Why All 4 of Google’s Micro-Moments Are Actually Local

Posted by MiriamEllis

When America’s first star TV chef, Julia Child, demonstrated the use of a wire whisk on her 1960’s cooking show, the city of Pittsburgh sold out of them. Pennsylvanians may well have owned a few of these implements prior to the show’s air date, but probably didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about them. After the show, however, wire whisks were on everyone’s mind and they simply had to have one. Call it a retro micro-moment, and imagine consumers jamming the lines of rotary phones or hoofing it around town in quest of this gleaming gadget … then zoom up to the present and see us all on our mobile devices.

I like this anecdote from the pages of culinary history because it encapsulates all four of Google’s stated core micro-moments:

I want to know – Consumers were watching a local broadcast of this show in Pittsburgh because they wanted to know how to make an omelet.

I want to go – Consumers then scoured the city in search of the proper whisk.

I want to buy – Consumers then purchased the implement at a chosen retailer.

I want to do – And finally, consumers either referred to the notes they had taken during the show (no DVRs back then) or might have turned to Julia Child’s cookbook to actually beat up their first-ever omelet.

Not only does the wire whisk story foreshadow the modern micro-moment, it also provides a roadmap for tying each of the 4 stages to local SEO via current technology. I’ve seen other bloggers pointing to the ‘I want to go’ phase as inherently local, but in this post, I want to demonstrate how your local business can decisively claim all four of these micro-moments as your own, and claim the desirable transactions resulting thereby!

Understanding Google’s definition of micro-moments

Google whisked up some excitement of their own with the publication of Micro-Moments: Your Guide to Winning the Shift to Mobile. Some of the statistics in the piece are stunning:

  • 65% of smartphone users look for the most relevant information on their devices regardless of what company provides that information,
  • 90% of them aren’t certain what brand they want to purchase when they begin their Internet search,
  • 82% consult their smartphones even after they are inside a chosen store,
  • and ‘how-to’ searches on YouTube are growing 70% year-over-year.

Google defines micro-moments as “critical touch points within today’s consumer journey, and when added together, they ultimately determine how that journey ends,” and goes on to identify mobile as the great facilitator of all this activity. It’s simple to think of micro-moments as a series of points in time that culminate in a consumer arriving at a transactional decision. For local business owners and their marketers, the goal is to ‘be there’ for the consumer at each of these critical points with the resources you have developed on the web.

Let’s reverse-engineer the famous tale of the wire whisk and put it into a modern technological context, demonstrating how a hypothetical cooking supply store in Pittsburgh, PA could become a major micro-moments winner in 2017.

A variable recipe for local micro-moments success

I want to be sure to preface this with one very important proviso about the order in which micro-moments happen: it varies.

For example, a consumer might decide she wants to patch cracks in her ceiling so she watches a video on YouTube demoing this >>> looks up the name of the putty the YouTube personality was using >>> looks up where to buy that putty locally >>> buys it. Or, the consumer could already be inside a home improvement store, see putty, realize she’d like to patch cracks, then look up reviews of various putty brands, look at a video to see how difficult the task is, and finally, purchase.

There is no set order in which micro-moments occur, and though there may be patterns specific to auto body shops or insurance firms, the idea is to be present at every possible moment in time so that the consumer is assisted, regardless of the order in which they discover and act. What I’m presenting here is just one possible path.

In quest of the fluffier omelet

Our consumer is a 30-year-old man named Walter who loves the fluffy omelets served at a fancy bistro in Pittsburgh. One morning while at the restaurant, Walter asks himself,

“I wonder why I can’t make omelets as fluffy as these at home. I’m not a bad cook. There must be some secret to it. Hey — I challenge myself to find out what that secret is!”

I want to know

While walking back to his car, Walter pulls out his smartphone and begins his micro-moment journey with his I-want-to-know query: how to make a fluffier omelet.

Across town, Patricia, the owner of a franchise location of Soup’s On Cooking Supply has anticipated Walter’s defining moment because she has been studying her website analytics, studying question research tools like Answer The Public, watching Google Trends, and looking at Q&A sites like this one where people are already searching for answers to the secret of fluffy omelets. She also has her staff actively cataloging common in-store questions. The data gathered has convinced her to make these efforts:

  1. Film a non-salesy 1.16-minute video in the store’s test kitchen demonstrating the use of a quality wire whisk and a quality pan (both of which her store carries) for ideal omelet results.
  2. Write an article/blog post on the website with great photos, a recipe, and instructions revealing the secrets of fluffy omelets.
  3. Include the video in the article. Share both the article and video socially, including publishing the video on the company’s YouTube channel (*interesting fact, it might one day show up inside the company’s Google Knowledge Panel).
  4. Answer some questions (electric vs. balloon whisk, cast iron vs. non-stick pan for omelet success) that are coming up for this query on popular Q&A-style sites.
  5. Try to capture a Google Answer Box or two.

Walking down the street, Walter discovers and watches the video on YouTube. He notices the Soup’s On Cooking Supply branding on the video, even though there was no hard-sell in its content — just really good tips for omelet fluffiness.

I want to go

“Soup’s On near me,” Walter asks his mobile phone, not 100% sure this chain has an outlet in Pittsburgh. He’s having his I-Want-To-Go moment.

Again, Patricia has anticipated this need and prevented customer loss by:

  1. Ensuring the company website clearly lists out the name, address, and phone number of her franchise location.
  2. Providing excellent driving directions for getting there from all points of origin.
  3. Either using a free tool like Moz Check Listing to get a health check on the accuracy of her citations on the most important local business listing platforms, or complying with the top-down directive for all 550 of the brand’s locations to be actively managed via a paid service like Moz Local.

Walter keys the ignition.

I want to buy

Walter arrives safely at the retail location. You’d think he might put his phone away, but being like 87% of millennials, he keeps it at his side day and night and, like 91% of his compadres, he turns it on mid-task. The store clerk has shown him where the wire whisks and pans are stocked, but Walter is not convinced that he can trust what the video claimed about their quality. He’d like to see a comparison.

Fortunately, Patricia is a Moz Whiteboard Friday fan and took Rand’s advice about comprehensive content and 10x content to heart. Her website’s product comparison charts go to great lengths, weighing USA-made kitchen products against German ones, Lodgeware vs. Le Creuset, in terms of price, performance for specific cooking tasks, and quality. They’re ranking very well.

Walter is feeling more informed now, while being kept inside of the company’s own website, but the I-Want-To-Buy micro-moment is cemented when he sees:

  1. A unique page on the site for each product sold
  2. Consumer reviews on each of these pages, providing unbiased opinion
  3. Clearly delineated purchasing and payment options, including support of digital wallets, Bitcoin, and any available alternatives like home delivery or curbside pickup. Walter may be in the store right now, but he’s glad to learn that, should he branch out into soup kettles in future, he has a variety of ways to purchase and receive merchandise.

I want to do

The next day, Walter is ready to make his first fluffier omelet. Because he’s already been exposed to Patricia’s article on the Soup’s On Cooking Supply website, he can easily return to it now to re-watch the video and follow the recipe provided. Even in the I-want-to-do phase, Walter is being assisted by the brand, and this multi-part experience he’s now had with the company should go far towards cementing it in his memory as a go-to resource for all of his future culinary needs.

It would be excellent if the website’s page on fluffy omelets also challenged Walter to use his new whisk for creating other dishes — perhaps soufflés (for which he’ll need a ceramic ramekin) or chantilly cream (a nice glass bowl set over ice water helps). Walter may find himself wanting to do all kinds of new things, and he now knows exactly where he can find helpful tutorials and purchase the necessary equipment.

More micro-moment variables

As we’ve seen, it’s completely possible for a local business to own all four of Google’s attested micro-moments. What I can’t cover with a single scenario is all of the variables that might apply to a given geography or industry, but I do want to at least make mention of these three points that should be applicable to most local businesses:

1. Understanding how Micro-Moments Begin

The origins of both I-want-to-do and I-want-to-know moments are incredibly varied. A consumer need can arise from something really practical, as in, it’s winter again and I need to buy snow tires. Or, there can be public/cultural happenings (like Julia Child’s cooking program) to which consumers’ ultimate transactions can be directly traced. To discover the sparks that ignite your specific customers’ micro-moments fires, I recommend delving further into the topic of barnacle local SEO — the process of latching onto existing influences in your community in order to speak to existing wishes and needs.

2. Investing in mobile UX

Google states that 29% of smartphone users will immediately navigate away from any website or app that doesn’t satisfy them. 70% of these cite slow loading and 67% cite too many steps to reach information or purchase as reasons for dissatisfaction. On November 4, 2016, Google announced its major shift toward mobile-first indexing, signaling to all website publishers that Google sees mobile, rather than desktop, as the primary platform now.

Google’s statistics and policies make it irrefutable that every competitive local business which hasn’t yet done so must now devote appropriate funds to creating the best possible mobile user experience. Failure to do so risks reputation, rankings, and revenue.

3. Investing in in-store UX

Though my story of Walter touches briefly on the resources Patricia had built for his in-store experience, I didn’t delve into the skyrocketing technology constantly being pioneered around this micro-moment phase. This would include beacons, though they have so far failed to live up to earlier hype in some ways. It could involve the development of in-store apps. And, at the highest echelons of commerce, it could include kiosks, augmented, and virtual reality.

From shoestring to big-time, micro-moments aren’t so new

KFC may strive to master I-want-to-buy moments with chicken-serving robots, Amazon Go may see micro-moments in checkout-free shopping, and Google Home’s giant, listening ear may be turning whole lives into a series of documented micro-moments, but what makes sense for your local business?

The answer to this is going to be dictated by the competitiveness of your industry and the needs of your consumer base. Does a rural, independently owned hardware store really need a 6-foot-high in-store touch screen enabling customers to virtually paint their houses? Probably not, but a well-written comparison of non-toxic paint brands the shop carries and why they’re desirable for health reasons could transform a small town’s decorating habits. Meanwhile, in more competitive markets, each local brand would be wise to invest in new technology only where it really makes proven sense, and not just because it’s the next big thing.

Our industry loves new technology to a degree that can verge on the overwhelming for striving local business owners, and while it can genuinely be a bit daunting to sink your teeth into all of the variables of winning the micro-moment journey, take heart. Julia Child sold Pittsburgh out of wire whisks with a shoestring, black-and-white PBS program on which she frequently dropped implements on the floor and sent egg beaters flying across rooms.

With our modern capabilities of surveying and mining consumers needs and presenting useful solutions via the instant medium of the web, what can’t you do? The steps in the micro-moments funnel are as old as commerce itself. Simply seize the current available technology … and get cooking!

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Reblogged 1 year ago from tracking.feedpress.it

Will Google’s new search algorithm really penalize popovers?

The technology company has said that it will begin to punish sites that display interstitials or pop-ups that obscure indexed content. The change isn’t due to come into play until January 2017, but we wanted to take the opportunity to explore the extent of the new rules and their possible impact.

We know from Google’s past algorithm updates that the focus has turned to the ever-increasing number of mobile users. One change Google said it was “experimenting” with in relation to the ranking signal was mobile-friendly design. The company added a ‘Mobile-friendly’ label, which appeared in the search results when a site conformed to its criteria – such as using text that’s readable without zooming, sizing content to the screen or avoiding software like Flash.

It’s clear, then, that there are multiple factors in the way that Google rates websites into the mobile experience – so how much weighting will it be applying to those using pop-ups or interstitials? We won’t know until it happens, but we can speculate.

How do people browse the web on mobile?

Let’s think about people’s usage and habits when it comes to browsing the web on a mobile device.

Dissimilar from perhaps on a laptop or a desktop, those searching the web on their mobile will tend to be picking up the device to look up something specific. These searches will often be long-tail keywords which will draw up deeper links from a site, and this is where brands need to be careful. Popovers featured on these detail pages, and which distract from the main content, can be a barrier to conversion and lead to bounces.

Rather, marketers need to be selective about how they use pop-ups and take a more considered approach when it comes to the user experience.

What constitutes a bad UX?

No-one wants to create a bad user experience, because it can be detrimental to credibility, performance and conversions. However, if companies achieve good response rates to newsletter sign-up popovers, you could argue that they aren’t providing a negative web experience and, in fact, it would be wrong to penalize.

With the right tool, brands can also be cleverer about when, where and how popovers appear. If a company is trying to collect a steady stream of email addresses from new website visitors, it might make sense to host the popover somewhere on the homepage. After all, the homepage is your company’s shop window and its purpose is to lure people in.

It would also be wise to consider when it pops up. In order not to disrupt the journey and experience, you would want to prevent the popover from appearing immediately. And, of course, you would also want to prevent the pop-up from appearing on the next visit if the user had either signed up or dismissed it.

Will it or will it not?

Let’s remember that the new signal in Google’s algorithm is just one of hundreds of signals that are used to determine rankings – so popovers could make up a small percentage of the overall score. What we take from it all is: if a page’s content is relevant, gets lots of clicks and has a decent dwell time, it may still rank highly (in fact, read the official Google blog post). If a popover is enhancing the experience by giving users another way to consume similar content, and there is positive uptake, we don’t see the harm.

Reblogged 1 year ago from blog.dotmailer.com

Everything you need to know about Google’s ‘Possum’ algorithm update

Wondering what’s up with local search rankings lately? Columnist Joy Hawkins has the scoop on a recent local algorithm update that local SEO experts are calling ‘Possum.’

The post Everything you need to know about Google’s ‘Possum’ algorithm update appeared first on Search Engine…

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Reblogged 1 year ago from feeds.searchengineland.com

Stop Ghost Spam in Google Analytics with One Filter

Posted by CarloSeo

The spam in Google Analytics (GA) is becoming a serious issue. Due to a deluge of referral spam from social buttons, adult sites, and many, many other sources, people are starting to become overwhelmed by all the filters they are setting up to manage the useless data they are receiving.

The good news is, there is no need to panic. In this post, I’m going to focus on the most common mistakes people make when fighting spam in GA, and explain an efficient way to prevent it.

But first, let’s make sure we understand how spam works. A couple of months ago, Jared Gardner wrote an excellent article explaining what referral spam is, including its intended purpose. He also pointed out some great examples of referral spam.

Types of spam

The spam in Google Analytics can be categorized by two types: ghosts and crawlers.

Ghosts

The vast majority of spam is this type. They are called ghosts because they never access your site. It is important to keep this in mind, as it’s key to creating a more efficient solution for managing spam.

As unusual as it sounds, this type of spam doesn’t have any interaction with your site at all. You may wonder how that is possible since one of the main purposes of GA is to track visits to our sites.

They do it by using the Measurement Protocol, which allows people to send data directly to Google Analytics’ servers. Using this method, and probably randomly generated tracking codes (UA-XXXXX-1) as well, the spammers leave a “visit” with fake data, without even knowing who they are hitting.

Crawlers

This type of spam, the opposite to ghost spam, does access your site. As the name implies, these spam bots crawl your pages, ignoring rules like those found in robots.txt that are supposed to stop them from reading your site. When they exit your site, they leave a record on your reports that appears similar to a legitimate visit.

Crawlers are harder to identify because they know their targets and use real data. But it is also true that new ones seldom appear. So if you detect a referral in your analytics that looks suspicious, researching it on Google or checking it against this list might help you answer the question of whether or not it is spammy.

Most common mistakes made when dealing with spam in GA

I’ve been following this issue closely for the last few months. According to the comments people have made on my articles and conversations I’ve found in discussion forums, there are primarily three mistakes people make when dealing with spam in Google Analytics.

Mistake #1. Blocking ghost spam from the .htaccess file

One of the biggest mistakes people make is trying to block Ghost Spam from the .htaccess file.

For those who are not familiar with this file, one of its main functions is to allow/block access to your site. Now we know that ghosts never reach your site, so adding them here won’t have any effect and will only add useless lines to your .htaccess file.

Ghost spam usually shows up for a few days and then disappears. As a result, sometimes people think that they successfully blocked it from here when really it’s just a coincidence of timing.

Then when the spammers later return, they get worried because the solution is not working anymore, and they think the spammer somehow bypassed the barriers they set up.

The truth is, the .htaccess file can only effectively block crawlers such as buttons-for-website.com and a few others since these access your site. Most of the spam can’t be blocked using this method, so there is no other option than using filters to exclude them.

Mistake #2. Using the referral exclusion list to stop spam

Another error is trying to use the referral exclusion list to stop the spam. The name may confuse you, but this list is not intended to exclude referrals in the way we want to for the spam. It has other purposes.

For example, when a customer buys something, sometimes they get redirected to a third-party page for payment. After making a payment, they’re redirected back to you website, and GA records that as a new referral. It is appropriate to use referral exclusion list to prevent this from happening.

If you try to use the referral exclusion list to manage spam, however, the referral part will be stripped since there is no preexisting record. As a result, a direct visit will be recorded, and you will have a bigger problem than the one you started with since. You will still have spam, and direct visits are harder to track.

Mistake #3. Worrying that bounce rate changes will affect rankings

When people see that the bounce rate changes drastically because of the spam, they start worrying about the impact that it will have on their rankings in the SERPs.

bounce.png

This is another mistake commonly made. With or without spam, Google doesn’t take into consideration Google Analytics metrics as a ranking factor. Here is an explanation about this from Matt Cutts, the former head of Google’s web spam team.

And if you think about it, Cutts’ explanation makes sense; because although many people have GA, not everyone uses it.

Assuming your site has been hacked

Another common concern when people see strange landing pages coming from spam on their reports is that they have been hacked.

landing page

The page that the spam shows on the reports doesn’t exist, and if you try to open it, you will get a 404 page. Your site hasn’t been compromised.

But you have to make sure the page doesn’t exist. Because there are cases (not spam) where some sites have a security breach and get injected with pages full of bad keywords to defame the website.

What should you worry about?

Now that we’ve discarded security issues and their effects on rankings, the only thing left to worry about is your data. The fake trail that the spam leaves behind pollutes your reports.

It might have greater or lesser impact depending on your site traffic, but everyone is susceptible to the spam.

Small and midsize sites are the most easily impacted – not only because a big part of their traffic can be spam, but also because usually these sites are self-managed and sometimes don’t have the support of an analyst or a webmaster.

Big sites with a lot of traffic can also be impacted by spam, and although the impact can be insignificant, invalid traffic means inaccurate reports no matter the size of the website. As an analyst, you should be able to explain what’s going on in even in the most granular reports.

You only need one filter to deal with ghost spam

Usually it is recommended to add the referral to an exclusion filter after it is spotted. Although this is useful for a quick action against the spam, it has three big disadvantages.

  • Making filters every week for every new spam detected is tedious and time-consuming, especially if you manage many sites. Plus, by the time you apply the filter, and it starts working, you already have some affected data.
  • Some of the spammers use direct visits along with the referrals.
  • These direct hits won’t be stopped by the filter so even if you are excluding the referral you will sill be receiving invalid traffic, which explains why some people have seen an unusual spike in direct traffic.

Luckily, there is a good way to prevent all these problems. Most of the spam (ghost) works by hitting GA’s random tracking-IDs, meaning the offender doesn’t really know who is the target, and for that reason either the hostname is not set or it uses a fake one. (See report below)

Ghost-Spam.png

You can see that they use some weird names or don’t even bother to set one. Although there are some known names in the list, these can be easily added by the spammer.

On the other hand, valid traffic will always use a real hostname. In most of the cases, this will be the domain. But it also can also result from paid services, translation services, or any other place where you’ve inserted GA tracking code.

Valid-Referral.png

Based on this, we can make a filter that will include only hits that use real hostnames. This will automatically exclude all hits from ghost spam, whether it shows up as a referral, keyword, or pageview; or even as a direct visit.

To create this filter, you will need to find the report of hostnames. Here’s how:

  1. Go to the Reporting tab in GA
  2. Click on Audience in the lefthand panel
  3. Expand Technology and select Network
  4. At the top of the report, click on Hostname

Valid-list

You will see a list of all hostnames, including the ones that the spam uses. Make a list of all the valid hostnames you find, as follows:

  • yourmaindomain.com
  • blog.yourmaindomain.com
  • es.yourmaindomain.com
  • payingservice.com
  • translatetool.com
  • anotheruseddomain.com

For small to medium sites, this list of hostnames will likely consist of the main domain and a couple of subdomains. After you are sure you got all of them, create a regular expression similar to this one:

yourmaindomain\.com|anotheruseddomain\.com|payingservice\.com|translatetool\.com

You don’t need to put all of your subdomains in the regular expression. The main domain will match all of them. If you don’t have a view set up without filters, create one now.

Then create a Custom Filter.

Make sure you select INCLUDE, then select “Hostname” on the filter field, and copy your expression into the Filter Pattern box.

filter

You might want to verify the filter before saving to check that everything is okay. Once you’re ready, set it to save, and apply the filter to all the views you want (except the view without filters).

This single filter will get rid of future occurrences of ghost spam that use invalid hostnames, and it doesn’t require much maintenance. But it’s important that every time you add your tracking code to any service, you add it to the end of the filter.

Now you should only need to take care of the crawler spam. Since crawlers access your site, you can block them by adding these lines to the .htaccess file:

## STOP REFERRER SPAM 
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} semalt\.com [NC,OR] 
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} buttons-for-website\.com [NC] 
RewriteRule .* - [F]

It is important to note that this file is very sensitive, and misplacing a single character it it can bring down your entire site. Therefore, make sure you create a backup copy of your .htaccess file prior to editing it.

If you don’t feel comfortable messing around with your .htaccess file, you can alternatively make an expression with all the crawlers, then and add it to an exclude filter by Campaign Source.

Implement these combined solutions, and you will worry much less about spam contaminating your analytics data. This will have the added benefit of freeing up more time for you to spend actually analyze your valid data.

After stopping spam, you can also get clean reports from the historical data by using the same expressions in an Advance Segment to exclude all the spam.

Bonus resources to help you manage spam

If you still need more information to help you understand and deal with the spam on your GA reports, you can read my main article on the subject here: http://www.ohow.co/what-is-referrer-spam-how-stop-it-guide/.

Additional information on how to stop spam can be found at these URLs:

In closing, I am eager to hear your ideas on this serious issue. Please share them in the comments below.

(Editor’s Note: All images featured in this post were created by the author.)

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 3 years ago from tracking.feedpress.it

Why Effective, Modern SEO Requires Technical, Creative, and Strategic Thinking – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

There’s no doubt that quite a bit has changed about SEO, and that the field is far more integrated with other aspects of online marketing than it once was. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand pushes back against the idea that effective modern SEO doesn’t require any technical expertise, outlining a fantastic list of technical elements that today’s SEOs need to know about in order to be truly effective.

For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard. Click on it to open a high resolution image in a new tab!

Video transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week I’m going to do something unusual. I don’t usually point out these inconsistencies or sort of take issue with other folks’ content on the web, because I generally find that that’s not all that valuable and useful. But I’m going to make an exception here.

There is an article by Jayson DeMers, who I think might actually be here in Seattle — maybe he and I can hang out at some point — called “Why Modern SEO Requires Almost No Technical Expertise.” It was an article that got a shocking amount of traction and attention. On Facebook, it has thousands of shares. On LinkedIn, it did really well. On Twitter, it got a bunch of attention.

Some folks in the SEO world have already pointed out some issues around this. But because of the increasing popularity of this article, and because I think there’s, like, this hopefulness from worlds outside of kind of the hardcore SEO world that are looking to this piece and going, “Look, this is great. We don’t have to be technical. We don’t have to worry about technical things in order to do SEO.”

Look, I completely get the appeal of that. I did want to point out some of the reasons why this is not so accurate. At the same time, I don’t want to rain on Jayson, because I think that it’s very possible he’s writing an article for Entrepreneur, maybe he has sort of a commitment to them. Maybe he had no idea that this article was going to spark so much attention and investment. He does make some good points. I think it’s just really the title and then some of the messages inside there that I take strong issue with, and so I wanted to bring those up.

First off, some of the good points he did bring up.

One, he wisely says, “You don’t need to know how to code or to write and read algorithms in order to do SEO.” I totally agree with that. If today you’re looking at SEO and you’re thinking, “Well, am I going to get more into this subject? Am I going to try investing in SEO? But I don’t even know HTML and CSS yet.”

Those are good skills to have, and they will help you in SEO, but you don’t need them. Jayson’s totally right. You don’t have to have them, and you can learn and pick up some of these things, and do searches, watch some Whiteboard Fridays, check out some guides, and pick up a lot of that stuff later on as you need it in your career. SEO doesn’t have that hard requirement.

And secondly, he makes an intelligent point that we’ve made many times here at Moz, which is that, broadly speaking, a better user experience is well correlated with better rankings.

You make a great website that delivers great user experience, that provides the answers to searchers’ questions and gives them extraordinarily good content, way better than what’s out there already in the search results, generally speaking you’re going to see happy searchers, and that’s going to lead to higher rankings.

But not entirely. There are a lot of other elements that go in here. So I’ll bring up some frustrating points around the piece as well.

First off, there’s no acknowledgment — and I find this a little disturbing — that the ability to read and write code, or even HTML and CSS, which I think are the basic place to start, is helpful or can take your SEO efforts to the next level. I think both of those things are true.

So being able to look at a web page, view source on it, or pull up Firebug in Firefox or something and diagnose what’s going on and then go, “Oh, that’s why Google is not able to see this content. That’s why we’re not ranking for this keyword or term, or why even when I enter this exact sentence in quotes into Google, which is on our page, this is why it’s not bringing it up. It’s because it’s loading it after the page from a remote file that Google can’t access.” These are technical things, and being able to see how that code is built, how it’s structured, and what’s going on there, very, very helpful.

Some coding knowledge also can take your SEO efforts even further. I mean, so many times, SEOs are stymied by the conversations that we have with our programmers and our developers and the technical staff on our teams. When we can have those conversations intelligently, because at least we understand the principles of how an if-then statement works, or what software engineering best practices are being used, or they can upload something into a GitHub repository, and we can take a look at it there, that kind of stuff is really helpful.

Secondly, I don’t like that the article overly reduces all of this information that we have about what we’ve learned about Google. So he mentions two sources. One is things that Google tells us, and others are SEO experiments. I think both of those are true. Although I’d add that there’s sort of a sixth sense of knowledge that we gain over time from looking at many, many search results and kind of having this feel for why things rank, and what might be wrong with a site, and getting really good at that using tools and data as well. There are people who can look at Open Site Explorer and then go, “Aha, I bet this is going to happen.” They can look, and 90% of the time they’re right.

So he boils this down to, one, write quality content, and two, reduce your bounce rate. Neither of those things are wrong. You should write quality content, although I’d argue there are lots of other forms of quality content that aren’t necessarily written — video, images and graphics, podcasts, lots of other stuff.

And secondly, that just doing those two things is not always enough. So you can see, like many, many folks look and go, “I have quality content. It has a low bounce rate. How come I don’t rank better?” Well, your competitors, they’re also going to have quality content with a low bounce rate. That’s not a very high bar.

Also, frustratingly, this really gets in my craw. I don’t think “write quality content” means anything. You tell me. When you hear that, to me that is a totally non-actionable, non-useful phrase that’s a piece of advice that is so generic as to be discardable. So I really wish that there was more substance behind that.

The article also makes, in my opinion, the totally inaccurate claim that modern SEO really is reduced to “the happier your users are when they visit your site, the higher you’re going to rank.”

Wow. Okay. Again, I think broadly these things are correlated. User happiness and rank is broadly correlated, but it’s not a one to one. This is not like a, “Oh, well, that’s a 1.0 correlation.”

I would guess that the correlation is probably closer to like the page authority range. I bet it’s like 0.35 or something correlation. If you were to actually measure this broadly across the web and say like, “Hey, were you happier with result one, two, three, four, or five,” the ordering would not be perfect at all. It probably wouldn’t even be close.

There’s a ton of reasons why sometimes someone who ranks on Page 2 or Page 3 or doesn’t rank at all for a query is doing a better piece of content than the person who does rank well or ranks on Page 1, Position 1.

Then the article suggests five and sort of a half steps to successful modern SEO, which I think is a really incomplete list. So Jayson gives us;

  • Good on-site experience
  • Writing good content
  • Getting others to acknowledge you as an authority
  • Rising in social popularity
  • Earning local relevance
  • Dealing with modern CMS systems (which he notes most modern CMS systems are SEO-friendly)

The thing is there’s nothing actually wrong with any of these. They’re all, generally speaking, correct, either directly or indirectly related to SEO. The one about local relevance, I have some issue with, because he doesn’t note that there’s a separate algorithm for sort of how local SEO is done and how Google ranks local sites in maps and in their local search results. Also not noted is that rising in social popularity won’t necessarily directly help your SEO, although it can have indirect and positive benefits.

I feel like this list is super incomplete. Okay, I brainstormed just off the top of my head in the 10 minutes before we filmed this video a list. The list was so long that, as you can see, I filled up the whole whiteboard and then didn’t have any more room. I’m not going to bother to erase and go try and be absolutely complete.

But there’s a huge, huge number of things that are important, critically important for technical SEO. If you don’t know how to do these things, you are sunk in many cases. You can’t be an effective SEO analyst, or consultant, or in-house team member, because you simply can’t diagnose the potential problems, rectify those potential problems, identify strategies that your competitors are using, be able to diagnose a traffic gain or loss. You have to have these skills in order to do that.

I’ll run through these quickly, but really the idea is just that this list is so huge and so long that I think it’s very, very, very wrong to say technical SEO is behind us. I almost feel like the opposite is true.

We have to be able to understand things like;

  • Content rendering and indexability
  • Crawl structure, internal links, JavaScript, Ajax. If something’s post-loading after the page and Google’s not able to index it, or there are links that are accessible via JavaScript or Ajax, maybe Google can’t necessarily see those or isn’t crawling them as effectively, or is crawling them, but isn’t assigning them as much link weight as they might be assigning other stuff, and you’ve made it tough to link to them externally, and so they can’t crawl it.
  • Disabling crawling and/or indexing of thin or incomplete or non-search-targeted content. We have a bunch of search results pages. Should we use rel=prev/next? Should we robots.txt those out? Should we disallow from crawling with meta robots? Should we rel=canonical them to other pages? Should we exclude them via the protocols inside Google Webmaster Tools, which is now Google Search Console?
  • Managing redirects, domain migrations, content updates. A new piece of content comes out, replacing an old piece of content, what do we do with that old piece of content? What’s the best practice? It varies by different things. We have a whole Whiteboard Friday about the different things that you could do with that. What about a big redirect or a domain migration? You buy another company and you’re redirecting their site to your site. You have to understand things about subdomain structures versus subfolders, which, again, we’ve done another Whiteboard Friday about that.
  • Proper error codes, downtime procedures, and not found pages. If your 404 pages turn out to all be 200 pages, well, now you’ve made a big error there, and Google could be crawling tons of 404 pages that they think are real pages, because you’ve made it a status code 200, or you’ve used a 404 code when you should have used a 410, which is a permanently removed, to be able to get it completely out of the indexes, as opposed to having Google revisit it and keep it in the index.

Downtime procedures. So there’s specifically a… I can’t even remember. It’s a 5xx code that you can use. Maybe it was a 503 or something that you can use that’s like, “Revisit later. We’re having some downtime right now.” Google urges you to use that specific code rather than using a 404, which tells them, “This page is now an error.”

Disney had that problem a while ago, if you guys remember, where they 404ed all their pages during an hour of downtime, and then their homepage, when you searched for Disney World, was, like, “Not found.” Oh, jeez, Disney World, not so good.

  • International and multi-language targeting issues. I won’t go into that. But you have to know the protocols there. Duplicate content, syndication, scrapers. How do we handle all that? Somebody else wants to take our content, put it on their site, what should we do? Someone’s scraping our content. What can we do? We have duplicate content on our own site. What should we do?
  • Diagnosing traffic drops via analytics and metrics. Being able to look at a rankings report, being able to look at analytics connecting those up and trying to see: Why did we go up or down? Did we have less pages being indexed, more pages being indexed, more pages getting traffic less, more keywords less?
  • Understanding advanced search parameters. Today, just today, I was checking out the related parameter in Google, which is fascinating for most sites. Well, for Moz, weirdly, related:oursite.com shows nothing. But for virtually every other sit, well, most other sites on the web, it does show some really interesting data, and you can see how Google is connecting up, essentially, intentions and topics from different sites and pages, which can be fascinating, could expose opportunities for links, could expose understanding of how they view your site versus your competition or who they think your competition is.

Then there are tons of parameters, like in URL and in anchor, and da, da, da, da. In anchor doesn’t work anymore, never mind about that one.

I have to go faster, because we’re just going to run out of these. Like, come on. Interpreting and leveraging data in Google Search Console. If you don’t know how to use that, Google could be telling you, you have all sorts of errors, and you don’t know what they are.

  • Leveraging topic modeling and extraction. Using all these cool tools that are coming out for better keyword research and better on-page targeting. I talked about a couple of those at MozCon, like MonkeyLearn. There’s the new Moz Context API, which will be coming out soon, around that. There’s the Alchemy API, which a lot of folks really like and use.
  • Identifying and extracting opportunities based on site crawls. You run a Screaming Frog crawl on your site and you’re going, “Oh, here’s all these problems and issues.” If you don’t have these technical skills, you can’t diagnose that. You can’t figure out what’s wrong. You can’t figure out what needs fixing, what needs addressing.
  • Using rich snippet format to stand out in the SERPs. This is just getting a better click-through rate, which can seriously help your site and obviously your traffic.
  • Applying Google-supported protocols like rel=canonical, meta description, rel=prev/next, hreflang, robots.txt, meta robots, x robots, NOODP, XML sitemaps, rel=nofollow. The list goes on and on and on. If you’re not technical, you don’t know what those are, you think you just need to write good content and lower your bounce rate, it’s not going to work.
  • Using APIs from services like AdWords or MozScape, or hrefs from Majestic, or SEM refs from SearchScape or Alchemy API. Those APIs can have powerful things that they can do for your site. There are some powerful problems they could help you solve if you know how to use them. It’s actually not that hard to write something, even inside a Google Doc or Excel, to pull from an API and get some data in there. There’s a bunch of good tutorials out there. Richard Baxter has one, Annie Cushing has one, I think Distilled has some. So really cool stuff there.
  • Diagnosing page load speed issues, which goes right to what Jayson was talking about. You need that fast-loading page. Well, if you don’t have any technical skills, you can’t figure out why your page might not be loading quickly.
  • Diagnosing mobile friendliness issues
  • Advising app developers on the new protocols around App deep linking, so that you can get the content from your mobile apps into the web search results on mobile devices. Awesome. Super powerful. Potentially crazy powerful, as mobile search is becoming bigger than desktop.

Okay, I’m going to take a deep breath and relax. I don’t know Jayson’s intention, and in fact, if he were in this room, he’d be like, “No, I totally agree with all those things. I wrote the article in a rush. I had no idea it was going to be big. I was just trying to make the broader points around you don’t have to be a coder in order to do SEO.” That’s completely fine.

So I’m not going to try and rain criticism down on him. But I think if you’re reading that article, or you’re seeing it in your feed, or your clients are, or your boss is, or other folks are in your world, maybe you can point them to this Whiteboard Friday and let them know, no, that’s not quite right. There’s a ton of technical SEO that is required in 2015 and will be for years to come, I think, that SEOs have to have in order to be effective at their jobs.

All right, everyone. Look forward to some great comments, and we’ll see you again next time for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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