Email design: how mobile should you go?

Email is your brand’s virtual shop window

Flashy email design, gripping email copy and intelligent personalization – these are the things most of us strive to deliver as email marketers. We want to get the look and feel of our brand spot on. Plus, we want to deliver memorable experiences that’ll help us shine  So sometimes we overlook the bare necessities, like ‘Can my customer see what I’m seeing?’. Email mobile optimization is one of those fuzzy areas of email design: some brands will nail it as a priority, while others haven’t even got it on their radar. Here’s why it matters:

For retail and ecommerce marketers, mobile’s taken over the market share. Mcommerce sales worldwide reached an estimated $1.357 trillion in 2017, or 58.9% of ecommerce spending overall. By 2021, mcommerce will account for 72.9% of the ecommerce market.” And for B2B businesses, it’s a similar story: 76% of Gen X buyers and 84% of millennials said their mobile device was critical to their work.

Email is STILL the top channel for marketers looking to maximize on ROI, delivering £32 for every £1 you spend. But in order for it to fire in all cylinders, it’s got to be optimized for your customers’ viewing preferences.

The customer experience should be seamless, whatever the device

Designing for mobile users shouldn’t be viewed as a separate component to your regular email design. Creating a smooth, effortless experience for your customers across all their touchpoints is the ultimate goal for any marketer – especially when 50% of consumers now regularly use more than four touch points during the buying process.

So the question is:

‘How mobile should I go with my email design?’

Every brand is different, and what works for your peers might not be the best fit for you. Deciding on the level of influence mobile has on your email design is the best way to ensure you’re optimizing content for your customers – without leaving any out in the cold.

Get to grips with just how many of your contacts open, click and convert on mobile devices. If you have a best-of-breed ESP, like dotmailer, you can access a detailed breakdown of email client share for every campaign you send. Find out the percentage of Iphone opens, for example, or build a more accurate picture of how many tablet engagers you’ve got on the books. A quick pointer: getting to grips with this information can also improve your send time optimization; a dip in mobile opens at certain times will highlight the times when it’s inopportune to push out marketing messages.

Once you’ve got the measure of mobile engagement, you can decide just how mobile you’re going to get. We’ve rounded up the important differences between mobile-friendly and mobile-responsive email design to help you make up your mind.

Mobile-friendly

Mobile-friendly email design (sometimes called mobile-first or mobile-aware) is fixed width and optimized for reading on a handheld device. This design relies on a single column layout with large text and CTA buttons; the font size isn’t responsive, but is large enough to be read on smaller screens. Extra spacing around campaign elements allows for maximum ‘tappability’.

Mobile-friendly email designs are simple to create and guarantee customers will be about to view your creatives on any device. However, their primarily single-column layout offers limited design options, especially for meatier campaigns like newsletters.

Responsive

Responsive email design uses CSS media queries to create fluid tables and images, allowing your campaign to adapt for different screen sizes and orientations. You can prioritize different layouts, font sizes, colors and even content based on the device customers are using. Previously, Gmail didn’t support media queries – but that’s no longer the case.

Using responsive email design gives you much more control over your campaigns. The drawback is that the design process is more complex and will require some coding. Some best-of-breed ESPs will have responsive design baked into their platform as standard; brands using dotmailer can select which email content blocks they want to display on what device. Plus, all of our templates are designed to be mobile responsive – even the free ones.

What about hybrid email design?

Hybrid email, sometimes called ‘spongy’ email, uses a combination of percentage-based widths, maximum-widths and clever and complex workaround coding for Outlook clients to ensure emails are adjusted based on a device’s width. Hybrid design offers marketers universal ‘friendliness’, but requires more development knowledge – and can get messy if left to inexperience. Always test any new design across multiple devices and email clients to ensure you’re delivering a consistent customer experience

If you’re interested in building email campaigns with hybrid design, we’re here to help you. dotmailer’s talented Digital Creatives have the full mix of design and coding skills, and can help your team execute beautiful, consistent mobile-optimized campaigns and pages. Get in touch with your Account Manger or check out our Creative Services page.

What next?

dotmailer has a guide that goes into more detail on mobile email design. You’ll get real-world examples for top brands, more insight and a handy list of 10 best practices to help you stand out in any inbox.

Grab our free best practice guide on email design.

 

The post Email design: how mobile should you go? appeared first on The Marketing Automation Blog.

Reblogged 2 weeks ago from blog.dotmailer.com

Google updates mobile product knowledge panels to show even more info in one spot

The real estate-heavy panels on mobile encompass multiple product images, more review sources, videos and, of course, Shopping ads.

The post Google updates mobile product knowledge panels to show even more info in one spot appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Reblogged 7 months ago from feeds.searchengineland.com

Google updates its mobile Test My Site tool with more competitive analysis

Google’s site speed tool now compares your site to your competitors’ and tells you how many visitors your site is losing because of your load time.

The post Google updates its mobile Test My Site tool with more competitive analysis appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Reblogged 12 months ago from feeds.searchengineland.com

Optimizing for Mobile Search: A checklist to improve local SEO

Mobile devices now account for nearly 60 percent of all searches. Are your local sites and landing pages in the best position to show up in the SERPs and engage mobile consumers? Join us for an in-depth look at how to optimize your location-based marketing strategy for the mobile consumer. We’ll…

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Reblogged 1 year ago from feeds.searchengineland.com

How Your Brand Can Create an Enviable Customer Experience for Mobile Web Searchers

Posted by ronell-smith

Not very edible corned beef hash

Here I am, seated in a Manhattan, New York restaurant, staring at corned beef hash that looks and tastes like what I imagine dog food to look and taste like.

I’m pissed for two reasons:

  • It cost nearly $25 and was entirely inedible
  • I should have known better given the visuals depicted after doing a Google image search to find the dish, which was offered at a nearby restaurant

In retrospect, I should have checked A and B on my phone before ordering the $25 plate of Alpo. And though I didn’t do that, other would-be customers will, which means the business owner or SEO had better follow the steps below if they wish to stay in business.

The bad news is I no longer relish the thought of eating at high-end NY restaurants; the good news is this experience totally reshaped the way I view mobile, opening my eyes to simple but very effective tactics businesses of all types can immediately put to use for their brands.

My mobile education

We’ve all heard how mobile is transforming the web experience, reshaping the landscape for marketers, brands and consumers.

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As marketers, we now have to account for how our content will be accessed and consumed on mobile devices, whether that’s a phone, tablet or phablet. As brands, we realize our efforts will be judged not only on how well or high we show up in the SERPs, but also on much we can delight the on-the-go prospect who needs information that’s (a) fast, (b) accurate and (c) available from any device.

As prospects and consumers, we’ve come to know and value customer experience in large part because brands that use mobile to deliver what we need when we need it and in a way that’s easily consumed, have earned our attention — and maybe even our dollars.

But that’s where the similarities seemingly end. Marketers and brands seem to get so wrapped up in the technology (responsive design, anyone?) they forget that, at the end of the day, prospects want what they want right now — in the easiest-to-access way possible.

I’ve come to believe that, while marketers appreciate the overall value of mobile, they have yet to realize how, for customers, it’s all about what it allows them to accomplish.

At the customer/end-user level it’s not about mobile-friendly or responsive design; it’s about creating an enviable customer experience, one web searchers will reward you for with traffic, brand mentions and conversions.

I was alerted to the prominence of mobile phone use by noticing how many people sit staring at their phones while out at dinner, even as family members and friends are seated all around them. “How rude,” I thought. Then I realized it wasn’t only the people at restaurants; it’s people everywhere: walking down the street, driving (sadly and dangerously), sitting in movie theaters, at work, even texting while they talk on the phone.

One of my favorite comments with regard to mobile’s dominance comes with the Wizard of Moz himself, when he shared this tweet and accompanying image last year:

But my “aha!” moment happened last year, in Manhattan, during the corned beef hash episode.

After working until brunch, I…

  1. Opened iPhone to Google
  2. Typed “Best corned beef hash near me”
  3. Scanned list of restaurant by distance and reviews
  4. Selected the closest restaurant having > 4-star review ratings
  5. Ended up disappointed

That’s when it hit me that I’d made errors of omission at every step, in large part by leaving one very important element out of the process, but also by not thinking like a smart web user.

Normally my process is as follows, when I wish to enjoy a specific meal while traveling:

  1. Open iPhone to Google Search box
  2. Type “Best _________ near me”
  3. Scan list of restaurants by distance and reviews
  4. Select restaurant having > 4-star review rating but has excellent reviews (> 4.5) of the dish I want and has great images of the dish online
  5. Delight ensues

That’s when three things occurred to me like a brickbat to the noggin’:

  • This is a process I use quite often and is one that has proved quite foolproof
  • It’s undoubtedly a process many other would-be customer are using to identify desirable products and services
  • Marketers can reverse-engineer the process to bring the customers they’re hoping for to their doors or websites.

(Eds. note: This post was created with small business owners (single or multiple location), or those doing Local SEO for SMBs, in mind, as I hope to inform them of how many individuals think about and use mobile, and how the marketers can get in front of them with relevant content. Also, I’d like to thank Cindy Krum of Mobile Moxie for encouraging me to write this post, and Local SEO savant Phil Rozek of Local Visibility System for making sure I colored within the lines.)

Five ways to create an enviable customer experience on mobile

#1 — Optimize your images

Image optimization is the quintessential low-hanging fruit of online marketing: easy to accomplish but typically overlooked.

For our purposes, we aren’t so much making them “mobile-friendly” as we are making them search-friendly, increasing the likelihood that Google’s crawlers can better decipher what they contain and deliver them for the optimal search query.

First and foremost, do not use a stock image if your goal is for searchers to find, read and enjoy your content. Just don’t. Also, given how much of a factor website speed is, minify your images to ensure they don’t hamper page speed load times.

But the three main areas I want us to focus on are file name, alt text and title text, and captions. My standard for each is summed up very well in a blog post from Ian Lurie, who proposes an ingenious idea:

The Blank Sheet of Paper Test: If you wrote this text on a piece of paper and showed it to a stranger, would they understand the meaning? Is this text fully descriptive?

With this thinking in mind, image optimization becomes far simpler:

  • File name: We’re all adults here — don’t be thickheaded and choose something like “DSC9671 . png” when “cornedbeefhash . jpg” clearly works better.
  • Alt text and title text: Given that, in Google’s eyes, these two are the priorities, you must make certain they’re as descriptive as possible. Clearly list what the image is and/or contains without weighing it down with unneeded text. Using the corned beef hash from above as a example, “corned beef hash with minced meat” would be great, but “corned beef hash with minced meat and diced potatoes” would work better, alerting me that the dish isn’t what I’m looking for. (I prefer shredded beef and shredded potatoes.)
  • Caption: Yes, I know these aren’t necessary for every post, but why leave your visitors hanging, especially if an optimal customer experience is the goal? Were I to caption the corned beef, it’d be something along the lines of “Corned beef hash with minced meat and diced potatoes is one of the most popular dishes at XX.” It says just enough without trying to say everything, which is the goal, says Lurie.

“’Fully descriptive’ means ‘describes the thing to which it’s attached,’ not ‘describe the entire universe,'” he adds.

Also, invite customers to take and share pictures online (e.g., websites, Instagram, Yelp, Google) and include as much rich detail as possible.

What’s more, it might behoove you to have a Google Business View photo shoot, says Rozek. “Those show up most prominently (in the Knowledge Panel) for brand-name mobile searches in Google.”

#2 — Make reviews a priority

Many prospects and customers use reviews as a make-or-break tactic when making purchases. Brands, realizing this, have taken note, making it their charge to get positive reviews.

But not all reviews are created equal.

Instead of making certain your brand gets positive reviews on the entirety of its products and services, redouble your efforts at getting positive reviews on your bread-and-butter services.

In many instances, what people have to say about your individual services and/or products matters more than your brand’s overall review ratings.

I learned this from talking to several uber-picky foodie friends who shared that the main thing they look for is a brand having an overall rating (e.g., on Yelp, Google, Angie’s List, Amazon, etc.) higher than 3.5, but who have customer comments glorifying the specific product they’re hoping to enjoy.

“These days, everyone is gaming the system, doing what they can to get their customers to leave favorable reviews,” said one friend, who lives in Dallas. “But discerning [prospects] are only looking at the overall rating as a beginning point. From there, they’re digging into the comments, looking to see what people have to say about the very specific thing they want. [Smart brands] would focus more on getting people to leave comments about the particular service they used, how happy they work with the result and how it compares to other [such services they’ve used]. We may be on our phones, but we’re still willing to dig into those comments.”

To take advantage of this behavior,

  • In addition to asking for a favorable review, ask customers to comment on the specific services they used, providing as much detail as possible
  • Redouble your efforts at over-delivering on quality service when it comes to your core offerings
  • Ask a few of your regulars, who have left comments on review sites, what they think meets the minimum expectation for provoking folks to leave a review (e.g., optimizing for the desired behavior)
  • Encourage reviewers to upload photos with their reviews (or even just photos, if they don’t want to review you). They’re great “local content,” they’re useful as social-proof elements, and your customers may take better pictures than you do, in which case you can showcase them on your site.

Relevant content:

#3 — Shorten your content

I serve as a horrible spokesperson for content brevity, but it matters a great deal to mobile searchers. What works fine on desktop is a clutter-fest on mobile, even for sites using responsive design.

As a general rule, simplicity wins.

For example, Whataburger’s mobile experience is uncluttered, appealing to the eye and makes it clear what they want me to do: learn about their specials or make a purchase:

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On the other hand, McDonald’s isn’t so sure what I’m looking for, apparently:

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Are they trying to sell me potatoes, convince me of how committed they are to freshness or looking to learn as much as they can about me? Or all of the above?

Web searchers have specific needs and are typically short on time and patience, so you have to get in front of them with the right message to have a chance.

When it comes to the content you deliver, think tight (shorter), punchy (attention-grabbing) and valuable (on- message for the query).

# 4 — Optimize for local content

Like all of you, I’ve been using “near me” searches for years, especially when I travel. But over the last year, these searches have gotten more thorough and more accurate, in large part as a result of Google’s Mobile Update and because the search giant is making customer intent a priority.

In 2015, Google reported that “near me” searches increased by 34-fold since 2011.

And though most of these “near me” searches are for durable goods/appliances and their associated retailers, services, including “surgeons near me,” “plumbers near me,” “jobs near me,” etc., and other things that are typically in a high consideration set are growing considerably, according to Google via its website, thinkwithgoogle.com.

A recent case study of 82 websites (41, control group; 41, test group) shows just how dramatic the impact of optimizing a site for local intent can be. By tweaking the hours and directions page titles, descriptions and H1s to utilize the phrases “franchise dealer near me” and “nearest franchise dealer” the brand saw mobile impressions for “near me” more than double to 8,833 impressions and 46 clicks. (The control group’s “near me” impression share only rose 11%.)

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Image courtesy of CDK Global

Additional steps for optimizing your site for “near me” searches

  • Prominently display your business name, address and phone number (aka, NAP) on your site
  • Use schema markup in your NAP
  • In addition to proper setup and optimization of your Google My Business listing, provide each location with its own listing and, just as important, ensure that the business name, address and phone number of each location matches what’s listed on the site
  • Consider embedding a Google Map prominently on your website. “It’s good for user experience,” says Rozek. “But it may also influence rankings.”

#5 — Use Google App Deep Linking

We’ve all heard the statistics: The vast majority — in some circles the figure is 95% — of apps downloaded to mobile devices are never used. Don’t be deceived, however, into believing apps are irrelevant.

Nearly half of all time spent on the web is in apps.

This means that the mobile searchers looking for products or services in your area are likely using an app or, at the very least, prompted to enter/use an app.

For example, when I type “thai restaurant near me,” the first organic result is TripAdvisor.

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Upon entering the site, the first (and preferred) action the brand would like for me to make is to download the TripAdvisor app:

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Many times, a “near me” search will take us to content within an app, and we won’t even realize it until we see the “continue in XX app or visit the mobile site” banner.

And if a searcher doesn’t have the app installed, “Google can show an app install button. So, enabling your app for Google indexing could actually increase the installed base of the app,” writes Eric Enge of Stone Temple Consulting.

For brands, App Deep Linking (ADL), which he defines as “the ability for Google to index content from within an app and then display it as mobile search results,” has huge implications if utilized properly.

“Think about it,” he writes. “If your app is not one of the fortunate few that get most of the attention, but your app content ranks high in searches, then you could end up with a lot more users in your app than you might have had otherwise.”

(To access details on how to set up Google App Deep Linking, read Enge’s Search Engine Land article: SMX Advanced recap: Advanced Google App Deep Linking)

If your brand has an app, this is information you shouldn’t sleep on.

Typically, when I conduct a “near me” search, I click on/look through the images until I find one that fits what I’m looking for. Nine times out of ten (depending upon what I’m looking for), I’m either taken to content within an app or taken to a mobile site and prompted to download the app.

Seems to me that ADL would be a no-brainer.

Optimizing for mobile is simply putting web searchers first

For all the gnashing of teeth Google’s many actions/inactions provoke, the search giant deserves credit for making the needs of web searchers a priority.

Too often, we, as marketers, think first and foremost in this fashion:

  1. What do we have to sell?
  2. Who needs it?
  3. What’s the cheapest, easiest way to deliver the product or service?

I think Google is saying to us that the reverse needs to occur:

  1. Make it as fast and as easy for people to find what they want
  2. Better understand who it is that’s likely to be looking for it by better understanding our customers and their intent
  3. The sales process must begin by thinking “what specific needs do web searchers have that my brand is uniquely qualified to fulfill?”

In this way, we’re placing the needs of web searchers ahead of the needs of the brand, which will be the winning combination for successful companies in the days ahead.

Brands will either follow suit or fall by the wayside.

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Reblogged 1 year ago from tracking.feedpress.it

Is Australia the land of opportunity for your retail brand?

Australia has a resident population of more than 24 million and, according to eMarketer, the country’s ecommerce sales are predicted to reach A$32.56 billion by 2017. The country’s remote location in the APAC region means that unlike European countries or the USA, traditionally there have been a lack of global brands sold locally.

Of course, we also know that many expatriates, particularly from inside the Commonwealth, have made Australia their home and are keen to buy products they know and love from their country of origin.

All of these factors present a huge and potentially lucrative opportunity for non-Australian brands wanting to open up their new and innovative products to a fresh market, or compete for market share.

But it’s not just non-Australian retailers who are at an advantage here: Australia was late to the ecommerce party because native, established brands were trading well without it. Subsequently, Australian retailers’ ecommerce technology stacks are much more recent and not burdened by legacy systems. This makes it much easier to extend, or get started with, best-of-breed technologies and cash in on a market that’s booming. To put some of this into perspective, Magento’s innovative ecommerce platform currently takes 42% of Australia’s market share and the world’s first adopter of Magento 2.0 was an Australian brand.

The GST loophole

At the moment, local retailers are campaigning against a rule that exempts foreign websites from being charged a 10% general sales tax (GST) on purchases under A$1,000. And in 2013, Australian consumers made $3.11 billion worth of purchases under A$1,000.[1]

While the current GST break appears to put non-Australian retailers at an advantage, Australian-based brands such as Harvey Norman are using it to their advantage by setting up ecommerce operations in Asia to enjoy the GST benefit.

Australian consumers have also countered the argument by saying that price isn’t always the motivator when it comes to making purchasing decisions.

It’s not a place where no man has gone before

Often, concerns around meeting local compliance and lack of overseas business knowledge prevent outsiders from taking the leap into cross-border trade. However, this ecommerce passport, created by Ecommerce Worldwide and NORA, is designed to support those considering selling in Australia. The guide provides a comprehensive look into everything from the country’s economy and trade status, to logistics and dealing with international payments.

Global expansion success stories are also invaluable sources of information. For instance, it’s not just lower-end retailers that are fitting the bill, with brands like online luxury fashion retailer Net-a-Porter naming Australia as one of its biggest markets.

How tech-savvy are the Aussies?

One of the concerns you might have as a new entrant into the market is how you’ll reach and sell to your new audience, particularly without having a physical presence. The good news is that more than 80% of the country is digitally enabled and 60% of mobile phone users own a smartphone – so online is deeply rooted into the majority of Australians’ lives. [2]

Marketing your brand

Heard the saying “Fire bullets then fire cannonballs”? In any case, you’ll want to test the waters and gauge people’s reactions to your product or service.

It all starts with the website because, without it, you’re not discoverable or searchable, and you’ve nowhere to drive people to when running campaigns. SEO and SEM should definitely be a priority, and an online store that can handle multiple regions and storefronts, like Magento, will make your life easier. A mobile-first mentality and well thought-out UX will also place you in a good position.

Once your new web store is set up, you should be making every effort to collect visitors’ email addresses, perhaps via a popover. Why? Firstly, email is one of the top three priority areas for Australian retailers, because it’s a cost-effective, scalable marketing channel that enables true personalization.

Secondly, email marketing automation empowers you to deliver the customer experience today’s consumer expects, as well as enabling you to communicate with them throughout the lifecycle. Check out our ‘Do customer experience masters really exist?’ whitepaper for some real-life success stories.

Like the Magento platform, dotmailer is set up to handle multiple languages, regions and accounts, and is designed to grow with you.

In summary, there’s great scope for ecommerce success in Australia, whether you’re a native bricks-and-mortar retailer, a start-up or a non-Australian merchant. The barriers to cross-border trade are falling and Australia is one of APAC’s most developed regions in terms of purchasing power and tech savviness.

We recently worked with ecommerce expert Chloe Thomas to produce a whitepaper on cross-border trade, which goes into much more detail on how to market and sell successfully in new territories. You can download a free copy here.

[1] Australian Passport 2015: Cross-Border Trading Report

[2] Australian Passport 2015: Cross-Border Trading Report

Reblogged 1 year ago from blog.dotmailer.com

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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