometimes, that different entities jumped into the review game and have been struggling to handle its emerging complexities as they’ve rolled out in real time. What is a fair and just policy? How can you best automate spam detection? How deeply should a platform be expected to wade into disputes between customers and brands?

    With sincere respect for the big job review sites have on their hands, I think it’s important to state:

    • If brands and consumers didn’t exist, neither would review platforms. Businesses and reviewers should be viewed and treated as MVPs.
    • Platforms which fail to offer meaningful support options to business owners are not earning goodwill or a good reputation.
    • The relationship between local businesses and review platforms isn’t an entirely comfortable one. Increasing comfort could turn wary brands into beneficial advocates.
    • Platforms that allow themselves to become inundated with spam will lose consumers’ trust, and then advertisers’ trust. They won’t survive.

    Every review platform has a major stake in this game, but, to be perfectly honest, some of them don’t act like it.

    Google My Business Forum Top Contributor and expert Local SEO, Joy Hawkins, recently wrote an open letter to Google offering them four actionable tips for improving their handling of their massive review spam problem. It’s a great example of a marketer advocating for her industry, and, of interest, some of Joy’s best advice to Google is taken from Yelp’s own playbook. Yelp may be doing the best of all platforms in combating spam, in that they have very strong filters and place public warnings on the profiles of suspicious reviewers and brands.

    What Joy Hawkins, Mike Blumenthal, other industry experts, and local business owners seem to be saying to review platforms could be summed up like this:

    “We recognize the power of reviews and appreciate the benefits they provide, but a responsibility comes with setting your platform up as a hub of reputation for millions of businesses. Don’t see spammed reputations as acceptable losses — they represent the livelihoods of real people. If you’re going to trade responsibly in representing us, you’ve got to back your product up with adequate quality controls and adequate support. A fair and trustworthy environment is better for us, better for consumers and better for you.”

    Key takeaways for taking control of review spam

    • All local enterprises need to know that review spam is a real problem
    • Its scope ranges from individual spammers to global networks
    • Enterprises must monitor all incoming reviews, and scale this with software where necessary
    • Designated staff must be on the lookout for suspicious patterns
    • All major review platforms have some form of support for reporting spam reviews, but its not always adequate and may not lead to removal
    • Because of this, brands must advocate for better support from review platforms
    • Review platforms need to listen and act, because their stake in game is real

    Being the subject of a review spam attack can be a stressful event that I wish no brand ever had to face, but it’s my hope that this article has empowered you to meet a possible challenge with complete information and a smart plan of action.

    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!

    “”

    Search engine optimization for Copywriters: Tips about Calculating Search engine optimization Impact – Next Stage

    Published by targeting multiple keywords with one page. Today, he’s to share using Google Analytics to determine the Search engine optimization impact of the content. Continue reading and gain levels!

    Learning how to write content for Search engine optimization is essential. But essential is understanding how you can appraise the Search engine optimization impact of the content after it’s printed. In the following paragraphs I’ll describe using Google Analytics to produce reports that assess the performance of articles or even the authors creating individuals articles.

    We begin with a few definitions.

    What’s Search engine optimization content?

    Internet search engine enhanced submissions are the proper procedure for researching and writing website copy with the aim of maximizing its impact within the SERPs. This involves getting a keyword strategy, the opportunity to conduct competitive analyses, and understanding of current ranking factors.

    If you are a copywriter, you’ve likely recently been requested from your clients to produce content “written for Search engine optimization.” Converting this into action frequently means the author will need a larger role both in strategy and research. Words matter in Search engine optimization, and spending time to obtain them right is a huge a part of creating content effectively. Adding Search engine optimization research and analysis to the entire process of researching content frequently fits nicely.

    So now you ask ,: How do you measure the potency of my content team?

    We use greater depth around the research and reporting processes throughout the Moz seminar Search engine optimization for Content Authors, but I’ll explain a couple of helpful concepts here.

    What must i measure?

    Well-defined goals are in the centre associated with a good internet marketing strategy, whether you are doing Search engine optimization or PPC. Goals will differ by client and I have discovered that a part of my role like a digital marketer would be to assist the client learn how to articulate the company goals into measurable actions taken by visitors on their own site.

    Ideally, goals possess a couple of essential traits. They ought to:

    • Have measurable value (revenue, leads generated, event registrations)
    • Be identifiable on the website (PDF downloads, button clicks, confirmation page views)
    • Result in business growth (a part of a web-based campaign, helpful to salesforce, etc.)

    Broad goals for example “increase organic sessions on site” are hardly ever specific enough for clients to wish to purchase following the first 3–6 several weeks of the relationship.

    One tool will measure goals is Google Analytics (GA). The great part about GA is the fact that almost everybody comes with an account (even when it normally won’t understand how to utilize it) also it integrates nicely with just about all major Search engine optimization software platforms.

    Lay the building blocks for the Search engine optimization research if you take a totally free trial of Moz Pro. After you have researched your articles strategy and competition with Keyword Explorer and Open Site Explorer, you can start calculating the information you develop in the search engines Analytics.

    Allow me to demonstrate the way i set this up.

    How you can measure Search engine optimization content using Google Analytics

    Step One: Review conversion actions on-site

    When I pointed out before, your Search engine optimization goals should tie to some business outcome. We discuss establishing goals, together with a worksheet that shows monthly performance, throughout the Reporting on Search engine optimization Bootcamp.

    Throughout the launch phase of the new project, locate the on-site actions that lead for your client’s business after which consider the way your content can drive traffic towards individuals pages. Some articles have CTAs pointing to some whitepaper others might point to establishing a consultation.

    When interviewing the consumer about these potential conversion locations (call us page, whitepaper download, etc), question them about the need for a brand new customer or lead. For nonprofits, most likely the objective would be to increase understanding of occasions or increase donations. Whatever the goal, it’s essential that you define something for every conversion before creating goals in the search engines Analytics.

    Step Two: Visit the Admin panel in the search engines Analytics

    After you have goals identified and also have chosen a suitable value for your goal, open Google Analytics and visit the admin panel. During the time of penning this, you’ll find the Admin panel by hitting just a little gear icon at the end-left corner from the screen.

    Step Three: Produce a goal (including dollar value)

    You will find three posts within the Admin view: Account, Property, and examine. Within the “View” column, you will notice a piece marked “Goals.”

    When you are in Goals, select “+New Goal.”

    It’s my job to select “Custom” as opposed to the pre-filled templates. It’s your decision. I’d provide the Custom option a spin simply to understand the selectors.

    Now complete the aim in line with the analysis conducted in step #1. One goal ought to be completed for every conversion action you’ve identified. The most crucial factor is completing something. This is actually the amount of money with this goal.

    Google’s description of methods to produce goals is situated here: Create or Edit Goals

    Step Four: Create and use a “Segment” for Organic Traffic

    After you have your objectives setup, you’ll want to setup and automate reporting. Since we’re analyzing traffic from search engines like google, you want to isolate only traffic from the Organic Funnel.

    Organic traffic = individuals who arrive in your site after hitting a hyperlink from the internet search engine search engines.

    A good way to isolate traffic of the certain type or from the certain source is to produce a segment.

    Navigate to the Google Analytics page within the reports section. You will notice some boxes presents itself the page, one of these labeled “All Users” (presuming segments haven’t been configured previously).

    Choose the box that states “All Users” and it’ll open a listing with checkboxes.

    Scroll lower before you discover the checkbox that states “Organic Traffic,” then select and apply that.

    Now regardless of what reports you appear at In The Search Engines Analytics, you’ll simply be viewing the traffic from search engines like google.

    Step Five: Evaluate the Google Analytics Website Landing Page Report

    Since we’ve isolated only traffic from search engines like google utilizing a Google Analytics Segment, we are able to watch our content performance and assess what’s delivering probably the most favorable metrics. There are many reports you should use, however i like the “Landing Pages” report. It teaches you the page in which a customer begins their session. If I wish to measure blog authors, I wish to know whose writing is generating probably the most traffic for me personally. The Squeeze Pages report can help do this.

    To get at the Squeeze Pages report in the search engines Analytics, select this sequence of subheadings around the left sidebar:

    Behavior &gt Websites Content &gt Squeeze Pages

    This report will highlight, for just about any time period, which pages are delivering probably the most visits. I would recommend going much deeper and sorting the information through the posts “Pages per session” and “Session Duration.” Find out the articles which are generating the greatest average page depth and longest average session duration. Google might find these behaviors and signal that you’re delivering value for your visitors. That will work for Search engine optimization.

    Step Six: Evaluate the conversion worth of your authors

    Remember individuals goals we produced? Within the far right posts from the Squeeze Pages report, there is a value being delivered by each page in your site. This is when you can assist answer the issue, “Which article topics or authors are consistently delivering probably the most business value?”

    If you wish to share this report together with your team to increase transparency, I suggest navigating as much as the top page and, underneath the specific report, you will see a hyperlink known as “Email.”

    Automate your reporting by establishing an e-mail that gives whether .csv file or PDF monthly. It’s quite simple and could save you a lot of time.

    Would like to learn more Search engine optimization content tips?

    If you discover this sort of step-by-step process useful, consider joining Moz for the online training program centered on Search engine optimization for copywriters. You’ll find the approaching class schedule here:

    See approaching schedule

    Join The Moz Top Ten, a semimonthly mailer updating you on top ten hottest bits of Search engine optimization news, tips, and rad links uncovered through the Moz team. Consider it as being your exclusive digest of stuff you do not have time for you to search lower but wish to read!

    Published by targeting multiple keywords with one page. Today, he’s to share using Google Analytics to determine the Search engine optimization impact of the content. Continue reading and gain levels!

    Learning how to write content for Search engine optimization is essential. But essential is understanding how you can appraise the Search engine optimization impact of the content after it’s printed. In the following paragraphs I’ll describe using Google Analytics to produce reports that assess the performance of articles or even the authors creating individuals articles.

    We begin with a few definitions.

    What’s Search engine optimization content?

    Internet search engine enhanced submissions are the proper procedure for researching and writing website copy with the aim of maximizing its impact within the SERPs. This involves getting a keyword strategy, the opportunity to conduct competitive analyses, and understanding of current ranking factors.

    If you are a copywriter, you’ve likely recently been requested from your clients to produce content “written for Search engine optimization.” Converting this into action frequently means the author will need a larger role both in strategy and research. Words matter in Search engine optimization, and spending time to obtain them right is a huge a part of creating content effectively. Adding Search engine optimization research and analysis to the entire process of researching content frequently fits nicely.

    So now you ask ,: How do you measure the potency of my content team?

    We use greater depth around the research and reporting processes throughout the Moz seminar Search engine optimization for Content Authors, but I’ll explain a couple of helpful concepts here.

    What must i measure?

    Well-defined goals are in the centre associated with a good internet marketing strategy, whether you are doing Search engine optimization or PPC. Goals will differ by client and I have discovered that a part of my role like a digital marketer would be to assist the client learn how to articulate the company goals into measurable actions taken by visitors on their own site.

    Ideally, goals possess a couple of essential traits. They ought to:

    • Have measurable value (revenue, leads generated, event registrations)
    • Be identifiable on the website (PDF downloads, button clicks, confirmation page views)
    • Result in business growth (a part of a web-based campaign, helpful to salesforce, etc.)

    Broad goals for example “increase organic sessions on site” are hardly ever specific enough for clients to wish to purchase following the first 3–6 several weeks of the relationship.

    One tool will measure goals is Google Analytics (GA). The great part about GA is the fact that almost everybody comes with an account (even when it normally won’t understand how to utilize it) also it integrates nicely with just about all major Search engine optimization software platforms.

    Lay the building blocks for the Search engine optimization research if you take a totally free trial of Moz Pro. After you have researched your articles strategy and competition with Keyword Explorer and Open Site Explorer, you can start calculating the information you develop in the search engines Analytics.

    Allow me to demonstrate the way i set this up.

    How you can measure Search engine optimization content using Google Analytics

    Step One: Review conversion actions on-site

    When I pointed out before, your Search engine optimization goals should tie to some business outcome. We discuss establishing goals, together with a worksheet that shows monthly performance, throughout the Reporting on Search engine optimization Bootcamp.

    Throughout the launch phase of the new project, locate the on-site actions that lead for your client’s business after which consider the way your content can drive traffic towards individuals pages. Some articles have CTAs pointing to some whitepaper others might point to establishing a consultation.

    When interviewing the consumer about these potential conversion locations (call us page, whitepaper download, etc), question them about the need for a brand new customer or lead. For nonprofits, most likely the objective would be to increase understanding of occasions or increase donations. Whatever the goal, it’s essential that you define something for every conversion before creating goals in the search engines Analytics.

    Step Two: Visit the Admin panel in the search engines Analytics

    After you have goals identified and also have chosen a suitable value for your goal, open Google Analytics and visit the admin panel. During the time of penning this, you’ll find the Admin panel by hitting just a little gear icon at the end-left corner from the screen.

    Step Three: Produce a goal (including dollar value)

    You will find three posts within the Admin view: Account, Property, and examine. Within the “View” column, you will notice a piece marked “Goals.”

    When you are in Goals, select “+New Goal.”

    It’s my job to select “Custom” as opposed to the pre-filled templates. It’s your decision. I’d provide the Custom option a spin simply to understand the selectors.

    Now complete the aim in line with the analysis conducted in step #1. One goal ought to be completed for every conversion action you’ve identified. The most crucial factor is completing something. This is actually the amount of money with this goal.

    Google’s description of methods to produce goals is situated here: Create or Edit Goals

    Step Four: Create and use a “Segment” for Organic Traffic

    After you have your objectives setup, you’ll want to setup and automate reporting. Since we’re analyzing traffic from search engines like google, you want to isolate only traffic from the Organic Funnel.

    Organic traffic = individuals who arrive in your site after hitting a hyperlink from the internet search engine search engines.

    A good way to isolate traffic of the certain type or from the certain source is to produce a segment.

    Navigate to the Google Analytics page within the reports section. You will notice some boxes presents itself the page, one of these labeled “All Users” (presuming segments haven’t been configured previously).

    Choose the box that states “All Users” and it’ll open a listing with checkboxes.

    Scroll lower before you discover the checkbox that states “Organic Traffic,” then select and apply that.

    Now regardless of what reports you appear at In The Search Engines Analytics, you’ll simply be viewing the traffic from search engines like google.

    Step Five: Evaluate the Google Analytics Website Landing Page Report

    Since we’ve isolated only traffic from search engines like google utilizing a Google Analytics Segment, we are able to watch our content performance and assess what’s delivering probably the most favorable metrics. There are many reports you should use, however i like the “Landing Pages” report. It teaches you the page in which a customer begins their session. If I wish to measure blog authors, I wish to know whose writing is generating probably the most traffic for me personally. The Squeeze Pages report can help do this.

    To get at the Squeeze Pages report in the search engines Analytics, select this sequence of subheadings around the left sidebar:

    Behavior &gt Websites Content &gt Squeeze Pages

    This report will highlight, for just about any time period, which pages are delivering probably the most visits. I would recommend going much deeper and sorting the information through the posts “Pages per session” and “Session Duration.” Find out the articles which are generating the greatest average page depth and longest average session duration. Google might find these behaviors and signal that you’re delivering value for your visitors. That will work for Search engine optimization.

    Step Six: Evaluate the conversion worth of your authors

    Remember individuals goals we produced? Within the far right posts from the Squeeze Pages report, there is a value being delivered by each page in your site. This is when you can assist answer the issue, “Which article topics or authors are consistently delivering probably the most business value?”

    If you wish to share this report together with your team to increase transparency, I suggest navigating as much as the top page and, underneath the specific report, you will see a hyperlink known as “Email.”

    Automate your reporting by establishing an e-mail that gives whether .csv file or PDF monthly. It’s quite simple and could save you a lot of time.

    Would like to learn more Search engine optimization content tips?

    If you discover this sort of step-by-step process useful, consider joining Moz for the online training program centered on Search engine optimization for copywriters. You’ll find the approaching class schedule here:

    See approaching schedule

    Join The Moz Top Ten, a semimonthly mailer updating you on top ten hottest bits of Search engine optimization news, tips, and rad links uncovered through the Moz team. Consider it as being your exclusive digest of stuff you do not have time for you to search lower but wish to read!

    “”

    SEO Best Practices for Canonical URLs + the Rel=Canonical Tag – Whiteboard Friday

    Posted by SEO best practices for canonical URLs

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

    Video Transcription

    Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week, we’re going to chat about some SEO best practices for canonicalization and use of the rel=canonical tag.

    Before we do that, I think it pays to talk about what a canonical URL is, because a canonical URL doesn’t just refer to a page upon which we are targeting or using the rel=canonical tag. Canonicalization has been around, in fact, much longer than the rel=canonical tag itself, which came out in 2009, and there are a bunch of different things that a canonical URL means.

    What is a “canonical” URL?

    So first off, what we’re trying to say is this URL is the one that we want Google and the other search engines to index and to rank. These other URLs that potentially have similar content or that are serving a similar purpose or perhaps are exact duplicates, but, for some reason, we have additional URLs of them, those ones should all tell the search engines, “No, no, this guy over here is the one you want.”

    So, for example, I’ve got a canonical URL, ABC.com/a.

    Then I have a duplicate of that for some reason. Maybe it’s a historical artifact or a problem in my site architecture. Maybe I intentionally did it. Maybe I’m doing it for some sort of tracking or testing purposes. But that URL is at ABC.com/b.

    Then I have this other version, ABC.com/a?ref=twitter. What’s going on there? Well, that’s a URL parameter. The URL parameter doesn’t change the content. The content is exactly the same as A, but I really don’t want Google to get confused and rank this version, which can happen by the way. You’ll see URLs that are not the original version, that have some weird URL parameter ranking in Google sometimes. Sometimes this version gets more links than this version because they’re shared on Twitter, and so that’s the one everybody picked up and copied and pasted and linked to. That’s all fine and well, so long as we canonicalize it.

    Or this one, it’s a print version. It’s ABC.com/aprint.html. So, in all of these cases, what I want to do is I want to tell Google, “Don’t index this one. Index this one. Don’t index this one. Index this one. Don’t index this one. Index this one.”

    I can do that using this, the link rel=canonical, the href telling Google, “This is the page.” You put this in the header tag of any document and Google will know, “Aha, this is a copy or a clone or a duplicate of this other one. I should canonicalize all of my ranking signals, and I should make sure that this other version ranks.”

    By the way, you can be self-referential. So it is perfectly fine for ABC.com/a to go ahead and use this as well, pointing to itself. That way, in the event that someone you’ve never even met decides to plug in question mark, some weird parameter and point that to you, you’re still telling Google, “Hey, guess what? This is the original version.”

    Great. So since I don’t want Google to be confused, I can use this canonicalization process to do it. The rel=canonical tag is a great way to go. By the way, FYI, it can be used cross-domain. So, for example, if I republish the content on A at something like a [email protected], which is, I think, my Medium account, /a, guess what? I can put in a cross-domain rel=canonical telling them, “This one over here.” Now, even if Google crawls this other website, they are going to know that this is the original version. Pretty darn cool.

    Different ways to canonicalize multiple URLs

    There are different ways to canonicalize multiple URLs.

    1. Rel=canonical.

    I mention that rel=canonical isn’t the only one. It’s one of the most strongly recommended, and that’s why I’m putting it at number one. But there are other ways to do it, and sometimes we want to apply some of these other ones. There are also not-recommended ways to do it, and I’m going to discuss those as well.

    2. 301 redirect.

    The 301 redirect, this is basically a status code telling Google, “Hey, you know what? I’m going to take /b, I’m going to point it to /a. It was a mistake to ever have /b. I don’t want anyone visiting it. I don’t want it clogging up my web analytics with visit data. You know what? Let’s just 301 redirect that old URL over to this new one, over to the right one.”

    3. Passive parameters in Google search console.

    Some parts of me like this, some parts of me don’t. I think for very complex websites with tons of URL parameters and a ton of URLs, it can be just an incredible pain sometimes to go to your web dev team and say like, “Hey, we got to clean up all these URL parameters. I need you to add the rel=canonical tag to all these different kinds of pages, and here’s what they should point to. Here’s the logic to do it.” They’re like, “Yeah, guess what? SEO is not a priority for us for the next six months, so you’re going to have to deal with it.”

    Probably lots of SEOs out there have heard that from their web dev teams. Well, guess what? You can end around it, and this is a fine way to do that in the short term. Log in to your Google search console account that’s connected to your website. Make sure you’re verified. Then you can basically tell Google, through the Search Parameters section, to make certain kinds of parameters passive.

    So, for example, you have sessionid=blah, blah, blah. You can set that to be passive. You can set it to be passive on certain kinds of URLs. You can set it to be passive on all types of URLs. That helps tell Google, “Hey, guess what? Whenever you see this URL parameter, just treat it like it doesn’t exist at all.” That can be a helpful way to canonicalize.

    4. Use location hashes.

    So let’s say that my goal with /b was basically to have exactly the same content as /a but with one slight difference, which was I was going to take a block of content about a subsection of the topic and place that at the top. So A has the section about whiteboard pens at the top, but B puts the section about whiteboard pens toward the bottom, and they put the section about whiteboards themselves up at the top. Well, it’s the same content, same search intent behind it. I’m doing the same thing.

    Well, guess what? You can use the hash in the URL. So it’s a#b and that will jump someone — it’s also called a fragment URL — jump someone to that specific section on the page. You can see this, for example, Moz.com/about/jobs. I think if you plug in #listings, it will take you right to the job listings. Instead of reading about what it’s like to work here, you can just get directly to the list of jobs themselves. Now, Google considers that all one URL. So they’re not going to rank them differently. They don’t get indexed differently. They’re essentially canonicalized to the same URL.

    NOT RECOMMENDED

    I do not recommend…

    5. Blocking Google from crawling one URL but not the other version.

    Because guess what? Even if you use robots.txt and you block Googlebot’s spider and you send them away and they can’t reach it because you said robots.txt disallow /b, Google will not know that /b and /a have the same content on them. How could they?

    They can’t crawl it. So they can’t see anything that’s here. It’s invisible to them. Therefore, they’ll have no idea that any ranking signals, any links that happen to point there, any engagement signals, any content signals, whatever ranking signals that might have helped A rank better, they can’t see them. If you canonicalize in one of these ways, now you’re telling Google, yes, B is the same as A, combine their forces, give me all the rankings ability.

    6. I would also not recommend blocking indexation.

    So you might say, “Ah, well Rand, I’ll use the meta robots no index tag, so that way Google can crawl it, they can see that the content is the same, but I won’t allow them to index it.” Guess what? Same problem. They can see that the content is the same, but unless Google is smart enough to automatically canonicalize, which I would not trust them on, I would always trust yourself first, you are essentially, again, preventing them from combining the ranking signals of B into A, and that’s something you really want.

    7. I would not recommend using the 302, the 307, or any other 30x other than the 301.

    This is the guy that you want. It is a permanent redirect. It is the most likely to be most successful in canonicalization, even though Google has said, “We often treat 301s and 302s similarly.” The exception to that rule is but a 301 is probably better for canonicalization. Guess what we’re trying to do? Canonicalize!

    8. Don’t 40x the non-canonical version.

    So don’t take /b and be like, “Oh, okay, that’s not the version we want anymore. We’ll 404 it.” Don’t 404 it when you could 301. If you send it over here with a 301 or you use the rel=canonical in your header, you take all the signals and you point them to A. You lose them if you 404 that in B. Now, all the signals from B are gone. That’s a sad and terrible thing. You don’t want to do that either.

    The only time I might do this is if the page is very new or it was just an error. You don’t think it has any ranking signals, and you’ve got a bunch of other problems. You don’t want to deal with having to maintain the URL and the redirect long term. Fine. But if this was a real URL and real people visited it and real people linked to it, guess what? You need to redirect it because you want to save those signals.

    When to canonicalize URLs

    Last but not least, when should we canonicalize URLs versus not?

    I. If the content is extremely similar or exactly duplicate.

    Well, if it is the case that the content is either extremely similar or exactly duplicate on two different URLs, two or more URLs, you should always collapse and canonicalize those to a single one.

    II. If the content is serving the same (or nearly the same) searcher intent (even if the KW targets vary somewhat).

    If the content is not duplicate, maybe you have two pages that are completely unique about whiteboard pens and whiteboards, but even though the content is unique, meaning the phrasing and the sentence structures are the same, that does not mean that you shouldn’t canonicalize.

    For example, this Whiteboard Friday about using the rel=canonical, about canonicalization is going to replace an old version from 2009. We are going to take that old version and we are going to use the rel=canonical. Why are we going to use the rel=canonical? So that you can still access the old one if for some reason you want to see the version that we originally came out with in 2009. But we definitely don’t want people visiting that one, and we want to tell Google, “Hey, the most up-to-date one, the new one, the best one is this new version that you’re watching right now.” I know this is slightly meta, but that is a perfectly reasonable use.

    What I’m trying to aim at is searcher intent. So if the content is serving the same or nearly the same searcher intent, even if the keyword targeting is slightly different, you want to canonicalize those multiple versions. Google is going to do a much better job of ranking a single piece of content that has lots of good ranking signals for many, many keywords that are related to it, rather than splitting up your link equity and your other ranking signal equity across many, many pages that all target slightly different variations. Plus, it’s a pain in the butt to come up with all that different content. You would be best served by the very best content in one place.

    III. If you’re republishing or refreshing or updating old content.

    Like the Whiteboard Friday example I just used, you should use the rel=canonical in most cases. There are some exceptions. If you want to maintain that old version, but you’d like the old version’s ranking signals to come to the new version, you can take the content from the old version, republish that at /a-old. Then take /a and redirect that or publish the new version on there and have that version be the one that is canonical and the old version exist at some URL you’ve just created but that’s /old. So republishing, refreshing, updating old content, generally canonicalization is the way to go, and you can preserve the old version if you want.

    IV. If content, a product, an event, etc. is no longer available and there’s a near best match on another URL.

    If you have content that is expiring, a piece of content, a product, an event, something like that that’s going away, it’s no longer available and there’s a next best version, the version that you think is most likely to solve the searcher’s problems and that they’re probably looking for anyway, you can canonicalize in that case, usually with a 301 rather than with a rel=canonical, because you don’t want someone visiting the old page where nothing is available. You want both searchers and engines to get redirected to the new version, so good idea to essentially 301 at that point.

    Okay, folks. Look forward to your questions about rel=canonicals, canonical URLs, and canonicalization in general in SEO. And we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

    Video transcription by Speechpad.com

    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!

    Posted by SEO best practices for canonical URLs

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

    Video Transcription

    Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week, we’re going to chat about some SEO best practices for canonicalization and use of the rel=canonical tag.

    Before we do that, I think it pays to talk about what a canonical URL is, because a canonical URL doesn’t just refer to a page upon which we are targeting or using the rel=canonical tag. Canonicalization has been around, in fact, much longer than the rel=canonical tag itself, which came out in 2009, and there are a bunch of different things that a canonical URL means.

    What is a “canonical” URL?

    So first off, what we’re trying to say is this URL is the one that we want Google and the other search engines to index and to rank. These other URLs that potentially have similar content or that are serving a similar purpose or perhaps are exact duplicates, but, for some reason, we have additional URLs of them, those ones should all tell the search engines, “No, no, this guy over here is the one you want.”

    So, for example, I’ve got a canonical URL, ABC.com/a.

    Then I have a duplicate of that for some reason. Maybe it’s a historical artifact or a problem in my site architecture. Maybe I intentionally did it. Maybe I’m doing it for some sort of tracking or testing purposes. But that URL is at ABC.com/b.

    Then I have this other version, ABC.com/a?ref=twitter. What’s going on there? Well, that’s a URL parameter. The URL parameter doesn’t change the content. The content is exactly the same as A, but I really don’t want Google to get confused and rank this version, which can happen by the way. You’ll see URLs that are not the original version, that have some weird URL parameter ranking in Google sometimes. Sometimes this version gets more links than this version because they’re shared on Twitter, and so that’s the one everybody picked up and copied and pasted and linked to. That’s all fine and well, so long as we canonicalize it.

    Or this one, it’s a print version. It’s ABC.com/aprint.html. So, in all of these cases, what I want to do is I want to tell Google, “Don’t index this one. Index this one. Don’t index this one. Index this one. Don’t index this one. Index this one.”

    I can do that using this, the link rel=canonical, the href telling Google, “This is the page.” You put this in the header tag of any document and Google will know, “Aha, this is a copy or a clone or a duplicate of this other one. I should canonicalize all of my ranking signals, and I should make sure that this other version ranks.”

    By the way, you can be self-referential. So it is perfectly fine for ABC.com/a to go ahead and use this as well, pointing to itself. That way, in the event that someone you’ve never even met decides to plug in question mark, some weird parameter and point that to you, you’re still telling Google, “Hey, guess what? This is the original version.”

    Great. So since I don’t want Google to be confused, I can use this canonicalization process to do it. The rel=canonical tag is a great way to go. By the way, FYI, it can be used cross-domain. So, for example, if I republish the content on A at something like a [email protected], which is, I think, my Medium account, /a, guess what? I can put in a cross-domain rel=canonical telling them, “This one over here.” Now, even if Google crawls this other website, they are going to know that this is the original version. Pretty darn cool.

    Different ways to canonicalize multiple URLs

    There are different ways to canonicalize multiple URLs.

    1. Rel=canonical.

    I mention that rel=canonical isn’t the only one. It’s one of the most strongly recommended, and that’s why I’m putting it at number one. But there are other ways to do it, and sometimes we want to apply some of these other ones. There are also not-recommended ways to do it, and I’m going to discuss those as well.

    2. 301 redirect.

    The 301 redirect, this is basically a status code telling Google, “Hey, you know what? I’m going to take /b, I’m going to point it to /a. It was a mistake to ever have /b. I don’t want anyone visiting it. I don’t want it clogging up my web analytics with visit data. You know what? Let’s just 301 redirect that old URL over to this new one, over to the right one.”

    3. Passive parameters in Google search console.

    Some parts of me like this, some parts of me don’t. I think for very complex websites with tons of URL parameters and a ton of URLs, it can be just an incredible pain sometimes to go to your web dev team and say like, “Hey, we got to clean up all these URL parameters. I need you to add the rel=canonical tag to all these different kinds of pages, and here’s what they should point to. Here’s the logic to do it.” They’re like, “Yeah, guess what? SEO is not a priority for us for the next six months, so you’re going to have to deal with it.”

    Probably lots of SEOs out there have heard that from their web dev teams. Well, guess what? You can end around it, and this is a fine way to do that in the short term. Log in to your Google search console account that’s connected to your website. Make sure you’re verified. Then you can basically tell Google, through the Search Parameters section, to make certain kinds of parameters passive.

    So, for example, you have sessionid=blah, blah, blah. You can set that to be passive. You can set it to be passive on certain kinds of URLs. You can set it to be passive on all types of URLs. That helps tell Google, “Hey, guess what? Whenever you see this URL parameter, just treat it like it doesn’t exist at all.” That can be a helpful way to canonicalize.

    4. Use location hashes.

    So let’s say that my goal with /b was basically to have exactly the same content as /a but with one slight difference, which was I was going to take a block of content about a subsection of the topic and place that at the top. So A has the section about whiteboard pens at the top, but B puts the section about whiteboard pens toward the bottom, and they put the section about whiteboards themselves up at the top. Well, it’s the same content, same search intent behind it. I’m doing the same thing.

    Well, guess what? You can use the hash in the URL. So it’s a#b and that will jump someone — it’s also called a fragment URL — jump someone to that specific section on the page. You can see this, for example, Moz.com/about/jobs. I think if you plug in #listings, it will take you right to the job listings. Instead of reading about what it’s like to work here, you can just get directly to the list of jobs themselves. Now, Google considers that all one URL. So they’re not going to rank them differently. They don’t get indexed differently. They’re essentially canonicalized to the same URL.

    NOT RECOMMENDED

    I do not recommend…

    5. Blocking Google from crawling one URL but not the other version.

    Because guess what? Even if you use robots.txt and you block Googlebot’s spider and you send them away and they can’t reach it because you said robots.txt disallow /b, Google will not know that /b and /a have the same content on them. How could they?

    They can’t crawl it. So they can’t see anything that’s here. It’s invisible to them. Therefore, they’ll have no idea that any ranking signals, any links that happen to point there, any engagement signals, any content signals, whatever ranking signals that might have helped A rank better, they can’t see them. If you canonicalize in one of these ways, now you’re telling Google, yes, B is the same as A, combine their forces, give me all the rankings ability.

    6. I would also not recommend blocking indexation.

    So you might say, “Ah, well Rand, I’ll use the meta robots no index tag, so that way Google can crawl it, they can see that the content is the same, but I won’t allow them to index it.” Guess what? Same problem. They can see that the content is the same, but unless Google is smart enough to automatically canonicalize, which I would not trust them on, I would always trust yourself first, you are essentially, again, preventing them from combining the ranking signals of B into A, and that’s something you really want.

    7. I would not recommend using the 302, the 307, or any other 30x other than the 301.

    This is the guy that you want. It is a permanent redirect. It is the most likely to be most successful in canonicalization, even though Google has said, “We often treat 301s and 302s similarly.” The exception to that rule is but a 301 is probably better for canonicalization. Guess what we’re trying to do? Canonicalize!

    8. Don’t 40x the non-canonical version.

    So don’t take /b and be like, “Oh, okay, that’s not the version we want anymore. We’ll 404 it.” Don’t 404 it when you could 301. If you send it over here with a 301 or you use the rel=canonical in your header, you take all the signals and you point them to A. You lose them if you 404 that in B. Now, all the signals from B are gone. That’s a sad and terrible thing. You don’t want to do that either.

    The only time I might do this is if the page is very new or it was just an error. You don’t think it has any ranking signals, and you’ve got a bunch of other problems. You don’t want to deal with having to maintain the URL and the redirect long term. Fine. But if this was a real URL and real people visited it and real people linked to it, guess what? You need to redirect it because you want to save those signals.

    When to canonicalize URLs

    Last but not least, when should we canonicalize URLs versus not?

    I. If the content is extremely similar or exactly duplicate.

    Well, if it is the case that the content is either extremely similar or exactly duplicate on two different URLs, two or more URLs, you should always collapse and canonicalize those to a single one.

    II. If the content is serving the same (or nearly the same) searcher intent (even if the KW targets vary somewhat).

    If the content is not duplicate, maybe you have two pages that are completely unique about whiteboard pens and whiteboards, but even though the content is unique, meaning the phrasing and the sentence structures are the same, that does not mean that you shouldn’t canonicalize.

    For example, this Whiteboard Friday about using the rel=canonical, about canonicalization is going to replace an old version from 2009. We are going to take that old version and we are going to use the rel=canonical. Why are we going to use the rel=canonical? So that you can still access the old one if for some reason you want to see the version that we originally came out with in 2009. But we definitely don’t want people visiting that one, and we want to tell Google, “Hey, the most up-to-date one, the new one, the best one is this new version that you’re watching right now.” I know this is slightly meta, but that is a perfectly reasonable use.

    What I’m trying to aim at is searcher intent. So if the content is serving the same or nearly the same searcher intent, even if the keyword targeting is slightly different, you want to canonicalize those multiple versions. Google is going to do a much better job of ranking a single piece of content that has lots of good ranking signals for many, many keywords that are related to it, rather than splitting up your link equity and your other ranking signal equity across many, many pages that all target slightly different variations. Plus, it’s a pain in the butt to come up with all that different content. You would be best served by the very best content in one place.

    III. If you’re republishing or refreshing or updating old content.

    Like the Whiteboard Friday example I just used, you should use the rel=canonical in most cases. There are some exceptions. If you want to maintain that old version, but you’d like the old version’s ranking signals to come to the new version, you can take the content from the old version, republish that at /a-old. Then take /a and redirect that or publish the new version on there and have that version be the one that is canonical and the old version exist at some URL you’ve just created but that’s /old. So republishing, refreshing, updating old content, generally canonicalization is the way to go, and you can preserve the old version if you want.

    IV. If content, a product, an event, etc. is no longer available and there’s a near best match on another URL.

    If you have content that is expiring, a piece of content, a product, an event, something like that that’s going away, it’s no longer available and there’s a next best version, the version that you think is most likely to solve the searcher’s problems and that they’re probably looking for anyway, you can canonicalize in that case, usually with a 301 rather than with a rel=canonical, because you don’t want someone visiting the old page where nothing is available. You want both searchers and engines to get redirected to the new version, so good idea to essentially 301 at that point.

    Okay, folks. Look forward to your questions about rel=canonicals, canonical URLs, and canonicalization in general in SEO. And we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

    Video transcription by Speechpad.com

    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!

    “”

    Moz Transitions: Rand to Step From Operations and into Advisory Role at the begining of 2018

    Published by Rand started to shift his role at Moz. He transitioned from Chief executive officer right into a product architect role where he could focus the love and also have hands-on impact in evolving our tools. Now, within the next 6 to 9 several weeks he’ll transition right into a supporting role like a Moz Affiliate. He will still be a separate speaker and evangelist, and you will still see his passionate face in White board Fridays, around the Moz Blog, as well as on various conference stages. Not to mention, he is among our largest shareholders and can remain Chairman from the Board.

    This really is hard. Rand began Moz (formerly seomoz.org) over 16 years back like a blog to record what he was researching this latest field. He and the co-founder Gillian Muessig produced an advertising and marketing agency that centered on helping websites get present in search. They launched their first SAAS software product in Feb 2007, and that i became a member of the organization nine several weeks later because the eighth worker. We have come a lengthy way. Today, we’ve over 36,000 customers, 160 team people, a powerful values-based culture, great investors, over $42 million in annual revenue this past year, along with a large and growing community of marketers. A lot of people have helped us achieve this time.

    What else is next for Rand? We are excited to discover. His book concerning the last 16 years at Moz arrives the coming year.

    If you notice Rand, please let him know gratitude and support. He’s a remarkably gifted, passionate, and productive individual having a dedication to helping others. I understand he will keep marketing better and spread TAGFEE in most his future roles.

    Join The Moz Top Ten, a semimonthly mailer updating you on top ten hottest bits of Search engine optimization news, tips, and rad links uncovered through the Moz team. Consider it as being your exclusive digest of stuff you do not have time for you to search lower but wish to read!

    Published by Rand started to shift his role at Moz. He transitioned from Chief executive officer right into a product architect role where he could focus the love and also have hands-on impact in evolving our tools. Now, within the next 6 to 9 several weeks he’ll transition right into a supporting role like a Moz Affiliate. He will still be a separate speaker and evangelist, and you will still see his passionate face in White board Fridays, around the Moz Blog, as well as on various conference stages. Not to mention, he is among our largest shareholders and can remain Chairman from the Board.

    This really is hard. Rand began Moz (formerly seomoz.org) over 16 years back like a blog to record what he was researching this latest field. He and the co-founder Gillian Muessig produced an advertising and marketing agency that centered on helping websites get present in search. They launched their first SAAS software product in Feb 2007, and that i became a member of the organization nine several weeks later because the eighth worker. We have come a lengthy way. Today, we’ve over 36,000 customers, 160 team people, a powerful values-based culture, great investors, over $42 million in annual revenue this past year, along with a large and growing community of marketers. A lot of people have helped us achieve this time.

    What else is next for Rand? We are excited to discover. His book concerning the last 16 years at Moz arrives the coming year.

    If you notice Rand, please let him know gratitude and support. He’s a remarkably gifted, passionate, and productive individual having a dedication to helping others. I understand he will keep marketing better and spread TAGFEE in most his future roles.

    Join The Moz Top Ten, a semimonthly mailer updating you on top ten hottest bits of Search engine optimization news, tips, and rad links uncovered through the Moz team. Consider it as being your exclusive digest of stuff you do not have time for you to search lower but wish to read!

    “”

    How &quotMessage Match&quot Can Lift Conversions by 212.74% [Situation Study]

    Published by it’ll only amplify them. Rather, the secret would be to zoom out towards the main issue. Then it’s a reasonably straightforward procedure for:

    1. Working out who your clients are
    2. What they need
    3. And just how they need it

    This way, you are able to align all the critical variables (therefore making your “messages match”) to be able to enhance their experience. Which, if done properly, also needs to enhance your main point here within the finish, our client saw a 69.39% cost per conversion decrease having a 212.74% rate of conversion lift.

    Here’s the best way to perform the same.

    How AdWords prices works

    AdWords is definitely an auction. Kinda, sorta.

    This is an auction-based system where (typically) the greatest bidder receives the very best positions around the page. But it is not always the situation. It’s feasible for anyone to rank within the coveted 1–2 positions above you and also really pay less per click than you. (As well as convert individuals people in a greater percentage after they hit your website — but we’ll leave that until later.)

    Any marketer worth their salt knows what’s approaching next.

    The Standard Score starts to dictate effective prices. It isn’t the finish-be-all PPC metric. But it’s a useful gauge that allows you to determine if you’re on the right track to success and profits — or otherwise. It’s a mix of several factors, such as the expected click-through rate, ad relevance, and website landing page experience. Ad Rank can be used together to find out position according to an ad’s performance. (That’s the 30-second explanation, anyway.)

    Years back, Ray Kim examined Quality Score in-depth to find out just what sort of impact it’d on which you have to pay. You need to browse the full factor. But among the key takeaways was this:

    Observe that in case your Quality Score is substandard, you’ll essentially pay a problem — as much as 64% more per conversion than your average advertiser. The bottom line is, for each Quality Score point over the average 5/10 score, your CPA will visit 16%, typically. On the other hand, for each Quality Score point underneath the average of 5/10, your CPA will rise by 16%.

    gSbiVlC.png

    (Image source)

    Go forward to simply a couple of several weeks ago, and Disruptive Advertising’s Jacob Baadsgaard examined their 2,000+ AdWords accounts (with millions in ad spend) to remove an identical analysis. They were left with strikingly similar results:

    Actually, our answers are strikingly much like individuals as reported by Ray Kim. In case your quality score increases by 1 point, your cost-per-conversion decreases by 13% (Ray puts it at 16%). In case your quality score decreases by 1 point, your cost-per-conversion increases by 13%.”

    45KHbG9.png

    (Image source)

    Coincidence? Unlikely.

    Hold on, there’s more!

    Jumping platforms for any second, Facebook introduced a “Relevance Score” lately. AdEspresso examined 104,256 ads more than a 45-day period and saw an identical correlation from a greater Relevance Score minimizing CPC rates. The inverse often happens.

    szonvTY.png

    (Image source)

    Okay. Three different analyses, by three differing people, across two channels, with three similar results. So what can we study from this?

    The alignment of the ads, your keyword or audience targeting, as well as your squeeze pages considerably influence costs (as well as, eventual results). And what’s the main one underlying indisputable fact that affects these?

    Your “message match.”

    Ways to get message match right

    Oli from Unbounce is really a masochist. You’d need to be anyway, to be able to spend each day hitting 300 different compensated ads, noting message match on the way.

    The ultimate tally?

    98% from the 300 ads Oli visited didn’t effectively match. That’s incredibly bad, because this doesn’t take any PPC ninja skills. It just takes just a little focus on detail. Because what’s message match?

    You apply the same headline, description or value proposition, and image out of your ad:

    great message match ad

    (Image source)

    And can include individuals same elements around the website landing page people visit:

    great message match landing page

    (Image source)

    Sure, you most likely shouldn’t use clip art inside your ads as well as on your squeeze pages in 2017, but a minimum of they have got the fundamentals lower.

    Whenever you consider this idea holistically, it can make sense. In tangible existence, nearly all communication is non-verbal. Fifty-5 %, actually, comes lower for your expressions, gestures, and posture.

    Online you do not have that nuance and context. It’s difficult (otherwise impossible) to strike exactly the same emotional chord having a text-only headline restricted to 25 figures as possible through video and audio. It (literally) is effective be as specific and explicit as you possibly can. Even though it might take hrs to distill all this lower, here’s the CliffsNotes version.

    Step #1: Your audience/keywords

    AdWords generated about 68% of Google’s revenue in 2014. This past year they provided $75 billion. So we’re speaking billions having a B here.

    Lots of which comes lower to some searcher’s (1) intent and (2) emergency, in which you invest in classically bottom-of-the-funnel keyphrases and convert ~2–10% of individuals clicks.

    iIxPzsq.png

    (Image source)

    (Facebook’s a different animal, in which you rather develop a funnel for every step.)

    Though it sounds trite, the very best ways to generate keyphrases is really a much deeper knowledge of why is readers tick (besides doing the apparent and shedding your competitor’s website name into SEMrush or SpyFu to determine what they’re all putting in a bid on).

    A pleasant, actionable illustration of this is actually the Ad Grid from Digital Marketer, which will help you determine which potential “hooks” should/works for every customer type. build-traffic-campaigns-img5.jpg

    (Image source)

    After that, you’d clearly hit the market and keyword research market together with your Keyword Explorers and SEMrushes after which distill all your information lower into one nice, neat little package.

    Again borrowing in the excellence of others, my personal favorite approach could be single-keyword ad group (SKAG) from Johnathan Dane at KlientBoost.

    For instance, one Ad Group might have just one keyphrase with every match type, such as the following:

    • Broad: +marriage +proposal +planners
    • Phrase: “marriage proposal planners”
    • Exact: [marriage proposal planners]

    This, unsurprisingly, appears time-consuming. That’s since it is.

    Take it easy, because sturdy to obtain a whole lot worse.

    Step #2: Your ads

    The easiest method to scale your PPC ad writing is to produce a formula. You’ve variables that you simply mix-and-match, watching CTRs along with other metrics to find out which combination is most effective.

    Begin with something simple, like Johnathan + Klientboost’s example that comes with the right balance of keyphrase + benefits + action:

    New-Ad

    (Image source)

    For bottom-of-the-funnel, no-frills keyphrases, sometimes easy and direct is most effective. It’s not necessary to obtain excessively clever with reinventing the wheel. You simply slap inside your keyphrase for the reason that little headline space and then try to highlight most of your value prop, USP, or benefit that may get individuals to click your ad rather of all of the others that appear to be much like it.

    Ad writing could possibly get difficult and untidy when you get lost within the intangible fluffiness of jargon.

    Don’t.

    Rather, concentrate on emphasizing concrete examples, benefits, and connection between anything you’re advertising. Here are a few of Digital Marketer’s hooks to gain access to from:

    1. So how exactly does it compare the pre and post effect?
    2. So how exactly does it make sure they are feel emotionally/?
    3. How (particularly) will it enhance their average day?
    4. So how exactly does it affect their status or vanity?
    5. Can there be quantifiable evidence of results?
    6. What’s the expected time for you to results (i.e. speed)?

    You are able to on the other hand remove the minutia by boiling everything lower to variables.

    B4jsCwp.png

    For additional studying about this subject, here’s a much deeper dive into scaling PPC ad writing on WordStream.

    Step #3: Website landing page

    Okay — here comes the enjoyment part.

    Marketing efforts generally fail whenever we are only able to (or are just permitted) to create surface-level changes. Marketing doesn’t equal just advertising, in the end.

    Made a lot of updates for an AdWords account? Great. You’ll still struggle before you may take full control of the destinations individuals ads are delivering to, and make new dedicated pages for every campaign.

    In a perfect world, all of your SKAGs produced above would their very own specific website landing page too. If you are proficient at math, that website landing page total inside your mind just leaped another 5X probably. But because we’ve alluded, it’s worthwhile.

    Starting with just one new website landing page template. Then consider each element since it’s own interchangeable variable you are able to combine (have it?). For instance, the headline, hero image, summary sentences and CTAs can evolve or update for one sort of customer:

    Attorney insurance quotes

    And become rapidly duplicated/cloned, then switched out for an additional to improve message match whenever possible:

    Dentist insurance quotes

    Perfect. Another incredibly time-consuming task to increase your list to obtain carried this out week.

    Fortunately, there’s a couple of methods to scale this method too.

    Possibility #1: Dynamic Text Substitute

    Unbounce’s ready-made solution will help you to produce a standard website landing page, after which instantly (or dynamically) change that content according to what someone just looked for.

    You are able to enter these dynamic text fields utilizing their visual builder, then turn it on for your AdWords account which means you literally do not have to lift a finger.

    1QB4ZJG.png

    (Image source)

    Each section enables you to definitely specify default text to make use of (much like how you’d specify a fallback font for those browsers for instance).

    Possibility #2: Advanced Custom Fields

    That one requires some extra groundwork, however it makes technical people smile.

    My opportunity used Advanced Custom Fields + Flexible Happy to create these variable choices on the backend of WordPress pages, therefore we (and clients) can easily mass-produce completely unique content at scale.

    For that example used earlier, here’s what replacing the Hero section around the earlier website landing page example would seem like:

    Click and upload a picture to some pre-formatted space. Pick a couple of radio choices for page placement. Easy-peasy.

    Here’s exactly what the headline and subhead space appears like:

    Now making changes or updates to squeeze pages (to obtain message match right) takes only a couple of seconds per page.

    We even build out these choices for secondary calls-to-action on the page too, like footer CTAs:

    By doing this, using the mouse click, we are able to setup and test how different CTA options might work.

    For instance, so how exactly does easy and direct…

    GuZqW8P.png

    …compare and among the hooks that people created inside a previous step?

    1fSB5Rt.png

    For added credit, you are able to combine these customizable features according to your inbound traffic segmentation together with your exit intent (or overlay) messaging.

    q4Y2EgA.png

    How growing PPC message match drives results

    So to the outcomes.

    After updating the ad account and making major modifications to the client’s website landing page infrastructure, here’s what improved message match delivers (inside a competitive industry with mid-five figure monthly spend).

    In 2015, before all this work, the price per converted click was $482.41 and rate of conversion across all accounts was just 4.08%.

    IfClUhB.png

    Throughout the same 30-day period in 2016 (in the end of the work), the price per converted click fell to simply $147.65 and also the rate of conversion leaped to 12.76%.

    2EZ7BjO.png

    Which means far more leads, for much less. Which just scratches the top, because oftentimes, AdWords conversions continue to be just leads. Not the case sales.

    We haven’t even discussed publish-lead conversion tactics to mix all this with, like marketing automation, in which you would combine exactly the same message match approach by delivering targeted content that builds on a single topics or hooks that individuals initially looked for and converted on.

    Or layering in newer (read: less competitive or costly) options like Facebook, instantly syncing these results in your aforementioned marketing automation workflows which are pre-configured with similar message match in your mind.

    The options are endless, and also the same laser-concentrate on aligning message complement each funnel can increase results through the entire funnel.

    Conclusion

    Whenever a purchase is moved from offline to on, we lose many of the context for communication that people generally depend upon.

    Consequently, the main focus has a tendency to shift more towards clearness and specificity.

    There isn’t any greater example than searching at just how today’s most widely used online ad platforms work, in which the costs people pay are directly associated with their performance and skill to “match” or align their ads and happy to what individuals are searching for.

    Clever versus. obvious?

    So what — as lengthy as the messages match.

    Join The Moz Top Ten, a semimonthly mailer updating you on top ten hottest bits of Search engine optimization news, tips, and rad links uncovered through the Moz team. Consider it as being your exclusive digest of stuff you do not have time for you to search lower but wish to read!

    Published by it’ll only amplify them. Rather, the secret would be to zoom out towards the main issue. Then it’s a reasonably straightforward procedure for:

    1. Working out who your clients are
    2. What they need
    3. And just how they need it

    This way, you are able to align all the critical variables (therefore making your “messages match”) to be able to enhance their experience. Which, if done properly, also needs to enhance your main point here within the finish, our client saw a 69.39% cost per conversion decrease having a 212.74% rate of conversion lift.

    Here’s the best way to perform the same.

    How AdWords prices works

    AdWords is definitely an auction. Kinda, sorta.

    This is an auction-based system where (typically) the greatest bidder receives the very best positions around the page. But it is not always the situation. It’s feasible for anyone to rank within the coveted 1–2 positions above you and also really pay less per click than you. (As well as convert individuals people in a greater percentage after they hit your website — but we’ll leave that until later.)

    Any marketer worth their salt knows what’s approaching next.

    The Standard Score starts to dictate effective prices. It isn’t the finish-be-all PPC metric. But it’s a useful gauge that allows you to determine if you’re on the right track to success and profits — or otherwise. It’s a mix of several factors, such as the expected click-through rate, ad relevance, and website landing page experience. Ad Rank can be used together to find out position according to an ad’s performance. (That’s the 30-second explanation, anyway.)

    Years back, Ray Kim examined Quality Score in-depth to find out just what sort of impact it’d on which you have to pay. You need to browse the full factor. But among the key takeaways was this:

    Observe that in case your Quality Score is substandard, you’ll essentially pay a problem — as much as 64% more per conversion than your average advertiser. The bottom line is, for each Quality Score point over the average 5/10 score, your CPA will visit 16%, typically. On the other hand, for each Quality Score point underneath the average of 5/10, your CPA will rise by 16%.

    gSbiVlC.png

    (Image source)

    Go forward to simply a couple of several weeks ago, and Disruptive Advertising’s Jacob Baadsgaard examined their 2,000+ AdWords accounts (with millions in ad spend) to remove an identical analysis. They were left with strikingly similar results:

    Actually, our answers are strikingly much like individuals as reported by Ray Kim. In case your quality score increases by 1 point, your cost-per-conversion decreases by 13% (Ray puts it at 16%). In case your quality score decreases by 1 point, your cost-per-conversion increases by 13%.”

    45KHbG9.png

    (Image source)

    Coincidence? Unlikely.

    Hold on, there’s more!

    Jumping platforms for any second, Facebook introduced a “Relevance Score” lately. AdEspresso examined 104,256 ads more than a 45-day period and saw an identical correlation from a greater Relevance Score minimizing CPC rates. The inverse often happens.

    szonvTY.png

    (Image source)

    Okay. Three different analyses, by three differing people, across two channels, with three similar results. So what can we study from this?

    The alignment of the ads, your keyword or audience targeting, as well as your squeeze pages considerably influence costs (as well as, eventual results). And what’s the main one underlying indisputable fact that affects these?

    Your “message match.”

    Ways to get message match right

    Oli from Unbounce is really a masochist. You’d need to be anyway, to be able to spend each day hitting 300 different compensated ads, noting message match on the way.

    The ultimate tally?

    98% from the 300 ads Oli visited didn’t effectively match. That’s incredibly bad, because this doesn’t take any PPC ninja skills. It just takes just a little focus on detail. Because what’s message match?

    You apply the same headline, description or value proposition, and image out of your ad:

    great message match ad

    (Image source)

    And can include individuals same elements around the website landing page people visit:

    great message match landing page

    (Image source)

    Sure, you most likely shouldn’t use clip art inside your ads as well as on your squeeze pages in 2017, but a minimum of they have got the fundamentals lower.

    Whenever you consider this idea holistically, it can make sense. In tangible existence, nearly all communication is non-verbal. Fifty-5 %, actually, comes lower for your expressions, gestures, and posture.

    Online you do not have that nuance and context. It’s difficult (otherwise impossible) to strike exactly the same emotional chord having a text-only headline restricted to 25 figures as possible through video and audio. It (literally) is effective be as specific and explicit as you possibly can. Even though it might take hrs to distill all this lower, here’s the CliffsNotes version.

    Step #1: Your audience/keywords

    AdWords generated about 68% of Google’s revenue in 2014. This past year they provided $75 billion. So we’re speaking billions having a B here.

    Lots of which comes lower to some searcher’s (1) intent and (2) emergency, in which you invest in classically bottom-of-the-funnel keyphrases and convert ~2–10% of individuals clicks.

    iIxPzsq.png

    (Image source)

    (Facebook’s a different animal, in which you rather develop a funnel for every step.)

    Though it sounds trite, the very best ways to generate keyphrases is really a much deeper knowledge of why is readers tick (besides doing the apparent and shedding your competitor’s website name into SEMrush or SpyFu to determine what they’re all putting in a bid on).

    A pleasant, actionable illustration of this is actually the Ad Grid from Digital Marketer, which will help you determine which potential “hooks” should/works for every customer type. build-traffic-campaigns-img5.jpg

    (Image source)

    After that, you’d clearly hit the market and keyword research market together with your Keyword Explorers and SEMrushes after which distill all your information lower into one nice, neat little package.

    Again borrowing in the excellence of others, my personal favorite approach could be single-keyword ad group (SKAG) from Johnathan Dane at KlientBoost.

    For instance, one Ad Group might have just one keyphrase with every match type, such as the following:

    • Broad: +marriage +proposal +planners
    • Phrase: “marriage proposal planners”
    • Exact: [marriage proposal planners]

    This, unsurprisingly, appears time-consuming. That’s since it is.

    Take it easy, because sturdy to obtain a whole lot worse.

    Step #2: Your ads

    The easiest method to scale your PPC ad writing is to produce a formula. You’ve variables that you simply mix-and-match, watching CTRs along with other metrics to find out which combination is most effective.

    Begin with something simple, like Johnathan + Klientboost’s example that comes with the right balance of keyphrase + benefits + action:

    New-Ad

    (Image source)

    For bottom-of-the-funnel, no-frills keyphrases, sometimes easy and direct is most effective. It’s not necessary to obtain excessively clever with reinventing the wheel. You simply slap inside your keyphrase for the reason that little headline space and then try to highlight most of your value prop, USP, or benefit that may get individuals to click your ad rather of all of the others that appear to be much like it.

    Ad writing could possibly get difficult and untidy when you get lost within the intangible fluffiness of jargon.

    Don’t.

    Rather, concentrate on emphasizing concrete examples, benefits, and connection between anything you’re advertising. Here are a few of Digital Marketer’s hooks to gain access to from:

    1. So how exactly does it compare the pre and post effect?
    2. So how exactly does it make sure they are feel emotionally/?
    3. How (particularly) will it enhance their average day?
    4. So how exactly does it affect their status or vanity?
    5. Can there be quantifiable evidence of results?
    6. What’s the expected time for you to results (i.e. speed)?

    You are able to on the other hand remove the minutia by boiling everything lower to variables.

    B4jsCwp.png

    For additional studying about this subject, here’s a much deeper dive into scaling PPC ad writing on WordStream.

    Step #3: Website landing page

    Okay — here comes the enjoyment part.

    Marketing efforts generally fail whenever we are only able to (or are just permitted) to create surface-level changes. Marketing doesn’t equal just advertising, in the end.

    Made a lot of updates for an AdWords account? Great. You’ll still struggle before you may take full control of the destinations individuals ads are delivering to, and make new dedicated pages for every campaign.

    In a perfect world, all of your SKAGs produced above would their very own specific website landing page too. If you are proficient at math, that website landing page total inside your mind just leaped another 5X probably. But because we’ve alluded, it’s worthwhile.

    Starting with just one new website landing page template. Then consider each element since it’s own interchangeable variable you are able to combine (have it?). For instance, the headline, hero image, summary sentences and CTAs can evolve or update for one sort of customer:

    Attorney insurance quotes

    And become rapidly duplicated/cloned, then switched out for an additional to improve message match whenever possible:

    Dentist insurance quotes

    Perfect. Another incredibly time-consuming task to increase your list to obtain carried this out week.

    Fortunately, there’s a couple of methods to scale this method too.

    Possibility #1: Dynamic Text Substitute

    Unbounce’s ready-made solution will help you to produce a standard website landing page, after which instantly (or dynamically) change that content according to what someone just looked for.

    You are able to enter these dynamic text fields utilizing their visual builder, then turn it on for your AdWords account which means you literally do not have to lift a finger.

    1QB4ZJG.png

    (Image source)

    Each section enables you to definitely specify default text to make use of (much like how you’d specify a fallback font for those browsers for instance).

    Possibility #2: Advanced Custom Fields

    That one requires some extra groundwork, however it makes technical people smile.

    My opportunity used Advanced Custom Fields + Flexible Happy to create these variable choices on the backend of WordPress pages, therefore we (and clients) can easily mass-produce completely unique content at scale.

    For that example used earlier, here’s what replacing the Hero section around the earlier website landing page example would seem like:

    Click and upload a picture to some pre-formatted space. Pick a couple of radio choices for page placement. Easy-peasy.

    Here’s exactly what the headline and subhead space appears like:

    Now making changes or updates to squeeze pages (to obtain message match right) takes only a couple of seconds per page.

    We even build out these choices for secondary calls-to-action on the page too, like footer CTAs:

    By doing this, using the mouse click, we are able to setup and test how different CTA options might work.

    For instance, so how exactly does easy and direct…

    GuZqW8P.png

    …compare and among the hooks that people created inside a previous step?

    1fSB5Rt.png

    For added credit, you are able to combine these customizable features according to your inbound traffic segmentation together with your exit intent (or overlay) messaging.

    q4Y2EgA.png

    How growing PPC message match drives results

    So to the outcomes.

    After updating the ad account and making major modifications to the client’s website landing page infrastructure, here’s what improved message match delivers (inside a competitive industry with mid-five figure monthly spend).

    In 2015, before all this work, the price per converted click was $482.41 and rate of conversion across all accounts was just 4.08%.

    IfClUhB.png

    Throughout the same 30-day period in 2016 (in the end of the work), the price per converted click fell to simply $147.65 and also the rate of conversion leaped to 12.76%.

    2EZ7BjO.png

    Which means far more leads, for much less. Which just scratches the top, because oftentimes, AdWords conversions continue to be just leads. Not the case sales.

    We haven’t even discussed publish-lead conversion tactics to mix all this with, like marketing automation, in which you would combine exactly the same message match approach by delivering targeted content that builds on a single topics or hooks that individuals initially looked for and converted on.

    Or layering in newer (read: less competitive or costly) options like Facebook, instantly syncing these results in your aforementioned marketing automation workflows which are pre-configured with similar message match in your mind.

    The options are endless, and also the same laser-concentrate on aligning message complement each funnel can increase results through the entire funnel.

    Conclusion

    Whenever a purchase is moved from offline to on, we lose many of the context for communication that people generally depend upon.

    Consequently, the main focus has a tendency to shift more towards clearness and specificity.

    There isn’t any greater example than searching at just how today’s most widely used online ad platforms work, in which the costs people pay are directly associated with their performance and skill to “match” or align their ads and happy to what individuals are searching for.

    Clever versus. obvious?

    So what — as lengthy as the messages match.

    Join The Moz Top Ten, a semimonthly mailer updating you on top ten hottest bits of Search engine optimization news, tips, and rad links uncovered through the Moz team. Consider it as being your exclusive digest of stuff you do not have time for you to search lower but wish to read!

    “”

    The Unspoken Reality of Internet Neutrality

    Published during the day of Action meant for internet neutrality.

    Internet neutrality is a reasonably simple principle: that Isps should enable use of all content and applications whatever the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.

    At face value, internet neutrality appears to affirm the fundamental concepts of freedom of expression which the majority of us hold dear. When the FCC progresses in retracting policies that safeguard the web within the interest from the public good, it’s reasonable to suspect these freedoms is going to be curtailed.

    This curtailed freedom is frequently described when it comes to small or independent content producers who definitely are withdrawn from this latest caste-like system of Access to the internet. However, I must take the time to reveal different vital services which will probably suffer with no protections supplied by internet neutrality.

    1. 911 sales departments

    Over sixty five million Americans depend on Voice-Over-IP (Voice over internet protocol) for his or her telephone service, as well as in 2009, the Congressional Research Service known as for 911 sales departments emigrate to IP technology in modernizing their infrastructure. Each family and also the sales departments themselves rely on unfettered bandwidth. Whenever you call 911, seconds matter, and the caliber of that bandwidth determines that speed. Without internet neutrality, that bandwidth and individuals seconds are offer the greatest bidder.

    2. Clinical Video Telehealth for the veterans

    In 2016, the Department of Veterans Matters offered over 677,000 veterans in rural and under-offered areas via telehealth. The VA’s Clinical Video Telehealth (CVT) is really a true innovation, connecting their finest doctors using their neediest patients. Regrettably, this critical health technology relies on a single network backbone just like any Online sites. Who covers the cost the elevated tolls to make sure that serving our veterans remains important on these systems?

    3. Online education for K–12 students as well as their teachers

    Finally, by 2014, 75% of US districts offered some type of online education for K–12 students. Greater than 2.seven million students required benefit of this blended erectile dysfunction-tech, while 315,000 students were signed up for full-time spent online education. Exactly the same technology you may use within your working environment to carry sales calls can be used by teachers to satisfy with parents and students across the nation, delivering education to individuals who’re hard to serve otherwise. It’s annoying when Netflix buffers, but it’s tragic whenever a child can’t communicate effectively with their teachers.

    These are merely three of numerous types of the way the Internet originates to supply vital services to the veterans, our kids, and our communities. With no fundamental protections internet neutrality affords, these vital services, and a whole lot, are in risk. Internet neutrality advocates are correct to think about the disposable and unfettered speech of websites over the web when the Internet remains unprotected, but we ought to not pretend that just our test is on the line. Our safety, our veterans, and our kids are at risk, too.

    If you are wondering many following through, check out Fight for that Internet.

    Appreciate your consideration.

    Join The Moz Top Ten, a semimonthly mailer updating you on top ten hottest bits of Search engine optimization news, tips, and rad links uncovered through the Moz team. Consider it as being your exclusive digest of stuff you do not have time for you to search lower but wish to read!

    Published during the day of Action meant for internet neutrality.

    Internet neutrality is a reasonably simple principle: that Isps should enable use of all content and applications whatever the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.

    At face value, internet neutrality appears to affirm the fundamental concepts of freedom of expression which the majority of us hold dear. When the FCC progresses in retracting policies that safeguard the web within the interest from the public good, it’s reasonable to suspect these freedoms is going to be curtailed.

    This curtailed freedom is frequently described when it comes to small or independent content producers who definitely are withdrawn from this latest caste-like system of Access to the internet. However, I must take the time to reveal different vital services which will probably suffer with no protections supplied by internet neutrality.

    1. 911 sales departments

    Over sixty five million Americans depend on Voice-Over-IP (Voice over internet protocol) for his or her telephone service, as well as in 2009, the Congressional Research Service known as for 911 sales departments emigrate to IP technology in modernizing their infrastructure. Each family and also the sales departments themselves rely on unfettered bandwidth. Whenever you call 911, seconds matter, and the caliber of that bandwidth determines that speed. Without internet neutrality, that bandwidth and individuals seconds are offer the greatest bidder.

    2. Clinical Video Telehealth for the veterans

    In 2016, the Department of Veterans Matters offered over 677,000 veterans in rural and under-offered areas via telehealth. The VA’s Clinical Video Telehealth (CVT) is really a true innovation, connecting their finest doctors using their neediest patients. Regrettably, this critical health technology relies on a single network backbone just like any Online sites. Who covers the cost the elevated tolls to make sure that serving our veterans remains important on these systems?

    3. Online education for K–12 students as well as their teachers

    Finally, by 2014, 75% of US districts offered some type of online education for K–12 students. Greater than 2.seven million students required benefit of this blended erectile dysfunction-tech, while 315,000 students were signed up for full-time spent online education. Exactly the same technology you may use within your working environment to carry sales calls can be used by teachers to satisfy with parents and students across the nation, delivering education to individuals who’re hard to serve otherwise. It’s annoying when Netflix buffers, but it’s tragic whenever a child can’t communicate effectively with their teachers.

    These are merely three of numerous types of the way the Internet originates to supply vital services to the veterans, our kids, and our communities. With no fundamental protections internet neutrality affords, these vital services, and a whole lot, are in risk. Internet neutrality advocates are correct to think about the disposable and unfettered speech of websites over the web when the Internet remains unprotected, but we ought to not pretend that just our test is on the line. Our safety, our veterans, and our kids are at risk, too.

    If you are wondering many following through, check out Fight for that Internet.

    Appreciate your consideration.

    Join The Moz Top Ten, a semimonthly mailer updating you on top ten hottest bits of Search engine optimization news, tips, and rad links uncovered through the Moz team. Consider it as being your exclusive digest of stuff you do not have time for you to search lower but wish to read!

    “”