The Best of the Best: Celebrating the Top 10 of the Moz Top 10 for 2014

Posted by Isla_McKetta

Oh no, another year-end roundup! But before you click away, let me sell you a little on why this is the roundup you actually want to read.

You see, to compile the
Moz Top 10 over the last year, we probably read 50 or more articles EACH WEEK, that’s around 100 articles for every issue. We then spent innumerable hours curating and culling until we could share with you the very best of those articles in the bi-weekly Top 10.

So this is not just another listicle. This article is in fact the distillation of the very best content from all over the interwebs for the past year that has anything to do with digital marketing. Basically,
we read 2,600 (or so) articles so you don’t have to.

What does “best” mean?

There’s no formula for what makes an article Top-10 worthy. We look for the best content of each two week period and then try and winnow and fit it until each newsletter contains just the right balance of digital marketing tips, tricks, analysis, and inspiration.

We work to reach beyond SEO and find articles that will help people who specialize in content, social, design, UX, and more broaden their skill set and understand the work their marketing compatriots engage in. The mix and style changes as the author of this newsletter changes. I’m biased toward content marketing, Cyrus loves SEO. Trevor’s a sucker for a journalistic slant.

But whoever is writing the latest edition is trying to find that perfect balance so you come away from the newsletter having found at least one article that teaches you something new, changes the way you think about marketing, or makes your job a little easier.

We look for articles by authors new and old that are
well written, well illustrated, and comprehensive. Sometimes we publish something because it’s a really good resource or because it says the thing that needs to be said.

Some pieces make the Top 10 because they are
heart-achingly eloquent. And sometimes we include a little something fun, playful, or easy on the eyes (but still educational) at the end to finish your day off right.

Then news
breaks (ahem, Google) and we reconfigure it all.

The Top 10 of the Top 10

For the Top 10 of the Moz Top 10, we could have gone with the most newsworthy content—articles that claim
some tactic is dead
or some era is over, but Search Engine Land already did that, so I wanted to take a different approach.

Instead, I chose the articles from 2014 that endure. Below you’ll find articles that continue to inspire, how-tos and guides so comprehensive they deserve a revisit, and, yes, even a few tips and tricks that you should really get to. Without further ado, here are the best of the best…

1. Life is a Game. This is Your Strategy Guide

If you can master life, all that marketing stuff is a cake walk. Level up in your day-to-day with this thoughtful, comprehensive, and gorgeous guide from Oliver Emberton.

2. Announcing the All-New Beginner’s Guide to Link Building

Paddy Moogan knows a thing or two about link building, and here he’s teamed up with some folks at Moz to turn all of that information into an easy-to-follow yet comprehensive guide. I had no part in this project, so I can safely tell you I <3 the Zelda references.

3. No Words Wasted: A Guide to Creating Focused Content

From getting customer interviews right to nailing content promotion, this massive guide from Distilled covers everything you need to know about content strategy. I learn something new (or rediscover something I should never have forgotten) every time I read it.

4. Micro Data & Schema.org Rich Snippets: Everything You Need to Know

If you don’t know what micro data are and you haven’t figured out what to do with Schema.org, your content marketing is missing a crucial element for SERP success. BuiltVisible to the rescue with this amazing and easy-to-follow guide.

5. The Beginner’s Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization

If you suspect there’s a blockage in your sales funnel, it’s time to think about CRO. This guide from Qualaroo will tell you everything you need to know to start pinpointing (and fixing) your barriers to conversion.

6. 2014 Industry Survey Results

A survey so big we can only do it once every two years. Peek at salaries, tools, and trends to compare where the digital marketing industry was at the beginning of 2014 to where you are now for a peek at what the future may hold. 

7. UX Crash Course: User Psychology

Composed of 31 lessons, this online “course” will help you understand user motivation and how you can use psychology to massively improve your user experience.

8. A Geek’s Guide to Gaming The Algorithms

Sometimes looking at information from a slightly different angle makes it easier to digest. In this delightful piece, Ian Lurie teaches us when it’s okay to game the algorithms at the same time as he’s spelling out, in plain language, what each algorithm update was really about.

9. The Ultimate List of IFTTT Recipes for Marketers

Favorite part of this amazingly detailed post from SEER? The fact that it starts from a user’s perspective. So whether you want to “stalk your competitors’ stocks” or “keep track of industry meetups,” there’s an answer (in the form of an IFTTT recipe) here for you.

10. The Rich Snippets Algorithm

So much changed in the realm of rich snippets last year. AJ Kohn delves into the relationship between those rich snippets and knowledge graph results. It’s a heady post that just might offer some interesting insight into the future of SERPs.

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And if you’re someone who’s writing Top-10-worthy content and we just haven’t found you yet, we want to read what you’ve got. So please send us your suggestions. Each edition of the Moz Top 10 only covers content from the most recent two-week period, so send that link while the content is still fresh.

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

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Raven Tools Hangout: SEO Metrics

This is the recording of our Hangout on Air with Jon Henshaw, Jeremy Rivera, AJ Kohn, Demian Farnworth, David Harry, Steven Shattuck, Max Minzer and Annie Cu…

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Using Modern SEO to Build Brand Authority

Posted by kaiserthesage

It’s obvious that the technology behind search engines’ ability to determine and understand web entities is gradually leaning towards how real people will normally perceive things from a traditional marketing perspective.

The
emphasis on E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness) from Google’s recently updated Quality Rating Guide shows that search engines are shifting towards brand-related metrics to identify sites/pages that deserve to be more visible in search results.

Online branding, or authority building, is quite similar to the traditional SEO practices that many of us have already been accustomed with.

Building a stronger brand presence online and improving a site’s search visibility both require two major processes: the things you implement on the site and the things you do outside of the site.

This is where several of the more advanced aspects of SEO can blend perfectly with online branding when implemented the right way. In this post, I’ll use some examples from my own experience to show you how.

Pick a niche and excel

Building on your brand’s
topical expertise is probably the fastest way to go when you’re looking to build a name for yourself or your business in a very competitive industry.

There are a few reasons why:

  • Proving your field expertise in one or two areas of your industry can be a strong unique selling point (USP) for your brand.
  • It’s easier to expand and delve into the deeper and more competitive parts of your industry once you’ve already established yourself as an expert in your chosen field.
  • Obviously, search engines favour brands known to be experts in their respective fields.

Just to give a brief example, when I started blogging back in 2010, I was all over the place. Then, a few months later, I decided to focus on one specific area of SEO—link building—and
wrote dozens of guides on how I do it.

By aiming to build my blog’s brand identity to become a prime destination for link building tutorials, it became a lot easier for me to sell my ideas on the other aspects of inbound marketing to my continuously growing audience (from technical SEO to social media, content marketing, email marketing and more).

Strengthening your brand starts with the quality of your brand’s content, whether it’s your product/service or the plethora of information available on your website.

You can start by assessing the categories where you’re getting the most traction in terms of natural link acquisitions, social shares, conversions, and/or sales.

Prioritize your content development efforts on the niche where your brand can genuinely compete in and will have a better fighting chance to dominate the market. It’s the smartest way to stand out and scale, especially when you’re still in your campaign’s early stages.

Optimize for semantic search and knowledge graph

In the past, most webmasters and publishers would rely on the usage of generic keywords/terms in optimizing their website’s content to make it easier for search engines to understand what they are about.

But now, while the continuously evolving technologies behind search may seem to make the optimization process more complicated, the fact is that it may just reward those who pursue high-level trustworthy marketing efforts to stand out in the search results.

These technologies and factors for determining relevance—which include entity recognition and disambiguation (ERD), structured data or schema markups, natural language processing (NLP), phrase-based indexing for co-occurrence and co-citations, concept matching, and a lot more—are all driven by branding campaigns and
how an average human would normally find, talk, or ask about a certain thing.

Easily identifiable brands will surely win in this type of setup.

Where to start? See if Google already knows what your brand is about.

How to optimize your site for the Knowledge Graph and at the same time build it as an authority online

1. Provide the best and the most precise answers to the “who, what, why, and how” queries that people might look for in your space.

Razvan Gavrilas did 
an extensive study on how Google’s Answer Boxes work. Getting listed in the answer box will not just drive more traffic and conversions to a business, but can also help position a brand on a higher level in its industry.

But of course, getting one of your entries placed for Google’s answer boxes for certain queries will also require other authority signals (like natural links, domain authority, etc.).

But what search crawlers would typically search for to evaluate whether a page’s content is appropriate to be displayed in the answer boxes (according to Razvan’s post):

  • If the page selected for the answer contains the question in a very similar (if not exact) form, along with the answer, at a short distance from the question (repeating at least some of the words from the question) and
  • If the page selected for the answer belongs to a trustworthy website. So most of the times, if it’s not Wikipedia, it will be a site that it can consider a non-biased third party, such as is the case with a lot of “.edu” sites, or news organization websites.

Although,
John Mueller mentioned recently that Knowledge Graph listings should not be branded, in which you might think that the approach and effort will be for nothing.

But wait, just think about it—the intent alone of optimizing your content for Google’s Knowledge Graph will allow you to serve better content to your users (which is what Google rewards the most these days, so it’s still the soundest action to take if you want to really build a solid brand, right?).

2. Clearly define your brand’s identity to your audience.

Being remarkable and being able to separate your brand from your competitors is crucial in online marketing (be it through your content or the experience people feel when they’re using your site/service/product).


Optimizing for humans through branding allows you to condition the way people will talk about you
. This factor is very important when you’re aiming to get more brand mentions that would really impact your site’s SEO efforts, branding, and conversions.

The more search engines are getting signals (even unlinked mentions) that verify that you’re an authority in your field, the more your brand will be trusted and rank your pages well on SERPs.

3. Build a strong authorship portfolio.

Author photos/badges may have been taken down from the search results a few weeks ago, but it doesn’t mean that authorship markup no longer has value.

Both
Mark Traphagen and Bill Slawski have shared why authorship markup still matters. And clearly, an author’s authority will still be a viable search ranking factor, given that it enables Google to easily identify topical experts and credible documents available around the web.

It will continue to help tie entities (publishers and brands) to their respective industries, which may still accumulate scores over time based on the popularity and reception from the author’s works (AuthorRank).

This approach is a great complement to personal brand building, especially when you’re expanding your content marketing efforts’ reach through guest blogging on industry-specific blogs where you can really absorb more new readers and followers.

There’s certainly more to implement under
Knowledge Graph Optimization, and here’s a short list from what AJ Kohn has already shared on his blog earlier this year, which are all still useful to this day:

  • Use entities (aka Nouns) in your writing
  • Get connected and link out to relevant sites
  • Implement Structured Data to increase entity detection
  • Use the sameAs property
  • Optimize your Google+ presence
  • Get exposure on Wikipedia
  • Edit and update your Freebase entry

Online branding through scalable link building

The right relationships make link building scalable.

In the past, many link builders believed that it’s best to have thousands of links from diversified sources, which apparently forced a lot of early practitioners to resort to tactics focused on manually dropping links to thousands of unique domains (and spamming).

And, unfortunately, guest blogging as a link building tactic has eventually become a part of this craze.

I’ve mentioned this dozens of times before, and I’m going to say it one more time:
It’s better to have multiple links from a few link sources that are highly trusted than having hundreds of one-off links from several mediocre sites.

Focus on building signals that will strongly indicate relationships, because it’s probably the most powerful off-site signal you can build out there.

When other influential entities in your space are vouching for your brand (whether it’s through links, social shares, or even unlinked brand mentions), it allows you to somehow become a part of the list of sites that will most likely be trusted by search engines.

It can most definitely impact how people will see your brand as an authority as well, when they see that you’re being trusted by other credible brands in your industry.

These relationships can also open a lot of opportunities for natural link acquisitions and lead generation, knowing that some of the most trusted brands in your space trust you.

Making all of this actionable

1. Identify and make a list of the top domains and publishers in your industry, particularly those that have high search share.

There are so many tools that you can use to get these data, like
SEMRush, Compete.com, and/or Alexa.com.

You can also use
Google Search and SEOQuake to make a list of sites that are performing well on search for your industry’s head terms (given that Google is displaying better search results these days, it’s probably one of the best prospecting tools you can use).

I also use other free tools in doing this type of prospecting, particularly in cleaning up the list (in
removing duplicate domains, and extracting unique hostnames; and in filtering out highly authoritative sites that are clearly irrelevant for the task, such as ranking pages from Facebook, Wikipedia, and other popular news sites).

2. Try to penetrate at least 2 high authority sites from the first 50 websites on your list—and become a regular contributor for them.

Start engaging them by genuinely participating in their existing communities.

The process shouldn’t stop with you contributing content for them on a regular basis, as along the way you can initiate collaborative tasks, such as inviting them to publish content on your site as well.

This can help draw more traffic (and links) from their end, and can exponentially improve the perceived value of your brand as a publisher (based on your relationships with other influential entities in your industry).

These kinds of relationships will make the latter part of your link building campaign less stressful. As soon as you get to build a strong footing with your brand’s existing relationships and content portfolio (in and out of your site), it’ll be a lot easier for you to pitch and get published on other authoritative industry-specific publications (or even in getting interview opportunities).

3. Write the types of content that your target influencers are usually reading.

Stalk your target influencers on social networks, and take note of the topics/ideas that interest them the most (related to your industry). See what type of content they usually share to their followers.

Knowing these things will give you ton of ideas on how you can effectively approach your content development efforts and can help you come up with content ideas that are most likely to be read, shared, and linked to.

You can also go the extra mile by knowing which sites they mostly link out to or use as reference for their own works (use
ScreamingFrog).

4. Take advantage of your own existing community (or others’ as well).

Collaborate with the people who are already participating in your brand’s online community (blog comments, social networks, discussions, etc.). Identify those who truly contribute and really add value to the discussions, and see if they run their own websites or work for a company that’s also in your industry.

Leverage these interactions, as these can form long-term relationships that can also be beneficial to both parties (for instance, inviting them to write for you or having you write for their blog, and/or cross-promote your works/services).

And perhaps, you can also use this approach to other brands’ communities as well, like reaching out to people you see who have really smart inputs about your industry (that’ll you see on other blog’s comment sections) and asking them if they’ll be interested to talk/share more about that topic and have it published on your website instead.

Building a solid community can easily help automate link building, but more importantly, it can surely help strengthen a brand’s online presence.

Conclusion

SEO can be a tremendous help to your online branding efforts. Likewise, branding can be a tremendous help to your SEO efforts. Alignment and integration of both practices is what keeps winners winning in this game (just look at Moz).

If you liked this post or have any questions, let me know in the comments below, and you can find me on Twitter
@jasonacidre.

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 4 years ago from feedproxy.google.com

Feed the Hummingbird: Structured Markup Isn’t the Only Way to Talk to Google

Posted by Cyrus-Shepard

I used to laugh at the idea of Hummingbird optimization.

In a recent poll, Moz asked nearly
300 marketers which Google updated affected their traffic the most. Penguin and Panda were first and second, followed by Hummingbird in a distant third.

Unsurprising, because unlike Panda and Penguin,
Hummingbird doesn’t specifically combat webspam

Ever wonder why Google named certain algorithms after black and white animals (i.e. black hat vs. white hat?) Hummingbird is a broader algorithm altogether, and Hummingbirds can be any color of the rainbow.

One aspect of Hummingbird is about
better understanding of your content, not just specific SEO tactics.

Hummingbird also represents an
evolutionary step in entity-based search that Google has worked on for years, and it will continue to evolve. In a way, optimizing for entity search is optimizing for search itself.

Many SEOs limit their understanding of entity search to vague concepts of
structured data, Schema.org, and Freebase. They fall into the trap of thinking that the only way to participate in the entity SEO revolution is to mark up your HTML with complex schema.org microdata.

Not true.

Don’t misunderstand; schema.org and structured data are awesome. If you can implement structured data on your website, you should. Structured data is precise, can lead to enhanced search snippets, and helps search engines to understand your content. But Schema.org and classic structured data vocabularies also have key shortcomings:

  1. Schema types are limited. Structured data is great for people, products, places, and events, but these cover only a fraction of the entire content of the web. Many of us markup our content using Article schema, but this falls well short of describing the hundreds of possible entity associations within the text itself. 
  2. Markup is difficult. Realistically, in a world where it’s sometimes difficult to get authors to write a title tag or get engineers to attach an alt attribute to an image, implementing proper structured data to source HTML can be a daunting task.
  3. Adoption is low. A study last year of 2.4 billion web pages showed less than 25% contained structured data markup. A recent SearchMetrics study showed even less adoption, with only 0.3% of websites out of over 50 million domains using Schema.org.

This presents a challenge for search engines, which want to understand entity relationships across the
entire web – not simply the parts we choose to mark up. 

In reality, search engines have worked over 10 years –
since the early days of Google – at extracting entities from our content without the use of complex markup.

How search engines understand relationships without markup

Here’s a simple explanation of a complex subject. 

Search engines can structure your content using the concept of
triples. This means organizing keywords into a framework of subjectpredicateobject.

Structured data frameworks like schema.org work great because they automatically classify information into a triple format. Take this
example from Schema.org.

<div itemscope itemtype ="http://schema.org/Movie">
  <h1 itemprop="name">Avatar</h1>
  <span>Director: <span itemprop="director">James Cameron</span> (born August 16, 1954)</span>
  <span itemprop="genre">Science fiction</span>
  <a href="../movies/avatar-theatrical-trailer.html" itemprop="trailer">Trailer</a>
</div><br>

Extracting the triples from this code sample would yield:

Avatar (Movie)Has DirectorJames Cameron

SubjectPredicateObject

The challenge is: Can search engines extract this information for the 90%+ of your content that isn’t marked up with structured data? 

Yes, they can.

Triples, triples everywhere

Ask Google a question like
who is the president of Harvard or how many astronauts walked on the moon, and Google will often answer from a page with no structured data present.

Consider this query for the ideal length of a title tag.

Google is able to extract the semantic meaning from this page even though the properties of “length” and its value of 50-60 characters
are not structured using classic schema.org markup.

Matt Cutts recently revealed that Google uses over 500 algorithms. That means 500 algorithms that layer, filter and interact in different ways. The evidence indicates that Google has many techniques of extracting entity and relationship data that may work independent of each other.

Regardless, whether you are a master of schema.org or not, here are tips for communicating entity and relationship signals within your content.

1. Keywords

Yes, good old fashioned keywords.

Even without structured markup, search engines have the ability to parse keywords into their respective structure. 

But keywords by themselves only go so far. In order for this method to work, your keywords must be accompanied by appropriate predicates and objects. In other words, you sentences provide fuel to search engines when they contain detailed information with clear subjects and organization.

Consider this example of the relationships extracted from our
title tag page by AlchemyAPI:

Entities Extracted via AlchemyAPI

There’s evidence Google has worked on this technology for over 10 years, ever since it acquired the company Applied Semantics in 2003.

For deeper understanding, Bill Slawski wrote an excellent piece on Google’s ability to extract relationship meaning from text, as well as AJ Kohn’s excellent advice on Google’s Knowledge Graph optimization.

2. Tables and HTML elements

This is old school SEO that folks today often forget.

HTML (and HTML5), by default, provide structure to webpages that search engines can extract. By using lists, tables, and proper headings, you organize your content in a way that makes sense to robots. 

In the example below, the technology exists for search engines to easily extract structured relationship about US president John Adams in this Wikipedia table.

The goal isn’t to get in Google’s Knowledge Graph, (which is exclusive to Wikipedia and Freebase). Instead, the objective is to structure your content in a way that makes the most sense and relationships between words and concepts clear. 

For a deeper exploration, Bill Slawski has another excellent write up exploring many different techniques search engines can use to extract structured data from HTML-based content.

3. Entities and synonyms

What do you call the President of the United States? How about:

  • Barack Obama
  • POTUS (President Of The United States)
  • Commander in Chief
  • Michelle Obama’s Husband
  • First African American President

In truth, all of these apply to the same entity, even though searchers will look for them in different ways. If you wanted to make clear what exactly your content was about (which president?) two common techniques would be to include:

  1. Synonyms of the subject: We mean the President of the United States → Barack Obama → Commander in Chief and → Michelle Obama’s Husband
  2. Co-occuring phrases: If we’re talking about Barack Obama, we’re more likely to include phrases like Honolulu (his place of birth), Harvard (his college), 44th (he is the 44th president), and even Bo (his dog). This helps specify exactly which president we mean, and goes way beyond the individual keyword itself.

entities and synonyms for SEO

Using synonyms and entity association also has the benefit of appealing to broader searcher intent. A recent case study by Cognitive SEO demonstrated this by showing significant gains after adding semantically related synonyms to their content.

4. Anchor text and links

Links are the original relationship connector of the web.

Bill Slawski (again, because he is an SEO god) writes about one method Google might use to identity synonyms for entities using anchor text. It appears Google also uses anchor text in far more sophisticated ways. 

When looking at Google answer box results, you almost always find related keyword-rich anchor text pointing to the referenced URL. Ask Google “How many people walked on the moon?” and you’ll see these words in the anchor text that points to the URL Google displays as the answer.

Other queries:

Anchor text of Google's Answer Box URL

In these examples and more that I researched, matching anchor text was present every time in addition to the relevant information and keywords on the page itself.

Additionally, there seems to be an inidication that internal anchor text might also influence these results.

This is another argument to avoid generic anchor text like “click here” and “website.” Descriptive and clear anchor text, without overdoing it, provides a wealth of information for search engines to extract meaning from.

5. Leverage Google Local

For local business owners, the easiest and perhaps most effective way to establish structured relationships is through Google Local. The entire interface is like a structured data dashboard without Schema.org.

When you consider all the data you can upload both in Google+ and even Moz Local, the possibilities to map your business data is fairly complete in the local search sense.

In case you missed it, last week Google introduced My Business which makes maintaining your listings even easier.

6. Google Structured Data Highlighter

Sometimes, structured data is still the way to go.

In times when you have trouble adding markup to your HTML, Google offers its Structured Data Highlighter tool. This allows you to tell Google how your data should be structured, without actually adding any code.

The tool uses a type of machine learning to understand what type of schema applies to your pages, up to thousands at a time. No special skills or coding required.

Google Webmaster Structured Data Highlighter

Although the Structured Data Highlighter is both easy and fun, the downsides are:

  1. The data is only available to Google. Other search engines can’t see it.
  2. Markup types are limited to a few major top categories (Articles, Events, etc)
  3. If your HTML changes even a little, the tool can break.

Even though it’s simple, the Structured Data Highlighter should only be used when it’s impossible to add actual markup to your site. It’s not a substitution for the real thing.

7. Plugins

For pure schema.org markup, depending on the CMS you use, there’s often a multitude of plugins to make the job easier.

If you’re a WordPress user, your options are many:

Looking forward

If you have a chance to add Schema.org (or any other structured data to your site), this will help you earn those coveted SERP enhancements that may help with click-through rate, and may help search engines better understand your content.

That said, semantic understanding of the web goes far beyond rich snippets. Helping search engines to better understand all of your content is the job of the SEO. Even without Hummingbird, these are exactly the types of things we want to be doing.

It’s not “create content and let the search engines figure it out.” It’s “create great content with clues and proper signals to help the search engines figure it out.” 

If you do the latter, you’re far ahead in the game.

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 4 years ago from feedproxy.google.com