Even If A Brand Can’t Do SEO, It Can Still Do Local SEO

Having trouble getting traction for your SEO campaign due to bureaucratic red tape? Columnist Andrew Shotland suggests that you consider thinking local.

The post Even If A Brand Can’t Do SEO, It Can Still Do Local SEO appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

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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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Simple Steps for Conducting Creative Content Research

Posted by Hannah_Smith

Most frequently, the content we create at Distilled is designed to attract press coverage, social shares, and exposure (and links) on sites our clients’ target audience reads. That’s a tall order.

Over the years we’ve had our hits and misses, and through this we’ve recognised the value of learning about what makes a piece of content successful. Coming up with a great idea is difficult, and it can be tough to figure out where to begin. Today, rather than leaping headlong into brainstorming sessions, we start with creative content research.

What is creative content research?

Creative content research enables you to answer the questions:

“What are websites publishing, and what are people sharing?”

From this, you’ll then have a clearer view on what might be successful for your client.

A few years ago this required quite an amount of work to figure out. Today, happily, it’s much quicker and easier. In this post I’ll share the process and tools we use.

Whoa there… Why do I need to do this?

I think that the value in this sort of activity lies in a couple of directions:

a) You can learn a lot by deconstructing the success of others…

I’ve been taking stuff apart to try to figure out how it works for about as long as I can remember, so applying this process to content research felt pretty natural to me. Perhaps more importantly though, I think that deconstructing content is actually easier when it isn’t your own. You’re not involved, invested, or in love with the piece so viewing it objectively and learning from it is much easier.

b) Your research will give you a clear overview of the competitive landscape…

As soon as a company elects to start creating content, they gain a whole raft of new competitors. In addition to their commercial competitors (i.e. those who offer similar products or services), the company also gains content competitors. For example, if you’re a sports betting company and plan to create content related to the sports events that you’re offering betting markets on; then you’re competing not just with other betting companies, but every other publisher who creates content about these events. That means major news outlets, sports news site, fan sites, etc. To make matters even more complicated, it’s likely that you’ll actually be seeking coverage from those same content competitors. As such, you need to understand what’s already being created in the space before creating content of your own.

c) You’re giving yourself the data to create a more compelling pitch…

At some point you’re going to need to pitch your ideas to your client (or your boss if you’re working in-house). At Distilled, we’ve found that getting ideas signed off can be really tough. Ultimately, a great idea is worthless if we can’t persuade our client to give us the green light. This research can be used to make a more compelling case to your client and get those ideas signed off. (Incidentally, if getting ideas signed off is proving to be an issue you might find this framework for pitching creative ideas useful).

Where to start

Good ideas start with a good brief, however it can be tough to pin clients down to get answers to a long list of questions.

As a minimum you’ll need to know the following:

  • Who are they looking to target?
    • Age, sex, demographic
    • What’s their core focus? What do they care about? What problems are they looking to solve?
    • Who influences them?
    • What else are they interested in?
    • Where do they shop and which brands do they buy?
    • What do they read?
    • What do they watch on TV?
    • Where do they spend their time online?
  • Where do they want to get coverage?
    • We typically ask our clients to give us a wishlist of 10 or so sites they’d love to get coverage on
  • Which topics are they comfortable covering?
    • This question is often the toughest, particularly if a client hasn’t created content specifically for links and shares before. Often clients are uncomfortable about drifting too far away from their core business—for example, if they sell insurance, they’ll typically say that they really want to create a piece of content about insurance. Whilst this is understandable from the clients’ perspective it can severely limit their chances of success. It’s definitely worth offering up a gentle challenge at this stage—I’ll often cite Red Bull, who are a great example of a company who create content based on what their consumers love, not what they sell (i.e. Red Bull sell soft drinks, but create content about extreme sports because that’s the sort of content their audience love to consume). It’s worth planting this idea early, but don’t get dragged into a fierce debate at this stage—you’ll be able to make a far more compelling argument once you’ve done your research and are pitching concrete ideas.

Processes, useful tools and sites

Now you have your brief, it’s time to begin your research.

Given that we’re looking to uncover “what websites are publishing and what’s being shared,” It won’t surprise you to learn that I pay particular attention to pieces of content and the coverage they receive. For each piece that I think is interesting I’ll note down the following:

  • The title/headline
  • A link to the coverage (and to the original piece if applicable)
  • How many social shares the coverage earned (and the original piece earned)
  • The number of linking root domains the original piece earned
  • Some notes about the piece itself: why it’s interesting, why I think it got shares/coverage
  • Any gaps in the content, whether or not it’s been executed well
  • How we might do something similar (if applicable)

Whilst I’m doing this I’ll also make a note of specific sites I see being frequently shared (I tend to check these out separately later on), any interesting bits of research (particularly if I think there might be an opportunity to do something different with the data), interesting threads on forums etc.

When it comes to kicking off your research, you can start wherever you like, but I’d recommend that you cover off each of the areas below:

What does your target audience share?

Whilst this activity might not uncover specific pieces of successful content, it’s a great way of getting a clearer understanding of your target audience, and getting a handle on the sites they read and the topics which interest them.

  • Review social profiles / feeds
    • If the company you’re working for has a Facebook page, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find some people who’ve liked the company page and have a public profile. It’s even easier on Twitter where most profiles are public. Whilst this won’t give you quantitative data, it does put a human face to your audience data and gives you a feel for what these people care about and share. In addition to uncovering specific pieces of content, this can also provide inspiration in terms of other sites you might want to investigate further and ideas for topics you might want to explore.
  • Demographics Pro
    • This service infers demographic data from your clients’ Twitter followers. I find it particularly useful if the client doesn’t know too much about their audience. In addition to demographic data, you get a breakdown of professions, interests, brand affiliations, and the other Twitter accounts they follow and who they’re most influenced by. This is a paid-for service, but there are pay-as-you-go options in addition to pay monthly plans.

Finding successful pieces of content on specific sites

If you’ve a list of sites you know your target audience read, and/or you know your client wants to get coverage on, there are a bunch of ways you can uncover interesting content:

  • Using your link research tool of choice (e.g. Open Site Explorer, Majestic, ahrefs) you can run a domain level report to see which pages have attracted the most links. This can also be useful if you want to check out commercial competitors to see which pieces of content they’ve created have attracted the most links.
  • There are also tools which enable you to uncover the most shared content on individual sites. You can use Buzzsumo to run content analysis reports on individual domains which provide data on average social shares per post, social shares by network, and social shares by content type.
  • If you just want to see the most shared content for a given domain you can run a simple search on Buzzsumo using the domain; and there’s also the option to refine by topic. For example a search like [guardian.com big data] will return the most shared content on the Guardian related to big data. You can also run similar reports using ahrefs’ Content Explorer tool.

Both Buzzsumo and ahrefs are paid tools, but both offer free trials. If you need to explore the most shared content without using a paid tool, there are other alternatives. Check out Social Crawlytics which will crawl domains and return social share data, or alternatively, you can crawl a site (or section of a site) and then run the URLs through SharedCount‘s bulk upload feature.

Finding successful pieces of content by topic

When searching by topic, I find it best to begin with a broad search and then drill down into more specific areas. For example, if I had a client in the financial services space, I’d start out looking at a broad topic like “money” rather than shooting straight to topics like loans or credit cards.

As mentioned above, both Buzzsumo and ahrefs allow you to search for the most shared content by topic and both offer advanced search options.

Further inspiration

There are also several sites I like to look at for inspiration. Whilst these sites don’t give you a great steer on whether or not a particular piece of content was actually successful, with a little digging you can quickly find the original source and pull link and social share data:

  • Visually has a community area where users can upload creative content. You can search by topic to uncover examples.
  • TrendHunter have a searchable archive of creative ideas, they feature products, creative campaigns, marketing campaigns, advertising and more. It’s best to keep your searches broad if you’re looking at this site.
  • Check out Niice (a moodboard app) which also has a searchable archive of handpicked design inspiration.
  • Searching Pinterest can allow you to unearth some interesting bits and pieces as can Google image searches and regular Google searches around particular topics.
  • Reviewing relevant sections of discussion sites like Quora can provide insight into what people are asking about particular topics which may spark a creative idea.

Moving from data to insight

By this point you’ve (hopefully) got a long list of content examples. Whilst this is a great start, effectively what you’ve got here is just data, now you need to convert this to insight.

Remember, we’re trying to answer the questions: “What are websites publishing, and what are people sharing?”

Ordinarily as I go through the creative content research process, I start to see patterns or themes emerge. For example, across a variety of topics areas you’ll see that the most shared content tends to be news. Whilst this is good to know, it’s not necessarily something that’s going to be particularly actionable. You’ll need to dig a little deeper—what else (aside from news) is given coverage? Can you split those things into categories or themes?

This is tough to explain in the abstract, so let me give you an example. We’d identified a set of music sites (e.g. Rolling Stone, NME, CoS, Stereogum, Pitchfork) as target publishers for a client.

Here’s a summary of what I concluded following my research:

The most-shared content on these music publications is news: album launches, new singles, videos of performances etc. As such, if we can work a news hook into whatever we create, this could positively influence our chances of gaining coverage.

Aside from news, the content which gains traction tends to fall into one of the following categories:

Earlier in this post I mentioned that it can be particularly tough to create content which attracts coverage and shares if clients feel strongly that they want to do something directly related to their product or service. The example I gave at the outset was a client who sold insurance and was really keen to create something about insurance. You’re now in a great position to win an argument with data, as thanks to your research you’ll be able to cite several pieces of insurance-related content which have struggled to gain traction. But it’s not all bad news as you’ll also be able to cite other topics which are relevant to the client’s target audience and stand a better chance of gaining coverage and shares.

Avoiding the pitfalls

There are potential pitfalls when it comes to creative content research in that it’s easy to leap to erroneous conclusions. Here’s some things to watch out for:

Make sure you’re identifying outliers…

When seeking out successful pieces of content you need to be certain that what you’re looking at is actually an outlier. For example, the average post on BuzzFeed gets over 30k social shares. As such, that post you found with just 10k shares is not an outlier. It’s done significantly worse than average. It’s therefore not the best post to be holding up as a fabulous example of what to create to get shares.

Don’t get distracted by formats…

Pay more attention to the idea than the format. For example, the folks at Mashable, kindly covered an infographic about Instagram which we created for a client. However, the takeaway here is not that Instagram infographics get coverage on Mashable. Mashable didn’t cover this because we created an infographic. They covered the piece because it told a story in a compelling and unusual way.

You probably shouldn’t create a listicle…

This point is related to the point above. In my experience, unless you’re a publisher with a huge, engaged social following, that listicle of yours is unlikely to gain traction. Listicles on huge publisher sites get shares, listicles on client sites typically don’t. This is doubly important if you’re also seeking coverage, as listicles on clients sites don’t typically get links or coverage on other sites.

How we use the research to inform our ideation process

At Distilled, we typically take a creative brief and complete creative content research and then move into the ideation process. A summary of the research is included within the creative brief, and this, along with a copy of the full creative content research is shared with the team.

The research acts as inspiration and direction and is particularly useful in terms of identifying potential topics to explore but doesn’t mean team members don’t still do further research of their own.

This process by no means acts as a silver bullet, but it definitely helps us come up with ideas.


Thanks for sticking with me to the end!

I’d love to hear more about your creative content research processes and any tips you have for finding inspirational content. Do let me know via the comments.

Image credits: Research, typing, audience, inspiration, kitteh.

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

Posted by Trevor-Klein

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

Here’s what we’ve got in store:

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

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

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

1. Top Moz Blog posts by 1Metric score

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

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

Dr-Pete

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

MarieHaynes

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

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

OliGardner

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

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

josh_bachynski

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

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

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

gfiorelli1

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

2. Top Moz Blog posts by unique visits

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

Dr-Pete

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

OliGardner

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

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

briancarter

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

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

MarieHaynes

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

Chad_Wittman

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

n8ngrimm

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

iPullRank

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

Dr-Pete

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

3. Top YouMoz Blog posts by unique visits

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

Chad_Wittman

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

Carla_Dawson

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

Jeffalytics

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

danatanseo

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

Amanda_Gallucci

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

nicoleckohler

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

YonDotan

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

malditojavi

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

ajfried

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

robinparallax

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

4. Top Moz Blog posts by number of thumbs up

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

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

Dr-Pete

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

randfish

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

MarieHaynes

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

randfish

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

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

josh_bachynski

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

OliGardner

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

randfish

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

randfish

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

5. Top Moz Blog posts by number of comments

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

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

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

randfish

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

Dr-Pete

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

Carla_Dawson

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

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

evolvingSEO

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

MichaelC

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

EricaMcGillivray

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

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

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

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

Dr-Pete

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

Dr-Pete

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

iPullRank

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

briancarter

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

JamesAgate

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

Dr-Pete

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

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

randfish

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

OliGardner

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

MarieHaynes

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

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

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

MarieHaynes

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

Backlinko

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

mpezet

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

dannysullivan

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

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

SarahBird

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

randfish

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

mpezet

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

FangDigitalMarketing

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

magicrob

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

8. Top commenters from our community by total thumbs up

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

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

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

SamuelScott

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

paints-n-design

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

MarieHaynes

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

MarkTraphagen

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

steviephil

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

russangular

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

mpezet

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

Pixelbypixel

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

billslawski

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

danatanseo

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

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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Lessons from the Front Line of Front-End Content Development

Posted by richardbaxterseo

As content marketing evolves, the list of media you could choose to communicate your message expands. So does the list of technologies at your disposal. But without a process, a project plan and a tried and tested approach, you might struggle to gain any traction at all.

In this post, based on my
MozCon 2014 presentation, I’d like to share the high level approach we take while developing content for our clients, and the lessons we’ve learned from initial research to final delivery. Hopefully there are some takeaways for you to enhance your own approach or make your first project a little less difficult.

This stuff is hard to do

I hate to break it to you, but the first few times you attempt to develop something
a little more innovative, you’re going to get burned. Making things is pretty tough and there are lots of lessons to learn. Sometimes you’ll think your work is going to be huge, and it flops. That sucks, move on, learn and maybe come back later to revisit your approach.

To structure and execute a genuinely innovative, successful content marketing campaign, you need to understand what’s possible, especially within the context of your available skills, process, budget, available time and scope.

You’ll have a few failures along the journey, but when something goes viral, when people respond positively to your work – that, friends, feels amazing.

What this post is designed to address

In the early days of SEO, we built links. Email outreach, guest posting, eventually, infographics. It was easy, for a time. Then,
Penguin came and changed everything.

Our industry learned that we should be finding creative and inventive ways to solve our customers’ problems, inspire, guide, help – whatever the solution, an outcome had to be justified. Yet still, a classic habit of the SEO remained: the need to decide in what form the content should be executed before deciding on the message to tell.

I think we’ve evolved from “let’s do an infographic on something!” to “I’ve got a concept that people will love should this be long form, an interactive, a data visualization, an infographic, a video, or something else?”

This post is designed to outline the foundations on an approach you can use to enhance your approach to content development. If you take one thing away from this article, let it be this:

The first rule of almost anything: be prepared or prepare to fail. This rule definitely applies to content development!

Understand the technical environment you’re hosting your content in

Never make assumptions about the technical environment your content will be hosted in. We’ve learned to ask more about technical setup of a client’s website. You see, big enterprise class sites usually have load balancing, 
pre-rendering, and very custom JavaScript that could introduce technical surprises much too late in the process. Better to be aware of what’s in store than hope your work will be compatible with its eventual home.

Before you get started on any development or design, make sure you’ve built an awareness of your client’s development and production environments. Find out more about their CMS, code base, and ask what they can and cannot host.

Knowing more about the client’s development schedule, for example how quickly a project can be uploaded, will help you plan lead times into your project documentation.

We’ve found that discussing early stage ideas with your client’s development team will help them visualise the level of task required to get something live. Involving them at this early stage means you’re informed on any potential risk in technology choice that will harm your project integrity later down the line.

Initial stakeholder outreach and ideation

Way back at MozCon 2013, I presented an idea called “really targeted outreach“. The concept was simple: find influential people in your space, learn more about the people they influence, and build content that appeals to both.

We’ve been using a similar methodology for larger content development projects: using social data to inspire the creative process gathered from the Twitter Firehose and
other freely available tools, reaching out to identified influencers and ask them to contribute or feedback on an idea. The trick is to execute your social research at a critical, early stage of the content development process. Essentially, you’re collecting data to gain a sense of confidence in the appeal of your content.

We’ve made content with such a broad range of people involved, from astronauts to butlers working at well known, historic hotels. With a little of the right approach to outreach, it’s amazing how helpful people can be. Supplemented by the confidence you’ve gained from your data, some positive results from your early stage outreach can really set a content project on the right course.

My tip: outreach and research several ideas and tell your clients which was most popular. If you can get them excited and behind the idea with the biggest response then you’ll find it easier to get everyone on the same page throughout your project.

Asset collection and research

Now, the real work begins. As I’ve
written elsewhere, I believe that the depth of your content, it’s accuracy and integrity is an absolute must if it is to be taken seriously by those it’s intended for.

Each project tends to be approached a little differently, although I tend to see these steps in almost every one: research, asset collection, storyboarding and conceptual illustration.

For asset collection and research, we use a tool called
Mural.ly – a wonderful collaborative tool to help speed up the creative process. Members of the project team begin by collecting relevant information and assets (think: images, quotes, video snippets) and adding them to the project. As the collection evolves, we begin to arrange the data into something that might resemble a timeline:

After a while, the story begins to take shape. Depending on how complex the concept is, we’ll either go ahead with some basic illustration (a “white board session”) or we’ll detail the storyboard in a written form. Here’s the Word document that summarised the chronological order of the content we’d planned for our
Messages in the Deep project:

messages-in-the-deep-storyboard

And, if the brief is more complex, we’ll create a more visual outline in a whiteboard session with our designers:

interactive-map-sketch

How do you decide on the level of brief needed to describe your project? Generally, the more complex the project, the more important a full array of briefing materials and project scoping will be. If, however, we’re talking simpler, like “long form” article content, the chances are a written storyboard and a collection of assets should be enough.

schema-guide

Over time, we’ve learned how to roll out content that’s partially template based, rather than having to re-invent the wheel each time. Dan’s amazing
Log File Analysis guide was reused when we decided to re-skin the Schema Guide, and as a result we’ve decided to give Kaitlin’s Google Analytics Guide the same treatment.

Whichever process you choose, it helps to re-engage your original contributors, influencers and publishers for feedback. Remember to keep them involved at key stages – if for no other reason than to make sure you’re meeting their expectations on content they’d be willing to share.

Going into development

Obviously we could talk all day about the development process. I think I’ll save the detail for my next post, but suffice it to say we’ve learned some big things along the way.

Firstly, it’s good to brief your developers well before the design and content is finalised. Particularly if there are features that might need some thought and experimental prototyping. I’ve found over time that a conversation with a developer leads to a better understanding of what’s easily possible with existing libraries and code. If you don’t involve the developers in the design process, you may find yourself committed to building something extremely custom, and your project timeline can become drastically underestimated.

It’s also really important to make sure that your developers have had the opportunity to specify how they’d like the design work to be delivered; file format; layers and sizing for different break points are all really important to an efficient development schedule and make a huge difference to the agility of your work.

Our developers like to have a logical structure of layers and groups in a PSD. Layers and groups should all be named and it’s a good idea to attach different UI states for interactive elements (buttons, links, tabs, etc.), too.

Grid layouts are much preferred although it doesn’t matter if it’s 1200px or 960px, or 12/16/24 columns. As long as the content has some structure, development is easier.

As our developers like to say: Because structure = patterns = abstraction = good things and in an ideal world they prefer to work with
style tiles.

Launching

Big content takes more promotion to get that all important initial traction. Your outreach strategy has already been set, you’ve defined your influencers, and you have buy in from publishers. So, as soon as your work is ready, go ahead and tell your stakeholders it’s live and get that flywheel turning!

My pro tip for a successful launch is be prepared to offer customised content for certain publishers. Simple touches, like
The Washington Post’s animated GIF idea was a real touch of genius – I think some people liked the GIF more than the actual interactive! This post on Mashable was made possible by our development of some of the interactive to be iFramed – publishers seem to love a different approach, so try to design that concept in right at the beginning of your plan. From there, stand back, measure, learn and never give up!

That’s it for today’s post. I hope you’ve found it informative, and I look forward to your comments below.

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Long Tail CTR Study: The Forgotten Traffic Beyond Top 10 Rankings

Posted by GaryMoyle

Search behavior is fundamentally changing, as users become more savvy and increasingly familiar with search technology. Google’s results have also changed significantly over the last decade, going from a simple page of 10 blue links to a much richer layout, including videos, images, shopping ads and the innovative Knowledge Graph.

We also know there are an increasing amount of touchpoints in a customer journey involving different channels and devices. Google’s
Zero Moment of Truth theory (ZMOT), which describes a revolution in the way consumers search for information online, supports this idea and predicts that we can expect the number of times natural search is involved on the path to a conversion to get higher and higher.

Understanding how people interact with Google and other search engines will always be important. Organic click curves show how many clicks you might expect from search engine results and are one way of evaluating the impact of our campaigns, forecasting performance and exploring changing search behavior.

Using search query data from Google UK for a wide range of leading brands based on millions of impressions and clicks, we can gain insights into the how CTR in natural search has evolved beyond those shown in previous studies by
Catalyst, Slingshot and AOL.

Our methodology

The NetBooster study is based entirely on UK top search query data and has been refined by day in order to give us the most accurate sample size possible. This helped us reduce anomalies in the data in order to achieve the most reliable click curve possible, allowing us to extend it way beyond the traditional top 10 results.

We developed a method to extract data day by day to greatly increase the volume of keywords and to help improve the accuracy of the
average ranking position. It ensured that the average was taken across the shortest timescale possible, reducing rounding errors.

The NetBooster study included:

  • 65,446,308 (65 million) clicks
  • 311,278,379 (311 million) impressions
  • 1,253,130 (1.2 million) unique search queries
  • 54 unique brands
  • 11 household brands (sites with a total of 1M+ branded keyword impressions)
  • Data covers several verticals including retail, travel and financial

We also looked at organic CTR for mobile, video and image results to better understand how people are discovering content in natural search across multiple devices and channels. 

We’ll explore some of the most important elements in this article.

How does our study compare against others?

Let’s start by looking at the top 10 results. In the graph below we have normalized the results in order to compare our curve, like-for-like, with previous studies from Catalyst and Slingshot. Straight away we can see that there is higher participation beyond the top four positions when compared to other studies. We can also see much higher CTR for positions lower on the pages, which highlights how searchers are becoming more comfortable with mining search results.

A new click curve to rule them all

Our first click curve is the most useful, as it provides the click through rates for generic non-brand search queries across positions 1 to 30. Initially, we can see a significant amount of traffic going to the top three results with position No. 1 receiving 19% of total traffic, 15% at position No. 2 and 11.45% at position No. 3. The interesting thing to note, however, is our curve shows a relatively high CTR for positions typically below the fold. Positions 6-10 all received a higher CTR than shown in previous studies. It also demonstrates that searchers are frequently exploring pages two and three.

CTR-top-30-730px.jpg

When we look beyond the top 10, we can see that CTR is also higher than anticipated, with positions 11-20 accounting for 17% of total traffic. Positions 21-30 also show higher than anticipated results, with over 5% of total traffic coming from page three. This gives us a better understanding of the potential uplift in visits when improving rankings from positions 11-30.

This highlights that searchers are frequently going beyond the top 10 to find the exact result they want. The prominence of paid advertising, shopping ads, Knowledge Graph and the OneBox may also be pushing users below the fold more often as users attempt to find better qualified results. It may also indicate growing dissatisfaction with Google results, although this is a little harder to quantify.

Of course, it’s important we don’t just rely on one single click curve. Not all searches are equal. What about the influence of brand, mobile and long-tail searches?

Brand bias has a significant influence on CTR

One thing we particularly wanted to explore was how the size of your brand influences the curve. To explore this, we banded each of the domains in our study into small, medium and large categories based on the sum of brand query impressions across the entire duration of the study.

small-medium-large-brand-organic-ctr-730

When we look at how brand bias is influencing CTR for non-branded search queries, we can see that better known brands get a sizable increase in CTR. More importantly, small- to medium-size brands are actually losing out to results from these better-known brands and experience a much lower CTR in comparison.

What is clear is keyphrase strategy will be important for smaller brands in order to gain traction in natural search. Identifying and targeting valuable search queries that aren’t already dominated by major brands will minimize the cannibalization of CTR and ensure higher traffic levels as a result.

How does mobile CTR reflect changing search behavior?

Mobile search has become a huge part of our daily lives, and our clients are seeing a substantial shift in natural search traffic from desktop to mobile devices. According to Google, 30% of all searches made in 2013 were on a mobile device; they also predict mobile searches will constitute over 50% of all searches in 2014.

Understanding CTR from mobile devices will be vital as the mobile search revolution continues. It was interesting to see that the click curve remained very similar to our desktop curve. Despite the lack of screen real estate, searchers are clearly motivated to scroll below the fold and beyond the top 10.

netbooster-mobile-organic-ctr-730px.jpg

NetBooster CTR curves for top 30 organic positions


Position

Desktop CTR

Mobile CTR

Large Brand

Medium Brand

Small Brand
1 19.35% 20.28% 20.84% 13.32% 8.59%
2 15.09% 16.59% 16.25% 9.77% 8.92%
3 11.45% 13.36% 12.61% 7.64% 7.17%
4 8.68% 10.70% 9.91% 5.50% 6.19%
5 7.21% 7.97% 8.08% 4.69% 5.37%
6 5.85% 6.38% 6.55% 4.07% 4.17%
7 4.63% 4.85% 5.20% 3.33% 3.70%
8 3.93% 3.90% 4.40% 2.96% 3.22%
9 3.35% 3.15% 3.76% 2.62% 3.05%
10 2.82% 2.59% 3.13% 2.25% 2.82%
11 3.06% 3.18% 3.59% 2.72% 1.94%
12 2.36% 3.62% 2.93% 1.96% 1.31%
13 2.16% 4.13% 2.78% 1.96% 1.26%
14 1.87% 3.37% 2.52% 1.68% 0.92%
15 1.79% 3.26% 2.43% 1.51% 1.04%
16 1.52% 2.68% 2.02% 1.26% 0.89%
17 1.30% 2.79% 1.67% 1.20% 0.71%
18 1.26% 2.13% 1.59% 1.16% 0.86%
19 1.16% 1.80% 1.43% 1.12% 0.82%
20 1.05% 1.51% 1.36% 0.86% 0.73%
21 0.86% 2.04% 1.15% 0.74% 0.70%
22 0.75% 2.25% 1.02% 0.68% 0.46%
23 0.68% 2.13% 0.91% 0.62% 0.42%
24 0.63% 1.84% 0.81% 0.63% 0.45%
25 0.56% 2.05% 0.71% 0.61% 0.35%
26 0.51% 1.85% 0.59% 0.63% 0.34%
27 0.49% 1.08% 0.74% 0.42% 0.24%
28 0.45% 1.55% 0.58% 0.49% 0.24%
29 0.44% 1.07% 0.51% 0.53% 0.28%
30 0.36% 1.21% 0.47% 0.38% 0.26%

Creating your own click curve

This study will give you a set of benchmarks for both non-branded and branded click-through rates with which you can confidently compare to your own click curve data. Using this data as a comparison will let you understand whether the appearance of your content is working for or against you.

We have made things a little easier for you by creating an Excel spreadsheet: simply drop your own top search query data in and it’ll automatically create a click curve for your website.

Simply visit the NetBooster website and download our tool to start making your own click curve.

In conclusion

It’s been both a fascinating and rewarding study, and we can clearly see a change in search habits. Whatever the reasons for this evolving search behavior, we need to start thinking beyond the top 10, as pages two and three are likely to get more traffic in future. 

 We also need to maximize the traffic created from existing rankings and not just think about position.

Most importantly, we can see practical applications of this data for anyone looking to understand and maximize their content’s performance in natural search. Having the ability to quickly and easily create your own click curve and compare this against a set of benchmarks means you can now understand whether you have an optimal CTR.

What could be the next steps?

There is, however, plenty of scope for improvement. We are looking forward to continuing our investigation, tracking the evolution of search behavior. If you’d like to explore this subject further, here are a few ideas:

  • Segment search queries by intent (How does CTR vary depending on whether a search query is commercial or informational?)
  • Understand CTR by industry or niche
  • Monitor the effect of new Knowledge Graph formats on CTR across both desktop and mobile search
  • Conduct an annual analysis of search behavior (Are people’s search habits changing? Are they clicking on more results? Are they mining further into Google’s results?)

Ultimately, click curves like this will change as the underlying search behavior continues to evolve. We are now seeing a massive shift in the underlying search technology, with Google in particular heavily investing in entity- based search (i.e., the Knowledge Graph). We can expect other search engines, such as Bing, Yandex and Baidu to follow suit and use a similar approach.

The rise of smartphone adoption and constant connectivity also means natural search is becoming more focused on mobile devices. Voice-activated search is also a game-changer, as people start to converse with search engines in a more natural way. This has huge implications for how we monitor search activity.

What is clear is no other industry is changing as rapidly as search. Understanding how we all interact with new forms of search results will be a crucial part of measuring and creating success.

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SEO Packages | The HodgesNet SEO Success Formula | Swindon Wiltshire

http://www.hodgesnet.co.uk/seo-packages-2 SEO packages created by SEO companies to help you gain more traction online and drive more traffic to your site mus…

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