Should I Rebrand and Redirect My Site? Should I Consolidate Multiple Sites/Brands? – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Making changes to your brand is a huge step, and while it’s sometimes the best path forward, it isn’t one to be taken lightly. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand offers some guidance to marketers who are wondering whether a rebrand/redirect is right for them, and also those who are considering consolidating multiple sites under a single brand.

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

To rebrand, or not to rebrand, that is the question

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today we’re going to chat a little bit about whether you should rebrand and consider redirecting your existing website or websites and whether you should potentially consolidate multiple websites and brands that you may be running.

So we’ve talked before about redirection moves best practices. We’ve also talked about the splitting of link equity and domain authority and those kinds of things. But one of the questions that people have is, “Gosh, you know I have a website today and given the moves that Google has been making, that the social media world has been making, that content marketing has been making, I’m wondering whether I should potentially rebrand my site.” Lots of people bought domains back in the day that were exact match domains or partial match domains or that they thought reflected a move of the web toward or away from less brand-centric stuff and toward more keyword matching, topic matching, intent matching kinds of things.

Maybe you’re reconsidering those moves and you want to know, “Hey, should I be thinking about making a change now?” That’s what I’m here to answer. So this question to rebrand or not to re, it is tough because you know that when you do that rebrand, you will almost certainly take a traffic hit, and SEO is one of the biggest places where people typically take that traffic hit.

Moz previously was at SEOmoz.org and moved to moz.com. We saw a dip in our traffic over about 3 to 4 months before it fully recovered, and I would say that dip was between 15% and 25% of our search traffic, depending on week to week. I’ll link to a list of metrics that I put on my personal blog, Moz.com/rand, so that you can check those out if you’d like to see them. But it was a short recovery time for us.

One of the questions that people always have is, “Well wait, did you lose rankings for SEO since SEO used to be in your domain name?” The answer is no. In fact, six months after the move, we were ranking higher for SEO related terms and phrases.

Scenario A: Rebranding or redirecting scifitoysandgames.com

So let’s imagine that today you are running SciFiToysAndGames.com, which is right on the borderline. In my opinion, that’s right on the borderline of barely tolerable. Like it could be brandable, but it’s not great. I don’t love the “sci-fi” in here, partially because of how the Syfy channel, the entity that broadcasts stuff on television has chosen to delineate their spelling, sci-fi can be misinterpreted as to how it’s spelled. I don’t love having to have “and” in a domain name. This is long. All sorts of stuff.

Let’s say you also own StarToys.com, but you haven’t used it. Previously StarToys.com has been redirecting to SciFiToysAndGames.com, and you’re thinking, “Well, man, is it the right time to make this move? Should I make this change now? Should I wait for the future?”

How memorable or amplifiable is your current brand?

Well, these are the questions that I would urge you to consider. How memorable and amplifiable is your current brand? That’s something that if you are recognizing like, “Hey I think our brand name, in fact, is holding us back in search results and social media amplification, press, in blog mentions, in journalist links and these kinds of things,” well, that’s something serious to think about. Word of mouth too.

Will you maintain your current brand name long term?

So if you know that sometime in the next two, three, four, or five years you do want to move to StarToys, I would actually strongly urge you to do that right now, because the longer you wait, the longer it will take to build up the signals around the new domain and the more pain you’ll potentially incur by having to keep branding this and working on this old brand name. So I would strongly urge you, if you know you’re going to make the move eventually, make it today. Take the pain now, rather than more pain later.

Can or have you tested brand preference with your target audience?

I would urge you to find two different groups, one who are loyal customers today, people who know SciFiToysAndGames.com and have used it, and two, people who are potential customers, but aren’t yet familiar with it.

You don’t need to do big sample-sizes. If you can get 5, 10, or 15 people either in a room or talk to them in person, you can try some web surveys, you can try using some social media ads like things on Facebook. I’ve seen some companies do some testing around this. Even buying potential PPC ads and seeing how click-through rates perform and sentiment and those kinds of things, that is a great way to help validate your ideas, especially if you’re forced to bring data to a table by executives or other stakeholders.

How much traffic would you need in one year to justify a URL move?

The last thing I think about is imagine, and I want you to either imagine or even model this out, mathematically model it out. If your traffic growth rate — so let’s say you’re growing at 10% year-over-year right now — if that improved 1%, 5%, or 10% annually with a new brand name, would you make the move? So knowing that you might take a short-term hit, but then that your growth rate would be incrementally higher in years to come, how big would that growth rate need to be?

I would say that, in general, if I were thinking about these two domains, granted this is a hard case because you don’t know exactly how much more brandable or word-of-mouth-able or amplifiable your new one might be compared to your existing one. Well, gosh, my general thing here is if you think that’s going to be a substantive percentage, say 5% plus, almost always it’s worth it, because compound growth rate over a number of years will mean that you’re winning big time. Remember that that growth rate is different that raw growth. If you can incrementally increase your growth rate, you get tremendously more traffic when you look back two, three, four, or five years later.

Where does your current and future URL live on the domain/brand name spectrum?

I also made this domain name, brand name spectrum, because I wanted to try and visualize crappiness of domain name, brand name to really good domain name, brand name. I wanted to give some examples and then extract out some elements so that maybe you can start to build on these things thematically as you’re considering your own domains.

So from awful, we go to tolerable, good, and great. So Science-Fi-Toys.net is obviously terrible. I’ve taken a contraction of the name and the actual one. It’s got a .net. It’s using hyphens. It’s infinitely unmemorable up to what I think is tolerable — SciFiToysAndGames.com. It’s long. There are some questions about how type-in-able it is, how easy it is to type in. SciFiToys.com, which that’s pretty good. SciFiToys, relatively short, concise. It still has the “sci-fi” in there, but it’s a .com. We’re getting better. All the way up to, I really love the name, StarToys. I think it’s very brandable, very memorable. It’s concise. It’s easy to remember and type in. It has positive associations probably with most science fiction toy buyers who are familiar with at least “Star Wars” or “Star Trek.” It’s cool. It has some astronomy connotations too. Just a lot of good stuff going on with that domain name.

Then, another one, Region-Data-API.com. That sucks. NeighborhoodInfo.com. Okay, at least I know what it is. Neighborhood is a really hard name to type because it is very hard for many people to spell and remember. It’s long. I don’t totally love it. I don’t love the “info” connotation, which is generic-y.

DistrictData.com has a nice, alliterative ring to it. But maybe we could do even better and actually there is a company, WalkScore.com, which I think is wonderfully brandable and memorable and really describes what it is without being too in your face about the generic brand of we have regional data about places.

What if you’re doing mobile apps? BestAndroidApps.com. You might say, “Why is that in awful?” The answer is two things. One, it’s the length of the domain name and then the fact that you’re actually using someone else’s trademark in your name, which can be really risky. Especially if you start blowing up, getting big, Google might go and say, “Oh, do you have Android in your domain name? We’ll take that please. Thank you very much.”

BestApps.io, in the tech world, it’s very popular to use domains like .io or .ly. Unfortunately, I think once you venture outside of the high tech world, it’s really tough to get people to remember that that is a domain name. If you put up a billboard that says “BestApps.com,” a majority of people will go, “Oh, that’s a website.” But if you use .io, .ly, or one of the new domain names, .ninja, a lot of people won’t even know to connect that up with, “Oh, they mean an Internet website that I can type into my browser or look for.”

So we have to remember that we sometimes live in a bubble. Outside of that bubble are a lot of people who, if it’s not .com, questionable as to whether they’re even going to know what it is. Remember outside of the U.S., country code domain names work equally well — .co.uk, .ca, .co.za, wherever you are.

InstallThis.com. Now we’re getting better. Memorable, clear. Then all the way up to, I really like the name AppCritic.com. I have positive associations with like, “Oh year, restaurant critics, food critics, and movie critics, and this is an app critic. Great, that’s very cool.”

What are the things that are in here? Well, stuff at this end of the spectrum tends to be generic, forgettable, hard to type in. It’s long, brand-infringing, danger, danger, and sketchy sounding. It’s hard to quantify what sketchy sounding is, but you know it when you see it. When you’re reviewing domain names, you’re looking for links, you’re looking at things in the SERPs, you’re like, “Hmm, I don’t know about this one.” Having that sixth sense is something that we all develop over time, so sketchy sounding not quite as scientific as I might want for a description, but powerful.

On this end of the spectrum though, domain names and brand names tend to be unique, memorable, short. They use .com. Unfortunately, still the gold standard. Easy to type in, pronounceable. That’s a powerful thing too, especially because of word of mouth. We suffered with that for a long time with SEOmoz because many people saw it and thought, “Oh, ShowMoz, COMoz, SeeMoz.” It sucked. Have positive associations, like StarToys or WalkScore or AppCritic. They have these positive, pre-built-in associations psychologically that suggest something brandable.

Scenario B: Consolidating two sites

Scenario B, and then we’ll get to the end, but scenario B is the question like, “Should I consolidate?” Let’s say I’m running both of these today. Or more realistic and many times I see people like this, you’re running AppCritic.com and StarToys.com, and you think, “Boy, these are pretty separate.” But then you keep finding overlap between them. Your content tends to overlap, the audience tends to overlap. I find this with many, many folks who run multiple domains.

How much audience and content overlap is there?

So we’ve got to consider a few things. First off, that audience and content overlap. If you’ve got StarToys and AppCritic and the overlap is very thin, just that little, tiny piece in the middle there. The content doesn’t overlap much, the audience doesn’t overlap much. It probably doesn’t make that much sense.

But what if you’re finding like, “Gosh, man, we’re writing more and more about apps and tech and mobile and web stuff on StarToys, and we’re writing more and more about other kinds of geeky, fun things on AppCritic. Slowly it feels like these audiences are merging.” Well, now you might want to consider that consolidation.

Is there potential for separate sales or exits?

Second point of consideration, the potential for separate exits or sales. So if you know that you’re going to sell AppCritic.com to someone in the future and you want to make sure that’s separate from StarToys, you should keep them separate. If you think to yourself, “Gosh, I’d never sell one without the other. They’re really part of the same company, brand, effort,” well, I’d really consider that consolidation.

Will you dilute marketing or branding efforts?

Last point of positive consideration is dilution of marketing and branding efforts. Remember that you’re going to be working on marketing. You’re going to be working on branding. You’re going to be working on growing traffic to these. When you split your efforts, unless you have two relatively large, separate teams, this is very, very hard to do at the same rate that it could be done if you combined those efforts. So another big point of consideration. That compound growth rate that we talked about, that’s another big consideration with this.

Is the topical focus out of context?

What I don’t recommend you consider and what has been unfortunately considered, by a lot of folks in the SEO-centric world in the past, is topical focus of the content. I actually am crossing this out. Not a big consideration. You might say to yourself, “But Rand, we talked about previously on Whiteboard Friday how I can have topical authority around toys and games that are related to science fiction stuff, and I can have topical authority related to mobile apps.”

My answer is if the content overlap is strong and the audience overlap is strong, you can do both on one domain. You can see many, many examples of this across the web, Moz being a great example where we talk about startups and technology and sometimes venture capital and team building and broad marketing and paid search marketing and organic search marketing and just a ton of topics, but all serving the same audience and content. Because that overlap is strong, we can be an authority in all of these realms. Same goes for any time you’re considering these things.

All right everyone, hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. I look forward to some great comments, and we’ll see you again next week. take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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What SEOs Need to Know About Topic Modeling & Semantic Connectivity – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Search engines, especially Google, have gotten remarkably good at understanding searchers’ intent—what we
mean to search for, even if that’s not exactly what we search for. How in the world do they do this? It’s incredibly complex, but in today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand covers the basics—what we all need to know about how entities are connected in search.

For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re talking topic modeling and semantic connectivity. Those words might sound big and confusing, but, in fact, they are important to understanding the operations of search engines, and they have some direct influence on things that we might do as SEOs, hence our need to understand them.

Now, I’m going to make a caveat here. I am not an expert in this topic. I have not taken the required math classes, stats classes, programming classes to truly understand this topic in a way that I would feel extremely comfortable explaining. However, even at the surface level of understanding, I feel like I can give some compelling information that hopefully you all and myself included can go research some more about. We’re certainly investigating a lot of topic modeling opportunities and possibilities here at Moz. We’ve done so in the past, and we’re revisiting that again for some future tools, so the topic is fresh on my mind.

So here’s the basic concept. The idea is that search engines are smarter than just knowing that a word, a phrase that someone searches for, like “Super Mario Brothers,” is only supposed to bring back results that have exactly the words “Super Mario Brothers,” that perfect phrase in the title and in the headline and in the document itself. That’s still an SEO best practice because you’re trying to serve visitors who have that search query. But search engines are actually a lot smarter than this.

One of my favorite examples is how intelligent Google has gotten around movie topics. So try, for example, searching for “That movie where the guy is called The Dude,” and you will see that Google properly returns “The Big Lebowski” in the first ranking position. How do they know that? Well, they’ve essentially connected up “movie,” “The Dude,” and said, “Aha, those things are most closely related to ‘The Big Lebowski. That’s what the intent of the searcher is. That’s the document that we’re going to return, not a document that happens to have ‘That movie about the guy named ‘The Dude’ in the title, exactly those words.'”

Here’s another example. So this is Super Mario Brothers, and Super Mario Brothers might be connected to a lot of other terms and phrases. So a search engine might understand that Super Mario Brothers is a little bit more semantically connected to Mario than it is to Luigi, then to Nintendo and then Bowser, the jumping dragon guy, turtle with spikes on his back — I’m not sure exactly what he is — and Princess Peach.

As you go down here, the search engine might actually have a topic modeling algorithm, something like latent semantic indexing, which was an early model, or a later model like latent Dirichlet allocation, which is a somewhat later model, or even predictive latent Dirichlet allocation, which is an even later model. Model’s not particularly important, especially for our purposes.

What is important is to know that there’s probably some scoring going on. A search engine — Google, Bing — can understand that some of these words are more connected to Super Mario Brothers than others, and it can do the reverse. They can say Super Mario Brothers is somewhat connected to video games and very not connected to cat food. So if we find a page that happens to have the title element of Super Mario Brothers, but most of the on-page content seems to be about cat food, well, maybe we shouldn’t rank that even if it has lots of incoming links with anchor text saying “Super Mario Brothers” or a very high page rank or domain authority or those kinds of things.

So search engines, Google, in particular, has gotten very, very smart about this connectivity stuff and this topic modeling post-Hummingbird. Hummingbird, of course, being the algorithm update from last fall that changed a lot of how they can interpret words and phrases.

So knowing that Google and Bing can calculate this relative connectivity, connectivity between the words and phrases and topics, we want to know how are they doing this. That answer is actually extremely broad. So that could come from co-occurrence in web documents. Sorry for turning my back on the camera. I know I’m supposed to move like this, but I just had to do a little twirl for you.

Distance between the keywords. I mean distance on the actual page itself. Does Google find “Super Mario Brothers” near the word “Mario” on a lot of the documents where the two occur, or are they relatively far away? Maybe Super Mario Brothers does appear with cat food a lot, but they’re quite far away. They might look at citations and links between documents in terms of, boy, there’s a lot pages on the web, when they talk about Super Mario Brothers, they also link to pages about Mario, Luigi, Nintendo, etc.

They can look at the anchor text connections of those links. They could look at co-occurrence of those words biased by a given corpi, a set of corpuses, or from certain domains. So they might say, “Hey, we only want to pay attention to what’s on the fresh web right now or in the blogosphere or on news sites or on trusted domains, these kinds of things as opposed to looking at all of the documents on the web.” They might choose to do this in multiple different sets of corpi.

They can look at queries from searchers, which is a really powerful thing that we unfortunately don’t have access to. So they might see searcher behavior saying that a lot of people who search for Mario, Luigi, Nintendo are also searching for Super Mario Brothers.

They might look at searcher clicks, visits, history, all of that browser data that they’ve got from Chrome and from Android and, of course, from Google itself, and they might say those are corpi that they use to connect up words and phrases.

Probably there’s a whole list of other places that they’re getting this from. So they can build a very robust data set to connect words and phrases. For us, as SEOs, this means a few things.

If you’re targeting a keyword for rankings, say “Super Mario Brothers,” those semantically connected and related terms and phrases can help with a number of things. So if you could know that these were the right words and phrases that search engines connected to Super Mario Brothers, you can do all sorts of stuff. Things like inclusion on the page itself, helping to tell the search engine my page is more relevant for Super Mario Brothers because I include words like Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Bowser, Nintendo, etc. as opposed to things like cat food, dog food, T-shirts, glasses, what have you.

You can think about it in the links that you earn, the documents that are linking to you and whether they contain those words and phrases and are on those topics, the anchor text that points to you potentially. You can certainly be thinking about this from a naming convention and branding standpoint. So if you’re going to call a product something or call a page something or your unique version of it, you might think about including more of these words or biasing to have those words in the description of the product itself, the formal product description.

For an About page, you might think about the formal bio for a person or a company, including those kinds of words, so that as you’re getting cited around the web or on your book cover jacket or in the presentation that you give at a conference, those words are included. They don’t necessarily have to be links. This is a potentially powerful thing to say a lot of people who mention Super Mario Brothers tend to point to this page Nintendo8.com, which I think actually you can play the original “Super Mario Brothers” live on the web. It’s kind of fun. Sorry to waste your afternoon with that.

Of course, these can also be additional keywords that you might consider targeting. This can be part of your keyword research in addition to your on-page and link building optimization.

What’s unfortunate is right now there are not a lot of tools out there to help you with this process. There is a tool from Virante. Russ Jones, I think did some funding internally to put this together, and it’s quite cool. It’s 
nTopic.org. Hopefully, this Whiteboard Friday won’t bring that tool to its knees by sending tons of traffic over there. But if it does, maybe give it a few days and come back. It gives you a broad score with a little more data if you register and log in. It’s got a plugin for Chrome and for WordPress. It’s fairly simplistic right now, but it might help you say, “Is this page on the topic of the term or phrase that I’m targeting?”

There are many, many downloadable tools and libraries. In fact, Code.google.com has an LDA topic modeling tool specifically, and that might have been something that Google used back in the day. We don’t know.

If you do a search for topic modeling tools, you can find these. Unfortunately, almost all of them are going to require some web development background at the very least. Many of them rely on a Python library or an API. Almost all of them also require a training corpus in order to model things on. So you can think about, “Well, maybe I can download Wikipedia’s content and use that as a training model or use the top 10 search results from Google as some sort of training model.”

This is tough stuff. This is one of the reasons why at Moz I’m particularly passionate about trying to make this something that we can help with in our on-page optimization and keyword difficulty tools, because I think this can be very powerful stuff.

What is true is that you can spot check this yourself right now. It is very possible to go look at things like related searches, look at the keyword terms and phrases that also appear on the pages that are ranking in the top 10 and extract these things out and use your own mental intelligence to say, “Are these terms and phrases relevant? Should they be included? Are these things that people would be looking for? Are they topically relevant?” Consider including them and using them for all of these things. Hopefully, over time, we’ll get more sophisticated in the SEO world with tools that can help with this.

All right, everyone, hope you’ve enjoyed this addition of Whiteboard Friday. Look forward to some great comments, and we’ll see you again next week. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Searchmetrics Ranking Factors 2014: Why Quality Content Focuses on Topics, not Keywords

Posted by searchmetrics

Searchmetrics recently launched their yearly Ranking Factors Study that bases numbers on rank correlation and averages of top 10 SEO rankings, and this year’s analysis shows that content on top-performing sites is much more holistic and less keyword-focused.

Everybody talks about how “content is king.” People are advised to “create quality content for users,” and not ever since keyword (not provided), some have said “the keyword is dead.” Though these phrases may convey somehow understandable approaches, they are often nothing more than empty clichés leaving webmasters alone with without any further information.

Making relevant content measurable

What is quality content? How can I create relevant content for my users? Should I still place the keyword in the title or use it seven times in the
content?

To understand how search engines develop over time and what kind of features increase or decrease in prevalence and importance, we analyze the top 30 ranking sites for over 10,000 keywords (approximately 300,000 URLs) each year. The full study with all 100 pages of details is 
downloadable here.

In a nutshell: To what extent have Panda, Penguin, and not least Hummingbird influenced the algorithm and therefore the search results?

Before we get into detail, let me—as a matter of course—point out the fact that correlation does not imply causation. You can find some more comprehensive information, as well as an introduction and explanation of what a correlation is,
here. That is why we took two approaches:


  • Correlation of Top 30
    = Differences between URLs within SERP 1 to 3

  • Averages
    = Appearance and/or extent of certain factors per position

The “Fall” of the Keyword?

Most keyword factors are declining. This is one of the major findings of our studies over the years. Let me give you an example:

The decrease of the features “Keyword in URL” and “Keyword in Domain” is one of the more obvious findings of our analyses. You can clearly see the
declining correlation from 2012 to 2014. Let’s have a look at some more on-page keyword factors:

What you see here as well are very low correlations. In other words: With regard to these features, there are no huge differences between URLs ranking on
positions from one to thirty. But there is more than that. It is also important to have a look at the averages here:

Explanation: X-Axis: Google Position from one to 30 / Y-Axis: Average share of URLs having keyword in description/title (0.10 = 10%). Please note that we have modified the crawling of these features. It is more exact now. This is why last year’s values are likely to be actually even a bit higher than given here. However, you can see that relatively few sites actually have the keywords in their headings. In fact, only about 10% of the URLs in positions 1-30 have the keyword in h2s; 15% have them in h1s. And the trend also is negative.

By the way: What you see in positions 1-2 is what we call the “Brand Factor.” It is often a big brand ranking on these positions, and most of them differ from the rest of the SERPs when it comes to classic SEO measures.

Actually, taking only correlation into consideration can sometimes lead to a false conclusion. Let me show you what I mean with the following example: 

The correlation for the feature “% Backlinks with Keyword” has considerably increased from 2013 to 2014. But the conclusion: “Hey cool, I will immediately
do link building and tell the people to put the keyword I want to rank for in the anchor text!” would be a shot in the dark. A glance at the averages tells
you why:

In fact, the average share of links featuring the keyword in the anchor text has declined from 2013 to 2014 (from ~40% to ~27). But what you see is a falling graph in 2014 which is why the correlation is more positive with regard to better rankings. That means: the better the position of a URL is, the higher the share of backlinks that contain the keyword (on average). On average, this share continuously decreases with each position. In contrast to last year’s curve, this results in the calculation of a high(er) positive correlation.

Conclusion: The keyword as such seems to continue losing influence over time as Google becomes better and better at evaluating other factors. But what kind of factors are these?

The “rise” of content

Co-occurrence evaluations of keywords and relevant terms is something we’ve been focusing on this past year, as we’ve seen high shifts in rankings based on these. I won’t go into much detail here, as this would go beyond the scope of this blog post, but what we can say is that after conducting word co-occurrence analyses, we found that
Proof and Relevant keywords played a major role in the quality and content of rankings. Proof Terms are words that are strongly related to the primary keyword and highly likely to appear at the same time. Relevant Terms are not as closely related to the main keyword, yet are still likely to appear in the same context (or as a part of a subtopic). These kinds of approaches are based on semantics and context. For example, it is very likely that the word “car” is relevant in a text in which the word “bumper” occurs, while the same is not true for the term “refrigerator.”

Proof and relevant terms to define and analyze topics

Let’s have a look at an example analysis for Proof and Relevant Terms regarding the keyword “apple watch,” done with the Content Optimization section of the Searchmetrics Suite:

The number behind the bar describes the average appearance of the word in a text dealing with the topic, the bar length mirrors the respective weighting (x-axis, bottom) and is calculated based on the term’s semantic closeness to the main keyword. Terms marked with green hooked bubbles are the 10 most important words, based on a mixed calculation of appearance and semantic weighting (and some further parameters).

As you can see, the terms “iphone” and “time” are marked as highly important Proof Terms, and “iwatch” is very likely to appear in the context of the main keyword “apple phone” as well. Note that simply reading the list without knowing the main keyword gives you an idea of the text’s main topic.

The above chart shows an excerpt from the list of Relevant Terms. Note that both the semantic weighting and the appearance of these terms is somewhat lower than in the previous chart. In contrast to the Proof Terms list, you won’t know the exact focus of the text just looking at these Relevant Terms, but you might probably get an idea of what its rough topic might be.

Content features on the rise

By the way, the length of content also continues to increase. Furthermore, high-ranking content is written in a way that is easier for the average person to read, and is often enriched by other media, such as images or video. This is shown in the following charts:

Shown here is the average text length in characters per position, in both 2014 and 2013. You can see that content is much longer on each and every position among the top 30 (on average) in 2014. (Note the “Brand Factor” at the first position(s) again.)

And here is the average readability of texts per position based on the
Flesch score ranging from 0 (very difficult) to 100 (very easy):

The Flesch score is given on the y-axis. You can see that there is a rather positive correlation with URLs on higher positions featuring, on average, easier-to-read texts.

But just creating more (or easier) content does not positively influence rankings. It’s about developing relevant and comprehensive content for users dealing with more than just one aspect of a certain topic.
The findings support the idea that search engines are moving away from focusing on single keywords to analyzing so-called “content clusters” – individual subjects or topic areas that are based around keywords and a variety of related terms.

Stop doing “checklist SEO”

So, please stop these outdated “Checklist-SEO” practices which are still overused in the market from my perspective.
It’s not about optimizing keywords for search engines. It’s about optimizing the search experience for the user. Let me show you this with another graphic:

On the left, we have the “old SEO paradigm: 1 Keyword (maybe some keyword variations. we all know the ”
An SEO walks into a bar joke“) = 1 Landing Page – Checklist SEO. That’s why, in the past, many websites had single landing pages for each specific keyword (and those pages were very likely to bear near-duplicate content). Imagine a website dealing with a specific car having single landing pages for each and every single car part: “x motor,” “x seats,” “x front shield,” “x head lamps,” etc. This does not make sense in most cases. But this is how SEO used to be (and I must admit: the pages ranked!).

But, to have success in the long term, it’s the content (or better, the
topic) that matters, not the single keyword. That is why landing pages should be focused on comprehensive topics: 1 Landing Page = 1 Topic. To stick with the example: Put the descriptions of all the car parts on one page.

Decreasing diversity in SERPs since the Hummingbird update

How these developments actually influences the SERPs can be seen in the impact of Google’s Hummingbird. The algorithm refactoring means the search engine now has a better understanding of the intent and meaning of searches which improves its ability to deliver relevant content in search results. This means search engine optimization is increasingly a holistic discipline. It’s not enough to optimize and rank for one relevant keyword – content must now be relevant to the topic and include several related terms. This helps a page to rank for several terms and creates an improved user experience at the same time.

In a
recent analysis on Hummingbird, we found that the diversity in search results is actually decreasing. This means, fewer URLs rank for semantically similar (“near-identic”) yet different keywords. Most of you know that not long ago there were often completely different search results for keyword pairs like “bang haircuts” and “hairstyles with bangs” which have quite a bit of overlap in meaning. Now, as it turns out, SERPs for these kinds of keywords are getting more and more identic. Here are two SERPs, one for the query “rice dish,” and one for the query “rice recipe,” shown both before and after Hummingbird, as examples:

SERPs pre-Hummingbird


SERPs post-Hummingbird

At a glance: The most important ranking factors

To get an insight of what some of the more important ranking factors are, we have developed an infographic adding evaluations (based on averages and interpretations) in bubble form to the well-known correlation bar chart. Again, you see the prominence of content factors (given in blue). (Click/tap for a full-size image.)

The more important factors are given on the left side. Arrows (both on the bubbles and the bars) show the trend in comparison to last year’s analysis. On the left side also, the size of the bubbles represents a graphic element based on the interpretation of how important the respective factor might probably be. Please note that the averages given in this chart are based on the top 10 only. We condensed the pool of URLs to SERP 1 to investigate their secrets of ranking on page 1, without having this data influenced by the URLs ranking from 11 to 30.

Good content generates better user signals

What you also notice is the prominent appearance of the factors given in purple. This year we have included user features such as bounce rate (on a keyword level), as well as correlating user signals with rankings. We were able to analyze thousands of GWT accounts in order to avoid a skewed version of the data. Having access to large data sets has also allowed us to see when major shifts occur.

You’ll notice that click through rate is one of the biggest factors that we’ve noticed in this year’s study, coming in at .67%. Average time on site within the top 10 is 101 seconds, while bounce rate is only 37%.

Conclusion: What should I be working on?

Brands are maturing in their approach to SEO. However, the number one factor is still relevant page content. This is the same for big brands and small businesses alike. Make sure that the content is designed for the user and relevant in your appropriate niche.

If you’re interested in learning how SEO developed and how to stay ahead of your competition, just
download the study here. Within the study you’ll find many more aspects of potential ranking factors that are covered in this article.

Get the Full Study

So, don’t build landing pages for single keywords. And don’t build landing pages for search engines, either. Focus on topics related to your website/content/niche/product and try to write the best content for these topics and subtopics. Create landing pages dealing with several, interdependent aspects of main topics and write comprehensive texts using semantically closely related terms. This is how you can optimize the user experience as well as your rankings – for more than even the focus keyword – at the same time!

What do you think of this data? Have you seen similar types of results with the companies that you work with? Let us know your feedback in the comments below.

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

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Back to Fundamentals: 6 Untapped Keyword Sources that Will Boost Organic Traffic

Posted by neilpatel

I used to perform keyword research in the typical, perfunctory way—go to the Keyword Tool, type in some words, and punch out a list of terms.

Easy. Quick. Simple.

Today, things are different. The much-loved
keyword tool has been replaced, long-tail keywords have the ascendancy, and it’s harder to figure out what users are actually searching for.

The rules have changed, and so have the ways of playing the game. I still use the
Keyword Planner, but I’ve also discovered a medley of not-so-obvious ways to get keywords that improve my organic traffic.

1. Wikipedia

Do you think of Wikipedia as just a massive encyclopedia? Think again.
I use Wikipedia for keyword research.

Image from Search Engine Journal.

My process is pretty simple.

Step 1: Google inurl:Wikipedia and my topic. Or just Google the topic or head term. Wikipedia is often the first organic result.

Step 2: Look at the SERP to identify the most relevant terms and possible keywords within a Wikipedia entry.

Step 3: Open the entry in Wikipedia and identify the most relevant terms from the first few paragraphs, morphing them into longail iterations.

Step 4: Identify other relevant terms from Wikipedia’s table of contents on the topic.

Step 5: Link to other associated Wikipedia to see related subjects, and identify even more keywords.

Wikipedia is the world’s
sixth most popular website, and ranks it at number #4 on Google’s list. It boasts 310,000,000 unique visitors (20% of its traffic), and has 7,900,000,000 pageviews. All of this with absolutely no advertising.

In other words, Wikipedia has one of the best organic SEO strategies on the planet. Obviously, these are keywords that matter. Wikipedia’s popularity shows us that people want information. It’s like the greatest content marketing strategy ever, combining user-generated content with prolific publishing on a grand scale.

Do what Wikipedia does. Use the terms that people search for. You won’t outrank Wikipedia, but you will start to rank organically for the longtail varieties that you discern from Wikipedia.

2. Google autocomplete

When you type stuff into Google’s search bar, Google predicts your query and types it out for you. The feature has been around
for a long time. The more time that goes by, the more intelligent the autocomplete algorithm becomes.

These autocomplete suggestions are all based on real user queries. They vary based on geographic location and language. However, in spite of the variation, autocomplete provides a fairly accurate representation of what people are looking for.

Here is why autocomplete is a killer source of keywords:

Step 1: It indicates some of the most popular keywords.

Step 2: It provides longtail suggestions.

Step 3: The keywords are ranked according to the “freshness layer” algorithm. That means that currently popular search terms will rank higher in the autocomplete list.

How do you use autocomplete for keyword research? Well, you can go about this the good old-fashioned spade and shovel way, like this:

Google 2014-08-11 13-50-24

Step 4: Open Google. To prevent Google from autocompleting previously-searched for terms, log out of Google or open an “incognito” window (Chrome: Shift + Cmnd + N).

Step 5: Type in your main keyword or longtail keyword E.g. “lawnmower.”

Step 6: Write down the suggestions that appear in autocomplete.

Step 7: After you type in your main keyword or head term, type in “A” and write down the autocomplete suggestions.

Step 8: Repeat Step 7 for rest of the alphabet.

Or, you can do it the easy way, with Übersuggest. It’s called”suggest on steroids.” It will do all the work for you. The only downside is that it doesn’t suggest keyword extensions based on search popularity.

Keyword suggestion tool — Google suggest scraper — Übersuggest 2014-08-11 13-53-48

If you can get past the eye-popping UI, Übersuggest is a pretty awesome tool.

Keep in mind that Google is not going to provide suggestions for everything.
As quoted in Search Engine Land, here is what the algorithm will filter out:

  • Hate- or violence-related suggestions
  • Personally identifiable information in suggestions
  • Porn & adult content-related suggestions
  • Legally mandated removals
  • Piracy-related suggestions

3. Google Related Searches

Since Google is the biggest search engine, we’ve got to take our cues from its mighty algorithm, imperfect and agonizing though it may be.

Google’s related searches is a really easy way to snag some instant keyword research.


Step 1:
Search for your keyword in Google.


Step 2:
Scroll to the bottom, and ignore everything in between.

There, at the bottom is a harvest of keywords, ripe for the selection:

lawn mower - Google Search 2014-08-11 14-05-22

The idea is similar to Google suggest. However, instead of providing autocomplete suggestions, Google takes the keyword and mixes it up with other words. These other words may be at the end, at the beginning, or sprinkled throughout. These related searches might not even include the actual keyword, but are simply connected in a tangential way.

Whatever the case, you will undoubtedly find some keyword ideas from this list.

4. MetaGlossary.com

Not a whole lot of people know about MetaGlossary.com. You won’t find a lot of information about the company itself, but you will find a ton of keyword ideas.

Here are the instructions. Not too hard.

MetaGlossary.com 2014-08-11 14-53-43

The whole point of the glossary is to provide definitions. But along with the many definitions, you’ll get “related terms.” That’s what we’re looking for.

When I type in “Search Engine Optimization,” my head term, here’s what I get:

Metaglossary.com - Definitions for "search engine optimization" 2014-08-11 14-56-26

All of those are potential keywords.

I can take this a step further by looking through the definitions. These can provide even more keyword fodder:

Metaglossary.com - Definitions for "search engine optimization" 2014-08-11 14-57-28

For this particular term, I found 117 definitions. That’s enough to keep me busy for a while.

5. Competitor keywords

Another great way to get keyword ideas is to snag them from the competition.

Not only are you going to identify some great keywords, but you’ll be able to gain these keywords ideas from the top-ranking organic sites in the SERPs.

Here’s how to do it.

Step 1: Google your top keyword.

Step 2: Click the first organic result.

Step 3: View the page source (Chrome: Cmnd + Alt + u)

Step 4: Search for “<Title>”. Identify any non-branded terms as possible keywords.

Step 5: Search for “<h1>”. Identify any potential keywords in the H1 text.

Step 6: Search for “<keywords>”. Identify any potential keywords that they have identified as such. Some websites have this, such as specific WordPress themed sites, or WP sites using an SEO plugin. Most websites don’t.

Step 7: Look at all the content and locate any additional longtail keywords or keyword variations.

The competitors that are first in the SERP for a given head term or longtail query are ranking high for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is their keyword selection. Sure, they may have good link profiles, but you can’t rank for a keyword unless you actually have that keyword (or some variation thereof) on your page.

6. Amazon.com

Amazon.com is king of the ecommerce jungle, no questions asked.

Part of their power is that they have total domination of the organic search results for just about any purchase-related keyword. When your audience circles closer to a transactional search query, Amazon is ranking somewhere.

Why? They’ve got keywords—lots of them. And they have reviews—lots of them. This means one thing for you: Lots of keywords ideas.

Let me make a quick clarification. Not everyone is going to find keyword ideas on Amazon. This works best if you have a physical products, and obviously only if Amazon sells it.

Here’s how to skim the cream off of Amazon’s great keywords.

Step 1: Google your keyword.

Step 2: Locate the Amazon entry in the SERP.

Step 3: Click on the result to see the product/landing page on Google.

Step 4: Locate keywords in the following places.

-“Show results for” menu

-Main header

-Text underneath main header

-“## Results for” text.

-Breadcrumb

-Items listed

Here’s a quick survey of where you can find these keywords. Notice the highlighted text.

Amazon.com: Bags & Cases: Electronics: Sleeves & Slipcases, Messenger Bags, Shoulder Bags, Backpacks & More 2014-08-11 14-28-16

You’ll find even more keywords once you dive into individual products.

Pay special attention to these areas on product pages:

-“Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought”

-“Product Description”

-“Product Ads from External Websites”

-“Customer Questions & Answers.” You’ll find some nice query-like longtail keywords here.

-“Customer Reviews.” Again, this is a great source of longtails.

Let Amazon be your guide. They’re the biggest e-retailer around, and they have some great keyword clout going for them.

Conclusion

Keyword research is a basic skill for any SEO. The actual process of finding those keywords, however, does not require expensive tools, formula-driven methods, or an extremely limited pool of options.

I’ve used each of these methods for myself and my clients with incredible success.


What is your favorite source for finding great keywords? 

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 5 years ago from feedproxy.google.com