dotmailer becomes EU-U.S. Privacy Shield certified

On 12 August we were accepted for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s voluntary privacy certification program. The news is a great milestone for dotmailer, because it recognizes the years of work we’ve put into protecting our customers’ data and privacy. For instance, just look at our comprehensive trust center and involvement in both the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) and Email Sender & Provider Coalition (ESPC).

To become certified our Chief Privacy Officer, James Koons, made the application to the U.S. Department of Commerce, who audited dotmailer’s privacy statement. (Interesting fact: James actually completed the application process while on vacation climbing Mt. Rainer in Washington state!)

By self-certifying and agreeing to the Privacy Shield Principles, it means that our commitment is enforceable under the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

What does it mean for you (our customers)?

As we continue to expand globally, this certification is one more important privacy precedent. The aim of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, which was recently finalized, provides businesses with stronger protection for the exchange of transatlantic data. If you haven’t seen it already, you might be interested in reading about the recent email privacy war between Microsoft and the U.S. government.

As a certified company, it means we must provide you with adequate privacy protection – a requirement for the transfer of personal data outside of the European Union under the EU Data Protection Directive. Each year, we must self-certify to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA), to ensure we adhere to the Privacy Shield Principles.

What does our Chief Privacy Officer think?

James Koons, who has 20 years’ experience in the information systems and security industry, explained why he’s pleased about the news: “I am delighted that dotmailer has been recognized as a good steward of data through the Privacy Shield Certification.

“As a company that has a culture of privacy and security as its core, I believe the certification simply highlights the great work we have already been doing.”

What happened to the Safe Harbour agreement?

The EU-U.S. Privacy Shield replaces the former Safe Harbour agreement for transatlantic data transfers.

Want to know more about what the Privacy Shield means?

You can check out the official Privacy Shield website here, which gives a more detailed overview of the program and requirements for participating organizations.

Reblogged 3 years ago from blog.dotmailer.com

From Editorial Calendars to SEO: Setting Yourself Up to Create Fabulous Content

Posted by Isla_McKetta

Quick note: This article is meant to apply to teams of all sizes, from the sole proprietor who spends all night writing their copy (because they’re doing business during the day) to the copy team who occupies an entire floor and produces thousands of pieces of content per week. So if you run into a section that you feel requires more resources than you can devote just now, that’s okay. Bookmark it and revisit when you can, or scale the step down to a more appropriate size for your team. We believe all the information here is important, but that does not mean you have to do everything right now.

If you thought ideation was fun, get ready for content creation. Sure, we’ve all written some things before, but the creation phase of content marketing is where you get to watch that beloved idea start to take shape.

Before you start creating, though, you want to get (at least a little) organized, and an editorial calendar is the perfect first step.

Editorial calendars

Creativity and organization are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they can feed each other. A solid schedule gives you and your writers the time and space to be wild and creative. If you’re just starting out, this document may be sparse, but it’s no less important. Starting early with your editorial calendar also saves you from creating content willy-nilly and then finding out months later that no one ever finished that pesky (but crucial) “About” page.

There’s no wrong way to set up your editorial calendar, as long as it’s meeting your needs. Remember that an editorial calendar is a living document, and it will need to change as a hot topic comes up or an author drops out.

There are a lot of different types of documents that pass for editorial calendars. You get to pick the one that’s right for your team. The simplest version is a straight-up calendar with post titles written out on each day. You could even use a wall calendar and a Sharpie.

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Title
The Five Colors of Oscar Fashion 12 Fabrics We’re Watching for Fall Is Charmeuse the New Corduroy? Hot Right Now: Matching Your Handbag to Your Hatpin Tea-length and Other Fab Vocab You Need to Know
Author Ellie James Marta Laila Alex

Teams who are balancing content for different brands at agencies or other more complex content environments will want to add categories, author information, content type, social promo, and more to their calendars.

Truly complex editorial calendars are more like hybrid content creation/editorial calendars, where each of the steps to create and publish the content are indicated and someone has planned for how long all of that takes. These can be very helpful if the content you’re responsible for crosses a lot of teams and can take a long time to complete. It doesn’t matter if you’re using Excel or a Google Doc, as long as the people who need the calendar can easily access it. Gantt charts can be excellent for this. Here’s a favorite template for creating a Gantt chart in Google Docs (and they only get more sophisticated).

Complex calendars can encompass everything from ideation through writing, legal review, and publishing. You might even add content localization if your empire spans more than one continent to make sure you have the currency, date formatting, and even slang right.

Content governance

Governance outlines who is taking responsibility for your content. Who evaluates your content performance? What about freshness? Who decides to update (or kill) an older post? Who designs and optimizes workflows for your team or chooses and manages your CMS?

All these individual concerns fall into two overarching components to governance: daily maintenance and overall strategy. In the long run it helps if one person has oversight of the whole process, but the smaller steps can easily be split among many team members. Read this to take your governance to the next level.

Finding authors

The scale of your writing enterprise doesn’t have to be limited to the number of authors you have on your team. It’s also important to consider the possibility of working with freelancers and guest authors. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of outsourced versus in-house talent.

In-house authors

Guest authors and freelancers

Responsible to

You

Themselves

Paid by

You (as part of their salary)

You (on a per-piece basis)

Subject matter expertise

Broad but shallow

Deep but narrow

Capacity for extra work

As you wish

Show me the Benjamins

Turnaround time

On a dime

Varies

Communication investment

Less

More

Devoted audience

Smaller

Potentially huge

From that table, it might look like in-house authors have a lot more advantages. That’s somewhat true, but do not underestimate the value of occasionally working with a true industry expert who has name recognition and a huge following. Whichever route you take (and there are plenty of hybrid options), it’s always okay to ask that the writers you are working with be professional about communication, payment, and deadlines. In some industries, guest writers will write for links. Consider yourself lucky if that’s true. Remember, though, that the final paycheck can be great leverage for getting a writer to do exactly what you need them to (such as making their deadlines).

Tools to help with content creation

So those are some things you need to have in place before you create content. Now’s the fun part: getting started. One of the beautiful things about the Internet is that new and exciting tools crop up every day to help make our jobs easier and more efficient. Here are a few of our favorites.

Calendars

You can always use Excel or a Google Doc to set up your editorial calendar, but we really like Trello for the ability to gather a lot of information in one card and then drag and drop it into place. Once there are actual dates attached to your content, you might be happier with something like a Google Calendar.

Ideation and research

If you need a quick fix for ideation, turn your keywords into wacky ideas with Portent’s Title Maker. You probably won’t want to write to the exact title you’re given (although “True Facts about Justin Bieber’s Love of Pickles” does sound pretty fascinating…), but it’s a good way to get loose and look at your topic from a new angle.

Once you’ve got that idea solidified, find out what your audience thinks about it by gathering information with Survey Monkey or your favorite survey tool. Or, use Storify to listen to what people are saying about your topic across a wide variety of platforms. You can also use Storify to save those references and turn them into a piece of content or an illustration for one. Don’t forget that a simple social ask can also do wonders.

Format

Content doesn’t have to be all about the words. Screencasts, Google+ Hangouts, and presentations are all interesting ways to approach content. Remember that not everyone’s a reader. Some of your audience will be more interested in visual or interactive content. Make something for everyone.

Illustration

Don’t forget to make your content pretty. It’s not that hard to find free stock images online (just make sure you aren’t violating someone’s copyright). We like Morgue File, Free Images, and Flickr’s Creative Commons. If you aren’t into stock images and don’t have access to in-house graphic design, it’s still relatively easy to add images to your content. Pull a screenshot with Skitch or dress up an existing image with Pixlr. You can also use something like Canva to create custom graphics.

Don’t stop with static graphics, though. There are so many tools out there to help you create gifs, quizzes and polls, maps, and even interactive timelines. Dream it, then search for it. Chances are whatever you’re thinking of is doable.

Quality, not quantity

Mediocre content will hurt your cause

Less is more. That’s not an excuse to pare your blog down to one post per month (check out our publishing cadence experiment), but it is an important reminder that if you’re writing “How to Properly Install a Toilet Seat” two days after publishing “Toilet Seat Installation for Dummies,” you might want to rethink your strategy.

The thing is, and I’m going to use another cliché here to drive home the point, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Potential customers are roving the Internet right now looking for exactly what you’re selling. And if what they find is an only somewhat informative article stuffed with keywords and awful spelling and grammar mistakes… well, you don’t want that. Oh, and search engines think it’s spammy too…

A word about copyright

We’re not copyright lawyers, so we can’t give you the ins and outs on all the technicalities. What we can tell you (and you already know this) is that it’s not okay to steal someone else’s work. You wouldn’t want them to do it to you. This includes images. So whenever you can, make your own images or find images that you can either purchase the rights to (stock imagery) or license under Creative Commons.

It’s usually okay to quote short portions of text, as long as you attribute the original source (and a link is nice). In general, titles and ideas can’t be copyrighted (though they might be trademarked or patented). When in doubt, asking for permission is smart.

That said, part of the fun of the Internet is the remixing culture which includes using things like memes and gifs. Just know that if you go that route, there is a certain amount of risk involved.

Editing

Your content needs to go through at least one editing cycle by someone other than the original author. There are two types of editing, developmental (which looks at the underlying structure of a piece that happens earlier in the writing cycle) and copy editing (which makes sure all the words are there and spelled right in the final draft).

If you have a very small team or are in a rush (and are working with writers that have some skill), you can often skip the developmental editing phase. But know that an investment in that close read of an early draft is often beneficial to the piece and to the writer’s overall growth.

Many content teams peer-edit work, which can be great. Other organizations prefer to run their work by a dedicated editor. There’s no wrong answer, as long as the work gets edited.

Ensuring proper basic SEO

The good news is that search engines are doing their best to get closer and closer to understanding and processing natural language. So good writing (including the natural use of synonyms rather than repeating those keywords over and over and…) will take you a long way towards SEO mastery.

For that reason (and because it’s easy to get trapped in keyword thinking and veer into keyword stuffing), it’s often nice to think of your SEO check as a further edit of the post rather than something you should think about as you’re writing.

But there are still a few things you can do to help cover those SEO bets. Once you have that draft, do a pass for SEO to make sure you’ve covered the following:

  • Use your keyword in your title
  • Use your keyword (or long-tail keyword phrase) in an H2
  • Make sure the keyword appears at least once (though not more than four times, especially if it’s a phrase) in the body of the post
  • Use image alt text (including the keyword when appropriate)

Finding time to write when you don’t have any

Writing (assuming you’re the one doing the writing) can require a lot of energy—especially if you want to do it well. The best way to find time to write is to break each project down into little tasks. For example, writing a blog post actually breaks down into these steps (though not always in this order):

  • Research
  • Outline
  • Fill in outline
  • Rewrite and finish post
  • Write headline
  • SEO check
  • Final edit
  • Select hero image (optional)

So if you only have random chunks of time, set aside 15-30 minutes one day (when your research is complete) to write a really great outline. Then find an hour the next to fill that outline in. After an additional hour the following day, (unless you’re dealing with a research-heavy post) you should have a solid draft by the end of day three.

The magic of working this way is that you engage your brain and then give it time to work in the background while you accomplish other tasks. Hemingway used to stop mid-sentence at the end of his writing days for the same reason.

Once you have that draft nailed, the rest of the steps are relatively easy (even the headline, which often takes longer to write than any other sentence, is easier after you’ve immersed yourself in the post over a few days).

Working with design/development

Every designer and developer is a little different, so we can’t give you any blanket cure-alls for inter-departmental workarounds (aka “smashing silos”). But here are some suggestions to help you convey your vision while capitalizing on the expertise of your coworkers to make your content truly excellent.

Ask for feedback

From the initial brainstorm to general questions about how to work together, asking your team members what they think and prefer can go a long way. Communicate all the details you have (especially the unspoken expectations) and then listen.

If your designer tells you up front that your color scheme is years out of date, you’re saving time. And if your developer tells you that the interactive version of that timeline will require four times the resources, you have the info you need to fight for more budget (or reassess the project).

Check in

Things change in the design and development process. If you have interim check-ins already set up with everyone who’s working on the project, you’ll avoid the potential for nasty surprises at the end. Like finding out that no one has experience working with that hot new coding language you just read about and they’re trying to do a workaround that isn’t working.

Proofread

Your job isn’t done when you hand over the copy to your designer or developer. Not only might they need help rewriting some of your text so that it fits in certain areas, they will also need you to proofread the final version. Accidents happen in the copy-and-paste process and there’s nothing sadder than a really beautiful (and expensive) piece of content that wraps up with a typo:

Know when to fight for an idea

Conflict isn’t fun, but sometimes it’s necessary. The more people involved in your content, the more watered down the original idea can get and the more roadblocks and conflicting ideas you’ll run into. Some of that is very useful. But sometimes you’ll get pulled off track. Always remember who owns the final product (this may not be you) and be ready to stand up for the idea if it’s starting to get off track.

We’re confident this list will set you on the right path to creating some really awesome content, but is there more you’d like to know? Ask us your questions 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 4 years ago from tracking.feedpress.it

Your Daily SEO Fix: Week 4

Posted by Trevor-Klein

This week, we’ve got the fourth (and second-to-last) installment of our short (< 2-minute) video tutorials that help you all get the most out of Moz’s tools. They’re each designed to solve a use case that we regularly hear about from Moz community members.

Here’s a quick recap of the previous round-ups in case you missed them:

  • Week 1: Reclaim links using Open Site Explorer, build links using Fresh Web Explorer, and find the best time to tweet using Followerwonk.
  • Week 2: Analyze SERPs using new MozBar features, boost your rankings through on-page optimization, check your anchor text using Open Site Explorer, do keyword research with OSE and the keyword difficulty tool, and discover keyword opportunities in Moz Analytics.
  • Week 3: Compare link metrics in Open Site Explorer, find tweet topics with Followerwonk, create custom reports in Moz Analytics, use Spam Score to identify high-risk links, and get link building opportunities delivered to your inbox.

In this installment, we’ve got five brand new tutorials:

  • How to Use Fresh Web Explorer to Build Links
  • How to Analyze Rank Progress for a Given Keyword
  • How to Use the MozBar to Analyze Your Competitors’ Site Markup
  • How to Use the Top Pages Report to Find Content Ideas
  • How to Find On-Site Errors with Crawl Test

Hope you enjoy them!

Fix 1: How to Use Fresh Web Explorer to Build Links

If you have unique data or a particularly excellent resource on your site, that content can be a great link magnet. In this Daily SEO Fix, Felicia shows you how to set up alerts in Fresh Web Explorer to track mentions of relevant keyword phrases, find link opportunities, and build links to your content.

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.video-container iframe,
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position: absolute;
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Fix 2: How to Analyze Rank Progress for a Given Keyword

Moz’s Rank Tracker tool retrieves search engine rankings for pages and keywords, storing them for easy comparison later. In this fix, James shows you how to use this helpful tool to track keywords, save time, and improve your rankings.


Fix 3: How to Use the MozBar to Analyze Your Competitors’ Site Markup

Schema markup helps search engines better identify what your (and your competitors’) website pages are all about and as a result can lead to a boost to rankings. In this Daily SEO Fix, Jordan shows you how to use the MozBar to analyze the schema markup of the competition and optimize your own site and pages for rich snippets.


Fix 4: How to Use the Top Pages Report to Find Content Ideas

With Moz’s Top Pages report in Open Site Explorer, you can see the pages on your site (and the competitions’ sites!) that are top performers. In this fix, Nick shows you how to use the report to analyze your competitors’ content marketing efforts and to inform your own.


Fix 5: How to Find On-Site Errors with Crawl Test

Identifying and understanding any potential errors on your site is crucial to the life of any SEO. In this Daily SEO Fix Sean shows you how to use the Crawl Test tool in Moz Analytics to pull reports and identify any errors on your site.


Looking for more?

We’ve got more videos in the previous three weeks’ round-ups!

Your Daily SEO Fix: Week 1

Your Daily SEO Fix: Week 2

Your Daily SEO Fix: Week 3


Don’t have a Pro subscription? No problem. Everything we cover in these Daily SEO Fix videos is available with a free 30-day trial.

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 tracking.feedpress.it

The Best of 2014: Top People and Posts from the Moz Blog

Posted by Trevor-Klein

At the end of every year, we compile a list of the very best posts and most popular and prolific people that have been published on the Moz Blog and YouMoz. It’s a really fun way to look back on what happened this year, and an insight-packed view of what really resonates with our readers.

Here’s what we’ve got in store:

  1. Top Moz Blog posts by 1Metric score
  2. Top Moz Blog posts by unique visits
  3. Top YouMoz Blog posts by unique visits
  4. Top Moz Blog posts by number of thumbs up
  5. Top Moz Blog posts by number of comments
  6. Top Moz Blog posts by number of linking root domains
  7. Top comments from our community by number of thumbs up
  8. Top commenters from our community by total number of thumbs up

A huge thanks goes to Dr. Pete Meyers and Cyrus Shepard; their help cut the amount of time creating this piece consumed in half.

We hope you enjoy the look back at the past year, and wish you a very happy start to 2015!

1. Top Moz Blog posts by 1Metric score

Earlier this year, we created a new metric to evaluate the success of our blog posts, calling it “the one metric” in a nod to The Lord of the Rings. We even
wrote about it on this blog. With the help and feedback of many folks in the community as well as some refinement of our own, we’ve now polished the metric, changed the spelling a bit, applied it retroactively to older posts, and are using it regularly in-house. The following posts are those with the highest scores, representing the 10 posts that saw the most overall success this year. In case there was any doubt, Cyrus really (really) knows what he’s doing.

1. More than Keywords: 7 Concepts of Advanced On-Page SEO
October 21 – Posted by Cyrus Shepard
As marketers, helping search engines understand what our content means is one of our most important tasks. Search engines can’t read pages like humans can, so we incorporate structure and clues as to what our content means. This post explores a series of on-page techniques that not only build upon one another, but can be combined in sophisticated ways.

Dr-Pete

2. New Title Tag Guidelines & Preview Tool
March 20 – Posted by Dr. Peter J. Meyers
Google’s 2014 redesign had a big impact on search result titles, cutting them off much sooner. This post includes a title preview tool and takes a data-driven approach to finding the new limit.

MarieHaynes

3. Your Google Algorithm Cheat Sheet: Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird
June 11 – Posted by Marie Haynes
Do you have questions about the Panda algorithm, the Penguin algorithm, or Hummingbird? This guide explains in lay terms what each of these Google algorithm changes is about and how to improve your site so that it looks better in the eyes of the big G.

4. 12 Ways to Increase Traffic From Google Without Building Links
March 11 – Posted by Cyrus Shepard
The job of the Technical SEO becomes more complex each year, but we also have more opportunities now than ever. Here are 12 ways you can improve your rankings without relying on link building.

OliGardner

5. The Most Entertaining Guide to Landing Page Optimization You’ll Ever Read
May 20 – Posted by Oli Gardner
If you’ve ever been bored while reading a blog post, your life just got better. If you’ve ever wanted to learn about conversion rate optimization, and how to design high-converting landing pages, without falling asleep, you’re in the right place. Buckle up, and prepare to be entertained in your learning regions.

6. Illustrated Guide to Advanced On-Page Topic Targeting for SEO
November 17 – Posted by Cyrus Shepard
The concepts of advanced on-page SEO are dizzying: LDA, co-occurrence, and entity salience. The question is “How can I easily incorporate these techniques into my content for higher rankings?” The truth is, you can create optimized pages that rank well without understanding complex algorithms.

josh_bachynski

7. Panda 4.1 Google Leaked Dos and Don’ts – Whiteboard Friday
December 05 – Posted by Josh Bachynski
Panda is about so much more than good content. Let Josh Bachynski give you the inside information on the highlights of what you should (and should not) be doing.

8. 10 Smart Tips to Leverage Google+ for Increased Web Traffic
April 15 – Posted by Cyrus Shepard
While not everyone has an audience active on Google+, the number of people who interact socially with any Google products on a monthly basis now reportedly exceeds 500 million.

9. The Rules of Link Building – Whiteboard Friday
April 04 – Posted by Cyrus Shepard
Google is increasingly playing the referee in the marketing game, and many marketers are simply leaving instead of playing by the rules. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Cyrus Shepard takes a time-out to explain a winning strategy.

gfiorelli1

10. The Myth of Google’s 200 Ranking Factors
September 30 – Posted by Gianluca Fiorelli
Nothing like the “The 200 Google Ranking Factors” actually exists. It is a myth, and those who claim to be able to offer a final list are its prophets. This post explains how the myth was born and the importance of knowing the stages of search engines’ working process.

2. Top Moz Blog posts by unique visits

The heaviest-weighted ingredient in the 1Metric is unique visits, as one of our primary goals for the Moz Blog is to drive traffic to the rest of the site. With that in mind, we thought it interesting to break things down to just this metric and show you just how different this list is from the last one. Of note: Dr. Pete’s post on Google’s new design for title tags is a nod to the power of evergreen content. That post is one that folks can return to over and over as they fiddle with their own title tags, and amassed more than
twice the traffic of the post in the #2 slot.

Dr-Pete

1. New Title Tag Guidelines & Preview Tool
March 20 – Posted by Dr. Peter J. Meyers
Google’s 2014 redesign had a big impact on search result titles, cutting them off much sooner. This post includes a title preview tool and takes a data-driven approach to finding the new limit.

OliGardner

2. The Most Entertaining Guide to Landing Page Optimization You’ll Ever Read
May 20 – Posted by Oli Gardner
If you’ve ever been bored while reading a blog post, your life just got better. If you’ve ever wanted to learn about conversion rate optimization, and how to design high-converting landing pages, without falling asleep, you’re in the right place. Buckle up, and prepare to be entertained in your learning regions.

3. 12 Ways to Increase Traffic From Google Without Building Links
March 11 – Posted by Cyrus Shepard
The job of the Technical SEO becomes more complex each year, but we also have more opportunities now than ever. Here are 12 ways you can improve your rankings without relying on link building.

briancarter

4. Why Every Business Should Spend at Least $1 per Day on Facebook Ads
February 19 – Posted by Brian Carter
For the last three years I’ve constantly recommended Facebook ads. I recommend them to both B2C and B2B businesses. I recommend them to local theaters and comedians here in Charleston, SC. I recommend them to everyone who wants to grow awareness about anything they’re doing. Here’s why.

5. More than Keywords: 7 Concepts of Advanced On-Page SEO
October 21 – Posted by Cyrus Shepard
As marketers, helping search engines understand what our content means is one of our most important tasks. Search engines can’t read pages like humans can, so we incorporate structure and clues as to what our content means. This post explores a series of on-page techniques that not only build upon one another, but can be combined in sophisticated ways.

MarieHaynes

6. Your Google Algorithm Cheat Sheet: Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird
June 11 – Posted by Marie Haynes
Do you have questions about the Panda algorithm, the Penguin algorithm, or Hummingbird? This guide explains in lay terms what each of these Google algorithm changes is about and how to improve your site so that it looks better in the eyes of the big G.

Chad_Wittman

7. Make Facebook’s Algorithm Change Work For You, Not Against You
January 23 – Posted by Chad Wittman
Recently, many page admins have been experiencing a significant decrease in Total Reach—specifically, organic reach. For pages that want to keep their ad budget as low as possible, maximizing organic reach is vital. To best understand how to make a change like this work for you, and not against you, we need to examine what happened—and what you can do about it.

n8ngrimm

8. How to Rank Well in Amazon, the US’s Largest Product Search Engine
June 04 – Posted by Nathan Grimm
The eCommerce SEO community is ignoring a huge opportunity by focusing almost exclusively on Google. Amazon has roughly three times more search volume for products, and this post tells you all about how to rank.

iPullRank

9. Personas: The Art and Science of Understanding the Person Behind the Visit
January 29 – Posted by Michael King
With the erosion of keyword intelligence and the move to strings-not-things for the user, Google is pushing all marketers to focus more on their target audience. This post will teach you how to understand that audience, the future of Google, and how to build data-driven personas step by step.

Dr-Pete

10. Panda 4.0, Payday Loan 2.0 & eBay’s Very Bad Day
May 21 – Posted by Dr. Peter J. Meyers
Preliminary analysis of the Panda 4.0 and Payday Loan 2.0 updates, major algorithm flux on May 19th, and a big one-day rankings drop for eBay.

3. Top YouMoz Blog posts by unique visits

One of our favorite parts of the Moz community is the YouMoz Blog, where our community members can submit their own posts for potential publishing here on our site. We’re constantly impressed by what we’re sent. These 10 posts all received such high praise that they were promoted to the main Moz Blog, but they all started out as YouMoz posts. 

Chad_Wittman

1. Make Facebook’s Algorithm Change Work For You, Not Against You
January 23 – Posted by Chad Wittman
Recently, many page admins have been experiencing a significant decrease in Total Reach—specifically, organic reach. For pages that want to keep their ad budget as low as possible, maximizing organic reach is vital. To best understand how to make a change like this work for you, and not against you, we need to examine what happened—and what you can do about it.

Carla_Dawson

2. Parallax Scrolling Websites and SEO – A Collection of Solutions and Examples
April 01 – Posted by Carla Dawson
I have observed that there are many articles that say parallax scrolling is not ideal for search engines. Parallax Scrolling is a design technique and it is ideal for search engines if you know how to apply it. I have collected a list of great tutorials and real SEO-friendly parallax websites to help the community learn how to use both techniques together.

Jeffalytics

3. (Provided): 10 Ways to Prove SEO Value in Google Analytics
February 25 – Posted by Jeff Sauer
We and our clients have relied on keyword reports for so long that we’re now using (not provided) as a crutch. This post offers 10 ways you can use Google Analytics to prove your SEO value now that those keywords are gone.

danatanseo

4. How to Set Up and Use Twitter Lead Generation Cards in Your Tweets for Free!
May 07 – Posted by Dana Tan
Working as an in-house SEO strategist for a small business forces me to get “scrappy” every day with tools and techniques. I’m constantly on the lookout for an opportunity that can help my company market to broader audiences for less money. Here’s how to set up your Twitter Cards for free!

Amanda_Gallucci

5. 75 Content Starters for Any Industry
February 06 – Posted by Amanda Gallucci
Suffering from blank page anxiety? Before you go on the hunt for inspiration all over the Internet and elsewhere, turn to the resources around you. Realize that you can create exceptional content with what you already have at hand.

nicoleckohler

6. The Hidden Power of Nofollow Links
June 08 – Posted by Nicole Kohler
For those of us who are trying to earn links for our clients, receiving a nofollow link can feel like a slap in the face. But these links have hidden powers that make them just as important as followed ones. Here’s why nofollow links are more powerful than you might think.

YonDotan

7. A Startling Case Study of Manual Penalties and Negative SEO
March 17 – Posted by Yonatan Dotan
One day in my inbox I found the dreaded notice from Google that our client had a site-wide manual penalty for unnatural inbound links. We quickly set up a call and went through the tooth-rattling ordeal of explaining to our client that they weren’t even ranked for their brand name. Organic traffic dropped by a whopping 94% – and that for a website that gets 66% of its traffic from Google-based organic search.

malditojavi

8. How PornHub Is Bringing its A-Game (SFW)
July 23 – Posted by Javier Sanz
Despite dealing with a sensitive subject, PornHub is doing a great job marketing itself. This (safe-for-work) post takes a closer look at what they are doing.

ajfried

9. Storytelling Through Data: A New Inbound Marketing & SEO Report Structure
January 07 – Posted by Aaron Friedman
No matter what business you are in, it’s a pretty sure thing that someone is going to want to monitor how efficiently and productively you are working. Being able to show these results over time is crucial to maintaining the health of the long term relationship.

robinparallax

10. The Art of Thinking Sideways: Content Marketing for “Boring” Businesses
April 08 – Posted by Robin Swire
In this article, I’ll examine the art of thinking sideways for one of the slightly more tricky marketing clients I’ve worked with. I hope that this will provide an insight for fellow content marketers and SEOs in similar scenarios.

4. Top Moz Blog posts by number of thumbs up

These 10 posts were well enough received that liked that quite a few readers took the time to engage with them, logging in to give their stamp of approval. Whiteboard Fridays are always a hit, and two of them managed to make this list after having been live for less than a month.

1. More than Keywords: 7 Concepts of Advanced On-Page SEO
October 21 – Posted by Cyrus Shepard
As marketers, helping search engines understand what our content means is one of our most important tasks. Search engines can’t read pages like humans can, so we incorporate structure and clues as to what our content means. This post explores a series of on-page techniques that not only build upon one another, but can be combined in sophisticated ways.

Dr-Pete

2. New Title Tag Guidelines & Preview Tool
March 20 – Posted by Dr. Peter J. Meyers
Google’s 2014 redesign had a big impact on search result titles, cutting them off much sooner. This post includes a title preview tool and takes a data-driven approach to finding the new limit.

randfish

3. Dear Google, Links from YouMoz Don’t Violate Your Quality Guidelines
July 23 – Posted by Rand Fishkin
Recently, Moz contributor Scott Wyden, a photographer in New Jersey, received a warning in his Google Webmaster Tools about some links that violated Google’s Quality Guidelines. One example was from moz.com.

MarieHaynes

4. Your Google Algorithm Cheat Sheet: Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird
June 11 – Posted by Marie Haynes
Do you have questions about the Panda algorithm, the Penguin algorithm, or Hummingbird? This guide explains in lay terms what each of these Google algorithm changes is about and how to improve your site so that it looks better in the eyes of the big G.

randfish

5. Thank You for 10 Incredible Years
October 06 – Posted by Rand Fishkin
It’s been 10 amazing years since Rand started the blog that would turn into SEOmoz and then Moz, and we never could have come this far without you all. You’ll find letters of appreciation from Rand and Sarah in this post (along with a super-cool video retrospective!), and from all of us at Moz, thank you!

6. Illustrated Guide to Advanced On-Page Topic Targeting for SEO
November 17 – Posted by Cyrus Shepard
The concepts of advanced on-page SEO are dizzying: LDA, co-occurrence, and entity salience. The question is “How can I easily incorporate these techniques into my content for higher rankings?” The truth is, you can create optimized pages that rank well without understanding complex algorithms.

josh_bachynski

7. Panda 4.1 Google Leaked Dos and Don’ts – Whiteboard Friday
December 05 – Posted by Josh Bachynski
Panda is about so much more than good content. Let Josh Bachynski give you the inside information on the highlights of what you should (and should not) be doing.

OliGardner

8. The Most Entertaining Guide to Landing Page Optimization You’ll Ever Read
May 20 – Posted by Oli Gardner
If you’ve ever been bored while reading a blog post, your life just got better. If you’ve ever wanted to learn about conversion rate optimization, and how to design high-converting landing pages, without falling asleep, you’re in the right place. Buckle up, and prepare to be entertained in your learning regions.

randfish

9. Does SEO Boil Down to Site Crawlability and Content Quality? – Whiteboard Friday
July 11 – Posted by Rand Fishkin
What does good SEO really mean these days? Rand takes us beyond crawlability and content quality for a peek inside the art and science of the practice.

randfish

10. How to Avoid the Unrealistic Expectations SEOs Often Create – Whiteboard Friday
December 12 – Posted by Rand Fishkin
Making promises about SEO results too often leads to broken dreams and shredded contracts. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand shows us how to set expectations that lead to excitement but help prevent costly misunderstandings.

5. Top Moz Blog posts by number of comments

While the discussions can take a big chunk out of an already busy day, the conversations we get to have with our community members (and the conversations they have with each other) in the comments below our posts is absolutely one of our favorite parts of the blog. These 10 posts garnered quite a bit of discussion (some with a fair amount of controversy), and are fascinating to follow.

1. Take the SEO Expert Quiz and Rule the Internet
May 28 – Posted by Cyrus Shepard
You are master of the keyword. You create 1,000 links with a single tweet. Google engineers ask for your approval before updating their algorithm. You, my friend, are an SEO Expert. Prove it by taking our new SEO Expert Quiz.

2. The Rules of Link Building – Whiteboard Friday
April 04 – Posted by Cyrus Shepard
Google is increasingly playing the referee in the marketing game, and many marketers are simply leaving instead of playing by the rules. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Cyrus Shepard takes a time-out to explain a winning strategy.

randfish

3. Dear Google, Links from YouMoz Don’t Violate Your Quality Guidelines
July 23 – Posted by Rand Fishkin
Recently, Moz contributor Scott Wyden, a photographer in New Jersey, received a warning in his Google Webmaster Tools about some links that violated Google’s Quality Guidelines. One example was from moz.com.

Dr-Pete

4. New Title Tag Guidelines & Preview Tool
March 20 – Posted by Dr. Peter J. Meyers
Google’s 2014 redesign had a big impact on search result titles, cutting them off much sooner. This post includes a title preview tool and takes a data-driven approach to finding the new limit.

Carla_Dawson

5. SEO Teaching: Should SEO Be Taught at Universities?
October 09 – Posted by Carla Dawson
Despite the popularity and importance of SEO, the field has yet to gain significant traction at the university level other than a few courses here and there offered as part of a broader digital marketing degree. The tide could be turning, however slowly.

6. 12 Ways to Increase Traffic From Google Without Building Links
March 11 – Posted by Cyrus Shepard
The job of the Technical SEO becomes more complex each year, but we also have more opportunities now than ever. Here are 12 ways you can improve your rankings without relying on link building.

evolvingSEO

7. The Broken Art of Company Blogging (and the Ignored Metric that Could Save Us All)
July 22 – Posted by Dan Shure
Company blogging is broken. We’re tricking ourselves into believing they’re successful while ignoring the one signal we have that tells us whether they’re actually working.

MichaelC

8. Real-World Panda Optimization – Whiteboard Friday
August 01 – Posted by Michael Cottam
From the originality of your content to top-heavy posts, there’s a lot that the Panda algorithm is looking for. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Michael Cottam explains what these things are, and more importantly, what we can do to be sure we get the nod from this particular bear.

EricaMcGillivray

9. Ways to Proactively Welcome Women Into Online Marketing
September 17 – Posted by Erica McGillivray
SEO may be a male-dominated industry, but let’s step out of our biases and work hard to welcome women, and marketers of all stripes, into our community.

10. More than Keywords: 7 Concepts of Advanced On-Page SEO
October 21 – Posted by Cyrus Shepard
As marketers, helping search engines understand what our content means is one of our most important tasks. Search engines can’t read pages like humans can, so we incorporate structure and clues as to what our content means. This post explores a series of on-page techniques that not only build upon one another, but can be combined in sophisticated ways.

6. Top Moz Blog posts by number of linking root domains

What, you thought you’d get to the bottom of the post without seeing a traditional SEO metric? =)

Dr-Pete

1. New Title Tag Guidelines & Preview Tool
March 20 – Posted by Dr. Peter J. Meyers
Google’s 2014 redesign had a big impact on search result titles, cutting them off much sooner. This post includes a title preview tool and takes a data-driven approach to finding the new limit.

Dr-Pete

2. Panda 4.0, Payday Loan 2.0 & eBay’s Very Bad Day
May 21 – Posted by Dr. Peter J. Meyers
Preliminary analysis of the Panda 4.0 and Payday Loan 2.0 updates, major algorithm flux on May 19th, and a big one-day rankings drop for eBay.

iPullRank

3. Personas: The Art and Science of Understanding the Person Behind the Visit
January 29 – Posted by Michael King
With the erosion of keyword intelligence and the move to strings-not-things for the user, Google is pushing all marketers to focus more on their target audience. This post will teach you how to understand that audience, the future of Google, and how to build data-driven personas step by step.

briancarter

4. Why Every Business Should Spend at Least $1 per Day on Facebook Ads
February 19 – Posted by Brian Carter
For the last three years I’ve constantly recommended Facebook ads. I recommend them to both B2C and B2B businesses. I recommend them to local theaters and comedians here in Charleston, SC. I recommend them to everyone who wants to grow awareness about anything they’re doing. Here’s why.

JamesAgate

5. The New Link Building Survey 2014 – Results
July 16 – Posted by James Agate
How has the marketing industry changed its views of link building since last year? James Agate of Skyrocket SEO is back with the results of a brand new survey.

Dr-Pete

6. Google’s 2014 Redesign: Before and After
March 13 – Posted by Dr. Peter J. Meyers
Google’s SERP and ad format redesign may finally be rolling out, after months of testing. Before we lose the old version forever, here’s the before-and-after of every major vertical that’s changed.

7. Google Announces the End of Author Photos in Search: What You Should Know
June 26 – Posted by Cyrus Shepard
Many of us have been constantly advising webmasters to connect their content writers with Google authorship, and it came as a shock when John Mueller announced Google will soon drop authorship photos from regular search results. Let’s examine what this means.

randfish

8. The Greatest Misconception in Content Marketing – Whiteboard Friday
April 25 – Posted by Rand Fishkin
Great content certainly helps business, but it isn’t as simple as “publish, share, convert new customers.” In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains what’s really going on.

OliGardner

9. The Most Entertaining Guide to Landing Page Optimization You’ll Ever Read
May 20 – Posted by Oli Gardner
If you’ve ever been bored while reading a blog post, your life just got better. If you’ve ever wanted to learn about conversion rate optimization, and how to design high-converting landing pages, without falling asleep, you’re in the right place. Buckle up, and prepare to be entertained in your learning regions.

MarieHaynes

10. Your Google Algorithm Cheat Sheet: Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird
June 11 – Posted by Marie Haynes
Do you have questions about the Panda algorithm, the Penguin algorithm, or Hummingbird? This guide explains in lay terms what each of these Google algorithm changes is about and how to improve your site so that it looks better in the eyes of the big G.

7. Top comments from our community by number of thumbs up

These 10 comments were the most thumbed-up of any on our blogs this year, offering voices of reason that stand out from the crowd. 

MarieHaynes

1. Marie Haynes | July 23
Commented on: 
Dear Google, Links from YouMoz Don’t Violate Your Quality Guidelines

Backlinko

2. Brian Dean | September 30
Commented on: 
The Myth of Google’s 200 Ranking Factors

mpezet

3. Martin Pezet | July 22
Commented on: 
The Broken Art of Company Blogging (and the Ignored Metric that Could Save Us All)

dannysullivan

4. Danny Sullivan | July 23
Commented on: 
Dear Google, Links from YouMoz Don’t Violate Your Quality Guidelines

5. Cyrus Shepard | October 21
Commented on: 
More than Keywords: 7 Concepts of Advanced On-Page SEO

SarahBird

6. Sarah Bird | September 17
Commented on: 
Ways to Proactively Welcome Women Into Online Marketing

randfish

7. Rand Fishkin | July 04
Commented on: 
5 Fashion Hacks for the Modern Male Marketer – Whiteboard Friday

mpezet

8. Martin Pezet | September 30
Commented on: 
The Myth of Google’s 200 Ranking Factors

FangDigitalMarketing

9. Jeff Ferguson | October 24
Commented on: 
Is It Possible to Have Good SEO Simply by Having Great Content – Whiteboard Friday

magicrob

10. Robert Duckers | March 20
Commented on: 
New Title Tag Guidelines & Preview Tool

8. Top commenters from our community by total thumbs up

We calculated this one a bit differently this year. In the past, we’ve shown the top community members by sheer number of comments. We don’t want, however, to imply that being prolific is necessarily good within itself. So, we added up all the thumbs-up that each comment on our blogs has received, and figured out which community members racked up the most thumbs over the course of the year. (We’ve intentionally omitted staff members and associates from this list, as they’d stack the deck pretty heavily!)

The graphics to the right of each community member show the number of comments they’ve left on blog posts in 2014 as well as the total number of thumbs up those comments have received.

This list is truly an illustration of how amazing the Moz community is. This site would hardly be anything without all of you, and we
so appreciate your involvement on such a regular basis!

SamuelScott

1. Samuel Scott (Moz username: SamuelScott)
MozPoints: 1557 | Rank: 54

paints-n-design

2. Andreas Becker (Moz username: paints-n-design)
MozPoints: 667 | Rank: 148

MarieHaynes

3. Marie Haynes (Moz username: MarieHaynes)
MozPoints: 4706 | Rank: 7

MarkTraphagen

4. Mark Traphagen (Moz username: MarkTraphagen)
MozPoints: 993 | Rank: 102

steviephil

5. Steve Morgan (Moz username: steviephil)
MozPoints: 1249 | Rank: 72

russangular

6. Russ Jones (Moz username: russangular)
MozPoints: 3282 | Rank: 16

mpezet

7. Martin Pezet (Moz username: mpezet)
MozPoints: 464 | Rank: 211

Pixelbypixel

8. Chris Painter (Moz username: Pixelbypixel)
MozPoints: 2707 | Rank: 25

billslawski

9. Bill Slawski (Moz username: billslawski)
MozPoints: 709 | Rank: 140

danatanseo

10. Dana Tan (Moz username: danatanseo)
MozPoints: 4071 | Rank: 11

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Reblogged 4 years ago from moz.com

How To Select The Perfect Clients

Posted by Bill.Sebald

I truly believe in the power of partnerships. There have been some incredible partnerships that changed the fabric of our culture. Larry Page and Sergey Brin. William Procter and James Gamble. The Olson Twins.

Good partnerships provide support, motivation, and complementary skills, often allowing you to overcome hurdles faster and create some truly marvelous things. In consulting or any agency work, the concept of “partnership” should be the backbone of your relationship. Like a puzzle piece, sometimes the fit is initially difficult to find – if available at all. The truth is, you’re only secure if your clients are walking in the same direction as the flow of your service. If they’re walking against the current, you have what I believe to be the most detrimental predicament a service provider can have –
a rift. That’s a truly offensive four-letter word.

What kind of rift are we talking about? Let’s do a little calculating.

First think about what you or your agency is really good at. Think about the components you have the most success with; this may actually be different than where you’re most experienced. Think about what you should be selling versus not (even if those items are currently on your menu – let’s be candid here, a lot of us casually promote services we
believe we should be selling even though it’s not a fully baked product or core competency). Think about the amount of time you really spent challenging a given service to make sure it’s truly impactful to a client versus your own bottom line.

Next, think about your past client debacles (if you haven’t stopped to perform a postmortem, you should). Chances are these led to events that cost you a lot of time, pain, and possibly money. They are the memories that make you shudder. Those are the days that made you dust off your resume and think about a career change.  

Finally, how many of these past clients should have never been signed in the first place? How many simply weren’t a fit from the start? How many simply never had a shot at being successful with you – and vice-versa? This computation really needs serious consideration. Have you wasted everyone’s time?

There can be a costly fallout. I’ve seen talented team members quit over clients that simply could not be managed. I’ve seen my colleagues go so far as to cry or start seeking therapy (in part) because of overwhelming clients who were not getting what they expected and a parent company who wasn’t providing any relief. Sometimes these clients were bound to an annual contract which only made them more desperate and angry. Rifts like this can kill your business.

This should never happen.

Client/agency relationships are marriages, but marriages start with dating

I really like this 2011 post from A List Apart called
Marry Your Clients. A few years old, but nothing has changed. However, my post is going to talk about the courting part before the honeymoon.

My post also assumes you make more money on longer consulting relationships. If you’ve somehow built your model through routinely hunting new business with the expectation you’re going to get fired, then that’s a different story. For most of us however, on-boarding a client is a lot of work, both in terms of hours (which is money) and brainpower. If you “hit it off” with your client, you begin to know their business more intimately, as well as their goals and KPIs. The strategies get easier to build; they also tend to be more successful as you become aware of what their tastes and limitations are. You find you have things in common (perhaps you both enjoy long walks to the bank). You often become true partners with your clients, who in turn promote your ideas to their bosses. These are your most profitable engagements, as well as your most rewarding. They tend to last years, sometimes following your point-of-contact to their next jobs as well.

But you don’t get this way simply because both parties signed a legally-bounding document.

The truth is not all parties can work together. A lot of client/agency relationships end in divorce. Like in romance, sometimes you just aren’t compatible.

A different kind of online dating

After my first marriage went kaput, I’ll admit I went to Match.com. For those who never tried online dating, it’s really an exercise in personal marketing. You upload your most attractive pictures. You sell yourself above everyone else. You send communications back and forth to the interested parties where you work to craft the “perfect” response; as well as ask qualifying questions. I found it works pretty well – the online process saved me from potentially bad dates. Don’t get me wrong, I still have some awkward online dating stories…

Photo from Chuck Woolery’s
Twitter profile

With consulting, if we’re supposed to ultimately marry our clients, we should obviously be allowed to see if there’s a love connection. We should all be our own Chuck Woolery. I tend to think this stage is crucial, but often rushed by agencies or managed by a department outside of your own.

Some agencies seem to have a “no dating” policy. For some, it’s not uncommon to come in to work and have an email from a higher-up with the subject, “congratulations – you’re now married to a new client!” Whether it’s a client development department, or an add-on from an existing client, your marketing department is suddenly forced into an arranged marriage where you can only hope to live up to their expectations.

This is a recipe for disaster. I don’t like to run a business on luck and risk, so clearly this makes no sense to me.

But I’ve been there. I once worked for an agency that handed me a signed contract for a major underwear brand – but I didn’t even know we were even speaking to them. Before I had a chance to get the details, the VP of digital marketing called me. I did my best to understand what they were promised in terms of SEO goals without admitting I really had no clue about their business. The promises were unrealistic, but being somewhat timid and naïve back in the day, I went with it. Truth is, their expectations did not fit into our model, philosophies, or workflow. Ultimately I failed to deliver to their expectations. The contract ended early and I vowed to never let that happen again. Not just for the stress and anxiety it brought upon my team and me, but for the blatant neglect to the client as well.

With this being something I never forgot, I would occasionally bring this story up with others I met at networking events or conventions. I quickly learned this is far from an isolated incident occurring only to me. This is how some agencies build their business development departments.

Once again, this should never happen.

How to qualify a client

Let’s assume by now I have successfully inspired a few things:

  1. A client/agency relationship should truly be a partnership akin to a good marriage.
  2. A client should never be thrown into a model that doesn’t make sense for their business (i.e., your style of SEO services), and process should be in place for putting all the parties in the same room before a deal is signed.

    Now we’re up to number 3:

  3. Not all relationships work, so all parties should try to truly connect before there is a proposal. Don’t rush the signature!

Here are some of the things we do at Greenlane to really qualify a client. Before I continue, though, I’m proud to brag a little. With these practices in place, our close rate – that is, the companies we really want to work with – is 90% in our favor. Our retainment is also very high. Once we started being prudent with our intake, we’ve only lost a few companies due to funding issues or a change in their business model – not out of performance. I should also add that these tips work with all sizes of clients. While some of our 20+ clients are smaller businesses, we also have household brands and public companies, all of which could attest to going through this process with us.

It’s all in the details

Your website is your Match.com profile. Your website is your personality. If you’re vague or promotional or full of hype, only to get someone on the phone to which your “car salesman” gear kicks in, I don’t think you’re using the website to the best of its ability. People want to use the website to learn more about you before the reach out.

Our “about us” page is our third most visited page next to the homepage and pricing (outside of the blog). You can see an example from a 
Hotjar heatmap:

The truth is, I’m always tweaking (and A/B testing) our message on the about us page. This page is currently part of a funnel that we careful put together. The “about us” page is a quick but powerful overview putting our team front and center and highlighting our experience (including some past clients).

I believe the website’s more than a brochure. It’s a communication device. Don’t hide or muddle who you are. When I get a prospect email through our form, I always lead them to our “Are We The Right Fit” page. That’s right – I actually ask them to consider choosing wisely. Now at first glance, this might go against a conversion funnel that heats up the prospect and only encourages momentum, but this page has really been a strong asset. It’s crafted to transparently present our differentiators, values, and even our pricing. It’s also crafted to discourage those who aren’t a good fit. You can find this page
here. Even our URL provides the “Are We The Right Fit” question.

We want prospects to make a good decision. We care so much about companies doing great that we’d rather you find someone else if our model isn’t perfect. Sure, sometimes after pointing someone to that link, they never return. That’s OK. Just like a dating profile, this page is designed to target a certain kind of interest. Time is a commodity in agency life – no sense in wasting it on a conversation that isn’t qualified. When we do catch a prospect after reviewing the page and hear, “we went with another firm who better suits our needs,” it actually doesn’t feel like a loss at all.

Everyone who comes back goes into our pipeline. At this stage they all get followed up on with a phone call. If they aren’t a good fit from the get go we actually try to introduce them to other SEO companies or consultants who would be a better fit for them. But 9 times out of 10, it’s an amazing conversation.

Never drop the transparency

There are a few things I try to tell all the prospects I ultimately speak with. One, I openly admit I’m not a salesman. I couldn’t sell ice water to people in hell. But I’m good at being really candid about our strengths and experiences.

Now this one tends to surprise some, especially in the larger agency setting. We admit that we are really choosy about the clients we take on. For our model, we need clients who are flexible, fast moving, interested in brand building, and interested in long-term relationships. We want clients who think in terms of strategy and will let us work with their existing marketing team and vendors. We audit them for their understanding of SEO services and tell them how we’re either alike or different.

I don’t think a prospect call goes by without me saying, “while you’re checking us out to see if we’re a good fit, we’re doing the same for you.” Then, if the call goes great, I let them know we’d like a follow up call to continue (a second date if you will). This follow up call has been where the real decision gets made.

Ask the right questions

I’ve vetted the opportunity, now my partner – who naturally has a different way of approaching opportunities and relationships – asks a different set of questions. This adds a whole different dimension and works to catch the questions I may not have asked. We’ve had companies ready to sign on the first call, to which I’ve had to divert any signatures until the next conversation. This too may seem counter-intuitive to traditional business development, but we find it extremely valuable. It’s true that we could have more clients in our current book of business, but I can proudly state that every current client is exactly who we want to be with; this is very much because of everything you’ve read so far.

On each call we have a list of qualifying questions that we ask. Most are “must answer” questions, while others can roll into a needs analysis questionnaire that we give to each signed client. The purpose of the needs analysis is to get more granular into business items (such as seasonal trends, industry intelligence, etc.) for the intention of developing strategies. With so much to ask, it’s important to be respectful of the prospects’ time. At this point they’ve usually already indicated they’ve read our website, can afford our prices, and feel like we’re a good fit.

Many times prospects start with their introduction and answer some of our questions. While they speak, I intently listen and take many notes.

These are 13 questions from my list that I always make sure get answered on a call, with some rationale:

Questions for the prospect:

1. Can you describe your business model and products/services?

  1. What do you sell?
  2. B2B or B2C
  3. Retail or lead generation?

Rationale
: sometimes when reviewing the website it’s not immediately clear what kind of business they’re in. Perhaps the site just does a bad job, or sometimes their real money making services are deeper in the site and easily missed by a fast scan. One of our clients works with the government and seems to have an obvious model, but the real profit is from a by-product, something we would have never picked up on during our initial review of the website. It’s important to find out exactly what the company does. Is it interesting? Can you stay engaged? Is it a sound model that you believe in? Is it a space you have experience in?

2. What has been your experience with [YOUR SERVICE] in the past?

Rationale: Many times, especially if your model is different, a prospect may have a preconceived notion of what you actually do. Let’s take SEO as an example – there are several different styles of SEO services. If they had a link building company in the past, and you’re a more holistic SEO consulting practice, their point of reference may only be with what they’ve experienced. They may even have a bad taste in their mouth from a previous engagement, which gives you a chance to air it out and see how you compare. This is also a chance to know if you’re potentially playing with a penalized site.

3. What are your [PPC/SEO/etc.] goals?

Rationale: Do they have realistic goals, or lofty, impossible goals? Be candid – tell them if you don’t think you can reach the goals on the budget they have, or if you think they should choose other goals. Don’t align yourself with goals you can’t hit. This is where many conversations could end.

4. What’s your mission or positioning statement?

Rationale: If you’re going to do more than just pump up their rankings, you probably want to know the full story. This should provide a glimpse into other marketing the prospect is executing.

5. How do you stand out?

Rationale: Sometimes this is answered with the question above. If not, really dig up the differentiators. Those are typically the key items to build campaigns on.  Whether they are trying to create a new market segment or have a redundant offering, this can help you set timeline and success expectations.

6. Are you comfortable with an agency that may challenge your plans and ideas?

Rationale: This is one of my favorite questions. There are many who hire an agency and expect “yes-men.” Personally I believe an agency or consultant should be partners; that is, not afraid to fight for what they know is right for the benefit of the client. You shouldn’t be afraid of injury:

 

7. Who are your competitors?

Rationale: Not only do you want this for competitive benchmarking, but this can often help you understand more about the prospect. Not to mention, how big a hill you might have to climb to start competing on head terms.

8. What is your business reach? (local, national, international)?

Rationale: An international client is going to need more work than a domestic client. A local client is going to need an expertise in local search. Knowing the scope of the company can help you align your skills with their targets.

9. What CMS are you on?

Rationale:
 This is a big one. It tells you how much flexibility you will have. WordPress?  Great – you’ll probably have a lot of access to files and templates.  A proprietary CMS or enterprise solution?  Uh-oh.  That probably means tickets and project queues. Are you OK with that?

10. What does your internal team look like?

Rationale:
Another important question. Who will you be working with?  What skill sets?  Will you be able to sit at the table with other vendors too?  If you’re being hired to fill in the gaps, make sure you have the skills to do so. I ask about copywriters, developers, designers, and link builders at a minimum.

11. What do you use for analytics?

Rationale:
A tool like Wappalyzer can probably tell you, but sometimes bigger companies have their own custom analytics through their host. Sometimes it’s bigger than Google Analytics, like Omniture. Will you be allowed to have direct access to it?  You’d be surprised how often we hear no.

12. How big is your site?  Do you have other properties?

Rationale:
It’s surprising how often a prospect forgets to mention those 30+ subdomains and microsites. If the prospect envisions it as part of the deal, you should at least be aware of how far the core website extends.

13. What is your budget, preferred start time, and end date?

Rationale:
The biggest question of all. Do they even meet your fee requirements? Are you staffed and ready to take on the work? Sure, talking money can be tough, but if you post your rates firm, the prospect is generally more open to talk budget. They don’t feel like a negotiation is going to happen.

Conclusion

While these are the core questions we use, I’m sure the list will eventually grow. I don’t think you should copy our list, or the order.  You should ultimately create your own. Every agency or consultant has different requirements, and interviewing your prospect is as important as allowing them to interview you. But remember, you don’t have to have all the business.  Just the right kind of business.  You will grow organically from your positive experiences.  We all hear about “those other agencies” and how they consistently fail to meet client expectations. Next to “do great work,” this is one powerful way to keep off that list.  

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