Free Local SEO Tools That Belong in Your Kit

Posted by MiriamEllis

What a lot can change in just a few years! When I wrote the original version of this post in January 2014, the local SEO industry didn’t have quite the wealth of paid tools that now exists, and many of the freebies on my previous list have been sunsetted. Definitely time for a complete refresh of the most useful free tools, widgets, and resources I know of to make marketing local businesses easier and better.

While all of the tools below are free, note that some will require you to sign up for access. Others are limited, no-cost, or trial versions that let you get a good sense of what they provide, enabling you to consider whether it might be worth it to buy into paid access. One thing you may notice: my new list of local SEO tools offers increased support for organic SEO tasks, reflective of our industry’s growing understanding of how closely linked organic and local SEO have become.

Now, let’s open this toolkit and get 2018 off to a great start!


For Research

US Census Bureau Tool Set

Looking to better understand a target community for marketing purposes? You’ll find 20+ useful resources from the US Census Bureau, including population statistics, economic data, mapping and geocoding widgets, income and language information, and much more.

Client Onboarding Questionnaire & Phone Script

Onboarding a new client? Reduce repetitious follow-ups by asking all of the right questions the first time around with this thorough questionnaire and easy-to-follow phone call script from Moz. Includes helpful tips for why you are asking each question. As local SEO veterans will tell you, a missed question can lead to unhappy (and costly) surprises down the marketing road. Be sure you have the total picture of an incoming client in clear view before you begin strategizing.

Location Information Spreadsheet

Vital when marketing multi-location businesses, this free Moz spreadsheet will ensure that you’ve got all the info at your fingertips about each locale of a company.

*Pro tip: When working with large enterprises, be certain that the data you’re inputting in this spreadsheet has been approved by all relevant departments. It’s really no fun to find out six months into a marketing campaign that there’s internal disagreement about company NAP or other features.

Local Competitive Audit Spreadsheet

Now we’re really getting down to brass tacks. When you need to look for answers to the perennial client question, “Why is that guy outranking me?”, this free Moz spreadsheet will help you document key competitive data. The end result of filling out the sheet will be two columns of stats you can compare and contrast in your quest to discover competitors’ ranking strengths and weaknesses. Need more guidance? Read my blog post in which I put this audit spreadsheet into action for two San Francisco Bay Area Chinese restaurants.

Manual GeoLocation Chrome Extension

Watch Darren Shaw demo using this tool to show how a local pack changes when a user virtually crosses a street and you’ll quickly understand how useful this Chrome extension will be in approximating the impacts of user-to-business proximity. Works well on desktop devices.

Our industry still hasn’t fully recovered from Google removing the Local Search filter from its engine in 2015, and I still live in hope that they will bring it back one day, but in the meantime, this extension gives us a good sense of how searcher location affects search results. In fact, it may even be a superior solution.

The MozBar SEO Toolbar

Local businesses in competitive markets must master traditional SEO, and the free MozBar provides a wonderful introduction to the metrics you need to look at in analyzing the organic strengths and weaknesses of clients and competitors. On-page elements, link metrics, markup, HTTP status, optimization opportunities — get the data you need at a glance with the MozBar.

Google Advanced Search Operators

Not a tool, per se, but the best tutorial I have ever seen on using Google advanced search operators to deepen your research. Dr. Pete breaks this down into 67 steps that will enable you to use these search refinements for content and title research, checking for plagiarism, technical SEO audits, and competitive intelligence. Be totally wizardly and impress your clients and teammates, simply by knowing how to format searches in smart ways.

Google Search Console

Apologies if it already seems like a no-brainer to you that you should be signed up for Google’s console that gives you analytics, alerts you to serious errors, and so much more, but local SEO is just now crossing the threshold of understanding how deeply connected it is to organic search. When playing in Google’s backyard, GSC is a must-have for businesses of every type.

BrightLocal’s Search Results Checker

This popular tool does an excellent job of replicating local search results at a city or zip code level. In some cases, it’s best to search by city (for example, when there are multiple towns covered by a single zip code), but other times, it’s better search by zip code (as in the case of a large city with multiple zip codes). The tool doesn’t have the capability to recreate user-level results, so always remember that the proximity of a given user to a business may create quite different results than what you’ll see searching at a city or zip code level. I consider this a great tool to suss out the lay of the land in a community, identifying top competitors.

Offline Conversion Tracker Form

Give this handy Whitespark form to anyone who answers your phone so that they can document the answer to the important question, “How did you hear about us?” Submitted information is saved to Whitespark’s database and tracked in Google Analytics for your future reference and analysis. For local businesses, knowledge of offline factors can be priceless. This form provides a simple point of entry into amassing real-world data.


For Content

Answer the Public

One of the best-loved keyword research tools in the digital marketing world, Answer the Public lets you enter a keyword phrase and generate a large number of questions/topics related to your search. One of the most awesome facets of this tool is that it has a .CSV download feature — perfect for instantly generating large lists of keywords that you can input into something like Moz Keyword Explorer to begin the sorting process that turns up the most powerful keywords for your content dev and on-page optimization.

Buzzsumo

Another great content inspiration tool, Buzzsumo shows you lets you enter a keyword, topic or domain name, and then shows you which pieces are getting the most social shares. For example, a search for wholefoodsmarket.com shows that a highly shared piece of content at the time of my search is about an asparagus and broccoli soup. You can also sort by content type (articles, videos, infographics, etc.). Use of Buzzsumo can help you generate topics that might be popular if covered on your website.

OSHA Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) System Search

Another interesting resource for brainstorming a wide pool of potential keywords for content dev consideration, OSHA’s SIC search returns big, comprehensive lists. Just look up your industry’s SIC code, and then enter it along with a keyword/category to get your list.

USPS Look Up a ZIP Code Widget

Working with service area businesses (SABs)? Note the second tab in the menu of this widget: Cities by zip code. When you know the zip code of a business you’re marketing you can enter it into this simple tool to get a list of every city in that zip. Now, let’s not take a wrong step here: don’t publish large blocks of zips or city names on any website, but do use this widget to be sure you know of all the communities for which an SAB might strategize content, link building, brand building, real-world relationship building, social media marketing, and PPC.


Schema/JSON-LD Generators

Rather than list a single tool here, I’m going to take the advice of my friend, schema expert David Deering, who has taught me that no one tool is perfect. In David’s opinion, there isn’t currently a schema/JSON-LD generator that does it all, which is why he continues to build this type of markup manually. That being said, if you’re new to Schema, these generators will get you started:


For Citations

Moz Check Listing

I can say without bias that I know of no free tool that does a better job of giving you a lightning-fast overview of the health of a local business’ listings. On the phone with a new prospect? Just plug in the name and zip and see how complete and accurate the company’s citations are on the sources that matter most, including the major local business data aggregators (Acxiom, Factual, Infogroup, Localeze) plus key platforms like Google My Business, Facebook, Yelp, YP, and more.

Literally at a glance, you can tell if inconsistencies and duplicate listings are holding a business back. It can also be used for competitive analysis, defining whether a clean or messy citation set is impacting competitors. The value of the free Check Listing tool becomes most fully realized by signing up for the paid Moz Local product, which automates aggregator-level listing management even at an enterprise level with hundreds or thousands of listings, and offers options for review monitoring, ranking analysis, and more.

Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder (free version)

The free version of this cool tool from our friends at Whitespark will give you a sense of how the paid version can help you discover additional places, beyond the basics, where you might want to get listed. It also analyzes your competitors’ citations.


For Reviews

The Hoth’s Online Business Review Checker Tool

You’ll have to sign up, but this free tool gives you an overview report of a local business’ reviews on a variety of platforms. This is a smart thing to do for every incoming client, to gauge reputation strengths and weaknesses. The state of a company’s reviews indicates whether it has an offline problem that needs to be corrected at a real-world structural level, or if its core challenge is a lack of strategy for simply earning a competitive number of positive reviews.

Free Review Monitoring

Need to know when a new review comes in on a major or industry-specific review site? Signing up for this free tool will send you email alerts so that you can respond quickly. Watch the little video and pay attention to its statement that the majority of unhappy customers will consider visiting a business again if it quickly resolves a complaint. Good to know!

Review Handout Generator

Another freebie from Whitespark in partnership with Phil Rozek, this very simple resource lets you enter some business info and generate a printable handout your public-facing staff can give to customers. Active review management has become a must in even moderately competitive geo-industries. How nice to have a physical asset to offer your customers to get more of those reviews rolling in!

Google Review Link Generator

Google’s local product has gone through so many iterations that finding a link to point consumers to when requesting a GMB review has been foolishly difficult at times. Whitespark helps out again, at least for brick-and-mortar businesses, with this easy widget that lets you enter your business info and generate a shareable link. Unfortunately, SABs or home-based businesses with hidden addresses can’t use this tool, but for other business models, this widget works really well.


For social

Notify

Whenever your business gets mentioned on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Linkedin, Reddit, and a variety of other platforms, Notify uses Slack or HipChat to send you an alert. By being aware of important conversations taking place about your brand, and participating in them, your business can achieve an excellent status of responsiveness. Social media has become part of the customer service environment, so a tool like this comes in very handy.

Followerwonk

A free trial is available for this app which acts as serious analytics for Twitter. If Twitter is a favorite platform in your industry, definitely give this resource a spin. Understand the characteristics of your followers, find and connect with influencers, and use data to improve your outreach.

Character Count Online

I use this ultra-basic tool all of the time for three specific tasks. Some social platforms either have character limits and don’t always have counters, or (like Google Posts) truncate your social messaging so that only a limited snippet appear at the highest interface. Just plug in your text and see the character count.

And, of course, you’ll want a character counter to be sure your on-page title tags and meta descriptions read right in the SERPs.

My third use for this counter relates to content marketing. Most publications have character count parameters for the pieces they will accept. Here on the Moz Blog, we’re not into length limits, because we believe thorough coverage is the right coverage of important topics. But, when I’m invited to blog elsewhere, I have to rein myself in and be sure I haven’t galloped past that 800-character limit. If you’ve found that to be a problem, too, a character counter can keep you on-track as you write. Whoa, horsie!


So, what did I miss?

If you’re saying to yourself right now, “I can’t believe this totally awesome free local SEO tool I use every week isn’t included,” please share it with our community in the comments. One thing I know I’d love to find a free solution for would be a tool that does review sentiment analysis. Paid solutions exist for this, but I’ve yet to encounter a freebie.

My criteria for a great tool is that it makes work better, stronger, faster… or is that the intro to The Six Million Dollar Man? Well, Steve Austin had some amazing capabilities (and a cool 70s jogging suit, to boot!), and I’m hoping you’ll feel kitted up for success, too, with this list of free tools in the year ahead.

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!

Reblogged 1 month ago from moz.com

Let’s talk about email best practice

Despite all the quirky new ways to promote your brand, email continues to be the most effective and influential.

What makes email so powerful today?

Email is a fast and direct way to reach your customers, wherever they are and on whatever device they’re on. You can adapt email campaigns easily to suit your target market’s needs. It’s super cost-effective and – most importantly – it can be highly personalized and targeted (e.g. through web behavior, order history and preferences). What’s more, campaigns with a cool design and relevant message will not only influence online activity but offline behavior as well, such as driving customer purchases in store.

The channel’s also highly measurable – you can see instant results through real-time tracking of opens, clicks and ROI. This insight allows you to analyze performance and – in understanding what works and what doesn’t – optimize your strategy.

There are many statistics that indicate how much businesses and customers value email:

  • 75% of companies agree that email offers ‘excellent’ to ‘good’ ROI. (Econsultancy, 2016)
  • Email use worldwide will top 3 billion users by 2020 (The Radicati Group, 2016)

Top Tips

These simple tactics will make sure you stand out to recipients – over and above your competitors – in a crowded inbox.

1. Avoid the ‘dead zone’ of subject lines

Keep it short, keep it snappy, and keep it relevant. Long, uninspiring subject lines will likely disengage readers and prevent them from opening. Check out our cheatsheet which features some great subject line examples.

2. Always personalize your emails

Why? The key objective of an email is to build a relationship with subscribers. There’s an abundance of data to leverage: their name, their preferences, their actions. Perhaps send them an offer which relates to their buying history or web browsing behavior. Brands that value customers’ needs will always prevail.

3. Make sure your emails are optimized across all devices

The look-and-feel of your email is so important and it needs to be consistent when it’s opened on a mobile, tablet or on different email clients (e.g. Outlook, Apple Mail etc.). Make sure your template is mobile-optimized and designed by experts. First impressions count, and email is certainly no exception.

4. Be targeted and avoid batch-and-blast

Too much information at once can overload the recipient and strip engagement away from your product/service offering and organization…. disaster! Analyze your email opens, pinpoint your send time optimization and then maintain consistency in your sending. B2Bs for instance might find it more effective to send emails during weekday mornings, whereas B2C brands may see better results by emailing on a Thursday evening or on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

5. Leverage rich customer insight to drive automation

A consistently engaged customer is the dream! And how do you convert your subscribers into engaged brand advocates? The answer is data-driven automation. There are so many clever things you can do with email these days. You can understand what your customers like, dislike; what they want and need. What’s more, the technology is there for you to understand their behavior too.

 

Your key takeaway?

It’s impossible to please everyone, but as a serious marketer you can be clever. I would love to say that a sexy-looking campaign is all you need, but the devil’s in the data. It’s not about one element but rather the bigger picture. Implementing just a few of the above suggestions will help you on your way to sending out the right emails, to the right people, at the right time.

If you would like to hear more information about the power of automation, then please contact your account manager.

The post Let’s talk about email best practice appeared first on The Marketing Automation Blog.

Reblogged 1 month ago from blog.dotmailer.com

How to Get New Clients at Every Stage of Your Business

Posted by dohertyjf

I remember when I first went out on my own to build my business. Because I planned to bootstrap the product into existence, I needed to pick up some consulting work to cover my own bills before I felt comfortable taking time to build my product.

I had a sizable group of peers that I contacted to let them know that I was no longer with my last company and was looking to bring on a few new clients. Within a week, I had to stop taking introductions because I was so busy! If you’re a brand-new freelance consultant, this post has some goodies for you.

I have other friends who are purposefully freelance consultants with no current plans to scale beyond it. In fact, they’ve resisted these opportunities because they enjoy what they’re doing so much, and are able to charge a premium for it. This post will help you out.

Some of my friends are at a different stage. They’ve worked for themselves for 3–4 years or longer now and are growing an agency beyond themselves and their own skillset. Along the way, of course, they’re figuring out the challenges of growing headcount and types/sizes of clients while they themselves learn to level up as a CEO, as a manager, and as a sales executive, since agency founders are often the salespeople for the first few years of their company’s existence. The client acquisition strategies change. This post is also for you.

And finally, agencies often decide that they are ready to expand beyond their main core offering and offer tangential services that they are either being asked for actively or where they perceive an opportunity exists. Since they already have a functional and maybe even (wildly) profitable services business, how can they justify taking time away from that to build out a new service offering? The mindset and strategies change once again. We’ll get into some of those.

Building a service-based business is hard

Over the last two years, I’ve worked with over 150 agencies and have seen over 800 businesses (it’s probably closer to 1,000 at this point) looking to hire an agency or consultant. I’ve also worked in-house, as a solo consultant, and for a quickly growing boutique digital agency.

After the experiences I’ve had seeing everyone — from new scared-out-of-their-wits solo consultants all the way to long-established agencies looking to grow their practice — I decided to take a step back and reflect on the strategies I’ve seen both work and not work for consulting entities at different stages of growth.

That’s what we’ll cover today. If you’re a new consultant, an agency looking to level up the size of your accounts, or an agency looking to move into new service offerings, you’ll find something in this post for you.

Along the way, you’ll hear from consultants and agency owners at different stages of their business and what they did to get to where they are currently. After all, war stories are way more fun than “here are x steps you can follow to also be amazing” anecdotes.


New consultants

Tell me if you’ve seen this happen before: a friend is tired of their job, gets laid off, or otherwise finds themselves unemployed. They decide that they’re going to give freelance consulting a go.

Three months later, they’ve taken a new job at a new agency and are repeating the cycle they went through before.

Sound familiar? If you’re in the digital marketing consulting world, you likely know at least a few, if not closer to a dozen people where this has held true.

I’m not going to say that everyone goes back to traditional employment because they’re having a difficult time getting new clients, but this is far and away the largest reason I see. They get a few months in, they have too few clients paying them too little, and so they panic and go take a job doing what is comfortable. They’ll repeat the cycle in a few years again.

I get it. The beginning of working for yourself can be terrifying. I’ve been there. Saw a therapist, got the t-shirt, am I right?

What if I told you that you could avoid this if you really want to? That you could use some proven techniques to get new clients that pay you what you’re worth?

Overcoming common “new consultant” fears with strategic thinking

You’ll hear entrepreneurs who have built and sold their companies (sometimes multiple times) tell you to take a “burn the ships” approach, where you set off and don’t give yourself a time limit or an out if you can’t make it work.

The problem with this is that it’s a fallacy brought about by survivorship bias — defined as “the logical error of concentrating on the people or things that made it past some selection process and overlooking those that did not, typically because of their lack of visibility.” Often these entrepreneurs look back and talk about how they could have done it, or how they did it for their second or third business once they’d already made quite a bit of money.

Quite simply, if you want to set yourself up for success, you should already have replaced (or have a clear path to replacing) your income from your day job before you even go out on your own.

You can do this by picking up freelance work on the side from your day job. Get one or two clients that pay you every month and learn how to manage those. Learn what it takes to retain these clients and even grow the accounts.

Next, figure out the minimum amount of money you need to make every month while only working the number of hours you want to work before you take the leap. If you have two clients, you can probably get two more pretty easily. If you spend 10 hours a week on these two clients and only want to bill 30 hours per week (which is actually quite a lot), then you know you can bring on four more clients at the same level (and fewer clients if they pay you more) and have the lifestyle and income you want.

It’s simple math.

The “new consultant” sales mindset

Clients come to solo consultants instead of agencies for a very specific reason. They want direct access to your specific brain and to be able to speak with the person actually doing the work. In fact, I’ve seen many companies come through Credo who need multiple services (not just strategy) across organic and paid, but they don’t want an account manager setup like they’ve had before with an agency.

This, plus your experience, is your competitive moat. During the initial discovery call with every potential client, don’t forget that you’re interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you. You need to learn:

  • What they are specifically looking to accomplish through retaining someone’s services;
  • What their expectations are for how quickly they will see this;
  • If they have resources to get done what you recommend, or if you have time to implement what they need;
  • Whether they’re willing to pay you what you are worth.

Assuming all of these check out, then in my opinion, you’re good to move forward with the proposal process.

A quick word on pricing

If you’ve never worked for an agency before, you should ask agency friends or other freelance friends what they charge per hour, then use that as a benchmark. If you want to raise your rates, then do it slowly with new clients until you hit a ceiling. Now you know your price ceiling for the current services (whether strategy, implementation, or both) you offer.

New client acquisition channels

Now that we have the common fears identified and you’re armed with a better sales mindset, let’s explore the strategies you should leverage first to build your consulting practice to a base where it sustains your lifestyle and you’re able to remove the stress of starting from the equation and eventually think about growth.

The strategies I always counsel brand new solo consultants to use are:

  • Referrals – Ask your circle of professional peers if they know anyone looking for what you have to offer;
  • Referrals – Ask your friends and family if they know anyone that might need what you’re offering;
  • Agency white label – Approach agencies in your area to see if they need help on a contract basis with their clients;
  • Teaching – This is a longer-term play, but a great way to get clients in the long run is to teach others how to do what you do. I’ve seen it hold true that if you teach people how to do what you do, they’ll want to hire you to do it for them.

These are the easiest and most direct ways to get introductions to potential clients who are highly likely to close into clients.

Long-term this does not scale, but it can get you to the point of covering your expenses, allowing you to breathe a little bit and invest for the future. And if you’re smart about it and haven’t signed yourself up for 60+ hours per week of billed work, you can have a great life balance.

To give some real-world examples, I reached out to two of my friends who became solo consultants in 2013/2014.

First is Tom Critchlow, who went solo in late 2014 after two years at Google New York. When asked how he got his first consulting clients, Tom said that his first leads came from direct referrals from a friend:

“Since that first lead I’ve gotten about 80% of my clients through referrals from my direct network,” he shared. “I’d definitely emphasize the importance of a strong network and ensuring that you’re communicating with your network often to keep them up-to-date with what work you’re doing.”

Next I chatted with Michael King, who has since built his agency iPullRank into an industry powerhouse, and asked him how he got his first clients when he left the NYC agencies he worked for. To get his first, he shared that thought leadership played a huge role:

“My first two clients came through two different methods of thought leadership. One came via a post I’d written for Moz about content strategy, and the other came from a panel I spoke on. Overnight, I went from 0 to 10.5K MRR.”


Solo consultants happy staying solo

If this is you, then congratulations. In my mind, you’re finding nirvana in a lot of ways.

Solo consultants with more years of direct consulting experience are able to charge good hourly rates and monthly minimums from clients, according to my data.

solo consultant pricing.png

Once a consultant has survived the initial push to get new clients, the journey is far from over. In fact, many solo consultants have come up against this and gone through droughts where they were between projects.

This brings up the question: How can solo consultants, who can only realistically bring on a limited number of clients before they become too numerous, keep a strong potential client pipeline?

Define your niche and build processes

The answer is usually to tightly define your niche and then, depending on your niche, to build processes to deliver high quality work.

High-touch strategic consulting does not scale. It also does not have to scale if you charge a high hourly rate ($300/hr for strategic consulting that drives large revenue increases is not crazy, and may even be too low), in which case you can work with just a few clients and still create a great income for yourself.

When you’ve defined your niche, whether affiliate marketing driven by content or local SEO for realtors, then you put together the strategy to reach them.

This should go without saying, but if you’re asking how to define your niche, then you aren’t ready to be a highly paid solo consultant yet. Hone your craft and discover who you love to do work for, then go serve those customers on your own.

Once your niche is defined, you can focus on that group.

Targeting your ideal audience

As mentioned above, the toughest part of being and staying a solo consultant is managing your workload and saying “no” or “not yet” to potential clients, while at the same time protecting your downside should a client decide to stop your services for any reason, whether your fault or because of internal actions.

The best solo consultants that I know, who also have a strong pipeline of potential clients, have built this through:

  1. Content. They produce content related to their target market’s problems and thus become a thought leader in that niche. This will often lead to recurring columns in industry publications.
  2. A strong referral network. They know the who’s who of their niche and are their go-to when someone needs the consultant’s specific skillset.
  3. Speaking. Getting a one-off or set of speaking engagements in front of your target audience often directly drives potential clients and cements you as an expert in their minds.

The goal is to build your own name as an expert so that you consistently have potential customers approaching you to see if you can work with them, while also knowing your limits and when you may next have available time.

The goal isn’t to magically be able to get new inquiries when you need them (though this may happen if you’ve built this system), but to be able to go back to a group of people who have already inquired about your services and tell them that you have some availability. A pro move is also to ask if they know anyone who may need your services, as well.

Creating processes

Not every consultant desires working with large clients who each pay the equivalent of a full-time salary. Some consultants prefer working with smaller clients, mostly small or local businesses, because of the unique challenges that these clients face.

In this case, the challenge is to work out how you scale quantity without sacrificing quality or client retention. There are many ways to do this:

  • Find an agency or group of consultants you trust that you can outsource certain parts of the project to;
  • Leverage technologies like HubSpot, Moz, or others that allow you to automate a lot of the work;
  • Use tools like HubSpot, Calendly, UberConference, or others to help scale scheduling and admin parts of the business;
  • Use virtual assistants, bookkeeping services like Bench, and payroll services like Gusto to alleviate a lot of the business operations so you have more time to work for clients.

As Francois Marcil of Ehook.co shared:

When you have over 10 clients, the time spent attending meetings is the biggest obstacle to serving all your clients well. For this reason, I reserve 2 days of the week for meetings and 3 days for work. The rule is strict, and I inform my clients from the start.”

When a solo consultant sets up these processes, it not only makes their life a lot easier and their clients happier (which leads to better retention, which leads to a healthier business), but it also sets them up for success should they decide later that they want to start an agency. In this case, their processes of both acquiring and managing new clients will let them generate the cash flow needed to make the leap to employing someone full time.


Agencies leveling up

Some business owners don’t feel the need to constantly push and grow their business. They’re bootstrapped, their business affords them and their employees a great lifestyle, and they have no desire to take on more responsibility with their business. If this is you, then I’m a bit envious and encourage you to enjoy it.

If you’re anything like me, though, you’re never happy with maintaining. You always want to be growing, to be learning, to push yourself and your business to see what it’s capable of. If you’re on this course, then keep reading.

Your strategies have to change a bit when you go from being a solo consultant to growing your agency. A lot of your processes are going to break or need tweaking as you grow the number of people working on accounts. Your challenge now becomes managing the growth of your headcount while maintaining quality and bringing in great new clients at the same time.

This is likely way too much for one person to handle, so at some point you’ll be forced to decide what you are great at (and love doing) that is also instrumental to the business’s success. Then hire out for the rest.

Let’s focus on the sales part, of course.

At the beginning of your journey as a brand-new consultant, you were likely heavily dependent on one-off referrals from family and friends. But referrals don’t really scale.

As you’re looking to grow your business quickly, your channels have likely shifted to:

  • Speaking. If you have a dynamic founder who is a keynote-level (or heading in that direction) speaker, this can be great lead generation;
  • Strategic partnerships with investors or other agencies;
  • Your own search traffic and thought leadership on your own website;
  • Your own advertising of your services online.

You’re facing the unique challenge of increasing the quantity of potential clients contacting you while not sacrificing quality. While difficult, this is absolutely possible. You can grow your revenue by:

  1. Targeting new clients who have similar traits to your existing ideal clients;
  2. Growing accounts by upselling your existing clients to other services you offer that they need;
  3. Defining a specific niche or type of company where you get outsized returns, and then target them specifically through content, speaking, education, or both.

Sales changes as you grow. You’re looking for long-term sustainable clients as it is four to ten times cheaper to retain and grow your current clients than to get new clients (source). If you’re investing in landing new clients, you should not also have to worry about retaining your current clients. If you are, then you are simply refilling a leaky bucket and you will not grow.

Michael King of iPullRank is no stranger to the challenges that agency founders face as they grow, but he’s successfully transitioned from solo consultant to now managing seven figures in agency income. So what does he do differently?

“The difference is really that it’s far more dire,” he shared. “The maintenance of payroll becomes the battery in your back to have to just figure it out. Whereas when you’re by yourself and you have a low month or you lose a client, it’s not that big of a deal.”

Johnathan Dane of KlientBoost credits lessons he’s learned about sales along the way in growing KlientBoost from himself to $4M in revenue in just a few years:

“We’ve been very fortunate to have 99% of our sales come from our content, and when that happens, our sales cycle is drastically reduced because the potential client already likes us and has found value from what we’ve given them,” he said. “So even 2.5 years in, I still handle the inbound sales — which I know isn’t scalable — but you gotta allow yourself to still have some fun.”

I should also note that at this point, you should have someone dedicated to sales and onboarding new clients full-time. This can be filled by the founder if the founder is stellar at sales, but most often I see this role being given to a dedicated sales executive who hopefully also has marketing experience, or has proven their aptitude for learning and applying it so they sell the right work.


Agencies moving into new service offerings

At some point, you may max out your growth in your current niche and with your current offerings. At the same time, you want to continue growing but don’t have the option of increasing client budgets. Or, maybe a new platform emerges (think: Snapchat) that has the opportunity to be big and you want to be an early mover in helping your clients get exposure.

But moving into new niches is hard when you’ve established yourself in another service offering and that’s how you’re known. Every agency has a primary service offering, so how do you move into new niches?

There are two main ways:

  1. Think of this new service offering as a startup in and of itself. It is responsible for its own profit and loss (P&L), as well as landing its own new clients;
  2. Upsell your current clients into this new offering as well.

This is hard. Brandon Doyle of Wallaroo Media, who went from being a generic SEO agency to leading the way in travel marketing and Snapchat from their offices in Provo, Utah, knows this firsthand:

With a background in SEO, we strongly believed in its ability as a channel,” he shared. “We utilized SEO and evergreen content to carve out a name for ourselves both in the travel space, and more recently as a leader in Snapchat-related content, strategies, and news. The latter paid off, as we were just recently named an official Snapchat Agency Partner!”

Will Critchlow, CEO of digital marketing agency Distilled (full disclosure: I used to work for Distilled), also knows a thing or two about moving into an adjacent vertical. The agency recently become recognized for not only SEO, but creative content and outreach services, too:

“All our moves have come from the passion of the team,” shared Will. “Team members saw an opportunity, started doing part of the solution, and pitched the rest.”

Finally, your marketing will change as you seek traction in this new vertical. The topics you write about, the people you reference, the outreach you do, and the places you choose to interact will necessarily change.

This is specifically why I recommend tasking someone specifically with building out this new area. At Wallaroo, this was Brandon. At Distilled, this was Mark Johnstone who was previously an SEO consultant who had an interest in big creative content and Tom Anthony with an interest in technical A/B testing for SEO.


Conclusion

Consistently generating new potential projects at every cycle of your business’s growth is the best skill you can learn as a services business owner.

Leave a comment about the channels you’ve found to be the most effective!

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Reblogged 1 month ago from moz.com

9 Predictions for SEO in 2018

Posted by randfish

For the last decade, I’ve made predictions about how the year in SEO and web marketing would go. So far, my track record is pretty decent — the correct guesses outweigh the wrong ones. But today’s the day of reckoning, to grade my performance from 2017 and, if the tally is high enough, share my list for the year ahead.

In keeping with tradition, my predictions will be graded on the following scale:

  • Nailed It (+2) – When a prediction is right on the money and the primary criteria are fulfilled
  • Partially Accurate (+1) – Predictions that are in the ballpark, but are somewhat different than reality
  • Not Completely Wrong (-1) – Those that got near the truth, but are more “incorrect” than “correct”
  • Way Off (-2) – Guesses which didn’t come close

Breakeven or better means I make new predictions for the year ahead, and under that total means my predicting days are over. Let’s see how this shakes out… I’m not nervous… You’re nervous! This sweat on my brow… It’s because… because it was raining outside. It’s Seattle! Yeesh.

Grading Rand’s 2017 Predictions

#1: Voice search will be more than 25% of all US Google searches within 12 months. Despite this, desktop volume will stay nearly flat and mobile (non-voice) will continue to grow.

+1 – We have data for desktop and mobile search volume via Jumpshot, showing that the former did indeed stay relatively flat and the other kept growing.

But, unfortunately, we don’t know the percent of searches that are done with voice rather than keyboards or screens. My guess is 25% of all searches is too high, but until Google decides to share an updated number, all we have is the old 2016 stat that 20% of mobile searches happened via voice input.

#2: Google will remain the top referrer of website traffic by 5X+. Neither Facebook, nor any other source, will make a dent.

+2Nailed it! Although, to be fair, there’s no serious challenger. The social networks and e-commerce leaders of the web want people to stay on their site, not leave and go elsewhere. No surprise Google’s the only big traffic referrer left.

#3: The Marketing Technology space will not have much consolidation (fewer exits and acquisitions, by percentage, than 2015 or 2016), but there will be at least one major exit or IPO among the major SEO software providers.

+2 – As best I can tell from Index.co’s thorough database (which, BTW, deserves more attention than Crunchbase, whose data I’ve found to be of far lower quality), Martech as a whole had nearly half the number of acquisitions in 2017 (22) versus 2016 (39). 2017 did, however, see the Yext IPO, so I’m taking full credit on this one.

#4: Google will offer paid search ads in featured snippets, knowledge graph, and/or carousels.

0 – Turns out, Google had actually done a little of this prior to 2017, which I think invalidates the prediction. Thus I’m giving myself no credit either way, though Google did expand their testing and ad types in this direction last year.

#5: Amazon search will have 4% or more of Google’s web search volume by end of year.

-2 – Way off, Rand. From the Jumpshot data, it looks like Amazon’s not even at 1% of Google’s search volume yet. I was either way too early on this one, or Amazon searches may never compete, volume-wise, with how Google’s users employ their search system.

#6: Twitter will remain independent, and remain the most valuable and popular network for publishers and influencers.

+2 – I’m actually shocked that I made this prediction given the upheaval Twitter has faced in the last few years. Still, it’s good to see a real competitor (despite their much smaller size) to Facebook stay independent.

#7: The top 10 mobile apps will remain nearly static for the year ahead, with, at most, one new entrant and 4 or fewer position changes.

+1 – I was slighly aggressive on wording this prediction, though the reality is pretty accurate. The dominance of a few companies in the mobile app world remains unchallenged. Here’s 2016’s top apps, and here’s 2017’s. The only real change was Apple Music and Amazon falling a couple spots and Pandora and Snapchat sneaking into the latter half of the list.

#8: 2017 will be the year Google admits publicly they use engagement data as an input to their ranking systems, not just for training/learning

-2 – I should have realized Google will continue to use engagement data for rankings, but they’re not gonna talk about it. They have nothing to gain from being open, and a reasonable degree of risk if they invite spammers and manipulators to mimic searchers and click for rankings (a practice that, sadly, has popped up in the gray hat SEO world, and does sometimes, unfortunately, work).

Final Score: +4 — not too shabby, so let’s continue this tradition and see what 2018 holds. I’m going to be a little more cavalier with this year’s predictions, just to keep things exciting 🙂


Rand’s 9 Predictions for 2018

#1: The total number of organic clicks Google refers will drop by ~5% by the end of the year

In 2017, we saw the start of a concerning trend — fewer clicks being generated by Google search on desktop and mobile. I don’t think that was a blip. In my estimation, Google’s actions around featured snippets, knowledge panels, and better instant answers in the SERPs overall, combined with more aggressive ads and slowing search growth (at least in the United States), will lead to there being slightly less SEO opportunity in 2018 than what we had in 2017.

I don’t think this trend will accelerate much long term (i.e. it’s certainly not the end for SEO, just a time of greater competition for slightly fewer click opportunities).

#2: Twitter and LinkedIn will both take active steps to reduce the amount of traffic they refer out to other sites

Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat have all had success algorithmically or structurally limiting clicks off their platforms and growing as a result. I think in 2018, Twitter and LinkedIn are gonna take their own steps to limit content with links from doing as well, to limit the visibility of external links in their platform, and to better reward content that keeps people on their sites.

#3: One or more major SEO software providers will shutter as a result of increased pressure from Google and heavy competition

Google Search Console is, slowly but surely, getting better. Google’s getting a lot more aggressive about making rank tracking more difficult (some rank tracking folks I’m friendly with told me that Q4 2017 was particularly gut-punching), and the SEO software field is way, way more densely packed with competitors than ever before. I estimate at least ten SEO software firms are over $10 million US in annual revenue (Deepcrawl, SEMRush, Majestic, Ahrefs, Conductor, Brightedge, SISTRIX, GinzaMetrics, SEOClarity, and Moz), and I’m probably underestimating at least 4 or 5 others (in local SEO, Yext is obviously huge, and 3–4 of their competitors are also above $10mm).

I predict this combination of factors will mean that 2018 sees one or more casualties (possibly through a less-than-rewarding acquisition rather than straight-out bankruptcy) in the SEO software space.

#4: Alexa will start to take market share away from Google, especially via devices with screens like the Echo Show

Voice search devices are useful, but somewhat limited by virtue of missing a screen. The Echo Show was the first stab at solving this, and I think in 2018 we’re going to see more and better devices as well as vastly better functionality. Even just the “Alexa, show me a photo of Rodney Dangerfield from 1965.” (see, Rand, I told you he used to be handsome!) will take away a lot of the more simplistic searches that today happen on Google and Google Images (the latter of which is a silent giant in the US search world).

#5: One of the non-Google tech giants will start on a more serious competitor to YouTube

Amazon’s feud with Google and the resulting loss of YouTube on certain devices isn’t going unnoticed in major tech company discussions. I think in 2018, that turns into a full-blown decision to invest in a competitor to the hosted video platform. There’s too much money, time, attention, and opportunity for some of the big players not to at least dip a toe in the water.

Side note: If I were an investor, I’d be pouring meetings and dollars into startups that might become this. I think acquisitions are a key way for a Facebook, an Amazon, or a Microsoft to reduce their risk here.

#6: Facebook Audience Network (that lets publishers run FB ads on their own sites) will get the investment it needs and become a serious website adtech player

Facebook ads on the web should be as big or bigger than anything Google does in this realm, mostly because the web functions more like Facebook than it does like search results pages, and FB’s got the data to make those ads high quality and relevant. Unfortunately, they’ve underinvested in Audience Network the last couple years, but I think with Facebook usage in developed countries leveling out and the company seeking ways to grow their ad reach and effectiveness, it’s time.

#7: Mobile apps will fade as the default for how brands, organizations, and startups of all sizes invest in the mobile web; PWAs and mobile-first websites will largely take their place

I’m calling it. Mobile apps, for 95% of companies and organizations who want to do well on the web, are the wrong decision. Not only that, most everyone now realizes and agrees on it. PWAs (and straightforward mobile websites) are there to pick up the slack. That’s not to say the app stores won’t continue to generate downloads or make money — they will. But those installs and dollars will flow to a very few number of apps and app developers at the very top of the charts, while the long tail of apps (which never really took off), fades into obscurity.

Side note: games are probably an exception (though even there, Nintendo Switch proved in 2017 that mobile isn’t the only or best platform for games).

#8: WordPress will continue its dominance over all other CMS’, growing its use from ~25% to 35%+ of the top few million sites on the web

While it depends what you consider “the web” to be, there’s no doubt WordPress has dominated every other CMS in the market among the most popular few million sites on it. I think 2018 will be a year when WordPress extends their lead, mostly because they’re getting more aggressive about investments in growth and marketing, and secondarily because no one is stepping up to be a suitable (free) alternative.

35%+ might sound like a bold step, but I’m seeing more and more folks moving off of other platforms for a host of reasons, and migrating to WordPress for its flexibility, its cost structure, its extensibility, and its strong ecosystem of plugins, hosting providers, security options, and developers.

#9: The United States will start to feel the pain of net neutrality’s end with worse Internet connectivity, more limitations, and a less free-and-open web

Tragically, we lost the battle to maintain Title II protections on net neutrality here in the US, and the news is a steady drumbeat of awfulness around this topic. Just recently, Trump’s FCC announced that they’d be treating far slower connections as “broadband,” thus lessening requirements for what’s considered “penetration” and “access,” all the way down to mobile connection speeds.

It’s hard to notice what this means right now, but by the end of 2018, I predict we’ll be feeling the pain through even slower average speeds, restrictions on web usage (like what we saw before Title II protections with Verizon and T-Mobile blocking services and favoring sites). In fact, my guess is that some enterprising ISP is gonna try to block cryptocurrency mining, trading, or usage as an early step.

Over time, I suspect this will lead to a tiered Internet access world here in the US, where the top 10% of American earners (and those in a few cities and states that implement their own net neutrality laws) have vastly better and free-er access (probably with more competitive pricing, too).


Now it’s time for your feedback! I want to know:

  1. Which of these predictions do you find most likely?
  2. Which do you find most outlandish?
  3. What obvious predictions do you think I’ve shamefully missed? 😉

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Reblogged 1 month ago from tracking.feedpress.it

Troubleshooting Local Ranking Failures [Updated for 2018]

Posted by MiriamEllis

I love a mystery… especially a local search ranking mystery I can solve for someone.

Now, the truth is, some ranking puzzles are so complex, they can only be solved by a formal competitive audit. But there are many others that can be cleared up by spending 15 minutes or less going through an organized 10-point checklist of the commonest problems that can cause a business to rank lower than the owner thinks it should. By zipping through the following checklist, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find one or more obvious “whodunits” contributing to poor Google local pack visibility for a given search.

Since I wrote the original version of this post in 2014, so much has changed. Branding, tools, tactics — things are really different in 2018. Definitely time for a complete overhaul, with the goal of making you a super sleuth for your forum friends, clients, agency teammates, or executive superiors.

Let’s emulate the Stratemeyer Syndicate, which earned lasting fame by hitting on a simple formula for surfacing and solving mysteries in a most enjoyable way.

Before we break out our magnifying glass, it’s critical to stress one very important thing. The local rankings I see from an office in North Beach, San Francisco are not the rankings you see while roaming around Golden Gate park in the same city. The rankings your client in Des Moines sees for things in his town are not the same rankings you see from your apartment in Albuquerque when you look at Des Moines results. With the user having become the centroid of search for true local searches, it is no mystery at all that we see different results when we are different places, and it is no cause for concern.

And now that we’ve gotten that out of the way and are in the proper detective spirit, let’s dive into how to solve for each item on our checklist!


☑ Google updates/bugs

The first thing to ask if a business experiences a sudden change in rankings is whether Google has done something. Search Engine Land strikes me as the fastest reporter of Google updates, with MozCast offering an ongoing weather report of changes in the SERPs. Also, check out the Moz Google Algo Change history list and the Moz Blog for some of the most in-depth strategic coverage of updates, penalties, and filters.

For local-specific bugs (or even just suspected tests), check out the Local Search Forum, the Google My Business forum, and Mike Blumenthal’s blog. See if the effects being described match the weirdness you are seeing in your local packs. If so, it’s a matter of fixing a problematic practice (like iffy link building) that has been caught in an update, waiting to see how the update plays out, or waiting for Google to fix a bug or turn a dial down to normalize results.

*Pro tip: Don’t make the mistake of thinking organic updates have nothing to do with local SEO. Crack detectives know organic and local are closely connected.

☑ Eligibility to list and rank

When a business owner wants to know why he isn’t ranking well locally, always ask these four questions:

  1. Does the business have a real address? (Not a PO box, virtual office, or a string of employees’ houses!)
  2. Does the business make face-to-face contact with its customers?
  3. What city is the business in?
  4. What is the exact keyword phrase they are hoping to rank for?

If the answer is “no” to either of the first two questions, the business isn’t eligible for a Google My Business listing. And while spam does flow through Google, a lack of eligibility could well be the key to a lack of rankings.

For the third question, you need to know the city the business is in so that you can see if it’s likely to rank for the search phrase cited in the fourth question. For example, a plumber with a street address in Sugar Land, TX should not expect to rank for “plumber Dallas TX.” If a business lacks a physical location in a given city, it’s atypical for it to rank for queries that stem from or relate to that locale. It’s amazing just how often this simple fact solves local pack mysteries.

☑ Guideline spam

To be an ace local sleuth, you must commit to memory the guidelines for representing your business on Google so that you can quickly spot violations. Common acts of spam include:

  • Keyword stuffing the business name field
  • Improper wording of the business name field
  • Creating listings for ineligible locations, departments, or people
  • Category spam
  • Incorrect phone number implementation
  • Incorrect website URL implementation
  • Review guideline violations

If any of the above conundrums are new to you, definitely spend 10 minutes reading the guidelines. Make flash cards, if necessary, to test yourself on your spam awareness until you can instantly detect glaring errors. With this enhanced perception, you’ll be able to see problems that may possibly be leading to lowered rankings, or even… suspensions!

☑ Suspensions

There are two key things to look for here when a local business owner comes to you with a ranking woe:

  1. If the listing was formerly verified, but has mysteriously become unverified, you should suspect a soft suspension. Soft suspensions might occur around something like a report of keyword-stuffing the GMB business name field. Oddly, however, there is little anecdotal evidence to support the idea that soft suspensions cause ranking drops. Nevertheless, it’s important to spot the un-verification clue and tell the owner to stop breaking guidelines. It’s possible that the listing may lose reviews or images during this type of suspension, but in most cases, the owner should be able to re-verify his listing. Just remember: a soft suspension is not a likely cause of low local pack rankings.
  2. If the listing’s rankings totally disappear and you can’t even find the listing via a branded search, it’s time to suspect a hard suspension. Hard suspensions can result from a listing falling afoul of a Google guideline or new update, a Google employee, or just a member of the public who has reported the business for something like an ineligible location. If the hard suspension is deserved, as in the case of creating a listing at a fake address, then there’s nothing you can do about it. But, if a hard suspension results from a mistake, I recommend taking it to the Google My Business forum to plead for help. Be prepared to prove that you are 100% guideline-compliant and eligible in hopes of getting your listing reinstated with its authority and reviews intact.

☑ Duplicates

Notorious for their ability to divide ranking strength, duplicate listings are at their worst when there is more than one verified listing representing a single entity. If you encounter a business that seems like it should be ranking better than it is for a given search, always check for duplicates.

The quickest way to do this is to get all present and past NAP (name, address, phone) from the business and plug it into the free Moz Check Listing tool. Pay particular attention to any GMB duplicates the tool surfaces. Then:

  1. If the entity is a brick-and-mortar business or service area business, and the NAP exactly matches between the duplicates, contact Google to ask them to merge the listings. If the NAP doesn’t match and represents a typo or error on the duplicate, use the “suggest an edit” link in Google Maps to toggle the “yes/no” toggle to “yes,” and then select the radio button for “never existed.”
  2. If the duplicates represent partners in a multi-practitioner business, Google won’t simply delete them. Things get quite complicated in this scenario, and if you discover practitioner duplicates, tread carefully. There are half a dozen nuances here, including whether you’re dealing with actual duplicates, whether they represent current or past staffers, whether they are claimed or unclaimed, and even whether a past partner is deceased. There isn’t perfect industry agreement on the handling of all of the ins-and-outs of practitioner listings. Given this, I would advise an affected business to read all of the following before making a move in any direction:

☑ Missing/inaccurate listings

While you’ve got Moz Check Listing fired up, pay attention to anything it tells you about missing or inaccurate listings. The tool will show you how accurate and complete your listings on are on the major local business data aggregators, plus other important platforms like Google My Business, Facebook, Factual, Yelp, and more. Why does this matter?

  1. Google can pull information from anywhere on the web and plunk it into your Google My Business listing.
  2. While no one can quantify the exact degree to which citation/listing consistency directly impacts Google local rankings for every possible search query, it has been a top 5 ranking factor in the annual Local Search Ranking Factors survey as far back as I can remember. Recently, I’ve seen some industry discussion as to whether citations still matter, with some practitioners claiming they can’t see the difference they make. I believe that conclusion may stem from working mainly in ultra-competitive markets where everyone has already got their citations in near-perfect order, forcing practitioners to look for differentiation tactics beyond the basics. But without those basics, you’re missing table stakes in the game.
  3. Indirectly, listing absence or inconsistency impacts local rankings in that it undermines the quest for good local KPIs as well as organic authority. Every lost or misdirected consumer represents a failure to have someone click-for-directions, click-to-call, click-to-your website, or find your website at all. Online and offline traffic, conversions, reputation, and even organic authority all hang in the balance of active citation management.

☑ Lack of organic authority

Full website or competitive audits are not the work of a minute. They really take time, and deep delving. But, at a glance, you can access some quick metrics to let you know whether a business’ lack of achievement on the organic side of things could be holding them back in the local packs. Get yourself the free MozBar SEO toolbar and try this:

  1. Turn the MozBar on by clicking the little “M” at the top of your browser so that it is blue.
  2. Perform your search and look at the first few pages of the organic results, ignoring anything from major directory sites like Yelp (they aren’t competing with you for local pack rankings, eh?).
  3. Note down the Page Authority, Domain Authority, and link counts for each of the businesses coming up on the first 3 pages of the organic results.
  4. Finally, bring up the website of the business you’re investigating. If you see that the top competitors have Domain Authorities of 50 and links numbering in the hundreds or thousands, whereas your target site is well below in these metrics, chances are good that organic authority is playing a strong role in lack of local search visibility. How do we know this is true? Do some local searches and note just how often the businesses that make it into the 3-pack or the top of the local finder view have correlating high organic rankings.

Where organic authority is poor, a business has a big job of work ahead. They need to focus on content dev + link building + social outreach to begin building up their brand in the minds of consumers and the “RankBrain” of Google.

One other element needs to be mentioned here, and that’s the concept of how time affects authority. When you’re talking to a business with a ranking problem, it’s very important to ascertain whether they just launched their website or just built their local business listings last week, or even just a few months ago. Typically, if they have, the fruits of their efforts have yet to fully materialize. That being said, it’s not a given that a new business will have little authority. Large brands have marketing departments which exist solely to build tremendous awareness of new assets before they even launch. It’s important to keep that in mind, while also realizing that if the business is smaller, building authority will likely represent a longer haul.

☑ Possum effect

Where local rankings are absent, always ask:

“Are there any other businesses in your building or even on your street that share your Google category?”

If the answer is “yes,” search for the business’ desired keyword phase and look at the local finder view in Google Maps. Note which companies are ranking. Then begin to zoom in on the map, level by level, noting changes in the local finder as you go. If, a few levels in, the business you’re advising suddenly appears on the map and in the local finder, chances are good it’s the Possum filter that’s causing their apparent invisibility at the automatic zoom level.

Google Possum rolled out in September 2016, and its observable effects included a geographic diversification of the local results, filtering out many listings that share a category and are in close proximity to one another. Then, about one year later, Google initiated the Hawk update, which appears to have tightened the radius of Possum, with the result that while many businesses in the same building are still being filtered out, a number of nearby neighbors have reappeared at the automatic zoom level of the results.

If your sleuthing turns up a brand that is being impacted by Possum/Hawk, the only surefire way to beat the filter is to put in the necessary work to become the most authoritative answer for the desired search phrase. It’s important to remember that filters are the norm in Google’s local results, and have long been observed impacting listings that share an address, share a phone number, etc. If it’s vital for a particular listing to outrank all others that possess shared characteristics, then authority must be built around it in every possible way to make it one of the most dominant results.

☑ Local Service Ads effect

The question you ask here is:

“Is yours a service-area business?”

And if the answer is “yes,” then brace yourself for ongoing results disruption in the coming year.

Google’s Local Service Ads (formerly Home Service Ads) make Google the middleman between consumers and service providers, and in the 2+ years since first early testing, they’ve caused some pretty startling things to happen to local search results. These have included:

Suffice it to say, rollout to an ever-increasing number of cities and categories hasn’t been for the faint of heart, and I would hazard a guess that Google’s recent re-brand of this program signifies their intention to move beyond the traditional SAB market. One possible benefit of Google getting into this type of lead gen is that it could decrease spam, but I’m not sold on this, given that fake locations have ended up qualifying for LSA inclusion. While I honor Google’s need to be profitable, I share some of the qualms business owners have expressed about the potential impacts of this venture.

Since I can’t offer a solid prediction of what precise form these impacts will take in the coming months, the best I can do here is to recommend that if an SAB experiences a ranking change/loss, the first thing to look for is whether LSA has come to town. If so, alteration of the SERPs may be unavoidable, and the only strategy left for overcoming vanished visibility may be to pay for it… by qualifying for the program.

☑ GMB neglect

Sometimes, a lack of competitive rankings can simply be chalked up to a lack of effort. If a business wonders why they’re not doing better in the local packs, pull up their GMB listing and do a quick evaluation of:

  • Verification status – While you can rank without verifying, lack of verification is a hallmark of listing neglect.
  • Basic accuracy – If NAP or map markers are incorrect, it’s a sure sign of neglect.
  • Category choices – Wrong categories make right rankings impossible.
  • Image optimization – Every business needs a good set of the most professional, persuasive photos it can acquire, and should even consider periodic new photo shoots for seasonal freshness; imagery impacts KPIs, which are believed to impact rank.
  • Review count, sentiment and management – Too few reviews, low ratings, and lack of responses = utter neglect of this core rank/reputation-driver.
  • Hours of operation – If they’re blank or incorrect, conversions are being missed.
  • Main URL choice – Does the GMB listing point to a strong, authoritative website page or a weak one?
  • Additional URL choices – If menus, bookings, reservations, or placing orders is part of the business model, a variety of optional URLs are supported by Google and should be explored.
  • Google Posts – Early-days testing indicates that regular posting may impact rank.
  • Google Questions and Answers – Pre-populate with best FAQs and actively manage incoming questions.

There is literally no business, large or small, with a local footprint that can afford to neglect its Google My Business listing. And while some fixes and practices move the ranking needle more than others, the increasing number of consumer actions that take place within Google is reason enough to put active GMB management at the top of your list.


Closing the case

The Hardy Boys never went anywhere without their handy kit of detection tools. Their father was so confident in their utter preparedness that he even let them chase down gangs in Hong Kong and dictators in the Guyanas (which, on second thought, doesn’t seem terribly wise.) But I have that kind of confidence in you. I hope my troubleshooting checklist is one you’ll bookmark and share to be prepared for the local ranking mysteries awaiting you and your digital marketing colleagues in 2018. Happy sleuthing!

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!

Reblogged 1 month ago from tracking.feedpress.it

Make email automation the backbone of your B2B marketing strategy

Not too long ago, our in-house consultant Gavin Laugenie hosted a dotlive on the top 5 automation programs B2B companies should be doing, the reasons why and the results you can expect to yield from them. Below are the top 5 ROI-generating automation programs with tips on how to approach them.

1. Welcome program

Your welcome program is your chance to make a lasting impression; thank customers for engaging, set the expectations for the relationship and provide some valuable content to get the ball rolling.

  • Give your contacts a good first impression of your brand by outlining the types of communications they’re likely to receive
  • Use this as an opportunity to find out more about their interests through a preference center; in aggregating this valuable insight you can build a strong profile of subscribers and power relevant content that’ll keep them engaged

2. Product-based program

Your product-focused program allows you to personalize marketing communications depending on the stage contacts are at in the purchasing cycle. Push different types of content that resonate with them, supercharging their engagement and intent to buy.

  • Understand where people are in the buying journey
  • Timing is key: find out the optimum time of sending an email
  • Make sure the campaign is responsive on different devices and is easily readable/scannable
  • Relevancy of content: include dynamic content where possible (people have different reasons for buying). Segment based on data-fields and email behavior you hold on subscribers

3. Nurture program

Your nurture program is an essential component of your marketing strategy; drive valuable content to your subscribers on a steady basis to convert them at the right time. Contextualizing your messages is key.

  • Planning is crucial; you must be aware of what contacts will receive at each stage
  • Understand the results – use reporting to stay informed on how your emails are performing, helping you identify what’s working and what isn’t
  • Use contact scoring to understand customers. Identify those who are receptive and who aren’t; it’s much more cost-effective to keep a client happy rather than to win them back or acquire a new one

4. Retention program

Maximize customer longevity with your retention program. Drive key benefits – placing your brand front-of-mind – and you’ll strengthen existing customer relationships and foster true advocacy.

  • Give customers a reason to stay, what are the benefits?
  • Reward them for their loyalty
  • Perhaps even include a win-back strategy if they have an ‘at risk’ status, for example (our contact scoring tool can help you easily identify this)

5. Event program

An event program reinforces all your other marketing automation efforts. Spark interest among your subscribers by promoting events that complement their preferences through segmentation.

  • Segment your data based on geo-location and areas of interest; it’ll provide insight on who to target and help reduce no-shows
  • Perhaps give them an attendee status – make them feel special enough to want to attend and flag those who have already been to an event
  • Always ask for feedback and learn what you’re doing/not doing well to continuously improve and encourage attendance

 

You may already be aware of the above points, however it should help reinforce why these programs are important, how to approach them and the results you’re likely to expect.

If you would like more information on the types of automation programs you could implement, please contact your account manager or download our best practice guide on unlocking the power of B2B automation.

The post Make email automation the backbone of your B2B marketing strategy appeared first on The Marketing Automation Blog.

Reblogged 1 month ago from blog.dotmailer.com

The four smartest projects from dotmailer’s Hack Week 2017

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Our biggest hack week ever

Although our Hack Week is now in its fifth year, this was the biggest: 38 hackers, five locations, six days. The aim was to build – in the fastest way possible – something new, something left field, that could benefit marketers (or in some cases, us). Here are the top three (and my personal favourite).


The top three hacks

Third place: Logo subscriber

Our Minsk-based developer Darya Pesina hacked a mobile app that used AR to re-invent how email signups could work. Want to scan a logo to sign up? No problem. Want to see what brands are nearby and sign up to them? Go ahead.

This hack was also joint winner in our CEO Award; I was in the ‘judging room’ and Milan could see how this could legitimately create new ways to incentivize signups, with localized special offers creating new subscribers.


🥈 Second place: Live images

This team set out to see how images in emails could be more dynamic. They ended up with a method of streaming image content continuously, so images could look and behave differently for every recipient.

They showed a countdown timer that was always correct, no matter when the email was opened, along with a stock ticker that always used live information.

But they also showed examples of loading an image of a restaurant that’s nearby, and pictures of the weather local to the recspient.

Hacked by our Head of Development Andy Gretton and Development Manager Sergey Shchegrikovich, this was the second joint winner in the CEO Award.


🥇 First place: AR report viewer

Another AR app, but this time for our users: the hack opened up new possibilities for visualizing campaign statistics.

For example, it used virtual Winstons (lots of them!) to show open and click data; the pack of Winstons would begin forming two groups as a campaign was sent – one that represented openers and one non-openers. Then they would reform to create groups of clickers and non-clickers, and then show device breakdown, and so on.

Worked on by Croydon-based developers Darran Jugdoyal, Joseph Appleyard, Grant Lodge and Robert Turner (with the help of a Google Pixel phone).


My pick for standout hack

Is it a tad narcissistic to pick a hack that prominently featured my head? Probably, but I’m not going to let that stop me.

My pick goes to the team Disappointing Demoer (which was actually just our front-end developer Claire Chambers, based in Liverpool).

The hack saw Claire looking at ways of making email more interactive – and what’s more interactive than a game? The result got the recipient tapping flying heads (in this case, for reasons I don’t fully understand, mine) and avoiding Floyd the dog to increase their score – all without leaving the email. In another example, a quiz was built into the email. Imagine what that could do to your engagement rates.


Interested in being part of Hack Week 2018?

If you fancy a bit of marketing tech hacking in 2018, there may be a place for you in the dotmailer team. We’re looking for all sorts – check out the list and apply instantly online.

The post The four smartest projects from dotmailer’s Hack Week 2017 appeared first on The Marketing Automation Blog.

Reblogged 1 month ago from blog.dotmailer.com

How to Optimize Your Google My Business Listing

Posted by sherrybonelli

An important first step in any local SEO strategy is to claim and verify your local business’ Google My Business (GMB) listing. Getting on Google My Business can increase your chances of showing up in Google’s Local Pack, Local Finder, Google Maps, and organic rankings in general. Qualifying local businesses can claim this free listing on Google and include basic information about their company, like their address, phone number, business hours and types of payments accepted.

If you haven’t claimed and verified your Google My Business Listing yet, that’s the first step. To get started, visit https://www.google.com/business.

Many local businesses just claim their GMB listing and forget about it. What most businesses don’t realize is that there are a variety of other features you can use to optimize your Google My Business listing and several reasons why you should frequently check your business listing to ensure that it’s accuracy stays intact. Want to know more?

Complete all the information Google asks for

There are a variety of questions you can answer to complete your Google My Business profile. When done, your listing will have valuable data that will make it easier for potential customers to find your company. And if you don’t fill that information in, someone else could. Many business owners don’t realize that anyone can suggest a change to your business listing — and that includes competitors.

When a searcher clicks on your GMB listing they can see a “Suggest an edit” option:

When someone clicks on that option they can literally edit your Google My Business listing (and make some pretty dramatic changes, too):

This is just one reason why it’s very important that you login to your Google My Business dashboard regularly to ensure that no one has attempted to make any unwanted changes to your listing. You’ll see a notification that changes are pending if someone has made suggested changes that need your approval.

Also, it’s important to realize that Google encourages people who are familiar with your business to answer questions, so Google can learn more information about your company. To do this they can simply click on the “Know this place? Answer quick questions” link.

They’ll then be prompted to answer some questions about your business:

If they know the answer to the questions, they can answer. If not, they can decline.

Now, some business owners have cried foul, saying that competitors or others with malicious intent can wreak havoc on their Google My Business listings with this feature. However, Google’s philosophy is that this type of “user-generated content” helps to build a community, more fully completes a business’ profile, and allows Google to experiment with different search strategies.

After you get your Google My Business listing verified, continue to check your listing regularly to be on the safe side.

Google My Business Posts

Google Posts are “mini-ads” that show up in Google search in your Google My Business listing (in the Knowledge Panel and on Google Maps.)

You can have fun with your Posts by adding an image, a Call to Action (CTA), and even including a link to another page or website. If you’re using Yext, you can create GMB Posts directly from your Yext dashboard.

Here are just a few Post ideas:

  • If you’re having an event (like a webinar) you can set up an event Post with a date and time and then add a link to the registration page.
  • Do you have a sale going on during a specific time? Create a “sale” event Post.
  • Does your latest blog post rock? Add a short description of your blog post and link to the post on your blog.
  • New product you want to feature? Show a picture of this cool gadget and link to where people can make the purchase.
  • Want to spread holiday joy? Give potential customers a holiday message Post.

The possibilities with Posts are endless! Posts stay “live” for seven days or “go dark” after the date of the event. Google is great about sending you reminders when it’s time to create a new Post.

TIP: To grab a searcher’s attention, you want to include an image in your Post, but on Google Maps the Post image can get cut off. You might have to test a few Post image sizes to make sure it’s sized appropriately for Maps and the Knowledge Panel on desktop and mobile devices.

To get started with Posts, login to your GMB dashboard and you’ll see the Posts option on the left-hand side:

Do Google My Business Posts help with search rankings? Joy Hawkins and Steady Demand tested whether Posts had an impact on rankings, and they found that making Google My Business Postsmaking Google My Business Posts can improve rankingsimprove rankings.

Booking button feature

Google’s new Booking button feature can really help your business stand out from the crowd. If you have any type of business that relies on customers making appointments and you’re using integrated scheduling software, people can now book an appointment with your business directly from your Google My Business listing. This can make it even easier to get new customers!

If you have an account with one of Google’s supported scheduling providers, the booking button is automatically added to your Google My Business listing.

Messaging

Did you know that you can allow potential customers to send you text messages? This is a great way to connect directly with potential customers.

If you don’t want text messages sent to your personal phone number, you can download Google’s Allo app. When you set up your Allo account, use the same phone number connected to your Google My Business account. Now when someone messages you, Allo will send you a notification instead of the message appearing in your personal text messages.

To get started with Messaging, login to your GMB dashboard and click on “Messaging”:

This feature is still in its infancy, though. Right now, messaging is only available to mobile web users and is not available to mobile app or desktop users. People also won’t see the Messaging option in the Knowledge Panel or on Google Maps.

The ONLY way someone can message your business is if they perform a mobile web search on Chrome. (I expect that Google will expand the Messaging feature once they work the kinks out.)

Questions & Answers

Questions & Answers is a relatively new feature to Google local search. It’s very cool! Just like it sounds, Q&A allows people to ask questions about your business and you can answer those questions.

Here are a few things to keep in mind about Questions & Answers:

  • The Q&A feature is not visible on the mobile GMB app.
  • You need to login to the GMB dashboard to see if you have any new questions that need answering.
  • You cannot monitor the Questions on a mobile device unless you have an Android phone.
  • You can use the Google Maps App on Android devices to manage the Q&A feature as the business. To do this, download the Google Maps app, sign in with the email address you use for your GMB listing, and you will get push notifications if someone asks your business a question.

TIP: It’s important to note that just like “Suggest an Edit” on GMB, anyone can answer questions asked of your business. Therefore, you want to keep an eye out and make sure you answer questions quickly and ensure that if someone else answers a question, that the answer is accurate. If you find that someone is abusing your GMB listing’s Q&A feature, reach out to the Google My Business support forums.

Google My Business online reviews

Unlike Yelp, which vehemently discourages business owners to ask their customers for reviews, Google encourages business owners to ethically ask their customers or clients for online reviews. Online reviews appear next to your listing in Google Maps and your business’ Knowledge Panel in search. Reviews can help your business stand out among a sea of search results.

Additionally, online reviews are known to impact search result rankings, consumer trust, and click-through rates. According to BrightLocal’s 2017 Consumer Review Survey:

  • 97% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses in 2017, with 12% looking for a local business online every day
  • 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
  • Positive reviews make 73% of consumers trust a local business more
  • 49% of consumers need at least a four-star rating before they choose to use a business
  • Responding to reviews is more important than ever, with 30% naming this as key when judging local businesses
  • 68% of consumers left a local business review when asked — with 74% having been asked for their feedback
  • 79% of consumers have read a fake review in the last year

If you follow Google’s guidelines for Google My Business reviews, you can ask your customers for reviews. (However, if you violate any of these policies, your reviews could be removed.)

When customers leave reviews for you — good or bad — make sure you respond to them. Not only does it show that customer that you appreciate their feedback, it also shows potential customers that you care.

What happens if you get a negative review? First, don’t freak out. Everybody has a bad day and most people recognize that. Also, if you have a troll that gave you a one-star review and left a nasty comment, most people with common sense recognize that review for what it is. It’s generally not worth stressing over.

To learn more about strategically getting more online reviews, check out this article from Moz.


Get more out of your GMB listing

Hopefully these features have given you a new reason to login to your Google My Business account and get busy! If you have any other questions about optimizing your GMB listing, let me know in the comments.

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!

Reblogged 1 month ago from tracking.feedpress.it

The Very Best of the Moz Blog 2017: Our Top 50 Posts

Posted by FeliciaCrawford

Now, I know we technically have a few days left in 2017, but I’m ready to dive head-first into a fond, full-blown retrospective. Each year we look back on what we’ve published, compiling and sharing the pieces you liked best. Normally we divvy it up via various metrics: traffic, 1Metric score, total thumbs up, total comments, the best of YouMoz, and so on and so forth. This year, however, we’re doing things just a little differently.

A lot has changed in the past year…

The way we run the blog has changed in a few significant ways from the days of yesteryear. YouMoz, our user-generated content blog, was retired in the autumn of 2016 (though we hope to resurrect it in another form someday). We reduced our publishing frequency a bit, and refocused our content on core SEO topics after spending 2015 and 2016 branching out into other marketing subjects (like social media and content marketing). We also made some big changes with regards to commenting: we closed comments on posts older than 30 days (they became veritable spam factories), and implemented stricter moderation filters to better catch spammy comments fishing for either a link or easy MozPoints.

And if I’m being completely honest, I don’t think the “Best of” posts from years past have offered you, our beloved readers, as much value as they should’ve. The most excited comments on those posts occur when someone discovers a gem they’d missed, when a post reaches out to you from the masses of online content clamoring for your attention and speaks to you. The way we formerly ranked “the best” resulted in a lot of overlap; the same few posts with lots of thumbs up, a busy comments section, and high traffic overwhelmed the leaderboard.

What criteria now determines “best”?

At the end of 2017, we’re starting fresh. First, I’ve taken our ten most popular blog post categories by traffic — these represent the topics readers are actively seeking information on. Next, I thought about which metric matters most to me when I consider the success of a blog post. Traffic, thumbs, social shares… Nice to see, yes, but they don’t paint a very clear picture of a post’s impact. I found myself returning to my favorite blog post metric again and again: the comments.

A post with a lively comments section can be many things. Perhaps it sparked questions or debate; perhaps the findings were controversial; perhaps it was simply inspiring. Whatever the reason, a heavily commented-on post represents something that struck a chord, that convinced a person to peek out from behind their keyboard shield and contribute a thought, something that coaxed a little extra effort and commitment from our community. As a silent lurker myself, I am consistently blown away by the humility, genius, and generosity you all display in the blog comments section every day.

So there we have it: this year’s Best of the Moz Blog 2017 is a list of the top five most-commented posts in the top ten blog categories. That’s fifty unique blog posts throughout the year on a variety of topics, some of which you may have missed. Most blog posts fall into several of our categories, but every post will only be listed once; if it’s hit the top five in a more popular category, I’ve taken it out of the running for the rest. It’s my sincere hope that this list uncovers something useful for you, something that helps make your job and day just a little easier.

Without further ado, let’s get this party started!

(If you’re curious, check out the Best of 2016 and the Best of 2015, too.)


The top 5 Whiteboard Fridays

Whiteboard Friday is far and away our most popular blog category, earning three times as much traffic as the rest. Because it always overlaps with at least one other category, you’re bound to get a tidy grab bag of SEO takeaways with this list!

10 Things that DO NOT (Directly) Affect Your Google Rankings

Rand Fishkin, September 22nd

Thumbs: 85
Comments: 180

What do the age of your site, your headline H1/H2 preference, bounce rate, and shared hosting all have in common? You might’ve gotten a hint from the title: not a single one of them directly affects your Google rankings. In this rather comforting Whiteboard Friday, Rand lists out ten factors commonly thought to influence your rankings that Google simply doesn’t care about.

What Do Google’s New, Longer Snippets Mean for SEO?

Rand Fishkin, December 8th

Thumbs: 100
Comments: 136

Featured snippets and meta descriptions have brand-new character limits, and it’s a huge change for Google and SEOs alike. Learn about what’s new, when it changed, and what it all means for SEO in this episode of Whiteboard Friday. (And this is cheating, but for good measure, you might follow up with Dr. Pete’s official recommendation for meta description lengths in 2018.)

What Links Can You Get that Comply with Google’s Guidelines?

Marie Haynes, January 20th

Thumbs: 68
Comments: 112

If you’ve ever been the victim of a Google penalty, you know how painful it can be to identify the problem and recover from the hit. Even if you’ve been penalty-free thus far, the threat of getting penalized is a source of worry. But how can you avoid it, when it seems like unnatural links lurk around every corner?

In this Whiteboard Friday, we warmly welcome Google penalty and unnatural link expert Marie Haynes as she shares how to earn links that do comply with Google’s guidelines, that will keep your site out of trouble, and that can make a real impact.

7 ‹Title Tag› Hacks for Increased Rankings + Traffic – Whiteboard Friday

Cyrus Shepard, May 5th

Thumbs: 185
Comments: 103

You may find yourself wondering whether the humble title tag still matters in modern SEO. When it comes to your click-through rate, the answer is a resounding yes! In this Whiteboard Friday, we welcome back our good friend Cyrus Shepard to talk about 7 ways you can revamp your title tags to increase your site traffic and rankings.

Comment Marketing: How to Earn Benefits from Community Participation

Rand Fishkin, January 13th

Thumbs: 53
Comments: 97

It’s been a few years since we’ve covered the topic of comment marketing, but that doesn’t mean it’s out of date. There are clever, intentional ways to market yourself and your brand in the comments sections of sites, and there’s less competition now than ever before. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand details what you can do to get noticed in the comments and the benefits you’ll reap from high-quality contributions.


The top 5 posts in On-Page SEO

The results of our recent Moz Blog Reader Survey highlighted on-page SEO as the topic you’d most like to learn about, so it’s not surprising to see that this category sits right under Whiteboard Friday for popularity. There’s an interesting theme that emerges from these top posts: it seems we’re still working on many of the same things, but how we treat them has necessarily changed over time.

How Links in Headers, Footers, Content, and Navigation Can Impact SEO – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, October 20th

Thumbs: 68
Comments: 92

Which link is more valuable: the one in your nav, or the one in the content of your page? Now, how about if one of those in-content links is an image, and one is text? Not all links are created equal, and getting familiar with the details will help you build a stronger linking structure. This Whiteboard Friday covers links in headers and footers, in navigation versus content, and how that can affect internal and external links, link equity, and link value between your site and others.

It’s Time to Stop Doing On-Page SEO Like It’s 2012

Rand Fishkin, February 6th

Thumbs: 84
Comments: 91

On-page SEO has evolved in the past five years. Rand outlines the changes in five succinct tactics: move beyond keyword repetition rules; searcher intent matters more than raw keywords; related topics are essential; links don’t always beat on-page; and topical authority is more important than ever.

The Wonderful World of SEO Meta Tags [Refreshed for 2017]

Kate Morris, April 13th

Thumbs: 46
Comments: 67

Which meta tags are absolutely necessary, which are dependent on your situation, and which should you absolutely ignore or remove? Kate Morris refreshes her original 2010 post on the subject of meta tags, sharing a few new tips and reiterating what’s remained the same over the past 7 years.

Designing a Page’s Content Flow to Maximize SEO Opportunity – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, December 1st

Thumbs: 54
Comments: 48

Controlling and improving the flow of your on-site content can actually help your SEO. What’s the best way to capitalize on the opportunity present in your page design? Rand covers the questions you need to ask (and answer) and the goals you should strive for in this edition of Whiteboard Friday.

How to Do a Content Audit [Updated for 2017]

Everett Sizemore, March 22nd

Thumbs: 49
Comments: 31

Learn how to do content audits for SEO in this comprehensive, updated guide by Everett Sizemore, including tips for crawling large websites, rendering JavaScript content, and auditing dynamic mobile content.


The top 5 posts in Local SEO

Local SEO overlaps with what we think of as traditional SEO in many ways, so it’s not surprising at all to see this category near the top. There’s still a lot of doubt and apprehension, it seems, when it comes to local SEO best practices and what really works, and the top posts in this category reflect that.

Local SEO Spam Tactics Are Working: How You Can Fight Back

Casey Meraz, March 28th

Thumbs: 48
Comments: 75

It’s very clear that spam tactics in Google’s local results are earning higher rankings. In this post, Casey Meraz identifies exactly what spammers are doing to get ahead, what they can get away with, and what you can do to fight back against the problem plaguing local results.

Not-Actually-the-Best Local SEO Practices

Miriam Ellis, December 11th

Thumbs: 47
Comments: 72

Not all common practices in local SEO are the best practices. In fact, some of them can be pretty darn harmful. Check out Miriam’s list of what-not-to-dos (and what-you-should-actually-dos) in this comprehensive blog post.

The 2017 Local SEO Forecast: 10 Predictions According to Mozzers

Miriam Ellis, February 14th

Thumbs: 35
Comments: 67

From Google providing intimate details about businesses to Amazon expanding even further into the local scene, local SEO stood to see a lot of change this year. Check out what the SEOs at Moz had to say about what to prepare for in 2017.

Proximity to Searcher is the New #1 Local Search Ranking Factor

Darren Shaw, February 22nd

Thumbs: 58
Comments: 65

Forget everything you thought you knew about the most impactful local ranking factors — searcher proximity just may be the number-one thing influencing where a local business shows on the SERPs.

How to Perform a Basic Local Business Competitive Audit

Miriam Ellis, August 22nd

Thumbs: 32
Comments: 65

Are you outranked in Google’s Local Pack? Then it’s high time to perform a competitive business audit. Use this example analysis and downloadable spreadsheet to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of multiple businesses and devise a plan to win.


The top 5 posts in Basic SEO

Basic SEO is another category that enjoys a lot of overlap with other topics; perhaps that’s one reason why it’s so popular. This year’s top posts in this category cover a range of subjects, and all are pretty useful for someone learning (or leveling up in) SEO.

Aren’t 301s, 302s, and Canonicals All Basically the Same? – Whiteboard Friday

Dr. Pete, March 3rd

Thumbs: 62
Comments: 69

They say history repeats itself. In the case of the great 301 vs 302 vs rel=canonical debate, it repeats itself about every three months. In this Whiteboard Friday, Dr. Pete explains how bots and humans experience pages differently depending on which solution you use, why it matters, and how each choice may be treated by Google.

How to Prioritize SEO Tasks [+Worksheet]

Britney Muller, September 21st

Thumbs: 41
Comments: 64

An absolute essential if you want to keep yourself from getting overwhelmed, Moz’s own SEO Britney Muller offers five tips for prioritizing your SEO work: setting specific goals, identifying important pages for conversions, uncovering technical opportunities via a site crawl, time management, and providing consistent benchmarks and reporting.

5 Tactics to Earn Links Without Having to Directly Ask – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, July 28th

Thumbs: 71
Comments: 63

Typical link outreach is a tired sport, and we’ve all but alienated most content creators with our constant link requests. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand outlines five smart ways to earn links to your site without having to beg.

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

Bridget Randolph, July 19th

Thumbs: 56
Comments: 60

We’re so fond of the idea that SEO is hard because it’s always changing. But is that really true? Bridget Randolph challenges a common industry refrain and brings us back to the basics of what’s really important in our work.

How to Target Multiple Keywords with One Page – Next Level

Brian Childs, June 15th

Thumbs: 45
Comments: 56

In this edition of our educational Next Level series, you’ll learn an easy workflow for researching and targeting multiple keywords with a single page.


The top five posts in Link Building

A thousand years from now, when the Space Needle has toppled into Puget Sound and our great-great-great-great-etc. grandchildren are living on Mars, link building will still prove to be one of the most popular subjects on the Moz Blog. And you get a double-whammy of goodness this year, because they just so happen to all be Whiteboard Fridays!

Should SEOs Care About Internal Links? – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, May 26th

Thumbs: 85
Comments: 87

Internal links are one of those essential SEO items you have to get right to avoid getting them really wrong. Rand shares 18 tips to help inform your strategy, going into detail about their attributes, internal vs. external links, ideal link structures, and much, much more in this edition of Whiteboard Friday.

How to Prioritize Your Link Building Efforts & Opportunities – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, February 17th

Thumbs: 73
Comments: 81

We all know how effective link building efforts can be, but it can be an intimidating, frustrating process — and sometimes even a chore. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand builds out a framework you can start using today to streamline and simplify the link building process for you, your teammates, and yes, even your interns.

The 3 Easiest Link Building Tactics Any Website Can Use to Acquire Their First 50 Links – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, September 8th

Thumbs: 81
Comments: 77

Without a solid base of links, your site won’t be competitive in the SERPs — even if you do everything else right. But building your first few links can be difficult and discouraging, especially for new websites. Never fear — Rand is here to share three relatively quick, easy, and tool-free (read: actually free) methods to build that solid base and earn yourself links.

When and How to Use Domain Authority, Page Authority, and Link Count Metrics – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, June 16th

Thumbs: 50
Comments: 71

How can you effectively apply link metrics like Domain Authority and Page Authority alongside your other SEO metrics? Where and when does it make sense to take them into account, and what exactly do they mean? In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand answers these questions and more, arming you with the knowledge you need to better understand and execute your SEO work.

Image Link Building – Whiteboard Friday

Britney Muller, December 15th

Thumbs: 48
Comments: 63

Image link building is a delicate art. There are some distinct considerations from traditional link building, and doing it successfully requires a balance of creativity, curiosity, and having the right tools on hand. In this Whiteboard Friday, Moz’s own SEO and link building aficionado Britney Muller offers up concrete advice for successfully building links via images.


The top 5 posts in Advanced SEO

2017’s top posts in the advanced SEO category cover just about every post type we like to publish (and that you like to read): in-depth case studies, Whiteboard Fridays, best practice advice, and solid how-tos.

[Case Study] How We Ranked #1 for a High-Volume Keyword in Under 3 Months

Dmitry Dragilev, April 19th

Thumbs: 73
Comments: 140

If you’ve been struggling to take the number-one spot in the SERPs for a competitive keyword, take a cue from this case study. Dmitry Dragilev shares his team’s 8-step methodology for ranking first in a popular niche.

How Google AdWords (PPC) Does and Doesn’t Affect Organic Results – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, November 17th

Thumbs: 68
Comments: 89

It’s common industry knowledge that PPC can have an effect on our organic results. But what effect is that, exactly, and how does it work? In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand covers the ways paid ads influence organic results — and one very important way they don’t.

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

Rand Fishkin, July 14th

Thumbs: 62
Comments: 87

If you’ve ever had any questions about the canonical tag, well, have we got the Whiteboard Friday for you. In this episode, Rand defines what rel=canonical means and its intended purpose, when it’s recommended you use it, how to use it, and sticky situations to avoid.

How to Uncover Hidden Keyword-Level Data Using Google Sheets

Sarah Lively, February 13th

Thumbs: 42
Comments: 83

Which keywords are driving your organic traffic? Keyword-level data doesn’t have to be (not provided). Sarah Lively shares a smart solution using two free add-ons for Google Sheets.

How Long Should Your Meta Description Be? (2018 Edition)

Dr. Pete, December 19th

Thumbs: 49
Comments: 76

The end of November saw a spike in the average length of SERP snippets. Across 90K results, we found a definite increase but many oddities, such as video snippets. Our data suggests that many snippets are exceeding 300 characters, and we recommend a new meta description limit of 300 characters.


The top 5 posts in Technical SEO

Technical SEO posts are some of my favorite categories to publish (which is perhaps a strange sentiment coming from a poetry major). The debate that recently raged — about whether it’s necessary or unnecessary for SEO — will always stick with many of us, as will Rand’s excellent Whiteboard Friday rebuttal on the topic.

XML Sitemaps: The Most Misunderstood Tool in the SEO’s Toolbox

Michael Cottam, April 11th

Thumbs: 43
Comments: 83

XML sitemaps are a powerful tool for SEOs, but are often misunderstood and misused. Michael Cottam explains how to leverage XML sitemaps to identify and resolve indexation problems.

JavaScript & SEO: Making Your Bot Experience As Good As Your User Experience

Alexis Sanders, June 20th

Thumbs: 56
Comments: 79

More and more, we’re realizing it’s incredibly important for us as SEOs to understand JavaScript’s impact on search experience. Can search engines see your content and experience your site the way a user does? If not, what solutions can you use to fix it?

Pros and Cons of HTTPS Services: Traditional vs Let’s Encrypt vs Cloudflare

JR Ridley, September 13th

Thumbs: 38
Comments: 78

Thinking about going secure? It’s more important than ever, with Google issuing security warnings for many non-secure sites in Chrome. This comparison of three popular HTTPS services will help you determine the best option for implementing an SSL certification on your site.

Mastering Google Search Operators in 67 Easy Steps

Dr. Pete, March 1st

Thumbs: 82
Comments: 76

Google search operators are like chess – knowing how the pieces move doesn’t make you a master. Dive into 67 examples, from content research to site audits, and level up your search operator game.

Unlocking Hidden Gems Within Schema.org

Alexis Sanders, October 18th

Thumbs: 45
Comments: 69

Schema.org can be a confusing resource if you’re trying to learn how to use and implement structured data. This mini-guide arms you with the right kind of thinking to tackle your next structured data project.


The top 5 posts in Keyword Research

The posts generating the most buzz in our keyword research category seem to revolve around quick yet effective wins and tactical advice. And with time constraints being one of the biggest challenges reported in our Reader’s Survey, it’s really no surprise.

The Lazy Writer’s Guide to 30-Minute Keyword Research

Britney Muller, July 26th

Thumbs: 52
Comments: 54

Keyword research doesn’t have to be a marathon bender. A brisk 30-minute walk can provide incredible insights — insights that connect you with a wider audience on a deeper level. Britney Muller shares several ways to get your keyword research tasks done efficiently and well.

The Keyword + Year Content/Rankings Hack – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, February 10th

Thumbs: 63
Comments: 49

What’s the secret to earning site traffic from competitive keywords with decent search volume? The answer could be as easy as 1, 2, 3 — or more precisely, 2, 0, 1, 7. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand lets you in on a relatively straightforward tactic that can help you compete in a tough space using very fresh content.

3 Tactics for Hyperlocal Keywords – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, February 24th

Thumbs: 63
Comments: 47

Trying to target a small, specific region with your keywords can prove frustrating. While reaching a high-intent local audience is incredibly valuable, without volume data to inform your keyword research, you’ll find yourself hitting a wall. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand shares how to uncover powerful, laser-focused keywords that will reach exactly the right people.

Which of My Competitor’s Keywords Should (& Shouldn’t ) I Target? – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, November 24th

Thumbs: 45
Comments: 44

You don’t want to try to rank for every one of your competitors’ keywords. Like most things with SEO, it’s important to be strategic and intentional with your decisions. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand shares his recommended process for understanding your funnel, identifying the right competitors to track, and prioritizing which of their keywords you ought to target.

NEW in Keyword Explorer: See Who Ranks & How Much with Keywords by Site

Rand Fishkin, October 23rd

Thumbs: 41
Comments: 43

It’s not often that a product-focused post makes our blog’s Best of the Year list, so this is both interesting and heartening to see. We worked really hard to bring better data and more usefulness to Keyword Explorer this year, and y’all left some really kind sentiments in the comments. Thanks for always being here for us, folks! 🙂


The top 5 posts in Content

I won’t say it, I promise. 😉 But content is just as important as ever, and the rather vague advice of “create great content and the rest will come” has certainly gotten a bit exhausting over the years. We’ve made an effort to publish more actionable ways to think about and use content, and it seems like that’s been resonating with you so far!

Refurbishing Top Content – Whiteboard Friday

Britney Muller, February 3rd

Thumbs: 66
Comments: 82

You’ve got top-performing content on your site that does really well. Maybe it’s highly converting, maybe it garners the most qualified traffic — but it’s just sitting there gathering dust. Isn’t there something else you can do with content that’s clearly proven its worth?

As it turns out, there is! In this Whiteboard Friday, Britney Muller shares three easy steps for identifying, repurposing, and republishing your top content to juice every drop of goodness out of it.

What We Learned From Analyzing 1.4 Million Featured Snippets

A.J. Ghergich, January 17th

Thumbs: 48
Comments: 78

From optimal snippet length, to practical application tips, to which queries prefer tables, lists, or paragraphs, learn everything you need to know to supercharge your snippet wins.

The Perfect Blog Post Length and Publishing Frequency is B?!!$#÷x – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, August 18th

Thumbs: 76
Comments: 65

The perfect blog post length or publishing frequency doesn’t actually exist. “Perfect” isn’t universal — your content’s success depends on tons of personalized factors. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains why the idea of “perfect” is baloney when it comes to your blog, and lists what you should actually be looking for in a successful publishing strategy.

Learning to Re-Share: 4 Strategies to Renew, Refresh, and Recycle Content for Bigger Reach

Jen Carney, August 2nd

Thumbs: 31
Comments: 51

You’ve spend too much time and effort on content creation to share it only once. Check out four smart strategies you can implement today to improve the reach of your existing content.

How to Build the Right Content Marketing Strategy for SEO Growth

Alli Berry, November 15th

Thumbs: 30
Comments: 51

Keywords are important for innumerable SEO tasks, but driving your content marketing strategy isn’t one of them. Your strategy should be based on the audience you’re trying to reach if you want your organic traffic to convert.


Paid Search Marketing

While it perhaps seems a little strange for an SEO blog to cover, paid search plays an important part in our digital marketing world, and as reported in our Reader’s Survey, plenty of us wear more than one hat. Here are the top posts from 2017 that generated the most commentary about all things paid:

Do iPhone Users Spend More Online Than Android Users?

Martin Meany, October 11th

Thumbs: 27
Comments: 71

iPhone users tend to spend 3x as much as Android users, according to an analysis of 31 million mobile e-commerce sessions. Digital marketers can capitalize on this revelation via Facebook and AdWords.

Branding Success: How to Use PPC to Amplify Your Brand

Purna Virji, February 21st

Thumbs: 34
Comments: 44

You might be surprised to learn that branding and PPC go hand-in-hand. Find out how to leverage your PPC campaigns to strengthen your brand and win conversions and loyalty from your customers.

No, Paid Search Audiences Won’t Replace Keywords

Kirk Williams, May 30th

Thumbs: 33
Comments: 29

Keywords or audience targeting? Kirk Williams sets out to argue that far from being dead, keywords are still the most useful tool in the paid search marketer’s toolbox.

Paid Social for Content Marketing Launches – Whiteboard Friday

Kane Jamison, September 29th

Thumbs: 31
Comments: 29

Stuck in a content marketing rut? Relying on your existing newsletter, social followers, or email outreach won’t do your launches justice. Boosting your signal with paid social both introduces your brand to new audiences and improves your launch’s traffic and results. In this Whiteboard Friday, we’re welcoming back our good friend Kane Jamison to highlight four straightforward, actionable tactics you can start using ASAP.

The Step-By-Step Guide to Testing Voice Search Via PPC

Purna Virji, March 21st

Thumbs: 30
Comments: 24

Conversational interfaces are becoming more and more popular, but it’s hard to know where to start when it comes to voice search. A $50 PPC budget is enough to jumpstart your voice search keyword list and strategy — learn how in this step-by-step guide.


Top comments by thumbs up

Comments are my favorite blog post success metric, and it simply wouldn’t do if we didn’t honor the folks who contributed the most popular comments in 2017. Thank you, all of you, for sharing your thoughts with the greater Moz and SEO community, and for taking precious time out of your day to make the blog a more interesting and better place. And for all the comment lurkers out there like me, I offer you solemn solidarity and zero judgment (but I’d be delighted to see y’all venture out from behind the screen now and again ;).

1. Praveen Sharma on “10 Things that DO NOT (Directly) Affect Your Google Rankings – Whiteboard Friday” – 58 thumbs up

Short, sweet, accurate, relevant advice is the name of the game. 🙂 We’ve had feedback before that some readers come to the blog for the comments as much as the post itself, and this example shows why. Thanks for sharing your insight, Praveen!

2. SEOMG on “7 ‹Title Tag› Hacks for Increased Rankings + Traffic – Whiteboard Friday” – 42 thumbs up

Much like the above, this comment exemplifies clear, useful examples related to the post topic. You rock, SEOMG!

3. Praveen Sharma on “The 3 Easiest Link Building Tactics Any Website Can Use to Acquire Their First 50 Links – Whiteboard Friday” – 39 thumbs up

Swooping in again with another helpful tidbit to add to the blog post at hand, Praveen’s made it on the Top 10 list twice. We really appreciate your contributions, Praveen!

4. Trevor Klein on “Moz Transitions: Rand to Step Away from Operations and into Advisory Role in Early 2018” – 38 thumbs up

A bittersweet comment that clearly struck a chord with many in our community. Rand, I hope you know how much we all love and appreciate you! And Trevor, thank you so much for your candid and genuine thoughts; you truly spoke for all of us there.

5. Gianluca Fiorelli on “SEO Best Practices for Canonical URLs + the Rel=Canonical Tag – Whiteboard Friday” – 30 thumbs up

Gianluca’s comments on the Moz Blog are legendary; each one is a treasure, a miniature blog post in and of itself. Thank you for sharing your smarts with us, Gianluca!

6. Rand Fishkin on “What Do Google’s New, Longer Snippets Mean for SEO? – Whiteboard Friday” – 28 thumbs up

By using the comments section to clarify a few points about his Whiteboard Friday video and highlight his advice, Rand adds extra value and oomph to the post as a whole… and the community responded. 🙂 Thank you for always leaving 10X comments, Rand!

7. Eric Hahn on “10 Things that DO NOT (Directly) Affect Your Google Rankings – Whiteboard Friday” – 26 thumbs up

The discussion in the thread spurred by this helpful, on-topic comment is the kind of lively, educational back-and-forth we love to witness. Thank you for inspiring folks to ask questions and learn, Eric!

8. Igor Gorbenko on “What Do Google’s New, Longer Snippets Mean for SEO? – Whiteboard Friday” – 25 thumbs up

It makes me really happy that our community has — and rewards — such awesome personality. Igor, thank you for your wit and your insights! ᕕ(⌐■_■)ᕗ ♪♬

9. Tim Soulo on “Moz Transitions: Rand to Step Away from Operations and into Advisory Role in Early 2018” – 22 thumbs up

The blog community definitely resonated with all the heartfelt, personal stories shared on this post. Tim, thank you for sharing!

10. Gianluca Fiorelli on “Comment Marketing: How to Earn Benefits from Community Participation – Whiteboard Friday” – 21 thumbs up

In an incredibly meta turn of events, Gianluca’s comment on our Comment Marketing Whiteboard Friday rounds out the list of 2017’s top comments on the Moz Blog. I don’t think there’s a person on this Internet that’s done a better job of personal comment marketing than Gianluca! 🙂


Here’s to you!

Thank you all, each and every one of you, for helping to keep our little community a thriving, nurturing place to learn SEO, share ideas, and hey, even make mistakes now and again. It’s an honor to have a hand in providing content to such a TAGFEE and brilliant group of people, and I can’t describe how excited I am for all that 2018 will bring.

Let me know in the comments how you liked the change-up this year, what other “Best of” formats or lists you might find helpful, and any other ponderings or thoughts you might have — and thank you again for reading!

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Search Engine Land’s Community Corner: Local SEO survey results, a new book on influencer marketing & SEO Christmas jumpers

As we head into the slow holiday stretch, the news likewise takes a breather. Of course Google did surprise the search community this week by confirming some algo updates, starting a new webmaster video series, and moving Eric Schmidt into a non-Executive Chairman of the Board position. Elsewhere…

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Reblogged 2 months ago from feeds.searchengineland.com